The Smiler

Author: Orrymain
Category:  Slash, Humor, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:  Beyond the Series - February, May, 2012
Spoilers:  None
Size:  28kb, ficlet
Written:  May 29-31, June 1-4, July 11-12, 2006
Summary:  J-O Enterprises hires a new employee, but the man has a secret that will both shock and delight Jack and Daniel.
Disclaimer:  Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't.  A gal can dream though!
Notes:  
1) Sometimes, Jack and Daniel speak almost telepathically.  Their “silent” words to each other are indicated by asterisks instead of quotes, such as **Jack, we can't.**
2) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
3) This fic stands alone, but it does reference my other fics, “Goofy and the Boys”
4) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better:  Jodi, Patti, Linda, Megan, Claudia, QuinGem!

The Smiler
by Orrymain

“Megan, go ahead and send in the first victim,” Jack spoke into the intercom on the desk in his office at J-O Enterprises.

Laughing, Megan responded, “Don't cut too deep, Jack.”

“Don't worry; he won't bleed all over the new carpet,” Jack quipped.

J-O was in the process of hiring another principal investigator.  While they preferred to promote existing employees and then hire people to fill the vacancy created by the promotion, there were times when it simply wasn't possible.  Such was the case now.  Two rush projects had come in quickly, resulting in the J-O team being spread a little thin.  They just couldn't afford to pull one of their other employees off their current tasks and then train them to perform as the lead for a team without jeopardizing the endeavors already in progress.

As always, Megan did the initial screening of candidates, after which Jack interviewed those who had passed muster.  Though his questions had grown more technical over the years as he gained personal experience in the field, he still concluded every session by asking the interviewee their opinion on Daniel's theory that the Egyptian pyramids had been built for the purpose of serving as landing pads for alien ships and that cross-pollination of cultures occurred.

Once Jack accepted an applicant, another interview was set up with Daniel.  This would be the more technical interview.  Once the owners decided on a candidate, or a final group, Sam would run a final, more complete background check on the potential employee.  Although it hadn't been the case initially, Sam was now listed as a computer consultant for the firm and was paid for her time, though she continued to say it wasn't necessary.

“General Jackson-O'Neill, this is Donald Burton,” Megan introduced, walking the six-foot-three, muscular man into her boss's office.  “Mister Burton, General Jackson-O'Neill.”

As the two men shook hands, Megan exited, returning to her own office.  The two were still shaking hands when Donald cocked his head slightly, his expression going from normal to thoughtful.

“Is something wrong, Mister Burton?” Jack asked.

“No, nothing at all,” Donald responded.  “Have ... have we met, General?”

“I don't think so.  Please, sit down,” Jack instructed, noticing that the man was still staring at him intently.  “You have an impressive background,” he noted.

“Thank you,” Donald responded politely.

“Would you summarize it for me?” Jack requested, always interested to hear what a candidate mentioned, or perhaps even more importantly, didn't say about themselves.

The man nodded, then leaned forward just a tad as he began, “I received my B.S. degree in anthropological archaeology from UCLA in 1999 and then went to grad school, which wasn't easy financially, but I'm proud to say I worked my way through my education.”

“Scholarships?” Jack asked.

“No, Sir.  I'm from the typical middle class family.  We had just enough to get by, but not enough to pay for college.  It's ridiculous what an education costs these days,” Donald remarked.

“I don't really want to think about that,” Jack replied.  Seeing Donald's inquiring expression, he explained, “I have a house full of kids.”

Donald noticed Jack's glance over to the right of his desk.  Following the look, he saw the family photo -- two men, a bunch of children, including a baby, two dogs, and several other animals.  Suddenly, Donald smiled.  He looked back at Jack, and his smile grew.

~He must like kids,~ Jack thought.  “You were summarizing.”

“Yes,” Donald acknowledged.  “When I completed grad school, I interviewed with several companies in the Southern California area and landed an entry-level position with Pittman.  I'm a hard worker, General Jackson-O'Neill, and I learn fast.  Within three years, I was a principal investigator for Pittman.”

“They're an excellent company,” Jack replied.  “Why leave?”

“To be absolutely candid, I like dirt.  I like the open air.  I *don't* like smog, taking three hours to go ten miles, and living among maniacs.  I want something a little calmer,” Donald answered.

