One Is Enough #1 - Easy As 1, 2, 3 by Alanna
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Category: General
Genres: Alternate Universe, Drama, Friendship, Humor
Rated: All Ages
Warnings: None
Series: One Is Enough
Summary: It's just a day in the life in the O'Neill household, and Daniel gets set up for his first day of school.

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Lazy, lazy days.

Jack loved them.

A rainy, unseasonably cool September day--and a Saturday to boot!--where he could just get up late, grab some coffee and fall on the couch with the TV down low. Of course, he didn't necessarily have to drink his coffee, and this was the case today. Jack set the coffee mug on the coffee table--'How appropriate,' he thought lazily--and sloooouuuccchhheeeddd. Slouch on the couch, feet up. The rain beat a soft but steady rhythm outside and Jack flicked to Sportsnet--'Thank God for satellites and Canadian programming'--to catch up on the latest on NHL summer training camps.

Perfect day. All the neighbours had their dogs inside out of the rain; the only sounds outside were the rain and the occasional car gliding by, occasionally swooshing gently through a puddle accumulated on the very edge of the road. Jack tipped his head back on the couch and let his eyes fall shut, breathing in the coolness of encroaching autumn mingling with the humid warmth of the passing summer. He ought to get out fishing again soon, he mused--the season would be over before he knew it.

Jack simply sat there for an interminable amount of time, and a smile crossed his face when a soft padding down the hall led to a dip in the couch and a warm little weight burrowing itself into his side. "Good morning," he murmured.

Only a week into this permanent placement, things had been running smoothly for Jack and Daniel. Jack, once he'd thought through the, admittedly still semi-persisting, inhibitions that came from Daniel's transformation into a five-year-old child, had fallen into old routines he'd thought he'd never perform again. Parenting routines. Just this morning, he'd remembered to cunningly close Daniel's bedroom door so his own puttering wouldn't wake his new housemate. "Did I wake you?" he asked, eyes still closed, running a hand up and down Daniel's arm and side.

Daniel shook his head and settled closer with a sigh. "Is this Saturday?" he asked finally, voice muffled by Jack's shirt.


"So you don' hafto work today?"

"No sir, I don't. I'm just going to sit here aaaalllll day and rot."

Daniel giggled, squirming a little. Jack cracked an eyelid and found a wide-eyed, solemn blue gaze tilted up to look at him, a certain amount of measure in the clear, bright eyes. "What else?"

"What else am I going to do sitting here? Oooh..." Jack blew out a thoughtful breath. "Lose my hair, get reeeaaall fat, have Sam and Teal'c deliver all my meals..."

Daniel poked him in the ribs. "Noooo! What else're we doin' today?"

Jack groaned theatrically. "Something else? It's Saturday!" he whined.

The phone made both Jack and Daniel freeze. "Excuse me," Jack said calmly. He stood up, Daniel curling up in a ball in the warm spot left on the couch, and Jack grabbed the cordless from the kitchen. "O'Neill." 'It's Saturday and this had better be good.'

**Sir, where are you?**


"Sam?" Daniel called from the living room.

**Never mind, sir; I know where you are, but why are you still there?**

Jack pinched the bridge of his nose. "Carter, what are you talking about?"

**Janet and I are at the school...?** Carter led him on, attempting to jog his memory.

"Uh..." Nothing doing.

**Sir, the school board wanted to meet Daniel today, remember? School starts next week and they want to get him situated in a class.**

"Oh, right. What time is that meeting?"

**Eleven, sir,** Carter said wearily.

"Carter, it's eleven-thirty now."

**I know, sir.**

Shitshitshit. "Fine, Carter, we're on our way." He hung up, grabbed his jacket and shoes, and snagged his keys. "Daniel, let's go!"

"Jack!" Daniel came running up from the living room, looking frazzled. "I'm still in my 'jamas!"

