Still Jack and Daniel
Not in Kansas Anymore
A Rocky Start
"What did I just say?"
"Um... I’m doing a real good job?"
With a heavy sigh, along with the roll of blue eyes, the small blond boy turned around to face the colonel. He moved just a tad too quick and almost slipped from the stone altar. Firm hands grabbed him around his middle and settled him on his feet.
Stupid move, Daniel .
He still had to get used to all the new perspectives. The word 'heights' had a whole new meaning these days.
"So... What did I just say?"
Glaring at Jack's boots as if they were some annoying bug Daniel wrapped his arms around his body in a self hug and sniped, "Don't touch anything."
Now it was Jack's turn to sigh. He crouched to be eye to eye with him. It really must get to Jack's knees having to crouch so much lately, Daniel thought with a mixture of pity and annoyance.
"Daniel, look at me."
Shaking his head he kept his eyes firmly lowered to the ground. He didn't want to look at Jack, didn't need to listen to a lecture he knew word by word because he had listened to it a million times before. The difference was; it had been more like the beginning of a natural bitching session between them when he’d still been... well, an adult.
Now, however, it felt different on a whole lot of levels. Everything was different. And childish as it was - Daniel just wanted it to stop. Period.
He wanted to change back. To be the old him again. Grown up.
Ever since he was like this, life was an ongoing battle of adjustment, resistance, will and power.
Today had started out surprisingly good though. Daniel's first off world mission since the accident on P3X349, where he had touched a little shiny knob on a wall full of fascinating hieroglyphs, and ended up like this. Short, little, pocket sized, a shrimp... And - according to Janet - a healthy seven year old.
The last two months had been a constant fight with everything daily life or work related. How did kids survive and stay sane in a world made for grown up people? Oh, he had to stand corrected. Normal kids didn't live in a world made for grown ups. They went to school, daycare, had rooms with small furniture, toys and games...
Daniel wanted none of that. He didn't want to adapt. He just wanted to change back. Living like this was no option whatsoever and he still waited for the moment when he’d wake up in his bed, realizing it had all been a terrible nightmare.
Well, today for a change, he'd been excited to be finally allowed to go out with SG-1 again. For the first time since the “incident” he had felt like things would somehow be okay again. If they let him go through the gate it meant he could look for opportunities and ways to heal. Yes, he felt as though he was sick despite anything Janet wanted him to believe. Being seven years old was not normal for a man who'd turn thirty five in a couple of months.
Anyway, going out there meant he was DOING something other than sitting on base and throwing tantrums.
Which was what everyone thought he was doing. Couldn't they see he was simply frustrated? And scared... yes, he was scared. Scared of having to stay like this, scared of not being treated seriously anymore. Scared of having to go to a foster home, scared of so many things it was scary to even name them all.
Going through the gate at least meant things moved on.
Or so he had thought.
But nooo... all the time ever since they had gotten here a few hours ago it was; “Daniel, stay in sight”.... “Don't climb up there”.... “Don't touch this.”... “Dammit Daniel, if I have to tell you one more time, we're going home ASAP”
He was fed up with it. The last thing he needed was a reminder from Jack that he was too little to do his work without help, or that he had to be babysat now. Daniel knew Jack wasn't happy about him being here. He had made that very clear in the pre-mission briefing.
Jack's hand cupped Daniel's chin and tilted his face so he had to look into his friend's brown eyes. Eyes that seemed to see right into him. Daniel bit his bottom lip and tried to ignore what he saw there - worry and sympathy. But also suppressed anger.
He didn't need that either. Nor the worrying, the sympathy, or the pity. The anger at least he could deal with. Jack was angry? Well, Daniel had news for him – he was angry, too. And probably a lot more so than Jack.
"Daniel, what happened the last time you touched something without finishing the translation on the walls first?"
Fresh anger washed through him. He knew perfectly well what had happened. But Jack was still there, still looking at him, expecting an answer to the – rhetorical – question. What did Jack think Daniel was? Little or stupid?
"Fine," he blurted out. "I got shrunk! Are you happy now? Let me go!"
He jerked away and ran across the old temple. He heard his own footsteps echoing from the high walls as he stormed out of there, into the damp green forest. Tears of frustration and embarrassment stung his eyes. Oh no, he wasn't going to cry like a baby. Especially not in front of Jack.
Jack was on his feet in an instant, slapping the button of his radio while he followed the kid through the temple halls. "Daniel!"
There was a lot of static and whistle, then an angry young voice hollering, "Leave me the hell alone, Jack!"
O'Neill exhaled a harsh breath. "Daniel, get your little butt back here – RIGHT NOW!"
When there wasn't a reply this time, Jack cursed and stepped out of the huge building. Activating his radio again he barked, "Carter! T! Daniel is heading your way! Don't let him run into the forest."
Carter's concerned voice replied, "Sir, we're on the other side of the temple. On our way...."
"Crap," Jack muttered as he looked around for Daniel.
There was no sign of the brat. He was gone.
So what else was new?
Teal'c and Carter came running around the building.
"Sir, what happened?" Carter's eyes scanned the forest. There was no real path, just a thick curtain of green trees and huge plants.
"We had a... he climbed on that altar and...," Jack started, then rubbed his right hand over his face in frustration. "I told him not to touch anything, he yelled at me and ran."
"Oh- oh," murmured Carter.
Teal'c raised an eyebrow in Jack's direction. "O'Neill. Did we not agree to treat DanielJackson as an equal as much as possible? So that he knows that he is respected and still a valuable part of SG-1?"
"Hey," Jack snapped, "I've been telling him these things for years! He wouldn't have ended up like this if he'd listen to me just once in the first place!"
"Sir," Carter began, but he held up a hand to stop her. She was right. There was no time for this now.
"Carter, you stay here in case he comes back. T, you're with me."
Without another word or a look back Jack headed into the wall of green, followed closely by Teal'c.
They tried to track Daniel through the trees and tall fern plants by broken branches. But it wasn't much use. The plants seemed to close behind them like a wall of curtains. The forest swallowed them as it had swallowed Daniel before.
A very little Daniel as far as Jack was concerned.
He felt his guts twitch at the thought of what could happen to the kid in this unknown terrain. Sure, they had walked perimeters, but he'd made it an order that no one went too far into this jungle. He’d wanted them to stay close to the temple. The gate was on the other side of the ruins, so it wasn't necessary to enter the forest. And there were no signs of native people around.
However, by the sounds surrounding them, there were animals like birds and other god-knows-what kind of beasts who'd love to have a seven year old for lunch.
Jack shoved a fern out of the way with his P90 and almost tripped over a fallen tree buried under the moss-like swampy scrub that was all over the ground. He called out a warning to T, then clicked his radio again. "Daniel? Daniel, answer me!"
"It seems DanielJackson does not want to be found," Teal'c said next to him.
"Yeah. What a surprise. He knows he's going to be damn sorry if I get my hands on him," Jack muttered under his breath.
He felt sweaty, helpless and angry. And there was more he didn't want to think about right now. He had to focus on finding Daniel. No time for ... whatever.
The humidity was becoming more and more unbearable the deeper they moved into this jungle. Jack felt his BDUs clinging to his body. The handle of his weapon was slippery in his sweating hands.
"Daniel!" he yelled, hating the tinge of frustration in his voice.
Teal'c, too, called his name several times, but there was no response either.
Jack gritted his teeth. He had known the kid wasn't ready to go out into the field again yet. Hell, he had told Hammond so. Told the general he had enough trouble to keep an adult Daniel in line and that the kid shouldn't go through the gate before he was at least ten. Or twenty. Or thirty four again.
But Fraiser insisted Daniel was fully aware with all his memories and knowledge intact. And she further stressed that he needed this. A normal life. Going through the gate and doing his work so he could feel like he was still part of everything. He had lost the capability of so many things adults were taking for granted. Janet said they couldn't deny him the things he'd still be able to do. Jack had to admit it must be hell for the kid to live like this. Granted, he understood why Daniel was depressed and uncooperative to the kiddie-shrink or anybody else who wanted to talk to him about what had happened.
Jack knew a thing or two about denial.
Janet had said it was normal attitude for someone being confronted with such a life altering situation. Once Daniel had been assured he could stay at the mountain and do his job, he had started to act like it was okay. Like nothing had changed, other than his size. He had moved into base, worked in his office and kept telling everyone he was fine.
Daniel was SO not fine.
And now Fraiser had pressed them to give Daniel back the right of gate travel at least for harmless missions. To make him feel more like himself again. To ensure he knew he was still part of SG-1. After lots of briefings Hammond had given in under the condition that if Daniel got himself into trouble, he'd be grounded from gate travel indefinitely. Of course the missions would be well picked. Only safe places. Milk tours. No first contacts. Just visits to explored worlds or worlds without a civilization just to complete translations.
Like this one.
They were still working on a mission schedule for Daniel so he could go with his team on occasions without too much risk. The rest of the time he would work on base, in his office, like he had done the last two months after the incident. SG-1 would go on the "tough" missions with a replacement for Doctor Daniel Jackson. A replacement that had yet to be found.
