Okay, maybe this isn't one of the greatest ideas I’d ever had, maybe it isn't even in the running for top ten, and maybe I'm doing it for all the wrong reasons, but hell, the ball was already in motion, and I couldn’t back down now.
“He’s going to hate this, sir.”
“No.” I watch Carter unravel one of those dime store, silver and blue, never-can-hang-the-friggin’-thing-straight, Happy Birthday banners. “Daniel will dislike this idea immensely, but he won’t hate it.”
Teal’c pauses from *his* job of blowing up balloons and gives me a look. One that says the only reason I’m not at the receiving end of a staff blast is because I’m a General. *The* general, to be exact. My rank, it seems, has been the only thing that has enabled me to pull this whole damned idea off without anyone really protesting.
SG-1 had been offworld during Daniel’s birthday and to make matters worse, Daniel had brought back some nasty, intestinal virus that felled half the base within hours. So I ended up putting the base on lockdown and the medical staff ended up cleaning up more puke and shit, thanks to the birthday boy, than they had since the SGC had been open for business. On the plus side, SG-1 did manage to pick up, along with the virus, a fantastic ally on PX9054, the planet they had 'gated to, who had no qualms about sharing their technology. A pretty even equation, if you ask me, though the medical staff and Daniel, who gained the nickname of Typhoid Daniel, might not think so.
Any celebration had to be postponed until Daniel could manage to look at a plate of food without turning an interesting shade of green. It took a day or two, but eventually, Daniel was able to join us in the commissary without placing a hand over his mouth and slinking from the room.
I will be honest and tell you that Daniel has had a rough couple of missions and a hectic work schedule prior to being hit by his stomach thing, so when Carter approached me about what were we going to do for Daniel’s belated birthday celebration, I made it quite clear that I believed he deserved more that just a cake, candles, and some nondescript presents followed by hot sex with me. Well, the hot sex scenario I didn't share with her but I let Carter know it was the quiet celebration part she was pushing for that I thought should be changed.
So after much discussion, we decided on a themed surprise party. The surprise part was easy, only because, as long as we've known Daniel, he hasn’t had one. And a themed one… well, let’s just say, it would make the gift giving a little easier for all those invited.
Daniel’s belated surprise party was going to coincide with Coffee Week, which was a little known holiday Carter had discovered while surfing the net. We were throwing the party on July 28th which was smack in the middle of the week-long celebration. Daniel really didn’t need to know that this holiday was actually a celebration for the invention of instant coffee and the end of WWII coffee rationing. We were going to steer him towards the latter because instant coffee, to Daniel, was sacrilegious and not something he would ever drink, unless he was drugged, unconscious or Brightman was pumping it into his veins via an IV.
The invitations went out, complete with an RSVP date and a little note to inform the invitees that they were to buy Daniel something coffee related.
Being the general is a good thing, 'cause I sent Daniel offworld with another SG team to spend some time playing in the sandbox of PX6590, a totally uninhabited world that had offered nothing in the way of military, medicinal or minerals to pique the SGC’s interest, but was filled with everything to hold Doctor Daniel Jackson's. So I convinced him it was a belated birthday gift, presented the team leader, Major Rosario, with the rules and regulations of Daniel borrowing and then waved goodbye, resisting the urge to smack him on the ass before he stepped through the wormhole.
That had been four days ago, which had given us plenty of time to firm up the arrangements, order the food, buy the paper goods, the balloons and every other totally ostentatious, over-the-top item we could think of. Which is why, at this very moment, the commissary looks like an eclectic mixture of Sweet Sixteen pink paraphernalia, with a hint of Over-the-Hill stuff, and my personal favorite, super hero paper plates, napkins and tablecloths.
The counter space is overrun with coffee makers of every size and brand, ready to begin brewing at the flick of several switches, and Teal’c has purchased every type of creamer available, which at last count was something like twenty, the majority of which were probably sweet enough to keep Daniel, and everyone else on base, on a sugar high for at least a week.
Teal’c has just blown up his last balloon and Carter has managed to hang the Happy Birthday banner and I stepped back to survey the outcome, and found find myself nodding at the transformation. I give them the thumbs up signal and Carter taps her watch in response.
