Wayward Son - Lies to Live byby devra and JoaG
Authors' Notes: This is a Teen Daniel story. If this isn't your cup of tea, you may leave now and not say that you weren't warned.
Also, yes, it's AU, so don't rely on canon to keep you on the straight and narrow :) Characters may make cameo appearances in odd places where they didn't normally belong
"Daniel, is that you?"
His grandmother's voice came from the kitchen as Daniel shut the front door. "Yeah, it's me." He didn't yell back, instead he walked to the kitchen and spoke softly in deference to the gut-churning pounding in his head.
"How was practice—what happened to your head?"
Daniel would've ducked his head in embarrassment if he didn't already know the motion made him dizzy. "I tripped and hit my head." He held still as his grandmother grabbed his chin firmly in her hands and looked at what he suspected was a huge lump on his temple.
"What did Coach Dawson say?"
"He didn't see me, I mean—" Daniel hissed as she pressed a little too near where it hurt. "We were goofing around in the parking lot and I tripped and hit my head."
"I caught the edge of a mirror on a parked car."
"It doesn't look too bad. How do you feel?"
"Stupid." He forced a grin, not wanting to worry her. Bad enough they both knew his dad wasn't reachable for a few days – the official story for his grandma's benefit was that he was out of the country, but Daniel knew he was really offworld. He wasn't about to tell her, though, that he'd blacked out for a few seconds and had come to with his friends all standing around him while he lay slumped against the car. "At least I didn't break the mirror."
"Sit." She pointed at a chair as she walked over to the fridge. A minute later Daniel was sitting at the kitchen table, his stomach roiling around the few sips of water he'd forced down with a couple of Tylenol, holding a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a dishcloth to his face. He felt awful; not only the fact that his head was pounding but he was shaky, almost dizzy. Riding his bike home he'd been pretty much okay, but now all he really wanted was to lie down.
She must have seen something on his face. "Should I call Janet?"
"No!" The vehemence of his objection surprised even him. "I'm fine. I'm just tired." He pushed back from the table. "I have homework to do."
Food was the last thing he wanted. "We ate some chips and stuff after practice," he said, the lie sounding lame even to him.
He was booting up his laptop when his grandma showed up with a sandwich and a glass of milk. "In case you get hungry," she said with a worried smile, holding both up for him to see.
"Thanks." He swallowed sickly as he watched her put the food down on the bedside table next to him. She glanced meaningfully at the frozen peas he'd put down so he could empty his backpack. Under her watchful eye, he gingerly placed the icy dishcloth back against his temple.
When his grandma left, he reached for his laptop, but trying to decide which homework subject to work on first was too strenuous a task for his throbbing head. Instead he stretched out on the bed, balanced the peas against his pillow so he wouldn't have to hold them up, and closed his eyes.
The second Daniel opened his eyes, he knew something was wrong. Dizzy to the point of nausea, he wasn't sure if he'd be able to sit up without puking. Once upright, he held onto the mattress, forcing the nausea back.
Getting to his feet was just as hard, and he felt shaky, uncoordinated. Using the wall for support, he made it into the kitchen, where he could hear his grandmother cooking supper. Before he could say anything, his grandmother's welcoming smile faded. Without a word, she turned off the stove, and steered him out the door and into her Santa Fe.
Jack's thrill of a mission well-done, bubbling over with adrenaline, fatigue and feel good vibes, disappeared the moment he walked down the ramp and glanced up into the Control Room. Even from this distance, the look on Hammond's face, and the fact that Warner was standing next to him, didn't bode well.
"Colonel O'Neill." Hammond's voice boomed throughout the Gateroom. Jack handed his weapon over and looked up again. "Please report to my office."
Sixty seconds later, Jack stood stiffly inside Hammond's office.
"Jack, it's Daniel."
Jack found himself following Fraiser through the hallways of the Academy Hospital, still not sure how he managed to get there. His mind was stuck on the quick briefing she'd given him on Daniel's condition: serious injury, concussion, possible brain damage; coma.
He stopped outside Daniel's room while Fraiser went inside, needing to take a few breaths to compose himself first. A large hand on his shoulder startled him and he turned to see Teal'c, and behind the Jaffa, Carter. Damn, he'd forgotten they were with him. Carter had driven him and Teal'c to the hospital.
"All will be well." Teal'c spoke with such assurance that Jack wished he could believe him.
Jack nodded woodenly as he glanced inside the room, hearing his mom's voice. She was sitting next to the bed, talking softly to Daniel, holding his hand, gently rubbing fingers over his palm.
He took a step over the threshold, and stopped to peer inside.
His son looked like he was sleeping, his jaw loose, lips parted, head canted slightly to the side. His face was pale, with dark smudges under his eyes. He'd half-expected to see Daniel's head wrapped up in bandages but other than a bruise on the side of his head, there was no overt sign of injury.
"Daddy's here, mhuirnin. Can you open your eyes for Daddy?"
To Jack's surprise, Daniel's eyes opened and he gazed unseeing for a few seconds before they drifted shut again.
"Like I said, Colonel, Daniel is responding to verbal commands. And he's reacting much more keenly to Rose's voice than to any of the nursing staff."
He didn't remember her telling him that part – then again, he'd lost some time after she'd told him Daniel had collapsed on the way to the hospital and slipped into a coma.
"That's good, right, Janet?" Carter asked from behind Jack's shoulder. He realized then that he was blocking the door and he stepped aside to let her and Teal'c in.
"We still don't know the true extent of his injury; but his coma has definitely lightened during the past eight hours. I think he's on the verge of waking up."
"But you said..." Brain damage. He couldn't get those two words out of his mind.
"We don't know, Colonel," Fraiser said slowly and softly. "We won't know until he wakes up."
Jack stood there unmoving; hands fisted inside his pants' pockets.
"Talk to him, sir. Let him know you're here."
"He knows, Jack." His mom put her hand out towards him and waggled her fingers. "He knows it's me."
Unsure of himself, Jack walked to stand next to his mother. Teal'c grabbed a chair from the other side of the room, the noise of its metal feet loud on the linoleum floor until he picked it up and placed it next to his mom. Jack sank down slowly onto the chair.
"You said he's showing signs of improvement?"
"He wasn't responding at all yesterday—" His mom gasped as Daniel turned his head towards them. "Talk to him, Jonathan."
"Icky? Icky, it's Daddy."
Jack jumped, startled, when Daniel let out a long, wailing moan. His right leg jerked on the bed and he tossed his head to the other side.
"Doc?" Jack was already halfway out of his seat before Fraiser put a hand on his shoulder and pushed him back down.
"He knows you're here. Talk to him, sir. He can hear you."
Daniel cried out again as tears slid down his cheeks.
