GateWorld FanFic Presents
Three Men And A Little Theoretical Astrophysicist
Rating: Older Kids
Season: SG-1 Season Two
Featured Character(s): Jack ONeill, Daniel Jackson, Samantha Carter, Tealc, George Hammond
Summary: "How can somebody so small and so sweet possibly cause so much trouble?
Author Notes: Set towards the end of Season Two, so anything up to that is fair game, spoiler-wise.
"Ladies and gentlemen, this is your Colonel speaking. We have now arrived at P4C-656. Please keep your seatbelts fastened until the `gate has come to a complete..."
"Wow!" Daniel cut across Jack's narration. "Look at this place."
After almost two years of traveling through the stargate, SG-1 had seen more planets than any of them, with the exception of Teal'c, would have thought possible until a few years ago and quite a few of them could be described, with no injustice, as less than pleasant.
P4C-656 was an Eden, from the warm summer weather to the scent of the trees and flowers, to the lilting some of the birds. According to the MALP's data, there were even a few millennia old structures nearby to keep Daniel amused. It looked like a paradise.
Which probably meant that something especially nasty was waiting to bite them in the butt, Jack mused silently.
To say that SG-1's missions had a tendency not to go smoothly would have been an understatement of considerable proportions.
Jack was bored.
Having determined that there was no threat in the immediate vicinity and that, if there were any locals, they were pretty far away from the stargate, he had been unable to come up with a valid reason why Daniel should not be allowed to explore the Greek style temple they had found a few kilometers from the `gate, much as he would have liked to, and when Carter had voiced a request to collect samples of the local plant life for study back at the SGC, he had resigned himself to a long wait while the team's two scientists amused themselves.
He knew that he should probably have been counting his blessings but the truth was that while Goa'uld attacks were not pleasant, far from it, at this point he would have welcomed the diversion.
At least, he reflected, he could be grateful that this was just an overnight assignment - before two hours had passed, he knew that a week or more on this peaceful, idyllic, boring planet would kill him.
Jack, together with Teal'c and Daniel, whose examination of the temple's exterior was abruptly abandoned, reached the side of the rock pool within a minute, a split second before Sam emerged, coughing.
"Geez, Carter, I know this place is boring but you don't have to drown yourself for our amusement." Jack quipped as he reached out a hand to help her out of the water. "You alright?" His voice took on a more concerned note.
"Yes, sir." She assured him, determinedly suppressing a cough. It felt like she had swallowed about a liter of water but that discomfort was nothing compared to the embarrassment she was feeling. "I'm sorry, sir - I slipped while I was getting a sample of that plant." She indicated a small cluster of blossoms growing in a niche above the pool. "It's similar to a family of plants on Earth that have antiseptic properties and..."
"That's nice." Jack cut his 2IC off and nudged her in the direction of the temple, picking up her abandoned pack and thrusting it into her arms. "You can tell us all about it after you dry off."
He wouldn't put it past Doctor Fraiser to break out the biggest, scariest needles in her possession for his post-mission check-up if her best friend caught pneumonia or something on his watch.
"Yes, sir." Abashed, Sam headed towards the privacy of the temple to change her clothes.
Once she was gone, the long-suffering Colonel fixed Daniel, SG-1's worst offender where misadventures were concerned, with a stern glare. "You decide to follow Carter's shining example and liven up the trip with another accident, and I'll have Hammond issue leashes for all off-world scientists."
He considered it a minor miracle that he wasn't as bald as an egg yet.
Despite the peace of the planet, Jack was far too well-trained a soldier to even consider dispensing with the team's usual night watch routine and he had drawn the first watch himself.
After two uneventful hours, he rose and stretched, ready to sleep. After another couple of minutes, he began to feel slightly worried.
Carter should have come out to relieve him at the end of his watch, she was usually prompt about reporting for duty.
Inwardly praying that his friend had simply overslept, he moved over to her tent and gingerly lifted the flap. All he could see was the cocoon of a sleeping bag and a glimpse of blonde hair peeking out of it.
It was with some misgivings that he folded back the cover to reveal a peacefully sleeping face.
Of the twelve SG teams, SG-1 had the dubious honor of having the worst record for getting into trouble on missions. Fortunately for them, they also had the best record for getting out of trouble, or they probably wouldn't have survived their first year of `gate travel.
It was probably just as well the Jack wasn't aware of the betting pools that had formed to predict the next disaster that would befall his team.
General Hammond had a tidy sum running on whether or not they would manage to finish off another Goa'uld within a year.
Given their history, the sound of the alarms warning of off-world activation and Siler's report that it was SG-1's IDC signal, almost a full twenty-four hours before they had been due back, the general's trepidation was understandable.
"Open the iris!"
Teal'c and Daniel emerged from the stargate unharmed, but the somber expressions on their faces were far from reassuring.
Colonel O'Neill followed a moment later, a small, struggling form in his arms.
"Where is Captain Carter?"
Fully occupied with the kicking, shrieking figure in his arms, Jack didn't respond to the general's anxious question. As soon as the `gate was safely disengaged, he gratefully set down his burden.
A little girl, perhaps four or five years old, with long blonde hair, stared around the Gate room with wide blue eyes. Her gaze fell on General Hammond and, after studying him for a minute, her face lit up with recognition and she dashed down the ramp towards him.
"Sam?" Gaping at the little girl in astonishment, the general bent down to pick up the frightened child, rubbing her back soothingly for a few moments before glaring at her unfortunate teammates. "Would one of you mind telling me what the heck happened?"
"How on Earth do you and your team manage to find so much trouble on the most routine missions?" Janet Fraiser asked in amused bewilderment as she subjected a complaining Jack O'Neill to his post-mission check-up.
"How should I...Ow!" He cried as she jabbed him with a needle. "Nice bedside manner, Doc." He muttered before continuing. "All I know is that grown-up Carter went into her tent and when I went to call her for her watch, I found mini Carter." He glanced across at his young 2IC, who was sitting on General Hammond's lap, telling him all about the nasty man who had made her come through the funny circle. "She wasn't too happy about coming back through the stargate." He finished.
If he could live the rest of his life without having to carry a wailing, struggling Samantha Carter, who was convinced that he was a kidnapper, back to Earth, it would be just fine with him.
Janet nodded comprehension. "Okay, Colonel, you're free to go." She smiled across at the little girl sitting on the general's lap. "Your turn, Sam."
The little girl looked up at her dubiously. "Am I going to have to get a shot?"
"`Fraid so, honey." The doctor smiled reassuringly. "But if you're good, you can have a lollipop afterwards." She bribed shamelessly, mentally thanking Cassie for having left a small stash of candy in her desk drawer the last time she had visited the SGC.
"You never offer me a lollipop when I get a shot." Jack said in a mock-indignant tone.
"It's alright, Sam." General Hammond reassured the child in his arms, seeing her apprehension. "Doctor Fraiser just needs to give you a check-up to make sure everything is okay."
"Okay." She conceded reluctantly, allowing Janet to lead her over to one of the beds and lift her onto it.
General Hammond waited until little Sam was occupied with questioning Janet about her equipment and trying out the stethoscope before speaking to the remainder of SG-1 in a hushed tone. "What exactly happened?"
"Well, Carter tried her hand at swimming yesterday." Jack suggested. "Ten bucks says that the pool she fell into caused this."
"That would be a reasonable assumption." Teal'c seconded his friend.
"There were engravings next to the pool and in the temple." Daniel volunteered. "I took some digital pictures so I should be able to translate. Maybe there's something we can do to reverse this."
"Hopefully." Hammond nodded.
"And until we find a cure for Captain Carter?" Teal'c enquired.
"Until then we've got a little kid to keep out of trouble." Jack replied dismally. "That'll be fun."
"Well, there's no doubt about it. That child is Captain Carter, aged all of four and a half years - not four, she made sure to set me straight on that count." Janet smiled slightly. "Fingerprints and blood work are identical, right down to the naquadah in her system and her protein marker."
"Where is she now?" General Hammond asked, concerned.
"Dr Jackson offered to take her to the commissary to get something to eat. I've already filled him in. If it's possible, General, I'd like to get a sample of the water from the pool."
"Do you think Carter took a tumble into the Fountain of Youth?" Jack quipped.
"Stranger things have happened - to SG-1 in particular." Nobody could argue with the truth of this. "If nothing else, I'll be able to rule out the water as a possible culprit."
"I'll send SG-4." General Hammond promised.
"They'll have to be careful not to come in contact with the samples." Janet warned. "We don't need anyone else losing nearly two and a half decades. Other than that, they should be fine. I can analyze the samples once they get back, see if there is a way to reverse this."
"If?" Jack demanded incredulously. "As in `there might not be'? For cryin' out loud!"
"It's too soon to jump to any conclusions." The petite doctor chided him. "I would also recommend that Sam remain at the base for the time being, at least until I can run some tests on the samples. It would probably be a good idea to get some things brought in for her, sir." She addressed the general. "We can't very well let her run around in an infirmary gown all the time. I don't exactly have a large supply of child-sized ones and I doubt that white is a practical color for a four year old."
"I'll send someone to do some shopping." General Hammond promised. "Colonel, you and the rest of SG-1 can take care of Captain Carter."
"Are you sure that's such a good idea..." Jack began dubiously.
His commanding officer chuckled. "I think that three grown men should be enough to keep one small girl out of mischief, don't you?"
*Two hours later*
"Daniel, what exactly did you feed her?" Jack demanded, watching incredulously as Samantha Carter, who he would have confidently expected to have been the most ridiculously well-behaved child who had ever drawn breath, bounced happily on the large double bed of the VIP quarters that had temporarily been turned over to her.
His friend shrugged sheepishly. "We had some cake, ice cream, jello - a lot of jello." He confessed. He had found it impossible to resist his miniaturized friend when she had turned the full force of her most appealing, beseeching expression on him and he privately suspected that Jack would have been no better.
"Little rule of thumb, Danny - never give a kid more than one dessert for every year of their age. It rarely if ever ends well."
"Come, on, Teal'c." Little Sam hopped down off the bed to stand next to the tall Jaffa, beaming up at him. "Jump on the bed with me. It's fun, I promise."
Teal'c seemed to give her request serious consideration before shaking his head. "I do not believe the bed would support my weight were I to engage in such an activity." He explained. Jack thought that he could hear regret in his voice, but he couldn't be certain.
"How about we leave the jumping for now?" Jack suggested hastily, before Sam could resume her activity. "There's lots of other things we can do." He said temptingly. "Lots of nice, quiet games we can play."
"Well..." Jack searched the room for inspiration. True to his word, General Hammond has dispatched one of the SFs on a hasty shopping expedition and the man, evidently deciding to be on the safe side, had returned with enough clothes, games and toys for at least three or four children. "There's always..." He was about to say `chess' when an awful vision of being beaten by a little girl entered his head. "Candyland." He suggested.
"That's for babies." She waved the suggestion aside.
"Jaffa children often engage in mock combat with miniature staff weapons. Perhaps..."
"No, just no." Jack cut off Teal'c's suggestion.
"We could play hangman." Daniel offered. "Or Trivial Pursuits."
"She's four." Jack rolled his eyes.
"I'm four and a half." The young lady in question fixed Jack with a glare. "Can we go exploring?"
"Not just yet." Daniel said gently. "People are very busy right now."
"Oh." Little Sam was silent for a moment, studying the games stacked on the shelves. "I want to play this." She announced, her tone leaving no room for argument.
"Uh, maybe that's not such a good idea." Jack suggested, looking at the seemingly innocent cardboard box Sam was pointing at as if it had come straight from the bowels of Hell.
"We're a lot bigger than you." Daniel tried to reason with her.
"We might injure you unintentionally." Teal'c concurred.
"That's okay." Sam said brightly. "I'll be the spinner."
The faces of the three men fell as their young companion, cheerfully ignoring any protest they might have made, set up that most dreaded of games - Twister.
"...the vines grew as thick as tree trunks, covered with huge thorns that were sharper than blades, surrounding the castle where the Sleeping Beauty lay, waiting for the handsome Prince Charming, whose kiss would wake her from a sleep of a hundred years..."
"Daniel," Jack spoke his name quietly from the doorway, putting a halt to the archaeologist's story. "Unless you want to wake up our little Sleeping Beauty, I suggest that you leave the rest of the story for tomorrow."
"Oh." Daniel glanced down at the slumbering child at his side. "Right."
Janet had been kind enough to offer to take on the task of giving little Sam a bath and getting her dressed for bed but she had left the far more daunting task of actually getting the child into bed and to sleep to the unfortunate men of SG-1.
Jack had thought that his second in command was a night owl as an adult but it seemed that she had been even worse at four and a half and, unlike the grown up Carter, the child version had no qualms whatsoever about defying a direct order to lie down and go to sleep.
Teal'c had been the first to escape, claiming that he needed to kel'no'reem and making his way to his own quarters before anybody had had a chance to object. Jack had swiftly followed his friend's example, muttering vague excuses about paperwork that General Hammond had insisted be done right away as he fled, abandoning Daniel to his fate.
It had taken retellings of Snow White, Hansel and Gretel, Goldilocks and the Three Bears and most of Sleeping Beauty before Sam had finally drowsed off.
After gently tucking Sam in, Daniel looked up at Jack. "Should I leave a nightlight on? Just in case."
"No need. Carter once told me that she hadn't been afraid of the dark since she was two. Besides, there'll be a couple of SFs stationed in the hall."
"I'll tell them to come and find you if she wakes up in the middle of the night and gets scared, shall I?" Daniel suggested, a smirk that Jack could only describe as diabolical tugging at the corners of his mouth. "Then you can try to get her back to sleep."
"On second thoughts," Jack backpedalled hastily. "Maybe we should leave it on, just to be on the safe side."
