Little Difference

"What do you mean there's nothing you can do? There has to be something! We could go back to the planet Linea-"

"Isn't Linea anymore!" Jack yelled, shooting down Daniel’s last ditch attempt to bring an idea to the table. His patience had run out and he’d had enough. They’d been put through every test known to man, and quite possibly some unknown ones. The bottom line was… There was nothing they could do.

Jack abruptly turned his back to Dr Frasier, Daniel, Carter and Teal’c, and began pacing like a trapped predator at the far end of the infirmary. He reasoned that if he were going to break something he’d prefer it not be one of his team.

Daniel watched Jack go, he could feel his own anger building up inside of him, he wanted to lash out, stomp his feet and scream ‘this is so unfair!’ at the top of his lungs, but didn’t get the chance; before he could stop them tears were running down his cheeks.

Daniel knew they couldn’t do what he was implying. He’d fought long and hard convincing the others to reintroduce the memory blocking compound and let Linea go so she could live a new life as Ke’ra. They couldn't just go barging back there, demanding she become the destroyer of worlds for a third time, consequences be damned.

Feeling utterly helpless and completely humiliated Daniel swiped his face and leaned, head in hands, on the infirmary bed, squeezing his eyes tightly shut to prevent any more tears from escaping. He couldn’t see the looks being traded back and forth between his friends, didn’t really have to, but he could hear Sam doing her best to sound calm, and trying to comfort him by telling him everything would be okay, even though they both knew damn well it wouldn’t be. Someone else, who felt very far away from him at the moment, had their palm on his back squeezing his shoulder.

"I need to report to the General, I'll give you all a few minutes." Janet said quietly, letting her hand slide from Daniel’s shoulder she patted his back and left the room.

There was no more she could do, with the samples and research she had, some progress could be made, but it would take a dedicated team and possibly a lifetime to complete. That would be too late to help any of them.

"We can't bring Linea back, but maybe Ke’ra could help?" Sam offered. She had remained silent on the ideas front thus far, but after watching Janet check the blood work over and over again, the look she had given her before leaving the infirmary told Sam things were only going to get worst if they didn’t think of something, fast.

"Yes!” Daniel perked up, turning around to face the room at large, tears forgotten. “She found the antidote without her ‘Linea’ memories before, maybe she could find a way to reverse *this*." He said, tugging on his shirt.

"No!" Jack slapped his hand down on the metal tray next to him, causing the instruments to clink together before smashing to the floor, making both Sam and Daniel jump. "Going back to that planet is not an option at present. Got it?!"

Daniel didn’t get it, not at all. Jack was pissed off, that much was evident and though the loud angry voice being thrown his way should have frightened him, the way Daniel felt right now it only severed to annoy. "Why?"

"Don't *why* me Daniel!” Jack advanced toward him. Daniel stepped back, reacting without conscious thought. “You know damn well why we can't stroll over there and announce to the woman she's not who she thinks she is, and could she pretty please become a psychopathic megalomaniac all over again to help us out of this mess." He glared down at Daniel, back pressed against the bed, breathing heavy and fast.

Running both hands over his face into his hair Jack tried to calm himself down. He was still the team leader for crying out loud, he needed to set a good example. Losing it with Daniel, *especially* now, was not an option.

Taking a deep breath, Jack stood back and addressed his team. "I know this is going to be difficult," he stole a quick glance at Daniel still looking tense and scared, "but Doc says she’s not giving up. We need to have confidence that they'll be able to work this out." Jack surprised himself, finishing his speech with way more enthusiasm than he actually felt.

"That's pretty easy for you to say, Jack." Daniel, voice held steady, unfroze and headed for the exit.

"Daniel, where are you going?" Jack breathed out in a sigh. He was sorry, sorry for scaring him, wished he could take the moment back.

Daniel's only reply was to slam the exam room door closed on his way out.

Jack winced at the loud band. “That went well.” He said quietly to Carter and Teal’c, masking his guilt efficiently enough that no one could tell - for a second there - he had completely lost it. No one except Daniel.

“Daniel Jackson is not cleared to leave the infirmary.” Teal’c spoke for the first time since discussions began, the welfare of his friend being the only thing to distract him from his own unsettling predicament.

“Shouldn’t one of us go after him?” Sam asked uncomfortably when the Colonel never made a move, she didn’t want to state the obvious, but a child wandering around base unattended wasn’t going to go down well with the General.

“You can go after him in a minute, Carter.” Jack slumped dejectedly into the nearest chair. If Daniel needed some alone time to process their new, and rather unique, situation, so be it. For once, Jack wasn’t going to stand in his way.

Sam suddenly felt the need to sit down herself, turning her back for a moment she quickly sort out the nearest sturdy object and parked herself on it. "I'm sorry, Sir. I shouldn’t have gotten his hopes up like that."

"Not your fault, Major.” The Colonel said despondently. “I don't think it would matter what any of us said,” he pinched the bridge of his nose. “He's just scared."

Those last words echoed in Jack’s head, filling him with a dread he found he could relate to.

*

"Give it to me straight Doctor." General Hammond indicated Janet to take a seat when she entered his office.

"Sir, after extensive testing of the Vorlix compound-" Janet paused, throwing out all professionalism and losing the medical jargon, she decided to lay it out straight. "Sir, I'm no closer to finding a solution now than I was when we first encountered it. Linea was an extremely gifted individual with knowledge far beyond us. Like I said when we were developing the memory antidote the first time around… It could take years."

The General sat quite calmly considering the news, and for a minute didn’t say or do anything. Until, finally, he leaned back in his chair, unfolding his clasped hands. "So we need to concentrate on a more long term plan for SG-1."

"I'm not giving up on them, General." Janet said firmly.

"Of course not Doctor." George nodded.

Janet smiled, grateful that the General understood that even though things were not looking good, it wasn't hopeless. She immediately ploughed into her recommendations. "Well, as far as Teal'c is concerned, losing twenty odd years isn’t a lot to a Jaffa. He believes he feels the difference, and is quite disconcerted by it, but technically he’s still pushing eighty so..."

"So no reason it will effect his contributions to the SGC.” Hammond finished for her, glad that as far as something’s went the repercussions were minimal.

"As for Colonel O’Neill," Janet was more hesitant, but the General encourage her to continue, "I estimate him to be in his mid twenties. It's hard to pin point exactly, but at the moment he was happy to go with twenty-seven. Believe me that took some persuasion. He's none too happy, but I think he’ll adjust, and become more optimistic given time."

"Any concerns about his mental health?"

Janet brightened. "Actually, as long as Colonel O'Neill consents to regular evaluations I don't see any reason why he can't continue to work for the SGC in some capacity. He can continue with all his base responsibilities, I wouldn’t recommend off world travel just yet, but it could be a goal for the near future. The citizens of Vyus were in perfect health for their respective ages and showed no signs of side effects. As far as we know they were able to continue with their life’s’ as normal after everyone regained their memories."

"I'll take it under advisement Doctor." Hammond smiled, reassuring her he wasn't about to let one of his best officers go that easily.

When Janet turned the final folder over her heart skipped a beat. This one was a whole different matter. "Sir, I'm afraid I can't offer the same optimism about Dr Jackson."

"I expected as much." Hammond re-clasped his hands and sat a little straighter. “Please Doctor, continue.”

"I estimate Daniel's age AND mental state to be somewhere around eight or nine years. I have no basis for Daniel at that age due to sealed foster records and digging them up now may draw some unwanted attention. I don't feel it’s really necessary at the moment. Dr Cardini at the academy hospital has agreed to take a look at him and make an assessment. Daniel has retrieved his memories fine after taking Ke’ra’s amnesia antidote, just like the Colonel and Teal’c, but as you can imagine he is having a lot more trouble dealing with the situation." Janet closed the folder and stacked it neatly on top of the other two.

"A little adjustment time is to be expected surely."

"Yes of course, but Daniel's case is very different to Colonel O'Neill's and Teal'c's.” Janet tried to phrase it as delicately as possible. “He is a child, with all the typical child responses and capabilities. And the memories he has of himself, as an adult, will eventually cause him great stress. He can’t possible be able to process them fully or be expected to understand them.”

"What are you trying to say Doctor?"

Janet could see the General had no idea where she was going with this. “He isn't developed enough to carry that much information. I'm concerned his memories may eventually cause psychological damage. To be completely honest, if you want my opinion…?”

George nodded, “of course.”

“The best chance Daniel will have is if he takes the Vorlix compound again and forgets everything. Essentially he’ll be starting his life over."

Hammond nearly choked. "There's no alternative?"

"His mental status will only deteriorate otherwise."

"I can't see him consenting, can you?"

"Well that's the catch… I don't believe he is capable of making this decision. He may remember being older, but his mind is that of a child with a child's thought capacity."

Hammond grudgingly agreed. "I believe Colonel O'Neill is listed as Dr Jackson's next of kin, I’ll inform him of your recommendations and we'll arrange a meeting to discuss the matter further."

Janet stood to leave. "Thank you, Sir. For now, I suggest placing SG-1 on restricted duty rather than retiring the team completely.”

General Hammond nodded, for the time being he would keep hope alive and pray that the science team assigned to the Vorlix project be worth every damn penny the Air Force was paying them.

*

Jack and Teal'c were still in the lab when Janet returned from her meeting, but when she walked in the infirmary she noticed one person absent immediately.

"Where's Daniel?"

"He ran out not long after you left. Carter went after him; she'll make sure he doesn't get into any trouble," Jack tried to sound jovial, but failed - miserably.

Janet paused a second, not liking the idea of Daniel running off, but not exactly in a position to do anything about it at the moment.

"Well, I met with General Hammond." She finally announced.

"And? What's the verdict?" Jack asked impatiently.

"He has agreed with my prognosis for the most part and has agreed to let you continue working within the SGC." Janet smiled at the relief on both men’s faces.

"YES!" Jack punched the air.

"With conditions." Janet added hastily.

"Which are?"

"Teal'c, as far as you're concerned you are perfectly healthy and can continue as normal. Any side effects and you come straight to me. Okay?”

“Indeed,” Teal’c produced what could only be described as a smile.

“Colonel, I've recommended you be assigned light duties for the time being and you should agree to see the base psychiatrist once a week. Then after a certain test period, dependant on the General’s decision, you should be back on active duty without bars."

"That's surprisingly good news Doc." Jack smiled his first real smile since the incident. Even the news about seeing the shrink wasn’t going to dampen his spirits.

"We WILL continue to work on the problem of course, but as I said, it'll take time." She smiled a sad, but hopeful smile, one full of promise that she would not rest until the answer was found. "In the meantime I've recommended SG-1 be taken off the roster, but keeping your base duties. You'll still be a team Colonel."

"Thank you.” It meant a lot to him that she realised the importance of them keeping their team status. He hesitated. “What about Daniel?"

Janet's smile disappeared; she didn't want this conversation again.

"As I'm sure you are aware Daniel's situation is a little more… complex."

"Little being the operative word." Jack sneered. Janet gave him what could only be described as a filthy look. Making Jack feel like a complete heel. "I'm sorry, but for cryin' out loud, you've seen him, he's barely four feet tall and as for his behaviour..."