Everyone involved was aware that there was always dangerous potential on every mission. No one knew when the snake heads decided to show up. There were other risks, too. But General Hammond was confident his 2IC would protect one Doctor Daniel Jackson, no matter how old or little.
The man had some confidence. Jack had to give him that.
Jack had been sooo looking forward to this. Not. Supervising a bunch of normal kids on board a Goa'uld ship was probably easier than keeping one little Daniel Jackson in line. Hell, the kid wasn't just a kid. He was a little missile with the razor sharp mind of a man and the attitude of a five year old.
Jack had objected all the way through the process and, when the decision had been made, Hammond had given Jack the option to transfer Daniel to another team if he thought he couldn't take the responsibility for Daniel.
Jack snorted inwardly as he stepped around another huge tree. God knew what would happen to Daniel if he ended up on another team. At least he knew how the kid ticked – sort of. Maybe.
So here he was, chasing the little Wretch across some tropical forest.
Kid genius was SO going to be grounded.
O'Neill was just about to try his radio again when he heard Teal'c call his name. Turning around, he saw the Jaffa picking something up from the mossy ground. Realizing what it was, Jack's guts twitched again as a cold hand of fear clutched his heart.
"There is no trace of a struggle," Teal'c said after searching the ground closely for tracks.
"You mean he lost it?" There weren't any broken branches or destroyed plants. It looked just like Daniel had dumped his radio and went his way.
"I would say he lost it, O'Neill," the Jaffa agreed, a touch of concern in his dark deep voice.
Jack shuddered. He contacted Carter to break the news to her
"It'll get dark in two hours. Do you have flashlights with you, Colonel?" she asked, her voice strained with worry.
"Yeah, we have everything."
"I know, Carter. We'll find him."
"Do you want me to contact the SGC for back up?"
Jack wanted to say yes. He wanted Hammond to know he'd been right about Daniel. But when he spoke again, his mouth betrayed him. "Not yet. We'll keep going until it gets dark. If we didn’t find him by then, we'll call for backup."
"Understood. And, sir... good luck."
Jack took off his cap and scratched his head. "I can't believe I just said that. I should get another team here and let Hammond deal with Daniel when we find him sulking somewhere," he muttered.
"DanielJackson must be very upset, O'Neill," Teal'c said with a hint of disapproval.
"I told ya, he's not ready. As long as he isn't able to follow orders and stay where I tell him to, he's a danger to himself and to us. I can't take the responsibility for that."
"Was it not always difficult to tell DanielJackson to stay anywhere? He has proved many times in the past that he has great skills and knows very well what he is doing. Not following your lead sometimes was the right thing to do."
“T, this wasn't some meaning of life stuff we disagreed about. I was just telling him not to touch anything and he shot off like a rocket, acting like a five year old brat. This wasn't about right or wrong command decisions. It was just Daniel not wanting to listen to me – again."
But his big Jaffa friend wasn't about to let it go. When they started walking again, his voice, even though it was calm, punched Jack right into the gut. "Should you not be far more patient with this young DanielJackson, O'Neill? Should you not help him to adjust to his new situation and, as his commanding officer, should you not guide him and be helpful to him?"
"Oh, for cryin' out loud, T! He doesn't want help. He is just stubborn and behaving like a... a... kid," Jack blurted out.
"DanielJackson is now a child."
"No, he's not. He is an adult in a child's body," Jack snapped. "That's what he's telling us all the time."
"But did you not just say he behaves like a child?"
"Yeah, well... there's that." Jack sighed.
"DanielJackson's mind might not function the same way as it did. He has shown signs of unfamiliar behavior since he has been transformed into a young boy. Your irritation is not helpful."
"What? You think it's my fault," Jack hissed, feeling an unwelcome tinge of guilt grow inside. But he stomped it down. Nope. No way was he going to feel guilty because Daniel had to play brat from hell. Teal'c could give him his eyebrow all he wanted. It wasn't working. Neither were Daniel’s batting eyelashes or the smile he had in store for Jack when he wanted something like; Just a few more minutes, Jack... Not working here.
Except it did work just fine.
The batting eyelashes as well as the smile.
Or, in this particular case, Teal'c's eyebrow.
Jack let out a huge sigh. Why did they know him so well?
So, yeah, okay, he had snapped at Daniel. But, damn it. Daniel always got in trouble for touching things and would he ever learn from it? No. Jack had been worried. He had been a little tense, yes.
Tall or short, Daniel just didn't listen if he chose not to. He tried to get his own way and Jack knew every gray hair on his head was courtesy of Daniel Jackson. The only difference was that this Daniel was little and part of his mind acted seven.
So if Jack had chosen his words better, if he'd talked to him more seriously, instead of just nagging at him like he usually did... This little Daniel was easy to upset, and Jack forgot how he overreacted to any kind of lecturing or the slightest bit of patronizing.
He shook his head. "Maybe I was a little harsh. But I tell ya, T. Running away from me into an unknown terrain is going to cost him. He can't do that, no matter how upset he is. And he has to learn to accept that, or he'll be grounded for the rest of his new childhood. And that's the end of it."
"I agree. DanielJackson has to learn many things now that he is a boy again. And you will guide him with patience and your skills as a father," Teal'c said, giving him the other eyebrow.
Jack froze. "Skills as... whoa... Teal'c... wait a minute here. I am NOT Daniel's father.“
Teal'c stopped walking. "Are you not the closest friend DanielJackson has?"
"Yes, maybe. But... I can't do it. Not like this." Jack shook his head, not wanting to go anywhere near this topic.
"Why can you not be there for your friend, O'Neill?" Teal'c's voice was now soft, which was scary on a whole different level.
"I just... I can't be. His father. Just leave it, Teal'c. There are too many reasons why I can't," Jack said flatly, kicking at the scrub.
He started walking again, his jaw set tight and his shoulders straight. He would find Daniel, hand him over to Hammond and request that the kid be grounded. And that was that. Daniel didn't even want anybody to play his parent. He had said so himself more than once.
“O'Neill.” Teal'c had stopped walking once more, but Jack walked on, ignoring the commanding tone in his friend's voice.
A moment later Teal'c was next to him again, falling into the same fast step. When he spoke, his voice was barely a whisper, but it sounded like thunder to Jack’s ears. "I know about the great loss you and DanielJackson suffered through the incident, O'Neill. You are angered and hurt. But do not forget that this child is still DanielJackson. He has to live with the same loss and much more. Love has many different faces. Should you not value what you still have? Both of you? It might not be the same, but he is still here and he needs you more than he is aware of now."
Jack didn't respond to that.
He knew the big guy was right.
It just freaked him out. Big time. He needed more time to wrap his brain around this little Daniel... like, oh, another couple of years...
Daniel couldn't believe he'd thrown away his radio. A groan escaped him as he pushed frantically at his glasses to keep them from sliding down his sweaty nose.
This was all Jack's fault.
Daniel stomped on the fern plants and swiped his arm over his wet face. He was lost. And he wasn't crying. The wetness on his face was due to the humidity of the planet. No tears. He was thirty four years old.
And if Jack hadn't been such an ass, Daniel wouldn't be lost. He was just so mad when he’d stormed out of the temple and into the foreign forest. So when Jack had yelled at him over the radio, Daniel had thrown it away and kept running.
Dumb dumb dumb, his inner adult yelled at him while he was still wandering aimlessly through the trees. He felt a lump in his throat and bit hard on his bottom lip. No way was he going to cry like a baby. It was bad enough that he'd stormed out of the temple like a maniac just because Jack told him not to touch anything.
It was all Jack's fault.
No it's not Jack's fault, a reasonable voice whispered inside him. It was the same voice that had called him dumb.
Boy, he had to get a grip or he'd end up talking to himself like he was two people!
Well, it was Jack who acted as though he had to babysit Daniel all the time. It was Jack who didn't want him around on missions anymore. Jack had said he wasn’t ready. The annoyance had been all over Jack's face when Daniel had entered the gate room this morning.
Jack didn't love him anymore.
Because he was little.
And now the hated tears were running down Daniel's already damp face. He felt his bottom lip quiver as he hugged himself hard to stop his exhausted little body from shaking.
He hurt. Everything hurt. He wanted to crawl into a hole and forget everything.
Daniel hated to be like this. Childish, vulnerable, cute... He hated that the most. Being cute or adorable. He'd overheard some of the nurses talking about him when he'd been in the infirmary after the... incident. They had called him sweetpea and cutie. Gross things Daniel hadn't heard since he'd been six or seven the first time around.
He loathed the kid’s clothes. He didn't even know where they had come from and it had made him mad even more that they had bought them without asking him what he'd like to wear. Someone had just guessed his size and a day after 'it' had happened he possessed a whole new collection of outfits. Didn't he have a say in anything anymore, just because he was little now?
Of course he would have refused to go shopping with Sam or Janet as well. But that wasn't the point.
Daniel hated that everyone was so nice to him or tried to cheer him up. He hated the sad looks he got from Sam and Janet. What he found most disgusting was that he discovered there was a part of him who loved the toys they'd given him. He had yelled and thrown the Nintendo at Jack, when he had offered it to him one day. But after Jack had left, Daniel caught himself playing with it - and enjoying it.
