Author: Amberfly
Title: To Dream of a Nightmare
Genre: Kidfic.
Warnings: None.

 

Loki made a terrible trade and as a result, a small life hangs in the balance.

 

This was turning out to be a very bad day.

SG1 had their orders, and infiltrating the renegade Asgard, Loki’s, hidden lab, successfully rescued their surprising little target. The day, however, took a steady turn for the worse. The target so evasively mentioned by the Asgard, ended up being a small, fair-haired boy. Not what SG1 expected.  Despite Thor’s insistence that PX-3144 had been abandoned long ago, there were obvious signs of a battle fought and lost.

Sam squatted on her knees, and holding out her hand, urged the boy to leave his hiding place in the shadows. Biting down her impatience, she forced herself to remain calm, “Hey, it’s okay, you’re safe now.” Smiling and shuffling closer, she whispered, “You are being very brave!” Never taking her eyes from the boy, Sam kept talking softly, knowing precious moments ticked by. They needed information ASAP; the Jaffa would be back and she wanted to be long gone.

Eyeing the telltale signs of Goa’uld occupation, Teal’c prowled the lab, staff weapon charged and ready. “O’Neill, this planet is not safe; we must locate this target and leave.” With a backward glance at the child, he looked pointedly at O’Neill, and kept patrolling. The Goa’uld used children to suit their needs, and with a quiet sigh, he had understood the pain it caused his friends.

With a quick nod to signify warning noted Jack scraped at a charred wall with his fingernail.” Daniel, who are we looking for exactly?” One eye on the sole inhabitant of the destroyed lab, he huffed under his breath, “Oy, this is turning out to be a very bad day.”

“Thor was a little vague, Jack, he did say we should recognize him though. I presumed it might be one of the Tok’ra, but, that doesn’t see too likely now.” With a shrug, Daniel waggled his eyebrows at the charred wall, mumbling, “Wonder if anyone survived Ba’al’s goons.” With a wince, he added as an after thought, “Other than the boy, of course. Think he knows anything?”

“How? Why? Nope, he’s just a tag-along, just got left behind.” With a flat look at his 2IC, Jack demanded, “So, Carter, options?”

“Sir, given the boy’s the only one here; I think we should take him with us. He must know something, there was obviously a battle of some kind here.” Looking at the destroyed laboratory, she wondered if his parents had survived the battle.

“Thank you, Carter, why didn’t I think of that. Any other options?”

“Er, no, not really, sir! Daniel?”

Stopping in mid stride, Daniel whirled around at the mention of his name, a quizzical look crossing his face. “Huh? Me? That’s kinda your department I think. Sam, look! This place is amazing! Loki sure was busy, in a crazy, disorganized kinda way.” Juggling papers and scrolls, Daniel’s eyes were wide, his eyebrows dancing along with every word he breathed,” These scrolls are incredible; he must have been in one hell of a hurry to leave them.” Noticing Jack’s pointed look in the small boy’s direction followed by a clearing of this throat, Daniel juggled and dropped a scroll with a mild curse. ”Dammit! Oh, by the way, Jack, who’s the child? I can’t help thinking this might be important.”

“Give me strength.” Jack shook his head. “Color me crazy, but I wondered that myself. Care to offer an opinion?”

 “No, not really, kids are usually your department.” Flying across the room, camcorder whirring away, Daniel ignored Jack’s exasperated grunt, intent on recording as much as data in the meager time allocated. Taking a quick breath, he stopped, and looking around, shivered, as though a ghost walked over his grave. “Who’s there?” Disturbed, his stomach suddenly churning, Daniel found himself peering into a pair of knowing, blue eyes.

“Who are you?” The child’s face was accusing, tear streaked, and grimy. The battle had obviously terrified him, and with his finger manically twisting his hair, he blinked slowly, shivering in shock.

The boy’s presence unnerved Daniel. “You sure move quietly,” he admonished softly. Waggling his fingers in greeting, he tilted his head to the side; and forced himself to swallow his panic. “O-okay, you gave me bit of a start there. I’m Daniel, by the way. The pretty lady over there is Sam, and the big guy by the door is called Teal’c.” Wincing at the small boy’s whimper, Daniel added gently, “Hey, its okay! Don’t be scared! Teal’c’s one of the good guys, like me. Okay? Oh, last but not least, the guy glaring at everyone? His name is Jack; he’s nice once you get to know him. I guess.” Smirking at the hard glare zinging across the room at him, Daniel barreled on with the interrogation… archeologist style.” So, tell me, where did Loki go? Can you remember? Anyone else here? Your parents maybe?”

At the mention of Loki’s name, the little boy threw his hand over his mouth and receded farther into the shadows. “He’s gone, the Jaffa chased him away!” With a sob, he chocked out, “H-he’s h-orrib-ble!”

Still bristling from Daniel’s brutal character assassination, Jack stalked across the room, mouth drawn in a tight line. “Very useful, Daniel; he’ll be far more helpful now that's he’s crying.” Shaking his head and sending a Daniel a final, bad-tempered glare, Jack muttered under his breath and turned his attention back to the boy. “So, not a huge Loki fan, huh? Already we have much in common. Speaking of people I don’t care for, how many Jaffa, kid?” Jack’s patience with the mission had exhausted itself and with a sigh, he looked at the child squarely. Squatting to his knees, he crooked a finger and demanded, “Come on, kiddo, get over here, I can’t see you skulking in the shadows.”

“Maybe he’s knows what the Asgard and Ba’al were so anxious to recover, sir.” Forcing her eyes away from the wide-eyed child carefully edging his way from his hidey-hole, Carter shook her head, still amazed by their discovery. A small child? Who would abandon a child? And why did he look so familiar to her? She lowered her voice slightly, filing her many questions away for later, and continued, “Sir?” Inclining her head towards the splintered door, she nodded at the obvious sign of a staff weapon blast.  Smiling thinly at the small boy watching her every move, she lowered her voice further and whispered, “I think Goldilocks here had lots of visitors.”

“Yeah, well, now he has us four bears as well.” Jack rubbed his eye with his fist, trying to push his headache away. He didn’t like surprises and especially not when they involved small, frightened children. “Ya think Thor may have thought to have mentioned the target had a kid. Carter, I have every right to be irked, do I not?”

“Yes, sir.” Peering at the boy’s face, Carter decided something about him looked vaguely familiar. “Does he remind you of anyone, sir?”

“Nope, should he? What’s your name, kid? Where are your folks?”

Creeping out from behind his hiding spot, his natural curiosity winning over his initial fear, the small boy looked gravely at his rescuers. “Daniel Jackson, my name is Daniel Jackson.” Puffing his chest out, the boy bravely added, “And I’m five years old, so I’m not frightened of anyone!” Raising his bunched fists in the air, the little boy showed his spirit. “Loki said he was my Papa, but he wasn’t, he was mean, and he hurt me.”

“Did he just?” Snorting and raising his eyebrow at Carter, Jack said, “Daniel Jackson you say? Got one of those.”

“Wha…? Jack? What did he say?” Daniel crossed the room in five easy strides. “Who did he say he was?”

