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Still Jack and Daniel Series 1 - No Yellow Brick Road I - Shrinks, Raccoons, Briefings – oh my!

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I



Shrinks, Raccoons, Briefings

oh my!



I

"Are you okay, Space Monkey?"

"Yes. It's just, I'm... sad, you know. I miss Nashi."

"Yeah, I know. But he's going to find a gal out there and make lots of great little babies."

A small smile blossomed on Daniel's face. "That sounds good, Jack. I wish I could see that." The smile faded. "I hope he won't get sick, though. And that he'll survive the winter out there. I know he's a wild animal and part of me is glad he ran away and didn't cling. But, Jack? Why do I wish I could have kept him? I mean, I never believed wild creatures should be held as prisoners. I know he was never meant to be a pet. This is so... not like me."

He started playing with his mug and Jack gently took it out of his hands to keep him from spilling hot chocolate all over his blankets and himself. The kid looked pretty worn out. It had been a tough day. First the long negotiations with their new allies from Trasama, then the visit to the vet and finally the release of Nashi - which had probably been the worst part.

Daniel had been surprisingly calm about it, though. Jack had expected far more resistance and even a fight this afternoon when they had gone to see Doc Jenks one last time. Daniel had been sad, but when the vet told them Nashi was fine now and could be released, he'd just nodded and thanked him for his help.

Only the way Daniel had clutched his hands around the handle of Nashi's carrier cage in the truck later gave him away. That, and how his lower lip had been caught between his teeth. Once they'd arrived home again, Daniel had put Nashi back in the kennel and gone to his tree house for the rest of the afternoon.

Early evening, the kid had shown up and just told Jack he was ready to go.

So now Nashi was happily roaming the woods again and Jack was stuck here, watching Daniel trying to convince himself he was fine.

He put the mug on the nightstand. "You see him as a friend. And he was pretty attached to you, too. I'm sorry this is hurting you so much. Guess we'll never know if he survives the winter. But let's just hope for the best. He wasn’t in the kennel that long. I think he remembers quite well how to get by out there."

"At least you don't have to share your Froot Loops anymore, " Daniel joked softly.

"I didn't mind sharing."

Daniel yawned again as he crawled under the covers and pulled the shaggy stuffed monkey into his arms. Butterscotch Bear sat in a corner of the bed, by the pillow, looking a bit lost and excluded. But Jack knew Daniel made sure that both the bear and the monkey were always there when he went to bed as if he needed them to watch over his sleep. Not that he had ever said so or would even admit he needed them there...

"What do you think about booking our Egypt trip tomorrow? I already talked to Hammond about leave. He isn't exactly happy about our vacation plans, by the way. Too many riots and he's still worried about the NID."

"But we can go, yes? He really gave permission for us to go?"

"Yep. I think after your little encounter with Reece, you'll have Hammond eating out of your hand forever," Jack mused.

Daniel blushed. "I don't want to be treated differently. I didn't do anything earth shattering. I just talked to her. I did my job. And it's because of Oma I'm still here. I had little to do with it."

Jack shrugged. "Like it or not, we're all happy you're not glowy or dead. So, Hammond will let us go to Egypt."

"Yes! I found travel guides on the Internet. I don't want to go in one of those big ugly hotels."

O'Neill scratched the back of his head. "Uh, Daniel. Hammond has a few... conditions about this trip. One was to stay in safe places as much as possible. Sooo... I guess we'll end up in a big hotel and not somewhere out in the desert."

Daniel frowned at this. "But we had planned so much... can we do the trekking trip? And the pyramids? Or do we have to sit at the pool the entire time? Because we can just stay home then."

"We’ll do the trekking. And the pyramids," Jack assured him.

"I want to sleep under the stars. You know they look all different there. The sky is so clear." Daniel yawned and hugged Amab tighter.

Jack let his hand brush through the kid's soft hair. Seemed as if Daniel was close to falling asleep.

"Jack? What if Nashi comes back like Zorro did? What if he comes back while we are in Egypt?"

Or not.

"I don't know. If nobody is home he might just leave again."

"And... if he comes back before we go?"

"You know what we agreed on if that happens. We'll call the zoo. They will take him in.”

But he's a wild animal...”

If he comes back, he might get shot by the neighbors. It's better to put him somewhere safe. But I don't think he will. Now sleep tight. Nashi's gonna be okay."

Those tired blue eyes looked worried. "It's my fault, right? If he can't stay away from here it's because I got too close to him and made him dependent on me. He knows he gets food here and... and...”

"Daniel, we just have to wait and see."

"Jack..."

"Sleep."

"'kay."

Jack turned off the light. When he looked back at Daniel, the kid had curled up like a ball and seemed to be asleep already.

O'Neill left the door ajar and went to snatch a beer from the fridge. With the newspaper under his arm and bottle in hand, he slumped down on the couch.

Well, this could have gone down much worse. At least for now, Daniel had handled it pretty well. But he had seen the kid hug himself in the truck on their way down from the mountains where they had released the raccoon. Danny-boy wasn't a happy camper.

Neither was Jack.

Why was it forbidden to keep raccoons as pets? Nashi was vaccinated, would have lived happily in his kennel, and Daniel would have been happy.

Right. And then he'd have taken Nashi into the house one day or shown him how to read Ancient - crap like that. Jack needed to remind himself that a raccoon in the house was never a good idea. Daniel wouldn't follow any rules forever. And one day little Nashi would have joined them at the dinner table.

Jack hoped for all their sakes and peace the raccoon forg o t about Daniel and stay ed away.

But Jack was still worrying. Served him right for letting Daniel have the raccoon. Now he had to live with the consequences; a depressed, sad little Daniel. Jack should have put his foot down and resisted those big blue eyes right away. Shouldn't have allowed the Wretch to make him think of his own baby raccoon. Instead Jack had allowed Daniel to have his way. Again. Just because the kid knew exactly how to get through to him.

Like adult Daniel had know n all too well.

And of course Svenson had to add her two cents, too. Wouldn't it be great to get Daniel a dog? Yeah, sure. And who was going to feed said dog when they were off world and Daniel was staying on base? It wasn’t that Jack didn’t like dogs. They were his favorite people, for crying out loud, but his job simply gave him no choice in the matter. If they had a dog it would be their dog. Not a pet that spent more time with other people than with them.

Even though Jack wasn't off world that much anymore, they still were away from home a lot. And Hammond would hardly give them permission to bring a dog to work. On the other hand... maybe Daniel could do the cute thing and Svenson might tell the general how important it was for a child to have his own dog.

Jack could also quit gate travel and get a desk job. Not only because of the dog, but because of Daniel. The Wretch wouldn't want that of course. He didn't need Jack around 24/7. It was Daniel’s worst nightmare, so he said, if Jack stopped going off world and hovered over him even more than he did now. Daniel was glad to be on his own every once in a while, despite the fact that even when Jack was gone, Daniel wasn’t ever truly alone. Janet was there to keep an eye on him. She actually wanted him to come and stay with her and Cass during those times when SG-1 was off world.

Daniel refused. Daniel was fine and able to take care of himself. Which he was, mind you. He didn't need help with most things, if he had a step stool, at least.. The fact that he was clinging to Jack as though he was glued to his heels for a few hours each time SG-1 got home was a different story. Jack knew Daniel was keeping the lights on at night in his base quarters. And sometimes the TV was running even while he was asleep. Janet kept him posted.

Jack had talked about it to Svenson. But they had both agreed not to push it. Daniel was aware he could talk about his nightmares or take Janet's offer to go home with her. He chose not to, at least not yet. Svenson said sometimes it might be good to force him to talk, but there were things Daniel needed to figure out on his own. And quitting gate travel on Daniel's account would make the kid feel guilty and maybe even more dependent. Jack could see that, but he didn't like it.

Perhaps one day he'd give up command of SG-1 and stay on base. Carter wasn't ready to take over, yet, but she was getting there and Jack was sure she'd do a great job. She had a few things to learn, but he had no doubt about her ability to lead the team in a year or even sooner.

With a sigh he dumped the unread paper on the coffee table. Thoughts like this were crossing his mind more and more these days.

They had finally settled into a nice routine. Things were calming down. Little by little the real bad days happened less and less frequently. If this was ever reversed... everything would be upside down again...

Jack gazed out into his dark garden for a moment, then shook his head and turned off the light before he left the living room.

He stopped at Daniel's room and tapped his index finger against the door. Without a sound it swung open. Daniel was lying on his side, sleeping peacefully. There were nights when he was restless and Jack knew there'd be nightmares eventually. But not tonight. Tonight, in spite of all the day's troubles, Daniel seemed to be relaxed. The covers had slipped from his body and were almost hanging on the floor.

Quietly Jack walked in and pulled them back over the kid, then bent down and pressed a kiss to the warm forehead. He brushed away a few strands of hair from Daniel's face and suddenly there was this feeling again. It was just a short flicker of warmth that started in his gut and spread out all over his body. It came over him every once in a while, even more so since Daniel had almost died on base a few weeks ago. This realization, that he was still here, alive and well. It always hit Jack out of the blue and made him want to just hug the stuffing out of the kid.

He knew he was a sap and the kid didn't want to be hugged all the time. S o he tried not to overdo it. But that day in the gate room when Daniel had come back to him... Jack had realized he could not stand to lose the kid... and if Daniel found a way to get big again, Jack would be in big trouble. Because he wouldn't want to trade one Daniel for the other anymore. At the same time he still wanted his grown up version back. It was a fine mess. But right now things were as they were and couldn't be changed.

And maybe that was for the best.

***

The next day was a Saturday. Since there was no emergency at the mountain, they had both brought some paperwork home with them. But right now they were lying on the rug in front of the fireplace, Daniel's laptop in front of them and some snacks at hand.

"There's a ten day trekking tour from Cairo including the pyramids of Giza... There's the step pyramid of Djoser. Did you know this was the first pyramid built on Earth?" Daniel prattled on while he munched popcorn out of a bowl.

"I bet you told me before," Jack answered dryly.

Daniel nudged Jack's ribs with a pointed elbow. "Okay, pay attention. This is tour one; Second day would be the Bahiraya oases. I've been there. It's nice. Listen to this; after breakfast you will head, by jeep, to the black mountains and black desert, and onwards to the Crystal Mountain. Here you will take your lunch, and then you will continue on through the desert to the Bedouin village of Accabat. After freshening up you will then have a 2 – 3 hour guided tour around the Bedouin camp and oases."

"Sounds like going off world to a hot planet," Jack sighed. "Okay. Why do they call them Crystal Mountain? And what about a black desert? It's not really black, is it?"

"No it’s not black. There are black rocks on the sand, so that if you look from far away it appears almost black, or at least, gray. And the crystal mountain is a quartz mountain. I'd like to go to the Bahiraya oases. There're tombs dating back to Greco-Roman period Egypt. There are believed to be as many as thousand mummies in the area, but only a few have been excavated so far. There are dig sites." Daniel stopped talking and sighed, staring at the colorful pictures on his screen. "I wish we could do this on our own. I mean, without a guide or a group."

He didn't want to feel like a tourist. He had lived there, had been a child of the desert. He didn't want to stroll around the great wonders of Egypt with a camera and a sun cap on his head. He wanted to ride a camel and explore on his own.

"Sorry, kiddo. Hammond insisted on booked tours to be on the safe side. We'll have time for ourselves and you can show me everything you want. Let's see... If we take this tour we can leave out some of the events and do our own thing in between. How's that?"

Daniel shrugged. It was better than nothing of course. But still...

Then he s potted another picture on the laptop and pointed at it. "We have to visit the Khan Al-Khalili market in Cairo. It's one of the greatest oriental bazaars in the world. It dates back to the end of the 14th century. I was there with my parents a couple of times."

"O-kay. So we'll book this first tour, right? What about the hotel. I like the one with the big pool near downtown Cairo. Pyramid something," Jack said briskly.

"Pyramisa Cairo. I guess it's okay."

"And we have to go to the ocean for a day or two. Maybe when we're back from the trekking. I'd like to snorkel and there are coral reefs," Jack prompted, p ointing at a picture of a beach at the Red Sea on the screen.

"I don't want to hang out at a beach," Daniel said. "And we'd have to go to the coast..."

"Maybe just one day we could do what I want to do? Please?" Jack gave him puppy dog eyes.

Daniel laughed. "Okay. One day."

Jack rolled on his back and threw his arms in the air. "YES! Beach and ocean!"

"You can have sand and water at the oasis," Daniel teased.

"That's not the same. That's just sand and water. Not like beach and ocean," Jack told him. "There's a difference. For example there is much more water in the ocean. And fish. And there's waaay more sand in the desert than at the be... mmmpf!”

Daniel had stuffed popcorn into Jack's mouth to shut him up. Jack chewed and swallowed. "Mmmh, popcorn..."

"D'oh," Daniel giggled and grabbed more popcorn to shove it into his mouth.

"Mfffggh..." Jack grabbed Daniel's arms to stop him. The popcorn Daniel held in his hands went flying across the room as he tried to get away. But he ended up on top of his friend. Jack hugged him close for a moment, then tightened his grip on him.

What am I gonna to do with you, huh?” Jack growled. “Ah, I know!” Letting go of Daniel with one arm he raised his left hand, wiggling his fingers.

Daniel squealed and chortled as Jack tickled him. Somehow he never got tired of this game. It made him bubble with laughter, even when he had been sad or cranky a minute ago. But he wasn't going to be an easy victim.

"You want more popcorn?" Daniel reached out for the bowl and emptied it over Jack's stunned face before he wriggled away, jumped up, and stormed out of the living room. He was laughing harder than before, and he could hear Jack yelling after him to get back and face his destiny.

He made a beeline to the master bedroom and hid himself behind the door. When he realized Jack wasn't following, he peeked out and listened. But there was no sound coming from the living room. Where was he? Carefully, Daniel snuck into the hallway and tiptoed back to the dining room. When he reached the door, he peered inside. No Jack. Maybe he was in the kitchen? Daniel crossed the dining room and entered the kitchen. But the room was empty, too.

He was about to go and investigate the living room, when there was a triumphant, "Gotcha!" and he was bombarded with little fluffy pieces that were hitting his head and back.

