Just a Small Experiment - Part Twelve


Early the next morning, Janet went to Daniel’s room, bringing his breakfast with her. She wanted to make sure he was doing all right, that he was at least starting to adjust to his new reality. She took a deep breath before knocking on the door to announce her arrival, preparing herself for the lack of true recognition she’d see in her friend’s eyes. “Good morning, Daniel,” she said as the door closed behind her. “I hope you slept well.”

Daniel shrugged from where he was sitting in the middle of his bed. “Well enough, I suppose,” he replied. “What’s going to happen today?”

“Some of that will depend on you. I’d like to do a thorough examination, using the information in your medical file as a baseline. After that, well, it’s up to you. If you’re up for talking to your teammates, I know they’d love to see you.” Janet gave him a small, tentative smile as she placed the tray she held on the overtop table next to the bed.

“I... I think maybe I should speak with them. Maybe that will... straighten out the jumble of images in my head. When I woke up this morning, I could remember flashes of what I must have been dreaming about. It’s very confusing.” Daniel sighed as his eyes dropped to his lap.

“Are you sure?” Janet asked, sensing some reluctance in the man.

Daniel nodded. “I’m sure. If we’re as close as you said last night, it’s only right that I talk with them. I get the feeling that it would hurt more not to talk to me at all than to know I can’t remember them.”

Janet relaxed, hearing Daniel’s former compassion in his words and tone. “I’ll let them in one at a time after my examination.” She hesitated for a moment. “I should tell you, though, that you’ve already met two of them. Major Carter and Colonel O’Neill are two of your teammates.”

Bright blue eyes widened. “They are?”

“When I saw your eyes after I bandaged your cut, I though I recognized them,” Janet explained. “But I couldn’t be sure, so I pulled Major Carter in to see you. Later, we both felt it was only right to let Colonel O’Neill see you. He’s the team commander, and he missed you more than he was willing to admit to.”

“I guess that explains his reaction when he saw me,” Daniel said with a half-smile. He considered it for a minute. “He called me Daniel, didn’t he?”

Janet nodded. “Yes. That’s why I quickly tried to distract you. I didn’t want to give away who we thought you were until I knew for sure.”

Daniel sighed. “You were probably right to do that.”

“Why don’t you go ahead and eat before everything gets cold? When you’re done, I’ll take care of my examination, and then I’ll tell SG-1 they can come visit if they’d like.” She smiled. “I’ll be back in a little while.” She nodded and left after receiving a smile in return.

* * * * * * * *

Daniel fiddled with the arms of the wire-framed glasses Doctor Fraiser had given him when she had finished with her examination. He was surprised by how much clearer his eyesight became when he put them on; he hadn’t realized how much he’d been squinting before. But as much as the lenses helped improve his sight, he had a hard time keeping them on. They were a definite part of his life before two moons ago, and that life didn’t seem quite real yet.

He had just put them back onto his bedside table when the door to his room opened abruptly and Colonel Jack O’Neill walked in. The older man stopped just inside the door as it closed automatically, looking at Daniel for a long moment. “So you decided to talk with us,” Jack said finally.

“It only seemed right,” Daniel replied.

“That’s the only reason you did it?” Jack asked in a forced neutral tone as he pulled the lone chair in the room up to the side of the bed and sat in it.

Daniel sighed. How could he make this man understand what he was feeling? “Look, up until yesterday, the villagers and their village were all I knew. The tent I lived in and the ruins the village were in were all I knew. I don’t remember anything from before I woke up outside those ruins. I’ve tried and I’ve tried, and even knowing what I know now I still can’t quite seem to take hold of the memories. I try, and they just... disappear.”

Jack’s eyes narrowed for a moment, taking in the utterly sincere expression and almost lost tone. He looked away for a second to gather his thoughts, then took a deep breath and began. “You were a member of my team, SG-1. You’re a friend of mine. Last year you died.”

Daniel’s expression turned slightly incredulous. “I’m dead?”

Jack shifted his jaw and stared for a second as he realized his mistake. “Obviously not. You just sort of died.” Daniel just stared at him. “Actually, you ascended to a higher plane of existence. The last time I saw you, you were helping us fight Anubis.”

