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Still Jack and Daniel Series 2 - Ghosts of the Past V - Candles, Cakes and Turning Points

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Ghosts of the Past

V

Candles, Cake and Turning Points

I

The cheering and noises from the fireworks were dampened by the snow and the trees surrounding them.

And there it was.

It hung from a tree, its dark green leaves and white berries glistening as if they were glowing.

BD came to a halt and his eyebrows wandered upwards as he looked at Jack. "You knew this would be here?"

"Told ya I'd get you under a mistletoe," Jack smirked.

"Well, I'm not UNDER it yet."

"Daniel," Jack sobered up and placed a hand on his friend’s arm. "This is probably our only chance to do this."

"But but..."

"What? You trying to tell me you don't want..." Jack trailed off.

"I...” Daniel began, then shook his head and licked his lips. "Yes! God, yes, I want it."

BD stood motionless in the moonlit clearing gazing at the mistletoe. Little icicles clung to the leaves and branches, making it glitter. Jack's hand was cool as it gently settled on the back of his neck. "Please?"

"Nobody will know," BD mumbled.

"Nobody will know," Jack agreed softly, voice husky.

Together they stepped forward until they stood under the mistletoe, facing each other. Jack raised a hand and traced the outlines of Daniel's face with his thumb. "Merry Christmas, Daniel."

And as their lips met, a white shimmering light engulfed them and cloaked them from curious eyes of whoever might have followed them to sneak a peek...

...Daniel Jackson came awake slowly, still feeling the afterglow of Jack's warm dry lips on his own and the snowflakes tickling his neck. Even in the foggy state between sleep and waking up he knew it was a dream, but it was a familiar one and much to his dismay , it always ended at the same point.

He was still trying to feel the taste of the kiss under the mistletoe when something hairy and heavy landed on top of him. With a groan Daniel rolled on his side and tried to free his legs. But Flyboy had other ideas and tackled him again, swiping his tongue across his face.

Ahh, stop it! STOP!” Daniel pushed the black head away and heaved himself out of bed. “You really know how to destroy the mood,” he growled as he tapped bare foot to the bathroom.

Flyboy followed and stopped outside the closed door. He scratched at the wood and started whining while Daniel used the toilet and tried to not lose his train of thought.

Why was it that he kept dreaming of strange Christmas parties with Jack kissing him under a mistletoe? From the two previous times he remembered a lake and wide snow covered grounds and a big house with countless Christmas trees. Probably some deeper longing for some... thing. Something he couldn't have.

Finally he just shrugged and went to let the dog into the yard.

Back in his bathroom he took a quick shower and the mistletoe dream became unreal, faded away to nothingness as it happened with dreams that came in the early morning hours. You remember them, maybe wonder about them for a moment and then let them go.

Shaking his head. he decided it was probably time to get a life if he had recurring dreams of Jack and mistletoe.

He brewed coffee and sat on his deck in just his shorts as he watched the dog explore the backyard. His new grill was already set up, ready to be used this afternoon. Janet was going to bring cake and Jack and Fergus the beer. Daniel's fridge was loaded with steaks, burger, glasses of mixed pickles, buns, potato salad, sweet corn, sausages, chicken breast, pasta salad...

He had no idea how they were supposed to eat that much, but even after he had cut down Jack's shopping list, it seemed to be enough to feed the whole SGC. Well, they would just have to hand out leftovers to the leaving guests.

Daniel sipped his coffee, wishing it was already tomorrow and feeling bad about it at the same time. The kid wanted this party and everyone said that was a good thing. He knew they were right. He only wished he could feel the same enthusiasm about having to have this birthday celebrated. But as it happened his birthday was still July 8 th and he didn't have the heart to exclude himself when everyone thought it was a great idea to throw a party for the Daniels.

If he was honest with himself though, he knew he'd enjoy the day anyway. It was already very warm and the sky was a breathtaking blue without a single cloud. Only their closest friends were invited and if it wasn't for the cakes and candles it would be just a nice get together.

And with any luck the birthday celebration would revolve around the kid anyway and Daniel most likely didn't have to be the center of attention for too long.

He caught himself grinning at the thought of the bike in his garage. He couldn't wait to see LD's face when he got it. Sure, the boy already knew he was getting a bike. But he didn't know what kind of bike. He'd love it. It was the same kind of bike the oldest Wrexler kid had had, but not too similar in its looks. Daniel had dreamed of this bike as a boy. One of his favorite daydreams during his time with the Wrexlers had been to steal the bike and ride away as fast as he could. Into freedom. Somewhere no one would find him. Somewhere no one would beat him up, kick him down, or twist his arms and make him do other people's work.

For LD this bike meant different things now of course. It meant independence up to a point. Which was good for the kid. And maybe a tad unfair to Jack, who would have his hands full making LD mind the curfew and not go places he wasn't supposed to go.

Then again , Daniel thought with an easy shrug as he got up to refill his coffee mug, Jack knows how to stand his ground and they'll work it out somehow.

The peaceful morning went by too quick as Daniel did last touches at tidying up the house and getting the food ready.

He was in the process of marinating the chicken breasts when he heard someone enter the house through the front door. His very first thought was this would be Jack bringing in the beer early to put it into the fridge so it would be cold in the afternoon.

His next thought was that Jack didn't have a key to the house.

Years of being in the field made him reach for the carving knife on the counter when a familiar voice with Scottish accent hollered through the hallway. “Daniel, it's me!”

Fergus! In here,” he yelled back letting go of the knife just as calmly as he had picked it up.

His neighbor's bald head appeared in the doorway. The man was loaded with several six packs of beer. “Thought I'd bring these over now so's I didnae have to drive tonight.”

You live down the street, Fergus,” Daniel snorted. “You wouldn't have to drive either way.”

““Okay, so's an excuse ter see ye.” Fergus grinned not in the least embarrassed. He had stopped by several times yesterday already, to bring some deck furniture, so the guests had enough chairs, and a big table.

Daniel wiped his hands on a dish towel and hurried to take two of the six packs to put them into the fridge. “What have you got there?”

Fergus had brought something called Skull Splitter from Orkney, with a Scottish warrior type on the cans. And another beer called McEvan's Scotch Ale.

Yer military guy is gonna love the Skull Splitter,” Fergus said with a sly grin.

Daniel snorted. “You better not get any ideas. Get him drunk and he'll be even more annoying than he usually is.”

It was a joke, but Fergus grimaced. “Canna see how that's possible, lad.”

Feeling compelled to defend Jack's impossible attitude from last week, Daniel handed Fergus a fresh coffee. “He's Special Ops trained. When he realized someone was in the house, he just reacted. He's a...” The word 'nice' didn't seem to fit here, so Daniel settled for, “good guy.”

He almost shot me,” Fergus muttered.

No, he didn't. He's always in control of his gun. If he wanted to shoot you, you'd be dead now,” Daniel said.

I think he wanted to. Even after he realized who I am. Probably even more so. Think he was ticked I had a key ter yer house and he didnae know about it.” Fergus grinned and held up said key.

He used to...” Daniel started and trailed off. “Never mind. Thanks for bringing the beer.”

Sudden irritation flared up in a corner of Daniel's mind. He had been accustomed to Jack using his key instead of knocking. But that had been after they had gotten it together. Fergus should have knocked first or rung the bell instead of barging in. He didn't like people invading his privacy like that.

On the other hand Fergus had become a good friend over the last three months and Daniel had no reason to be annoyed with him. He was just very open and it probably didn't occur to him to use the bell...

What's yer history with that bampot anyway?” Fergus asked, looking at Daniel intently over the rim of his coffee mug.

There is no history,” he replied casually as he continued marinating the chicken.

