Lessons from the Field by devra
Spoilers: Early in the team's history
Summary: A simple team bonding day leads to much more
"Are you sure, Carter?" Jack raised the collar of his jacket up to ward off the late morning autumn chill and checked his watch one more time before sticking the timepiece under her nose. "Lunch, Teal'c, me, you, Daniel. My treat. One hour. Ring any bells?"
He could tell she was frustrated, his 2IC hated when events skewed from normalcy. Jack found it hard to fathom that even after working at the SGC for over a year, she'd be a little more adaptive to the curves thrown her way in real life situations.
"I'm positive this is where Daniel said he would be." The only thing missing from her tantrum were stamping feet. With a sigh and a look of disgust, Carter shielded her eyes from the bright sun and scanned the field.
"Soccer, Captain, soccer." Jack shook his head in disbelief. "I honestly don't believe that Daniel would be—"
Carter began to gesture wildly. "There he is, sir."
"Are you sure? Saturday, sunshine, outdoors and surrounded by kids? I'm not so sure," Jack said with more than a hint of sarcasm. "That doesn't sound like the Daniel we know."
"No, I do believe CaptainCarter is correct, O'Neill. The person in the field waving his arms at us appears to be DanielJackson." Teal'c pointed in a direction in the far west corner. "Do you not see him?"
"Oh, I see him, it's just that," Jack swept the area in front of him with his arm, "I didn't expect to find him playing with the kiddies on a Saturday morning."
"I don't think we know as much about Daniel as we thought we did, sir."
Guiltily, Jack nodded in agreement. He knew Daniel was a genius, collecting degrees as he whizzed through the educational systems, had been orphaned at an early age, and had spent his childhood in foster homes. Hell, Jack had studied the man's personnel file until he was blue in the face, trying to understand what made him tick. But he'd never asked for details, and Daniel, well, he'd never volunteered any, and though Jack had been curious, he had respected his friend's privacy.
Until the Gamekeeper had allowed SG1 an up close and personal look at a day in the life of Daniel Jackson that Jack was positive would never have seen the light of day. Ever. Leave it to alien technology to place a chink in the armor Daniel wore around his personal life.
"So is he coming?" Jack gave Daniel a little flick of his fingers, fully aware that his gesture wasn't going to carry the distance separating them. "Or are we going to stand here all day waving at each other?"
Carter squinted, leaned forward and began to walk. "He's motioning for us to join him."
Jack stayed behind, tapping his watch. "Need I remind you—"
"I don't believe a reminder is necessary," Teal'c admonished, readjusting his woolen cap before following Carter.
"Awww, jeez, guys, come on!" Jack threw up his hands in frustration.
Carter turned, still walking, instinctively avoiding a child running in her path. "You know how Daniel is. He's not going to come to us." She turned and headed across the field at a slight jog.
"Horse to water, Mohammed, mountain… yeah, yeah, I understand." Grumbling loud enough to attract the attention of a group of parents milling around, he gave them a tight smile and a two finger salute in apology.
This was so not the way he had planned for today to go. Saturday was to be a team bonding day, at the very insistent suggestion submitted by one General Hammond and seconded by Fraiser. Two back-to-back physically and mentally exhausting missions following in the wake of the Gamekeeper's planet had prompted their commander's and CMO's concern. Jack had made reservations at one of the nicer restaurants in town, and it was only after he'd promised to treat had he been able to draw Carter and Daniel from their current 'I can't leave right now, I'm in the middle of something' projects. Teal'c, on the other hand, had been game to try anything, glad to venture into the world of the Tau'ri instead of being cooped up underground. There was to be laughter, drinking, and he had even rented movies and was willing to splurge for pizza later tonight. The house had been cleaned, there were fresh sheets on the bed in the spare room, the pillows on the couch had been fluffed and turned, he had even purchased a few candles for Teal'c's kel-no-reem. Like the good military man he was, he was going to follow his orders and no one was leaving his home until they had significantly bonded with each other, even if it killed him, or he killed them, whichever came first. He didn't remember anything on the agenda about a soccer game, though.
Despite the coolness of the day, Daniel's long hair was plastered to his head, his tee shirt was colored a shade darker with sweat, and his jeans were grass stained and ripped at the knee.
