Evince BY Kalimyre
“It was bound to happen eventually, Daniel.”
He nods, his eyes still on his computer screen, where the report he was writing is displayed, half done, stopping in the middle of a sentence. “I know.”
“You were the one who made the decision about leaving SG-1.”
"I know, Jack. I’m not arguing with you.”
He stares intently at his unfinished work. He’s the picture of focus, except that he hasn’t typed a word since I came in. “It’s a short mission,” I tell him. “A cake walk, really. We’re trying to...”
“To break the new guy in gently?”
“You know we’d rather have you.”
He sighs and finally turns to face me, carefully expressionless. “Don’t do this. Don’t lay some guilt trip on me because I chose to stay behind.”
“It’s not a guilt trip,” I protest. “I came in here to check on you. To make sure you heard about the mission from me and not some memo.”
“And to try and talk me into changing my mind.”
I drop onto his couch and take a deep breath. I’m so tired of this conversation. “No, Daniel. You won’t take the risk because of the boy. You’re responsible for him and can’t be leaving the planet for days at a time. First contact is too dangerous for a single parent.” Never mind that half the people on our teams are parents. Never mind that Daniel was willing to take the risk when it only meant leaving me behind. I try not to think about that too much.
Daniel is silent, and I’m startled when he rises from his chair and sits beside me, our shoulders bumping briefly. He edges away after that, keeping a respectable distance, mindful of the security camera in his office. “Have I said it so often that you know the words by rote?” he asks, sounding a bit chagrined.
I shrug and say nothing, casting him a sideways glance. His hands are loosely woven together between his knees as he leans forward, watching me. His hair is still flat on one side where he slept on it--we were in a rush this morning and Danny was being uncooperative about getting ready because he didn’t want to go back to the childcare center, so Daniel didn’t have time for a shower.
He shaved with an electric razor in the car, which means the shadow is already reappearing now, at eleven in the morning. I had time for my normal shower and shave, but that’s because I don’t wait until the last minute to get out of bed. Daniel is accustomed to his whirlwind morning routine of maximum sleep and minimum breakfast, and he still hasn’t accepted that getting a child ready in the mornings means you have to get up earlier.
“Where are you going?” he asks finally, staring at some unspecified point on the wall.
“One of those uninhabited, boring places where it rains a lot and I get bored out of my mind watching you--“ I grimace slightly and catch myself. “Watching the science guy remove dirt from rocks with little brushes.”
“Actually, the climate on P4C-119 is quite dry,” Daniel counters.
I open my mouth and shut it again with a click, staring at him. He gives me a sly smile and shrugs a little. “You knew,” I say. “You already knew about the mission.”
“Sam told me this morning. And then she tried her level best to talk me into coming along. She showed me pictures of the ruins you would see, and she said it was only a daylong mission, and that the planet was safe and quiet, and so on... for quite a while.”
“Ah.” I shake my head. Carter should have known better than to try this--Daniel doesn’t budge once his mind is made up--but I can understand her reasoning. We only just got Daniel back from being glowy. We’re not ready to part with him so soon. Or ever, for that matter.
“So when you came in here to tell me about this mission...”
“You thought I would do the same thing,” I finish.
He nods, offering an apologetic smile. “And it’s simply not an option. Even if the planet was guaranteed to be safe, which is impossible, who would take care of Danny tonight while we were off-world?”
“I’m sure Fraiser wouldn’t mind one night.”
“Jack,” he warns.
“Hey, you asked,” I say. “I’m only answering your question.”
“Of course you are,” he mutters. “Look, Jack, I know you’re not happy about this. I wish I could somehow have both, that I could be there for Danny and still be on SG-1, but I don’t see how that’s possible. I had to make a choice, and... and I made it, and that’s final.”
I’m nodding as he speaks, accepting the familiar words without really hearing them. “So, no wiggle room here, then?”
He sighs and sags into the couch a little, his back curving in a way that makes me wince. In ten years, he’s going to be sorry that he slouched so much. “If it helps any,” he says, “I’m not thrilled with the idea myself. Being a part of SG-1... you know, I’m still wearing the team patch on my jacket? I meant to take it off this morning, and I... couldn’t. But I don’t see any better choices here. No matter what I do, somebody is disappointed, somebody is hurt, and all I can try to do is minimize the damage.”
“I know.” I let our shoulders bump together again, and he flashes a quick smile at me. “You’re trying to do what you think is best.”
“So one night is too long?”
I hold my hands up, leaning back and dipping my chin a little. “Okay, okay, never mind. Forget I asked. If you never go off-world again, that’s your choice. No argument from me. Stay on this planet for the rest of your life, like six billion other people.”
He scowls at me for a moment, folding his arms across his chest. “I didn’t say never,” he points out. “I may go for short scientific missions later, provided there is someone I trust available to watch Danny. But now... he’s only been with us for a week. It’s too soon.”
I nod and settle against the couch, picking up a piece of carved stone from a nearby table and turning it over and over in my hands. “Okay. I can do patience.”
Daniel snorts and I look at him sharply, trying for a glare, but it only makes him smile and shake his head. “Sure you can,” he says. Then his smile slides away, and he looks down, touching me with occasional flickering glances. “So... who’s going with you?”
“You recommended him.”
“I know,” Daniel agrees quickly. “He’s good. Experienced.”
“It’s only on a trial basis. If he doesn’t work out, we’ll go to the next person on your list.”
“It’s fine, Jack. I know you had to replace me.”
I lean toward him, knocking one hand against his shoulder to get his attention. “We’re not ‘replacing’ you, Daniel. We’re taking on another anthropologist to try and do your job with even half the skill you had. He is not a replacement, he’s a... a place-holder. The position is always yours if you want it back.”
A slow smile spreads across his face, and he pushes a fist against my upper arm, nudging me roughly. “Thanks, Jack,” he mumbles.
“Sure,” I mumble back, shrugging and clearing my throat. A silence that threatens to become deep and meaningful falls between us, and I shift awkwardly on the lumpy couch cushion, rubbing a palm over the back of my neck. “So! Think you can handle one night with the kid on your own?” I ask, a brash, overly cheerful tone cutting through the quiet.
“I’ll live,” he says dryly. “I think he may be settling down, actually.”
Well, that would be nice. Adult Daniel can be impatient and irritating and hard to live with at times, but child Daniel is amazingly inventive when it comes to getting into trouble. He argues and talks back and has such a smart mouth that I wonder how many sarcastic remarks Daniel bites back on a daily basis, if this is how his mind worked when he was seven.
We went grocery shopping with the kid last night, which was a huge headache. He kept running off and hiding from us--he got over that “scared to be separated” thing alarmingly fast--and he thought it was a riot to let us wander through the store, calling for him and getting strange looks from the other customers. I finally threatened to make him sit in the front of the cart like a toddler and he stopped making us chase him. He settled for glaring poisonously at me and sticking random crap in the cart when we weren’t looking. He also cast Daniel a lot of these betrayed, mutinous “why aren’t you sticking up for me?” looks, which left Daniel feeling both guilty and annoyed.