To his surprise, Fergus accepted the answer, or at least let it go for now. He came to stand behind Daniel. Peering over his shoulder at the chicken the Scotsman sniffed approvingly. “That fair looks tasty,” he said. “What about next week?”

Daniel stopped applying spices to the meat. “What about next week?” he echoed.

That date I keep asking ye about? Dinner in a nice little Mexican place?”

Suddenly Fergus was too close the way he was almost plastered at Daniel's back. “I'll think about it,” he tried to weasel out of this one as he had tried for the last three weeks

He had said 'No' the first four times Fergus had asked him out shortly after LD had fallen into his pond. The Scot had stopped asking then, but their shared liking of history and Fergus' impressive collection of Celt artifacts made it easy for them to talk and they liked each other’s company.

Fergus was a nice guy, easy going - and gay. Which was the only thing Daniel had trouble dealing with. Not because the man was gay, but because of the obvious attraction Fergus felt for him. Daniel liked him, but he didn't want a relationship on top of everything going on in his life. Still, when Fergus had started to ask for a date again three weeks ago, Daniel hadn’t refused him right away any longer.

Ye've been thinking about it fae three weeks,” Fergus complained with a sigh. He pulled back and leaned against the kitchen table when Daniel turned to look at him. “It's just a date, Daniel. Nae a marriage.”

I told you,” Daniel said calmly, “there are things in my life right now I have to deal with first. I don't do casual, but I'm not ready for a commitment just yet. I'm sorry.”

Holding up his hands in defeat, Fergus gave him a remorseful grin. “Sorry. I'm backing off. It does nae have ter be celestial choirs and roses. I'm happy with just dinner and a movie. But I'll wait. Fae a while.” Daniel watched with relief as he left with a last wave of his large hand. “See ye later.”

***

There's no space for my beer in this thing,” Jack muttered as he glared at the contents of Jackson's fridge.

It was 14:00 and everyone else would arrive in an hour. It was hot enough to grill the steaks on the wooden planks of BD's deck and not even the large sun shade helped much. Shadow or sun, it was hot all the same. “Where am I suppose to cool my beer? That imported stuff is taking up every...”

Jack, stop whining,” the kid admonished him. “Put it in the freezer until it's chilled. By that time there should be space in the fridge.”

Grumbling under his breath Jack opened the freezer and put as much beer in as possible. “Remind me it's in here so we can move it to the fridge later or we’ll have to suck on it,” he told Daniel.

Uhhh... huh,” Daniel replied between giggles. He was sitting on the cool tiled kitchen floor, cuddling his monster dog. Flyboy had been so delighted to see them he had almost knocked Jack, including the two crates of beer he’d been carrying, on his ass. Daniel had rescued him by greeting the dog first and they were still celebrating their reunion.

He missed you guys.” Jackson leaned in the open doorway and grinned down at the pair.

We missed him too, right Jack?” Daniel, who apparently didn't mind dog drool all over his face, put his arms around Flyboy once more. “Reeeaaallly missed you!”

Closing the freezer, Jack couldn't suppress a chuckle. “Get outta here. We have work to do.”

Daniel crawled out from underneath the dog and trudged into the living room, Flyboy on his heels.

Jack examined the chicken breasts and decided they looked good, while Jackson started to slice the buns for the burgers and fetched ketchup and mustard bottles. Jack cut the onions, prepared the tomatoes and put everything in bowls so whoever wanted a burger could build his own.

I suggest we leave all the food except the meat we need for the grill in here. Otherwise everything will be spoiled soon,” Jackson said as he placed huge bowls of pasta and potato salad on his kitchen table. “Everyone can come in and load their plates.”

Good idea. Mmmh, potato salad,” Jack Homered and armed himself with a spoon.

Don't you dare!” Jackson smacked his hand and took the spoon from him.

I was just going to see if it needs more salt,” Jack tried.

It does not need more salt. Leave it alone.”

Might need more mayonnaise,” Jack said cocking his head as he gazed at the bowl.

No, it doesn't. Don't you have to fire up the grill?”

You sure? I could try it and tell you.”

Jack...”

Jackson...”

Get out.”

All right, I'm going. But if you find out later it does need more mayonnaise, don't say I didn't warn ya.” With that Jack left, grinning to himself.

He prepared the grill and by the time he had the fire going he felt like a grilled steak himself. Wiping a thin layer of sweat from his brow, he hoped it would cool off a bit in the evening.

Jackson had hung up lanterns in the ivy trellis framing the deck and there were unlit tea candles on the long deck table.

Jack spotted Daniel lying in the grass next to the dog, gazing into the cloudless sky. “I think it's time to set the table, kiddo,” he called over. “The gang'll be here soon.”

Daniel jumped to his feet and strolled over, chewing on a blade of grass. “Will you remember to be nice to Pete, Jack?”

He frowned and made a show of thinking about it. “You said I won't get cake if I'm not, right?”

Ja-ack... I'm serious. Please don't intimidate him.”

Hey, I'm a nice guy,” Jack scowled.

Yes, yes you are. But you're also... you.”

And what exactly does that mean?” Of course he was just yanking Daniel's chain and they both knew it.

Jack was well aware of some of his less appealing traits. Like inspecting anyone closely who dared to invade their small circle of trust, and being a tad over protective of those he considered family. Granted, he could be a class A SOB if he put his mind to it, but he could do nice. Really, there was that O'Neill charm Sara had fallen for. And Lyra. And whatshername from the planet of youth.

And Daniel... in another life time.

Just try not to be invasive,” Daniel insisted frown firmly in place. “It's my party. You could try? For me? Please.”

What's a guy gonna say to that?” Jack sighed dramatically. “I'll be good. Scouts honor. Now you go and set the table?”

Apparently satisfied with his answer Daniel made his way inside and Jack poked at the coals. He was about to blow on them to make the fire flare a little when he heard someone coming out.

There ye are. Had some good ale yet?”

When Jack turned to look, Fergus was holding out a can of … Skull Splitter? Yeah, right. “I'll stick to real beer, thank you,” Jack muttered which made the Highlander guy guffaw with laughter. Jack was about to take the challenge after all when he spotted the small plate of potato salad in the Scotsman's other hand.

Needs more mayonnaise, right?” Jack asked just as Jackson joined them.

No, actually it's perfect.” Fergus said smacking his lips.

Thank you.” Jackson grinned as he placed a bag of paper napkins on the table. ”And thanks again for letting me use your picnic table, Fergus.”

No a problem. I'll just pick it up tomorrow once I'm awake enough to drive again,” Fergus laughed. He had a deep voice not unlike Teal'c's, but there was nothing stoic about this man. He settled down in one of the deck chairs and held up his beer can in a toast to Jackson before taking a sip. “Happy Birthday, Daniel.”

The kid breezed in, arms full of paper plates and silverware. “Hi Fergus,” he greeted Highlander guy as he began setting the table.

And happy birthday to you, too, wee lad,” Fergus replied.

Jack smiled thinly as he turned to focus on the grill again, waiting for the rebuke. Daniel hated being called little, wee or something by anyone other than Jack. This was gonna be good.

Thank you,” Daniel said politely and when Fergus told him there was a gift waiting for him inside, the little bug even thanked him again. “I'll go look at it when I'm done here. But you didn't have to bring me something. It's great to have you here.”

Sneering at the grill, Jack wished Fergus had met the little charmer a year ago.

***

Two hours later the air was filled with the delicious smell of grilled meat, burgers and the chatter and laughter of the Daniels' friends. Not even the heat could dampen the mood. Jack, who had been on grill duty and handed out steaks, burgers, sausages and chicken breasts was relieved by Pete who turned out to be as skilled in the arts of barbecue as Jack was.

