Rating: NC17 in parts, just not this part. This part is definitely G.
Category: Slash, kidfic
Summary: Caiden's starting school and Jack's not sure he can do it all alone.
Raising Caiden Story 1 is here
Jack O’Neill looked anxiously at his watch and drummed his fingers nervously on the tabletop. Finally, unable to bear the waiting any longer, he stood up and walked to Caiden’s bedroom door and knocked. “You ready yet?” he called. “We’re going to be late if you don’t hurry up.”
Caiden’s tousled head poked around the half-open door. “Don’t peek, Papa. It’s s’posed to be a surprise.”
“Yeah, I bet,” Jack muttered but he reached out a hand to tousle his son’s hair then walked back to take up his seat at the kitchen table again. “Abby wants to see you before you leave, remember, and the bus is going to be here in twenty minutes so get a move on.”
Jack heard the sound of scuffling footsteps and looked around. “Wow,” he managed to get out around the sudden lump in his throat, “look at you.”
Caiden grinned from ear to ear, dimples appearing in one cheek, and Jack’s eyes burned with unshed tears at how much he looked like Daniel.
“Did I do it right?” Caiden asked, uncertainty creeping into his voice.
“Perfect,” Jack said huskily. He stood up and picked the child up, swinging him through the air to sit atop one shoulder. “Let’s go see Abby so you can show her how grown up you look.” He scooped up the camera from the bookcase as he passed. No way was he letting this go by without recording it for posterity… and for Daniel if- ‘No!’ Jack told himself firmly. ‘When he comes back.’
Caiden laughed as Jack ran down the driveway then deposited him on the path outside Steve and Jesse’s gate.
Jack leaned forward, hands on his knees, pretending to huff and puff. “What have you been eating?” he asked, poking Caiden’s round belly gently. “Bricks?”
“Nope, just cereal,” Caiden said as he pushed open the gate. “I’ve still got muscles, see?” He held up one plump arm and proudly poked at his bicep with one finger. “Just like you and Daddy.”
“Well, like Daddy, anyway,” Jack murmured. He looked up and waved as he heard an excited squeal from the porch of the house. “Hey, Abby,” he called. “Caiden came to you see before he went to school.”
Steve Sloan followed his daughter out onto the porch with his partner, Jesse Travis, trailing behind them. Jack could see a brightly wrapped parcel in Jesse’s hands, which he quickly hid behind his back as Caiden ran up the path towards them.
“Whoa, look at you!” Steve said, crouching down to take one of Caiden’s hands in one of his own big ones and giving it a hearty shake. “You sure look all grown up.”
“I’m five now!” Caiden crowed, holding up four fingers. Jack gently uncurled the fifth one with a rueful grin at Steve.
Abby was bobbing up and down on her tiptoes, trying to pull Caiden in for a hug but he was having none of it till Jack gave him a push forward. “Give Abby a hug,” he said firmly.
“Okay.” A little reluctantly Caiden let himself be embraced by his small friend then looked over at Jesse. “Whatchya got?” he asked, a speculative look that Jack recognized only too well creeping into his bright blue eyes.
“Nothing,” Jesse replied blankly, shrugging his shoulders.
“Behind your back, Daddy!” Abby squealed. “It’s pencils and a pencil bag, Caiden. I picked it for you!”
Jesse grinned then shrugged again, pulling the parcel out from behind his back. “It was supposed to be a secret, Abs,” he said.
“Say thank you,” Jack urged.
“Thank you,” Caiden parroted obediently as he pulled the wrapping off the gift. “Look, Papa, it’s got pyramids. Just like in Daddy’s books.”
“Yeah, I can see that. That’s really nice of you guys,” Jack said softly. “Well, let’s get everyone together for some photos before the bus comes, okay.”
It was only once the photos were taken that Caiden sidled up to Jack and, taking his hand, pulled him down. “When’s my daddy coming home?” he whispered forlornly. “I want to show him my school things.”
“Damn,” Jack heard Jesse murmur. ‘I should have realized…”
“It’s fine,” Jack said, straightening up and giving Jesse a conciliatory smile. “Like I told Caiden last night when he asked, Daniel will be home soon, just as soon as he’s able to.”