*The next morning*
Teal'c had not encountered many Tauri children, even after more than a year on Earth and he found the child version of his teammate fascinating, her activities even more so. He had been away from Chulak much of the time when Rya'c had been this age, but he didn't remember his own son having the same focused attention span of his young companion.
"Samantha Carter, should you not be eating your food rather than using it for construction purposes?"
The little girl glanced up from her task and gave him a brief smile. "It's okay." She told him seriously. "I don't even like this stuff. It tastes yucky."
"Then why did you request..."
"Because it's great for building with. Here." She placed a small cube of a vivid green, jello like substance in his large hand. "You try."
Absorbed in their all important task, neither of them noticed Jack and Daniel entering the commissary.
Jack grinned as he watched the two carefully build a structure of some kind from the food he had privately dubbed `alien glop'. "Looks like Carter's managed to corrupt our innocent Jaffa." He joked.
Daniel raised an eyebrow. "You're going to confuse her if you keep that up."
"Sam - I doubt anybody called her Carter when she was little." He pointed out reasonably.
Acknowledging the advice with a nod, Jack made his way over to the table where Sam and Teal'c sat and regarded his two friends with a mock stern expression. "What's going on here?"
"We are building, O'Neill." Teal'c responded in a dignified manner, a hint of pride evident in his tone.
Little Sam gave Jack a half pitying, half exasperated look, as though disappointed by his denseness. "It's a castle, silly. See." She pointed proudly at a lopsided stack of cubes that, to her mind at least, represented a well constructed turret.
"Sweet. With all the building, did you have time to actually eat any food?"
"I'm not hungry."
"Come on, now, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. How about some Fruit Loops?"
"Bite your tongue, young lady - not literally!" He added hastily, not wanting her to misinterpret his joke.
"I had some toast and the man at the counter gave me these." She showed him a packet of chocolate chip cookies. "I'll eat them if I get hungry."
"Fine." He looked at the other two men. "Hammond has briefings until twelve, but he said he'd watch her after that and take her to lunch - will one of you remind me to make fun of Carter about the whole `Uncle George' thing when she's back to normal? - but one of us will have to watch her until then."
"I am to engage in a training exercise with SG-3, so I will be unable to supervise Samantha Carter." Teal'c sounded genuinely sorry about this.
"So it's you or me, Danny boy." Jack smirked. "How about we make it the lady's choice? Cart... Sam, what do you want to do? Do you want to go to Daniel's office and play with all of his great roc... artifacts, or do you want to stay with me while I do my nasty, boring paperwork?"
Jack's face fell as she pointed at him.
In retrospect, he reflected that he probably should have known better than to expect Samantha Carter, whatever her age, to fall for reverse psychology.
Much to Jack's dismay, even his beloved GameBoy had failed to hold Sam's attention - at least until she had decided that she wanted to see what it looked like on the inside. When Jack had vetoed the idea of dissecting his toy, she had kept herself entertained by drawing pictures but, after about half a hour, this too had lost it's appeal.
"Why don't you play with the computer for a while?" Jack suggested, looking up from the mountain of requisition forms that needed to be authorized before lunch if he didn't want an exceptionally pissed off Hammond on his hands.
Entertaining a child, especially one as intelligent as this child, wasn't exactly improving his productivity.
"I don't want to. Can we play a game?"
"Look, Car... Sam, as much as I'd like to leave the paperwork and have fun with you, I can't." He felt horrible when he saw her little face fall. "Your Uncle George will be very mad at me if I don't finish my work. Speaking of," He grinned at her, fishing for a little more blackmail information. "How long have you known Uncle George?"
"Always." She shrugged. "He's my godfather."
"Really?" Jack's smile was positively evil.
"Uh-huh. Do you want me to ask Uncle George not to make you do paperwork?"
As tempted as he was by that offer, Jack shook his head. "That's okay."
"Can I help you then?"
He would have refused but the prospect of both entertaining the little girl and shifting a part, however small, of his task was irresistible.
`Four years old or not, Carter's still technically my 2IC - and Hammond never said anything about not delegating.'
"Can you read? Write your name? Count?"
"Of course." Her tone let him know that she was insulted by his doubts.
"Great." Grinning, he jotted a quick memo, noting that he had authorized Captain Samantha Carter to sign requisition forms of his behalf and handed her a small sheaf of papers. "Just look through these and if the numbers here" He pointed to the column where the estimated total cost of each request was listed. "Has five figures or less, just write your name on the dotted line, okay. If there's more than five figures, give it to me."
"Okay." Beaming, little Sam quickly absorbed herself in her task and Jack followed her example, albeit with far less enthusiasm.
General Hammond was hard-pressed to keep from chuckling when he came to Jack's office to collect the little girl over an hour later.
The contrast between the two was comical. Jack was bored and made no attempt to hide it as he hurried through his despised task, wanting it to be over and done with as soon as possible while Sam proceeded with a methodical perfectionism that would have been rather disconcerting, given her lack of years, if it hadn't been so funny.
"You know, Colonel, even the SGC frowns on child labor." He chided mildly when neither of them showed any signs of noticing his presence after a full two minutes.
"Since I didn't get that secretary I requested, I thought I'd improvise." Jack quipped.
"Hi, Uncle George." Little Sam greeted him happily, standing up on her chair to hug him and plant a kiss on his cheek.
"Hi, honey. Having fun?"
"Uh-huh." She nodded enthusiastically before gesturing for him to bend down so that she could whisper in his ear. "I don't think that Colonel O'Neill likes doing paperwork, though."
"That's a shame." Hammond didn't show much sympathy for his 2IC's plight. He smiled down at the little girl. "How would you fancy coming up to my office for lunch? We can have whatever you like, I'll send someone out to get it - and ice-cream afterwards." He added temptingly.
"Am I invited?" Jack queried, only half-joking. After a morning sloughing through various forms, the prospect of food that was actually edible was incredibly tempting.
"Are you finished your work?"
"Not yet." The response was grudging. It was an unwritten rule between the two men that once Jack had started his paperwork, he was `grounded' to his office, barring emergencies, until it was finished. Otherwise, they both knew, he would happily escape at the first possible opportunity, leaving his task unfinished until the next time he was forced into his office.
"Then no." The general told him heartlessly before lifting Sam down from the chair and offering his arm. "Will you do me the honor, Miss Carter?"
"Of course." Her expression was adorably solemn as she allowed Hammond to lead her from the room, cruelly abandoning Jack to his fate.
"It turns out that Jack was right after all." Daniel announced to the group sitting in the briefing room, passing out a folder of images.
"You were. The pool is, for want of a better term, a Fountain of Youth. The writings on the wall tell of Hebe, the Greek goddess of youth."
"A Goa'uld?" Hammond queried.
"I'd say that that would be a pretty safe bet." Daniel agreed. "The water supposedly grants youth and the goddess' blessing - which could be anything; a potion, a Goa'uld device, technology from the race who built the stargate, anything - made the effect permanent. It was probably a great way of ensuring loyalty, as well as increasing the length of time a warrior could serve her."
"And without this goddess' blessing?" Hammond pressed as patiently as he could.
"If the effect wasn't sealed, it reversed after three days and three nights."
"Three days?" Jack brightened. "I'm sure we can live with that."
"There's just one problem..." Daniel hesitated before pointing at one of the carvings, showing a man in armour kneeling by the pool, directing their attention to the tiny goblet in his hands. "As near as I can tell, Hebe's followers only lost a few years with the amounts of water they drank. They probably never anticipated someone tumbling in headfirst. To all intents and purposes, Sam overdosed."
"There are several foreign elements in the water - and in Sam's blood." Janet took up the narrative. "But whoever doctored the pool was centuries ahead of us. It could take years to figure out what they are, let alone work out how to reverse their effect."
"So the bottom line is we've got to wait until this wears off by itself." Jack was not pleased.
"If it wears off." Teal'c, ever the optimist, chimed in with his two cents.
"How long are we talking about?" Jack demanded of the unfortunate archaeologist. "Weeks? Months? Years?"
Daniel's response consisted of four words that none of them wanted to hear.
"I have no idea."
"Do you think that we should try and get in touch with Sam's dad?"
"Explain to Jacob that his only daughter got shrunk on my watch? Not a chance." Jack immediately vetoed Daniel's suggestion. "I'd like very much to live to see my next birthday, thank you very much. Besides," He added. "It's not like we can get in touch with the Tok'ra and would you really want to be the one to explain to Carter why her daddy's around twenty-five years older and exactly how stepmom Selmak came to be living in his head?"
"True." Daniel acknowledged. "Do you think that we should be worried about how good Teal'c is at braiding hair?" He asked playfully, nodding almost imperceptibly at the large Jaffa, who was braiding Sam's long blonde hair in pigtails.
"That's the least of our worries." Jack responded grimly. "I don't know about you but I am not looking forward to having to keep Carter occupied and out of trouble for a minimum of two more days."
"Is the general going to let us take Sam off the base? It seems unfair to keep her cooped up in a mountain."
"Ol' Doc Fraiser wants her to stay put for at least another twenty-four hours before she'll consider it and even then it'll only be for short trips. They want to be completely sure that Carter isn't contagious or something."
"That makes sense." Daniel agreed. "Do you want me to keep an eye on Sam for a while?"
"I was going to ask her to keep an eye on you."
Daniel scowled at Jack's jest. "Funny!"
"I thought so."
"Zoom!" Her lips pursed, Sam did her best to imitate the sounds she believed every self-respecting rocket should make as she launched her craft from Daniel's desk and flew it as high as her arm could reach.
The archaeologist's eyes widened in horror when he saw what she was up to. "Uh, Sam... honey... can you put that down?"
She looked horrified by this blasphemy. "It's a rocket. It can't go down once it's been launched. That would be very, very dangerous." She lectured him earnestly.
"Sam, please, that tablet is over five thousand years old." His eyes nervously followed the movements of the admittedly rocket-like artefact in her small hand.
"That's okay then." Her smile was serene. "At least it's not new. Do you want to play? You can be a spaceship." Her eyes combed the room, seeking a suitable vessel. The urn in the corner had potential.
"No, I don't want to be a spaceship. I want you to put it down. Now." Her eyes watered and her lower lip trembled slightly, making him feel guilty for his sharp tone. Daniel was sometimes accused of giving what Jack termed `puppy-dog' looks to get his way but he now suspected that Sam Carter, adult or child, could run rings around him where that art was concerned, should she so choose.
"You're mad at me."
"I'm not, really." He tried to reassure her, not wanting to physically take the artifact from her for fear of accidentally hurting her.
As if on cue, the base alarms went off, signaling off-world activation and startling little Sam.
Daniel made a dive forward as the clay tablet slipped from her tiny fingers but was nowhere near fast enough to catch it before it hit the concrete floor of his office with impressive force, shattering on impact.
"Uh-oh." Her eyes widened in apprehension. "You're really mad now, aren't you?"
"Hey, Danny-boy." Jack paused at the entrance to his friend's office, looking down to see him sitting on the floor, some of the bigger shards of the tablet in his hands, trying to piece it together. "I think you're fighting a losing battle trying to put that back together."
"I didn't get a chance to start translating the symbols, or to take pictures or anything." Daniel lamented, finally giving up on his reconstruction efforts and reaching for a dustpan and brush to dispose of the debris.
"Sam happened. How can somebody so small and so sweet possibly cause so much trouble?"
"I'm sure it was an accident." Jack said in pacifying tone, narrowing his eyes when a visual sweep of the room proved that the young lady in question was nowhere in sight. "You didn't kill her, did you?"
"Of course not." Daniel was affronted by the suggestion, even though he knew the other man was joking. "I was going to General Hammond to take care of her, but he was out and then Lieutenant Simmons volunteered to watch Sam. You know what they say about gift horses."
"There's usually a good reason they're being given away?"
"...And this is the dialing computer, this is how we put the addresses into the stargate." Lieutenant Simmons explained to the wide-eyed little girl sitting on his knee. Below in the gate room, the members of SG-7 were geared up and ready to depart for a mission to P5R-081. "Do you want to put in the last chevron." Sam nodded enthusiastically. "Just press this button."
A small finger stabbed the symbol for Earth.
"Chevron seven locked." Simmons intoned.
Sam was fascinated by the whoosh of energy and the wormhole that formed in the gate room below. "Can I get a closer look?"
"I'm sorry, Sam." Simmons apologized, his mind conjuring images of the likely reaction of General Hammond - not to mention the rest of SG-1 - if the little girl were to stumble into an open wormhole. It was a scary thought. "I'm not allowed to take you down there."
"Oh." She pouted, disappointed.
"Lieutenant Simmons?" Another technician spoke up from one of the monitors on the other side of the room. "Could you take a look at this?"
"Sure." Lifting Sam off his knee, he stood, sitting her back down on his chair before making his way to the monitor. "What's the problem?"
Uninterested in her temporary guardian's consultation with the technician, little Sam focused her attention on the far more appealing dialing computer, wanting to recreate the spectacle she had just witnessed, to have a chance to examine it properly.
She was pretty sure she remembered which buttons Lieutenant Simmons had pushed.
Lieutenant Simmons looked near tears.
He had been able to end the dialing sequence before a wormhole had been successfully established, but not before the alarm for unauthorized `gate activation had gone off, bringing at least half a dozen security personnel running, together with the men of SG-1.
To say that Colonel O'Neill had not been impressed with him would have been an understatement of considerable proportions.
Once the unfortunate lieutenant had been duly squashed with a few well-chosen words, Jack turned his attention to the small culprit still sitting in Simmons' chair, fully intending to scold her, but the combination of pigtails, dimples and the big blue eyes gazing innocently up at him proved to be his undoing.
He briefly wondered if Jacob Carter had ever been able to bring himself to yell at his daughter when she had been this young and cute. If he had, he was made of sterner stuff than Jack had thought.
Despite his best efforts to maintain a stern visage, Jack could not keep a smile from tugging at the corners of his mouth.