LD had watched them closely as they started to discuss their grilling experiences and bonded over the agreement that beer was the marinade for steaks.

He’d tried to eavesdrop on them to figure out if Jack was interrogating Pete about his ambitions regarding Sam, but the music coming from BD's CD player inside was too loud and everyone was really having a good time eating and chatting, so it was hard to be able to hear anything Jack and Pete talked about.

Sitting on his chair between Sam and Janet, he craned his neck for the fourth time to get a glimpse of them standing at the grill. Sam patted his shoulder and gave him a knowing grin. “Stop worrying, Daniel. You were right. Pete can take care of himself. And the colonel doesn't seem to be hostile.”

Pete Shanahan appears be very relaxed,” Teal'c, who was seated across Daniel, said. The Jaffa had his plate loaded with almost everything there was to eat. He was wearing a black cowboy style hat that didn't really go with the blue and yellow Hawaiian shirt. But Teal'c would look dignified in anything he wore.

That obvious, huh?” Daniel blushed and picked up his fork to nibble at a piece of chicken breast.

I appreciate you worrying for Pete,” Sam said sincerely. “I was worried, too. But they seem to have hit off pretty good.”

Yes. I bet they're discussing your wedding arrangements already,” Janet chuckled.

Cassie, who was next to Teal'c, stopped eating her pasta salad and rolled her eyes. “Mo-om,” she hissed, “don't embarrass Sam!”

Sam was really blushing at the mention of weddings. She shook her head. “We just met a couple of months ago. Though he can cook.” Her eyes lit up at that. “Really cook. Almost as good as the Daniels.”

And he has a motorcycle,” Daniel piped up.

Yes. We've been up in the mountains a couple of times together.”

You do have a lot in common, MajorCarter.”

She pursed her lips and Daniel noticed she was wearing a new color of lip-gloss. More pink than red. “Well, yes, if you see it that way. I don't cook, but I like what he cooks. And the bike trips are great. Oh,” she perked up and leaned closer to Daniel and Janet, “he asked me about work and wasn't scared or mad when I told him most of it is classified. That's a good sign, right?”

Classified space telemetry?” Daniel teased.

He didn't buy the space telemetry once he tried to dig a little deeper.” Sam frowned. “I'm not sure if that's a good or bad thing.”

At least he doesn't seem to be intimidated by a woman way smarter than he is,” Janet said wisely.

Indeed,” Teal'c agreed over Cassie's agreeing giggles.

Daniel wriggled out of his chair a while later to make rounds and ask everyone if they wanted more to drink. He collected empty bottles and glasses and hurried into the kitchen to replace them with new ones. Jack's beer had found space in the fridge by now. And there were two mysterious cardboard boxes sitting in there as well.

He assumed those were the cakes Janet had contributed. He was very tempted to sneak a peek just to see what kind of cakes she’d brought. His fingertips twitching, he reached for one of the boxes. Just one look under the lid...

Hey!”

Oh, crap... “Jack!” he said brightly, turning around to catch the amused twinkle in chocolate brown eyes. “I was just getting new beer for Fergus and Janet.”

Of course you were.” Jack grinned.

I'm trying to be a good host,” Daniel explained.

You're a perfect gentlemen today, Danny-boy. But leave the beer duty to me for now. I think it's time you give Jackson his present.”

Daniel quickly handed two beers to Jack. “Do you think it's okay if we leave for a while? Is everyone having a great time? I think they are... and you're not interrogating Pete, right?”

Oh, Pete and I are like this.” Jack held two fingers close together. “Don't worry. And yep, it'll be fine if the two of you leave for a while. I'll be entertaining the guests with incredible fishing stories.”

Jack, are you sure this is the right thing to do?” Daniel had talked his choice of birthday gift for BD over with Jack and Jack had thought it was a great idea, but Daniel was still a little anxious.

What if BD felt uncomfortable with what Daniel wanted to give him? What if he had moved on so much that he didn't want any of the things...

Yep, I'm pretty sure. Stop worrying.”

What if the janitor won’t let me in? What if he insists you need to be there?”

We talked this through, right? You wanted to do this alone with BD and I made all the calls. It'll be fine.” Jack steered him towards the open kitchen door. “Now scoot. And take your time.”

***

So, will you tell me where we're going?” BD looked over at his little version with a mixture of amusement and a little apprehension. The boy hadn't said much, he had just dragged him out to the jeep and told him it had something to do with his birthday present. And Jack had nodded his head and waved them off. If BD thought about it now, Jack had almost slammed the front door into their backs.

But LD just smiled and continued giving Daniel directions. They ended up in an industrial area. The neighborhood seemed vaguely familiar, but he couldn't place it.

It's over there!” The kid exclaimed and Daniel steered the jeep into the parking lot of Big Box Storage Company Inc.

LD hopped out the jeep and once Daniel had locked it they entered the air conditioned building through large double glass doors. The janitor, a Mexican looking guy wearing a blue uniform with the name of the company on his breast pocket, asked for an ID and a storage room number.

LD handed him a sheet of paper. “My name is Daniel Jackson O'Neill. My dad called two days ago about storage room number 206. Here's his consent letter as requested by your boss, Mister Bernard.”

Why didn't your old man accompany you himself?” the janitor asked while studying the paper LD had handed him.

It's my storage room. I'm just too young by law to access it without his permission. But if you want to call him, I'll give you his phone number. And this is my uncle, Doctor Daniel Jackson. As the letter of consent says, he is authorized to act as my guardian in this matter.”

Daniel decided looking content and going with the flow was the best of action, so he looked content and nodded and confirmed everything LD said. He even got out his own ID and shoved it under the janitor's nose.

The man studied Jack's letter of consent once more and then looked down at LD “Do you have the key card with you, young man?”

Yes, sir.” He whipped a white plastic card from the pocket of his jeans. “Here it is.”

Well, then... Doctor Jackson? Sign here, please.” When Daniel had signed a form that made him responsible for opening storage unit 206 the janitor said. “The elevators are to the left.”

Thank you, sir.” LD marched ahead and Daniel followed him down a white hallway. It dawned on him that he had been here before...

It's on level two,” LD shared with him as they stepped into the waiting elevator.

This is...” Daniel started as the memory came back to him in a rush. “Daniel? Why are we here?”

You'll see. It's my birthday present for you. But you have to let me know if you don't like it, okay? Because we can just go back to the party and pretend it didn't happen. I mean, I hope you won't hate, but...“ LD pushed his glasses up his nose and rolled his eyes. “I'm rambling.”

Only a little bit.” Daniel smiled and looked down in surprise when a small hand reached for his own as they left the elevator and walked down another white corridor.

I'm kinda nervous about this,” LD admitted when they stopped in front of room number 206. He swiped the ID card through a slot. When the green light went on, the roll shutter rattled and moved upwards.

Daniel knew what was in this storage room, but he still froze in the open doorway at the sight of shelves loaded with books and boxes full of things that had belonged to his other life. White boxes stood in front of the shelves and at the opposite wall, neatly labeled in a childish and yet familiar handwriting.

Cooking ware, Somalia artifacts, Swords, … Sha'uri. There was a box labeled Sha'uri and he remembered his Abydonian robes and some of his wife's belongings were in there. He had no memory of packing all these boxes, but he did remember coming here after his re-sizing. How he had stood in this room next to Jack. Confused, torn apart, depressed and with a desperate need to piece the memory back together. The memory of his time as a little boy who had once helped Jack pack all these boxes. He couldn't. Still, even now, he couldn't remember being LD. It was like a gaping hole in his life. The loss of a year and a half.

The child he once was looked up at him with worried blue eyes. “Daniel?”

Why did you bring me here?” was all he could say.

