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Temporary Insanity by iiiionly

 

 “Jack?”
           
“Yes, Daniel?”
           
“Can I go to sleep now?”
           
“No, Daniel.”
           
“Why not?”
           
“Because Doc Frasier said you need to stay awake awhile yet.”
           
“I’m really tired . . . Please?”
           
“I know, buddy.  Want me to read?”
           
“No.  That makes me sleepy.”
           
“Want to play cards?”
           
“No.”
           
“Okay, how ‘bout chess?”
           
“No.”

It’s a tremendous effort just to keep his eyes open now. 

“How much longer?”
           
“Not more than half an hour.  How ‘bout some more ice chips?”
           
“‘kay,” he sighs.  “Jack?”
           
“Yes, Daniel?”
           
“Tomorrow?”
           
“What about tomorrow?”
           
“Tomorrow, will this be over?”
           
“Yeah, tomorrow this will all be behind us.”

I spoon some more ice chips out of the styrofoam cup on the tray table.  He opens his mouth like a baby bird and I slide the spoon in.  Over the last hour and a half we’ve pretty much perfected this move. 

Frasier says there’s some kind of amnesic shock thing going on.  Basically, Daniel hasn’t yet realized what’s happened.  For the moment he is only five . . . or six . . . or seven . . .  whatever.  It’s a little difficult to determine.  Standing, he barely reaches mid-thigh on me, which means he’s about as tall as Teal’c’s knees.

Yeah, tomorrow this will all be over . . . right.

NOT.

This is the thanks he gets for successfully wrapping yet another damn planet into the Protected Planets treaty?  I was ready, willing, and armed to kill when I realized what they’d done to him.  Only Thor’s intervention, and the fact that I had my arms full of our new bundle of joy, kept me from murdering the sonuvabitch who brought him out to us.

Now I slide onto the bed, gather up all his lines and leads and wires and pick him up, rearranging all his leads and lines and wires so we don’t get tangled in them.
           
“No rocking,” Daniel says sharply, though he leans against me wearily.
           
“Sorry.”  I stop immediately.  It’s instinctive . . . rock to comfort.

The clock’s ticking down the twelve hours Doc decreed, while the machines wired to Daniel’s temperature, respiration, heartbeat, and brain waves variously beep, hum, and sigh. 
           
We’ve been up close to 50 hours now and everybody’s exhausted.  I finally sent Carter and Teal’c off to get some sleep; or kel’no’reem, whatever it is Teal’c does in place of sleep.  No use all of us being totally wiped. 
                       
I’m still so pissed I can barely see straight, though that may have more to do with how long we’ve been awake now, than what’s happened.  Hell, I’m pissed clear down to the steel-toed combat boots pinching the hell outta my feet.  Yeah, yeah, I know, the language deteriorates the longer I’ve been up.

Somewhere along the way here, it occurred to me the Asgard have belatedly realized their mistake in pegging me as the next quantum leap in our evolutionary track. 

Because ever since Daniel agreed to see to the petty needs of the Goa’uld trying to screw us out of our Stargate, the Asgard have been stopping by every couple of months to ask if they can borrow him to help out with negotiations - all over the galaxy - hell, the known universe. 

If they hadn’t figured that out, we wouldn’t be in the situation we’re in now.

On one hand, Dr. Jackson’s reputation as a negotiator has upped the Goa’uld price on his head; on the other, it’s also made us a bunch of new friends and allies.  If you ask me, though no one is, it’s the Asgard sneaky way of evening the odds against the Goa’uld. 

Theoretically they can’t assist any of the planets under their ‘protection’ to advance technologically.  So they’re hosting these little soiree’s where they get Daniel to come and negotiate for them, and voila’, we gain a new ally, sometimes even new technology, and whatever planet they’ve just introduced us to gets folded into the Protected Planets treaty because Daniel’s damn good at finding the Gould’s Achilles heel.

Except, something went wrong this time; very, very wrong. 

Well, from our perspective at least. 

What still has my blood boiling is the Asgard persist in calling us young and irresponsible?  For cryin’ out loud, without permission, and I guarantee you against his will, the damn Tepid Torpids stole Daniel’s adulthood, stripping away more than thirty years of living. 

And Thor wanted us to smile politely and say thank you?

I’m sure I was gaping like a fish.  I’m pretty certain some unpleasant things about Thor’s heritage came out of my mouth.  And I vaguely remember Carter trying to spin it as I snatched one of those space blanket thingies out of her pack to wrap Daniel in. 

Teal’c was dialing the gate and me and the kid were through before she was done making nice.

A little of what Thor told us registered; the downsizing affected only his body, not his brain.  So inside that five, or six, or seven-year-old body is the mind of a thirty-four-year-old. 

I’m relatively certain he told us there was a reason for this, but at the moment, it escapes me.  I’m positive he told Carter, unlike some mistakes, this one isn’t reversible. 
           
Daniel is so screwed. 
           
This is going to mean life altering changes for more than just Daniel. 
           
There’s no question who he’s going to live with, at least not in my mind. 

And as the CO of this outfit it probably falls to me to be the one to share the . . . awakening? 

Realization? 

Not that it matters, I have no plans to be elsewhere until Daniel wakes up again and we’ve done the ‘what the hell happened’ thing. 

It wouldn’t surprise me if Carter and Teal’c are back by then, too.

