Just a Small Experiment - Part Five 


A little after breakfast the next morning, Sam stopped by Sabrina Marconi’s VIP room, hoping the psychologist was in and awake. A muffled call to enter quelled her trepidation, and she went inside. “Hi, Doctor Marconi,” Sam said in greeting as she shut the door behind her, smiling at the black-haired woman who sat at the table in her room surrounded by papers.

“Major Carter,” Sabrina replied with a returning smile, “good morning. What can I do for you?”

“Actually I have a few questions regarding Daniel. I noticed the way he was acting last night, and it bothered me.”

“Have a seat,” Sabrina said, gesturing at the empty seat across from her before organizing her mess and clearing the tabletop. “What exactly caught your eye?” she asked once the blonde had taken her offer.

Sam sighed and proceeded to describe the evening she’d spent with Daniel the night before. “It shook me up a bit when he practically stood at attention when he finished taking care of things in the bathroom, like he was waiting for me to inspect him and make sure he did everything right. It took everything I had to keep things casual and get him into bed.” She shook her head. “I guess I should have expected this from what Jonas and Janet have told me about what things were like down in the basement of that lab. But I just couldn’t help thinking, ‘This boy is three years old! How could they do this to him?’ I can only hope I didn’t let on.”

Sabrina gave her a sympathetic smile. “I don’t think Daniel noticed. But there was no real way you could have known how Daniel was going to act. He was too much in shock when he first got here, and then he got sick. I think part of it might even be that he knows you’re in charge of him now, so it’s your job to pick up where his previous instructors left off. Thus, he expects the same kind of treatment.”

“I have no intention of treating him like that,” Sam insisted firmly. She paused and considered it for a moment. “Is that going to cause a problem? Should I try to ease him out of that kind of behavior?”

“Major, unhealthy treatment like what Daniel has been subjected to is nothing that should be continued. As long as he doesn’t show signs of reacting badly to the change in care it should be fine to keep doing what you’re doing. Besides, Daniel needs to understand how you do things. Just be consistent.”

Sam dropped her head and blew out a puff of air. “I’m starting to see what I’ve gotten myself into.” She raised her head again. “There are a lot more concerns than I first thought.”

Sabrina chuckled. “I think every new parent goes through this. Kids don’t exactly come with an instruction manual.” She gave a rueful half-smile. “I wish I could say I knew that from personal experience, but I am an auntie. And my sister has told me stories. My schooling can only take me so far.”

Sam grinned. “I’m an auntie, too. Between my niece, nephew, and Cassie, I at least have a bit of hands-on experience. But Daniel...” She sighed, her expression fading somewhat. “He’s different.”

“I’m glad you can see that. Some people aren’t that flexible. However,” the Italian woman continued in a much lighter tone, “considering your job, I’d be more surprised if you weren’t flexible in your thinking. How was Daniel this morning?”

“He smiled at me when he woke up,” Sam said proudly. “And he let me hug him before we left for the commissary. Teal’c’s with him now.”

“Did he return the hug?” Sabrina asked curiously.

Sam shook her head. “No. Actually he looked a little surprised by the question, and when I pulled away. I’d only given him a brief squeeze though; I didn’t want him to panic like he did last night. I don’t think he understands why I want to show him physical signs of affection like that.”

Sabrina nodded her agreement. “You’re probably right.” She tapped the casing of Doctor MacDonald’s diary that lay next to her right elbow. “The good doctor was pretty explicit about the kind of treatment the children received at the lab.” The sapphire blue eyes turned frosty. “If those people weren’t already dead, I’d be happy to oblige.”

Sam smiled coldly. “I’d beat you to it.”

“You probably would.” Sabrina cleared her throat and took a deep breath, then returned to the previous subject. “Anyway, physical touch was not something that was common by any stretch of the imagination. It was a cold, impersonal thing that happened almost incidentally during medical physicals or other examinations. Obviously, it was more necessary when they were infants, but even then it happened only as needed. It’s probably going to take quite a bit of adjustment for Daniel to become accustomed to it.” The black-haired woman paused as a thought occurred to her, making her frown slightly and slide her gaze off to the side.

“Doctor Marconi?” Sam asked, a little bit worried. “Is there going to be some kind of problem you didn’t see before?”

Sabrina snapped her attention back to the blonde across from her. “What? Oh, no, no, no problem. Just the opposite, actually, or at least I hope so. The next time you ask to give Daniel a hug or gentle squeeze, explain it to him. Tell him why you want to do it. He has no frame of reference in regards to physical expressions of affection, but I think he’s intelligent enough to understand the concept if you couch it in appropriate terms.”

Sam nodded, smiling. “More than intelligent enough. They were only children’s readers, but by the time I came by for dinner last night he’d read almost five books.” She gave a short laugh and shook her head. “I wish I’d thought of that. As much as I understood why he reacted the way he did, I never considered the easiest solution.”

