Cicindela

By: Delilah

FEEDBACK TO: delilah_miranda@yahoo.com

DISCLAIMER: Not mine. No money paid. No copyright infringement intended.

RATING: NC-17

PAIRING: J/D


ancillam tibi sors dedit lucernae,
totas quae vigil exigit tenebras.


A lantern's handmaid, I who stay
Awake to keep the dark at bay.

 

"Aaah choo!!!"

Okay, so you’ve been with Danny on planets that made him break out in hives (the frilly pink puffball flower-thingys on S5R-497), gave him asthma so bad that just listening to him made your lungs hurt (the stinging dragonflies on P3T-255) and made his eyes so red people mistook him for the Prince of Darkness (moldy cheese on MK2-476). But you never remember him sneezing twelve times in a row.

"Ah…ah…ahchoo!"

Thirteen.

"Daniel?"

"It’s the…the…ahchoo!...tree."

"Danny, *you* bought the tree."

A familiar sniffle then, "The Worthams used to have one."

"The Worthams?"

"After the Fields and before the McCaffeys."

You don’t have to see him to know that Danny’s closing his eyes, reciting the list of foster families from memory. The list he has to start at the top and go down until he hits the name he needs … like his roster of Egyptian pharaohs: Menes, Djer, Djet, Den, Anendijb … well, that is, if you don’t count the catfish guy. You don’t remember *why* you don’t count the catfish guy, but Danny does.

"Nyack."

"Beg pardon?"

Okay, so you were thinking about catfish – preferably deep-fried with ample hush puppies. And, probably, Daniel knows exactly why the little oil-drenched doughy balls are called hush puppies and (even more probably) if you mention it, he’ll tell you. The untold depths of encyclopedic knowledge in Danny’s brain can make for scary diving. The nadirs are so unplumbable the man’s been known to come in Aramaic and Sumatran.

"The Worthams lived in Nyack. It’s north of New York City on the… the… ahchoo!"

You hear Kleenex being frantically dug out of the box.

"De Hudsond."

"The tree goes, Danny."

It’s nice and all. It smells wonderful, wafting pinely through the den. You know Danny only got it for you. He seeks out opportunities to stimulate your remaining working senses and he wanted you to be as aware the holidays had come as he was.

"Bud Jack."

"Danny, there’s an artificial tree in the garage. Go find it. I’ll call Carter and see if she’ll take a stray in for the season." You make little shooing motions with your hands. "Go."

~oOo~

"You want me to *what*, sir?"

"Adopt a tree. It’s a nice tree, Carter." You amble over to the end of the fireplace and feel up the cause of Danny’s near-bronchitis. And feel up. And feel up. What the hell kind of tree did he buy anyway? "Taller than me, Carter. You’ll love it. Oh, come on, you used to have a cat. Just help me out here."

It’s agreed we give the tree to Teal’c – if we can get it security clearance.

~oOo~

"You want me to *what*, Jack?"

"Well, he’s never had a Christmas tree."

"You can’t seriously expect me to give a tree security clearance."

"Not security clearance, as such. We just need an AF-stroke-690 requisition form. Then we can show it to the gate and tell them we had to go to outside procurement. I remember how this works, sir. If you have paperwork you can bring in an atomic bomb, we both know that."

~oOo~

There are few places you hate more than the mall.

There are few people you trust enough to take you to the mall, like, maybe, *three* and at the moment Sam Carter isn’t one of them. But while you did most of your shopping by phone, there were a few things you just can’t get by calling around to rare book dealers or letting the translator render the stuff at archaeologists-r-us-dot-com into Braille. So you’ve relented and braved the mall with Sam, who’s gotten into this whole Teal’c/tree thing in a way that’s almost scary. Not that she’s the girly type, melting over lacy, angel doodads. Nope, not Carter. She’s on the hunt for programmable LED Christmas lights, apparently an absolute must if you hang with electrical engineers. Truthfully, you blame Siler for this as he’s always hypnotizing her with some sort of glowy new trinket.

The combination of dry recycled air and body heat hits you at the automatic doors like stepping out of the ‘gate onto the sands of Abydos used to and you stagger a bit, Sam gripping a hand over yours with a concerned ‘Sir?’

