Faster, Higher, Stronger (LDG Summer Challenge II)

Summary: The continuing story of a deascended six year old Danny and his caregiver Jack. 

Word Count: 3580

Notes: The cue for this story was ‘The Olympics’. Beta by annejackdanny.

 

~The Hallway~

“Good evening and welcome to CSNC’s daily sports report with your special correspondent Danny Ballard. This week brings the start of the Thirtieth Olympiad in London, England. We will be following the games closely and offering an in-depth analysis of the results of each event. The athletes have been training hard, some of them for years. They all want to prove that the Olympic motto is true; ‘Citius, Altius, Fortius” which is Latin and means ‘Faster, Higher, Stronger’.”

Danny is busy with his video diary again for Dr Bennett (or Shelley, as she has told him to call her). Yes, I know I’m eavesdropping again, but I really need to know how the kid is feeling. It’s been a busy couple of weeks since you and I spoke last and to be honest the poor kid’s been through the wringer. He’s just as bad as his bigger alter ego at playing the ‘I’m fine’ card when actually he’s dying inside. I wanna make sure he’s not hiding anything from me.

“Actually, Shelley, I don’t think I’d be much good as an Olympic reporter. I can’t play any sports. Jack offered to teach me to play baseball and I wanted to learn. He has a kid-sized mitt in his closet… I saw it when he was getting his dress uniform out for dry cleaning – He has lots of medal ribbons, Shelley. I asked him about them and he said that the President just likes to give him medals ‘cause they weigh his chest down and make him walk funny and then the President gets to laugh at him. But I don’t think that’s why, do you? I think Jack must be really brave and just doesn’t want anyone to know – anyway, I saw the glove and it looked pretty worn. I think it might have belonged to the boy in the picture on the mantle. I don’t know who he was, but when Jack looks at it he gets all sad, just like when he talks about the other Daniel. So I’ve decided not to ask him.”

  1. Yes, I know… I said I know! I should really tell him about Charlie, but now is not the time. Danny and I have something to discuss today and I don’t want that news overshadowed by my guilty hang-ups over Charlie.

Things were going along just fine for the two of us. Since the last time you were here we’ve spiffied up both the scaly animals tanks and also made Danny’s room more kid friendly so it appeared less like a museum to a dead friend. The little guy had so much fun choosing new furniture and paint colors. And I’m not even going to start telling you how messy he got when he had tried his hand at painting the walls! It was then I noticed, though, that he was having trouble using the roller with his right hand. I thought at first it was just that he’s left-handed, but then I remembered that Daniel used to be ambidextrous and had pretty much full and total control with both hands. I was concerned enough to call Janet and she came over to have a look at Danny the same night.

“It’s a waste of time for Jack trying to show me any sports though. Dr Hope says I have Cerebellar Ataxia – Jack calls it Cereal Bowl Attacks and says it means I have to look out for killer boxes of Froot Loops lying in wait for me behind the kitchen cupboard doors. He’s so silly…”

It seems like the Ancient’s were not so gentle when they scrubbed Danny’s memories. There’s considerable scarring on part of his brain that means his co-ordination and gait is affected. I felt like such an idiot. I’d noticed he was tripping over his own feet, but put it down to tiredness or new shoes or some other reason, never realizing he’s been struggling to walk since he’s been living with me. When the Neuro doc asked him about it he finally admitted that he’d been struggling as long as he could remember; which for Danny is about three months now.

“It means I can’t use my hand and leg on the right side properly and my balancing and holding things muscles don’t work properly. I have to go to the Academy hospital for physical therapy with Karl. Jack says Karl had helped him after knee surgery and that Karl is a marine. Jack says Jarheads are crazy so I hope he’s not too scary. I’m not sure why this has happened to me. Dr Hope said he didn’t know either and that it has something to do with neurons, but without doing more research I don’t know what they are. The therapy will help, Dr Hope says, but I’ll always have trouble balancing and running. So, I’ll suck at sports. I think that made Jack sad. I wanted to be good at sports so Jack could teach me how to pitch and hit. Dads and sons play sports together, I think, so probably I won’t get to have Jack as a Daddy now…He…He’ll probably look for a different boy he can play baseball with.”

Damn it, he’s crying. I can’t stand here talking to you. My kid needs me…

 

~ Danny’s room ~

Jack walked quietly into the room just in time to see Danny power off his laptop. The little boy was wiping ineffectually at his eyes.

