EMAIL: Annie, Devra, JoaG, Lyn
Kahlil Gibran said in The Prophet, "You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give."
Daniel pondered the words as he stood before the box that had been sitting unopened in his office since it had been sent to him from the mental institution his grandfather had been living in until recently. Inside was all he had left on this world, of Nick, the man who'd been unable to give of himself to his grandson. It had only been in those few days after they'd discovered the crystal skull and before Nick had decided to stay with the aliens on P7X 377, that they'd begun to finally heal old wounds and realize that the love and bond they'd shared had never been truly lost. It had just been set aside, until the time was right for them to find it again.
He opened the box and lifted out the dusty journals on top, their covers worn and soft with aging, the leaves yellowed from the passage of time. His grandfather's spidery handwriting traversed each page and Daniel skimmed the first page of each, then set them aside. He'd read them later, when the wound was less fresh, the sorrow less painful.
Truth be told, Nick had never been much on giving of possessions either, Daniel thought ruefully. He pulled from his pocket the small box he'd brought from home. Nick had given it to him years ago, when Daniel was just a child. Over the years, it had moved from place to place with Daniel, and then, once he'd become involved with the Stargate program, it had sat, forgotten, in the top drawer of his bedside table, until the call from the institution about Nick's things had reminded him of it. He'd brought it in with him, intending to place it with the rest of Nick's belongings. It was a small metal box, and inside was an ovoid shaped metallic object, its surface smooth with two small crystals set into indentations along the top edge. Holding it up to the desk light, he looked closely at the engraving on the surface. It wasn't a language he recognized, though some of the symbols looked almost Goa'uld-like. He wondered if Teal'c might have some insight into what it was.
Teal'c wasn't in his quarters so Daniel headed for Sam's lab instead.
"Hey, Sam," he said poking his head round the open door, "you seen Teal'c?"
"I am here, DanielJackson," came the Jaffa's deep voice from behind the door. "MajorCarter requested my help with the findings SG-13 brought back from P4Z 155."
"Oh, great." Daniel stepped inside and held out his hand, the small object nestled in his palm. "You recognize the writing on this?"
"What is it?" Sam asked, stroking a finger over it.
"I don't know. It's probably nothing. My grandfather gave it to me when I was a kid. I only remembered I had it when I got the call about his things."
"May I?" Teal'c asked.
At Daniel's nod, he took the disc from his hand and turned it this way and that, then held it close to his eyes. "I do not recognize the writing," he said. "It is not Goa'uld."
"No, I was pretty sure it wasn't. It's not Egyptian either, or Celtic, or any of the other languages I recognize."
"The metal looks unusual," Sam said. "Can I check it out a little? Where did Nick get it?"
"Not sure. Some dig he was on. I don't know if he ever told me much about it." Daniel grinned self-consciously. "As you know, Nick discovered the crystal skull and the aliens on P7X 377when I was six, and he became so obsessed with finding them again that he pushed us away. I used to stay with him sometimes, before he went on that dig in Belize. He even took me with him on a few digs. The night he gave me this, I was feeling homesick, missing my mom and dad. He came into my room and gave it to me, told me it had no importance except for the fact that he'd given it to me, and that if ever I felt lonely or sad, I could hold it in my hand and it would make me feel better."
"Did it work?" Jack's voice came from behind him and Daniel turned to face him. "Yeah, it did, till I got too old to need it. Guess that's why I forgot I had it."
"I was just suggesting to Daniel that I analyze it," Sam said. "Any objections, sir?"
"Go for it," Jack replied, settling himself on a corner of the desk. "It's a slow day round the ole SGC for a change."
"I really don't think it's anything out of the ordinary," Daniel said, but he sat down in the chair next to Sam's desk anyway.
Sam handed the object back to him. "I'll start with something simple. Just hold it flat on the palm of your hand." She picked up a hand-held scanner. "This should give me an idea of what metals it's not made out of."
Daniel did as he was asked and watched as the scanner made its first pass over his hand. Moments later as Sam brought the scanner back again, he felt the object begin to heat up. "Um, Sam, you might want to stop scanning—"
A sudden burst of white light jumped between the artifact and the scanner, and Daniel jolted back in the chair as if he'd been struck by a zat. There was a moment of flaring pain in his head and then nothing.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Voices hummed over his head, waking him from his restless sleep, and he opened his eyes and looked around, unsure at first where he was.
"Hey there, how are you feeling?" Soft lips touched his forehead gently and he made a face, pulling away a little. "Oh, eight years old means you're too old to be kissed by your mom?" His mother laughed and tousled his hair. "I was just checking your temperature. I don't have a thermometer handy."
"I'm okay," he replied. "Are we on the plane?"
"Yes. A few more hours and we'll be in New York." His father spoke from his other side, and Danny turned and looked up at him. "You didn't answer your mom, Danny," his father said. "Are you feeling any better?"
"I guess," he said. "I still feel kinda sick to my stomach." He gulped with sudden fear as the plane dipped, and he clenched his fingers around his mother's hand.
"It's okay, honey," she said, "just a little turbulence. Oh, I was going to give this to you when we got on the plane but you fell asleep so quickly, I forgot."
Danny looked down at the small round, metallic-looking object his mother pulled out of her purse and placed in his hand. "My artifact," he said.
"Nick said he gave it to you to keep," his mother said. "You left it under your pillow. Just as well I checked to make sure we hadn't forgotten anything."
"Do you think we can find out about the special writing on it?" Daniel asked, drawing a finger over the engraved text.
"I'm not sure," she replied, peering closely. "Maybe someone at the museum will know."
The plane plunged downwards again, a streak of lightning flashing past the small window. Danny tightened his fingers around his artifact and closed his eyes. He really wished he was big right now. He looked up at his father, who looked calm and unconcerned. Swallowing hard, pushing down his fear with all his eight year old determination, he forced himself to look through the window of the plane at the dark clouds rushing past, then shrieked with terror as another lightning bolt struck, this one seeming to hit the side of the plane right where he sat. Sudden heat engulfed his fingers, pain flashed through his head, and he gasped as the world seemed to turn upside down and then blink out.
* * * * * * * * * * *
If there was one thing Jack hated more than pretty much anything, it was waiting, and right now, he'd done enough waiting to last him a lifetime. He shifted on the rigid chair, wincing as his butt protested the unforgiving plastic and stared again at the monitors next to the bed. He had no idea why he was bothering to look actually, because he had no idea what any of the numbers or graphs or wiggly lines meant anyway... except for that one. Pulse rate, and it was going up, which meant— He turned his attention to the unconscious man in the bed and saw dazed blue eyes staring back at him. "Hey," he said, an enormous surge of relief making him feel weak, "about time you woke up, Sleeping Beauty."
The lights were on but no one was home if the confused look in Daniel's eyes was anything to go by. Finally, after a long moment, he frowned and spoke. "Where am I?"
Jack grinned. "Your favorite place - the infirmary."
Daniel nodded slowly. "I was sick." He sounded hesitant and unsure and there was something slightly off about his whole demeanor. He looked as though he was trying to shrink under the covers. "You a doctor?"
Jack's heart missed a beat. He turned and waved over a nurse. "Where's Doc Frasier?"
"In her lab," she replied.
"Get her," Jack ordered, his tone harsher than he meant. "Tell her Daniel's awake." When the nurse hurried off, he turned back to Daniel. "You picked up the stone..." he prodded. Daniel just stared at him. To his surprise, Daniel's chin began to quiver and a tear rolled down his cheek. "Where's my mom? I want my mom."
Jack paced the length of Hammond's office then stopped and turned to stare at Fraiser. "What do you mean, he doesn't remember us?"
Fraiser shrugged. "Just what I said, Colonel. He knows his own name but doesn't recognize anyone here... and he thinks he's eight years old."
"Brain damage?" Carter asked. "That stone I was scanning, I re-checked it, but there's no residual energy in it." She threw up her hands, looking defeated. "I couldn't find anything."
"Teal'c," Hammond asked, "you say you didn't recognize the writing on the object."
Teal'c shook his head. "I did not."
"What about this disease SG-4 seems to have brought back through the gate?" Hammond continued, looking at Fraiser. "Could Doctor Jackson have the same illness?"
"It's possible, sir. It appears to be spreading. Two of my nurses have now come down with the same symptoms as SG-4—"
"I sense a 'but' in there," Jack cut in.
Fraiser nodded. "Daniel is suffering from a low grade fever and his white cell count is elevated. He's showing every sign of having a mild viral infection, but none of the others are showing any indication of amnesia or brain damage."
Hammond sat back and steepled his hands on the desk. "What do you propose we do, Doctor?"
"We've definitely got a contagion on the base," Fraiser replied, "and until we know where it originated, I think we need to quarantine the base. I need to run more tests on Daniel, but I'd like to place him and the rest of SG:1 in one of the VIP rooms, just in case his illness isn't connected to the others..."
Jack gaped at her. "What? Why?"
"Because you were all with Daniel when this occurred, sir," Fraiser explained, "and until I get the test results back, I have no idea if the rest of you might be affected or not."
"It's an order, Colonel," Hammond interrupted firmly. "Besides," he continued in a gentler voice, "you're Doctor Jackson's closest friends, pretty much the only family he has. If Doctor Frasier can't find a cure for what's causing this, he's going to need some familiar faces around."
"Would it help to try and prod his memory?" Carter asked.
"I can't see that it would hurt," Fraiser said, "but keep it low key and focused on everyday things, and stop if he gets upset. At the moment, he's a very frightened eight-year-old boy inside a grown man's body."
* * * * * * * * * * *
Claire Jackson sat forward as the small hand clutched tightly in her own twitched. Reaching up, she brushed a lock of hair from her son's forehead and searched worriedly for signs of returning consciousness.
The rest of the flight had been a blur. Lightning had flashed against the window, the plane had dipped into a deep air pocket then Danny had screamed and begun to seize. An ambulance had been standing by on the tarmac in New York and they'd been quickly whisked to the hospital.
The examining doctor was uncertain what had caused Danny's seizure, but thought it was probably a result of the high fever he'd suffered from the virus that had laid him low in Cairo just before they'd returned to the States.
She sighed and rubbed at her burning eyes with her free hand. "We should never have taken him to Egypt," she said softly.
A hand squeezed her shoulder gently and she looked up into Mel's equally worried face. "We weren't to know," he said tiredly. "We had to get to Cairo, you know that, Claire, and he could just as easily fallen ill at home, then we'd have been stuck there, worrying about him."
"If Nick had taken him in—" Claire began, but Mel cut her off with a wave of his hand.
"You know your Dad. He's not all there any more. Even if he'd offered, I would have refused." He stared down at his son. "He's going to be fine," he said firmly.
"I wish I was as confident—" Claire broke off as she followed Mel's gaze and saw wide blue eyes staring up at her. "Danny! Thank god! How do you feel?"
The voice seemed slightly familiar, but he couldn't quite place it. A headache was pounding behind his eyes and his sight was blurry. "Where am I?" He frowned; his voice sounded strange to his own ears.
Someone leaned over him, her smiling face coming into view. He could see tears shining in her eyes. No! It couldn't be! He shook his head, trying to clear it but that only forced his headache to more excruciating heights and he couldn't stop the sob of pain that bubbled from his dry throat. A hand patted his forehead.
"Shh," she whispered. "Dad's gone to get the doctor. You're going to be just fine. Just rest."
He stared at her then slowly reached up a hand and touched her face. "Mom?"
She nodded. "I'm here, sweetie."
"Mom?" He stared at his hand where it rested against her cheek, her own hand grasping it – her larger hand. He looked down and stared at his child-sized body, his feet coming nowhere near the end of the bed.
The last thing he remembered was showing Sam the stone Nick had given him. There'd been a small flash of light from within when Sam had run the device over it and a bolt of electricity sizzled through him at the same time he heard Jack's warning "Daniel!" He remembered nothing more till now.
Shit, Jack, I've really done it this time.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Danny cringed and quickly stuck the hand he'd been studying under the blanket as a nurse strode swiftly by. The hospital was busy now, not like when he'd first woken up. When it looked like the nurse didn't notice that he was awake and wouldn't stick a needle into him again, he slowly pulled his hand out and held it in front of his face.
The fingers were rough and callused, and there were interesting scars here and there. He traced the thin tuft of hairs that grew on the back of his fingers with his index finger, wondering if someone had slipped a pair of funny clown gloves on him when he'd slept. Because the hands he was looking at weren't his.
He rubbed his eyes, wondering why he couldn't see clearly. The rubbing didn't do anything except make his eyes burn, though, and he blinked rapidly several times, but his vision didn't improve. Sighing, he went back to examining the stranger's hand attached to his body.
The sound of footsteps had him lying still once again, and he waited as the nurse came back, this time with someone who looked kind of sick. Danny suddenly caught sight of the piece of cloth the nurse wore around her face; he looked around in confusion, there wouldn't be any sandstorms here, would there? Why else would she try and protect her face?
He watched as the nurse settled the stranger into a bed close by, lying still and closing his eyes when she glanced his way. He tried to peek at the new patient, see if he recognized him from the plane, but he couldn't get a good view without raising his head.
Feeling suddenly cold, he pulled his knees up to his chest. He was shivering a little, and his body hurt everywhere, but he wasn't as sleepy as before. He licked his lips; he was thirsty, but he hesitated to call out and ask for some water.
When footsteps told him the nurse was walking away again, Danny slowly raised his head to check if the coast was clear. The moment he saw there were no nurses nearby, he pushed back the blankets and sat up.
If all these sick people were from the plane, maybe his mom and dad were here, too, in one of the beds. Or maybe they were outside those doors where people kept coming in. Maybe they didn't know he was here; maybe nobody told them.
He started to get off the bed, intending to start searching out the beds really fast, but froze the moment his feet touched the floor. His legs were long; they reached the floor without his having to slide his butt off the bed. He looked at his feet; they were long and skinny, like his dad's feet.
Slowly, Danny stood, not sure why everything was off kilter. He was too high off the ground, as if he were standing on a bed or a chair. He looked down at himself and even through the thin cotton pajamas someone had put on him, he could tell his body wasn't that of a child. It was hard, muscular, tall. With a hand shaking from more than shivers, he touched his chest. It felt like his dad's.
With more trepidation than curiosity, Danny reached for the waistband of the pajamas. He pulled the edge away and looked down. What he saw made him gasp. With fingers clutching the waistband in shock, he looked around desperately for help. This wasn't him. This wasn't what he looked like. This wasn't a little kid's body and he wanted his parents really, really bad.
His breath was beginning to hitch in his chest and he just wanted his mom and dad to tell him everything was okay. They'd fix this; they'd fix him and take him out of here.
"Doctor Jackson, is everything all right?"
At the sound of the nurse calling his father's name, Danny twirled quickly, looking for his dad. The movement made him dizzy but he ignored it, searching frantically for Doctor Melburn Jackson, while trying to keep the sobs at bay, but seeing no one but the nurse and a roomful of sick people.
"Are you okay?" she asked a little more softly, her hand reaching out for him. "Doctor Jackson?" she repeated.
Stumbling backwards as the hand came closer, Danny tripped over his feet and landed awkwardly on the bed. He realized she was talking to him. She thought he was Doctor Jackson. His father.
"Noooo," he cried, feeling the bed move slightly as he pedaled his feet on the cold ground in his attempt to get away from her. "I want my dad!" Trying to clamber over the bed, he felt her hand on his shoulder. With memories of needles pricking his skin, he reached out frantically, and to his shock, felt his hand impact painfully with something.
The loud thud shocked him. He'd heard the same sound during a scuffle between workers at a dig, and his dad had walked up to the two men and had broken up the fight. He looked back over his shoulder fearfully, and saw that the woman had stepped back away from the bed and was holding a hand to her face.
He couldn't stop crying, his breath hitching so forcefully that he couldn't speak. Deep down he knew he needed to apologize and his dad was probably going to smack him a good one for this. At the moment he'd welcome his dad's punishment, because that meant his dad would be standing next to him instead of being in him.
The sound of others hurrying towards him told him he was in trouble. Adults rarely ran unless something was really urgent, or really bad. He finished his abortive attempt to climb over the bed and swung his legs over onto the other side. He started running towards the doors the moment his feet touched the ground, trying to escape his pursuers. The increased height was disorienting, causing him to stagger slightly but in his mad dash, he managed to stay on his feet. But he was forced to a stop when the doors suddenly opened right in front of him and he came face to face with the stranger who'd been sitting by his bed when he'd first woken up.
They stared at each other for a long moment, then Danny turned and began sprinting in the opposite direction.
There was enough of a command in that voice which Danny recognized as no-nonsense, forcing him to stop. He looked back over his shoulder to see the man slowly walking towards him, along with the doctor in a white coat; the other two stayed where they were, next to the doors.
The three nurses who'd run after him were blocking the other direction and he knew he was trapped.
He cringed as the man reached for him, but when his arms went around him in a hug, Danny drew closer, instinctively seeking comfort, and gave himself up to his emotions.
Jack had seen the naked terror on Daniel's face just before he turned and ran. Even now the sobs weren't subsiding and he and Daniel were sitting on the cold infirmary floor, their positions too reminiscent of a weirded-out Daniel coming down off of a sarc addiction.
Daniel had his face buried in Jack's neck, his soulful howls of pained emotional anguish punctuated by uncontrollable hitches and sobs were oddly disturbing, seeing as they were coming from a grown man. Drool dripped from Daniel's opened mouth, slowly sliding down Jack's neck and dampening his tee shirt around the collar. But even past the emotions wracking his friend's body, were the rhythmic shivers that were a sign of the fever he could feel even through their clothes.
"Blanket," he mouthed to Carter as she caught his gaze. A moment later a scratchy infirmary blanket was wrapped around the both of them. Jack caught the blanket's edge and held it between two fingers, not letting go his hold on Daniel in the process.
Fraiser, who'd been waiting for a nurse to return with a sedative, knelt down to their level once the medication had been handed over. She caught Jack's eyes before easing the blanket down to expose Daniel's bicep.
There was a minute shift in Daniel's body and belatedly, Jack realized he'd caught sight of the syringe. The next thing Jack knew, he had his arms full of a panicked one hundred and eighty pound archeologist who was trying his damnedest to climb over Jack in his panic to escape Fraiser.
His mind racing, Jack's first intuition was to hold Daniel down so that the doc could administer the sedative. But whatever emotions were coursing through Daniel needed to be played out. This hysteria, in an adult, wasn't normal, but then, these weren't normal circumstances.
Daniel had woken up from the lab fiasco with the mind of a child, somewhat confused from the after-effects of the seizure and... whatever had caused the seizure in the first place. But a child, instead of being locked away for an outburst, would be comforted until too exhausted from the emotional upheaval to continue. And would most likely calm down in a short while.
Decision made in a split second, he turned, blocking Fraiser with his body as Daniel grabbed maniacally at him, screaming something unintelligible at the top of his lungs.
"Doc, wait," Jack ground out as Daniel's knee painfully caught his thigh, "it's not gonna help if we scare him any more than he is." Normally Jack's strength would equal Daniel's, but in this terrified state, Teal'c would probably have had a hard time controlling him.
"He needs to calm down, sir," Fraiser said in a clipped voice.
"Daniel, stop it." Jack began envisaging Daniel being carted off to the looney bin once again, sporting the latest fashion of white jacket with extra long sleeves. They'd made a mistake then, leaving Daniel to struggle alone. If this was Daniel's route again, then Jack was going to make sure Daniel didn't take it alone.
The moment Fraiser backed off, Jack let go of Daniel and grabbed his face between his palms. "No needles," he said softly, realizing finally what it was Daniel was terrified of and what he'd been screaming. "No needles," he repeated again, forcing Daniel to listen to him as he caught the doc's gaze. She hesitated a moment before nodding, placing the unused syringe aside on a table.
The screaming stopped and so did the wild thrashing. Jack tried to untangle the blanket as Daniel plastered himself against him, then sighed a thanks when Teal'c wrapped a fresh blanket around them both. He rubbed Daniel's tense back as Teal'c and Carter both got down onto the floor, next to them. Looked like the rest of his team had come to the same conclusion as he.
"You are afraid, DanielJackson. We cannot help you if you do not tell us what you fear."
"T, he's in no condition to tell us what—"
"My dad," Daniel hiccupped, pulling away from Jack just enough to open an eye and look at Teal'c. "My hand's too big." He thrust a trembling hand in Teal'c's direction. "I'm not me. I'm my dad." The hand came back between them and clutched Jack's tee shirt.
"Daniel, why do you say you're your dad?" Carter leaned close, speaking softly as Daniel's breath hitched and hiccupped long and loud.
It took him a few tries before he got the words out. "She c-called me Doctor Jackson." The last ended on a wail, and for a moment Jack thought Daniel was going to start with the hysteria again. He was obviously tiring, unable to maintain the earlier level of emotions. Slowly the tension began to ease as Daniel's body sagged against him more and more.
"Daniel, how about we get out of here and go somewhere a little more quiet?" Now wasn't the time to start questioning him and Daniel was obviously too overwrought to handle any of their explanations.
When Daniel gave a slow nod, his nose rubbing against his shirt, Jack pulled away gently. "C'mon, Doc Fraiser's got a room set up for us."
They got Daniel up and he wanted nothing more than to hide his face against Jack's chest. They stood there, chest to chest, Jack's arms around Daniel, until a nurse did Fraiser's bidding and hurried over with a wheelchair.
"Wanna sit down and we'll give you a ride?"
Daniel pulled back reluctantly and eyed the chair warily.
"C'mon, it's fun. This way you won't have to worry about cold feet." Jack pointed to Daniel's bare feet.
It took them a moment to settle Daniel in the chair, wrapping one of the blankets around him, tucking them around his feet. Jack hadn't been wrong, the man's feet were icy.
Teal'c positioned himself behind the chair, leaving Jack and Carter to walk next to Daniel. Placing a hand on Daniel's shoulder, he motioned Carter to lead the way.
"Here we go, home sweet home."
The big man opened a door and Jack pushed the chair into a room. There was a large bed in the middle of the room, and Danny eyed it with longing. He remained in the chair, however, unsure of what to do next. He looked up at Jack, waiting for instructions. Instead it was the woman, Sam, who spoke.
"This is your room for now, Daniel." She gave him a smile and some of his nervousness eased. "The bed's yours; you can go lie down if you don't feel well. There's a television, we can watch something together a little later, if you're up to it."
He pushed the blanket aside, and with a last look at Jack, who nodded encouragingly, he stood. He hated the odd feeling of being too tall. He looked around quickly but other than a table and chairs, a small bathroom and a long, black picture hanging on the wall, the room was uninteresting. He shuffled to the bed and sat on it, pulling his feet off the floor and tucking them under his knees.
The big man... T... Teal, took the blanket he'd left in the chair and wrapped it around his shoulders. Danny grabbed the edges gratefully and leaned forward, rocking slightly.
"So..." Jack sat on the edge of the bed and flipped the edge of the blanket over so that it covered the tips of his bare feet. "Care to tell me what that was all about with the needles?"
"I hate needles," Danny said quickly. His throat hurt from crying and his eyes were all scratchy and swollen. He wanted to blow his nose but there were no tissues. He sniffed loud and hard and got an instant headache for his trouble.
"Yeah, but you've had them before—" Jack stopped and gave the woman a funny look when she hit him with her elbow.
"I had needles before," Danny admitted. "But my mom or dad were always with me." His voice hitched, and he bit his lip, trying not to cry. "Where's my mommy? I want my mommy."
"I know, Daniel." Sam sat beside him and put an arm around him. He wanted her to feel like his mom was holding him but her arm felt tiny compared to his mom's. Still, her hand felt good as it rubbed his back, and he sniffled again after taking another long, hitching breath.