"It's war, Space Monkey," Jack yelled, throwing more popcorn his way.

"That's not fair," Daniel screeched. He turned and ducked when more popcorn was flying towards him. Then he spotted the box with Froot Loops on the kitchen counter. With a victorious grin he snatched it and grabbed a hand full of the colorful little cereals.

"Take this," he chortled and fired his ammo at Jack, who quickly retreated back into the dining room.

Daniel gripped his Froot Loop box tightly. The enemy was nowhere in sight. Holding his breath, he pressed himself against the wall next to the door frame. Then he stuck out one arm and waved to lure Jack out of his hiding place. As soon as he'd know from which direction the popcorn came flying, he'd know where to look for Jack.

But there was no attack. He got a little more brave and waved the box into the dining room.

Nothing.

Daniel craned his neck and peered around the corner and into the room. He could see the table with the four chairs and the globe standing in the corner. He also had view of the living room and out into the garden. Jack could hide on the couch underneath the partition wall...

Or he could be in the hallway again...

Daniel licked his lips in anticipation as he slowly moved out of his spot by the door. He went into the dining room and peered over the wall down into the living room. The couch was empty. So Jack was...

Two hands grabbed him from behind, and the world went spinning for a second as he was hanging upside down in Jack's grip. Daniel lost the Froot Loop box. Jack had him by the legs and his glasses started to slide down his nose. But at least he had his hands and arms free.

Jack carried him out into the hallway, growling, "I take no hostages, Jackson!"

"HA!" Daniel swung his arms back and slung them around the colonel's knees. Holding tight to steady himself, he jerked at his legs to get them free. Jack's grip loosened a little. Daniel kicked back his f ee t without thinking. There was a surprised and painful yell and then he was free. Letting go of Jack's knees, he did a back flip and was on his feet.

He was about to launch himself at Jack, to tackle him some more, when the totally stunned expression on the man's face made him stop. Jack was holding his jaw with one hand and gaped at him.

***

"You kicked me, you little..."

Jack rubbed his jaw, still surprised by the dull pain that had just exploded there. But he hesitated only a second. “Run, Daniel... run very fast, because if I get you. I'm going to torture you and make you plea for mercy.”

Daniel jumped and ran out into the hallway again. Jack chased him into the bathroom.

"Now I've got you," he yelled, when he suddenly realized he had no more popcorn to throw. And the Wretch was climbing into the tub and jerking the shower head from it's handle, aiming at him.

"Surrender, Tau'ri!"

Oh, no. No way. No how... “Daniel! Don't you DARE!"

But it was too late. A spray of cold water hit Jack in the face and chest, wetting his shirt in no time. Jack backed off into the hallway again. "Are you nuts? Stop that!"

"You attacked me," Daniel screeched from inside the bathroom, hysterically with laughter. He held up the shower head. "Giving up?"

Blinking through the water that was dripping from his hair, Jack held up his hands in surrender. "I'm giving up."

"Very wise," the kid said as he put the shower head back and climbed out of the tub.

Jack took one step back inside the bathroom, grabbed him around his waist and scooped him up.

"Hey, no fair! You said you surrender," Daniel protested.

"This is a dirty fight. No fair play. Geez, Daniel, haven't you learned anything in all those years fighting the snake heads!" He carried the wriggling, kicking, and chortling kid over to the tub and grabbed the shower head. “I'll show you how to do this properly.”

"Nooo-ooo... Jaaack, stooop it!" Daniel spluttered. He craned his neck and looked at him. Suddenly his mouth went into a stunned "Oh!" and he stopped wriggling.

Jack froze in place, the shower head still in hand and Daniel under his other arm. "What?"

"Your jaw!"

"What?"

"It's..."

Jack rolled his eyes and placed Daniel on his feet to take a look in the bathroom mirror. The sight that met him made him wince. His jaw was swollen and there was a light blue hue around his chin. He pulled a face. “Holy shit, Daniel... you sure have power in those little feet.”

"I'm sorry," the Wretch mumbled somewhat sheepishly, then he was running into the kitchen and returned with the ice pack.

"Here."

"Thanks."

"How bad is it?"

Jack pressed the pack on his chin. "I think I'll live. Hey, seems you're making some progress with the fighting lessons."

"And progress is a good thing?" Daniel asked with an impish little grin.

"Ye-ah, basically it is. Just try to be a little less forceful next time you wanna show me." Jack grinned back, carefully shifting the icepack a little.

You're not mad?”

Hey, no pain no gain. It was an accident, it happens. If you ever do something like this on purpose though I won't be so forgiving.”

I won't! I don't know why I did it. It was just a game. Throwing popcorn and Froot Loops at each other is hardly a life threatening situation." Daniel sighed. “I'm really sorry, Jack.”

"We both know how to react in the field. You just acted before you could think. It's like when I’m asleep and you'd take a leap at me or jump into bed without warning. I might just knock you out before I'm really awake. That's why you can't do that."

They looked at each other for a moment, both remembering the same thing.

A long time ago, in another life, Daniel had learned the hard way that jumping a sleeping Jack O'Neill might lead to severe injury. They hadn't been together for long then and Daniel apparently thought it'd be fun to tackle a sleeping Jack by pulling away the blankets and replacing it by a warm horny body... He had found himself nailed to the mattress, arms over his head in a tight grip and Jack on top of him so fast, he couldn't even blink.

Jack remembered how he had come fully around when Daniel let out a stunned, "Wow, what was that?"

There had been no fear in the archeologist's eyes, just a question. And Jack had been moved by that unconditional trust. Daniel didn't even consider the possibility of Jack hurting him. It had been amazing and scary at the same time.

"I'm not Special Ops tra ined, like you," the kid pointed out after a brief pause.

"No, but T is giving you lessons. He's training you on a regular basis now, Daniel. And coupled with your memories, your body might just connect and react. And maybe that kid side in you can't control it the way you could as an adult. I guess Teal'c will work on that with you, too."

"We're already working on meditation and mind control. But it's not going well. I just can't get myself to focus on my inner balance as much as I used too. So meditation’s… difficult."

"You always liked to kel-no-reem with Teal'c," Jack said puzzled.

"Not anymore," Daniel mumbled. "I have to sit still and focus on to open up my mind... and when I do it... sometimes it gets bad."

"How?"

Daniel shrugged. "Just... memories you know. You, me... before... It forces me to let them come to me. Teal'c says it's a good thing. He says living through those memories will help me heal. But they still hurt. Even the good ones. And... Teal'c is great, Jack. But I just can't... lose it when I'm with him."

Jack touched Daniel's shoulder. When the kid didn't back away, he put one arm around him and pulled him close. It wasn't always the right thing to do. Sometimes Danny needed space instead of closeness or physical contact when he got like this. At least for a while until he could come to Jack on his own terms and seek comfort. But sometimes comfort was just what he needed right away.

Today Daniel slumped against Jack and leaned against his wet shirt. He sat down with Daniel on the toilet seat and put the ice pack in the sink. "You know, Teal'c would understand," he said quietly.

"I know," Daniel mumbled. "Sorry I spoiled the popcorn fight. It was fun." He grinned. "I really got you. Wow."

"Next time you're not getting away so easily. Now I know not to underestimate you.” Jack chuckled. “I keep forgetting there's a thirty five year old fighting machine in you. Big action hero. Let me see where you're hiding your cool stuff - big guns and torture devises. Let me take a look here...“

He pulled up Daniel's shirt, bent down and blew on the kid's belly.

Jaaack,” Daniel squealed.

Jack grinned. “Or maybe in your ears?”

He pulled at Daniel's left ear, then at his right. “Nah. Just dirt in those ears... hmm... what about your feet?”

Nononono. not my feeeet!” Daniel chortled, almost choking at his laughter. Jack grabbed for his ankle and pulled off Daniel's sock.

Kicking little buggers you have here.”

Stooop!”

The ringing doorbell rescued the Wretch from being tickled mercilessly.

When Jack got up to look who was there, Daniel gasped for air. “How many different ways of tickling me do you know?”

It's part of Special Ops training.”

***

Jack pulled on a dry shirt and went answering the door. A moment later he called out to Daniel that he was going to help his neighbor fetch his cat out of a tree.

Daniel picked up his sock and went back to the living room, where he sat down in front of the laptop again to bookmark some websites. A moment later he was totally engrossed into all the places they were going to visit in a few weeks. He still couldn't believe they were going to Egypt. Daniel smiled. It would be great.

Suddenly he heard the tap tap of paws on the floor. He turned his head to the steps coming down from the hallway into the living room.

There on the last step, sat... Nashi.

He went on his hind paws and sniffed. Then the little creature squeaked and ran over to where Daniel was sitting, dumbfounded.

The raccoon grabbed pieces of popcorn off the floor on the way, holding them with his front paws. He started eat ing them, uttering satisfied little purrs in between. After a moment he scurried over to Daniel, climbed his lap and started search ing his jeans pockets for treats.

"Nashi," Daniel whispered, amazed. His heart skipped a beat when his hands began to stroke the dusty fur. Nashi tipped his nose against Daniel's belly while his long ringed tail brushed over the boy's arm. "What are you doing here? You can't come in here. How did you find your way back?"

He scooped the raccoon up and tried to figure out what to do with it. If he just put him out onto the deck and closed the door, Nashi might stay there. Then Jack would see him when he came home. He'd probably call a zoo or a park to take Nashi in. Daniel didn't want that. He wanted the raccoon to be free.

Or with him.

His adult mind knew that was impossible, had even accepted that fact.

But now as he was holding Nashi in his arms again, the kid in Daniel was relieved and happy. And worried. If Jack caught the raccoon in the living room, he'd get mad. Daniel swallowed. He knew perfectly well how Nashi had gotten into the house. He must have climbed through Daniel's open bedroom window. Because he knew it was a safe way in.

"Oh damn," he whispered. Nashi mewed. The raccoon was probably hungry and exhausted. He must have been running all the way back from the mountains to get home.

Daniel carried the little mammal into the kitchen and got the small can of dog food out of the pantry. It was the last one left from Nashi's stay and Jack had wanted to give it to one of the neighbors who had a dog.

He closed the kitchen door and sat Nashi on the floor. Then he opened the can and put the food into a bowl. Nashi squeaked and nipped at Daniel's jeans now.

"Shhh, be quiet. You know we really really shouldn't do this," he told the raccoon in a hushed voice. He shoved the animal away with his bare foot. His sock was still lying in the living room. All of a sudden Nashi growled and lashed out with one paw, leaving four painful red welts on Daniel's right ankle.

"Ouch! Stop it," he yelped, taken aback by the sudden attack.

Daniel put the bowl out by the back door and Nashi began to wolf down the food hastily while Daniel got another bowl with water. Then he sat at the kitchen table and watched Nashi enjoy his meal. Daniel had feared something like this might happen. It was all his fault. He had broken that particular rule about bringing Nashi into the house some time ago. It had all started that afternoon, when Jack had told him not to spend too much time with Nashi.

They had had a fight over it. Daniel's voice of reason understood and agreed that it wasn't good for the raccoon to become too fond of his human caretaker. Yet, he had been angry. The raccoon himself had made the decision to come to Daniel to play. So it wasn't really as though he had tried to tame the animal. They just liked each other.

Daniel had loved observing the animal.

Nashi washing his food, for example, was great to watch. Daniel had asked Jack about that. He had read raccoons only washed their food in captivity. But Jack had assured him raccoons most likely just loved to play with their food. That he had seen them doing it in the forests when he'd watched them as a kid.

So they had argued about the time Daniel was allowed to spend with Nashi. He had understood every single reason why he should keep his distance to Nashi. Yet, he'd thrown a fit over it and ended up on a chair in the dining room, staring against the wall for a long time, before Jack had been willing to discuss it any further. Daniel had calmed down and, in the end, accepted the time limits Jack had set.

He WAS right, after all.

But a few days later there had been a storm with lots of rain and thunder.

Lightning bolts had raced across the sky and heavy rain had come like a downpour. Jack had allowed him to look after the raccoon several times, had even accompanied him out to make sure Daniel wasn't blown away by the harsh wind.

Nashi had been wet and miserable, squatted under the tree trunk in the little hollow where he used to sleep. They had put a rabbit house in the kennel when the raccoon moved in, but Nashi refused to go in there.

That night, Daniel had climbed out of his window to look after the raccoon. The alarm system was on, but it would only go off if someone tried to actually break into the house from the outside. Daniel couldn't just let Nashi be out there all wet and cold. The raccoon had greeted him with whiny little mews that made Daniel's heart melt. Without thinking he had opened the kennel door, picked Nashi up and t aken him into his room. He had expected Jack to come in any moment, but he’d gotten lucky. He had taken Nashi into his bed and talked softly to him until the raccoon had snuggled in with him.

Early the next morning, he'd climbed out of his window again and put Nashi back into his kennel. The weather had remained wet the following week and Daniel had taken Nashi in with him almost every night. That Jack had never caught him was a miracle. And once the weather had changed again Daniel decided not to push his luck any further.

Now Nashi had come back and found his bedroom window open. Daniel sighed. He couldn't keep Nashi as a pet. He had already tried to find a way to make it legal. But it was impossible. To keep a raccoon as a pet they needed a park license. That was not only expensive, but there were several conditions they had to fulfill. It just wasn’t going to happen.

When he looked at the back door again, Nashi had left and the food was gone. Daniel picked up the bowls, washed them and put them away.

He buried the empty dog food can deep down in the garbage before he ran out into the yard to start a proper search for Nashi. He assumed to find him where the kennel had been. Jack had taken it down very early this morning and the wire and wood was in the truck, ready to go to the junkyard. But Nashi wasn't there. Nor was he under the bushes or on the porch of the tree house.

Then it hit him. What if Nashi had climbed back into the house through his bedroom window? Daniel ran back in and called his raccoon as he checked every room. No Nashi. Once he had made sure Nashi wasn't in the house, he closed his bedroom window and the back door. It was better that way. Maybe the raccoon was gone and wouldn't come back anytime soon. Perhaps Daniel just had to feed him every once in a while. He could do that. Jack wouldn't even have to know. Not right away.

