Colorado Springs, 27th of November, 1997., Thanksgiving evening.
He knew he was stalling.
He also knew there was no good reason for it, but he *was* stalling nontheless.
Daniel sighed, pulled the keys out of the ignition, grabbed a slim gift bag and got out of the car.
As he was approaching the front door some lingering doubt resurfaced, but he did his best to shrug it off. After all, he *had* been invited.
His finger barely left the bell button when the door swung open and a familiar form appeared in front of him.
“I thought you’re gonna spend the entire night out there in the car...was thinking of bringing you a pillow and a blanket and something hot to drink...”, Jack drawled, lazily moving aside to let the frowning man enter the house.
Daniel blinked, some reddish color highligting his cheeks, then he stepped inside, allowing Jack to close the door behind him.
“Ahh...ye-ah. I was....I-...sorta-....”, Daniel mumbled, his hands waving helplessly in an attempt to explain the fact he had been acting like a silly teenager.
Jack just smirked and hurriedly intercepted the moving arm that was holding the wrapped bottle, likely saving it from the messy demise on his floor.
With a long-suffering-sigh he gestured in the general direction of the living room.
“Just get in, Daniel. You should know you’re always welcome here.”
Jack realized he had his work cut out for him when something close to suprise flashed in the younger man’s eyes.
Crap, Daniel, even after all we’ve been through...?
He followed Daniel into the living room, peeking into the gift bag in his hands and humming appreciatevely at the bottle of Old Smuggler.
“Thanks”, he said with a nod in Daniel’s direction, who was strolling around the room, looking around him like he was there for the first time.
Jack smiled to himself while getting two glasses from the liquor cabinet. That was Daniel’s routine. He would explore any room anywhere, no matter how many times he has already been in it.
For a lack of better term, Jack called it professional deformation.
Just one of many things he had to get used to in the recent months.
Remembering he had a dinner cooking, Jack placed the glasses and the bottle on the coffee table, then hurried into the kitchen.
No point in burning the turkey.
“Make yourself comfortable, I’ve gotta check on dinner!”, he threw back while skipping over a few stairs that led to his kitchen.
While Jack was struggling to save the bird, Daniel stood in front of the fireplace, his eyes fixed onto a framed pencil drawing on the wall above it.
When Jack returned into the living room Daniel was still in the same position, gazing thoughtfully at the picture.
“Quality work”, Jack commented, moving to stand next to Daniel.
“When-...Where did you get it?” Daniel glanced at the older man, an amazement plain on his face.
“Oh, ages ago...was wisiting some friends in L.A. in winter, I think...from some kid who was selling his works on a sidewalk near UCLA...”. Jack was frowning, trying to remember details of an event he has clearly forgotten most about, so he wasn’t aware of Daniel staring at him steadily, reverting his gaze as Jack came out of his reminiscing.
“Well, like I said...it was a long time ago...Huh. I wonder what happened to that kid... he was really on the deep end back then...”
Daniel tried his best to keep his voice even. “I guess he was okay...if people bought his art...”
“Yeah, I guess...”, Jack nodded thoughtfully. “I found that picture in the basement, thought it fitting to put it up now that those have an entire new meaning to me”, he said, pointing at the picture in front of them.
It was showing the three pyramids at Gizeh, captured masterfully in pencil, in all their ancient glory.
An insistent ringing brought them out to the here and now.
“Ah, dinner’s ready!” Jack started towards the kitchen, turning around just enough to invite Daniel with a nod. “C’mon, let’s eat! There’s a game on in an hour, don’t wanna miss it!”
For several moments Daniel was just standing there, gazing after his frined, a small smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.
PX7-948 (Planet Boring), 15th of August, 2000., midday.
“I want to sit in a cool room with an ice cold beer in one hand and a remote in the other”, Jack moaned rather theatrically and flopped down next to a busy archaeologist, raising a small cloud of dust, which earned him *the look*.
The lifted eyebrow stayed in its high place as the head returned to its original position, low above a paper pad balancing Daniel’s knees.
“There’s some cold water in my thermos, it’s not too warm if you sit in one place and in shade, and Sam still has some samples to collect. But-“, Daniel raised his head to glance at Jack. “-it’s too hot for her to do that *now*, so we’ll wait till the evening to go home”.
