Gen: Friendship Fic.
Rating: PG-13
Category: Angst.  Humour.  Hurt/Comfort.
Season/Spoilers: Season 4.  A tag for "The Curse". 
Synopsis: Jack takes Daniel to his parents' home in Chicago to recuperate from his traumatic encounter with Osiris.
Warnings: Scary, scary family.
Length: 108 Kb.

Jack took in the stubborn set to Daniel's shoulders. "How did we get from me not going on pain of death, to you picking out your wardrobe to come with me?"

Daniel was all demure innocence, "I want to see you interacting in your natural habitat."

That particular tone always told Jack he was in deep trouble. He was going to lose whatever the argument was, no question, it was only a matter of how long it took and how much Daniel would make him suffer in the meantime.

"My natural habitat? Really? You watch those nature programs on Discovery, Daniel?" Jack said lightly.

"You know I do. You whined for HOURS when I - "

Jack headed that one off at the pass, he was on the moral high ground here, "You know perfectly well I was under the impression I was taping a game. Imagine my surprise when I got - What did I ACTUALLY get, Daniel? Hmm?"

Jack pressed home his advantage as a certain archaeologist completely failed to meet his eyes, "Hmm?"

A small voice, addressed to a spot somewhere over Jack's left shoulder, confessed, "The migration of flamingos across the salt flats of Namibia." Daniel rallied slightly, "You did get to see quite a lot of the game. I hadn't accidentally taped over the WHOLE thing! You enjoyed the documentary."

Jack hooted, "I did not. I amiably tolerated it for your sake. Once the shock had worn off, and I'd broken out my Glen Livet. Then the Glenmorangie. Then the Glen Farclas - covered more Glens in two hours than a map of Scotland."

Daniel said loudly, "It was VERY dramatic footage. That little flamingo, with the salt crust round it's foot, falling farther and farther behind - you were mesmerised."

"I was paralysed with boredom." Jack said firmly.

"You did a Mexican wave when the film crew went back and saved the little flamingo. I DISTINCTLY remember that. It being after the end credits and all."

That was, regrettably, true. Jack said defiantly, "I was stoned on cooking sherry by that point, out of sheer desperation."

Daniel gave him a sad little shake of the head and murmured gently, "You've still got the tape, Jack."

There being no adequate defence he could mount in the face of incontrovertible evidence, Jack dragged himself back to his original point, "In those documentaries, you know there's always some helpless furry little mammal right at the very bottom of the food chain? Always on some predator's a la carte menu? That's me!"

Daniel was with him. "Totally edible."

Jack gave a gloomy nod. "My mother is the Alpha Bitch of the pack."

Daniel stared up at him, big blue eyes wide and ingenuous, "You're not going home because you're scared of your mother?"

"Did I SAY scared? I - "

Jack cursed the fates that brought Daniel Jackson into his life, just one more time. For the hell of it. It was IMPOSSIBLE to tell barefaced lies in the face of the innocently supportive. Especially when they had the aforementioned big blue eyes. Jeez. The eyes even worked on General Hammond. What chance did a mere best friend have?

A pretty good chance, actually, when said best friend was only thinking of said archaeologist's best interests. And was a damn fine actor into the bargain. What was a little dignity, when it was sacrificed for such a noble cause?

He said baldly, "Yes."


Jack loftily ignored that.

Daniel then took him out at the knees, saying wistfully, "I've never been to a family reunion before."

A small stone tablet on his desk suddenly seemed to hold the key to the mysteries of the universe, the sheer concentrated attention it was getting.

There was a long, crowded silence as Jack's ridiculously sympathetic imagination unhelpfully filled in the blanks. This was for Daniel's own good, really. With everything that had just gone down in the Osiris business, with the anniversary of Sha'uri's death passing by seemingly without notice, Daniel needed some SERIOUS down time. He'd die at the stake before he'd admit it though. It was up to Jack to be devious, and rely on how good Daniel was at the forgiveness thing.

Everything would be just fine and dandy so long as Daniel never found out he was actually on medical leave, in Jack's custody and under his supervision for the duration. Sharing three days Chez O'Neill in Chicago beat the hell out of Daniel enduring three days of enforced bed rest in the infirmary because he hadn't had the sense not to push himself after surviving the latest attempt to ribbon him into a charred heap.

Taking Daniel home to Chicago was devious. Jack just had to hope it was devious ENOUGH.

"You'll need at least one suit." For the reunion that wasn't going to happen. "Plenty of sweaters. Pyjamas. A gun."

Daniel's smile faltered, "A gun?"

"My Aunt Ruth will be there. Trust me on the gun thing. It's for when you lose the will to live. It'll just help out knowing you have other options." Jack couldn't control a shudder.

"I'll pick you up at 06:00." He headed over to the door, hesitated as a thought occurred. Might as well salvage something from the debacle, "Daniel? My mother has an aversion to checked shirts. Just stick with the sweaters, okay?"

Daniel gave him a hurt look, which he ruthlessly ignored. "Don't forget the gun!"

Daniel watched Jack trail off down the corridor, obviously a broken man, and couldn't help thinking the O'Neill clan might be one tribe he could protect Jack from. He'd been waiting two years to repay a debt to Jack, for pulling off being his bodyguard at Doctor Erickson's eulogy in LA with such élan. If Jack could beat the academic community at its own game, surely he could manage one small family gathering? How hard could it be?


Jack paid off the cab and glared at Daniel. "You just had to tell everyone, didn't you?"

"I never mentioned your mother!" Daniel was on unassailable ground there.

Jack was sweetness and light, "And that requisition you asked General Hammond to sign? Which you handed to him AFTER you told everyone where we were going? And why."

Daniel said innocently, "You TOLD me to bring a gun, Jack!"

"Not a zat gun!" Not that the idea didn't have it's engaging qualities, vis a vis Aunt Ruth, an insidious little voice had hoped the general would go for it, but still...

"Why don't you take cover in the shrubbery while I get the door, Jack?"

"Ha ha."

"You could just sort of hunker down." Daniel's airy gesture took in the sweep of velvety lawn and Alpine shrubbery.

Dwarf Alpine shrubbery.

"After all, I can't be too careful with you, can I? Not after General Hammond made me personally responsible for your safety for the duration of this perilous - "

And a good time was had by all in the briefing room, including three technicians who couldn't tear themselves away - "Careful, Daniel. Be very careful. Otherwise I tell Aunt Ruth to call you Space Monkey the whole time we're here."

Daniel waited patiently for Jack to make a move towards the front door. And waited. He finally realised if he didn't do something, they'd be spending the night out here, so he stuck his tongue out at Jack and walked up to the door. He knocked, very respectfully. Waited. Waited some more. Then he knocked vigorously and stumbled forward in shock when the door was wrenched open, without any warning whatsoever, mid-blow.

He was vaguely aware of a small figure neatly side stepping him as he took several involuntary steps forward.

"Mmm. Nice butt."

Daniel turned to face a tiny woman with silver gilt hair and laughing brown eyes, in a face of...character. He decided he simply hadn't heard that correctly, beamed at her and held out a hand, "Daniel Jackson, I'm a friend of Jack's."

"Well, into every life a little rain must fall. Come on in, sweetheart." She turned her hand in his and led him into the hallway, Jack trailing reluctantly behind.

Daniel blurted out, "You look just like Jack! He's got your eyes."

Neither O'Neill seemed thrilled by the comparison.

"I see he's got my hair now, too."


"L'Oreal does a good range for men these days. You should check it out."


A chuckle broke up the combat before either O'Neill got fully in the swing. "Mrs. O'Neill - "

"Call me Kate."

Daniel blushed. "Kate, may I - "

"You may, whatever you like, honey, soon as you've unpacked and I've fed you. You look like you could use a little meat on those bones. Although I will just say again what a nice bu - "


"Lasagne sound good?" At Daniel's nod, Kate beamed. Then she eyed her beloved son thoughtfully. "I'll rustle YOU up a salad."

