Nothing Much

Author:  Orrymain
Category:  Pre-Slash, Smarm
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:  S1 - October 20, 1997
Spoilers:  None
Size:  24kb, ficlet
Written:  October 23-25,27,30, 2011
Summary:  Daniel takes note of Jack's birthday and then almost forgets it.
Disclaimer:  Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't.  A gal can dream though!
Notes:  
1) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
2) This fic stands alone, but it does reference my other fic(s):  “The First of Many”
3) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better:  Alverine!

Nothing Much
by Orrymain

It was a question mark, an unknown sensation.  Everything was a blank, an emptiness and lapse of consciousness.

A feeling of roughness came to mind.  It wasn't completely smooth, though neither was it harsh.

The lure of an aroma floated all around.  There was a definite reaction there, something that ran deep.  It was an awakening of sorts.

Damp.  That was the word that was filtering through the arousal.  It was an unpleasant feeling that shouldn't be part of the equation.

The unknown roughness mixed with the awesomeness of the aroma and the displeasure of the damp reality.

Eyelids fluttered.  The nose scrunched.  One ear rubbed unintentionally against the roughness.  The cheek awakened, and then the light dawned.

“No!”

Daniel jolted upright, lifting his head up from the file he'd been reviewing.  Two pictures had been ruined, thanks to the coffee that he'd just spilled as a result of his falling asleep and his left hand slipping downward, taking the mug and its liquid with it.

Frustrated, the linguist cursed, proving he could swear with the best of the military sorts he was usually surrounded by these days.  He grabbed some Kleenex to soak up the excess coffee and then attempted to soak up the brew from the images.  Displeased, Daniel was ready to wallow a bit in irritation, but then his eyes shifted their focus to the corner of his desk.  He saw the calendar.

~The twentieth.~

The archaeologist took in the date, but it didn't mean anything; that is, until he also noticed the month written on the calendar.

~October.  There's something about October.~

Daniel closed his eyes, working hard to bring some tiny morsel of a memory to mind.  He was certain there was something important he should recall.

~What is it?~

Beginning to think he wouldn't remember, the archaeologist placed his arms on the desk and leaned over, resting his head on his hands.  He closed his eyes, hoping that if he didn't concentrate so hard, maybe the significance of the date would come back to him.  He let out a yawn and then, slowly, a foggy and hazy memory began to return.

It was a mental recollection from roughly six weeks ago.  Daniel was still a little upset over the events on what was becoming known as Ernest's Planet.  He'd discovered “meaning of life stuff,” as he'd written in his report, on the volatile planet, but everything except a notebook was destroyed.

A few days after the event, on a Friday, Jack had insisted on Daniel spending the night at his house.  As the evening had moved forward, long past dinner, their intake of whiskey and beer escalated as they shared their woes up on the roof deck, under the stars.  They were drunk, though drunk for these two wasn't quite what it was for others.

Jack had great control over his body, and even when drinking to excess, if duty called, he was usually able to sober up in what felt like an instant.  Daniel had never been a heavy drinker.  He preferred the more sophisticated wine, but when he was with Jack, the two tended to stick to beer.  Every so often, they threw in some other liquor.  Somehow, Daniel also had a great ability to will himself sober. He didn't understand it; neither did Jack.  Still, when their schedules were clear, they sometimes overdid it and would pass out or wake up with hangovers.

This was the reality that was beginning to stir within the weary scientist's mind.  He decided to let his mind go, to see if the details would form and become substance.

//Flashback//
“You have the blasted notebook, so stop yer whinnying,” Jack ordered.

“Now you think I'm a horse,” Daniel accused unhappily.

“Horse?”  Jack frowned as he replayed his words, after which he corrected himself.  “Whining.  That's what I meant to say.”

“Meaning of swife, I mean, life,” Daniel groaned, taking three more quick sips of beer.  ~Maybe I needs more whiskey, or Scotch, or both.  'Needs'?  Oh, gawd.~

“We'll find it again, Danny.  We have a lot of plan...places to explore,” Jack spoke sincerely.

“Yeah,” Daniel acknowledged, though he wasn't sure he believed it.  He didn't want to think about the experience anymore.  It was painful, knowing what had been there and was now lost to the world, so he shifted his focus.  ~How can I get him to tell me?~

A month ago, Jack had surprised Daniel by throwing him a surprise birthday party at O'Malley's Bar and Grill.  For the archaeologist, it had been totally unexpected.  Long ago, he'd buried his birthdays deep within him.  Jack had spent much of the evening after the party with Daniel at the apartment, the two just sitting and talking, or not.

