Incidents Series Part 17: The Christmas Incident
by Maureen Thayer
Categories: Friendship, Drama
Content Warning: Mild Profanity
Spoilers: Singularity, Rite of Passage
Author's Note: This is the 17th fanfic in the Incidents Series. I would highly recommend that you read the previous parts before this one, if you have not already done so, in order to understand the plot.
This story switches between Janet's and Cassie's points of view.
As a woman who was once a teenage girl, I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised that this happened, but, as a mother, I really was not prepared for it.
Cassie was home for the holidays. I'd missed her dearly since she went off to UCLA, and it felt so good to have her back, even if it was only going to be for a short while.
On the way home from the airport, I'd performed the necessary task of telling her about Daniel's situation. I was unable to tell her before then because of the obvious security concerns of having such a conversation over the phone. But I couldn't put it off a moment longer since Daniel and his teammates would be coming to my house for Christmas dinner.
"So, let me get this straight," Cassie said. "Daniel got shrunk down to a four-year-old and has been gaining a year every four days since then? On top of that, he's developed some weird, freaky power over animals and can move things by thinking about it like I could when my DNA was all messed up by Nirrti?"
"That pretty much covers it."
"Wow. Just my luck. I go off to college, and things really get interesting around here. I missed all the fun of seeing Daniel as a little kid."
"Well, it hasn't been all fun and games, Cassie. In fact, some pretty serious things have happened, including Daniel getting kidnapped because of his abilities. And, just day before yesterday, he went on a rescue mission and seriously injured himself because he used his abilities too much."
Of course, Cassie wanted to know all about the kidnapping and the mission, which led to me filling her in on some of the other things that had happened as a direct result of Daniel's situation.
"So, was he a cute kid?" Cassie asked with a grin.
"Very. He was simply darling as a four-year-old. If I could, I'd have loved to take him home with me."
I noticed my daughter's grin getting even bigger, but she didn't say anything.
That evening, we had a nice time just chatting. Cassie talked a lot about school and her friends. I noticed that she didn't say anything about there being a particular boy that she liked. As her mother, I was naturally curious about that, but I didn't want to act like a nosy mom.
"So . . . I noticed that you didn't mention anything about a boyfriend."
"That's because there isn't one, at least not yet. Rick Weider asked me out a couple of weeks ago, but I'm really not into him. All he cares about is sports and cars. So boring! Not that he isn't cute. In fact, a lot of girls are gaga over him, but I think I'd prefer a guy who actually has some brains between his ears."
"Well, I'm very glad to hear that. Too many girls your age don't appreciate boys with intelligence. They're only interested in the packaging."
Cassie studied me closely. "What about you? Did you go for the packaging or did you like the brainy guys?"
I thought back to when I was her age. "Oh, a little of both, I think."
The next morning, Cassie and I got busy on preparing the Christmas dinner. I kept insisting that she should be relaxing and enjoying her holiday, but she insisted that she couldn't possibly just sit and do nothing while I slaved away in the kitchen. I appreciated the help, but, more than that, I enjoyed the time with her, talking as we made the dressing, stuffed the turkey and prepared some of the other dishes that would be completed later.
Sam arrived at one to give us a hand, and the three of us had a ball, gabbing away like women are often wont to do when they get together. Cassie plied Sam for information on what it was like to have one of her teammates turned into a child.
"It's been quite an experience," Sam said. "But it's also been pretty amazing. To watch Daniel grow from a young child, witness all the changes, not just physical but also mental and emotional, has been incredible. It's also made me feel good to know that we've given him a better childhood than he had the first time around."
Cassie frowned. "What do you mean?"
"You know that Daniel lost his parents when he was young, don't you?"
Cassie nodded. "Yeah. He grew up in foster care, right?"
"Yes. From what I know, Daniel never stayed in any home for more than a year. He didn't have a stable, happy family life, no one to truly love him and give him the attention he should have had. He's confided in me a little about what it was like for him. In all the homes he was put in, he never felt like he belonged. He felt alone, an outsider."
"That is so sad," Cassie said, and it was clear that she meant it. I suspected that she could identify with Daniel's feelings. After she was orphaned and I adopted her, it took Cassie a long time to accept Earth as her home and me as her mother. I know that she went through bouts of loneliness, and it wouldn't surprise me if she'd felt like she didn't belong, forced to live on a world and in a culture that was not her own.
Colonel O'Neill was the first of the men to arrive. Cassie pounced on him the second he walked in the door, almost making him drop the bottle and bag full of presents that he was carrying. He didn't seem to mind, though.
"Let me look at you," he said, pulling back from her after a long hug. He studied her with a critical eye. "Hmm. Doc, I think you may have a problem with Cassie here."
My daughter frowned severely. "What problem? What do you mean?"
"You're just too beautiful. You mom's going to have to hire a bodyguard to keep the hordes of frat boys away from you."
Cassie swatted his arm, though I could see that she was secretly pleased by the comment. "Oh, she is not. I don't even have one boyfriend, let alone hordes."
"You don't? What the heck's wrong with all the guys at that college of yours? Are they all blind or just stupid?"
That remark made Cassie blush a little, and she didn't answer.
After we'd put the gifts he'd brought under the tree, I went with the colonel into the kitchen. I noticed the label on the bottle as he put it in the refrigerator.
"Sparkling cider, sir?" I inquired with a little smile. On Christmases past, he'd brought wine.
