Category: Slash, Action/Adventure, Drama, Angst, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing: Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Season: Beyond the Series - January 5 - March 3, 2009
Spoilers: Crystal Skull, Evolution (extremely minor)
Written: August 8, November 7, 2004, March 28-31, April 1-3,30, May 1,19, June 1, August 25-31, September 6,19-21,25-28,30, October 1,3-4,10,29, November 3-6,8-9, 2005 Revised for consistency: August 12, 2007 Tweaked: January 14, 2008
Summary: The Jackson-O'Neills venture to Muyil, Mexico on a dig. While there, Daniel gets a big surprise, one that jeopardizes not only his future, but also that of their children.
Disclaimer: Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't. A gal can dream though!
1) “Despierta” is written by Luis Luna.
2) “When You Wish Upon a Star” is written by Leigh Harline with lyrics by Ned Washington.
3) Sometimes, Jack and Daniel speak almost telepathically. Their “silent” words to each other are indicated by asterisks instead of quotes, such as **Jack, we can't.**
4) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
5) This fic stands alone, but it does reference my other fics, “Egyptian Erotica: Another Ten Months,” “Sharpshooter Secret,” “Wish Upon a Star”
6) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better: Claudia, QuinGem, Linda, Tove, Allexandrya, Patti, Cassiopeia!
--Chapter One: Heading South
Sitting in his office at J-O Enterprises, Daniel heard laughter coming from the hallway. Curiosity getting the better of him, he got up from his chair and went to investigate. It wasn't the fact that someone was laughing that had captured his attention. J-O was a lighthearted environment, and it pleased Jack and Daniel to know their employees were happy in their jobs and felt free to share jovial moments during the day. Rather, it was the kind of laughter -- a very lighthearted, delightful type of laugh -- that drew Daniel from his work, especially since the bubbly sound was coming from Megan Williams, J-O's Director of Operations.
“You give me too much credit, Megan,” Yazid Awad spoke with humility. “It is my boss who is responsible for all our good deeds.”
“Oh, I don't think so, Yazid. You're much too modest,” Megan said, a bright smile lighting up her face, her cheeks tinged with a mild rosy red hue from their conversation.
Daniel smiled knowingly as he turned around to leave, but thought to himself, “Oops!” when he realized Megan had spotted him out of the corner of her eye. She suddenly turned a darker shade of red from embarrassment at being caught by her boss.
“Daniel, my friend,” Yazid greeted, smiling widely and opening his arms for a welcoming embrace.
“Yazid, it's good to see you,” Daniel said, his voice muffled by the larger man's shoulder.
“Abayomi is anxious to begin our next project, Daniel. The research center is one of his favorite projects,” Yazid told him.
“Come into my office,” Daniel invited, moving to the side to allow the other man to pass. He smiled at Megan again, who shrugged lightly and turned to go back to her office, her cheeks still flushed. ~Ah, Megan, you are so twitterpated. Twitterpated? I have got to stop watching Disney movies with Jack,~ he thought to himself, shaking his head he closed the door to his office.
Passion Incorporated, the company owned by Abayomi Sharif, had been the first to take a chance on the new archaeological firm, J-O Enterprises, run by Jack and Daniel. Last year, J-O had gone to Egypt to examine the site of Abayomi's new hotel after surveys revealed that beneath the surface some precious artifacts were waiting to be unearthed.
Yazid Awad was Abayomi's executive assistant and chief liaison between Abayomi and J-O. He had been present on that first dig in Egypt, during which it had been revealed that, through his father, he had ties to General Hammond. Although the exact nature of those ties had never been explained, Jack and Daniel both knew that they were top secret, and so they never inquired further. Perhaps better than anybody, the couple knew that some secrets were best left alone.
The current project that the two companies were collaborating on was about to take J-O Enterprises to Mexico where Abayomi, in cooperation with the Mexican government, wanted to build a research center for environmental and scientific study. Not surprisingly, given the archeologically rich area where the proposed site was to be built, their preliminary analysis had indicated that some on-site work would be required.
“I've got that feeling, Jack,” Daniel had confided as they awaited the survey reports. “I really think we're going to find something unique in Muyil,” he'd said excitedly.
It was still too early to be certain what they had, but according to the survey results, Daniel's instincts had been right. Thus, Yazid was now meeting with Daniel to finalize the dig dates and plans.
“Uh, I'm sorry Jack isn't here, but we had babysitter problems today,” Daniel apologized, gesturing for Yazid to seat himself in one of the comfortable side chairs in his office.
“How are the little, uh, Munchkins?” Yazid asked, smiling at the unusual nickname for the triplets.
“They're fine, and so are the twins and ...”
“The Mouseketeers,” Yazid finished, chuckling. ~They are such a fun family to be around.~
Getting down to business, the two men began to review the latest survey reports, discussing the results and possibilities for the site.
“I know we're going to find something,” Daniel said confidently. “This area is just so rich in Mayan history,” he enthused.
“Abayomi has great faith in your company,” Yazid confided, smiling at Daniel's enthusiasm.
“Thank you,” Daniel replied shyly at the unexpected compliment.
After returning home from the office, Daniel had filled his husband in on the meeting with Yazid and then spent a couple of hours making out a rough schedule for the trip. This project had to come in on time. Because of both government requirements and Abayomi's personal goals, J-O had to be packed up and gone from the dig site by the first of March, which gave them roughly six weeks to complete the project.
“Jack, where are you?” Daniel called out that evening as he walked into the living room.
“In here, Love,” Jack shouted from his chair in the study.
“Okay, I think I have the schedule figured out, but we do have a problem,” Daniel announced with a frown as he walked into the study.
“What's that?” Jack asked, leaning back in his leather chair and mentally preparing himself for any problems which had arisen.
Daniel sat down on the sofa, his eyes focused on the notes and printouts pertaining to the job in Muyil that he held in his hands.
“In Egypt, we had both Sam and Teal'c helping out. We're not going to have them this time.” Daniel paused, giving his husband a chance to digest the thought. “The problem is that we *absolutely* have to be out of Muyil by the first of March. It's going to be tight, and you and I both are going to have to devote a lot of time to making sure we stay on schedule. Jack, last time we didn't have this type of time restriction. You ... you haven't experienced this type of time pressure.”
“Daniel, I know about deadlines,” Jack argued in defense of his logic and common sense.
“In military matters, yes,” Daniel agreed, his eyes still glued on the schedule he had drawn up. “But on this dig, we're going to be the first ones up and the last ones to sleep, and we may not even get much of that. We'll have to bring in lighting for night work. We're not going to be able to eat with the others all the time. I wish we had Sam and Teal'c,” he lamented, sighing dejectedly.
“The brood,” Jack deduced, now understanding just where Daniel was going with his concern about the tight time constraints in place for this job. “That is a problem,” he conceded.
“Jack, I had an idea, but I'm not sure what you'll think about it,” Daniel warned a bit hesitantly.
With a smile, Jack rose and went over to the sofa, sitting down and placing his right hand on his lover's thigh as he said, “I'm listening.”
Daniel explained, “I was talking to Cassie a couple of weeks ago, and she mentioned that she wanted to take a break from college.”
“Yeah, I heard that, right before she heard what I felt about that,” Jack replied with his eyes flashing in his irritation over Cassandra’s decision.
Daniel chuckled, “Babe, even with all your degrees, school was not your thing. How can you sit there and justify your reaction to Cassie's decision to take a semester off? She's a straight-A student.” Seeing his lover's sour scowl, he laughed again and surmised, “You're afraid she'll run off and marry Dominic or, uh, something.”
“She's too young,” Jack growled.
“No, she's not, but, in any case, that's not what she wants to do,” Daniel reiterated.
“Maybe,” Jack conceded grudgingly, not exactly sure what his surrogate niece's real agenda was. “What's your idea?” he asked.
“Let's hire her,” Daniel suggested, a smirky smile on his face.
“Hire?” Jack repeated, his eyes widening at what seemed at least initially to be a strange thought.
“Yes, to be a ... a nanny for the children while we're in Mexico. It would be a great experience for her, and we trust her, which means we can focus on the job like we'll need to,” Daniel explained.
“That's a lot of work and responsibility for just one person,” Jack pointed out with uncertainty.
“Jen can help out,” Daniel noted confidently. “Besides, what choice do we have? It's that, or we back out, and that wouldn't be good for J-O Enterprises.”
Seeing the logic of his husband's statement, Jack responded, “I'll call the Doc.”
Daniel shook his head, explaining, “Jack, Cassie's an adult. We need to start treating her like one.”
~She's a kid!~ Jack rocked himself slightly as he pondered Cassandra's maturity. “I still see that eleven-year-old girl hiding in the bushes on Hanka,” he admitted quietly.
“That was a long time ago, Babe,” the younger man said as he rubbed Jack's back in support and understanding. “It's not that we shouldn't mention it to Janet, but ultimately, it's not Janet's decision,” Daniel stated.
“Danny,” Jack said, leaning forward, “are you going to be this calm in twenty years when the shoe is on the other foot, and it's one of our daughters wanting to take a semester off?”
“Ah, no!” Daniel said with a smile, adding, “But, uh, she's not our daughter; she's our niece.”
“You've gone to the dark side, Angel,” Jack announced, a look of mock shock on his face.
“Be afraid, Love; be very afraid,” Daniel teased, raising his eyebrows as he leered at his husband.
The couple laughed and then placed two phone calls, the first to Janet, not to ask her permission, but just to let her know what they were thinking, and the second to Cassandra, who readily agreed to their proposition, saying it was exactly the type of getaway adventure from studying that she needed.
“Suz, this is Daniel,” the archaeologist said as he leaned back in his comfortable desk chair in the den. “Sorry you're not home, but I just wanted to let you know that we, that is, the entire family, will be out of the country until the first of March. As Jack says, we're going to have a hot ole time in Mexico. Yeah, I know, but he thought it was funny.” After pausing for a few seconds to catch his breath, he continued, “I hope everything is okay with you. Uh, we aren't leaving until Friday, so when you get a chance, give me a call so we can catch up. I, ah, won't have much time to call or anything from Mexico; we're going to be in a super time crunch. Um, well, I guess that's all. Bye. TTFN.”
Daniel hung up the phone from calling Suzanna Simpson, the one foster sibling he had stayed in contact with over the years. The two had a close relationship, one of the handful he had developed over the years, even though it sometimes was months in between phone calls or letters. They did a little better with e-mail, but though their contact was limited, there was a lot of love and respect between them.
Realizing how he ended the call, with the abbreviated 'Ta Ta For Now', Daniel did a mock shiver, thinking, ~Now I'm quoting Tigger. Okay, Jack -- no more Winnie the Pooh marathons.~ He smiled, knowing that he actually loved Winnie the Pooh and adored their Pooh marathon days. Still, he shrugged at his wording, joking ~And I'm a linguist, too.~ Chuckling, he said, “Oh, well.”
After making a few notations in his datebook, Daniel stood up and headed into the nursery where the twins were.
“Okay, you two, family meeting time,” Daniel announced, smiling at the way their two young faces lit up when they saw him.
“Daaaaddy!” Jenny called out upon seeing Daniel, immediately raising her arms up.
“Hi, Princess.” The younger father of eight picked up the sixteen-month-old twins and smiled at them while musing, ~I can't believe how easy this is now. Two babies is ... a piece of cake.~
“Did you talk to Suz?” Jack asked, waving and smiling at the twins, who were nestled into his husband's arms.
Daniel shook his head as he answered, “I had to leave her a message.” He passed Jenny to David and Ricky to Jennifer, who both greeted them with hugs, and added, “I wish we saw her more often.”
“Me, too,” Jack agreed with a nod, having a genuine fondness for his husband's foster sibling.
Jack looked around, making sure the entire family was present. In ToddlerTown, the specially-made playpen he had built, were the Munchkins, who had celebrated their second birthday a few months earlier in September, and seated on the sofa were the Mouseketeers -- Jennifer, David, and Chenoa.
“Dad, what's up?” thirteen-year-old Jennifer asked, bouncing her youngest brother on her knee.
“J-O has a big project coming up in Mexico,” Jack informed the entire Jackson-O'Neill clan. “We've talked about it a few times, but Daddy and I didn't want to say anything until we knew everything was in place.”
“We all go?” Chenoa asked, a small frown on her face due to her fear of being separated from her parents.
“That's right, Princess,” Jack answered, smiling at their curly-haired, three-year-old daughter, who immediately relaxed at her father's words.
“Where in Mexico will we be going?” David asked, already loving the idea since he, like Daniel, loved to learn about the past.
“Muyil. It's, uh, on the east coast of the Yucatan. Jack,” Daniel called out, motioning for him to get the globe. Once he had the object in front of him, the archaeologist spun it around to show the children where their destination was in relation to the world. Then he pulled out the atlas so they could see a more detailed map of the region they would be visiting. “See, it's south of Cancun, and it's part of a place called the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve.”
“What's that, Daddy?” David queried, his interest piqued by the unusual names.
David was just three months shy of turning eight, and he was very intelligent. He attended a private school and, because of his interest in Egypt and history as well as his linguistic skills, he reminded his parents of Daniel at that age. In fact, the boy already dabbled in at least five foreign languages to varying degrees. He also shared Daniel's love of archaeology. The trip to Egypt had been a treasure to him, and he was eager to go on this new adventure as well. The moment he had heard his parents say they were going on another job, he'd decided to learn as much as he could about wherever they were going.
“It's a huge area of forest, mangroves, coral reefs, and Mayan ruins that are protected, like our national parks. The Mexican government got together with some international organizations interested in conservation and created this reserve. It's a protected area, and there are some places where people aren't allowed to go,” Daniel replied.
“Why?” Jennifer asked, thinking it was a little odd that people couldn't go where they wanted.
“Because the ecology is too fragile,” Daniel explained.
“Wha' 'cologgy?” Little Danny asked, stumbling over the word from his spot in ToddlerTown.
Smiling at his namesake, Daniel answered, “Ecology means the environment -- the trees, the grass, the animals -- and how they relate to one another.”
“Will there be liz'ards in Mex'co?” Jonny asked hopefully.
“We might see some, if we're lucky,” Daniel answered, smiling at both the excited look on the eldest Munchkin's face and the scrunched up frown on Aislinn's. ~She doesn't look too impressed by that piece of news.~
“Daddy, how big is the reserve?” Jennifer queried, smiling at Ricky who had decided her hair was more fascinating than the current conversation.
Facing their eldest daughter, the archaeologist answered, “Big, uh, roughly one-point-six million acres.”
Jennifer shook her head in awe as she remarked, “I can't even imagine it.”
~Hmmm.~ David frowned, trying to figure something out. “Is Muyil Spanish, Daddy?” he finally asked.
“No, it's Mayan. It means place of ...” Daniel began.
“Rabbits,” Jack interrupted with a snigger, happy to get a word into the exchange between Daniel and David.
Daniel glared at him as Jennifer joined her father in sniggering at the name. Little Danny, however, had perked up, moving to stand at the edge of the large playpen-type enclosure.
“Wabbits? We see wabbits?” Little Danny exclaimed excitedly, the boy having an affinity for all kinds of animals.
“Maybe,” Jack placated as he leaned over and ruffled the toddler's hair, making the little boy smile happily.
“T come?” Chenoa asked, hoping her favorite Jaffa would be coming with them to Mexico like he had to Egypt.
“Ah, I'm afraid Teal'c has to work, Sweetheart,” Daniel responded, knowing she would be disappointed.
As anticipated, Chenoa pouted, and her entire body slouched dejectedly into the sofa.
“So what's J-O going to be doing there?” David asked, wanting to discover more about the project.
Daniel responded, “Abayomi wants to help the government build a scientific research center. What we need to do is make sure that the place the center is built on doesn't destroy an important, so-far-undiscovered archaeological site.”
“Daddy, what does that mean?” Jennifer asked with a small smile. ~I wish we spoke English around here.~
“It means we dig and make sure that nothing is there that should be protected and that we are also able to safely remove any treasures that we might find,” Daniel reiterated, smiling encouragingly at his eldest daughter.
“Thanks,” Jennifer said, giving out a little sound. The teenager wasn't as savvy as her younger brother was about the archaeological process, and she sometimes felt a little out of her depth when the conversation turned to the topic. ~Sometimes I wish I had Little Danny's genius. Nah, he has no appreciation of 'High School Musical'.~
“Bij 'n' Katie come?” Little Danny asked, not wanting to leave their beloved beagles behind.
“Yeah, hafta come ...” Jonny started.
“Can't stay ere 'out us; get lo'ley,” Aislinn added as she munched on a cookie.
“Yeahsureyabetcha!” Jack chirped jovially, making all the children giggle.
“Okay, so ...” Daniel heard the phone ring. “I'll get it. Jack, why don't you tell them what they can take with them.”
“Sure thing, Love,” Jack responded, ready to get down to bargaining what items they could and couldn't take with them.
Daniel stood up, looked over at ToddlerTown, and grinned as he suggested, “You might want to foil Jonny's latest escape attempt, too, while you're at it.”
As Jack jumped to his feet, biting back an exclamation at the sight of Jonny using various toys to climb out of the enclosed play area, Daniel picked up the cordless phone and headed into the kitchen so he could hear more easily and not interfere with Jack's conversation with the kids.
“Sorry about that,” Daniel apologized now that he could hear better. “Suz, is that you?” he questioned, recognizing his foster sister's voice.
Laughing as she played absentmindedly with the phone cord, Suzanna replied, “Daniel, I don't believe it. You have the best timing in the world.”
“I do? What'd I do?” Daniel asked lightheartedly.
“You're leaving the country, and right now, that's what I want to do,” the enthusiastic woman stated.
“You do?” Daniel asked, both surprised and already formulating ideas.
“I'm so tired of fighting with that bozo of a boyfriend,” Suzanna admitted, her tone now regretful. “I love him, but I hate him, if you understand what I mean.”
Daniel chuckled, “I'll take your word for it. Suz, did you want come with us?”
“I wish I could go for the entire time, but I only have three weeks off. Say the word, Bro, and I'm there,” Suzanna stated with a hopeful smile on her face, wishing she could see her foster brother to gauge his reaction.
“Suz, we're going to a dig site. There's a lot you can see around ...” Daniel began.
Forcefully, Suzanna explained, “Daniel, I want to see my nieces and nephews, not relics and tourist sites. What are you two doing for childcare while you're doing the hard stuff?”
“Um, Cassie is coming with us,” Daniel answered. “We're paying her to be a nanny for a couple of months.”
“I'll bet she'd like some help, no charge, of course. Eight kiddies is a lot for one person to handle on their own,” the eager woman pointed out.
“Suz, you're hired!” Daniel said enthusiastically.
“Great!” Suzanna exclaimed, her feet actually doing a little happy dance on the floor of her apartment. “I should go; I have so much to do,” she gushed excitedly, pausing for a second as she realized she'd forgotten something, “Oh, Daniel, where are we going?”
Daniel laughed and then filled Suzanna in on the details.
“Janet, please don't forget to fill the fish feeder to the very top before you leave,” Daniel said giving some last moment reminders to Janet as the Jackson-O’Neills prepared to depart early Friday morning.
“Don't worry, Daniel. I've made post-it notes for my post-it notes,” Janet laughed, handing him his backpack.
“Mom, I'm so glad you decided to take your leave soon, too,” Cassandra said happily as she helped Aislinn into her jacket.
“Well, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to spend some time with you away from home; maybe just be friends for a while,” Janet commented.
Janet hadn't been happy about her daughter's plans to take a semester off from college. Like Jack, she was also worried the young woman would run off with her long-time boyfriend, Dominic Luca. Thus, Janet and Cassandra had argued quite a bit in recent weeks, and a small rift had grown between them. While she still didn't agree with Cassandra's decision, she did like the fact that for at least two months, she'd be under the watchful eye of Jack and Daniel versus the lustful eye of her beau.
The SGC physician was also looking forward to mending that rift that had happened between her and Cassandra. It had taken some doing, more than Janet had let on to anyone, to get her leave from Cheyenne Mountain, but she was determined to meet Cassandra in Muyil, believing that would give them a chance to talk and clear the air. She also hoped that the three weeks or so before she'd be joining the group in Mexico would give both of them some cooling down time during which each could gain new perspectives and insights into the feelings of the other.
“I'd like that,” Cassandra said, hugging her mother goodbye.
“Sorry, Janet, but we've got to go. We'll see you when you join us in a few weeks,” Jack said, still trying to herd the troops together so they could get to the airport on time.
Chaos still abounding, the Jackson-O'Neills finally began their trek to Muyil, Mexico.
“Danny, we really need to do something special for Abracadabra,” Jack said to his soulmate as they boarded one of Abayomi's jets at the Denver airport.
Daniel rolled his eyes in exasperation and responded somewhat sternly, saying, “*Abayomi* offered this on his own, Jack. I think you should say thanks by saying his name right.”
Jack looked back at his lover with a mischievous expression and asked, “Where's the fun in that?” With another grin, he added, “So what about Abba? He did take a chance on us.”
Daniel just shook his head at Jack's attempt at humor, though he did think, ~I may just break his entire seventies record collection for that offense. Quoting Disney is one thing, but if he's going to start doing Abba puns ... well, that's where I draw the line.~
~We are *so* not alone.~ Just then, Jack looked over at a couple of their staff members who were taking the flight with them. “Hello,” he said boyishly, realizing the employees had overheard everything just spoken.
“Hello, Jack,” Karissa responded with an amused smile, having overheard their name discussion.
The couple proceeded to get their children and the two dogs settled in for the flight. After their previous long flight to Egypt, they were thankful this flight was only a little less than four hours in duration.
“Little Danny, do you want to sit by me or ...” Daniel began, though he quickly realized his namesake had other intentions.
“Want or,” the boy responded. Little Danny smiled at the young woman seated in the window seat two rows back. He toddled over to her, smiled shyly, and asked hopefully, “I sit here?”
Karissa gave the youngster a bright smile and answered, “Sure, Little Danny. I'd love that. We can watch the clouds together.”
**Jack, look at that smile.**
**Do they need a chaperone?** Jack wondered, grinning at his husband.
Daniel chuckled, but didn't reply as he tended to Jenny, who needed a diaper change.
~Bad timing, Sweetie.~
“So you fly this thing all around the world?” Jack asked the pilot about an hour into their flight.
“Can't have a better job, General,” the pilot responded, glancing at the enthralled Jack, who was sitting in the co-pilot's seat at the moment. “Want to take her?”
Jack's smile was almost as big as Little Danny's had been when Karissa put him on her lap not long after take-off.
“She's all yours,” the pilot said. “Of course, these days, the planes practically fly themselves,” he said with a little regret in his voice.
“Yeah, but there's still nothing like it,” Jack said with awe in his voice. “We have a Meyers 200A that's incredible. Been in one of those?”
“Can't say that I have; didn't know there were many of those around anymore,” the pilot responded, keeping an eye on the dials.
“Not many,” Jack affirmed. After five minutes had passed, he said, “That was great; thank you.”
“My pleasure, General,” the pilot replied.
