|Friendship:||Gen stories about the friendship between Col. Jack O'Neill and Dr. Daniel Jackson, with a team focus.|
|Category:||Angst. Drama. Hurt/Comfort.|
|Season/Spoilers:||Season 5. No spoilers.|
|Synopsis:||Childhood dreams come true.|
|Warnings:||This is shamelessly sentimental, but hey, I’m getting in the mood of the season, even though this isn’t a Christmas story.|
"Lt. Harding's baby shower is next week," Sam Carter announced as SG-1 gathered around the campfire to eat their supper. "What do you think we should get her?"
Daniel looked alarmed and threw a glance to Jack.
Jack gave the same look back. "I don't know, Carter. You go pick out something nice and sign the card from all of us."
"No," Carter said. "I mean, no sir. I am hereby resigning from the gift getting job. Even Teal'c has taken his turn."
"Traitor," Jack muttered to Teal'c.
"I'll give you the list, sir. Janet's marked off what's already been bought, so all you and Daniel have to do is pick something from the list." Carter smiled angelically and resumed eating.
"Um, Sam, I don't think that...well, I mean, I've never shopped for a baby before." Daniel tried the innocent look, his heart sinking as he looked at Sam's stubborn face.
"I'm sure the colonel will be able to help, Daniel," Sam patted Daniel's knee reassuringly. "Won't you sir?"
"There's a list, right?" Jack relaxed at Carter's nod. "Okay, Daniel, we can manage. We'll be in and out of the mall in less than an hour."
"Sure, Jack," Daniel said weakly. He wasn't as confident about the whole expedition.
"Okay, I think this will do it," Jack gestured at the baby outfit Daniel was holding.
Daniel nodded agreement. Their one hour trek to the mall had turned into two because every remaining item on the list Sam had given them was nowhere to be found. Daniel checked the list one more time while Jack waited in line to be checked out.
"Um, Jack. We forgot something," Daniel pointed to the list. "We have to get a 'big sister' gift." "'Big sister' gift?" Jack frowned. "What's that supposed to mean?"
Daniel stood thinking, then he started walking towards the toy store at the other end of the mall. "Sam said that we have to get something for Carlie, so she doesn't feel left out when the baby arrives."
"Carlie's five, right?" Jack asked. "Do you have any idea what five year old little girls like?"
Daniel shook his head as they entered the toy store. "Barbie dolls?"
They gave up on that idea as they were greeted by two aisles of Barbie paraphernalia. "No Barbies," they said at the same time.
"Stuffed animals?" Jack suggested.
Daniel shook his head. "She probably has a dozen."
"Okay," Jack gently pushed Daniel in one direction. "You take that side of the store, I'll take this side. We'll rendezvous in half an hour and see what we come up with."
Daniel grinned. Only Jack O'Neill could make a military maneuver out of toy shopping. Daniel wandered down the first aisle filled with board games. He looked at a few, figuring that Carlie probably had most of them. The next aisle held toy trucks and cars. He didn't know Carlie, but he remembered one of his foster sisters playing with trucks and cars all the time. She'd even stolen the few he had. He shook his head. Probably not a safe choice. The next aisle held baby and preschooler toys, brightly colored and noisy. Daniel skipped those. Puzzles? He pulled a few off the shelves, pictures of kittens and puppies and fairy tales and carried them with him.
They should have just gone to the bookstore, Daniel thought. Books were always a safe choice. Practical, useful, and unbreakable.
He stopped at the next aisle, filled with toy trains. There was even a little display set up. He'd been ten, and he'd wanted a toy train for Christmas. One of the only times he'd ever asked for a specific toy.
In two years, he'd learned that wishes rarely came true. The presents he received were practical. School clothes, mittens, hats, a few books to stimulate his mind. When his parents had been alive, he hadn't asked for many presents either. They had always made him aware of the other children who were so less fortunate than him. There weren't many toy stores in the desert, and he'd gotten handmade toys. Once he'd gotten a stuffed elephant that had been shipped all the way from England. He'd lost it the day his parents died. For months, Daniel thought that if he could find Chester he'd find his parents too.
