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Still Jack and Daniel Series I - Not in Kansas Anymore 2 - Two Steps forward Three Steps back

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Not in Kansas anymore

II


Two Steps forward, Three Steps back

(Warnings: mild cp, graphic sexual content)


I


"Hey, Daniel!"

"Jack!"

"You done yet?"

"Just a minute. Can't find my brush..."

Jack, who had poked his head through the open locker room door, chuckled inwardly. Daniel was half way into his locker, his voice muffled. "It should be here somewhere..."

"Hurry up. Carter's waiting for you in her lab."

"Coming... just a moment... oh, I got it."

The blond head came into view and Daniel started to brush his still damp hair.

"Use the hair dryer," Jack said, sauntering in and settling down on the bench in the middle of the room.

"But it's almost dry. And you said Sam's waiting for me, so I have to hurry, right? It'll dry on its own," Daniel objected.

Jack thought about it for a moment, weighing out the mood Daniel was in, and decided not to wipe away the huge smile and the excited expression on the young face. Picking their fights was a huge point in dealing with daily life and staying sane. The hair would dry; it wasn't cold at the mountain, so no harm done.

"Put your sweater on the right way at least," he grumbled for good measure.

It was amazing how this kid-genius spoke 23 languages, translated any set of hieroglyphs you'd give him – but wasn't able to dress himself properly at times. Or he could, but just didn't care when he had much more important things on his mind.

"Oh." Daniel looked down at himself, frowning. With a sigh he pulled the sweater over his head again, flipped it and put it back on. "Ready. Can we go now?"

He was already half way out of the door when Jack called after him. "Daniel!"

"What?"

"Shoes."

Daniel stopped and slowly turned giving Jack a small smile. "Déjà vu?"

Jack raised an eyebrow. "Déjà vu."

They gazed at each other and, for a brief moment, Jack had trouble breathing.

But then he kicked himself out of it. Today was supposed to be a good day. A great day to be specific. He picked up the blue Nike's and handed them to the boy. If there had been a shadow on Daniel's face, it was quickly gone. The excited expression was back, so was the grin. Jack wouldn't spoil this rare moment of pure curiosity with melancholic old memories of Kheb and Oma and long gone missions when Daniel had been big.

He smiled back at the kid. "You go ahead. General Hammond wants to see me first. I’ll join you later."

"But... um, Jack?"

"Yes, Daniel?"

"Do I have to wait for you to get my surprise? Will it take long? What is it anyway? You promised to tell me after the mission. And I behaved. I even talked to Davis about what happened at the commissary. I said I was sorry... Though he said he was sorry, too. You were right. He just didn't know how to deal with me suddenly being so short. I think we sorted it out now."

"Ah! Stop talking a mile a minute, will ya," Jack grinned.

"But..."

"I'll be there soon. You waited three days, a few more minutes won't kill ya."

"Is it huge?"

"Yeah, kinda... now get a move on."

"Don't be late, Jack!"

Jack followed Daniel out of the locker room and watched the whirlwind running down the corridor.

Good. This was really good.

They had survived another mission without injuries, Doc Fraiser had been satisfied with the post off world examination, the debriefing went well enough, Major Davis was on his way to Washington with a positive report for the president. The mining would continue, but most of all, Daniel hadn't got into trouble and even apologized to Paul about the kicking incident.

There was light at the end of the tunnel.

Maybe.

At least they had a long weekend ahead of them with some fun and a barbecue on Sunday.

Life was good.

Really.


When Colonel Jack O'Neill left General Hammond's office thirty minutes later, life wasn't all that great anymore.

A headache began to blossom and he wished Hammond would've waited to have this conversation... indefinitely. Letting out a deep breath, Jack ran his hands through his short salt-and-pepper hair.

Crap.

When he heard the sounds of clicking heels behind him, he knew it was Fraiser. "Are you all right, Colonel?"

He turned and raised his eyebrow at her. She didn't really expect an answer to this one, did she? For crying out loud, she'd been with him when Hammond had his little speech.

"Do you want to talk about this off the record?"

He shook his head. Right now he didn't want to talk about it at all.

Janet sighed as the elevator arrived and they stepped in. She swiped her access card through and pressed the button for her level. Jack pushed the button for his own destination, Carter’s lab. Where they were waiting for him.

"I'm in my office, if you..."

"You think it's really permanent then?" he interrupted her curtly.

"Jack," she started softly, "It's been six months now. There's always hope. But life goes on. The general is right. The sooner we make this legal and give Daniel a new background, the better. I know it's hard for you to do this, but..."

Jack let out a bitter laugh. "No, Doc. You don't have any idea how hard it is."

Her eyes dropped. "Jack, I know."

He nodded. Of course she knew. She had found out a long time ago. It hadn't exactly been easy to hide something like this from your doctor if you had full body examinations every other week. So she'd known that both, Jack and Daniel had male relationships. They had never discussed this, but Janet had caught them once. It hadn't been something wild, just holding hands in the infirmary one night after Daniel had been injured – again.

She had never asked any questions. And neither Jack nor Daniel had offered any information.

When Janet spoke again, she sounded urgent. "If anybody can do this, it's you, Colonel. You know the alternative."

"Yeah.“

"You have to talk to Daniel as soon as possible."

He managed another nod and watched her leave the lift. Once alone, he stepped back and banged his head against the wall of the cabin.

Oh yeah, that would be fun. Not.

Talking to Daniel.

About his future.

 

But not now , he thought, suddenly angry. Not this weekend, dammit. Not when I might have found something that will make him happy at least for a while. This has to wait. We both deserve to have a time off from this shit.

Jack balled his fists in his pockets.

As bad as this was for himself from time to time, it was a nightmare to his friend and lover.

Ex-lover.

Now Daniel was his s...No. Not that. Jack wasn't even sure what to call Daniel now. All he knew was that he intended to use their downtime to make those big blue eyes sparkle again. To maybe give the adult in Daniel back some independence and to lure the kid out to play and have some fun.


Daniel was seated at Carter’s computer, face flushed with excitement, having a talking marathon. "This is great! Can I really choose the size? Here's one that has real glass windows. Do you think I can have windows? And a porch in front of it? Look at this one; it has a porch and there's enough space for a bench...”

Jack came to an abrupt halt in the doorway.

Carter, who looked over Daniel’s shoulder, laughed. "The trees need to be stable enough to carry all this, Daniel. I think windows are doable, though. A porch, I don't know. I have to look at the trees to calculate it. Click on details to see how big the trees have to be for this one."

She seemed as happy about the tree house project as the munchkin. Daniel was swinging his legs back and forth so fast, he accidentally kicked the legs of the table. "We need four trees in a particular angle to build this."

Jack tried to stay calm. So she had already told him. No big deal here. Except...

"You started the fun without me, Carter? And is that coffee in Daniel’s mug?" He could hear the hard edge in his voice.

They both looked up from the computer screen, Daniel with glee in his blue eyes and Carter with a hint of guilt in hers. "Sorry, sir. He was so excited, I couldn't resist..."

"Jack! Come, look at this! Do we have four trees in the right position in your yard?"

Ignoring Daniel, he sneered at Carter. "Coffee?"

"Half a cup only, sir," she murmured, now blushing like Daniel would when he was caught in the act.

"He already had his allowed fill of coffee for the day," Jack snapped at her. He crossed the room and snatched the mug away from Daniel, who stared at it longingly.

"It's my fault, Jack. I talked her into it," he explained quietly. “I'm sorry.”

Carter shook her head. "Oh, no. It was my fault. He was asking so nicely and I couldn't say no."

"Of course you couldn't. You couldn't say no if he'd asked you to put a snake in your head.” The second it was out, Jack wanted to take it back, seeing the flash of hurt crossing her face. Lamely, as if to explain his outburst, he added, "You told him. Without waiting for me."

Great. What kind of an excuse was that?

"I just thought, since it took you so long in the general's office, you wouldn't mind me telling him. After all I'm going to build this with you guys. Or, at least, I thought I was," she answered coolly.

Daniel swung around on his chair to look at him, puzzled. "Jack? What´s wrong?"

Jack groaned inwardly. Great. Now the kid was worried. Carter eyed him for a second and for some reason her face softened a little. "See it this way, Colonel. Daniel already chose a tree house he likes. All we have to do now is buy the material and start working. Teal'c should be here any minute, too," she explained.

Jack slumped on a free chair and tried hard to get over the stupid feeling of hurt, just because it hadn't been him telling Daniel about this tree house.

But, after all, it had been his idea.

His surprise.

To see the particular twinkle in those blue eyes he hadn't seen there for a very long time. Jack swallowed. It was, oh, so pathetic.

He was aware they were staring at him expectantly. Will you get over it , he scolded himself, Daniel loves the idea. That's what counts. Clearing his throat, he managed, "Let's see what you've got there, space monkey."

Daniel turned back to the computer and showed Jack the house he'd chosen from the "Out and About Tree house" website. "It's a house with two windows, a front door and a porch," the kid said with a little less enthusiasm and glanced at Jack.

Rubbing Daniels back to reassure him, Jack looked at his 2IC. "We can do that. Right, Carter?"

She shrugged. "Yeah, sure. I think we can. If we have the right trees."

"We have them," Jack confirmed, feeling his mood elevating.

"Do you have all the tools we need, sir? Here's a list with what we need." She pointed at a passage of text.

Jack went through it and nodded, certain he had everything they needed at home in his little shed. He watched Daniel clicking through the several stages of purchasing all the items of the house. Absently licking his bottom lip, gaze firmly fixed to the screen, his eyebrows knitted in concentration, he looked so much like his adult self, it hurt.

Suddenly Daniel stopped and hung his head.

"What?" Jack asked, slightly alarmed at the sudden change of mood.

"This will cost a lot of money."

"So? What's your point? You have the money."

"Yes, but you said I should save it for later. In case I’d like to go to college again or... if I need to buy me a new house and car after we... solved this. And I agree. This will cost a fortune, and I don't want you to buy it for me," Daniel murmured.

"Nope. Not my money. You want it, you buy it. You should look at your bank account. Being little means you don't need much. You saved a lot." Jack said.

Daniel insisted on paying for his clothes and to throw in some money for groceries. And that was it. Jack liked buying him stuff. He'd liked it before and he still liked it now. Of course in the end it was Daniel's money and he had the final say about what to do with it. But none of them knew what Daniel's future would look like so they had agreed to stay on the safe side and put most of it away for later unless Daniel wanted something special.

Like a tree house.

Daniel's mouth turned into a silent Oh!

"You still have a paypal account so you can order online. And I thought if you want a house for yourself you have to pay for it," Jack continued, carefully watching the expression on the boy's face.

Daniel mulled it over. Jack could almost hear him thinking.

It took a moment to sink in.

Then.

"My own house," Daniel whispered in awe.

Carter, who was standing behind the kid, gave Jack the thumbs up and smiled, misty eyes.

He had told her Daniel would want to buy this from his own money, if he liked the idea. She didn't understand it at the time, but Jack was sure she was getting the picture now.

It was important.

They all knew it wasn't exactly like a real house.

But it was symbolic.

And when Daniel finally hit the "pay now" button, they all felt very solemn.


II

Two days after he had made his order at "Out and About Tree house," a huge truck parked in front of Jack’s house.

Daniel, who was munching his breakfast cereal, jumped from his chair, almost knocking it over, when the doorbell rang.

They helped two bear-like men carry a lot of packages and wood into the backyard. Daniel already knew which trees they had to use for his new house. He couldn't stop himself from bouncing just a little, while he carried some of the boxes with bolts, trusses, hangers, nails and hinges.

This was going to be a lot of work. And a lot of fun.

He was excited. For the first time in months he felt the joy to do something special. It was a feeling so rare and different from the funk he'd been in since the downsizing... Daniel was grateful for it. He would build a tree house. His own tree house. He had paid for it with his own money and he got to decide how to paint it, what to put inside and everything.

Sure, he'd done that with his own room in Jacks house, too. When everyone had bombarded him with ideas about what to put into his room, how to decorate it, what wallpaper to use etc, Jack had put his foot down and made it very clear that Daniel would choose whatever he wanted to be in there. Period.

