Bearing Witness

 

Part Two

Jack scanned the car park behind Grissom. He couldn’t see any uniformed cops or police cars anywhere in sight. "No cavalry?" he asked.

"I didn’t think I needed it," Grissom said, still with that same enigmatic, ‘I know your secret’ smile on his face. He looked up and up as Teal’c stepped back out through the door to stand at Jack’s side. "Of course, I could have been wrong. Wouldn’t be the first time."

"I doubt you’ve been wrong about much in your life," Jack observed.

Grissom shrugged. "I have my moments. You’re not denying your name is O’Neill."

"Would it matter if I did?"

"Jack?"

Daniel had pushed past Teal’c and now stood pressed close to Jack’s side.

"It’s okay, buddy. Why don’t you go inside with Sam and T?"

"Hi there, Daniel. How are you feeling today?" Grissom crouched down in front of the boy. "Do you remember me?"

Daniel nodded slowly and grabbed for Jack’s hand.

"Good. Do you still think you can help make that drawing for me?"

Daniel nodded again and Grissom stood. "You want to come down to my office with me?" he asked Jack.

"Am I under arrest?" Jack asked, his voice stony.

"Have you broken the law?" Grissom shot back.

Jack hesitated. He supposed in a way he had, although Daniel hadn’t yet been made a ward of the state when Jack had resigned and taken the child with him. He wondered vaguely if he could perhaps claim mitigating circumstances.

"Colonel?"

"No," he replied finally. "Haven’t been breaking any laws."

"Do you wish me to remove this person, O’Neill?" Teal’c’s voice rumbled menacingly and Jack almost smiled as Grissom took a step backwards.

"I just want to talk to you and Daniel," Grissom said, his hands held out from his sides as if demonstrating he held no weapons. "Ask you some questions, get Daniel to help with the ID of that man he saw last night. Most of all, I just want my curiosity satisfied. I have an insatiable need to find the answers to things that intrigue me."

"I might not be able to satisfy that curiosity," Jack said. "But maybe if we meet you half-way, you’ll let us get out of this place. Mind if my friends come with?"

Gil shrugged. "Sure. That one has also piqued my curiosity meter, if you must know." He indicated Teal’c.

"Yeah, well, T’s something of an enigma and he prefers to remain that way so we won’t be talking about him. Oh and we won’t be discussing Carter either."

Gil smiled broadly as Carter stepped up behind Jack. "That’s quite a team you have watching your back, Colonel."

"Damn straight. The best team there is." Jack reached down and patted Daniel’s shoulder to let him know he was included in the appraisal.

Daniel tilted his head up and beamed at him and Jack’s heart felt like it skipped a beat as he recognized the smile – the same one Daniel had on his face when they came back after destroying Apophis’ fleet; when they’d thought he was dead and he’d thought they’d all been killed.

"Can we go and get this over with?" Jack said gruffly, swallowing down hard on the surge of emotion.

"Of course. Do you mind riding with me?"

Jack turned back to Teal’c and tossed him his keys. "Knock yourself out, big guy. Just watch the paint job, okay?"

"Indeed," Teal’c replied.

~oOo~

"Jack, look at this!" Daniel’s blue eyes were as big as saucers as he pointed to a large jar of bugs that seemed to have pride of place on Grissom’s desk.

"Yeah, they’re bugs, Daniel," Jack replied, rolling his eyes at Grissom.

"Can I touch this?" Daniel asked the CSI.

"Sure, just be careful. It’s pretty heavy." Gil glanced at Jack. "He’s the only kid I’ve ever known who actually asks before he touches something."

"Yeah, well, Danny’s learned that lesson the hard way," Jack said. He leaned over the top of Daniel’s head and picked up the jar, grimacing in distaste, then cupped his big hands around Daniel’s smaller ones as the child turned it this way and that, examining the contents.

"Do you have a dermestarium?" Daniel asked, looking up at Grissom.

Jack grinned as the man’s eyes almost bulged from his head as the word tripped unhesitatingly from Daniel’s mouth. ‘Stop showing off, Danny,’ he stage-whispered.