Daniel hurried into the bathroom and, with gritted teeth, treated his ankle with antiseptic wipes, then put his sock back on.

That done, he decided to clean up.

With some effort Daniel managed to get the vacuum out of the storage room and started to clean up the popcorn and Froot Loops. He had just finished and was about to put the heavy cleaner away when Jack returned from the neighbor.

"Hey, thanks for cleaning up. Let me put that away for you." Jack put the vacuum away and Daniel went back to the living room to sit in front of the laptop again.

"The damn cat waited until I was up the ladder and then she just jumped on the garage roof and off she was," Jack grumbled when he joined Daniel. "Then she was stuck on that roof and we had to climb after her again."

Daniel grinned. He knew it was a stupid cat. Jack's next words however made him almost jump. "You know, Trevor thinks he saw a raccoon chasing her up that tree."

"So?" Daniel forced himself not to worry on his bottom lip and to watch the laptop screen instead of looking at Jack.

"Sooo... you don't know anything about that, do ya?"

"Nope," he answered firmly, his eyes still glued to the laptop. And it was true. He didn't know how the silly cat got on the tree.

Jack patted his shoulder. "Daniel?"

He was literally saved by the bell. The phone rang. Daniel let out a sigh of relief.

A minute later, Jack hung up again. "It was the mountain. The Trasaman want to continue the negotiations. You up for it?"

"Sure. But I thought they wanted a break today to go through the parts of the treaty we covered yesterday," Daniel wondered.

"Looks like you did a good job. They agreed and want to continue now," Jack said, giving him an approving smile. "I knew you'd be the right one for the talking stuff with them. Baxter is good, but those Trasaman love you. Just as I knew they would."

"Gared is helping me a great deal with the ‘talking stuff,’ as you put it," Daniel answered as he reached for his jacket. But it felt amazingly good to know Jack had recommended him to do the diplomatic negotiations with the Trasaman.

"I wished I could have been with you guys on Trasama. It's a very fascinating culture. Very advanced on some levels and, yet, very aware of their old traditions. For example they believe in animal gods, similar to the Spirits of Tonane's people..."

Jack rolled his eyes as he grabbed the car keys from the coffee table. "Knock it off, Daniel. I had my lesson in Trasama history from Baxter."

"I'm just saying."

"Oh, Daniel?"

"Yeah?"

"About the raccoon, Trevor thought he saw..."

"I didn't see a raccoon chasing his cat," Daniel chirped and grabbed his backpack. Then he was out the door and at the truck before Jack could ask him more unpleasant questions.

II

Jack shook his head as he slammed the truck's door shut. He gave Daniel a sideways glare, but the Wretch was already reading his notes for the continuing negotiations. Maybe it was better to give it a rest for now so he could concentrate on the task at hand.

Perhaps Jack was being paranoid. Trevor might have seen another cat, not a raccoon. He was a nice old guy with bad eyesight. Former military and a little odd at times, but harmless. He loved his fat cat and sat on his porch day in day out, watching the grass grow.

When they reached the mountain and went through the checkpoints, Jack thought of their first visit to Trasama a few weeks ago.

The Trasaman were nice people, as far as Jack could tell. Their Naquadah mines were rich and The Powers That Be in Washington were already drooling over the possibility of mining on the planet.

They were farmers mostly, but there seemed to be a couple of cities close to the Naquadah mines. The government of Tresa, the main city, had been overjoyed when SG-1 had come through the gate. Tyrahm, one of the men who had greeted Jack and his team, told them they had traveled through the gate, but only to two destinations they knew.

Tyrahm and Baxter had hit it off just great right from the start. Later Jack found out it was a Trasaman thing. They were all nice people. In fact they were so friendly, it was a little unnerving at times.

But it made things smooth.

The Trasaman loved animals to the point of feeding them in their cities and worship ing them as gods. They had declared all animals on their planets as gods of natures. Graceful beings who existed to nourish them and give them their skin and fur. The Trasaman never took more from their animals than they absolutely needed to survive.

Jack recalled birds, catlike creatures, dogs, mammals of all kinds; in the streets, in the gardens, and even in the houses. There had been feeding places all over the city, places where men and women took care of the animals. When SG-1 had entered the government building, they had to walk through a large family of duck-like birds who’d been building nests in the large hallways. It had been... odd. But somehow cozy, too.

So the Trasaman were a little flaky and a little strange... but they were no threat and they loved their pets. Jack had seen much worse. He thought it would have been safe enough to take Daniel, if he wasn't still grounded.

The kid would have loved it. They had huge libraries full of books, the people liked to chat about almost everything and Baxter had had the time of his life.

When the Trasaman had agreed to negotiations, Jack didn't think twice when he recommended Daniel to work on the treaties and everything else with Baxter.

Jack had been right. Daniel had fallen in love with the Trasaman the moment they had met four days ago. And the Trasaman liked him, too. The first days of negotiations had gone by smoothly and by now a great deal of the treaty was covered.

Today was no difference. When the Trasama delegation had retired to their guest quarters several hours later, Hammond looked at Daniel and Gared and smiled. "That was very good work, people,"

"Thank you, sir." They both returned the smile.

"It's nice to have something going through without nasty surprises for a change," Jack said.

"It sure is, Colonel. You are dismissed. We'll meet at oh nine hundred tomorrow for the next round."

As they all collected their notes and papers, Teal'c entered the room. "GeneralHammond. Tyrahm wants to discuss a few more things with you privately," he informed the general.

Hammond rose and nodded. Then he turned and looked at O'Neill, quizzically. "Oh, by the way... what happened to your jaw, Colonel?”

Jack rubbed the light bruise. He knew the blue hue was only the first step towards healing. "Uh..."

"DanielJacksonO'Neill defeat ed O'Neill in battle," Teal'c said with open pride in his dark voice.

"Oh, you had to tell him, did ya?" Jack groaned in Daniel's direction.

"He wanted to know what happened to your face. And he is my teacher. I thought I should mention I had my first battle - and won," Daniel quipped.

The general gave a low chuckle. "It looks like you are making progress, Doctor Jackson."

"I was surprised, that's all," Jack grumbled.

Hammond grinned and shook his head as he left the room.

Jack slapped Daniel's arm playfully. "Traitor."

Daniel gave him an innocent look and smiled. Gared picked up his papers and, with a nod at Daniel, left as well.

"Do you want to go out for dinner?" Jack asked.

"Actually, I'm a little beat. It was a long day. I want to go through my notes for tomorrow before I go to bed."

"Home it is, then. Pizza?"

"Chinese?"

"Whatever you like, little diplomat."

Daniel jerked at the tiny blue tie which had obviously bothered him the whole day. Jack could tell he felt uncomfortable in the new blue suit they'd bought a couple months ago for occasions like this one. He looked like a miniature version of his adult self. All diplomatic and serious.

When they stepped into the corridor, Siler crossed their way. He took one look at O'Neill and gave Daniel the thumb up. "Good punch, Daniel," he said. Then he shrugged at Jack and mumbled, "Sorry, sir." before he walked away very fast.

"Yeah, thanks, Siler. I'm fine. Survived it barely," O'Neill yelled after him.

There was a very smug smile on the brat's face the whole way to the locker room. Jack glared at everyone who passed them in the corridors, daring anybody to say anything about his jaw.

When they changed into civvies, he decided it was payback time. He tied up his shoelaces, sat on the bench and watched Daniel putting on his jeans. "You know, you did a real good job. But I didn't expect anything else. Those Trasaman are real strange people. Little flaky. I knew you'd get along swell."

Daniel closed his pants and hung his suit into his locker. Then he sighed. "You know Jack, if I were your real kid, this would be very hurtful and discouraging,"

Jack snorted. "Yeah, right."

"Ah, the child in me has feelings, too," he said sadly. "Just because I kicked your jaw doesn't mean you have to insult me. You are a sore loser, Jack. "

"Hey, you know I was just kidding. All I have is my sarcasm while you're going to talk my head off. So don't give me the sad little boy act."

Daniel looked back at him with big sad eyes. He pushed his glasses up and let out a sigh. "Sometimes my little heart is bleeding so badly."

"Oh, you're good. You're really good, Danny-boy. You almost got me for a second there." Jack grinned. “But I know you too well.”

"Can't blame me for trying," Daniel chuckled.

"I bet Svenson would love to write this in her book about us if she heard it." Jack said.

Sometimes he wondered if the good Doc might be falling for Daniel's manipulating skills without realizing it. The kid was good. The man had been good at it, but the kid topped it because he was so cute if he wanted to be. And sometimes Jack had a feeling Daniel used this advantage much more consciously than his adult self had done it.

"Jack," Daniel said, suddenly serious. "Don't... don't let her change us, okay?"

"What do you mean?"

"I don't know, just... Uh, we are okay the way we are. She's nice and all, but you and I know each other best."

Yeah, we do.” And he wasn't always sure that was a good thing.

Svenson had given him some insights from the outside Jack had to chew on for a bit. She had never known Daniel before his downsizing. So it was easy for her to tell him to accept his kid-traits and deal with them on the level they had to be addressed to. Jack was still torn more often than not about how to handle conflicts and enforce rules.

But things were getting better. Little by little. So he had hope.

***

An hour later Daniel carried two bags of Chinese food as they walked to the house. They had almost reached the door when all of a sudden a dark shadow jumped out of the rose bushes and ran over the paved way, before it vanished in the dark garden.

Daniel nearly dropped the bags and Jack cursed. "What the hell?"

"Trevor's cat," Daniel mumbled.

"Ya think? That fat thing is never this fast," O'Neill muttered as he opened the front door.

Daniel shrugged and walked into the kitchen to put the bags down. Maybe it really had been a cat... hopefully.

They made themselves comfortable on the couch. Jack watched some TV while they had dinner and Daniel read through his notes for the next day. He left most of his rice, but was able to make it through the sweet and sour duck. After they were both full and the movie was over, Jack put the leftovers into the fridge and asked Daniel if he wanted to get ready for bed.

Daniel was worn out and for once didn't even bother to protest. Yawning, he got up and rubbed his eyes.

"I really hate this," he mumbled. "Will it ever get better again? Concentrating for so long is so hard. Sometimes I think it gets just worse instead of better. It's so pathetic, but I could fall asleep right here. And my head hurts."

As soon as the words had left his mouth, he wished he hadn't mentioned it.

Jack eyed him, worried. "You okay, Daniel?"

"Just tired. I haven't done negotiations in a long time.”

"You work too much," Jack said with a frown. "Svenson thinks..."

Daniel rolled his eyes. “I don't care what she thinks. I'm taking my breaks, I eat. I... I even play in between. What else does she want from me? It was a long day and I'm tired. That's all."

"Hey, I was just saying. She was worried and..."

"I knew it was a bad idea to let her come to work with me," Daniel snapped.

"You agreed. Nobody forced you," Jack replied.

"Yeah, and I regret it. What did she tell you? That I should quit and go to High School instead?" Daniel snorted.

"Uh, she mentioned daycare..."

"What?!"

Jack groaned and slapped a hand over his face, apparently realizing he had just let something slip, he didn't want to. "Let's just forget it, okay? I told her it's a bad idea. And it was just a suggestion."

"Daycare! Are you nuts?! How... how could you even listen to something like that?!"

"I just told you, I didn't think it's a good idea." Jack sighed wearily.

"She's not going to put me in there! Not for a day, not for an hour!"

Daniel was fuming. How could she even suggest something like that? After what had happened with those other kids in the park? Why did she think he had to learn how to get along with little brats who were just going to tease and pick on him? He'd been there and done that. There was no need to repeat it. What for? He didn't need "friends his own age." Because they weren't his age. He was thirty five, no matter how old he looked and that he forgot it from time to time.

Oh god, he had known therapy was a bad idea.

"She said you're exhausted and need longer breaks. That you need a change of scenery from time to time. But she only mentioned it briefly. I told her you wouldn't do it," Jack said patiently .

"What else are you two planning for me? Throwing kid parties and putting me on the baseball team?" Daniel yelled. "And before you say it, I'm not going into time out! Forget it!"

He jumped up and stormed out of the living room.

Bristling with anger, he marched into the bathroom. Svenson said... Svenson suggested... Svenson thought... sometimes he felt like Jack was asking the psychologist for advice about every little thing recently. He knew the two of them were having talks in between about him or about how Jack was dealing with the whole situation. He had never asked Jack what exactly they were talking about, but he had a pretty good idea.

The stupid time out thing had been one of the results of those talks.

Daniel sometimes wished Svenson was like one of the shrinks social service used to send after him. Easy to manipulate and not really interested in his problem. But she was different. He had realized that right from the start.

She didn't just put people in neat little boxes and then consult her textbooks to make it all work out. Neither was she anything like McKenzie. She really cared. Daniel could sense that. She was good in reading between the lines.

Once, they had talked about his adult life. A bout Sha’uri . His time on Abydos. She had been thrilled about the whole cultural backgrounds and the way the Abydonians lived, it had been fun to tell her. Yes, he had run into that trap with open eyes. And went far deeper into it than he had wanted too. Told her about his wedding and how Jack had returned to get him a year later. Had even mentioned his feelings of guilt, how he had blamed himself for Sha’uri’s kidnapping and her death.

Later that day, at home, tears had come and Jack had held him through it without asking any questions.

So she was different and maybe he liked her a little bit. And maybe it really helped seeing her. Maybe.

But Daniel felt like she started push ing things a little now. Jack seemed to follow her lead just all too willingly. Like those annoying time outs when he started to express his opinion a 'little' too loud or too forcefully. Okay, maybe not a little. And maybe they really helped him to calm down and focus on the problem instead of losing himself in an emotional roller coaster.

Yet, he hated it.

Svenson had told Jack it was a better way than trying to get through to Daniel with yelling or swatting his butt. And if Svenson said so it must be the best way, of course. Not.

Not that Daniel had liked the swats any better. But they had snapped him out of it, too. And it had taken Jack much longer until he was unnerved enough to actually do it. Most of those times Daniel had backed off before the dreaded smack was in order. He'd just ran to his tree house to wait things out. He had taken time outs on his own terms, not when Jack told him to. Well, he had been sent to his room before and there were the groundings of course. But this was different. He wasn't supposed to avoid confrontations by running away anymore. He was supposed to 'face' things and 'deal' with them. It was all about behaving like a civilized human being and not to let himself lead by anger and frustration, yadda yadda...

