Jack looked around the room from his seat at the long table. His head just barely cleared the polished wood and that made him feel as nervous as he had the very first time he’d visited his Great Aunt Emma and been allowed to sit at the grownup’s table for Christmas dinner. He was reflecting on the fact that he’d been about the same age then as he was right now when General Hammond cleared his throat and spoke his name.
“Sorry, sir, did you say something?” he asked, licking his dry lips.
“I was just asking if you were feeling all right, Jack. You look pale,” Hammond said, sounding concerned.
Jack shook his head. “I’m okay.”
“Good, let’s get on with it then, shall we?”
“Um, sir, sorry for interrupting but I thought Colonel O’Neill could use this.”
All heads turned to the door as Sergeant Siler entered, pushing before him a swivel desk chair, its seat wound up almost as far as it would go.
Jack gave a smile of gratitude and let Daniel pull out the chair he was currently seated on. Then when Siler put the new chair in place, Daniel lifted him onto it. Okay, that felt sorta odd, Daniel picking him up but it was better than looking like an idiot trying to clamber up himself so Jack accepted the help with good grace and turned to thank his other benefactor. “Thanks, Siler.”
Siler nodded, a small smile touching his own lips. “You’re welcome, um… sir,” he said. “Glad to help.”
Hammond began again. “Let’s get started, shall we? Doctor Jackson, how about you begin-“
“I can tell you what happened,” Jack said, his voice loud in the suddenly quiet room. “I was the mission commander-“
“Son,” Hammond’s voice was kindness personified, “let Doctor Jackson tell us first and then you can add any details you think he’s missed.”
“Colonel.” Hammond’s tone was firmer now and Jack sighed.
“Fine,” he muttered. He settled against the back of the chair and let Daniel’s voice waft over his head. ‘They won’t even let me lead a mission debrief just because I’m a kid now,’ he thought morosely.
He kicked out at the table a little, making the chair swivel on its base. Looking up, he saw that all the adults were completely engrossed in listening to Daniel’s report. Grabbing the edge of the table, he pushed hard, making the chair spin completely around. Okay, that was fun. He did it again and again, pushing off harder each time. Suddenly, his giddy gyration was brought to a halt by a hand gripping the arm of the chair and pulling it back around to face the table again. Shaking his head to clear the slight dizziness, he saw everyone was staring at him. “What?” he asked.
“Try to sit still, Jack,” Daniel said, sotto voce.
Jack yawned. “I’m bored,” he said.
“Here,” Janet said, sliding a sheet of paper and a pen across to him, a sweet maternal smile gracing her face. “Why don’t you draw a picture while you’re waiting for us to finish up?”
“What do you want me to draw?” Jack asked, taking the pen in hand.
“Oh, I don’t know. How about a picture of your house?” she suggested, that bright tone in her voice that Jack had heard her use on Cassie.
“Doc, if I wanted a drawing of my house I’d get an architect to do it,” Jack replied. “I’m not a kid, for crying out loud.”
Janet arched an eyebrow at him.
“Yeah, well, I am… kinda. But I’m still me on the inside and I’m not going to sit in a briefing meeting and draw pictures like a little kid.” He dropped the pen on the table and spun the chair again, but only far enough so he could face Daniel. “Daaniel! Lets go do something fun. Pleeease. This is boring.”
“In a while,” Daniel replied, his eyes still fixed on the papers in front of him.
“Daaaniel.” Jack drew out the syllables enough to sound whiny even to his own seven year old ears.
Daniel sighed heavily and looked at him. “Jaaack?” he mimicked.
“Stop doing that,” Jack said.
“Doing what?” Daniel asked.
“Copying me,” Jack replied sulkily.
“Was-“ Daniel stopped and slapped a hand to his forehead. “I’m arguing with a kid,” he said.
“I’m not a kid,” Jack said hotly, distantly horrified at the sting of tears he could feel in his eyes.
“Look, Doctor Jackson, let’s just finish up this briefing as quickly as possible so Jack can get some rest,” Hammond interrupted quickly.
Daniel turned away again as Jack put his head down on his bent arms on the table. He heard the words floating over him, Daniel explaining about the weird alien guy who’d injected him with some sort of nanathingies to make him into a kid because he wanted to neutralize the threat he thought Jack intended.
Janet was talking about trying to extract one of them to see if they could figure out how they worked. Jack was pretty sure he wouldn’t like that much. It had to involve needle sticks and pain, probably lots of pain. He closed his eyes on the shudder that ran through him.
Then Sam was telling them about Teal’c managing to overpower the alien before he could inject them all. Jack smiled a little at that. You could always count on the big guy.
He drifted off to the sound of Teal’c’s voice rumbling in the near distance, relating how the alien had managed to escape and that they’d brought Jack straight back to the SGC.
Jack batted away the annoying voice at his ear and tried to snuggle down further into his pillow. The hard surface beneath his head brought him to the sudden awareness that he wasn’t in his bed and he shot straight up, almost tumbling from his seat in the process. A large hand grabbed his arm and righted him and he blinked away the tiredness and saw Daniel’s face next to him.
“You all right?” Daniel asked, his brows wrinkling downwards. He looked worried.
“I’m okay.” Jack looked down at his feet. Still small then. Guess it hadn’t been a nightmare after all. He’d been hoping for a second there when he first woke up, that this was all some freaky bad dream that he could blame on eating too many tacos too close to bedtime.
“It might be best if you spent the night in the infirmary-“Janet began.
“No!” Jack almost shouted the word. He shook his head firmly. “No, I’m fine,”he said more calmly. “I’m just tired. I don’t need to stay in the infirmary.” He fixed the doctor with what he hoped was a pleading look. “You promised.” Almost of its own volition, his small hand crept out and snagged the side of Daniel’s shirt, fingers clenching the fabric almost desperately.
Daniel’s big hand covered his and squeezed gently for a moment as he said, “I’ll stay with him in one of the VIP rooms. Would that be an acceptable compromise?”
Janet shrugged. “I guess. But you call if there’s any problem at all. I’ll see what I can do about getting him some smaller clothes.”
Daniel nodded back at her and stood up. “Thank you.”
Jack allowed himself to be helped down from the chair and followed Daniel from the room, one hand still holding up his pants. He stopped at the door and turned back for a moment, smiling as confidently as he could manage under the circumstances. “It’ll be fine. You’ll work it out, Doc. You always do.”
In the elevator, he slumped against the wall, feeling as if every bit of energy had leached out of his body.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” Daniel asked, kneeling in front of him.
Jack shook his head, feeling the tears escape now they were alone. “I’m scared, Daniel,” he whispered.
Daniel swept him up into his arms and held him firmly against his chest. He pillowed Jack’s head on his shoulder and patted his back. “I know,” he murmured. “It’ll be okay, Jack. You’re going to be fine.”
Jack stayed where he was, too soothed by the security of his friend’s arms to be embarrassed by his tears. Within minutes, he closed his eyes and went back to sleep.
End part two