“Why Colorado Springs?” Jack inquired.  ~Why is he still smiling like that?~

Though the man had just given a serious answer to Jack's question, he was practically grinning, though trying not to.  He just couldn't seem to help himself.  The more he talked to Jack, the bigger Donald's grin became.

“My sister lives here, and I know some people,” Donald answered, letting out a tiny chuckle as he looked away.  “It's a good place to live.”

“Yes, it is,” Jack agreed.  Closing the personnel file on the desk, he asked pointedly, “Mister Burton, do you always smile this much?”  ~It's a little unnerving, if you ask me.~

“No, I don't, but I do believe in having a good time and doing a good deed on occasion,” the man responded.

~Doing a good deed?  What does that have to do with anything?~ Jack wondered.  Shaking his head slightly, he pressed onward with the interview, asking, “Do you think there are aliens here on Earth?”

“Anything is possible, General,” Donald acknowledged, still smiling.  In fact, even his eyes were bright with laughter.  “I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing, though.”

“Can you stop smiling?” Jack asked.

Donald's immediate response was to chuckle and shake his head in a self depreciating manner.

The job candidate looked at Jack and responded, “I'm sorry, it's just I suddenly feel pretty good.  It's a great day.  Look, General Jackson-O'Neill, I'm a darn good anthropologist and archaeologist.  I have the resume to prove it.  I'm loyal.  I always come to work on time and get my projects done on schedule.  I only call in sick if I am at death’s door.  Call my supervisor at Pittman and ask.  Like I said, I'm only leaving because I don't want to be an ant among giants anymore.  I've heard good things about J-O Enterprises, and whether the pyramids are landing pads, burial sites, storage sheds, or some sort of Stonehenge, I really don't care.  I want to work for people who care about and have a respect for our past.  That's why I'm here, and, yes, I know, I'm still smiling.  I hope that doesn't cost me this job, but I don't think I can stop it.”

“Thank you for coming in,” Jack graciously spoke, standing to shake the smiling man's hand one more time.  Sitting back down in his leather chair after Donald Burton exited his office, he pondered the strange interview.  ~He smiled almost as much as that ...~ Jack shook off his recollections and picked up the phone.  “Carter, I need a J-O check, pronto, if you have the time ... Donald Burton.  I'll FAX over the information ... thanks.”

“Jack, are you ready for the next interview?” Megan asked, suddenly appearing in the doorway.

“Two minutes, Megan, then send her in,” Jack replied, wanting to send the FAX first.  He looked over at the folder with Donald Burton's information and sighed.  ~Something is a little unusual about you; just have to figure out what it is.~

====

“Worked his way through college and grad school, ten years with Pittman, seven as a P.I.,” Daniel reviewed later that morning as he filled his coffee mug and then leaned against the kitchen counter.  “Sounds pretty good to me, Babe.”

“Danny, I'm telling you there is something off about that man.  He reminds me of that Quinn kid,” Jack said, doing a mock shiver as he thought about the Kelownan.

“Jonas isn't a bad guy, Jack,” Daniel chastised.

“How do you know?  We haven't seen him years, and I hope it stays that way,” Jack opined.  “Anyway, Burton's got the resume, and he's a pretty confident guy.”

“Which we need right now, Jack,” Daniel commented in between taking sips of his coffee.  “We need someone who can start by Monday, and you said he can do that, right?”

“Yes,” Jack sighed.

“He's loyal,” Daniel added.

“There's that,” the older man sighed as he stared over at Daniel.  Jack was sitting at the small table in the dining nook area, munching on some peanuts.  “He had all the right answers, and Megan scheduled him for the follow-up with you at 1400 hours.”

Daniel chuckled at the military usage of time, something Jack so often did, and then advised, “JD will wake up soon from his nap.  Be prepared.  He's a little cranky today.”

“He's only five-weeks-old, Daniel.  All babies that young are cranky,” Jack responded.

“Little Danny wasn't,” Daniel replied with a teasing smile.

Getting up, Jack walked to his husband, gave him a kiss, and said, “Good luck with Burton.”

“Thanks, Love,” Daniel intoned, watching his husband head upstairs.  He finished his coffee, then slipped on his jacket and headed for the office.  ~Jack must have been exaggerating.  No one can smile that much ... uh, except for Jonas, of course.~

====

“He checks out just fine, Sir.  I verified his residence, education and work histories, even checked with a couple of his references.  No criminal background, unless you count one speeding ticket five years ago in Winnemucca, Nevada,” Sam chuckled.

