Daniel ran and ran, his legs pumping furiously, his heart racing. He skidded past the first open doorway and slowed to a halt, bending double to catch himself with his hands as his feet tangled and he almost fell. He took a quick look between his legs and couldnt see anyone behind him but then he heard Jacks irate voice calling his name and he straightened, grabbing the doorframe next to him with small fingers, using the jamb as a fulcrum to pull himself around into the empty storeroom. He turned as soon as he was in and leaned all his five-year-old weight against the door, shoving with all his might until it slammed shut. Breathing heavily, he stepped back, looked around his temporary shelter then turned and slid down the door till his backside hit the cold floor. He leaned forward, his arms resting on his bent knees, head buried in his arms and fumed with self-righteous anger, determined not to give in to the hot tears that stung his eyes.
Jack rounded the end of the corridor and stopped, his eyes scanning the long length of
walkway before him. It was empty. *Dammit!* He slammed his fists against his thighs in
frustration then set off down the hallway, peering in every open doorway and pushing
experimentally on all the closed ones. He stopped at the end and turned around, his eyes
sweeping left and right, wondering which fork to take. "Daniel!" he shouted. He
waited a moment or two then hearing nothing, swung right and continued looking for his
He wasnt worried.
Daniel was upset right now but he wasnt stupid. He might be five years old physiologically and yeah, all right, emotionally, but he was still bright and intelligent enough to realize that if he didnt come out of hiding soon, Jack was going to be mightily pissed off when he tracked him down. "Daniel!" he yelled again, ignoring the curious stares of the military personnel passing by. "When I find you, youre going to be grounded till youre 35 again," he muttered under his breath, studiously ignoring for now, the little twinge of anxiety that rose up to form a lump in his throat. "Dammit, Daniel!"
Daniel sat for what must have been hours, if the cold seeping into his butt was anything to go by. His stomach rumbled, making him feel vaguely nauseous and he squinted at his watch in the dim light. One PM. That meant it had been about ninety minutes since Jack had told him there was no way he was going off world with SG3 to study the tombs theyd found on P5C171 and about 5 hours since hed eaten anything. He was thirsty too, he realized and he stood up and looked around the storeroom, disappointed to find it was exactly what its name suggested it stored things, paper mostly, Daniel could see. He reached up to a shelf and pulled down a sheaf of them, looking them over curiously. Requisition forms. He sighed. No sustenance there.
He moved back to the door and laid down flat on his belly, turning his head so he could look under the thin strip of space beneath it. He couldnt see any feet passing by or hear any sounds, though light still shone into his small, dark sanctuary from under the door.
His stomach rumbled again and he stood up.
Maybe Jack wouldnt be too mad at him for running away. A memory came to mind of a time when hed run off from his mother in a market square in Egypt. When shed found him, shed shaken him hard by the arms then pulled him into a comforting hug, saying over and over again how glad she was that he was safe. Maybe Jack would be angry at first but then glad that Daniel was okay and had come back.
Mind made up, he reached up a hand for the door handle. When he encountered only the smooth, cool enamel of the door, he looked up and up. He groaned in frustration.
The door handle was there but it was at least twelve inches above his head.
"I believe we should begin with a floor by floor sweep, ONeill," Tealc said.
"Good idea," Jack concurred. "Walter, you got those floor plans for me yet?" He stepped over to peer at the computer screen over Sams shoulder. "Do these cover everything? What about crawlspaces and stuff?"
"Somebody want to tell me what the Sam Hill is going on?" Hammonds voice was more concerned than annoyed.
Jack straightened and turned. "Daniels missing, sir," he said concisely.
Hammond joined him next to the computer console. "When you say, "missing", do you mean hes just somewhere you havent found him yet or "
Jack felt the lump of fear hed been swallowing down for the past hour rise up into his throat again. "Ive looked in all his usual haunts, sir and hes nowhere to be found. We had a I guess youd call it an argument and he took off. I went after him but I couldnt find him."
"I see," Hammond replied though Jack was pretty sure he didnt. Not really.
He wasnt sure he could "see" why it had happened either. Daniel was 5 years old, for crying out loud. Did he really think Jack was going to let him go off world with a bunch of jarheads? Anything could happen and knowing Daniel, it probably would. He stifled his sense of self-righteous frustration for now and turned back to the monitor. "Lets do what Tealc said and start from the bottom of the mountain and work our way up. Three teams ought to do it."
"Three?" Hammond sounded stunned. "You want to deploy three SGC teams to track down Doctor Jackson? Surely he cant be that hard to find. A child in this complex would stand out like a sore thumb."