But this was different. He couldn't put a finger on why it was so different. It just was. And it felt incredibly good.

The reasonable voice kept telling him to calm down and the mocking, nasty voice wanted him to realize that he was still in a kid’s body and could he be anymore giddy and childish? Being happy over a tree house? Hello? Daniel refused to listen to that particular voice. Sure, a tree house wasn't what he really wanted. What he wanted was to be big again. And someday he would. Hopefully sooner than later. But until then he'd have his own place.

They had discussed “tree house rules” over the last two days. Daniel would still live in the "real" house, of course. But whenever he felt like he wanted to be alone, or needed space to breathe, he now had his very own refuge. And unless Daniel invited someone in, he would put a “Keep Out“ sign on his door.

Of course there would be restrictions. And they had had just a teeny weeny little argument about that...


...Jack pointed out one “non negotiable rule.” as he used to call it. Daniel wasn't allowed to stay alone at the tree house over night. He objected loudly - he wanted to stay alone overnight if he felt like it - but Jack would have none of that.

"What about the nightmares?" he had reasoned.

"I won't have nightmares there," Daniel explained stubbornly.

"Look, I just want to know you're okay at nights. If you have a nightmare up there, I won't hear you. And there's the security risk, too. I don't want the NID dropping by and kidnapping you."

"They don't even know about me yet," Daniel tried.

"That they didn't try to get their hands on you yet doesn't mean they aren't working on it."

"I´m not a…"

"Daniel, humor me, okay? I feel better knowing you're in your room at night,"

Install an alarm system then. We're having one at the house, too.”

You'd need electricity up there to do that.”

"I know what you're doing. You're trying to talk me into accepting this by turning the reasons around. I'm not buying it. You just want me…"

"I want you safe. You think that's a bad thing?"

Daniel knew Jack was right. But he didn't want him to be right so often lately. "I will be safe."

"I want you to come down there for your bedtime, no matter what," Jack insisted.

Daniel crossed his arms over his chest and challenged, "What if I stay up there anyway?"

"I'll come and get you. And believe me when I say you won't like that much."

"Jaaack!" He knew he was whining but couldn't help it.

"Oh Daaaniel," Jack answered in the same voice.

"You said I could go up there whenever I want to be alone!"

"Within reason, yes. You'll sleep in your room unless we both sleep up there. And that's that."

Fuming, Daniel opened his mouth to give Jack a piece of his mind. But one look at Jack's face made him snap his mouth shut and decide he'd go with the rules. For now. He was far too happy to ruin the day with fighting. Maybe he'd find a way around this particular rule, if he…

"You make me come up there to get you down with a fight, and you'll be in serious trouble, Doctor Jackson. Understood?"

Damn. He couldn't ignore 'that' voice. "Um… Okay."

"I mean it. I don't want to drag you down every night."

"Yes. I got it. Really."

"Ask the adult Daniel if I'm right about this," Jack said, in a lighter tone.

And for once his reasonable voice won that battle. He accepted that rule. At least for the moment....


...After the people from "Out and about Treehouses" had left, boxes and wood were piled up everywhere on the lawn.

Again, Daniel felt the excitement bubbling up inside. He gave in to the childish urge to run through the yard, from tree to tree and back to Jack, who caught him and whirled him around a few times until Daniel got dizzy. He giggled and allowed Jack to give him a rough cuddle.

"Let's call Carter and T now. Let them work their asses off and then have a nice barbecue later."

Daniel was on his way to the phone before Jack had finished that sentence.

When he returned they looked through the construction manual together. It came in five different languages and Daniel started reading it to Jack in Spanish, then in French.

"If you want me to help you with this, you better choose a language I know," Jack grumbled.

"How about Arabic?"

"I can swear in Arabic," Jack grinned.

"I know a few other kinky things you can say in Arabic, too," Daniel laughed without even thinking about it.

Jack automatically replied, "Yeah. And in Abydonian, thanks to you…"

They dropped the manual and looked at each other. Jack let out a huff of air. "Shit…"

Suddenly the sun seemed to be less bright. And there was Daniel's old friend, the mocking voice...He was getting a tree house. And that didn't solve anything at all. He was still little and still unable to be for Jack what he had been. Wasn't it disgusting how much the kid-like part of him enjoyed the sunny day, the singing birds and the idea of building a stupid tree house just to make believe things were getting better? Nothing would get better. Nothing was going to change.

A warm large hand cupped his neck and squeezed tenderly. Jack's voice was hoarse but steady. "Hey, it’s all right. Let's just find the English version of this, okay?"

"´kay." But Daniel stood there, frozen, head down. "It's a stupid idea."

"No, It's not," Jack insisted.

"Is."

"Not."

"Is, Jack. How does it help? I'm still little.“

Jack sat heavily on one of the packages. Sighing, he put his hands on the boy’s shoulders to steer him towards him. "Daniel, there's a part of you looking forward to it, right?"

"Um, yeah. I was. Until..."

"We're working on damage control here. We're running out of ways to fix the whole mess. So we have to make the best out of it. Can't you just try to loosen up? Allow yourself to enjoy this? Because I know you want to."

Daniel chewed his lower lip, then looked into Jack’s warm brown eyes and swallowed "It would make you happy if I tried."

"Yes, Danny. Very happy."

Daniel felt his resistance melt. Jack was right. He had been happy about this. For the first time in months. Damage control , he thought, maybe this is a good way to start. "Jack?"

"Yes?"

"We… we won't give up, though, right?"

Daniel felt himself being embraced in a tight hug. "Whatever happens, I'm here if you want me to be," the colonel whispered.

“But,” Daniel pushed on, “we won't give up trying, right? To find a way to fix me?“

There was a long pause before Jack said, “We won't stop trying, no.”

He relaxed. This was all he could ask for, for now. And it had to be enough. Maybe a tree house wasn't so bad. Jack was annoying at times. And getting away from him if he was hovering too much, or mother-henning, would be nice. Trying to push away the heavy thoughts, Daniel decided to just go with the flow for the time being.

They had just found the right book of instructions when Sam and Teal'c entered the yard, carrying bags of food for the barbecue. Thanks to the seven year old part of his brain, Daniel forgot about everything else when he discovered the box with donuts in Teal'c's hands.

He jumped up to greet his friends and grabbed the box from Teal'c. “Do you have some with chocolate, Teal'c?"

The big Jaffa bowed his head, a twinkle in his dark eyes. "I have brought four of every kind, DanielJackson."

“Cool. I'll take them inside."

"I will accompany you," Teal'c said and took the other bags from Sam to follow Daniel into the kitchen.

***

Jack watched them disappear into the house, then gazed at the English version of the manual. After a moment of studying, he threw the book at Carter who caught it. "Carter, read," he ordered with a grin.

She skimmed the manual, then stopped and looked at him. "You made Daniel really happy with this, you know."

"Yeah, well…," he answered casually. "Listen, Carter. I really appreciate you and T helping with this. You know how clumsy I am. Now you have the brain and T has the muscles."

She smiled this knowing little smile she sometimes gave him, that said, 'As if'. "We love to help. It's been a while since we spent a weekend together."

Jack scratched the back of his head. "I know. Daniel and I, we needed some time."

"How's he doing?”

"Oh, we have good days, bad days, very… bad days, sort of." He shrugged.

His 2IC snorted very unladylike. "He's a handful, isn't he?“

Jack snorted back and when they looked at each other again, he knew she'd forgiven him for the "snake-in-the-head"-line

 

 

"Are you all right, sir? You look tired," she sobered up.

"I´m good," he answered, distancing himself.

He couldn't help it.

Oh yes, he was tired.

Hell, sometimes he just wanted to give the Wretch away to Carter or T. for a day or two, so he could relax and have some quiet time. Not that Daniel was pestering him twenty-four hours a day. Daniel could keep himself busy just fine. But Jack happened to be always on his toes, because no one knew when the angelic little boy with the reasonable mind left and the tantrum monster emerged. Or when a memory would trigger tears and silent depression.

Or when Jack himself suddenly lost it.

Because Daniel wasn't the only one freaking.

When he watched the little guy struggle with simple things like needing a ladder to reach the high bookshelves in his office on base. When the kid seemed so small behind his desk with all those big books around him. Those were moments…

When Daniel looked so little and innocent at nights in his bed.

Jack had always enjoyed sleeping-Daniel-watching. He loved to see his friend relaxed and free of any tension while he was asleep. It had been comforting, peaceful, and somehow erotic.

Now it was heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time.

And so, yeah. He wanted to tell Carter. Wanted to spill his guts.

She was family, she'd understand. Jack knew she had issues with little Daniel. She felt insecure around him, but wanted to bond with him more. She loved Daniel, always had loved the man and would love the kid, too. He knew it wasn't fair to exclude his other team members from their private lives.

But… But he couldn't.

First of all he'd feel like a traitor to Daniel if he let anybody know about how massive his problems with everyday life really were. Jack had promised Daniel not to talk about the depression, the fights, the nightmares and the tears. He'd promised him because the kid was scared to be forced into therapy and because he wanted to keep his dignity. He could let go with Jack, but with no one else.

So what his team witnessed about Daniel's antics and issues barely scratched the surface.

Janet knew to some extent, but he kept it low keyed there, too.

If Janet insisted on therapy for the Wretch, there was a possibility the therapist would somehow find out about their former relationship. Daniel was smart, but one could never know what might happen if he had one of his breakdowns during a session…

Wouldn't that be a reason to take Daniel away from him?

The risk was too high.

So Jack clenched his jaw and dealt with Daniel the best he could.

And it wasn't all bad.

Really, they had their moments. The last few days had even been peaceful. No major tantrums, no crying, no depressed moments. Just a little bit of stubbornness here and there.

When Carter rustled with the construction manual he snapped back to reality and gave her a little grin. "Any idea where to start?"

She read the instructions again. "Did you choose the trees?"

When he showed her, she walked over to examine them. “Looks great. First we need a platform. To get true measurements, you must measure at the elevation you're going to put the platform at. You have to think of the underside of the platform like the exposed side of a ceiling. When you look at it from the ground..."

Once Jack had measured four trees, they started to look for the box with the right wood to set up the platform.

They were already unpacking the heavy package when Daniel and Teal'c returned.

***

When the sun was setting and the shadows grew larger, they had finished the platform and the frames of Daniel's tree house. They were all hot, sweaty and dusty. Except for Teal'c, maybe.

Jack was setting up the grill for the barbecue while Sam and Daniel were reading parts of the Instruction manual. Teal'c was still working on the walls.

Daniel looked up at him, sighing. When he had been an adult, Teal'c seemed strong and unbreakable to him. Now his Jaffa friend was a giant. A huge calm giant. Always gentle and there to comfort him. Teal'c was less insecure than Sam. Daniel knew it was hard for her to see him like this. Sometimes he even saw tears in her eyes. He let her hug him sometimes, more to make her feel better than anything.

He didn't like to cuddle so much with other people than Jack. It was okay when Sam did it and it was bearable when Janet hugged him. But he didn't really crave it. Not with them anyway. He loved them. But he had never been too keen on hugging, not even when he'd been big.

Cuddling was for Jack.

Teal'c understood this. He took Daniel to work out at the mountain from time to time. When Daniel wanted to fight in the gym, to just pound him with his now so little fists, Teal'c let him. If felt good to have a living punching bag from time to time.

Sometimes Daniel tried to kelno'reem with Teal'c. But it never seemed to work the way it used to when he'd been an adult. He couldn't let himself go into that deep state of meditation anymore. There was always something distracting him. He couldn't stop his running train of thoughts.

Teal'c just invited him to try it again whenever he wished to.

Daniel had always felt safe in Teal'c company. There had been a nick in their friendship for some time after Sha'uri's death. But they had gotten over it and moved on.

Little Daniel felt comfortable with Teal'c. Why couldn't he feel like this with Sam? He loved Sam. They used to be like brother and sister. Where he was the ethical and historical voice of SG-1, she had been the scientist, the brilliant physicist brain of the team. And aside from working together, they loved to hang out together.

Now she wasn't exactly avoiding him. They still worked together and shared jokes. They still had lunch together. But it didn't feel right. Just a little odd.