"Hi guys." He slid his glasses back up his nose and futilely attempted to push back the straggly pieces of hair hanging in his face.
"Daniel?" Jack performed a mental calculation in his head. If they left right now, there would be just enough time to drive to Jack's house, throw Daniel in the shower, find something presentable in his closet to stick Daniel in and make it to the restaurant for lunch. Jack chose to ignore the mud-covered sneakers on Daniel's feet. Pants and shirt he could find to fit the lanky frame, but shoes? He could only hope that the restaurant wouldn't notice the condition of those hopeless sneakers.
"DanielJackson." Teal'c was leaning around Daniel, trying to follow the game of soccer going on behind him.
"What are you doing here, Daniel?" Carter asked innocently.
'No, Carter, no'! Jack wanted to cry, 'don't get him started talking'. Talking would only be a good idea if they were walking, preferably in the direction of the car, or driving in the car, or over food at a restaurant. Talking wasn't acceptable on the field when they were supposed to be hard at work bonding.
"Wow, he's big," chirped a small voice, interrupting Jack's internal tirade.
Teal'c looked down at the petite girl who was gazing up at him in wonder. "That I am."
"DanielJackson." Jack couldn't help but smile at the edge of unmitigated terror in the big guy's voice when the little child seized his hand and placed her own hand into his palm, turning their conjoined fingers every which way, examining the size difference from every angle. "Very big," she reiterated slowly.
Daniel squatted down and the girl backed up and sat quite comfortably on his bent knee. "These are my friends, Lisa."
Carter squatted next to Daniel, smiling, offering the girl her hand. "Hi, I'm Sam."
"That's a boy's name." The declaration was made by chubby little boy with glasses who had wandered off the field to stand by Daniel's shoulder.
"You're right, it is. My real name is Samantha," she whispered conspiratorially to the little guy, who seemed suddenly embarrassed by her attention, and quickly averted his eyes. "But my friends call me Sam." She stuck out her hand for a shake, but the boy just edged closer to Daniel, burying his head in Daniel's sweaty strands of hair. She slowly lowered her action of friendship when she caught Daniel's imperceptible shake of his head.
A gentle tug at the leg of Jack's pants focused his attention downward to a tow headed boy attaching himself to his chinos. "Nice pants." Jack watched curiously as the little boy repeatedly ran his fingers over the material.
A sharp toot of a whistle and all the little heads turned in sync, including Daniel's and Carter's. "Come on guys, let's finish the game!" shouted a man standing at the edge of the field. "Everyone's waiting."
"Only a few more minutes, Jack, I promise." He righted the little girl and stood, offering Carter a hand. The little girl who had been so entranced with Teal'c seized Carter's hand.
"Come play with us. Please, please, please, please…" she begged enthusiastically, pulling her towards the field.
"Honey, adults can't play soccer with the teams," Jack said, thinking back to the days of Charlie's soccer games and the lineup of parents relegated to the sidelines. Based on Lisa's gaze, Jack had just made one of the stupidest comments she had ever heard in her young life. "He may be big," she said, pointing at Teal'c, "but you're very silly. Mister..."
"Jack," he answered.
"Mister Jack, you're very silly."
"Hey, no comments from the peanut gallery, if you please."
Chuckling, Daniel gathered up the two children beside him, herding them in the direction of the field, motioning with a tilt of his head for Sam and Lisa to follow him.
Sam shrugged an apology to Jack and shadowed Lisa onto the field.
He had given up trying to attract Carter and Daniel's attention as they ran up and down the field, Carter slipping occasionally as she played defense in shoes that were made for lunch at a nice place to be paid for by her CO, and not for a Saturday afternoon soccer game.
There weren't enough children to constitute a team and a few of the parents had also joined the kids on the field. Jack edged closer and closer to the white line, his curiosity sparked by the activity.
Teal'c's gaze shifted from the field directly in front of him to the other fields filled with children and shouting parents. "The children that are playing this game with DanielJackson appear to be playing differently than those on the other fields. Some of the children even appear to be—"
"You noticed that, too?" Jack's comments were interrupted by Lisa, who popped up in front of Teal'c. "I need you on my team. You can play goal."
"O'Neill?" Teal'c begged.
"She's right, you'll make a terrific goalie." Jack clapped his shoulder. "Go play, enjoy, I'll just sit on the sidelines."