“Anubis?” The younger man’s incredulity went up another notch. Who or what the heck was Anubis?

“Yeah,” Jack replied, stretching the word out. “Kind of a over-the-top, cliché bad guy. Black cloak, oily skin, kinda spooky...” His words trailed off as he saw no comprehension on Daniel’s face. “Anyway, obviously since then you’ve retaken human form somehow, I...” His explanation trailed off again when Daniel’s eyes grew even bigger to match the look of complete disbelief. Suddenly Jack realized exactly what he was saying. “Actually, I can see how this might seem a bit unusual.”

“Just a bit,” Daniel agreed over-brightly, nodding. Just what was this guy trying to do? He may have been a friend and teammate, but he wasn’t helping. Daniel was all the more confused. “Why did I end up on that planet? Why am I here?”

Jack shrugged. “Hey, why are any of us here?” His small smile faded when Daniel sighed and looked away. “Honestly, I don’t know. But you gotta trust me, you belong here, you’re one of us. Think of it this way. Out of all the people you could have run into when you escaped that flood, why the Goa’uld and SG-5 if not for us to find you?” He took a quick moment to consider what he had said, then nodded when he realized it made sense.

Daniel looked back at him. “So you’re saying that a higher power had a hand in getting me here?”

“I don’t know. That was generally your department.”

Daniel stared at him. “Look, Colonel...”

Jack flinched at the formality. “Jack. Call me Jack,” he choked out.

“Jack.” Daniel sighed. “I’m sorry. Right now I’m even more confused than I was when I woke up. Can you... give me some time to think about what you’ve said? I need it.”

“Yeah,” Jack said softly after a moment, rising to his feet. “You... you think about it. I’ll just... leave you to it.” He turned and headed out of the room.

“Jack, I didn’t mean...” Daniel’s voice trailed off when the door shut behind the exiting man. He sighed and flopped back onto his pillows. That could have gone better. He only hoped his next encounter was an improvement.

* * * * * * * *

Sam struggled to focus on Danny as the two of them played an educational computer game that she downloaded soon after breakfast. Janet had told them that Daniel was willing to talk with them, but she was only allowing one person in at a time - and no, the others couldn’t watch from the observation deck. The physicist hadn’t been happy with that declaration, but had accepted it, realizing her time would be better served with her ward anyway.

Danny had seemed to pick up on Sam’s anxiety from the moment she returned from Janet’s office, where the physician had spoken to the members of SG-1 about her conversation with and examination of their descended friend. The boy had leaned up against his guardian as she sat beside him, paying extra close attention to anything she said, only asking questions if he thought it was absolutely necessary. Sam felt the support and was grateful for it. Now if only she could go and see Daniel...

“Major Carter,” Teal’c said from the doorway of her lab, jarring her from her thoughts. “O’Neill has spoken with Daniel Jackson.”

“Really?” Sam replied, her eyes wide. “How did it go?”

“I cannot say. I have not spoken with O’Neill. Doctor Fraiser told me of the conversation.” The Jaffa met her eyes with a serious expression that spoke volumes about the emotional turmoil he was feeling.

Sam swallowed a sudden lump that had formed in her throat. “We should talk to him, find out what he said.”

Teal’c nodded his head. “Indeed.”

A moment later, Danny reached out a hand and laid it on Sam’s arm, startling her. “I can play by myself,” he whispered. “I’ll stay right here.”

“Oh, Danny.” Sam hugged the boy tightly then rose to her feet. “I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

“I know,” Danny said with a small smile. He closed his eyes happily when Sam leaned down and kissed his forehead, then watched her leave the room with Teal’c. He could only hope she got good news. She deserved it.

Sam and Teal’c soon arrived at Jack’s office door and received permission to enter. The colonel sat at his desk, leaning back in his chair and staring at his powered down monitor. “You know,” he said simply without looking at his visitors.

The two new arrivals shared a worried look. “Doctor Fraiser informed me of your conversation with Daniel Jackson soon after you left his room,” Teal’c explained. “I then spoke with Major Carter.”