“Daniel, easy there, big guy, the kid’s just confused.” Jack looked into the child’s face and thought he saw some resemblance. The blue eyes and curve of his face certainly looked like Daniel. Shaking the thought from his mind, Jack said briskly, “Let’s get out of here first, and then discuss family ties later.”

Raking his eyes over the child’s thin frame, taking in his roughly cut hair, and ill-fitting clothes, Jack folded his arms over his weapon, and said kindly, “Well, as I already have a Daniel, I’m gonna call you Danny. Okay with you?” A smile tugging at the corner of his face, the boy with his fists in the air wriggled under Jack’s defenses and straight into his heart. No whimpering, not cowering, Danny stood straight, his chin jutted out, oozing stubborn defiance.

“That’s the spirit, kid!” Scuffing his boot at a mark on the floor, Jack thought quickly, and decided the child would come with them. Wincing at Daniel’s stunned look, he waved his hand in the air vaguely. “We have to know for sure, Daniel, okay?” Shoving out his hand, Jack waggled his fingers, inviting Danny to take them.

Shooing everyone away with a meaningful look, Jack looked down at the child possessively holding onto his fingers like a lifeline. ”So, kiddo, know what everyone is so keen on finding here? Loki leave us any clues?” Jack waved his free hand around in the air and asked, “See any honkin’ great space guns anywhere? Now’s the time to say…. anytime you’re ready?”

Danny tugged his hand free, and gazed over his shoulder, shuddering slightly. “Me. They all want me.” Lowering his eyes, and twisting his hair with his fingers, Danny whispered, “Loki made me special.” Stubbing his foot on the ground, he added shyly, “I know lots… I think.”

O’Neill felt his gut turn to ice. “Made you? Oh, my God!” “Jack arched an eyebrow at the boy’s matter of fact statement, and lifting his ball cap, ran his fingers through his hair. Anyone who knew Jack would have known this quick action meant his temper was hanging by a thread. Knowing the target had left this small boy had been bad enough, but discovering the target had been the child all along enraged him. Mentally chastising himself for losing his objectivity, he cursed the Asgard foully under his breath. It made sudden sense to him; Loki had cloned before but hadn’t learned from his mistake. The reason Carter thought she knew Danny was now clear, and Jack felt sick to his stomach. Pushing aside his feelings, he morphed back into soldier mode, knowing what needed to be done.

“Okay, seems we have located the target. Teal’c, that burn looks somewhat old? Riight, of course it is.” Checking his weapon’s sight, Jack gestured for his team to fan out, while scanning the corridors, watchful and suspicious. ”What glowy eyes you have, Goldilocks.” From the corner of his mouth, O’Neill hissed, “Daniel, take the kid and stick nice and close.”

Daniel grabbed the boy’s hand and appeared at Jack’s shoulder. “So much for being an unoccupied planet!” Twisting his head at a sound behind him, he asked softly, “What was that? Guys, did you hear that? Oh, Jaacck!”

One of Baal’s Jaffa had appeared from nowhere, and taking careful aim, Jack hissed for Danny to get down and fired off several rounds. Seeing the Jaffa fall, he grunted with satisfaction. “Kid? You okay? “Reaching out and dragging him to his feet, Jack snarled, “Dammit, where in the hell did Skippy come from? Come on, people, time to leave this fractured fairy tale.” Waving the P90 in the direction of the rings and waiting as Carter activated them, he sighed. “Didn’t Thor assure me Baal had abandoned this planet?” Not particularly wanting or expecting an answer to his question, Jack shook his head and repeated his mantra. “This is turning out to be a very bad day”.

Standing back to back, weapons raised, SG1 ringed onto the surface, and instantly took cover. Teal’c slid close to Jack, their shoulders briefly touching. “O’Neill, Thor was incorrect; Ba’al has not abandoned this world.” Hunkering to his knees and eyeing the telling sign of dust rising in the distance, Jack knew the incursion was a bust.

“Can see that, apparently even Asgard makes mistakes.” Pointing at the dust, Jack said softly,” Appears a few of Skippy’s friends wanna come a callin’” His gaze darting everywhere, Jack lowered his voice, thinking through his options lightening fast. ”Teal’c, new plan. You take our friend here and hide him near the gate, make sure Danny knows he’s not to move until we get there. Straight back, we’re going to need you here. Carter, we need to take that bridge.” Balancing on the balls of their feet, bouncing gently, they waited for the patrol to pass. “Okay, so they’re clueless, doesn’t mean the next lot will be. Go!” Jack ordered. Springing to their feet with a grace and speed the colonel could only marvel at, Daniel and Carter ran low, the bridge firmly in their sights.

Tracking their progress with one eye while watching the encroaching dust cloud with the other, O’Neill grunted, and slid down behind the wall, tapping the face of his watch. ”Crap, so should have stayed in bed.” The intel they’d received from Thor was flawed, Ba’al’s Jaffa were everywhere, and now he had less than fifteen minutes to get the C4 in place and get away before the bridge went up. Lifting his head high enough to peer over the wall, he watched Carter and Daniel place the charges from the middle of the bridge to its footings, and briefly calculated the expected damage. Batting his radio, he whispered, “Okay, that ought to do it, get a move on, kids.”

To add to his problems, the weather on the planet was coming into its winter, and the air was freezing. Rain fell steadily, making tracking damn near impossible, and thick, foul smelling mud oozed everywhere. “Oh, this is a peach of a planet,” he muttered under his breath. Black clouds rolled across the sky, and shivering, Jack forced himself to keep still. ”So should have stayed in bed.”

O’Neill felt his hand tremble slightly, and making a white knuckled fist, he recognized it for what it was. It wasn’t fear; it was the adrenalin coursing through his body, making his nerve ends tingle. A predator of sorts, Jack never lost the anticipation of the hunt. “Come on, people, let’s go!” Carter and Daniel’s progress was slow, hampered by the appalling weather, and radioing Teal’c to move in and help, the colonel raised his binoculars and scanned the horizon. Each charge needed to be laid in sequence if the bridge was to collapse completely. A demolition expert, Jack knew one big bang would be useless, and they would lose what little advantage they had. Each explosion needed to be calculated to weaken and destroy a separate section of the bridge. That way it would create a chain reaction, until the bridge was uncrossable. No longer a tactical advantage for the enemy. Demolitions meant methodical planning, and time was at a premium. Checking his watch, and scowling, he saw another two minutes had been lost.

“Report, Major. “

“Sir, we’re almost finished, just laying the last charge now.”

“Teal’c back yet?” Focusing the field binoculars and seeing the solid frame of his friend move quickly, Jack released the breath he’d been holding. “Come on, move their asses for them, big guy.” Holding the glasses tightly, his icy breath huffing in the air, the colonel silently willed his team to succeed. “That’s it, nice and careful, campers.”

Suddenly feeling a little jittery, Jack wanted this mission done. He knew they had been lucky to keep one-step ahead of the Jaffa all morning, and figured reinforcements would be arriving shortly. Sound military tactics and the Jaffa were nothing if not disciplined soldiers. One unit of them was dangerous enough, but an added contingent would be catastrophic. The mission had been compromised from the moment SG1 had arrived through the Stargate. Their intel turned out to be seriously flawed, and his decision to beat a retreat hadn’t been difficult. The moment they moved in and found the small, abandoned child, everything began to unravel.