"We will be late for lunch," Teal'c argued half-heartedly, trying not to move despite the insistent tugging at his hand.
Jack smirked. "Been there, done that, lost the reservation," he checked his watch, "about fifteen minutes ago. Go," he ordered, shooing Teal'c with a wave of his hand.
"I do not know how to play this game."
"I'll teach you," Lisa said, then yelled to her teammates. "Look, I got the big guy for our goal, bet he'll be a better player than Sam."
Jack smiled at the round of applause from both the parents and the children the moment Teal'c stepped into the goal.
"Friends of Daniel's?"
Jack turned towards the man with whistle.
"Yeah, Jack O'Neill." The two men shook hands.
"I'm Dennis Weber. The coach of the Red Angels."
Weber's laugh was loud and hearty. "Well, I never quite heard it put that way, but yeah, interesting would be one way to describe them." Weber scrubbed his face, wiping the sweat off his forehead with the back of his hand. "So, you're friends with Daniel. Let me tell you that kid is amazing, patient and open with the team, not something you find too often, a great runner and a wonderful teacher. Wish he could be around more than he is."
Inexplicably, Jack felt guilty, he knew where Daniel was on the Saturdays he wasn't on the field. "He's not a kid, ya know."
"Turned thirty-one last summer."
"No way," Weber said incredulously. "I took him for someone…"
"Younger, much younger, yeah I know. Looks can be deceiving," Jack said to Weber, though his eyes were focused on the kids.
Weber followed his gaze. "Don't worry," he sighed, taking in Jack's pants and shirt, "the game will be over in a few minutes and you can take off wherever you have to go. Nice to meet you."
"Weber, ummm, Dennis, can you use another player?" Jack pointed towards the goal which had Teal'c surrounded by a number of kids, unable to move.
"Oh, sure," Weber said, "the more the merrier. Though I hope you have a change of clothes, the kids can get sort of rough."
"Thanks, guys, for the lack of hot water." Jack plopped into the recliner, angrily flipping the chair backwards.
"I had no problem with the shower, O'Neill. I found it quite pleasant, actually."
"Neither did I, sir."
"Nope, shower was nice and hot for me too, Jack." Daniel wiggled his bare feet and sighed happily for emphasis.
"Well, it would have been hot for me, too, Daniel, if you hadn't stayed in there as long as you did."
"Didn't stay that long," Daniel protested.
"Oh please, I timed it."
"You timed my shower?"
"Forty minutes, Daniel, you were in there forty minutes."
"You're just grouchy 'cause you're hungry."
"And why am I hungry?" Jack asked.
"Missed lunch, I believe would be the correct answer."
"Would you settle for an early dinner?" Daniel asked, getting up and padding into the kitchen, followed by Teal'c and Carter.
Jack flung his head backwards, shouting into the direction of the kitchen. "Food, I'll just settle for food. There's a bag of Oreos in the cabinet—hello, what's this." The chair thunked into place as Jack leaned forward and he rubbed his hands together gleefully when the three appeared laden with pizza boxes, soda, beer, and if Jack's sense of smell was working correctly, garlic knots. "Come to papa," Jack said, grabbing the top box the minute Daniel placed it on the table.
"I'm full," Carter groaned, holding her stomach. The tee shirt Jack had lent her sported one or two spots of sauce.
"I take it that sound signifies you are in agreement with CaptainCarter's assessment, O'Neill."
Daniel giggled and Jack signaled for Teal'c to remove the bottle of beer from his grip.
"Hey," Daniel cried, lunging pitifully in the direction of the departing bottle.
"I'll make coffee." Sam stood with a whimper and shuffled off to the kitchen.
"The Tums are in the third cabinet to the right of the sink, Carter."
"Thank you, sir."
"Dennis Weber seems like a nice guy," Jack said the moment Daniel's hands were latched around the coffee mug.
"Huh?" Daniel looked up in surprise. "Dennis?"
"The coach. Soccer game?"
"Yeah, he is. Nice, I mean. The kids love him."
"The kids seem to love you too, Daniel," Carter said, reaching across the table for an Oreo, ignoring Jack's stunned look when she popped the whole thing in her mouth.
Embarrassed, Daniel ducked his head.
"I need to ask you a question, DanielJackson, about those children."
