Written for the Little Stargate Give and Take Challenge.
Prompt: After Daniel is downsized, his grandfather, Nick, returns.
Jack O’Neill crouched down in front of Daniel, his pint-sized best friend. Reaching out, he brushed a stray lock of hair out of the boy’s eyes. “So, you got everything?”
Daniel nodded and held up his backpack.
“Cat got your tongue?” Jack asked.
Daniel shook his head.
“Got your jacket? It’s cold outside.”
Again, Daniel nodded.
“Well, say something, huh?”
Daniel stared at Jack for a long moment and tears glistened in his eyes then overflowed to dribble down his cheeks. “Bye, Jack.” Then he gave a hiccuping sob and threw himself into Jack’s arms. Wrapping his arms around Jack’s neck, he squeezed as though he never wanted to let go. “I’m gonna miss you.”
“Hey, we’re gonna come visit, you know,” Jack said. He loosened Daniel’s stranglehold and held him back a little so he could look into his eyes. “Soon as we have some time off, me, Carter, and Teal’c will be knocking on your door. Right, guys?”
“Yes, sir,” Carter said with a sniff. She might be tough as nails on the battlefield but Carter and Daniel had always been as close as brother and sister.
“Indeed we will, Daniel Jackson,” Teal’c added, and when Jack looked up at him, he was certain he could see dampness in the stoic Jaffa’s eyes.
“It’s for the best,” Jack said, more to convince himself than for anyone else’s ears. “You’re gonna have lots of fun, learn heaps of new things. Maybe even go on a dig or two. You’d like that, right?”
“Yeah,” Daniel agreed softly, “but I could do that other times, when you’re offworld. You just got me back and now you’re sending me away again.”
“No!” Jack shook his head vehemently, even though he knew Daniel’s words were correct, but they were too much of an accusation, too much to take after all they’d gone through searching for him, finally finding him and bringing him home. “No,” he repeated, more softly this time. “It’s where you belong, Daniel. Where you should have been the first time you were a little boy. It’ll be better for you this way. He loves you very much.”
“I love him too,” Daniel said, then whispered, “but I love you and Sam and Teal’c more. He… he scares me. He’s grumpy.” His jaw squared with the stubbornness Jack was so accustomed to. “He didn’t want me before.”
“Now he does,” Jack replied sternly. “He made a mistake, Daniel, and now he wants to make up for that and look after you. I bet he’s not so grumpy now he got to see the giant aliens.” Jack smiled. “Think of all the stories he can tell you.”
“I have to go, don’t I?” Daniel said, ignoring Jack’s last words.
“Yeah, buddy, you do.”
Daniel’s chin quivered then he nodded and picked up his backpack. He looked at Jack, then at Sam and Teal’c. “Bye.” With that, he turned and walked over to where General Hammond stood in the doorway. “You can take me to my grandfather now.”
“I’ll take you,” Jack said, stepping forward and resting his hand on Daniel’s shoulder. “I’ll walk you out to the car.”
“No!” Daniel shook off Jack’s hand and didn’t even look up at him. “I’m ready now, General. We can go.”
Two weeks earlier:
They were home at last! Well, back at Cheyenne Mountain at least. Jack had wanted to take Daniel straight home to rest after the trip but Daniel had insisted on going to the base first.
“I have to see everyone,” Daniel had insisted earnestly, “to make sure I remember them.”
“Don’t worry if it doesn’t all come back right away,” Jack had cautioned. “You’ve been away for a long time.”
Daniel looked up at Jack, his eyes wide and somewhat fearful. “They haven’t forgotten me, have they?”
“Are you kidding?” Jack grinned. “Not for a second, buddy. Not for a second.”
Even Walter smiled widely when they walked into General Hammond’s outer office. He stood and saluted Jack. “Good to have you back, sir.”
“What about me?” Daniel piped up, though he was half-hiding behind Jack’s back. “Don’t you remember me?”
