Summary: Jack and Daniel continue to bond and get to know each other. On this day, it's all about hiding the demons of their pasts and enjoying the fun.
Whistling, Jack entered his house through his unlocked front door, happy to leave the clear but chilly morning behind. His hands were full as he carried two bags of groceries and a six-pack of beer. Using his foot to shove the door closed, he walked down the long front hallway and then took a left turn into his kitchen, heading for the countertop to drop off his groceries.
~Geez, is he still asleep?~ Jack thought, feeling the stillness of the house.
A glance at his watch confirmed to the colonel that it was indeed 1030 hours. To him, that was midday.
~He sure does like to sleep late.~ Not concerned about his friend's sleep-in, Jack put his groceries away and then sat down in his favorite chair in the living room, near the patio doors that led to the backyard. He scooted down until he was staring up at the ceiling. He sat for quite a while, just contemplating life. ~Checkmate!~
The colonel stood and went to the hall closet. Somewhere in there was his chess set. He hadn't played in a while, though he wasn't sure why.
~Sure, you know why, O'Neill; can't even think it, can you? And you say you're not afraid of anything.~
Jack shook his head when he realized the great job he'd done in burying his beloved chess set. It was hidden in the rear corner of the closet, in the middle of a box of old Air Force and college memorabilia, things Jack wouldn't expect to look at again for years, if ever.
~I'm surprised you kept it in the closet. Why not on the rafters in the garage?~
Still questioning himself, the sporting man took the set into the living room and placed it on the coffee table in front of him. For several minutes, as he sat on the sofa, he simply stared at the unopened item. Maybe he wasn't ready for this after all.
~I must be,~ Jack opined. ~I thought of it. I pulled it out of the box. I *want* to play chess again.~
"Good morning," a still-groggy, bleary-eyed Daniel Jackson greeted as he stepped down into the living room. ~Coffee; need coffee.~
The late riser was wearing yet another plaid striped shirt that didn't really fit him and pants that were simply too baggy for his slim physique.
"Daniel, I'm no fashion expert, but have you ever thought about buying something that actually fits you?" the colonel questioned, waving a hand at the attire on trial.
Daniel looked down and asked, "What's wrong with this?" He was also thinking, ~Why am I standing here? Coffee; need coffee.~
"Sorry," Daniel replied, not certain what to do about the situation. "I'm still waiting on my back pay," he reminded as he stared at Jack, who was once again focused on the still-boxed game in front of him. "Is that a chess set?"
Jack looked up and asked, "Do you play chess?"
"Ah, yeah. I mean, I like to. Sometimes on digs, I'd take a small set and play myself." As Daniel walked closer and knelt down to get a better look at the set, which Jack was finally opening, he commented nervously, "I guess that sounds a little ... wacky."
Seriously, Jack answered, "I've done it. I've played some of my best games against myself. I make a darn challenging opponent."
After exchanging a look and a smile with the young scientist, Jack pointed to the counter which separated the kitchen from the living room and suggested, "Let's play."
"It's been a while."
"For me, too," Jack replied softly.
Thirty minutes into their game, Jack was struggling to find the move that would prevent his friend from checkmating him. Daniel waited patiently. In fact, he'd made some fresh coffee in between moves to help wake him up.
"I should never have let you make coffee," Jack whined.
"Because I had you during your first ten moves. It was only after the coffee that you put me in this bind."
"I play better with coffee," Daniel admitted, taking a sip of yet another cup of coffee. ~Actually, I do everything better with coffee.~
"Yeah, well, next game, we'll play when you're asleep," the colonel grouched playfully.
"So, you're conceding?"
"Don't think so," Jack refuted sternly as he made his next move.
Daniel studied the board for about a minute and then moved a knight to another position.
"Crap," Jack heard himself say as he studied the board.
"Jack, why haven't I seen the chess set out until now?" Daniel questioned curiously.