“Hey, Danny, what’s going on?” Jack asked gently, “What’s all this about?”

“N…Nothing, Jack. I’m fine.” Daniel tried hard to blink away the big tears pouring down his cheeks, but he was fighting a losing battle. Jack sat down on the bed and opened his arms and with a big sob, Danny scrambled into his lap, his little arms wound tightly around Jack’s neck.

“Hey, hey, okay, buddy. Whatever it is we can sort it out.” Jack knew what the problem was, but didn’t want Danny to realize he’d been listening in to his diary recording. Although he’d talked to Dr Bennett about it and she’d agreed that it was a good idea, he still felt like it was an invasion of the boy’s privacy and Jack felt a little ashamed of himself.

“It doesn’t matter, Jack,” Danny hiccupped forlornly, “I’m just being stupid.”

“Now if there was anything you could never be it would be stupid, Danny Ballard. You are the brightest kid I know – in fact you are brighter than a lot of the adults I know. Mind you,” Jack whispered conspiratorially, “some of those adults are marines and generals,” he winked at Danny, “and being cleverer than them is not that hard.”

Daniel gave a little giggle and then heaved a big stuttering sigh. They sat quietly for a few minutes both enjoying the closeness of the cuddle.

“Come on, kiddo, why don’t you tell me what the problem is,” Jack tried again. He didn’t want to push Danny, but he also didn’t want the youngster to start hiding things from him.

“I was just thinking,” Daniel started in a tiny voice, “that having Cerebellar Ataxia means we won’t be able to play sports together.” He dropped his eyes to stare at Jack’s knees, not wanting to see the disappointment in his foster father’s eyes. “I wanted to get really good at something so that maybe, one day, I could win a gold medal in the Olympics.” Danny fiddled with the hem of his t-shirt, rolling it around his fingers. He couldn’t tell Jack why he was really crying, but he felt guilty for not telling the truth, too.

Jack knew that wasn’t the whole truth, but wasn’t going to call him on it. The kid was upset enough. Jack lifted the little boy off his knee and placed him gently on the bed. Danny bit his lip, trying not to cry again. Seeing his distress, Jack placed a finger under his chin and tipped the little boy’s head up to look into Jack’s warm smiling face.

“I’ll be right back. I have something to show you and something to ask you,” he said cryptically before striding out of Daniel’s bedroom and into the hall.

Danny was intrigued, but still felt that he had let Jack down by having a physical disability. He didn’t have time to dwell much, however, as Jack was quickly back in the room, clutching a large white cardboard box in his hands.

“Now,” Jack started, his eyes twinkling, “Just because you can’t play those ordinary booooring Olympic sports right now doesn’t mean you can’t get a gold medal for other things.” Jack placed the box on the bed and sat next to it and then pulled Daniel over to stand between his knees.

“Right, firstly, because you can always catch Junior when I can’t, I think you have gained a gold medal in…’Lizard Lassoing’.” With that Jack drew a large gold medal, complete with red, white and blue striped neck ribbon, out of the box. With an out of tune rendition of the Star Spangled Banner blasted out in full voice and a flourishing bow, he placed the medal over Danny’s head and then gave him a round of applause complete with ear splitting whistles.

Danny’s big blue eyes were wide as saucers as he looked down at the oversized medal hanging right down to his belly.

“It’s chocolate,” Jack whispered, “so double the fun. Whadda you think?”

Danny nodded and a sweet little grin brightened his sad face.

Jack was so pleased that in a moment of madness he had ordered these chocolate medals when he’d seen them on the internet. He’d had the idea that perhaps they could play some games in the back yard and he could award them to Daniel as prizes, but the news about his physical disability had put paid to that. Now they were really coming in useful if the smile on Danny’s face was anything to go by.

“But that’s not all,” Jack continued, affecting an English accent that owed more to Dick van Dyke than any real English person. “I’ve seen what a whizz you are on that laptop of yours and therefore I announce that Danny Ballard is also awarded gold for…” Jack made a drum roll sound, “…’Mouse Manipulation’!”

Again the medal presentation was musically (or not, depending on the sensitivity of the listeners ears) accompanied by Jack, this time whistling the Air Force Hymn. Danny couldn’t help the giggle that bubbled out as he tried to stand to attention to receive his award.

“What about you, Jack,” he asked shyly, “You should have a medal, too.”