It was gross!
He didn't want to enjoy kid’s games. He wanted to work and to be a grown up, behaving like a grown up and be treated like one. He didn't want pity or hugs or toys or anything.
Especially not from Jack.
You are pushing him away. You are pushing them all away. Because you can't accept what you are now, that annoying reasonable voice told him sternly.
No. That wasn't true. Jack had been the one who'd pushed him away first. The horror in Jack's eyes, when Janet had told them she couldn't change Daniel back, had been the worst.
But he tried, didn't he? Wanted to talk to you about it. Wanted to do something. You didn't let him, You told him to leave you alone. And so he did. Eventually, the voice insisted .
Daniel sobbed as he stumbled further into the thick green jungle. He was exhausted and thirsty. And he probably was losing what was left of his sanity. He pressed both hands on his ears, knowing it was ridiculous because the relentless reasonable voice was in his own head and wouldn't stop.
And then there was another voice, taunting him, mocking him. How stupid to run off without a backpack or a canteen of water? How do you think Jack must feel now? You just proved to him you aren't capable of yourself anymore.
This voice was hard and unmerciful and Daniel didn't like that voice either. But again it was just his own mind talking to him. The voice had always been there. Not as loud and not so persistent, but it was the voice from his first childhood, his teen years, his academy years... the one telling him he wasn't worthy being accepted in class, in a family, or at the academy. The voice had been part of his adult life, too. The part of his mind always questioning himself, always wondering if he could do better... be stronger...
He felt his knees buckling and his heart racing in his small chest.
He was seven.
He felt alone and there was a total childish and ridiculous urge to be held, to be comforted. It wasn't the first time he'd wanted that. But he had always refused to give in to it. Since he was so little, he had this longing a lot. He wanted to cuddle and he wanted to be tucked in at nights...
And if you need this, and someone is offering it to you, why not take it? They love you... said the calm reasonable voice.
Love you? The way you behave they'll all be glad to see you go into foster care eventually, the mocking voice yelled.
No no no. They loved him. Daniel knew they did. Sam and Janet and Teal'c. Even Hammond loved him in a way.
But the one person he needed to love him the most was out of reach.
Jack couldn't love him anymore.
Not the way he used to.
And what other way was there?
Jack couldn't love him any other way. Not after what they'd shared for the last two years. And Daniel couldn't forget any of it. The memories were all there. How could they change what they had been for so long?
Now the voices stayed quiet, finally.
Daniel took a step forward - and the world went upside down.
The trees and fern whirled around him, his glasses slipped from his nose and disappeared as he tumbled down down down... He screamed, a high pitched sound in his own ears, as he fell. There was dirt in his nose and mouth and he gagged. Then he screamed again as his legs and arms bumped into branches and fallen trees.
Jack froze and grabbed Teal'c's arm. "Did you hear that?"
They stood still and waited.
There it was again.
A kid's scream.
"Daniel!" Jack started to run in the direction the yell had come from.
He came to an abrupt halt at a precipice. Overturned trees and rotten fern plants were all over the ground in the abyss. Deep down at the bottom was a small river with green brackish water.
I hate green, Jack thought absurdly as his eyes searched for Daniel.
"O'Neill! Over here!"
Jack reached the Jaffa a moment later. Teal'c pointed down at the small body, stuck between two dead trees. There was a mop of blond hair and a pale arm.
Already climbing and skidding down, Jack felt his chest tighten. "Daniel?!"
At first there was no answer. Then the head moved a little. "Jack! I'm stuck! Can't move my leg!"
“I'm right there, Daniel,” Jack called out to him. He heard Teal'c talking to Carter over the radio.
When he reached the boy he saw scratches and bruises on his arms where the jacket had been ripped apart. Jack crouched next to him by a tree trunk. "Don't move, kiddo. You hurt anywhere?" he asked, breathless.
"No, I'm fine. My leg is stuck, but I don't think it's broken or anything," Daniel said in a shaky voice.
Jack let out a humorless snort. "Fine!? I'll give you fine, you little..." He shook his head, not able to say much more without giving away the tremble in his own voice. He moved Daniel’s arms very carefully, but they didn't seem to be broken.
He tried to move the dead tree with little success. Then Teal'c was at his side and together they were able to free the kid.
“All right,” Jack said. “Can you move your leg? Careful though.”
Daniel's pant leg was torn and there was a nasty bruise on his shin, but he could bent and stretch his leg. “Doesn't hurt too bad. I think my boot got caught in a ditch under the trunk.”
“Okay.” Jack opened Daniel's boot and carefully pulled it off. Daniel hissed when Jack probed his ankle. “Seems you got lucky. I don't think it's broken.”
“MajorCarter is on her way. She believes it is best not to move DanielJackson. There might be internal injuries from the fall. We will build a stretcher to carry him,” Teal'c informed them.
“Yeah. Go and lead her here. I'll stay with him.”
“I'm fine,” Daniel whined, wiping a hand over his snotty dirty face.
“Aht!” Jack silenced him with a shake of his finger. “We'll let Janet be the judge of that.” He helped the boy to lie down in a more comfortable position. “She'll have my hide if I let you walk back to the gate and you'll end up chucking blood or other gross things,” he joked.
Not that he felt like joking, but sometimes it was all that was left. He ruffled Daniel's dirty hair and cupped the little face between his calloused hands. “Anything else hurt? What about your head?”
"Ja-ack, I'm okay. Look. Arms, legs, toes, fingers.... all there, all functional," Daniel groaned. Then he suddenly giggled. Jack almost smiled at that. He didn't think he'd ever heard this version of Daniel giggle before. It sounded strangely good.
“What's so funny?” he asked.
“D'you know this children's verse? Heads and shoulders, knees and toes,” Daniel asked and giggled some more.
"You're in shock," Jack said dryly.
"No, I'm not." He stopped giggling at once.
"Don'tcha think you're in enough trouble already? This isn't the time to play smart ass with me," Jack grumbled, but he couldn't help the grin taking the edge off his words.
He was just so damn relieved Daniel wasn't badly injured. Or at least it didn't look like it right now. Carefully, the colonel took one of the small hands and watched little fingers disappear in his own big hand.
He swallowed. This was so wrong. It wasn't how it should be. Daniel shouldn't be so little. Shouldn't be so fragile. Daniel used to be independent... strong. He used to be Jack's equal partner. They had grown to be complete together.
Daniel's eyes searched his, suddenly alarmed. "What?"
Jack looked down at him, a lump in his throat. "It's.... I... I miss you."
Daniel pulled his hand out of Jack's grip and turned his face away. "You miss him, you mean," he spat.
Jack's other hand was still in the soft blond hair. He brushed off a few leaves. "I don't know. It's... hard... to see you like this."
Daniel yanked his head away from Jack and sat up. "It's hard? It's hard for you? Poor guy! How do you think it's for me? I'm the one here who's lost a couple of feet. Oh, but I feel really sorry for you, Jack! You have to find yourself a new lover! All I have to do is grow up again!"
Taken aback by the rage and hurt in Daniel’s light child’s voice, Jack rubbed a hand over the nape of his neck and searched for words. "Look, Danny, I'm sorry..."
Daniel bolted to his feet before Jack had a chance to hold him down. "I don't want you to be sorry for me, Jack! I don't need you to suffer for me! It's not your fault! But you can't make me responsible for it either!"
Before he could stop himself, Jack snarled back at the kid. "Oh, yeah!? It was you who had to touch that wall! I told you not to!"
"You're always telling me not to touch, not to go too far, not to work too long... yadda, yadda," Daniel shouted at him, red faced. He looked like he was going to explode any minute. Jack expected steam coming out of the little guy's ears any moment.
He was still sitting on the mossy ground, staring up at the furious boy. "Right! And it's about time you finally start listening to me! Because if you had, we wouldn't be in this mess right now!"
"Well, it's not your problem, because, as you just pointed out - it was my own fault, Jack. So just leave me alone and live your life! Your adult life!"
Jack jabbed a hand at him and lashed out verbally. He couldn't stop himself. The hurt and feeling of being rejected bubbled over. He had tried so hard not to show it to Daniel, knowing it wouldn't do the kid any good. But once he had started he couldn't back off. "The hell it's not my problem, Daniel! You finally managed to ruin both our lives with that little stunt! And we can't pretend all is peachy. You don't cope with it. I don't cope with it. We're a fucking mess! We are...." Jack stopped mid-rant, unable to say anything else. There wasn't much that would make him cry anymore these days. But now his eyes were stinging and he regretted his words. But he couldn't help feeling the way he did. He missed Daniel in his life, in his home - and in his bed.
He had lost his family once, and when he had finally started to believe that, maybe, he still deserved some happiness in his life, it had been ripped away from him again.
Just because Daniel had to touch that shiny thingy on the wall. Just because Daniel had to be so damn curious and so damn careless about himself... and Jack knew it wasn't fair, knew Daniel was in the same dark place. This wasn't just about Jack. Daniel was the one who had to cope with this shit, and more.
And what gave Jack the right to push him away?
