A New Beginning.

Series: Dan and Cam.
Part 1
Sam looked across the room and winced, knowing what was about to happen. Little boys with large toy trucks could only mean one thing--noise, lots and lots of noise.
Vrrommmcrash!
“Whoa!” giggled Cam.
“Neat!” added Daniel.
“Holy Hannah! Boys!” Sam replied, throwing a hand to her eyes. Maybe if she didn’t watch, the noise would simply evaporate in thin air.
She sighed, amazed at the ruckus the two fair-haired little boys generated with ease. Oblivious to her thoughts, Dan and Cam chatted incessantly as they lay on their bellies, happily swinging their legs back and forth. Taking time out from the demolition derby to slurp soda through chewed straws, they resumed their vehicular attack. Glancing down at the boys, Sam Carter muttered, “I could kill Siler for buying these!” She took a deep breath and prepared to regain the some control.
“Hey! Keep it down! I have to make a very important call!” Sam, as she had all morning, repeated herself. “I said, please be good and keep it down! Daniel? Cameron? Are you listening to me?”
“Yup!” Cameron twisted onto his side, his face splitting into a cheeky grin.
“Who are you calling? Want me to say hello? I can be very friendly, you know!” Danny jumped to his feet, pushing bangs from his eyes with one hand while wiggling the fingers of the other in the air.
Sam threw her eyes heavenward. “Thank you, but no! What I do need is to be able to make this call in peace! So, can it!”
Taking a moment to settle her nerves, Carter grinned at the look of disappointment crossing Danny’s freckled face, before she dragged her attention make to her task. The call to General O’Neill wasn’t going to make itself, and as Confucius wrote, every great journey began with a single step. It didn’t matter she and O’Neill had history. It didn’t matter they were closer than family. She actually considered they were family, but all that mattered in the end was that under her watch, Daniel and Cam had been compromised. Honey, I shrunk the kids played around and around in her mind until she wanted to scream at the injustice of it all.
Carter was trying hard to cover it, but it showed in her stance, her over-bright eyes, her balled fists, her tightly closed lips – Samantha second guessed herself. Mentally, she knew she wasn’t to blame, but emotionally she couldn’t help herself, It happened on her watch. She also couldn’t help but wonder if O’Neill would feel the same, had he been the Team Leader. The bond between him and Daniel was so tight, and so she knew the news would devastate him.
She gave herself one final pep talk, while ignoring Danny’s insistence that he could chat, while she panicked. “Okay, Carter, you can do this. What’s the worst that can happen? The general got old once, but he got better! Anything is possible.”
“General Landry? He got old? But he is old!” Cam bounced to his feet, his eyes bright with intelligence, and Sam knew neither kid missed a trick. Waving at him to sit down and play with his truck, Sam replied, “Cameron! Was I talking to you?”
“Maybe. Who else is here? Danny?”
Daniel took his cue beautifully and jumped in front of Cam. “Who got old? Who got better?” He folded his arms and glared, not so easily distracted. “If you weren’t talking about General Hank, then who? You said the general got better!”
“I wasn’t talking to you either!”
Sam ignored the demands of the children, and pushing the memory of the voluptuous Kynthia from her mind; she punched in O’Neill’s number.
 “This is Colonel Carter. Patch me through to General O’Neill, please.”
“Certainly, how are you today, Colonel?”
“Fine.” Taking a deep breath, she swallowed her irritation. Sam never subscribed to the rank and file mentality and had learned to take people for what they were. Many a NCO or lower ranked officer had pulled her butt from the fire, but she had no inclination to chit chat today. Finally, she heard the familiar drawl and said, “General!”
“So, Carter, to what do I owe this pleasure?” Hearing O’Neill’s cheerful greeting caused her mouth to go dry, and she swallowed several times before forcing out her words.
“Sir, we have had an incident. Colonel Mitchell and Daniel have been compromised.”
“Compromised?” O’Neill’s voice lowered to a whisper, and Sam struggled to hear him clearly.
“Exactly how isn’t known yet, but I am working on it.” Straight to the point, Sam set the wheels in motion, fully aware action would be immediate. She threw a quick glance over her shoulder, and smiling at the boys, burned with impatience. Adorable though Daniel and Cameron may be, it was unacceptable that her friends remain children one day longer them necessary. Her mind began to wander as she studied their faces.
The sound of O’Neill’s voice jolted her from her thoughts, and she flinched at the rebuke she heard.
 “Carter!”
Sam realized the teasing intimacy had disappeared, and felt a deep sadness knowing things could never be the same again.
“Tell me exactly what happened, and Carter? In language I can understand.”
Taking another deep breath, Sam explained the events of the ill fated mission, making sure she left nothing out. “The morning,” she said, “started off so normally!” Normal maybe, but she could never have guessed what the day would eventually bring.
OoO

Part 2

“Okay, boys and girls, where are we off to today? Who’s got the travel plans? Passports? Departing gateway three?”
 
Cameron’s head swiveled around as Teal'c’s rich baritone filled the gate room. “Travel plans, Colonel Mitchell? What is this gateway you refer to? I do not recall being advised of a change in status.” A small smile tugged at Teal’c’s face.
 
Cameron missed the spark of mischief in his friend’s dark eyes.  “Teal’c. It’s an expression. It means …” Mitchell sucked in a breath, and waving a hand in the air, stopped part-way through his explanation. “You’re pulling my leg again, aren’t you? This is that famous Jaffa humor, right? Okay, I get this now, change of status.” Rolling his eyes, Cam’s voice remained light and cheerful. No amount of Jaffa ribbing could take away the fact he was going on a mission with his newly formed team and nothing short of a nuke was going to dampen his spirits.
 
Teal’c’s expression remained indifferent. It was the smile in his eyes that told Cameron his friend hadn’t finished teasing him
 
“I assure you that I have in no way applied pressure to your leg, Colonel Mitchell. If you are experiencing pain in that area, perhaps you should not embark on this mission until you have sought medical advice.”
 
Cameron groaned inwardly. Teal’c was a master of dry wit, and he felt he was no match. Throwing his shoulders back and looking straight ahead, Teal’c presented a picture of serene dignity. Cam groaned inwardly and conceded, yep, he was no match at all.
 
Teal’c’s deadpan routine was interrupted by a shuffle of boots and a soft snort from Sam. Rolling his eyes at her grinning face, Cam shot an amused grin back. “Gimme a break here, Sam! You too?”

Shrugging, Sam had an innocent expression plastered across her face and smiled. “Who me?”
 
Always up for a challenge, and his eyes daring his team to continue tormenting him, Cam followed Daniel’s eyes as the mild colonel baiting continued.

Daniel looked over at Teal’c and waggled one eyebrow, then said in a low voice,
O-okay! I believe the correct expression for this situation would be ‘gotcha!’ Right, Teal’c?”

”Indeed, Daniel Jackson.”
 
“So what does that make it now?”
        
“I believe the score is 86 to 2,” was the quietly delivered response. Teal’c’s lips twitched slightly, and his own eyebrow doing a dance, he turned to face the colonel. “You are the two, Colonel Mitchell.”
 
Mitchell’s head swivelled again at the softly delivered challenge that was too good to pass up, and risking a glance up at General Landry, he lowered his voice while edging closer to Daniel. Leaning his head close to Daniel’s he hissed his amazement. “What? 86 to 2? You two are keeping score? Hell, you guys so need to get out more.”
 
Exchanging amused glances with Daniel, Teal’c growled softly reminding Cameron that while he was accepted, he was still on probation. He had a way to go.

“Indeed.”

Cameron nodded his head. He got it. Taking the new guy on the block ribbing with his customary easy grace, he rolled his eyes and groaned, “Funny, guys, real funny. I don’t believe it. We’re supposed to be the SGC’s premier team and you guys are keeping score? That’s so … so …”

“O’Neill-like?” was Daniel’s answer, his eyebrows waggling. Ducking his head and throwing Cam a sideway glance, he added with a grin, “Good call, Mitchell.”

“Yeah. It is.”

Smiling back at Cameron’s broad grin, Daniel flicked a casual wrist and replied softly so none of the curious marines could overhear, “I don’t know whether to be insulted or honored.”
 
“Yeah, you do, Jackson! Want me to paint a picture?” His good nature rising to the surface, Cam listened to the whir of the Stargate dialing, watching carefully as its lights flashed each time a chevron engaged. Soon he and his team would walk through the wormhole to an alien planet and his nerves tingled. No matter how many times he stood in the embarkation room, Cam always felt a rush of adrenaline. Breaking the stare and lifting his chin, he replied from the corner of his mouth, “You guys are killing me here!”
 
OoO

Hank Landry tapped his chin, and listened to the chitchat with Mitchell carefully. It appeared to be all very goodnatured, but as the Commanding Officer of the SGC, it was his responsibility to make sure small things didn’t become big. Jack O’Neill was legendary in the SGC and both Landry and Mitchell had very large boots to fill.

”Walter, I think it might be time to send these good folk on their way.”

General Landry blinked slowly, a small smile fading as quickly as it came. An ex-combat pilot, he was well aware whatever it took to keep a unit tight was acceptable; you needed to know your six was covered by people you could trust. Most SGC units had team members come and go, but SG-1 had stayed intact for seven years, a very long time. But times changed and so did his premier team, and while the banter was all very amusing, it was time to earn their pay checks.
 
Leaning across the microphone, Landry arched an eyebrow putting paid to the banter, his tone warning them his patience had all but expired. “Uhh. Very amusing, people, I’m sure Colonel Mitchell sees the funny side. However, you may have noticed that the kawoosh sound is over, time to stop wasting both time and money.”
 
“Yes, sir.”
 
Time for play had finished. All business, the laughter put aside, SG-1 waited for their final clearance. With a sharp salute to the General, Cam told his new team to move out.
“SG-1, we have a go.”
 
OoO

SG-1 exited the wormhole and stepped into a howling, blustery gale, complete with sleet and rain. Blinking with collective disorientation, they paused for a moment. Instead of the expected rural horizon, they were surrounded by miles of nothing. Left standing on a flat mountain, with brutal weather close to freezing, Teal’c halted, and raised his staff weapon swiftly.
 