"Shhhh, Shhhh, Daniel. It's okay. I'm right here." Jack took the hand his mother had been holding and pressed both his palms against it. "See? That's me, holding your hand."
Daniel's moans turned into sharper, shorter groans. He opened his eyes, gazing unseeing, his eyes slightly crossed. Jack clasped Daniel's fingers with one hand and with the other, began wiping the tears with his fingers. "I know. I know. It's okay. Grandma and me are right here. You're gonna be fine." He spoke quickly, trying to calm his son, praying he had some calm left over for himself.
He glanced over at Fraiser, but she was standing back, hands in pockets, watching. She didn't look alarmed, so Jack took his cue from her and took a deep breath.
He pressed his knuckles gently down Daniel's cheek, first on one side, then the other as Daniel's breathing became short sobs. His mouth twisted, and Jack would have sworn Daniel was trying to talk. But there was no noise other than the indecipherable moans and sobs.
"Shhhhh. I know. It's okay. Don't push it. Just take it one minute at a time. One hour. One day. You're almost there, Icky. You just have to wake up all the way. And when you do, I'll be here waiting. And so will Grandma. And Carter and Teal'c. They're here now. And Fraiser. Did you hear Fraiser's voice before? She's been with you all this time, taking good care of you."
Slowly, Daniel's sobs lessened. His breathing was still fast, faster than when he'd walked into the room. His eyes opened and closed and his mouth still twisted occasionally, and he'd groan, the sounds Jack now recognized as frustration.
Time was measured in the changing of the shifts, the dimming of the lights, the half filled Styrofoam cups of what passed as coffee. He needed a shower, a shave, to close his eyes for ten minutes. But most of all, he needed Daniel to wake up.
Jack immensely disliked the nurse taking Daniel's vitals. His feelings bordered on hatred, but hate was too strong a word to use on someone who was caring for Daniel.
Daniel grunted and jerked his head when Nurse Cratchet checked the IV sites.
"They're fine," Jack growled. He pulled the chair even closer to bed, protecting his young from the predator. "There's no need to check them. He doesn't... "
Her smile was quick and condescending before turning her attention back to Daniel.
"Where's Doctor Fraiser?"
"It's two in the morning, Jonathan. The poor woman is probably sleeping."
Jack cast a perfunctory glance at his mother and caught her smiling at the nurse. He knew that smile, it was the same smile she'd used on good old Mr. Thompson when she'd dragged Jack back into the five and dime and made him return the ball he'd stolen. Apologetic. She was apologizing to the nurse for his bad, childish behavior. Benedict Arnold, that's who his mother was.
"Why don't you get some rest, Colonel O'Neill?" The nurse closed the chart and tucked it under her arm. "You're not doing yourself or Daniel any good—"
"Did you finish what you were supposed to do?" Jack interrupted her and waved at the bedside. "Take his vitals. Record them. Check the... whatever the hell it is you check on."
"Answer me. Yes or no. Did you finish what you were allotted to do—"
Daniel's head lolled towards the sound of his mother's voice and she placed her open palm against his cheek.
"I'm finished, Colonel O'Neill."
"Good, feel free to leave."
He watched her leave, relaxing only when she was out of sight.
"Nurse Carlyle did not deserve that treatment."
"Cratchet," Jack mumbled under his breath, sinking lower in the chair, jealous of Daniel's reactions to his mother's ministrations. A low purr, his son butted her hand when she stopped.
His mother's giggle was girlish, grating on Jack's nerves. "It's just a muscular reaction."
"Your father's being stubborn, Daniel." She pushed a lock of hair away from Daniel's face, but the strand took on a life of its own, jumping back into position.
Daniel's sigh was guttural, almost feral sounding. Jack's anger was sudden. "I'm going to have someone come in and cut his hair. It's... it's..."
"No, you won't."
"Look at it... It's all... "
She stood, blocking the bed with her body. "Leave. Ten minutes. Get a shower. Hell, go close your eyes in the waiting room. Just get out of this room."
"No. That's my son, not a ball that you can force me to give back."
Her mouth opened, then closed and Jack saw exactly when his mother counted to ten. "You're tired."
He was beyond tired, afraid that if he lay down, he'd never get up again. Jack shrugged, wishing that Fraiser would let him take Daniel home. So they both could sleep in their own beds. Be comfortable. Jack was positive that his ass had made a permanent indentation in the ugly plastic chair. "I'm tired," Jack admitted when he realized his mother was still staring at him, waiting for an answer.
"Why don't you try and close your eyes. I'm here. Nothing's going to happen to Daniel—"
Jack silenced her with a glare. He ate the accusatory words, but he was unable to hold back the expression on his face. Honestly, he tried, failing horrifically as his mother's eyes filled with tears.
Quickly, he drew her into a one armed, crushing hug and she reciprocated, but Jack couldn't say he was sorry, nor could she.
Fifty steps to the elevator. Three minutes to the main floor and one hundred and seventy five steps to the hospital cafeteria. Two OJ's. One buttered roll. One bagel with creamed cheese. Both wrapped in plastic, as appealing as shit. It was all for show. So Fraiser could see their meager attempt to follow her rules so she wouldn't kick their asses to the curb.
One hundred and seventy five steps to the elevator. A five minute trip up to the third floor as the morning shift piled on, thirty steps to the nurses' station then a quick left. He continued the next twenty steps to Daniel's room where he stopped right in the doorway.
His mother had pulled a chunk of Daniel's hair back and pinned it back. "There you go," she whispered. "Now, your dad can't complain." She smoothed the hair by his temple. "All fixed."
Jack cleared his throat, suddenly feeling like an outsider.
His mother shifted in what had been Jack's chair and stood, one hand protectively wrapped around the raised rails of Daniel's bed. "I thought you were going to shower?" she accused, grimacing as he handed her an orange juice.
"Bagel or roll?" He shook the brown bag in his hand.
She opened her mouth and Jack expected something... about his body odor, his crumpled clothes, his attitude.
Reluctantly, she released her death grip on the railing and peered into the bag. "I'll take the roll."
Jack sighed. Fraiser would be very happy. Life goes on and all that jazz. Just for now, life did go on and he pulled the disgusting chair over to the side of the bed, sat down and did what the entire hospital staff hated—lowered the bedrails and used Daniel's bed as a table.
"Bagel sucks," he complained. He flattened the bag to use as a plate and unwrapped the plastic sealed around the bagel. Jack took a bite, chewed then stuck out his tongue for Daniel, a mountain of mushed bagel sitting right in the middle.
His mother now stood on the other side of Daniel's bed. She shook her head. "Don't play with your food."
Shrugging, Jack made a show of forcing himself to finish chewing and swallowing the lump the bagel had become. "Can I let you in on a secret, Daniel? Don't eat the food." He dropped the remainder of the bagel into the garbage pail by the bedside table and it made a loud thumping noise when it landed at the bottom.
