Summary: Daniel and Teal'c are separated from the rest of their team. They look for a way back and discover more about each other along the way
Teal'c frowned to himself, unable to meet Daniel Jackson's eyes. "I believe at this point it is customary to engage in sexual intercourse."
The lime green, purple and gold remains of what looked to have been a very small, very tasteless castle reminded Teal'c of the ruins he had seen on Pylaris ninety or so Earth years ago. Of course, they had not been ruins before Apophis showed up; Teal'c had been a lowly Jaffa apprentice then, too inexperienced to send into battle, so he had not seen the buildings pre-ruin as it were. Still, he had been able to piece together what had remained and what had lain shattered with sufficient certainty to determine that the Goa'uld of Pylaris, Min, had absolutely no taste whatsoever. Not unexpected given that Min was the Goa'uld who had looked upon the falcon helmets of the Horus guard, the snake helmets of the Serpent guard, and opted for a large phallus.
In Jaffa culture, penis jokes never got old. Setesh jokes were a poor substitute and apparently did not translate well. Penis jokes were universal.
Teal'c put aside thoughts of phallus-shaped helmets and adopted his most solemn expression. "Colonel Mitchell. I have encountered a building similar to this, the residence of a Goa'uld. It would be wise to approach with caution."
Daniel Jackson quickened his approach towards the building and Teal'c discreetly lengthened his stride to keep up.
The first floor interior of the building looked to be intact, the colors faded but still garish, the structure appearing sound. All over the walls, human figures smiled down at the Earth invaders, painted in primary colors with rosy cheeks and clutching beverages. Colonel Carter went left towards what appeared to be a large pink console while Daniel Jackson went right towards a large pink marble table covered in scrolls.
Colonel Mitchell coughed to let everyone know he was still there and still in charge. "OK, you heard Teal'c. Be careful in case the Goa'uld have left any nasty surprises. Teal'c, you help Jackson with the scrolls. Sam, don't start pressing any buttons or Daniel will yell at you. I'm going to take a look out back, make sure we won't have any surprises. I'll be back in twenty minutes."
Colonel Carter smiled a vague acknowledgement, her attention already wandering to the console.
Daniel Jackson waved a vague hand in Mitchell's direction, distracted by his discoveries. "Any idea what this is?" Daniel held up something flat and square, the size of a credit card. There was a thumb-sized dip in the metal but it appeared to be more for convenience than having any higher purpose.
Teal'c picked up a second card, flipping it over to examine it for distinguishing feature, but there was nothing but smooth metal broken only by a thin red strip down the center. "I have never seen this before."
"Well, the writing looks Goa'uld. Or at least a Goa'uld dialect. Some of the words aren't familiar to me and the structure looks different. Recognize it?" He passed a scroll to Teal'c then picked up another, only to discover a panel beneath with slots. "Oh hello. This looks interesting."
Colonel Carter's head rose, caught by Daniel's tone. "What is it?"
"I think maybe..." He slid the card into a slot and waited.
"Hey, a light just came on over here. Got any more?" Colonel Carter waited expectantly.
Two hopeful gazes turned upon Teal'c. Under such an onslaught of scientific curiosity and big blue eyes he was unable to do anything but comply. He slotted in the card.
"A second light came on - oh! Daniel, a screen just came up! See if there's another card-"
There was a flash of light. There was a familiar zing and whoosh of metal rings descending. There was a muttered, "Oh shit" in Goa'uld.
There was silence - and an empty space where two friends had once stood.
There was the click of a radio. "Colonel Mitchell, you really need to get back here now."
The light was blinding, the feeling of being disassembled and reassembled not quite instant enough to feel comfortable and it was all too familiar. Goa'uld transportation rings. The Goa'uld might be long gone but their technology continued on. Seeing Daniel Jackson remained at his side, Teal'c immediately searched for any potential threat. They appeared to be alone. Satisfied there was no immediate danger, he looked about for the control to the rings that would enable them to return to the complex.
Daniel Jackson, being the man he was, was doing the exact opposite. "Look, more writing on that wall! I think I can make out a few words. Is that saying what I think it says?"
Teal'c looked up from his search and read the sign Daniel indicated. "Begin your journey along the path before you."