“I have lots of medals, Danny,” Jack explained with a smile.

“I know,” the little boy said seriously, “for being brave and getting shot and saving people and being a prisoner.”

Jack frowned in surprise. How could Danny know any of that? Of course grown-up Daniel had known what all the ribbons on his medal rack stood for, but this little one didn’t have any memories of that…did he?

Daniel looked a little worried and again started biting his lip. “I…I saw the ribbons on your uniform and I looked them up on the internet.” Bravely he raised his face to look straight at Jack and the pride and awe there made the man’s heart stutter in his chest. Jack hadn’t been the object of that kind of love for a very long time. “You’re brave and a hero, Jack.” Daniel said, his voice bursting with pride.

“I was just doin’ my job, kiddo,” Jack said thickly, his throat clogged with emotion. He’d wondered whether Danny would be happy about the news he had to give him, but now he felt certain it would be received well by Danny. Now though, he felt too emotional to let Danny in on his big secret. He needed a few minutes to regroup. Otherwise he knew he’d end up crying or something. So Jack used his favorite fallback position; humor.

“My real medals were for ‘Jell-O Juggling’, Yoyo Yodeling’, ‘Beer Burping’ and ‘Noodle Knotting’.” Jack extemporized and was overjoyed to hear the giggles at the first medal category gradually morph into full on belly laughs by the last one. Danny was bent double, holding onto his knees, laughing so hard that his sad tears had been replaced by happy ones.

“Oh, Jack, you are really silly,” Danny squeaked in between more peals of laughter.

Jack nodded and puffed out his chest, “Yep, I also got the gold medal for ‘Synchronized Silliness’. That,” he drawled with a wild waggle of his eyebrows, “was my finest hour.” Jack dived back into the box and pulled out five gold medals which were awarded by a giggling Danny who joined in as Jack sang the theme from the Simpson’s as a musical accompaniment to the ceremony.

It took a while for them to calm down because every time they did Jack would lift one of his medals and shine it proudly or would start whistling some strange tune and do a weird salute whilst pretending to dab tears from his eyes. Daniel’s sadness was long forgotten by the time they both were under control again.

Jack drew Danny in between his legs and held the little boy’s hands in his. “There are two more medals in my box, Danny. The first one you will have to earn in the kitchen before we eat dinner, ‘cause that one is for ‘Tableware Tossing’.” Daniel grinned happily. Setting the table was one of his chores and he knew he did a good job of it despite his ataxia.

“I’m hoping you’ll want to win the other one right now though,” Jack said a little hesitantly. Although he knew it was what the little boy wanted he also was aware it was a very big step for them both to take. “The last medal is the most important one and really quite serious.”

Daniel’s eyes grew round and serious as he gave Jack his undivided attention. That look was such an echo of his older self that Jack felt a little pang of grief for the man who’d been his best friend and he had to swallow down the lump that rose in his throat.

“There are three disciplines,” Jack continued.

“Oh, like gymnastics?” Daniel yelled excitedly. Then a thought crossed his mind and Jack saw him sober.

“What is it, Danny?”

“I won’t be able to do gymnastics, Jack. Dr Hope made me do those balancing tests remember and I kept falling over.” Once again he sighed in defeat. “I probably won’t be able to win this medal, Jack.”

Jack felt a surge of anger at The Others for their poor handling of this precious life. Not only had they robbed him of his adult body and prodigious intelligence, but also the ability to move freely and gracefully. He reined in his temper, not wanting to upset the little boy any more than he was already and shook his head.

“It’s okay, buddy,” he reassured the saddened little boy. “This event needs brain not brawn. Firstly there’s the thinking discipline, then a deciding discipline and then a doing discipline,” Jack explained carefully. “I want you to know that whatever happens you have a home here with me and that you don’t have to do anything about what we are going to talk about if you don’t want to. You also don’t have to make a decision today. You can take as long as you like.”

“Okay.” Danny was a little bemused, but willing to go along with Jack wherever he was leading. That trust made Jack feel both proud and terrified.

“Right, first discipline. I have to start this one, so here goes.” Jack took a deep breath. “I love you, Danny Ballard. I think you are a great kid. You’re clever and funny and kind and…I would really, really like to be your daddy. So for the thinking part I’d like you to think about whether you would like to be my son.”