Daniel turned a mock-innocent ‘who, me?’ look on him before looking back at the jar again. "These are dermastes maculates," he said, sounding awestruck. "They’re flesh-eating beetles-"

"Great, you’ve seen ‘em." Jack almost snatched the jar from Daniel’s hands and gingerly put them back on the desk. He shuddered. God, Daniel still had the weirdest sense of what was cool, even as a five year old.

"That’s right," Grissom agreed. "They’re used in museums for stripping the flesh from animal carcasses a lot of the time because the chemicals they used to use. Such as hydrogen peroxide-"

"Eat into the bones and blood vessels and destroy the molecular composition of them," Daniel said quickly.

Grissom visibly gulped as Jack gave Daniel a nudge with his hip.

"Show-off," Jack said, though he had to admit he was feeling some pride in knowing Daniel’s intelligence was being noticed. He sobered a little as he realized it was very similar to the feeling he’d had when Charlie had brought home a good report card. He forcibly reminded himself that Daniel was his friend not his son but he couldn’t resist the impulse to run a gentle hand over the boy’s hair anyway.

"Colonel, perhaps your friends and Daniel would like to see the rest of the lab." Grissom walked to the door and called to someone and a few seconds later, the other CSI who’d been at the hotel the night of the murder came into the room.

"This is Nick Stokes," Grissom said.

Stokes shook hands all around. He seemed a friendly, genial man and Daniel agreed to go with him to look around. Jack noticed though, that he held tightly to Teal’c’s hand as they left and once more his head did the swiveling thing as if he was checking to make sure Jack hadn’t discovered a secret exit and was about to fly the coop without him.

"Go on," he said, making a shooing motion with his hands. "Go play with the ghouls. Sorry, no offence," he muttered in aside to Grissom.

"None taken," Grissom replied cheerfully. "Have a seat, Colonel. Coffee?"

Jack eyed the myriad bug-filled jars suspiciously then looked longingly at the coffee jug Grissom was holding aloft. The aroma wafted towards him and his mouth watered… but still… "None of these bugs have ever got out, have they?" he asked.

Grissom just laughed, shook his head and poured him the coffee.

Jack sipped at it gratefully, watching Grissom warily over the rim of the cup. In spite of himself, he liked this man. He didn’t trust him exactly. Hell, Jack could count on the fingers of one hand the people he trusted right now but Grissom had an engaging, open honesty about him, at least.

"You going to ask me questions?" he asked at last, putting the now half-empty cup down on the desk.

"I thought you’d be asking me how I found out who you really are." Grissom rejoined.

"I don’t know. You’re a CSI so, I don’t know, you stole some hair I left in the drain in the motel bathroom," Jack suggested.

"That wouldn’t do me much good unless I had some other DNA of yours to match it up against, which I didn’t. Much more basic than that, Colonel-"

"Jack. I’m retired."

"All right. Fingerprints."

"Why?" Jack’s voice was cold. "All I was doing was my civic responsibility. You had no right- Wait a minute! You would have had to have access to restricted files to match my prints."

"I know a few people. People who can be discreet when they have to be. Anyway, I didn’t find out much except that the prints matched an Airforce record belonging to a Colonel Jack O’Neill. Most of the records were sealed but it did give a rundown of your early career before, I assume, you went to Black Ops or something like that."

Jack didn’t comment.

"So," Grissom continued, as if ignoring the sudden chill that even Jack could feel permeating the atmosphere, "I remembered this guy I’d worked an out of state serial killer case with a year or two back. He’d been in the services too, not the Airforce, though, I don’t think. He’s a cop, worked Major Crimes when I last saw him, had a hell of a solve rate. Apparently, he’s made Captain now."

Jack sighed heavily. He was still exhausted and the man was playing Celebrity Heads with him. "Cut to the chase, Grissom," he said testily. "I just want Daniel to do his little drawing thing with your da Vinci guy and then I want to be able to get the hell out of here and get my kid somewhere safe and make like Rip Van Winkle for about a hundred years."

"Fair enough," Grissom said. "You remember ever meeting a guy named Jim Ellison?"

Jack shook his head. "Name doesn't ring any bells."

Grissom pulled open a drawer in his desk and pulled out a magazine. He turned it and slid it across the surface of the table. "Look familiar?" he asked.

Jack picked it up, his own curiosity piqued now. It was a cover for News Update. The man on the front was a soldier, his head wrapped in a bandanna, gun slung over his shoulder. His eyes looked… haunted was the best description Jack could come up with. He read the caption accompanying the photo.

