Summary: Jack heads out to escape the city's New Year's celebration and soon realizes he forgot something important.
Auld Lang Syne
Author Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (Feedback welcome)
Author Website: http://orrymain.com
Category: Pre-Slash, Drama, Holiday
Pairing: Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Season: 1 - December 31, 1997 - January 2, 1998
Spoilers: "Children of the Gods"
Size: 24kb, ficlet
Written: December 24-25,29-30, 2016
Summary: Jack heads out to escape the city's New Year's celebration and soon realizes he forgot something important.
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) This fic stands alone, but it does reference my other fic(s): "The First Christmas"
Auld Lang Syne
Colonel Jack O'Neill hung up the phone, having thanked his friend, Andy, for an invite to the man's house to attend a New Year's Eve party. It was the fourth such invitation he'd received from well-meaning friends who didn't like the idea of Jack spending the night alone. Most knew he was still separated from his wife, Sara, and that in many ways he was still mourning the loss of his son, Charlie.
Just as Jack settled down to continue listening to a Puccini masterpiece, the phone rang again. This time it was Lou Ferretti urging his friend to drop by. He promised that his wife, Carolyn, had lots of food ready to go. Jack might have accepted the invite were it not for the fact that the Ferrettis had children and, being honest with himself, Jack knew he didn't want to be around kids, not for the holidays, at least not this year.
His country-style home devoid of any holiday decor, Jack settled down in his comfortable chair. He'd found it at a garage sale shortly after buying the home when he returned from the first mission to Abydos and found the only sign of Sara in their Winter Park house was a note. Part of him wanted to be angry at her, but deep down, he knew the truth, even if he was not fully ready to admit it to himself. He walked away quietly, a retired colonel in the process of internal change, and found his private paradise, a little home with a bunch of acreage to enjoy.
As he sat in his chair, Jack imagined his wife teasing him about it. It was still in good condition, but he knew it would have become a source of amusing domestic conflict between the two as it aged from frequent use. His head back and eyes closed, his ears trying to concentrate on the great Italian's "Madama Butterfly," all he could see was Sara and their son, who died from an accidental self-inflicted gunshot using Jack's personal gun, something the colonel still hadn't totally dealt with, though he thought he had in great part.
A knock on the door drew his attention, causing Jack to whine his trademark phrase, "Oh, for crying out loud." He stomped to the door in frustration and opened it with a jerk.
"Mrs. Valissi," the man acknowledged, his mood lightening a bit.
Mrs. Sophia Valissi was Jack's neighbor, living two houses to the right. Her age was unknown at this point, though the colonel knew she was a member of the American Association of Retired Persons. She didn't look old and she certainly never acted like it. An Italian widow, she stood holding a bowl of something hot. That was obvious because the bowl was covered yet emanating heat, and she was wearing mitts on her hands.
"Colonel, are you sure you wouldn't like to join us this evening?" the woman inquired with a sparkle in her eyes.
Mrs. Valissi had twice asked Jack to join her for a small gathering of her friends. He knew she was concerned about his solitude over the holidays and not even his admission that he'd celebrated Christmas with a friend of his at his Minnesota cabin soothed her maternal instincts towards him.
With his best Irish brogue, Jack replied, "Mrs. V, you're a joy to my heart, you are, but don't worry about me. I'll take that, though."
"You're such a charmer, Jack. Why don't you find yourself a good woman?"
All of a sudden, Jack grew serious as he revealed, "I had one. She was too good for me." He reached out and took hold of the hot dish, not letting on that it was a bit scalding to his hands. His macho in full mode, he thanked his neighbor with a warm smile. "Happy New Year, Mrs. Valissi."
"Happy New Year, Colonel," the woman responded, her smile strong but a bit saddened by the confession she'd just heard.
Not uncovering the dish, Jack placed the bowl on the counter that separated his living room from the kitchen nook. He turned the opera up high and sat back down in his armchair. Once again, thoughts of the woman he was separated from filled his mind.
