PRODIGAL SON BY BIBLIO: A CURSE AND A BLESSING PART ONE


Slash: Jack and Daniel involved in a loving and committed relationship, which usually involves sex.
Rating: PG-13
Category: Friendship. Humour. Hurt/Comfort. Pre-Slash.
Season/Spoilers: Season 4. An episode tag for "The Curse"
Synopsis: Daniel discovers the joys of family life when Jack takes him home to the folks in Chicago for a little TLC, O'Neill-style. [Completely revised and extended]
Warnings: None.
Length: 280 Kb.  Download a printer-friendly PDF version of the story.

 

Leaning against Daniel's lab bench, Jack thoughtfully observed the stubborn set to his friend's shoulders.  "How did we get from me not going to this shindig on pain of death, to you picking out your wardrobe to come with me?" he enquired politely, frankly surprised how fast he'd got Daniel from A to Z without getting stalled in arguments around D and J.

Theatrically occupied with making energetic notes in his journal, Daniel was the picture of butter-wouldn't-melt demure innocence, always a sure sign he was under the impression he was being sneaky.

"I want to see you interacting in your natural habitat," he informed Jack blithely.  "With the rest of your family grouping."

This particular tone always told Jack he was in deep trouble.  Long experience with the archaeologist  had shown him he was going to lose whatever the argument was, there was no question of that, it was only a matter of how much time it took and how creatively Daniel would make him suffer until he threw in the towel.  Metaphorically speaking, of course. 

"My natural habitat?  Really?" Jack drawled lightly, obediently responding to his cue.  "You watch those nature programs on Discovery Channel, Daniel?"

"You know I do."  Daniel shot him a quizzical look, knowing Jack was playing him.  "I was at your house just last week.  And the week before that.  You whined for hours when I -"

Aware he had the high ground on this one, Jack neatly headed Daniel off. "You know perfectly well I was under the impression I was taping a game," he reminded him pointedly.  He owed him some friendly torture on the thorny issue of TV and VCR remote appropriation but this wasn't the time for such a fruitful tangent.   That particular discussion deserved days of concentrated attention. "Imagine my surprise when I got?"  He left this hanging invitingly, thanking his Mom and Special Ops interrogation training for his expertise in the framing of irresistibly leading questions.

Taking a keen interest in a particularly compelling passage in a textbook which happened to be upside down, Daniel cleared his throat slightly.  He scowled malignantly when Jack calmly took the book from him, turned it around and handed it back with a cheery smile.

"What did I actually get, Daniel?  Hmm?" Jack gently pressed home his advantage as a certain archaeologist completely failed to meet his eyes. "Hmm?"

"The migration of flamingos across the salt flats of Namibia."  Daniel's tone dared Jack to make something of this.  "You did get to see quite a lot of the game," he insisted.  "I hadn’t accidentally taped over the entire exercise in sporting futility.  You also can't deny you enjoyed the documentary!" he added accusingly.

"I did not," Jack argued briskly.  "I amiably tolerated it for your sake.  Once the shock had worn off, that is, and I’d broken out my Glen Livet.  Then the Glenmorangie.  Then the Glen Farclas.  I covered more Glens in an hour than a map of Scotland."

"It was very dramatic footage," Daniel countered, smiling reminiscently.

Jack had an uneasy feeling Daniel, a Glen or two behind him in the drinking stakes, could remember the evening's festivities with aggravating clarity.

"Remember the little flamingo?" Daniel enquired softly, his eyes fixed on Jack's face, glinting with evil amusement.  "The one with the salt crust around its foot, falling farther and farther behind?  You were mesmerised."

"I was paralysed with boredom," Jack firmly rebutted this outrageous accusation.  "I'm not just trained to kill, you know," he reminded Daniel.  "I like it."

Sitting back comfortably in his chair, Daniel looked up at him, nodding understandingly.  "Ruthless bastard?"

"Exactly!"

"With no interest whatsoever in the health and welfare of little pink flamingos?"

"They're not even good eating," Jack sneered.

"You did a Mexican wave when the film crew went back and saved the little flamingo, Jack," Daniel reminded him ruthlessly.  "I distinctly remember that.  It being after the end credits and all." 

This was, regrettably, true.  "I was stoned on cooking sherry by that point, out of sheer desperation," Jack contended with a certain crispness, trying to avoid any towel-throwing tone to his on-the-ropes voice.

Daniel gave him a sad little shake of the head. "You’ve still got the tape, Jack."

TKO!  Shit.

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!"

"Edible?" Daniel commented knowledgeably.

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

"You’re not going home because you’re scared of your mother?" Daniel appeared to find this even funnier than the flamingo-fest.

"Did I say scared?" Jack tried for dignity.  "I .  Er."  He fell a little short.  It was very hard to lie when he was shit-scared of his mother.  Not as scared as he got when Daniel spit in Apophis' eye, but close.  Very close.  And unlike Apophis, his Mom was always with him in spirit.  He loved her to death, of course he did, and tried not to think of her overwhelming mental presence as being in any way Goa'uld-like.  His Mom was all for free-will and stuff, absolutely, just not in his case. 

He had to admit this one was kind of tricky. 

It wasn't like he had a lot of options, here.  If he told Daniel he was coming to Chicago because he looked like, and, according to Doc Fraiser, felt like shit, and Jack was not about to leave him behind, he wouldn't get him to the old homestead if he zatted and hog-tied him first.  If he asked Daniel if he wanted to come to Chicago, Daniel would ask why, and fix those big, blue eyes on him.

Like…now.

Big eyes.  Blue.  Very.  Intense, compelling eyes.

Jack shifted uncomfortably, the way he always did when he noticed stuff about Daniel.  He seemed to do that.  Notice.  He seemed to look at Daniel a lot.  There shouldn't be anything wrong with that.  They were tight.  Friends.  Still.  Sometimes, he felt he looked more than he was supposed to.

They really were tight.  Close.  Daniel got Jack to spill his guts.  There was no explaining it.  He just did.  One question here would lead to another there and Jack would be right back to Daniel looking like and feeling like shit.  Daniel would insist he was 'fine'.  He was always 'fine'.

The only thing Jack could think of which could possibly lure Daniel to Chicago would be a lie so outrageous he would not believe it.  In his incredulity at the whopper, he also wouldn't be able to resist it.  Of course in this case the lie was the literal truth, but Jack wasn't about to let Daniel in on that.  He was a Special Ops colonel.  Trained.  His Mom had left him some pride.

"Yes," he stated baldly.

"Wuss," Daniel sneered.

Gritting his teeth, Jack let this go, mostly because he couldn't remember the last time he'd seen Daniel look as if he were really enjoying himself.  It threw him off-balance.  He was supposed to know Daniel.  He was never supposed to be surprised by what Daniel did.  Amused, entertained, infuriated.  This thing they had, this friendship thing, there was a rhythm.  They worked at it.  Nothing disturbed it.  Nothing should.

"My last family reunion didn't work out so well."  A small stone tablet on Daniel's desk suddenly seemed to hold the key to the mysteries of the universe, the sheer concentrated attention it was getting.  "Maybe yours will be better."

There was a long, crowded silence as Jack choked on his carefully prepped cover story, trying to tell himself this was for Daniel’s own good, really.  The anniversary of Sha’uri’s death had passed seemingly without anyone noticing and then Daniel had to lose someone else he was close to, had to sever another tie to the life he had before he met Jack.  Maybe the last one.  There seemed nothing left for him there in the past. 

In Jack's opinion, and the general's, Daniel was exhausted to the point of collapse.  Shit happened to Daniel Jackson apparently for no other reason than he was Daniel Jackson.  It never let up on him.  Which was where Jack came in.  Between Daniel and whatever it was, if he could be, picking up the pieces if not.

Jack was sure this Sarah Gardner hadn't meant a lot to Daniel.  He'd never mentioned her, never had anything draw him into bringing her up, never had specific memories triggered.  Nothing.  He'd blanked her.  She was a girlfriend, left her behind.  A type.  Most likely the reason Daniel went for Linea too.  Not too many girls with curls and minds like whips. 

Yeah.  A type.

A part of Daniel's past which was gone now.

Jack really wanted to get Daniel to Chicago.  He couldn’t explain the urgency he felt or the rightness of his determination.  He was going to do this.  His family were private to him, never shared willingly with anyone, and suddenly he wanted Daniel there, wanted Daniel to know roots.