“Yes, sir… I mean, Doctor Jackson…. Umm…” Walter sighed and waved toward Hammond’s office door. “General Hammond said for you to go straight in the minute you arrived, sir.”
“Thank you, Sergeant.” Jack tapped at the closed door anyway, just because it was the one time he didn’t have to then opened the door at the gruff invitation to enter. Poking his head around the door, he smiled. “We’re home!”
The General stood and nodded. “Come on in, Jack… and I’m hoping you’ve brought someone with you.”
Jack stepped inside the office, attempting to push Daniel ahead of him but Daniel clung like a leech to his leg. “Daniel, this is General –“
“General Hammond, I know,” Daniel whispered, “you told me about him on the way home, remember?” He tugged at Jack’s hand and waited until Jack crouched down in front of him before whispering, “He hasn’t got any hair.”
“You can thank SG1 for that,” Hammond said with a warm smile, “you’ve caused me no end of trouble over the years. Enough to make me tear my hair out at times.” At Daniel’s uncomprehending look, “he chuckled and added, “Don’t worry, Daniel, just a joke.” He reached out and shook Daniel’s free hand. “It’s good to see you, son. We’ve missed you around here.”
Daniel stared at him for a moment. “I think I remember your voice,” he said, “just not your face. Sorry.”
Hammond shook his head. “Don’t be sorry. You’ve been gone a long time. If you don’t remember, we’ll make new memories, how does that sound?”
“Okay, I guess.”
“Good.” Hammond’s expression sobered and he looked at Jack. “Why don’t you leave Daniel in Sergeant Davis’ capable hands while we talk?”
“Rather not, sir,” Jack blurted out. “Kinda nervous about leaving him with anyone right now.”
“It’s important,” Hammond insisted. He looked down at Daniel. “Why don’t you go with Walter and get something to eat?”
“Okay.” Daniel turned to Jack. “That’s okay, isn’t it? Walter’s my friend, right?”
“Sure he is,” Jack agreed. “It’s almost lunchtime. Grab a sandwich for me too, huh?”
Daniel nodded enthusiastically. “Okay.” He turned to Walter who hovered behind them. “You can tell me all about yourself so I don’t forget you again.”
Walter took Daniel’s proffered hand though he didn’t seem overly enthusiastic. “It’s okay, Sergeant,” Jack assured him. “He doesn’t bite… much.”
“Nick’s back?” Jack sat forward in his chair. “Well, that’s great, General. How is he? How the heck did he get back?”
“The aliens sent him back. Seems they thought there was nothing more he could learn from them or vice versa. They did say they would keep in contact should we need them.”
Jack grinned. “Well, that’s cool, right? Can’t have too many allies.”
A worrying thought struck Jack. “About Daniel… Have you told him?”
Hammond shook his head. “He only returned last night and frankly, I found it difficult to get a word in edge-wise, but he was exhausted. He asked after Daniel and I told him you were away on a mission. I thought perhaps it might be better coming from you.”
Jack gave a wry smile. “Gee, thanks.” He waved a hand, dismissing his words at Hammond’s frown. “No, really, sir, it’s fine. After all, the old guy’s just come back from visiting with giant aliens, I doubt this will surprise him much.”
“Jack!” Nicholas Ballard shook Jack’s hand heartily, a wide smile gracing his gaunt features. “It is good to see you again.”
“Good to see you too, Nick,” Jack replied. “I hear you have a lot to tell us.”
“Oh yes.” Nick nodded enthusiastically. “All those people who thought I was crazy will have to eat their words now.”
“Aah, can’t tell anyone, remember?” Jack cautioned. “Big secret.”
“Yes, of course.” Nick looked past Jack. “Where’s Daniel? At least I can tell him of my adventures with the giant aliens.”
“Actually,” Jack took Nick’s arm and led him over to the conference table, “there’s something I need to tell you first.”
“But I want to see Daniel!” Nick shook off Jack’s hand. “Is he hurt, sick? Don’t tell me you’ve lost him again!”