The older man looked across the counter at his friend and then looked down again at the board. He wanted to answer, but he wasn't sure what to say.
"Sorry," Daniel spoke quietly when no response came, afraid he had asked the wrong question.
"You don't have anything to be sorry about," Jack responded, getting up to get himself a cup of fresh coffee. "I'm just not sure what the truth is," he confided, not sure he was able to be honest with himself about the reason he hadn't pulled the game out until now.
Taking a deep breath, Jack tried to string together the thoughts whirling around in his head.
"I taught Charlie how to play. He was pretty good, too. After he ... died, I left just about everything exactly as it was, like it was some sort of shrine. We were in the middle of a game." The angst-ridden father looked away as he grappled with his emotions. "I didn't want a lot of reminders, not even when I got back from Abydos, but Sara was sure I'd want it someday. I found it in my truck one day. I put it in the closet and it's been there until right before you came down the stairs."
"What made you pull it out now?" Daniel inquired reverently and then immediately started berating himself for being insensitive. ~I shouldn't have asked that.~
With a shrug, Jack returned to his barstool and, putting his coffee mug down, answered, "I don't know, Daniel, except ... on Abydos, you showed me that life was still out there, but I guess it's taken me a while to really believe you're right." He made his next move and smiled. "How about that?"
"Patience, O'Neill. That was a temporary save," Daniel responded, looking for an alternative way to win the match.
"This feels right," Jack spoke in a near whisper, staring hard that the chess board.
"What does?" Daniel asked. "Playing chess again?"
"Playing chess again ... with you," Jack elaborated.
Daniel smiled nervously at what he thought was a pretty nice compliment. There really wasn't any other way to take those words other than as praise. Unfortunately, he was adept at dealing with criticism and not with positive remarks. He just didn't know how to respond, except to take another breath and make his next move.
"Blast it, Daniel!" Then Jack laughed, "That was a great game. You're good."
"Thanks. I've played a lot, Jack. I'm ... well, I'm ..."
"A master of the game?" Jack deduced from his observation of the just-completed game.
"I don't know that I'd say that, exactly. I'm just ..."
"... good," both men said at the same time.
"How are you at cards?" Jack inquired inquisitively, his competitive juices beginning to flow.
"It depends on the game."
"Poker, with just the two of us?"
"Twenty-card poker, and I'm gonna nail you for all you've got," Jack claimed as he sat aside the chess set and stood up to get the cards.
"That's not much." Reaching into his pockets, he pulled out some change and did a quick manual count. "A dollar seventy-five."
"I'll take it," Jack laughed. Seeing the incredulous look on the archaeologist's face, the colonel reassessed the winnings. "Nah, we'll play for peanuts."
"That's about all I have right now, too," Daniel sighed. "Ah, do you want me to ..." he asked, his hand pointing to the chess set.
Jack paused and stared at the game and then he slowly came to a resolution.
"We're going to play a lot of chess, Danny. Let's keep the set out," Jack answered. ~I can't believe I'm going to admit this, even to myself, but you're good for me, Daniel Jackson. My Air Force buddies wouldn't believe it, but that's just how it is. You help me, and I'll help you.~
Daniel nodded and made sure the game was placed safely to the side. Of course, he hadn't heard Jack's silent comment, and he wouldn't have believed it even if he had. He was too full of self-doubt. He had been a child prodigy, and although the genius could now take on any person in an intellectual debate and defend his contributions to his chosen field, it was simply inconceivable to him that he could matter to another person.
The archaeologist drank another sip or two of his coffee and then stood to find something to eat. Opening the refrigerator, he saw a bowl containing a yellowish substance which hadn't been there the night before.
"Jack, what's this?" Daniel asked about the curious bowl just as the colonel returned with the cards.
"Waffle batter," the colonel answered proudly. "I'm making you buttermilk waffles for breakfast, well, brunch now."
"Oh, oh, well, that's ... thank you."