"I don't want to hear this, Jack! Look at me! I'm a kid! A dumb little kid... how do you expect me to cope with THIS?! You are still you! I’m not!"
With that, Daniel spun around and started to climb up the hill.
"Oh no, you don't!" Jack shot to his feet and grabbed the struggling kid by the belt of his BDUs. He decided there couldn't be any internal injuries if Daniel was able to move that fast.
"Let me go! Let me go," Daniel yelled, kicking his feet and lashing out his fists at the colonel, who just held him at arm's length.
"Stop running away from me, Daniel," Jack said, his voice firm and loud, but not yelling.
Something in Daniel just snapped. He couldn't control it anymore.
It was like the crying, when he'd been alone in the forest earlier. It just happened and all the willpower in the world couldn't stop it. He didn't want Jack to see him like this. It was so embarrassing. And at the same time he wanted Jack to stop him. Wanted him to do something to help him out of this chaos inside him.
The angry tears came and he heard his own voice screaming. "I'm not running away! I hate you! I hate you, hate you! Let me go!"
"Daniel, listen to me! I know you're angry, and it's okay to be... OW! Crap!"
Jack almost let go of Daniel when one small boot kicked his left thigh.
It was more a reflex than anything else when Jack’s free hand smacked down on the BDU clad butt. "Stop it!"
The effect, however, was major.
Daniel froze, his eyes huge and unbelievably young when he jerked his head around to stare at his friend. Jack looked back in shock - and lost his balance on the mossy ground.
They stumbled backwards, Jack landing on his back with Daniel on top of him. They lay there for a moment and then Daniel started to cry. Not the crocodile tears he had cried before, but soft little sobs. Jack sat up against the dead tree, put his arms around the shivering boy and hugged him tight. He expected Daniel to fight him, but it never happened.
So Jack just held him, burying his own face in the mop of hair and, for a brief moment, gave in to a silent tear or two himself.
"I'm such a mess," Daniel sobbed.
"Shhh... I know," Jack soothed.
"I don't wanna be like this."
"It's gonna be okay, baby... I've got you."
"Don't call me that."
But he was clutching at Jack's tear soaked jacket, pressing his little face against O'Neill's chest like his life depended on it. Jack suddenly realized that no matter how hard Daniel tried to fight the little kid part in him, it was right there.
"I don't want to be called baby, honey, sport or sweetie," Daniel sniffled.
"I know, space monkey." Jack smiled into Daniels hair. If felt good to hold a little boy in his arms again. Despite the pain, he enjoyed this far more than he probably should. And for the first time he seriously considered giving this a try... maybe Teal'c was right. He loved kids and if Daniel would let him... he might be able to overcome his issues... because Daniel was little now and he needed somebody to take care of him. Jack felt his resistance slip away at the sight of huge blue eyes finally gazing up at him.
"Space monkey is..." Daniel frowned, "...might be... okay."
They sat there for a few minutes. The sounds of the unknown fauna and the wind in the trees surrounding them like soothing music.
Finally Jack cleared his throat. "Daniel, I'm not sure I can do this right. I wasn't very successful in being a dad in the first place. And I’m not. Your dad, I mean."
"I don't want a dad, Jack. I don't want to be... little."
"But you are. And I want you to come home with me." There, he’d said it. And he meant it. Scary as it was, he wanted that.
Daniel stared at him, eyes wide. “You want me to... what?”
“Come home,” Jack said softly. “Let's give this a try. You and me.”
Daniel sighed and let out a long shaky breath. "It would be horrible. I... I don't know what I want. I don't know what I want you to be... for me, Jack. I guess, first of all I need a..."
"A friend, Daniel. That's what I need, too. Let me be there. Let me take care of you, please... Can't promise you it will be easy. But I'll try."
There was a long silence. Jack closed his eyes and rocked the fragile body in his arms, feeling Daniel getting more relaxed. Finally the young voice said, "No, Jack. We'll try. Together."
After a moment Daniel freed himself of Jack's embrace and put his boot back on. The ankle was a bit swollen, but not too badly. Jack got up and let Daniel ride on his back as they made their way up the hill where Teal'c and Carter were just bursting through the dense mass of trees.
“I guess we can skip the building-a-stretcher part. I'll just take him piggyback,” Jack said dryly as he let the kid to the ground.
“I can walk,” Daniel insisted. Then he gazed at his boots. “I'm sorry I ran.”
“Sir, it might have been a bad idea to move him,” Carter said, eying Daniel worriedly.
“Oh, he's fine,” Jack assured her. “Just a few scratches and bruises.”
“Indeed,” Teal'c agreed.
Carter relaxed and even managed a smile. She reached out a tentative hand and squeezed the kid's shoulder. Jack thought she was even more spooked by the situation than he was, which wasn't easy. He put a hand on the back of Daniel's neck and gently squeezed it. “Let's go home, kids.”
"What did I just say?“
"Um.... I can watch another episode of National Geographic?"
"Nice try, Danny."
"Come oooon, Jack." Daniel tried a cute smile and batted his eyelashes. He had been told before he was a cute kid, so he could at least make some use of it. He licked the cocoa mustache from his upper lip. "Just a few more minutes – please?"
"Hey, I'm a Special Ops trained colonel. Huge blue eyes and chocolate smiles won't work here," Jack muttered.
Daniel already had had his few more minutes this evening. Twice. But he really wasn't tired or anything. "I promise to go in ten minutes."
"Nope. Bed. Now."
Okay, this was the colonel voice talking. Daniel considered whining some more, but decided against it. Being carried into his room under Jack's arm wasn't fun. And they'd had enough things to fight over during the day already. So he scrambled off the couch and just mumbled under his breath, "Sometimes I wonder why I agreed to move in with you. My quarters on base weren’t that bad, you know."
With that he made his way to his bedroom.
It was Jack’s former spare room. They had worked on it together. Paintings, furniture, books... Many of Daniel's things which had been in the master bedroom or his own apartment before, were now in this room.
Daniel still felt odd. He had sort of lived here before, but that was in another life with another body. Then after the change he had refused to come back here or move in with anybody else. Until two months ago he had lived on base, alone, allowing noone into his personal space.
His reasonable voice had been right. He had pushed them all away.
And Jack had done a little pushing too.
Now it was different again.
Daniel stripped to his underwear and went into the bathroom. He stood on tip toes and looked at the young face in the mirror while he brushed his teeth. He still felt way older than he looked. This face was a stranger to him. Yet, there were days recently when this kid face didn't seem so strange. When he had the urge to play with the Nintendo he didn't deny himself the joy anymore. And why should he? Jack played the Nintendo, so he could do it as well.
He could sit on the swing in the yard and just be Daniel the kid sometimes. The swing had been his own idea even, after they had been on a playground for the first time. He'd liked it, odd as it seemed to be. These things were getting better now.
He rinsed his mouth and put on boxers and T-shirt. He'd never fancied PJ's and being a kid again wouldn't change that.
When he returned to his room he found Jack sitting on the edge of his bed, a grin on his face. Daniel smiled, knowing what Jack was up to. They were doing this little scam most evenings and he was unable not to play along.
Jack patted the bed and asked, "So. Do I have to tuck you in again tonight or could you just go to bed alone for a change?"
"Um... I think..." Daniel tried hard not to laugh and spoil the game.
"There's a hockey game on, you know. So think faster," Jack growled.
"I think you have to tuck me in then," Daniel replied cheerfully.
"And here I thought you're all grown up," Jack muttered. “Wretch – c'mere.”
Daniel threw himself at Jack and snuggled against his broad chest. It was good to feel the strong arms around him and smell all the little scents that made Jack, Jack.
He closed his eyes when Jack rubbed his back. "You okay, Daniel?"
"Was a long day. Briefings, boring power point presentations..."
"Huh... those were my power point presentations you're talking about."
"Some things never change, Danny-boy," Jack chuckled.
Daniel yawned and snuggled closer. He didn't need this cuddling all the time. There were days when he didn't have the urge. But he liked it. And he knew Jack liked it, too. It was so different than before, but it was comforting and soothing.
"It's funny," Daniel murmured into Jack's chest.
"I can remember, you know. I mean. It's all there. How we... used to be..."
He felt Jack tense.
"It's okay. I just want to say this. I can remember what we did and I even can remember how great it was. How you... used to make me... happy, Jack. But it's odd. My body is too young to connect to the memories... it's not reacting to you like it used to... it's like I have the memories of another person in my head. Does it make any sense?"
Jack hugged him tighter now. "Yeah, makes sense to me. It's the same here. It sometimes feels... like you're... your own son. And yet I know you're you. And normally I can see your adult self shining through – well, most of the time..."
"...and I still miss having you around the way we were," Jack continued.
"I know. Me too," Daniel whispered back.
"But then again.... you're still here and you're still annoying me a lot because you're still a pain in the ass sometimes. And your coffee addiction is still there and the tendency to work too much and eat too little... so most things didn't really change," Jack grinned.
"Speak for yourself, Jack. Because I don't get much coffee around here anymore.“
“Hey! You get coffee – just not as much as you were used to. You're lucky I'm not going by Fraiser's 'no coffee' rule,” Jack complained.
