A Chest Full Of Memories
Jack O’Neill gave Daniel Jackson, his best friend, albeit currently a five, no, six year old boy, an exasperated glare. “You don’t need it, Daniel,” he said.
Daniel’s chin jutted out in familiar defiance but quivered ever so slightly. “But it’s mine!”
“I know,” Jack agreed. The rather battered metal chest had been delivered that afternoon by a couple of airmen under General Hammond’s orders. Jack phoned Hammond and was told firmly that Doctor Jackson had insisted he needed it picked up from his apartment and taken to Jack’s, where he was staying until they got the whole downsizing mess cleared up. Jack had tried to argue the point. Even the airmen didn’t look too happy about lugging it up the stairs to Daniel’s room.
“It’s pretty heavy, sir,” one of them said. “Maybe we could just leave it here in your living room.”
“No!” Jack and Daniel exclaimed in unison.
“I need it in my room,” Daniel said. “It’s always been in my room.”
“Well, it’ll be there for you when you go home,” Jack reasoned.
“You don’t know when that’ll be,” Daniel said. He swiped a hand over his eyes. “I might be here forever.”
Please, no, Jack begged silently. The adult Daniel had been a big enough pain in the butt a lot of the time; the kid-sized model had all of Daniel’s idiosyncrasies and all the common headache-inducing behaviour and attitude of a… well, of a five… six year old. Jack sighed and waved in the direction of the stairs. “Take it up,” he said. “Any gouges in my walls and it comes out of your pay, you got that?”
He and Daniel followed the chest’s progress up the stairs and into Daniel’s room. The airmen shifted their grip on the trunk and looked at Jack expectantly. Jack shrugged and tried again. “See?” he said, waving his hand around the rather small spare bedroom, “there’s no room for it.”
Daniel gazed around. “You can take the bookcase out.”
Jack gaped at him. “The bookcase you insisted you just had to have in your room?”
Jack looked at the airmen who lowered the trunk to the floor and sketched hasty salutes before backing out the door. “We’re expected back at the mountain, sir. General’s orders.”
“Go!” Jack barked. “Wusses.” He looked back at Daniel. “Are you at least gonna let me see what’s inside? Must be something pretty important. Artifacts?” He took a step toward the trunk, surprised when Daniel scooted in front of him and hoisted himself up to sit on the lid.
“Don’t be a nosy-parker,” Daniel said, crossing his arms over his chest.
“I’m just curious.”
“Shouldn’t peek at other people’s things unless they say okay,” Daniel protested.
“You know what?” Jack raised his hands in defeat. “I don’t care what’s in your trunk. Probably just dusty old books anyway. I’m going down to make dinner.” He turned and headed for the stairs. “Don’t pull all that crap out and make a mess everywhere or you’re cleaning it up, buddy.”
“Daniel! Dinner’s ready!” Jack waited a full minute before making his way back upstairs. This was the fourth time he called Daniel and there was still no sign of him. “If there’s crap all over your room…” Jack muttered. He didn’t bother to knock though he usually did. He was fed up with his young charge getting his way constantly lately by dint of his small stature. Any time Jack didn’t cave in, Daniel was on the phone, calling Sam or Teal’c or Hammond and begging them to go into bat for him… and they always did, making Jack feel like the bad guy, uncaring of a little boy’s feelings. Well, enough was enough!
The room was just as it had been when he left. Daniel was seated on the floor next to the old trunk, his head bent low, soft murmurings whispering from his lips.
“Hey,” Jack said, planting his hands on his hips. No way was he backing down now. “I called you four times for dinner.”
It took a moment but Daniel finally lifted his head and looked over his shoulder at him. “Sorry,” he replied. “I was reading. I didn’t hear you.”
There was a shimmer in his eyes and Jack could see tear tracks on his cheeks. Oh for… Jack took a step forward and crouched down beside Daniel. “Whatcha reading?” he asked.
Daniel held the closed book out to him. The Chronicles Of Narnia. The pages were a little dog-eared as though it had been read often.
“Don’t know it,” Jack said. “Any good?” He plopped down onto his butt, grimacing when his knees cracked.
Daniel shrugged. “My foster mom said it came with my mom and dad’s things and she used to read it to me every night. She said my mom used to do that too.” He sighed. “I don’t remember.”
Jack suddenly noticed the teddy tucked under Daniel’s other arm. “Who’s your friend?”
“He lives in the trunk most of the time,” Daniel said. “My mom and dad gave him to me for my first birthday, Aunt Kathy said.”
“My foster mom. She was my mom’s best friend in college. She and Joe, her husband, took me in when… when…” Daniel suddenly pushed the teddy into Jack’s arms and stood, leaning over to reach into the open trunk. He pulled out a couple of photos and held them out to Jack. “See? That’s Kathy and Joe, and that’s…” His words trailed off and the tears were back in his eyes.
“They look like good people,” Jack said. “Your mom and dad too,” he added, looking at the other picture Daniel held in a slightly trembling hand. He climbed to his feet, adding a few groans for good measure. “You ready to eat?”
Daniel hesitated for a moment then said, “Do you want to see what else is in my treasure chest?”
Jack pretended to think about it. “You sure you want to show me?”
“They’re my special memories,” Daniel said, “and you’re my best friend.” He patted the edge of his bed and waited until Jack sat down, still holding the teddy. He nodded decisively. “I want to show you.”
Jack smiled. Dinner could wait. This glimpse into Daniel’s mostly unknown past could not. “I’d like that, Daniel,” he replied. “I’d like that very much.”