A Pumpkin for Daniel
Author: Orrymain and special guest co-author, Claudia!
Category: Pre-Slash, Smarm, Holiday
Pairing: Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Written: October 13-16,18-19,23, 2004
Summary: It's time to carve the pumpkin!
Disclaimer: Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't. A gal can dream though!
1) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
2) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better: Sue, QuinGem, Alison, Linda!
A Pumpkin for Daniel
by Orrymain and Claudia
Daniel was totally absorbed in the research he was doing for SG-7's
next mission. He was in his office, the lights low except for the
table lamp on his desk. Three books were open, spread out on the
desk, and to his right was a legal pad on which he was making notes.
He read a passage and looked up blankly at the wall in front of him. His mouth was slightly open, and he twirled his black ballpoint pen over and over again as he held it in his right hand.
“Daniel,” Jack said upon entering, “time to go.”
“Home? Uh, no, I have work to do.”
Jack picked up a paper and knew from the morning duty assignments what his friend was working on.
“This can wait. It's not urgent.”
“Jack, I ...”
“I, I, I ... no 'I's', Daniel. Let's go.”
“And where is it that you're in such a hurry to get to?”
“It's the pumpkin festival at the church!”
“It's the what?”
“Every year at Halloween, one of the local churches has a pumpkin festival. They bring in pumpkins of all sizes and carve them. Some folks even decorate them. You'll love it.”
“A pumpkin festival?”
“Daniel, don't just sit there, we gotta go.”
“Jack, you can go to the pumpkin festival without me. I have work to do.”
Jack waved Daniel's notes under the archaeologist's nose.
“This can wait, Danny.”
“No, it can't Jack, because after I finish these notes, I have to start researching some information that SG-11 needs before they go to P4J-398 at the end of next week.”
“Daniel,” Jack closed the books on Daniel's desk, ignoring the archaeologist's protests, “you are coming with me to this pumpkin festival, even if I have to drag you there, kicking and screaming.”
Daniel sighed, debating whether or not he should argue further with Jack.
“Come on, Danny, all work and no play makes for dull archaeologists and bored Colonels.”
Jack had his most pathetic, hopeful puppy dog look on, and as he knew from experience that arguing with Jack in this mood was a lost cause, Daniel turned off the table lamp and left the base with his friend.
~Pumpkins. What's so great about carving a pumpkin anyway?~ He looked at Jack's happy grin as they walked to the surface of the Mountain and gave a half smile. ~Okay, so I have no idea what can be so enjoyable about carving a vegetable, but I do know what is so great about Jack’s friendship.~
Daniel basked for a moment in the warm feeling that Jack's persistence in bringing him along had given him. Until he'd met Jack O'Neill, he'd never really known what it was like to be desired as a friend. He still couldn't get used to Jack wanting to spend time with him, but he was glad the older man did.
~For Jack, I guess I can carve a pumpkin. Gawd, how do you carve a pumpkin?~ As they walked, Daniel started to get nervous. ~I bet I make a complete mess of it. I'll probably cut my own finger trying to cut the top of it off; and how do you carve a face in it anyway?~
“You know, Danny, I remember the first time I carved a pumpkin. I think it looked more like a Tic-Tac-Toe board. I was never really sure which end was up or down,” Jack said laughing.
~Geez, it's like he heard me. He's going to think I'm such an idiot.~
“Of course, I was four-years-old at the time. I think I did okay a kid.”
~Great, that really makes me feel better ... not.~ The more Daniel thought about it, the more he began to panic. ~Pumpkins have such tough skin. What if I stick the knife in it and it skids off? Knowing my luck, it'll probably end up hitting an elderly nun or a little kid. I have got to get out of this.~ “You know, Jack, I'm really tired; I think I'll just go home to bed.”
“Daniel, it's not even 1730 yet.”
“5:30, and I know, but really, Jack …”
Jack looked at Daniel curiously. He'd never known anyone so eager to avoid a pumpkin festival; well, except for Teal'c. Jack had tried to explain the concept of Halloween and pumpkin carving to the Jaffa, but had struck out big time. He had been forced to either admit defeat for the day or miss the festival.
~Last time I try to explain the concept of Halloween to an obtuse Jaffa in less than thirty minutes. Maybe I'll just rent some Halloween movies, and let them explain it.~
“… so really, why don't you just go without me? Or take Sam?”
Jack shook his head and grinned at Daniel.