“Yeah yeah. And you're enjoying this playing-dad thing way too much for my liking. And I still don't believe you got permission from Hammond to smack my butt when I don't listen to you off world.... and if you ever do it in front of Sam and Teal'c, I'm gonna sue you, Colonel O'Neill," Daniel informed his new guardian.
Jack swatted the back of Daniel's head playfully. "Hey. It took me a lot of talking to convince Hammond to let you go off world again after you got lost. And he wanted me to put you on a kiddie leash, so you're better off like this."
"I just humor you. They don't hurt a bit." Daniel pouted.
Jack was pretty sure he didn't dish out love pats whenever he had to deliver the obligatory swat or two, but that wasn’t the point. "They're supposed to get your attention and to snap you out of whatever mode you're in when you're throwing tantrums. Can't have you doing the plant boy dance too often when we're off world," he scolded mildly.
Daniel Jackson throwing tantrums wasn't new. But the intensity and the length had changed. A pouting or pissed adult Daniel had been cute or dangerous at times. An outraged little Daniel was plain scary. Still cute though. But nowadays there were tears and lots of yelling involved. Bad language, too, in all twenty three languages. He got frustrated so easily these days and the whole situation kept crashing down on him again and again.
Most of the time he pulled himself together and just worked. But sometimes a little thing could knock him off balance. Like when they got ordered home earlier or when Jack got too overprotective - in Daniel's eyes. Or when he was told to leave things alone and not to touch.
Tantrums were followed by feeling guilty, which triggered depressions... it was a nasty pattern. It was eating away at all of them. Carter got teary eyed every time it happened and even Teal'c was saddened by how their littlest team member struggled through some days.
Jack, however, was the one who had to deal with it. One evening Daniel had asked Jack to stop him if he couldn’t stop himself. It was embarrassing for him to talk about it. But it was also embarrassing for him to behave like that.
So sometimes during a mission it was easier to drag him out of sight from the others and deliver one or two firm smacks to his backside, than to wait it out. And it worked. If Jack did it early enough Daniel was able to regain control over his frustration and switch back to being reasonable. Mostly. Not always, but often.
There were situations at home where it worked, too. Only at home Jack let the situation get out of hand too often before he reverted to smacking the kid. Out in the field he couldn't allow Daniel's tantrums to interfere with their mission. Being distracted by having to deal with ongoing discipline issues could be dangerous. Jack needed to focus on the mission and therefore Daniel needed to do his bit as part of the team.
At home, however... at home Jack all too often let it slide. Because he was still reluctant to treat this Daniel like a kid all the time. They had squabbles over the simplest things like bed times, meals, chores... It was exhausting. Jack had tried to stick his fingers into his ears and hum loudly – but Daniel could scream murder and curse a blue streak for a very long time if he felt his seven year old feelings hurt. So they had figured out ground rules which were now stuck to the fridge. Still, Jack knew he let the kid provoke him way too often and lure him into verbal sparring until they both ended up being mad.
But they were still new at this, were still trying to figure it all out. So it would get better one day.
Daniel yawned again. "I still hate it. I don't need a dad, really."
"Of course you don't."
They looked at each other, blue eyes meeting brown ones. "And this is just temporary, right? So, don't get used to smacking me, Jack. There will be huge payback time when I'm big again," Daniel challenged.
"Oy, I'm SO scared, Doctor Jackson." But he felt like shit behind his grin. Sometimes the old banter between them said more than all the serious talk in the world. He would take every payback from Daniel if he got big again, which probably would never happen. Jack didn't want to think about raising Daniel like his own son, seeing him grow up... what then? What about when the kid reached puberty, grew into a man...
He stomped this train of thoughts down. They'd deal with this day by day. Maybe there was some solution to this somewhere.
"Daniel, open the door!"
"Daniel, open the door... please?"
Something – probably a book – slammed against the wooden door.
Jack closed his eyes, leaned his forehead against said door, and prayed for strength. He counted to ten, then tried again, even though he knew it'd be a waste of time. When Daniel was in this kind of mood, nothing really worked. "Danny?"
"No, Jack! I will not open the door and I will not talk about it. So. Go. Away," came the muffled answer from inside.
Jack considered his options. Normally he'd send Daniel to his room once they'd reach this stage of an argument. They both needed the distance and time to let off some steam before either of them was ready to discuss things like adults again. Sometimes Daniel complied and sometimes he didn't and ended up sulking somewhere else. In the beginning he had locked himself into the bathroom until Jack had removed the key.
There was only one bathroom in the house. Jack needed to follow the call of nature from time to time, so there.
Now the door to Daniel's room was another story. Jack felt reluctant to take the key to Daniel's own room away from him. After all, it was the only private room Daniel had now. The kid didn't lock the door on any normal day. But whenever they were fighting lately, he made a beeline for his room and slammed the door into Jack's face. Until he had calmed down again.
Jack had learned not to linger at Daniel's door for too long. It was a useless attempt and the only other alternative would be to break it down. So if Jack didn't manage to pry his little monster out, he took his own timeout. Sometimes he went to the roof. Fresh air was good for his blood pressure and he didn't want to get arrested for murdering his pint-sized civilian consultant.
Today was one of those days... And Jack understood, but eventually he had ran out of patience because Daniel wouldn't let him help. Wouldn't allow Jack to comfort him. And as usual at one point things had started to go awfully wrong.
So, since the Wretch was already in his room Jack decided to let it go for now. He knocked one last time. "I'll call you when dinner is ready."
"Not hungry," came the curt answer.
"Chinese," Jack offered. Oh, yeah. He knew perfectly well that bribing Daniel with his favorite food was so not helping to change his attitude. But he was a desperate man, so sue him.
"You need to eat something."
"Stop telling me what I need!" There was a hitch in the kid's voice now and Jack knew he was at the verge of tears.
Jack jumped at the sound of another something being hurled his way. "Stop throwing things, Daniel," he told the closed door.
"They're my things," came the angry answer.
Now Jack really had it. Throwing up his arms in defeat, he snapped, "All right, I get it. You want to stay in there? Fine! You want to destroy your stuff – go ahead! I'm in the living room. Come out when you can think straight again!"
"Can't you go somewhere else? Chulak for example," Daniel yelled.
"Ya think that's far enough?" Jack yelled back, knowing he probably screwed things up even more by doing so.
"Honestly? No, I don't think so! The Asgard home planet would do, maybe," Daniel bitched, his voice shaky with sobs lurking beneath the surface.
The kid was exhausted, angry and tired.
So was Jack.
He walked away into the kitchen to snatch a beer from the fridge. The cold bottle felt good as he pressed it against his aching temple for a moment. This was SO not his understanding of a nice evening at home.
In the living room Jack opened the glass door to his back porch. The cool evening air calmed him a little as he took a deep breath and sat on the couch. Stretching his long legs, he leaned his head back on the soft cushions.
When the hell was this going to get better?
Right now it felt like they were always taking two steps forwards and three steps back.
Sure, there were more good days and less bad days.
Or so he'd thought.
They had more fun together once Daniel had at least started to tolerate part of his transformation. Like using the swing in the yard or letting the rest of SG-1 spoil him a little. If he was up to it, of course. Nobody would ever dare to spoil the little Wretch without his permission. His team and even the general were walking on eggshells around their little genius.
Daniel was still over-sensitive and struggling to get the two halves of his brain to work together. As long as he was completing a normal day routine at the SGC, he seemed to cope rather okay. If they didn't count the endless arguments about taking breaks, having snacks, leaving work "much too early"...
The real nasty problems started when he reached his limits and didn't want to accept them. When his small body got tired or he couldn't concentrate as long as he'd been used to. Daniel Jackson had always pushed himself to the max. His limits were... well, limited, now. Sam and Teal'c simply accepted his moods and tried to be understanding and comforting. They just left Daniel alone if he told them to. And Daniel managed to do his work, so no one had been complaining about that.
Hammond still let him go off world under specific conditions. Being close to the president had its advantages, Jack thought. But Daniel had had to give up his status as head of his department. And that's when this newest crisis had originally started.
They had worked out this cover story about Daniel being the highly skilled nephew of the MIA Doctor Jackson. So he wasn't supposed to run a department of the SGC anyway. He was “home schooled” instead – officially – while he translated and categorized artifacts. Another reason for Daniel to give up his department was that he simply couldn't work those long hours any longer. Fraiser had scheduled a strict order of breaks and had limited Daniel's daily work time to eight hours maximum.
Jack sighed heavily as he recalled the day when they had carefully explained the department situation to Daniel in the briefing room. Sam had gotten misty eyed and even Hammond had trouble staying business like as they discussed working schedules and change of Daniel's position.
Daniel had been reasonable, said he understood and accepted his new position. He’d been told he could work more freely now, schedule his work the way he wanted to. Daniel had nodded, smiled through gritted baby teeth and said, "Sure. I understand. I'm fine. It's easier that way."
And by then, Jack had known he'd have a really bad evening.
He had been right.
Jack had learned a lot over the last few months.
He could read the signs of an upcoming storm as well as signs of sunny weather in Daniel's world. He'd learned to pick his fights. The line between being Daniel's friend and some kind of a guardian was very fine and Jack found it hard to walk without crossing over.
