Rascals - Chapter 21

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Next day, they were all feeling well again and when Hammond asked if they wanted to play in his large garden, they happily accepted.

"If you want to help me, you can pick some fruits for me. Will you do that? In return you can eat as much as you want to - just don't spoil your appetites, or my son will be unhappy. He's preparing his special chicken dinner for tonight!"

"Of course, we'll help!" Sam said eagerly. "How much do you want us to pick? What kind?" She looked hungrily at the ripe plums on the tree nearby.

"A little of each." Hammond went to a small shed and pulled out some buckets. "Perhaps one bucket of apricots and one of plums - and I think there's already some ripe pears." He handed them the buckets. "Could you check if there's any raspberries left? I have a kind that ripens late, so there should be some."

"We'll be happy to help!" Martouf said, looking eagerly towards all the fruit.

"Where can we find a ladder? I think the best fruit is at the top." Anise said, studying the trees.

"Nope. No climbing. Can't have you falling down and hurting yourself. Jacob would kill me, you know." He smiled at them. "Just pick the ones you can reach - there should be more than enough anyway."

"May we eat the raspberries too?" Garshaw wanted to know. "You only mentioned fruit, not berries." She looked hopefully at Hammond.

"Technically, berries are also fruit." Sam said, proud that she knew this.

Hammond laughed. "You can eat all the raspberries you want." He smiled at them. "I never pick most of the fruit. My son and his family usually takes some, but most of it end up being eaten by the birds, so I'll be happy if you eat as much as you want to." He turned to leave to go inside, then remembered something. "The apples are a late type, so they won't be ripe for another month or so. Don't eat those, or you'll probably get a bad stomach-ache - oh, and go easy on the plums, unless you want to spend the evening in the bathroom!"

"Okay." They chorused. "Promise!"

Hammond went inside and the children eagerly grabbed the buckets and began to pick the fruits and berries Hammond had asked them to get for him. There really was a lot of fruit on the trees and it did not take them long before they had filled the buckets for Hammond - even if they had eaten their fill while doing so.

"Daniel! Hammond said the apples weren't ripe." Sam yelled. "Why are you eating them anyway?"

"I like the taste of green apples." Daniel said, taking another bite and munching on it.

"Hammond will be angry - and so will O'Neill." Lantash said. "And you will get a stomach-ache - wasn't it bad enough yesterday?"

"You're just afraid to eat'em because Hammond said so!" Daniel challenged. "Come on, take a bite!"

"No - I'm just not feeling stupid." Lantash said, angrily.

"Sissy!" Daniel stuck his tongue out.

"I'll get you for that!" Lantash was about to hit Daniel, when Sam quickly jumped in between them.

"Okay, no stupid macho-displays today, please?"

Lantash controlled himself with difficulty. "As you wish." He glared angrily at Daniel.

Anise hurried there as well, wishing to protect Daniel.

"No fighting. Jack said so." She argued.

Daniel and Lantash looked at each other for a few moments, then both nodded.

"Sorry." Daniel was suddenly bashful. "I didn't mean to bug you. I was just unhappy about yesterday."

"I understand." Lantash said. "I'm sorry I wanted to hit you. I'm glad I didn't."

Daniel winced. "My tummy hurts again." He looked misearable.

"Why the hell did you eat them if they weren't ripe? Couldn't you tell they weren't ripe? Sour?" O'Neill said angrily, looking at the now crying Daniel.

"I like the taste." Daniel sobbed.

"You like it? That's your excuse?" O'Neill looked incredulous. "What about yesterday then? You just felt like stuffing yourself?"

"Jack..." Hammond warned. He pulled O'Neill aside.

"Sometimes I feel like killing Daniel!" O'Neill grumbled.

"Surely, you don't mean that!"

He took a deep breath. "No...I don't mean that. I just don't know what to do. Why is it always Daniel that gets in to trouble?" 

"I admit he does have a tendency to not always think things through - and to act before he really understands the consequences, but I think he's learned his lesson now."

O'Neill looked towards Daniel who was still crying, the other children standing around him and trying to comfort him. "I better go talk to him."

"Do you hate me?" Daniel wanted to know as soon as O'Neill kneeled beside him.

"No, Daniel." O'Neill took a deep breath. "No, I don't hate you, but why does it always have to be you who does these things?"

"I don't know. It just happens." Daniel said, still sniffling.

"Okay, but let's try to make it happen less often, what do you say?"

He nodded. "I would like that!" He threw his arms around O'Neill who hugged him back. The other children decided they wanted a hug too and it turned into a big group-hug.

"Looks cute!" Jacob commented, as he wandered into the room. "How does one join?"

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