“You're not going to weasel your way out of it, Danny. It'll be fun, and you need to have more fun in your life.” ~Besides, I don't want to take Carter, I want to take you. Carter will just see pumpkins, but you'll see … I don't know what, but you'll see more than just a carved pumpkin.~
Jack put on his best pathetic look. Daniel sighed and then made the mistake of looking into Jack's hopeful brown eyes.
~I am such a soft touch.~ He shook his head. “Fine, you win.”
Jack beamed and ushered Daniel out of the elevator.
“Of course, I do. I don't know why you ever doubted it, Danny. I'm always right.”
He ignored the snort that came from the archaeologist and the muffled, “Yeah, in your own mind anyway” comment.
As they finally headed towards the church, Jack noticed Daniel staring out of the truck window. It reminded him of their first night back from Abydos, when Daniel seemed so lost and lonely ... and even scared.
~Okay, what are you afraid of?~ “Danny, why are you so nervous?”
“Yeah. It's written all over you. Did something happen at the base that I don't know about?”
“No, everything's fine.”
“I don't buy it.”
“Bet you'd buy some pizza. We could skip the festival and ...”
“Daniel, we're going, and you're going to tell me why you're fighting this so much.”
“I am not.”
“Okay, tell me what *is* wrong. Talk to me.”
“It's just ... it's nothing.”
Daniel bit his tongue as he took a heavy breath. His hands tightened around his arms.
“Daniel, do you have something against Halloween?”
“A...against it? No, of course not.”
“Then why are you as white as a sheet?”
Jack pulled off at the side of the road, turning off the engine.
“I'm all ears.”
“I don't think so. Looks like eyes, a nose, a mouth, eyebrows ...”
“Daniel,” Jack said sternly. “Talk to me.”
“We'll be late for the festival.”
“We'll only be late if it takes me thirty minutes to get you to tell me what's wrong.”
“Nothing's wrong; I mean, not ... gawd.”
Jack snorted and shook his head.
“Just tell me what's going on in there,” Jack requested, nodding toward Daniel's head.
He couldn't resist anymore. Keeping anything from Jack was strangely difficult for the otherwise extremely private archaeologist. In one giant swoop, Daniel let out his panic, the words pouring out as he answered the question, barely pausing to take a breath.
“We're going to a freakin' pumpkin festival where we'll be surrounded by a bunch of people, and I'm going to look like an idiot, because the truth is, I've never carved a pumpkin in my life, and in fact, the only pumpkins I've ever seen up close are the ones in the supermarkets, and, I don't know, maybe in school, but the point is, I'm going to look like an idiot, make a mess out of the pumpkin, and disappoint you, and you'll get mad, and I ... I can't breathe.”
“Is that it?”
Daniel nodded anxiously and said, “Yes; I mean, no, there's nothing else.”
“Good. In the first place, I said this was a pumpkin festival open to the public that church members and others bring their pumpkins ... to *display*. They have a couple of exhibits, but it's a show, Danny.”
“Like a crafts fair, really. You go, look at the various pumpkins, maybe buy a piece of pumpkin pie, and if you want, you can watch some of the demonstrations.”
“Demonstrations?” Daniel repeated weakly.
“We're not carving a pumpkin.”
“Oh. Good. I ... I'm sorry, Jack.”
“Daniel, I didn't realize you missed out on Halloween pumpkins, too.”
“Jack,” Daniel looked at his friend, “The truth is that I missed out on ...”
Daniel looked away. He wished he hadn't admitted the truth. He sounded even more pathetic now.
“You missed out on a lot of things, but the good news, Dannyboy, is that you're never too old to be young.” Daniel looked at Jack, trying to decipher his words. Jack smiled. “You're coming to my house tomorrow night.”
“We're going to carve a pumpkin, so tonight, you just do what you do best.”
“What's that, or should I ask?”
Daniel smiled, feeling much better now. Jack returned the smile, started the truck, and continued on to the church.
“Don't tell anyone I'm such a ... a ...”
“Daniel, don't start that. I so don't want to hear it.”
“And don't be sorry, either. For crying out loud, Daniel, it's not your fault that your parents died, and you ended up with a long line of losers for foster parents. Okay, so you're ... holiday-challenged,” Jack quipped, “some time and attention will take care of that. We'll take them one by one, and after a while, you'll be an expert, and we'll start with pumpkin carving.”
“You're welcome, Danny.”