“A speeding ticket in Nevada is almost a rite of passage, Carter.  Anything else?” Jack asked as they talked over the phone.

“Nothing unusual or out of line,” Sam reported.

“Thanks, Carter,” Jack sighed, hanging up the phone.  ~Well, he checks out, Danny, but I still want to know why he smiles so much.~

After a moment more of contemplation, Jack picked up the phone to pass on the information to his husband, who was en route to the J-O office.

====

“Doctor Jackson-O'Neill, it is a pleasure to officially meet you,” the thirty-four-year-old applicant said, chuckling for a second afterwards.

“Uh, it's good to meet you, too,” Daniel responded, pulling his hand back after their handshake.  “Please, sit down.”

“Thank you,” the grinning man responded, looking downward for a moment as he tried to stifle his latest chuckle.

Daniel opened the file, glancing at a few notes he'd made before the interview.

“I'd like to know how much you've used your specialty of paleoethnobotany during your tenure at Pittman?” Daniel inquired.

“Not as much as I would have liked to,” Donald answered.  “The projects my team were assigned often went in another direction, and as the lead investigator, I ended up overseeing more than practicing.”

“Really?” Daniel inquired curiously.

“Pittman used large teams, Doctor Jackson-O'Neill.  Personally, I prefer smaller teams that can be more dedicated and more focused on whatever our goal might be,” the man noted while still smiling, even letting out a tiny snort at the end of his sentence.

“In your opinion, can you be a P.I. and still focus on your specialty?  What I'm really asking is, are you capable of running the team, meeting the goals, *and* examining the evidence with your specialty in mind?” the interviewer asked.

“Yes, I can, and very well,” Donald asserted.

“Let's pretend I didn't know about paleoethnobotany,” Daniel suggested.  “I want you tell me about it, and why it's so important.”

Nodding, Donald intoned, “By definition, paleoethnobotany is the study of relationships between people and plants, using the archaeological record. Through research, we learn how those who came before us used plants for food, clothing, medicine, houses, boats, and even tools.  More than that, we examine how the cultural and ecological dynamics of a society affected their food processes; that is, strategies for procuring, producing, and otherwise managing plant resources, including what various plants may have meant to people.  It's amazing what can be found with the right kind of excavation.  Just like bones and ruins, there are still fragile plant remains shouting to be found and explored.”

Daniel saw the man's smile grow as he spoke.  It was more than just the good-natured smile he'd had upon entering the office, but also was one of passion and enthusiasm in his chosen specialty.  He liked that.

“Doctor Jackson-O'Neill, one of the reasons I want to work for J-O Enterprises is that I understand you're doing a lot of work in the preservation area,” Donald spoke.

“Yes, we are, on land and in the water.  We believe in protecting history from ... being trampled on as much as possible,” Daniel affirmed.

“Ecology is a big interest of mine,” Donald stated.  “Perhaps that's not necessary for me to say, considering my specialty, but a lot of firms are focusing more on the botany side of the equation.  I'm looking for one who, at a minimum, wants both to be on equal ground.”

“I appreciate your position,” Daniel spoke.

The co-owner of J-O Enterprises continued the interview, asking more technical questions and also getting an idea of Donald's views on leadership. Throughout, he couldn't help but notice the continual happy expression, occasional chuckles, and lightness in the man's voice.

Finally, Daniel just had to ask, “Are you always this cheerful, Mister Burton?  I mean, uh, you do smile and laugh quite a lot.”

Chuckling, Donald responded, “No, Sir, honest, I'm not.  I must have had too much caffeine this morning.”  Seeing the same people in a different family photo on Daniel's desk, he couldn't resist and commented, “That's a nice looking family.”

Daniel smiled as he replied, “Yeah, the best.”

“Disney watchers?” Donald asked.

“All the time,” Daniel confirmed.  “You can't have twelve children and not see a lot of Mickey Mouse and his friends.”

“And ... family,” Donald noted, chuckling under his breath.  Seeing Daniel's stare, he expounded, “Minnie, Morty Fieldmouse, Pluto ... big family.”

“Yes,” Daniel agreed, wondering how they had moved so far away from archaeology.  “So, what techniques would you use in ...” he began, returning the focus back to the interview.