_________________

Finding out whom and what the target had been seriously un-nerved SG1. Confused and angry, they struggled with the knowledge that Loki had violated one of them again.

Once Jack had made up his mind to take the child, he wanted to leave. “O…okay campers, we’ve got Goldilocks, let’s go. Daniel, pack up, that’s an order.” Taking a step back, a particularly sharp and chrome-plated instrument caught Jack’s eyes, and wincing, he asked, “T, what do you think this is?” Picking it up gingerly, Jack’s eyes rounded with apprehension. “Is it a…”

“I do not know. What do you think it is?” Teal’c had seen many strange things and amused by his friend’s horrified expression, took precious seconds to tease him. “Maybe, Doctor Warner will know, it would not fit a Jaffa.”

“Oh, puhleese.” Rolling his eyes, Jack spun around, realizing Daniel had drifted from his sight. “Daniel?”

“Jack, I need more time.” Daniel had seemed determined to investigate and grab as much as he could from Loki’s laboratory.

“Nope, none left.” Jack had been equally determined to take the little boy and haul their collective asses out of the creepy place.

Rolling his video camera, Daniel grabbed at a well worn and paper thin scroll nodding his compliance at the hissed commands.” Now, Daniel, that’s an order.”

“Sir, we have to go.” Carter gamely tried to usher Daniel through the door first, sympathy shining in her eyes. Groaning as he wriggled his shoulder free from her hand, she struggled to keep her voice even. “Not the right time, Daniel, maybe we can come back.” Eyes bright, Sam watched Jack’s and seeing the lilt of his chin, moved quickly through the door at his curt nod. Snagging Daniel’s arm and giving it a hefty pull, she whispered, “Come on, Daniel, before those Jaffa ask where Goldilocks has gone!”

“T, take the little version, Carter seems to have her hands full with the larger version.” Jack snorted with appreciation at how smoothly his 2IC had handled their reluctant archeologist, and gave his head a rueful shake. Grateful at the close bonds his team shared, he turned his mind back to the newest problem. How to get their newest friend followed by their own asses off planet rain and mud.

The bridge stood between them and the Stargate, and if they were to have any chance, it had to go. “Course,” he conceded to himself, “if they were outrun, he’d effectively destroyed their only other avenue of escape.” Decision made, he’d ordered Carter and Daniel to blow the bridge to hell.

He glanced at his watch and saw they had nine minutes left. “Crap! Come on, Carter, move your ass.” Moving slightly, he felt Carter glide next to him. Daniel, followed closely, and sidled up the other side. “Close, Jack, but it’s done.”

“All done, sir”. Carter was so close that Jack could feel her warm breath ghost his ear.

“Good work, Carter. Take Daniel and work your way around to the Stargate. I’ll be right behind you. Teal’c, think the Jaffa will come from that way?” Waving his hand in the direction of the abandoned building, Jack squinted through the binoculars.

Agreeing it was likely; Teal’c watched O’Neill’s face and understood the dilemma he faced. The decision to blow the bridge was risky; if they needed to find an alternative escape route, they eliminated their greatest chance.

Decision made, Jack grunted, “Teal’c, if I’m not there within fifteen minutes, dial it up and skedaddle. We need to get our friend back to the SGC, nothing else matters, got that?”

Carter looked at him questioningly and started to open her mouth to object. “Sir, shouldn’t one of us stay with you?” Before Sam could object again, Jack raised his hand and cut her off.

“Negative, Carter, you have your orders, follow them.” There was no time left to discuss the plan, the time ticked by too quickly. Only seven minutes remained.

Jack didn’t need to repeat the order, and nodding her head slightly, she scrambled to her feet and tapped Daniel’s arm. “Come on, Daniel, this way.” As she turned, she gave the colonel one last look, and seeing his unreadable expression, hauled her weapon higher up her ribcage. Making herself ready for their flight to freedom, she knew they had been very lucky not to alert the Jaffa to their presence. Nodding at Daniel, and ducking her head, Sam hoped their luck would hold. The Asgard had been adamant that this mission affected by the well-being of both their people, and feeling stressed, she hoped it was worth it. “Sir, see you soon.”

Teal’c inclined his head, and reached out his arm, briefly touched the colonel’s shoulder. “O’Neill, I will wait as long as possible.” A brother in arms, he knew Jack would move the heavens to make it back. Trusting him to survive, Teal’c loped away.

“You do that, friend. Keep the porch lights on, I’ll be there.”

Jack tapped his watch again and counted the seconds, never taking his eyes from the open spaces. The peaceful surroundings would change as soon as he hit the detonator, and lowering his binoculars, he rubbed the grit in his eyes. Turning around and blinking slowly, he hoped Sam, Teal’c, and Daniel made good time. He hoped the explosion would create chaos, and leave him time to disappear into the woods. To freedom.

He froze and his eyes narrowed the moment he heard sounds. Mentally processing and eliminating possibilities, he cursed to himself, knowing it was the sound of a boot snapping a branch. Fearing his cover had been made, and edging further against the wall, Jack prepared to fight his way out. Or die trying. He didn’t want to end up captured and dragged before Baal and his not so friendly goons. The detonator weighed heavily in his hand, and Jack knew either way, if he delayed any longer, he was dead. Moreover, it would have all have been for nothing. The rescue would fail and his team would perish.

“Crap,” he hissed, “now what?” Two Jaffa on patrol strode past. Flattening himself against the stall, Jack held his breath, not wanting the telltale sign of his breath freezing in the cold air. He knew he just needed to stay still, his position was good and provided he kept his nerve, he would have a slight advantage. His finger caressing the trigger of his weapon, Jack waited.

Stomping past without a backward glance, the patrol passed by determined to make good time.  Jack sank to the ground, and felt his legs shaking.

His heart jumped in his chest, and calming himself, Jack rubbed frozen fingers together, wanting to feel the sensation of flesh on flesh.  He wasn’t afraid. He just wanted to blow the damn bridge and high tail it back to the Stargate alive. He had kept his men and himself alive over the years by using his brain over his brawn. The bravest man in the squad often ended up the deadest. Do what you needed to keep everyone alive and complete the mission.

Leaving his escape as late as possible, Jack pressed the detonator and watched the as bridge exploded. The chaos the charges caused was instantaneous, and the peaceful woodlands quickly teeming with running Jaffa. Slipping away in the confusion, keeping low and running hard, Jack reached his team. Sucking oxygen into his lungs, he nodded brusquely. “Dial it up, Major. Let’s leave before they find we haven’t paid our bill.”

Punching in the co-ordinates, casting nervous glances behind her, Carter willed the event horizon to materialize. Turning around and crooking her finger, she saw Danny appear from behind his hiding place. Blue eyes filled with tears, the child whimpered with fear. Sam exchanged a quick look with O’Neill, and stretching out her arm, snagged the boy’s sleeve.