The sound of the hammer, hitting nails into the wood, made Daniel look up.

There wasn't even sweat on Teal'c's bald head. The sign of Apophis was glittering in the evening sun. For a moment it looked as if Teal'c had a golden shimmer around his head. He had placed the boonie he'd worn when they had arrived on the platform next to where he was working.

"I like it when we spend down time together," Daniel told Sam.

Sam smiled at him, wiping some dust off her face. "Yes, me too. It's been a while, huh?"

"Yes. I'm sorry. I wasn't up to it lately," he admitted.

Sam held out a hand as if she wanted to pat his head, then stopped midway and let it drop to his shoulder instead. "Daniel, I wish there was anything we could do to change you back."

He felt a sharp short pain when his teeth bit his lower lip. Jack had told him to get over this habit before he'd draw blood. But he had done it as an adult and now that he was a child it seemed as if he couldn’t stop doing it.

"Janet and you tried everything, Sam. It's not your fault," he said, suddenly realizing she might be so uneasy around him because she felt guilty.

"But I feel like I should be able to reverse this. We solved so many things..." Her voice started trembling and he grabbed her hand to squeeze it. "No, Sam. Please. No tears. Not today. I'm good today. You all made me really happy with this."

And odd as it was, it was the truth. He let go of her hand and opened his arms to the garden, spinning in a circle to point at the trees with the half built house. "It's great. I love it."

She swallowed. "Okay."

"It'll be cool." He felt like bouncing again suddenly and without thinking any further, he leaped forward and hugged her. He had never done that before since he was littled. She could hug him, but he'd never made the first step.

Now, Daniel put his arms around Sam's middle and after a moment of awkwardness, she came down to him, hugging him back very carefully. "I'm glad you're happy, Daniel," she whispered into his ear.

***

Jack watched them from his back porch.

It was a good day, after all.

He hadn't seen the little Wretch laughing so much, since... well since he was little.

Smiling to himself he turned to the grill again. The coals were already glowing. Time for the steaks. Stretching his abused back muscles, he called for Daniel to help with the food and dishes, then went inside to prepare the salad.

It was cool in the kitchen, a welcoming contrast to the heat outside.

When he rummaged around in the fridge to get the steaks and salad out, he heard Daniel coming in. "Go wash up first. I don't want wood shavings in the food," he told him, without turning around.

"Already done, sir," Carter said from behind him.

Jack closed the fridge door and placed the salad on the table. "God, Danny, look at you. You changed again," he said sarcastically.

She just shrugged. "He wanted to stay a few more..."

"...minutes longer. Yeah. Got it." Jack shook his head.

"Well, yes. So I thought I’d come and help you instead. Escaping the heat for a minute. It's nice here. It's really hot for April, don't you think?" She took out plates and glasses and put them on a tray.

Jack watched her, trying to decide how to tell her what was bugging him. "Carter," he began finally, "I asked Daniel to help me. Don't you think he could handle setting the table?"

"Sure he could. But he's having so much fun outside. And it's no big deal," she explained with a smile as she picked up the full tray.

"You keep doing that and you'll end up carrying his backpack off world," he warned her.

Now that got her attention. She put the tray down on the kitchen table. "Sir, are you saying I'm spoiling Daniel? Just because I came in here to help you out instead of him?"

Jack started to mix the dressing for the salad. "It's not the first time. He has you wrapped around his little finger."

Carter crossed her arms over her chest. "You can't be serious – Sir."

He looked at her over his shoulder, raising an eyebrow. "Oh. I can't?"

"Well, no. Daniel has gone through so much in these last few months. He deserves a little attention and to be a little... spoiled."

"He's not a doll, Carter. Stop walking on eggshells around him. He doesn't need that."

"What do you expect me to do, Colonel? Clap his shoulder and pretend nothing had changed? I can't do that. Because everything changed. I'm sorry, but I have a problem with that. And I can't play his mom either, if that's what you think he needs," she burst out.

His voice was rising too. "Oh, for cryin' out loud, Carter! His mom? Who said you should..."

She gestured at him. "You're playing dad for him – and he doesn't seem to mind. But I can't... can't be like that with him. He's Daniel. And yet, he... I don't know how to respond to his antics. I'm... just at a loss here. I'm always afraid I might treat him wrong."

O'Neill slammed the bottle with oil on the table. He whipped around and snapped, "What do you mean; playing dad for him? I'm not playing anything for him!"

"With all due respect, Colonel, but that's exactly what you do. I mean, don't you see it? You humor him, scold him, comfort him, make him laugh."

He shook his head. "All I'm doing is being here for him, Carter."

"Did you ever tell the adult Daniel to wash his hands or set the table? Do you realize how often you ruffle his hair? Did you ever just hoist the adult Daniel under your arm and carry him away when he won't listen to you off world?"

When he just glared at her, she shrugged. "Okay. I can imagine how you wanted to do that, but couldn't."

Jack let out a bitter laugh. "Oh. Yeah... It's much easier now that he's pint-sized."

"So. You do it. Playing dad for him."

"Nope. I'm not. I... he needs it from time to time. Having a... kind of... guardian."

Carter let out a huff of air. "So you do that for him. Not for you? Not because you maybe... miss being a dad?"

"I don't miss being a dad. At least not to Daniel. You know what, Carter? Go, take him home with you for two days. Then we'll talk again," he blurted out and turned away to slap the steaks on a plate.

Behind him, Carter was searching for words, her voice suddenly sad instead of angry. "He is... so..." Jack stopped torturing the steaks and looked back at his normally strong, firm 2IC. He could see her pain in the way she pressed her lips together into a thin line. “It's just... "

Jack sighed. "What Daniel needs is your friendship, Carter. Not guilt. What he hates the most about his new size is that people are treating him like he's odd. Or an alien. But he's not. He's Daniel. Stubborn, brilliant, strong-headed, twenty-three languages and all PhDs still there. He has problems, yes. But we get along. He needs some rules and structures. Trust me on that. It's what helps us both to stay sane."

But it wasn't as though Jack didn't indulge Daniel, too. Maybe in a way he was just as bad as Carter. He knew he screwed up, too, here and there. But he had to deal with this all day, every day, and he was trying to do it right. Was at least trying to keep Daniel grounded. But it was hard. And he couldn't really blame Carter for being a bit overwhelmed by all this, still.

"It's not fair. We tried everything, we asked all of them. Asgard, Tok'ra... nobody can help. Janet and I are still trying to find a solution. But we don't get any further. It's so frustrating. And he seems to be so fragile," she said.

"He is. And yet - he's not," Jack assured her. He knew exactly where she was coming from. He, too, thought Daniel was fragile sometimes. The kid in him was. But the old Daniel was still there and both were trying hard to find a way to cope.

Sam took a slice of bread and started picking on it with her hands. "He hugged me. He never did that before, since he's..."

"It's a big step," Jack assured her.

"There's so little we can do. That planet is deserted, there's no other knob, no other chambers or anything. It's just... hopeless."

"I know." And then he decided to tell her. There was no need to hold anything back from her. So he mentally kicked himself and said, "Hammond wants me to adopt him, make it official."

"Adoption?" She gaped at him.

"Yeah."

"Oh my god. That makes it so..."

"Yeah. That."

"What did he...?"

"I haven't told him yet. Didn't want to spoil the day for him."

"Oh."

There was an awkward silence as Jack poured dressing over the salad.

Finally, Carter cleared her throat, "Sir... maybe it's for the best. Maybe he'll like the idea. He's living here anyway. And you are already telling him to wash his hands before going to eat, so..." She tried a grin, but failed miserably.

He shook his head. If it'd only be that easy. He wasn't sure if she knew about their relationship. Teal'c knew. Janet knew. Jack was almost sure Carter knew, too. But even without that little aspect it was far from easy.

"He needs a new identity. New birth certificates... to be legally listed as Doctor Jackson's nephew. So he'll be able to do normal things when he grows up again.” So far that cover story had only been for those at the SGC who weren't cleared to know the real story. But if Daniel was to grow up normally he'd need a social number at one point in the future.

Carter nodded sadly. “What about Daniel? I mean, adult Daniel? Will they keep him MIA or are they going to declare him...” she bit her lip, “dead.”

“So far he's still MIA.” Jack said.

"Isn't there any other way?"

Jack stared at the bread crumbs breaking away under her restless hands, piling up on the kitchen table. "There's one," he answered slowly. “We won't place him in foster care with anyone else. But if he hates the thought of being adopted by me so much, he could go and live on Abydos. Kasuf wouldn't mind taking him in and raise him among his tribe. He'd be safe there. No NID.”

Loud footsteps interrupted then and a dusty, but beaming Daniel stormed into the kitchen. There were wood shavings on his glasses and in his hair. He snatched a slice of bread out of the basket and munched on it. "What’s taking you so long? Teal'c and I are working our butts off while you two are taking a break. We're starving. Jack! Come out and look! The walls are almost halfway finished!"

Jack grinned. He couldn't help it. It was a joy to see the kid like this. Relaxed, dirty, flushed face and bright eyes. "The plan was to let you work until the house is finished. And then we'll come out to party," he told Daniel.

"Right. In your dreams maybe." Daniel snorted as he grabbed Jack’s arm and dragged him out of the kitchen. "Can we sleep out there tonight, Jack? It's already so warm. We can take sleeping bags up there and pillows.... Teal'c said it's not going to rain. So we don't need a roof."

The colonel got the puppy dog eyes. And the colonel went down without even trying to do something against it. The Wretch wanted to camp out in a half finished tree house? Hadn't he just told Carter she was spoiling him? Oh, what the heck...

"Yeahsureyabetcha."

Daniel was off like a rocket, running through the yard. He jumped over unpacked boxes and climbed one of the four trees they'd chosen for the house, like a little monkey, to break the news to Teal'c.

There was a ladder of course. But who needed a ladder when there were so many branches to climb? Who knew that Daniel Jackson, the guy who avoided sports in his spare time with a passion, was so eager on climbing trees.

"Jack says it's okay! We can all take sleeping bags up here and look at the stars!"

Teal'c bowed his head and gave Daniel a smile.

Jack grinned at his 2IC. "Well, Carter. Looks like you got yourself a camping out night in Daniel's new home."

"I'm all for it. Are you going to tell ghost stories, Colonel?" she quipped.

"Be careful what you wish for, Major. I might, I might." He smiled, the dark thoughts forgotten for the moment. The sun, the smell of fresh wood and spring made him a little at peace with everything right now.

Or maybe it was Daniel.

Daniel, who was hanging upside down a strong branch of the tree, laughed when his glasses skidded off his nose and fell into the grass. This little Daniel, who'd had his first really great time since he got shrunk. Jack tried to remember when he'd done this wonderful belly laugh the last time.

Had he ever laughed like that?

O'Neill had been used to making Daniel laugh when he had been an adult. It had been his mission. The guy laughed far too rarely for his own good. And since Danny was seven again, Jack had tried to make him laugh even harder. And, on occasions, had succeeded. He got the kid smiling, giggling even, laughing sometimes. But not like this. Not that freely. Child like.

Jack picked up the glasses and plucked the boy from the tree. Throwing the giggling, wriggling kid over his shoulder, he walked back into the house. "I need your expertise to pick the wine for Carter and set the table, space monkey."

"Can I have a glass of wine, too?" Daniel asked a little breathlessly.

"Mixed with water."

“That's yucky.”

“Then, no.”

"Coffee? Just because this is a special day?"

"We'll see."

Jack put him down in the living room and off he was. "Hey, where you going?"

"Washing up. Don't want to have wood shavings everywhere in the food," the munchkin hollered from somewhere in the house.

III

Dinner had been great.

Long after sunset, they were still sitting around the table on the porch, chatting and laughing like it used to be in old times.

Daniel had missed this so much.

He hadn't realized how much, until today. Jack had suggested a team gathering sometime during the last months. But Daniel had always said no. He hadn't wanted them around. Hadn't wanted them to really see how messed up he sometimes was.

At work it was different. There he could hide behind his translations or other things he had to do. Off world it was a little tricky, since Jack sometimes got very overprotective and made it pretty clear he didn't tolerate any stunts. But he managed to get through missions with his dignity intact most of the time by now.