After all, it was impressive that the four year old had been able to remember Lieutenant Simmons' pass code when she had only seen him enter it once and she hadn't intended to cause trouble, she had just been curious...
A muffled snigger from Daniel made him look up. "What's so funny?"
"Nothing." Daniel hastily choked down his laughter, nudging Teal'c and pointing towards the monitor. The Jaffa smiled slightly, his equivalent of rolling on the floor laughing.
"Come on, now." Jack said, imitating his fourth grade teacher perfectly. "Share the joke with the rest of the class."
"The coordinates Sam entered..." The archeologist broke off, laughing.
"Samantha Carter entered the coordinates for P6J-614." Teal'c informed him, without a hint of humor.
It only took a couple of seconds for the pieces to click together in Jack's head.
P6J-614, known as Pirat to the locals, also known as the home of three formidable old dowagers, all more than a little on the overweight side, whose determination to turn one Jack O'Neill into their shared consort had been truly terrifying to behold.
"Shit!" He exclaimed, horrified. "They don't know that it was us trying to get through, right?"
"I'm sure they don't, Jack." Daniel reassured him solemnly.
"It is most unlikely, O'Neill."
"Doesn't the iris stop bad people coming in?" Little Sam queried innocently. "Graham said so."
"I think you're safe." Daniel teased.
Reassured somewhat, Jack bent down to Sam's level. "We never, ever dial that address, understand?"
"Can I try that one?" She pointed at one of the sequences.
Simmons gave a cough that sounded remarkably like `black hole planet'.
"Uh, not that one either. Or that one."
It seemed as if everybody on base had synchronized their schedule to be in the commissary while SG-1, complete with their youngest member, were eating lunch.
"We should try selling tickets." Jack commented dryly when the fifth person who had come over `just to say hi' had left. "I could retire... again."
"Sam is pretty cute like this." Daniel offered.
"She's cute as an adult, but people don't come over to gawk at her then." Seemingly unaware of what he had just said, Jack scooped up a forkful of his meal and chewed, frowning. "What do they put in this stuff?"
"Perhaps it is best that we do not know." Teal'c said seriously.
"Can I have some jello, please?" Sam piped up.
"Sure. Want Daniel to get it for you?" Jack offered, ignoring his friend's indignant "Hey!"
"No, thank you. I can get it myself." Sam climbed down from her chair and headed over to the counter, bumping into General Hammond as he entered the room.
"Hi Uncle George."
"Hi sweetheart." He smiled down at her. "What are you up to?"
"Okay." He patted her head before making his way to SG-1's table. "How are you finding childcare?" He asked the guys, a twinkle in his eye.
"Slightly better than facing Apophis." Jack responded honestly.
Hammond chuckled. "I heard about the incident in the control room."
"Carter's just too smart for her own good."
"Luckily for us." The general smiled as he watched the little girl who had grown up to figure out how the stargate worked and save Earth and several other planets threaded her way through the tables, a bowl of blue jello carried carefully in both hands.
She was just a few yards away from them when she stumbled, managing to avoid falling, but unable to save her dessert, which ended up decorating the floor.
Somehow the word sounded so much worse coming from the angelic looking little girl.
"Samantha Carter!" Hammond scolded. "Where did you hear that word, young lady?"
Jack winced when she pointed at him. `Tell tale!'
The general, armed with years of experience with his children and grandchildren, managed to resist the urge to smile and to keep his frown firmly in place. "I think that you need a timeout, to think about why that kind of talk is not acceptable."
"That's not fair." Sam pouted. "Why do I have to have a timeout? Colonel O'Neill said it too. Shouldn't he get one as well?"
Jack forced out a laugh. "Kids say the strangest things."
To his dismay, his commanding officer seemed to give Sam's argument serious consideration. "You know, she has a point."
`He can't be serious... right?'
"This is all your fault!"
"No talking in timeout." Hammond told Jack sternly, not troubling to hide his smile now that the pair were turned away from him, seated in opposite corners of his office.
Jack turned his head to glare at little Sam, who didn't seem nearly as sweet or adorable as she had a few minutes ago.
Hammond's punishment didn't seem to be troubling her in the slightest. She was swinging her legs gently back and forth, seemingly lost in thought. He didn't think that he wanted to know what she was plotting.
Sighing deeply, he returned his gaze to the wall, looking up only when the general cleared his throat.
"Alright, Sam, that's four minutes, you're free to go. Teal'c is waiting for you."
"Finally!" Jack all but leapt out of his seat.
"Not so fast, Jack." Hammond raised a hand, halting Jack's escape. "I have it on good authority that a timeout lasts a minute for every year of the child's age."
"I'm not. Sit."
Scowling, Jack took a seat and resumed his intensive study of the wall.
It was official: Hammond was evil.
*Two hours later*
Little Sam had climbed onto Teal'c's lap as soon as Darth Vader had first appeared onscreen but other than her initial fright, she had quickly become engrossed in the movie.
The `Star Wars' trilogy had been three among the many DVDs that Teal'c's teammates had bought him when he had first taken up residence on base and they were far and away the most watched of his collection.
The little girl had cried out as Obi-Wan Kenobi was struck down and Teal'c felt his own expression harden. To kill one's opponent when they had ceased fighting was not worthy of a true warrior.
"Can the Air Force make flying spaceships like that?" Sam asked, pointing at the X-wing fighters.
The Jaffa shook his head, deciding against telling her about the Goa'uld motherships and death gliders.
"What about lightsabers? Can they make those?"
Teal'c shook his head again, remembering his own disappointment when he had learned that the only lightsabers available were battery-operated. "Alas, I know of nobody who possesses such a weapon."
Three quarters of an hour spent studying the wall of Hammond's office hadn't exactly put Jack in a cheerful mood, nor had Colonel Makepeace's mock-serious enquiry about whether timeouts would now be the general's disciplinary method of choice for wayward members of SG-1.
"Remind me to kill Carter."
"Come on, Jack." Daniel said in a pacifying tone. "She's just a little kid. You can't get mad at her."
"Are you going to be saying that when she trashes your office?"
"What do you mean `when'?" Daniel looked slightly alarmed.
"Nothing." Jack's response was far too smooth for Daniel's peace of mind.
"Did you tell Sam to mess up my lab?"
"Daniel!" His tone was one of injured innocence. "Would I do something like that?"
"I'm hurt that you would think that of me." Jack said reproachfully. "For your information, I did not tell Carter to trash your office." Fortunately, the archaeologist missed his slight smirk. `Yet.'
"...And you have to keep your eyes closed all the time, no peeking." Sam sternly admonished Teal'c.
"It would be dishonorable for me to peek." Teal'c said seriously. "You may rest assured that I will not."
"Good." The little girl beamed her approval. "And you have to count slowly and no skipping numbers like Mark does."
"How long must I count for?"
She gave the question serious thought. It was a big base, after all, and the last thing she wanted was for him to come looking before she had found a suitable hiding place. "Count to a hundred... no, two hundred. The you have to call out `ready or not'."
"I understand." Teal'c inclined his head slightly.
Satisfied that her companion fully understood the rules of Hide and Seek, Sam ran out of the room.
Teal'c closed his eyes and began to count. "One... Two... Three..."
*Fifteen minutes later*
"Whatcha doing, buddy?" Jack managed to suppress a grin at the sight of a very solemn looking Teal'c opening a small supply closet and examining it closely.
"I am trying to find Samantha Carter."
"You lost her?" Jack asked, alarmed.
"What happened?" Daniel was equally concerned.
"We are playing Hide and Seek." The Jaffa's tone was dignified. "Samantha is hiding and I am attempting to locate her."
"How long have you been looking?"
"A quarter of an hour."
"Would you like some help?" Jack offered generously, remembering from his own childhood and Charlie's how resourceful small children could be when it came to finding hiding places.
"I do not wish to cheat." Despite his words, Teal'c was sorely tempted by the offer. He had not thought that one little girl would have been able to elude him so successfully.
"Did Carter actually say that you couldn't call in backup?" Jack asked.
"She did not."
"Then it's not cheating."
"Where have you checked already?" Daniel asked practically.
"I have searched all accessible rooms on this level and on Level 19."
Jack's eyes widened. "Exactly how big was the hiding zone?"
"Hiding zone?" Teal'c raised a puzzled eyebrow.
"You know, the area that you agree to for hiding places so that there's a limit to how far you can go and the kid doesn't wind up a mile away... you did have a hiding zone, right?" He asked, dreading the answer.
"I did not."
*Twenty minutes later*
"Any luck?" Daniel asked as soon as the other two men arrived at Jack's office, which had been designated the rendezvous point.
"She's not in the commissary, or any of the locker rooms or in her own quarters." Jack reported.
"I was also unsuccessful, Daniel Jackson." Teal'c said regretfully.
"Okay," Daniel pushed his glasses further up his nose. "The SGC is a big place and Sam is pretty small right now, so even if we don't need to check any restricted areas, there are still a lot of places that she could be. Maybe it's time we accepted that the three of us mightn't be able to find her."
"We are not using the intercom to beg Carter to come out of hiding." Jack said immediately.
The men of SG-1 were already providing the rest of the base with seemingly endless amusement with their babysitting duties. Jack had no wish to add to their humiliation with what would amount to a public admission that one small child could get the better of them so easily.
"Okay, maybe the intercom wouldn't be a good idea, but maybe we can recruit more people to help us search."
"There must be some people on the base that we can trust not to betray us." Teal'c said seriously.
Jack mentally reviewed the SGC personnel before selecting candidates that he could be reasonably sure would not taunt him about this for the next few years.
"Call Siler. And Simmons." He added as an afterthought, knowing that the younger man would never dare say a word.
They had decided to divide their search party, with Teal'c and Simmons searching the lower levels while Daniel and Siler tackled the upper, leaving the middle levels to Jack.
Sergeant Siler had passed out radios to enable them to keep in touch.
`Let's see,' Jack mused, having checked the gym thoroughly and even slipping into the infirmary as soon as Janet stepped out just in case Sam had taken refuge there. He had felt his chest tighten uncomfortably as he had passed the armory, dreading what could have happened if she had found her way in there, but thankfully the door had been securely locked. `If I were Carter, where would I be?'
Once realization dawned, he felt like kicking himself for not thinking of it sooner.
"What are you up to, young lady?" Despite his best efforts at maintaining a stern faade, Jack couldn't keep from smiling at the sight of little Sam standing on one of the stools in the lab, earnestly consulting one of the scientists.
"Hi, Colonel." She smiled up at him.
"Do you know that people have been looking for you for a long time? You were playing Hide and Seek with Teal'c." He reminded her patiently, seeing that she had plainly forgotten about the game. He clicked on his radio. "Teal'c, Daniel, I've found our missing person." He glanced at Sam's companion, who was studiously avoiding meeting his eyes. "What have you two been doing?"
"Uh..." The poor scientist seemed to find the linoleum floor fascinating. "We... uh... Captain Carter..."
"Well?" Jack frowned pointedly, wishing that he could remember the man's name. "I'm waiting."
"I wanted to see if he could build a lightsaber." Sam piped up excitedly. "And we were trying to find out what we'd need to make one."
"Yes, sir." The man spoke meekly, expecting to be reprimanded for wasting time and resources on a child's whim.
He was pleasantly surprised when a slow grin spread across Jack's face.
*The next day*
"Can we go to see the lions first?"
"I too would like to see the lions. And then the elephants."
"They've got an exhibit with great models of dinosaurs. I want to see that."
Jack groaned slightly. Once Janet had cleared her to leave the base, Sam had decided that she wanted to go to the zoo and as her word seemed to be law where `Uncle George' was concerned, the adult members of SG-1 had been ordered to take her.
Ordinarily, he would have had no problems with this assignment; after all, touring a zoo was infinitely preferable to bring cooped up in the mountain, slaving over a stack of paperwork but he had been counting on taking one child to the zoo with two adults aiding him and he felt more like he was chaperoning three children.
Teal'c, with a hotdog in one hand and a map of the zoo in the other, had entered into the spirit of the outing with the same enthusiasm as little Sam, determined to fully explore the zoo and as soon as Daniel had heard about the dinosaur exhibition, nothing would satisfy him except a chance to visit it.
"They will be feeding the penguins at 1400, O'Neill." Teal'c said solemnly, consulting his guide. "We should ensure that we eat lunch early so that we can be there on time."
"Good idea." Jack agreed. "Let's go to see the lions first, and the dinosaurs later, okay?" The other three nodded.
"I'm hungry." Sam announced less than five minutes later. "Can I have an ice cream, please?"
"Okay." Jack agreed. There were still a few hours to go before lunch and junk food was an essential part of a zoo trip, after all.
"If you're getting one for Sam, can you grab one for me too?" Daniel asked immediately.
"I too would enjoy an ice cream."
Jack sighed. He had a feeling that this was going to be a long day.
Once they had discovered the petting zoo, tearing Sam and Teal'c away from it proved an impossibility.
Daniel had whipped out his digital camera and was taking pictures of little Sam cuddling a rabbit in her lap when a nudge from Jack directed his attention to Teal'c and he quickly snapped off a shot.
After all, how often did one see a Jaffa warrior enraptured by a baby lamb?
"Colonel O'Neill?" Sam tugged at the hem of Jack's shirt.
"Mr Einstein wants to come home with us."
"Who's Mr Einstein?"
"He is." She showed him the rabbit in her arms.
"Oh." Somehow, he doubted that that had been the name given to the rabbit by the zoo.
"He said that he wants to come and live with me." The little girl told him with utmost seriousness. "Can I keep him?"
"I don't think that's going to be possible." He said gently, wincing inwardly as her face fell and her lower lip trembled. "Mr Einstein lives at the zoo. He's going to have to stay here. This is where all the other rabbits, and all of his other friends, live. You wouldn't want him to be lonely without them, would you?"