"I know Colonel, believe me. But as I've explained to General Hammond and to Daniel, you are the ages you are mentally as well as physically - despite retrieving your memories. I've made my recommendation to the General regarding the situation and he wants to talk to you about it."

Jack grimaced, he knew without even asking exactly what the Doc would be recommending.

Janet could see it in his face that he already knew what she had recommended. "I'm afraid there is no alternative, Colonel. Daniel can’t possibly live by himself.”

“Yeah, and?”

“And he’ll need some kind of parental guidance, no matter what he thinks. He has all the mental and emotional behaviourisms of your average first grader."

"He isn't going to like it." Jack stated flatly. Hell he didn't like it, didn't want to even think of his friend doing the kid thing all over again.

Janet kept quiet about her other plans for Daniel. She knew the Colonel would flip a lid because he'd never be able to see Daniel again. She needed the General to convince him it was their only choice AND in Daniel's best interests. Indicating towards the door Jack followed her out casting a glance at Teal'c's rather solemn features as he left.

*

Sam tightened her arms around the small boy huddled in the corner of the dark storeroom. Shivers raked through his body along with each breath-consuming sob. She'd never considered herself to be brilliant with children, but she’d had enough experience to know how to treat them when they were upset. Stroking the fine hair away from Daniel’s cheek she waited until the tears dried up before trying to talk.

"Feel any better?"

"No." Although the word was abrupt, Daniel made no move to escape the hold Sam had around him.

"I'm sorry Daniel." Sam spoke again.

"What for?" Daniel lifted his head just an inch to catch a glimpse of her face.

Sam looked down onto the tear-stained cheeks and smiled sadly. "I should have been with you guys." Remorse filled her tone for the fact that she wasn't around to help when her team was in trouble.

"Don't be. If you were with us you'd be in a similar situation to me right now." Daniel sniffed before continuing. "You're not - weren't - that much older than me, remember?" Another sniff, "I just feel so useless, and extremely stupid."

Sam didn't say anything to that. Daniel was embarrassed enough, anything she said would no doubt only serve to cause more discomfort. Instead she offered a comforting squeeze before releasing him completely and standing up.

"They'll send me away."

"You don't know that." Sam replied immediately.

"But you do." Daniel looked up just as Sam offered her hand to help him stand.

Uncrossing his legs Daniel stood with Sam’s help, his height bringing him level with her navel.

Sam looked down into his young expressive features and found she had no answer she wanted to give. "Let’s go back to the infirmary before Colonel O’Neill starts a search party." Sam held out her hand again, and, surprising her, Daniel took it without hesitating. They left the storage room together, Daniel wiping away his tears on the back of his shirtsleeve.

*

"I'm afraid there is no alternative. Daniel can’t live by himself.”

Sam cringed inwardly when she heard the voices, realising too late that Daniel had heard them as well. Like a flash Daniel tore out of her grip and ran off back down the corridor they had just walked up together.

"Daniel, wait!" Sam called after him fruitlessly. She turned back to look at the bewildered faces of the Colonel and Janet.

"Carter?"

"He heard enough, Sir," she conceded sadly.

"Damn it," Jack cursed as he gave chase, leaving Sam and Janet behind.

Jack caught up with Daniel quicker than he’d expected, he grabbed Daniel from behind and lifted him up from the waist, pinning him against his chest. Daniel was kicking with all his strength, but Jack didn't yell at him like he so badly wanted to, instead as gently as Daniel would allow, Jack turned him around and pressed Daniel’s face onto his shoulder holding his head down, muffling the crying and sobbing as best he could. Jack gave all the onlookers icy glares, promising them all reassignment to the Antarctic if they didn't move on toot sweet.

"It's okay. You’re going to be okay. You hear me Daniel?" Jack spoke softly once the crying eased up. He began to walk back down the corridor towards Sam and Janet, with Daniel wrapped around him like a tiny blanket.

"I don't want to leave." Daniel mumbled in a low, tear filled voice. "I want to stay here, with you."

Jack hushed him, and re-entering the infirmary made him a promise. “I’m not going to make you do anything you don't want to do."
Part 2
Jack had been nice enough not to be his usual crass self, and instead of teasing him or yelling at him for being childish, Jack had let him cry until Daniel thought he had no tears left. Then, once over the humiliation of his outburst, Daniel decided it best to plead his case to General Hammond while he still had most of his wits about him. Jack had offered to go with him, but Daniel believed this was something he needed to do alone, plus the trip up to the General’s office allowed him the time to pull himself together and escape the concerned, yet no less intruding gazes, of all his friends.

“Now Son, I know this may not have been what you wanted to hear but...”

“General, I won’t do it.” Daniel braced himself on the large chair, letting his legs swing freely beneath the seat.

General Hammond sat back in his seat, a forced grin on his face, proving that Daniel was pushing it. “Son I’m afraid the decision may not be up to you.”

“Why?” Daniel crossed his arms over his chest and lifted his chin in a show of defiance.

“Dr Jackson �“ Daniel, you have to admit you may not be considering the bigger picture here. Now you’ve read Dr Fraiser’s report and are aware of her concerns. This course of action is in your best interest.”

“No.”

“Daniel-“

“No! No! No! No!”

“You do realise there is a perfectly logical reason children are not allowed to make their own decisions don’t you?”

Daniel slit his eyes and pouted, not once losing eye contact with the large balding man sat across from him. “You’re saying that you would make me take the compound even if I don’t want it?”

“I’m saying that if Doctor Fraiser believes it necessary she can override your decision and give your next of Kin power of Attorney.”

“I don’t have a next of kin �“ I don’t have ANY family.” Daniel’s pout turned into a lip tremble rather quickly and the General started to wonder if the young boy in front of him was going to burst into tears.

“Colonel O’Neill is listed as your next of kin Dr Jackson.” George reassured him.

Daniel blinked a few times, looking almost dazed. “Jack,” he said finally.

“That’s correct.”

“No, I mean Jack can look after me.”

“Excuse me?” George looked up and across and saw that Daniel was being quite serious.

“I can stay with Jack. You said it wasn’t an option for me to live on my own or remain on base, that Doctor Fraiser insists an “adult” take responsibility for me.”

“That’s correct, but…”

“But what? Jack isn’t going to be on active duty for a while is he? I mean he got zapped too, but he IS still an adult despite losing a few years, so technically, he could be my guardian, then I wouldn’t have to take the compound because security wouldn’t be an issue and I already know Jack, so-“

“Son, its not just security we have issues with.” George managed to interrupt the constant flow of words. “Dr Fraiser is very concerned about how all this is affecting you.”

Daniel felt his eyes start to well up again; the General wasn’t listening. Throughout his whole tirade he’d sat behind his desk with an indulgent smile on his face. Like Daniel was just some silly little kid who had no idea what was going on around him.

“General?” Daniel fought to keep his voice steady. He saw Hammond straighten a little and knew he was failing. “I don’t think you understand. I really don’t want this. I don’t want to forget who I really am. Please don’t make me forget.”

Daniel spoke with such conviction George couldn’t think of a good enough reason to inflict that kind of pain on him, not if he truly didn’t want it.

“Alright son, I’ll talk to Jack.”

*

“He said that?” Jack asked the General in complete disbelief. He’d known Daniel was having a hard time of it and wasn’t completely himself, but Jack didn’t think he’d regressed that much.

General Hammond sat behind his desk with sense of ease Jack envied at times like this. After a fortnight of being twenty-seven again Jack still didn’t recognise the reflection in his bathroom mirror. Yet here was the General, talking to a Jack O’Neill with no grey hair or age lines and he didn’t even bat an eyelid.

“Jack I won’t force this on you, you have enough on your plate at the moment and if you want to give Dr Fraiser full power of Attorney over Dr Jackson no one will question it.”

“No, I promised him, I promised he didn’t have to do anything he didn’t want to and I know he doesn’t want this.” Jack reiterated calmly.

“He’s just a little boy Jack… I honestly don’t think he knows what he wants.” George didn’t want to see Daniel leave them any more than his team did, but he also didn’t want Jack feeling like he didn’t have a choice.

“He knows he doesn’t want this, he’s already been down that road.” Jack’s tone was harsh, angry at what he had let become of his team. “Besides… he belongs with us.”

“This is a little different Jack, if you decide to take him on it would be a lot of hard work, and I’m talking about emotional more than physical.” The General was well aware Jack was capable of looking after a child, but he wanted Jack to see that Daniel wasn’t exactly going to be an average, happy, well adjusted child, if he ever had been to start with.

Jack thought about what the General was trying to say. He was giving him an out. If he wasn’t up to playing Dad no one was going to hold it against him, not even Daniel.

That’s when it hit.

George had begun to think Jack had changed his mind, judging by his silence, but managed to surprise him when Jack started to talk.

“When I first met Daniel I just considered him a pain in the ass and wanted rid ASAP, but then I got to know him, and as the cliché goes - to know him is to love him.” Jack smiled crookedly. “After working with him on my team I’ve realised that beneath all that intellect and determination there’s a scared little kid who not too many people have cared about.” Jack could see his speech wasn’t convincing the General this was for the best. “He is still Daniel Sir, no matter what he looks or acts like.”

“Very well Jack, if you’re sure.” George relented.

“Thank you, Sir.” Jack knew he was doing the right thing. He couldn’t abandon Daniel like everyone else, especially knowing Daniel had requested him to be his guardian without hesitation.

“For a trial period Jack.” George reminded him. Daniel will need to check in with Dr Fraiser and see the base psychiatrist once a week. If she believes Daniel’s health and well being is at risk she can override your decision.”

“Understood,” Jack nodded, thanking the General as he left the office to tell Daniel the good news.

Walking quickly out the door and down the stairs Jack began to ponder on exactly what life was going to be like with the new role adjustment, how they would deal with the differences. Try as he might Jack really couldn’t think of one. Daniel was closer than just a friend, Jack had felt responsible for him since day one, and worried about him constantly. How was now going to be any different?

Putting his strange revelations to one side for the time being Jack turned his mind to more practical things, like if they were really going to do this Daniel was going to need clothes, he couldn’t spend the next god knows how long wandering around in adjusted BDU’s.

“Get your gear together Daniel, you’re coming home with me.” Jack announced as he walked into the infirmary, where Daniel was being guarded by Teal’c, Dr Fraiser and two SF’s. Overkill in Jack’s opinion, but then again, it was Daniel �“ who knew what that mind of his would be concocting in the event things didn’t go his way.

“Sir?” Janet’s tone was full of indignation. She was too polite to ask if he’d lost his mind.

“Teal’c can you find Daniel something descent to wear while I talk to doc, then call Carter, tell her I need her female intuition.” Jack said as he backed himself into the doc’s office, Janet preceding him and shutting the door before launching - loudly - into the numerous reasons why this was a very bad idea.

Daniel could still hear them yelling, so the point was pretty mute.

“You know I feel like a normal kid already, they’re already fighting over me.” Daniel commented idly to Teal’c, who was sat in the chair next to the infirmary bed he was lounging on. “You should probably file for visitation rights with Janet now, while she’s still in a reasonably good mood.”