Jack stared blankly at him for a moment, shaking off the stupor when he remembered that it wasn't like Daniel could dress himself easily right now. "Right." He snagged Daniel around the waist and bore him into the little guy's brightly-painted room--a pale blue with an Egyptian desert scene painted on the widest wall and a border of different hieroglyphics all around--and set Daniel on the bed to begin opening drawers at random to finally come up with cargo shorts and a short-sleeved red button-collar shirt. "Here we go," Jack said to himself, "no problem."

Within a minute Daniel was changed and brushing his teeth as Jack ran a comb haphazardly through his growing hair. "Ow!" he yelped when the teeth of the comb hit a snag.

"Sorry," Jack mumbled. "Ready?" Still rubbing the side of his head reproachfully, Daniel nodded. "Good; grab your shoes; I'll grab your birth certificate and all that good stuff."

Jack rifled through the paperwork Hammond had received from the higher-ups, coming up with Daniel's doctored birth certificate. He frowned when Daniel's date of birth popped up--July 8th, 1998. '98' Jack thought ruefully. A far cry from the true, 1965 birthday Daniel had borne for as long as Jack had known him.

Just when things started getting a bit comfortable, reality had to pop up to kick them in the ass.


"Coming!" he called, finding Daniel standing in the porch, sandals on but unbuckled. "The buckle came outta the thing," Daniel said in frustration, pointing at his difficult shoes.

Without a word, Jack knelt, knees popping, and he rewound the strap through the metal clasp and buckled them. "There ya go."

"Thank you!" Daniel chirped, and he bore Jack maneuvering him into his yellow raincoat and reached up, on tiptoes, for the doorknob. 'Is he shorter than he was two days ago?' Jack wondered, because it certainly seemed that way--everyday there seemed to be something more Daniel couldn't do on his own.


Jack flew into the local elementary school's parking lot like a man possessed, the inertia from his stop bouncing himself and Daniel, in his booster seat behind him, forward and back in their seats. Daniel threw his hands up as he bounced against the seat, giggling merrily. "Jack, that was so much fun!" he trilled. "Let's do it again!"

Jack unbuckled his seatbelt, smiling wryly as he turned in his seat. "Um--maybe someday, kiddo," he said, "but let's keep this between us, okay?"


Jack glanced toward the school, where Carter was coming out the front door to meet them. "Well, uh--it's just, it's going to be a surprise, that the truck goes so fast," he said, thinking fast. 'And handles so well,' he added silently. "And...I don't want to ruin it."

"Can we tell S--"


"Carter!" Jack whirled around in his seat to find his 2IC outside his window. "Look, it's Sam!"

"SSAAAAAM! Hi Sam!!"

Carter gave Jack a nod and made a beeline for the back door of the truck, flinging it open and reaching inside for Daniel. "Hey sweetie!" she crooned. "You guys got here fast! How are you today?"

"Good," Daniel said with a big grin. "Jack'n'me're goin' for breakfist after, and Jack's truck goes rreeeaal fast, but itsa secret. A surprise."

Carter smiled. "Is that right?" she asked with an amused look at Jack, patiently bearing Daniel's arms winding around her neck in a hug as she tried to untangle him from the booster seat's belts and the truck seatbelt, then lifted him out to hug him properly. "That sounds like fun," she enthused. "Did you sleep in this morning?"

"I did," Daniel said proudly, then pointed at Jack, who was just now dragging himself out of the driver's seat, grimacing as he stepped into the rain. "Jack was up eeeaaaarrrrlly, but he was sleepin' on the couch."

"Hey," Jack protested half-heartedly. "I was not."

"Were too!" Daniel chirped.

"Was not."


"I'm getting wet," Carter announced, and Daniel peered at her from under the drawn-up hood of his rain gear. "Could we possibly go inside now? Sir, the sooner we get this over with, the sooner you can get back to sleep." Daniel giggled, and Jack gave him a mock-indignant stare.

"O-kay," he sighed. "Let's do this."

"Do you have the birth certificate?" Carter drilled as they walked back toward the school.