Daniel threw his sweatshirt on the floor and let his jeans, underwear, and socks follow with a thud. He stepped into the shower. After scrubbing his body and hair, he felt a little better. When he was done he dried himself, left the towel with his clothes, and went to his bedroom to pick out fresh shorts and a shirt. He was still brooding over Svenson, when he heard Jack's annoyed voice calling from the hallway.

"Doctor Jackson, get your little behind into the bathroom and clean up this mess!"

"I'm tired," Daniel yelled back.

A moment later, Jack popped his head through the open door. "You'll put away you laundry and hang up the towel."

"I’ll do it tomorrow."

"Now. Scoot."

"Why don't you call Svenson and ask her how to make me do it," Daniel sniped before he could hold himself back.

Jack leaned against the door frame, crossing his arms over his chest. "Oh I could. You think she's gonna be impressed if I tell her you had a fit over a bunch of clothes on the floor? Sounds a tad silly to me."

They glared at each other. For once Daniel didn't know what to answer to that.

Finally, Jack scratched his head. "Look, I know you're pissed about the daycare thing. But we don't plan anything behind your back. She said it might be good for you to go there once or twice a week to... satisfy the child in you. I told her you won't. I don't thi nk it's necessary. I am backing you up on this, Daniel."

"You better had. Because I won't go."

"That's okay."

Just so you know."

"Now go and pick up your things," Jack said firmly.

With a growl, he stormed past O'Neill, muttering, "I have to brush my teeth anyway. I'm not doing it because you told me to."

"Of course not." Jack sighed as he followed him. "Geez, you must be real tired."

Daniel opened the hamper, grabbed his dirty clothes and balled them up into his arms. When he dumped them in, he lost one of his socks. Jack picked it up. "Hey, what's that?"

"What?"

"There's blood," Jack held out the white sock to him. It wasn't a big spot, but the dried blood was clearly visible.

Daniel looked at his feet and the scratch at his ankle. "Uh, it's a scratch," he said, and then quickly stuck the toothbrush into his mouth.

"I know what it is, Daniel. How'd it happen?" Jack crouched and took a closer look at his foot.

Daniel brushed his teeth and just shrugged. He flinched a little, when Jack touched the scratch lightly with his fingertip. "This must have hurt. Apparently still does," he murmured.

"It's nothing," Daniel said when he was done rinsing and put away the toothbrush.

Jack sat on the bathtub and gave him a questioningly look. "Looks like something scratched you."

"Look, I'm tired. It's late and you just told me to go to bed," Daniel said and turned away from his friend.

"Daniel..."

"Hell! Why can't you just give it a rest! It's a scratch, so what? I'll live! Will you stop fussing over this like I am going to lose my leg?" Daniel left the bathroom and, a moment later, slammed his own door shut.

With a huff, Daniel slumped on his bed. He waited for Jack to come after him and continue to chew him out, but when there was no knock at the door, he relaxed and slipped under his covers.

That was close. Daniel was sure Jack already suspected something. Trevor's cat and the scratches on his ankle... the more he thought about it, Daniel was sure the animal they had seen in the garden must have been Nashi.

Daniel stared at the dark ceiling for the next thirty or so minutes. But he couldn't stop his worried thoughts.

What was he going to do now? Jack would never agree to the raccoon living in the neighborhood and coming to their house for lunch. Caging the raccoon and giving him to the zoo sounded reasonable. Yet, it didn't seem to be right. If a couple of free meals per day was all Nashi wanted no harm was done and he could still live free.

But what if Nashi really brought a family with him one day? Or just other raccoons? Wasn’t it irresponsible to act like this? Shouldn't he tell Jack Nashi was back? They could take him somewhere safe; somewhere the animal wouldn't get into trouble or get shot by angry neighbors?

Daniel should...

A tapping on his window made him bolt upright. The next thing he heard was scratching on the wooden wall outside, then loud squeaking.

Daniel jumped out of bed and opened the window. Nashi came in and greeted him with happy squeals. The raccoon jumped on the desk and watched him with big eyes. It almost looked as though it was smiling at Daniel, which made him return a smile on his own.

"Hey. I just thought about what to do with you," he told the animal.

Nashi squeaked.

"Shhh, not so loud," Daniel shushed him. "You have to get out of here, Nashi. Come to the backdoor and I'll give you something to eat."

The raccoon didn't move. Daniel reached out and picked him up very carefully to carry him over to the window. When he tried to put Nashi on the windowsill, he started to wriggle and hiss. Daniel didn't want to risk being scratched again, or bitten, so he let go of the mammal. Nashi jumped to the floor and climbed Daniel's bed where he curled up next to the pillow.

"Oh, great," Daniel mumbled. He sat on the edge of his bed and watched Nash as he tr i ed to decide on his next action. Reaching out a tentative hand he began stroking Nashi's soft fur and the raccoon seemed to really enjoy the attention.

But Nashi couldn't stay here. Jack would come in to check on Daniel before he went to bed. He always did that. And if Jack found Nashi in Daniel's bed, heads were gonna roll. Well, one head at least.

Daniel peered at his alarm clock. It was getting really later.

After a while he said, "You can't stay here, Nashi. It's just not working that way. You are a wild animal. You have to go back into the woods. I'll get you something to eat and then you'll leave, okay?"

Nashi looked at him and purred like a kitten.

Daniel opened his bedroom door and closed it right behind himself. It was dark in the hallway and there were no TV noises from the den. Had Jack gone to bed already after all ? But Jack always checked on him before he went to bed, even when he was mad.

In the kitchen he opened the fridge and saw the rice leftover from dinner. It was enough to feed the raccoon. Daniel took the plate out and closed the fridge door, when the back door was slammed shut and the light went on. He almost dropped the plate when Jack's startled voice came from behind him.

"Daniel! What are you doing here?"

"I... uh... I got hungry," he spluttered, turning with the plate in his hand.

"Crap, you should turn on the light. I nearly got a heart attack," Jack muttered. Daniel noticed he was fully clothed, leather jacket and all.

"Where have you been?" he asked, placing the plate on the kitchen table.

"On the roof. Needed some air. Then something dumped our garbage can. All the mess was over the driveway. I had to clean it up," Jack grumbled and sat down at the table.

Daniel bit his lip.

"I met Trevor outside. He's running patrol with a gun. Says he saw the raccoon again this evening," Jack continued, his voice casual, but his eyes never leaving Daniel's face.

"A gun?" Daniel gulped as he stared at the plate with cold rice in front of him.

"Yep."

The silence between them grew longer and longer. Finally, Daniel drew a deep breath. He knew when it was time to suck up and admit defeat. "He... is in my room."

"WHAT?"

Daniel cringed and ducked his head. "He, uh, he was at my window and I thought he was hungry, so I let him in. I... wanted to give him the rice and... Jack, I wanted to tell you anyway. I know I can't keep him. But when he came back I thought he just wanted something to eat and would run off again. Please, don't let Trevor shoot him! We have to do something," he said hastily, still avoiding Jack's eyes.

"Oh, for crying out loud, Daniel!"

Look, I have a plan. Let me give him the rice. And then we can catch him and put him into the cage. And... and we can drive him somewhere else... maybe to the next state... or further up into the mountains."

Jack took a deep breath. "I'll get the cage. You wait here."

"Let me catch him. He'll let me pick him up without making a fuss,” Daniel pleaded.

Oh, I bet he will. Does he juggle little balls for you, yet?” Jack sniped. When Daniel didn't respond to that, he sighed. “Fine. Go to your room and wait there.”

***

Jack was trying to get himself under control as he went into the basement to get the cage and his pair of garden gloves.

He had known it. The moment Trevor told him about the raccoon, he’d suspected the damn critter was back. When they had come home and the "cat" zipped out from under the bushes, he'd been sure. And when he had seen the scratches on Daniel's foot, any lingering shred of doubt had disappeared.

He should have called him on it right there and then, but Jack didn't want to have a d iscussion about Nashi with a tired, cranky and upset linguist. It would have been more than he could have handled without losing his temper. So he had decided to give it a rest until tomorrow .

Pick your fights , Svenson kept saying. And pick the right time to fight them.

So Jack had suspected and expected Daniel knew about Nashi's return. That he had fed the critter, maybe. But that he had let him into his room... Jack grabbed the cage and headed back upstairs.

The kid was waiting in the hallway by his door, holding the plate of rice. He looked worried.

"You catch him, we put him in and tomorrow we'll call the zoo," O'Neill snapped as he handed Daniel the gloves.

"Can't we just..."

Jack just looked at him, causing Daniel to back off a little, "Um... Okay."

With a nod, Jack opened the door and peered into the dark room. Daniel ducked away under his arm and went in, then called the raccoon by its name. But Nashi didn't show.

Jack pointed at the open window. The curtains were swaying in the chilly breeze. "He's gone."

Daniel went to his desk. "Oh, no. He found cookies, and... oh, no!"

Jack switched the light on and eyeballed the ripped cookie bag on the floor. Only a few crumbs were left. Aside from the mess, two of Daniel's books were frazzled into pieces.

"Those were books from the SGC," the Wretch groaned. He picked up a few loose sides and dumped them on the desk.

"Well, don't expect any sympathy from me. You're going to pay for them," Jack told him. He walked over to the window and peered out. Of course there was no trace of the raccoon. Nashi had gobbled down the cookies and was gone.

"Maybe if I call him, he’ll come back in," Daniel mumbled.

"Get dressed," Jack ordered. He could feel a headache coming. This night was way too long for his liking.

But the raccoon was either out of earshot or it chose to ignore them as they combed through the yard, calling for him.

When they were finally back inside, sitting at the kitchen table to 'debrief' the situation, Daniel put his head into his hands. "Okay, so start yelling at me."

"I was just getting to that," Jack said irritated.

"I'm sorry. He came back this morning and I gave him the rest of the dog food. Then he ran off and I thought that was it," Daniel muttered.

"Why didn't you tell me?"

"After I fed him I hoped he wouldn't come back. And when he did, I knew I had to tell you. But... he was hungry and I thought I'd give him the rice and he'd leave again."

"So you let him in. You know you got real lucky he didn't shred more of your books or opened your cupboards. I told you this would happen if you let them into the house. They have to crawl in every closet and play with everything," Jack said.

"He never did anything like that before."

Well, that wasn't a guarantee... Wait... Did the Wretch just say...? Nah, he didn't.

Oh, but he did.

The following long silence was heavy as Jack just looked at his genius kid.

"He, oh, uh, what I mean is..." Daniel blushed and buried his face into his hands.

"He never did something like this... before?" Jack echoed dangerously, his voice low.

"Ah, Jack, listen. It's not how you think it is. Okay, yes, it is how you think it is. But Nashi never damaged anything, uh, before. See, there was this bad weather for a while and I was worried and... you know how miserable he was, right? I couldn't just let him..." Daniel looked as if he wanted to make himself as small as possible. Right now it would probably help if he had one of Nirrti's toys to make him invisible.

Jack really loved the kid and, oh yeah, he was grateful Daniel hadn't become all glowy... Yet, like it had been with the adult version, the young version's inability of following simple rules was driving him nuts. Oh, no, it was worse. Adult Daniel had seen the necessarily in following at least some of Ja ck's advice s . H e had been able to be reasonable all on his own, too.

"Okay, what happened to that brilliant thirty something year old brain of yours," Jack started finally, his voice rising with every word. "We talked about this! Hell, we talked about this more than once! The raccoon stays out of the house! NO IFs, ANDs, or BUTs!"

"I know," Daniel mumbled.

"So what? You thought you know better, as always? You promised me, Daniel! You said you understood and accepted the reasons for keeping Nashi out of the house and in the kennel! "

"I did! And I do! It was just because..."

"What?!"

"Because, because.." he stuttered and then threw up his arms, going into defense mode. "All right, I screwed that one up! I'm sorry! I knew it was wrong when I did it, which was the reason why I stopped doing it, by the way! And today I just opened the window because he was making such a noise out there." He stopped and took a few deep breaths before he continued. "I guess I screwed that one up too."

"Ya think?!"

"Jack, we have to keep looking for him. If Trevor is really hunting him, we have to do something."

"I’ll go and get the trap. Hopefully he's in there by tomorrow. If not, we'll get him when he comes for more food. You go to bed."

"We can't wait until morning! What if Nashi goes over and eats from the cat food? Trevor will shoot him."

"Well, that's too bad then." Oh-oh... bad choice of words. Daniel gave him the deadly look. The one that made him feel like a cold-hearted bastard... and it worked... almost. "Daniel - don't start..."

But it was too late.

"That's it? That's... You... You can't be serious, Jack! It's not Nashi's fault your neighbor wants to kill him! It's not his fault he got injured and I got too close to him... if it's anybody's fault, it's mine! You can't let him pay the price for my stupidity. Let me go out and search for him some more.”

Jack sighed. Sometimes he wished Daniel had an on-off switch like Reece. “No. It's late. You have a long day ahead of you tomorrow. Your raccoon will be clever enough to stay out of Trevor's way tonight. Tomorrow we'll get to him one way or the other and then call the zoo.”

Does it have to be the zoo?”

Don't push it, Daniel,” Jack warned him, very close to losing his temper.

Wait... What if I give you another choice? Let me... Let me think of something," Daniel insisted, his voice that of a pleading child now. Yet, he sounded so much like old Daniel that O'Neill knew he’d come up with something eventually.

And Jack did so not want to hear any of it. It was late. He was tired. The raccoon would go to the zoo and Daniel would go to bed.

Daniel's eyes grew wide. “Jack! I think I have...”

But Jack had made up his mind. Once and for all. "No. Not this time."

"But..."

"I said no." Jack couldn't believe how hard it was to resist Daniel. And that made him even more angry. Here and now he wouldn't allow the brat to have his way. This discussion was over.

"Look, I’m sorry, I screwed up. I feel guilty about all of this. I wish I could go back in time and fix it, but I can't. It's my fault Nashi came back. I know that. But can't you at least hear me out? I might have an idea."