He could feel brown eyes boring into his scull.
“You’re not much fun, ya know?”, finally Jack sniped at the apparently relaxed man beside him.
A low chuckle drifted to his ears. “I know”.
Jack sighed, tried to get more comfortable on the hard, dry ground, then looked over at what Daniel was doing.
“Hey, that’s pretty good!”
Daniel’s hand stopped moving for a moment, then resumed it’s practiced motion once more. “Thanks”.
“You ever went to some art school or something?”, Jack asked while examining Daniel’s work. A detailed drawing of the ruined town stretching in front of them was emerging from under Daniel’s busy pencil.
He didn’t pause while answering Jack’s curiositiy. “Archaeologists have to know how to draw...a photograph is not the same as drawing,...you can emphasize some details which are important to you, and those same details might get lost in a photo. Besides, I’ve always liked to draw...got it from my Mom”.
Jack muttered a “Huh. Well, it’s good. Really good”. He felt something begging for his attention, somewhere deep in his overheated brain...but it was simply too hot to think, and he laid back onto the ground, putting his arms behind his head.
“You wake me up when you finish with your Mona Lisa and when Carter decides to play in the sandbox again...”
Daniel’s absent “Okay” was closely followed by a relieved sigh, but Jack was already too far away in the Dreamland to hear it.
Washington DC, 20th of October, 2005., morning.
The insistent doorbell ringing and subsequent knocking stopped just as the bathroom door swung open and Jack stumbled over his own slippers which had been thrown carelessly through the door. After awkwardly balancing for a minute on one leg, using one hand to hurriedly dry himself with a towel while doing his best to pull on the jeans with the other hand, Jack threw the towel on the bed and dressed quickly, shouting “Coming!” on top of his lungs.
He guessed who might be at the door and his guess proved to be the right one when he heard the jingling of keys and his door opening effortlessly.
“‘eloooo?” A bundled up human form known as Daniel Jackson stepped into the hall and shut the door behind him, belatedly joining Jack with a balancing act all of his own in an attempt to save several bagged items from falling into certain death.
“Coming!” sounded again and a second later Jack appeared from a room down the hallway, buttoning up his shirt on the go.
Daniel smiled too sweetly - “Well, good for you!” - then ducked away from the forced scowl headed in his direction.
Daniel smirked and placed the stuff he brought onto the nearby table. “I know, I know...”
His breath was suddenly squeezed from him as Jack engulfed him in a rib-crushing embrace, patted him on the back and the head, and then released him, all in no more than ten seconds flat.
“Good to see you!” Jack stood back, giving his friend an assessing once-over.
Daniel laughed, then exhaled a suffering sigh and slowly turned around, showing off his amazingly unhurt body.
“No visible bandages, or bullet holes, missing limbs or broken bones...I’m impressed!”, Jack said, his head cocked thoughtfully on one side. “I’ll have to take Landry out to dinner the next time I’m in Springs!”
A not so gentle snort told him what the good doctor thought about that. “Hillarious, as always.”
“Thank you, I practice.”
Daniel’s bored face was replaced with a pout. “Satisfied with how I look? May I move closer to the fireplace, now? In case you haven’t noticed, it’s cold out there!”
“Oh, I might have noticed, given that white stuff outside which people call “snow”...”, Jack fired back, walking after his thawing friend.
He was watching as Daniel did his “Daniel routine” - exploring his apartment all over again and smiled invardly.
Some things never changed.
Daniel finally seemed satisfied with the accomodation. Then, apparently just realizing he still had his jacket on he shrugged it off while walking back towards the hall, hung it next to Jack’s coat and took a thin parcel from the table onto which he’d dropped his things.
Returning back to the living room Daniel paused at the familiar sight of his friend preparing them drinks. His gaze found an object he was looking for on one of the walls and after a short but fierce debate with himself, he strolled purposefully towards Jack who looked up from the task of pouring whiskey, sensing a sudden change in Daniel’s demanour.
“Happy birthday”, Daniel said, handing out the gift.
Jack smiled, his eyes crinkling with both amusement and contentment. “I thought you’ve forgotten...”
“Right, Jack. That’s why I’m here...’cause I’ve forgotten...”, Daniel bounced right back at him, then grew serious once more, still holding the gift in his extended hand.
