Jack watched out of the corner of his eye as Daniel fidgeted nervously in the back seat of the Avalanche, restless fingers constantly worrying the waist strap of the seatbelt, teeth gnawing his lower lip and wide eyes fixed on the approaching elementary school. "You okay back there?" he asked. Daniel glanced at him and nodded jerkily. Jack frowned. 'Now that's convincing.' "What's wrong?"
As he pulled the truck over to the curb to park--much further back from the school than he thought he'd end up at the hour he and Daniel had left the house--Daniel gave a sad little sigh, leaning his head against the back of his booster seat to meet Jack's gaze in the rearview mirror. "How come I can't come with you?" he asked, voice small.
Jack smiled ruefully. "You know you can't, kiddo," he said gently. He pointed to the playground in the schoolyard. "Look--the playground is all ready for you, you're going to make all kinds of new friends, you'll love your teacher..."
He wasn't being very convincing. Daniel shrugged. "I guesso."
Looked like Jack was on the verge of having to use the age-old parental trick of convincing the kids that something undesirable had bright sides that way outweighed the negative. "Charlie, I know you don't like needles, but when you get 'em, you won't get sick...yeah, that's right, just like Superman! One tiny little pinch, and you're tough as nails." Somehow, Jack didn't think Daniel would buy it. So he had to go for the next best thing. "Listen buddy, I want you to go in and try today, all right? If you don't like it...I owe you ice cream."
Daniel's interest seemed piqued, so Jack went for the gusto. "Think about it--all you have to do is colour for a few hours, and then if you don't like it...or, today, we'll do it whether you like it or not--you get ice cream before supper."
Leaning towards saying yes, Daniel narrowed his eyes. "Janet said I can't have ice cream 'fore supper," he challenged. "It'll ruin my app-e-tite."
"Somehow I doubt that, kiddo. Just this once isn't going to do any harm. Do we have a deal?"
Ice cream and this Daniel was synonymous with artifacts and Big Daniel, and a conceding little grin met Jack in the rearview mirror. "'Kay."
"Excellent." Jack let himself out, rounded the truck and let Daniel out the passenger side. He helped his kid slip his arms through the straps of his brand-new backpack, took his hand, and together they threaded their way through the pack of people gathered outside the school, heading for the front door.
Too different. Daniel decided he didn't like it at all, and tucked in against Jack's side just how he liked to be--arm wrapped around Jack's thigh, forcing the both of them to be in step with one another, Jack's arm around his shoulders and holding Daniel's other hand. He liked walking with Jack like this, even though Jack told him every now and then that it was a little hard to walk normally with an underdeveloped conjoined twin hanging off his hip.
Daniel didn't know what a conjoined twin was, but he supposed he could always ask Sam--she let him use the big encyclopaedia on her computer a lot. Jack always made funny noises when he walked in the room and found Sam teaching Daniel how to look up things about Egypt and dinosaurs, and he would cover his ears and start singing to himself so he wouldn't have to hear Sam explain something to him using big words. Daniel always laughed when Jack did that, even though Sam always looked a little mad--but not too mad. Jack stopped before she got that far.
Anyway, it didn't matter now if he found out what a conjoined twin was. Daniel didn't think he'd have a lot of time for looking things up on the big encyclopaedia anymore, because it was September sixth--the Wednesday he was supposed to start school. Until now, Daniel had been really excited about coming back to the school with all the rooms that looked the same, with their colourful, carpeted floors and the shiny tile ones in the hallways. When he'd come here with Jack and Sam last week for his special test, he'd liked how the lights made the tiles shine as he walked over them, and he'd tried to hop on the little bright, yellow rectangles the lights made in the blue and white tile.