Daniel felt his breathing normalize. He actually felt better now, thanks to his friend, the friend who never accepted the word 'no' from him. Daniel hoped Jack would follow through with his promise, though he knew something would happen to interfere; something always happened.
Soon they arrived at the church and headed for the large hall in the basement where the various events were being held. Jack looked at Daniel who was still looking tense, but at least he didn't seem to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown as he had earlier.
“Relax, Danny.” Jack patted him on the shoulder. “And remember that while you might be holiday-challenged, at least you know what the holidays mean.”
Jack had an odd grin on his face and his eyes were twinkling a bit more than usual. He was up to something, and Daniel knew it.
“Jack.” Daniel looked suspiciously at his friend who seemed to be sizing the archaeologist up. “Whatever you're thinking, Jack, the answer is no! NO!”
Jack laughed, admitting, “It's not that bad. I just want you to talk to Teal'c about Halloween. Who better to explain the intricacies of the holiday to our ignorant friend than a cultural expert?”
Daniel grinned knowingly, and smirked, “Bombed out in your explanation, huh?”
Jack began his tale of woe, sounding more like Daniel rambling on and on about some artifact.
“I was telling him about trick or treating; he didn't quite get the concept. He thought a better name for it was blackmail.” Daniel laughed. “Then I tried to tell him about black cats. I mean, everyone should know about those, especially this time of year, but Teal'c didn't quite grasp what I was trying to say. I told him about witches and spells and their connection to black cats, but he just wanted to know what evidence I had for the existence of witches, and if there were witches, what evidence was there that they only had black cats. I tried to tell him about superstitions surrounding black cats so that he'd know it wasn't just the witch connection, but he just stared at me. Then, he offered to acquire a black cat to show me how the superstitions were completely without foundation.”
Daniel took a look at the indignant expression on Jack's face and laughed even harder. Jack couldn't help but grin at the sight of Daniel chuckling.
~Doesn't happen nearly often enough, Danny.~ “Laugh it up, Dannyboy, tomorrow it's your turn to explain the holiday to Teal'c. We're having a Halloween party at my house, and he has got to understand at least the basics before then.”
“But Jack, it sounds like you did a fantastic job of explaining things to Teal'c,” Daniel teased.
Jack snorted, “Yeah, I explained pumpkin carving to him, and he told me to go and buy a lamp.”
“You know something, Jack? You sounded like me just now.” He saw the questioning look on Jack's face and explained, “Prattling, to use your word. You were prattling, Jack.”
“I do not prattle.”
“But you were.”
“I was not.”
Daniel smiled brightly and said, “Yes, you were. Your enthusiasm made you prattle. I mean, you really like the holidays, don't you?”
Jack sighed. They were at the entrance to the church hall when he stopped.
“Holidays are special. Growing up, my parents made each and every one of them fun. Sara and I continued that with Charlie.” He looked away for a second. “Yeah, I love the holidays, but the last couple of years, I ...” Jack coughed, not wanting to think about the reason why he hadn't celebrated anything since his son's tragic death. That was something else Daniel was giving him -- a newfound appreciation for all the different holidays. “Come on. Let's go see the orange bellies.”
Daniel laughed and watched Jack walk inside.
~Okay, Jack, I'll do this for you. I think maybe you need this more than I do.~ He quickened his pace to join Jack inside and was immediately impressed by the displays. “Oh, wow!” Daniel exclaimed as he looked at some of the carved pumpkins. “Look at these, Jack,” Daniel said, pointing out some of the lighted items. He was entranced by the sight of a row of brightly-lit jack-o'-lanterns, and Jack was entranced by the sight of Daniel who looked like the proverbial kid in the candy store. “These are great.”
Slowly, Daniel walked down the row, occasionally putting his hand on parts of the jack-o'-lanterns. He looked over at another table that had family photos of parents carving pumpkins with their children displayed along with the finished product. Then, he folded his arms in front of him and just stared straight ahead.
Jack saw the change. He knew his friend had just been hit with a large dose of reality and had suddenly been reminded of just how much fun he'd really missed out on as a kid.
~We're going to make up for it, Danny. I know it won't be the same, but it'll be better. We're going to make memories, as my grandmother used to say.~
“Hey,” Jack said, putting his hand on Daniel's back and rubbing gently. “You think you can do better than that five-year-old's pumpkin over there?” Daniel looked and shrugged. “Well, I know you can. Come on, Danny, let's go check those out.”