"That is correct." Teal'c frowned at what appeared to be their only way out. Behind them and the ring platform were tall walls, several hundred feet high, partially obscured by tall trees and vines. The walls curved inwards overhead, creating an overhang and making it impossible to scale them. In front of them was a brick path Teal'c would never admit to feeling disappointed that the brickwork was blue and not yellow that was surrounded on either side by assorted trees and vegetation. There was a constant background noise of birdsong and whooping. It looked like the set of Tarzan.
Daniel evidently decided to state the obvious. "We're in a jungle."
"It would appear so. I cannot find a way to return through the rings. We appear to have had our weapons removed." Teal'c scowled at the thought of entering potentially hostile territory with nothing but his bare hands to protect Daniel Jackson and defend himself.
"Oh, that's not good. Then I guess we go 'This way' and see where it takes us. Any of this look familiar?"
"It does not."
As they walked, Daniel continued to speculate. "OK. We inserted the cards, we were ringed down here those were definitely Goa'uld rings that transported us, right?"
"Agreed. From the dιcor I suspect the Goa'uld Min may have a hand in this. He was considered an object of ridicule amongst other Goa'uld and Jaffa. There are many jokes on the subject." Teal'c slid a sideways look at Daniel who was listening intently. "I would be happy to share such jokes."
"If we're talking the Ancient Egyptian god Min I think I can guess the subject of those jokes," Daniel said, mouth twitching with amusement.
"He was defeated many generations ago. Perhaps a Goa'uld trick, meant to capture an enemy?"
"You ever heard of anything like this before?"
"I have. There was no control to recall the rings from our destination. There are rings that are to be used in only one direction, connecting to a platform but with no controls. They are usually used for prisons where only the jailer knows of the whereabouts of the exit and knows the code."
"So you think we might have to figure out a password of some kind?"
"It is possible."
Daniel swiped at his face, rubbing at his eyes beneath his glasses. "Well, I guess we'll have to figure something out when we get there."
Daniel looked up from the smooth wall he was examining, which seemed to run the entire length of the enclosure.
"We are indeed closed in," Teal'c observed with no surprise, having already come to that conclusion.
"Okay, so it seems to be a jungle."
Teal'c glared at the abundant jungle greenery with suspicious eyes. "That would appear to be the case upon first sight."
"Or someone's idea of what a jungle should look like. This doesn't seem real somehow. It's a desert planet."
"Indeed. We appear to have been transported to another part of the planet." Teal'c gave one final disapproving glare at a scampering lizard and turned his attention on his companion. "I do not believe that to be the case."
Daniel looked back at the wall once more as if that very act could change its daunting solidity before following Teal'c through the greenery and back onto the path. Investigation had revealed the jungle to be enclosed by the same smooth walls they had encountered at the start of their trek, surprisingly free of vegetation. While the top of them could not be seen clearly due to the vegetation and trees obscuring their view, the sky that was visible when looking up directly from the path had a glassy quality to it, leading them both to suspect they truly were enclosed in an artificial environment. The blue cloudless sky could be seen but the light was too bright given the amount of foliage and no breeze could be felt. The sounds of wildlife were all around yet the only animals they had glimpsed were a few lizards and a single bird, which appeared to be making up for the lack of companions by flying around with the energy of ten. The more they walked, the more the jungle felt fabricated.
"It may be that we are in fact in what you would call a greenhouse," Teal'c speculated.
"Well, at least the walk is pleasant. Radios aren't working but I have a feeling we're not far from Sam and Mitchell. So did we activate the rings with the cards because I'm not seeing anyone around who could have done it." Daniel opened up his water canteen while Teal'c considered the question.
Teal'c looked away from the droplets of water that had escaped to run down Daniel's throat and channeled his sudden need into irritation at the bird in their path. His eyes spat fire and the bird wisely flew off with a screeching cry.
"Are we being followed?"
Teal'c inclined his head a fraction. "I believe so."
"See anyone?" Daniel whispered with what he probably thought was furtiveness.
Knowing Daniel would accept anything he suggested, no matter how ridiculous, Teal'c told him, "The bird ahead of us is known on Chulak as a Ja'c Ja'c."
As if in response, the bird screeched at them both, its harsh jak-jak cry and throaty rattle grating to the ears. Hearing the repeated call with fresh knowledge in mind, Daniel gave a quick grin. "Obvious to see where it got its name."
Teal'c smirked. "I am sure O'Neill would be most appreciative."