Now though, there were too many kids and even more parents, all with loud voices and cameras, and Daniel couldn't see much of the floor, and there wasn't a lot of room for him to hop over all the lights in the tile. All of the people cluttered in the hallway made the hall seem a lot smaller than it had seemed when Jack had carried him down the hall to meet Mr. MacGillvary and...well, Daniel couldn't remember all their names. He looked up and saw for the first time that Jack was almost as tall as the ceiling, which made him a bit nervous--he thought he would like school, but what would happen if he got too tall to come here? Jack wouldn't be able to fit in the desk Daniel had had to sit in to do the test with Mr. MacGillvary--come to think of it, neither had Mr. MacGillvary. He'd had to sit at the big teacher's desk, even though he wasn't really a teacher. Daniel suspected that if he got too tall to come to school to learn, he would have to be a teacher before they'd let him back in. Sam and Jack told him all the time that he was very smart, and that when he was big, he'd been smarter than many other people...maybe the Big Him hadn't gotten too tall for school until he'd learned everything he'd had to know. But Daniel was already growing--Jack measured him every weekend, and he'd already grown almost an inch in only a month. Jack had showed him on the dinosaur chart how tall the Big Him had been...it didn't really seem like that far he had to grow.
"What are you thinking about?" Daniel looked up to find Jack leaning down slightly so Daniel could hear him over the talking, yelling, laughing, and, in some cases, crying children and parents. He hadn't even realized it, but he and Jack had stopped walking, and were standing in front of an open classroom with a couple of children already inside, sitting at tables arranged so that two children could sit at each, facing a teacher's desk and a big chalkboard. Daniel shrugged and bit his lip, suddenly shy of all the people and of going inside the classroom.
Jack smiled at him. "Why are you thinking about getting tall?"
"'Cause you're a'most tall as the ceiling. Am I gonna get too big for school?" He leaned in to Jack's leg a little more, liking how Jack leaned against the wall and slid down until he was crouching at Daniel's level so Daniel could lean in and lay his head on his shoulder. Suddenly, he didn't like the idea of Jack leaving him here all by himself, with all these kids he didn't know.
"No way," Jack said confidently. "Knowing you, even if you got to be one hundred feet tall, you'd still find a way to fit inside the school." He ruffled Daniel's hair. "School doesn't care if you're two feet tall or two hundred. Everyone gets to come here."
Okay; that made him feel better. Jack knew; he'd gone to school too, and he'd certainly gotten taller. Daniel smiled and leaned back, reaching for Jack's hand and tugging him along. "C'mon Jack--you'll stay with me today then, right?"
"Uh, whoa, kiddo...we already went over this, remember? I'm not allowed to do that, and I have to go to work today too."
"But..." Daniel trailed off as a boy and a girl, holding a woman by the hands, passed by him, laughing, and went inside the classroom. Daniel watched them from the hallway as the woman walked them inside the classroom and pointed out name tags on the desks. The little girl sat in a desk along the far wall, and the boy sat right beside her. The mother gave each of them a kiss and a hug, and waved goodbye. She gave Jack a nod and Daniel a smile as she came out of the classroom and walked away. Daniel didn't want Jack to do that. He didn't want him to just walk him inside, give him a hug and leave. This was way too different than going to daycare. At daycare, he knew Jack was only a few levels down from where he was; if he needed Jack, all he had to do was tell Dora and she would call him. Jack could get on the elevator and come right up and see him. The school was a long time away from the mountain. The drive from Jack's house seemed to take forever, and the mountain was even farther away than that. What if Daniel needed Jack? He'd have to wait a long time.
Jack nudged his shoulder gently. "Daniel?"
Daniel hunched a shoulder in, blocking the classroom from his sight. "Don' wanna go in," he pouted.
"Hey, come on...once you get in there, you'll be fine."
"No." To get his point across more firmly, Daniel stamped his foot, hard, on the floor. Jack didn't like that, judging by the way he gently but firmly grasped Daniel's foot and frowned at him.
"Daniel," he warned. That was Jack's 'colonel voice', and Daniel knew he was going to be in trouble if he persisted. So instead of stamping his foot again as he'd intended, Daniel let himself fall into Jack and wrapped his arms around Jack's neck.
"Everyone's older'n me."
"Not too much," Jack said. He started running a hand up and down Daniel's back. "Besides, they're all going to like you, and you'll have all kinds of new friends in no time."
Daniel didn't want new friends. He wanted his old friends, like Jack and Sam and Teal'c, plus all the kids from the daycare. New friends meant changing things, and, the memory of Jack's reaction when he found out Rana was Daniel's new friend fresh in Daniel's mind, new friends changing things wasn't necessarily a good thing. "Pleeeaasse come with me?" Daniel begged.
"How about this; I come in the classroom with you for a few minutes, wait for you to get settled, but then I have to go. All right? I'll sit with you for a few minutes until the kids settle down a bit."