"I guess not." Sam hugged Mr Einstein tightly before setting him down. "Will I be able to come back and visit him? Will you bring me back? Please?"
"Sure." He assured her, wondering if the adult Sam would hold him to that.
"Okay." She still looked a little sad as she wandered away to make the acquaintance of the other animals, including the lamb Teal'c was feeding.
Nudging Daniel, Jack spoke quietly. "If Teal'c decides that he wants to keep the lamb, you get to be the one to explain why he can't."
*An hour later*
"Yes?" Jack asked, steeling himself against having to explain why Sam couldn't take a tiger back to Cheyenne mountain.
"What are those tigers doing?"
Following her gaze, Jack swore under his breath and managed to keep himself from clapping a hand over the little girl's eyes. "They're just playing."
"They're making a baby." Another child, a boy a few years older, said superciliously when he heard her question.
"How does doing that make a baby?"
Before the young tiger expert could explain, his mother pulled him away, blushing and muttering apologies.
"Colonel?" Sam persisted. "How do babies get made?"
`This is not happening!' "Daniel?" Jack gave his friend an appealing look. "I think that you would be the best person to explain this, don't you?"
"I don't think so."
"I do not believe that that would be an appropriate matter for me to discuss with a young girl." From that stance, he would not be budged.
"As her commanding officer - future commanding officer - I think that this should really be your responsibility." Daniel said, smirking.
"Funnily enough, this wasn't in the job description." Jack growled, before glancing at Sam, who was still waiting.
"Where do babies come from?"
For once in his life, Jack O'Neill felt no shame whatsoever about taking the coward's way out.
To his immense relief, Sam, though disappointed, accepted his excuse. Jack considered it poetic justice when, about ten minutes later as they were watching a lion prowling through his habitat, the four year old tugged on Daniel's hand.
"I have to go."
Daniel's face went from puzzled while he tried to work out where she wanted to go, to pale when he understood what she was asking before settling on red when he realized that neither of the other men were planning on volunteering to undertake the task.
"Go on, Daniel." Jack encouraged. "You can take Carter to the ladies' and catch up with us."
"Fine." Taking Sam's hand, Daniel led her off in search of a bathroom.
As soon as they had left, Jack turned to Teal'c with a grin. "Somewhere up there, there's a non-snake infested god that likes me."
A short distance away, Daniel, though not echoing his friend's words, was certainly echoing the sentiment, grateful beyond words that little Sam had insisted that she did not need him to accompany her into the bathroom or help her in any way.
A few minutes later, she emerged from the bathroom and took his hand again.
"Great. Let's go catch up with Jack and Teal'c."
"Where were we supposed to go next?"
For the second time in less than quarter of an hour, Daniel's face paled as he realized that he had no idea what their next destination was supposed to have been.
*Five minutes later*
"I think we're lost."
"We are not lost!" Daniel said, more sharply than he had intended. "I know exactly where we are - right by the monkey house, see?"
"But you don't know where the Colonel and Teal'c are, do you?" Sam asked shrewdly.
"No." The archaeologist's admission was reluctant. He mentally kicked himself for forgetting to bring his cellphone. That little piece of technology could have saved a lot of trouble right now.
"If you don't know where they are and I don't know where they are, it means that we're lost." The little girl told him in a tone that brooked no argument.
"We are not... okay, we're lost." Daniel conceded at last, knowing that she was right.
"It's going to be okay, Daniel." Little Sam squeezed his hand comfortingly, her keen blue eyes scanning the area for a few minutes before she smiled. "I know what to do." Dropping his hand, she sped off.
It took a moment for Daniel to realize what she had planned. "Sam, no! Stop!"
He was too late.
The tinny voice filtering through the loudspeakers sounded impossibly loud as it called for the parents or guardians of Samantha Carter and Daniel Jackson to make their way to the Lost and Found office to collect them.
"Be careful, Danny, no wandering off." Jack said, the delighted grin on his face spoiling his attempt at sounding serious.
"Shall I hold your hand, Daniel Jackson?" Teal'c offered gravely. "We do not want you to get lost again."
Although there was not the faintest hint of humor showing on Teal'c's face, Daniel knew that he was enjoying the situation as much as Jack was. He had sounded utterly serious when he had loudly announced to those in the Lost and Found office that he was the other man's official guardian, while Jack had claimed little Sam, praising her for her quick thinking.
The Jaffa warrior had definitely been working on his sense of humor, but Daniel was no longer certain that this was a good thing.
Jack was a bad influence.
Even the zoo employee, who had been inclined at first to be embarrassed that she had made the announcement so hastily, without seeing the second `lost child', had quickly gotten over it and, at the urging of a delighted Jack, had presented the red-faced Daniel with a lollipop and a badge announcing to all and sundry that he had been a very brave boy.
Sam had refused to give him a moment's peace until he put it on.
"It's just about time for lunch." Jack announced, picking Sam up and sitting her on his shoulders. "Anyone fancy McDonalds?"
"Me!" Sam called eagerly.
"I would like a Happy Meal." Teal'c said seriously. "But we must not forget the penguins' meal at 1400."
"We won't, big guy." Jack assured him. "Daniel?"
"Fine by me."
"It's unanimous, then." Settling Sam more comfortably, Jack smirked at Daniel. "Maybe you should take Teal'c up on his offer and hold his hand. After all, next time you get lost, Sam mightn't be there."
Daniel scowled. He knew well that this particular anecdote would soon be doing the rounds of the SGC and he had a pretty good idea who would be spreading it.
Untroubled by the other man's glare, Jack led the way to the restaurant, still grinning.
If this didn't outdo the stories and laughter circulating about his timeout, nothing would.
"You guys stink!" Jack had never been known for his tact but, in this instance, he felt that there really wasn't a politer way to put it.
At Teal'c's insistence, the group had arrived at the shallow pool where the penguins were housed precisely ten minutes before their feeding time was due to begin - only to find a sizeable crowd already gathered there.
With an enthusiasm more suited to a small child than a Jaffa warrior, Teal'c had managed to maneuver his way through the crowd to the front, pressed against the low bars fencing in the penguins, right next to their keeper. He had pulled Daniel along behind him.
Jack had been thankful that little Sam had found the odor as objectionable as he had and, as her position sitting on his shoulder's gave her a bird's eye view of the proceedings, she had not demanded that he move any closer, leaving him in a perfect position to use the camera to capture Teal'c's not quite concealed surprise and joy when the penguins' keeper had offered to let him throw in a few of the fish himself.
The expression on Daniel's face when the penguins had made a beeline for Teal'c - or, more accurately, the fish he held - splashing them both liberally, could not be described as anything other than priceless.
Jack was considering using the picture as a screensaver.
That General Hammond had called him just minutes after the other two men had been soaked, demanding their immediate return to the SGC, not listening to excuses about needing to change, had been the icing on the cake.
Thus Jack and Sam were accompanied back to the base by two men drenched in smelly, stagnant water.
Jack had been duly grateful that they had used Daniel's car rather than his truck to get to the zoo, otherwise both men would have been walking back to Cheyenne Mountain.
Hearing the titters from just about every member of the SGC they passed, Daniel's face turned an interesting shade of pink and, although Teal'c showed no outward sign of embarrassment, Jack would have been willing to bet that he was committing the names and faces of every sniggerer to memory.
"Good Lord!" General Hammond, coming to the control room to greet them, gaped at his flagship team in astonishment. "What happened to you?"
"They had an accident." Sam informed him blithely.
Hearing this, Colonel Makepeace of SG-3 snorted with laughter, looking as though several of his birthdays had come at once.
"Not that kind of accident!" The now crimson Daniel scowled at her.
"The penguins attempted to attack us." Teal'c sounded quite distressed about this.
"They weren't attacking you, big guy." Jack said patiently. "They just wanted the fish."
"I would have given it to them had they been patient."
"Uncle George?" Sam tugged on her godfather's shirt. Once she had his attention, she held a stuffed rabbit out to him. "Look what Colonel O'Neill got me."
"His name is George." She told him sweetly. "George the Rabbit."
"Is it?" He grinned, enchanted by her. "Did you have fun at the zoo?"
"Uh-huh, but then we had to leave when Teal'c and Daniel got wet."
"Speaking of..." Daniel spoke up hurriedly, wanting to get to a shower and clean clothes as soon as was humanly possible.
"By all means, clean up." General Hammond nodded permission. "But please hurry back. We received a radio message from the Tok'ra, one of their operatives will be arriving within the hour."
"Jacob's going to kill us."
"Nobody could have known what the pool would... hey!" Daniel's tone switched from calming to indignant. "What do you mean `us'? You were in charge."
"If I'm going down, I'm taking you with me."
"The Tok'ra did not give the name of the operative in question." Teal'c observed logically. "It may not be Jacob Carter."
"True." Jack acknowledged, glancing through the glass window of Hammond's office, where Sam had commandeered the general's chair and was drawing a picture. "If worst comes to worst, I call Carter as a human shield. You can use Daniel." He told Teal'c generously.
"What's to stop Jacob killing me?"
What promised to be a very childish argument was cut off by the alarms signifying offworld activation.
General Hammond emerged from his office, leading little Sam by the hand and handed her over to Jack. "Why don't you take Sam down to the `gate room. I'm sure she's like to see the stargate in action, wouldn't you, honey?" She nodded eagerly.
The warning not to let her any closer to the event horizon than the bottom of the ramp went unspoken, but the three adult members of SG-1 heard it as clearly as if it had been shouted.
Taking Jack's hand, little Sam all but dragged him out of the briefing room, eager to see the stargate again, Daniel and Teal'c following at a more sedate pace.
"Receiving Tok'ra IDC, sir." Lieutenant Simmons reported.
"Open the iris." Hammond ordered.
"How does that work?" Sam asked, wide-eyed as the metal shield receded.
Jack shrugged. "Ask Siler."
A few seconds after the iris opened fully, a solitary figure, clad in the usual tunic of the Tok'ra, stepped through, his arrival causing Jack to exhale slightly in relief before grimacing in irritation.
Maybe Jacob wouldn't have been so bad after all.
Sam moved closer to him, clutching at his hand. "I feel funny." Her voice was soft, barely above a whisper.
"I believe Samantha Carter senses the presence of a symbiote." Teal'c said.
"Samantha?" Martouf knelt down in front of her, his eyes wide with disbelief. "What has happened?"
"Long story." Jack said, picking the little girl up.
"So I see."
"Maybe you can help us." Daniel suggested eagerly. "If you have the time. You see, we were on P4C-656 and there was a temple dedicated to Hebe, I'm guessing she's a Goa'uld and..." He trailed off, seeing that Martouf's attention was focused on a spot on his shirt. He flushed, realizing that one of his so-called friends must have stuck it on his shirt while he showered. He removed the offending `brave boy' badge, waving it accusingly at Jack. "When were you planning on telling me that I was still wearing this?"
Jack grinned. "I wasn't."
*The briefing room*
Little Sam had remained glued to Jack's side, clinging tightly around his neck as he carried her up from the `gate room to the briefing room, were Martouf was filling them in on the information the Tok'ra had gathered since their last meeting.
He would have been willing to bet that the intelligence they were being provided with was a mere drop in the bucket, but it seemed to be all that they were willing to share.
Much to his surprise, the little girl had not immediately clamored to be set down so that she could go over to `Uncle George' but instead had remained in his lap during Martouf's briefing, for once paying less attention that he did.
Lantash seemed to have opted to take a backseat while Martouf explained the details of Goa'uld movements and pointed out a list of coordinates for Tok'ra operations, indicating that these planets should be considered off limits to all SG teams until further notice.
"What about..." Glancing at the little girl sitting on Jack's knee, Daniel stopped himself from speaking her name. "You know. Do the Tok'ra know anything about this Hebe?"
"She is a minor Goa'uld, far from the rank of System Lord. Her holdings are limited to just a few planets."
"Is P4C-656 among her current holdings?" Teal'c enquired.
"To the best of our knowledge, it is not. It was abandoned several centuries ago when Hebe began to lose power and to consolidate her remaining holdings."
"What do you know about her fountain of youth?" Daniel asked.
"Not much." Martouf admitted. "The Tok'ra have encountered the Jaffa of Hebe occasionally in recent centuries. They are exceptionally loyal, more devoted to their false god even than most Jaffa." He nodded in Teal'c's direction to indicate that he did not mean any offence.
"I'd be loyal and devoted too if I could get twenty years knocked off my age for it." Jack said dryly.
"I don't suppose you know of a cure." General Hammond asked. "Or if you have a timeframe for how long it might take for the effects to reverse naturally."
As much as he was enjoying the company of his youthened goddaughter, the SGC was far from a suitable environment for a small child and, in the far from unlikely event of an emergency, the expertise of the adult Sam Carter would probably be needed.
"We do not." Martouf said regretfully, regarding little Sam with curiosity. "She does not remember her adult life?"
"No." Jack responded, rubbing Sam's back lightly when she shrank closer to him, uncomfortable with Martouf's scrutiny.
"I see." Martouf was silent for a few moments, engaged in communication with his symbiote. "I have never heard of a Jaffa of Hebe losing his memory. It is possible that Samantha's memories of her adult life are merely suppressed, as her mind is not yet ready to deal with them."
"Is there any way to jog those memories?" Daniel asked.
"We possess memory recall technology." Martouf admitted. "But I would never recommend its use in Samantha's current state, or entrust this child to Anise for examination." He said protectively.
"What's wrong with my memory?" Sam asked, distressed by the conversation. "What do they want to do?"
"Nothing." Jack said soothingly. "There's nothing wrong with you. Is there?" He narrowed his eyes at the others.
"Colonel O'Neill is right, sweetie." General Hammond said hastily. "There's nothing wrong with you."
"Nobody will hurt you, Samantha." If Martouf had hoped that his words would calm the little girl, he was sadly mistaken.