"Hey, I wasn't going to take any chances. I barely escaped with my skin and my rank intact after getting Daniel drunk. I will feel much safer if there is no alcohol present here tonight. Our cars will definitely be safer."
Just then, the doorbell rang, and Sam went to answer it.
"Hey, guys. Come on in," she said.
Daniel and Teal'c entered. I noticed that Daniel was carrying a bottle that, to my amusement, looked like wine. Wondering what the colonel's reaction to that would be, I looked toward him, but my eyes were caught instead by Cassie, who was staring at Daniel. When I saw the expression on her face, two words came to my mind.
Oh. My. God.
Okay, Cassie. Get a grip. That's Daniel, remember? He's old enough to be your father. Well, he used to be. I mean, he still is sort of . . . in a way. He's . . . he's. . . . He is so cute!
Trying not to look like an idiot, I came forward, feeling really nervous about meeting someone I'd actually known since I was a kid.
"Daniel, this is Cassie," Sam said, introducing me.
He turned to me, and for the first time, I noticed how amazingly blue his eyes are. He was wearing attractive, wire-rimmed glasses that made him look intelligent in a sexy way. And then he smiled at me, and I felt my heart go flip-flop in my chest. How come I never noticed before how beautiful his smile is?
"Hi," he said a little shyly.
"Hi," I said back. "You look so . . . different. I-I mean, a lot younger."
"Oh, um . . . yeah. Jack said that you were going to be told about what happened to me."
I nodded. "Mom explained everything yesterday."
Jack took Daniel's and Teal'c's coats, and I couldn't stop myself from checking Daniel out. Sam had said that he was learning martial arts and other fighting skills from Teal'c and Jack and that he worked out with them in the gym. He also played basketball. Though he was slimmer now than he was as a guy in his thirties, I could really tell that he was athletic and worked out. Wow. A gorgeous face and a great body.
Daniel handed the bottle he was carrying to Mom, then he and the other guys all went into the living room. For the first time, I saw that Teal'c had a bag full of gifts. He and Daniel placed all the presents under the tree, and I heard Jack ask what they got him. Teal'c replied that Jack would find out in due time.
"You look a little shell-shocked."
I jumped at the sound of Sam's voice behind me. Blushing, I turned to her.
"I couldn't help but notice that you haven't taken your eyes off Daniel since he walked in the door."
I could feel my cheeks getting even hotter. "I-I just . . . I knew he was going to be younger. I just didn't think that he, um. . . ."
Sam was grinning now. "Would be such a hottie?"
I thought my face was going to catch on fire. "Sam!" I hissed in mortification.
She laughed. "Cassie, I may presently be a whole lot older than Daniel, but I'm not blind to how cute a boy he is. How cute a man he is, I should say. He turned twenty-three today. To be honest, I don't know why he didn't have tons of girlfriends when he was in college."
"No. Daniel gave the excuse that he wasn't very interested in that stuff back then, that he was focused mostly on his studies, but I still think all those girls must have been idiots."
"Does he have a girlfriend now?"
"No, that really wouldn't be possible, not with his rapid aging."
"Right. Of course." I tried to remind myself that, in just a few weeks, Daniel would be in his thirties again. He was way too old for me . . . would be way too old for me. But, God, he was so cute! And smart, too. He wasn't one of those dumb jocks who only made it into college because they were great at sports.
"Hey, ladies," Jack called to us. "Come and join the party."
Sam and I walked over to where everyone else was. I noticed that my mom was staring at me, and I avoided looking at her. Actually, no matter how hard I fought it, my eyes kept going back to Daniel. I listened to him talk, and I decided that he had a nice voice, gentle but not weak.
When the oven's timer went off, Mom turned to me. "Cassie, could you help me in the kitchen?" I could tell by the way she was looking at me that refusing would not be an option.
Dreading the little talk I knew I was about to be subjected to, I went with her.
As Cassie and I headed to the kitchen, I tried to figure out what I was going to say. There was no mistaking the look I'd seen on her face when she saw Daniel. When she was a high school senior, she got a big crush on a boy, and the look on her face when she talked about him was the same.
I really didn't expect this to happen. I couldn't have even imagined this happening. And, now, I was at a loss as to what to say. Daniel wasn't some ordinary twenty-three-year-old young man that my eighteen-year-old daughter could date. He was actually a thirty-eight-year-old who, in only two months, would once again physically be that age.
As we pulled the turkey and yams out of the oven and put the dinner rolls in, I composed my words in my head.
"I noticed the way you were looking at Daniel," I said in a low voice so as not to be overheard.
"Chill, Mom. It's cool."
I searched Cassie's face. "Is it?"
"Sure. He's Daniel. He's, like, old enough to be my dad, even if he is only a few years older than me right now. He's just really cute, and I am a girl, you know."
I wasn't sure if she was being truthful, but I decided to relax. After all, it's not like anything was going to happen.
"Yes, he is very cute," I agreed.
Cassie let out a giggle. "Sam called him a hottie."
I smiled. "She did?"
"Yep." Cassie grinned. "When he gets back to being his real age, I'll have to tell him she said that."
"Don't you dare! Sam would be mortified."
My daughter's smile turned evil. "Yes, I know."
A short while later, we were all sitting at the dining table, eating and enjoying a lively conversation. Even so, I don't think that I was the only person there who was thinking about last Christmas and how much sadder it was. I noticed both Jack and Sam looking often at Daniel.