"I don't want to hear it," Jack huffed. Then he pushed his chair away and got up. "Go to bed."

"No! If you don't help me search for Nashi, that's fine. I'll do it alone then."

"Decision's made. Now move it. I'm not telling you again."

"Jack!"

He had enough. It was long after midnight and they were supposed to be back on base at eight in the morning. Without another word, he snatched the Wretch up, wedged him under his arm and carried him out of the kitchen and down the hallway.

"Let me go! Let me down," Daniel yelled at the top of his lungs, kicking his legs and flailing his arms frantically.

O'Neill caught the whirling wrists in his right hand. "If you think of showing me another Jaffa trick, think twice."

He entered Daniel's room and dumped him on his bed. "Unless there's an emergency I don't want to see you outside this room again tonight. And I don't want to hear anything either," Jack told the outraged bundle in front of him.

Daniel glared. "Just because I'm short doesn't mean you can carry me around like a puppy! I hate it when you do that!"

"Oh yeah? I hate it when you stop using your brain!"

"At least I have a brain," Daniel spat back and pulled the covers over him.

"Maybe you have. But it's on vacation!"

"Get out," came the muffled voice from under the covers.

Jack smacked the light switch off and slammed the door shut behind him. Then he ripped it open again. "Oh, and Daniel, if you even think about climbing out of your window to look after the raccoon, I'm going to spank you."

Daniel's head shot up from under the covers. "Svenson told you it's wrong," he said, sarcasm dripping from his voice. "And you agreed with her . What is Svenson going to say to that? You might screw up this whole therapy thing."

"You'd rather I tie you to your bed?"

"You won't dare!"

"If I catch you running around outside tonight, you'll have to choose between those two consequences," Jack said and closed the door.

He went down to the basement again to get the trap out. Daniel's plate with rice was still on the kitchen table. Jack threw a handful of Froot Loops on top of it and took everything out into the dark yard. He positioned the trap, with the food inside, close to the house.

"Let's just hope Trevor doesn't get to you first," he mumbled.

After a final look over the yard, Jack went back into the house and made sure all the doors and windows were closed so the critter couldn't climb back in later. He set up the alarm system for the night, took off his jacket and went to sit on the couch. He couldn't go to bed yet, he had to calm down first.

And here ended another wonderful day in the O'Neill-Jackson household. When had he thought things were getting so much better? Oh, and about not wanting to change things back anymore... All right, he was just a little ticked. It would pass. Like it always did.

Daniel would be better tomorrow, maybe a little sheepish, and hopefully the grown up part of his mind was back in working order again then. With a little luck he wouldn't fall asleep at the negotiation table and they’d get the treaty. Hammond would be satisfied, the Trasaman were going to leave as happy campers, too, and if things were really peachy, Nashi would be sitting in the trap by the time they’d get home. They'd call the zoo and drop the critter off. Case closed.

So... There was no need to brood. Except, Jack was still mad at Daniel for breaking the rules again. This one was tough. It had been one of the conditions he had made for taking the critter in. Daniel had agreed, promised even. And taken the next first chance to break it.

Jack could look at it from whatever angle he wanted, he was plain and simply pissed.

The bad thing was; no matter if big or little, Daniel had good intentions with everything he did. And when the trouble was over and the dust had settled, he got lucky. He managed to turn even the worst things into something good. And often into something worth getting into trouble for.

What was the bottom line here?

Daniel didn't want Nashi to freeze in a storm, no matter if the raccoon was used to it or not. So he’d taken him in, just for comfort. Seeing it from his view, it sounded perfectly right. And while Daniel kept the raccoon warm, talked to him a little, stroked him a little... Okay, maybe Daniel never intended to tame Nashi. In Daniel's case it might just have happened. So, Nashi loved Daniel and chose to be his friend.

But Nashi wasn't a pet and would never be tame enough to live in the house. On top of that it was illegal. Jack had warned Daniel and Daniel had given him his grown up face and adult talk. Had said he understood and wasn’t going to break that rule.

Jack should have known better. Daniel only followed rules as long as they didn't interfere with his philosophy of life. A philosophy that, right now, Jack was so fed up with.

Maybe the Wretch was right. Maybe Jack was just a marshmallow. Putty in those hands.

Manipulative little shit.

But not this time. This time Daniel could talk his head off. Nashi was going to the zoo and that was that. If Daniel thought he'd keep the raccoon, Jack had news for him. Young Doctor Jackson would just have to learn that not everything was going the way he wanted to.

Oh, and that he had been brought back from the brink of death didn't mean he could do as he pleased all the time, right? It wasn't as if Daniel hadn't been dead before. Or tortured. Or kidnapped... Jack didn't need to feel guilty because he was not giving in to any of Daniel's great ideas this time.

Not tonight anyway.

***

As soon as Jack had left his room, Daniel threw off his duvet and was out of his bed again. He considered climbing out his window to do a proper search for his raccoon. If Trevor was still out there with his gun, Nashi was in real danger to get shot and it would be Daniel's fault.

Jack didn't even care. He just wanted Nashi to leave and if Trevor shot him, it made for a nice and easy solution. All right, that wasn't true. Jack was probably just too mad at Daniel for breaking the rule about keeping Nashi out of the house right now. And he might be willing to listen to reason in the morning when he had cooled off.

Or at least Daniel hoped so. Because he had a plan. He knew the best place for Nashi to stay. It had come to him just a few minutes ago. It was perfect and simple.

First he had to find Nashi, though.

Jack wouldn't tie him to his bed... that was just ridiculous. But he had been real angry. Daniel hadn't been threatened with a spanking in a long time. Oh, but he’d survive it. Sometimes a guy had to do what a guy had to do even if it cost him his pride and dignity. Even if he had to sleep on his belly tonight. Gritting his teeth, Daniel opened his window and stuck his head out. Cold night air hit his face. It had started raining a little. He was ready to climb out, when a black shadow jumped on the sill.

Nashi!” Relieved he didn’t have to go outside, Daniel ushered the animal inside and closed the window.

Nashi climbed his bed and squeaked happily, while he tried to find a nice position to sleep.

Oh no, you can't sleep in here, Nashi. You have to go in the cage...”

Daniel looked around his room and spotted the cage on his desk. The gloves were gone though. Jack must have taken them with him. Daniel took the cage and put it on the bed. Then he picked up Nashi and tried to get him into it. But the raccoon started hissing and baring his teeth.

Daniel cursed. He needed Jack's gloves to be able to put Nashi in the cage. Tomorrow, Jack would be calm and ready to listen to him - hopefully. "Stay here and don't make a mess. If you ruin any more of my things, we are both in big trouble. Jack is not happy,"

He tiptoed to the door and opened it just a crack to peer out into the hallway. There was light coming from the living room.

"Great. Jack is still up. Okay, gloves are in the basement... I can do this, " he mumbled to himself as he closed the door behind him and tip toed his way to the stairs.

Jack wouldn't be able to see him from the living room. If he wasn't coming out to go to bed right now, Daniel would be down and back up in no time without being caught...

"HEY!"

Startled he spun around to see Jack stand in the hallway, a bottle of Heineken in his hand. He must have been in the kitchen. What an incredibly bad timing. Daniel groaned and tried to look as innocent as he could manage.

Jack didn't come over to bite his head off. He opened his bottle and then pointed at him with the opener. "I'm not asking you what you are doing there - because I'm sure I don't wanna know. And since the bathroom isn’t down there, I assume that’s not where you were going.”

Um, I was just... I was looking for the gloves, you know, in case Nashi comes back tonight and...

Keep your window closed. I set up the trap outside.”

But...”

Bed. Now."

Daniel knew when it was safer to comply. And he didn't need Jack to escort him to his room. Not while Nashi was still sitting on his bed or eating more of his books. Swallowing, Daniel walked to his door, looking back over his shoulder to see if his not so friendly guardian would follow him. But Jack just stood there, waiting for him to go back to bed.

Nashi greeted him with a squeak and Daniel put a finger to his lips, "Ssssh!"

Then he snatched his cell phone from the shelf and dialed. He needed some help.

III

Daniel almost drifted off to sleep, Nashi next to him on his pillow, when finally there was the knock at his window. Fully awake now, he jumped up and pushed it open.

"Thanks for coming," he whispered to his nightly visitor. "Did you bring the gloves?"

"Yes, I did. And would you please explain to me now why I had to come out here in the middle of the night and climb through your window?" the shadowy figure outside whispered back.

"Because Jack would ask lots of unpleasant questions if you'd come through the front door," Daniel answered.

"I thought something like that. In how much trouble are you – exactly?"

Um. He's not happy.”

Go figure.” Two long legs were swung over the sill, and then Sam squeezed herself through. She wore a dark jacket and black pants. She brushed a few leaves out of her hair. "So what's so urgent that it can't wait until tomorrow? You said it was an emergency?"

"Uh, well it is." Daniel pointed at Nashi and the cage.

When Sam stared at him questioningly, he started to reveal his plan to her in details. After he had finished, the blond major started pacing the room. "Daniel, let me get this straight. Just so we are on the same page here - You want me to take your raccoon... I mean... really? And why don't you just ask the colonel? It sounds like a nice idea. Why do it this way?"

"Let's just say, Jack isn't in the best of moods right now and I don't want him to get any crankier - for my own safety. So I'd appreciate it very much if you could help me out here. Sam, please. You can just take him with you and talk to Hammond?"

"The general isn't on base at the moment. It was his granddaughter’s birthday today and he left right after you and the colonel. He won't be back until tomorrow. So we can't ask him for permission tonight," Sam sighed.

She sat down on Daniel's bed and watched the raccoon which stared back at her without backing away or getting nervous. After a moment she smiled. "He's really cute."

"Yes, he is. But he's in danger if he stays here. We need to get him into the cage."

Sam handed Daniel the thick laboratory gloves she had brought with her. He put them on and while she was holding the cage, Daniel grabbed Nashi and managed to put him in this time, despite his ongoing struggling. With a relieved sigh he closed the door. Nashi hissed and growled.

"Do you have the cookies?" Daniel whispered, panicking the raccoon might be too loud.

Sam nodded and pulled the bag from her jacket. He broke two of them in half and offered them to Nashi. After a moment of more hissing, the raccoon finally gave in and took the treat.

"I could take him in right now. I was going to stay the night on base anyway. But that's not the point, Daniel. We need permission from Hammond. We can't just do it without telling anybo ne and you know it," Sam said finally.

"I'm going to talk to Hammond first thing in the morning. When the raccoon is already on base, he can't say no. He has to see what a perfect plan it is."

"Daniel, I think you should clear this with Colonel O'Neill before..." Sam stopped and froze, putting a finger to her lips when Daniel started to say something. They stared at each other when they both heard footsteps outside.

Getting closer.

Then a door was opened.

"He's in the bathroom," Daniel whispered. "He will come in here before he goes to bed. He always does."

"Oh great. What now," Sam hissed back. “Oh, whatever...” She grabbed the cage with Nashi and went to the window. One could tell she was Special Ops, too. Without making a noise she was outside in a heartbeat. Daniel saw her duck under the sill before he closed the window and jumped back into his bed, just as his door opened and Jack came in.

Daniel squeezed his eyes shut. His heart pounded against his ribs. And the really bad thing was he was about to burst into laughter. It was like when Jack had chased him under the deck on the day he’d found Nashi. It was an adrenalin rush. Daniel bit down on the insides of his cheeks until it really hurt.

He could sense Jack hovering over him. Daniel waited for the colonel to fiddle with his covers and kiss his head; it was what Jack usually did when he checked on Daniel before turning in for the night. But this time, it seemed to take forever until...

The light went on.

"I know you’re not asleep," Jack said.

"Wha...?" The urge to laugh vanished as Daniel sat up.

"I heard you run around. So where are you hiding the critter this time?"

"He's not in here, honest," Daniel said.

"You're better not lying to me," Jack growled, searching the room with his eyes.

"I'm not. He's not here."

Jack opened the closet and peered inside, then checked under the desk. The cage. If Jack realized the cage was gone, Daniel would be in real deep.

Jack, he's really not here. I'm just worried. I can't sleep,” he hurried to say.

You better try. If I have to come in here again I'm going to call the base and tell them you can't come in tomorrow because you stayed up all night and won't be fit to wrap up the negotiation."

Daniel bit his tongue and crawled back under his covers. Jack patted his shoulder and mumbled a last Good Night before he left the room. Daniel heard him go into his own bedroom. He’d look for Sam in a minute. He just had to wait until Jack was asleep and then...

***

It took Jack twenty minutes to pry Daniel out of bed the next morning. The Wretch wasn't happy when Jack finally pulled the blankets away from him. He huffed and stomped into the bathroom, where it took him forever to shower and get ready. Jack yelled for him several times before his royal highness showed up and picked at his toast with a tortured expression on his face. Then Daniel demanded black coffee, which Jack refused.

"I'm dog tired. How am I supposed to get through the negotiations without enough caffeine," Daniel muttered.

"If your overtired body gets pure caffeine, you will go through the roof in no time,." Jack explained to him.

Daniel just glared.

Jack told him there was no raccoon in the trap and that they had to wait until they got back to capture Nashi. That, however, went far better than he had expected. Daniel just shrugged and read his notes, yawning widely in between.

Just before they were finally ready to leave, O'Neill got a call from base. Hammond and his whole family were suffering from a case of minor food poisoning. They had ordered Chinese for Tessa's birthday party and ended up in the ER shortly thereafter.

When he told Daniel about that, the kid went pale like a ghost, stuttering, "Wha... what? Hammond is sick? He's not coming to work?"

Nope. But don't worry too much. It's gross, but nothing serious," Jack said as they walked to the truck.

On the way to the mountain, Daniel was fidgeting with the zipper of his backpack and chewing his lower lip.

"Hey, don't look so spooked. You are doing great, Danny. All you have to do is check every point of the treaty again with Tyrahm, then Baxter will read it out loud, they sign, we sign - all peachy. And there’ll be a party," Jack tried to cheer him up.

It had been a rough night and a bad start this morning, but Jack's anger was fading fast now. He decided to make a peace offer. "Look... Let's just forget about last night, okay?"