"Crap!" Jack exclaimed unhappily as he heard the aching notes of "Madama Butterfly." Conceding he might have chosen the wrong opera for the holiday, he mentally spat, ~I've had enough.~
The colonel stood, quickly put some items into his duffel bag, boxed up the dish from Mrs. Valissi, and left his home, not even locking the front door. The house was full of things, but they were only things. Everything Jack needed was in his heart, and it was loaded with memories and images of his family.
Jack stopped at a local convenience store and picked up a few six-packs of Budweiser beer. One thing he didn't want to do was run out of the brew. His plan was to forget the impending celebrations and drown out any the unpleasant thoughts now circulating his conscious mind.
Jack's Ford F-250 truck with extended cab sped purposely down the highway until the military man remembered something, or rather someone, the someone who had made Christmas tolerable for him this year.
"Daniel," Jack sighed aloud as his foot eased up on the gas pedal a bit.
The only one who might be as lonely as Jack this season was Daniel Jackson, SG-1's archaeologist and arguably one of the smartest men in the country. His upbringing was different from Jack's, who had a happy childhood, pleasant adolescence, and pleasing young adulthood, thanks to his parents, brother, grandparents, and other assorted O'Neills. Daniel, though, only had slightly more than seven full happy years, his boyhood joy ending when his parents were killed in an accident and his grandfather essentially abandoned him.
The two men were opposites in so many ways, but on the first mission to Abydos, something strange happened. Jack and Daniel bonded, something that surprised both of them. With the formation of SG-1, that bond matured into a real friendship which was shocking to them and those who knew them. Yet, they were acknowledged best friends. Sometimes, neither quite knew how to handle that odd reality.
"He'll sit in that friggin' apartment of his and read himself to sleep," Jack spoke aloud, knowing it was the truth. He could envision Daniel becoming one with his sofa and some boring book on facts and history until his eyes couldn't stay open. Jack's foreboding of Daniel's new year celebration consisted of a glass of red wine and nothing else but Egyptian history. ~Nope. I'll bet ten bucks he brought home some toys or some mumbo jumbo to transcribe. That man doesn't know how to leave work at work.~
Unable to continue forward, Jack pulled an illegal U-turn and headed back for Colorado Springs. He wasn't sure if it was because Daniel was his best friend, his teammate, or a lost puppy, which was what the archaeologist often seemed like to the colonel. Certainly, on that first night back from the second Abydos mission, the one in which Jack retrieved Daniel from the planet under the orders of General George S. Hammond, Daniel looked like an abandoned puppy, lost and alone, with no place to go. Jack would never leave a stray behind, so upon seeing the archaeologist standing alone in the corridor, he stepped in and brought him to his suburban home. That act forever changed Jack's world and Daniel's, too.
After making one brief stop, Jack arrived at Daniel's apartment building and made his way up the stairs to the eighth floor. He could have used the elevator, but he needed the physical activity. There was too much stirring within him that needed to be excised by the exercise.
Inside the unit, Daniel heard a loud rapping against his door. It was persistent and determined.
~Gawd, it's Jack.~
The archaeologist was warm, the heat on high and a blanket wrapped around him. He had a half-full glass of red wine on the coffee table and several reference books scattered all around it. A notepad, full of scribbled comments, rested atop one book, while an image of an artifact brought back by SG-5 was in full view.
Daniel hadn't moved as the knocking on the door continued. He knew he didn't have to do so. He figured it wouldn't be more than another thirty seconds before SG-1's commanding officer would let himself inside the apartment.
"Daniel, how many times have I told you to keep your door locked?" the colonel challenged as he made his way into the living room.
"Hello, Jack," the younger man responded with a few blinks. ~Only ten seconds. He must be in a hurry about something.~
"I knew it," Jack stated.
Confused, Daniel questioned, "Knew what?"
"You brought home toys to play with," Jack answered, leaning over and picking up the image of the artifact.
"No, I brought home a file that included a photo of an ancient artifact found on a planet that had indications of Egyptian roots."
"Roots are for trees," Jack returned. "There's the wine."
