fignewton: (sam janet fanfic)
Fig Newton ([personal profile] fignewton) wrote2016-12-02 01:50 pm
Entry tags:

Kidfic Alphabet Soup (A-M)

My thanks to the authors who made Kidfic Alphabet Soup a reality: Alynt, Antonomasia09, Ami Ven, Annieb1955, Badfalcon, Eilidh, DebbieF, Fig Newton, GateGremlyn, Goddess 47, Ivorygates, Jedi Buttercup, Maddersahatter, Roeskva, SallyM, Thothmes, Traycer, and Wonderland. A salute of the ladle to our new cooks, [profile] ami_ven and DebbieF. A tip of the chef's hat to our regulars. And many extra thanks to Eilidh, Goddess47, and Wonderland, who wrote multiple fics and helped the Soup cook completely!

Enjoy some 55,000 words of gen kidfic! There's everything here from "downsizing" to pre-series stories to the team's interaction with children. Stories are rated from G to PG-13. Assume spoilers throughout the entire series. Individual warnings for stories are found at the Table of Contents.

As our Soup is too large even for Dreamwidth's generous entry size, you can find the second half here.

A is for Anniversary
by [profile] alynt

Well, today had been the day from hell, Jack O’Neill decided, tossing his keys onto the coffee table and slumping down onto the sofa with a weary groan. He twisted the cap off the beer he held then ran the icy bottle across his sweaty brow. Damn, that felt good and he knew what was going to be even better. Sighing in anticipated appreciation, he took a long swig of beer, leaned back and closed his eyes.

“No! I don’t have to! You’re not my mom!”

Jack scrubbed a hand over his face, whiskers scratching against his skin, reminding him again of how long a day… night it had been. Groaning, he’d pushed himself upright and reluctantly headed up to Daniel’s room. When he’d been called in the morning before on a too rare day off, he’d been stymied for a moment what to do with Daniel and he kicked himself mentally for having put off childcare arrangements for a situation just like this. Often, Janet Fraiser was available, even if she had to set Daniel up in her office with books and computer games but the doc was swamped with two teams returning from offworld missions badly banged up. In desperation Jack had called her anyway and got the welcome news that Cassie was on vacation and would love to hang out with Daniel. Janet promised to call over that evening to cook dinner then ended up spending the night when Jack and the team were delayed on their mission. She’d left Daniel in Cassie’s more than capable hands again that morning.

“Come on, Daniel, you don’t want anything to get lost, do you? Besides, Jack will be home soon and I’ll bet he’ll take us out for pizza if I tell him how good you’ve been.”

“I don’t care!” Daniel shouted. “I don’t want pizza-”

“I do,” Jack announced as he opened the door to Daniel’s room.

Cassie turned to greet him and Jack couldn’t miss the relief on her face. “We are so glad you’re home. aren’t we, Daniel?”

Daniel got up from where he’d been kneeling in front of a suitcase. He planted his hands squarely on his hips. “No!”

“Hey!” Jack unconsciously mirrored Daniel’s stance and glared at the grumpy-faced boy. “You apologize to Cassie, right now, Daniel!”

Instead of the expected retaliation of temper, tears suddenly brimmed in Daniel’s eyes. Furiously he swiped at them with the heel of his hand. “S-Sorry, C-Cassie,” he hiccupped.

“It’s okay. I know you didn’t mean it.” Cassie knelt down in front of Daniel and opened her arms to him. “C’mere. I think we both need a hug.”

Daniel went willingly, wrapping his skinny arms around Cassie’s neck and giving into the sobs that he’d so obviously been trying to suppress. “I don’t hate you,” he wailed. “Promise you’ll come back.”

Cassie kissed his tear-stained cheek. “Of course I will,” she soothed. “How about on the weekend, I take you to that new exhibit at the museum?”

Daniel pulled back and stared at her. “For real? Even though I’ve been mean to you all day?”

Jack suppressed a sigh and his admiration for Cassie rose even further than it already was, after what she had endured on her home planet, and how well she had adjusted to living on Earth and becoming just your average American teenager. He knew just what a terror Daniel could if he was in a funk. Granted, most of the time he had good reason for it. It couldn’t be easy being a five year old kid with the memories of the 35 year old man you used to be. It made Jack squirm just thinking about it. It had been damn weird finding out some whackjob Asgard scientist had made a clone of him, but to actually become a kid again and be aware of it… Suffice to say, Jack admitted he let some of Daniel’s less than stellar behavior slide because… Okay, he could admit it. Because he felt guilty. Not because he was to blame for what had happened to Daniel but because he’d been the one to make the decision to allow Daniel to keep his memories of Daniel, the adult.

At the time he’d been so certain he was doing the right thing. As he’d told Janet Frasier after Daniel had recovered from the surgery to remove the amnesia device from his brain, Daniel’s memories, even the bad ones, made Daniel who he was. He was still convinced he’d done the right thing. Overall Daniel had handled it pretty well. They’d never allowed him to become resigned to always being a child, promising to research consistently for a way to return him to his adult self.

A car horn sounded outside, interrupting his thoughts.

“That’s Mom,” Cassie said, giving the top of Daniel’s head a kiss before standing up and grasping his hand. “I’ll see you on the weekend, okay, Daniel?”

Daniel swiped at his nose, earning a grimace from Jack. “Go get a tissue, huh?” Jack suggested. He waited for the expected rebuff but Daniel simply nodded.

“See you Saturday,” he said, all memory of his tantrum seemingly forgotten, and ran from the room.

Jack reached out and drew Cassie to him, giving her a one-armed hug. “Sorry he’s been a pain in the a-. You know.”

“It’s okay,” Cassie replied. “It’s got to be so weird.” She bent down and picked up a photo frame from the floor. “I think I know what’s bothering him.” She handed the photo to Jack.

“That’s Daniel’s folks,” Jack said. He glanced quickly at the doorway to ensure Daniel wasn’t there. “They were archeologists too. They were killed when Daniel was young.”

“In front of him, I know,” Cassie said. “Daniel told me, and today is the anniversary of their deaths.”

“Crap!” Jack cursed. He hadn’t even realized. Daniel had been mopey and sullen for a day or two but Daniel did that sometimes and just as quickly bounced back, much as he had today. “Thanks. I’ll talk to him.” He ushered Cassie to the door. “You sure you want to spend your Saturday with him instead of your friends?”

“Museum… or football game. I may have adapted to pretty much all things Earth, Jack,” Cassie said with a laugh, “but football just doesn’t do it for me.” The car horn sounded again. “I’ll see myself out. Bye, Daniel,” she called as she hurried to the front door. “Bye, Jack!”

Jack left the stuff that was scattered over the floor while he waited for Daniel to compose himself and return. Knowing what had been bothering Daniel all day, he didn’t want to risk further upset by packing away any treasures, no matter how ordinary they looked to him. He sat down on the bed and leaned forward, perusing the items. Rocks… lots of rocks… artifacts, Daniel would insist, though these were actually only rocks that Daniel had collected in the time he’d been downsized. It seemed a way for him to reconcile the child he was now with the memories he still had of his adult self, so Jack let him be. He had no idea how many he’d collected though until now. His real artifacts were still locked up in Daniel’s office and on occasion, Daniel asked to be taken to Cheyenne Mountain for the day where he’d hole himself up in his office with notebooks and pens, textbooks and laptop, milk now replacing his beloved coffee.

There had been a time or two when Daniel’s vast knowledge, thanks to his retained memories, had been invaluable during a mission, and Jack knew Daniel wasn’t the only one who wished they could go back and change things: figure out how to grow him back up or lock that damn planet out of the computer so that it hadn’t happened in the first place.

“Jack?”

Jack straightened and smiled at Daniel. What’s done is done. “You feeling better?” At Daniel’s shrug, he patted the bed. “C’mere. Take a load off for a minute.”

Daniel walked over slowly, skirting the items on the floor, as though checking to see if any were missing. Jack waited until he was settled beside him before speaking again.

“Cassie tells me you’ve been pretty upset all day,” Jack said.

Daniel nodded. He pushed his glasses up on his nose and looked at Jack. “Some days it’s like I’m just a normal kid and then sometimes… all of a sudden, I remember stuff from… you know… before.”

Jack nodded. “Must be pretty scary sometimes.”

“Most of the time it’s okay,” Daniel replied. “Just weird. It’s like it makes me feel all off balance. Sometimes it’s really cool because I can remember when I was on the team and all the planets we visited and the artifacts I found and hieroglyphs I translated. I even learned to speak Goa’uld,” he added, his skinny chest puffing out just a little with pride. Then he slumped in on himself. “Today when I remembered, it was just sad stuff.”

“About your parents,” Jack replied.

Daniel nodded then he slid off the bed and kneeled down amongst his treasures. He picked one up and Jack realized it wasn’t a rock but a square, rough-hewn block, etched with heiroglyphs. “It’s not genuine,” Daniel said as though he’d second-guessed Jack’s thoughts. “Just a souvenir from one of the digs Mom and Dad did in Egypt.” He handed it to Jack. “Every time they went away, they always brought me something back.” He held up a small, stoppered test tube. “Sand from the desert. That was the year before they...”

Jack reached out and pulled Daniel into the comfort of his arms, hugging him tightly, feeling the dampness of Daniel’s tears on his neck. “I’m so sorry, Daniel,” he whispered past the lump in his throat. “Maybe I should have let you forget.”

“No!” Daniel pulled back and looked at Jack, tears still streaming from his eyes. He pulled a tissue from his pocket and swiped at them. “No!” he said again. “That would be worse. If I couldn’t remember you, or Sam or Teal’c or even my parents...” He looked down at the block he still clutched, rubbing his thumb over the carving. “That would be worse.”

“I have an idea,” Jack said. “I’ve been working pretty hard the past few months.” He ruffled Daniel’s hair. “We haven’t spent much time together, have we?” Daniel shook his head. “Let me square it with General Hammond and you and I will take a little trip together.”

“Where will we go?”

“To pay our respects to your parents, show them what a great person you turned out to be.”

“I could leave them some of the artifacts I’ve collected,” Daniel suggested.

“Sure!” Jack agreed. “Just nothing that’s classified or housed at Area 51, okay?”

Daniel rolled his eyes. “D’uh!” Then his whole face lit up with a smile. “Can we go to New York? To the Museum of Art?”

“You sure you want to go there, Daniel? That’s where your parents-”

“Were killed. I know but it’s also the last place I saw them alive. Can we ask Cassie to come too? She loves museums!”

“Maybe we could get in some fishing on the way home,” Jack ventured, but without much hope. To his surprise, Daniel nodded enthusiastically.

“Why not,” he said magnanimously. “It’s your vacation too. Cassie and I can look for more artifacts. There might be caves and stuff.”

Jack sat down on the floor and pulled Daniel down beside him. “Sounds like a plan,” he said. “How about you tell me more about these rocks of yours?”

Daniel rolled his eyes. “Artifacts, Jack, not rocks.”

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B is for Back to Basics
by [personal profile] jedibuttercup

Jack O'Neill's feelings were mixed as he stepped through the stargate to Orban, a planet he hadn't seen in person in-- was it eight years ago now? Something like that.

On the one hand, it was good to see the SGC's network of allies expanding again now that the Ori had been defeated; advanced worlds willing to trade with the Tau'ri had always been thin on the ground, and their initial exchange with the Orbanians had helped Carter develop Earth's first naquadah reactor. They could always use more honestly acquired high-octane tech. Plus, it was good to get out of the office; excuses to go off world had been hard to come by since his promotion to Homeworld Security.

But on the other hand... he'd seen the cost of the Orbanians' method of accelerating their world's learning curve up close and personal, and from what he'd been told, they were still pumping babies full of nanites with ticking clocks to make that happen. The fact that Jack had helped Merrin bring the idea of fun back to her world and improve quality of life for the other former Urrone children hadn't done much to soften the fact that she'd had to give up everything that made her, her to do it. Twelve was far too young to be asked to make that kind of sacrifice.

Several more years of busting their way into off-planet cultures and changing them both for better and for worse had given him a little more perspective on the issue, but he still didn't like it one bit. He'd have to visit Merrin again while he was here; see what had become of the sweet, serious kid he'd smuggled out of the mountain for an afternoon of playground games and art. He'd heard she'd been recovering well, before contact had been cut off with Orban during one of Earth's many squabbles with the Goa'uld. Maybe he'd feel better about this new deal to see that he'd made some kind of difference, if not as much as he would have wanted.

Kalan was waiting for him when he stepped out into Orban's Mesoamerican-themed gate room. The one who'd brought Merrin to Earth all those years ago, and whose Urrone son had been tasked to learn about the Goa'uld from Teal'c. The guy looked genuinely pleased to see Jack, making the welcome sign with his hands and sketching a quick bow of greeting in his direction.

"General O'Neill! It is good to see you again. Thank you for agreeing to come," he said, smiling. "The others have gone ahead; I will take you to them."

"Kalan," Jack responded, offering a perfunctory smile in return as he stepped down to the bright mosaic in the center of the room. "So does that mean you can fill me in now on exactly what kind of 'exchange' you have in mind? Not that it's not great to be here, but I have to admit, I've been a little curious."

It had to be something interesting for them to insist on all of SG-1-- the team members they'd met eight years ago, as well as the current iteration-- as the exchange group.

"Oh, much the same as the first; information, primarily," Kalan said cheerfully, as he turned to lead him away. "You have advanced a great deal in the last few years, but still not to our level in many areas; I believe the team that went back to your world was carrying one of the shield devices we used to protect ourselves from the Goa'uld, and those others you say were called the Ori. We are most interested in learning more about them, and any other peoples you have met while we were not accepting visitors. But when we were informed your arrival would be slightly delayed-- I must admit, I seized the opportunity to ask your team to assist with some... less strategic information, as well."

From the way his smile widened, Jack had little doubt that 'opportunity' would have been arranged some other way, if his own schedule hadn't given them the excuse. "Well, we'll have to discuss any official alterations to the terms later, but for now...."

He let the sentence trail off as they approached a familiar-looking children's home, bracketed by stone halls open to the sky. The last time he'd been there, the walls had been marked with multicolored Crayola scribbles; now, they were covered in tiled and painted scenes that blended into one another down the hall's entire length. Some were nearly photorealistic; others were more impressionistic or obviously imaginary. Many featured children in uniform-like white outfits holding hands, or the Pyramid of the Suns framed by modern high-rises; a few, though, looked an awful lot like Carter's old lab, or a certain playground behind a middle school in Colorado Springs.