“Hey, would you mind if I brought my son up here for a few minutes,” Jack inquired hopefully.
“Not at all,” the pilot answered, assuming Jack meant the oldest son, David.
A few minutes later, the pilot cocked his head in surprise when he saw Jack sit back down in the co-pilot's seat with Jonny in his lap.
“Big plane, Dad,” Jonny stated, looking around the cockpit in amazement.
“Yes, it is,” Jack agreed. “Jonny, this is Captain Jenson. He's the pilot.”
“Hello, Jonny,” Jenson said cordially. “You going to be a pilot like your father?”
“My dad best pilot!” Jonny said earnestly, but also with a bit of an attitude.
Jack coughed, saying, “Well, Son, I haven't flown jets like this one much, so Captain Jenson is the expert.”
Jonny looked at his father with disbelief, but said to the pilot, “You good, too?”
“I try my best,” Jenson responded with a light chuckle.
“This plane is a Boeing Business Jet,” Jack explained to his son. “We're cruising along right now at five-hundred-twenty-eight miles per hour.”
“Fast!” Jonny exclaimed as he leaned forward to touch a panel.
“Whoa there, Cowboy. You're too young to be flying just yet,” Jack said, gently settling Jonny back onto his lap.
Jonny gave a sigh of disappointment, much to Jenson's amusement, but was soon asking questions again.
“How high?” Jonny asked, pointing out the window.
“See this,” Jack said, pointing to the altimeter. When Jonny nodded, he said, “That shows us how high we are, and right now, we're at thirty-eight thousand feet.”
“Wow!” Jonny gasped. “I fly now,” he announced, reaching forward to grab the co-pilot's wheel.
“Sure, Fly Boy,” Jack teased, knowing the pilot was in complete control. He let Jonny's hands hold the wheel for a moment before distracting his son with talk of other instruments. “And this is for ...”
Jonny remained fascinated as Jack explained some of the other instruments, though he was sure most of what he was saying would just wash over his young son. Even if most of it was over his head, Jonny certainly wasn't showing any signs of boredom; in fact, he was even more excited and interested now than he had been in the beginning.
“Say 'thank you',” Jack told Jonny when it was time to leave.
“Thank you, Cap 'Enson,” Jonny said. As he toddled towards the door, he turned back and added, “Dad best pilot whole world; you good, though.”
Jack grinned and tapped his son on the shoulder, saying, “Let's go, Son.” Looking back at Jenson, he said, “I'll send the co-pilot back in. Thanks for your patience,” he added gratefully.
“Anytime,” Jenson responded. Grinning, he added, “Can't turn down a request from the best pilot in the world.”
“Yeah,” Jack replied sheepishly and then eagerly followed Jonny back to the cabin.
“Aunt Suz!” Chenoa cheered, running to Suzanna as she met up with the Jackson-O'Neill family at the Cancun Airport.
“Noa!” Suzanna called out, running to meet the little girl, picking her up and hugging her tightly when they met. “How's my favorite curly-haired wonder?”
“Miss you lots! I learn 'bout Mex'co,” Chenoa said, beaming.
“I can't wait for you to tell me all about it,” Suzanna responded, smiling.
“Hi, Aunt Suz,” Jennifer greeted, leaning in for a hug, making sure not to crowd her younger sister.
“Suzanna, it's good to see you,” Jack said, pleased at the way all the children excitedly greeted their aunt.
“Hi, Suz,” Daniel said as he joined the group.
Greetings and hugs exchanged, luggage gathered, and trips to the restroom completed, the group headed for their pre-arranged rides to their first stop -- the Sandos Gala Playacar, a deluxe hotel located adjacent to Playa del Carmen, which was roughly forty-five minutes away. The family would be spending the rest of the day there, just relaxing on the beach. The next day, they planned on visiting Xcaret, an ecological theme park. After that, it would be on to the dig site.
“I'll see you soon, Little Danny,” Karissa promised as she prepared to leave with the other staff members to get the dig site set up.
“Stay!” Little Danny requested, gripping her hand tighter. “We have fun.”
“I'd like that, but I have a lot of work to do, but you go and have fun at Xcaret. I've heard it's magnificent. I want you to tell me all about it at camp, okay?” Karissa requested, crouching down to talk to him.
“Okay, K'...K ... Okay, 'Rissa!” Little Danny said, struggling a bit with the woman's name.
“Rissa? I like that,” Karissa replied, smiling and then giving the toddler a kiss on the cheek.
Little Danny beamed, his mind preparing to take good notes so he'd have lots of stories to tell Karissa when he saw her again.
After the staff departed, Little Danny tugged on Daniel's pant leg.
“What is it, Little Danny?” Daniel asked, rubbing the boy's shaggy hair.
“Rissa nice,” the boy said shyly, a big smile on his face.
“Yes, she is. Come on, let's go,” Daniel said, smiling at the innocence of youth.
--Chapter Two: A Stranger Returns
“And saw tapir. Not pigs,” Little Danny said dramatically, taking heavy audible breaths as he spoke excitedly. The little boy had been rambling on to a bemused Karissa for almost five minutes about the family's visit to Xcaret. He was so excited, though, and still didn't quite have the vocabulary to relay his thoughts, that his short sentences were often just a jumbo of thoughts. “... not eaters; endangled; sad. Big tapirs. This big,” he said, spreading out his short arms.
Karissa smiled, totally clueless as she looked at Daniel for a translation.
“That's right, Little Danny,” Daniel said, devising how to explain his son's thoughts to Karissa. “You listened very well. I thought it was interesting to learn that tapirs often get mistaken for pigs and anteaters, but really they're more like horses; and, yes, they can get very big, up to eight-hundred pounds. The sad thing is that all four species of the tapir are *endangered*,” he said, highlighting the word his son had spoken incorrectly.
Little Danny sighed in frustration, saying, “Said that, Daddy.”
“I liked the tapirs,” Jennifer intoned, joining in the conversation which was taking place by the vehicles that had arrived with the Jackson-O'Neills only an hour earlier. “I was really surprised to learn that they can move so fast.”
“They swim, too,” Little Danny added.
“Did you see a lot of tapirs there?” Karissa inquired, smiling at the boy's enthusiasm.
Little Danny shook his head, saying, “Not lots, but saw Poloc.” Little Danny giggled, “Chubby.”
“Excuse me?” Karissa asked in an amused tone.
Suppressing a chuckle, Daniel quickly explained, “In Mayan, poloc means chubby.”
“Oh, I see,” Karissa laughed lightly.
“I liked the jaguars the best,” David commented from his spot on the ground where he sat Indian-style.
“That's because you got to look through the telescopes they had,” Jennifer correctly observed.
David shrugged, admitting, “Well, yeah, that's true, but, Sis, they were cool. They were running and playing in the trees. I've never seen anything like that before.”
“What did you like the best, Ash?” Karissa queried.
“Bambi,” the youngest triplet said, smiling.
“Bambi was there?” the young woman asked.
Aislinn nodded, saying, “Bambi cute.”
“Fishies!” Jenny suddenly giggled as Cassandra held her.
“There's an aquarium there, too,” Daniel noted. “It's a great place, Karissa; there's a lot to see and learn there.”
“It sure sounds like it,” Karissa responded, smiling down at Little Danny.
As the children continued to tell Karissa about their favorite spots at Xcaret, Jack walked over, rubbed his two hands together, and said, “Showtime! Let's get our stuff inside and unpack.”
“No show, Dad,” Chenoa whined.
Jack laughed, “Maybe not, Princess, but it's just an expression. It means playtime is over, and now we get organized.”
“Oh,” Chenoa said, getting up. “Would rather see TV show,” she said, picking up her tiny backpack.
Jack and Daniel exchanged looks and smiles and then proceeded to get their family settled into their family tent.
By the twenty-sixth of the month, J-O Enterprises was deep into the dig. They had brought along four of their employees -- Megan, Karissa, Ty Harper, and Bibreanay Appleton -- plus one university intern, Jerome Kenyon. On site, they had hired six locals to assist in the work.
Thus far, Cassandra was doing a great job keeping the brood occupied and entertained, especially with Suzanna's help. Daniel was pleased with their progress; in fact, as things stood, they were two days ahead of schedule. So far, they hadn't found anything too exciting, but he still had a feeling something special was present.
“It's here, Jack. Somewhere beneath this ground, there's history. I ... I feel it,” Daniel had said emphatically a few nights earlier. He wasn't really sure what he was looking for. After all, every ancient artifact that was uncovered had a story to tell, but something was churning inside of him. There was something special, something unique, to be unearthed in Muyil. ~I know it; I just ... know it.~
“Hey, Bro,” Suzanna called out that evening. She walked up to Daniel as he stood, overlooking the various outlined squares where the teams had been hard at work digging. It was shortly before nine at night, and the camp was illuminated by special lights all around it. “What are you thinking about?” Suzanna asked.
“I don't know,” Daniel admitted. He paused for a few moments, gathering his thoughts. “It's funny, Suz, but nothing we've found is ... out of the ordinary. We should call it quits; tell Abayomi there's nothing unique here. I mean, we've done what anyone else would do and extracted anything of scientific value already. There are no signs indicating that there's anything more,” he said with frustration.
“But ...” the woman questioned.
“But I can't shake this feeling. I don't know. We should yank up stakes and go home.” Daniel shrugged at the reality of the business world. “Every day we're here is money, but Jack says to follow my instincts.”
“Jack's a smart man,” Suzanna pointed out with a smile, her hand touching Daniel's elbow in support for a few moments.
Daniel looked at Suzanna, smiled, and changed the subject, asking, “How do you like Muyil?”
“Garden spot of Mexico.” The two laughed, and Suzanna continued, “Seriously, it is lovely, but I haven't seen much.”
“You can,” Daniel told his foster sister.
“And give up being 'Aunt Suz'?” Suzanna asked with laughter. “Daniel, I love this chance to get to know your brood better, and you and Jack, too. We just don't see each other as much as we should.”
“You're right. Phone calls and emails only go so far,” Daniel agreed. They shared an understanding smile. “How about a walk?” he suggested, extending his hand out to Suzanna.
“I'd like that,” the woman agreed, smiling as she placed her hand in her foster brother's.
“So about that boyfriend ...”
“Daniel!” Suzanna giggled as the two began their walk.
“How's it going, Cass?” Jack asked, taking a quick break the following day.
Cassandra and the Munchkins were sitting outside of their tent house. While the twins were peacefully taking a much-needed nap, the triplets were playing in the dirt, having their own dig. Bijou and Katie were with them, but both dogs were in their harnesses and on an extended lead.
“Good,” Cassandra answered, “except the Munchkins still don't quite understand why Bijou and Katie can't run around.”
“We can't take the chance. Mexico doesn't feel the same way about pets that we do,” Jack said, remembering several articles he had read that warned visitors to Mexico about guarding their pets.
“I know, Uncle Jack. Where's Uncle Daniel?” the redhead asked, her eyes scanning the site for any sign of him.
“See that mop of hair barely sticking out above the ground?” Jack asked, pointing off into the distance at one of the pits.
Cassandra laughed, “He's having a ball, isn't he?”
“Anytime Danny can play in the dirt, he's a happy man,” Jack agreed. ~And that makes me happy.~
“Uncle Daniel is a happy man everyday because of you,” Cassandra observed with a smile, glancing over at Jack.
“So am I, Cass, because of him,” Jack replied before turning and walking towards his husband.
Later that afternoon, Daniel was working in one of the excavation pits, searching for anything that wasn't ground. He wore a white V-neck T-shirt and tan pants, both of which were covered with dirt. A blue bandana with images of beagles, a gift from Jack, was wrapped around his head, keeping his moderately-shaggy hair off his face. He was on his knees, leaning forward, working on the bottom section of the north wall of dirt.
The hard-working archaeologist let out a tired sound as he sat back, raising his left hand to his forehead. The sun was beating down, and perspiration was falling from his body.
“Want water?” a tiny voice asked.
Daniel smiled as he looked over behind his shoulder at his namesake.
Little Danny was seated on his knees, his small hands atop them. He had on a pair of khaki shorts and a blue and white stripe shirt with a pyramid embroidered on it, as well as a navy blue hat to shield him from the harmful rays of the sun.
“Yes, Son, that would be very nice. Thank you,” Daniel said, smiling.
In a toddler-like flash, the little boy stood and went to the nearby cooler. With a frown on his face, he stared at the object for a moment, and then he looked around.
Seeing this, and realizing the boy couldn't open the cooler, Daniel began to get up, but he stopped upon hearing his son's next words.
“Jonny,” Little Danny called out. “Come open. Daddy need.”
Leaving behind Jennifer and some of his other siblings, Jonny toddled over and studied the cooler.
**Jack, you have to see this. Look at Jonny and Little Danny by the cooler.**
Jack looked up from the worktable where he had been doing the tally of their expenses for that week. His curious gaze settled on his two sons.
Jonny had knelt down on his knees and was studying the cooler as if it held all the mysteries of the world. He carefully examined the latch, biting his lip as he thought about the task at hand. After a moment, he smiled.
“Can you do it?” Little Danny asked.
Jonny nodded and explained, “Need ruler. Be back.” The little boy ran inside the tent and returned a moment later with a long, wooden ruler. “Just minute,” Jonny told his brother, kneeling back down.
With a final examination of the latch, he took the ruler and carefully slid it into place under the flip tab. After a few seconds of gentle persuasion, the tab flipped open, and together, the two brothers lifted the lid of the cooler.
“Thanks, Jonny,” Little Danny said, reaching in for a bottled water and hurrying back to Daniel's pit. “Here, Daddy.”
**A ruler? Danny, it's so simple, I never would have thought of it.**
**Better strengthen ToddlerTown, Babe,** Daniel communicated to his husband. Then he looked at Little Danny and said, “Thanks, Son.”
Daniel took a couple of sips before putting the cap back on the plastic bottle and returning to his spot. He knelt down and continued to scrape the sides with his instruments.
After several minutes, Daniel let out a pondering “Hmmm.”
“What find?” Little Danny asked eagerly, scooting over about a foot to try and get a better look.
Daniel looked at his little boy who was practically on all-fours trying to get a closer look.
“Would you like to help me?” Daniel asked his young son.
“Yes!” Little Danny exclaimed excitedly, moving to put his legs over into the pit.
“Wait a minute,” Daniel warned seriously, getting up and then moving to lower Little Danny into the pit. “Let me get the tool I need,” he said, picking up the item from atop his backpack that was on the far side of the pit they were in.
“What that?” Little Danny asked, examining the shiny tool in his father’s hand.
“This? This is a dental pick. It lets me extract fine objects.” Seeing Little Danny squint in confusion, Daniel explained, “Uh, if I used a bigger tool, a small object might break. I can use this to help me get something out without damaging it.”
“Oh. Dent pick,” Little Danny said as he studied the sharp object with fascination.
“Dental pick,” Daniel corrected as they moved over to the spot where he'd found something different.
“I do?” Little Danny asked hopefully.
“Uh, well, I'll guide your hand, okay?” Daniel suggested after sensing his son's eagerness to help.
When Little Danny nodded, Daniel carefully placed the pick in his son's hand and guided it as it dug away at an artifact.
“Daddy, it green!” the toddler observed.
“It sure is,” Daniel said, taking the pick back and gently working on extracting the object. It took a little while, but, finally, the archaeologist retrieved the entire artifact from the pit wall. “Wow,” he commented as he observed the item.
“What it?” the boy asked as he peered at the item.
“Well, today we'd call them earrings, but from the third to sixth century, they were called earflare frontals. Actually, it was a sign of status. The elite, or the richest and most powerful of the Mayans would wear these,” Daniel informed as he gently cleaned the item while Little Danny watched and listened attentively. “This one has a flower motif, see?” he questioned, pointing out the pattern.
“Petals,” Little Danny responded, pointing to the outline.
“Mayan art shows both men and women wearing these,” Daniel explained. “They put them on shafts that extended through holes in the earlobes.”
“Ewww!” Little Danny exclaimed, reminding Daniel of his husband who frequently used that painful exclamation.
Daniel laughed, shaking his head in amusement, and said, “Well, it's a little like Aunt Sam and her pierced ears.”
“Little holes,” Little Danny commented.
“Uh, yes, but these were bigger,” Daniel noted. “This material is called jade, which was very important to the Mayans. You see, uh, green symbolized water and plant life, and because the Mayans were an agricultural people; that is, they thrived from what they got and created from the land. Jade was something they valued. I wonder if the other one of these is there,” he pondered, looking down at the unexplored soil.
“We dig more?” Little Danny asked excitedly.
Unable to deny his son, Daniel placed the one 'earring' into a bag, labeled it, and then retrieved the dental pick. It took about six times as long, but with his namesake's help, he had located the second 'earring' by the end of the day.
Having finished his work, Jack had come to find his husband and smiled, seeing his two Daniels conferring about their finds.
“Time to call it a day,” Jack called out.
“Whew! We work hard!” Little Danny responded. “Dad, see! We find ...”
Jack smiled gladly as he listened to a very proud and happy Little Danny talk about his very first archaeological find.
**He's just like you, Danny.**
**He did good. I'm behind now, though.**
**It's okay; we'll make it up tomorrow,** Jack communicated, still smiling and listening to the excited toddler. **Besides, Love, we're still ahead of schedule overall.**
Daniel lifted his son up and handed him to Jack. All the while, the small boy never missed a beat, his broken sentences not making a lot of sense to Jack, but that wasn't the point.
~My two Dannys -- wouldn't change a thing; not one thing,~ Jack happily thought.
Two days later, Jack and Daniel were hard at work. Suzanna was watching the twins inside the family tent. Chenoa and Jonny were playing inside as well. Outside, Cassandra was with Jennifer, David, Little Danny, and Aislinn as they played ball.
“Oops, sorry, Little Danny,” David said as the ball rolled past the toddler.
Little Danny ran to get the large rubber ball, but suddenly stopped in his tracks, seeing a strange man bend down and pick up the ball. The man was rather old looking and had a strange air about him that made the toddler a little nervous.
“Is this yours?” the stranger asked as he held the ball in his hands.
Heeding his father's instructions about not talking to strangers, Little Danny only nodded at the tall man.
“What is your name?” the man asked as his eyes bore into the youngster.
“Uh, excuse me,” Cassandra said, moving quickly and picking up Little Danny, holding him protectively as soon as she reached him. “Who are you?”
“Who are you?” the man retaliated in question, his eyes flashing at the interference.
“This is a private site. You don't belong here,” Cassandra said firmly, not allowing the man to intimidate her. She stared at the old man, wondering who he was and what he wanted. He looked older than General Hammond and was definitely not Mexican. She couldn't place the accent. ~I don't know; I have a funny feeling about this man.~
“On the contrary, this site belongs to the universe,” the stranger refuted, looking around and waving his arm magnanimously.
~German maybe.~ Cassandra turned, covertly taking a few steps backward as she did so, and called out, “Jennifer, go get your father.”
“Which one?” the girl asked, staring at the old man curiously.
“Either,” Cassandra replied, her tone and demeanor telling Jennifer to hurry.
As Jennifer ran off, Cassandra turned back and stared at the man.
“You approve of immoral acts?” the man asked Cassandra, though his eyes were on Little Danny. “The eyes. The chin. It's unmistakable,” the man said, looking at the toddler in a way that now alarmed the young woman.
“I don't approve of strange men staring at little boys,” Cassandra challenged with a warning in her voice, after which she put another foot or two between them.
Jennifer quickly made her way to the area where her parents were working. She could see Daniel bent over studying something intently, so she headed for Jack. She didn't have the heart to interrupt Daniel's 'playing in the dirt' as Jack called it.
“Dad,” Jennifer called out breathlessly. “Cassie needs you,” she told him urgently.
Jack was up in an instant, following Jennifer back to the area where the kids had been playing.
“Cass, what's ... oh, for crying out loud. I don't believe it.” Jack was stunned; he definitely hadn't expected this. He was instantly angered and concerned. ~I thought this S.O.B. was gone. Daniel's suffered enough because of you.~ Jack's grimace and wince upon seeing this particular wretch of a human being again went ignored by the man himself. ~Where'd he come from?~
“Colonel O'Neill, how good to see you again,” the man smiled, although the smile didn't reach his eyes, which were cold as steel.
“It's 'General', and it's Jackson-O'Neill,” Jack corrected, barely fighting off the urge to strangle the man.
“Yes, so I've heard,” the man said as he looked away, trying to hide his disdain.
“You have?” Jack asked sharply.
“My hosts have been kind enough to keep me up to date,” the white-haired man revealed.
“I'm so glad,” Jack snipped. “What do you want?”
“To see my grandson.” The man with the foreign accent smiled again and looked at Little Danny. “And my great-grandchildren.”
As his anger flared, Jack's internal alarms were blaring. The man was not who he claimed, not by a long shot. He may be Nicholas Ballard, but he was not the great-grandfather to Jack and Daniel's children. As far as Jack was concerned, Nick wasn't Daniel's grandfather, either.
“Cassie, take all the children inside -- *now*! Jen, don't argue,” Jack ordered before Jennifer could utter a sound.
Knowing that tone of voice, both Cassandra and Jennifer did as Jack asked. As they did so, the man walked towards Jack.
“You'd think I was a monster,” the man laughed teasingly.
“You are,” Jack said bluntly. “The worst kind.”
“Why would you think that?” Nick asked.
“My *husband*,” Jack stated straightforwardly, daring Nick to refute it.
“Let's not talk about that,” Nick responded, looking away, but unable to hide the look of distaste that flickered across his face.
Jack smiled and got right into the man's face, challenging, “You don't approve.”
“It isn't my place to approve or disapprove,” Nick responded, taking a step back, willing to concede this first confrontation.
“Now that's the first thing you've said that I agree with,” Jack stated.
“I want to see Daniel,” Nick insisted.
“And I want ...” Jack took a deep breath. He wanted to deck the man standing in front of him, but he couldn't. Daniel wouldn't approve. He also wanted to send the man away, keep him as far away from Daniel as he could. The only problem with that was that he didn't have the right to make that decision. “Stay right here. Do not ... do you understand me ... do *not* move.”
Reluctantly, Jack turned around to go get Daniel.
“Jack!” Seeing his husband, Daniel began to jog towards him. “I think I've found something,” he said in shortened breath as he stopped. “It's ... it's amazing. It's ...”
“Danny, we have a visitor,” Jack announced, wishing he could talk about whatever Daniel had discovered instead.
“Um, Jack, this find ...”
Caught up in his excitement over the find, Daniel hadn't noticed Jack's dark expression.
“Has to wait,” Jack interrupted with a deep sigh.
“Wha...why?” Daniel looked closely at Jack's worried face and frowned. “Jack, what's wrong?”
“He's by our tent,” Jack answered vaguely with gritted teeth.
Jack tugged on his lover's arm, then turned and began to walk away
Hurriedly, Daniel caught up to his lover and asked, “Who?” When Jack remained silent, the younger man grabbed his husband's arm and called out, “Jack!” His alarm bells were ringing loudly now. “Jack, stop,” he ordered.