"Look, what you were saying about your father earlier..."
Danny blinked at Jack, his heart full of fear.
"You're not him. Your father, I mean. You're you. Just not the you, you think you are."
"Sir, I don't think—"
"Go for it, Carter."
His attention had been bounding from one to the other. He wiped at tears that wouldn't stop sliding down his cheeks and turned to Sam.
"Do you know what amnesia is?"
His nose had chosen this moment to start leaking, and he nodded as he rubbed an arm under it. "That's when you forget something."
"That's right." She smiled at him again as Jack got up and walked into the bathroom. "That's what happened to you. You have amnesia."
"No, I don't. 'Cause I remember everything. I was in the plane with my mom and dad and we were coming to New York 'cause there's an exhibition that they have to set up in the museum and we're going to go to the zoo and go see the ocean even though we were flying over the water but I couldn't see anything because the plane was too high up and we're gonna go see a play and go to a ballgame and there was a thunderstorm and the thunder was really loud and I was scared and... and... and..."
Jack had come out of the bathroom with a box of tissues and offered one to Danny. He plucked one from the box and blew his nose. He didn't remember anything else about the plane ride, except the lightning and the pain.
He turned to face Sam, not knowing what to do with the tissue.
"Your parents. What museum were they—"
Danny dropped the tissue into a garbage can that Jack held out to him. "The New York Museum of Art," he said quickly, proud he could remember the name so readily. His parents had been talking about it for months and he'd been looking forward to visiting the museum. His dad had told him about all the neat things there.
"Yeah, I know."
Danny looked from one to the other, wondering what they were talking about. He turned to Teal, wondering why he was so quiet all the time. Teal caught his eye and smiled. He suddenly didn't look so big and mean anymore.
"Perhaps DanielJackson would wish to watch a movie."
He didn't, not really. But he didn't know what else to do so he simply shrugged.
"Then I shall retrieve the DVDs from my quarters. I shall return shortly."
"Here, you might be more comfortable under the covers." Jack pulled the comforter off the bed while Teal left the room. Danny moved to the side of the bed until the sheets were exposed. He slid under the covers and Jack piled a few pillows behind his back to make him comfy. By the time Teal got back, Sam and Jack had chairs set up beside the bed, facing the black picture on the wall. Danny wondered where the television was; maybe Teal had gone to get it?
"Whatcha get?" Jack asked as Teal opened up a thin, square plastic box. He took out a shiny round thing and put it into another bigger box beneath the black picture.
Danny thought it funny the way Jack groaned and he couldn't help grinning at him. Then as the black picture on the wall exploded in color and sound, he sat up in bed, surprised.
"Cool!" he exclaimed as words began appearing on the screen along with the majestic music.
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...
Jack watched Daniel fighting sleep, his eyelids slowly getting heavier and heavier despite his enjoyment of the movie. He'd been full of questions at first, then slowly settled down as the movie caught him hook, line and sinker. Unless Daniel's memory came back soon, Jack had a feeling they'd be watching the trilogy over and over again.
He'd have to find a way to make Teal'c pay for this.
Just as Daniel's eyes slid closed and Jack thought they seemed to be about to stay that way, Daniel sat up in bed, eyes wide in alarm. "My artifact. Where's my artifact?"
"Easy, easy. What artifact?" Jack was off the chair and was sitting on the bed beside Daniel in a flash, hoping to be able to calm him before the man decided to panic again. The movie's soundtrack appeared suddenly loud, seeming to add to Daniel's anxiety. Teal'c hit the pause button while Jack rubbed Daniel's shoulder, feeling the heat of growing fever through the thin scrubs. The motion seemed to calm Daniel, at least he didn't look like he was ready to jump out of bed and go running through the SGC.
"Nick gave it to me." Daniel's voice was full of anguish. "And I lost it."
"It's okay." Carter reached out and touched Daniel's leg. "It's in my lab. You didn't lose it."
"I... I..." Daniel stopped and looked at the light bandage Fraiser had wrapped around the burn on his right hand. "It hurt," he said in a small voice. "I was scared because it was thundering and the plane was jumping everywhere and there was lightning and it... it..."
"You fell asleep. You probably just dreamed it." Jack patted Daniel's shoulder and reached for the Tylenol Fraiser had given him.
"No!" Daniel swiveled in the bed so he continued to face Jack. "I was sick on the plane and mom gave me my artifact. It hurt... the lightning hit the plane and it hurt."
Jack shook out two pills and waited while Teal'c got some water. "You're not in the plane, Daniel. You're safe here. It was just a dream." He held out the pills for Daniel to take.
"Then what hurt my hand?" He held his burned palm and fingers out to Jack for a moment, before plucking the pills from Jack's hand. With a glare, he put them into his mouth and accepted the water from Teal'c.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Damn, the infirmary was noisy. Daniel shifted, keeping his eyes closed, trying to find a way to block out the ruckus. Loud voices, raised in anger, pierced his brain, bounced around and took up residency. Dreams. Crazy dreams about his parents and Jack had kept his sleep restless and a headache front and center. Pure and simple, he felt like crap.
Help was just a call bell away, a little something from Janet and he'd sleep. There'd be no headache. No noise. No crazy dreams. Giving into temptation, Daniel patted the bed. Behind him and to the right, that's where the call bell should be. Strange. He ran his hand up and down the sheets, searching.
"I'm right here, Daniel."
He'd been under Janet's care enough times to be familiar with the touch and feel of her fingers. The hand that held his wasn't Janet's, nor was it Sam's. Daniel's hand was encased in a grip that was callused and rough, the hand of someone who was a manual laborer or someone who worked outside or someone...
"Can you open your eyes for me?"
...who was an archeologist. "Mom?" Daniel's eyes flew open and his struggle to sit up was thwarted by an insistent hand pressed against his chest.
Daniel whipped his head to the left. "Dad?" A cry escaped him before he had a chance to stop it and he flopped backwards.
This wasn't the infirmary under Cheyenne Mountain, he was in a hospital. With his parents. His dead parents and he was... Daniel pulled his hand from his mother's grip and examined it once again. The dreams that he'd thought had been weird, obviously weren't dreams. They'd been real.
And he was slammed with a whirlwind of memories. Sam's lab. The stone. The pain in his hand. All true. Daniel pushed away his father's hand and threw back the blanket covering his body. A small body to match his small hand. Even the joy of being flanked by his parents paled at the shock. He was a kid. "Shit."
"Daniel Garrett Jackson."
"Am I dead?" He looked from his mother to his father. "Is this heaven?" Being dead was a plausible explanation. Being dead was preferable to being a kid. Again.
"Shush." His mother's eyes filled with tears as she stroked his face, and Daniel tried, really tried not to lean into her caress, not to chase after the coolness of her cupped palm or remember her touch. He couldn't afford to think with his heart and not his head.
"Mel," his mother angrily reprimanded, "watch his hand."
In a gesture so loving and familiar, Daniel wondered why it wasn't synonymous with his father's memory, his hair was gently pushed from his forehead. "Sorry, Doodle Bug."
Doodle Bug. Danny Doodle Bug. How could he have forgotten? How? His parents' pet name for him. Daniel remembered baulking when they'd call him that. He'd yelled at his mom the morning they'd died because she'd called him that in front of the curator. "It's a baby name," Daniel remembered yelling. "And I'm not a baby. I wish you'd stop calling me that." Less than five hours later, Daniel had gotten his wish.
This was a nightmare, worse than the Gamekeeper's world, and he tried to stop the moisture leaking out from under his eyelids. "I want to go home."
"We're trying. Doctors here seem to be at a premium. Mel, why don't you—"
Daniel felt a feather-light kiss on his cheek and opened his eyes to find his dad's face mere inches from his.
"I'm going to try and find us a doctor so we can get out of here."
Slowly, he brought his bandaged hand up to rub the spot where he'd been kissed. "Dad." Daniel stopped and thought. This man wasn't his 'dad'. The dad reference was an adult word. "Daddy," he amended, "I—"
"Careful, you got a pretty bad burn there." With extreme care, his dad guided Daniel's hand to rest on his belly.
Daniel saw it in the furtive glances they gave each other, the way they hovered protectively over him, and the way they kept touching him. His parents were worried. About him. His parents were worried about him... Well, not really him, they were worried about the other Daniel. The little Daniel who used to live in this body. The body he was now in. So if he was here... did that mean—? He groaned.
His father jumped up, obviously taking Daniel's vocalization as a sign of pain and not for what it was- frustration. "Doctor," he shouted, glancing up and down the aisle of the crowded ER. "We need a doctor over here..." He grabbed the first person in white who walked by.
"I'm sorry, sir."
Mel pulled the doctor over and squinted at his nametag. "Don't apologize, Doctor Fredericks, just help my son."
"He's not my patient."
"Goddamn it, he's somebody's patient."
"Doctor. Doctor Jackson."
Daniel watched from the gurney as the demeanor of Doctor Fredericks changed the second his father stuck the title of Doctor before his name. He himself had done it on occasion.
"Please excuse me, Doctor Jackson. I'll see if I can find someone with information about your son—"
"Daniel. My son's name is Daniel."
He was being released. With a prescription for an antibiotic, cream for the burn and with the advice not to come back to the hospital.
"What about the seizure?" his mother asked, walking up to join Daniel's father by the doctor's side.
There was low mumbling, head shaking and glances in his direction, enough to piss Daniel off. Awkwardly, Daniel levered his body up using his good arm. "What about the seizure?"
"I'm talking to your parents, Daniel."
"You're talking to my parents about me, Doctor, I would expect to be—" Daniel ignored the shocked looks on his parents' faces and forged ahead. "To be included in this discussion."
The doctor scowled at him, then continued speaking to his parents, his gaze locked on the papers in the chart.
"Excuse me," Daniel interrupted, loudly. Loud enough that a passing technician stopped and stared for a second. "I asked a question."
"Daniel!" His mother was shaking her head and his father was giving Daniel the patented "wait until you get home" glare.
"I'm sorry," he replied sheepishly. "But I just wanted to..." He'd always been precocious and Daniel remembered his parents' leniency, but the way the two of them were staring at him, there was a hint of fear that he'd crossed from precociousness into obnoxiousness without points being taken into consideration for fever and sickness. "I'm sorry," Daniel repeated.
"Oh, honey." His mother's expression of confused anger melted away and was replaced by a parental concern so strong that Daniel had to avert his head. As one, his parents stepped back to the head of his bed.
"You may finish speaking, Doctor."
The doctor blinked in confusion, then stared at Daniel's father. "I thought—"
"We're both doctors, actually."
"I'm sorry, excuse me." The doctor cleared his throat and stood up a bit straighter. "Danny here..."
"Daniel." No one called him Danny, except for his father, and eventually Jack. Jack called him Danny.
The doctor sneered at Daniel, but continued. "Daniel's seizure wasn't witnessed by myself, any hospital personnel nor by the ambulance drivers. We can find no physiological reason for the seizure nor does the EEG show any abnormalities or residual damage. His fever may have been high enough during the flight to precipitate a febrile seizure, but for the past few hours his fever has been hovering at 101, certainly not enough to warrant a seizure."
It took all that Daniel had not to stick out his tongue at the pompous, smug man. "So you have no idea why I had a seizure?"
The doctor made a show of clicking open his pen and writing in the chart. "Fever and the stress of flying."
"Stress of flying?" Daniel sputtered. He turned towards his mother. "Tell him I have no fear—"
"That's enough!" Mel warned. "Let the doctor speak."
"Actually, it says here you've just arrived from Cairo." Slowly, he nodded. "Based on your blood work, your white count is slightly elevated, but everything else is within normal parameters." He slammed the chart shut. "As I stated previously, in my opinion, the seizure was precipitated not only by the fever but the stress of flying."
"But you're still releasing him?"
The doctor waved Daniel's chart around the large area of curtain-enclosed cubicles. "There's a flu epidemic in the city, and while Dann—Daniel is sick, he's going to get a heck of a lot sicker, you all are, if you hang around with all these germs. So I would advise you to take him home and put him to bed. Let him watch some cartoons, drink juice, and give him the medication I prescribed."
"And the burn on his hand?"
While he understood the doctor's reluctance to take up a precious hospital bed with a child who was simply running a fever, Daniel was interested in knowing how he was going to explain the burn on the palm of his right hand.
"Obviously, he touched something he wasn't supposed to—"
The doctor was saved from Daniel's indignation when another member of the hospital staff shoved a stack of folders shoved a stack of folders into his arms. "I have to go. If you have any questions, call the pediatric resident. I'm sure he'll be able to... Take the meds, the cream and in a day or two Daniel will be as right as rain."
* * * * * * * * * * *
"Can we watch it again?"
Jack saw Teal'c grin broadly as he leaned forward and pressed the play button on the remote. He looked Daniel over with a critical eye. He looked better after taking the Tylenol, but he'd missed most of the movie the first time round when he'd drifted into an uneasy sleep. Every now and then, he'd rub at the burn on his hand or stare at it intently as if trying to remember how it had happened. Maybe, Jack thought, Daniel was the only one who could help them get to the bottom of this mystery, but in order for him to do that, they had to find a way to reintegrate him with his memories and his life. He thought there was a way to do that but he wanted to check with Fraiser first. Jack wanted to make sure that what he was thinking of doing wouldn't cause Daniel too much stress. All he needed was a reason to leave Daniel here with Teal'c and Carter for a while so he could go see the doc.
Daniel looked over and caught his eye. "My dad would love this movie," he said. "He loves science fiction." His lip trembled and he clenched down hard on it with his teeth. "I wish you'd get my parents for me," he said. "They'll be worried about me. Can't you at least tell me where they are?"
Jack stood up and stretched. "Tell you what. Why don't you finish watching the movie with Sam and Teal'c. I'm gonna go get us some snacks."
"Popcorn?" Daniel's voice rose in excitement, and Jack grinned and nodded. "Popcorn for sure. I'll get some sodas too, okay? What's your favorite?"
Daniel hesitated. "Mom doesn't like me having too much soda," he replied, "but I guess one wouldn't hurt. Do you have Coke? I haven't had Coke in forever. We only had a little icebox in Egypt and Mom said Coke would take up room that we needed for keeping meat and stuff cold."
"Coke it is." Jack looked meaningfully at Carter, who nodded.
"We'll be fine, sir. I'd love a Coke, too," she said. "Make it diet, will you, sir?"
"I will have Peach Snapple," Teal'c interjected, never taking his eyes from the screen. "And corn chips."
"Right," Jack replied. He waited until Daniel settled down to watch the movie again, then he quietly left the room.
He headed for Fraiser's office and knocked on the door, entering without waiting for her to call him in.
The doctor was sitting at her desk, sipping a cup of coffee as she perused a pile of papers in front of her. She looked pale and tired.
Jack slipped into the chair in front to the desk. "How's it going, Doc?" he asked. "You look like you're ready to collapse."
Fraiser put the cup down with the calculatedly careful movement of the truly exhausted. "I'm a little tired," she replied with a small smile. "The good news is we seem to have contained the contagion to only the two SG teams that were originally affected. They're quarantined and our anti-viral treatment seems to be working. They should all be out of the woods by tomorrow, though it'll be a week before I can let them back on active duty."
"That's good news," Jack said. "So, shouldn't you be getting some rest? I know you've got a good team here, Doc, but they're only as good as their team leader. If we lose you now..."
She smiled in appreciation at the compliment and concern. "If I fall in a heap, Doctor Warner is quite capable of taking over. However, I'm planning on getting some sleep in a while. Just need to finish up these reports for the night staff and then I want to check in on Daniel before I go. How's he doing?"
"Actually, that's why I'm here." Jack lifted a hand as he saw worry replace the fatigue on her face. "He's fine. He's watching Star Wars for the second time with Teal'c and Carter. Teal'c's in his element, as you can imagine."
Fraiser grinned her acknowledgment of that. The big Jaffa's penchant for Star Wars was well-known around the base. "So..." she prodded.
"Daniel's still asking about his folks," Jack replied. "I'm just wondering what we should be telling him. I think the longer he's left with no answers, the more upset he's going to get. I know that with most cases of amnesia you prefer to let the patient remember on his own, but I also think that Daniel holds most of the answers to what's happened to him if we can just get those memories out."
Fraiser nodded. "I agree, and in actual fact the thing about amnesiacs needing to remember on their own is a fallacy. There's no real harm to be done in helping the memories along. In Daniel's case, I'd suggest you simply answer his questions honestly. Don't prompt him to ask specific things, wait for him to ask, but when he does, tell him the truth as simply and as gently as you can. Don't embellish, tell him only what he's asked. As far as his parents are concerned, if he asks again where they are, tell him they're dead. Once he knows that, his mind may supply the memory of how and when they died which may then trigger other memories in turn."
"Sorta like a chain reaction," Jack said.
"Or a domino effect," Fraiser put in. "With that in mind, if he gets too upset, call me immediately. Whether he likes needles or not, I'll probably want to sedate him. Too much distress will only hinder the process of memory recall."
Jack stood up. "I'll go easy, Doc," he assured her.
"Okay. Let me know how it goes. I'm going to get a couple of hours sleep in one of the private cubicles here."
"Make sure you do that," Jack said firmly. "Colonel's orders."
"Yes, sir." Fraiser smiled and sketched a salute at him as he left.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Daniel was squished between his parents in the back seat of a cab and he shivered, as much from the fever as from the October weather. Mentally, Daniel's mind was accustomed to Colorado temperature, but this body, at this point in time, was acclimated to the warmth of Egyptian sun.
"We're almost there."
"There?" Daniel's gaze skipped from his mother to his father.
"The hotel. Remember?"
No, he really didn't remember, but Daniel wanted to connect the dots himself. Too short to see over the front seat, Daniel peered around his mother, studying the sights out the passenger windows. "New York." He gazed up at his mother. "This is New York."
"Correct," she said with a smile in her voice. "New York. A hotel."
Only once in his lifetime had Daniel and his parents ever flown into a New York airport. And it came back. Every minute. But as he sat in the back seat of the taxi, tucked against his parents, all he could focus on was that his head hurt. His hand hurt. And that he really, really, really wanted to be home.
"Mel. Claire... Daniel... Oh, thank goodness."
Daniel stopped dead in his tracks and stared at the woman approaching them with a speed of a freight train. Confused, he shot a glance at his parents, then stepped backwards, saved from being sucked back into the revolving door by his father's sudden grip on his arm.
His mom welcomed the woman with open arms, hugging her tightly, to the consternation of the hotel patrons who had to skirt around the two women to enter the revolving door.
Mel herded them off to the side, then cocked his head towards Daniel. "Come on, son."
Daniel shuffled behind, the noise of the hotel lobby after the hospital, the taxi, and the shock of where he was and with whom was more than a tad disorientating. His senses were in overdrive... too much, and he grabbed onto the hem of his mother's jacket like a shy schoolboy.
"I was so worried when you called me from the hospital." The woman disengaged herself from Daniel's mother, then bent down to examine Daniel. She smiled, then gently pushed up his glasses.
He smiled back. "Margie..." Tentatively, Daniel reached out and fingered a lock of her long, black, curly hair, so like Sha're's. He wondered why he'd never made the connection before. "I've..." He slammed his mouth shut before his thoughts could come flying out. What was he going to say? I'd forgotten all about you?
Daniel accepted her hug with a sigh, wondering how much more of his early life had been lost in the shock of losing his parents and his life.
"You're still warm," Margie admonished, glaring at his parents.
Daniel hid his smile. Margie was younger than his parents, but her take charge, no nonsense manner made her appear years older. She'd been their assistant. Their right hand person. The person who took charge of the trivial matters. Their buffer with the government, the museum, and his friend.
She stood, keeping one hand on Daniel's shoulder, pulling him up against her legs, her hand resting against his forehead. "The hospital released him? With a fever..."
His dad shook the bag of drugs. "With antibiotics." Gently his dad lifted his hand. "Cream for his burn."
"Burn?... What the..." Margie reached towards Daniel's hand, but changed her mind and draped her arm around his shoulder.
Daniel looked up at Margie. "There were too many sick people in the hospital."
Margie's glance bounced between his parents.
"He's not kidding," Claire said. "The doctor informed us that there was a flu epidemic—"
"So they released him?" She shook her head, her long curls brushing the top of Daniel's head.
"Well, give me the medicine and Daniel." She held out her hand and waggled her fingers.
Mel pulled the bag back. "No, I don't think so."
"Yes, I think so," Margie insisted. "Bill very politely requested your presence for a look-see at the progress—"
"No!" Daniel shouted. "Not now."
"Maybe we should stay here with Daniel... He's been through..." His mother looked towards his father for support.
"Nonsense. Go. Daniel and I will be fine... won't we, Daniel?"
Daniel didn't know what to answer, because it wasn't his health he was worried about.
His parents walked them to the elevators, kissing him one more time, the four of them waving frantic goodbyes as the elevator doors closed.
She pushed the button, then smiled at him. "Hey, if I don't know better, I'd think you didn't want to stay with me." Margie stuck out her lower lip in an exaggerated pout. "That's not true..." She bent down, coming face to face with him, her demeanor changing from playfulness to seriousness. "Is it?"
Margie Morning Glory. That's what he used to call her. But for some reason the name just stuck in his throat and the only thing he could produce was tears.
She opened her cape and like a pair of wings, it enveloped Daniel, shielding him. "This calls for a movie, my soft couch and a sinful chocolaty dessert paid for by the museum. Work for you?"
Daniel nodded, trying to forget how much it hurt and how much he'd hated, and had never really forgiven Margie for deserting him the day after his parents died.
His tears dried, and Daniel tried to remain aloof, sitting in the corner of the couch in her hotel room, ignoring the dish of chocolate ice cream delivered by room service, that was now melting on the table.
"I'm sorry." She sat on the table across from him, picked up the soupy mixture of ice cream and began to eat it. "I don't know what I did to make you angry—"
"You didn't do anything," Daniel mumbled, adding a mental 'not yet' to finish off the sentence. "This is just..." he shrugged. "Strange."
Margie stirred the ice cream, speeding its journey into soup. "Yeah, you're right. Forty-some hours ago, we were sweating under the hot sun, complaining about sand particles in unspeakable places." Her smile wasn't returned by Daniel, but she just shrugged and plowed on. "And now..." She shivered with mock exaggeration, "We're freezing in New York. Half way around the world. Wishing for my flannels as opposed to a cold drink of water and a blast of air conditioning. Things change in a flash. Right?"
"No!" Daniel yelled. "Things will not change in a flash! Everything will remain the same. I'm going to make sure..." Daniel jumped off the couch and ran to the door. "I want my parents. Now!" He turned the knob and it worked, but the door only opened a few inches. He looked up; the chain was in place. Standing on tiptoes, Daniel tried to reach it and he would have made it, if Margie hadn't interfered.
He shook his head. "Go away," Daniel said, tugging frantically at the door.
"You're scaring me." Margie's voice was soft and hesitant. "I'm not too sure what you want."
"I want to go home." Leaning his head against the door, the weight of his body snicked the door closed. "Damn it." Daniel gave the door a weak kick, then slid down the wall.
"Shit, Daniel." Margie sat next to him, so close that a piece of paper would have a hard time slipping between the two of them.
His knees hugged his chest, and he dropped his head on top of them.
Margie rested her head on his.
Daniel really wanted to move away, slide away from Margie, but he didn't.
"So Robin, want to explain to Batman why you totally flipped out?"
The Dynamic Duo. Margie's nickname for the two of them. He'd forgotten. Seemed like everything surrounding her was buried so deeply, he needed a steam shovel to uncover it.
"I had a bad day."