Sensing something wasn't quite right and having expected a bit more enthusiasm about his surprise, Jack questioned, "Daniel, wasn't it just a couple of days ago that you got on my case for trying to feed you Froot Loops? And didn't you then get near orgasmic just *thinking* about buttermilk waffles?"
"Ah, well ..." Daniel stammered, blushing from the sexual comment that Jack had just made.
Chuckling at Daniel's shyness Jack asked, "Aren't they your favorites?"
"Well, actually, Jack, I do like buttermilk waffles a lot; it's just when Sam and I went out to eat yesterday, I had ..."
"... buttermilk waffles," the men said at the same time with Jack adding a sigh and groan.
"Hey, you still don't seem that excited. So you had them yesterday," Jack argued lightly. "Today's a new day, and you haven't had *my* world famous buttermilk waffles."
"Well, yes, it is and, no, no I haven't, but ..."
"Daniel, get to the point."
"I was teasing you the other day," Daniel admitted. "I do like buttermilk waffles, a lot, like I said, but they've never been something I've wanted to eat very much, especially because ..."
Daniel paused, seeing that Jack's curiosity was piqued, but he just didn't want to get into an emotional story or reveal too much of his weird psyche. He'd just as soon as not talk about that day when he'd been kept from attending his parents' funeral and was told that he should just eat his buttermilk waffles like a good boy and be quiet. Eating buttermilk waffles was a wonderful experience, but more often than not, it reminded him of that terrible, frustrating day when he was just eight years old.
Taking a breath to encourage himself to move forward, Daniel admitted, "My real favorite is Belgian waffles. I think it's the combination of the lighter batter, the deep grids, and the yeast . I love them." He paused and shrugged, unable to explain his love of this variety of waffles. "They really are my favorite," he reiterated. ~I can eat those every day without thinking about my ... grandfather.~
"You don't want my buttermilk waffles?" Jack asked dejectedly just as his friend had stopped talking.
Daniel smiled and answered, "Actually, I was just teasing, again. I'd really like to have them. Thank you, Jack, for thinking of me when you went shopping."
"What else are friends for, Daniel?" Jack smiled, though not as bright as before. ~I know there is a story behind that reaction there, Danny. Hopefully someday you will tell me about it.~
~No idea. I've never really had a friend,~ Daniel replied in his mind.
"We'll feed you first and then it's onto poker," Jack announced, taking the batter out of the refrigerator.
"Feed me?" Daniel laughed.
"I gotta admit, Danny, I like Belgian waffles, too, but no one made buttermilk waffles any better than my grandmother. This is her recipe I put together."
"Did you buy strawberries?" Daniel asked curiously.
"And whipped cream," Jack confirmed.
"Great," Daniel responded. "Of course, it won't be as good as if they were Belgian waffles."
"Ingrate," Jack chuckled, throwing the tea towel that was in his hand at Daniel's head. "They should come up with a better name than Belgian waffles, something to really tell you what they are about."
"Like what?" Daniel queried, picking up the stray towel that missed its intended target.
Jack grimaced thoughtfully and suggested, "Deep grid waffles, like pan pizza. Right away, you know you're getting a waffle with a larger and deeper grid."
"That's true," Daniel agreed. "The secret is really the batter, though."
"The yeast," Jack responded as he poured the batter onto the hot waffle iron. "Who thought of it anyway?" he mused, not really expecting an answer.
"I'm not sure who really created them in Brussels, but they came to the United States during Expo 58."
"I remember it," Jack replied while closing the lid on the appliance.
Daniel just nodded, impressed that Jack was one of those people who apparently did remember quite a bit about their first years of life. He wasn't quite sure if Jack had been a baby or a toddler in '58 and hoped for his parents sake that he'd been young enough that he hadn't yet been able to get around under his own power. The archaeologist could just imagine the trouble that his friend had gotten into as a toddler.
