Many Thanks...

A long time ago, well before this novel was even a novel, I had shown this to a friend, who emailed me back that I should really write this with bold exclamation marks. After three outlines, months of long nights of writing, this little idea- which at first was intended as a short fiction piece—became this novel-length monster October 2000.

Many thanks to Cathy, Joyce, Paula, Becky and Dee for their wisdom and support. I have the Stargate fandom to thank for letting us meet in cyber world and become friends. A big wave to the gang at who were left holding fort as I had my (ahem) drama.

Note…

This was originally a print zine and is still available in print and in CD format. To be fair to those who paid and supported thus zine the past 7 years, this post will be the abridged edition with some changes. (Mind you, it's still over 50 chapters. Eep.)

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PROLOGUE

He thought this was the worst idea he'd ever had.

Sitting on the thickest branch of the tree, the young teen surveyed the ground below. Other kids were running around the park, laughing, screaming, and playing with each other, enjoying the warm summer day while he sat on the big oak, backpack smelling like the bologna sandwiches he'd packed, jeans all grubby and sweaty, and him feeling very alone.

Not my fault, he thought to himself, wondering if he should eat a sandwich now or wait. He didn't know how far Canada was. He might need the sandwiches later.

How could he believe that Bucking kid and not me? I'm his son! Not that snot nosed, pimpled freak!

He swung his legs listlessly, not at all perturbed by the height. Watching the children laughing below, the youth scowled and turned his head deliberately away to eye the sky, already turning to dusk in lieu of the setting sun. As he swung his lanky legs like a pendulum, one of his loosely tied sneakers slipped off his left foot. The youth groaned when he watched half of his favorite pair tumble away from him—

Landing on a small boy's head. The little guy yelped, short hands going up to his head, long locks of blond hair tangled with chubby fingers as they sought to find the culprit.

"Oh man!" the young teenager groaned. He scrambled down from the tree with ease, dropping down in front of the boy who barely reached his chest.

He hopped on one foot, trying to put the lost sneaker back on. Then he eyed the knapsack still dangling on the tree above them, and he steered himself and the kid away.

"Are you okay?" he demanded when they stood clear of its path.

The boy just blinked big blue eyes at him.

"Oh great, I must have hit your brain or something!" he moaned. As if he wasn't in enough trouble already.

Lower lip trembling, the little kid sniffled.

"Don't do that!" he pleaded, looking around frantically for some mother stalking their way. "Come on! That didn't hurt at all!" When he saw that didn't work, the boy still sniffling louder and wiping his red nose with his arm, he sighed. "Where's your mom? I'll take you back to her, ok?"

"D-dead," the tyke sniffled loudly.

"Huh?"

"Dead…both." The boy rubbed his eyes with his sleeve.

"So how'd you get here?" If the kid's parents were dead, then how did he get to the park? Maybe he hadn't heard him correctly. The child sounded like he was a bit congested as if his nose was stuffed up, and he was going to bawl right there on the spot.

"Lily," the child replied.

"Who's Lily?" he repeated, getting more and more lost in the conversation by the second.

The boy sighed as if it was a dumb question. "My frosty parents."

"What?" He scowled, wondering if he was just playing. "What? I thought you said they were dead!"

The kid's lower lip trembled again. "They are…now I'm with frosty parents."

"Frosty?" He smacked his forehead. "You mean foster parents!"

"Uh huh." The boy gazed at him, exasperated. "That's what I said."

"So where're your…ah…foster parents now?" He hunched down to get a better look, realizing now that the child couldn't be more than six or seven. He was at least eight years older than this boy was, and somehow it made him feel very important.

The little guy wordlessly pointed to the road a few meters away that cut into the park before leading to the state highway. "Lily."

The teen frowned, glancing over to the stretch of road that cut across the park, but he didn't see anyone. "Lily is over there?"

"Was," the boy corrected him.

"Oh shit!" the teen blurted before he could stop himself. "You mean she abandoned you? For real?" He'd heard about this in the news, heard his parents talk about a child they'd read in the papers, but he'd never seen a real abandoned kid before. Stuff like that only happened on television, and his parents would cluck, shake their heads sadly and muse out loud about what the world was coming to. He now looked at the child with a bit of awe.

"Good for nothing."

"What?" Gawking at his companion, he noticed the bruises peeking through the neckline of the too large shirt. It draped down to his ankles, looking like the muumuus he saw some of the older teens wear while carrying those peace signs.

"Lily said good for nothing." The boy looked sad.