"Nice," he said, taking in what could only be the product of many hours and many hands working together, ranging from nanite-precise to those more concerned with expression than accuracy. "Now that's impressive. The kids do all this?"

"Everyone took part," Kalan explained proudly, pausing by a family portrait of three crudely drawn stick figures posed in front of a much more detailed image of one of the local houses. "This one is mine. We have learned, or perhaps relearned, much of such 'art' since Merrin's Averium. It is not often that we encounter a field of study that cannot be mastered simply by accumulating more facts; it is former Urrone, in fact, who have produced many of our most popular works. It is the same with the 'games' Merrin brought back, as well. The ballcourt beside the Pyramid of the Suns had not been used in many centuries; reconstructing its purpose has been a project for both scholars and physical artists alike."

Physical artists? Jack liked the sound of that; a few decades and a couple of knee surgeries ago, he might have asked if he could join in. "So Merrin, and Tomin-- kids like them have careers now?"

"Yes," Kalan replied, nodding. "Much to the enrichment of our culture. In fact, many Urrone, having observed that preferences often continue in the absence of memory, have begun to specify ahead of time which art they would prefer to be taught after their Averiums."

"You don't say," Jack replied dryly, reminded again of Merrin's wordless joy in the box of Crayolas. He was beginning to get an idea what Kalan was after, here. "What other arts can they choose from?"

"Exactly the information we seek!" Kalan replied. "So many of our early texts have been lost; we retain very little knowledge of the arts and crafts of our ancestors, and our attempts to learn more from your people were cut short when we sealed Orban's gate to defend ourselves from the Goa'uld. I asked your teammates if they would each share another method of 'fun' with the children."

It was just as well Jack hadn't got there earlier, then; pottery was one of the few crafts the Orbanians had retained after being taken from Teotihuacבn by the Goa'uld, and somehow, he didn't think a bunch of twelve year olds would see golf as an art form. Their loss. That did beg the question, though... what did Mitchell think of as 'fun'? Or Vala, for crying out loud? Hopefully, Daniel had talked her into keeping it PG.

"Sounds up their alley," he said. "And they're doing that... here?" Now that he was listening for it, he could hear the sounds of some kind of big ball bouncing off stone not too far away.

"Oh, yes! Through here," Kalan gestured toward a stone archway opening off one side of the hall. "Come and see."

There was, in fact, a ballgame in progress through that arch, in a big courtyard shaped like a capital letter I. Jack spied Colonel Mitchell halfway down its length, surrounded by a bunch of kids and young adults mostly dressed in white. Half of them were wearing the traditional wrapped headgear he'd seen on all the Urrone during their first visit; the other half, plus Mitchell, were hatless, and they seemed to be playing a very rough version of basketball. It was complicated by the fact that the big stone hoops were fixed to the courtyard walls sideways rather than horizontally, but Mitchell seemed to be making do, accepting a pass from one of the bigger kids and then leaping up to bat the ball through the hoop with a triumphant shout.

Jack cleared his throat loudly, then raised an eyebrow at Mitchell as the players all turned to stare.

"Uh, General O'Neill, hey," Mitchell grinned back, wiping sweat out of his eyes. "Is it that time already?"

"It is that time," Jack allowed. "Having fun, I see?"

"Are you kidding? This is like a vacation, not a mission. Speaking of fun-- you up for a game? These kids are actually giving me a run for my money. I tried to get them to show me what they play in here, but they wanted a demo first, and they're picking it up pretty quick."

A few decades and new knees ago, alas. "Ah, no; that's all right. Carry on," he replied, gesturing back toward the hoops. "We're going to convene the formal exchange meeting in...?" He glanced a question toward Kalan.

"In one-- I believe your word is hour?" Kalan nodded to Jack, then beamed at Mitchell. "This is excellent; are there any other games you can teach them that can be played with the ball in this court?"

One of the kids threw the ball back to Mitchell; he caught it, then bounced it thoughtfully, glancing down both ends of the courtyard. "Actually, if you've got any netting, and maybe something I can use to build some frames...." he said, thoughtfully.

The kids lit up, babbling at him and pulling at his hands to lead him toward the far exit. Jack shook his head in amusement and waved him out. "Have fun!"

"The others are here," Kalan said, leading him back toward the open hallway and gesturing to an adjacent building, part of the children's home.

Jack didn't know what he'd been expecting inside, but he had to quirk a smile at the sight of Teal'c in a meditation pose, surrounded by a bunch of kids attempting the same. A few looked as blissfully peaceful as their teacher; the rest behaved more like normal children, squirming and sighing and giggling with each other until Teal'c calmed them with a quiet, firm word.

"Teal'c, how's it hanging?" Jack broke into the hushed atmosphere with a grin.

Teal'c cracked one eye open, arching the brow above it as he assessed his visitors. "Satisfactorily, O'Neill," he said, perfectly deadpan. Then he opened the other eye and inclined his head in Jack's direction. "I am pleased you were able to attend."

"Yeah, me too. So-- you all having fun here?"

Teal'c turned his attention back to the stirring circle of kids, giving them all an intent look; they burst into giggles again, then turned to Jack and chorused as one: "Indeed."

Jack chuckled, bemused at the newest evidence of Teal'c's sneaky ability to establish a camaraderie with just about every kid he met, and waved a hand in their direction. "Sounds like it. Carry on, then; we're meeting about an hour from now, Teal'c. Mitchell'll round you up when it's time."

Teal'c inclined his head again, then settled back into his pose and set about encouraging his little mini-me's to calm back down.

Kalan's expression grew even more pleased as he led Jack further into the building.

Carter's room was next; he'd guessed that from the first moment he'd stepped out of the sun from the faint sound of some kind of whistling music carrying to his ears. He knew Carter hadn't brought her new cello, but the Orbanians must have had, or been able to provide her with several examples of something that could approximate a woodwind instrument; the sound was pretty distinctive.

"Yes, that's right," she was saying as they stepped into her room, eyes bright as she addressed one of the children. "Many musicians on my world also have some talent at math. Though having a natural aptitude for one does not necessarily guarantee success at the other. You need emotion, and practice-- a lot of practice-- to really play music well; I have so many other demands on my time that I'm basically still an amateur."

"So it is both a physical art, and an aesthetic one," another teenager said thoughtfully, holding something vaguely flutelike in his hands.

"Yes, Tomin," Carter agreed, smiling at him as she raised her own instrument. "That's exactly right. So with that in mind, let's try it again...."

Tomin? Jack snuck a surprised look at Kalan, and saw the pride written all over his face. Definitely his son, then; talking again, even if the words did come a little slowly. Wow.

He caught Kalan's eye, then made a quiet gesture with a finger across his lips and pulled back out of the room. "Daniel?" he murmured quietly; he hadn't seen any other exit from the room Carter was in.

Kalan nodded, then led him to another room with wide, unbarred windows and another door letting in the afternoon sunshine.

"See, it's about the rhythm of the words as much as it is the rhymes themselves," Daniel was holding forth to a small court of mostly older children. "Or lack thereof, as the case may be. There are a lot of factors that combine to make poetry as much an art form as music, which can paint mental imagery to rival any mural on a wall. Here's another example, in what we call iambic pentameter-- that means 'five feet,' or five pairs of metered syllables."

He took a breath, then busted out a verse Jack recognized from Shakespeare: an intersection of the historian and the linguist that had rarely come into play on SG-1's missions. Jack had been wondering if he'd catch Danny teaching senet, but he probably ought to have expected something more like this; exercising their young minds in a way different from anything the others were demonstrating.

'Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate. Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, and summer's lease hath all too short a date.' May being one of the spring months back home, when many flowering plants begin to-- ah, Jack," Daniel cut himself off in surprise. "Uh, is it that time already?"

"You know, Mitchell asked me the same thing? Sounds like you guys have been enjoying yourselves."

"Ah, well..." Daniel flashed a smile around at the young people around him. He'd always had an expressive face; Jack had been wondering what his former teammate's barometer would tell him this time, and was cautiously pleased to see it pointing in the vague direction of 'hope'. "I think it's more that the kids have been enjoying themselves," Daniel continued. "I've been going through several forms of verbal performance with them-- though don't worry, I left the limericks for you."

Jack chuckled at the dry tone of the last few words, and scrounged his memory for a cleaner example of the genre just to spite him. "You betcha. They are supposed to be having fun here, after all." He cleared his throat, then declaimed: "A canner, exceedingly canny, one morning remarked to his granny, 'A canner can can anything that he can; but a canner can't can a can, can he?'"

Daniel raised his eyebrows, as if mildly astonished that Jack had actually come up with one suitable for young ears, and brought his hands together for a few claps of applause. The kids startled at the gesture, then imitated it cautiously, glancing between Daniel and Jack.

"Dr. Jackson, what is the meaning of this gesture?" one of the kids still wearing the necklace of the Urrone asked with a frown.

Daniel looked genuinely surprised at that, turning to the kid to answer-- and Jack knew they'd lost him again for a while. "Last one?" he asked, turning back to Kalan.

Kalan's eyes had widened appreciably at some point during Jack's recitation, but he nodded at the question, and pointed toward the outer door.

"Half an hour, Daniel!" Jack left the room with a parting word, then stepped through to see Vala Mal Doran flat on her back on a lawn of short-cropped grass, staring up at the sky.

Vala was surrounded mostly by the youngest kids he'd seen so far, all of them also gazing upward, mostly with an arm or a leg pressed against her or one of the other kids. A particularly tiny example, a little girl who couldn't be even a year old, was cuddled in the crook of Vala's arm; Vala looked a little stiff, but her voice was animated as she gestured with her free hand toward the sky.

"There," she said. "That one-- it's definitely a tel'tak. That's a small Goa'uld transport ship."

"Naaaah," one of the little boys next to her shook his head against the grass. "It's the Pyr'mid of the Suns. See the steps on the sides?" He stabbed a small index finger toward the same tuft of cloud.

"It could be," Vala agreed mildly, then pointed toward another cloud formation, this one much rounder in shape. "How about that one?"

"Oh, I know! It's the gate," one of the little girls said, in excited tones.

"No, it's a ball!" one of the others disagreed.

"It's one of the suns!" a third child spoke up.

"Or a calendar wheel," a fourth, older voice suggested-- and Jack turned to see a young blonde woman at the back of the room, balancing a sketchpad across her knees under a rapidly moving pencil.

He'd have recognized that face anywhere, even eight years older. "Merrin?" he said, hopefully.

The woman looked up with an inquisitive, distant expression, and his heart briefly sank. But then her face cleared, and she smiled and waved at him.

"Oh good, you're here, General," Vala said with a sigh of relief. "Care to take this little one off my hands so I can sit up without making her scream?"

Merrin's expression turned bright and amused at the question; Jack laughed softly, then turned to pick up the infant. "Sorry to break up your little cloud watching session."

"No you're not; but I don't mind," Vala replied, then climbed to her feet and reached out to rub a hand over the baby's downy head. "I missed this stage-- all of these stages, for the most part-- with Adria, but a little goes a long way. Is Daniel still playing word games inside?"

"More or less," Jack agreed.

"I'll start rounding the others up then," she said, then abruptly plucked the infant back out of his arms, handed her to Kalan, and began tugging the Orbanian toward the doorway.

"Come, children. It is time to return," Kalan took her cue, and there was a general round of 'awws' as the other kidlets got up and trooped into the building, too.

Leaving him and Merrin alone. Sneaky Vala. Jack saluted her ironically as she passed, then ambled toward the corner Merrin had chosen to work in.

The picture she was drawing wasn't as photographic as those first 'sketches' she'd made of her naquadah reactor, relying on the network of nanites in her brain for exactness. But she'd captured a hint of wistfulness in the curve of Vala's mouth, and the bright happiness of the children puppy-piled around her: beauty, rather than perfection.

He took a deep breath, then let it out. He did feel better now. Sneaky Kalan.

"Hi, Merrin," he said.

Merrin looked up and smiled in return, as happy as any of the others. "Hi, Jack."

They'd saved a lot of kids during his time on SG-1, but they'd failed their share as well, and Merrin's fate had lingered in Jack's thoughts long after they'd lost her. But while she might not be the same girl she'd been before, he'd failed her again by thinking that way, hadn't he? Her life hadn't ended that day; in fact, it had only just begun.

The exchange could wait a little longer. It was time to reacquaint himself with an old friend.

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C is for Childhood Culture
by [profile] ami_ven

C is for… Childhood Experiences

Teal’c had just begun lighting the candles for his kel-no-reem when he heard a faint sound outside his door.

At his request, he had been given quarters at the end of a long corridor, so it was likely not a passing airman, but rather someone who had come to see him specifically. He opened the door, and arched an eyebrow at the person there.

“Cassandra-Fraiser.”

The girl looked up at him. “Hi, Teal’c.”

“Does Doctor-Fraiser know where you are?”

Cassandra nodded. “She said I shouldn’t bother you if you were kel-no-reeming.”

“I have just finished,” Teal’c lied smoothly. “Would you help me extinguish the candles?”

They worked quietly for a moment, then Teal’c said, “I enjoy the silence, but if you wish to speak, I will gladly listen.”

“I’m an alien!” Cassandra blurted, then sighed. “I mean, I didn’t grow up here. Everyone says stuff that’s completely obvious to everyone who grew up on this planet, and there’s only so many times I can use I’m from Canada as an excuse.”

“And you feel like an outsider among your peers because you did not share their early experiences.”

“Yeah.”

Teal’c nodded. “The Tau’ri do mention aspects of their popular culture quite often in conversation.”

“All the time!” said Cassandra. “I mean, the current stuff I understand. Janet – Mom – lets me watch TV and go to the mall and stuff. It’s the old stuff I don’t know, the stuff I was supposed to watch or do as a kid, and couldn’t because I grew up on another planet. Like… like nursery rhymes, and kids’ books, and Sesame Street.”

Teal’c had heard people at the SGC mention the last one, a children’s educational program, so he said, “Perhaps O’Neill would be willing drive us to see the Sesame Street.”

As he’d hoped, she giggled. “It’s a show, Teal’c. For little kids, about the alphabet and learning to count.”

He nodded, hiding a smile. “Perhaps it is not too late for some of those experiences, Cassandra-Fraiser. I would also like to learn more about the world I have chosen, and would be happy to explore Earth culture with you.”

“Really?” she said, grinning. “Then we’re going to need help.”