After the meal was eaten, the leftovers put away, and the dirty dishes cleared, everyone went into the living room except for Sam and Cassie, who were getting the eggnog. They came out a few minutes later, Sam bearing a tray with the beverage, which she sat on the coffee table. Jack came forward, picked up one of the cups, and presented it to Teal'c with a grin.
"Here you go, T. I know how much you've been looking forward to this."
Teal'c accepted the cup with a small smile and a nod of the head. "Thank you, O'Neill." He took a drink, and an expression of bliss came over his face, or at least as close to a blissful look that was probably possible for a Jaffa to get. I'd seen the look before, and it always made me want to smile. I looked at Daniel and saw his eyebrows rise in surprise.
"You, um . . . really like eggnog, Teal'c?" he asked.
"Indeed." The Jaffa took a bigger drink. When he lowered the cup, he was wearing an eggnog mustache, and I had to bite my tongue to keep from laughing.
Daniel's eyebrows had gone even higher. "Ummm . . . you've got a little. . . ." His finger pointed at Teal'c's lip. He noticed Jack shaking his head slightly, paused, then lowered his finger. "Never mind."
We all chatted as we enjoyed our eggnog – some of us more than others. When Teal'c went off to the kitchen to get a refill, Jack leaned toward me.
"We've always had alcohol-free eggnog because of Teal'c's symbiote, but, now that he doesn't have one anymore, one of these days, I'm gonna slip some hooch in his and see how he likes it."
Daniel, who had apparently heard, turned to him, an eyebrow cocked. "Considering what happened the last time you decided to have some fun with alcoholic beverages, Jack, I'd think that you would have learned your lesson."
Jack's reply was to glare at him.
Teal'c came back into the living room, and Sam called out that it was time to open presents, so we all gathered around the tree and took a seat on the floor.
I could tell that Daniel had put a lot of thought into the gifts he'd gotten his teammates, who were all delighted with what they received from him. I was quite surprised and pleased with his gift to me, which was an antique doctor's bag with a complete set of medical tools that a physician of the mid nineteenth century would have. I knew that it must have been hard to find and cost a lot of money.
As surprised as I was with my gift, I think that Cassie was even more so when Daniel shyly handed her a small, neatly wrapped box.
"You got me a present?" she said. "But you don't even know me. I mean, you do know me, but you don't remember that you know me."
Daniel was looking a little embarrassed. "I just didn't think it would be right to come here and not have something for you. Besides, if I hadn't been turned into a kid and lost my memories of you, I'd have gotten you something, so. . . ." He shrugged slightly. "I hope you like it."
Cassie turned her attention to the gift and unwrapped it. I watched a big smile brighten her face when she saw what was inside.
"Oh, it's beautiful," she said. She lifted it out, and I saw that it was a small Pegasus figurine made from pewter.
Daniel smiled. "Sam told me that you collect them."
"Yeah, I do. I had to leave most of them here when I left for college." Cassie looked up at Daniel. "But I'm going to be taking this one with me when I go."
The comment made Daniel smile shyly, and he ducked his head. The thought went through my mind that if Cassie could find a boyfriend just like him, I would be a very happy mother.
Cassie ran over to the tree and grabbed a gift, which she gave to Daniel.
"When I got it, I didn't know about what happened to you," she said, "so it probably won't fit you right now."
The gift turned out to be a white turtleneck sweater with a lovely cable knit pattern. It looked warm and cozy, and I knew that Daniel would appreciate it when the weather was really cold.
"Thank you," he said with a pleased smile.
"Do you like it?" Cassie asked.
"Yeah, it's great. It is too big for me now, but it'll still be cold enough to wear it when I reach my full age."
Shortly after the last of the presents had been unwrapped, I noticed that Daniel's beard was starting to come in. Cassie apparently noticed at the same time.
"Wow, you suddenly got whiskers," she said in fascination.
Daniel touched his cheek. "Yeah. I need to go put on some more of the depilatory cream or I'll have a beard by the time we leave."
"Really? I didn't even think of that before. It's weird thinking about the fact that just since you arrived, you've probably aged several weeks." She studied him closely. "Now that I'm really looking, I can see that your hair is longer than it was when you first arrived. Wow. That is freaky."
Daniel excused himself to go take care of his whiskers, and Sam and I went into the kitchen to cut and dish out the dessert.
"I suppose you've noticed Cassie's reaction to Daniel," Sam said.
"Oh, yes. I talked to her about it, and she told me to chill out."
Sam laughed. "I just hope that Daniel doesn't pick up on it. He'd be horrified later on if he ever found out that our Cassie got a crush on him."
"Yes, he would. This makes me really glad that he's maturing as fast as he is. Just in the time that Cassie will be here, he'll age more than two years. That is bound to drive the point home to her."
"Oh, I'm sure she already has that in her mind, Janet. You can't really blame her for being smitten with him, though. It'll be fine. Daniel certainly isn't going to do anything to encourage it."
"Yes, you're right about that."
Sam paused. "Um . . . at least not intentionally."
I was really enjoying the evening. I'd always had so much fun when Mom and I joined Jack, Daniel, Sam and Teal'c for Christmas, and this time was no different . . . well, maybe it was a little different. This time, I was paying a whole lot more attention to Daniel and everything he said.
The thought of Daniel made me look around for him, and I saw him come out of the kitchen, a glass of wine in his hand.
"Daniel, do you really think you should be drinking that?" Jack asked with a frown.
"Relax, Jack. I promise I won't get drunk and pick up your truck again."