“What did you talk about, sir?” Sam asked. “Does he remember anything?”

“I wouldn’t say that,” Jack replied with a touch of bitterness. “I swear it’s like talking to a brick wall. I’m not even sure he was trying to accept what I was saying while I was talking to him.”

“What did you tell him?” Sam asked.

Jack sighed. “I think I mentioned Anubis, and ascension, and dying. Don’t ask me what order it all came in. I just know he asked me to leave so he could think about it.”

Teal’c’s eyebrow rose. “Is this not good news, O’Neill? Daniel Jackson is considering the information you have given him.” Jack just shrugged and shook his head.

Sam took a deep breath and fought back the urge to shake her commanding officer. One conversation wasn’t going to magically bring everything back, no matter how much they all wanted that to happen. “We can’t give up, sir,” she finally told him. “He said he’d think about what you told him, and he hasn’t said we can’t talk to him anymore. Someone needs to try again.”

Jack finally turned his gaze to the door. He looked at Sam with raised eyebrows. “Tag, you’re it.”

“Me?” she blurted in surprise, then gathered her wits. “Of course, sir.” She glanced at Teal’c, who nodded. “I’ll go right now. I’ll let you know what happens.”

“You do that, Carter. I’m sure it’ll be fascinating,” Jack replied, turning away again.

“I will speak with O’Neill while you are gone,” Teal’c told Sam in a low tone as she turned away from him in the doorway. The look in his eyes said he wasn’t going to allow Jack the luxury of wallowing in self-pity any longer. Sam smiled and nodded in approval, then left for the isolation rooms.

* * * * * * * *

Sam made a quick stop at her lab to tell Danny where she was going, then went to the infirmary to talk with Janet. The doctor gave her permission and wished her friend the best of luck. For some reason, that didn’t fill the blonde major with confidence. She braced herself and headed for the isolation rooms.

After a quick rap at room four’s door, she poked her head inside. “Can I come in?” she asked diffidently, hoping Daniel wasn’t still shaken up from his talk with the colonel.

Daniel sat up on his bed and sighed. “Sure,” he said with a touch of wariness and resignation.

“Thanks,” Sam said sincerely, and stepped inside. “So...” she began nervously as she sat down in the chair beside the bed.

“Doctor Fraiser says we knew each other before, that we were on the same team,” Daniel said, nearly cutting her off, his eyes on his fingers in his lap.

“That’s right,” Sam confirmed, some optimism returning at his willingness to speak with her. “We were on SG-1 together.”

Daniel nodded. “That’s what Colonel O’Neill said.” He cut himself off with a soft, frustrated sigh. “I mean Jack.”

Sam smiled at him. “You’ll get used to it.” Her expression faltered. “Well, I hope so, anyway.”

“You said your name was Major Samantha Carter,” Daniel said almost questioningly, looking at her out of the corner of his eye.

“Samantha Carter, yes. You used to call me Sam.”

“Sam, right. Well, I guess that’s something else I need to remember.” The man looked away again.

Sam gave a short, nervous laugh then sobered quickly. “Is there anything I can tell you? I know I can’t tell you too much, but...” Her words trailed off when Daniel only shrugged at the offer. “There’s nothing you want to know? Nothing you want me to explain?”

Daniel sighed. “Jack told me some things. I’m still sorting them out, I guess.”

The woman cringed. “I hope he wasn’t too hard on you.”

“No, I wouldn’t say that. He just... It was just a bit overwhelming.”

“Is that making you hesitant to ask me questions?” Sam asked. Daniel just shrugged again, making her sigh. “I guess I just don’t understand why you aren’t dying to know all about who you are.”

“I am,” he replied firmly, looking at her once again. “And in a way I guess I’m not.”

“See, it’s the not part...”

“What if I don’t like who I was?” Daniel asked, interrupting, somewhat desperate for her to understand. “What if I don’t want to be that person? What if I don’t have it in me to make up for something I’ve done wrong?”

