Story Portraying the Strong Friendship between Jack
O'Neill and Daniel Jackson.
kid fic, angst, drama, etc.
this AU Jack is working as a security guard in the
New York Museum of Art in an effort to avoid dealing with the death of
His quiet world is disrupted when two archaeologists come into town to
set up a
had this story in my head for years so even though it’s
to write ‘finis’ I’m going to miss working on it. If you write, you
I mean. A sincere thank you to Cathe for helping me resurrect the
story, for encouraging
me to finish it, for feeding and watering the muse, and for writing a
intense scenes. Without her this project was dead in the water. Thank
thank you to Shazz for the sterling beta.It
Cathe (aka sami-j) notes: When Darcy
first mentioned this story she was working on (how many years ago?!) I
intrigued. When she sent me what she had written, I was hooked. I don’t
did as much as she thinks I did but I’m delighted if I was able to help
finish it. Thanks for letting me play (once again) in your sandbox,
was a wonderful, angsty ride!
“Often the test of
courage is not to die but
terracotta sculptures, European helmets, limestone statues,
Asian art, Medieval art, Greek art, Roman art, American art, swords,
armor including the shield of King Henry II, Islamic manuscripts,
century furniture, everything from fragile artifacts and priceless
ancient Egyptian tombs, the New York City Museum housed it all.
from all over the world to marvel at its treasures.
Studying the past
ensured the future.
Those who forgot
history were doomed to
yadda, yadda. Jack O'Neill's motives for patrolling the halls of the
museum had nothing to do with tired clichés or glorious
mysteries of the past.
His reasons were far simpler. The objects, and the people who had once
them, were dead. Long dead. They didn't talk or bitch or encourage or
They were quiet and lifeless. No longer relevant. Viewed only by
patrons as odd curiosities.
past had been somewhat glorious. Before he became a security guard at
museum he’d given ten years to the United States Air Force, followed by
years as a New York City
police officer, five of those working homicide as a detective. He’d
also been a
husband. And for ten short, precious years he'd been someone's dad.
glory ended two years ago when his son, Charlie, found his personal
accidentally blew his brains out. Now he was no longer a detective or a
or a father. He guarded the priceless dead. They didn't pity or comfort
condemn him, and more importantly, he couldn't screw anything up since
here had already been screwed hundreds of years prior.
as he tried to bury the past, these thoughtless, lifeless objects
had the opposite effect. Jack often imagined the museum dedicating a
case to Charlie. There was enough memorabilia. His ratty baby blanket,
his trusted childhood fuzzy teddy, his Yankees jacket, his model jet
collection, his baby shoes, the list was endless.
present, Charlie wasn't important enough to warrant a display. In a
hundred years the stuff would be as priceless to the world as it was to
today. He closed his eyes and imagined visitors checking out the
Who was he?
Nobody, just some
kid who never grew up. Who
knows who he might have been?
was the real kicker.
voice in the silent, closed museum startled him. What the hell? He glanced around but didn’t see anyone.
the determined, energetic voice repeated.
forgotten to look down. It was a blonde haired kid with blue eyes,
glasses and a radiant smile to boot. Jack came out from behind the
and tried his best to look cranky. It wasn't difficult.
rarely sat still during his job; he patrolled the entire main wing as
certain galleries that contained especially valuable exhibits. He was
the few security guards in the museum licensed to carry a weapon and
superiors liked him to keep moving.
just his luck that a kid showed up while he was manning the desk during
It was more of a grumble than a greeting. He was expected to be polite
museum visitor who approached him regardless of age or height. It was
favorite aspect of the job.
must be the archaeologists' kid. He’d been briefed, along with the rest
museum staff, about the archaeologists and their eight year old son.
setting up a new display in the Egyptian wing in his patrol sector.
The last thing he wanted to do was watch someone else's kid. He was a
guard not a babysitter. And what kind of parents let an eight year old
in a museum?The dark side within wished
the kid would break something to prove him right. Maybe crack a few
dynasty vases. That would teach them about young children left alone
fragile old crap.
by his unenthusiastic response, the little guy stuck out his hand and
grimaced as he shook it. It had been awhile since he'd touched a hand
small. Why couldn't the kid take the hint and beat it?
the kid said for the third time. "I'm Daniel Jackson. My mom and dad
setting up a replica of the tomb and some of the other artifacts we
found in Egypt.
be huge! We even brought the stone with the writings that was
the tomb. And Mom brought a stele and pieces of the funerary equipment
inside the tomb. It’s amazing we found so much intact because the
robbers usually stole everything. Well, the stele was already broken
the wall, but that was okay because otherwise my mom wouldn’t have
It's going to be so exciting. I can't wait to see it!"
that exciting?" The munchkin paused for a breath of air and then looked
for a nod or a few words of encouragement.
nice." If the kid was looking for some enthusiasm he was barking up the
wrong tree. Jack curled his lips in a sarcastic grin. It was all he'd
to manage in substitute of a smile for the past couple of years.
you want to come see it? I could explain the significance of all the
you have any questions. If I don't know something, I'm sure my mom or
hell was this kid?
guessed he wouldn't get any satisfaction out of the youngster breaking
something. Given the kid's knowledge and interest in old junk, that
spotted Grady coming toward them and glanced at his watch. Break-time
he needed to get moving.
right now. I'm busy. I have to patrol." Hopefully,
than encouraging response
would dampen the boy's enthusiasm.
go with you!"
luck. To Jack's surprise the kid nodded and fell in step beside him.
flashed an amused grin before taking his place behind the desk. Jack
growled at him but he was too distracted by his unwelcome shadow.
your name?" the tyke asked as they headed down the corridor.
your business. He had half a mind to say it out loud when Corky, one of
maintenance men, came around the corner pushing his cleaning cart and
tunes from the fifties. "Hi, Jack," he innocently greeted.
He acknowledged the man with a nod.
didn't waste any time latching on to the new found information.
Your name is Jack. Jack, are you excited about the new exhibit?"
yeah, can't ya tell?"
Come on, follow me. I'll show you where it is. We can patrol down
It was obvious
the kid didn’t do sarcasm. Jack refrained from pointing out he'd been
at the museum for well over a year and he certainly knew where all the
were and the location of the Egyptian wing. He bit his tongue and
followed the happy,
chattered on about some of the displays as they walked through the
of the collections were old and worn and held no appeal. The only
interesting to Jack were the suits of armor, the warrior helmets and
housed in the "Armor through the Ages" exhibit.
Charlie had loved
look at this!"
turned into the Ancient Near Eastern wing and Daniel stopped short in
an odd wooden statue that appeared to be half man and half beast.
you know this is a depiction of Anubis?"The
pushed up his glasses and waited.
leaned over the display case for a better look at the statue that had
of a human with the head of an animal, an animal with very large ears,
to Max, a German Shepherd he’d had as a boy.
you know it's from the Ptolemaic Period, 304-30 B.C?" The kid barely
paused between questions.
I can see that." It didn't take a genius to read the plaque describing
you know that Anubis is the god of embalming?"
didn't know that but the kid didn't wait for a response.
was supposed to protect the mummies in their transition between death
rebirth in the afterlife. See how he has the head of a jackal? That's
there were lots of jackals roaming around Egyptian burial grounds.
Anubis was the guardian of the dead. Did you know that, Jack?"
