Snips and Snails and Puppy-dog Tails,
What Are Little Boys Made Of?
A Little!Danny Fic by Maj. Cliffhanger
#2 in the Life's Little Problems Series
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"What are they doing?" Jack O'Neill stood beside Carter, Mitchell and Dr. Lam in the observation room ... and stared. In the room below, beyond the one-way glass, Teal'c stood a silent vigil beside a young tow-headed boy as a lab technician did something to his small arm. Jack didn't really care what; he simply needed a little time to absorb the reality of what he was seeing.
"Looks like his IV access needed to be moved," Lam answered pensively. "It's been three days and they tend to become blocked, especially when not in continual usage. We're just using it to draw blood for labs right now. It's less painful than repeatedly sticking him every few hours."
Jack nodded and folded his arms, frowning to mask the rather sudden roller coaster his emotions were going through. Being told that Daniel had been turned into a five year old by the damn Ori and seeing it were two very different things.
"How's he doing?" he asked unnecessarily. He'd have already been informed if there was a problem.
"Better," Lam noted with a satisfied nod. "His allergies were giving us a bit of trouble at first, but his immune system seems to be slowly sorting itself out again."
Jack frowned more sharply and shot the doctor a look, silently wishing she were Janet before dismissing the thought. "Immune system?" he echoed curtly. Daniel never did anything the easy way; why should he have thought being downsized would be any different?
"His blood chemistry was a mess when he first woke up, General," Lam explained, keeping her eyes on the room below. "Not surprising given the drastic changes his body has been forced to undergo, but his labs are starting to return to normal now. Or--" She frowned again and turned to face Jack as she crossed her arms. "As normal as can be expected under the circumstances," she corrected herself.
Why did she qualify that? "Meaning?"
She shrugged and sighed, turning back to her patient in the other room. "Meaning he's five years old, General," she stated bluntly. "What was normal for him two weeks ago doesn't exist anymore. We have to establish a new baseline for him."
Jack nodded, realizing he'd read more into her statement than he should. He turned his gaze to Carter. "You said he asked for me by name?"
"Actually, Sir," Cam quickly corrected Sam, "he asked for 'Colonel' O'Neill. We had to remind him you were a general in charge of Home World Security now."
Jack frowned harder, remembering Carter's rather rambling attempt to explain what had happened and how Daniel's memories had been affected. She'd tried to simplify it by saying he was 'remembering in reverse' ... then had promptly went on to explain how that didn't really explain it! He'd rolled his eyes and tuned her out. Maybe Lam could explain it better. "He's remembering in reverse?" he asked, turning to the doctor at his side.
Carter spoke up first. "Not exactly. As I was telling you, Sir--"
"Uh, uh, uh!!!" he quickly interrupted her, lifting a peremptory finger to stop her. "You had your chance, Carter; let someone else try." He turned his eyes back to Lam. "I can be a little dense sometimes, so can the medical-ese, please."
Lam frowned pensively as she debated how best to explain the situation in lay-speak. "Well, simply put, the de-aging ... or whatever you want to call it ... only affected Dr. Jackson on the cellular level, not the molecular. Physiologically, he's five ... his heart, his liver, his lungs, his brain; but on a molecular level, he's still forty. I'm specifically talking about his DNA and brain chemistry here.
"It all has to do with how we think memories are stored. No one is really quite sure exactly how it works, but we do know that there are both physical and electro-chemical processes involved. Based on what I've seen so far, I would hazard to guess that young Daniel there still retains most of his adult memories ... a kind of electro-chemical signature if you will - possibly all of them, but he's physiologically incapable of accessing all of them."
Jack was still frowning.
Mitchell decided to jump in. "His wiring's messed up, Sir," he offered simply.
Dr. Lam nodded, accepting the statement and going on to explain it. "The physiological configuration of his brain has reverted to what it was when he was five years old - meaning that the memories which were mapped onto his neurons at that time are the easiest for him to access. The other memories all still seem to be there, but the physical connections to them have been ... rerouted, for lack of a better word. The best way I can explain it would be to say he's remembering things that happened thirty-five years ago as if it were yesterday and things that happened two weeks ago, like the Prior attack, as if they were thirty-five years ago. It's not a perfect analogy because certain recent memories may well prove to be easier to access than others but, in general..." She offered a mixed nod and shrug both.
Jack's frown became guarded as he glanced back through the one-way glass. "So ... he still thinks his parents are alive?"
"He did," Lam answered with an unhappy look of her own. "We had a few bad moments, General. He started screaming for his mother the moment he woke up ... but then remembered both his parents had died." She shook her head, not at all liking the memory of his reaction to that. "It wasn't pretty. I'm afraid he's still more than a little confused; but we've managed to explain what happened to him and he seems to understand it. We're not at all certain how much he actually remembers at this point, but it's at least enough to let him know we're telling the truth; however, he's still needing reassurance from people he knows."
"Which would be why Teal'c's in there with him," Jack realized.
Lam nodded. "He was the only who could get him to calm down when he first woke up."
Jack glanced at Carter with a raised eyebrow.
"He's better with kids than I am, Sir," she offered with a small shrug.
"He didn't even recognize me or Lam," Mitchell volunteered.
Jack didn't miss the sudden, momentary glance Carter and the good doctor shared. "What?" he asked bluntly.
Sam literally winced. "He started yelling for Janet," she explained quietly.
Jack closed his eyes in empathic pain and bowed his head. Being forced to remember Janet Frasier's death couldn't have been easy for Daniel, not on top of having to deal with the memory of his own parents' deaths as well.
"I'm afraid I was forced to sedate him at that point, General," Lam confirmed his fears.
He opened his eyes again and gave her a grim nod. That was three days ago, he reminded himself, and the kid sitting on the hospital bed in the other room didn't look like he was about to fall apart. "Now?" he asked simply.
Lam turned her attention back to the other room as well. "Now, he's starting to deal with everything and is doing better, but he's still very confused and probably a little frightened. I'm very glad you were able to get away from your busy schedule to be here for him, General. The more friendly faces he knows around him, the easier this will all be."
Jack shook his head in frustration. "I only wish I could stay more than a day. I have a damn fiduciary meeting with the IOA tomorrow at thirteen hundred. If I'm not there, the SGC budget will look like swiss cheese when they're done with it!"
Lam pursed her lips thoughtfully. "I suspect even five or ten minutes would be a big help for him right now." She paused and came to an obvious decision about something. "I was going to move him back to Earth tomorrow afternoon; but if you have to leave in the morning, I think we should do it tonight. I suspect it will make everything a lot easier for Daniel if you're with us. And the fact that he's at least on the same world as you, may make you're leaving again a little easier to bear as well."
Jack nodded. "When can I go in there?" he asked. Enough questions and answers. They could spend all day discussing this.
"Whenever you're ready, General," Lam answered. "I just wanted to make sure you knew the score before you went in there and freaked out on him."
"That's the last thing Daniel needs right now," Sam confirmed.
Jack wasn't the type to 'freak out', as Carter well knew, but this had definitely rattled him - and Daniel was too damn observant not to have seen it if he'd gone straight in there. They'd been right to give him the heads up first. With a short nod, he waved Dr. Lam to lead the way and followed her from the observation room.
* * *
A second pneumatic hiss and rumbling of the isolation room door immediately after the lab tech left was an unwanted intrusion in Danny's small confused world. He just frowned and kept picking at a loose thread on the hem of one of his pant legs. The light blue scrubs were the smallest they had, but they were still way too big for him. He knew he should leave the thread alone, picking at it would only cause the hem to unravel completely, but he just didn't care. Maybe if he concentrated on it hard enough he could simply ignore the round of poking and prodding he knew was coming.
Teal'c's gentle bass interrupted the thought. "Daniel Jackson, I believe you have company."
He glanced up reluctantly and turned his head, expecting to see either Dr. Lam or Carmichael again, and felt his entire body jerk at the sight that greeted him. "Jack!" he exclaimed in happy surprise.
Had Teal'c not been fast enough in scooping him up and putting him down on the floor, Daniel would have literally launched himself from the bed. Yet half way to the other man, he suddenly stopped, his little hands balling into the lightweight fabric of the too long pants he was in danger of tripping over even as he stared at the man before him in confusion.
This wasn't the Jack he remembered.
Oh, it was Jack, he was certain of that. There was no mistaking the mixture of hard chiseled features, laugh lines and gentle brown eyes. He was just ... a lot older than Danny remembered, or remembered clearly anyway.
Jack offered a slight frown as well. "Daniel?" he asked as everyone else held his or her breath.
Danny knew it was his stupid memory playing tricks on him. He knew he and this man shared a close friendship and incredible history of several years - but a lot of those years were as elusive as a dream. They were there. He could sense them, taste them, feel them ... but he couldn't quite see them; couldn't quite grasp them and make them real. Camels and Mastidges kept getting mixed up in his head, and memories of the sands of Abydos warred with those of the deserts of Egypt. It was even harder when he was confronted by something he didn't remember at all ... like Jack getting old.
What else about Jack O'Neill was he forgetting?
The older version of his friend stepped forward and squatted down to his level, cocking his silvered head to the side. "Daniel?" he repeated patiently.
Of course, Danny thought. This would be even more confusing to Jack than it was to him. Jack had never known him as a child. Jack had changed a little, but he'd changed a lot.
He gave only a small nod in answer, even though what he really wanted to do was to scream and cry and shout, 'Yes. Yes, I'm Daniel! I'm still Daniel!' but ... he wasn't. He wasn't the same 'Dr. Daniel Jackson' this man had met under a mountain and befriended in the sands of Abydos. He was 'Danny' Jackson; Pa-sheri as his father had called him. The sudden thought that he'd never hear the ancient Egyptian nickname of 'junior' again threatened to bring tears to his eyes. He had to bite his lip to keep from crying. No, he definitely wasn't 'Dr. Jackson.' He was nothing but a confused and frightened little kid. What could Jack O'Neill possibly want with him now?
That face he both knew and didn't know suddenly softened and Jack opened his arms. "Come 'ere," he said softly.
A part of Danny said he should walk calmly over and ... shake his hand? That was stupid! To hell with being an adult. He wasn't an adult and he was tired of trying to act like one. Instead, he launched himself at Jack, wrapping his arms around his neck and burying his face in the other man's shoulder.
"I'm sorry, Jack!" he offered brokenly into the heavy cotton of the green BDU shirt his friend was wearing, holding onto him fiercely.
"Sorry?" Jack asked in mild surprise even as his arms closed about the small body and held him close. "For what?"
Danny sniffed loudly, forcing himself to answer but unable to move out of the other man's embrace. God, he needed this; he needed it so badly! "I really made a mess of it this time, didn't I?" he mumbled quietly.
