Rebirth #3 - Home? by Alanna
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Category: General
Genres: Alternate Universe, Angst, Drama, Friendship, Humor, Hurt/Comfort, Smarm
Rated: Pre-Teen
Warnings: None
Series: Rebirth
Summary: Sam's opted to take Daniel home with her, so it's down to the nitty-gritty with the usual childcare suspects with a few twists thrown in along the way.

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"The Citadel--end of the line!"

Parking in a spot as close to the mall as possible, Sam turned off the Volvo's ignition and turned in her seat slightly to grin back at Daniel, who was buckled as securely as humanly possible without a booster seat--which would definitely have to be one of the intended stops on this little excursion--in the middle of the back seat. "First stop, Gymboree?" she suggested. It was pretty much the only half-decent children's clothing store in the mall, so it wasn't as though they had a whole lot of choice. She still had the compulsion to give Daniel as much control as she could over his situation, though--Sam was a little embarrassed to admit to herself that the 'old' Daniel was still lurking beneath the surface, and she knew he wouldn't appreciate being treated...well, like a five year old.

Daniel shrugged nervously, chewing one side of the drawstring of his borrowed windbreaker's hood, eyeing the behemoth of a structure looming a few yards away. "Idano...'sthat where I get clothes?"

Sam grimaced. Why would he remember store names? "Right. I'm sorry sweetie; I forgot there for a minute. Yes, we'll get anything we need to get you all suited up in there." She smiled reassuringly. "You ready?"

Daniel twisted his hands nervously, eyes darting between Sam and the mall. "Is it real big in there?" he asked instead of answering.

Sam unbuckled her seatbelt and swiveled to face him more fully. "Pretty big. Why?"

"Umm...bigger than the...SGC?" he asked in a whisper, and Sam smiled fondly--General Hammond had done his best to explain the secrecy of the SGC before they'd left, and apparently it had sunk in.

"No, not quite that big," she assured him.

"What if I get lost?"

"Tell you what, sweetie--I'll hang onto your hand the whole time and keep you right beside me. I'll glue you to me if I have to. Though," she said solemnly, "it may be tricky to buy pants to fit a two-person person."

That finally got her one of those delightful little giggles, and Daniel nodded decisively. "'Kay," he said bravely. "Ready."

Sam nodded. "Good!" She got out and opened the back door, leaning in to take Daniel's hands as he bounced across the seat on his knees. "You're still just one big ball of energy, aren't you?" she teased, pausing to hike up the overly-large shorts that were beginning a descent down over Daniel's nonexistent hips. "Didn't you get tired out playing with Rannia?"

"Nope!" he chirped, skipping along at Sam's side but clinging firmly to her hand. "She said the air's good there; never got tired, or hadda take naps, or nothin'!"

"'Or anything'," Sam automatically corrected.

"Huh?"

Sam shook her head. 'He's five,' she reminded herself. 'Give him a break.'

"Never mind."

Janet's teasing remark about time floated back to her as she was forced to slow her pace in order to compensate for Daniel's increasingly laggy pace. He was craning his neck to see into a stroller that was being pushed past by a young mother. "That baby's takin' a nap!" he marvelled, then, "D'you take naps, Sam?"

Looked like it was 'Twenty Questions' time--a game she was all too familiar with from babysitting Mark's kids. "Sometimes, if I'm really tired."

"Does Teal'c take naps?"

"I don't think so."

"Does...Jack? 'Sthat why I didn' get to see him 'fore we left?"

"Um...Jack had a lot of work to do, remember? But I bet he'd rather be taking a nap."

"Why?"

"Well, doing a lot of work isn't really very much fun for him." Sam pulled the door of the mall open and allowed Daniel to precede her into the air-conditioned alcove between the doors.

"Am I fun?" Daniel wanted to know, patiently waiting for her to open the next set of doors, becoming intrigued by the button to activate the automatic door for disability and wheelchair accessibility.

"You certainly are."

"Goody! Then Jack'll come play after he works, right? He'll wanna play after workin'!"

"I'll bet he will," Sam murmured, keeping her tone light for Daniel's benefit.

"What about..." Satisfied that Jack would come play with him after work, Daniel pursed his lips and pressed a finger to them in thought, throughly enjoying this game he'd started. "Gen'ral Hammond? Does he do naps too?"

"Maybe," Sam snickered, the mental image of her CO taking a 'naptime' in his office popping into her head.

Daniel giggled and suddenly stopped dead, mouth agape as he stared at the grandiose mall's interior sprawling ahead of him, neck craned to see the upper levels. Whether consciously or unconsciously, he inched closer to Sam's leg, and she nudged him gently. "Do you want me to carry you?" she asked. "If you're nervous, I'll carry you."

Daniel appeared to seriously consider her offer, but he slowly shook his head in the negative. "'S'okay...I'll walk. Oh, Sam!" he squealed.

Startled, Sam crouched down to his level. "What? What's wrong?"

"Look! Look! Lookit that!" he trilled, bouncing up and down excitedly. Daniel took both little hands and turned Sam's face in the direction he was looking, and she grinned when she spotted one of the escalators carrying shoppers up to the second level. "C'n we go on that? Pleeeeaaaassssseee?"

"Hmm...I think Gymboree is on the second level, so I suppose we can do that!"