She threw her arms around him and hugged him tightly. "Plane, seizure, hospital and fever..." Margie pushed back his hair and planted a loud kiss on Daniel's temple. "You still have a fever, a burn on your hand and a bag of antibiotics. Bad day is an understatement."
Squirming, he tried to extricate himself from her grip. "I don't ever remember Batman hugging Robin."
"And I don't remember Robin ever having a temper tantrum that would make a two year old jealous."
"Want to share what's wrong?"
Daniel tried not to cry at the concern in her voice. "No."
"Okay." She stretched out her legs, the bell at the bottom of her jeans hiding her feet. "Ahh... much better."
Daniel stretched out his legs. Damn, he was small. Margie wasn't as tall as either of his parents, but she still put Daniel's size in perspective. Lifting his ass, he stuck his left hand into his pocket, pulled out the artifact and palmed it. "Did I ever show you this?"
"I've seen you with it. I know it's important to you. Can I?" Margie's fingers hesitated, hovering over the stone.
Daniel nodded. "My mom doesn't recognize the writing."
She raised it up, turning it over, her thumb, rubbing along the inserted stones.
"What does it look like to you?" Daniel stared at the patterns in the carpet, seeing the stone in his mind's eye.
"Scribbling..." Margie traced it with her finger. "Sorta like a little kid would do." She looked at Daniel and smiled.
"You better not be referring to this little kid." He glared at her through narrowed eyes.
"You don't scare me, Daniel Garrett Jackson. I can take you with one hand tied behind my back."
"But you won't. You won't take me anywhere," Daniel said sadly. He scooped the stone from her hand, shoved it in his pocket, got up and headed towards the couch.
Margie appeared before him, stopping Daniel in his tracks, enveloping him in a bear hug before he could even manage of grunt of protest. "I'm not letting you go anywhere, Robin... not without me. What's Batman without his trusty sidekick. As my dear old, stuck in the 50's, military dad used to say... 'No one gets left behind'."
The emotional tsunami came out of nowhere, and Daniel stopped fighting her presence and gave into memories long buried but obviously not forgotten. He clung to her, crying, releasing thirty years of suppressed tears of a dejected, orphaned and lost eight year old boy.
Embarrassed beyond belief, Daniel couldn't even look Margie in the face. She must have sensed it and gave him space, a warm washcloth to clean his face and a box of tissues to blow his nose, then sat at the opposite end of the couch.
Daniel watched the TV but didn't see the images as she flipped through the TV stations. Margie paused at nothing, probably concentrating as much as Daniel. Truthfully, Daniel couldn't help himself and smiled at how much her attention span reminded him of Jack.
The phone rang, the sound incredibly outdated and old-fashioned to Daniel's ears.
"That's probably your parents."
She answered the phone, and gave Daniel an okay sign, matching his nod with one of her own. "We're in room H-24. I have the keys to your room here." She winked at Daniel. "You can pick up Daniel and your keys..." Margie laughed. "We were just relaxing. Watching some TV... See you in a little while."
She hung up the phone and sat on the couch, this time closer to Daniel.
"Thank you for not telling them that..." He ducked his head. "I... you know."
She reached out and touched his cheek. "It's been a tough day, Daniel. You've been hanging by a thread... Thank you for trusting me enough to let it all hang out."
Standing before the large picture window in the suite, Daniel gazed upon the expanse of the New York City skyline stretching as far as his eyes could see. He remembered the view. The hotel room and excitement. The view and the hotel room hadn't changed, the excitement was gone, replaced by stomach-churning fear. The TV played in the background, the canned laughter to the antics of the Laugh-In crew a poignant reminder of times long past.
"Come away from the window, Daniel."
Turning away from the city's lights, he offered his mother a slight smile.
He nodded, inexplicably exhausted.
"Let's get you into bed." His father took over. Gently, he guided him into the bathroom. Daniel stood, compliant, while his father washed his face with a hotel handtowel, then washed his left hand, shaking his head over Daniel's bandaged right hand. "We'll take care of that tomorrow."
"Tomorrow? What day is tomorrow?" Daniel shook while his father hurriedly buttoned the top to his pajamas.
Mel pressed his lips to his son's forehead. "You still have a fever."
"We'll worry about tomorrow, tomorrow."
"You need to go to the museum tomorrow."
"You need to get better. Don't worry about the exhibit. We have three days to put the finishing touches on it, more than enough time for you to recover."
Daniel was in some type of shock. He knew it. Totally aware and powerless. Fully medicated, he was in bed in the hotel, in his pajamas, tucked in, watching his parents watch him. Their eyes were full of anxiety. The anxiety of being back in the US with a sick child. Anxiety over his seizure, his fever and the inexplicable burn mark on his right palm. Anxiety over their coming exhibition at the museum.
Daniel's anxiety was for how he was going to try his damnedest to rewrite history. Both theirs and his. The next, and last, seventy-two hours of his parents' lives was in his hands.
* * * * * * * * * * *
By the time Jack got back to the VIP room, the tray he carried laden with snacks and drinks, it was clear that Daniel was more relaxed than he'd been since he'd regained consciousness. "Snack time," he carolled as he put the tray down on the dining table.
"Oh, great," Daniel said. "I'm starving. Can you stop the movie, Teal?"
"My name is Teal'c," the Jaffa said, emphasising the final letter.
"Oh." Daniel's face flushed. "Sorry."
"It is of no consequence, DanielJackson," Teal'c said.
"Why do you call me that? DanielJackson?"
"Is it not your name?" Teal'c asked, standing and moving over to the table to snag his drink and chips.
"Well, yeah, but most people just call me Daniel."
"I have always called you DanielJackson. However, if you wish me to change—"
"No, it's fine. It's different. I think I like it," Daniel said, joining them at the table. He picked up the can of Coke and sipped, his eyes closing in apparent bliss. "Yum," he whispered reverently, grinning broadly at them all as they burst out laughing.
"Here." Jack handed him the bag of popcorn then ushered him back over to the bed. "Let's finish watching this movie."
"You've missed most of it," Daniel said, holding the bag out to Jack so he could grab a handful. "We could rewind it for you," he offered in a hopeful tone as he made to reach for the remote.
"Nah, that's fine," Jack said, slinging an arm around his shoulders. "I know how it ends, anyway."
They watched the end of the movie in companionable silence, then Teal'c stood up and turned off the TV. "There are more adventures of Solo and Skywalker," he said. "I shall bring them for you tomorrow. Goodnight, DanielJackson. Sleep well."
Carter stood as well, covering her mouth to smother a yawn. "I think I'll head off, too," she said. "I want to get an early start to study that... thing we were looking at this morning."
Jack nodded his understanding. "Think you might be onto something?" he asked, keeping his question deliberately vague.
"It's the only thing I have to go on right now, sir," she replied. Hesitantly, she leaned down and kissed Daniel's forehead. "See you in the morning, Daniel."
Daniel turned wide eyes on him as they left. "Do I have to sleep here by myself?" he asked, sounding worried.
"Nope," Jack assured him. "I'm staying."
"Oh. There's only one bed," Daniel pointed out.
"I'm having a cot brought in." Jack looked up at a knock on the door. "There it is now," he said, going over to help the airman in with the cot and bedding. "Why don't you go brush your teeth before we hit the hay?" he suggested. "That Coke'll strip the enamel off your teeth overnight if you don't."
"Okay. Mom's really strict about me brushing my teeth," Daniel said, heading to the bathroom.
"Well, that's what moms are for," Jack said.
By the time Daniel came out, Jack had the cot in order and the blankets pulled back on the bed. "Wanna toss for the bed?" he asked, grinning.
"No way," Daniel replied, climbing under the blankets on the cot. "I've never slept in a real army cot before. You can have the bed."
It seemed like only minutes had passed before Jack was jolted awake by the soft sound of sobs. Switching on the bedside lamp, he saw Daniel, his head completely covered by the blankets on the cot, his shoulders shaking.
"Hey." Jack reached down a hand and patted Daniel's back. "Easy, big fella."
When the crying continued, Jack climbed out of bed and perched on the edge of the cot. He peeled the blankets back from Daniel's red, tear-stained face. "Aw, Danny," he murmured, pulling his friend up and into his arms.
They sat like that for long minutes till Daniel sighed and pushed himself away. "Why haven't my mom and dad come to get me?" he asked, his voice husky with tears.
Jack swallowed down the huge lump that seemed to have taken up residence in his throat. "They can't, Daniel."
"Why?" Daniel asked, his voice pleading. "If you just let me use a phone I can call them. I know where they're staying—"
"Daniel, listen to me really carefully," Jack said softly. "Your parents aren't here because they're dead. They died a long time ago—"
"No!" Daniel screamed. "That's not true! You're lying! I want to see them! Let me go!"
Jack reached for him but Daniel shrugged him away then stood and retreated to the cot, flinging himself down on it and turning his back. "You're lying," he muttered. "Leave me alone."
"Crap!" Jack whispered feelingly. He lay back down against his pillows, turning onto his side, watching as Daniel pulled the covers over his head again.
He stayed awake as long as he could after that, but Daniel never moved or spoke. Eventually, Jack drifted into a restless sleep, waking only when his watch alarm bleeped.
Standing, he stretched the kinks out of his back, rubbed the sleep from his aching eyes, then bent down to check on Daniel.
"Shit," he muttered as his hands encountered only the rumpled blankets.
Daniel was gone.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Daniel sat up in the hotel bed with the covers huddled up about him. He had so much to think about and so little time. He'd been given another chance. A chance to re-live his childhood with his parents, and the very thought of it gave him chills.
He'd thought through everything that had happened after his dad had tucked him into bed. God, how he'd missed that when he was little! He'd tried desperately to make sense of the puzzle he now found himself living and had come up empty. Alice in Wonderland was beginning to look pretty damn tame compared to this.
He'd had a moment's wild thought that he could phone Jack, then realized dejectedly that Jack, at this time, would only be twenty years old and wouldn't have a clue who he was, or anything about the Stargate Program. That thought led him on to worrying about the consequences of what he was hoping to do. Changing the past. How would it affect, not just his future, but that of everyone he knew?
Would he still join the SGC? Would he still go to Abydos and marry Sha're... and lose her, he forced himself to think. What about Jack? Maybe he'd be the one to die on that Special Ops mission, instead of his friend, John. Perhaps they'd go through the Stargate but be killed by Teal'c, instead of him allying himself with them. Maybe they would never meet the Tok'ra and Sam's father, Jacob would simply die of the cancer that plagued him.
He remembered talking to Nick when he was around six years old. He'd had to do an assignment for school about the voyage of the Mayflower. Nick had offered to help and Daniel had eagerly agreed. It wasn't cheating, he'd told himself. He could just as easily look up the information he needed in the encyclopedia, but listening to his grandfather's stories of times past was so much more exciting.
"Nick, what would have happened if the Indians had killed everyone on the Mayflower? Would we still have America?"
Nick had chuckled at him. "Of course, Daniel," he said, ruffling his grandson's hair. "Perhaps not the America we know now, but it would still be here." He'd been silent for a moment then spoke again. "One must be very careful with such things. For by altering one's past, we would, inevitably, alter our future."
The morbid, disquieting thoughts circled endlessly until his head throbbed with pain. He looked down, picking at the bandage on his hand... and a thought struck him. The burn on his palm seemed to be the exact shape as the stone he'd been holding when Sam had scanned it, and after that, he couldn't remember anything until he'd woken up here... in his eight year old body.
Slipping out of bed, his feet thumped loudly on the floor and he froze. He'd forgotten that his shorter legs didn't reach the floor anymore. He waited a moment for his door to open and his mom to chastise him for being out of bed, but when silence reigned, he crept over to the dresser drawer and pulled it open. Fumbling for a moment in the semi-darkness, his hand finally closed around the smooth, round object and he pulled it out. Cradling it against his chest, he headed back to bed and scrambled in.
He ran his fingers blindly along the lines and curves carved into the smooth surface. He knew the writing was vaguely familiar, but all he could bring to mind was that they were similar to Babylonian script. He knew he was missing something, and it would probably be something idiotically simple.
He rested the stone against his bandaged hand, wincing at the pain of pressure against his burned flesh, then closed his eyes and tried to send his thoughts through the years to Sam. "It's the stone, Sam," he whispered softly. "The stone."
He opened his eyes, a little embarrassed at himself. Only in a B-grade sci-fi movie could something like that work. He sighed and lay back against his pillows. Then again, he'd seen some pretty weird stuff since the first time he stepped through the gate. As much as he relished the opportunity to be here with his parents, he missed his team, too.
His bedroom door creaked open and his mother stood in the doorway, hands on hips but an expression of fond exasperation on her face. "Daniel Jackson!" she admonished quietly. "You're supposed to be asleep."
Daniel sat up and smiled at her. "I'm not sleepy." He pushed the stone under his pillow but his mother frowned and stepped up to his bed.
"What are you hiding there?" she asked, holding out her hand.
Daniel sighed. "Just the stone Nick gave me." He held it out to her. "See? I thought I might be able to decipher the markings on it."
Claire's eyes widened at his words. "It's just a stone, Danny. Your grandfather told you it has no significance."
"I know." He looked up at his mother hopefully. "I just wanted to try and figure out what it says."
"Danny, it's getting late—" his mother paused for a second. "How about I give you Nick's journal that you insisted we drag with us all over Kingdom Come. I'm sure his writing would be enough to put you to sleep." She stared at him for a moment longer, then sighed and shook a finger at him. "Half an hour, young man, then it's light's out."
"I promise," Daniel vowed. As she turned to leave the room, he called to her. "Mom? I love you."
She smiled sweetly at him, then bent and pressed a kiss to his forehead. "I love you, too, Danny."
An hour and a half later, Daniel's eyes were burning from squinting at his grandfather's cramped notes by the beam of a small flashlight and he was just about drooping with fatigue. Closing the book, feeling dispirited and dejected, he lay down and turned onto his side, sliding his hand beneath his pillow to palm the artifact. In moments, he'd sunk into a restless slumber, tossing and turning as fractured nightmares of his parents' death, and dreams of his lost friends assailed his subconscious mind.
"Mom... do you think...?"
"Not now, Daniel."
He scowled and paced in front of the area where his parents were working. He studied their position intently, inching forward, getting more nervous by the moment. Daniel's stomach gave a sickening flip flop and he rubbed it absently, praying it behaved. Experience had taught him not to take his eyes off his parents, not to be distracted for even one second.
The collision was sudden and unexpected. Daniel had no time to break his fall and he landed on the floor with a thud and a yelp more of surprise than pain.
"Honey, I'm so sorry." Claire was struggling to her knees, offering Daniel a hand. "Are you okay? Did you get—"
"Daniel!" Mel hurried over to them, helping his wife to her feet, separating Daniel from his mother before he had a good grip on her hand. "You promised if you came with us you'd be quiet and stay out from underfoot."
"I was quiet," Daniel said indignantly. It was the underfoot part he failed to mention as he rubbed a sore elbow.
His name was spoken too curtly, through gritted teeth, touching off a spark of memory. Daniel had gone too far. Pushed one of his father's buttons, a button Daniel had inherited. "I'm sorry, Daddy. You and mommy are working. I should've known better." Daniel's glance bounced to the empty overhead wench. "I just wanted..."
"Our attention. I know... we won't be much longer." Under his mother's heated gaze, his father's fury abated and he bent down to Daniel's level. "I promise you a hamburger for lunch, how's that?"
"In the restaurant across the street?" The less time his parents spent in the museum, the happier Daniel would be.
"Oh, Claire, Mel... I spoke to the electrician..." Margie's face appeared around his father's shoulder. "What are you doing on the floor, Daniel?"
His dad picked him up under the arms and set him to rights, and the thirty-eight year old part of his brain struggled against being manhandled.
"Whoa, easy, Daniel." His father gave him a curious look.
"You just surprised me," Daniel lied. He glanced at Margie then brushed off his pants. "My mom and I sorta ran into each other."
"Oh," Margie said. "And you fell down and went boom?"
Claire rolled her eyes, stepping in between Margie and Daniel. "Electrician?"
"Oh, yeah. Mr. Sullivan said he'd be here around ten thirty to discuss the lighting options." Margie handed his mother a folder of papers. "Here are the curator's ideas. Mr. Sullivan put comments in the footnotes."
Daniel strained his neck to see what was in the folder. He stood on tiptoes, pulling down on his mother's arm in order to make sure he was privy to their discussion.
"Daniel!" Now it was his mother's turn to be annoyed as the papers slid from the folder onto the floor.
"Daniel..." Margie gripped his elbow and pulled him out of the line of fire. "Why don't you take a walk with me?"
"No..." He tugged his arm from her grasp. "I want to—"
"Go with Margie."
"You can't tell me what to..." Daniel blinked at the shock turning to anger on his parents' face. "Going now..." he said softly, blindly reaching for Margie's hand.
"Do you have a death wish I don't know about, Daniel?" Margie and he were walking down a huge hallway, which had been an offshoot of another hallway she'd turned down while dragging Daniel away from his parents. These were the first words Margie spoke out loud. Daniel wasn't counting the ones she'd been mumbling under her breath.
Daniel stopped dead in his tracks, pulling back on Margie's hand.
She turned, exasperated. "What?"
"Where are you taking me?"
"Isn't it obvious? Out of your parents' hair before they kill you." She shook her head. "You know better than that." Margie pointed in the direction they'd just come from. "What was that back there?"
"Lighting can enhance an exhibition. I just wanted to make sure—"
"You're eight," she repeated with more force. "As in little. As in children should be seen and not heard."
Teal'c had nothing on the speed in which Margie's eyebrows met her hairline.
Her eyebrows landed safely back in position. "You're too old for your own good, Daniel Jackson."
"It's says 'private'." Daniel gazed suspiciously at Margie. The door was huge. Old. Tucked away in a corner and had some weird sort of combination lock to keep out trespassers.
"Shush. I know it says private." Margie dug into her well-worn jeans and pulled out a scrap of paper. "It pays to have relatives in high places."
"No, huh. Here..." Margie handed Daniel the paper. "Unfold this and read me the numbers."
"Twelve." He watched as Margie cautiously dialed the tumbler until it rested on twelve.
"Twenty-nine... and, umm, fifteen... then seven."
"Bingo!" Margie's fist pumped the air with the click of the last number.
She crossed the threshold, flicked on the lights then motioned for Daniel to follow her. He slipped in behind her then jumped when she closed the door, the sound was loud in the hushed quiet.
Margie laughed. "Yeah, pretty impressive, isn't it."
It was a library. Not the kind of library where you take out books, but the type of library used for research. Years in academia had taught him the difference.
"Hey, you can breathe," Margie said with a slight chuckle, then checked her watch. "Two hours enough for you to play in here?"
Dumbfounded, Daniel just nodded. Rooms like these were the heart of museums, and he'd spent more hours than he cared to add up in places just like this.
"You got that rock you showed me yesterday?"
Daniel patted his pocket. "Yes."
"Come on," Margie said, tugging at him. "Let's see if we can entertain ourselves with some research."
"No," Daniel insisted.
"Yes," Margie countered, cupping her hand over the stone that Daniel had just placed on the table.
They only had two hours. Daniel wasn't familiar with the layout of the library, but then again, he didn't believe Margie was either. "I want to help."
She was damn close to laughing at him and he was damn close to telling her that he could find the answer faster than she ever could. Daniel knew the stone was the reason he was in this predicament, but if he pushed this, Margie was astute enough to become suspicious of all of Daniel's knowledge housed in an eight year old body. He couldn't risk that.
"If I get stuck I'll give you a shout."
"Don't be condescending," Daniel replied. He growled in frustration and stomped away from her, the etchings on the stone committed to enough of his memory to be able to conduct his own research.
Daniel was hidden behind a pile of books and documents, reading. Uncharacteristically, researching the stone was getting pushed into the back corner, along with the problem of timelines and still living dead parents, as well as being stuck in an eight year old body.
"Daniel, do me a favor. Come here, take a look at this."
"Hmmm?" Daniel peered around his tomes, glancing up at the clock in the process. Damn. Only twenty minutes left. He tried to keep the annoyance out of his voice. "What's the matter, Margie?"
"I think I found writing that looks familiar to your—"
Daniel was by her side before she finished the sentence. "Where?"
"Here. Look at the etchings in this photograph, it matches the—"
"No, it doesn't." It looked familiar, but it wasn't the same.
"Are you crazy? Look." Insistently, she tapped the photo. "Right here. Look."
And with an annoyed shake of his head, Daniel pulled over a stool, sat and pushed Margie's hand to the side. "I'm looking, are you happy?"
"Daniel? Shit, Daniel?"
He blinked, staring at the very familiar writing in the opened book before him, then at the stone which sat atop the bandage on his hand. His world narrowed to those two objects. Something was different... hell - that was an understatement. Something was fucked up. The writing... it had been backwards. A mirror-image of the stone he'd brought to Sam.
"Jeesus, what the hell were you trying to do to me?" She shook him gently. "You're as white as a ghost."
Goa'uld. Daniel closed his eyes and sunk into her open, waiting arms. The writing on the stone was an ancient derivative of Goa'uld... which meant... Daniel wasn't too sure exactly what it meant, except that he was angry. Furious. That once again the Goa'uld had stepped up and interfered with his life.
Daniel broke from her grasp and slammed the book shut. "I think it's almost time to go," he said adamantly, pushing the ancient tome to the side. Dropping the artifact on the table, Daniel made a show of rubbing his forehead. "I got a headache." The lie slipped easily off his tongue. "I think I'm probably hungry."
Margie looked as if she didn't believe him, and Daniel pulled backwards when she went to check his forehead. Jumping off the chair, he grabbed the rock and stuffed it in his pocket. "I don't want my parents to get worried."
She checked her watch. "Yeah," Margie said reluctantly, her eyes narrowing to suspicious slits as Daniel began to clear up his workspace.
"You never told me how you managed to get us into the room." Changing the subject was easy.
"Relatives in high places." She picked the uppermost book from Daniel's pile and began to walk towards the bookcase.
"You said that already." Daniel was on her heels.
"Oh, I did, didn't I?" she said with an innocent glance over her shoulder. Margie slid the book back to where it belonged and grabbed another from Daniel's arms. "My Aunt Catherine."
"Yeah... you wanted to know whose code I used to get into the—"
"Ahhh... Aunt Catherine."
Margie laughed. "You say that like you know her."
"Well, if she can give you codes that get you into places like this..." Daniel shifted the books in his arms, waiting until Margie put the one in her hands away before beseechingly looking at her to grab one of the last two books he held. "I do want to meet her."
"I bet she'd love to meet you as well. Maybe one day I'll take you to meet my Aunt Cath." Margie put the book away then grabbed the last one from Daniel. "She's my mother's sister, hence the different last name. Aunt Cath never married... She still goes by her maiden name, Langford."
Unnoticed, the book slipped from Daniel's hand, and for once, he was at a loss for words. Dumbfounded, he stared at Margie who, drawn by the sound of the book hitting the floor, was staring at Daniel.
"Headache," he reminded her, bending down to pick up his book. Daniel's stomach growled loudly, offering a helping hand to his lie.
"Hungry, I know." Margie plucked the book from Daniel's grasp and went to find its home.
Daniel watched her walk away. Studying her. Trying to see if he saw any of his Catherine in her. Maybe in her walk... the color of her eyes? Daniel gave a small, barely detectible groan. Whoever said, 'the more things change the more they remain the same', was a hundred times wrong.
"Daniel? Something wrong with your burger?"
Daniel blinked and looked over at his mother. "Sorry, what?"
Claire pointed at his still uneaten burger. "Aren't you hungry?"
"Not really." He pushed aside the artifact he'd been translating, and sighed.
