Since July is approaching, and Daniel Jackson's birthday is, according to Forever in a Day, July 8, I decided to write this little piece that has been nagging at me.

~~~~~~
I, Alone
~~~~~~

"Do you know what day it is, sir?" Carter leaned forward over her tray of mashed potatoes and chicken.

Seated across from her, Jack O'Neill glanced around the busy mess hall and then shrugged. He raised a spoon filled with potato salad and shoved the large serving into his mouth. "Hmmmm?" He chewed and swallowed. "Thursday?"

"Yes," she grinned, "but also July Fifth."

"Okay." He stared blankly at her. "The big fireworks day was yesterday, so...."

"Sunday is July eighth."

"Ah."

"You know that's Daniel's birthday, right?"

"Oh.... Uh, yeah."

"So?"

"What? I'll pick him up something. Don't worry."

She looked heavenward, then grinned and leaned forward some more. "I was thinking it would be fun to throw him a surprise party."

"A surprise party? For Daniel?"

"Yeah, why not? Think about it, sir. He probably hasn't had too many of those. What with...his parents...you know."

Jack looked down at his plate. "Yeah, I guess he probably hasn't."

"Yeah." Sam's voice was suddenly quieter, with a note of sadness. "You know, his grandfather never adopted him."

"Yeah, I know. And?" He looked back up at her. "Your point, Carter?"

"I got a graduation announcement from my cousin last month."

"Okay. I'm happy for you."

"Daniel saw it and said it was a shame that I couldn't go. You know, with the schedule..."

"Yeah, I know. Sorry."

"No, no. It's all right, sir. That's not my point."

His eyes hovered on her, his expression tolerant. "And what would your point be?"

"He looked a little sad."

"Daniel?"

"Yeah."

"He's never exactly a ball of sunshine, you know."

"Yeah, I know, but... I don't know. It got me thinking. He had graduations, right? He's got several degrees. But, well, do you think he had anybody to go to his graduations? You think he ever even went himself? And what about birthdays and Christmases? I assume he had foster parents, and they probably gave him presents, but... I never hear him talk about anybody here on Earth. He never goes to visit anyone on the holidays, except maybe Catherine."

"The people Daniel considers family are on Abydos."

"Yeah, I know. That's my point. He has no family here, and it's obvious he hasn't had any real family since his parents died."

"Ya think?"

She straightened. "I think Daniel deserves one hell of a surprise party. Who else but us is ever going to throw him one?"

"Okay, okay. So, go ahead. Have fun. Just tell me when and where to show up."

"We have three days notice, sir."

"Not 'we,' Carter. You."

"Colonel, we need to invite people, give them time to buy presents, get a cake, buy decorations, figure out where to hold it..."

"Yeah, you do."

"Sir..."

"All right! All right! Fine. I'll help."

She smiled brightly, her eyes warm. "Thank you, sir."

"I'll start inviting people. Rank does have its privileges, after all, and I outrank everyone on this base except for the general."

"I don't think Daniel will appreciate people being at his party under orders."

"He won't know..."

"Colonel."

Jack sighed. "Fine. I'll ask."

"I'm sure you'll get lots of people who'll want to come. You, Teal'c, and me are a guaranteed show. Janet's free, I'm pretty sure. Catherine and Ernest will come if they're free. The general..."

"I said I'll take care of it."

"Right. Thank you, sir."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Daniel stifled a yawn as he padded out of his bedroom early Sunday morning. He headed to the bathroom, took care of business, then shuffled toward the kitchen, the tips of his socks hanging half an inch beyond his toes and scraping against the floor with each step.

He spotted yesterday's mail on the counter near the door and veered toward it, then snatched up the small pile, flipping through the envelopes and tossing the catalogue and journal back on the counter. One squarish, off-white envelope caught his attention, and he dropped the rest of the envelopes as he tore that one open and pulled out a small card.

He raised his eyebrows, his lips quirking upward as he read the inside.
 

Happy Birthday, Daniel!

