It took twenty minutes to drive from the police station to Kwai Chang Caine's Chinatown apartment, and would've only taken fifteen if they hadn't hit the drive-through at Jack-in-the-Box so O'Neill and Daniel could grab a quick lunch. En route, Daniel and Peter traded old memories as O'Neill drove the unmarked car he'd requisitioned from Lansing Air Force Base's motor pool.
"When are you flying back? Because if you're not going home until tomorrow, you can stay at my place tonight," Peter offered. "My couch folds out to a bed."
Daniel opened his mouth, then closed it again. He wasn't sure of the colonel's plans. He knew O'Neill wanted to get Ernest back to Colorado as quickly as possible, but surely he'd need some rest before flying back, wouldn't he?
"Unfortunately, we have a very short layover. We're heading back almost as soon as we get Dr. Littlefield," O'Neill replied.
"Pity. I was hoping we'd get a chance to play catch-up, Danny. Turn left at the next red light," Peter directed.
The light was green when they got there, but O'Neill turned left anyway.
SG-1/KF: TLC ~~ SG-1/KF:TLC ~~ SG-1/KF: TLC ~~ SG-1/KF: TLC
Peter knocked on the door. "Pop, it's me."
"The door ... is not locked," came the reply from within.
Peter opened the door and led the other two inside. Ernest and Kwai Chang Caine sat on pillows on the floor, a low table with a chess board between them. Master Caine held his hand above the board for a moment, then moved his bishop to take Ernest's rook. He silently mouthed four syllables. O'Neill wasn't an expert lip-reader, but he thought the middle-aged Eurasian had said 'don't call me Pop.'
Ernest stared at the board for a second, then looked up at the trio coming in the door. "Jack! Daniel! I'm glad you came." Awkwardly, he struggled to his feet. "I hope Catherine wasn't too worried about me."
"Actually, she was, Ernest," O'Neill told him.
"We all were," Daniel added. "We've been looking all over the county for you for days. We didn't expect you to cross the state line, let alone half the country."
"I didn't want to upset anyone. I just wanted to get out of Catherine's way while she was recuperating, so I decided to go visit my friend Jeremy," Ernest explained.
"Next time, leave a note," O'Neill advised, his tone completely deadpan.
"This is my father, Kwai Chang Caine." Peter started to introduce them, "Pop, these are -"
"Jack O'Neill," the Shao-lin master rose gracefully. He wore a silk shirt, elaborately embroidered with a dragon design, and a pair of faded blue jeans. He bowed his head in the colonel's direction. "Daniel Jackson." He nodded to the archaeologist. "Ernest told me of his friends. Teal'c and ... Samantha Carter... are not with you?"
"They're taking care of Catherine." O'Neill looked at Caine and wondered just what Ernest had told him, and how much. "Thanks for taking care of him for us."
Caine bowed again. "It was my pleasure ... and my honor. The making of a new friend ... is a joy to be celebrated ... especially when my new friend ... is the good friend of ... one of my son's friends."
"How on Earth did you get to Sloanville?" Daniel asked.
"I rode the bus. I wanted to see Jeremy, but he wasn't at his house. The lady who lives there now got all upset when I rang the bell and asked for him, and I went to the police station while they looked for you. Then Detective Caine," the elderly man waved his hand at Peter, "drove me here. Kwai and I have been busy all day."
Peter raised one eyebrow. Nobody called his father 'Kwai'.
"First we went to the YMCA and exercised in the pool. Kwai lent me his spare swimming trunks." Ernest looked up at O'Neill and Daniel. "Maybe you'd better not tell Catherine I was with a lot of women in swimming suits."
"Carolyn's water aerobics class," Caine reminded his son. "I often assist her."
Peter nodded. His foster sister taught an aquatic Pi-Yo class. She concentrated on the Pilates part, and his father assisted with the yoga part.
"Some of the exercises were hard," Ernest complained. "Especially eagle pose."
"Eagle is one of the more difficult positions," Caine agreed. "You did quite well ... with mountain pose and warrior one and two."
