THANKS BE TO THE ANCESTORS BY DARCY


Slash: Jack and Daniel involved in a loving and committed relationship, which usually involves sex.
Rating: R
Category: ER, angst, smooshiness, kidfic
Season/Spoilers: A Hundred Days, The Other Side
Synopsis: Jack's secret past of the time spent on Edora comes back to haunt him and threatens his relationship with Daniel.
Warnings: None
Length: 127 Kb

 

Jack

Lying to Daniel is not something I’m in the habit of doing. Actually, I can’t remember intentionally lying to him since we’ve been together. I told him I had a mission. And I did... technically. So I guess technically I could tell myself I’m not lying. Except, I’m not a kid and I know what the word means... to mislead, to deceive. It’s all about intent. There’s no technically about it, I’m lying through my teeth to the one person in the world who trusts me implicitly and values honesty above all else.

The house is dark when I pull into the drive and for that I’m truly grateful. It’s 2:00 AM and I’m feeling old and battered. The dim light over the kitchen sink is left on for my benefit and there’s a note stuck to the fridge. Daniel’s writing is precise and so Daniel-like I can hear his voice when I read the words. The note not only tells me there’s a plate of food made up for my dinner, but also goes into a fairly detailed description of what exactly that dinner is and how he prepared it. The last sentence reads, ‘Just try it Jack, PLEASE!’ I can’t help but smile at his continuing efforts to expand my horizons. Although eating is out of the question tonight, my stomach is a little too queasy for that.

Sneaking back to Edora for Laira’s funeral was surreal. I'd been back only once since being stranded and that was strained and awkward. The only purpose of that visit had been to keep my word to Laira. The purpose of this visit was far heavier... to pay my respects and to see the truth for myself. Every villager, including Paynan, turned out to mourn Laira’s passing and to wish her ‘fair day’ in sending her off to join the ancestors.

Garan and his new bride, Naytha, were heartbroken beyond the comfort of my hollow words. The need to have Daniel beside me was so strong I almost wished I had told him the truth and brought him with me. Almost. Then Garan showed me the child, Jarack. The four year old had fidgeted and tugged on his too large, newly sewn mourning shirt throughout the burial ritual. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. One look into the boy’s confused, bright, shining brown eyes removed any hope or doubts I’ve had about the validity of Garan’s claim. The boy is definitely mine.

What to do about that fact is what’s eating away at my soul. Why now? Daniel is home from the higher planes or whatever the hell you want to call it and we have an unspoken pact not to waste any more time on the petty, meaningless crap that has weighed us down in the past. It’s working, I’ve never been happier. It appeared fate was giving this old, undeserving soldier a second chance at life and love and I had latched on to it without reservation, foolishly thinking I’d atoned for past sins. But it appears my petty, meaningless past is catching up with me and there’s nothing I can do to stop it.

Daniel is not in the bedroom. I find him in the last place I check... the spare room turned office. He’s sleeping in front of the computer. His forehead is resting on the desk just below the keyboard, his face slightly turned to the left, pushing his glasses up one side of his face. I’ve found him like this before and it always irritates me. Why can’t the man go to bed before he crashes at the computer? Tonight there's no irritation, only resignation at what the morning will bring. Careful not to wake him, I gently run my fingers through his soft hair in silent apology for the lie I've brought between us. I save his work before turning the computer off and gently removing his glasses. Then I give his shoulder a shake, and wait for the sleepy blue eyes to fix on me.

“Jack?” His expression is so innocent in that dream-like state that I don’t have the heart to trample his trust to dust. Not yet.

“Yeah, it’s me, time for bed,” I whisper in his ear, leading him clumsily down the hall toward our room. Once he’s a little more alert he stops off at the bathroom. I hear him peeing and then brushing his teeth before joining me in our bed. He snuggles in beside me and I squeeze him for all I’m worth, wondering if this will be the last time I’ll get to hold him so close without the past wedged heavily between us.

“Jack, you okay?” His voice is filled with concern at the neediness of my hug. He pulls away and turns a scrutinizing eye on me. “How’d the mission go?”

“Fine.” I’m such a fucking coward. A selfish, fucking coward. I need one more night with him without the burden I’m about to thrust upon our relationship. One more night of just Daniel and me, safe and secure in our love.

“You sure?”

Instead of answering, I kiss his parted lips and he succumbs immediately. When I finish with his mouth I move on to his hair and then work my way down, planting gentle kisses on his neck and chest, pausing only briefly to taste each nipple. He’s aroused in seconds and lets out an uncharacteristic grunt. By the time my tongue makes its way down to Daniel’s belly, his body is practically humming with anticipation. It still thrills me that I have this effect on him. After placing another light kiss on the solid, muscled stomach I continue down to Daniel’s excited cock, place my hands firmly on his hips and then lick and kiss gently before taking him in. I need him to remember tonight in case this is the last time. My hands and my tongue desperately attempt to prove my love. My ministrations overwhelm him and Daniel’s entire body jerks forward as he comes, shouting my name, “JackJackJack!” Like he can’t get enough of me. Like I’m some sort of prize. Oh, Danny, please forgive me.

After a few minutes, Daniel reaches out and attempts to reciprocate. I feel his hands on me and instantly relax. He works his magic and within moments, guilty or not, my body responds to his touch.

Amid groans and complaints I pry him out of bed for the few seconds it takes to clean us both up before we collapse back into it. Daniel falls asleep before his head hits the pillow, sated, and happily unaware of my deceptions.

Sleep doesn’t come easy for me. I guess lying to a person can do that, robbing them of the ability to obtain a peaceful night’s rest. I lie awake memorizing Daniel. Memorizing his face, every feature, right down to the slight indentation on the side of his nose where his glasses must have pinched. I memorize the feel of him in my arms, the scent of him and the rhythmic sounds of his light, steady breathing before finally dozing just before the dawn. Memories that may have to last a lifetime.

I’m brought to semi awareness by the sudden movement of the mattress. Under slitted lids, I see Daniel awake and squinting at the bedside clock. “Jack, Jack, wake up. You overslept,” he says in amusement. I never oversleep. “Hey, Jack, wake up,” he orders again, sleepily giving my shoulder a shake. “I’m going to jump in the shower.” With that he’s gone, disappeared into the bathroom.

It’s time. I take a minute to throw on some sweats and a t-shirt and sit on the edge of the bed to wait. Scared. Damn it, my hands are shaking. What would possess me to cut Daniel out of such an important piece of my past? Avoidance? Stupidity? Fear? All of the above.

When I hear the water shut off I clasp my hands together to control their trembling. Daniel strolls back into the bedroom naked, toweling his hair. “Hey, Jack...” He stops short when he sees me and rushes to my side. “What’s wrong?”

I brush off his undeserved concern. “I want to talk to you about something. Why don’t you get dressed first?” He hurriedly throws on a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt and sits beside me on the bed. He’s too close and I have to back away from him. I can see that worries him. I’m not one to back away.

Maintaining eye contact as best I can, I tell him about my encounter with Laira. Daniel and I weren’t together at the time and I can sense his relief. Not yet, Daniel. Not yet. After laying out the background I finally get to the main event. He’s surprised and hurt when I tell him about Laira’s funeral.

“I would have gone with you,” he whispers, confused at his exclusion.

“Shh, wait.” Then I tell him about the child. My child. The son I saw for the first time at his mother’s funeral less than twenty-four hours ago. Daniel is trying to stay calm and hold back the shock. He waits until I’m finished before asking all the relevant questions.

“When did you know you had a child?” The feigned casualness doesn’t fool me, I know Daniel, and I can see the effort he’s expending to appear composed and rational.