Nervousness at the crowded mall nearly forgotten, Daniel cheered, bounced some more, and towed Sam forward, weaving around patrons, excusing himself and thanking those that moved, the shoppers smiling down at the little bundle of energy fondly. 'This is going to be much more interesting than I thought,' Sam thought, another smile making its way across her face.

"What do I do?" Daniel asked when they reached the base of the escalator, his eyes as wide as saucers as he watched the people pass him and step onto the moving staircase.

"Well, you see how the stairs come out of the bottom? You can see the lines where one stair ends and another one starts, can't you?"

Daniel crouched down and squinted at the escalator, and Sam bit back a chuckle, unable to refrain from comparing the look on Daniel's face as he performed his close examination of the escalator to the look the adult Daniel would so often have on his face when he'd come across some new and fascinating artifact. "Uh-huh," he reported, catching himself with one hand as he almost toppled backward onto his behind.

"You have to time it just right so you step on a stair, and it'll just lift you right up to the next floor. Want to try now?"

Daniel stood and watched the technique of a few more shoppers before nodding. "Uh-huh!"

Sam reached down for his hand, and together they stepped forward as another stair emerged from the floor. Daniel tottered a little, his balance upset by the constant movement, but he grinned, looking behind him to watch the floor get farther and farther away. "This is just like magic, Sam!" he crowed. "Doesn'it ever run outta steps?"

An elderly woman behind Daniel laughed softly. "Of course not, sweetheart--there are little elves under the floor. They have a special shop that keeps making the steps and sends them up for people to stand on."

Daniel's eyes looked like they were going to pop out of his head. "What do they look like?" he asked in a hushed tone.

The woman winked at him. "No one knows--they're very secretive."

As they stepped off the escalator, Sam and the old woman exchanged a smile, and Daniel was still enthralled with the idea of escalator elves. "C'n we catch one, Sam? Catch it and show it to Jack'n'Teal'c'n'Janet'n'Gen'ral Hammond?"

"I think they might be a little too quick for us to catch, Daniel," Sam said seriously. "Otherwise, a lot of other people might have already caught them."

"Oooooohhhh...right." Daniel was quiet, thinking, and then he glanced behind him, in the direction the old woman had gone. "I think she's an elf, Sam."

Sam laughed out loud. "I wouldn't be surprised, Daniel--not at all," she agreed.

=====

"Saa-aam?"

Sam paused in her search through folded-up little pairs of jeans and turned to Daniel, who was sitting quietly on the floor at her feet, knees tucked up to his chest, arms loosely wrapped around them as he watched other women and men with children hurrying back and forth, calling to one another to try this one on, and put this back on the rack, this little girl didn't like this colour, that little boy had to get that pair of underwear off his head; what was his daddy, made of money? "Yes?"

"How come Gen'ral Hammond calls me 'son'?" he asked. "He's not my daddy--only daddy called me 'son'."

"That's just what General Hammond calls everybody," Sam said, giving the Readers Digest version of an explanation.

"Even you? But you're not a son!"

Sam laughed. "Okay, only the guys--he calls them 'son'. I guess it's just something they do in Texas."

"Texas was made a state of the USA on December twenty-ninth, eighteen forty-five. It's capital is Austin," Daniel murmured to himself. Sam raised an eyebrow curiously. "Houston's in Texas too," he continued. "We have a problem!"

"Problem? What's wrong?"

"Noooo..." Daniel drew out on a cavernous yawn. "Tha's what the spacemen say--'Houston, we have a problem!'"

"Oh..." Sam eyed Daniel more closely--he was a smart cookie, that was for sure. She wondered if Daniel had actually retained more than they'd originally thought from this supposed 'rebirth', or if all this was just information he'd already learned by this age.

"Are you a spacelady, Sam?"

"Not quite," she said, smiling. "I would have loved to be a spacelady, but I love the work I do now even more."

"Yah, I betcha it's lotsa fun. I wish I could do that," Daniel murmured, yawning again.

Sam glanced from the jeans back to him in surprise. "I thought..." she began, then trailed off. "Never mind." Daniel wanted to work? Sam had to wonder. Had he or hadn't he chosen this for himself after all? She shook her head. 'You're reading too much into this,' she told herself exasperatedly. This was just normal, childish 'When I grow up' or 'I wanna be like you' kind of stuff. Daniel certainly didn't seem to miss being an adult. She watched the little guy scrub at his eyes with a fist. "Are you okay?" she asked, concerned at the sudden lapse of energy.

"Mmhmm. Tired," he admitted.

Tired. Crap. Sam remembered Rannia telling the Colonel that Daniel would be weak and easily tired for a few days, and she immediately took the pairs of jeans she'd chosen as well as a few shirts, underwear and socks, and reached down for Daniel's hand. "Where we goin' now?" Daniel asked, leaning against her leg and trying valiantly not to whine as they walked.

"Home now--we can finish this up tomorrow or another day--we've got you enough for a few days."

"'Kaaay," he agreed on another yawn.

The cashier smiled an eager, overly enthusiastic smile at Sam--or rather, the amount of clothes Sam laid on the counter--and began ringing everything through. Daniel's forehead pressed against Sam's thigh a little more, and she seriously wondered whether he was even awake, becoming more concerned at the feel of sweat-dampened skin. The clerk noticed Daniel and leaned over the counter. "Aww, look at him," she cooed, snapping her gum. "What a little muffin!"