"You'd better not. It cost me a fortune to get it fixed after you decided to make it fly."
"It wasn't me making it fly that wrecked it, Jack, it was you startling me and making me drop it."
"Well, you wouldn't have dropped it if you hadn't made it fly in the first place."
Daniel nodded. "Too true. And whom do we have to blame for me thinking that making your truck fly was a good idea?"
Jack grumbled something under his breath.
"What's all this about Daniel getting drunk and making Jack's truck fly?" I asked.
Sam immediately launched into telling me all about Jack's fateful decision to get Daniel drunk when he turned twenty-one. By the time I'd heard the whole thing, I was nearly breathless from laughing so hard.
"But Daniel got his revenge," Mom said with a big smile.
Jack quickly jumped in. "I'm sure that Cassie isn't interested in—"
"Yes, I am!" I interrupted.
With a huge grin, Sam told me what Daniel did to Jack's truck. Oh, man, did I ever wish I could have seen that and the expression that must have been on Jack's face.
"I do have to admit that the birds went a little overboard," Daniel said. "I didn't really intend for them to cover the entire truck. But then, if I had known that Jack was going to make poor Ferretti clean the poop off, I'd have done something else instead."
I turned to Jack. "You made Colonel Ferretti clean your truck? Why?"
"Because he has a big mouth."
Daniel explained. "He was the one who let it slip that Jack got me drunk on purpose. I hadn't realized it was intentional before then." He paused. "I was a bit miffed when I found that out."
"A bit miffed?" Jack repeated. "Daniel, if that's what you do when you're 'a bit miffed', I'm taking refuge in another galaxy if you ever get really mad at me."
At that point, Jack decided it was time to change the topic of conversation. I went into the kitchen to get more sparkling cider. I wanted to try some of the wine, but Mom was adamant about me not to drinking any alcohol until it was legal for me to do so and had stressed that, even then, I should be sensible and drink in moderation. I knew that a lot of kids at school drank more than they should and that they often didn't wait until they were twenty-one, so I could understand why she was worried about me. I was determined to be smart about it. What happened with Daniel was yet another example of the trouble that drinking too much could lead to.
Daniel came into the kitchen. He rinsed out his wine glass and set it on the counter.
"So, when are you heading back to school?" he asked.
"Are you enjoying UCLA? It's probably changed a lot from when I was there."
"Yeah, it's great. A couple of my girlfriends from high school are going there, too, which is cool."
We both fell silent for a few seconds.
"Um . . . Jack and Sam told me about you," Daniel said, "the stuff about your homeworld. I'm . . . I'm really sorry about your family."
I felt a little twinge of pain. After six years, it still hurt. "Thanks. I can imagine that you understand how it felt, what with losing your parents and all."
"Yes, I suppose, though I didn't watch everyone on my planet die." When he saw the look on my face, he instantly apologized. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said that."
"It's okay. It happened. I can't pretend that it didn't."
We moved into the dining room and sat at the table.
I let out a sigh. "At first, when it started happening, I thought it was a nightmare, that it wasn't real."
Daniel nodded. "When I first woke up in the hospital after the accident, I thought it was a dream. I . . . soon realized that it wasn't."
I looked at him. "Mom never told me exactly what happened to your parents. She just said they died in an accident while working on an Egyptian display at a museum."
When Daniel didn't reply right away, I thought that maybe I shouldn't have asked. I was about to say he didn't have to tell me when he did. I was horrified by what happened and by the fact that he witnessed it and was only eight at the time.
"That's horrible," I couldn't stop myself from saying.
Daniel didn't reply. He just nodded his head, staring at the tabletop.
I started playing with my glass. "Do you still miss them?" I asked after a while.
"Almost every day."
"Me too. When Janet first adopted me, I didn't want her to be my mom. I wanted my mom."
Daniel nodded. "When I was a kid before, for a long time after they died, I wished that I could be with them. I didn't want to live with strangers. I wanted to go home to Egypt. But I knew that I couldn't, so I had to accept my new life."
I realized that I had been a lot luckier than Daniel. I didn't have to go live in foster care. I was given a new mom, one who loved me and took good care of me.
"It was a lot better this time around," Daniel said, interrupting my thoughts. "After I got back the memory of my parents' death, Jack, Sam, Teal'c and everyone else were so great. I was never alone. They were always hugging me and telling me how much they loved me. They made me feel like I still had a family."
I smiled. "That's great."
Daniel smiled as well. "Yeah. They're great. I've never had better friends than Jack, Sam and Teal'c."
"I understand that you're going on missions now and that you almost died on the last one."
Daniel grimaced. "Yeah. SG-13 got into trouble, and we had to go rescue them. I used my abilities too much and ended up with brain damage. Fortunately, it healed." His smile returned. "I'm looking forward to going on missions that aren't rescue missions. Of course, any mission can turn dangerous. I just hope I'll be able to handle myself in a fight. I didn't do any shooting on that last mission. Jack has been teaching me how to shoot, but," he sighed, "I'm dreading having to shoot somebody."
"I don't know if I could do it."
"If I have to do it to protect myself or somebody else, I will. I just wish it wasn't necessary. I'm hoping that my abilities will make it so that I won't have to use my gun so often. I didn't have a gun at all when I went to rescue Sam and Teal'c after they got captured off-world."
"When was that?"
"A few weeks ago, when I was sixteen."
My eyes widened. "You went on a rescue mission when you were only sixteen? Wow. I can't believe Jack went for that."