Sam shrank closer to Jack, gesturing for him to bend down so that she could whisper in his ear. "There's something wrong. I feel funny."
Although Jack sometimes liked to pass himself off as an idiot, he was far from clueless. "And do you sometimes get a funny feeling around Teal'c?"
She paused for a moment before answering. She had accepted that Teal'c was a friend when Uncle George had told her that he was and hadn't paid any attention to the sense she got from him. "A little bit." She admitted. "Not like this, though."
"I believe that it is my presence you sense."
Sam's eyes became impossibly large at the sound of Martouf's changed voice. "Who is that?" Her voice shook as she asked the question.
Lantash stood, moving around the table to where Jack and Sam were sitting and kneeling down to her level. "I am Lantash."
"What happened to Martouf?"
"Oh, he's still in there." Jack said, resisting the urge to scowl. Martouf was pretty far down his list of favorite people, somewhere between Maybourne and Apophis.
"Colonel O'Neill is correct." Lantash smiled. "He and I share this body."
"Why?" Curiosity was pushing fear into a very secondary position.
"We are friends." Lantash chose his words carefully, not wanting to frighten or intimidate Sam more than she already was. "I live within Martouf, so that he is never lonely."
Lantash dipped his head, and when Martouf spoke, his voice returned to normal. "Never. Lantash is always with me."
"Is that nice?" She sounded wistful. Her daddy had to move a lot, so she would always have to leave her friends behind when they moved house. Having a friend that would always be with her sounded wonderful.
"It's not for everybody." Jack told her, frowning slightly at Martouf as a warning to end the conversation.
While the last thing he wanted was for the child he held to be frightened, he didn't like the way Martouf and Lantash were making being a Tok'ra sound so appealing.
"Will you be staying on Earth long?" Daniel asked Martouf, more out of politeness than anything else, as they sat down to a late dinner.
General Hammond had already left to have dinner with his daughter and grandchildren.
Sam, sitting between Jack and Teal'c, was starting to look slightly drowsy as she tried to come up with cunning ways to hide the Brussel sprouts that the kitchen server had put on her plate, despite her protests.
"We will are to meet with another operative in three days time." Martouf responded, examining the meatloaf curiously. "This is most unusual. What is it composed of?"
"It's always better not to know." Jack told him seriously, taking a malicious pleasure in the Tok'ra's disconcerted expression.
"I enjoy it." Teal'c said calmly, a lifetime of Jaffa battlefield rations having inured his palate to just about anything, including what the commissary tried to pass off as `food'.
Jack rolled his eyes, liberally lacing his own serving of meatloaf with ketchup, which he had found made it somewhat palatable. "Remind me never to eat on Chulak - Sam, if you don't want to eat them, nobody's going to force you." He said, seeing the four year old try to bury a Brussel sprout in her mashed potatoes out of the corner of his eye.
She looked surprised that he had seen through her stealthy attempts at concealing the despised vegetables but if the adults weren't planning to make her eat them, she wasn't going to say a word that might change their minds.
"Lantash and I are looking forward to spending more time on this planet." Martouf said brightly.
Jack groaned slightly at his animated tone.
Taking care of a four year old Samantha Carter he could live with; babysitting a Tok'ra was another matter entirely.
"I believe that you are tired, Samantha." Martouf observed as Sam yawned for the third time in as many minutes, either not seeing or not heeding Jack's gestures to shut up. "Perhaps you ought to go to bed."
"I'm not sleepy!" Sam's predictable objection would have slightly more convincing if she had been able to keep her eyes from starting to drift shut.
"You appear to be."
"It is getting late, Sam."
Jack groaned inwardly as Teal'c and Daniel both seconded Martouf, wondering how they could possibly be so clueless about four year olds - or about Sam Carter, for that matter.
"I don't want to go to bed!" Keeping her eyes open out of sheer stubbornness, Sam scowled at them. It had been a busy day and she was tired but there was no way that she was going to admit that now.
"You heard the lady." Both the adults and the child looked surprised by Jack's words.
"Jack, I don't think..."
"Daniel," Jack cut him off warningly. "If Sam says that she isn't tired, then she isn't tired."
"But she is clearly..."
"Ah!" Jack raised a warning finger in the Tok'ra's direction before returning his attention to Sam. "We can all head to your room and watch TV if you like - you've never seen `The Simpsons', have you?" She shook her head sleepily, looking close to dropping off then and there. At least she had some excuse for being taken in by his cheerful words; Daniel, Teal'c and Martouf were wide awake and they were all looking at him as though he was insane to even consider doing anything other that bundling the little girl straight off to bed. "Of course," He continued in a would-be casual tone. "It'll be easier if you get changed for bed now, so we can watch TV without being interrupted later, right?"
As soon as the female SF who, in Janet's absence, was responsible for giving Sam any help she needed with washing and dressing, had left with the little girl, Jack turned to the other three with a frown.
"`Perhaps you ought to go to bed'?" He quoted Martouf disbelievingly. "That's probably the best way to get her to insist on staying up half the night."
"I do not understand." Poor Martouf looked bewildered.
A small, smug smile tugged at the corners of Jack's mouth. "Watch and learn."
As Jack had expected, Little Sam didn't even make it to the end of the first episode before her body lost its battle against sleep.
Moving as smoothly as possible, he lifted her up and gently transferred her from the couch to the bed, motioning to Teal'c to switch off the television.
Sam stirred a little when he set her down and she felt the covers being tucked around her. She yawned widely, holding out her arms. "Kiss." Once Jack had obediently bent down to accept her hug and kiss her on the forehead, she mumbled "Night-night" before rolling onto her side and falling fast asleep.
Jack straightened, adopting a gruff tone. "This gets to be one of those things that we never speak of again." He announced as he led the way out of the room, switching off all lights save the dim night light.
"I do not understand why you recommended staying up when Samantha was clearly exhausted." Martouf observed disapprovingly. "Surely it would have been better if she had gone to bed immediately."
"Good theory - except that she wouldn't have gone. Not without a fight, anyway."
"Do human children not obey their elders unconditionally?"
Jack winced slightly at Teal'c's query, remembering the warnings about how dangerous guns were and the admonitions never to touch them that had been forgotten as soon as one was within reach.
"Jack's got a point." Daniel conceded, thinking back on his own childhood obstinacy.
"Besides, this is Carter we're talking about." Jack said. "`Sleep' is practically a dirty word."
Nobody could argue against that.
"When I meet with my contact, I will try to send a message to Jacob." Martouf said.
"Oh you don't need to go to so much trouble." Jack said hastily.
"It is no trouble."
"What if Sam doesn't recognize her dad?" Daniel asked. "It might upset her."
"Did Samantha have any memories of any of you when she was first altered?" Martouf asked curiously.
"No." Jack grimaced at the memory of the difficulty he had had carrying the little girl bodily back through the stargate. He was rather surprised that he didn't have teeth marks on his hand.
"Sam didn't recognize anybody except for General Hammond." Daniel supplied.
"And she's known him since she was in diapers."
"Surely General Hammond looked different when Samantha was a child."
"Yeah - he probably had hair back then." Jack joked.
"Yet she recognized him." Martouf persisted. "This could mean that her memories still exist in her mind, and that they are dormant at present."
"So why General Hammond and not us?" Daniel asked, intrigued.
"As Colonel O'Neill pointed out, Samantha was acquainted with the general as a child. Perhaps her mind was able to form the link between the man she knew then and the man she knows now as a result."
"So Sam's memories are in there somewhere, but she's not ready to access them yet."
"I believe so."
"That's not much good, is it?" Jack asked dryly.
"Given time, she may remember her adult life on her own."
Jack grinned briefly at the idea of a four year old Sam ordering the techs around and tinkering with her doohickeys before his expression became serious. "Let's hope she's back to normal before then."
Although none of the others spoke, they all shared this sentiment.
*The next morning*
"Good morning, campers!" Jack greeted the three - well, two and a half - members of his team cheerfully before acknowledging Martouf with a nod. "Marty."
"Good morning, O'Neill."
"Good morning, Colonel."
Sam, engrossed in another breakfast construction project, this one bearing a startling resemblance to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, scarcely noticed his approach. George the Rabbit sat in a chair next to her, observing her through glassy eyes.
"Were you able to actually get any food into her?" Jack asked.
"Do chocolate donuts count as food?" Daniel quipped.
"The jury's still out on that one."
"What have we planned for today?" Martouf asked eagerly.
"Well, Hammond said that you're free to explore the base." Jack said hastily.
"What will you and Samantha be doing?"
"There's a lot of `gate activity scheduled for today." Jack directed his words at Daniel and Teal'c. "General Hammond thought that it might be a good idea if you know who wasn't underfoot."
"Are we to go to the zoo again?" Teal'c queried immediately.
Jack's prayers that Sam hadn't heard this went unanswered.
"Are we going back to see Mr Einstein?"
"Not today. You don't want to overdo it." He said hastily, hoping to avert a tantrum, or, worse still, tears. "Besides, wouldn't you like to take George for a day out."
She nodded eagerly. "Uh-huh."
"Where will we be going?" Martouf, thankfully, did not hear Jack's faint groan as he included himself in the party.
"Any ideas where we can go, guys?" Jack appealed to his friends. Child-friendly activities in Colorado Springs was not one of his areas of expertise.
"I have heard of a place where humans do battle in a ring of jello."
"Okay..." Jack took a moment to digest Teal'c's suggestion. "Any ideas that won't get us arrested?"
"Ow!" Daniel yelped as the small projectile struck his shin. "Sam!"
"Try again." Jack instructed, grinning as Martouf had to leap out of the way to avoid being hit himself.
Since insisting that Martouf remain on base despite being medically cleared would not exactly be beneficial for their fledgling alliance with the Tok'ra, there hadn't been much Jack could do to dissuade him from accompanying them. If the look on his face was any indication, however, he was probably wishing that he was safely back at the SGC.
And to think he had wanted to reject Daniel's idea of taking little Sam to play miniature golf.
He crouched down next to the little girl, gently correcting the grip she had on the child-sized golf club she held. "Not so tight - and maybe it would be better if you kept your eyes open." He added, seeing her screw them tightly shut.
Daniel ducked as the golf ball - thankfully lighter than usual - collided with the nose of the large model of a clown and rebounded, coming within inches of breaking his own nose.
"Maybe this wasn't such a good idea..."
"Daniel!" Jack scowled at him, motioning for him to be quiet.
"I didn't do it right." Sam said, dismayed.
"No, no, you're doing fine - right, Teal'c?"
The Jaffa nodded solemnly. "Indeed. You have just begun to learn this activity, Samantha. I have no doubt that you will soon master it."
"Really." Jack confirmed. "Just try hitting it a little more gently this time, maybe you could try to imagine how the ball can hit the sides so that it goes through the clown's mouth, okay?"
"Do or do not, there is no `try'."
"There is when you're four." Jack said in a low voice.
Little Sam looked as focused on the golf game as her adult self had ever been on a technical or scientific problem, her eyes narrowing as she estimated the distance between her and her target, and the obstacles in between, thankfully too preoccupied with this to notice either Daniel or Martouf moving a safe distance away for fear of injury.
Much to her delight, the ball rebounded against the side of the track and flew into the clown's open mouth, his nose glowing as it did.
"It worked!" She exclaimed triumphantly.
"I knew that you'd be able to do it."
"I also had no doubts."
Jack and Teal'c received joyous hugs as thanks for their words of support.
Jack shook his head at the other two men in mock reproach. "And to think that you doubted her."
"I will not make that mistake a second time." Martouf vowed earnestly. "May I take a turn at this game?"
"Sure." Jack took a surreptitious step backwards, taking Sam with him. Both Teal'c and Daniel seemed to think it prudent to do the same.
A few seconds later, another patron of the golf course cried out in pain and surprise when a ball collided forcefully with his shoulder and was only slightly mollified by the Tok'ra's apology.
Jack bent down to Sam's level. "Maybe you should try giving Marty some lessons." He suggested in a whisper that wasn't quiet low enough.
He was rewarded with a beaming smile from the little girl and a somewhat disgruntled look from the Tok'ra.
Conscious of the fact that his distorted voice would, at minimum, draw some very curious looks, Lantash had not taken control all day, however he was making his presence felt in other ways.
Daniel's stomach churned at the sight of Martouf's meal of choice but he retained enough tact to keep quiet about it.
Jack did not.
"You know, you're supposed to wait until after you eat real food before you go for that."
"I do not understand." Martouf looked up from the giant ice cream sundae he had constructed, puzzled. "How is this any less real than any other form of food?"
"Jack means that ice cream has much less nutritional value than what the rest of us are eating." Daniel translated helpfully.
As they were eating pizza, this was a bit of a stretch but Martouf didn't know that.
"Lantash enjoys foods that contain sugar. We do not encounter them often. He especially enjoyed the chocolate Jacob provided."
"You know my daddy?" Sam looked up at the sound of the name.
"Your dad is on a mission with Martouf's people, a very important one." Jack told her. "Isn't he?"
"He is. Your father is a very wise leader for our cause, Samantha."
"Will I be able to see him soon?"
"Hopefully." Jack assured her, although he would have been able to live without the older man learning of his daughter's latest exploit until she was safely back to normal.
Either Martouf or Lantash decided that their sundae did not have enough chocolate sprinkles on it, and Martouf stood, carrying it back over to the Make Your Own Sundae stand, not seeing the dirty looks one or two staff members, not to mention a few parents, were giving him.
"Why does Martouf get to eat his dessert before his dinner?" In Sam's book, this was a grave injustice.
"Uh... they do things a bit differently where he comes from." Daniel explained lamely.
"Yeah, they eat their dessert before their dinner, their supper before their breakfast, they sleep during the day and stay up all night and everyone has two people in their body instead of one." Jack finished cheerfully.
"If I go there, can I eat dessert first?" Sam asked, zeroing in on the parts of Jack's explanation that appealed to her. "And stay up all night?"