Jack cringed at Nick’s words. “Not exactly. Why don’t we sit down and I’ll explain. You want some coffee? Breakfast?”
Nick waved away both offers impatiently. He sat back, his expression stern. “Tell me about Daniel.”
“… And that’s where we are now.” Jack sat back in his chair and took a slow, deep breath. Nick hadn’t moved an inch through the entire recitation of what had happened to Daniel while he’d been gone. Jack wasn’t sure if that was a good or bad thing. “Umm, any questions?” he added when Nick didn’t say anything.
“So, my grandson is once again a child,” Nick said slowly. Jack nodded. “He remembers only a little of his life? Does he remember his parents?”
“Sorta,” Jack replied. “He knows they died. I showed him some photos of them and he said he remembered things from his childhood… first childhood.”
“And me?” Nick leaned forward then, clenching his hands together and resting them on his knees.
“We didn’t get that far,” Jack said. “You were with the aliens and we had no idea when you’d be coming back. If you were coming back. Frankly, Nick, the kid’s been through enough trauma, I thought it best to…” He shrugged, at a loss for words.
“You did the right thing,” Nick said firmly. “Now, I’d like to see my grandson.”
Jack stood. “Of course. I’ll take you to him. It might be best if you don’t mention where you’ve been for now, okay?”
Nick mimed locking his lips. “Need to know, I believe you military types say.”
“Exactly.” Jack waited until Nick rose then led the way out of the conference room.
Daniel jumped from his chair and ran to Jack the minute they entered Hammond’s office. “Jack! You’ve been gone for ages. Your sandwich is probably stale by now.”
“That’s okay,” Jack replied. “I’ll have a big dinner. There’s someone I want you to meet.” He stepped back to allow Daniel a view of the man behind him. “This is your grandfather, Nicholas Ballard.”
Daniel’s eyes widened. “I have a grandfather?”
Nick stepped forward then and smiled down at Daniel. “Yes, you do. I’ve been away for a long time,” he glanced at Jack and winked, “on very special business but I’m back now. It’s good to see you again.”
“It’s nice to meet you too,” Daniel said shyly. “I’m sorry I don’t remember you.”
Nick patted Daniel’s shoulder. “Not to worry. We can get to know each other all over again. Okay?”
Daniel nodded. “Okay, I’d like that.”
“Good!” Nick clapped his hands together. “So, it’s settled. You’ll come home and live with me.”
“Say what?” Jack blurted out.
“It’s where he should be, isn’t it?” Nick replied. “He’s my grandson, after all, and I’m his only living relative. I should have done this when his parents died but I turned my back on him. I won’t do it again.”
Jack took Nick’s arm and led him into a corner of the room, out of Daniel’s earshot. “You think that’s a good idea, Nick? I mean he doesn’t even remember you, not to mention there’s a thirty-five year old brain mixed up in all of this. He’s not totally a kid.”
Nick glared back at Jack. “I don’t care!” he said sharply. “He’s my grandson. Either he comes home with me or perhaps I’ll have to tell the newspapers about the Stargate program.”
“Leaving national security aside, Nicholas Ballard has a valid point,” Hammond said.
“Come on, sir, you think anyone is going to believe anything he tells them? The man’s spent time in a nuthouse,” Jack protested.
“As I said, Colonel, he has a valid point. Daniel is his grandson. Do we really want to risk him taking this to court, trying to explain who Daniel really is?” Hammond asked.
Carter shrugged. “We’ve managed to cover it up this far, sir, even during the search for Daniel.”
Hammond crossed his arms over his chest. “He’s the boy’s grandfather, his only living relative. Who are we to deny him the right to be with his grandson? I don’t think we have a choice, and I’m making the decision in Daniel’s best interests, not those of Stargate Command’s.” Hammond looked at Carter, Teal’c, and finally, Jack, his expression clearly telegraphing his regret. “I’m sorry. The decision has been made.”