“So is there any more news?” Steve asked, watching as Caiden and Abby settled down on the porch steps to examine the contents of Caiden’s schoolbag.
“Not yet. I’m heading into the Mountain as soon as Caiden goes to school,” Jack replied. Steve and Jesse had no real idea of what he and Daniel did or of what their work at Cheyenne Mountain entailed. Jack had told them Daniel had gone missing while on an archeological dig, which was pretty much the truth. The only lie was that they thought he was missing somewhere on Earth, while in reality he was lost, thousands of light years away on another planet.
A horn tooted and Jack looked around to see the yellow school bus pulled up to the curb across the road. “Let’s go, buddy,” he called, smiling as Caiden jumped up from the step and took off down the path at a run. “Hey, say goodbye,” Jack called after him. “Gotta go,” he said as he followed his son.
“Bye!” Caiden yelled over his shoulder. “I gotta go to school now.”
Jack could hear Steve’s and Jesse’s laughter and Abby’s shrill goodbyes follow him all the way to the gate.
Jack saw Caiden safely onto the bus, checking first to make sure he had everything he needed in his bag, despite the fact Jack had packed it for him at 6 o’clock this morning. The bus driver waited patiently, obviously used to parents’ first day panics then grinned cheerfully as Jack stepped down from the steps and waved to Caiden, who’d taken up a seat by the window. “Be good,” he called warningly. He watched till the bus started up then turned and sprinted for his car. Caiden had insisted on catching the bus like all his friends were doing and Jack didn’t bother to tell him that while he’d agreed to that, he’d had every intention of following the bus to school and watching Caiden go inside. He knew he was being overprotective but after all, he’d just lost Daniel. He couldn’t bear the thought of anything, no matter how remotely unlikely, happening to his son too. He’d wanted to drive Caiden himself but they’d had two days of familiarization only last week and Caiden had settled into his classroom and interacted with his new friends like an old hand and his teacher had agreed he was more than capable of traveling to school on the bus. Finally after repeated cajoling from Caiden, Jack had agreed. It would make it easier for him to get to work on time if he didn’t have to take him to school first after all. He couldn’t help a rueful grin crossing his face as he imagined Daniel saying, “You can’t wrap him in bubble wrap, Jack. You have to let him go sometime.”
“I let you go,” Jack wanted to say back now, “and I lost you.”
He shrugged off his dark thoughts as he pulled up a few car spaces behind the bus and watched as a noisy gaggle of children, Caiden among them, erupted through the doors. He waited till Caiden disappeared inside the building then he did a U turn and headed for Cheyenne Mountain.
The place was bustlingly busy when Jack got off the elevator at his office floor. He’d grabbed a cup of freshly brewed coffee from the cafeteria on his way up and sipped at it gratefully as he made his way along the corridor. He was almost at his door when the klaxons went off and voice came over the loudspeaker. “Unscheduled off world activation!” Jack dumped his cup in the nearest trash can and headed back for the elevator at a run.
By the time he made it to the observation room, the alarm had been silenced and Walter, the gate tech, gave him a thumbs up and a relieved smile as he walked in. “It’s SG 7, sirs,” he said.
Jack turned to see General Hammond walking in behind him. “How long have they been gone?” Jack asked.
Hammond looked at the clock on the wall. “Only two hours,” he said worriedly. “They weren’t due back till tomorrow morning.”
Jack felt an unaccountable chill down his spine and he shivered as he leaned his hands on one of the empty chairs and watched intently as the gate thundered into operation, the blue event horizon whooshing out then settling back almost placidly into place. When it did, he watched anxiously as SG7 walked through, a fifth person stepping out hesitantly onto the ramp at their backs.
Jack froze, heart in his mouth then he took off down the stairs and into the gateroom.
“Daniel?” he whispered as he burst through the doors.
“Easy, sir, he’s a little skittish,” Colonel Richardson said as he turned and took Daniel gently by the arm then led him down the ramp.
Daniel looked at Jack, his eyes huge in a too-thin face. His skin was grimy and the robes he wore hung loosely on him.
“What’s this place?” he asked, his voice trembling.
“It’s the SGC,” Jack said softly, reaching out a hand to pull him closer.