Okay, that was impressive. "How do you know all that?"
mom and dad told me. And I read lots of books. I know about a lot of
Egyptian gods. I can tell you about all of them." Daniel looked up with
Jack, sometimes Anubis is portrayed as a jackal, in this one his body
is a man
but if you ever see one where he's a jackal, it's still Anubis. I don’t
you to get mixed up. I used to get mixed up when my dad first told me
you." Yes, if that ever came up in casual conversation he wouldn't want
look like a fool. Amusement flickered briefly only to fade under the
his all-encompassing apathy.
at this one! Do you know what this is?"
to another display and leaned in to read the inscription. "A canopic
right!" Daniel seemed impressed despite the fact the name was right
on the card. "Do you know what they were used for?"
but I'm sure you're going to tell me." The kid was an endless fountain
jars were used to store internal organs like liver and lungs and
He hadn't seen that one coming. That couldn't be right. It sounded
you sure? Why would they jam a liver into a jar like that?"
child chuckled at his ignorance. "They had to remove it during
They had to remove all the organs so that's where they put them. The
the lungs, everything."
you don't find that the least bit disturbing?" How could this kid only
eight years old?
culture is different. Things that seem strange to us are normal to
and things that seem normal to us might seem strange to someone else."
your mom tell you that?" It sounded like a mom type of thing to say.
nodded, confirming Jack's suspicions.And
speaking of Daniel's mom, the boy had left him to
wander further down
the gallery and was now yammering on to a woman sporting a pair of
glasses and wearing work clothes and a head scarf to keep the sweat
dripping into her eyes.
walked up in time to catch the last half of Daniel's conversation with
"This is my new friend, Jack."
friend? That was a stretch. Hopefully Dr. Jackson would have the good
tell her kid to leave the poor, tired looking security guard alone.
stretched out her hand and smiled the same open smile that mirrored her
"Hello, I'm Claire." She tilted her head slightly and whispered, "Is
Daniel bothering you?"
Yes, he's bothering me. He opened his mouth to agree but a quick glance
kid's shocked expression was more than he could bear. "No, he's fine.
been enlightening me on the a... artifacts."
not bothering him, Mom." Daniel was indignant at the suggestion.
"Jack's my new friend."
his fake smile. The mom, Claire would never buy that. How could they be
friends? They'd just met.
does make friends easily." She smiled indulgently at her son. "Wherever
we go Daniel seems to make friends, young and old."
and old?He had no illusions which of
those categories he fell into.
he does," a voice behind them agreed.
turned to see a dark haired man with glasses approaching.
I'm Mel Jackson, Daniel's father." They shook hands and then Mel made a
sweeping gesture toward the soon-to-be exhibit in the next room. "As
can see, we’re still in the early stages of setting up. What do you
think of it
center of the room a pillar had been erected, about twice the height of
and almost half that around.Beside the
near wall some kind of stone or pottery pieces had been perched on what
like an ancient end table. A large, oblong piece of stone that had
broken and put back together hung on the wall. It was covered with
rumors he'd heard it was going to be one impressive display when all
and done, but so what?Who cared what he
thought? He knew nothing about Egypt
and tombs and coverstones. Still, it was nice to be asked.
is, isn't it?" Mel chuckled and then turned serious. "It's the find
of a lifetime." He winked, sneaking a glance at his wife who was
leaned in and whispered, "Is Daniel bothering you? He can be quite a
the exact question Claire Jackson had asked. Daniel must be renowned on
continents for bothering people. "No, I wouldn't say bothering
snorted at that. "If he's a problem I'll tell him it's the museum's
not to distract the guards, or that his mother and I aren't comfortable
him wandering around without us. I would never tell him he's a bother."
dad was a good man and this was probably his best chance to dump the
rugrat.Still, Daniel Jackson was an
interesting distraction from the drudgery that was his life. Best of
kid was only going to be in town for two or three weeks.
let you know if he gets to be a handful." Jack surprised himself with
clapped him on the shoulder. "Please do. Daniel's such a people lover;
he's too young to understand people's need for privacy."
nodded dumbly. It seemed the entire Jackson
clan was quite astute.
finished up the conversation with his mom and promptly attached himself
Jack's side. "See ya later, Mom. Jack and I have to patrol."
out of trouble, young man." Mel tousled his son's hair.
can I get in trouble?"Daniel
wrinkled his nose at that. "I'm patrolling."
it was going to be a long couple of weeks.
could figure was that Daniel Jackson was some kind of wonder kid. The
an endless source of information on a variety of subjects, but Egypt
stood out as his specialty. He was extraordinarily well versed in
pictographs, and glyphs, plus the languages and customs of the ancient
civilizations. Daniel weighed in on all these topics and more.
enthusiasm brought the inanimate objects to life and gave them a much
sense of relevancy. In the boy's eyes the museum wasn't a building
pieces of the past; it was a super playground of the present with
to be discovered at every turn.
fascinating as it was to listen to the kid ramble on about all things Egypt
more, it was break time and Jack's stomach was growling.
the radio and informed Mitch, his supervisor, who looked a few years
Daniel, that he was taking his lunch break. It was the same routine
which was the appeal of the job. It was the exact opposite of his
occupation. In the museum he didn't need to think. He did the same
things night after night. Nothing ever changed; its mindless monotony
Daniel, it's been swell talking to ya but I'm off the clock for
minutes and I'm going to the atrium to eat."
Okay!" To Jack's surprise, Daniel took off at a gallop then had second
thoughts and slowed down to walk as swiftly as possible without being
running in a museum. Someone, probably his parents, had obviously read
riot act about that particular no-no.
his head in amusement and headed over to the atrium where food and
allowed. He took his usual seat by the huge window and had barely taken
first sip of coffee and opened up his lunch bag when he heard a small
determined voice in the distance.
I am, Jack!" Daniel was breathless as he came around the corner.
to smile as he envisioned the boy's unique, fast-paced walk, which was
quite running, that had enabled him to pick up whatever was in the bag
carrying and make it back to the atrium in record time. Daniel Jackson
nearly impossible to resist, the kid couldn't imagine anyone being
thrilled to see him and Jack didn't have the heart to disillusion him.
pulled out a chair and sat down beside him.
what's the big rush?"
pushed up his pesky glasses and gave him a look that clearly expressed
at the silliness of the question. "I had to get my dinner, Jack, so I
eat with you."
he didn’t remember mentioning he'd enjoy company for dinner. And what
with the 'Jack?' He should correct the kid and insist on being called
O'Neill. He and Sara had always insisted Charlie address adults as Mr.
so and so. It was more respectful.
question occurred to him. "Shouldn't you be in bed?"
Daniel nodded happily. “But our schedule's all mixed up when we're
what’s in here?"Daniel held the
bag in the air and shook it.
eyes were shining brightly. It was obvious Daniel meant no disrespect
didn't have the energy to play the grumpy old man role he'd perfected
kids to protect himself from painful memories. Besides, this kid didn't
have a clue."
slowly opened the bag and stuck his hand inside, sneaking a peek to be
was being watched before pulling a white Styrofoam box out of the bag."It's kabobs from the Kabob Café! It's
an Egyptian restaurant I went to with my parents last night. Isn't that
Jack?Kabobs from Kabobs! Did
He hadn't been out to dinner in years, assuming Taco Bell and Burger
didn't count as dining out.
you like Egyptian food?" Daniel demanded.
he did like Middle Eastern food. "Yes, I do.But
had any in a while."
not?" Daniel kept one eye on him and the other on the bag as he
around for more goodies.
don't get out much." Truer words were never spoken. Damn, that kabob
you have a wife?"
Danger, danger, Will
I don't." He'd leave it at that.
Kids were dangerous not only because they were reminders of what he'd
also because they didn't take hints or understand personal boundaries.