Sam blinked in surprise. “I have to admit that never occurred to me,” she said slowly, considering it. She took a deep breath before continuing. “Look, we all thought we’d lost you at one point. It is one of the hardest things I have ever been through. You were - you are - brilliant. One of the most caring, passionate... You’re the type of person who would give his own life for someone he doesn’t even know.” Her eyes begged him to try to accept what she was saying.

Daniel gave her a small smile. “Well, that doesn’t sound too bad.”

Sam took courage from the response. She drew herself up and went on. “If you had one fault, it was that you wanted to save people so much, so badly; you wanted to help people so much, that it tore you apart when you couldn’t make a difference.”

“That actually sounds kind of hard to live up to,” Daniel replied, his expression paling somewhat while his eyes searched hers as if looking for the truth.

She refused to look away, even as her anxiety rose. “All I know is that if I were you, I would definitely want to get to know me.” She blinked and relaxed involuntarily, realizing what that sounded like. “Uh, you,” she corrected, blushing slightly.

Daniel’s smile returned. “I get it.”

Sam searched his eyes for a few moments as she figured out what to say next. “I hope you can find it in your heart to trust me, to trust all of us here to help you figure things out. We can show you who you are instead of just telling you, if you’ll let us. But take your time. Don’t feel like you have to do things quickly just to make us happy.”

“Thank you,” Daniel said simply.

“You deserve it,” Sam replied. “And you’d do the same for me.” She shrugged and stood. “I’ll go now and let you think about things.”

“Okay.” Daniel watched her walk to the door and begin to open in it before calling out to her. “Sam.”

She turned around, startled. “Yeah?”

Daniel searched her face, a bit of confusion in his eyes. “Was there ever anything... between us?”

Sam blinked. “Us? Uh, no. No, not in that way. We...” She paused for a moment then smiled gently. “We were really, really good friends.”

“Okay.” Daniel nodded and relaxed back onto his pillows. “I guess I’ll talk to you later then.”

“That sounds good,” Sam said, extremely pleased. She grinned. “That sounds very good.” She gave him a little wave and left.

* * * * * * * *

Janet sat with Danny in Sam’s lab while the physicist spoke with Daniel, having chosen to take her break there to make sure the boy wasn’t alone during a trying time. He didn’t speak much, usually only responding to questions with a shake or nod of the head or a gesture in the appropriate direction, but she was used to that by now. She was just happy he would speak to her at all, even if it was only when it was absolutely necessary to answer a query put to him.

The petite doctor watched the child play one of the games Sam had downloaded onto her laptop, impressed by the three-year-old’s prowess. She’d have to ask Sam or Sabrina about it; she shouldn’t be surprised, she knew, considering who he was a clone of, but she was startled all the same. That was the thought going through her mind when the lab door abruptly opened, revealing Jack O’Neill standing on the other side.

Jack stared inside, his eyes locked on the child sitting at the table, seemingly oblivious to the woman sitting a little ways away from him. Danny looked back at him, a smile starting to turn up the corners of his mouth as he recognized his visitor. Before it could fully blossom, Jack’s expression transformed into a dark scowl, and he reached forward to slam the door shut with a low growl. Janet jumped at the sharp crack, then turned her head to look at Danny just as the boy’s expression fell into one of hurt and confusion.

“It’s okay, Daniel,” Janet said soothingly, stepping forward to gently grip his arms. She inwardly cringed at the tears that threatened to spill from his eyes. “The colonel is just upset right now. It’s really hurting him that his old teammate doesn’t remember him.”

“It hurts Sam, too,” Danny whispered, his gaze falling to his lap.

Janet’s heart broke at the unspoken sentiment that Sam hadn’t treated him badly, no matter how much she’d been hurting. “I know, it hurts a lot of us. But we have hope, and we’re going to keep trying. Jack’s having a hard time dealing with that.”

Danny nodded. “But I don’t think he likes me right now.”

Janet gasped. “Oh, Daniel...”

“Maybe I should have talked to him. Maybe he’d like me if I did.” The boy’s eyes lifted for a moment then fell again.

“Daniel...” Janet continued to softly rub his arms as an anger began to surge behind her overwhelming sympathy for the child. Jack could go ahead and beat himself up needlessly over Daniel Jackson’s amnesia all he wanted, but to take it out on this little boy was going way too far.