My gaze falters and I resort to studying my hands. I’m determined to tell the truth even though it may be too late to redeem myself. “I suspected for a long time. SG-9 told me Laira had given birth while they were in negotiations.” When I look up, his expression has hardened considerably.

“And you never went back to check on him?” His quiet voice is filled with accusation. Daniel’s own childhood feelings of abandonment aren’t going to make this any easier and for the first time I face the very real possibility that our relationship might not survive my careless indiscretions.

“No. I never did. I knew from SG-9 the child was happy and healthy and safe with Laira.” I finally glance up at him. “I guess I thought if I didn’t confirm the truth I could hide from it.”

His shoulders slouch at my misguided logic. “And like so many other things, you decided you couldn’t trust me with your secret.” And there it is... the real issue. Daniel puts his elbows on his knees and rests his head in the palms of his hands, rubbing at his eyes. “And last night... what was that, Jack? Our last good fuck?”

The denial dies on my lips. He knows me too well. Seeing him hunched over and hurting causes my heart to throb and my hand to automatically reach for the nape of his neck, seeking to soothe. He straightens immediately and shrugs off my touch. I’m the last thing he wants or needs.

“What else, Jack? What else is there I don’t know about you? There must be more.” His voice is angry and demanding, filled with the distinct pain of betrayal.

It’s on the tip of my tongue to tell him, ‘no, nothing else. That’s it.’ Something in his eyes stops me. His intense gaze is boring into me, reflecting all the disappointment I put there. I realize he’s challenging me, waiting, wondering if I’ll lie to him again. If I do, it'll be for the last time. I have little doubt about that. It’s not a risk I’m willing to take. I decide to bring all the darkness into the light, lay it all out in the open and leave myself more vulnerable to him than I’ve ever been.

How well does he know me? How well does he think he knows me? I’m terrified he won’t like what he hears, won’t like who I am and he’ll walk away. I want to trust him, trust our love, but I’ve royally fucked up every good thing I’ve ever had and I can’t help but think it’s inevitable I’ll fuck this up too. Eventually, every good thing in Jack O’Neill’s life turns to shit.

I tell him about the special ops mission in Iraq, the one I’ve never shared with another living soul. “An assassination mission,” I explain. “I shot a man in front of his two young sons.” Daniel’s eyes go wide; he’s having a hard time connecting Jack, his friend and lover, to Jack, the special ops military man. Stay with me, Daniel, I silently plead.

He’s quiet as I explain how I laid in my own filth for three days waiting to get a clear shot. By the time the opportunity came I was exhausted, and longing to get home to my own son, so I took the shot. Another couple of hours and the target would have been alone. I knew that from the previous days of observation. I didn’t wait the few hours... I took the shot. Mission accomplished. Got a medal for that one.

To his credit, Daniel hasn’t so much as flinched at my admission.

There have been other things. He holds my gaze, his eyes unreadable as he nods for me to continue. If this is an honesty test, I’m determined to pass.

“Alar.” Surprise flickers across his face at the name and for the first time I’m sure he’s completely unaware of what I did. I’ve always wondered if he knew, but I was too chicken to ask him outright. Today I have my answer. Daniel is innocent of any knowledge of my crime.

“Alar?” He says the name slowly, trying to figure out where this is heading.

“Alar, the Nazi from Euronda.” He shakes his head impatiently. Of course he knows who Alar is. I can see the slight crease in his brow as he attempts to work this out. I’m sure right about now he’s rehashing the humiliation of me ordering him to ‘shut up’ in a roomful of people. I want to tell him not to give that a second thought; the only one humiliated that day was me.

I remind him how flat and detached my voice was as I ordered the iris closed. His eyes close for a second as he remembers and I divulge my secret. I gave that command knowing with absolute certainty Alar had followed us through the wormhole. I admit I heard the splat against the closed barrier and still said nothing. Carter knows. She never said a word, out of... loyalty, I guess.

Daniel remains silent. From there I move on to lesser, yet no less heinous crimes... my failure to be there for my wife in the hour of our greatest need. My inability to cry for the loss of my son. The taste of the cold metal in my mouth as I came within a whisper of pulling the trigger and taking my own life in what would have been a final act of cowardice, leaving Sara to mourn and clean up my mess.

The words flow in an endless stream of guilt-laden confessions. Some of the stories I had long since forgotten. Daniel is my priest and all I can do is pray there is enough penance in the universe to procure absolution.

I can’t look Daniel in the eye, terrified to see disgust or worse yet, rejection in those deep blue pools that, until today, have been my safest haven.

His thumb reaches out to swipe gently at my cheek and for the first time I realize I’m crying. Soundlessly.

Daniel gathers me into his arms, forces my head to his chest and utters one syllable, “Jack.” I break at the sound of my name, it tells me everything I need to know. It always has. One word is all it takes and I know the truth, the relief coursing through every nerve in my trembling body. Daniel still loves me. And I’m an ass for having doubted him.


God bless General George Hammond. Daniel thought it best I confide in the General in order to obtain extended leave time to Edora. It was against my better judgment but I’ve decided to trust my archaeologist in all matters concerning the heart, the soul and the mind. So confide I did. George was more understanding than I could have dared hoped. He considers the matter ‘none of the Air Force’s business’ since I was stranded with little hope of rescue for over three months. The matter is confidential and closed as far as the good General is concerned.

Before I could ask, he suggested I take Dr. Jackson with me. He gave us seven days to check on the welfare of the Edorans to see if they are having difficulties with any aspects of the treaty in the wake of Laira’s death. A PR mission as it were. I can’t emphasize it enough; General George Hammond is a saint.


Daniel

It’s difficult to reconcile my Colonel O’Neill with the special ops, Captain O’Neill of the past, but that was no reason for Jack to run and hide from me. Jack is the man he is because of his past, not in spite of it.

His actions didn’t bother me as much as his need to conceal them from me. It shocked me to realize how fragile Jack really is when he finally broke down and told me the truths of his life. Fragile is not a word any of us associate with the smart mouthed, heroic, savior of the world, blood and guts Colonel. But fragile is what I see. After seven years of friendship the man was still afraid I wouldn’t be able to handle the real Colonel Jonathan O’Neill. He’s always had an overwhelming desire to protect me, apparently even from himself.

Tomorrow we leave for seven days on Edora. I’m surprised to be accompanying Jack. He swears it was General Hammond’s idea but I’m not convinced. It’s making me a little nervous. I don’t know how to say this to Jack without sounding whiny but I’m just not very good with kids. He must have noticed. Kids don’t like me very much. They never did, not even when I was one of them. Jack’s great with kids. Kids love Jack.

I’ve always wanted to be a father, to love and be loved unconditionally, to pass on my love of words and of archaeology, the same as my parents did to me, and my grandfather before them. Sha’re and I tried. Of course, at the time we didn’t think it was a big hurry. We were both so naïve back then, we thought we had all the time in the world.

Maybe it’s just as well. Jack always tells me I’m too serious, that I don’t know how to relax and have fun. What kid wants a father who doesn’t know how to have fun? Doesn’t matter, it’s not going to happen now. That dream died in the desert heat with a single blast from Teal’c’s staff weapon. Life is a series of trade off’s and fate has compensated me... I have Jack.

It’s okay. I’ll bring lots of books and stay out of their way, just be there on the sidelines for moral support. I get the feeling Jack needs me close by.

The front door slams. He’s home. I stash the two small photo albums into my pack along with the digital camera before he can get up here and tell me they’re not necessary. He’s up the stairs and beside me in seconds.

“Hey.”

I love the sound of that ‘hey'. “Hey, yourself.” Jack rests his hands on my shoulders and turns me around to face him and pulls me close, our faces inches apart.