“Colonel Mitchell, I do not believe this is our intended destination.”
 
“Ya think?” Daniel was the next to recover his voice, and staring at the bleakness facing him, yelled into the wind, “What happened? Sam?” Shivering as an icy blast hit his face, he zipped his jacket up to his throat, adding, “Isn’t this supposed to be an idyllic or dare I say, an innocuous planet?”
 
Cameron shot a quick glance at him, and muttered something unintelligible under his breath. Keeping his weapon raised, he repeated Daniel’s question with more force. “Sam? Where are we?” Stepping forward and wincing as ice crunched under his boot, he lost his footing, and straightening up, shivered, “Have a bad feeling about all this.”
 
Sam stared past him looking equally confused. The terrain was eerie, with no vegetation, and no sounds except the howling gales, and looking around, she called back, “No idea, Cam, but this isn’t right! Could be a malfunction or a glitch in the SGC dialing program. I won’t know till I run a full diagnostic.” Slipping on the icy rock face, Sam shivered, and hunching into her jacket added, “We need to get out of this weather.”
 
Weapons rose while, carefully edging down the icy podium, SG-1 slipped and scrambled for balance as they gamely continued, searching for signs of life. A field unit on a mission survey, SG-1 had gated to a seemingly inhospitable planet, and was woefully unprepared for the hostile conditions. They needed to make a contingency plan ASAP. The mission to P3R-5X2 was supposed to be a day survey, and the MALP had sent back shots of a lush planet with an abundance of vegetation. Peering at the rural setting back at the SGC, Vala instantly begged off, citing an improbable family crisis.

 “Planet Dreary? Send me a postcard.” With a sashay of hips and a toss of hair, Vala had taken herself off the mission. Cam didn’t argue, and Daniel and Sam exchanged wry grins.

Wherever the wormhole had spat them out, it wasn’t on P3R-5X2, and Cam mentally rolled his eyes at Vala’s fortuitous intuition.

The Stargate sat elevated on a flat table of rock, almost like an altar, and splintered bones littered the frozen ground. On both sides of the gate were steep cliff faces, and Cam shivered, wondering who had worshiped here. Stepping over several skulls, he fervently hoped that whoever they were, they’d disappeared. The top of the mountain was even, like someone had lopped the top of it off with a butter knife, but directly to the left, a series of steps had been carved into the side of the mountain leading to a 360 degree ledge. The rough-cut stone stairway was steep and treacherous, and eyeing the steps with trepidation, Cam decided he actually didn’t give a rat’s ass where they led.
.
Frustration with events he couldn’t control made Cam’s voice sound hard. “What sort of idiot race would have their Stargate on top of a half assed mountain?” Making his decision to leave the planet, he kept his weapon raised as he yelled into the wind, “Sam, dial it up, we are gone!”
 
Sam nodded, and punching in the co-ordinates, took a step back, waiting for the wormhole to engage. The Stargate shuddered, and refused to engage. Cam gestured to Sam to re-dial as SG-1 shivered in the steady rain, ready and willing to step through the event horizon and haul their soggy asses’ home. Instead, they were forced to duck electrical discharges as once again the wormhole didn’t materialize. ”What the?” Sam looked over at Cam and shaking the numbness from her finger tips, immediately re-dialed. The DHD fizzled with static electricity and the dialing device stayed unlit against the backdrop of the alien Stargate.

“Let me try another address,” Daniel yelled into the gale, sliding past Sam and punching in the address for Oannes.

Cam watched Daniel’s fingers work the DHD, and knew he’d bought a whole lot of trouble.

“This makes no sense! We got here, so why can’t we leave?” Cam couldn’t stop the shiver running down his spine. They couldn’t leave because something stopped them, and looking around into the nothingness, a feeling of dread knotted in his gut. Whatever was happening here wasn’t good.

Daniel had tried dialing the Alpha Site but to no avail, the DHD stubbornly refused to work. Wind howling and battered by sleet, SG-1 were stranded in hostile conditions on the top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere.
 
With a feeling of dread now permanently settled in his gut, Mitchell stared at their surroundings. “This is just dandy!” he huffed. The day that had started so well was spiraling into a disaster. P3R 5X2 was nothing like they’d expected, and he winced as he heard Sam and Daniel talking gate malfunction. Whirring around in neat 180 arc, keeping one eye trained on his team-mates crouched at the base of the DHD, he shouted, “How’s it going, guys? This place gives me the creeps!” The place was immense, and there was only one way he could see to get off. Straight down a sheer cliff face.

Sam crouched back down in front of the DHD, and began to tinker with various diagnostic tools. Bouncing on the back of his heels next to her, Daniel shivered, and hunching into his jacket, handed her more tools, peering over her shoulder, and offering advice.  ”There’s power getting to the crystals! Everything looks fine; I don’t know why it won’t engage.”

The wind whistling around their ears meant Carter was forced to yell to be heard, and jumping to her feet and cupping her hand to her mouth, she shouted her findings. Her poncho flapping in the wind, she struggled to make herself heard.

“God, its freezing! Sam, it looks okay to me, but you’re the expert. Cam? I can’t see anything wrong with it!” Daniel yelled, but like Sam’s and Mitchell’s, his voice carried away in the wind.

Cam squinted, he watched Daniel’s lips move but couldn’t make out the words, and tugging at his ear, he shrugged. Snapping his jaw shut, every frozen raindrop assaulting him, Cam cupped his hand and yelled into the gale. “What? What’s wrong?" Straining to hear Daniel’s reply and giving up trying, his mouth twitched with irritation, and sidling up to Teal’c, Cam yanked at his sleeve. “Got any ideas, Teal’c?” Sighing at the slight shake of his head, Cam patted Teal’c’s shoulder and walked towards the edge, peering down the cliff face. Unable to stop the shudder running down his spine, Cam called out to Teal’c, “Vala had the right idea after all. Visiting make-believe relatives is looking mighty good round about now.”
 
Minutes ticked by and their situation became steadily grimmer. Sam couldn’t get the DHD to engage. Tools lay scattered on the ground, and half crawling into the DHD, she occasionally waggled an out stretched hand for a different tool to be placed in it. The weather picked up in its velocity, and Cam knew they couldn’t risk exposure for much longer. The mountain was eerie; except for the sounds of howling winds, there was no sign of life. Cam figured that was the least of their problems. There was no way down — or up — from the Stargate, and if Sam couldn’t get the DHD to work, they were in trouble. As he surveyed the area with field glasses, he observed, “This is different … no trees.”

Pocketing his own field glasses and turning around, Daniel looked at Cam with a quizzical expression. “What? Since when did you start channeling Jack?”

“Funny, Jackson, it’s just that lately, every world we ‘gate to seem to have trees.”

“Tell you what, Mitchell,” Daniel replied, his teeth chattering, “I’d rather have trees than what we see here. ‘Cause unless we sprout wings, we’re not going anywhere.”
“Just sayin!”
OoO
 
“There has to be another reason! The DHD is in perfect order, the answer isn’t there.”

Listening to her team mates bicker, Sam backed out of the DHD and began to unpack her gear. It had been a frustrating waste of time, and fumbling with icy fingers, she finally managed to find her diagnostic tool. Stamping her frozen feet, she walked around, scanning the clearing. The more she stared at the scanner, the harder her expression became. Tapping the glass with her finger and brushing off a thin layer of ice, she waved her team closer, and called out her findings.

“Whoa, guys, we have more trouble than just not having wings. There are some serious energy readings here. I’m not sure where it’s coming from, though if I had to guess, it seems to be coming from that ledge over there.”

Gesturing 30 yards from where the Stargate sat, and staring down at the ledge, she shook her head in confusion, her words lost in the wind. “I don’t understand why, there’s nothing there but more of nothing.” Shrugging at Mitchell’s raised eyebrow, Carter made her way towards the energy source, her team flanking her side. Craning his neck and peering at the sensor in Sam’s hands, Cam steadied her by wrapping an arm around her shoulders.
“Careful there, Sam, it’s kinda slippery here. Are the readings changing as we get closer?”

Smiling at the protectiveness of her friend, she wriggled out of the bear hug, and said, “No, and see, that’s odd! The energy signature is stable. Whatever is giving off energy has not changed its intensity since I started scanning it. Sometimes the closer we get to some power sources the higher the levels, but this is staying constant. I can’t quite pinpoint its location, it’s almost like the whole mountain is the source of the reading.”
Looking around, Sam shook her head, “I can’t explain it, Cam, I need to get to that ledge; the readings are more concentrated there.” Her voice sounded harsh and rasping from screaming into the gale force wind.
Chapter 3 Lost!

About ten feet from the mountainside, Mitchell stopped, and peering down at the rough cut steps, threw another sidelong glance at Daniel and shuddered.
“Okay, so, bottom line this for me, Sam. Are we safe? Cuz I’m telling you straight up, Jackson is right, we don’t have wings, and if this place is dangerous, it’s a hell of a jump.”
“I’m not sure, Cameron,” Sam shouted, cupping her hand to her mouth.

Throwing Sam a flat glare, Cam nodded. “Okay, not at all helpful, Sam.” Knowing a command decision was needed ASAP, Cam continued to yell futilely into the wind. “Here’s the score, we need to get the hell outta here, and if that means rock climbing, then rock climbing it is.”

Slowly and methodically, the team closed the distance between themselves and the icy rock staircase. Cam didn’t like the look of them any better close up, but they’d run out of options. To be trapped on a mountain in the middle of nowhere wasn’t acceptable, and they needed to ascertain if the mysterious energy readings were interfering with the DHD. Taking careful steps and jumping onto the 360 degree ledge below the flattened peak, Sam took out her tools and started her assessment. She moved the sensor up, down, and side to side along the cliff wall, determined to pinpoint the source. Daniel began to run his fingers over the rock face, seeking an opening, or some other clue to the mystery. Cameron watched and then repeated Daniel’s efforts, his fingers probing the hard wall. Teal’c remained a step back and guarded them all, his staff weapon half raised and primed.
 
“This is ridiculous,” Sam yelled over the howling gale. “There has to be a source, it’s impossible for it to be so wide spread.”

”Well, it’s not like we have a whole bunch of other options. Keep looking, boys and girls.”
 