He knew by now when it was time for simple attitude adjustments or – not. After three months of living with this young Daniel, he knew when the kid was just trying to get away with something or when there was more to his tantrums and mood switches.
Janet kept saying it was all in Daniel's head. The hormone issues had been solved. His problems were psychological and not physiological. She said they had to give Daniel time to adjust. She pointed out that his traumatic real childhood probably surfaced with all kinds of suppressed memories and emotions... yadda. Daniel had to learn to let go and accept what he was now, body wise. His body was seven, his mind was scrambled... but the Doc still insisted he could cope if he just wanted to.
They were taking it one step at a time, one day at a time.
But Jack was so tired sometimes.
He knew it was difficult for Daniel to deal with the insecurity of his teammates and friends at the SGC as well as his own. And sometimes it all came crashing down and as soon as they had left the mountain, Daniel was a storm waiting to erupt. And Jack was his rock, his lightning conductor.
The problem was that Daniel never came right out with what was bothering him.
Nothing new there, either.
If he was upset or depressed about something, he worked himself up until he couldn't hold it in anymore. And then the fighting started. Daniel was a linguist and a master when it came to discussing every single rule they had established in the last few weeks. If he was cranky or angry, he picked something and made a show out of it. Could be something simple like setting the table or having coffee for dinner.
And when Jack started to prod and search for the real reason of Daniel's bad mood, he got himself a seven year old with a temper tantrum.
Sipping his beer, he felt like having a tantrum himself. Because throwing things against a wall or screaming and kicking a chair across the room sounded really good right now.
He hadn’t expected this when they’d agreed on living together. He'd jumped into this, thinking once Daniel settled in it would all get better.
He had expected that, because Daniel still had his adult memories, they'd be able to deal with everyday life more like adults... on a more calmer level, maybe. But when Daniel was fuming and huffing with anger about something it was hard to get him back to reasonable talking.
Giving the Wretch away for adoption or tying and gagging him with duct tape was an appealing thought at times.
Daniel sat on his bed, his skinny arms wrenched around himself.
Yes, he knew he was sulking, so sue him.
It was funny how old habits came back to him. He hadn't done the "self-hugging-thing," as Jack called it, for some time as an adult.
Three books were lying on the floor by the door and the Nintendo had lost the battle against the wall.
Daniel chewed his bottom lip.
He was sorry. He knew it wasn't okay to throw books or toys. The books could be damaged and he loved books, cherished them like a treasure. Throwing them against the wall was so not him. Which was just another indication that he wasn't dealing with anything very good. He knew that. Throwing tantrums never made him feel better.
Even the child in him knew that.
Climbing into Jack's lap would make him feel better. But he was no baby. Not even at the age of seven. He didn't want to be so dependent on Jack. It sucked, big time.
He was little, all right. Even by normal standards for seven year olds he was little. That just wasn't fair. He needed a chair to reach the upper cupboards in the kitchen. They'd moved things around in the house, so he didn't need a stool for everything. But there were still enough shelves and cupboards left he couldn't reach. He couldn't work twelve or fifteen hours in a row anymore because his concentration level wasn't the same. He needed little shoes and little sweaters and he found out he was a little afraid of the injections for his allergies now.
So, all of this was annoying, but he was getting used to it.
But why oh why couldn't he think like an adult anymore all the time? Why wasn't he able to be rational and see things from a mature point of view? He KNEW how he should react to situations. He knew his attitude was horrible and when he was able to look at himself from a mental distance, he often wondered why Jack still put up with him and hadn't thrown him out yet.
He tried at work. It was possible as long as they left him alone in his office. The problem was, they never did. Not for as long as he wanted to. Jack kept coming in, bringing food, cajoling him into taking a walk on the surface with him. Janet said Daniel needed fresh air. Right. And when he was just in the middle of something very important he was dragged away to go home. Daniel had his laptop and could finish things at home. Yet, sometimes he was so tired he just dropped on the couch and let Jack coax him into watching a movie, or whatever, instead of working.
He didn't like any of this one bit. And sometimes he still wished he'd stayed at his base quarter. But he needed Jack to be there for him more than anything.
For example, when the nightmares haunted him at nights. He'd wake up screaming and wouldn't calm down until Jack was there, rocking him and talking soothing nonsense in this soft low voice that did wonders to Daniel and chased all the monsters away. Only Jack could hold the nightmare at bay and only Jack could make Daniel feel less alone and less “broken”.
He'd always dealt with the nightmares as an adult. Of course, sleeping in Jack's bed with a warm body to snuggle had helped as an adult, too. But then he’d been able to return the favor because Jack had his own nightmares and they would hold and talk each other through them at times.
These days, Jack was always the giver and Daniel could only take a lot and give so little back.
And when he lost control over his emotions, he got scared.
That's when he needed Jack the most.
To ground him.
To be there.
To hold him.
And even to keep him in line.
He thought back to the events of this particular day and felt very foolish and embarrassed...
...Daniel had been in a bad mood right from the start. It happened sometimes. He got out of bed and even looking into the mirror made him cringe and mutter.
Later, at breakfast he carried his plate and his coffee mug to the table. But somehow he managed to tip the mug a bit too much and the hot coffee spilled all over his feet and the floor. Daniel got startled, dropped his plate and his breakfast was all over the kitchen floor, too. It was his luck he already had his sneakers on so he didn't burn himself much. Daniel hated that his hands were so little and that sometimes he couldn't manage the easiest tasks without making a mess. Jack just mopped it all up while Daniel changed into new socks and other shoes. He said he was glad Daniel hadn't hurt himself.
He didn't want to eat anything after that and Jack told him he could either eat now or later in the commissary, but that he had to eat. Daniel reluctantly promised to eat at the SGC. But when they arrived at the mountain there was one briefing after another where Daniel explained the cultural backgrounds of several planets to other teams who were to go and establish treaties.
He couldn't get the translations done; the ones he had wanted to finish for days now.
And he didn't like briefing teams he didn't know well enough to feel comfortable about his current state of being.
When he could finally retreat to the solitary quiet of his office, Jack came to get him for lunch, nagging away at him for not taking a break earlier. As if he had a choice between all those meetings. Daniel was tempted to lie his way out of it and tell Jack he had a quick sandwich in between. But one look in the weary brown eyes made him cave and follow his friend to the commissary.
Daniel was already annoyed then. But being without anything to eat all day, he was actually hungry. So he chose waffles with syrup and ignored Jack's muttering about how this wasn't considered a healthy lunch. Things seemed to get a little better when he was able to cajole Jack into letting him a have coffee with cream in it.
"There'll be some veggies on the menu for dinner," Jack grumbled when they started eating.
"No peas," Daniel demanded.
"Broccoli," Jack said. "Something green is good for your growth."
That was okay. Daniel liked broccoli. And he'd really like to grow. Fast, if possible. Though he doubted that broccoli would help him grow up THAT fast.
He actually started enjoying himself when they began picking food from each others' plate and trying to figure out which was the best definition of the “coffee” the SGC served. Daniel scored a point by saying it tasted like yak poop and Jack almost spat his mouthful of said coffee across the table.
It was fun. It was what he only could do with Jack. Playing silly games and have a ball with it.
Then Major Davis entered the commissary and Daniel watched him getting lunch. He bit his lip. He didn't want Davis to come and sit at their table. It was awkward. Daniel and Paul used to be something like friends prior to the downsizing. And Daniel hadn't met him since he was like... this. He had no idea how to handle this. He opened his mouth to say something to Jack, then closed it again. What was he supposed to say? 'Shoot him if he tries to sit here?'
Paul crossed the room with, a bowl of salad and a fruit plate on his tray. And yak-poop... er... coffee.
”Hey, Davis,” Jack addressed him and Daniel wanted to crawl under the table.
Paul stopped and, for a moment, he looked as spooked as Daniel felt. But then he came slowly over to their table. “Colonel O'Neill,” he said with a nod. Then his eyes quickly darted over to Daniel. “Hi, um, Daniel.” He looked away again.
“Hello, Paul,” Daniel said stiffly.
“The mission to P3R-760 was re-scheduled. We'll leave at ten hundred,” Jack said.
Daniel frowned, but then he remembered Davis had requested to join SG-1 for this one because of very difficult diplomacy issues. The inhabitants of P3R-760 were very valuable allies. Daniel remembered what an exhausting job it had been to gain their trust and work out a treaty. The SGC had started mining for naquadah there once the treaty had been set up. But now they had discovered a new mine and suddenly the natives weren't willing to share their resources anymore.
Davis sat down and started eating. “Yes, I already heard from Hammond. I've read your mission reports from last year. Very impressive work. I hope we can establish this alliance further.“
“You mean convince those folks to let us continue to mine,” Jack said dryly.
“We need the naquadah. And if we can stay on that planet and continue to mine there, all the better. We don't take away anything from these people. They will still have enough for their own needs,” Paul said.