====

“Was I right?” Jack asked when his lover returned home.

“He smiled and laughed for ninety-minutes, Jack.  It was, uh, strange,” Daniel replied, sinking down onto the sofa.  “The brood?”

“All present and accounted for upstairs,” Jack responded.  “I'm sure the word will be out soon that you're home.  I give us sixty seconds, if we're lucky.”  He leaned in for a kiss, then asked, “Do we pass on the smiler?”

“I don't think we can, Babe.  He's the most qualified candidate, and he believes in our work and practices the same ethics.  He can also start on Monday.”

“Big plus.  Salary?” Jack asked.

“Megan was going over the specifics.  If you agree, I'll have her go over the details with him tomorrow,” Daniel spoke informatively.

“DAAAAAADDY!” various voices exclaimed as they ran down the stairs to say hello.

“Burton's a go,” Jack affirmed, knowing family time was about to cut off any more business talk for the day.

====

Three-and-a-half months later, in late May, Jack and Daniel were hosting a company barbecue for their employees at Boulder Park.  They had considered having it at their home, but their company had grown so much that, with families included, they just didn't have the room.  Plus, this park had facilities for all kinds of activities, including baseball, soccer, basketball, and tennis.  There was also a nice play area for children, so there was something for everyone.

It was a lovely day, and it passed by pleasantly.  As he munched on his latest hot dog, Donald Burton watched Jack and Daniel playing with their children.  He couldn't help smiling and laughing, just like he had the day he'd met the two men at the office.

The lovers, as they always did, kept close tabs on the new employee.  He had proven to be a knowledgeable and reliable principle investigator.  Those who had worked with him gave him high marks and were eager to work with him again.  The company owners were impressed with how he had taken care to make sure that those folks who might have been passed over for advancement because of the urgency of the situation in February knew how valuable they were to the team.

All in all, Jack and Daniel were pleased with having Donald Burton as an employee.  Still, he smiled and laughed a lot around them, not as much as during that initial visit, but frequently, he'd let out a chuckle for no apparent reason.

The couple had asked Megan and Karissa about Donald Burton and his ongoing good-natured attitude, and both had reported that it hadn't interfered with the man's work performance or interactions with other employees.  In fact, the only comment they could make was that he did sometimes remark about how playful Jack and Daniel could be on occasion.  He'd often point out the laughter in the office, opining how that was a good thing.

“Danny, he's laughing at us again,” Jack spoke when the children had all run off to play.

Daniel looked over, observing Donald chuckling, barely able to eat his beef frank.

“Okay, enough,” Jack said, standing and walking purposefully towards the employee.

“Jack?” Daniel called out.  “Jack, what are you doing?”

The younger man began to sprint to catch up with his lover, staring at him and feeling frustrated when Jack refused to answer the question.

“Okay, Smiler,” Jack stated when they reached Donald.  “You're a great employee, but you have a habit of smiling or laughing whenever we're around, and I want to know why -- *now*!”

Donald burst into laughter, doubling over and almost dropping the last third of his hot dog onto the grass.

“Burton, speak up,” Jack ordered.

“I'm sorry, General Jackson-O'Neill, really, I am,” Donald intoned as he straightened and got a grip on his emotions.

The man took a big breath and looked over towards the children, something Jack wasn't sure he liked at the moment.  In fact, Jack was beginning to doubt Sam's security check on the employee.

“Okay,” Donald said, taking one more breath.  He looked at his employers and stated, “On a resume, we list the jobs that are appropriate for the job being sought, and that's what I did.”

“And ...?” Jack prodded.

“And,” Donald continued, “I worked a lot of jobs to put myself through college.”

“A lot of people do,” Jack acknowledged tersely, ignoring his husband's glare.

“I love smiles; I believe in smiling, so I tried to find jobs that were either fun or at least gave me opportunities to help people,” Donald explained.

“Sounds good, but it doesn't explain your Jonas Quinn imitation,” Jack groused.

“Jonas who?” Donald asked.

“Never mind,” Jack responded, waving his hand in front of him.

Donald continued, “I had some awesome summer and part time jobs.  You may not realize that my home town of Buena Park is right next door to Anaheim.”

Daniel blinked a few times, his mind beginning to stir, processing the little tidbits of information they were receiving.

“I worked at Disneyland for five years,” Donald announced.

“Running the Jungle Cruise ride?” Jack questioned, wondering what this had to do with anything.