It still wasn't what Daniel wanted, but he knew deep down that it was the best he was going to get. "O-okay." Jack hugged him and took his hand again, and Daniel felt the eyes of all the kids already in the classroom on him as Jack led him inside.
"Hey, look at this." Jack led Daniel right to the back of the classroom, beside a window, just a couple of rows back from the little girl and the boy who had gone inside with their mother only a few minutes earlier. "This one's just for you."
Curious despite himself, Daniel peeked around Jack's leg and looked at the nametag on the desk--it was blue, with a cartoon spaceship and a couple of stars surrounding his name--'DANIEL J.' It was a nice nametag; the other boys had ones just like his, and the girls had pink ones with flowers and a smiling cartoon girl on them.
"How about that?" Jack said. "Now you can learn all the names of the kids in your class even if you're too shy to ask."
Daniel blushed. "Not shy."
Jack tousled his hair. "Of course not." He gestured for Daniel to sit down, which he did, anxiously watching Jack for any signs that he was going to leave. Jack just leaned against the windowsill beside him though, and Daniel decided it might be okay to look around the classroom a little bit. The other kids weren't paying attention to him now; some were digging through their backpacks, or talking to their neighbours, or--Daniel was relieved--talking with or crying to their parents. At least they might not call him a baby if other kids wanted their parents with them, too.
"Good morning, everyone." A young woman with blonde hair, tied in a ponytail, walked in with a small canvas bag which she laid on the teacher desk. She smiled at all the children already gathered in her class. "I'm Mrs. Peters." She wrote her name on the board in blue chalk--Daniel's favourite colour. He decided he liked Mrs. Peters, with her quiet smile and friendly, patient voice. "Welcome to the second grade."
Jack watched Daniel's reactions to everything in the classroom carefully. A bit of apprehension was soothed away when the second grade teacher walked in, all calm and collected. Daniel seemed particularly taken with the cubbies in the corner of the classroom--each one had a student's name on it, and Jack could practically see the wheels turning in the little guy's head as he tried working out which one was his without getting up and actually putting more than an arms' length between him and Jack. As the teacher--Mrs. Peters--began her rounds, speaking to each child, waiting for the rest of the class to make their way inside, Jack relaxed a bit and checked his watch. He was already about ten minutes late; something General Hammond would, doubtlessly, understand under the circumstances, but he really had to get there before he started pushing the boundaries. He tapped Daniel lightly on the shoulder. "Hey."
Daniel turned to him, eyes bright. "Jack, look--" He trailed off. "Wha'?"
"Listen, kiddo, I have to go now, okay? I'm going to be late."
Daniel's chin quivered, his eyes welled up. "Hey, come on now." Jack leaned down to give him a hug. "Don't cry; it's only going to be a couple of hours, and then--remember--you're going to be getting your ice cream. I'll be here to get you as soon as the bell rings."
Daniel sniffled. "Bell?"
"Yup--when it's time to go home, a bell rings to let you know. That way you don't forget it's ice cream time."
"Everything okay over here?" Jack looked up to find Mrs. Peters watching them sympathetically. He smiled tightly.
"Just a little nervous," he said by way of explanation. He held out a hand. "Jack O'Neill."
"Myra Peters." She accepted his hand, then crouched down beside Daniel. "You must be Daniel."
A handful of Jack's shirt bunched in one fist, Daniel peeked out at her. "Uh-huh."
Myra smiled fondly at him. "I've heard a lot about you."
Jack rolled his eyes as Daniel disengaged himself from Jack's shirt and studied the teacher more closely. "Like wha'?" Myra laughed.
"For one thing, that you're extremely curious. I'm very glad to have you in my class this year."
Daniel smiled up at Jack, who grinned back. relieved. He gave Daniel's hair another tousle. "So...I'll see you in a few hours, all right?"
Daniel nodded reluctantly, the smile all but vanishing. He reached up for Jack, who, despite concerns that the limpet would hang on and not let go, picked him up, squeezed him until Daniel squeaked, and put him back in his seat. "See ya soon."