Over there.” LD tugged at his hand and like a sleepwalker he followed the boy to something huge covered by a white sheet. Pulling at the sheet, LD prattled on. “We couldn't arrange to have it transported to your place in time and I told Jack to wait and see if you really want it. But it'll be delivered whenever you want.”

Daniel watched as the sheet slipped down from the dark wooden furniture, revealing his piano. He walked over to the bench in front of it and sat down. “I can't take this,” he said at last. “It belonged to your mom.”

Our mom,” LD corrected as he slipped on the bench to sit next to him. “There's no room at Jack's to put it and I'd love you to have it.”

You'll get big again, Daniel. You'll want it back,” he murmured as his hands brushed over the lid covering the keys.

We don’t know how the battle against Anubis will end,” LD whispered. “We don't know anything. And now I'm little and have no use for it. If I get big again, we'll figure something out. There's a nice space in your living room right under the window.”

BD opened the lid and gently tapped a key. The single tone oscillated in the stillness of the room before it faded. “It's been so long... I'm not even sure I can still play.” He tentatively tapped another key. “It needs to be tuned.” Placing his long fingers on the keys he started playing a few chords and then with a little smile went on to, “Happy Birthday.”

LD blushed, but smiled. “Back at ya.”

I don't know what to say,” Daniel murmured, gazing helplessly at the piano that had once been his and apparently would now be his again.

He remembered his mom teaching him how to play when he'd just been five years old. He had been sitting on her lap in their house in Giza where they used to live when they weren't on digs. She had covered his hands gently with hers to guide them as they played together.

It had been Nick who had taken care of his parent's belongings from the Cario residence after their death. He’d never asked Daniel what he wanted of his parent's things. He had picked what he thought was valuable and had gotten rid of the rest. But when Daniel started visiting Nick at the psych ward his grandfather had told him there were things of Claire and Melbourne he wanted Daniel to have. Like now, the piano had been in storage because Nick had given up his house when he checked himself in. Daniel never had the money or the space to take the piano home until he’d gone to live in Colorado Springs. When he had established a life here one of his first actions had been to get the piano into his apartment.

The feeling of déjà vu was strong and confusing. He played another short melody, not remembering the title. LD joined him, but they were both out of practice and their duet sounded jumbled and horribly wrong. They laughed and it chased away some of the somber mood.

There's more,” LD said after a moment of silence. “I want you to pick whatever you want. Books, CDs, artifacts... “

No.” Daniel shook his head. “This is your stuff, Daniel.”

It's yours all the same. And it's rotting away in here. I want you to take whatever you want.”

When you get big again...”

LD shook his head. “We'll cross that bridge when we come to it. Now is now.”

Daniel left the piano and wandered around the large room. He pulled out a book here and there, looking at the titles. There were things here he had forgotten about. Maybe it would be best to keep it that way. He couldn't turn back the clock. When he had chosen to travel back in time two years after his re-sizing, he had left his past in the future. That didn't make sense, but it was how he saw it. He had expected to live the rest of his life in Egypt guarding the Yggdrasil until it was time for LD to get big again and he’d never made plans beyond that.

He’d never wanted to be dragged back into his “old” life. And yet, here he was part of the SGC again, a member of SG-1 once more. And he would be lying if he claimed he didn't enjoy being back. Like a second chance, he was being allowed to help his little self fight Anubis in order to save everyone he had lost in his own time line.

To save the planet.

So it was good to be back among friends and family.

But this?

He found a small cigar box with old battered pictures. Almost against his will, Daniel smiled as he flipped through them. His parents at their house in Cairo, himself as a small child in the bathtub with mountains of big bubbles higher than his head, riding a camel with his dad. This box was among the things Nick had put into storage. He remembered there had been a photo album somewhere with copies of these pics.

I have the photo album at home,” LD said as if reading his thoughts.

Do you mind if I take this?” he asked as he held up the cigar box.

No, please take them. If there's anything else...” The kid had settled on another box labeled 'books' and watched him with worried eyes.

He knew he couldn't take LD's belongings. Once the kid became big again this was all he'd remember. He would need his things to re-build his life. Or at least part of it. He would need all the familiarity he could get to not go crazy over having lost two or maybe three years of his life, which was even more than Daniel had lost because he got re-sized earlier than this Daniel would.

Was this a bad idea? I know I won't remember giving anything to you once I'm big again, but I know I'll understand why I did it once someone explains everything to me. Right now I have everything I need and want at home.” LD looked around the storage room. “Jack let me chose anything I wanted to take. But I couldn't take all of it because Jack has only limited space, so we left the rest here. These things... they're as rightfully yours as they are mine.”

Daniel sat on the floor next to the box LD was perched on. He flipped through the old pictures again, then looked over at the piano. He had nothing at home that reminded him of his parents. Only the memory from those early years he'd been allowed to spend with them. He had started over in Colorado Springs with nothing but the Egyptian robes he had arrived in and the BDU the SGC had given him on the day of his return from Cairo. Nothing in his house was older than the nine months he was back in the USA.

He had left all his roots and possessions in the future.

He made a decision. “I can't take anything from you, Daniel,” he said softly, but held up a hand when the kid started to protest. “But I'd like to take care of some of your things. I would love to take the piano home and this box of pictures and maybe some of the artifacts. Once you are re-sized, I'll return everything to you unless you'll decide then that you don't want all of it back.”

But this was supposed to be a birthday gift,” LD began.

It still is.” Daniel closed the cigar box and held it in both hands. “You made me very happy today, Daniel,” he whispered. “Thank you.”

II

On their way back to BD's house they were both silent. The cigar box was sitting on the backseat of the jeep and they had decided to come back in a few days so BD could pick some of the artifacts and books he wanted to “take care of” for Daniel.

He kept giving his adult self sideways glances, wondering whether bringing him to the storage room had been a good idea or not. Which was odd in itself as Daniel should know how his big self would feel about certain things. But they weren't the same person anymore, so he had been fretting and worrying. Jack had assured him over and over again that BD would like to take some of his former stuff home, even if it would make him feel awkward at first.

BD glanced back at him and smiled. “Once the piano is there, you'll come over and play with me?”

Sure. There should be a box with some musical sheets somewhere.”

I know. We can look for it when we pick up the other things. I'd like to take the swords.”

You could hang them at your living room wall,” Daniel agreed.

Yeah.”

The swords had belonged to Nick, Daniel remembered. His grandfather had given them to him when he’d gone into the hospital.

When they reached BD's house it was already dusk, the sun a red and orange band of fire on the horizon. BD parked the jeep in the driveway and they were about to enter the gate to the backyard when suddenly Teal'c seemed to emerge from thin air and instructed them to wait at the front door until someone would let them into the house.

Exchanging confused looks, the two Daniels did as they were told and waited.

This is gonna be bad,” Daniel groaned.

Why?”

Jack'll probably make everyone sing for us or something embarrassing.” He felt heat creeping into his cheeks. But curiously enough he also felt a tug of excitement in his stomach and found himself standing on tip toes trying to get a glimpse through the small door window. But it was dark inside.

Finally the light in the hallway was switched on and the door was ripped open. Sam beamed at them. Her eyes twinkled with mirth. “Hey guys!” She held up a black bandanna and put her arm around Daniel. “I need to blindfold you. That is, if you’ll let me.”

Blindfold me?” he echoed.

Or you could close your eyes until we're there,” she offered.

Daniel realized he would spoil their fun if he refused to let Sam blindfold him. When he and Jack had talked about the party, Daniel had made sure he wouldn't be having one of those kid parties with a clown or funny games. Jack had looked at him indignantly and said he was neither stupid nor insane. Of course right after that he had smirked and asked if they could keep the pony and cowboy show they had booked?