When Daniel signed on to do this, he thought he went in with both eyes open, but nothing can prepare you for the experience of taking care of a child. The only way to really learn it is to do it, and even then, you’re never ahead of the game. You’re forever playing catch up, trying to deal with whatever new thing your kid throws at you from day to day.
After all that crap, though, he suddenly turned nice and helpful, carrying groceries in from the truck and chattering to us about what he did in childcare that day. He kept going up to Daniel and hugging him, and when he approached me for the same thing, I tried not to let my surprise show. I just hugged him back and got this amazing grin from him in return, and then he went back to detailing the hieroglyphics that he taught the older kids in the center’s after school program.
Later, when he went to bed and Daniel and I could finally catch a moment to ourselves, Daniel explained what the boy was doing. “It’s a test,” he told me. “He pushed us, made us angry, and then he stopped pushing to see if he was still welcome. To see if we would stay angry with him, or forgive him. Next time he’ll probably push harder. It’s a cycle that will keep repeating until he’s completely satisfied that no matter what he does, we won’t send him away or leave him.”
“So what do we do about it?”
He shrugged and shook his head. “We give him what he needs. We never threaten to send him away if he’s bad--that doesn’t mean we don’t punish him, but we also don’t abandon him. Discipline, yes, but also forgiveness. Once he’s sure, he should settle down.”
“Great,” I muttered, and Daniel sighed and offered me a kiss.
So we used the time available the best way we knew how, and somehow the crappy grocery store trip didn’t seem so important anymore.
Now, sitting in Daniel’s office the next day, I can’t offer a palliative like what we did last night, because of the security camera. So I squeeze his shoulder briefly, give him a tight smile and a nod, and that has to be enough.
“It’ll be different when Hammond retires,” Daniel tells me, or maybe he’s telling himself.
I raise an eyebrow. “Maybe. Maybe I’ll be tapped to take his place. Or maybe not. My record isn’t exactly spotless, you know.”
“Come on,” Daniel argues. “After that debacle with General Bauer, how can they risk giving such an important job to someone who doesn’t have the experience or the character to handle it? How can they choose anyone but you?”
“You’d be surprised how stupid the people in charge can be. Hell, think about who we’ve got for a vice president.”
Daniel’s mouth twists disparagingly. “Kinsey,” he growls. “Do you think he had anything to do with Simmons coming around, trying to get at Danny?”
“I wouldn’t put it past him,” I reply. “Be especially careful tonight. While I’m off-world and you’re alone with the kid...”
“Do you think they’d really try something so blatant as kidnapping?” Daniel asks seriously.
I drum my fingertips on my leg, considering the question. “Not now. I think Simmons and his organization are still trying to find some legal way of forcing you to hand the kid over. It helps that you’re not military, so they can’t just order you to do it. Besides, outright breaking and entering and snatching a child is too high profile for these types. They’re more likely to sneak him away without using force.”
Daniel nods grimly, frowning at the floor. “Taking him to get groceries last night was probably a dumb idea, wasn’t it? Somebody could have picked him up while he was out of our sight at the store.”
“We can’t watch him every second,” I reply. “If we don’t allow him a certain amount of freedom, then we’re no better than the people who want to take him.”
“Didn’t I already say something like that?” Daniel asks, smiling.
“There you go. You should listen to yourself.”
“Sage advice, Jack,” he says drolly. “You’re getting wise in your old age.”
“Less of the ‘old age,’ if you don’t mind,” I growl, shoving at him. He laughs and shoves back, and then he casts a longing look at his unfinished report and the books and pictures scattered about his desk.
“Yeah,” I interrupt. “You want to go back to playing with your...” I wave a hand to indicate all his crap. “I’ll just go clean my weapon in front of Cortez, and maybe I’ll finally get a scientist on my team who knows how to follow orders.”
“Cortez has spent the last three years on SG-5, Jack. I chose him specifically because Major Krensky said he was a stubborn pain in the ass who wouldn’t know an order if it jumped up and bit him.”
I groan theatrically and rub at the back of my neck again, dragging myself off the couch with stiff, exaggerated movements. “Wonderful, Daniel. Thanks so much.”
“You’re welcome,” he replies easily, already getting lost in his work again. I watch him type for a few minutes, watch the expressions chase across his face. A frown of concentration, the tip of his tongue touching the corner of his mouth, eyes widening in comprehension, a tilt of the head, a raised eyebrow, then a furrow down the center of his forehead as he glares at a particularly difficult bit.
It doesn’t matter how experienced and smart and stubborn this Cortez guy is. He’s not Daniel. No one else comes close.
Cortez did all right. He’s a professional, and while he was clearly a little awestruck at being a part of SG-1, he settled quickly. He’s competent, in good shape, and can handle a weapon and a set of digging tools equally well. Of course, I knew all this before I signed off on his transfer to the team. I pored over his weapon qualification records, his reports, and his pattern of behavior in the field and on base. I talked to his teammates, his CO, and Hammond about him. He’s not perfect, he’s made mistakes a few times, dropped the ball, but as science types go, he’s the best available.
Except that he isn’t, really. Daniel is the best, he’s just not available anymore.
Carter looks around the gateroom expectantly when we come back through, right on schedule, and then sags a bit when she realizes Daniel isn’t waiting for us. Teal’c sidles over to her and exudes a little calm in her direction. I offer a semi-salute to the general, looking down at us from the control room, and then lead my team to the infirmary for the usual post mission check. Cortez follows a little behind the three of us, as he has throughout the mission. He’s smart enough to know that he’s taking the place of a legend, and he doesn’t expect us to warm to him immediately.
I didn’t really expect Daniel to be waiting for us. It was a routine mission, quiet and pretty damn boring from where I stood, and we weren’t overdue or in any kind of trouble. He’s a busy man with a job to do, and there was no reason for him to stand around in the gateroom just so he could see us the second we got back on the planet. We were only gone a day. So there’s no reason to be disappointed that he wasn’t there. I’m not disappointed. Carter might be, but I’m not. Really.
“Hey, Doc,” I call out as we walk into the infirmary. It’s busy today--SG-6 sits around in various states of muddy and bleeding, looking like they lost a fight with a landslide. Siler is on his usual bed in the corner, with a nurse putting clean bandages on some electrical burns. I can see a curtained off bed with the silhouette of a sleeping man on it--that would be Jameson. He’s still recovering from the staff blast he took last week. It was touch and go for him for a while, but now the doc says he’ll pull through.
“Colonel,” Fraiser replies, sweeping past us with a sheaf of files in one hand and her trusty penlight in the other. She treats that thing the way I treat my P-90. “Grab a bed and sit down. Someone will be with you shortly.”
“Right.” So I sit down, and the others follow suit. Cortez sits next to Carter and starts speaking to her quietly. Those two hit it off right away. The new guy is serious, levelheaded and rational, not at all like Daniel, who tends to work on instinct and intuition. I haven’t decided yet if this is an improvement, but Carter loves it.
Soon enough, the nurses get around to poking us, and we’re separated out to little curtained off cubicles for the oh so lovely after mission shot in the ass. Carter and Cortez are still chattering at each other through the curtain, and Teal’c, who doesn’t need the shot, thanks to the tretonin he takes, has already made his escape. I sit on my bed, holding a cotton ball to the spot inside my elbow where blood was just drawn and waiting for the nurse to show up with the needle, but instead, Fraiser ducks around the curtain.