Jack bristled. He was NOT getting fat.

Kate said critically, "Make yourself useful, Jack. Carry the bags up to the bedroom. Daniel is a guest. I'm sorry, Daniel, you're going to have to share with Jack. Ruth is in the spare room and the attic room is being remodelled." She glanced again at Jack. "Fortunately, it's a king size bed." Another little side long glance. "It'll be a bit of a squeeze but I'm sure you'll manage. If he crowds you, just make him sleep on the floor."

Daniel gave Jack a helpless look and tried very hard not to laugh as he trudged off towards the stairs laden down with all the bags.

Kate let him get to the turn in the stairwell before commenting brightly, "Doesn't the Air Force have a strict weight requirement? You could drop him a gentle hint, you know. While it can still be fixed."

They both observed Jack's rigid back. Kate observed loudly, "I know he's getting on a bit, but, honestly, he's going overboard on the middle aged spread thing."

Daniel heard a distinct snarl from the stairs. Kate winked at him and swaggered off to what he presumed was the kitchen, her work here done.

He ran off up the stairs after Jack, followed him along the landing and into a bedroom with a beautiful stained glass window. All the furniture was mahogany, in the delicate Hepplewhite style, glowing with age and care. The cream, navy and wine of the patchwork comforter was mirrored in the rest of the colour scheme. Very elegant. Daniel thoroughly approved.

Jack was mechanically hanging clothes up in the armoire, back radiating disapproval. The silence was glacial. Daniel tried. He really tried. Then Jack bent down to retrieve an errant sneaker and Daniel lost it.

Jack wasn't positive he'd heard right until he turned around and found Daniel in a heap on the bed, laughing himself sick.

He asked with exquisite politeness, "Daniel? Did you just say something about a wide load?"

The stammered "N-no" from the bed was not in the least convincing.

"Daniel? Remind me to kill you at our earliest mutual convenience."

"I think I'd better. You might forget." Daniel's voice was shaky but oozing innocence. "What with your advancing years and ev ever - everything."

Jack would have retaliated physically but the furniture wouldn't take it. Revenge was a dish best served cold to the terminally unsuspecting. He settled for a malevolent look.



"About your mother?"

"What about her?"

"I couldn't help but notice she's wearing a checked shirt."

"Did you also notice she checked out your butt?"

Daniel looked shocked. "I thought I misheard!"

"Oh, no. Be afraid, Daniel. Be very afraid. Thanks for coming with me. You're cute and cuddly and even lower down the food chain than I am. Fresh meat. She's going to tease the shit out of you. Now get your butt off my bed and hang up your stuff."

"Do it yourself, Jack. I'm a guest, remember?"

Daniel stretched himself out luxuriously on the bed, pillowed his head on his arms and heaved a contented sigh.

Jack kept up the petulant act until Daniel's breathing evened out. Then he smiled smugly and hung up the rest of Daniel's clothes without a sound.


Jack crept noiselessly up to the bed and eased off Daniel's glasses. He folded them and put them where they'd be obvious, on the table near the bed.

A shadow at the doorway brought his head around quickly to meet his mother's laughing eyes. She pulled a face at him and crept over to the opposite side of the bed. They both stood looking down at Daniel for the longest time. He knew what had caused the pallor, the exhaustion. Losing one woman he loved to the Goa'uld was terrible enough - losing two was unimaginable. There were some griefs even Jack O'Neill and fishing couldn't fix. On the other hand, Jack, Kate and Joe O'Neill could fix just about anything between them.

Hence the road trip, and Daniel's incursion into the most private part of his life. Nothing in his career had ever impacted here. He wouldn't have done this for anyone but Daniel. He hadn't been there, so Daniel got to be here. He nodded at a questioning look from his mother, and she reached out to tenderly stroke back the hair from Daniel's brow. Then they each grabbed a corner of the folded comforter and drew it up over him. It would be hours before he woke up. Just in time for dinner.

Jack waited until they were safely downstairs and well out of earshot before he swept his mother off her feet into a bearhug and hissed "Well, hello Mrs. Robinson!"

Kate gave him a smug look, "Nice touch, wasn't it?" She then missed severity by a mile as she demanded, "Put me down this instant. You'll crack a rib."

Jack put her down but said meanly, "Only one of mine. You been LIVING on peach cobbler since my last visit? Oh, and, Mom? Nice butt? Nice butt? I nearly died! HE nearly died!"

Kate gave an evil chuckle as she led him by the hand into the kitchen, "I know. You could have warned me! He's drop-dead gorgeous. I could eat him up with a spoon. I've already told your father he's sleeping with number one son while I get to snuggle up with Daniel. I could do with a toy boy. Brighten things up around here."

An equally evil, baritone chuckle sounded at the kitchen table. "Isn't one enough? Speaking of which, you been to see your Aunt Ruth, yet, Jonathan?"

Kate elbowed Jack in the ribs.

"Ow! Jeez."

"That's you, Jack. Remember!"

"I've never answered to Jonathan in my life!"

"About time you made a start then. Jack conjures up such images of youthful vigour and - "

"Can it, Mom!"

Kate stalked over to the stove muttering, "I get no respect."

Joe folded his newspaper and stood up slowly. Jack waited tactfully until his father had his cane in hand and was steady on his feet before heading over for a less exuberant hug.

Joe said softly, "Welcome home, son. From what Kate tells me, you did right to bring that boy to us. We'll do for him what we can."

"You don't mind, Dad? Never brought work home - "

"Well, I understand my role in this stirring family melodrama is 'Domestic Tyrant'. Better brace yourself for some tyrannising, Jonathan. I'll be showing no mercy."

Jack grinned, "Looking forward to it, sir. Won't be for long. Daniel is a very bright guy. A genius in fact."

"Genius?" Kate's inquisitive voice rang clearly out of the pantry.

"Doctor of Archaeology. Linguist. Speaks 23 languages. With appalling fluency and staggering..."

"Be nice, Jack. So, he's way smarter than you?" Joe's voice was amused.

"Prettier too."

"Thanks, Mom. Can't you even TRY to behave like a normal car pool kinda mom? For the sake of my sanity." Jack hesitated, "Er, why are we sharing a bed?"

Joe suggested sweetly, "We figured he could hold Ruth down while you made a run for it."

Jack refused to dignify that with any kind of response, leaving his father victorious on the field.

Joe smugly retreated to his newspaper. There was a moment of silence. Two voices chorused as one, "Archaeologist?"

Kate emerged from the pantry, clutching flour and eggs. "Jack, you did warn him about Ruth, didn't you?"

Jack squirmed, "Not every little - thing." He got identical disbelieving looks from both his parents.

Kate gestured to high heaven, "Sometimes, I find it hard to believe you and I are in the same gene pool. He'll probably take one look and try to stuff her back in the nearest sarcophagus." She dumped her ingredients and headed off for more, still muttering. "Mama O'Neill didn't raise no fool. Oops. Silly me. COURSE she - " The rest was fortunately obscured by Kate delving into the depths of the pantry.

Jack shot a guilty, slightly apologetic look at his father.

Joe said sternly, "Did you mention 'The Little House on the Prairie'?"


Daniel was awakened by the indefinable feeling of being watched. He opened drowsy eyes into late afternoon sunshine and found himself face to face with Queen Hatshepsut. The mummified version.

Coal black eyes twinkled out of a wizened face, "Hello, Gorgeous."

Daniel blushed. "Er - hello yourself."

"Ruth. Come over here and give me a kiss."

As usual, Daniel found himself unable to deny his elders anything, decided Ruth was his type of person, scrambled carefully out from under the handsewn comforter and planted a sound smacker on her nut brown cheek. Sure of his welcome, he commented admiringly, "You have a very handsome face. Look just like Queen Hatshepsut."