'BEYOND THE CALL

G.I. Survives Jungle Ordeal.'

He looked back across the desk to Grissom and saw the sympathy there. He nodded. "Yeah, I knew him. We weren't in the same branch of the service but we hooked up on R&R in some seedy little town in Peru I can't even remember the name of. He'd just been released from the hospital and was going to be shipped home the next week. What about it?"

"He said you saved his life and he'd been waiting for a chance to repay the debt ever since," Grissom said, his eyes never leaving Jack's face.

"It was no big thing. We got in a fight over some guys causing problems for one of the barmaids. He… I don't know… one minute he was there swinging punches alongside me and the next minute he was gone. Off over the rainbow or something. He froze. It was a bad time to freeze because there was a guy about to stick a knife in his back. I saw it and took the guy down. No big deal."

"Well, he thought it was a big enough deal that he told me that I should leave you the hell alone. He also told me that, in his opinion as a cop, you hadn't done anything but help the Las Vegas PD try to catch a killer and I should probably cut you some slack." Gil grinned. "But I had this-"

"Insatiable curiosity. Yeah, I know. We did this already." Jack picked up the magazine and looked at it again before handing it back across the desk. "Jim was a good guy. I haven't thought about him in years. I'm glad he's doing okay. I thought maybe he had epilepsy or something. Had one of those little seizure things that night."

"Petit mals? No, I don't think so. He seems to function perfectly well now, although I have to admit, he did seem to exhibit some unusual gifts."

"Well, now that we've done the old hometown reunion thing, what do you really want to know?" Jack asked, his voice thin. He rubbed at his eyes with the heel of his hands and pushed himself upright in the chair.

"You're exhausted," Grissom observed, his voice oddly gentle.

"I've got a five year old. It comes with the territory," Jack replied.

His head was aching now, the pain keeping time with his pulse and hammering little nails into his temples.

"Is he *your* five year old?" Grissom asked.

"Hell yes, he's mine!" Jack yelled then winced as the sound of his voice in his own ears rang and echoed. "Look. It's a long story and it has nothing to do with why we're here." He stood up and grabbed for the desk as he felt his knees almost give way beneath him. "I need to find Daniel. You want to bring him here or do I have to go get him?"

"I'll send someone to bring him back."

Grissom's voice came from right at his side and Jack wondered vaguely when the man had learned to move so quietly. They could use someone with that kind of stealth capability at the SGC, he thought muzzily.

"I think you should sit back down, Jack."

 

He shook his head and stubbornly forced his eyes to stay open, even as the walls and floor careened madly around him. He felt hot, then cold. "Get Daniel. I need to get him home," he managed to say past the nausea surging in his throat.

Suddenly there was rough fabric under his cheek and he understood distantly that he was on the floor. He inhaled as deeply as he could but tiny lights still prickled across his vision.

"Take it easy, Jack." That was Grissom, doing his silent running thing again.

"Help me up." He looked up at the man crouched next to him, trying to blink away the fog clouding his sight.

The blurry figure moved and Jack felt a strong hand clasp his shoulder. "You're exhausted. You're not going to be any use to Daniel until you get some rest. Let us help you. I promise nobody will take Daniel anywhere without talking to you first. Nick's bringing him back now."

"Help me up. Please."

A strong arm wrapped around his shoulders and eased him to a sitting position. He dropped his head between his knees and breathed as deeply as he could. The floor still felt as if it was buckling beneath him and he closed his eyes and concentrated on regulating his breathing. Sweat tickled his back and he wished they'd turn off the air conditioning that was raising goose bumps along his flesh.

Grissom handed him a cup of water and he sipped it, then rested his head down on his upraised knees.

"jack." The small voice sounded terrified and Jack turned and pulled Daniel into his arms.

"Hey, buddy, have fun?" he asked, trying for casual but knowing his voice sounded hoarse and strained.

"What's wrong? You're sick, aren't you?" Daniel asked, pushing himself back so he could place a small hand against Jack's sweat-damp forehead.

Jack shook his head and almost pitched them both sideways to the floor. He felt a broad hand steady him and saw Teal'c kneeling next to him, his dark eyes serious under the brimmed hat he still wore.