"Well, he, uh . . . didn't exactly have a say in it."
After hearing that, I just had to know all about it, so I made Daniel tell me everything. I was totally blown away when he described what he did, how he single-handedly rescued Sam, Teal'c and SG-17. He made it sound like it wasn't a big deal, like he didn't do anything all that spectacular, but I knew he was just being modest. Wow. Cute, a genius and a courageous superhero. He was perfect. It was such a bummer that he was getting older so fast. I would be the envy of every girl in school if he could be my boyfriend. Not that they could be told about the superhero part.
We started talking about other things. I asked Daniel stuff that I never had before, about his life with his parents, his time in school. I learned that he was presently getting back the memories of studying for his third doctorate. I couldn't even imagine getting three doctorates, the huge amount of studying and commitment it must have taken. And he was only twenty-three!
The longer we talked, the more I realized that I never really saw before how awesome he was. Oh, I knew that he was a great guy, that he was smart, brave and compassionate. I knew that Sam deeply admired and respected him and that Mom did, too, but there were so many things I hadn't known about him because I never took the opportunity to ask. I'd known him since I was a kid, and by the time I was old enough to be interested in knowing more about him, I'd started taking him for granted and never asked.
How much I'd taken him for granted was really driven home to me when he was gone. Suddenly, he was no longer there at parties and get-togethers, no longer around to talk to about school and other things. I missed him a whole lot. The first time I saw him after he got back, I cried like crazy and hugged him forever. He was still getting his memories back, so he didn't remember everything about me, but he hugged me back and smiled at me, and I could tell that he didn't think I was being silly for crying.
Sam came into the dining room. "Hey, you two. You've been in here for ages. What have you been doing, sharing your life stories?"
"I feel like I have," Daniel replied. "I'd have thought that Cassie would have already known all that stuff."
"No, I never really asked before," I told him.
Sam smiled. "Well, come on. We miss you guys."
We joined the others in the living room. We'd all been chatting for around half an hour when we were interrupted by the sound of a really loud cat fight, which sounded like it was happening right out in the yard.
Jack looked at Daniel. "You wanna take care of that?"
Daniel got up and headed for the door. Eager to see a demonstration of his ability with animals, I followed. We went out on the porch. The two cats were going at it in the front yard, tangled in a furious ball of fur, teeth and claws, snow flying away in all directions. Daniel stared at them for about four seconds, and they abruptly sprang apart. They stared at each other, then at him, and I almost laughed at the look on their faces, like they were totally confused about what had made them stop fighting.
Daniel squatted and held his hand out. I watched in amazement as the two cats came running up to him and started rubbing against him, purring like crazy and looking like they'd completely forgotten their former hostility toward each other. Daniel picked each of them up one at a time and examined them for injuries. One of the cats had a nasty wound on its head. Daniel stood and carried it inside.
"Daniel, I just meant for you to stop the fight, not bring them in here," Jack remarked.
"It's injured, Jack. I just thought that Janet could clean the wound so it wouldn't get infected."
Mom took a look at the wound, then got some hydrogen peroxide to clean it. The cat stayed totally still as she took care of its injury on the kitchen counter, probably thanks to Daniel.
After she was done, Daniel picked it back up. It started purring again, kneading his chest like a kitten. It even licked his chin, which made him smile. Then it crawled up onto his shoulders and laid down, apparently quite content to stay right there.
We went back out into the living room, the cat still draped over Daniel's shoulders.
"No, Daniel, you can't keep it," Jack stated.
Daniel sighed, looking a little sad. "I know."
"Can't it stay in here until you guys leave?" I asked, feeling sorry for Daniel. I turned to my mom. "Please, Mom?"
She looked at the cat for a moment. "Well, all right, as long as it doesn't start wandering around."
The cat didn't wander. As soon as Daniel sat down, it curled up on his lap. As we resumed chatting, he petted it and scratched its chin. It was a shame that he couldn't keep it. I had to give my dog away when I went off to college because Mom said that it wouldn't be fair to keep him here since she was gone so many hours of the day. I really missed him and wished that I could have another pet. And I couldn't even talk to animals like Daniel could.
Jack, Daniel, Sam and Teal'c stayed another hour. I really didn't want them to go since I didn't know how many more times I'd get to see them before I went back to school.
"Hey, cheer up," Jack said, probably guessing what I was thinking. "We're all on leave tomorrow and the weekend, so we'll be spending more time with you. Maybe we can all go have some fun on Saturday."
"That would be great," I said.
I gave them all a hug, hesitating only a moment before giving the one to Daniel. I tried to ignore how nice it felt when he hugged me back. It was a one-armed hug because he was carrying the cat in the other arm.
They went outside, and Daniel put the cat down. It followed him to the car and appeared to be ready to hop right in with him. He stared at it for a moment, and it slowly walked away, looking to me like it was doing so very reluctantly.
With a final wave to Mom and me, Daniel got into the backseat, and the car drove away.
I spent all day Friday hanging out with Mom, which was great. I'd missed her a whole lot more than I thought I would, and it felt good to have that time with her.
More snow fell that night. Because of the hazardous road conditions, everyone decided on Saturday morning that it would be best to stay in or near Colorado Springs. Jack got the idea of going to the ice skating rink. Though it had been years since I went ice skating, it sounded like fun, especially if I could manage to do some skating alone with Daniel. I was thinking that, if I was really lucky, it would turn out that he didn't know how to skate. Then I could offer to help him . . . just to keep him from falling, of course.