“For a while,” Donald said, adding, “My favorite bit, though, was playing some of the cartoon characters.”

“Car...toon characters?” Daniel asked, the pieces of the puzzle fitting together for him nicely.  “Oh, gawd.”

“What?” Jack asked, feeling totally frustrated.

“I'll tell you what I'd like to know.  Did you get those two ladies to give you a copy of that photo?” Donald queried, grinning from ear to ear.

Daniel closed his eyes, blushing and shaking his head, while Jack just stared at the man, still processing the question.  Then it hit him, and his eyes widened in astonishment.

“Holy Mouse Dogs!” Jack exclaimed.  “Goofy?” he asked, seeking verification of his assumption.

Grinning, Donald nodded and confirmed, “Yes, General, I was Goofy.  If I'm not mistaken, that was in 1998, wasn't it?”

“I am *so* embarrassed,” Daniel spoke, turning around and wanting to retreat.

**Oh, no, you don't!**  Jack grabbed his lover, pulling him near.  “Are you sure?”

Donald laughed and replied, “You wanted him to laugh, General, and, as I recall, we succeeded.  I won the duel, but I could see his heart was yours, so I gave him back, remember?”

Jack began to smile, shaking his head in shock and surprise.

“I apologize,” Donald spoke.  “I should have told you during the interview at the office.”

“That's why you gave me that funny look when we shook hands,” Jack surmised.

“You were very familiar; then I saw the picture on your desk and knew who you were,” the employee confessed.  “I wanted the job, General, and I wasn't sure how you'd feel about having a cartoon character on your payroll.”

“Proud as punch,” Jack stated.  “Call me Jack, and it's truly a pleasure to *officially* meet you ... Goofy!”

After the two enthusiastically shook hands, Daniel reached over and shook the man's hand as well, saying, “Thank you for ... what you did.  It was, uh, memorable and embarrassing.”  After a nervous chuckle, he added, “And, please, call me Daniel.”

The laughter continued as the three men reminisced, recalling Jack and Daniel's first trip to Disneyland together in August 1998.  They had only been a twosome for a couple of months, and Daniel's inner child was only just learning that it was okay to come out and play from time to time.  Jack had seen Goofy just as he had been going off duty and convinced him to get his lover to laugh.  It had ended when Goofy picked Daniel up, holding him territorially in his arms.  Jack then placed a kiss on his soulmate's shaggy hair while, at the same time, tickled his abdomen.  All had been surprised when, at that precise moment, two sisters, Frances and Crystal, got their attention by snapping a photo that preserved the event for eternity.

Jack and Daniel told Donald about the sisters, telling him they had become good friends, the ladies even attending their wedding in November 2003.  Then, Daniel confessed that he had finally gotten over his embarrassment, and the prized photo now had a key spot on a shelf in his den at home.

“So did you ever play Donald, Donald?” Jack asked with a chuckle.

Donald laughed, “No, but there was this one time when I was walking around the park with Donald Duck; one of the kids called out Donald, and we both answered.”

====

Sometime later, after their catch-up session was done, and all were mingling elsewhere, Jack found a moment to take Donald aside for a private chat.

“Don, listen, I can't thank you enough for what you did that day for Daniel,” Jack spoke earnestly.

“General ...”

“Jack.  From now on, it's Jack,” the general ordered lightly.  “You have no idea how much those crazy ten minutes affected him.”

“He laughs a lot, I've noticed,” Donald observed.

“Now.  It took years.  He had a lot of baggage to overcome, and it wasn't easy, but he did, and now ...”

“Now ... Jack, he looks to me to be a very happy man.  If I contributed in any way, I'm very glad I could,” Donald spoke.

Nodding, Jack teased, “So, tell me the truth.  Are Mickey and Minnie expecting?”

Laughing, the two men headed over to the grill to get some more food.  All the while, Jack watched his husband, happy, free, frolicking, and playing with their children among their friends and co-workers.

~Oh, yeah, Goof, Pal, I owe you one, and now, I'm going to find a way to pay you back.  Just give me time,~ Jack vowed, inwardly knowing that his own happiness was a direct result of the happiness he was witnessing just a few feet away within his husband.  **Danny, I love you.**

Laughing while playing tag with some of the children, Daniel looked over at his soulmate, grinned, and replied, **I love you, too, Babe.**

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