That night, Daniel promised himself that he'd surprise Jack, too.  However, the problem with that promise was that while Jack could review personnel files with ease, Daniel could not.  Every time he'd asked Jack for his date of birth, the colonel teased him with false answers.  Maybe now was the time to finally get the answer to the question.

~He thinks I'm drunkeded,~ Daniel slurred in his mind.  ~Hmm.  Maybe I am.  That's neither here nor here, I mean there nor, I mean ... oh, I don't care what I mean.~  He centered on the object that would be key to his plan.  ~He might believe it.  He's drunkeded, too,~ he thought with an internal smile, intentionally messing up the word this time.

Jack reached over for some peanuts and quickly tossed a few into his mouth.  As he munched on the nuts, he saw Daniel stand up and wobble a bit.

“Don't break your neck, Danny.”

With one hand on the rail, the archaeologist responded, “Don't worry.  I'm insured.”

“Yeah?”

“No.”

“Didn't think so.”

“Don't we have medical at the Mountain?”

“Oh yeah: a fiery redhead,” Jack joked about Doctor Janet Fraiser, the Chief Medical Officer.  ~She may be a shortie, but she's a dynamo.~

Daniel nodded and slowly made his way across the wooden deck.  He was close to the object now, so all he had to do was make sure his reflexes were quicker than the colonel's, which was no easy fete.

“Jack, when is your birthday?”

“This year; next year, too.”

“But when?”

“When the day comes.”

“You said birthdays were special,” Daniel reminded, using his friend's words.

“They are.”

“So when's your birthday?”

“On the day I was born,” Jack responded with a proud smirk.

~Okay, that's not going to work,~ Daniel told himself.  ~Time for drastic measures.~

Waiting for the right moment, which came about thirty seconds later when Jack reached over to the ice chest and pulled out a new bottle of beer to imbibe, Daniel grabbed hold of the one object he knew the other man valued highly: his telescope.  They'd been looking through it earlier, the two stargazing before they'd sat down to do some serious lamenting and drinking.

Jack became aware of the motion at the same time the sound of the just-removed bottle cap connected with the deck, making a slight noise as a result.

“Whatcha' doing?”

“Jack, when is your birthday?” Daniel asked in a deliberate tone.

“Daniel, put down my telescope.”

“Uh, well, you really don't want me to do that because, uh, well, if I do, it's liable to ... go boom.”

“Boom?” Jack echoed as he cautiously stood up.  “I can take you.”

“I know.”

“So put it down.”

“No.”

“Daniel.”

“Jack.”

“Daniel!”

“Birthdate, Colonel, and it needs to be accurate, or payback will be ... unpleasant,” Daniel uncharacteristically threatened.  ~Good thing I'm drunk.~

“I don't submit to blackmail.”

“Call it ... fact-finding,” Daniel suggested.  “When's your birthday?”  He could feel the steam within his friend building.  “Okay, bye, bye ...”

Just as Daniel positioned the telescope beyond the railing, Jack called out, “October 20th.”

“Oh, thank you,” Daniel acknowledged, calmly returning the telescope to its place and then resuming his position on the deck, ignoring his friend's glare as he'd walked by.

“You wouldn't have dropped it,” Jack asserted.

Daniel thought a moment and replied, “Prob...well, I ... you know, I don't know.  It's the whiskey, or Scotch, or both.”

Jack let out a snort and sat back down while saying, “You're unpredictable, Doctor Jackson.”

“Thank you,” Daniel said, taking a big breath.  “Ut oh.”  He blinked and whispered, “Night.”

Jack chuckled.  In a flash, his friend had just passed out.
//End of Flashback//

The next morning, Daniel had forgotten about his having used Jack's telescope as a bargaining chip.  Still, the birth date had been nestling in his subconscious, and now with a casual glance at the desktop calendar,  it had finally made itself known.

Again, Daniel's head jolted up.  He checked his watch and hurried to the locker room to change into his civilian clothes.

====

Daniel let out a dejected sigh.  It was too late.  The retail stores were closed.  He'd blown it.

~But I have to do something.  He made such a big deal out of my birthday.  No one has done that in ...~

The blue-eyed scientist closed his eyes, wishing he could remember his parents and the time he'd had with them, but so much of it was a blur.

~Birthdays are special.  That's what he said.~  Daniel stared at the darkness in front of him, trying to decide what to do.  ~I can't just let it go.~

Heading for an all night supermarket, Daniel was determined to try to make his friend's day special, too.