Unfortunately, I learned at the rink that he did know how to ice skate, having been taught by one of his foster families. The only member of our group who didn't know how to skate was Teal'c, who assured me that he would enjoy simply watching us.
Mom, Sam, Daniel and I were all putting on our skates when Jack returned to our group with not one pair of skates but two. He handed the second pair to Teal'c with a grin.
"Here you go, T."
Teal'c stared at the things with a frown. "I am not trained in the use of this footgear, O'Neill."
"Yeah, I know. But don't worry. You'll get the hang of it in no time."
"I would prefer remaining an observer."
"Ah, come on, Teal'c. Don't be a party pooper. It'll be fun."
Daniel and I exchanged a glance, and I could tell that he was thinking the same thing I was. I could remember the first time I got up on ice skates, and, though it eventually was fun, falling on my butt a dozen times was most definitely not fun.
Teal'c took the skates, but it was pretty obvious that he really didn't want to. All of us watched him while he put them on. As he prepared to stand, Jack and Daniel got on either side of him, probably to catch him if he fell. Teal'c didn't fall, but seeing the big, strong, stone-faced Jaffa wobbling on a pair of ice skates was one of the funniest things I've ever seen. It was even funnier watching him make his slow way to the rink. I was trying so hard not to laugh.
As the rest of us went out on the ice, Teal'c just stood at the edge, frowning severely.
"Come on, T!" Jack called. "You can do it!"
"I will remain here, O'Neill," Teal'c stated, and the tone of his voice made it obvious that nothing was going to get him to move.
Jack shrugged. "Suit yourself," he said. Then he turned and skated away.
I turned to Daniel and smiled. "Come on. Let's go."
Daniel followed me onto the rink, and we went around it a couple of times, but I noticed that his gaze kept going to Teal'c, who hadn't moved. We were on our third time around the rink when he said, "Excuse me," then went back over to Teal'c. The two of them talked for a couple minutes, and I saw Teal'c smile and nod. What happened next really surprised me. Teal'c actually ventured out onto the ice. But, instead of his legs being spread apart like the usual beginner, he had one foot placed directly in front of the other, like he was standing on a tightrope. Daniel gave him a push, and he glided across the ice, staying close to the wall and out of the way of the other skaters. Daniel remained behind him, occasionally giving him another light push. Once they were about halfway around the rink, Teal'c slowly brought his two feet together. He remained like that, just gliding, still getting a push from Daniel from time to time to keep him going.
"Well, I'll be damned."
I looked to my right and saw that Jack had come up beside me.
"How did he get him out on the ice?" he asked.
"I don't know."
We both watched as, slowly and carefully, Teal'c went from just gliding to actually skating. He remained rock steady, never faltering. I could tell that Jack was really surprised. I was, too.
Finally, Daniel left Teal'c and skated over to us.
"Okay, miracle worker, how did you do it?" Jack asked.
"I just reminded him about something."
"What?" I asked.
"When Teal'c was being trained, one of the things he had to do was walk on an ice-covered rope in the middle of winter. I figured that, if he put one foot in front of the other, he could balance himself somewhat the same way as he did on the rope. I knew that, once he was able to keep his balance on the ice skates, he'd have the hardest part licked."
Jack chuckled and shook his head. "I should have known that you'd pull another rabbit out of your hat, Danny Boy."
Sam and Mom came up to us.
"Hey. Teal'c is skating," Sam said.
"Thanks to Daniel," I told her, smiling up at him. He was such a cool guy.
I tugged him back out into the crowd of skaters, managing to wrap my arm around his without it looking obvious.
We chatted as we skated, and I found myself laughing more than once at something Daniel said. I'd never realized that he had such a great sense of humor. He really was the perfect guy. It was just so unfair that he was actually old enough to be my father.
"Ah," I heard Colonel O'Neill say softly. I turned to him. The two of us had taken a break from skating and were standing off to the side. He was staring off across the rink at something.
"It appears that our Cassandra has a crush."
Now I knew what he was looking at. I followed his gaze to where Daniel and Cassie were skating together, looking like they were having a good time.
"Oh, I hope it's not that bad," I said.
"Well, you really can't blame her, I guess. If she was my daughter, and Daniel really was twenty-three, I wouldn't have a problem with the two of them dating."
I stared at him in surprise. "I wonder what Daniel would do if he heard you say that."
The colonel smiled. "Probably blush all the way to the roots of his hair."
I laughed. "Yes, probably so." I then looked at him sternly. "Don't you dare tell him that Cassie likes him in that way. He'd be terribly embarrassed."
Colonel O'Neill's smile grew into a grin. "Yes, he would, wouldn't he."
"Don't worry, Doc. I won't tell him. I wouldn't want him to be uncomfortable around her."
Just then, the subjects of our conversation came up to us. Cassie grabbed my hands.
"Come on, Mom! What are you just standing there for?" With a tug, she pulled me out into the flow of skaters, and it was the two of us who were going around together, arm-in-arm.
I finally decided that I'd had enough skating for the day, and Cassie continued without me. I went to one of the benches and just watched her. After a while, I was joined by Sam.
"It's great to have her here, isn't it," she said.
"Yes, it is. I'm going to miss her even more when she leaves."
It was an hour later when everyone else decided that they'd also had enough of skating. We turned in our skates and went over to the refreshment stand for some cool drinks.
"This was fun," Cassie declared with a big smile.