"Medical records?"


"Preliminary test results?"

"Carter! Yes!" Jack held the door open for her and Daniel, who peered worriedly at Jack over her shoulder. "What's wrong?" Jack asked immediately.

Daniel shook his head and mutely reached out for him with both hands. Carter sensed the change and let him go, and Jack let Daniel wind himself around him. "Hey, what's up?"

Daniel worked one side of the drawstring to his hood up into his mouth and chewed it rapidly, nervously. "Don' wanna go ta school."

"Well you don't have to go yet," Jack assured him, carefully plying the plastic-tipped string from Daniel's mouth. "This is just a meeting so the teachers can decide which grade you're gonna be in with that huge brain of yours." Daniel allowed a little smile to be coaxed out of him, but restlessly burrowed his head closer in the crook of Jack's neck. "And besides--once you see all the books and toys and all that good stuff the teachers have in the classrooms, you won't be able to wait to go to school! Right Carter?"

"Absolutely." Carter fell back into step beside them, and Daniel turned his head to watch her. "School is so much fun," she said. "You learn so many things, you meet new friends, play all kinds of games; it's right up your alley."

"Wha's that mean? I don' have a alley."

Carter grinned. "That just means it's something you'd definitely love," she explained.

"Oh...'sthat mean if I don' like it I don' hafto stay?" Daniel perked up hopefully.

"," Jack said. "School is a necessity for any kid--you have to learn."


"So you can get very smart like you were when you were big, and you can save the world over and over again," Jack replied absently.

"But you'n'Sam'n'Teal'c save the world all the time," Daniel said, "so if thats yer job, I don' hafto go to school to do it for you!"

Jack grinned, and Carter chuckled as she opened the door to the classroom where the meeting would be taking place. "Nice try, you little monster," he said.

Daniel giggled, but his good mood evaporated when Jack carried him inside the classroom where four strange adults were seated around a table, with Janet the only other person Daniel knew. He held on to Jack tighter and tighter the closer he was brought to the table. "Good morning; Colonel O'Neill, I presume?" The man who appeared to be the oldest of the group rose and stretched out a hand that Jack took, juggling Daniel to his other arm. "James MacGillvary, head of the school board."

"Nice to meet you," Jack said with a nod, and sat in the chair indicated by Carter.

MacGillvary motioned to the others at the table, beginning with the woman on his right. "Ms. Justine Cooke, the kindergarten teacher, Dave Masterson, and Karen MacGillvary." He said the last name with certain significance, and Jack gave the woman a small smile; he was obviously supposed to be impressed that a husband/wife team was on the school board with such power. "I apologize that Mrs. Cartwright cannot be here in person today--she's the principal of the school--but she has urgent business to attend to. She is, however, joining us briefly by phone." MacGillvary indicated the elaborate office telephone sitting in front of him on the desk.

**Good morning, Colonel O'Neill,** a woman's voice came over the line.

"Er--good morning." Jack always found it awkward to be having a speaker phone conversation with someone he'd never even met; it was unnerving. "This..." he unwound Daniel's arms from his neck and turned him around in his lap with a little pat of apology, "is Daniel Jackson."

"Good morning, Daniel," Mr. MacGillvary said with an engaging smile, but Daniel's attention was drawn elsewhere--namely, the phone.

"Jack, is there a lady in the box?" he asked, twisting to look up at Jack, wide-eyed.

Jack chuckled. "No," he said, "that's just a telephone, like we have at home--it's different because instead of just talking to one person, you can talk to all kinds of people by pressing this button." He showed Daniel the speaker phone button.

Daniel's mouth formed a little 'o' of understanding, and then he brightened and tugged on Jack's collar. "Jack," he whispered in that they-can't-hear-me-because-I'm-whispering voice, "I got a idea."

Jack glanced across the table with an apologetic wince, relieved to see the others were watching with amused smiles and polite patience. "What's that?" he asked.

