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Prologue - 1999

Colonel Jack O’Neill crisped his final salute in sync with Major Carter as the last notes of the bugler echoed around the concrete walls of the Gate room.  The shimmering backdrop of blue sparkled momentarily, popped, and vanished into thin air, leaving only the huge round ring of emptiness mocking the shuffling crowd jammed into the small space. 

No one could fail to recognize the simile; Dr. Jackson was gone again, his absence leaving them as empty as the Gate without an event horizon.

At the top of the ramp, O’Neill turned to his 2IC, “My office, 1500 hours,” he snarled.

Not waiting for a reply, he turned on his heel and stalked out of the Gate room, unaware the crowd parted like the Red Sea for Moses, closing in his wake because there wasn’t even elbow room in the sardine-packed bunker.

A hundred feet down the first corridor beyond the blast doors, Jack turned the corner and threw up an arm, slumping forehead first against the wall.  He jerked his tie loose and sucked in air, battling for control of the fury burning through his veins. 

Yes, he was angry with Daniel for yet again touching some stupid thing he should have long ago learned to keep his hands off, but he was enraged with his remaining teammates for having dragged him back through the Gate at Daniel’s expense.  They knew damn well he’d rather have died than left Daniel behind. 

He’d sworn, if only to himself, after the Apophis/Klorel debacle, he would never leave a teammate behind again.  Not even a dead one and at the time they hadn’t known if Daniel was dead or alive; they’d only known he was missing. 

As far Jack was concerned, the archeologist was only missing this time as well.

He stood for a moment, eyes closed, dragging air into his clogged lungs, knowing he needed to cool down before taking on Carter and Teal’c.  Which was why he’d given himself two hours before he had to meet them. 

Colonel O’Neill headed for the surface and his own private sanctuary.  He desperately needed to find some equilibrium.

***

2004

O’Neill ran his fingers over the newly installed name plate on General Hammond’s office door. 

General Jack O’Neill.

He wondered, for at least the one thousand, eight hundred and thirty-seventh time what Daniel was doing. 

They’d been back to the damned planet a dozen times; swept the ruins millimeter by millimeter; activated and reactivated the particle beam thingy that had zapped Dr. Jackson out of existence, at least a hundred times, with at least as many variables. 

Nothing.  Nada.  Squat. 

Carter’s experiments had all yielded negative results.  Nothing they’d put in the beam had moved, mutated or otherwise transformed; just sat smugly in place, jeering at them.

Hammond had finally put his foot down, closing the subject of Dr. Jackson once and for all.  At Jack’s request, he made one concession; Carter was allowed to archive the GDO code they’d been using and rig the computer so that if it ever came up again, the iris would be opened without question. 

That had been three years, six months and seven days ago; alternatively, one thousand, two-hundred and ninety-two days ago.

Yeah, Jack was counting.

Sighing, he shouldered open the door just as the red phone on his new desk began to ring.  He stared at it, scratched his head, glanced over his shoulder and finally – gingerly – picked it up. 

“O’Neill,” he barked, desperately trying to remember how Hammond had answered this phone.

“Jack O’Neill?” growled a deep, very obviously altered voice on the other end of the line.

Jack pulled the phone away from his ear.  He knew of only two people who had this number; okay, three if the President’s secretary made the calls, and he was damned certain neither the President nor General Hammond would be making prank calls on this line.

“Who the hell is this?” he demanded, grabbing a paperweight off the desk and lobbing it at the shatterproof window between his office and the boardroom. 

The paperweight bounced harmlessly off the window and Chief Master Sergeant Walter Davis never once looked up.

“I have information I thought you might be interested in,” the mystery voice intoned.  “I thought this would be the quickest way to get your attention.  Don’t bother looking up the trace, it will only take you back to Area 51.  They’re in the process of dismantling a lab down here.  But you better be quick, it won’t take them much longer and I have no idea what’s going to happen to the contents of the lab.  I don’t think the consequences can be good though.”

Jack found himself holding a phone blaring a dial tone in his ear.  He put it down very gently and bent to grope for the edge of the chair, not knowing how much longer his knees would hold him up. 

He allowed himself one brief moment, burying his hands in his face, before he snatched up the regular phone and dialed Carter’s lab. 

“Get Teal’c,” he ordered, over top of her breathless surname. “Immediately.  We’re leaving for Area 51 as soon as we can get a chopper in here to get us to Peterson.  I’ll meet you both at the surface.” 

He slammed the phone down and turned to the side door.  “Wal …” he shouted, ‘ter,” Jack finished on a sigh.  “Get me a helicopter, like yesterday afternoon.  I’ll make the arrangements at Peterson.  And I want a window I can throw things at that will shatter.  How do I get Paul Davis at the Pentagon?”

“Major Davis is currently at Area 51, sir.  A window that will shatter, sir?”

“Sweet!”  Jack pumped air.  “How do I reach him?  Yeah, a window that will shatter; preferably before I get back.”

“Right.  I’ll get him on the line for you, sir, as soon as I’ve secured the chopper.” 

“Thanks. I’ll be gone for the rest of the day, Sergeant, clear my appointments.”

“Yes, sir,” the Gate technician-cum-personal-secretary smirked.  “Anything else, sir?”

“I’ll call you if I need anything else.”  Jack waved his hand dismissively, making shooing motions as he searched the desk for a list of phone numbers. 

“Top right hand drawer, sir.  But if you just pick up the phone and tell the switchboard who you want, they’ll get them on the phone for you.”

“Thanks.”  Jack picked up the phone.  “Yeah, get me General Monihan over at Peterson.”

Five minutes later the weapons tech on  duty in the Armory glanced up at the Mountain’s C.O. 

“You’re not going offworld, sir, but you’re signing out weapons?  Uhm, I don’t think . . .”

Jack smiled politely.  “Sergeant, do you see the stars on this jacket?”

“Yes, sir,” the airman nodded vigorously. 

“Don’t think, do as you’re ordered.  Two P-90’s and Teal’c’s staff weapon; without further delay or you’ll be mopping the floor around here.”

“Yes, sir.”  The reluctant ordnance officer handed over the staff weapon, leaving the P-90s just out of reach until he had the General’s full signature and initials on the sign-out sheet. 

Jack made a mental note of the name, pleased that his staff wasn’t boot licking now that he’d ascended to a higher plane of existence. 