“Colonel,” she says, looking at me steadily. “Could we have a word?”
“Okay...” I reply slowly. “What’s up?”
She hops up beside me, perching on the edge of the bed, and leans in close. “I would appreciate it if you spoke to Daniel for me,” she says in a low voice.
“About putting young Danny in therapy.”
Oh, that again. “Doc...”
She cuts me off with a sharp chop of her hand in the air. “While you were gone, I treated Danny for a dog bite.”
I sit up straighter, my guts lurching unsteadily. “What? Why didn’t you tell me sooner?” She knows about Daniel and I, which became unavoidable when she discovered evidence during a full physical, and she has agreed to look the other way, provided that we are discrete and keep our relationship strictly off base. She also knows how I get about kids being hurt. This is something I would have wanted to know right away.
She’s shaking her head. “It was very minor,” she assures me. “The dog was small, and while the bite did break the skin, the dog’s owner had a record of rabies shots available, and all I had to do was clean and disinfect the area and apply a small bandage. The point is, he wouldn’t have been bitten at all if he wasn’t trying to hurt the animal.”
“I find that hard to believe,” I tell her stiffly. “Daniel would never be deliberately cruel, especially not to an animal.”
“We’re not talking about Daniel,” she shoots back. “We’re talking about Danny, who is a very troubled little boy who apparently decided to take out some of his frustrations by hurting your neighbor’s dog.”
I raise my eyebrows, feeling my mouth drop open in a rather undignified manner, but unable to stop it. “The neighbor’s dog? You mean that little brown mutt that lives across the street from me? The one that tries to lick me to death every time I come home?”
“That’s what Daniel said,” Fraiser replies grimly. “Apparently, he caught Danny trying to tie a rope around the dog’s hind legs and swing him. He’d already swung and let him go several times, sending him flying across the yard to land pretty hard, seeing as he only had two legs free to catch himself. The dog had managed to get loose of the rope and Danny was struggling to retie him when he was bitten. Understandable, considering what he was doing.”
“Jesus,” I mutter, scrubbing a hand over my face. “And I was thinking about getting the kid a dog of his own.”
Fraiser pats my shoulder, giving me an earnest look of concern. “Now you see why I want Danny to be in therapy? I know that Daniel wants to wait, but I doubt that he will ever consider the boy to be ready. I already have an excellent child psychiatrist who has the necessary clearance. It took months to find him and get the clearance for him, when I first adopted Cassie. Doctor Manfield spent some time with her then, and was a great help to both of us.”
“Did you tell Daniel this after the kid was bitten?”
She nods. “He still insists that therapy will do more harm than good. Since he is the boy’s legal guardian, it’s his right to refuse treatment, including psychological treatment. I am, however, hoping that you can talk him out of it.”
I sigh and run a hand through my hair. “I’ll give it a shot, doc, but I can’t make any guarantees.”
“That’s all I ask, Colonel, is that you try.”
The upside of the whole conversation was that Fraiser got sidetracked and forgot to give me that shot. However, now I have to go brace Daniel on a subject that is already very touchy for him, and try to convince him to do something that he is dead set against. I think I would have preferred the shot.
I check Daniel’s office first, then the main lab of the archeology department, and I look at the briefing schedule, but he isn’t due for any briefings and he’s not in any of his usual places. I have to write my report on the mission and submit it before I can go home, so I do that, and then I spend some more time stomping around the mountain, getting more and more fed up.
When I find my way to Carter’s lab again, she speaks without looking up from her computer. “He’s not here, sir. I haven’t seen him.” Then she glances at me, her fingers tapping lightly at the keyboard without actually pressing any of the keys. “Why are you so determined to find him?”
I shrug and pull up a stool, resting my elbows on one of the lab benches. “No real reason. Just bored.”
She nods, her thumbs tracing lightly over the space bar like her own brand of worry stone. “Maybe he’s upset. I mean, it’s not like him to avoid us, especially when we’ve just returned from a mission. He could have at least said hi.”
“Why would he be upset?” I ask casually, picking up a watch-sized metal ring with wires coming out of it and spinning it like you spin a quarter on its edge. It wobbles twice and falls down, the wires ruining its balance.
“We left without him.”
I snort and shake my head. “It’s not like we kicked him off the team. He chose to stay behind.”
“It can’t be easy for him,” she insists. “I’m sure he didn’t want to leave the team. He had to give it up for Danny.”
I have a pretty good idea why Daniel is avoiding us, and I don’t think it has much to do with the team going off-world without him. He knows Fraiser would have told me about Danny and the dog, and he doesn’t want to talk about it. But that whole mess is not something Carter needs to know about, so I just grunt noncommittally and try to spin the metal ring again.
Carter sighs and gamely tries again. “Teal’c says we have to let Daniel choose his own path, and that trying to hold him back will only make him pull away harder.”
“Mmm-hmm.” Almost got a triple spin out of it that time.
“Sir.” Her hand comes out and covers the ring, keeping me from picking it up again. “Are you just going to let him do this?”
“Let him?” I lean back and raise my eyebrows, rapping my knuckles on the surface of the lab bench. “How do you propose I stop him? He’s a grown man, in case you hadn’t noticed.”
“But he’s making a mistake,” she argues. “He loves SG-1, loves doing first contact. We need him.”
“Danny needs him.”
She sighs and slumps in her chair, letting her fingertips glide lightly over the keyboard again. “And he chose the boy over us.”
I shift uneasily on the stool and scrub at the nape of my neck with one hand. I hate these kinds of conversations. “Carter...”
She holds a hand up, shaking her head. “No, no, I know that’s not fair. It was a once in a lifetime chance for him. Danny is personally linked to him in a way that Cassie wasn’t linked to me.”
I tilt my head to one side, suddenly seeing why Carter has a problem with this. “Is that what this is about? You were willing to give up your chance to adopt Cassie for the sake of the team, and you resent the fact that he wouldn’t do the same?”
“No!” she says sharply, staring at me. “No. It’s not like that at all.” Then she frowns and picks up the metal ring that she confiscated from me, giving it a spin of her own. It whirls several times before toppling over, and I cast a brief glare at it. I knew her gadgets didn’t like me.
“If you say so, Carter.”
Her jaw tightens and she drops her chin, fingering the tangle of wires coming out of the metal ring. “Maybe it’s like that,” she admits. “It’s just... Cassie was a long time ago. Six years. I figured I still had plenty of time to find someone, have kids of my own. I wasn’t giving up my only chance.”
I swallow and wish I had that ring to occupy my hands. This is coming perilously close to a discussion of Carter’s “thing” for me, something I avoid at all costs.
“It’s not fair to ask Daniel to give up his only chance,” she says, winding some wire around a finger, focusing intently on it so she doesn’t have to look at me. Carter knows about Daniel and I, but she’s not entirely comfortable with it, and she doesn’t like to talk about it. We both know that Daniel is still young, and that if the situation were different, him getting remarried and having children would certainly be possible. Except that he’s with me, and that makes Danny his only chance. My only chance, too.