It was a day he hadn't been present for the first time around, and now Jack knew why Sara had had such a hard time with letting Charlie go for the first day of school. Sure, it wasn't as though Daniel hadn't gone on offworld missions without SG-1 as an adult, but this was so different--this turned Jack into a glob of 'do I have to leave him here?' mush. With a final wave to Daniel from the door, Jack forced himself to keep going, sniggering to himself as the thought rose in his head: "Our little guy is growing up...again."
Daniel looked up from his colouring to find a boy standing beside his desk, and he automatically hunched a shoulder. The boy was tall--a lot taller than Daniel, it seemed--with a mass of dark curls that hung to cover the tips of his ears. "Hi," Daniel said nervously.
The other boy gave a nod, for whatever reason, Daniel couldn't figure out, and slung his backpack up on the desk joined to Daniel's. "I'm Miles. I'm late 'cause we just moved here and my mom's not too good at directions."
Eyes dominating his face, Daniel nodded. "Oh."
Miles leaned over, lifting the corner of Daniel's paper and reading the name tag taped to the edge of the desk. "You're Daniel J?"
"Um...uh-huh." Daniel tried a brave smile; this boy wasn't anything like that older boy in the park the first day he'd gone with Jack. He seemed nice. "Daniel--"
"What's the 'J' stand for?" Miles asked.
"--Jackson." Daniel was confused. Jack taught him not to interrupt anyone when they were speaking unless it was end-of-the-world important, but Miles did it like he'd never been told that. It was a little disconcerting. "Jackson," Daniel repeated, just in case Miles hadn't heard him.
"Oh. That's cool. My last name is Tanner."
'Cool.' That was one of Jack's favourite words, but lots of kids used it too, Daniel knew. Still, it was weird to hear Miles using expressions Jack sometimes used. Feeling uncharacteristically shy, he leaned back over his drawing, absently reaching for a red crayon to colour in the picture of the fire truck. He could sense Miles watching him, and he ducked his head further as his face warmed. "You look waaay younger than eight," Miles observed. "You look as little as my sister."
Daniel's head snapped up. "I'm not a girl!"
Miles laughed--not in a mean way, just laughing the way Daniel did, watching movies or something with Jack. "I didn't say that," he said. "Just said you look little like her. How old're you?"
"Ummm..." Daniel chewed his lower lip. "Five."
"Why're you in grade two? Five year olds are always in kindergarten. That's where Melissa is."
"Idano," Daniel shrugged. "Mr. Ma-Gill-vry gave me a test and said I could come to grade two."
"Are you a genius?"
"Nooo." Daniel held back a laugh of his own. Jack told him all the time he was really smart, but he wasn't a genius.
"You got to skip kindergarten and grade one. MRS. PETERS?"
Startled by Miles' abrupt call from his seat, Daniel looked up. Was he in trouble? What if he wasn't supposed to be here? "Yes, Miles?" Mrs. Peters walked over from where she'd been helping Julie-Anne and crouched beside Miles and Daniel's desks. "Is something wrong?"
"Is Daniel a genius?" Miles asked. "'Cause he's only five."
Daniel blushed to the tips of his ears, even more so when Mrs. Peters flashed him a fond smile. "Well, nobody knows right now," she told Miles quietly. "But Daniel is very smart, and he was allowed to come to our class this year."
When Miles turned back to him as Mrs. Peters stood up, Daniel cringed in anticipation of some kind of teasing from the older boy, but instead Miles' mouth made a little 'O' and he just breathed, "Wow."
Wow? What? "Wha'?" The question was out of his mouth before he could stop it.
Miles shrugged. "Never met anyone super-smart like that before. Not even in New York, and there were billions of kids there." Daniel considered telling Miles that there probably weren't billions of kids in New York, because there were only about six billion people in the entire world, but he realized that Miles was probably just exaggerating, like Jack did sometimes when he was telling stories or something, so he didn't say anything; just let Miles continue to ramble. "That's so cool; you might graduate when you're ten or something." He picked up his own pack of crayons and a colouring sheet Mrs. Peters laid out on his desk and began scribbling black all over his ambulance's tires. "My cousin, Christina, is already thirteen, and she's in grade eight. I think. You might get to be in her class if you're really smart like I think you are. She lives in Colorado too. That's why we moved here--mom wanted to live by my aunt and uncle, because when dad left she didn't wanna live in New York all by herself, she thought it was too busy. What do your mom and dad do?"
