The Infirmary And The Mall
Jack winced inwardly as the needle dug under his skin and hoped that the pain hadn't shown on his face. He'd been enough of a wuss for one night, what with the nightmare and hiding under the table…
"There, that wasn't so bad, was it?" the nurse who'd drawn his blood cooed, and he bit back a barbed response as he felt Daniel's hand tighten on his.
Turning his head to the side, he saw Daniel give a minute shake of his head and replied, "No, it's fine."
Daniel gave a minuscule approving smile and nod and Jack wondered for a moment how Daniel would like it if they were sticking needles the size of a .45 into his arm, but then he remembered asking Daniel to stay with him in the infirmary and that Daniel had done just that… He dug up a smile from somewhere and added, "It didn't hurt at all. You're really good at taking blood."
The nurse beamed at him and he cringed as she patted the top of his head gently. "Okay, well, I'm just going to get this off to the lab and Doctor Fraiser will come see you when she has the results."
Jack waited till she'd left and had pulled the cubicle curtains closed behind her before he spoke. "Daaniel." He put as much of a whine into his voice as he thought he could get away with.
"That was really nice of you, Jack. At least Lieutenant Evans won't be scarred for life every time she goes to take somebody's blood now."
"It hurt like hell," Jack muttered. "Can't they see I'm a kid? I have smaller everything, including smaller veins. You think they'd use smaller needles."
"It was a smaller needle," Daniel replied. "I've had enough needle sticks to know."
Jack swallowed his complaints at that. After all, it was true. Daniel had been hurt and ended up in the infirmary as much as he had, maybe more. "Sorry," he said quietly. "I don't mean to be such a wuss."
Daniel put down the magazine he'd been holding. "You're not a wuss, Jack. Especially not now. I don't know how I'd cope with what you're going through right now. It can't be easy."
Jack turned his head away and stared at the ceiling, willing back the tears that seemed to be always lurking just below the surface ever since he'd been changed into a kid. "I just can't seem to find a balance," he said quietly. "Just when I think my adult self is in control, no matter how small my body is, it's like I become 7 years old at the least little stress." He rolled over onto his side to face Daniel. "I hate this," he said. "And I'm bored."
"Janet said she'd bring you in an X-Box and some games," Daniel reminded him.
"Boring," Jack returned. "Can't I get out of here, just for an hour?"
"Where do you want to go?" Daniel asked.
Jack shrugged. "I don't know. Just. out.of.here." He punctuated each word with a thump of his fist against the mattress.
"Hi Daniel. Sir."
Jack looked up and grinned as Carter poked her head through the curtain. "Carter, it is *so* good to see you. I'm bored. Wanna go somewhere?"
Sam's cheeks flushed a little. "Um, aren't you supposed to stay here, sir?"
"Carter, I look like a first-grader. Call me Jack, just for now," Jack said. "And I can't see why I should have to stay here all the time. Janet's got to check my blood for those little nintendo things and she can't do anything for me till she has." Jack glanced down and grimaced at the blue tracksuit he was wearing. It was one of Cassie's castoffs and had the words, "Backstreet's Back!" emblazoned across the front. "You could take me to get some real clothes," he beseeched her. "I'm a Colonel, for crying out loud, and I'm wearing girls' clothes."
"I don't know, sir… Jack. Daniel?"
Daniel shrugged. "I'll check with the General and Doctor Fraiser. I can't see any reason it should be a problem."
"Sweet." Jack sat up on the bed. "Well?" he said when Daniel showed no sign of moving. "Go. Get me a walking pass before I go stir crazy."
"You know, Jack," Daniel said as he headed out of the infirmary, "you're not the only one who's been cooped up since this happened."
"Fine, come with us," Jack called after his retreating back. "Hey, Carter, why don't you go see if Teal'c wants to come too. We can make it a team thing."
"Okay, sure." Sam nodded hesitantly. "I'll just go talk to Janet first though."
Jack flopped back down onto the bed again. "Yeah, whatever," he muttered. "Just hurry up, will you? I'm not getting any younger, you know?"
Jack gazed up and around as they entered the mall. It seemed so much brighter and bigger than when he'd been here last. Actually, he'd never been much of a mall fan, preferring to frequent the small stores near his house but for some reason, the mall now seemed bright and kind of exciting to his seven-year-old eyes.