Edging along the cliff face, Cam straightened up and turned around as he felt his jacket yanked hard. Looking into  Daniel’s puzzled face, he waited patiently for an explanation. “Jackson?”
 
Daniel’s mouth worked silently, finally he leaned in close and shouting to be heard, said, “Guys, here’s a thought. What if the whole mountain itself is artificial and it is hiding a power source?”
 
Cam watched in silence as the play unfolded in front of him, all the missing pieces slowly coming together.

Sam looked up, and stopped her scanning, her eyes widening with shocked realization. “Of course! That’s the only explanation! Let me see what happens if I do this …” She began adjusting the sensor, changing a number of settings.

“Do you hear that?” Mitchell queried.

“Hear what?” Sam shouted back.

“It’s like rock grinding on rock,” Mitchell responded.

“I hear it too,” Daniel chimed in. “And it’s getting louder.”

Cam opened his mouth but Teal’c cut him off.

“Stand back, Colonel Mitchell.”

Before Mitchell could respond, a loud cracking noise made him jump back, and jiggling on one foot, he swore softly as the mountain seemed to vibrate. “What the hell?” A fissure appeared in the mountain wall, and laboriously, a doorway forced its way into existence. The opening was barely big enough for one person to walk through, and its jagged edges were instantly covered in a soft cover of snow. Shining the lights from their P90s into the opening, SG-1 was assaulted by a rush of icy, fetid air. Looking at each other, they came to the same conclusion. The cavern was pitch black, and they’d have to venture further in. Standing out and looking in wasn’t going to give them the answers they needed.

Mitchell broke the silence. “Well, that’s disappointing. Okay, boys and girls, we have limited options here. Stay out here and freeze our asses off, or go in and explore. My thoughts? Let’s do what we do best … explore.” Shaking and handing out Sylume sticks, he hitched his to his vest, “Heads up. We don’t know whose home this is, and they may not be expectin’ company.”

Weapon and flashlight raised, Daniel slid a skeptical glance at Cameron. Cautiously edging towards the opening, they moved inside one by one, the beams from their flashlights bouncing off the walls. Coming to a halt, his eyes adjusting to the dark, Cam’s light stick cast an eerie glow, hi-lighting a chamber — a chamber clearly not natural. Exchanging a nod with Teal’c, he ordered the others to stay alert. While most of the chamber remained cloaked in darkness, a crystalline device at its centre lit up the floor. Its facets reflected the light in all the colors of the rainbow, and momentarily mesmerized, the colonel watched the flickering lights dance under the flashlight’s harsh beam.

Moving closer, Sam muttered it reminded her of a stellated dodecahedron, and jabbed the nose of her P90 at the clear centre. “Wonder what this is for?” Crouching to her knees, she studied it closely then finally standing up, chewed her lip.
 
“Whatever this is, it’s filled with some sort of liquid. The question is what, why, and who put it there.”

”You’ll figure it out.” With one eye on Sam and the other on the doorway, Cam bit back his impatience and keeping his voice neutral, asked if she’d found anything useful. “So, Sam, got it all worked out?”

Sam looked up briefly, and mouthed, “Maybe,” while continuing to move the sensor over the device. Listening, he struggled to keep the confusion off his face while pretending to understand Sam’s steady train of technobabble. Finally, he’d heard enough. “Okay, fine, that’s important because?” Keeping his eye on the opening, and shrugging at the unconvinced look on Daniel’s face, Cam nodded. “Sam, watch’cha got there?”

 “Guys, listen up, this could be important.” Sam bent down, and with her hands perched on her knees, she read her diagnostics out loud.
 
Cameron listened to Sam’s findings, and waving his hand, scolded her mildly, “Okay, how ‘bout we all use a language I actually speak? So, again, watch’cha got there, Sam?”
 
“Cam, I don’t actually know what it is yet, but this is definitely the source of the energy readings.” Sam looked up, and seeing the frown, ordered with a quick smile, “I need a moment to work this out!”

With a boyish wave, his cheeks coloring slightly, Mitchell turned around and studied their temporary digs. Daniel edged closer to him, his curiosity nudging him into action.

“This place is amazing in a terrifying stuck in the middle of a mountain way.” Daniel shone his flashlight, and shrugging at Cam’s snort, studied the walls carefully.

The chamber was freezing, and lit up by their light sticks probably only showed half its size. It seemed to tunnel into the mountain for miles, and if they became lost, it would be easy never to be seen again.

Daniel looked up, frowning, and waved Colonel Mitchell over. “Cam, the walls closest to the device are too slick, like someone polished them. Look at the floor! It’s too clean! Where’s all the rubble or stones? If I had to guess, I’d say this chamber had been skillfully excavated.” The archaeologist’s eyes shone with the endless possibilities an alien planet had to offer.

Cam’s, however, shone with doubt. “Huh? Shiny and clean? Whatever you say, Jackson.” Peering over Daniel’s shoulder and shrugging with indifference, he agreed that it was all very neat and tidy, far as a cave in the middle of no-where went. The only thing that truly piqued the colonel’s interest was the alien object throwing spectacular shards of colored lights on the floor. Narrowing his eyes, discarding one thought after the other, Cam looked across at his team mates, a shrewd expression crossing his face. “Maybe, Jackson, this chamber was built to house glow worm here, or to imprison someone?” Shivering at the thought of being entombed in a mountain for eternity, a ghost tap-danced over Colonel Mitchell’s grave.

Teal’c’s deep voice roused him from his melancholic thoughts, and provided the answer to the liquid puzzle. Cameron looked across at Teal’c with appreciation, once again amazed by his friend’s depth of knowledge.  “Colonel Carter, what if the device is filled with liquid naquada? Would that not be sufficient to generate the energy readings we are seeing?”

Twisting around, Cam lifted his chin, and met Teal’c’s gaze steadily. Bunching his fists and then releasing them, the mention of naquada shook him. What if this had been a Goa’uld planet? Was this place a trap? Where was the Goa’uld? In here? Sliding a glance at Sam, he held his breath while she thought. The only emotion he portrayed was a twitch of his lips, but their situation became steadily worse. “Sam, is he right? Is that naquada?”
 
Carter returned his look before replying, lifting her chin thoughtfully. “Maybe. But the readings are awfully high for even liquid naquada. Now if that was naquadria, they would … Holy Hannah. That’s it! This must be liquid naquadria.”
 
”Of course it is.” Cam shot her an annoyed look. Grabbing his forage cap in tight fingers, a mixture of infuriation and fear vied for dominance on his face. Nothing was going right. “Naquadria? We are stuck in a hole in a rock with liquid naquadria to keep us warm?” Stopping mid rant, he was unable to quell the irritation he felt at Daniel’s lack of response and demanded, “Hey, Jackson? Throw me a bone here!” Cam moved forward too quickly, spooking Daniel into raising his arms in a defensive block. Ducking the flying arm, Cam growled deep in his throat. “Hey, watch it!” Shoving his cap tightly back on his head, he wondered if the thought of being near naquadria had made Daniel lose it. He couldn’t blame the man, the mission report had been terrible, but he couldn’t afford to have him going nuts. Turning slightly into Daniel’s line of sight, and knuckling his arm, he forced Daniel to look at him and demanded, “Jackson? What in the hell is the matter with you?”
 
“What?” Daniel’s odd restlessness turned into anxiety. “Cam, I’ve got a bad feeling about this place.” Mouth opening and shutting, he tugged Cam’s sleeve hard, his voice almost pleading. “God! We have to leave, go back and fix the DHD. I can’t explain it, but this place seems disturbingly familiar. It’s almost like a memory I just can’t quite recall.” He paused and motioned towards the opening, “Guys, I think we should—”

Daniel’s cry was lost as a beam of white light shot out from the star-shaped device. The light was so intense, SG-1 collectively cried out in pain, and blindly stumbling around, finally collapsed into a heap. Edging close to each other, feeling for hands and arms, they embraced in a bizarre huddle.
 
OoO

Sam kept her hands protectively over her face, the light causing her eyes to burn. Suddenly, to her relief, the beam disappeared, and forcing herself into a sitting position, she blinked quickly, a lingering pink shimmer distorting her vision. As tears streamed down her face, she watched as Teal’c struggled to his feet, swaying to regain his balance.

“Teal’c! Are you okay? Where is everyone else?”

”Colonel Carter!”

Teal’c’s cry startled her with its intensity.

“Teal’c. Are you alright?” Struggling to her feet and again falling heavily, she cursed softly as her unsteady legs betrayed her. Instantly rolling and scrambling onto all fours, she looked around the chamber with uncertainty. Eyes gritty and red with tears, she impatiently scrubbed at them while repeating her orders more forcefully, “Teal’c? Answer me!”

”I am here. I am also well, but Colonel Mitchell and Daniel Jackson are not.”
The raw look on Teal’c’s face was enough to make Sam freeze. She tried to dismiss her intuition, but she knew in her gut that something had happened. Swallowing her fear, she stumbled over to Teal’c, and grabbing his arm, her voice cracked while she demanded, “They’re still here, aren’t they, Teal’c?” Sam stood up quickly. Her breathing hitched and she felt like she was suffocating. What more could go wrong?  The insides of her stomach turned violently and she felt like the walls were closing in on her. “Teal’c! Please! Where are they?” 
Sam felt Teal’c pull her close, and looking into his face, gasped at his shocked expression. It didn’t matter what happened, what part of the universe they were thrown into, she could always rely on Teal’c’s quiet strength. Always in control, it appeared nothing fazed him, but the way he tried to regulate his breathing frightened her. If Teal’c was scared, then they all should be terrified.
 
Teal’c was very disturbed, his stance, his expression betrayed it. Keeping his voice low, he said, “Colonel Carter, we have been deceived. The device Daniel Jackson thought he remembered is a weapon of great power. Maybe he had prior knowledge, but I feel this place is dangerous. We must ensure this place is taken from the dialing sequence, and no SGC team returns.” Crouching down and dragging her with him, Sam blinked until the odd pink mist in front of her eyes lifted, and focusing on a moving shape in front of them, she whispered with disbelief.
 
“This planet is a trap? What the…Teal’c! What happened here? Who are these children? God! Tell me I’m wrong! Tell me these kids aren’t who I think they are?”
 