"Hes a kid, General," Jack said succinctly. "You wouldnt believe the places they can hide. Well, you probably would. Youve got kids and grandkids. I remember Charlie taking off from me at the market once " Jack stopped abruptly. Even now that particular memory had the ability to make his heart falter. He shrugged nonchalantly, shoving the memory away. "He was in a pet shop, watching the puppies," he said to Sams enquiring look. "The point is, this isnt a mall and there are no pet shops and this mountain can be a dangerous place for a five year old on his own."
He felt Hammond clasp his shoulder in a grip that spoke of understanding.
"Lets get those teams organized," Hammond said firmly. "Major, I want those plans printed out and issued to each team leader. Lets get to it, people."
"What?" Jack looked across at Tealc as they exited the elevator on the seventeenth level and headed up the corridor, checking doors as they went.
"You said you argued with DanielJackson."
"I said we had a sortve argument," Jack countered defensively.
"I see. What was the sortve argument about?" Tealc asked, nudging open the last door on the hallway with his foot and standing aside politely to allow two airmen to exit.
Jack shrugged. "Just Daniel being Daniel," he replied, leading the way into the womens restroom. "Men on deck!" he yelled as he pushed open the innermost door. "Sorry, Lieutenant, base emergency," he explained with a grin at the pink-cheeked nurse who scurried from one of the cubicles and pushed past him.
"If we were on Chulak, I could challenge you to Ka-nok- ree," Tealc said evenly.
"Meaning?" Jack asked, closing the rest room door behind them and walking quickly ahead to the next door.
"I would ask you to tell me what your argument with DanielJackson was about and if you refused, I would challenge you to a fight to the death," Tealc replied, his voice solemn.
Jack stopped and turned to face him. "Youre kidding?" he said.
Tealc regarded him impassively. "I am kidding," he said after a moment.
Jack fancied he saw the slightest trace of amusement flash across the Jaffas face. "Youre getting good at the joking stuff, T. Almost had me there for a minute."
Tealc inclined his head. "Thank you. I have found The Letterman Show to be invaluable in perfecting my understanding of Earth humor."
"Daniel wants to go off world with SG3," Jack volunteered as they reached the elevator and he slid his card into the slot then punched the up button.
Tealc nodded. "You feel he would be in too much danger were he to go off world with them?"
"Well, doh," Jack replied, unable to keep the sarcasm from his voice though he had a feeling it was lost on Tealc who simply raised an eyebrow at him. He sighed. "Hes a five year old kid, T. Of course hed be in danger. Were talking about Daniel here."
"You may be right, ONeill," Tealc said. He reached out and punched the button for the next floor. "I, too, do not wish DanielJackson to be in any danger."
Daniel grunted with the effort of pulling yet another stack of papers down from the shelf.
They escaped his fingers and fluttered to the floor and he muttered soft imprecations as he bent to gather them together and place them on top of the growing pile next to the door.
He measured the distance from the top of the pile to the door handle and then stepped on top of the papers and reached up a hand experimentally.
"Damn," he murmured. Even on tiptoes, he was still at least three more sheafs of papers short.
He stepped down off the pile cautiously and trekked back over to the shelf to pull down yet another bundle. He felt really queasy now and wished wholeheartedly that hed eaten more breakfast. Of course, it wasnt much help being wise after the fact.
Requisition forms. Whodve guessed they could actually come in handy for something? Not Jack, that was for sure.
He sat down heavily on the papers hed pulled down and buried his face in his hands. Jack. Jack would be really worried by now, he knew. Tears burned his eyes and he rubbed them away with the back of his fists. Jack just wanted to keep him safe, especially after what had happened in Las Vegas, Daniel knew that. He also knew that Jack was constantly aware that if he slipped up at all, MacKenzie would use it as an excuse to have Daniel shipped off to a foster home, saying that Jack obviously couldnt take responsibility for a child.
Idiot, Daniel berated himself. He was trying not to give MacKenzie any ammunition.
He stood up again and wiped his sniffly nose on the hem of his shirt then went back to the shelves for another sheaf of papers.
The small room was getting darker and he stifled a panicked thought that he wouldnt be found before it was completely dark, that nobody would bother looking for him.
ChildDaniel wondered if Jack was already tired of the constant war AdultDaniel waged to remain present and a part of the SGC, while AdultDaniel worried about the fact that if he ever got out of this store room, the tombs on P5C171 would already have been catalogued by some other archeologist who wasnt five years old.
He hauled another pile of papers down and hurried back to the door, then climbed on top of the pile again, curling his toes within his shoes to get a grip on the slippery, unbalanced heap.
He reached up a hand and exulted internally as his fingers wrapped around the handle of the door.
He twisted it and pulled backward on the heavy door, feeling it give way and then stop as it came up against the pile he was standing on.
He was about to step down to move them when the door moved inward forcefully, sliding the pile, and Daniel with it forcefully back into the room.