“Daniel, sir. Isn’t he due to…”
I snap my fingers. “Yup, he is. You guys hold down the fort.” I check my own watch. “The coffee makers?” I do a mental calculation, wormhole, infirmary, shower. “Switch them on in about thirty minutes.” If all goes according to plan, the guests will start arriving in about fifteen minutes, the same moment Daniel steps down the ramp, which gives us a cushion of time.
* * *
I know the planet was safe, but ten minutes after their scheduled ‘gate-in time, I begin to tap my foot. After fifteen minutes, I’m pacing wildly and when they’re twenty minutes late, impatience turns to worry.
I’m just about to issue an order when the klaxons sound and the ring starts to turn. As each and every one of those required chevrons lock into place, my anxiety level begins to increase. Twenty minutes is still twenty minutes.
As casually as possible, I walk down the metal staircase and into the gateroom, timing my arrival with the opening of the iris and do a head count as the team, the additional archeologists and Daniel, step onto the ramp.
Mud. They’re covered with mud. Well, Daniel and Major Rosario are, the other people are just soaking wet and are giving the two of them a wide berth as they hurriedly head in my direction, trying to put as much distance between themselves and the two mud-covered people. None of them are smiling. Not a single one of them looks happy.
Daniel is on the move, his attempt at stomping falls short as he slips on muddy boots and he nearly lands on his ass. I slap my hand over my mouth, trying to hide a smile, ‘cause I’m thinking I’ll be sleeping on the couch until I retire if I have the audacity to laugh. Daniel regains his balance and hugs the railing as he heads directly towards me. I notice, out of the corner of my eye, the other team members are parting faster than the Red Sea.
“I’m showering. Now.” He waves his hands and sends a smattering of mud flying in all directions. “*Then* the infirmary. Then my office. The debriefing can wait. *My* report can wait.” Daniel doesn't hang around for me to agree with his order, though I *am* the general. He angrily heads out of the gateroom, leaving a trail of muddy footprints in his wake. The remaining team members and archeologists are cowering behind me and wait a heartbeat or two after the door swishes closed before they scamper after him, without even looking at Major Rosario, who is still standing at the top of the ramp.
"Care to join me, Major?"
All protocol for this mission has obviously gone flying out the window as Rosario remains rooted to his spot. I crook my finger at him, then tilt my head at the empty spot right by my side. "Major?"
He stomps down the ramp, but unlike Daniel, he doesn't lose his footing, his steps are sure and angry. Very angry—furious, and as he stops before me, smothered in mud, his hands are clenching and unclenching by his side.
My gaze skips over him, from the tip of his mud covered shoes to the top of his muddy crew cut. He stinks and is badly in need of a shower, but I'm thinking that maybe, just maybe, it would be smarter to deter his arrival at the showers until Daniel is finished washing away his own muck.
"Permission to speak freely, *sir?* He locks his hands behind his back, then separates his legs.
Parade rest, that's more like it. "Sure." I confidently square my shoulders as I prepare to meet whatever complaint gets flung my way.
"Dr. Jackson is an evil, maniacal man, and if you *ever* need an SG team to accompany him offworld, I beg… no, I *insist*, they be given hazard pay."
"Hazard pay?" Oy, what did Daniel touch? "Was someone injured? Was Dan… Dr. Jackson injured."
"No. The hazard pay, I'm sure, would be the only incentive that would make a team…"
"Was there a *problem*, Major Rosario?"
"Problem?" he snorts, blowing a mud-covered snot bubble from his left nostril. "Problem? There wasn't *a* problem, sir, Dr. Jackson himself was the problem. All of him, from day one when he lost his supply of coffee."
"Coffee, General. Caffeine. Dr. Jackson's liquid gold."
"Not one person had coffee besides what was in Daniel's stash?"
"Oh, we had coffee--instant, decaffeinated coffee-- which to *Dr.* Jackson was as bad as…"
I wave my hand at Major Rosario. "I'm sure Daniel's choice of words wasn't exactly pleasant," and I steal a glance over my shoulder, "or worth repeating here." I raise my hand to give an empathetic pat to the Major, but change my mind due to the caking, hardening mud. "Why don't you shower, I'm sure once Daniel has had a pot full of coffee and you've rinsed away this…"
"Mud." I shove my hands deep into my pockets. "Then I'm sure you'll be able to share a chuckle over this mission."
"Whatever. Dismissed, Major. Shower, infirmary and then come join us in the commissary for a little surprise birthday party for Daniel."
