Daniel had decided that he liked Jack. The man was really funny and played games with him while Kathleen fixed dinner. He didn't act nearly as much like a grown-up as the other adults Daniel had met.
Quentin had gone to the grocery store to get some things his wife needed for the meal. When he got back, he found Daniel and Jack in the midst of a game of chess. Jack was staring down at the board with a frown as the boy watched him. The teacher studied the board and smiled. He knew from Jacob that Danny definitely had skill, and it was not hard to see that Jack was going to have a battle on his hands.
Chuckling on the inside, Quentin went into the kitchen with the grocery bags.
"How's it going out there?" Kathleen asked as her husband emptied the grocery bag.
"Good. Daniel's busy beating your cousin at chess."
Kathleen looked at him. "He is?"
"Well, I can't say I'm sure that Daniel will win, but if Jack wins, it won't be an easy victory."
"I wonder when Daniel's parents began teaching him how to play."
Quentin grinned. "In the cradle perhaps."
When the teacher came back out into the living room, it was Daniel who was making a move and Jack who was doing the watching. Once the boy's move was completed, Jack stared at the board. He then looked at Quentin.
"You knew that he's some kind of junior chess champion, didn't you," he said accusingly.
"No, I'm not," Daniel responded. "My dad taught me."
Jack studied him. "Since what age?"
"Five, but I didn't beat him in any games until I was seven."
"Ah, slow learner, huh?" Jack said sarcastically.
Quentin let out a little snort of laughter. Seeing the confused look on Daniel's face, he said, "Jack didn't really mean that, Daniel. He was being sarcastic. Do you know what sarcasm is?"
Daniel nodded. "I think so. Dad once said something to someone that Mom said was sarcasm. She told me what it meant."
"Well, Jack's sarcasm was because he didn't realize that you're so good at chess."
"Oh. I'm not really all that good. I only beat my dad sometimes."
"Yes, and he was probably a grand master," Jack muttered, though there was a little twinkle in his eyes. He pointed a finger at the boy. "Just don't think you've got me beat yet."
"I won't," the boy responded.
The game was still going on when dinnertime came. Daniel and Jack left the board and helped set the table.
When Daniel took his first bite of the turkey and mash potatoes casserole, he understood why his teacher had said he couldn't get enough of it.
"This is really good, Mrs. Greer," Daniel said.
Pleased by the compliment, Kathleen smiled. "Thank you, Daniel. I'm glad you like it."
Quentin took a couple bites of his own. "So, how are things going at the Academy, Jack?" he asked.
"Oh, not bad. The class load is still brutal, though, and I really miss not having the summers off."
"You don't get a summer vacation?" Kathleen questioned.
"No, we're out doing training during the summer. Actually, I like that part better than the academics."
"What are you talking about?" Daniel asked. "What academy?"
"The Air Force Academy."
Daniel's expression brightened. "You're in the Air Force?"
"Well, I'm just a cadet right now, but, once I graduate, I will be an Air Force lieutenant."
"Captain Carter is in the Air Force."
"He's my best friend's dad."
"He's stationed at Griffiss," Quentin explained.
"Where's the Air Force Academy?" Daniel asked.
"In Colorado," Jack replied, "Colorado Springs, to be exact."
"I've never been to Colorado."
"Well, you'll have to go there someday. Pretty country, although I still prefer Minnesota. That's where I grew up. Land of the loons."
"A bird that makes this really cool, almost spooky sound."
"Are you going to be visiting your parents for Christmas?" Kathleen asked her cousin.
"That's the plan."
The conversation continued, eventually returning to Jack's studies. He mentioned that he was attempting to learn Spanish.
"I know Spanish," Daniel announced.
Jack smiled. "You do?"
"Uh huh. Mom taught it to me before we went to visit Nick on a dig in Central America."
"Daniel's parents were archeologists," Quentin explained.
A moment of complete silence descended on the room. Jack watched the face of the little boy across from him fill with sorrow, his gaze dropping to the tabletop.
"Daniel lost his parents a few months ago," Kathleen said softly.
Feeling genuinely sorry for the child, Jack said, "I'm sorry, Daniel." There was another moment of silence, then he asked, "Who's Nick?"
Quentin frowned. "Daniel's grandfather."
"Daniel calls his grandfather by his name?"
"Nick doesn't like to be called Grandpa," Daniel explained quietly.
That made Jack frown as well. "Sounds like a real charming fellow. So, do you live with him now?"
Daniel shook his head. "He's in Belize."
"Daniel is in foster care," Kathleen told her cousin.
Jack's frown deepened. Why was the kid in foster care? Shouldn't his grandfather be taking care of him instead of being off in a foreign country? Weren't there any other relatives?
Quentin decided that the subject really needed to be changed.