People don't like to eat out alone." Daniel must have decided that was
problem and he'd fix it. "I'll ask my mom and dad if you can come to
Kabobs. We'll go for lunch before you have to be at the museum. You
with us!" Excitement danced in the sparkling eyes.
that's okay. I won't be able to make it."
have a very busy schedule." And he did. Laundry, dishes, napping,
the crap he'd recorded the night before on the DVR, and reading the
pages. Very busy.
okay." It deflated the little guy for all of five seconds. "I know! You
can taste my dinner and I'll taste yours. Then you can try the kabobs
and I can
try what you have. What do you have, Jack?"
Jackson didn't give up easily, that much was obvious. Jack let out a
he really just met this kid, he checked his watch, three hours ago?Arguing had already proved fruitless so he
decided to go with the flow.
let's see what you got." He couldn't lose, the kabobs from Kabobs
Opening the Styrofoam box, Daniel let out an exaggerated "ta
and pulled out what must be the kabob. He took his time unwrapping it
revealed a skewer of beef and grilled vegetables. Jack's mouth watered
"You could pick chicken, beef or lamb but I picked beef. I
lamb because I don't want to eat a baby lamb. But lamb is very popular
Egyptian food.See this? This is
zucchini, and these are carrots and peppers. And see these nuggets,
called kafta nuggets, they're made from ground beef and lamb. I eat the
nuggets even though they have a little tiny bit of lamb in them.
good. Taste it, Jack!"
as soon as his head stopped spinning.
that is good." After chewing slowly and savoring the rich flavor, Jack
popped another one of the nuggets into his mouth. Most kids would be
on chicken McNuggets. Daniel Jackson was nothing like most kids.
do you have?" The kid was eyeing his brown bag with no small amount of
No need for
Jack to open the bag and look. He had what he always had. "Peanut
bananas and Fluff on wheat."
Daniel's eyes scrunched in confusion.
tell me you've never had Fluff. And you consider yourself a connoisseur
decided to lay it on thick. Strange as it was, he was beginning to
himself. "Fluff is part of American culture. It's what our country was
built on. The Fluffernutter is an American tradition that will never be
equaled. It's hard for me to believe you've never heard of it."Kabobs from Kabobs, hah, he could do better
Jack spoke he opened his lunch bag with a flourish and offered half of
great American classic to the odd young boy sitting across the table.
his mind to wonder if the Drs. Jackson would be happy with their son
a beef and vegetable kabob for a Fluffernutter. The smile on the
face chased the thought away. Daniel was completely sold on the idea.
took a huge bite and declared, "This is the best sandwich ever!"
couldn't help smiling at the proclamation. Charlie had loved Fluff.
middle of the night was not a good time to be walking around the city
didn’t care.The museum was two blocks
from the subway line while the apartment he’d been renting for the last
years was just four blocks from another subway stop.
worked out well. Since narrowing his life down to his apartment and
given up his beloved truck. Some people thought riding the subway after
guarantee of trouble,
but he’d never had a problem. The bad guys tended to prey on the weak
always looked tough. If they only knew.
reached his stop a little after two-thirty a.m. and walked the four
It was almost
three in the morning by the time he arrived home and stuck his key in
nothing unusual there, same as most work days. Except, this one felt
For the first time in a long time he didn't automatically turn on every
in the place and crank up the TV to chase away the gloomy silence.
stood in the dark, paralyzed in the middle of his kitchen trying to
of what had happened at the museum.
hell was wrong with him? He'd let this kid, Daniel Jackson, get to him.
happened he'd never know, but it had to stop. Thinking of Daniel led
thinking of Charlie, and thinking of Charlie led him into debilitating
he couldn't afford to go. Places that reminded him he hadn't always
to a dark, lonely apartment. In his past life, he'd been greeted with a
welcome on a daily basis.
been fine at work. If he was being honest, he'd actually had fun with
He wouldn't have believed that possible, but it was true. It was only
way home that the fun had turned into depression. Jack opened the
grabbed a beer. He needed a drink and then tomorrow he'd take Mel
Jackson up on
his offer to tell his son that the cranky security guard was off
limits. That decision,
along with a couple more beers and a replay of the Mets game on the
it easier to fall asleep. It was settled, he'd put an end to this
Jack opened his eyes and checked the time, he was thrilled to see it
was one in
the afternoon, late even by his standards. If sleep was the great
Jack O'Neill was a gifted escape artist. The less time he had to kill
heading off to work the better. He turned on the TV for background
going through his daily routine of taking a shower then sitting down to
of Captain Crunch and mindlessly flipping through the sports channels
scores and updates.
shortened afternoon flew by with no bleak thoughts of Charlie and the
of Daniel Jackson and the present.
way to work late that afternoon he stopped off at his favorite
store to buy the paper and a cup of coffee. Nothing new there. What was
the can of gummy worms he added to the routine purchases. Gummy worms
gross and disgusting and loved by kids everywhere.
Daniel might like
random thought startled him before he decided the gummy worms would
great 'good bye' gift when Daniel's dad informed him the dynamic
from last night was being disbanded.
Pops. Daniel probably never had gummy worms or a tootsie pop. Jack
between the two ideas before buying a grape tootsie pop and the can of
worms. He had no doubt Daniel would not only love them but would find
Charlie had loved
Why did every road lead to Charlie?No,
he wasn't going down that path today. For the first time in forever he
looking forward to going to work and he wasn't going to ruin the
Admittedly, 'looking forward to' was a bit strong. 'Not dreading' was
candy. Yep, Daniel would get a kick out of it. He shouldn't do this. He
better. Yet here he was, Jack O'Neill, a shadow of his former self,
tootsie pops and gummy worms for a little boy. It was beyond
turned to get out of line and stop his foolishness and put everything
the clerk gave him a bored, "Next." What the hell. It was getting
late and if he left now he'd have to wait in line all over again, not
mention his coffee was getting cold.
he’d lingered too long in the store and now he was going to have to
get to the subway to be on time for work. He hated being late.
minutes later a rushed Jack O'Neill reported for duty. By the time he
to the security desk to relieve Macklin it was .
about time," his colleague razzed him. "I gotta run. I'm taking the
wife out to dinner."
fun," Jack mumbled as Macklin disappeared. Was he that predictable and
punctual that Macklin had made a joke about the one minute? Before Jack
time to properly mull it over he heard light footsteps on the floor.
you're here!" Daniel rushed up to greet him with shining eyes and an
A hero's welcome.
of a little boy this excited to see him was painful. Jack set the
the bag of goodies down behind the desk and tried to ignore his
I work here and my shift starts at , so I'm here. Where else would I be?"
have a surprise for you for dinner." Daniel answered, ignoring the
grip, O'Neill. It wasn't Daniel Jackson's fault he was an enthusiastic
boy. "That's funny because I have a surprise for you, too."
do?" Daniel stopped dead in his tracks and squinted up at him in
"What is it, Jack? Is it something to eat?"
not saying. That would ruin the surprise."
you want to give me a hint?" Daniel clapped his hands together barely
to contain his excitement.
hints." There was no denying the kid was cute.
a little, tiny one?" Daniel held his thumb and forefinger a few inches
apart for emphasis.
about the kid made Jack grin against his will. He didn’t want to get
Daniel was making it difficult. Jack couldn't decide if it was the
persistence or his intelligence, or maybe it was his kind heart. He
to consider the possibility it was the blonde hair, the innocent eyes
disconcerting hero worship thing.
Jack was beginning to relax and enjoy himself when Claire Jackson
corner and walked up behind her son.