I swear the man paled under his layer of mud.
"No, General, I will have to respectfully decline. I, umm, want to write up this mission report while it's still fresh in my mind." The major shakes his head, then gives me a look of sympathy before turning and leaving.
"I'll save you a piece of cake," I shout as I wave goodbye.
* * *
I stop by the commissary before heading off to the infirmary and give a hurried apology to the masses as to why Daniel is late. The smell of brewing coffee is a tad overpowering, and I'm forced to breathe through my mouth as I explain. Not one person blinks an eye at Daniel's tardiness because this is life at the SGC and one sort of learns to be flexible.
* * *
Daniel is spanking clean and sitting on the edge of an infirmary bed, protesting every test Brightman is putting him through. I see what she doesn't, she hasn't been around long enough to pick up on the pinched look on Daniel's face. Deep lines have settled in the corners of both his eyes and mouth and I'll bet my paycheck that he's in pain. A lot of pain. Caffeine withdrawal pain.
"Your blood pressure is a bit elevated."
I'm giving Dr. Brightman the evil eye as I stand behind Daniel. Unbeknownst to the archeologist, I'm trying to hurry this examination along with a roll of my hand. She *was* supposed to prolong this checkup to bide us some extra prep time, but Daniel was late enough, so this really isn't necessary, but Brightman's not getting the hint and is extending each and every question.
Oh, Brightman's not wrong, Daniel is agitated. Fingers beating a relentless, staccato rhythm against the side of the bed, leg swinging, eye rolling agitated, and any other time I wouldn't have a problem with her strapping him to the bed and sticking him with a sedative, but not today.
"Party," I silently mouth when I have her attention, then tap my watch face for emphasis, but she's having none of it as she shoves a thermometer in Daniel's mouth. Considering she's dealing with Typhoid Daniel, I'm guessing she's erring on the side of caution.
* * *
Ten minutes later she's released him after a severe tongue lashing about caffeine withdrawal. She's new, not stupid, but I end up dragging Daniel out of the infirmary when he starts to argue with her.
He jerks his arm from my grip the moment we're through the door and now I find myself hurriedly following him as he rushes down the corridor to the elevator. "Daniel, where are you going?"
"Not now, Jack," he growls.
I cringe as he repeatedly pushes the down button.
* * *
He barges into his office and heads to where the coffee maker should be. His beloved machine that now has center stage in the commissary, where it has been decorated quite garishly with a ribbon and a birthday crown. Daniel's hand pats the empty spot, then turns to face me.
"Do I want to know *why* the shelf is empty?"
Daniel's brows knit together, his nostrils flare and his lips are in a tight, straight line. He's beyond angry as he shoulders past me and heads to the door.
"Where are you going?"
"Coffee. I'm going to get coffee."
Once again I'm trailing after him as he heads toward the elevator. This time *I* hit the button, then grab hold of his elbow. "Daniel—"
He glances down at my hand. "Don't try and stop me."
We both step into the elevator when it opens and he pushes the up button. The up--like in 'up and out of the mountain'--button, and I hit the red stop button and the elevator jerks to a halt.
"I need coffee," he hisses, taking a step with each breath. "I need coffee, now!"
Daniel has backed me into a corner and I catch him looking at the camera situated in the opposite corner. "That," he says while pointing at the security camera, "is the *only* thing saving your life. Now I'm going to push the button that will *start* this elevator back up…"
"Commissary!" I yell. "The commissary will have coffee."
Daniel flinches at the word coffee, and a dreamy, faraway look passes over his face before he squares his shoulders, though his finger hesitates, hovering over the elevator's keypad. "I could get coffee here," he mutters to himself.
"You could," I agree with a dopey smile. "A whole pot's worth, then write your report and *then* we could go home and have s-e-x." I spell out the word, making sure my back is to the camera, forever grateful for their picture but no sound.
"A whole pot?"
I shake my head, it's obvious where I fit in Daniel's life, but I love him anyway.
He hits the button to the commissary level, then steps back against the wall and closes his eyes. Daniel's hit bottom, he probably has a headache that's off the scale, his stomach is probably killing him and as if on cue, he rubs first his forehead and his stomach.
"Stomach and head bothering you?"
