Getting to Know You
Walter Harriman tried not to stare at the small boy who was wandering around his office, picking up folders and perusing them before laying them back down. Except this wasn't just any small boy, he reminded himself, still in awe at what he'd seen with his own eyes when SG-1 had returned from their latest foray off-world. This was Daniel Jackson. Doctor Daniel Jackson. Archeologist, linguist, probably the smartest guy Walter had ever met. He surreptitiously studied the boy for a moment from behind the cover of his laptop. A shock of blond hair framed a rounded face, and inquisitive blue eyes were partly concealed by wire-framed glasses, but there was no doubting who it was. It was just a younger version. Walter felt a shiver snake down his spine.
Daniel looked up suddenly and smiled at him. Walter felt his face heat and dropped his gaze to the computer screen.
"What'cha doing?" Daniel asked, stepping up to stand beside Walter's chair.
"Reports," Walter said. "SG-9's last assignment turned up some interesting artifacts and It's pretty boring, actually," he finished lamely. He wasn't very good with kids, wasn't very good with people in fact, and this just felt plain weird. He wished Colonel O'Neill had taken the boy into Hammond's office with him.
"Boring?" Daniel shook his head and climbed up onto the chair beside Walter. His legs swung back and forth as he spoke, words spilling from his mouth. "Artifacts are never boring! Even when people have long gone from an area, planet, whatever, you can still tell so much about them from what they left behind." He reached out and tapped the screen. "See those knives?"
"Means they were hunters and gatherers."
"What's it like?" Walter asked suddenly, unable to stop the question from tumbling out.
"What's what like?"
Walter reached for another file. "Doesn't matter." He looked longingly at the closed door to the General's office.
"What's it like being a kid again?" Daniel asked quietly.
Walter sighed and nodded. "I mean, for me, it's strange. I don't know if I'm talking to a kid or " His words trailed off and his hands gestured uselessly.
"Pretty strange from here too," Daniel said. "Most of the time I don't know which I am. Here at the mountain, it seems it's more my grown up self. Maybe because of the stuff here that's familiar." He leaned in closer to Walter. "I had a nightmare last night," he confided softly. "About Sha're, only I didn't feel grown up then, just really scared."
Walter opened his mouth but before he could speak, the intercom buzzed.
"Send Doctor Jackson in, will you, Sergeant," Hammond's voice said.
Daniel swung himself off the chair and headed for the door. He knocked and walked in. Walter stared after him for a moment, then shaking his head, got back to work. Sometimes he wished he'd listened to his mother and become a teacher.
"Doctor Jackson Daniel How are you feeling, son?" General Hammond asked with a kindly smile.
Problem was, Daniel thought, it was a smile adults reserved for children. That wasn't fair, he admonished himself, the general had always seemed to have a soft spot for him. He rubbed at his head and pushed his glasses up his nose. He felt a little headachy actually, probably from not enough sleep the night before.
"Daniel?" Jack nudged his shoulder. "The general is talking to you."
"Sorry." Daniel matched Hammond's smile with one of his own. "Okay, I guess."
"Good." Hammond leaned back and steepled his fingers on the desk. "I want you to know every scientist at the mountain is working on coming up with a solution."
"Maybe I'll just wake up one morning and be big again," Daniel offered.
Hammond nodded. "I hope so. Meantime Jack thought it might be best if you stay with him."
"I guess. It's just all my stuff is at my place and -"
"Danny." Jack squatted down in front of him. "What do you think the neighbours would say about a little kid living alone in an apartment?"
"I'm not a kid!" He felt tears sting his eyes and he wiped at his cheeks. While he seemed to be able to speak and think like an adult most of the time, it seemed his emotions had been downsized along with his body. He slumped, hunching his shoulders. "Sorry. It's just hard, you know."
Jack reached out and took his hand, squeezing it gently. "I know."
"I've looked after myself since I was a little kid anyway. My folks weren't around much and my grandfather treated me like a grownup. When my mom and dad died, well, let's just say some of the foster parents weren't taking kids in because they loved them."
Jack pulled him forward and he was engulfed in a brief hug. It felt good being comforted and he was sorry when Jack released him. "Not this time," Jack said. "No foster homes this time. Okay?"
Daniel nodded. "Okay."
"Thing is, if the neighbours see you, they're likely to call the authorities "
Daniel felt his chest tighten, long buried memories of beatings and dark closets ambushing him. He grabbed Jack's hand, squeezing it tightly. "Why don't I stay at your place?"
Jack grinned and stood, ruffling Daniel's hair. "I figured you'd see it my way."
"Jack tells me he'd like to take a couple of days off, get you settled. I thought that was a good idea," Hammond put in.
"Thought we could go camping, get in a little fishing."
"Really?" At Jack's nod, Daniel smiled. "Cool!"
The grin fell away from Jack's face suddenly. "Wait a minute. You hate fishing!"
"I just want to be somewhere where no one will be staring at me," Daniel explained. "I think Walter's really freaked out. You can fish," he offered expansively. "I'll watch and read a book."
"Boring," Jack replied.