“Thank you, Clenden,” he barked, shouldering the guns and picking up Teal’c’s staff weapon.  “I should have these back to you before the day is out.”  He smiled pleasantly in an effort to relieve the young man’s obvious anxiety and jogged off down the corridor.

“Sir?”  Carter inquired as he handed over her P-90 outside the Quonset hut employee entrance to both NORAD and the top secret facility known as Stargate Command. 

The world was still under the impression they were studying deep space telemetry down there in the bowels of the Mountain. 

“To where are we headed, O’Neill?”  Teal’c accepted his weapon without raising an eyebrow. 

“Area 51.”

“Just the three of us?”  Colonel Samantha Carter tossed the strap of the P-90 over her shoulder and fell in step with her teammates.  “Yuri’s not coming?”

Jack did a quick 360, sweeping the parking lot as he shoved a clip into his own P-90 and released the firing mechanism.  “Do you see Krinkov, Colonel?”

“Sir,” Carter grabbed him by the shoulder to slow him down.  “Teal’c and I need to know what we’re headed into.”

“I’ll tell you as much as I know when we’re airborne out of Peterson.  Until then, put a lid on it.”  General O’Neill shook off her hand and leapt into a sprint as the Blackhawk settled gently to earth on the landing pad at the far end of the parking lot.

Carter and Teal’c followed, only steps behind.

*** Part I

“I’ve found it, sir.  The shut down has temporarily been halted, but I’m having to climb the chain of command and several doors have already been slammed in my face.”  Major Paul Davis was white as a sheet and breathing hard. 

Jack could literally see the pulse pounding at his temple.  His own heart rate tripled. 

“Was I right?” he demanded.

“Yes, sir . . .” Davis swallowed painfully.  “You were.”

“We don’t need much time, Major.  Fuck TPTB.  How far?  And did you leave behind somebody you trust?”

“No, sir.”  Davis responded, indicating a jeep idling nearby.  “I don’t trust anyone here.  It’s close by, we could walk, but this will be faster,” he continued, ushering SG-1 into the desert-camo painted conveyance. 

“You should take a look at these, sir.”  He pulled a small digital camera from the pocket of his Class A trousers, handing it to O’Neill as he slid behind the wheel.  “I’m being stonewalled, even by my own connections,” the major shrugged.  “However, I managed to reach the President’s secretary.  She’s working on it, sir.  Which is how I managed to get the ‘dismantling’ stopped.” 

In the passenger seat, Jack manipulated the small hand-held camera, flipping out the screen, fiddling with the contrast, anything he could think of to delay actually clicking a picture on the viewer. 

“Sir,” Carter grabbed the side of the Jeep as they took a corner on two wheels.  “If you’re withholding intel that’s important to Teal’c and me in this situation . . .” she shouted above the whistling wind.

Jack pressed the button to display the pictures and gasped in shock. 

“What the hell?”  He jerked his head toward Davis.  “If this is your idea of a joke, Major, you’re about to get busted back to airman.”

“It’s Dr. Jackson, sir,” Davis shouted back.  “I’ve seen the DNA match.”

Teal’c was only a blur as his long arm snatched the camera from over O’Neill’s shoulder. 

Sam smashed into the Jaffa as she reached for a share of the view finder.  She and Teal’c tore their gazes from the small screen to exchange baffled glances, both turning immediately back to the picture.

A small, solemn, tow-headed child stared up at the camera.  Teal’c’s large finger had trouble with the tiny button that scrolled the pictures and he handed the camera to Carter, looming over her shoulder now, as one by one, she displayed the shots. 

There were perhaps a dozen of the child, followed by pictures of several adults, one or two of whom she thought looked familiar.  Her stomach flipped over nauseatingly as she returned to the blond child.

The jeep ground to a halt, pitching them all forward except Davis who braced himself on the steering wheel. 

“Sorry,” he offered, sliding rapidly out of the vehicle.

Jack took a moment to assess the building.  One-story, very few windows, with the only quick access appearing to be the double, glass doors at the front of the building.  Looking down the long corridor, he could see no end or exit, only door after door lining both sides of the corridor.

“Major?”

“Two thirds of the way down the corridor, sir.  Room number thirty-seven.  I’ve only been gone ten minutes, but they could have had time to collect reinforcements.  Alternatively, sir, they may have just abandoned the whole thing.” 

He didn’t voice what he feared - and taken Daniel.

“Davis,” Jack grabbed the man’s arm as the major reached to open the plate glass door into the building.  “Did you speak to him?” 

“No, sir, I didn’t even try.” 

“Carter, Teal’c, you know as much as I do.   What the hell are you doing, T?”

The huge alien had re-crossed the circular driveway and scooped up a handful of stones from the decorative cactus garden set in the middle of the drive.  He hefted one experimentally, raised his arm, and one by one, fired the missiles in rapid succession at the roof. 

 “Satisfied?” the colonel inquired caustically, when no rain of bullets hailed down on them.

“For the moment,” Teal’c replied, bringing his own weapon to the ready.

“You armed, Major?”  Jack rechecked his safety

In response, Davis pulled a Glock from his waistband.  “Yes, sir.’

“Carter?”

“Sir - ”

“No time,” the General hissed

Carter grabbed his arm.  “Sir!  What about civilians?”

“Shoot anything that moves,” O’Neill shook her off again, “except Daniel.  I’m going to the left; Teal’c, take the right, Carter, you and Davis come in behind us.  Try not to kill, but do what you have to.” 

He jerked a finger across his throat and yanked the door open, sprinting noiselessly down the seemingly endless hall.  He stopped abruptly and motioned to either side. 

Both doors were marked #37.  Davis pointed to the right.

Instantly Jack rolled to the left side of the door, Teal’c to the right.   Carter and Davis both stepped back when Jack lifted a hand, three fingers up.  As he fisted the third finger, he smashed the door open and sprang through with a pantherish grace that belied his aging knees and back.

A step behind him, Teal’c primed his staff weapon as he, too, sprang into the room.

A wordless battle for right of passage warred momentarily in the doorway as both Carter and Davis leapt for it together.  Davis automatically turned sideways, a step behind Teal’c, Sam stayed dead center.

All of them stood for a stunned moment, staring at the only target in the room – the very small, tow-headed boy from the pictures.

“Perimeter sweep,” Jack croaked, his eyes never leaving the child who was slowly backing up against the far wall.