Sabrina shrugged. “Sometimes those are the hardest to come up with.”


A knock at the door had both ladies turning to look in that direction. “Come in,” Sabrina called.

Jack O’Neill stuck his head around the suddenly open door. “Ah, Carter. Teal’c said I’d find you here. I found something out I think the both of you might be interested in. Meet me in the briefing room while I get the doc.” And he was gone.

Sam and Sabrina shared a look. “I guess we should go to the briefing room,” the astrophysicist said, rising to her feet.

“I guess so,” the psychologist replied, smirking as she followed suit. The two women then left to do as requested.


* * * * * * * *


“Ever since Doc Fraiser told us the flu bug is what helped kill the kids at the lab but the little sport in the VIP room didn’t show any signs of it, something’s been bugging me about the whole deal,” Jack began once the rest of his team along with General Hammond, Janet, and Sabrina had gathered in the briefing room. “I finally realized how I could put things to rest when I woke up this morning.”

“I take it you discovered something,” Hammond guessed.

Jack nodded. “Yes, sir, I did. I remembered we’d managed to salvage the last twenty-four hours of security camera footage, since Doctor MacDonald disabled the destruction protocol before it could be put into effect. I decided to watch our boy Nicholas Spencer, find out what he’d done with himself in the last few hours of his life.”

Janet’s face lit up with understanding. “Since he was most likely the source of the flu virus,” she concluded.

Jack smirked. “Exactly. I expected to watch most of the footage in fast-forward - I don’t need any lessons in food preparation - but about six hours in I saw something that caught my eye. Now up to that point he’d coughed every now and again, blew his nose occasionally...” The colonel stopped and grinned. “Would you believe he flushed his used Kleenex down the toilet so he wouldn’t get caught?”

“Colonel,” Hammond said, trying to keep the other man on track.

“Right. Well, it must have been about suppertime, because the kids came filing in like little automatons, picking up their trays and getting each of their dishes. But right before they did, Spencer sneezed over the applesauce. He’d turned his head to the side, and I’m sure he didn’t think he got anything into the food, but I double checked the angle and it was over the applesauce.” A small frown etched itself onto his features.

“Yuck,” Sabrina commented with an expression of distaste.

Janet’s brows furrowed in thought. “That does explain how the virus was transmitted,” she conceded.

Jonas leaned forward. “But how did Daniel avoid picking it up? I didn’t get the impression that individual likes and dislikes were taken much into account.”

“Indeed,” Teal’c agreed. “Now that we have discovered the deficiency of young Daniel’s immune system, it is apparent he could not have been exposed to the virus at all.”

“That’s right,” Sam said, realization dawning. “So what happened, sir?”

Jack shrugged. “Toddler coordination. As your squirt left the dinner line to go to what I’m guessing was his assigned table, he tried to shift one of his hands to make carrying the tray easier. It slipped and the tray tipped. He managed to catch it before everything hit the floor, but the applesauce was gone. The bowl broke and everything.”

Silence fell as everyone in the room realized how close it had come for little Daniel. “Is not the influenza virus also an airborne contagion?” Teal’c asked finally. “How is it that young Daniel did not acquire the illness in that manner?”

Janet blinked. “I hadn’t considered that. It’s a good question.”

“And I have the answer,” Jack said a touch smugly, giving the base CMO a half-grin. “It’s the magic of Lysol.”

“What?” Sam asked, voicing the question everyone else was thinking.

“Every time Spencer sneezed or coughed, he sprayed the area with the stuff. Even that last time. He covered up the food and sprayed away.” Jack shrugged.

Sabrina blinked. “I say again: yuck. That couldn’t have been good for flavor.”

Jack looked over at the psychologist. “I don’t think the NID cared very much if the kids enjoyed what they ate.” She bowed her head in concession of the point.

Janet fought back a smile. “Um, I hate to say this, sir, but that’s not the answer you think it is. Lysol kills bacteria, not viruses. Now that I’ve considered it, most influenza viruses don’t live very long in the open air. If Daniel was one of the last children like you suggested, most of the threat had been eliminated by Mother Nature herself.”

“But the commercials say it kills ninety-nine percent of household germs,” Jack protested, frowning.

“Bacteria, sir. They mean bacteria.”

Jack’s expression deepened into a scowl. “Lying bastards,” he muttered.

“Well, I guess that solves that mystery,” Jonas said, fighting back a grin to match the one that had finally escaped Janet’s control.

“Did the tape reveal anything else, Colonel?” Hammond asked.

Jack turned a very serious expression to his commander. “I’m afraid so, General. I didn’t see it on Spencer’s tape, but when I was scanning through the other tapes looking for his I noticed a little exchange that doesn’t bode well. We don’t have all of the DNA samples that were at the lab. MacDonald may not have known about it, but someone left that lab with some of the goods. Who knows what else they have hidden in some other hideaway?”

