Shoe Stepping
(#6 in Shoelaces LD universe)

SUMMARY: Daniel and Jack try to deal with Daniel being little Daniel. Inspired by the DJsSG-1Lverse yahoo list.


DISCLAIMER: The characters mentioned in this story are the property of Showtime and Gekko Film Corp. The Stargate, SG-I, the Goa'uld and all other characters who have appeared in the series STARGATE SG-1 together with the names, titles and backstory are the sole copyright property of MGM-UA Worldwide Television, Gekko Film Corp, Glassner/Wright Double Secret Productions and Stargate SG-I Prod. Ltd. Partnership. This fanfic is not intended as an infringement upon those rights and solely meant for entertainment. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author.

He officially hated Walmart.

He hated its bright overhead lighting, convenient location, family appeal, cheap prices, and "absolutely adorable" children's clothing section.

Unfortunately, he found his vote didn't matter much when it came to shopping. He needed clothes; therefore shopping had to happen. Sam Carter decided his wardrobe had to expand beyond the few scattered pairs of jeans, shirts, and Velcro sneakers Jack had purchased on their last venture to the mall.

He supposed he should be grateful Sam hadn't dragged him there. Instead she'd conspired with Janet and the two decided Walmart would be easier, because they could get everything in one place. Daniel wasn't sure what "everything" meant exactly.

"Oh you know - belts, coats, socks, underwear, shoes. Everything," Sam told him as she belted him into the car seat. Daniel absolutely *despised* said car seat. But he was still five pounds short of legally weighing enough not to need it.

"But I have shoes," he insisted, playing with his Velcro straps as he spoke.

"You need more than sneakers," Janet piped in.

"Jack bought me dress shoes, too." He realized his voice was approaching a whine.

"Two pairs of shoes are not going to do it."

Of course not. In the female shoes realm, two pairs of shoes would simply not do. Why did Jack leave him alone with them?


...Without Jack present he may be able to con Sam into a Starbucks pit stop instead of simply settling for coffee ice cream from Ben and Jerry's.

That thought made him grin as Sam pulled into Walmart's parking lot. Five minutes later the three were knee deep in the boys department. Daniel walked around, thumb absently in his mouth, staring at the displays. He watched as Sam and Janet took turns throwing things in the cart they wanted him to try on. Sam apparently really liked the color blue. Or him in that color, at least. Come to think of it, whenever she'd dragged the thirty-eight-year-old him shopping, he'd come out of the store with a lot of blue items as well. For the most part, he was silent, only heaving a protest when Janet wanted him to sit in the child seat in the cart. The car seat was enough and he was then capable of walking.

Today was one of his more independent days.

Since trying to resign himself to the fact that he was indeed five and that the only way he would be thirty-eight again would be to wait the thirty-three years it would take him to get there, he'd been trying to balance his five-year-old emotions with the thirty-eight-year-old ones. It was a constant battle and it was tiring. Not just for him, but Jack as well. His best friend had willingly opened his arms to him, adopted him, even given him the choice of taking his last name and officially becoming part of his family, yet Daniel still struggled. Still took each victory he could. He had days where he'd cling to anything and everything, Jack especially. He had days where he wanted no help, wanted to do all himself and feel like old Daniel again. It was a balancing act. Gradually the tears weren't as frequent.

But the dreams were.

Dreams of his past life, good and bad, haunting his brain and leaving him wide awake at night staring at a dark ceiling and eerie shadows. Shadows that in his child's psyche morphed into horrible creatures out to get him. That's when the screaming started.

In less than sixty seconds, Jack would be up and in his room, arms around him. He would look up again and suddenly feel foolish. There was nothing there, nothing to be afraid of.

Yet the screaming didn't stop. Gradually, it did get better after many chants of "you're silly they are not real and you know that," but then he started making Jack check under his bed before he'd try and sleep every night.

"I'm sorry," he'd mumble and Jack would sit next to him on the bed.

"I told you to stop apologizing." He'd always hug him and remind him, "I'm right down the hall."

No one had ever made such a promise, before. Not since his father wished the evil spirits in his closet away decades before, miles away, in a different time and different place.

It was tiring, Daniel told himself again, and realized why Jack took Sam and Janet up on their shopping offer. He was hard work and Jack needed - no, deserved - a break.

He chewed on his thumb as he processed the new information. He'd have to be better. Be good. Jack couldn't keep doing this.

Neither could he.

So he was good, although when he saw Sam reach for a package of Spongebob Squarepants underwear, he drew the line.

"No way," he said.

Sam and Janet exchanged a look. Janet reached for a package with cars on them. For a split second, Daniel was excited at the prospect of wearing car underwear, especially one that resembled the set he had at home. Then the other half of his mind kicked in.

"No!" he said. He knew how it sounded. Didn't like to think about it.

