Summary: Daniel has been deascended as an six year old. But the process has left Daniel with some problems. Now Jack has to come to terms with being his caregiver.
Word Count: 2690
Notes: Written for the Little Danny Group Summer Challenge 2012. Beta by annejackdanny.
It’s an unwritten law of the Universe that towels breed in the laundry basket: Towels and boxers: Well actually towels boxers and socks – although socks seem to have a bit of a genetic experiment going on where, although there are more of them every time I empty the hamper, none of them seem to be related to the others.
Niirti has been manipulating the DNA of my dirty socks and has succeeded in producing a whole new sub-species. I can’t help pondering this and the other mysteries of the Universe as I stumble down the hallway trying desperately to see over the huge mound of laundry I have in my arms. I’m nearly all the way to the stairs, just beginning to assess the likelihood of making it to the bottom without breaking my neck on the way down, when I hear the sound of a voice through a half open doorway.
“Hello and welcome to Lifestyles of the Wet and Slimy. I’m Danny Ballard and this is the special holiday edition of our peep into the homes of our aquatic and reptilian celebrities.”
I’m tempted to walk right past; after all the laundry doesn’t wash itself but the words floating out to me make me stop, place the fabric mountain on the floor and nudge the door open a little to peek inside. A white blonde head bobs up and down and the delicious sound of sweet giggles bubble out of the door and wraps around me painting a smile on my face. I push the door a little more, wanting to see what is causing my new housemate to make that irresistible noise. He’s sitting with his back to me and I can just see the live feed of the recording he’s making via web cam on the screen of his laptop. Blue and white striped t shirt sits on top of the tiniest Levi’s I’ve ever seen (courtesy of Carter, who thought they were cute, although how anything that costs so much can be considered cute I do not know) and he has his sneakered feet bent underneath him as he kneels up at the desk.
The child psychologist that Janet recommended has suggested he keep a video diary to help him cope with this new situation and he seems to have taken to it like a fish to water. Talking of which, he’s turned the camera slightly and pointed it towards his dresser.
“Here we have the run down homes of West River Drive’s newest residents, Junior Cornsnake and Freya Gourami. The drab décor and faded interiors reflect the need for extensive and immediate renovation.”
He’s moved over to stand in front of the twin glass containers on the dresser, playing up his presenter role for all it’s worth. The water filled tank contains his Kissing Gourami and the dry one his Corn snake. I’ve never been a big fan of any pets without legs and fur but Daniel always had fish before and this incarnation seems to like the idea of dry scaly pets too. And yes you did hear me right, I did say incarnation; or should I say reincarnation because my best friend has returned from the dead once again, although this time not in his usual six foot tall, pain-in-the-ass, archaeologist persona. No this time he’s been sent back with the body and mind of a 6 year old.
“I wanted to ask Jack…erm I think I can call him that. My social worker, Mrs Desala told me that was his name but I’m not sure if I’m really supposed to call him that. Perhaps it should be Mr O’Neill or even Colonel. He used to fly planes in the Air Force but he retired. He’s my foster father and he’s really nice but sometimes he’s a little bit scary. Especially when he says ‘Dammit Daniel’ and gives me that frown that makes his eyes go all squinty.”
He gives a very good impression of me doing just that and then presses his hand across his mouth as he once again dissolves into giggles. I wish he wouldn’t cover it up like that. It’s like he feels he has to hide his happiness and I never want that for him; not ever again.
“Well anyway, I was going to ask Jack if we could go to the pet store and buy some stuff to renovate Junior and Freya’s houses but after I managed to spill a whole bottle of ink on the den rug I probably won’t be getting any allowance until I’m in college. Maybe I should just stop doing art work for a while in case Jack gets mad again.”