“I will take that under advisement Daniel Jackson. What task is it that Colonel O’Neill would require Major Carter’s female intuition?” Teal’c asked looking down on the small boy he had been requested, by the General himself, not to take his eyes off for a second.

“I don’t know, but whatever it is I wouldn’t tell Sam that’s why Jack asked for her. She’d probably maim him for the most undoubtedly sexist assumption.”

The SF at the door regarded the child with extreme uncertainty, but then he didn’t know who Daniel really was, Teal’c merely raised an eyebrow and said, “Indeed.”

*

By the time Jack, Sam and Teal’c arrived at Jack’s house Daniel had given in and finally fallen asleep. Having very carefully removed him from the car, Jack balanced Daniel in one arm while unlocking the house, leaving Sam and Teal’c to bring in the shopping bags.

Making his way into the dark house Jack selectively turned on the lights, making the room just bright enough not to trip over anything. He moved toward the sofa and gently lowered Daniel down.

“What’s going on?” Daniel’s sleepy voice enquired.

“Shhh, go back to sleep Daniel.” Jack whispered as he stood leaning over him to put on the lamp.

“Am not a baby, Jack.” Daniel whined with pure indignation at the tone Jack was using and, despite wanting nothing more than to do as Jack said, he sat up and tried to force himself awake.

“Of course you’re not.” Jack stood over him, glaring as Daniel attempted to remain sat upright while rubbing his tired eyes.

“Okay, that’s everything.” Sam walked into the living room, followed closely by Teal’c.

She looked at the level of concentration on the Colonel’s face and was momentarily puzzled, that was until she followed his gaze and found a half asleep Daniel on the receiving end. Teal’c watched as his, now small, team-mate seemed to list from side to side, unable to maintain his balance. When it looked like he was going to fall off the sofa a sudden shake of the small head was all it took to force the tired blue eyes open once more.

It was after the third near nosedive off the sofa that Jack finally decided enough was enough. Moving forward in one swift motion Jack grabbed Daniel by the waist and carried him through to what was to be his bedroom for the duration.

“I don’t want to go to bed. I’m not tired.” Daniel mumbled into his pillow as Jack dropped him onto his bed.

“Of course you’re not.”

“You said I didn’t have to do anything I didn’t want to.” Daniel said without opening his eyes.

“You’re here aren’t you?” Jack shot back while removing tiny shoes. “I’m looking after you. That’s what you asked Hammond for, right?”

“Yeah,” Daniel nodded tiredly again.

“Well then,” Jack waited for a smart-ass reply, but one never came. “Good night, Daniel.” Jack tucked the cover over Daniel, letting his hand rest in his hair a little longer than necessary before backing out and closing the door.

*

Sam and Teal’c stayed for dinner after Jack had put Daniel to bed. It was late, but given the events of the passed couple of weeks a little relaxation was more than deserved. Before today there had always been this idea that their condition was temporary, but now the reality that they weren’t going to be restored to their rightful ages anytime soon had started settling in and Jack was finding himself at loss as to how to deal with it. Teal’c had taken himself out back to kel-no-reem, feeling that Junior was not accepting the changes very well, and Sam had seen this as a good opportunity to break out the booze she had brought along with the groceries.

"Kids need boundaries." Jack said. They’d been batting around ideas of how to deal with Daniel’s less than co-operative attitude for half a bottle of Chianti. It ensured Jack didn’t have to talk about his own situation.

"Yes and how to you think some parents enforce those boundaries?" Sam said sternly, swishing the wine in her glass.

"Well...Oh," yes, he couldn’t really see him disciplining Daniel in the same way as a normal child, but then he got the feeling Carter was talking about another level of discipline entirely.

"Yeah, I don't know any details about him and that exactly,” she whispered, voice coy, “but I’d of thought it was starkly obvious."

"Not to me it wasn't."

"Really?" Sam said in a sigh

"Okay, okay, no. I've known five year olds less insecure than Daniel."

"I'm not saying he’s starved of affection, but you've seen the way he is when anyone even hints that they care about him-"

"He has this look of complete utter disbelief."

They both laughed.

"I guess I had noticed - it was just none of my business." Jack said into his empty glass.

"Well it’s our business now." Sam said refilling it.

"Right." Jack replied tightly and took a big gulp.

Sam sighed again. "This wasn't exactly how I envisioned my first taste of motherhood."

Jack looked up, surprised by the comment. "You’re doing fine." He assured her before pushing on, "I hadn't envisioned another kid in my future either - actually that's a lie.” He laughed. “I feel like I’ve always had Daniel to look after."

"I know what you mean." She agreed, filling her own glass and slumping back in the chair.

"Only he's a lot shorter now." Jack chuckled and started Sam off again.

Screaming coming from the direction of the hallway abruptly interrupted the good mood. Jack was the first to respond, jumping up, nearly forgetting about the glass in his hand. Sam was going to follow, but the frantic crying and shouting soon stopped and she could hear the colonel talking. His tone was low, but playful, sounding nothing like the dejected man sat before her moments ago. Sam decided to remain and wait. Minutes passed by and she'd nearly fallen asleep right there in the uncomfortable chair when Jack returned, a blanket in his arms. The blanket wriggled. Not a blanket or not just a blanket, Daniel was wrapped up inside it.

"I could have walked you know," Daniel said, more for show than want, settling in Jack’s lap without qualm the minute the Colonel retook his seat.

Jack ignored the whine for what it was and made idle conversation. "You know I should really requisition Hammond for new chairs in this room."

“Yeah, I wasn’t going to say anything.” Sam said, taking a sip from her glass.

"I'm tired." Daniel mumbled absently.

"Then go to sleep." Jack said.

"I can't."

"Why not?"

Daniel just shrugged, refusing to answer. Looking over at Sam for suggestions Jack could tell she was just as perplexed as he was. Jack settled for simply running his hand through Daniel's hair, since he was already snuggled securely up against him, he didn't see it hurting any. To both their surprise Daniel didn't mutter a word of objection, his eyelids slid shut on the third stroke and soon enough he was asleep in the Colonel’s arms.

“This is odd.” Jack paused and looked over at her. “Don’t you think?”

“It’s definitely surreal.” Sam answered.

"You know I've never met any kid this messed up."

"He's not really a kid."

"You could have fooled me."

*

"You said I didn't have to do anything I didn't want to do!" Daniel thrust his finger at Jack accusingly.

"I was obliviously talking about the big stuff Daniel, taking a bath and eating your dinner is not optional." Jack yelled back.

"I. Don’t. Want to!” Daniel punched the air with each word.

"Don't push it. You are seven years old and supposed to do as you're parents tell you."

"I'm NINE and my parents are dead." Daniel sneered back, crossing his arms.

"Well I've got news for you.” Jack bent down and lent menacingly into Daniel’s personally space. “Hammond has officially put you in my care, so therefore I'm your parent and you will do as you're told." Jack said dangerously calm before walking away.

"Jack, that's not fair!" Daniel followed after him.

"I'm not above corporal punishment Daniel." Jack said breezily.

"You wouldn't dare." Daniel narrowed his eyes, challenging Jack, which deep down he knew was a bad idea since Jack had threatened him with this many times before all this shrinking business happened.

"Oh wouldn't I? I could have those pants round your ankles and butt across my lap in the time it takes Carter to confuse the hell out of me." Jack took a menacing step toward Daniel just to drive his point home.

Daniel's eyes widened at the implication Jack would consider following through with his threat, and in front of an audience. Mortified, he caved and begrudgingly stomped his way past Jack into the bathroom.

Jack could only smile in triumph, no matter how temporary it was.

"I am impressed O'Neill, I did not believe you would succeed." Teal'c, who had been watching the scene unfold from the kitchen, congratulated Jack on his success.

"He's still Daniel Teal’c. I've had enough practice over the years." Jack smirked before following after him.

"Truce?" Jack poked his head around the bathroom door, hands raised in surrender.

"I'm not talking to you." Daniel snapped icily, trying to remove his top and getting it caught over his head.

Jack rolled his eyes and sighed. He stepped all the way in and knelt down in front of Daniel to assist with the top.

Daniel sighed too. "I hate this."

"I know." Jack said, discarding the top by throwing it to one side.

"I want to be a grown up again. I'm such a clumsy kid." Daniel muttered to the bathroom room floor.

"You were a clumsy adult too." Daniel narrowed his eyes and tried to look menacing, Jack just laughed.

"You know Janet’s working on it." Jack chastised, knowing what was constantly on Daniel’s mind nowadays. He, on the other hand, was actually quite enjoying Daniel at seven.

"I know." Daniel huffed melodramatically.

After a long silence where Jack waited as Daniel stripped the rest of his clothes, Daniel climbed into the bath.

"Don’t you find this weird?" Daniel asked, picking up the sponge and dropping in into the warm water

"What?" Jack had been in a daze.

"You’re sat watching me take a bath. Don't you find that the slightest bit odd?" Daniel asked incredulous.

"Surprisingly, no, but then I've had to bathe you before anyway, remember when-”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah don’t remind me.” Daniel cut him off before he could be embarrassed any further, if that was even possible.

“Sometimes it feels that the *only* thing that's changed is your size.” Jack finished.

"I find it weird." Daniel continued. He didn't want to think about those ‘other times’ Jack had mentioned. Those thoughts not only spurred up memories of sarcophagus’s and mental institutions, but also brought on nightmares. Horrible nightmares that made his heart stop beating and his blood freeze. Mere thoughts of Hathor always managed to send him into a spiral he was unable to break. The feel of her as she leaned into him, kissed him, hurt him when he tried to resist.

Suddenly water filled his lungs, he tried to open his eyes but couldn't, they were stinging so much, trapped in blackness and surrounded by water he thrashed wildly.

"Daniel, knock it off it’s okay, I’m sorry, it's only water."

Daniel felt something move over his face, when it was gone he discovered he could open his eyes. His breathing was harsh as he took deep breaths to calm himself down, he could feel tears welling up in his eyes, but hid them by quickly swiping at his face with a wet cloth.

"What's wrong?"

"Nothing,” he said quickly. “You were washing my hair?" Daniel asked, taking in the fact that Jack was on his knees next to the tub with the shampoo in his hands.

"Yes, it needs washing at least once a week if you insist on keeping it all,” Jack snapped. “You were saying about it being weird and then went all silent. I figured the quicker we got this over with the better."

"I'm sorry."

"No need. I can relate...sort of. I'm not exactly myself either you know." Jack smiled, showing off his impressively wrinkle free face.

"You do look rather good - for forty-seven." Daniel smiled back mischievously. "But that's not what I meant, I didn't... I mean I wasn't quiet because I think this is weird - I do think its weird, but that's not the point."

"It isn't?" Jack deadpanned.

"No. I kind of drifted off for a second and remembered about a dream I had last night. I dreamt of Hathor."

Jack froze, then reached out one soap-sudded hand and ran it through Daniel's wet hair. Daniel bit into his bottom lip as his body started to shake, before he could protest he was being lifted up out of the water and wrapped in a warm towel.

*

Jack was in the kitchen, helping himself to a cold beer out the fridge when Daniel reappeared. Dressed in blue pyjamas and his hair still wet Daniel looked at him from around the fridge door and smiled. Then without saying a word plodded on into the living room. Jack watched him go, stalling a second before going after him.

