Title: The Fine Art of the PB&J (1/?)
Characters: Jack O'Neill, Dean Winchester, John Winchester
Category: Crossover, Gen, Humor
Spoilers: Previous stories in 'verse
Summary: Dean was only trying to help, but Jack O'Neill has his own way of doing things. The way of the Peanut Butter Zen.
Word Count: 1687
Disclaimer: Pffft. Ownership is overrated, anyway. ::eats her sour grapes::
Author's Note: Hmm, this crossover series is rather obsessed with food, isn't it? (For the curious, Jack's theories in this fic are, indeed, my own.) Part of the JACKNDEAN! 'Verse.
The Fine Art of the PB&J
"Hey, kid. Watcha doing?"
Dean looked up from his work, one hand flat on the kitchen counter, the other holding a knife, thick with peanut butter. He had to squint a little to make out Jack's face—the pre-dawn gray light spreading in the windows was not kind to his coffee-less brain. "Sandwiches," he said. "For trip. Peanut butter." Really, he was quite impressed with himself for managing that many syllables.
"What? Like that?" Jack's voice was utterly appalled. "No, no, you're going about it all the wrong way!"
"I am?" Dean peered blearily down at the slice of bread on the counter, mostly covered with a thick coat of delicious brown paste. It was no different than the first half of any of a thousand peanut butter sandwiches he had made over the years.
"Yes!" Jack came around the counter and shouldered Dean to the side, deftly catching the peanut butter knife before it fell. "Totally, totally wrong. These sandwiches are for lunch, right? You're trying to pack a basket for while we're out on the creek, fishing?"
"Um." Dean had to think about it. It was just instinct, knowing that they had to be on the road that day, dragging himself out of bed to go make sandwiches so that his family would have something to shut them up on the way to the next monster-demon-ghost gig, the next nowhere town. Peanut butter was great for that. Sometimes it even stuck Sammy's teeth together, if it was the really, really cheap stuff. Which it usually was. "Yes. Basket. Sandwiches."
Jack snorted a laugh, angled a smirk at him. "You're very eloquent this early in the morning."
Dean could not work out if that was an insult or not, so he just shrugged.
"But seriously. Just…no. These sandwiches will be sitting out for hours. They'll be all soggy. I refuse to eat soggy PB&J. Life is too short."
He scooped up the peanut-butter covered slice and folded it in half, then quarters, so it was just a giant wad of peanut butter and bread. Dean watched mutely, expecting him to chuck it in the trash, but instead Jack stuffed the entire ball into his mouth and chomped down, jaw moving in exaggerated chaws, like a baseball player with tobacco stuck in his lip, or a little kid with more bubblegum than sense. Dean could only stare. Maybe this entire thing was a dream?
Jack gulped it down after just ten seconds of chewing, though. "What? I wasn't going to let good peanut butter go to waste."
Dean closed his eyes and shook his head gently from side to side, feeling himself wake up just that little bit more. He needed all of his mental faculties to deal with Jack O'Neill. He spoke very slowly and very, very clearly. "Dude, why…. What was wrong with my sandwich?"
"I told you. Soggy. No good. Plus, you were using the wrong kind of peanut butter for the jam you got out."
Dean carefully picked up the jar of strawberry preserves and turned it over in his hands, looking for some clue, perhaps on the label, perhaps in the sticky scrim of coagulated fruit stuff around the rim. Nope, couldn't see anything. "I don't get it. What would you do different?"
Jack sighed the sigh of the very patient and compassionate teacher who had already gone over the whole two-plus-two thing a dozen times, but would kindly explain it once more. He took the jar from Dean's fingers and set it on the counter, then put warm, callused hands on his shoulders and steered him around to the other side of the peninsula. "Have a seat, kiddo. Let a professional show you how it's done."
Dean worked out that it was probably an insult, this time, and glared a little as he sat on the cushioned stool by the counter, propping his elbows on the cool stone surface. "Okay, fine. Explain it to me. What kind of peanut butter should you use with strawberry preserves?"
"Crunchy, of course," Jack said promptly, as if this was a fact of life that only the very small and dimwitted didn't already know. He flipped open the cupboard doors and pulled out a large jar of crunchy peanut butter, barely needing a glance to know exactly where it was, and thumped the solid plastic container on the counter beside the creamy Dean had already gotten out. "Preserves have big fat chunks of fruit in them. You need the chunks of peanut to balance it out. A good sandwich is a balanced sandwich."
"And a balanced sandwich is a good sandwich?" Dean asked sourly. He could see where this was going. Jack and his pseudo-philosophical bullshit, like the thing with fishing not being about catching fish.