“Who?” Jack remained silent. “Jack!” Daniel grabbed the older man's arm, his alarm bells ringing loudly now. “Jack, stop.”
“It's Nick,” Jack spat at the same time he stopped his movement and turned to face his lover.
“Nick?” Daniel asked, shaking his head. He started to say he didn't know any 'Nick', but then it hit him like a ton of bricks. “Nick,” he said softly.
Daniel's eyes looked downward as he remembered the last time he had seen Nicholas Ballard, his grandfather, who was of Dutch, not German, descent. It had been on P7X-377, inside a huge pyramid.
SG-1 had just encountered Quetlzelcoatl, a giant alien, and after some discussion, Quetlzelcoatl had invited Nick to stay with the aliens in order to study and exchange cultural information. Nick had been eager to go, even though it had meant leaving Daniel behind, yet again. In fact, Nick had pleaded to be allowed to go and hadn't given his grandson's feelings any consideration at all. Unfortunately, it hadn't been an isolated incidence.
When Daniel's parents died, Nick had barely given the eight-year-old boy a thought. Though choosing not to adopt or care for Daniel himself, Nick had also refused to sign the papers allowing his grandson to be adopted, thus forcing Daniel into a decade's worth of foster care nightmares.
Daniel, always forgiving and desperate for love and acceptance from the only family he had left, had stayed in touch with Nick as best he could, even as he went from foster home to foster home. Nick, however, hadn't reciprocated much. In fact, Nick still refused to allow Daniel to be adopted a few years later, even though he had committed himself to a psychiatric institution after having a mental breakdown, the result of his experience with a crystal skull.
Nick had discovered the crystal skull in Belize. He claimed to anyone who would listen that the skull had teleported him to a huge pyramid in which giant aliens lived. Naturally, no one believed him. Had the scientist been able to summon up the necessary courage to speak to the misty creatures he faced, things might have been different.
As it had happened, though, when Nick had failed to reply, the giant aliens returned him to Belize. It was then that Nick regained his courage and tried to activate the skull's teleportation device again, albeit to no avail.
Afterwards, the man had become obsessed with finding his way back to the alien cavern, but try as he might, he had never been able to find his way back to the pyramid. Despondent at his failure, Nick began to lose touch with reality.
When Daniel was old enough to leave the foster care system behind him, he had visited Nick regularly at the institution. He was still desperate for love, but Nick hadn't been able to give it. Instead, their visits were always about their shared field of interest -- archaeology; that is, until an argument over Daniel's theories about cross-pollination of ancient cultures and the pyramids being older and built by someone other than the Egyptians caused a major rift between the two. As a result, Daniel didn't see his grandfather for over four years, and no one at the SGC, including Jack, had even known that the man existed.
Daniel and Nick's reunion had come about when the MALP explored a huge pyramid on another planet, and Daniel had recognized a crystal skull similar to the one Nick found in Belize. SG-1 went to investigate, and upon examining the skull, Daniel had looked into its eyes, rays of golden lights surrounding him, and he disappeared inside the pyramid.
Unable to find him and due to the increasing radiation levels, his friends had returned to Earth. Later, Teal'c had returned to the cavern and retrieved the skull, and in the subsequent course of events, SG-1 had turned to Nick for help, bringing him to the SGC from the mental institution where he had been residing.
Eventually, the mystery had been solved, and the teammates were reunited. This had happened after Nick admitted to being able to see Daniel when no one else could, possibly because they were the only two to have experience the rays of the crystal skulls. Thus, Jack, Daniel, and Sam, along with Nick, had stood in front of the giant white alien, with whom they discovered they shared a common bond: both were enemies of the Goa'uld.
Though Nick had apologized for not adopting Daniel, and the two had spent hours catching up on the past and sharing the realization that both of their 'crazy' stories had been right, before Daniel could even adjust to having Nick back in his life again or even just in the same room with him, the Dutchman was pleading for the chance to complete his life's work. Nick wanted to finally be able to study the alien race that had indirectly been the cause of his mental problems, and that meant more to him than spending time with his grandson.
As always, Daniel had understood. He knew the thrill of discovery and the desire to follow a quest that was near and dear to one's heart. Still, his own heart quietly ached for the grandfather he barely knew.
Daniel had barely been able to squeak out a 'Goodbye, Grandpa' when Nick disappeared with Quetlzelcoatl, drifting down into the vastness of the cavern. Since that time, periodic reports had been left on the planet for SGC teams to retrieve, but there had been no visits by Nick, no personal messages for Daniel, and no indication of when, if ever, the older archaeologist would return.
Now, out of the blue, Nick was apparently just a few yards away from where Daniel stood.
“Nick?” Daniel repeated softly as he stood, facing Jack. He'd almost resigned himself to never seeing his grandfather again. “Nick is ... he's here?” he asked in utter disbelief.
“I don't know where he came from or why he's here, but I have a bad feeling about this,” Jack intoned, wishing he'd wake up from his nightmare.
“Maybe ... maybe he wants ... maybe ...” Daniel wanted to believe that maybe Nick had actually come to see him, but he found he couldn't even say the words. ~I can't say it.~
~I could break Nick's neck for showing up here.~ It broke Jack's heart to see the spark of hope mixed with fear in Daniel's eyes. “You don't have to see him, Danny. Say the word, and I'll ...”
“You'll what, Jack?” the archaeologist challenged. “He's my grandfather, and he's the great-grandfather to our children.”
“Like heck, he is. He's a name on a piece of paper,” Jack said, the thought of Nick as a grandfather making him want to puke.
“Jack, please give him a chance,” Daniel pleaded.
Jack sighed as he stared into the cerulean blue eyes of his husband. They were the loveliest blue eyes in all the world in his estimation. Once again, he marveled at how forgiving his Love was. That the younger man even wanted to see his in-name-only grandfather again amazed Jack.
“Okay, but ...” Jack stopped. Maybe he was overreacting. He prayed that he was, and that maybe this time, Nick wouldn't disappoint his soulmate. “Let's go see Nick.”
“Daniel!” Nick said eagerly as he saw Daniel approach.
Nick smiled and stretched out his arms, an indicator of an upcoming embrace, something Daniel had seen only a handful of times in his life.
“Gr...Nick,” Daniel said hesitantly. He couldn't politely avoid Nick's hug, but he remained tense and moved quickly to end it. He and Nick had never had an affectionate relationship, and it felt odd and even wrong for the older man to hug him so freely as though it were the norm. Daniel backed up a few steps, needing more space between him and the old man as more conflicting feelings battled within him. “You're, uh, looking well,” he spoke in a tiny voice, noticing that Nick looked pretty much the same as he had the last time he'd seen him.
Jack quickly moved to stand close to his now-self-hugging husband. His arm went around Daniel's waist protectively. Almost immediately, he noticed that his act of support for his husband had earned him a brief glare from Nick.
“Yes, a benefit of Quasi,” Nick told his grandson.
“Quasi?” Daniel asked.
“Quetlzelcoatl,” Nick clarified, a small smile of triumphant on his face that Daniel was reacting to his presence.
“A nickname. I should have guessed,” Daniel responded, briefly glancing at Jack whom he considered to be the universal nickname king.
“What are you doing here, Nick?” Jack asked pointedly.
“I came to see my grandson,” Nick insisted.
“Yeah, and I'm the King of England," Jack responded sarcastically. He wasn't buying Nick's story. “You've been living with giant aliens for years, and all of a sudden, out of the blue, out of nowhere, with no prior warning ...”
“Jack,” Daniel said quietly. **Give him a chance, please.**
Jack sighed, “Are you trying to tell us you just now popped in for a surprise visit?”
“I am sorry, Daniel. I didn't mean to hurt you,” Nick said, ignoring Jack completely.
“Again,” Daniel replied, uncharacteristically showing his hurt.
“Quasi and the others are wonderful,” Nick told him gleefully. “It's been a dream to live with them,” he explained, either ignoring or not aware of Daniel's pain as evidenced by his single word comment.
“You said you'd come back,” Daniel said, hurt emanating from him despite his best efforts not to show it.
“I am back,” Nick reasoned, holding out his arms.
“Stop,” Jack said. “For years, Quasi's folks have been leaving us little social updates, written by you, and left for pickup by SGC teams, and *never once*, not *one* time, did you even *mention* Daniel.”
“I had to study. I was there to learn, to share, to ...” Nick replied, waving his hands about passionately.
“To bury yourself in an alien culture and rocks and ignore your own flesh and blood, just like always,” Jack argued angrily.
“Daniel, you must understand. It was my life's work, and what I've seen,” Nick looked all around, waving his hands in front of him, “has been beyond the imagination. There's more, in Belize,” Nick said enticingly.
“More than the skull?” the archaeologist asked, unable to curb his natural curiosity.
Nick noted, “The skull was just the beginning, Daniel. Quasi has allowed me to return to Belize many times to investigate the relics there.”
~I should have pushed him off that podium; he could have been an appetizer to the giants.~ Jack took several deep breaths trying to calm himself down. ~That rotten old man has been here and has never called Daniel.~ “Oh, so you've been back on Earth, and again, you couldn't pick up a phone?” he asked sarcastically.
Daniel looked at his lover, but he didn't stop this outburst. Jack was saying all the things he was thinking. While Daniel would have liked to be the one to say them, to be angry, he just felt numb.
“I am talking to my grandson,” Nick stated, attempting to dismiss anything Jack had to say.
“You're talking to your grandson's husband,” Jack said territorially.
“Danny, he knows. Don't you, Nick?” Jack challenged, his arm still tightly holding Daniel to him.
“I heard about a new dig being done, and, yes, I heard the extraordinary tale of the men conducting it. Daniel, how could you do this?” Nick asked, his disappointment in his grandson radiating from him.
“Too late, Nick,” Daniel said, shaking his head. “It was a long time ago, and it was the best decision I have ever made.”
“It was happening when you first did the genie act and reappeared in Daniel's life, and when you go, Nick, it'll still be happening,” Jack stated matter-of-factly.
Nick observed the two for a moment and decided to change tactics. He had come back for a reason, and he needed to try and curb his desire to challenge Jack on almost every word.
“Daniel, we've wasted so much time. We cannot change what is done. I am here now. Please, I want to spend time with you, and I want to know my great-grandchildren,” the old man implored.
“Over my dead body,” Jack said protectively.
“Jack, please,” Daniel pleaded as he broke free of Jack's hold and led him several feet away from where Nick stood.
“Daniel ...” Jack began, only to be stopped by his husband's raised hand.
“Jack, listen to me,” Daniel begged. “I grew up without any family. You know that. Our children are so lucky because they have a lot of people who love them; but ... but Nick has blood ties to them, and that's something we can't erase, even if we wanted to. He *is* their great-grandfather. We don't have a right to arbitrarily block them from getting to know him.”
“There's nothing arbitrary about this, Danny,” Jack argued, taking a step back from Daniel. ~Why can't you see that old goat is going to hurt you and our children?~
“Daniel, you know his history. Don't you know what's going to happen?” Jack questioned. Taking Daniel's hand in his, he sighed, “He's going to worm his way in, make them fall in love with him, and waltz right back out of their lives. He's going to hurt them, just like he hurt you.”
“No, he's ... he's just visiting. They'll know that, and they have us, their parents,” Daniel rationalized.
“For crying out loud, Daniel.” Jack fidgeted and stared over at Nick. ~I know you're after something. I can feel it.~
“Jack, please, I can't shut him out. Please don't ask me to,” Daniel pleaded, his eyes begging Jack as well.
“I want to send him back to Quasi!” Jack maintained gruffly, attempting to ignore his Angel's plea.
“And part of me wants to let you, but, Jack, I need him to stay,” Daniel said softly, gazing deeply into Jack's eyes.
Part of Daniel was with Jack, telling himself that he was stupid for doing this, for asking Jack to do this, but a stronger part of him was still desperate for his grandfather to be a part of his life. His inner child was longing for some kind of connection to Nick, aching for his grandfather to want him.
Jack shook his entire body, trying to stop himself from tossing Nick out on his ear.
“Daniel, you want to do this ...” Jack paused, looking at the younger man, knowing he couldn't deny his soulmate anything. “Okay, we'll do this, but listen carefully. He does one thing, takes *one* step out of line, and I'm hauling you and our children back to the Springs under guard.”
“You're being a bit overly dramatic,” Daniel pointed out.
“Just so you understand,” Jack replied strongly. ~Because it will be my pleasure to make Nick permanently disappear.~
Daniel nodded. He didn't want to fight with his soulmate over Nick, and, in a way, he was glad Jack felt like he did. Of utmost importance to him was the safety of their brood, and he knew he might not be the most objective about Nick at the moment. He wanted to believe. The child in him still hungered for his grandfather, but he wouldn't risk his children being hurt. Daniel trusted his husband to know when, and if, to draw the line and take action.
The children were all huddled next to Suzanna and Cassandra on the beds inside the family tent. It was obvious something was going on, and they were all curious. Finally, Jack and Daniel walked inside, Jack immediately motioning for the children to stay put. Nick was the last to enter the tent. He smiled warmly at the eight children as he stood next to Jack.
With his arms folded, Daniel stood in front of his children. He looked nervous for a good reason: he was. He fidgeted for a moment as everyone stared at him.
“Um, there's someone you should all meet. This is ...” Daniel hesitated and twisted around to look at his grandfather. “This is Nick.”
“I am your great-grandfather,” Nick blurted out.
“Okay, that's it. Outside!” Jack bellowed, grabbing the old Dutchman by the arm.
“Daniel!” Jack spoke in a tone that told his lover he meant business.
Jack herded Nick outside, leaving Daniel inside with the children.
“Our great-grandfather?” David asked, wonder in his voice. “Wow!”
“Yeah. I didn't know we had one,” Jennifer said. “Daddy?”
Daniel nodded and then explained who Nick was.
Outside, an angry Jack shouted, “I don't friggin' care about what rights you *think* you have. These are *our* children, mine and Daniel's, and if you *ever* do something like that again ...”
“All I did was say who I was,” Nick rationalized nonchalantly.
“No, that's not what you did, and you darn well know it,” Jack angrily accused, wishing he could knock Nick out of their existence instantly.
“You are hostile, Colonel,” Nick stated purposefully.
“General,” Jack corrected. “And you're right, and I'm going to get even more hostile if you go against us again.”
“I did not go against you ... General,” Nick sneered. “I merely explained my place. Surely, Daniel was going to tell them,” he pointed out in a falsely reasonable tone.
“That's the point. *Daniel* was going to tell them, not you.”
The two continued to argue as Jack tried to set boundaries, though it was clear Nick had his own interpretation of most everything Jack tried to say.
“Daddy, if Nick is your grandfather, then why were you in foster care?” Jennifer asked, a slight frown on her face.
“Well, he, uh, he ... he was a busy man,” Daniel stammered unconvincingly. “He's an archaeologist, too, and he, uh, had ... work to do.”
Daniel's uneasiness was obvious as his self-hug tightened and his stuttering increased.
Sensing his father's distress, Little Danny toddled over and hugged Daniel's legs. Daniel gave his namesake a small smile and picked him up, holding onto the boy as though he was a lifeline as he tried to rationalize Nick's actions.
“There, uh, was ... he ... it was...wasn't his fault. He was trav...traveling a lot, and, well ...” Daniel struggled to get out, feeling completely ill at ease.
“Daniel is right,” Nick said as he and Jack returned to the tent. “I was on a great quest. I regret not being able to keep Daniel with me, but where I went was no place for a small boy.”
~Neither were abusive homes with people who used small boys as punching bags, or worse,~ Jack thought sourly.
The glare Jack shot Nick was intense and did not go un-noticed by Jennifer, though she chose not to ask about it; at least, not at the moment. She knew she could corner her dad later and inquire about what she observed.
“Um, Nick, these are our children,” Daniel said nervously, introducing the eight children.
“This Bij 'n' K'tie,” Jonny said, hugging the two beagles.
Nick smiled, but basically ignored the two dogs, except to question skeptically, “Dogs on a dig, Daniel?”
“They're family,” Daniel responded.
“Yes, of course,” Nick said, forcing himself to pat the two dogs briefly on their heads.
“Grrrr,” Bijou said as she backed away and went to sit next to Chenoa.
Katie followed suit, moving to sit by Ricky and Aislinn.
“Gr'pa,” Jenny giggled.
“Yes!” Nick responded joyfully, reaching over to pick up the baby girl from Cassandra.
The young woman looked at Jack, who sighed and nodded. A bit reluctantly, Cassandra handed over baby Jenny.
“Red hair. Where did you get that red hair?” Nick queried and then gave her a kiss. “My mother had red hair,” he said.
“I didn't know that,” Daniel commented. ~Actually, I don't know a lot of things I should. That's why I have to give our children this chance. Nick can tell them about their family history, the things I don't know.~
“Let me tell you a story ...” Nick began.
With a meaningful glare, Nick moved Cassandra aside so he could sit down on the bed.
Daniel put Little Danny down as Nick began to tell a story about one of his adventures. As he watched his children listening attentively, he walked over to stand next to his husband, who immediately put his arm around his waist, rubbing briskly with his hand in an up-and-down motion against his lover for a few seconds. He glanced at Jack and smiled weakly.
The children slowly became mesmerized by their great-grandfather's tale of searching for the fountain of youth. Even Jennifer, who had remained a tad cautious in her acceptance of the old man, slowly became enthralled by the story, asking questions as the story progressed.
The next morning, Jack approached his surrogate niece and quietly requested, “Cass, watch him.”
“You don't trust Nick, do you, Uncle Jack?” Cassandra asked, sure her suspicion was correct even before Jack answered her question.
Jack forced himself to remain calm as he responded, “He abandoned Daniel more than once to search for rocks. I have a hard time understanding how someone could leave a little boy behind to be ...”
“Abused,” Cassandra answered, completing Jack's sentence.
“You don't know what he went through, Cass,” Jack said with an aching heart, his voice threatening to break.
“I know some of it,” Cassandra responded. “He's told me a little about it.”
Jack felt proud of his Love for confiding in Cassandra, even though he was a bit surprised at the same time. Still, it showed how much Daniel had grown over the years, that he could share some of his pain with their family.
“None of it had to happen. Just watch Nick with the kids,” Jack advised strongly.
“Okay,” the young woman agreed.
Although they were reluctant to leave Nick with the children, Jack and Daniel still had a job to do, and Daniel was aware that his recent discovery meant they would probably need every day they had available after all. So, leaving Nick with the children, under the watchful eyes of Cassandra and Suzanna, Jack and Daniel returned to the hole where Daniel had been digging and jumped inside.
Daniel got onto his knees and worked on extracting a round object. It took a while, but he was finally able to successfully remove the plate.
“It always amazes me how intact these pieces remain, but ...” Daniel studied the plate, his expression flitting between excitement and something else. “Jack, look at this.”
Jack stared at the clay plate, trying to figure out what was so exciting about it.
Suddenly realizing that Jack had no idea what he was talking about, Daniel explained, “The writing; it's Egyptian.”
“Egyptian writing on a Mayan plate? That's odd, isn't it?” Jack asked, awaiting Daniel's confirmation.
“Yes, and what's interesting, and a little worrying, is that it, uh, really is writing, Jack. I mean, this isn't just a symbol on the plate. It's a ... Jack, it's a message,” the linguist said excitedly.
“Don't tell me,” Jack said with dread. In his experience, messages left by long gone civilizations weren't good. ~They never say harmless things like 'we were here'; no, it's always dire stuff like 'do not pass here unless you wish to die a horrible death'.~ Realizing his lover hadn't said anything for a while, Jack turned to stare at his husband who was silently reading the plate. “Danny, I was only kidding. What does the thing say?”
“Oh, uh, it's a warning,” Daniel answered, looking up at Jack for a moment before refocusing on the artifact.
“Now I really don't want to know.” Seeing Daniel continue to read to himself, Jack gave him a light tap on the arm. “Daniel!”
“Then stop saying you don't want to know,” Daniel teased.
“What I don't want to know is that this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach is true, that you're about to tell me this place was once haunted by snakeheads,” Jack stated, knowing he was tempting fate just by saying it.
Daniel cocked his head slightly and explained, “Well, according to this, the Goa'uld were here.”
~Great, Nick and snakeheads. All we need now are some Replicators, and our trip to Mexico will be complete.~ Jack gave a resigned sigh. “Okay, tell me.”
“The translation is a little rough,” Daniel advised, “but it says something like, 'Beware the gods with the glowing eyes. Their voices go to the depths of Xibalba. They are pretenders to the World Tree.”
“Xri...what?” Jack asked.
“Xibalba, uh, hell,” Daniel translated.
“And what's this World Tree thing?” Jack inquired.
“Uh, well, it's sort of how the Mayans view the world. On a small scale, a Mayan house has four walls, and its roof is held up and supported by a large post. They look at the universe the same way,” Daniel explained.
“Like a house?” Jack asked, his mind still trying to figure out how a house and the universe were the same thing.
“A big, big house,” Daniel replied. “They believe its four walls are the Becabs; essentially, they are iguana-like creatures holding up the sky.”
“Heavy,” Jack quipped.
Ignoring the remark, Daniel explained, “The center of this universal ... house is the World Tree. Its base emerged from the cracked shell of the Cosmic Turtle ...”
“Daniel, what's the point?” Jack quizzed, valiantly refraining from making wisecracks about Cosmic Turtles.
“In the real world, the material world of the Mayans, they believed that the rulers of their cities were Ajaws, uh, human manifestations of the World Tree. What I think this plate is saying is that these rulers, or at least some of them, were Goa'uld,” Daniel hypothesized.
“Let's just hope no one stayed behind,” Jack said, reflexively turning around to survey the area.
“Jack, just because we found this doesn't mean they're still here,” Daniel refuted.
“I hope not,” the older man responded. ~But with our luck.~ He studied the plate some more and then asked, “So, what now?”
“Well,” Daniel said, kneeling down and running his fingers along the spot where he'd discovered the clay plate protruding. “It depends on what the plate was on, or in. The survey showed a post or column here, but nothing else. I think we need to find out for certain what it is. If it's just a column, then the plate might have just been part of a warning placed outside a city or something, but if it's part of a temple or some other structure, well, who knows what we might find.”
“Is this what your intuition has been telling you?” Jack asked, loving to watch his husband when he was intrigued by a potential discovery.
“I think so,” Daniel answered. “Jack, we need to concentrate our work in this area. I think we can close off all of the other excavations. They've just been routine, and we've probably already removed everything that's significant. Whatever is to be found starts here and goes that way,” he stated, pointing to the north.
“We're only contracted to clear another twenty yards,” Jack pointed out, quickly calculating reference points.
“I know.” Daniel smiled. “Let's see what we find!” he said enthusiastically.
Jack couldn't help but grin. Even when it involved the Goa'uld, Daniel still loved digging in the dirt.
“What cooking?” Little Danny asked the cook as Karissa held him.
Karissa answered, “Albóndigas.”
“Huh?” the little boy asked, letting out a small giggle at the unusual name.
Karissa bounced him in her arms and chuckled, “Albóndigas are meatballs.”
“Like meatballs,” the little boy commented.