"Colonel O'Neill!" Hammond shook his head. "I'm beginning to wonder who the real child is."
Daniel ignored the tongue Jack stuck out at him. "Are Sam and Teal'c coming?"
"Carter's helping to figure out how to grow you up again and Teal'c's gone to see Rya'c for a couple days."
"So, it's just us."
Jack instinctively held out his hand and Daniel, just as naturally took it. "Let's head to your place, grab your things, then pack our stuff and hit the road."
"Daaaniel? You gonna be ready any time soon?" Jack checked his watch for the fourth time and muttered a curse. They'd already spent more than an hour at Daniel's apartment because the kid couldn't figure out what books he wanted to bring, and then when he did, insisted on trying to pull them from the top shelf of the bookcase himself. Jack had virtually had to drag Daniel off the chair he'd climbed onto and order him to stay out of the way. Kid He thought a moment about that. He'd always thought of Daniel as a kid anyway, sort of like the kid brother he'd always wanted. He supposed as long as he never referred to Daniel like that out loud, there was no harm done.
"Just finding my plain t-shirts," Daniel called out from the spare bedroom, sounding a little out of breath. "Have you seen what some of these shirts have got on them? I think I know which ones Janet bought."
"Just get a move on, okay?" Jack groused. "It'll be dark before we get there." He busied himself re-checking their box of supplies. Daniel's appetite for sweet treats had become voracious since he'd been downsized and Jack had hidden a couple of candy bars underneath the cans of beans for when they got there. If Daniel found them, he'd insist on having one on the journey, and Jack didn't need him barfing in the car the whole way to the campsite.
He was about to head into the bedroom to carry Daniel out bodily when there was a knock at the door. "Damn it! Not now." He strode to the door, issuing a final command over his shoulder. "Now, Daniel! Or I'm going without you."
"Won't," Daniel rebuked.
"Wanna bet? Watch me."
"I'm a kid now, remember? You can't."
Jack pushed away the thought that some kids needed a damn good spanking and flung open the door. "Sara?" He stared in surprise at his ex-wife. "What are you doing here?"
Sara smiled at him, looking vaguely uncomfortable. "I was just passing and " She shook her head. "That's a lie. I've just been wondering how you're doing. Haven't heard from you in a while." She took a step back. "If this is a bad time "
"No." Jack reached for her arm and drew her into the house. "It's good to see you. How have you been?"
"Jack?" Daniel came tearing out of the bedroom. "I haven't got a jacket. Do you think I'll need one?" He skidded to a halt in front of their visitor. "Oh, hi, Sara." The minute the words were out, his eyes went wide with shock.
Jack closed his own eyes briefly, shutting out the sight of a totally bemused Sara and a horrified Daniel. When he opened them, Sara was leaning down to Daniel's level. "Seems like I'm at a disadvantage here," she said, reaching out to take Daniel's hand and shaking it. "You know my name, but I don't know yours."
"I saw your picture. Jack told me your name," Daniel offered lamely, waving at a photo of Jack, Sara and Charlie on the mantle.
"This is Danny," Jack said quickly. "Friend's son. He got called into work - double shift - asked if I could watch Danny for the weekend."
"We're going fishing," Daniel informed her solemnly then, his nose wrinkling, he added, "Well, Jack's fishing. I'm watching."
Sara nodded and straightened. "That's great. I know you'll have a good time."
"I'll get my stuff," Daniel said, turning and running back down the hall. "I'm ready now."
"You want some coffee?" Jack asked.
"I won't keep you." She glanced quickly toward the hallway. "I've wanted to let you know for a while now, just wasn't sure exactly how to tell you I'm getting married."
A lump rose in Jack's throat, threatening to choke him. "Oh yeah? That's great news. To Jerry, right?"
"Yeah." Sara nodded, looking relieved.
"Congratulations." He leaned forward and kissed her cheek, feeling awkward. "I'm happy for you."
"Thanks. I'd better go. Let you and Danny head off on your great adventure. He's a cute kid."
Jack gave her a wry grin. "He has his moments."
"Don't they all?" For a moment, sadness seemed to overwhelm her, then wiping at her eyes with the heels of her hands, she smiled shakily and reached out to place a hand on his arm. "You're looking good, Jack. Better than you have for a long time. I think having a child around suits you."
"Thanks." Jack followed her to the door. "So, do I get an invite to the wedding? I promise not to embarrass you."
"Invite will be in the mail next week," Sara said. "I would have brought it but I wasn't sure how you'd take the news."
Jack leaned forward and kissed her cheek, the embrace he gave her more comfortable now. "I'm happy for you," he said sincerely, if a little wistfully. He watched her go then closed the door and leaned against it, closing his eyes and making no attempt to banish the what-ifs and whys that sprang to mind.
"Jack?" Daniel whispered.
Jack opened his eyes and smiled down at his young charge. "You ready?"
"Yeah. I'm sorry about before. I nearly blew it, didn't I?"
"Nah." Jack ruffled Daniel's hair then picked up his bag and took his hand. "No biggie." He opened the door and led Daniel out to the car. "She thinks you're cute," he said and laughed out loud when Daniel whacked his leg.