Hammond’s mouth turned down into a small frown. “So we could be dealing with another incident like this at any time,” he concluded.

Jack nodded. “Looks like.”

“And this time they just might decide to use the nanotechnology and accelerate the clones’ growth,” Sam added.

“Is there any way you can track the samples down and get them back before that happens?” Sabrina asked.

“We have a couple avenues we can check, but because we’re the good guys our hands are mostly tied,” Jack replied.

Sabrina gave him a knowing smile then turned her attention to the general. “Is there anything my people at the CIA can do?”

Jack and Sam gave her a slightly startled look while Hammond considered it. “I’ll have to speak to some people at the Pentagon. Let me think about this further and get some answers to some questions,” the general responded. Sabrina nodded.

“In the meantime, I guess all we can do is wait,” Jonas said, a touch of sadness in his tone.

“Unfortunately,” Jack grumbled, frowning.

Hammond stood. “I believe that covers everything, unless anyone has anything to add?” There was silence from the rest of the room. “Then I’ll start checking out those avenues Colonel O’Neill mentioned. Oh, Colonel?” He waited for Jack’s inquisitive look. “Check the rest of those tapes. I want to know if anything else happened that Doctor MacDonald wasn’t aware of, and if there are any further clues as to where those genetic samples may have ended up. Dismissed.” He turned and left the room.


* * * * * * * *


That afternoon, Jack and Sam went over her house with a fine toothed comb, child-proofing it against any dangers a curious three-year-old could get into. “Although I don’t get the feeling he’s going to be too much trouble in that regard,” Jack had commented.

“What do you mean, sir?” Sam asked.

“He seems a little too well trained to just randomly get himself into trouble. I just don’t think you have to worry about him deciding to see if a penny fits in the electrical socket next to the entertainment center or trying to see how fast he can run a lap of the living room.” Jack gave his second a serious look. “You have to teach him to lighten up, Carter. No child should grow up the way he’s spent his first three years. Show him how to play, to explore. He may never be the most spontaneous child, but then again there’s a lot of room for improvement. Even if he asks before he does those things, at least he’ll think of doing them.”

Sam nodded, smiling. “I’ll do my best, sir.”

Once they were finished, they headed back to the mountain, Jack to his examination of the security tapes from the lab and Sam to take Danny to dinner and spend some time with him before bed. Janet had told her it would only be one more day before Danny could come home, so Sam figured this would be the last uninterrupted time with him at the mountain. She was going to use the next day to organize her department to account for her six-week absence, getting everything in order so things would run smoothly without her. She’d already discussed being available in case of emergencies with General Hammond.

“Well, this is your last night in this room,” Sam said to Danny with a gentle smile once she’d tucked him in. “Are you going to miss it?”

“I don’t know,” Danny whispered, his expression slightly confused. “Should I?”

“You don’t have to,” Sam said quickly, mentally giving herself a kick. “But I hope you like the room I have set aside for you at my house. Even if you don’t like it right away, we can change it so you do. We can look on the internet for a new bed and dresser, and maybe even some other decorations so you can call that room your own.”

Danny’s brows furrowed. “I won’t share with you?”

Sam shook her head. “No, I’ll have the room just across the hall. It’ll be all yours.” She gave him a sympathetic look. “I know you’re not used to things like that, having space of your own, but I promise you’ll grow to like it. Most of the house we’ll be sharing, you and me. But that room will be yours. Will that be okay?”

Danny swallowed. “You’ll still be there?”

“Of course I will, sweetheart,” Sam declared, reaching out to gently rub the boy’s arm. “And if you have a bad dream or just want to make sure I’m okay, I’ll be just across the hall. I’ll make sure you know right where my bedroom is when we get home tomorrow night. I promise.”

“Okay,” Danny whispered, glancing at the blonde’s lightly moving hand. The touch was soothing, and it made him think that it would be okay once he was in the new place. Sam promised, after all.

“All right then. I guess it’s time for you to get some sleep. Did you want me to stay until you fall asleep?”

Danny stared at the earnest expression looking down on him and just knew there was something more to it he couldn’t understand. Some inner voice told him it was all right, though, and that he’d like it when he finally did understand. He smiled. “Please stay,” he whispered, pulling a hand out from under the covers and reaching for the hand that rested next to his hip. The smile grew a bit when Sam gently squeezed his fingers, and he felt a strange warmth flow through him when she returned his expression. He was still reveling in the feeling when he slipped into slumber a few minutes later.

* * * * * * * *


It was just after supper the next day when Sam and Danny walked up to the front door of her house. “Well, here we are,” Sam said with a smile. She could only hope that the child at her side didn’t notice the tremble of nervousness in her tone.

