Autumn of '73
Categories: Angst, Hurt/Comfort, Drama
Content Warning: Mild Profanity
Spoilers: Crystal Skull
Author's Notes: There have been quite a few fics written about some of the members of SG-1 meeting as children. This is my take on an alternate universe in which Daniel and Sam meet as children shortly after the death of Daniel's parents. In this universe, they are the same age.
The school bell rang for the lunch break, and eight-year-old Samantha Carter closed her book. She filed out of the classroom with the other kids. Going to her locker, she got her lunch box and headed for the door to go outside. Though the weather was a bit nippy, it was clear and sunny, and she didn't feel like eating in the cafeteria.
Outside, Sam looked about at the other kids who'd decided to eat outside at the picnic tables on the school grounds, next to the playground. None of them were kids she knew very well. She really didn't know anyone here very well. Her family had just moved here a month ago.
Sam sat by herself at a table. As she ate, she thought about the friends she'd left behind, friends she'd had six months to get close to only to have to say goodbye. It was not the first time. This was the third school she had attended.
Sam hated the moving, hated saying goodbye to friends, hated having to start all over in a new town, a new school. At times, she hated the Air Force. Sometimes, she even hated her dad since it was because of him and his job that they had to move so often. Why couldn't the Air Force let him stay in one place?
She was especially angry at her father now. They had barely moved into their new place when he went off out of town again, maybe even out of the country, for all she knew. He never told her where he was going or why.
Sam wished that she had friends to talk to, but, so far, she hadn't found anyone at this school that she really liked. She was considered a geek by a lot of the kids because she was smart and liked math and science a lot. There were a couple of girls in her class that were okay, kind of nice, but they weren't really friends, not yet.
Sam had just finished her lunch when she noticed a boy sitting all by himself under the big tree near the edge of the eating area. He appeared to be about her age, but he wasn't in her class. He could be in the other third grade class, the one taught by Mrs. Esterbrook, or maybe he was only in the second grade. Sam couldn't recall ever seeing him before, and it wasn't a very big school. She wondered if he was new.
Curious, Sam watched him. He sat with his knees up close to his chest as he slowly ate his lunch. He never looked at anyone, didn't respond to the sounds of kids laughing and playing. It was kind of weird, and Sam wondered if there was something wrong with him.
Just then, trouble came in the form of Bud Whitman, the school bully. He and two of the kids who always hung around him walked up to the boy.
"Hey, what's up with you, new kid?" Bud asked. When the boy did not reply, didn't even act like he'd heard, a sneer formed on Bud's face. "What's the matter? Can't you hear? Or maybe you're a retard. Is that it? You a retard?" He laughed. "Yeah, that's what you are. Hey, retard! I'm talking to you." He bent over and shoved the boy's shoulder, but still got no reaction. That apparently angered him. "How would you like me to smash your face in, retard? Then maybe you'd say something. Go cryin' home to Mama."
That did get a reaction. The boy ducked his head, hunching his shoulders.
The insults and jeers continued, some from Bud, others from his two cronies. Sam finally decided she'd had enough and marched over there.
"Hey! Why don't you just leave him alone!" she shouted.
Bud and his friends turned to glare at her.
"Hey, it's the geek Army brat," Bud said.
Sam lifted her chin proudly. "Air Force."
"My dad's in the Air Force, not the Army."
"Army, Air Force. What's the difference?"
"Well, if you read a book once in a while, maybe you'd know," Sam replied, knowing that she probably shouldn't have.
Bud's face reddened. "You calling me dumb?"
Sam didn't reply, which made Bud even angrier. He took a threatening step toward her. Sam held her ground.
"Maybe you're the one whose face I should smash," he said.
"I'd like to see you try it," Sam responded. "My dad knows about a hundred ways to kill somebody with his bare hands."
It was a bluff, but it made Bud pause. After a few seconds, the sneer returned.
"Ah, you're not worth the trouble, geek." He turned back to the boy sitting on the ground, who hadn't moved from his position. "I'll be seeing you later, retard."
Bud and his pals sauntered off. Breathing a sigh of relief, Sam looked at the boy the bully had chosen as his newest target. Hesitantly, she approached him.
"Um . . . are you okay?"
There was a moment's hesitation, then the boy's head nodded very slightly, his eyes still cast downward.
Sam didn't know what it was, but there was something about this boy that was preventing her from just walking away. Instead, she sat beside him.
"My name's Sam, short for Samantha. I haven't seen you here before. Are you new?"
That got her another nod, a little stronger.
"I hope Bud didn't scare you."