Daniel had planned this party with his adult self and they had made sure there were neither ponies nor cowboys showing up. Cakes were fine, barbecue was fine, music was fine... and now it seemed their friends had done something he didn't know after all. Giving his big version a glance, he found that BD was smiling encouragingly at him. So he was in on the whatever it was as well.

There won't be ponies, right?” He knew Jack had been joking, but then again you never knew for sure.

No ponies,” BD said. “No cowboys and no clowns. Promise.”

You can blindfold me, Sam,” Daniel agreed and let her put the bandanna over his eyes. She knotted it tightly at the back of his head, spun him around a couple of times and then apparently waved her hand in front of his face as she asked him how many fingers he could see.

I can't see anything,” he replied, feeling a little dizzy.

Good! Don't be nervous, there's nothing fancy going on. We just want you to really only see it when you're there, okay?” She put her hands on his shoulders and they started walking through the house.

It was very quiet. The music was off and nobody was talking. Sam led him securely through the hallway and he didn't bump into the doorjamb as they entered the living room. Or at least that's what Daniel thought it was when he felt the floor change from carpet to wood under the soles of his sneakers.

He knew they were on the deck when he smelled grilled meat and the heavy scent of the jasmine in BD's garden. It was still very quiet, but now there was a barely suppressed chuckle or two answered by a harsh “Shhh!” and more chuckles.

Ready, Daniel?” Sam whispered into his ear.

He could only nod. Oh, he hated surprise parties! Everyone knew that. And it had been so much fun until now. He wanted to know what was going on... but at the same time dreaded seeing what they had done to surprise him. Then he was grabbed and hugged by someone who spoke Arabic... no... the flood of words were...

Skaara!” Daniel squealed very un-adult-like as the bandanna was pulled from his eyes and he was hugged once more by his brother-in-law. “SKAARA!!!”

DANYEL!!!”

Daniel got tangled in Skaara's robes and they almost went down. He didn't even have time to feel embarrassed when another pair of hands reached for him and Kasuf embraced him. “It is good to see you, my good son, at your returning day of birth.”

And it is great to see you, my good father,” Daniel said stunned and happy at the same time. He took his father in law's hands in his small ones. “Is everyone well?”

We are well, Danyel. None of the demons have returned since the time you saved us once again,” Kasuf smiled down at him.

But how... when... why... I mean..., I had no idea,” Daniel spluttered as he watched Skaara and BD exchanging smiles and hugs.

That was the whole point, son. There should be at least some surprise at a birthday party.” General Hammond's voice was filled with laughter.

General, sir!” Daniel spun around and for the first time became aware of his surroundings. Everyone had moved the chairs away and was standing behind the deck table. Janet, Cassie, Teal'c, Fergus, Pete, Jack … and now General Hammond and Walter had joined them. Hammond and Walter were still in uniform so Daniel assumed they had escorted Kasuf and Skaara here from the mountain.

He couldn't even imagine through how many hoops the general had jumped to get permission to invite Skaara and Kasuf to this party!

An ocean of lit tea lights and lanterns everywhere gave the whole scenery a touch of surrealism. The two cakes on the table were loaded with candles as well. There was still enough daylight to see that both cakes were chocolate frosted and huge.

A chorus of “Happy Birthday” rose from the party guests making both Daniels blush and grin at the same time. Once everyone had hugged them and they had thanked them again for coming, and General Hammond in particular for letting Skaara and Kasuf visiting, the Daniels were led to the cakes and Janet took pictures as they tried to blow out all the candles.

There were nine candles on LD's cake. He took a deep deep breath and blew as hard as he could. He concentrated so much on blowing out all nine candles at once that he forgot to make a wish. But that was okay, he didn't have any wishes right now.

That's not fair. I can't possibly blow out all of those,” BD said next to him. “There are... how many candles are there on my cake, Jack?”

Well.” Jack shrugged. “There wasn't enough space for 38 candles, so there are about... 30?”

35,” Janet said.

No, 36,” Cassie said. “I helped put them on.”

I think there are probably just 28,” Sam pointed out. “I counted them, but lost track because everyone wanted to stick a candle in the cake.”

It is a nice custom to light a candle for every year of your life. But I do believe the only thing that matters is that it is a good life you are living, Danyel. Not how many moons have passed,” Skaara said with a smile. “And I do look forward to try this... cake.”

And if you don't blow them out fast, your cake will end up in a puddle of goo,” Jack ordered. “Blow them. Now. And don't forget to make a wish.”

They cheered BD on as he blew over his candles three times until they were all out and Janet took more pictures before they removed the candles and cut the cakes. When everyone had a piece or two, Pete and Sam handed out coffee for everyone.

There were presents next and Daniel almost felt a little drunk from all the excitement as he unpacked a gift certificate for a biker's helmet, a tool box with everything one needed to fix bikes, a front light, a pair of brand new wheels and a pennon to put on his bike. He wasn't so sure about the pennon, but maybe it would look cool if he rode his bike real fast to have it flap in the wind... He stopped in front of a house-shaped colorful cardboard box and groaned. Tiny blue paw prints on yellow ground and the red letters “I'm your Furry Friend” gave away the content of this gift.

You look at it as payback for your little stunt,” Janet chuckled next to him.

Or you can thank the colonel and Daniel because they told us you wanted one of these,” Sam said as Daniel opened the box and found a bear inside. The birth certificate said its name was 'Jack junior' and it was filled 'with love by Sam, Cassie and Janet'. It was the same bear he had thought looked a little like Jack when he had seen him at the store. Chocolate brown eyes and soft light brown fur. Butterscotch bear, that's what he was called.

If you don't like it, I’ll take it,” Cassie offered.

Daniel carefully and a little awkwardly held 'Jack junior' in his arms. “I never had a teddy bear,” he said. He felt he was too old for a teddy bear even if he only counted the nine years, but he couldn't deny the warm fuzzies holding 'Jack junior' gave him.

And then Jack carried the bike onto the deck. It had a giant red ribbon around its handlebar.

It was a Schwinn, that Daniel could see right away. And it looked battered and used. He brushed his hands over the frame and felt the paint peel off. The front light was gone and the wheels were old and there wasn't much air in them.

I was going for a brand new cool bike, but Jackson here said that's not what you were looking for. So this comes with a load of work,” Jack said. “But once we're done with it, it'll be the coolest bike in the neighborhood.”

I love it,” Daniel whispered. “Thank you, thank you, Jack! Daniel... all of you...” He pulled off the ribbon and found a rubber horn. Not being able to resist, he squeezed it and it honked obediently, making everyone laugh. “It's perfect!”

***

Daniel watched LD examine his new bike and smiled at how excited and happy he was. Forgotten were the few moments of uneasiness of being the center of attention. At least that's what it looked like. Good for the kid.

Enjoying the party?” Fergus' low voice made him turn and look at his friend.

Yes, actually, I am,” Daniel said honestly. It had been fun to watch the kid reunite with Skaara and Kasuf and unpack his gifts. And of course he was more than a little happy to see his Abydonian family himself.

Yer wife's father and brother are very nice,” Fergus said. “Where were they frae again?”

Egypt,” Daniel said. That's what they had agreed on telling Fergus and Pete once Hammond had approved of bringing them to Earth.

Ye never told me yer were married.” Fergus tried to hide it, but there was a hint of resentfulness in his voice.

I don't talk much about it, it's very personal,” Daniel said quietly. They walked away from the others who were still gathered around LD and his bike.

What happened tae her?”

She died.”

Fergus let out a slow breath. “Damn, I'm awfy sorry, Daniel, I had no idea...”