"What Daniel didn't tell you is that Spanish is only one of the languages he speaks. He's actually a very gifted linguist."
"Really?" Jack responded. "That's pretty cool. I'd probably pay a lot to have his talent every time I try to learn a sentence in Spanish. It's those rolling R's that I have the most trouble with. My tongue just doesn't want to move that fast. It gets all tuckered out." He turned to Daniel. "I bet your tongue never gets tired."
The boy shook his head.
"Hmm." Jack stood up and leaned over the table. He gently took Daniel's chin between his thumb and forefinger. "Okay, open up. Let me see what a super-powered tongue looks like."
Surprised by the man's action, Daniel hesitated.
"Well, come on. I'm doing scientific research here," Jack said. "I might write a paper on it for school."
Still hesitant, Daniel opened his mouth, and Jack made a big show of studying the boy's tongue.
"Yes, I do believe I see something," Jack said. "Stick it out please." Daniel complied, and Jack adopted an expression of intense concentration. "Yes, I was right. Not your average tongue there. And . . . whoa, wait a minute." He bent down further, peering into the back of Daniel's mouth. "Ah ha! I knew it! There's a spare power source back there, a backup generator." He released Daniel's chin and stood up straight, hands on hips. "Okay, tell me where you got it," he commanded firmly.
"I didn't get it anywhere," Daniel replied, trying not to giggle.
"Oh, don't give me that. That generator didn't get in there all by itself. Where did you get it? Tongues-R-Us?"
Daniel couldn't stop the giggle this time, but said nothing.
Jack sat down in a huff. "Fine. Keep your secrets. I'll just have to go find one for myself. Then I'll be rolling my R's with the best of them."
Quentin and Kathleen smiled at the exchange. Though the teacher had some issues with Jack's acts of irresponsibility in the past, the young man had just gone out of his way to cheer Daniel up, which definitely scored him some points in Quentin's books.
Once everyone was finished eating, the table was cleared, then they all went to the living room, where Daniel and Jack resumed their game. Less than an hour later, Daniel put Jack in check.
Quentin grinned. "You might as well give up now, Jack. He's got you beat."
"No way! They don't train quitters at the Air Force Academy. I'm going down fighting!"
He went down fighting fifteen minutes later.
"The next time I come here for a visit, I want a rematch," Jack told the winner.
Daniel smiled. "Okay. When will you come again?"
"Oh, that's tough to say. I'll be graduating next year. I'm pretty sure I'll be getting one of the pilot slots, so I'll then be going on to pilot training. After that, who knows where I'll end up." He smiled at Kathleen. "But I always try to visit Kitty Kat every couple of years or so."
"How come you call her that?"
"Oh, don't get him started on that," Kathleen said.
Jack ignored her and grinned. "Well, it all started back when I was just a couple of years older than you. Kathleen here was a young college graduate with a nice little apartment. She always was the soft-hearted type, so when this stray cat followed her home one day, she decided to feed it. Well, quite naturally, the cat assumed that if she fed it once, she'd just keep right on doing so, so it kept showing up on her doorstep, meowing for food. I bet you can guess what Kathleen did."
"She fed it again."
"Yep. It wasn't long before that mangy stray cat was getting rather chubby and spending more time in Kathleen's apartment than out on the street. Well, one day, much to Kathleen's dismay, she discovered that not all the weight on that cat was because it was being overfed."
Daniel smiled brightly. "It was pregnant!"
"Right again. Five little baby kittens got popped out in Kathleen's laundry basket, all over her nice clean towels. So, suddenly, she had not one cat but six! Once those kittens were old enough, they were running all over the place. Kathleen's nickname had always been Kat, so it was only natural for ten-year-old me to start calling her Kitty Kat once I saw her with all those felines."
"Yes, and he called me that so many times the first year that he's lucky I didn't smother him and toss is body in the river," Kathleen said.
"That's a great story," said Daniel. "When I was littler, I saw a camel being born."
Jack looked at him. "A camel? Where was that?"
"Wow. Egypt, huh. It sounds like you did a lot of traveling."
Jack's remark led to him being told all about Daniel's life with his archeologist parents, which, in turn, led to Daniel revealing to the young man a portion of his staggering knowledge of history, cultures and mythology. Almost every time Quentin looked at his wife's cousin, Jack had sort of a glazed, stupefied look on his face.
"Okay, that is just unnatural," the cadet said in the kitchen a while later as he and Quentin got some beer. "How can an eight-year-old have that much crammed into his head? When I was eight, mostly all I thought about was playing and going fishing with my dad."
Quentin gave a little chuckle. "Well, Daniel's not your ordinary child. He was recently given an I.Q. test, and he scored quite high, well into the genius range."
"So, what's the whole story with him? What happened to his parents?"