Daniel flinched and moved back a step and Jack’s heart lurched. “What’s wrong with him?” he asked Richardson.
“He was being held as a slave in a village we were taken to today,” Richardson replied. “I bought him… once I realized who he was. He seems to be amnesic, sir. He hasn’t been treated very well.”
“Ya think?” Jack said harshly then gentled his tone when Daniel flinched again. “Hey, it’s okay. You’re safe here. You’re home. I’m…” he swallowed hard then went on, “I’m your friend – Jack. Let’s get you down to the infirmary and get you looked after.”
Daniel looked at Richardson who looked back at him blankly then said quickly, “Oh, right. He thinks I’m his master now. Um, you need to go with Jack now, Daniel.”
“Is he my master too?” Daniel asked nervously.
“Sure. Yep. Just do whatever he asks you to, okay?” Richardson said, shrugging helplessly at Jack.
Daniel nodded then turned back to Jack, submitting this time to Jack’s hand on his arm as he led him from the room.
“Well?” Jack stood up anxiously as Janet Fraiser entered her office, meeting her at the door. “How is he?” he asked.
The doctor stepped around him and walked across to her desk, sinking down in the chair there, a worried frown on her face. “He’s malnourished and he’s got bruises and old scars on his back, chest and legs. I’d say he’s been whipped at some time.” She sighed. “He doesn’t remember much of anything before his time as a slave except his name and I’m not sure if he actually remembers that or if they just told him that was his name and he’s accepted it.”
“Why doesn’t he remember?” Jack asked. “Does he have some sort of brain damage?” He asked the question hesitantly, heart aching at the thought of Daniel’s wonderful intellect being impaired.
“I’m not sure yet,” Janet replied. His skull X-rays and CT scans have come back clean but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t had a head injury in the past in the time he’s been missing. I’ve drawn blood but if he’s been given drugs they may not be identified as anything but unknown substances by our tests. I guess that’s the best case scenario actually.” At Jack’s enquiringly raised eyebrows she went on, “If he’s been drugged, hopefully it’s with something that will wear off now he’s no longer being given it. Either that, or even if we can’t recognize it we may be able to manufacture an antidote to it.”
“When will you know?” Jack asked, turning to watch where Daniel lay on a gurney in the infirmary.
“Twenty four hours at least,” Janet said. “I’m sorry I can’t do it any faster. There are too many unknown variables to filter out and look out for.”
“I know.” Jack turned back to her. “I know you’re doing the best you can. I’d just like to get him home as soon as possible. Caiden will want to see him.”
“I think that’ll need to wait for a while, Colonel. Daniel doesn’t know Caiden anymore and this Daniel is not the Daddy Caiden remembers. Give it some time. Let me see if we can reverse the amnesia or at least begin to treat it. Let us take care of him for a while. I promise I’ll let you know the minute I think you can bring Caiden in.”
“Can I see him?”
“Sure.” Janet patted his arm reassuringly. “Don’t press him too much. If he wants to talk, let him but don’t ask too many questions.”
Jack wanted to tell her that all he really wanted to do right now was sit next to Daniel and drink in the sight of him and tell him how much he’d missed him but he simply nodded and went back out to take up the seat next to Daniel’s bed.
Daniel turned his head and eyed him warily as he sat down but said nothing. The twisting of his fingers into the blanket covering him were a dead giveaway that he was nervous however, and without really thinking about it, Jack reached across and took Daniel’s nearest hand into his own. Daniel’s other fingers stilled and he tensed slightly but he made no move to pull away. They sat like that, neither saying a word till Daniel fell asleep a short time later.
Jack looked at his watch and cursed silently. He had an hour to get home to be there to meet Caiden when the school bus dropped him home. He thought momentarily of calling Jesse or Steve and asking if they could meet Caiden and take him to their house till Jack could get there later but he quieted the impulse. Caiden would be busting to tell him all about his first day of school and Jack didn’t need to remind himself how much his son needed routine, probably now more than ever. There were going to be a lot of changes in all their lives now Daniel was back.
Cautiously Jack leaned over and placed a soft fleeting kiss on Daniel’s forehead. Then he left.
“Guess what, Papa?”