Sam and Teal’c had left an hour ago, Jack assuring them he’d cope alone for tonight. He believed Daniel would appreciate the privacy, or as much as he could afford in any case. The fire in the living room was crackling, lights slightly dimmed and TV on low. A quiet breeze was building up outside, whistling around the house, a storm brewing in the distance.

"What were you doing when you were really twenty-seven?"

Jack looked down at Daniel, squashed as far as possible into the far corner of the sofa. He hadn’t stepped more than one foot into the room before Daniel accosted him with the odd question. Not being sure if this was some deep meaning kind of thing or if Daniel was just curious and wanted to pass the time by avoiding talk of what happened in the bathroom, Jack thought carefully over his response. Somehow it seemed too personal to be an avoidance thing. Daniel just didn't do personal, mainly because you usually had to reciprocate in kind. That led Jack to believe Daniel wanted to tell him something, but wasn’t comfortable until he’d told *him* something first. Jack’s head was spinning just thinking it out. He didn’t know how Daniel coped.

"Well,” Jack started, throwing caution to the wind, "I was a captain in the Air Force."

"Already?" Daniel blurted in surprise.

"Yeah, my first black-ops mission was back in ‘78.” Jack crossed the room and lowered himself down on the opposite end of the sofa. “I can’t really tell you anymore than that.”

Daniel shifted slightly closer to Jack, but said nothing.

Jack took the bait and broke the staring contest. “So what were you doing at the grand age of,” Jack pretended to think, “seven?”

"Nine." Daniel contradicted immediately.

"Right of course. Very Sorry." The sarcasm wouldn’t be lost on anyone, but Daniel let it slide just this once.

"I was living in New York."

"That's it?" Jack asked, mildly disappointed that Daniel wasn’t going to share any more.

"Pretty much." Daniel nodded, looking nothing but complacent.

“Huh.” Jack leaned back, cushioning his head with his hands.

“What?”

“Nothing, you just don’t strike me as the New Yorker type.”

Daniel stared at his feet, which, stretched out, only just dangled over the edge of the sofa. “Well my parents had died a year before; I eventually moved to a foster home in Brooklyn.”

“Nice people?” Jack asked casually.

“Yeah, I guess.”

“Why eventually?”

Daniel let a small chuckle escape. “I started off my foster care experience like most Orphans and traumatised children �“ a group home.”

“Sounds…” Jack was stuck, and wished he hadn’t been so eager to be in this alone.

“It was different, but I got used to it.” Daniel nodded, assuring Jack that he wasn’t looking for anything from him.

Jack turned and looked at Daniel, “You never talk about your family.”

“I don’t know much about them. I remember very little about my parents �“ they loved their work. My grandfather decided not to adopt me and I went into the foster system. Believe it or not, you, Sam and Teal’c have spent more time listening to me and shown more of an interest in me than anyone I’m actually related to.”

Well when Jack was right he was RIGHT. Never in the past three years had he heard Daniel talk so candid or admit that something personal pissed him off. It was refreshing in one sense, but a stark reminder that Daniel was not his usual self.

"You don't look much different you know." Jack mused, changing the subject, and taking a good look at Daniel for the first time since the infirmary.

"Thanks, I'll remember that when all this is over."

"Arh, c'mon. Your face never did lose those baby cheeks, your hairs like it was when we first met. Aside from the few feet in height missing I'd swear you're the same person."

"I am the same person, just in a smaller body." Daniel refuted.

Jack huffed; it was time to have 'the talk' again. "Daniel, you know what Doc said."

"Yes I know what Janet said, but it's not going to happen."

"You sound very sure."

"I am." Daniel said, anything but.

"You’re already changing." Jack whispered sullenly.

Daniel opened his month to speak, but closed it again without saying anything. Jack decided it was best not to push too much all at once. Daniel didn't want to hear it - which should be a sign to anyone that he was not dealing well. But then Jack couldn’t really say much different about himself now could he?

Jack was staring at the coffee table trying to think of something intelligent to say when he felt two small hands grip his shirt. Daniel, having crawled silently along the sofa was now kneeling at his side, focusing intently, as if measuring him up. It was making Jack rather nervous.

“Daniel?”

Daniel smiled and moved both arms from his shirt to wrap loosely around Jack’s neck. "You know I never realised how much older than me you are."
Part 3
Jack had just got into bed, collapsing haphazardly on top of the covers. He’d had an awful day full of meetings and report writing, light duties his ass! On top of that Fraiser had chewed him out after she discovered Daniel rifling through her storage cupboard looking for chocolate. It wasn’t his fault Daniel was a little shit who never did as he was told and thought his only purpose in life was to out smart everyone. Yeah, Jack was currently his legal guardian, but Daniel was already like this before Jack got hold of him. How the hell was he supposed to change him now? He was a US Air Force Colonel - not God.

Rolling these thoughts and several others along the same line through his mind, Jack closed his eyes and slowly drifted into a peaceful sleep - which lasted what felt like all of ten seconds. A short scream emanated from across the hall, quickly followed by full-blown crying and wailing. Jack sighed deep in his throat. He remembered the first night Daniel had stayed with him. Every five minutes Jack had dashed out of bed in a flash running into Daniel’s room wondering what the hell the matter was. All sorts of scenarios running through his head, from NID goons to the more mundane kiddie things, like monsters under the bed. In the end he had resolved to bring Daniel back to his room to sleep since Jack had lost so much energy after the sixth time that he didn’t want to risk falling so deeply into sleep that he’d not have the energy to get up if Daniel needed him again.

Things had calmed down considerably since that first night. Daniel had spent most of his first week in Jack’s room, by the end of week two Jack had managed to wean him off that bit of co-dependency and he’d been sleeping well in his own room ever since. He’d still have the odd rough night though, and that was what tonight seemed set out to be �“ a rough night for both of them.

Jack lifted himself back out of bed as quickly as his tired aching body would let him. He may well look twenty-something, but he god damn well felt all of his forty-seven years, and then some. Jack had had plenty of practice at this over the past who knew how long it had been now, so calmly padded out into the hall, letting a yawn breach his features as he spoke in a sleepy voice.

“It’s okay Daniel. I’m coming, calm down…hey shhh.” He added as he opened Daniel’s door and went straight toward the small figure sat up in the middle of the bed.

Daniel continued to cry out something that was too drowned out by hiccupping tears for Jack to make sense of. He didn’t really need to know the exact details, it was clear Daniel had had another nightmare come flashback and, as recent events had taught him, the best thing to do was get Daniel calmed down and back to sleep before he had a chance to dwell on it. Daniel always preferred to talk about it in the morning, when he could analyse and put the memory into proper context like a grown up. Right now Daniel was vulnerable, and despite the fact that he wasn’t really a child, he needed to be treated like one on occasion. Jack was willing to do that for him.

“Come on, let’s go. Jack has had an unbelievable day and just wants to sleep.” Jack talked more to himself than to Daniel as he picked him up from the bed, balancing him on his hip to walk out of the small room and back into his, much more spacious, bedroom.

Dropping Daniel onto his bed, Jack turned momentarily to flick off the switch then returned to fall, once again, under his own sheets. Daniel had stopped crying, opting instead to stare intently at Jack lying on his side, eyes at half-mast.

“You okay?” Jack asked seriously.

Daniel nodded, Jack wasn’t convince, he thought Daniel looked a little stunned and became worried this was something more than the usually nightmares.

“Daniel?” Jack questioned, cautiously shifting into a sitting position and tapping his thigh.

Daniel knew what Jack wanted and didn’t hesitate in sitting up and moving onto Jack’s knee. “You died.” He whispered before resting his head on Jack’s chest while fingering the edge of his t-shirt.

“What?” Jack said more harshly then intended. His sleep deprived brain ordering him to rephrase.

Daniel moved his thumb to his mouth and pretended to sleep.

“Hey!” Jack jerked him slightly to get his attention, taking the small face in his, noticeably larger, palm he turned it in his direction. “I’m not dead Daniel.” Jack said firmly.

Silent tears started to roll down Daniel’s cheeks. Jack’s second wind didn’t last long and he could feel sleep pulling at him once again. Deciding it was unlikely he’d get much from Daniel tonight he moved them both back down on the bed, still holding Daniel tight Jack pulled the covers up and spoke softly into Daniel’s hair. “Go to sleep.”

Daniel closed his eyes and fell to sleep in Jacks arms, still holding onto his t-shirt, tears still marking his soft cheeks. Jack breathed another deep sigh before closing his own eyes. He kept his hold on Daniel tight for the remainder of the night.

*

“Teal’c is that you?”

“Indeed it is O’Neill.”

“What the hell are you doing in my bedroom? And how in hell did you get in my house?” Jack added as he rubbed the sleep from his eyes noticing the sunlight filtering in through the open curtains.

“General Hammond sent Major Carter and I to ascertain everything was…okay. He was concerned when you did not report in this morning and Major Carter was worried because you did not answer your telephone. It is now nearly 12:00. She is not pleased.” Teal’c stated empathetically.

“I bet.” Jack drawled sarcastically attempting to sit up, but struggling with the added weight on his chest. “You said she’s here?”

“Major Carter is waiting in your living area. She did not want to intrude if you were not properly attired.”

Jack realised the weight holding him down was a still fast asleep Daniel. It seemed the poor kid was just as tired as Jack had been. Moving to get his legs out of bed Jack realised he was still dressed from the previous day, he couldn’t remember much of last night after finally getting to bed so he simply shrugged it off deciding that was one less thing he had to do today.

“Grab him will you T?” Jack said over his shoulder as he padded out of the bedroom and toward the kitchen.

Teal’c didn’t say anything further. He moved toward the bed, picking Daniel up in one secure, swift movement, and carried him into the living room.

“Sir, we’ve been worried sick!” Sam shouted the minute she saw the Colonel.

Jack waved his hand as if to silence her, her first thought was that he was hung over and just as she was about to bawl him out Teal’c appeared with Daniel fast asleep in his arms. She promptly shut her mouth, swallowing any remark she was going to make.

“Bad night?” Sam asked instead.

“Bad night.” Jack confirmed standing by the slowly brewing coffee pot.

“I’ll let the General know you’re okay and we’ll be a little late getting back.” Sam offered, wanting to make up for the yelling, when he’d obviously had a rather difficult night looking after Daniel.

“Carter…that would be great.” He threw a smile in her direction. Jack was still tired. He may have slept the better part of the day away, but he certainly didn’t feel any better for it.

“Is Daniel Jackson all right O’Neill?” Teal’c question as he settled the boy more comfortably in his arms. Daniel’s stillness was concerning the Jaffa. He could not recall seeing Daniel so subdued before.

“I think so Teal’c,” Jack paused not sure whether to mention what happen last night or not. “He had a nightmare, said I died.” He looked first to Sam then to Teal’c to gage their reactions.

“Well that could be any number of memories he has.”

“It’s Daniel who has the rep as the come back kid remember, not me. I can’t think what he could have possibly been thinking about,” Jack said, reaching in the fridge for something easy to eat on the road.

“Well it could be a memory of you being injured, and in the dream it seemed like you died.”

“Or?” Jack could sense there was an ‘or’, Carter always had an ‘or’.