"Gimme a minute."

Deep breaths, Jack. That’s what Danny would say. Deep breaths.

Having sufficiently adapted yourself to the suddenly heavy press of the darkness around you, you give Sam’s arm a little squeeze. "Let’s do this thing."

You’ve been holding the cane vertically, like the warning prop it is, knowing you’re in way too much traffic to try arcing that long a piece of thin metal from side to side. Unless you want to mow down your fellow shoppers -- which is something of a temptation. Unfortunately, Carter’s guide technique sucks. She tends to move her elbow all over the place, making you think you’re coming up on an S-curve or something. And she gets nervous if you switch and do what you do to Daniel a hell of a lot of the time, which is put your fingers on his shoulder and go from there. It would make the mobility counselor nuts, but with Danny, it works and it’s comfortable and that’s that.

You remind yourself you had to come to the mall because you intend to buy Danny some clothes that aren’t plaid and since you’ll be in contact with whatever you buy (a lot) you’ve got to do the touch test.

"GAP or Eddie Bauer?"

"Which one’s near that Christmas thing you want to go to?"

Like the commander you once were, you have a deep-felt need to organize any expedition.

"GAP. Oh, and American Eagle is down there, too. I think they don’t sell plaid."

You re-firm your grip on Carter’s arm. "Go for it, Carter. Any place not selling plaid is good."

You got Danny’s sizes from Janet, who apparently has memorized them after cutting his clothes off so much. That what you all do is dangerous, you have long known, but this otherwise innocuous little fact brought it home in a jolting kind of way.

~oOo~

As much as you’d find it amusing to get Danny a t-shirt proclaiming "Jackson Hole" you stick to the one Sam and the salesclerk are giggling over that says "Colorado Stags". Seems Carter can be girly after all, you just have to find her the right company. After that, it’s some shirts the giggling twosome decide are "decidedly preppy", which sounds a little too much like plaid for your taste but even the male clerk swears by them, and a couple hooded sweatshirts that you agree to, along with a couple "military" sweaters ‘cause, hey, you can’t go wrong with a name like that. Jeans come in classic, relaxed and loose. You don’t particularly care as long as you get the softest denim, so Sam takes care of that. Although you tell her you like button flies.

You just don’t tell her it’s ‘cause you like unbuttoning them.

In short order you have two laden shopping bags and you snap the cane up and split the load with Sam, a hand firmly locked around her jumpy elbow as she tugs you off to find the holy grail of techno-geeky Christmas lights. Yes, Danny is geeky, too, but it’s a sentimental kind of geeky. He unearthed your old boxes of Christmas decorations with the care he’d give ancient shards of clay and kept grabbing your hand to run it over old Shiny Brights, wanting a page of background history on each one. Not that you remember much. When your mom died you and your brother did the gallant thing and left your sister to get first dibs. Boxes came later in the mail full of O’Neill family… stuff, and to tell the truth, you doubt they’d even been opened before Danny got a hold of them.

He wanted to go excavate the whole O’Neill family pyramid of boxes, but you promised him when it got warmer, one Saturday, he could play archaeologist to his heart’s content.

The crowd presses in on you and one moment you’re happily… okay, not *happily*, but fairly calmly… holding on to Sam and the next you’re adrift in a sea of bodies that careen off you like the old bumper cars at the fair. There are tricks for just such a situation, but you’ve never bothered to remember them because this has never happened with Danny. You’re figuring your best bet is just to stand still, because a six-two blind guy probably stands out in a crowd enough for Sam to find you, when your arm is suddenly grasped by unfamiliar fingers and you’re pushed off balance by a helpful Samaritan trying to get you out of the path of traffic. Your feet tangle under you and you land with an oof! on the soft hump of the shopping bag.

Traffic not only grinds to a halt, it gasps collectively. Fuck.

"Colonel!"

Carter is breathless and nearly falls on top of you in her rush, which no doubt adds to the other shoppers’ unexpected entertainment. Your glasses have fallen off in the tussle. You sit up and blink out at the bated breath of the crowd.

"It’s not the Rockettes, you can move on."

Actually, you could do with a line of sequined dancers wearing antlers right now to complete the act.

Sam hauls you up, bending down to retrieve your sunglasses and handing them to you.