Danny nodded as she pulled her keys out of her coat pocket and tightened his grip on the small bag that held his readers, coloring books, and crayons. This was the place he’d be living from now on, just him and Sam. He still couldn’t believe that no other children would be staying with them. Part of him wondered if the other children he suspected were being raised somewhere else weren’t old enough to join them yet, but the rest just accepted Sam’s explanation that he was special and she’d been happy to take care of him.

Soon enough the door was unlocked and was swinging inward, and Sam gently pushed Danny ahead of her into the entryway. The little boy’s jaw dropped as his guardian closed the door behind them. There were pictures and color and light everywhere! He’d fluctuated between frightened and fascinated on the ride over from the mountain as things he’d only seen pictures of flashed past the windows, but now, standing in the building he was going to be spending most of his time in, the differences between what he’d known before and what he was facing for his future really came home to him. This was what Sam meant when she said things would be different from now on.

Sam watched Danny’s eyes widen and dart around the narrow space of the front hall and could only guess at what was flying through his mind. She stayed silent, thinking it might be best if he found his own equilibrium. She’d warned him things would be different; she could only hope it was enough to prepare him.

Finally, she felt the child bump up against her legs as he took a step back. She was slightly surprised when one of his hands darted back to grip her pant leg, but did her best not to let it show. “Daniel,” she said softly, “why don’t you let me hang up your coat? Then I’ll show you around.”

Danny spun around and looked up at her. He swallowed nervously, then took reassurance in the encouraging expression the woman wore. He nodded and set down his bag before doing as requested. Once she put their coats away in the closet to the left of the door, she took a couple of steps forward and gestured to the next door on that side of the hall. “This will be your room,” she said quietly, opening the door. Danny moved over and looked inside.

There was a twin-sized bed and a small dresser in the far corner. A large window took up a lot of the left-hand wall, while two smaller ones let light in from the wall opposite the door. A plain beige-colored comforter and white sheets covered the bed, and matching white pillowcases stood out against the darkly-stained wood headboard. It was a small room in all actuality, but Danny looked on it like it was enormous. He couldn’t believe all this space was for him alone. He’d never experienced anything like it. “This is mine?” he finally whispered, reaching behind him to once again take hold of Sam’s pant leg.

“All yours,” Sam confirmed, tightening her jaw to fight back the tears that threatened to come. “I haven’t done anything special with it, but we can redecorate it any way you like once you’re settled in.” She cleared her throat as the boy nodded. “Would you like to see the rest of the house? We can leave your bag here.”

“Okay,” Danny breathed, his voice barely audible.

Sam took the child on a tour of the house, placing special emphasis on the bathroom next door and her bedroom across the hall. Danny was very quiet as they walked through the rooms, his eyes darting around everywhere. Sam couldn’t help but continue to assure him that this was his house now too, to the point where she felt like she was babbling. Finally, her words trailed off, and the two of them stood silently in the middle of the living room. She only wished she knew what to do next.

“Really just you and me?” a little voice whispered. One more time his hand reached out behind him and took hold of Sam’s pant leg.

Sam smiled shakily and nodded, then said, “Yes, just you and me, Daniel. This whole house is just for you and me.”

Danny looked back over his shoulder and up to meet her gaze. “We really are special, aren’t we?”

Sam could help but give a little laugh. “You bet we are, Daniel. Never forget that.”

“I won’t,” the boy promised solemnly. He brought his head back around to look again at his surroundings. “What do we do in here?”

“This is where we can sit and relax and entertain ourselves.” Sam stepped over to the sofa and patted one of the cushions. “Why don’t you sit down here? I’ll get your books and then one for myself and we can sit and read for a while before we go to bed. Will that be okay?”

Danny immediately nodded his agreement. “Okay.” He came over to the couch and did as he was told, his gaze still wandering around in awe with a touch of nervousness.

Sam smiled down on him. “I’ll be right back.”

And so the evening ended with the two of them spending some quiet time together before the usual nighttime rituals. Sam once again waited for Danny to fall asleep before leaving to take care of her own bedtime routine. Things had gone better than she’d expected, but it was still a long time before she slipped into slumber with a wish that the rest of her leave would go as smoothly.


* * * * * * * *


Sam’s eyes fluttered open the next morning and slowly drifted over to the clock on the bedside table. Seven o’clock. Seemed like a good time to start the day. She smiled up at the ceiling. Yet another reminder she was in the military, when seven o’clock was sleeping in on her day off. Well, she corrected herself as she threw her covers aside and got out of bed, the first day of her six weeks off. Now she’d just look in on Danny and get breakfast ready.

She rapped gently on the door of the boy’s bedroom before opening it a crack and sticking her head inside. What she saw had her eyes widening and breath catching before she stepped fully into the room. Danny was sitting on top of the covers of his made up bed, his knees drawn up to his chest and his arms tightly wrapped around his legs. His chin was pressed firmly to the top of his knees, and his eyes now stared with blatant fear at the woman standing just inside his doorway.