“I’m packing.”

He ignores my weak protest and leans in to lick in the vicinity of my ear before whispering in it. “Pack later.”

“Later,” I confirm dumbly, as I allow him to push me down on the bed and have his wicked way with me.


Once Garan and Naytha realize that we haven’t come to steal Jarack away through the stone ring they visibly relax and seem genuinely pleased to see us. The truth is Jack has no idea what he should do about the boy. We’re hoping to figure it all out after spending some time with him. Garan and Naytha, and the whole village for that matter, are still in mourning for Laira. Both of them feel it would be good for little Jarack to get away from the traditional silence and grief associated with their mourning rituals. Garan offers us the use of a house that sits empty just a few miles north of the village.

Jarack is staring at us with keen interest but playing shy, the light brown tufts of hair and bright, mischievous eyes occasionally popping out from behind Naytha’s skirt. Jack gets down on one knee and invites Jarack to come over to our temporary home for a visit. The kid is not talking.

“You can go, Jarack,” Garan encourages. “Jack was a friend of our mothers.” That piques his interest.

“My mother went to visit the ancestors,” Jarack explains solemnly. I suppose that explanation is more palpable than some of the explanations that were fed to an orphaned eight year old.

The boy pokes his head out from behind the skirt once again. “Did you see her in the stone ring?”

“Jarack, what did I tell you about that?” The little guy hangs his head and shrugs at Garan’s warning.

“We didn’t see her,” Jack says quietly, still eye level with his son. The three of them have already decided not to tell Jarack that Jack is his father. Jack felt it might be too confusing to a four year old, especially so soon after his mother’s death. I didn’t disagree, maybe when he’s a little older.

Jack tries again. “Would you like to come to our house for a visit, Jarack?

A nervous shrug of the shoulders is the only response.

“How about coming for just a little while? You can show us where the house is.” That catches Jarack’s interest, he seems pleased at the thought of having such an important, grown up task.

“We’ll bring you home whenever you want to come back,” Jack promises.

Jarack studies the tall, gray stranger intently before agreeing. “Okay,” he finally answers with a slow, deliberate nod of his head. Jack straightens up and a soft hesitant hand reaches for Jack’s larger calloused one. Surprise flickers across Jack’s face along with a range of heartfelt emotions as he wraps the child sized hand in his own. The sensation no doubt reminding him of another hand from years ago.

Garan takes a few minutes to give us directions while Naytha shyly tells us she took the liberty of changing the bed coverings and has left us some baked goods. It seems they both made the house ready for our visit in the short twenty-four hour notice they had of our arrival.

We have no problem finding the house as Jarack runs enthusiastically ahead of us, thrilled to be able to show us the way. The cabin is a pleasant surprise, furnished and clean with an abundant supply of home made food just as Naytha promised. Cheese and a loaf of fresh bread for tonight... beats MRE’s any day of the week.

There are two bedrooms. One of them has two beds, a larger one and a smaller one, I assume for Jack and Jarack. I take the other room and unpack. The sound of infectious laughter draws me to the window and there’s Jack, bad knees and all, rolling around on the ground, wrestling with pint sized Jarack, his little boy giggles filling the evening air. This is going to be a lot more complicated than I had thought.

We’re just about to eat the evening meal Naytha had so kindly prepared for us when Jarack waves his arms and pointedly shouts for us to stop. Apparently, we need to thank the ancestors for our food. Jarack is delighted when Jack tells him to go ahead and say the blessing. The small face wrinkles in serious concentration as he begins...

“Thank you to the ancestors for our food that we have to eat and to Naytha because she made it for us. And, ancestors, if you see my ma, tell her I miss her and she should come home to visit me. Thanks be to the ancestors.” He smiles radiantly as Jack and I exchange glances. “All done,” he adds at our hesitation.

After dinner and a quick cleanup the three of us sit out on the front porch to enjoy the quiet evening. The two large wooden chairs for our use are remarkably comfortable considering there is no padding covering the seats. Jarack is on Jack’s lap, the two of them already bonding. Like I said, Jack is great with kids. I’m surprised when Jarack leaves Jack to climb up on me. He kneels on my lap, facing me, the big, brown, Jack-like eyes staring intently into mine.

“Daniel,” he asks curiously, as he moves his face even closer, his eyes inches from my own. “Why do you have circles on your eyes?” A short pudgy finger points at the lens and moves slowly, closing in on the glass until he lightly taps it. I hear Jack snickering in the background.

My eyes involuntarily cross for a second at the closeness of his face and the finger smudging up my lens. “These are called glasses, Jarack. The lenses are made into a special shape and prescription to correct various forms of vision problems.”

“Oh,” he says, still staring intently. “But, why do you have circles on your eyes?” No DNA test needed here. There's no doubt this is Jack’s son. Nope, no question at all.

Jack snorts loudly before coming to my rescue. “What Daniel is trying to say is... they help him see better.”

Jarack claps his hands in delight. “Can I try them, Daniel? I want to see better too!”

“Jarack, they won’t work on you. They’re made special for my eyes.” He seems so dejected at my honest, logical words that I change my mind. “But you can try them if you want to.”

“Yes, please, Daniel.” He brightens immediately as I set my too big glasses on his miniature features.

His eyes crunch closed and then open again. “Look Jack, I have circles!” Jarack whirls around and sits down on my lap facing Jack, his eyes huge and blinking furiously through the lenses.

We both laugh heartily at the sight of him. “Daniel,” Jarack frowns in disappointment. “The circles are broken. I can’t see better. They make everything fuzzy.”

“Okay, that’s enough for now.” I take the specs off of him and put them back on my own face while Jarack takes a second to rub the fuzziness out of his eyes with his fists. He scoots back over to Jack and settles down, his head resting on Jack’s chest, looking up at the sky to watch the stars come out. Jack’s arms instinctively wrap protectively around the little guy. I’m content watching both of them; in awe of the short amount of time it takes to win a child’s trust.

Jarack falls asleep, but when Jack stands up to take him inside he wakes up, confused and crying for his mother. He wants to go home. Jack’s not having much success at comforting him so we decide to walk the two miles back to Garan’s house in order to keep our promise to the frightened little boy. Jarack sobs quietly into Jack’s shoulder for the duration of the twenty-minute walk.

It’s barely dark, still early enough that Garan and Naytha are both up, though I get the feeling we may have interrupted something. Jack hands Jarack over to Garan and kisses the tear stained cheek, whispering that we’ll see him in the morning, as the two of us head back to our temporary home.

Stars are popping out across the night sky as the moonlight lights our path. Jack is deep in thought, his shirt, sopping wet where Jarack’s face had been buried.

“He’s a great kid, Jack.”

“He is pretty terrific, isn’t he?” Jack moves closer to me and reaches out to touch my shoulder, then without warning he takes my hand in his. My first impulse to the simple gesture is to pull back in stunned apprehension.

“What?” Jack sounds alarmed by my reaction.

“No, it’s nothing.” I grab for his hand and hold it firmly in mine. “It’s just...”

He stops walking. “Just what?”

“It’s just that we’ve never held hands outdoors before... I guess I kind of forgot that we could.”

“We haven’t?” I can practically see the wheels spinning in Jack’s head.

“No, we haven’t.” On Earth we have to be so careful, every touch, every emotion hidden from the world as if our relationship is some sort of dirty, shameful secret.

“But it’s okay with you?” Jack squeezes my hand for confirmation and I squeeze back.

“Yeah. It’s more than okay.” I love the warmth of his strong, rough hand gripping mine as we casually make our way back to the cabin.

“Stay here,” he orders, dropping my hand as we near our destination. Damn. I immediately feel the loss of his touch. I could get used to this handholding.