''Muffin'?' Sam bit back a snort and smiled indulgently instead, gathering up all the bags in one hand and hefting Daniel onto one hip with the other. "Yeah, he is," she replied, almost matching the overly-ditzy tone of the cashier. 'Like, bye!' she lilted in her head, briefly pausing to heft Daniel up a little higher and a bit more securely. "And we're off," she murmured into his hair.

Daniel hugged around her neck and mumbled a little as a response, promptly drifting off, leaving Sam feeling amused and absurdly pleased. 'Now he starts getting heavy,' she half-bitched in her head, though having a hard time working up any ire to go with it. Hell, right now lucky was the dominant emotion, followed closely by giddiness and pride. Mark was right--there was nothing better than having another little life to watch out for and take care of, one that trusted you implicitly. Sam never thought she'd get a taste of that trust, and it ambushed her now that she was feeling it--and more.

=====
=====

Wednesday


"Sam! What're these?"

The pounding of bare feet over hardwood floor alerted Sam that Daniel was both awake and bursting with energy again, and a little flesh-colored blur sped past the living room as Daniel searched for her. She'd been a little worried--okay, a lot worried--the night before; Daniel had slept right through, from the parking lot of The Citadel until now, 10:30 Wednesday morning. Apparently he was fine, though, and it seemed they had business to take care of. "Daniel Jackson!" she admonished, laughing. "You get some clothes on, mister!"

"I can't!" he yelped, appearing in the living room doorway with only a pair of white briefs on. "What're these?" He came forward and thrust a t-shirt towards her face.

Sam pushed the shirt back so her eyeballs weren't in danger of fusing with 100% cotton, and examined the image on the t-shirt. "'Yu-Gi-Oh!'," she read. "It's a cartoon; that boy," she pointed to the kid with insanely spiky hair surrounded by monsters, "is a Pharaoh."

Daniel's nose scrunched up in disdain. "He doesn' look 'gyptian," he scoffed. "Since when're there monsters in Egypt?"

Sam grinned. Purist Egyptologist peeking through, here. "It's a card game for kids," she attempted to explain without getting too technical. "Don't knock it 'til you've tried it."

The little face still looked dubious, but Daniel pulled the t-shirt on over his head. "He's not a Pharaoh," he maintained smugly, staring down at his chest. He spun on his heels, heading off to get his shorts, and Sam bit back a chuckle at the ironic words emblazoned on the back of the shirt--'Your Move'.

---

"Much better," Sam said approvingly when Daniel rejoined her in the living room, fully dressed. He perched on the couch beside her, chewing on a thumbnail, and Sam gently diverted the hand away from his mouth. "What's up? You hungry?" she teased.

Apparently not familiar with that sort of teasing yet, Daniel's face didn't even twitch. "Mmmm...yah."

Teasing: Aborted. The neon sign flashed in Sam's head. "Okay," she said. "It's still around breakfast time...what would you like to eat?"

"Ummmmmm...cereal?"

Sam was nearly floored with relief--thank God he hadn't asked for scrambled eggs or something; though, if he was going to be staying with her, she'd have to learn how to improve her slightly-sub-par cooking skills...a growing child couldn't survive off quick meals like the ones she took most of the time. "I think I can pull off cereal," she said. "I only have corn flakes, but you can add sugar and that to make it better if you'd like. Later on, I'll pick up some food that's more to your taste. Deal?"

Daniel nearly blinded her with a smile. "Deal!"

=====

Sam made a mental list as she added sugar via a teaspoon to Daniel's cornflakes, itemizing everything she needed to buy for her new houseguest. Efficient, prepared--that's how she would tackle this--it was how she tackled everything, and said 'everything' always ran like clockwork...but with a sudden jolt, Sam realized that there was very little chance her life could be so efficient from here on out. Daniel, a child, was living with her--living with Samantha Carter, an Air Force major who'd, certainly, been involved with a few men, one or two seriously, but had, up until now, skirted the possibility of having children in the visible future--especially after the wondrous career the Stargate program offered her. The idea of children hadn't even been in her head until recently--her out-of-mind experience aboard the Prometheus, trapped in that damned gas cloud, had found her unconscious mind scrounging together a few issues Sam had never really wanted to put up with. And now this child--a five year old child; never mind the fact that the five year old wasn't your average five year old--was a lot of responsibility. Of course, Sam was responsible and capable...but she'd never been a mother. She'd never had more than the bare minimum of experience with children. While she wasn't clueless in the field of handling children, they were a bit of an enigma to her; she loved them well enough, but couldn't picture herself as the full-time maternal type. She'd babysat Mark's kids once or twice when they were babies, and had had a few babysitting gigs when she was a teenager, but that limited amount of time spent with the younger generation had been enough for her. Diapers, crying over absolutely nothing--she had patience, normally, but usually not that kind of patience. And even worse than her inexperience was the nervousness that came along with it--young children were, apparently, sensitive to everything around them...a theory that always proved correct, as when Sam's nerves had finally lost out in the face of fussy toddlers and pre-schoolers, her discomfiture always seemed to make itself known to the kids themselves. It always resulted in some pretty awkward, lame attempts at conversation, failed attempts at babytalk, and her trying to win back the kids' favour by submitting herself to otherwise embarrassing games...like House, where she had to play the child, or School, where she had to be the janitor.