Sam swallowed and moved carefully over to the bed, not wanting to scare her charge anymore than he already was. “Daniel,” she whispered, “what’s the matter?”

“I made my bed,” Danny barely breathed, “but I didn’t know what to do after. I’m sorry. I’ll know next time.”

“What time did you get up, Daniel?” Sam forced herself to ask instead of scooping the frightened child into her arms.

“Six,” came the almost inaudible answer.

Sam gasped. “You’ve been here like this for the past hour?” Danny nodded and stared straight ahead. “Daniel, why didn’t you come over to my bedroom? I could have told you there wasn’t anything to worry about.”

Danny nodded again. “I’ll know next time,” he repeated.

Sam sat down on the bed near the boy, but without touching him. “Daniel, you’re not in trouble. You haven’t done anything wrong. I didn’t tell you what happens in the morning around here. I guess I should have.”

Danny said nothing, his eyes continuing to stare at the wall across from him. He just couldn’t understand why he hadn’t been punished yet. He hadn’t done anything more than make his bed, and Sam said he wasn’t in trouble. She even said it was her fault. What was going on?

“Oh, Daniel, I should have realized how much your normal routine was ingrained in you,” Sam continued after a long moment of silence. “I should have told you what my plans were for this morning.” She bit her lower lip as she thought what she should say next. “Um, what did you normally do after you made your bed?” she asked.

“We lined up to use the bathroom then got dressed,” Daniel whispered dutifully, still not looking at Sam. “Then we went to breakfast.”

“Okay.” The blonde woman took a deep breath then released it to buy herself a little time. “Why don’t we do this today then?” She got up and went over to the closet, opening the door to reveal shirts and pants hung up neatly at a level Danny could reach. “Go ahead and pick out what you want to wear today. Socks and underwear are in the bottom drawer of the dresser. I’ll go see what we’ve got for food in the refrigerator and let you know what our choices are for breakfast. Will that be okay?”

Danny finally turned his head to look at Sam. He really wasn’t in trouble? He would still be able to have breakfast? He could only wonder what would happen after they’d eaten. At length he nodded, since Sam seemed to be expecting it. She smiled and headed out the door.

Sam finished her kitchen inventory and turned around to look for her young charge. She frowned when she didn’t see him. She’d purposefully taken her time, hoping to give the boy the chance to pick out his clothes and get dressed. She gave a soft sigh and returned to Danny’s bedroom to see where he was at.

Blue-grey eyes blinked when they took in the sight of Danny standing in front of the closet staring at the clothes there when she stepped into the bedroom. She bit her lower lip, sure he was still incredibly shaken up by what had already happened that morning. “Here you go, Daniel,” she said softly, walking over and pulling out a plain blue sweatshirt and a pair of jeans. She gave him a smile when she added socks and underwear to the pile on the bed. “Is that okay for today?” She made sure her voice held no negative notes that could be taken as a reprimand.

Danny swallowed and took a couple of shaky breaths before answering. “It’s okay,” he whispered.

“Then I’ll let you get dressed.” She gestured to a pair of small tennis shoes on the floor of the closet. “You can wear those today, too. When you’re ready for the day, go ahead and join me in the kitchen. You remember where that is, right?” Danny nodded, his eyes still wide. “Good. I’ll see you in a little bit then.” She gave him one last bright smile and left the room.

“Oh my God,” Sam said to herself as she leaned heavily against her kitchen island. “What have I gotten myself into?” She fought for a moment against tears of sympathy for the traumatized boy she had taken into her home. “What did they do to those children?”

A sound somewhat like a little stomp dragged Sam away from her second inventory of the refrigerator five minutes later. When she turned her head to find out what it was she saw Danny standing in the entrance of the kitchen at attention, his eyes looking straight ahead, his stance communicating louder than words that he was awaiting inspection. With a brief thought that this child could teach some new recruits a thing or two followed by an even quicker flash of sorrow about that fact, Sam stepped forward and knelt down to look her ward in the eye. “Daniel,” she said after a moment, “you look fine. You... you don’t have to stand at attention for me to look you over. I can... just do it... casually while you help me with breakfast. Do you understand?”

It took everything Samantha Carter had in her to keep her composure when Danny shifted his gaze to meet hers. Her voice had been gentle, as non-critical as she could make it, but there was deep confusion and a touch of leftover fear in the bright blue orbs that stared back at her. He gave a slight shake of his head, and Sam sighed.

“I’m pretty informal here at home,” she began. “This is where I come to relax between missions when I don’t have projects going on at the mountain. Does that make sense?”

Danny blinked a few times, his gaze dropping to the floor momentarily. When it rose to meet Sam’s once again, it was clear and the boy nodded. “Yes,” he whispered.