As the words left her mouth, Sam knew the answer. Leaning closer, she ran her hand slowly down one of the boy’s cold arms, gently lifting the fragile hand. The middle finger bore the scar Cameron had often worried at when nervous. Feeling for a pulse, she looked across at Teal’c and whispered, “They’re alive!” The look that passed between the two team-mates was raw and desperate, and breaking eye contact, Sam swallowed silently.


Chapter 4

Jack took slow and careful sips of his coffee while listening to the fantastic story being told. He didn’t interrupt although he had a million questions; and pinching the bridge of his nose, mentally organized the events into some kind of perspective. There was no point in refusing to believe something like this could happen, and denial was a waste of time and energy. Nothing else mattered but the safety of the two SGC personnel, blame or culpability would have to wait. For now at least.

He finally interrupted, putting Sam out of the misery he heard in her voice. “Carter, Sam, it’s going to be okay. Now, no-one, and I mean no one is to touch Daniel and Mitchell until I get there.” Placing the phone down, Jack moved into action, he needed to be at the SGC and he needed to be there yesterday. Barking an order to his adjutant, Captain Leonard, Jack stashed papers into his attaché case while ordering her to contact Davis. “Tell him I need to get to Cheyenne Complex ASAP. Then get me General Hammond! Now...move!”

While waiting for Hammond to call him back, Jack stared into space, trying to comprehend the fantastic story Carter had just told him. “Compromised she says! Hell! I’d say being shrunk is being…compromised!” Running his hand through his hair, he jumped to his feet, too agitated to remain seated, and worked the room, irritation oozing with every step he took.

“Dammit it, Daniel! What in God’s name did he touch this time? Can I not leave that man alone for ten minutes? Stupid question! It’s Daniel, of course I can’t! What was Mitchell thinking anyway? If Danny said to move then he should have hauled their asses out of there! I’d have moved! Yep, my ass would have been grass!”

Getting the confirmation his aircraft was being fuelled, Jack grabbed his jacket and strode from his office. Replaying in his head Carter’s amazing story, he wondered how two fully grown SGC operatives could leave on a routine mission and come back as small kids. “What in God’s green planet happened out there?” He wasn’t sure, but he knew one thing, he’d every intention of finding out.

OoO

Sam expression was a mask of concentration before she finally said, “I’ll make sure to let General Landry know of your flight plans, sir.”

“Oh!” She felt rather than heard another’s presence in the room. Seeing General Landry’s quizzical expression, she replaced the receiver in its cradle. Despite the facts the kids were chattering while hanging off his hands, she still hadn’t heard him walk into the room, and the stress of the day continued to build. “Sir, General O’Neill is on his way.” A twinge of guilt twisted inside her at the relief she felt when the words left her mouth. The awesome responsibility had just shifted, and she knew the chain of command was now in action.

Hank nodded at her while adding gruffly. “Thank God. Good work, Colonel, I’ll be in my office if you need me. By the way, I’m sending someone to relieve you and to help get these little horrors looking half way respectable!” Knuckling Cam on the head and swinging Danny onto his hip, he wagged a finger under their noses.

“Children, you behave yourselves for the sergeant, you hear me?”

“Sergeant? What’s wrong with Sam?” Daniel pouted and wriggled to get down.

“Re-spec-at-ball? Why?” Cameron rubbed his head and scowled.

Resorting to the age old, “Because I said so,” Hank looked at Sam and said sadly, “This is all just the damnedest thing, Colonel.”

Sam nodded, her blue eyes suddenly bright with tears.
 
Slowly aware of the insistent tugging of her pant leg, Sam looked down, and smiling at the little boys, felt the bewilderment that grew into sadness every time she thought of what they’d become. Kneeling down, she scolded herself that now was not the time for her melancholy thoughts, and she had a lot to prepare before O’Neill’s plane touched down. Taking a quick breath she studied the two small boys standing in front of her, their eyes boring into hers. Fair-haired and blue eyed, the kids could easily pass for brothers, twins almost, and with a sigh, she knew this was all wrong. Daniel Jackson and Cameron Mitchell shouldn’t be playing with Tonka trucks; they should be out there exploring the galaxy, or she smiled, in Daniel’s case, starting a fight with it.

“Sam, why did General Landry sound so sad? What did you do?” Daniel had his truck tucked under his arm, clearly reluctant to put it down.
 
Sam knew the tensions of the day were beginning to affect the boys, and that wasn’t fair. She needed to pull herself together, and smiling; she drew her tiny teammates close to her. “General Landry wasn’t sad, well, not really.” Forcing herself to sound calm, Sam shivered, feeling anything but. The rage deep in her belly began to burn fiercely. Rage at an alien device, rage at the SGC’s inability to find a cure, rage at her feelings of impotence. She worked hard to keep it quiet, but the innocence of the blue eyes watching her made her want to strike out, hurt the world, like it had hurt Daniel and Cam.

As if they could feel Sam’s pain, the two small boys jostled with each other, and the winning pair of arms snaked around her neck. Daniel’s worried look was so typical of the caring adult he had been, Sam blinked quickly, taken slightly aback at his softly lisped question.

“Sam? What’s the matter? Why are you upset?” Daniel chewed his lip, while Cam edged him out of the way with a sideways butt push.

“Did Danny do something stoopid? Coz, if he did, I should take his truck!”

Sam laughed, feeling her tension finally under control. “Cammie! That’s not going to happen! Honestly, there is nothing is wrong, trust me, everything is going to be all right! Kids, we have a change of plans. Remember General O’Neill? Jack? Well, he’s on his way.” With the general flying in, Sam figured things would start to move quickly, and that suited her down to the ground. The quicker the kids were sorted the quicker she could get about and find that cure. All she needed to do was to fend off Vala, and that in itself was a chore. Vala had been very keen to sit the kids and the base had barely survived it. Landry had quickly put paid to her interference, but Sam knew… she hovered.