Sincerely,
Agent Jason Dialon
Allstate


Shaking his head, Daniel tossed the card and envelope back on the counter. A computer at his insurance company remembered his birthday, and he'd completely forgotten it himself. With an amused sigh, Daniel headed back to the kitchen, deciding that the rest of the mail could wait until after he'd had a cup of coffee.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"So?"

"So." Jack gazed at Carter impassively.

"You've confirmed everyone, right?"

"Yes, Carter. I've confirmed everyone."

"Great! And Daniel?"

"Huh?"

"Daniel, how are you getting him there?"

"I was supposed to figure that out? This is your operation, Carter."

"Sir, I can't do everything. I..."

He grinned. "Relax, Carter, I'm just yanking your chain. I've got it all worked out."

"Yeah?"

"Yep."

"Okay." She gazed at him with narrowed eyes.

"Trust me, Carter. I'm a Colonel in the United States Air Force. I think I can handle transport of one archeologist from Point A to Point B."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Daniel pushed open his office door and turned on the light. The day was half over, but he knew the base would be quiet, as it always was on Sundays, and he couldn't pass up the chance to finish the analysis on the artifacts from P2X-342 without worrying about interruptions. Closing the door behind him, he turned to the table and stopped. A tiny smile brightened his face, and he strolled to the table and picked up the small envelope with his name scrawled on the front. Quickly, he opened the flap and pulled out the card. Flipping to the inside, his smile brightened. When had Teal'c gotten off base to buy a birthday card?

The message, written in neat, block letters, was short and simple, but Daniel found himself blinking back tears as he read it.
 

Daniel Jackson,

It is I, Teal'c. I am pleased that you were born.
If you had not been, I would not now have the
honor of your friendship.

Such honor I do not deserve, but you have
generously granted it, and for that, my friend, I thank you.


The words blurred, and Daniel blinked, spilling tears onto his cheeks. Damn you, Teal'c. He smiled and placed the card reverently on the table, then hastily scrubbed at his face. It had been a very, very long time since he'd had anyone who cared that he even breathed. His parents had died, and he'd been alone. Done everything alone. Graduated with honors alone. Got his PhD's alone. Nick had been the only person left to care, and he hadn't cared. And that had hurt, Daniel admitted to himself. That had hurt a lot. Nick was the only link he had to his mother, and it would've been nice to know that some part of her was proud of him.

Then he'd gone to Abydos, fallen in love with Sha're, and found himself part of a family again. That, too, had been ripped from him, and partly by the hand of the man who'd written those words on the birthday card. Teal'c. His friend. One of the truest friends he'd ever had. No one else on the base had mentioned his birthday. No one remembered. Not that he blamed them. Hell, he'd forgotten it himself.

But Teal'c had remembered, and that small fact twisted something inside of him. He sank into the empty chair at the table and stared at the card, blinking back new tears.

Thank YOU, my friend.

The phone rang, shattering the silence, and he jerked in surprise. Who would be calling his office on a Sunday?

He swiveled in his chair and grabbed the receiver. "Hello?"

"Goddamnit, Daniel!"

Daniel winced and held the phone slightly away from his ear.

Jack's angry voice blared from the earpiece. "What the hell are you doing in your office? This is your day off. YOUR DAY OFF. Get it? You're --"

"Jack, is there something you want?"

"Duh. Yes, there's something I want. I called your apartment...."

"Let me guess, I wasn't there."

"Damn right! How'd you guess?"

"Just a hunch. So, uh, you're calling because?"

"Never mind. You gonna be there much longer?"

"Couple of hours."

"Fine. Goodbye. Have fun."

"Jack..."

"Forget it. I'll ask Carter. Just needed a favor. Don't stay up late. I need you bright and fresh Monday morning. Got it?"

"Yes, Jack. I got it. Goodbye."

"Goodbye."