Sam’s P-90 sagged with the weight of her shock.  The spiraling nausea from two minutes ago was back full force, crawling up the back of her throat like spiders fleeing trolls.  She forced it down and willed her trembling legs to obey orders.  Finger still on the trigger, P-90 still cocked on her elbow, she made a quick sweep of her half of the room, signaling all clear to the Colonel who had lowered his own P-90 as he faced the kid.

“There is no one here, O’Neill.”

“Yeah, nobody,” Carter echoed.  “Something’s weird.  We didn’t run into anyone in the corridor either.  The entire building is abandoned?”

“This building hasn’t been in use for some time, Colonel.  Some kind of accident years ago.  It’s far enough out from the rest of the base, it was never put to use again after it was decontaminated. At least, that’s the story we were given.  I never occurred to me to check it out.”

“But where are all the people in the pictures?  You just took them, didn’t you?”

“At a guess,” Davis glanced around at the boxes strewn haphazardly around the room, some overflowing with papers, others half empty, or already taped closed.  “They recognized me and realized the gig was up.”

“But . . .”

“We can discuss this ad nauseum when we’re back on the plane.  Collect anything and everything you can carry,” Jack instructed, tearing his eyes from the child long enough to make a cursory visual sweep of the room.

When he looked back, the blond-haired, blue-eyed, pygmy Daniel had backed against the wall.  The kid had spread his small hands against the hard surface on either side of himself and pushed his head back in an effort to retreat as far as possible.

They so didn’t have time for coaxing and cajoling.  

Jack took a slow step forward, controlling his own nausea by sheer force of will, moving slowly toward the child.

With each step he took, the eyes widened incrementally until they could open no further and the small, bone-white face was dominated by enormous blue eyes dotted with pencil marks for pupils.

“Daniel?” Jack whispered, crouching down still two steps away from the boy.  Shoving the P-90 over his shoulder he slowly held out a hand, palm up.  “Hey, buddy,” he had to swallow a choked sob and his voice was shaking.  “It’s me, Jack.  Do you remember me?”

Abject terror slid slowly over the pinched, frozen features.  The fingertips pressed against the wall went white and the miniature mouth fell open, but no sound came out. 

Jack scooped the kid up as his eyes rolled up in his head and he slid, boneless, down the wall. 

“Let’s go,” he commanded, cradling the small burden to his chest. 

He swept the lab visually once more as he strode to the door, memorizing details he had no time to absorb at the moment.

Later, when they had Daniel safe, he would take somebody apart limb by limb.  Just now his objective was getting airborne again. 
 
ASAP.

*** Part II

He literally fit in the space of two seats - two spacious, accommodating seats - but Daniel was small enough to fit, lying down, between the arms of the chairs. 

Carter had eye-balled the accommodations with disdain when they’d first boarded at Peterson, finally admitting the plane looked very similar to the one she’d flown on with Colonel Maybourne during the alien incursion at the SGC.  The one she’d shot ‘Colonel O’Neill’ on. 

Under any other circumstances Jack would have been giving her hell about shooting him; as it was, he’d had one thing and one thing only on his mind. 

Something Carter had been giving him hell about for the last fifteen minutes.  She was on her knees in front of the two chairs where he’d laid the small, crumpled, t-shirt-and-jean-clad figure.  

Carter was SG-1’s field medical officer and Jack had resentfully yielded up his place when she reminded him Daniel was still unconscious and might be in need of medical assistance. 

“His pulse is racing, sir, and his skin clammy.”

Major Davis handed a first aid kit over the back of the seats, followed by a blanket.  “Not much to work with, Colonel, I’m sorry.   But at least we’re off the ground.”

“Hospital?”  Jack asked.

“I don’t know, sir.”

“We need to decide now, Carter, before we’re too far out of here, there’s not a hell of a lot between here and home, unless we want to parachute down.”

“Maybe we should try to wake him?”   Sam rummaged through the first aid kit and dug out a snap capsule of ammonia. “What do you think?”

Sighing, Jack snatched the capsule from between her fingers.  “Move,” he ordered, snapping open the capsule as they traded spaces. 

He waved it under the miniature nose and was rewarded with a sneeze, blue eyes flying wide, a well-aimed kick to the chest and a kicking, biting, struggling-like-mad fury that launched itself at him, nearly knocking them both to the floor.

“Stop it!”  Jack returned the favor with a well-aimed smack to the fanny, which brought his fury up short - chest heaving, glaring madly through the wildly mussed hair falling over the wide eyes.

“You’re not allowed to touch me,” the child ground out between clenched teeth.  “Get your filthy hands off me!”

Jack plunked the kid back down in the seat and Daniel scrambled back as far as he possibly could, shrinking down when he realized Davis was still standing over the back of the chair. 

“Who are you people?” he breathed angrily.  “I don’t belong here.  Where’s Jack?  What have you done with him?”

“The pilot believes we will make good time on the way back, O’Neill.  He says we are encountering a stiff tail wind,” Teal’c announced, an eyebrow going up as he regarded what appeared to be a Mexican standoff between the very small child and the three looming adults. 

“Are you unwell, Danieljackson?”

Vile loathing, Jack realized; he was hearing vile loathing in a child’s voice.  It had taken several moments to place, especially as it was so wrong coming out of Daniel’s mouth in any way, shape, or form. 

The Daniel Jackson he knew had no conception of vile loathing.  Being a linguist he might have been able to give a definition of it if push came to shove, but experiencing it?  Not a chance.  Perhaps with the exception of the Goa’uld; but even then, he’d never heard that tone of voice out of Daniel.

“What have you done with Jack?”  The small voice rose shrilly.

“I’m Jack,” the General stated calmly.  “Jack O’Neill.  What’s your name?”

Again the blue eyes grew wide, then narrowed. 

“That’s a lie,” Daniel spat, small fists clenching, face flushing beet red.  “You’re not Jack O’Neill.” 

He swallowed, screwed his eyes shut, and let out an unearthly howl that sent chills down Jack’s spine. 

It was his name - in a long, drawn out wail, ending on a sob. 

Instinct had the General reaching without thought.  Instinct also had him yanking his hand back with several long scratches where little hands with sharp fingernails had struck out blindly in denial.

“Daniel.”  Ignoring the bloody scratches Jack tried again. 