Jack brought his hand up to ruffle Daniel's hair, and then with a wicked but enchanting smile, he moved towards another display. Daniel smiled slightly, and then tried to straighten his hair as he walked to join Jack.
“Okay, Danny,” Jack said cheerily when Daniel stood at his side again, “let's take a good look at these carved orange fellows because at home I have a pumpkin with your name on it.”
Table by table, they took in the displays. Some pumpkins were painted, others had costumes, and a few were carved not with faces, but in decorative styles with leaves and snowflakes.
“Look at that one, Danny; it has spiky hair!”
“This one is scary. It gives me an idea.”
“What?” Jack asked.
“Maybe Teal'c can paint a pumpkin to look like ...” he looked around, then finished his sentence quietly, “a Jaffa. He can make a miniature staff weapon.”
“That's a great idea,” Jack said enthusiastically, patting Daniel on the back again and then moving to the next table.
~It's strange. You make me actually want to do this. I don't quite understand, but I'm having ... fun, and ... thanks, Jack.~
The two spent over an hour examining the different jack-o'-lanterns. Some were short and squat, others tall and thin, some were big and a couple were tiny. There were orange, white, and green pumpkins, but Jack's favorite was one that they saw being carved by a man in his fifties. The man had given it glasses, and Jack couldn't help but think of it as a Daniel-lantern.
Then they watched a pumpkin-carving demonstration. Jack noticed Daniel seemed to be listening as if the advice being given were crucial to the survival of the planet. He hid a laugh when Daniel actually pulled out a notepad and started to take notes.
~Well, at least you're paying attention.~
“I can't believe you bought a pumpkin because you think it looks like me,” Daniel said indignantly as he watched Jack carefully place the Daniel-lantern in the back of the truck.
“Call me sentimental.”
“How about crazy?”
“You have to admit it's cute.”
“Cute?” Daniel asked, almost defensively.
“Glasses. The glasses are cute.” Daniel stared at his friend in disbelief. “I wonder if I can find some long hair. Care to donate?”
“Jack, you've lost your mind ... again.”
Jack laughed, “So sue me. I have a fondness for Daniel-lanterns.”
Daniel shook his head as he entered the truck. He was totally amazed at his friend's sappiness.
~Gawd, you make me feel ... special. A Daniel-lantern: that's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard.~ Daniel was smiling as Jack drove out of the parking lot. ~Thanks, Jack.~
“Jack, do you think we have enough pumpkins here?”
Daniel couldn't believe that Jack had insisted they purchase not just four pumpkins, but twelve.
“It gives us pumpkins to play with. You'll see. You'll be glad to have the spare.”
“No faith in me, O'Neill?”
“I have all the faith in the world in you, Danny. You watch; you'll be glad we have spares.”
They headed for Jack's house, having purchased the pumpkins and a few accessories to accentuate their orange friends.
“Okay, Kids, you ready for the O'Neill School of Pumpkin Carving?” Jack asked, entering Sam's lab where he knew his teammates were currently assembled.
“Oh, yeah, looking forward to it, Sir.”
“I do not understand the purpose of this activity, O'Neill.”
“Daniel's going to explain it to you. Aren't you, Daniel.”
“DanielJackson, why should I wish to cut a face into a pumpkin?”
“I'll, uh, explain at lunch.”
“It's going to be *great* fun,” Jack said. “No one be late.”
“DanielJackson,” Teal’c placed his tray on the table and sat down opposite the archaeologist.
“Hey, Teal’c, Jack.”
Daniel smiled at the Jaffa and shook his head at Jack who sat beside him and promptly stole a handful of French fries. Jack was looking very pleased with himself, and unfortunately, Daniel knew why. Sure enough …
“DanielJackson, please explain the reason for carving a face into a pumpkin. What function does it serve? O’Neill has not been able to answer the question satisfactorily.”
Jack scowled at the Jaffa, and Daniel smirked.
“I'll, uh, do my best, Teal’c. Um, well, Halloween is actually based on an old Celtic holiday called Samhain, which means summer’s end. It was the end of the Celtic year and began at sundown on October 31st and lasted until sundown the following day. It was believed that the veil between the world of the dead and the world of the living was thinnest on this night and so was a time when the dead were honored. Essentially, it is a religious holiday that has now been commercialized to the point that most people aren't aware of its origins.”
“Daniel, you're sucking all the fun out of it,” Jack whined.
“On the contrary, O’Neill, I find it interesting. Please continue, DanielJackson.”
“Thank you, Teal’c.”