Oh, yeah, the other thing I remember is the Asgard offered to clone an adult Daniel from this Daniel’s DNA and move this Daniel’s consciousness back into an adult body.

When Carter asked, in a rather strangled tone, what would happen to this Daniel, Thor just looked at her in his very Asgardish way and raised a non-existent eyebrow.  When Carter refused to back down, he finally extemporized, “We would see that he was taken care of.”

Very little intimidates Carter - besides kitchen appliances – so of course she immediately demanded, “How?”

That was the last I heard.  I didn’t wait for the answer and I didn’t bother to ask when she came through behind us. 

I really don’t want to know. 

I wasn’t thinking straight and didn’t radio ahead, so all hell broke loose when we stepped out on the Gate ramp in the SGC.
           
I don’t believe I’ve ever heard Frasier swear before.  It took her about ten seconds to revert back to Doc mode, and about ten seconds more to have Daniel hooked up to every piece of equipment in the infirmary. 

Then it probably took two hours, but she ran every test she could think of and confirmed that, yes, Dr. Daniel Jackson is still Dr. Daniel Jackson, minus a few years, plus a new appendix.

I guess we’re pretty jaded around here, nothing much gets our knickers in a twist anymore, but this rated an off-the-charts upheaval. 

Carter spent the first six hours we were back trying every ally she could think of who might have some insight into what was done and how to reverse it.

No luck. 

The Nox are mystified, though tickled to death with this new down-sized version of Daniel. 

The Tollan are as ridiculously inflexible as ever, ‘even if we did possess such technology, we would be unable to allocate resources to this problem, we are in the middle of our own crisis’. The Tollan are always in a crisis. 

The Argosian’s gladly gave us the remains of that machine thingy, but that involves nanocytes and having experienced it myself, I’m not eager to go down that road.

Carter says Tupeolo’s people are still barely beyond the Bronze Age in their development, so no help from that quarter.

I know there are others she’s contacted, she gave me the run down every couple of hours, but they’re all blurring together now.  Bottom line, we’ve got a downsized Daniel until we can figure out how to fix him ourselves.    

The small body in my arms shudders suddenly.
           
“Danny?”  I snatch him up, shaking him like a rag doll when he doesn’t respond.  “Daniel!”
           
“What?”  The blue eyes open reluctantly.  “I’m so tired, Jack.  Please, can’t I sleep now?  I can’t keep my eyes open any longer.”
           
“Just a few more minutes, okay, buddy?  I promise you can have a nice long sleep in a few more minutes.” 
           
Frasier appears at my elbow and I sigh in relief. 

“Doc, is a few minutes more really gonna make a difference?  Can’t we let him sleep now?”
           
“Yes, actually, I think it will be fine to go to sleep now.  Here, Daniel, why don’t you crawl under the covers.” 

She lifts up the blankets so I can slide the small, pliant body into bed, again rearranging all the leads and lines and wires.  

“I’m going to put a sedative into your IV so you sleep really well, okay?”
           
“Jack?”
           
“What, Daniel?”
           
“You’ll be here when I wake up, won’t you?” 

He could care less about how he’s going to sleep, or why.  He just wants to sleep and know I’ll be there when he wakes up.
           
“Aren’t I always here when you wake up?”
           
“Yeah,” he nestles into the pillow with a long sigh.  “’kay.”
           
Janet smoothes back the honey-blond hair and plants a light kiss on the revealed, scrunched-up forehead.  “Sleep tight, Daniel, don’t let the bed bugs bite.”
           
He smiles wanly, closes his eyes, and is asleep before I’ve smoothed the covers over him.
           
“In my office, Colonel.  We need to have a council of war.  Teal’c, Sam, and the General are already there.  I’ll leave a nurse with him in case he wakes up, but I don’t think he will.  This has been a very long two days for him, sir.  With the sedative I just gave him he should be out like a light until tomorrow morning at least.”
           
“Famous last words, Doc.  Want to place any bets?”
           
“Since it is Daniel we’re talking about, I’m going to put that in the category of sucker bet and give it a pass, sir.  Come on, we’ve been waiting for you.”
           
Two hours later we’re no further along on how we’re going to handle this than we were when I joined the fray. 

I’ve had it up to my eyeballs. 

“If the Turpentine’s refuse to fix this mess they’ve made there’s no way we’re going to enter into any alliance with them.  Permission to go back to him, sir.”   

I am so outta here.
           
“Colonel, I understand your anger and you’re absolutely right to feel that way; however, standing orders preclude our turning down an alliance with these folks just because they took a shine to Doctor Jackson.” 

“Some shine,” I mutter.

The General really has no choice; he has to take the standard line. 

“And no, Jack, you do not have permission to leave until we’ve come to some kind of resolution here.”
           
“Sir, they’re light years ahead of us in science and medicine.” 

Carter too?   Cripes.

“What?  Technology, Carter?”  I kick her under the table but she ignores me.

“They’ve refined naquada technology to the point where they are able to produce several different kinds of clean energy from it.  I don’t think we can afford to turn down an alliance, sir.  And frankly, I think Daniel will tell you the same thing . . . especially if it’s true they left all his memories intact.”

She’s right, he probably will, but I’m not going down without a fight. 