C is for… Coloring

“This is much more relaxing than I thought it would be,” said Daniel, setting down his blue crayon and looking for another.

He, Cassandra and Teal’c were all sitting at the workbench in his office, books and papers pushed to one side so that they could spread out the coloring books and art supplies.

“We didn’t have crayons on – in Torronto,” said Cassandra. “We just had paint, and it wasn’t for playing with.”

“It wasn’t?” asked Daniel.

“Your world had a temperate climate,” said Teal’c. “I am sure you could draw with sticks in the dirt, or with mud on rocks.”

Cassandra nodded, but Daniel frowned. “Wait, Teal’c, how did you know that?”

“Jaffa children had similar amusements,” he said. “Rya’c would often depict entire fleets of Goa’uld ships in his illustrations.”

“I drew flowers,” Cassandra offered. “Or wrote my friends’ names. Did you do that when you were little, Teal’c?”

Her smile faded a little as he shook his head. “The Goa’uld do not allow most of their Jaffa to read. I did not learn until I was nearly ninety years old.”

“But who taught you?” asked Daniel. “I mean, on Earth, parents teach their kids how to read when they’re very young, about three or so. And your parents were…”

“My parents had long since died at that time, Daniel-Jackson,” said Teal’c. “As first prime of Cronos, my father had learned how to read, but my mother never could.” He paused, then smiled. “It was Bra’tac who taught me?”

“Yeah?” asked Daniel, smiling, too.

“Indeed.”

“Does he know any Jaffa kids’ stories?” Cassandra asked. “Would he tell them to me, next time he’s here?”

“I will ask,” Teal’c promised.

C is for… Doll Clothes

“Teal’c, hello,” said Janet, smiling, as she opened the front door. “You’re right on time.”

He smiled back. “I did not encounter as much traffic as I expected.”

“That’s good. Well, come on in. I need to see about dinner, but Cassie’s in the living room.”

“Can I assist you with the meal?” Teal’c asked.

Janet smiled again. “Nah, I’m good. Go see what I found for you both, for your childhood experiences thing.”

He nodded, and went down the hallway to their living room. Cassandra was sitting on the floor in front of the couch, poking through a cardboard box.

“Teal’c!” she said. “Look what Mom found!”

The Jaffa slid easily to sit cross-legged across from her, with the box between them. Inside were bits of colored fabric, with what seemed to be miniature plastic limbs among them.

“Cassandra-Fraiser?” he asked.

She smiled. “They’re dolls, Teal’c. Barbie dolls.” Cassandra held one up so he could see it better, a figure in the shape of an adult human female, with blonde hair and a pink dress. “You’re supposed to dress them up.”

“And this is a normal part of Tau’ri childhood?” he asked.

Cassandra nodded. “All the girls at school had them when they were little. You’re not really expected to play with them, when you’re as old as we are, but they all still have them, packed away.”

“Just like Doctor-Fraiser did.”

“Yeah,” she agreed. “Look at the tiny shoes!”

“I had quite the collection,” said Janet, from the doorway. She crossed the room to join them, pulling another doll from the box. “I even had a few delusions of becoming a fashion designer, before I decided I really wanted to be a doctor.”

“Then they are meant to be an occupational tool?” asked Teal’c.

The doctor laughed. “No, they’re just for fun. Little girls dress them up, try to imagine what they’ll be when they grow up. Barbie – it’s a character, the doll – has about a dozen career costumes, so there’s plenty to choose from.”

“Is she a doctor?” Cassandra asked.

“And a veterinarian,” said Janet. “I don’t remember which ones I have, actually. We should look.”

She tipped the box onto the floor, gowns and shoes and dolls scattering across the carpet. Cassandra grinned and chose a dress for her doll.

“Mine is going to work,” she said, working the little arms into the tiny blazer. “Teal’c, what about you?”

He accepted the doll she handed him, then selected a blue tulle gown. He considered for a moment, then said, “This doll is attending the inauguration of the President of the United States.”

“Cool,” said Cassandra. “How about you, Mom?”

“What?” Janet said. “I forgot how annoying these little shoes are.”

Her daughter laughed. “I’ll help…”

C is for… Cat’s Cradle

“Hi,” said Cassandra, knocking lightly on the open lab door. “Do you have a minute?”

Sam immediately set down the electronics she’d been working on. “For you, Cassie? Always.”

Grinning, the girl held up a loop of string. “I think we’re doing this wrong.”

“Doing what?”

“An Earth game called Cat’s Cradle,” said Teal’c, joining them.

“We followed the instructions,” added Cassandra, pointing to the book he carried. “But it doesn’t work right.”

“Well, you have come to the right place,” said Sam. “I was an expert at cat’s cradle in grade school.”

“Really?” the girl asked.

“Oh, sure. It was kind of a fad when I was a kid. I liked it because it was part problem-solving and part physics, but it was also great for meeting new people.”

Cassandra had been watching Sam weave the string between her fingers, and she looked up suddenly, frowning. “But I bet you were great at making friends.”

“I was terrible, actually,” Sam admitted, cheerfully. “My dad was in the Air Force, but he wasn’t stationed in one place, like I am. We moved all over the world, so I was always the new kid.”

“That sucks,” said Cassandra.

Sam laughed. “Yeah, it kinda did. But it was much easier to talk to people if I could offer them a game of cat’s cradle.” She held up the string, now laced across her fingers. “Let’s play.”

“Teal’c first,” Cassandra said.

The Jaffa nodded agreement, and took hold of the string in the two places where it crossed, then flipping them under. When he pulled his hands apart, the string was in a different shape around his fingers.

“This part, Cassandra-Fraiser and I understand,” he said. “Each formation can be changed to another. But where is the challenge to this game?”

“Ah,” said Sam. “You’re right, there are only so many configurations. Most of the kids who usually play this game don’t have any idea about the physics – or, most of the time, the fine motor skills – to get bored so early. So, for you guys, the real key is speed.”

“Speed?” Cassandra repeated, and the older woman grinned.

Half an hour later, when one of the civilian scientists came looking for Sam’s signature, he found her cheerfully explaining what sounded like the basics of string theory, while Teal’c pondered the Super Spider configuration of cat’s cradle that Cassandra was holding out to him.

C is for… Cartoon Movies

“Thank you for coming along for this, Teal’c,” said General Hammond, climbing carefully into the passenger seat of the motor-pool sedan. “Especially on short notice.”

“It is no trouble. Cassandra-Fraiser and I appreciate being included in your family outing.”

The older man smiled. Kayla and Tessa, his granddaughters, were already in the backseat, giggling with Cassandra between them. Teal’c waited until they had all put on their seatbelts, then eased the car onto the road.

“Well,” said Hammond, “I heard about how you and Cassie were learning more about American culture, and I’d been planning to invite you anyway. Just your bad luck I ended up with a sprained ankle and you end up driving.”

“I consider it good luck,” said Teal’c. “I enjoy driving.”

“Even in this traffic?” Hammond laughed, just as there was a squeal from the backseat.

“Grandpa!” said Tessa. “Cassie says she’s never been to a movie before!”

“I have,” Cassandra protested. “Mom took me to see It’s a Wonderful Life at Christmas.”

“That doesn’t count,” said Kayla. “This is a new movie, at the megaplex. Ooh, Grandpa, can we get popcorn?”

“Popcorn?” repeated Cassandra.

“Yes, we can get popcorn,” said Hammond.

“I’m looking forward to it,” said Teal’c. “Which film is scheduled for tonight?”

“I don’t know,” the general admitted. “Girls?”

“It’s Tarzan, Grandpa,” said Tessa.

Teal’c nodded. “Based on the novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs.”

“Really?” chorused all three girls.

Hammond laughed. “A little above your reading level, but you should try them in a few years.”

“Maybe I will,” said Cassandra, thoughtfully.

C is for… Construction

“Good night, doc!” called Jack, from his open front door. “See you later! Drive safe!”

When Janet’s car had turned at the end of the street, he whirled, closing the door behind him.

“She’s gone,” he said, clapping his hands. “Now we can have some fun.”

“We could not have fun before Doctor-Fraiser’s departure?” asked Teal’c.

“Of course not,” said Jack. “Moms and doctors never let you have any real fun, T, you know that.”

“What kind of fun are we going to have, then?” asked Cassandra.

Jack grinned. “We’re gonna build a fort.”

Both aliens looked curiously around his living room. “A what?” the girl asked.

“We need blankets,” he said. “And pillows. Cassie, get the quilt and all the pillows, from my room – you know where that is?”

She nodded and raced off.

“T, help me move some chairs…”

By the time Cassandra returned, they’d rearranged most of the furniture. It took a few more blankets from the linen closet, added to the quilt and pillows, before Jack stopped and looked at what they’d built.

“Nice,” he said.

Teal’c arched an eyebrow. “What is the purpose of this structure, O’Neill?”

“For fun, Teal’c,” the colonel explained. “Cassie, you first.”

There was barely enough room inside for all three of them – Teal’c’s feet stuck out under the blanket after he laid down – but Jack grinned, holding out an arm for Cassandra to wriggle closer to him.

“This is nice,” she said. “And we just… lay here?”

“Sure,” said Jack. Then, he paused. “We might need snacks later.”

“Indeed,” said Teal’c.
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D is for Dudley Do-Right
by DebbieF

Stargate Command

"Hah!" Daniel exclaimed with relish. "I've got you now, Snidely Whiplash!"

The criminal in question looked strangely like Walter, who was plastered up against the wall, hands held high. "You've got me cornered, Do-Right," Walter shuddered, getting into his role. Hearing someone clearing their throat close to him he glanced to his left and noticed General Hammond standing there with amusement dancing in his eyes.

Tilting his bald head to one side, Hammond studied the hapless Walter. "Snidely again, eh?" Receiving an affirmative nod in return, he grinned.

"I should have known better, General," Walter sadly shook his head. "You can't escape Dudley Do-Right."

"Er, well, yes," Hammond suppressed the urge to laugh. Gazing at Daniel, he crooked a finger.

Shuffling his feet toward the general Daniel stopped and looked way, way up. "Yes, sir?"

"I need to borrow Snidely for a time," Hammond placed a gentle hand on top of the youngster's blond head. "Is that all right with you, son?" Listening to the heartfelt sigh that escaped the child, Hammond almost changed his mind... almost, that is. It was common knowledge that Daniel had him wrapped around his little fingers. Still, there were times when Hammond had to show the little boy who was in charge of the base.

"All right, I guess," Daniel huffed. "I'll go see if Nell's in trouble." Racing down the long corridors, he disappeared from view.

"Nell?" Hammond stared at Walter for a moment with a question in his eyes. "Who is it this time?"

"Captain Carter, sir," Walter grinned. Last time it was Doctor Fraiser who kindly gave Daniel her time, in-between patching up SGC personnel. “Daniel seems to change his mind frequently in who he wants to play Nell."

“I see,” Hammond responded seriously when really he didn’t understand it at all. "Be that as it may, Walter, your expertise is required in the control room." Finding the nearest elevator both men entered it. "Something to do with diagnostics, I believe."

++++

Carter's Lab

"But, Nell!" Daniel whined. "I just saved you from that dastardly Whiplash!"

Putting her tools aside, Sam hopped off the stool she had been perched on. "And I'm very grateful, Dudley." In character, she batted her eyelashes a few times at her young teammate. "But I have important tests to conduct right now." Sam glanced at the clock on the wall. "Tell you what," she said, her hand gliding through Daniel's soft hair, "give me an hour and then you can save me again later."

"Fine!" Daniel stomped out of the lab, heading for his guardian's office. He smirked to himself, thinking how Jack always bemoaned the fact that he didn't have one. Daniel knew better, though, as he pressed the button on the elevator that would take him down to level fourteen.

++++

Colonel Jack O'Neill's office

Sitting on the edge of his desk, Jack observed his little munchkin pace his office. "Snidely busy?" He guessed that wasn't the thing to ask as Jack got attacked by a pair of bright, blue lasers when Daniel turned to glare at him. Not to be put off, Jack pushed a little further. "Nell occupied, too?"

"My arch enemy was taken away by General Hammond and my Nell's doing experiments." Daniel threw his hands up in the air. "I'm checking back with her within the hour."

"So that leaves you with little ole me, huh?" Watching Daniel roll his eyes, Jack nearly lost it. "Where's Horse?"

"I left him with Janet." Daniel plopped down on a ratty couch that had springs sticking out of it. "Why don't you put in for one that’s in better shape?" He bounced up and down on it stopping abruptly when a few more springs... sprung.

"I just broke that one in." Jack arched a brow at the kid. "And why does the Doc have Horse this time?"

"Horse was being ornery again."

Not knowing how to respond, or even if he should, Jack left well enough alone.

"Jack, do you know where Teal'c is right now?"

"Helping Siler with some thingamajig." Jack sorted through a stack of papers that an airman had just dropped off. "I think they're in the lab a few doors down from me. Whatever they're working on had already gone through contamination so it should be safe." He ran a hand through his hair glaring at the workload he had to get through. "Apparently they can't get it open."

Getting back to his feet, Daniel headed for the door. "Maybe I can get Teal'c to play Snidely."

When the boy left, Jack's shoulders began to shake with the laughter he had contained. "One track mind, I tell ya." Why the kid got hung up on that old cartoon show about that dumb Canadian Mountie, Jack would never understand. Give him Homer Simpson any day of the week.

++++

The other lab

"Teal'c!" Daniel walked over to where the large Jaffa stood looming over an ornate chest. His big friend's attention was totally focused on it, as if his will alone would open the chest up. But Daniel had more important things on his mind than alien artifacts. "I need your help."

"Indeed, young Daniel," Teal'c dipped his head. "But currently I am already occupied helping Sergeant Siler open this chest that SG-7 retrieved from P3X-899."

Seeing Siler holding a big wrench, Daniel winced. That was certainly not the way to pry open a relic. "Not getting anywhere, are you?" He had noted the familiar writing written across the front of the chest and became lost in thought. Seeing that one side of it was adorned with an array of colored jewels, Daniel knew just what to do to get it to open.

"You shouldn't stand so close, Daniel," Siler warned when the youngster approached the alien object.

Sighing, Daniel refrained from his usual eye roll whenever someone told him that. He had been shrunk... that didn't make him stupid. He was becoming slightly irritated with everyone's attitude. "Step aside," he ordered them. When the two men just stood in place like statues, Daniel began muttering to himself. Reaching out one hand, his fingers began pressing the jewels in a sequential pattern before either Teal'c or Siler could stop him.