"Sure, why not?" Jack agreed magnanimously.
In the unlikely event that the little girl actually traveled to a Tok'ra base, he could always leave her to Jacob or Martouf's care and let them take care of any problems.
The carnival had opened at four and half an hour later, the place was packed.
"Maybe we need a buddy system." Jack suggested, only half joking, when he saw the crowds. "Sam, don't let go of my hand, okay?"
"I will." She promised solemnly.
Teal'c took her free hand. "I will also remain vigilant, O'Neill."
"Thanks, buddy. You two can stick close together." Jack told Daniel and Martouf, before pausing thoughtfully. "On second thoughts, maybe Teal'c should keep an eye on you both. We don't want anybody to get lost, after all."
"Are you ever going to let that go?" Daniel demanded.
Jack just grinned. "Someday."
Maybe you should try to take it easy on the sugar." Daniel recommended, watching as Martouf polished off a stick of cotton candy, another one held in his other hand waiting to be consumed.
"There is no need." Martouf assured him. "Lantash ensures that I will not suffer any ill effects."
"Yes, but Sam doesn't have a symbiote to do the same for her." Daniel said patiently. "And we can't really say that she can't eat junk food if the adults are."
"I understand." Martouf looked a little disappointed, but he obligingly handed his second portion of cotton candy to Daniel, who disposed of it in the nearest trashcan. Martouf was silent for a few moments, arguing with Lantash, who was less than pleased at being deprived of his sugar. His eyes flashed for a spilt second, shooting Daniel a filthy look.
"What was that about?" Daniel asked, bewildered.
"Lantash was not pleased when you threw away his food." Martouf explained apologetically. "He is demanding that I consume more."
"Well, tell him that you can't." Daniel hissed, seeing Sam approach, holding tightly to Jack and Teal'c's hands. "Sam's a handful after too much sugar, to say the least."
Martouf said nothing for another brief period, looking up at Daniel with a slightly fearful expression on his face. "Lantash is angry. He told me to tell you that he is - how do you say it? - `on strike'."
"Can he do that?"
"Having fun, you two?" Jack asked genially as soon as he reached them.
"You could say that." Daniel responded. Being paired with a sugar addicted Tok'ra hadn't been an ideal way to spend an evening, but it had definitely ranked above being soaked by over-excited penguins.
"Can I go on the bumper cars?" Sam asked, bouncing up and down in excitement as she tugged at Jack's hand. Even after several trips on the carousel and on the children's roller coaster, her energy was undiminished.
"I don't think that they'll let you on on your own..." Jack said, eyeing the small cars dubiously. It probably wouldn't do his knee any good to squeeze into one of them, but the word `no' was becoming increasingly difficult to say.
"I will accompany you, Samantha." Teal'c volunteered, taking her hand.
"You don't know how to drive." Jack's protest went unheard.
Once they were settled in the small car, with the seatbelts securely fastened, Teal'c grasped the steering wheel in strong hands, frowning when it didn't move.
"How do I make this vehicle move?"
Sam shrugged. "I don't know."
"Perhaps if I were to try this..." Teal'c trod on the pedal as hard as he could, sending the car careening into the side of the enclosure.
Watching, Jack winced. "That had to hurt!"
Standing next to him, Martouf groaned, a hand to his stomach. "I do not feel healthy." He announced before retching.
Jack scowled at the stained grass next to him. "Wonderful."
By the time the little group had made it back to the SGC, Sam was nursing a bruised elbow while Teal'c had a lump on his forehead and Martouf had turned almost green.
General Hammond surveyed the group with mingled concern, amusement and exasperation. "Do I want to know what happened?"
Jack grimaced slightly. "I doubt it."
*Two days later*
Martouf had left that morning, promising to be back with Jacob as soon as he could.
Sam was sitting in Jack's office, neatly dressed in lilac overalls and a white polo shirt, her hair neatly braided and under strict instructions not to do anything that could possibly cause injury.
Jack didn't know Jacob all that well, but he had a feeling that he wouldn't be amused if his daughter had hurt herself in his care.
Fortunately, the book on science experiments for children had her fascinated and the worst she could do while reading was get a paper cut.
When she wanted to actually try out the experiments, it would be another matter.
Daniel knocked once on the open door before walking into the office. "The Tok'ra just radioed. They're sending Jacob and Martouf here in half an hour."
"My daddy's coming?" Sam looked up immediately.
"He is." Jack told her, before crouching down so that his face was level with hers. "Listen, Sam, your dad's going to be a bit different from the way that you remember him. He's a bit - well, a lot - older now, like Uncle George."
"Is his hair gone too?"
"Pretty much." He grinned briefly before becoming more serious. "Remember when you first met Marty and you felt a bit funny around him?" She nodded. "Well, you're probably going to get the same funny feeling around your dad." He explained, wanting to warn her in advance and avoid her being frightened.
"Is he a Tok'ra like Martouf is?"
"He was very sick." Daniel spoke up.
"But he's all better now." Jack said hastily, seeing the worried expression on the little girl's face. "The Tok'ra were able to make him better and the sn... friend who lives in his body made him healthy. He's fine now."
"Cross my heart."
"What's his friend's name."
"Selmak. She's very nice."
"Can I talk to her?"
"Sure." Jack smiled at her. "And if you could get Selmak to stop your dad killing me, I'd really appreciate it, okay?"
She nodded seriously. "Okay."
*Half an hour later*
The iris had scarcely been opened when Jacob Carter strode through, Martouf following close at his heels.
Sam clutched at Jack and Hammond's hands for a moment before relaxing, recognizing his features, despite the changes that the past twenty-five years had wrought.
"Sammy?" Jacob hadn't quite believed what Martouf had told him, and had been half convinced that it had been an elaborate prank Jack was playing on the Tok'ra, but one glance at the little girl was enough to confirm her identity. He looked across at the three men, amused to see Jack move slightly behind Sam. "How did you manage to get into this mess?" He enquired dryly.
"All Carter's fault - Carter Junior's." Jack amended at Jacob's sharp look.
"It's a long story." Daniel began.
"Captain Carter fell into what O'Neill termed a `Fountain of Youth'."
"Maybe not so long." Daniel said sheepishly.
"Samantha has been affected by the fountain of the Goa'uld Hebe." Martouf said helpfully.
"Daddy?" Sam spoke up shyly, studying her father's face carefully.
"Colonel O'Neill said that you had a sym-bee-ote living in you." She pronounced the word slowly and carefully. "Called Selmak."
"Can she talk? Like Lantash can?" She beamed when Jacob nodded confirmation. "Can I meet her?"
Jacob grinned wryly. "I haven't seen my little girl in weeks and she wants to talk to the symbiote." He remarked to nobody in particular before lowering his head, his eyes flashing when he looked up. "Hello, Samantha." Selmak smiled down at the four year old as she approached, offering her hand.
"How do you do?"
"I am well, thank you." Selmak smiled again, hearing her host insistently demand to be allowed talk to his daughter. "Your father wishes to speak now."
"Hi again, Daddy." Sam was unfazed by the change. "Are you and Selmak going to stay here? Uncle George will let you, won't you?" She asked her godfather beseechingly.
"Sorry, kiddo." Jacob ruffled her hair gently. "This is just a flying visit. Selmak and I have to be back with the Tok'ra by tonight."
Her lower lip trembled but she managed to hold back tears. "Do you have to go on a mission?"
"A very important one." He confirmed. "But there's still some time before that, okay? You can tell me all about what you've been up to."
"Okay." She looked downcast for a moment before brightening. "Do you want to help make my lightsaber?"
Jacob gaped at her. "Your what?"
*The commissary, two hours later*
The expression on Jacob's face was almost comical when Daniel sat down at the table, a large mug of steaming coffee balanced on his tray along with his dinner and sat down opposite the older man, who scowled ferociously.
Jacob shrugged. "Selmak doesn't like coffee."
"Nobody's asking Selmak to drink it."
Jacob dipped his head and glared at Daniel. "The smell is offensive, Dr Jackson." As the coffee had almost the same consistency as tar, the complaint was not entirely unjustified. "At any rate, it is unhealthy for you to drink so much coffee." The last word was uttered as though it were the vilest of oaths.
Considering that he - or should that be `she'? Daniel wasn't certain - had made no objection to the fact that Martouf, who didn't seem to have learned anything from his experience at the carnival, was working steadily through what looked like an entire chocolate cake, topped with a large dollop of ice cream, Daniel considered this a bit unfair.
Unfair proved to be an understatement when, a moment later, the Tok'ra plucked the coffee mug from his hand.
"Samantha, could you ask the gentleman server not to allow Dr Jackson to purchase any more coffee in future?"
"Okay." Sam hopped down from her chair in preparation to run her errand.
"Sam, don't you dare!"
"And ask him if he could dispose of this." Selmak gestured towards the coffee mug, now placed out of Daniel's reach. "I will advise Dr Lee of the most suitable materials for your lightsaber."
The bribe had its desired effect and Sam sped away.
When Jacob retook control, he gave Daniel a half apologetic look but made no attempt to return the coffee. His symbiote would never have let him hear the end of it.
"Selmak really doesn't like coffee."
Sam had done her level best to stay awake, wanting to forestall the moment when he father would have to leave, forcing her eyes to remain open through the stories he read her and refusing to allow the soft music playing on the CD player to lull her to sleep, knowing that he would be gone when she woke up.
It was, however, a battle that she was destined to lose and when Jacob gently pulled his arm away from his sleeping daughter's clutching fingers, she never stirred.
"Jacob?" Standing in the doorway, Jack barely whispered the older man's name, not wanting Sam to wake up.
After tucking the covers carefully around her and making sure that George the Rabbit was close at hand, Jacob reluctantly left her and stole out of the room, closing the door quietly behind him.
"Marty's radioed the rest of the Tok'ra." Jack told him. "They're waiting for you."
"Thanks." Jacob glanced back at the door of Sam's temporary quarters, hating to leave but at the same time knowing that he had to. At least, as Selmak reminded him, he could comfort himself with the knowledge that she was in good hands. "You'll take care of my little girl for me?"
*The next morning*
"Who's supposed to be watching Carter this morning?" Jack asked, entering Daniel's office to find him and Teal'c at work, with no sign of little Sam.
"Sam's with General Hammond." Daniel responded. "She was a bit upset when she woke up and Jacob was gone." He added, his voice soft with sympathy. "Hammond said that she could stay with him for the morning."
"I don't suppose she grew a foot or so overnight?" Jack queried, without holding out hope for a positive response.
"She did not." Teal'c told him flatly.
"You know," Jack brightened. "There could be an upside to this. Halloween is just a few days away. If Carter stays a kid until then, we could make a killing in the trick or treating department."
"You want to use Sam to get you free candy?"
"Not many people hand out candy when I dress up." Jack joked. "Carter will probably have better luck."
"It's not a bad idea." Daniel acknowledged. "And Cassie would probably love to come. This will probably be the last year for her."
At thirteen, the young girl was constantly declaring herself `too old' for the pursuits that had delighted her when she had first come to Earth.
"We will need to procure a costume, will we not?" Teal'c inquired practically.
"Do you think that we'd be able to find an astronaut's outfit?" Daniel asked. "Or a tiny set of dress blues?"
"The real candy's in cute." Jack said decidedly. "I say we find a princess costume, or a fairy. Maybe a bunny."
"Sam will look cute whatever we dress her in."
"True." Jack acknowledged. "And it'll be something for the photo albums."
"You realize that she is going to kill us when we show her those." Daniel pointed out. "She's going to be so embarrassed."
"Do I have to remind you about Carter getting your name called over the intercom?" Jack asked pointedly. "Or the time she got me a forty-five minute time out? Or when Teal'c... well, she hasn't really done anything to Teal'c." He acknowledged.
The Jaffa inclined his head, looking more than a little smug.
"Yet." Daniel added ominously.
Knocking on the door, Jack waited a moment before pushing it open and entering.
The bald general he had expected to find was conspicuously absent and a tiny blonde, whose head was barely visible over the desk, occupied his chair.
"Hi, Colonel." Sam greeted him cheerfully before frowning reprovingly. "You're supposed to salute."
"Uh-huh." She nodded earnestly. "Uncle George had to go out for a little while. He said that I'm in charge until he gets back."
"In that case," Jack bit back a laugh, not wanting to hurt her feelings. Schooling his face into an appropriately sober expression, he gave her a perfect salute. "Colonel O'Neill reporting, ma'am."
"That's better." She nodded approvingly. "Good morning, Colonel." She knelt on the chair so that she could see over the top of the desk. "What can I do for you?"
Jack glanced down at the small bundle of evaluation forms under his arm, trying to come up with a delicate way to explain that this was one thing that only General Hammond could help with.
He was saved from answering when the phone rang.
The red one.
"I'll get it!" Before he could intercept her, Sam snatched up the receiver. "Hello."
Jack grimaced slightly, well able to guess who was on the other end of the line, despite the fact that he could only hear Sam's end of the conversation.
"What's your name?... I'm Sam... Four and a half. How old are you?... Uncle George isn't here right now. I'm in charge until he gets back." The little girl frowned at the request the voice on the other end of the line made. "You want to talk to a grown up?" She sounded doubtful, as well as put out at this slight to her authority. "Colonel O'Neill is here. Is he grown up enough?... Okay, I guess." She held out the phone to Jack, who eyed it as though it were a snake ready to bite. "He wants to talk to you."
Inwardly bemoaning the fact that his commanding officer couldn't have waited another ten minutes to take a bathroom break, Jack reluctantly took the phone. "Hello, Mr President... no, this isn't a joke it's... well, it's a long story."
As luck would have it, General Hammond chose that exact moment to return to his office.
Jack thrust the phone into his hand. "The President needs to talk to you." He said, laying the forms on his desk. "I'll come back later to talk about these." His commanding officer nodded and Jack hurried out of the office as fast as dignity would allow.