“Why?”

“You’ll see.”

He’s back in minutes with a blanket. “Come on.” He takes my hand again so I eagerly follow wherever he wants to go. We end up in a clearing near the lake that looks similar to the clearing we sat in that night four years ago when we first met Laira and watched the fire rain.

Did Jack and Laira share this place? Suddenly, I need to know so I ask him. He stops fussing with the blanket and turns to face me. “No, this was my place. Just me.”

For some stupid reason that makes me ridiculously happy and we both settle down on the blanket, lying on our backs, staring up at the starry sky. Edora is a beautiful world.

“Look.”

Jack captures my hand as I raise it to point out a constellation that reminds me of home. He turns it over, studying it. Soon his thumb is rubbing gentle circles into my palm. It’s not long before the easy, loving gesture fills me with desire. Looking into Jack’s eyes I see a reflection of my own need. We both strip out of our shorts and t-shirts in record time and lie naked and unashamed in the moonlight. It starts out with a needy kiss until Jack throws his leg over mine and our hardened cocks rub urgently against one another. He has leverage and pins me down, searching for a comfortable rhythm. I thrust back and the two of us duel and grind our flesh into one another. The hot, sweet friction burns through us as we both quicken the pace until we come simultaneously under the stars.

Exhausted, lying side by side, I’m conscious only of Jack’s hot breath in my ear. Again he reaches for my hand and holds it over his heart for a few silent minutes. “We’ve never done that outside before either, have we?” The soft, sarcastic whisper is more of a statement than a question.

I answer him anyway. “No, I don’t believe we have.”

It only takes a few seconds to throw on our shorts and t-shirts. I’m gathering up the blanket when I feel Jack’s hand on my shoulder. “Daniel, wait.”

“What?”

“You forgot your circles.” Jack chuckles softly, as he positions my glasses on my face and then plants a kiss on the tip of my nose.


“Daniel! Daniel!”

Jarack’s childish voice carries on the breeze, his excitement obvious. A smile crosses my lips at what this must mean. No, it couldn’t be, could it?

Yep, it is.

Jarack appears on the path, using both hands to hold up the fish he has dangling on the line. “Daniel, look!” He tries to run towards me but loses his balance and almost trips, righting himself before taking a headfirst tumble into the dirt with his heavy prize.

Jumping out of my porch chair, I attempt to get to the little guy before he injures himself in his exuberance.

“Daniel, I caught a fish! See!” Jarack’s smile could power the Stargate. “All by myself,” he emphasizes, holding the fish up as high as can, his muscles straining with the effort. Jack suddenly appears behind him and easily relieves him of his burden.

I catch Jack's eye and can't help myself. “YOU caught a fish?”

“How about that?” His smile matches Jarack’s.

Jack is positively thriving in this outdoor environment. He’s already tanned and looks healthier than he has in a long time. He’s completely relaxed and seems to have temporarily lost the trademark sarcastic bite that keeps everyone in line and out of his way in the halls of the SGC.

He smiles brightly. “Go figure. Turns out I have to travel halfway across the galaxy to catch a fish. Carter and Teal’c will have a field day with this one.”

He’s got that right. My mind searches for an appropriate smart-ass reply. After seven years of friendship and six months of being lovers, I’m still enamored enough at the sight of Jack that I’m having trouble keeping up my end of the conversation. Jarack tugging on my shorts is a welcome distraction.

“Don’t you like my fish, Daniel?”

The sad tone of Jarack’s question has me a little confused. “Yes, of course I like your fish. You did a good job.”

He looks disheartened, apparently not satisfied with my answer. “Jack said I did a GREAT job.” He emphasizes the 'great' with a hint of an attitude. “Jack said I’m the best fish catcher ever.”

Jack gives me a wink and a crooked grin.

“Come on, buddy.” Placing a hand on Jarack’s head, Jack steers him towards the back yard. “We’re going to clean up this fish and then we’re going to cook it up for dinner.”

“Will it taste good, Jack?” Jarack’s endless questions continue as he hurries after Jack, his short legs moving in fast motion to keep up with Jack’s longer strides, as the two of them disappear behind the cabin.

Even though they’re out of eyesight I can still hear Jack’s reply. “I’m betting it will be the greatest, best, most fantastic dinner we’ve tasted in a very long time.”

The least I can do is go back inside and rummage around to see if Naytha left any food that might go well with a fish dinner. I didn’t mean to disappoint Jarack by gawking at Jack when I should have been making a fuss over his fish. It’s just that Jack looked so damn good.

What did I say that made Jarack’s face fall? ‘Good job’, that’s what I said. ‘Jack said I did GREAT job.’ This is exactly why I’m not good with kids. I don’t generally engage in enthusiastic exaggerations, yet another example of why I would not have made a very good father.

My mind wanders to the first time my parents let me uncover a piece of pottery at a dig site and use my own brush to clean it up. That night my father came to my room, sat on the edge of my bed and told me how lucky he was, lucky that out of all the little boys in the world he had me... the one who was going to grow up to be a GREAT archaeologist. He said ‘great’, not ‘good’, I distinctly remember that. I was six years old when my father said those words to me and I never doubted them. When you’re six years old everything your father says is gospel. My parents weren’t as boisterous as Jack, but they offered high praise and quiet encouragement to boost my confidence. I understand it now, a self-fulfilling prophecy, living up to expectations... when the hell did Jack get so smart?

“Daniel!” Jarack is shouting my name from somewhere outside.

I hear Jack’s quieter voice. “Jarack, go inside and ask him. I could have shouted myself.”

Within seconds Jarack appears in the doorway. “Daniel, Jack said we could cook my fish OUTSIDE on the fire and eat it OUTSIDE too!” He’s animated and talking so fast in his excitement he reminds me of myself when discovering a new language or culture. “But if you don’t want to, then we’ll eat INSIDE.” He looks up at me, waiting hopefully. The look reminds me of Jack trying to cajole me into turning off the Discovery Channel in favor of ESPN.

“I think we should eat your fish outside. If that’s okay with you?” The little guy shakes his head vigorously and hugs my legs; it seems he’s already forgiven me for my earlier lack of enthusiasm at his angler skills. Jack was right... kids never hold a grudge.

The fish is very tasty and I don’t hesitate to inform Jarack it’s the absolute, best fish I’ve ever tasted. Jarack’s proud smile stretches from ear to ear. Maybe I can get the hang of this after all.

Jack is going to visit Paynan this evening, a friend from his previous adventures on Edora. It’ll just be Jarack and me for the evening. I’ve negotiated treaties on other worlds, I’ve been shot, zatted, tortured and ribboned, hell, I’ve even ascended, so why I am I so nervous about entertaining a four year old for a couple of hours?

Jack gives Jarack a kiss on the forehead and then leans in and gives me one as well. “Have fun, kids. I won’t be too late,” he promises as he heads out the door.

The fishing expedition has tired Jarack out and he seems content to lie on the floor and color with the crayons Jack brought for him while I read a 300 page report on artifacts discovered by SG-4 two weeks ago.

Before I even notice he’s up, Jarack is climbing sleepily into my lap and nuzzling his head against my chest. My arms immediately enfold him in a hug. His little body feels so snug and warm against mine. My heart aches at his dependence and vulnerability until I remember he has adults that love and care for him. It’s my own painful childhood causing the ache.

It’s funny seeing the little dynamo so subdued. He usually goes full tilt every waking second until the evening, then he collapses on Jack’s lap and sleeps like a rock for twelve hours. I’m thrilled he finds my lap an acceptable substitute. He lifts his head and looks up at me. “Daniel, did you see my ma in the stone ring?”