At home... When he was at home Daniel allowed himself to be little from time to time. And he had mood changes. Sometimes he was just about to cry or scream or kick something.

Yet, he had missed Sam and Teal'c. They were family after all.

He felt the hot cup of coffee between his hands and sighed happily. How often had they been sitting here over the last years, after a mission or just because.

Daniel glanced at Jack, who was next to him, talking to Teal'c about the new Death glider they'd captured on one of their recent missions. Jack mentioned he really hoped there wasn't another re-call device in it. He said he wasn't sure what was worse. Dying in outer space from the lack of oxygen, or freezing to death inside a glacier in Antarctica.

Daniel wanted to climb Jack’s lap. The urge to be cuddled was unbelievably strong suddenly. But Sam and Teal'c were here. Could he just climb Jack’s lap, like he usually did when he needed this?

He squirmed in his seat, feeling very tired despite the coffee he just had.

It had been a long day after all. He stifled a yawn. His legs felt heavy and his eyes were about to drop close, when a hand took the mug away from him and Jack’s voice whispered in his ear, "Hey. How about we climb into your house?"

"´kay, not tired though," Daniel murmured.

Sam and Teal'c were clearing the table, carrying glasses and empty bottles in the house.

Jack scooped Daniel up and they were on their way to the tree house. They'd stored the sleeping bags up there earlier, so they just had to climb the ladder and make themselves comfortable. Daniel felt wonderfully warm and tired when he lay down on his sleeping bag. He could feel the light breeze of the wind on his face and smelled wood and grass.

He sneezed.

Jack chuckled. "Bless. I hope we won't have trouble with your allergies if you stay out here."

"No. Janet's mean shots help to prevent that."

"I hope so. You comfy?"

He yawned again, then nodded. "Jack?"

"Mh?"

"Can you hold me a little while, until Sam and Teal'c come up?"

***

Jack sat down behind the kid and leaned against a wooden post. Pulling Daniel up between his outstretched legs, he settled the kid against his chest and tucked the blond head under his chin. "Okay?"

"Mh... Jack?"

"Daniel?"

"Thanks."

Jack dared to kiss the top of Danny’s blond head, half expecting the kid to complain.

But Danny just snuggled in closer.

Then he was out like a light, breathing deeply and peacefully.

Jack sat there with Daniel in his arms long after his other teammates had said their good nights. He could hear light snores from Carter and no sound from Teal'c, who was kelno'reeming.

He was still mulling over his conversation with Hammond.

Adoption.

Could he?

Could Daniel?

Were they ready to move on and leave behind what they still hoped to get back someday?

Was there really no hope?

Jack missed his lover, his friend, his partner. Daniel's voice. Yeah, he missed Daniel's calm quiet voice when they talked, the whispers, the slurred voice when they'd made love, and even the yelling when they had been fighting.

Nah. Strike that. There was still enough yelling going on around here.

He missed Daniel's stubbles when they'd cuddled. The whisker burns. The kisses that had tasted like coffee and Daniel…He missed showering with Daniel, being naked with Daniel… being one with Daniel.

Oh, crap, it was so hard sometimes when Jack woke up alone in his bed at nights. He still reached out to touch Daniel in the moments after a deep sleep, before he came really awake.

And Daniel wasn't there.

He missed the roughness, too. Slamming each other against the wall, fighting for the upper hand during kissing and bumping into each other while they were still fully clothed…

He missed the man.

And yet…

The child had found his way into Jack's heart so easily. It was a complete different kind of love. But it was growing stronger every day. It was confusing. The longer they lived together like this, the more his feelings were upside down.

Six months since Daniel had been downsized. Four months since Daniel had moved in with Jack.

Had he missed being a dad?

Maybe.

He had lost so much with adult Daniel gone.

What had he got in return?

This.

Jack had... oh, maybe... 45 lbs and 42 inches of Daniel in his arms. A bundle of energy, sometimes hard to handle and hyper at times. But also soft, cute, trusting and absolutely charming when he wanted to be, or when he was relaxed enough to lower his shield.

Sure, there'd be no sex. Never again, maybe. If Daniel was going to grow up like a normal kid – and according to Fraiser he would - how could they go back to being lovers again after maybe ten to fifteen years of being... This?

No way.

So maybe he should just face it.

Jack had traded his lover for a son. A very highly skilled, stubborn seven year old with the mind of a thirty four year old man, who had once been his life partner.

How scary was that?

Maybe Jack could do it. But could Daniel do it? On a legal basis, with new papers and everything? He was so not looking forward to having this talk with him.

There was, however, the alternative, Hammond had pointed out.

Jack closed his eyes. There was no way around it.

He had to bite the bullet and tell Danny before their downtime was over.

But right now Jack just enjoyed sitting here with his kid in his arms and his other "kids" nearby. He'd just enjoy this a little longer and go with the Scarlett O'Hara tactic.

Tomorrow.

Tomorrow was another day.

With that he drifted away into sleep.



IV

"Daniel? You done yet?"

"I'm showering!"

"Hurry up. The game starts at twenty hundred!"

Jack checked his watch.

Great.

Eighteen fifteen and Daniel still wasn't anywhere close to being ready to leave.

It was Friday evening and all Jack expected from the rest of this rotten day was a hockey game and pizza. Was that too much to ask for?

First he'd had a crappy morning and then today's mission had been a total waste of time. A quick in and out. Boring planet, not even temple ruins or anything to entertain the kids. They had collected samples and Daniel had done a nosedive into the mud when he'd run down a slippery slope. Nothing but his dignity and pride had been hurt, but he'd been cross with his teammates, convinced they had – secretly – a good laugh at his expense.

Since there wasn't much to brief about, Hammond had postponed the briefing to Monday. They had all quickly gone to get changed and be done with the post mission check up in the infirmary, eager to go home for the weekend.

Except for Daniel who had insisted he needed to make a detour to his office for whatever reason before he'd be ready to hit the showers. Jack had chased after him and dragged him to the locker room because Daniel had left puddles of mud all over the SGC. The stuff had literally dripped off him. Of course Daniel had to put up a fight all the way and Jack had threatened to put him under the shower with his clothes on if he didn't cooperate. That's how things went these days... it had been a long exhausting three weeks.

Jack had left him to sulk in the shower and told him to get dressed and come down to the infirmary for his post mission check up when he was done cleaning up. He had let Fraiser prod and probe him and when Daniel still didn't show after Jack was done, he'd come to get him only to discover that the brat was still in the bathroom.

"Daniel! Don't make me come in there!" he hollered. “Janet's waiting for you.”

The kid finally came out of the shower, still dripping wet, leaving small pools of water on the floor. He shrugged his skinny shoulders. "I had to wash my hair twice to get all the mud out."

“I offered to help, but you refused to let me,” Jack said grimly. “Where's your towel?”

“Dunno. The SGC towels are all gone.”

Daniel was right. On the shelf next to the showers weren't any USAF towels left. Well, it was late... most teams who'd been back today had come in, showered, dressed, gone home...

"For crying out loud," Jack snapped and opened Daniel’s locker. They had spare towels from home in here, just in case they'd come back late and all the provided ones for the day were gone to the laundry.

He rummaged around, but couldn't find a towel here either. He slammed the door shut and reached into his own locker. Pulling out one of his own spare towels, he grabbed Daniel’s shoulder and started to rub him dry none too gentle.

"Can't you just once think of bringing your stuff with you," he scolded grumpily while drying Daniel’s back and head.

"Sorry... ow... hey, I can do that myself," the kid protested angrily.

"Yeah, but I want to get out of here sometime today."

Daniel jerked the towel out of the colonel’s hands and finished drying himself. "There weren't any fresh towels in my dresser this morning," he complained as he started to dress.

"That might be because they're still in the dryer. Someone forgot to do his chores yesterday. Again."

Daniel was smart enough not to respond right away. First he finished dressing before he quipped, "I got distracted while the dryer was on and forgot about it. I'm only seven. Things like that can happen."

Then he made a fast beeline for the door before Jack could reach for him and smack his skinny little butt.

They made their way into the infirmary in stony silence. Janet looked up from the file she was reading as they entered. “There you are! What took you so long?” She ushered Daniel behind the curtain around one of the beds. Jack heard Daniel apologizing, telling her it took so long to get clean. Janet chuckled and told him it was no big deal.

Jack groaned inwardly, hoping Daniel didn't think she was laughing at him.

And sure as hell Daniel's face looked pinched when he emerged from behind the curtains. “I'm cleared,” he said curtly.

In the elevator on their way to the top, Jack watched his little archaeologist darkly. It was a shame. Daniel looked like such a charming little guy. All blond hair, blue eyes and long lashes. His cheeks were rosy from the hot shower and the glasses were giving him a rather shy and smart touch. Yep, a cute little boy he was.

Except for the scowl and the crossed arms. And the brat he appeared to be most of the time lately.

"You put the laundry away when we get home. No distractions," Jack ordered.

"After dinner."

"Before dinner. It'll take some time until pizza arrives."

"I want to watch Discovery Channel before dinner. They have new episodes this week," Daniel explained with put on patience like he was talking to a small child.

They stepped out of the elevator and caught the next one.

"It's Friday, Daniel. Hockey. And laundry before pizza."

“I hate hockey,” Daniel groaned.

“I'm not forcing you to watch it.”

They made their way through the checkpoints and took the shuttle bus to the parking lot. A fine line of irritation appeared between Daniel's eyes as they reached the truck.

Oh, here we go again, Jack thought wearily and saw his evening turn in something very unpleasant. Again.

The kid slammed his pack on the backseat and climbed into the truck's passenger seat. He crossed his arms over his chest once more after he'd put on his seat belt. "I hate Fridays."

Jack didn't answer that. He wasn't in the mood for bantering or fighting or anything.

They left the mountain complex and drove in silence for the next ten minutes until Daniel sighed deeply. "When will you finally get a TV connection for my room so I can have my own TV?"

"We've been off world a lot over the last weeks," Jack started, feeling his blood pressure rise at the demanding tone.

"Jack, I've been living with you for months now. And I still don't have my own TV," Daniel complained.

"Well, you're satisfied with books and your laptop most of the time. So stop whining. I'll do it as soon as I have the time."

"I'm just saying." Daniel was pouting. Daniel had been pouting so much lately, it wasn't even cute anymore.

Three weeks: three weeks since they had that talk about Jack adopting Daniel. Jack knew the youngster wasn't happy with the whole idea of being Jack's son. Daniel wasn't ready for this. Daniel had to think about it. Daniel needed more time....

And Hammond needed an answer. Decisions had to be made about Daniel’s future.

Daniel was thinking it through. In the meantime all Jack got was either a very subdued Daniel, or – this.

"I had a bad day. Can we just record your game and watch it later? I'll do the laundry right after dinner," Daniel said in a rather whiny tone.

Jack stared out of the front window.

Daniel had a bad day.

Again.

So, who cared about Jack's bad day?

Again.

A rotten day, to be specific.

This morning he had to brief half a dozen civilian consultants who all wanted to take Daniel Jackson’s place on the infamous SG-1.

Daniel was still a member of the team, but due to his new age he had to stand down from the risky missions. Daniel insisted he still had all his skills in self - defense, that he was able to handle a Zat gun. But he couldn't dodge the fact he was much shorter now. If they had to run, Daniel would fall behind because of his shorter legs and smaller lungs. He wasn't a man anymore, not physically anyway. And Jack or Teal'c couldn't shoot at the bad guys while carrying the Wretch piggyback.

Hammond was getting impatient. He wanted his flag team back on full field duty as soon as possible with a fourth full-time member.

They'd been off world in the last couple of months, with and without Daniel. But since SG-1 was a first contact team, a civilian consultant was required. Now there were a lot of highly qualified archaeologists, anthropologists, or whatever they called themselves. Geeks, who were working on the program for years and wanted a transfer to SG-1. It was up to Jack to make his choice.

He'd talked to some of them, and decided he needed to see the candidates for the job in action. So he and Carter had picked out a few simple missions where probably, hopefully, nobody would get hurt.