“I don’t give a rip if they’ve figured out how to harness the energy of their sun, Major.  What they did was wrong on so many levels I can’t count them.  Yeah, you’re right, Daniel will probably adjust and accept this a hell of a lot quicker and better than I will.  That’s entirely beside the point.  Who’re we sending over next?  Suppose they take a shine to you, or Teal’c?  Or me?  Would you be rolling over and playing dead so easily if it were you?”

I’m on my feet with no memory of standing and the headache I’ve been fighting for the last twelve hours explodes with the force of one of Carter’s nuclear blasts. 

“Sir, I will not put a foot back on that planet if they continue to refuse to fix this.  I’m going back to Daniel.”

“You are not dismissed, Colonel,” Hammond snaps.  “I’m sorry, Jack, you’re not going anywhere until we have viable plan in place for what’s going to happen with Dr. Jackson.”
                       
“I’m taking him home as soon as Frasier clears him.  If I have to retire again, I will.  But I’m not going back to that planet unless they’re offering to fix this.”

“I wouldn’t ask you to,” Hammond says quietly.  “Despite what it sounds like, I do understand your feelings, Colonel.”

I sit back down reluctantly.  It won’t do Daniel any good for me to end up in the Brig and we’re all enough on edge it wouldn’t take much to push any one of us over.

“If it’s true they’re not gonna change him back, I want to adopt him.”
           
“Is that even feasible, Doctor Frasier?” General Hammond inquires.
           
“From a logistical standpoint, General, there’s no reason why he can’t.  We’ll have to forge records, create documents, just as we did with Cassie.”  Janet shakes her head.  “But, if the Teprins won’t change him back, I don’t see that we have any other choice.  He’ll have to have some kind of a guardian, sir.  He’ll have to live with someone and Colonel O’Neill seems to be the logical choice from SG-1.  Teal’c can’t really provide him with a home here on base.  And it doesn’t seem right to have a five or six-year-old, with thirty-something memories, living with his thirty-something female teammate.”
                       
“We have no idea what kind of problems this is going to cause,” Hammond warns.  “And I believe we should consult Dr. Jackson’s wishes on this as well.  Clearly he cannot live alone, but we should at least give him some voice in these proceedings.”
           


“I totally agree, sir.  I think we also need to assess the situation and take action as quickly as possible, before the NID gets wind of this.  I think we need to declare Daniel dead and claim this incarnation is a son we never knew he had.  If the Turgids are eventually willing to do something, well, we’ll work something out then.  In the meantime we need to take every precaution in order to keep this as quiet as possible.”
           
“It won’t work,” Carter states.  “There’s no way we can keep this quiet.  Everybody inside the Mountain already knows something happened to Daniel.  And won’t the President and Joint Chiefs have to know?”
           
“Major Carter’s right, we can’t keep this a secret.  But I think with a few exceptions we can keep it pretty much inside our own command.  Colonel, you still have ties to any of those connections we were able to utilize for Cassie’s protection?”
           
“In a heartbeat, sir.  I promised I would be there when Daniel woke up, I really would like to get back to him.”
           
“I thought Dr. Frasier said he would sleep until morning?”
           
“Yes, sir.  But we all know Daniel’s propensity for defying expectations.  I need to be there when he wakes up.  I want him to know he can trust me when I tell him something, sir.”
           
General Hammond sighs and rubs at his forehead.  Maybe he’s got the mother of all headaches too.

“Of course, you’re right.  Go on, we’ll try to hammer out a few more details before we finish for the night.”
           
The General finally wanders in a little after midnight.  He gives me the eye and points me back down when I automatically start to rise from the chair where I’ve been sitting watching Daniel sleep. 

It’s been almost three hours since I left; I hope they’ve accomplished more than we did in the first two hours. 

Hammond crosses his arms on the pulled-up railing and stands for a long time looking down at our tiny Daniel. 

“You sure you’re up for this, Jack?” 

He looks over at me as he reaches down to brush back the hair drifting over the still scrunched-up forehead. 

Even in sleep Daniel knows something’s not right.
           
“No, sir.  Not at all sure.  But like Frasier said, Teal’c can’t give him a home, and putting him with Carter is just plain weird.  I’m the only logical one of SG-1.”
           
“My daughter might be willing to take him.”
           
“No, sir,” I say, rising wearily, “I’m not sure I’m up for it.”  I cross my arms on the railings on this side of the bed and meet the General’s gaze squarely.  “But I know I want to do it and I’m a known quantity.  We already have an established relationship.   It will be easier for Daniel to adapt to me as a guardian than someone else, sir.”
           
“I believe you’re right about that.”  The General sighs deeply.  “I just hope you know what you’re letting yourself in for.”
           
“I at least have an idea.  I did the parenting thing once - just wasn’t very good at it.”
           
Hammond is silent for so long I think he’s not going to answer.

And then on a sigh he says, “I think you’ll make a great dad, Jack, even to a thirty-four-year-old-six-year-old.  It’s going to be a job not to spoil him rotten.”
           
“Yes, sir.  That occurred to me as well.  Especially since we’ve already had a dry run at this and I know damn well what I’ll be up against.”
                       
“So,” the General turns my rueful smile back on me as he runs a gentle hand over the small blond head, ruffling the silky hair.  “Any thoughts on how Dr. Jackson will react to this?”

“Many, sir.  None of them pleasant.  I suppose a lot will depend on how much he really remembers, but I suspect he’s gonna be as pissed as Daniel ever is.”