He couldn’t account for this need to tie Daniel down.

Trying to shake off his weird mood, Jack told himself 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.  Spending three days with the folks in Chicago beat the hell out of him enduring three days of enforced bed rest in the infirmary because he hadn’t had the sense not to push himself night and day after surviving the latest attempt to ribbon him into a charred heap.

This was for the best.

"Bring plenty of sweaters.  My folks live in the kitchen and they keep the door and windows open.  You know they don't call Chicago the Windy City for nothing."  What else?  "Pyjamas.  A gun."  Both of which were essential for Daniel's protection even if he didn't grasp that at this point.

Daniel’s relish at Jack's capitulation faltered. "A gun?" he asked warily, trying to work out where the punchline was coming from.

"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, consoling himself with the thought Ruth made him feel weirder than Daniel ever did.  When he was safely ensconced en famille O'Neill, Daniel wouldn’t know what had hit him, there would be no time for rows and recriminations about any possible economies with the truth on Jack's part.

"I’ll pick you up at 06:00.  It's a direct flight, pretty good.  There by lunch."  He headed over to the door, hesitating as another slightly weird thought occurred.  He shrugged, feeling he might as well salvage something from the general debacle.   Thinking and hoping for the best didn't mean it couldn't all go horribly wrong.  "Daniel?  My mother has an aversion to checked shirts.  Just stick with the sweaters, okay?"

Daniel gave him a surprised, hurt look, which he blanked.  "Don’t forget the gun!" he called out, making a rapid exit.  General Hammond was waiting to hear if his mission was a success, like there was ever any doubt.  Jack really was a bastard, most of all when it was for Daniel's good.

Watching Jack limping out of his office, doing his utmost to look like a broken man, Daniel had to admit he was quite looking forward to going to Chicago.  He wanted to see for himself the people responsible for inflicting Colonel Jack O'Neill on an unsuspecting and, he thought, fairly undeserving archaeologist.

He was also, maybe, sort of pleased to be asked along.  He and Jack had stopped seeing each other outside of work for a while there.   He still wasn't sure why.  Something about him walking into a room had made Jack want to walk out of it.  It was hard not to be hurt by that and impossible to talk about it. 

For one thing, he wasn't prepared to have Jack know how much of a hold he had on him.  Hadn't quite been prepared for that himself.  He'd never had so many friends he'd learned to rely on them.  Jack, though?  Jack needed him to lean, even a little, and Daniel didn't realise himself it was as much for his sake as for Jack's until that support was withdrawn.

He chose not to be dependent, not to expose himself more than he felt he had, so he said nothing, only went with Jack's flow.  The fighting had made it easier than he expected to keep his distance.

Jack was better now, though, open to him again, and he still didn't know why.  If it were him or if it were Jack at the root of it, Jack seemed to be past it now and acting as if nothing had ever changed between them.  Take-out and TV were back on the menu, any free night of the week .  A beer and a steak.  Hanging out.  The occasional game of something, Daniel couldn't get out of.  Their usual stuff.

Daniel hadn't quite let it go, though, and somehow, he doubted Jack had.  They were both working just a little too hard.

He was pleased about Chicago.  Curious, too.  Jack didn't let just anyone in and the timing, after three years of no more than the occasional fondly exasperated mention of his folks and the outrages they perpetrated, the timing had Daniel suspicious.

Jack was tired, though.  He'd almost died out there in space with Teal'c and somehow it had softened him.  He'd actually been pleased to see Daniel again, all that gut-twisting tension which had so troubled their friendship gone from him.  Things weren't normal, but close, and this invitation into Jack's private life was a huge gesture.  An important one. 

Whatever the game was here, if it helped Jack, then Daniel was more than prepared to play along.


 

Jack paid off the cab and did his utmost to glare at Daniel, who was making it difficult by being bright-eyed and bouncy at him.  "You just had to tell everyone, didn’t you?" he accused him indignantly, cranking up the outrage.

"I never mentioned your mother!" Daniel retorted, feeling he was on unassailable ground on this point at least.  This was the fourth, or was it the fifth, he was losing track, this was the sixth time they'd had this exact argument since they got on the plane.  He was pleased to see Jack was getting so much into the holiday spirit.

"And that requisition you asked General Hammond to sign?" Jack asked, all gritted-teeth, saccharine sweetness and light.  "Which you handed to him only after you told everyone where we were going?  And why."  Much as it pained him to have to acknowledge such an outrageous abuse of their whole friendship thing, he had to give Daniel points for creativity on this one.

"You told me to bring a gun, Jack," Daniel responded meekly, well aware he was doomed to be the straight-man but still willing to indulge Jack with a little in the way of Abbott to his Costello. 

"Not a zat gun!" Jack protested vigorously.  Not that the idea didn't have its engaging qualities, vis a vis Aunt Ruth, an insidious little voice inside had hoped the general would go for it, but still.  "That was embarrassing."

"I know."  Daniel smiled at him with reminiscent enjoyment.  "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 impeccable sweep of velvety lawn and sculpted 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 excursion."

And a good time was had by all in the briefing room, including three technicians who had been unable to tear themselves away.

"Careful, Daniel," Jack warned him softly.  "Be very careful.  Otherwise I tell Aunt Ruth to call you Spacemonkey the whole time we’re here and I'll make damned sure she knows that comes with hugging too."

"Is that a threat or a promise?"

"It's a threat!  And it's a good one.  Trust me on that."  Jack flicked Daniel's shoulder irritably.  "You're a very annoying man, do you know that?  Stick with the script, already!  As my friend and faithful sidekick, it's your job.  When I act threatening, the appropriate response is for you to act threatened.  You owe it to me"

"I might like your Aunt Ruth," Daniel explained his dereliction of duty.  He appeared to feel this was enough.

Jack smacked him in the shoulder, more than ready to escalate hostilities if he wasn't going to quit with the situational adlibs.

Daniel had been waiting patiently for Jack to make a move towards the front door.  He finally realised if he didn’t do something himself, they’d be spending the night out here bickering, so he stuck his tongue out at Jack and walked up to the door.   Conscious he had no real idea what he was getting himself into here but still hoping to make a good impression on the family for Jack's sake, he knocked, very respectfully. 

He waited.  He waited some more.  Then he decided they must be out of ear-shot, 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 staggered several involuntary steps and barely avoided kissing elegant black and white tiled floor.

"Mmm.  Nice butt."

Slightly stunned by his velocity, Daniel turned giddily to find himself facing a tiny, vital woman with silver gilt hair and laughing brown eyes in a beautiful face bursting with character.  He decided he couldn't have heard that remark correctly, smiled hopefully at her and held out his hand. 

She took it at once, her smile widening. 

"Hello," he said warmly. "I'm 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 drew him into the hallway, Jack trailing reluctantly behind.

"You look just like Jack!" Daniel blurted out ridiculously, feeling a trifle overwhelmed and decidedly nervous.  "He’s got your eyes."

Neither O’Neill seemed thrilled by this comparison, weighing one another up in a manner strongly suggestive of clichéd gunfighters at high noon in cheesy westerns. 

Daniel could only be grateful they were so distracted because he could not believe he'd just said that.  It wasn't that he'd never noticed how Jack looked, it was just totally embarrassing to comment on it, especially in Jack's hearing.

"I see he’s got my hair now, too," Mrs. O'Neill commented dryly, quirking an eyebrow in Jack's direction.

"Mom," Jack said warningly.

"L’Oreal does a good range for men these days.  You should check it out," Mrs. O'Neill advised her first-born kindly, dimpling up at him, far from adoringly.

"Mom!" Jack hissed.

Daniel had a feeling Jack's mom had just kicked Jack's ass.  In less than, he checked his watch, a minute.  He was conscious of a certain awe at this brutally efficient dispatch.  He also felt obligated to break up the combat before she verbally disposed of Jack's smoking corpse.  "Mrs. O’Neill?" he interjected, dropping his head with the kind of submissiveness he automatically accorded a charging Unas.

"Call me Kate," Kate invited him warmly, smiling up at him, once more taking his hand in hers.

Daniel blushed, very conscious of a Jackian Mack truck-like charm without the obvious malignant drawback, who was standing by the door glowering indiscriminately at them both.  "Kate, may I?"