Daniel jerked at the sound, and with eyes half-opened he moved his head, like a baby bird seeking out the worm.
Jack grabbed his hand and squeezed hard. "Just a little more, Icky. Grandma and I are right here."
Daniel sighed and his eyes slid shut.
Jack grunted. Frustrated, he slammed backward, rocking the orange plastic chair onto two legs. It rebounded back onto the floor with a resounding thud, but this time the only person who jumped was his mother. Daniel appeared to sleep, undisturbed.
"He's sleeping naturally, which is good."
"Great," Jack answered sarcastically.
His mother ignored him, unwrapped her roll, squished the plastic wrap into a ball and tossed it over to Jack, smacking him in the head. She smiled innocently. "Oh, I'm sorry. Bad aim."
'Bad aim, my ass', Jack thought when he took in his mother's evilly forced innocence. "Don't listen to your grandmother," he warned Daniel. "She's not sorry. Oh, wait, the only thing she's sorry about is that the plastic wrap wasn't something a tad harder."
"No comment," she said, ripping the roll in half. "Eat, Jonathan."
Not that his mood had been great before but now, with the physical therapist beginning her workout, Jack's impatience began a slow descent. Like a caged tiger, he began to pace. Back and forth, across the short length of the room.
Arms crossed, his mother sequestered herself in the corner of the room. Tight lipped, with unblinking eyes she studied the floor, the linoleum under her feet easier to confront than Jack's anger.
"It's a beautiful day outside," the perfectly pert young girl said, moving Daniel's legs in a slow cycling motion while speaking. Weakly, he kicked, trying to dislodge her handling, whining in protest while turning his head back and forth against his pillow. The nurse adjusted his left sock, laughing softly. "Am I making you angry?" She rubbed his calves. First his right. Then his left.
"You're making me angry," Jack whispered under his breath and while there was a pause in the therapist's ministrations, she didn't stop in her torture.
Daniel mewled loudly as she worked on his arms, lethargic, uncooperative limbs batting ineffectually at her.
His mother's head shot up and she took a tentative step towards the bed.
Jack's step wasn't so tentative and in two strides he was at the bed. "You're hurting him."
"Yes, it probably does hurt a little. His joints are starting to stiffen up."
"So stop it. He's a patient. You're a professional. I thought you've taken an oath not to hurt people."
"Daniel's a strong boy. He's healing. We're helping."
"You're hurting him."
Again, the therapist picked up Daniel's hands and on cue, he tried to pull back. But his effort was futile and her manicured fingers massaged his hands. But this time it wasn't just a mere protest, this time Daniel was angry and he struggled. The movements were uncoordinated and lethargic, but it was still a protest.
"Daniel wants you to stop," his mother said.
Her smile was gentle and soft. "Daniel will have to tell me himself." The therapist leaned over him and spoke cajolingly. "Can you do that, Daniel? Can you open your eyes and ask me to please, stop?"
"He's telling you the only way he knows how." Jack's voice was loud, bordering on shouting. Instead of backing him up, his mother just shook her head and left the room.
His mother's departure was a blip in the therapist's radar. She looked up for a second, then turned her attention back to Daniel.
"Daniel's very close to waking up and if what I'm doing pushes him to do that..." She guided his left arm up, supporting the elbow as she lifted.
Daniel whimpered and maybe it was coincidental, but he turned his face, eyelids at half mast as he searched out the room until he found Jack. Moisture filled his eyes, overflowing when Daniel blinked.
"Stop it!" Jack slammed the bed rail. "Damn you, can't you see he's crying?"
"Colonel O'Neill, I would appreciate it if you would allow the hospital staff to—"
Jack didn't remember how he got from Daniel's bed to standing inside Fraiser's personal space. "She's torturing him. Forcing him to—"
"I know how hard it is to see," his mother interjected.
Jack spun on his heels, for the first time aware that his mother had accompanied Fraiser back to the room. "Are you going to make her stop this?"
The therapist looked up, Fraiser gave the slightest of nods and she acknowledged her dismissal with a half smile. Jack glared maliciously at her departing back.
"I didn't dismiss her because you requested it. I dismissed her because I thought you'd appreciate the lack of an audience when I hand you your own head on a silver platter. "
"Huh?" Jack truly was confused.
"I'm at a loss as to when you received your medical degree, Colonel O'Neill."
Jack pointed a finger at the bed, stabbing the air at each word. "She. Was. Hurting. Him."
"His limbs need repositioning. Exercising."
"It's been three goddamn days. Three days."
"Yes, it's been three days. Daniel's young and strong, but the body breaks down. We often see a difference in muscle tone even after a week." She drew a breath, pasted more of a grimace than a smile on her face and continued. "Bed sores, Colonel. One position for too long... We're taking precautionary steps to prevent a multitude of problems before they start."
"Too long? He's waking up, you said so yourself."
"And as I said, it's been three days, and he hasn't shown much improvement in the past twenty-four hours. I also said that you needed to prepare yourself for the possibility of—"
"No," Jack said emphatically. "I refuse to prepare myself for anything but my son walking out of this place whole and healthy."
"Colonel..." Fraiser's soft, gentle touch of her fingers to his raised hand was Jack's undoing.
He shook off her concern. "Get the hell out of here."
"Even though you brought Doctor Fraiser into this, Mom, I'd prefer if you'd keep out of it."
Fraiser bristled. Niceties buried, her stare was hard and clinical. "Daniel is my patient, sir, and I will do everything in my power to see that he gets the necessary treatment and if that means, to accomplish that, I have to have you physically removed and banned from this room, please note - I. Will. Do. It." Fraiser cleared her throat, smoothed out her white lab coat and smiled apologetically as his mother. "You have fifteen minutes to come to a decision. Behave like Daniel's father—"
"I'll have you removed from his case."
The look of hurt was fleeting. "That isn't an option, Colonel."
Jack opened his mouth, closed it, then dismissed the doctor by turning his back on her. As much as it hurt, Fraiser was right; removing her from Daniel's case wasn't an option. Too much water under the bridge. Too many years. Too much life. Too much history.
"Fifteen minutes," she repeated. "Let's hope you make the right decision." Fraiser paused. "For everyone's sake."
Jack knew it was coming and he even managed to count to ten after Fraiser left the room before his mother's fingers grabbed his bicep and shook hard enough to divert his attention away from Daniel. "Don't start." He glanced down at her hand.
"You don't scare me, Jonathan O'Neill, and thankfully, you don't scare Janet."
"Guess I need to work on my approach, then."
She released her grip, patting down the material of his shirt. "Blaming yourself won't change the outcome."
"I should've been home."