So from next week on Jack had to take civilians through the gate to find his new team member. And Hammond, who was a great superior with lots of empathy for Jack's dilemma, had told him it was about time to actually pick someone.

He was SO not ready for this. He didn't want a replacement for Daniel. He wanted Daniel. He knew it was pathetic and he'd been whining about the whole replacement thing to Carter. It wasn't professional to behave like this as a good team leader. He needed to be realistic and pragmatic about this.

Daniel was a kid and that was it.

No big Daniel Jackson on SG-1 anymore. O'Neill knew he had to get over it and move on. But it was a lot harder to do than to say.

So Daniel had a bad day, eh?

Right.

Jack glanced at his friend, who was chewing off his bottom lip, hands twined together in his lap.

Crap.

"Spill, Daniel."

"It's nothing. I'm fine. Just, you know... a bad day."

"Sure you are. What's bothering you?"

"Nothing.”

“Daniel.”

“There were those two guys. Airmen. They're new or at least I've never seen them before. I met them on my way to the pre-mission briefing after lunch. They asked if I'd lost my way to the daycare center," Daniel muttered. When Jack didn't say anything, he continued, "They didn't believe me when I told them I work there. They dragged me to the next phone to call daycare."

Yep, there was a daycare center at Cheyenne Mountain. Not down at Stargate Command, but at NORAD. For the military brats who had both their parents working at the mountain. Daniel never went there and nobody would dare to send him. However, there had been a few of these incidents in the very beginning after Daniel's downsizing. Though by now everyone was used to see mini Daniel stroll through the SGC halls.

Jack let out a sharp breath and reached over to squeeze Daniel's shoulder. "I´m sorry."

"When the daycare center informed them they didn't know me they were going to report me to Hammond. Luckily Walter came down the hallways just then and cleared it up. When Walter was gone they left and said it should be forbidden to let kids work in a facility like Stargate Command. One of them called me a snotty little geek."

Now Jack was royally pissed. "Give me names," he ordered in a tight voice. Nobody was messing with his kid... with Daniel. And it didn't matter that Daniel was a snotty little geek at times.

But Daniel suddenly squirmed in his seat, ducking his head. "Um... Jack... that won't be necessary. They were just trying to help and I wasn't exactly nice. It was no big deal. You don't need to get upset. I appreciate it, though," he said very fast without looking up once.

Jack reached their driveway. When the truck was parked in front of the house, he looked at Daniel. "What exactly are you not telling me, buddy?"

"Uuuh... when one of them called me kiddo, I got a little... tense. You know I hate it when people call me that. Or little man. Or sweetie, or honey."

Jack suppressed a groan. "Daniel, didn't we agree on ignoring these things? There are a lot of people out there who have no idea you're not a snotty... uh...cute little seven year old. Half of the mountain thinks you're Daniel Jackson’s nephew. You can't attack everyone who calls you kiddo. “I” call you kiddo, kiddo."

"I guess I was just over reacting. As usual," Daniel admitted quietly.

"What did you tell them?"

"Believe me, you don't want to know, Jack." With that, the boy opened the door, jumped out of the truck, and headed to the front door.

"No. I bet I don't," Jack murmured, following suit. When they entered the house, he asked, "Will there be any complaining I need to know about?"

"Um, I guess not. I told them the dangerous Colonel Jack O'Neill would eat them alive if he knew they bothered me on my way to an important appointment," Daniel explained with a blush and an impish grin.

Shaking his head, Jack went to the living room. "Go and do the laundry, will ya? I’ll call for pizza."

"Why do I have to do laundry while all you do is dial the phone to get us dinner? Isn't that child labor? I'm sure there's a law against child labor," Daniel scowled.

Jack threw his jacket on the couch and grabbed the phone from the coffee table. "You can call Amnesty International if you like. After you’ve done your chores," he insisted.

"Okay. Give me just a few minutes to..."

"Daniel, my right hand's starting to itch. So you might be better off in the basement with the dryer and the laundry," Jack snapped as he dialed the pizza service.

 

Young Doctor Jackson got the message and left with a loud snort and a mumbled remark, Jack pretended not to hear. He ordered pizza and wondered if they were going to survive this evening without a mini meltdown. He quickly started the TiVo to record Daniel's National Geographics episode.

Jack had just settled on the couch to watch the hockey game when the kid returned, telling him he'd put the towels away.

"I want mushrooms on my pizza," Daniel informed him as he sat down next to him.

"I ordered pineapple with extra cheese for you," Jack grunted back, his eyes not leaving the TV screen for a second.

"Couldn't you at least ask me what I wanted?"

"You always have pineapple with extra cheese. It's your favorite."

"You still could've asked me. I wanted mushrooms," Daniel demanded angrily.

Jack tried to concentrate on the game.

"Mushrooms and salami," Daniel whined.

"You can have my pepperoni and cheese," Jack murmured.

"Mushrooms and salami."

"Daniel..."

"Jack..."

"Itching hand here... dangerous."

Daniel jumped from the couch, bringing a safe distance between them. "I'll take a time out. You can have both pizzas. Have a nice dinner," the kid snarled and opened the glass door. He hurried out and ran to his tree house.

These days Jack's warnings to swat Daniel's butt were hardly empty threats anymore. He'd received several of those this week already. But tonight Jack didn't have the energy to go after him. And while Daniel stayed at the tree house Jack got exactly what he wanted. Some quiet time.

O'Neill leaned his head back against the couch cushions and took a deep breath.

Peace.

Finally.


***

He slammed the solid door of his tree house shut and turned the key.

Peace.

Finally.

Daniel sat cross - legged on the warm wood floor, enjoying the silence for a minute, before he reached for one of the books lying on a pile next to him.

General Hammond had asked him again about his decision regarding the adoption today. Daniel was aware of the fact he had to make a choice sooner or later. But he didn't want to. He didn't want to be Jack's son. That wasn't right. Even if it was only a formal matter.

Jack shouldn't be his dad.

This was too warped.

Besides, Daniel didn't intend to stay like this. He would find a way to change back into an adult. He suspected the SGC had given up on him. Even Jack seemed to settle more and more with the way things were now. But even after all these months and all the hope that had been shattered, Daniel refused to give up.

There were no allies willing to help them. Some refused out of ethical reasons, some just couldn't find a cure for this. The SGC refused him the use of nanobots.

Too dangerous.

Daniel snorted. As if he had anything to lose.

The last thing he wanted to be was a Daniel O'Neill who had to grow up again and see his "dad" getting old, while he was at the verge of a second adulthood.

Jack and he were supposed to have another life together.

Not like this.

It had taken them so long to finally get together and work on a relationship that had been so fulfilling. Difficult at times, yes... But still amazing and like coming home. How could he give up on that? It hurt him that Jack seemed to accept the fact they could never have that life again, so easily.

Doesn't he know how special we were together? Can't he feel how it hurts that we can't be lovers anymore? Is it only me? Doesn't he miss it anymore? I know he did in the beginning. We talked about it.

Or maybe Jack had just resigned to what had happened and was trying to make the best out of it. But then again, maybe not.

Since that day they'd talked about the adoption, they had both been irritable and edgy. Daniel knew he was having an attitude about almost everything lately again. But Jack hadn't been doing very well either over the last weeks.

What did Jack expect him to do? Falling on his knees thanking Jack for wanting to adopt him? Daniel knew they needed to talk about this like adults. But he couldn't bring himself to do it.

He was scared of what he might find out. Did Jack really want him to be his son? As a replacement for Charlie? Daniel couldn't be that. He had had a dad once. A father who was dead and buried. He really didn't need another father. Nor did he need or want another childhood. His first one had been painful enough, thank you very much.

Except the kid in him wanted just that. The childish part of his personality craved for a strong shoulder to lean on and a person who held him and took him under the wing.

And even though the adult Daniel was fighting it every single step, he was losing the battle more and more often lately. He'd let Jack take care of him up to a point. It felt good and safe and right. The tree house had lured him into false peace and happiness for a while. And even before that, he had started to feel comfortable in this young body from time to time.

But the mentioning of adoption papers had awakened feelings that had never been quite buried. He wasn't ready to let go and declare himself dead or missing in action for good. Doctor Daniel Jackson was far from dead. He was still here and he would do everything to get back what was his.

His life. And then Jack O'Neill. As his partner. Not as his dad.

He had started to read mission reports at work. Whenever he could spare some time he studied reports from other teams. Always on the lookout for something that might cure him.

There had to be something. He just needed to find it.

***

Jack pushed away the half-eaten pepperoni and cheese pizza. He'd turned off the TV some time ago. The game had ended in a disaster for his favorite team, but he didn't even care.

He felt lousy.

Daniel had to be hungry and, yes, Jack should've asked him what kind of pizza he wanted. He had just assumed it would be the usual without questioning it. And he'd been mad at Daniel for being sassy and not doing his damn chores. They had clear rules on that. They lived together, they shared the work. It was as simple as that.

It had been like this before.

Yeah, right. And Daniel had been untidy before.

So what else was new?

Jack sighed and grabbed the box with the untouched pizza. He put two big slices on a plate and opened his fridge. There was a tin can with mushrooms for the barbecue tomorrow, but they'd taste just fine on pizza. He opened the can and dumped the mushrooms on the pizza before putting the plate into the microwave.

When the pizza was hot, he took the plate and left the house.

The tree house was still almost empty inside. Teal'c and Jack had worked on the stairs the last couple of weeks and finished them right in time for the housewarming party Daniel would host tomorrow. Then the kid could start furnishing and decorating the house the way he liked it to be.

Jack really hoped this would keep him busy and happy for at least a few days. And that he'd enjoy his time up there then.

Right now the tree house was more a place of refuge for Daniel. Well, that was what it had been all about after all. But Jack wanted Daniel to feel at home up there. He wanted to be there with him from time to time. It was a great house and Jack liked what they'd accomplished here together, as a team.

When he reached the top of the new stairs, he knocked at Daniel’s door. "Pizza Service, Señor Jackson." He tried to sound cheerful.

"I'm not hungry," came the expected answer.

"Eh, bambino, you really wanna miss pizza speciale a'la O'Neill with pineapple and mushrooms," Jack said in his best Italian accent. He could make Cassie laugh with this, even now that she was sixteen.

Didn't work on an annoyed seven year old Daniel though. "No, thank you."

"Ah come on. Open up, Señor Danny."

After what seemed to be an eternity, the door opened a crack and Daniel stuck his head out. Jack held the plate out to him and after a moment of hesitation, two small hands snatched it away from him. "Thanks, Jack."

With that the door was closed again.

"Oh, no problemo, just don't pay the poor pizza man," Jack grumbled and walked down the stairs. Why he'd felt so sorry for the little monster he didn't know... He'd just let him starve to death next time and feed the pizza to the dog. Well, if they had a dog.

Jack went back into the house and, after checking his watch, decided to give Daniel another hour before he calling him inside. It'd be dark by then anyway.

For a moment he stood in his empty kitchen and considered getting a beer. But if he didn't watch it he'd get drunk tonight. He was in just the mood to knock down a couple of beers and wallow in self-pity. And the last thing he wanted was Daniel to realize he'd been drinking more than his usual evening beer.

God, he missed his lover. More than ever.

He retrieved the key he kept hidden in his bedroom – to prevent Daniel from locking himself in for hours as he used to do for a while – and entered the bathroom. He needed a shower. Or rather he needed some private time.

It would calm him and as long as Daniel was sulking in his trees, he could relax a little and try to get rid of his own tension.

Maybe.

Jack locked the bathroom door before he stripped, turned on the hot water and stepped into the stall. Adult Daniel had always complained about it being too small to shower together in there. As was the bathtub. They had gotten bumps and bruises from hitting the faucet with their backs.

He had grown a lot over the last years, Jack’s formerly skinny space monkey. Had built lots of nice muscles. Jack had done well telling him to work out. Yep. All the running for their lives during missions had helped, too.

Jack started to soap himself up with that herbal shower gel Daniel had given him last Christmas. It had been an awkward Christmas. For the first time since Charlie had died, Jack had felt they needed a tree with lights, angels and balls. And stockings at the fireplace. Thoughts of going to the Mall and visit Santa had crossed his mind occasionally. Not that he'd dared to mention anything of that to Daniel... He'd been embarrassed that he longed for those things again, knowing Daniel would hate it. They had always preferred quiet holidays with dinner for the team on Christmas Eve. On Christmas Day they would just... well, relax. There had been small gifts. But no tree, no fancy stuff. But last year Daniel had been seven and had just moved in with Jack...