Two weeks later:
Daniel followed his grandfather into the house. He was already missing Jack and just thinking of him made tears sting his eyes. His grandfather’s place wasn’t far away, he knew, but even though he hadn’t remembered Jack for a long time when his mom… when Kathy had taken him away, now it felt like Jack was his only friend in the world.
“I’ll make us some dinner,” his grandfather announced, rubbing his hands together and smiling down at him. “What do you like to eat?”
Daniel shrugged. “I’m not very hungry. I’m tired. Maybe I’ll just go to bed.”
“Right then.” Grandfather nodded.
“Umm…” Daniel looked around the living room. “Where’s my room?”
Grandfather stared at him blankly for a moment then spoke. “Oh, of course. Your room.” He pointed along the hallway. “Second door on the left. When you wake up, we can talk.”
“Okay.” Daniel’s legs felt leaden as he made his way along the hallway and stepped inside the bedroom. The room was sparse with just a single bed and a dresser. Putting down his backpack, Daniel climbed onto the bed and cried himself to sleep.
It took Daniel a few minutes to realize where he was when he first woke up. The room wasn’t at all familiar and he had a moment of panic before he remembered. Grandfather’s house.
Climbing off the bed, he walked over to the window and looked out. A tiny enclosed yard lay below, the grass brown and overgrown, flowers in two large pots were wilted and looking as forlorn as he felt. Turning away from the dismal scene, Daniel headed for the door but paused as he passed the dresser. A black and white photo in a frame sat on top and curious, he lifted it to take a better look. A little solemn-faced boy around three years of age stood between a woman and a man. In the background Daniel could see a pyramid rising up. This must be his parents and himself. Daniel closed his eyes for a moment and willed a memory to come but it was as though his mind was a blank slate. Feeling more disheartened with every second, he opened the door and headed downstairs.
His grandfather sat in an armchair in the living room, snoring softly, his head lolling forward onto his chest. Daniel hesitated for a moment, unsure what to do then decided to explore the rest of the house. Before he could take a step, his grandfather snorted and startled awake.
“What?” Grandfather stared at him. “Who are you and how did you get into my house?”
“It’s me, Grandfather. Daniel.”
His grandfather’s expression remained blank for a second then he nodded. “Daniel. Of course.” He glanced at the clock on the wall. “Dinnertime. Where are your parents?”
Daniel took a step back. “My – my parents? They’re not here, Grandfather.”
“Where are they then?” Then his face suddenly crumpled and tears welled up in his eyes. “Gone,” he whispered brokenly. “They’re gone, aren’t they?”
Daniel nodded, unable to speak around the lump in his throat.
His grandfather’s expression changed again, now he glared at Daniel. “I can’t look after you. I told the authorities that. I have to find the giant aliens again.”
“The crystal skull,” Daniel whispered, a flash of memory coming to mind. “I found it too and then I got lost.”
His grandfather waved the words away as though they were dust. “I knew you were there, Daniel. I told them but they wouldn’t believe me at first.”
Daniel nodded. “I remember.”
“Good!” His grandfather looked pleased at that. “Time for supper! Come!”
Daniel pushed his salad around on his plate. His appetite still hadn’t returned though his grandfather didn’t seem to have noticed as he ate his own meal with relish.
“After dinner,” he said, waving a fork at Daniel, “I’ll tell you about my travels.”
Daniel smled at that. “I’d like that, Grandfather. Could I phone Jack too?”
His grandfather looked puzzled. “Who’s Jack? A friend from school?”
Daniel shook his head. “My friend, Jack, from Cheyenne Mountain. I used to… used to live with him when I first got small.”
Grandfather nodded. “Right.” He shook his head, looking somewhat embarrassed. “My memory’s not as sharp as it used to be,” he said, “except where my discoveries are concerned. Those are crystal clear. Did I tell you about the dig I supervised in Egypt?”
“No.” Daniel scooped up some food and ate it slowly, listening intently as his grandfather wove a tale of adventure and magical discovery. By the time his grandfather had finished the story, Daniel’s plate was still full, so enthralled was he with the lesson on legend and myth. He slid off his chair and waited. “Can I call Jack now before I go to bed?”