"I’m so sorry, sir." She brushes you down for good measure. "So sorry. One minute you were there and the next minute--"

"S’okay."

"We don’t have to look for the lights. We can go."

"I’m not even bent, Carter. I think we can proceed with the mission."

"Yes, sir."

If nothing else, she still takes orders way better than Danny does.

And speaking of Danny. He really doesn’t need to know you just did a header in front of the Cinnabon.

"Our secret, Carter."

She’s holding a hand over the hand you’re holding on her. Tightly.

"Yes, sir."

~oOo~

Danny, it seems, needs to go to one of those cavernous discount stores to get Cassie a gift certificate, and while he’s there, he becomes wholeheartedly entranced by some electronic whatzit, perfect for Sam, who’s been wanting to take downloaded music through the Gate and thereby contaminate unsuspecting cultures with her love for (of all things)… wailing country yahoos singing about their dog, their truck and their divorce. That this should, more appropriately, be what *you* listen to is immediately pointed out by Danny, who, though he has excellent taste in everything else, can’t tell Puccini' from Yanni.

What this means is you can’t just go to customer service; you have to go through the regular checkout line to get a $250 MP3 player for Carter. It also means you’re going to talk to George about Danny’s salary level -- because $250 is an awful lot of money to throw away on a friend.

That you’ve spent over two thousand on Danny’s little treasure trove of rare books and archaeology-type gadgets and non-plaid clothes is completely irrelevant.

Given your trip to the mall didn’t go so well, you’re just a little… clingy. And while this might make Danny horny, in fact it only makes him suspicious. He starts going into hyper-description mode, thinking somehow that will help. So you’re standing in line, and standing and standing and Danny is making a Discovery Channel archaeology special out of the contents of the shopping carts in front of you. You’d actually feel better if you had a shopping cart to hold on to in all the crowded spaciousness, but you’re resisting any inclination to get a hold of anything more than the pocket of Danny’s coat, for fear he’ll decide you need to leave and that’ll mean he has to just do this all over some other time. You’re hoping he hasn’t noticed the slight tug when he shuffles forward that’s caused by the death-grip you have on the pocket’s well-turned edge. You keep examining the neat seam work with the balls of your fingers in order to anchor yourself. It’s snowing outside but even that couldn’t convince you to put on gloves, which leave you … well, finger-blind. If that’s not some kind of oxymoron.

"Okay, see now *that* I don’t get."

You don’t get it either, as you’ve been kind of… obsessing over the whole blind-guy-in-a-crowd thing and haven’t really been listening to your partner’s erudite commentary.

"Hmm?" you mumble.

A weird kind of sinking feeling happens the moment you realize Danny’s gone concerned and if you don’t pull it together, you’ll be out of here faster than he can say Nakhtnebtepnefer. And he can say that pretty fast.

"Sorry. I was… thinking."

"About what?" The *what* is pulled out into a kind of doubtful I-know-you’re-uncomfortable-are-you-going-to-admit-it "w-h-aa-aa-t." It’s probably not in any dictionary but Danny’s and yours.

Danny’s turned completely around, you can tell by the way the coat fabric pulls against your fingers.

"What the hell Selmac is going to make of Shania Twain?"

"Jack." This is also pulled out into a concerned tonal symphony.

"I’m fine. Peachy. I’m strawberries, even."

A hand loosens the death grip of your fingers and captures them in its own. "Come on, we’re almost there. Sam’s really going to love this."

Then, thank God, he’s distracted by some ugly decorative faux-Egyptian pots in a nearby cart and you’re entertained by the sound of a slightly-enraged dissertation on fakey hieroglyphics which you don’t really listen to, but which laps over you like the tide in the dark.

~oOo~

One of Danny’s fingers brushes your cheek. Under other circumstances, this would be a tender, romantic gesture – except you’re in an elevator heading deep into the mountain.

"What?"

"You’ve got a little something…" You’re really hoping Danny isn’t spit-cleaning your face. "Ink or--"

"Hold it. I am *not* one of your dusty artifacts."

"I wouldn’t spit-clean an artifact."

So at least you know your place in the Danny-scheme-of-things.