I kiss the furrowed forehead. “No Jarack, I didn’t.” The bright brown eyes fill with tears and I wish Jack were here to comfort him.

“Will you look for her for me?” The hope in his eyes is worse than the sadness.

Holding him tighter is the only solace I can offer. Oh, Jarack, the stone ring isn’t the answer to your prayers. I’ve searched for the ones I’ve loved and lost for a long, long time and I’ve never found any happiness or comfort there. “Jarack, your ma is not in the stone ring.” My hand gently ruffles the back of his head, my fingers soothing his scalp through the fine, soft baby hair.

The tears he’s been holding back begin to fall. “Where did the ancestors take her, Daniel? I miss her.”

“I know you do.” My own eyes sting with unshed tears, as I attempt to console a loss that is inconsolable. “She loved you, Jarack. Remember that. Know that in your heart.”

Jarack’s hand clutches my shirt as short, muted sobs rack his compact little body. His tears help me to summon the courage to share my own pain. “My mom died when I was a little boy too.” The words are so hard to say even after all these years, I’m not sure he heard me, my voice shaky with emotion.

He let’s go of the death grip on my shirt and gazes up at me, his eyes and nose in desperate need of a tissue.

“Did you miss your ma, Daniel?”

It strikes me no one has ever asked me that simple question. “Yes, I missed her very much. I still miss her.”

“Did she love you?”

“Yes, she did.”

His last question, “Did you cry?”

“Yes, Jarack, I cried.” I cried... alone, with no one to hold me and wipe away my tears.

My answers have a calming effect. He’s knows he’s not alone. “You’ll be okay, Jarack. I promise you that. Think about all the people who love you and will take care of you.”

His sobbing subsides to hiccups, my hand still tenderly massaging his scalp. “Naytha and Garan love me. They take care of me,” he says bravely.

“Yes, they will always take care of you.”

“Jack loves me too,” Jarack confides. “He told me he does,” he adds, not sure if I believe him.

“Jack does love you very much.” I understand his need for confirmation.

“And you know, Jarack, I love you too.” My grip tightens around him and I kiss the top of his head.

The sturdy body relaxes as I take a minute to wipe his eyes and nose. Jarack rests his head on my shoulder and closes his eyes. “I love you too, Daniel,” he whispers before falling asleep.

Staring down at the small bundle in my arms I feel a love that is completely foreign to me, the love of a child. Jarack’s trust fills me with an overwhelming desire to protect and suddenly I understand Jack a little better. Maybe I wouldn’t have made such a bad father after all.

When I’m sure Jarack is asleep, I undress him and get him situated in his bed, rubbing his back through the thin blanket to be sure he’s drifted into a deep slumber after my interruptions.

It was easy discussing what was best for Jarack before we actually met him. Our discussions were logical and impersonal. We talked about bringing him home with us but only if he didn’t seem happy or well cared for. He is happy and well cared for and I wish we could bring him home anyway. Secretly, I had worried about what effect a child would have on my relationship with Jack, but it hasn’t strained our relationship at all. In fact, it’s made it stronger. Of course, we’re not home, and life is so much simpler on Edora. I didn’t just tell Jarack I loved him tonight to comfort him... it’s much more complicated than that. I really do love him. Cassie is the only other child I’ve known and loved and she was practically a teenager when we met. I’m going to miss this little boy terribly. I can only imagine how difficult this will be for Jack.

“Daniel?”

Speak of the devil. “You’re back early.”

He plops down in the porch chair beside to me. “Yep.” His hand is already stroking up and down my forearm. “I wanted to get home. Brought ya something to drink.”

He’s told me stories about the power of this stuff... rot gut is what he called it. “Uh, no thanks.”

The jug dangles back and forth in Jack’s hand. He’s teasing me with it. “Come on, Daniel, it’s called...Tollka of Vollka or whatever the hell it’s called. It’s guaranteed to grow hair on your chest.”

“Do you want me to grow hair on my chest?”

He looks confused. “Um, no, not really. How’d everything go with Jarack?”

“Well, fine. He’s asleep.”

“Fine?” I guess I sounded a little too hesitant and Jack never trusts my version of ‘fine’ as it is.

“He was upset, but he really is fine now.”

Jack is on instant alert, my assurances not doing much to appease him. “Upset about what?”

“He was missing his mom and I was wishing you were here to talk with him.”

Jack settles back down and offers me his hand. I accept it gratefully. “I’m sure you handled it just fine,” he says confidently, smiling at me in the darkness.

“Actually, I think I did okay.”


Today was a great day. The three of us went to the caves and a few other ancient sites sacred to the Edorans. The places we visit, like the village, are eerily quiet. Because of Laira’s status as leader, all of the townspeople remain indoors, mourning her loss. Only the barest essentials are attended to and without much joy or conversation. We saw a few villagers at the well and a small group of children playing a game with sticks and a makeshift ball. That was about it. The small number of people we did see greeted us kindly with smiles and gratitude for Earth’s help in rebuilding after a third of Edora’s sparse population was killed in the fire rain four years ago when Jack was originally stranded.

We stopped by Garan’s for our short, daily visit to assure Jarack that all is well. Naytha, as always, packed us a basket of bread and fruit, along with a cooked meal consisting of meat or fish. She’s insistent on this and we always gratefully accept not wishing to insult her by refusing. The meal is always fresh and delicious.

The rest of the day was spent exploring. I was happily lost in the primeval history of Edora while Jack and Jarack roamed the caves and the hillside, climbing rocks, swimming and giggling at my attempts to explain the ways of the ancestors in accordance with the ancient text. Jack has expressed his concern of Jarack’s unwavering belief in all the tales and legends of Edora and its history. I gently pointed out Santa Claus, Halloween and the Easter Bunny. When Jarack is older he’s sure to question the validity of many of Edora’s myths and legends. Children often find comfort in the traditions and belief systems of the adults they are closest to and I caution Jack about the timing of poking holes into those perceived truths.

The three of us are so good together, the feeling of family so strong I have to blink back tears. I haven’t experienced this feeling since I was a child of eight. Never as an adult. I have to remind myself this is temporary; Jarack is not coming home with us. It’s difficult to envision what our lives on Earth would be like if he were. Life on Edora is primitive and so much simpler than life on earth, yet much more accepting. The days and nights spent here will be cherished memories.

It’s dusk by the time we return to the cabin. Jarack is in Jack’s arms sound asleep, drooling contently on Jack’s shoulder. He conked out a couple of miles back, and Jack had to pick him up and carry him the rest of the way. A storm is approaching and we didn’t want to get caught in it.

Jarack is clean and sweet smelling from our after dinner dip in the lake and Jack gently lays him on his bed, keeping the small hand trapped in his own for a few minutes before kissing the sweet face. When he finishes his goodnights I do the same.

Jack and I decide to sit out on the porch and watch the approaching storm. He pulls his chair flush up against mine and reaches for my hand as the thunder begins to rumble in the distance. We never held hands much at home and aside from Jarack, this simple pleasure is going to be the hardest thing for me to give up.

It’s quite an impressive show as lightning bolts dance across the sky followed by loud cracks of thunder. The last loud clap brings a frightened Jarack running outside and jumping up onto Jack’s lap, burrowing his face into his father’s shoulder. Jack releases my hand to soothe his son. “It’s just a storm, little guy. Nothing to be scared of.” Jack amazes me. He’s always been protective, but I’ve never witnessed this nurturing side of him before.

“Jack, it’s, it’s the fire rain,” Jarack gasps, trembling in fear.

“No.” Jack has Jarack wrapped in a tight reassuring hug. “It’s not the fire rain. How do you know about the fire rain?”

“Everybody knows about it. Lots and lots of people had to go join the ancestors.”