Jack's hand came up to hold the back of his head while the other moved to squeeze him tight in a hug. "Shhh-hh!" he heard Jack whisper soothingly. "This isn't your fault. You don't have to apologize."
"It's always my fault!" he whispered pathetically. If only he'd shouted a warning to his parents when he heard the chain groaning. If only he'd written his grandfather more often before they died. If only he'd had the courage to hide his drunken foster father's keys...
Jack had moved his hands to his shoulders and was pushing him away. Daniel was too emotionally fragile to fight it. "It's not your fault," Jack insisted firmly. A hand under his chin forced Daniel to look up and meet dark, serious eyes. "You walked into a trap. It's not your fault."
He sniffed miserably.
"You don't remember it at all?" Jack asked gently.
Daniel brushed the back of a small hand across his eyes and nose and shook his head.
There was suddenly a large white square in front of him. "Here, Squirt," someone offered kindly. He glanced up to see the dark-headed man from a few days ago holding a handkerchief out to him. He frowned in confusion, knowing he should know the man but...
Jack took the cloth with an offhand 'Thanks' and deftly used it to mop Danny's face before holding it to his nose. "Blow," he ordered simply.
Danny blew, and blew again when commanded. The cloth squeezed his nose and wiped it dry before disappearing again.
"Better?" Jack asked.
Danny bowed his head, suddenly embarrassed by the fuss he'd created.
"This isn't your fault," Jack repeated. "Do you remember who the Ori are?"
Danny closed his eyes and fought to remember. He heard himself screaming 'no!' and saw....
His eyes jerked open and he abruptly slammed shut a mental door on the memory of someone being burnt alive. "Bad guys?" he said simply and gave a small shudder. The 'Ori' had something to do with that memory, but he wasn't sure what. "Dr. Lam said they were the ones who turned me into a kid." He glanced up at Sam and Teal'c. "They told me it was a trap, too."
"Yeah..." Jack returned, obviously a little concerned over his memory ... or more precisely the lack thereof. "I've read the report. It wasn't something you could've avoided."
"What kinda trap turns someone into a kid?" he asked with a frown, rubbing the back of his hand across his eyes again. They were burning now. "And why didn't it affect anyone else?"
Jack actually dropped his gaze to the floor and gave a soft chuckle. "Now that sounds more like the Daniel I know," he said and glanced back up only to suddenly ruffle Daniel's already tousled hair.
Danny cringed. He hated it when grownups did that! He was quite certain Jack had never-- Well, maybe once ... 'Space Monkey'? Where did that thought come from? Jack only grinned more and Danny decided he could put up with a little petting from his friend.
"I don't know, Danny," the older man answered belatedly and sighed as he stood up again. "The bad guys just seem to like picking on you, I guess."
Danny rolled his eyes - and shot Sam a sharp look when she suddenly had a coughing fit. "It's not funny," he told her quietly.
"Oh, I don't know..." tall, dark-whoever decided, not even trying to hide his amusement. "I've read all your mission reports, remember? You do seem to get picked on a bit more than the rest of the team. ..Sorry!" He quickly backpedaled and threw up his hands in surrender when Jack added his glare to Danny's. "Just teasing. As for why; simple answer? We think the Ori targeted you because you know too damn much."
Sam immediately shot the guy a glare of her own.
"What?" he asked helplessly, then apparently decided it was because of the 'damn'. "He only looks five, Carter! The kid can probably cuss me out in more languages than I can count!"
Danny's glare dissolved into a surprised giggle ... there was no other way to describe it.
Jack grinned. "Now that would be funny!" he decided.
Suddenly, Danny was hugging Jack's legs, needing to be hugged in return. The man bent and deftly lifted him into his arms again. "I'm glad you came, Jack!" he whispered fiercely in the other man's ear.
"So am I, Danny," his friend answered softly. "So am I."
* * *
The Omega Site Commissary wasn't nearly as busy as the SGC's but it was a lot smaller as well. Fortunately, the lunch rush was pretty well over and the team had been able to find a table off to one side, away from the slow trickle of scientists seeking a quick snack or the coffeepot. Gen. O'Neill sat frowning down into the dregs of his coffee cup but Mitchell somehow didn't think he was simply debating whether to get up and get another or not. Teal'c and Sam also noted his preoccupation and exchanged silent glances with Cam.
"Penny for your thoughts, Sir?" the de-facto head of SG-1 dared ask as he eyed the tepid remains of his own coffee. He needed the caffeine boost but this stuff was burnt. He wasn't sure his stomach would tolerate another cup. It was already rebelling from the 'chef's surprise'. He knew he should've stuck with the chicken ala king...
The general considered his words carefully before he spoke. "We have a problem," he stated the obvious.
"Sir?" Sam asked with a raised brow.
He continued to frown down into his cup. "How long before you can fix this?" he asked simply.
She opened her mouth and closed it again even as she shook her head in answer to the surprise question. "I ... there's no way to know yet, Sir. It could be days, weeks--"
"--Never?" Jack inserted.
"No, Sir," she answered firmly, refusing to accept that possibility. "We were able to stop whatever it was the Prior did to him ... we even have a vague idea of the technology used to do it; we should be able to reverse it too. It's just going to take time."
"Time...." O'Neill nodded. "Exactly. So ... what happens to Daniel while the three of you are off gallivanting all over the galaxy trying to figure it out?"
The three teammates glanced at each other uncertainly. They hadn't thought that far ahead yet.
Jack offered his cup a final grimace before shoving it away and sitting back to fold his arms. He redirected his gaze to those sitting with him and lifted an eloquent brow in silent inquiry. The question hadn't been rhetorical.
"He will require a guardian," Teal'c surmised succinctly.
Jack nodded again.
"What about you, Sir?" Sam suggested, sitting forward as she proposed the obvious solution. "You're great with kids. Daniel knows and trusts you. You'd be perfect!"
"I live and work in D.C., Carter," he shot the suggestion down with a shake of his head. "I'm tempted, but despite the obvious problems his 'downsizing' is going to cause, I think Daniel needs to stay at the SGC."
"I'm not so sure, Sir," Mitchell offered with a frown of his own. "I don't think Gen. Landry is going to be too keen on having a five year old running around his base." He pushed his cup away, deciding the caffeine boost wasn't worth the acid indigestion. "Besides ... the kid's painfully confused right now. 'Can't say as I blame him, but I think the best thing anyone can do is give him some sort of normalcy."
"There's nothing normal about Daniel, Mitchell," O'Neill returned with a sigh. "There never has been. And as far as Landry goes, he's smarter than that. The whole point of this little attack was to eliminate Daniel as a threat to the Ori."
"It seems to me like they've pretty much done that .. Sir?" Mitchell replied, his tone making it a definite question. "I don't see how a five year old is going to be able to help us much."
"You obviously don't know Daniel then," Jack answered with a shake of his head, awarding both Sam and Teal'c a long suffering look. "I swear, he just pulls these kinds of stunts to give me more gray hair."
Teal'c answered the comment with a surprised brow that fell short of actually correcting the general's comment, and Sam simply tried to swallow a smile.
Jack turned his gaze back to the newest member of SG-1 and continued as if he'd never been questioned. "Obviously, figuring out what he can and can't do isn't going to be easy. Not only do we have to worry about the security issues of a five year old with intimate, detailed knowledge of the stargate program--"
"Sir! Daniel would never--"
"Not willingly or knowingly," he agreed, quickly overriding Sam's protest and lifting his hand to forestall further comment. He awarded her a grim look. "What do you think the Trust will do when they find out about this; a Trust which I'm sure I don't need to remind you has been infiltrated by the goo'ld and which is now headed by none other than Ba'al himself? And don't kid yourselves, they will find out - assuming they haven't already."
The Omega Site intercom system interrupted anything more he might say. "SG-1 and Gen. O'Neill to the gateroom," an unknown technician demanded calmly. "Repeat: SG-1 and Gen. O'Neill to the gateroom."
Together, the four rose. The discussion was far from over but necessity put it on hold as they silently turned to make their way from the commissary.
* * *
The guards drew themselves to sharp attention as Jack led his little procession through the open blast door. Omega Site's gate was housed in a rather squat, boxy room which reminded him more of a converted airplane hanger than anything else, with the gate positioned at one end and the other end opening into a small X-302 hanger bay. They entered somewhere in the middle, an area criss-crossed at the moment with heavy cables and various pieces of machinery.
"Sir," a lieutenant greeted him with a crisp acknowledgment and indicated they should proceed right, toward the gate. He offered no explanation and made no move to accompany them. 'Probably didn't know what the hell was going on either, Jack thought and hurried to where he spotted the back of Col. Robert's balding head.
Someone noted their approach and Col. Robert's turned, stepping aside to reveal the cause of their summons: Kvasir and....
"General O'Neill." The melodic tones confirmed his suspicions even as the Asgard offered a polite bow of his head. "It is a pleasure to see you once again, although I could wish it were under more auspicious circumstances."
"Thor!" Jack exclaimed happily. "Buddy. Where 'ya been? We haven't seen you in ages!"
"I fear our war against the replicators continues, O'Neill," the small gray alien answered solemnly. "Weapons adapted from our study of the device found on Dakara have been most effective in helping to decimate their numbers, but we have yet to develop a projector strong enough to be used via the stargates of our own galaxy. Small enclaves of replicators continue to be discovered and, as such, they continue to pose an ongoing threat to my people."
O'Neill frowned pensively. "Kvasir said you'd found a way to scan planets for their energy patterns from several light years away."
Thor nodded. "Yes. But a galaxy is a very large place, O'Neill. Despite the increased efficiency of our scanners, it will still take several generations to sweep the entire expanse."
"And that's assuming the little buggers don't figure out how to defeat the ray in the meantime."
Thor offered a solemn nod. "That is a worrisome possibility."
"So!" Jack decided to change the subject. "What brings you to our neck of the woods then? Needing another dumb idea?" He turned slightly and gestured at Carter who responded to the rather backhanded-compliment with a strained smile. He offered a slight shrug, knowing he hadn't worded that right but ... she knew what he'd meant.
"I am here in answer to your need for an Asgard cryo-pod," Thor answered. "My ship, 'The Mjolnir', was the closest following the failure of 'The Daniel Jackson's' hyper-drives. We came as soon as we could. Kvasir tells me the cryo-pod is no longer required."
"Um, no..." Jack agreed and turned to Sam again.
"We were able to stop the de-aging," she explained simply, knowing Kvasir would have already informed Thor of the specifics.
"He has also stated the belief that study of this transformation may be beneficial to our own genetic scientists."
Study? The team immediately bristled.
"With both Dr. Jackson's and your permissions, of course," Thor quickly assured them. "We have no wish to traumatize him any farther than has already been done. However, such study may also help identify a methodology for reversing his current condition," Thor added.