She'd been pitied by the children; they'd manufactured a character for her--a character that they would always encounter, but not necessarily have to interact with.

But God help her if she'd ever tried to stop whatever duty she'd been saddled with. "Janitor doesn't stop working 'til we all go home!" Sam shuddered.

"Umm, Sam? That's a-nough."

"Huh?" Sam glanced down and realized she'd spooned a little more than enough sugar into the bowl. She shook her head, clearing it of her nightmarish babysitting stint. "Sorry about that," she said sheepishly. "Thinking a little too hard, I guess!" Grabbing a new bowl, Sam gave the bowl full of cornflakes a shake to let the sugar settle to the bottom, then carefully transferred the flakes and a fraction of the sugar into the new one before adding milk and settling the bowl in front of Daniel. "Toast?"

"Yes please!"

"With cinnamon?"

Daniel pondered this carefully. "I never had cimmonin before."

Sam grinned. "Then you're in for a treat, Doctor Jackson!"

But this was Daniel, Sam told herself as she got to work on the toast, her back to the boy as he knelt in the high wicker chair at the counter. He wasn't one of her neighbour's psychotic kids. He may be five, but he was still Daniel; she'd seen that in the rare glimpses of the adult mannerisms that had surfaced since yesterday, and Sam was genuinely curious as to whether this beyond-his-years maturity was something Daniel had always had, or if some adult qualities had carried back over into the child. There would be no diapers either way though, she silently cheered. As for any of the other stuff parents had to hover over their children for...well, they'd have to wait and see. Shoelace-tying, bathing himself (how weird was that going to be, if she had to bathe him?!). Daniel could obviously dress himself, albeit slowly, and he had struggled with the button on the shorts Chisholm had lent to them. Okay, so an elastic waist they could do--zippers, maybe not a problem, buttons...they'd have to wait til his fingers grew a little more to handle those. His hair wasn't as short as it had been when he'd been an adult, but it wasn't unruly--a quick comb in the mornings would settle it--mostly. Sam grinned and compared the hairstyle of this version of Daniel with the style he'd sported as an adult--it really did seem like all the hair that had been on his adult head had simply been transferred to another, smaller body in a style that attempted to copy the original. A haircut might not be such a bad idea, but he did look adorable with that tousled head. A few more days wouldn't kill him though; they'd get more important things sorted out first...

Because this was permanent, Sam realized, the truth broadsiding her like a kick to her solar plexus. A few days wouldn't make a lot of difference in a life that was essentially starting all over again...

Fifteen years, give or take, living with Sam...maybe less, if he decided to go away for university, or if he went through school the way he did the first time around.

'College,' Sam thought. A bit winded all of a sudden, she placed the slices of cinnamon toast in front of Daniel and excused herself to the bathroom with a light smile and a quick ruffle to that tousled hair. Closing the door gently behind her, Sam leaned against it, steadying her breathing, doing a quick sitrep to make herself feel a bit more...normal.

'Okay.' For all intents and purposes, Daniel was her child. She could forget about the all-nighters--and sometimes all-weekenders--that had made up her life at the SGC the past seven years. All her pet projects would have to wait for designated 'work time', because every waking minute of her spare time would have to be dedicated to the care of this little boy. It wasn't a bad thing, giving up her time for Daniel--she loved Daniel with all her heart; he'd always been like a little brother to her...but that was the key. Little brother. She'd never thought of Daniel as her son--granted, she never thought she'd have to think of Daniel as her son, but that was neither here nor there, because she'd agreed to take him home and now she'd have to start thinking like a mother.

'How the hell do I do that?' she wondered. Up until this point, she'd been treating Daniel like a friend; a smaller, younger version of a friend, but a friend nonetheless. When he needed a hug, she'd give him a hug, but she didn't want to push it, the anxiety that Adult Daniel was lurking somewhere beneath the surface, about to jump out and snark her into oblivion for being such a hovering sap still raising the alarm. How far was too far with this mothering thing? Where was the fine line--and how fine was it, exactly--between friend and parent? Could she actually parent Daniel; punish him for the kinds of things all kids got into at some point or another, put her foot down in the face of those big blue eyes and dazzling, dimpled smile? The adult Daniel had been hard enough to resist; how would she survive against this version?

Not for the first time, Sam wondered what Colonel O'Neill was thinking, writing Daniel off. When General Hammond had relayed O'Neill's words to herself and Teal'c in the commissary...not a 'good idea' to send Daniel home with him? What they hell? Why not? Sam knew the Colonel loved, and was loved in return by, children; he'd come to terms with his son's death--for the most part--and had reopened his heart to the parade of kids marching in and out of the lives of those at the SGC. Cassie, Ry'ac, little Charlie who had warned them about the Reetou and had absolutely idolized the colonel, Merrin the 'Rocket Scientist'...O'Neill seemed to be meant for fatherhood. If everyone else could see Adult Daniel in this miniature version, surely he could. But if he couldn't...Sam wondered what would happen if she needed a few parenting tips every now and then. Could she call him up or speak to him at the SGC about it? He may not be a mother, but the basic parenting guidelines were the same, right? He wouldn't deny her a few tips to keep from bombing the whole experience.