To live beneath the same sky, one must venture beyond the horizon. To discover oneself, one must search beyond the sphere of recollection.
It made no sense, none at all. Didn't explain why he'd been shot backwards in time, didn't explain why the writing on the artifact had suddenly changed from a mirror-image to one he could read, and most of all, didn't explain why he'd been given a second chance – one where he could save his parents' lives.
She reached out and felt his forehead. "Your fever's gone, that's good. It might take a while for your appetite to return." She turned to Mel. "Are you still going back to the museum after lunch?"
Mel wiped his chin with his napkin and nodded. "Just want to make sure everything's arrived in one piece. You coming?"
"I'd like to take another look at the notes we took," Claire said. She took a sip of her water. "Danny can come back with me and take a nap."
"Can't I go with you, Dad?" Daniel asked, an idea forming in his mind. "I promise I'll be good this time." If he could just take another look at the area, at the equipment, maybe he'd be able to figure out what had gone wrong the first time.
Mel considered it for a moment, then smiled. "Why not?" He called for the check, and after paying, kissed Claire goodbye and led Daniel out to the front of the restaurant. They watched Claire get into a cab, waved goodbye and then began to walk. The museum was only a short distance away and Daniel used the time to formulate a plan in his head.
"You're still awful quiet," Mel said, affectionately ruffling Daniel's hair. "Normally you're talking a mile a minute."
"Just thinking about stuff," Daniel said, grateful when his father left it at that.
They entered the museum. Mel showed his ID to the girl on the desk. Daniel was momentarily taken aback when he recognized her from his dream, fabricated by the Gamekeeper.
"You can't be back here," she said, staring down at Daniel.
"It's okay," Mel assured her. "He's my son. He was here earlier. He won't touch anything."
She looked a little doubtful but nodded and left them to go back to her desk.
Daniel spotted the exhibit partially constructed in the far corner of the vast room, the coverstone now raised on the winch, waiting to be placed into position. The closer they got, the more his steps slowed. In his mind, he could hear the coverstone crashing down, his parents' screams. He stifled a sob.
"Bill!" Mel greeted his chief assistant, who ducked out from under a makeshift canopy that protected the precious artifacts and strode toward them. "Almost ready to go, Mel," he said, shaking Daniel's father's hand. "Hey, Danny, bet you're pretty excited about all of this, huh?"
Daniel swallowed convulsively and nodded. "I– I guess." He looked fearfully at the chains securing the coverstone. "Are you sure the chains are strong enough?" he asked.
"Of course they are, son," Mel said. "Bill's an expert at all this stuff."
"Yep." Bill smiled proudly. "Watch." He stepped beneath the coverstone and tugged on the chain.
"Don't!" Daniel screamed, fear clenching his heart. "Don't do that! It might fall!"
"Daniel!" Mel crouched in front of him, grasping his shoulders. "What's wrong?"
"The chains might break," Daniel sobbed, mortified by the tears that overflowed and ran down his cheeks, but unable to stop them. "Please, Daddy..."
Mel gathered him into his arms and hugged him tightly, stroking a comforting caress down his back. "All right. Shh... It's okay." After a moment, he released him and studied him for a moment. "Okay now? Would you rather I go find Margie and you stay with her?"
Daniel took a hiccuping breath and fought to control his emotions. Finally, he shook his head. "Sorry," he whispered. "I want to stay with you."
Mel smiled at him. "That's all right. Give me just a few minutes to check the deliveries and then we'll head back to the hotel, okay?"
Daniel swiped a hand across his nose. "Okay."
By the time his father returned, took his hand and led him out of the museum into the late afternoon sun, Daniel had already made up his mind. "Sorry, guys," he whispered softly to his absent friends. "I have to try and save them."
His dad went to signal for a cab, but Daniel tugged on his hand, stepping backwards.
"I don't want to take a cab." Daniel looked up into his father's concerned expression. How could he explain that he wanted to spend time walking, holding his father's hand, skirting around the crowds on the sidewalk, feeling loved and protected, just for a little while longer, pretending that this was his life. And he was happy. Ignorant of what the future would hold.
Daniel gave his father's hand a little swing. "Let's walk."
His dad shook his head. "It's too long a walk, Danny— "
"Please," he begged. "Just until I get tired?"
His dad bent down and zipped up Daniel's jacket, just like he was a child and incapable of doing it... Daniel gripped his father's fingers, stopping him. "You don't have to, I can..." Oh, he was a child. His father's act was, well, fatherly, and common and normal.
The enormity of the situation hit him hard. Daniel was going to grow up normal. Just like most kids, he was going to have parents. "I love you, Daddy." He dropped his hands and his dad finished zipping up his jacket.
He kissed Daniel on the tip of his nose, then stood. "I love you too, Danny Doodle Bug. Oops, sorry, I didn't mean to call you that, you being all grown up. I just keep forgetting."
"It's okay, Daddy, I changed my mind. You can call me that as long as you want."
"It's not going to be too long, especially if your mother finds out we're walking since you've been sick."
"I won't tell her." Daniel smiled. "I can keep a secret."
"You don't have to keep a secret, maybe if we bring her a hot pretzel, she'll forgive us."
His dad laughed, and Daniel laughed, just because his father did. "Bribery would include chocolate and flowers, Daniel. The pretzels is just the we're-walking-down-the-streets-of-Manhattan-and-thinking-of-you gift."
* * * * * * * * * * *
Jack had his hand on the door and was turning the knob when someone knocked on the other side. He pulled the door open to the sight of a sweaty-faced Daniel, accompanied by an SF.
"Colonel O'Neill. I'm sorry to wake you, but I found Doctor Jackson by the elevators."
"Daniel, you okay?" Jack stepped aside to let Daniel in. When he didn't move, Jack pulled on his arm and gave him a tug. Daniel took a few steps into the room and then stood there, looking uncertain.
"Sir, I believe Doctor Jackson isn't well," the SF said in a lowered voice. "He appeared disoriented and as the duty roster stated you and he were occupying this room, I thought it best to escort him back."
Jack watched as Daniel wrapped his arms around himself as he turned to face him.
"Yeah, he's not exactly himself right now." He turned to the SF. "Thank you." Jack shut the door and turned to Daniel.
"I don't feel so good."
"You gonna be sick?"
Daniel gave a one-shouldered shrug. "I already was." He glanced quickly at the closed door and dropped his head to his chest.
"Why don't you get back into bed and see if you can sleep a little more."
As Daniel shuffled slowly towards the cot, Jack waved a hand at the bed. "Wouldn't you rather sleep there? You might be more comfortable."
Shaking his head, Daniel slid under the covers. Jack crouched down next to him, wondering whether he should call Warner. Even from the meager light coming from the bathroom, Daniel's face looked flushed. When Daniel shivered, Jack placed a hand against his cheek and felt the heat. "Well, you've got a fever. Do you think your stomach could stand to drink a bit of water?"
"Okay, tell you what." Jack stood and went into the bathroom and quickly filled the plastic glass a quarter full of water. "You drink just enough so you can swallow a pill for your fever." Jack put the glass down on the floor next to the cot and got the Tylenol from the top of the bureau. He palmed two, handed them to Daniel and then gave him the water.
Once Daniel had swallowed the pills, Jack got back into bed and punched his pillow. He could hear Daniel turning restlessly on the cot. "You okay?"
"Okay, I'll get another blanket." It took him only a moment to find a spare blanket in the cupboard and spread it over Daniel. "Better?"
"Uh huh." Daniel pulled the edge of the blanket right up to his chin, tucking his legs up against his abdomen.
"You gonna be able to sleep now?"
Daniel shrugged, the blankets moving up and down with the motion.
"Why'd you leave the room? Were you looking for your folks?"
Jack had been about to go back to his bed but when Daniel didn't answer, he realized his friend needed some sort of reassurance, and he wasn't sure how to go about it. He sighed as he sat on the edge of the cot. The joints of the cot legs creaked ominously and Daniel giggled softly. "If this thing falls apart, you better be there to break my fall."
"I don't weigh that much. You'll crush me if you fall on top of me."
"In that case, you better not move around too much." Jack deliberately shifted his weight on the cot, making it creak some more and eliciting a couple more giggles from Daniel.
"Don't. Stop it." There was no fear in Daniel's words, and his eyes shone with a lessening of the shadows that had haunted him since he'd woken up from the incident in Carter's lab.
Jack leaned over Daniel and adjusted the blankets, then put his hands on Daniel's shoulders. "Okay. It's still early so maybe this old Colonel and his sidekick archeologist can get a bit more sleep." Jack figured another hour or two wouldn't make all that much difference in his schedule today, as long as he got to his office to check out his emails.
"I'm not an archeologist." Daniel shifted, trying to get comfortable. "My mom and daddy are, though." He turned onto his back and stretched out, and his feet hung over the edge of the cot. With an irritated huff, Daniel turned onto his side. "But I'm going to be one when I grow up."
With Daniel settling down again, Jack returned to his bed. He'd barely slid under the covers when Daniel spoke softly.
"Why are you all lying to me?"
With a grimace, Jack turned onto his back. "We're not."
"Why did you tell me my parents died?"
"Because... Daniel, remember Carter asking you about amnesia?"
"That's what happened to you. See, you're not a little kid. You're grown up. But you've forgotten a good part of your life and only remember up to when you were, what, seven? Eight?"
"Think about it, Daniel. There's no way on Earth an eight year old kid could be transported into the body of his adult self—"
Jack suddenly realized how wrong his words were. Okay, maybe part of his logic was off but hell, he'd shared Daniel's body for several minutes thanks to Machello, and Teal'c's for even longer. Maybe, just maybe, this was more than plain amnesia.
"It's kinda like the stuff out of a Buck Rogers story, huh?" Daniel turned over and looked at him excitedly. "Or Star Wars? Maybe I'm like Luke Skywalker, and the Force did this to me."
"Well, something did this to you, and everyone's working hard trying to figure out how it happened."
"And my mom and dad?"
"Daniel, I'm sorry. They've been gone for a long time. I guess, to you, it seems like you last saw them yesterday."
"So... they're not waiting with the other people from the plane—"
"There was no plane. It was a dream, or a memory, maybe."
Daniel was quiet for a long time and Jack began to suspect that he'd fallen asleep. He closed his eyes, only to open them when Daniel turned around on the cot, his movements vigorous enough to cause the feet of the cot to shift loudly.
"It's not a memory. You're wrong. Even though you say it can't happen, I know it did. I know my mom and dad are looking for me, and if you won't help me find them, then I'll look for them myself.
"I was in the plane. And there was lightning and it hit and Nicks' artifact burned my hand and... and... and... where is it?" Daniel was suddenly pulling the bedcovers apart, throwing them onto the floor. He'd managed to take the cot apart by the time Jack sat up in bed. He watched with a heavy heart as Daniel next began searching the room.
"I have to find it. Mom's gonna kill me if I lose it." He opened the drawers haphazardly, slamming them shut when he found nothing inside. He ran to the table and began rummaging through items, knocking an opened bag of popcorn to the floor in his haste. "Nick gave it to me. It's special. I can't lose it." He moved to the small night table next to the bed.
"Carter told you already. It's in her lab. You didn't lose it."
"Can we get it?" There was such an anxious expression on Daniel's face that Jack caved. He nodded slowly.
"Great. C'mon." Daniel hurried to the door and pulled it open. He hurried out into the hallway, his bare feet pattering loudly on the cement.
Jack grimaced and reached for his boots. It didn't look like Daniel would be getting any extra sleep this morning. He'd barely set his butt back on the mattress when Daniel peeked inside.
"Are you coming?" he asked impatiently.
Jack slowly thrust one foot into his boot and began lacing it up. "Put your slippers on." As Daniel hurried to obey, putting Jack's slightly too large slippers on his feet, Jack finished with his second boot.
He grabbed a bathrobe from the pile of clothes Carter and Teal'c had appropriated from their lockers and threw it at Daniel. He fumbled the catch, then awkwardly manipulated the material until he was able to put it on over his scrubs.
"Is it far? How come it's in Sam's lab?" Daniel hurried along beside Jack, his slippers making scuffing sounds on the cement floor. He paused, however, at every open door, peering inside quickly before rushing to catch up.
"It's just a few floors above us." They stopped at the elevator and even while waiting for the elevator, Daniel moved off to explore. Obviously this amnesiac version of his best friend was just as curious. He finally stood still when they got inside the elevator.
"Hey, we're going up."
"Yeah, I told you it was two floors up."
"But the numbers are going the wrong way."
Jack smiled. "That's because we're underground."
* * * * * * * * * * *
Daniel was flagging, he tried to pretend he wasn't, but he was. He was cold and tired. Much colder and more tired than he should've been, even though the walk had been a long one. If he picked up his head, the top of their hotel was visible in the surrounding skyline.
"Daddy?" Daniel stayed plastered to his father's side as they crossed the busy street. The world from this size was crowded, and more than a tad scary.
His father waited until they'd crossed the street and the intersecting avenue before answering. "Yeah, Daniel?"
"Don't forget the pretzels."
Daniel held the paper bag filled with the three large pretzels out to his mom, but she wasn't looking at him, she only had eyes for her husband. "I was getting worried." She was angry. Very.
"We bought pretzels." Daniel stepped between the two and held the bag up for his mom. "It was daddy's idea."
"Not now, Daniel." Gently, she pushed him to the side, stepping into the space Daniel had vacated.
"Mel, we're in a strange city. A strange big city. And—"
"Daddy wouldn't let anything happen to me."
"I know he wouldn't, Daniel," his mother said without taking her eyes off his father. "But there are other—"
"Claire." He reached out, and outlined her face with his finger. "I'm sorry."
"Not good enough."
"Danny and I are here, safe and sound—"
"I was scared, Mel." Tears filled her eyes.
Daniel stopped breathing and did a quick memory search. His mother never cried. Ever. His father had always been the more emotional of his parents. Quicker to anger. Even quicker to apologize. His mother's anger had been in the set of her jaw, the thin line of her lips. There had never been any doubt when his mother was angry. She was more forgiving than his dad. Her anger was gone in a flash, replaced with hugs and kisses, actions, not words. Smiles.
But she'd never, ever cried.
"Please don't cry, mommy," Daniel begged. "It was my fault. I wanted to walk. Daddy wanted to take a cab, it was me. Not daddy. I'm sorry I worried you."
"You walked?" She blinked away the tears, then shot a murderous glance at her husband.
Oh. Crap. That was supposed to be their secret. Or wait, there wasn't supposed to be any secrets between them. That's what the pretzels were for. Daniel shoved the bag into his mother's midsection. "We walked. I wanted to walk and see New York City. The buildings are so tall. There are so many people. And it's cold... well, not cold enough that you're uncomfortable walking. Just cold..." He was rambling. "You should eat the pretzels while they're still hot." He tapped the bag. "Please eat them. Daddy," he turned beseeching eyes on his father. "Maybe this called for flowers and candy. Maybe the pretzels aren't enough."
Horrified, Daniel could feel himself start to cry and the world narrowed down to the three of them, a hotel room and a bag of warm, doughy, street cart pretzels. "I'm sorry," he stuttered, wiping his eyes with the sleeve of his jacket.
"You have nothing to be sorry for, my Danny." Magically, his mother produced a tissue and dabbed his eyes. She kneeled down and put the pretzels right next to her. "It's me who should be apologizing for being a silly old worrywart. Not appreciating these wonderful pretzels. Feeling left out while you and your Dad..."
He leaned into her with a sigh.
She kissed his head and cupped his cheek.
Daniel's sigh was even deeper.
She kissed him again, on the forehead this time, and her hand moved to the back of his neck, squeezing gently then releasing. "Daniel?"
Daniel lifted his head and looked into her worried face.
"Does your head hurt, honey?"
"Just a little," he admitted. Right now, in his mother's arms he'd pretty much give away the secrets of the universe.
His father moved next to his mother and placed a rough, calloused hand on Daniel's forehead. He shivered, though the cool touch felt wonderful to his overheated skin. "He didn't say a word, Claire. Do you think we would've walked if I knew Daniel had a fever?"
Over Daniel's head, his parents glared at each other.
"Go into the bedroom and get ready for bed."
"It's too early," Daniel protested. "And," he said, quickly scooping up the bag of pretzels, "we didn't have our pretzels. There's one for each of us."
"Listen to your mother." His dad gave him a little push towards the bedroom.
Adamantly, Daniel shook his head. "I'm fine."
"No, you're not fine." His mother shot daggers at his father. "You have a fever and you need to be in bed. So get."
Daniel shuffled towards the bedroom, looking over his shoulder every other step, but there was not to be any reprieve.
The voices were loud and angry, cutting through the closed bedroom door. Words like irresponsible. And controlling. Priorities. Though neither his mother nor father mentioned his name, Daniel knew he was the root of this. When the voices dropped in pitch he pressed his ear to the door, but he was unable to make any words out, but there was no mistaking the slamming of the hotel room door.
He grabbed the quilt off his bed, then slowly opened the bedroom door.
Daniel tucked his feet under his ass. His mother tsk'd and shook her head as she dragged the bed quilt around his shoulders. "You should be in bed, not sitting with me on the couch."
"No." He glanced at the closed hotel door.
"He'll be back.
"I heard yelling."
"Just words, Danny."
"Words can hurt."
She sighed. "Daniel Jackson, you are wise beyond your years." His mother draped an arm over his shoulder and dropped a kiss to his head.
Daniel traced the design of the blanket. This was wrong. He shouldn't be on the couch basking in the glow of being someone's child. He needed to get to the bottom of this. Figure out what the hell happened. The clock was ticking, and unless he wanted to relive his childhood in foster homes, Daniel needed to get his ass in gear and be an adult.
Hesitantly, the door opened, and both of them turned, his mother's face lighting up in a slow grin. His father stood, a box of chocolates under one arm, a bouquet of wild flowers in the other and a brown paper bag dangling from his fingers.
* * * * * * * * * * *
The elevator doors opened and Jack stepped through. Daniel had a puzzled look on his face but it soon disappeared when he began peering into the deserted rooms. It was only when they entered Carter's lab that Jack realized, when Daniel's energy suddenly waned and his expression was crestfallen at finding the lab empty, that he'd been hoping to spot his parents in one of the rooms.
"See if you can find it." Jack switched on the overhead lights and walked over to the large table in the center of the room. "Just make sure you don't touch anything."
Feet dragging, Daniel silently followed Jack as they went around the large worktable. When Daniel stopped and picked up a small egg-shaped object, Jack wondered at his folly of bringing Daniel here. What he held in his hand was most likely the cause of Daniel's amnesia and allowing him to take it might make things worse.
So why was he disappointed when nothing happened? Surely he hadn't hoped that simply picking it up would reverse the process?
He watched as Daniel ran his thumb over one of the crystals embedded into the metallic object. "You know what the writing says?"
"Uh uh. Neither did Nick, and he's just as smart as my mom and dad."
"Well, maybe one of the base's archeologist s can look at it and try to decipher it." He motioned Daniel forward. "We better get back. It's late." When Daniel went to pocket the artifact, Jack grabbed his hand. "Um, no, you better leave it here. Carter's still running tests on it."
"But it's just an artifact." Daniel held the object under Jack's face.
"And there's a chance it's the cause of your amnesia. I'm a little uncomfortable letting you take it out of here."
"But it's mine. Nick gave it to me."
"I know, but until we know exactly what its properties are, it's not a good idea for you to be handling it." He let go of Daniel's forearm and took his injured hand in both of his. "This is what caused the burns. So until we can figure out how it happened, I don't want you carrying this thing around."
"Probably didn't know what he gave you might be dangerous. Let's give Carter some time to check it out and if she says it's okay, you can have it back."
"Fine." Daniel dropped the artifact back onto the table, his lips jutting out in a slight pout. "It's not my artifact, anyway."
"What do you mean?" Jack leaned closer, peering at the object Daniel had just put down. It was the same one; he was pretty sure of it.
"It looks like the artifact Nick gave me but the writing's backwards. It's a fake. You lied to me."
"Maybe Carter made a copy and put yours away for safekeeping somewhere," Jack said quickly. "We'll ask her in the morning, okay?" So, this was new. He knew the adult Daniel well enough to be certain by now that this child-like version of him was intelligent enough to notice something was different about his artifact. And his disappointment had been genuine, so he wasn't making this up. He'd need to leave a message for Carter and let her know about this new development.
"How about stopping by your office? Maybe we could find you something to read?" Jack put an arm around Daniel's shoulders and steered him out of the office, hoping to distract him.
This time Daniel was subdued on their way to the elevator. He walked with his head down, shoulders slumped, showing no interest in any of the rooms they passed. Jack led him to his office, then stopped in the doorway when he saw a light was on. It took him a moment to realize that someone was sitting at the desk, with several books spread out.
"T? What're you doing here?"
Daniel seemed mesmerized by the contents of the room and Jack had to put a hand against his back to nudge him to step inside. He gave Jack a hopeful glance and Jack nodded, letting Daniel roam around.
Teal'c hadn't answered so Jack walked over to see what he'd been working on. Before him were several of Daniel's books piled one on top of the other, printouts of a couple of mission reports and a close-up photograph of Daniel's artifact.
"When DanielJackson first showed me the object, I did not recognize the writing, despite the fact that it is similar to that of the Goa'uld. However, last night I returned to MajorCarter's workstation for a second look and have found that the writing is indeed that of an obscure dialect."
Jack glanced at Daniel, who was immersed in the titles of the many books living within Daniel's bookcase.
"Daniel just told me that the writing is now backwards on that thing." Teal'c's eyebrow went up. "Maybe that's why you didn't recognize it the first time around."
"He is certain of this?"
"Yeah, he is. Does that thing say anything meaningful?"
"Not yet. I believe it to be in code." After looking over at Daniel to make sure he was busy, Teal'c pulled out a yellowed journal hidden beneath one of the open tomes. "I took the liberty of retrieving this from NicholasBallard's belongings. In it, he speaks of the vicinity on Earth from which he retrieved the artifact. While I believe the place of discovery to be unimportant, this, however, is."
Teal'c placed the journal before Jack and opened it to a page where Ballard had sketched what definitely was Goa'uld writing.
"Hey, this guy has Budge." Daniel sounded affronted as he turned to Jack, finger poised on the spine of a book.
Jack had trouble holding back a smile. "Yeah, the book is only kept here as a reminder of what not to use."
"I believe these words may be the cipher. I am confident I will have broken the code shortly. Although..." He looked sadly at Daniel, who had taken a book from the shelf and was leafing through it. "...I would have made faster progress with his help."
Jack simply squeezed Teal'c's shoulder in understanding.
"There is more. I recalled a mission undertaken by SG-13 several months ago where this symbol had been painted upon an ancient temple." Teal'c turned the page and placed his index finger against an odd mark that looked like a bird soaring over a horizon. An opened mission report also showed a photograph of the exact same symbol.
"You think we might find answers on that planet?"
"Depending on what I discover within the text, there is a possibility that we might."
"Can I take these books with me?" Daniel, arms loaded with several large textbooks, dropped them onto a bare corner of the desk with a loud thud.
"You know, when I mentioned getting something to read, I sorta meant light reading."
Daniel's face fell and he drew a finger over the cover of the topmost book. "Oh. Can I take at least one of these with me?"
"You can take all of them, Daniel. I was just kidding." Jack patted the books and forced a smile. His smile turned genuine when some of the tension faded from Daniel's shoulders.
"That's not right," Daniel said, leaning over the books to look at Teal'c's picture. "It's still backwards."
"It is a photograph of the artifact NicholasBallard gifted you with."