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

"Mom!" Jack hollered.

"Lasagne sound good?"  At Daniel’s grateful nod, Kate beamed, giving his hand a small, pleased shake.  Then she eyed her beloved son thoughtfully.  "I’ll rustle you up a salad," she sniffed.

Cursing his mom's unerring aim for a weak spot, Jack bristled.  Despite what his mirror, assorted security cameras, occasional pairs of his more venerable jeans and a happy, drunken Daniel might be insisting to the contrary, he was not getting fat.

"Make yourself useful, Jack," Kate suggested critically, clearly disapproving of his two minutes of  bone-idle occupancy of her hallway.  "Carry the bags up to the bedroom.  Daniel is a guest."  She smiled up at Daniel, whose hand she had forgotten to let go of.  "I’m sorry, Daniel, you’re going to have to share with Jack.  Ruth is lying in state in the spare room and the attic is being remodelled."  She glanced at Jack, her lips twitching as he gathered up stray luggage.  "Fortunately, it’s a queen-sized bed."  Kate stole another little sidelong glance, just obvious enough to piss Jack off with it.  "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 permitted Jack to reach the turn in the stairwell.   "Doesn’t the Air Force have a strict weight requirement?" she commented chattily to Daniel.  "You could drop him a gentle hint, you know.  While it can all still be fixed."

They both observed Jack’s rigid back with interest. 

"I know he’s getting on a bit," Kate observed brightly, "but, honestly, he’s going overboard on the middle-aged spread thing." 

Daniel heard a distinct snarl from the stairs.  Kate winked at him, patted his hand, and ordered him to make himself at home before swaggering off towards what he presumed was the kitchen Jack had spoken of, her work here done.  Jack had had all the tender mother-son bonding he could apparently take for the moment.

He intended to follow Jack upstairs, but came to a halt as soon as he glimpsed the first of a series of  photographs in its severe silver frame.  Kate's face was laughing and young, a tall man with something of Jack in him smiling dazzlingly down at her and the baby in her arms.  In another, the three were dressed in their best and posed stiffly, surrounded by people older than themselves.  Fascinated, Daniel slowly made a circuit of the hallway, peering intently at each photo in turn. 

Together, they brought this normally dead, transitional space alive.  There was Jack as a small boy, his parents each holding a hand, swinging him between them, his feet off the ground and his head thrown back with laughter.  There were other times, other moods, drawing Daniel to linger.  He saw Jack's looks in Joe's face, his spirit and humour in Kate's eyes. 

Jack wasn't the only child on these tastefully crowded walls.  There were small images of Jack's son Charlie, faithfully tracking him through each of his years in school, the sequence beautifully grouped and brutally short, candid pictures of his parents nestling either side.  In Charlie's round face and long, silken hair, Daniel saw Sara and felt instinctively the likeness was something Jack loved in his son.

As he climbed the stairs, the photographs showed the rising age of their subjects, some recent but all of them formal and posed.  He found himself looking for Jack in all of them, a little surprised by his disappointment when he realised these weren't necessarily intimate choices.  They seemed to him to be more memories of times and events, markers in the lives of the O'Neills, too important to be boxed away, maybe too well remembered to be in any other place in the house.  Here they would be seen every day, glimpsed as the family passed, ready reminders for anyone who chose to linger.  This wasn't the house Jack grew up in, but those times in Minnesota had a presence here.  Daniel wondered how often anyone took the time to look, as he was looking now. 

There would be other photographs, stronger and candid, more precious to the family because of that.

He was hungry for more, a little disgruntled when an open doorway revealed Jack in a bedroom dominated by a beautiful abstract stained glass window.  When Daniel went in, he found all the furniture was mahogany, unexpectedly in the delicate Hepplewhite style, glowing with age and care.  Carefully folded, an antique patchwork comforter hugged the foot of the huge bed, its intricate cream, navy and wine design mirrored in the rest of the colour scheme.  It was very elegant, very restful. 

Daniel thoroughly approved, accepting the inconvenient sleeping arrangements philosophically.  He'd shared a tent with Jack on and off for years and was inured to being snored at, farted on, verbally abused and used as a mattress.

Jack was mechanically hanging clothes up in the armoire, his spine 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 sitting on the bed, chortling.  He was touched, not certain he'd ever heard Daniel laugh before.  He allowed himself a moment or two to savour, then resumed his allotted role in the family melodrama.  "Daniel?  Did you just say something about a wide load?" he asked with exquisite, freezing politeness.

The stammered '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 gamely trying to ooze innocence.  "What with your advancing years and ev-ever-everything."

Jack would have retaliated physically but he knew from experience the furniture wouldn’t take it and neither would his mom.  Revenge was a dish best served cold to the terminally unsuspecting.  He settled in the interim for a malevolent look.

"Jack?"

"What?"

"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," Jack drawled.  "Be afraid, Daniel.  Be very afraid."  He noted with a sigh that Daniel was still reading from a different script and refusing to act decently threatened to cue.  "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," he gave Daniel fair warning.  He felt obligated as this was exactly what would happen and it certainly wasn't his fault if Daniel didn't believe a word of what he said to him.  "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 theatrically contented sigh.

Jack kept up the petulant act until Daniel’s breathing evened out.  Then he smiled to himself and unpacked the rest of their clothes without making a sound, checking back now and then on Daniel .  When he was done, he crept noiselessly over to the bed and delicately eased off his glasses.  He folded them and put them where they’d be obvious for Daniel to find when he was waking up, on the bedside cabinet by his pillow.

He went over to close the drapes, hoping to block out some of the afternoon sun and keep Daniel sleeping longer.  Daniel stirred and Jack glanced back at him, freezing as he rolled from his back to his side, sighing as he tucked a hand beneath his cheek.  The light framed him and Jack guessed he'd rolled into that spot instinctively in search of heat. 

Jack stood patiently by the window, waiting for Daniel to settle into deeper sleep before he would risk closing the drapes.  It was somewhat of an irony he was so practiced with this routine, putting a tricky, pouting sleeper down for a nap.  It had been years, but he still had the knack.

He stayed where he was, his eyes lingering with the sunlight on Daniel's face.  He could track the lines of experience there, a certain weight he understood from long experience of combat.  Daniel didn't always have that ingenuous light inside like he used to, there was some bitterness there, and grief, but his energetic friend still had a capacity for wonder and compassion which could make Jack's heart skip a beat. 

There couldn't be a more unlikely soul alive to be the friend Daniel was to him, the kind of friend he'd never truly had, bursting out of every neat compartment Jack would try to box him in, poking his nose into every corner of Jack's psyche he wasn't supposed to be. 

Daniel broke the rules, even the ones Jack set for himself.

It was damned embarrassing Jack had been so reluctant to accept their friendship had changed.  It had deepened over time, Daniel needing less of the blessed protector act from him, less of the big brother, more from an equal.  Jack wasn't good at cutting ties, at letting go of anything.  He wasn't so blind he wasn't aware that he was slow to adjust, he resisted Daniel's increasingly demonstrated independence in a way which troubled him.  It mattered to him almost more than he felt it should.

Mostly he thought of the unquenchable innocence he valued in his innocent friend and had to watch stripped away layer by layer.  As long as Jack had known him, Daniel had always been capable, but he'd grown to be hard at times, and dangerous.  It didn't fit with his passion for life or the way he would tear himself apart to help people.  Jack couldn't protect Daniel from that.  Sometimes, he saw maturity on Daniel's face, at others, his failures.  The failures, in fact, of both of them.

Whatever the cause, Daniel's face drew Jack's eyes more and more.

A shadow at the doorway brought his head around quickly to meet his mother’s shrewd, laughing eyes.  She pulled a face at him and snuck over to the bed.  Jack went over to join her and they stood side by side, looking down at Daniel for the longest time.  Jack knew what had caused the pallor, the visible exhaustion, but he wondered what his mother saw. 

He'd long believed Kate and Joe O’Neill together could fix just about anything between them if they were only given the chance.  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 when Daniel lost Sarah Gardner and the last ties to an important part of his life were severed with surgical precision by Osiris and by the greed of a so-called friend.  Jack wasn't there, worse, he was petty enough to cut Daniel off when he'd tried to involve him, 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.  "Well, hello Mrs. Robinson!" he hissed at her, genuinely aggravated by her atrocious display in the hallway.