Daniel looked at his drink and pursed his lips as he responded, "Yes, that's wine."
"Time to go," Jack ordered, reaching out and pulling Daniel from his warm sofa.
"Jack, what are you doing?" Daniel queried, unhappy to be yanked out of his security.
"We're leaving for a couple of days. Get some stuff together."
Daniel sighed as he watched his friend go about packing without him.
Before the archaeologist knew it, Jack had a bag full of items, retrieved from Daniel's bedroom and bathroom. Not wanting to take time to find where Daniel had left his duffel bag and luggage, Jack placed the items in a grocery bag and tossed it to his friend.
"You need your coat," Jack advised as he twisted around and then walked over to the hall closet. He opened it and saw the sparse choices. In fact, there were only two options. One was the coat Jack had given Daniel upon the return from Abydos, when he'd brought the 'lost puppy' home. The other was a more wintery coat Daniel purchased after the season's first big snow after his clunker of a car broke down and he felt like he was going to freeze to death. "This'll do," the colonel vocalized, tossing the coat so that it landed on the bag Daniel was holding. "Put it on."
"It's not that cold outside," Daniel argued, though he really had no idea what the weather was like outdoors.
"It's about fifty-three degrees outside and it's clear, but it'll be colder where we're going. Put it on."
Daniel knew it was a lost cause. Jack was determined to take him somewhere, but he had no idea why. He placed the bag on the sofa and put on his coat.
"Where are we going? *Why* are we going?"
"You'll see, and it's the new year."
"We're going to a party?"
"Party?" Jack echoed in surprise. "Heck, no, Danny. We're escaping the madness of the city."
"I'd already escaped it," Daniel pointed out while looking longingly at his books and the curious image he was in the process of researching.
"Having your eyes in reference books to do research for SGC is *not* escaping, it's work," Jack insisted.
The older man closed the gap between he and the younger man. He reached over and pulled up to the halfway point the coat's zipper that Daniel had barely latched.
"I'm rescuing you, Danny, and me, too, so let's go."
"Daniel," the archaeologist griped, even though he knew the other man wasn't listening to him.
Daniel watched Jack pick up the bag and head for the door. Not so reluctantly, he deterred to feed his fish and turn off the heat before following the colonel out of the apartment and to the truck. Soon they were on their way, but the question for Daniel was to where were they going.
The ride to their destination was characterized by the usual banter between Jack, who wasn't telling where they were going, and Daniel, who was beyond curious. There was nothing contentious about the chatter. This was normal for the two men, to bounce quips back and forth. In truth, both were having fun and both were happier than they'd been alone at their respective abodes.
Conversation ceased when the truck approached a secluded spot with a small cabin, not all that much unlike Jack's cabin in Minnesota.
Getting out of his vehicle, Jack explained, "I rent it. When I can't get home, this is the next best thing."
Daniel had seen other cabins along the way and figured they must be rentals as well.
"You have a key?"
"Key? Sure," Jack mused as walked to a bench alongside the cabin, bent over, lifted up the left side, and pulled the small key from its hiding spot beneath the back leg. "The key," he announced smugly.
"I can see that," Daniel replied, his mouth remaining open as he stared for a few seconds. "Are you sure we're not breaking any laws?" he asked as they walked to the front door.
"Not a one. The owner knows me. He saves this cabin for me." Seeing Daniel's hesitation, Jack groaned and held up his own keys. "I have the main key, Danny. I pay for the rental year-round."
"You keep it in reserve," Daniel surmised, realizing his friend was most likely paying a good amount every year to keep the cabin available for his use.
"I want it when I need it, and in our line of business, I never know when that will be. I don't want to worry that he's rented it out to someone, and I get to keep stuff here without worrying about it."
"And you actually lock the door when you leave?"
"Wiseguy," Jack cracked, grateful Daniel didn't know that the front door of his Colorado Springs home was currently unlocked. ~There's nothing there that can't be replaced,~ he reminded himself.
Daylight was gone by the time the two settled into the cabin. Their dinner consisted of macaroni and cheese and a bologna sandwich.