Jack kisses Jarack’s hair and then brushes it back from his forehead. “This is not the fire rain. The bad part of the fire rain will not come again for... well, forever for you.”

“Really? How do you know?” Jack hesitates then glances over at me.

“Daniel told me. Daniel knows everything. This is just a big old thunder and lightning storm.” A crack of lightning flashes downward from the sky, followed by another big boom to emphasize Jack’s point.

Jarack is still concerned, not convinced this is a natural occurrence. He explains how he normally hides under his bed at home and waits for the ancestors to go away. “Are the ancestors mad at us, Jack?”

“No. No it’s just... Daniel?”

I shoot him a glare. Typical Jack. “It’s just atmospheric conditions.”

Jack raises an eyebrow at my lame attempt at an explanation. “Tell you what, kiddo, I’ll have Carter explain it to you when you’re old enough to understand. Maybe when you’re fifty or so.”

“When I’m five, Jack?”

“We’ll see.” Jarack covers his ears as another blast of thunder rolls across the dark sky.

“It’s really nothing to worry about, Jarack.” Jack removes Jarack’s hands from his ears. “It’s just the a... the ancestors bowling.”

“Jack!” I can’t believe he said that, especially after complaining about the primitive belief systems in place on Edora.

“What’s b-bowling?”

Jack stifles a grin and shrugs.

“Should I ask Daniel?” Jarack asks hesitantly.

“No. Forget bowling.” Jack’s hand cups the back of Jarack’s head. “There’s nothing to be scared of, buddy. I got ya.” Despite the lightning strikes and the roaring thunder, Jarack curls up on his father’s lap and falls asleep.


Even with last night’s rain it’s another hot day and Jack has decided to take Jarack down to the lake for a swim. I begged off, thinking I could use some down time and get in some reading, plus I figured Jack might want some alone time with his son. Only an hour has gone by and I’m already restless and bored without the two of them horsing around, wrestling and giggling.

It’s almost noon when I decide to make up a picnic lunch and head down to the water. The guys are sure to be hungry. The lake is not far and I can hear Jarack squealing with delight before I actually spot them.

Jack is standing a little ways out from the shoreline, the water coming up to just below his chest. He’s holding his little boy under the armpits and spinning him around so Jarack’s legs are bouncing and splashing off the surface of the water. As much as Jarack is enjoying himself I can’t take my eyes off of Jack. He’s absolutely beautiful, bare-chested, his silver hair shining in the afternoon sunlight. And the expression on his face... I’ve rarely seen Jack so openly joyful. The hard lines life has etched into his handsome features have all but disappeared. The man looks ten years younger and my heart is pounding at the sight of him.

“Faster, Jack, spin me faster,” Jarack urges.

“That’s as fast as I can go, buddy,” Jack laughs, spinning the boy one last time before stopping. “I’m all tired out.”

“No you’re not,” Jarack argues.

Jack hugs the boy to his chest, and glances up, his smile brightening as he spots me. I feel myself blush at being caught staring. “Besides, Jarack,” Jack says, pointing me out. “Daniel’s here.”

To my surprise, Jarack seems just as happy as Jack to see me. He squirms impatiently in Jack’s arms until the water is shallow enough for Jack to safely set him down and then runs as fast as he can, splashing happily up the beach until he’s close enough to throw his arms around my thighs for a wet hug.

“Daniel, did you see me?”

It’s not easy to tear my eyes away from Jack’s face to smile down at him. “Yes, I saw you, Jarack.”

“Jack spinned me faster and faster... like an, an air-o-plane.” His little face is lit up like a Christmas tree.

I glance back up at Jack, “Like an airplane, huh?”

Jarack nods and pulls on my shirt to be sure he has my undivided attention. “It’s a big, big shiny machine that can fly way up high in the sky. Like a bird!” His description comes complete with sweeping hand gestures.

“He likes to get all technical,” Jack says, patting his son’s shoulder. “Just like me,” he smirks. Moving closer, Jack reaches for me and places a firm, wet hand on the small of my back. “What are you doing here?” The touch sends a shiver racing down my spine.

This is not the time or the place. “I brought lunch.” With that announcement I twist away from Jack’s touch. He has no clue how turned on I am and he won’t, not with Jarack here. Dammit, I’m blushing again.

Lunch was well worth my efforts. Jack and I barely have the blanket spread out under the shade of an old tree before Jarack is tearing into his sandwich with the same gusto Jack usually reserves for the last piece of his favorite pie.

“Jack’s teaching me how to swim like the fishes.”

“Jarack, don’t talk with food in your mouth,” Jack gently admonishes.

Jarack chews frantically in order to finish giving me the details of his swimming lesson. We eat up the sandwiches and some of Naytha’s cake and absently listen to Jarack’s endless chatter.

“Are we going to go swimming again?” Jarack asks as soon as the food is gone.

“Nope. Let’s take a little rest,” Jack coaxes, as he stretches out on the blanket and pats the spot beside him for Jarack to join him.

“I’m not going to nap,” Jarack announces firmly. “I’m not a baby!”

“I know that.” Jack’s on his back, his fingers interlocked behind his head, staring straight up into the sky. “I thought maybe you could look at the clouds with me.”

Jarack reluctantly agrees after we both confirm he is not a baby. I stash the scant leftovers into the backpack and lie down to join them, mimicking Jack’s position. Jarack points out a few cloud images before curling up closer, using Jack’s chest as a pillow and dozing lightly.

Jack frees up a hand and reaches for mine. When he finds it our fingers intertwine over Jarack’s head. He squeezes my hand tightly for a few seconds before he succumbs to a light nap himself. I don’t sleep. I’m too stunned at my surroundings. Jack and I are sprawled on a blanket in the sunshine holding hands; Jack’s son safely nestled between us, as if it were the most natural thing in the world.

It’s a tease really, a taste of what we’re missing. I once told Jack I don’t really have any fantasies, but I lied. This is part of my fantasy. To put my arm around him, to dance at a public function, and to lie down on a blanket in the middle of a bright sunny afternoon and hold hands.

I love Edora.


We’re leaving in two days and Jack decides he’s been putting it off long enough, he has an obligation to put in a guest appearance at the mining site and at least show his face to the Edoran leadership. I’ve been down there twice already and I’m going to go back tomorrow for one last visit. Edora’s new leader isn’t Laira, but she’s intelligent and kind; Earth and Edora should have no problem maintaining a budding friendship.

Jarack is playing in a pile of dirt near the edge of the trees when Jack calls him over to say goodbye. The boy wastes no time galloping back up to the cabin.

“But I want to go with you,” he whines as soon as Jack finishes his goodbye.

The mining site is no place for children; I’ve checked it out first hand and besides, the Colonel is supposed to be making an official visit on behalf of earth and the SGC. Jack is grimacing at the discomfort of wearing his BDU’s for the first time since we arrived. He gives Jarack a peck on the forehead. “Not this time, buddy.” He winks at me and starts out on the five-mile hike to our command post.

Jarack is not a happy camper. “Yes, I am going,” he says, more to himself than either of us and then proceeds to follow Jack in spite of the orders to the contrary. The stubborn determination reminds me of a certain Colonel I know and love.

Jack turns around. “Jarack, I said no.”

The four-year-old folds his arms across his chest and pouts. “Yes, I will come. I know where the mine place is,” he brags defiantly.

Jack is hot and sweating in his uniform and in no mood for his son’s disobedience. He gets down on one knee and puts his hands firmly on the boy’s shoulders. “Jarack, you are staying here. Do you want Daniel to hold you on his lap until I’m gone or can you stay by yourself?”

“I’m going with you.” He’s not budging an inch.

