Daniel is still yawning, hands around his coffee mug, slurping a little as he sits at the kitchen table, flipping through one of the many overpriced academic journals the mailman brings to our house every month, journals he runs through like most kids run through kool-aid, journals paid for by your tax dollars and mine, thank you very much.
He's getting crumbs between pages as he absently eats an orange-cranberry muffin and his legs are swinging wildly in the chair, blissfully unaware of the nefarious scheme I've hatched that involves him in what Daniel would call a "wildly inappropriate activity".
"Hey Jack." Daniel doesn't glance up from his reading as I come into the room. "Lisa called, said you gotta call her back."
Lisa, my partner in crime.
"Christmas stuff. The usual." I get my mug down, pour myself a cup of coffee. "Secrets."
Daniel snorts at this.
"Don't fill up." I warn him.
He takes another bite of muffin. "I won't."
He better not. We're meeting Lisa, Mark, and Cherie at McDonald's, even if he doesn't know it yet.
"Hey. What's up?" I call Lisa back on my cell once I'm in the garage, starting the Wrangler to let it warm up a little before we head out.
"Well. Does he suspect?"
"Sorry about the call. I had to wrestle the phone away from Cherie after I told her; she wanted to warn him and by then Daniel had picked up."
I snort at this. "You called Sam?."
"Her airman confirms: Wendall's going to be there. On time. Looking like a right jolly old elf."
"If you're not at the McDonald's in 30 minutes, I'll assume this didn't go over too well and get Mark to scramble SG teams 2 through 9 on a rescue mission."
"Oh, very funny."
"I'm not laughin' fly boy." With that she hangs up on me.
I swallow, square my shoulders, and go back into the house.
Daniel is gathering up stacks of paperwork to shove into his satchel when I get back in.
"You ready?" I ask, getting his anorak off the peg.
"Yeah. I guess." Daniel shuffles some folders, gives the bag a yank to settle everything and zips it up.
I hold his coat for him. He struggles into it. "I hate winter in Colorado," he mutters, as he's done ever since I've known him.
"Yeah yeah." I agree, picking up his backpack, watching him wrap his scarf around his neck, zip up the jacket, throw on his jacket hood and, lastly, pull on the gloves that are clipped to the sleeves of his anorak.
"Ready for our expedition to the Arctic, suh!" he announces, with a smart Brit salute.
At least you never have to pester Daniel into wearing warm clothes or long johns.
We pull out, go through the subdivision, wave at the MP's in the development's gate office. Then, nervous as a recruit facing a drill, I turn right instead of left.
Daniel glances at me. The Mountain's the other way, dummy.
"I kinda'. . .well" hmmm. "We're going to meet Lisa, Mark, and Cherie," I say airily.
"We are?" Daniel questions.
"Mhm. At McDonald's."
"Oh," Daniel says, watching my face closely. "Just a friendly breakfast?"
"Something like that."
Daniel nods, trying to decipher this one. "Why didn't you tell me about this sooner?"
"Uhm. . .It's kinda' a surprise."
"Oh." A pause. "Why are we meeting them for breakfast? Just wanted to pull Cherie out of school on a cold Tuesday?"
"Well." I pause. "We thought. . .I thought it would be easier right now to do what I'm planning." And Wendell didn't work Monday.
"And what are you planning?" Daniel asks, suspiciously.
Here it comes. I take a deep breath. "Well. This is your first Christmas as. . .first Christmas with me while you're. . .shorter."
Daniel's scrunched in his seat, eyes narrowed to slits. "Annnnddddd?" He asks.
"Well. Lisa says Cherie's getting big for the Santa thing, this will probably be her last year, so I thought we'd all go to the mall and get a photo. . ."
"NO!" Daniel yells, loud enough to make me lose control of the Wrangler for just a second.
I fight to get the wheels, chains and all, back under me.
"NO. NO. NO! Turn the fuck around and take me to the fucking mountain!"