Jack watched as realization stole across Daniel’s face like the rising sun across a dark dawn. His eyes shone with unshed tears and his bottom lip began to tremble.

“D…Do you m…mean it, Jack. Could I b…be your son?”

“Yeahsureyoubetcha,” Jack sing-songed.

Danny swallowed hard and then nodded fast. “Oh, yes, yes, please.”

Jack’s grin split his face, “That’s great, kiddo.” They beamed at each other, both of them scared to break the spell. They were getting exactly what they wanted and neither of them could believe it was true.

“So was that the deciding discipline, too?” Daniel finally asked his eyes shining brightly.

“Oh no, that comes next,” Jack explained. “So for the second part you have to decide if you want to stay Danny Ballard or if you’d like to become Danny O’Neill.”

Daniel could barely believe what Jack was saying. In his dreams he had Jack as his Daddy but he had never, ever dared to hope that he could be his real son. “Can I do that? Can I change my name so it’s the same as yours?” Daniel was almost breathless.

Jack lifted the little boy to kneel up on his thighs so that they were almost face-to-face. “Is that what you want? You don’t have to; you can still be my real son if you don’t take my name, too.”

“But if I don’t, no one will know I’m your son.” Suddenly Danny had an epiphany of sorts and a little frown of concern marred his happy face. “Won’t the boy in the photo on the fireplace mind if I’m your real son?” Daniel didn’t know how, but he knew that the boy in the picture was Jack’s son, too.

Jack saw the memory flitter behind Daniel’s eyes and knew it was the right time to tell him about Charlie. “His name is Charlie, and if you want to be my son then he’d be your big brother.”

Danny watched as sadness dimmed Jack’s eyes. “Is he with the big Daniel?” he asked quietly. This was the same look Jack had when he thought about the other Daniel and Danny thought perhaps wherever they’d gone maybe they went there together.

“Not really, buddy,” Jack replied, smiling through the sadness, “Charlie died when he was just a bit older than you. I was very sad and the other Daniel helped me to feel better.” Jack looked at the sweet, loving little boy on his knee and saw all the very best of Dr. Daniel Jackson shining back at him. “The other Daniel went on a very long journey and I probably won’t see him again. But then you came and suddenly I had a Daniel in my house again and that makes me really happy.”

The worry that had darkened Danny’s face lifted as he smiled radiantly. “I’ve decided, Jack. I want to be Daniel O’Neill.”

Jack couldn’t help the huff of relief that left him as he started to breathe again. This was turning out to be far more emotional than he had anticipated. He’d hoped Danny would be happy with the news, but hadn’t counted on all the other stuff as well. For a man who didn’t do ‘emotional’ Jack was having to get with the program pretty fast.

“Right, well, there’s one more discipline left and it’s the best one,” Jack smiled. “Are you up for it, Dannyboy?”

Daniel nodded excitedly.

“So repeat after me. ‘Hello, my name is Danny O’Neill’.”

Danny’s smile was blinding and Jack was more certain than ever that this was the right thing to do.

“Hello, my name is Danny…” The little boy had to swallow hard as the happiness in his tummy bubbled up and put tears in his eyes. “…My name is Danny O’Neill.”

The brightness in Danny’s eyes was matched in Jack’s as he continued, “And this is my daddy, Colonel Jack O’Neill.” Jack nodded ‘go ahead’ and Daniel complied.

“And this is my daddy, Colonel Jack O’Neill.”

Jack thought his heart would burst out of his chest at the sound of those words from his little boy’s mouth. He’d never dared hope that he would be a father again. Then, when Daniel had ascended the joy that had existed in his life seemed to have been sucked away with the loss of his best friend. Now he had both in one, slightly changed, package but just as wonderful nevertheless.

Sliding the final medal over Danny’s head Jack intoned, “By the powers vested in me by the United States Air Force, the SGC and the Colorado Springs Olympic Committee, I now pronounce you the proud wearer of the Order of O’Neill to be worn in perpetuity for as long as we both shall live, Amen… May God bless us and all who sail in us!”

Jack found himself with an armful of tearful, joyous six year old as Daniel hugged him for all he was worth. Jack knew it didn’t matter what his son was able to do physically, they would find their way through it together. Whatever happened in the future, despite every honor and award he had been given in his life, this was the prize most worth winning.

“I love you, daddy.”

“I love you too, Danny.”

Yeah, this beat winning gold every time.

 

 

 

 

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