"Maybe we should have stopped on the way," Daniel teased.
Jack simply nodded as he took another spoonful of the cheesy product. He wasn't really that interest in the food, just yet anyway.
As the evening progressed, neither man mentioned the special day at hand. Instead, they talked for a while about nonconsequential things, drank some beer, and either listened to opera or read a book. The small collection Jack kept at the cabin wasn't exactly Daniel's style, but considering that his options were few even a novel about the old west looked good to the scientist.
"Hey, come on," Jack urged, standing and putting on his coat.
"Jack, it's cold out there," Daniel objected, especially since he'd managed to create a cozy spot for himself on the couch.
"It won't kill ya to enjoy the chill of the evening," the colonel insisted as he picked up a bag he had stashed by his leather jacket.
"Gawd," Daniel whined, involuntarily leaving the comfort of the sofa for the cold of the evening.
Once outside, the two sat on the bench and looked out over the night sky.
With a brrr to his words, Daniel asked, "Why are we out here?"
"To do this," Jack answered, pulling out a sparkler normally seen on Independence Day celebrations and handing it to his friend. "Here you go," he added as he pulled out a match and lit the long stick, after which he did the same for the one he had for himself.
"Jack, we could be inside."
"And miss the dropping of the ball."
"Use your imagination. Look out there. Right now it's slowly making its way downward," Jack claimed as he took one look at his watch to verify the time.
"You're crazy, you know that?"
"Look who's talking."
"You're out here with me."
Daniel let out a stunned gasp and yet, he couldn't say a word. Like a bullied schoolboy, he was indeed sitting on a bench in freezing weather and holding a sparkler in his hand. He'd caught Jack's insanity and all he could do was hope that it was short term.
"Eight ... seven ..." Jack counted. "C'mon, Danny, count." He nudged his friend as he continued, "four ..."
Together, Jack and Daniel called out, "Three ... two ... one."
Silence followed the countdown to the new year until Daniel commented, "I suppose most of the west coast is singing Auld Lang Syne."
"Robert Burns wrote it, in 1788, in Scotland," Daniel stated, the sparkler slightly lighting up his face as he spoke. "He actually didn't claim to write the entire song, but he was the first to put it to paper. No one disputes his claims. He's pretty much a hero in Scotland."
Jack nodded and was about to say something, but the sound of his friend's voice prevented him from interjecting anything.
"Auld Lang Syne actually translates to 'old long since'." The linguist mused, "That doesn't sound very pleasing to the ear, does it?"
The colonel started to agree, but again, Daniel continued to air his thoughts and knowledge.
"The fascinating aspect of music is how it translates and even changes with the passage of time. Here, we'd take the first line of the song and think of it as saying, 'For the sake of old times'. It's very sentimental, of course. Scots began singing it on New Year's Eve right away, and as they emigrated across the world, they brought the song with them."
Jack waited a moment, but Daniel didn't say anything more, so he opened his mouth to speak, only when he did, the younger man began yet another thought about the classic tune.
"It's not just for the new year, though. Today, it's sung at all kinds of events: graduations, bon voyages, funerals." Daniel paused and glanced at Jack as he asked, "Were you a boy scout? In some countries, they sing it at jamborees, at the end, to say goodbye."
"Daniel, how do you know so much about this song?"
"Books. I've read a lot of books," Daniel explained with a somewhat melancholy tone.
~Crap,~ Jack internalized, unhappy that he'd inadvertently stirred up sad memories for the shaggy-haired man. He moved forward with the conversation. "I'm not sure everyone even knows what they're singing."
"Probably not," Daniel agreed. "People don't always think about the words, but it's the essence of it that matters."
"Remembering friendships and people who matter." Jack's eyes widened and his shoulders jumped a little when he remembered something else he had in the bag. "I thought you'd like this," he said, reaching in the bag, pulling out the little surprise, and handing it to Daniel.
"Chocolates," Daniel observed with a pleased smile.