It hadn't been an easy job to get Doctor Fraiser and General Hammond to agree to let him out of the Mountain. Janet had suggested just sending Sam to buy him some new clothes. Jack had shuddered visibly at the thought, visions of cute, brightly colored clothes looking all too promising in his future. The General had asked him if he was sure he'd be okay if he allowed the excursion. Jack had nodded enthusiastically and almost found himself spitting on his hand and crossing his heart when Hammond told him he had to stay with Daniel at all times. Eventually, after a muttered sidebar between the doctor and his commanding officer, the go-ahead had been given and now here he was, on his first trip out of Cheyenne Mountain in his newly downsized body, accompanied by his team.
"What do you want to look at first?" Sam asked.
"Well, d'oh!" he replied, his finger underlining the motif across his chest.
"Right, of course," Sam replied. "T-shirts. Um, let's try Wal-Mart first. They have a pretty big children's' section. I bought clothes for Mark's kids' birthdays here."
Jack managed to evade her guiding hand on his shoulder by a neat sideways step, which brought him up close to Daniel's side. He knew Sam was just trying to be nice but it was just too weird to have her treating him like a kid. Yeah, okay, it was weird to have everyone treating him like a kid, even if he was one, but for some strange reason, it bugged him more when Sam did it than when Daniel or Teal'c did. Deciding the reason was something his seven-year-old persona wouldn't be able to explain even to himself, he shot her a quick smile of apology and was relieved when she grinned back at him and nodded as if she understood. He should have known she would, he told himself.
Jack shook his head again as Sam held up yet another batch of t-shirts. Didn't this store carry anything in basic black or drab green, preferably without a superhero or cartoon character adorning the front.
Sam shrugged back apologetically and placed the brightly-colored items back on the shelf. "Um, Daniel, would you mind if I just went over there to the women's clothing section? There's a sale on. Maybe you can help the C-Jack find something he likes. I don't seem to be having much luck."
"Yeah, okay, Sam." Daniel moved in close and bent double to whisper in Jack's ear. "She's trying to help here, Jack, but hey, if you want to keep walking around with 'Backstreet's Back' on your front, don't let me stop you."
"What did I do?" Jack turned an innocent (he hoped) look up at Daniel. "Everything she's shown me has pictures on it. I don't want pictures. I just want some t-shirts."
"Fine. Take a look around, Jack. We're in the kidswear department but when you find something you want, give me a yell. I'll just be over there in the book department, okay. Teal'c, you mind keeping an eye on Jack for a few minutes?"
The Jaffa stepped up beside them and placed a large hand on Jack's small shoulder. "I will keep both eyes on him, if you wish, DanielJackson."
Jack sighed heavily as Daniel wandered over to the bookstore.
"Are you all right, O'Neill?" Teal'c asked.
"Yeah, I'm fine. Look, T, you'd probably like to go look around too. No point both of us wandering around trying to decide between Barney and Buzz Lightyear."
Teal'c raised an eyebrow as Jack held up two examples of the latest 'must-have' wear for seven-year-olds. "DanielJackson asked me to stay with you."
"Yeah, I know but I'd kinda like to be on my own for a while, big guy. Ever since this happened I've had someone in my space. And if I'm picking out clothes I'd kinda prefer not to have an audience. Look, the DVD department is just over there. Go see if they have that boxed set of The Simpsons I've been looking for."
"You will remain here?" Teal'c asked, his eyes already darting across to the DVD section.
"Yeah, yeah, go. I'll be fine. Parents leave their kids on their own in toy departments and places like this all the time. I'm just going to see if I can find something halfway good to wear," Jack said, crossing his fingers behind his back as his eyes lighted on the Army Disposal store across from the entrance to Wal-Mart. He'd bet his entire seven years (and the rest of his adult ones) that they didn't carry anything with a cartoon character or a boyband name on it in there.
"Very well," Teal'c agreed. "I will be back shortly."
"I'll meet you here," Jack replied, convincing himself that he wasn't actually lying. He just need a few minutes to get across to the store, check out if they had his size in stock and then he'd come back and cajole and plead until he convinced his team to buy his clothes from a real man's store. Okay, so it wasn't Airforce but it was the armed forces and it would do.
"Hey, kid, you lost?"
Jack didn't turn around until a meaty hand descended on his shoulder. He hadn't realized the man was talking to him till then. He hadn't been called 'kid' since… well, since he really was one. He looked up at the man standing next to him. Oh yeah, this guy was an ex-Marine if ever there was one. He was Teal'c's size, though most of his muscle looked as if it had turned to flab and now overflowed his belt. He had a shiny shaved head and tattoos embroidered his thick arms. Jack was pretty sure the earrings weren't standard Marine issue though.