“And I like you,” Karissa told him, placing a kiss on Little Danny's cheek. The boy blushed and hid his face in the woman's long, brown hair. She smiled and added, “You're so precious, Little Danny.”
“Like you, too, Rissa!”
~Cute,~ Jack chuckled and walked over to Daniel, who was feeding Jenny. As he sat down, he remarked, “Danny, our son is in love.”
“Which one?” Daniel asked.
“Take a look,” Jack suggested, motioning towards Karissa and Little Danny as the woman stood in the food line.
Daniel smiled and acknowledged, “Sure looks like it. Karissa's been spending a lot of time with him. Little Danny wants to know how to do everything. She's really patient with him. I, uh, gave her permission to slow up on her tasks so she could help him.”
“Ah,” Jack said, looking over at them. “Is that why she's not done with her pit yet?”
“Jack, you know she's a good worker,” Daniel admonished. “She finished her first pit excavation on time, and she would have had this one done two days ago, but ...”
“But Little Danny wants her to teach him,” Jack finished for his husband.
“Do you mind? I mean, we're on time with the project,” Daniel observed.
Jack looked over at the still-blushing little boy and how he was listening intently to Karissa's words. She was telling him that if he didn't want meatballs, he could try Carne a la Tampiqueña instead. The boy thought hard and decided he wanted both meatballs and some of the grilled beef strips, too. She whispered something in his ear, and Jack heard Little Danny say, “I no tell.”
“Danny, she just slipped him a couple of bizcochos,” Jack stated, trying not to grin.
Daniel laughed, “I was going to have one myself. Those sweet cakes are pretty good.”
“But they know the kids are having ice cream for dessert,” Jack refuted.
Daniel leaned forward and replied, “That's why Little Danny isn't telling anyone.”
Daniel laughed, exclaiming, “Jack!” when the older man picked up his bottle of water and poured it on his lover. “You are so dead, Jack!” the younger man threatened as he stood up and began to chase Jack around the mess tent, earning laughter and cheers from the others in the tent.
“What they doing, Rissa?” Little Danny asked, giggling at his parents antics.
“Boys will be boys, Little Danny,” Karissa pronounced gaily. “Shhh, lets get some ice cream, too!” she whispered conspiratorially.
“Like you lots, Rissa,” the boy laughed as she continued to load up their plates.
“Daniel, you never told me about that,” Suzanna said, her voice full of surprise.
Daniel leaned forward, staring out at the night sky. It was later that same evening, and he and Suzanna were spending a few minutes alone outside. It was something they had begun the first night they had been in Mexico, and now it was habit. Every night, for ten or fifteen minutes at least, they'd meet outside the tent and chat.
On this night, the conversation had turned to Daniel's life in foster care, and he had just told Suzanna about Nellie Montgomery, who had been less than one year old when Daniel had been in the foster care of her birth parents. It had been a nightmare, one that helped to shape Daniel's views about, and dislike of, guns.
“It wasn't pretty,” Daniel stated about the unpleasant experience.
“I'm glad you found Nellie,” Suzanna responded, a smile on her face.
“Me, too. Suz, once I remembered what happened, I had to make sure she was okay,” Daniel commented.
“Have you stayed in touch?” Suzanna asked, hoping Daniel had found another positive presence from his past.
“An occasional note or phone call; not often, but enough to keep in touch, I guess,” Daniel answered.
“Was that your worst experience, Daniel?” Suzanna asked, hoping it was since it was unimaginable to her.
“No. Close, though,” Daniel answered softly, remembering another little girl who hadn't been as lucky as Nellie to have survived life with her birth parents.
Suzanna reached over and rubbed her hand against her foster sibling's forearm as she replied, “I'm sorry you had to go through that. Mom and Dad loved you so much; I wish they had been able to adopt you.”
“Me, too, but ...” Daniel took a cleansing breath and leaned back. He looked over towards the family tent, and at that moment, Katie ran out and jumped atop him. “Hey, you aren't supposed to be running loose,” he chastised as she licked his face.
“Danny, did you ... oh ...” Jack smiled, seeing Daniel holding the youngest beagle. “I guess she missed you.”
“I missed her, too. I've got her, Jack,” Daniel said happily.
“Okay, I'll be inside,” Jack stated with a chuckle as he returned to the tent.
Suzanna gazed at Daniel, playing with the loving beagle, and asked, “You wouldn't change a thing, would you, Bro?”
“Not one, because to change anything might mean I wouldn't have all of this, and for me, this is heaven, Suz,” Daniel confided happily.
As the stars shone down, Daniel and Suzanna continued to enjoy their visit together.
“When I was a small boy, we made our own wooden shoes,” Nick told the youngest children as they sat outside.
“Wood shoes?” Chenoa asked, looking down at her tennis shoes and wondering what it would be like to wear shoes made of wood. “Nails? Ouch!” she commented.
Nick laughed as he shook his head and told her, “No, Chenoa, there were no nails. Many of my ancestors wore shoes that were sculpted from wood.”
Jack grumbled to himself as he listened to the conversation. He was nearby, making some notes and waiting for Megan to finish a task so they could discuss their next move. Meanwhile, Daniel was working with Ty on unearthing the column where the plate had been discovered.
“You still don't like him,” Suzanna commented as she joined Jack, taking a seat next to him.
“No, Suz, I don't. He wants something, and something tells me that when we find out what, we're not going to like it.” Jack glanced at Nick, then gave Suzanna a wry smile. “And I'm not as generous as Daniel. I will never forgive that man for what he's put Daniel through.”
“I'm with you on that.” Suzanna reached over and squeezed Jack's hand. “I remember one time. Daniel had only been with us a couple of weeks. He didn't really talk much. He was so quiet, Jack, like he was afraid if he opened his mouth, the world would end.”
“That was Nick's doing,” Jack replied harshly, anger boiling inside of him as he recalled the story about Nick telling Daniel that he talked too much and children shouldn't talk unless spoken to. “And the trauma from seeing his parents killed; but mostly, it was Nick.”
Suzanna wiped away a tear that was threatening to fall and then continued, “I got him this one time to tell me what he wanted. Actually, I think I said something about him living with us forever. He shook his head, said he loved us, but he just knew his grandfather would be coming back for him. Nick wrote one letter, Jack, just one. He signed it, 'Nicholas Ballard'. I've never forgotten that. I mean, what kind of loving relative signs a letter that way. He didn't ask about Daniel. He just wrote about some skull or something.”
Jack let out an unhappy snort as he said, “Life would have been so different for Daniel if your family had adopted him.”
“Yes,” Suzanna said, nodding. “We loved him; my parents were crushed when it didn't work out.” The woman sighed wistfully, “I wish I could stay longer.”
Jack smiled at the woman, saying, “We do, too. The kids have loved having you here.”
“It's been great,” the woman stated. “I needed time to clear my head.”
“What are you going to do?” Jack asked, referring to her boyfriend.
“I'm not sure,” Suzanna sighed. “One thing I do know is that a good relationship means both giving and taking. I'm not quite sure that's what we have. I want something that will be forever, Jack, like you and Daniel have.”
“You'll find it,” Jack told her with certainty, following up his comment with a confirming nod.
“I hope so.” Suzanna smiled and sat back, taking a huge breath. “Gosh, I guess I just found my answer, didn't I?” Seeing Jack's look, she said, “Obviously, what I have isn't what I want, at least not in the long run.”
“Don't give up on it if you think there's potential,” Jack advised.
“You know what I've learned from you, Jack?” Suzanna asked, her eyes bright with gratitude.
“To love the Simpsons?” Jack teased.
“In addition to Homer and Marge,” Suzanna teased in return. “Seriously, I've learned that it's not about the arguments, but how you handle them.”
“Big thing to know. Danny and I argue a lot,” Jack chuckled.
Suzanna laughed, “I think you pretend to argue more than you actually do.”
Jack just shrugged, and then Megan walked over ready to confer with Jack about their progress.
“Back to work,” Jack stated with a smile.
“We should have it cleared by tomorrow night,” Daniel said as he gave his husband a progress report on their excavation. “That should tell us what we need to know.”
At the distracted tone, Daniel turned from the notes he was taking and looked at Jack. His husband was staring at Nick who was once again engaged in telling stories to the children. This time, all the children were captivated. Over the last nine days, Nick had slowly won the oldest children over. Even Jennifer had stopped speculating about Nick's motives.
Strangely, however, Nick had spent little time with Daniel, something that screamed 'Danger' to Jack. Why would Nick come back just to ingratiate himself to the children? If he were truly sincere, why wouldn't he be wanting to spend time with his grandson, too? Instead, Nick always seemed to have an excuse, frequently using the logic that Daniel had work to do and he didn't want to interfere with it.
“Jack, give Nick a chance,” Daniel once again pleaded with his husband.
“I am. He's with our children, isn't he?” Jack responded a bit sarcastically.
“That's not what I mean,” the younger man replied, slightly annoyed.
“Then what do you mean?” Jack asked sharply, though not waiting for a response. Jack simply couldn't understand how Daniel could be so incredibly forgiving of the Dutchman. “Danny, he waltzed into this camp with no explanation other than the *giant* aliens had dropped him off for a visit, and during the time he's been here, what exactly has he told us about that experience?”
“Not much,” Daniel admitted, although unwilling to see the entire truth of it.
“Absolutely nothing,” Jack agreed. “In fact, he's avoided it.”
“Jack, we know he was there. We've received the reports,” Daniel stated.
“Yeah, I know,” Jack sighed. “Danny, he wants something from us.”
“He wants to know his great-grandchildren,” Daniel insisted.
“Don't you think he should want to know his grandson, too?” Jack's heart sank as he saw Daniel's reaction to the question, the younger man's eyes blinking, trying to fend off tears. “Hey, I'm sorry,” he apologized, standing up and pulling Daniel up from his chair as well. “Come here,” he beckoned softly, pulling the love of his life into his arms. “I love you so much, Angel. I hate it when anyone hurts you, and I know you're trying to believe in Nick, but every muscle in my body is yelling that whatever he wants is going to cause a lot of pain for you; for us.”
Daniel rested his head against Jack's shoulder as his arms hung low along Jack's sides. He was tired. When Nick had shown up, Daniel let himself hope. He should have known better. Jack was right. Nick's current avoidance of Daniel was a further shunning, one that deepened the original hurt Nick had caused to the eight-year-old orphan, who had only longed for love and affection from his grandfather. Only the fact that his children were getting the chance he'd never had was stopping Daniel from letting Jack boot Nick out of their camp.
“We only have three more weeks here,” Daniel whispered. “After that, he'll be gone again.”
~I hope so.~ Jack sighed and then noticed Suzanna walking out from the tent. “Danny, it's time.”
Daniel nodded against his lover's body and slowly backed away, smiling sweetly at Jack as he did so. Then he went to say goodbye to Suzanna. One of the locals would be taking her to town for her return flight to the United States. He would be staying to pick up Janet, who was arriving on Sunday for her visit with the Jackson-O'Neills and her daughter.
--Chapter Three: Misty Hauntings
“Okay. Okay. Okay.”
“Daniel, you've been saying 'okay' for five minutes. What does that thing say?” Jack asked impatiently, referring to the pillar they had unearthed.
“You're not going to like it,” Daniel warned, wiping his brow along the edge of his sweat-soaked brown bandana.
“Yeah, I figured that. Let me guess. Snakehead up ahead?” Jack quipped half-heartedly.
“I hope not, but, uh, there's a reference to the false gods being imprisoned,” the linguist informed his partner.
“In what? Where?” Jack asked, looking all around, accessing their surroundings.
Daniel shrugged and looked a bit hesitantly at his husband as he answered, “I think maybe here. Megan!” Daniel motioned for J-O's Director of Operations to come over and join them. “Jack, we need some bigger equipment. I think, uh ...”
“Danny, I don't like that look in your eye.”
“I think there's something here,” Daniel explained, adding, “but what I don't understand is why the sensors didn't pick it up. It didn't show up on the topographical survey, the infrared, or any of the other tests.”
“Of course not.” Inside, Jack winced from the possibilities already circling in his mind. “I know I shouldn't ask this, but what is it you think is here?”
“Sarcophagi,” Daniel answered, cocking his head slightly in an 'not my fault' type of motion.
“Sarcopha*gi*?” Jack whispered loudly. ~No, of course, it is. I mean when have we ever done anything easy?~
“The pillar talks in multiples,” Daniel explained. “We need to find out.”
“Dang snakeheads follow us everywhere,” Jack bellowed as he twisted his body around to check their surroundings for a moment.
“Jack, when this would have happened, we weren't even born,” Daniel pointed out.
“Thanks, Danny. I didn't know that,” Jack quipped sarcastically. Then he sighed, “You know I ...”
“I know. We have a propensity to uncover Goa'uld on major digs,” Daniel said with nervous amusement in his voice.
“Two for two,” Jack spoke, referring back to their first major dig in Egypt and now this one.
“What do you need, Daniel?” Megan asked dutifully when she reached the two men.
As Daniel discussed the situation with Megan, Jack shook his head in disbelief. He wished Sam and Teal'c were present. At times like this, he felt better when the entire team was around, and he had a feeling they would be needed.
~Maybe it's time to call Hammond. If Goa'uld are involved here, we'll need the SGC.~
“Jonathan, imagine going to a place where we could fly all day,” Nick said alluringly.
“Jonny. I good boy,” Jonny refuted, equating the use of his full name with times when he was in trouble. “I like fly.”
“Then, if you like, I can take you to a place where we can fly to your heart's content,” Nick promised as he patted the boy on the arm several times.
“Really, Gran'pa?” Jonny asked with eyes bright with wonder.
“Yes, Jonny,” Nick said. Looking at Little Danny, Nick added, “And for you, we can explore places you can only dream about.”
“Learn stuff?” Little Danny asked excitedly.
“Learn lots of wonderful things, things most men know nothing about. Would you like that?” Nick asked enticingly.
“Yeah!” Little Danny answered.
“What 'bout me?” Aislinn asked eagerly.
“And for you, the universe is your kingdom,” Nick said enticingly as he reached out to stroke her hair. “You only have to tell me what your dreams are.”
Standing out of sight, Jennifer frowned as she eavesdropped on Nick's conversation. While she had enjoyed the stories Nick had told them, it hadn't escaped her notice that he hadn't spent any time with Daniel; and although her father hadn't said anything, she could see the hurt in his eyes. Her gut was telling her not to like this man who talked to the Munchkins like he was butter to their salt. In a huff, the teenager turned and went for a walk, feeling uneasy about Nick's presence in Muyil.
~I'll be glad when Aunt Janet gets here.~
“Daniel!” Karissa called out.
“Did you find something?” Daniel asked after hurrying to her position.
“Yes, right here,” the female answered, pointing at the writing she had discovered. “Look at this hieroglyph. I'm not certain, but isn't this a ...”
“Warning,” Daniel completed for her, jumping down into the rectangular pit where Karissa was working. He brushed away some dirt and debris off the panel the woman had unearthed, taking in the details of the latest find. In the last few days, they'd found several pillars or columns in the area. “I still don't understand why these didn't show up in any of our surveys,” he wondered out loud.
“Maybe it was a malfunction,” Karissa offered.
“Or something,” Daniel replied, unconvinced.
“Shall I keep digging?” Karissa asked.
“Yes, but make sure you protect this panel. It is a warning, but I'm not sure what these symbols mean,” Daniel stated, pointing to a group of four symbols at the bottom of the panel.
“Daniel, where are you?” Megan shouted urgently from the other side of the site.
“You're in demand today,” Karissa teased.
“So it seems,” Daniel replied, smiling.
Climbing out of the pit, Daniel returned Megan's call, meeting up with her near the storage tent.
“Daniel, I was mapping out the pillars and ... well, see for yourself,” Megan suggested, biting her lip excitedly.
Daniel studied the positions of the pillars, finally replying in amazement, “It's the outline of a pyramid.”
“That's what I thought,” Megan agreed. “All we need is one more -- the apex.”
Daniel looked around, visualizing the underground pillars. He followed their path.
“But ... the top would be there, under that mountain. That can't be,” Daniel stated, now more confused than ever.
“A pyramid without a top?” Megan quizzed skeptically.
Daniel sighed and shook his head; finally, he remarked, “Something's ... odd about this place, Megan, but I can't figure out what.”
The next day, Sunday, Jennifer walked outside, looking back at the family tent where Nick was telling the Munchkins and the twins another fantasy story about living their dreams and having everything be perfect. She sighed and began to walk around the dig site. She smiled, seeing David and Chenoa helping Daniel to catalog some artifacts. Near the edge of the site, she smiled again and slowly made her way over to the spot where Jack was sitting, staring down at one of the unearthed pillars.
After sitting down on the ground next to her dad, the teenager said, “He's not for real, is he?”
“Who?” Jack asked.
“Nick,” Jennifer answered as she faced her father, her knowing expression tell Jack that she wasn't buying Nick's act.
Jack stared at his daughter, a bit surprised. He had thought Jennifer was as taken in by Nick as the other children. Truth be told, he was glad to learn that she wasn't. He answered with a sigh and a shake of his head.
Jennifer looked straight ahead as she quietly deduced, “He hurt Daddy a lot.”
“More than once,” Jack confirmed.
“Why do you think he came here?” Jennifer queried.
“I don't know, Jen, but he wants something,” Jack said, every bone in his body telling him to be on alert with Nick around. “That man abandoned Daniel as a child, and when he had the chance to make it up to him, all Nick did was abandon him again. Years. It's been years since Nick ...”
Jack paused as he looked at his daughter.
Sensing his hesitancy, Jennifer said, “He's been through the Stargate, hasn't he?”
“There was this skull in Belize ...” Jack began.
“Belize? That's not far from here,” the girl noted.
“That's right,” Jack agreed. “Nick found a crystal skull there once. It transported him to a cavern with this giant alien. He was too shocked to say anything so the giant sent him back. He became obsessed with getting back to that cavern, and nothing nor anyone, not even his orphaned grandson made a difference.”
“That's so unfair to Daddy,” Jennifer said. “How could he leave him alone with families that ...” She looked away, her anger mixed in with incredible sadness from the few haunted stories Daniel had shared with her. ~How could he do that? Gawd, I want to hate him for what he did to Daddy, but I know that that's wrong, too,~ the confused teenager thought.
Jack put his arm around their daughter and pulled her to him. He quickly looked around, verifying that no one could overhear their conversation. Then he placed a kiss on the side of her head as he comforted her, saying, “That's something I've never understood, Jen, especially when years later SG-1 found another crystal skull on a planet.”
“What happened, Dad?” the teenager inquired.
Jack smirked, “Your daddy touched it.” He looked off and bobbed his head a little. “Okay, so he didn't really touch it, but he stared at it, and then he disappeared.”
“What do you mean?” Jennifer asked, her eyes wide with surprise.
“Poof! Vanished! Out of sight!” Jack answered. “We thought it had killed him, but what had really happened is that we interrupted the transmission. I don't get all this stuff, Jen, but somehow, looking into that skull transports a person to the phase where the giant aliens live. All we knew is that this energy seemed to have Daniel locked in place. Teal'c used a weapon to stop it, and Daniel just disappeared.”
“I bet you were scared,” Jennifer said softly.
Jack warmed her upper arm by rubbing it gently as he nodded and continued, “In desperation, we brought Nick from the hospital he'd checked himself into to the SGC. Lo and behold, it turned out Nick could see Daniel. We went back through the Gate, and Daniel, still invisible to us, stared at the skull some more until we were transported to the phase he and the giants were in.”
“You mean to a different place?” a confused Jennifer asked.
“No, it was the same place, Jen, but to be able to see the aliens, you had to be in their phase,” Jack said. ~This is way too sci-fi for my blood.~
“Okay, so what happened?” Jennifer asked, deciding that she didn't need to understand the science behind what had occurred, only how it had affected her father.
“Long story short, we made friendly with the giant alien, and he agreed to an exchange. Nick didn't miss a beat in offering to stay behind,” Jack said angrily. His voice softened as he continued, “Danny was heartbroken.”
“So the alien has sent him back?” Jennifer questioned.
“I'm not sure what's going on there. According to Nick, he's been back several times.”
“But why wouldn't he call Daddy?” Jennifer asked, her eyes begging for an answer.
In anguish, the general shook his head and answered, “Because that old man, Jen, is a selfish son of a ...” He coughed to cover up his language and then continued, “He doesn't care about anyone but himself. Why is he here? There has to be a reason.”
Jennifer looked back towards the family tent, playing back snippets of conversations she'd overheard recently.
“Dad, I think I know what he wants,” Jennifer revealed quietly. When Jack turned his head to look at her, she continued, “I think he wants the Munchkins; maybe the twins, too.”
“What are you talking about?” Jack asked in an alarmed tone.
“He keeps talking about taking them to places where their dreams can come true. He, uh, like with Jonny. Nick keeps telling him to imagine flying all day, and he's not just saying that, but that he can do it. Dad, he wants the Munchkins. I know he does,” Jennifer said, standing up anxiously and moving two steps towards the direction of their tent. “Dad, he ...”
“Whoa, Princess,” Jack said, standing up quickly and moving to her, his hands cupping her face in reassurance. He smiled and moved his hands to her shoulders, rubbing up and down for a moment. Then, he pulled his daughter in for a hug. “He can want all he wants, Jen, but he's not getting squat.”
“What do we do, Dad?” Jennifer asked as she clung to her father.
“We watch, and we wait. Jen, you just keep on listening, okay?” Jack requested in a much calmer tone than he was actually feeling.
“But, Dad ...”
“Trust me. No one is going to hurt our family. I promise,” Jack stated firmly. ~I'll kill that S.O.B. if he lays one hand on my children without permission.~
Although she was still concerned, Jennifer nodded her agreement, knowing her dad would keep their family safe. She could see it in his eyes.
~Special Ops. Daddy says Dad has done a lot of unpleasant things with his training. I ... he'll take care of us. It's in his eyes,~ Jennifer thought, feeling safe again.
Jack gave his daughter a final reassuring kiss on the head, and then the two headed back for their tent.
“Aunt Janet!” several voices rang out, shortly followed by one more.
The Munchkins raced over to Janet who was climbing out of the Jeep she'd been driven to the site in. Soon she was surrounded by excited children all telling her about their stay in Mexico so far.
After greeting all the children, Cassandra, Jack, and Daniel, Janet noticed Nick standing nearby, watching them.
“Is that ...” Janet couldn't believe her eyes. ~Daniel's grandfather?~
“Unfortunately, yes,” Jack grumbled as he gazed coldly at Nick.
“Daniel, we can't tunnel into that mountain,” Jack pointed out two days later as they evaluated their findings.
“I know, Jack, but this doesn't make sense. Look, this is what we've mapped out. I had Karissa double-check it; there are no mistakes. We're standing atop the edges of a pyramid, and the apex of it is right here,” Daniel said, pointing at the appropriate spot on the paper.
“The only problem with that is that there is a mountain there,” Jack replied.