“Sweetie, come on, take my hand.” Waggling her hand and biting down her impatience, she caught his glance and forced a smile onto her face. “Now, we have to go.”

Moving forward, the boy reached out his hand and grabbed her fingers. “Home?”

Nodding, and urging him forward, she smiled. “Home.”

Striding up the podium, they disappeared, followed closely by Daniel, then Teal’c. Jack watched his team safely through, and catching his breath, felt a grim satisfaction. The mission had been successful after all; the small boy they risked their lives for had been successfully rescued. Small boned, fair-haired and blue eyed, there was no mistaking who the child was.  Stepping through the horizon, he wondered what possible reason the crazy Asgard scientist could have to clone Daniel, but he figured he’d find out.

_________________

Crashing through to the other side, the clatter of their heavy boots frightened the wide-eyed boy, and he whimpered softly. Looking up at his rescuers’ grim faces fearfully; Daniel closed his eyes and willed himself to go to his safe place. The part of his mind where he’d been taught to go. Where if he was a good boy and obeyed, he didn’t feel any pain. Where he remembered nothing of the terrible testing that had hurt and terrified him. Searching for his secret companion, Daniel calmed when he scratched at his subconscious. “Daniel, I am here, be careful.” Acknowledging the presence, the little boy hid behind his constant companion’s relentless strength.

“Help me,” Daniel panicked, his eyes wide with confusion “What if they want to find you?” Feeling himself lifted by firm hands and placed onto a soft bed, Daniel gasped with surprise, and yawning widely, was unable to hold off his exhaustion. The terrifying rescue and his flight to freedom had both exhilarated and frightened him, and looking around the Gate room, wondered if he’d exchanged one prison for another. Still, he thought, anywhere is better than being trapped with Loki, and I remember, these are good people. They won’t hurt me, even if I am a freak.

As his eyelids fluttered shut, he jumped as familiar warnings shook him alert. ‘We survived Loki, little one, and we must also survive these Tau’ri. If they do not know to seek for me then they will not find me.’ Murmuring in his sleep, Daniel agreed to remain silent, aware what was expected of him. Rolling onto his belly, and wriggling into the soft blanket, he slid a glance at Jack, and seeing the look returned, slammed his eyes shut. But, for the briefest of moments, he smiled. In his memories, he knew the soldier with the dirty face and funny beanie liked him. Maybe, he hoped, maybe I’ll be safe here after all.

The briefing had been appalling, and the tension in the room palpable. Sitting in uncomfortable silence, Daniel listened as the medicos outlined their various reports that damned the little boy conclusively. At his left, Sam leaned in close, her elbow nudging his in a silent show of support. Jack flanked his other side, his eyes never leaving his face, waiting for any sign of distress. A clone was bad enough, but to know it was dying would devastate Daniel, and he was prepared to do whatever it took to help. Across the table, Teal’c listened closely, and hearing the child’s health failed, closed the report, not needing to know anymore. The Tau’ri tendency to put the life of one higher than the lives of many baffled him, and remembering Cassandra, he wisely kept his counsel. Nothing would be gained by adding his unpopular opinion, but a lot could be lost.

Warner was an old warhorse, and admired the trust and respect SG1 afforded each other. Deciding to ignore the subtle signs of distress, he plowed on, aware that everyone would benefit if the briefing was delivered quickly. Bleakly, he out lined what they’d already guessed. Not that there were any surprises. Black, bruised circles under dull eyes, and the tell tale bluish tint on his lips told them what they needed to know.  “Danny’s vital organs already showed signs of distress, he’s weak and malnourished. I’m sorry, but Loki made him worse than you, Jack. Forty eight hours, is my medical opinion.”

Silence invaded the room like a rolling mist. Everyone shivered and hunched their shoulders, trying to block out the cold they felt. Hammond closed the report carefully as if the thought of touching it made him an accomplice to the child’s misery. “Are you saying unless the Asgard intervenes, the boy won’t last forty eight hours?” Seeing the slight nod of a head, the General rolled his chair back, disgusted by such casual cruelty. Knowing what he needed to say, he took a deep breath and looked Daniel straight in the eyes.” I’m sorry, people, there’s nothing we can do, and to be honest, nothing we should do. The boy is a clone; and the Asgard clearly wants no part of him. This is Doctor Jackson, and his knowledge would be dangerous in the wrong hands.” Folding his hands tightly in a ball on his lap, Hammond’s voice sounded thick with regret, “Let’s keep the boy as comfortable as possible, we will not add to his misery.”

Jack looked at his nails, and kept silent. Sam raised her eyes to the ceiling, furiously blinking away treacherous tears. Daniel pushed his chair backwards, anxious to put as much distance between himself and the room as possible. “I- I have… need some fresh air, excuse me, General.” Not waiting for his dismissal, Daniel grabbed his papers and bolted from the room. Jack glanced at Hammond, and throwing one hand in the air, sighed very softly.

Unpleasant, it was the only viable solution and they knew it. The Asgard had been uncontactable and the Tok’ra unwilling to help. The child’s fate had been sealed the moment he’d left Loki’s laboratory. Removing him had been sound military tactics and nothing more. Allowing him to fall into Baal’s hands would have been catastrophic; the memories Danny had made him a prize worth having.

Leaving the briefing with a heavy heart, Jack loped into the infirmary, forcing himself to check on the silent boy’s progress. Leaning against the doorjamb, watching Danny anxiously muttering to himself, the colonel wondered what he’d endured in his short life. Understanding what Danny was didn’t make it any easier for Jack; a child in need forced his suppressed paternal feelings to surface. With a spike of anger at what the Asgard had allow to happen again, he shook his head with sadness. “Poor kid, you pulled the short straw, huh.” Doctor Warner had run his battery of tests several times, and admitted that Loki’s skills at cloning hadn’t improved. Like the other clone, Danny’s organs were systemically failing, and the child was dying.

Despite understanding the likely outcome, Jack found himself hoping for a miracle. “Hey, kiddo, still awake?” Sitting on the side of his bed and tickling Danny’s tiny foot, the colonel wrapped it in his hand and squeezed it gently. “Hey, keep that sucker under the covers, its freezing! Now, you be a good boy and go to sleep, we’ll talk later, okay?” Placing a soft, lavender smelling teddy bear under Danny’s arm, Jack winked. “Now, don’t you tell the marines, promise? I have a reputation to uphold, not like Teal’c, he’s a pussycat.”

A small shake of his head was the only sign Jack had that Danny heard him. “Okay, that’s good enough for me. Night, kiddo, don’t let the bed bugs bite. If they do, bite em back!” Impulsively leaning across Danny’s bed, he dropped a kiss on the top of his head. “I’ll be a minute away, press the buzzer if you need me, okay? If anything hurts or the bear needs a cuddle you let me know.”