"Nope," he replied, shaking his head and twisting enough to get out from under the heavy hand. "Just looking for some t-shirts. You know, just the plain normal type, black or khaki. No pictures," he added firmly.
The man grinned down at him, flashing a gold tooth set amongst the slightly yellowing dentition of his mouth. "Where are your folks?"
Jack waved a hand in the general direction of Wal-Mart. "Shopping," he said.
"They know where you are?"
"Sure," Jack replied, crossing his fingers firmly again. "I'm gonna go meet them in a little while. I'm just looking for t-shirts while I wait for them. Wow!" He ran across the store to the display shelf set against the other wall. "Is that a real M1 Garand rifle? I've never seen one up close. My dad had one-" He stopped suddenly. " My dad had a picture of one," he amended.
"Your dad? You mean your grandad, don't ya?" the man asked skeptically. "Unless your dad had you real late in life, I doubt he'd've fought in the Second World War."
"No, it was my dad but he got it from *his* dad," Jack said, his mind frantically trying to amend his mistake.
"You interested in guns, son? You look a mite small for that," the man said with a grin as he opened the case and pulled the rifle out, handing it to Jack to heft in his small hands.
"I'm not as young as I look," Jack said simply. "It's heavy, huh?" He handed it back to the man and then looked over to the Wal-Mart store. Crap! There was Sam, turning in a circle, obviously looking for him. He watched as she spotted Daniel and headed toward the bookstore. "Um, I gotta go meet my folks in a minute. Have you got t-shirts in my size?" he asked.
The man grunted then walked across to a rack that bore a sign saying "Kids".
"Yep," he said. "I got these in stock cos my boy likes wearing the same clothes as me. Davy's about your age so there should be somethin' here that'll fit ya. You got money, kid?"
Jack shook his head. "I'll go get my folks and bring them over, okay?" He cringed inwardly as he saw Daniel run from the bookstore over to the DVD section and grab hold of Teal'c's arm. Daniel was talking a mile a minute, by the look of it and Jack decided it would probably be best to beat a strategic retreat before his team decided to call out the National Guard. "I'll be back soon," he called over his shoulder as he took off across the mall as fast as his short legs would carry him.
"Hey, Daniel!" he called as he rounded the turnstile entrance and scooted towards his team, turning his body into a sliding, skidding stop that would have made any seven-year-old proud, right at Teal'c's feet. "I found some t-shirts."
Jack scowled out at the passing scenery from the back seat of Daniel’s car. For crying out loud, anybody’d think he was an escaped criminal the way they’d all carried on when he got back to the store. Instead of being grateful that they’d all been able to go off and do what they really wanted to do, while he managed to find just the right shirts, Daniel had gone postal on him, Sam had given him a sad shake of the head and wiped at her eyes as if she was about to cry and Teal’c… Teal’c had just fixed him with that glare he used on Goa’ulds and other bad aliens.
Daniel had taken him back to the store and got the t-shirts for him then they’d all marched him out to the car, like he was about to be executed or something. He’d felt like shouting, “Hey, everyone, look over here! Dead kid walking!” But he hadn’t. He’d just climbed into the car and taken the parcel of t-shirts from Daniel and put them on his lap. Then he’d stared out the window and refused to say a word.
“Stop sulking, Jack,” Daniel said, glancing at him in the rear view mirror.
“I’m not,” Jack shot back, forgetting his vow not to talk to any of them in the face of such an unfair accusation. Well, yeah, okay, he was sulking, but he had good reason to.
Daniel parked the car and Jack climbed out and stood, waiting, scuffing his feet idly along the concrete.
“O’Neill, perhaps you would like to join me in the gym for some exercise?” Teal’c suggested.
“Can I?” Jack asked, feeling momentarily embarrassed for asking Daniel’s permission. He was *their* commanding officer, after all.
“Yeah, sure thing. I could use a break. Thanks, Teal’c.”
“Gee thanks, Danny. I love you too,” Jack muttered.
“O’Neill.” Teal’c rumbled his name, his tone just short of sounding ominously threatening.
“Yeah, yeah, I know. Sorry. It’s the kid in me. Doesn’t know when to shut up. Thanks for taking me to the mall, guys. Hey T, can you show me that trick you taught Rya’c last time we saw him? I wanna try it out on Siler-“
Daniel watched them go, an odd feeling of foreboding creeping into his mind. “Oh boy! I really hope Janet’s found a way to change him back. I don’t know if the base can survive much more of a seven year old Jack.”
“From your mouth to God’s ear,” Sam replied. “Oh well, at least Teal’c will be able to keep him under control.”