"What about the kids?" Daniel answered defensively and already Jack could sense the archeologist's dander was up.
"Were they different?"
Teal'c's question was an honest and completely innocent one, and Jack watched and waited while Daniel tried to formulate an answer.
"Patrick had Down's Syndrome, didn't he?" Carter asked, licking the crumbs off her fingers, and it took a second for Jack to place the name with the little red headed boy who had a great corner kick.
"Yes, he has Down's Syndrome. Lisa is ADHD; Paul, the little boy with the glasses is autistic." Daniel drew a breath, exchanging his coffee for the beer bottle that had been removed from his possession earlier and finished it in one gulp. "The team is a special ed soccer team, made up of children in the area who are developmentally delayed, some to a greater degree than others."
"I am curious, what do these things mean?"
"In the case of Down's Syndrome, it's a chromosomal disorder, ADHD means the person afflicted has problems focusing and their activity level is higher than the average person, and well, autism is a neurological problem with varying…"
"I still do not understand. Are you telling me that these children are not perfect?"
"Who's to judge what's perfect, Teal'c?" Daniel asked angrily.
"On Chulak, children such as these would be put to death."
Daniel turned an alarming shade of green, Carter gave a gasp of horror and even Jack had to admit that maybe this was a bit TMI to be shared during team bonding.
"They're children, Teal'c," Daniel whispered. "Children. You would put a child to death if he wasn't perfect? Who the hell are you—"
"I have upset you. That was not my intention."
"Damn right you've upset me." Daniel's relaxed stance that had been a constant companion throughout the day had dissipated, and he slammed the empty beer bottle on the table before slapping his hands on his knees and standing.
"Daniel—" Jack placated, hoping to reach through Daniel's anger and pull out his 'this is a different culture' persona. "Teal'c's just trying to understand—"
"What? Why the Tau'ri don't kill their young? I'm going to clean up this mess." He swept up the empty pizza boxes and stomped off towards the kitchen.
Jack motioned for Teal'c and Carter to remain in their seats. "Let me see what this is all about."
"Don't even say anything, Jack." Daniel was taking out his anger folding and crushing the pizza boxes into tiny squares. "I'll go apologize to Teal'c."
"Just throw the boxes out, okay." Jack cringed as Daniel leaned on the counter, forcing the box to bend.
"No, it's cardboard, they can be recycled."
"It's okay, make an exception, just for today you can just trash them." He stepped on the pedal of the garbage pail and the lid popped open invitingly.
Daniel shoved the boxes down into the half full garbage. "Everything is disposable nowadays, everything, without a look—"
Jack grabbed Daniel's elbow. "Wanna share what button Teal'c pushed."
"No," Daniel said, jerking his arm from Jack's grasp. "There's nothing to share."
"I beg to differ, DanielJackson, I have offended you and I am not sure why. I would appreciate understanding what I have done so I will not repeat my mistake."
Jack rolled his eyes at Teal'c and Carter standing in the doorway leading to the kitchen. So much for obeying their CO when he issued them an order to hold their positions.
Daniel's gaze flitted from Jack to the two in the doorway, and he backed up, putting space between himself and them. It wasn't until he stood in the corner between the counter and the wall, his arms settling around his midsection, before he actually spoke. "At one time, I was one of these children."
"That's impossible, you're a genius." Sam sidestepped both Teal'c and Jack and pulled out a kitchen chair and sat. Jack didn't miss that she used her foot to push the chair next to her towards Daniel, just an inch or two, but definitely an invite.
Daniel would have none of that. If anything, he seemed to push himself further into the corner. "Many of those kids have normal to above-normal IQ's. There are other issues, social, communication, or the lack thereof, that classify children as special needs."
"You do not posses any of those qualities."
Daniel smiled at Teal'c. "I'm not eight anymore."
"Will the children we played soccer with outgrow their disabilities?"
Daniel dropped his head, intently studying the design of Jack's kitchen floor. He exhaled loudly, his checks puffing out and deflating with the force. "No. Lisa, and the other children will never outgrow their disabilities. Sometimes the proper medication or schooling can make all the difference, though." Daniel made eye contact with Teal'c and shook his head. "I was a different story. We had no relatives and the child who could speak seven languages by the time he was five became a selective mute when he witnessed the death of his mother and father."
"Again, you are using words that I am not familiar with."