It'd be fine, Sam coached herself; it had to be fine, because Sam wasn't about to let Daniel go on account of her own misgivings about parenthood. This was simply going to be another challenge...like blowing up a sun, only about a hundred times more tedious, demanding, stressful, and rewarding.

The ringing of the phone in the kitchen had Sam opening the bathroom door without second thought, and she calmly headed back down the hall, where Daniel was frozen in the middle of licking the cinnamon off one of his slices of toast, staring at the phone lying beside him. "Good?" she teased. The round blue eyes smiled at her and he nodded, licking more cinnamon off the bread before pulling his face away, some of the brown stuff covering the tip of his nose and the lower portion of his face. Sam beamed at him and picked up the phone from the counter. "Hello?"

**'Morning, Sam.**

"Oh, hey Janet. What's up?"

**Nothing at all...I was just wondering how Daniel got along last night.**

Sam glanced back at Daniel again. He was kneeling on the chair, slowly spooning a bite of cereal into his mouth, watching her. "He's great; fell asleep on me in the mall yesterday and slept right through the night, but he's back to his irritating self now." She pulled a face at him as Daniel's forehead wrinkled in reproach and he whispered "No I'm not!"

Janet laughed, obviously having overheard his protest. **That's good to hear; sounds like you have your hands full! He's all settled away then, is he? Find everything you need at the mall yesterday?**

"Just about. I'll have to pick him up some more essentials yet--toys," (Daniel's eyes widened a little more in anticipation), "some more clothes, and that kind of thing--but he's well on his way."

**Great. And remember, if that fatigue doesn't start getting any better by Friday, bring him back to me.**

"I will--" Sam paused as the tone for another incoming call sounded in her ear. "Oh, can you hang on a minute, Janet? I've got a beep."

**I've got to get back to work, anyway; I'll talk to you later on. Say hi to Daniel for me, will you?**

"You got it. Bye, Janet." Sam hit the disconnect button, rolled her eyes in mock martyrdom for Daniel, who giggled, and took a deep breath. "Hello?"

**Major Carter, good morning.**

Sam's back automatically straightened in response to General Hammond's voice. "Good morning, sir--what can I do for you?" Daniel perked up visibly at the sound of the word 'sir', and he leaned forward, pointing at the phone. "Jack?" he whispered hopefully, eyes wide in his cinnamon-covered face.

**At ease, Major,** Hammond drawled, amusement evident in his tone. **I was just calling to check in on our boy. How's he doing?**

"Oh, he's fine, sir--happy as a clam." 'God, tell me I did not just say that...' "We're just getting breakfast over and done with right now."

**Oh, I'm sorry to interrupt Major. I'll let you get back to it."

"Oh no, sir; it's fine. Daniel's eating, not me. It's no trouble at all."

"Nonsense, Major; you get back to that boy; surely he'll find his way into some kind of trouble if no one keeps their eyes on him! Now, if you need anything, don't hesitate to call--we'll send someone out for it right away.**

"Yes sir. Thank you."

**Have fun, Major.**

Sam chuckled. "I'm sure I will, sir. Goodbye."

Daniel slid off his chair and practically danced over as Sam disconnected. "Was that Jack? What'd he say?" he interrogated.

Sam put the phone down on the counter and picked Daniel up, sitting him on the edge of it so she could wipe his face free of cinnamon. "No, that was General Hammond--and Janet right before him. Both just checking up on you, you little celebrity; making sure I haven't broken you yet!"

Daniel's initial crestfallen expression morphed into one of eager support. "You can't break me, Sam!" he said seriously. "I'm not glass!"

Sam smiled affectionately, planting a kiss in his soft hair. "You most certainly aren't," she agreed. "Now, what do you say we clean up here and--"

Interrupted once again by the phone, Sam sighed heavily and began to reach for it, but Daniel was quicker and snagged the receiver first. "Jack?" he asked eagerly, juggling the receiver in fumbling, clumsy little fingers.

Sam's stomach did a flip-flop, and the knot in it only grew tighter when Daniel's expressive face fell again, the hope giving way to disappointment before the old Daniel kicked in and visibly sublimated it. "Oh! Hi Teal'c!" he said brightly. "What're you doin'?" Sam watched his face in fascination, his head tilting to the side a little as he listened to whatever Teal'c was telling him. He chewed a thumbnail thoughtfully, a small smile tugging on the corners of his mouth. A little shudder Sam correctly interpreted as a suppressed giggle jittered through him once or twice, his bright eyes darting up to Sam secretively, as if he were in on a joke that had nothing to do with her. The ghost of that smile widened into a grin; Teal'c was obviously saying something Daniel found amusing, and Sam smiled back warmly. It was so odd to witness the contrasts in Teal'c, even secondhand, watching the effect he could have on all sorts of people--one minute he was a warrior to the core, but he could be more gentle and paternal than anyone Sam had ever met. Now was one of those times, it seemed--Teal'c had always shared their protective instincts of Daniel, and as she'd expected when they'd had their conversation in the commissary, those instincts had obviously carried over to this incarnation tenfold.