OoO
Hearing confirmation that Jack O’Neill had finally arrived to take custody of the boys, General Landry felt the weight of the world begin to lift from his shoulders. O’Neill’s arrival at Cheyenne could only mean one thing; the detractors of the SGC had lost their battle to its more well connected defenders. Even though it counted as a win, Hank was pragmatic enough to know that everything could change in a heartbeat. One well placed whisper over a glass of Cabernet, and the detractors gained the upper hand. But as of now, Daniel Jackson and Cameron Mitchell were safe from the powermongers of Washington and their shadowy friends.
When the President had confirmed that Jack had agreed to care for the boys, General Landry wasn’t sure what he felt. Relief? Trepidation? Jealousy? Thinking long and hard, he decided to keep his opinions to himself, the mystique of Danny and Cam could stay a mystery a bit longer. “What you don’t know, old friend, won’t hurt you.”
During their short but oh-so busy stay, the little guys had driven everyone nuts with their boisterous antics. Whispering behind cupped hands, the personnel now in the loop figured Jack O’Neill was just the man to keep them in line. If any of this gossip reached Landry he never said anything, and welcoming Jack into his old office, studied his old friend’s stiff gait very carefully. Making up his mind to be blunt, he waved him towards a chair, and with a hint of warning in his tone, gave his advice -- one old war horse to another.
“Okay, Jack, cards on table, it’s an unmitigated disaster. I have lost not only the Commanding Officer of my premier team, but the only person alive who knows more about the Stargate than Carter. That damn device is apparently fused into a rock floor, and unless we bring back the mountain, there it stays. Jack, you know I can’t send more of my people back to retrieve it; Teal’c thinks it’s the most dangerous damn thing he’s come across. Before you see Doctor Jackson and Colonel Mitchell, I thought you may want to look at the latest reports from Dr Lam and her people. You need to prepare yourself, Jack, it’s going to be a shock.”
“Figured that.”
Pushing the file across the table, Hank grabbed another mug and banging it down, his expression changed to one of infinite sadness. “Figured you could probably use a slug of something stronger, but coffee is probably a better option.”
Nodding his head, Jack’s dark eyes gave nothing away, “Thanks, Hank, I’ll read this and then see the boys. I appreciate your honesty though.”
There was nothing more to say. General Landry silently handed over the latest wad of medical reports with a stab of regret. Daniel was Jack’s closest friend, and Hank figured that seeing him in short pants would be devastating, but what could he do? Danny couldn’t stay on base, and neither could Cam. The boys needed a father figure with the right clearance, and as far as Landry was concerned, he was looking straight at the ideal candidate. Jack O’Neill. If anyone could make this work, he could.
With an apologetic shrug, Hank finally took back the offered files muttering, “Kids are still shrunk, I’m afraid.” He opened his mouth and then shut it quickly with a sigh. Nothing he could say or do could make the situation anything but what it was- an unmitigated disaster.
“So it would seem.” With a flat look, Jack got to his feet and added, “No time like the present.” Jack walked purposely to the door. “Hank, let’s just do this.”
Patting his old friend on the back, General Landry agreed, he wanted this done. Both were busy men, and SG-1’s predicament weighed heavily on his mind. The long hours evaluating replacements exhausting him, Hank wanted Cam and Daniel off base, and he needed that done yesterday.
“Jack, I know this is a terrible thing but you have to believe me, Daniel and Cameron don’t remember much, and they are happy kids. Real happy, Jack. I just want to make that perfectly clear.”
Jack returned the knowing look and shrugged softly. “Good, that’s good.”
Chapter 5
Jack liked Landry, but now, he wished he’d just shut up and leave him to it. Hell, he didn’t need anyone to tell him how potentially explosive the situation was, it was painfully obvious. The Washington suits looked over their shoulders with great interest while the IOA nipped at his heels. Walking into the VIP room, he looked down at the kids, and felt the stirring of paternal feelings. It had always been there, just filed nice and deep where it couldn’t hurt him. Kneeling down, he juggled his hands on his knee, resisting the impulse to reach out and gather the children into his embrace. These kids needed him. He was never surer of anything in his life.
“Hello, boys, I’m Jack.”
In perfect unison, while throwing a guarded look at their latest, and most terrifying yet, sitter, Danny and Cam replied in a subdued voice, “Hello, Jack.”
The little boys looked up, blinking in wide eyed confusion while running a sleeve under their noses. Scrubbed ruthlessly, they looked miserable as bottom lips quivered and threatening tears seemed to be seconds away. Jack felt his carefully controlled heartstrings lurch. They boys had clearly not enjoyed the sergeant’s idea of children being seen but not heard. Shaggy blonde hair slicked down, button-up shirts cruelly pinching their necks, hideous brown shorts pulled up too high, the kids were clearly out of sorts, and under strict instructions to behave themselves. Scuffing feet and chewing lips, Daniel and Cameron struck a deep chord within Jack. Somehow this disaster would work out fine…he hoped. Of course this was provided they could all survive the granite-faced marine with the spiky red hair breathing nasally behind them.
Standing up, and taking in the fidgeting, shoe shuffling children, Jack felt overwhelmed. My kids, he thought, these are going to be my kids. Daniel’s lashes were damp with tears, and Cameron had his tiny hand plastered across his backside. Arching an eyebrow at the sergeant, it was clear that the boys hadn’t enjoyed their day spa experience. The stern-looking sergeant introduced herself with a salute and a scowl, and then motioned the boys to come forward and shake the General’s hand.
“Attention! Children, front and centre!”
Daniel and Cameron grabbed hands and instantly jumped. “Ma’am, yes, ma’am!”
”At ease, Airmen.” Struggling not to burst out laughing, figuring the boys had suffered enough for one day, Jack dismissed the cranky sergeant with a wave of his hand. “Sergeant, “I’ve learned this the hard way. Don’t lose your temper so early in the morning. Trust me; you want some left for the rest of the day.” Rolling his eyes as the sergeant stiffly marched from the room, he grinned at the wary little faces blinking up at him. “Oy, she was scary.” Kneeling back down to their eye level, Jack undid tight top buttons, wriggled the shorts down to their hips, and playfully mussed the boy’s hair. Leaning back to appreciate his handiwork, he took Cameron’s hand in his, and whispered, “You probably deserved the whooped fanny, peanut.” Snorting softly at the frantic head-shaking child gulping back a sob, he added kindly, “Fair enough.”
The little boys glanced at each other and sensing a kindred spirit in Jack began to clamor all over him, interrupting each other with their tales of woe. Grabbing at Jack’s fingers, Daniel studied his new protector with a curious and quizzical expression. Jack could just about hear the cogs grinding away as the little boy struggled to remember parts of his life. Poking the boy gently in his belly, Jack figured nothing changed; Daniel still wore his heart on his sleeve.
“Danny? Remember me? Try! I know you can do this.”
“Uh-huh! You’re Jack!” Daniel titled his head to the side, the confusion still flickering in his eyes, but he smiled shyly, repeating what he’d heard earlier.
“Our daddy, right? Sam said so, and Sam never lies! Um, you’re…”
“Yup!” chipped in Cam, still rubbing at the sting in his butt long since faded, “Sam said we’re gonna be a family, but that mean sergeant lady said ‘family of what!’ Boy! Sam got real mad! She’s so not frighted of any dumb sergeant is she, Jake?”
With a grin on his face, Jack agreed. Reaching out and drawing Cam close, he looked into the confused face and reminded him gently. “I’m Jack. Can you remember me?”
“Sure, Jake, I remember!”
“So long as I know!” Jack smiled as Cam shrugged with nonchalance.
Cam tilted his head to the side like a little bird, his eyes bright with intelligence. “You’re our daddy, but you’ve been away!”
Reaching out and crooking a finger Jack said softly. “I was away, but now I’m back, and yes, Cam, of course we are a family. Mind, the sergeant made a darn good point.”
Standing up slowly, and taking out a Hershey bar from his coat pocket, Jack wrinkled his brow in thought. Time to get this show on the road I think. “Where is the Lieutenant Colonel anyway? Shall I page Carter in my best general’s voice? Time to get you farts settled in at home!”
The kids looked at each other and grinned.
“Yes, we should!” Daniel reached out his hand and grabbing Jack’s fingers, held his hand possessively. “We should definitely get going! She might come back!”
“I say yup too!” Cammie hurled himself into Jack’s knees, wrapping his arms tightly around them. “I say let’s go!” Twisting around and staring at the door, he added, “Quick, Jake! Quick!”
O’Neill smiled; figuring whatever reservations this little boy may have had about meeting him was ebbing. Sergeant Cranky had done him a great favor. Cam, he figured, would go with the devil himself if it meant getting a new sitter. Jack wondered if she was available for hire, she had shown great promise.
While terrorizing the Mountain personnel had kept them busy, waiting for something to happen had made the boys fretful, resulting in increasingly unpredictable behavior. Memories flashed in and out confusing them, and seeing them grow unsure, Doctor Lam put her foot down. Cheyenne Mountain, she reminded Landry tersely, was no place for children. Her report was straight to the point, and as Jack scanned it, he knew Janet would have been pleased with her replacement.
“Okay, well, sounds like we have a plan then!”
“Yeah!!” Daniel’s eyes tracked the chocolate Jack casually waved in the air, before jumping in the air and adding, “Let’s go home so we can eat that yummy candy!”
Cam danced around O’Neill’s feet, impulsively throwing his arms up to be carried. Screaming with joy when obligingly scooped up, Cam wriggled his butt comfortably, his legs pummeling Jack’s kidneys with his excited kicks.
“Call her now!” Cam punctuated each giggle with another hefty kick to his free ride’s vital organs.
Jack scolded him gently. “For crying out loud! Cameron, I am still using that kidney! Sit still or it’s back on the ground you go!” Cameron replied with another damaging blow.
“That’s it!” Dumping the excitable child back onto his feet, Jack ruffled the shaggy head while laughing at the cross-eyed expression flung up at him. Deciding Daniel’s hint was subtle as a sledgehammer, he snapped the Hershey bar in half and watching the caramel stretch out invitingly. He handed one half to eager fingers while licking his own sticky ones with appreciation.
Jack watched Cam bite into the gooey caramel, his pink tongue darting between his lips. “Jack? Is the other bit for ride home?”
Arching an eyebrow, Jack saw that Cam’s adult personality was still evident. If you don’t ask -- you don’t get.
Grinning, Jack noted Daniel wasn’t about to be left out, not while there was chance of more chocolate.
“Oh, is there more?” Danny had taken tiny, nibbling bites, and groaning with childish ecstasy, added hopefully. “I love chocolate, don’t I, Jack! Remember?”
“I do remember that, Daniel, but I guess my question is, do you? “Pleased with the instant head nod, Jack added happily. “Okay, I’ll take that as a yes!” The boys’ personalities were easily recognizable, and that made him feel more hopeful than ever. Danny was still the same sweet-natured person he’d always been, his chocolate addiction clearly alive and well. Cam was impulsive, cheeky, and seemed to be a good-natured child. Picking up the phone, he told Sam to be ready in five. The O’Neill’s were walking!
OoO