And nothing had changed in the way they had spent the holidays. Only last year Daniel had lost it at some point. Jack had been helpless and Daniel had ended up crying in his room. Jack had spent the evening on the couch, nursing a glass of Whiskey after his subdued, depressed team had left the house.

Shooing these memories off, Jack closed his eyes as he let the warm water spray over his hair and face. The movement of his hands slowed down, rubbing and stroking the lather into his skin, setting free the fresh aroma of the gel.

Daniel used to do that oh so wonderful task of soaping him up, teasing his nipples until they’d been hard little knobs.... with those sensitive hands that used to handle artifacts and brush dust from very old stone tablets or walls... those slender fingers had found every sensitive spot on Jack O'Neill's lean hard body. Those fingers had once counted all of his scars; full lips had kissed every single one of them in the special Daniel-way....

Jack let out a moan. Oh, god yeah, he could almost hear Daniel's deep chuckle.

Daniel, who had his face buried in the hollow of Jack's neck, slowly rubbing his groin against him, meeting Jack's hardening dick with his own as they bumped together in wide strokes, both panting and breathing heavily while the water was still running over them, leaving trails of moisture on their backs and heads and trickling down their faces.

Jack fisted his erection in his right hand, cupped his balls with his left and started to stroke and pump, settling into a lazy slow rhythm. He wanted Daniel's mouth around his cock so badly, wanted to feel the familiar lips, sucking and licking... wanted to feel Daniel's teeth nibble...

 

 

 

Daniel had been as passionate with Jack's body as he had been with everything he'd done. Full of energy, Daniel had never done things only halfway.

 

Jack leaned against the tiled wall, his head lolling back... oh fuck... and then just before he'd come, Daniel would look up at him, knowing exactly when it would happen. Jack had no idea how he'd look to Daniel when he'd come, what the other man would see in his eyes. But Daniel's eyes would be bright, intensively blue...

 

Daniel would look up at him right now....

 

Daniel who...

 

Daniel wh o was...

 

... Oh god...

 

Seven.

 

No... No...

 

Jack froze, his eyes popping open. He let out a desperate gasp, his hands still on his now rapidly shrinking penis. A painful shudder jolted through his body as he slid down the tiled wall until he was squatted in the narrow shower stall, his legs pulled up, his head resting on his knees.

 

A desperate choking moan escaped him.

 

Every frigging damn time...

 

The shower was still running. After a while he came up on shaky legs, turned on the cold water and held his burning face into the needling stream until it felt numb from the coldness.

 

Then he turned it off.

 

In the sudden stillness of the room his breathing was loud and harsh. His heart hammered against his ribs.

 

"Fuck!" Jack ripped the shower door open and tumbled out, grabbing for his towel.

 

He started to dry himself furiously.

 

He couldn't do it. How pathetic was that?

 

Here he was in his shower and couldn't even get himself off to a stupid fantasy of Daniel... because Daniel was a damn kid now and Jack wasn't able to separate the two of them. He couldn't even dream of Daniel, the man, anymore. Had lost even that little bit of his lover...

 

Letting go of all his self-control for a split second, Jack threw the towel against the wall. But it wasn't enough. He wanted to destroy something, wanted to hear loud crashing noises.... Grabbing the bottle of aftershave, he aimed at the window....

 

But his military trained mind was already struggling for control, forcing him to stomp down the urge to throw the bottle. Closing his eyes briefly, Jack let his arm sink, his fingers clutching the aftershave tightly.

 

Daniel had said throwing things didn't help. He should know. He'd been throwing tantrums and things a lot since he got littled.

 

And what if Daniel had returned to the house and was in the living room or his room? What if the kid heard the noise and came knocking to ask what's wrong? How'd he explain to Daniel why he'd thrown his aftershave through the closed window.

 

Hey Daniel, I realized I can't jerk off to fantasies of your adult self anymore. Made me a little mad, no problem. . WHY COULDN'T YOU KEEP YOUR HANDS TO YOUR SELF IN THAT DAMN TEMPLE... Oh god... Why... Why...

 

His fingers became lax and the bottle slipped through them, hitting the floor with a loud bang.

 

Slapping his hands over his face, Jack sank down on the toilet seat. Who had he been kidding when he'd thought he could deal with this? Adopting Daniel and playing happy family?

 

Sweet. Just peachy. Whose damn idea had that been anyway?

 

He couldn't do it.

 

Nope.

 

No fucking way was he going to adopt the kid that had been his lover...

 

Except he had to.

 

Jack pressed the knuckles of his hands into his dry but burning eyes.

 

He had to be there for Daniel.

 

There was always the option to go to Abydos and live with Sha’uri’s family to be raised by Kasouf. If Daniel chose this he would remain Doctor Jackson- at least to the people of Abydos. And Jack could visit him. But if he wanted to stay on Earth he'd have to take on the identity of Doctor Jackson's nephew for good. If Daniel wanted to be a normal American citizen with all legal rights he'd have to go through with this. Sure, he still had the same name and could probably keep it. But everything else had to change. He'd have to give away his PhDs for example. Later when he'd be a grown up again, they'd probably fake things so he could get them back without having to start from scratch. They hadn't planned that far ahead yet.

 

O'Neill was torn between the wish to leave all of this behind and the knowledge that he could never ban Daniel from his life. That he couldn't deny him the possibility to stay at the SGC and do the one thing he really loved.

 

Daniel would grow up again, would be able to go on real missions to make first contact, to study foreign cultures and languages. It was only a matter of time. He was important for the program. Without Daniel Jackson there'd never have been a SGC or SG-1. As his commanding officer it was Jack's duty to make sure Daniel was safe and sound and able to work for the SGC. Big or little.

 

But bottom line was; Daniel was far more than Jack O'Neill's lost lover or teammate. Daniel was his best friend. Had been his best friend long before he'd become his partner in bed and life. And as his best friend Jack had to go through this with him.

 

They'd seen each other at their best and worst. Jack had opened his soul to Daniel, something he'd never done for anyone else. Not even for Sara.

 

And Daniel had done the same for him.

 

But, oh god, it hurt.

 

There was a gaping black hole inside Jack, where his lover had been. And it seemed to swallow him, to pull him right into the darkness.

 

He loved the kid.

 

But he missed the man like hell.

 

And right now the loss outweighed the love for the boy up there in that tree house.

 

God, he couldn't even have a simple fantasy about his lover. Daniel's face always transformed into that of the boy. And that was SO not working. It was, in fact, the biggest turn-off he could imagine. Jack hadn't got off in months. He'd tried to imagine somebody else. Had tried to get off on fantasies about faceless men... with little success. Maybe he should try to crank up his long-gone crush on Carter, for god's sake.

 

How pathetic was that?

 

He hadn't had a crush on Carter for years now. It had been hot and short and over even before the whole thing with Daniel had started. Not that he had ever let her know about it anyway. Carter was Carter. He loved her. She was part of the family, one of his "kids" but not a sexual turn on anymore.

 

He missed a warm body in his bed, coffee flavored kisses in the morning, the piles of clothes Daniel used to leave everywhere in his bedroom. Missed getting laid.

 

Nope, he didn't want anybody else in his life. It wasn't even about the sex. It was about Daniel. About losing him once too often. Even if it was just a part of him gone this time.

 

Shaking his head, Jack got up from the toilet and stared into the mirror for a moment. The steam of the shower had left the room, and his own steam was fading fast. He was tired – wasn't he tired much too often lately? The face that looked back at him was old, with hard lines around the lips and dark eyes. Not to mention the new gray hairs that seemed to grow much faster since Daniel had become little.

 

Thinking of little Daniel...

 

He was probably still up there in his refuge, sulking.

 

Time to get him down and to bed. Right now even facing this bit of confrontation seemed nearly unbearable. But Jack had to get a grip. And tomorrow, after the party, he needed to talk to Daniel about the adoption again. The kid might like it or not, but he had to make a decision soon.

 

Part of Jack was still screaming NO WAY to this. There was, however, another part of him , that wanted Daniel here: Needed him here. It had to be enough, even though it wasn't.

 

***

 

Daniel pushed his glasses up his head and rubbed his eyes. He felt exhausted, but pure stubbornness kept him from going back to the house. He dreaded another run-in with Jack. He also feared Jack wanted to talk about the adoption again. But who was he kidding? It was very late. Soon Jack would come and order him down.

 

Daniel pulled a face.

 

As if anything could happen to him up here. If the NID really wanted him, if they already knew who he was, they'd crawl through his bedroom window to get him, alarm system or not. Okay, there was an alarm system at the house... but... but...

 

Great. There was the dreaded knock at his door.

 

"Hey, Jack. Why don't you go to bed and I'll be down later," he yelled.

 

Yeah, right. As if.

 

“It's late. Open up." Jack was knocking again, impatiently this time. "Daniel, I'm really not in the mood for this. Get out of there right now."

 

"Or what? You gonna shoot the door to pieces?" he yelled back before he knew it. Biting his lip he waited for the eruption.

 

But after a long pause, Jack finally said in a very quiet tone, "There'll be no party tomorrow for you. Just so you know. Sit there and sulk all you want. I'll call everyone and cancel."

 

The party!

 

Daniel had all forgotten about his party. He'd been looking forward to it all week. Uh-oh. Jack might stick to his word. Even though the party had already been planned and the guests invited. With a silent sigh he realized how tired he felt. Maybe Jack wouldn't want to talk anymore tonight. It was, after all, pretty late.

 

He scrambled up from the floor."If I come out now,...?"

 

"If you come out and stop being a brat," Jack called back.

 

"I'm not a brat!"

 

"Oh you SO are, Daniel Jackson."

 

"I'm not."

 

"Out. Now," Jack insisted.

 

Daniel felt a nervous twitch in his stomach when he finally opened the door. He knew he had overreacted again. He was aware of Jack standing next to him on the porch. It was already dark outside, but Daniel didn't need to see his friend's face to know he was angry.

 

“You won't cancel the party, right?” Daniel asked carefully when they had climbed down the stairs.

 

“I told you there'd be trouble if you don't come down when I tell you to.”

 

Oh, joy. “But, Jack... everyone's already invited, we bought the food and all.” Daniel knew all it would take for Jack to stop being angry was to say he was sorry for his behavior. But the words wouldn't come across his lips.

 

“You sure you can behave civilized long enough to make it through the party?”

 

Daniel gritted his teeth. “Yes.”

 

“Fine. Early bedtime tomorrow then."

 

"Um... early bedtime tomorrow? But the party is tomorrow."

 

"You want a smack? You sure deserve one, two or three, giving me that kind of attitude all day."

 

"No way," Daniel protested, scurrying out of Jack's reach just in case.

 

After Jack had closed the glass door, he asked, "You want the rest of your pizza?"

 

"No."

 

"You go straight to bed then."

 

“I guess.”

 

They looked at each other for a moment.

 

Daniel felt the need to hug his friend and cuddle like they used to do every evening. The bedtime ritual had been something Daniel always looked forward too. Because it was important they never went to bed being cross with each other. But lately it had become less and less easy to make up. They had so many crappy days and sometimes Daniel went to bed without so much as a 'good night' now.

 

But he missed it. And he would deny that to his last breath.

 

“Good night, Jack,” he murmured, knowing he should apologize. He should say “I'm sorry” for a lot of things lately. But whenever he was ready to say it, something else came up and they were at each other's throats again. Jack accused Daniel of looking for things to fight over and Daniel knew there was truth in that. But Jack kept nagging at him all the time. About not doing his chores, about being cranky, about being untidy, about not listening to him... and Daniel was tired of it all.

 

But when they looked at each other now there was something so raw and painful in Jack's brown eyes, it wrenched Daniel's heart. He had to say something. But again he couldn't find the words to make it all better. So he just turned and went to his room.

 


 

V

 

The next morning they both made an effort to be polite, but the tension that had been building between them over the last three weeks was still there.