For some reason, it made him very mad. Even his dad didn't say that to him. Sure the old man yelled a lot but he never used those spiteful words. The teen wondered how any grownup could think of saying such things.

Especially to a scruffy baby like him, he thought, eyeing the bare feet, the small hands that clutched the shirt's edge, and the bag of books on the ground.

"Good for nothing," the boy repeated.

"Don't say that!" the teen snapped.

Ducking his head, the boy kept quiet.

Seeing this, he sighed and ran a hand through his hair as he'd often seen his dad do. Now he knew why. "Sorry." He paused. "Say…I don't even know your name. Mine's Jack. Well, actually…it's Jonathan. Jonathan O'Neill. But you could call me Jack. "

"Daniel Jackson," the kid said solemnly, sticking out a dirty hand.

Jack took the hand and shook it. Strangely enough, he didn't feel funny shaking the smaller hand. "Nice to meet you, Daniel Jackson. Can I call you Danny?"

Daniel made a sad face. "Daddy called me that. Only him."

"Oh…sorry." Jack paused. "Okay, how about Dan?"

"Why not Daniel?" He wanted to know.

"Because it sounds so…so…boring!" Jack protested.

"I like the name Jon...athan. Or John," the boy said it carefully, pronouncing it right the first time.

Jack grinned. "Hey, you said it pretty good."

"Like words…sounds nice…even the not English ones." Daniel looked up shyly with a small smile.

Jack shrugged. "Wouldn't know. Words are okay. I like baseball more." He scowled. "But I don't like that name Jonathan. My dad only says it when he's mad. Call me Jack instead."

"Does your daddy say Jonathan a lot?" Daniel asked softly, his huge blue eyes wide with concern.

Jack tilted his head and thought about it for a second. "Nope…now that I think about it. Not really." He eyed his companion before bending forward and resting his hands on his knees. "Say…do you want to go home with me, Dan?"

The youngster looked at him silently; hands that had been twisting the shirt hem stilled. "Home?" Dan repeated the word as if it was a new word.

"Yeah." Jack grinned. "You might even save my as…I mean, butt. Can't raise all heck at me with you there."

"You in trouble?" Daniel guessed.

Jack groaned. "Man! I am in so much trouble! And it's all Larry Bucking's fault!"

"Is your daddy going to call you Jonathan?" Dan asked worriedly.

"Not if you come home with me." Jack paused. "Or do you want to wait for Lily?"

The troubled gaze went to the road, then back to Jack. Huge blue eyes blinked at the young teenager. "Lily hits me."

"Yeah." Jack guessed that was what the bruises were.

"I'll go with you," Daniel decided with a small nod. He bent over and grabbed his bag of books.

"Cool!" Jack grinned. Well, his behind was probably saved. One look at him and his parents would probably be distracted by the sad puppy appearance of the kid.

Jack grinned wider. "Yours?" He nodded towards the bag.

"Daddy's." Daniel sounded sad. "Lily sold some to a big man I don't know. All left here." His short fingers curled around the bag anxiously, and Dan looked at him apprehensively as if worried Jack might do the same.

Jack frowned. "Come on, Dan. I'll have you meet my mom. She wouldn't sell your daddy's books to anyone." He tugged at the bag until Daniel finally relented. The teenager took the bag the boy held on to so protectively before. It was really heavy, and Jack wondered how this reed of a child was able to carry it all the way from the road Lily had left him by. He gave once last glance at the knapsack still hanging on the tree and shrugged. There was nothing important in there anyway. "Just this way. I don't live too far from here."

Daniel nodded, stuck his hands in his shorts' pockets, and dutifully followed Jack, feet stepping on the trampled grass the older kid stomped over.

The teen paused, looking down at the hunched posture.

"You shouldn't do that," Jack warned, not knowing why it bothered him. "You look like a wimp. People will bully you if you look like that."

"Wimp?"

"Ah…a person who's weak…always scared," Jack tried to explain.

Daniel blinked. "But I am scared."

Taken aback, Jack didn't know how to respond. He'd never met anyone willing to admit being scared. Saying that usually got your back up against the yard's fence and your money in school bully George Stum's greedy pockets.

Clearing his throat, Jack extended a hand. "Don't be. Just hold my hand…um…nothing to be scared of. I'm here." He wiggled his fingers in front of the child, offering his open palm.

Daniel stared at the offered hand for a moment, pulled out one of his own, and shyly placed it on Jack's larger palm.

Feeling very weird all of a sudden, Jack couldn't figure out why his mind was telling him to hold on very tight. He shrugged, pretending it was no big deal and guided Daniel out of the park towards the road leading to his house.