"Just tired, Danny. T, give me hand up, will ya?"

"I do not believe that would be wise, O'Neill. You appear to be very weak-"

"I'm fine. Carter, take care of Daniel for a minute, will you? Help me up, T. That's an order."

"You are retired, O'Neill, and therefore I do not believe you can issue orders. But I shall do as you ask, though I believe it not to be in your best interest."

"Yeah, yeah. Just get me vertical."

Teal'c levered him upright and Jack finally stood, surveying his friends with somewhat shaky confidence. He swallowed as he tasted bile in his throat again and took a step toward the chair. "See, I'm – ah crap," he muttered as his legs disappeared along with the world around him.

~o0o~

Jack woke gradually, his body slowly registering the sensation of cool smoothness beneath him and warm softness over him. There was a slow beeping emanating from somewhere near his left ear, and when he turned his head in that direction, he felt the tug of something on his chest and made the connection that - one: he was connected to a cardiac monitor and two: that meant he was in a hospital.

A sweep of the room confirmed his worst fears. It wasn’t just any hospital. Unless Las Vegas General had decided to go with a military décor for some bizarre reason, which he doubted, then he was pretty sure he was back at the SGC in the infirmary. Great, just great!

He pushed himself up so he was resting on his elbows and took a more in depth look around. At least, he seemed to be in one of the private side rooms. That was a good thing because he planned on doing a lot of yelling soon and he’d hate to disturb any patients who might really be sick.

Glancing down at his hands, he noticed an IV in one. At least, he wasn’t in handcuffs, though that might just have been because they thought he couldn’t escape while he was unconscious.

He groaned as he realized there was another tube tethering him in place, in a part of his body that he really preferred sans tubing.

He was about to sit up and swing his legs to the floor, tubing be damned, when the door was pushed open and General Hammond entered, leading a teary-eyed Daniel by the hand. "See, son, I told you he was all right," Hammond said as they entered. "Well, Colonel, it’ s good to see you awake. How are you feeling?"

Jack made it to a sitting position and fixed a scowl on his commanding officer. "What the hell is going on?"

Daniel let go of Hammond’s hand and approached the bed eagerly, a tremulous smile lighting his face. "Are you all right, Jack?" His voice dropped to a whisper. "I was scared when you passed out at the lab. I thought you were dead."

Jack leaned over the side to pick him up but Hammond stepped forward and did it instead, depositing the boy gently next to Jack.

Daniel immediately wrapped his arms around Jack’s waist and hugged him tightly.

"I’m okay, buddy. How about you? Are you all right?" Jack asked, unable to resist the urge to hug back.

Daniel nodded against his chest. " I’m sorry you got sick because of me."

Jack pushed him back a little so he could see his face. "Why would you think that?" he asked.

"Janet said you were exhausted and you lost too much weight because you haven’t been eating," Daniel said seriously.

"Yeah, well, you know what they say - you can never be too thin-"

"I beg to differ with you on that, Colonel."

Jack sighed as he recognized Janet Fraiser’s voice.

"You’ve lost over fifteen pounds since your last physical; weight you could ill afford to lose. You also looked like you hadn’t slept properly in days, a fact that Daniel confirmed."

"Tattletale," Jack stage whispered, nudging Daniel gently in the ribs.

"How did we end up back here?" Jack asked, as the doctor took hold of his wrist in a small hand and checked his pulse. He’d always wondered why she bothered to do that since the machine could have told her at a glance. But then, Janet Fraiser had always been more hands on than most modern doctors, mingling technology with the personal.

"You were taken to the Las Vegas hospital originally and Captain Carter called me from there. I organized for you and your team to be flown back here by chopper," Hammond explained. "I thought it for the best. There were likely to be too many questions asked about Daniel, had you stayed there."

"So… what? You told them to slip me a Mickey so you could get us back here without me saying or doing anything?" Jack asked, his voice hard.

"No, Colonel," Fraiser said reassuringly. "From what I was told, it wasn’t really necessary. You woke up once in the ambulance briefly and then passed out again." She held her hands up in a defensive gesture. "I admit, you were given a mild sedative prior to being placed in the chopper but that was more a safety precaution so you didn’t wake up in mid-flight feeling disorientated."

"I should have been asked," Jack muttered. "Can you get these goddamn tubes out of me now?"