“You need to remember to be very respectful to their leader,” Daniel pointed out. “And follow their rituals for bonding if you're there. It takes a while, but you need to make sure not to offend them. They are very proud people. And they're never in a hurry, so take your time.“
Davis gave him another uneasy look. Then he turned back to Jack. “I'm looking forward to meeting them. After all, it'll be my first trip through the gate.”
“Yeah,” Jack said. “Hope you don't have motion sickness or something. It can get a little rough at times.”
Apparently Davis had decided to ignore Daniel. He talked to Jack as if Daniel wasn't there.
So a little nasty part inside him raised its ugly head, demanding to get noticed. Daniel started swinging his legs under the table. Slowly at first, then faster.
Davis prattled on to Jack. "...we might be able to get more naquadah in one year than we ever had before... ouch!"
Jack, whose eyes had already started to glaze over at the detailed report about naquadah mines, frowned as Davis rubbed his leg and grimaced as he continued, "Um... as I said, the mines are full of it. And the leader of that tribe was very cooperative. He spoke very highly about SG-1 – that was what Major Billingsly wrote in her report... ow!"
Daniel smiled sweetly, letting his legs swing a little more.
"You all right, Major?" asked Jack.
"Yes, yes. SG-1 did very good work."
"Actually, it was Daniel here who did the hard work. That tribe leader wasn't too interested in the beginning," Jack pointed out.
Davis shot a glance at Daniel, who was still swinging his legs. Back and forth, back and forth.
"Really, yes. I read that. So, Colonel O'Neill... OW! Daniel, I think you just kicked me, accidentally."
Daniel's eyes widened, all innocent. "I did? Accidentally? Oh, I'm so sorry, Paul." At least Davis wasn't ignoring him anymore. It was a start. But the victory had a bitter taste because even as Daniel saw Paul flinch he was well aware that this wasn't the kind of attention he wanted. Look at me , he wanted to yell at Davis. It's me. I'm right here.
But again Paul turned back to Jack. "Where was I? Oh yes, the naquadah mines. If this works out we might send two more teams and set up a more base like camp.“
Daniel stopped swinging his legs and frowned. “You need to make sure not do anything to disturb the natives,” he said, swallowing his anger for now. “It's their land. Whatever you do, talk to the tribe's leader first.“
Paul swallowed a piece of pine apple from his fruit plate, then finally looked at Daniel again. “I'll keep that in mind, Daniel,” he said awkwardly. “Will you... will you be on this mission, too?“
“Well, yeah. It's been labeled safe enough for me to go,” Daniel said, not able to completely keep the bitterness out of his voice.
Paul looked back at Jack. “I hope that's true. That it's safe.“
“Oh, it'll be okay. Those folks love Daniel,” Jack said lightly.
“Yes, but he's not exactly... the same anymore. Will they even recognize him?” Davis asked, giving Daniel a nervous glance.
Daniel swung out his left leg a little more than the other...
Jack gave Daniel a warning look, along with a mouthed, "Stop it!"
Daniel glared back, baring his teeth.
To Davis, Jack said sharply, “Daniel is part of SG-1 and cleared to go to any planet we consider not dangerous.”
“But it's a great responsibility to take him with you,” Davis noted.
“You let that be my responsibility, Davis,” Jack snapped.
Daniel had heard enough. He shot from his seat and stormed out of the commissary. And again, Doctor Jackson had managed to make a fool out of himself – hooray.
He rarely lost his temper at the SGC anymore. He tried to ignore stupid behavior like this most of the time. But this was just a little too much to bear. He and Paul had known each other for years. They used to respect each other and had worked well together in the past. And Davis knew about Daniel's downsizing. Why was he treating him differently now?
Jack came to his office later to talk. But Daniel locked his door and said he was working and didn't want to be disturbed.
He was still upset on their drive home. And not even Jack's offer to let Daniel ride in the front in his backless booster seat could really cheer him up.
“How about a trip to Starbucks?” Jack asked, apparently attempting to help.
“How is Starbucks going to make people treat me seriously?” Daniel snapped.
“It won't. But sometimes comfort food is good for the soul. Or in your case comfort coffee,” Jack replied.
“I'm not supposed to have coffee in the afternoon. Will you make up your mind if you want to keep that rule up or not?” Daniel sniped.
“There're exceptions to rules. Stop taking your anger out on me, Daniel, I'm trying to help,” Jack said a bit more sharply.
“Yeah, well, you're not helpful sorry.” To let off some steam he played with the car radio, trying to find some music and turned the volume up. Jack tried to ignore it at first, but there was some Heavy Metal on and Daniel turned it even louder. The aggressive music was just mirroring his mood perfectly.
Jack yelled at him over the screaming guitars. "Daniel!"
Daniel yelled back. "Jack?!"
"I know you're mad, but will you stop that? I have a headache the size of a mothership already!"
"I like it!"
"No, you don't! You're just mad at Davis!"
Jack turned the radio off.
Daniel turned it back on, well aware how silly he acte d. It didn't stop him from doing it though. Jack turned it off, then slapped Daniel's hand away when he was about to turn it on again. "Don't make me pull over and put you in the back seat," he warned.
“You're just mean.”
"Yep. And I'm real pissed just about now! So, drop it."
“You can't pull over. We're on the Highway,” Daniel sneered.
At the next exit Jack left the Highway, steered the truck into the parking lot of a large Ralph's market and turned off the engine.
“Backseat,” he barked. “Now.“
“Fine,” Daniel sniped, his voice high pitched with anger. “But I'm not taking the stupid booster seat!” He wanted to say a lot more, but Jack's jaw was set very tight and his eyes bore into him so angrily that he decided it better to just go. With as much dignity as he could muster Daniel clambered into the backseat and put his seat belt on.
He slumped back in his seat, crossed his arms over his chest and sulked for the rest of the drive. He knew it was ridiculous. Letting his anger out on Jack didn't make him feel better. And it certainly meant he was in trouble now. But he couldn't help it. First they took away his department, then Major Davis acted as though Daniel was a risk to SG-1's safety or as if he'd lost his marbles over the downsizing. One day Daniel would end up doing nothing but stupid translation work no one else wanted to do. And no one would take him seriously until he'd grown up again.
He was so immersed in his dark thoughts that he only realized they were home when Jack opened the back door. “You want to stay the night in here, or what?“
“No,” Daniel mumbled and slipped out of the truck. He tried to be quick as he got out his key. If he managed to get to his room before Jack could confront him about his attitude or his issues with Davis he could probably wait it out.
But as he fumbled with the key in the lock of the front door Jack was already right behind him. “You think we can talk about this and both survive it?”
“ I'm tired,” Daniel said disgruntled as he opened the door and walked inside.
“Too bad. I won't let this go. Davis will be on that mission with us tomorrow and I won't put up with any attitude from you. So we'll either sort this out or you're staying home.“
“So you think I'm a risk to the mission, too, don't you? It was Davis who refused to talk to me. He wouldn't even friggin' look at me! But go ahead, leave me on base. Let Davis blow it up. He has no idea how to deal with these people.”
“I know you're mad at him. We'll set him straight about you, don't worry. But you need to get a grip on this attitude,” Jack said, his voice rising.
“He's got to get a grip on his first,” Daniel snarled.
“He's just insecure. You don't get your friends downsized every other day. Can't you try to give him a break? He freaked. He'll get used to...”
“Oh, so I'm reason to make people freak now. Thank you, Jack. That really did a lot for my confidence,” he spat and marched off.
“Daniel!” Jack yelled after him. “I'm not done!”
But he was too furious to listen. He bolted for his room and locked the door behind him...
...Jack had been right though.
He was mad at Davis. Even though the reasonable voice reminded him Davis didn't know better. Again Jack had been right. Davis hadn't met him like this before. He must have been spooked. Even Sam seemed to be still spooked about Daniel's new appearance from time to time. It wasn't easy to take in.
Yet... Daniel had expected Davis to... to do what?
“To not ignore me,” he said out loud. If Davis would continue to ignore him tomorrow it wouldn't be Daniel's fault if the mission went wrong. These people needed to be handled with lots of care.
When SG-1 had made first contact Daniel had to talk for hours and it hadn't been easy to establish some kind of agreement between Earth and those people. Daniel had to do a lot of word juggling and groveling to get there. But he'd done it. Jack had been so happy to finally present Hammond with a worthy treaty.
Back then Daniel had still been himself. Grown up. When they had gotten home after that mission...
Fresh tears trickled down his cheeks and he took off his glasses to wipe his face with the sleeve of his red sweatshirt.
He remembered Jack's smiling lips on his neck, his mouth, his hands in Daniel's hair... How they had spent the three days downtime in the house, celebrating the breakthrough. No clothes, no visitors. For the precious time of three days they had basked in the knowledge of actually having accomplished something that even impressed the brass in DC. They had been pretty full of themselves and goofy and their world had been perfect.
The memories were like images, like a favorite movie he knew so well because he'd seen it over and over again. But he couldn't feel the lips anymore; couldn't feel the shivers that had been running through his adult body whenever Jack had touched or looked at him in that special way.
They used to be so crazy about each other.
Now part of it was memory and part of it was only a shadow of what it had been.
They had been equal as partners.
Now... Now Daniel was little and he was no longer equal to Jack.
