Colonel Jack O’Neill looked across at the child who used to be his best friend, Dr. Daniel Jackson. He quickly amended that thought as the five year old boy flashed him a look that was Daniel through and through. ‘Not used to be. This is still Daniel and he’ll always be the best friend I could ever have.’
“Stop looking at me like that, Jack,” the child said, the words almost incongruously adult coming from the small mouth, “you would have done the same for me.”
Jack shrugged, a confirmatory shrug but he wondered if he would have. Almost anything else, yes. Had the alien indigenous people on 522 wanted to kill one of his team to appease their god, Jack would have offered himself up in a heartbeat. But this, being sentenced to live out the rest of your life as a child again… He had to admit he’d been relieved when Daniel had stepped forward the minute the sentence was handed down and said, “Take me.”
“It could have been worse,” Daniel added. “I could have been six feet under instead of three feet shorter.”
“Yeah, there is that. So…” Jack climbed off the side of the gurney, “…how do you feel? Well, apart from smaller…”
“Okay. My voice sounds weird, even to me. Everything looks bigger.” Daniel looked up at Jack. “Even you.”
“You ready for the debrief then?” Jack waited as Daniel nodded and tried to jump off the gurney, reaching out a hand to steady his descent to the floor. “Whoa, slow down. You want to end up back in here getting a cast on a broken arm or leg?”
“I got it,” Daniel snapped, a flash of the old Daniel Jackson impatience at being coddled coloring his tone. “Sorry,” he said once he was safely on the floor, Jack’s hands still grasping his forearms firmly. He shook them off but smiled up at Jack as he did. “Guess this is going to take some getting used to.”
“Yeah, well, don’t get too used to it,” Jack retorted, leading the way out of the infirmary. “As soon as Hammond gives the word, we’re going back to tell those assholes to change you back, even if I have to take every marine on this base to back us up.”
Jack slowed his steps as unobtrusively as possible to let Daniel keep up with him. “Yeah, so let’s go talk to the boss.”
“You have a go, Colonel.” General Hammond looked down the table at the small boy who was kneeling up on a chair in order to be able to see properly. “You sure you’re up to going back, Dr. Jackson?”
Daniel nodded vigorously, his overlong hair flopping over his forehead as he did so. “If I don’t go back with them, they can’t change me back,” he said logically. “I don’t think it works long distance across a wormhole.” He gave a small crooked grin.
“Very well. Colonel, take SG 10 and SG 12 with you.” Hammond stood up. “Dismissed. I’ll see you all in the gateroom in one hour.”
Sam leaned down to Daniel as she passed him. “Don’t worry, Daniel,” she said, “we’ll have you back to normal in no time.”
“Indeed we will,” Teal’c murmured as he passed behind them.
“Well, let’s go gear up,” Jack said, waiting till Daniel slid from the chair then looking him over critically. “Um, you’re gonna have to go in the renovated scrubs,” he added, indicating the scrub pants and top Dr. Fraiser had pinned and rolled till they fitted Daniel better than the over-large uniform he’d come back from 522 in. “You might want to leave the sidearm at home too,” he said as he led the way out of the room.
“Yeah, figured that,” Daniel muttered as he ran to catch him up.
Daniel looked up at the observation window where he could just see Walter dialing the gate. He vaguely registered the sound of each chevron locking into place and Walter’s voice announcing the fact over the intercom.
“Chevron six locked.”
Unconsciously Daniel’s hand crept up to grasp Jack’s tightly. Jack didn’t react beyond giving a return squeeze as they turned to face the gate, waiting for the whoosh of the outgoing wormhole.
“Chevron seven will not lock!”
Daniel gasped audibly, feeling his heart speed up. He saw Sam brush past them as she ran from the embarkation room, and moments later, saw her through the observation window, leaning over Walter’s shoulder as she punched keys at the console. Daniel’s hands were sweaty and he extricated the one Jack held and wiped it on his pants leg then did the same with the other one. Jack’s hand was warm on his shoulder and Daniel knew he was holding his breath but he couldn’t seem to find the wherewithal to draw a breath until that seventh chevron locked.
He saw Sam reach out and pull the microphone towards her. “I’m sorry, sir. We can’t get a lock. It’s possible they’ve buried or destroyed their gate.”