Quentin told Jack the whole tragic story of the death of the Jacksons and what Daniel had gone through since then.
Jack let out a soft curse. "The poor kid. By looking at him, I'd never have guessed it."
"Well, he's come a long way during these last couple of months. He's undergoing therapy with a child psychologist now. I've been trying to help him as much as I can." Quentin sighed. "Unfortunately, he's going to be moved out of my class and into the fourth grade after the Christmas break."
Jack frowned. "That's a big jump, isn't it?"
"He would have been put in the fifth grade, if it wasn't for his emotional state."
"Well, he sure is quite the kid."
Quentin smiled softly. "That he is."
The leftover pumpkin pie was served a short while later. As they ate it, Jack got an idea.
"Hey, how about if we all head up to Adirondack tomorrow and have some fun in the snow?" he suggested.
"What's Adirondack?" Danny asked.
"A really huge park. The Adirondack Mountains are there, plus lots and lots of lakes, rivers and streams. Some great fishing up there, although not this time of year."
"That would be fun," Quentin said, "but it's awfully short notice, and it's a pretty long drive."
"Eh, it's not that long. If we got started really early, say around six, we'd get there way early enough to have plenty of time for some great fun. So, what do you say?"
Quentin and Kathleen looked at each other.
"We'd have to call Daniel's foster parents and see if it's all right with them," Quentin stated.
"Well, then go call them."
The teacher looked at Daniel. "Would you like to go, Daniel? It would mean getting up very early and driving for quite a while."
"I don't mind getting up early," the boy replied. "You have to get up early when you're working on a dig."
Quentin smiled. "Well, okay, then. I'll go call your foster parents."
Diane thought it was a marvelous idea. They agreed that it would be best for Daniel to spend the night with the Greers, so Quentin took the boy home to pack some clothes and other necessities.
"Can Sam come, too?" Daniel asked on the way back.
"Oh, I'm sure they're probably off doing stuff with their visiting family," Quentin responded.
"Captain Carter's sister went to Florida, but Mrs. Carter's brother, Aaron, might still be here. Maybe they could all come with us."
"Well, how about if we give them a call when we get back?"
As soon as they returned to the Greer home, the teacher got on the phone, but got no answer at the Carters.
"They could be out for the evening or they might even be gone for the weekend," he said to Daniel. "I'll try again in an hour." He looked at his watch. "We should probably get you to bed. We're going to have to get up very early."
"It's a good thing you have two spare rooms," Jack remarked.
Daniel's stuff was taken into the smaller guest room, and he got ready for bed. He thought about warning the Greers about his nightmares, but he wasn't having them nearly as often now, so he probably wouldn't even have one.
Both Quentin and Kathleen tucked Daniel into bed.
"Sweet dreams," the woman said, giving the boy a kiss on the forehead.
Husband and wife watched the boy as he closed his eyes, then left the room, returning to the living room, where Jack was working on his second beer.
The second call to the Carters also wasn't answered. It was getting too late in the evening to make a third call, so it looked like it would just be the four of them going.
The three adults decided to also turn in early. Wishing his cousin and her husband a good night, Jack retired to his bedroom.
Stepping out of the master bath and into the bedroom, Quentin saw through the open door his wife standing before Daniel's room, gazing inside. There was a sad, wistful look on her face. It was not hard for the man to guess the reason for that look. He walked up to her and wrapped his arms around her from behind, he eyes going to the sleeping child.
"He looks so beautiful lying there," Kathleen said softly.
"Yes, he does."
"I wish. . . ."
Hearing the slight tremor in her voice, Quentin tightened his hold. "I know," he whispered. "Me too."
Kathleen wiped a finger over her eyes, then moved away. "All done in the bathroom?" she asked in a falsely cheerful voice.
Quentin watched her go into the master bedroom and shut the door, then he turned back to Daniel. With a sigh, he closed the door partway and headed off to bed.
It was five a.m. when Daniel was gotten out of bed. The fact that he didn't complain proved that he really was used to be awakened early in the morning. He was disappointed when told that the Carters wouldn't be joining them, but, soon, the excitement of what the day was going to bring brightened his mood.
They managed to get on the road by six. On the long drive, the boy fell back asleep. Fortunately, the road conditions were fair, so they made good time. They stopped and had a quick breakfast at a diner, where Daniel got a big stack of blueberry pancakes, which his adult traveling companions enjoyed watching him eat.
At last they reached the park and headed for an area where they could do some tobogganing.
Daniel watched with excitement as the two toboggans were untied from the car's roof.
"So, you ready for a toboggan right, Danny?" Jack asked.
"Yeah! Are we going to go all the way to the top of the hill?"
"How about if try halfway up the hill first?" Quentin suggested.