Daniel giggled. "'Kay, here she is. Bye-bye, Teal'c!" He held out the phone to Sam, still giggling lightly, and Sam tucked the receiver between her ear and shoulder so both hands were free to lift Daniel off the edge of the counter. "Hey Teal'c," she said warmly.

**MajorCarter. DanielJackson sounds to be in good spirits.**

"Yeah, I hope so--I'm doing my best here. What were you two talking about, anyway?"

**I am afraid if I were to tell you, I would be forced to exterminate you.**

Sam blinked. What movies had Teal'c been watching lately? "Okay then..." she covered the mouthpiece with one hand. "Daniel, could you go into the living room for a few minutes? The TV is on; I'll only be a little while; I have to talk to Teal'c about something important."

"About me?"

Sam narrowed her eyes appraisingly at Daniel, an amused lift to her mouth. "No."

Daniel returned the look, but turned for the living room. "Okay."

When the telltale creak of the sofa's springs and the muted noise of the television drifted out from the living room, Sam removed her hand. "Teal'c?"

**I am here.**

"Good. Listen, this is a little awkward, but..."

**O'Neill has not called to hear of DanielJackson's well-being.**

Sam sighed sadly, but was relieved that Teal'c always seemed to have the situation assessed before she had to try and tiptoe her way around explaining it. "No, he hasn't. Have you spoken to him at all since yesterday?"

**I have not.**

"I don't know what's going on with him, Teal'c," Sam raged, keeping her voice low so Daniel couldn't hear. "I thought that even if he were angry with Daniel, he'd at least check in on him. This is by far the oddest thing that's ever happened to us. Even the General called to check in...the colonel is Daniel's best friend."

**O'Neill is stubborn,** Teal'c said dryly. **That we have seen many times over the years.**

"I know...but it's only been a day, and I think Daniel's already starting to sense that something's wrong, that the colonel is avoiding something--and that that something is him. Everytime the phone rings Daniel expects to hear the colonel's voice on the other end. I don't know how many more times I can tell him that it's work keeping him away."

**Then perhaps we should tell DanielJackson the truth?**

"Are you kidding me, Teal'c? He wouldn't understand; he doesn't know anything about his adult life except us, doesn't remember making this choice. To him, it would almost be like Colonel O'Neill angry about nothing."

Teal'c was silent on the other end of the line, and finally released a slow breath. **This situation is most complicated.**

"You can say that again."

Teal'c didn't rise to that apparent invitation, which meant he was as befuddled as Sam was over what to do. **I will attempt to speak with O'Neill,** he said finally, **but I do not believe he will hear me.**

"Just try your best, Teal'c; that's all I ask. Thanks. I'll...keep Daniel occupied, I guess."

**MajorCarter,** Teal'c said hesitantly, as if he'd been thinking hard on something and wasn't certain if he should bring it up, **perhaps more serious action is required.** Sam screwed up her face in confusion. She could only guess what he'd come up with.

"What do you mean?" she asked slowly.

**Perhaps if we place O'Neill in a situation where he has no choice but to confront DanielJackson in a personal setting...**

Sam grinned. "Why Teal'c, that's downright devious. It might work, though...it'll have to cover all our bases, though. If the colonel is as stubborn as we think he is, we'll have to close every possible loophole."

Teal'c sounded positively smug, and Sam couldn't help but grin along with him, feeling re-energized. **It will be a simple task, MajorCarter.**

Teamwork. It was what SG-1 was all about...and with any luck, Colonel O'Neill wouldn't know what hit him.

=====

When Sam got off the phone with Teal'c, she headed into the living room, where Daniel was lying on his stomach on the couch, eyes riveted to a cartoon. 'Yu-Gi-Oh!'. Sam grinned. "Caught ya," she said brightly, making the boy jump slightly.

"This isn't...so bad," Daniel admitted, turning his eyes back to the TV, where the spiky-haired non-Pharaoh that was on Daniel's shirt was walking through a forest with a few other kids, prattling on about finding a weevil or something. "Idano what's goin' on, though."

"Yeah, it's more than likely an episode far into the series," Sam surmised. "It's probably one of those kinds of shows where you have to watch from the very beginning, otherwise you're completely lost."

Daniel shrugged and rolled to a sitting position. "What'd you and Teal'c talk about?" he asked innocently.

"M.Y.O.B.," Sam said evasively. "You don't need to know we're having a movie night on Friday."

A wide smile broke on Daniel's face. "Movie night? Who's comin'? What movies are we gonna watch? C'n we get treats?"

"Whoa...slow down," Sam mock chastised, slipping down onto the couch beside Daniel, a warmth spreading through her as he immediately snuggled into her side. "I think Teal'c is going to bring a few movies from his vast, vast, vast, vast, vast..."

"Sam!" Daniel giggled.

"...VAST collection...I'm thinking it'll probably be 'Indiana Jones'--Teal'c has a thing for those movies, and you d--probably will too. It's about an archaeologist."

"Ooooh, cool! Sam, when's Friday?"

Sam laughed. "Friday is the day after tomorrow. You go to sleep tonight, and sleep tomorrow night, and then it's Friday. And to answer one of your earlier questions, yes we can get treats--ice cream, popcorn..."

"Mmmm, ice cream!"

"I thought you might appreciate that," she chuckled.