Sam frowned at Kvasir. "I thought you said that was impossible." It was a statement she'd refused to believe.
"I said it was impossible for me, Col. Carter," the other alien corrected her.
"Kvasir is quite learned in several areas," Thor acknowledged the Asgard beside him, "but he is not a geneticist."
"You brought Heimdall with you?" Sam asked in surprise.
"Yes," the Supreme Commander of the Asgard Fleet answered. "Given the situation, we thought his expertise was worth the time required to divert to our home world. Our calculations indicated that Dr. Jackson would not be in any immediate danger due to the delay."
"He'd be all of three years old by now if we'd waited!" Mitchell protested in alarm.
"And would have been beamed directly into a modified Asgard cryo-pod as soon as we made orbit, thus suspending the de-aging process while we sought a permanent solution," Thor answered clearly. "I understand your concern for Dr. Jackson and the need to do something, but I am uncertain your action was the most propitious under the circumstances."
Mitchell obviously couldn't believe what he was hearing! "You're saying your way would have been--"
"--Children! Children!" Jack quickly intervened, lifting both hands before the lieutenant colonel could say something Jack was sure to regret. "Let's not start a war of 'could of's and 'should of's ... what's done is done." He offered the other man a mild glare of warning. Arguing with an Asgard just wasn't smart! Clearing his face, he turned back to Thor. "You think Heimdall can help?"
"I would not have suggested it otherwise, O'Neill."
Of course not.
"Then where is he?" Mitchell asked bluntly. "Why didn't he beam down with you?"
Jack offered the hotheaded pilot a much stronger glare this time. Nothing intimidated the guy, did it?
"He is preparing his equipment for the requested examination," Thor answered. "Your facilities are not sufficient for such a study."
"So we're just supposed to let you beam him up to your ship and-- oof!"
Sam interrupted his sarcastic laden protest with a well-placed elbow in the ribs.
"Sorry 'bout that, Thor," Jack quickly apologized. "I'm afraid Col. Mitchell here doesn't know you the way we do." He turned to Mitchell with an angry hiss. "One more word and you'll be writing 'I will not offend the Asgard' ten thousand times before you ever step through the gate again, got it?"
The man blinked in surprise and drew himself to attention. "Sir!" he acknowledged crisply.
"No apology is necessary, O'Neill," Thor answered. "Although Col. Mitchell's words and tone may be construed by some as lacking tact, he speaks from the heart. I cannot fault him for being concerned for his friend." He turned his large black eyes up to the officer across from him. "I assure you, Col. Mitchell, I hold Dr. Jackson in the highest esteem. He, along with the rest of SG-1, is responsible for saving my people from almost certain annihilation - and my own life more than once. Our only desire is to help."
"And if y'all just happen to find a way to help yourselves in the process, well that's just icing on the cake, is that it?"
"I do not believe the Dr. Jackson I know would begrudge us such," Thor answered. "Do you?"
Mitchell frowned. "The adult version, no," he agreed, knowing the guy was right. "But you get to deal with the five year old version instead. I'm just not too sure how he's going to react to the idea of being poked and prodded by a bunch of big-headed aliens he may or may not remember ... no offense intended." He glanced uncomfortably at Gen. O'Neill whom he noticed was busy giving him the evil eye again.
"None taken," Thor replied smoothly. "Nothing will be done without Dr. Jackson's full knowledge and consent. You have my word."
"Which is more than enough!" Jack hurried to interject even as Mitchell again opened his mouth. He shot the younger man a glacial look, warning Mitchell he'd be scrubbing toilets down in Antarctica if he dared contradict him! The mouth snapped shut.
Jack quickly swung his gaze back to Thor and Kvasir, waving them to the door. "Why don't we go see Dr. Jackson and find out what he says about it, shall we?" The group, lead by Sam, turned to the blast doors even as Jack's hand came up and landed in the middle of Mitchell's chest, stopping him. He waited until the others were out of earshot to speak. "You, stay here."
"I warned you, Colonel. Thor might not have taken offense, but I sure did." He turned on his heel and headed for the door, calling over his shoulder as he went, "Longhand ... no computers!" He didn't need to see Mitchell's wince or roll of his eyes to know the man's hand was already cramping at the mere thought of having to write 'I will not offend the Asgard' ten thousand times. It was no more than he deserved.
"Maybe next time you'll listen when a two-star tells you to back off!"
* * *
Danny sat on the edge of his bed and stared at the two aliens approaching him. When he suddenly pulled back in alarm, they stopped.
"Daniel?" Jack asked gently, stepping forward to stand beside the two. "You remember Thor and Kvasir, don't you?"
The boy blinked at Jack blankly, his bright blue eyes large and frightened. It wasn't the aliens who scared him. It was the fact that he didn't remember them.
"The Asgard?" Jack suggested, hoping to jog his memory.
He blinked and turned his eyes back to the small aliens, chewing his bottom lip uncertainly. The Asgard were important to the SGC. They were friends and allies. He remembered that much. Why couldn't he remember more? "Thor was the ancient Norse god of thunder and lightening..." he offered, thinking aloud. His mother had taught him that. He remembered ... a stylized obelisk with a cross member covered in Norse runes. "Your hammer turned out to be a device for killing Goa'uld on the planet Cimmaria."
Thor answered with a bow of his head. "You remember, Daniel Jackson," he decided. "I am pleased."
Danny stared at him for a long moment. Even the sound of his voice seemed familiar, but... "No," he corrected with a sad shake of his head and again bit his lip as he frowned down at his hands. Why could he remember the name of the planet but not the aliens in front of him? "I only remember ... bits and pieces."
"Because of the physical reconfiguration of your brain." Thor nodded his understanding even as the two, with Jack still at their side, finished closing the distance to his bedside. "Kvasir has explained how your transformation has impacted your memory. He has been working with your doctors and Col. Carter to correct the problem."
Danny swung his eyes to the other alien. The differences were subtle but they were there. "I don't remember him."
"We have not interacted since your awakening, young Daniel Jackson, and only briefly when you were an adult," Kvasir informed him. "I would not expect you to remember me."
Not remember talking to an alien from outer space? Well, except Teal'c of course. That was different. But ... how could he not remember something like this?
"You and I have interacted on more than one occasion, my friend," Thor assured him. "You do not remember any of it?"
The blue eyes lost focus as Danny turned his sight inward, shifting through the morass of confused memory which always seemed just beyond his reach. He caught a couple of flashes.... "Jack's head was caught in something."
"Ancient Repository of Knowledge," Jack decided easily and shrugged when Sam shot him a surprised look. "Thor downloaded the thing outta my head and saved my life."
"But Daniel wasn't there, Sir," she noted with a confused frown.
"Not the first time," Jack agreed, "but he was the second, when Thor defrosted me from... the cryo-sleep-thingy in Antarctica."
"Dormata." Danny nodded to himself.
"You got it," Jack agreed, realizing the kid was remembering him being frozen. "Thor beamed us up to his ship and thawed me out. I created some kinda weird ray gun and we used it to save Carter. Remember?"
Daniel closed his eyes for a moment, frowning, and then opened them again to look at Thor. "I remember...." He shrugged uncomfortably and glanced at Jack in confusion as another image came to mind. "Metal spiders?"
"Replicators," Jack nodded. "They'd captured Sam. We used the ray gun to destroy them."
The words triggered other memories. His eyes snapped shut and he shuddered violently, grabbing at his head. The room dissolved into somewhere else and Danny suddenly found himself fighting for his life!
"Daniel?" Jack suddenly leapt forward to catch him before he could fall. The nurse was there as well.
"No, no!" he screamed, blindly lashing out in obvious pain and panic. Replicator blocks surrounded and entombed him as Sam's hand reached for his head. Only it wasn't Sam. He knew it wasn't Sam. It was a replicator copy of Sam and she was going to stick her hand in his head. He screamed again as the pain hit him. It hurt. It hurt so bad!
"Danny, stop this. Stop!"
Jack? No, a trick. It had to be a trick. She stabbed him in the head. She stabbed him in the head and was going to stab him in the chest. He knew she was going to stab him in the chest, and he knew he was going to die.
He couldn't escape. They were making him lay down. Something stung his arm and he felt himself dying. He hadn't felt her stab him in the chest, but she must have. He saw her pull the sword out and smile at him. "Sam..." he whispered, knowing it wasn't really her. He could only hope Jack and Thor had saved the real Sam.
"Daniel?" the replicator called anxiously, suddenly looking worried as she leaned over him. "It's okay, Daniel. Calm down. I'm here. I'm here!"
"No," he shook his head. Had he won? Had he kept the information she wanted away from her? Was that why she was worried, because she'd killed him before she could get it? "Not Sam," he argued, shaking his head as oblivion slowly reached for him. "Not ... Sam."
And then his world went blank.
* * *
"What happened?" Jack asked curtly as Dr. Lam removed the stethoscope from her ears and straightened from beside the small boy on the bed.
"I think it was a flashback," she decided, pursing her lips in thought. "He did the same thing when he remembered his parents' and Dr. Frasier's deaths three days ago."
Jack winced visibly. He'd been afraid it was something like that, having become all too familiar with the things following his time in an Iraqi prison. "He grabbed his head," he noted. That wasn't normal for a flashback.
"We'll do another MRI to rule out any intracranial problems but it may simply be the memory of some head trauma he suffered. There are more than a few in his record, although nothing is coming to mind in reference to the Asgard."
"The Replicators," Sam interjected, glancing at Jack as the pieces came together for her. "It started when you mentioned fighting the replicators. God!" She suddenly looked shocked. "I think he was remembering me ... or not me," she corrected herself. "The replicator me. When he was captured and ascended the second time. Remember how bad it hurt when they put their hands in our heads?"
Jack frowned sharply. "I try not to," he answered curtly and frowned down at the unconscious boy. Daniel hadn't been around for the discovery of First and Fifth and all the trouble they'd had with the Asgard Time Dilation device ... but he had been captured by Replicator-Carter later. "He always said he didn't remember what happened after he was beamed away."
"It's not unusual for the mind to suppress memories of extreme trauma," Dr. Lam agreed. "And given the fact that we know he ... died on that occasion," (god, it sounded weird to hear herself say that!) "I'm not surprised he didn't remember it. Before."
"Before?" Jack echoed. "You mean, as opposed to 'now'...."
She sighed and shook her head. "I'm afraid it all comes back to the physical changes his brain has been forced to undergo. Whatever natural safeguards his mind put in place to protect his psyche from such experiences have been just as jumbled up as everything else in his head."
"You mean he's going to have to remember and relive...." He stared at Carter as they both thought the same thing. There were just certain things a person shouldn't have to remember ... and Daniel had more than his share of them.