“You still could...” I start awkwardly, rubbing my fingertips on the smooth metal surface of the lab bench and watching the streak of moisture evaporate within seconds.
She laughs shortly. “I’m past forty, now, sir, and even if I were in a position to have a family, I’m still not prepared to give up my career.”
“Oh,” I mutter. This is not the kind of conversation I want to have with my 2IC. We’re friends, and I told the truth a few years back when I admitted I’d rather die than lose her--but the same holds true for any of my team. Even so, there has always been a kind of professional distance between us, a product of the military rank system and Carter’s own strict adherence to protocol. She’s coming very close to overstepping her bounds here.
“Sorry, sir” she says suddenly. “This is the kind of thing I should talk to Janet about. I didn’t mean to...”
“It’s fine,” I interrupt. “No problem.”
She nods and offers a strained smile, and then turns back to her computer. “Tell Daniel we missed him out there, but that I’m happy for him, would you, sir?”
I recognize a dismissal when I hear it, and I’m frankly relieved to get out of there. “Sure, Carter,” I call over my shoulder as I head out the door. “Will do.”
I could check with Teal’c again, because sometimes Daniel likes to meditate with him, but I’m not sure if I’m up to another heart to heart with a team member. Teal’c has this quality of brutal honesty that often tramples right over any comfortable, casual barriers I might have. He says things like “we are brothers” that I don’t know how to respond to. And besides, I have a better idea.
One call to the front gate confirms what I should have known. Daniel left the mountain hours ago. It’s rare for him to leave early, but technically he can leave whenever he finishes his work for the day. In a way, it’s good, because I didn’t want to have the argument that I know is coming on base. Of course, if he’s retreated all the way to his house, instead of going to my place like he usually does, it could be bad.
I consider calling ahead, to find out exactly where he is, but decide against it. He’s most likely at my place, where all of Danny’s clothes and toys are. Better to have the element of surprise on my side.
Daniel doesn’t look surprised. When I walk in the front door, he and Danny are spread out on the floor, sheets of paper all around them, covered in markings that I vaguely recognize. It looks like Daniel has been teaching the kid more hieroglyphics and cuneiform and that kind of thing. The boy, absorbed in the strange, sideways bird thing that he is currently drawing, doesn’t look up, but Daniel gives me a long, resigned stare.
“Honey, I’m home,” I call out, and Daniel’s stare turns into a glare.
“Jack!” the kid shouts, jumping up and running at me, his head connecting with my stomach just below my ribs. I let out surprised “oof” of air and stagger backwards a couple steps, my arms going around him automatically.
“Hey,” I wheeze. “Didja miss me?”
Danny grins brightly up at me, flashing those oddly perfect teeth. “Sure!”
I crouch down so I can look him in the eye, and I catch hold of his hand. The bandage is small, like the doc promised, the thickest part covering the webbing between his thumb and forefinger, with gauze wrapped around his palm to keep it in place. “How’s the hand?” I ask. “I hear you saw a little action while I was gone.”
The grin disappears like it was never there, and he jerks his hand away, scowling at me. “You told!” he accuses Daniel, whirling to glare at him, arms tightly folded.
Daniel, who is still sitting in the middle of the floor, shakes his head. “No, Danny,” he sighs. “I haven’t even talked to Jack since he got home. How could I tell him?”
The kid scuffs his foot along the floor, not quite stomping it, but close. “I don’t know,” he mutters. “Maybe you called him on his little phone. Why did you tell?”
Daniel gets to his feet, dragging himself off the floor with a lethargy that says a lot about how tired he’s feeling. “I didn’t...”
“Doctor Fraiser told me,” I interrupt. “She was worried about you, kiddo.”
Danny turns the glare back at me. “I’m fine.”
Where have I heard that before?
“Did you eat yet?” Daniel asks, neatly changing the subject.
I shake my head, and he offers to order a pizza, so we make that happen, and Daniel keeps up a steady stream of light conversation through dinner and afterwards. I let him do it, because we shouldn’t fight in front of the kid, and I can’t shake that heavy feeling in my gut that tells me a fight is coming. It’s like the way the air pressure drops before a storm.
We’re lolling around on the couch after dinner, something on TV that I’m not really paying attention to, with the kid comfortably ensconced between us. His bony little elbow gets acquainted with my ribs, and his head grows heavy on my shoulder. Daniel’s arm, slung over the back of the couch, allows him to rub his fingers over the back of my neck. It’s almost nice enough to make me forget the big ugly discussion we’ve got coming.
“Hey, buddy,” I say, nudging the kid. “Why don’t you go get ready for bed?”
He sits up straight and hops off the couch, turning to look at both of us. His eyes narrow suspiciously, and he shakes his head. “No,” he says. “You’re going to talk about me.”
Daniel and I exchange an uncomfortable look. I know how Daniel feels about lying to the kid, but we can’t exactly tell him what we’re going to discuss, and we certainly can’t do it in front of him.
“We have to,” Daniel finally says. “We have to help each other decide what would be best for you.”
Danny sets his jaw and lowers his head like a bull getting ready to charge. “No,” he repeats emphatically. “If you’re talking about me, why don’t I get to be here?”
Daniel looks at me for help, and I shrug and go with that parental classic, “Because we said so.”
This doesn’t go over well.
“That’s not fair!” Danny wails, his fists clenched at his sides and his breathing speeding up. He’s getting ready to throw a real fit. We’ve seen enough of them to recognize the signs.
“It’s a grown up kind of talk,” Daniel tries, patting the air soothingly.
“I’m not a baby,” the kid retorts.
“We know that,” I say quickly. “But this is something that’s just between Daniel and I. Don’t you have things that only you know about? Things that you two talk about without me?”
Danny tilts his head to one side and gives me a long, appraising look. “Secrets? You and Kayel have to talk about secret stuff?”
I’m too busy wincing at his continued use of “Kayel” to notice Daniel frantically shaking his head at me. “Yes,” I agree. “Secret, grown up stuff.”
The kid turns wide eyes on Daniel. “You’re going to tell! You’re going to tell about Doctor Herbig and the cameras! You promised!” Then he turns on his heel and races from the room, stomping up the stairs and slamming the door to his bedroom.
Daniel and I stare at each other in the sudden silence. “That went well,” we mutter together, and then share a pained smile.
“I should go after him.” Daniel starts to rise from the couch, but I catch him, yanking him back down to sit close beside me.
“Wait until he has a chance to cool down a little,” I tell him. “And besides, you owe me a proper hello.” Which is another thing we need to talk about. Daniel won’t let me do anything in front of the kid.
“What makes you think you’re forgiven for that ‘Hi honey, I’m home’ remark?”
“Don’t whine,” he says shortly. “I heard enough whining while you were gone.”
I sigh and flop back against the couch, pulling Daniel with me so he ends up as a heavy, solid weight on my chest. Now that I’m really looking at him, I can see the shadows under his eyes, the lines of tension around his mouth, and I can feel the tense set of his shoulders. I rub at them idly, digging my fingers into corded muscles, and he groans low in his throat and leans into my hands.
“I take it the kid was less than a perfect angel?”
He snorts and nods sleepily, his hair brushing against my chin. “You already know the worst of it. I assume Janet told you about the dog.”