"Yes," Colonel O'Neill agreed. He looked at the man sitting beside him at the table. "T, I was greatly impressed by your first time on skates."
"Thank you, O'Neill." He turned to Daniel. "And thank you, Daniel Jackson, for your advice. It was most helpful."
"You're welcome. I'm glad I could help."
"So, what are we going to do next?" Cassie asked.
"Good question," Sam replied. "Not many places are open since a lot of them will be closed for the four-day weekend."
"Well, the restaurants are open," the colonel said, "and my stomach's telling me that it's almost lunchtime."
"I could definitely eat," responded Daniel.
"Lunch it is, then," I said.
Cassie got up. "I need to go use the ladies room first. I'll be right back."
We all watched her until she disappeared behind a wall.
"Sometimes, when I look at her, I can't help but remember the day we found her," Sam murmured. "It's hard to believe that so much time has gone by."
I nodded. "I know what you mean."
"I wish I could remember that," Daniel said. "I mean, you guys told me about it, but that's not the same."
"You will, Daniel," Colonel O'Neill said. "To be honest, it's not a pleasant memory."
"Cassie must have been a pretty strong kid to go through something like that and still turn out normal."
"That she was, Daniel. She was quite the kid. And, now, she's quite the young woman. We all expect great things from her."
I smoothed my hair down and quickly checked my makeup in the mirror. It had been a great morning. Mom and I had never really done anything like this before. Oh, we'd done things together, but mostly stuff like mother/daughter shopping trips, going to the movies, and, on one occasion, to a salon for "the works." For more energetic activities, it has always been me and Sam or Jack. In fact, it was Jack who taught me how to ice skate. I was actually quite surprised when I learned that Mom could skate, too.
I left the ladies room, thinking about what we could do after lunch.
"Hi," said a voice off to my left. I turned to see a guy who looked like he was around twenty-four. He was tall and good-looking.
"Hi," I said back to him.
"I saw you skating," he told me as he walked up to me. "You're really good."
"Oh, I'm not really that good, but thank you."
The guy held his hand out to me. "I'm Eddie."
I shook his hand. "Cassie."
Eddie smiled. "I was about to go get a hot dog. Would you like to join me?"
I paused. I'd been hit on by guys before, and it was always tough to decide how to handle it if I wasn't really interested. Fortunately, this time, I had the perfect excuse. "Um, thanks, Eddie, but I'm here with my mom and some friends, and we were just about to go get some lunch."
"Yes, I saw you with them. How about if we meet up later, then?"
"Uhhh . . . thanks, but I'm just in town on break from school, so I'm going to be spending all my time visiting with my mom and friends."
"But I really like you, Cassie."
A little chill went down my spine, and I was suddenly wishing that someone, anyone, would show up. Why wasn't anyone coming to the bathroom?
I tried to move around Eddie, but he blocked my way.
"Come on, Cassie," he said, his eyes not looking so friendly now. "I can show you a good time."
I was getting pretty scared now. "I don't want a good time. Please let me by." I tried to get by him again, but he grabbed my arm and turned me around.
I was thinking about screaming when Eddie's eyes went to something behind me.
"Is there a problem here?" asked a familiar voice. I turned to see Daniel standing a few yards away.
Eddie let go of my arm, and I wasted no time backing away from him. Daniel came up beside me and laid a gentle hand on my shoulder, his gaze fastened upon the guy.
Before I could say anything, Eddie spoke up. His face really wasn't handsome at all now, looking ugly and mean, as well as angry.
"There's no problem at all," he said, "not that it's any of your business, geek."
I watched as Daniel's face hardened. "Oh, I think that it is my business." He looked down at me. "Is there a problem, Cass?"
Looking into Daniel's eyes, I suddenly felt very safe, and I knew that he wouldn't let this guy hurt me. Even so, I said, "Yes."
"That's what I thought." Daniel turned back to Eddie. "I really don't want any trouble, so how about if you just leave. Then we can forget this ever happened."
Eddie sneered at him. "Well, I don't want to leave, geek, so why don't you leave instead so that me and Cassie can continue our . . . conversation."
Daniel drew in a deep breath, letting it out slowly. He subtly changed his stance. His grip on my shoulder tightened for a moment.
"Cassie, I think it might be best if you stepped over there," he told me quietly, gesturing toward the wall. His eyes had not left those of Eddie.
It wouldn't take a genius to figure out that something was about to happen. I hurried over to the wall.
Another sneer was on Eddie's face. "All right, geek. I guess I'm gonna have to teach you a lesson about butting in," he said. Then he came at Daniel, fists swinging.
If I'd blinked, I would have missed half of what happened next.
So fast that it made me gasp, Daniel dodged Eddie's fists and got behind him. In the next second, Daniel had him on the floor, an arm around his throat. Eddie's face started turning red, his hands frantically tugging at the arm around his throat. In a matter of seconds, his eyes rolled back in his head, and he went limp. Daniel released him and stood up, gazing down at Eddie's unconscious form.
"Wow," I breathed.
Daniel's gaze went to me. "Did he hurt you?"
"No, I'm okay." I smiled. "Wow, Daniel. That was totally cool."
Just then, Jack, Teal'c, Sam, and my mom came around the corner. They stopped abruptly at the sight of the body splayed out at Daniel's feet.
"Trouble?" Jack asked calmly.
"Nothing I couldn't handle," Daniel replied.
Jack smiled ever so slightly. "Yes, I can see that."
Mom came up to me. "Cassie, what happened? Are you all right?"