Daniel abruptly sobered, as though he had been reminded of something important. "Sam, why do people call me 'doctor'?" he asked.

Thrown, Sam simply stared at him. "Who called you 'doctor'?”

"Gen'ral Hammond. And you did, when you were gonna make me toast. Why d'you call me that? I'm not a doctor."

"Oohhh..." 'Nice one, Sam.' She had a mild panic attack, wondering if it would hurt the 'rebirth' process Rannia had explained to them on the planet if she revealed this one tiny, almost insignificant detail to Daniel. It wasn't like spoiling his entire life or anything...and those wide, wondering eyes were watching her expectantly, so she couldn't very well ignore him. "Well...you know you're...special, right?" she hedged.

Daniel nodded solemnly. "I'm s'posed to be big," he said. "Rana telled me."

Sam let the bad grammar slip again. "Right. Well, when you were big, you were a doctor. Not a doctor like Janet," she said, answering his question before it could get out of his mouth, "but a special kind of doctor--you studied very hard at school and they made you that kind of doctor--a PhD, which means 'doctor of philosophy', and you were an archaeologist." 'Please don't ask me to explain what 'doctor of philosophy' means...' she prayed.

"Oooh!" Daniel said, understanding dawning on his face. "A doctor like mommy and daddy!"

"Um, yes. Yeah, just like that." Sam decided now was as good a time as any to ask Daniel about that--he'd mentioned his parents twice in as many days. "Daniel, what do you remember?" she prodded gently.

"'Bout what?" he asked, wriggling closer to her so his head was cradled against her upper arm.

"About...about anything, really. About your life up until...now. Your parents?"

Daniel beamed. "Mommy'n'daddy were arch--what was that word, Sam?"

"Archaeologists."

"Yeah, that!"

"'Were'?" Sam asked, picking up on the past tense. Daniel's eyes briefly flitted away, his face falling. When he answered her, it was in a whisper.

"They're not here anymore, Sam. They're in heaven."

Okay, that was news. Daniel's parents hadn't died until Daniel had turned eight; by all logic in the Universe, shouldn't he still believe they were alive? "Yes, sweetie, I know...but...how did you..."

Daniel smiled sadly. "Rana telled me that, Sam," he said. "I 'member mommy'n'daddy, but I know they're not here." He shrugged. "Idano why..." he looked extraordinarily worried all of a sudden. "They don'know I'm small now!" he panicked. "Do they, Sam? If they don'know I'm small and if I don' 'member them, do they still love me? 'Cause I still love them even if I'm small. Do they know I still love them?"

Sam felt her eyes well up, and she tucked him closer to her side, pressing a kiss into his hair. "Of course they do, sweetie. They definitely do, I'm sure of it. You know what?"

Daniel sniffled. "Wha'?"

"I think, when you go to heaven, you can keep an eye on everybody you love. I think your mommy and daddy are always keeping an eye on you. No matter what happens to you, or what you decide to do, they'll always love you."

Daniel beamed at her, a little bit watery, and went on a little more cheerfully. "It's sad they're not here, but I 'member bein' in Egypt and ev'rything," Daniel went on, a little more cheerfully. "Daddy always used to let me ride the camels with him, but I was too little to go by myself and they were stinky anyway so I didn't really like 'em but they were fun with daddy. I got to help look for art...art-i-facts, and dig, and go get water for mommy and daddy when they were working really hard..." he tilted his head up to look at Sam with a content smile. "But it's real fun here too, Sam. I love being with you'n'Jack'n'Teal'c'n'Gen'ral Hammond'n'even Doctor Janet even though she has needles and all kinds of doctor stuff."

"We love being with you too, sweetie," Sam said, kissing his forehead.

"Do you love it a-nough to...let me have ice cream?" Daniel asked mischievously.

'Well that's that,' Sam thought. She didn't know how Rannia had done it, but she'd somehow worked it out so that he was aware of some of the most important aspects of his life, but the knowledge hadn't crippled him. She shook her head in amusement at the little guy's shit-eating grin. "You little manipulator," she said in disbelief. "Touché, young man. And yes, I suppose I love you that much. I only have vanilla, though..."

"'Sokay!" Daniel said immediately. "I don' mind!" He leaped off the couch and hurried out into the kitchen. Sam followed, grinning to herself as she found herself having to stop Daniel from hauling one of the wicker seats from the counter over to the freezer.

"One or two scoops?" she asked, deciding against the entire Cone idea and snagging a bowl instead--just in case.

"Three!"

"Umm...no, I don't think so. I'd rather not have you upchucking winter treats all over my house."

"Butcha need three scoops to...app-reci-ate ice cream."

"Oh really?"

"Yup."

Sam shook her head in amusement and retrieved the carton of Chapman's from the freezer--and 'what the hell,' she thought, fetching a clean bowl for herself--and began scooping, keeping an inconspicuous eye on her charge, who was beaming up at her--or, more accurately, at the ice cream beginning to pile up in what he more than likely would claim as his own. Obviously he still had his old Daniel charm...the 'Operation' she and Teal'c had planned out had just added another factor into the equation--the persistently irresistible lovability of one of its key players.

It's chances of success just tripled in her book.