Jack leaned against the cabinet and folded his arms across his chest, intently studying the same design in the floor that had captured Daniel's attention. "It means that Daniel chose not to talk." Jack sincerely hoped that filling in the blanks would hurry to bring an end to this bonding experience.
Daniel nodded, dragging his hand across his mouth. "Exactly. There wasn't anyone left to listen, so there was no reason to speak."
"If this memory pains you, it is not necessary for you to explain further."
Daniel hid his emotions in a cough. "No, Teal'c, it's important you understand." He faltered for a second, shifting his weight from one leg to another. "I was fostered..." Daniel glanced up and caught the confused expression on Teal'c's face. "Fostered means I was given to other people, other families raised me."
"Amongst the Jaffa, that practice is called un'sys. Children whose parents are killed are raised to adulthood by others. It is an honor to be asked."
Daniel's laugh was brittle and, sharp, and Jack was under the distinct impression not too many families had been honored having to raise an eight year old orphaned boy.
"There were four other children besides me living in the house. I remember the social worker who drove me there saying that Mr. and Mrs. Katon," Daniel used his fingers to make air quotes, "specialized in retarded children. It's funny what'll stick in the mind of a child, isn't it? I can remember the car ride, the incessant chatter of the social worker and the terrible fear that I was going to vomit in the front seat of her car, but at the time, what I couldn't remember was my mother and father ever calling me retarded." Daniel shrugged. "I didn't even know what the word meant, only that she made it sound horrible, nasty and something that she was very glad she didn't do."
Neither he nor Carter were able to maintain eye contact with Daniel, but Teal'c seemed enraptured by the story Daniel was weaving. Daniel, on the other hand, was having difficulty keeping his sight trained on any spot for more than a few seconds as his gaze flew around the room. Jack got the distinct impression that Daniel felt trapped and more than a little ill at ease, but it was Daniel's story, and if Jack had learned anything in the time he had become friends with the good Doctor was, if Daniel didn't want to do something, nothing short of a disaster would stop him. Uncomfortable as this was to Daniel, he was expanding Teal'c's knowledge and understanding of the Tau'ri, and those ideals were more important to Daniel than hiding behind a memory.
"The Katons raised you until you were an adult?" Teal'c asked, and if Jack read his Jaffa right, there was a twinge of hopefulness in his voice.
Daniel's head shot up. "Huh? Adulthood? Ummm, no. Sorry." He pushed his hair away from his eyes and his gaze focused on the window above the sink. "The Katons, well, they—there were two boys and two girls in the house." Daniel smiled as he ticked off the names on his fingers with ease. "Tommy, Ben, Lena and Patrice, and then me.
"The house was filled with an overwhelming amount of noise and little hands and curious minds wanting to touch me, my hair, my glasses." Daniel shivered at the memory, and Jack's heart constricted at Daniel's perceived horror, one fear that carried over into his adulthood - physical contact. "Sometimes there are boundary issues of what is socially acceptable with certain disabilities, but the Katons shooed everyone away and Mr. Katon guided me to a small bedroom, which was to be mine, and mine alone. Just a dresser, a bed, a small bookcase, but it was for me. I sat on the bed, he stood at the door and he gave me space, something I hadn't had since my parents died. Those five feet between us, I remember, seemed like heaven and an enormous act of kindness, and I wanted to thank him for instinctually knowing what I needed, but I couldn't."
"And what of the children?" Teal'c had moved from the door into the room and was actually standing closer to Daniel than Jack was.
"Their disabilities? You have to remember this was over twenty years ago, and things were much different then. Everyone with a mental handicap was considered retarded."
Daniel thought a minute. "Like me. Ben had Down's Syndrome and Lena some type of neurological disorder, probably cerebral palsy, which caused her to shake and her speech was mostly unintelligible. Tommy obsessed over baseball cards, which he had hundreds of, but couldn't survive in any social situation without having a meltdown, and Patrice, even today she'd be an enigma, a mixture of problems, both social, emotional and academic. I fit right in. I sat at the table for three meals a day, existed in a house and said absolutely nothing.
"In the beginning, the Katons played referee, fielding the others away from me, but eventually they stopped and stepped back. Tommy would spend hours with me talking about baseball cards, probably because I was the only one in the house who wouldn't try to make him change the subject. Even now, I could give you stats on any 1974 New York baseball team."