Between us, he sleeps on undisturbed.  If the thirty-four-year-old archeologist managed to look cherubic while sleeping, who could resist this tiny, drooling incarnation. 

“What is it about him, do you suppose?  Is it just that innocence that attracts every damn race we come in contact with?  Maybe I should start Dr. Frasier looking for some kind of vaccine – just for Dr. Jackson.”
           
“To make him less innocent, sir?”  I chuckle.  “It did occur to me if Carter and the doc could bend the nanite technology to their will, maybe we could correct this.  You know, just enough to get him back to the right age in three months instead of another twenty-eight years.”
           
“I’ll put a bug in her ear, Colonel.  It’s certainly worth looking into if there’s even a possibility it might work without harmful side effects.”
           
“Yeah, there is that.  It was just a thought, sir.”
           
“Let’s see what we can do.  Get some sleep, Colonel.  It looks as if Dr. Frasier’s estimate of when he might wake could be on target this time.”
           
“Yes, sir.  It looks like a possibility.”
           
“If you’re going to keep up with a six-year-old Daniel Jackson, you’re going to have to stay healthy and alert.  Can’t do that on no sleep, Jack.”
           
“Yes, sir, I’m aware of that.  In awhile.” 

I’m not ready to give up my vigil just yet.  Since the infirmary is presently unoccupied except for us, Doc won’t mind if I sleep on the next bed.
           
“We’ll go over what we’ve managed to figure out in the morning.”
           
“Works for me, sir.” 

I cover a yawn and shake my head as I realize maybe I’m not as wide awake as I thought.
           
The General’s smile encompasses both Daniel and me.  “Goodnight, Jack.”
           
“Nite, sir.  Sleep tight.”
           
                                                                        *           *           *

“Hey,” I greet my best friend, as sleepy blue eyes blink and slide closed.  “You slept a long time, buddy.”

I’ve been awake for an hour or so, grabbed a quick shower, had an SF bring me coffee, been debriefed, or briefed, depending on how you look at it, and I’m running on all cylinders.

Ready to deal with this. 

“Feel better?”
           
“Uhm,” Daniel mumbles.  “Why’m I here?” 

The unspoken ‘this time’ hangs in the air between us.
           
Standing, arms crossed on the railing that keeps him safely in the bed, I think again how absurdly small he looks in the large hospital bed. 

“Well,” I stall, “what do you remember?”

Okay, I thought I was ready for this.
           
Daniel shoves the blankets down and pulls himself up using the bars for leverage.  Yawning, he scratches his head. 

“Gotta go to the bathroom.  Will you unhook me?” 

He holds up his hand for me to remove the IV from its port.  He’s used to this routine, we’ve done it several dozen times over the last few years.  My presence at his bedside when he wakes up is a given. 

“Where’er Sam and Teal’c?”  He yawns again. 
           
I take his tiny hand and remove the miniature IV needle, but don’t let go of it, even when he tugs impatiently. 

“Daniel, before you go to the bathroom, you need to stop and think.  What do you remember about what happened?”
           
Sighing, Daniel smacks the bed railing with his free hand. 

“Thor introduced us to the Teprins.  We were going to . . .” he trails off as for the first time he really looks at his hand against the railing. 

Astonished eyes turn up to me.  A long way above him.  For an instant, disbelief wars with confusion in the wide blue eyes. 

“What happened?” he asks, looking back down at his very small hand barely encompassing the round tubes of the railing. 

“No way!”

He snatches his hand from mine to hold both of his out in front of him.  For a long moment he stares as if unable to process what his mind is telling him.  

“Please tell me this is some kind of cosmic joke.”
           
“We’re working on getting the Torpids to reverse the process.  So far, they’re refusing.”
           
“It’s the Teprins and I want to talk to them.”
           
“Yeah, that’s what I said, and that’s . . . a possibility . . . just not right away.”
           
“Why?” Daniel demands, rising to his knees.  “Let me out, I really need to go to the bathroom.”
           
“Will you let me help you out of bed?”  I’m not going to make the mistake of automatically assuming he’ll accept my help.
           
“Do I have a choice?” 
           
I lift him easily over the railing and set him down gently, making sure he has his balance before I let go. 

“Don’t dawdle, Frasier will be here shortly.  She’s going to want to talk to you.”
           
“Like I don’t want to talk to her!” Daniel shoots back over his shoulder, scampering across the infirmary to the communal bathroom and shutting the door with a satisfying slam. 
           
I’ve got to get this smile under control before he gets out of the bathroom; but let me tell you, it will be awhile before the picture of our archeologist, trying to hold up the waist of too-large scrubs, while simultaneously trying not trip over too-long pant legs, fades. 

The additional irritation of the top reaching nearly to his knees makes it that much more difficult to get and keep a grip on the pants.  Even with the drawstring we were unable to tighten them enough to keep them from sliding down over his skinny little ass.  But then, we’ve always had trouble with military clothing and Daniel; everything he puts on looks like its three sizes too large.
           
And I’m thinking its taking way too long in there. 

“Daniel? You okay?” 

No response, so I try the door; thankfully it’s unlocked. 

“What the hell are you doing?” 

I snatch him up off the toilet seat where he’s standing on tippy-toe, leaning against the sink and stretching as far as he can to look in the mirror. 