"'Stead goin' t'work...we c'n just get one of them phones, and Gen'ral Hammond c'n do his meetings with you and you c'n stay home. Then I don' hafto go ta school."

Jack grinned. "That's a good idea, kiddo, but I don't think the General is going to go for it," he said.

"Daniel, you don't want to come to school?" Ms. Cooke asked. Jack grimaced inwardly--the kindergarten teacher was speaking like a kindergarten teacher; if Daniel had his adult faculties, he'd be giving her a piece of his mind...then again, if Daniel had his adult faculties, they wouldn't even be here.

Daniel crossed his arms as best he could and pouted. "No," he said.

"Why not?"

"'Cause...'cause I wanna stay home with Jack," Daniel said, as if it were obvious.

"But Col--Jack has to work everyday," Ms. Cooke pointed out, "and you could get bored if you're home all by yourself. If you come to school, you can leave when Jack leaves for work, and you two can come home at the same time--on some days," she added quickly, and Jack realized she was just winging it; few people who weren't in the military actually knew what their hours could be. "And even better, you wouldn't be bored--we learn to read, to write, you draw pictures, play games...there's a big playground outside for you to play on at recess."

It was beginning to sound like a good deal to Jack; he briefly wondered, suppressing a smile, if there was an age limit to kindergarten. "'Sthere nap time?" Daniel wanted to know, his tone unreadable. Jack couldn't completely hold off the smile this time; he felt his mouth curl upward. That little manipulator.

He had Ms. Cooke right where he wanted her, too. The kindergarten teacher was employing all her deductive powers to decide whether or not naptime was a good thing in Daniel's book. " want," she said finally. "Some children have nap time, but others who don't sleep during the day are allowed to read, or draw quietly."

"Oh." Daniel sounded enlightened. "C'n I bring my own books?"


"Jack, I c'n bring my own Egypt books!" Daniel informed him excitedly. "Sam, didjou hear that?"

"I did," Carter said solemnly. "Looks like the Col--Jack is going to have to make some more trips to Barnes and Noble," she added with an evil grin at Jack, who rolled his eyes dramatically.

"So," Ms. Cooke said with an indulgent smile for Daniel, "do you say 'yes' for school?"

In an exaggerated show of concentration, Daniel tapped his finger against his lower lip, then sucked in his right cheek before blowing a put-upon sigh. "I can try it," he said finally. "Just 'cause Jack'n'Sam said it's fun."

"Good," Mr. MacGillvary said brightly, as if Daniel had had a choice in the first place. "Do you mind if we ask you a few questions?"

"Like wha'?" Daniel asked curiously.

"Well, we want to decide where we should place you in school," the head of the school board explained. "We'll ask you some questions to judge how far along you are in your learning skills, and then it will be decided which grade you'll be placed in."

"I might not get in kid-er-garden?" Daniel asked with a certain amount of disappointment. Jack realized that kindergarten had been made out to be heaven on Earth to him, and he gave Daniel a nudge to get his attention.

"If they decide to put you up a couple of grades, you can still bring all your books to school," he assured him. "There might be more challenging things to learn, and kids that are a little older than you. That's all. And," he added, "there's no nap time the higher up the grades you go."

Daniel grinned and nodded decisively. "'Kay."

"Okay," Mr. MacGillvary said. "We'll start with an easy one, all right? Can you recite the alphabet for me?"

"A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, EllEmEnOhPee, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, Zeeee," Daniel said, half sing-song, half recitation. The adults grinned.

"Well done," Mr. MacGillvary said. "Now, I'd like you to count as high up as you can for me."

Jack sighed inaudibly and sat back as best he could with Daniel in his lap as the little guy started counting. 'This could take a while,' he thought.


Nearly a half hour later, the questions finally let up, ranging anywhere from asking Daniel to spell certain words to identifying concepts and images on flash cards. Finally, Mr. MacGillvary set aside his gear and addressed Jack. "I'd like Daniel to take an IQ test," he said.