Guess what? Jack has a surprise for me. I think it's something to eat
dinner but he's not going to tell me because that would ruin the
to see you again, Mr. O'Neill." Claire grinned and offered her hand and
Jack shook it. "We heard so much about you last night."
Call me Jack." He cringed at the thought of Daniel yammering on about
then tried to remember if he he’d made any inappropriate, sarcastic
Daniel may have repeated.Nothing came
to mind. Of course, that didn't mean he hadn't made any. What the hell
Daniel find so fascinating that caused the kid to chat him up to his
decided he'd tell one of the adult Jacksons
his decision to go back to patrolling alone later on, after he had the
giving Daniel the American candy classics during his break.
I think Daniel will be disappointed if it isn't one of those peanut
flutters," Claire winked.
smile widened and Jack was relieved yesterday's food exchange didn't
also insisted I invite you to brunch with us tomorrow. We're going to
Café and we'd love to have you join us. Daniel says you're a big
fan of Kafta
remember, Jack? You really, really liked those!" Daniel's smile lit up
room. And it was a big room.
I remember them." Of course he remembered. It was yesterday for crying
loud. He wasn't that old and feeble. "I'm sorry, Dr. Jackson, I won't
able to make it."
call me Claire."
Claire. I, um, I have things to do tomorrow."
understand completely." Claire gave him an apologetic smile. "Daniel
insisted we invite you and I want you to know you'd be welcome any
you make it Friday, Jack? We could go Friday instead of tomorrow,"
The kid seemed
mighty disappointed and Jack wasn't sure how to bow out gracefully, He
his hands and shrugged. "I'm sorry."
he can't come. I'm the one who's sorry. When Daniel gets an idea in his
he's quite persistent."
no problem." I just..." He wasn't sure what to say and was grateful
when Daniel interrupted again.
don't understand. You like Egyptian food. You can't come on any day?"
not really." He wouldn't have thought it possible but he felt faint
creep up his neck. He couldn't remember the last time, post Charlie,
enough about something to blush.
It was a
relief when Claire came to the rescue. "Daniel, Mr... Jack can't come.
was an invitation, when you invite someone somewhere they have the
saying yes or no. It's rude to badger them about their decision and
you're so busy, Jack?" Daniel was crestfallen at the rejection.
busy." Jack forced a smile Claire's way and announced he needed to get
back to his duties.
too, Mom. We better get going, huh, Jack?"
like that the shine was back in the blue eyes. The idea of patrolling
the kid up considerably and reminded Jack of how little it took to
child, even one as brilliant as Daniel Jackson.
few tours around the museum Daniel had all but forgotten about the
invitation and was content to yak away about gods and goddesses and
disappeared for a while after his dad tracked him down and dragged him
check out a new, apparently thrilling piece of the exhibit that was
in place. Daniel had invited him along but the peace and quiet beckoned
than what probably looked like a bunch of big rocks so Jack had
the last he'd seen of the youngster for the past few hours.
at his usual table near the window, Jack took a few more bites of his
shocked by feelings of disappointment at not being able to share the
treats' he had purchased for Daniel. It was just as well. He finished
and was about to toss the gummy worms and tootsie pop in the trash when
blonde head appeared in the entryway.
I'm here!" Daniel hurried toward him swinging a white bag in one hand
a bottle of water in the other. "And I have your surprise!"
Breathless, the kid pulled out a chair and plopped down beside him. He
up his glasses and checked out the remains of what had been Jack's
"Oh, you already ate." His face fell with disappointment.
you still a tiny bit hungry?" The optimistic tone was impossible to
"I'm sure I could squeeze in a little more." Jack patted his stomach
and then balled up his napkin and plastic baggie and stuffed them into
good!We went to The Village Bakery on 18th street
they had all kinds of treats so I picked one for me and one for you."
thoughtful. Jack didn't get a chance to voice that out loud. Daniel was
picked them because they had animal names but they're not really
Daniel explained, just like he had with the statues and artifacts.
just have the shape of an animal. Or part of an animal. You want to
wait," Jack smirked. The build up reminded him of last night's kabob
Daniel quit talking and opened the white bag. "It's bear claws! That's
what they're called, Jack. Bear claws. Isn't that funny?"Daniel removed two delicious looking
pastries. "They're supposed to look like a bear's claw. This one is
and raisin and this one is butter pecan and dates. We could try a
each one to see which we like the best. Want to?"
was such a unique character that Jack laughed in spite of himself.
pecan and dates are really good," Daniel declared after going ahead
his plan and taking a huge bite. "Try it," he encouraged around a
mouthful of bear claw.
obliged and declared both of them delicious. "Hey, save some room.
Remember I have a surprise for you, too." He pulled out the small
bag from the convenient store and took out the can of worms and the
pop. They looked meager compared to the bear claws.
is it?"The kid slugged down a huge
gulp of water to wash down the pastry and then fixed his gaze on the
pulled the purple tootsie pop out of the bag and wondered whether
ever had a lollipop. Then he set the garbage can of gummy worms beside
"What do you think?"
sucker. Thank you, Jack." That answered that question.
in here?" Daniel picked up the can and shook it.
it and see." Jack glanced at his watch. He needed to sign in and get
Daniel peered into the can.
worms." Jack needed to hurry this along. "Worms you can eat. They're called
worms. It's candy." He gulped down the last of his cold coffee and
up his garbage.
eyes went wide with excitement. "Worms
I can eat," he repeated with childish delight. "I have to go show my
mom and dad." He took off toward the exit. Jack wrapped the remains of
bear claws in a napkin to eat later, tossed the trash and headed in the
Daniel ran back toward him.
Jack had time to flinch, Daniel threw his arms around his waist and
Then the boy looked up and smiled. "Thank you for the surprise, Jack. I
really, really like it."
he could answer, Daniel let go and galloped off in a flash.
later Jack arrived home exhausted and perplexed. He cracked open a beer
slumped down on the couch. What the hell was wrong with him?
at the museum had been a fluke. He’d been wandering around that day
something he’d lost, searching for a piece of his son, when Ted
Macklin, one of
the guards from the dayshift, had spotted him sitting on a bench in one
corridors. They knew each other slightly from his visits with Charlie.
must be busy at the station.” Macklin knew he was a cop. “I haven’t
around in a while.”
work there anymore.” A simple, flat statement, as many words as Jack
uttered in weeks.
Macklin’s eyes were suddenly bright with interest. “The museum is
looking for a
new security guard, with your background you’d be a shoe-in. For you
would be a no-brainer.”
the last line that had caught Jack’s attention. A no-brainer was
he was looking for in a new line of work. The job had lived up, or
down, to his expectations. It had proven itself again and again to be
place to shut down inwardly without any obvious outward change.
problem this week was Daniel Jackson. The kid had a way of slipping in
his radar and sneaking past his formidable defenses. Maybe he was
much of it. It wasn't permanent. As soon as the exhibit was set up the Jackson's would
and be gone and things would get back to normal.
comforting thought allowed Jack to sleep well into the afternoon which
have made it a perfect day except for the fact that it was Friday and
museum was opened until nine on Fridays and Saturdays. It closed at
on weekdays. His shift started at six which meant Fridays and Saturdays
the only possible days of the week he had to deal with the public. For
full hours. Normally he hated working either one of those days. On a
note, he was fairly certain Mel and Claire Jackson wouldn't allow
Daniel to run
wild in a museum full of strangers. Avoidance was his best defense
blond hair and the innocent blue eyes.