He scrabbled for purchase with his feet as his anchor shifted and then he was falling, his head hitting the floor hard.
His world turned black.
An incessant, annoying tapping of his cheeks forced his eyes open and the first thing he focused on was Jacks face.
"Hey, you okay?" Jack asked.
Daniel stared at him, momentarily speechless, and then nodded hesitantly. He hooked his fingers into the fabric of Jacks sleeves and pulled himself into a sitting position. "Fine," he said. "Just fi-"
He knew it was going to happen seconds before it did as he felt himself go hot then cold and back to hot again. The room wobbled dizzily around him and he bent forward and threw up.
"Sorry," he said, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.
He watched as Jack took a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped off his pants and Daniels.
"Forget it," Jack said. "No big deal. Its not the first time youve thrown up on me."
"I have called for a medical team, ONeill."
Daniel looked up, squinting through the lights that still prickled at the edges of his vision. "I dont need a med team," he said.
"Daniel, you need to be checked out," Jack said firmly.
"Im okay now," Daniel replied. He swallowed down the bile that still surged at the back of his throat and tried to ignore the headache that felt like his head was being sawn in two.
"You were unconscious for several minutes, DanielJackson and you have expectorated your stomach contents. You have a concussion," Tealc observed.
"Et tu, Tealc," Daniel muttered. He sighed. He really did feel like crap. "Ill go to the infirmary but you can cancel the med team. I can walk." He threw Jack a challenging look. "Can you help me up?"
"Sure," Jack said. "Cancel the med team, T. Ill take Daniel to the infirmary myself. Come on, big guy, lets get you up."
Daniel swallowed down his surprise at Jacks easy acquiescence along with the remnants of his nausea and allowed himself to be pulled to his feet. "See, I told you I was "
He had a vague sensation of being swept up into someones arms and held against a firm chest.
"Please dont puke on me again." Jacks voice rumbled through his chest wall.
The vibration made Daniel feel queasy again so he closed his eyes and turned his head, burying his face against Jacks warm chest.
"Youre okay, " Jack murmured, his voice soothing and warm. "Youre okay."
"Daniel? Can you open your eyes for me?"
Daniel blinked and opened his eyes cautiously, wondering when hed gone to sleep.
"Good, thats good. Do you remember what happened?" Janet asked, pulling out the dreaded penlight and shining it into each of his eyes in turn.
He flinched as the beam caused sharp shards of pain to pierce his head.
Janet patted his shoulder. "Sorry."
"Wheres Jack?" he asked, turning his head to one side and then the other, ignoring the pain the movement caused.
"Hes waiting outside. Ill send him in for a little while before we take you to have a scan of your skull, all right?"
"Can you get him now?" Daniel asked, sudden unreasoning fear clenching his insides and making his stomach churn again.
"Let me just finish examining you and Ill get him, all right?" Janets voice was quiet and calm but he felt his heart speed up nonetheless and he twitched under her restraining fingers.
"Can you get Jack now?" he asked again. "I need to talk to him, to tell him " He looked at Janet, her face blurring through the unexpected tears that filled his eyes.
"Daniel, just calm down. Jacks not going anywhere. Okay?"
He could see the kindness in her eyes, knew she meant well but all he could think of right now was finding Jack and telling him he understood now. That Jack didnt need to worry about him asking to go off world again or running away again because he knew Jack was only trying to keep him safe and out of a foster home and
He gasped for breath and felt Janet grab his shoulders and pull him upright.
"Daniel, look at me!" she snapped briskly, and against his will, he found his eyes drawn to hers. "Im going to get Jack in here but you need to calm down. Youre giving yourself a panic attack."
He nodded furiously, groaning as pain lanced though his temples, hoping that his agreement meant shed leave and bring Jack back.
She opened the drawer of the locker next to the bed and then he saw a paper bag move up to his face. "Hold this over your nose and mouth and breathe as slowly and deeply as you can. Okay?"
He nodded again and grasped the bag with tingling fingers, dragging in deep, shaky breaths. After two, he pulled it away to gasp, "Jack?"
"When the panic attacks over, Danny," she replied, covering his fingers with hers.
He felt her other hand rubbing his back and he tried to consciously relax, to let go of the fear that was gnawing at him and stealing his breath.
Finally, an eternity later, she pulled the bag from his face and pushed him back against the pillows, her small hand brushing the sweat-drenched hair from his forehead. "Better?" she asked.
"My head hurts," he whispered, wanting to say it now before Jack came in. He wanted Jack to think he was fine and hanging tough because he was, really. His head just ached and now his chest hurt too and his fingers still felt like fat sausages He took a deep, gasping breath and forced himself to be still and hold the panic at bay.
"Im going to get you something for that," Janet said. "And then Im going to get Jack in here. Okay?"