He was dependent on Jack.
He needed Jack.
He still loved Jack though. And Daniel hated how he was hurting him now. He didn't want it to be that way. If only he could get a grip on his emotions more often.. Even though the mere thought of having to apologize made him queasy again, Daniel sighed and got up from his bed. It was time to face the consequences of his hideous behavior
Jack finished his beer, wondering how much longer his little archaeologist was going to sulk in his room, when he heard the tapping of little feet in the hall.
A sandy blond head peeked around the corner.
Aha. There he was. Now, he'd at least get a lecture on throwing books. Jack understood Daniel's frustration, but they had discussed this before. No throwing of hard objects. Last time Daniel had thrown a book after him, Jack had told him he'd take away some of his books for a while next time.
And he would.
Well, next time.
God, he was such a sucker when it came to Daniel Jackson. He didn't have to be a shrink to know he wasn't handling this right.
"Hey," he greeted the kid.
"Hey," Daniel murmured, still standing at the top of the steps leading into the living room area.
"Feeling any better?"
Daniel stuffed his hands into the pocket of his jeans. "I'm still angry," he warned half halfhearted "I have the right to be mad and express my feelings."
"That's okay," Jack offered. Did he really just say that?
Daniel hiccuped twice, blinked rapidly and looked miserable.
Jack took in the sweaty, messy hair, the red-rimmed huge, sad eyes behind the glasses, the pouting lips – and felt his heart melt. All thoughts of giving the Wretch away for adoption or tying him up with duct tape just disappeared. He could never ever hurt or send this little Daniel away, no matter what.
Jack tried hard not to show his affection, but failed miserably when all of a sudden the munchkin crossed the room, threw himself at him and crawled onto his lap to bury his head into his chest. Little hands were clutching at his shirt.
Not so long ago, those hands had been strong and large. Jack stomped those memories down. Now wasn't the time for self pity. Or pity for Daniel. He cradled the child in his arms and rocked him because he knew little Daniel liked being rocked. The fast beating heart against Jack's body triggered another thought.
Daniel might be a kid now, but he was alive. Healthy. And here. Not dead or missing. Alive, warm and solid. Jack felt him relax, but his shirt was still being held in a tight grip.
"You okay, Danny?"
"Tired," came the muffled voice. Jack felt him yawn against his shirt.
"Yeah. Me too."
Daniel plastered himself against Jack as though he wanted to crawl inside him. "I hate it when we fight," he whispered.
"It's going to get better," Jack soothed.
"We'll work it out."
"I... I'm nothing but trouble. I know that."
"We're having some rough times, but we'll get through it," Jack said, surprised he suddenly believed it himself.
"I hate to be so... not independent anymore. I miss my apartment," Daniel blurted out.
"You never missed your apartment before. We've practically lived here together," Jack reminded him gently.
"Yes, I know. But I miss a place just for me. Where I can go and be alone... so we could go out of each other's way when it gets... bad."
"You have your room. You know I respect your privacy."
"Yes, but it's still not mine. It's yours. Your house. I'm so... I have the money, you know. But I can't even have my own house anymore. Just because I'm a kid, by law," Daniel tried to explain.
Jack ran a hand along Daniel's spine, up and down. The soothing motion not only helped to relax the boy; it calmed him, too. "This is our house, Daniel. Our home. Don't you ever doubt that."
"I'm childish, am I? It's silly…"
Jack nudged Daniel's head to make him look up. When he finally did, his eyes were still red and huge. Vulnerable. "Stop doing that. You’re not being silly. You might be a little mixed up. But if you feel like you need a place for yourself, we'll get you one."
"What do you mean? I... I don't want to move out or anything," Daniel said, sounding a little alarmed now.
"No way. You're for keeps. But I think I've got an idea..."
Daniel’s hands let go of Jack's shirt and he started to wipe his nose with the sleeve of his sweater. Seeing there was already some snot on it, Jack let it go by. "What? Tell me, Jack."
"Nope. Have to think it through. It's a surprise."
"A surprise? I don't want a surprise! Let me know!"
Oh yeah. He was so seven right now.
Jack laughed. "I'm gonna think it through, talk to Carter about it and then I'll tell you. If you don't like it, we won't do it. Okay?"
"I'm not moving in with Sam," Daniel warned, wrinkling his nose.
"Why? You love Sam."
"I do. But she's... a woman."
"And? So? Therefore?"
"I like you and me. And you said I'm for keeping," Daniel pouted.
"You know what? I'd never do that to Carter. She wouldn't survive you. I need my 2IC fit for duty one hundred percent," he joked.
Daniel poked him in the ribs. "You're mean."
Jack tickled the kid until there was a soft fit of giggles. He loved it when Daniel giggled.. "Yep, Big ole meanie, that's me."
When Daniel yawned again, Jack suggested, "Why don't you take a shower and I order the Chinese? You must be hungry after all that yelling and throwing things."
Daniel looked at him and blushed. “Could I... maybe... um, take a bath?“
“Bubbles?” Jack asked. Downsized Daniel liked bubble baths. Jack had been sworn to secrecy.
Jack was always surprised how kid-like Danny got after he had one of his emotional outbursts. It was like he had no strength left to fight the needs his seven year old body craved for.
Later, as Jack watched Daniel absently building foam sculptures, he wished the munchkin could be more relaxed. That he'd be able to let down the shields more often. He was such a great little guy when he was content. He shouldn't deny himself the fun of being a kid again. Daniel was taking this so hard. Jack wondered if he'd ever get used to it. If they both would. Well, they'd better. If there was no way out of this they'd be stuck with each other like this for a very long time.
It would get better. Someday. Somehow. An ongoing mantra Jack tried to believe in. Sometimes he did.
He settled on the edge of the tub and tried to figure out if Daniel was relaxed enough to talk now. “So how many books did you destroy during your little outburst?”
Daniel sighed. “The books are okay. The Nintendo is broken though.”
“Did it help? Smashing it against the door?”
Daniel blew away the mountain of bubbles, then looked up. “No. It never does,” he said quietly. “And I'm sorry. For you know... everything.“
“Apology accepted. What about Davis?”
Sometimes he wondered why Daniel threw fits like today. The kid did realize how juvenile that was – how it was the very thing he always insisted he was not. A kid. And a bratty one at that. Yet, he didn't seem to be able to control it. Daniel had never been vicious or aggressive as an adult. Arrogant from time to time. Ambitious, yes. Stubborn, oh yeah. But this new aggressive streak worried Jack, despite knowing it was more a cry for help than anything else.
"You know I have to say this, Daniel. Kicking people isn’t acceptable."
Lowering his head, the Wretch began building another foam mountain. "Yeah, I know.... I should probably talk to him, huh?"
The crucial point here was that Jack really believed him. Which made it much harder to go through with any kind of consequences. Daniel KNEW when he was wrong – afterward. And he WAS sorry and embarrassed.
And Davis had been a jerk. Sort of.
“Well, he might have deserved a little kicking. But yeah, talk to him.“
Yep. Sucker, that was him. But he so didn't need another outburst of tears right now for reaming the brat out about something he already regretted.
"Thanks for not nagging at me about that right there," Daniel murmured.
"You're welcome. But you know, he'll join us on that mission tomorrow."
Daniel stiffened a little, but didn't respond. He destroyed his foam sculptures and water splashed over the edge of the tub.
Jack didn't want a new fight, but he had to make his point, whether Daniel liked it or not. "Even if you don't get to talk to him before we gate out - I want you to behave yourself tomorrow. Off world rules. Understood?"
“Okay. I'll behave. And I'll apologize for kicking him. I hope he'll listen to me and try to be less spooked around me. I'm still me." Daniel's hands got busy again with new bubble castles.
“I'm sure he'll understand.” Jack rubbed his hands, happy he got his point across. "I'll call for Chinese now. You want the usual?"
"Oh yes, please."
Well aware he shouldn't offer, Jack asked, “You want ice cream for dessert?”
“I don't deserve any,” Daniel pointed out.
“No, you don't. But it's been a rotten day...”
“Thanks,” Daniel said softly.
Jack couldn't resist and picked up a hand full of foam, then dumped it on Daniel's head.
Daniel patted the foam–hat on his hair. "Hey, what'd you did that for?"
"It looks great on you.”
Daniel giggled, picked up some foam and smashed it on Jack's chest, dampening his black t-shirt. O'Neill took this as a cue to leave and order dinner.
Daniel watched his big friend leave the bathroom.
He then pinched his nose with two fingers and dove down into the bubbly water, enjoying the funny feeling when he sunk down to the bottom of the tub. He came up fast, splashing a lot of water over the edge and onto the bathroom floor. He knew he was making a mess, but Jack was cool with things like that. They'd just clean up together later.
Living with Jack wasn't bad after all. And maybe he was going to like the surprise Jack had been talking about. In fact, he was sure he would. Whatever it was. He trusted Jack, because Jack knew him so well.
Jack was the only one who didn't seem afraid of hurting him, or treating him the wrong way. Because he never would. Jack just did what he thought was best for Daniel, no matter if Daniel liked it at the time or not.
And that was just what he needed.
Being with Jack.