"No, mine didn't look like that. It looks..." Daniel looked around excitedly. "Do you have a mirror?" Jack looked around the room, then spotted a bowl made of a reflective material. He held the bowl close to the picture and Daniel bent down to peer at the writing. "That's it. That's what my artifact looked like."
"Mirror-image," Jack mumbled, half to himself.
"Indeed. And curiously, the writing as such is nonsensical."
"You can read that?" Daniel pointed at the picture.
Jack dropped the bowl on the desk and picked up the first three books, letting Daniel get the rest. "Teal'c, you'll let Carter know about the change?" He nodded his chin at the picture and Teal'c inclined his head in agreement.
Daniel nodded eagerly.
"Great. So am I."
* * * * * * * * * * *
His mother got flowers and candy. Daniel got a bottle of Johnson's orange flavored baby aspirin and a container of chicken soup from the corner deli. Daniel slurped the soup from the cardboard container, his parents ate the pretzels and shared the box of candy which was opened on his lap. Daniel glanced around his soup. "Can I have a piece of chocolate?"
"Maybe tomorrow, Doodle Bug."
Daniel handed the half empty container to his father, and the box of chocolates to his mother then moved so his head was leaning against his father's chest and his feet were against his mother's leg. Tomorrow. His dad was right. There was always tomorrow to face reality.
* * * * * * * * * * *
From the way Daniel dug into his waffles, Jack was thinking he was feeling a lot better, or else the Tylenol had kicked in. They were just finishing up when Fraiser walked into the commissary. She smiled at them as she came to their table.
Daniel's enthusiasm in his breakfast waned as he watched Fraiser with a touch of suspicion. "How are you feeling, Daniel?"
"I'm fine." He looked at his plate, dredging his fork through the syrup.
"He had a bit of a temperature earlier and an upset stomach, but that's obviously cleared up." When Daniel looked up at him, Jack winked.
"Well, that's good news. How about you two come down to the infirmary later today so I can give Daniel a quick exam? And maybe change the bandage on Daniel's hand?"
"Are you going to give me a needle?"
"Actually, I would like to draw some blood so I can compare it to earlier results."
Daniel pulled one shoulder up to his ear, obviously not pleased with this news. Jack reached out and patted Daniel's forearm. "I'll be there with you, okay?" Daniel nodded, albeit reluctantly. "What about the contagion?"
"Under control, thank goodness." Fraiser checked her watch and winced. "I have to go. I've got a meeting in ten minutes. Oh, another thing. Initial lab results showed that SG-1 wasn't infected with the virus SG-4 brought back. The virus infecting Daniel is of a totally different nature."
"Is it contagious?"
Fraiser took a few steps backwards, heading for the coffee machine. "I guess we'll know when I get a sample from you, too." She gave them both a quick wave and hurried off.
"Are you going to have to get a needle because of me?" Daniel gave Jack a worried look.
"Nah. The doc's job is to make sure we're all healthy. Don't worry. Her nurses are the best." He picked up his coffee cup and waved it towards Daniel's plate. "You done?"
"Yeah." Daniel put his fork down and toyed with his napkin. "Are we going to watch another movie?"
"Teal'c said there were more Star Wars DVCs and that he'd bring them over." Daniel's exaggerating the "c" sound in Teal'c's name and his misnaming of the DVDs caused Jack to bite back a smile.
"T's got a whole collection of DVDs. How about we make a date to watch the next Star Wars movie after we visit Fraiser?"
"In the meantime, we can go back to our room after I go to my office and check my emails, and then you can read your books for a while." Jack drained the last of the coffee and stood. He waited while Daniel picked up his load of books.
"Jack? What's an email?"
Taking pity on Daniel, Jack took the top two books from the pile in Daniel's arm. "It's just a memo sent through the computer."
"Like a telefax machine? I saw a lady working with one once when mom and dad were in a meeting and she had oodles and oodles of thin yellow paper with little holes punched in it and she'd send that through the machine and it would come out in another machine all the way in another country, typed up just like a letter."
Jack opened the door and held it for Daniel to go through. "Well, the principle's the same but emails are a lot faster and a lot easier to use."
"And while I was there, someone sent her a letter, and it printed really fast, like a typewriter, but nobody was typing. It was fun to watch."
The trip to Jack's office was spent with Daniel prattling on about the telefax machine, alternating with comments about some of the pictures he'd seen in the topmost book when he'd leafed through it in the elevator. Daniel was still going strong when they entered his office. He settled Daniel in a visitor's chair opposite his desk. Powering up his laptop, Jack listened to Daniel with half an ear and interjected a comment when appropriate. He'd called up his emails and had started in on the first one when he realized there was silence coming from Daniel.
"Find anything interesting?" He looked up over his laptop, expecting to see Daniel immersed in his books, but to his surprise, Daniel was staring, wide-eyed, at the laptop, his eyes fixed on Jack's fingers, which were poised on the keyboard.
"Is that an email?" Daniel asked in an awed voice.
It took Jack only a few minutes to explain his meager knowledge of computers, but Daniel listened with rapt attention. Jack quickly took care of the few matters that required his immediate attention, then turned to the pile of papers in his in-tray. After giving the contents a cursory look, he sighed.
"This might take a little while. You okay with reading for an hour or so, or do you want to play a game?"
"A game?" Daniel looked up from the book he'd been flipping through.
"Yeah, I know a couple of really good ones." Turning back to his laptop, Jack pulled up one of his favorite on-line games. He gave Daniel basic instructions and then began tackling the work.
An hour and a half later, he closed the last folder and stretched. He was ready for a nap, and hoped that Daniel was, too. Daniel was hunched over the laptop, tongue protruding slightly from between his teeth as he concentrated on the game. His earlier awkwardness with a computer was gone and he was playing like a pro.
"Mmmm?" Beeps and trills came from the speakers as Daniel maneuvered the compact mouse.
"I'm done. You ready to go?"
"Do we have to?" Daniel glanced at Jack over the laptop, then quickly brought his eyes back to the screen. He winced, jerked the mouse around and then punched his arm up in the air in victory. A musical fanfare announced that he'd just completed a level.
Curious, Jack stood and walked over to see how Daniel was faring. He leaned over him and peered at the score, and froze.
Jack's personal best had been close to a half million points. Daniel had just scored over 4 million.
"Hey, champ, I think at the rate you're going, you're gonna break the bank. Maybe you'd better quit while you're ahead." He patted Daniel on the shoulder encouragingly.
"Can I play again later?" Daniel let go of the mouse and leaned back in the chair.
"Sure." He stepped back as Daniel stood, then powered down the laptop. "How about we go back to our room and read for a while. I've got a meeting in soon, so while I'm gone, you can keep busy with the laptop." He grabbed the power cable, unplugged it and hefted everything beneath his arm. "Grab your books."
The next thirty minutes went by in a rush. He got someone to bring both him and Daniel some more clean clothes from Supplies while Daniel was in the shower. He was running short of time when he took his turn in the shower and was out by the time Daniel was finishing dressing.
Jack checked the time as he strapped on his watch. "While I'm gone, I'm going to have someone stationed outside the door in case you need something. If you need something or if you don't feel well, you can just tell him."
"Just for an hour or two—"
"Can't I come with you?"
"Wouldn't you rather stay here and play that computer game? The meeting's going to be pretty boring—"
"I won't be any trouble. Mom and dad often took me with them and their meetings were long and boring. I can bring one or two of the books and read. I'll be really quiet, I promise."
Jack hadn't liked having to leave Daniel alone but he wasn't sure it was a good idea having him around if they were going to be discussing him. Then again, maybe Hammond would allow Daniel to sit with his aide so they'd be able to keep an eye on him while not having him exactly underfoot.
"Okay. Grab two books and let's go." He quickly laced his boots and when he straightened, saw that Daniel still hadn't chosen his reading material.
"Can I bring three?"
Jack looked over the heavy books that Daniel was vacillating over. "Choose two. You won't have time to read all of this today."
With a sigh, Daniel chose the two topmost books and nodded at Jack that he was ready.
"To live beneath the same sky, one must venture beyond the horizon. To discover oneself, one must search beyond the sphere of recollection."
"It says all that on that tiny piece of rock?" Jack leaned forward, trying to make sense of the scribbling on Daniel's artifact to see if there really could be that many words etched onto it.
"Indeed. Although I believe it would have taken DanielJackson half the time to break the code, I am confident of my translation."
"Is there any chance that's the sign of a ruling Goa'uld?" Carter pulled the photograph towards her and examined it carefully.
"It is of no Goa'uld I am familiar with. I believe the symbol is somehow connected to the artifact."
"You believe there might be something on P3Y 256 that could give us some answers?" Hammond turned his attention to Teal'c, who nodded.
"I do not believe there is nothing more to be found in NicholaBallard's journal which could help us. Conversely, by scrutinizing the photograph, I have noticed there is an entrance to another chamber which was not discovered by SG-13. Perhaps there are answers within."
Hammond sat still for a moment, his fingers rubbing absently at the edge of the table. "Very well. Let's hope you find something behind that door that can help Doctor Jackson." He glanced towards his office and Jack followed his gaze. Daniel, sitting in the visitor's chair, had his head buried in one of the tomes he'd brought with him.
It was the headache that finally pulled Danny out of the world of ancient Egypt. He looked through the window towards the long table where Jack, Sam, Teal'c and an older guy who was their boss were sitting around talking. He saw Jack and the general looking towards him and he quickly averted his gaze, trying not to draw their attention.
He shifted in the chair. At first he'd been okay sitting here, but as time went on, he started to get uncomfortable. Now it was more than just feeling antsy; his back and neck were hurting, as well as the muscles in his legs and shoulders.
Although he'd said he could sit quietly for hours on end, he really wished they'd hurry up and finish. He wanted to lie down and go to sleep. It must be late, if he was this tired. It was odd, not being able to look outside and see daylight. He closed the book and placed it on the floor next to the other one he'd brought and tore a sheet off the notepad on the desk.
He borrowed the pen and began to doodle, quickly filling a few sheets of paper with Egyptian symbols and pyramids and the sphinx. After a while, that got boring, too, so he returned the pen, rested his arms on the desk and put his head down on them. Maybe if he closed his eyes for just a moment, the headache would go away.
"Hey." A cool hand touched the back of his neck and rubbed gently. He pushed away from the desk, not having heard Sam's footsteps as she came into the office. "You're not feeling too great, are you?" She shifted her hand to his cheek and held it there a moment.
"I have a headache." Danny glanced through the window again and saw the others were still talking.
"We're almost done. Do you want me to take you to the infirmary?"
Thoughts of Doctor Fraiser and needles caused Danny to shudder. "Jack was supposed to take me. He's going to get a needle."
Sam smiled and rubbed Danny's arm. "Actually, we're all going to get one. Janet wants to test all our blood. We could go down now and she can give you something for your fever and we'll wait for the Colonel there."
Danny was undecided. He really wanted to lie down but he trusted Jack, even if he was lying to him about his parents. But Sam was nice, too. He was about to nod when everyone at the table stood up and came towards him.
Sam grabbed Danny's books and gave her boss a quick smile as he stepped into the office.
"How are you feeling, son?" Their boss stood next to his desk and looked down at Danny. He stood slowly, feeling funny that he didn't have to look up at everyone. "My head hurts."
"Sir, with your permission, I'd like to take Daniel to the infirmary. He has a temperature and—"
"Of course, Major. And if Doctor Fraiser gives you a clean bill of health, you have a go for tomorrow morning."
"Thank you, sir." Sam gave Danny a little push and he moved away from the desk. He saw the boss pick up the papers he'd been drawing on and look at them.
"You like to doodle?" He handed the papers to Jack, who looked at them before folding them in half and pocketing the sheets.
Danny gave a small, embarrassed laugh. "Yeah. My dad calls me Doodle Bug because I'm always doodling." His voice caught as he remembered his dad's pet name for him and he blinked back tears.
It was cold in the hallway now, and he rubbed his arms. The clothes he was wearing, although warmer than the pajamas he'd worn last night, felt thin and insubstantial. But everyone else was wearing similar outfits and they didn't seem to be bothered.
He leaned against the side of the elevator, wishing he was standing under the Egyptian sun. He missed the heat and sun and the blue skies. The air here was chilly and smelled funny.
"C'mon, we're almost there." Sam gave his arm a tug and he straightened. He walked close to her, shoulder to shoulder and right now he wished he was small again, if only so that she could pick him up and carry him because his legs hurt when he walked. He leaned against her, then realized his mistake when she stumbled.
Sam immediately put her arm around his waist and leaned against him. "It's okay. No harm done." She patted his back and then took her arm away when Jack held the door open for them. He walked inside and saw all the hospital beds lined up in front of him. He was sick, he knew he was sick and he wanted his mom to kiss his cheek and tell him it was all going to be okay.
Jack patted one of the beds and Danny sat on it, then immediately changed his mind and lay down.
"I'll go find Janet."
Sam walked away but Jack sat down on the bed next to him, staring at him. Danny wanted his mom or his dad's arms around him. He didn't want to believe what Jack had told him, that his parents were dead, but somehow he was beginning to think it might be true.
Before he could start to dwell on his morbid thoughts, though, Janet came into the room. He tensed, remembering her promise of a needle.
"I'm just going to take your temperature and do a quick examination before I draw blood, okay?" Danny nodded, relaxing slightly, knowing there was no escape. He let her take his temperature and wrap a large elastic around his arm that squeezed a lot. He swallowed the pills she gave him and all the water, then asked for more. He was just finishing the second glassful when a nurse brought the needles.
Jack offered to go first, but Danny shook his head. He wasn't a baby and he'd rather get the hurting over and done with so he could relax. He turned his head when the nurse asked him to put his arm flat on the bed and to his surprise, Jack took his hand.
"It'll just hurt for a second."
"I know." He was going to say more but he felt a pinch on his arm and shut his eyes, squeezing them tight, trying not to cry. He didn't open them until Jack said it was over.
* * * * * * * * * * *
From street level, the museum looked huge, the steps leading up to the front doors massive, and Daniel contemplated waiting for his parents outside, but he was continuously buffeted by people passing by him. Their pushing and shoving was moving him further and further away from the entrance. Inhaling deeply, Daniel burst forth, amid protests from the crowd and bounded up the stairs, scrambling on his hands and knees as he got closer to the top. He arrived panting, glancing quickly at the sea of people flowing along the sidewalk.
"Need a hand?"
Daniel grabbed the offered hand then looked up. "Fancy meeting you here."
"Funny, I was going to say the same thing."
It was strange seeing himself as an adult. Strange and a tad disconcerting. He didn't remember being that tall. Nor did he remember the ravages of time and heartache reflecting on his face. Crows feet. His forehead had permanent furrows. Laugh lines were etched in the corners of his mouth. A grey hair or two. "I'm old."
His laugh was deep and familiar. "Yeah, it's different being on the outside, looking in. I don't ever remember being that young." He tugged on Daniel's hand. "Come on, I want to show you something."
Daniel was pulled through the revolving doors, into the room housing his parents' exhibit. The corner stone dangled precariously in the corner and he hesitated. "It's going to fall."
"Eventually, but that's not I wanted to show you. Come on."
Still holding onto his adult hand, Daniel had to take two steps to his every one. "Hey, that's an exit."
"In a way." His adult self pushed on the bar and he held the door open for Daniel. The two of them stepped right through the exit into Jack's backyard.
Jack stood over a barbeque grill, flipping over a row of hamburgers. "It's about time, these burgers are almost done." Jack used the utensil and pointed to a pair of empty chairs in the corner of his deck. "Have a seat. Take a load off." He eyed them with a tilt of his head. "Do you feel okay? The two of you look a bit—"
"Fine," they answered simultaneously.
Jack snorted. "Of course you are. Now sit."
The two of them sat and Daniel curled his feet under his ass so it wouldn't be that obvious how short he was.
"Look around," grownup Daniel whispered in his ear.
"Look. Pay attention."
"Listen to the man, Daniel, he's a genius."
A large drive-in like screen played one of the Star Wars movies, looming over the house. In its shadow, Janet and Cassie were playing a game of volleyball with Teal'c and Rya'c. Hammond and his granddaughters were cheering them on, while Sam and her Dad stood jeering from the sidelines. "That's our family."
Daniel shrugged. Maybe in the future. Right now his family consisted of a mother and father.
"See Cassie. And Jacob. Teal'c and Ry'ac."
"I see them."
"I know you do."
"There's more, isn't there?" Daniel sighed.
"Of course. You're just trying to ignore it." His adult self shook his head. "Um, Jack, a little help here?"
Jack rolled his eyes. "Sure. Fine. Go ahead." He waved the cooking utensil in the air. "Leave just when dinner is done. You'll be sorry. Don't come crying to me that you're hungry later on."
* * * * * * * * * * *
"Are you sure you wouldn't rather just take a nap?" Sam was standing hesitantly by the DVC player, holding the shiny disc that was the new movie Teal'c had brought over.
Danny shook his head as he pushed back into the middle of the bed. Napping would mean being alone, and being alone would simply reinforce the fact that his parents were lost. He forced himself to swallow as his throat tightened with emotion. Not dead. His parents weren't dead. They couldn't be.
Jack was already leaning against the headboard to Danny's left; Teal'c had taken the straight-backed chair. Sam put the movie in, Jack fiddled with the remote control, and the television came on, its light almost too bright in the darkened room. Sam settled next to him, giving him a quick smile as the movie started.
After a while, his head was hurting more than ever, and the music was too loud, the pictures too bright or too dark. He sat there staring blankly at the movie, not quite able to follow the storyline. It was a relief when Jack stopped the movie mid-play to ask if anyone wanted snacks.
Danny sat there quietly, holding back shivers, wishing nobody else was sitting on the bed so that he could slide under the blankets. He was cold and he'd be more comfortable if he could lie down and watch the TV from that position.
"Hey, you want something to eat?"
Danny jumped, not realizing Jack was leaning over the bed, almost face to face with him. His stomach lurched at the idea of food and he shook his head. Jack reached out and touched his forehead, and Danny thought about the way his mom would check for fever by giving him a kiss there instead.
"Damn. Look, I'm gonna stop by the infirmary and see if Fraiser's got something else to give you for the fever. Then I'll pick up some snacks."
"Perhaps it would be quicker were I to speak to DoctorFraiser while you obtained the refreshments."
"Sounds like a plan. We won't be long."
"Do you want to get into your pajamas?" At Danny's hesitant nod, Sam got up and got the blue cotton pajamas he'd worn the previous night. He went to the bathroom to put them on but once he shut the door behind him, he couldn't hold back the tears. Half-blinded, he managed to take his clothes off and pull the pajamas on. The cotton wasn't as warm as the pants and tee shirt he'd been wearing and he shivered. He sat on the toilet and wrapped his arms around himself, unsure of what to do next. He just wanted his mom and dad to find him.
A knock on the door, and Sam calling his name interrupted his thoughts. He sniffled deeply and wiped his face with the back of his hands before answering.
"You okay in there?"
Danny stooped over, picked up his clothes and bundled them under his arm. With a last sniffle to try and clear his clogged nose, he opened the door. "I'm fine."
He ducked his head as he walked past her, positive that she had that intuition, just like his mom, to know he'd been crying from just one look. He dumped his clothes in a corner of the room and crawled onto the bed. Sam had pulled the covers back invitingly and he gratefully slid beneath their weight. The change from cold to warmth started him shivering and he curled up on his side.
Sam sat next to him on the bed and he could feel her watching him. After a moment she slid back to her earlier position and placed a hand on his shoulder. He inched nearer, seeking comfort and when she urged him closer, he crawled up to her until his head was nestled in her lap. At the feel of her fingers in his hair, so similar to his mom's touch, he felt a sob well up from deep inside him. Embarrassed, he thrust a hand against his mouth to hold it in but it bubbled past. A second sob followed the first and he clutched at Sam helplessly.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Daniel looked into the opened bag. "Pretzels?"
His adult self nodded then reached in and withdrew one. "Oh, they're still hot." He broke it in two and handed half to Daniel, keeping half for himself. He put the bag on the chair next to Daniel.
The briefing room table looked huge from this size and Daniel felt tiny and insignificant. He stood, because he was too small to sit in one of the chairs without his feet sticking straight out and that was just too embarrassing to deal with at the moment. He wandered over to the window overlooking the gateroom.
"Doesn't make a difference how tall anyone is, the 'gate is just—"
"Overwhelming," Daniel finished.
The gate activated, the chevrons locking in and the wormhole exploded outward, until it finally settled into calm blueness. Daniel felt the heavy weight of a hand on his shoulder, holding him in place.
He gasped when Sha're stepped through the wormhole, then stopped, gazing backwards over her shoulder, her smile blinding as a Daniel in Abydonian robes exited the gate. A streak of grey shot through the wormhole, circling over the heads of Daniel and Sha're as they walked down the ramp.
Daniel strained against the glass, trying to get a better look, then jumped back when a flying creature came nose to nose against the glass, chittering happily before taking off again. "Scarlett," he said softly, smiling as the little alien sailed around the room to greet the others coming through the Stargate.
One by one, they stepped out of the gate, walking down the ramp until the gateroom was as crowded as the sidewalks of New York.
And Jack. The gate blinked off when Jack stepped through the wormhole.
Adult Daniel gave Jack a waggle of fingers. "You can't save them, you know. Destiny is unchangeable."
"I'm going to try," Daniel said. "They're our parents; I can't just watch them die."
"Are you willing to lose this?"
"What difference does it make? I couldn't save half the people here."
"But your presence can save the others in the future. Otherwise..."
One by one the people in the gateroom faded until only Jack and Scarlett were left. Jack whistled for her and she floated down and settled around his neck. Daniel felt a hint of jealousy, he'd always been Scarlett's favorite human and the little alien had always followed him around whenever they'd visited its planet. Jack saluted them before they, too, faded from view.
"You don't know that'll happen," Daniel yelled.
"You don't know it won't. Whose life are you willing to risk when you save our parents? Jack. Teal'c. Sam. Cassie? The Earth?"
Daniel turned and ran, dropping the pretzel in his haste. Down an unfamiliar corridor which led him into the exhibit room at the museum. The coverstone wavered in the corner, but while before the space underneath earlier had been empty, it was now occupied by his parents. Daniel rushed towards them, only to find the distance increasing with every step he took. "No!" he screamed as the winch loosened and his parents gazed up, horrified. "Don't leave me."
"We're not leaving you," Jack said.
Sam, Teal'c and Jack had taken his parents' place under the coverstone, which hovered, frozen in time. "Isn't that right, folks?" Teal'c and Sam nodded in agreement. "You're actually leaving us behind." Jack looked up, then winked at Daniel. "Oh well, the show must go on."
Daniel's scream of protest was overshadowed by the eerily familiar sounding crash of the coverstone.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Carter turned red-rimmed eyes to Jack when he walked into the room. She wiped her splotchy cheeks with one hand while the other remained cupped against the back of Daniel's head. For a moment Jack thought Daniel was asleep, but a shaky, hitching breath indicated that Daniel had still not recovered from whatever emotional storm had hit him while Jack had been out.
He ignored Carter's discomfort and embarrassment, turning to place the food he'd purloined on a small table, giving her time to compose herself. He shook the bottle of orange Snapple and popped the top. After placing a straw in it, he walked over to the bed and crouched down so that he was level with Daniel.
Fever-shiny eyes gazed at him with a look of sheer despair. Jack couldn't help but run his fingers over Daniel's cheek, sighing. He didn't know what to do to make Daniel feel better. He raised the Snapple and waited. After a moment, Daniel sniffled and he let go of Carter to reach out for the bottle.
"I know you're not hungry, but you should try and drink some of that. It'll help—" He broke off as Teal'c entered the room.