You reach out for his hand, which he trustingly gives you, and you swipe your tongue around his thumb, sucking gently before releasing the tasty digit. As always, this results in a low moan of desire from your archeologist.

Least you could do is return the favor.

"Jack," he whines.

"Not in the mountain, Danny. You know that."

Revenge is sweet.

~oOo~

"I have placed the carcass of the tree in the brightly colored stand," Teal’c informs you solemnly.

You’ve banned Danny from the room because he started sniffling when you got inside the door. Carter has wandered off looking for Siler so they can do some further geekiness with the controller for the lights. This leaves you alone with one all-too-serious ex-First Prime.

"I have yet to understand why we must participate in the sacrifice of this plant life. In the prior holiday we at least consumed the offering to your Deity."

"We weren’t sacrificing the turkey to God, Teal’c. It was just lunch."

"I see."

Which means he doesn’t.

"Look, ask Danny. He can tell you all about this stuff, I’m sure."

You reach out for the edge of the bed, feeling for the box of decorations Sam and Janet donated. "Let’s see what you got in here, big guy."

The first thing your hands hit is a ropy mass of crinkly foil that you hand over. "This, I believe, is your garland. You rope it around the tree."

"I am to envelop the foliage in this decorative restraint." There’s a beat of silence as you both consider this. "To what purpose?"

"Because it’s… pretty?"

You think you hear the sound of garland being crushed in large, Jaffa hands.

~oOo~

You’re trying to decide whether you should have guessed before now that Danny is a present-shaker. You can hear him in there surreptitiously rattling boxes every time he thinks you’re out of earshot. Hell, if you wanted to know what was in them, you’d just peek. Well, you *would* have just peeked – previously - before you ended up using your fingers and your ears to replace your eyes. But Danny is an honorable man. Shaking is one thing. Peeking is apparently a kind of Christmas felony in Danny’s book.

You can make him jump by sneaking up on him while he’s desperately trying to aurally excavate the box with the 3-D puzzle of the Sphinx. It’ll keep him occupied for days, putting a piece together here or there as he walks back and forth between the computer and the refrigerator. That is, if you can keep Carter’s busy little fingers out of it.

~oOo~

"You want to go… to mass?"

Danny knows you’re Catholic. Well, marginally. But this has clearly thrown him. And no reason it shouldn’t. You haven’t been to mass on Christmas Eve since the last Christmas with Charlie. Haven’t wanted to have a whole lot to do with worshipping a Deity that would let a child pick up a weapon and pull the trigger.

"We should take Teal’c," you say, trying to lighten the mood. "He wanted to experience the whole Christmas thing."

"You want to take a Jaffa to church," restates Danny.

"To boldly go where no Jaffa has gone before."

"Ah, Jack… " Despite all his lectures in the field, Danny really hates to have to tell you he thinks you’ve been stupid.

"Come on," you wheedle. "We took him to a hockey game."

~oOo~

"Now? The Tok’ra just have to have him *now*?"

This used to be called insubordination. Now it’s just desperate pleading to an old friend.

"I’m sorry, Jack." And George really does sound sorry. "The Vica asked for Dr. Jackson specifically and the Tok’ra desperately want the rights to the Vican moon for a new base."

That’s my Danny, negotiator to the stars. And the moons and a couple asteroids along the way.

"All right," you sigh. "I’ll tell him."

And you won’t whine. Really you won’t.

~oOo~

So not whining lasted – maybe – two minutes.

First, you tried for false cheer. "Nothing like a ‘gate trip for the holidays, Daniel."

Then you tried for false stoicism. "Hey, it’s inevitable that the Tok’ra disturb each of our major festivities at least once."

Then you gave in to pity-moaning, and on the way, found a couple new adjectival phrases to describe the fashion sense of Anise, just in case the snake had designs on your significant other. Again.

"Come here, Jack."

To be enveloped in Danny’s arms is to rediscover a sense of safety you last knew sleeping in the back of your father’s Oldsmobile at the tender age of five.

"I’m sorry."

There’s a platonic kiss on your spiky hair.

"What can I do to make it up to you?"

There’s a not-quite-so-platonic kiss on your cheekbone.

"Anything, Jack. I mean it. Anything you can think of."

And you can think of quite a few things.