 

Later, however, when Jack was setting up the grill on the deck and prepared the yard for the party, Daniel felt the mood improving for a change. He helped Jack wrapping a flower garland around the banister of his stairs and swept the wood floor of his house with the broom until there was no sawdust or other dirt left on it.

 

They carried chairs up into the house and a round table where they could all sit and eat. Well, Jack carried the chairs and the table. Daniel went after him, the tablecloth and chair cushions in his arms.

 

Then Jack came up the stairs with something very large balanced on his back.

 

He almost fell backwards and toppled down the stairs with it. Daniel tried to help him carry it up, but was reaching his physical limits very fast.

 

"Just open the door for me," Jack groaned, heaving the big package up the last two steps.

 

As soon as they had it in the house, Daniel ripped away the rough fabric it was covered in, and just stared at it for a minute. "Wow," he managed finally.

 

It was a bookshelf, made of light pine. There were tiny Egyptian ornaments carved all over the sides : pyramids and a Sphinx. And it was exactly Daniel's height so he wouldn't need a stool to reach the top shelf.

 

Jack wiped sweat from his forehead and grinned. "Like it?"

 

"It's great, Jack. Did you make the carvings, too?"

 

"Well, there were patterns. And I had a little help from T. with that. You know me and old Egypt stuff. He told me what to choose and helped with the carvings. He's good at it," Jack said.

 

Daniel let his fingers wander tenderly over the wood. "Thank you. I really, really like this," he said quietly.

 

"I... I thought you might like to read up here. So... this came to mind. There's something else, but it's not finished yet," Jack murmured. Then he took a deep breath and tentatively tousled Daniel's hair. “Look, Daniel. I know we haven't gotten along great lately...”

 

“No, not really,” Daniel agreed.

 

“We need to talk,” Jack said quietly. “Soon.”

 

“I don't want to talk about it. Not about the adoption, not about a new team member, not about this weird father-son thing we're doing,” Daniel blurted out. As soon as the words had left his mouth, he wanted to bite off his tongue. Wrong time, wrong place. But that's how it was between them these days.

 

“I don't want to talk about it anymore than you do. But there's no way around it,” Jack replied. “Hammond's breathing down my neck and DC is breathing down his neck. You know the drill.”

 

“Why are they so eager to dress me down to a seven year old? Why can't they hold this off until we really know there's no way to change it back.”

 

“Daniel...” Jack said. “It's been seven months.”

 

“I won't stay like this,” Daniel said stubbornly. “Not a chance in hell.”

 

Jack looked as though he had a huge headache. “I'd be the first to help you change back. If I only knew how. But until then...”

 

“Thanks for the bookshelf. It's cool,” Daniel cut him off and turned away.

 

***

 

The party started at high noon. Their guests were all very impressed with the tree house and the new stairs Jack and Teal'c had worked on the previous weeks. Daniel was the perfect little gentlemen and host. He made sure everyone had enough to eat and drink, he scurried back and forth from guest to guest to talk to everyone. He even let Teal'c and Cassie talk him into playing Frisbee. It was good to see him coming out of his bad state and have some fun.

 

Jack, who was collecting dirty glasses to replace them with clean ones, caught Doc Fraiser and Carter in an interesting conversation.

 

The two women were standing on the porch of the tree house, looking out into the garden. Janet, a dreamy expression on her face, nudged Carter. "Isn't that so romantic, Sam? A house high up in the trees. A green roof over your head. It's wonderful. I wish Cassie would've wanted a tree house."

 

Carter laughed. "Why? So you could sit up there and knit?"

 

They looked at each other and laughed again. "Not knitting, Sam. I'd love to sit up there, a cool drink in my hand and the evening sun warming my aching body after an endless day at the infirmary. And I'd stick needles into the voodoo doll of my worst patient to make him suffer." Janet smirked.

 

Jack leaned against the door frame and listened silently, a grin on his face. Voodoo dolls, huh? He'd always known good ol´ Janet was a very dangerous woman.

 

Carter nearly spilled her drink over Fraiser, snickering. "Oh my god. If you do that, the colonel'll only spend more time in the infirmary. You don't want that. Honestly."

 

"No, you're right. I really don't know what's worse. If he's a patient himself or if he does his Daniel-watching thing. I've never seen anybody hovering over his...," Janet coughed and lowered her voice, "...um... Daniel so much."

 

"It must be a relief for him Daniel isn't going off world as much anymore. He hasn’t been injured since his very first mission after he got little."

 

Janet sighed. "Maybe that's one thing the colonel might be thankful for in all of this."

 

"I wonder how Daniel is really coping with this," Carter suddenly wondered, deep worry lacing her voice, "The colonel looks very tired lately."

 

Fraiser didn't answer right away and Jack wondered how much Carter knew about his former relationship to Daniel? And how much of the problems he had with the kid did the Doc suspect?

 

Finally the petite doctor replied, "I think he's doing well under the circumstances. Otherwise, I'd suggest therapy. We all know about Daniel's experiences with McKenzie, but there are other psychologists at the SGC. I think the colonel keeps him grounded. But you're right. He looks tired."

 

"It's hard on him. I mean, we're all still shocked about it. But for the colonel, it's worse. Daniel was his best friend. Is. I mean. But they were so much... more." Carter blushed and stared into her glass.

 

Janet patted her arm. "I know."

 

"It was kind of a shock to find out," Carter mumbled, her voice so low that Jack barely heard her. “But they used to be made for each other. It was about time, too when it happened. It's so hard to see them having to cope with this.”

 

Jack decided he had heard enough. How obvious had they been? Maybe even Hammond knew? Nah. Not Hammond. He stepped quietly back into the tree house where Cassie and Daniel were sitting around the table, showing Teal'c a card game.

 

He grabbed a couple more dirty glasses and left again.

 

While he put the glasses into the dishwasher, he thought he should refresh his Special Ops training if his whole team had been able to figure him and Daniel out without Jack noticing it. He and Daniel had been careful. No off world sex, no extra touching anymore... obviously their closest friends just knew them too well.

 

All water under the bridge.

 

Shaking his head his thoughts returned to their current situation.

 

Maybe after today's party Daniel would be relaxed and content enough to be reasonable about the adoption. Maybe they'd be able to get back some normal life around here. They had taken nothing but backward steps lately. Jack was suddenly aware they'd drift further apart if they kept avoiding the issue. Daniel was shutting him out and Jack wouldn't allow that to happen.

 

He slammed the dishwasher shut. Things had to change, he decided angrily. He would get Daniel to talk to him. No matter what. The kid had given him nothing but hard times lately and he was fed up with it

 

***

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daniel enjoyed his housewarming party and he was grateful Jack hadn't canceled it.

The food was great and everyone had brought a gift for his new house; a plant, a carpet, some glasses and drink coasters. Cassie had made him an Indian dream catcher to hang from the ceiling. Daniel was touched by the gifts and the love he saw in his friends' eyes.

He had fun playing Frisbee and a game of Boccie with Cassie and Teal'c. Jack had kept out of his way most of the day. He was standing at the grill during lunch and then Daniel watched him talking to General Hammond or hanging out with Teal'c when they weren't playing Frisbee. It seemed Jack had a good time, too. Daniel tried to ignore the sting of rejection when Jack didn't come over to spend time with him. But he had been the one pushing his friend away earlier. And it was probably better this way. At least they wouldn't annoy each other today.

He sat on the porch of his tree house enjoying the view – he was just as high up as the roof platform on Jack's house – when someone held a plate under his nose. On it was a piece of the chocolate pie Janet had brought to the party. “This must be the best chocolate pie I ever had,” said General Hammond with a twinkle in his blue eyes. “And what's best about is that Doctor Fraiser can't nag at me about my weight. She brought it. So someone has to eat it.”

Daniel took the plate and smiled up at the general. “Thank you, sir. I already had one, but this is so good, I'll have this, too.”

“That's a fine tree house your team has built for you, son,” the general said as he settled on a chair next to Daniel. “I had one as a boy. But compared to this it was just a shack slapped on a tree.” He chuckled, something Daniel rarely saw him do. “A tree house is a great refuge, though. Shack or not. I used to hide up in mine when my old man was mad at me. He couldn't follow me up. There was only a rope ladder. I waited out lots of troublesome times there.”

“Did you get in trouble a lot, sir?” Daniel tried to imagine General Hammond as a little boy – and failed. The general had always been 'the man', a quiet authority: understanding and open-minded most of the time, but hard as granite if he had to be.

Now Hammond laughed. “All boys do, don't they?”

“Girls do, too. I bet Sam got in trouble a lot,” Daniel said, grinning. Then he sobered up again and sighed. “Right now I'm a great deal of trouble around here, I guess.”

“Colonel O'Neill said you have issues with the adoption,” Hammond said after a pause.

“And you want me to make a decision, I know.” Daniel poked the pie on his plate with his fork.

“If it was up to me there would be no rush for decisions. But Washington wants to make things legal.”

“They'll give me a new birth certificate,” Daniel said glumly. “I'd be really just seven then. Next they want me to go to school again. Or they'll forbid me to work at the SGC.” All these fears he had been mulling over for the last couple of weeks. “Will they... declare me dead?”

“Not if I have any say in it,” Hammond said, a strange undertone in his baritone voice. “And we've already told you, Daniel, that they won't force you to go back to school or leave the SGC. Your knowledge and memories make you a security risk. As long as you're staying on base and live with the colonel they won't have any reason to assume you might accidentally give away classified information.”

“What about my rights though. I won't legally be an adult anymore then. I'll always be dependent on Jack. He has to make decisions for me. It feels wrong. I lived alone. I was married. I can't be seven again.” He bit his lip so hard, it hurt. Of course it really didn't make any difference. He appeared to be seven anyway.

“Do you really think Jack is going to make any important decisions for you over your head?” the general asked gently. “Jack knows who you are.”

“What if he forgets?” And wasn't this really his biggest fear? That they'd live as father and son – and some day Jack would have forgotten who he really was. That he had been grown up. That he wasn't really a kid? Jack was ordering him around even now.

“He won't. None of us will.” It was said so sincerely.

Daniel wished he could believe it. Maybe if Jack hadn't been his lover before the downsizing all of it would be easier. Of course he couldn't say that to Hammond.

“This is a huge change of life you are going through, Daniel,” the general said. “No one can imagine what it's really like. But you're not alone in this. Try not to forget that, son.” Hammond looked at his watch and heaved himself from his chair. “I need to return to base for a couple of hours now. This was a great party, Daniel. Thanks for the invite.”

“You're welcome, General. It was great you could come.” He watched as Hammond walked down the stairs and bid his farewell to the other guests. But it seemed as if everyone else was gathering up their things and getting ready to leave as well.

 

 

Daniel suddenly remembered he had an early bedtime ahead of him and even though his seven year old body was already tired anyway, he got a little mad at Jack again. There he had at least some fun today and now everybody was leaving.

With another heavy sigh he left his tree house to say good-bye to his friends.

When they all gathered around him, Cassie hugged him and said sympathetically, "Early bedtimes really suck, Daniel. See that you grow up again soon."

How did she know? "What do you mean?"

"Jack told mom the reason your party started at noon was that you needed to go to bed early," Cassie explained with a shrug.

Janet took her by the arm and dragged her away from Daniel with the sharply whispered words, "You didn't have to remind him.”

Cassie looked embarrassed. "Oh my, I'm sorry.”

Before anyone could say something pitiful or try to brighten the mood, Daniel turned to Jack, his temper rising so fast that he couldn't keep himself from shouting. "You promised this would be between you and me only!”

Jack, who'd been talking to Teal'c, looked taken aback. “What?”

“You don't have to tell people you're sending me to bed early,” Daniel huffed.

Jack stood there, his mouth open in disbelief, and stared at him. "Daniel, listen..."

"No! You listen! There's no need to discuss your ways of disciplining me with our friends! You promised not to do that!" Especially not with Cassie, who was by all means a lot younger than Daniel. She used to call him Uncle Daniel, for heaven's sake.

The group of people stood around them in shocked silence. Some of them had never seen him like that. Daniel knew he must look like a kid with a temper tantrum. But he was so mad at Jack - he couldn’t hold it inside.