"Only if she looked like she'd been dead for a few years, hon."

Daniel grinned.

"Jack with you?"

"Oh, yes. He was around here a minute ago." Daniel looked around vaguely.

"Few hours now. You've been sleeping like a baby. Looked like you needed every minute. Come and see my room. You could give an old lady a hand, if you like. I'll keep mine to myself, I swear to God, no matter what he told you."

Daniel leant support with alacrity, "He?" He found he was interrogating the top of Ruth's head. She was even smaller than Jack's mother. He escorted her tenderly out of his room and along the landing to hers.

Stopped in his tracks when he took in the décor. He turned fascinated eyes on his hostess.

Ruth gave him an evil grin. "I'm eighty two, Gorgeous, and my plumbing ain't what it used to be. If it's a choice between the senior citizen's centre for bingo, or torturing my only living relatives, well, what's an old lady to do?"


Daniel came lightly down the stairs two at a time and followed his nose to the heavenly scent of freshly baked cake. Chocolate cake.

He walked into a beautiful, homey kitchen. Huge oak table, which presently held Jack, Kate and an older man he took to be Jack's father. He smiled but couldn't stop looking at the room. Gleaming copper pans hung from a rustic pole, pots of fresh herbs in the bay window, an honest to goodness pantry and a modern range. Not an ugly appliance in sight.

He admired, "Shaker? Think you've got it just right. Modern, but the classic style is preserved."

Jack was alarmed at a very familiar stance. Daniel was going into lecture mode. He shot Daniel a quelling look which Daniel blithely ignored.

Daniel stroked his fingers down a cabinet and said enthusiastically, "The early Colonists and Shakers used a formula that dates back to ancient Egypt, coloured their furniture and interiors with a handmade paint made from milk protein, lime, earth pigments and clay fillers. I'm so glad you went for the traditional finish. It makes all the difference."

Jack watched without any surprise whatsoever as another O'Neill crumbled in the face of the truly supportive. His father's smile was ear to ear. So much for domestic tyrant.

Daniel took a quick, delighted step forward, "You did this? You're very skilled. All the hard work paid off, the texture is perfect."

Joe was clearly gratified, starting the slow haul to his feet.

Jack knew he could rely on Daniel to get it just right, which he did, chattering amiably on about the Hepplewhite upstairs without any sign he noticed Joe's painful attempt to get up. Hepplewhite? He never ceased to be amazed by the inexplicable things Daniel knew.

As soon as Joe was set, he stuck out a hand and engulfed Daniel's slender fingers. "Doctor Jackson. Pleased to meet you. Let me just show you the pantry. It's my best piece, got the idea from - " He shot a guilty look at Jack.

Daniel said innocently, "That's DANIEL and I know your inspiration, Mr.," he correctly interpreted a ferocious scowl, "Joe." He waited until he was almost at the pantry door and Jack had slumped against the table. Then he said brightly, "Speaking of which - Oh, Manly?"

He watched gleefully as Jack froze, then he failed to die on the spot as Jack's eyes were so clearly demanding he did, "Manly, Laura says hello. She'd like you to go up and see her, as soon as you can. You've been away working the railroads so long..."

There was a fair bit of unseemly sniggering from the older generation of O'Neill's. Jack's deepest, darkest secret was revealed. Daniel said brightly, "I've never even SEEN 'Little House on the Prairie'. Your collection is very impressive."

Joe's voice was shaking with suppressed laughter, "It's harmless enough, keeps Ruth happy."

"VERY happy, from what I hear. Now her best boy is back in town - "

Jack had one of those 'wish the floor would open up and swallow you whole' moments. He scowled after Daniel's retreating form and was easily able to ignore the enthusiastic carpentry comments coming from the pantry.

Kate said admiringly, "He's a really nice boy. A credit to - "

"Himself. Parents died when he was eight. He was fostered after that. He doesn't talk about it."

She said shrewdly, "Or about a lot of things, I think. Like someone else sitting not a million miles from here, sulking like a two year old just because his great auntie by marriage is delusional and feels him up from time to time." Then she slapped his reaching hand, "Leave the cake alone. It's too close to dinner. You'll ruin your appetite."

Jack nursed his stinging hand. Kate had reflexes would make Teal'c get all pensive.

The moment Joe was settled back at the table, Daniel sat down too. His gaze went straight to the cake. "Chocolate fudge?"

Hopeful blue eyes cut through Kate's resolve like a blowtorch through soft butter. She beamed, and coaxed, "Want some coffee to wash it down?"

Daniel sniffed and suggested, "Isn't dinner nearly ready? Er - "

Jack watched indignantly as his own mother gave Daniel a doting, 'got to fill a growing boy' kind of look, ruffled his hair and trotted off to fetch coffee. Then she trotted back with the coffee and cut a slab of cake would have choked a python. Daniel applied himself to the cake vigorously, and after the first few bites, ecstatically. Kept closing his eyes and making appreciative "mmm" noises.

Jack wasn't dumb enough to think for a heartbeat this meant HE had permission to eat cake. He wasn't about to risk it. Bad enough Daniel knew about Ruth's little 'Little House' fixation without seeing his team leader taken out by his own mother. Bringing Daniel here was a GOOD idea?

Daniel serenely ate the most extraordinary chocolate cake he'd ever tasted in his life, under the doting gaze of the two elder O'Neill's, and the frankly hostile gaze of the younger. Served Jack right, getting him here under false pretences.

"Can I paint you?"

He looked up, surprised. "Kate?"

She looked embarrassed, "I'm an amateur artist."

Joe said proudly, "Had a few paintings exhibited, Daniel."

Daniel was suitably impressed, "I do a lot of rubbing." He took a few appreciative sips of the coffee. " - in my job. Pictograms, runes, glyphs. Structural stuff. I don't have an artistic bone in my body. Not like Jack."

"Jack?" Kate was astonished.

"He brought you a present. A bowl he made for you. A peace offering, he called it. But I guess he managed to successfully negotiate a truce while I was - resting my eyes."

"Snoring like a buzz saw." Jack corrected. Then he added hastily, as his mother's fulminating eye suggested he'd better not criticise dear little Daniel anywhere NEAR her, "He has allergies, that's all."

Kate said firmly, "Jack just thought you'd like us, and you do, don't you, dear?"

Jack watched smugly as Daniel tripped all over his own tongue in an attempt to convince the folks, yes, indeed, he liked them just fine.

"And you're happy to be here? I know we're happy to have you. Aren't we, Joe? Jack?"

Joe happily agreed and Jack managed a vague, resentful 'what he said' grunt. Latest dumb idea in a long line of them.

"So can I paint you? Would you mind?"

Daniel said cautiously, "O-kay. Where? Er - how?"

Kate said sweetly, "In the attic. In the nu - "


Kate went smoothly on, " - NEW fisherman's sweater I bought for Jack. It'll be a little big for you, but that's just fine. The cuffs will fall down over your hands." She glanced down at the elegant hands in question and smiled. "Did you bring any jeans? Yes? Great. Bare feet, I think. I'll give you the sweater when we get up in the - "


Kate scowled at him and finished with a snap, " - morning. If that's okay with YOU? Jack?"

Daniel said shyly, "I've never posed before. What do I have to do? Will it take long?"

Jack could see Kate was sorely tempted but she sighed and admitted, "Not that long, just the morning. We'll find the right pose for you, I'll take some photographs, rough out some sketches. My work is impressionistic. I'll find a suitable backdrop for you - " Her voice trailed off, musing. "A cliff's edge, by the sea. Just gazing into the distance."

Daniel had always associated himself with the desert, never with the sea. He honestly didn't know what that image suggested to Kate. Maybe he'd have to see it to understand.

Jack was cringing. Daniel poised on the edge of a cliff? Great image to take to bed with him. Would really help with all the sleep he wasn't going to get, what with Daniel's sinus problems and all.