Daniel sighed and replaced the receiver, then lifted Teal'c's card and placed it to the side as he turned his attention to the row of artifacts on the table.

~~~~~~~~~

Jack marched down the corridor and turned sharply right into Daniel's door, pushing it open and sauntering into the dimly-lit office. He spotted the archeologist hunched over the table, studying some pot beneath the faint glow of a lamp.

"Daniel.... DANIEL!"

"Huh!" Daniel's head snapped up, and he swiveled around, bringing the pot with him. "Jack? What are you doing here?"

"Put the pot down."

"Huh?"

"Put the pot down and nobody gets hurt."

"It's not a pot, Jack, it's..."

"Daniel."

Daniel sighed and placed the 'pot' on the table, then rose from his chair. "Okay, Jack, what can I do for you?"

Jack grinned and grabbed Daniel's arm. "Come on."

"Hey!" Daniel yanked away and backed into the table. "I'm working here!"

"I can see that, and since you're here, and I'm now here, having nothing better to do, and knowing for a fact that it's your birthday, I've decided that no man should be working on his birthday alone in a dark office."

"It's not dark."

"Right. So, I'm treating you."

"You are?"

"Yep, to dinner. Have you eaten?"

"Well, uh, no."

"Great, so why don't we blow this joint and grab some pizza and beer on me?"

Daniel smiled. "Okay. Thank you."

"You're welcome. Come on." He grabbed Daniel's arm again and steered him out of the office. "I can't believe you came to work on your day off... No, wait. Never mind. I can. You really need to do something about this work ethic of yours, Dannyboy."

"I like archeology, Jack."

"Right. So you say." He stopped at the elevators and punched the button. The doors opened immediately, and he followed Daniel inside, then slapped one of the buttons in the panel.

"Uh, that's not the parking level."

"I know that. Gotta make a stop first. That okay with you?"

"Oh. Sure."

The elevator glided to a halt and the doors slid open. Jack ushered Daniel out, hurrying down the corridor. He rounded a corner and pushed Daniel through the opened doorway leading to the dark mess hall.

Light flooded the room instantly, revealing a crowd of people. "Surprise!"

Daniel stopped, standing still, his lips pursed. Slowly, he turned his head to look back at Jack, who wore a grin that rivaled the Joker's. "Subtle."

Jack shrugged. "It worked, didn't it?"

Daniel smiled and shook his head, turning back to the guests. Sam, Teal'c, Hammond, Catherine, Ernest, and Janet stood at the front of the crowd, all but Teal'c grinning brightly.

"I can't believe you guys did this."

Sam hurried forward and pulled him into a hug. "Happy birthday, Daniel."

"Thank you." He squeezed her tightly, then pulled back as Teal'c and the general approached.

"Sir." Daniel nodded, then looked to the Jaffa. "Teal'c. Uh, thank you for the card." He waved a hand toward the door. "In my office. I, uh... Well... Thank you."

Teal'c bowed his head, a smile lighting his eyes. "It is I who should thank you."

Behind Daniel, Jack clapped his hands once. "Okay! Let's get this show on the road. We've got cake and presents waiting!

~~~~~~

Jack helped Sam, Carter, and Teal'c clean up while Catherine and Ernest chatted with Daniel.

"So, campers, I'd say this little shin-dig was a success." Jack stuffed a wad of torn gift-wrap into one of the large trashcans.

"Yes, it was. Thank you for your help, Colonel." A perpetual smile lingered on Sam's face as she cleared the dirty paper plates from the long, bench-style table.

"He was kind of like a kid on Christmas," Jack smirked, his eyes darting to Daniel. "And I think it's past the little tyke's bed time."

"Huh?" Sam followed Jack's gaze, her smile growing brighter. "Darn, and no more film left."

Daniel was slouched in a chair, his eyelids hanging at half-mast. Presents and crinkled wrapping paper cluttered the floor around him. Hovering over the young man, Catherine whispered something to Ernest, then smiled as she caught Jack's eye. She jerked her chin to the leather jacket hanging off the back of an empty chair, and Jack nodded, his smile turning to a grin as he watched her carefully drape the heavy material over the now-sleeping archeologist.

"Too bad, because that is definitely a Kodak moment, not to mention damn good blackmail material." Jack shook his head and dumped a stack of used paper cups into the trashcan.

"I do not understand why you would wish to blackmail Daniel Jackson, O'Neill." Teal'c raised a disapproving eyebrow, the mop held stiffly in his hands.