Kate gave him a smug look and a huge smooch of a kiss.  "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, puffing like a bellows.  "Only one of mine, Mom," he said meanly.  "You must've been living on peach cobbler since my last visit.  Oh, and, Mom?  Nice butt?  Nice butt?  I nearly died.  Daniel nearly died when he realised he did hear you right."

Kate gave an evil chuckle as she led him by the hand into the kitchen, casting exaggeratedly adoring fifties sit-com mom looks up at him. "I know," she purred.  "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 sexy boy like him.  Brighten things up around here."

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

Kate elbowed Jack in the ribs when he failed to respond.

"Ow! Jeez."

"That’s you, Jack.  Remember!"

"I’ve never answered to Jonathan in my life!"  What stupidity had led him to enlist his folks as co-conspirators in the first place?  He should only be grateful he hadn't come home to find them both in costume.

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

"Can it, Mom!" Jack said rudely.

Kate stalked over to the stove muttering darkly under her breath about ingrates, the sharpness of serpent's tooths and bosoms.  "I get no respect," she complained.

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 markedly less exuberant but no less affectionate hug. 

"Welcome home, son," Joe said softly.  "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 before this."  That was an understatement.  Until Daniel Jackson erupted back into Jack's life, Kawalsky, his best friend at that point, could've been forgiven for thinking Jack came out of box this way.

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

Deciding fighting his mother's penchant for dramatic embellishment and overblown lily-gilding would be an exhausting and ultimately futile effort, Jack confined himself to a wry grin. "Looking forward to seeing you in action, Dad.  Won’t be for long, I guarantee it."  It probably wouldn't be kind to suggest his Dad would crumble and fold as soon as he laid eyes on the boy.  "Daniel is a very bright guy.  A genius in fact," he hinted, tactfully laying the groundwork for a graceful out for them when they inevitably, and no doubt rapidly, got busted.

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

"Daniel is a Doctor of Archaeology.  And of Linguistics.  He speaks twenty-three languages.  With appalling fluency and staggering-"

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

"Much 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.  He had a question for her. "Er, why are we sharing a bed?"

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

Jack refused to dignify that with any kind of response, leaving his father victorious on the field of verbal battle.  Plus, he wanted to see for himself how Ruth was doing.  He was on the shady side of forty and killed people for a living, and the folks still flannelled him automatically.  His mom still thought he had a bedtime.  Ruth at least would tell it to him straight, at length, and in excruciating detail, if she felt like shit.

When he was certain Jack didn't have any kind of comeback, 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, as aware as anyone there were limits to his communication skills. "Not every little thing," he said sullenly.  He got identical disbelieving looks from both his parents.  "Daniel expects he'll like her.  He's looking forward to meeting her, in fact," he insisted defiantly.

Kate gestured vehemently to high heaven. "Sometimes, I find it hard to believe you and I are in the same damn gene pool, Jack, my boy.  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 darkly.  "Mama O’Neill didn’t raise no fool.  Oops.  Silly me.  Of course she-"  The rest of this embittered pronouncement was fortunately obscured by Kate delving into the depths of the pantry.

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

"Did you mention ‘The Little House on the Prairie’?" Joe asked sternly.


 

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

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

Given he was the only one in the room, Daniel didn't feel able to evade this appalling appellation.  "Um, hello yourself."

"Ruth," the mummy greeted him, smiling.  "Come over here and give me a kiss."

As usual, Daniel found himself unable to deny his O'Neills anything, decided Ruth was his type of person, scrambled carefully out from under the hand-sewn comforter and planted a sound smacker on her nut brown cheek.  "You have an extremely handsome face," he admired with sincere admiration.  "Queen Hatshepsut was a Pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty, a master politician with enough charisma to kick Egyptian ass for twenty years.  You look remarkably like her."

"Only if she looked like she’d been dead for a few years, honey."

Daniel grinned.

"Is my Jack with you?"

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

"A few hours now.  You’ve been sleeping like a baby.  Looked like you needed every minute.  Come and see my room," Ruth invited him.  "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," she reassured him.

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, wondering why Jack had been keeping this amazing lady all to himself when he had to know Daniel would be…

He stopped in his tracks when he took in the décor in Ruth's room.  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 simmering coffee and freshly baked cake.  Chocolate cake.  In his opinion, these were fabulous people with a keen grasp of the essentials of life.

He insinuated himself shyly into a beautiful, homey kitchen.  A huge oak table, which presently held Jack, Kate and an older man he took to be Jack’s father, dominated.  He smiled in their direction but couldn’t stop looking around at the room.  Gleaming copper pans hung from a rustic pole, pots of fresh herbs were stacked in the bay window, a comfy couch heaped with cushions where a reader could catch the light, an honest-to-goodness pantry side-by-side with a modern range.  Not an ugly appliance in sight.  It was the heart of this home.

"Shaker?" he genuinely admired the exquisite craftsmanship.  "I think you’ve got it just right.  Modern in execution, but the classic simplicity is preserved."

Jack was alarmed at a very familiar stance.  Daniel was going into his infamous lecture mode.  He shot him a repressive look which he completely ignored.

Daniel stroked his fingers down a silken cabinet door.  "The early Colonists and Shakers used a formula which dates back to ancient Egypt, you know," he said enthusiastically,  unable to resist the urge to torture Jack a little.  He didn't want him getting complacent just because they were on vacation.  "They 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 went down like a ninepin in the face of the truly supportive.  He knew this would happen.  His father’s smile was ear to ear.  So much for the resident Domestic Tyrant.

Correctly interpreting Joe's modest look, Daniel took a quick, delighted step forward. "You built this?" he asked eagerly.  "You’re very skilled.  All the hard work this must have taken has more than paid off.  I'm no expert on interior design but even I can tell 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 or worse, thought he should rush to help.  Joe hated that kind of officiousness.  He had recovered well from his stroke, better than anyone except perhaps Joe had predicted, refusing to let his mobility problems impact on significantly on his life and the hobbies he loved.  His workshop was state of the art and he made full use of all the assistive technology and modified tools he could lay his hands on.

Jack shuddered as Daniel made all the right noises.  Hepplewhite?  Dear god.  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.  "Dr. Jackson," he beamed.  "Pleased to meet you, son.  Let me just show you the pantry," he urged, imperfectly concealing anxious pride.  "It’s my best piece, got the idea from, er." He shot a guilty look at Jack.

"Call me Daniel," Daniel invited gently.  "I know your source of inspiration, Mister," he correctly interpreted a ferocious scowl and smoothly changed social gears, "Joe."  He waited until he was almost at the pantry door and Jack had slumped against the table to deliver his coup de grace on Ruth's behalf.  "Speaking of which," he said brightly.  "Oh, Manly?"  He could hardly get the name out, it was so horrifically unlikely.

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," he reported dutifully, hoping he was getting this right.   "She’d like you to go up and see her, as soon as you can.  You’ve been away working the railroads so long." 

Ruth was evil.  Absolutely evil.  Daniel adored her and knew no hesitation in signing on as her chief acolyte and devotee.  It took a massive personality with a vast appetite for life to keep Jack O'Neill helplessly in thrall and Ruth's approach was entertainingly insane.  She enjoyed herself hugely tying Jack into helpless, seething knots. 

There was a fair bit of unseemly sniggering from the older generation of O’Neills as Jack’s deepest, darkest secret was revealed, leaving him squirming for their enjoyment in a familial Kodak moment. 

"I’ve never even seen ‘Little House on the Prairie’," Daniel admitted.  He'd been ruthlessly drilled by Ruth to impart the little he had.  "The collection Ruth has amassed is very impressive."  Much of it purchased for her delectation by her die-before-he'd-admit-it besotted nephew.  "Museum quality."  He could pay no higher compliment.

Watching his son, Joe was shaking with barely suppressed laughter. "It’s harmless enough and it keeps Ruth happy."

Happy was not quite the word Daniel would've used.

"Very happy," Kate agreed, chuckling malevolently.  "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 commentary coming from the pantry.