You couldn't have known. It's okay,” Daniel hastened to say. His mouth tightened into a hard line. “It happened a long time ago.”

Been married once, too. Didnea work out,” Fergus eyed the can of Skull Splitter in his hand and took a sip.

Fergus had a daughter who was living in Scotland. He knew Fergus missed her, they had talked about the young woman once or twice. She was a history teacher in Edinburgh.

Ye know, when yer relatives showed up, I suddenly realized there's nae much I know about ye.”

I'm kinda boring.” Daniel shrugged and took a sip from his glass of wine. “Not much to talk about.” It probably was the understatement of the year, but there was no way he could share any of his work or the things he had encountered, with Fergus.

Ye work fae the military, which is unusual fae an archaeologist. An' yer must have lived in Egypt at one point, hence yer wife. I would nae call that boring,” Fergus said. “Then there's yer wee nephew who should live with ye, but lives with Maister Military instead. I dinnae get that. Why doesn't the wee scallywag live with ye? Yer family.”

Daniel winced. He had avoided the subject of LD as best as possible around Fergus so far. The official cover story was that LD was his nephew. Fergus had wondered why they were sharing the same name and Daniel had told him LD's parents had had a weird sense of humor. Once they had found out the kid would share his birthday with his uncle they had wanted to name him Daniel, too.

It's kinda complicated,” Daniel said bracing himself for more questions. “I was missing in the field for a while. On a... dig. His parents are dead, so Daniel went to live with Jack.”

But now yer back.”

My work schedule is too tight to take care of him. Look,” Daniel turned to gaze at Fergus. The candles were reflecting in his dark eyes. “I don't mean to be secretive or arrogant, but this is really...”

Very personal, aye. I understand,” his neighbor said quietly. “It's fine. I was just curious.”

Thanks. I appreciate it,” Daniel said with relief.

Part of the reason he enjoyed spending time with Fergus was that the other guy didn't know a thing about Daniel's complicated existence in this time line, or anything else about his life aside from the few things he was willing to share. There was no history between them, no layers of unresolved emotions. Fergus didn't know about Oma, Anubis or the Stargate. He was just a normal guy who loved Scottish history, good food and beer and who didn't expect anything from Daniel but good company. Being with Fergus was relaxing and it took Daniel's mind off the future and his confusing feelings for Jack.

Mistletoe dreams. Right.

At the same time it was hard to always avoid questions when they arose or tell lies about where he came from and what he did for a living. It was a mixed blessing all the way around to have a friend who wasn't in on all the big secrets.

And what if this friendship evolved into something else? Would it be more of a blessing or more of a curse? It meant commitment. And it would make trying to balance out the truth and the make-up parts of his life even harder.

Ye sure ye dinnae want ter go out with me?”

Daniel gazed into his wine glass, swirling the dark liquid in it. “You know...” he began, but was interrupted by Sam who put her arm around his shoulders and, with an apologetic look at Fergus, led him away.

Do you have a moment?” she sounded desperate, almost panicked as she dragged him across the lawn to a spot where the candlelight didn't reach.

Sam? Are you all right?”

No, no, … yes, I don't know. It's just...” He couldn't make out her expression in the dark, but she sounded confused and maybe she was a bit tipsy, but not much.

He took her hand. “Sam?”

It's Pete,” she said with a sigh. “He just asked me if I want him to move here.”

Here as in... to Colorado Springs, or here as in to move in with you?”

He could get a job at the Spring's Police department next month and he says he could buy a house and settle down here. To be close to me.”

But Sam, that's great,” Daniel encouraged her, then frowned. “Unless you don't want that of course.”

That's just it, Daniel. I don't know. Maybe it's too much too soon.” She let out a helpless little laugh and pulled her hand away from his. Crossing her arms she leaned against a tree. “There's so much I can't tell him. And... I don't know if I can live like that.”

Do you love him? I mean, do you know if you might actually be... in love with him?”

No one has ever made the effort to move house or change his job to be with me. It's kind of mind boggling. He's a great guy, good looking, charming, not a jerk in any way...”

But?”

But, but... there is no but. It seems too good to be true.” He could see her biting her lip in frustration. Finally she said. “What if something happens to him. He's not in the same line of work as Martouf or Narim. He's not an ambassador like Joe Faxon..., but he's a cop. What if the Carter curse hits him, too?”

There's no Carter curse,” Daniel said firmly. “Don't even believe that for a second. I thought there was a Jackson curse since all my partners and families seemed to get snaked or killed, but it's not true either. We just use it as a smokescreen so we don't have to make new commitments and risk getting hurt again.” It's what he had realized when he had gotten together with Jack all those years ago.

And what about the things I can never tell him? He says he understands the concept of classified, but how long will he put up with me being gone for days, sometimes weeks in a row? How long will he put up with not knowing where I am and whether or not I'll return home safe? He's not buying the space telemetry story at all.”

Daniel had to smile seeing how he had just been contemplating the same thoughts. He had no advice for this problem though. “I don't know,” he said softly. “But if you feel like Pete's the one for you, then it's probably worth the effort to try and work it out.”

The question was, if Fergus was worth it, too. And then again if he kept declining his invitation to a date, Daniel would never find out, right?

And it would be nice to have a partner again. Someone he could take to museums and exhibitions when he had the time. Someone to spend the weekends with. Yes, he did spend time with SG-1 and even with Jack and LD outside of work, but that was different. Spending time with Jack was... difficult at times. They were relaxed now, almost back to being friends as they used to be before they’d become lovers. But there was still an underlying sexual tension neither one of them could deny.

Hell, Jack was jealous of Fergus even now only because Daniel had given the man his keys and asked him to feed his fish.

But Daniel missed having a partner. And yes, he missed having sex, too. It had been fine as long as there just wasn't anyone he was interested in, nor was he looking for one night stands or short lived relationships. But Fergus was right there, offering and sensible enough to keep asking without being too annoying. He was nicely built, too, had the same interests as Daniel and even more so he wouldn't roll his eyes or pretend not to understand a word when they discussed history or any of the subjects Jack used to zone out on after five minutes.

Daniel?” Sam touched his arm. “Are you okay?”

What? Oh, yes, sure. Sorry, just thinking.”

Thanks for listening. I feel better already. Oh, they turned the music back on. Want to dance?”

Dance? She must be tipsy, Daniel decided, but in a spur of the moment he swept her into his arms and they danced on the lawn to an old Abba song until there was a pat on his shoulder and Pete swept her away just as the music changed to something slow.

Smiling to himself, Daniel went into the house to find Fergus.

***

Jack left the bathroom and sauntered into the kitchen to grab another beer. When he crossed the living room, he heard muffled voices from Jackson's office. The door was ajar and he could make out Jackson saying, ...been thinking about this for a while now.”

I dinnea mean ter rush ye.”

I know that.”

Jack wouldn't eavesdrop on Jackson and Highlander guy. He would walk straight out the door and join the party fun.

Instead he edged closer without making a single sound. Sneaking up on people was part of his day job.

It's just dinner, Daniel. Does nae have tae be mair than that.”

Jack reached out and pressed his fingertips gently against the door ready to barge in and give Scotty a piece of his mind. How dare he...

So, the answer is yes. We can go out. But dinner only. I need to take this slow,” Jackson said quietly.

Jack froze, hand hovering in the air.

We'll take it as slow as ye like. Yer calling the shots,” Fergus's low voice rumbled.

Yes. I am.” Daniel sounded serious and soft at the same time.

There was electric silence and Jack didn't want to know what they were doing in there, but his fingers started to tremble just so and the door swung open...

Fergus was probably as tall as Teal'c, give or take a couple of inches. Jackson's head was tilted and his eyes halfway closed as they lip locked. Fergus's hands were on Jackson's jean-covered ass.