Jack threw a glance at the ceiling. "We really need to work harder at corrupting you, Teal'c."

The Jaffa simply let his eyes linger a moment longer on Jack, then silently resumed his mopping.

Twenty minutes later, they had the place cleaned up. Everyone, including Hammond and Fraiser, had left about an hour ago. Jack glanced at his watch. 1:13 a.m. Yep, definitely past any reasonable person's bedtime.

He sauntered happily over to Catherine and Ernest, looking down at Daniel. "I'm half tempted to leave him there, let the breakfast crowd discover him."

Catherine chuckled softly. "He is adorable." She leaned forward and brushed a light kiss on Jack's cheek. "You and Sam did a wonderful thing."

Jack's face flushed hot, and he glanced at his shoes. "Well, it was mostly Carter. Her idea, and all." He looked back up, a mischievous glint in his eyes. "I logged my protest."

"I'm sure." She slid an arm around Ernest, throwing a smile his way. "Come on, Dear. How about we head home?"

Ernest yawned dramatically. "Definitely. This was nice." He reached forward and slapped a hand on Jack's arm. "It's nice to do these things with friends. Believe me, I know."

Jack nodded, his smile fading, remembering the first time he and Daniel had found Ernest trapped on that abandoned planet. That mission had almost resulted in Daniel's death. "Yes," Jack agreed, nodding solemnly, "I know you do."

"Goodnight, Colonel." Catherine nodded as she steered Ernest out of the cafeteria.

Jack stood silently over Daniel for a moment, studying the younger man. A tiny smudge of chocolate clung to the right side of his mouth. His chin rested on his chest, and the jacket hung low on him, in danger of slipping to the floor.

With an affectionate shake of his head, Jack leaned forward and grabbed his jacket, slinging it over his shoulder. He used his other hand to grab Daniel's arm.

"Come on, Sleeping Beauty, the party's over."

"Hmm?" Daniel's head snapped up, and he blinked at Jack, his glasses hanging crooked on his nose. "Jack?" He gave into a yawn, stretched his arms above his head, then pushed his glasses up. "What time is it?"

"After one. C'mon," He slapped Daniel's arm, "I'll drive you home."

"No, that's okay." Daniel looked around at the clutter of presents. "My car's here...and....Wow. I don't know if all these will fit in my backseat, and my trunk's full."

"All the more reason for me to drive you home. I've got more cargo space. Besides, it's not a good idea to drive down a dark mountain road when you can barely keep your eyes open."

"Just give me a cup of coffee..."

"Ah-ah." Jack held up a finger. "We do have to work tomorrow, and like I said, I need you all bright-tailed and bushy-eyed."

"I shall help you carry these gift offerings to your vehicle, O'Neill."

Jack turned to see Teal'c standing at attention behind him. "Teal'c, remind me, we also gotta work on introducing you to the concept of the slouch. In fact, Daniel's so good at it, I think I'll have him teach you."

Teal'c simply raised his eyebrow.

"Funny, Jack." Daniel pushed himself out of the chair, swayed dangerously as he gave into another yawn, then blinked tears from his eyes. "Wow. I am pretty tired. I'm used to staying up later than this."

"Yeah, but you've never been this old before, Danny." Jack gave the young man another slap.

Daniel threw a narrowed look at Jack. "People who live in glass houses, Jack..."

"I'm seasoned."

"Uh-huh." Daniel just smiled and shook his head, eyeing Sam who was wiping down one of the long tables. "Excuse me." He slid between Jack and Teal'c and padded over to Sam. "Hey."

"Hey." She turned to him, instantly enveloping him in a hug. "So, did you have a good time tonight?"

He smiled, pulling back. "Yes. This is the first surprise party I've ever had. Thank you. The cake was wonderful, and thanks again for the gourmet coffee subscription. I've always wanted to try one of those."

"You're welcome." She smiled shyly. "You're kind of hard to shop for. That was the only thing I could be pretty sure you'd really like." She leaned closer to him. "Just remember to share it with me."

He chuckled softly. "I will. I'll make sure to pack some during our field missions."