So he'd learned that he shouldn't expect much. Anyway, as one of his foster mothers explained it, he was a big boy and the little ones needed toys. Money was tight, surely he could understand. Of course, he said he did. He'd learned that not asking for anything, not expecting anything was the best hope he had of staying anywhere for any length of time. People didn't want older, awkward intelligent kids that weren't cute and cuddly. It amazed him that it still had power to hurt. Daniel stood watching the trains mesmerized, his mission forgotten.
Jack came across what he thought was the perfect present and went to find Daniel. He stopped at the sight before him. Daniel was standing watching the electric train display with widened eyes. Jack smiled in remembrance. They'd set up an electric train underneath their Christmas tree every year. He still remembered the excitement he'd feel. When his dad had finished setting up the train, he just knew that Santa would soon be coming. "Did you ever have a train?" Jack asked as he came up to Daniel. "I loved mine. Every year, Dad would let me pick out one new piece for it."
Daniel shook his head. "No. I asked for one once, but no." He turned away reluctantly. "I found some puzzles."
"Come with me." Jack gestured. Daniel followed him to the end of the aisle. "Perfect present," Jack said pointing to the shelves.
"Coloring books?" Daniel asked.
"They're quiet," Jack replied. "And we add a box of crayons." Jack bent to look at the titles of the coloring books while Daniel grabbed a box of crayons.
Jack came up with a stack of five books and frowned at the crayon box Daniel was holding. "Only 8 colors, Daniel? Put it back. You need the 64 box for serious coloring." Jack added the coloring books to the stack of puzzles and grabbed a box of 64 colors.
He smiled as he picked up the box. "Remember getting these, Danny? I got a new box every Christmas."
He looked at Daniel's face, shuttered and still, and he knew, he just knew that in Daniel's world, crayons only came in boxes of 8 colors. People probably thought foster kids didn't need a whole rainbow of colors, didn't understand that they were the very ones who needed them most.
'Shit,' he thought. 'Just another blow.' "Hey you know what," Jack put the crayons and the coloring books back on the shelf. "I think the puzzles are a great idea." He was graced with one of Daniel's grateful smiles, and he smiled back. He couldn't find the words right then, but he knew. Jack hoped Daniel knew he did understand.
"How are you feeling?" Jack crossed Daniel's living room and placed a hand on Daniel's forehead to gauge his temperature. He frowned. 'Still a little warm there, Danny boy. At least you're starting to look a little more alive,' Jack thought. He dropped down on the sofa, patting Daniel's feet.
"I feel fine. And Janet should have let me come back to work yesterday," Daniel muttered sitting up and sighing deeply.
"She just wants to make sure you're really better. If you'd listened to her the first time you got sick, you wouldn't have gotten any worse," Jack said. "Enjoy the time off, Daniel. Some of us don't get two weeks to laze around."
"I'm bored. Janet even had General Hammond cut my access to the base computers. And you didn't bring the books I asked you to." Daniel grumbled., close to, but not quite, a whine "Unless..." He eyed the big duffel bag Jack had carried into the room. "Are they in there?"
"I am so not risking the wrath of Frasier to bring work home for you, Danny." Jack grinned."And she's in cahoots with General Hammond. He made sure I was inspected every time I left the base."
"So, um. what's in there, anyway?" Daniel asked.
"Just a little something so you don't die of boredom." Jack smiled as he unzipped the bag and set it on the sofa.
There were very few people that Jack enjoyed giving presents to. Of course, it had always been a big kick to watch Charlie's face as he opened gifts, and he'd gotten the absolutely perfect gift for Sarah once or twice. But Daniel, Daniel was the best gift recipient Jack had ever known. Jack swore he could have taken a rock from his yard, wrapped it in paper and stuck a ribbon on it, and Daniel's eyes still would light up. He didn't know any adult who reacted with such glee when he received a gift.
Their first year as a team, Daniel had opened the birthday present Sam had gotten him so slowly Jack had been ready to tear it out of his hands and open it himself. Jack couldn't remember what it had been, but he was sure Daniel did. Daniel remembered those kinds of things. But all that had changed when Daniel realized there was another gift. Jack still remembered the total look of surprise on Daniel's face when he understood that there was more. When Jack had handed him the second present, Daniel had held it a moment before ripping the paper off and thanking Jack with such heartfelt emotion that Jack had been momentarily stunned.