"Not necessarily," Lam assured them, having familiarized herself with Dr. Jackson's record and knowing why they were looking so shaken. "The human mind is an amazingly resilient thing ... a child's mind even more so. It'll learn to rebuild those barriers and protect itself ... but it's going to take time." She frowned down at the child and folded her arms. "We still don't know exactly what he can and cannot remember. We know it's there but...." She glanced up at Jack and Sam again. "Do you remember what you had for breakfast November 3rd, 1998?"
They both frowned sharply. "Of course not," Jack answered.
"Actually, O'Neill," Thor surprised them by speaking, "you do." He turned his large dark eyes up to the doctor. "I think I understand what Dr. Lam is trying to say." He returned his gaze to Sam and Jack again. "What you call memory is actually a unique pattern of both physical and chemical components triggered by experience. Each experience is recorded in infinite detail. The necessary neural connections to allow recall are then either reinforced or allowed to degrade with time, but the memory itself remains. Because of the restructuring of Dr. Jackson's brain, memories which were once suppressed may now be more easily accessed and memories which were once clear and important to him may be lost forever. There is no way to predict what he will and will not remember."
Jack nodded grimly. "I already got that."
"What you have not yet 'got', O'Neill, is the difference between Dr. Jackson's brain and his mind," Thor told him. "They are not one and the same."
"The brain is nothing more than an electro-chemical computer," Kvasir added from where he stood beside Thor. "Changes to the physical structure are concrete and inescapable, but the mind is much more amorphous. If it were not, then the transfer of Asgard consciousness from one clone body to the next would not be possible, despite the use of pre-frontal cortex mapping to prepare the brain."
"Even as changes in the brain can create changes in one's mind, the mind is also capable of creating changes within the brain," Thor explained. "It is an interdependent system which even we do not fully comprehend."
"It adapts," Sam summarized.
Kvasir and Thor both nodded. "In time," Thor agreed and turned to Kvasir. "I do not think now is the time to subject Dr. Jackson to our genetic studies."
"Heimdall will be disappointed." Kvasir sounded disappointed as well.
"Yes," Thor nodded, "but the danger of triggering another 'flashback', as Dr. Lam calls them, is too great. The trauma endured by his mind is equal to, if not greater than that endured by his body. It must be given time to heal."
The other alien nodded, acceding to Thor's wisdom.
"We will return in a few weeks to see how he fares. In the meantime, Heimdall can study what information you were able to obtain while working to halt the de-aging process. We will of course return immediately if he learns anything more that might be helpful."
"Wait," Jack interjected. "Is there anything ... I don't know. You all know more about how the brain works than we do. Apparently. Can you, maybe...."
"No, O'Neill," Thor answered sadly. "I am sorry. Even if we had a recent Asgard scan of his brain, any attempt to remap his neurons at this time into their adult patterns would be most unwise. The physical differences between then and now are simply too great."
Jack sighed and shrugged. "I had to ask," he said.
"Your friend is still there, O'Neill," Thor assured him. "Confused and frightened, but the essence which defines Dr. Jackson has not been lost. The memories which formed him are still an intricate part of who he is, whether he can consciously recall them or not."
Jack frowned. Was he understanding Thor right? "He's not just a five year old with a bunch of jumbled memories he shouldn't have."
"No," Thor agreed with a sage nod. "He is not."
* * *
Another patient's IV alarm going off woke him. Danny blinked his eyes open to the concrete ceiling with its painted conduits and mirrored surgical lights and frowned. Glancing down and around, he finally remembered where he was.
The memory of dying followed a moment later and he abruptly sat up.
The voice called him from the edge of the abyss back to the here and now. His breath hitched and he swallowed hard, blinking his eyes open to see 'dark-haired whats-his-name' offering a look of concern even as the man moved quickly to his bedside. A nurse also moved to the other side of the bed, scanning the various pieces of equipment surrounding him. He noted the IV had been reconnected.
"Hey, Squirt." The man gave him a worried frown even as he took up Danny's small hand for a comforting squeeze. "You doing okay?" he asked kindly.
Not really, he thought, but chose to keep it to himself even as he stared at the hand holding his. The guy wasn't a doctor. He knew that.
The hand holding his let go only to reach up and touch his shoulder. "Danny?" he asked gently.
Danny lifted his eyes to stare at the guy and was rewarded with another flash of memory; this one of the man sweating and holding a basketball. "Who are you?" he asked suddenly, surprised to hear himself actually ask the question aloud.
The man blinked pale blue eyes, startled. "Um ... Mitchell," he answered simply. The hand fell away from Danny's shoulder. He wasn't sure if he missed it or not. "Cameron Mitchell. Co-leader of SG-1." He frowned, looking for a sign of recognition.
"You took Jack's place," Danny surmised. He still didn't remember the guy, though he seemed nice enough.
"Well ... no," Mitchell decided reluctantly, with a shrug. "He was actually a general for about a year before I came on-board. Sam was in charge of the team back then; but then, after the defeat of Anubis and the replicators, well, y'all just sorta went your separate ways. When I showed up, I kinda made it my mission to get everyone back together again." He cocked his head to the side and frowned unhappily. "You don't remember any of it, do you...."
Danny glanced down at his hands, distractedly pulling at the hem of the sheet. "Bits and pieces." He was getting tired of saying that. He knew they'd defeated Anubis, and that was tied in somehow with their defeat of the replicators too, but....
"She killed me," he offered abruptly, looking up again. "The replicator who looked like Sam."
Mitchell winced and glanced away for a second. "Yeah-well ... you might not want to think about that too much," he decided and glanced back at Danny. "You kinda wigged-out on us when you remembered it a while ago."
"She stabbed me in the chest." How could he not think about it? He didn't feel like he was going to 'wig-out' again. Ignoring it wouldn't make it go away.
"Stabbed you?" the man asked, despite himself.
"I was fighting her. She was probing my mind for the knowledge of the Ancients, but it was too much for her to handle. I managed to get control of the replicators through her and stopped them. But only for a few seconds."
"You said you didn't do that."
"When you came back," Mitchell explained. "Descended again. You told O'Neill and the others that you weren't the one who stopped them."
"I did?" he asked, confused.
"That's what the reports said." Mitchell shrugged.
Danny frowned down at the sheet again, wishing there was a broken thread he could play with. Why would he have said that?
"What happened next?" Mitchell asked, and then quickly caught himself. "Sorry! We should probably talk about something else."
He shook his head. It somehow felt better to talk about it. It made the memory real; locked it in place to fit with all the other jumbled puzzle pieces floating around in his head. "I lost control when she stabbed me. She turned her hand into a sword and ran me through." He touched the middle of his chest where the sword had gone. His chest had been bigger then. It was strange to remember it, almost like it had happened to someone else. There hadn't been a lot of pain, not like when she put her hand in his head, just... He glanced up at Mitchell again, confused by the memory. "I knew I was dying."
"But instead you ascended," Mitchell supplied.
He dropped his hand and head again. "I don't remember that."
"Well, the simple fact that you're here should tell you that." The man turned and snagged a rolling stool with his foot, then sat down beside him. He didn't seem to think it was much of a big deal and somehow that was reassuring to Danny.
The nurse had disappeared back across the room without him noticing.
"I'm glad you woke up," the man sighed gustily, changing the subject and shaking out his right hand. "'Gives me an excuse to rest my hand for a minute."
Danny followed his gesture to where a chair sat beside a bed-desk covered in a stack of papers.
"I went and made the mistake of crossing one Gen. O'Neill," he explained, still stretching the fingers of his hand out and rotating his wrist a bit before dropping it back to his side. "He's got me writing 'I will not offend the Asgard' ten thousand times."
Danny blinked in disbelief. "You're kidding me." He couldn't even.. well, yes, he could count that high. But he didn't want to!
"I wish." Mitchell sighed and folded his arms. "Actually, I think he was more pissed at me for ignoring his warning to back off than about offending the Asgard. Thor didn't seem to care."
"What did you say to Thor?"
Mitchell offered a dismissive grimace and waved it off. "'Doesn't matter," he decided. "I shoulda known better. Hey, you missed lunch earlier." He again deftly changed the subject. "You should eat. Want me to get you something?"
Danny shook his head. "I'd rather talk."
"Yeah?" Mitchell's brows rose in question.
He shrugged. "No one talks to me," he explained simply. The doctors and nurses talked at him and around him, but.... "Teal'c's pretty quiet." And Sam was busy trying to fix things.... If this guy was the new head of SG-1 then he must know him. They must be friends, right?
There was a loose thread at the corner of the sheet, where the top-fold turned over and met the side seam.
"Yeah," Mitchell nodded, silently noting the nervous hands exploring the edge of the sheet. "Tee's not much of a talker."
Danny glanced up again but his hands kept moving. "Jack might let you off if you tell him I made you talk to me when you were supposed to be writing," he suggested hopefully.
"Yeah?" Mitchell said again, this time with an amused grin. "Maybe! I like the way you think, kid. So ... what' you want to talk about?"
Danny offered a small smile of his own and his hands slowly stilled. "Tell me how you got everyone back together again," he suggested.
* * *
"His latest blood work continues to show a slightly elevated white count," Lam was saying as they walked down the corridor back to Daniel's isolation room. "There's no sign of fever so I'm pretty sure it's just his body trying to adapt, but I'm not taking any chances here. We're still going to make the transfer back to Earth, but he's going to have to stay in the infirmary until I say otherwise. No VIP room."
"But we can get him some regular clothes, right?" Sam asked from where she walked behind Gen. O'Neill. "He doesn't have to stay in those over-sized scrubs, does he?"
"As long as they're thoroughly washed first," Lam answered over her shoulder with a nod. "Loose-fitted cotton pajamas with a button-up top would be best to start. He can graduate to jeans and T-shirts when he starts to become more active, but they aren't particularly comfortable when you're stuck in bed."
"He will require undergarments, socks and shoes as well," Teal'c observed pensively.
"You know his size, Carter?" Jack asked, glancing back as they continued down the hall.
"I was hoping to enlist the help of Col. Dixon, Sir," she answered, naming the commander of SG-13. "He has four kids of his own."
"We have a few emergency supplies laid up for refugees," Lam volunteered. "Nothing fancy but I'm sure we can find something better than scrubs. Lt. Dawn Simons has a boy about his age. She might have some extra clothes to spare."
"Simons...." Jack frowned in thought and glanced back over his shoulder at Carter. "Isn't she the nurse who's always ogling Daniel's butt when he's in the infirmary?"
Lam rolled her eyes. "My nurses do not ogle people's butts, General," she assured him with a mock glare as they turned the corner into the corridor outside the Isolation Rooms. "...No matter how nice the view."
Sam stifled a surprised laugh with difficulty and moved to step aside as she saw a nurse approaching them. She did a double-take when she realized the woman was wearing a broad smile. She couldn't have possibly heard...