The paperwork was signed, ready and waiting, Hank had left nothing to chance. Signing out, Jack sighed at the look of relief on everyone’s faces. “Okay, we’re going, we’re going!”  A predatory smile crossed his face as he threw a wave in Hank’s direction.
“Be seeing ya, Hank!” Jack threw his trademark salute, and grinned at his old friend.
“Oh, not if I see you first, Jack!” Exchanging pleasantries, Hank waggled his bushy eyebrows at the boys, and whistling happily, wandered off to the commissary. Coffee and chocolate cake was on the agenda, he deserved it! It hadn’t been in his power to make Daniel and Cameron grown again, but it had been his call to keep them safe. He had done that, and now the baton had been smoothly exchanged with Jack. He could sleep at night knowing everything was being done to make the kids happy, and he could ask no more.
Chapter 6
The moment the boys walked out to the parking lot to freedom, the bustling of the vehicles fascinated them. Shifts were always changing, and the Cheyenne Complex was a busy base. Jumping up and down, while futilely wriggling his hand to get free from Jack’s grip, Cam demanded to know which truck would flatten your head the quickest. Glancing down and seeing the tiny colonel’s quizzical expression, Jack glanced over at Sam and mouthed, “Is he serious?”
Sam laughed delightedly. “Probably!” Swinging her arms and reaching in front of the General to tickle Cammie’s stomach, she danced back and added, “Guess we could always Google it, right, Cam?”
Throwing her a flat ‘are you nuts?’ stare, Jack hissed from the side of his mouth. “That’s very helpful. Thank you Captain Carter. Cameron, all trucks will squash you, so stop wriggling and give me your hand.” Raising a finger in the air, cutting off a new flurry of questions, he added, “Before you ask, no, we will not be Googling this.”
“Oh, okay.” Cam nodded his head obediently before wriggling away and resuming his line of questioning.
Tilting his head to the side and rapping Cam’s gently, Jack warned him wearily. It had been a long morning and his parental patience was evaporating fast.
“Cameron, the average five year old asks four hundred and ninety five questions a day, pace yourself, it’s early.”
Cam’s response was to worry at Jack’s fingers while making another play for freedom.
Looking down at the chattering little escape artist, Jack thought of the little boy on P3X-289 with his million and one questions. How I could have forgotten small boys and their endless questions he thought, before wondering if he were up to caring for a kid like Cam. Daniel, meanwhile, was content to hum happily, jumping over cracks while tugging on his fingers. No doubt, Jack mused, his little archeologist found Cam’s incessant questioning fascinating. Despite thinking the humming was a little odd, Jack was grateful he didn’t have two little motor mouths to contend with.
Cam continued to channel Nevin, and remembering the patience Kendrick showed to his child, Jack mentally saluted the man. Cam took a deep breath and started again.
“Jack? What’s Google? Is that the same as the Google Monster from Sesame Street?”
“What did you feed him? Red jello?” Jack asked, frowning with mock annoyance.
“Hey! I wasn’t the one who gave them chocolate and soda!! I only give them cut up apple and dried apricots!” Sam replied, her smile making all the worry lines disappear.
“Great, he’ll probably fart like a llama and burp like a bear all the way home!”
“Do llamas fart? Bears burp? Cool! Say, which is our car? Who are all those people s’luting you? Do you know them all? How come you don’t s’lute them all back? Which is our car again? Bet it’s a truck. Is it a truck? Jaacckkk, who is that man s’luting you? Does he know Sam’s a colonel?”
Jack’s mouth dropped. He glanced across at Sam, laughing at her stunned expression before answering Cam’s questions. “Cameron, take a breath! I can only answer one fascinating question at a time!” Swinging Cam onto his hip, he scanned the lot for the license plate number he’d scribbled down. First he had to concentrate, and that meant shutting down his motor mouthed little companion.
“Okay, Cameron, you’ve exceeded your target of words and that means no more yakking. Danny, can you keep an eye out for our ride?”
Daniel hummed while he nodded his head.
Finally, after pointing the keys at random lines, he heard a beep and saw headlights flash obediently. “At last!” Jack nodded appreciatively at the latest model Ford Explorer. “Nice one, Hank!” Waving a finger at Carter to get in the front, he bent down and scooped Daniel into the air, almost losing his hold of him.
He swallowed the lump in his throat. “Whoa, sorry there, sport.” Danny’s lightness caused the realization of what it all really meant to Daniel to hit him like a sledgehammer. This small boy with the over-long hair and the smatter of freckles across the bridge of his nose was actually Doctor Daniel Jackson. Cammie wasn’t so familiar to him, and the childish version was noisy but adorable, but Danny was different. He’d been his closest friend for a decade, and the understanding that he’d really lost that friend hit him hard.
“Hey there, we so need to fatten you up, short stop.” Before he knew it, he’d kissed the top of Danny’s head and squeezed him gently. He knew it didn’t matter. Big or small, he’d always protect this one.
Buckling the squirming boys into matching booster seats, cutting off any protests of inhumane treatment with a wave of a hand followed by a growled, “Ahhtt”, Jack walked to the driver’s seat, ignoring Sam’s anxious glance. “Give me a moment here, Carter,” he said softly, “I just need to take a breath.”Drumming his fingertips on the truck’s roof, the awesome responsibility of rearing pre-schoolers at fifty plus briefly overwhelmed him. Several deep breaths later, followed by a mental pep talk, he swung into his seat and shook his head at Sam’s darkening expression.
“I’m fine, Carter, and no, I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Are you sure, sir? I can’t imagine how this must feel. I mean I can…I feel the same way, but I have had longer. Well, only as few days longer….”
“Carter, you’re babbling. You don’t babble, stop babbling!”
“I know. Can’t seem to shut up.”
“Oh, I have missed this!”
In Washington DC, Jack conceded that his time whilst important, had been miserable, and despite indulging in the odd liaison, he’d felt increasingly lonesome. Thinking back to his long nights spent in his fancy Washington DC apartment, Jack had often pondered the sacrifices he’d made, and questioned if it had been worth it. They had all saved the world, but at what cost? None of them had spouses, children, or family members dropping by, and it hurt him to feel they would all probably die lonely. Then, by a twist of fate and an alien malfunction, he found himself a father again. Glancing into his mirror he felt tears spring into his eyes, grieving for all they had lost, but the gift they had gained.
It’ll be okay, we’ll be okay! Besides, Carter will fix this in no time. Startled from his thoughts, Jack looked across at Sam, eye brow arched as she accidentally bumped her shoulder into his, muttering furiously under her breath. “Carter, what now?”
“Where is it? I know I had it when we left!” The contents of her bag lay strewn on her lap, and whatever she hunted for was expertly camouflaged in the wad of scrunched tissues and various papers.
“Where is what?”
“It!”
The absurdity of a confused Carter making him laugh out loud, Jack banished his melancholy while snagging a lipstick bouncing off her knee. “Peach Bloom? This is my new ride here, and you’re cluttering it up with lipsticks and God knows what else.” He shuddered for effect.
“Oops, sorry, sir!” Sam glanced over and Jack winced as her bright smile dimmed slightly.
With a quick glance at the young driver darting in front of him, he banged his hands on the steering wheel. “For the love of Mike! What am I? Invisible?” he growled before turning back and smiling at his old teammate. “Hey, Carter, I’m only kidding here! It’s good to have you on board, but Peach Bloom is so not my color.” Lobbing the lipstick onto her lap, he added kindly, “It will be fine, Carter.”
“I know,” she replied happily, indiscriminatingly stuffing papers and cosmetics back into her bag. Finding what she wanted at last, she checked her cell for messages. Relieved to share the awesome responsibility of Danny and Cameron, her face lit up with another breath-taking smile. ”It’s good to serve with you again!”
Jack stretched out his hand and patted her arm. “Oh, you have no idea how good it feels to be back.” Dodging a small Honda determined to cut off his far larger vehicle, he swerved to miss it, and his lively curses bounced around the car.  Sam grinned while the boys reacted very differently. Jack was quickly reminded how different the two look-alike kids actually were.
Predictably, Cameron became wildly enthusiastic with the near miss, pummeling the back of the seat with his feet. “Whoa! Do it again!” giggled the little colonel, while clapping his hands, “say all those words again!” His face splitting into a wide grin, Cam winked with over half his face, and looking in the rear vision, Jack saw a glimpse in the child’s eyes of the adult he’d become…again. “Acquire a target!” Cam demanded. “See if you can hit them this time!”
Jack snorted, wondering how many memories of jet skirmishes actually lay hidden in Cammie’s shaggy little head.
Daniel’s personality he understood. “Hit them?” The little boy squawked from his car seat. “Hit them?” His tone showed he was less than impressed, and taking a deep breath, he favored them all with his opinion. “We could have been killed! Worse! Cussing dumbs down your intelligence!” Arms folded, and a pious look settling on his face, Daniel sniffed. “I should have thought a general would know this really!”
Stifling a groan, Jack growled his reply. “That a fact, young Daniel? Well, how about you keep those opinions to yourself?” The warning note in his voice should have told Danny everything he needed to know, but the tiny archeologist was new at being a bossy little five year old, and continued with his unsolicited lecture.
“Well, Jack! You shouldn’t have been teasing Sam! What would have happened if we had a crash in our new truck? What would General Hank have to say about that?” Daniel was in lecture mode, and Jack feared, warming to the sound of his own voice. This was the Danny he knew and occasionally wanted to kill.
Cameron had a flash of insightfulness and threw a soft toy at his new brother. “D’oh! Daniel!  Jack is the general!” With typical bluntness, Cam cut to the chase, not bothering to sugarcoat his opinions. “He can do what he likes!”
“Thank you, Cam. I think Daniel may have been referring to Hank. Mind, he probably knows to can it now, right, Daniel?”
“I haven’t finished yet, Jack!”
“There’s a shocker.” Much to Jack’s chagrin, the little know it all of the booster seat set missed the sledgehammer dismissal, and continued with his crash assessment. Seeing Cammie roll his eyes, Jack grinned back and winked. The bonding of Jack and his new son, Cam, strengthened over a smile and a giggle.
Sam tactfully ignored Daniel while filling in Jack with all the must know gossip at the SGC. Patting her pocket and finding a candy bar, she snapped it two and handed O’Neill the smaller portion. Looking at her and arching an eyebrow, Jack muttered, “That your idea of a mathematical equation, Colonel?"
Hearing the boys’ infectious giggles and smiling sweetly, she played along with the game. Glancing over her shoulder, she handed smaller candy bars to the kids, and sighing with satisfaction while delicately nibbling at her portion, she smiled her order.
“Eyes on the road, sir; we have precious cargo.”
“Lipstick, tissues, candy bars, Carter, fer cryin’ out loud! This is my new ride!” Chewing the candy, he mumbled around the nuts, “Any more?”
OoO
Pulling into the driveway of their newly purchased house, Jack nodded his head in appreciation of Hank’s taste. A large ranch style house, with all the bedrooms upstairs, Jack was very pleased with both the pretty neighborhood and the size of their new home. Glancing at the flyer, he saw the house had a large backyard complete with mature trees and grassed areas, and snaking through the yard paving bricks so the kids could ride their bikes. “Follow the yellow brick road," he whispered to himself, “question is to where?” The kitchen was large and newly installed with a microwave and a large, family size dishwasher It was perfect, and it meant he didn’t need to commute, and for that he was grateful. Excited and desperate to see their new house, Cam warned Jack to hurry up and let them out, before he and Danny ‘ploded.
Jack snorted with amusement at Cam’s look of urgency, and watching him bounce in his chair, gently teased him. “Explode? Dang! Blood and guts all over the place and me without my spoon?!” Laughing at the expressions of horror mixed with glee on Danny’s and Cam’s faces, Jack opened the truck’s door, and jumping to the ground, said, “Okay, hold your horses.”
The constraints of living at the SGC had been very hard for the small boys, and seeing the large house with its trees and play equipment, Jack knew they’d probably be overawed. Cammie recovered first, and Jack remembered reading that his first childhood had been a carefree one on the family farm in Kansas. He figured Cam would be okay. That left Daniel. A very different proposition. Watching Daniel’s uncertain expression change to one of childish delight, allowing himself to be swept along with Cam’s enthusiasm, Jack sighed with relief. He made a mental note to remember Danny needed lots of hugs and even more assurance, but Cam? Figured he needed a tranquilizer!
“Whoa! It’s t’rific, Jack!” Cam bounced around tripping up everyone up with his excellent impersonation of a large-pawed Labrador puppy.
“Wow! Jack! Wow!” Daniel beamed, shading his eyes and looking up at the roof. “Wow! Jack! Wow!”
Wondering what was wow! about their roof, Jack opened the door for Sam, and glancing at the roof one final time, shrugged.
“O-okayy, the kids are pleased, whadd’ya’ think, Carter? Think Casa O’Neill is acceptable?” Grinning at her, ‘it’ll do shrug’ he whispered behind his hand, “Smartass,” while organizing the growing chaos around him. “Kids! Let’s keep it down to a dull roar, shall we. Neighbors will be selling up in no time.”
“Yep! Rooarrr!”
“Yes, Rooarrr!”
Jack hustled the roaring tiger cubs towards the door, laughing with a lightness of spirit he hadn’t felt for years. “Jack Benny, meet Groucho Marx.” Throwing the keys on the hall table, he clapped his hands together and looked at beaming faces staring up at him expectantly. “Bedrooms first, I think.” Taking Dan and Cam by their hands, Jack showed them their newly decorated rooms. As a second time around dad, he knew kids became contrary when overexcited, so the squabbling came as no surprise. Listening to them argue who had the better room, Jack closed the topic. “Daniel! Cameron! When did I say this was up for debate?” Eyeing the warring boys sternly, he warned, “This is a done deal, so no more arguing. Now, stash your gear and come downstairs for lunch.”
“But!” Daniel looked at Cam’s sailboat bedspread and sighed.
“But!” Cameron looked at the pirate toy chest in Danny’s room and pouted.
“Aht!” Jack didn’t care.
OoO
Sam left them to it and wandered into other rooms, wisely letting Jack deal with the boys. Small feet stampeded across the floor upstairs, and listening to their laughing and excitable yelling, she sighed. The kids were happy, General Landry was right, and if the worst happened and they had to grow up the old fashioned way, she knew in her heart they’d be okay. With Jack O’Neill, her tiny teammates would be loved and cared for. With an uncomfortable thought about Cam’s folks, Sam hunted for coffee cups and wondered what Jack intended to do. Daniel had been orphaned early in his first childhood, a thought she'd never want to think about again, but Cameron apparently had a good relationship with the folks back home.
Walking around the kitchen, searching for mugs and making fresh coffee, Sam listened as Jack put the kibosh on any more fighting. Opening the fridge door and checking out what had been bought, she wondered briefly why Danny and Cam never listened to her like that. “I need to take parenting affirmation classes it would seem!” Grabbing the juice, and searching for the cold cuts, she figured she’d have put up with at least another hour of tantrums. Asking Jack later over a beer and a hot dog, she laughed at his brief explanation.” I never just threaten, Carter. Trust me, it’s a daddy thing.” Thinking of her own father, whose hand could either gently tuck a strand of hair behind her ear, or not so gently swat her behind, she nodded, laughing, “Yep, think you may be right!”
OoO
Chapter 7
  