He was right.
the museum was fairly crowded with patrons and tourists, Jack was
there were no signs of the chattering munchkin from the last few
Surprisingly, it was preferable to face the masses than to face one
He signed in and went to the desk to relieve Macklin.
exciting I should know about?" Jack shuffled paperwork and stuck with
routine questions that allowed him to get through life in a constant
unruly teens, a couple of lost kids, lost keys, lost souvenirs, the
rolled his eyes and nodded. The list of problems rarely changed and
involved the word 'lost'.
and some school kid threw up in the Asian gallery," Macklin added.
Jack winced. "Sorry I missed it."
out." His counterpart flashed him a smile and left Jack to get
and start his tour around their shared sector to help find lost things
direct lost people. Sadly, the lost part was actually the best aspect
working with the public. The questions people asked him and the things
expected never failed to amaze and irritate him. The worst was when
him to baby-sit, just for a few minutes, so a mom could enjoy an
exhibit in peace.
Or they'd ask if he'd mind running over to the gift shop to pick up a
minute souvenir. Then they'd have the nerve to be annoyed when he
wasn't allowed to run errands while on duty. God he hated weekends.
first few hours went smoothly enough. As Jack walked through the
automatically watched for people who seemed nervous, people carrying
bags that should have been checked at the entrance and people who might
into a problem. So far he'd found a purse for a grateful, harried mom
directed at least ten people to the restrooms. Another exciting day in
of top notch security guard, Jack O'Neill.
past eight when he spotted two young teens horsing around in the
housed a few large paintings from the Renaissance period. The paintings
hung on the walls here were unprotected and the boys were dangerously
accidentally knocking into one. Last year in this same hallway they'd
piece of gum stuck to one of the frames. People could be so
again, he had to remember it was the actions of the few and not the
drew the criticism.
approached the youngsters and hoped they were the type of kids who
properly ashamed that a security guard had to speak to them about their
guys, there's no wrestling or fooling around inside the museum."
weren't doing anything," they both turned around and spoke in unison.One was tall, redheaded and husky and looked
like he belonged on his school’s football team. The other was shorter
shaggy brown hair seriously in need of cutting. He was so skinny Jack
a brisk wind would blow him away. Though they were very different in
appearance, they wore the same annoyed expression.
should mind your own business," the taller one added.
not the shameful types.
is my business." Thanks to a year of practice Jack was able to force a
smile and take a polite tone. After countless, mind numbing training
he'd accepted the fact that his job was twofold. Yes, he was here to
the exhibits, but he was also here as a public relations ambassador for
museum. That's what they called it, a public relations ambassador. The
time he'd heard the term he'd nearly fallen off his chair with
inappropriate laughter. He'd been hired to work the nightshift and his
supervisors were aware he didn't possess the best people skills so he
worked either Friday or Saturday limiting his 'ambassador' work to
approximately three hours a week.
going to need to keep moving. And like I said, there's no running,
yelling in the museum."
weren't yelling," the kid argued. "And we paid to get in here so we
should be able to do whatever we want."
keep moving." Jack smiled his fake smile.
don't you get a real job and leave us alone," the shorter one said as
two moved slowly down the corridor.
watched them until they headed up the stairs. Great, no longer his
radioed the upstairs guard to keep an eye out.
forty-five Jack watched George Grady, who’d been working the third
escort the same two brats down the escalator towards the front desk.
who looked to be their moms were waiting with Mr. Michaels, the manager
whose job was too smooze over any problems. Now that must be a fun job.
walked over to listen in and back up Grady if necessary.
story was similar to what had happened downstairs except this time the
told Grady to fuck off. The moms, of course, decided if the guards
badgered the poor kids nothing would have happened. One of them went on
mention they were museum members and expected to be treated with the
respect. Everyone was treating her and the brats with the utmost
only ones not being respected were the guards.
had to speak to them earlier when they were horsing around in the
gallery," Jack offered in support of his coworker.
you for your input Mr. O'Neill. I think I have a clear picture of what
happened. I'll take it from here."Michaels
excellent at his job and apparently didn't
need any help.
Jack had to admit the man seemed to have the situation well under
control as he
walked the two women and the boys toward the exit.
turned to Grady. "Did I say something wrong?" He was sure he had
maintained a polite tone and followed protocol.
Jack," Grady laughed. "You just look mean."
What the hell?
worry about it. The place is closed for another night. Let's go find
crap the hordes left behind and then we can enjoy the peace and quiet."
him to say, he didn't have a persistent eight year old trailing him,
his every move. Speaking of which...
the kid rushed up to greet him. "I was looking for you."
course you were," Jack acknowledged with slightly less enthusiasm.
can't stay and patrol with you tonight but I want to ask you something."
couldn't stay tonight? Happy days were here again.
often the case, Daniel didn't wait for an answer but charged full steam
with his question. "Are you working on Sunday?"
Where could this possibly be heading? He could only hope it wasn't
good!" The child clapped his hands in delight. "Me and Mom and Dad
are going to have a picnic at eight o'clock on Sunday evening and you
too. We're going to have lots of Middle Eastern food so I know you'll
Can you come?"
maybe." There was no point in arguing.
I have to go. Dad's going to work some more on the exhibit but me and
going back to the hotel to relax and maybe go swimming!"
like fun," Jack grimaced.
I won't be here tomorrow. Are you working tomorrow?"
have the same day off!" Daniel seemed amazed at the revelation.
like it." It was impossible not to smile at the kid's thought
Daniel, do I look mean to you?"
pushed up his glasses. What, the kid needed to get a better look?
not right now, Jack. I'll see you on Sunday! Don't forget. ."He babbled a few more directions and then
disappeared down the main hall.
at nine o'clock at night?The Jackson's were
people. Nice, but peculiar.
museum was closed for the night. Daniel Jackson had left the building
was quiet. Deathly quiet. Just the way Jack liked it.
quiet at home, too, until a loud thud banged on his bedroom wall and
up. Damn it! Jack sat straight up in bed and checked the clock on his
nightstand. It was after
but he definitely could have slept in later if not for the neighbor
next door. He had half a mind to go over there and ream them out for
of consideration. After a few more bangs the noise stopped and Jack
down. He scrubbed a hand over his face and rubbed his eyes, deciding
knocking on his neighbor's door to complain about hammering at on a Saturday
on his sweats and dragged himself to the kitchen to pour out a bowl of
breakfast. God damn it, he was out of milk. And bread and bananas and
all his other
favorite staples. If he was out of beer a trip to the market was in his
immediate future. One bottle left. He flicked on the TV in disgust and
to wait until later in the afternoon to shop in hopes the grocery store
be a little less hectic than it tended to be earlier in the day on
Jack went into his
bedroom to throw on pair of jeans and a shirt. He wasn't sure why he
effort. Who cared?It was probably only
a matter of time before he started wandering down the few blocks to the
store wearing his sweats and slippers. That would prove to the world
up completely. He laughed at how the old Jack O'Neill would have
cringed at the
thought. At least for now, he still felt the need to dress.
leaving he donned his baseball cap and pulled it down low, just above
so he could see people but they'd have a hard time seeing him. It was
that it was a beautiful day with blue skies, moderate temperatures and
of sunshine. Everyone would be out. If not for the beer problem he'd
it rained, or at least until the weekend was over.
eye contact, Jack made it to the store and shopped as quickly and
as possible without drawing any unwanted attention. He'd been smart to
later, the market wasn't nearly as crowded as it would have been in the
He made it to the checkout line with his 'in and out no one gets hurt'
playing in his head when the worst happened.
didn't turn around. There were plenty of Jacks in New York City. With any luck this had
to do with him.