“Or it could just have been a simple nightmare, derived from nothing more than his imagination or several memories overlapping.” At Jack’s none too convinced face she continued. “Sir, you are and always have been an important figure in Daniels life, he’s probably scared about something happening to you, it’s only natural that he might have nightmares where you’d be killed and he’d be alone. Daniel probably had them as an adult, you just wouldn’t have known about them.”

“Huh,” was all Jack could say. It was an interesting theory and she was probably right, though Jack figured this should be a conversation to have with Daniel at the earliest opportunity. “I’m going to get him dressed and then we’ll head to the mountain, he can have breakfast there.”

Jack walked passed Sam and back down the hallway, Teal’c following in his wake with the still fast asleep Daniel in his arms.

*

"Colonel, glad to see you're okay."

"Sorry General. Overslept."

General Hammond just hummed his displeasure. Having envisaged numerous scenarios to explain Jack and Daniel's absence, needless to say he was feeling rather drained.

"Daniel?"

"In the infirmary with Teal'c, Janet's giving him the routine once over." Jack's voice was haggard.

"Are you okay Jack?"

"Fine Sir, didn't get much sleep is all."

The General eyed him sceptically for a moment before bringing up Jack’s rather unwise decision once more. "Jack I know you've made some progress with our boy, but maybe it’s time we re-evaluated our decision."

"General I promised Daniel I wasn't going to force him to do anything he didn't want to and he really doesn't want that."

"Jack how long can you go on like this, it's been weeks since we heard anything regarding the Vorlix compound. No progress has been made, it maybe time to face the fact that we might not be able to reverse what has happened to your team."

"With all due respect General, it's my fault they were targeted in the first place."

"Jack our experts haven’t been able to tie the NID to the incident."

Jack lowered himself into the closest chair. "That's crap and we both know it. I shut down their programme and put away their lead man, and coincidently myself and two members of my team just 'happen' to be involved in an accident related to chemicals Area 51 were experimenting with."

"Colonel, do you honestly believe you are doing what's best in Daniel's interest or your own?"

"What?" Jack was incredulous, if he thought Daniel would be happier forgetting everything he'd have let him go. He didn't want to lose his closest friend and the person he cared for more than anything, but all that mattered was Daniel's happiness.

"Jack I know you and Daniel are very close and I can understand why you feel responsibly for him and are willing to take care of him, but in the long term don't you think he'd be happier living as a normal child instead of a man trapped in a child’s body."

"He needs his friend’s General. We are his family, you even said so yourself once."

"Jack I have officially appointed you Daniel's guardian at his request, but the doctor can rescind that decision if she finds just cause. I rather not have that happen."

What was he in, the twilight Zone? "Permission to speak freely, Sir?" Jack asked, extremely ticked off.

"Granted."

"What do you know that I don't?"

Hammond sighed. "The matter may be taken out of our hands. Dr Fraiser has reported her findings to me on a regular basis. I have passed those reports to the Pentagon. We both know I am not the only one to see those reports. A Doctor Hilmar has raised some concerns. He wants Daniel's care transferred over to him on a permanent basis."

"Where does this Dr Hilmar work?"

George took a deep breath to prepare for the up coming explosion. "His present posting is Area 51."

"GOD DAMIT!" Jack leapt from his seat.

"Jack calm down."

"General, again with all due respect, have you lost your mind? We can't hand Daniel over to this guy, that's probably been their plan all a long."

"Exactly," George said.

"What?"

"Jack, as long as Daniel remembers who he is I can't prevent them from taking him away."

"The only way they can't touch him legally is if he takes the compound and forgets, starting a new life away from the SGC." Jack summarised, now understanding the General's warnings. "I'll lose him either way."

"I'm sorry Jack.”

Jack nodded only once, not trusting himself to speak just yet and left the office.

*

Walking into the infirmary he was greeted by Daniel trying to escape. Grabbing him with one arm Jack hauled him up and rested him against his hip, squeezing him closer than was probably required. "And just where do you think you're going?"

"A walk?"

"Nice try Daniel. Can we please get through one of these without the Houdini act?" Jack placed Daniel, complete with pout, back on the bed.

"Colonel?" Janet walked back into the room. She acted pensive knowing he'd seen the General but unsure if they'd had a chance to talk about the recent development. One look in the Colonel's eyes told her he knew and it was killing him.

They exchanged a brief glance over the infirmary bed in silence, communicating without words that each was very sorry it had to end this way. It may have been what the doctor had lobbied for from the start but she was not at all pleased with the victory. She felt like she was tearing a loving family apart.

"What?" Daniel perked up when he noticed the look they shared.

"Nothing Daniel," Janet whispered, not meeting his eyes since hers threaten to spill over.

"Something's wrong."

"Nothing's wrong Daniel. We just need to give you an injection and you'll be on your way." Janet lied, she wanted to tell Daniel the truth, but knowing the reaction thought it best they just do it, he wouldn't remember and they didn't have the time for Daniel to decide and come to terms.

"Jack?" Not buying it Daniel turned a quivery voice onto Jack.

Jack found himself speechless, damn it if Daniel was going to be his own undoing. He couldn’t lie to that shaking voice and bright blue eyes. He simply shook his head and took hold of Daniel's hand. At that moment Sam and Teal'c entered the room followed by General Hammond. Everyone was here to say goodbye.

"It's okay Daniel you're just going to sleep for a bit."

"What? Why?" Daniel squeaked, tears forming in the corners of his blue eyes. He looked at the vile Janet held and recognised it immediately. "No I don't want to forget! Jack you promised, don't do it please! It was just a nightmare!"

Daniel continued to shout and scream and protest bucking on the table as Jack and Teal'c held him down. Janet had tears running freely down her cheeks, hating what she was about to do but knowing the alternative was far worse.

"Jack?" Daniel whispered his last word before the injection was given and knocked him out cold.

"Well, I think we should all be so proud of our work here today." Jack let go of the limp arm he held and left the infirmary without a second glance.
Part 4
"SG-1 you have a go for PX4 565, dismissed.” General Hammond concluded the briefing.

Hearing the General’s dismissal, Jack immediately stood and exited the room without acknowledging anyone. George watched him go with a heavy heart, filled with contempt for himself and the role he’d played in separating two people who so clearly needed each other, no matter what their age. In the four weeks since Daniel’s abrupt departure from the lives of everyone at the SGC, Jack had been fully reinstated to active duty and had embarked on two simple recons so far, PX4 565 would be the reformed SG-1’s third and final cakewalk before resuming first contacts. As he turned to leave himself, George caught the Major's eye trailing after the Colonel.

"Everything alright, Major Carter?"

Sam, realising she was being addressed, mustered no more than a muttered, “yes sir” before exiting in the same fashion.

In his despair, George turned to the remaining occupant of the room. "I had thought SG-1 were dealing with Dr Jackson's absence remarkably well, what happened?"

"We are indeed General Hammond, considering the circumstances. However, I believe Colonel O'Neill and Major Carter are upset with the approaching date." Teal'c spoke frankly, as always.

"The date, Teal'c?"

"I believe in two days time it will be Daniel Jackson's birthday. They regret not being able to participate in the occasion."

"I see." The General sighed. He'd been doing it a lot lately and was starting to wonder if all they had done was in the best interests after all. His belief at the time had been to do what was best to protect Daniel from becoming NID property. Now though, he was thinking maybe he should have tried harder. In fact there was no maybe about it. George knew exactly what losing Daniel would do to Jack O’Neill, hell the man had threatened to retire the first time it looked like Daniel Jackson wasn’t going to come home, and now it looked like history could well repeat itself. “Teal’c, do you suppose-”

The ringing telephone on the General’s desk interrupted what he was about to say, indicating for Teal’c not to leave just yet he went to answer it.

*

"What's that?" Jack asked as he entered Carter's lab and parked himself on a spare stool without invitation. He had nothing better to do at the moment, having wandered the base for the last hour since the debriefing, his own office not feeling at all welcoming.

"A present," Sam said simply, cutting the sticky tape with her teeth before fixing it to the paper package on in front of her.

"For?"

"For Daniel, sir," she said dryly, daring him to make something of it. "Just because he's forgotten us doesn’t mean we should forget him."

Jack looked thoughtful for a second, remembering the stuffed dog he'd wrapped and posted the other day, decided not to comment.

"SO,” Sam enthused, pushing her gift to one side, “what did you send?"

"That transparent ay?"

"Afraid so, sir. I miss him too, and to be honest, aside from the childish tendencies, I didn’t see that much of a difference in him."

"I think he always had childish tendencies, he just managed to hide them for longer as an adult."

They both laughed at that. It had been so long since either of them had had thoughts of Daniel and been able to laugh; the only thing making the moment seem contrite was the fact that Daniel wasn't there to share the memories with them.

The phone rang, breaking the moment, and Sam answered it formally.

"Yes General...yes sir he is...what's...right away sir." She hurriedly put the phone back on its cradle and grabbed her shirt from the back of her chair.

"Carter?" Jack asked concerned at the speed at which she was moving.

"General Hammond wants to see us right away, said it’s urgent."

Jack wasted no time in jumping from his perch, sending the stool rolling backwards and was out the door, Carter following close behind.

*

"General?" Jack called out before he was even in the room.

"Colonel we have a situation." General Hammond announced from his office doorway.

Jack eyed the full briefing room; SG1 weren't the only team to be summoned. SG teams 2 and 3 were also present. "What's going on?"

"My office. Major Carter you too." Hammond turned leaving Jack and Sam to follow.

"Teal'c?!" Sam said, surprised to find the Jaffa already seated in front of the General’s desk.

The General very rarely spoke to SG-1 as a unit when it came to emergencies. Usually he'd meet with the Colonel and then a briefing would be called. The only reason Sam could think the General would want to speak to all of them in his office would be... "Daniel?"

"What?" Jack snapped, unsure what had made her ask that. He looked to the General who hadn't responded verbally, but his facial expression said everything.

"I just received a phone call. Major Richards and his wife were involved in a car accident and taken to a civilian hospital. As soon as they where identified protocol kicked in, but Daniel Jackson has yet to be located. The emergency call was placed anonymously."

“Has anyone spoken to these foster parents, to ascertain whether Daniel Jackson was in the car at the time of the accident?” It said a lot when the only one in a room full of ranking air force personnel to keep their head and ask the right questions was the alien.

“No Teal’c, both are still unconscious,” Hammond replied. "Now we know nothing concrete yet. This could be a simple accident and Daniel could well be fine."

"Or this whole thing could have been orchestrated by the NID from the very beginning.” Jack yelled, feeling fit to explode. He removed himself as far as possible from everyone else in the room without actually leaving it and attempted to vent his frustration without breaking anything. “General we have been played, now we need to get out there and find Daniel before it's too late."

"Jack I agree with you,” Hammond gave him a sharp look that stopped his angry pacing at the back of the room and forced him to listen. “SG 2 and 3 are awaiting your orders." Looking like he’d gone against his better judgement on this one Hammond handed over a large brown envelope.

"What’s this?"

"I don't know what you're talking about Jack." The General dismissed casually.

Jack looked at the envelope then back at the General, "Thank you Sir." He saluted and left, Sam and Teal'c trailing after him.