Days flew into weeks and Daniel and Cameron settled in quickly. They all had the odd discussion about what constituted acceptable behavior and worked their way around most dramas. Jack was pleasantly pleased to discover Dan’s and Cam’s personalities were the same, just maybe more…boisterous. Cam was still the impetuous, hot shot pilot, still a little mouthy, while Daniel remained sweetly stubborn, but highly intelligent. Sitting them down on day two, Jack explained the O’Neill method of naughty/ nice, and the kids listened with skepticism.

Jack knew his audience wavered, but he was not a man to be deterred. “Now, I will only ever count to three, and then you’ll have to face the consequences of your actions. Think cause and effect. If we are home, it will be a time out or early bedtime, but if we are out, think a smacked butt.”

“One-two-three? What about four-five-six?” Daniel missed the point. “Seven-eight-nine?”

Cam had been the child of no nonsense parents, and while he got it, he wasn’t impressed. To Jack’s amusement, his mid-Western accent became more pronounced the more outraged he became. With a narrowing of his eyes, the little ex- F-302 pilot drawled his disapproval, “I don’t like that idea one little bit!”

“Need a demonstration?” Jack ended the discussion.

It hadn’t taken long for Dan and Cam very long to remember that if nothing else; Jack O’Neill was always a man of his word. Enduring loathed early bedtimes, or time spent looking at boring walls; they came to understand that Jack meant business. Always opportunistic, the blue eyed little farts tap danced around their boundaries, but to their disappointment, saw their plans diffused before they started. Occasionally they slipped one by, but Jack knew that everyone was entitled to have an off day!

OoO

Scratching his head and planting his hands on his hips, Jack scanned his empty kitchen. “Okay, this is odd. Where have they gone?” Five minutes ago, the noise emanating from this one small room forced him to stop what he was doing and investigate. The sounds of squeals and raucous laughter had echoed throughout the house, and wincing, he called out several times for the kids to settle down. Jack recognized the unmistakable sounds of rough housing and knew the boys were stalling, hoping he’d forget about their loathed chore.  

 Dan and Cam were happy but rambunctious kids, but occasionally their enthusiasm resulted in tears. Hearing a chair crash and Cameron’s howls of recrimination, Jack knew it was time he intervened. “Oh, for crying out loud, what now?” Jumping down the stairs three at a time and wondering what may have been broken, Jack felt his simmering temper begin to spike. “This is so not going to end well!”

 The family cat had earlier moved himself to safer ground and napped at the bottom of the stairs. Rolling onto his back, he wagged his tail in warning as Jack thundered down the stairs. Forced to jump over the fat-bellied pet, Jack shook his head and said, “Hey, Puss, give it to me straight. Does anyone listen to me in this house?”
  
The marmalade tomcat blinked slowly half-shutting his emerald eyes and rolled onto his feet. Stretching his spine, he padded silently away with an imperious flick of his tail. Watching the cat gracefully jump onto a windowsill, Jack mumbled, “Oh well, don’t mind me, Puss, I’ll just take that as a no.”

 Reaching the kitchen door and giving it a bad tempered shove, Jack looked around at the cluttered table, upset chair, and arched an eyebrow. The instigators of chaos had magically disappeared. Turning off the dripping tap and shutting the fridge door, he muttered, “Smart kids: this way, they might just live to be six.”

 Screwing the lid back on the peanut butter jar, Jack knew the boys had scampered away somewhere far safer. Watching as the screen door opened and then slowly shut in the summer breeze, he peered into the backyard and smiled with satisfaction.
  
Daniel and Cameron were hard at work dragging paints tins from the garage and stacking them on the deck. Puffing, and pushing damp bangs from his eyes, Danny glowered at Cam, and seeing Jack standing by the backdoor, gulped and muttered, “This is all your fault, Cameron. I’ll never listen to another stupid word you say.”
  
Cameron glowered and shoved Daniel roughly, causing him to stumble backwards. “Hey, stop whinin’ I’m in trouble too.” Jumping at the sound of Jack’s bark and seeing the crooked finger beckoning him, the little colonel sighed, and trailed miserably to the backdoor.

 Daniel watched Cam’s shoulders slump, and with a smirk, whispered, “Serves you right.” Folding his arms, he whispered a little too loudly, “Hope it hurts.”
  
Hearing the whispered taunt, Jack fixed Daniel with a steely look and turned his attention back to the miserable little boy standing in front of him. Folding his arms, he asked the question Cam dreaded.
  
“What did I say about your rough house play, young man?” Not expecting an answer and turning the little boy around, he swatted the small backside warning him to start behaving. Giving his head a quick shake and clicking his fingers at Daniel, Jack said, “Well, I’m glad something amuses you today, Daniel. How about you come up here and tell me what you said to your brother to make him push you?”
  
Jack watched as the two tearful boys hugged each other, promising not to be mean or rough to each other ever again. Sniffling and looking up at their parent, Dan and Cam resumed the hated chore of cleaning out the garage.
  
“Hey, Danny, think Sara knows we aren’t goin’ bike riding today?”
  
“Yeah, Dad would have called her already.”
  
“Oh, so no pizza?”

“Don’t think so.”
  
Turning back into the kitchen and clearing a space for himself, Jack made breakfast in comparative peace. Flicking out the paper and turning the pages slowly, Jack drank his coffee and crunched hot buttered toast. Today, he decided, was already gearing up to be a better day.

 OoO

The previous Wednesday morning, Cam had ignored Jack’s warnings and scrambled up the shelving in the kitchen larder. He ended up falling heavily, giving himself a nasty fright and a goose egg bump on his forehead. Checking the bump with gentle fingers, Jack worried about a possible concussion and decided to call Carolyn Lam.

 “Carolyn? Jack O’Neill. Good, thanks. Listen, Cam fell and hit his head. No, he’s conscious, but has a nasty egg on his forehead. Yep, can do, be there in ten.”

 Backing out the truck and glancing at the subdued little boys’ faces, he shook his head and said, “Well, this is going to take a lot of explaining. I won’t even bother to ask whose brilliant idea this was, but tomorrow, boys, I will not be quite so obliging.”
  
Clutching their stuffies, the small boys sighed and sat in their booster seats in silence, hoping Jack wouldn’t think of any more uncomfortable questions. Daring to exchange a quick look at each other, Cam rubbed his head and whimpered while Daniel rolled the little green stars in his hand and sighed. It had been a horrible mistake!

 Cameron loved to climb; he was just one of those fearless and agile little kids. Spying a challenge, he forgot all his promises and happily launched himself up, over, down, or whatever it was. Once, it had been the old apple tree in the backyard. The week before that, he’d tested his dad’s patience by climbing up the drainpipe, a stunt which resulted in a nasty cut, antiseptic, tears, and a bandage.

 Keeping one eye on the road and the other on the boys, Jack looked at their sad faces and pulling into Carolyn’s driveway, thought,  Nope, do the crime…you do the time. Next time you little pests have a brilliant idea, just remember to actually think before you act! If you can’t then I will have to do it for you!

OoO

The littlest colonel had wandered into the kitchen, deliberately bumping into the fridge and watching the fish and crab magnets slowly slide down to the bottom. Craning his neck, he carefully read his and then Daniel’s charts stamping his foot with frustration. Tracing the two green stars on his chart and sighing loudly, he wished he’d hadn’t fought with Daniel so much. Chewing his lip, he wondered if hiding all his vegetables in the new sofa had been such a good idea either. 

“I hate broccoli, I hate beans, I hate pumpkin, and I ‘s’pecially hate spinach!” Apparently Cam hated all vegetables unless they were potatoes and had been mashed or fried. Fries he’d cried mournfully, while spending time facing the kitchen wall, he would eat happily!
  
Daniel didn’t mind, he’d eat anything, and Jack had joked to Sam that he’d eat a horse and then follow with the jockey!  Danny already had seven stars and Cammie wondered if he’d notice if one or two went mysteriously missing, ending up stuck onto his chart by magic. Deciding he would and squeal to Jack, Cameron stomped back upstairs to his bedroom, picked up his new yo-yo, and thought very carefully. “Rats! I hafta to think of something fast!” Drumming his fingers, the young man searched his brain for that ever elusive, foolproof plan. 