The tiny woman took a deep breath and put her fury on a back burner. “Don’t you do anything until you’re ready for it,” Janet said to Danny. “Jack was wrong to act that way. It wasn’t your fault. You did absolutely nothing wrong.” She took a hand and gently lifted his face to look him in the eye. “You’re not in trouble, Daniel, I promise. Please don’t feel like you should be.”

Danny stared at her for a long moment, seeing if not completely recognizing the sympathy in the emotional gaze. It occurred to him that it was important to her that he not feel bad, that he understood what she had just told him. Just like Sam always did. Was it possible that Doctor Fraiser cared about him, too? “I really didn’t do anything wrong?” he asked in a barely audible whisper.

“Not a thing,” Janet immediately assured him with a small smile. “And if it will make you feel better, I’ll go talk to Jack when Sam gets back and make sure everything’s okay.” Oh, and would one Colonel Jonathan O’Neill get one hell of a talking to, whether he wanted it or not. The petite doctor fought back an evil smirk at the thought.

“That... that would make me feel better,” Danny replied softly, trying to return the smile. He sighed after a moment and just let his head rest against Janet’s shoulder.

Stunned, it took the auburn-haired woman a moment to wrap her arms around the boy. Tears welled up in her chocolate brown eyes as she realized that she’d just been admitted to his inner circle. This wasn’t just the child reaching out because Sam was gone and in danger; she had somehow proven herself to him. The only time she’d felt prouder was the first time Cassie had called her mom.

The two of them were still in that position ten minutes later when Sam returned from Daniel’s isolation room. “Um, hi,” she said, confused.

Janet grinned widely at the blonde as she and Danny separated. “Hey, Sam. How did everything go?”

“Well, he said he’d talk to me later. That’s something.” She smiled and gestured at her friend and her ward as the physician rose to her full height. “Not that I mind, but what’s going on? Is everything okay?”

Janet’s grin immediately dropped away. “Colonel O’Neill paid us a short visit while you were gone. I’m guessing he was hoping your talk with Daniel was already over. He didn’t say anything, but it wasn’t pleasant all the same.”

Sam’s eyes widened. “What did he do?” She rushed over to Danny and took him into her arms protectively without even thinking about it. “What did the colonel do?”

“He gave Daniel a nasty expression then slammed the door before he left. But don’t worry, Daniel and I worked everything out before you got here. I told him I’d have a few words with the colonel and make sure it’s going to be okay.”

Sam blinked at the fierce expression and dark tone her friend had used. “Right,” she said slowly. “I’ll, uh, let you take care of it, then. Just... let me know if you need some back up.”

Janet’s expression cleared. “Oh, I doubt I’ll need that, Sam. You just take care of our boy here. I’ll take care of the other one.” She looked at Danny. “I’m going to go do that now. You just relax and enjoy the rest of the day with Sam. I’ll talk to you two later.” She reached out and gave the boy’s arm another squeeze, then smiled at Sam and left.

Sam stared at the closed door for a long moment then looked down at the boy in her arms. “Are you okay, sweetie?” she asked softly.

“I’m okay,” Danny whispered back. “Doctor Fraiser told me I didn’t do anything wrong.”

“You didn’t, I know you didn’t,” Sam said quickly, giving him a squeeze.

Danny sighed and let Sam fully take his weight. “I think Doctor Fraiser is mad at Jack.”

Sam couldn’t stop the smile his comment generated. “I think you’re right, Danny. I think you’re right.”

* * * * * * * *

It didn’t take long for Janet to track Jack down in his office. She stood in front of his closed door for a long moment, struggling to get her temper under control, and finally knocked. Ignoring the clipped “Who’s there?” she quickly walked inside, closing and locking the door behind herself, a part of her enjoying the startled expression she received when she did it.

“What are you doing, Doc?” Jack asked as Janet planted herself in front of his desk. “What are you up to?”

“I’m doing something I apparently should have done when this whole thing started,” Janet snapped back, crossing her arms over her chest. “But I thought I’d be patient, let you work things out on your own. No more. This pity party’s being cancelled, as of now.”