A click and a snap hiss a few seconds later had the chest lid popping open to the utter astonishment of both adults. Nearly sticking out his tongue at them, Daniel smacked his hands together and gave them a satisfied smile. "A Mountie's work is never done."

“We probably shouldn’t have let him do that,” Siler moaned, thinking of the dressing down they’d get from Colonel O’Neill once the officer found out.

“You are correct,” Teal’c’s deep voice rumbled, “but yet the chest is now open and nothing has harmed any of us.”

“Yet,” Siler rubbed his forehead, fearing a headache called O’Neill coming on.

Seeing the young archaeologist about to leave, Teal'c figured his work here was finished. "Do you no longer require my assistance, young Daniel?"

"I changed my mind." Daniel reached for the doorknob. "Walter makes a much better Snidely Whiplash than you would."

When the door closed after the child, Teal'c caught Siler looking back at him strangely.

“Yup,” Siler nodded, sizing Teal'c up and down, “Daniel’s right. Walter does play Snidely better.”

Looking at his clothing, Teal'c frowned. "Perhaps I need to appear more like this Snidely Whiplash. I have yet to see this cartoon but understand that the character dresses all in black and wears a top hat."

Siler could see that the other man was taking this very seriously. "Snidely also wore a handlebar moustache." Trying to picture the huge Jaffa wearing one, Siler's lips twitched. "Sorry, I just can't see it." Patting Teal'c on the shoulder, Siler was sympathetic. "There's always next time." Then chuckling, he added, "You have to admit though that Daniel makes a cute Canadian Mountie."

"O'Neill has told me that Dudley Do-Right does not compare to the Simpsons. But I must see this for myself to give an informed opinion."

"I'll take Dudley over the Simpsons every time," Siler snorted, then set about moving the chest to a more secure area now that Daniel had solved their dilemma.

++++

Control Room

"Oh, Walter," Daniel sing-songed.

Every head in the room zeroed in on the blond imp standing in the middle of the room with arms crossed, wearing a mischievous look on his face.

"I need my Snidely," Daniel announced in a clear, young voice. "Teal'c just doesn't cut it."

Briefly staring at his commanding officer, who was doing his best to keep a straight face, Walter spoke up. "I know you always get your man but not today, Daniel."

Looking around at the rest of the SGC personnel, sizing them up for prospective substitutes, Daniel scowled when they all shook their heads at him. "This base used to be fun." He tapped a foot impatiently. Then he turned around and left the same way he arrived, disappearing down the staircase.

"I think the boy's feelings may have been hurt," Hammond whispered for Walter's ears alone.

"Impossible, sir." Seeing the general's brows rise, Walter snickered quietly. "This is Daniel we're talking about," he grinned. "The regular bounce back kid."

"Even if he is currently the SGC's resident Mountie," Hammond's laughter mixed with Walter's. "Heaven help us all!"

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E is for End
A Story That Doesn't Have...
by [personal profile] sallymn

Oooohkay. Jack didn't know the chair he was sitting in - in the infirmary after a mission gone bust again - had to be the hardest and most painful they had, or why the book he had to balance on one knee had to be one of the oldest, biggest, thickest and - ouch - heaviest in the SGC's considerable collection, but apparently they both did. So he winced, shifted a little in an attempt to ease the weight, and fixed that smile on his face, the one he used all over the galaxy for 'friendly and harmless', and carefully settled a soft warm and disconcertingly tiny body in his lap.

He opened the book and rebalanced it carefully at the right page. Because yes, it had to be the right one, two tiny hands kept trying to reach out and flip the pages if it wasn't, and nearly sent the book, reader and audience into a pile on the floor. Tears before bedtime, anyone?

He was supposed to be telling the story, damn it, and he was going to. Right through to the End... or whatever End they could find.

"Once upon a time," he started, as earnestly as he could, given the look in the oh so serious gaze currently fixed on his face, "there was this Very Important Team of Explorers." So okay, earnestness wasn't exactly going to cut it this time, but he plowed on gamely. "A Major who was way smarter than most people, a Great Big Jaffa with a snake in his tummy - no don't look like that, the snake doesn't hurt him and he won’t let it hurt little kids - a Colonel who is the Hero of the Whole Damn Galaxy Here, and who goes grayer by the day trying to keep this Very Important Team alive, and...

"Daniel."

He thought about this for a moment, feeling that gaze watching him.

"Now everything in this story -? is all Daniel's fault. It's almost always Daniel's fault. Daniel may be a fully grown adult, and way smarter than all people except maybe the Major - I did say maybe, didn't I? thought so - but the Colonel-Hero of the Whole Damn Galaxy learned long ago to assume straight off that no matter what it is, it's always gonna be all Daniel's fault."

Jack paused for a moment, and gently pulled one fat little thumb out of a small, pursed mouth. Wide eyes stared up at him with a mixture of rebuke and, yes, cranky tantrum in the offing, so he sighed, and put the thumb back where it could pop back in the downturned mouth.

The last thing he and the whole SGC needed now was a tantrum.

He ran a light hand over the small blonde head. "You following so far? Yes I know, it's one of those stories, isn't it? The ones Daniel tells much better. So anyway... this Team has lots of stories where they get to go to other planets, and the Major and Daniel get into trouble, and the Jaffa and the Colonel do their best to get them out of it again.

"So Once Upon a Time, like I said, there was this Very Important Team, and they went to a place far, far away, which Daniel had convinced everyone would be worth getting into trouble for, not that he put it that way, but that's what it always comes down to, in all the stories. Daniel thought it would be worth it, so everyone else did too. That's because Daniel is... Daniel.

"Actually, scratch that. Daniel didn't just think it would be worth it, he thought it would be fascinating and magical and fabulous and so he didn't shut up about it all the way through the Stargate and down the not yellow not brick road that the Team found on the other side.

"Me, I thought the place looked like Kansas, myself. But never mind that, back to the story.

"So here's our Very Important Team, following the road down to yet another fascinating ruined city that did look like Oz - well, it looked to me like an Oz designed by megalomaniac snakes with crap style and a taste of Early Ancient Evildom run riot, then left for a few thousand years of hurricanes and floods. Damn ugly, but the sort of ruins that Daniel always gets wound up like a five year old on a sugar high about -

"And no, you can't have sugar. Or coffee or chocolate. Doctors orders. You can argue the point with the Doctor later." Jack stopped and looked down at the frowning little face. "Probably much, much later."

"Anyway... the Team, being Very Important and all that, decide to explore. And that's where the story really starts, as it always does, doesn't it?

"Don't look at me like that. I'm just telling the story, not making it up."

One little hand pointed to the page in the big, heavy and hard to balance book.

"We haven't got to her yet."

The little hand banged down - ouch again - on the book. "Hey! Who's telling this - okay okay, don't cry, we'll get to her soon. Very soon."

The little hand lifted to bang again.

"Soon as in right now."

Jack took a deep, long-suffering sight and shifted the book again.

"Once upon a different time - way earlier than the once upon a time of the Very Important Team who this story is supposed to be about - there was one of Daniel's beloved Ancient gods - goddesses, sorry - called... crap, Yohooool.... something something."

The little hand smacked down again - amazingly hard and this time on Jack's own hand.

"... Or not. Look, I don't know how it's said, we need to get one of the geeks to do it." Another smack. "Stop that. I can smack harder than you, and you know it." Big blue eyes gazed up, pleading. "Crap, just..."

Big blue eyes won, like he knew they would.

"Yooo-hoool-tee-cet-l. Close enough?" A shake of the head. "Look, do you wanna spend an hour listening to me get it wrong, or can I get on with the story? Anyway.

"There was this, what does it say, Aztec Yooo-hoool-tee-whatever and don't you smack me again, goddess of children and infants. That's what it says in this big book, anyway. There was, shocking I know, also this Goa'uld snake Yooo-hoool-tee-whatever, as usual claiming to be the same thing. And guess whose planet and ruined city this Very Important Team had landed up in in this story? You betcha.

"Maybe the Team should have guessed something would go wrong because of all the kitschy gold decoration... things, done in the usual Evil Theme Park Empress style, of baby alien snakes and what they were doing to what looked like munchkins. Lots of munchkins. Lots of very.... small munchkins. This is a Goa'uld goddess of children and infants we're talking about, after all.

"So this is where the story really starts. Not that there even would be a story, if it weren't for Daniel. The Team would have poked around a bit, the smart Major would have taken some measurements and readings, the Great Big Jaffa would have... protected them, and the Colonel-Hero of the Whole Damn Galaxy would have called time and taken them home. But Daniel was there, and Daniel was all excited and thrilled and talking at a million miles an hour, and Daniel just had to go and touch something, didn't he?

"And that's really where the story really starts, because it's so often Daniel who goes and does whatever the story needs to get started and something happening, even though most of the time the Colonel-Hero of the Whole Damn Galaxy would be perfectly happy to not have a story start at all, because in this once upon a time universe it tends to go to hell way to often before the end. But anyway, Daniel had to touch one of the gold baby snakes, because he's Daniel and it... came to life.

"No really." Jack nodded his head as the little lips began to tremble. "Went all glowy, too, before it... bit him.

"Of course, the Great Big Jaffa shot it dead, and so did the Major, and so did the Colonel. Took quite a lot of killing, too. Then a bunch of other snakes did the same thing, and the Great Big Jaffa and the Major and the Colonel shot them. Daniel would have shot them too, yes, but Daniel was lying in a heap on the ground, and the Great Big Jaffa had to stop shooting so he could pick him up and the Very Important and Wanting to Get The Hell Out of There Team could... get the hell out of there.

"The Team's had a crapload of experience getting the hell out of there, so they're pretty good at it. But all the time they were getting the hell out of there and back to the Stargate, something was happening to Daniel. Something bad."

The eyes started to fill, and the little hand pointed to the page on the book and the picture Jack was covering up with his much bigger hand.

"Yep, something like that." He took his hand away, looking down at the drawing of a dauntingly unfriendly looking Aztec figure surrounded by much smaller - and either scared stiff or horribly, possibly dead - munchkin-or-infant-like ones.

"And this is where the story goes weird, or more weird than normal. Because by the time the Team got the hell out of there and back to the Stargate, Daniel..."

Was an infant too.

But Jack, looking at the infant balanced on his other knee (and way lighter than the book Daniel insisted they needed, if just for the name. And the picture.) couldn't quite bring himself to say the words.

They'd flung themselves into the Stargate, Teal'c holding a strapping six foot archaeologist with all too curious hands... and come out with Teal'c trying to hang on to a tiny, limp form almost drowning in his uniform. The tiny, limp form of a one-year-old at best, by the doctors' assessment.

Jack didn't like to remember what that had been like, or what had happened when the infant woke. And stared at him. And screamed fit to bring the whole mountain down. He didn't like the other geeks' endless questions about what the ("hell, we can see what it's done, Carter! - and no, I don't want to wonder if it's done anything worse!"), he didn't like the doctors' endless prodding and poking that brought on the screams again ("how much blood do those vampires need, it's not as if he has that much at the minute anyway?") and more than anything he didn't like the fact that the General wasn't about to let anyone go back to Yooo-hoool-tee-whatever's planet to find something to fix... Daniel.

Jack cleared his throat, and if his arm tightened around the tiny body in his arms, his eyes wandering around the dimly lit, cluttered book-lined cavern that was adult Daniel's office, and the only place the baby Daniel stopped crying.

In this office.

In Jack's arms, on his lap.

Listening to Jack's voice, telling him what had happened.

Jack wasn't sure that the baby understood what he was saying, but the part of him that was irredeemably Daniel sure understood when Jack had the wrong damn page of the book on old gods-turned-Goa'ulds, or got one of those damned tongue-twisting names wrong, so some of it seemed to be getting through, he seemed to understand some of it.

And hell, it made as much sense as the mission report was going to. Story, report, fairy tale, fiasco.... these days, it was sometimes hard to tell the difference, especially to a child, a child they didn't know how to turn back into ...Daniel.

Soooooo... oooohkay

"Once Upon a Time," he said again, staring at the book so he didn't have to meet that gaze again, "there was a Very Important Team, and they started a story. And I'd tell you the ending, I really would, but...

"It doesn't have an Ending. And between you and me, Daniel, it might not.

"Ever."


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F is for Frosting
by [profile] madders_ahatter

“Looks like the natives are friendly for a change,” Daniel smiled at the attractive young female who was leading them from the Gate toward her settlement. She was petite, and demure, and reminded him a little of Lya of the Nox.

“Indeed,” Teal’c concurred with a slight inclination of his head.

“She’s certainly gone out of her way to make us feel welcome,” Carter noted, adjusting the garland around her neck.

“Just remember, appearances can be deceptive. Keep your guard up, all of you,” O’Neill cautioned cynically, even though he’d only just reported to the SGC that the planet appeared to pose no danger.

They all nodded in acknowledgement.

Soon, the town came in sight: a plethora of fine buildings adorned with marble columns and arches, resembling Roman villas, all set around a vast courtyard.

The locals poured out of their homes to meet the newcomers. Beaming with delight, they cried out words of greeting and beckoned to the quartet to join them in the courtyard, where an enormously long rectangular table at one end was set out with myriad delicacies, as if they’d been expected.

“Oh, well, when in Rome…. I guess,” Carter shrugged as she allowed their guide to show her to a seat near the center of the table.

“I’m not sure this is a totally Roman-influenced society, Sam,” Daniel corrected. “There are similarities, I’ll grant you, but, well, uh, those aren’t exactly togas for a start.” Daniel indicated their hosts’ attire, which for the women consisted of diaphanous gowns in various pastel hues and multiple layers in many different styles from empire line tops to handkerchief hems and butterfly wing sleeves such as might grace a school fairy pageant. The men wore robes of somewhat stronger colors than the women, but much simpler in style. They were pretty much straight up and down - some with sleeves, some without - but all held in by simple belts, almost monk-like in appearance.

A tall, handsome man who looked to be in his late thirties bowed to the team and bid them sit and eat. He appeared to be the leader of the community. “You are most welcome. My name is Goodfellow Quinlan,” he told them.

The team introduced themselves in turn. Daniel was eager to hear the names of the rest of the residents. Goodfellow Quinlan sounded almost Puritanical in origin, like something out of old Salem. Then again, Quinlan was an Irish name, or so he thought. There seemed to be a large degree of cross-pollenization at work here and it intrigued him.