This time, the boy shook his head, a silent no.
"So . . . what's your name?"
She got no reply to her question. She waited several seconds and was just about to get up and leave when the boy began scratching something in the dirt with his fingertip. Sam leaned over and saw that he was writing letters. First a 'D', then an 'A', followed by 'N'. The name 'Daniel' was soon completed.
"Daniel. Um, why don't you talk? Can't you say anything?"
The boy's head ducked down even further. Sam decided that the kid was just plain weird, and she really shouldn't waste her time on him. But she knew what it was like starting at a new school, how lonely it could be.
At that moment, the bell rang. Sam got up, as did Daniel, whose gaze never lifted.
"Well, uh . . . I'll see you later," Sam said, then headed off back to class.
Once she was busy with her schoolwork, Sam forgot all about the strange new kid. As she headed to her school bus, she saw him get into a car with a dark-haired woman, three little children in the back seat. He was clutching his backpack to his chest, his head in its perennial bowed position.
Not giving him any more thought, Sam got on the bus.
Her bus ride came to an end as it pulled up before the gate of the Griffiss Air Force Base. Getting off the bus, Sam made her way through the base housing and to the place that was where her family now lived. She stomped up the steps and went inside, shutting the door rather hard.
"What's that thunder I hear?" asked a male voice. The owner of the voice appeared from the kitchen. Captain Jacob Carter smiled upon seeing his daughter.
Sam dropped her backpack and ran to her father, who picked her up into his arms and twirled her about.
"Holy Hannah, Sammie," he said with a warm smile as he set her on her feet. "You're getting too heavy for me to keep doing that." He held her at arms' length. "So, let me look at you." He studied her with a critical eye. "Hmm. Yep, hair's still blond, eyes still blue," he tweaked her nose, "nose still cute."
Sam frowned in objection. "Dad."
"Just checking to make sure you're not an impostor. Can't be too careful, you know. You could be an enemy spy after all my secrets."
Jacob smiled down at her, running a hand through her hair. "So, how have you been doing, kiddo?"
"Okay. I don't like this school very much."
Jacob held up a finger. "Ah."
Sam sighed. "I know. Don't whine."
Jacob led her over to the couch, and they sat down. He knew that the transfers were hard on his children. It was tough for them to leave all their friends behind. His elder child, Mark, had been acting out lately because of it. Mark was presently sick with a cold and had been in no mood to spend time with his father today.
"Have you made any friends yet?" he asked his daughter.
"Not really. There are a couple of girls who are kind of nice. I've had lunch with them a few times."
"Well, maybe you could invite them over sometime."
Sam stared at her lap. "Why bother? I'll just have to say goodbye to them in a few months."
Jacob gave a silent sigh. He laid his arm over his daughter's shoulders. "I know that these transfers are tough for you and Mark, Sammie. They're tough for your mom and I, too. But I'm hoping that things will get better. The day will come when we'll be able to settle in one place. Then there won't be any more moves." He chucked Sam under her chin. "So, smile and keep your chin up." He didn't get a smile, which he hadn't expected. He decided to change the subject. "How's the schoolwork coming?"
"Okay. It's boring. The math is too easy, and the science is lame, real kid's stuff."
Jacob's lips curled into a smile. It hadn't taken long for him and his wife to discover that their daughter was a lot smarter than the average kid. They'd considered bumping her up a grade or two, but thought that would be even harder on her since she would then be in a class with older children. Instead, Sam's mom was tutoring her a bit at home to supplement what she was learning in school.
Jacob chuckled. "My daughter, the genius."
"I met a new kid in school today. His name is Daniel. I think he's my age."
"Oh? Is he nice?"
Jacob frowned at her disapprovingly. "Samantha."
"Sorry. But he is weird, Daddy. He was sitting all by himself under the tree, not looking at anybody. And he doesn't talk at all. I asked him his name, and he wrote it in the dirt instead of telling me."
"Well, maybe he's just very shy."
"Bud Whitman called him a retard."
"Samantha Anne Carter, I don't ever want to hear you use that word," Jacob barked.
"I didn't call him that!" Sam cried. "Bud did."
"Even so, I don't want you speaking it."
Sam ducked her head. "I'm sorry."
Jacob's expression softened. He brushed her hair from her face. "If this Daniel isn't as smart as most kids, it's not his fault, and it would be wrong to be mean to him because of it."
"I know, Daddy. I wouldn't be mean to him."
"Good. I'm sure he could probably use a friend just as much as you want one. Just remember that."