Daniel suddenly brightened up, shot him a sneaky look. "Jack's bowl is impressionistic, too."


"Why exactly did you bring me here, Jack?" Daniel's voice was very quiet.

Jack glanced down at his best friend and bête-noir, currently sprawled all over the bed. Barefoot. In jammies. Baggy navy blue fuzzie flannelette bottoms and an equally baggy navy blue t-shirt. Quite a lot of respectable muscle showed regardless. His mother had lingered over her goodnights. He'd finally had to evict her, uttering a slightly dazed, "Oh yes, bare feet, definitely the way to go," as she went.

It had looked for a while like force would be necessary. He was going to insist on chaperoning the arty stuff. Didn't trust his dear old mother an INCH.

If he didn't know the folks were spooning up together right now - Sometimes it was impossible to cope with the fact his parents were still like honeymooners closing in on 48 years of marriage. It made him feel - Inadequate wasn't too strong a word.

Right now, it helped him put his mother's little crush - into perspective. Plus, he wouldn't put it past her to be working him up deliberately. After dinner tonight, Daniel had a pretty good notion Jack O'Neill had learned his trade at the knee of a master. And occasionally on it.


"Scoot over, big guy."

Jack stretched out and made himself at home as Daniel curled up in a ball, cheek resting on his hand. He always looked ridiculously young without his glasses, and when you added jammies to the mix - Jack cursed an overactive protective streak for getting him into this mess in the first place.

Ruth had outdone herself at dinner, pinching his butt hard enough to make him yelp. There was going to be a definite bruise there by morning, and this was only the first night. Gave Daniel and everyone else a damned good laugh though.

"Daniel, just listen, okay?"


"Okay?" Jack stirred him with a gently nudging knee. The silence became slightly more receptive.

"Did you eat good food?"

"Fabulous food." Daniel was emphatic about it.

"Did you like the folks?"

"Loved them." There was a slight pause, "Er - "

"I know what you mean."

He caught what he could only describe as a very naughty look from Daniel before Daniel said sweetly, "Only if you meant I liked THEM as much as Ruth likes YOU."

Jack held up a warning finger and said sternly, "I'm warning you. One more word and you're on the floor for the night."

He then ruined the effect completely as Daniel shivered. His hand was out automatically checking Daniel's brow for a temperature before he could stop it, and Daniel was deposited safely under the comforter before he could register a protest at his team leader's high-handed ways.

Didn't in any way stop him being indignant, but, hey, Jack could live with that. He said quellingly, "Do I have to call my mother?" and the grumbling was abbreviated with more speed than dignity. No way no how he'd do that. Kate would like nothing better than to soothe Daniel's fevered brow for as long as she could get away with it.

Daniel said resentfully, "Do I have to call Ruth?"

"Cheap shot, Daniel. Cheap." Jack settled himself back down and resumed the interrogation. "Did you drink fine wines, enjoy good conversation, and generally chill out?"

"Er - yes."

"Finally, did you scarf down about a gallon of home made café au lait ice cream after you'd already eaten half a chocolate fudge cake and two helpings of lasagne?" He joined some dots. "After which blow out, is it any wonder you now have a slight temperature? Given you've been living on caffeine alone for days?"

Daniel loftily ignored the unanswerable.

After a short pause, Jack heard a muttered, "You've got great 'pecks'."

"Daniel, if you want to live 'til morning, cut the mother hen cracks, okay?" A swift sidelong glance revealed a mutinous archaeologist, one stubborn finger tracing the pattern on the comforter over and over. Jack sighed.

"You're just jealous, cause your mother wouldn't give any to you and you were too scared to - "

Jack said loudly, "I don't give two hoots about not getting any!"


Jack went on with cold dignity, "Just because you look like a twelve year old, doesn't mean you have to act like one." He ruthlessly ignored Daniel's outraged sputtering, "AND for your information, don't confuse respect with - "

"Spine dissolving terror?" Daniel snapped.

Jack suddenly laughed. "Jeez, you're gonna make my life a living hell over this, aren't you?"

Daniel said demurely, "It's in my job description."

Jack grinned, "Ain't that the way? Given all that, Daniel, can you think of one single reason why I shouldn't have brought you here?"

Daniel said obscurely, "Cornucopia."


"The pattern. Cornucopia. Horn of plenty."

Jack didn't follow the connection, he rarely did, but he knew Daniel well enough to know he'd just thrown in the towel. Which was as it should be. Every O'Neill in this house knew what was best for Daniel, way better than Daniel knew what was best for himself. You just had to sneak it up on him. Jack reached out and ruffled Daniel's hair, which was something every O'Neill also knew on some genetic level annoyed the hell out of Daniel, and hit the light switch.

"Sleep, Daniel. That's an order."

"Go to hell, Manly."

Jack grinned, that was sheer bravado. Daniel was already getting drowsy, he'd just never quit unless he had the last word. So Jack kept his yap shut.

He eyed his own charcoal grey-clad form complacently. His jammies looked a hell of a lot better than Daniel's did. Throw a t-shirt into his mix, he'd look like he was dressed for the street, not looking for his teddy.


"Good morning." Daniel hesitated in the kitchen doorway, the picture of schoolboy guilt.

Jack glanced at the clock, waited a moment, "Good afternoon, Daniel. Sleep well?"


"Jack." Joe's mild reproof sounded from behind the newspaper.

"Hello, Gorgeous."

The rest of the O'Neill's watched in stupefaction as Daniel kissed Ruth enthusiastically on the cheek.

She patted his cheek gently and sighed, "You're a good boy. Sit here by me."

Jack shook his head in disbelief as Daniel promptly settled down beside her, proving yet again he had no sense of self-preservation whatsoever. Fortunately, Ruth was just holding onto his hand. It could be worse. MUCH worse.

Kate shot Jack a wicked look and closed in on Daniel for a kiss too.

Ruth grinned, "A rose between two thorns."

Both she and Kate sniggered.

"I'm a terrible guest." Daniel apologised. "All I've done since I got here is - "

"Talk." Jack supplied helpfully.

"SLEEP and - "


"And EAT is what I was going to say. Stop putting words in my mouth, Jack."

"The problem isn't so much putting words in your mouth as it is getting them to stay there."

Kate's smile never faltered as she kicked him on the shin. Jack yelped as Daniel crossed his arms in front of his chest and smirked at him.

"Jack, did I mention I promised Ruth we'd take her to the Oriental Institute this afternoon? She wants to see the treasures from the royal tombs of Ur."

Jack was speechless with indignation. The sneaky little shit. He couldn't possibly refuse if Daniel was willing to go back to the very museum that kicked off the whole miserable Osiris business in the first place. He also took the point very well. Daniel was prepared to enjoy himself this weekend just so long as Jack let up on the attempts to nanny him. Enjoy himself at Jack's expense, that is.

Daniel explained kindly, "Ur was fabled as the city of the Sumerian moon god Nanna and the traditional home of the biblical patriarch Abraham. I've got lots of interesting things to tell you about the exhibits, which I'm sure you'll enjoy hearing all about."

Jack was going to go down fighting, but he knew he was going to go down just the same. "Even these treats in store don't tempt me to - "

"Feel like some company, Daniel?" Joe asked mildly.

"Mmm, please, honey. Never been around an archaeological museum with someone who knew what they were talking about." Kate was enthusiastic. "The painting can wait 'til tomorrow, if you're still up for it."

"If he gets up for it." Jack said sourly.

Daniel said brightly, "They have a fabulous collection of cylinder seals and vessels made from stone, metal and shells."

Jack smiled sickly, "Can't hardly wait."

"We can also check out the new Egyptian gallery."

Jesus. Saturday afternoon in a museum with the folks, a horny old lady and a talkative archaeologist with a score to settle.