"It was an accident. Accidents happen."
"Yeah, experience is a great teacher, Mom. One of my children is in a grave because of an accident."
"Oh, Jonathan, what happened to Daniel—"
"You should've picked him up."
Obviously confused, she stared at him and he just shook his head over her stupidity.
"After soccer, you should've picked him up and not worried about what you were making for dinner. Your priorities are all screwed up."
"Are you saying what happened to Daniel is my fault?" The words were stuttered, as if they caught in her throat.
Jack shrugged. "If the shoe fits—"
"Maybe you better check out the shoes in your closet, Jonathan. Work should never equal obsession."
"You don't understand the half of it. What I'm doing..." He walked around the other side of Daniel's bed and grabbed the railing, stilling the tremors in his hands.
"Whose fault is my lack of understanding? I'm not privy to your secrets, but I'm damned left cleaning up your messes."
Jack's bark of laughter was short and harsh. "Mess? That's what you call Daniel?"
His mother's face turned red. "You're a bastard, Jonathan O'Neill. How dare you twist my words?"
"You should've never come back after Charlie died."
She wouldn't give him the satisfaction of crying, but then, his mother hadn't been the emotional one in his parent's relationship. It had been his father. Only in fatherhood had Jack basked in the glory of her love. Soaking in the overflow of her feelings, first for Charlie and then with Daniel.
"You asked me back. You wanted—"
"You," Jack hissed, his anger rattling the railing gripped tightly in his hands, "wanted a second chance. With me. With another grandson."
His mother grasped the railing opposite Jack, and leaned forward.
"Say it," Jack commanded. "It's there on the tip of your tongue. Say it. Tell me how much I fucked up. Not once, but twice. Say it."
"I don't have to, you just did."
"Stop it." The voice cracked, full of anguish and three days of disuse. "Stop it," Daniel repeated, tears streaming down his face. His eyes, half-opened, focused first on Jack, then on his grandmother. "It was my fault. It was me. Please, stop. I fucked up. I'm the one."
"Daniel." The anger and frustration that had filled him seconds ago disappeared, replaced with intense relief tinged with guilt. Jack let go of the bed rail and frantically reached for the railing's release just as his mom called out, "Mhuirnin."
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry, Dad." Daniel sobbed, barely able to get the words out. "It wasn't Grandma's fault." He reached out a shaking hand. "Don't go away. Dad didn't mean it."
Jack's hands were shaking so badly, he couldn't get the latch to disengage. "No, no, don't. Daniel, it's okay. You're right, I didn't mean it. Grandma's not going anywhere." The thing finally let go with a loud rattle. "Except to get Fraiser," Jack ordered his mother even as she grabbed Daniel's hand.
His mom nodded quickly, leaned down to kiss the hand she was holding before putting it back down on the bed. "I'll be right back. Not going anywhere further than the nurse's station."
As she hurried from the room, Jack sat on the edge of the mattress and eased a hand under Daniel's nape and shoulders, supporting his head, and gently brought him up into a hug. Daniel was sobbing, unable to speak and Jack leaned his face next to Daniel's ear.
"I'm sorry, Icky. So very sorry for what I said. I didn't mean it. I love both of you so very much."
"I always take my bike to practice," Daniel hiccupped.
"Grandma doesn't have to come and get me."
"It wasn't her. I screwed up."
"It was an accident."
"Then yell at me, not at Grandma."
"Nope. Not yelling. Done yelling. Shouldn't have yelled in the first place. I was just... so scared," Jack admitted.
"I couldn't wake up." Daniel had calmed, but he still clutched weakly at Jack's shoulders. "I wanted to, but I couldn't. It was like a dream... an awful dream."
"I know." Jack kissed his son's cheek.
"My head hurts," Daniel whined.
"Well, I can probably do something about that." Fraiser had come into the room just as Daniel admitted his pain. "Sir, if you could put him down, I'd like to examine my patient."
Jack gave her a quick nod. "I love you, Icky," he said before he lowered Daniel to the bed.
Standing against the wall, watching Fraiser first examine, then begin performing basic neurological tests on Daniel, his mother's cold hand gripped Jack's. He squeezed back, giving her a quick, awkward smile before turning back and watching and listening to any sign of Daniel tripping up in his answers to Fraiser's questions or tests. When she finally straightened, she caught Jack's gaze and the smile she gave him was natural and reassuring.
The relief was so overwhelming that for a moment, he felt dizzy. Then a moment later, he had to excuse himself while Fraiser administered something for Daniel's headache. He left the room slowly but the moment he was out of sight, he hurried to the nearest bathroom, and promptly puked up everything he'd eaten or drunk that day.
Two days later, Daniel was home, grouchy and headachy and pissed that he was missing school. Jack was just so damned glad to see him up and about, he didn't give a crap about his son's attitude. Even his mother smiled at every sigh and grunt he produced.
"Looks delicious, Ma." Jack smiled first at the plate of spatini then up at his mother. "Skipped lunch..." He speared a meatball from the plate in the center of the table, managing to capture two on his fork prongs. Depositing them onto his plate he went to reach for more, only to pull back suddenly when his mother rapped his knuckles with a fork.
"Leave some for Daniel."
"It's okay, Grandma, I really don't want any."
Jack was ready to hand over a slight reprimand, 'your grandmother worked hard' sorta thing but thankfully he raised his head before speaking. The poor kid was literally a pale shade of green, and he couldn't push the plate in front of him away fast enough.
Fraiser had said that Daniel's appetite would be off. His sleeping erratic. His personality a touch edgier, more sarcastic. Biting. Nasty. Yadda. Yadda. Yadda. A small price to pay, considering what had been the alternative.
Jack had remembered Fraiser's words but his mother obviously hadn't. "I think the spaghetti and meatballs are probably a little too much for Daniel. Remember what Fraiser said about—"
Hurriedly, his mother scooped up the plate and slid it onto the counter. "Cereal?"
Daniel eyed the prize in the center of the table. A fresh loaf of Italian bread. "Is that from Gristedes?"
"Yes. It just came out of the oven when I got there today," his mother began, already reaching for it.
"Can I have some with butter?"
"Leave some for me," Jack said, watching his mother tear off a healthy chunk.
Yeah, the bread didn't do the trick either, and tolerance switched to annoyance as Daniel began to spend more time pulling it apart than eating it.
"You shouldn't have given him such a big piece."
"It's only a loaf of bread."
"It's a waste. Like his plate of spaghetti was way too much... if you'd listened to what Fraiser had said—"
"Please stop talking about me like I'm not here."
"You're upsetting him."
"Stop playing interference. If he didn't feel well enough to eat something this heavy, he should've spoken up. You saw your grandmother cooking this today, didn't you?"