~oOo~

"It’s not like I don’t stay here by myself when you go off-world."

It’s not really any different than the other hundred-plus days a year Danny spends on seriously foreign soil.

"It’s Christmas Eve."

You scrape a toe along the kitchen tiles. "I’ll be fine. Put some old vinyl on the stereo. Open that bottle of black Jack that Jacob left us. We’ll open the presents when you get back."

"I’m the only one going, Jack. Sam and Janet both want you to spend Christmas with them. And Teal’c still wants to go to mass."

Mass seemed like something you wanted to do, but that was yesterday before Danny got put on diplomatic duty.

"Ummm," you respond neutrally.

"Come on now. You’re the one that got him interested in the whole celebration thing. I had to spend an hour yesterday explaining all about Marduk and the monsters of chaos."

It is a tribute to the depth of your sudden seasonal depression that you let Danny’s automatic connection of Teal’c’s questions about midnight mass to things *Babylonian* go without a single comment.

"He’ll be here at nine."

And, by that time, Danny will be knee-deep in Tok’ra subclauses.

You love the big Jaffa but there’s no way that’s a fair trade.

~oOo~

Teal’c never gave your relationship with Danny a second thought.

Danny says it’s a Jaffa-thing. That Teal’c slept with Bra’tac and that proper homage to Apophis undoubtedly included well… things you don’t want to think about Teal’c having to participate in. Besides, there’s always the scary thought of what Junior might be doing at times like those.

But you owe him. Seriously. So, since he wants to go, you take the big guy to church. Or rather, he takes you.

It is cold and crisp and Teal’c says the stars are out, which makes you feel a little closer to whichever minute point of light Danny is circling. There is a live nativity scene out front of the cathedral and you stop before it, answering questions about full inns and donkeys and why there’s no dog in this particular manger.

Inside there’s a kind of hush that you remember from even some Goa’uld temples. An absolute silence, as if even the air has ceased moving, but then the organ starts and Teal’c guides you firmly to a cushioned pew.

You are not a… reverential man. If there is a God, then in your mind it’s a quirky kind of deity. Either that or the universe is an insanely complicated place, far too complex for a mind like yours, or even Danny’s, to comprehend. That in order to find Danny, and for him to find you, you both had to lose everyone else who meant a damn to you… is too cruel to contemplate.

Teal’c is studiously silent. Thinking Jaffa-thoughts you probably can’t even start to imagine about this alien worship. You don’t even hear most of the sermon. Your mind is elsewhere. A far-off elsewhere where Danny shapes the future of peoples the good citizens of Colorado Springs are not ready to envision.

You feel Teal’c shift against you. A little of what the priest is saying worms its way into your consciousness.

"I believe, dear friends, that our greatest challenge today, in the midst of all the confusion, conflict and struggle in our lives, and in the lives of those around us, is the task of bringing hope to our world."

"And saving its butt from the snaky guys," a little voice in the back of your head (the one responsible for many a ruler-switching by the good sisters of St. Ignatius’) chimes in.

You wonder if this seems… dangerously innocent to Teal’c. Insular and close-minded. All this "Peace on Earth" stuff when the peace you really need is at least galactic, if not universal. But the big guy breathes steadily and deeply as if he is Kel-no-reeming in the middle of St. Mary’s.

Repentantly you make yourself listen to the resonant voice from the pulpit.

"There is a nice custom in churches in Eastern Europe whereby at the end of the Christmas Mass there is a ceremony called The Peace of God. People kiss one another on both cheeks saying, Christ is born. And the response is, Truly He is born, and the kisses are returned. Everyone in the community has kissed and been kissed. To me this symbolizes how the love of God can change our hatreds to love. Although you can kill people in crowds, you can only kiss them one by one." There is a palpable beat. "If you would rise and turn to your neighbor."

You nearly groan.

Teal’c has thankfully positioned you at the end of an aisle so there is no one to grab you and force you into kissing-and-being-kissed. But you find your hand gently taken by Teal’c’s larger one in warning and a chaste kiss is placed on both of your cheeks before the rich voice says, "Christ is born". You lean forward in the darkness, knowing Danny would expect you to respect the ceremony, and Teal’c’s other hand lies solemnly on the crown of your head and guides you into proper position to place a quick peck on both of the broad cheeks. "Truly he is born," you whisper in return.