Jack bit his tongue in his struggle not to yell. It took all his willpower to retreat. To not storm in there and beat the crap out of Mister fucking fish feeding Highlander.

Bastard.

When the red haze of rage lifted Jack found himself in the kitchen. Leaning his forehead against the cool fridge he slowly forced himself to relax.

He had to get out of here. ASAP. Before he hurt someone. Before he did something utterly stupid and claimed Jackson for himself in front of everyone.

He ripped the fridge door open and blindly grabbed for a beer. What he was holding in his hand was a can of Skull Splitter. He stared at the ridiculous warrior picture on the front and with a snarl threw it back into the fridge.

Jack!” There was little Daniel all smiles and sparkling blue eyes skidding to a halt in front of him. “Sam and Pete are dancing on the lawn. I had no idea Sam could dance that good!”

Great. Fergus and your adult self are sucking each other s tonsils out in the office. Had no idea Jackson had a thing for bald guys, Jack thought acidly. But he managed to school his features and even attempted to smile. “That's nice, kiddo.”

Out of the blue Jack was hugged tightly around the middle. “I never thought I'd like having a party that much,” Daniel mumbled as Jack automatically hugged him back. “Thank you.”

Closing his eyes he swallowed down the bile that was rising in his throat.

He wasn't going to ruin Daniel's party. He wasn't drunk enough to blame it on the beer if he pulled a foolish stunt now, or left without an explanation. For once his kid was too busy enjoying himself to pick up on Jack's mood and he was determined to keep it that way. Gently pushing Daniel away he grabbed another beer. “C'mon. I gotta see Carter dance.”

They exited the house through the French doors and were greeted by the sight of several dancing pairs. Skaara looked slightly desperate as Cassie tried to show him how to move to the music. General Hammond gracefully danced with Janet Fraiser and Sam and Pete were apparently trying to melt into one another. Carter had pulled off her high heels, they lay abandoned on the deck.

Daniel nudged Jack and they shared a grin over Kasuf, who had fallen asleep on the canopy swing and was snoring softly. Jack suspected the swing had been contributed by Fergus, just like the deck table.

Speaking of which... There they left the house looking like nothing had happened. Jack took pride in the fact that he restrained himself from snapping Fergus's thick neck.

Hey, having a good time?” Jackson asked his little self.

Yes. I'm enjoying every moment of it.” Daniel turned to Jack. “He wants to have the piano.”

Good for him,” Jack said.

Carter and Shanahan had moved out of the lantern light and were probably necking somewhere undisturbed. Well, here was one happy ending. Jack had decided he liked the man. Pete understood the art of barbecue, liked the same hockey teams as Jack and was a cop. Plus, he really seemed to be serious about Carter. There was this look in his eyes whenever he gazed at Jack's former 2IC that said more than words. Jack wondered if Pete the cop could deal with Carter's work schedule and the classified stuff. But Sara had been able to deal with it, so this guy could probably handle it, too.

He wished them luck.

And if that guy ever hurt Carter, Jack would hunt him down and kill him with a spoon.

Can Al help fix the bike?” Daniel asked.

If he wants to, sure.”

I'll ask him next week,” Daniel said.

You do that.”

I'm glad we did the party. If this is my last birthday as a kid, then at least I had a party once. And even if I can't remember it when I'm big, Janet took a lot of pics so I can look at them.”

Yeah.” He gently ruffled the silky blond hair. “And if you're still little next year, you want another party?”

Daniel looked up at him a little smile on his face. “You know, I think I do.”

It's a deal then.” Maybe they could have that party off world and even invite Fergus. Then they could accidentally leave him with the giant aliens or stick him into a black hole. Jack was glad it was dark because he was sure his smile was forced and brittle. Unnoticed by LD, he gave Jackson a glare, but wasn't able to see the other man's eyes in the semi darkness. Jack wanted him to know that he knew. Most of all he wanted Highlander guy to back off and keep his hands to himself. Among other things.

I'm gonna bring Kasuf a pillow.” LD wedged himself between Fergus and Jackson and slipped through the open door into the house.

I'll get myself another beer. Daniel?”

Jackson shook his head and watched Fergus leave. When it was just him and Jack, a heavy silence settled over them. Jack leaned against a wooden post and pretended to watch Skaara dancing with Janet now while Cassie was sitting at the table chatting to Walter and General Hammond. Carter and Shanahan were still AWOL.

LD is right. It's a great party.”

Oh, I bet it is. “Glad you're happy.”

I saw you, Jack,” Jackson said quietly. “I don't think Fergus did. But I saw you standing there.”

Huh. Looked like Jackson hadn't been too absorbed in that kiss then. “Need to work on my Special Ops skills, eh?”

I'm sorry,” Jackson murmured.

Jack grimaced. “It's none of my business. We broke up in Minnesota.”

Jack...”

Hey, if he floats your boat, fine. I don't care.”

Like hell you don't.” With one quick step Jackson was in his face. “Look, I appreciate you didn't kill him. I'm asking you to keep it that way.”

Jack snorted. “I'm not going to ruin my kid's party. Believe it or not, I can do civilized.”

Jackson closed his eyes in frustration for a moment. Jack assumed he was trying to stay calm. When he spoke again he sounded indeed calm, but his voice was as sharp as splintered glass. “You’re right, Jack. We did break up in Minnesota and agreed that it's for the best. I didn't plan for this to happen tonight, but maybe the time is right. If you want to talk tomorrow...”

No.” What was there to talk about? Jackson wasn't Jack's. Not anymore. Not in a very long time.

Jack... when Daniel and I were at that storage room I realized I got my life back. My past. It's hard to explain, but I also realized there might be a future for me in it somewhere. And while I appreciate getting the piano back and the pictures of my parents, I also have to move on. Move forward. And we both know it can't be with you.”

Jack heard what Jackson was saying. Once the kid was re-sized they'd all get hurt in the process of figuring out who belonged to whom if Jack started something with the current BD now. It was exactly what he was trying to avoid.

Crap.

So what is he? A substitute? You think that's fair to him?” Jack hated how cold his voice was, but he couldn't help it.

No. But I have to try living my life.”

You can live your life just fine without him,” Jack snarled. “I'm single. It's doable.”

Maybe I'm tired of being alone.”

You're not alone, Ja... Daniel. You have family.”

And will you still be part of this family even if I decide to be with Fergus?” Jackson's voice was soft again now. “I need to know, Jack.”

They stood in the warm summer night oblivious to everyone else enjoying the dance or the leftover food. Jack felt old and tired. He wanted to get a hell of a lot more drunk and then go home and sleep it off.

Jack?” BD didn't sound needy, but there was a tinge of something in his voice. Maybe hope or uncertainty.

Jack wasn't sure. All he knew was that he didn't have an answer for his ex-lover right now. Neither did he feel like being the good, understanding selfless guy. Even knowing he was being an ass and irrational, Jack wanted to yell and smash something or someone against the wall. Curling his lips inward, he gave a one shoulder shrug. “I better have a beer with Hammond. Didn't talk to him much tonight.”

Great party, yep , he thought as he slid into a chair next to the general.

Jack,” Hammond smiled. “Having a good time?”

Oh yeah, sir, having the time of my life.”

Epilogue

Daniel, turn the radio off,” Jack growled as they were driving over to Jackson’s for a post-party breakfast.

It's not my fault you're hung over,” Daniel teased.

Well, it'll be your fault if we have an accident because the thump-thump-thump of this sorry excuse for music is driving me crazy. Turn it off, please.” Jack didn't dare to roll his eyes behind his shades, knowing it would hurt. He reached out and turned the radio off himself when Daniel said, “You should've left the Skull Splitter alone.”