"Doctor Fraiser suggests we alternate this medication with the Tylenol every four hours. If his fever does not subside or should it increase, then we should return DanielJackson to the infirmary."
Jack waited until Daniel took the pills Teal'c held out to him and choked them down with a swallow of the orange drink before handing Carter her coffee and Jell-O. He placed his coffee and chocolate bar on the table next to the bed while he fumbled the remote to Play.
Daniel watched the movie without any of the interest of last night, gazing at the screen with a somewhat unfocused gaze through heavy eyelids. Jack ended up watching Daniel more than the movie, wondering what was going on in his head. When Daniel's eyelids began to flutter shut, he slowly began to lower the volume while Carter rescued the nearly untasted Snapple from his slack hand.
After a few minutes, Carter slowly began untangling herself from Daniel's hold. She eased the blanket over his shoulder as he rolled into the spot she'd occupied, fast asleep. "His fever's down a bit."
"I'll let him sleep then bring him a late supper."
"Perhaps he will wish to enjoy the movie later this evening. I shall leave him the DVD in case his health improves enough for him to garner interest."
"I should go, too. I want to check out the M.A.L.P. and go over Daniel's grandfather's notes."
Jack waited until they left before settling down at the table with his own copy of information relating to the upcoming mission. He opened the folder and groaned softly when faced with several pages of translated Goa'uld text. He needed Daniel to read this stuff; he could get more out of the bad prose than Jack, Carter and Teal'c put together.
Danny sighed happily as he slurped the salty broth of chicken soup. The pretzels his parents were sharing looked good, as were the chocolates, but he was content with the soup, their touch and their love. A bunch of wildflowers sat in garbage can filled with water, proudly displaying their colours on top of the small television in the room.
He could smell the chocolates on his lap and even though he loved the taste, his stomach rebelled at the thought of something that sweet. Still, greed prompted him to ask for one.
"Maybe tomorrow, Doodle Bug."
With a contented sigh, Daniel handed his half-finished soup and the chocolates to his parents and slid over so that he was leaning against his father's chest, with his feet against his mother's lap. His head ached but it didn't matter. He was safe, and his parents were found.
Danny woke up with a jerk. He immediately knew he'd been dreaming, and he slammed his fist against the mattress, knowing the person in the dream wasn't really him.
"Hey. What's going on?" Jack placed a hand on his leg and Danny pulled away from his touch. He rolled angrily away from Jack, heartbroken and furious that the feeling of comfort was gone.
"It's all your fault. You took me away from my parents." He struggled with the blankets, his right leg was caught in it and he kicked until it fell free.
"Daniel, we've been over this. Your parents aren't here—"
"They're in New York. They're there now, and they're not even missing me!" He got to his feet and ran towards the door. He'd find his parents. They couldn't have forgotten about him already. As soon as they saw him, they'd realize the kid sitting on the sofa with them wasn't him.
"Hey, where're you going?"
"Let me go. I want to find them."
"Daniel, you can't go running around the base and—"
Jack had grabbed his arm and without thinking, Danny made a fist and swung. His knuckles hit solid flesh and pain flared up his arm.
Yelling in pain, he clasped his injured hand to his chest, watching with astonishment as Jack flew backwards, slamming into the wall and sliding down it to land in a crumpled heap.
"No," Danny whispered, horrified. "I didn't mean to—" Still holding his throbbing hand to his chest, he stumbled across to Jack's prone body, falling to his knees. "Jack... Wake up. I'm sorry..."
Jack moaned and opened his eyes slowly. "Danny?" he muttered. "Ow, my head."
"I'm sorry," Danny whispered again. He looked down at his hand, a tear dripping onto his scraped knuckles, making the abraded flesh sting.
"Help me up," Jack said, sounding more awake now. "Danny, it's okay. I'm fine. Just help me sit up."
The door opened suddenly and an SF poked his head in the door, his eyes widening with shock as he took in the scene. "Colonel! Is everything all right, sir?"
Jack waved him out with studied nonchalance. "Everything's fine, Airman. Danny and I were just having a play fight."
"Riiight," the man said, backing hesitantly out of the room.
"Hey," Jack said as Daniel hauled him up. "It's okay."
Danny shook his head, tears falling heavily now, no matter how hard he tried to stop them. He leaned against Jack's chest and sobbed. "I want to go home."
Jack rubbed his back. "I know. We'll get this worked out, Daniel, I promise. Just hang in there a little longer."
Danny felt Jack lift his top and touch his skin. "I think maybe we need to get you to the infirmary, Daniel," he said, his voice sounding worried. "You're burning up."
"No," Danny wailed, clinging tightly to Jack's waist. "Don't make me. I promise I'll be good. I won't run away any more—"
"All right, all right, settle down. Listen, this is what we're going to do. You're going to climb back into bed and take some of that medicine the Doc sent and drink some juice. Then in an hour or so, we'll see if your fever's gone down. If it has, fine, you can stay here but if it hasn't, you go back to the infirmary with me, okay?"
Danny sighed then pushed himself up and wiped his runny nose with the back of his uninjured hand. "Okay," he agreed reluctantly. "My hand hurts," he said, holding it out for Jack's inspection.
Jack took it and inspected it closely. "I'll get some ice to put on it." He stood up, pulling Danny up with him. "That's one hell of a punch you've got there, Muhammed Ali," he said, grinning.
Danny bit his lip to stop himself from crying again. "Is your head okay?" he asked, letting Jack move him over to sit on the bed.
"Maybe I'll have some ice as well."
"Colonel? They're waiting for you."
Jack tore his gaze away from Daniel's still form and nodded at Fraiser. "You'll let him know I'll be back soon when he wakes up?"
"Of course, sir."
Nodding, Jack left the room, hating to leave Daniel and feeling guilty at the chance to escape from the constant worry and confusion he saw plastered on his friend's face.
He hurried to the gateroom, where the Stargate was just exploding into existence. He walked past his team and up the ramp, forcing his face to show no expression, his jaw clenched tight and already aching.
Once through the gate and inside the large cavern, Jack allowed Teal'c to explore and search for the door SG-13 hadn't found. True to form, Teal'c walked straight to what looked like the rest of the cavern and pressed one of the many symbols etched onto the stone. A section of the wall opened up, sliding noiselessly up, down and sideways into the stone, exposing darkness beyond.
Jack stepped closer to the opening, removing his flashlight and pointing it towards the opened room. The space behind the wall was vast, his beam of light becoming lost in the depth of darkness. He stepped through the doorway and turned, illuminating the walls and then following the curve of stone which obviously went far beyond the cavern in which the Stargate had been located. Teal'c followed, then Carter.
The moment all three of them had crossed the threshold, the lights came on, revealing a cavern so immense, Jack could barely see the far end. What was obvious, though, was the fact that a huge portion of the cavern had been destroyed in a cave-in.
"Wow." Carter took a couple of steps forward, looking around in awe. Small sections had been divided by half-walls. "Daniel would love—" She glanced back at Jack with a stricken expression then hurried towards the first of the divisions, stuffing her flashlight back into her vest pocket.
"Teal'c, any idea what this is?" Jack's first thought was that it was a school, of sorts. He could picture kids sitting in classrooms, separated from one another by the walls. Somehow, he didn't think this was one huge university but still he couldn't seem to put that idea out of his mind. He put his flashlight away, walking more slowly behind Carter.
"None, O'Neill. Although many of these alcoves are identified by symbols." Teal'c pointed at a wavy line enveloped in a circle.
"You think maybe the symbol Ballard copied in his journal might be here?"
"It is possible. Or may have been at one time if it has not been destroyed."
Jack slowed as Carter walked into one of the classrooms and looked around. She shrugged, looking at him over the top of the wall, and came back out into the main passage between walls. "It's empty. They're all empty."
"You think this place is safe?" Jack stared up at the ceiling, wondering how long ago the collapse had occurred."
"This place appears to have been abandoned for centuries." Teal'c rubbed a boot on the ground, drawing a line in the thick dust. "I believe it is safe enough to explore."
Jack sighed, looking past Teal'c and along the hundreds of rooms. "It's gonna take us forever to check these out. Split up. There are..." Jack did a quick count, "…seven of these corridors. Let's each take two and then meet up on the last one."
Jack headed for the far end of the cavern, while Teal'c took the center aisles. By the time Jack started up his aisle, Carter had gone a fair distance ahead.
He walked quickly, glancing right and left, checking the symbols for the one that looked like a bird soaring over a horizon.
"O'Neill, I have found it."
Acknowledging Teal'c's radio'd message, Jack quickly cut between several classrooms and hurried back to Teal'c's corridor at a slow jog. Carter appeared a moment later and arrived just seconds before he did. She entered the classroom, and just as Jack stepped through, one of the walls lit up, with several versions of writing running from top to bottom.
"Oookay." Jack stopped just past the entrance, ready to quickly exit if anything untoward began happening. "What just happened?"
"Maybe the artifact triggered something." Carter went to unclip her backpack, but Jack waved her to hold off for the moment. Teal'c was reading, staring unmoving as he did so. Behind him, on the wall directly in front of the entrance, was a picture of Daniel's artifact, flashing intermittently, as if it was a kiosk at a carnival show trying to attract patrons' attention. Oh, this was so not a school.
"The artifact is an entertainment device," Teal'c finally said. "Its purpose is solely to generate memories, for pleasure."
"That makes sense." Carter turned to Teal'c excitedly. "The words on the artifact mentioned a sphere of recollection."
Teal'c looked away and stared across the cavern. "I believe all of these compartments were meant for entertainment."
"You mean this is the Goa'uld version of Disneyland?"
"I had heard of such a place, before my father's father's time. It was neutral territory, where the Goa'uld were able to enjoy themselves without fear of attack from their enemy."
"That's interesting and all, but it doesn't help Daniel."
"Indeed." Teal'c returned to reading the... instructions, for want of a better word, while Carter removed her pack and took out the video recorder. While she filmed the scripts, Jack took the small, metal box they'd packed the artifact in and carefully opened it.
Immediately, yet another wall lit up with more writing. "T?"
Teal'c turned and began reading. "It is a warning. That the device will automatically disengage after approximately forty-eight hours."
"Wait. Sir, that sounds familiar." Carter stepped up next to Jack, video camera held loosely in one hand.
"The Tok'ra armbands." Jack pushed back the feeling of humiliation he experienced every time he thought of that fiasco.
"If it works in a similar fashion, then even the virus Daniel's infected with... it could have come from this." She pointed to the artifact with the camera. "It makes sense. Daniel's experiencing memories from the time he was eight years old. It's been approximately two days since we somehow triggered the artifact and now he's sick. If the virus is a failsafe—"
"Then shouldn't he be getting better?"
Carter bit her lip, obviously thinking hard. "I don't know, sir. I'm only assuming it's similar to the Tok'ra armbands. I may be totally off the mark."
"Teal'c, is there anything more on there?"
"There is not."
Jack did a quick walk around the enclosure, trying to see if the device would trigger anything else. When nothing happened, he closed the box and placed it back into Carter's pack. "Let's go."
Danny didn't remember falling asleep. He'd been sprawled on the bed, talking with Jack and the next thing he knew, he was waking up, feeling disoriented, headachy and slightly nauseated. He turned onto his back and stretched, then stiffened in alarm when he spotted Janet the doctor sitting at a table, working at a computer, watching him.
"Hey there." She smiled at him as she pushed her chair back and stood.
Danny smiled back tentatively, searching the room for Jack. Or Sam. Or Teal'c. "Where's Jack?"
"The Colonel had to go away for a while, and he didn't want to wake you up so he asked me to sit with you until you did. Are you hungry?"
He really wasn't but he was afraid to admit that his stomach was bothering him so he shrugged.
"How about you take a shower and I'll see about getting us something to eat? And when you're done, I can have a look at the burn on your hand and change the bandage."
Danny shrugged again and pushed the comforter away, which had been folded back in order to cover him. "I've got some clean clothes for you." Janet stepped into the small bathroom and turned the water on while Danny waited outside, leaning against the door jamb. He waited until she fiddled with the water settings and pointed out the towel.
As she stepped out and he stepped in, her words brought a blush to his face. "Do you need any help?"
Danny quickly shook his head and eased the door shut. There was something about this body that made him feel awkward and nervous and although he didn't mind Jack seeing him naked, somehow having a stranger look at him made him uncomfortable.
He washed quickly and shampooed, then stood there for a long moment, letting the water wash over his head. He closed his eyes, pretending that he was at home and it was his mom who was waiting for him outside. A wave of longing washed over him and he couldn't hold back the sob. He cried quietly, letting the stream of water wash his tears away until a knock at the door startled him.
"Daniel? You okay in there?"
"I'm almost done," he called out, quickly turning the water off. With his throat still tight with emotion, Danny stepped out of the shower and toweled off, hurrying to dress before Janet decided to come in and check on him. He pulled his pants on but his tee shirt stuck halfway on his back, bunched into a tight wad. He finally managed to pull it down as he opened the door and entered the bedroom.
Janet smiled at him as she waved him to the bed where she'd placed a bandage and a tube of something. He sat down nervously, eyeing the medical stuff and hoping there wouldn't be a needle for his trouble. She sat next to him and as she took his bandaged hand between hers, she looked at him with a penetrating stare.
"Are you all right?"
Danny cleared his throat and nodded.
"Did you get shampoo in your eyes?"
Danny considered lying for just a second, then slowly shook his head as he stared at his bare feet. He rubbed his toes one against the other self-consciously.
The touch of her fingers surprised him, causing him to look up at her.
"It's okay to be sad." She smiled again and turned her attention to his hand and began unravelling the sodden bandage.
Danny peered at the burn on his hand, which didn't look as bad as it had when he'd first woken up in this body. She touched his bruised and swollen knuckles with a finger.
Shame flooded Daniel and he tried to pull his hand back, but she held on firmly. Afraid to hurt her like he'd hurt Jack, he dropped his head to his chest and allowed her to press against his knuckles and wiggle his fingers.
"Does this hurt?"
It did, a little, but Daniel couldn't bring himself to admit it. "No." Finally, she turned his hand around to examine his palm.
"This is healing very nicely." Janet dabbed some ointment on his burn, her touch deft and painless, just like his mom's, then wrapped his hand up again. She put the tube of ointment away in a small box and threw the old bandage into the garbage.
"You still have a temperature, however." She stepped into the bathroom and ran the water in the sink. "This virus is pretty tenacious. Let's hope by morning you'll be feeling better," she said, raising her voice over the sound of the water. She came back out holding a plastic cup and handed it to Danny, along with two brown pills. He swallowed them under her watchful eye and drank all the water down. She took the cup from him just as there was a knock on the door.
"Thank you, Airman," Janet told the man who came into the room with a tray full of food. By now Danny's upset stomach had eased a little and although not really hungry, he was tempted by the smell of chicken soup. He walked over to the table where the man placed the tray and smiled thankfully at Janet when she put a covered cup full of steaming soup before him. He slurped the soup, then took some of the cheese and crackers she offered him.
"So, what would you like to do this evening?" She picked up a spoon and brought a pile of rice and chicken to her mouth.
"Can we watch a movie?" He found the spoon she'd put next to his cup and stirred his soup.
"Sure we can," Janet said, swallowing quickly. "Teal'c left me a couple he thought you might enjoy. Or you can play computer games; the Colonel left me instructions on how to find the site. Or we could look at pictures...?"
Danny's interest was piqued. "Pictures?" He loved looking at pictures. "Of what? Dad had a book that had pictures of the discovery of King Tut's tomb. And there was Abdul, on the dig, whose father had been there when Howard Carter and Lord Carnavon discovered it and he said the pictures were real. It's really neat, all the artifacts piled up one on top of the other in a really big mess." His words faded when he saw her watching him with that smile a lot of people wore when they pretended to listen to him. His parents never did that and he felt another wave of longing sweep over him. His throat closed again and he put down the spoon.
"Well, I was hoping maybe by looking at things from your past, it might help you remember."
"Oh." Danny didn't want to look at stupid pictures of people he didn't know but that Janet expected him to. But still, she'd been nice to him and had gotten him something to eat so he shrugged and nibbled on a piece of cheese. "Sure."
"And after we look at the pictures, you can have your choice of movies, okay?"
Janet waved at his still full cup of soup. "You didn't eat much. Are you feeling sick?"
"My head hurts a little," he finally admitted, rubbing at his temple with an index finger.
"Well, hopefully the Advil will help with the headache as well as the fever."
She seemed to have excused him from finishing his meal so Danny stood and went to look at the DVC machine and found the movies Teal'c had left him. All of them looked interesting and he finally chose one about an archeologist. He wanted to watch the rest of the Star Wars movies with Jack, Sam and Teal'c.
He looked up and saw Janet was sitting on the bed, waiting for him. He put the movie on top of the pile and went to sit beside her. She had a large plastic-covered album with the picture of a cartoon lady on top, which she slid onto his lap. He traced the picture with a finger.
"It's my daughter's album. Her choice, not mine," Janet said with a soft chuckle.
"You have a daughter?" Suddenly Danny was jealous that someone out there, someone he didn't know, had a mom who hadn't disappeared on her.
Janet flipped the album open, and pointed to a picture on the first page. "That's Cassie."
A teenager, standing in someone's backyard, was in the midst of laughter while Jack smiled down at her. Danny's jealousy suddenly increased when he thought that Jack liked some other kid.
Then again, he didn't look like other kids anymore, did he? Maybe Jack didn't like kids who looked like grownups as much as he did kids who looked like kids. Feeling stupid and miserable, he pursed his lips together and forced himself to look at more photos.
The next picture was of Jack again, sitting on a sofa with a dog nestled on his lap. Jack's head was back against the couch, his mouth hung open and his eyes were closed. Danny would have thought the picture funny if he hadn't felt so dejected.
The next photo, however, was a shock. It was of him, or rather, the big-body-him he saw in the mirror, sprawled on a lawn chair with the same dog on his lap. The Danny in the photo was also evidently asleep. Sam was also in the photo, looking at him and laughing.
He turned the page and saw another photo of himself, this time leaning against a veranda railing next to Janet and Teal'c, a bottle of beer hanging from his fingers. He was smiling at the camera, seeming happy and comfortable being there.
Beer. He was holding a bottle of beer in the photo. He knew what beer tasted like because his dad had let him take a small sip on occasion, but he didn't remember ever having his own bottle. Even treats, like Coke, were few and far between. Confused, he continued looking at the pictures, most of which were of gatherings with most of the people he'd met since the plane ride. And most disappointing was that there were none of his parents.
"I don't remember any of this," Danny said tentatively. He glanced furtively towards Janet and was suddenly nervous that she was watching him.
"That's okay, Daniel. I didn't expect you to suddenly remember your whole life by just looking at pictures. But we might get lucky and something you saw might just trigger a memory. You never know." She smiled and her eyes crinkled.
Danny turned the pages slowly. Looking at the photos was starting to get boring. "Am I going to be like this for always?"
"You mean your memory loss?"
Danny wasn't sure what he'd meant. Maybe partly being in a body that didn't feel right, constantly feeling like he'd stepped into a classroom several weeks behind the start of the school year, being surrounded by strangers even though they were really nice but most of all, the overwhelming fear that his parents were really and truly dead, like Jack had said, and that he was all alone. Forever.
"Yes." Danny hesitated, unsure of admitting his feelings and fears. He rubbed the tip of a finger against the plastic covering a photograph of Janet, who was wearing a goofy chef's hat and apron. "What if I can never remember? Will I be punished—"
"Oh no, honey. None of this is your fault. We're just hoping that whatever caused you to forget will wear off and you'll be yourself again one day soon. But if it doesn't happen..." Janet put a hand on his arm and he was surprised at how tiny it looked "...you won't be alone. You've got lots of friends who are more than willing to help you out. Myself included."
"Will I grow up one day? Because if I'm in a big body, how will I become a... man... like my dad? And what if I stay like this... I mean, what if I never grow up... in my head?"
Janet looked worried for just a second before she hid it behind another smile and patted Danny's arm. "We'll worry about that if and when that time comes, okay?"
"But it's possible? There was this guy Mohammed on one of mom and dad's digs who wasn't really smart and everyone called him dumb and retarded, but he was really nice and always shared his candies with me but everyone laughed behind his back and made him do all the jobs that were really dirty and he never seemed to realize that they were making fun of him. Mom said that these things happen and that people shouldn't mock others because they were different or not as smart as we were but everyone else did no matter that I tried to tell them it was wrong and—"
"—What if I end up like Mohammed and can't do anything except dig sand from tombs because I wanted to be an archeologist like mom and dad and go on digs and discover treasures and—"
Janet was staring at him funny, and Danny was suddenly, truly afraid that he was never going to grow up. That he'd be a little boy in a big body, never getting smarter, never graduating from school, never getting a job. The pictures before him blurred and he realized he was crying again.
"Oh, Daniel." Janet tugged the album from his lap and pulled his head towards her. He went willingly into her arms, trying not to cry and failing. "You are one of the sweetest and smartest people I know, and even if things don't turn out the way we all want it to, you will never, ever, be considered dumb by anyone." She kissed his temple and even though she didn't smell or feel like his mom, it made him feel a little better. "And if they do, they'll have to go through me."
Danny half-giggled and half-sobbed at the visual of Janet, who was so tiny next to him, standing up to one of the big soldiers he'd seen in the hallways. He buried his head against Janet's shoulder, his head throbbing and his body beginning to ache again.
"Hey, I go away for a couple of hours and you two hold a party without me?"
"Jack!" Danny almost reluctantly pulled away from Janet's hug. Jack was leaning against the door, watching them with a grin on his face.
"So, Carter and Teal'c'll be here in a few minutes. You wanna watch a movie? Doc, you got some time to spare to sit through Star Wars with us?"
"Wouldn't miss it for the world, Colonel."
Jack watched as Daniel drifted off into an uneasy sleep. He buried his head in his hands and tried to school his thoughts to coherence. There had to be answer to this, he thought desperately. Carter would come up with something, surely. She'd never failed them before. He tried not to think about what would happen if she didn't, knowing full well that it was only a matter of time before the doctors decided they couldn't keep a permanently brain-injured Daniel on the base. He'd be sent away, to a psychiatric facility, hidden away just like he had been when Machello's little Goa'uld-killers had infested him. Jack wouldn't let that happen again. He couldn't. He'd let Daniel down that time, had allowed him to be locked away and pumped full of drugs...
He shook his head, trying to clear the cobwebs brought on by fatigue and worry. "Not this time, Daniel," he murmured, brushing Daniel's hair back from his forehead, trying to impart comfort in the motion.
The increased heat of Daniel's skin cleared his mind immediately. Concerned, he bent forward to take a closer look at his friend's face.
Daniel's skin was dry now, his face flushed red, his breathing stertorous and slow.
"Daniel?" Jack shook his shoulder once, then again, harder when he didn't get a response. "Damn it, Daniel!" He stood up and grabbed a damp cloth from the bathroom, detouring to the phone to call the infirmary on his way back.
"Hey, Doc," he said urgently as Fraiser answered. "Daniel's worse. He's burning up. Send a gurney down." He turned back to the bed, hearing Fraiser barking out orders on the other end, and then froze as Daniel's body stiffened beneath the covers then began to jerk. "Shit! Hurry it up, Doc. He's convulsing!"
He slammed the phone down and raced across to the bed, reaching into his memory for the first aid lessons he'd completed years before.
'Okay, don't try to hold him down. Just keep his airway clear. Try to get him onto his side so he doesn't aspirate if he vomits'. Jack went through the motions on autopilot, turning Daniel's shuddering body onto its side and keeping a finger beneath the clenched jaw, wincing in sympathy as a small trickle of blood seeped from Daniel's mouth and he realized he'd bitten his tongue.