All around the table were low marble benches. SG-1 sat down in the places they’d been allocated. Jack winced as he did so, and rubbed his knees. “Ah, fer cryin’ out loud!” he complained in a low grumble.

“Are you in pain?” asked Quinlan.

“Just my age,” Jack responded dismissively. “The old knees aren’t what they used to be.”

“We have just the thing for you,” their original guide, who was called Goodmaid Muadhnait, told him as the others began sampling the fruits and sweets before them. She hurried down to the far end of the table, and returned with a small slice of cake on a silver platter. It was a soft, light sponge cake, with a layer of jam in the middle and a thick lavender colored frosting on the top.

“Does it have medicinal properties?” Carter asked.

“I do not know what you mean by that,” Muadhnait replied, “But it will make Goodfellow Jackoneill happy.”

“Tough assignment,” Daniel muttered under his breath.

O’Neill heard him, and glowered at him. He raised the plate in a sort of salute, and then scooped up the frosting on his fingertips, licking it off defiantly.

Daniel wondered at a civilization who knew nothing of medicine. The assembled group all looked young and healthy. There didn’t seem to be anyone more than middle-aged among them. Perhaps there was some sort of Logan’s Run type deal going on here. A Utopian society where the price to pay for an idyllic existence was death at – in this case - forty. In which case Jack and Teal’c had better watch out.

As the meal went on, accompanied by copious amounts of wine, the entertainment began in the form of an immaculately choreographed dance by eight of the young women. Following this came a musical interlude, the instruments – mostly stringed – playing hauntingly beautiful tunes that stirred the soul.

Much as he enjoyed the show, Daniel regretted that it prevented him from engaging in meaningful conversation with Quinlan. He felt that there was much to be learned about this civilization. Complaining to Jack on the subject, Daniel was surprised to hear the Colonel agree to them spending a few days ‘fact-finding’ on P2A-194, or Spleodar as the natives called it. He even ratified it with General Hammond when they made their routine report.

Before they knew it, darkness had descended and the team were being led to one of the larger villas, where they were to be honored guests for the night. Samantha Carter was shown to a room in the women’s quarters, while the others were given adjoining rooms in the men’s wing. They agreed to meet back in the courtyard for breakfast.

~~~

Next morning, a bleary-eyed Daniel nodded to Teal’c as they assembled by the table. It looked as if their hosts were not such early risers, since they were the first to arrive. Daniel had stayed up late writing copious notes in his journal about the fascinating people they had spent the evening with. He’d assumed he’d probably be the last to arrive. Carter was already there, looking far more fetching in the delicate gown put out for her than he or Teal’c looked in their simple robes. There was no sign of the Colonel, which was most unusual.

“Where’s Jack?” he asked, looking around. “Did he beat us to it? Has he been and gone?” Daniel didn’t really think their leader would wander off without them, but he didn’t want to believe that these gentle, friendly people would have done him any harm.

“It would appear not,” Teal’c informed him. “I believe we should return to the villa and seek him in his room.”

“I think I’d better wait here in case he comes out,” Sam suggested diplomatically. “I wouldn’t want to scandalize the Goodfellows by going into their masculine sanctum.”

Daniel gave her a thumbs-up. He’d been about to suggest the very same thing.

Back inside the villa, he and Teal’c hurried to their leader’s room, concerned that he may be ill. Daniel knocked, gently at first. “Jack?”

Nothing. Not a sound. Had the Colonel been murdered in his bed? Surely not.

Daniel knocked harder. “Jack, are you awake?”

A mumble from inside.

Teal’c opened the door as Daniel called again. “Jack, time to get up.”

“Just five more minutes, Daddy,” came a soft murmur from the bed. “It’s not like it’s a school day.”

“Do I need my ears tested, or did he just call me Daddy?” Daniel queried. Jack was the only one who could sometimes get away with calling him Danny. Though on such occasions it was more normally ‘Danny-boy’.

“I believe he did,” Teal’c confirmed. They moved into the room and over toward the bed.

“C’mon, Jack,” Daniel coaxed, “Stop clowning around. You’ll be late for breakfast.”

“Breakfast? I’m starving!” The figure in the bed jumped up enthusiastically.

A young boy - maybe eight or nine years old - turned to face them, then seemed to notice he was buck naked and grabbed the robe that had been laid out the night before, slipping it over his shoulders. Whereas the others’ robes were knee-length, his came down to his ankles. He hitched it up with the belt.

“What’s this, is it Halloween?” the kid asked, looking disapprovingly at the plain brown robe. “Lame.”

“Sorry, wrong room,” Daniel was saying at the same time. He was about to leave, when he suddenly stopped and turned back to the bed.


“Halloween? Jack, is that you?”

“Yeah, I’m Jack. Who the heck’re you?”

Daniel and Teal’c looked at each other in mirrored alarm.

“You’d better find Goodfellow Quinlan,” Daniel told the Jaffa. “I’ll get Jack to Sam, see if she can work out what’s happened.”

“Indeed.” Teal’c inclined his head.

“Who’re you meant to be, big guy?” Junior Jack asked Teal’c. “Don’t think I’ve seen that movie yet.”


~~~

It took Daniel a good deal of coaxing to get the young Jack to leave the room with him.

“My momma told me never to go with strangers,” the boy insisted after a while, crossing his arms petulantly.

“Quite right too,” Daniel agreed reasonably. “But I’m not a stranger. My name is Daniel and I’m a good friend. You just don’t remember me right now.”

“That sounds hinky to me. Why would I be friends with you?” Jack sneeringly replied. “You’re old.

Daniel looked hurt at that, but let it go.

In the end, he decided – against his better judgement – that he’d get further appealing to Jack’s adventurous side.

“I know you, Jack. Even if you don’t think you know me. And the Jack I know probably doesn’t always do what his momma tells him. Am I right?”

Junior Jack looked sheepish, but nodded.

“Well. Your mom and dad aren’t here right now. So, what say we go exploring a bit and see about that breakfast, huh?”

Junior Jack thought about it for a few moments. He looked around the room and seemed to come to the conclusion that if this Daniel meant him any harm or intended any ‘funny stuff’ as his mom called it, then being alone with him in a bedroom would have given him plenty of opportunity. In any case, he’d probably be safer outside with other people around.

“Sure, why not?” he shrugged.

~~~

By the time they got to the table in the courtyard, Teal’c had returned with Goodfellow Quinlan and Goodmaid Muadhnait. They seemed just as incredulous as Carter when they saw the erstwhile Colonel.

“You must be responsible,” Carter accused. “You said you were going to make him happy with that cake. There was something in it, wasn’t there?” She started moving toward the end of the table where the cake had been. The others followed.

“Who’s she?” Junior Jack asked Daniel in a whisper. “She’s pretty.”

“That’s Sam. Captain Carter,” Daniel told him. “She’s a friend too.”

“Not in the cake, no,” Muadhnait looked at the floor and twisted her hands together. “In the frosting. But it could not have done that.” She pointed toward the boy. “We only gave him a tiny piece. It should have made him a year or two younger, no more.”

“Is that why nobody here is older than Goodfellow Quinlan?” Daniel asked. “You just, uh, recycle yourselves?”

“Old age brings pain and sorrow,” Quinlan replied. “We have the means to avoid that. It is a good thing, is it not?”

“I’m sure a lot of people back home would agree with you there,” Carter allowed. “But Teal’c says Jack doesn’t know us,” she continued. “He’s reverted totally to how he was at eight years old. We need the Colonel back the way he was. With all his memories intact.”

“I do not understand how he got to be so very young,” Quinlan insisted. “It has never happened before.”

Daniel spotted something under the table. “I think maybe I have an idea about that.” He turned to the precocious boy beside him.

“Jack,” he smiled reassuringly. “You’re not in trouble, but I need to know. Did you by any chance sneak out for a midnight feast last night? Help yourself to some more cake?”

“Might have,” Jack said sullenly. “Nobody said I wasn’t allowed.”

Daniel pointed to the numerous crumbs on the floor. “Looks like he overdosed. Almost like the grandparents and the Wonka-Vite.” Despite the seriousness of the situation, Daniel couldn’t help smiling at the idea of Jack in diapers.

Teal’c looked bemused. “I am unfamiliar with that mission. To what are you referring, DanielJackson?”

“It’s a children’s story,” Carter clarified. “Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. Roald Dahl. Three old people take pills to make them twenty years younger. But they take too many and end up as babies. In which case, what we need is some Vita-Wonk to reverse the effects. Or the equivalent anyway.” She turned to the natives. “If the frosting reduces age, do you have anything to make people older again?”

“Why would we need that?” Goodfellow Quinlan asked. “When someone eats the frosting, they become a year or two younger. They then age at the normal rate, until they eat more cake.”

“We can’t wait nearly forty years for Jack to grow up again!” Daniel exclaimed, horrified.

“Indeed we cannot,” Teal’c agreed. “Our presence is required at the SGC two days from now.”

“What’s for breakfast?” Junior Jack piped up, oblivious to the trouble he’d caused.

“Not cake, that’s for sure,” Daniel said firmly.

“Teal’c, you’d better help Daniel keep an eye on our young friend,” Carter told the Jaffa. “While I try to work out what the magic ingredient is, and how we can counteract it.”

Teal’c inclined his head, and he and Daniel took young Jack back down to the other end of the table to get something to eat.

~~~

Goodmaid Muadhnait had been instructed to give Carter – now back in her olive drab uniform - every assistance. Accordingly, she had provided numerous samples of the frosting, and all the ingredients used to make it. Unfortunately, Sam didn’t have the right scientific equipment with her to make a full analysis of the composition and properties of the offending substances. So, they’d had to contact the SGC and let General Hammond know what had happened. Having reassured him that there was no danger of contagion, the General had sent through Dr. Fraiser with all manner of portable paraphernalia. He made it clear he would prefer the problem to be dealt with in situ. However, he gave Janet the authority to bring the team home ‘as is’ if she deemed it absolutely necessary.

Goodfellow Quinlan allocated a small building for their experiments. They had Daniel bring the young Jack in so they could get blood samples – a process the boy complained about bitterly, “I reckon this is child abuse” - but beyond that they suggested Daniel take Jack away and ‘keep him out of mischief’ until they had something to go on.

“Good luck,” Daniel offered. “Though I think I might need it more than you do!”

Janet chuckled, ruffling Jack’s hair, much to his annoyance. “You could be right, Doctor Jackson.”
~~~


Hours later, the two women had made progress, but were no nearer to a solution.

“Just as we thought. It isn’t a virus,” Dr. Fraiser confirmed. “The unknown component in the lavender coloring is unquestionably responsible, but I can’t work out how or why.”

“And it’s definitely not nanotechnology?” Sam’s question was largely rhetorical.

“No,” Janet paused in her examination of the slide under her microscope and looked up at Sam. “Could that be the answer?”

“What? You just said it wasn’t -“

“-No,” Janet interrupted. “Don’t you remember? Nanocytes. That’s what made the Colonel age rapidly on uh, on Argos, wasn’t it? When the Argosians – what did they call themselves…?”

“The Chosen of Pelops,” Sam recalled, her eyes bright. “Yes. When Kynthia gave Jack a slice of we- uh, of cake. What a coincidence!”

“Exactly. Couldn’t we use a little of Pelops’ technology to re-age the Colonel?”

Carter thought for a few moments. “I suppose the theory is sound,” she said, “but there’s a problem. The technology relied on a signal being emitted by the device under the statue. It was destroyed. Even if we could somehow harvest any nanocytes – and it’s doubtful there’d be any viable ones still in existence – we have no way to activate them.”

“Pity.”

~~~

Meantime, Daniel, Teal’c and Junior Jack were exploring the area. The two older men had reverted to their uniforms but, since Jack’s was too big, the boy remained in local garb.

Daniel was fascinated by the origins and history of the natives and had wanted to study the architecture and the artifacts in the houses. But Jack soon pronounced that ‘boring’ and demanded they go out of the settlement into the woods beyond. Teal’c had readily agreed to this, suggesting they might find some wildlife to track through the carpet of autumnal leaves. A challenge he always enjoyed. He offered to take Jack with him while Dr. Jackson remained to do his research, but Daniel thought he’d better stick with Jack. He followed them with a sigh of regret. He had to agree that the glorious colors of the leaves on the various species of trees were a sight to behold.

Everything had gone well at first. Jack had been impressed by Teal’c’s tracking skills, and had shown an aptitude for it himself under the Jaffa’s tutelage. However, when they had failed to even see - let alone actually catch - a single animal after two hours of following paw prints and scats, he lost interest. Before they knew what was happening, the kid had shinned his way up a tall thin tree and was pretending to be a pirate in the crow’s nest of a sailing ship.

“That course of action is not wise,” Teal’c called up to the boy. “The potential for you to fall and injure yourself is great.”

“I’m with Teal’c. You’d better come down, Jack.” Daniel suggested.

“You’re supposed to be such a good friend, Daniel,” Junior Jack said his name scathingly. “Why don’t you come up and get me?”

Daniel looked up at the fragile branches, and swallowed hard. They may have supported a slender eight-year-old, but he was a different matter. Besides, he’d always had a problem with heights.

“Jack, you get down here this instant, young man!” Daniel said authoritatively.

“Shan’t, won’t, can’t make me!” Jack practically sang his defiance.

“You’d better do as you’re told, or I’ll set Doctor Fraiser on you!” Daniel threatened. Unfortunately, it seemed this particular threat had a greater effect on the mature Jack.

“Like you said earlier, Daniel old pal, I don’t always do what momma tells me. So why would I care what the doc says?

“Come on, what are you waiting for?” Jack challenged, “you can see for miles from up here.”

“Do you wish me –“ Teal’c started to offer, aware of Dr. Jackson’s aversion to high places.

“Thanks, Teal’c,” Daniel truly appreciated the offer. For a split second he was almost tempted to accept. “But there’s no way that tree’d take your weight. No offense.” He handed Teal’c his backpack.

“None taken. Your assessment is doubtless accurate.”

Daniel looked up at the tree and ran his tongue over suddenly dry lips. “Okay. Stay where you are, Jack. I’m coming up.”

Picking his route carefully and reminding himself constantly not to look down, Daniel edged his way slowly up through the branches. Even before he’d gotten very high he had to admit that Jack had been right about the view. They’d come to the far edge of the woods, quite a way from the town, which lay in a valley to the South. Their route had brought them to higher ground without them having been aware of it. To the East and West of the town were cultivated fields. To the North, beyond the woodland, it appeared as if the crops had been left to grow wild. No neat rows here, but a hotchpotch of neglected vegetation. Daniel couldn’t make it all out, but in amongst the tangled stalks he felt sure he saw Brussel Sprouts growing. Clusters of knobbly buds surrounding the stalks like the bells on a Morris Dancer’s Jingle Stick. No wonder they don’t bother with them, he thought, hardly anybody but me likes Sprouts.