And to think, he kisses me with that mouth. "Daniel, it's already planned. We've gotten Cherie out of school, they're at McDonald's right now. "
"I am NOT sitting on the knee of some desperate alcoholic, looking like my IQ's barely above 57, just so you can get your jollies laughing at me! TURN AROUND NOW!"
"You selfish little brat!" I can't help it. I knew he'd be upset. I knew he'd rant and rave. I didn't expect this. I pull into a parking lot. "Look. I may have done this a little underhandedly."
He stares at me, furious, snorting, arms crossed. "A little? A little? Anise was completely above board compared to this little scheme of yours!"
"Okay. It was a lot underhanded." I admit. "I want a Christmas Picture of you. I want a picture of you doing something every goddamn kid in America has a right to do. I do NOT want it to laugh at you."
Daniel sits, still staring at me, so mad he's snorting. "I can't believe you did this! I can't believe LISA did this to me!"
"Look. We go to the mall. You go up to this nice old retiree--we had a security check done. This guy's retired Air Force, does it 'cause he likes kids. He's really nice. You sit on his knee. You tell him you don't believe in Santa, but it'll make me happy. You grimace for the camera. I get a dorky photo to put up in the nursing home in 30 years. What's so fucking hard about it?"
"You Could've TOLD ME!"
"I apologize. I should've told you."
Daniel flops back against the seat. "I HATE YOU! I HATE THIS!"
Now he's in tantrum mode. I can handle this. He realized that my explanation makes some kind of sense, but he's still so pissed he can't see straight.
"Do we need to detour and give you some time to calm down?"
Daniel doesn't answer me.
"I apologize. I knew this would go over like a lead balloon, so I took the coward's way out."
Daniel flops against the seat. Stares up at the windows. He's so short, he really can't see much besides the cold azure sky.
"You want me to call Lisa and tell them to go ahead without us?"
He gives me the stare of death, which was more cute than scary when he was 39, much less now. Fortunately, I'm one of the lucky few who know that even though Daniel's scary look isn't all that scary, the intent behind it is downright terrifying. I get my phone out, press speed dial for Lisa's phone.
"Hey Jack. Not gonna' be joining us?" Lisa did try to warn me.
"Yeah. Well." I answer glumly.
Daniel kicks the glove box, leaves a scuff mark.
"That's a one." I say.
He turns to glare at me, lower lip stuck out, tears in his eyes. "Tell Lisa she can go to hell."
"That's. . .Lisa, I'll get back to you." I click the phone off. "Out."
Daniel stares at me, opens his mouth to protest. We stare at one another a minute. I'm out of the Wrangler and around to the other side when Daniel joins me. "You are the meanest man in the world." He mutters.
"Yeah well." I pull up his jacket with one hand and deliver a smack to his well insulated and padded fanny with the other. I see people in the office whose parking lot we've decided to play out this little scene, watching through the windows.
Daniel flushes vivid red at the awareness that we have an audience. Now he's in tears. He crawls back up in the Wrangler, sniffling. "I wish your ass got swatted for pulling asshole stunts." He says, crying.
I take a deep breath, start counting as I walk around to the other side of the Wrangler. I lean against the driver's side door, staring at the traffic going slowly by, stare at the world around us. Deep, icy breaths. I count to 100 and then count backwards down to 1. I'm sorry I did it this way, but I don't know how else I could've done it. We'll go back to the Mountain, I guess. Fuck it. I kick a pile of snow. Is it too fucking much to ask that Daniel take one dumb picture?
I hear a noise, look up. Daniel's standing up at the front of the Wrangler, sniffling. He stares at me.
"You want it for you?" He asks.
"Yes, I. . .look. Never mind. I'm sorry I sprung it on you like this. It was stupid and I should've done it differently. We'll go to the Mountain and. . ."
"You're not. . .why do you want to look at a picture of me sitting on some fat guy's lap?"
"Because. It's. . .It's a thing." I say stupidly. "I just do. It's like that dumb picture we took of you as Dr. Levant."
Daniel makes a face, sniffs. "I'm 39. Not 9. I'm not a kid." He tells me.