After assuring her that I was fine, I told her and everyone else what happened.
"We need to call the police," Daniel said.
Jack frowned. "That's going to cause a problem. We can't have you involved in a police investigation."
Now, it was Daniel who was frowning. "Well, we can't just let him go. If he did this to Cassie, he might do it to some other girl. Maybe he already has."
"I know that, Daniel, but, if this goes before a judge and you need to testify, you'd have a tough time explaining how it is that you've aged several years in just a few days."
"Sir, there could be a solution to that," Sam said.
Jack looked at her. "What?"
"A mimic device. We could use one to scan Daniel as he is now. Then, if he does need to testify, he could wear it, and it would make him look like he hasn't aged."
Jack nodded. "Good idea, Carter."
"What's a mimic device?" I asked. Sam briefly explained.
Jack got on his cell and called the police. By the time they arrived, Eddie had woken up. He'd spouted off a few threats at Daniel, but shut up pretty quickly when Teal'c stepped up to him, grabbed his shirt, and glared at him.
The cops took everyone's statements. Eddie claimed that he hadn't done anything but talk to me and was attacked without provocation, but it was pretty clear that they didn't believe him.
"We'll need you to come down to the station and give more detailed statements," they told me and Daniel.
A while later, we were all at the police station. When the cops found out that I was only in town on Christmas break, they made sure to get everything from me that they'd need. That included photos of my arm, which had developed a bruise where Eddie grabbed me. When they saw the bruise, Jack and Teal'c looked like they wanted to pound Eddie into the ground.
"Are you going to need Daniel or Cassie to testify?" Sam asked.
"I doubt it," the cop taking our statements replied. "This isn't the first time that Edward Webber has done this. In fact, he just got out of prison a few months ago. He was there because he attempted to assault a seventeen-year-old girl. My guess is that he'll plead out, although, with this being his second assault charge, he'll be spending a lot longer in jail."
By the time we were done at the police station, all I wanted to do was go home. Once we got there, I went up to Daniel and gave him a big hug.
"Thank you," I said. I didn't want to think about what would have happened to me if he hadn't been there.
Daniel smiled and nodded.
I smiled, too. "Eddie sure was wrong about you."
"What do you mean?"
"He called you a geek." My smile got bigger. "I bet he doesn't think that anymore."
"Ya think?" Jack said.
I knew that everyone was upset about what happened. Since I figured it was up to me to do so, I got their mind off of it by insisting that we play some games. It took a while, but the mood eventually lightened.
Throughout the remainder of the day, I found my eyes going often to Daniel. It was strange, but, for some reason, his rescue of me had changed the way I looked at him. Maybe it was because he had seemed so much older and more mature in those moments than the twenty-three-year-old guy that he appears to be. The thought came to me that, if I had a brother, I'd want him to be just like Daniel.
Sam, Jack, Daniel, and Teal'c stayed until after dinner. After they were gone, Mom turned to me.
"Are you really okay, Cass?"
"I'm fine, Mom. I was pretty scared, but, as soon as Daniel showed up, I knew everything was going to be all right." I grinned. "You should have seen it, Mom. It was totally awesome. Jack and Teal'c did a really good job training him." I sat down on the couch, and Mom joined me. "You know, before he got de-aged, even though I knew that Daniel was on SG-1 and did a lot of dangerous things, I still always pictured him as more the academic kind of guy. I could see him teaching one of my classes. He's so different now."
"Not really, Cass. Yes, he knows a great deal more about hand-to-hand combat, and, in some ways, he has been changed by what happened to him, but, deep down inside, he really is the same person. You mentioned earlier about that man mistakenly thinking that Daniel was a geek. I think that a lot of people look at Daniel and believe he's less than what he really is. He surprises people."
I nodded. "Yes, he does."
I was fighting to hold back the tears that were stinging my eyes as we all stood in the airport and said goodbye to my daughter. Despite what happened at the ice skating rink, it had been a wonderful visit. The problem was that it had been much too short.
Cassie got hugs from Sam, Teal'c, Colonel O'Neill, and, last of all, Daniel. I watched the two of them and smiled. Ever since Daniel rescued Cassie from Edward Webber, she had been acting differently around him. Gone were the looks of a girl gazing at a cute boy she really liked. In their place was an air of something closer to a brother/sister relationship. They'd spent a lot of time together, talking about their childhood and experiences as fellow orphans. It had been wonderful to see. In all these years, Cassie had never really opened up to me about the death of her parents and the rest of her people, and I was so happy that she was able to do so with Daniel.
"It's going to seem like forever before you come back here in the summer," Sam said, also looking a bit teary-eyed. "Maybe we can all go on vacation somewhere then."
"That would be great," Cassie responded. She turned to me, and I engulfed her in an embrace.
"I love you, sweetheart," I told her.
"I love you, too, Mom."
"I'll be missing you so much till you come back."
All too soon, Cassie was getting in line at the security gate. We stayed and watched her until she was on the other side, where she gave us a final wave, then disappeared into the crowd.
As we headed for the exit, my eyes went to the man who'd saved my daughter from what could have been a terrible assault. I don't know how things would have been different if Daniel had not been reduced in age, but I was grateful that, while growing up this time, he had chosen to gain proficiency in the hand-to-hand combat techniques that enabled him to easily subdue Edward Webber. Yet again, what happened to him had affected lives for the better. I suspected that there would be still more times like that to come.
THE END . . . until Part 18.