O'Neill is that you?"
turned toward the voice. "Hi." He knew her but the name wouldn't
a confused look of her own.
Holmes, the secretary who had been with Homicide for the entire five
worked there. How could he have forgotten her name? "Sharon,
how've ya been? Are you still at the
23rd?" He added the second question
to prove he remembered her.
relaxed and he could tell she was relieved he'd recognized her, proving
wasn't completely wacko.
fine, Jack. How are you doing?" She touched his arm when she asked and
was all he could not to push her hand away, drop his basket and run
not at Homicide anymore. I transferred to Robbery in the 60th to be
closer to home
and the kids," she offered.
nice." And it was. It made him feel better knowing she wouldn't be
into his old precinct tomorrow, asking everyone to guess who she ran
the grocery store. It was too easy to envision his former colleagues
friends shaking their heads and murmuring about the sad fate of the
you ever need anything or want to talk I don't live very far from here.
and I are divorced now. Not that it matters," she added. "Never mind."
ignored her blush and loaded his groceries on to the counter, relieved
appeared uncomfortable, too.
fine," he reiterated, forcing the confident O'Neill bluster of days
Jack. It was good seeing you again," she smiled.
impossible to agree with that statement so he nodded back with what he
was a reassuring smile. If he caught any hints of pity from her it
him spiraling into a depression that could last for weeks. Sharon waved and
went back to shopping while
Jack paid for his groceries and made a bee line for the door.
rushed out into the sunlight carrying his bags and walking with long
strides down the sidewalk, desperate to get back home. So much for
He'd never go into that market on a Saturday afternoon again. Hell,
go there on a Saturday period. Why take any chances? At least he hadn't
wearing sweats and slippers.
wasn’t a far walk, but the beer was heavy and Jack was sweating by the
made it back to his apartment. He put the food away and then took a
an effort to forget the look on Sharon's
face when he'd stumbled over her name like a bumbling old fool.
out had been easy for the past couple of years. Not so lately. He told
today was nothing more than an unavoidable, unfortunate accident. As
much as he
hated seeing people from his old life, it was bound to happen on
occasion. He slapped
together a peanut butter sandwich which reminded him of Daniel Jackson.
once focusing on the Jacksons
and the present seemed preferable than the alternatives. He took a bite
sandwich and flicked on the TV. He had no intention of dwelling on
like Sharon Holmes or the irresistible Daniel Jackson and family. He
need any of them. Saturday afternoon meant baseball, beer and peanut
had everything he needed right here.
only watched two innings when the phone rang. Oh for crying out loud.
answering machine clicked on.
Jack. It's me. Just a... checking in to say hi and see how you're
doing. If you
ever want to get together for a beer or something give me a call. You
number. I'll just sit by the phone and wait." Then a faint sarcastic
chuckle followed by, "Okay, I'll a... talk to ya soon."
Charlie Kawalsky, his ex-partner from homicide. Was the bastard ever
get the hint and give it up? Probably
not. At least it was a phone call and not a visit. The last time
stopped over unannounced had been awkward. They’d sat on the couch and
beer and watched a football game with only a few stiff comments
between them and those strictly confined to talk of the game.
Jack didn't care. He hadn't invited Kawalsky, the man had shown up at
with a six pack and invited himself in over Jack's protests. Now his
stuck to calling on the phone a couple times a month even though Jack
to pick up. He only picked up for two people. Work and Sara. And sadly,
called far less than Kawalsky did.
Sunday evening Jack patrolled the museum grateful the weekend was
He checked his watch and was surprised to find it was already past
Daniel had invited him to eat dinner with his family. Invited, by
Jackson standards, translated to 'insisted.' The way Daniel had talked
meal Jack was sure Mel and Claire were expecting him. He had no
barging in on their family time together but the polite thing to do
would be to
let the Jacksons
know he wasn't going to be able to make it. was too early for him to
take a break and
eat his sandwich so he was well-armed with a handy excuse. Apparently
the first time the Jackson
clan had dined out on the museum grounds because Daniel had explained,
detail, how Jack should exit through the door just past the gallery
exhibit of armor to find their favorite spot.
hummed as he passed by that gallery to avoid looking in at the
needed to stay focused on his mission, say hi, apologize for not being
stay, and leave gracefully. In and out,
no one gets hurt. Hopefully the mantra would work better here than
in the grocery store.
opened the heavy door and blinked against the light from the setting
reflecting off the windows on the high rise down the street. For a
stood still, waiting for his eyes to adjust, and while he waited he
light seemed to be bouncing off everything it touched, highlighting
on the maple tree a few yards away and bringing the roses blooming
walkway into sharp focus. The colors of the blooms startled him with
crimson red, shining gold and soft pink, and along with their colors
summer sun had brought out the scents of the flowers until the garden
filled with their fragrance.
turned his head slowly, taking in the amazing sights and smells. When
up again he had to narrow his eyes to cut down on the brilliance of the
sun.High rises blocked the full glory
but they couldn’t hide the radiant changing of light or the clouds
that reflected the sunset in luminous washes of sapphire, scarlet and
a deep breath and rubbed his temple. Was this an exceptional evening or
become such an expert at not paying attention that he no longer noticed
like sunsets and the smell of fresh cut grass? No matter, he needed to
apologies and get back inside where the past remained in the past and
remnants of the dead stayed dead.
A quick sweep of the area revealed no archaeologists or genius kids in
Maybe the exhibit demanded a change in plans and the Jacksons had been
forced to cancel their
evening picnic. Jack was about to leave when he heard voices coming
the corner of the building. They must be on the back lawn, in which
could have exited through the folk art paintings and avoided the armor
The evening air and the melody of cheerful voices spurred him on to get
over and done with as quickly as politeness allowed.
giving careful thought on how to best give his regrets as succinctly as
possible and get the hell out of there, Jack covered the distance with
long strides and rounded the corner. His planned excuse evaporated in
instant it took to reach the end of the concrete sidewalk. He froze at
sight before him, his chest suddenly heavy with the familiar burn as he
against the side of the building for support. More than once he'd
the intensity of the pain that he was experiencing a welcomed heart
far, he hadn't been that lucky. He forced himself to breathe deeply and
few seconds the severity lessened to a more bearable level.
had thrown a
blanket on a patch of available green grass and were making the best of
limited space. The sight of a mom and dad picnicking and playing with
on a perfect summer evening wasn't the worst of it. It was Daniel. Jack
never seen the boy outside the context of the museum. Out here Daniel
softly giggling or forcibly restraining himself from the joys of
shouting and being a kid. The normally refined Mel Jackson was chasing
his son and then they'd roll around in the grass, Daniel roaring as his
tickled his belly.