“Are you trying to kill yourself?” 

His skinny little arms come automatically around my neck as I grab him.
           
“I just wanted to see in the mirror.” 
           
Okay, I can see why he’d want a peek in the mirror.  I’m not so sure it’s a good idea, but maybe it’s better to let him see now.  Maybe we can skip right through the denial stage if he gets a really good look at himself . . . yeah right. 

He almost twists out of my loose hold as he strains to get to the mirror again.  So I shift, set my knee against the sink, and stand him on my knee, keeping both hands wrapped around his waist. 

Teal’c could probably span his waist with just one hand.
           
“Down,” he orders imperiously, after a long look. 

I put him down. 

“I got a few things to say to the Teprins.  When are we going back?”
           
“Well, now, that could be a problem.  How ya feeling?” 

I open the door, usher Daniel back across the ward, and lower the side rail so he can climb back up on the bed without assistance.  I don’t make the mistake of raising the rail back up either; I just sit down, making an excellent substitute of myself.
           
Daniel huffs a sigh.  “I’m fine.” 

The gold standard in Daniel speak.
           
“No piercing headaches?  No stomachache?  Nothing feels out of place?”
           
“Well, I feel out of place . . . or my head feels out of place . . . no, that’s not right either.  Yeah, something’s out of place, the old me is out of place!”
           
“Take it easy, we’re working on sorting this out, but there’s not a lot we can do about it right now.  Hammond’s working on getting a return invite for a diplomatic team.”   

I’m smart enough not to say what I’m thinking, which is ‘fat lot of good it will do’

“And he’s talked to Frasier about seeing if she can maybe manipulate some of the nanite technology to age you just a little bit, like twenty or thirty years.”
           
“I’m little . . . AGAIN!”
           
“Danny, calm down.”
           
“Don’t call me that!”  He throws himself back against the pillow.  “And I don’t want to calm down!  Where’s Janet?  Where’re Teal’c and Sam?  Sam will figure something out.  Where is everybody?”

I glance thankfully over my shoulder as I hear the doc’s heels on the concrete floor, “Doc’s on her way now.”
           
Daniel sits up immediately. 

And I get my first clue that we’re absolutely dealing with a kid here. 

“How are you going to fix this?” he demands.
           
Frasier fixes him with a gimlet eye.  “We need to get something straight right off the bat, Dr. Jackson.  I don’t care if you’re six or sixty, you will speak to me with appropriate respect.  I am not your personal mechanic, I am only your doctor, and I cannot fix every mess you get yourself into.”
           
Wow.  Guess she didn’t get much sleep last night either. 

“Uh, Doc, I don’t really think we can blame this one on Daniel.  As far as I know, he didn’t touch anything, say anything, or even look at anybody wrong.”
           
Those blue eyes turn up to me with something too close to fear for comfort.  It’s just wrong to see fear in Daniel’s eyes. 

I want to pull him onto my lap and hold him, but I don’t know if that’s acceptable now.
           
“I’m sorry,” he says contritely.  “I didn’t mean it to come across like that.  Janet, I can’t be little again.  I don’t want to do this again.  Please do something.”
           
She caves immediately.  The Doc’s the best; I suspect she can see the fear too. 

“Daniel, I don’t know if there’s anything we can do.  All your results are normal.  You’re a perfectly normal, perfectly healthy . . .  little boy.”  She rushes on before he can interrupt.  “Last time this happened your body reacted as though it was under a great deal of stress.  There’s none of that this time, nothing to indicate anything out of the ordinary has happened.”
           
Before she’s finished, Daniel’s scrambling back up to his knees so he’s nearly on eye level with the doc. 

“I LOST THREE QUARTERS OF MY LIFE HERE, HOW CAN EVERYTHING BE NORMAL?”
           
“Sit down right now!”  I grab him by the arm.  “And stop screaming.  We’re trying to keep a lid on this, Daniel. You’re not helping yourself at all by announcing to everyone on base you’re no longer thirty-four years old.”
           
That gets him.  He bounces back down on his ass, eyes me momentarily, then crawls into my lap with a huge sigh. 

“I don’t wanna be little again, Jack.”
           
Since he’s initiated it, I’m allowed to cuddle.  I put my chin down on the top of his head and cradle the small, pliant body against my chest. 

“I know, Daniel, and we’re trying to get it fixed.  But I need you to listen to me, okay?  And I mean really listen.” 

I tilt his chin up so he’s looking me in the eye. 

His jaw clenches tight. 

“Thor told us the Terrapins have refused to change you back.” 

I can see the mutinous light in his eye all ready. 

“We’re trying diplomatic channels.  Doc Frasier’s looking into bending the nanite technology, but she won’t use it unless it’s perfectly safe for you.”

I throw up a hand when he starts with the ‘I don’t care . . .’

“You may not, we do.  We’d rather have a live, tiny Daniel, than a dead Daniel, period.  We won’t be using it unless it’s perfectly safe, end of that conversation.  Carter has contacted her dad to see if the Tok’ra have any sort of technology that could possibly change you back.  Janet has a dozen different scientists combing through your test results on the off chance she missed some minuscule little detail that might put us on track to reversing this process.  All that said, I don’t think we’re gonna be able to fix this.  I don’t think Thor would mess with our heads like this if it weren’t the honest-to-God truth.” 
           