“I know that,” Daniel said agitatedly. He let out a sound of frustration and walked around for a minute. He stared at the mountain, and suddenly, his eyes grew wide. “Jack, why didn't any of our surveys pick up these columns? Nothing we used, none of the proven methods that should have indicated the pillars were here did. Jack ... Jack, what if the mountain isn't a mountain?”
“Excuse me?” Jack asked incredulously.
Daniel turned back towards his lover and repeated, “What if the mountain isn't a mountain? What if it's a ... a shield of some kind? Wha...what if something inside that mountain is preventing the survey readings from being accurate?”
“Danny, it's a mountain! Look at it!” Jack said, extending his arms out towards the towering piece of landscape.
“I know it looks like a mountain, but maybe it's not?” Daniel suggested, once again thinking outside the box.
“How is a mountain not a mountain?” Jack asked. ~Geez, sounds like a riddle; I hate riddles.~
“Jack think about it,” the archaeologist urged. “We work inside a mountain that isn't just a mountain. It's a mountain that hides top secret things, like the Stargate, from the world. What better place to hide something that you don't want others to find than inside something that appears to belong to the landscape? Love, we have to check it out,” Daniel stated emphatically.
“How?” Jack challenged.
Daniel turned around, staring at the large mountain that loomed over them, and answered, “I don't know, but I'm sure of this. The mountain ... it's the answer. I'm sure of it.”
“Okay,” Jack said moving to stand next to Daniel. “How do we find out?”
“I have no idea, but I know we have to,” a determined Daniel replied.
“Thatta boy, Jonny,” Nick cheered as Jonny successfully pretended to land a plane.
“We do all time?” the little boy asked hopefully.
“Where we're going, you'll fly non-stop,” Nick promised.
“When go?” the excited youngster asked.
“Soon, my boy. We'll fly to places you can only dream of, and we'll be free of nasty immoral things. Yes, Jonny, we'll go very soon,” Nick said, smiling manically and picking up the toddler.
From her spot behind a bush, Jennifer rushed out, saying, “Over my dead body. Give him to me *now*!”
Jennifer literally grabbed her brother from Nick's hold and held on to Jonny tightly.
“Don't talk to me, and you stay away from my brothers and sisters,” Jennifer threatened.
Nick tried to placate Jennifer, saying, “Surely, you misunderstand. I intend only ...”
“I know what you intend,” the girl interrupted. As Jonny gripped Jennifer tightly, unsure what was happening, Jennifer continued, “You left Daddy all alone when he was a boy. He needed you, Nick. He needed you to love him and give him a home, but instead you went off in search of ... what? What was more important than your grandson?”
“You don't understand,” Nick stated firmly, shaking his head as he stepped towards them.
“You're right, I don't. I lost my parents, too. I know what Daddy went through, how alone he felt, but there was a difference. I had David and Chenoa, but he didn't have siblings to help him through. Why wouldn't you let a family adopt him?” Jennifer asked, tears beginning to form in her eyes.
“He is my blood, Jennifer. Blood bonds cannot be broken,” the Dutchman answered.
“Blood? Blood is a fluid that pumps our hearts; that's all. I don't even think you love Daddy at all,” Jennifer challenged angrily.
Jonny stared at his sister, aware of her anger and the tears threatening to fall. He didn't understand most of the words, but he did understand her question about loving their daddy. More skeptically than before, Jonny stared at Nick as the argument continued.
“You're wrong. I love Daniel very much,” Nick asserted.
“Daniel. Daniel was born the day Daddy's parents died, and it took Dad years to bring Danny back. I'll bet you don't even understand that, do you?” the wise teenager challenged.
Jennifer laughed, shaking her head as she bounced Jonny in her arms slightly, the growing toddler getting heavier every day.
“You don't get it. You left Daddy alone and never looked back, and when you had the chance to make it up to him, you left him again,” Jennifer nearly shouted back in reply.
“It was my *dreeeeam*, Jennifer,” Nick explained, his eyes lighting up as he recalled his quest for the crystal skull and the giant aliens.
“Your dream was more important than your grandson?” Jennifer questioned incredulously. “Even now, you've barely said two words to Daddy. You're still hurting him!” The teenager shook her head as she began to distance herself from the argument. “You are *not* taking away my brothers and sisters, none of them.”
“Jennifer ...” Nick repeated as he moved forward, extending his right arm out in an attempt to touch her.
Jennifer backed away and yelled, “STAY AWAY FROM US!”
Turning, the teenager ran back towards the family tent, tears running down her cheeks.
Jonny held on quietly until she finally stopped; then he pleaded, “No cry, Jen,” as he gave her a kiss on the cheek.
“I won't cry anymore, Jonny,” Jennifer assured as she willed herself to stop because of her little brother. “I'm sorry I yelled in front of you. You don't worry about anything, but you stay away from that man.”
“Jen, what's going on?” Janet asked, having just walked out of the tent with Jenny in her arms and immediately noticing the teenager's wet face and her obvious upset.
“It's nothing, Aunt Janet,” Jennifer sniffled. “I'm going to take Jonny inside. Are the others inside, too?”
“Yes,” Janet said, a frown of concern on her face as she answered. After she watched Jennifer walk inside the tent, the petite physician looked around and saw Nick in the distance, staring. ~I wonder if he has something to do with this?~
Nick finally nodded at Janet, then turned and quickly walked away, disappearing into the brush.
That night, Daniel walked over to where Jennifer was reading a story to the Munchkins and quietly suggested, “Jen, um, why don't we go talk outside for a minute?”
“I'll finish the story, Jen,” Janet offered, sliding onto the bed.
Hesitantly, Jennifer stood. Smiling for a moment at the Munchkins, she then followed her father outside. She felt herself getting nervous as Daniel said nothing. She wondered if he had overheard her argument with Nick. Suddenly, Daniel put his arm around her shoulder, guiding her as they walked.
The father and daughter walked quietly for quite a ways, and Jennifer almost forgot her hesitancy. It felt good being with Daniel. Having loving parents was something she knew should always be treasured and appreciated. Just as suddenly, her nervousness returned as she remembered how Daniel had lost his parents at such a young age.
Gratefully, Jennifer was lulled from her doubts when Daniel finally spoke, saying, “I love you, Jen, and I'm very proud of you.”
“I love you, Jen, and I'm very proud of you,” Daniel told her as they walked.
“I love you, too, Daddy. Uh, I'm glad you're proud of me, but, um, well, uh, why are you telling me that tonight?” the teenager asked, stammering, her hands fidgeting in front of her.
“Because you say what you believe, and you fight for your family,” Daniel answered proudly.
“You heard, didn't you?” Jennifer asked.
“No, but Nick talked to me. He, uh, said he was sure you'd misunderstood something.” Daniel stopped and turned to face the long-haired girl. He took both of her hands in his. “Jen, Nick can't do anything to hurt us, and the reason he can't is because we're strong, and the reason we're strong is because we love and protect each other.”
“Daddy, I don't trust him with my brothers and sisters,” Jennifer confessed, worry etched on her brow.
Daniel sighed, replying, “Jen, I'm not discounting your feelings or your fears. I don't want you to think that. I ... I understand that you're unsure about Nick, but he is my mother's father, and he has a right to try and get to know his great grandchildren. More importantly, they have a right to get to know him.”
“Your mother's father, but not your grandfather?” Jennifer quizzed astutely, picking up on some unconscious thought process Daniel was going through.
“You're way too smart,” Daniel admitted. He paused and took a breath before continuing, “Jen, I owe it to my mother just as much as I do to myself. I think Nick means well; he wouldn't do anything to hurt you or the rest of the brood,” he assured.
“Yes?” Daniel asked as the two looked each other straight in the eye.
“Dad has always said you're too trusting,” Jennifer warned gently. “I think maybe he's right. Please be careful; he gives me the creeps when he's around the Munchkins and the twins. Daddy, as much as I'm worried about them, I ... I don't want him to hurt you anymore, either.”
Daniel nodded, pulling Jennifer into a hug, and assured, “I'll be okay, Jen. I promise.”
As the two resumed their walk and chatted about other things, Jennifer couldn't shed her fear nor her worry about her father. Daniel still trusted and cared about a man who so obviously didn't return that trust or care, and the teenager just knew in her heart that her younger father would be hurt yet again.
“What are you three up to?” Janet asked curiously as the Munchkins huddled together the next morning.
“Meeting,” Jonny answered.
“Can I join you?” the redhead asked as she moved closer towards them.
“Only Munchkins,” Jonny explained, raising his hand in apology.
“Love you, Aunt Janet,” Little Danny added, smiling at her.
Still suspicious of the young triplets, Janet walked over to where the twins were napping, deciding to keep her ears and eyes open.
After Janet had walked away, Jonny whispered, “No un'erstan'. Jen yell.”
“Why?” Little Danny asked, frowning.
Jonny answered, “She say he hurt Daddy.”
Aislinn gasped, raising her hand to her mouth, and shook her head, saying, “Gran'pa no do that.”
“Jen say so,” Jonny told his sister.
“Jen no lie,” Little Danny stated, shaking his head.
“We ask Jen,” Aislinn announced decidedly, getting up and running towards the tent exit.
“Hold it right there, young lady,” Janet warned with a sharp voice. “Get back here.”
“Need Jen!” Aislinn demanded.
By now, Jonny and Little Danny had both toddled over to their sister, and from what Janet could see, they looked pretty determined. Janet walked to the tent door and looked around. Seeing Jennifer and Cassandra talking nearby, she yelled out and motioned for the teenager to come over.
“What is it, Aunt Janet?” Jennifer asked, smiling down at the Munchkins.
“Jen, need you!” Aislinn said, tugging on her sister's pant leg.
“We have meeting,” Jonny added, grabbing Jennifer's other pant leg.
“Okay, I'm coming,” Jennifer chuckled as she followed the triplets over to a corner of the tent.
“Mom, what do they want?” Cassandra asked inquisitively.
“I don't know, Sweetheart,” Janet responded. ~But I sure wish I did.~
“Mom, what do you think of Nick?” Cassandra inquired quietly.
“I'm not sure,” Janet answered as an uneasy feeling circulated within her. “He seemed like a nice old man when I first met him, but ... I don't know, Cassie.”
“I don't like him,” Cassandra admitted. “Worse than that, I have a bad feeling that won't go away, especially when I see him with the Munchkins.”
Janet smiled reassuringly, but said nothing as she looked over at the impromptu meeting being held in the corner. She could hardly reassure Cassandra when she felt the same way.
“I didn't mean to upset Jonny,” Jennifer said. “I used poor judgment,” she admitted.
“Jen, no like Gran'pa?” Aislinn asked.
Jennifer took a deep breath as she looked into Aislinn's eyes, ultimately deciding that she owed her sister and brothers the truth.
“No, I don't like him, and I don't trust him,” the teenager admitted. “It will never happen because Dad and Daddy, and me, too, will always keep you safe, but he wants to take you away. You know how he's always talking about you going flying all the time,” she said, looking directly at Jonny. Facing Little Danny, she reminded, “And he's always talking about taking you to places where you can learn and go on digs.” Looking over at Aislinn, she continued, “And he tells you that you can do anything you want. Munchkins, he never talks about the rest of us, does he?”
Jonny looked at his brother and said, “He only talk 'bout us.”
Little Danny nodded as he stated, “He say Daddy busy.”
“Little Danny, Daddy is never too busy for us, is he?” Jennifer asked carefully.
Little Danny immediately shook his head.
Jennifer hesitated, then added, “And that's another reason why I don't like Nick. He's hurt Daddy by not wanting to spend any time with him.”
“Nick with us lots. Our fault?” Little Danny asked, already feeling a little guilty.
“No, Little Danny, it's not your fault,” Jennifer assured as she took hold of her brother's small hand. “It's Nick's fault.”
“I miss Gran'pa,” Jonny stated with a frown as he thought about General Hammond.
“Want Gran'pa,” Little Danny sniffled. “He no hurt Daddy.”
Aislinn agreed, nodding her head, unbidden tears springing to her eyes.
Jennifer thought for a moment the children had been fooled until Jonny said, “Gran'pa George real gran'pa,” after which all three of them nodded.
Jennifer smiled, whispering, “Listen, just don't go anywhere with Nick alone. We'll be okay; all of us,” she promised.
Though unsure whether or not she should have been so honest with the youngsters, Jennifer felt she had to be. They were too young to fight the menacing adult in their midst, but maybe if they resisted just a little, Nick would have a tougher time of it.
“Everyone ready?” Jack called out to the brood and their extended family.
There were nods and cheers as the group walked towards the various vehicles.
~This'll be fun,~ Jack thought as he scooped up Little Danny, put him over his shoulder, and began singing as he marched around one of the Land Rovers. “Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to play we go,” Jack sang, and then he began whistling the tune as he continued his march to the truck.
“Hey, Sis, you can be Snow White,” David teased as he ran to follow Jack and began singing.
“Right,” Jennifer said, shaking her head but then moving in line with her siblings.
Within seconds, Daniel and the entire brood made up a long line, all of them laughing and singing happily.
“Come on, Mom, hi ho, hi ho,” Cassandra chuckled as she and Janet joined the impromptu parade.
As the procession rounded the back of the rover for the fourth time, Jack suddenly stopped, causing a few collisions behind him. This made Little Danny giggle since he had a great view of what was going on behind his dad.
“Ah, where are we going?” Nick asked eagerly as he approached the party, anxious to join in on the family outing.
“Jack ...” Daniel spoke quietly in warning.
“I'll be nice, Daniel. Stay here with the kids,” Jack instructed as he walked away from the vehicles. He gently took hold of Nick's arm, leading him away from the area. “You aren't going anywhere. We, as in me and my family, are doing some sightseeing.”
“I shall accompany you,” Nick said in a commanding tone, attempting to walk by Jack.
“No, I don't think so,” Jack replied, stretching out his arm to stop the man, his eyes flashing a warning. “Look, I don't want to make a scene. We're tolerating you around our children in the camp. You want to stay here? Stay. Personally, I think you should go back to the land of the giant aliens, and leave us alone. Regardless, you aren't going with us today.”
Nick glared at Jack, who didn't flinch one bit. It was a tense showdown, but finally, he backed off, knowing he'd lost this battle.
Pleased there hadn't been a nasty scene in front of the kids, Jack took a breath of relief and rejoined his family for a special day off from their archaeological chores. Today, the Jackson-O'Neills were taking a tour of Sian Ka'an.
“Megan, if you need us, don't be afraid to call,” Daniel told her after reviewing the day's goals for the site.
“Don't worry, Daniel; we'll be fine,” Megan promised.
“I feel a little guilty about taking Karissa with us,” Daniel admitted, looking over at the young woman and his son.
Megan laughed, “Little Danny has such a crush on her. I think it's mutual.”
Daniel laughed as they turned to watch Little Danny talking up a storm in Karissa's lap.
“True love,” Daniel said softly.
Daniel hadn't been able to admit it, even to himself, but he needed this time with his family, time away from Nick and reminders of the past. Luckily, his husband knew this.
“Danny, it's time rock and roll,” Jack shouted.
“See ya, Megan,” Daniel called out as he hurried back to join the group.
“Okay, Gang, here we go,” Jack said as the vehicles pulled out. “Old MacDonald had a farm ...”
Megan laughed at all the accumulation of “Ee i ee i o” lines as the family pulled out.
~They are adorable.~ Laughing, Megan sang, “Hi ho, hi ho, it's back to work I go.~
By nine in the morning, the group was at Los Lirios, listening to the opening remarks by the tour guide. After viewing the coastal flora and fauna, they went for a short walk through the wildlife-filled forest across the peninsula to the serene lagoon.
It was lucky that they had five adults in the group as it meant there was always someone available to carry the younger children when they got tired. There was only so much walking the Munchkins' little legs could take before they needed a 'lift'. Fortunately, the twins were in their stroller most of the time.
The Munchkins, now two years old, had all refused to ride in a stroller, reminding their fathers that, “Strollers for babies; we not babies.”
“Right,” Daniel had replied. **We're going to regret going along with this.**
**Of course, we will, but what's a parent to do?** Jack had quipped in reply.
**Work out -- a lot,** Daniel had chuckled.
Jack and Daniel were constantly checking on their brood. They knew Janet and Cassandra would be vigilant, but they had also talked to Jennifer about keeping a closer than usual eye on her siblings. The couple felt good that Karissa was along to add yet another pair of eyes to the watch. They knew Little Danny wouldn't be far from her at any time, unless he was with one of them.
“Smile, everyone,” Cassandra suddenly called out as she took a photo of the brood at the edge of the walk. “I love this digital camera.”
“What you mean is that you love not having to carry a camera bag full of film,” Janet teased, smiling happily at her daughter.
“Yeah, there's that,” Cassandra chuckled.
Entering a boat, the family traversed the two northernmost, brackish lagoons.
“It dark,” Jonny observed.
“Daddy, what that?” Little Danny called out as he pointed to their next stop.
“It's ruins, uh, from the Mayan culture,” Daniel answered quietly just as their tour guide began to explain.
“Rissa, why they ruin home?” Little Danny asked, confused about the ruins.
“It didn't happen when they were alive, Little Danny. Shh, and listen to the guide, and then we can talk about it later,” Karissa answered with a smile.
The young boy nodded, and attentively went back to listening to the tour guide.
They traveled past the Mangrove Islands, saw the nesting areas for many of the birds found within Sian Ka'an, and eventually reached the Boca Paila Lagoon where they turned inland and entered a narrow canal.
“The Mayans used this canal as a trade route,” Daniel explained about the natural canal which ran through the expansive mangrove swamp and savanna grassland.
“Birds!” Ricky exclaimed, giggling with delight at the abundance of birds that were visible from their boat.
“Look at the fish,” David said, pointing at the easily-visible creatures in the canal.
Cassandra smiled as she looked in the viewfinder. She had just captured some great shots of the children, all looking around in awe of what they were seeing.
“Trees are tall, Dad,” Chenoa said as she sat extra close to her father.
~That's a great shot,~ Cassandra said to herself as she captured the image of Jack and Chenoa looking at the greenery.
At the end of the canal was a post-classic Mayan temple, hidden in the mangrove swamp. It had beautiful frescos and a well-preserved inner sanctum. Jack and Daniel loved watching their children explore the temple while they were there.
“They love it, Danny,” Jack observed as he held Ricky in his arms.
Holding Jenny, Daniel agreed, “I love that they are getting to see the world, old and new.”
As the tour continued on, the family soaked in all they could about this strange and wonderful place they were visiting. As they did so, Cassandra made sure they'd have a lot of digital photographs to look back on when remembering this wonderful day.
“Thanks, Karissa,” Daniel said late that night. “It meant a lot to Little Danny that you came along.”
“Daniel, he's an absolute angel,” Karissa said with a smile. “Goodnight.”
As Daniel watched her walk to her tent, Jack walked up next to him, putting his arm around Daniel's waist, and said, “An angel, just like his father.”
With a kiss, the lovers returned inside, tired and ready to get some sleep, after a tad of not-so-innocent and very covert fondling, of course.
Two days later, early in the morning, David laughed, “It's so mushy, Sis.”
“Parents are always mushy, David,” Jennifer answered as she continued to blow up some balloons.
“I think Daddy would just be happy with chocolate,” the boy responded as he looked at the heart-shaped balloon with the words, 'Te Amo Mucho' printed on it.
Cassandra walked in, having just returned from a morning in town. She had been accompanied by one of the local workers. The perky young woman was quite a hit with the locals, and one of them, Carlos, had a definite crush on her. He'd been more than happy to drive her into town.
“Cassie, they're beautiful,” Jennifer said, getting up off the floor to go over and examine the dozens of flowers, including red roses, Cassandra had bought.
“This is so funny, Jen,” Cassandra chuckled. “Uncle Jack and Uncle Daniel both think they are surprising the other.”
“It sure makes this easy. They're both so busy keeping the other one busy that setting this up for them is a snap,” Jennifer laughed. Then she let out an 'eww' sound. “Although, there's something weird about a daughter setting up a romantic rendezvous for her parents.”
“You? What about me?” David whined, scrunching up his nose just before blowing up another balloon.
Cassandra and Jennifer both giggled, and then Cassandra tugged on Jennifer's elbow to silently ask her to help unload the rest of the items she'd brought in from town.
“Here we go,” Janet said, lugging in the large Aerobed which had been kept in the supply tent.
“This isn't exactly the Taj Mahal, Mom, but I don't think they'll care,” Cassandra commented. “I sure am glad this has an automatic air filler.”
“I can't believe the general is really going to go through with his plan,” Janet said, shaking her head and smiling at Jack's daring.
“It's so romantic,” Cassandra said, grinning. “Uncle Daniel will be so surprised.”
“You know, Cass, that's every woman's dream. I've always dreamed of a man doing that for me. This is good,” Janet said about Daniel's surprise, “but that is a fantasy.”
“Would you like me to give a hint to anyone in particular, Mom?” Cassandra teased.
“Oh, be quiet. Where's the CD player?” Janet asked, returning to her task as she helped with the special plans for the evening.
“Danny, hand me the leaf trowel,” Jack requested as he extended his left hand back.
Daniel smiled, seeing his husband still focused intently on his work. He was still amazed at how enthusiastically his military lover had dedicated himself to Daniel's love of archeology. It meant the world to Daniel that Jack not only continued to learn, but actually seemed to enjoy it.
“Here you go, Babe,” the archaeologist said as he placed the tool in Jack's hand.
“Thanks, Love,” Jack replied as he gently began to use the tool to dig. He paused a second, staring down at what he had uncovered. “Danny, I think this is a bone. I'm no expert, of course. Uh, I've never found a bone before but ...”
“Let me see,” Daniel said, kneeling down next to Jack to see the object. “Jack, you're right.”
“So is that significant? Or is it some dead bird?” Jack asked, not really knowing what to make of it.
J-O had unearthed numerous artifacts, and they knew there was at least one Goa'uld in the history of the area, but so far, they had found no human remains.
“I'm not sure; we need to expose more of it.” Daniel stood up and called Bibreanay over. “Beeb, take a look.”
Bibreanay, who was a bones expert, moved in and examined the bone that was embedded in the ground.
“Daniel, it's definitely old, and it's human,” Bibreanay confirmed.
“Femur?” Daniel asked, seeking confirmation of his judgments.
Bibreanay nodded in agreement and asked, “Do we have permission to remove?”
Daniel answered, “Megan will have to alert the proper authorities; we weren't anticipating any remains being here.”
“I'll have her make the call,” the female said as she dusted off her hands and climbed out of the pit.
“Daniel, what did I find?” Jack asked.
Daniel smiled and reached out to brush the dirt off of Jack's face. Then he replied, “Possibly a very old Mayan, Babe.”
“Yeah?” Jack grinned. None of J-O Enterprises' projects had turned up remains before. “I found an old geezer?”
Daniel chuckled, gave his lover a quick kiss, and praised, “You did good, Babe, in recognizing it.”
Jack tilted his head slightly as he stared back down at the exposed bone and replied, “I wasn't sure it was anything.”
“Well, it's something, Jack. As soon as Megan gets the okay, we can continue to excavate. It's a good thing we're ahead of schedule,” Daniel commented. Then he added, “But I don't know that this body is related to the pyramid. I don't see any signs that this body is buried in anything, and we've already completed excavations on two sides.”