Looking outward made Daniel aware of how fragile his position was. He turned his focus to the tree trunk and resumed his nervous climb towards his team leader.

Woah! he thought suddenly. Colonel O’Neill might be the commanding officer of this unit, but up there it’s just Jack, a kid. Why am I taking orders from him?

Annoyed with himself, Daniel thought about turning around and going back. But that prospect was scarier than going on at this point. He didn’t want to think how he was going to manage it. Whatever had possessed him to start climbing in the first place? He took a slow steadying breath to try and still the palpitations in his chest. As he continued his ascent, he could hear his pulse pounding in his ears. He was starting to feel dizzy. Man, this had been a very bad idea.

A shower of leaves fluttered down from above, startling Daniel further. His breathing shallow and rapid, he hugged the trunk of the tree with sweaty palms and closed his eyes.

Next thing he knew, there was a gentle hand on his shoulder and a soothing voice in his ear.

“Why didn’t you say you were scared of heights? Doofus.”

“J-Jack?”

“C-mon, buddy. Let’s get you down.”

Although outwardly still a young boy, Jack had once again become the take-charge leader that Daniel knew and respected so well.

~~~
By the time they got back into town, it was lunchtime. Daniel’s fear had given way to embarrassment and he was begging Teal’c and Junior Jack not to tell Sam about his misadventure.

“What’s it worth?” Jack asked cheekily.

“How about you NOT getting put to bed early without dinner?”

“Oooh, who’s a tough guy all of a sudden? Are those things like Popeye and his spinach or something?”

In an attempt to calm himself, Daniel had made them detour to the wild garden to pick some of the sprouts. They were slightly larger than Earth ones, and had a vaguely musky smell, but he wanted to try them nonetheless. He figured if the natives didn’t bother with them –as it appeared – then they wouldn’t mind him helping himself. On the other hand, if they did harvest the crop and it was just an unusual way of growing them, then they’d be grateful he’d saved them the bother of picking the veggies. Jack had complained bitterly about having to help carry the ‘thousands’ that Daniel had insisted they pick, even though most them were safely stored in Daniel’s and Teal’c’s backpacks.

“How’s it going?” Daniel asked the two scientists when they reported their return. “Any progress?”

“Not really,” Dr. Fraiser replied wearily, envying Jackson his light, cheery tone. It sounded as if the boys had been out having fun while they’d been working their butts off. “We’ve isolated the cause of the reaction, but we’ve been unable to find an antidote yet.”

“What’ve you got there?” Carter asked the young Jack, as he unloaded his burden onto a small table.

“Wild sprouts!” Daniel pronounced enthusiastically.

“They smell yucky,” Junior Jack turned up his nose.

“Do not,” Daniel pouted, sounding more petulant than the child beside him. “Besides, they’re good for you.”

“That’s as may be,” Fraiser decided. “But given what happened to the Colonel, I’d like to run some tests on them before you decide to gorge yourself, Dr. Jackson.”

“Can’t it wait ‘til after lunch?” Junior Jack whined. “I’m starving.”

“Some things never change,” Janet declared with a smile and a shake of her head. “Okay, but I think we should stick to rations for now.”

While they were heating their MREs, Goodmaid Muadhnait came to invite them to join the townsfolk for ‘the daytime repast’. She was shocked to see they were preparing their own food.

“We mean no disrespect,” Janet told her. “But we feel it is safer to eat our own provisions, given the circumstances.”

Muadhnait looked crestfallen. “We would not harm you. We meant well when we gave Goodfellow Jackoneill the cake.”

“We know,” Carter soothed. “But Dr. Fraiser is worried that your food could affect us in ways it doesn’t affect you.”

Muadhnait looked over to where a bored young Jack was standing by the table, juggling with five of the sprouts.

“Yet to have gathered the forbidden olerace.”

“Hah!” Daniel exclaimed triumphantly. “The scientific name for sprouts is Brassica Oleracea.” He turned to Muadhnait, suddenly serious. “Why are they forbidden?”

“I do not know,” she admitted. “Only that we are all taught we must never eat them. I shall ask Goodfellow Quinlan.”

~~~

It was some time later that she returned with the town elder.

“I fear I cannot satisfactorily answer your question, Goodfellow Danieljackson.” Quinlan apologized. “We have few rules or laws here in Spleodar, but those we have are handed down from the ancestors. We have followed them all our lives. One such rule is that we must not, under any circumstances, consume the olerace. No one before has thought to question why such a rule exists, any more than we question the traditional recipe for the frosting, nor the effect it has upon us. All we need know is that the ancestors were wise, and their instructions have served us well.”

Dr. Fraiser had started examining the olerace. She looked up at Quinlan’s comment. “I wonder. Could it be so simple?” She thought aloud.
“What?” Carter moved over to join her.

“Just a theory,” Janet answered. “Let me test it.”

She beavered away for several minutes extracting and dissolving and heating in test tubes and looking at things under the microscope. Then finally she mixed two samples together, and examined the result. She grinned broadly.

“Correct me if I’m wrong, Dr. Jackson, but I believe the expression is Eureka!”

“You’re saying the sprouts – uh, olerace – are the cure for Jack’s, um, predicament?” Carter asked.

“Looks like it,” Fraiser replied. “There’s an active agent present that appears to cancel out the unknown element of the frosting. I still have no idea how or why they work as they do, I just know the effect is real. So, it’s certainly worth a try, but we need to make sure we get the – shall we say dosage – right. We don’t want the Colonel to end up aging too far again.”

“Will it restore his memory too?” Daniel wanted to know.

“There’s no way to predict that,” Janet admitted. “We’ll just have to wait and see and hope.”

~~~

Dr. Fraiser, with Carter assisting, worked for most of the afternoon before declaring they were ready to try giving Jack his antidote. They took a carefully measured amount of the olerace to Goodmaid Muadhnait with instructions on how to prepare them.

When the team sat down to eat that evening, the ladies were in high spirits and full of optimism. Teal’c was as enigmatic as ever. Both Daniel and Junior Jack were sulking, big time. Daniel because he’d been warned he mustn’t eat even one of the sprouts; Jack because he’d been told he had to eat every last one on his plate.

Young Jack smothered one of the sprouts with mashed potato, held his nose with one hand, screwed up his eyes, and ‘bit the bullet’.

“Euuugggh!” he declared. “It’s disgusting.”

“No it’s not, Jack,” Daniel said, looking enviously at the vegetables. “They’re delicious and nutritious. So, come on, eat up.”

“Shan- “

“ - Don’t start that again.” Daniel said crossly. Then he remembered that bribery was liable to get him further than threats.

“Tell you what, kiddo,” he grinned. “If you eat up all your greens like a good boy, then tomorrow I’ll let you play soldiers with us. I might even give you a go with my gun.” Daniel patted his zat gun.

“For real?” Junior Jack’s eyes were wide as saucers.

“Sure. But only if you eat up.”

“If I finish this, can I have some cake after?” Jack asked hopefully.

“NO!” cried the whole team in unison.

“I think we can probably let you have some of the ice-cream,” Carter placated, looking at Muadhnait questioningly.

“It is quite safe,” the Goodmaid assured her.

Unenthusiastically, Jack settled down to clear his plate.

~~~


Next morning, Daniel and Teal’c went to Jack’s room and anxiously knocked on the door.

“Jack?”

For a nerve-racking minute, they heard nothing.

Daniel knocked again.

“Fer cryin’ out loud, give a guy a minute!” came the grumble from inside.

Daniel and Teal’c exchanged relieved glances. It certainly sounded as if the old Jack was back.

The door opened, and a fully-grown Colonel Jack O’Neill emerged.

“How d’you feel, Jack?”

“Damn knees’re killing me, thanks for asking.”

“Welcome back, O’Neill,” Teal’c said.

“What do you remember, Jack?” Daniel asked.

“A lot more than you, I reckon,” Jack told him. “How many times do I have to tell you? It’s airman, not soldier, and that’s a weapon, not a gun!”

