The Wishing Tree
By Amberfly

Daniel is exhausted, it had been a long and stressful night, and he had struggled, tossing and turning through it, in fitful sleep. 
The wind had blown hard, and caused the straggly old tree branch to scritch and scratch at his window all night long.
And it had frightened him, but he knew for a certainty that the wind and its whistling would always frighten him now. 
It is a given.                                                        

Yawning and knuckling the sleep from his eyes, his little socked feet slipping and sliding on the polished floorboards, Daniel wearily pads down the hall, half asleep still and therefore clumsy, slightly lacking in his awake time co-ordination.  

His black and white stuffed panda bear that he normally loves, a gift from Sam, didn't do it's job last night, didn't keep the monsters at bay, and therefore is in disgrace, held by its back paw is dragged along with him. 

He misjudges a sleepy step, stubs his foot, slips and bounces off the wall and whimpers quietly when he jars his shoulder with the bump.

"Ow" he mutters, refusing to cry though, "not a baby" he scolds himself, rubs his pajama sleeve across his runny nose, and sniffs a little and soldiers on. 

He has a mission...he has only one thing on his mind...he wants to see Jack and he wants to see him now. 

Daniel hopes that if he can just hop into that big warm bed and cuddle, Jack will bring his panic down to a tolerable level. He wants and needs this more than anything, craving that close contact of Jack's warm body and his comforting presence to feel safe. Therefore, like the heat seeking little missile he is, he tells himself to "hurry up" and pads a little faster. 

Sliding to the door at last, he knows that he should knock, he knows the rules, it is only polite after all and Jack could still be asleep. He is so tired though and his shoulder smarts a little now and so does his stubbed toe. He desperately needs to feel those warm hands of Jack rub his back. To hear that familiar voice telling him gently that the wind was harmless, that it is nothing, it cannot hurt him anymore. 

More than anything Daniel needs to hear this, not that he would ever believe it, not anymore. 

Reaching up on the very tip of his toes, Daniel places his little hand and carefully, quietly, turns the heavy door knob and skitters through, waiting just past the entrance though, just in case Jack is still sleeping.. 

Jack is awake though and mighty curious, since he heard the little feet pitty pattering down the hallway, the cry from the stubbed toe, heard the shoulder crash, and waits with growing trepidation to what this visit will mean.

Squinting across at his side table trying to focus his tired eyes, he can not help but think that five thirty was far to early for little boys to be awake, but be that as it may. 

Daniel was on his way. 

"The wind woke me, Jack" a small voice lisps from the door frame, sounding tired and so very young that it catches and tugs Jack's heartstrings once again. 

"Oops, I didn't knock...sorry, Jack "apologizes the little boy too quickly, anxious blue eyes searching Jack's face.  

He really wants Jack... 

To be fair, Sunday mornings are the only time Jack can sleep in a little and the rule is no early gallivanting around the house. If Daniel must come visiting he is always welcome, but he must knock first, to give Jack time to gather his wits. 

Daniel knows the reasoning behind this, and understands what the doctor told them, but so far has never remembered to knock. However, that is okay, Jack has all but given up on this idea given to him by the psychologist. 

Did not worry him with Charlie, does not worry him with Daniel. 

Jack, who listening so intently, never for a moment taking his eyes from the anxious little face at his doorway, begins to smile his slow growing smile, one that promises so much and delivers even more.

Grinning a welcome to his small son and of course the small disgraced panda bear, he gestures for them to come in. 

"Well, kiddo, this is early," he says gently, crooking his finger at Daniel. And why pray tell are you up and out of bed at oh... five thirty?" And with this, Jack leans over to snag the small child who has shuffled over to him expectantly. 

Easily hoisting Daniel clear over the bunched up blankets and sleep-dented pillows he plonks him down... safe... clear from the edge of the bed.  

Jack snakes an arm around Danny, squeezes the little boy just a little, winks and kisses him good morning. 