The tickle monster. Had it only been two
Jack had been Charlie's tickle monster? Now he could only relate to
that moniker. His post Charlie life was built around avoiding
moments exactly like this one, families playing together and laughing.
he missed the laughter.
the summer months he and Sara would take Charlie down to the park. Sara
pack a picnic basket and Charlie would run and sing and play much like
was playing tonight.
memories washed over him in drowning, suffocating waves.The thrill and
admiration in Charlie's eyes when Jack would cast his son's fishing
reel in a ten-pounder from the lake, or when he'd take hold of
string and magically coax the homemade boxkite
new heights. That adoring look is what Jack hid
from during his
nights working at the museum and longed to escape from during his days
A father never feels
entirely worthy of the
worship in his child's eyes.
saying Jack had thought he understood until that black day when their
crumbled and his son's treasured look became the stuff of his
haunting his every waking moment and accusing him in his dreams. The
had changed all that. He’d discovered that sleeping in the daytime
same as facing down the night.
him. If they had Daniel would have called out his name and been all
He needed to get back inside to the quiet of the museum. The abundance
outside was crushing him.
out to be no better inside. It was still stifling. He headed for an
exit where he might be able to get some air without anyone bothering
down on the top step of the stairs leading into the museum from the
parking lot and took full deep breaths and tried to pull himself
noticed a crumpled brown paper bag someone had left just outside the
picked it up. It contained a torn sandwich bag and an empty Styrofoam
smelled of coffee. Someone had either forgotten or not cared about
away their lunch bag. He played with it for a few minutes, resisting
to empty it and breathe into it. It wasn't necessary, he was already
down and breathing easier.
shoved it aside and rubbed his temples. This entry was for staff only.
safe here. His throat was tight and achy from watching the Jackson family at
play. His heart was beating
rapidly, heavy and sore in his chest.
had assured him this would get better. The grief would never go away
but time would lessen the sharpness. It had been two years and that
wasn't happening for him. Of course they assumed he'd get help, maybe
support group with Sara or something similar. She'd asked but he'd
refused. He hated touchy feely groups. They would never understand what
couldn't explain, the exhaustion that dragged him down no matter how
slept. They had no clue about the moment by moment battle he waged
soul-deep inertia, or his horror of laughter, or the bouts of panic
strike when he least expected it. Like now. No thank you. No one could
or change the facts of what had happened that day.
anything it was getting worse. Daniel Jackson was forcing him to think
Charlie and pushing his dormant feelings to the surface. How did Sara
it? She was a nurse, she saw kids on a regular basis. He'd never had
to ask her. It was possible that despite his war medals and
was stronger and braver than he could ever imagine being. Then again,
death wasn't her fault, it was his, and maybe that made all the
it was, it wasn't Daniel's fault but Jack would do anything to get back
existence before the arrival of Jackson
family. He missed the blur of days melding nondescriptly, one into
comforting dullness of it all. What would happen when they left? Would
it be so
easy to slip back into the mind numbing life he’d embraced to avoid
the elephant in the room?
never far from his thoughts that there was only one sure fire way to
Charlie,” he whispered.
couldn’t it have been him? Why couldn’t he have died? Not his son. Not
eyes burned and he rubbed them before letting his hand fall to his side
close automatically over the pistol in his holster. It was another
taken this job. At least one guard per shift had to be licensed to
carry a firearm.
He was licensed. He knew all about firearms. He didn't carry it to
serve. He carried it because knowing there was always a way out was a
kind of comfort.
It was simple, quick. So easy.
fingers tightened around the butt of the weapon and his forefinger
beneath the trigger guard.
times had he thought about this since he'd found his son bleeding on
be so easy. Draw the gun, put it in position, pull the trigger.
pain, the grief, and the endless guilt would be over.
always came down to this moment and he always chickened out at the last
His fingers flexed against the cold steel. Maybe the parking lot of a
would be the final, perfect irony.
jerked upright and his hand fell away from his weapon. Twisting around,
Daniel standing in the half open doorway beaming down at him.
Jack coughed to clear his throat. “Daniel. What are you doing here?”
let the door close behind him as he advanced, swinging a brown bag in
"I guess you couldn't make it to our picnic so Mom said I should bring
held out the bag, his sincere little boy smile so sweet and those clear
eyes so incredibly innocent.
hell had he been thinking? "Thank
you." The last thing Jack wanted to do was eat. "I'll save it for
later when I get my dinner break. I just came out for a few minutes to
air. How did you know I was out here?"
told me. He said he thought he saw you go out this door."
well." That explained it. "I need to get back to work."He held up the bag."Tell
your mom and dad thank you for
what it is?"
wasn't in the guessing mood. When he didn't immediately respond Daniel
his own question. "It's koshary."
Jack was having a hard time concentrating.
has macaroni and rice and chickpeas and..." the boy paused for a brief
moment. "And lots of other stuff. It's really good. Do you think you'll
sure I will. But first I’m going to toss this." He picked up the
brown bag that had been left behind and headed for the dumpster across
parking lot. What he really needed was to give himself a few more
regain his equilibrium. He was dismayed, though not surprised, when
trotted beside him still chattering.
there's a honey cake in there? Did you ever have a honey cake, Jack?
buy them in Egypt
but my mom made these and they're really good."
sure,” Jack answered for something to say. He opened the lid of the
enough to toss in the bag and let it slam shut, then turned and headed
with Daniel still trailing him, prattling on about Egyptian food.
then the big semi that had been backed up to the loading dock at the
end of the
parking lot revved it's incredibly loud engine. The squeal startled
he grabbed Jack’s free hand and held on tight. Jack stopped walking and
paralyzed, staring down at the child sized hand locked into his own.
the matter?" Daniel asked after a few motionless seconds passed. "I'm
holding your hand because of the truck." He spoke the words as if
hands was the most natural thing in the world. And in his world it was.
protected kids. That's what parents did. That's what dads did.
held on as the truck driver honked and waved them to cross in front of
rig. The blast of the horn startled Jack out of his trance and with
hand firmly clasped in his own they crossed the parking lot and headed
give anything to be numb again. Divorcing Sara and confronting
were the two things he strove to avoid at all costs. He'd taken great
accommodate his desire to forget. Working at the museum had been near
the night hours, the lack of people, and the option of carrying a gun.
being ridiculously overqualified, this job had been his ticket to sweet
oblivion. To eat and sleep and work until one day he'd simply fade away
the museum pieces had hundreds of years ago.
military background had taught him it was impossible to account for
variable but he'd tried to cover all the bases, and he had. For awhile.
hadn't counted on was Daniel Jackson's small hand gripping his own,
the fragile shell of his isolated world.
night Jack ran up the stairs to his apartment with the energy of a man
chased by a gang of thugs or a pack of wolves.He
with the key until it finally turned in the
lock and opened
his front door. He slammed the door behind him and closed his eyes,
was home. When he could breathe again he turned on a few lights and the
television before collapsing on the couch and inhaling deep gulps of
regulate his breathing. No one had ever actually chased him. He arrived
the wee hours of the morning and had never seen so much as a suspicious
character lurking nearby so it wasn't a someone giving chase tonight,
more of a something.
it was it was getting worse. It was to the point where he only felt
at work or here in the apartment, which was weird. It couldn't be the
of being around people because he hadn't encountered anyone on the
tonight and work was often jammed with people, especially on the
weekends. He probably needed to see a
shrink but that
wasn't going to happen. Aside from picking up the occasional groceries,
didn't need to go anywhere else so what did it matter?
decided to pull the day old Chinese take-out from of the fridge for
ate it cold out of the carton while flipping through the channels and
on Baseball Tonight. He tried to focus on the scores but it was
mind kept wandering back to the parking lot of the museum and the feel
hard metal of the gun beneath his fingertips. It had been a while since
felt the urge to calm himself by fingering the trigger.