A commotion at the door broke his concentration and, with relief, he felt himself shoved aside, his place taken by Fraiser. "Do something," he muttered.
"We will, Colonel." Fraiser started barking out orders, none of which Jack comprehended in the least. He stood as if rooted to the spot, watching as Danny was loaded onto a gurney and wheeled at a rapid pace from the room.
* * * * * * * * * * *
"We're not leaving you," Jack said.
Sam, Teal'c and Jack had taken his parents' place under the coverstone, which hovered, frozen in time. "Isn't that right, folks?" Teal'c and Sam nodded in agreement. "You're actually leaving us behind." Jack looked up, then winked at Daniel. "Oh well, the show must go on."
"No!" Daniel sat bolt upright, his heart pounding a rapid tattoo in his chest. He felt sweat dribble down his back, making him shiver. The door to his room opened and a face peeked around the doorframe.
"Daniel? Are you okay, honey?"
"Margie?" Daniel scrubbed at his eyes, forcing himself to take a slow, cleansing breath. "What are you doing here? Where's mom and dad?"
Margie stepped into the room and came over to the bed. She sat down on the edge and gave Daniel a smile, but it was nervous and full of tension. "There was a little accident at the museum. Your mom and dad had to go there and make sure everything was okay."
Daniel's heart clenched. "An accident," he husked out. "What happened?"
Margie shook her head. "Nothing for you to worry about. Your mom said you've been sick. Now you're awake, would you like something to eat?" She stood and Daniel grabbed her arm.
"Tell me what happened... please."
Margie sighed. "The chain holding the coverstone snapped. It's okay," she rushed on, "no one was badly hurt."
Daniel felt a lump rise in his throat and tears burned his eyes. "Who got hurt?"
"Jake's got a broken leg, but he's going to be fine. Some of the artifacts were badly damaged. Your mom and dad had to go down and check it out." She rolled her eyes, "I'm sure the Egyptian government won't be happy."
Nausea and relief surged at the same time and Daniel clamped a hand over his mouth as he scrambled out of his bed, frantically untangling his feet from the bedcovers, almost tumbling to the floor in his haste.
"Danny? Are you all right?" Margie asked anxiously.
Daniel didn't bother to answer her. He wrenched his feet free from the blankets and ran to the bathroom, already gagging. A few minutes later, spent and sweating, his throat raw, he sagged against the toilet, panting for breath.
Margie rested a hand on his forehead. "You're really hot. I need to call your parents."
"They're okay, aren't they?" Daniel asked. His voice echoed strangely in his head and he felt dizzy.
"They're fine, sweetheart," Margie said. "Let's get you back to bed."
Daniel managed to drag himself to his feet but before he could take a step, his legs buckled and he sagged against Margie. "Something's wrong," he muttered. "Need to... Need to fix it. Sam will know."
"Who's Sam, Danny?" Margie asked.
Daniel swiveled his gaze to look up at her. Her face was blurry, even from here, and there was a strange pounding in his ears. ""Everything's wrong. Are mom and dad dead?"
Margie looked horrified. "No, Danny! I told you, they're fine."
Daniel tried to respond but his throat seemed to close up. "Need Jack," he managed to whisper, then the world went black.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Daniel moaned softly as he shifted restlessly on the bed. His hand came up once again, unerringly going for the nasal cannula. Jack caught his arm and held it. "No, leave it alone, Daniel," he said softly, feeling the muscles straining until Daniel gave up and let his hand fall back onto the bed.
"That's it. Sleep."
Instead of relaxing, as he had done the few times he'd stirred from his fevered dreams, Daniel's eyes slitted open. "Daddy?" The word was slow and slurred as he turned his head just enough to squint at Jack.
Nearly delirious with fever, Daniel had never quite woken up since he'd seized. Wanting nothing more than to comfort his friend, Jack leaned close and whispered in his ear. "Go to sleep, Doodle Bug."
"Hurts, Daddy." Daniel grimaced, and his eyes filled with tears. One overflowed and broke free, sliding slowly down his cheek, only to catch on the plastic tubing of the oxygen.
"I know." Jack reached out and slowly and gently wiped the moisture from Daniel's face. "Close your eyes now, and go to sleep."
Carter entered the room and walked softly to stand beside Jack. Daniel squinted up at her, his eyes glazed and bloodshot.
"Shhh, Mom's gone to get something to eat. Go to sleep, Danny." Jack shifted his touch to Daniel's forehead, brushing the hair, rubbing his fingers down to Daniel's temple and massaging gently. Daniel's eyes slowly closed, although more tears escaped from beneath his lids.
"... Wanna pretzel." Daniel's jaw slowly sank open and his head slipped sideways onto the pillow.
"He's really out of it." Jack kept the massage up a few seconds longer before sighing long and hard. "You got anything?"
"Actually, yes, sir. We identified one of the languages on the wall as one documented on P8T 774. General Hammond's sent SG-2 to see if anyone knows anything about the artifact—"
"That Goa'uld Disneyworld was abandoned hundreds of years ago. You really think they'll find something pertinent on some planet?"
Carter shrugged. "They might have records or... I know it's a long shot but right now, we don't have anything more to go on. We've contacted the Tok'ra and I've spoken to Freya—"
"Considering her specialty were the armbands."
"Yes, sir. But she wasn't able to help, either. She's never heard of anything like the artifact and didn't have time to look into the virus and confirm if it's purpose is similar to that of the—"
"So much for our allies." Jack was going to expound on the virtues of the Tok'ra when Daniel shifted restlessly. Jack rescued the nasal cannula once more from his half-hearted attempts at pulling it off.
"I can't believe that thing was used for entertainment." Jack held onto Daniel's hand, patting it gently, careful of the bruised and swollen knuckles when Daniel murmured in his sleep before putting it down on the bed. "This isn't fun. He's been scared and confused from the moment the thing got a hold of him. It's not like he's remembering anything, he's actually reliving his youth."
"I know." Carter sat on the bed and leaned forward, resting her elbows on her thighs. "I was thinking the same thing. Unless the device Daniel had was a slightly different version of what was advertised..." She picked up the hand Jack had put down and stroked his fingers with her index finger. "He's so hot."
Daniel made a small sound, deep in his throat. Jack glanced over at him, and realized there was tension in his face as opposed to the slack-jawed relaxation of before. Jack leaned forward, thinking Daniel was waking up again when suddenly his body jerked violently on the bed.
Carter cried out, her hand caught in a vice-like grip as Daniel seized once again. Jack stepped back as medical personnel rushed to the bed and turned Daniel onto his side. He winced at the pain reflected in Carter's face before medication was injected into Daniel's IV, forcing his body to relax.
Holding her hand to her chest, Carter pulled away. A nurse went to her to have a look at her hand while the Janet dealt with Daniel.
"I'm okay," Carter said as her hand was prodded and manipulated.
"There doesn't seem to be anything broken but Doctor Fraiser may want to play it safe and have that X-rayed."
"Yes, I do." Fraiser looked at Carter over Daniel's bed. "Debbie, would you take care of that for me?"
"Of course, Doctor." The nurse smiled at Carter and asked her to come with her, leaving Jack alone with Fraiser and Daniel.
"I don't know," Fraiser finally said in response to Jack's raised eyebrow. "His fever's 105 and that's with antipyretics. I truly don't know what more to do for him."
"Carter said SG-2's got a lead. Maybe they'll come back with something..."
"Unless they can pull a rabbit out of a hat, Colonel, you'll need a miracle soon."
Jack's heart sank at the expression of utter defeat on the doctor's face as she turned from him.
* * * * * * * * * * *
"God, what a mess!" Mel fumed, looking at the devastation of what once had been precious artifacts and now was just a heap of shattered pottery and stone.
Claire squeezed his arm. "At least Jake wasn't badly hurt," she said soothingly.
Mel rolled his eyes. "Try telling that to the Egyptian Museum curator. Abdul's gonna be mad as hell!"
"It was an accident," Claire said firmly. "Hopefully we can salvage something out of it." She looked calm and collected to anyone who did not know her, but Mel knew she was as worried as he was. It was how she'd always been, was the reason he'd fallen in love with her in college. Her calm demeanor was a balm to his nervous energy. Until tonight, and Mel knew she'd had every right to be angry with him for allowing Danny to walk back to the hotel in the chill of the evening. It was probably the reason Danny had gotten sick again so quickly. He pounded the wall, earning a disapproving glance from the museum guide hovering behind them. "It's strange, you know," he said finally, attempting to rein in his agitation. "When I was here earlier with Danny, he got really frightened. He was certain the chain on the coverstone was going to break."
"He's a little boy," Claire reasoned. "It probably looks so big and heavy, he was just frightened of it."
"Probably," Mel replied. "Still—"
"Doctor Jackson!" a young woman called to them from the foyer. "There's a call for you from a Margie Anderson. She said it's urgent."
"I'll get it," Claire said. "I told Margie to call and let us know how Danny is."
Mel nodded and turned his attention back to attempting to ascertain the damage of the display. Only a minute or two later, Claire hurried back to him, her forehead creased with worry. "What's wrong?" he asked.
"Danny got worse," she said breathlessly. "He collapsed. Margie had to call an ambulance. She's at the hospital with him now."
"Bill!" Mel waved over his assistant, his concern for his son overwhelming everything else. "Danny's worse. He's at the hospital. Can you hold the fort for now?"
Bill waved them away. "Go! I can handle it."
Mel hesitated, despite Claire's anxious hand tugging at his. "You sure?"
"Will you go already?" Bill groused.
"If Abdul calls—"
"I'll tell him to call back tomorrow." Bill glanced behind him at the damaged display. "I've had a good look. I don't think it's as bad as it seems."
"Thanks." Mel hurried off after Claire.
"Call me," Bill called after them. "Let me know how the little tyke's doing."
They'd been lucky to hail a cab within seconds of leaving the museum. Mel gave the driver the destination as he threw himself into the backseat beside Claire. He clutched at her hand, and she looked over at him and tried to smile.
"He'll be fine," she said, though her voice shook.
Mel didn't answer her. Instead, he leaned forward and spoke to the driver. "Can't you go any faster? Our boy's in the hospital."
The driver glanced at him in the rear-view window as he weaved his way through the traffic. "Going as fast as I can," he said. "I got kids. My daughter was in the hospital for a week last month. She's got asthma. Just about kills me to see her gasping for breath—"
"Look out!" Claire screamed suddenly.
Mel tore his gaze from the driver and stared in horror out the front window as a truck seemed to appear from nowhere. The cab driver swore, wrenching frantically at the steering wheel but the truck was already upon them. There was an almighty impact that threw Mel back in his seat and he heard Claire scream...
Frank Cordell exited the trauma room, pulling off his gloves and tossing them into the bin by the door. This case had him worried. The patient, an eight year old boy, had already been seen in the Emergency room just a couple of days before, had seemed to recover and then had been rushed back with an extremely high temperature, bordering on comatose. So far, the tests he'd ordered had shown nothing out of the ordinary.
He saw the woman who'd brought the child in hurrying toward him, and sighed. This was one part of his job he hated. "Ms. Anderson, Daniel's fever is still extremely high. I need to do a spinal tap. Have you been able to get hold of his parents?"
She nodded, her round face tight with worry. "They're on their way. They should have been here by now." Her hand plucked at his shirtsleeve. "He's going to be all right, isn't he?" Tears shone in her eyes and trickled down her cheeks. "I'll never forgive myself if something happens to him." She looked up at him, her chin quivering. "I didn't know he was that sick."
Frank patted her hand reassuringly. "You weren't to know. You did everything you should have. Hopefully, his parents will be here soon, and I can get a consent form signed and have the rest of the tests done."
She nodded shakily. "Thank you."
He looked over to the nurse at the station. She held a phone out to him. "Doctor Morris from the ER wants to speak to you."
Frank patted Margie's shoulder. "If you'll excuse me..."
"Of course." Margie nodded and walked back to the waiting area, pulling a magazine from the pile on the table.
Frank headed over to the nurses' station and took the phone receiver. "Doctor Cordell."
"Frank, it's Liz. How's it going up there?"
"Busy," Frank said. "I need a coffee, but I don't think I'm going to get one any time soon. What can I do for you?"
"Have you got a Daniel Jackson up there? Eight years old, came in with a high fever?"
"Just waiting for his parents to arrive so I can get a consent for a spinal tap. Why?"
"I just knew this was going to be a bad night," Liz said. "There was a crash tonight between a truck and a cab. Driver and passengers of the cab came in D.O.A. Ids of the passengers showed them as Doctors Melburn and Claire Jackson. The clerk down here remembered them from a couple of days ago when they brought their son, Daniel, into the ER, suffering from a high fever."
"Shit!" Frank said fervently. He scrubbed at his burning eyes. "Okay, I'll need to speak with the woman who brought the boy in. I'll get back to you."
"Bad night," Liz said sympathetically.
"Yeah, you got that right." Hanging up the phone, Frank turned and headed for the waiting room, his heart heavy, but before he could summon the young woman who'd brought little Danny Jackson to the hospital, the examination room door behind him opened and Nurse Shelley Richards called to him.
"Doctor Cordell! We need you. Daniel's seizing."
* * * * * * * * * * *
Daniel floated between waking and dozing for a long time, vaguely aware of someone in the room with him. Occasionally a sound or touch would pull him close to the surface, but he hadn't the energy to push all the way out of the heat that held him firmly to full consciousness.
Slowly he became aware of coolness in the air, that the fire within him was slowly being extinguished. Voices came and went, familiar enough to him that he took comfort with the vague knowledge that he wasn't alone. His parents were here with him. He was obviously still sick, in a hospital and had gone through a trip in the Time Tunnel, but he had a chance to do-over and he was going to try his damnedest to make every day, every moment, with them count.
As his awareness grew, so did his ability to grasp sentences other than just a word here and there.
"It's been four hours. Shouldn't he be waking up soon?"
That was nice... his dad was worried. He'd tell him in a minute that he was awake, so he didn't have to worry anymore. Just one more minute. And he'd open his eyes, and smile, and tell his dad that he loved him...
"It's normal for a patient to sleep after a grand mal seizure—"
"But you still don't know whether the seizure was due to his fever or the virus itself."
Oh, his mom was here, too. That meant both would be worrying over him. Maybe he could ask for some water, that way they'd know he was awake. He tried to move his tongue but it felt glued to his palate.
"It doesn't matter, Sam. With his prolonged fever and the seizures, we may be looking at brain damage—"
The last of the fog surrounding him disappeared and everything fell together with what should have been a ground-shaking jolt. Instead, his heart skipped a beat when he realized where... or rather, when, he was.
Not his parents. He wasn't in Kansas anymore. Or rather, at some point in time when he'd been unconscious, someone had clicked his ruby shoes together three times and sent him flying back through time.
"And an eight year old Daniel doesn't constitute brain damage?"
Daniel winced inwardly. Jack's voice was curt and snarly, which meant he was in one of those moods he used to hide the fact that he was hurting. Or worried. Daniel fervently hoped Jack wasn't injured and it was just plain worry over him that was causing him to be so nasty to Janet.
He tried to open his eyes at that point, because Janet's silence was beginning to scare him. But his eyelids were either glued shut, or someone had attached 20-pound weights to them.
"He was worried about that, sir." Janet's voice was soft and so low, Daniel could barely hear her. "He himself thought he might be retarded, that he might never grow up—"
"He said that?"
The high-pitched tone of Sam's voice was yet more incentive for Daniel to try and let them know he was back. He tried to clear his throat and he must have made some sort of noise because someone touched his arm.
"Daniel?" The fingers moved up and down his arm before continuing down to his hand and giving his fingers a light squeeze. "Doc, I think his fever's broken."
The next several minutes were uncomfortable and embarrassing as his hospital gown was peeled off his back more than once. He was so weak and stiff that he all he could do was flop around as his limbs were maneuvered this way and that. Finally he managed to pry his eyelids open as Janet wiped his face with a cool cloth. From his limited vantage point, Jack and Sam were grinning at him, although there was still a shadow of worry behind their smiles.
"Hey." His voice was thick and croaky but at least now his mouth worked.
"Hey, Daniel." Sam picked his hand up and brought it to her cheek as she smiled tremulously at him. There was movement behind her and Teal'c stepped up close to the bed, peering around Jack’s and Sam's backs. His face lit up in a rare smile as he saw that Daniel was awake.
"Water?" His voice cracked but he obviously made himself understood when Janet nodded. He closed his eyes and must have drifted a moment because something cold and wet touched his lips. The next few minutes were spent lapping up the cool goodness of ice chips, blood being taken for tests and having his body repeatedly washed down as sweat poured off him.
By the time they changed the bed linens, he was fighting sleep. He realized he hadn't asked what had happened. Janet had mentioned brain damage, so he must have been injured or sick... maybe he'd dreamed... but no, everything had been so vivid, so real. He'd been with his parents, he was sure of it.
He tried to stay awake but his eyelids had a mind of their own. Still, he tried to force them open when they closed, and he heard Jack lean close and whisper, "Go to sleep, Doodle Bug. We'll be here when you wake up."
Shock did what willpower had been unable to do. His eyelids flew open as his heart raced. No, it'd been real. Not a dream. Jack hadn't known about the nickname – hell, he'd all but forgotten about it himself.
"How?" He squirmed, wishing he had the strength to sit up.
"Don't worry about it, Danny. We'll talk about it when you wake up."
"No... how long?" The adrenaline was already wearing off and this time he knew he'd lost the battle as his eyes shut and he heard Jack's voice from afar as he drifted off to sleep.
He woke up with a start, memory kicking in with a vengeance. He turned his head in time to see Jack lean forward in his chair.
"Jack." His voice was croaky and he cleared his throat. Before he could ask for water, Jack was up and pouring a glassful from a pitcher and then held it to his mouth, complete with straw.
He sucked the water, feeling it go past his mouth, down his throat, washing away the accumulated gunk and hitting his stomach with a satisfying splash. While it didn't get rid of the pasty sensation in his mouth, nothing short of a toothbrush and half a tube of toothpaste would take care of that problem, it did ease his thirst.
"Glad to see you're back with us. You had us worried there for a while."
"Sorry." Daniel rubbed his sleep-crusted eyes with his fingers, accepting his glasses from Jack when he'd finished. "Sam and Teal'c?"
"In a meeting with General Hammond and SG... So, how are you feeling? Teal'c's got the last three movies piled up next to the DVD machine waiting for you to get better and—"
"Jack, what are you talking about?" Daniel wasn't sure if he'd missed something while he'd been... gone, or if his brain was still addled and his synapses weren't firing properly.
"The Star Wars movies, Daniel. He did mention there were six of them, didn't he?"
"Star Wars... What's going on?" A sudden thought came to him which he'd put out of his mind after he'd woken up with his parents, if his mind had somehow been transported to his body as a young child, then the mind of that child had... He spoke quickly before Jack answered. "Jack, it's me."
"Daniel?" The confusion on Jack's face was almost comical.
"Me. You know, the fourth member of SG-1? The dweeb who accompanied you to Abydos on our first mission?"
"Daniel?" The confusion faded and joy shone from Jack's face. "It's really you? Do you remember anything that happened? Carter and Teal'c figured out that the artifact Nick gave you was some sort of entertainment machine that made you relive your memories but you... changed."
"Changed?" He felt his heart speed up as he asked the question.
"Yeah. You grew..."
At Jack's nod, he sighed. "I woke up somewhere else." He wasn't ready to go into details just yet, not sure if he would ever truly be able to talk about it. "And then woke up here." He averted his eyes as Jack motioned for him to go on. "Let's just say I relived my past. What about the other me?"
"You were eight years old," Jack said quietly. "Totally terrified and confused. But we took good care of you."
The smug grin on Jack's face had Daniel wondering what the poor eight-year old version of himself had experienced at his friends' hands. Then all of Sam's warnings during their stint 1969 hit Daniel like a ton of bricks.
"You didn't do anything to change the future me, did you?" he asked quickly.
"What?" Jack's face suddenly blanched. "We didn't think... we just thought that you had... you know..." Jack touched his temple then looked away, embarrassed.
"You thought I was brain damaged?"
"Well, how were we to know? You woke up after a seizure, screaming for your parents... what would you expect we'd be thinking?"
Daniel scrubbed his face with his hand, rubbing hard, trying to think and remember. Everything appeared to be the same in his head, his parents had died when the coverstone had crushed them; he'd grown up an orphan and had done the orphanage/foster parents stint; gotten his degrees; been laughed out of academia; had met Catherine who'd introduced him to the Stargate program – and he had the more recent memories of his parents not dying under the coverstone. If he remembered both pasts, did that mean his past had changed? Or had this
even been his past? Maybe he'd been transported into an alternate reality...
"How did I come into the Stargate program?"
"Just humor me. Tell me how I joined the Stargate program."
"Catherine Langford brought your sorry ass in after all the scientists couldn't make head or tail out of the glyphs on the gate itself."
"Okay." At Jack's shrug and questioning look, Daniel added, "That's what I remember also."
"Anyways, if this was a young version of you, the worst thing that could come of all of this is that you'd be able to write the screenplay for the Star Wars trilogy before George Lucas," Jack said quickly.
"Wh... What?" Daniel squinted up at Jack, trying to figure out what the movies had to do with time travel.
"We showed you the movies to... you know, keep you entertained."
Jack nodded his chin at Daniel. "How much of the trilogy do you remember?"
Daniel thought back desperately and tried to recall when he'd first seen the movie. He'd been a teenager, had gone out with some of his foster siblings. He breathed a sigh of relief that his memories were still intact. "Definitely don't remember seeing it as a young kid." He coughed and cleared his throat. "It was Nick's artifact. Did you guys figure that out?"
"Yeah. Although you know I'm not good at understanding the grandfather paradox thingie, but if the eight year old you came here, wouldn't the adult you remember what happened while you... the kid you, were here?"
Ironically, Daniel understood what Jack was trying to say. "Obviously, as I have no recollection of ever having been here before as a child, the boy who did come here wasn't really me."
"Maybe he was from a different reality?"
"According to Carter, the machine doesn't work that way."
Daniel raised an eyebrow in query.
"It's a memory machine; it's supposed to trigger your memories so you can experience them again."
"To live beneath the same sky, one must venture beyond the horizon. To discover oneself, one must search beyond the sphere of recollection," Daniel quoted. The translation of the artifact suddenly made sense.
"Yeah. You figured that out too? It took Teal'c a while but he finally got it."
"You figured out it was a memory machine from the translation?"
"Well, that plus the fact that T. found a reference in Nick's journal that led to a planet which had a secret door that brought us to an ancient Goa'uld funhouse."
Daniel stared at Jack, not quite comprehending what he'd explained. His head was beginning to ache and he'd had a lot to process. He squeezed his eyes shut and rubbed them. He had a feeling he'd need to talk to Sam and Teal'c before he fully understood exactly what had happened. Plus he had the nagging feeling he needed to go talk to Catherine... maybe see if she had a niece named Margie... and bring himself to contact her and find out why she had abandoned him after his parents' deaths.
"Look, you're tired, and I think I should have called for Fraiser the moment you said you were you." Jack smiled, and Daniel was surprised to see how Jack's eyes softened for a moment. "Welcome back, Daniel."
"Thanks." He swallowed a yawn and closed his eyes. He had a lot of thinking to do, but that'd come after he got a bit more rest.
"I'm sorry." Janet finished writing in the clipboard and then gave Daniel a sympathetic smile. "Your temperature is hovering around 101 and your appetite is non-existent, and until I'm convinced the virus has definitely run its course, I'm afraid I can't release you."