“This is just-... I just wanted to-...” He sighed, took a deep breath and tried again. “This is for the birthday, of course, but I also wanted to say Thank you - for everything you’ve done..for me.”
Jack smiled with a touch of confusion. “You’re welcome, but...I’m not sure what you’re thanking me for...” He took the gift from Daniel’s hand, though, and started unwrapping it.
Daniel mumbled “You’ll understand”, then leaned on the wall in a full self-hug-mode. It’s been such a long time since Jack has seen it, that it took a lot of self control not to say anything. Yet, anyway. Not until he saw what this was all about.
He carefully unwrapped the thin cardboard box, dropped the paper onto the couch and pulled one of the flaps up, too peek inside. His eyebrow rising, Jack cast a look at Daniel, then back at the thing in his hands.
Gentle tugging on the paper has revealed a framed picture. A beautiful, detailed pencil drawing of a place Jack knew well - his cabin and lake in Minnesota.
For a long moment he was stunned spechless, then lift his eyes towards Daniel.
“It’s my cabin! Who has-...?” Then he glanced at the right corner and saw two letters: JD.
“It’s yours? You drew this?”, not exactly disbelief, because he was aware of his friend’s talent, but more amazement, fired repeated questions at the still-self-hugging-person leaning on the other wall.
Jack’s ears registered a mumbled “You like it?”, and he nearly snorted.
“Like it? It’s great! So much detail! Reminds me of that-...” Jack’s hand stopped in midair in an attempt to point towards another drawing, on the wall just above the fireplace. He looked at it, at the Pyramids in all shades a pencil could produce, frowned, then looked back at the picture in his hand.
Daniel guessed this was what he often looked like to Jack; he could practically see the little wheels turning inside the other man’s mind with a light bulb blinking in the excitement of discovery.
Jack, on the other hand, was thrown back into the past, feeling much like he has just stepped through a wormhole.
> FLASHBACK TO: Los Angeles, 21st of December, 1981., late afternoon
It was colder than he expected cold and Jack wasn’t really sure what he was doing out in the half frozen streets of L.A.
Well, yeah, he was avoiding that little get-together his friends’ve decided to throw earlier that day. He couldn’t stand their annoying friends that were sure to come, so he opted for a little sightseeing instead of forcing himself to be polite when all he wanted to do was strangle the guys.
He *so* didn’t like scientists.
Pulling his cap lower onto his forehead, Jack turned the corner to Le Conte Avenue and realized he was close to the UCLA. He remembered some good restaurants in Westwood Village and decided to treat himself to dinner.
There were few people in the street, most of them in a hurry to escape what was in L.A. considered to be a numbingly cold wind, the near darkness of a cloudy late afternoon in the middle of winter making the city look almost eerie.
That was why a sight of someone actually standing in one place, as in *not moving*, was a strange sight indeed.
Jack squinted, concluded it must be some local weirdo selling something, then plunged on, his mind on the warmth of some restaurant and having a tasty meal in peace.
Jack’s eye’s corner has registered he’d passed by that weird salesperson, when he stopped, frowned at something he couldn’t indentify and turned around. Walking slowly towards a small foldable table filled with several middle sized framed pictures, Jack tried to see the person leaning on the wall.
His frown deepend when he realized it was just a kid, leaning on that wall with his entire body lenght, his arms folded in a self hug and eyes closed.
The kid’s clothes left a lot to be desired and Jack felt his concern rising.
It was not too cold for someone who grew up in Minnessota, but cold enough for anyone to be standing so still, especially a thin youngster such as this one.
“Hey!”, he called, getting no response.
He touched a forearm that was visible and the kid’s eyes snapped open, two circles of ice blue gazing at him suspiciously. “What?” The tone was snarky, but the voice sounded tired.
Jack backed off a little, raising his hands in a “I surrender” gesture.
“Just checking, kid! You fell asleep standing there and it’s kinda not healthy to do that out here in this cold”, he said placatingly, keeping his voice even. Jack realized he was behaving like he had a scared colt in front of him.
Well, a young one for sure, but scared? He didn’t think so.
The kid nodded, which Jack interpreted as “Thanks for worrying”, then kept one of his pictures from flying away with the wind. He looked back up and scowled when his eyes found the stranger still standing there and staring.