"He’s a really nice boy," Kate sighed admiringly, coming over to sit by him and give him another kiss.  "Just lovely.  A credit to-"

"Himself," Jack interrupted with surprising heat.  He gave his mother an apologetic look.  "His parents died when he was eight.  He was fostered after that.  He doesn’t talk about it."

"Or about a lot of things, I think," Kate recognised shrewdly.  "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 which 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.  "Can I warm that for you?" she coaxed, caving without shame or hesitation.  "We have some fresh cream."  She peered over at the formidable fridge, nibbling her lip.  "Or ice cream.   A nice scoop of classic homemade vanilla," she decided.  "And coffee too, of course." 

Daniel sniffed the rich meaty scent of the kitchen. "Isn’t dinner nearly ready?  Um."  He was somewhat at a loss to deal with this slightly aggressive hospitality.

Jack watched indignantly as his own mother gave Daniel an indulgent, ‘got to fill a growing boy’ kind of look, ruffled his hair and trotted off to fetch provisions.  Then she trotted back with the steaming coffee and a slab of cake which would have choked a starving python.  It came with an ocean of fresh cream and, erring on the side of clogging Daniel's arteries, two lavish scoops of ice cream. 

Daniel applied himself to the cake vigorously, and after the first few bites, ecstatically.  In fact, he kept closing his eyes and making appreciative "mmm" noises which he took care to aim in Jack's direction across the table.

Jack wasn’t dumb enough to think for a heartbeat this meant he had permission to eat cake, with or without artery-clogging accompaniments.  He wasn’t about to risk it.  Bad enough Daniel knew about Ruth’s ‘Little House’ fixation without having to watch his best friend and erstwhile team leader get taken out by his own mother.

As ritual humiliation was heaped upon ritual humiliation, it struck Jack as being absolutely, utterly gooned out of his tree whacko he could think for even one second bringing Daniel here was a good idea.  His credibility would not survive this.  He knew how susceptible he was and he was made of much sterner stuff than his folks.  Their standards were so low they even loved him, for cryin' out loud.  Not enough to refrain from sacrificing him in their competitive efforts to entertain their guest, of course.  There were limits to family loyalty. 

The only plus Jack could see was that Daniel wasn't going to know what would keep on hitting him until he was on the plane home.

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

"Can I paint you?"

He looked up at this, surprised.  "Kate?"

She smiled at him, for the first time appearing a little embarrassed. "I’m an amateur artist," she confessed.

"Kate is entirely too modest," Joe said proudly.  "My wife has had quite a few paintings exhibited in local galleries and even in a special display of work by local artists at the Art Institute, Daniel."

"I'd like to see your work, if I may?" Daniel was savouring these revelations.  He wondered if Jack appreciated how fortunate he was in his family.  They absolutely loved him to death or they wouldn't tease him so relentlessly.  He grew up with every rich thing Daniel had lost beneath a falling cover-stone in New York. "I'm loving hearing about all your creativity," he confessed shyly.  Kate promptly kissed him.

"What about archaeology, Daniel?" Joe asked interestedly.  "I don't know much more about it than we've seen on the History Channel."

"Which is peopled by talentless hacks and their loony tunes populist tabloid fodder," Jack interpolated cheerfully. "To paraphrase an opinionated archaeologist, sitting not a million miles from here."

"Jack says the same about C-Span," Daniel chose to share.

"And he's not a doctor of anything," Joe noted.

"To answer your question, Joe," Daniel decided to draw paternal fire meant for Jack, "My area of expertise in both archaeology and anthropology is linguistics.  My research specialises in the study of ancient writing systems and languages.  Technically, that's known as philology."

"There is absolutely no need for you to explain what that means," Jack insisted.

"I'd be happy to explain about philology."  Naturally, there were limits to Daniel's altruism.  "In as much detail as you'd like."

"We'd be happy to have you explain," Joe urged, backed up by Kate's vigorous nod.

"Philology is the science of language," Daniel began in his best 'once upon a time' tone, smiling.  "It's the study of etymology, grammar, rhetoric."

"Rhetoric?" Joe perked up.  "I've seen the term here and there but never got what that means."

"Oh, please!"  Jack slumped pitifully, groaning.

"Rhetoric is the theory and practice of eloquence, whether written or spoken," Daniel supplied cheerfully.

"Really?" Joe was fascinated.

"Think used car salesmen," Jack said sarcastically.

"Rhetoric is an art," Daniel acknowledged Jack's point.  "That of using language to persuade others."

After taking a moment to absorb this, everyone looked at Kate.  She preened, graciously accepting the implied compliment.

"I'm fluent in twenty-three languages, some dead, both written and spoken, but my opportunities for artistic endeavour outside of calligraphy are limited," Daniel said with a faint sigh.  "I can make accurate sketches of artefacts, dig sites and architecture, and I do a lot of rubbing."  He took a few appreciative sips of excellent coffee.  "Pictograms, runes, glyphs."

"Backs."

Kate and Joe frowned at Jack.  Daniel did too.

"Hey, he never goes anywhere without his Zips Muscle Rub.  The average field archaeologist spends more time rubbing stiff necks than a physiotherapist does."

They continued to look at Jack.

"They dig stuff up.  On digs."  Jack made a little shovelling gesture.  "That's why they call them," he trailed off, apparently sensitive to atmosphere.  "Digs," he muttered under his breath.  His parents looked expectantly at Daniel.

Daniel shook himself and picked up where he left off.  "Plans, whether hand or computer rendered.  Structural representations," he said dismissively.  "I don’t have an artistic bone in my body.  Unlike Jack."

"Jack?"  Kate was astonished.

Jack sniffed disparagingly.  He was thinking of withholding his presents as a protest at his inhumane treatment by the regime.

"He brought you a present," Daniel announced.  "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, um, resting my eyes."

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

"You're not very good at this," Daniel informed them, with a fugitive grin.

"Correction," Jack smirked, jerking his thumb at the folks.  "They're not very good at this.  I, on the other hand, am more than good enough to have got you to the Windy City in one piece and with the minimum of whining."

"I was lulling you.  I never bought that line about your parents being, um," Daniel hinted slyly.

"Your parents?" Kate prodded Jack.

He scowled at her, rubbing his arm.

"Your parents?" she repeated, finger poised to prod again.

"Jack implied you were," Daniel paused for effect.  "Difficult."

"Difficult."

"Isn't that kind of pot and kettle, son?" Joe asked dryly.

"Jack's cover story was pathetic.  Every time he embroidered the original tissue of lies, he contradicted himself," Daniel said unkindly.

"He just thought you’d like us, and you do, don’t you, darling?" Kate asked him winsomely, feeling the need to reach out and touch, taking Daniel's hand again.

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, even if they were terrible amateur thespians.

"And you’re happy to be here with us?"  Kate had big brown eyes and she knew how to use them to devastating effect.  "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.  Truly the latest dumb idea in a depressingly long line of them.

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

"Okaaay," Daniel consented cautiously, looking extremely nervous.  "Where?  Er - how?"

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

"Mom!"

"New," Kate went on smoothly, "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 hand in hers and smiled.  "Did you bring any jeans?"

Looking slightly alarmed, Daniel nodded.

"Yes?  Great."  Kate eyed Daniel judiciously, suppressing an attempt to break free of her finger lock.  "Bare feet, I think" she decided.  "I’ll give you the sweater when we get up in the-"

"Mom!"  No way was Jack letting Kate romp around the attic with a half naked archaeologist.

Kate scowled at him. "Morning!" she finished with a snap.  "If that’s okay with you?  Jack?" 

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

Jack could see Kate was sorely tempted but she sighed and allowed artistic integrity to force her into making a tragic admission. 

"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 this 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.  This 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, shooting him a sneaky look.  "Jack’s bowl is impressionistic, too."
 


 

"Can I come in?" Daniel peeked around the open bedroom door. 

Ruth looked up from her nest of pillows, responding with a gamine grin and a wave of her TV remote.  She patted the bed invitingly and Daniel sat beside her, looking over in some awe at the lavish home entertainment centre and the vast wide screen TV.  He was fascinated at the surround-sound gunfire bouncing off the walls, glancing questioningly at Ruth.

"Look at those muscles," she breathed reverently.

Daniel looked at a confusion of khaki, sweat and dirt, gritted teeth and big guns.  "Whose?" he asked, perplexed.

Ruth hit him with the remote.  "Zeke!"