Yup, that's me, General O'Neill, king of the understated. My *birthday* present of a relaxing mission after months of back breaking missions intermingled with all-nighters filled with research, SGC responsibilities, and a mug of coffee by his side, didn't have the effect I'd been looking for and, camera or no camera, it's only the opening of the elevator doors that saves him from murdering me. Damn him. He actually gets out of the elevator and sniffs the air, like a dog, and then he's on the scent, practically running down the corridor towards the commissary, with me traipsing behind.
I call his name, telling him to stop. I order him to halt, but he just picks up speed, a man with a mission. This isn't the way it was supposed to go down. It should be me who enters first through the swinging doors, which will allow the partygoers a second or two to gather their wits and yell 'surprise'!
I run to catch up and I'm actually a hairsbreadths short of grabbing hold of the back of his shirt to pull him back, but he's one step too many in front of me and manages to sidestep my grasp, and slams open the door.
The group of invitees is stunned into silence and their gazes of shock and amazement move from Daniel to me. One person, I believe it's Carter, yells out 'surprise' and the word is picked up like a wave and crashes down into the room, and Daniel, well, he's oblivious to it all. He's so focused on the coffee, that he neither sees nor comprehends the banners, balloons, people or the garish tablecloths. Daniel picks his own coffee maker out among the myriad of machines, sorta like a parent honing in on their own child's cry, and he's pouring himself a cup by the time I reach his side.
I wait, I'm patient, and I wave off all approaching well wishers.
He quickly wraps both hands around the Styrofoam cup, sorta like he's afraid someone is going to snatch it away from him. Daniel's hands are shaking, he's hurting and he's still unaware of the people standing around him.
"Why don't you finish that." I dig into my pocket and pull out two, lint covered, never-leave-home-without-them Tylenol, "take these and then we'll talk."
Daniel's into his third cup of coffee when he raises his head and looks around the room. He blinks a number of times and his Adam's apple bobs up and down as he notices the people standing around and the decorations. "Jack? Is there something you're not telling me?"
I step back a step and throw my arms wide open. "Surprise, Daniel! Happy Birthday!"
His eyes widen, and for the first time since entering the infirmary, he lifts his head out of the inside of the cup, notices the signs, the balloons, the paper goods, the numerous coffee pots, the presents and the number of people, then he pales. Daniel manages to guzzle down the remainder of the coffee in this cup before people descend on him with happy birthday wishes.
* * *
Daniel's elbow is resting on the table and his chin is resting on his cupped hand, his body is loose and lethargic but his eyes are alert as he watches Carter's hand sneak towards his pile of dark chocolate-covered espresso beans. We're the only ones left in the commissary. Major Rosario, who decided to show his face and after been swept off his feet by an apologetic, slightly drunk on coffee Daniel, left about fifteen minutes ago.
Daniel allows Carter one bean, but smacks her hand away when she reaches for a second. "Mine," he says petulantly, finishing off his warning with a yawn.
He pops a coffee bean into his mouth and ignores Carter's evil eye as he crunches, washing it down with a sip of coffee. "Thanks, guys, this… I'm overwhelmed." And he smiles, one of the first true smiles of the day. "A surprise party…"
"Themed," I add. "Carter's idea." Giving credit where credit is due, in a futile attempt to try and make up for her pouty face because Daniel's not sharing.
"Thanks, Sam, I honestly never knew there was a holiday just for coffee." He pushes a few of those precious beans in her direction which she greedily pounces upon.
Daniel extends his left hand and reverently touches a few of his gifts.
"Are your presents to your satisfaction, DanielJackson?"
He nods at Teal'c's question, his face aglow with an almost post orgasmic expression. There are the usual run of the mill packages of coffee, a few Starbuck gift certificates which in the long run will save *me* a bundle of money. I reach over and grab one of the packages of coffee.
"Resurrection Blend?" I wave it in front of the members of SG-1. "Carter? Teal'c?"
"Not me, sir," Carter says as she innocently grabs a white chocolate covered bean from a conveniently opened bag.
Teal'c shakes his head. "It would appear that someone in our midst has a strange sense of humor."
"Ya think?" I read the gift card taped to the wrapping and sigh, then put the package back on the pile. Leave it to Ferretti.
"And this." Daniel holds one bag up to the heavens and then hugs it to his body, like a treasured toy. "Kopi Luwak."
Carter whistles. "Someone loves you quite a lot to spend $100 a pound on you. I'm impressed."