Jack sat back in his chair, wariness creeping into his gaze. “You pitying me now, Doc?” he asked carefully.

Janet’s arms exploded out as she scowled darkly. “Don’t use that dumb colonel act on me; I’m not playing that game. You know full well what I meant!”

Jack’s expression grew cold. “I believe you should leave now, Major,” he said quietly, his tone icier than the glint in his eyes.

“The hell I will, Colonel,” Janet zipped back as frostily. “This has strayed into medical and mental health, which gives me every right to finish this conversation.”

“Are you trying to claim I’m becoming unbalanced, Doctor?”

“Don’t you dare put words in my mouth!” Janet paused a moment to reign herself in somewhat. She wouldn’t get anything accomplished if she lost it completely. “You have been a selfish bastard ever since we lost Daniel,” she continued in a much calmer, quieter tone of voice. “It was easy to understand it in the beginning; I knew you and Daniel had been close, and it had to be tearing out your heart. I even understood your feelings about Jonas. He’d been there, and now here he was, alive, trying to worm his way onto your team. I’m ashamed to say I felt the same way for a while. But then it became obvious that Jonas was trying to atone, was trying to do everything in his power to help us in our fight against the Goa’uld. He put up with your cold shoulder and begrudging appointment to your team, trying to make the best of it.”

Janet sighed and rubbed a hand over her face while Jack silently sat in his chair and stared at her stonily. She hadn’t even noticed him cross his arms over his chest during her tirade. Oh, but she wasn’t done yet. She took a deep breath and went on. “I didn’t say anything because I know everyone’s grieving time is different. You were allowing Jonas to help, if not graciously, and weren’t actively being negative. Then Anubis came to Abydos. Daniel came and everything with the Eye of Ra happened and...” Janet shook her head. “It hurt to hear that we might have lost Daniel altogether, and I knew it had to be worse for all of you. Then we got caught up in the NID experiment, and little Daniel came into our lives. And you took it personally. You took his existence personally.”

The petite doctor rolled her eyes and rested her fists on her hips, a glare cutting off an attempted retort from Jack. “When I heard you say that it felt like this little boy was trying to take Daniel’s place in your life, I couldn’t believe it. I know Sabrina understood, and in a weird, twisted way I suppose it makes sense, but I just saw you taking your own guilt and grief out on a three-year-old child. I was just glad you weren’t doing it to his face. And you seemed to be getting over it.”

Now her fury reestablished itself. “What I’m seeing right now, however, is a man with his head up his ass! Your friend has come back! Daniel Jackson is sitting in an isolation room right now. Yes, he has amnesia, but he’s showing signs that it won’t be permanent. And what are you doing? Moping around acting like the universe is playing a huge, cruel joke at your expense, and taking it out on everybody around you!”

“Well, excuse me for having to readjust my thinking after trying to accept that my best friend was gone for good, and it was all my fault for pushing him that far!” Jack finally interrupted in a loud, echoing shout, bursting to his feet and slamming his hands down on his desk.

“There is absolutely nothing that can excuse you taking out your psychological issues on that little boy in Sam’s lab!” Janet screamed back, also leaning forward to slam her hands on his desk.

“What in the hell are you talking about?” Jack asked defiantly, worry starting to encroach on the angry fire in his eyes. He searched her gaze. “I never said anything to him.”

Janet blew out an explosive breath. “Not in words, no, but since when does a child need words to understand a slammed door? I watched you glare at Daniel, then growl and slam the door as you left. You may not have verbalized it, but even I could tell you weren’t happy to see him, that he represented something negative for you. I can only imagine how much worse it was for him, having it aimed directly at him.” She watched horrified realization dawn in his eyes and felt satisfaction grow in her heart. “He was sure he’d done something wrong. I’m not sure I managed to convince him otherwise. Sabrina has said that he only trusts the members of SG-1. Can you understand how much damage you could have done? One of the only people he trusts lashes out at him out of nowhere for no reason he knows of. How is he supposed to feel? He’s always ready to believe he’s done something wrong and should be punished. Do you want to wreck his chances at growing into a normal childhood?”