Sam was glad she’d decided to just deal with the most glaring facet of the child’s behavior. She could only imagine how overwhelming it would have been for her to cover all at once every change Danny would be dealing with staying with her. She’d take the rest as it came. “So you don’t have to worry about standing at attention,” she repeated with a soft smile. “You can just ask if everything’s okay, and we’ll go from there. Okay?” She gave Danny a short, encouraging nod, and he hesitantly returned it, his stance relaxing. “Good. Then I’d say it’s time for breakfast. What sounds good to you?” she mused, turning her attention back to her cupboards and missing the bewildered shrug the child gave her.

In the end the two of them ate bowls of cereal with fruit and toast, Sam figuring they’d had enough stress that morning. When they were done she showed Danny how to wash the dishes, pulling out the child-sized step-stool she’d bought so he could see into the sink. The task seemed to bring back the calm atmosphere they’d shared previously, and rest of the day was filled with quiet activities. They went through their usual nightly routines, and Sam sat with Danny once he’d gotten under his covers.

“I’m going to set your alarm for seven o’clock, okay? When it goes off, you can get up and change into the clothes we picked out after your shower.” Sam smiled and smoothed the blanket under her hand next to Danny’s hip. “If you wake up before that you can go ahead and go back to sleep until it’s time for the alarm. My alarm will be set too, so we’ll both be getting up at the same time. But if you wake up at any time because you had a bad dream, or if you think of something you need me for, you have my permission to come over to my bedroom and wake me up. I don’t want you to think you have to sit here alone until I wake up. If you need me, I’ll be here for you, just like I was when you were sick. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” Danny replied quietly. He remembered quite fondly how Sam had sat with him while he’d been sick. He’d never been as scared when she’d been there, not that he understood why. But it had felt good, and most of him was glad he could ask her to help him not feel afraid in the future. The rest of him didn’t understand why Sam was making the offer, but Danny just chalked that up to the differences he was running into left, right, and sideways in his new home. They were confusing, but he knew he could get used to them. That was what he was supposed to do, so he would. It helped that he knew it would make Sam happy. He liked to see her smile.

“I’m glad you do. And I’m glad I’ll be able to help if you need it. Do you want me to stay until you fall asleep?”

Danny watched Sam’s hand as it absently rubbed lightly up and down his arm. He could barely feel it through his blanket, but it filled him with the same warmth the motion always seemed to produce. He gave Sam a small, shy smile. “Please stay,” he said quietly. Sam returned the expression and nodded before turning out the lamp on the bedside table. It wasn’t long before the boy had slipped into slumber.


* * * * * * * *


The week went by relatively quickly. It didn’t go as smoothly as Sam would have liked, but she’d always figured reality wasn’t going to match her hopes. Danny still seemed relatively acclimated, however, even if it looked like he wasn’t completely over the rigid structure he’d been raised in previously. Sabrina’s visit was more than welcome.

Danny was sitting at the table in the corner just off of the kitchen when the doorbell rang. He glanced up from his drawing a bit confused, never having heard the sound before. “Don’t worry, Daniel,” Sam said with a smile. “That’s just the doorbell. I bet it’s Doctor Marconi letting me know she’s here for our weekly visit.” The corners of Danny’s mouth twitched upward in response and the boy returned to his work.

Sam had been correct in her guess. The Italian woman indeed stood in the physicist’s doorway when Sam answered the bell. “Ah, Major Carter,” Sabrina greeted with a smile. “I hope I’m not interrupting anything.”

“No, no, we finished lunch a little over half an hour ago. Daniel’s drawing right now, actually. Come on in.” Sam gestured for the psychologist to enter and shut the door once she had.

“Hello, Daniel,” Sabrina said cheerfully to the young boy when the two women reached the kitchen. “I hope your week has gone well.” Danny looked up from his drawing once again and stared at the black-haired figure for a long, silent moment. Finally, he gave a slight nod, causing Sabrina’s smile to widen.

“Um, how do you want to do this?” Sam asked, surprise poorly hidden in her tone.

Sabrina didn’t take her gaze away from the boy who was still watching them. “I think we’ll just stay here at the table and talk for a while. When we’re done, you and I can talk.”

Sam nodded. “That’ll be fine. I’ll just leave you two to it then. I’m going to be in the computer room, Daniel, if you need me. Will that be okay?” Danny focused on the blonde and blinked a bit. He hesitated then nodded once again.

Sam smiled reassuringly at the child and walked out of the room as Sabrina went over to the table and asked for permission to sit down. Once she’d escaped into her computer room, she released an explosive breath and flopped onto one of her desk chairs. Danny had reacted better than she’d expected to Doctor Marconi’s appearance, and he’d floored her when he actually responded to her greeting. It was just the icing on an amazing week, and it gave her all the more questions to ask the psychologist when it was her turn to talk to her.

She was checking her email twenty minutes later when a light rap on one of the bookcases to either side of the entryway of the room brought her head around to face her smiling visitor. “Done already?” Sam asked, a little surprised.