"It makes as much noise as Jack - you didn't hear me say that," Daniel warned mildly, smiling at the bird with good humor. "Hi, Jack."
Teal'c's eyes glittered with amusement. "I heard nothing. They are considered annoying pests, delighting in stealing anything that glitters, and have ruined many an ambush or stealthy pursuit with their warning cry. They are most possessive of their territory."
"So what's unusual about this one?" Daniel asked, unwrapping a bag he pulled out of his jacket pocket and waving a piece of apple at the bird. He looked mildly put out when it didn't approach.
"They do not inhabit jungles."
Daniel's eyebrows flew up, something so characteristic of the man that it made Teal'c's stomach tighten. He popped the apple slice in his mouth, offering the bag to Teal'c. "You think the bird is watching us? How intelligent are they?"
"Intelligent enough to follow us and report back to its fellows," Teal'c replied around a piece of apple.
"So you think it's just keeping an eye on us?" Daniel asked, stealing a glance at the bird, which was now making a strange whirring sound.
"Something more." Teal'c approached the bird, which remained still, eyeing him steadily. The whirring noise sharpened then the bird's eyes flashed.
Daniel jumped back in reflex. "Teal'c! Whoa!" He made his way with haste to Teal'c's side, hands reaching for a weapon that was not there. "It's been goa'ulded?"
"I do not believe so. I do not detect the presence of a Goa'uld and the light in its eyes was different. It is not a bird at all but a device for spying upon us."
"You think someone's out there watching us right now?" Daniel sounded uncomfortable with the idea. Teal'c considered Daniel's reaction. Under normal circumstance he would probably have met such a discovery with curiosity and excitement but this entire complex stank of Goa'uld.
"No. This place appears to be abandoned. I believe this is technology that has been left behind and merely continues to function as it was designed. However I would advise caution in the matters we discuss."
"Understood." Daniel relaxed somewhat when Teal'c stepped closer to him, something that caused the peculiar clenching sensation and flooding warmth in his gut that he had been feeling increasingly often since his own absence and subsequent return from Dakara. Fortunately, a distraction appeared on the path in the distance, just visible between the trees and undergrowth.
"There is a building ahead. It appears to be blocking the path."
Teal'c nodded in the direction of what appeared to be a map and a large sign.
"You can read that?"
"I can. It says 'This Way'."
Teal'c smiled. "It says 'Continue on your journey along the path before you.'"
Daniel smiled back. "Then I guess we go that way."
Teal'c's expression became more serious. "Stay close by me Daniel Jackson. There is no telling what dangers and traps may have been set to trap enemies."
"Don't worry, I'm sticking to you like glue."
Teal'c could only wish silently that it was indeed the case.
The lime green, purple and gold exterior paintwork mirrored that of the building from which they had been transported, though here it was, unfortunately, in a better state of repair and therefore more offensive to their eyes. Further observations were halted when soft music began playing at their approach. It sounded suspiciously like muzak. The noisy Ja'c Ja'c flew circles around them, so close that Daniel instinctively flapped a warding hand. There was again the whirring sound and flashing eyes but nothing else and Daniel felt no ill effects.
The building stretched across the narrowing path, effectively blocking their way and leaving them no option but to go in. Inside the building there was an opulent bedroom dominated by a large circular bed and no apparent way out.
"I suggest we enter and see what is inside."
"You don't think it's a trap?" Daniel muttered but he was already entering the building, his attention caught by a brightly painted frieze on the far side of the room.
"It appears we have an audience."
Daniel looked up from the frieze and saw the Ja'c Ja'c had joined them. It was perched on the curved head rail, uncharacteristically silent.
Teal'c regarded it with a venomous look, which Daniel correctly interpreted. "I really think we shouldn't destroy it. We don't know if it has any defense mechanism and you might end up hurt."
Teal'c's expression softened and he relaxed a fraction, hands uncurling.
"Jack! Shoo!" Daniel waved at the bird until it flew away with an outraged screech. "OK. Looking for a way out... I'm not seeing any doors..." He wandered off to check out the walls, searching for clues, occasionally distracted by some interesting ornament or feature.