"Um, okay," Daniel mumbled.

Jack steered the truck through the morning traffic. Ah, for crying out loud... he just couldn't stand this. "Listen, Daniel. When everything is settled and the Trasaman are gone, you can tell me your idea about what to do with your raccoon. If it's something we both agree on, I'm willing to try."

There. That wasn't so bad. So they'd probably drive to Minnesota or god knew where, to release the critter. Fine. A camping trip might be fun, maybe. Or he could lure Daniel out to go to the cabin for the weekend. Nashi would be free there, far away from shooting neighbors. And Jack was sure the raccoon was able to find food of his own. He hadn't stayed in captivity too long. He just seemed to like a regular menu, and Daniel. If released far enough he'd soon find other things to occupy himself with and forget about the kid.

Daniel said, "That's... nice, Jack. You know, it's like this..."

Jack's cell phone beeped and for the rest of the drive he was dealing with several issues over the phone which could probably have waited the twenty minutes longer, until he'd arrive on base. But that's what he got for being 2IC of the SGC. Hammond was never sick. This was a very rare situation. If anyo ne was on base more permanently than Carter or Daniel - when he had been an adult at least - it was Hammond.

While Jack was driving and talking to Walter and then to Colonel Reynolds, Daniel's phone ra ng, too. And from what he uttered, Jack knew he was talking to Carter. Daniel uttered lots of, "No's" and "Oh, cool," a nd "Yeah, thanks, Sam," and "Uh-huh,"

***

Daniel closed his eyes for a moment. Sam had been on the phone. After she’d told him how big he owed her for letting her sit in front of his bedroom window in the middle of the night until she had realized he had fallen asleep or something - and he really ha dn't mean t to. It had just happened. He was little. He just couldn't stay awake any longer - she said she had gone home and taken Nashi with her last night and then called Hammond early this morning.

The general had given permission.

Just like that.

Daniel thought it may partially have been due to the fact that Hammond had been in a hospital, puking his guts out for the better part of the night. Sam had explained the raccoon emergency and after a short discussion, Hammond had granted it. So, she had been able to take Nashi on base with her, legally.

That was good news.

"I have to leave now, Daniel. I tried to get Colonel O'Neill on his phone, but I guess he is busy talking. Everything is a little hectic now that Hammond is sick and the Trasaman are still on base. Look, I'm going off world with SG-11, but I think I will be back in the afternoon. Nashi is in my office under my desk. So all you have to do is tell the colonel about it. And if he has any doubts, he can check back with Walter. He knows about it, too, as well as Baxter and Teal'c."

"Okay. And, Sam, thanks for your help."

"You owe me, Daniel," she repeated, but he could hear a smile in her voice before she hung up.

Daniel was still thinking about how to tell Jack about this, when they reached the mountain complex. On their way through the checkpoints, Jack was still on the phone. And while he had sounded annoyed before, his voice was now urgent. When he finally finished the call they were already out of the elevator.

"Jack," Daniel started, but was interrupted immediately.

"Listen, Daniel. I have to get to the Gate room. SG-2 wants to bring something through and I have to give clearance - or not. You hurry up and get to the negotiations. Baxter might already be there. I join you as soon as I am able to."

"But Jack, I have to..."

"Later, Daniel. Hurry up. And don't worry. You're doing good."

Jack patted his shoulder and sprinted off into the corridor.

Daniel Jackson O'Neill straightened up and walked to the locker room to change into the blue suit, the very one that Janet had drooled over for hours when he’d gotten it. He really hated that thing. Mostly because everybody thought he was looking adorable and cute in it. Jack hadn't said anything, but Daniel had seen how soft his brown eyes had gone. He, too, thought Daniel looked cute.

Gross.

Right now, however, he had other problems than to sulk over the fact that he looked as “sweet as pie”. He changed fast and then went to Sam's lab to get Nashi.

He found the cage under her desk. The raccoon squeaked happily when Daniel called him. He stuck his hand through the wire and stroked the black fur. Nashi licked his hand and mewed. Sam must have fed him before she left. There were cookie crumbs all over the floor under the desk.

"Okay, Nashi. Now I’ll take you to your new friends. They’ll be delighted to take you home with them. I'm sure you'll love it there. I have seen pictures and videos of the planet, it's wonderful. Lots of forests and lakes."

Daniel took the cage and after a look at his watch hurried out of the lab and to the elevators. He took a detour to his office to get some files he needed for Tyrahm, and then was on his way to level 28. But suddenly he stopped and stared down at the cage he was holding in both arms.

"Oh, no, That's not gonna work," he mumbled.

The Trasaman believed their animals to be god like creatures who had to be free. If he would bring Nashi in there in a cage, they would probably be offended by the way the Tau'ri were treating their animals. He had to take Nashi out and carry him in. Daniel found a storage room and entered it, pressing the light switch with his left elbow, since he was still carrying the heavy cage in both hands. He put it on the floor and opened it. Before Nashi could jump out, he laid a hand on his back and started to stroke him soothingly. The raccoon mewed and looked up at him with big eyes. Very carefully Daniel scooped the mammal up into his arms and exited the storage room, leaving the open cage on the fl oor.

He had almost reached the elevator, when two SF passed him, c hatting loudly about something. Nashi hissed and started wriggling, startled by the loud voices. Daniel stroked him with one hand while he pressed him to his chest with the other. The raccoon seemed to calm down and relaxed after a moment.

Then the Klaxons went off.

Nashi growled and yelped. One of his forepaws lashed out at Daniel's face. He jerked his head back to avoid the hit. That was when he lost the grip on Nashi. With a thud, the raccoon landed on the floor and escaped down the corridor.

"Nashi!" Daniel ran after his little friend, around a corner, and bumped into a major, who grabbed his shoulders.

"Hey, keep your eyes open, boy!"

"Sorry." Daniel managed to squeeze past the man and stormed down the hallway.

***

"Where's Daniel?"

Colonel Jack O'Neill closed the last button of his dress blues and looked around the briefing room. Tyrahm and his two companions had their copies of the treaty in front of them. Baxter, who looked a little pale in the greenish suit with the golden tie, rubbed his hands and shook his head in confusion.

"I don't know, Colonel. He hasn't appeared yet. He called and said he would join us later."

Jack frowned. After he had given clearance on the object SG-2 wanted to bring in he'd gone through a couple of phone calls for the general. Negotiations should have started half an hour ago.

"We started without him, sir, " Baxter said. "We are almost through the official part."

"Sweet," Jack said and then addressed Tyrahm and his people, "Once we've signed everything, I'd like to invite you over there for a celebration. Refreshments and cake from our commissary, Gentlemen." There was a long table over by the window looking out into the gate room, with all sorts of snacks and drinks. Sandwiches, cake, several salads, little meatballs and a bowl of chocolate pudding.

Tyrahm got up from his seat and bowed his head. "Very well, Colonel. We hope Daniel Jackson O'Neill will join us then. It would be very unfortunate if he misses this outstanding event in the history of Trasama. The Tau'ri will be our first allies. And young Daniel was a great part in making this possible."

O'Neill nodded and forced himself to return the smile. "Why don't you continue while I'm trying to find him?"

"That would be a good idea." Tyrahm nodded, smiled, and sat down again.

O'Neill nodded at Baxter, who shuffled with his papers and cleared his throat before he started talking to Tyrahm again, and left.

He walked down the corridor by Hammond’s office to the elevator that would take him to... He had no idea where Daniel might be. In his office? Jack shook his head. After the night they had it wouldn't surprise him if the kid had fallen asleep at his desk. The elevator came and Jack stepped in, pressing the button for the right level.

Once there, he walked down the corridor when something black and gray stormed towards him. Jack jumped out of the way and stared after the creature that darted around a corner. When he turned back, he was almost knocked over by the littlest diplomat of the base.

Daniel pushed up his glasses and tried to duck away under O'Neill's arm. "Sorry.... have to go... explain later... need to go!"

"What the hell are you..." Jack grabbed him by his jacket, but Daniel worked his arms out of the sleeves and wriggled away in light speed. He dashed down the corridor, yelling back over his shoulder. "Sorry... later!"

For a second, O'Neill just gazed at the blue cloth in his hand. Then he followed on Daniel's heels.

IV

Daniel almost had a heart attack when he bumped into Jack of all people!

But he’d managed to free himself and was now running around a corner. The good thing about the SGC was that most of the doors were closed so that meant there weren’t too many places for the raccoon to hide.

This corridor had a dead end and there was no way to go.

He found Nashi hissing and growling, running from the right corner to the left, going on his hind paws and trying to climb the wall. His tail was bushy and he was showing his teeth. Daniel slowed down and tried to catch his breath. "Nashi," he gasped. "Okay... good boy... calm down... It's me, Daniel. All right." He tried to sooth the animal. "Ssshh, it's okay."

Nashi let out a high pitched squeal.

Daniel stopped and licked his lips, then took another step forwards. "Nobody is going to hurt you, Nashi, I promise. Just let me pick you up, okay?"

He went on his knees and reached out to the raccoon. Nashi began to focus on Daniel's voice again. A moment later, the boy had his hands in the mammal's fur. Relieved, he picked him up and cradled him to his chest. "Okay, big guy, yeah, good. Let's go," he crooned.

He was walking back to the elevator when he heard fast footsteps. "Oh shit. That's Jack," he whispered and opened the next door. He stumbled through, pulled it closed with one hand and leaned against it.

It was the archeology and linguistics library.

Hugging Nashi to his chest, Daniel listened to the sounds of Jack's steps outside. The colonel called his name several times. Holding his breath, Daniel waited. All was quiet again in the corridor. Was he gone? Or was he waiting next to the door, ready to snatch him the moment he left?

But Daniel couldn't stay in here forever. He had to risk it. He opened the door carefully and peered out into the corridor. Jack was nowhere to be seen. Nashi started to wriggle in his arms as he tip toed back to the elevator, the sharp claws were ripping at his shirt. Talking quietly to the raccoon, Daniel stepped in the elevator. Just before the door was about to close, a hand shot out of nowhere and clamped around it.

Daniel groaned. He was so busted.

***

Jack stepped in and slammed the button for level twenty eight. "Daniel," he said, taking in the ripped shirt, the non-existent tie, the tousled hair and - the raccoon.

"Jack."

"Been busy?"

"Um, yeah, actually... very busy."

"Ah." Jack was sure his eyebrows were hitting the ceiling.

Daniel blinked rapidly. "You want me to explain? I mean, I could, you know... explain."

"Yeah, I'd like that," Jack answered, amazed at how calm and low his voice sounded.

The elevator came to a halt and they stepped out. Daniel looked down at himself and mumbled, "I'm a mess."

"Yes, you are."

"Um, okay, Jack, there's no time to change and no time to explain. Just let me say this. The general knows and gave permission. So this is all... great," Daniel said hastily as they walked towards the briefing room.

Jack was about to ask to what exactly the general had given his permission when the Klaxons went off again. SG-2 had returned.

Nashi screeched and, with a major leap, escaped Daniel's grasp and zipped away like a speeding bullet.

"Oh nooo," Daniel groaned.

They looked at each other.

"He hates the sound," Daniel said sheepishly.

"Ya think?"

Then they both ran after it.

Nashi stormed right into Hammond’s office and under his desk. Daniel crawled after him, Jack walked around to the other side.

But the raccoon managed to get past him and jumped on Hammond's chair. Leaving deep scratches in the thick leather, he climbed the chair's back and balanced on all four paws for a moment. Jack reached out, absently mumbling some nonsense to calm the critter.

With a loud hiss, Nashi jumped back on the desk. Documents and papers whirled around and fluttered to the floor as the raccoon tried to get away. His paws were skidding on some file folders. With a desperate try to catch the animal, Jack threw himself over the desk to grab him.

Hammond’s lamp crashed down, followed by the red phone.

Nashi landed on the floor and dashed into the briefing room where he darted under the table and out again at the other side. Next he jumped the buffet and, with a slurping sound, landed smack in the middle of the chocolate pudding.

Daniel stopped dead in his tracks, his mouth an open horrified, "O" and his eyes growing big as saucers.

Nashi started to riot in the pudding bowl and somehow managed to get out of it. The bowl, however, toppled over and crashed to the floor, the brown sweet mass splattering everywhere. Somehow Nashi managed to stay on the table. Water bottles and carafes of orange juice went flying as the raccoon sprinted in panic across the table. He dashed over the plate with cheese and salad sandwiches; bread, cucumber slices and tomatoes were joining the chocolate pudding on the floor.

Baxter was hopping around, trying to rescue the files and papers on the briefing room table, while Tyrahm and his companions just stared at the growing chaos around them.

Jack, who had stood next to Daniel, shook himself out of his stupor. A moment later he was on the wall phone, yelling f or SF with tranquilizer rifles.

In midst of all this hullabaloo, Tyrahm rose from his seat and walked calmly over to the food table under which the raccoon had sought refuge. Tyrahm bent down and looked at it. "What a beautiful creature," he called out and waved his colleagues over to join him.

"What is it called," one of the other Trasaman's asked, amazed.

Daniel stopped making guppy motions with his mouth and cleared his throat before he started, "It's ... it's... um... a raccoon. It is our gift to... we wanted to present it to you as a gift of friendship from our world to yours. He... he got a little, uh, scared because he's never been on a... military base. But he is pretty harmless, normally."

A moment later, three men stormed in, armed with rifles. Jack held up a hand, a silent order not to fire. Yet.

Tyrahm smiled and reached out his hands. Nashi growled deep in his throat.

"I wouldn't do that," Jack warned him. But he had seen these people with animals. Maybe...

"Oh, but he needs to be comforted," Tyrahm said as he crawled under the buffet. He squatted down next to the irritated animal. A moment later the growling stopped and then the Trasaman appeared from under the table with Nashi in his arms, carefully patting the chocolate pudding covered fur.

"Wonderful," he called out. "What a wonderful gift you have given us, Daniel Jackson O'Neill. Now let us sign the treaty and celebrate!"

"You are welcome," Daniel said a somewhat forced smile on his face.

Jack resisted the urge to bang his head against the wall or put his hands around the kid's throat. His smile was just a bit more forced than Daniel’s as they shook hands with the Trasaman.