"Jack can make himself useful and push your chair, Ruth."

Ruth leered across the table at him. Jack barely repressed a shudder. Daniel and everyone else beamed at him. They were gonna eat him alive. He could just tell.

"Who's hungry?" Kate asked cheerfully.

"We just ate!"

"Well, the way you keep packing it away, son, I guess you won't - "

"Gluttonous. Thanks, hon. Clue was driving me nuts. Daniel, what's another word for dense? Eleven letters, got a couple 't's in there."

Daniel eyed Jack thoughtfully. "Substantial."

Jack sighed. Outgunned, outmanoeuvred and unable to retaliate in case the folks escalate. "Dad, I got thirty four across now. It's 'wretched'."


"The great lyre is one of the masterpieces of the exhibition. Most of the lyre is made of plain wood, but the front bears a magnificent bull's head above a series of shell plaques decorated with figures of heroes, animals, and composite creatures. The bull's head is made of precious materials fashioned over a wooden core. A gold sheet was used to form most of the head and horns. The curls of hair on the forelock, the tips of the horns, and the curls of the beard are fashioned of lapis lazuli, which, in the case of the beard, is set in a silver backing. The eyes are made of shell set in lapis with lapis pupils."

Jack sidled a step further away from Ruth's wandering hands and listened to Daniel droning on and on without a blink. He was tapping into the reserves of patience he usually associated with mission surveillance. That meant he was building up to some explosive action and someone, namely Daniel, had better damn well book when he reached boiling point, otherwise said someone was going to DIE. Slowly and painfully.

They all regarded the Great Lyre.

"Yep. Definitely bull."

They all regarded him with varying degrees of disappointment.

"You should know, hon. You're full of it."

Jack watched his adoring, happy, hysterical family with a jaundiced eye as Dr Jackson's credentials tragically saved them from summary eviction. He had to admit, delusional or not, the horny old harpy could still nail a punchline every damn time.

Any more of that and Ruth could push her own damn chair.


Despite coffee and pastries in a café near the museum, Kate seemed convinced Daniel faced imminent starvation so they headed back. Kate also insisted on driving, which meant Jack was stuck in the back with Ruth sandwiched between him and Daniel. More against him than Daniel, he couldn't help but notice.

Ruth was obviously having one of her on days and was chattering away with Daniel as they walked up the garden path. Since she'd been a French teacher he couldn't follow a damn thing they were talking about but after an admiring glance in his direction from Ruth, he picked out a word. Hottie?

"Il est un tel Hottie. N'est-ce pas Daniel?"

"Je ne crois pas y avoir jamais penser de cette façon auparavant -" Daniel had never thought of Jack in precisely those terms, no.

"Regarde ses fesses! Elles sont tellement fermes. Est-ce surprenant que je ne puisse m'empêcher de les toucher?"

Daniel briefly inspected the portion of Jack's anatomy currently under discussion. Buns of - ? Well, they did do a lot of walking. It kept things toned. And he had noticed Ruth couldn't keep her hands off them, true enough.


"Daniel." Despite himself, Jack couldn't help sounding a warning when Daniel sniggered.

Daniel said innocently, "Ruth was just saying you're - pert."

Pert? Jack wasn't really prepared to aggressively tackle any conversation between his dotty great aunt by marriage and his best friend and teammate, not one in which he figured prominently as a hottie. He knew perfectly well Daniel would lie without shame if he called him on it and then tell Carter when they got back.

He asked cautiously, "Flippant?"

Daniel rigorously suppressed another snigger. "Perky."

Jack spinelessly booked, before he had to hear any more about his behind.


"My theories on the age of the pyramids weren't popular. I lost my research grant, everything. I was - My last lecture didn't go well. I wasn't looking forward to the eulogy. Not in the least. I was expecting hours of pitying looks and contempt."

Kate said with a snap, "Spurious sympathy."

Daniel sighed. "Exactly."

Joe poured out another generous glass of Burgundy for Daniel, which made Jack wince. Daniel and alcohol did not go well together.

Hence the current confiding mood.

"So Jack came with you?"

Daniel looked up with sparkling eyes. "Full dress uniform, sunglasses, attitude the works. Intimidated the hell out of everyone in there."

Jack failed to look modest but had noticeable success with gloating offensively. He said smugly, "I destroyed them. Absolutely destroyed them. By the time I'd let them clue in on Daniel's job security, limitless funding, access to all the biggest and best toys..."

"And being important enough to rate having Jack as my bodyguard -"

"They were losing the will to live."

Kate headed off to retrieve the desserts.

Jack took a few sips of wine. "Especially that guy, what was his name again?"

"Doctor Dawson. He was hinting about jumping on the bandwagon and Jack told him - "

"We don't take applications." Jack finished triumphantly.

Joe's shout of laughter brought Kate hurrying back.

A little of Jack's good mood had to do with Ruth being worn out by the alleged excitement of the museum and going to bed with a bowl of chicken soup. A lot to do with Daniel being so relaxed and happy.

Kate had been busy while Daniel was sleeping. The dessert had been made entirely in his honour.

"It didn't stop there though, Jack had to - o-oh!"

Jack indulgently enjoyed Daniel's open mouthed astonishment. "Jeez, you'd think nobody had ever made you a chocolate pyramid before."

"No trouble at all once I'd made a mould." Joe said, carefully casual.

Kate fussed, "The filling is coffee mousse. Jack said you'd like it. It was this or - "

"Ruth in chocolate body paint." Jack said flippantly. "The mummy, y'know?"

Joe said severely, "That wasn't funny the first time, Jack." Then he grinned at Daniel. "Ruth taking him up on the offer was damned funny though."

"Jack jumping two feet in the air was even funnier, Daniel. All those finely honed survival instincts? Phooey. He was whining about even a rattlesnake giving you some warning."

There was a breathless hush of anticipation as Daniel excavated the pyramid with the respect it deserved.

"BELGIAN chocolate." Kate emphasised.

The very first taste blissed Daniel out. Kate and Joe beamed as he closed his eyes and just let the chocolate melt on his tongue. "Mmm."

"COLOMBIAN coffee beans."

"I can tell." Daniel said sincerely. "This is wonderful. Thank you."

"SICK to my stomach here. Two days with Daniel and we're turning into the Waltons." Jack mourned.

"No danger of that, Jack." Daniel said wickedly. "Grandma never felt up John Boy that I remember."

Jack cuffed him gently round the head, then succumbed to irresistible temptation and laughed too.

Joe was curious, "What did Jack have to - " He waved a 'you know what' hand, " - at the eulogy?"

Daniel sighed.

Jack's face darkened. "Let's just say as the drink flowed, and the word of Daniel's good fortune spread, the mood graduated from pity to out and out resentment in some quarters."

Daniel shot Jack a mischievous look. "Somebody dared to use the phrase 'sell out' in Jack's hearing. The fallout wasn't pretty."

"I never touched him."

"You didn't have to. You just loomed. In an unmistakeably and increasingly menacing manner."

Kate said critically, "Well, he might be able to pull off menacing, but modesty is totally beyond him."

"I allowed my body language to imply a threat I was more than willing and able to make good if anybody wanted to take the discussion outside. Which they didn't." Jack's voice was not wholly free from regret. "I merely did my duty as Daniel's bodyguard," he added virtuously.

Daniel hooted, "He enjoyed himself hugely, ruthlessly intimidating an entire room full of archaeologists. Got more and more outrageous as the night wore on. It was primal. They were smart enough to recognise an apex predator when they saw one. Especially once Jack decided we needed to circulate. After a few preliminary skirmishes, my esteemed colleagues in the Society for Archaeological Sciences tried to flock together for safety, then scattered whenever they saw Jack swooping down on them, picking off the strays."

"The terminally unsuspecting or downright aggressive. Culled from the flock." Jack's smile was wolfish. "Survival of the fittest and all that. Very scientific."