"I know that. That's not what it's about." Okay, so it is what it's about. It's just not in the way Daniel. . .ohhhhhhhhh, this is. Jesus H. Christ!
"It's . . ."I look out at the street. "I mean. . .oh it is. . .I just. . . I just. . . Fuck. I know you're not a kid. It's just I want. . .Fuck. Look. We'll just cancel. It's no big deal."
I make a motion to get back in the Wrangler. Daniel doesn't move Instead he kicks the snow. Sniffs. "I want extra presents!" He announces. "I want presents from Santa. If I sit on his lap and act cute, I get extra presents." Daniel says overloudly.
I look over at him.
"Don't get all hyper. I know you'll give prints to Hammond. This way I don't have to spend money a present for him this year." He grumbles, looking up at me.
"You'll get presents from Santa." I promise.
Daniel hiccups on a sudden little sob that chokes his chest. I cross the short distance between us, hug him and plant a kiss on the hood of his jacket. "'Love you, Big Guy."
"Love you too. Better call Lisa before they split."
When we get into the McDonald's Daniel's in a better mood, especially at the sight of Cherie, who's rather glum in a red and black corduroy dress with white tights, her curls put into some kind of order and pinned up in an extravagant arrangement on top of her head. She looks adorable.
"Hey." Daniel slides into the table. "You look nice." He says, giving Cherie the same look he once reserved for trampy, off-world princesses.
Cherie considers him. "You're just saying that."
Daniel looks at her sideways. Shakes his head. "Can we get a photo together? Without the fat guy?" He asks me.
We adults exchange looks. Lisa and I are bemused, Mark is worried-- probably wasn't expecting he'd have to deal with this sort of thing for several more years, and certainly not expecting to deal with the idea of Cherie's boyfriend being Dr. Daniel Jackson, defender of the universe, savior of the galaxy, former boy toy of Osiris. "Sure." I answer, popping the lid off my breakfast.
Cherie flushes a little. "You like this?"
"It's pretty. You look really pretty." Daniel announces, biting into his Egg McMuffin. "Beautiful." He announces around his food.
Cherie gives her mother a minxish look. Lisa rolls her eyes. "5 minutes ago, Cherie thought I was deliberately trying to make her look like an idiot."
"Moooootherrrrrr." Cherie says, sounding remarkably like Cassie at 15.
"What are you Santa asking for?" Daniel says, sipping his orange juice.
"He's not real."
"I know. But if I'm posing, I better get a present labeled 'From Santa'."
Cherie glances at Mark and Lisa, who give me twin looks of exasperation. I shrug. I'm not above bribery, never said I wasn't. I innocently dig into my hotcakes.
"What are you asking for?" She asks.
Daniel puts down his orange juice, picks up his hash brown. "I'm not entirely sure. Jack promised me he'd get me a cat, and that's really the main thing I want."
"Although I'm still hoping you'll come to your senses and realize that a nice German Shepherd would be much better." I put in. It's a losing battle, but I'm fighting the good fight.
Daniel rolls his eyes. "They've got some stuff out on DVD that would be cool. Season sets of things. Like Forensic Files. An' Law & Order. "
Cherie ponders this for a moment, eats her own hash brown. "Are you wearing that for the pictures?" She asks.
Daniel looks at his clothes. Red rugby, insulated jeans, baby docs. "I guess."
Cherie looks at him, looks at me, looks at her mother. The look she gives her mother and, to a lesser extent, me, is dangerous.
"I was thinking maybe we'd stop by Dillard's or the Gap Kids before we went to Santa." I say, thinking fast.
"Why? This is. . ." Daniel pauses as I elbow him.
"Cherie dressed in her best and had her hair done." I whisper into his ear.
Daniel looks at me in gratitude. "I think Jack wants to let you and your mom pick out my outfit when we get there. You're a lot better at that stuff than Jack or me."
Excellent rescue. I pat his knee in approval. He grins at me.
"The Gap Kids has these adorable wool sweaters." Lisa gushes. "A pair of cords and he'd be set."