"Thank you. Sorry for being a wuss."
Janet bent down and placed a soft kiss on his forehead. "Daniel, youve never been a wuss, not now or ever. Ill be back in a sec with some medicine and Jack."
"You decent?" Jacks head peeked around the corner of the curtain and Daniel could almost feel the tension seeping from his body.
"You gonna come in?" Daniel asked, coughing a little to lessen the huskiness the panic attack had left in his voice.
Jack pushed the curtain aside and walked up to the bed, then stood there, looking down at Daniel. "Oh," he said after a few moments, "youre supposed to take this." He held out his hand and showed Daniel the small plastic cup.
"What is it?" Daniel asked, taking it and grimacing at the liquid inside.
Jack shrugged and sat down on the edge of the bed. "Kids' Tylenol," he said easily. "Janet said youve got a headache but you also have a concussion so she cant give you anything stronger."
Daniel put the cup to his lips and chugged the contents, then gagged.
Jack reached for the plastic bowl and the glass of water on the bedside table. He juggled them in front of Daniels face, grinning as Daniel grabbed the hand that held the glass and swallowed the water in great gulps. "Slow down," he said, pulling the glass away when it was half- empty. "Youre gonna make yourself throw up again."
Daniel allowed himself to be pushed back against the pillows. "Tastes like sh-"
Jacks hand covered his mouth gently. "Uh-uh, dont want Janet to wash your mouth out with soap, do you?"
Daniel shook his head. "Im sorry I ran off," he said finally when it seemed as if the silence would drag on forever.
"Yeah. Well, I probably didnt handle things very well either," Jack said. "Danny, look, I know this is tough on you, I know you want to go off world like you used to-"
"No," Daniel interrupted vehemently, "I dont want to. Really," he added as Jack narrowed his eyes and looked at him, skepticism all over his face.
Daniel shook his head carefully. "Nope," he said.
Daniel swallowed hard. "Really," he said, coloring his voice with what he hoped was just the right amount of surety. "I mean, I can do stuff here on the base."
"Yeeah." Jack drawled the word out speculatively. "Why do I get the feeling youre not being completely honest about this?"
"I am," Daniel said quickly. "Ill just be here on the base doing stuff. You dont have to worry about me running off again or getting hurt. Ill do everything right from now on, I promise." He thought about crossing his heart with his fingers but decided against it that would be totally juvenile.
"Daniel, whats going on up here," Jacks fingers tapped the side of his head gently, "and in here?" The fingers moved down to tap on his chest, over his heart.
"Nothing," Daniel lied glibly. "I just dont want to cause problems for you, thats all."
"Youre worried about McKenzie still." It was a statement not a question and Daniel couldnt find the words to deny it.
He turned his face away from Jacks searching gaze and stared at the wall beside the bed.
"Come on, Danny, talk to me. Are you worried that if I let you go off world and something happens that McKenzie will take you away and put you in a foster home? The judge told you that wasnt going to happen."
Daniel felt himself pulled up in the bed, felt the covers pulled back and then found himself on Jacks lap.
"If I do the wrong thing, theyll blame you and take me away," he said, biting down hard on his lip to stop the tears falling.
"No, thats not going to happen, Danny. Kids have accidents all the time and they dont get taken away from their parents," Jack said reassuringly.
"But youre not my father "He felt Jacks body stiffen under his. "Im sorry. I just meant-"
"Its okay. I know what you meant. Daniel, listen. For all intents and purposes, right now, Im the nearest thing to a father youve got. Im also your friend, just like youre mine. Trust me on this. Nobody is taking you away from me. You understand?"
Daniel swallowed down the ache in his throat and nodded. "Understand," he whispered. He leaned back against Jacks chest and reached an arm around his friends back then squeezed as tightly as he could. "Thanks, Jack."
"Nada," Jack replied casually. But his arms tightened around Daniel too.
"So, you ready?" Jack asked.
Daniel nodded then laughed as his helmet fell down over his forehead. Jack pushed it back up for him and tightened the chinstrap.
"Ready when you are, Daniel."
"Thanks, Feretti. Give me a minute, okay?" Daniel looked up at Jack. "Thank you for letting me do this."
"Give and take, Danny. Just be careful, okay?" Jack crouched down so his eyes were level with Daniels.
The hands on his arms clenched a little and then he was pulled into a quick hug.
"See you soon, Spacemonkey," Jack whispered into his ear. Then he stood up and looked over at Tealc who stepped forward and took Daniels small hand in his big one. "Take care of him for me, T," he said.
"With my life," Tealc said, as he led Daniel up the ramp to stand in front of the event horizon.
Just before they stepped through, Daniel looked around. Jack was still there, grinning widely at him and Daniel knew hed be there when he came back.