If this was really Daniel, and Teal’c had gathered up every bit of paperwork he’d found in his first circumlocution of the lab, among which were the DNA tests Davis had seen, then surely Jack would be able to reach him on some level. 

“How do you know my name?  Who are you?  Where’s Jack?”  Clearly frightened now, he threw back his head and screeched Jack’s name again at the top of his lungs.

The door between the cockpit and the cabin slammed into the bulkhead as the co-pilot, 9mm gripped in both hands, came through. 

“What the hell is going on out here? Sounded like somebody was dying.”

“Put the gun away,” Jack barked.  “Daniel, sit down.  Carter, Teal’c, Davis - find seats and sit down.”

“Sir,” Carter began. 

“I don’t want to hear it.  Sit.  Daniel, sit down,” he ordered again. 

“No.  You can’t make me.  You don’t have any authority over me and you can’t make me do anything I don’t want to do!” Daniel shrieked, flailing fists and feet before Jack was within a foot of him again.  “Don’t touch me!  Don’t touch me!”

Turning his head, Jack slid an arm around the tiny waist, effectively trapping the small body against his own.  With one hand he manacled both slender wrists, slid his other arm under the thrashing knees and folded the child in two. 

“Listen to me,” he said quietly, right in the boy’s ear, “I’m going to sit both of us down and if you sit quietly, I’ll let you go.  Daniel, I need to talk to you and it’s not going to be useful for either of us if you continue to kick and scream until you wear yourself out.”

“I hate you!” Daniel jerked at his loosely gripped wrists.  “I hate you, I hate you, I hate you!  Leave me alone!  I hate you!”

Jack glanced over his shoulder at Davis, who’d taken one of the seats against the outer wall. 

“Get back on the phone and see what you can find out.  I want to know how long this has been going on, who’s had him, what they’ve done to him, and most of all, who the hell is posing as me.”

“I already have calls out, sir, on all but the last question.  I didn’t realize . . .” Major Davis trailed off.  “This could make things even more difficult.”

“Ya think?”  Jack eased down in the chair he’d just snatched Daniel from, keeping his continually testing nuisance tucked up as restrictively as possible.

“Do you wish me to contain Danieljackson, O’Neill?”  Teal’c loomed over them.

“No thanks, T.  I think maybe I should wait this one out.”

“As you wish,” Teal’c inclined his head.  “If you should require my assistance I am readily available.”

Carter perched in the chair across from them, her eyes never leaving Daniel as she said, yet again, “I can’t believe you didn’t tell us.  How could you not tell us, sir?”

“Carter, for the hundredth time, I wasn’t sure.  I didn’t want to get anybody else’s hopes up.” 

They’d had so many false alarms in the five years Daniel had been missing.  After a huge fight, Jack had finally agreed to allow his friend to be registered as MIA; presumed dead.

He’d been depressed for weeks after finally giving in - had seen Daniel on every corner, in the grocery store, at the dry cleaners, and every Starbucks he passed, had heard his voice walking down the corridors of the SGC, and actually turned to look several times before catching himself.

Sam shook her head.  “I just don’t understand, sir.  How could you keep that from us?  You should have told us.  We had a right to know.”

Exasperated, Jack glared over at her.  “Dammit, Carter, I didn’t believe it myself.  I’m still not sure I believe it.”

“You saw the DNA match, sir.  This is our Daniel - but what happened?” 

“I mean this in the kindest possible way, so don’t take offense, Carter, but would you just shut up, please!  I’m sorry I didn’t tell you.” 

Which was a blatant lie, on top of a blatant lie. 

He’d known the minute the voice had mentioned Area 51.  He’d just known, as if some part of him had been aware of the information all along and had never bothered to acknowledge it. 

Nor was he the least bit sorry he hadn’t shared his thoughts.  He’d told them only that he’d received a mysterious call on the red phone, from a caller asking to speak directly to him, and recommending he check out a lab being dismantled at Area 51. 

He’d played it off as though the combination of the red phone and Area 51 was too dangerous to leave uninvestigated.  Except he’d blown his cover when they’d first encountered Davis.  That was probably what was sticking in Carter’s craw the most; he’d taken the Pentagon lackey into his confidence and not his team. 

Not much choice.  Davis had had immediate access to the vicinity and despite O’Neill’s inclination, he hadn’t wanted to send the man into a possibly volatile situation blind.  So he’d told Davis his suspicions, praying fervently he was right. 

In five years he was the only one who’d never given up hope they’d find their fourth teammate again.  He just hadn’t expected to find a tiny Daniel. 

Jack was still in shock.  He loosed his hold experimentally, expecting instant retribution, and wasn’t disappointed.  He was, however, surprised at the strength the little bugger displayed.

Daniel struck out blindly the moment he sensed freedom, rearing his head up into Jack’s chin, thrusting out his legs at the same time so he catapulted out of the loosened hold, tumbling onto the floor where he scrambled back on all fours, straight into Sam’s legs. 

Panicked, he flattened himself on the floor, trying to roll under her seat as she reached for him.

Teal’c snatched up the blanket lying on the seat and tossed it over the child, plucking him off the floor as though he weighed no more than a feather.  Tucking the blanket loosely around the still squirming youngster, Teal’c transferred Daniel to one arm and pushed back the cloth covering his face. 

“Be still,” he crooned softly, “I will not hurt you.  Nor will anyone here allow you to be hurt.  You are safe, Danieljackson, be still.”

“I want my Jack,” Daniel whispered, tears welling for the first time.  “Where’s Jack?”

“I promise you, little one, we will find your Jack and bring him to you.”

“T?“  General O’Neill inquired, a wealth of meaning insinuated in the single letter.

“ASAP,” the alien promised matter-of-factly.

“What’s that mean?” Daniel sniffed tearfully.

“As soon as possible.”
 
*** Part III

Jack thought he might have a ruptured eardrum by the time they finally reached the infirmary with their still blanketed bundle. 

It had proved an effective and, they hoped, less traumatic way of coping with the constant lashing out the moment Daniel sensed any kind of easing of his confinement.

However, it hadn’t stopped him from screaming himself hoarse, or finally, near the end of the trip, crying himself to sleep.  He looked angelic now, still tucked into Teal’c’s side, the entire small frame easily supported by elbow and hand.

“Where you were?”  An irate Yuri Krinkov turned the corner into the quartet as they strode down the corridor leading to the infirmary.  “Major Davis,” he greeted politely.  “You leaf without telling me anything,” he accused the rest of his team.