Teal'c tore his gaze away as Daniel bent over to look for a gap between floor and wall and instead examined the bed. His suspicions as to the function of the place had been growing, half remembered stories about marital ceremonies that had been bandied about by the elders when he and Drey'auc had planned to wed. The feature around and beneath the bed confirmed his theory. "The circular design beneath the bed. Its appearance is very much like that of a ring platform."
Daniel returned to his side, examining the raised platform before nodding his agreement. "I think you're right. Then we have to sit on the bed? Move the bed? Is the bed itself important?"
"I suggest we sit." They sat briefly on the bed until Daniel wondered aloud if the descending rings would cut off their legs, prompting an undignified scramble into the center of the bed. They sat primly, side by side, propped up by fat silk pillows. After a couple of minutes of nothing happening, Teal'c slid lower until he was lying down. Daniel followed suit. They stared up at the high domed ceiling.
"Ah...Teal'c?" Daniel's voice sounded unsteady, disbelief warring with realization.
"Yes, Daniel Jackson?"
"You're seeing what I'm seeing and reaching the same conclusion, right?"
"It would be difficult to reach any other conclusion."
The pictures covering the high ceiling were graphic to say the least. Daniel Jackson was a genius and Teal'c was an expert on the Goa'uld and neither talent was required. In fact, judging by the pictures, all that was required was good eyesight, a willing partner and possibly some specialized bedroom play equipment.
"Um. Teal'c? The pictures... Ah... Are they telling us to do what I think they are? I can't make out the text."
"There is text?" There was then a long silence from Teal'c. He lay staring up towards the ceiling but his eyes were unfocussed as he thought deeply about his response. The pained look on his face was clearly worrying Daniel. He could feel him staring at him, seemingly willing him to reassure him in some way.
Apparently growing impatient with the lack of movement, the Ja'c Ja'c swooped down and perched on the curved head rail. It screamed its displeasure then, bizarrely, began squawking in an unfamiliar Goa'uld dialect.
Teal'c frowned to himself, unable to meet Daniel Jackson's eyes. "I believe at this point it is customary to engage in sexual intercourse.
"Shut up!" Daniel snapped at the bird. He turned wide eyes on Teal'c, looking as thrilled at the prospect as Bambi's mother at an NRA meeting. Teal'c 's impassive face softened. He sighed, his face filled with regret. "I believe a kiss is all that is necessary."
Daniel frowned up at the pictures. "Are you sure? Because those pictures seem to involve a lot more than kissing."
"Please do not press the matter further. I am only..." Teal'c smiled uncertainly, unable to hide an unexpected vulnerability. "I am only Jaffa."
Licking his lips nervously, Daniel asked softly, "Will it be enough?"
Teal'c's face tightened and he hoped his old inscrutable mask had fallen into place. "I fear a kiss will have to be enough, Daniel Jackson."
"I'm really sorry I got you into this mess", Daniel said, words tumbling out, accelerando. "It would probably be easier for you if it had been Sam that -"
Teal'c placed his fingers over Daniel Jackson's lips, silencing him. "Are you ready, Daniel Jackson?" Receiving a nod, Teal'c removed his fingers then moved in slowly to take Daniel's lips in a chaste kiss. As the familiar light and whooshing of rings surrounded them, Teal'c deepened the kiss.
There was a flash of light and the rings descended but for the moment they were too occupied with each other's lips to notice.
"Oh!" Colonel Carter exclaimed at the sudden reappearance of her friends and waited for them to realize they were back.
"Uh, guys?" Eventually she shouted with forceful jollity, "Hey! You're back!"
Daniel was the first to pull away, lips parting noisily with Teal'c's own. "Sam! Uh, we had to kiss. To leave. The kissing was the key. To leaving. There were pictures showing...you don't need to know that. Oh, maybe you do. Um -"
Sam grinned. "You can tell me everything later." She smirked at Teal'c then stared at Daniel with a meaningful lift of arched eyebrows. "I do mean everything."
"It is good to see you again, Colonel Carter." Teal'c nodded at her, his face strangely serious despite her amusement and Daniel's embarrassment.
"Really, the kissing was everything," Daniel attempted to explain, seemingly unaware he was licking his lips.
"Daniel? It's just really really good to have you two back. Let's get Mitchell then go home. He's back at the gate calling for reinforcements for a search and rescue."