“There’s only so much you can do when your patient doesn’t talk to you,” Sabrina said with a shrug. “I’m just happy he was willing to acknowledge me when I got here. It’s a huge step forward.”

“I suppose so,” Sam agreed. “He totally shocked me when he nodded to you like that.”

Sabrina considered it. “I think it might have been because you were still in the room. He didn’t respond again, at least not directly.” She held up a hand to stop the startled exclamation that looked ready to burst from the seated physicist. “I wasn’t expecting it, either. I really just talked to him for a little bit, explaining that I was going to be coming by once a week to check on how he was doing and he could talk to me or not as he wanted, and then I watched him while I wandered around your living room. He did let me look at the picture he was drawing, though. He even let me hold it for a minute.” She smiled as she walked further into the room, taking a seat at the other computer desk. “You’ll like it.”

Sam frowned. “So how’s Daniel doing?”

“Better than I’d expected, to be honest. I was afraid he was going to be... Oh, how should I put this? Let’s say, looking over his shoulder a lot more than he is. Waiting for the living structure from the lab to snap back into place. Does that make sense at all?”

“Yeah, I think I understand,” Sam said with a short laugh at the self-directed frustration she saw on the normally-self-assured features before her. “I’ve been watching for that myself.”

“I’m glad you thought of that, too,” Sabrina said, her expression clearing with relief. “How have you been dealing with those expectations?”

Sam’s frown returned. “That’s something I wanted to talk with you about, actually. There’s been a bunch of incidences this week, the worst one the first morning we were home. It looks like he expects to be told what to do every minute of every day. And it wouldn’t surprise me if he does. I’ve kind of been handling it one incident at a time. I didn’t want to overwhelm him with rules.”

Sabrina’s brows furrowed in thought. “I’m not sure that’s the right way to go,” she mused. “Once I let Daniel go back to his drawing, I noticed he kept watching the clock and appeared ready to put away his crayons at a moment’s notice. It’s less than I’d expected, so the rules you’ve already explained have lessened his immediate anxiety, but there’s still quite a bit there under the surface. You might want to sit down with him and explain to him in as much detail as you think he can understand how things are going to work around here, and I mean in their entirety.”

Sam looked at her incredulously. “He’s three. Don’t you think that’ll be overwhelming?”

“First, he’s not a typical three year old. I know you can’t go into the kind of detail you would with an adult, but he can take more than you think. Second, and most importantly, he’s coming from an extremely structured environment. Those rules are no longer in place and nothing has replaced them. He’s a bit lost. Add to that the complete difference in physical setting and lack of other children and... Well, let’s just say that’s as overwhelming as you’re afraid an overview of your house rules would be. It’s six to one, half a dozen on the other.” Sabrina gave the major an understanding smile. “You’ve done a wonderful job so far, I don’t want you to think otherwise. He wouldn’t be as comfortable here as he is if you hadn’t.”

“Why didn’t you recommend this before we left the mountain?” Sam asked, a bit frustrated with the situation.

Sabrina shrugged. “I could not guess what Daniel’s reaction was going to be to leaving the mountain. I really didn’t have any idea. I probably should have given you some warning, but I just couldn’t be sure. After watching you handle him during his bout of pneumonia, I fully trusted you to be able to help him through this first week. I knew I could take a look at how he was doing then and make a better judgment call.” The psychologist sighed and dropped her gaze to the floor. “I made a mistake; I’m sorry. I played this one too cautiously.” She brought her eyes back up. “I’ll do my best not to play my hand too close again.”

Sam smiled. “You’re human, Doctor Marconi, and very concerned for Daniel’s welfare. I think you didn’t want my reactions to Daniel’s behavior when we got home to be pre-set in stone, and I can appreciate that.” The smile faltered a bit. “But you’re sure I haven’t...”

“Like I said before, Major, you’ve done wonderfully,” Sabrina reassured her before Sam could finish. “You can start to take care of Daniel’s insecurities with that discussion of the rules, and everything should be fine. And if you ever have any troubles, you can always call me. You don’t have to wait for these weekly visits.” The two women shared a relieved smile, then Sabrina continued. “So what else is on your mind? Give me some specifics on what’s been going on here. Has anyone from the SGC called as promised?”

“Jonas has called three or four times, and the colonel and Teal’c have checked up on me, too. Janet called just yesterday to find out if I wanted to introduce Daniel to Cassie, maybe set myself up with a babysitter for the future when Daniel’s ready to spend time alone with someone other than a member of SG-1.” Sam grinned. “I guess that was Cassie’s idea.”

“And it’s a good one. Everybody needs a break from their responsibilities once in a while, even if it’s just for a short time. You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve heard that from Tabitha.” Sabrina rolled her eyes jokingly and smiled.

Sam laughed. “I take it Tabitha is your sister?” she asked.

Sabrina nodded. “She lives in L.A. with her husband and three kids. I don’t get to see her nearly enough. But enough about that. What about the rest of the week?”