***

An hour later the treaty was signed and the Trasaman were ready to leave.

Daniel let his fingers brush over Nashi's fur for the last time. The raccoon was on Tyrahm's arms, looking really comfortable there. He licked Daniel's hands and purred like a cat. There were still traces of pudding in his fur.

"When you are allowed to travel through the gate again, you are welcome to visit us anytime, Daniel," Tyrahm said and bowed his head in respect.

"Thanks," Daniel smiled back at him. He wasn't sure if he would ever be allowed to gate travel again. Right now he was not even sure if he was going to survive the day.

He kept telling himself that all went well. Aside from the fact that the general's lamp was broken and the red telephone had to be fixed... And aside from the chaos they had left in the general's papers. Oh, and the scratches on the big chair might be something he would have to explain to Hammond, too.

But the treaty was signed.

The best thing for Daniel, however, was the fact that Nashi would get a new home where he would be free and honored.

He watched the Trasaman leave through the gate and when the wormhole closed with the u sual whooshing sound, he felt a large hand settle heavily on his shoulder. He turned to squint up at Jack, who looked down at him. Daniel waited for a grin to appear on the friend's face. He had, after all, permission from General Hammond for this.

And the treaty was signed...

There was no grin.

Not even the hint of a grin.

"Get changed. I'll meet you in my quarters," Jack said. With that he walked out of the gate room.

Daniel didn't even try to stall. He went to the locker room and changed out of the ruined suit into his green fatigues and was on his way to Jack's base quarters, his stomach doing flip flops.

When he walked through the door, he found Jack sitting on the bed.

"Explain, Daniel. Slowly and simple so even I can understand it," Jack started calmly.

"It's a long story..."

"And? So? Therefore?"

"Can you promise me something, Jack? Before I..."

"No."

Daniel sighed. "Just don't blame Sam for this, okay? If you want to blame anyone, it's me. I asked her for help and she did it even though she told me to tell you... it's not her fault."

"Carter?"

"Uh, yeah. She brought Nashi here and she called Hammond to ask for his permission."

When Daniel stopped and just stared down on his feet, Jack said, "Go on."

So he began to explain and the whole raccoon tale from the moment when Nashi had come back the second time that night. Jack just s a t there, listening and raising his eyebrows at several points. Finally Daniel finished his story with, "We're all happy. The Trasaman, Nashi, the Pentagon. We got a treaty for the mining conditions. Look, I'm sorry about the mess in the briefing room and the general's office, Jack. It was worth the trouble, wasn't it? All’s well that ends well."

Jack didn't say anything for a moment. When he finally spoke, Daniel didn't like what he heard very much. "Why did you call Carter to help you?"

"Because you wouldn't listen to me. You just sent me to bed and when I tried to tell you what I had in mind, you didn't want to hear it," Daniel answered. "And Nashi wouldn't go into the cage. You caught me when I wanted to get the gloves and... and..."

"Has it ever occurred to you that sometimes when I say ’no’ it actually means, well, no?"

Daniel looked up at the older man and frowned. "What? You want me to obey you even though there was a better way of helping Nashi than to put him in a zoo?"

Jack threw up his hands. "Okay, I have to admit it was a good idea you had there. You are damn lucky Hammond granted this! And Carter is damn lucky she's not here right now!"

Daniel dropped his gaze to his feet again. "All right. I... should have told you. I shouldn't have called Sam and dragged her into it. But you were mad at me already. You didn't listen."

"Maybe," Jack said more quietly. "But you know why I was mad at you in the first place."

Daniel bit down on his lower lip. "I know.”

"Nashi is a wild animal. You know damn well you should've let him stay in the kennel. We discussed it, you agreed. So I was a little ticked last night. You can hardly blame me for that!"

"You said you'd spank me," Daniel pointed out, feeling his lips twist into a pout. He couldn't help it.

"What did I say I would spank you for, Daniel?" Jack asked.

"You said if I climbed out of my window and searched for Nashi, you..."

"You wanted to. I had to make a point there. I couldn't let you run around in the neighborhood in the middle of the night, chasing a raccoon."

"Ja-ack, I wouldn't..."

"Yes, you would."

Daniel bit on his lip and wished he could stop blushing. Yes, he had wanted to do exactly that. But... "I was afraid Trevor would shoot him," he mumbled.

Jack sighed. "I get that, Daniel. But aside from that... if you'd told me Nashi was back and you couldn't get him into the cage, I would have helped you. And you know it. I was mad, but I would have put him in. Then we could've talked about it this morning."

Daniel wasn't so sure about that. "Yeah sure. And then I would have ended up in a chair, facing the wall! You were still pissed this morning! How should I know you'd listen to me!"

"You know that's crap. You end up in that chair when you get whiny and throw fits. The only thing I really regret is that I didn't put you in that chair yesterday," Jack told him.

"I only throw fits because you are not listening to me when I'm trying to make a point in a well mannered conversation," Daniel lashed out at him.

"Like now?" Jack answered dryly.

"Now? What... no! I am not... no way am I doing time out now."

"Then stop ranting and listen to me."

"What's there to listen to? You want me to obey you and if I don't I get a time out. I bet Svenson told you a few other things you can try to discipline me, so I can be a nice little boy and grow up to be not the annoying pain in your neck I usually am."

"So are we back at that again?"

"I am not your..."

"Hold it, Daniel, right there!”

"We got the treaty and Nashi is gone! No harm done! Why are you still so furious? Hammond gave his okay."

That's not the point, Mister.”

What IS the point then?”

Jack jabbed a finger at him. "I need you to follow the rules we both agreed on. This isn't the first time you decided to break them just because it suits you better! And last night you just couldn't leave it alone! You had to get your way, no matter what, right? You couldn't wait till morning. You had to drag Carter in and lure her into setting up this whole thing behind my back!"

Daniel shrugged. He knew he was walking on very thing ice. He knew very well Jack had all kinds of reasons to be cross with him. Yet, he couldn't help being defensive. "So what now? Am I grounded?"

"Bottom line is I can't trust you to stick to your word anymore. And that's why I'm having second thoughts about the Egypt trip."

Daniel blinked. "No. Not Egypt, Jack." This couldn't be happening. Sure, Jack was mad. But he wouldn't cancel the Egypt trip. He couldn't.

But Jack's eyes were hard and unyielding when they stared at each other.

"I won't take responsibility if you get into trouble or lost because you are too stubborn to go by the rules. I’m not going to risk that. Maybe this will teach you to think before you act from time to time. Did it ever occur to you that your little raccoon could have hurt himself while he was running wild all over the base ? Or that he could have bitten somebody? Even you? Did it cross your mind that somebody might have shot him because he felt threatened by it? Did you think about those things when you got him out of the cage and carried him through the base?"

"I..."

"Right, Daniel. Now think again!"

"The Trasaman don't believe in caging animals," Daniel said quietly.

Then he walked around the bed. He sat down on it with his back to Jack. Hot tears were burning in his eyes, but he would rather die than to show Jack how upset he was. He bit his tongue, because he didn't want to cry. Nor did he want to beg or yell.

Going to Egypt with Jack was one thing Daniel had been looking forward to for weeks. From the moment Jack had agreed to it, he had imagined it, dreamed about it. Going back to where he had grown up. Showing Jack all the places he had been to. It would have been something special. Something he wasn't willing to share with anybody else.

Those early childhood memories were a well treasured place deep inside of him. They had helped him survive all the foster homes and the orphanage. They had been his oasis, his anchor. When things had gone too rough or too scary he had retreated there, back to his parents, back to the desert. Psychologists had said he was unresponsive. He had had a catatonic reaction to stress. Some of his foster parents had called it "zone out"... all he had done was going back to where he had been happy.

He'd stopped doing it when he had grown older. Life was getting better when he got more independent. He had stopped going back to his "happy place" as Jack called it, down the line and started looking forward. He had moved on.

Although he had been back to Egypt once as an adult, he didn't visit the magical places of his childhood. The opportunity just hadn't presented itself. And he had feared the loss of that happy place. When he closed his eyes and focused, he could imagine his parents still being there... And going to Giza or Cairo and wandering through the streets of his childhood would only bring the realization that they weren't there anymore. That they were long gone, buried in New York.

He had never been ready for that.

Until now. Now he was ready and it seemed so important to go...

And he had just blown it.

***

Jack opened the first button of his dress blues shirt. He hadn't bothered to change. He had wanted to talk to Daniel first. To get it over with. His jacket was lying on the table. The silence in the room grew louder and louder.

He could imagine how they must look. Both sitting on the bed, facing the walls, staring at bookshelves and … Why was the Wretch so quiet? Shouldn't he be yelling and ranting and giving him hell because he said he'd cancel Egypt?

Why wasn't he trying to talk Jack out of it?

If Daniel couldn't get a grip on himself and thought he could twist every rule to his own liking, he’d have to stay home. Egypt wasn't Colorado. Egypt was like going off world. Jack was responsible for Daniel's safety. God only knew in what kind of trouble the kid would get himself in Egypt. Jack knew Daniel didn't "want" to get in trouble. It just happened. But he needed to know that the kid complied to a couple of ground rules without breaking them even if he thought he should.

There was still no sound coming from Daniel.

So he wanted to sulk. Fine. He could sulk all he wanted. Jack was not going to give in.

This morning he had told Daniel they should just forget about last night. But that had been before he'd found out the kid called Carter to help get Nashi on bas e and tal k to Hammond to get permission for giving the critter to the Trasaman.

Not to mention the whole mess the raccoon had created on base because Daniel let him out of the cage. And Jack didn't care that Daniel got permission from Hammond. What was he thinking? That if Jack said no to something, he could just go and ask the next person?

No way, Doctor I-know-it-all-Jackson.

So they would stay home and that was that. Daniel would get over it eventually. Maybe they could go next year…

He sighed inwardly.

And what if he'd find that stupid stone and would be back to being grown up next year? Would he still want to go to Egypt then? Wasn't this something Daniel should do now? Svenson had said going to Egypt might heal a few wounds that had been re-opened with the downsizing. She had said the fact Daniel wanted to go there with Jack was a huge step in the right direction. A first sign Daniel wanted to face his demons.

Crap.

He couldn't just take it back now, could he?

He cleared his throat. "Hey, did you swallow your tongue? Why don't you at least try to … you know... do the talking a mile a minute thing to convince me I'm wrong?"

When there was no answer, Jack turned and stared at the bowed blond head and the slumped small shoulders. Those shoulders were trembling with silent sobs.

"Daniel?"

Jack touched his arm but the boy flinched away from him and started to hug himself. "Can you... leave me alone for a while?" he said, his voice barely audible. "I just need some time to... get over it."

"You sure?"

"Yeah. Just… go," Daniel said in a strangled voice, his back still to Jack.

He didn't want to leave Daniel alone. But he knew if he stayed he'd cave again. And he wasn't ready to do that. "Okay. I’ll be in the gym if you need me," he mumbled and left the room.



Twenty minutes later Jack tackled the punching bag with gritted teeth. Sweat was running down his back, soaking his black shirt.

God dammit, he was such a jerk. Why in whoever’s name hadn't he just put the brat over his knee and got it over with. From all the consequences he chose this one? Svenson wouldn't have been happy with him, but then she wasn't going to be happy with him now either.

He should have called her before talking to Daniel. But then it'd feel like the kid was right. And he didn't want to end up calling her for every decision he had to make concerning the brat.

This Egypt vacation meant a lot to Daniel. Jack knew he’d been excited about it for weeks. Had been surfing the net for all sorts of things they would do. And he had let Daniel plan the whole thing on his own. It was Daniel's trip and inside the perimeters Hammond had defined for them, he was the one pick ing out the route and everything.

Jack knew it was much more than just a vacation. And it would have been their first long trip together since the downsizing. He himself had looked forward to it. Had wanted to go with Daniel.

And he had just ripped it away from him.

But Daniel was driving him nuts with his need to always have the last word. Couldn't he just have left the damn raccoon alone? Would giving the critter to the zoo have been so bad?

And what was this really about anyway?

Jack lashed out at the black bag in front of him, let it swing away and then pushed it off when it came back to him.

Was it really about the raccoon in the house or the fact that Daniel didn't tell him about his plan with Nashi and the Trasaman?

Maybe.

Wham – the bag swayed again and O'Neill gave it another hit.

Then again, maybe not.

Maybe it was just another fight about who was in charge here.

And hey, he had won this time, right? Daniel didn't even really try to change his mind. So why did this victory taste so bitter?

Jack attacked again, letting his fists hammer the leather surface of the sand-filled bag.

Why did Daniel always manage to make him mad and lose his temper?

Jack slammed the bag some more. Breathing heavily he wiped the sweat from his face.

Was Daniel right? Was Jack trying to change him? Had he become too paternal and arrogant… Had Carter been right... Was Jack trying to get Daniel to listen to his rules, and only his rules, just because he had a bit more power now? Svenson said it was right to be consistent and give Daniel boundaries. That he needed those boundaries.

But right now Jack wasn't sure if his choice of punishment hadn't caused a lot more damage than a couple of smacks would have done. How was one choice of discipline making Daniel feel less little and restricted than another? Whatever Jack did, he always ended up feeling traitorous to Daniel's adult side if he had to enforce rules and regulation with more than a time out.

 

"O'Neill."

The dark calm voice stopped his whirling fists. Jack leaped forward and hugged the punching bag. He closed his eyes for a second. "Hey, T.” He let go of the bag and turned to look at his friend.

"Are you not satisfied about the new treaty with the Trasaman?'"

"Huh? Oh, yeah… sweet." He gave the punching bag one last low swing and walked over to the bench at the wall. He let himself fall down on it and pulled off his boxing gloves.

"Tyrahm was very pleased about the gift DanielJacksonO'Neill offered him. I also believe the raccoon will be in good hands," Teal'c continued as he sat down next to Jack.

"Yeah, maybe. And Daniel once again had his way," Jack snorted. But the anger was gone. He stared down at his hands, then grabbed for a towel and wiped his sweaty face.

"I believe it was a good solution to the problem. If the raccoon would have been killed by one of your neighbors, the boy would have suffered a great deal. He would have lost a friend."