Daniel had heard his brother stamp past his room, and jumping onto the unmade bed, he urged Cam to try harder. “Hey, you’d better make this before dad sees it, or you won’t get another star.” Frowning and leaning across, Daniel warned “It’s already Wednesday, Cam, and you need at least another five stars if you want to come to family day!”

 Cam knew Danny was right, and holding his head in his hands, began to feel panicked. Saturday afternoon was around the corner, but his chart sadly lacked enough green stars. Daniel chortled at his tragic brother’s face, and poking out his tongue, gloated that he’d already earned enough.

“You are so not going to come to Giuseppe’s! It’s okay; I’ll eat your pizza!”

“See if’n you can eat with a fat lip!”

Wrestling Danny to the ground and forcing him to say “uncle,” Cameron stormed off to the kitchen to check his chart, hoping he’d misread it. Bouncing after him and rubbing his wrists, Danny reminded him that he needed more stars or he would be spending the day with Doctor Lam.

“Serves you right for beating me up! Hope she gives you buckets of spinach!”
  
In their house, good behavior and poor behavior had their consequences. Poor behavior meant a time out, an early bedtime, or worse, a smacked bottom. Good behavior meant a green star on their charts. Jack promised if they got seven green stars then they could pick the family’s treat for the weekend. The little colonel desperately wanted to go bike riding with everyone on Saturday, but his chart was sadly bare.
  
The boys usually spent all week discussing what they would choose. Pizza at Giuseppe’s and then bike riding in the park were particular favorites. Sam often joined in with the little family and Daniel and Cameron couldn’t wait. Jack’s rules were absolute, if the stars weren’t earned, then the Saturday treat wouldn’t happen. No amount of crocodile tears or extravagant promises of good behavior changed his mind, and the boys had learnt this lesson very quickly.
  
Daniel was a well-behaved, loving child and tried to keep out of trouble and earn his reward.
  
Cameron was a loving, tactile, affectionate child also, but his idea of staying out of trouble needed fine-tuning.
  
Not playing favorites and taking care never to compare one child to the other, Jack looked at the chart and arched an eyebrow knowingly. “Mm, young Cameron, unless you change your ways, looks like you might need a sitter.” Tears and heart-breaking sobs always accompanied the child dropped off at Carolyn’s, and despite showing the upset little boy sympathy, Jack stuck to the house rules.

 Jack’s green stars were kept tucked away in his den drawer, and were strictly off limits! The boys knew this, but Cam decided he’d take matters into his own hands. He loved pizza, he loved bike riding, but he didn’t love plates of spinach with Carolyn. He ignored the fact that Doctor Lam had never served him anything he didn’t like, he was too busy feeling sorry for himself. He still had plenty of time to earn enough for the treat, but it was a risk he wasn’t prepared to take. With this is mind, the little pest plotted and schemed, forgetting his brother’s wise words.

 The idea of consequences of actions was always a grey area for Sammie, and despite Daniel’s warnings that Jack was no fool; he ignored the good advice. Tapping his finger on the side of his face and walking around his bedroom, the diminutive Colonel Mitchell decided he needed a plan with skill and daring, in short, it needed a covert operation. A foolproof operation was needed to be hashed out and that meant the brains of the show were needed. Making Daniel a reluctant 2IC, he pitched his preposterous plot.

 “Pssttt, Daniel, come in here.”

 “Why?”
  
“Cos, I need you! C’mon.”

 “No! You always get me into trouble, and I don’t want to lose any of my stars.”

 “Oh, you won’t, Dad thinks you’re an angel! I’ve got cookies!”
  
“Cookies? Where did you get them? Okay, but if they’re old and stinky, I’m leaving.”

 Daniel trailed into his brother’s room, dropped onto his still unmade bed, and listened to Cam’s ridiculous plan. Shaking his head and glancing around the room, Daniel Jackson drew a hard bargain. “Okay, it’s the dumbest idea ever, and when Daddy finds out he will kill you. Looking at his brother’s most treasured possession, the little archaeologist said, “If I do help, I want to borrow your Coca-Cola yo-yo.”
  
Cameron stopped pacing. “Wha?” Eyes wide with shock, he stuttered, “M-my n-new yo-yo? D-Danny, you can’t m-mean my Coco-Cola yo-yo. Choose something else!”

 “Nun-uh.”
  
“What ‘bout my Ninja Turtle? Michelangelo? Then you’d have Raphael and mine!”
  
“The yo-yo, Cam, for a whole week or the deal’s off.”
  
Sinking to the carpet, Cameron couldn’t hear for the blood pounding in his ears. Saving his pocket money for weeks while Danny munched on candied popcorn, Cam had contented himself with the torn out picture of the yo-yo stuck to his dresser mirror. Confiding to Sam that he was only three dollars short, she’d offered to buy the toy. Listening to the blatant smooching, Jack shooed Cammie out the door warning her against manipulative flyboys. “Carter, it only costs six dollars total and he’s already halfway there. Now, this is why they get an allowance!”

 Cameron had saved hard for the yoyo, and he couldn’t bring himself to trade this prize. The brothers negotiated for what seemed to them to be hours, before Cammie began to crack. Danny knew Jack far better, and was no fool. If he were caught taking the stars out of the den, then it would be his little tushie in peril.

“Cam, if Daddy catches me, I’ll be in for it, so the prize has to be worth it.” Folding his arms and looking down his nose, Daniel insisted it was the cool little yo-yo or nothing. Negotiations were still his forte, whether he was big or small, it was who he was.

“But, Danny! I saved forever and ever and ever!”

Danny was a negotiator, but Cam thought fast. Any hope of changing Danny’s mind lay in finding a better treat. A treat that he adored, and would risk anything to have!  Cam smiled and knew he had the answer. Hot buttered popcorn!
  
They had a popcorn maker in the shape of a dinosaur in the top cupboard in the kitchen pantry. When kernels were placed in its neck and the butter near its eyes, fluffy white popcorn dripping with butter spewed out its mouth. Teal’c had bought this and the boys adored it. It was a cheap treat, so anytime they watched a movie with Teal’c, he made mountains of it. However, Daniel quickly became addicted to the buttery kernels and Jack sensed trouble. Stashing it away, knowing that the temptation to use it without supervision would be too much for his greedy, popcorn-addicted children, he gave them fair warning. The element for the butter became red-hot, and he didn’t fancy an emergency room visit.

“Okay, heads up you lot! The pop-corn maker is for special occasions only, so it’s going up to the top of the pantry. I only say this because if it is dragged down by either of you, I will donate it to the hospital day-care facility. Daniel? Look at me, do you understand me? Cameron? This is the one and only time I will mention this.”

Filing the threat to the back of his mind, Cam decided the pop-corn dinosaur was a plan. Grinning smugly, he convinced Danny that unlimited popcorn with hot butter would be worth any risk. He’d distract Jack with something terrible--like a severed finger, maybe—and that would give Danny time to break into the den and borrow three green stars. Striding around the room with his hands clutched behind his butt, Cameron congratulated himself on a perfect plan. 

Gingerly wiping his excitable brother’s sprayed dribble from his face, Daniel thought it was worse than stupid. However, it had been a while since he’d had buttered popcorn, and he really didn’t want Cammie to stay with Carolyn all Saturday afternoon. It was always more fun when the whole family ate pizza and then went for the ride.

 Spitting in the palm of their hands and agreeing to be partners, the brothers agreed upon the plan. However, before Danny would get the stars, he wanted the popcorn. Waiting for Jack to go outside in his work clothes, Danny pointed to the pantry.

“I want to eat the popcorn now or the deal’s off!”
  
The first crack in the plan emerged. The previous week, Cam had climbed down the drain pipe and falling, he’d sliced open the palm of his hand. It was still mighty sore, and flexing his bandaged hand gingerly, he looked upwards.

“Daniel, look at my hand! I don’t think I can climb! So, you have to pass me down the dinosaur!” Seeing a look of alarm flash across Daniel’s face, Cameron patted his back encouraging him, “I’ll help you climb the shelves and then you can just knock it down to me! I won’t drop it.” His eyes darting back and forth and feeling very nervous, he added with false bravado, “Daddy is outside washing the truck so we’ve got ages.”
  
Nodding his head, his mouth watering at the thought of the hot buttered popcorn, Daniel agreed. They dragged a chair over to the bench as quietly as possible, terrified Jack might hear and investigate. “What was that noise?” Holding their breath, the kids froze, expecting to see Jack walk through the door and expose their brilliant plan. Breathing a sigh of relief and looking at each other, Cam counted, “One-two-three now jump!”

They clambered up onto the bench and stood side-by-side, holding hands for courage.

Daniel turned around and whispered into Cam’s ear, “This is a bad idea! Didn’t Daddy say you’d be in big trouble if you climbed anymore? I think this is a mistake. Just be good and then you can go riding next week.”

 “Nah-huh, we are both going bike riding and then eating at Giuseppe’s.”

 But Danny wasn’t listening anymore. He’d never liked heights and worried Jack would catch them. Chewing at his lip, he watched the back door nervously. “What if Daddy comes in and sees us on the bench? We will really get it.”
  
Waving his hand in the air and dismissing Danny’s fears, Cam counted the shelves. “Dad will take forever to clean his truck, remember, you spilt soda in it yesterday.”

 “Hey, you shoved me!”
  
“Didn’t.”
  
“Did!”
  
Furious and dropping to all fours, Dan scooted to the edge of the bench.  “No I didn’t! This is a stupid plan, and I’m not climbing any dumb shelf. Get your own stickers!” Backing up and carefully climbing back onto the chair, Danny jumped to the floor and scampered away.
  
Watching Danny desert him and picking at the raggedy bandage on his sore hand, Cameron decided it was up to him to execute the daring plan. Grumbling about stinky brothers, he stood up and reached over to the cupboard. Stretching out his hand and wriggling his fingers, he forced himself to ignore the pinch of the healing scab. Jumping nimbly onto the first shelf, he steadily climbed… shelf-by-shelf.
  
As Jack had told them, the little pink and grey dinosaur was stored on the very top shelf, and reaching out his hand, Cameron could almost reach it. His brow wrinkled in concentration, he batted at the popcorn maker and saw it topple towards him. “Ah, gotcha!” 

 

part 2

 

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