Daniel got up, and Jack thought he was going to leave the room. He sighed heavily, angry at himself for forgetting to keep his mouth shut. Forgetting Fraiser's instructions. Forgetting that he was just so damn happy Daniel was up and about. Forgetting that he'd buried the hurt and anger over his mother's words in the hospital room.
Daniel didn't leave. He got up, got his plate from the counter, carried it over to the table and sat down.
"Look what you've done," his mother accused.
"Me? Look what I've done? You're the one going for the guilt. I'm—"
"Arguing is bad for the digestion."
Jack got up, leaned across the table and slid Daniel's plate away from him. "Don't be ridiculous."
"Me?" Daniel tugged on his plate, pulling it back. "Me, being ridiculous?" His son's head rocked between him and his grandmother. "Have the two of you listened to yourselves?"
"Your dad and I always..." His mother patted Daniel's hand.
Daniel worked his hand out from under his grandmother's gentle ministrations, then dropped both his hands into his lap. "Hated each other?" he asked quietly.
"No, mhuirnin, how can you even say that?"
Jack's mother glanced towards him for backing. Support. Something. But Jack couldn't. Wouldn't. Refused to pretend. "We don't hate each other."
Daniel gazed at him through narrowed eyes. "Could've fooled me."
Jack raised his hand. "Look, Daniel."
Adamantly, Daniel shook his head. "No." The word was barely a whisper. Slowly, his son lifted his hand, latched onto his plate and slid it back towards him. "I don't want to look, I want to eat. I'm hungry."
There was no joy around the kitchen table. Neither Jack nor his mother ate and Daniel managed a forkful or two, spending the remainder of time chasing the spaghetti around with a piece of bread.
"Please stop, honey."
Jack knew the tone. His mother had reached the end of her emotional rope. Tears were going to be next.
Daniel dropped his fork and stood. "Can I be excused?"
Jack was tempted to tell his son no. Make him stay here at the table until things got sorted out before realizing that Daniel had nothing to sort out. Jack and his mother had created this monster and it was their responsibility to put an end to this.
Jack grabbed his hand as Daniel made an attempt at a quick exit.
"I'm fine," his son insisted, unable to meet his eyes.
He squeezed the hand he held in his own and gave it the slightest of shakes. "I know you're fine. It's grandma and me that aren't doing so great."
"I'm sorry about what happened."
His mother got up, wrapped herself around Daniel, who folded into her embrace. Jack still held tightly to Daniel, afraid to let go.
"You don't need to be sorry for anything, mhuirnin. Nothing is your fault."
Daniel raised his head. "It sure feels like it is, Grandma."
They cleaned up in pin dropping silence. Packed away leftovers. Cleaned up the table. Washed. Rinsed. Dried. The house was silent and Jack was wondering if Daniel was straining to hear the conversation, or lack thereof, between his father and grandmother.
His mother was going overboard cleaning, wiping down counter surfaces, shining the fridge and the tabletop. But when she went to buff the stainless steel sink, Jack had had enough. Pulling the towel from her hands, he tossed it onto the table then took his mother's hand and pulled her out of the kitchen.
Without protest, she followed him into the living room, which Jack, if his spidey sense had been fully alert and operational, he should've picked up on as not being the best and or most encouraging of signs.
Jack was uncomfortable.
His mother was in full control.
Might as well go for it. Jump in feet first. "Please don't leave us."
She paused, glanced at the floor under her feet, at the fireplace, down the hallway towards Daniel's room, everywhere but at Jack. "I said horrible, hateful things to you."
"Yes, you did. Eh," he interrupted when she began to speak. "Let me finish. Okay?"
Slowly, his mother nodded.
"You can't corner the market on the horrible, hateful things department. I remember saying a few things that were slightly, shall we say, inappropriate. But," now it was his turn to look everywhere except his mom, "the words that came out of my mouth were nothing compared to the words I said in my head."
"Thank you," his mother said, her lips turning up in the corners with the slightest of smiles. "If they were anything like my thoughts, I appreciate the fact that you chose to remain silent."
"That doesn't answer the question of why we're suddenly at each other's throats."
"We have a terrible fear of history repeating itself?"
Jack cringed. "Daniel's not Charlie."
His mother sat heavily in the recliner opposite the couch. "I know that. But we're still Jonathan and Rose O'Neill."
"Care to explain that?"
"I don't think I have to." She waited expectantly.
His mother didn't have to wait long, the light bulb went off over Jack's head within seconds. "We lead with our hearts and speak without our brains being attached to any sense of reason."
She reached over and grabbed his hands. "Many years ago, I almost lost my son over words spoken in anger. I don't want to lose him again. Or Daniel."
Jack snorted. "Daniel would never let that happen."
"What about Daniel's dad?"
"Actions speak louder than words, Mom. I know how much you love Daniel."
"I love you, too," she replied with an indignant huff of air.
"It's not me I'm worried about. It's Daniel. He heard things. Bad things. Hateful things. And now we're so goddamn intent on appearing like a Norman Rockwell family that things are just wrong. And if I think they're wrong, imagine how Daniel feels."
"Do you know what my fear is? That everything you said to me, everything I said to you..." His mother stopped, offered the slightest of smiles. "My fear is we still feel that way." She waved a hand at him. "Really think before you answer, Jonathan."
He should lie. Lying would be so much easier. Not telling the truth would allow Charlie and the horrible time after he died to stay buried. "I said words out of anger, Mom. Honest. Words to hurt you. I wanted to make you feel as bad as I did with Daniel."
She exhaled, looking relieved. "Me, too," his mother answered hurriedly.
Great, one lied and the other swore by it. Lies to live by, the O'Neill creed, and Jack wondered if he should have it made into a plaque to hang on the kitchen wall.
"I think it's time for me to go." His mother rose slowly, hesitantly, as if questioning her decision and Jack's.
"It'll be okay." Jack followed as she got her coat from the hall closet, her purse and her keys from the table by the door. He took the purse and the keys from her and placed them back on the table, then grabbed her coat, holding it for her, like his dad used to do. She hesitated. "Come on." Jack gently shook the coat. "I'm being a gentleman, don't ruin the moment."
She slipped her arms in, Jack smoothed down the shoulders. She buttoned up, then turned her to face him.
"Don't cry," he begged at the sight of moisture in her eyes.
"What are we doing, Jonathan? There's no peace in this compromise."
"No, there's not." Words unspoken would always come back to haunt them.
"We owe it to Daniel."
"We owe it to ourselves, Mom."
"I hated that you wouldn't let me in when Charlie died. When you wouldn't share the guilty or your unhappiness," she blurted out. "You shut us all out."
Jack blinked. "I killed him. Me. No one deserved—"
"Charlie was supposed to come over that day. Did you know that? But something came up and I needed to change it to the following week. After all these years, I still can't remember why I needed to change the date. What was so important that it cost my grandson's life?"