"Wiseman?" Lam asked, with a deft lift of her brow.
"He's playing, ma'am," the nurse answered the unasked question easily. "Some sort of clapping game. Col. Mitchell isn't very good at it." Her hand came up to muffle a soft laugh.
The five companions all exchanged surprised glances, sharing the same thought: they had to see this! "Thank you, Lieutenant," Lam told her and, together, the small group hurried on to Daniel's room.
* * *
"Did your cousin win?" Danny asked as he repeated the short sequence they'd developed so far and added a new beat for his turn: clap, slap his legs, clap, pause, shake the right hand, clap, shake the left and clap again. It was Mitchell's turn.
"That's not the point," Mitchell replied, frowning as he tried to concentrate. "And stop trying to distract me!" Clap, double slap, clap, pause, right hand, left hand, clap, clap.
Danny smiled. "You forgot to clap between the hand shakes."
"I did not!"
They both looked to the attending nurse who shook her head while grinning broadly. "Yes, you did, Sir," she ruled in Daniel's favor.
"Ah, man! I'll never get the hang of this!" Mitchell whined and belatedly noticed the four other people who'd snuck into the room. "Save me, Teal'c! I bet you can beat the little rug rat!"
"Your memory skills seem to be lacking, Mitchell," O'Neill noted with a grin of his own as he stepped forward to join him beside Daniel's bed. "And no calling Daniel a rug rat; that's reserved for toddlers who are still learning to walk."
"Memory skills are fine, Sir," Mitchell quickly assured him. "Just a little rusty when I'm being purposely distracted!" He shot Daniel a mock glare that had the kid giggling.
"Memorizing your opponent's moves in a dogfight so you can anticipate what his next one will be is much harder than this, Colonel," Jack informed him and nudged him aside to stand in front of Danny himself. He grinned broadly. "Let an expert show you how it's done!"
"Ah, man!" It was Daniel's turn to whine and he sounded surprisingly like Mitchell! "How 'bout chess instead?"
"Ha!" Jack exclaimed. "Forget it. I own you. Start!" He brought his hands together in a sharp clap.
Danny bit his lip and frowned in concentration, suddenly getting serious as he took up the challenge the general issued. Clap, double slap.
Mitchell stepped back with Sam and Teal'c to watch. "Somethin' going on here I should know 'bout?" he asked quietly, cocking his head to the side and frowning.
"Only that the two of them used to play this game whenever we were off-world," Sam answered with an amused shrug, folding her arms as well and trying not to laugh.
Clap, double slap, pause, left shake, right shake, double shake... They were playing it at a much faster pace than he and Daniel had been. Cam noted that the General was grinning and looked about as relaxed as if he were sitting in front of a TV somewhere!
"Daniel never won," Sam added, explaining their amusement.
Mitchell's brow rose. "Never?" he asked in surprise. Daniel was one of the smartest guys he knew. He hadn't been surprised to realize he was better at memorizing long, complicated, random sequences than he was. He was surprised that O'Neill was even better.
Clap, double slap, pause, left shake, right shake, double shake, pause, double slap, clap, clap...
"Indeed," Teal'c answered, an amused smile threatening to make a rare appearance. "I have witnessed them accurately echoing each other's movements for well over a hundred turns."
"The record was one twenty-six," Jack called over to them, proving that he could listen and concentrate at the same time. "While he was boring me to death with some ancient goo'ldish history I didn't want to hear about!"
Daniel suddenly faltered and dropped his hands. "Ah, man..." he whined again and dropped his head in defeat. He didn't even glance at the nurse for a ruling.
Jack chuckled and reached out to ruffle his hair. "You're rusty, Danny," he claimed. "That was only twenty!"
Danny looked up with a smile and shrugged. "Mitchell couldn't get past fifteen."
"Hey!" he protested sharply. "No telling tales. I'm sure I got past ... sixteen. At least!"
Not a soul in the room believed him but it didn't matter. The group gathered around Daniel laughed lightly even as Dr. Lam stepped forward to join them. "I'm glad you've been having fun while we were gone," she noted with a smile of her own.
Danny shrugged, a little embarrassed by the pointed attention.
"How're you feeling?" she asked, wrapping her arms around his chart which could only tell her so much.
He shrugged again and started picking at the edge of his sheet. "Fine," he answered. He'd given the same answer several times over the past three days but it didn't seem to make any difference.
"Danny?" Mitchell put just a small warning inflection on the use of his name. The boy answered with a sigh.
"I'm a little tired," he admitted reluctantly, becoming fascinated by the fabric in his hands. "A little hungry. I didn't eat lunch."
Mitchell suddenly slapped himself in the forehead. The nurse had told him that. "Damn! I shoulda remembered that."
Lam glanced at her watch. The fact that he'd missed lunch was in his chart. "It's about four here," she noted. "That's what..." She glanced at the rest of the team for help. "Six at the SGC?"
Cam automatically glanced at his watch, which he hadn't bothered to reset here even as Gen. O'Neill answered without looking, "Eighteen hundred." He converted it to military time and gave a simple nod in answer.
Lam offered a slight wince for the correction but chose to ignore it. "I understand they're serving lasagna tonight."
Daniel awarded her a confused frown.
"Want some?" she asked lightly.
He frowned harder. "You're going to order in lasagna from Earth for me?" That didn't seem.... Well, it was possible, he knew; just ... stupid!
"Actually, I thought we'd take you to the lasagna," she explained with a smile. "'You feeling good enough to get out of here?"
His mouth dropped open and he stared at her for a long moment before he remembered to nod. "You're letting me go?" he asked hopefully.
"Well, back to Earth anyway," she agreed, offering his choice of words a wry grimace. He wasn't a prisoner. "Your blood chemistry isn't normal yet so you're going to have to stay in the infirmary for a little longer, but hopefully I can cut you loose in a few days. How's that sound?"
He frowned down at the sheet again. "Am I going to be stuck in an Isolation Room again?"
"Nope," she assured him readily. "You get to endure all the comings and goings of the main ward ... as long as you don't spike a fever," she added pointedly. "We're going to be watching you closely, but I think your immune system's ready for it."
He nodded glumly and then Mitchell suddenly leaned close, arms crossed, with his mouth only inches away from Danny's ear. "What's wrong?" he asked in a sotto-whisper.
Daniel glanced up into pale blue eyes that returned his stare without judgment or pity. A dark brow lifted in silent question when he didn't answer. Danny glanced at Jack and then away again with a little shrug. "I'm just wondering what happens when Dr. Lam finally releases me from the infirmary," he admitted, concentrating on the sheet corner once again. He'd unwound the loose thread and divided it into its individual strings, folding them open like a flower.
"What happens?" Cam echoed, glancing at the others and shrugging. "We haven't figured that out yet, but we will."
Sam reached out to lay a hand on his small shoulder. "You won't be tossed into foster care again, Daniel," she assured him quietly. "I promise."
"Hell, no!" Jack exclaimed with a frown, then chastised himself for cursing. "Sorry. Besides which, Carter here is still working on getting you back to normal. This time next week, you'll probably think this was all a bad dream."
Danny looked up at him with a doubtful expression. "Next week?"
Jack grimaced and shrugged. "Okay, so maybe not next week but she's working on it. You ever know Carter to fail us before?"
Sam didn't seem at all happy with that compliment. "Sir--"
A raised forefinger halted her attempted protest. "--Not when it counted, Carter," Gen. O'Neill declared staunchly. "Not when it counted." He turned his attention back to the boy on the bed. "'You really want to bet against her?"
Danny gave her a small smile. "No," he answered.
"Smart boy!" Jack claimed.
"Did you ever pay me the five dollars you lost the last time you bet against her?"
Jack repaid his smart alack answer by grabbing him and briskly rubbing his knuckles across the top of his head in the age-old tradition of a 'noogie'. Danny squealed in terrified delight. "I oughta make you write 'I will respect my elders' five hundred times for that!"
"You mean not the ten thousand you assigned, Mitchell?" he quipped right back, quickly patting his hair back in place as Jack finally released him. (It had been a very gentle 'noogie'.)
Cam offered a low groan. "Ya had to remind him!"
Daniel blinked and turned to offer him a startled look. "Oops...."
"Yeah, 'oops!'" Jack echoed, turning to Mitchell with a raised brow.
"I swear, you two are more like kids than he is!" Lam sighed, shaking her head as she frowned at the two men. "Go take your school-yard humor to the other side of the room so I and my nurses can get Daniel ready to go back to Earth. We're on a time schedule here." She lifted her arms and awarded the whole group a brushing motion with both hands. "Shoo!" she told them firmly.
"I'm sorry, Colonel!" Danny called after them even as they all turned away.
"Don't sweat it, kid," Cam answered, turning back with a wink. "'Not like he was going to forget it anyway."
That wasn't good enough for Danny. "It's not his fault, Jack; I made him talk to me!"
"And he made you laugh," Jack called back. "For that, he gets half off. Now settle down and be good. I actually like the lasagna back at the SGC."
"He'd like pizza better, Sir," Mitchell suggested softly.
Jack gave him a quick smile and wink of his own. "Good idea. I'll tell Walter to order some up before we go through Decon," he decided. Turning when they reached the wall beneath the observation window, the four friends stood back and watched as the doc and her cohorts did what they thought was necessary to get Danny ready for the trip back to Earth.
* * *
Danny frowned stubbornly. Lam was trying to insist he go through the gate on a stretcher.
Uh-uh! No way! Fa-get-abot-it!
He wasn't sick, he wasn't injured, and going through the gate on a stretcher simply wasn't fun. In fact, it was the opposite of fun! It always felt like he was about to fly off the damn thing. No matter how good the people carrying it were, there was always a little time 'hitch' between them, and therefore between his head and his feet as well. It just plain felt weird!
"I'll hold hands if you want," he offered with a grimace, knowing that his light weight combined with the 'current' of the wormhole could possibly make him stumble on exit if he entered too fast. "I'll even let Teal'c carry me if you insist," he allowed reluctantly, "but I am not going through on a stretcher!"
"Piggy-back ride?" Mitchell suggested with a grin.
Danny glanced up with a grin of his own, sorely tempted by the thought ... but then shook his head. "I should probably try to maintain at least some semblance of dignity," he decided with a sigh.
Sam couldn't help it; she laughed, and immediately apologized. "Sorry, Daniel," she offered, embarrassed. "That's just something I can imagine your adult-self saying."
"My adult-self is still here, Sam." He frowned down where he sat on the edge of his bed and kicked his feet, watching irritably as the over-long material of his pants legs still flopped several inches above the floor. "My head may be all scrambled up but ... I remember him. He's still here." He glanced up again with large confused eyes. "I'm still me," he insisted, and then glanced away again. He shrugged a bit, uncomfortable with his own intensity.