And waits. 

Daniel, sighing down to his toes again and wiggling to get comfortable, lifts his head quickly and catches the look of regret and sadness in the brown eyes of the man that adopted him so willingly.

He shrugs unsure now, and lisps very softly "don't know... justh cos."

And with no more information being offered he dives deeper into the soft mattress. All the time clinging to Jack like the lifeline, he has become. 

A yawning opened mouth, Daniel manages to show Jack a clear picture of his tonsils and his half-grown tiny white teeth with the pink gums in between, and so drooling a little, Daniel murmurs, "Fanks Jack."  

Daniel knows he is okay now, no more nighttime monsters snapping at his heels for the moment.

Grateful for this feeling of peace it gives him, Daniel sits up suddenly and surprising Jack hugs his neck and kisses his cheek. A loud smacking kiss against the grey whiskery cheek of the man who will always be his dragon slayer. 

With a tired grin for Jack's pleased _expression, Daniel rolls onto his stomach happily and hugs his black and white panda friend.  

The two friends, still friends but now father and son, lie close together, hearing each other's beating hearts, and eventually both drifting back to a deep sleep. 

The child finally feeling safe now, and the man still perplexed but grateful for this peace.   

The morning nap as far as Jack is concerned has been a great success and yawning widely, opens the fridge door to inspect what may have magically appeared overnight.

"Juice, kiddo? How about some eggs?" 

Without waiting or needing an answer, starts breakfast, chatting amiably the whole time about nothing and nonsense, this and that. Anything to raise a giggle from his child. 

Glancing again at Daniel, he squats down next to the chair where his tired little boy is slouching, and quotes softly, "The time has come the walrus said to talk of many things: of shoes and ships-and sealing wax -of cabbages and kings." 

Looking carefully and smiling, Jack nudges him, issuing his challenge. 

Daniel lifts his head half-heartedly at this funny invitation to talk, but cannot seem to focus. Cannot make his mind up about the eggs or if he wants a drink, and when pouring the juice from the container that is far too large for his tiny hands, misjudges and misses. His wobbly glass teeters and then falls, spilling all the juice and bouncing off the table, landing on the floor where it can fall no more. 

Looking with horror at the mess the juice left behind, that same juice that is now careering merrily across the table knows he should have left the pouring to Jack. Jumping to the floor, he slips in the spilt juice by his awkward landing, wrenches his sore shoulder again and finally lets the morning's frustrations explode. 

Jack, sighing deeply, not caring for one minute about the juice, and shaking his head with immeasurable sympathy and unwanted pity, speaks softly to the small boy looking so miserable and forlorn. 

"Oh, Daniel, come here, come on, sport, what's all this about then?"  

With the tenderness learnt from years of being a good man, Jack O'Neill hunkers down to hug the small, damp boy now crying silently. 
No more words, knowing there is nothing left to say, Jack merely holds and comforts Daniel, rubbing circles of warmth around his tiny back, and thinks.... thinks back to that odd planet they visited no more than six weeks ago.... 

Jack lets his mind catapult back to that planet, the meeting unwanted and unwelcoming, with the ethereal race that captured Daniel, that terrified him with their whispers and words sent on the wind, duplicitous so that none other than he could hear them. 
Moreover, drove him the brink of madness. 

This race of beings had made Daniel doubt his sanity, and in the end if truth were told, made the rest of them doubt it as well.  

The planet had irritated the hell out of Jack and had made Teal'c uncharacteristically nervous the moment that they had stepped clear of the star gate. All now wished, with the luxury of hindsight, that they had gone with their initial feelings of unease, and high tailed it out of there. 

However, Jack had allowed himself to be persuaded otherwise, and so they stayed and explored 

Shuddering, Jack remembered that had felt a ghost walk over his grave. 

As soldiers can be superstitious creatures." it is the uncertainty of war that makes us reluctant to invite any ill," Teal'c had once told Daniel. 