Daniel understood, and understood perfectly, but it didn't alleviate the fact that he'd had enough of the infirmary and hospitals to last him a lifetime. He wanted some quiet time to think things through, examine his feelings over the past days' happenings, and to talk to Sam, Jack, and Teal'c to try and figure out exactly what had happened to him.
"Now I want you to try and get some sleep. Your body needs rest and—"
"Sleep is the fastest way to get better. Yeah." Daniel sighed. "I know."
Janet pulled back the privacy curtain, revealing Sam, Teal'c, and Jack, who were sitting on a nearby bed, waiting.
"Five minutes. Daniel needs to rest." She gave them all a warning stare, causing Daniel to purse his lips in annoyance.
"Daniel." Sam was the first to hurry to him and give him a hug. He put his arms around her and hugged her back, careful of the hand sporting an IV. She pulled back after a long moment, and her smile was dazzling. She stepped away, allowing Teal'c a chance to move closer.
"We were concerned you would not be returning to us whole. I am pleased to see our worries were for naught."
"Thank you, Teal'c." Daniel felt a blush of embarrassment flow over him; he would never admit to them that given the chance, he would have chosen to his parents over his team.
Jack simply smiled and waggled his fingers, not moving from his seated position. Daniel gave him a quick finger waggle back.
"Daniel. I'm so sorry. I should never had brought an energy source close to an alien artifact while you were touching it—"
"Sam. You couldn't know. I've had that stone for most of my life and nothing like this ever happened..." Daniel grimaced. That wasn't true. He remembered an extremely vivid dream when he was eight, sitting in the plane on his way to New York with his parents, just days before they died. He'd dreamed of when Nick had given him the stone and how close he'd felt to his grandfather at that moment.
He pinched the bridge of his nose with two fingers. "You say the artifact triggers memories?"
"You think it affected you before?"
He glanced at Sam quickly, then at Jack and Teal'c, who were staring at him with keen attention. "When I was eight. In a plane, coming over from Egypt to—"
"During a thunderstorm? The lightning hit the plane?"
"Yeah." Surprised, Daniel looked over at Jack.
"That's what your other self said happened. Lightning hit the plane and he passed out, and woke up here."
"I didn't pass out, I fell asleep and dreamed. But the dream was extraordinarily vivid." And the lingering closeness he'd felt his to his grandfather afterwards had made Nick's reticence to take Daniel with him after his parents' death even more painful.
"Enough to make you think it was caused by the artifact?"
Daniel shut his eyes and easily recalled the dream, which seemed to have stayed with him all these years. "Yeah, Sam, I think so."
"All right, people, time's up."
Everyone began moving as Janet approached his bed. Daniel waited until they were out of sight before turning onto his side. He was aware of Janet hovering for a minute, and only managed to relax marginally once she moved on. His body was aching but his mind was racing.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Daniel hated the beds in the infirmary. Mentally, he knew the reasons why the mattress had to be plastic coated, but that didn't help him sleep. Every move brought a crinkling sound, jerking him to awareness.
"I can give you a sleeping pill if you want."
"Janet." Daniel opened one eye. "Sorry, don't worry, I'm fine."
She adjusted his twisted blanket with a warm chuckle. "Daniel, you should know by now, I get paid to worry."
Daniel smiled then yawned.
"Close your eyes."
"Why?" He tried to peek around her. "Do you have a needle behind your back or something else I should know about?"
"No, Daniel," she said with the patience borne of someone who had spent the last few years dealing with stubborn individuals. "I just want you to get some rest."
"Yes, ma'am." Daniel acquiesced to her request and closed his eyes, opening them immediately when he felt a tug on the IV tubing. "Hey... I thought you said you didn't have a needle."
She finished emptying the contents of the syringe into the IV. "You asked if I had a needle behind my back. I didn't, it was in my pocket. Oops."
"You tricked me."
"Yeah, I did." She gave Daniel a wink. "Goes with the territory. Worrying and trickery." Janet patted his shoulder. "Sleep well, Daniel."
* * *
Daniel stood on Jack's back deck, eyes closed, head bent backwards, enjoying the warmth of the afternoon sun.
"There you are."
Daniel opened his eyes, looked down and smiled, resisting the urge to ruffle the hair of his younger self. "Waiting long?"
His eight year old face broke into a face splitting grin. "A lifetime." Danny pulled on Daniel's hand. "Come on... I want to show you something."
Daniel balked. "I can't." Wildly, he glanced around. "I told Janet I was going to sleep."
"Don't worry, Daniel," Jack said, pushing up his sunglasses with a barbeque utensil. "I've got your six. I'll cover for ya." He clicked his tongue, then mouthed the word 'go', cocking his chin towards the sliding glass doors.
Reluctantly, Daniel followed Danny's lead through the sliding glass doors into a familiar hallway of the SGC. "This is my office."
"And this is where I get off."
"Where are you going?"
Danny pushed him towards the doorway. "There are things that are a constant no matter what universe."
"Is that supposed to make sense?"
Danny shrugged. "I'm only eight. You're thirty-eight. I'm just a precocious kid, you're the linguistic genius." He gave Daniel a wink. "You'll figure it out. Eventually."
One minute Danny was there, then he wasn't. "Danny?" Daniel turned around, frantically trying to figure out where the hell he'd disappeared to.
"In here..." A very adult voice came from the depth of his office. An extremely recognizable adult voice.
Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it was as ingrained in Daniel as breathing and he stepped over the threshold into his office and was met with... "Oh."
His doppelganger was sitting on the edge of the desk, arms folded across his chest with a Cheshire smile. "I think our friends would be able to tell us apart."
"Yeah, I think they would." His twin's hair was long, tied back in a ponytail. He appeared taller than Daniel, but that could be because he was missing the muscle mass Daniel had accumulated over the years on SG-1, giving him a slimmer appearance. "You're not wearing glasses."
The laughter was identical. "Well, that wouldn't have been the first thing I thought of..." He picked up the end of his pony tail and held it up.
"I had long hair all through college..." Daniel stepped into his personal space. "It's the glasses thing that intrigues me."
"Really," Daniel said with a nod, pushing up his glasses. "I could never quite bring myself to—"
"I guess it's something to consider now..." His reflection pushed off the desk. "Come with me, okay?"
"Funny, I didn't think I had a choice in all of this."
"No, you don't, not really. Janet gave you a shot of the really good stuff. I'm thinking you're probably down for the count."
The cemetery plots were side by side. The headstones plain. Name. Date. No beloved. Nothing extraneous. Daniel stood in front of them, his AU self stood behind the markers, a hand on each headstone. He shoved his hands in his pockets, anything to keep from the self hug. "They died?"
"Yes, they did."
"They weren't supposed to die. No. No. No." Daniel frantically shook his head. "The coverstone fell. But they weren't under... they did not die."
"My parents didn't die under the coverstone. My parents died in a car accident. Same day. Different scenario. But the end result was still the same. You and I were left as... We both died a little that day."
"A little?" Daniel snorted. "A little? I don't know about you, but my childhood is buried with my parents." He blinked away tears and averted his face.
"You saved my parents from the coverstone, you know."
Daniel pointed to the markers. "But they still died. On the same day. How is that saving them? The outcome was still the same."
"No... It wasn't..."
"You're obviously with the SGC..."
"SG-1? Jack. Sam. Teal'c."
"Abydos." Daniel hesitated. "Sha're?"
Danny pointed at Daniel. "I take it your Sha're..."
"Yeah, me, too," Daniel said. "So the ponytail, the Lasik surgery and the way our parents died are the difference, 'cause from where I'm sitting, everything else pretty much stayed the same."
"No, I'm the difference." Margie, a much older Margie, walked slowly towards Danny, the uneven ground of the cemetery making her steps tenuous and cautious.
Danny extended his hand to her. "Hey, Margie girl." Kissing her cheek, he drew her in close. "Margie was my savior. Even though Nick wouldn't allow her to adopt me, she was... she and Catherine became my family."
"Langford. She took me under her wing and introduced me to the Stargate Program." Danny gazed at Margie and smiled.
Daniel stepped back. "So there were no foster families?"
Danny grimaced. "No."
Daniel pointed at Margie. "Margie. Catherine. Big difference."
Daniel put out his hands to stop Margie's approach. "Don't. It's water under the bridge. I'm glad one of us had a happy childhood."
Margie kissed Danny on the cheek. "I want to talk to Daniel, alone. I need to explain some things."
Daniel was an adult, stuck in a dream and the drug-induced images' halfhearted bickering shouldn't have bothered him, but it did. Slowly, he backed away, moving out of the range of their voices. He walked around the neighboring gravesites, stepping over the actual plots, until he found a bench, hidden from his parents' grave by the trunk of huge, overgrown tree.
He sank down onto the wooden slats, ignoring their discomfort and slumped down, resting his head along the back, praying for his brain to just shut down and go to sleep.
"God, you're handsome."
Daniel forced his head up and sighed. "Margie." Before him stood Margie. The Margie of his youth. Twenty eight years old. Ten years younger than his current thirty eight.
She sat next to him, shifting sideways, drawing her knees to her chest. "You were an adorable child, but damn, you're—"
Daniel laid a hand on her knee. "Please."
"Sorry. I just got carried away with you..."
She was adorable. At eight, her presence in his life had been more important than her green eyes and dimples. Daniel couldn't help but return her smile with one of his own.
Margie put her hand atop of Daniel's. "I tried."
"It's been thirty years, it doesn't matter."
"You're wrong. It matters. When the coverstone fell, killing your—"
"I know what happened when it fell." Daniel was angry, his head hurt and he was tired.
"I was at the hotel. I had worked late the night before and Claire—your mom told me to sleep in." Margie blinked, her tears slowly ran down her cheek, landing on their conjoined hands. "I wasn't there. The system snatched you up before I... I lost you. I'm sorry. I searched endlessly for years, long after you'd become an independent minor."
"You never found me."
She reached up and touched his cheek, her thumb rubbing along his chin. "I died before I ever found you." Margie cupped his chin and rotated Daniel's head. "You're sitting by my grave."
"Oh, god, Margie..."
"I'm sorry I couldn't give you what you wanted, Daniel."
Daniel awoke with a start. Jerking awake. Asleep. Dreaming one second, awake the next with his heart pounding though his chest and his breath catching in his throat, choking him. Automatically, his hand traveled up to his cheek, mirroring Margie's touch. He could still feel the warmth of her hand. Daniel took a deep breath and he could smell the odor of freshly cut grass. Even his ass hurt from the unforgiving wooden bench. The bed didn't seem as uncomfortable has it had and he slowly turned, closing his eyes.
Daniel didn't even open his eyes. "Hi."
"Well enough." It was smarter not to mention any of this to Janet. Not the dreams. Or the sensory input left over from his visuals. Or how much his heart hurt.
* * * * * * * * * * *
The bed was comfortable. And Danny was warm. He'd almost forgotten what warm felt like. Under the mountain, he was never warm, no matter how many blankets or clothes he'd layered.
The female voice was familiar but out of place, and in his half-sleep, it took too much effort to place it.
He snuggled deeper under the blanket.
"I have a bad feeling about this one." A different voice. A male. "Let him sleep."
Star Wars? Was he missing part of the movie? Teal'c promised to watch the next one with him. Annoyed that Teal'c had gone back on his word, Daniel forced his eyes open, fighting gravity as his lids kept sliding closed. "Awake."
"Come on... open your eyes for me."
"DVC?" he mumbled, then waited, listening, expecting the rumble of Teal'c's voice. Time became the enemy, and he could feel himself drifting. Daniel wanted to wake up, but his brain wasn't cooperating, the pull of the warmth of the bed was too strong a lure to ignore.
"DVC? What the hell is a... please wake up, Daniel."
Janet? He'd been looking at pictures in that book with the cartoon girl on the cover and now he was sleeping. Maybe Janet was mad that he fell asleep? Jack. He remembered Jack. Was Jack the one with the bad feeling? Was Jack warning him that Janet had a needle waiting? Warning him without coming out to say it... so Janet wouldn't know? The fear of another needle sprung Daniel into action and he jerked awake, flailing his arms.
Danny was enveloped in a hug and he fought the confinement. But he halted his protestations and whimpered in fear as he caught the sight of blood covering the front of his right hand. "No needles... please," he howled, trying to gain purchase on the bed.
"Crap, he's pulled out the IV."
"Please," he sobbed into the neck of the person holding him a death grip. "No needles," he whispered.
"Just a pinch," came the soft replied.
"You're lying, it hurts. That's what you promised before."
Danny squirmed away from the arms holding him and tucked his right hand under his armpit, away from the unfamiliar doctor who was gazing at him with a strange look. Afraid to take his eyes off the doctor, he ventured a glance towards the person sitting inches from him. "Margie?" He reached out to touch her, then drew back, stunned at the size of his hand. No longer dad-sized, Danny was back to himself. Forgetting the doctor holding the needle, he smiled broadly at Margie. "I'm back," he crowed.
"Let me put in the IV..."
"No!" Margie yelled.
Danny pulled back. Margie never yelled. Ever. "Margie?" he called her name tentatively, afraid she'd turn her anger on him.
"Give me a minute." She reached out, stroking his head. Margie's smile seemed unnatural because her eyes weren't smiling at all.
Danny nodded, shrinking under the covers, watching, barely breathing as she stood and went to speak to the doctor. She was animated, hands flying, stepping in front of the doctor, physically blocking his way towards Danny.
Their words seem to fade in and out like the local Egyptian radio station his father would try to tune into at the dig's campsite. "Margie," he said when they paused in their conversation. "Where's Mom and Dad?"
"Son..." The doctor's fake friendliness set his teeth on edge. "Daniel, you're bleeding... You've been sick—"
"Sick?" Slowly, Danny lowered his hand and examined the blood smeared on the back of his hand. "I want my mom. Margie—"
"Give me a bandage and just shut up." Margie placed a hand on the doctor's chest. "Let me. Please, let me."
"I want my parents."
"Let me take care of this." The wipe cloth was cold against his skin and it stung a little, but Danny remained stoic as Margie cleaned the blood away from his hand.
"That little hole made my..."
"Yup." Margie stuck a Band Aid on the minute puncture wound, then gathered up the trash and tossed it into the bedside garbage.
Mesmerized, Danny watched as still flowing blood darkened the square, flesh-colored Band Aid.
He tore his gaze away from the Band Aid just in time to catch Margie's guilty glance towards the door. "Are my parents..."
Margie began to tuck the blanket around him. Flitting around. Margie never flitted. "Stop it." Danny grabbed her hand.
A flash of a smile, then Margie sat next to him on the bed. Placing her arm around his shoulder, she pulled him against her body. "Your parents..."
And he knew. Right then. In the hesitation. In the tone of her voice. "They're dead, aren't they?"
"Just say it, Margie. I just need for you to say it."
A sob escaped Margie, and Danny's eyes began to fill.
"Your parents are dead."
"I know." Danny crawled into her lap, her face a blur through his curtain of tears. "I had a dream... I was all grown up, but sick... and I worked for the military and I had friends. Named Jack. Teal'c. Sam. And they showed me..." Danny paused, missing his dream people. "They told me my mommy and daddy were dead and had been dead—"
"It was a dream, Daniel." Using the sleeve of her sweater, Margie blotted away his tears.
"Is this a dream?"
"They're never coming back?"
Margie shook her head. "Never."
"Never." She touched his heart. "They'll always be with you and so will I." Margie pulled him into her arms, crushing him, slowly rocking side to side. "I promise, Daniel, I'm never going to leave you."
Danny only let the doctor stick him again when he was too tired, too spent and too exhausted to care. Margie looked as if she was going to fall over and he contemplated offering her half the bed.
"Close your eyes," she prodded, taking his hand. "I'm not going anywhere."
He was afraid to sleep and he tucked their conjoined hands to his chest.
"I get the hint."
Danny slid over and Margie rested her head on the pillow. Her body was twisted at an awkward angle, and she adjusted the chair. "That's better."
They were nose to nose with each other and Danny felt a little less afraid, and just a bit safer. And the two of them watched and waited, until the stress of watching and waiting forced Margie's eyes to close.
"Hey, buddy, come on, wake up."
Danny opened his eyes and blinked at Margie in confusion. She was still sleeping.
Danny extended his neck so he was able to see over Margie. He'd seen that face in the mirror. Grown up him from the other dream. "What do you want?"
His grown up self's hands hovered over Margie's hair, their movement creating a slight breeze. Margie stirred, but didn't wake. "I'd forgotten how young she was."
"You're not here to take her, are you?" Danny was terrified that everyone he loved was going to be snatched from his life.
"Oh, god, no."
"Then why are you here?" His parents would've yelled at him for being so rude to a grown up. Danny held back a sob, but his parents weren't here, Margie was sleeping, so he could be as rude or as nasty as he wanted and there would be no repercussions.
"I'm here to tell you that it'll be okay. Maybe not now. Maybe not in a week from now. Or a month. But eventually." His voice was soft as his gaze on Margie was tender. "She loves you, but she's terrified."
"Margie?" The fact the this woman who stood up to his parents, for his parents, and had gone toe to toe with burly dig supervisors was terrified, made Danny smile. "Margie's one of the bravest people I know."
"Yeah, she is. But right now, she needs you by her side. Right now, you're her strength."
Daniel snorted, then glanced quickly at Margie, making sure she was still sleeping. "I'm just a kid, how am I strong?"
There were tears in his adult self's eyes. "You're stronger than you can ever imagine."
He opened his mouth to object but all that came out was a yawn.
"Go to sleep, Daniel..."
"Daniel?" Margie lifted her head and looked at him. "Are you okay?"
Danny nodded, then slipped back down. His adult self had gone, like a puff of wind. "Margie...?"
She kissed his temple, then laid down until they were once again sharing the pillow. "We're going to be okay, Daniel."
He tucked his head under her chin. "I know we are—eventually."
* * * * * * * * * * *
One moment Daniel was in the cabin, helping Jack getting the cabin ready for occupation, the next, Jack realized he was alone. He never heard the door close but then again, Daniel could move quietly when he wanted to.
He glanced out the window and saw Daniel slowly pacing next to the water's edge. Without a second thought, Jack dropped the fresh linen he'd been bringing for Daniel's bed and stepped outside.
The air was fresh and damp, condensation growing quickly with the setting sun. There was the hint of mist growing over the water and the insects had begun their evening serenade.
Daniel stood, hands in his pockets, looking over the water. By the time Jack made his way to him, Daniel was crouching at the far edge of the wooden pier, one hand dipped into the water. Something splashed nearby and had it been any other lake, Jack would have put it down as a lake trout. Instead he figured a duck, or maybe a raccoon.
A mosquito whined in his ear and Jack waved it away. The quay shifted with his weight, sending tiny waves in all directions. For a moment the tranquillity of the water was broken, then quickly calmed as Jack eased down next to Daniel.
He was rewarded with a quick smile before Daniel's gaze went back over the lake. "This place is really..."
"Yeah, I know," Jack said, raising one foot and leaning it against the raised edge as Daniel eased his butt next to it. "There's just something about the water and the quiet…" A loon cried, its call echoing hauntingly over the water.
Daniel took a deep breath and wiped his fingers on his jeans. The humidity in the air caused a hint of vapor to appear when he spoke. "Thanks for inviting me."
Jack watched a dragonfly zip by. Its body, mere millimeters from the water, was reflected in the mirror-like quality of the lake. "We can go for a canoe ride tomorrow, if you'd like. There's a stream just a half mile upriver that leads to some rocks with Indian sketches on them. We could take a lunch…"
Jack pushed his weight forward and leaned over the water. He could see his and Daniel's reflections. He wondered whether Daniel was really, truly interested in exploring or if he was just agreeing to keep Jack happy. "Or we could just stay here and fish."
"I thought there weren't any fish in the lake. Teal'c said—" As if to prove a point, a rainbow trout jumped out of the water, flipping fully head over tail before splashing noisily back into the hidden depths.
Jack blinked then grinned as the ever-widening ripples made their slow way towards the quay. "Obviously Teal'c hasn't quite gotten the hang of fishing yet."
"You know, my dad took me fishing a couple of times when I was a kid."
"And, did you like it?"
Daniel's face relaxed as his eyes lost their focus, obviously remembered good times. His lips curled in a smile. "Oh yeah."
Jack stared across the lake, watching the water as the reflected trees slowly lost their clarity and became a dark blur. They sat in silence for a long moment, the only sounds being an occasional swat at hopeful mosquitoes.
"You were thinking of bringing me... him... here, weren't you?"
Jack lowered his head a moment then shook it slowly. "No, I hadn't really thought that far ahead. We were worried that you'd suffered brain damage but... yeah, I'd have brought you... him... here, eventually."
Daniel gave Jack that little quick sideways glance he often did, accompanied by an embarrassed smile. "I'm sure he'd have loved it here." Danny shifted his weight and scratched his stomach through his sweatshirt. "He's doing all right, by the way."
Jack felt his eyebrows rise up as he looked down at Daniel. They were in shadows now, the faint reflection of the setting sun illuminating only a small portion of the water around them. "Really? And you know this... how?"
Daniel shrugged. "I dreamed of him, actually. I think Sam was right. It was an alternate reality. I did change my future... his future... while I was there."
Daniel nodded, swallowing hard for a moment. He seemed to be fighting his emotions. He lowered his head, cleared his throat, and then began speaking as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened to him recently. "But I guess destiny tries to assert itself because the end result was the same."
"Yeah. Except, this time, I had someone left to take care of me... the other me, that is." The nostalgic smile was back, and Jack put a hand on Daniel's shoulder, relieved that the muscles were relaxed beneath his fingers.
"No." The smile widened slightly. "Margie." Daniel looked up at Jack and his eyes were hidden beneath the glare in his glasses. "Catherine Langford's niece. Funny how it's such a small world."
"So she didn't exist here for you when you..."
"Yeah, she did. She was my best friend when I was a kid... she... well, let's just say on that day when my parents died, timing wasn't on my side."
"So... you're gonna be okay?" Jack tried not to let his worry reflect in his voice but Daniel was under doctor's orders to rest and recuperate. He hadn't spoken much of what had happened to him; actually so far tonight, this was the most he'd spoken in the past four days about it.
"Yeah." Daniel stood slowly, wiping the seat of his pants with his hands. "I want to talk to Catherine when we get back. I'd like to know where Margie's buried and pay my respects."
"Yeah..." Daniel cleared his throat and canted his head towards the cabin. "I'm hungry. Since we're obviously not eating fried trout for supper tonight, think we can cook those steaks you brought?"
"Sounds fine to me."
"Good." Daniel turned and began making his way up the cabin.
Jack followed behind, his footing a little clumsy in the dark. "We can watch a movie tonight, if you'd like. I brought a DVD player the last time I came up."
"Great. I've had this weird longing to watch the Star Wars trilogy for the past few days."
Jack bit back a groan. "Teal'c's not gonna be happy we're watching it without him," he said quickly, thinking of the great action flicks he'd brought with him.
"That's okay, we can watch the movies again with him when we get back to Colorado Springs."
"We're doomed," Jack whined, stumbling on the slight incline.
"What?" Daniel turned around just as he reached the door. He fumbled for the handle and opened it. "So, barbeque, or pan fried?"
"Cookin' steak ain't like dustin' crops, flyboy," Jack said, walking into the cabin. He flicked on the light, ignoring the look Daniel gave him as he pulled the steaks out of the refrigerator. Barbeque would be better but by the time he got it set up, the steaks could be already cooked. He pulled the frypan out of the oven's bottom drawer and set it on top of the burner.
"Salad? Or you want me to open a couple of cans of vegetables and—"
"Do, or do not, there is no try." Jack spoke in a high pitched voice, swallowing back a cough as he irritated his throat.