Danny watched Jack leave and, hugging his toy, sighed softly. “Night, Jack.” His face was paler than the sheets he lay on and his eyes bruised with fatigue. “Will you hurt them?” he demanded, “If I help you to escape, promise me you won’t hurt Jack!” Anxious and frightened, Danny couldn’t stop the tears that rolled down his face as the continued silence deafened him. “What have I done now?” he silently pleaded, “Why won’t you talk to me? Is it because I asked you not to make me hurt Jack? He remembers me; he brought me a gift. He’s not like the others, he won’t hurt you!” A searing pain ripped through Danny’s mind, and crying out, he screwed his eyes tightly shut. “No!” he cried, I’m sorry, don’t hurt me! Don’t make me remember!” Rolling onto his side and bringing his knees up to his chest, Danny let the lavender bear fall to the ground. His legs thrashed out and he repeated his mantra softly, “I will obey, I will obey.”
_________________

Jack ambled into Daniel’s office and gave his friend’s arm an affectionate squeeze. “Been to see Danny, and hopefully he’s sleeping now. You know, you were an adorable child. What happened?” His voice gently teasing, Jack probed a little deeper, needing to know if his friend was coping with the cloned child. “I take it you haven’t been to see him yet? Don’t leave it too late.”

Stiffening, Daniel scowled, his face settled in a stubborn look Jack knew so well. Moving behind his desk, happy for the mental barrier it afforded him, Daniel snapped back, “Remember Jack junior “If I remember correctly, you dropped him off at High school what, two years ago? “

“That’s different.”

“Why?”

“So, watcha doin’? Need a hand?” Uncomfortable with being reminded of Loki’s first attempt at meddling, Jack changed the topic before the argument turned ugly. He’d come into Daniel’s office with the express intent to help, not to add to his pain. Casually bunching his fists in his pockets and jingling spare change, he smiled at his friend. “I’m free?”

“Okay, fine. Next topic. Well, since you asked, there is an interesting, if not disturbing, Frankenstein kind of development.” Waving a scroll he’d snatched from Loki’s lab before being hustled out by Sam, he placed it on the tabletop and smoothed it gently. “It’s a warning against releasing an ancient evil, and trust me, the Ancients weren’t big on giving many warnings to the naive.” Arching his eyebrow, Daniel added flatly, “More a suck it up and get over it type of race. Think ‘do the crime suffer the time.’”

Shrugging with his easy, practiced nonchalance, Jack leaned his butt against the desk, and grinning, said, “Well, you’d know, I guess. When the moose is cold, he’s probably eaten you.” Rolling his eyes, he grumbled, “or whatever the great one said.” Ignoring Daniel’s groan and craning his neck to look at the scroll, Jack reached his hand out to touch the paper, only to snatch it back as a ruler sharply rapped his knuckles.

“Huh-huh, back off there, Jack, this is incredibly fragile, and I don’t want it torn.”

Glowering at Daniel, and throwing himself into a spare chair, Jack sucked at his hand. “So, Doctor, what does it say? Maybe how to get your sorry ass out of an hour’s grueling PT with your now, oh-so pissed, Commanding Officer? “Adopting a hurt look, he studied his knuckles and complained, “Damn, that smarts.”

“You’ll live, Jack.“ Grimacing, Daniel waved his hand in the air, distracted by what he’d discovered. “I deciphered most of what I could, and it warns of a malevolent being called Hiddukel. Now he’s a nasty piece of work, the original Prince of Lies. In mythology, he was the dealmaker, the one who traded in souls. Desperate and dying men would seek him out and agree to anything he said. Legend has it that he was the only being who traded with the Queen of Darkness and came out ahead. He’s supposed to control all the ill-gotten wealth in the world. He influences evil business people, thieves, damned spirits, slavery and betrayal. This is not a guy to mess with.”

Jack whistled through his teeth. “Nice guy. Think he’s plays racquet ball with the Washington set?”

“The question is why would Loki mess with something as dangerous as this? Whose soul was he after I wonder?” Swallowing and tearing his eyes away from the scroll, Daniel looked up at Jack, and paled. “Oh God, why didn’t I see this before?  This must be why he cloned me. The moron thought he could trade Danny for immortality.” Feeling the room become unbearably hot, he leaned against the desk to illosteady himself, “That’s what all the experiments were about; what if Loki was trying to extract this Hiddukel being, to make a deal for the Asgard?”

Jack looked up, his face troubled. “So, what are you saying? This Hernia is a like a Goa’uld? Danny has a snake in him?” Pushing his chair back, he softened his voice into a growl. “If you are right, then you know what we have to do, dont’cha?”

His eyes stricken, Daniel stared at O’Neill blankly, and understanding finally, said bleakly, “No! God, no, it’s not a Goa’uld. At least, I don’t think so. According to this scroll, the being is summoned, and a deal is struck. Immortality is promised, but a soul must be promised. I’m thinking Loki must have thought he could double cross the creature; offer him a clone of me. Hiddukel must have thought he was getting an ascended being, but instead, it was stuck in a dying child’s body. Loki delivered Daniel Jackson, just not the real deal. Danny has my memories though, and he’s in terrible danger.”

“Daniel? Is he or is he not a threat to this base? Do we need to isolate the boy?”

“No, I don’t think so.” Seeing Jack’s calculating face and knowing Danny was minutes from being restrained, he thought quickly.” No, I’m sure he isn’t. Teal’c and Sam would have sensed something.”

“Are ya sure? “ Jack got to his feet and neatly circled behind Daniel. “If you aren’t you have to tell me. Remember, those chats we have about what I need to know? Is this something I need to know?”

“Stop corralling me, Jack!” Daniel acknowledged his look of concern. “I know what is at stake here, trust me.” He rubbed the back of his neck, his eyes pleading, “Please, Jack, you have to trust me.”

“Hey,” O’Neill whispered, looking directly into Daniel’s eyes,” you know I do. Just… give me some options.” He stepped forward, and brushing Daniel’s shoulder, motioned for him to continue. “So, what’s the plan?”

“We have the element of surprise. This is all theoretical, Jack, I may not have even read the scroll correctly. However, if I have, we need to know if this Hiddukel is actually hiding in Danny.” Shuffling his feet and looking increasingly uncomfortable, Daniel muttered,” By now, it will have realized Danny is defective and try to look for its promised trade. I guess it wants me. We need to contact the Asgard. This is Loki’s doing; if he’s been so incredibly stupid to mess with a malevolent spirit like Hiddukel, he should know how to extract it.”

Bouncing lightly on his feet, impatience flickering in his eyes, Jack grabbed Daniel’s shoulder and forced him to stop him pacing.  “Okay, but the moment things get squirrelly; you know what has to be done.” Shaking him slightly to emphasize his point, the colonel repeated flatly, “Okay Daniel? I won’t have you compromised by an enemy I can’t see. If need be, the child goes.”

“Sure, Jack.” His eyes cold, Daniel shrugged off Jack’s hand, and walking towards the door, called out, “Come on then, let’s go hunting.”

_________________

Danny rubbed his face. The drama of his rescue, the cruel abandonment by his Asgard father weighed heavily on him, and he waited for the familiar voice to castigate him for showing weakness with O’Neill. “Do you want me to punish you again?” it hissed, sending a spark of pain into Danny’s subconscious. “Do not talk to the warrior again, understand, boy? He wants to find me, to destroy me. Keep quiet and we both may live.”