As they moved towards the door there was a loud screeching. The Ja'c Ja'c bird appeared near the console, placing its beak inside one of the circular slots. Loud clanking noises followed this action, causing Daniel to tense and Teal'c to step closer to him. There was a sound strangely like the popping of a toaster then the slow slide of what looked like paper scrolling out of a slot at the front of the console.
Daniel headed over and pulled the paper out of the slot. A series of images met his curious gaze, moments captured by the Ja'c Ja'c bird. There was one highly unflattering shot of Teal'c's face close up as he glared at the bird with murder in his eyes. Daniel shivered and passed the pictures over to Teal'c.
"Good thing we didn't have sex then," he said, trying to sound nonchalant.
Behind them both there was a feminine squeak but Jack had caught their attention with a sudden spewing of the old Goa'uld dialect.
Daniel frowned in concentration. "I couldn't make out all of that but I think I caught the gist. Did it just wish us...?"
"...have a nice day," Teal'c completed.
After the green of the jungle and the heat and sand of the desert, it was good to be up in the mountains. Mount Oxford didn't disappoint. Teal'c had filled up the memory card of his digital camera - a gift from Daniel - with pictures of the landscape to show Ry'ac and Bra-tac the next time he paid them a visit. After hours of hiking, Daniel admitted he was envious of how Teal'c made the physical activity seem effortless. Teal'c was aware he had been walking with a swagger ever since, but he told himself he would spar with Bra-tac on his teacher's next visit to teach him some humility. For now, it was pleasant to bask in his friend's admiration.
They set up a small camp near the summit, just off the trail. They had dumped their rucksacks with essential emergency supplies, none of which they had needed with the exception of water. It was a clear July afternoon, the trail this high surprisingly free of hikers though for a moment it had looked as though a herd of mountain goats might join them by accident, until a big male had spotted them and sent the rest of the goats scattering down the mountain side. There were few traces of snow left, the rugged landscape bare and open, refreshing after the heat of the desert planet and strange jungle they had left two days ago.
Daniel munched on a Hershey's 5th Avenue bar. He seemed engrossed in his task, busily licking chocolate and peanut butter flavoring from his lips, but Teal'c could feel him casting furtive glances in his direction.
Teal'c broke the silence but he could not bring himself to introduce the topic that was waiting to be discussed, had been waiting to be discussed since they had arrived back at the SGC. "You enjoy this place, Daniel Jackson?"
"Yes. Yes I do." Daniel looked around, taking in the incredible view. "Before I ascended I felt at home in deserts. After I came back... There's not much I can remember about my ascension but when I'm up here, like this, it's almost as if I can reach out and touch the memories I know are buried. I know what it's like to soar high, to feel weightless, to feel part of everything. It's like I can taste it." He blinked then gave a self-conscious smile. "And there's the great view and the great company and I love to feel the wind on my face. It makes me feel free."
"As do I." Teal'c closed his eyes and soaked up the July sunshine, savoring the crisp air on his skin and the peace being here like this brought him. He knew it would not last but he could enjoy the moment while it did.
"Back on the planet it wasn't 'Have a Nice Day', was it? What did it say?" Daniel asked abruptly.
So it begins, Teal'c thought to himself, aware this was only the beginning of the inevitable interrogation. Daniel Jackson might not be familiar with that particular dialect but he was a man who had mastered many languages. He was also an expert in Teal'c.
"It wished us happiness and many fine sons."
"It was a marital ritual, I got that. I understood the significance of the pictures. They seemed to be indicating we had to perform ...a union which the bird had to record. The kiss was apparently enough to activate the rings, which indicates sexual intercourse wasn't necessary but rather romance, the romance of a kiss. What I don't understand is why, when the rings activated, you kissed me more - ah -"
"I forgot myself and whom I was kissing."
Daniel frowned to himself, clearly mulling over Teal'c's response. He looked oddly disappointed. "Oh. When you said not to press you further about it, I got the feeling there was something not being said. I thought it wouldn't be such a big deal for you and it was wrong for me to make that assumption. Thank you for doing what was necessary. I'm sorry my curiosity got you into that situation. I would never intentionally do something to make you feel uncomfortable, I hope you know that."
Teal'c wondered whether he should regard this as a hopeful sign. He had battled the Goa'uld with less hope in his heart, now was not the time to give up the battle for lost.
"It is I that owes you an apology, Daniel Jackson."
"Why? For kissing me? It's OK. I know it was necessary and you wouldn't have done it unless that was the case."