Jack flopped back into his chair, serious concern furrowing his eyebrows. “How does one...” he waved a hand around, “thing do all that? Is he really that fragile?” There was a sense of disbelief in his tone.

“I don’t think so, no,” Janet replied, almost reluctantly. “But if you keep this up, it could get bad. And that’s on top of what you’d be doing to your chances with your friend once he does remember. Do you really want that? Do you want to take the chance that he sees your attitude as proof that you don’t really want him back?”

Jack stared at her. “Do you think I don’t want him back?” he asked softly.

“I know better than that, Jack,” she replied just as softly. “Will he?”

Jack stopped himself before he shot back the automatic affirmative that sprang to his lips. He thought back to how strained their friendship had been before... Kelowna. He remembered himself snapping at Daniel to cross the line the Ancients had drawn to keep ascended beings from interfering in the affairs of mortals, the way he’d pushed at him from the moment he’d gotten into the catacombs after the battle with Anubis’ forces had started to go sour. If Daniel remembered those things as well... Maybe it was possible he could believe Jack didn’t want him back.

The colonel focused once again on the doctor standing before him. “I don’t want him to think that,” he said simply.

“Then do something about it,” Janet said. “I know that we still want to confirm that he’s not a clone, but he’s showing signs of memory that a clone probably wouldn’t have. And I’ve started to get a feeling that he’s the real deal. There’s a lot of positives going on here. You have to let yourself see them.”

“It’s hard,” Jack whispered, his eyes finally showing the pain he was feeling.

“Of course it is,” Janet said gently, her stance relaxing. “You’ve been on a long, emotional roller coaster. It’s only natural that you keep waiting for the rug to be pulled out from beneath you.” She shrugged. “I know I am.”

Jack straightened slightly, his expression surprised. “You are? What about all the positives you mentioned?”

Janet gave a short chuckle and a rueful smile. “I’m making myself look at them. For all I know, Thor is going to show up, scan the man in the isolation room, and tell us he’s a clone or an android or something. But I can’t focus on that. I can’t do that to myself. Maybe I’m just setting myself up for another emotional tumble, but it feels pretty good to believe that my friend has come back when I never expected he would. I like that feeling.”

“And I suppose it makes it easier to take care of him,” Jack added, a smile reluctantly twitching at his lips.

“There’s that.”

“Aw, gees, Doc,” the colonel spit out with a loud gust of air, “I didn’t mean to make the kid or anyone else feel bad over this.” He flopped back in his chair.

Janet smiled and shook her head. “I know. That doesn’t mean you didn’t deserve everything I said, but I do know you didn’t mean it. You owe Daniel an apology, though, and probably soon.”

Jack nodded. “Yeah, I suppose I do. And I might as well hand out a few more while I’m at it.” He stood and gave the doctor a sincere look. “I’m sorry I was such an ass. I’ll do my best to put the attitude away.”

“Apology accepted, and see that you do.” She grinned. “Now I’d better get back to the infirmary. Sam and Daniel are in her lab, by the way, in case you needed to know.”

“Go on, get out of here,” Jack retorted, shooing her away with a flick of his hands. “We’ve both got work to do.” He watched her go, then prepared himself for a big old slice of crow.

* * * * * * * *

Jack stood in the doorway of Sam’s lab a little while later, watching his second in command play a video game with her ward on her laptop. He stayed there for a long silent moment, unconsciously looking for his adult friend in the child even as he took note of how normal the scene seemed. Well, taking away the fact that it was happening in the middle of a technology-filled lab nineteen floors below ground in the most classified base in the country. He finally shook his head and braced himself for the task he had come to do.

Sam and Danny turned toward the door at the sound of a throat being cleared. The blonde major recovered from her surprise quickly, seeing the contrite glint in Jack’s eyes, but the boy tensed, not knowing what to expect this time. He’d never know just how much the lack of a welcoming smile hurt the silver-haired colonel.

“Sir,” Sam greeted him, giving Danny a squeeze.