"He kept making provocative comments like, "Oh yes, I thought that was an excellent point when Dr Jackson first made it, three years ago."

"Had you?"

"Not in that case, no. But he said it with such superb conviction - " Daniel rolled his eyes, "Then I made a FATAL error and showed him my invitation to the AGM of the Society. It's normally just a standard circular but mine had a memo attached, stating any military escort would be deemed acceptable, EXCEPT Colonel O'Neill. They mentioned him by name, three times, in as many paragraphs. He sulked for days when I refused to attend."

Jack looked wounded, "He also refused to nominate me as an Associate Member of the Society."

Daniel ate some more of his pyramid, then responded to the blank looks, "Clause 13, sub clause 5, of the Society's constitution, allows for final appeal, in person, before a quorate panel at the AGM if membership is refused. Which in his case was a foregone conclusion. He was strongly drawn to that."

"Democracy at its best." Jack gave them his best grin and vigorously attacked his pyramid, smacking the spoon down, dramatically flattening the fragile chocolate. He then ate it with relish.

Daniel winced.

Kate said admiringly, "Jack is very talented. All he's doing is eating, and he's still managing to annoy everyone else in the room."

"Multi-tasking." Jack sent an exploratory fork out towards Daniel's plate. "You gonna eat the rest of that?"

"Yes. I'm savouring - Jack!"

"Too slow, kid. Too slow," Jack gloated, flaunting his stolen piece of Daniel's pyramid.

"Hey! Give that back!"

"Isn't that what the chieftain said to the archaeologist?"


There are ways to make a linguist talk.

Jack needed the right ambience. Having said linguist snuggled up next to him in his jammies, slightly drunk, very relaxed and still on that post-pyramid chocolate high was a good start.

Jack said, very gently, "I didn't forget, Daniel."

"Hmm." A drowsy murmur.

"It's been a year. I didn't want you to think I'd forgotten."

Timing. Timing was everything. Jack waited patiently, knowing Daniel's guard was as down as it was ever likely to be.

"I still miss her." Daniel's voice was soft. "Every day."

Ahh. Caught him on the cusp of sleep. Jack settled a soothing hand in Daniel's hair. "I still miss Charlie. Every day."

"Does it get better?" Daniel asked with gentle curiosity.

"You learn to cope better." Jack said cautiously. "Give it time. It's only been a year."

"Yes. One. JUST one." Daniel's eyes remained closed for all the fierce emphasis.

Jack continued to stroke his hair. "You never gave up, Daniel."


That warmed him right through. "Just wanted you to know, Daniel. Nothing's forgotten."

"No, Jack. Nothing's ever forgotten."

Jack sat beside his best friend, lulled Daniel to sleep under the steady, comforting pressure of his hand. It was all in the timing. Or maybe, it was just in the caring.


"It's falling off me!" Daniel was irritated.

"I wish." Kate sighed gustily.

"Mom. For the thousandth time - "

Kate just winked at Daniel.

Daniel was well aware blushing only made Kate tease him all the more. Unfortunately, knowing wasn't the same as being able to do anything about it. Hand an O'Neill a loaded gun, you can't expect them not to pull the trigger.

"It's huge." Daniel fingered a cuff tentatively. The sleeves were so long they were spilling down onto his hands. Maybe if he turned them - "Ow!" He shook his stinging hand. "I've seen snakes strike slower than you do, Kate."

Jack was not without sympathy. "I keep telling her a firm 'No!' will do it every time, but does she listen?"

"It's supposed to be huge, Daniel. It's for Jack. He's taller and - "

Daniel muttered resentfully, "Only by two inches."

"Two inches can make all the difference." Jack said smugly.

"And the sweater will cover a multitude of sins." Kate offered absently.

Jack rolled his eyes heavenward and stalked over to the window seat. He asked with awful sarcasm, "Okay to sit here?"

"Yes, love, perfectly okay." Kate sounded very distracted. "I've had the joists reinforced."

Jack froze for a moment then sat down with a solid thump, glaring out the window. Daniel was glad he wasn't the only one suffering here.

"Shoes, Daniel!"

"Er, I thought perhaps - ?"

"Shoes." Kate was inexorable. "Glasses, too."

Daniel reluctantly removed the offending items.

Jack was staring out the window when he heard Daniel asks carefully, "Kate? Er, what are you, er, doing?"

"You're supposed to be windswept."


Then Jack settled down to enjoy the show. Kate had a firm grip on Daniel's chin and was using it to turn his head this way and that while she mussed his hair. Jack observed she seemed in no particular hurry. No hurry at all.

"How old are you, Daniel? You've got skin like a baby's b -"

Even the glare scorching across the attic didn't stop Jack's voice shaking with laughter, "Thirty four." He'd have to remember that one.

"Really? You don't look a day over twe -" Kate subsided as Daniel's furious eyes dared her either of them - to finish that statement. She gave him an insouciant little pat on the cheek and headed over to grab her camera.

Daniel folded his arms over his chest and scowled.

"Keep that pose but lose the pout, Daniel. Try for pensive." Kate was in full artist mode. "Lift your head, stare off into the distance. Mmm. That's it."

"I'll be staring right at Jack the whole time if I - He'll just keep pulling faces or something, distracting me." Daniel wouldn't put it past Jack, he could be alarmingly juvenile sometimes.

"Go away, Jack."

Jack settled himself more comfortably.

"Bare feet you have very elegant hands and feet, Daniel - jeans, fisherman's sweater. Arms crossed - " Kate darted forward, and twitched an errant hand into the perfect spot. "Hugging across the chest. Nice." She tilted Daniel's chin just a tad further. "Face, pensive, yes, hair, windswept - " She sighed. "Just beautiful - " She raised the camera, "Stop laughing, Jack. Why are you still here?"

Jack said glibly, "I'm not about to leave Daniel in his hour of need. He's too young and impressionable to leave alone with an old reprobate like you."

Kate stuck her tongue out at him and started taking pictures from every conceivable angle.

Daniel gazed at Jack and wondered how hard it was for Jack to be here, in a house full of pictures and memories of his son. Whether he was able to talk about Charlie, with his parents. There was no immediacy of grief here, as in the home he used to share with Sara, the home where Charlie died, but Daniel was sure the grief here ran just as deep. He wondered if Jack knew how lucky he was to have people like this, loving and supporting him without limit or question. He couldn't help but smile. Even if they did show it by teasing the shit out of him.

Jack returned Daniel's smile. He'd certainly managed the pensive look Kate wanted. No wonder, with the most important person in his life so much on his mind.

Jack turned his head to the window and remembered Sha'uri.


Kate was developing her photographs, so Daniel had been despatched with orders to eat, otherwise he'd have her to answer to. He was drawn along the landing by the cadences of Jack's voice. They'd lost Jack an hour ago to a querulous complaint from Ruth.

He hesitated, then cautiously crept into the open doorway. Jack sat in the fragile chair by Ruth's bed, holding a claw-like hand in a comforting clasp, patiently reading.

"'Sing, Carrie!' Laura said hurriedly. So Carrie began to sing, then Mary's sweet soprano came in.

On Jordan's stormy banks I stand

And cast a wishful eye

On Canaan's bright and shining strand."

Jack looked up and winked at Daniel. Then he waved the book.

Daniel took the hint and left him to it, wondering if he'd ever get to the bottom of Jack. He'd done nothing but complain about and to Ruth all weekend and yet here he was, reading her a children's story without a hint of reluctance, just because she wanted him to.

Jack was so good at giving of himself, of sharing comfort, it seemed churlish to refuse it. Jack was only thinking of others, but this also spoke to a deep need within him. Daniel couldn't bear to have a wound touched, but he also couldn't deny Jack anything he could give him as a friend. If Jack needed to share, it behoved Daniel to accept without making Jack work so hard for it. SG1 were family after all, as real to Jack as this family was becoming to Daniel. Maybe it wasn't the nuclear family, but it was pretty good nonetheless. It just meant Jack had three kids, one of whom was twice as old as him, one twice as smart as him, and one he got to enjoy himself hugely treating LIKE a kid whenever he could get away with it.