"I’ll remove the catheter but the IV will have to stay in till I’m sure you can handle solid food. You were pretty dehydrated too and your electrolytes need a little help to get back on an even keel." Janet patted Daniel’s head gently. "Daniel, why don’t you go with General Hammond to visit Sam or Teal’c while I make the Colonel more comfortable?" She jumped in quickly as she saw his eyelids lower and his bottom lip pout out. "You can come back in an hour and he’ll be ready for visitors, okay?"

"I guess," Daniel said slowly. "I’ll be back soon, Jack."

"Okay." Jack bit down on his lower lip as Daniel hugged him tightly again before climbing down from the bed.

"Right, Colonel," Janet said as she closed the door behind them, turning to face him with that bright smile he’d come to know and dread from every post –mission medical, "let’s rip that sucker right out, shall we?"

Jack literally felt the color drain from his face and he fell back against the pillows with a groan and closed his eyes against the mortification to come.

~oOo~

"When can I get out of here?" Jack asked, as Janet finished up and pulled the blankets over him again.

She shrugged. "That’s really up to you, Colonel."

"Will you stop calling me that? I resigned, remember?"

"Oh, I think you’ll find General Hammond still has your resignation letter sitting in his top drawer unopened." She smiled at him. "Jack, did you really think he’d just let you go that easily. You know he could have tracked you down in a day if he’d really wanted to. He wanted to give you time with Daniel while he worked out how he could give you what you both want. I’ll go find Daniel and send him back here. I’ve asked the nurses to set up a bed in here for him but if he wakes up, you use the bell to get one of the nurses in here. No climbing out of bed and pulling that IV out."

"Doc, about what happened with MacKenzie? I know it wasn’t your fault-"

"No, it wasn’t," she replied, "but if he’d been trying to send Cassie to a foster home, I’d have ripped out his throat with my teeth. Get some rest, Colonel. I hear you’ve got a busy few days ahead."

"Why?" Jack asked. "What’s going on? For crying out loud, Doc, if you know something, tell me so I can at least tell Danny something when he asks… and he will, you know that."

She shot him a brilliant smile overlaid with a touch of tears. "You’re going to be re-evaluated as Daniel’s foster father. And I think this time, Doctor MacKenzie’s going to find himself up against some tough competition. Judge Morrison is an old friend of the General’s. Better yet, he believes children have a right to have a say in their future. Get some rest. I’ll get someone to bring you something light to eat and drink."

"Anything but blue jello," he groaned.

"Blue jello it is," she said with a wicked laugh as she left the room.

~oOo~

Jack rolled over as he woke and found a small warm bundle tucked against his side. He shifted slowly so as not to disturb his bed companion and sighed with relief as Daniel just snuffled in his sleep and rolled with him so he was spooned against Jack’s front.

Jack rested his chin gently on top of Daniel’s head, questions and doubts assailing him in the stillness of the night, making further sleep seem impossible.

Had he been right to take Daniel away? Maybe he should have just taken his chances with MacKenzie… What had happened with Grissom and the murder Daniel had witnessed…? He closed his eyes and just listened to the sound of Daniel’s breathing and felt himself drifting off anyway, all the half-formed what-ifs swept away, like dust in the wind.

~o0o~

"Hello, Daniel. Would you come and talk to me in my chambers for a little while?"

Daniel looked up at the kindly-faced man sitting at the judge’s bench. Judge Morrison looked like a friendly enough guy and AdultDaniel wanted to step forward and say, "Sure, no problem. I speak twenty three languages. I’m sure I can tell you what I want in words you can understand." ChildDaniel wanted to grab hold of Jack’s hand and make sure that Jack came with him.

He tugged on Jack’s hand until Jack bent down and his ear was level with Daniel’s mouth. "Jack?"

"Daniel?"

"I don’t know how much I’m allowed to tell him," Daniel whispered.

"The judge has full security clearance authorized by the President, Daniel. He knows what happened to you," Jack whispered back. "Okay?"

Daniel nodded. He stepped forward to take the court clerk’s outstretched hand then looked back around at Jack.

"Right here, Danny," Jack said, pointing at the floor. "I’ll be right here when you come out. Tell the judge what *you* want, okay. It’ll be fine." He flashed a grin and a thumbs-up and Daniel let himself be led away.