"No kidding, wow," Jack said, the words popping out of this mouth before he had a chance to stop them. "Sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt."
Nonplussed, Daniel continued. "It's okay, I guess I picked it up by osmosis.
"Ben and I would play Trouble at least two times a day. He cheated, I didn't care, he always won and was happy.
"I let Lena talk, even if she stuttered and stumbled, I never rushed her words, or her story. I had all the time in the world to listen."
"What about Patrice?" Carter asked softly, prodding Daniel, curiosity getting the better of her when Daniel paused for an inordinate amount of time.
Daniel skipped over Carter's question, and honestly no one, Teal'c included, had the balls to point that out to him. "Eventually we fell into a routine, all of us, accepting each other's limitations, annoying qualities, and quirky habits."
"Sorta like us," Jack blurted out proudly, waving away his comment under the scathing looks of Carter and Teal'c, but at least he got Daniel to laugh, actually more of a chuckle, but a sound of relaxation all the same.
"Now that you mention it—" Daniel smiled.
"Daniel Jackson, you spoke not a word? Did you not read or write?"
"In secret, under the darkness of cover, I wrote down all the stories my parents had told me. In the daytime, I was constantly drawing and Mrs. Katon would hang my pictures on the walls in my room and when Tommy obsessed about baseball and Lena told stories, I would sketch—only Ben, in our daily games, had my undivided attention."
"And Patrice?" Jack couldn't hold his impatience back any longer. "What of the kid, Patrice."
"She was my tormentor, the thorn in my side, my best friend." For the first time, Daniel held Jack's gaze and gave a true smile. "Sorta like you, Jack."
"She didn't believe you, did she?" Jack opened the fridge and removed a bottle of water for Daniel and beer for him and Carter. Teal'c waved away any offer of refreshment.
"Not for a second," Daniel admitted before gulping down half the bottle of water. "In the beginning she would jump out, sneak into my room at night try to scare me, force my hand in uttering a sound, stamp on my foot—"
"She did all those things…"
"And more, Teal'c, believe me."
"And yet you considered her a friend? Why?"
"She cared. It's hard to convey, because talking about her now and telling you all these things, it sounds like she didn't, but she did. And when she talked, and boy could she talk, I truly listened, and drew pictures of the stories she spoke about, the families she'd lived with before the Katons. Those pictures we ripped up, together, I guess it was her way of putting the past behind her. And I decided, and I think after a while, Patrice did also, if I had to ensure my safety away from the horrors of the other foster families out there, especially the ones that took in children with special needs, I should keep my mouth shut, maybe it wasn't the best environment for me to live in, but I was safe. And when you're eight, and you can't go home again, safety and people who care about you, even if they are different, was enough for me."
Daniel blinked a few times and rolled his eyes heavenward, and then finished the bottle of water, fumbling with the plastic container until he settled for palming it between his hands.
"What happened?" Jack was close enough to Daniel to reach out to touch him, but still he held back.
"To me? To Patrice? To the Katons. The rest of the family?" Daniel shrugged. "Eventually I moved on."
Jack felt cheated. Like the last page of the best selling murder mystery had been ripped out or a blackout occurring during the last five minutes of the most talked about movie of the century. "Daniel?"
"You spoke, did you not?" Teal'c inquired. Bless the man for coming right to the point.
"Patrice had a problem with boundaries, which would get her in trouble not only with the Katons, but with the world at large. She spoke her mind, said her peace, and I was a little bit in awe of her." Jack, Carter and Daniel jumped when a passing car backfired, Teal'c just looked annoyed at the interruption and scowled. "There was a problem one day, at the park—a day she and I took off without permission and Patrice spoke up to the wrong group of people who commented about her living in the retard house. Things got out of hand, I tried to help, but someone pushed her and she hit her head on a pipe of the swing set. They ran and I was left with an unconscious Patrice, blood and a deserted playground. So I ran the half block to the house and told Mrs. Katon what had happened and where Patrice was. God knows what the poor woman thought as I rambled in a croaky voice, but she followed me without question.