~Think, Jackson!~

====

In his beat up old car, Daniel pulled into his teammate's driveway.  It was very late in the night, roughly fifteen minutes past eleven.  The house was dark.  Turning off the engine, Daniel considered his options, including giving Jack what he'd brought tomorrow or even just leaving it on the doorstep where the colonel could find it in the morning.

~It won't be the same tomorrow.~

Somewhat reluctantly, the archaeologist exited his car and retrieved the two bags he'd brought with him.  He took a couple of deep breaths as he walked towards the front door.

~Maybe this isn't a good idea,~ Daniel thought as he stared at the steps that led up to the porch.  ~Come on, Jackson.  You owe him.~

Licking his lips as if to give himself courage, Daniel finally found himself in front of the door.  The archaeologist rapped gently on the wooden surface, choosing not to use the loud knocker that was at its center.

~This isn't going to work.~  Blowing out his insecurities in an audible wisp of air, Daniel called out, “Jack!”

Two more attempts were made, but Daniel wasn't really shouting, afraid of waking up the neighbors.  He knew full well that the colonel's bedroom was upstairs, and the odds were against Jack hearing the soft calling of his name.

Putting down the bags, Daniel reached for his keys and stared at his key ring.  He saw the key to Jack's house.  While he'd been living at the country-style home, he used the key freely, but now he had his own place, and he wondered if using the key would be an invasion of privacy.  Still, he'd given Jack a key to his apartment, too, and both had said the other could use the keys whenever they wanted.

~It's an emergency,~ Daniel told himself, feeling like he needed to rationalize using the object.  “Here goes nothing.”

====

Having already taken his bags into the kitchen and removed the contents, arranging them appropriately, Daniel was walking tentatively up the stairs, trying to keep himself from turning around and leaving undetected.  His heart beating rapidly as if ready to explode, he reached the top of the stairs and paused for a moment.

~He's gonna kill me.~

Again, the scientist considered making a quick retreat, but one more time, he recalled the kindness his friend had shown him on July 8th.

~I'd forgotten.  I don't even think about my birthday anymore.  I can't forget Jack's, not after all he did.~

Determined to face his friend's wrath for waking him up, Daniel pushed back the partially ajar door.  He saw the colonel sleeping, blankets covering just half of the man's body.  A gray T-shirt was all the archaeologist could see above the bedding.

“Jack,” Daniel called out softly.  He swallowed and repeated a bit more loudly, “Jack.”  Finally, in a near shout, he voiced, “Jack!”

“I heard you the first time,” Jack grouched, his right hand coming out from under the pillow and revealing a pistol.  “Daniel, never sneak up on me.  It could get you killed.”

The words were deathly serious, as was the military's man eyes.  Jack leaned forward, returning the gun to the nightstand beside the bed.

“I heard you coming up the stairs,” Jack explained.  “What are you doing here?”

“I ... well ... you see ... uh ...”

“Daniel, I'm aging here.”

“Actually, that's the point.”

Groaning, Jack sat up, pulling his legs off the bed and letting them touch the flat carpet that adorned the bedroom.  The reveal showed his T-shirt featured the Air Force moniker.

“Daniel, get to the point,” Jack barked.

“Uh, follow me,” Daniel instructed, turning and walking out of the bedroom.  Noticing the lack of sound or feeling or movement behind him, he returned to the doorway and called out, “This way.”

“I know the way,” Jack sighed, standing up.  ~Need pants,~ he thought, since he was wearing just his underwear on the lower part of his body and without the warmth of the bedding, his legs were quickly getting chilled.

Pants on, Jack caught up with Daniel and followed him into the kitchen nook.

“Sit down,” Daniel ordered.

“Bossy, aren't you?”

Daniel thought for a couple of seconds and then agreed, “Tonight, yes.”

With a bit of a smile, Jack sat down and asked, “What's going on?”

“Just ... wait a minute.”

The kitchen nook was almost like a separate dining area that came between the living room and the actual kitchen.  A wall between the kitchen and nook was present, a single doorway connecting the two areas.

Daniel disappeared into the kitchen, leaving Jack twiddling his thumbs at the circular table in the nook area.  The colonel leaned forward, trying to see what his teammate was doing.  All he saw, though, were the appliances at the front of the kitchen.

When Daniel reappeared, he was carrying a plate on which there was a cupcake.  Dipped into the white frosting that topped the dessert was a single candle that flickered from the lit wick.

“Happy birthday, Jack,” Daniel wished as he placed the plate in front of Jack.