“And?”
           
“And . . . Carter says the Terradactryls have developed several different kinds of clean energy from their refined naquada.  They’re willing to share, which, you’re fully aware is a totally unheard of thing when it comes to the very young Tau’ri.”
           
“So I’m the price of getting clean energy?”

Nothing dumb about this kid. 
           
With a sigh I let go of his chin, snug him back under my own chin, and hug him gently. 

“Hammond doesn’t think the brass will let us turn down an alliance.”
           
“So I’m the price,” Daniel says wearily.  “Why me, Jack?  Why the hell doesn’t this ever happen to you, or Sam, or Teal’c?”
           
“Well, there is a mini-me . . .” I trail off when he snorts.
           
“Yeah, a clone.  Who’s off going to school somewhere now, having the time of his life.  It’s not the same.”

He’s right.  It’s not the same. 

“I’m sorry.” 

He tilts his head up to look at me again, all big eyes and that mop of hair.  And sighs again.  

“So what’s the plan?”

“For the time being, we’re sending SG-8 out to an archeological site for an extended mission.  As far as everyone outside the SGC is concerned, you’ll be on that mission.”
           
“And how are you going to explain mini-me?”
           
Oh yeah, too smart for his own good. 

“Well, as soon as we can manage it, we’re going to . . . uhm . . .”

I’m at a loss for words here. 

Carter’s roughed out enough of the details we think we can pull off the unacknowledged son bit, at least outside the SGC. 

This is so not going to go over well.
           
“What?” he wants to know. 

Frasier’s been awfully quiet since she made her announcement.  I look to her now, but she only gives me a minimal twist of the head, indicating her unwillingness to give him this news.  She’s already had to give enough bad news of her own.
           
“All right.  Unfortunately, we can’t keep this quiet inside the Mountain, but we have to keep it inside, ‘cause if the NID sniffs this out . . .”

Do I tell him I’m not absolutely certain we can keep him safe if that happens? 

Right.  Stupid question, O’Neill, he doesn’t need to be told that. 

“Anyway, obviously we want to keep that from happening at all costs.  So, we need to keep up the charade you’re off playing in the dirt with SG-8 until we figure out whether we can get this reversed.”
           
“And then what?”
           
“Then what what?” 

Daniel hates it when I do this to him and I shouldn’t be doing it now.  This is serious and he deserves to know, even if he doesn’t want to hear it. 

“Sorry.”  I twitch a shoulder and plunge ahead.  “If we can’t do anything to reverse it, we’ll eventually have to have you die in some unfortunate off-world accident and after a bit, resurrect you.”
           
“As what?  Or should I say, who?”
           
“Well, I guess you’re going to have to be Dr. Jackson’s unacknowledged love child.”
           
“Love child?”  Daniel blinks up at me.  “I have a love child?”
           
“No,” I correct, “you are a love child.”
           
“With who?” he demands, on the verge of hysteria.  “Hathor?  Shyla?  Oh no, I’ve got it!  With Linea, the Destroyer of Worlds?”
           
“Stop, Daniel.” 

I grab his hands as he turns to clutch at my t-shirt.  As gently as I can, I pull him back against my chest, palming the small blond head and massaging the back of his neck. 

There are no tears but the small shoulders are heaving as he tries to draw breath into tiny lungs already filled to capacity. 

Frasier grabs a paper bag and plasters it around his nose and mouth.

“Breathe, Daniel,” she orders sharply.  And realizing he can’t, she calms her own voice and says quietly.  “Shh, shhh, shhh.  Listen to me, okay.  Close your eyes and listen to my voice.”

I can’t see what’s happening, but he does relax a little, so I know he’s listening. 

“Exhale, close your mouth and breathe out through your nose.  There you go, okay, now, gently, gently, breathe in again.  Out . . . In . . . Out . . . there you go, couple more times, okay, and I’ll take the bag away.  Once more . . . that’s good.  You okay now?”

I feel him nod against me and though his breath is still coming in short, sharp gasps, I can feel his lungs expanding and contracting again.  I move my hand down to rub the absurdly tiny back. 

“Okay?” I ask.

“No.”

“We’ll get this fixed somehow, I promise.”

Before the words are out of my mouth I’m kicking myself – because I shouldn’t be telling him anything I’m not a hundred percent positive I can follow through on. 

I can’t help it.  He needs to hear it and I need to say it.  I need to believe it as much as he does.

“We don’t have to go into detail.  For now, we’re just going to say you were brought to our attention under highly classified circumstances and because your father was my best friend, you’re staying with me.”

He’s quiet for a bit and I know that overpowered brain is working away at this new puzzle.
           
“If they can’t or won’t fix it, you’ll have to get forged birth certificates and stuff, like we did for Cassie.”
           
“Yes, we will.  We’ll work out the details as we go along.”           
           
“I don’t want to do this.”
           
“I know.
           
“I didn’t like growing up the first time, Jack.  I don’t want to do it again.”
           
“If we have to do this, you know it will be different this time, don’t you?”
           
“I don’t want to do thirteen again for anything!  I’ve been married!  How old am I supposed to be this time?”

He lifts his head to look over at Frasier. 

“How old am I anyway?”

Frasier flirts a shoulder and mumbles something unintelligible. 

Daniel unconsciously leans toward her.  “What?”