“What do you want? I’m selling these, so if you want to buy one, fine; if not, you’d better go someplace warm.”
Jack ignored the unfriendly tone, deciding it was a self-defense mechanism in a full battle mode.
“They yours?”, he asked, genuinely admiring the work.
The piercing blue eyes softened a bit as the kid realized Jack was not really a threat.
“Yeah. I like to draw, especially in pencil...and I’ve gotta eat something...” The last part of the sentence was mumbled and Jack almost missed it.
He looked up sharply, cocked his head to one side, assesing the old, worn clothes and unruly longish hair.
“You have a place to live? How old are you, anyway?”
Jack was suprised to get a sincere answer.
“I’m sixteen...studying at the UCLA. And yes, I have a...place.”
Jack’s frown deepend, ignoring for a minute the “studying at sixteen” part.
“Where? Or, better yet, what?”
The short uncomfortable silence told him all he needed to know and he was digging for his wallet even before the reluctant reply has reached his ears.
“The old warehouse several blocks away...there’s a room where I-“
“Take this”, Jack cut him off, handing the kid a bunch of bills. “And I can’t carry all of these pictures with me now, so you’d better sell them to someone else, and when I get here again, I’ll take the a couple of new ones.”
The explanation seemed lame to Jack’s ears as it was to the kid, but he didn’t think he needed to elaborate why he was giving him the money.
The kid shook his head, pushing the offered gift away.
“No, no-...please, I don’t want to-...”
“*I* want to do it...Okay?”
"Please...it's a lot of money! Just...take at least one, whichever you like the best. Please." The blue eyes were looking at him, pleading for little dignity. Who was he to deny it to the youngster?
"Okay. I'll take the Pyramids... you keep the rest", Jack said, picking up the drawing of the three Egyptian pyramids with one hand and offering the money again with the other.
“Take it, it’s no problem. For your studies...okay?”
A sigh and a reluctant nod of the head was enough of a reply.
The kid took the money, flashing a quick embarassed smile. “Thank you”.
“You’re welcome”, Jack smiled back, then shifted on his feet.
“Well, I guess I’d better be going now...Have a-..”
Jack winced. He almost wished him a Merry Christmas.
There was a wealth of grattitude for the generosity of a stranger in that little word, and Jack felt like a heel for leaving the kid behind. But what the heck could he do? Take him home with him like a lost puppy?
With a sigh Jack turned and started to walk in the direction of restaurants, not feeling very hungry anymore.
He could feel the laser sharp eyes boring into his back all the way till he turned around the next corner.
Jack stopped in front of an ordinary looking restaurant, partially full with people laughing, talking, eating and drinking in the warmth of the pleasantly decorated dining room.
He stood like that for a full minute, then muttered “Crap!”, turned around and started the way he came.
The kid was still there where he left him, packing up his pictures and the table into a large, tattered bag.
Jack approached him, trying not to analyze why exactly was he back here. “Hey!”
The kid’s head shot up and first suprise then confusion passed over his features.
“Have you forgotten something?”, he asked politely, zipping up his bag.
Jack fidgeted where he stood for a moment. “Yee-ah... We....’ave forgotten to introduce ourselves.”
“I’m Jack. Jack O’Neill.” A hand was extended in a greeting and the kid was watching it wearily, like it was a dangerous living creature.
Finally he took the offered hand and shook it, a small smile of amusement spreading across his face.
“I’m Daniel Jackson. I’m...pleased to meet you.”
Jack shook the smaller hand, then hurriedly put his cold hands into pockets.
“Well, now that we know what to call each other, would you join me for a dinner?”
He realized how *that* must have sounded when Daniel froze and gave Jack a threat-assesing once over.
Jack lifted his hands again in a peaceful gesture.
“Just a dinner...you need to eat and I need to eat...there’s a nice place just around the corner and it’s warm and I’d like some company for the next hour or so ‘cause I’m trying not to get to my friends’, where I’m staying, till those scientisty friends of theirs leave the party.”
Amazed at how much he could say in one sentence, Jack cringed, then looked hopefully at the youngster.