"Not necessarily. But it certainly helps." Jack flashed a grin so wide and smugly satisfied, yet so full of genuine good cheer, that Dean couldn't help but forgive him for spouting idiocies at him at butt-early in the morning.
In an astonishingly short amount of time, Jack gathered and arranged a tidy row of jars and other ingredients in front of Dean's blinking eyes, standing at attention, a phalanx of tasty-looking soldiers ready to follow Major General O'Neill's commands. Crunchy and creamy, strawberry, apricot, and raspberry preserves, honey, marshmallow fluff, and some sort of dark brown stuff Dean had never seen before.
"What about grape jelly?" he asked. "Isn't grape jelly, like, the definitive peanut butter sandwich ingredient?"
Jack scoffed. "Jelly is for the weak. You need preserves. Something to sink your teeth into, y'know?"
"Okay. So preserves go with crunchy." Dean carefully poked one finger at the jar of apricot preserves, drawing back immediately at Jack's protective glare. "What about creamy? Do you leave poor creamy out in the cold? Poor neglected peanut butter." He scooped up the jar of creamy in both hands and cradled it gently in front of his face, inhaling the intoxicating scent of peanuts and oil through the saturated label.
Jack huffed an exasperated sigh, then plucked the jar from his fingers. "Of course I don't neglect the creamy. Creamy is awesome." He set it on the other side of the line, next to the honey and marshmallow fluff and the dark brown substance that hadn't been identified yet. "Creamy goes with these, of course. This stuff is usually a little sweet for me, though. Mostly I have the honey for Carter, and the marshmallow fluff is for Murray. Big guy loves his marshmallow fluff." He touched the dark brown jar, noticing Dean's intense, curious stare and finally deciding to pay attention to it. "And this is Daniel's fault, he of the freaky international tastes. Nutella."
"Nutella?" Dean rolled the strange word around on his tongue, oddly fascinated. "What's Nutella?"
Jack grinned and picked up the Nutella in one hand, resting the other on the lid as he leaned over the counter and lowered his voice to a conspiratorial whisper. "Nutella…is made of chocolate and hazelnuts." With a flourish, he twisted off the plastic lid and held the open jar to Dean's nose, letting him get a big, deep whiff of the most amazing thing he had ever smelled.
"Chocolate? Gimme that!" Dean was definitely more awake now, awake enough to beat Jack's damn-near Jedi reflexes as his hand darted forward and snagged the jar, then pulled it back to his chest so he could a run a finger around the edge of the opening. "Oh my God," he moaned. "It is chocolate. Spreadable chocolate." He licked his finger, involuntarily closing his eyes.
"Yes. Spreadable chocolate. It goes with the creamy peanut butter." The jar disappeared from Dean's grip, now lax with ecstasy, and he opened his eyes to see Jack firmly screwing the lid back on, eyeing Dean with the same look a jealous father would give his daughter's prom date.
Dean was too blissed out to care. He felt a wide, sleepy grin spread across his face, and he blinked slowly up at his friend. "I can't believe that I never knew that existed until just now."
Jack scowled at him. "Kid, I swear that you just got high off a single lick of chocolate. It's a little creepy."
"I'm not creepy. I'm adorable."
"Yeah, whatever." Jack put the jar of Nutella back in the cupboard. Dean was sad to see it go.
He shook his head, pulling himself out of the chocolate-hazelnut haze by main force. "Okay, okay. So fruit preserves go with crunchy, and sweet liquidy stuff goes with creamy. But what does that have to do with keeping the sandwiches from getting soggy?"
"Nothing at all. All you gotta do is toast the bread." Jack pulled the toaster away from the wall and began slotting bread into it. "Just enough to dry it out a bit, mind you, not enough to brown or, God forbid, burn. There's also an art to the way you wrap the sandwiches, of course. I'll show you that in a bit."
Jack continued instructing Dean in the way of Peanut Butter Zen, and Dean pretended to be a diligent student, asking questions and helping out whenever Jack let him. By the time they finished, bright yellow sun was peeking over the lake outside, lemon sweet and sharp, and it was just about time to hit the road. Only then did it occur to Dean that something was missing from this little picture of domestic bliss.
"Hey, what's my dad up to? I haven't seen him since last night, and I know he didn't sleep in."
Jack glanced at the doorway to the living room. "He was doing something with some stuff. I dunno. Guess we should go check it out."
"Yeah, probably." Dean fought the sudden swell in his chest of…not panic, no, it wasn't panic, it wasn't fear, he wasn't thinking that his dad had just left and taken off without a word again. No way. He wouldn't do that.
Still, he found himself on his feet and walking briskly across the kitchen before he quite realized what he was doing.
"Dad? You there?"