*

Daniel awoke abruptly as if from a bad dream, only to realise he was living one. In his attempt to sit up he found he wasn’t tied up, which was good, but his jeans felt wet and he could taste something awful in his mouth. Daniel gagged and spat blood on the floor, feeling his gums on impulse he realised he was missing at least one tooth, maybe two. Opening his eyes wide he scanned his surroundings, the room was dark, a faint light filtering under the only door. Through the gloom Daniel could see the walls were damp looking, uncovered brick. He was sat on a thin old mattress that rested on the concrete floor and next to him was his only companion it seemed, a stuffed Labrador that looked as fifthly as he felt right now.

Pulling the dog close Daniel wondered if Jack knew where he was and was plotting his demise for getting in shit again, or if Jack was panicking because he didn't know where he was, and he had a nice big hug to look forward to, before the killing began. It suddenly struck him as odd that he was thinking about Jack, and then slowly a collection of memories came rushing back. The Vorlix attack, he wasn't himself anymore, he was eight. Jack was his guardian, he looked after him now.

But they'd lied to him - Jack had lied - everyone, they gave him the compound, he'd forgotten them. They stole his memories, why would they have done that? Daniel felt tears well in his eyes just thinking of how his friends, the very people who normally protected him, had betrayed him and he cursed himself, it seemed that was all he did was cry, but then he guessed that was what little kids did.

That didn’t explain his current situation though, why, if he’d been given the compound again, did he remember who he really was again? And where was he? Obviously not at the SGC. Then why was he here? Daniel dragged himself and the dog over the nearest corner of the empty room and made himself as small as possible, which was kind of easy to do in his eight year old body.

Resting his head on drawn up knees Daniel tried to think. He remembered being in a car as it was driven off the road and down an embankment, it rolled and he’d been trapped upside down. There were two others there, man and a woman, but not Jack or Sam. They were his new foster parents; the people charged with his care and future up bringing when Jack welched out on his promise. Daniel felt the anger well up inside him, quickly accompanied by tears and fought hard to hold both at bay. He was in trouble here, he needed to think to get out of this mess, he could get mad at Jack later.

A needle. Daniel remembered being jabbed with something sharp, he’d seen the tip of it as the man holding him down, after dragging him out of the car, had pulled it out and carelessly discarded it onto the floor. It must have contained Ke’ra’s antidote, that’s the only way he’d have his memories back! So if he definitely wasn’t at the SGC, the only other people who had access to it were the scientist as area 51…

For a split second Daniel felt extremely pleased by his deductive reasoning, like a light bulb had turned on, illuminating his dark dank little room. It went off jut as quickly when he realised that meant he was more than likely in the hands of the NID.

Before Daniel could contemplate just how bad things were going to get, the door to his cell swung open and in walked a man, different to the one who dragged him from the car, wearing a suit and tie, definitely not a soldier. "Hello, Dr Jackson, so nice for you to join us."

*

Jack climbed out of the military truck outside of the building Hammond had sent them to. It was an old military hospital in Nevada, a stone’s throw away from Area 51. It was supposedly no longer in use, having shut sometime during the fifties, but suspiciously had seen some activity of late. He had no idea where General Hammond had gotten the information so quickly or how for that matter. Jack had a sickening feeling that the NID shady operations went up a lot high than he had ever wanted to consider and that the General would have had to pull in some pretty big markers. No matter, they were here now, a whole eighteen hours after the 911 call alerting the authorities to Daniel’s foster parent’s car accident. Time was still on their side.

"Okay, SG-3, take the outside perimeter, SG-1 and 2 with me." Jack commanded, leading the way full force into the building, no time for covert ops. He wanted them to know he was here.

*

Daniel didn’t get a real good look at the man who entered the room, within seconds a mask was covering his eyes, someone was pulling at his sleeve, someone else removing his jeans. He tried to struggle and cry out, but both attempts where futile as strong arms pinned him down. The man spoke again, was asking a question, but the ringing in his ears from all the activity hampered his ability to catch the most basic of words. He stilled, trying to calm down in hopes that would lull his captures into releasing their hold and allow him a chance at escape. He was fooling himself. Instead the last of his clothes were swiftly removed, the stuffed dog yanked from his grip. Fear racing through his body caused him to shake, the chilly damp air having very little of an impact except to remind him of his nakedness. He couldn’t move a muscle, tears swam from his tightly closed eyes underneath the mask as he was lifted by two very muscular arms and placed on a cold metal slab, he felt his hands and feet being tied down, and a sheet covering most of him, before it was put into motion.

"You are no doubt wondering where we are taking you. It would be in your best interests to co-operate Dr Jackson. Time is short here and do not think that your appearance will in any way prevent us from using any means necessary to achieve our goal." The voice was stern and clearly belonged to a much older man than Daniel ever had been.

He kept talking until the gurney or whatever it was he was travelling on came to a complete halt. His mask was removed and Daniel squinted, eyes adjusting to the bright light that glared down at him, directly above his head. He couldn’t wipe the lingering tears away, so Daniel settled for blinking furiously until something came into focus. He regretted that action immediately when what came into focus was a metal tray full of weird looking objects that he had no doubt had several nefarious purposes.

The man asked him several questions, all about the SGC. Daniel didn't answer; Jack had taught him if anything happened not to say anything, just stay quiet, no mind games, no trying to reason, just ‘keep it shut and wait for me’.

Daniel wasn’t too sure Jack had thought it through all that well, now it had actually happened. Reasoning with his capture may very well be his only means to survival. He certainly didn’t have the physical strength to over power them. On the other hand Jack had been really jumpy after the NID bust, in firm belief someone was going to seek revenge by targeting his team. At the time he’d called Jack nuts, paranoid to the extreme. Didn’t feel so extreme now though - so maybe neither of them had really thought the situation through all that well.

"Okay, if you're not going to play like a good boy I think some encouragement is in order." Daniel had enough time to register the sound of a Zat being readied to fire when an explosion sounded in the hallway.

Glass shattered and he could smell smoke. The man who had been talking to him was shouting at someone Daniel couldn't see, he heard their footsteps as the man and his cronies ran from the room. Trying to sit up, but finding he was still tied to the bed Daniel began to panic. His eyes burned from the smoke, causing more tears to leak through as he squeezed them tightly shut. Hands where on him once more, covering his mouth and instead of crying the baby tears Daniel asserted himself and bit down hard, he was sure he tasted blood when the hand was finally yanked free in a cry of pain.

"Ow! Jesus, well that's gratitude."

"Who are you?" Daniel screamed frantically fighting to release himself, eyes still closed.

No one answered him, instead a cold hand pushed onto his forehead calming him instantly. Another hand held his and someone was whispering in his ear, only he couldn't quite make out the words. His head felt funny all of a sudden, arms and legs like jelly, the man untied him and despite his mind telling him to run away Daniel lay motionless on the gurney. It was then, just as the man lifted him up and carried him out of the room that it crossed Daniel's mind it was possible he'd just been drugged. Forcing open his eyes Daniel only managed to get a blurry glimpse of his would be rescuer before his world darkened once again

*

Jack signalled two members of SG-2 down towards the south wing of the abandoned hospital, equipment had been left in the halls and water could be heard dripping from somewhere. The whole set up belonged in some twisted horror movie. Jack moved further down the hall and signalled Sam down the following corridor with SG-2's Ferretti. Teal'c and Jack moved on straight ahead.

Moving swiftly down the hall they’d not encountered a soul, which unnerved Jack no end, was it possible whoever was here had packed up and moved house already, taking Daniel with them? It didn't bare thinking about. Ordering Teal’c to take point through the doors Jack surveyed the area. It was similar to the rest of the hospital peeling paper, cobwebs, damp…

"O’Neill!" Teal’c called from up ahead.

Jack moved swiftly towards Teal’c’s position and came up beside him. It was a dark room with nothing but a mattress on the floor, next to the mattress was what had caught Teal’c’s attention.

Jack moved in and carefully fingered the dirty, furry dog lying discarded on the floor, it had looked much more appealing when he’d wrapped the thing, but it was proof Daniel had been kept here at some point, a good start. Looking around the dank dark insect infested room Jack's heart sank at the thought that his kid had been kept here all alone.

"Colonel O'Neill?" Jack's radio sprang to life.

"Report!" He responded leaving the room, stuffed toy in hand, to rejoin Teal'c in the corridor.

"The back entrance has seen some very recent activity, fresh tire tracks. Sir, it looks like they left in a hurry."

Jack, however, refused to believe hope was lost and ordered all teams to continue the search. It was always possible they were being tricked. Pointing Teal’c to the adjoining corridor Jack secured the toy inside his jacket pocket and continued down the hallway, approaching with caution Jack noticed the broken glass and highly modern equipment littered around, also the strong smell of smoke lingered, there was a lot of blood on the floor, but conspicuously no bodies. Something wasn't right.

He moved along, checking every room. The second one held an old metal gurney, the type used in morgues. There was blood on it, not much, probably no more than a superficial cut. Jack quickly moved onto the next room, picking up the pace. Just as he was checking the last room in his corridor a noise from behind alerted him to someone else’s presence.

He retraced his steps, turning the corner and entering a third corridor that off shot the one had been searching. The hospital was a god damn maze. How the hell was he going to find one little boy here? He heard the noise again, a soft clanking sound, it echoed through-out the empty, silent hallway, the emergency lighting that illuminated only parts of the corridor weren’t helping identify the direction either.

Weapon raised Jack approached an open doorway, he mentally counted to three before spinning around and aiming high. Jack lowered his weapon immediately when he caught sight of the figure huddled on the floor.

“Carter! Alert the SGC, we've found Daniel. SG-2 rendezvous at transport.” Jack signed off his radio and practically threw himself to the ground at Daniel's side.

"Daniel? Daniel can you hear me?" Jack took Daniel’s chin in his hand and registered the pulse still beating beneath his fingers. He tried to check him out for any obvious signs of injury, thankfully finding no broken bones, just a lot of dirt and some scrapes that must have come from the car wreck. What he did discover was that his clothes were missing, the sheet he was wrapped in being all that covered him. Anger welled up inside Jack, vowing to kill every last one of the sons-of-bitches when he got his hands on them. Picking Daniel up, making sure the sheet was wrapped fully around him, Jack felt the cold body in his arms stir. "Danny?"

"Jack?" Daniel opened his eyes squinting. He was confused, scared and so very relieved to see the familiar face in front of him.

"Hey, its okay, you're going to be fine." Jack hugged him close when Daniel started to tear up.

Daniel nodded bravely and looked about to say something when Teal’c’s sudden appearance in the room had them both looking in his direction. “Teal’c?” They spoke together.

Sure that he had followed a suspect running through halls, Teal’c glanced around the room, his gaze finally settling on O’Neill holding Daniel Jackson.

He walked towards them, feeling very uneasy, yet pleased to note that Daniel Jackson was where he belonged once more when the door behind him slammed shut and the emergency lights flickered off. A buzzing sound filled the room.

Daniel pushed away from Jack to see what was happening. Jack moved him into one arm and ran over to the exit following Teal’c. Before they could reach the door they were thrown to the floor by a burst of explosive energy and all three passed-out.