“About six – I think,” she says softly, wincing.  “I don’t have a lot of experience . . .” 

He just shakes his head and burrows back into my chest.  “I hate you,” he says on a weary sigh.  “I hate you all.”

Frasier leans forward to place a light kiss on his forehead.  “I’ll be back in a bit.  I think you and the Colonel need some time to talk, okay?”

For now, all I can do is echo his sigh, and rock imperceptibly. 

I’d hate us too.

But there are things we have to accomplish and the day is sliding away.

“How old do you want . . . let me rephrase that . . . how old do you think we should say you are?  I know you want to be 34.  Right at the moment that’s not possible.  I already know eight’s no good.  Was there an age you liked being?  A time when your memories are happy?”

“No,” he says shortly.  “I put away all those memories the year I turned eight.  And then foster care ate away what I’d managed to squirrel away from before.” 

You don’t get to be a Colonel in the U.S. Air Force by being a sap, but that goes straight to the little bit that’s left of my heart. 

I know where he went to school for the first time ever and that the teachers initially thought he was mildly autistic.  I know he lived in some rough foster home situations before he finally escaped the system and went to live in a college dorm at age sixteen.  I know that in college he was exposed to the seamier side of life long before he should have had the coping skills to just say no, but I also know he had the smarts and the balls to keep saying no in the appropriate places. 

However, I know none of this from Daniel. 

But you don’t go to work for the top secret military instillation on Earth until you have no secrets anymore. 

“I know this isn’t going to be easy for you, D.J., but if you want to get out of here, there are some things we’re going to have to resolve.  You don’t want to live on base until we can get this fixed do you?”

“Yes, I do.”  He sniffs.  “No.”  Further sniffs.  “I don’t know.”

A fat, glistening tear plops like a raindrop on my forearm. 

“I don’t want to do this.”

“I know.
           
“How about a new birthday?  We could say you just had one and say you’re seven and small for your age.”
           
“I don’t want a new birthday.”
           
“Why not?  You told me before you didn’t like the one you had.”
           
“That’s beside the point.  It’s still mine, even if I don’t like it.  I don’t want a new one.”
           
“We were kind of thinking we’d use October 31st as your birthday.”
           
“What’s the date?” he asks suspiciously, leaning back against my arm to look up at me again.  “That was yesterday wasn’t it?  You’re going to make my birthday the day this happened to me?  You think I want to celebrate this?” 

Oops - we didn’t think about that.

 “And Halloween besides?  Well, I can guarantee you one thing, I’ll certainly live up to the sobriquet ‘devil child’ if I have to do this again.”
           
“Now. come on, Daniel, can’t you at least try to think of this as an opportunity to start over again?”
           
“No.  I don’t want to start over again.  I finally had a life, Jack.  I want it back.” 

He’s not happy, but at least he’s not throwing a tantrum.
           
 “Okay, so by the time you’re twenty again, you’ll have this life thing down to a science, hmm?”
           
He thumps back against me with an intentional smack, eliciting a grunt. 

“I don’t want to do this.”
           
“I know you don’t and it’s not fair.”  I wisely don’t add life has never been fair to Daniel, though it’s the truth. 

He told me once, that life started shitting on him at the age of eight.  It hasn’t stopped.  

A silent rain of bitter tears batters my arm and then he’s clambering up on my leg, shoving his face into my neck, arms squeezing for all they’re worth, and hiccupping through that storm of silent tears that he really, really, really doesn’t want to have to do this again and can’t I make it all go away and make him big again, please, Jack, please?
           
 I just hold him and rock gently. 

Carter comes in, followed by Teal’c.  She sinks down on the bed and reaches to put her arms around both of us, rocking with us.  She starts to cry too, which makes Daniel cry harder. 

She’s murmuring to him, so quietly I can’t understand a word she says, though I know Daniel can, because every once in awhile he nods.  He transfers his arms to around her neck and is holding on like she’s a life line in these rough seas. 

I grab Teal’c by the wrist and drag him over.  He surprises me when he drops to one knee and puts his arms around all of us, resting his forehead gently against Daniel’s temple. 

I can’t begin to imagine what we must look like, but neither do I care.  It’s not something we usually advertise, but I think all of us have acknowledged already - for better or worse this is our family unit. 

It’s just taken a new twist.  And I want Daniel to understand from the get-go we’re all in this together; we are all going to be here for him.
           
Carter sits up, smiling at Teal’c as he raises his head too. 

She pulls Daniel from my arms for a hug, hands him off to Teal’c, who hugs him as well, and deposits him back in my lap. 

Frasier joins us again, sitting down on the other side of the bed.
           
“We’ll work through this, Daniel,” she says, “we’ll do whatever we have to.” 

She swoops in to plant another kiss on Daniel’s forehead as he leans back against me.
           
“I hope you’re feeling the love here, kiddo,” I jostle him just enough to make my point.
           
He swipes the back of his arm across his eyes, sniffing. 

“Why do I have to be little to get this kind of treatment?”
           
“’cause you’re Mr. Prickly when you’re big.  You growl and snarl every time we invade your personal space.” Carter grins.  “See, there are some advantages to being small.”
           
He mulls this over for a second.   “I don’t mean to growl and snarl, Sam.”

“I know,” she reaches out automatically, caressing his cheek with the back of her hand.  “I do, Daniel, I know it’s not easy for you to let us in.”