"No. While we were in that room I almost betrayed our friendship. For a moment I was tempted to let you continue to believe that a more sexual act was required. I fought this temptation but it did exist and it continues to lie within me."
Daniel's open-mouthed shock was not making this any easier. In fact, Daniel's open-mouthed anything had always had the ability to unsettle Teal'c and never more so than now.
"You're saying you wanted to have sex with me?" Daniel asked. His eyes fixed on Teal'c, demanding the truth.
"I did." Teal'c steeled himself then looked Daniel Jackson squarely in the eyes. "I do."
As expected, Daniel looked surprised at this revelation but hope rose within Teal'c when he saw no sign of revulsion in fact, if anything, Daniel looked curious. "Really? Wow. I...I didn't know. I hadn't thought about it before."
"You had not?"
"No. Not until you kissed me. I knew it was just to get us out of there but when the rings activated and you kept on kissing me kissing me more I couldn't help wondering what it would be like." Daniel scratched idly at his cheek, eyes losing focus as he followed his train of thought. "I guess in your culture it's not unusual for men to have sexual relations with other men and sex is no big deal. Here "
"Daniel. When I was first prime if I pleased Apophis he would reward me with whatever I desired within reason."
"I think I know where this is going..." Daniel said with a wry smile.
"I think not." Teal'c smiled back, his expression gentle as he allowed his feelings for Daniel to slip free and show on his face. He suspected he looked ridiculous and what O'Neill would describe as 'goofy' but he could not find it within himself to hold back any longer. "I was rewarded with fertile land in the valley of Tarash and I gave it to Sho'nac because once she had told me she enjoyed the river there. You see this land before us? These mountains? Every mountain, every creature living here. Every tree, every lake could have been mine if I had followed Apophis." He turned to Daniel, his face solemn. "If it were mine to give I would give it to you, Daniel Jackson, because you say you enjoy the wind upon your face."
For a moment, it seemed as though Daniel would remain silent, his face frozen with surprise. Only for a moment. He leaned in, eyes locked with Teal'c's and Teal'c met him with soft lips and gentle hands that held Daniel's face steady as he explored his mouth. Without the distraction of Goa'uld rings and the need to escape, the kiss could be fully appreciated, the soft slide of lips and the slick brush of tongue making heat rush into Teal'c's lower belly and groin. He felt Daniel relax by degrees into the kiss, felt the exact moment when he let go and threw himself into the kiss, meeting passion with passion. There was a lingering trace of chocolate and peanut butter but the longer they kissed, the more Teal'c began to taste the sweetness beneath, the true taste of Daniel Jackson.
Long moments later, Teal'c became aware of stones digging into his back too insistently to ignore. Above him, Daniel sprawled on top of Teal'c's chest. His jacket was hanging on one arm, his sweatshirt and t-shirt bunched up around his armpits. At some point he had lost his glasses. Teal'c took a moment to collect himself, chest heaving as he drew in large lungfuls of air, his fingers restlessly rolling Daniel's nipples without conscious thought. Daniel's attempts to reclaim his mouth were not helping Teal'c's effort at self-control. He held Daniel's face still between his big hands, loving the way his darker skin contrasted with Daniel's flushed cheeks. Despite layers of clothing, he could feel Daniel's arousal clearly, his erection pressing against Teal'c's own. It was beyond anything he had ever hoped for.
"Daniel. This is not the place I would wish to make love to you."
"Mountains. Sky. Nice view," Daniel mumbled against Teal'c's lips, before he took the full lower lip between his own and started nibbling and sucking it as if it was the tastiest treat he'd ever latched on to.
Teal'c swallowed what sounded suspiciously like a whimper.
"People," Teal'c groaned with some desperation, though he was starting to wonder if the possibility of performing for an audience weighed against instant gratification was such a tough choice after all.
It was with mixed feelings that he felt Daniel withdraw and hastily tug his clothes into place
"This isn't finished," Daniel Jackson stated with absolute certainty. He gave Teal'c one last possessive look before we went looking for his glasses.
Teal'c's stifled a needy groan and wondered when a Tau'ri, when anyone, had last made him feel so weak. Strangely and conversely, he felt as if he could take on every remaining Goa'uld.
He suspected taking on Daniel Jackson was going to prove challenging enough.