"I don't even think my parents knew each other then," Daniel quipped. As Jack glared, the archaeologist took a breath and continued, "Well, anyway, though Belgian waffles were at Expo '58, it wasn't until the 1964 World's Fair that Maurice Vermersch served them up and, as they say, the rest is history."
"How cliché," Jack responded. "But you still didn't tell me who invented waffles."
"Oh, well, if that's all you want to know it was actually the Greeks. They made these really thin, flat cakes, ah, obleios they called them. Anyway, the cakes were cooked between two hot metal plates. Waffles just sort of evolved from the obleios about the thirteenth century when someone, and don't ask who because I don't know his name, but whoever he was, he came up with the honeycomb pattern. He forged them into cookie plates and used those to turn obleios into waffles."
As Daniel took a breath, preparing to continue, Jack called out, "Daniel!"
Jack shook his head and thought, ~Gotta be careful when I ask a question around Mister Genius here.~
"I was just saying ..." Daniel explained with a shrug.
Jack broke out into a laugh and replied, "And you keep on saying whatever's on your mind."
"Until you tell me to shut up," Daniel quipped with pointed eyes.
"That would be good," Jack teased. "Get a plate. The sooner you eat, the sooner I whip your butt at poker."
"Maybe," Daniel responded. "Or maybe not."
Jack just smirked confidently in reply, while Daniel held his gaze and didn't blink, which was uncharacteristic for him.
"You know how to bluff," Jack observed.
"Do I?" Daniel queried without changing his expression, breaking out into a brief smile.
"We're gonna have fun, Dannyboy; lots of fun," Jack proclaimed.
Fun was a strange concept to the archaeologist, but Daniel's heart jumped a tad at his friend's statement. Oddly, he felt like he was having fun and that was a fairly new sensation for him. As much as he lamented not yet being paid while the government continued to catch up on the fact that he hadn't died on Abydos over a year ago, he was already dreading the time when they fixed things and he would have to move out of Jack's home.
Taking his waffles to the table to eat, Daniel decided to consume them rather quickly, wanting to get back to the fun he'd been having and avoid dealing with issues from his past.
~I'm going to enjoy it while I feel it,~ the often-reserved scientist determined, though also feeling certain his current sense of happiness and peace wouldn't even last into the night. ~Stop thinking about the inevitable and just focus on this afternoon.~
"Hey, don't eat so fast," Jack advised.
"They're great, Jack," Daniel answered. "I'm just eager to whip *your* butt in poker."
"Speaking of whip, I think you need more whip cream, Danny," Jack opined mischievously while spraying Daniel in the face with some whip cream.
"Jack!" Daniel yelled with mock anger.
Rising to meet the challenge, the archaeologist took some whip cream off himself and flung it at Jack, laughing when it landed on the top of the colonel's head.
"What do you think I am, an ice cream sundae?" Jack questioned. Then he tasted his head and crooned, "Mmm, good."
"Here," Daniel offered, reaching over into a bin and extracting a banana.
"What's that for?"
"Well, Jack, you are bananas," Daniel teased.
"Very funny, Dannyboy."
"Speaking of funny, it's going to be downright hilarious when I kick your six at poker," Daniel boldly stated.
"Mister Big Talk."
"Oh, I'm big all right, where it counts."
Jack raised his eyebrows in curiosity and then replied, "It's fun having you here, Danny, and it's going to be more fun when I put you in your place."
"Keep dreaming," Daniel warned.
"Just the facts, Doctor Jackson."
The banter continued on, each man trying to outdo the other. Clearly, both still had a lot of demons to fight, but on this day, it was fun that was occupying their minds. For Jack and Daniel, their friendship was deepening, though neither had a clue just how far it might one day go.
~~Finis - Finished - Done - The End - But is it ever Really?~~
Author's Note: Please feel free to email me with your comments or suggestions; constructive criticism, things you'd like to see, etc. A chronological listing of my universe is at http://orrymain.com