He was dumbfounded. "I didn't know."
"You wouldn't listen. You refused to hear anything but your own heartache."
"I left the gun where he could find it."
"And I wasn't there when I should've been. Like with Daniel." She began to cry, searching frantically through her pockets. "I'm so sorry. Please forgive me."
"There's nothing to forgive you for, Grandma." Daniel stood three feet from them, involved in a self-hug, eyes swimming.
"You could've died, mhuirnin."
Daniel shook his head and blinked back the tears. "But I didn't." He opened his arms wide. "I'm here. See. All of me." He pointed to his grandmother. "You don't need to run away and you ," he said, pointing to Jack, "you don't need to force her out. This isn't about Charlie. This is about me."
Jack could hear the anger in Daniel's voice increasing incrementally until suddenly there was no more anger, and his arms sought his middle once again.
"I'm still here," Daniel said softly, studying the floor beneath his feet. "Me. Not Charlie. And I'm sorry about what happened to him but he's dead and you're still fighting over him. Even after all this time." Daniel swallowed, paused and cocked his head as if listening to a voice only he could hear. "Can't you just let the poor kid rest in peace?"
"Mhui—" His mother shot Jack a glance before taking a tentative step towards Daniel.
Daniel threw out his hands to ward off her approach and stepped backwards. "No, okay. Just no."
His mother was crying, Daniel was doing his damnedest not to and if Jack wanted to be totally honest, if he blinked, he was pretty sure he'd shed a tear or two. "Daniel..."
"This is your problem. Yours and Grandma's. It has nothing to do with me, hadnothing to do with me, I know that."
God, Jack hated that Daniel pulled the most inopportune times to be middle-aged, articulate and more mature than anyone else he knew.
"It just hurts, mhuirnin. Years don't make it easier."
"I know, I just hoped that the anger would've faded with those years," Daniel said sadly.
Jack cleared his throat and prayed that when he spoke, he sounded much stronger than he felt. "I think your grandmother and I need to talk."
"After all these years..." The smirk was deadly and unforgiving.
"Well, at least it's a start." Jack's words were clipped and harsh.
Daniel jerked back as if slapped.
Jack tried and failed to ignore the angry gaze his mother turned on him. "Sorry, I didn't mean that—"
"There were too many words left unsaid after Charlie's death."
"You did a pretty good job of saying them in the hospital. Both of you."
"Daniel..." Jack tried again. "Daniel..."
"Do you and Grandma hate each other?"
"Oh god, Daniel, no," his mother spit out.
"When you were lying in that bed, unconscious, I hated everyone. And I mean everyone. From your grandmother, to the nurses taking care of you, to Charlie. No one was safe," Jack said honestly.
"Not even me," Daniel replied softly.
Jack hung his head. "Not even you."
The three of them had stood there in a silence that was so awkward that Jack fought the urge to pump his fist in the air when Daniel announced he was going to bed.
"It's early, sweetheart, do you—"
Daniel swooped down into her personal space and planted a kiss on her cheek. "I'm fine." He glanced at Jack. "I feel okay. Just tired."
Dollars to donuts his son's mind wasn't going to shut down to allow his tired body to rest, never mind sleep.
"I'll be in later to say goodnight." Jack placed a hand on his son's slumped shoulder and squeezed.
Daniel's 'whatever' was said so fast and covered up so quickly with a flash of a smile and a 'sure' that for a millisecond, Jack was positive he'd heard wrong, until he glanced over at his mother's face. So many screw ups.
"Sleep well," his mother said, reaching out to cup Daniel's cheek.
He nodded, backed away, quicker than Jack thought necessary and left.
The two of them didn't move, barely breathed and just listened, exhaling in nervous unison when they heard the bedroom door close.
Still dressed in her coat, his mother shifted her weight from side to side.
"I'm sorry, Ma, about everything. I had no right to—"
She shushed him with a hand to his chest. "So much hurt. We've done so much damage."
"I almost lost another son." Jack choked on the truth. "I was so angry. I had tried to do everything right this time. Hell, I'd even bargained with God a million and one ways just to have Daniel..." Jack forced himself to breathe past the lump in his throat. "I bargained to be a better father. A better son. I didn't keep my half of the bargain."
The tears in her eyes were in direct contrast to the hint of a grin. "Not in my eyes, I couldn't ask for a better son. I love you, Jonathan O'Neill, but more importantly, your son loves you and in time he will understand what happened. But it may not be today. Or tomorrow. Eventually, though, comprehension will overcome his confusion and anger."
"What about us, Mom? We said words, horrible words." Jack closed his eyes, but he could still hear their voices in his head.
"We did," she agreed.
"Because we can."
Jack was taken back. "That doesn't make it right."
She shook her head. "No, it doesn't, and Daniel's right, Charlie's gone." His mother swiped two fingers under her glasses. "But not forgotten. And when we remember him, there are times those memories are clouded by anger. And hurt. And fear. But we're here, together, and in the end that's all that matters."
Jack waited a good thirty minutes after his mother left, trying to gather up his courage. Facing a Goa'uld or a firing squad was nothing compared to his fear of being judged and found wanting by his son.
"Daniel?" He knocked lightly on the half-opened door, walking in as he called his name. Crap. Daniel had been sleeping and lethargically he lifted his head up off his nest of pillows.
"I fell asleep," he said with a hint of surprise in his voice. Fully dressed, including shoes, sharing his bed with what looked like the entire contents of his backpack.
There wasn't anyplace to sit, so Jack stood at parade rest, gazing down at Daniel. "I love you, Icky." Once again 'Never skirt around the issue' O'Neill struck terror in the hearts of teenagers.
Daniel scrubbed his face, then flipped onto his back, and stared up at Jack. "I know. Grandma loves me, too." Then he yawned, hurriedly covering his open mouth with his hand. "It was never about you and Grandma loving me. I never for an instant doubted that. It was how much you two love each other."
Daniel's smile was a million years old and his eyes were even older. "You have a strange way of showing it."
Jack cleared a minute corner of the bed off, just enough space to plant his ass. "We're not disputing what we said to each other, or the accusations. Those were words born of pain and anger, Daniel."
"If I had died, would you have stopped talking to Grandma like you did when Charlie died?"
"You didn't—" Jack couldn't even bring himself to say the word. "And to spread the guilt evenly, Grandma stopped talking to me just as much as I stopped talking to her when Charlie died."
Daniel yawned and slid back down, bony knees digging into Jack's back "Please promise me, Grandma will always be in your life even if—"
"Don't take this the wrong way, Icky, but could you just shut up about that—"
"Yeah," Jack said slowly, elongated the word.