“Yeah, she did. Do you have any idea why he would do that?”
“I don’t know.”
I tilt my head to the side, trying to catch his eye, but he won’t let me. “You don’t know?” I ask. “I figured you’d know everything there is to know about that kid. Did you ever do something like what he did?”
“How much do you remember about being seven, Jack?” Daniel counters, tensing a little more against my fingertips.
He’s got me there. “Well... it was longer ago for me than it was for you.”
“That doesn’t matter.” He sighs and I can see him deliberately relaxing, forcing his clenched hands to smooth out. “Even if I could remember every single thing I did thirty years ago, that doesn’t mean I would know why I did them. I remember being... difficult, bad enough that most families sent me back within a few months, but I don’t know a lot of specifics. If I knew why I did that stuff, maybe I could have stopped.”
“You did stop eventually,” I point out.
“I grew up. Going to college, trying to make it in academia--it’s a tough field. Very competitive, with plenty of people who will steal your work and take credit for your efforts if you don’t watch your back and make the right friends. I had no choice but to leave the childish crap behind, or I never would have made it.”
“Ah.” I try to imagine Daniel in college, and come up with an image of a too-young kid with too-big glasses and a persistent mouth, always asking questions that made his professors uncomfortable. I guess he had to learn to take care of himself the hard way. “So you’re saying that the kid will keep doing this stuff for another ten years, and you don’t know why.”
“Maybe not. Maybe if he’s with us, he’ll grow out of this stage faster. Maybe with stability and security and enough attention and affection...” Daniel shrugs and waves a hand.
“Let’s hope so.”
Daniel nods and angles his body to place the back of his neck under my hands, and I knead it obligingly. He allows himself to enjoy this for a few minutes, and then he takes a deep breath and pulls away.
“I should go talk to Danny,” he says, clearly not looking forward to it.
“No, you shouldn’t.” He blinks at me, raising his eyebrows in an unspoken question, and I add, “Let him sulk. If we go chasing after him every time he gets mad and storms off, we’re letting him control us. It’s a power game, Daniel. If he makes us come to him, trying to placate him, then he’s got all the power. We have to do the adult thing and wait him out.”
Daniel huffs disagreeably, but sinks back into the couch. “I don’t like that,” he says. “It seems manipulative.”
“Sometimes you have to be manipulative to be a good parent. Children don’t always listen to reason.”
“That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. If he won’t listen, then we can deal with it from there, but how do we know if we don’t try?”
“It’s the trying itself that gives him the upper hand,” I insist. “Wait him out.” And then, before Daniel can argue further, I tug him close and start rubbing his shoulders again. “So, tell me about the dog.”
“You already know.”
“I know what Fraiser told me. You were there. You saw it firsthand.”
He shrugs, his shoulders growing tight again under my hands. “It happened like I told her. Danny was playing in the front yard and I went in the house for a minute. When I came back out, he was gone. I hunted around for about fifteen minutes, calling for him, and just when I started to get really worried, I heard him laughing from across the street. I saw him throw the dog... it was like a sling, the way you whirl it until you get enough speed to let the rock go. We’re lucky that dog wasn’t seriously hurt.”
I nod and kiss Daniel’s temple, because it’s there. “I guess we owe Marty an apology.”
“I already did,” Daniel says. “When I asked him if the dog had his rabies shots. But that was after I caught up with Danny. When I saw him throw the dog, I went running in that direction, but I had to go around the house to get in through the gate, and by the time I got back to the yard, he was trying to get the rope back around the dog’s legs. He got bitten before I could get to him, and then...” Daniel shivers slightly, his eyes faraway.
“And then what?”
“Then I think if I hadn’t been there, he would have really hurt that dog. Either that, or the dog would have really hurt him. He was so furious with it for biting him, and he started trying to kick it and shake it and he was... shrieking is really the only word for it. I pulled him back and he fought me, tried to bite me and claw at me for a few minutes until he finally calmed down. Then he cried for a while. He was quiet for the rest of the evening, even when Janet cleaned the bite. He just stayed close to me and didn’t talk.”
“Christ,” I mutter, resting my chin on Daniel’s shoulder. “What a mess.”
Daniel is quiet for a long moment, and then he twists, lifting his head to kiss me comprehensively. I blink, surprised, but I kiss him back, enjoying the lazy, familiar sense of rising heat and pressure.
“Mmm,” he murmurs when he finally pulls back. “Missed you.”
I suspect that I may have an embarrassingly soft smile on my face. “I know.”
Daniel grins and says nothing, settling back against me and staring into space, his hands busying themselves with absently plucking at my jeans.
I clear my throat and shake off the sleepy lethargy that tries to fall over me. “So what do you think brought that on?”
“I don’t know. He seemed happy enough playing in the yard. It wasn’t like he hurt the dog out of malice--he actually seemed to think it was fun. A game.”
“Was that something you did when you were a kid?”
Daniel stiffens and his hands draw away from my leg. “I told you already, I don’t remember.”
Uh-huh. Time to redirect. “Fraiser wants Danny to see a therapist.”
“I know,” Daniel snaps. “And I also know she recruited you to try and talk me into it.”
“You don’t think it’s a good idea?”
“We’ve been over this.”
“We’ve been over the fact that you don’t want him in therapy, but you’ve never explained why.”
Daniel shoves my hands off his shoulders and stands abruptly, starting to pace. “There are things you don’t know about.”
“So tell me.”
He whirls, fixing me with a cold glare. “So tell you? Like it’s so simple? This is something I’ve never told anyone, Jack. Something I haven’t even thought about in thirty years. You act like it’ll be easy.”
“No,” I argue, “I act like it will be necessary. You can’t deny that the kid has problems. Why don’t you want to help him?”
Okay, I admit, that was a low blow, but it scores a direct hit. Daniel freezes, a stricken look crossing his face and his arms wrapping around his stomach. “I do want to help him,” he murmurs. “I’m trying to help him the best way I know how.”
“Maybe there’s a better way.”
Daniel stares at me and sighs heavily, nodding. “There probably is. Hell, I don’t know what I’m doing here, Jack. I’m making it up as we go along. Besides, I’m hardly the best candidate to deal with Danny’s problems, when I haven’t even dealt with my own. I don’t know what I was thinking, adopting a child...”
“Whoa, hey.” I hold a hand up, shaking my head. “Back up. You were damn sure you did the right thing last week. What’s with the sudden doubts?”
Daniel drops into a chair across from me and puts his face in his hands for a moment. “I don’t know,” he mumbles. “I didn’t realize... leaving SG-1 and trying to balance work and Danny and he needs so much that I’m not sure I can give him... god, what if I’m screwing everything up? What if I’m making him worse?”
“That’s enough,” I say sharply. “First of all, I know you are the best person to take care of that child. Just the fact that you’re overwhelmed by the responsibility and scope of it tells me that you care enough about him to take this seriously. You think you’re the first one to worry like this? This is what parenting is, Daniel. You’re always afraid that you’re making some huge mistake, and twenty years down the road your kid will be telling his shrink about what a terrible parent you were. You’re either smothering them or neglecting them or holding on too long or making them grow up too fast. Everyone makes it up as they go along, and nobody really knows what they’re doing. All you can do is try your best, love them, and hope.”