“You don’t like scientists?”, Daniel asked, that little half-smile starting to tug at his mouth. But he was picking up his bag and putting the strap over his shoulder, so Jack figured he was safe to start back towards the restaurant.
Sure enough, Daniel followed.
“I’ve got nothing against scientists. I think. I don’t like *geeks*”.
Was that a snicker? Jack glanced next to him, trying to decide whether to be amused or annoyed. It was a strange combination of emotions, one he didn’t have experience with up until now.
“For what? You studying to be a scientist? Or are you a geek?”
A genuine chuckle escaped Daniel’s lips. “Both”.
And he was giggling. He was actually giggling.
The only thing Jack could do was laugh.
The next several hours have passed in pleasant companionship.
The look on Daniel’s face when all the food arrived on their table made every penny spent worth it. He needed a few moments to compose himself, then flashed a blindingly bright smile at Jack and dug in.
And he talked.
About everything and everyone but himself.
When they finished eating and the waiter cleared their table, Jack leaned back in his chair and looked over at his newest friend.
“So, tell me Daniel, how come you’re sixteen and already in college?”
There was a brief silence, but there was also a suprising feeling of trust between the two recent strangers, so Daniel took a deep breath and indulged Jack’s curiosity.
“My parents died when I was little...I was in orphanage and then in foster care...I wanted out of the system, and sixteen was the earliest I could do that, so...here I am...A too-smart-for-his-own-good-geek killing his time studying. It has brought me here...”, he trailed off, a sad, self-depreciating smile on his face.
Jack was silent for a while, digesting the short but telling story.
“You getting scholarship?”
Daniel looked up and nodded. “Yeah...enough for the school...not for housing and food....I...have to get by.”
“Couldn’t you maybe...stay at some friends?”
The younger man sighed, fiddling with his glass. “No real friends...noone wants to hang out with a kid-geek”.
The words made Jack wince, bringing home his own view of scientists in general. But he, at least, had a good reason for it. Snorting softly, he remembered those friends of friends he was avoiding... overly smart geo-somethings, all the time talking about rocks this and rocks that-...Jack’s face cleared when a sudden idea sneaked in. He looked over at his companion and saw Daniel watching him quietly.
“I need to-...I’ll just make one phone call...be right back...”, Jack told him while getting up and hurrying off towards the phone in the booth on the other side of the room. “You get us another round!”
About fifteen minutes later Jack came back to find Daniel glumly looking into his half-full glass.
“Hey, don’t fall asleep, kid”, he teased, feeling exceptionally good.
Daniel smiled, lifting his drink in greeting. “This hot chocolate is good...warmed me up and made me sleepy”.
“Well, you should wake up now, got some info for ya....”, Jack drawled, feeling relaxed for the first time that day.
Daniel raised one eyebrow expectantly.
“Those geeky friends of my friends? They live on the other side of the UCLA campus. They’re teaching assistants, geologists, I think...and they happen to have a spare room in their apartment...”, he trailed off, watching Daniel becoming awake in a second.
“They agreed to rent you a room in exchange for helping them when they go out in the field with their students...It’s a young married couple, Jessa and Ted Preston, and they really wouldn’t mind some company, at least till you get on your own two feet.”
Jack pushed a piece of paper towards the stunned kid. “Here’s the address and a phone number. I have to leave for Chicago in early morning, so you’ll have to contact them yourself and tell them where to pick up you and your stuff.”
Daniel took the paper, his mouth trying to form words.
“And they won’t have 'No' for an answer, they’re looking forward to have another geek to talk to...”, Jack added just to be on the safe side.
A tear spilled over and rolled down one of Daniel’s cheeks. Still keeping his eyes averted, he pocketed the paper, then looked at Jack openly.
“Thank you. I can’t-...Just-...”, he struggled with words, then settled for one more, heartfelt “Thank you”, followed with a genuine smile.
That was quite enough for Jack. He smiled and called a waiter to bring their check. It was quite late already, and he had an early flight tomorrow.
Some minutes later they exited the restaurant into the cold night, after a couple of steps realizing they were heading in different directions.
“So...”, Jack said, rocking back and forth on his heels.
“So...”, Daniel echoed, clutching his bag like there was no tomorrow.
“I guess...I might see you...sometime...if I get back to L.A. for a visit....”