The next day, during the lunch break, Sam decided to eat outside again. Right away, her eyes went to the tree and saw that Daniel was there again, in the same position. There was one difference this time, however. He was reading a book, which was propped up against his legs.
Recalling her father's words, Sam walked over to him, lunch box in hand.
The boy's head lifted, large, crystal clear blue eyes looking up at her.
"I'm Sam. Remember?"
"Can I have lunch with you?"
This time, the boy hesitated before nodding.
As Sam sat down, Daniel's gaze went back to his book.
"What are you reading?" Sam asked.
After a pause of a few seconds, Daniel slid the book over to her. It was on world history, and it was not a book for children. Surprised, Sam flipped through the pages, seeing a lot of words she hadn't learned yet.
"You're reading this?" she asked, not hiding the surprise in her voice.
Daniel nodded shyly.
Sam looked at him. "You're not just looking at the pictures?"
Daniel frowned and shook his head.
Sam gave him back the book. She stared at it, then at the boy. "How old are you?"
Daniel raised eight fingers, confirming that he was Sam's age.
"What grade are you in?"
There was another hesitation, then Daniel held up one finger.
"You're only in first grade?!" Sam blurted out, louder than she had intended. The result was that Daniel curled in tight around himself, his head ducking low.
Sam felt a little bad about saying that, but she was very curious now. "How come you're only in first grade when you can read books like that? I can't read all those words, and I'm in third grade."
Daniel shrugged infinitesimally.
Louise, one of the two girls that Sam was tentatively beginning to consider a friend, came walking up. She glanced at Daniel, then turned her full attention on Sam.
"Would you like to come eat with me and Sandra? We're sitting over there." She pointed at one of the tables.
"Oh, um. . . ." Sam looked at Daniel. She had asked if she could eat with him, but he still wasn't talking, so he wasn't very much fun. But she should at least ask him if it was okay if she left. "Is it okay if I go eat with them?"
Daniel gave her a very small nod, not looking at her.
As Sam got up, she was feeling kind of guilty. "Maybe we can have lunch together another day."
Daniel didn't respond. Sam hesitated, then left with Louise.
"Why are you hanging around with him?" the girl asked. "He's one of the dumb kids, and he never talks to anyone. I heard some kids say that he's not right in the head, that he won't even talk in class. The teacher just mostly ignores him."
Sam frowned at the statement and the mean words. "He's not dumb. He can't be."
"Because he was reading a book with a lot of bigger words. I couldn't even read some of them."
"He was probably just looking at the pictures."
"He said that he wasn't."
"Well, he must have been lying. He probably didn't want you to know how dumb he is."
Sam stopped walking. "Stop saying that. It isn't nice."
Louise also stopped, staring at her. "You like him."
"No. It's just not nice to keep calling him dumb."
Louise shrugged. "Whatever. Are you going to come eat with us or not?"
Sam was tempted to say no, but Louise and Sandra were the only girls she'd found in the school so far with whom she got along. They didn't think she was a geek.
Sam nodded and resumed walking, glancing back once at the lonely figure sitting under the tree.
After school, Sam glanced about on her way to the bus, looking for Daniel, but, this time, she didn't see him.
Her dad was in the driveway, working on the lawnmower, when she got home. Sam gave him a hug, but he didn't hug her back because his hands were greasy.
"So, how was school today?" he asked as he tinkered with the mower.
"All right. I found out that Daniel is my age and that he's only in the first grade."
Jacob nodded. "Ah."
"But he was reading a book that wasn't a kid's book."
Jacob looked up at her from his kneeling position. "Oh? What kind of book?"
"History. I couldn't even read all the words. I thought maybe he was just looking at the pictures, but he said he wasn't."
"Oh, so he talked?"
Sam shook her head. "No. Louise said that he doesn't even talk in class."
"Hmm. You know, there are some special people who are not as smart as others in most ways, but are extremely smart and talented in one particular way. That kind of person usually doesn't act normally. Perhaps that's what Daniel is."
Sam thought about that. "Maybe."
Jacob smiled. "If I'm not mistaken, your mom fixed a batch of chocolate chip cookies. Perhaps you should go investigate."
With a grin, Sam ran toward the house.
"And bring me a couple!" her father called after her.
The next day at lunch, Sam's eyes went immediately to the tree. She was surprised not to see Daniel there. She looked around, but didn't spot him. Maybe he was eating inside today, or maybe he didn't come to school.