“You mean I found a bum?” Jack quipped.
Daniel chuckled and shrugged as he responded, “I have no idea, but, uh, I think it's possible that whoever this is really has nothing to do with what is underground. We'll have Beeb and Ty work on this, though. Whoever he is, Jack, he has a story, and, uh, bum or not, he deserves to be remembered.” Daniel paused for a moment. “Jack, I'm going to make sure Megan has what she needs; be right back.”
After ensuring Megan and Bibreanay had all the information they needed to get permission to remove the remains from the site, Daniel made a quick detour into the mess hall tent where Janet was.
“Janet, is everything going okay? I mean for, uh, tonight?” Daniel whispered, checking that Jack wasn't nearby.
~He's anxious.~ Janet smiled reassuringly as she finished chewing a bite of her sandwich, raising a finger to request Daniel give her a moment. “Don't worry, Daniel; everything is all set,” Janet answered.
“Thanks, Janet. I really appreciate your help,” Daniel said as he stood up and headed back to where his lover was waiting.
After a busy day for everyone, the sun finally set. J-O received permission to excavate the body, and Bibreanay and Ty were assigned to work on unearthing the remains. They had to go slowly for preservation's sake, but were confident they could get it done in a timely manner.
Jack and Daniel ate dinner with their family, though oddly, neither was very hungry.
“Danny, I want to take a little walk. I'll be back in a little while,” Jack announced as the children settled down to a quiet playtime before bed.
“You want company?” Daniel asked.
Hearing this, David piped up, “Daddy, would you help me read this book? There are some passages I don't understand,” he quickly improvised.
“Angel, why don't you help David? I won't be long,” Jack said, leaning over for a kiss.
Watching his husband walk away, Daniel smiled while thinking, ~Actually, this works out well.~ He joined David to help him for a few minutes, and when he was done, he walked over to Jennifer and whispered, “Jen, is ...”
“Daddy, everything is ready. It's all set up in our family supply tent. Trust me, Dad will be very surprised,” Jennifer answered, smiling reassuringly. ~And so will you.~
“Thanks, Sweetie. I couldn't have pulled this off without your help this week,” Daniel said appreciatively, kissing his eldest daughter on the cheek in thanks.
“I still think it's mushy,” the teenager added quietly. ~But terribly romantic, and that's what I want someday, but geez, my own parents? Ewwwww.~
Daniel had dressed in special attire. His blue silk shirt, with two open buttons at the top, and black pants certainly weren't what one would normally wear on a dig site, but then it wasn't just any night. This was Valentine's Day, and while neither Jack nor Daniel had spoken one word acknowledging what special day it was, both had silently thought of little else all day. Both were very appreciative of their helpers, though they were unaware that the helpers had been doing double duty.
“Daddy look pretty,” Aislinn giggled.
“Uh, handsome, Ash, not pretty,” the archaeologist corrected his young daughter, blushing slightly at the compliment.
“Very handsome,” Jennifer said proudly. “Dad's eyes are going to bug out of his head.”
“Jen!” Daniel said bashfully. “Where is he anyway? He said he was going for a walk. Where'd he go? Mexico City?” he joked.
“He'll be ...”
Jennifer's words were cut off by an unusual sound filtering through the night air.
“Is that a guitar?” a very surprised Daniel asked. Daniel moved towards the noise, opening the flap of their tent. His eyes opened wide, and a shocked but delighted smile formed on his face as he saw his lover, wearing a poncho and large sombrero, riding towards him on a Palomino horse. Part of him wanted to laugh, but most of him melted, knowing that Jack was serenading him, right there in the middle of the dig site. “Wow!” he quietly exclaimed.
Jack was playing it up, not using his best singing voice, but still, his eyes shined with love.
Daniel's heart soared as he listened to Jack's attempt to sing in Spanish:
Dulce amor de mi vida,
Si te encuentras dormida.
Escucha mi voz vibrar bajo tu ventana,
Con esta canción te vengo a entregar el alma.
Si interrumpo tu sueño,
Pero no pude más
Y esta noche te vengo
David, who was standing to Daniel's left, looked up at Jennifer and whispered, “Jen, why is Dad singing about waking up? It's nighttime. Daddy's awake.”
“Dad's improvising, David. He couldn't do this in the morning because they had to work. I don't get it, though,” Jennifer confessed quietly.
“David, what song say?” Chenoa asked, swaying to the music, as she stood between him and Jennifer.
“Um, well, in English, it is something like:”
Sweet love of my life,
If you're asleep.
Listen to my voice vibrating under your window,
With this song I come to offer you my soul.
If I interrupt your sleep.
I could no longer wait.
And tonight I come to say
that I love you
“Sweet love. Dad's so romantic,” Jennifer sighed dreamily, smiling at Jack's expression.
“He's a sap. A wonderful, sexy, soulful, handsome sap, and I love him so much,” Daniel said softly.
Aislinn giggled, “Dad on horse.”
“Like horsies,” Chenoa told her sister as she, too, giggled.
“I didn't know Dad could play the guitar,” Jennifer stated, impressed by Jack's ability.
“Me, either,” Daniel intoned, glancing at her for just a moment. ~My husband, still a man of secrets and mysteries. Gawd, I love him.~
Having finished a repeat of the first verse and the short second verse of his serenade, Jack dismounted and walked slowly to his soulmate. Their eyes were firmly locked on each other. At this moment, their nation of two was all either man knew.
Jack reached out and took Daniel's hands. His jovial, playful singing suddenly turned serious.
In the singing voice Daniel adored, Jack sang the final line in Spanish, “Te quiero, te adoro mi amor.” Then, he leaned in for a kiss and spoke in English, the line's English translation: “I love you, I adore you my love.”
“Oh, Jack,” Daniel lovingly crooned. His hands warmed his lover's back. “That was so beautiful. It was so sweet, but ... Jack, where'd you get the horse?”
“Where'd I get the horse?” Jack asked incredulously. “I come riding in, singing in front of our staff and Mexican strangers, to serenade my love, and all you say, is 'where'd I get the horse'?”
Daniel laughed, “No, I said it was beautiful and sweet, but where'd you get the horse?”
“Smart aleck husband. I stole it,” Jack lied before cracking a smile. The lovers laughed and kissed again before Jack said, “Miguel got it from a friend.”
“Thank you, Miguel,” Daniel said pleasantly, not realizing that the man, who was one of the Mexican locals hired to assist on the dig, was standing nearby.
“You're welcome,” the Mexican replied, bowing his head.
Daniel laughed a bit embarrassingly, but before he could say anything, Jack said, “I have a surprise for you.”
“Uh, and this wasn't a surprise?” Daniel quipped, his head snapping back a little.
“This was just the opening act,” Jack chuckled. “By the way, you look purely edible,” he added before kissing Daniel deeply.
“Dad, the kids!” Jennifer whined with rolling eyes.
The Munchkins were giggling, Chenoa was hiding her face on Daniel's pant leg, and David was squirming a little at the passionate touching of their parents' lips.
“You two go on,” Janet urged. “The brood will be fine tonight.” She shooed away the staff and others, while Cassandra brought the children back inside the tent. Looking back at the lovers, who were standing, gazing into each other's eyes, Janet shook her head and advised, “Why don't you both go say goodnight to your children and then, uh, get out of our hair.”
Thirty minutes later, the lovers strolled hand-in-hand towards the family supply tent.
“Danny, we both seem to be going in the same direction,” Jack observed shrewdly.
Daniel chuckled, “Always, Babe.”
As the couple reached the tent, Jack reached for the flap, surprised when it flew open.
“Everything's ready,” Cassandra said, beaming, and looking at both men who had equally surprised expressions.
“I thought you were with the kids,” Jack said, looking back toward's the family tent.
“Uncle Jack, tonight you wouldn't know if I was nine-months pregnant,” Cassandra teased, pushing by them. “You have eyes for one person only.”
“Preg...pregnant?” Jack stammered.
“I'm kidding,” Cassandra yelled back as she hurried on her way.
Daniel's fingers silenced Jack's voice as they traced his lips, while his voice instructed, “Shhh, you're mine tonight.”
“Danny, I'm yours for eternity,” Jack promised lovingly.
After another kiss, the lovers led each other inside, each sure the other would be totally surprised.
“Surprise!” both said to the other, and then they laughed, realizing what had happened.
“Danny, how long have you been planning this?”
Smiling, Daniel answered, “From the day we got here.”
“Crap,” Jack said, snapping his fingers. “I only organized it two weeks ago. No wonder it was so easy.”
“Who'd you enlist?” Daniel asked as his fingers roamed Jack's chest teasingly.
“The Doc and Cass. You?” Jack inquired, gazing at his lover.
“Hmm-mmm, and Jennifer,” Daniel said.
The lovers took in their special Valentine's spot. Balloons were everywhere, each inscribed with some phrase of love. In the corner was a portable stove and small refrigerator, both hooked up to a nearby generator, on which was their real dinner and desert for the night. The aroma filled the tent with the smells of Yucatan-style chicken with papaya-tomatillo sauce, baked plantains, lobster tostadas, and Mexican chocolate cake.
There were dozens of red roses, some of which made a path that surrounded the large Aerobed completely. The tent had Mexican tapestries and sheets all around it to make it look more romantic, and not just like a plain green tent.
A portable CD player was playing soft Mexican lullabies of love.
It didn't matter who had arranged what. What did matter is that even in the middle of their dig, both lovers had wanted to surprise the other. As they sank down to the bed for a preliminary round of kissing and fondling, both Jack and Daniel were happier than ever.
Hours later, after some intense and highly satisfying lovemaking, the lovers had finally enjoyed their dinner. They were drinking cranberry margaritas and munching on kahlua brownies.
“Angel, we'd better ... <laugh> ... not eat very many of these,” Jack said as he fed his lover another piece of the treat.
Kissing Jack and sharing the brownie, Daniel moaned from his delight. He flipped Jack over onto his back and sat gently on his soulmate's chest.
“Hmm,” Jack sighed in anticipation of more sex with his partner.
As his hands seductively roamed Jack's upper body, Daniel spoke in soft, rhythmic tones.
“Para mi amore ...”
“That'd better be me,” Jack joked.
My darling Silver Fox,
I love your silver locks,
You are my soul,
You make me whole
My darling, darling Jack!
Jack chuckled with delight at Daniel's poetry, eagerly awaiting more.
My sexy, always surprising Lover,
There's always something for me to discover,
You are my heart,
My most precious work of art
My Love, My Life, My Jack!
“I love you, Danny.”
“I love you, Jack,” Daniel replied, his heart full and eyes shining with love and happiness. “Happy Valentine's Day.”
“Happy Valentine's Day, Angel,” Jack said as the two began another tender and passion-filled union of their bodies.
--Chapter Four: Eye of the Beholder
“Danny, what are you looking for?” Jack asked his partner the next day.
Their Valentine's Day celebration behind them, the two were standing at the base of the mountain, once again focused on their reason for being in Mexico. They'd been walking the area for hours, with Daniel studying the tall expanse as if it were an artifact. Jack, however, was growing impatient.
“Daniel!” Jack sighed. ~It's a friggin' mountain, for crying out loud.~
“It has to be here,” Daniel mumbled distractedly.
“What has to be here?” Jack inquired.
“The way in,” the archaeologist answered.
“In? As in inside the mountain?” Jack quizzed skeptically.
“Jack, the apex of the pyramid is here, under this mountain, and I think there must be some kind of shield that is blocking us from seeing it. We have to find it,” Daniel insisted, his eyes scanning every inch of the mountain.
Full of frustration for what he believed to be a fruitless task, Jack retorted, “Daniel, it's a mountain. It has dirt and trees and ...” The older man stopped speaking as he stared at a particular spot on the mountain. ~Okay ...~
The sudden silence got Daniel's attention, so he turned to face his husband and asked, “Jack?”
“Daniel, didn't you say something about world trees being people holding up the world?” Jack asked, his eyes trained on a bit of exposed bare rock.
“Uh, sort of,” Daniel replied, smiling at the simplified explanation of the Mayan belief.
Jack motioned towards a rock near the base of the mountain, not far from where they were standing and questioned, “Doesn't that look like stick figures holding up the world?”
Daniel turned and found what Jack was looking at. Carved into the rock was the small image of two people holding up a circular object. He walked over and knelt down to get a closer look.
“Oh, no you don't,” Jack barked, pulling Daniel's hand back just as it was about to touch the pictograph.
“Jack!” an annoyed Daniel protested.
“No way!” Jack insisted sternly as he tried to pull Daniel up. When the younger man resisted, however, the older man suddenly lost his balance, his right hand landing squarely on the pictograph. “Oh, crap!” he exclaimed, realizing what had happened. Sure enough, a slight rumble was heard, and then a clear shield-like object rippled as if turning off. Moments later, a triangular shaped piece of the mountain pushed outward, creating a kind of doorway. “Why does this always happen to us?” he groaned.
“Because we're lucky!” Daniel said with a closed smile as he walked inside.
“Right. Daniel, we need to talk about your definition of lucky,” Jack said as he stood up and reluctantly followed his lover inside.
Slowly, they walked down a long, dark corridor. After several yards, the aisle curved to the left.
As they rounded the corner, Daniel's worried voice uttered, “Uh oh.”
“You can say that again,” Jack sighed as he took in their surroundings.
“Uh oh,” Daniel repeated, earning him a glare from his husband which Daniel ignored as he moved forward to investigate.
In front of them were three sarcophagi, each with heavy chains looped around them several times. Atop of each, a tablet had been placed.
“Danny, what do those tablets say?” Jack asked, though he wasn't really sure he wanted to know.
“Uh ... well ...” Daniel studied each one before announcing,“Beware the glowing gods; they are not of the World Tree.”
“Glowing gods,” Jack said, then turning to survey the chamber they were in.
The large chamber itself was fairly unremarkable, but Jack had a creepy feeling growing within him. As he paced the room, he heard a dripping sound that reminded him of water falling from the tap. He followed the noise to the other side of the room until he felt like he'd reached the source. On the wall was the exact same symbol that had been at the base of the mountain.
“Daniel, would you come here a moment, please,” Jack requested.
Daniel stared back at the sarcophagi and the tablets he'd been studying as he moved towards his lover and asked, “What is it?”
“Isn't that the same symbol?” Jack asked.
“Yes,” Daniel answered hesitantly, disliking what the presence of the symbols here might mean.
“Okay, we need to call Hammond,” Jack announced, surprised when he didn't hear any objections. “You aren't going to argue?” he asked.
“Of course not, there might be Gou'ald in there. Jack, we'd ...”
Just then the center sarcophagus began to make a noise, as if the 'resident' inside was trying to get out. The two men whirled around and stared in silence as they watched the grinding lid bang against the thick chains that bound it, like ribbon on a present. Moments later, the noise stopped.
“I don't think there's any 'might' about it, Danny,” Jack quipped regrettably.
The lovers shared a nervous look and then headed for the exit.
“Uh, Jack, wait,” Daniel said before they reached the doorway. He walked back over to a section of the wall they'd just examined and pressed his fingers against the symbols. “Ah, Jack, I think ...”
“Daniel, why'd you do that?” Jack asked as the wall began to move.
Daniel smiled and shrugged as he watched a slab move out of the wall.
“Eww, are those what I think they are?” Jack asked as he grimaced.
“They're canopic jars and these are ...”
“Junior's ancestors,” Jack said, referring to the symbiote Teal'c had carried when they met.
“Ah, I'm not, uh, sure,” Daniel said, holding one of the jars as he took another look around the room. “Jack, doesn't this ... remind you of anything?”
“What?” Jack said looking around. Then he made the connection. “Tok'ra tunnels?”
“Yes. These tunnels have the same characteristics and edgings like those the Tok'ra make with those crystals.” Daniel paused, his mouth open as he studied the area. “Jack, this doesn't make sense. We're in Mayan territory, but we've found artifacts with Egyptian writings and symbols. There's an underground pyramid with no top, except for this mountain, none of which was detectable even with our most sophisticated equipment. The tunnels appear to have been made by the Tok'ra. We've found evidence that there are three, uh, snakeheads locked away, apparently by the Mayans who entrapped the Goa'uld, knowing they were false gods. And now, we've discovered these canopic jars.”
“Thanks for the recap, Love, but you forgot the old geezer I found,” Jack reminded.
“He doesn't count,” Daniel responded. “I think he's a ...”
“Bum. Great,” Jack said snarkily.
“No, but Jack, I think he was just someone guarding the pyramid. I think he was left alone and just died,” the archaeologist communicated with sadness.
“And what does all that tell us?” Jack inquired.
“I'm not sure, but ... Jack, wha...what if the Tok'ra had been here as well as the Goa'uld?” Daniel theorized.
Not quite buying it, Jack replied, “Danny, when we first met the Tork'ra, Garshaw and her cronies had never heard of us before, remember? If they didn't know we existed, then ...”
Daniel sighed as Jack let his sentence trail off.
Finally, Daniel wondered aloud, “What if there were Tok'ra offshoots just like with the Goa'uld?”
“Renegade Tok'ra?” Jack asked skeptically, his eyebrows arched.
“Well, maybe not renegades, Jack, but maybe they were ... I don't know, on some mission or something, and they found out about these Goa'uld, or Ra or ... or something. They came here and ...”
“Were desnaked by the snakes?” Jack offered.
“Maybe. They killed the hosts and then kept the symbiotes for ... I don't know ... for lunch maybe,” Daniel offered, remembering how the System Lords had taken to eating symbiotes as part of some rites.
“But before they could snack, they ...”
“They were, uh, chained by the Mayans,” Daniel said with a shrug.
“Works for me. Put that thing back,” Jack ordered. “We don't know what side it's on.”
“I think they're Tok'ra,” Daniel said as he put the canopic jar down. When he saw Jack looking at him, he shrugged and explained, “Gut feeling.”
“But it could be one of the bad guys. Come on, Danny, let's get out of here,” Jack said, eager to leave the place behind.
After their experiences in Egypt, Jack and Daniel had decided to always carry with them secure communication equipment. Pulling the equipment out from the supply shack, Jack placed the call to Hammond, letting the lieutenant general know, in fairly general terms, what they'd discovered. In response, Hammond said he'd send down two teams to secure the area.
“What about Carter and Teal'c?” Jack inquired, wanting to have the rest of his team there to help.
“I'm sorry, Jack,” Hammond regrettably informed him. “They're on assignment.”
The two finished their discussion and then disconnected the call.
“Danny?” Jack called out to his lover who seemed to be lost in his thoughts.
“I was just thinking.” Daniel put his finger up and quickly added, “Don't say it, Babe.” A smile appeared on the archaeologist's face as Jack scowled at being prevented from making a snarky retort. He continued, “Uh, we don't have any idea who is in the sarcophagi, right?”
“Right,” Jack agreed.
“Jack, what are we going to do with three potentially living but angry Goa'uld?” Daniel paused, then added, “And you *know* what the NID will do with the symbiotes.”
Jack pursed his lips as he considered the options. The Goa'uld weren't really a huge threat to the universe at the moment, though every now and then they caused problems, especially when the stragglers attempted to band together. Three new ones, though, that had probably worked together to run herd over the Ancient Mayans might be a threat to Earth and their allies.
If the symbiotes were Tok'ra, and while the race was not Jack's first choice for allies, they had played a role in the defeat of the Goa'uld, and they had done so without a lot of help for many years. The NID had never let the SGC forget about not securing symbiotes for detailed study. Jack knew after being subjected to numerous tests, these creatures would be dissected, inch by inch.
Neither Jack nor Daniel were fans of the old or current restructured NID. They knew what would happen to the Goa'uld under NID control, and that wouldn't be pretty, not that Jack cared what happened to a Goa'uld. The danger was that they didn't particularly trust the NID not to mess up and somehow unleash the Goa'uld on Earth. Jack flashed back to Frank Simmons and Robert Kinsey, both of whom ended up playing hosts to the Goa'uld before meeting their makers.
In response to his husband's question, Jack asked one of his own -- “What are you suggesting?”
“I don't think we should take the risk,” Daniel said earnestly, raising his eyebrows.
“Thor?” Jack suggested.
Daniel nodded, saying, “Yes. I think we can let the Asgard take care of it.”
“What do we tell Hammond?” Jack inquired.
The archaeologist fidgeted a little, but then answered, “Well, we don't know for sure that anyone is inside the sarcophagi. We told him that.”
“It was just opening on its own?” Jack asked, his eyes daring his soulmate to challenge that.
“Well,” Daniel said with a tiny smile. “Maybe, uh, it has a remote control ...”
“Or something,” the couple said in unison.
Jack nodded and then deduced, “We get Thor to snatch the sleepers and leave the sarcophagi behind.”
Quickly nodding, Daniel spoke rapidly as he responded, “And Thor can return the symbiotes to the Tok'ra. They'll know if they are theirs or not. If we're wrong, Garshaw can handle it and, uh, ...”
“Dispose of the Goa'uld?” Jack completed for his soulmate.
“Yes, but if we're right, the Tok'ra will have a couple more symbiotes for their world,” Daniel said with a confident smile.
While they both knew that Hammond would understand their actions, they didn't want their friend to have to cover anything up thereby jeopardizing his own position as CO of the SGC.
“I think we have to,” Daniel replied. “Did you bring it?”
Daniel was referring to a communications device that Thor had given them a long time ago. The device allowed Jack and Daniel to contact the Asgard at any time, without having to go through the SGC.
Jack nodded and moved to another secured box. Opening it, he pulled out the object.
“Maybe you should make sure no one is nearby,” Jack suggested.
Daniel walked outside. The workers were all busy at their assigned tasks, but he didn't want to take chances.
“Megan!” Daniel shouted out calmly.
Megan's head popped up from the furthest square where they were digging. Seeing her boss motioning, she climbed out and hurried over to the tent.
“Uh, Megan, we're, uh ... guard the tent. We're about to have a classified visitor,” Daniel stammered out.
“Sure thing. Anyone I know?” the woman asked calmly.
“Uh, no, I don't think so,” Daniel answered. Looking around, he whispered, “Thor.”
Megan smiled and replied, “He never came to the SGC while I was there. I always wanted to meet one of the Asgard.”
“Don't let anyone inside,” Daniel cautioned.
“Sure thing, Daniel,” Megan promised as she assumed a nonchalant guard duty pose.
Back inside the tent, Daniel gave Jack the all clear.
“Maybe he's out of the galaxy,” Daniel stated, ten minutes later when their page had gone unanswered.
“Hey, this is his direct line. He pro...mised,” Jack said with a smile, his word interrupted by a flash of light.
“Hologram,” both Jack and Daniel said at the same time, making them both grin at each other.
“How can I be of service, O'Neill?” Thor's always-calm voice asked as he blinked nonchalantly one time.
“Good to see you, Thor,” Jack said and then filled in the alien on the latest discovery and their reasons for calling the little gray alien.
“I agree, O'Neill,” Thor said as he was seen touching some buttons on a console. “There is a shield protecting the chamber. One moment,” Thor advised as he pressed more buttons. “Very well, the Goa'uld have been removed and ...”