"Okay! No stretcher," Jack suddenly announced, breaking the uncomfortable silence that had threatened to descend upon the room. Bending, he began rolling up one of Daniel's pant legs and then glanced back at Lam with a frustrated frown. "Don't you have any safety-pins around here?"
"--Give me one solid medical reason why he should have to use a stretcher," the man demanded before she could complete her protest.
The dark-haired woman shook her head in mild exasperation. "He has no shoes," she answered pointedly.
Danny glanced down at his own feet, one of which was now visible below the thick cuff Jack had managed to give him. The material wouldn't stay rolled for more than a couple of minutes he knew, unless they could find a way to secure it. Danny had given up on that long ago.
"So?" Jack glanced back up with a shrug as he moved to the other pant leg. "Have you taken a look at his feet, Doc? He's got calluses. Something tells me he spent a lot of time in Egypt running around barefoot."
"Loose boots and sandals," Danny corrected him quietly. He missed the ones that had been like his fathers.... He frowned at the thought. "Too many scorpions for bare feet."
Jack lifted a small, little foot and gave it a quick tickle, eliciting a surprised squeal of laughter before he dropped it. "They still look tougher than mine, and that's saying a lot." He glanced back up at Lam. "Come on, I can't believe this place doesn't have any safety-pins!"
She sighed and gestured the nurse toward one of the supply cabinets. "Fine," she allowed unhappily. "But you get to hold him still while I set his bones if some steel-toed clod back home steps on his foot."
"Deal," Jack agreed readily and offered the boy a wink.
Danny fought to suppress a grin. He seriously doubted those 'steel-toed clods' wouldn't be paying attention to the presence of a five year old amongst them. Jack was in more danger of being stepped on than he was.
The nurse returned with the requested safety-pins. Together, she and Jack made quick work of securing the pant legs. Now he could walk without tripping! He went to hop off the bed only to be caught and sat back up on the bed.
Jack frowned down at him sternly. "No hopping, skipping, running or jumping," he admonished with a warning lift of a finger. "You act up in the gate room and I won't hesitate to give that little bottom of yours a swift swat, you hear me?"
The nervous energy that had been practically thrumming through his body suddenly vanished. "I'm not an idiot, Jack," he answered with a scowl. It wasn't the thought of getting a swat that upset him; it was the idea that Jack didn't trust him to know better.
"Hey, you're a kid!" Mitchell declared suddenly, stating the obvious even as he stepped forward to stand beside Jack. "Kids run and jump and generally act up all the time. We all know you aren't your typical five year old, but ... as much as we'd like to pretend otherwise ... you ain't exactly an adult stuck in a kid's body either. A little warning here isn't really a bad thing, you think?"
Danny glanced down and away again. Put like that, his reaction was unjustifiable. "Sorry, Jack," he murmured.
Jack shrugged it off and grabbed Daniel up to set him on the floor. "You ready to do this then?" he asked, offering his hand.
Danny quickly set aside his pique and lifted his face to give Jack a firm nod. Without a word, he slipped his small hand into the older man's grasp.
"Right then!" Mitchell exclaimed with all his usual exuberance for life. "Let's get this show on the road!" A simple gesture had Teal'c, who was closest to the door, turning to lead the way.
It was only a few short minutes later ... minus any hopping, skipping, running or jumping ... that the group stood ready before the gate, watching the inner ring spin as the chevrons slowly lit up one after the other.
Sam suddenly squatted down beside Danny. "You remember this, don't you?" she asked quietly.
He glanced at her worried face and forced a nervous smile. "Mostly," he answered with a nod even as he let his eyes swing back to the gate. "It just seems a lot ... bigger than I remember." He offered a decided gasp and slight jump as the last chevron engaged and the wormhole exploded into existence.
Sam grinned and placed a steadying hand on his shoulder. "That's just because you're a lot shorter now," she teased him. He rolled his eyes as she stood once more and took her place behind him with Mitchell.
"You have a go, Gen. O'Neill," Col. Roberts sang out from behind them.
O'Neill nodded and Teal'c stepped forward to offer Danny his hand as well. With a grin, Danny took it and the group smoothly stepped forward, the three of them leading the way.
"Hang on tight!" Jack offered as they approached the event horizon. At the very last moment, both Jack and Teal'c lifted him from his feet. Danny hadn't been expecting that but at least they didn't swing him. The effect was a bit like a controlled hop, 'though he came down a bit harder on the other side then he'd have liked and nearly tripped on the metal grating of the SGC ramp.
"Easy there," Jack told him as he and Teal'c continued to bear most of his weight. They all but carried him down the sloping surface so those behind would have room to come through. "Gravity here is a little heavier than it is at the Omega Site. Get your sea legs before you try to let go."
"Welcome back, Jack." Landry stood at the base of the ramp and offered an amused grin. "God, I always wanted to say that."
Danny's feet finally touched the cold concrete and they released him to stand on his own. He glanced up to find General Landry smiling down on him. "And this must be Dr. Jackson," he decided. "'Almost didn't recognize you without the glasses."
Danny seriously doubted the lack of glasses made one iota difference ... the General, and everyone else present, would be well aware of what had happened to him ... but he appreciated the attempt at light-hearted normalcy. "I won't be needing those for a few years yet, Sir," he replied easily.
"Hopefully a lot sooner than that, if Col. Carter and her team have anything to say about it." The general glanced back up, finding the doctor. "Any special needs or do you just want to send him off to Decon. with everybody else?"
"He's still a little weak, Sir," Lam decided, much to Daniel's annoyance. "We'll take him directly to the infirmary and do the decontamination there." She gestured to the side where a nurse and a wheelchair were waiting as always when a team returned from off-world.
Jack was suddenly whispering in his ear. "Choose your battles wisely, Danny," he warned softly. "Remember your dignity."
Glancing at the other man, he sighed and nodded. Lam was the final arbiter on all medical issues. Refusing to go through the gate on a stretcher was one thing, but he had little reason to refuse a wheelchair here. Arguing about it would be seen as little more than a temper tantrum. He acquiesced without comment and turned to allow Jack to lift him into the adult seat.
"We'll debrief in one hour," Landry decided and again glanced at Dr. Lam. "Will Dr. Jackson be able to attend?"
"Not at this time, Sir," she decided, further irritating Danny 'though he fought to hide it. "His blood work is still a little off and I'm not sure how gate travel may have affected him. We need to run a few tests and get him settled. He'll be stuck in the infirmary for a few more days I'm afraid."
"Then I'll let you get on with it." Landry nodded and gave Danny a wink. "I'll try and stop by a little later, Dr. Jackson, after the doctor and her minions are done torturing you for the day." He grinned unrepentantly while Lam rolled her eyes.
Danny offered a small smile despite himself. "Thank you, Sir," he replied. "I'll try not to let my screams of unending pain and terror disturb the base too much."
"Ha!" Landry exclaimed in delight and turned to laugh at his daughter. "I think you have your hands full, Carolyn! What have you been teaching this boy, Jack?"
"Oh, Daniel's always been a handful, Hank," Jack decided, offering his own amused smile for the come-back. "He's just a little more manageable at this size."
Danny shook his head as the rest of SG-1 and half the gate room chuckled. "So much for my dignity," he decided as the chair was maneuvered toward the exit.
"Dignity?" Lam proclaimed grandly. "My victims have no dignity. To the dungeon with him! Where are my whips and chains?"
"Look out, Jackson!" Mitchell called as the medical team with the boy in their midst moved toward the blast doors. "I think she has evil designs on some of your blood!"
Lam turned to offer the man a dramatic scowl. "Wait until you see the size of the needle I have in store for you, Colonel." She offered a decidedly humorous evil laugh.
The rest of the gate room exploded in mirth as Daniel and Lam's 'minions' disappeared down the hall.
* * *
Jack frowned at his watch as he contemplated what the colonel on the other end of the phone was telling him. Shifting the receiver to the other hand, he suppressed a sigh and forced himself to answer, "I'll be leaving shortly; 'should be there by quarter till." The pilot reiterated his warning and Jack acknowledged it before hanging up to turn toward the other end of the infirmary. Sighing, he placed a quick call top-side, then braced himself for what had to be done. Feeling more than a little angry at life in general, he made his way back to the far bed.
"Hey, guys," he addressed the small group as he rejoined them, gaining their attention. "'Mind giving me and Daniel here a few?"
The rest of SG-1 exchanged curious looks but they didn't question him. They knew he'd been due to leave tomorrow morning, but it wouldn't take much to figure out what the call a few minutes ago meant. Mitchell paused long enough to snag the last piece of pizza and offer Daniel a wink. "You holler nice and loud if he starts beating up on you too much. I can't take on a general, but Doc Lam sure can!" A wave and smirk saw him turning away to disappear with the rest of the team.
Jack shoved his hands in his pockets and listened to them moving away before he lifted his gaze to the boy on the bed again.
It was weird, seeing him like this ... and not. Yeah, the miniaturized stuff was weird: the round little face with this tiny little nose, and the shaggy dark blond hair with it's completely unruly wave cut like it had been when he was an adult but waaaay too long for a kid, and the tiny little hands and toes.... But he told himself it was no weirder than some of the other stuff they'd been through over the years.
The eyes were the same.
Well, almost the same. They seemed bigger and brighter and ... maybe not as world-weary and jaded; more like they had been when Jack first met Daniel, but they were definitely 'Daniel'. Intelligent and sad. He didn't need Thor to tell him his friend was still here.
"You have to go," Daniel surmised. He didn't make it a question.
Jack sighed and reached over to play with the call button, moving it from where it was positioned high on the bed to some place easier to reach. "I have to be in Washington to meet with the IOA bean counters at thirteen hundred tomorrow," he explained unhappily. "I was supposed to have 'til morning here but a winter storm moving in is threatening to ground all air traffic. The pilot is giving me 'til nine to get my ass up there or he leaves without me."
"...Peterson?" It took the boy a long moment to dig up the name of the near-by Air Force Base.
"Yeah," he sighed again and frowned down at the remains of the empty pizza boxes stacked in and next to the bay's small wastebasket. "'Catching a jump seat on a C-130."
"Ouch," Danny replied.
Jack cocked his head and offered a slight grin. "You remember that?"
"Vaguely," he answered, turning his attention to the hem of the fresh scrub shirt he presently wore. This set actually came close to fitting him. "I know I don't want to jump out of one again."
"Yeah, well, jumping into a bunch of snow fields in northern Russia isn't exactly my idea of fun either," Jack shrugged. "No jumping this time, 'though if I could do it to avoid the commute in downtown DC, I'd certainly consider it! Anyway..." He frowned and moved to plop down in a hard plastic chair, far too similar to other chairs he'd occupied over the years. "I have a few minutes to kill before I have to take off. 'Thought maybe we'd talk a bit. I'm sorry I can't stay longer."