"Isn't that what we were just doing?" Jack quipped.

MacGillvary smiled slightly. "That was to test what Daniel already knows," he said. "We'd like to measure his capacity; what he will be able to learn at this age, how capable he is of assimilating the more advanced work of the higher grades.

"We normally ask the parents to place their child in a group testing session, but we have had rather convincing testimony to the ability of this young man," MacGillvary continued. "I believe group testing would be moot in this case, and more often than not, the gifted children often emerge in individual tests--the group tests are geared toward their specific age group, and if a gifted child is among those being tested, there are not a great deal of questions that will set them apart from the others. What do you say to that, Daniel? It won't take long, but we'll have to situate you in another room to write the test. Is that okay?"

Daniel gaped at the man, then turned to Jack in a panic. "Jack...I didn' study. You gotta study for tests!"

Jack smiled. "You don't have to study for this one, buddy; you just answer the questions as best you can, and that'll help these folks decide what grade to put you in, all right? I'll wait right outside the door while you're writing. Sound good?"

MacGillvary nodded to his wife, who rose and left the room. "She'll get the test for you," he explained to Daniel, who watched her every move like a hawk. Daniel relaxed back against Jack and nodded.

"The test we'll give Daniel is geared for kids around his age, ranging from about four to six," MacGillvary told Jack, Sam and Janet. It's divided into eleven subtests--six verbal, and five performance. It will cover information, animal house and animal house retest, vocabulary, picture completion, arithmetic, mazes, geometric design, similarities, block design, comprehension, and sentences, in that order, and should take about an hour to an hour and a half to complete. Do you have any questions?"

Jack shook his head and looked to his two female companions. Janet shook her head, too, and Carter thought for a beat longer before following suit. They sat in silence while they waited for Mrs. MacGillvary to return, when Daniel stirred on Jack's lap and looked up. "Animals?" he ventured curiously.


Jack stretched out as far as he could in the plastic chair outside the classroom door, hearing his shoulders pop and his knees crack as he did so. For the hundredth time in about thirty minutes he checked his watch. Daniel had been in taking the placement test for a good hour and a half. For the first hour Jack had sat patiently, accepting that he couldn't hear anything, but when the approximated end of the test passed, he began to get restless. What was going on that was taking so long? Carter and Fraiser had left when the test started; they'd both had some things to do on base, so the only thing Jack had to talk to was the wall...and it wasn't making for very stimulating conversation.

"Still at it, eh Colonel?" Mrs. MacGillvary asked as she approached, offering him a cardboard cup of coffee which he eagerly accepted.

Considering every time she'd walked by the past ninety minutes, Jack had to force his nod to be polite. "Yep."

"It shouldn't be too much longer," she commented, glancing in the narrow window of the classroom door...again, as she'd done every time she'd approached. Jack nodded wordlessly. "He's very bright," she continued, leaning against Jack's conversation partner. "Your son."

"Oh, I'm not his father," Jack said before he realized the words were coming out of his mouth.

Mrs. MacGillvary's eyebrows rose. "Oh?" Her tone was fairly begging him to continue.

"I, uh...I adopted him after...after his parents died. They were close friends of mine." Not the complete truth, but not a total lie, either. That would work.

"Ah, I see. The poor child. I find it odd, though, that the state would allow a single man--a man in the Air Force, to boot--to adopt a child so young."

Jack bristled under the woman's unintentional snooping. "Special circumstances," he said simply. He was tempted to add 'classified' just to shut her up, but that would draw far too much attention to Daniel.

MacGillvary seemed to pick up on his reluctance to talk about it and smiled slightly. "Of course. I apologize for prying."

Jack grunted what could be construed as "don't worry about it" or "blow it out your ass", depending on who was listening. Any follow-up to his 'response', though, was cut off, as the classroom door abruptly opened and Daniel raced out, followed closely by Mr. MacGillvary. "Jack!" The grinning little imp clambered up onto Jack's lap before he could stand, so Jack was forced to juggle him into a secure position in his arms before rising.