"Can you remember Charlie without feeling angry or sad anymore?"
"No," Jack answered without thinking.
"Oh." Daniel looked disappointed.
Jack sighed. "Charlie was my son. Like you're my son. You just don't get—"
"I know that, Dad," Daniel sputtered with angry indignation. "Don't you have any happy memories of Charlie?"
Maybe after all this time, Daniel had hit the nail on the head. Charlie was almost a forbidden subject in this house.
"Well don't'cha?" Daniel prodded, turning his pillow sideways and hugging it against his body.
Jack watched as Daniel settled in and gazed expectantly at him as if awaiting a bedtime story.
"Charlie was born during a horrible snowstorm." Might as well begin at the beginning. "And he was this scrawny little thing that I was afraid of."
"You were afraid of a baby?"
"They're squirmy. And they cry. Though they do look cute when they sleep." Jack gazed thoughtfully into space. "Charlie wasn't a great sleeper. He cried. A lot."
"Babies do that."
"I found that out."
Jack smiled back. "I wasn't good at that early stuff."
"You got better?"
"Yup," Jack preened. "Bedtime stories. Diaper changing. Bath time. I was good at that stuff." Jack chucked. "Hell, I even played Santa Claus."
Daniel smothered his laughter in his pillow.
Jack leaned over and gave a quick tickle. "I can do Ho Ho just like the jolly old guy."
His son turned back on his side, tucking the pillow against his chest and smacked Jack's hovering hand away from him. "No more tickling."
Jack gave an exaggerated huff of annoyance. "No fun." He got a pillow in his face for his attitude. "Hey!"
"Did you take Charlie to the cabin?" Daniel grabbed back the pillow and smushed it together with the others.
"When I could. He loved it."
"Me, too," Daniel said softly.
Daniel rolled his eyes.
"Okay, we sat on the dock and threw our lines in the water. Sara and your grandmother would sit on the porch and yell derogatory remarks about no fish in the lake."
"And then they would bring you down sandwiches?"
Jack winked at Daniel. "Yeah. We'd get the sandwiches. Cookies..."
"And then go out to Tommy's Restaurant in town for a fish dinner."
"Yeah," Jack said wistfully. "Damn, I could go for their flounder special. Homemade tartar sauce, well done sweet potato fries."
Daniel held his stomach and groaned. "You're torturing me. Can we go this weekend?"
"Can we ask Grandma?"
"Is that a yes?"
"It's a maybe."
"That's good enough for me."
Jack gave a short bark of laughter. "You say that now, by the end of the week you'll be bugging the crap outta me about going."
"Maybe," Daniel said with a slowly forming grin taking shape.
"I try." Daniel paused.
Jack stood up, rubbed the kinks out of his legs and pointed to the mess on the bed.
"I know. I know. You don't have to say anything."
Jack started to walk towards the bedroom door.
"Charlie and I are really lucky, you know."
"You're a great dad."
Jack opened his mouth, ready to dispute Daniel's words, because Charlie's death sort of negated that lucky remark, but he couldn't. "Thanks, Daniel."
Jack wiped up already clean counters, opened and closed the fridge more than a few times until finally settling on one of Daniel's Snapples. He popped the top, checked the time, picked up the phone, hit the speed dial, managing a sip before his mother picked up.
"Everything's fine. Good. Daniel and I sorta talked."
"Oh? Good talk?"
"Wanna come up to the cabin this weekend? Thought we'd do some fishing. You can make sandwiches and shout encouragement from the porch."
"Encouragement? That's not what I remember. Or how I remember it."
"Yeah, well, you know, Daniel reminded me that sometimes memories can be faulty."
They'd been out on the dock since early morning, and even though Daniel hadn't said a word, Jack was well aware that both Daniel and his enthusiasm were waning. Even wearing sunglasses, furrows of pain were lining his forehead and he'd noticed in the last ten minutes, Daniel's fishing pole had changed hands at least six times, using his free fingers to rub circular motions on his temple.
"Want to go back to the cabin?"
Daniel shrugged again.
Maybe coming out here to both the cabin and the dock hadn't been a great idea. Yeah, it'd been a good idea, but it had stopped being a great idea when Daniel had gotten sick twice on the trip over. Obviously, traveling so soon after a head injury and spending time in a coma should've been discussed with Fraiser first.
"How about you and I catch your grandmother before she lugs lunch all the way out to us guys?"
Daniel shrugged yet a third time.
Jack took that as a yes, reeled in his line, shook his head at his fishless hook and laid his rod across the cooler between their two chairs. Without waiting, Jack plucked Daniel's fishing pole from his loose grip, reeled it in and placed it next to his.
"Thanks." Daniel stood slowly, and Jack gave him space, waiting patiently while he held onto the back of the wooden Adirondack chair to steady himself.
"On a scale of one to ten—"
"Five, okay? Are you happy?"
Daniel took a few steps away from the chair and Jack used it as his opportunity to sling an arm around his son's shoulder, hopefully translating this interaction as a father/son moment, rather than what it actually was, to make sure Daniel didn't fall flat on his face on their walk back to the cabin.
"How about a side order of Tylenol to go with your BLT on toast and a nap for dessert?" Jack asked as he opened the door to the cabin.
Daniel hesitated, standing on the porch while Jack stood, feeling like an idiot, holding the door wide open.
"Daniel, I don't think your grandmother wanted the entire insect population invited to lunch." Jack nodded, sneaking a glance into the house. "Okay," he whispered, "I'll slip you the Tylenol so she'll never suspect."
The chuckle was short lived, but it was still a chuckle and Jack smiled in response. "What's so funny?"
"Doing something behind Grandma's back without her noticing? Are you going to knock her out?"
"Distractions. It's all about distractions. That's my motto."
And the distraction might have worked better if Jack could've remembered where the hell he'd put the newest bottle of Tylenol.
Daniel sat, picking the bacon out of his sandwich, glaring at Jack who smiled at his mother as he opened and closed every cabinet in the kitchen.
"Sit down, Jack," she ordered, sliding his plate in front of his chair. "I'll get the Tylenol." Leaning over, she patted Daniel's hand. "Nothing gets past me, you'd think after all these years your dad would finally understand that."
Jack winked at Daniel behind his mother's back and Daniel ducked his head, hiding his matching smile, acknowledging that the two of them had snuck the biggest secret of the world past this woman on countless occasions. "Looks good, Mom." Jack grabbed half of his sandwich and took a bite even before he sat down.
His mother left the room and came back with the bottle of Tylenol.
"Where was that?" Jack used his half of sandwich as a pointer.
"In the bathroom medicine cabinet," his mother said in a barely tolerant know-it-all voice. "Where normal people keep their medicine. And band aids and their assorted other medical paraphernalia."