Daniel lifts his eyes, watching me steadily. “Is this what it was like for you?”
“I think...” He shakes his head, gives me a look of impossible compassion. “I think I’m only now understanding what it did to you when you lost Charlie.”
I lean back, crossing my arms and lifting my chin, staring him down. “You’re getting off the subject.”
He laughs briefly. “You don’t want to talk about Charlie, and I don’t want to talk about the whole psychiatrist thing. It’s okay for you to drag my story out of me, but I can’t do the same to you?”
I grit my teeth and force a smile, striving for a patient, calm voice. “It’s different. My talking about Charlie serves no purpose. You telling me about your past makes us more equal in terms of Danny, and gives us a chance to help him.”
“I see,” Daniel says thinly. “Nice rationalization.”
“Now you’re trying to pick a fight so you won’t have to talk.”
He scowls, but doesn’t deny it. “Fine,” he snaps. “Fine. You really want to know? You’re just so damn curious you can’t stand another second not knowing? Then I’ll tell you, but you won’t like what you hear.”
“I’m not planning on liking it.”
He smiles humorlessly. “Good plan.”
When he falls silent again, I goad him with raised eyebrows and an impatiently tapping foot. He glares, and then closes his eyes for a long moment, taking a deep breath.
“Okay,” he sighs. “Okay. Doctor Herbig. Who I thought of as a ‘fake’ doctor, because he wasn’t licensed to practice medicine, only psychiatry. He was the child therapist assigned to Hanson Home. I had quite a few sessions with him.
“Doctor Herbig was often pressed for time, with too many patients and not enough hours in the day, so he didn’t bother taking notes. The pause to write something down would have been wasteful, he said. He always hated that, anything wasteful. I went through a period of refusing to eat, and he got so angry, because it was ‘wasteful.’
“So, instead of taking notes, he set up a video camera, and recorded all his sessions. For his personal records.”
“I see...” I say when Daniel pauses, apparently waiting for a response.
“Not yet, you don’t,” he replies grimly. “Doctor Herbig didn’t like me. The state said I was required to have therapy, because of seeing the accident, so I got forty five minutes of his day every week, and I didn’t say a word. I wasted his time. He hated waste. So finally, about a month after the accident, he said that if I would be taking his time, I might as well do something useful.
“He wanted to be a real doctor. A medical doctor. He said he wanted to go into pediatrics. ‘To help good little children, Danny,’ he said. ‘Children who are really sick, and not those who would waste my time, like you.’ He said that if I was going to be so much trouble to him, the least I could do was help him study to be a doctor.
“So he moved his camera in close, ‘to get the details, Danny. God is in the details.’ Then he said he had to... to examine me. Thoroughly.”
“Son of a bitch,” I mutter, and Daniel nods.
“The first time wasn’t too bad. I kept most of my clothes on that time. And he never... his clothes always stayed on. He never did... that. But he, ah... his hands...” Daniel closes his eyes, and I can hear his teeth grinding from across the room.
“You didn’t report him?”
“He said it was secret,” Daniel says softly. “It played in his favor that I wasn’t speaking, and he encouraged that. He kept telling me that as long as I didn’t speak, he’d eventually have to give up on me. That the therapy would stop, and I wouldn’t see him anymore. But if I started talking, then I wouldn’t be wasting his time anymore, and our... sessions could continue for a long time. He acted so sad that I wasn’t talking. ‘Why don’t you want to spend more time with me, Danny?’ he’d ask. ‘Don’t you like our sessions? If you don’t start speaking soon, I won’t be able to see you anymore.’”
“So, of course, you didn’t talk.”
He nods. “Completely transparent reverse psychology, and I fell for it. And then there were the threats.”
I hear a snap, and look down to realize that I’ve broken the pencil I was fiddling with. “Threats?” I ask, aware of the dangerous tone in my own voice.
“The bad people,” Daniel whispers. “It was the usual predatory, manipulative garbage. Looking back now, I think what bothers me so much is how obvious he was. How unimaginative and cliché. ‘You’re a bad boy, Danny. Only bad boys let people touch them like that. If you ever tell anyone, the bad people will come and take you away.’ He couldn’t even come up with a real, specific threat. Just these vague ‘bad people,’ and that was enough to keep me quiet.”
“You were only a child.”
“I was stupid,” he hisses. “Stupid and scared. I let him bully me, knowing full well that it was wrong, knowing that there were no ‘bad people’ and I kept my mouth shut anyway. I let him win.”
Daniel glares at me, daring me to disagree, and I sit on the couch and say nothing. What do you say to something like that? I sure as hell don’t have any pat answers for him. I could tell him that it wasn’t his fault, that monsters like Herbig know exactly what buttons to push, but Daniel knows all that. Nothing I can say will make this better for him.
Staring fixedly at his trembling hands until they grow still, Daniel takes a deep breath and blows it out slowly. “So,” he says. “Now you know.”
“Don’t.” His eyes snap up to mine, and there is absolutely no give in them. No room for persuasion or discussion. “Don’t give me any worthless platitudes. ‘It’s not your fault, you were only young, you didn’t have a choice.’ Because I did have a choice, and I chose to say nothing.”
“Actually, I was going to ask what changed. Why you eventually started talking.” It’s a hard thing to keep my voice smooth and steady, but I manage it.
He laughs, a short, brittle sound. “One of the other kids reported him. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one. This other kid--a six year old girl--told a social worker what he did, and they found his stash of tapes. He had over a hundred of them. He’d been working at the home for nearly five years, and they went back almost all the way to the beginning. That little girl had the guts to do what I didn’t.”
“It sounds like that girl had the guts to do what a hundred other kids didn’t. You weren’t the only one to keep the secret.”
Daniel shrugs and doesn’t answer me. He’s got his arms tight around his middle again, his fingers tugging and twisting nervously at the material of his shirt. “That’s why Danny can’t go into therapy,” he says after a long silence. “If we send him in to face some psychiatrist, he’s only going to clam up. There’s no way he’ll actually speak to any doctor, no matter how good they are.”
“I think you’re underestimating him,” I argue. “If you sit him down and explain that Herbig was a one time thing, that not all shrinks are like that, I think he’ll overcome his problem with psychiatry in general. Hell, he talked to Fraiser on your say so alone.”
“That’s because I told him she was a real doctor, not a head doctor.”
“So tell him the same thing about whoever the therapist is. Say that he’s a real doctor who only wants to talk to Danny.”
Daniel shakes his head, his jaw thrust out stubbornly. “That would be lying to him.”
I take a deep breath and fight the urge to thump my fist into the couch cushions a few times. “Daniel, you cannot always be completely honest with a child.”
“Think about it. Would you tell Danny the complete truth about the goa’uld if he asked? About what they are, how they use hosts, how they could wipe us out if they chose to attack? Or what about us, you and me? Would you tell him the exact nature of our relationship, up to and including what we do when he’s sleeping?”
Daniel’s eyes widen, shocked. “Of course not!” he snaps. “He’s much too young.”