Jack let out smothered oomph as a tow-haired, knee high tornado pelted down the driveway and into his outstretched arms. “Whoa there, chief,” he said with a grin, returning Caiden’s enthusiastic hug, “take it easy on your ole Pops, okay?”
“Sorry,” Caiden said quickly, “but guess what?”
“Hmm, let me think for a minute.” Jack stood up and scratched his head. “I give up,” he said. “Tell me.”
“I won a prize!” Caiden announced momentously.
“You did? Already? What for?”
“The teacher asked us to draw a picture of the house we’d like to live in and I drawed a pyramid and the teacher said it was very ‘pressive and she gave me the prize for the best one in the class.” Caiden inhaled a huge breath and looked up at Jack expectantly.
“Well, that certainly is impressive news,” Jack replied. “In fact it’s so impressive that I think it deserves two prizes. Like maybe pizza for dinner. What do you say?”
“Cool!” Caiden crowed.
Jack turned and led the way indoors, Caiden still chattering excitedly behind him. He had some impressive news of his own to impart and he’d been thinking long and hard on the drive home as to the best way to go about it. He’d wondered if he shouldn’t wait to tell the little boy that his daddy had been found but Caiden had missed Daniel so much that Jack couldn’t bear to let him go on thinking he was still gone for even a day longer.
“Sit up the table and I’ll get you some juice and fruit,” Jack said, taking Caiden’s backpack from him and setting it down just inside the kitchen door. He busied himself with cutting up an apple and pouring juice then sat down at the table himself and put the food and drink in front of Caiden.
“Papa’s got some pretty big news too,” he began.
Caiden’s big blue eyes got even wider. “What?” he asked. “Did you get me a dog?”
“Nope. Better.” Jack put a gentle hand over the little boy’s mouth as it opened again. “Let me tell you,” he suggested.
Caiden nodded and Jack removed his hand. “When I went to work today some people came and told us they’d found Daddy.” He waited but Caiden just nodded. “They brought Daddy back with them,” he said.
Caiden gasped and grinned at the same time then leapt from the chair, knocking his drink sideways to land with a crash on the floor. “Daddy!” he screamed joyously, racing out of the kitchen to go thundering up the stairs.
“Ah crap,” Jack murmured feelingly as he stood up to follow. “Nice job, O’Neill.”
Upstairs he found Caiden in the master bedroom on his hands and knees, peering under Jack and Daniel’s bed. “Caiden,” Jack said, then a little louder, “Caiden, come here.”
Caiden twisted around to look up at Jack. “You’re s’posed to say ‘getting warmer’ or getting colder’, Papa,” he remonstrated, climbing to his feet to run across to the walk-in closet and pull aside the sliding doors.
“He’s not here,” Jack said finally, heart sinking at the look of disappointment Caiden shot him.
“He’s just playing hidey go seek,” Caiden insisted, moving on to the en suite bathroom. “Daddy likes that game.”
Jack caught up with him and opened the shower door then picked Caiden up and held him still against his hip. “Listen. Daddy isn’t here at home. He’s in the hospital. Dr. Janet is looking after him. He’s not very well but he’s going to get better and when he does, we’ll go and bring him home. Okay?”
He waited for a nod of understanding.
Caiden nodded then asked. “Can I go and see him at the hopsital?”
“Not for a while. When he’s feeling better maybe.”
At that Caiden struggled to get down and Jack set him on his feet. “You wanna come watch The Simpsons with me till it’s time to order pizza?” he asked.
Caiden shook his head and walked towards the door. “I’m not hungry,” he said. “I’m going to go to bed. I had a long day.”
Jack brushed at his burning eyes then followed Caiden out to his room. “I’m sorry,” he said as he watched the boy climb onto his bed, gather his teddy into his arms and bury his face in its fur. “Look, chief, at least we know Daddy’s safe. That’s a good thing, right?”
“Yeah. Can I go to sleep now?”
“Sure. I’ll come check on you when the pizza gets here. See if you’re feeling hungry by then.”
Jack closed the door quietly behind him and went downstairs to call the SGC. He’d screwed this up, he knew. Now he could only hope that Daniel improved quickly so that Caiden could see for himself that he really was home.