"Um."  Daniel looked at the flying body parts on screen again.

"You may be gorgeous, sweetheart, but, damn, you're slow," Ruth sighed.  "Him!"  She jabbed the remote in the direction of someone with a bandana tied like a sweat-band around his brow.

"Did they have a war in California?"

Biting her lip, Ruth hit him again.  Daniel winked at her and settled back against the padded headboard. 

"That's Vietnamese rainforest," she corrected him with a patronising sniff, as if it were self-evident.

Daniel looked at some stripped, grimy trees and dry grasses.  "Nooo," he said slowly.  "I know Vietnamese rainforest and this isn't it."

"Agent Orange," Ruth insisted defiantly.  "Only you can prevent forest!"

"Have you ever seen what Agent Or-?"

Ruth clapped her claw-like hand over Daniel's mouth.  "Will you just stop yakking and suspend your disbelief, already?" she demanded.  "I'm trying to watch, here."

Daniel took her hand from his mouth and held it gently between both of his.

Ruth, apparently willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, graciously refrained from wielding the remote in his direction.  She snuggled back into her pillows, her handsome face relaxing into a broad smile, her sharp eyes melting.  "He's da man," she confided chattily, making a little 'fanning self' motion as her eyes dwelt with fond lust on a large, muscular body.

Daniel, who'd watched TV with Jack on any number of occasions, wasn't fooled.  He kept his mouth firmly shut and kept patting Ruth's hand.

"Myron is hot too," Ruth commented as a fair-haired boy got shot and tumbled to the ground.  "But he looks like he's barely out of high school and I'm not a total pervert."  She gloated loudly when her manly sergeant rushed to the boy's rescue.  "His girlfriend was a complete bitch.  I cheered when they offed her.  Always rewind and replay that scene with the doohickey so she dies slower," she said nostalgically.

During the commercial break, Daniel saw the name of the show he was obediently being baffled by, noted a fat run of videos on the shelves but decided it was a minor detail, unworthy of comment.  Ruth was enjoying some lingering butt shots and what she described as snugglin', with much winking and nudging, and he was enjoying Ruth.

He was surrounded by exquisitely hand-crafted rag dolls of the Little House characters at various ages, a doll's house replica of the Little House itself, all the books, the books about the books, the complete video collection, including reunion specials, embroidery samplers, cross-stitch pictures of illustrations from the books, sepia reproduction photographs of Laura and her beloved Manly, as a girl with her precious family, and in a jointed wooden frame in pride of place by Ruth's pillow, a handwritten letter from Laura herself in one half, and in the other, a photograph of Ruth's much-worshipped husband.

Ruth's world had become very small, with the echo of many losses, but it was a world she filled with love and passion for all the life her frailty allowed.  There was an unhealed wound where her husband had been, the only children she had were those she taught, but those spaces she filled too, as best she could, with Kate and Joe, and her darling Jack.  She was a scrapper, zestfully playing her wicked games and taking great joy in her small, frequent victories.

Daniel thought she was a very great lady, even if she was a pervert with an unhealthy interest in his thigh.

"You don't talk much, do you?" Ruth complained as the credits rolled.  "Doesn't exactly make for scintillating company, you know.  You'd think a nice boy, visiting with a tired old lady, he'd put in the effort, offer up a little in the way of conversation."

She had the same attention span as Jack, too.


 

"You make your own pasta, Kate?  I'm impressed."

"I also grind my own beef," Kate told Daniel happily.

Jack coughed slightly.  This was not strictly accurate.  His mom had kept him pretty busy while Daniel was napping.

"Jack helped," Kate acknowledged grudgingly.

"I don't see any cartons," Daniel blinked in exaggerated confusion, peering at the pristine kitchen counters.

"Wiseass," Jack complained lazily, too full of homemade everything to fight, even if he was the one to make it.  "For your information, I pasta'd, ground, chopped, seasoned, layered and grated.  I also mowed, raked, chopped, weeded, vacuumed and dusted."

"Chopped?"

"Tomatoes, herbs and logs."

"I supervised," Kate winked.

"Criticised," Jack corrected.

"That was a, that was a long nap," Daniel said guiltily, very embarrassed.

"If you slept, you needed it," Ruth shrugged. 

"And Ruth should know.  She's an expert napper," Joe snorted, amused.  "It's like she flicks a switch and goes out like a light."

Ruth looked modest.

"Usually when we want her to do something she doesn't want to do," Kate added dryly.

Ruth's sly face said, 'of course.'

"I know the feeling." Daniel shot a bland look at Jack.

Jack held up the ice cream carton and waved it temptingly.  Ruth's face brightened greedily and she slid her crystal sundae dish across to him.

"You've had enough," Kate warned.  "Both of you."

"Cream with that?" Jack enquired as he lovingly nestled a generous scoop of café au lait richness in the dish.

"Mmm!"

"Selective hearing, too," Daniel commented to the table at large.  "And knees," he added vaguely.

"My back can also be tricky," Jack reminded him, with an eye to future exploitation of his infirmity.

"Weather and activity contingent," Daniel finished with a grateful nod to Jack.

"Activity?" Joe was curious.

"Pitching tents, digging latrines."

"Ah."

"These kinds of activities only seem to happen to other people."

"Sounds like Jack and high school," Joe snorted.

"Oh, let's not go there," Jack argued at once.

"Let's!" Daniel pleaded, entranced.

"I never really embraced high school," Jack announced as if this was all there were to it.

"Nor did I," Daniel asserted, to everyone's surprise.

"I thought you were a geek!" Jack objected.

"Well, you act the archetypal 'dumb jock'," Daniel countered a trifle coldly.

"Boys," Kate warned them crisply.  "Play nice."

"I loved to learn.  I loved to ask questions.  I preferred to make up my own mind how I thought and felt about things," Daniel shrugged.

"A good teacher will foster talent and originality," Ruth, once a teacher herself, spoke up.  "And always encourage honest endeavour and passion regardless of the ability of the student."

"Not all teachers are good," Jack said.  "Some of them just want more miles to the gallon until they get their pension."

"Not all teachers are willing to have their assumptions challenged or are prepared to defend their position," Daniel added.  "That isn't about learning, merely discipline."

"In a perfect world every child would embrace their education, give all their attention and commitment and hang on the words of their inspiring teachers," Ruth said wryly.  "This is a far from perfect world.  Control is a necessity and discipline must be imposed to create an environment where you make it possible for those who wish to learn to do so without harassment."

"Harassment?  That’s something teachers don't necessarily want to see, let alone act on."

"I agree with Daniel on that one."  Jack responded automatically to some hopeful craning towards the ice cream carton, obligingly sliding it in Daniel's direction.  "Some teachers are also less concerned with maintaining control than with exercising power.  They're the ones who do the harassing."

"Fear is never conducive to learning."  Daniel tilted the almost empty ice-cream carton towards Kate and gave her an expectant look.  She rolled her eyes, which he took to be permission to pig out.   He shoved his sundae dish out of the way and launched into an excavation of the carton.  "Whether it comes from the students or the teacher."

Jack grinned as Kate's eyebrows went up.  "Daniel never forgets his point.  Doesn't matter how long you think you've kept him distracted or what you've distracted him with.  As soon as you shut your yap, he opens his and picks up right where he left off.  It's a gift, and a damned annoying one."

"Were you bullied at school, son?" Joe gently asked Daniel.

"Let's just say I'm not your stereotypical pacifist," Daniel replied uncommunicatively.  "And I don't care for labels or the people who apply them."

"Ouch," Jack winced, stung by the blunt condemnation and aware it was probably intentional. 

"Did I not just hear the phrase 'dumb jock'?" Kate wondered aloud, before Jack could think of anything to say.

"No, you heard the phrase 'acts the archetypal dumb jock'."  Daniel was unmoved by the implied criticism.  "Which he does, for reasons no one but he can fathom."

Jack winced again and avoided his mother's eyes.  "Didn't I say he never loses track of an argument?" he grumbled.  "He calls me an ass, you know," he complained, looking for allies.

"Only when you act like one, and even then I don't apply it as a label," Daniel briskly rebutted this accusation.  I say, 'don't be an ass,' not 'you are an ass,' Jack."

"He has an ass," Ruth said fondly, responding to the only word which mattered.  "A great one."