"You have a problem with the kitchen cabinets? We never have drinking cups in the bathroom so if you have to go to the bathroom get the medication, then come back to the kitchen and get a drink, you might as well just keep the medication in the cabinet to the left of the sink."
"Or you could put drinking cups in the bathroom."
"I don't like to take my medication with water, Grandma." Daniel held his hand, out trying to encourage the woman to stop talking and give him some Tylenol. "Snapple or juice," he said, then tossed the pills she'd dropped into the palm of his hand, into his mouth.
Jack smirked at his mother when Daniel drowned the pills with half his bottle of Snapple, but his smirk died a slow death as he and his mother exchanged a worried glance.
"I'm sorry." Daniel pushed his plate away. "I think I'm going to take dad up on dessert."
"But you haven't even eaten, Mhuirnin."
"I'll explain later, Mom." Jack stood, planted a quick, placating kiss on the top of his mother's head and followed Daniel out of the kitchen.
"You don't need to follow me," Daniel groaned. "I know my way around the place."
"Humor your old dad."
Daniel shuffled into his tiny room, the only addition to the cabin Jack had made years ago. Eyes closed, he plopped onto the mattress with a groan of appreciation, toeing off his shoes while in the process of becoming horizontal.
Jack flipped a sneaker that had gotten stuck in the blanket to the floor. "I'll wake you for dinner."
Daniel opened one eye. "Dinner?"
There really was no room for play. Travel time to the cabin, as always, had carved away a big slice of their time here. "How about I bring the fish to you and Grandma? Instead of going out—"
Daniel sighed. "I'm sorry. This is—"
"A slightly skewed vacation. Nothing to be sorry for. We got some fresh air. We fished. We napped..."
"We puked... Well, I puked... You and Grandma had to clean it up. I don't remember seeing that as one of the amenities in the travel brochure."
Jack kissed Daniel's temple and years of practice gave him the ability to remove Daniel's glasses without him even lifting his head off the pillow. "Go to sleep, Icky."
Daniel looked better. A five hour nap could do that to a person. He seemed well-rested and the furrows of pain on his forehead had smoothed out, but he and his mother noticed the measured, concentrated movements Daniel made, as if balanced on the edge, waiting for the pain to return.
"It smells good," Daniel said tentatively, leaning over his plate.
"It looks good." His mother put the platter of sweet potato fries closer to Daniel rather than in the middle of the table.
Jack stole a fry, shoved it in his mouth then licked his fingers with exaggerated slowness. "It tastes good." He looked at the disapproving expressions on their faces. "What? The smell was driving me nuts on the drive here. You're lucky there's anything to put on the table at all. I have very good self-control."
The food was delicious and Jack held in a smile as Daniel's tentativeness disappeared after his third fry. While he didn't eat as much as he usually did, he helped make a damn impressive dent in the food on the table.
Daniel pushed his glasses up on top of his head and leaned back with a satisfied sigh. "Think we could convince Tommy to open up a restaurant in Colorado Springs?"
"I think we'd have to kidnap him." Jack took the last fry, ignoring Daniel's glare.
"You got some nice sun today, mhuirnin."
"Really?" Daniel crinkled his nose then rubbed it. "Yeah. I guess I did."
"You got a freckle or two also."
"I know," Jack said. "Charlie hated his sun freckles also."
"Well, they're embarrassing. I'm too old for freckles."
"Never too old for them freckles."
"Dad..." Daniel elongated the three letters into one, long word.
"You're embarrassing him, Jonathan. Stop."
"Thank you, Grandma."
"Ha!" Jack turned an accusatory gaze in his mother's direction. "This is from the woman who used to tease Charlie about connecting his freckles? And... And... About how he should be an ad for Clairol because of how blonde his hair would turn in the sun."
"Well... I..." she stuttered, dropped her gaze, but Jack could see a hint of a smile as she remembered.
Jack took her happiness and ran with it. "Admit it, Mom. Oh, Daniel, she was terrible. Poor Charlie didn't stand a chance."
"Oh, and Charlie would give as good as he got," Jack added. "Great practical joker."
"Like father like son." She narrowed her eyes at Jack. "I still swear it was you and not Charlie who changed all the labels on my spices."
"You didn't?" Daniel laughed, then sucked in his lips when his grandmother pinned him with an evil glare.
"Nope," Jack said, "I didn't."
His mother came out of Daniel's room, closing the door softly behind her. "He's sleeping."
Jack pushed off the wall. "He's recovering. And no, you don't have to say anything. I know this was a stupid idea."
"Far from stupid."
"No." She shook her head. "Wonderful. We remembered Charlie without angry words. Or tears. Or fear. You did great."
"It felt good, didn't it?"
She hugged him closed and he rested his chin on her head. "Yes, it did feel good."
"Good," Jack echoed. "We're good."
"Yes, all of us. Even the ones that aren't here with us today."
"You do know talking about Charlie without the need of a weapon to defend ourselves, doesn't make us any less dysfunctional."
"Of course not." She broke up the hug and glanced up at Jack with a grin that would make the Cheshire cat jealous.
"Charlie would've made a wonderful big brother to Daniel."
"Oy," Jack chuckled, then bit back a groan just trying to imagine the trouble they would've gotten into. He'd probably be bald instead of just grey. "Yeah."
"You've got that gleam in your eye, Jonathan. Do I need to be—"
"What gleam?" he asked innocently.
"The one that tells me that you're up to no good again."
"Moi? Come on. And for your info, Ma, I wasn't the one who pulled the label switcheroo."
"Oh, I know that, Jonathan. Not much that you or Charlie ever did got past me."
"Although I did take the bottles out the rack..."
His mother rolled her eyes and playfully slapped his bicep. "Thank goodness Daniel doesn't have your sense of humor. Charlie was bad enough following in your footsteps. You know, Charlie may not be Daniel's big brother but I'm pretty sure that he's Daniel's guardian angel."
"I'd like to think that, Ma."
"Me, too. Poor Daniel's been through so much, I'd like to think our Charlie was keeping an eye out. Making sure he was safe for us."
"Maybe even show him a trick or two?"
His mother glanced upwards. "He better not. Guardian angel or not, I'm still his grandmother."
"I'd still hide your spices, Ma, 'cause one never, ever knows."
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DISCLAIMER:The characters mentioned in this story are the property of Showtime and Gekko Film Corp. The Stargate, SG-I, the Goa'uld and all other characters who have appeared in the series STARGATE SG-1 together with the names, titles and backstory are the sole copyright property of MGM-UA Worldwide Television, Gekko Film Corp, Glassner/Wright Double Secret Productions and Stargate SG-I Prod. Ltd. Partnership. This fanfic is not intended as an infringement upon those rights and solely meant for entertainment. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author.