Throughout her solitary lunch, Sam kept glancing about, hoping to see some sign of the strange, silent boy. She finished early and decided to go to the playground. She hadn't gotten very far when she thought she heard something. She turned toward the sound. There was a small alcove in the building's wall, in front of which sat a bench. Somebody was inside the alcove, almost completely hidden from view.
Sam went around the bench and saw that it was Daniel. She also saw that he was crying, silent tears flowing down his cheeks. Did that jerk Bud hurt him?
Feeling a little uncomfortable, Sam walked up to him. As soon as he realized she was there, he began wiping away the tears, his face turned away.
"Are you hurt?"
Daniel shook his head.
Sam crouched beside him. "How come you're crying?"
The boy didn't reply.
Sam noticed that his backpack was open and that one of the books inside was peeking out. The cover grabbed her attention, and she pulled it out. It was on ancient Egypt, and it was definitely another book that wasn't written for kids. It was worn, like it had been handled often. Sam looked inside and saw names of people that she couldn't even hope to pronounce.
She looked at Daniel, whose eyes were on the book, a hint of fear in them. Was he afraid that she'd damage it? She put it back in his pack.
"You really like history, don't you," she said.
Daniel nodded after a moment.
"And you can really read all that stuff?"
The boy nodded again.
"Can I look at the book again? I promise I'll be careful with it."
Daniel paused before nodding.
Sam took the book back out and glanced through it. She came to a page with a bunch of symbols. She remembered that they're called hieroglyphs.
"I bet you can't read that," she said, pointing at the hieroglyphs.
A tiny spark of defiance lit within Daniel's eyes. He nodded firmly.
"You can? What does it say?"
Daniel pulled a pencil and paper from his pack and began writing. He gave her the sheet of paper a few minutes later. On it was the translation, along with hastily drawn copies of the hieroglyphs. He had not referenced the book even once.
Surprised, Sam stared at the paper, then at Daniel. "Wow, you really can read them, can't you. And you can write them, too."
"Who taught you?"
The bit of light in Daniel's eyes died a quick death. His head dropped. His arms wrapped around his waist in a self-hug.
Sam was going to ask what was wrong, but the bell rang. She got to her feet, but Daniel didn't move.
"It's time to go back to class," she said. "You don't want to be late." When Daniel still didn't move, Sam shrugged. "Well, I'll see you later." She then walked away, even more puzzled by the boy with no voice.
It was over dinner that Sam mentioned Daniel again.
"I think you're right about Daniel, Daddy," she said.
Jacob looked up from his plate. "Right about what?"
"That he's really smart in one way."
"Who's Daniel?" Sam's mother, Laura, asked.
"He's a new kid in school," Sam replied. "He's the same age as me. He never talks, and he's only in the first grade, but he can read adult books."
Laura's eyebrows skyrocketed. "He reads adult books?" Her voice was a bit higher pitched than normal.
Jacob tried very hard not to laugh. "She means ones that aren't written for children."
"Oh. I see."
"Today, he had a book on ancient Egypt," Sam said, "and I found out that he can read and write hieroglyphs. You know, the language that the ancient Egyptians wrote in."
"Really?" Jacob responded. "That's pretty impressive."
"I asked him who taught him, but he wouldn't tell me. He was crying when I first saw him. I think he was hiding, too."
Jacob frowned upon hearing that. He shared a look with his wife.
"Was he hurt, honey?" Laura asked.
"I don't think so. I asked if he was, and he shook his head."
"Sam, have you ever seen Daniel's parents?" Jacob questioned.
"I saw a lady that I think is his mom. She picked him up from school day before yesterday."
Jacob and Laura exchanged another glance, then Laura told Sam to finish her dinner.
That night, after the kids were in bed, Jacob came into the living room and sat beside his wife, a troubled look on his face. Laura studied him for a moment.
"You're thinking about that boy at school," she guessed.
"I'm just starting to wonder about him. I thought that he might have some kind of mental disability, but, now, I'm not so sure that's what the problem is."
"You think that he might be abused?"
"From what little Sam has told me, it sounds like he's severely withdrawn. He never speaks, not even in class. I don't know a lot about abused children, but I can imagine that frequent abuse or molestation could cause a child to withdraw emotionally and stunt their mental development."
"But, according to what Sam said, he must actually be quite smart. How many eight-year-olds can read and write Egyptian hieroglyphs?"
"Not many, I'd say. So, he may not be mentally disabled at all, just severely damaged emotionally."
Laura shook her head. "I hope you're wrong about this. The thought of a child being abused so badly. . . ."
Jacob put his arm around her. "I know. I'm not going to jump to conclusions about this. We'll just have to see what else we learn about him."