With Jack pulling one toboggan and Quentin the other, they all made their way up the hill. They found a spot that was a bit more level and stopped.
"Okay, Daniel, how about if you ride with Jack?" the teacher suggested.
As Jack and Daniel got on one toboggan, the Greers got on the other one. Jack put his arms around the boy, holding him close.
"You ready?" he asked.
"Okay. Hold on tight. Here we go!"
Jack pushed them off, and they went shooting down the hillside, Daniel laughing all the way down. As soon as they'd reached the bottom and come to a stop, they got the toboggan out of the way and watched as Quentin and Kathleen made their rapid descent.
"That was fun!" Daniel cried. "Let's do it again."
They went up a second time, this time going all the way to the top. On the way up, Quentin remarked that it was too bad it wasn't as quick and easy to get up the hill as it was to get down it.
They went up the hill a total of four times before the adults decided it was time to take a break from climbing hills. They went to a place that had sleigh rides.
Daniel looked up at the big draft horses harnessed to the front of the sleigh.
"They don't have horses that big in Egypt," he said.
Quentin smiled. "No, I should imagine that they don't."
Daniel turned to the man who would be their driver. "What's their names?"
The man smiled. "This here is Becky," he said, scratching between the ears of the smaller of the two, "and that's Romulus."
"Like in Romulus and Remus, the twin sons of the god Mars in Roman mythology?"
Surprised, the man looked at him. "Yep, that's right."
Jack stepped up. "Come on, kid. Let's get you in that sleigh before you start spouting off the names of all the gods in Roman mythology."
"I don't know them all," Daniel responded as he climbed into the sleigh.
Not only was the sleigh ride fun for everyone, it also gave Quentin, Kathleen and Jack a chance to rest up for more fun in the snow, which turned out to be a bit of snowshoeing after lunch. It took all of them quite a while to get the hang of walking in the snowshoes, Daniel having the most trouble because of his shorter legs. But, finally, they were off walking through the wilderness of the park, spotting various wildlife. They returned to the rental place an hour later, then decided to go get some hot chocolate and dessert. After that, they found a spot to do some more tobogganing.
On the third trip down the hill, Daniel was with Quentin. They were almost to the bottom when they hit a rough spot, and the toboggan tipped over, dumping them into the snow. They both rolled a few feet, then came to a stop. Daniel's laughter told the teacher that he was all right. He looked over at the snow-covered child.
"This is lots of fun," the boy said with a big grin.
"Yes, it sure is. Of course, it wouldn't be even half as much fun if you weren't with us."
"Mister Greer? How come you don't have any kids?"
Quentin lost his smile. "Um . . . well, we'd like to have one, but . . . we haven't been able to yet."
The teacher paused. He had no idea how much the boy knew about human reproduction.
"That's just the way it is sometimes," he said. "Sometimes, a man and a woman have a harder time making a baby than other people do. But we're still trying, and we hope that, someday, we'll have one." He got to his feet. "Come on. Let's get down the hill."
As they reached the bottom of the hill, Jack came up to them with a smile, pulling their toboggan behind him.
"Lose something?" he said with a smirk.
Daniel grinned. "Did you see us fall off?"
"I sure did. I thought for a second that you were going to roll all the rest of the way down the hill."
"You two all right?" Kathleen asked as she walked up to them.
"Sure, we're fine," Quentin replied. He looked at his watch. "We'll have to be heading home soon. I want to get on the road before dark."
They did one more slide down the hill, then got the toboggans strapped back onto the top of the car.
They chatted all the way home, making one stop to get some dinner.
"That was really fun," Daniel said once they'd gotten back and everything was unpacked from the car. "I wish the Carters could have come. That would have been even more fun."
"Well, you'll have to tell them all about your day when you see them next," Quentin responded. He glanced at the clock. "I need to get you home, Daniel."
They went into the room where the boy had stayed and got his suitcase packed. Back out in the living room, the boy looked at Jack.
"Are you going to be here tomorrow, too?" he asked.
"No, I need to fly back to Colorado tomorrow."
"Oh." Daniel paused, feeling a little sad. He'd really started liking Jack a lot. "Am I going to see you again?"
"Oh, I'm sure you will. The next time I come here, you and I can get together and have some more fun. I'll come in the summer. Then we can go fishing."
"I've never been fishing."
"Ah, well, you haven't lived until you've been fishing."
Daniel hesitated for a long moment, then he stepped up to Jack and gave him a hug. The young cadet hugged him back, tousling his hair.
Jack looked down into the child's clear blue gaze. "You take good care of yourself, okay?"
Daniel gave him a nod, and the two of them separated.
Jack walked with Quentin and Daniel out to the car. He watched the car pull out of the driveway. As it disappeared into the night, some instinct told Jack O'Neill that he would see Daniel Jackson again someday.