“Carter,” Jack returned with a brief glance in her direction. His focus was on the child at her side. “It looks like I owe somebody here a huge apology.” He crouched down to Danny’s eye level, ignoring the painful protest of his knees. “When I came here before, I was a real jerk. I was upset about something else, and I took it out on you. That was totally out of line, and I shouldn’t have done it. I know I hurt you by doing it, and I want to say I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?”

Danny swallowed nervously. From what Jack had just said, it looked like Doctor Fraiser and Sam had been right; he hadn’t done anything wrong to make Jack look at him the way he had. And now Jack was saying sorry to him. The boy stared into the brown eyes in front of him and was surprised to see guilt and pain there. It was obviously a struggle for him to keep up the direct eye contact. Danny couldn’t let him hurt any more, especially if there was something he could do about it.

The blond child took a deep breath before speaking. “I forgive you, Jack,” he said softly.

Jack was surprised at the dual emotional surges at the absolution. On one hand, he was relieved; he was shocked at how much he’d needed to be forgiven by this little boy. On the other hand, he was struck by a huge pang of regret; it was now apparent how much he needed to hear those four words from the adult version of his friend. His jaw clenched for a moment before he could find his voice again. “Thank you,” he whispered. “That means a lot to me.” The bright smile his gratitude inspired was a balm that soothed some of his pain.

“Thank you, Colonel,” Sam said gently as Jack rose to his feet.

“It’s the least I could do,” Jack replied dismissively. “The squirt here deserves that and more.” He smiled down on the child then returned his attention to Sam. “So did your talk with Daniel go any better than mine?”

Sam summarized her visit with Daniel, leaving out his last question. “And as I left he said he’d talk to me later,” she concluded with a smile. “I really think everything’s going to be okay, Colonel. I really do.”

Jack nodded. “That does sound a lot better than what we said to each other. Glad to see you learned from my mistakes on this one.”

Sam’s smile turned understanding. “We’re all just trying to feel our way through this one, Colonel. This isn’t exactly the kind of thing that’s covered in training, not even the special SGC training that’s been put in place.”

“There’s that,” Jack agreed, his eyebrows raised in amusement. “Think we should recommend a chapter on it?”

“That might not be wise, sir,” Sam answered with a chuckle. “We’d have to admit to all the mistakes we’ve been making along the way.”

“Good point. And we’ve got a reputation to maintain.” He looked at Danny, who was watching them with a small smile. “Can’t have the mighty SG-1 looking like a bunch of bumbling buffoons. Isn’t that right?” Danny just giggled.

Sam grinned along with the other two. Soon she sobered, and a thought occurred to her. “Sir, did Teal’c talk to you after I left?” If he had, why had it apparently taken Janet’s lecture to improve the colonel’s attitude?

Jack cringed slightly and shook his head. “It looked like he was about to, but I got called to Hammond’s office. Once I was done there, I thought you might be back from your little talk with Daniel, so I came here. When I got back to my office, Teal’c was gone. I’m sure he’s still planning his verbal attack on me, though. Just biding his time.”

“I’ll let him know Janet beat him to it. I need to tell him how my time with Daniel went anyway.”

“Thanks, Carter. You’re a life saver.” Jack shrugged. “Or at least an ego saver. He doesn’t always say that much, but when Teal’c goes on a crusade, he doesn’t pull any punches, and you’re usually left feeling pretty small, and deservedly so.”

“He still might talk to you, sir,” Sam warned.

Jack nodded. “Yeah, I know. But at least there’s a smaller chance of it this way.”

A small comfortable moment of silence followed the statement. “I think it’s about time for lunch,” Sam said after a glance at her watch. “Would you like to join us, sir?”

“Yeah, I think I would. Thanks for the invite, Carter.” Jack reached out and pulled Danny off the stool he was sitting on and placed him on the floor. “Come on, kiddo,” the man said to the startled child. “Let’s go see if they have anything other than blue Jell-O for dessert.” Danny gave another giggle at the eager look Jack wore and Sam rolled her eyes as she shook her head. The three of them then made their way to the commissary. Back to Gen Fiction          Back to Part Eleven          Go to Part Thirteen

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