“What about the giant aliens?” Grandfather asked. “Don’t you want to hear about them?”
“Tomorrow?” Daniel suggested. “I’m really tired.”
His grandfather looked a little disgruntled at that but he reached out and patted Daniel’s head. “Tomorrow then. Off to bed with you.”
“Jack?” Daniel ventured.
His grandfather waved him away. “Do you have the number?” Daniel pulled a folded piece of paper from his pocket and Grandfather nodded. “The phone’s in the living room. Not too long now.”
Daniel scampered off, hardly able to wait to hear Jack’s voice. His hand was trembling as he dialed the number and there was a strange heaviness in his chest that seemed to outweigh the excitement he felt at speaking to Jack. Something was wrong here, that much he knew, but he had no idea what it was or how to fix it. Jack would know and then he’d come and get him and take him back home where he belonged. The answering machine kicked in and Daniel felt tears sting his eyes. Hastily, he said, in a voice choked with emotion, “Jack, it’s Daniel. I just called to say… I miss you, Jack, and I want to come home and there’s something wrong with Grandfather but I don’t know what and I don’t know what to do. Please can you—“ A buzzing interrupted his words. He hung up the phone and stared forlornly at it. “Come?” he whispered. “Please, Jack.”
“Daniel?” Grandfather strode into the living room, pulling on his jacket. “I have to go out for a while.”
“Can I come with you?” Daniel asked, hurriedly wiping at his tears with the heels of his hands.
“No!” His grandfather waved the idea away with a sweep of his hand. “I’m going to find the giant aliens,” he said, “they’ve been calling for me.”
“No, Grandfather, they sent you back to Earth, remember?” Daniel said. The strange, almost manic look on his grandfather’s face terrified him.
“Just so I could report what they told me,” his grandfather said in a soothing voice. “Now I have to go back and learn more.” He headed to the front door without further hesitation.
“But who will look after me?” Daniel cried.
His grandfather paused then, his expression changing to one of confusion then he smiled. “Well, you’re not really a little boy, are you?”
Daniel shook his head. “I – I guess not.”
Grandfather nodded and opened the door. “Then you can look after yourself.” And with that he was gone. Daniel stared after him for a long moment then, feeling sick with distress, he took the phone off the hook and crawled onto the couch. Laying down, he clutched the receiver to his chest and willed Jack to call.
A loud banging startled Daniel awake and he jumped, almost toppling off the sofa. He looked around in confusion, momentarily forgetting where he was. The rapping sounded again and he realized someone was knocking at the door.
Clambering off the couch, the phone receiver still clutched to his chest, he walked over to the front door, turning on the table lamp on the way. He hadn’t realized how late it was. The apartment was in darkness, save for a shaft of light shining through the window.
“Who’s there?” he called out, relieved to see the door was locked.
“Police,” a deep voice said.
“How do I know that for sure?”
“Get your mom or dad for me, son, okay?”
Daniel blessed his quick thinking, despite his trepidation. “They’re busy,” he replied. “Slide your ID under the door.”
A second later, a small black wallet was pushed under the door. Daniel bent and grasped it, tugging it hard when it stuck. Opening it, he saw the rather stern round face of a man dressed in a police uniform staring back at him. Relieved beyond belief, Daniel unlocked the door.
The officer smiled at him. “Officer Reynolds, son. Can I speak with your mom or dad?”
Daniel swallowed nervously. “They’re dead,” he whispered. “This is my grandfather’s house but he’s not here.” He looked down at the floor. “Sorry, I lied to you but I didn’t want a stranger to know I was here alone.”
Officer Reynolds nodded. “That’s good thinking. What’s your name?”
“Daniel. Daniel Jackson.”
“And you live here with your grandpa?”