I frown at that. I was mad, yes. He was doing his damn Chinese calligraphy on the floor in the den. I was madder with myself though for not looking where I was putting my big size 12’s. Not only did I manage to kick over the ink but I ruined a beautiful kanji that he had just completed. Little Danny is just as artistic as his bigger self used to be. It was for Carter’s birthday and I’m not sure he’s going to have time to redo it now. I yelled, I admit it and I may have blamed him a little for my clumsiness. I need to make sure he realises that I’m not really mad with him and that his allowance is safe.
In fact he has more money than me. Daniel signed over all his estate to me in his will and the General and I both thought it was best if I carry on looking after it for him until he’s old enough to do it himself in ten years or so.
Because there’s not going to be any miracle cure, no biggifying ray or Asgard tech to make this right. After the horrific events on Kelowna and a year of missing him like crazy, Oma decided to send him back from the land of glow as a six year old with no memories of his former life; nothing except for the vague recollection of a family he thinks died only a year ago. No SGC, no Stargate, hell no SG-1. Fercryinoutloud, he even thinks Mrs Glowypants is his Child Services worker. No, there’s no getting around it, he’s a real kid and he’s going to have to get big the hard way; grow up all over again. Only this time I’m going to make sure he does it with a loving and supportive da… well with me to look after him.
“I don’t think he’ll stay mad for too long. He’s usually so funny and kind and he makes me smiley face pancakes for breakfast and lets me stay up late to watch movies with popcorn and everything. We even made Smores in the fireplace at the weekend. I like living here. I think…I think I miss my mommy and daddy although I don’t really remember them. They were archaeologists and they dug up things in Egypt. Jack calls them rocks but I know they’re called artifacts really. I don’t remember how they died and I think I cried a lot when they did but now my heart just feels a little bit sore when I think about them. Jack asked me if I wanted to be an archaeologist too but I don’t think I do. I’d like to learn all about snakes and reptiles. Jack says that means I want to be a scalyologist, but he knows that’s not right. He pretends to be dumb sometimes. The real name is a herpetologist.”
A pang of sorrow hits me right in the solar plexus as I hear him talk about what he wants to do with the rest of his life. Archaeology, anthropology and linguistics were his life, his passion, for so long and he really had followed in his family footsteps. This time around it seems that his path (thank you Oma!) might not lie in the same direction, although it’s early days. He is still frighteningly bright; scored right off the scale for his age when they tested him, real genius stuff and he has no problem using words that even this fifty year old colonel finds difficult. I can’t deny that Earth has lost one of its greatest thinkers and an important resource against the Goa’uld, but I don’t care what he does. He can be whoever he wants to be, whatever he wants to be and I’ll be right there next to him cheering him on.
“Freya would like some pink gravel I think and a nice fairy castle for her tank. Junior would probably prefer a nice flat stone to bask on and I think an Easter Island head. That would make his vivarium look much more…”
He grinds to a halt and I can see from the far away look in his eyes that he’s drifted off into his head again. That’s something that really hasn’t changed. Daniel’s ability to think around any problem, any puzzle, saved my life on more than one occasion and he’s still setting his mind to unravel anything new or unexpected that comes his way.
“I wonder if those Easter Island heads were left there by aliens. They really look like they’re from another planet. Maybe we should make your tank look like the surface of another planet, Junior. You could be an alien snake then and they’d be Snakeheads.”
I see him shudder a little and know he’s had a tiny flashback. He gets these odd bleed through memories every now and again and when he does I can’t help but hope they stop. No child should have the kind of memories we have floating around in our brains. There is no rhyme or reason to it. When we got the fish and the snake I suggested he call them Kinsey and Simmons and he laughed as though those names made total sense to him. Then he came up with Freya and Junior and they were even more apt, I mean, have you seen the lips on that fish? We’re keeping that intel to ourselves though. As far as the JCS and NID are concerned there is not one shred of original Daniel Jackson left. It’s better that way; safer. There are bastards out there who would think nothing of taking that little tyke and doing all sorts of unspeakable things to him on the off chance that there might be some Ancient knowledge still lodged in his synapses somewhere.