Yes, he should have. But once the night had been ruined anyway, Hammond had convinced him Skull Splitter was the choice of beer and Highlander guy had smirked and said not everyone had the stomach for real ale.

And Jack had thought, 'Real ale my ass' and had downed not one or two but three of those cans. It had been Teal'c who drove them home because Jack didn't want to leave his truck at Jackson's. The big guy had taken a cab from Jack's place then. At least Jack's memory wasn't sketchy. And he knew he hadn’t screwed up or thrown up last night either.

The waking up part was what was giving him hell. And the not sketchy memory, actually.

We can try country or classic,” Daniel said, being 'supportive', fingers twitching towards the radio again.

Knock it off, Daniel, or I'll pull over and you're going into the backseat.” Why, of all times, did the kid decide to let his inner brat out now?

I'm just kidding,” Daniel said a little more subdued. “Sorry. I didn't realize you're feeling that bad.”

Cursing a blue streak inwardly – and even that made his head hurt – Jack sighed. It wasn't Daniel's fault he’d had too much beer last night. Nor was it Daniel's fault that his adult self decided to 'move on' with his life with Fergus. Right now Jack would have preferred to stay home and not see either one of the two again for a while. But Skaara and Kasuf had actually stayed the night at Jackson's place and Jack knew the kid wanted to say good-bye and everyone was expecting them.

We could turn back and stay home,” Daniel offered now, apparently trying not to sound disappointed. “So you could sleep it off.”

It's okay. I'll live,” Jack said, trying out a careful smile that wouldn't make his hair hurt.

I didn't even realize you were that drunk,” Daniel went on. “You seemed perfectly normal to me when Teal'c drove us home.”

It's all Special Ops training.”

Har-har. Are you sure you're okay?”

Nope, not at all. “Yeah, don't worry. Do you remember hangovers?”

Daniel thought for a moment than nodded. “I remember being sick in the mornings and throwing up sometimes.” He grimaced. “I couldn't mix beer and wine.”

And jell-o shots. You definitely couldn't stomach those.” Jell-o shots with vodka was something they had tried at O'Malley's once or twice. It hadn’t gone over well. Except for Carter and Fraiser, who both preferred the blue ones and didn't seem to have any trouble slugging them down and still appear bushy tailed at work the next day. Teal'c didn't count as he’d never had alcohol until he got rid of junior.

Ewww,” Daniel groused. “Don't remind me.”

Everyone was already out on the deck, eating from the leftovers and drinking gallons of coffee when they arrived. Jack eyed his friends and colleagues and, to his relief, didn't see Fergus among them. Jackson shoved a steaming mug of coffee into his hand as soon as they had said 'hi' to everyone and LD was engaged in an animated conversation with his brother in law. “I want to talk to you.”

I don't,” Jack muttered.

Listen,” Jackson hissed stepping into Jack's personal space so nobody else could hear them. “The sooner we have this out of the way the better.”

I told ya, there's nothing to talk about. You want my blessing? Forget it. But it's your life, and your business,” Jack said harshly, keeping his voice down, too. He wasn't going to discuss anything that personal while the house was full of people. Especially not with the kid in ear shot.

My office. Now.” Jackson gave him another blazing glare and spun around leaving Jack in his wake.

Son of a bitch,” he said with feeling, but followed suit.

He slammed the door shut behind him, wincing at the sound, and put his coffee on the desk. Jackson was standing by the window, staring out into the too bright summer morning. “I'm sorry for what happened last night,” he said stiffly.

Jack kept silent and leaned against the closed door crossing his arms.

It wasn't meant to be like that and you certainly weren't meant to see us.”

Well, it happened, I saw. Nothing's gonna change that now.”

No. So we have to live with it, right?” Jackson sounded strained. “And in order to do so we have to… talk about it.”

Why are you sorry anyway? You seemed to enjoy Fergus sucking your tongue out.”

I'm sorry because I know you're hurt. And mad. And I know you're an asshole right now because it's what you do when you suffer. I never intended to hurt you. It's just a date, Jack. It's not...” He finally had the grace to turn and look at Jack across the room. “It's not a relationship yet. We're testing the water, nothing more.”

Ah. And that's supposed to make me feel better... how?”

It won't. But...”

And when did you intend to let me know anyway?” Jack asked, his jaw twitching with suppressed anger.

As soon as I know where I stand with Fergus. I wasn't going to keep this a secret.”

So explain this to me, Daniel... what is it you're doing? Experimenting to find out if there's someone better than me?” Jack bit his lip hard and jerked his eyes away from Jackson. “Crap. I...” He had been out of line to begin with. But now he expected Jackson to explode right in his face. Pulling his sun glasses off Jack rubbed his tired eyes. “Look, I...”

Adult Daniel held up a hand to silence him and Jack snapped his mouth shut.

Yes,” BD said softly. “I think that's what I'm doing. Trying to see if I can be with someone else. If I can...“

Let go,” Jack said, defeated, all the anger disappearing. He had no right whatsoever to claim this Daniel as his. He had known right from the start it would be dangerous to let the guy from the future in and be part of his life so much. But they had broken up, had ended their non-relationship in order to stay friends.

Only now it was all going to hell in a hand basket. Because Jack didn't want to see Jackson with Fergus. Or any other guy or woman for that matter. Jack wanted Jackson to... he wanted him. Period. In more ways than he could think of.

And he couldn't have him.

Yes. Letting go of the past. Do you want to explain to LD why we're no longer friends? Do you really want to put him through that? Do you want us to stop being friends? Because I don't. I know it's hard, but there's a hell of a lot more to us than being lovers or ex-lovers and you know that,” Jackson said fiercely.

You know damn well it's not working,” Jack said, trying to hold on to his rage and jealousy while all he felt was numbness. “Neither one of us is able to let go. Not really. There's too much stuff.”

We made it work all this time. The friendship thing,” Jackson replied, but he wasn't looking Jack in the eye. “If we try hard enough we'll get over this... stuff. When LD is big again and the two of you decide you can't be together anymore... maybe... .”

Oh, and then you'll tell Fergie good-bye? Just like that?” Jack asked sarcastically.

I don't even know if I'll be with him by that time. I told you, we are just at the beginning. Thank you, by the way, for ruining the afterglow of my first real kiss in years. You kissing me under the influence of the flowers in Honduras doesn't count.”

You're welcome. Why doesn't it count? It was a good kiss.”

Jack...”

Daniel.”

They fell silent for a moment and Jack wanted a Tylenol and a wall to bang his head on.

So?” Jackson finally asked giving Jack a quizzical look.

So...” Jack knew this was a fight he couldn't win. Either way he'd end up feeling like crap. However, he could hope Fergus wasn't the real deal and Jackson would return to being single and contend with it. “Don't ask me to make him my buddy,” Jack warned. ”Don't ever ask me to include him in team nights.”

I won't.”

If he moves in with you I don't wanna know.”

Jack, we're having our very first date next week. Nobody is going to move in with me any time soon.”

Aht! I don't wanna hear a thing about it. But if I ever find out he's hurting you in any way, he's a dead man. It's simple.”

Even a spoon would be way too merciful a weapon to kill Fergus.

For a moment Jackson looked as if he was going to be mad because Jack was patronizing him. Then a small smile crossed his face and he nodded. “I can probably live with that.”

Jack pushed off the wall and took his coffee mug. “I need something for my head.”

Bathroom. Tylenol is in the cabinet over the sink. You shouldn't have tried the Skull Splitter.”

He challenged me.”

And if he throws down the gauntlet to duel you for my undying love you'll do that, too?”

Jack flipped Jackson the bird before he went to the bathroom.

But yeah, he probably would.