"Um..." Daniel wasn't sure how to answer that, so he settled with, "Jack's a Colonel. In the Air Force." He reminded himself not to say anything about the SGC; Gen'ral Hammond had told him it was really important not to tell anybody about it.
"You call your dad 'Jack'? How come?"
Daniel bit his lip again. He didn't know what to say. "Ooooh." Miles laid down his crayon and looked at Daniel straight on. "Are you..." he looked around and lowered his voice. "Adopted?"
Daniel nodded wordlessly. "Jack's my dad now though," he blurted out, just in case Miles decided to tease him about not having a dad and a mom.
Miles nodded. "Yeah, I know. That's what happens when you're adopted. Is Jack married?"
Miles grinned. "Then we're like opposites. I have a mom, and you have a dad, but I don't have a dad and you don't have a mom. That's cool."
Daniel felt the knot of tension in his tummy ease, and he smiled back. "Yeah!"
Jack parked the truck just alongside the curb in front of the elementary school and weaved his way through the throng of parents already waiting for their kids. He didn't bother waiting outside; he wasn't exactly worried for Daniel, but the way the munchkin had reacted that morning when Jack had left made him want to get as close to the classroom as he could before the bell rang and before Daniel could get himself worked up if Jack wasn't there to meet him.
The bell rang as he was heading down the hallway, and the classrooms' floodgates opened, releasing herds of children out of their bowels and spilling into the hallway, high-pitched voices clamoring over one another, shrieking, laughing, joking and calling out. Jack got a few "Hi Colonel Jack!"s from the older children he knew in passing from his time spent at the school, though most of them knew him only through second-hand knowledge; he hadn't come to the school quite as often since Cassie, and then Tessa and Kayla, the General's granddaughters, had all moved on to junior high--and in Cassie's case, high school and university. "Hey kiddies," he said, waggling his fingers in waves at those who spoke, his attention firmly fixed on the second-graders' end of the hallway.
He hardly noticed, through the throng of children, Daniel as he sprinted between kids both older and younger and launched himself at Jack, who fielded him easily. "Hey sport! How was your first day?"
"So good, Jack!"
"Make any new friends?"
"Uh-huh! There's a boy, he sits right beside me, his name is Miles, and he wants to be friends!"
Relieved, Jack grinned. "That's great! You two get into any trouble yet?"
"Noooo." Daniel squirmed to be let down, a request Jack obliged, but chuckled to himself when his limpet latched onto his hand. "We only coloured'n'stuff today. Mrs. Peters said we hafto start math tomorrow, though."
"That's too bad," Jack teased. "I'd rather colour."
Daniel stopped in his tracks and slung his backpack off his shoulders. "I coloured you something, Jack!"
Jack waited for him, but prudently lifted him out of the middle of the cramped hallway to avoid being crushed. A slightly rumpled piece of paper was thrust up toward him and Jack took it solemnly. It was a crayon drawing of two stick figures, presumably outside, the taller wearing a green suit--BDUs, Jack guessed--and the smaller one wearing shorts and a t-shirt roughly the same colour Daniel was currently sporting. Underneath the two figures, in childish scrawl, was written "I love you. Love Daniel."
Jack inhaled slowly, realizing just how long it had been since he'd had a child of his own handing him something like this. He leaned down and kissed Daniel on the forehead. "Thank you, buddy. And I love you too."
"I was gonna draw--" Daniel lowered his voice, lifting his arms to be lifted again. Jack did so, and continued on to the door, giving Daniel a tight squeeze. "I was gonna draw the Stargate," Daniel whispered, cupping both hands around Jack's ear. "That's s'posed t'be the day you took me home from Rana's planet. But Miles woulda asked what I was wearin' if I drawed the robes I had on, wouldn' he? He asks lotsa questions, Jack. He's real...umm..."
"Nosey?" Jack quipped.
Daniel nodded vigorously. "Uh-huh. He woulda asked 'bout the robes, and the Stargate, and I can't tell anyone 'bout that."
"I c'n fix the drawing when we get home," Daniel volunteered.
Jack opened the door of the Avalanche and buckled him in his booster seat, taking one more long look at the careful drawing. "You know what kiddo? I think I like it just like this."
|Genres:||Alternate Universe, Humor, Smarm|
|Summary:||It's Daniel's first day of school!|