"There are no labels for you!" Jack shuddered.  He had an ass, alright.  A bruised one.

"Our boy wanted the Air Force," Joe said with a smile, also keeping track of his original point.  "He always wanted to fly."

"Jack applied himself to what he needed to get him into the Academy and blanked the rest," Kate sighed.  "High school was a means to an end, nothing more.  PTA was always a minefield."

"Dogs were always my favourite people."  Jack felt this personal philosophy needed no further explanation.  Dogs forever.

"Interesting you chose to exchange one institutionalised closed society for another," Daniel was intrigued.

"No," Jack took instant exception to this insulting assessment, which was only accurate in sociological terms.  "It isn't.  It's simple.  I like having fun.  The Air Force is lots of fun."

"It also has lots of rules and regulations which aren't flexible or weather contingent," Daniel reminded him.  "Or fun."

"Did I mention the nagging persistence?" Jack muttered out the corner of his mouth to an attentive Joe.

Joe glanced involuntarily at Kate but heroically refrained from comment.  She scowled at him anyway, knowing an insult when she didn't hear one.  "We were proud of Jack," he hastily changed the subject.  "Even though he loathed high school with every fibre of his being, he turned up most days and got through it without killing anyone."

"Which is more than can be said for every mother's son in Alida," Kate said proudly.

"Alida?  She's referenced in one of the Belpre Legends from Puerto Rico, the Legend of the Hummingbird," Daniel babbled out on automatic pilot, perking up.  "It's a very romantic-"

"We do not need to know this!" Jack objected loudly.

"Yes, we do," Kate corrected him.  "Romantic?" she prompted hopefully.

"You see what he's like?" Jack appealed to his father, a sensible man.  "You see how impossible it is to have even the simplest conversation with him without it turning into this?  Pointless crap you don't want to know and didn't dream existed?" This didn’t have quite the effect he hoped.

Joe's eye brightened.  "You do crosswords, Daniel?"

"No, I'm sorry, Joe, I don't.  Not really.  I've spent half my life studying the written word and I find there's no real challenge for me in a crossword.  It's the same with word games, like Scrabble, unless you play with Jack's rules."

"Do I want to know?" Kate asked rhetorically, giving Jack a shuddering look.

"I didn't," Daniel assured her.

"I have a Scrabble board in my closet," Ruth smirked at Jack.  "I guarantee I'll kick your ass, whatever you think the rules are."

"Well, it would make a nice change from pinching it."

Daniel was starting to think his view of family life was perhaps a tad idealised.  Or maybe just young.  Maybe, if they'd lived, he and his parents would have reached a point where there was so much love and trust, such a deep bond, it was beyond expression.  Except through gratuitous insults, expert aggravation and tangential, subtly layered squabbling.

He felt out of his depth here.  For the first time, he understood how Jack could feel such certainty in his identity and his place in the world.  He'd never lacked for validation; there was an affection, a protective empathy and generosity here Daniel couldn't remember.  He was just too young when he lost it.

It was difficult for him to imagine a life without walls and defences, an, in his experience, necessary distance.  Jack and his family, they were one, a whole, so much a part of each other it hurt him, some, to see it. 

He was afraid he was falling a little bit in love with these people.


 

"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.  Cute, baggy, navy tartan fuzzy flannelette bottoms which hung low on his hips and a clinging t-shirt with Road Runner on the front and Meep Meep on the back.  Quite a lot of respectable muscle showed. 

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 as if force would be necessary.  He was going to insist on chaperoning the arty stuff.  He didn’t trust his dear old grey-haired 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 forty-eight years of marriage.  It made him feel, well, 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.

"Jack?"

"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 low riding flannel to the mix, it all got kind of disturbing.  Jack kept catching glimpses of a smooth, sculpted abdomen and didn't know where to put himself.  Downstairs on the couch seemed like the best plan.  He felt - weird.  It made him conscious of the usually comfortable silence and he found himself spouting forth without a clue where he was going.

"Daniel, just listen, okay?"

He was greeted by silence.

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

"Did you eat good food?"

"Fabulous food."  Daniel was emphatically grateful for this.

"Did you like the folks?"

"Loved them."  There was a slight pause. "Um."

"I know what you mean."

"No," Daniel disagreed gently, surprising him.  "No, I don't think you have a clue."

It was beginning to seem that way to Jack, yes.  Daniel's bright enthusiasm of earlier seemed to have evaporated and he wasn't sure why.  "Was this a mistake?"

"Not a mistake," Daniel sounded melancholy.  "I'm sorry, Jack, really, I just seem to have a lot on my mind."

"Maybe bringing you right back to Chicago wasn't such a swift idea," Jack acknowledged ruefully, knowing he'd pushed it.  "Steven Rayner didn't even get out of hospital yet, did he?"

"I don't want to think about Steven."

There was something in Daniel's voice which made Jack straighten up.  "Daaaniel?"

"I'm, I'm pretty sure he killed the lab technician, maybe the curator too."

"Isn't Osiris the obvious suspect?" Jack asked, startled by this unexpected accusation.

"Obvious?  Yes."  Daniel turned fully onto his side, facing Jack and too close, actually too close to him.  "I was there when Osiris found the email from the lab technician, Jack.  He was as surprised as I was by the results of the carbon dating analysis and the fact they'd gone to Steven as well as Dr. Jordan.  He was thrown by it, as if it weren't something he'd planned for.  The Goa'uld," Daniel hesitated, searching for a way to put this, "they just aren't that subtle."

"You really know how to pick 'em, Daniel."  Somehow, Jack couldn't bring himself to doubt this was exactly what had happened.  Rayner's reported epiphany in Osiris' tomb in Egypt probably had more to do with Daniel's influence with Hammond and the Air Force keeping him out of jail than any genuine desire for reconciliation.

Jack filed this information away for future reference.  He would need leverage if Rayner made waves about what he'd seen.  He would bury the sonovabitch if he had to, murderer or not.  Rayner disappointed Daniel and that was enough for Jack.  Daniel had been disappointed by too much in his life for Jack to tolerate it. 

He didn't care how that looked, not to anyone.

"Apparently," Daniel snorted with a flash of grim humour.  "My career effectively ended five years ago by any standard my colleagues knew, Dr. Jordan was dead, and Steven was still obsessed with beating me.  I don't know, Jack."  Hurt bewilderment sounded in his voice.  "I don't know what I could have done to have earned such enmity, then or now."

"Do you mind an opinion?"

Daniel's brows went up quizzically, though his eyes very soft, shining in the lamplight.

Jack shifted uncomfortably.  "You're better than he is," he said flatly.  "Better than all of them."

"That's not what you-"

"I know what you do," Jack cut him off.  He wanted to make a point here, not bicker.  "I know what you're capable of.  Believe me, I know.  It's at the back of my mind every time we gate out, exactly what you're worth to the SGC." 

This seemed to be news to Daniel, who wasn't sure how to take it.

Jack wasn't sure either.  He'd just opened his mouth and launched in without any kind of a game plan.  "Hammond was right about you, you know.  About your expertise being too valuable to risk and needing you on base to advise the other teams."

He could see Daniel was getting pissed, reading this as a judgement, which in a way it was.

"The thing is, I'm right too," Jack went on.  "I need you on SG-1.  The team doesn't function without you."

Daniel's mouth fell open and he flushed painfully.

"You won't tell anyone I?" Jack hinted uncomfortably.  Got mushy.  Whatever.

"They wouldn't believe me," Daniel said depressingly.

"Cheap shot, Daniel.  Cheap."  Jack was stung, again.  Uneasily aware that the closeness he and Daniel shared made any estrangement between them, on any level, painfully apparent to the base.  More people seemed to watch the two of them than SG-1.  "I don't know Rayner.  Going by report, I don't want to know him.  It doesn't change the opinion of a relative outsider that he's jealous of you."   Daniel's relationship with Sarah Gardner was an obvious bone of contention, but Jack was oddly reluctant to bring her up.  It was precisely because it bothered him he asked about it. 

Daniel frowned, seeming to give the question weight before he shrugged it off.  "Our relationship ended badly," he admitted stiffly.

Jack was embarrassed by his avid, immediate curiosity.