Mentioned grimly to anyone listening that he "so wanted to be gone from this planet, gives me the creeps, something not right here." 
 Still they had stayed. 

Daniel had laughed at him, teased him gently, and knuckled his arm, and dodged guffawing, the hand that flew back in mock retribution. Rattled on about the strange tree that he noticed where it had stood alone majestically and seemingly in the middle of nowhere.  

Surrounded by dirt and rocks, it stood as a monument to something Jack just could not quite put his finger on.  

"Odd "Jack had said quietly.

 "You know, Jack, it could be the Kalpataru, the wishing tree. It's a magical tree from Hindu mythology," Daniel lectured cheerfully at the uneasy soldier next to him. "It's a wonderful tree they say with branches that reach to the heavens and roots that encompass the whole world." 

Daniel was doing well now, Hindu mythology was fascinating to him, the complexity in some things, its simplicity in others always made it seem so mystical, and he was excited that he had somehow thought of this...  

"Make a wish, Jack, stand under the branches and make a wish," Danny had urged, laughing and pushing the older man towards the odd tree. 

"It has this awesome power, Jack,"  he continued his lecture to the half listening man," but wait...it's really quite terrible, for whoever stands under this tree eventually gets what they most desire. What I am getting at is that few people realize that this tree resides in our heart. We want what we can't have or shouldn't have." And, bumping the other man gently as they walked closer than he would normally Daniel was happy to be in the company of his friends, happy to be in the company of a man like Jack. 

Jack had always known that Daniel hero-worshipped him just a little, and it had mostly amused him. However, as was the sensitivity of the man for Daniels feelings, Jack never spoke it. Never felt the need to tease or belittle Daniel because of it. He just felt paternal pride in the respect he was shown.  

"Well, I wish we long gone, Danny," Jack had smiled at him, and back to business, had turned around to see where the rest of his team had gone. He had wondered idly where that damn wind had come from, but distracted by Daniel and his yakking, pushed it from his mind. 

Daniel always in tuned, was also curious now, wondering why that wind- gentle at first- was now insistent and biting. It suddenly had unnerved him and all the good will and bantering he had exchanged with Jack left him. He now felt anxious, over wrought, and alone... he felt inexplicably frightened and bereft. 

That wind, he thought uncomfortably, was it talking to him? Why was it asking him the same damn question over and over again? "Why was he damaged?" 

"Why is the child inside you dead?  What do you wish for Daniel?" the strange voices, disjointed and creepy, nagged at him incessantly. 

Who is damaged thought Daniel, "Me? What child?  I am a grown man for God's sake!  What wish?"  

The same question seemed to bounce around his head uncontrollably, like one of those arcade games, ping -ponging his thoughts about madly, and each time these thoughts came unbidden, he envisioned his parents on that terrible day. 

These images robbed him of his reason very quickly. 

Jack, after hearing Daniels strangled moans, stopped and studied his agitated friend carefully and looking to the others, raised his eyebrows in confusion.

Sam and Teal'c who had been watching carefully also, shook their heads gently, as if to say ..."no idea - but this is not good" and waited with feelings of unease, for their leader to do or say something to help Daniel. 

Jack, as always, made his decision quickly and moved forward quietly to take Daniel's arm saying calmly to him, "Hey, Doctor Jackson, who ya taking to, huh?  Because whoever it is, you are sounding a bit pissed off. Let's just calm down a little," and patting his arm gently he continued' "there's a good boy."  

Looking over at Carter, Jack again using that calming tone, telling her. Bring "some water over here and maybe one of those happy pills you've got stashed away in that voodoo bag of yours." 

That swirling, gusting wind had not finished with Daniel, not by a long shot and now bizarre forms danced in front of his disbelieving eyes, shadowy and frightening him. 

Daniel became horrified and now even more disturbed, grabbing onto Jack's arm and stammering, " God, Jack, what are they? Why are they asking me the same damn question?" 