Daniel blushed at the criticism. “C’mon, Jack, let’s go home.”

~~~

Postscript:

Stargate Command
Internal Memo
From the desk of General George Hammond:

FAO: Colonel Jack O’Neill, SG-1, and any other SGC members who accompany Colonel O’Neill offworld in the future.

This order is of the highest importance and is to be adhered to strictly at all times.

Even when he is the Commanding Officer, under NO circumstances is Colonel O’Neill EVER to be allowed to eat cake on an alien planet again.

George Hammond

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G is for Grandpa Nick
by [personal profile] goddess47

Looking back, Daniel knew he had to be particularly grateful to the first foster family that took him in after his parents died.

The sympathetic social worker had told them about Nick Ballard -- "So sad, but he's not capable of taking Daniel. He's in an institution himself." She had left contact information for Nick with the foster parents.

A month later, the George's took Daniel to visit his grandfather.

"Danny--" he couldn't get them to call him 'Daniel' -- "This is your Grandfather Nick."

Nick had peered closely at Daniel and asked, "Do you know any Mayan?"

"Excuse me?" Daniel was puzzled.

"The language, Mayan!" Nick had boomed.

"No..." Daniel said reluctantly.

"Then what languages do you know?" Nick demanded.

"Umm... English, I guess," Daniel was still confused.

"Hrmph. That won't do!" Nick had declared. "I need help with translating, and you should be my helper!"

"I can learn!" Daniel had promised.

That was the start of Daniel's semi-regular visits to Nick.

"Learned Mayan yet?" Nick would ask.

"No, but I've started on Italian and Spanish," Daniel would report. "And I can start Greek next year in school."

"Good, good," Nick beamed. "Always good to learn all the languages you can!"

Daniel was fortunate that most of the foster homes he lived in helped him visit Nick. He'd trade chores with any of the other kids to make sure someone would be able to take him. When he was finally old enough to drive, he found a part time job so that he could pay for the gas.

By the time he learned Mayan, Daniel was in graduate school. Nick had beamed at him when Daniel was able to finally report that he had learned the language.

When Catherine Langford asked him to translate mysterious Egyptian cover stones, it had been over a year since he had seen Nick.

He wasn't to know their next meeting would involve a trip to P7X-377 -- proving both of their long held theories to be true.

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H is for Helping Hand
by
[personal profile] eilidh17

"That's an order, Siler."

"Yes, sir," Siler says, because he never questions the Colonel's orders, even when being saddled with a ten year old Major Samantha Carter, who is all pigtails, freckles, and a toothy smile. He's sure stranger things have happened, but a gate malfunction leaving the SGC's premier astrophysicist as a child is probably the hinkiest thing he's ever encountered.

And hinky isn't a word he uses very often.

"Hi!" she says with a smile and a wave of her hand, in a way that reminds him of his daughter when she wants something from him, only this time all the Major wants is to shadow him while he tries to repair the Stargate.

Colonel O'Neill says her memories are intact. Siler isn't so sure, not when she reaches out to touch his wrench and then pulls back before she makes contact.

"It looks bigger from this angle."

"Yes, ma'am."

"I know, I know, you're going to say it has something to do with size being a perceptual clue that helps us to determine the dimensions of objects based on those perceptions."

"Well--"

"Or how a relative measure of size is a way of expressing the total size of an object--"

"Ma'am?"

"Siler?"

"I was going to suggest it looks bigger because you are smaller. Currently... smaller."

"Relative size measure?"

"Just an observation. I've always left the hard math to you."

"You have?"

Of course he hadn't, but he wasn't about to let on.

"Yes, ma'am."

"I'm glad we sorted that out! What's our status?"

Siler turns back towards the gate and points to the super conductors. "The computer detected an unidentified signal and radiation signature at the time the wormhole started to destabilize, resulting in your..."

"Change in stature? Physical de-aging?"

"Just wondering if you had given any thought to what will happen if your condition is permanent, ma'am?"

"Nothing past not being able to ride my motorcycle."

All those hours of restoration wasted. "Can't reach the foot pedal?"

"I doubt my license would pass muster with local law enforcement."

"Could be a problem."

Major Carter walks up the ramp to stand below the Stargate, casting her much smaller but experienced eye over one of the uncased super conductors. "Routine maintenance? If the problem was caused by an unidentified signal, shouldn't we be looking at the gate computer code for language compromises?"

"I was checking the workings for any signs of radiation damage."

"Any luck in trying to identify the type of radiation?"

"Showed the properties of beta decay. Beta plus."

"A positron emission?"

"That's about as far as the similarity went."

"Nuts." The Major looks back up at the left conductor and then down to a ladder perched on the side of the gate. "I guess we should take a look and see if there's any damage."

"Ah, ma'am?"

"Yes?"

"I'm not sure Colonel O'Neill's orders for you to 'tag along' included going up a ten foot ladder to tinker in the belly of the gate."

Major Carter smiles mischievously and waggles her fingers. "I'm sure my little fingers can reach places your big old wrench can't."

Siler was more concerned with explaining to O'Neill how he managed to get Major Carter's fingers caught in some cog or coil, or snagged on a loose wire. "No argument there. It's the ten feet of ladder that bothers me."

"You need my help."

"Rendering assistance through observation is a form of helping."

Major Carter plants her hands on her hips in an act of defiance, scowling at him with her lips pursed. The look she normally threw him when she was unimpressed with whatever they were doing was generally enough for him to back off and give her some space, but the glare from a pre-teen was positively frightening.

It was a good, old-fashioned Mexican standoff. The tech sergeant versus the smaller but vastly outranking major.

"Carter!"

Major Carter holds Siler's gaze for a split second before softening her growing sneer to a sweet smile, and turning towards Colonel O'Neill.

"Being assertive are we, Carter?"

"No, sir."

"Siler?"

"All good here, sir. The major has some suggestions I'm keen to try out right away."

"Are you lying to me, Siler?"

"No, sir."

O'Neill doesn't look convinced. "So, pray tell. What are these brilliant suggestions Carter has for solving her own problem?"

"They exist in sentences of more than ten words."

"Big words?"

"Yes, sir."

"Ah!" He turns to Major Carter and holds out a hand. "Your work is done here, Major."

"But--"

"Aht! Jacob is here with some Tok'ra engineers. They have suggestions of their own."

"He is? They do?"

"Yup, and unlike you and Siler, I can almost understand some of what they say."

Major Carter takes the Colonel's hand and starts to walk away, before looking over her shoulder and poking out her tongue out at Siler. Another trait his daughter does when she thinks she's got her way, despite actually getting nowhere at all.

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I is for Incendiary
by [personal profile] goddess47

Although just a child, not yet selected to be a warrior, Teal'c understood it was an impossible task. His father bade him to take care of his mother, for this was a last good-bye. When Ro'nac returned, defeated, Teal'c could only watch as Cronus murdered his father. It was an example for all Jaffa, that there was no excuse for failure.

The murder of his father lit the fire that smoldered until Teal'c was old enough to be sent for training. He worked to earn his place, even with the 'shame' that his father had earned for failing their god.


Master Bra'tac saw those embers, and carefully reached out to the stoic boy that had been sent to him for training. Bra'tac fanned those embers into brightly burning flames. He set the untrained boy on the path to be the warrior he needed to be.

As a young man, Teal'c struggled with the evil that was Apophis, knowing he saved too few. As First Prime, he had a place of honor, but no voice in the atrocities Apophis committed.

Then Jack-O'Neill arrived, a man who had power, but would also save innocents. Jack-O'Neill fanned those flames into a super nova.

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J is for Jack's in Trouble Again
by [personal profile] sg_wonderland

Matthew sighed heavily when he saw his wife pacing their front porch. He grabbed his lunch box and slowly got out of the truck, putting off the moment of reckoning.

“So, what's he done this time?” Matthew stepped in front of Margaret, forcing her to stop.

“I got called to school....again. Jack and some of his buddies decided to liberate the frogs from the lab that were supposed to be dissected.”

“The frogs were...?”

“Already dead and in formaldehyde. And then they decided to...set the frogs free.”

Matthew felt his lip twitch. “And so they....?”

“Went out to the main entrance, put cigarettes in the frogs mouths, lit the cigarettes and placed them all over the sidewalk.” Matthew snorted. “Don't you laugh! Don't you dare laugh!”

“Not laughing,” Matthew couldn't help the laugh.

“Get it over with now because you cannot go in there laughing.” She turned her face so that he couldn't see her expression.

Matthew pulled her close. “Five minutes. Then we go inside.”

It took them seven minutes to get all the laughing out of their systems.

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K is for Knowing When
by [personal profile] eilidh17

His crib is cold. The sheets are scratchy under my touch as though their softness died the day he did. Nothing in this room feels warms anymore. Not the soft toys he loved, nor the pillow that still holds his scent trapped in its cover, and especially not the blue satin-edged blanket that he would curl up with at night.

This room that was his sanctuary, a place he gave so much life and character to, is now just another set of walls in a house that has lost its spirit.

We all knew he wouldn't live. The proverbial writing was on the walls the day he was returned to us a child. A hideous freak of nature was my first thought, and all I wanted to do was run away from this mess as fast as I could.

Who was I kidding? The eyes are the windows to the soul, and his eyes told me all I need to know.

He was still in there... and he needed my help more than ever.

Curiously, I wonder if he knew his life would be measured in weeks and not years as it should have been. Whatever technology had been used to turn him this way had also been terribly flawed. The SGC's best and brightest didn't have a clue how to fix it.

Why is it that in your greatest moment of need your allies have more important things to do?

They'll help when they can.

So, while the creeping chill of winter stole our breaths away, forces larger than we could compete with stole his. And as the days passed, our time with him grew ever shorter.

Cradled against my chest, fingers rubbing and teasing the fine satin binding of his beloved blanket, we sat together and watched as the sun set over chilly day, and ushered in what would be our last night together.

His fingers stilled, breathing slowed until I could barely see his chest rise, and with a soft sigh, his eyes met mine briefly and fluttered closed. Never to open again.

Quem deus vult perdere. Whom the gods would destroy.

Like a cosmic joke we never got the punch line to, he has been taken from us and we are left to pick up the pieces of our live and move on. So, with his blanket pressed against my chest, I close the door on this house... and on his life.

"Goodbye, Jack."

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L is for The Last
by [personal profile] eilidh17

Sam was dead. The little stone marker, carved by Jack's hand from a rock he had quarried in a nearby riverbed, sat right beside Teal'c's headstone. They were together now, which in Jack's mind seemed totally right because that's how they had been after Earth was lost.

Teal'c died when his supply of Tretonin ran out. Sam, only a few days ago when the roof of their cabin collapsed during the last storm. Jack had done what he could with the meager supplies from their med kit, but the last of their reserves were gone. There was nothing left, save for a couple of already used bandages and some adhesive tape.

And then there was Daniel.

Jack guessed it was funny at first when he lost his grip on the rope Daniel was hanging from, sending him crashing into the water at the bottom of the cenote they had found on P7C-992. Whether it was hearing his cry of surprise as the rope gave way, or that cutting Daniel off mid-history lesson while he was trying to record unusual hieroglyphs on the underside of the pit was somehow satisfying, he didn't know. But he'll never forget watching Daniel struggling for breath as the rope came down on him.

The water Daniel swallowed was ultimately their undoing. Far from being safe, regardless of what Carter's initial tests had concluded, it was tainted in a way none of them could have even imagined. He had quite literally drunk from the fountain of youth, and there was no one left on Earth to tell.

Burying the gate on '992 had been an option of last resort. All attempts at dialing Earth had failed, and what little contact they had with the Beta site revealed the base was being attacked by the Goa'uld after its location had been compromised.

They were alone, the only team who had been offworld at the time of their mission. And now Jack was the only one left to raise a child that had once been a man.

Jack didn't understand the de-aging process. All he knew was that in the space of a day or so, Daniel got a whole lot shorter, his skin softer, his voice higher, and his memory faded. And they were just the things he could see. Carter was no help - she didn't understand the process either, despite coming up with some fairly impressive observations.

It didn't really matter in the end because they were on their own, and the pain Daniel went through as his body de-aged was enough to keep thoughts of Earth buried under layers of worry and stress.

That was almost three years ago. Today Daniel celebrated what they had all figured was his 7th birthday.

"Happy birthday, Daniel." Jack raised his canteen cup and swallowed the sip of water it contained. Not enough to quench his thirst, but then the water came from the cenote and it was a sufficient amount that if he drank just a sip each day he could hold back the years until Daniel was old enough to survive on his own.

Daniel smiled without looking up from his book, barely acknowledging the moment as he used the charcoal pencil Jack had made him to scribble down words Jack couldn't read.

"Arabic?" Jack asked.

"Hindu."

"What happened to the Arabic from yesterday?"

Daniel reached up to push back his long fringe, and then tapped a finger to the side of his head. "I finished remembering it. Now I'm up to Hindu."

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M is for Méllo
by [personal profile] gategremlyn

Oxam and Fidalan stood by the now-quiet circle.

“Will they come back,” Oxam asked, “the people of Earth?”

“They must,” Fidalan replied.

~::~

“Daniel?” Jack leaned forward to catch the attention of his distracted friend. He got no response so he tried again. “Daniel, are you paying attention?”

“Of course I’m paying attention, Jack. I’m just ignoring you.” Daniel continued to rifle through his notes.

“Did you want to add anything to this team briefing?”

“Team briefing plus one,” Daniel said without looking up.

“Plus one.” while snippy, was true since Jack had been summoned from Washington to the mountain to join the team on temporary assignment.

After waiting for Daniel to add something else, Landry wrapped things up.“I think we could use your help on this one, Jack, if you’re willing.”

“Sure,” Jack said, “I’m willing. But I’m feeling used. You just want me because I’m an Ancient.”

“You may have the Ancient gene, General O’Neill,” Vala pointed out, “but that doesn’t mean you’re an Ancient.”

“Semantics.” Jack waved a hand at her before he turned to the team leader. “Mitchell, have your team ready in four hours.”

Mitchell stood when Jack did, giving an automatic “yes, sir” before he left the room. Carter, Vala, and Teal’c right behind him.

Landry left with a wave of his own. “Welcome back, Jack.”

“I like that planet,” Vala’s voice floated back. “They have good…. What were those fruity things, Muscles?”

“Pies,” Teal’c offered. “I, too, enjoyed them.”

The voices faded as they moved down the hallway. Jack stood watching them before he turned to Daniel who still had the mission briefing file open. The picture in front of him showed the locals, a group with pale skin, pale eyes, and pale clothes--a nondescript group in Jack’s opinion--standing outside a small shrine.

The team’s discovery of the shrine had resulted in Jack’s summons. According to Carter and Daniel, the shrine was an Ancient artifact—an artifact Jack was supposed to activate it with his gene… if it could be activated.

“So?” Jack asked.

Daniel sighed. “I don’t know. I can’t put my finger on it, but it doesn’t feel right.”

“Explain that.”

“I can’t.” He tapped his finger on the picture. “Something’s… off. I don’t know what and I don’t know why.”

Jack believed in intuition. The brain had amazing ways of processing information, and sometimes hunches were simply the brain subconsciously processing what couldn’t be brought into consciousness. When that hunch came from one of his team, he didn’t brush it off as nothing. “Should we go back?”

Slowly, Daniel gathered up the briefing materials and put them in the folder. He stood and faced Jack who stood waiting for an answer. “I don’t know, Jack. I want to get a closer look at the shrine—the language is Greek yet the shrine looks like the Ancients’ handiwork--but I feel like I’m missing something.”

“Missing something,” Jack muttered. “They weren’t aggressive. They weren’t inhospitable. They weren’t xenophobic. Right?”

“Quite the opposite,” Daniel said. “They were very welcoming, except that they wouldn’t let us stay for more than a few hours. They insisted we leave and come back, even after we told them we had our own supplies and wouldn’t bother them for a place to stay or anything to eat.”

The team had been to the planet twice, and each time they’d been politely but firmly shooed away after a few hours. The small group of bland inhabitants lived in a quaint village of about 50 equally bland buildings. A few small, well-kept farms circled the village, but according to the elders who’d met them at the Stargate, they were the only inhabitants of the planet.

“Elders” was a misnomer, if Jack had read the report correctly. The man and woman who’d greeted the team looked middle aged at best. At the briefing Mitchell had complained about looking old beside them.

Carter had kidded him, “It’s tough when the baby of the group feels old. Wait until you get to be my age.”

Vala took a jab as well. “I still think you look young-ish and handsome.”

Daniel, who usually took every opportunity to tease the new guy, had said nothing.

Speaking of nothing… Jack had a whole lot of that. “Do we go back?”

Daniel tapped the edge of the folder on the desk. “I can’t think of a good reason why not. And I’d like you to have a look at the shrine.”

“But—“

“But something doesn’t feel right.” Daniel turned and left, leaving Jack alone in the room.

“Well,” said Jack to an empty room, “at least there’s pie.”

~::~