"And I was gone for years.  Sarah - Osiris said Sarah had looked for me on the fringes of the profession and found no sign.  There was nothing to threaten Steven, no indication from either of them they'd ever developed anything more than a friendly working relationship."  Daniel looked wry.  "To be honest, Sarah was as competitive as Steven.  They were far more interested in their relationships and relative positions with Dr. Jordan than they were in each other."

"Uh," Jack said edgily, aware he was inching out onto extremely difficult ground here.  "It might not have been you Rayner was jealous of." 

Daniel didn't seem able to make sense of this. 

"It might have been her.  Sarah." For a moment, Jack wished he didn't sound so grudging when he said her name.  Daniel had feelings for her one time and she was gone now.  He could afford to be more generous.  "It might have been."

Daniel opened his mouth to fire back an instant rebuttal, then subsided, red-faced and uncertain.  He was also pretty annoyed with Jack for making him go there.

"After five years, the guy was still fixated," Jack pointed out.  "I'm not even going to pretend that's healthy, but it sure explains why-"

"I get the point!" Daniel interrupted with a flare of irritation. 

He was as uncomfortable as Jack, who couldn't help but think he'd crossed a line here.  "I'm sorry I wasn't there," he apologised stiffly.  "I should've been with you."

"I don't need you to hold my hand, Jack," Daniel contradicted, annoyed.  "You're my friend, not my keeper."

Right out of the blue it occurred to Jack this was exactly what he needed to be.  Feeling in his gut this was at least part of the truth, he changed the subject at once, feeling almost panicked.  "Did you drink fine wines, enjoy good conversation, and generally chill out this evening?" he asked in a jarring change of subject.

"Er - yes," Daniel said awkwardly, seeming as glad to let it go as Jack and about as quick to make the conversational shift.

"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 obligingly joined some dots for Daniel, health-wise.  "After which blow out, is it any wonder you now feel kind of weird?  Given you’ve been living on caffeine and adrenaline alone for days?  And of course, being you, you have to share the weirdness."

Daniel ignored the petty and unanswerable. 

After a short pause, Jack heard a muttered, 'You’ve got great ‘pecks,' and was grateful to Daniel for following his lead as soon as he came up with something to say, even though he must be wondering what the hell was going on with Jack.  "Daniel, if you want to live ‘til morning, cut the mother hen cracks, okay?" he responded with obvious effort to an obvious prompt, ambushed by awkwardness.  "I know it wasn't a brilliant idea to bring you right back here but I figured you'd like my parents and I, well, I ignored all the rest." 

A swift sidelong glance revealed a mutinous archaeologist, one stubborn finger tracing the pattern on the comforter over and over.

"Same old, same old," Jack sighed.  "So it was a dumb idea to ignore anything.  I feel crappy, all right?" he apologised roughly.  "I wasn't there when all of this went down and this is my way to, er."

"Apologise?" Daniel's eyes were filled with sly, sudden humour.

Jack grinned ruefully, a little relieved, recognising this particular expression.  "Jeez, you’re gonna make my life a living hell over this, aren’t you?"

"It’s in my job description," Daniel replied demurely.

Jack's grin steadied.  "I know it.  Given all that good stuff, Daniel, can you think of one single reason why I shouldn’t have brought you home to the folks apart from the simple fact they live in Chicago?"

"Cornucopia," Daniel said obscurely.

"What?"

"The pattern on the comforter.  Cornucopia.  The horn of plenty."

Jack didn’t follow the connection, he rarely did, but he knew Daniel well enough to know he’d just surrendered his advantage on this particular argument. 

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 him, and hit the light switch.

"Sleep, Daniel.  That’s an order."

"Go to hell, Manly." 

Jack grinned, recognising this as sheer bravado.  Daniel was already getting drowsy and yawning, he’d just never quit unless he had the last word.  So Jack kept his yap shut, wondering if he'd cleared up anything or just confused them both further, and glad Daniel was too tired to really fight.

Beating Ruth's record for speed-sleeping, Daniel rolled cosily into Jack, throwing an arm heavy across his chest, seeking a closeness he'd never admit to when awake.

Jack was tired, and Daniel, even clingy and snoring, was familiar.  He should've been able to melt into an easy sleep but he wasn't comfortable, he couldn't rest until his arm found a spot which fit, curled around Daniel's waist.  Blanking his mind, he held him and didn't sleep for a long time.  He wasn't a fool and keeping his gritty eyes shut was easier for him than staring into the face he was drawn to.

He didn't need to be told how impossible it was.  How necessary he clung to his illusions of friendship.  There could be nothing more.  There shouldn't be.

He was still drawn, though.


 

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

Jack glanced at the clock, waited a beat, then called out a cheery greeting which belied his restless night.   "Good afternoon, Daniel.  Sleep well?"

"Sorry."

"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 less sense of self-preservation than a depressed lemming.  Fortunately, Ruth was just holding onto his hand.  It could be worse.  Much worse.  Jack now had matching bruises on his cheeks.

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 profusely.  "All I’ve done since I got here is-"

"Talk," Jack supplied helpfully.

"Sleep and-"

"Talk."

"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 smiled sweetly 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 which kicked off the whole miserable Osiris business in the first place, not after all the stupid stuff he blurted out last night.  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 was. 

"Ur was fabled as the city of the Sumerian moon god Nanna and the traditional home of the biblical patriarch Abraham," Daniel explained kindly.  "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.  I've never been around an archaeological museum with someone who knew what they were talking about."  Kate was enthusiastic.  "The painting can wait ‘til tomorrow, Daniel, darling, if you’re still up for it."

"If he gets up for it," Jack said sourly.
 
"The Oriental Institute have a fabulous collection of cylinder seals and vessels made from stone, metal and shells," Daniel said brightly.

Jack smiled sickly, seething as he was neatly outmanoeuvred and definitely outnumbered. "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 with Jack for being nice to him.

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

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!" Joe called out triumphantly.  "Thanks, Kate.  That clue was driving me nuts.  Daniel, what’s another word for dense?  Eleven letters, got a couple of ‘t’s in there."

Daniel eyed Jack thoughtfully.  "Substantial."

Jack sighed, forced to resist the urge to retaliate in case the folks escalated.  "Dad, I got thirty-seven 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 laid over a wooden core."

Daniel paused.  Jack guessed it was just because he needed breath for the rest of it.  He was going to explain how the bull's head was constructed.  Jack knew this.  Daniel made his teeth ache just like damp made his trick knee.

"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.  This meant he was building up to some explosive action and someone, namely Daniel, had better damn well be moving when he reached boiling point, otherwise said someone was going to die.  Slowly, painfully and with astonishing imagination.

They all regarded the Great Lyre.

"Yep.  Definitely bull."

They all regarded Jack with varying degrees of disappointment.

"You should know, hon," Ruth drawled.  "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, yes, they did do a lot of walking.  It kept things, um, toned.  And he had noticed Ruth couldn’t keep her hands off them, true enough.

"Mutin."

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

"Ruth was just saying you’re, um, pert," Daniel explained.

Pert?  Jack wasn’t really prepared to aggressively tackle any conversation between his dotty 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.

"Flippant?" he offered a cautious synonym.

Daniel rigorously suppressed another snigger.  "Perky."

After the long night he'd had, trying to sleep and not managing well, this was too surreal for Jack.  His own thoughts about Daniel had been difficult and ultimately, not all that different than this.  The thing of it was, he hadn't seen a funny side.  What he saw was a world of hurt unless he got a lid on this.  Seeing Daniel as attractive was one thing, that he could live with, but feeling attraction?

Unable to face the usual round of good natured bickering, Jack walked away and left them.

On to part two of Prodigal Son

If you enjoyed this revised version of Prodigal Son, please do write and let me know.  It was a nerve-wracking experience to say the least to re-write such a well-known and for some, fondly remembered story.  Even a simple 'thank you' or 'I enjoyed this' is an important message to send.  Thanks so much.  Biblio.

  Copyright
Biblio, PhoenixE, babs, Brionhet, Darcy, Devra, Fabrisse, JoaG, Kalimyre, Marcia, Rowan and Sideburns, 2001-2008.
Disclaimer
Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Stargate Productions, Sci Fi Channel, Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. These stories are for entertainment purposes only. No copyright infringement is intended. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author. These stories may not be posted elsewhere without the consent of the author. Copyright on images remains with the above named rightsholders.
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