“No!” Finally Daniel heaved in a gasp of air and the word came out on a panicked exhale. “They can’t leave me like this!” He could feel tears burning his eyes but his fear was overwhelming him and he didn’t even attempt to brush them away as they began to trickle down his cheeks. “Jack-“
“It’ll be okay.” Jack was kneeling next to him, pulling him into his arms.
Daniel’s arms went of their own volition around Jack’s neck and he pressed in close to Jack’s welcome strength, letting Jack pick him up and carry him out of the room while Daniel buried his face in the crook of Jack’s neck and sobbed like he hadn’t sobbed since the first time he was a five year old.
“You okay?” Jack kept asking as he carried Daniel into the elevator and leaned forward to press the button.
Daniel nodded against his neck as the sobs dwindled down to sniffles. He lifted his head, wiping his eyes with a balled up fist as Jack stepped out of the elevator and walked down the hallway to Daniel’s office where he sat Daniel on the edge of the desk. Then he pulled the rolling chair over and sat down in it, so his eyes were on a level with Daniel’s.
“Listen,” Jack said, “we’ll keep trying, you know that but-“
“I know,” Daniel replied quickly through the remnants of his tears. His throat felt sore now and dry, his voice coming out husky and he took the bottle of water Jack handled him gratefully, gulping down a few swallows. “I could be stuck like this forever though,” he added, handing the bottle back to Jack. “We don’t even know if I’ll stay the same age and size or if I’ll grow up all over again.”
“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” Jack said firmly. “Hey, if, in a year or so you suddenly feel like having a birthday party, and you’re a couple of inches taller, we’ll know, right?”
“I guess.” Daniel snorted back the residue of his tears that was clogging his nose and smiled when Jack grimaced. “I’m a kid,” he said, “I’m allowed to be disgusting. So, what happens to me now? Can I still work here at the SGC? Go through the gate? Live in my apartment?”
Jack handed him a tissue and Daniel blew his nose noisily then dropped the tissue into the trashcan next to the desk.
Jack shrugged. “First, why don’t we get the doc to run a few tests and see exactly what’s up with that big brain of yours? I mean, apart from that little meltdown you had just now, which I don’t blame you for having, by the way, you’ve been acting pretty much like yourself. So, maybe all your adult knowledge is still there, and if it is, I can’t see any reason for you not to be able to work here. We might have to adjust your hours a little, that’s all.” He held up a hand as Daniel started to interrupt. “Let me finish. Gate travel is probably out for now. Let’s face it, I can’t see the general agreeing to let a five year old strap on a sidearm, and I have to admit the idea of seeing you with one right now gives me the heebie jeebies, for obvious reasons. Living alone in your apartment could also be a problem. You look like a kid. The neighbors would be calling Child Protection Services in a day, especially Mrs. Mortensen from downstairs. So-“
“I’m not going to a foster home,” Daniel said flatly, setting his jaw.
“Oh, I don’t know, they’re not all bad,” Jack replied, a small smile tilting his lips. “I always thought I’d make a pretty decent foster parent. And I am your best friend-“
“You’d do that? Let me stay with you?” Daniel felt the fear of the unknown abate, just a little.
“Why not? There’d be some rules but… I could use the company.” Jack grinned and pulled Daniel down onto his lap, hugging him tightly. “There may even be chores in your future, young Daniel.”
Daniel tilted his head back and gave Jack the most indignant look he could muster through the sheer relief he was feeling. “Chores? Who do you think you are? Ward Cleaver? I got news for you, Jack. It’s not 1950 anymore. Kids don’t do chores anymore.”
“So we’ll make it a partnership deal. I wash the dishes, you dry them, I make the lemonade, you mow the lawn.” Jack ruffled his hair then set him down on his feet. “Let’s go get those tests scheduled and then we’ll go home.”
Daniel hitched up his pants then grabbed Jack’s hand. “We’ll need to go shopping,” he said firmly, pulling Jack from the room. “I look like little Orphan Danny in this get up.”
“Yeah, yeah, tests, shopping, then home,” Jack agreed, scooping Daniel up and settling him on his shoulders. “We’ll do fine, buddy.”
“I know,” Daniel said. And for the first time since the awful day had begun, he believed it.