Daniel smirked at Jack who made a face back and stole more of Daniel’s fries.
“However, I still do not understand why I should mutilate a pumpkin.”
“Carve, Teal’c, carve. Geez,” Jack said as he shook his head.
“As I was saying, it was originally a Celtic holiday, and the tradition of carving jack-o'-lanterns which ...”
“O'Neill is a lantern?”
Sam chuckled and said, “No, Teal'c. Carved pumpkins are sometimes called jack-o'-lanterns, though.”
“Yeah, I'm coming to that,” Daniel said as he continued. “Anyway, it originates from an Irish myth. Versions vary a bit, depending upon what you're reading, but according to legend, a man nicknamed,” Daniel paused to glance at the man sitting next to him before continuing, “you'll love this, ‘Stingy Jack’ invited the devil to have a drink with him. He didn't want to actually pay for the drink so he convinced the devil to turn himself into a coin that Jack could use to buy the drinks.”
“Smart fella,” Jack chimed gleefully.
“Maybe,” Daniel said. “Once the devil did turn himself into a coin, though, Stingy Jack decided to keep the money and prevented the devil from changing back by keeping the coin next to a silver cross.”
“How does a silver cross accomplish such a thing?” the Jaffa asked.
“That's, uh, another story, and a long one, but long story short, it's a religious thing; the cross is a symbol of goodness so the devil couldn't act against it.” Daniel paused. Teal'c simply stared at him. Daniel looked down for a moment, and then continued. “Anyway, Stingy Jack eventually released the devil on the promise that he would not claim his soul. When Stingy Jack died, God refused to allow such an unsavory character into Heaven, and the devil, keeping his promise not to claim Jack’s soul, would not allow him into hell.”
“It is interesting that such a demonic character in your folklore would honor a promise; but I still do not understand what this has to do with cutting up a large fruit.”
“Actually, Teal'c, pumpkins are vegetables,” Sam interjected.
“No, they're not, Carter,” Jack said. He turned to Daniel and said, “They're fruits, right?”
“Actually, Jack, Sam is right.”
“No, she's not.”
“Yes, she is.”
“But they're always talking about the fruit of the pumpkin,” Jack argued.
“Jack, would you like to tell Teal'c about Halloween, or ...?”
“Daniel's right; they're vegetables. Go ahead, Daniel,” Jack said quickly, taking a big bite out of his sandwich and trying to smile innocently as he chewed.
Daniel just shook his head and continued.
“Like I was saying, instead of allowing him inside hell, the devil sent Jack off into the dark night with only a burning coal to light his way. Jack placed the coal into a carved out turnip and has been roaming the Earth with it ever since. The Irish first referred to his ghostly figure as ‘Jack of the Lantern’ and then as ‘Jack O’Lantern’. In time, people began to make their own versions of Stingy Jack’s lantern and carved scary faces into turnips or potatoes and placed them near windows or doors to frighten away Stingy Jack and other wandering evil spirits. Immigrants from England, Ireland, and Scotland brought the tradition with them to the United States and discovered that pumpkins made perfect jack-o'-lanterns. They’ve been using them ever since.”
Daniel ran out of breath and found that not just Jack and Teal’c, but everyone within earshot in the commissary had been listening intently to him as he spoke.
“I never knew all that, Doc,” Lou Ferretti smiled at Daniel and raised his eyebrows at Jack. “So, Jack, are you related to Stingy Jack by any chance?”
“No,” Jack said defensively, “I'm not, Ferretti!”
“Sure about that Jack?” he teased his friend.
“Don't you have somewhere else to be, Ferretti?”
“I can change that.”
Lou smirked at his friend, knowing Jack wouldn't do a thing.
As the crowd disbursed, Teal'c said, “Thank you, DanielJackson, for explaining about pumpkins. I do not understand, however, O'Neill's obsession with black cats and witches.”
“Who knows how Jack’s mind works, Teal’c. We'll save that explanation for another time.”
“Tell him now, Daniel.”
“We have a briefing to go to, Jack.”
“No, we ... OW!” Jack exclaimed, reacting to Daniel's kick under the table. “Uh, I guess Daniel's right.”
“Thank you, Jack,” Daniel said, rising from the table and walking out with a smile on his face.
Teal'c nodded and exited, too, leaving Jack to nurse his injured leg.
“Are we carving all of these, Sir?”
“Of course! Everyone get in position,” Jack ordered cheerily as he moved to his table.