“But you left the sarcophagi, right?” Jack prodded.
“That *is* what you requested, O'Neill,” Thor admonished. “If there is nothing else ...”
“Uh, yes. There are some canopic jars hidden in ...”
“Yes, I see. Are they Goa'uld?” Thor asked.
“We think they're Tok'ra,” Daniel said and then explained what he had found and his reasoning.
“Very well. The Asgard have a ship headed for the current Tok'ra base. I shall ensure the symbiotes arrive safely,” Thor said as he beamed the jars to his ship. “If that is all ...”
“Thor, do you have a minute?” Daniel asked. Seeing the alien nod, Daniel asked Jack to go outside and send Megan in. “There's just someone I'd like you to meet. She's ...”
“Daniel, Jack said ... oh, my!” Megan said, smiling as she walked to Daniel's side without taking her eyes off the hologram. “Is that?”
“I am Thor,” the little gray alien announced.
“Hi. I'm Megan Williams. It's a pleasure to meet you,” Megan said, her eyes shining in awe.
“Megan's our Director of Operations, Thor,” Daniel explained, “and she worked for me at the SGC before. She's always wanted to meet you.”
Thor nodded at Megan, then said, “And now I must go.”
With a flash of light, the hologram disappeared.
“Thank you, Daniel,” Megan said, her eyes shining in excitement and a gigantic smile on her face.
“You're welcome,” Daniel replied, feeling happy he'd been able to make Megan's wish come true.
Outside, Jack looked over the area, amazed at how much he had changed over the years. He understood now more than ever the value of ancient relics, but still, sometimes, he chuckled at the tremendous amount of influence Daniel had had on his life. The thought of him carrying a dental pick on a daily basis instead of a P-90 made nearly made him laugh out loud.
As he smiled at his silent musings, Jack caught sight of Nick taking a walk into the bushes that were on the fringe of the dig site.
~I'll be happy to go home though, and get my family away from you.~
“Ahhh!” Little Danny said in awe his eyes fixed on the artifact Daniel had just dug out of the pit.
~This is probably the last thing we'll find here; how strange,~ Daniel thought as he climbed out of the pit and walked to the table to catalog the item.
Daniel had unearthed the object in the final section of the last pit they were excavating. They hadn't found much new in the last couple of days, so this was a bit exciting.
“Pretty,” Little Danny said as he looked over at his father.
As the little boy had done several times, with permission, he had sat quietly at the side of Daniel's work pit and watched his father excavate the area. Sometimes, he had even watched Jack searched for artifacts.
“Son, Daddy is a lot better at this than me. My feelings won't be hurt if you want to go watch him instead of me,” Jack had told him early on.
“You good, Dad. I watch,” Little Danny had responded without moving as he sat safely at the edge of the pit.
~Just like your daddy; always thinking of others,~ Jack had thought as he proceeded with his work.
Most of the time, though, the boy had been perched at the edge of Daniel's pits, watching his archaeologist father work at his craft, just as he was doing now, his eyes big and face awed by the items being uncovered. Little Danny was truly fascinated by the work of an archaeologist, and he was learning as he observed.
“Daniel, lunch!” Janet called out shortly after Daniel had cleaned the item.
Climbing out of the hole in the ground, Daniel carried the newly cleaned artifact with him as Little Danny followed. In the mess hall, with the entire family gathered around, Daniel sat the object in front of him, staring at it. It looked almost like a mug, although a little thinner and taller, and it didn't have a handle. The outside of it was painted, the images demonstrating what the 'not quite mug' had been used for.
“Daniel, what is that?” Jack asked as he took a sip of coffee.
“Well, it's a cup really, but it's for ...” Daniel stopped as he smiled, almost laughing. ~Funny.~
“Danny?” Jack prompted, amused by his husband's response.
“It's a cup for drinking chocolate,” Daniel answered, a sweet smile highlighting his entire face.
“Chocolate?” Jack, Cassandra, Jennifer, and several of the children all asked at once.
Nodding, Daniel explained, “The Mayans grew a type of tree; actually, it was called the Theobroma Cacao, but anyway, it produced cacao pods filled with cocoa beans. The beans were crushed into a powder and then mixed into a ceremonial drink, and, well, these were the vessels they drank the chocolate from. The pictures on the cup actually tell the story of the chocolate,” he said, pointing out the Mayan as they worked on preparing the chocolate; at least, the ancient version of chocolate.
“We need to take this home,” Jack commented seriously.
“It doesn't really belong to us. Anything we find becomes the property of either Abayomi or the Mexican government,” Daniel responded regretfully as he continued to study the object. ~It would be nice to have.~
Jack nodded as he took a lingering sip of his coffee, his eyes glued to the chocolate story-telling vessel.
A week later, the dig site was almost deserted. With just one day left in Muyil, the only ones remaining at the site were the Jackson-O'Neills, Janet, Cassandra, Megan, Karissa, and, unfortunately in Jack's estimation, Nick. The previous day, after the locals had gone home, the two SG teams arrived and hauled away the sarcophagi plus the few sensitive artifacts Daniel had found inside the chamber that were of Goa'uld origin. The items found in the rest of the area were normal Mayan relics.
Jack and Daniel were proud of their efforts. They had not only finished the job on time, but they came in four days ahead of schedule. Now, as the J-O team cleaned up and prepared to head home, Daniel called Abayomi to give him the good news.
“That's right, Abayomi. We found some interesting artifacts, but nothing Earth-shattering ... Yes, the last of the team should be gone tomorrow. We're just cleaning up ... I think this a great location for the research center ... Yes ... okay ... I'll send the final report to Yazid once we're back in the States ... anytime, and thank you for letting J-O Enterprises conduct this dig. Goodnight.”
“Happy?” Jack asked, regarding Abayomi's reaction to Daniel's informative phone call.
“Very,” Daniel replied. “Now that we've deactivated the shield and put the door to the mountain out of commission, there's nothing to stop Passion Incorporated from going ahead with their plans.”
“What about this underground pyramid?” Jack inquired.
Daniel shook his head and pulled out the last survey they'd done two days earlier.
“It wasn't really a pyramid. It was just a cavern. See, the Mayans discovered the false gods,” Daniel explained.
“The snakeheads?” Jack asked.
“Exactly. The Mayans realized the Goa'uld were false, so they built a facade. It was really very clever,” an amazed Daniel relayed.
“Explain,” the older man requested.
“Jack, I think the Mayans started to build a pyramid, either as directed to by the Goa'uld or to honor them. The pillars are in the proper places, but, and this is the thing, aside from the pillars and the steps we found that lead up to the chamber, there's virtually nothing there. I think the Mayans let the Goa'uld believe that they believed. Then when the Goa'uld got in the sarcs one day, the Mayans must have seized their chance and chained the sarcs and closed off the chamber,” Daniel deduced in rapid fire speech.
“And that was after the Goa'uld had killed the Tok'ra?” Jack inquired.
“I'm guessing so,” Daniel responded, trying to fit all the pieces of the puzzle together.
“What about the shield? That's way beyond Mayan know-how, Danny,” Jack commented.
“Yes, it is. I'm guessing the Goa'uld put it in for reasons we may never know, or maybe it was just an automatic lock,” Daniel stated as he studied the mapping they'd done of the pyramid edges. “The Mayans out-thought the Goa'uld.”
“You mean they pulled a fast one,” Jack said with a smile.
“Something like that,” Daniel agreed.
“Wouldn't the Goa'uld have had Jaffa guards? How did the Mayans get past them?” Jack asked curiously.
Daniel shrugged, supposing that, “Maybe they hadn't brought the Jaffa in yet. After all, why would a god need a guard? The Goa'uld having a whole hoard of Jaffa would probably have tipped off the Mayans immediately that they weren't real gods. We'll probably never know the answer.”
Folding up the paper and putting it away, Daniel suggested, “Let's go help Karissa, Babe.”
“It will be our secret,” Nick whispered to Jonny as he talked to him quietly at the side of the family tent.
“No keep seekret from Dad 'n' Daddy,” the toddler said angrily, stomping away and climbing on one of the cots where Cassandra was reading a story to Aislinn.
Nick sighed and moved over to another cot where Little Danny was playing with Katie. As he approached, the beagle growled.
Little Danny whispered, “It 'kay, K'tie.”
“I have a story to tell you,” Nick said. “It's all about giants and a wonderful place.”
Little Danny and Katie climbed off the bed, the toddler saying, “No, thank you. I lis'en here.”
Little Danny climbed onto the bed where his siblings and Cassandra were. Katie jumped up onto the cot as well.
Cassandra looked up and gave the old man a victorious smile before going back to her reading.
Frustrated, Nick exited the tent and began to walk the perimeter of the near-empty dig site. The children had changed towards him over the last week or so, but he still held out hope that his plan would succeed.
As Daniel helped Karissa pack up some gear, Jack spied Nick walking deeper into the brush that surrounded the campsite. Curious, he followed. Pushing aside some plants, he was surprised to see Nick staring right at him.
“What is it you want?” Nick asked, his demeanor cold and eyes dark.
“For you to go away and never come back,” Jack answered bluntly.
“That is my intention, General,” the old man stated in arrogant reply.
“Can I help you pack?” Jack sarcastically quipped.
Nick smiled smugly and said, “Daniel was once a scholar, a man who could hold his head up high. You have turned him into someone I don't recognize.”
“You don't even know Daniel,” Jack retaliated.
“I know my grandson,” Nick insisted.
“He's your grandson in name only.” Jack walked into Nick's personal space and threatened, “You do one thing to hurt him before you leave, and you won't live to see another day.”
Nick simply smiled and walked around Jack, heading back towards the camp.
Looking around, Jack sighed and then wondered, ~Wait a minute. Nick, you've been taking a lot of walks to this particular spot while you've been here. What's so fascinating about this brush area?~
Jack began to look around, suspicious, though he didn't know what of. Coming up empty after several minutes, he headed back to the family tent. Though he still believed there was some reason for Nick's frequent walks to the area, it was obvious he wasn't going to find it by just looking around.
The next morning, Janet and Cassandra were getting the twins dressed at the corner of the family tent.
“I'm glad you came, Mom,” Cassandra said, smiling.
“Me, too, Sweetie.”
“Are you still mad at me?” the young woman asked her mother.
Janet smiled as she tied Ricky's shoes. Shaking her head, she replied, “No, and I shouldn't have been. I'm sorry, Cass. Every young woman goes through a time where she needs some space, time to make sure they know who they are and where they're going. I guess I just worried you'd drop out of college for good.”
“No way, Mom. I love college, but I did need some time. I wanted a break,” Cassandra admitted. “Honest, I'm going back.”
“And?” Janet prompted, knowingly.
“Gee, Mom, how did you know?” Cassandra asked, taking a deep breath afterward.
“Know what?” Janet answered coyly.
“That I wanted time away from Dom, just to make sure,” the young woman admitted. “We've been together a long time, and the cutest guys keep asking me out.”
“Have you gone out with any of them?” the loving mother inquired.
Cassandra smiled shyly as she responded, “I said 'yes' a couple of times, but always cancelled. I love Dom, Mom, and I think that scares me sometimes. My friends date all the time, and, well, you know, it's one boyfriend crisis after another. But me and Dom? We fight sometimes, but I've never been more than casually intrigued in going out with someone else. I love him,” she said again. “Coming here, being out of touch with him for two months ... Mom, I'm going out of my mind.”
“You haven't talked to him at all?” Janet asked incredulously.
“No,” Cassandra sighed. “He knew why I was coming. Mom, he said he loves me, and he'd wait for me forever. I believe him.”
Janet reached over and squeezed her daughter's hand, happier than ever that she'd decided to come to Muyil and spend this precious time with her now very adult daughter.
“Megan, Karissa, thank you again for doing an impeccable job here,” Daniel said as he and Jack walked them to the vehicle that would take them back to Cancun, where the two women had decided to stay for a few days before catching a commercial flight back to Denver.
“We'll see you back in the Springs,” Megan said, hugging Daniel goodbye.
Seeing the lovers busy, Nick seized his chance. Jennifer was busy helping David and Chenoa pack. Janet and Cassandra were watching the younger children, but were also loading up the vehicle with their gear. The beagles were inside the tent as well.
Nick had one chance only, and he knew it. He walked over to the children and crouched down. Reaching into his pocket, he took out an object and held it out in front of the Munchkins.
Forgetting who was showing him the artifact, Little Danny's eyes widened as he exclaimed, “Wow! It crystal.”
“It a head,” Jonny commented, fascinated by the miniature crystal skull Nick held in his hands.
Nick smiled and explained, “This little object can perform magic. Come,” he beckoned to the Munchkins. “Let me show you.”
“We not 'posed go,” Jonny argued.
“It will make you fly, Jonny,” Nick said, an airiness in his voice. He looked at Little Danny and spoke enticingly, “And it will show you mysteries of the Earth; and for you, little Aislinn, this crystal will give you riches you can't even imagine. You can wear diamonds and real crystals. You will be the most beautiful little girl in all the universe.”
Lured by the magic of the skull, the Munchkins followed Nick into the woods. After looking back the way they had come to make sure they hadn't been noticed, Nick said, “Now watch. I'll make a genie appear.”
“No such thing,” Jonny refuted.
“Sure there is,” Aislinn said.
“No genies,” Jonny maintained.
“Are, too,” Aislinn argued back.
“Na-huh,” Jonny replied.
“Are, too, genies!” the little girl said strongly.
“Nope!” Jonny retaliated.
“Noooooo!” Jonny insisted.
“Are, too!” Aislinn said one last time, slapping her brother.
“Ouch, Ash!” Jonny said as he rubbed his upper arm. “No genies.”
“Daddy say keep mind open,” Aislinn stated determinedly.
“Brain fall out, Ash,” Jonny warned, snickering.
Little Danny, who had remained completely quiet during the debate, shook his head at his brother, but said nothing.
“Children, there *are* genies. I will show you,” Nick said. “Now, we haven't much time. Watch,” he urged as he stared intensely at the small skull.
“Hol'smokes!” Jonny exclaimed as the crystal began to emit visible rays.
“Holy smokes, Jonny,” Little Danny corrected.
“Look, Lil' Danny. It magic!” Jonny stated in awe.
The rays from the crystal began to grow. The two boys were fascinated, but Aislinn became scared, slowly backing away. When the rays began to seemingly go through her brothers, the little girl called out to them. When they didn't answer, she turned and ran as fast as her tiny legs would carry her.
Jack put his arm around his husband as they waved a final good-bye towards Megan and Karissa as they departed. They turned back around at the now empty space. Only one thing remained to be packed -- the family tent. They saw Cassandra smiling towards them as she loaded a duffel bag into their vehicle while holding Jenny.
“We'd better get back,” Daniel suggested.
Jack squeezed his lover to him as they looked over the area, finally saying, “Danny, this is good. Egypt was great; this was good, too.” He paused for a moment, nodding his head as he thought about it. “I like doing this,” he said with a tender smile.
Daniel chuckled, “My husband, the Fly Boy turned geek.”
“Let's not go that far,” Jack smirked and then leaned in for a kiss.
The couple walked back to the tent and went inside.
“Where are the triplets?” Daniel asked, noticing their absence almost immediately.
“They were over ... there,” Janet said. “Oh, no. Nick. He was lurking nearby, but I thought ...”
“They've been avoiding him,” Cassandra said as she became alarmed as well.
Jack ran outside, Daniel on his heels. The two began shouting their children's names, but received no response.
Jack put his hands on Daniel's shoulders and said, “Don't worry. We'll find them. Nick couldn't have ... wait. Danny, Nick's been going on walks. Over there,” he said, pointing.
Quickly, the two, accompanied by Janet, walked into the brush, Jack leading them to the area where he had found Nick that one time. Just as they entered the brush, Aislinn reached the area.
“Ash, are you okay?” Daniel asked as he picked her up.
“Daddy. Jo'lil Nick ... magic,” the little girl gasped excitedly.
“Whoa, Sweetie,” Daniel said, bobbing her up and down a bit in his arms. “Everything is okay. Where are your brothers?”
“Nick have genie; magic,” Aislinn explained breathlessly.
Jack didn't understand what she was talking about, but he didn't care at the moment. All he wanted was to find his sons.
“Ash, point. What direction?” Jack asked urgently.
“There!” the youngest triplet answered, extending her arm out.
Daniel turned to Janet, handing her his precious cargo and requesting, “Janet, take her back to camp, please.”
Jack tapped Daniel on the arm, and the two went in search of their two boys.
The rays were beginning to spike as Nick held the crystal in his hand. On each side of him was one of the boys, both looking at the fascinating object.
“Jack, look!” Daniel said, noticing a flickering of rays through the bushes.
“Daniel, that reminds me of ...”
“No!” Daniel called out as he and Jack took off running towards the clearing that was just ahead.
“Just another moment, and we'll be able to fly forever, Jonny, my boy. Keep staring at the crystal,” Nick urged.
“I do not think that would be wise,” Teal'c said.
Jack and Daniel were astonished but overjoyed to hear Teal'c's voice as the Jaffa emerged from the bushes.
“Neither do I!” Jack said angrily as he snatched up Jonny.
Daniel picked up his namesake, holding on tightly as he ordered, “Look at me! Jonny! Little Danny. Both of you look at me -- now!”
The two boys blinked and looked at their parents, each other, and Teal'c.
With the children safe, Teal'c knocked the skull out of Nick's hand, causing the emissions to stop.
“I ought to ...” Jack began angrily.
“Jack!” **Not in front of the boys.**
Jack took a brief moment to censor himself.
“Aunt Sam!” Little Danny said, smiling at his aunt who had just emerged from the bushes.
Closing his eyes and shaking his head, Jack asked, “Carter, what's going on?”
“Uh ...” Sam stuttered nervously.
“Jack,” Daniel called out in warning. **Stop.**
“Sam,” Daniel said with a smile. “Would you take the boys back to our camp please? It's about a quarter of a mile straight that way.”
“Sure. Hey, Guys. I've missed you,” Sam said as Jack and Daniel gave her an armful of boys.
“Hi, Aunt Sam!” the two responded cheerfully, each hugging her.
“You're all right. I love you,” a relieved Sam said as she carried the boys away.
“Gran'pa Nick showing us magic,” Jonny began telling Sam.
“It 'mazing!” Little Danny said as they finally disappeared from their parent's sight.
Jack looked over at Teal'c, noticing that he was fully armed. He also held Sam's weapon which she had covertly handed to him before taking the two boys into her care.
“You are too late,” Nick suddenly stated. “I will not let my grandchildren be brought up in such an unholy way.”
“You have nothing to say about it,” Daniel said angrily.
“We will see,” Nick said in a smug tone.
Jack grabbed Nick by his collar and threatened, “Listen, Old Man. You come near our children again, and I will break your neck. Do you understand me?”
“Unhand me,” Nick ordered.
“Stay away from our kids,” Jack said coldly and then released Nick.
“I am sorry, Daniel, but I must do what is right for the children,” Nick insisted, momentarily glancing at his grandson. Looking up, he called out pleadingly, “Qusimatri, take me!”
Jack lunged forward, trying to fell Nick, but he landed on his abdomen, Nick disappearing before he could reach him. Frustrated, he swore as he stood.
“Daniel, Nick isn't coming near our children again,” Jack stated strongly as he approached his husband.
Daniel locked onto his husband's eyes and softly replied, “I don't have a problem with that.”
“Good.” Jack's anger calmed, and he shook his head slightly upon seeing the pain and anguish in his soulmate's blue eyes. Quickly, he pulled his lover into a hug and thought, ~I should have pushed him off that ledge in the cavern when I had the chance.~
Teal'c walked forward and leaned down to pick up the small crystal object. He examined it and realized it was a miniature version of the other crystal skull they'd found.
“Teal'c, what are you and Carter doing here?” Jack asked, reluctantly ending his embrace with his lover.
“Strange readings have been coming from Belize, near the place where Nicholas Ballard first encountered the crystal skull. GeneralHammond sent ColonelCarter and I to investigate. We discovered another skull.”
“Another one?” Daniel asked, completely surprised.
“Indeed,” Teal'c replied. “We also discovered a communication link between that skull and another object. We did not know what until ColonelCarter's equipment was able to pinpoint where the communication was aimed. Unfortunately, it took some time as these transmissions were often short and intermittent.”
“How did you get here?” Daniel questioned.
“We made contact with the Asgard. They were standing by, awaiting our signal. When the skull in Belize began to pulsate, ColonelCarter verified it was in communication, and the Asgard brought us to the place calculated by ColonelCarter's readings. We immediately saw NicholasBallard with JonnyJacksonO'Neill and LittleDannyJacksonO'Neill.”
Daniel took the miniature skull from Teal'c and examined it, being careful not to trigger the emissions by looking into its eyes.
“Jack, the cavern. We have to go back there,” Daniel said anxiously.
“Just what I want to do,” Jack groused, though he knew his lover was right. Taking a deep breath, he regrouped and said, “Teal'c, it's good to see you.”
“Where Gran'pa Nick?” Little Danny asked when his parents returned. He looked at his parents with wide eyes, unsure why they were upset. ~Dad angry; Daddy sad.~
Little Danny walked over to Daniel and held his arms out, asking to be picked up.
“He, uh, left,” Daniel answered as he picked up his son.
“Magic cool,” Jonny said. “Why you go, Ash?”
“I no like it,” Aislinn answered as Janet held her, her tiny hands gripping Janet's shirt firmly.
“Time to go home, Kids,” Jack announced as he walked over to take their daughter from Janet. “Princess, are you okay?”
“I scared,” Aislinn admitted, burying her head in Jack's neck.
“No need to be scared, Princess. Dad and Daddy are here, and no one hurts our Princess ever. I promise,” Jack spoke as he rubbed her back. “Better?”
With Aislinn's nod, Jack put her down, and she toddled over by her brothers.
As they prepared to get underway and return home, Jennifer whispered to her father, “Dad, what really happened?”
“Nick left, Jen. That's all I know. Get the girls,” Jack requested, motioning over to the beagles.
Jack and Daniel left Mexico with mixed feelings. They'd enjoyed their stay until Nick had shown up, but now they were happy to be headed home. Thor had already transported Sam and Teal'c back to Colorado Springs, and the children were eager to return as well now that the dig was over.
Back in the security of their Colorado Springs home, Jack and Daniel spent the next two days making sure the children were settled back into a routine. They had worked overtime to explain to their children that Nick had returned to his work. Fortunately, the brood didn't seem too concerned and had not talked about the old man much. The fact that Nick had left without saying goodbye and that he had upset their parents, appeared to have been the final straw for them.
In fact, the children were no longer referring to him as 'Gran'pa Nick', but had begun correcting their parents, saying, “He Nick, not Gran'pa. Gran'pa love us. Nick just Nick.”
Rather than being concerned about Nick, the brood kept asking for their 'Grandpa George', who had been called out of town for a few days.
When Hammond did return, it was to an enormous round of hugs and cheers.
“You our gran'pa, Gran'pa,” Aislinn stated, hugging Hammond tightly.