Once the President had been assured that this was not a joke and that Captain Carter's condition was temporary and would likely be reversed any day now, Hammond hung up the phone, sighing before he looked down at the child usurping his chair.
"I can't leave this office for five minutes, can I?"
She shook her head solemnly. "I don't think so."
"Why is it that you're getting decent food?" Jack demanded of little Sam, glancing at the plate of pasta that the commissary server had just placed in front of her, comparing it with the unidentifiable brown mixture the menu described as stew.
"I don't like the stuff you're eating." The little girl explained disarmingly.
"I don't like it either." He complained. "But they didn't fix up anything special for me."
"Or for me." Daniel seconded.
"I guess you have to get shrunk to get special treatment around here."
"The commissary staff often prepared alternative meals for Captain Carter while she was an adult." Teal'c said calmly.
"She's got them all wrapped around her little finger, I tell you." Jack grumbled.
"Colonel O'Neill." Sam, her face liberally coated with sauce, gave him an appealing look. "Can I have some juice please?"
"Sure thing." He hopped up and headed off to procure the requested drink.
Janet just smiled, dabbing sauce away from Sam's mouth with a paper napkin.
The commissary staff weren't the only ones wrapped around Sam Carter's little finger.
*The next morning *
Little Sam, needless to say, had been thrilled when the idea of going trick or treating had been broached, with only Jack outdoing her excitement.
General Hammond, unable to refuse his little goddaughter's eager request, had agreed that if she had not been restored to her adult form by Halloween, her three teammates could take her trick or treating and he had given them permission to take her out to buy a costume.
After they had eaten breakfast - or, in Sam's case, used the food to build a tiny village - the quartet made their way to Jack's truck and climbed in, bound for the mall and the costume shop.
"Do you want to be a witch?" Daniel held out a black dress and hat for Sam's approval.
She shook her head decidedly. "Everybody dresses up like a witch."
"How about Cleopatra?" He suggested temptingly. "Wouldn't an Egyptian costume be fun?"
"Daniel!" Jack scolded. "Don't corrupt the innocent child."
"There are no Star Wars costumes." Teal'c's tone was disapproving.
"Maybe they're sold out." Daniel suggested placatingly.
"Perhaps." Teal'c nodded, but he did not look entirely satisfied.
"Maybe we should find out what Cassie is wearing." Daniel suggested. "Or we could all dress up and go as a group, as characters from `The Wizard of Oz'. Sam could be Dorothy, Jack could be the Scarecrow..."
"Not a chance." Jack cut him off, glancing down at Sam, who, thankfully, had either not heard or was not impressed by the idea. "This one's cute." He took one of the costumes from its rack and showed it to her.
"It's pink." Sam spoke the word in a scathing tone, regarding the dress with the same expression that she had worn as an adult when she had seen the blue dress the Shavadai had required that she wear.
"What's wrong with pink?"
"It's for girls."
"You are a girl, Samantha." Teal'c pointed out helpfully, winding up on the receiving end of a reproachful frown.
"You don't want to dress up like a princess? We can get you a tiara and a sparkly scepter." Jack said temptingly.
"No pink." Her tone left no room for argument, and no promises for accessories would sway her.
"Okay, so the princess is out." Jack sighed, passing over a candy pink bunny outfit, knowing better than to ask if it would be acceptable.
When an elf outfit, a fairy, a ladybird and a sunflower were also rejected, he had been almost ready to give up hope when he spotted a perfect costume.
After considering it carefully for several minutes, the little girl finally nodded her approval.
Delighted squeals reverberated against the brightly painted walls of the play center as children ran through it, each of them seemingly possessing more energy that the watching adults could claim combined.
Though Sam was not shrieking at the top of her lungs, she nonetheless dove into the activities with an enthusiastic, yet at the same time calculating approach that reminded Jack of his adult second in command when she was trying to puzzle something out, carefully gauging the best way to navigate the obstacles.
When she had discovered the ball pool, Teal'c had kept his eyes glued on her, as if counting the seconds until she surfaced, poised to leap up from his chair and run to her aid in a second if she required rescue.
"I think she'll be alright." Jack commented mildly, watching as Sam leapt into the ball pool for the umpteenth time, this time attempting a cannonball that didn't quite work out. "To get hurt in these places, you have to try pretty hard; with all the padding and safety nets."
Only his restraining hand and a slight shake of the head kept Teal'c from running to Sam's side when a little boy, about a head taller than she was tugged sharply on one of her long pigtails, eliciting an indignant cry.
It seemed, however, that even at four and a half years of age, Sam Carter was more than capable of taking care of herself.
"Nice!" Jack exclaimed admiringly when she neatly clipped her tormentor on the jaw with the beginnings of a great right hook, not noticing or caring about the disapproving looks several parents were giving him. "That's my girl!" He glanced across the table at Daniel.
"I thought you were worried about what Captain Carter would do if she saw photographic evidence of her second childhood." Teal'c remarked to Daniel, who sat across from him.
Daniel, who held a digital camcorder he had borrowed from the SGC, merely shrugged. "Maybe Sam might like to have a few mementoes. It's not like we'll be having screenings for the whole SGC, is it? Besides," He added. "General Hammond authorized it."
"Fair enough." Jack agreed.
"What are we doing next?" Daniel asked, keeping the camcorder trained on little Sam as he asked the question.
"Ol' Doc Fraiser wants to check Carter over before she heads home, so I figure we give her another couple of hours before we go back to the base." He grinned wryly. "Do you think there's any chance that she'll tire herself out here?"
"Slim to none." Daniel said honestly.
Sam, having temporarily abandoned the ball pool, bounced over to them, her cheeks flushed and a few tendrils of blonde hair escaping Teal'c's careful braiding.
"Want to come and try the obstacle course with me?" She asked, slightly breathless, extending a hand towards Jack.
"Sorry, kiddo." Jack declined as gracefully as he could. "I don't think they're meant for old men like me."
"You're not old." She objected immediately.
"Too old for this, I'm afraid." He grinned wickedly. "But I'm sure that Daniel would like to go with you."
Poor Daniel scarcely had time to glare at his friend, let alone protest, before Sam tugged at his hand, dragging him towards the climbing net leading up to the obstacle course.
"Uhhh, Sam... I'm pretty sure I'm too big for this... I am too big, aren't I?" He appealed to the first staff member he saw.
"It's all right, sir." The response was cheerful, the young man either too new to the job to recognize a plea for rescue when he heard it, or too much of a sadist to heed it. "You can go ahead if you like."
From his seat at the table, Jack grinned as Daniel was dragged through the various obstacles, surreptitiously aiming the camcorder at the pair.
"After all," He remarked to Teal'c. "Danny boy might have a point about Carter wanting a memento."
*Two days later*
"What time do you think we should have Sam get dressed up at?" Daniel enquired practically as he helped Jack hang orange and black streamers in their small teammate's quarters - the other man was almost childlike in his determination to celebrate the holiday to its fullest.
"Not until much later." Jack told him decisively. "Or her costume will be ruined before we can bring her anywhere."
"Good point." Daniel frowned. "You know, given the objections Sam had to the princess dress, I'm kind of surprised that she agreed to this one. It's just as dressy, maybe even more so."
"Who can understand the way a little kid's mind works?" Jack asked wisely.
"True." Daniel agreed. "Is Cassie coming here, or are we going to meet her at Janet's house?"
"At the Doc's place. She's on call tonight, and Cass has a slumber party with some friends, but they'll meet up with us before then to trick or treat. Teal'c is hunting for the biggest candy bags he can find as we speak."
"Is Sam with him? Where is she?" He asked, when Jack shook his head.
"Carter wanted to try her hand at cooking, so Airman Something-Or-Another said that he'd keep a close eye on her. I figured that there wasn't any harm in letting her - it's not like she can possibly make the menu worse."
Airman Shaughnessy had been very helpful and accommodating, finding an old apron for her to wear and cutting it down so that she could walk without tripping as well as advising her on the recipe, collecting the ingredients and, if truth be told, doing the lion's share of the work involved in her culinary plans.
Halloween wouldn't have been Halloween without the special shaped cookies her Mommy had once shown her how to make.
Finding appropriately shaped cookie cutters had proven problematic, but another of the commissary staff had gone on a rapid shopping trip to obtain the required items.
Sam frowned in concentration as she carefully measured out the chocolate chips that were to be added to the cookie dough, chewing her lower lip thoughtfully when she saw how small a pile the weight given in the recipe translated to.
It couldn't possibly be right.
Deciding that there must have been a mistake, she continued adding chocolate chips until the pile had just about doubled in size and then, having decided that it would be sufficient, liberated another handful of chocolate chips from the bag for herself.
When Airman Shaughnessy handed her a wooden spoon to let her finish mixing the cookie dough, Sam proceeded to stir it thoroughly, with frequent pauses to test the mixture, just to make sure that it was perfect.
Teal'c appeared in the kitchen just moments after she had decided that the cookie dough tasted as good as it was ever going to and he was conscripted into helping roll out the dough so that cat, pumpkin, bat and witch's hat shaped cookies could be cut from it.
Needless to say, it proved to be rather a messy business.
The first batch of freshly baked cookies were just out of the oven and lined up on a wire rack when Jack appeared, as if drawn by the presence of a dessert.
Little Sam beamed up at him when she saw him, offering a cookie that had been shaped more or less like a bat before baking but that had spread since then. "Want one?"
"Thanks." Jack accepted the cookie, not without some trepidation, grinning in amusement as he surveyed a now sticky, floury little girl with a ring of chocolate around her mouth. "Did you volunteer to be the rolling pin?" When this query flew over her head, he chuckled. "I think that we'll need to find somebody to give you a bath, young lady."
"Before I eat cookies?" She asked, clearly dismayed.
"After cookies, obviously." Jack's tone indicated that he would have considered any other course of action to be utterly unreasonable.
"Okay." Sam cheered up at this, offering cookies to Teal'c and everybody else in the kitchen before taking one for herself.
"Thank you, Samantha." Teal'c said gravely as he accepted the cookie and bit into it.
Emboldened by his friend's example, Jack sampled his own cookie. "Hey, this is actually pretty good - not that I would have expected anything else." He added hastily, for fear of hurting little Sam's feelings.
"Can I bring some up to Uncle George?" Sam asked eagerly.
Jack glanced at the small, messy figure standing before him, mentally picturing what General Hammond would have to say if he saw his goddaughter in her current state. "Maybe that's something that should wait until after you've had a bath."
Sam had refused any assistance, insisting that she was able to change into her costume by herself, something that all three of the men of SG-1 were duly grateful for.
The white dress she had managed, not without a few difficulties, to wriggle into was long, reaching almost to her ankles, with silver glitter liberally adorning the bodice and tulle skirt, her hair had been released from its pigtails and hung in soft waves. Daniel helped her adjust the soft, feathered wings that had endeared the costume to her on sight.
"I'm ready." She announced cheerfully as soon as her wings had been arranged to her satisfaction.
"Not quite." Jack told her, barely suppressing a grin at the thought that this adorable little girl had grown up to be one of the most intelligent people on the planet. He produced a narrow headband, above which a gleaming circle bobbed. Once the halo had been donned, he nodded in satisfaction. "Now you're ready."
"Yes, sir." Her salute might have left something to be desired but the overall effect was certainly charming.
A chuckle from Daniel let Jack know that they were being filmed.
"Anyone know where Teal'c is?" Jack asked when their friend did not appear.
"He's putting on his costume." Sam told him.
"Uh-huh. Poor Teal'c told me that he never went trick or treating when he was little so I told him that he should get dressed up and go this year." She said innocently.
"That was a very nice thought." Jack told her gravely. He cast Daniel a warning glare, gesturing towards the camcorder. "You'd better have the batteries on that thing fully charged." He warned. He had made certain to buy film for his camera, so he could be sure that he would have plenty of evidence once Carter had returned to normal.
"I am ready, O'Neill." A deep voice announced from the doorway.
Jack, Daniel and little Sam turned to see Teal'c standing before them, clad in a set of borrowed dress blues that looked to be a little too short for him, a proud smile on his face.
"Who are you supposed to be?" Jack asked at last, once the power of speech returned to him.
Teal'c gave him a half puzzled, half offended look, as though the answer to his question should have been perfectly obvious. "General Hammond."
"She's so cute!" Cassie enthused, bending down to hug Sam, who was currently more than a foot shorter than she was.
"Nice choice for a costume." Janet remarked, receiving a cherubic smile from Sam and a grin and a mock bow from Jack.
"What of my costume, Doctor Fraiser?" Teal'c enquired seriously.
"It's really great, Teal'c." Cassie seconded her mother. She was dressed as a sorceress - not a witch, she had admonished sternly - in flowing black robes. After much badgering, she had been able to persuade her mother to allow her to put red and black streaks in her hair for the night.
"Does everybody have their candy bags?" Jack demanded, pacing in front of the costumed trio like a drill sergeant inspecting his troops.
"Does this count?" Cassie asked, holding out a plastic, pumpkin shaped container.
Jack shook his head sorrowfully. "The young have no respect for tradition these days... and T, that's a garbage bag."
Teal'c clutched the huge black plastic sack protectively. "It is a most efficient storage vessel, O'Neill. It will hold a great deal of candy."
"Fair enough." Jack glanced down at little Sam, whose bag was already laden with goodies presented to her by various SGC personnel. "Maybe I should carry that, Sam. With any luck, it'll be pretty heavy soon."
After a few seconds consideration, Sam accepted his chivalrous offer. "Thank you, Colonel."
"You'd better keep a close eye on him, Sam." Daniel cautioned her good-naturedly. "Or he'll eat all of your candy."
"Would I do something like that? Carter knows that she can trust me, don't you?"
"See?" Jack said triumphantly, offering his hand to Sam and holding her candy bag in his other hand. "All right, campers, time to move out."