~oOo~

"So, Daniel, tell me why you want Colonel O’Neill to be your guardian?" Morrison asked as soon as Daniel sat down.

Daniel took a deep breath. He wanted to explain it, knew it was important that he got it just right and deep down inside, he was terrified that somehow the five year old part of him would mess it up and he’d lose this chance at his future forever.

"I’m five," he said, "but I’m thirty five. Jack understands both parts of me. He keeps me safe and he’s always been there for me, even before this happened. He’s my best friend."

"Isn’t it kind of weird having your best friend suddenly have to do the things for you a father would?" Morrison asked.

"Yeah, sometimes, but that’s why it’s okay with Jack. He knows me better than anyone else and I know him and it’s all right that we mess things up because we’ve messed things up between us before but we always get past it." Daniel fixed the judge with a steady look. "Always." he said firmly. "I lived in foster homes before," he went on. "Some were good, some weren’t but I never knew what the next one was going to be like. With Jack, I always know what it’s going to be like. He’ll always be there for me and put me first just like he did when we ran away. That’s why he got so sick… because he was so busy worrying about me; he forgot to take care of himself."

"What if something like that happened again? " the judge asked. "If Jack got sick or hurt and couldn’t take care of you."

"Then I’d have to go somewhere else, I guess." Daniel rubbed a hand over his suddenly burning eyes. "But you said you wanted to know where I want to be now and right now, I want to live with Jack."

Morrison stood up and took Daniel’s hand, shaking it gently. "That’s a very good answer, Doctor Jackson. Thank you for your advisement on this matter. I’ll get my clerk to take you back."

Daniel pushed himself up from the chair. "Does this mean you’ll let me stay with Jack?" he asked.

"I need to talk to Colonel O’Neill before I make a decision on that, Daniel. I promise not to keep you worrying about it for too long."

Daniel was led back to the other room and watched with trepidation as Jack was called into the judge’s chambers. His hands clenched into nervous fists in his lap and he was so focused on the door closing behind Jack that he jumped when Sam’s warm hand covered his and rubbed it gently.

"It’ll be okay, Daniel. I’m sure of it," she whispered.

He nodded but kept his eyes fixed on the door.

~oOo~

"Have a seat, Colonel," the judge said.

Jack sat down with a sense of relief. He was still tired and felt ridiculously weak at times. He rubbed his suddenly sweaty palms up and down the legs of his pants and waited for the interrogation to begin, prepared to defend his actions to the best of his ability.

He was surprised when Morrison simply began by asking him if he really wanted to be Daniel’s guardian; if he was sure he wasn’t just saying that out of a sense of loyalty to a friend. He shook his head and said, "Of course I feel a sense of loyalty to Daniel. He’s my best friend and he’s saved my life on more than one occasion. But that’s not the only reason. Daniel needs to be with someone who knows him as a man as well as a child. That man is still there inside him and that man’s been my friend for a long time now. I also don’t think there’s any reason why I can’t look after him as well as any other family."

"What about when you took him away from the base? Did you think that was in his best interests?"

Jack nodded. "I wouldn’t have done it otherwise. Daniel wasn’t a ward of the state; he was still considered an adult. He wanted to go with me. He had the right to make that decision."

"You don’t think it was the wrong one after what happened?" Morrison asked, not unkindly.

"That could have happened anywhere," Jack said firmly. "Heck, kids are seeing other kids use guns in elementary school. And don’t forget, Daniel’s seen much worse things since he joined the SGC. I’m sorry it happened but we handled it… together. Just like we will anything else that comes up until we can find a way to restore Danny to normal."

"What if you can’t do that? If there is no restoration?"

"We’ll deal with that too. If I have to raise Daniel from the age he is now till he’s an adult, so be it. I was a father once."

"You don’t perhaps see Daniel as some sort of substitute for your son?" Morrison asked sympathetically. "I lost my only child too so I do have some understanding of how devastating that can be."

"I accepted Charlie’s death a long time ago, Judge. Daniel was the person who helped me do that when we went to Abydos the first time. Daniel’s my friend, not my son. There’s no danger of me forgetting that." He grinned suddenly. "Danny’d never let me act like a father to him anyway. He’s way too darn independent for that."