Hiddukel dominated Danny’s every thought now and he effortlessly gained strength over the exhausted child. Soon, the little boy panicked; it would be clever enough to access the parts of his brain that he instinctively kept hidden. Loki’s greatest prize of all, what he’d gambled so much for, immortality for his dying people. The secrets of ascension that only he and the real Daniel knew. Jealously guarding them, the little clone knew Daniel would be in terrible danger, and he struggled to keep their secrets safe.

“Please don’t!” Danny trembled, his teeth starting to chatter. “I’ll be good, I promise. Next time anyone comes in, I won’t speak to them; I’ll stay real quiet. I’ll make them think I’m stupid and not worth talking to. They won’t look for you, I promise. Please, don’t hurt me anymore.” Rolling onto his side, Danny looked at his lavender bear abandoned on the ground, unaware of the tear rolling down his face. He didn’t want the voice to make him hurt his friends, but he knew that somehow it would. He felt helpless against the dominant entity, and sick and frightened, he despaired, “Jack, I need you, please, don’t leave me all alone.”

Hiddukel sensed the despair, and grew impatient. “No, stay alive, I need to be free.” Determined to escape the dying body he’d been tricked into occupying, he used his lagging strength to keep the little body functioning. Wretched child, how you tire me!” Underestimating the Asgard scientist had been foolish and Hiddukel knew he’d run out of time. The boy was dying and he needed the real Doctor Jackson’s robust good health and intelligence if he was to escape. That was the agreed trade and Hiddukel would never be denied. Digging and probing, it searched every corridor of the boy’s mind, searching for memories of the ascended, but Danny stubbornly refused him entry.

“Why do you fight me, boy? To what end? You are a clone, an abomination, and whether you live or die is immaterial. Who will mourn you? Doctor Jackson? The Tau’ri warrior? No one will; you are an inconvenience to them, no more. Help me, and I’ll make sure you don’t suffer needlessly.”

Daniel shivered, and felt a rage burn in his belly. “No! I am not! They like me! Jack is my friend and he’ll protect me!” He remembered almost as if it were a dream, the first time he’d heard the whispers of Hiddukel’s soft voice. Startled and curious, he’d been eager to communicate, and obediently listened to all the thoughts it communicated. “Don’t tell the Asgard I’m here, Daniel, it’s our secret. Let him think I’ve gone.”

Loki raged at the treachery. “I gave you what you asked for; now give me what I need! Tell me how to help the Asgard ascend.” His reason completely gone, the Asgard cruelly searched Daniel’s mind, desperate to dig out his prize, but the little boy protected his new friend. Now, he realized, it would only be a matter of time before the evil presence knew everything he did. All the secrets of an ascended would be laid bare. “No,” he swore silently, “I’ll not help you hurt Daniel! You can’t make me; I won’t listen to you anymore.”

Disobedience means death. Who will grieve for you? Doctor Jackson? The warrior? Foolish boy, you are mine by trade and I will do with you as I please.

Exhausted physically and mentally, Danny felt stillness settle over him. Half shutting his eyes, he made his decision; he needed to make his last stand. The co-ordinates of a hundred planets raced around his head, and picking the worst, he smiled with grim satisfaction. “This is a nice planet. Course with the ice, snow and barely breathable atmosphere, there will be no one for you to trade with.” Jumping off his bed and stumbling, he crashed to his knees and cried out. “Oh, ouch! Come on, suck it up, I need to save Daniel! Think, what would Jack do?” Light headed and wheezing, he understood he’d only have one chance. He needed to access the gate and he needed to go quickly, before his nerve failed him. His blue tinted lips twitching with hatred, he muttered, “When I die so will you. Loki tricked you and there’s no time to find a new host. You made a bad bargain, Hiddukel, and this is your just reward.”

“No! “Frantic, the entity screamed its frustration, his anger causing Danny to clamp his hands over his ears in pain. “Do you think I am that easily disposed of? I am the Trader of Souls, and no one will deny me. I will have my freedom.”

Daniel had made up his mind and nothing would dissuade him. The next thing he knew, he was doubled up in pain; his nerve ends a thousand jolts of fire. “Shut-up! Shut-up! You can’t make me do what you want anymore. I’m going to PX-554, and you are going with me. Prince of Lies? Prince of Stupidity more like it.”

“Rest, stop pushing yourself with this foolish quest.” Self-serving and cunning, Hiddukel understood the danger it faced. Impossible as it seemed, if his trade made it through the Stargate then he’d be trapped for eternity again. And Hiddukel hungered for his freedom. “You will obey me!” Sending shards of pain through Danny’s brain, he felt his dominance slipping. Interfering with Danny’s co-ordination, making him clumsier than he already was, the small boy crashed heavily into walls. Each time, Danny dragged himself to his feet and staggered on, determined to free himself of his burden.

“This is what Jack would do; for his team.” Hugging his toy, Danny prepared himself for his ultimate sacrifice.

Each hard fought step made Daniel more determined to leave and the entity equally as determined to stop him. A battle for dominance raged in the little clone’s head. “Listen, Daniel, listen to me! I can heal you. I will make another deal and I will heal you. I’ll take what is rightfully mine, and then you will be free to take Doctor Jackson’s place! Think, Daniel, you will be Doctor Jackson! But, you must help me; you must get the doctor close enough for me to trade his soul.”

Daniel dropped his chin onto his chest, dizziness and nausea sapping what little strength he had. “Can you? Can you really heal me?” The thought of living on Earth and being close to Jack thrilled him. He knew nothing could ever hurt him again then. “How do you take Daniel? Will it hurt him? I’ll be safe forever then? Can you promise to make me well again?” Confused, Danny wondered if it could be true, would he be able to really stay and live a real life?

“Yes. Trust me, I am the Trader of Souls and I never lose.”

The hallway seemed to rise and trip the little clone up. His vision blurry and his eyes unfocused, Danny wondered why the walls closed in on him. Struggling for breath, he didn’t bother stopping the tears that trickled down his face. As much as Hiddukel hungered for freedom, Danny hungered for love. He wanted happiness and a sense of belonging more than he could bear.  Clutching his toy, he raised it close to his face and inhaled its lavender scent. “Why shouldn’t I live? Why shouldn’t I be happy? ” The convoluted thoughts crashed around his mind like a hand grenade, eagerly fueled by the malevolent force within him. Trying to scramble to his feet, Danny knew his strength had finally failed him. Barely able to breathe, he heard Hiddukel scream. “No! No! Get to your feet, wretch! You cannot die; I need to leave your pathetic body! Get up!”

 Shaking his head, Daniel closed his eyes. “No,” he murmured,” we have both lost.”

_________________

Jack listened to the monitors beep and wheeze as they struggled to help keep the little clone alive. Once the nurse with the pretty red curls had discovered Danny was missing, she raised the alarm and it had only taken minutes to find him slumped on the floor.