He had set up a card table next to the picnic table that was in the backyard and placed the pumpkins and carving utensils on the tables. Sam and Teal'c stood on one side and Jack and Daniel on the other.
“Maybe this isn't such a good idea, Jack,” Daniel said, losing his courage.
“It's easy. You watched the demonstration. Trust yourself; I do.”
Daniel's soul lit up. He looked down at the large orange object and took a deep breath. All the pumpkins were on newspapers, and on the table, Jack had placed an assortment of ice cream scoopers and thin bladed knives.
For a moment, Daniel closed his eyes and visualized the demonstration.
“Daniel, are you going to carve that thing or sleep on your feet?” Jack asked.
“Huh? Oh, sorry, just reviewing.”
“Daniel ... carve,” Jack said, trying to get his friend to take that first step in the process.
Daniel nodded and picked up one of the longer knives.
~Okay, I can do this.~
Carefully, he cut the top off the pumpkin around the stem, making sure it was large enough for him to remove the seeds and stringy membranes that were inside.
“How big is this hole supposed to be, O'Neill?”
“About two-thirds the diameter of the pumpkin. Here's something my grandmother taught me, too. Instead of cutting a round circle, cut a five or six sided opening; it works better.”
“Veronica said ...”
“Who's Veronica?” Jack interrupted.
“Uh, she was one of the people who did the demonstration at the pumpkin festival,” Daniel answered.
“When did you find out her name?”
Sam and Teal'c exchanged a look, wondering why it mattered.
“Um, when you were talking to those kids. She's very nice.”
“Right,” Jack scowled for reasons he didn't yet understand.
“As I was saying, Veronica said that when you cut out the top hole, you should angle the knife so that the lid and hole will be cone shaped. She said it helps to prevent the lid from falling into the hole.”
“That's good to know,” Jack growled under his breath.
Daniel shrugged and proceeded to use one of the ice cream scoopers to scrape the inside walls of the pumpkin clean.
Jack finished emptying the guts of his pumpkin and inspected the surface of it closely. Having selected the best side for the image, he cut out the individual parts of the face.
Daniel watched, but he decided to use another method.
“What are you doing, Daniel?”
“Jack, where are the crayons?”
“Crayons?” Sam asked, trying not to laugh.
“Something wrong with crayons, Carter?”
“Uh, no, Sir,” she said, bowing her head after seeing Jack's intimidating stare.
“Why do you want a crayon?”
Jack sighed skeptically, but answered, “In the study closet, top shelf.”
“Be right back,” Daniel said, going inside the house.
“Teal'c, just cut out the pieces of the face like this,” Jack instructed as he worked on his own piece.
“I believe I shall wait for DanielJackson.”
Jack mumbled something indistinguishable as he continued his efforts.
Finally, Daniel returned with the box of crayons.
“Daniel, I repeat, what are you doing?”
“I'm drawing the face on the pumpkin; then I can just cut through the lines. It's safer.”
“That's ridicuuuuuuuuuu ... oh for crying out loud,” Jack said, having just carved too big of an eye, the knife slipping slightly.
“Want a crayon, Jack?”
Jack scowled as he answered, “I'll get my own.”
Daniel laughed, and said, “They're all yours.”
Soon, the foursome had all cut their pumpkin faces, and then carefully pushed out the pieces to view the final results.
“Okay, candle time,” Jack said, lifting up the box of candles onto the table. “Votives work the best.”
“Sir, do you have any glass candle holders?”
“They preserve the pumpkin longer, and it's safer to place the candle in there.”
“No clue, Carter. Look in the buffet, left hand side. My wife ...” Jack paused, but quickly continued, “left a bunch of ... stuff in there when she gave me that piece of furniture. See what you can find.”
Sam nodded and went inside to the buffet that lined a part of one wall in the living room. She opened it to look for the candleholders, then smiled finding the perfect containers.
“What are those?” Jack asked.
“Looks like they were some kind of condiment bottle, probably cheese spread, Sir. They'll be perfect.”
~Sara always did keep the craziest things. Cheese spread bottles. Geez!~
They put their white votive candles inside the jars which fit perfectly inside their pumpkins and lit them.
“Wow!” Daniel reacted to the image. “Wow,” he repeated more softly.
Jack smiled, feeling warm inside, knowing Daniel was experiencing a bit of Halloween fun for the first time in his life.
“Thanks, Sir, it was fun.”