The same pair of non-elders, Oxam and Fidalan met them when they came through the Stargate. They made a fuss of Jack, the newcomer, if anything these people did could be considered a fuss. They spoke and moved in the same quiet graceful way as before. They took the group to a town meeting place with a long table and a dozen soft chairs. There, they were given tea and “pie,” finger-sized pastries with a tart, fruity filling, which Jack had to admit were very tasty—although he could have done without the tea. Then they were guided through the open market in the town square to look at the goods and services of local farmers and craftsmen. A couple of small children, maybe four or five years of age, played in one of the stalls under the watchful eye of a man sewing shoe leather into a sandal. Unlike the adults, the children wore bright, fresh colors--reds, yellows, and purples that glowed.

Jack indulged in another pie, this one fresh out of the oven, and shrugged at Carter’s grin. To show he was a nice guy, he shared it with Teal’c and tried not to embarrass himself by licking the warm filling from his fingers. They walked from stall to stall, murmuring praises for the goods they saw, a shawl spun of a soft gray yarn, a stool made of a wood so dark it reminded Jack of ebony, a set of cups that any potter would be proud of.

After wiping his fingers on his pants, he held one of the cups in his hand. “These are beautiful. Did you make these?” The craftsmanship showed in the delicate lines of the handle and in the fine pale blue of the glaze.

The woman behind the counter beamed. “I did. Do you know something about pottery?”

“I’ve dabbled,” Jack admitted, “but I can’t make anything like this.”

“It is a skill that takes times,” she said, “and patience.”

“Beautiful.” Reluctantly, he handed it back. “I’d like to buy six of them. How much?”

“These are not for sale, but the next time you come, I will have a set specially prepared for you.”

“I don’t think I’ll be back,” Jack jerked a thumb over his shoulder toward Daniel and Mitchell who were admiring a saddle. “I’m not usually part of this outfit. I just came to see the shrine.”

“Ah.” The woman nodded again as she rearranged the cups in front of her. “You must come back. I will make a set for you. Come back.”

As if on cue, the welcoming committee rescinded their welcome. “You must return home. We will greet you again in a fortnight.”

“But we haven’t seen the shrine yet,” Daniel protested. Jack was almost surprised to hear the voice. Daniel, who usually had nonstop questions, hadn’t said much beyond the normal “hello, how are you” since his arrival.

“Next time,” they said.

~::~

Jack hadn’t intended to go back. But he was curious… and he wanted his handmade cups.
Like at the last briefing, Daniel was pretty quiet.

“Well?” Jack asked after the others had left.

“What did you notice at the market?” Daniel asked.

“Other than the pottery? Good food, nice crafts, quiet people. That’s about it.”

“Did you notice the children?”

Jack thought back to the little ones in the stall. “Yeah. Cute kids. What about it?”

“How old would you say they were?”

“Four. Maybe five or six. I’m not good at figuring out ages of little kids.”

“What else did you notice about them?

“They were dressed in loudugly colors—“

“And?”

Jack threw up his hands in frustration and then subsided when he saw Daniel’s troubled look. He tried to picture them. But in two weeks, he’d forgotten all but the colors and the bright smiles. Like most children, they had been laughing and giggling over whatever toy it was they had. “That’s all I can remember.”

“Think about it, Jack. What else did you notice?”

The children had been playing with an old thread spool, probably from the shoemaker, and two sticks. They’d been trying to catch the spool on the sticks. Jack smiled as he remembered a game like that from his own childhood. He saw one of them, a little girl with black hair, toss the spool to the little boy. The boy had coffee-colored skin and bright blue eyes. Finally, it dawned on him—black hair, dark skin, blue eyes. “They didn’t look like the adults.”

“Exactly. And they’re the only children I’ve seen in three visits, those two, and I saw a woman with a baby when we came out of the town hall.”

“So? They’re a pretty small community.”

“That’s the point. In a community that small, you’d expect to see almost as many children as adults. Small communities need children to do chores and work the land. You’d expect the children to look like their parents. You’d also expect to see people of all ages—babies, teens, middle aged, elderly… which we didn’t.”

“And?”

“It…. I….” Daniel faltered and stopped.

“It doesn’t feel right,” Jack finished for him.

“Yeah.”

“But we’re going back.”

“Yeah,” Daniel said with the closest thing to a smile Jack had seen. “It’s what we do, right?”

~::~

Daniel made sure that they visited the shrine first, declining even the pastries. To keep the peace, Teal’c, Vala, and Mitchell had taken tea with some of the villagers while Oxam and Fidalan had accompanied them to the outskirts of town.

“But it’s pie, Daniel,” Jack complained.

“Don’t they feed you at the Pentagon?”

The shrine was small, more like an altar with a small enclosure built around it. It sat in a grove of trees, shadowed but somehow welcoming in the dappled sunlight. It looked like the Ancients’ handiwork with its clean lines and slim pillars. A small blue stone nestled in the center of the altar.

“That’s it?” Jack asked.

“That’s it,” Daniel said.

Jack stared at it. “And you think that my Ancient gene will activate something. We haven’t always had the best luck with Ancient technology, you know.”

Carter stepped back from her examination of the base of the structure. “Actually, we have, sir. Think of the puddle jumpers—or even the Stargate itself.”

“Yeah. Well.” He didn’t get to do fun things like fly puddle jumpers very often. Instead, he got Ancient headsuckers that scrambled his brains. Or Stargates that blasted him to Antarctica. Or ‘gates that fizzled out when he needed them. He rubbed his hands together to wipe away the sweat, not willing to admit he was at all nervous, and wondered what would happen this time. “Did you find any way to get into this thing?”

“No, sir. I can’t even see a seam in the stone.”

“Daniel?”

“I found some words that look like a derivation of ancient Greek, the word for light, for instance—that’s a very common word in religious texts, although these people don’t seem to use this for worship--and the word koinóta—which I’m pretty sure is a variation of the word for community. Then there’s the word méllo, which is—“

“Daniel.”

He cleared his throat, stopped as he was in mid-flow. “I don’t think there’s any way to figure out what it does except to touch it.”

“Touch it. Right. Okay, kids, stand back.” Neither of them moved even after Jack raised an eyebrow in their direction. “You know, your insubordination is as bad now as when I left the SGC.”

“Thank you, sir.”

Jack rubbed his hands together again before he reached out. He placed his right hand over the blue stone… and waited. Nothing happened. He tried it with his left hand, then with both hands. Nothing happened. He looked at the two disappointed scientists. “I could sit on it if you want.”

“I was sure….” Daniel started. He stepped forward and touched the stone himself before Jack could stop him. To Jack’s relief, nothing happened.

“So that hasn’t changed either,” Jack said to Carter as Daniel tried again, muttering to himself all the while.

“Did you think it would?” Sam asked.

“I can but hope.”

Their two escorts stood off to one side, watching but not interfering. They didn’t seem either disappointed or surprised by the results of the experiment.

“Thank you for allowing us to examine the structure,” Daniel said once they’d exhausted all the possibilities they could think of.

“We are always pleased to have you visit us,” Oxam said. “I am sorry you didn’t find what you were looking for.”

They walked back to the town, Daniel and Carter jabbering on about Ancients who must have visited the planet and Ancient technology and a lot of other things Jack didn’t plan to pay attention to. He needed to pick up his pottery cups and find pie. He was sorry he wouldn’t be coming back to this quiet place, but since the Ancient technology hadn’t panned out, there was no reason for any of them—even an honorary Ancient--to return.

When they got to town, Vala and Teal’c met them in the marketplace. Their tense expressions said they’d been waiting for him.

“You will want to see this, O’Neill,” Teal’c said without preamble.

Daniel straightened and Jack could sense Carter come to alert behind him. He did the same. They passed the square where children were throwing a big ball around a circle. Jack narrowed his eyes as he looked at them. Something felt… familiar. One of the older children, a girl with dark hair, tossed the ball to a small boy. The little boy had straight strawberry blonde hair. When he missed the ball and began to cry, an older boy of eight or nine, dark-skinned and blue-eyed, picked it up for him. Jack watched them.

“O’Neill.” Teal’c’s voice distracted him.

He walked over to join the team. They stood by a woman who sat on a bench, holding a little child, a girl, wrapped in bright yellow. She held a cloth animal, a long-eared orangerabbity thing, and gurgled at her mother—at least Jack assumed it was her mother. Teal’c had stepped aside so Jack bent over for a closer look. He had a soft spot for babies, even now. Charlie, the baby he remembered so clearly, had been gone more years than he’d been alive. Jack pushed the thought from his mind.

He reached out his hand to the little girl, and as babies do, she grabbed his thumb. He froze.

“Daniel?”

Daniel, seeing the pained expression on Jack’s face, looked at the two hands together. “Damn!” Jack’s bent thumb was being held by a little hand with another bent thumb. With a shaky breath, he recovered his composure. “She’s beautiful,” he said to the mother. “Have you named her?”

Jack didn’t hear the rest of the exchange, so fascinated was he by the little hand holding his. He thought about the children in the square who didn’t look at all like the adults in the village but who did look like the members of his team—their hair, skin, and eyes. He saw Vala’s black hair and Sam’s blonde. He saw Teal’c’s dark skin and Daniel’s blue eyes. He saw his own crooked thumb in the baby before him. He jumped when a hand fell on his shoulder.

“We’ve been asked to go,” Daniel said quietly.

“Have we?” Jack said. “I don’t think so--not this time.” He disentangled himself from the baby and walked to the town hall, not waiting to see who followed him.

“Explain,” he said once Oxam, Fidalan, and his team were inside.

“What is there to explain?” Fidalan filled the teacups which sat untouched on the table.

“Where did the children come from?” Daniel asked. “Why do they look like us?”

“Whose children are they?” Sam’s was not a question but a shout.

“They are our children, of course,” Fidalan answered.

“No, they’re not,” Mitchell said.

“They are, in every way that matters. Are you prepared to care for them?” Oxam asked, drawing himself up.He didn’t bother to argue the children’s parentage because every gesture, every smile, and every feature told that story loud and clear. For the first time, Jack saw a break in the calm façade. “We are here to raise them, to care for them, and to give them a future.”

“For how long?” Vala held a cup of tea. “I ask because my own parents didn’t take parenting very seriously.”

“I want to know how long the children will live,” Daniel said. “If these are our children, they’re aging too fast. It’s only been a couple of months since our first visit, and some of those children were almost teens.”

“The aging will slow as they reach maturity.”

“How?” Jack demanded. “I want to know how. Does that shrine thing have anything to do with it?”

“We don’t know,” Oxam admitted. “The children appear there within days after travelers come through the circle. It has always been so.”

“Appear? What, delivered… like a stork?”

“Stork?” Fidalan asked?

“A bird who delivers…. Never mind. Then what?”

“Then we cherish them,”Oxam said simply.

There was a pause at that as Vala turned her cup around on the table. Mitchell started to pace, and for a few minutes, they heard only those sounds.

“How do you decide who raises the children?”Teal’c asked.

“We share that joy with the whole community. Some will look after the babies, and some will teach them a skill. Some feed them and some sew their clothing. We all care for them.”

“And if their real parents, the people who provided their genetic material, wanted to take them off the planet, then what?”Vala asked.

“The children would die.”

“What?” Multiple voices cried it, each horrified at the information. “How do you know?”

“We know,” Fidalan said. “It has been so for as long as I’ve been here.”

“Fidalan, how old are you?” Daniel asked.

She laughed and then stilled, spreading her supple hands on the table as if she were an old woman. “Old, Daniel. I am many, many years old. So old I have forgotten.”

“Are you Ancients? Or Alterans?”

“No, but we are their kin. They placed us here long, long ago.”

Mitchell interrupted. “Will these children live to be as old as you?”

“No. But they will live many years beyond what you would consider a normal lifespan. That is a gift of the tea.”

Vala pushed the teacup away.

“But they cannot leave,”Fidalan continued. “Nor can we. Whatever it is that brings them here determines they must remain here.”

“You’re sure?” Sam asked.

“Yes.”

After an hour of fruitless questioning, they left the hall. No, they didn’t have other children because no visitors had come through the circle in many years. Yes, the children, although human, would live more than twice a normal lifespan. No, they hadn’t been visited by the Goa’uld. Yes, they had the means to give the children whatever they needed—except the freedom to leave.

Yes, the biological parents could return or even stay… for a price.

They asked question after question. So few of the answers brought them any comfort.

This time, Oxam and Fidalan didn’t hurry them away. Before they went back to the ‘gate, they stopped to watch the children play… and saw themselves.

~::~

Jack dealt with Hammond before hejoined a very subdued team in Daniel’s office.

“What did he say?” Daniel asked.

“He said he’d wait for our decision.”

“And our reports?”

“Will be sealed,” Jack said. “Only a few people will know what really happened. The story is we discovered some alien virus and can’t go back.”

They sat in silence for a while.

“We left our own kids behind,” Mitchell said, “our own children. What do we do now?”

“We don’t do anything,” Vala said. “What other choice do we have? We couldn’t bring them back and we couldn’t stay.”

“I thought about it,” Sam stood across the room pretending to look at a mask on the wall. “I really thought about staying.”

“I did too,” Mitchell said. “But not ever being able to leave… that was a deal-breaker.

“Yeah. Me too.” Daniel got up to pour coffee into delicate pottery cups. As he brought the cups back, he said, “Sha’re and I didn’t have much time together, and we’d decided to wait to start a family. I was almost done with what would have been our home when….” He left the sentence unfinished. Everyone, including Mitchell and Vala, knew the end to that sentence. Instead, he placed each cup carefully before its owner.

“I’ve never really wanted children,” Valasaid. “But when I saw my little girl playing with the ball—“

“How do you know that little girl was yours?” Mitchell asked.

“Who else could have given her such beautiful hair?” She wasn’t able to smile as she said it, and like on the planet, she pushed the cup around the table.

Mitchell sighed. “I wonder if we’ll ever see them again.”

“Not through the Stargate.” Jack swirled the coffee in his cup. “Unless we want to be parents again. I’m not sure I could handle that.”

“Could we go by ship?” Daniel asked. “Do you think Hammond would let us do that… in a few years, maybe?”

“How do we even know it would work? Even if we wanted to, any planet with that kind of technology surely has protection against a ship,” Sam said.

Daniel shrugged. “We don’t know that.”

“I believe we should not go back.” Teal’c had been silent since their return, standing near the door like a sentinel. “The children are not ours anymore.”

“They have our genes,” Sam protested. “They look like us.”

“But they are not ours. When I left Ry’ac, I knew that someone else would raise him. I had to make that decision for him and for me.”

“But he’s still your son,” Daniel insisted. “You still see him; you know what he’s doing, how he’s doing. We’ll never know what happened to these children.”

Teal’c bowed his head to acknowledge this truth.

“Teal’c has a point,” Jack said. “Those kids have a right to their own lives. We can’t be a part of it even if Hammond would let us go back and see them. We’re not their parents. We’ve… given them up for adoption.”

“I wonder how many of their victims figure it out—that their genetic material has been appropriated,” Vala said. No one answered.

The sat and wondered about the children they might never see—and about the guardians to whom they’d entrusted them.

“I’d like to do one more thing, if you think General Hammond will give us permission.” Daniel looked at Jack.

“Daniel, we can’t go back through the—“

“I know. Please, Jack.”

~::~

Oxam and Fidalan watched as the circle spun. They and the older children waited to welcome new guests. The vortex settled but all that came through was a metal box which clattered down the steps to rest at their feet.

“What is it?” asked the oldest girl.

“Let’s open it,” said a younger boy. “I want to know what’s inside.”

“Wait,” said another boy. “Let Fidalan figure it out.”

Oxam hushed the children while Fidalan sat on the steps, searching for the box latch. She pulled out a packet of materials, including six images—each a representation of the people who had left only days before.

“Who are they?” asked the youngest child. “They have funny clothes.”

Fidalan looked at Oxam who nodded. “They are your parents,” she said. “They are the people who gave you life.”

“Them?”

“Yes.”

“All of them?”

“Well, two of them for each one of you.”

“Which two? Why only two?”

Oxam rolled his eyes. “It is time to eat. Come, now, and we will explain it as best we can.”

~::~

Jack stood at the base of the ramp as the iris closed. “It’s done.” He turned to the rest of the team. “That’s all we can do. Hammond’s going to lock out the address.” They stood staring at the closed iris, no one moving, no one speaking. It wasn’t until another team came into the ‘gate room that they finally turned to go.

They congregated as before in Daniel’s office, not yet wanting to be apart. Daniel pulled up a stool behind his desk and fiddled with a pen. Sam sat on the old sofa in the corner, her arm over her eyes. Vala wandered, running fingers over book spines. Mitchell, arms crossed, leaned against the door frame. Teal’cstood sentry.

Jack poured himself a cup of coffee into a blue pottery mug and sat in on the desk without drinking it. “Méllo,” he said into the silence. “Daniel, what does it mean?”

“What?”

“At the shrine thingy, you said the word méllo, and I stopped you before you could translate it. What does it mean?” Jack stood, agitated. He came closer to Daniel, running his fingers through his hair, remembering.“You said something about light and coin-something….”

“Koinóta. It means community.”

“Community. Yeah. And then you said méllo.”

Each member of the team came alert as they waited for Daniel’s answer.

“Future,” he said. “It means future.”

“Theirs?” Mitchell asked bitterly, “or ours?”

“Yes.” With tears in his eyes, Daniel stood. “Yes—méllo. Even if we never see them again, yes. That’s what we have to remember. That’s what the message at the shrine was trying to say. We have given them a future. It’s a future for Oxam and the village. Us too. Those children will always be a part of us—whether we go back or not.”

“These people stole something from us,” Vala said. “I’m not sure I’m worried about Oxam and the village.”

“They have no other way to survive. They can’t turn the Stargate off… if that’s what triggers the cloning.”

“That doesn’t make it—“

“Daniel’s right.” Jack raised his hand to stop the bickering. We can’t undo what’s been done; we can only go forward. He raised his cup. “For now, all we have is méllo.”

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