Three kids? '3.4' if you counted Junior.


Jack had finally gotten Ruth off to sleep. He was going to have to hurt Daniel severely if it got out Colonel O'Neill had been reading Laura Ingalls Wilder, but it could have been much worse. Ruth was also fond of Winnie the Pooh.

He took the stairs down, two at a time, headed for the smell of food. Every time Daniel slowed down, somebody fed him. When he got into the kitchen, he found Daniel at the table with Joe and Jack's bowl. Daniel was handling the bowl with sensitive fingers, painting what Jack recognised as hieroglyphs.

"Jack." Joe looked up with a big grin. "We wanted a memento of Daniel's stay with us, so he's decorating your bowl instead of Kate."

"What are you writing, Daniel?"

"As joy is not without its alloy of pain, so neither is sorrow without it's portion of pleasure." Daniel smiled up at Jack for a moment. Thanks for bringing me here.

Jack touched Daniel's shoulder for a moment. No problem, kid. Then he pointed at another set of meaningless squiggles. "And this one?"

Daniel smiled at Joe. "A house has the character of the man who lives in it."

"What was that first one again, Daniel, the one for Jack?" Joe asked, imperfectly concealing his gratification.

"By knowing one reaches belief. By doing one gains conviction. When you know, dare."

Jack coughed slightly, then said gruffly, "What about Mom?"

"Men need images. Lacking them they invent idols. Better then to found the images on realities that lead the true seeker to the source."

Jack could follow that one well enough too; Daniel was complimenting more than just her painting.

"Do you have one for Ruth?"

Daniel gave him a sneaky look. "Know the world in yourself. Never look for yourself in the world, for this would be to project your illusion"

That one went right over Jack's head. "And what about yours?"

"Each truth you learn will be, for you, as new as if it had never been written."

Jack couldn't help the slow smile spreading across his face, reaching out to ruffle Daniel's hair as he headed over to the coffee pot. That was true enough for Daniel, bouncing around the galaxy ready for any and every new experience. "Anyone for coffee?" This was always a rhetorical question where Daniel was concerned.

Joe was examining the bowl with reverent hands, "Cut Daniel some of the coffee walnut cake while you're at it. He's looking peaky again."

Jack grabbed the cake and didn't bother to suppress his grin. Daniel definitely had a way with him, especially around susceptible O'Neill's.


"Daniel?" Kate looked up questioningly as Jack strolled into the attic.

"Fed him twice and put him down for his afternoon nap." Jack shrugged off Kate's approving nod, started inspecting the drying photographs.

"He's looking better."

"Feeling better."

"You love him, don't you?" Kate's voice was calmly certain.

Jack figured it was only asking for more trouble than even he could handle to deny it, however sappy he came off. "Sure," he said lightly. "Best friend I ever had."

Kate busied herself pegging out the rest of her photographs. "You drive him absolutely crazy, you know."

Jack grinned. "Every day, in every damn way I can think of."

"He's a sweetheart. I don't blame you for being overprotective."

Jack acknowledged the hit, but said dryly, "Pot and kettle, Mom? Swimming around the same damn gene pool, remember?"

Kate winked. "You know it. Watch and learn, kiddo, watch and learn." Then she sighed. "I suppose you'll be stealing him away from us just as he's getting nicely settled? All packed? What time is the flight?"

Jack suddenly found a view of the garage utterly fascinating. "9am tomorrow."


"I...well, he looked so damn peaceful I hated to...I called the general, okay, got him to re-schedule the briefing...and you can just wipe that smug look off your face," he snarled without turning around. A moment later, arms snaked around his waist and he found himself unable to resist an exuberant hug.

"We get to keep him!" Kate crowed.

Jack said unkindly, "Just one more night. He's thirty four, Mom. You don't get custody."

"Sez you!"

Jack hid a grin and waited patiently.

After a perceptible pause, Kate said conscientiously, "Of course, we'll miss you too."

He knew perfectly well she was laughing all over her face. "Et tu, Mom."

There was a slight stiffening behind him. Jack waited for his sure and certain fate.

"I've got NOTHING planned for dinner! You'll have to go to the market. Now!" When Jack didn't move quick enough for her, she slapped him on the rump and demanded, "Show some hustle, boy! Got an archaeologist to feed."

A firm hand propelled him out the door and kept up the pressure until they got to his bedroom. Kate snuck in for a quick maternal peak at Daniel, and seemed very much inclined to linger and admire, making Jack scowl at her ferociously. He mouthed savagely, "Don't wake him up!"

He was pretty sure her equally silent response was "Phooey!", then she leant down and deliberately kissed Daniel's brow. Only then did she sneak back to him, looking insufferably pleased with herself. Jack escorted her from the room with cold dignity, then they both checked on Ruth.

Both of them sleeping safe and sound.

It had taken very little persuasion to convince General Hammond to give them the extra night. He'd only had to paint a pithy word picture of how hard it was to keep Daniel awake, him being so stuffed full of Mama O'Neill's home cooking and all - The general was toast, a distinctly paternal chuckle proving to Jack his respected C.O was rather enjoying the image of Daniel being spoilt rotten, Chez O'Neill. His order to continue to compel Dr Jackson to rest and recuperate by any and all means necessary was certainly well within Jack's power to deliver.


"Daniel." Jack gently shook Daniel's shoulder. "Come on, kid, time to wake up. Feeding time."

Daniel moaned, "I fell asleep AGAIN? I don't believe this."

Jack said cheerfully, "I've been drugging you, in the vain, despairing hope of shutting your yap for longer than two minutes."

"Thanks." Daniel said witheringly.

"S'what friends are for."

Daniel scrambled up and then seemed to run out of steam, looking helplessly around the room.

Oh. That was a good point. Impossible to find your glasses when you needed your glasses in order to...Jack spotted them on the linen chest and grabbed them before Daniel had to start a search of every flat surface in the room. Daniel gave him a quick grin as he grabbed them and darted out.

Jack followed him out at a more leisurely pace, rejoining him as he emerged slightly damp around the edges from the bathroom. Then they headed off downstairs.

Daniel shot him a puzzled look, obviously trying to work out what was wrong with this picture.

Jack took pity. "General Hammond gave us an extra night. Briefing has been put back until 14:00 hours."

Daniel said blithely, "Oh. That's good. I've been thinking you looked tired for a while. The extra rest will do you good."

Jack could hardly believe Daniel's magnificent disregard of the facts. "There's just no fooling you, is there?"


Jack heroically forbore to point out just who it was had spent most of his visit horizontal and let Daniel actually walk into the kitchen before he said, "Daniel?"



Kate froze and then peered round. Her eyes focused at floor level and she brightened visibly. "Don't bother on my account, sweetheart."

Daniel hesitated, then sat down. He sniffed appreciatively, "What are we having? Can I help?"

"Chicken en croûte. Jack says you like chicken. You can help by eating. I've been admiring the bowl you've both done for us. Going to take it in to my art class, glaze it and fire it. Can't risk it getting damaged." Kate chattered as she set the food on the table.

Joe said cheerfully, "We'll keep it right here on the kitchen table. Ruth is very disappointed you didn't put any dirty jokes on it."

"Speaking of the old - " Jack took in the look in his mother's eyes and smoothly finished, " - dear, where is she, anyway? Still not well?" Jack got up and headed over to grab a few beers. When his head was safely buried in the refrigerator, he called out casually, "You call the doc?"

"Grab the lemonade for Daniel while you're in there, hon. And don't worry, Ruth is fine. She's just tired, that's all."