Mark rolls his eyes. "To think. My team's mission got scrubbed for this. A matter of national security." He mutters to no one in particular.
I grin at him. "Welcome to my world, son."
The mall is nearly empty except for people mall walking. Housewives and retirees, mostly, with serious looks and sensible shoes. Sam's recon said originally that Wee Tot Day care would be here for pictures with Santa at 9, but Mountain Security called and got them, begrudgingly, to change the time to 10:30. Plenty o' time.
The mall also looks like Rudolph threw up after getting in the house when Mrs. Claus was wrapping presents. There's glitzy shit everywhere and little vignettes of elves doing unpaid labor. . .I wonder if the AFL-CIO's been informed. Maybe Amnesty International could get involved--isn't this slave labor in arctic conditions?
Lisa and Cherie herd Daniel toward Gap Kids as soon as we arrive, with Mark and I trailing behind, doing the guy-linger thing, hands in our pockets. Daniel gives me a panicked look and I smile broadly, give him my best reassuring smile, the one Daniel says makes him think I'm really thinking "you poor bastard." Which is pretty accurate.
I move inside the GapKids, keeping half an eye on Daniel's little pointed head as Lisa and Cherie pick out a sweater and Daniel stands there with the look known to every male dragged into a clothes shopping by an interested female.
Mark and I discuss hockey scores until I succumb and yawn. "Daniel's rubbing off. I want some coffee."
Daniel is sent with a sweater, shirt, and khaki cords into a dressing room. "What are you getting your monster for Christmas?" I ask Mark.
"She has a list on Amazon.com." Mark replies. "Books mostly. She wanted a set of brushes and trowels and shit like Daniel has, and that's not on Amazon.com; we're going to make a foray to Home Depot and Discovery store and see what we can match up."
The brushes and trowels and shit are Daniel's dig kit. He's not allowed through the gate unless the place in question is safer than Earth, so he hasn't had a chance to use them since he got shrunk. I don't see much opportunity for him to use them in the near future, actually, which bugs the shit out of me, but damned if I can see a way around it.
Daniel comes out of the changing room looking absolutely adorable and slightly exasperated, his old clothes under one arm. "Can we go now?" He asks Lisa, coming up to give me the price tags, tugging at the crew neck on the sweater. "You better enjoy this. It's a one time event."
I send Mark after coffee as we head for The Claus House. Lisa gives me an annoyed look, but Mark is almost pathetically grateful and disappears with orders for a Grande Latte, two coffees of the day, and one Caramel Mochachino.
There's no line, just a bored young woman dressed as an elf sitting at a felt covered table and a throne so garish I hope photos don't get back to Anubis, because he'll want one just like it.
I can see why Sam chose this particular Santa. He's got a real beard, his own fat, a jovial disposition, and best of all, already has a perfect security rating. He comes out from "Santa's Private Workshop" as we arrive, "ho-hoho" ing like he had an audience of a thousand rather than 4. "Well. Merry Christmas! You must be Daniel and Cherie."
Daniel and Cherie exchange looks. "Uh-huh." Daniel says. "We just wanna get the picture thing done."
"I see." He strokes his beard. "I take it you're too old for Santa?"
Cherie nods. "Yessir. Momma said you're Air Force."
He smiles. "I was. Finished up at Peterson about three years ago. Your folks are all Air Force, I'm told."
Daniel shrugs as Cherie nods.
Santa looks up at Lisa and me. "How do you both do?" He extends a hand. "Chief Petty Wendell."
"Colonel O'Neill." I take the hand before he can salute me. "It's good to know Santa has military experience."
"Lisa Henderson." Lisa offers no explanation, just smiles warmly.
"So. We want pictures, eh?"
Daniel rolls his eyes. "Jack has this weird thing about taking my photo. Personally, I think that posing with a guy wearing white inspection gloves and black patent leather belt is a little too kinky for someone my age but Jack's always had. . ."
"That would be both one and two." I say, hand going down to Daniel's shoulder, hooking him in an unstated warning about pushing things a little too far.