Sam sighed. “Well, the one thing that’s stumping me is that Daniel isn’t taking advantage of the choices he has here. We’ve been picking out his clothes for the next day when he goes to bed so he can just get up and get dressed when his alarm goes off. Well, he looks in the closet, but he doesn’t say anything until I’ve pulled something out, and then he just says it’s okay. The same kind of thing happens when I offer him choices of meals and activities. What’s going on? I would think he’d be happy with the chance to make these decisions for himself after the restrictive environment he was in.”

“You would, and I certainly would, but Daniel doesn’t know what it’s like to make those choices. While most people would relish their newly-found freedom and embrace it whole-heartedly, we’re dealing with a child who doesn’t understand what freedom is. You’ve been seeing Daniel as no one else has for the past week, seeing more of the child he really is, and you feel for that child, comparing his experiences against your own. It’s a perfectly natural reaction. But Daniel hasn’t had the normal upbringing you and I had.” Sabrina gave Sam an understanding look and shrugged.

“I guess I keep thinking he’s just a normal kid who’s had a bad experience,” Sam said thoughtfully, her volume low. “Even when he was standing at attention and waiting for me to inspect him, my thoughts were more like how could they train a child act like this, force a child to act against his nature, instead of really believing that Daniel acts this way because he doesn’t know any other way.”

“Like I said, it’s a perfectly natural reaction,” Sabrina said sympathetically. “And I guess I thought you already understood the issue when we talked about his wait for an inspection after that shower at the SGC. I should have made sure.”

“Oh, you had every reason to think that,” Sam replied with a wave of dismissal. “I thought I understood. I guess I needed more evidence before I could really see the whole picture.” She paused to take a deep breath. “So what do I do now?”

Sabrina thought for a few minutes. “I think you need to introduce the idea of Daniel having a right to make his own decisions and to have his own opinions slowly. When you sit down to pick out tomorrow’s clothes, instead of presenting the whole closet, pick out two or three shirts and let him pick from those. Do the same with the other issues where you’ve noticed this behavior. Work your way up to him picking things out completely for himself. Don’t hurry him; you’ll need to take baby steps.” Sabrina blinked then flinched, realizing what she’d said. “No pun intended.”

Sam fought back a smirk. “Right.”

“The most important thing to remember is Daniel isn’t really normal,” Sabrina continued haughtily as though she hadn’t heard the other woman’s response, “at least not the accepted definition of normal. But he does have the potential, and that’s what we’re aiming for. I think we have a pretty good shot.”

“That’s a relief. I’d hate to think I’d taken on an impossible task.” Sam smiled, true relief shining through her expression.

Sabrina laughed. “I’m surprised you think anything’s impossible after what you’ve seen and done.”

Sam’s smile widened. “Who said I thought anything was impossible? I was going by what I figured your definition would be.”

The black-haired woman’s smile turned mysterious. “I think you’d be surprised at what my definition of impossible would be.” Before Sam could question what Sabrina meant by that, the psychologist continued, her features schooled into a serious mask. “Daniel appears to be doing quite well, like I said before. Why don’t you just go ahead with the things we’ve discussed and we’ll see how things are going next week.” She stood. “And remember, call me if you have any questions. I’m available to you twenty-four, seven, the only exception being if an emergency at work comes up. If it does I’ll try to let you know.” She shrugged and picked up the briefcase she’d brought along. “I don’t think it will though, so it’s nothing to worry about.”

“Thank you for the house call,” Sam said, also rising to her feet, filing away her questions about the meaning of Sabrina’s earlier statement to the back of her mind. “I really appreciate that you’re willing to come to us.”

“It’s what’s best for Daniel,” Sabrina said simply. Then she smiled and started to head out of the room, calling out a farewell to the still-drawing Daniel as she went by the kitchen. Sam followed, a quick glance across the house confirming the boy was fine.

“I guess I should also thank you for taking care of both of us through this transition period,” Sam said once they’d reached the front door. “It’s been very helpful for me to talk things out with you.”

Sabrina gave her a bright smile shining with gratitude. “That means a lot to me, Major Carter. I want you to know that.”

Sam returned the expression. “Call me Sam. It looks like we’re going to get to know each other pretty well by the time this is all over.”

“Then you call me Sabrina.” She gave a short laugh. “And I think you’re right. I’ll see you next week.”

“I’m looking forward to it.”

Once Sam had closed the door behind her guest, she leaned against it and tried to figure out how to take the next step. She knew she had to have the discussion about rules with Daniel as soon as she could, but she also knew it wasn’t going to be easy. There was a fine line between Daniel’s level of understanding - as intelligent as he was he was still a three year old - avoiding giving him too much information so he didn’t get overwhelmed, and keeping everything in words and in a tone that didn’t make Daniel think he’d done anything wrong. This was going to take some thought and planning.

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