Why worry about it? He hadn't even taken the damn thing out of the
had been well over a year since he'd seriously contemplated using it.
was merely a crutch, an unused prop. The anxiety caused by the
in his day to day routine had a name. Daniel Jackson. The boy's
him involuntarily digging up bones that were better left dead and
have to go into work like he always did and fake it. Smile and nod and
jokes when necessary but his mind and his emotions needed to be sealed
locked far away in a safe place. The Jacksons
weren't going to be here forever. He could hold on and do this. He just
to be more careful.
museum had closed over an hour ago and the silence was golden as Jack
usual rounds, stopping occasionally to pick up a few remnants the crowd
inadvertently left behind. He dropped off a stuffed bunny and a make-up
the lost and found before returning to finish the first tour around his
He walked in peace with no blue-eyed, blonde haired chattering geniuses
sight. Thank, god. A night or two was one thing, everyday was something
entirely. He could always take Daniel's parents up on their offer to
the persistent youngster. Why he had let it go on this long was one of
he ended up outside the gallery containing the armor exhibit. The huge
always the last one on his rounds. He avoided this section as much as
and when he did do a mandatory walk through, he did it with blinders
determined not to focus or key in on any particular piece.
Whistling past the
he stood against the wall so he couldn’t see inside the room even as
in the back of his mind mocked his effort. He didn’t need to look to
nights were more difficult than others.
the exhibits in the New York Museum of Art, this one had been Charlie’s
favorite.It had changed over the years
with new additions and occasionally the entire exhibit had been
overall it remained much the same as it had been the first time Jack
across it with his then seven year old son.
had been fascinated and had insisted Jack read every line on every
card from every exhibit in the room. Not content with that, Charlie had
pestered him to look up more information on the internet and together
discovered the history and development of armor down through the ages.No matter how much they learned, Charlie
never grew tired of it and Jack had lost count of how many times he and
had visited this particular gallery, or, as Charlie liked to call it,
was Jack's way of muddling through, a neat trick considering he worked
the gallery was included in his usual night patrol pattern. Although he
toured the actual exhibits, all too often he found himself standing
this gallery and remembering, despite his Herculean effort to forget.
stared at the wall and took a few deep breaths. He knew all the
knew how they'd been laid out, and tonight he knew he wouldn’t be able
a step inside without being swamped by memories of previous visits with
real world Jack worked hard to suppress the emotions. Inside this
his defense mechanisms failed.Charlie
still lived in this room full of ancient weapons and armor and horses,
all his youthful exuberance, all his joy of living.
wasn’t going inside tonight, so why in the hell was he standing here?
turned away and almost walked into a small figure standing behind him.
instant, caught between the past and the present, he saw Charlie
grinning up at
him. The delusion quickly gave way to reality and Jack recognized
Jack!” the kid exclaimed. “I wasn’t sure at first if that was you
weren't moving, but when I came out of the men’s room I saw you, well,
sure it was you but it was someone who looked like you so I thought in
might be you I should come over and say hi. Why are you standing so
stopped talking, probably because he’d run out of air. Jack stared at
stunned at the cascade of words in the middle of what had been a quiet
This wasn’t the first time Daniel had ambushed him in the museum and it
the first time the kid’s gushing monologues left him groping for a
Daniel repeated eagerly.
shook his head and tried to re-group.What
was the kid asking about?Oh, right.
nodded knowingly. “Oh, sometimes I'm quiet when I'm thinking, too.”He peered around Jack’s tall form. “I haven’t
been down here before.What’s inside
failed and Jack caught his breath as Daniel darted around him and stood
The boy turned around wide-eyed. “This looks neat.Have you been in here before?”
opened his mouth only to close it again, unable to formulate a reply.
well since Daniel came up with his own.
course you have.” He bopped himself on the head and chuckled. “You work
you’ve seen all the exhibits hundreds of times. You're lucky that you
a great job, Jack.”
walked forward into the gallery and Jack was left staring at the empty
entryway.His mind didn’t seem to work. A
part of him
wanted to retreat, to walk away as quickly as possible, but he couldn’t
The high young voice came from inside the room.“Come
couldn't go in there with a little boy. He wasn't that brave.
on, Jack," Daniel encouraged.
Jack took a few steps into the gallery and found Daniel standing in
front of a
displays were set up in chronological fashion, with the earliest
armor being the first exhibit, and the other exhibits following one
another around the large empty room. Empty except for Daniel and Jack
whatever ghosts still lingered.
kept his gaze fixed firmly on the boy studying the exhibit. Daniel
his shoulder, frowning.
thought this was an exhibit of armor.”
licked dry lips. “It is.” What kind of question was that?They were surrounded by various kinds of
this isn’t armor.” Daniel pointed at the first exhibit.
it is.Or it was.” Jack cleared his
throat to dispel the hoarseness. “The earliest body armor was made of
quilted fabric.” He gestured. “That’s what’s on display here.”
pushed his slipping glasses back up his nose and peered more closely.
just think of someone trying to protect himself wearing that.”
stood behind him, his attention torn between the boy and the display.
shouldn’t have answered Daniel’s question. He shouldn’t have come in
moved slowly around the room. “Is this what came next?” he asked with
look over his shoulder at Jack.
the card.” Jack winced at the stab of the memory of saying those very
this same room once upon a time.
obeyed. “This is from the fifth century? Wow. It looks heavy.”
again Jack found himself responding. “Mail was a critical development
You can see all the small iron rings linked together. Sometimes the
made of steel. And that,” he indicated the display beside the mail, “is
quilted undergarment that was worn under the mail to protect the skin.”
mail good armor?”
second Jack couldn’t speak.In Daniel’s
questions he heard the echoes of identical questions from another
little boy.He cleared his throat and
answered as he had
answered so long ago.
was a pretty good defense against someone with a sword, but it didn’t
well against axes or maces, and the point of an arrow or spear could
wonder they kept trying to improve it.” Daniel wrinkled his nose.
didn’t seem to require an answer, for which Jack was grateful.He felt like an insect caught on a web,
struggling fruitlessly between what was in the past and what was now.His effort to focus only on Daniel had failed
but not in the way he expected. Oddly, he was beginning to see double,
faint image of a boy who had once stood before these displays,
another boy who now stood before these same exhibits, wearing the same
expression of wide-eyed fascination.
hurt, but not as much as he would have expected.
what about – ” Daniel started, standing before another display. This
buddy, but it’s time for me to get back to work.”
Daniel looked at him, his eyes wide, the disappointment quickly
anticipation. “Is it time to patrol?”
the kid was going to invite himself along again. “Yeah, but, uh, I
heard your folks calling you.”
that was lame, not to mention a lie.But
it might get the kid out of his hair for a few minutes, maybe long
Jack to escape Daniel’s attention tonight.He
hear anything.” Daniel hurried back to the entry and cocked his head.
better go see, just in case.”
The boy sighed before flashing Jack a bright smile. “I’ll see you in a
Not if I
see you first, Jack thought but only nodded.He
as Daniel hurried down the hall, then sighed as
abruptly spun around and raced back, slowing mid-way to a fast walk,
wasn’t running,” he said earnestly.
quite. “Why’d you come back?”
wanted to ask you if we could look at the rest of the exhibit later.”
opened his mouth to say, no then changed his mind to avoid a lengthy
discussion. “Maybe some other time. Tonight's not a good night. I have
a lot of
paperwork to do.”
maybe tomorrow!” Daniel beamed, before turning toward the Egyptian wing
hurrying away, again.
stared after the kid.What exactly had
back at the gallery, Jack wondered if he'd have the guts to go inside
look around. Really look.It hadn’t hurt
as much as he’d feared, probably in large part because of one friendly,
inquisitive little kid who seemed to be fascinated by everything.
shook his head in amusement. It was a little unnerving to realize
Jackson affected him in ways no one else had in a long time.
sense. Daniel was a kid, a young boy, and in light of the circumstances
only natural for Jack to feel something. He might be numb and
apparently he was still a human being.He
glanced at his watch. Enough with distractions, it was
time to get
back to work.