This time Sam and Janet laughed. "Just checking. White it is." Into the cart the underwear went, along with a couple of sets of white socks. Cart now almost completely full, it was on to stage two.

He let Sam lead him to the dressing room, but insisted he could dress himself. He struggled out of his T-shirt and jeans and into the blue button-down shirt and khakis. He was quite pleased with himself when his hand reached for the buttons and he found himself unable to get the button through its intended hole. Even the khakis had a button at the top of the zipper he couldn't get closed.

He'd gotten used to many things. Even accepted the Velcro in place of shoelaces. Used the nebulizer on his wheezy days. But each time he was faced with a task that reminded him of his size and how it stopped him from completing most of the simple tasks he'd once taken for granted, he'd find himself starting over at square one.

"Daniel?" Sam was knocking on the dressing room door. He sighed. He reached up to the sliding lock, thanking the gods he could still work that piece of technology, opened it and presented himself to Sam.

"I can't..." He started, but found himself trailing off. He didn't really want to finish that sentence and state the obvious. Then it made the statement fact and he didn't like that.

Sam looked like she was about to say something, but Janet shook her head and silently stepped forward to button the shirt. When it came to the fly, she discreetly placed herself completely in front of him so no one witnessed the actual fact that she'd reached down and pulled the button closed.

Daniel flushed red from embarrassment.

Janet patted his head. "This is nothing, Daniel. Remember - I have seen you naked," she said as she reached down to straighten the collar. He blushed again. She stepped back and turned him around so he could see himself in the mirror. From the reflection he saw Janet and Sam nod positively.

"Perfect," they chorused and Janet went straight to unbuttoning.

He wished for Jack. Teal'c. Even General Hammond. A male perspective that wasn't undressing him and shoving him back into the room. This time, to further his embarrassment, Janet followed him.

Geez, he hadn't had that happen since that first trip to America when his mother took him to Bloomingdales to get a suit for the upcoming museum dedication. He supposed Janet was mother as well, though Cassie was way too old for this kind of help.

He suffered through the trying-on, tried to tell himself buttons were no big deal, and took pride when he could get his sneakers back on and fasten them himself. But he survived, shoe stepping and fancy-free.

And Walmart had a Starbucks in their food court by the check out. While Sam and Janet unloaded the cart and the amount they were spending grew larger and larger, Daniel's palm went into his pocket where a twenty-dollar bill from Jack laid. He told Daniel to take Sam and Janet for ice cream.

Ice cream, Starbucks - same thing. And he could certainly get something for Sam and Janet as well. He knew what they liked.

A glance back showed him Sam, Janet, and the cashier were trying to find out the price of a belt with no tag. The manager was approaching, an identical belt in hand.

He took advantage of the distraction and snuck past the line of cashiers through a closed check-out line. Thankfully, for once, there was only one person in line at Starbucks and she had just placed her

He could just taste the coffee at the back of his throat. He didn't even care that he didn't really reach the counter and that he had to slide his twenty dollar bill across to get the barista's attention. He wanted, no needed, coffee after this shopping experience. He told her his order, loud and clear.

"Um, where's your mom?"

He blinked. Mom? The barista was leaning across the counter to look at him.

Then he realized how he must look. He was five-years-old. Despite the fact that his thirty-eight-year-old part of his brain wanted the caffeine, he was still physically five. He saw his dreams of coffee fading.

"She's busy," he tried. "She sent me over with the money."

"Uh huh," the barista commented, disbelief coloring her tone. "How old are you?"

"Six." Maybe adding a year would help.

"He's five and he's not getting coffee." Sam was tapping her foot, hand on hip, looking old and blond enough to play the role of his pissed off mother.

Great. Busted. Bye, bye coffee. The Dr. Jackson part of his brain sagged in disappointment, as if he needed the coffee to survive. Maybe he did.

He didn't like that idea

Sam had taken his money back and Janet was pushing a cart full of bags toward them. She frowned.

"Coffee will stunt your growth," she told him.

"Old wives' tale and you know it," he said back.

"No coffee," the two chorused.

He frowned. "Can I have my money back?"

Sam sighed. "Of course you can." She looked at Janet, before turning back to him. "Colonel O'Neill did say you would treat us to ice cream."

"Coffee ice cream?" he asked hopefully.

Sam smiled. "Sure, you can have coffee ice cream."

"With mocha chips?"

"Don't push it." Daniel gave her a pleading look, heavy on the puppy-dog eyes. He knew she'd relent. She did. "We'll see."

He grinned; he was good.

Janet pushed the cart toward the exit and Sam offered him a hand.

He took it. It was a defeating blow, but a small victory. He'd survive. After all, Jack did have a coffee maker. And a soft spot every once in a while. It was no Starbucks, but nothing was really. It was just other conflict to overcome.

One step at a time. Shoe stepping and fancy-free.

Well, getting there at least.

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