“This didn’t involve you,” Jack snapped, “get over it.  I’m not in the mood to put up with any shit from you today.” 

Over the last four and a half years he’d put up with more than he’d ever thought himself capable of, because in the end, it hadn’t mattered. 

Daniel’s replacement on SG-1 had been handpicked by General Hammond.  The Russian had come with excellent credentials, spotless reputation, and the highest commendations an officer could receive. 

He’d also come with an attitude.

It hadn’t mattered because Jack hadn’t cared.

In the last three hours O’Neill’s attitude had undergone a cataclysmic transformation.  It did matter now and Jack wasn’t putting up with it for one more nano second. 

“Find some place else to be, Krinkov,” he ordered, his tone of voice booking no argument.

The Russian stopped in his tracks as the remainder of SG-1 stormed the infirmary.

“Brightman!”  O’Neill glanced around the crowded space for the doctor.  “What the hell happened here?  At ease!” he snapped as every capable soldier in the place spontaneously came to attention. 

SG units four and ten had been out on a standard recon today; he remembered that much. 

Teal’c, Carter, and Davis swerved around Jack as he halted in the middle of the aisle between the beds. 

Teal’c, the child in his arms now completely covered with the blanket, led the way into Dr. Brightman’s office, where they would at least have some privacy.

“Sir,” SG-4’s CO saluted smartly, “we encountered a situation with hostiles on P8X-739er.  We were pinned down, sir, and couldn’t reach the gate, but Gus managed to get it open and we were able to call for back-up, sir.  Some of the boys – and girls – sorry, sir, took a little heat.  According to the Doc, minor injuries only, sir.”

“Good.  Debrief at 0800 tomorrow.”

“Sir?”  The marine glanced at his watch. 

It was only 2:30 in the afternoon.  Debriefs usually occurred within hours of the mission, otherwise seemingly unimportant little details were often lost. 

“Write your reports before you leave the Mountain, otherwise you’re all dismissed until 0800, as soon as the Doc clears you,” the General added as an afterthought. 

He would have liked to clear the Mountain under the circumstances, at least until he had a handle on the current situation; however, it seemed a little extreme given Area 51 already had all the pertinent information  It was usually Area 51 the SGC was scrambling to withhold information from. 

“Where’s Brightman?”

“ISO Room one, sir,” one of the nurses responded, glancing curiously after the General as he strode to the opposite end of the infirmary and out through the back door.

“Colonel . . . I’m sorry, I mean - General O’Neill - how can you be so sure?” Brightman was saying as Jack ushered her back into her office.  “The probability of Dr. Jackson regressing both physically and mentally to a young child?  I just find that extraordinarily hard to believe.”

“How long have you worked here, Doc?” 

“I hope you don’t mind, I took the liberty of pulling Daniel’s medical files, Dr. Brightman,” Sam said from behind the desk. 

She had the SGC’s original DNA tests out of the manila folder comparing them with the copies from Area 51. 

“No doubt about it,” she looked up, hands spread flat on the desk, posture negatively affirming.  “It’s Daniel.”

Teal’c flipped back the blanket, exposing the child’s face. 

“Just to be on the safe side, Doc, I need you to rerun the tests.  And he needs to be checked for any possible Goa’uldy kind of time bombs.”

“I don’t understand, sir.”

“Yeah, I know.  But we’ve been around this block a couple times already.  Just look for anything unusual – little added extras that shouldn’t be in there, ya know.”

“I’m still not sure I understand, General.”

“Oh, you will if you find anything, believe me.  I want him in one of the ISO rooms, which one do you want us to use?”

Dr. Brightman stepped to the door to study the large dry-erase board affixed to the wall with patient information. 

“You can put him in Room three, I’ll send a nurse in as quickly as possible, but if this isn’t a life threatening situation, I have a roomful of injured people to care for, sir.”

“This could very well be a life threatening situation, Doctor,” Jack informed her tersely.  “Call in extra staff if need be, I want you working on Daniel immediately.  And have Dr. Warner on stand-by just in case.  If you need anybody else, you have authorization to go anywhere and contact anybody you need.  And don’t worry about security clearance, I want the best working on this, I’ll make whatever arrangements are necessary.”  He grimaced at the thought of the potential paperwork.

Not a flicker of emotion passed over the still face, though Jack felt her surprise.

“Take him to ISO three, then.  I’ll be there shortly.  I need to gather up some equipment and supplies.”

“I’ll take his chart,” Sam said, hurriedly gathering up the spread out papers and stuffing them back into the bulging file folder.

“I’ll be there shortly as well,” Jack said, his gaze going to Davis who’d quietly placed himself out of the way.

Jack waited until the office was empty except for the two of them and closed the door. 

“First of all, I want to thank you for what you’ve done here.  There’s every probability if you hadn’t been on site, Daniel would have disappeared again.”

“Dr. Jackson was my friend, too, General.”

Jack gave a Teal’c-like nod of acknowledgement.  “Daniel was everybody’s friend, Major, but thank you just the same.  You went above and beyond the call of duty and I’m grateful.”

“It certainly wasn’t out of the realm of my unusual responsibilities, sir.  I hope you believe if I’d had any inkling of this . . .” he trailed off, sighing.  “I think it’s probably time to go spin my web a little further.”

Jack reached into the deep pocket of his BDU pants and pulled out his key card. 

“Use my office, Major.  And use the red phone if you have to.  We have a desperate need to know.”

“You understand, sir, I may not be able to come up with much more?”

“You understand, Paul, I’m not ordering you to do this, only asking as a personal favor?”

Davis smiled.  “Yes, sir, I understand completely.”

“Good, then we’re on the same page.  I’m available for whatever needs to be done.”

“Carter and Teal’c too, I assume?”

“Absolutely.  We’ll take time off if necessary.”

“Same page, sir.”  Davis returned the nod, opened the door, and strode out like a man on a mission.

Outside the office Jack turned the opposite way, following his teammate’s path to ISO room three, except out of habit, he detoured up to the observation deck.

Carter was sitting on the bed, an unwrapped Daniel snuggled in her arms, her chin resting on the top of his head as she rocked them both to a gentle rhythm. 

Jack activated the intercom and could hear her crooning softly to the sniffling child. 