Santa blinks at Daniel, who looks young and angelic and innocent. Looks at me. "I understand he's adopted?" He asks, desperate not to think badly of a Highly Decorated Special Ops Colonel.
Lisa smiles. "And he can figure out how to disable just about any filter you put on his P.C." Which would be true, I suppose, if we ever tried to put a filter on his P.C., so it's not an outright lie, just a stretch.
"I'm sure you're doing your best with him, Colonel."
Daniel snorts, opens his mouth as I bend down to whisper in his ear. "Do you really want me to smack your fanny in front of Cherie?" I whisper savagely. "Apologize."
Daniel swallows, looks up at me murderously. I smile sweetly.
The stare off lasts a minute until I decide that maybe a smack to Daniel's butt isn't such a bad idea. My hand moves from Daniel's shoulder. He stiffens.
"This is gonna cost you." He mutters.
"That's fine." I reply serenely, hand wavering.
Daniel wrinkles his nose, sighs heavily. "I'm sorry; you seem like a really nice guy, and I was inappropriate. I hope you can forgive me." He makes it sound sincere and Santa seems to be willing to accept it. He glances up at me and I smile.
"Daniel can be an ass sometimes." Cherie puts in warmly. "He just does it to get grown-ups upset."
Santa takes Cherie first. She's a little tall for the whole knee thing, and Lisa takes over the poor photography elf's direction and has Cherie sitting on a big present, legs curled under her, holding a small present, slightly lower than Santa, looking up at him as though they're discussing something of major significance like boys, make-up or the utilization of insertion teams in East Timor.
Then it's Daniel's turn. "Traditional, on the knee, tell Santa all your troubles." I instruct.
"He's a saint, not a bartender." Daniel snorts, ambling up allowing Santa to grab him by the waist, put him on his knee. "Now what?"
"Now you smile." I instruct. Daniel rolls his eyes. "Okay. Look up at Chief Petty Officer Wendell and tell him about the recent chromosomal link found between some European minority populations and Eastern Woodlands Indians."
"I listen sometimes." I retort.
Daniel looks up at the big guy like he's interested and Santa obliges by reciprocating. The photographer shoots, lets me see the picture on the monitor. It's cute. It's really cute.
Finally, a Cherie and Daniel picture. The Elf turns the camera to an area of fake trees, lets Lisa intervene again. She has them each heft a fake present, turn kinda' towards each other and kinda' towards the camera and extend the presents like they're involved in exchanging the things. The smiles aren't forced or faked.
Then it's all over but for me handing over my credit card and letting the Elf burn us a CD of our pictures.
"What now?" I ask, waiting for the authorization to go through.
"Wellll. . ." Daniel chews his lip. "Discovery Store first."
"What about Discovery Zone." Cherie, not a slow learner, chimes in.
"They're closed until 2 unless school's out." Daniel reminds her. "So's Chuck E. Cheese and everything else."
"We could play lazer tag. They're open."
Daniel wrinkles his nose. "It's too scary." He says before I or Mark or Lisa can say no.
"Is if you've ever been in a real fight with real guns." Daniel replies quietly.
Cherie stares at him for a moment. "Sorry." She says, meaning it.
"It's okay. Besides, we'll have enough to do after the Discovery Store." He grins.
Cherie grins back.
"I wanna' eat lunch some place nice." Daniel tells me as the Elf hands me a slip to sign.
"Okay. There's always. . ."
"Some place where you'll want me to translate the menu."
I look down at my monster cum blackmailer. "And split my glass of wine with you?"
"If you get anything worth drinking." He replies smugly.
"We'll talk after you do damage at the Discovery Store."
He rolls his eyes as I hand back the slip, get a small bag with the CD. He and Cherie wander slightly ahead of the grown-ups, chattering about whatever-it-is they chatter about and I wonder how I got this lucky.
|Genres:||Alternate Universe, Angst, Drama, Holiday, Humor|
|Series:||The Furling's Gift|
|Summary:||The Holidays are rough for a lot of people, including Jack and Daniel. And everyone they come in contact with. A visit to St. Nick with Daniel and Cherie.