"Then we went to the park. We had a picnic lunch, and Kwai played his flute for the pigeons. Then he did ti - tai -" Ernest glanced at Caine, unable to remember the phrase.
"Tai chi," Caine prompted.
"Then we came back here. Kwai worked in his garden. I helped."
"I'm sure you did," O'Neill agreed, using the same tone he had years ago when his son Charlie had boasted that he'd helped Mommy.
"Do we have to go back now?" Ernest waved a hand at the chessboard. "We're in the middle of a game."
Caine reached over and tipped his king on its side. "Were the pattern of play … to continue unaltered … your bishop would take my king in four moves."
Daniel looked at the board, considered the pieces a moment, then nodded his agreement with Caine's prediction.
"Your Catherine having waited for you so long and faithfully … it would be cruel to make her wait longer for your return."
O'Neill raised an eyebrow, wondering again what Ernest had told Caine, and how much he had believed. "Besides, we promised Captain Simms we'd get Pete straight back to the police station. We really gotta go."
"To break a promise … is dishonorable. To break a promise to Karen Simms …is unwise … and should be avoided."
"Don't tell me you're scared of Simms, Pop."
"I do not … fear her. However, I have a healthy respect for her. She is a competent … and dangerous … woman."
"Not bad looking, either," O'Neill interjected just as Caine added:
"And don't call me Pop." He turned to O'Neill and gave a half-bow. "Extreme feminine beauty … is always disturbing."
"You're quoting again. So who said that? Confucius? Lao Tse? Lin Yu-tang?" Peter asked. His father had a habit of quoting ancient Chinese philosophers.
In unison, Daniel, O'Neill, and Caine replied, "Spock."
"Trek Classic, 'The Cloud Minders'," Daniel recited.
Ernest reached for his jacket. "May I come back sometime?"
"That would give me … great pleasure." The Shao-lin priest turned from his son to O'Neill. "You are … flying …back to Colorado?"
O'Neill nodded. Before he could open his mouth to explain they had to leave now or risk missing their flight, Caine continued:
"If your flight is not until this evening …I would be honored … if you returned here … for dinner. I would enjoy …a longer visit with my new friend … and I am sure … Peter would welcome …more time … visiting with his old friend."
Daniel turned to O'Neill, staring at him with puppy dog eyes. The colonel thought quickly. He wanted to thank Caine, drop Peter off at the police station, head back to Lansing Air Force Base, and fly home to Colorado. They could have dinner in the mess hall at Stargate Command, or better yet, at Catherine's house. But he knew from their conversation in the car that Daniel not only wanted to reconnect with his old buddy, but meet a modern-day Shao-lin priest. And two three-hour flights in less than eight hours would drain him to the dregs. Whereas if they stayed for dinner, he'd have a few hours to rest. If they left LAFB by 20:00 local time, it would be 23:00 Eastern time when they got back, but 21:00 Mountain time. He could handle that.
"I have cots in the other room," Caine offered, "if you require lodgings before returning home. I sometimes … have patients stay overnight."
"Patients?" Daniel repeated.
"My father's an apothecary," Peter explained. "Traditional Chinese medicine."
"Like eating tiger testicles instead of Viagra?" O'Neill asked.
"As Peter's friend Eppy says …'don't knock it …if you haven't tried it.' Of course … the tiger testicles must be fresh … and it is best … if one has collected them one's self." His voice was so deadpan that the other four men weren't sure if he was joking or not.
"We can come back for dinner," O'Neill announced, "but we'll need to leave right afterwards. Sorry, Danny, you and your pal will have to have your sleepover some other time."
"Jack, once you're out of junior high, you don't call them sleepovers anymore," Daniel said.
"Thanks for looking out for Ernest for us, and for the dinner invitation." O'Neill stretched out his hand.
Caine took the colonel's hand and shook it, giving a half bow as he did so. "I look forward to your return. I am … very pleased to have met …you and Dr. Littlefield. I am sorry I could not meet your other friends." He escorted them to the door. Once he had closed it behind them, he added softly, "It was been a long time … since I met a Jaffa."