“Fine.” Jack unceremoniously picks Jarack up and sits him on my lap. He kisses the boy’s forehead and then mine and heads out to make nice with the Edoran leaders.

Jarack seems a little stunned by the swiftness of Jack’s action and departure. Jack is out of sight by the time Jarack recovers and a few tears roll down the chubby cheeks.

“It’s okay, Jarack.” My thumbs gently brush away the tears. “Jack had to go to work, that’s all.”

His shoulders shake with a few sniffles before he wipes his eyes and blows his nose in the tissue I provide him. “Is Jack mad at me?” he asks, the innocent eyes fraught with worry.

“No, Jack’s not mad at you.” My hug goes a long way in reassuring him. “He was just in a hurry and you were not being very... cooperative.”

He wrinkles his nose and forehead. “What’s copper-tive?”

“It’s means you weren’t doing what Jack asked you to do.” It’s hard not to smile at Jarack’s facial expressions and antics.

“I wasn’t minding?” A light goes on and Jarack smiles his understanding.

“Right. You weren’t minding.”

He appears to think this over for a few seconds. “Daniel, do I have to sit on your lap until Jack comes back?”

I chuckle at the thought of me trying to hold the small, yet powerful ball of energy in check for more than a few minutes. “Nope. Just until I know you won’t go running off after Jack.”

“I won’t.” He’s already squirming restlessly. “Can I go back and play in the dirt pile now?” I tousle his hair and gently set him down. As soon as his feet touch the ground he runs clumsily toward the mound of mud he was having so much fun with before Jack’s departure. I watch him for a while before getting back to my reading.

The sun holds only good memories for me. Egypt, Abydos and now Edora. The warm rays are soothing on my face, not as harsh as the sun back home. I open my eyes with a jolt, remembering where I am. Jarack! I was watching him. He was right down there. How long have I been sleeping? I spring out of the chair, slightly panicked, calling out his name. All I can think about is the mine, or the lake... what if he decided to go for a swim?

“Jarack! Jarack!”

The little guy comes out from behind the trees, his short, pudgy legs churning as fast as he can run. “What, Daniel?” My yelling has scared him; his shaky question echoes my anxiety. There is nothing scarier for a child than knowing that an adult is truly scared. That’s one thing I remember from my own childhood. My heart calms to a more natural rhythm as I squat down to his level and give the slick, dirt-covered body a relieved hug.

He hugs me back just as fiercely, happily assured everything is fine. I hold him at arms length to give him the once over. At some point during my catnap, Jarack has discarded his shirt, shoes and socks. After one more firm squeeze I release him to get back to his dirt pile. He trudges back down to play with nothing on but his shorts, his slight potbelly resting just over the rim of the waistband, reminding me of a little Buddha.

“Play where I can see you,” I order, as I head back to the porch. For the first time, I have a hint of what it’s like to be a parent and to be responsible for a precious life.

For all the years I’ve told Jack I understood, for all the years I thought I did understand; it wasn’t true. For one fraction of a second in the brilliant sunshine of a lazy afternoon on Edora I caught a glimpse of Jack’s true horror.

I never really understood at all.


Jack

It’s our last night together and Daniel has been sticking close to me, subtly touching me whenever he can, providing me with physical comfort for what’s sure to be a tough day tomorrow. He disappears into the bedroom and I’m wondering if he’s trying to give Jarack and me some time alone. I hope not, Jarack is as attached to Daniel as he is to me.

“Jack, did Daniel go to bed?” Jarack must be reading my mind. I’m about to tell him I don’t know when Daniel emerges from the bedroom with two books and a shy, tentative smile.

He sits down at the table and calls us both over. “Hey, guys, I have something for you two.”

Jarack jumps off of my lap and runs to Daniel, leaping into his. “What is it, Daniel? What do you have?” he demands excitedly. Never let it be said that an O’Neill is blasé about gifts.

“It’s a book!” Jarack yells to me in delight.

“It’s a very special book,” Daniel says softly. He takes Jarack’s hand and helps him open the book and turn the first page.

Jarack’s eyes go wide with astonishment. “It’s me, I’m in the book!”

Daniel smiles happily and kisses Jarack’s hair. “Yep,” he says. “It’s you in the book.”

“And Jack!” Jarack turns each page slowly in anticipation with a look of wonder at each new image revealed. “Jack, look! It’s our fish that we caught!”

I go over to the table to join them and share in Jarack’s amazement. I’m looking in wonder too, but not at the photos, I’m looking at Daniel. I love him and I’m having a hard time taking my eyes off of him to look at the pictures. A long time ago, Daniel single handedly restored my faith in mankind and every once in while he does something to remind me of that. He’s unique, there’s no one quite like him, and I still can’t believe he’s mine.

“Jack, look!” Jarack pulls on my sleeve and demands my attention as the three of us marvel at each photo in the small album. “I like your pictures, Daniel!” Jarack practically shouts as we stare at the last photo. It was taken last night. It’s another shot of the two of us, Jarack asleep on my lap, my arms wrapped around him as we were sitting outside during our nightly ritual of watching the stars come out.

“These are YOUR pictures, Jarack. They’re for you to keep.” Daniel explains.

“Mine?” Jarack clutches the photo album to his chest for a moment before turning his attention to the other book on the table. He starts tearing into the second album when Daniel gently places his hand over Jarack’s to stop him.

“Those are the same pictures as yours, Jarack. They’re for Jack.”

“All the same?” Jarack sounds disappointed.

“Yes, I thought you and Jack would like having the same pictures to look at.

“Okay,” he says softly.

“Is something wrong?” Daniel asks, with a concerned frown.

“There are no pictures of you in my book, Daniel,” he says sadly.

Daniel looks surprised. I’m with Jarack on this one. “Yeah, Daniel, I want some pictures of you in my book too. Get the camera.” Daniel agrees to my suggestion so I snap some shots of the two of them and then show Jarack the photo previews in the camera. He’s not happy. He explains to me that he wants ‘big’ pictures of Daniel, ones that will fit in his book.

“Yeah, Daniel, how did you make the pictures big?” I ask with a wink.

“I printed them off today on one of the computers at the mining site.”

“Ah, well, as good a use of our power supply as any, I suppose.”

“Jarack,” I try explaining. “Daniel and I are going to have to take the pictures home with us and then we’ll send them with one of the men at the mines to give to you, okay?”

“Okay,” Jarack agrees, looking skeptically at the camera. “Jack, can I draw pictures and send one for you and one for Daniel?”

“Sure you can. Whenever you want to. As a matter of fact...” I find a pen and a piece of paper. “I’m going to write something on this paper that will help you send us anything you want. All you have to do is have Garan give your pictures or letters to one of the men at the mines.”

“Here, you go.” I finish writing out our names and titles on the slip of paper and as an afterthought, add our home address as well. I hand it to him and slide another copy into my own pocket for Garan and Naytha.

Jarack wiggles off of Daniel’s lap and sits down on a small bench under the window. He opens the folded piece of paper and studies it carefully. Pride wells within in me at this life that I’ve created. The knowledge something good and right in me produced this tiny, innocent perfect being is a soothing balm for my emotional scars.

“What are all these numbers for, Jack?” A small, mud creased finger points at the writing.

I glance down. “That’s the zip code.”

“What’s a z-zip, zip c-c?”

“It’s nothing you have to worry about. You just have Garan or Naytha help you write that on one of the envelopes I gave you and I’ll get your message.”

Daniel shoots me a look and starts in on an explanation. I’m trying not to smirk at the idea of explaining Earth zip codes to a four year old on Edora. Of course, Daniel being Daniel, calls Jarack over, settles him back on his lap and forges ahead.