This is her drinking buddy, though Daniel’s alcohol tolerance is on the low end of non-existent, her go-to guy when she needs a shoulder to cry on, her best friend, for cryin’ out loud.  Well, after Frasier, I guess, though it wouldn’t surprise me if he beat out Frasier for the spot.  They spend a lot of time together on missions, not all of it work. 
           
Carter laughs outright and leans forward to tickle him lightly.  “You’ll be less intimidating when you growl and snarl in this manifestation.”

He giggles, a sound I don’t believe I’ve ever heard out of the adult manifestation, and immediately claps a hand over his mouth, mortified. 

“Don’t,” he snaps, sliding back out of her grasp.
           
“Why not?  I would have tickled you when you were big if I’d known you were that ticklish.”

“I’m not,” Daniel states empathetically.  “I grew out of it years ago.”

“Ohhhhh,” Carter grins, drawing out the word.  “I see.”

Probably to show he means business, he reverts to a smokescreen of questions.
           
“Will I still be able to work?  Go through the Gate?  You’re not gonna make me go to school again, are you?” Daniel demands, white showing all the way around those big blue eyes.
           
“No,” I say hastily, forestalling what could be an even bigger tempest than the first one.  “We won’t make you go to school.” 
           
“But if you wanted to go back to grad school,” Carter teases, “get a few more degrees, you could, you know.  In a few years.”
           
This one gets some serious thought too.

“Oh.”
           
“Perhaps we should think more immediately, such as what you would like for breakfast, Danieljackson?  You must be hungry after your lengthy sleep,” Teal’c inserts. 
           
“I am.”  He knows to look at Janet, this too is routine.  “I’m okay, right?”
           
“You’re fine, as far as I can tell.”
           
“Good.  Pancakes, Teal’c, with lots of syrup.  Oh and butter.  I’m starved.  And coffee.”
           
“Uhm, how about milk instead of coffee?” 

While it’s not exactly an order, its clear Frasier’s drawing the line at coffee this morning.  I’m wondering if she’s gonna draw the proverbial line in the sand over this all together, or is it just a temporary thing. 

This could be our first show down with our headstrong, suddenly short, archeologist. 

“Just until we’re sure there’s nothing out of whack, okay?”
           
“I need coffee, Janet,” Daniel says warningly.  “I’m not giving up coffee because I’m . . . short.”
           
“All right, half coffee, half milk,” Janet compromises.
           
“No!” Daniel wails. 

He drinks it black, doesn’t want anything diluting his caffeine. 
           
“Half and half, or nothing.” 
           
I give him a warning squeeze. 

The doc isn’t always around. 

He relaxes a little and I know he’s gotten the message; he’s just not sure I’m really going to side with him against Frasier on this issue.  He’s probably right, but this isn’t a battle we have to fight right now. 

“Bring him some orange juice too, would you, Teal’c.”
           
The Jaffa rises gracefully to his feet and I’m craning my neck to look up at him as he asks, “Would you like breakfast as well, O’Neill?”
           
“Thanks, T, the usual.”
           
“I’ll go with you, Teal’c.”  Carter slides off the bed, reaching to ruffle Daniel’s hair as she gets up.  “Back in flash, okay?”
           
“Thanks, Sam.”
           
“You betcha.” 

She and Teal’c head for the other end of the infirmary.
           
I turn to Frasier, shifting Daniel so he’s more comfortably ensconced in my lap. 

“When can we go home?”
           
“We’ll have to coordinate that with General Hammond, sir.  But there’s no reason to keep you here anymore.” 

She cups Daniel’s cheek, doing the mom thing, checking for fever. 

This is so different from last time; I know she’s worried still.  Last time he was one sick kiddo for the first few days after the transformation.  The occupants of the planet told us it was a blessing from some lady or another.  A gift of reclamation and healing. 

I’m not sure how much Daniel got out of the experience, but it sure was fun . . . for a few days.
           
He sighs now. 

“I need some stuff from my office if I’m going to figure out any kind of reasonable argument to convince the Teprins to change me back.  And you didn’t answer me.  Are you going to let me work?  Will I still be able to go through the Gate?”
           
“There are going to be things we have to work out as we go along, okay?  Probably you’ll still be able to work.  You are still going to get paid.  The Gate thing . . . we’re not real clear on yet.  It depends.”
           
“On what?”
           
“We, uh, haven’t figured that out.” 

We went round and round on this last night before I left the meeting.  Obviously we can’t do it on a regular basis, there’s too much risk involved, but I don’t see why we can’t take him off world occasionally . . . as long as it’s staked out like the White House.
           
“And when do you expect to?”
           
“Expect to what?” 

I’m a little surprised, actually, Daniel’s taking this much better than I thought he would.
           
“Figure it out?”
           
“Oh.  That.  Well, like I said, some things we’re going to have to work out as we go along.  Going through the Gate is one of them.”
           
With another deep sigh, Daniel sinks back against me again.
           
The door opens at the far end of the room and I look up, expecting Carter and Teal’c, but it’s General Hammond. 

Daniel grabs my neck, legs clamping around my waist, as I rise automatically.
           
“At ease, Colonel.”
           
“Thank you, sir.” 

I sit back down, Daniel still clinging to me like the space monkey he is. 

Part 2

 

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