=====

Later on that evening, Sam found an old game of Snakes and Ladders that had been hidden away in one of her spare rooms, left over from things she'd stored after moving to Colorado Springs. She showed it to Daniel, who had eagerly accepted the invitation to play, but had lost interest in the more 'conventional' rules after about fifteen minutes of play.

"Sam, what's his name?" he asked now, pointing at the picture of one bright, green-and-red-striped snake grinning up at them from the board, coiling itself around a ladder.

"Umm, you know what? I'm not sure--why don't you give him a name?" she suggested as she propped her head on one hand, lying on her side on her carpeted living room floor. Daniel traced the snake with one finger, bottom lip sucked in thoughtfully.

"C'n I call him 'Apep'?" he asked with a hopeful smile. Sam frowned slightly as the name vaguely rang a bell, but quickly smiled back at Daniel when he appeared confused by her apparent disapproval.

"You sure can--what does 'Apep' mean?"

Daniel sat up eagerly. "Apep was Ra's eme--enemy," he explained. Sam clearly heard the familiar 'lecture mode', even behind the five year old timbre, and she schooled her expression to rapt interest, as she felt was appropriate, wanting to encourage him as much as possible. "He was a big, big snake, and he didn' like light, so him and Ra fighted a lot." Daniel glanced down at the picture of 'Apep'. "But he doesn' look evil, does he Sam?"

Enemy of Ra. Snake. Evil. Okay, 'Apep' was starting to make a lot more sense. "No, that Apep doesn't look evil...Daniel, do you know if 'Apep' was also called 'Apophis'?"

His eyes lit up, and he leaned forward. "You know him, Sam?" he asked brightly. "You know Egypt stuff too?"

Sam assumed she could take that as a 'yes'. "I know a little bit," she said carefully, "but nowhere near as much as you do, I bet. You'll have to tell me all kinds of stories about what you know about Egypt; what do you think about that?"

Daniel looked very pleased with himself. "I'll teach you lots, Sam," he promised solemnly. "Mommy'n'daddy knew a whole lot about Egypt, and they telled me everything they learned so I could learn it too!"

Sam smiled as Daniel tapped a finger against his lower lip, obviously trying to come up with another story to tell her. He lit up for a moment then frowned. "What is it?"

He shook his head in frustration. "I 'member some of the stories, but some of 'em I don't 'member the ends. There's a lot," he said by way of explanation.

"I'll bet." Sam began gathering up the pieces of Snakes and Ladders, tucking everything back into the box and replacing the lid. "How about we go get your bed turned down and if you think of a good one to tell me, you can tell it to me before you go to sleep?"

Daniel looked horrified. "Bedtime already? 'Sonly..." he peered at the digital display on Sam's DVD player. "Nineteen...fourteen...Sam, that's not real time!"

"It's time we use in the military," Sam explained. "Nineteen-fourteen is seven-fourteen in the evening."

"Oooh! Take away twelve?" Daniel bounced to his feet and picked up the game to put aside for Sam, who stared at him open-mouthed at his quick calculation.

"That--that's right," she praised him. "You're very good at math!"

Daniel shrugged shyly. "Mommy taught me."

"Well you're a very fast learner." Sam leaned down to give him a kiss on top of his head. "Ready for bed?"

"Even if it's only...nineteen-fourteen?"

"'Fraid so."

Daniel sighed. "O-kaaay."

---

Sam crept out of Daniel's room and pulled the door to rest only slightly ajar behind her. She shook her head slightly when she noticed the clock mounted on the wall--nine o'clock. Daniel had certainly kept himself awake with a very, very in-depth story about the origin of Akhenaten's sun disc-based religious beliefs. Sam suspected he'd chosen that particular story only because of its length. He'd finally drifted off somewhere between Sam's challenge to name all of Akhenaten's children and awaiting her answer of his own challenge--name the most important Pharaohs of each dynasty. Needless to say, Sam hadn't gotten very far on that one.

There was no doubt about it; there was certainly nothing diminished about Daniel's learning capacity--it seemed his parents had proven to be as proficient at home-schooling as they'd been at excavation. Daniel seemed to have a well-rounded comprehension of basic concepts as well as his unheard-of logic and all-around understanding and curiosity of the world around him. There was no telling how far he could progress...Sam laughed softly. "Probably as far as he went the first time around," she said to herself. Maybe further. She didn't know the entire story of what had happened after the death of Daniel's parents--he'd admitted that he'd retreated to the safe haven of his studies, but if his curiosity had initially taken a hit, or if he'd gone off-course somewhere along the way without the guidance of his parents, there was now no way to tell. Only time and comparison between the two lives he would have led would give them the gist of that answer.

That was some hope for them, at least. Daniel had the potential to go as far as he had the first time around. Sam was on the phone before she even realized it, dialing the number of the one person she suspected needed the most bolstering in the confidence department.

**This is Jack. Obviously I think whatever's on TV is more important than this conversation, so leave a message and I'll get back to you.**

Why hadn't they made him change that message? Sam wondered as she replaced the phone on the counter. It always made him seem so...uninviting. Granted, he'd probably rather choose 'The Simpsons' over a conversation about his best friend being changed back into a child any day, but...

"To hell with it," Sam muttered. The colonel would see the call on his Caller ID, and if he had any sense, he'd return it. Until then...

There was an episode of CSI just starting, and a half barrel of Chapmans ice cream left with her name on it.
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