*
Sam keyed her radio the minute she heard the loud explosion, failing to make contact with the Colonel or Teal’c she ran back the way she came to offer back up. Meeting up with Ferretti in the corridor, Sam ordered him to stay back while she investigated the room she suspected the explosion had come from, afraid at what she might find. The door was wide open, giving her a view of Teal'c, Jack and Daniel all passed out on floor. Sam couldn’t believe her eyes as she ran over to Daniel; crouching down in front of him she tapped his cheek. .

"Sam?"

"Yeah, Daniel,” she said softly, “it’s me.”

Sam hesitantly repeated the tap on the Colonel’s cheek, slapping him a little harder than she had Daniel.

Jack opened his eyes immediately and looked right at her. "Carter?"

"Sir?"

"Jack?" Daniel shifted on the floor, lifting his head away from the chest he had been resting on. Looking at Jack, his mouth fell open, "you're hair’s grey again, Jack."

Jack blinked a few times, not really registering what he was seeing, so he looked to Carter, who nodded agreeably. "Something’s have changed about you too Daniel."

Daniel’s eyes grew wide, then he looked down at himself and touched his face. He was a grown up again. The trio sat in strangled silence until a groan from Jack’s right drew their combined attention.

"Teal'c?" Jack shouted.

"I am fine O'Neill." Teal’c replied, standing up.

Jack signalled Carter to help him up, carefully removing his arm from around Daniel where his hand lay on his ass. Daniel gave him a puzzled eyebrow raised glance. "You were a lot smaller when I picked you up."

Suddenly Daniel found himself the centre of attention once again; all three of his team-mates were looming over him, glaring down at him. It’s was extremely disconcerting, especially since he couldn’t see any of them too clearly. Sam offered him a hand up and Daniel accepted keeping tight hold of the sheet that was the only thing preserving his dignity. It was a strange sensation standing almost eye to eye with his friends once again, but one that he had sorely missed. He cracked a smile.

When said friends wouldn’t stop staring at him Daniel had to ask. "What?"

"Nothing," all three replied at the same time.

Daniel didn’t say anything more. This whole situation had been surreal from the start, so instead he distracted himself by looking around the room for anything that might cover him better than the this white sheet he currently held. Daniel didn’t notice at the time, but Sam must have realised his plight and left the room, returning in record time with a pair of folded grey scrub pants and a top.

“I passed a storage closet, figured if they left most of the equipment then they’d have left uniforms too.” She explained.

Daniel wasn’t going to complain and made haste in exchanging the sheet for the pants. Jack removed his jacket and handed it to Daniel, zipping it up in an effort to keep him warm while Carter keyed her radio issuing orders for all teams to report back to the transport. Teal’c took point and Jack wrapped an arm around Daniel, pushing him out of the room.
Part 5
Jack didn’t stop to answer any questions, leaving that job to Carter, as he ushered Daniel out of the building and into the truck he and his team had arrived in. Daniel was staying quiet and being compliant, which suited him just fine. They could deal later. Jack could see the strange looks both of them were receiving and tried very hard not to think about it yet. He’d caught a glimpse of himself in the trucks side mirror when he was helping Daniel and couldn’t assimilate the idea that he was back to his ‘old’ self. It had been so long, he was just getting used to the younger features.

Teal’c climbed into the front passenger seat, while Carter took the wheel.

“Sir, I’ve put Ferretti in charge of the clean up, SG’s 2 and 3 will handle the situation from here, I’ve explained what happen to General Hammond and he’s recalled SG-1 immediately. There’s a plane waiting for us at Nellis. Dr Fraiser wants to see all three of you the minute we arrive back on base.” Carter finished her report in record time, keeping up a good speed as she manoeuvred the truck down the dirt road in the dark.

“I bet she does.” Jack replied, sitting back in the uncomfortable rear seat.

He glanced over at Daniel and saw he had his eyes tightly shut, arms wrapped around his middle. His hands where hidden in the sleeves of the too big jacket, but Jack would bet his next pay cheque that they were shaking. Sensing another pair of eyes on him Jack looked front to see Teal’c regarding the pair of them.

“Are you feeling unwell Daniel Jackson?” Teal’c questioned softly.

Jack waited for an answer, he saw Carter twitch in her seat, but she didn’t turn around, keeping her eyes on the road, pushing down on the accelerator even more. Daniel remained silent, the hold he had on himself getting impossibly tighter, as he shook his head. Was that meant to mean ‘no he was fine’ or ‘no he’s not okay’?

Jack shifted closer to Daniel and carefully put his arm around the hunched shoulders. Daniel flinched with the contact, but quickly settled into the touch and turned towards Jack, hiding his face in the Colonel’s shoulder.

Cheek pressed against Daniel’s head, Jack wrapped his other arm around him and held tight. “It’s all over now Daniel, I promise.”

Daniel didn’t make a sound, but Jack thought he felt him relax a little. He’d never been happier to feel the solid body he was holding onto right now, even though the size was different and Jack had to resist his instinct to pull Daniel onto his lap, like he would have done just a few short weeks ago. It still felt good.

The truck turned onto the last stretch of road before reaching the plane that would carry them home. The screeching tires as it took the bend making everyone, including Daniel, stare at Sam.

“Sorry,” Sam smiled sheepishly.

“One piece would be preferred, Carter.” Jack said, loosing his grip a little letting Daniel choose whether to sit up or stay hugged close like he was currently.

Sam looked at them through the rear view mirror and could see Daniel settle back against the Colonel, now with his head only resting on his shoulder, eyes wide open gazing out of the window. She wanted to ask him if he was alright, but given that he hadn’t spoken a word since leaving the building Sam thought it best to leave him alone, at least until they got on the plane home.

“We’re here,” she announced, puling up along side the private Jet General Hammond had requisitioned for their return.

Sam got out first, liaising with the pilot, leaving the guys to get on board and help Daniel find some decent clothes that wouldn’t remind him of the place he’d been held prisoner.

Sam climbed on board herself just in time to hear the Colonel’s appreciative whistle.

“Swanky jet,” Jack commented. Looking around at the large leather passenger chairs and eyeing the mini bar. “Who owns this baby?”

“General Hammond didn’t say.” Sam said, taking a seat and practically melting into its creases. She honestly felt like she could sleep for a week.

“Take a load off Carter, you’ve done good.”

Sam cracked one eye open, “Yes, sir.”

A minute later Daniel reappeared fully clothed in baggy pants and a polo t-shirt, but still wearing the Colonel’s jacket, Teal’c following closely behind.

“Well I’ve just raided, whoever’s this is, wardrobe.” Daniel said taking a seat himself.

“How are you feeling?” Sam asked him, Daniel shrugged. “I mean whatever it was that turned you, all of you, back to your right ages caused one hell of a blast. Do you feel anything… weird?”

“Weird?” Jack echoed, looking at her in disbelief. “I’ve aged twenty odd years since I got up this morning, how could I possibly feel weird?”

“I have a headache.” Daniel spoke up quickly, before Jack’s inappropriate sarcasm could make Sam feel bad for asking.

Sam made to stand, but Jack quickly push her back down, walking over to the front of the plane and helping himself to a packet of aspirin out of the first aid kit. He dry swallowed two himself before tossing the packet to Daniel, followed by a bottle of water out of the mini bar.

“Teal’c?” Jack sank down into the seat next to Daniel. “What’s up?”

Teal’c gave O’Neill the eyebrow, and then expressed what was currently on his mind. “I was contemplating what gain the NID would achieve by returning us to our natural ages.”

“Good question.” Jack had been wondering that himself.

“Actually, sir.” Sam grimaced. “I don’t think it was the NID that did this.”

It was Jack’s turn to give her the eyebrow, only before she could respond Daniel spoke up. “Sam’s right. There was someone else there…

“I don’t remember much, but I was tied up and they were asking me questions, then there was an explosion and everyone left, then someone held my hand as they untied me. I couldn’t see him very clearly, he spoke to me though. I think he drugged me. Next thing I know you guys were there…”

No one spoke for several minutes, the account sounding oddly childish coming from Daniel, but then some emotional adjustment was to be expected. Jack cleared his throat, “So what we’re saying is that there is someone or some ones’ out there that want the NID knowing what Daniel knows as much as we do.”

“Indeed.”

“Daniel, you said he spoke to you, do you think you’d recognise the voice again?”

Daniel shook his head, not taking the chance that his voice would crack and give away just how not well he was handling talking about this yet. He knew his team mates could sense something was wrong, he just hoped they didn’t ask what he knew was coming next.

“If you could give a description of any of them it would be helpful for the investigation into the use of the Vorlix compound. What’s the last thing you remember clearly?”

Daniel dropped his head; leave it to Sam not to see the forest for the trees, without thinking he answered her, “Being held down while Janet erased my memory.”

You could have heard a pin drop into the silence that followed. He didn’t dare lift his head to face them because Daniel knew he’d never be able to keep it together if he saw the hurt in their eyes that no doubt mirrored his own.

“I’m sorry,” Daniel spoke into the silence.

“No. Don’t you dare apologise.” Jack said.

When Daniel finally lifted his head he could see that Sam and Teal’c were gone. He looked to Jack for an explanation.

“You were a scared little kid and we were idiots to think that the NID would leave you alone.” Jack explained. “I didn’t lie to you Daniel. I was going to keep you no matter what…”

“But?”

“But, Hammond got new orders. Someone high up in the chain of command ordered that your care be transferred from Dr Fraiser to some NID doctor at Area 51. I was going to lose you either way. We thought we were doing the right thing.”

“I’d never felt so scared. Waking up in that room, my first thought was that you’d be pissed off at me for getting myself in trouble again. It hurt when I remembered what had happened, I thought at first it was because of the nightmares, but I think deep, deep down I knew you wouldn’t have done it without a good reason.” Daniel tried to smile, putting on a brave ‘it all worked out in the end’ face.

Jack felt better for hearing that, despite knowing Daniel was still hurting he knew he’d be able to make it up to him �“ it would just take time, that’s all. There was something else he’d like an answer to though. “About that nightmare...”

“What nightmare?”

“The one that had you so spooked, you said I died.”

“It was just a nightmare. I was a little kid,” Daniel shrugged.

“Yes you were,” Jack let the rest of his sentence hang.

“I remembered everything we’d done together, since Abydos. We get into a lot of trouble out there, sometimes I wonder if we’re going to make it back. It’s frightening.” He admitted, keeping his gazed fixed firmly on the floor.

“I’ll bet.” Jack smiled. He understood the subtext of what Daniel was trying to tell him. ‘Love you too,’ he thought.

*

Jack gave up his seat in the cockpit in favour of checking out the action in the cabin. The large aircraft had been in flight for over an hour now and they where well on their way back home, so Jack had no qualms in letting the crew handle things from here. With SG1 being the only passengers it made for a nice private jet experience, one he intended to enjoy to the hilt.