You remain standing for the benediction, Teal’c’s warm, strong grip on your elbow giving you stability.

"May the grace of God help us to see the light shining beyond the darkness of our weaknesses, beyond the mistakes we make which oftentimes hurt ourselves and hurt others. May the hope and healing we desire lead us this holy night to the loving embrace of the Prince of Peace."

Then Teal’c is leading you out, away from the crowd and into the deep chill of the night. The car he has borrowed smells even more strongly now of pine-scented deodorizer.

"Danny can explain it," you offer lamely into the silence, realizing you haven’t been much of a guide to even the one ceremony you should be familiar with.

"It requires no explanation, O’Neill. The people of your world want what all peoples want. Freedom and peace."

Freedom and peace are admirable aims but you’re not much on the theoretical. All you want right now is to go home and somehow find Danny there where he should be.

But the universe isn’t in the mood for granting you an intergalactic reprieve. And the bed you slip into is cold and quiet. You can hear Teal’c banging around in the kitchen before settling in for the long winter’s night.

At three you roll over and palm the button on the speaking alarm clock before sighing the sigh of the sleep-deprived and making your way to the kitchen. At first you would have never believed you could ever learn to manage in the dark, but as long as you’re very, very organized you can, without missing a step, find the coffee, fill the coffee-maker, then grab a mug while you listen to it drip.

This doesn’t include holding on to the cup when snuck upon by malevolently hulking Jaffa warriors. Jaffa warriors who will later *swear* they weren’t malevolently hulking, but who definitely were.

~oOo~

"Jack! Teal’c!"

Christmas has been a slow, okay, make that molasses-on-Pluto *slow*, day. Teal’c, the ever-centered, has used the time to read "A Christmas Carol" while you’ve paced the den from end-to-end, unable to concentrate on any available football game. To hear Danny’s voice at the front door is like… well, like *Christmas*.

"Hey." Your adolescent, slouched, trying-to-not-look-like-I’m-positively-ecstatic-to-hear-your-voice posture isn’t going to hold if Danny doesn’t get over there right now and prove to you he’s in one piece.

"Miss me?" he asks as you’re wrapped up in Danny-warmth.

"Nah, Teal’c and I have been having a wonderful time. Didn’t even notice that you were gone, did we, Teal’c?"

So you *know* that silent eye-contact thing is going on behind your back. Not that you really care, your front being firmly implanted against Danny’s chest and your cock being oh-so-happy to be this close to its partner.

"I shall take my leave, O’Neill. DanielJackson."

The encircling arms release you ever-so-slightly. "You don’t have to leave, Teal’c."

"Yes, he does," you whisper, sotto voce.

"Jack," reprimands Danny.

"I am quite ready to return to my duties," responds Teal’c, who may not have been quite so complacently centered after all. "At a later date I must ask you, however, to further explain this customary exchange of kisses which O’Neill has taught me."

The blissful grip holding you slips away entirely. "Jack?"

"At *mass*," you explain.

"Uh huh. Well, I look forward to hearing it myself."

~oOo~

"We going to open presents?"

Teal’c is safely on his way to the mountain. Danny has hung up his coat and made a fresh pot of coffee – the extra-expensive kind he keeps on the top shelf.

"Yeah, come here."

When he’s close enough your hand finds a purchase on the slim waist, right about the hipbone, then your fingers slip over to the zipper of his jeans.

"Jack, what are you doing?"

"Opening my present."

"Mmmm," my present sighs, appreciatively.

"You know this is all I thought about--"

"Me, too," gasps Danny as I apply a little wrist action.

"You mean to tell me that while you were negotiating a treaty you were thinking--"

"Oh, God, Jack."

"You were thinking ‘oh, god, Jack’?"

"Oh yeah," pants Danny, pushing you back to lie full-length on the sofa so he can straddle you. "How else do you think the thing got signed so quickly?"

You’d say, "I love you Dr. Jackson" because you do -- more even than peace and freedom and intergalactic harmony. But at the moment, you’re otherwise occupied with your gift exchange.

And Danny will forgive you your… shallowness.

And for that, you’ll love him all the more.

~end~

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