Sam stood to leave and smiled at the sight of Daniel who was still transfixed by the sight of their carved pumpkins. Jack shook his head and gave the younger man a nudge.
“Teal’c and Carter are leaving now, Daniel.”
“Wha… Oh, bye, guys.”
Jack showed the two out and came back to find Daniel had gone back to staring at the carved-out pumpkins.
~That man can make an artifact out of anything.~
“So, Danny,” Jack poked Daniel to get his attention, “are you doing anything tomorrow night?”
“Ah, tomorrow night?”
“Halloween. You know, the reason why we carved these pumpkin folk?”
“Ha, ha. No, I’m not doing anything; well, maybe those reports on the artifacts SG-7 brought back from P8J-205.”
Jack shook his head.
“No way, Dannyboy. It’s a law that you're not allowed to work on Halloween. I’m going to pitch in at one of the children's shelters; why don't you come with me?”
Daniel froze. Resolutely, he shut off the memories that his mind had instantly brought up.
~It’s in the past; forget it.~ “I, uh, I can't.”
“Come on, Danny …” Jack trailed off as Daniel glanced at him briefly before going back to gazing at the green grass. He’d never seen Daniel look quite so vulnerable. ~Crap, I’m sorry. I didn't mean to remind you of the times you spent in orphanages, and I bet some of them weren't as nice as some of the shelters here, especially this one. Molly's a sweet ole gal.~
“Okay, how about you come over here, hand out candy for me while I’m at the shelter, and then when I get back we'll watch trashy Halloween movies.”
“Hand out candy?”
“Yeah. The downside about helping the shelters is that the kids on the block get shortchanged. Look, why don't we go to the store now, buy a bunch of goodies, rent some movies, and we'll be all set?”
Daniel smiled. He could answer the doorbell. That wouldn't be difficult.
“Okay,” Daniel answered softly.
“That should do it,” Jack said, having selected several bags of candy and treats, but as he put the last bag in, he looked over at Daniel and noticed a nervous fidget. The young man was still staring at the different bags of chocolate, caramel, and other delights. “Daniel?”
“You have a lot of children in your neighborhood.”
“Yeah, I do. And?”
“Do they ... I mean, do most of them go trick or treating?”
“As a matter of fact, they do. The neighborhood loves holidays. Good parents for the most part.”
Jack saw Daniel stare at the cart that contained a few bags of candies and then back at the shelf.
“Daniel, what are you thinking?”
“I ... I just remembered at a school party once, they handed out Snickers bars, but they cut them up, probably the size of the miniature ones they sell now.”
“I never got a lot of chocolate. I'm being silly, but I remember wondering what it would have been like to get a whole bar, just for me.”
Jack looked at the aisle full of candy. There was so much more to what Daniel had just said.
“Hey, you know what?”
“Let's buy some more. Every kid gets ...”
“Three, no four,” Daniel said.
“Four,” Jack repeated. “Make it five,” he said, seeing the growing smile on Daniel's face.
Daniel lit up as he selected more bags of candy. Jack felt good inside as he watched. It was so easy to make Daniel happy, but Jack couldn't help wondering what kinds of horrors his friend had lived through that would make even a holiday like Halloween seem so tragic.
As they waited in the checkout line, Jack looked in the cart and laughed to himself. The neighborhood kids were going to make out like little bandits, but he didn't care. Daniel seemed happier now, and for Jack, that made it worth the extra expense.
Daniel was staring at some special Halloween candies, little ghouls and goblins, witches and orange thingies.
~Oh, what the heck? It's only money. The man wants to turn Halloween into Christmas, let him!~ “Daniel, grab a bunch of those. Heck, grab the whole box, and I forgot to get the Halloween corn. Be right back.”
Seeing another rare grin on Daniel's face, Jack knew he had done the right thing.
“How's my costume?”
Daniel laughed at the sight of Jack dressed as Smokey the Bear.
“I think you look great!”
“Yeah, well, Molly asked me to deliver a message with my costume. She found a couple of kids playing with matches a couple weeks ago.”
“Teach them, Jack,” Daniel said seriously.
“I'm going to try.”
“You really like this Molly, don't you?”
“Hey, she's Irish, and with a heart of pure gold,” Jack answered.
They moved to the door and Jack opened it. He noticed Daniel looking across the street at the Felton's home. It was richly decorated with various Halloween decor.
“Next year, Daniel, we decorate.”
Daniel laughed, and said, “That would be fun.”
“Okay, I don't want to see any of that candy left when I get back. Well, save some for the movies, but get rid of the rest of it.”