Jack slammed the refrigerator door with his butt and insisted, "Did I say I was worried? I'm just - Wipe that smirk off your face, Daniel. Smugness is one of your least attractive character traits."

Daniel said sweetly, "You just call the ones you know, huh, Jack?" Then he turned his attention to the chicken. Beautifully tender white meat, crisp golden pastry. He gestured at Jack with his fork, managing to sound surprised. "Tastes like chicken."

Kate eyed them in bewilderment. "What's so funny about chicken?"

Jack grinned. "Long running in joke."

"Did I mention Ruth has some of the photo albums in her room, Jack? I saw some amazing pictures. Wonder what they'd give on base for pictures of a naked Jack O'Neill, sprawled all over a fur rug, clutching his teddy? Sam's in the market for the ultimate screensaver."

"You'll never make it out of Chicago alive, not with those pictures."

Joe looked smug. "Doesn't need to, son. Daniel scanned them and emailed them while you were reading to Ruth. Quite a large selection on a similar theme took his eye, isn't that right, Daniel?"

Daniel nodded vigorously, "Think in the last one you were about, oh, what was it, Joe?"


Daniel was innocence personified, "Ruth's favourite picture. The one that inspired her to start calling you M - "

"He was always big for his age." Kate said fondly.


Daniel curled up against the pillows and said provocatively, "Siler has this really great software programme, can add morphing effects. We can start with you as a newborn and morph from one year to the next."

Jack pounced, slid his hand around the back of Daniel's neck, fingers probing for just the right spot and squeezing, causing Daniel to yelp in a very satisfactory manner.

Jack forced Daniel flat, hissing maliciously, "It's HELL being ticklish, huh, Dannyboy?" Then he knelt on Daniel's back and kept up a light, kneading pressure on the hot spot, waiting for the next verbal volley and enjoying the mixture of laughter, whining and pleas for release.

Daniel's voice was muffled in the pillows but still defiant. "Got to have the right music. How 'bout the theme to - "

Jack pulled up Daniel's T-shirt . "I'm warning you! Don't say it or you get the ribs."

There was a brief silence. Jack sat with his hand poised.

"The theme to - "

Jack mercilessly sent his fingers dancing over Daniel's ribcage. Made him SQUIRM.

"Li little h hou house - Jack!"

Daniel was wriggling wildly under him. Jack paused for a second, hand ready to strike, "Give up?"


Jack retaliated with a precision run on a specific spot under Daniel's arm made him scream with laughter into the pillow. He didn't keep it up for too long, there was always a very fine line between fun and pain for the ticklish.

Naturally, Daniel had to raise the stakes. "We could add a rollover for the screen - "

Jack shifted his weight and went for the kneading pressure on a spot on Daniel's side, just below his ribcage. Daniel reflexively curled into a ball, desperately trying to get away from the bombardment, shuddering and gasping out between giggles, "Tou tou touch - "

Jack launched an all out assault, multiple targets, made Daniel HOWL, and then lost his grip during the lively struggle.

Daniel almost made it off the bed before Jack grabbed him again, defiantly finishing, "Touchheretoenter!" Then he rolled madly and the world tilted crazily, ending in a bone jarring thud.


Daniel lay absolutely still. "Jack, you - okay?" It seemed inadequate after that thud.

There was a very long silence.

Jack said painfully, "No. How 'bout you?"

Daniel was losing it, stuttering with suppressed laughter - "Fi fine - I see - seem to have - " Daniel took a deep breath and tried to get it out in one go, "landedonsomething - soft." Then he laughed so hard his abused ribs ached.

Jack shoved Daniel into a heap on the floor, still in hysterics, and said witheringly, "You just HAD to fall off the bed, didn't you? And you just HAD to land on ME, didn't you?" He got up painfully, grunting, "Ask a STUPID question."

Daniel managed to pull himself together slightly, "I've got no sympathy. Serves you right for throwing your - weight - around."

Jack froze. He turned slowly, menacingly, glared down into unrepentant eyes, gave a muted roar of, "For the LAST time, I do NOT have a weight problem."

The door was flung open. A small, terrible figure demanded, "For cryin' out loud! What the heck is going on in here? You sound like a herd of elephants from downstairs!"


Jack was glad his own goodbyes had been a tad more dignified.

Daniel shook Joe's hand and found himself pulled into a bearhug.

"Take care, son. Come back soon." Joe said gruffly.

Kate was sniffing as she reached up on tiptoe and kissed him, "We'll miss you, sweetheart." She said fiercely to Jack, "You take damn good care of him, you hear? Or you'll answer to me."

Jack was unperturbed. "I always do." He watched Kate. "Mom." He watched some more. "Mom! Let go! I already told you, you DON'T get to keep him." He shook his head in despair, "We HAD to do this at the airport? In public? Jeez. MOM!"

Kate peeled herself away from Daniel, snarling, "All right already!"

Daniel was blushing furiously, giving them all the benefit of that shy little smile melted hearts around the galaxy. Jack hooked his mother's shoulder as she headed purposefully back.

Kate said innocently, "I was just - "


"How's the butt, hon?"

Jack froze, "You tell me, Ruth. How's it feel?"


Jack was still whining about having the aisle seat. "Your arm gets knocked by every goomba passing by."

Daniel eyed him thoughtfully. "You're right. It was very thoughtless of me to obediently sit in the exact seat you picked out for me, after rejecting three other rows in which I was perfectly comfortable. I'm still not buying that line about explosive decompression."

Jack failed to look guilty. The last row had contained a Mrs. Pulaski from Seattle, who had looked Daniel up and down in a manner that reminded Jack forcefully of Hathor.

Daniel turned to the passenger in the window seat, smiling, "Buenos días, la Hermana. ¿Espero que usted esté a gusto?"

Jack beamed at her too. He had a special fondness for the Little Sisters of the Poor.

"I had a great time. I wouldn't have missed it for the world. I'm glad you lied to me and lured me here on false pretences, Jack." Daniel said sincerely.

Jack nodded and said pleasantly, "My pleasure. That's what friends are for. And just in case you feel compelled to share a single, solitary detail about this weekend with the world, you should know - I've got an MP5 and a shovel. I doubt anyone would miss you."

Daniel spoke in a deeply moved tone, "I'm overwhelmed by your touching faith in my discretion." He waited a beat. "Siler and Sam are working on the screensaver as we speak. There's a solid cash offer on the table from Ferretti for one of the original prints. He's talking T-shirts for the street hockey play-offs." Deadly silence. Daniel added a little more fuel to the fire, "The one with the teddy."

Jack said sweetly, "There are other photographs with Carter right now. Of a certain too-clever-by-half-but-still-not-clever-enough-for-me archaeologist, sitting not a million miles from me. Who's beginning to sweat from the look of things."

Daniel asked cautiously, "Which photographs?"

Jack explained smoothly, "Taken by an expert in reconnaissance and surveillance, then developed by his Mom for the cost of keeping the negatives. Said archaeologist is sprawled all over a bed in navy blue fuzzie jammies, with his T-shirt ripped in a very interesting spot after falling out of said bed the night before. Said archaeologist looks 'adorable' according to Carter, and 'sweet' according to the Doc." He smirked at Daniel. "It's the bare feet peeping out from under the jammies, apparently. Adds the essential little touch of vulnerability required to make the truly discerning REALLY work those credit cards. Teal'c - "

Daniel's attempt to maintain a dignified front was faltering, "Teal'c?"

Jack went for the jugular, "Teal'c just wanted to know about the teddy. You'll know it when you see it. Amazingly, still in perfect condition even after all this time. For THESE photographs, I understand it's not so much a cash offer as a bidding war. I refuse to speculate about Ferretti's sealed bid for 'Daniel in his jammies #14', but just remember there are two sides to every T-shirt."

Daniel scowled at his best friend, team leader and bête-noir. "You'll be on the back side, then."

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