"It's not your favorite, but it was all they had left," Jack explained about the four-piece Russell Stover sampler he'd picked up when buying the sparklers.
"Thanks, Jack." Daniel opened the box and stuffed one into his mouth. Clearly, he was loving the gift. His next words were garbled and barely distinguishable. "Have one."
Jack only understood what Daniel said because his friend nodded as he held the box in his direction.
"Don't mind if I do," the colonel responded, taking one of the chocolate pieces to enjoy as the night ebbed into the wee hours of the morning.
"Jack, it's cold out here."
"Yeah," Jack said, standing up. He took the sparklers and made sure they were fully extinguished and then led Daniel back to the warmth of the cabin's interior. "Hot chocolate?"
"I'd love some."
The night ended quietly with two friends enjoying a traditional cup of hot chocolate before getting a good night's sleep. It was just the type of New Year's Eve both wanted, quiet but not lonely.
New Year's Day, like the day before, was fairly calm, weather wise. It was a bit cloudier, but the temperature still inched into the fifties. Jack and Daniel took a couple of walks around the area. It was all new to the archaeologist, who understood more why his friend would pay an annual rental fee to have the cabin at his disposal year-round.
As they often did back in the Springs, Jack and Daniel played a game of chess, which Daniel won as usual. They talked a bit and listened to opera. Daniel wasn't all that into the musical genre, but Jack was a massive opera fan. He found it often expressed what he himself could not.
For much of the day, though, each read in silence. This continued on the second day of January as well. Both Jack and Daniel were fine with the silence. They enjoyed hearing the simple sounds of nature. Independently, the men realized that they were with someone who mattered to them, that they were together and not alone. The most chatter of the day occurred during the drive back to Colorado Springs.
As Daniel exited the truck in the parking lot of his apartment building, Jack turned off the motor.
"You don't have to come up."
"I picked you up in your apartment, so I'll drop you off there," Jack responded.
"This wasn't a date, Jack."
Both men laughed at the thought, even as Jack handed Daniel his bag full of clothes and personal accessories, and then walked inside the building. They didn't talk as they used the elevator to get to Daniel's floor. It remained quiet until they stopped at the apartment door.
Out of the blue, Jack admitted, "You know, Danny, being together is what friendship is all about and that doesn't mean always doing something. Chess was great, but having you at the cabin with me, just being there, it ... that's friendship."
"That's, uh, very philosophical of you."
"I have my moments."
"Moment," Daniel agreed in his own non-reverential way. Ignoring Jack's glare, the archaeologist added, "It's sharing space and time."
"And not killing each other," Jack teased.
"Thanks, Jack. It was nice to get away."
"Yeah. Night, Danny."
"Goodnight," Daniel replied.
Jack started to walk away, but then he turned around and called out, "Danny!"
"Happy New Year."
"Happy New Year to you, too, Jack."
Each man smiled at the other until Jack finally gave a nod and returned to the elevator. Pressing the button, the doors opened right away. Jack stepped inside, disappearing from Daniel's sight. Unlike his arrival at the building on the last day of December, the colonel now felt peaceful and calm. He didn't have any negativity to excise from his being. His new year had begun on his terms and with his best friend.
The archaeologist stood, letting the stillness of the air surround him for a few seconds, before he smiled again and finally unlocked the door to his apartment. He went inside and immediately walked over to check on his fish.
"I hope you had a good new year," Daniel told his fish as he fed them. "You know something, I had a good new year. That was ... well, it's been a while." He smiled and said, "Happy New Year, Fish."
A new year had begun, and for Jack and Daniel, it began with a quiet, enjoyable getaway to a simple cabin that brought peace to both as their friendship and bond grew. They had no clue what the future would hold, but they knew they had a friend in the other, and for now, that was all either could hope. As 1998 took root on the world, so did the promise of good things for Jack and Daniel in Colorado Springs.
~~Finis - Finished - Done - The End - But is it ever Really?~~
Author's Note: Please feel free to email me with your comments or suggestions; constructive criticism, things you'd like to see, etc. A chronological listing of my universe is at http://orrymain.com