“It's a bit much, I suppose,” Daniel looked back into the entranceway where a large bowl now had a stack of Halloween treats in it. He also knew he had a pile of refills in the kitchen. He couldn't remember ever having so much candy in one place at one time, except at grocery stores. ~I overdid it.~
“What's wrong with splurging? Do me proud, Danny. Don't be stingy. Remember, only you can prevent kids from going without.”
Daniel winced at the bad pun, but then he smiled and nodded, appreciating Jack's generosity.
“Have fun, Jack.”
“Be back in a couple of hours. Oh, by the way, left you a surprise in the backyard.”
Jack just smiled and hurried on his way.
Daniel figured the children would start knocking on the door in about thirty minutes or so when darkness fell, so he decided to go outside and see what the surprise was.
He walked to the center of the lawn where a very large pumpkin sat on display. It was freshly carved, so he figured Jack must have done it shortly before he had arrived. It was lit up, the votive candle already lighted.
“You are crazy, O'Neill,” Daniel said, taking in the sight of the pumpkin that had a big pair of glasses on it, like the one Jack had bought earlier in the week at the pumpkin festival, but this one had one more accessory. “A wig? You bought a wig to put on a pumpkin? You're totally insane.”
~Looks like a bad imitation of the Beatles.~
Daniel noticed one more thing ... a small sign in front of the orange vegetable. He read it aloud.
“A pumpkin for Daniel -- the first of many. Happy Halloween, Danny.”
Daniel knelt down for a closer look at the pumpkin. He noticed that its smile was emphasized, as if to make sure that Daniel knew it was a smiling pumpkin.
Hearing the knock at the door, Daniel put his hand on his pumpkin counterpart and said, “Happy Halloween, Jack.”
He took a breath and walked inside the house, moving quickly to the front door. He opened it to find a witch, a sponge, Little Bo Peep, and Batman.
“Trick or Treat!” rang out in a variety of voices.
Daniel smiled, grabbed several candies, and placed them in the children's bags.
“Wow,” a young girl said, her eyes big. “All that, Mister?”
“All that, and here, one more.”
“Wow! I never, ever got that much before. Thanks!”
“Happy Halloween! Byyyyyyye,” the kids chirped as they walked off.
~That felt good, very good. I think I could get used to this.~
The experience was repeated, over and over, for twenty minutes, and Daniel knew more children would soon be at the door, but he hurried to the backyard for another look at the Daniel-Lantern.
“You are nuts, O'Neill, but gawd, thank you!”
His heart full, Daniel responded quickly to the next knock of the door. He reached in for more candies, but seeing he had grabbed a Big Hunk, he put it back.
~Jack likes those a lot. I think I'll surprise him and save all of those for him.~
Smiling, Daniel returned to his trick or treat duties, feeling better than he had in a very long time. He liked Jack's neighborhood, and he felt at ease there, and that was a feeling Daniel didn't have often.
“Hey, how'd it go,” Smokey the Bear asked when he arrived home.
“It went great. Gawd, Jack, it was ... the children were awesome.”
“Give away all the goodies?”
“I kept some for us,” he said, nodding to a bowl that sat on the coffee table.
“Big Hunks! You kept my Big Hunks!” Daniel smiled. “Thanks, Danny.”
“Actually, it's me who needs to thank you, Jack, for ... well, for talking me into going to the festival, and ... well, for everything.”
“Don't thank me, Danny. Wait until next year when we decorate.”
“You know something, Jack?”
“What?” Jack mumbled around a mouthful of Big Hunk.
“I think I'm ... no, I know I am.”
“Looking forward to it.” Jack grinned. “Um, and Jack?”
“Wait until you see the jack-o'-lantern I'm going to carve next year. It'll be the mirror image of ... someone pretty special.”
Daniel's sincerity took Jack aback. They didn't often get mushy, but this seemed to be one of those nights.
“I've got news for you, Dannyboy, my Daniel-lantern is the mirror image of someone pretty special, too. Now, about those movies ...”
“Nightmare on Elm Street? Can't we watch something a little less ... gruesome?”
“Casper the Friendly Ghost?”
The two laughed, and they continued with their first Halloween evening together. Jack would change out of his costume, and then they'd watch a trio of movies and enjoy the treats Daniel had saved for them. It was a pattern that would be repeated for years to come because for every Daniel-lantern there was a jack-o'-lantern , and never the two shall part!
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