“So you soften the truth,” I continue, pressing my advantage. “You tell him that we’re doing our best to fight the bad aliens, and that he’s safe, because it’s what he needs to hear. You tell him that you and I love each other, and that we’re both his new parents, and leave it at that. And you tell him that the nice doctor is perfectly safe, and only wants to talk to him.”
“I still don’t like it,” Daniel grumbles.
“I know you don’t.”
“Maybe we don’t have to lie to him,” he says thoughtfully. “If he knows the situation going in, at least he’s prepared for it.”
“You think he’ll talk to a psychiatrist if he knows that’s what he’s doing?”
“Maybe... if I was with him, that might help.”
Hello... I see a possibility for Daniel to work out some of his own crap here. Maybe the shrink can slip in a little therapy for both of them. “That’s a good idea,” I tell him.
“He does need help,” Daniel concedes. “This thing with the dog was only the beginning. He’s likely to start getting into fights at school next.”
“Was that what you did?”
He shrugs, but the embarrassed look on his face says yes. “I guess I could consider therapy for him,” he finally says. “But I want you to remember that I argued against this. If it causes more problems than it solves...”
“You’ll get to say ‘I told you so,’” I finish, rolling my eyes. “Yes, dear.”
“Don’t say that,” he snaps, suddenly sitting straight and glaring at me. “Don’t even joke about it.”
I blink stupidly for a moment, shaking my head. “What? About you saying ‘I told you so?’ I didn’t mean--"
“No,” he interrupts. “That ‘yes, dear’ crap. And what you said when you got in, your ‘honey, I’m home’ joke. Not funny.”
“I’m only kidding around.”
“Well, stop it. Just because you’re going off-world and I’m staying here to take care of Danny, that doesn’t make me... I’m not your wife, Jack. Don’t make me into the woman in this relationship.”
“I’m not,” I reply stiffly. “You’re overreacting.”
“Maybe.” And that seems to be his final word on the subject. We’re left staring at each other from opposite sides of the room, each waiting for the other to back down first.
“Carter was upset that you didn’t welcome us back today,” I say, going for the obvious guilt trip.
Daniel rolls his eyes. “You were only gone for a day. I hardly think she was devastated by my lack of gushing over your return.”
Sarcasm is considerably less fun when somebody else does it to you. “Okay, the real reason she was upset was because you weren’t with us out there.”
“Something wrong with Cortez?”
I narrow my eyes at him. “Don’t ask stupid questions.”
He sighs and drops the pretense of innocence. “I don’t know why she’s taking this so hard. I miss being on the team, but I had to make a choice.”
I open my mouth, and then shut it again, tilting my head to one side. “Are we done arguing?”
Daniel smiles, a hint of mischief lightening his eyes. “For now.”
I gesture at him, waving him over, and he sighs laboriously but gets up to join me on the couch. He settles in, grabbing my hands and placing them on his shoulders, and then shooting me an expectant look.
“Yes?” I inquire, raising my eyebrows at him. “Something you wanted?”
“You didn’t get to finish that shoulder rub.”
“As I recall, you’re the one who pulled away. It’s your own fault.”
“But Jack,” he cajoles, “don’t you want to be giving and generous and selfless? Don’t you want to show kindness to the one you love?”
I snort, trying hard not to laugh at his overly innocent expression and deliberately fluttering eyelashes. “Knock it off. And besides, that stuff is vastly overrated.”
“Hmm.” Daniel looks at me shrewdly. “How about you pick up where you left off, and I’ll rub your bad knee for you later?”
“Thirty minutes? With the added... oral bonus?”
He grins. “Twenty. And yes to the oral bonus.”
The smug smile on his face suggests that I just got suckered, but never let it be said that I don’t live up to my side of the bargain. I start back in on his shoulders and he sighs happily, letting his head drop forward and making a low, pleased mumble in his throat.
“So, I talked to Carter today,” I tell him.
“It would be hard not to, seeing as you were on a mission together.”
I give him a little shove and then blow on the back of his neck, because it tickles and he hates that. He pulls his shoulders up tight and squirms, laughing softly.
“You know what I’m talking about,” I chide him. “We talked about you leaving the team. About why she has a problem with it.”
“You did? Jack O’Neill had a discussion about feelings? Did the world stop spinning without me noticing it?”
He laughs again, and I can feel his muscles growing lax and soft under my hands. I move down to his back and he leans forward obligingly, grunting when I dig my thumbs into the knotted muscles on either side of his spine.
“She says you chose the boy over the team,” I say.
Daniel twists to look at me, raising an eyebrow. “Well, obviously that’s true, but it was my decision to make, and despite the rough start, I still think it’s the right one.”
“I’m glad to hear that, but you’re missing my point. Carter had a choice like that a few years back, remember?”
“Cassie,” he muses, a thoughtful frown creasing his face. Now he sees where this is going.
“Right, Cassie.” I finish his lower back and pull him close again, so I can rub little circles on the back of his neck and up into his scalp. He hums and closes his eyes, angling his head to get the pressure where he wants it most.
“She put the team first,” he says. “She gave up a chance at parenthood for us, and she thinks I should have done the same thing.”
“I’m sorry if she regrets her decision, but I can’t do anything about that,” Daniel argues. “It was her choice to make, and all I could do was support her whichever way she went. Is it so unreasonable to ask her to do the same for me?”
“She’s trying, Daniel.” I stop the massage and let my arm rest around his shoulders, idly smoothing down the soft hair on the back of his head. “It’s not easy for her. For any of us, really. We only just got you back, and now you’re leaving us again.”
Daniel turns troubled eyes to me, shaking his head slightly. “I know, and I’m sorry. I’ll catch her tomorrow, drag her out of the base for lunch or something. We’ll talk. My leaving the team is no reflection on her or any of you. I really do wish I could have both, but...” He shrugs and lifts his hands up for a moment. “This has changed all our lives, but I have to do what I think is right.”
“I know,” I tell him simply, because it’s true. I do know.
We sit quietly for a while, mostly because I think Daniel needs the time to settle and think after dragging that bad old memory out. He was surprised when he actually told it, by how small it was. After all those years of hiding it and denying it, I think he made it into something bigger and worse than it actually was, and by bringing it into the light, it lost a lot of its power. No child should have to go through something like that, but Daniel has endured worse and come out the other side. He’s stronger than he gives himself credit for.
“Hey,” a quiet voice calls from the base of the stairs. “Can I come out now?”
We look up to see Danny standing there, eyeing us warily. He takes in the way we’re sitting, Daniel slumped against me with his hand on my leg, my arm around his shoulders and my fingers in his hair, and the boy’s face develops a keen, speculative look, but he doesn’t ask. I’m grateful for that small mercy, because I think I’m all talked out for today. We’ll save that conversation for some other time.
“Sure,” Daniel says, offering the kid a wide smile. “Come on over and sit with us.”
So he does that, sitting beside Daniel and wriggling in close, accepting the arm placed around him with a grin. I’m vaguely relieved that he didn’t try to sit in Daniel’s lap again.
“Are you feeling better?” I ask, reaching over to ruffle that short, baby-fine hair. One of the first things I bought for him was a bottle of Johnson’s baby shampoo.
He nods, regarding me with wide eyes. “I’m sorry,” he blurts out, ducking his head. “Sorry about the dog and about yelling at you and stuff. Sorry I was bad.”