“Only one gran'pa!” Jonny stated emphatically.
“What brought this on?” Hammond asked Jack and Daniel once the children were out of the room.
“Nicholas Ballard,” Daniel answered dryly, showing no hint of emotion.
In fact, Daniel hadn't shed a tear or shouted a word of anger since the incident in Muyil, and frankly, that concerned his husband greatly.
“I'll tell you about it, George,” Jack offered as the three sat back to enjoy their coffee and cake.
“So is it your opinion that Nicholas Ballard is back with the giants?” Hammond asked after hearing the long tale.
“I think that would be a good guess,” Daniel responded. Leaning forward, he said, “General, we want to go the cavern and try to make contact with Quetlzelcoatl. When Nick ... disappeared, he called out a different name, and I think we need to find out who he was talking to and why.”
Hammond nodded and said, “I think that sounds reasonable as long as the risks are minimal.”
“Carter and Teal'c left a message for Quasiwhozits, but we don't know whether Nick intercepted it or not,” Jack stated.
“What about those energy readings?” Hammond asked softly, looking towards the patio doors and making sure none of the children were nearby.
“We're not sure,” Daniel answered. “But, uh, whatever Nick is up to, he's working with one of the giants. Maybe the answer is in the cavern.”
Suddenly, the doors opened, and the children burst in, the Munchkins running over to their grandfather.
“We love you, Grandpa!” Aislinn said.
“Read us story?” Little Danny asked eagerly.
“Yeah. We miss you,” Jonny confided as he climbed up on Hammond's lap.
“Command performance, Sir,” Jack said with a tender-sounding voice.
**He's their grandfather, Jack. No one else is even close.**
Jack reached out and took his husband's hand as he non-verbally communicated his love.
Two days later, SG-1 stepped onto P7X-377 and traveled the long, narrow ridge to the pedestal in the center. Daniel placed the crystal skull Sam and Teal'c had found in Belize on the stand near the end of the pedestal.
“Okay, Guys, remember, don't do anything to interrupt what happens,” Daniel reminded. “Teal'c, we don't know if you'll be, uh, phased with us so ...”
“I will await your return,” the Jaffa said on the chance that he was not transported with his teammates.
Originally, Teal'c's symbiote had precluded his inclusion in the 'phasing', but now that he was on Tretonin and no longer carried a Goa'uld within him, no one knew whether or not he would be able to accompany them to talk with the giants.
“Um, actually, Teal'c,” Sam began, “the radiation gets bad. If you don't phase with us, you should probably go back to the SGC within ten or fifteen minutes.”
“Yeah, I remember,” Jack smirked proudly. “Nintendos can pass through anything in seconds,” he said, referring to neutrinos that pass through ordinary matter quickly.
“No matter how dense ... Sir,” Sam smirked in reply, earning her a glare from the general.
Tapping his P-90, Jack coughed and then ordered, “Stare away, Daniel.”
With Jack and Sam right behind him, Daniel focused on the eyes of the skull. Within two minutes, they went out of phase, or at least, they assumed they did when the skull's emissions ceased.
“Okay, now what?” Jack asked a bit impatiently.
Daniel began, “Now we wait for ...”
“You have returned,” Quetlzelcoatl stated. Looking at Teal'c, he said, “You have not been here before.”
“That is correct,” Teal'c acknowledged, nodding his head.
“He's part of our team,” Jack quickly answered.
“You have been the enemy,” Quetlzelcoatl stated fiercely.
“Look,” Jack said. “He's a Jaffa, and he used to have a snake in him, but he's been our teammate for years.”
“And our friend,” Daniel added.
“And he fights your enemy with us,” Jack finished up, remembering how the giants first welcomed them by the common bond of having the same enemy.
~Yes!~ Daniel exclaimed inwardly, pleased by his lover's recall. **That's good, Jack.** Excitedly, he walked forward one step and said, “Uh, yes, he fights the Goa'uld with us now.”
The tall alien seemed to flicker for a moment, but then he asked, “Why have you summoned me?”
“Uh, did you get our message?” Daniel inquired.
The huge nearly-transparent giant looked down on the visitors and answered, “There have been no messages.”
“Great, the old man commandeered it,” Jack assumed.
Ignoring Jack, Daniel stammered, “Well, we, uh, need to talk ... a...about my ... I mean ...”
“Nicholas Ballard is a scumbag who tried to kidnap our kids, and one of you tried to help him,” Jack intervened, saving Daniel the trouble of trying to be tactful. “He probably got the message and destroyed it.”
“Jack, we don't know that,” Daniel spoke off to the side. Even to his own ears that hadn't sounded convincing. ~Who am I trying to kid? I know -- me.~
“Yes, we do. Listen, Quasi ... it's okay if I call you Quasi, isn't it?” The giant lifeform moved a finger, but said nothing. “Good,” Jack stated. “So like I was saying, Quasi, you have a no-good giant alien in your giant alien world.”
“You!” Quetlzelcoatl demanded, pointing at Daniel. “Explain.”
Daniel related everything that had happened in Muyil, telling Quetlzelcoatl about the new crystal Sam and Teal'c had found, along with the miniature skull Nick had left behind. He held it out, and, in a flash, Quetlzelcoatl scooped it from his hand. He also told the alien the name that Nick had called out to -- Qusimatri.
“Qusimatri.” The alien spoke in an even deeper voice than before. As a bolt of energy shot down the cavern, Quetzelcoatl called out, “Qusimatri, come forth!”
When nothing happened, the alien disappeared.
“So what now?” Jack asked, wondering what might happen next.
“We wait,” Daniel said, sitting down.
Sam and Jack exchanged a look, and then with a shrug, Sam sat down, too. Jack, however, continued to pace, keeping his weapon close by. Teal'c remained unperturbed as usual.
“Daniel, how long are we just going to ...”
Jack's question was interrupted by Quetzelcoatl's return.
“Qusimatri has been summoned,” the alien announced, his deep voice echoing down the cavern.
“Summoned?” Daniel asked as he stood up.
“Nicholas Ballard will also be brought forth,” the giant continued.
With a blink of time, Nick suddenly stood on the pedestal.
“Oh, this is too good to be true,” Jack said, moving forward threateningly.
“Jack, don't,” Daniel said, moving to block his husband's progress. “Just ... just wait a minute,” he added, the palm of his right hand pressed against Jack's chest. The archaeologist turned around and asked, “Why, Nick? Why did you try and take our children?”
Nick's head moved back in defiance as he answered, “I *will* get them, and they will stay will me. I will teach them the things young children should learn without forcing them to be privy to immoral acts. I hold you responsible, General, for the contamination of my grandson.”
“Contamination?” both Jack and Daniel asked in disbelief.
“My grandson was a normal human being before you twisted him into some sort of ...”
“Some sort of what?” Jack asked angrily, again walking towards Nick.
Daniel reached out and grabbed Jack's hand, stopping his motion. Facing his grandfather, Daniel's look turned cold.
“They are our children; you had no right,” the younger man stated firmly, his voice as cold as his look. “I ... I gave you a chance to get to know them, to ... to be a part of their lives. I don't understand why you would try and ... and steal them.”
“Daniel, I am saving them,” Nick stated with a tone of reverence.
“Excuse me? You took them away from our camp and into the woods. Ash was terrified. She had a nightmare that night. How is that saving them?” Daniel asked with amazing restraint.
Nick blinked and responded, “I am sorry, Daniel. I should not have left you alone when you were a boy, but it never occurred to me that you would lose your way in life. You could have been a great archaeologist. Now look at you.”
The old man grimaced, his eyes full of disdain for his grandson. He briefly closed his eyes and shook his head. He waved his hand as if to dismiss the man from his life.
“Look at me?” Daniel echoed incredulously. “I'm happy. I have a husband and chil...”
“Husband?” Nick spat. “You should have a wife, a beautiful woman like your mother. A woman to treat you like you were a king and ...”
“Jack treats me like I'm a king,” Daniel argued, getting angrier by the second.
“I will not listen to this,” Nick said, waving his hand in front of him and then turning around. “When Qusimatri comes, this will be settled, and I will take the children and raise them to be normal, decent human beings.”
Angered and hurt, Daniel grabbed Nick's arm, turned the old man around, and shouted, “You aren't going anywhere, and you aren't ever touching our children again. Gawd, what kind of monster are you?”
Near delusional with his quest to raise the Munchkins, Nick stated, “I promise you, Daniel, that I will it make my life's work to raise them to be fine archaeologists.”
“You crazy old man,” Daniel spouted. “Jonny doesn't want to be an archaeologist, and Aislinn is still exploring. I ... I don't know what Little Danny wants, either. They're only two.”
“I will make up for my mistake with you,” Nick insisted. “If I could care for all five, I would take the twins as well, but I can only do so much, and I am determined to fix the mess you've made of your life.”
“Mess? *I've* made?” Shaking his head, Daniel backed away, shaking his head. ~I don't believe him. Mom, help me.~
Daniel's heart was pounding, but, suddenly, there was a strange relief flowing through him. As he stood trying to analyze his feelings, he began to put together the pieces of his life. With this new awareness, he'd somehow finally learned a hard lesson. At last, he was letting go of a dream, a dream that said he had a grandfather who deep down loved him.
“You know what, Nick? You didn't make a mistake,” Daniel confided. “I'm glad you didn't raise me. Gawd, I wouldn't want to be like you. My mother tried to tell me. I remember now. She used to say, 'He's a man of dreams, but they're dreams only for himself,' but then she'd say you didn't know any better. She made excuses for you, Nick, told me you were doing your best and just didn't know what you were missing.”
“Claire was an angel,” Nick spoke with awe.
“How would you know? Where were you when I was growing up?” Daniel challenged. “Even before Mom and Dad died, you were never around.”
“She didn't need me,” Nick answered.
~Yes, she did, but that doesn't matter now.~ “Neither do I,” Daniel said tersely. He turned and looked up at Quetlzelcoatl, saying, “Nicholas Ballard doesn't work for the SGC anymore. I don't know who this Qusimatri is, but he tried to help this ... man kidnap my children. You can ... do what you want with him. I don't know him. He's ... he's a stranger, an evil, insane stranger,” the sad archaeologist spoke softly.
Jack moved forward, staring into Daniel's eyes. He saw pain, but there was something else, too, only he wasn't sure exactly what it was. His scrutiny of his husband was interrupted by a great wind. SG-1 had to grab hold of each other to make sure they didn't fall off the pedestal. As they regained their bearings, they saw two new giants appear, one of which was surrounded by large chains.
The three began to talk in their native tongue.
“Daniel?” Jack asked.
“No idea. I ... I can't make it out,” Daniel answered as he struggled to interpret the language.
The discussion became heated, Quetlzelcoatl's appearance actually darkening.
“I don't think he's happy, Jack,” Daniel commented.
“I believe they are having an argument, O'Neill,” Teal'c observed.
Jack looked at the Jaffa with disbelief. The disagreement between the aliens was obvious. Then he looked at Nick as he stood off near the narrow traverse that led to the cavern exit.
~Just one little tap, Old Man, and you'd be gone,~ Jack thought, but then he looked at his husband and sighed. ~Can't do it; not with you standing here anyway.~
The three aliens became animated as their anger grew. While SG-1 couldn't make out many distinct body parts during the blurry battle, except for their heads and hands, they could perceive movement and changes in the density of the aliens. As the giants moved, the wind increased.
“Uh, Nick, I wouldn't stand there,” Sam called out to the Dutchman. Looking to her CO, Sam said, “I think we'd better stay as close to the center of the dais as possible, Sir.”
“NicholasBallard,” Teal'c called out in warning.
Just as Daniel looked over, Quetlzelcoatl roared in anger. There was a huge gust of wind from his movements, and in that moment, Nick lost his balance and fell over the ledge, his scream trailing away.
Daniel's eyes grew wide, but he didn't move. He felt Jack's arms around him, and then he swallowed. With misty eyes, he turned to face Jack.
“I think he's dead,” Daniel stated in a small voice.
“I'm sorry, Danny,” Jack whispered.
“I ... I'm not,” Daniel reluctantly admitted.
“Sir, one of the aliens is gone and ...” Sam said, hating to interrupt her two friends.
“Their fight has ceased,” Teal'c observed as all noticed a calm had returned to the cavern.
“Qusimatri is no more. He has paid for his crime. We could not save your representative,” Quetlzelcoatl remarked about Nick.
“We, uh, we ...” Daniel paused, needing a brief moment to pull himself together. Then he looked over at the alien and said, “We would still like to continue our exchange. We've learned a lot about you, and ...”
“That would be acceptable. You may select one to return,” Quetlzelcoatl announced.
“Thank you,” Daniel responded. “Um, can you tell us how or why Qusimatri was involved with Nick?”
“Fill me in, Doctor Jackson,” General Hammond ordered as the debriefing began.
“First of all, Sir, the, uh, cultural exchange between our world and those of the ... giant aliens needs to continue. What we've found out from Quetlzelcoatl is that, while at first, Nick's reports were done with the intent of discovery and learning, later, his motives changed. He became acquainted with a sort of ... renegade giant alien.”
“Don't we have a name for these people yet?” Hammond asked.
Daniel sighed, shaking his head, as he answered, “No, Sir. They don't really have a name for themselves; I think, uh, that's something Nick should have explored, but he chose to concentrate on other things.”
“Sir,” Sam interjected. “The reports that were sent back to us about the giant aliens were very informative, but in retrospect, while they said a lot, sometimes they said nothing.”
“I'm confused, Colonel,” Hammond admitted.
“Gobbly gook, Sir,” Jack explained.
Daniel interjected, “What Jack means is that he gave us a lot of detail, but not a lot of information about the real culture and history of the people. Nick was more interested in the history and evolution of certain things, such as the crystal skulls and how they work. He may have found out more; he, uh, should have found out more being an archaeologist, but he didn't pass on that much in his reports.”
“And where does that leave us?” Hammond asked, his own ire raising at what Nicholas Ballard had done.
“I have a couple of people on my staff who might be interested in visiting the giants for a while. I need to talk to them, but once that happens, I believe we'll have a real exchange of information that could help us in the future to understand the giants,” Daniel replied positively.
“What about Doctor Ballard?” Hammond asked.
“There is no question that NicholasBallard died from the injuries sustained in his fall,” Teal'c commented. “The giant alien confirmed this.”
“He's dead, Sir,” Daniel reiterated flatly.
Hammond took a deep breath as he looked over at Jack. The two men exchanged a look of concern for the archaeologist. Then Hammond's eyes returned to Daniel.
Off-handedly, the archaeologist added, “He had a long life, General. Actually, being with the giant aliens probably lengthened it. I mean, uh, Jack,” Daniel said, looking at his husband. “Nick looked almost the same, didn't he?”
Jack nodded, but before he could answer, Sam interjected, “Yes, Sir, he did. If anything, I thought his movement was easier. Maybe the home world of the giants, being in that phase, somehow effects our metabolisms. It could be that Fountain of Youth.”
“Please, let's not go there,” Jack quipped, not wanting to think about age or the events that occurred a few years earlier when Daniel had been kidnapped and tortured in Honduras while going after a device that was believed to have started the 'Fountain of Youth' legend.
“How did Doctor Ballard get back to Earth?” Hammond inquired.
“Uh, he befriended Qusimatri,” Daniel answered.
Jack sniped, “Apparently, the giant aliens have their bad seeds, too, General.”
Daniel gave his husband a look but continued, “Qusimatri had been in trouble several times for violating their rules. We don't know what those were exactly, but Nick convinced him that if he would help him, then Nick would return the favor. The giant aliens are really very fascinating. They ...”
“What happened, General,” Jack interrupted, “is that the giants can't enter our phase. Nick got a little bored and convinced this Matri character to let him come home on little visits. Nick found more of those skulls.”
“The skulls are considered sacred, Sir,” Daniel clarified. “They are the communication links between the giant aliens and any potential allies in the universe. They've placed the skulls all over, but, uh, Qusimatri was a little like Loki of the Asgard.”
“In other words, he does his own thing without thinking about the effects on others or the outcome,” Jack added.
“Apparently, Nick was going to turn over some of these crystal skulls to Qusimatri,” Daniel added. “We're not sure what he was going to do with them, but I guess it wasn't something for the betterment of the others because Quetlzelcoatl was ... less than happy when he found out.”
“Daniel, how did Nick find out about you and the General?” Sam asked, frowning.
“Gossip,” Daniel answered. He gave her a wry smile. “It seems Jack and I are rather intergalactically well known.”
“Then the old coot decided he had a right to kidnap our kids,” Jack snapped angrily in response. “The Matri giant was going to spirit them away somewhere with Nick.”
“This renegade giant is dead?” the lieutenant general inquired.
“Quetlzelcoatl said he is no more,” Daniel answered.
Sam added, “He disappeared, General. It was a violent confrontation, though we couldn't really make out what was happening. It was just a lot of ... movement by the three giants.”
“Keep me advised on your recommendation for the new representative to the giant aliens, and this time, Doctor Jackson, I want your department to make sure the reports we get back are more thorough,” Hammond instructed.
“Yes, Sir,” Daniel acknowledged, nodding.
“It's good to have you two back. Dismissed,” Hammond said, getting up and moving to his office. As he reached the door, the bald-headed man looked back and asked, “How are the children taking Nick's absence?”
Daniel smiled as he answered, “They don't miss him. He was just a name to them, Sir. They know who their real grandfather is.”
Swallowing to cover up his emotion, Hammond smiled in return.
“General, a moment,” Hammond said to Jack and walked into his office that was next to the briefing room.
After a cursory glance over to his husband, Jack quickly followed the lieutenant general into his office and closed the door.
“Sir?” Jack asked, still standing, as was Hammond.
“How is he ... really?” Hammond asked quietly.
Jack looked through the window over at Daniel, who bowed his head, knowing he was being discussed. Sam was chattering away about something, trying to distract her friend from unpleasant thoughts.
“He just suffered a huge loss. Nick Ballard died today, but Daniel's grandfather died when he was an eight-year-old boy, and Daniel is just realizing that.” Jack sighed, but then he smiled and returned his focus to Hammond. “He'll mourn someone he never really knew, and then, Sir, Daniel will be just fine.”
“Take care of him, Jack,” Hammond said with a caring and gentle tone.
Walking to the door, Jack paused. His hand on the knob, he turned around and said, “The brood is anxious to see their grandfather again.”
Hammond nodded, thinking Jack was referring to Nick, so he was surprised when Jack added, “So we told them you'd be by for dinner tonight. Can you make it ... Grandpa?” Jack asked with a smirky smile.
“I'd be delighted to, Jack,” Hammond said, a warm smile on his face.
With a smile, Jack exited Hammond's office and immediately drew the attention of his teammates.
“Carter, Teal'c, thanks again for the save in Muyil. Talk about good timing,“ Jack said. “Come on, Daniel. Let's go home.”
Daniel walked into his den to put some papers away when his eyes immediately spied an item that hadn't been there before. Smiling, he walked over to his desk where the chocolate vessel sat. Beneath it was a note that read:
For My Danny, the universe's most devoted lover of chocolate. This belongs here, in your tender care. With love, Your Silver Fox
P.S. No, I didn't steal it; I finagled, but I got Abracadabra’s okay.
Daniel laughed as he put the note down and reverently picked up the ancient vessel.
“My Jack, I think I'll keep him,” Daniel happily sighed.
“Goodbye, Nick,” Daniel whispered later that night as he stood alone on the roof deck; at least, he thought he was alone.
Hammond had come for dinner and a fun-filled evening with the eight Jackson-O'Neill children. They'd played and told stories all night long, and Daniel had soaked in every moment, something that Jack knew was good for his lover. Now it was time for some one-on-one reassurance, the type that only Jack could provide.
“Angel,” Jack said as he walked up and removed his lover from his self-hugging state by drawing him into his arms. “I love you.”
“I love you, too, and I'm okay, Jack, really I am,” Daniel replied.
“I wish ...”
“Jack,” Daniel interrupted as he pulled back. “Nicholas Ballard did one good thing while on this Earth. He helped to create my mother, and my mother was beautiful and kind and caring and ... and she loved me. I've made excuses for Nick my whole life because she did, too. She was his daughter, and she loved him; so did I. How could we not?”
“Danny, he donated a sperm, but he's not responsible for the woman your mother was, and he's certainly isn't getting any kudos for raising you,” Jack refuted.
“All I'm saying is that family is everything, Jack, and I know now what family is.” Daniel shook his head in sad awareness as he said, “And Nick was never family. He was a stranger who thought he owned me; he wanted me to be like him. I don't want to be like him; I want to be like my father.”
“Your father was a good man; he came home to America for you. He was going to teach you all those things you missed out on; I'm sure of it,” Jack said, something he'd stated before. They'd had inklings of the Jackson's intentions, but no real proof of their plans beyond a baseball game or two. “Claire and Mel were good folks,” he added.
“Yes, they were, and they would have loved you, Jack; that's something I'm sure of,” Daniel said, leaning in for a kiss. “Um, Jennifer's been asking, and I think we should tell her the truth. I don't want to create a family history full of fables for our children, Jack. When they're old enough, and if they do all learn about the Stargate, then I don't want to lie about Nick.”
“Okay, we'll tell Jen the truth,” Jack agreed. “If the rest of the brood ask questions ...”
Daniel laughed lightly, “They will eventually, Babe, but right now, they have their grandfather, and his name is George Hammond. They may not have his blood running through them, but they have his goodness and his generosity; that's what's important. Uh, by the way, thank you for the cup.”
“You're welcome. I love you, Angel,” Jack said and then kissed his lover again.
It was late, and all the kids were asleep. Jack had brought one of the portable monitors onto the roof deck with him so he lowered his heart to the roof deck floor where they made love.
As they lie in each other's arms a while later, Jack stared up at the stars. Daniel noticed that Jack was very quiet and leaned up on one elbow, using his free hand to caress his lover's now naked chest, letting his fingers roam through the hair that he considered very sexy.
“Penny for your thoughts, Babe,” Daniel offered, leaning down and kissing his husband’s cheek.
“I was just thinking that Jiminy Cricket was right,” Jack responded.
“Jiminy Cricket from Pinnochio?” Daniel asked.
“The one and only,” Jack answered with a smile.
“I am probably going to regret this, but what was he right about, My Love?” Daniel asked hesitantly.
Jack looked right into Daniel's eyes and began to sing:
When you wish upon a star,
makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires will come to you
If your heart is in your dream, no request is too extreme
When you wish upon a star as dreamers do
Fate is kind, she brings to those who love
The sweet fulfillment of their secret longing
Like a bolt out of the blue, fate steps in and sees you through
When you wish upon a star, your dreams come true.
“I love you, Jack, and I'm so very thankful that you wished for me on that falling star so long ago,” Daniel said emotionally.
“I love you, too, La Mio Bello Stella Cadente,” Jack whispered to his beautiful falling star, sparking another union of their bodies that lasted until dawn.
It had been a long and sometimes trying two months, but once again, the Jackson-O'Neills had survived an adventure, and they all knew, that it was only the beginning.
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