“Well, Jarack, there are so many people on earth that numbers are assigned to the end of each person’s address, so the postman knows who the letter belongs to.”

“Ad-ad-address?” Jarack stutters, looking a bit confused.

Daniel continues with his usual patience. “Your address is where you live. It helps locate the name of your town, and your street, and even your house.”

“The town and then the numbers?” Jarack is staring at the paper in wonder.

“Exactly!” Daniel shoots me a triumphant glare and tousles Jarack’s hair enthusiastically.

I decide to wipe the smug look off of Daniel’s face and give him another lesson about kids in the process. “Jarack, do you have any more questions about this?” There is no way the kid understood that concept. I should know, he’s my kid.

“One more question,” the little guy says slowly, holding up an index finger in a gesture oddly reminiscent of Daniel.

“Sure, go ahead,” my linguist encourages with a smile, waiting confidently.

“Daniel,” Jarack asks thoughtfully. “Who gets to wear the zip coat?”

That’s my boy. It takes all of my effort not to laugh at the two of them. Daniel opens his mouth, then wisely closes it and pulls Jarack in for a hug. “Don’t worry, Jarack,” he whispers soothingly. “Your letters will always find us.”


The next morning Garan and Naytha and Jarack accompany us to the Stargate for our final goodbyes. Watching Jarack bouncing along ahead of us I have no doubt leaving him here on Edora with Laira’s family is the right thing to do. He’s happy here. Besides, there is no pollution, no bullies, no daycare, no babysitters, not to mention, no kidnappings, no child molesters and... no deadly weapons carelessly lying around to play with. That’s what I tell myself, my head is buying it, my heart isn't so sure. Damn, seven days ago I wasn’t sure of his existence and now I’m going to miss the kid more than I would have believed possible.

I scoop him up in my arms for a last goodbye. The feel of his small arms around my neck and the hard kiss on my cheek remind me how lucky I am. I never thought I’d feel these sensations again. Tears spring to my eyes as I realize for the first time I’m grateful for my son. The tears are of shame at my initial attitude. Jarack isn’t a mistake. He’s alive and real and wonderful.

He places a small hand on each of my cheeks and gazes into my eyes. “Jack, are you going to come back and play with me again?”

“Yes, I will,” I manage to choke in reply as I give him another squeeze and place a final kiss on his forehead.

“Daniel too?” he asks, his hands still pressing on my cheeks, holding my head in place.

“We’ll both come back and visit you, Jarack. I promise.” I’m seconds away from letting the tears escape when Daniel comes to my rescue.

He stands beside me with open arms. “Do I get a hug, Jarack?”

My son leaps into Daniel’s waiting arms and soundly hugs his neck. Daniel looks a little choked up himself at Jarack’s unrestrained enthusiasm. The boy pulls back, gazes into Daniel’s eyes and wags a finger at him.

“Don’t forget to take the pictures out of the little box and send them to me, okay, Daniel?” he says sternly. Demanding little tyke... wonder where he gets that from?

“I won’t forget,” Daniel promises. And I know he won’t. Knowing Daniel, he’ll probably print them out tonight as soon as we get home.

Naytha gives both Daniel and I a farewell hug before Garan shakes my hand and whispers a promise to take care of Jarack and keep him safe. I have no doubt he will. He also assures me Daniel and I will always be welcome in their home.

Daniel dials up our home and sends the GDO code while Jarack stands safely between his two young guardians, the three of them holding hands. The little boy pulls a hand free from Naytha just as the wormhole swooshes to wave a hearty goodbye as we step through.


The briefing is long and poor Daniel has to make his three short visits to the mining site sound necessary and productive. I sympathize and am happy to have the luxury of letting my mind wander to the small wonder that is my son. The time spent with Jarack was a precious gift made even more special by Daniel’s presence beside me.

When the meeting finally ends, Daniel and I meet up with Teal’c and Carter in the commissary for some dinner and to do a little catching up and some explaining. I tell them about Jarack, and though they are obviously as surprised as Daniel was, they both manage to offer up congratulations. The days and nights of Edora don’t line up with Earth’s and by the time we finish eating, Daniel and I are exhausted, suffering from a little gate lag.

We both sign out at 1900 hours and head for home. It’s a quiet ride. Daniel’s eyes are closed and I have no way of knowing if he’s actually sleeping or just thinking about the past week. I can’t blame him for fantasizing. The freedom we experienced on Edora is going to be difficult to forget. It’s ironic that after all of our hard fought battles, and all of the sacrifices we’ve made to ensure Earth’s freedom, Daniel and I have to visit another planet, light years away from our home, to truly enjoy the liberties we fight for.

As soon as we get inside the door Daniel runs upstairs and I hear the shower running. Since we’ve been gone for seven days I do a thorough check of the house, first opening the windows to air the place out a bit, and then checking the fridge to make sure nothing is reeking or giving birth to a new life form . When I hear the water shut off I give Daniel a few more minutes and then head upstairs to take care of my own needs.

When I enter the bedroom, all scrubbed and fresh, I’m surprised Daniel’s not in bed. I’m pretty sure neither of us are up for any fooling around tonight and as much as I loved listening to Jarack dozing safely in the small bed beside me, I’ve missed snuggling and sleeping with Daniel’s warmth pressed up against me. My first thought is to go downstairs and hunt for him, but before I head down it hits me where my guy will be. I peek into the spare room and sure enough, there he is at the computer, his head nodding and drooping as he fights to stay awake. The printer is humming away, printing the pictures of Daniel and Jarack. He’s so tired he doesn’t hear me come in.

His body jerks slightly forward in surprise at my touch, and then immediately relaxes at the feel of my arms wrapped tightly around his shoulders. I plant a gentle kiss on the nape of his neck and he lowers his head to encourage me.

“Almost done.” He attempts to pull away from my grasp in order to finish up the photos. I’m not letting go.

“What?” He laughs softly at the firmness of my hold.

“Thank you, Danny.”

“For?” he asks cautiously.

“For Edora, for standing by me,” I whisper from behind. “I thought that part of me died with Charlie.” My voice hitches at the sound of my son’s name. “Come to bed with me.” I’m nuzzling at his nape.

“I will.” He tries to squirm out of my grasp, but I hold him firm.

“Now.”

“As soon as you let go of me.”

“If I let go of you, you’ll go back to what you were doing.” Rather than arguing he laughs softly, knowing it’s the truth.

“Look, Jack.” Daniel points to the photos. Releasing him, I pull up a chair to sit beside him and watch Jarack’s smiling face emerge from the printer.

“He sure is something, isn’t he?”

Daniel turns towards me and kisses my bowed head. “He sure is. Maybe when he’s a little older or after you retire, he could come and stay with us for a while. Or we could go to Edora again if you think he'd be scared here. What do you think?”

How does he do that? Read my mind like that. “I think that I love you, Daniel Jackson.”

He’s smiles at me and turns off the computer and offers his hand. I take it willingly as he leads me silently down the hall to our bedroom.

We snuggle deep into the bedding and though we haven’t slept in the same bed for over a week our bodies quickly settle into our usual sleep positions, Daniel’s back secure against my chest. We’re both exhausted and my archaeologist is asleep in seconds. My mind takes a few more minutes to power down. I love this man beside me, this man who has freed my soul. Daniel is closer than he’s ever been with no walls or secrets lying in wait to snare us. It’s a rare thing to be thoroughly known by another human being and loved in spite of your failures.

When I close my eyes I see Jarack.

Fair day, Laira, and thank you.

FINIS

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Biblio, PhoenixE, babs, Brionhet, Darcy, Devra, Fabrisse, JoaG, Kalimyre, Marcia, Rowan and Sideburns, 2001-2008.
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