Teal’c had taken up a position at the foot of the bed, wrists clasped behind his back, relaxed, but poised for any necessary action.

“Daniel?”  Sam ran a hand through the fine blond hair.  “Sweetie, can you tell me how old you are?”  She kissed his forehead and felt him stiffen.  “Sorry, babe.  How old are you?” she repeated, going back to rocking since he seemed to respond best to just being held.

“How come you know my name?  Where’s Jack?”  Daniel stirred restlessly, pushing off Carter’s chest.  “Where am I?” 

He looked around, no spark of curiosity in his eyes, only uncertainty and a lot of fear.  The vivid blue gaze traveled up past the equipment lining the walls, up to the observation window where he realized O’Neill was standing. 

From his vantage point, the General watched the boy retreat, pulling back inside himself like a hermit crab retreating into his shell.  When the thin arms crept up over his chest in that damned self-hug Daniel had finally been growing out of, Jack’s jaw hardened. 

Five years!  And dammit, the kid below barely looked five-years-old.  He was as obsessed with the questions of what had happened to Daniel and where he’d been as was Carter, merely less inclined to voice it aloud. 

That didn’t stop the interrogatives flying around inside his head.  Jack rubbed at the unfamiliar ache tap tapping away behind his eyes, wondering if command at this level automatically came with a headache.  He remembered seeing Hammond similarly rubbing his forehead a time or two.

The ISO room door swung inward, admitting Dr. Brightman pushing a rolling cart with a portable EKG machine, while pulling another along behind.  Teal’c immediately turned to assist, moving things as she directed for easy access.

Jack was pleased to see her sit down on the bed with Carter and address Daniel directly.

“Hello, Daniel.  You were asleep a few minutes ago when I first saw you.  My, I see you have beautiful eyes now that they’re open.” 

Brightman was new, a temporary replacement for Frasier.  Jack unconsciously rubbed his chest over his heart.  That was an ache he would never loose.  He did not like Brightman, simply because she wasn’t, and never could hope to be, Janet. 

He’d known from the moment Hammond had brought the subject up he was going to dislike whomever they chose.  He’d deliberately tried to steer the General away from any of the candidates that might have stepped seamlessly into Frasier’s shoes. 

The old fox had seen right through his ploy and, feeling very much the same as his 2IC, had chosen the least likely aspirant.

While Brightman was an excellent physician, even she knew she was hugely lacking in imagination.  She had put in for a change in post from Antarctica and wound up at the SGC. 

Not an especially happy move as far as she was concerned, merely trading one bad post for another.  Aliens and alien diseases were still the domain of science fiction in her mind and what’s more, she couldn’t even share her ill humor with her family because she worked at the top secret facility all her colleagues had been dying to get into. 

The SGC - where they studied deep space telemetry - and had atrocious medical costs.  In the world of the military where things never added up, those two diametrically opposed opposites usually added up to new adventures.  If she’d known what she’d been getting into she’d have said thanks, but no thanks.  Not that the military took crap like that from their civil servants, but there were ways of getting around the system when necessary.

She was trying, Jack had to give her credit for that, though he’d never before had reason to be thankful for it like he was now.  Making progress with this Daniel was like shoveling snow in the middle of a blizzard.  He watched her reach for one of the small hands tucked tight against the child’s chest. 

Daniel.  Daniel’s chest.  Daniel’s hand.  Tucked against Daniel’s chest. 

Some part of Jack was still unable to process the incredible miracle . . . okay - sort of miracle.  He was still reeling over finding a child Daniel in place of their adult Daniel.

“I’m Doctor Brightman and although I don’t know you personally, I have heard about you.”

Sam was making furious slashing motions across her throat.  Brightman, all her formidable attention - Jack would give her that at least; the woman could focus to the exclusion of all else - focused on Daniel, saw nothing.

Jack keyed the mic.  “Doc, can I talk to you for a moment?”  He jerked his head toward the stairs as she looked up, frowning.

“Yes, sir.  I’ll be right back, Daniel.”

“Look,” Jack began, meeting her at the bottom of the stairs to the observation deck.  “We don’t know anything about what’s happened to him or why he’s in this state.  And at the moment Daniel’s obviously clueless about what’s going on.”

Dr. Brightman crossed her arms over her chest. 

“And?” she prompted when Jack didn’t continue.  “General O’Neill, I appreciate that you feel this situation requires tactful and considerate handling, but this little boy has a right to know what’s happening to him, sir.  I’m not going to start sticking him with needles, and poking and prodding that poor child without some kind of explanation.”

Jack scowled.  “All right.  I see your point, but keep it to a minimum would you.  I’d like not to traumatize him anymore than necessary at this point.”

“I understand that General and I will do my best not to incur any more trauma than necessary.  You need to understand to a little guy like this, the tests we’ll have to run may be alarming at the very least, sir, if not downright scary.  Do you have any idea how this happened?”

“None,” Jack said flatly.  “We’re working on finding out.”

“It would be helpful to know, sir.”

“I’m sure it would,” Jack murmured.  “All the way around.”

“Are we done, sir?”

“Yeah.”  He turned to head back up the stairs.

“General, might you have anything of Daniel’s here on base?  Anything he might relate to if by chance there are subliminal memories buried in his subconscious.”

Jack stopped in his tracks, one foot suspended over the stair. 

“You think . . .” he began, breath hitching at the possibility.  He sucked in air and tried again.  “You think he might actually have all his memories?”

Brightman laughed dryly.  “I believe you understand even better than I, sir, anything’s possible in this facility.  Not withstanding what I said before, I never rule out the impossible anymore, until I’ve tested for it, sir.”

Jack stood for a moment more, chin to chest, just breathing in and out.  If Daniel had his memories . . .

“Oh, God, please,” he breathed silently.  “Please let us figure out how to fix this.” 

He turned abruptly and headed back down the hall, neither seeing nor hearing the SF that came to attention as he passed.

“Don’t worry, Donaldson, he has other things on his mind at the moment,” Dr. Brightman reassured the airman as she pushed open the door to ISO 3 again.  “I’m sorry that took me so long.  Daniel,” she resumed her seat on the bed, “can you tell me how old you are?”

Daniel thought for a moment.  “No,” he stated baldly.

“Because you don’t know or because you don’t want to.”

A flicker of anxiety and a flirt of the shoulder were the extent of his answer, before turning his face into Sam’s chest.