For a moment, the colonel just stared at the younger man, but then he smiled and pulled the cupcake closer.

“Make a wish,” Daniel instructed.

Jack smiled, made his inner wish, and then blew out the candle.  Removing it from the cupcake, he bit into the cake and let out a happy sound.

“Perfect,” the colonel praised.  “Thanks, Danny.”

“Uh,” Daniel raised his hand, one finger extended outward, “one minute.”  He returned to the kitchen and retrieved the contents that had been in one of the two bags he'd brought to the house.  Somewhat nervously, he put the item on the table.  “I hope you like it.”

Jack grinned, totally surprised by what he saw and loving it completely.

“It's a ... a gift basket.  I know how you like those.”

Eager to examine the gift, Jack began moving things all around as he reviewed the specifics: “A couple of cans of beer, a bottle of Scotch, a box of Froot Loops, frozen pizza, some candy bars, apples, oranges, a new pen, shoe polish.”  He continued his search, thumbing through the rest of the large basket's contents, and commented, “This is great.”

“It's nothing much,” Daniel replied, his arms folded protectively across his chest.

“It's a heckuva lot in my opinion,” Jack countered.  “Thank you.”

“I ... I almost forgot,” Daniel admitted.  “I fell asleep in my office, and when I woke up, I remembered.”

With a grin, Jack recalled, “You held my telescope hostage.”

“I was drunk.”

“So was I.”

“I didn't want to wake you up, but you said birthdays were special, and in a few more minutes, it wouldn't be your birthday anymore.  I just ... I had to do this.”

“No, you didn't.

“Yes, I did.”

“It's the thought that counts,” Jack insisted.

“Thoughts are good, Jack, but ... actions, well, actions say a lot.  I'll never forget that party at O'Malley's, even if you ordered everyone to attend.”

“Daniel, I didn't order anyone to come.  They were there because they wanted to be.  You have friends, Daniel.”

The archaeologist nodded, but looked away.  He wanted to believe Jack's words, but friends were something he didn't have a lot of, so he was full of doubts about many of the attendees from his party.

~Why doesn't he realize he's worth caring about?  Crap, this is frustrating.  I'll figure it out one of these days,~ Jack promised.  “Hey, have a piece of cupcake.”

“No, you ... you finish it.  It's all they had left.”

“Friends share, and it's my birthday.”

“No, that's okay.”

With a mischievous grin, Jack stood up, took a piece of the cupcake, and headed towards the archaeologist.

Backing up, Daniel called out, “Jack!”

Laughing, Jack lunged forward, his intent obvious.

Daniel turned and tried to run, but he ended up backing into the cabinets at the far end of the kitchen.  He then found his mouth stuffed with cupcake.

“Okay, so how was it?” Jack asked.

“Pretty good, for a store bought cupcake,” Daniel answered as he wiped the crumbs from the side of his mouth.  Laughing, he again wished, “Happy birthday, Jack.”

“Thanks for making mine special today,” Jack returned.  ~He has a great laugh; wish he'd use it more.~

“You're welcome.”

“Hey, how about we open up these cans and watch a movie?” Jack put forward, now wide awake and wanting to enjoy some time with the younger man.

“We're on duty tomorrow.”

“So, we go in a little tired, or late.  You can stay in your room tonight,” Jack stated with not a hint of a question in his tone.

~My room.~  Daniel reflected on the spare room that Jack had consistently said belonged to the archaeologist.  ~A place: a stable place.  I hope it lasts.~

“We need sandwiches,” Jack advised, heading towards the refrigerator.  “Ham?”

“Turkey.”

“Both,” Jack put forward, deciding on club sandwiches that would feature both meats and more.  ~Thanks, Danny.  My birthday wasn't anything special until you woke me up.  Thanks for remembering.~

As he started to clear a space for their snacks on the coffee table in the living room, Daniel silently pondered the turn of events.

~I feel like it's my birthday again, too.  Gawd, Jack, I've never been this close to anyone; at least, not in a long time.  Please let it last a while.~

“Find us a movie, Danny,” Jack shouted from the kitchen.  ~Nothing much,~ he mused.  ~Ha!~ he refuted.  ~It's everything.~

“Okay,” Daniel responded, looking around for the remote control.  ~He said my birthday would be the first of many celebrations.  I hope this is the first of many for him, too.~

Two friends eagerly settled in for a late night, or rather a wee morning of movie watching, beer drinking, and unification of their friendship.  It was still new, but the future was full of promise and more unexpected moments like this one.

~~Finis - Finished - Done - The End - But is it ever Really?~~
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