Doctor Warner took his vitals and draping his stethoscope around his neck, shook his head. “I’m sorry, Colonel, the child is just too damaged, and Loki plain didn’t make him right.” Patting Daniel’s leg and tucking it under the blanket, he added softly,” and there’s nothing more we can do other than make him comfortable.” His dark eyes heavy with regret, he added, “I am sorry, but I did warn you.”

Jack pushed past him. “Yeah, heard that.” Blinking quickly, time seemed to stand still for the colonel; he had heard these same words years ago. ‘Course, different hospital, different doctor, and a different little boy had lain dying. Holding his head in his hands, he said, “Oh Doc, for chrissakes sake, with all this fancy equipment? You’re telling me you can't do anything? C’mon, he’s just a kid.” Pinching the bridge of his nose, Jack sighed, knowing how hollow his words sounded. “Yeah, yeah, I know, Warner, nothing more we can do.”

“Hey, sir, how’s he doing?” Carter slid close to the colonel’s side, and pressing against him gently, let him know she was there for him and for Danny. “Still no change? God, he looks so pale, poor little kid.” Confused by her feelings for the child, Sam winced, and started to think aloud. “Sir, I was thinking, if we could just try and contact Dad again, maybe I could persuade him to change his mind.” Even before the words left her mouth, she knew it wouldn’t happen. Jacob sympathized with the clone’s plight, but refused to help. “It’s not that I don’t care, Sam, it’s just not safe. He probably has all of Daniel’s memories tucked away in that little head of his, and I won’t subject a Tok’ra to that. Daniel has the thoughts of the Ancients; it would be overwhelming for us. I’m sorry kiddo, but it wouldn’t work.”

“Which is oh so not going to happen, is it? No? Thought not. Yeah, well, I make it a point not to rely on the Tok’ra for anything. I find that works just fine for me.” Bitter sounding and angry, Jack’s patience hung in shreds. Feeling the need to hurt something, or someone, he snarled, “Daniel not heard back from Thor? Busy, are they?”

“I don’t know, sir, I don’t think so.” Sam shifted her weight, uncomfortably aware that not anything she said would help.

Jack was in pain and his face unreadable. “How can they dump this on us and then not help? Remind me, Carter, how many times have we saved their little grey butts? Does this not count for anything? Christ, we so need new allies, you know ones that actually help.”  The day that had started so well was ending badly, and despite knowing the boy for under twenty-four hours, Jack already felt a strong bond. The moment he caught Danny sneaking a look at him from beneath his shaggy bangs, Jack knew he was the one meant to protect him. Now, with a machine the only thing helping him to breathe, the colonel knew he’d lost the race. Danny would die.

“Oh kiddo, this sucks.”

“Yeah, it does.” Daniel nudged Jack and sighed softly. “Warner told us, Jack.” Edging closer and tilting his head to the side, he studied the gentle rise and fall of Danny’s chest. “I was still with my parents at his age, I was still happy.” Wrapping his arms around his body tightly, Daniel closed his eyes, misery etched deeply on his face. “Seems no matter what incarnation I take, I’m doomed to suffer.”

Silence followed. SG1 stood close, taking comfort and strength from each other and waited for the end. Jack leaned over Danny and tucking in his little lavender bear, whispered, “C’mon, Danny, fight.” Taking his hand, shocked by the blue veined fragility of it, the colonel’s eyes glazed and bright tears brimmed, refusing to fall. “You can do it, you just have to fight.”

The infirmary’s many machines blinked and buzzed, staff hurried along their way, checking patients and reading their charts. Death was an everyday occurrence in a combat infirmary, but the atmosphere was grave with misery. The cruelty of the Asgard stunned even the most jaded, and it would be a long time before this watch decided fences could be mended.

_________________

The mantle of command is a heavy one, and Hammond felt every ounce. He sat in his office, lights dimmed, and waited for the call he knew was inevitable. This was turning out to be a very bad day. His premier team sat in the infirmary, preparing themselves for another senseless death, and he worried for them. “Sometimes, I hate this job.”

The screeching of the klaxons on level 28 took the General by complete surprise. Coffee cup half way to his lips, he jumped, and cursed softly as the liquid scalded his hand. Flicking the beads of coffee from his hand and desk, he growled under his breath, “What in the blue blazes now?”

Leaning into the microphone, Master Sergeant Walter Harriman, checked his console readings and reported, “Unauthorized activation- security detail to the gate room.” Within moments, the heavily armed, on duty marines, straightening helmets, and checking weapons, crashed into the gate room and took their position. Aggressively hunkering down, adrenalin surging through their veins, the marines raised their weapons and took careful aim, waiting for further instructions.

Leaving his office, his mind already formulating a dozen questions, General Hammond neatly navigated the stairs and entering the control room, barked, “Sergeant?” His eyes narrowed as they were drawn towards the Stargate, and lifting his chin, he waited for an update.

Running his fingers over his keyboard, and collecting the necessary data, the sergeant reported what Hammond already knew. Turning slightly to enable him to glance over his shoulder, he reported, “No team is due back, sir. We have four teams off world, and SG13 is due to report in just under ten hours.” Watching the Stargate spin, he added, “Seventh chevron locked, sir.”

Grunting, the general nodded and said, “Shut the iris, son, whoever they are, we didn’t invite them.” Reaching across and grabbing the phone, the gate room lights flickered and plunged into darkness. “What?” George lifted his head with surprise as a familiar voice floated across the room. With a shimmer, the Supreme Commander of the Asgard stood on the ramp, and with large, black eyes blinking, inclined his head cordially. Behind him cowered another Asgard, a thin, silver band clasped around his minuscule wrists.

“General Hammond, forgive this intrusion. I have located Loki, but do not panic; he is restrained and I will not allow him to flee. It grieves me to subject a brother to such an indignity, but what Loki has done gives me no choice. You must give me the clone immediately; you are all in terrible danger.”

With a shake of his head, George clamped his mouth shut. Thinking carefully, processing the warning, he tapped the sergeant on the shoulder. “Get me SG1 now, and inform Doctor Warner to…” He didn’t have time to finish his order. Lights flickered and another flash blinded him. “Thor, what is the meaning of this?” Fed up with the Asgard’s highhanded treatment of his command, George was in no mood for social niceties.

Walter was the first to recover, and blinking owlishly, pointed towards the gate room. “Sir, look!” Danny’s body hovered in mid air, wrapped in a cocoon of sheer covering, and levitated slowly towards the open wormhole. George stared, incredulous. The day continued to get worse by the hour. “God almighty! Where are you taking the boy?” Hammond watched Danny’s slight frame disappear, followed by Loki’s struggling body, and turned his gaze on his ally with amazement.  Carefully wording his response, he decided to go for the jugular, his nerves in tatters. “Loki going too? Taking out the trash, Thor?”

“Of course, General Hammond, do not waste your sympathy on my brother, he doesn’t deserve it.” With his odd, stilted gait, Thor inclined his head, and bidding George farewell, disappeared through the event horizon. He had business to attend to, and had no time to debate semantics. Determined to undo the mischief of his scientist, he had made a truly terrible decision. Loki would pay the full trade, his life for the innocents. Danny would be returned to the SGC in full health. This was his bargain and one that was unbreakable.