Upon entering the passenger section however Jack became aware very quickly that ‘action’ was an optimistic assumption. Teal’c was seated at the far end, looking very uncomfortable, despite the space, trying to kel-no-reem sitting up right in a chair �“ without candles, he look like a pit bull who’d been teased continuously with fresh meat. Major Carter was sitting opposite him, seemingly concentrating on something in her hands. A laptop, Jack figured. Either that or Cosmo, but doubted his 2IC read such journalistic jewels. Either way he wasn’t going to disturb her, Carter had a mean streak if you interrupted her for no good reason on a good day, after a day like today he wasn’t taking any chances.

Scanning the craft up front then hastily looking back over his shoulder in case he’d unknowingly missed him Jack came perpetually aware he was missing his usual source of entertainment. Checking the front of the plane again he couldn’t see Daniel anywhere. Well that just wasn’t possible, he’d got on the plane with Daniel himself �“ there was no way he wasn’t here.

“Carter?” Jack called and Sam turned around. Jack shrugged at her look, which she responded to with a frown. “Well?” He asked, without really asking anything.

Sam gave him another puzzled glance fleetingly wondering why the Colonel always had to be so damned cryptic, she should only have to be a mind reader in the field. The plane journey was her time off!

“Where’s Daniel?” Jack finally elaborated with a huff, acting like it wasn’t his fault people weren’t always thinking on his wavelength.

Sam mouthed an ‘oh’ and looked back down at her lap, where her concentration had been since Jack had entered the cabin.

What the hell? Jack had started to walk toward her by this point. Coming up behind her to see just what had her fascinated so, he looked down and saw…Daniel? Oh. Deflating slightly Jack sank down into the seat opposite Carter and looked at her questioningly.

“Daniel Jackson has been asleep since you left to assist the pilot, O’Neill.” Teal’c answered, before opening his eyes.

How Teal’c does that, knows what he’s thinking without even seeing the look on his face to read it, Jack will never know. The Jaffa had a definite gift.

Jack gave Teal’c a scowl, and then exaggerated checking out the rest of the plane, indicating with his eyes the many seats and spaces.

“Don’t pick on him, sir.” Sam stated mockingly, but with a touch of vehemence suggesting there was a threat hidden there, somewhere.

“I said nothing.” Jack protested �“ he’d thought it. Daniel was taking up two seats, butt on one, legs on another, and his head was lying rather comfortably in Sam’s lap. There wasn’t a laptop or magazine in sight, which suggested the object Sam had been so intent on, would have been none other than Daniel. There would be many a man who would envy Daniel Jackson right now, but for entirely different reasons. Reasons he wasn’t going to pursue right now… Jack cleared his throat, “so what’ve you kids been doing?”

Sam looked up, after having gone back to focusing on Daniel’s sleeping face and idly running her hand rhythmically through his hair, to find the Colonel was focusing on him too. “Well Daniel’s been sleeping, I’ve been…” she left that blank, it was obvious what she had been doing, “…and Teal’c’s been-”

“I have been attempting kel-no-reem, but have found it exceedingly difficult to achieve in my current surroundings.”

“The swanky jet too good for ya?”

“Indeed.”

Jack’s joke fell flat and he opted to move right along. “Well we’ve got another hour before touch down in Denver, you kids up for a card game?”

“Sure.” Sam answered, surprising herself, a little unwind time would be welcomed right about now.

“T? You in?” Jack asked standing to retrieve a deck of cards he had no doubt would be stashed at the front of the plane.

“I believe I am O’Neill.” Teal’c agreed with a hint of a smile.

Jack was pleased, he’d thought the mood would be a rather sombre one considering, but the team were holding up well in the face of adversity. This mission might not end up on such a crappy note after all.

Jack returned to the scene as he’d left it. Carter still had Daniel snuggled against her waist, fast asleep, breathing softly. Teal’c had manoeuvred the very posh, and without a doubt, very expensive serving table in front of them so they had a platform on which to play.

Sam smiled up at him when she noticed the other item he held in his hands. A blanket. It only took one moment, and a very nice to gesture to destroy the hard-ass Colonel image, but Jack didn’t seem to care. He languid over placing the blanket over Daniel’s body, covering every inch of him and making sure he was tucked in tight.

“It’s cold.” Jack murmured.

“Yes Sir.” Sam smiled again turning away to concentrate on what Teal’c was doing with the cards in front of her.

*

“I believe I have won once again O’Neill.” Teal’c announced.

“Yes.” Jack said tightly. “That makes what? Three hands now, out of-”

“Three.” Teal’c supplied helpfully smug.

“Indeed.” Jack mocked, steeling Teal’c’s catchphrase.

“Looks like you may have met your match Sir.” Sam smiled approvingly. She blamed her personal lack of triumph on the lump still located firmly on her lap.

“What’s your secret T?” Jack asked.

“If I informed you it would no longer be a secret O’Neill.”

“You know,” Jack turned to Sam, “if I didn’t know Daniel couldn’t play cards to save his life I’d swear they’ve been conspiring against me.” Jack finished, indicating with raised eyebrows he’d come to a conclusion.

“Ferretti!”

Teal’c gave away nothing to whether or not his assumption was correct, but Jack knew he was. Ferretti had tried to teach Daniel the tricks of the trade, thinking the poor little geeky Doc of archaeology would be a perfect weapon against the unsuspecting marines. Of course that plan failed miserably when Daniel *failed* to be able to win even the most basic of games. Being deceptive just wasn’t in Daniel’s nature obviously. Teal’c however, had obviously proved a worthwhile investment. Of course there was the bonus that it was doubtful anyone would dare question Teal’c. Marine or not.

Jack was about to inquire as to how many airmen before him had lost their wage cheques in the lure of alien obliviousness when a thud drew his attention elsewhere.

Daniel was kicking the arm of the last chair where his legs rested. Shifting the blanket till it fell off completely, getting tangled in Daniel’s legs instead of falling to the floor. Sam resumed the hair smoothing motion she’d been doing earlier when Daniel whimpered in his sleep.

“He okay?” Jack asked, unsure of what he could do to help.

“I’m not sure. I think Janet will want a good look at him once we’re back though. Whatever it was you were all exposed to must have packed one hell of a punch.” She remarked glibly.

“Tell me about it.”

“How are you holding up sir?” Sam asked quickly, remembering Daniel wasn’t the only one to get knocked out and aged upward.

“Fine actually, had a bit of a headache earlier, but fine now.” Jack self-consciously reached up to feel his face, an action he didn’t doubt would be repeated often over the next few days. Going from twenty something back to forty-seven in the blink of an eye would take some adjusting. At least he hoped he was forty-seven. Not knowing who did this made it difficult to ask how accurate the cure is. Daniel looked about the right age, definitely didn’t look too old, so probably not something to be worried about. He could deal with celebrating Daniel’s thirtieth again; it didn’t matter so much as long as he wasn’t eight.

Daniel whimpered again and gave another rally of kicks to the undeserving upholstery.

“How ‘bout we wake him up.” Jack suggested, they were landing soon and where as he had no doubt Teal’c could carry Daniel off the plane without even breaking a sweat he doubted Daniel would appreciate it, too much of a reminder of being small.

Sam agreed and shook Daniel’s shoulder. It didn’t rouse him.

Jack lent over the arm of the chair and shook him a little more forcefully, which succeed in getting a reaction, just not the kind he was expecting.

“Go away, sleeping.”

“Well I can see that Danny-boy, but we’re landing soon.”

“I don’t want to go.”

“Huh?”

“Don’t make me forget.”

“Daniel,” Jack gave him a hard shove to the shoulder. It did nothing to aid them however.

“I believe Daniel Jackson is still asleep O’Neill.” Teal’c chimed him.

“Oh, okay,” Jack delivered a quick slap to Daniel’s face.

“Hey!” Daniel’s eyes flew open immediately, hand travelling automatically to the burning spot on his face. “What was that for?” He asked without removing his head from Sam’s lap.

“Waking you up.”

“You hit me.” Daniel pouted.

“It worked didn’t it?”

“Not the point.”

“What is the point?”

“Pick on someone your own size.”

Jack scowled at him, but said nothing further, by the looks of his other team-mates it was three against one �“ he’d be toast. “Daniel.”

“Jack,” Daniel bit back.

“Come on,” Jack took Daniel’s arm and pulled him up right.

For a minute Daniel forgot he had been returned to his adult size and expected Jack to take all his weight and pick him up.

“Daniel, you’re not eight anymore. You need to help me here.”

Daniel blinked. “Oh, sorry,” he used the upright arm rest to pull himself up. “I guess it’s going to take some getting used to.”

“What?” Jack asked, sitting down next to him.

“Well I’ve spent the last couple of months being picked up and moved around like a rag doll.” Daniel said uncomfortably, he tried to ignore the memories he had of himself crying and sitting in Jack’s lap. “It’s going to be strange doing things for myself again.”

Jack wasn’t going to say anything, but he was going to find it difficult adjusting to Daniel’s new size too. Now whenever he woke Daniel from a nightmare he was going to have to remind himself that he couldn’t just pick him up and take him to his bed. He could see Daniel was deep in thought and could just bet that he was remembering their life’s over the past few months. Looking over at Sam and Teal’c he could see they were deep in thought too.

It was strange, but he actually felt closer to Daniel now than ever before. It was like there was always this part of Daniel’s life that was closed from them and now, due to the unique circumstances, Jack had been given a glimpse into the world Daniel had kept so hidden. He’d seen Daniel at his most vulnerable, managed to sooth him when he was upset and seen him giggle when he was happy.

Daniel abruptly stood up and walked down the belly of the plane. Jack followed him immediately. Stopping near the back, where the plane spilt into compartments, Daniel ran a shaky hand over his face, it felt hot and his eyes were moist. He was losing it, badly. Patting down his jacket for the usual packet of tissues he carried and coming up empty Daniel quickly remembered this wasn’t his jacket. What he did find, stuffed in the inside pocket surprised him. Pulling out the soft lump Daniel stared at the dirty Labrador that Daniel remembered receiving as an early birthday present just two days ago. The package didn’t have a name on it to say who had sent it, but now, memories intact, Daniel knew exactly who it had come from.

Jack walked up behind Daniel and didn’t quite know what to say. He understood this was going to be difficult, adjusting to the changes the recent past would have made in there relationship, it wasn’t going to be easy changing back to how they used to be. Jack reached out and rested his hand on Daniel’s back in comfort.

Daniel felt the hand lightly patting his back and smiled. “Every kid has to have a dog.”

“What?” The words, his words in fact, being repeated back to him took Jack by surprise. He looked over Daniel’s shoulder and saw he was holding the damned the stuff dog he’d picked up back in that hell hole of a room.

Daniel quickly spun around and wrapped both arms around Jack’s middle in a tight hug, whispering, “Thank-you,” into his neck.

Jack hadn’t seen it coming. He’d thought Daniel was going to close himself off from them completely. It wasn’t like he was big on his personal space being invaded and Jack believed this whole incident would regress Daniel back to that jumpy, closed off guy that only ever accepted comfort from himself. He was taken completely by surprise when Daniel hugged him. After getting over his initial shock, Jack choked out a short reply and returned the hug just as tightly. Maybe not everything had to change.

Fin.

 

 

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Disclaimer: Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Stargate (II) Productions, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. This story is for entertainment purposes only and no money exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. This is a parody for entertainment purposes only. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author. This story may not be posted anywhere without the consent of the author.