Jack looked at Daniel, now pulling the packages out of the box. Before Daniel, Jack would have never taken time to wrap a gift carefully,right down to ribbons. Even now, Carter, Teal'c and he simply put their presents in gift bags. But it was an unspoken rule between the three of them that Daniel's presents always had to be wrapped. Somehow there was something very satisfying about watching someone be so excited over so simple a thing as ribbon and gift wrap.
"Open them," Jack said, sitting back to watch the show. He hoped he'd guessed right and he was pretty sure he had.
Daniel hesitated, one big parcel, one small box and one that was nearly flat. He opened the flat package first, ripping into the paper, letting it fall to the floor.
"I figured you can draw," Jack smiled, as Daniel raised an eyebrow at the pad of drawing paper. "You know... when you get bored. This one goes with it." He handed the smaller of the two boxes to Daniel.
Daniel tore into the second package with as much enthusiasm as the first. His expression changed to one of pure pleasure. He looked up at Jack and smiled one of his rarest smiles, the one that reached all the way to Daniel's eyes and made Jack love him even more. "64 colors. Thank you, Jack."
Acting on an impulse, Jack reached across and opened the flap of the familiar yellow box. "Smell."
Daniel held the box up to his nose, closed his eyes and took a deep breath, inhaling sunshine yellow, cornflower blue, spring green,magenta and all the colors of the world. He laughed around the lump forming in his throat and tried to ignore the burning in his eyes. He managed to fight them down. 'Ridiculous, getting emotional over a box of crayons,' he told himself.
He opened his eyes and saw Jack gesturing to the third box, the twinkle in his eyes telling Daniel the best was yet to come.He started tearing the paper off and stopped as he realized what it was.
"Jack," Daniel could barely find his voice. "How did you... You shouldn't have...This is way too much."
Jack shook his head. "No, Daniel. It's just right. And you're forgetting your manners. Remember? You open the present and say thank you no matter if you love it or hate it."
" I don't hate it, Jack," Daniel said finishing pulling the remaining paper off the toy train set.
"It's what I...I can't...Thank you. " He couldn't look at Jack. He couldn't. Any moment now, he was afraid he was going to lose control over a train set and a box of crayons. He heard Jack get to his feet .
"I'll get the scissors from the kitchen. Then we can get the box open. Let's set this puppy up!"
Daniel felt himself nod as Jack walked to the kitchen.
While he was alone, he clutched the box of crayons closer, holding them tight to his chest, once again breathing in the smell of lost dreams and childhood hopes. Daniel opened his mouth to tell Jack the scissors were in the second drawer and was dismayed to hear a sob come out instead.
Jack was out of the kitchen with his arms around Daniel before the second sob was finished.
"I'm sorry, oh God, Danny, I'm sorry," Jack was saying frantically while Daniel continued to sob. He shook his head against Jack's chest.
'Don't be,' he wanted to say and couldn't through the tears.
Jack's arms tightened for a moment and then loosened as Daniel managed to bring the tears under control.
"Daniel?" Jack was looking at him worriedly.
"I'm okay, Jack," Daniel smiled. "I really am. Thank you."
"You're welcome, Danny." Jack gave him a swift hug. "You ready to lay some track for this train?" He handed the scissors to Daniel.
Jack looked up at the sofa where Daniel had fallen asleep after they'd managed to get the small train set up. Daniel had laid the tracks under and around the coffee table and had stretched out on the sofa at Jack's insistence while Jack finished the rest. Jack took the controls from Daniel's slack hands before they fell on the floor, letting his hand rest briefly on Daniel's forehead, checking once more for fever. Daniel mumbled something and turned onto his back. Jack pulled the afghan off the back of the sofa and covered him.
"Jack?" Daniel opened his eyes and blinked up at him. "Yeah, Daniel?" Jack asked.
"Thanks," Daniel breathed before falling back to sleep again.
"No,thank you, Danny." Jack bent to kiss Daniel's forehead before settling on the chair for the night.