Jack finally found his colonel-voice, "Daniel, stop it! Will you listen for a second here?!"

"No Jack, I will NOT listen! You had no right to tell them!"

And then it happened.

"Daniel, snap out of it!"

"Fuck off!"

The next thing Daniel felt was Jack's hand grabbing him by the back of his sweater. He was spun around.

Smack!

Daniel jumped as Jack smacked him again, hard. He felt all blood drain from his face. For a brief moment he just stood there, staring at his friends and teammates – then Jack gave him a little push towards the house and released him. “Inside, Mister. Now.”

Daniel ran inside, fighting back the tears until he had slammed the door of his room shut and thrown himself on his bed.


Only the fact that he'd forgotten to lock his door made it possible for Jack to get near him later that evening. Daniel had no idea how long he'd been lying there, crying hot angry tears into his pillow, when a hand started to rub his back in soothing circles.

The house was very quiet. They were all long gone by now. He rolled away from the hand that had disciplined him in front of the people he wanted to respect him the most.

There was a crack in Jack's voice when he finally spoke. "Daniel..."

Daniel put his hands over his ears and buried his face deeper into the damp pillow.

Jack started again, his voice hoarse. "I..."

"Leave me alone."

"Okay. Just listen. Fraiser asked me how you were the other day. I told her you worked very hard over the last week and needed to get more rest. Which was why we'd have the party early. Cassie wasn't referring to your punishment. They didn't know." With that Jack got off the bed and left the room, softly closing the door behind him.

He suddenly felt like a fool. As usually he'd jumped to conclusions and made a scene. Smart move, Jackson. But oh, he felt so mortified because Jack had swatted him in front of SG-1, Janet and the general.

Daniel’s cheeks started to burn again at the memory.

He knew he wasn't exactly easy to handle sometimes. But what had happened now was different. They had agreed that if Daniel needed some discipline it would take place in private. Now everyone had actually seen Jack smacking him.

He turned on his back, knuckling his burning eyes. He wanted to loathe Jack with all his heart for what he'd done.

But he couldn't.

He wanted for Jack to come back and...

Daniel stared at his tiny hands and skinny legs in blue jeans. He reminded himself that he wasn't seven. That he didn't need to hold onto Jack for comfort about every little thing. Especially not when Jack had been the one hurting him.

One day they'd be able to change him back...

And then what? The cold, mocking voice echoed through his head. What will happen if you are the old Daniel Jackson again? Will you just start over where you left off? With everything, including Jack? He wouldn't take you back. Not the way you were used to. He is already over it.

No. Oh please no. This could not be permanent. This was worse than death.

Daniel closed his eyes, fighting back tears once again. Oh, how he hated this urge to cry!

Finally he couldn't sit alone in his room any longer and listen to that cold voice.


Jack was on the back porch, a beer in hand, when Daniel joined him. He sat down on the still warm wood floor next to the chair. "Hey," he said quietly without looking up.

"Hey," came the soft answer from Jack.

"Um... I know I should be in bed...."

"Oh, forget it, will you." Jack sighed.

Daniel put his arms around his knees and wriggled his naked toes. There were clumps of grass growing through the wood floor. Daniel tried to pick one out with his curled toes.

"IjustwantedyoutoknowthatImaybedeservedthesmacks," he rattled as fast as possible.

"I screwed up, Daniel. Even though you deserved it, I shouldn't have done it in front of them," Jack said darkly.

"No you shouldn't. And I should have listened to you instead of making assumptions and throwing a fit," Daniel admitted with a sigh.

"There's that." After a while Jack continued, "I let my anger get the better of me. For that I'm sorry.”

“I told you to fuck off in front of everyone,” Daniel mumbled, knowing Jack wasn't the only one who'd lost it.

“Yeah. And if you were still big, I would've just told you to fuck off yourself. But it's hard to keep that in mind when the one who tells you to fuck off is about four feet tall." Jack took a sip of his beer and cursed under his breath. “You know I'm rather easy with language, seeing that you've already lost innocence a long time ago. But you have to give me a break. It's not like I've done anything to deserve this.”

“No, you didn't. I'm sorry.” Suddenly it was okay to say it. He didn't know what made the difference – maybe the knowledge he had gone way too far tonight.

“Let's just say we're both a little edgy these days.” Jack said. After a moment of silence, he added. “We still need to talk.”

“I know.”

“Look, I know I'm mother-henning you too much and I might be patronizing and impatient. I never said I'm easy to be with... but I'm trying. And I... I want you to stay, kiddo.”

"I'm not your kid.”

"You could be. Sort of."

"I'm not sure I can. Not forever."

Jack looked down at him, his face in the shadows of the deck lamp. "Did I screw up so badly you'd rather leave Earth and live on Abydos?"

He couldn't see Jack's eyes, but there was so much pain in his voice that Daniel couldn't stop himself from grabbing his big friend's hand. "I still think we're going to fix this somehow. But yes, Kasuf offered to raise me, and I could still be who I am. I would be accepted as Danyel there. As the son of my good father. Not as a pint-sized version of Doctor Jackson. It would be easy to go from that angle. And I could be helpful there like I was before. There's no NID, no one wants to see my birth certificate. It would be a simple life, but it would be mine."

Jack shook his head. "But would it be enough? Here, you could go to college again, get another PhD or whatever you like. You could go on digs again if you want a break from gate travel. Living on Abydos might be simple and satisfying for a few years. But if you stay there forever..."

“I could return when I'm grown up again. I'm sure the Air Force will provide me with a new background then, come up with a reason why I was away for so long. That way I could at least stay Daniel Jackson, maybe even as my own nephew. It doesn't bother me that much then. I'll be legally a man by then. I can do whatever I want.”

And he would be away from Jack, which was both horrible and good. Good because Daniel wouldn't be confronted with Jack on a daily basis and could heal. They both could. Horrible, because Daniel didn't really WANT to get away from Jack.

“There's that.”

Daniel pinched the bridge of his nose. He was tired and his head started to hurt. He could feel his weaker kid side taking over more and more. "Staying here means to somehow bow to the fact I'm a kid. And it means having you in my face all the time. And vice verso. I... I just don't want to be your son. Do you know what that means? For us?"

Jack nodded and squeezed Daniels hand. "I know. But it has started already. The changes."

"Yes, I know. And I want you to take a step back and look at us. Is that really what we are, Jack? Because I don't think it's right. I can't be what you might want me to be."

"What do I want you to be?"

"I... I don't know. But right now it feels like you want to be my father. And I am not... I'm not Charlie."

Jack put his bottle on the table and turned to look down at him. "This isn't about Charlie. It's about finding a new... way. We have to face the possibility that this is permanent. We have to work out something.. crap, why do I have to do the talking here? It's your expertise, not mine."

Daniel pulled his hand out of Jack's and hugged himself. He felt chilly despite the warm evening. "So you’re telling me to accept this. And then what? Change my name into O'Neill?"

"You don't have to change your name. It's just a paper thing," Jack said crossly.

"No, it is not. You said it yourself. We are changing already. It's all wrong, Jack. You've done that before, you know. The mother-henning and the hovering. It just turns out to be much more annoying now that I'm little. I don't want you to treat me like this, Jack. It makes me feel... like a kid. And I don't want to feel like a kid all the time."

Jack picked up the bottle and took another swig from it before he answered, "It's the way I am. I always wanted to protect you, to watch out for you. Now that you're a munchkin..."

"Ja-ack..."

"Right. A mini-you, it's even harder not to do it."

"Maybe we have to change the rules," Daniel said, thoughtful.

"Well, I'm open for suggestions."

"I want you to stop patronizing me. I know I said you could. But I changed my mind. It's not working. I don't want that anymore. If we argue, let's argue like we did before. No smacking, no groundings, no early bedtimes."

Jack raised his eyebrows at him. "Didn't you just say you deserved it?"

"Yes. But you would never have smacked my butt if I were an adult, right? And I am. I just don't look like one anymore," Daniel argued. “This is about respecting who I am. You wouldn't smack Sam's ass even if you'd feel like doing it, right? Because she's an adult.”

“I hate to break it to you, Daniel, but I hardly ever feel like smacking Carter. It's probably more the other way around.”

“Okay, fine, whatever. You wouldn't smack my ass if I was still big even if you wanted to.”

“Oh, I've been tempted on several occasions.” When Daniel opened his mouth to admonish Jack for being stupid, his guardian raised a finger to silence him. “Aht! You know there's a flaw in your little speech, dontcha?”

“There is?”

“You used to throw hissy fits when you were big, too. But you usually knew when to snap out of it. And you never ended up bawling your eyes out afterward. Besides, you're the one who asked me to stop you if it turned bad. Don't you hold that against me now, Daniel.”

“Maybe I was wrong.”

Jack took a deep breath. "O-kay. Then I suggest you start acting like an adult again. If you stop behaving like you need discipline, fine. I won't do it again. It's as simple as that."

"But you're always griping at me for stuff. I don't do my chores, I'm too cranky, I'm too untidy, I'm bratty. You're always mad at me lately. I'm fed up with it. I can do reasonable and calm. But you're not exactly easy to live with either, you know," Daniel objected, his light voice rising with irritation.

Jack let out an unhappy short laugh. "I'm not always mad at you. But you're fighting me every step of the way. You get up in the morning and pick something to argue about and on it goes all day. And I'm not willing to put up with it anymore. I'm sorry I spanked you in front of our friends. You have my word I won't do that again.”

“But?” Daniel asked rather aggressively.

“I'm going to stick to the rules we set up. And if you want to keep up the attitude you'll just have to continue to live with the consequences. I don't like this discipline-crap any more than you do. But you're asking for it.” Jack shook his head. “We need to find a way to live together without going insane."

Daniel surged to his feet. "Fine. Maybe I don't want to live with you under these circumstances."

"Daniel, don't …"

"Stop fathering me, Jack!"

"Stop being a brat, Daniel!"

 

 

They glared at one another, both seeing the anger and hurt in the other ones eyes. Neither of them was going to give in this time.

It was Jack who spoke first, still holding Daniel’s gaze. "This is as hard for me as it's for you. But we have to move on. I want to do this with you, Danny. But I can't if you don't work with me here. And I won't let you play games with me any longer."

Daniel felt his resistance fade. His bottom lip started to quiver and he lowered his head. He didn't want Jack to see he was at the verge of tears. But it was impossible to hide it. He could hear himself answer in that childish sobbing voice, "I don't play games, Jack. I'm trying... I don't know what to be. Don't know what we are. What I want us to be. I... felt okay, until the adoption came up. I'm sorry. I can't accept being this... kid."

He felt Jacks hands on his shoulders and raised his head to look at his friend.

"I want you to talk to me, Daniel. I can't read your mind. Don't slam doors and give me hell if something's wrong. Talk. You're a linguist. Act like one. I can't put up with this any longer. I'm sick of it. You used to trust me. This isn't about the adoption or about me. It's about you, Daniel. You don't want to accept what happened. You think you're the only one who has issues here? It's creeping me out big time, buddy.”

“The adoption makes it so real.”

“I know. And we may be able to change it back one day – or not. But right now it's real. And if we want to stay together, we have to try and be at least best friends again. I don't need to be your dad, Daniel. But as long as you act like you need one, I think we should just go with the flow."

"I don't want to need a dad," Daniel whispered.

"But maybe you should just give in to what you seem to need. Part of you is seven, like it or not. I'm willing to give. But you have to be willing, too."

Daniel shook his head. "No. Not like this."

"We were doing pretty well for a time. Was it that bad?"

"It was... I don't know."

Daniel finally gave in and leaned his head against Jack's chest. He rubbed his tired face against the fabric of Jack’s sweater to dry his tears. But it was of no use since fresh ones were already welling up his eyes.

There was a dark deep hole inside of him. It would never go away, never close. And right now Daniel wasn't sure about anything. He felt his adult self, the man he had been, falling apart and the kid wasn't able to pick up the pieces.

Jack carefully hugged him, and cradled the back of his head. Daniel let his tears flow as he allowed his friend to pick him up and carry him into the house.

He wished the device on that planet had taken his memories, too.