"Hey kiddo," he said. "How'd it go?"

"Good," Daniel sang. "I can't wait for school!"

The two MacGillvary's smiled, and Jack whuffed a disbelieving exhale. "Wow," he said. "That good, huh?"

"As a matter of fact it did, Colonel," Mr. MacGillvary said eagerly. "Mrs. Cartwright was listening to the entire testing procedure, and from what she heard, she was mightily impressed--as was I. We'll need to take in Daniel's written results and look them over, but I think we're looking at one very gifted young man." His smile widened as Daniel grinned proudly up at Jack, who returned the smile.

"So, what are we looking at here grade-wise?" Jack asked. "Is he going to start kindergarten, or..."

"From what I've seen, Daniel is easily much further ahead of children his age in language and reading skills. His mathematical skills are also more advanced than children of his age groups, but not as dramatically so as his grasp of the arts. I think we'll see Daniel pushed ahead a few grades, but as I said, the analysis of his test results are needed to give you a concrete answer."

"Okay," Jack drawled, "that's fine. Will we know before school starts where we're going to put him, or do you want us to enroll him in kindergarten until we find out?"

"Oh, you'll have the results before the start of school," MacGillvary promised. "We have your contact information, and we should call you within a few days. How's that sound, Daniel?"

Suddenly shy, Daniel laid his head on Jack's shoulder and played with the material of his shorts. "Good," he said.

"Excellent." MacGillvary held out his hand, which Jack accepted, and moved on to the man's wife. "It was very nice meeting you Daniel; Colonel. We'll be in touch."

"Thank you," Jack said. He waited until the two MacGillvary's preceded them up the hall, and bounced Daniel in his arms slightly. "Hey--I think that calls for a celebration, huh?" he asked.

Daniel perked up immediately. "Breakfist?"

"If you insist." Maybe their lazy Saturday could be salvaged after all.


Tuesday evening, Jack slipped inside the house as quietly as possible, the bag with his and Daniel's oh-so-nutritious dinner looped over his right arm, the keys in his left hand, and one very dead to the world Daniel half-sitting on his right arm, head lolling on Jack's shoulder. Jack paused in the foyer, wondering what to set down first, and finally settled on toeing off his shoes, stepping into the kitchen, tossing the truck keys through the half-wall to land with a muted jangle on the couch, and then veeerrry carefully slipped his left arm under Daniel's behind to lift him up enough to wiggle the Swiss Chalet bag off his arm and onto the table. Mission accomplished, he carried Daniel down to his room and settled him on top of the comforter, grabbing the fleece blanket Janet had made for him with a desert pattern she'd found at Wal-Mart and draping it over him. Daniel was very reluctant to take naps during the day, and usually the only time Jack could get him to sleep was to take the long way home after picking him up from daycare--the endless tree, tree, tree, tree, tree landscape never failed to put him out like a light. It was hell on the gas consumption, but Jack figured if it got him a rested, un-cranky Daniel, it was well worth it. He pulled said sleeper's shoes off gingerly and laid them next to the bed, and then retreated from the pseudo-Egyptian atmosphere, pulling the door half-closed behind him.

Heading down the hall, Jack scrubbed his hand through his hair and retrieved his dinner, sticking Daniel's, bag and all, in the oven to hold the heat. It would keep until he woke up; once Daniel's body acclimated to the feeling of sleeping in his own bed, he'd no doubt wake up--and that acclimation was taking less and less time as the days went on.

Jack made a beeline down into the living room, retrieved the keys and put them on the coffee table where (hopefully) he wouldn't forget he put them, and snagged the remote, settling on 'The Simpsons'. Heaping plate of delicious, albeit greasy food, favourite TV show, kid down and out for the moment...was Jack going to get lucky?


"Jack! Jaaaaaccckk!"