“You don’t know?”

“’Course I know,” was the muffled reply.

“So you just don’t want to tell me?”

“Why should I tell you?  You’re not telling me anything.”

“What would you like to know?”

Daniel surged up.  “Where’s Jack?” he asked anxiously.

Misunderstanding, Brightman glanced at Carter with a frown. 

“He just went back upstairs.  I think he’s looking for something.”

“Not that man,” Daniel said scornfully, scowling in disgust. “I don’t care what he says, that man’s not Jack O’Neill.”

Baffled, Dr. Brightman tried again.  “Of course that’s General O’Neill.  Daniel?” she added, when the small face crumpled and he sagged back against Carter.  “What’s wrong?”

“General O’Neill?” the child mumbled.  “Two?  Are there two?  Could there be two?” 

He pulled back to look up at Sam who understood perfectly what he was mumbling about.

“Well, that’s a possibility,” she assured him.  “Jack’s a relatively common name.  For that matter, so’s O’Neill in the Irish community.”

“Are we in Ireland?”

“No, Daniel, we’re in the United States.”

“Is this still Nevada?”

“No, we’re in Colorado.”

“Hey,” Dr. Brightman interrupted.  “Colonel Carter’s answered several of your questions; now, how about you reciprocate?”

Daniel ignored her, generating the first genuine smile of the afternoon out of Sam at the so Daniel behavior. 

“Where in Colorado?”

“He has clearance,” Sam muttered out the side of her mouth.  “Should we tell him?”

Brightman shrugged.  “You’re in a top secret facility in Colorado Springs that’s run by the United States government.”

Instead of frightening him, as the doctor had expected, Daniel leaned back against Carter again, much more at ease. 

“Oh,” he said curiously.  “What do you do here?”

Carter’s mouth dropped open. 

“We seek alliances with other worlds against our common enemy, the Goa’uld,” Teal’c spoke up for the first time, from his position at the foot of the bed.

“I’ve heard of them,” Daniel perked up again, excitement shining in those big blue eyes.

“You have?”  Carter jostled him playfully.  “Where?”

“Where I work.”

Teal’c cocked his head.  “Where is it you work, Danieljackson?”

“At the place you took me from in Nevada.  Why did everybody leave me?  And why did you kidnap me?  Are you going to make me work for you now?”

Sam wrapped the small, relaxed body in a quick, tight hug. 

“We’re not . . .” she stopped, then started again.  “We’d never . . .”

“We will not make you work for us,” Teal’c intoned, subtly emphasizing ‘make’. “We are not your enemy.”

“Well, you’re not my friends either,” Daniel pointed out, with perfect logic.

“The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” Teal’c quoted.  “Are you not the enemy of the Goa’uld, too, Danieljackson?”

“Of course, but . . .” Daniel began, then reconsidered.  “Oh,” he said thoughtfully.  “So if you’re . . . enemies of the Goa’uld, too . . . then you’re saying . . . we must be friends?” he worked out the logic slowly but precisely.

Teal’c inclined his head.  “You are correct.  We are both enemies of the Goa’uld, therefore we must be friends.”

“Oh,” Daniel said again.  “But . . .”

Instinctively he knew there was a piece of logic missing in that statement, but couldn’t quite grasp the concept.  Abandoning the search, he dropped his head against Sam again. 

“When can I go home?” he asked on a deep sigh.  “And where’s my Jack?”

“Perhaps if you were to tell us some of the names of your other colleagues, we could locate ‘your Jack’ that much sooner, Danieljackson.”

“Names?   Uhm . . . One was Starsky, I don’t think I ever got his first name.  We worked on . . .”  Again the shoulder flirt and the flicker of anxiety. “I’m not supposed to talk about that.  Is that why you kidnapped me?  To make me tell what I know? Well I won’t.  There’s nothing you can do to make me talk.”

“We were just talking about names now, Danieljackson.”

“Oh.  Okay.”

“Who else did you work with?”  Carter prompted.

“There was a lady named Scarlet and another one named . . . I forget her name.  Oh!  Jodie, and there were two Ben’s.  One guy was named Denzel; I thought that was a funny kind of name.”

“Why?” Carter asked just to keep him going.  “It sounds a little bit like Daniel to me.”

Daniel shrugged.

“Who else?” she asked, already aware the list of names was going to be useless. 

“Uhmm . . .” he thought for a few more seconds.  “Wesley and Keanu and I still can’t remember that other lady’s name.”

“That’s it?  So there were eight people you worked with, besides Jack?”

“I don’t work with Jack, I live with Jack.”

“Oh.  Well, where are your parents?”

“They’re dead.  They’d been dead for years when I was born.”

Sam did a double take, mouth gaping again.  “What, uhm . . .what do you mean by that?”  she enquired, as offhandedly as she could possibly make it.

He smiled shyly.  “That’s a secret,” he nodded.  “Only me and Jack know that secret.  I can’t tell you or it wouldn’t be a secret anymore.”

“Oh,” Sam nodded solemnly.  “One of those kind of secrets.  The kind only really important people can know, huh?”

Daniel tilted his head to look up at her face, gauging her seriousness.  Apparently she passed muster because he nodded seriously in return. 

“Yes, and that makes me a very important person.”

“Yes,” Sam agreed wholeheartedly.  “You are a very important person, Daniel.”  She squeezed him again.  “Hey, bud, Dr. Brightman needs to run some tests.  since you work over at Area 51, you’ve probably already had all of these tests done before, so it won’t be anything new.”

“I don’t much like those kind of tests.  And if you’re not gonna make me work here, why do I have to have tests?  I want to go home.  I don’t want to have tests.”

“One of the rules here, Daniel, is that anyone who comes into this facility has to have these tests.”

“I didn’t come here because I wanted to, why should I have to have the tests?”

“Tell you what, would you like Sam to stay with you?”

“Who’s Sam?”

“Colonel Carter?”  Dr. Brightman nodded to the amused Colonel.

Daniel tilted his head up again.  “Sam?  That’s a boy’s name.”

“Yep, but sometimes it’s a girl’s name, too.  My whole name is Samantha; my friends have shortened it to Sam.  Isn’t that much easier?”

“I guess,” Daniel frowned.  “I still don’t want to have the stupid tests, whether she stays or not.  What time is it?” he asked, totally out of the blue.

Sam glanced at her watch.  “It’s a little after 3:00.  Why?”