“That’s all right,” Daniel says gently, rubbing his hand up and down the kid’s arm. He looks at me, raising his eyebrows, and I nod. I knew the kid would come around, given time to get over his sulk.
The boy plucks nervously at his shirtsleeves, tugging them past his wrists and then pushing them back. “What are you going to do?”
“Do?” I ask, giving Daniel a questioning glance.
“He wants to know if he’s going to be punished.” Daniel’s helpless look suggests that he has no idea what the answer to this question is.
“Well,” I say slowly, making a show of thinking it over. “Hurting the dog was wrong. Deliberate cruelty is never allowed. If you’re mad then it’s okay to yell, or stomp your feet, or kick a ball really hard, or draw a picture of who you’re mad at and then tear it up, but it’s never okay to hurt someone. Do you understand?”
Danny nods mutely, his head down.
“Are you going to do it again?”
“No!” he promises, shaking his head earnestly. “I swear I won’t. I don’t even know why I did it.”
I nod and mull this over for a bit, letting the kid sweat. “Okay,” I say finally. “Since you know it was wrong, and since you won’t do it again, then I think being bitten was punishment enough. But if you break this rule again, there will be consequences, do you understand?”
A huge, relieved grin splits his face, which makes it very hard to maintain my stern expression. Even Daniel looks relieved. It’s nice to know I haven’t lost my touch.
“I understand!” he agrees, all but bouncing on the couch with the release of tension. “I promise to be good, I really do.”
Daniel’s smile fades, and I think he knows as well as I do that it isn’t going to be that easy. “Danny,” he says, dropping his chin to look the boy in the eyes. “Would you like some help to be good? Someone who can teach you how?”
The kid narrows his eyes, watching us both carefully. “What do you mean?”
Daniel glances at me again, but I just lean back and keep my mouth shut. This part is his show. “I’d like you to talk to a doctor,” he tells the boy.
The look of suspicion sharpens. “What kind of doctor?”
“A special kind. This doctor will help you to be good, and maybe to not have so many bad dreams.”
The kid is scowling now, pulling away and crossing his arms. “A head doctor? That’s what you’re talking about, isn’t it?”
Daniel shifts uneasily, and I can see him trying out various responses and discarding them, searching for the right words. “Yes, but a good one,” he says. “A good, real doctor who wants to help you.”
That scowl doesn’t give an inch, his chin thrust out and his head lowered. “Will he give me dizzy pills?”
“No,” Daniel answers quickly. “Absolutely no dizzy pills.”
Danny licks his lips and leans closer, darting me an uncertain look. “Will he have a camera?” he whispers.
“No camera,” Daniel says with finality. “I promise. And I won’t let anything happen, because I’ll be right in there with you. You don’t have to talk to him alone.”
The kid considers this for a long moment, chewing absently at his lower lip. “A real doctor?”
“He’ll help me be good? And you’ll be there with me?”
Daniel nods, relaxing a little. “Yes.”
“I want to be good,” Danny assures us. “It’s just hard sometimes.”
Isn’t that the truth. “I hear you, kid,” I say, grinning at him. “It’s hard for me, too.”
“Oh, yeah. So many rules, so little time.”
Daniel gives me a disapproving look and I stick my tongue out at him when he turns his back, making the kid dissolve into a fit of laughter. Daniel blinks at both of us suspiciously, narrowing his eyes at my too-innocent face.
“Okay,” the boy finally says, settling back against Daniel’s side. “I guess I’ll talk to the doctor. As long as he’s a real doctor and he doesn’t have a camera and I don’t have to be with him alone.”
“Outstanding,” I reply, squeezing his shoulder and nodding. “I knew you were a brave kid.” I look at Daniel when I say this, and he looks back, a small, pleased smile on his face.
Then Danny wants one of us to read to him from the Harry Potter book that Teal’c, of all people, got him hooked on, so I do that for a while. Daniel extracts himself from the couch and cleans up the rest of the pizza, pretending that he isn’t listening to the story. When the boy’s head grows heavy and limp against my shoulder, I close the book and cart him upstairs, a little unnerved by how quickly the sleeping weight of a child has become familiar again.
After the process of coaxing Danny’s clothes off his limp form and replacing them with pajamas has been completed, I slip him under the blankets and pull them up. I lean over to kiss his forehead, drawing in a deep breath of Johnson’s and that universal kid smell of dirt and sunlight.
Danny has been almost constant trouble since the moment he arrived. He’s taken Daniel away from SG-1, something I was determined could only happen if he died again, he’s caused a new tension between Daniel and Carter, and he’s changing the way we live in our own home. He’s also attracted interest from the NID, which means Daniel and I have to be more careful and discrete than usual, and that we have to worry about him being snatched away when we aren’t looking. He’s difficult and temperamental and requires a huge amount of time and energy. Just being around him is draining.
And in spite of it all, I’m so glad he’s here.
When I go back downstairs, Daniel is engrossed in something on his laptop, with an open book on either side of him. He’s got one hand on the mouse and the other marking his place on one of the exposed pages, and he doesn’t even glance my way when I stand beside him.
“Daniel. It’s late.”
“Go ahead,” he mutters absently. “I’ll be up later.”
I reach over his head and lower the laptop screen, stopping just short of the point where it goes into standby mode so his work won’t be lost. “No, you’ll be up now. I believe somebody owes me a knee massage.”
Daniel tries a pleading look from under his eyelashes. “But, Jack, I’ve been waiting all evening for Danny to go to bed so I could finish this.”
“You could have finished earlier instead of listening to Harry Potter.”
He blinks and sputters in indignation, but the two circles of color high on his cheeks give him away. “It won’t take long,” he says, still with the puppy eyes.
“Don’t even try giving me that look,” I tell him flatly. “As far as you’re concerned, two hours is ‘not long.’ You pay up first, and then you can come back down here and do this.”
He grumbles, but it’s all for show. I notice he saves his work and shuts the laptop down before he trudges up the stairs. He knows perfectly well that he’s going to get... distracted, and end up falling asleep afterwards.
I strip down to boxers and a tee shirt--nudity is no longer an option in this house--and then I lay back, my hands laced behind my head and my legs sprawled across the bed.
“Look at you,” Daniel snorts, still in the process of getting undressed. “Like royalty waiting to be serviced.”
“You bet. Now I believe we had an agreement?” And then I make a point of checking the clock, raising my eyebrows at him impatiently.
“So pushy,” he grumbles. “Making me rub things and talk about things and not letting me get stuck in self-doubt and refusing to allow me to throw myself a pity party... such a pain the ass.” Then he gives me a sly smile and kneels between my legs, his hands already going to my bad knee.
“Takes one to know one,” I reply, the words coming out automatically. He’s amazingly good with his hands, and while it does wonders for the body, it’s rather detrimental to the thought processes.
“Mmm.” He huffs out a soft breath of air in an almost-laugh and leans forward far enough for me to feel his breath on my skin. “Missed you, Jack. Welcome home.”
Then he goes in for the negotiated oral bonus, as promised. Man of his word, this guy. It’s good to be home.
End Book Two
May 4 - 6, 2004
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