"Patrice had to stay overnight in the hospital because of a concussion and it wasn't until everyone else was bedded down and Mrs. Katon came into my room, sat on my bed and pulled me into her arms did I cry, because I knew my time in the house was drawing to a close. She confessed that she had found my stories months ago, but hadn't wanted me to leave, she mentioned how selfish she felt wanting to keep me with the family, where she could watch over me. I promised her I wouldn't speak again, no one need know, but she protested, telling me that would be unfair for someone who drew and wrote like I did. I told her I wanted to be retarded if it meant I could stay her and not have to go live with people that hated her and Mr. Katon for their kindness, or hated Ben, Tommy, Lena and Patrice and me just because we were different. Maybe different was better."
Daniel's eyes were red, but Jack knew he would adamantly refuse himself the luxury of crying. Only in his friend's memories would tears be allowed as he sat in his tiny bedroom, in the arms of a woman who loved him enough to know he needed to move on.
"Mrs. Katon told me never to stay silent against injustices toward those that are different. There would always be people who needed those with visions in their mind, and understanding in their heart to speak for them."
"She's a smart woman," Jack said softly. "I'm glad you took her advice."
"You say that now," Daniel quipped, his voice barely above a whisper. "I'll remind you of this story when you're yelling at me offworld."
"There will be no need, DanielJackson. I, for one, will gladly make sure O'Neill remembers Mrs. Katon's words."
Carter stood and stretched, shaking her legs out. "Did you leave the next day?"
"Two weeks later another placement came through and they had to pry me off Patrice, who kept apologizing that it was her fault that I was leaving. Tommy gave me two of his 1974 baseball cards," Daniel smiled. "Yeah, Jack, I do still happen to have them—Rusty Staub and, ummm, Ed Kranepool. While Ben gave me his game of Trouble and thanked me for letting him cheat and Lena took the drawings off my wall and put them in a scrapbook. I didn't want to go."
"If you were happy, why did they make you go?"
"The system decided it was detrimental for me, now that I was cured, to stay in a house filled with—"
"People who loved you?" Sam whispered, reaching out and rubbing his arm.
Daniel inclined his head in her direction, patting her arm. "The system didn't word it quite that way."
"What happened after that?"
Daniel shrugged. "I survived, grew up, went to school, became a genius, opened the 'gate, you know, the usual."
Jack got the message, loud and clear, Daniel was done, finished, ready to move on to fresh coffee and dessert. Teal'c, on the other hand, had other ideas.
"What happened to the Katons?"
Daniel slipped out from under Sam's grasp and began the steps of making a fresh pot of coffee. "The Katons are still alive, living in the same house, still being foster parents to children with disabilities. Ben's still with them, Tommy runs a site on the internet that deals with baseball paraphernalia." Daniel poured the water into the coffee maker, hit the switch, turned around and dried his hands on his pants. "Lena is married with a child and Patrice died the year I was on Abydos of a drug overdose. I knew she had been unhappy the last time we talked, she never was able to find her place in the world."
Jack disappeared and returned with a tumble of amber liquid which he shoved into Daniel's hands, and guided them upwards. "Drink," he ordered. "You need it."
Daniel's one drink in the kitchen had led to a couple more, followed by coffee and a movie, and now he was sprawled bonelessly on the couch, humming quietly to himself. Carter was curled up on the recliner, and no matter how much Jack had cajoled his 2IC with visions of the nice, freshly made bed in the spare room, she had refused to go, and was now muttering in her sleep. Teal'c was sitting on the floor by the fireplace, the candles Jack had purchased flickering in the dimness of the living room.
"Daniel," he whispered, plopping down on the loveseat opposite his friend, "are you sleeping?"
"No, just thinking."
"Whatcha thinking about, Jack?"
Jack smiled at the hint of drunken drawl in Daniel's voice. "Do you think Coach Dennis could use a goalie and some new players next Saturday?"
"Yeah, the coach and the kids would love it. And you know something, so would I. Thank you," he giggled, and then hiccupped.
With a shake of his head, Jack rose slowly, and walked to the kitchen, deciding maybe a glass of water and two aspirins would ward off Daniel's inevitable hangover in the morning. As he filled the glass, Jack began to think back to exactly when he had lost control of his well choreographed, team bonding night. But then maybe this was normal for SG1, 'expect the unexpected' should be their team motto. Maybe he could get tee shirts with that saying printed on them, or better yet, he wondered if he could convince the General to let the SGC sponsor a soccer team.