"You're a general," Danny noted, dropping the shirt to explore the edge of the blanket he'd been given. "You go where the President sends you."
"The bane of all military personnel," Jack agreed, nodding. He reached out and tapped the bed covers, forcing Danny to glance up at him. "How you holding up? And don't give me that 'fine' crap you're giving everyone else."
Danny shrugged uncomfortably and there was something way too little-boyish about it ... kinda a whole body shrug thing. "What do you want me to say, Jack?" he asked with a sigh. "My childhood was no picnic the first time. I have no desire to go through it again."
Jack frowned. "I thought you weren't going to bet against Carter and Kvasir?"
Daniel folded his arms, forcing himself to leave the edge of the blanket alone, and shoved his head back into the pillow of the raised portion of the bed behind him. "I'm not," he claimed, even as he scowled mutinously.
Now that, Jack thought, was pure adult Daniel! "But that doesn't mean you're not worried about it, does it?" Jack surmised, reading the young face far too easily.
"Being a kid sucks, Jack," he declared bluntly. "It sucks big time."
Jack cocked a brow in surprise. It wasn't that he didn't know anything about Daniel's childhood; he knew enough to know it hadn't been pretty ... no, what surprised him was his reaction to the sound of such a crude sentiment coming from a five year old! He shrugged it off, resisting the urge to 'adjust' any of the myriad machines around his friend. He turned his frown to the bed-table that had been shoved to the side. Nothing there to play with either.
"I bet you can think of something positive about it if you tried."
"Like what?" Danny pouted irritably.
"Um, well ... I don't think Landry is going to be demanding any paperwork from you for a while, unless of course you're a masochist and actually enjoy writing all those reports...."
Daniel offered this thought a pensive frown and then another shrug, still not happy. "He's not going to let me at the reports from my department that would require me to write those reports for him."
"I wouldn't be too sure about that," Jack hedged and let his brows dance suggestively.
The small boy offered him a dubious look.
"Shoving you off into a corner somewhere while Carter and Kvasir work on this would be the same as handing the Ori a victory on a silver platter," Jack explained what he had already told the rest of SG-1. He offered Danny a determined look. "That ain't going to happen."
Danny was still unconvinced. He shook his head wearily. "What can I do, Jack?" he asked quietly. "I'm not.... I know I'm not your 'typical' five-year-old, but Col. Mitchell was right; I'm not an adult trapped in a kid's body either. I'm not 'Dr. Daniel Jackson'."
"Oh, yes you are," Jack rejoined firmly. "You may be majorly screwed up right now. Hell, for all I know you may not even remember how to tie your shoes at the moment, but in the end ... it doesn't matter; because you were right too, when you told Carter the adult you is still in there." He leaned forward in the chair to rap his knuckles on Daniel's head. "You might not remember him very well, but he's still there. You're still 'you'. Puta."
Danny gave him a very sharp look. "Okay ... I know you didn't just call me a whore in Spanish."
Jack grinned. "Not quite."
He watched as Danny frowned, searching his mind for alternate meanings.... It took him a long moment to realize Jack had spoken in Ancient. "Believe," he translated it at last. "You're telling me to believe in myself."
Jack relaxed back into his chair. Something from all those reports he was forced to read had to stick sooner or later. "I knew you'd get it."
Danny shook his head. "I'm not the only one who speaks Ancient anymore, Jack. I may not remember a lot but I remember that. And they're probably a lot better at it than I am too."
Jack shook his head in exasperation and leaned forward again. "Danny, the knowledge is there! It took Carter and Kvasir and even Thor to explain it to me, to make me understand what had happened to you, but I think I finally got it. It's all still there. Everything that went into making you who you are. No, you're not going to remember it all, but so what? You didn't remember anything the first time you descended, but that didn't stop you from helping us; from wanting to help us. Has that suddenly changed?"
"No," Danny shook his head, frowning down at his hands again as he wrestled with Jack's words. When he glanced up again, the self-pity that had been lurking in his eyes was gone, replaced by the old Daniel stubbornness Jack had come to respect. "No, it hasn't," he decided firmly.
"I didn't think so," Jack agreed and winced as he glanced at his watch. It would take him a good half hour to get over to Peterson, if traffic was light, plus checking out of the mountain and getting through the check points at Peterson to make it to the waiting plane... He was going to be cutting it a little close but dismissed the thought long enough to make sure he got his point across to the kid sitting on the bed next to him. "You are Dr. Daniel Jackson and you're still a valuable part of the SGC. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Clear?"
The boy nodded. "Clear," he acknowledged and offered a small smile. "Thanks, Jack."
"Hey, I'm good at knocking sense into thick heads," Jack grinned, waving it off. "That's half my job back at DC ... speaking of which, I should have a driver top-side waiting for me. I gotta fly."
Danny tensed and swallowed as he suddenly glanced down again. He nodded his understanding. "Good luck with the appropriations committee."
"Yeah, I'm going to need it." Jack quickly stood and leaned over the bed to draw his friend into a tight hug, to hell with the kid's dignity. Danny was putting on a brave face, but Jack could see he was hurting. Damn, he hated having to leave! "I'll call," he promised, fighting back the lump in his throat as the small arms closed around him. "And I'll be back. 'Don't know when, but I'll work out something. Try not to give Landry any more gray hair than he already has in the meantime, huh?"
He let the boy go and stood back as he watched him wrestle with his emotions. "Have a safe flight," Danny offered, forcing a smile.
Jack glanced at his watch again. Danny wasn't handling this nearly as well as he wanted Jack to believe, but Jack was out of time. "Damn," he whispered and headed for the door. "I'll send the team back in. Oh!" He suddenly glanced back over his shoulder and offered his friend a wink. "A little gray hair on Mitchell would probably do him a world of good; just make sure he survives it!"
Danny grinned despite himself - and Jack had to go. Sighing, he turned and hurried for the exit, silently hoping his driver had a heavy foot.
* * *
It was late ... or early depending upon your point of view - as one Cameron Mitchell made his way toward the elevator. A yawn stretched his face as he swiped his card. It had been a very long day; long couple of weeks actually. His body was still set to Omega Site time and he was more than dragging because of it. Still, he'd managed to get that damn writing assignment of O'Neill's done. The penmanship on the last few pages was questionable but there'd been no requirement about that. It was legible ... just - and it was now sitting in Landry's in-box. Hopefully, he'd report the compliance to orders and then shred it rather than stuff it in Mitchell's personnel file....
The elevator doors swung open and he forced his jean-clad legs to move him forward. If he were any more tired, he'd crash here on base. Heck, he might should do that anyway. 'Probably wasn't safe to be driving at the moment. The sudden thought of wrapping his vintage Mustang around a telephone pole sent a shiver down his spine.
With a frown for the elevator controls, he punched twenty-one instead of eleven. So much for heading home. He'd stop in and make sure Jackson was doing okay, then grab a bunk in one of the bunk rooms.
Last he'd seen of the boy, he'd seemed a little subdued. O'Neill had said he had to go and sent the team back in with orders to 'cheer him up' ... which had seemed a little odd since the kid had been plenty cheerful during the pizza party. But the general had been right; young Daniel Jackson was definitely depressed as they made their way back to his bedside. He'd offered them a reassuring smile and then said he was tired. Lam had backed him up and within minutes of being sent in to make him feel better, the team had been ushered out again so he could sleep.
None of them had bought the act for a second.
Oh, Cam had no doubt the kid was tired, probably more than tired, but he was hurting too and refusing to show it. Sam seemed to think it was just Daniel's way, and they should simply give him some room. Teal'c too had stated that giving their friend some privacy to deal with all that had happened would probably be for the best. Cam had acceded to their combined knowledge of the man ... then. Now, he was questioning it.
Yeah, maybe the adult Dr. Jackson was the type who preferred to deal with his pain and upsets in private, but this was a five year old they were dealing with here!
The charge nurse glanced up as he approached her desk at the infirmary entrance and gave him a quick once over, checking for injury or other medical problems. "Just visiting," he whispered in the subdued atmosphere of the night shift. Lights had been dimmed and many of the normal noises of the day were carefully muted.
"Visiting hours have been over for some time, Sir," the young captain answered with a slight frown. The SGC infirmary didn't work quite the same way as a normal hospital did, but having someone show up to visit a patient at 2 am was obviously going to be discouraged. "You are..?"
"Mitchell," he answered softly as she opened a visitors' clearance log. "Lt. Col. Cameron Mitchell, SG-1." He knew the team designation would get her attention if nothing else did. "I just wanted to make sure Dr. Jackson was actually sleeping before I head down and grab a bunk for the night. 'Been a bit of a day for all of us."
A look of empathic concern flitted across her features as she glanced over her shoulder to where the corridor made its turn into the main ward. She turned back to Mitchell with a nod. "He's in the last bay on the right," she offered kindly. "Just be quiet and don't wake him if he's sleeping."
Mitchell nodded and placed a finger across his lips in a solemn vow before turning to hurry into the infirmary. He'd changed into well worn sneakers when he ditched his uniform and was able to make his way to the far end of the ward without drawing any glares from the nurses who were on duty.
The privacy curtain had been drawn part way around the little cubicle but wasn't drawn shut by any means. He stepped up around it and peeked silently inside. The boy was lying on his side with his back to the rest of the area, apparently sleeping. Mitchell would have turned and left him then had he not lifted a small hand to wipe at his face.
Cam winced and bit his lip, quickly debating what to do.
* * *
The sound of paper rustling wasn't really out of context for the infirmary. Danny stayed on his side and pretended to sleep, hoping the nurse would be satisfied with reading the various monitors and not require that he wake up for a temperature probe or something. Turning his face more firmly into the pillow, he hid the fact he was trying to dry his eyes. He really didn't want anyone to know he'd been crying. Dr. Lam would probably give him another stupid sedative or something. A moment later, he threw an arm over his head for good measure, hiding what evidence remained if anyone bothered to look.
It wasn't like he didn't have a reason to cry. The Ori had done a real number on him. And despite the fact that he knew exactly what had happened and had every confidence in Sam to fix it, none of that changed the way it felt. As far as his stupid memories were concerned, he'd been playing in the sand under the shade of a large awning only three days ago. His mother had been working to carefully preserve a large unglazed amphora the Quftis workers had carefully unearthed the day before under his father's watchful supervision. If he closed his eyes he could hear the sound of the workers, chanting to the lead of the old rias as they unearthed layer after layer of the old debris pit they were excavating; he could feel the hot dry wind on the side of his face and smell the pungent coffee the coffee-boy brought his mother at mid-day. There were other kids on the dig too but they were all workers, laboring along side their fathers and brothers for the five-piaster notes that were their pay for two weeks of work. Except Midhat. He was a bronzed-skinned boy of about ten with an ancient looking baseball cap and red tennis shoes; he'd hurt himself the first day of the dig. Daniel's mother had promptly hired him to keep Danny out of mischief and the two had become fast friends.