Over my dead and rotting corpse.
I have access to a P90 and know how to use it. I may not go off world anymore – too dangerous – but I still have friends at the Mountain and my civilian consultant role keeps my finger on the pulse. I miss going through the gate with Carter and Teal’c but when they started to talk about foster families and adoptions I knew I couldn’t trust anyone else with little Danny and Hammond agreed. So I’m now a retired Colonel who earns twice my old salary for just three days work a week: A sweet deal that allows me to be here for Daniel whenever he needs me.
“…One day, when I can make some money of my own, I’m going to ask Jack if I can redecorate my room. “
In my hate filled rant against the asshat bastards of the NID I forgot the little boy making his video diary in the room in front of me. His words pull me up short; why does he think he has to use his own money?
“This room used to be Jack’s spare room, but Murray says that another Daniel used to stay here a lot; a big Daniel. He was an archaeologist like my mom and dad and there are artifacts on the shelves that were his. I don’t know where he is now but I don’t want to ask Jack because he always looks sad when he talks about him. He doesn’t cry, he’s a grown up, but sometimes when Aunt Sam or General George talk about him Jack’s eyes look a bit red and watery. Perhaps he died in Egypt too. Anyway, I’m a bit scared that I might break something that belonged to that Daniel and then Jack might not let me stay here. I want to stay here so I try to be really careful.”
I wince as I realise how uncomfortable he feels in this room. It was always Daniel’s room and it never occurred to me that he might feel like it belonged to someone else. Stupid, O’Neill: Stupid and thoughtless. Suddenly his voice drops to barely a whisper and I have to listen hard to hear what he’s saying.
“I think I would like Jack to be my new daddy. I love it when he hugs me and reads to me at night. But I’m not sure he would ever want me, because I’m not his real son. So I won’t ask him about moving things just yet. I’ve only been here six weeks and it probably takes a lot of years before you love a foster kid enough to want to be their daddy.”
And right there, even though he says I never do, this grown up starts to cry. The essence of Daniel Jackson is still there in the heart of Danny Ballard and I ache with sadness that he thinks he has to prove anything to me; that he will have to wait years for the love that’s his, right now. I can’t let him go on thinking that way so I scrub my eyes dry, paste on my best O’Neill smirk and push open the door. He turns to me and those blazing blue eyes and cheeky smile light up even the dark cold places in this old soldier’s soul.
“Hey kiddo. How about we book this Popsicle stand, climb in the truck and go to the pet store. Seems to me your scaly friends could do with a bit of R & R.”
He looks puzzled, trying to work out the acronym as he saves his diary and powers off the computer. I see the moment when his memory supplies him with the right translation and a part of me hopes against hope that all that linguistic genius is still up there somewhere.
“Rest and Relaxation, Jack?” His cute little frown is pure Dr. Jackson and makes me happy and sad all at the same time. I take a deep breath and swallow down the emotional lump that threatens to make my voice tremble and my hands shake.
“Nah. Redecoration and Renovation.”
He’s giggling again but before his hand can move across his sweet little rosebud lips I grab it and swing him up onto my shoulders, revelling in that happy sound as it bounces around the room.
“Come on kiddo. I just have to throw the biohazard from my laundry hamper into the washer and then we’ll go.”
I start to explain my theory about sock genetics and he runs with it, telling me all about how there are 46 chromosomes and what DNA stands for and yadda yadda. And I’m listening to his excited kid’s voice and realise that for the last year I’d only been doing make-work on the walls of my heart and soul; barely keeping it together in the face of the dreadful loss of my best friend, just papering the cracks; filling the giant hole he left behind with spackle and my life had been a tumbledown thing, almost beyond repair.
But now he’s back and regardless of his size, his spirit is still there. This little miracle, so filled with life and vitality I never thought I’d see again. He’s lighting up the dark corners; illuminating forgotten rooms. Daniel is back and I feel alive again too.
So now…Now the renovations can really begin.