"Well, kids, c'mon. It's past both of your bedtimes." Jack sauntered up to the Sam and Daniel and slapped a hand on each of their shoulders. "Carter, you want a ride home?"

She shook her head. "Nope. I'm wide awake."

"Jack, my car's here. If you drive me home..."

"I'll stop by in the morning and give you a ride back here." Jack tugged at Daniel's sleeve. "Come on. We've got stuff to load."

~~~~~~~~

Jack pulled the Jeep in front of Daniel's building and turned off the engine, then looked over at the young man. Daniel had fallen asleep five minutes into the drive.

"Hey." He placed a hand on Daniel's shoulder and gave a gentle shake. "Wakey, wakey."

Daniel shifted, and his eyes fluttered open. He blinked, confusion crinkling his brow as he looked around.

"We're hoooome." Jack opened his door, and Daniel winced against the sudden brightness from the interior light.

With a deep yawn, Daniel unbuckled his seat belt and opened his door, sliding out and pushing himself to his feet. He leaned against the vehicle's frame and looked at Jack.

"Thank you, by the way."

"Don't mention it." Jack waved him off. "You go upstairs, leave the door open, and I'll bring up your presents."

"No, I'll help--"

"Ah-ah." Jack waved another finger at Daniel. "Go."

~~~~~

Jack suppressed a groan as he lowered the last box to the floor. He rose, stretching a kink out of his back, and surveyed the apartment. With all the boxes of varying sizes, it looked like Daniel had just moved in.

"Hey." Jack spotted the birthday boy slouched on the sofa.

"Thank you, Jack. Really, you should have let me help."

"Nope. This is one present I can give you that you can't return." He grinned and dropped to the cushion next to Daniel.

"I'm not going to return your gift, Jack."

"Uh-huh."

Daniel smiled and leaned his head back, closing his eyes. "I swear. I like it."

"Uh-huh."

"Really."

Jack leaned back, relishing the momentary relaxation. "So..."

"So..." Daniel echoed.

"You okay?"

Daniel lifted his head to look at Jack. "Yeah, why wouldn't I be? Had a great time." He swept an arm out to indicate the messy apartment. "Made out like a bandit..."

"But..."

Daniel tilted his head, a shadow of a smile on his lips. "Was I that obvious?"

"Nope. Not at all. I'm just perceptive."

Daniel tilted his head back again and closed his eyes. "This was really nice, Jack. I just... I guess I'm being a bit nostalgic, that's all. This is the first real birthday party I've had. Even when my parents were alive, we traveled too much for me to make any real friends my age. I never had a big party with good friends."

"Hey, well," Jack nudged him, "remember all the hard work I went through to put this shin-dig on when my birthday rolls around."

Daniel smiled and cracked one eye open. "I thought you said Sam did most of the work."

"Okay, she did. Remember her birthday, too." Jack grinned. "But I did the invitations, and I got you from Point A to Point B. Point A, by the way, was supposed to be your apartment. It's a damn good thing you didn't venture to the mess hall before I got there."

Daniel held his smile a moment longer, then let his eyelid drift closed. "Would've scared the hell out of all of us, I'm sure."

Jack grinned at that thought. "Now that would have been a Kodak moment." He tilted his head and studied his friend. "You wanna talk about anything?"

Daniel shook his head. "I'm okay, Jack. Really."

Jack let a moment of silence follow, then leaned closer to Daniel. "They would be proud of you, you know."

Daniel opened his eyes to look at Jack.

"Your parents," Jack explained. "They'd be damn proud of you.... I would be." He swallowed hard and looked away. "Actually, I am," he looked back at Daniel, "damn proud to call you my friend."

Daniel blinked rapidly, his eyes suddenly wet. "Thank you, Jack."

"You're welcome." He slipped an arm around Daniel's shoulder and gave a brief squeeze before launching himself off the couch. "Now, get some sleep, Doctor Jackson. I'll see you tomorrow, bright and early."

Daniel smiled, his eyes reddened, with a hint of lingering wetness. "Goodnight, Jack."

~~~~~~~~

Feedback MUCH appreciated.
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