Danny remembered sitting under one of the many sorting tables, teaching him basic Arabic script only a few short days ago ... yet his mind told him they'd parted ways at the end of that summer more than thirty years ago and Daniel had never seen or heard from him again.
Another tear traced its warm path down his cheek and he carefully shifted his face against the pillow to hide it. He still hadn't heard the nurse leave. In fact, he heard paper rustle yet again as he listened, followed by a frustrated sigh and soft squeak as someone shifted in the hard plastic chair beside his bed.
He frowned into his bed sheets and finally rolled over, knowing it couldn't be the nurse sitting with him. He was expecting Sam or maybe Teal'c, and was a little confused when he saw Col. Mitchell instead.
"Hey," the guy whispered quietly. "I didn't wake you, did I? Your nurse will skin me alive if I did."
Danny shook his head, still frowning as he noted the casual civilian attire and the bright yellow legal pad of paper in the man's lap.
The lieutenant colonel noted the direction of his gaze. "Sorry," he offered softly. "I was looking for a quiet place to finish this." He held it up, displaying several lines of 'I will not offend the Asgard' in a rather sloppy manuscript. "One of the other teams just got back from off-world and they were razing me big time about it. 'Figured they wouldn't find me hiding in here ... if that's okay with you?"
Danny shrugged. The sight of the sloppy handwriting reminded him of Midhat again and caused another tear to escape his control. Fortunately, the lieutenant colonel was frowning down at the legal pad and didn't seem to notice as he swiped it away on the back of his hand.
"'You really should be zonked, you know," the other man decided, still keeping his voice carefully lowered. He put his pen down and paused to stretch his hand. Apparently, he'd been writing for quite some time. He glanced back up expectantly.
"Can't sleep, huh?"
Again, he shrugged. He wasn't about to admit he was homesick for a place he hadn't been to in over thirty years or missing parents who'd died almost as long ago.
"Well, that kinda happens...." The man frowned at the pad in his lap for a second before putting it up on the bed-table. "I need a break," he decided and scooted his chair closer to Daniel's bed. "You know, I've found that when I can't sleep it's usually because I'm thinking too dang much. What do you think? That true for you too?"
Danny offered yet another shrug.
"You know you're real good at that shrugging thing, kid; better watch out though or your shoulders are going to start to look like Teal'c's ... which, you know, isn't bad or anything, but with those scrawny-ass arms you got at the moment.... Ewwww!"
Danny couldn't help but grin at the image Mitchell had painted. He didn't really know the man - or at least, he didn't remember him ... but he seemed pretty okay.
"Not exactly a look the girl's go for. So!" The man sighed and folded his arms. He rested them on the edge of Danny's bed and put his chin down on top of them, ignoring the guardrail that was more than in the way. "Thinking too much.... 'Wanna talk about it?"
Danny shook his head.
"That's good," the man replied with a self-deprecating twist of his mouth, "'cause I ain't any good at that psycho-babble garbage." He sat up again and folded his arms across his chest as he frowned in thought. "Oh, I know! I could tell you a bedtime story," he suggested. "My mom used to tell me one every night when I was about your age."
Danny's face suddenly paled and he turned away, grabbing the blanket and burying his face as Mitchell's words caused the last vestiges of his tight control to crumble.
"Whoa!" the man exclaimed quietly, taken completely by surprise. The chair squeaked and then a hand came down on Danny's shoulder. "Hey, there; what's going on? Do I need to call the nurse?"
Danny shook his head fiercely and fought to control his tears. The last thing he wanted was for Dr. Lam or whoever was on duty to come running. He thought he heard the curtain, but kept his face buried and didn't see the nurse who'd given Mitchell the legal pad he'd been pretending to use pop her head in with a worried frown - nor did he see Cam's silent gesture for her to give him a minute to figure out what was going on.
The hand on his shoulder moved to his back and started to rub in a large comforting circle. "Did I say something wrong?" Mitchell suggested quietly, and then clicked without Danny having to explain. "Damn. It was the bedtime story wasn't it; I'll bet your mom used to do the same thing, huh?"
Danny nodded painfully. It was the last clear memory he had - her telling him the story of Tuthmosis and the Great Sphinx.
"Ah, man..." Mitchell sighed. "I'm sorry, kiddo; I'll bet you're missing her and your dad like crazy, aren't you?"
He nodded. Danny knew he had to get his emotions back under control before the nurse showed up to check on him, but Mitchell's quiet understanding was making that rather difficult to do!
"Here." The hand on his back moved to his shoulder and gently urged him upward. "Come on, sit up. That scratchy ol' blanket ain't something you want to be crying into."
Slowly, he sat up and found a bunch of Kleenex pushed into his hands; and then Mitchell was lowering the guardrail and urging Danny toward him. "Come 'ere. Just be careful of all the wires and tubes. Come on."
Danny hesitated, glancing up in confusion.
"Well, come on," Mitchell insisted, carefully avoiding the IV line while grabbing him under the arms to lift him up and around ... and then he found himself being deposited into the man's lap as he sat in the hard plastic chair once more. A pair of large hands quickly sorted the tangle of wires and tubes aside and then two strong arms closed around him, helping to adjust him to a more comfortable position. They'd done away with all the wires and stuff when he was at the Omega site, but Lam had insisted upon reconnecting everything back up once they got here. Something about not being in Isolation anymore.
"Now, don't go tryin' to tell me you don't need a hug," The man holding him continued in a soft but firm voice, "'cause I'm not gonna buy it. ...Don't go giving me that look. You just go do whatever you gotta do and pretend there's nothing going on over here 'cause there isn't."
This last wasn't directed at him, Danny realized. He glanced up to see a nurse standing by the curtain with a worried frown.
No! He scrunched his eyes closed and quickly burrowed into Mitchell's arms. She was going to call the doctor and they were going to fuss over him again and insist that he calm down.... He didn't want to calm down! He wanted to scream and shout and hit things! Why couldn't they understand that? The doctors would just knock him out if he did; but.... He just wished everyone would leave him alone! He'd be fine if they just left him alone!
He muffled his sobs in the dark blue, cable-knit sweater Mitchell was wearing.
"The kid's world has been turned upside down and inside out," the man insisted quietly. "I kinda think he's entitled to a good cry. Now, go away. I'll call if we need you."
Danny didn't think it would work but at the moment he didn't care. The guy got it. No one else seemed to understand or care, but this near stranger holding him close and gently rocking him in his lap did - and he seemed to think it was okay if Danny cried.
So he cried.
The guy just continued to hold him close, rocking back and forth and rubbing his back as the storm raged. And if the doctor came to check on him, Danny didn't know it. Dr. Lam took one look at the quiet scene and Mitchell's fiercely protective scowl and withdrew without bothering either of them.
Eventually, Danny cried himself out and felt the familiar ache of loss ease to something more bearable. He was also overwhelmingly tired and far too comfortable to move. Mitchell shifted and handed him another bunch of Kleenex even as he removed the used tissues and tossed them in the overflowing wastebasket with the pizza boxes from earlier. Danny lifted the tissues to his face but that was about the extent of his energy reserves. The man gently took them away and wiped at his face for him, then held a wad of them to his nose and ordered him to blow. His nose was a stuffed mess from all the crying but the man didn't complain. He just folded the tissues and ordered him to blow again.
"You feeling a little better now?" Mitchell asked softly, tossing the tissues aside and retrieving more just in case.
Danny nodded but burrowed back into Mitchell's arms. He wasn't ready to return to the stupid hospital bed yet. "So much for being 'Dr. Daniel Jackson'," he muttered softly.
"What?" The man holding him sounded genuinely confused. "You telling me your adult self never cried? Yeah, right...." He shifted Danny on his lap and forced the boy to look at him. "It's all right to cry, kiddo. Hell, if I suddenly woke up and found myself turned into a five year old again, I'd be blubbering for days! You couldn't make me stop!"
Danny bowed his head miserably. "I just want it fixed," he whispered. "I want to be 'Daniel' again. I'm tired of trying to be grown up when I'm not."
"Well, then don't!" Mitchell exclaimed with a shake of his head. "Look, my grandma used to have this saying: 'Getting older is mandatory,' she would say, 'Growing up is optional.' ...'Course then, she usually went on to lecture me 'bout doing something stupid when I should'a been old enough to know better, but ... well, you get the idea. You feel like being five, you be five - feel like being forty, be forty! Hell, 'you know how many times I've been accused of being nothing but a giant kid? So what! Don't let anyone here, including that forty-year-old voice in your head, try to tell you who or what you are. Or what you should or shouldn't be feeling. You are who you are; then, now and always. It's all up to you, no one else. Got it?"
Danny nodded and gratefully snuggled back against the dark blue sweater. He wasn't sure he understood everything Mitchell had said, but it made him feel better anyway.
"As for fixing it," the man's voice spoke over his head and rumbled in the chest beneath his ear, "you just gotta be a little patient - I know, not exactly one of my strong suits either ... but we'll figure it out. Hell, I just spent the last four months getting the band back together again. Ain't no way I'm gonna let the lead singer go now!"
Lead singer? Danny couldn't help but smile into the soft wool. He supposed he was the voice of the group a lot of the time, but.... "That's 'cause you've never heard me sing," he couldn't resist responding.
Mitchell chuckled. "'Can't carry a tune in a hand basket, huh?" he guessed. Danny shook his head ... not that he remembered anyway. "'Learn something new everyday. So ... you wanna let me tell you a bedtime story before the docs kill me for keeping you up all night, or would that make you too sad again?" he asked quietly.
Danny shook his head.
"...No to the story, or no it wouldn't make you too sad?"
Danny lifted his face and looked up at the man holding him. "I'd like a story," he admitted quietly.
Mitchell nodded and made a show of thinking for a long second. "Br'er Rabbit and the Tar Baby?" he suggested.
Danny frowned. The name rang a bell somewhere in his head, but he couldn't remember anything about it.
Mitchell chuckled at the look. "'Didn't figure that was one your momma would have told. 'Kay, let's see; been a while since I told it either. ...Once upon a time, there was this rabbit called Br'er Rabbit and he lived down over by the ol' Briar Patch...."
Danny laid his head back down, listening to the voice above his head and the soft thump of the heart beneath his ear. He still felt the pain of his parents' loss and the confusion of not being who he knew he was supposed to be ... of not even knowing who that was now ... but none of it hurt quite as much as it had. He was who he was, and he still had friends who cared even if he didn't remember them all. It would all work out somehow, he knew.
With a soft sigh, he closed his eyes and let sleep take him.