*Two and a half hours later*
"What a haul!" Jack exclaimed in satisfaction as he carried the now very heavy bag through the corridors of the SGC to Sam's quarters, laying it down on the bed.
The angel costume had certainly been a good choice. Little Sam had so charmed the people answering their doors that nearly everybody had given her extra.
Teal'c had drawn more than a few funny looks but once Sam had explained the reason he was dressed up - thankfully not including the fact that he was an alien - candy and chocolate bars were dropped into his own bag.
Sam had been rather put out that she wasn't allowed dig into her candy straight away, but both Jack and Janet had insisted on checking her and Cassie's stashes meticulously before they could eat anything, while Daniel helped Teal'c sort through his.
As soon as her candy had been cleared, she liberated a fistful for immediate consumption and another to eat on the journey back to the SGC.
"Did you have fun?" Daniel asked, watching her lick chocolate off her sticky fingers. She had thankfully exchanged her costume for her pajamas, or it would have been destroyed.
She nodded emphatically, offering him a slightly melted candy bar. "Want one?"
"Thanks." He accepted the proffered bar with a grin. He looked across at Jack. "Should we maybe put the C-A-N-D-Y away until tomorrow?" He glanced down at Sam, seeing the reproachful look she was giving him. "You can spell that, can't you?"
"Yes." She sounded betrayed.
"I suppose a little more can't hurt." Daniel conceded, half-afraid that she would start to cry.
"Halloween only comes once a year, after all." Jack agreed. He looked at Teal'c, who was sorting through the DVDs stacked next to the television. "Can I swipe some of your candy, big guy?"
Teal'c considered for a moment before nodding slowly. "You may."
Given that Sam's current age made just about every horror movie a no-no, they eventually decided on watching the Halloween specials of `The Simpsons'.
By the end of the third episode, little Sam was very pale.
"Colonel?" She tugged on the sleeve of Jack's shirt.
"What's wrong?" He asked, concerned.
"I don't feel good." The words had scarcely been spoken when she threw up all over the couch.
"Oh, boy." Jack rubbed her back, searching in vain for a basin of some kind. "It's okay, kiddo." He said kindly. Daniel silently passed him an empty paper bag and he handed it to Sam, waiting until her vomiting had temporarily stopped before lifting her up. "Let's get you down to Doc Fraiser."
Daniel and Teal'c followed him out of the room.
Jack grimaced slightly.
Janet wasn't going to be happy with them.
"It's okay, Sam, don't worry." Janet soothed as her small patient threw up into the basin provided. "Better out than in, after all."
"I feel yucky." Sam complained as soon as her vomiting had subsided somewhat.
"I know." Janet smoothed the hair back from the face. She placed an electronic thermometer in her ear. "You don't have a fever." She remarked. "I think it's just a simple case of too much candy."
"But I didn't have a lot." Sam objected.
Janet, knowing that a child's definition of `a lot' could be very different to an adult's, didn't say any more.
The men of SG-1 did not escape so lightly.
"How much sugar did you let her have?" She demanded the second they were out of Sam's earshot.
Jack wondered how her tone could possibly shift so quickly from kind and gentle when she was comforting Sam to angry and disappointed when she addressed them.
"I'm not really sure." Daniel said apologetically.
"She had so much to start that it's hard to tell how much is gone." Jack seconded. Though he was considerably taller than she was, and of a higher rank, Janet Fraiser could certainly intimidate him if she so chose.
"I see." Janet looked across at Teal'c, who had wisely stayed out of the line of fire. "Could you bring me Sam's trick or treating bag, please?"
"Of course, Doctor Fraiser." Teal'c bowed slightly and left the room, returning shortly afterwards with Sam's bag in tow.
"Thank you." Janet locked it into one of the supply cupboards. "When Sam is feeling better she can have it a little at a time." She explained.
None of them dared argue.
Once Sam's stomach had settled, Janet gave her a shot to prevent any further vomiting and, once the tears had subsided, led her off to the small bathroom attached to the infirmary to clean her up and help her change out of her pajamas and into a black T-shirt Teal'c had brought for her.
"Maybe you should stay in the infirmary for the night?" Janet suggested gently.
"I don't want to." Sam countered immediately, pouting. "I want to go back to my room."
"It can get pretty noisy in here." Jack pointed out reasonably. "We'll keep an eye on her, won't we?" He appealed to Teal'c and Daniel, who nodded.
He was right about the noise levels of the infirmary, and Janet knew that she would not be far away if Sam suffered a relapse, so she nodded her assent.
"Take care of her." She cautioned sternly, handing Daniel a clean basin. "And if there are any problems, call me straight away, understood?"
Hastily agreeing to this, Jack scooped Sam up into his arms and hastened out of the infirmary before Janet could decide that they all needed extra booster vaccinations.
Little Sam clutched at his shirt as soon as he tucked her in. "Don't go."
"I'm just going to be on the couch."
"No, stay here." She insisted, reaching out a hand to Daniel and Teal'c to get them to come over.
"Okay, okay." Jack agreed, not wanting to upset her. He sat on the bed next to her, gesturing for Daniel to do the same while Teal'c sat cross-legged on the floor next to the bed, ready to begin kel'no'reem.
Sam settled down, but did not release her grip on his shirt.
When Janet came to check on them an hour or so later, Teal'c was meditating, Sam was out for the count and Jack and Daniel were sleeping peacefully on top of the covers on either side of her.
Smiling slightly, she leaned over Daniel to check Sam's forehead for signs of fever and, finding none, quietly stole out of the room, switching off the light as she left.
The first thing Sam was aware of when she awoke was that she was squashed into a very small space and that pins and needles were shooting through her body.
The second thing she noticed was that every limb she possessed was aching, and that her head was throbbing.
The third thing she noticed was that she had a death grip on her CO's shirt and that she was sandwiched between him and Daniel.
When she moved to extricate herself, poor Daniel was sent flying off the bed, the resulting thud rousing both Jack and Teal'c as well as the fallen Daniel, who were all rendered momentarily speechless by the fact that Sam was about twenty-five years older than she had been when she went to bed.
Realizing that she was only wearing a t-shirt, Sam kept the sheets tucked firmly around her.
"Guys? What's going on?"
"Honestly, Janet, I feel fine. I'd really rather go home." Sam's protest availed her nothing.
"Anyone who ages twenty-five years overnight has to stay in the infirmary for at least a day or two." Janet told her sternly, checking her temperature. "No fever. Any complaints - the truth, please." She cautioned.
"A few muscle cramps." Sam admitted reluctantly, knowing that this was an understatement. It felt as though every limb in her body was aching.
"Aging twenty-five years will give you some truly awful growing pains." A cheerful voice commented from outside the curtained cubicle where Janet was conducting her examination. "You decent in there, Carter?"
"Yes, sir." Waking up cuddled between her commanding officer and her friend had been one of the more embarrassing experiences of her life, but thankfully the others had refrained from teasing her about it.
Janet opened the curtains, taking a chart from one of the nurses. "Your blood work came back clear, not a trace of the chemicals from the water." She remarked. "Your body must have purged them last night when you were sick."
"I seem to remember somebody blaming us for letting Carter have too much candy." Jack pointed out, aggrieved.
Janet's reproving frown was all the response he received.
Grinning, Jack bent down to dig through a bag, producing a stuffed rabbit and handing it to Sam with a flourish. "I figured that you'd want him with you if you had to spend the night here." He teased. "And Uncle George was very flattered that you named it after him."
Blushing, Sam accepted the stuffed animal, keeping her eyes averted.
Although she had only the vaguest of memories of her second childhood, what little she had heard so far had left her in no doubt that her antics would be a favorite topic for discussion for a long time to come.
Teal'c and Daniel arrived shortly afterwards, Daniel hugging a bundle of photographs protectively.
Seeing them, Sam felt her heart sink. "You didn't..."
"He did." Jack grinned.
"You were really cute as a kid, Sam." Daniel said brightly, passing the first of the photographs, one of little Sam sitting on General Hammond's knee.
"Except when you were getting us into trouble." Jack did his best to glare, but couldn't keep a smile from his face. "Although," He said pensively. "I'm seriously considering putting a Timeout Chair in my office - it'd come in handy for when you three get out of line."
"Very funny." Daniel rolled his eyes.
"Did I say that I was joking?"
Janet bustled back into the infirmary, carrying a large bag of candy. "This is yours." She said, laying it on the locker next to Sam's bed. "I hope that I can trust you not to overdo it."
"I promise." Given that the food served in the infirmary was usually worse than that served in the commissary, having a stash of chocolate at her side would certainly make Sam's stay there more bearable.
Janet, satisfied, nodded and headed back to her office to finish filling out her report on Sam's condition.
You know, you may have to call the President to let him know that you're yourself again." Jack said, helping himself to a bar of chocolate. "You freaked him out when you two last talked."
"Oh God!" Poor Sam looked aghast, unconsciously clutching at George the Rabbit.
"And we really need to have a little talk about how the stargate is not a toy." Jack gave her a mock glare. "And why we never, under any circumstances try to dial P6J-614."
Sam winced, remembering SG-1's experience on that particular planet. "Sorry, sir."
Taking pity on her, he smiled and patted her shoulder. "No harm done - and you did much worse to Daniel."
Sam looked up at the archaeologist. "Really?"
He nodded unhappily, remembering a few of the more embarrassing experiences. "Really."
"Sorry." She apologized, brushing her now shoulder length hair, a souvenir of her transformation, away from her face. "I need to get a hair cut."
"Oh, I don't know." Jack said seriously. "I'm sure Teal'c will put it pigtails for you."
She scowled. "No, thanks."
*An hour later*
SG-1 had been passing a pleasant time working their way through Sam and Teal'c's combined stashes of candy while the three men related anecdotes of her second childhood.
"Are you planning on holding me to the whole bringing you back to the zoo to visit `Mr Einstein' thing?" Jack asked good-naturedly, looking at a photograph of little Sam cuddling the rabbit.
"Pity." He pulled out another photograph. "I think this one's my favorite." He announced, holding out a snapshot of Sam, Teal'c and Cassie in their Halloween costumes. "Its a good thing the Doc's innocent, unsuspecting neighbors didn't know that you were more of a little demon than an angel." He joked, downing a handful of jellybeans. "Or we wouldn't have half as much candy."
"Was I really that bad?"
"I did not find you so, Captain Carter." Teal'c told her solemnly. "I enjoyed the activities of the past days. You were a charming child."
"You actually behaved for Teal'c." Jack said. "Except when you were playing Hide and Seek."
A knock and a timid cough drew their attention to the door, where Dr Lee was standing.
"I didn't know that you had company, Captain." He said, abashed, fiddling with a long, wrapped package in his hands for a few minutes before abruptly thrusting it at her. "I wasn't able to get it exactly right, even with General Carter and Selmak's help but I was able to adapt their crystal technology to channel a laser beam." He babbled almost incoherently.
Sam unwrapped the package slowly, revealing an object that would be familiar to anybody who had seen Teal'c's favorite movie.
"It won't cut through things... not heavy things, anyway... but it looks really cool." Dr Lee announced, eagerly awaiting her approval.
"I can't believe that Hammond let you spend all this time working on a lightsaber just because Carter wanted one." Jack told Dr Lee before returning his attention to Sam. "I know who I'll be sending as a messenger the next time I need something. Talk about being wrapped around her little finger."
"Perhaps you ought to try the lightsaber." Teal'c hinted broadly, his eyes glued to the narrow metal weapon.
Despite Dr Lee's assurances that it worked, all four members of SG-1 were pleasantly surprised to see a long blade of pale blue light shine out of the weapon when Sam activated it.
"I had some help with the sound effects." Dr Lee said modestly as Sam tested his gift, which was remarkably realistic.
"You could probably get a fortune for it on e-Bay." Daniel joked. "Or not." He amended hastily, seeing Dr Lee's rather hurt expression and the scowl that Teal'c was giving him.
"Be careful you don't touch the blade." Dr Lee cautioned. "It can get pretty hot."
"Maybe that's not something you want to be waving around my infirmary." Janet remarked, startling them all with her arrival. She glanced at Sam, who was looking pretty drained - understandable, given what her body had been through recently. "Perhaps you gentlemen could come back later." She hinted pointedly.
"I'd better be getting back to the lab." Dr Lee said, bidding Sam goodbye and leaving the infirmary.
"I do have a lot of catching up to do." Daniel told Sam apologetically before leaning forward and whispering in her ear. "And I haven't forgotten about you destroying my tablet."
"We'll have to bring our home movies with us and borrow a TV." Jack promised. "Once we've made copies for everybody, of course." He said wickedly, before casting a longing eye on the lightsaber. "You know, it mightn't be safe to just leave that lying around..." He hinted.
"You're absolutely right, sir." Sam looked as innocent as she ever had at four and a half.
Teal'c's eyes lit up and a rare smile spread across his face when she handed the lightsaber to him.
"Could you take care of this for me?"
"Of course." Teal'c bowed his head, hastening out of the infirmary with the lightsaber in tow, cradling it as though it were a priceless treasure.
Jack watched him leave, amused. "You do know that you're never getting that back, right?"
Janet cleared her throat meaningfully. "I'm going to assume that anybody besides my patient who is still in here by the time I count to ten is looking for a set of vitamin booster shots."
"I'm going." Jack promised hastily. "And Carter?"
He grinned at her. "It's good to have you back."
She returned his smile with a dazzling one of her own. "It's good to be back."
DISCLAIMER: "Stargate SG-1," "Stargate Atlantis,"
and its characters are the property of MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, Gekko Film Corp.,
Showtime/Viacom and USA Networks, Inc. This story is for entertainment purposes only and no
money has exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. The original characters,
situations and story are the property of the author(s), and may not be republished or
archived elsewhere without the author's permission.
Archived on April 13, 2006