Hiddukel posed a dire threat to both Asgard and Tau’ri. Loki had never been stable, and as the years dragged by, he’d become increasingly dangerous. Sanctioned by the High Council, he’d promise to behave, and so they took him at his word. In his arrogance, he thought deceiving the ancient being would be child’s play. In his damaged mind, the Asgard was superior to anyone or anything. He was terribly wrong though, Hiddukel was always in control, even when in a fit of insanity, Loki produced the Jackson clone.

Thor assumed that the ancient evil would never rest until all commitments delivered, and thus made his contingency plans. Honesty among thieves, he informed his council, was not to be ignored, no matter how distasteful. Confident that with Asgard technology, it would stay trapped with Loki for a millennium, Thor made his own terrible trade. Every bit as ruthless as Jack O’Neill, his decision had caused outrage among the High Council, but he’d insisted, and overrode any objection. He was the Supreme Commander, and his word was final. “There is no time, General Hammond; if the clone dies an evil will be released. Loki made a bargain, a very poor one, and he will pay the price.

Nodding his head, Hammond decided the punishment no doubt, would fit the crime.

_________________

Summer poked her nose around the corner, and warmed the hearts and souls of her devoted fans. Birds squabbled in the trees, full of indignation and spite. Flowers burst into color, demanding water and attention. In his backyard, dressed in rumpled khaki shorts and his Air Force t-shirt, Jack flipped burgers and wieners. “God, Carter, a little water here?” Wrinkling his nose as the smoke from the meat assaulted him, Jack coughed, and rolled his eyes. “Hey, never said I could barbeque, just said I had one.”

“I know, sir, what was I thinking.” Sam saw her lunch cremating as she spoke.

“Da-ddd-e-ee, you’re burning everything again! “ Danny bounced on his toes, peering at the hot plate and giggled with delight. Five years old, and feisty, he drove Jack crazy. “Shall I get the number of the
pizza man? We have it on spleen dial!”

“Scram, go bother Daniel.” Jack wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Hey! Why me?” A bottle of Cabernet sat waiting to be uncorked, and chasing hyperactive little boys full of pop and candy wasn’t on Danny’s lazy Sunday afternoon plan. “Nope, that’s what dads are for, right, Jack? “When Danny returned to the SGC, Daniel hadn’t known what to feel. The small boy brimmed with health and vitality, and with his lavender scented best friend, introduced himself happily as Jack’s kid. Thor planted familiar thoughts, so the small boy wouldn’t wonder and worry. He had done enough of that in his short life. Jack was his adoptive father, and Danny accepted it without question.

Thor had healed him, and although smallish, Danny appeared to be the all-American little boy. Appearances were deceptive, and Daniel searched his freckled face for recognition, for any sign of corruption. His memories of his past life had been erased; Thor wouldn’t sanction an ascended being growing up unprotected. As far as Danny was concerned, he was a nephew of Daniel’s cousin; family, but only barely. Jack was his world, his new daddy, and he didn’t care about old blood ties. He felt safe and protected, and for some reason, he knew that what was important.

“Danny, go bug your dad, I need to find more food for him to charcoal.”

“Nope, Daddy said to tell you that if you don’t play with me, you don’t get fed!” Looking pointedly at the wine glass, he added, “Or get to drink any of his wine.”

“His wine?” Daniel winced, pretending he didn’t see the two Gameboys the little boy clutched tightly. “You have gotta be kidding me? His wine? That man is amazing!”

Sam grinned,” Yep, he sure is!” Neatly corralling Danny, she snatched his full wine glass, sashayed over to Teal’c, and flicked off her flip-flops. As she drank the wine, Sam sighed with contentment, a perfect afternoon and a perfect glass of wine. “Mm, not bad, sir, a merlot?” Laughing at Daniel’s look of outrage, she winked, and wriggled her butt into the chair more comfortably. “Great choice, so, how’s that food coming along?”

“Poorly it would appear, Samantha Carter.” Teal’c glanced at the white smoke and sighing softly, swatted at a persistent buzzing insect. The incident with Loki had left a sour taste in his mouth and he struggled to keep any objectivity. Daniel had suffered, Jack had withdrawn, and Sam had been morose. It had been an uncomfortable time for SG1, and greatly bothered, he blamed the Asgard solely. Loki had acted with dishonor and he considered with a grim sense of justice that the punishment was fitting. Loyal, he was prepared to accept the newest member into his clan without question. The child was part of his family now, and he would protect Danny with his life.

Daniel needed to talk. He needed to find out if Jack suffered the same uncomfortable feeling. Taking a deep breath, he introduced the topic like a change of breeze. “Hey, Jack.” Walking over to the slightly out of control barbeque, beer in hand, and waving away the smoke, Daniel coughed pointedly. “Jeez, have you heard of carcinogens?”

“Nope.”  Jack looked at him with an unreadable expression on his face. Taking the offered beer, and pressing the cold bottle against his brow, Jack murmured, “Thanks.” Watching Daniel rub at his face appearing suddenly world weary, he sighed. “Okay, spill, what’s the matter?” Taking a deep swig of the beer, he waited for Daniel to talk. He knew he would, this day had been a long time coming. “Daniel?”

“Why should there be anything wrong?” With a roll of the shoulder and a rueful smile, Daniel nodded towards the small boy determinedly clambering onto Teal’c’s lap.” He’s doing well, thanks.” Laughing as Danny toppled to the ground; he turned back and sighed softly. “Who knew it would end this way? I sure as hell didn’t.”

From the look in Jack’s eyes, it was clear he had issues with Thor’s handling of the Hiddukel disaster. The report they received was vague at best, trivial at worst. Hammond privately wondered if the Asgard considered their allies incapable of understanding what ultimately needed to be done. Swallowing down his anger, Jack agreed to disagree. “So, the Asgard has balls after all. Who knew?”

“Jack, the Asgard is a civilized race, balls or lack there of, doesn’t come into it. I am sure Thor considered this to be an acceptable and well thought out decision.” The more Daniel told himself this, the less he believed it. Something wasn’t right and he didn’t know if he should dig any deeper.
Jack sighed, and looking at his younger friend, shook his head with a feeling of sadness. “Daniel, you hafta to trust me on this, even the most civilized of races crack. It’s all just that very thin veneer, one hard tap and it cracks like an egg. When I worked with the Brits, I learned real fast that they are far too civilized to eat their young. They get others to do it for them.” Arching an eyebrow, he hoped his young friend understood what he didn’t want to say aloud.

“God, Jack, don’t even think that.” You’re wrong, Daniel screamed to himself.

“Okay. Just sayin’” Let it go, Jack thought.

“Come on, let’s eat.”

Daniel closed his eyes and nodded.

_________________

In the infirmary, the lights flickered, and the pretty nurse with the red curls rubbed her eye for the fifth time. Tired, and achy, Merry Jones wondered if she should call in sick. “Huh? Who’s there? Gosh, I must be more tired than I thought.” In the corners of her mind, a strange, unctuous voice scratched at her subconscious. “Merry, listen to me! We are going to be the best of friends. Just until I can trade.”

The End.

 

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