That gentle wind was now close to becoming an all out gale and Jack had wanted to get Daniel stabilized and then haul their asses the hell out that damn place. Gathering his thoughts and calculating roughly how long it would take to get to the Stargate if they used double time, Jack could not help but cringe when he heard Daniel again mutter incoherently, and suddenly hated the feeling of fear and nausea that rose in his mouth. Rubbing his hand through his hair in frustration, he spoke a little more roughly now "God Daniel what is the matter with you huh?"  

Still listening to Daniel mutter and moan, cursing the wind and its damning it's whispers they worried now that he had become unhinged, and they had feared that it would be to late to help him, to calm him properly.

However, of course none of them heard those whispers, saw those ethereal figures that were for whatever reason taunting Daniel. 
It seemed these spirits and dancers were just for him, it was his wish they wanted to grant. 

The" Kalpataru Tree," as Daniel had called it, the wishing tree as he had happily explained to Jack earlier, would find out why his heart was damaged and it would heal it.

As was its purpose thought the strange beings that haunted this planet. 

Daniel's greatest wish it would seem, his deepest tucked- away -deep- in- his- heart secret was to have a father like Jack. 
Jack O'Neill had made him feel special and made him feel wanted. From the day they met, their spirits were kindred, and this is what the wind spoke of, what the wind knew and was now demanding Daniel admits to. 

 This was the secret the spirits had found, buried deep in Daniel's heart, and they had felt the fear of the frightened lonely -eight -year old child, bereft of family and bereft of hope. 

They had felt Jack's spirit and saw the terrible damage there that could never be healed.

So they made their unwanted choice, they made their purpose become known. 

The wind still whispered incessantly, hammering into Daniel's brain that he would be helped; his wish would be granted, all the time driving Daniel closer and closer to madness. 

That odd wind, that appeared out of nowhere and irritated Jack, had now become a deadly factor in this nightmare of a day. It whirled and swirled around the soldiers, knocking them around like the tin soldiers at the fairground, and now they realized all hope of clarity had gone with its choking thick dust. They all stood shoulder-to-shoulder, grabbing onto their weapons with white knuckled fear and desperately trying to see one foot in front of them. 

Coughing, gagging, their eyes streaming with tears, they were forced to huddle together and wait for this dust to settle, and once it did, once they could see through the grit in their eyes... 

They discovered a small child had been left. 

Jack knew, he knew straight away, "Christ, this is Daniel," and he had hunkered down and grabbed the lost child close to his chest, away from that damn biting wind and its dancing menace. 

The strange beings used their mystical power, granted a wish that no one asked for, and gave... the child who had lost his father... to a father who had lost his son.
............ ......... ......... ......... ......... ......... ......... ......... ......... ......... ......... ......... ..... 

The little boy in the kitchen finally stops crying and Jack, understanding but not knowing what to do, what to say that could possibly help, just took the little boys tiny hands in his large calloused ones, and rubbed them gently. 

"I know kiddo" he says quietly," I know, but Carter will never stop looking for that planet, and we've got Jacob and the Asgard too, hell, Danny, half the universe is looking, but patience, heh?" 

Daniel, knowing he will be unable to talk without the possibility of crying, head butted the man who was trying so hard to help, to comfort him. And with the way of all upset children, Daniel leans close into the embrace and breaths in short hi-cupping breaths, trying to calm himself down. 

Holding onto Jack for all he is worth, rubbing his nose on his T-Shirt and sniffing loudly, Daniel waits for the words he knows will come, the words that he needed to hear to keep himself sane. 

"You will always have a home with me, Daniel," Jack says so softly, "I know you want your life back, and I would do anything for that to happen, but I don't know how to help, so it's just you and me kiddo... we'll be okay." 

And with this, Jack hugged his child warmly, sighs and prays for a miracle. 

Outside the wind whistles and whirls, as if it still had something to say.

 The End

 

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