Morrison laughed too. "I don’t know about that, Colonel. I’d say you’ve done a pretty good job of being a father to the five year old and a friend to the thirty five year old, so far." He looked down at the papers on his desk. "I’m supposed to ask you a whole bunch of personal questions here but George has filled me in pretty well on all that anyway." His smile reached his eyes this time. "Why don’t you tell me more about this project of yours. George keeps telling me he’d like to tell me but then he’d have to shoot me."

Jack laughed and shook his head. ‘Tell you what, Judge. You ask me all the personal questions you want. That’s a lot safer than asking about the SGC."

Morrison shrugged. "Ah well, can’t blame a man for trying. George said I’d never get you to talk. Let’s get the boring stuff out of the way, shall we? There’s a very worried young boy out there and I’d like to ease his mind as soon as possible."

Jack felt hope cause his heart to pound and he leaned forward in his chair as Morrison put a finger to his lips. "Don’t spoil all my fun, Colonel. I get a kick out of sitting behind that big bench out there and making important announcements. We’ll get to it, don’t worry."

~oOo~

Daniel looked up at the man seated behind the bench, a huge grin stretching his mouth wide. He was going home with Jack. The Judge had also stipulated that while he agreed it would be a good idea for Daniel to have some counseling, he felt that Doctor Fraiser could handle that unless Daniel wanted to see someone else.

Daniel had shaken his head enthusiastically. If he had to talk to anyone about his innermost feelings about being five years old again, he’d prefer to do it with someone he knew and liked.

Suddenly he realized the room was quiet and he looked around and saw that he and Jack were alone in the huge room.

"You’re sure this is what you want, Danny?" Jack asked. "General Hammond wants me to go back to head up SG:1. How do you feel about that?"

Daniel swallowed hard. This was a major sticking point, the idea of SG:1 going off-world while he was left behind on Earth. "You should do it, Jack. I just wish I could be there with you," he said finally.

"Me too, Daniel. But the General’s organizing a consultant position for you so we’ll still be working together a lot of the time."

"Yeah, that’s good. What about the school requirements?" Daniel asked, realizing he’d zoned out during most of the Judge’s speech, only hearing the part that meant the most to him, the part that said Jack was his legal guardian.

"You’ll have to do equivalency tests from time to time and you’ll be registered as doing home schooling. It’ll be fine. You’ll ace the tests, anyway," Jack said reassuringly.

They walked from the courtroom together and Jack waited while Daniel went to speak to Sam and Teal’c. His cell phone rang and he pulled it out.

"O’Neill."

//Hello, Jack. This is Gil Grissom.//

"Hey, you sucker punched me, Grissom. Let them put me on a damned helicopter and fly me back here. I’m surprised you’ve got the gall to call me," Jack said, the laughter in his voice belying his words.

//Sorry about that. Your Captain Carter said she outranked me and quite frankly your friend T scared the daylights out of me. I wasn’t prepared to argue with either of them. How’s Daniel doing?//

"Good, he’s good. I just became his legal guardian, as a matter of fact," Jack replied, hearing the satisfaction coloring his own words. "Don’t tell me you want me to bring him back there? Look, I’m still kinda tired and I need to help him get settled in at home and-"

//Calm down, Jack. The woman confessed to the murder and we caught her boyfriend a few days later. He confessed too. They wanted to off the woman’s husband so they could claim the insurance. Daniel might have to give evidence if they renege on their confessions but they were cut a pretty good deal by the DA for pleading guilty so I don’t see that happening. But if you or Daniel ever get back to Vegas, call by the lab and visit. I’d like to talk to Daniel a little more. He’s an interesting kid.//

"Yeah, he is." Jack smiled as Daniel came and stood next to him and held up one small hand for Jack to take in his. "Tell you what, Grissom, why don’t you come visit us in Colorado Springs sometime? I got this great lake up at my cabin. Great fishing if you don’t mind never actually catching anything. Hey, if you talk to Jim Ellison again, tell him I said thanks and we’re even. Tell him I might just pay him a visit one day and tell him myself. Look, I gotta get going. Have to get Danny home. See ya, Grissom and thanks, for everything."

Jack returned the phone to his pocket and looked down at his and Daniel’s joined hands. It felt right. "Let’s go home, Doctor Jackson," he said.

The End (till next time)

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