“I just came today,” Daniel said, feeling tears sting his eyes. “I used to live with my friend, Jack, but Grandfather wanted me to come live with him, so I did, except he left and I don’t know where he is.” A sob worked its way out of his mouth and he was pulled forward into the policeman’s arms. Resting his head on the man’s broad shoulder, Daniel gave vent to his sorrow and fear.
Reynolds patted his back soothingly. “It’s all right, Daniel. Your grandfather’s safe. Seems he got a little lost and confused. Said he was looking for a stargate so he could go and see some giant aliens. We took him to the hospital to get checked out.”
Daniel nodded and swiped at his eyes. “I’m okay now,” he reassured the officer. Pulling back, he stared at the man. “What will happen now? Do I need to bail him out or something? I only have twenty dollars Jack gave me before I left.”
Officer Reynolds tousled his hair. “It’s fine, son. Happens to folks when they get old. They get forgetful.”
“Senility,” Daniel said, nodding. “Grandfather’s really smart though. He’s an archeologist.”
“He’s been in the hospital before though, right?” Officer Reynolds said. “The psychiatric hospital?”
“Yeah, but he wasn’t really sick,” Daniel tried to explain. “It was just…” He trailed off, trying to figure out how exactly he could explain that his grandfather really had seen giant aliens. Sighing, he held up the phone. “Maybe you should talk to Jack. I phoned him a while ago, but he wasn’t home. Maybe he is now. If he isn’t, we could try Sam or General Hammond.”
Officer Reynolds raised an eyebrow at that then asked, “Who’s Jack? He your stepdad?”
“Sorta… More like my foster dad, but my Grandfather wanted me to come live with him…” He sighed. “It’s a long story,” he added. Before tears threatened to overflow, he dialed Jack’s number and waited nervously as it rang. He was about to hang up in defeat, resigning himself to the inevitability of at least an overnight stay in foster care when he heard Jack answer, sounding impatient.
“Jack! It’s me, Daniel and I…” And then he couldn’t speak at all as he started to cry once more. Officer Reynolds gently took the receiver from his trembling hand and led him over to sit on the couch.
“Let me talk to him, okay?” he said. “I’ll explain everything.”
Daniel nodded, more than happy now to place his future in someone else’s hands.
Daniel followed Jack into the house then stood, flat-footed and uncertain. Jack took his jacket and hung it on the hook by the door then grabbed Daniel’s own jacket and hung it next to his own. “Bet you’re hungry,” he said. “Problem is I haven’t had a chance to go shopping.”
“That’s okay,” Daniel said quickly. “I’m not that hungry.” Jack had been mostly silent on the drive back to his house and Daniel wondered if he was beginning to think that having a kid underfoot, even if that kid used to be your best friend, was just too much trouble after all. “I’ll just go to my room and read,” he added. “I won’t be any bother.”
Jack grasped his hand as he was about to go upstairs. “You’re not a bother, Daniel,” he said. “You never were.”
“I thought…” Daniel took a deep, shaky breath. “Are you mad at me because you had to come and get me again?”
Jack’s eyes widened and he reached out and pulled Daniel into his arms, lifting him to sit on his hip. “I’m not mad at you, or your Grandpa, buddy. Nick is sick, old and sick. Janet said maybe spending that time with the aliens triggered the Alzheimers and made it progress faster that it normally would. He’s gonna get the best care at the hospital, I promise.”
“And what about me?” Daniel asked. “Will I have to go live somewhere else?”
“I was angry,” Jack said, “at myself. I shouldn’t have let you go without a fight, Daniel. I know Nick’s family but I should have done something when I could see you didn’t want to go. You’re staying here with me, Daniel, for as long as you want anyway. General Hammond’s making sure that you’ll never have to go anywhere again that you don’t want to go.”
“So I can stay with you forever?”
Jack grinned and set Daniel back down on the floor. “If that’s what you want.”
“It is, Jack. It’s what I always wanted.” Daniel put his hand in Jack’s and led him out to the kitchen. “You know what else I want?”
“What’s that?” Jack asked.
Daniel picked up the phone and handed it to Jack. “Pizza.”