“Jack will be coming to get me soon.  He’s not gonna be happy when I’m not there.  He might come looking here, you know, and then you’re gonna be in deep shit,” he rolled the last word around on his tongue with deep satisfaction.

“I sure hope he does come here looking for you,” Sam said pleasantly, thinking ‘so I can rip his beating heart out of his chest!’ 

“Daniel, was there anyone else who came around your project, maybe not very often, but you know, just to check up on everyone once in awhile?” 

“There was a man who came around sometimes, but I haven’t seen him in a long time now.”

“You remember his name?”

“I think his name was Harold, or maybe . . . I’m not sure.  I think it was Harold.”

“It wouldn’t by any chance have been Harry, would it?”

“Yeah, that’s it, Harry,” Daniel nodded.  “Do you know him?”

“Teal’c, get the General.  ASAP.”

 

***Part IV

Teal’c paused on the threshold of Danieljackson’s old office, clearing his throat softly.

Without turning, General O’Neill acknowledged the warning with a shift of his shoulder, though he didn’t need it.  He’d recognized the sound of the massive alien’s tread in the corridor. 

Very gently he replaced the artifact he’d been staring at for the last five minutes - a primitive wooden bowl.  He and Daniel had had more than one conversation around that bowl.  Though it would undoubtedly evoke powerful memories, if such a thing were possible, they were not the kind of memories Jack wanted to stir up. 

“Did Brightman convince him to tell her how old he is?”

“Dr. Brightman is currently in negotiations with Danieljackson regarding his clothing; however, he has disclosed the name of an individual who occasionally visited Area 51 while he was working there.  As no last names apparently were ever exchanged . . .”

“Except O’Neill,” the General muttered, reaching with extra care to balance the savagery coursing again through his veins. 

While it wasn’t an artifact per se, it was exactly what he’d been looking for.  He turned, the sand sculpture pyramid cradled in both hands, though it would have fit easily in just his palm. 

“Who?”

“We believe Harrymaybourne may be involved.”

Reflexively his fingers curled protectively around the fragile objet d'art.

“That slimy rat bastard,” he breathed, making an effort to ease his grip as sand began sifting through his clenched fingers.  “He is so dead when I get my hands on him again.”

“Colonel Carter . . .”

“Tell her I’m on my way.  I need to stop by my office, but I’ll be there shortly.  Why the hell is Brightman negotiating about clothes?”

“Danieljackson did not want to change into the gown she desires he wear for the exam.”

“Don’t blame him,” Jack muttered again.  “Tell Carter I’ll be there shortly,” he repeated, parting from the alien at the first junction in the hallway.

“You don’t have any more information I want or need.”  Danieljackson had both small fists firmly clamped in the waistband of his jeans as Teal’c reentered ISO 3.

“How old did you say you were again?”  Sam inquired, carefully folding the small, bright red t-shirt she had managed to acquire.

“I didn’t.”

“O’Neill will be here shortly.  Danieljackson, do you require assistance changing into the gown Dr. Brightman has asked you to attire yourself in?”

“I don’t require any assistance,” the child spat, “because I’m not changing.  And no one can make me.” 

Teal’c raised an eyebrow.  “Do you wish to issue a challenge?”

Daniel scooted back on his butt until the wall at the head of the bed stopped him. 

“No.  But I’m not changing.”

“Fine, you may keep your pants on, young man,” Dr. Brightman agreed, the unspoken ‘for now’ reverberating with every adult in the room. 

Apparently the young man understood it as well - the hands stayed clenched in the jeans. 

“I need an arm, please,” the doctor announced, holding out an alcohol prep and syringe for inspection.

For several long moments Daniel just glared at her, then with a side long glance at Teal’c, reluctantly unclenched his right hand and stretched out his arm, jaw rigid as he turned his head away and closed his eyes.  It was very apparent the kid was familiar with this procedure. 

Still holding his t-shirt, Sam saw him bite his lip and reached to lay a hand on his back.

He jerked at the touch.  Simultaneously the blue eyes flew open, tears welled, and his mouth dropped open in surprise.

Dr. Brightman yanked the needle back and grabbed a towel.  Her other hand flashed to the intercom into the main infirmary. 

“I need cold compresses and an ice pack in ISO 3 stat!  Bring several.”  She wrapped the towel tightly around the profusely bleeding needle puncture and applied pressure. 

“I’m sorry, Daniel.  You jerked just as I inserted the needle.  It blew the vein.”

“Holy Hannah, Daniel!” Carter reached for him again but he jerked back even further, straining to pull away from Dr. Brightman, too. 

“I’m so sorry, sweetie, I’m sorry.”  Sam touched his chin, needing to make contact.  “Owww!” she exclaimed, snatching back her bitten hand. 

“If you bite another person, Danieljackson, I assure you, you will regret it.”

“Jack told me I could defend myself however I needed to.  And you’re all a lot bigger than me” There were tears dripping off his chin, but he scowled fiercely.  “You hurt me!” Daniel accused.

The cold compresses and General O’Neill arrived together.

“Colonel Carter did not hurt you; neither did Dr. Brightman hurt you on purpose.”

“What the hell happened?” 

Dead silence met this question as three pairs of eyes turned toward the General. 

“Daniel?”

“They hurt me!”  The drenched blue eyes widened in confusion as he realized who he was talking to.  “Go away.”

“Somebody coherent want to give me an explanation?”

“I missed and blew the vein when Daniel jerked as I was trying to draw blood.”  Brightman tossed the bloody towel on the floor and very gently wrapped one of the cold towels around the slender arm.  “It would help, Daniel, if you would lie down and let me raise your arm above your heart.”

“No,” he said tersely, clenching his jaw determinedly. 

Jack crossed his arms over his chest. 

“That’s it - no more Mister Nice Guy.  I want some answers and I want them now.  Daniel, how old are you?” 

Daniel scowled.  “I’m ten.”

“Teal’c will snap you in two if you lie to me again.  How old are you?”

“So much for not traumatizing him,” the doc muttered under her breath.

Jack ignored her.  “How old are you?” he repeated.

“I don’t have to tell you anything.”

“You are mistaken.  I will provide a means of persuasion if you don’t reconsider,” the General twisted his wrist and made a show of looking at his watch, “in exactly fifteen seconds . . . ten . . . five . . .”

Part 2

 

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