O'Neill buried his head into the towel. "I know."

"Should you not reconsider your choice of punishment then?" Teal'c asked in a gentle voice.

Jack pulled the towel away and looked at his Jaffa friend. "You talked to him, did ya?"

Teal'c bowed his head.

"Is he still… crying?" Jack asked.

"He did not cry when he came to see me. But he is deeply disturbed. He asked for my opinion."

"Power, T. I guess that's what it's all about."

"You think DanielJacksonO'Neill is questioning your authority?"

Jack let out a short humorless laugh. "Something like that, yeah.”

"Daniel respects you very much."

Jack rubbed the towel over his silver hair. "He has an odd way of showing that, you know."

"You have the same respect for Daniel, O'Neill. Do you always show him?" Teal'c's eyes were searching Jack's and held them in place.

"Uh…"

"Even when you were both men, you often treated each other irreverently. I never completely understood this behavior."

Yeah, it's… what we do. We disagree on most things. You know what it's like between us. We're getting under each other s skin," Jack tried to explain.

The Jaffa nodded. "Still you are friends. You care very deeply for the other."

The colonel balled up the towel in his hands and threw it across the room like a baseball. It landed in the hamper basket. "Score," he said. Then he looked back at Teal'c. "I think I stopped being just Daniel's buddy a long time ago. Question is… where is it leading us?"

Teal'c didn't answer this right away. He seemed to think about it for a moment before speaking. "It is very important for a young warrior to have an older mentor to look up to."

Jack sighed. "Am I that old?"

"From my perspective you are still young. From the boy’s perspective you are old. Even when Daniel was still a man, you were older than he was." There was a smile audible in the man's voice.

"Yeah, maybe. So, I'm – what? I'm not Bra'tac. And as I just proved again, I'm not all that wise. I should never have told him I'll cancel the Egypt trip. We've been pushing each other over the edge since yesterday. Our shrink says it's important not to let things get out of hand like this in the first place. She 's right and we are doing better on the whole . But sometimes it's hard.”

When Teal'c just looked at him calmly, Jack threw up his hands. "What I'm trying to say is that maybe… maybe I'm not the right guy for the job. Even though things are better now than they were a few months ago, I still tend to lose it with him. Last night I got damn close to spanking him again – and I shouldn't. It's not right. And then today, I think I probably should have done it anyway because it might have been better than telling him he can't go to Egypt. It feels like whatever I do I'm always screwing it up.”

"I am sure Daniel would not want to be raised by anyone else," Teal'c pointed out. "He would not have taken your name if he wasn't sure it is the right decision to stay with you, O'Neill."

"Maybe I'm not good enough, T. He's special. I don't want to blow it," Jack said slowly without looking at his friend. It was the first time he ever said it out loud. But he had been pondering the thought for some time now.

Daniel being special was nothing new to Jack. But he had seen Daniel in that light in the gate room. Oma had chosen him to move on to a higher plan e of existence. Nobody would ever offer Jack something like that – not that he would want to get glowy or anything. But Daniel was something else. Big or little – he wasn't just an ordinary guy. And if Jack was here to take care of him – how the hell should he know he was doing it right?

"Sometimes I don't know anymore when he's acting childish and when he's just being Daniel. I don't get it."

"You are Daniel's guardian. You have responsibilities. And you are doing very well."

Jack got up and rubbed his hands through his hair. "You told me," he started and then stopped, trying to figure out what he was about to say. "You told me I was going to be a good father. Remember that?"

"Indeed."

"See, that's just odd. I told you I could never be that. But it seems I'm going to be just that. Carter had been right all along. I'm just not sure if I'm ever going to be a good father to him. If I'm gonna be the kind of father he needs."

"The child needs you. And the man might fight this need. But your bond is very strong."

Yeah. But I can't completely ignore what he is. What we were. It's always creeping back up on me, making this so damn...” Jack's jaw twitched. If Daniel would have just been his friend before the downsizing things might be easier. “This Egypt trip is important to him. Why he didn't bite my head off for trying to take it away from him is beyond me." Jack stood, grabbed his boxing gloves and slammed them on the shelf behind the bench.

"Maybe he is aware of his mistakes also and knows you have the right to be angry."

"Yeah, maybe. Or maybe he knew I couldn’t really be that mean," Jack said ironically, then sobered up quickly as he added, "But I can't let him get away with something like that. This whole raccoon hunt thing needs some consequences. Period."

But Daniel had been heartbroken. And it had freaked Jack out. He wanted to punish him, not to push him into a new depression. Another meltdown wasn't what he wanted.

"He is in my quarters, waiting for you," the Jaffa said with a smile. Then he took another pair of boxing gloves out. "Whatever your decision is, he will accept it. I asked him if he has considered going to Egypt without you."

Jack gawked at Teal'c. “You... what ?”

He has the money. He insists he sees himself as an adult.”

Yeah, but he looks eight. He can't go to Egypt alone.” That's just what he needed. Not. Putting even more crazy ideas into Daniel's head.

I agree. But he could ask MajorCarter to go with him. She would gladly spend her next leave with him.”

Alright, I know you're trying to tell me something. I got nothing.” But as he said it he already got an inkling about what Teal'c was saying.

If DanielJacksonO'Neill did not respect your guidance he would find a way to go to Egypt with or without your permission.”

Jack nodded. “He does that, you know? Accepting consequences – eventually. Somehow. But I wish he wouldn't put up such a fight about everything in the first place. Things would be, oh, so much easier.”

Teal'c bowed his head in the typical way only he did. His voice was very serious when he spoke. "Perhaps you are at a turning point in your relationship, O'Neill. Part of DanielJackson might not want to admit it, but DanielJacksonO'Neill does accept your new role in his life. He is a strong man, even now. But if you both made mistakes, you both shall take responsibility for it."

Jack clapped Teal'c on his impressive back. "Thanks, T."

"You are welcome, O'Neill."



When he entered Teal'c's quarters Jack needed a moment to get used to the dim light of the many candles in the room. Daniel was sitting cross-legged in midst of them on the floor, his eyes closed, his hands on his knees.

Jack closed the door softly behind himself.

"I just can't stop thinking, Teal'c," Daniel said, without turning around. "I am never going to learn this again… do you think Jack will take me to Egypt next year?”

He walked through the candles and crouched behind Daniel. "Maybe Jack changed his mind."

The small back in front of him tensed for a second. "Really?"

"Yeah."

There was a long pause. Then he whispered, "Why?"

Because your shrink thinks it's important for you to go. And I agree. And no, I didn't have to call her to come to that conclusion. I do have good ideas on my own sometimes.”

Daniel turned around and they looked at each other for a moment. Jack couldn't see his eyes. The candlelight reflected in his glasses. "I'm sorry," he said after a while. "I lost it. I had no right to deny you the Egypt trip."

The kid glanced at him. "But I... I… um…"

"Yeah, maybe. But still… you know… just…" Jack muttered back.

"We don't have to go if you... if you really think I can't stay out of trouble. Maybe you're right. Maybe it'll end up in a huge disaster if we go,” Daniel murmured.

Jack thought about what Teal'c had said. And he needed to know. Just to be sure... "I was expecting a huge fight over this. You really didn't think about just asking Carter? You've got the money and it was your trip."

Daniel's eyes grew big like saucers, "But you forbid it."

"Yeah? So? I forbid you to take the raccoon into the house, too. Didn't keep you from doing it anyway.”

That was different,” Daniel said quietly. “At the time I thought it was best for Nashi. It turned out I was wrong.”

And so you wanted to make up for it by giving him to the Trasaman instead of the zoo.”

I wanted him to be free. It was an opportunity.” Down went the head and the short arms crept around him for that self hug. "I don't want to go with anybody else," he whispered. "I'm sorry, I was such a brat. So if you still want to go with me, I'd like that. If not... I know I deserve this."

"I told you I changed my mind about Egypt," Jack said. "That doesn't mean you're off the hook. You'll face Hammond about this whole mess the raccoon made. I expect you to write a full report about what had happened and hand it over to him along with a sincere apology. We're going to talk this over with Svenson, too."

Daniel swallowed hard and they gazed at each other in the light of the candles. After a tense moment of silence, he took a deep breath. "Okay."

And you have some serious cleaning up to do.”

Daniel cringed. “The briefing room?”

Yep. Once you're done you can write your report for Hammond and put it on his desk. Oh, and you'll go to bed early. You need to catch up on sleep.”

Daniel let out a long suffering sigh. “Okay.”

"Sweet. Can I hug you now?"

But before he could hug Daniel, the kid threw himself on him, arms wrapping around O'Neill's neck. Jack tumbled backwards and landed on his butt while Daniel was hugging him tightly. "I'm sorry about what happened today. Uh… and yesterday. But Nashi's going to be fine. And you won't say anything to Sam because she helped me, right?"

"I thought about making her Captain again."

"No, you're not."

"Just because I like her. And because I know how hard it is to say ’no’ to you. I think you spoiled he r Special Ops training, Wretch. "

Daniel leaned against him and closed his eyes for a moment, "I don't mean to be so... the way I am," he whispered. "Sometimes I get carried away with things."

"And what else is new?" O'Neill looked down at their entwined fingers. Daniel was absently stroking Jack's right hand in his left. "You've got a thing for my hands, do you?"

"Love your hands. They are... "

"Ugly. Two broken thumbs..."

"No. They are strong. And gentle. And they'll never hurt me," Daniel whispered. Then he said, "When I'm... big again... I hope I'll find someone with such hands again. I know it won't be you, can't be you..."

"Aw, Daniel." Jack buried his face into the soft silky hair, surprised at the sharp sting of hurt inside. No, it wouldn't be him. Never again. No matter how quick the kid would grow up. Things were too different already.

"Jack? Will we able to be... friends? If I never find that stone and have to grow up on my own? Or will you stay up at nights and wait for me to come home and then yell at me because I overstepped the curfew?"

"Hey... who said I'm going to allow you to go out alone?"

"Jaaack."

"Okay. You think we could stay friends even if I yell at you?"

"Maybe."

"Because you know, I'm gonna yell at you. And you'll yell right back. There will be lots of yelling, I guess. We need that punching bag, too."

Daniel started to grin. "Sounds all right with me."

Jack tightened his arms around him and kissed the top of his head. "I love you, Wretch."

"Ewww... stop drooling. It's gross."

"I'm a sap and you know it. So … how about you clean up that mess and then we book the Egypt vacation."

Daniel was up on his feet in a heartbeat, pulling at Jack's arm. "Come on! What are you waiting for?”



Later Jack was sitting at Hammond's desk, Daniel on his knees. They were both looking at the computer screen. Daniel's hair stuck out in all directions. He was sweaty and there were traces of dried chocolate pudding on his pants. He had cleaned up all the mess without a single wo rd of complaint.

Then they had opened the internet and gone through the process of making flight and hotel reservations.

"Booked," Daniel said with a huge smile and did the final mouse click.

"Now I need some handcuffs, a kiddie leash and oh… a bull whip maybe," Jack joked.

Har har."

"And Valium."

"Jaaack!"

"I'm SO going to regret this."

No.” Daniel twisted around on Jack's knee. “No you won't. I promise."

"And if you break that promise?"

"I won't."

O'Neill nudged him a little, "You better not. And if you don't want to spend a lot of time on your time out chair in the near future, you'll better keep it down a bit. Understood?"

"Yes."

"You know, the good thing about chairs is that you can find them everywhere. Even in Egypt," Jack said half teasingly. "On airports, in museums, hotels - wherever you'll need them. There are also lots of boring walls to look at in almost every room."

"Uh, I'm getting the picture," Daniel sighed.

"Peachy. I think we're done here. Why don't you change into some clean clothes and we'll grab some lunch?”

Daniel grimaced. “I should take a shower, too.”

We'll meet at the commissary in thirty. Don't dawdle. After lunch you can write your report here while I try to restore order in Hammond's paperwork.”

I can write it in my office,” Daniel objected.

And I want you to really focus on it without being distracted by anything.”

Daniel opened his mouth to probably argue about it, when a knock at the open put an end to the argument. Carter poked her head through the doorway. "Sir? Daniel? Are you guys all right? Gared told me Nashi made a bit of a... fuss?"

"Carter, I was just telling Daniel I'm going to make you Captain again. Oh... maybe more a Lieutenant? I'm sure you're going to love Alaska."

She actually looked puzzled for a moment, which was all the satisfaction he needed. "Sir? General Hammond granted it.”

"Did he also grant you to climb through Daniel's window in the middle of the night to rescue the raccoon?"

"Uh, no, sir.” She stood at attention. “I'm taking full responsibility for that part, sir.”

Jack, I made her do it,” Daniel said, wincing. “Don't...”

And Major Carter knows better than to let you 'make her do' anything.” So did Jack, but that wasn't the point here.

He made a mental note to find a quiet moment to refresh the meaning of 'chain of command' to her – it wasn't the first time she had let Daniel talk her into going behind his back and receive permission from Hammond for something Jack would have denied the kid. Jack had a feeling, though, that Hammond might bring that point up, too, once he was back. Carter was the best 2IC Jack ever had and he'd give her some slack. But being challenged on his command decisions by one team member was enough to deal with. He didn't need this kind of attitude from her.

They exchanged a look. “You're dismissed, Carter.”

Yes, sir.” She bit her lip just the way Daniel did. “Just... are you two okay?”

Jack shrugged. "Yeah, we're good."

We'll both live,” Daniel said. “And we're still going to Egypt.”

Carter smiled. "Oh that's good. I was a little worried, but you two seem just fine ."

Jack knew it wouldn't stay that way. Living together like this would never be just great. They both knew that. They had too much history together to have a simple father-son relationship. But they could work it out, right? They could try to do damage control when they had gone too far.

They had come this long way and they were still together... somehow.

Carter turned smartly and left, but just when she was out the door, Jack called her back. She clearly looked uncomfortable. It didn't happen often that they had to clear the air between them about something. SG-1 usually was a well working team.

Sir?”

I'm sure that raccoon is grateful for your support,” he said with a wink. He still needed to talk to her, but he wanted her to know he wouldn't rip her head off over this.

Thank you, sir,” she said, keeping a straight face.