“Yeah, I guess...I’d-...I’d really like that... I still can’t get my mind around how-... “, Daniel cut himself off, sighed, then extended his hand.
“Thank you. I won’t forget this. Thank you.”
Jack smiled and shook the offered hand. “You’re welcome, kid. Well, I’d better be going...you take care of yourself, ya hear me?”
“Yeah, I will...Perhaps...I’ll see you...later...?”, Daniel said, taking a few steps in the opposite direction.
“Perhaps...I’ll be seeing you around, Daniel...”, Jack said with a nod, moving away. Before he dissapeared down the dark street, he glanced back and saw Daniel still standing where he'd left him, staring at his retreating figure.
Jack crashed back into the present with a look which made Daniel cringe.
“It was *you*!? Why the hell didn’t you say anything?”
“It wasn’t the best of times for me, Jack, certainly not something I wanted to remember...and besides, *you* forgot all about it too!”, Daniel said defensively, trying to steer Jack away from asking *the* question.
“For how long’ve you known it was me?”
Rather unsucessful steering away.
Daniel shifted on his feet, fiddled with the hem of his shirt and swiped a hand through his hair.
Jack was just standing there, glaring.
“Since that first Thanksgiving dinner...in...1997, I think...”
The glare only intensified in magnitude.
“I didn’t want to talk about it, okay?”. Daniel dug his hands deeply into the pockets, glaring back and administering a healthy dose of pouting. It would usually melt Jack into a puddle of goo.
Usually. Not always, though.
“I wouldn’t want to “talk about it”, Daniel, but it would’ve been nice to *know*!”
“Oh, please! *You* wouldn’t wanna talk about it, but you’d want *me* to talk-...!”
Jack sighed. “Daniel.”
“Jack”. It was said in that annoyed tone which reminded Jack of Charlie when he’d behave like a brat.
“I started going on missions soon after that...never got in touch with those guys in L.A. again...”, Jack said, trying to get the conversation back on track. “I’m sorry for not remembering you, but it *was* a long time ago...and so much has happened since then.”
“I know...me too. I mean, I *should* have recognized your name, it’s just that I really tried to forget everything up to getting the degrees...like you’ve said, it was a long time ago.”
“Yeah. Well...just so it’s clear - if and when you wanna talk...you know where you can find me”, Jack said, his eyes serious.
After a brief pause, Daniel smiled. “I know. Thanks. And...what you did back then...it really saved me, Jack...and it’s something I can’t thank you enough for.” He lovered his head, feeling raw emotions getting up to the surface, emotions he was keeping well hidden for over two decades.
A shuffling sound made him look up.
Jack was moving, his gift in one hand, towards the fireplace. He took down a picture of starry night sky that resided next to Daniel’s old drawing of the Pyramids and in its place he put the new one. Moving a few steps back he stopped, admiring the view.
Daniel joined him, a feeling of peace settling over him like a soft blanket. The secrets - at least some of them - were out and they were both feeling better for it.
“Looks good”, he commented quietly.
“Yeah... Huh. That means all those weirdos at the Mountain have been right all this time after all...”, Jack said in an amazed tone, his gaze still fixed on the drawings.
Daniel glanced at him quizzically: “What weirdos? About what?”
Jack waited a beat, then turned to look at his friend with wide, astonished eyes: “We *are* an old married couple!”
Daniel blinked in shock, then burst out laughing, Jack joining him at the same instant.
While trying to inhale some air a few moments later, his stomach aching from laughter, Jack was thinking how he should round up his kids up at the lake soon and tell them the story of meeting his best friend, the now almost-legendary Daniel Jackson, all those lifetimes ago.
|Genres:||Character Study, Drama, Friendship|
|Summary:||A journey through time reveals a story about friendship|
Author's Chapter Notes:
* Written as a response to the “Daniel’s Secret” - challenge at the Ancient Obssesions List.
* A hug and Thank you to Anne for friendly pats on the back, encouragement, cheering on when the boys would just sit there tight lipped and stare, and, of course, for catching typos and plot-holes! All the mistakes left are mine!
* A hug and Thank you to Anne for friendly pats on the back, encouragement, cheering on when the boys would just sit there tight lipped and stare, and, of course, for catching typos and plot-holes! All the mistakes left are mine!