Jack jerked awake on the couch, 'The Simpsons' replaced by one of the zillion news programs on the air at seven, empty plate abandoned on the floor beside the couch...and a familiar voice calling him from the kitchen. Anticipating disaster, Jack vaulted to his feet and hurried up, to find Daniel perched on the kitchen table, phone receiver held between his right ear and shoulder. "Here he is," his kid said into the phone. "He was sleeping," he informed whoever was on the other end.

A bit flushed, Jack snagged the receiver, garnered an indignant, whiny "Hey!", sent a prayer above that this wasn't the state child welfare service calling, and delivered a cool, collected, "O'Neill."

**Colonel O'Neill,** a chuckle met his ear. **James MacGillvary.**

"Oh. Sorry about Daniel; I was--"

**Indisposed?** MacGillvary guessed, tone still amused. Jack sighed as he wrapped an arm around Daniel's waist and levered him to the safety of the floor.

"I guess that's a fair way to put it. What can I do for you?"

**I wanted to call and inform you that Daniel's test results were looked over by the members of the board, and we've decided that Daniel would, quite frankly, be bored stiff in kindergarten...and if it's all right with you, we'd like to enroll him in second grade for this year.**

'Only second?' Jack had been expecting at least fourth. MacGillvary must have been a mind-reader, because he quickly explained, **While, like I mentioned on Saturday, Daniel's language, reading and writing skills are off the charts, his mathematical skills are still lagging--for lack of a better word--behind them. We'd like him to try out second grade for this year, and depending on how he performs, we'll decide whether to move him ahead, behind, or keep him at that level for the next school year. He has plenty of time, Colonel; the children his age won't be catching up to him for two or three years yet.**

"So like a trial and error sort of thing, then," Jack surmised. Daniel's stomach growled and the little guy blushed; Jack tousled his hair and retrieved his stowed dinner from the oven.

**I guess you could call it that. How does that sound to you?**

"Well, as long as he's not going to be jumping all over the place, getting his mind screwed with wherever he goes, I don't see why not."

**I assure you, Colonel, he'll be given all the chances he needs in the second grade--we won't move him this year at all; he's already proven he's extremely intelligent, very gifted--this would be a bit of a trial year for him.**

"All right, then," Jack conceded, grinning to himself as Daniel dug into the Swiss Chalet with gusto. "You've got yourself a second-grader."

Daniel looked up eagerly, a mouthful of chicken half-hanging out of his mouth, and grinned broadly around it. MacGillvary chuckled over the line. **Excellent. Well, Colonel, we'll see you and Daniel next week. Take care now.**

"Likewise." Jack disconnected and set the phone down, then sat across from Daniel at the table. "So," he said.

"So," Daniel mimicked.

"What do you think? Grade two, huh?"

"Uh-huh." Daniel moved his chicken around his plate, then glanced coyly up at Jack. "Hey Jaaccck?"

Jack narrowed his eyes. "Yes, Daniel?" he asked warily.

"C'n I get a new bookbag?"

"Of course you can."

"With....Egypt on it?"

"If we can find one."

"C'n I get one with wheels? I seed one on TV!"

"'Saw'. You 'saw' one on TV."

Daniel's eyes were wide with innocent confusion. "That's what I said!"

"No, you--" Jack chuckled; he'd never win this argument. "Yes. If we can find you an Egypt bookbag on wheels, we'll get you one. If not, you'll have to settle for a carry one. Deal?"

"Deal! C'mon! Let's go find one!"

"Whoa!" Jack reached over the table and caught Daniel's arm as he started to slip out of his seat. "Let's wait until tomorrow, all right? It's late; the mall is closing soon--we won't get there nearly fast enough to find a bag tonight."

"Oh." Daniel returned his attention to his supper, occasionally knuckling his eyes, looking very much the vulnerable, overtired pre-schooler anyone would take him for. "Jaaaaccck?" he said around a yawn.


"How long away's tomorrow?" Jack sighed. It was going to be a loooonnnng night.


To Be Continued.
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