"A hundred bucks?" I tug the bag from his arms, feeling a bit jealous. "What's this crap made out of? Gold?" I weigh it in my hands, bouncing it back and forth.
"Crap. Not gold," Teal'c answers as he reads the brochure that goes with this *special* blend.
"It is just as I said, O'Neill. Crap. Excrement. Shit."
"Care to explain? Teal'c? Daniel?"
Daniel gives Teal'c the go-ahead with a wave of his hand, then the Jaffa bows in appreciation before he begins to read from the fancy paperwork he holds. "In Sumatra, workers on coffee plantations gather the world's most expensive coffee by following a gourmet marsupial who consumes only the choicest coffee beans. By picking through what he excretes, they obtain the world's most expensive coffee, Kopi Luwak, which sells for over $100 per pound."
Daniel picks up the baton, and plucks the brochure from Teal'c's hands, continuing the lecture. "The world's rarest, and most expensive coffee. The Luwak is an animal that lives on coffee plantations. It eats only the ripest of coffee cherries, then poops out the indigestible coffee beans. The droppings are collected and these "treated" beans—"
I sniff the wrapping. "$100 per pound, for this shit?"
"Hey." Daniel grabs it back from me, then slides the package and the brochure out of my reach. "I'm not going to share if that's your attitude."
"Oh, thank God," I exclaim, vowing never to drink a pot of coffee that Daniel brews for the longest while. I change the subject before Daniel goes any further with his comments. "Carter, what did you get Daniel?"
"Coffee of the month sir. For two years."
Daniel's not even paying attention, his nose is buried in the paperwork of Carter's gift, processing if this is July he must be getting...
"I have purchased for DanielJackson 23 carat gold plated metal foil coffee filters. They are reusable," he states proudly. "Dishwasher safe."
"Isn't that great? Thanks again, Teal'c."
I was going to make a comment about the coffee filters and where would one buy such a thing or *why* would someone want to own one, but Daniel yawns again and Teal'c, Carter and I smile at each other. Experience has taught us that he's good for another fifteen to thirty minutes, tops, before he falls face down amid his coffee gifts.
See, in the beginning, we were under the mistaken impression that Daniel's coffee addiction would keep him from sleeping. And it did, at first, but as his body built up a tolerance for the caffeine, it was almost as if he *needed* his fix before bedtime and was unable to sleep without it. So in retrospect, I'm betting that Daniel slept very little on this mission, which only added to his ogre-like personality. My sympathies ride with Major Rosario on this one and I'm looking forward to reading the mission reports.
"We'll clean up here, sir," Carter volunteers, "why don't you take Daniel home."
I check my watch. "No can do. I have to play General for a little while longer, why don't you take Daniel home…"
"No, it's okay. Can't leave yet. Need to finish up… start my report."
I fling my arm around Daniel's shoulder. "Here's the plan. *I'll* finish up for the day, *you* work on your report and then I'll drive you home."
Daniel contemplates my suggestion "Okay, that'll work." And I can feel, but neither Teal'c nor Carter can see, Daniel relax against my arm. He understands my hidden agenda completely. One thing about the linguist, he's very aware that there are times where actions sometimes speak louder than words.
* * *
I grimace as the chair's wheels let out a loud squeak as I roll myself into a better position. Note to self… memo to maintenance, WD40 the casters on all the chairs in Daniel's office.
I prop my feet up at the end of the couch, settle back as much as the chair will allow and watch the slow rise and fall of Daniel's chest.
All of his gifts are scattered around the room, Teal'c and Carter must have helped him carry them back to his office.
The chair accidentally moves and the squeak is very loud in the quiet room. "Damn!"
Daniel flips onto his stomach, then rubs his face into the couch. "It's okay, Jack. Not sleeping." Daniel curls into a ball before stretching, cat-like, which proves my point that he *was* sleeping, he's just not sleeping any more.
I slip my foot under the blanket covering his not-sleeping form and tap his foot. "Ready to go home?"
He turns and smiles at me, which in linguist language means he's ready. And me? I'm ready also. I'm dying to hear some bedtimes stories, like where did Daniel's stash of coffee disappear to? And why were the two of them covered in mud? I have a ton of questions, and based on the Cheshire smile on Daniel's face, he's awake enough to provide me with all the answers.
Thanks to the sisters of my heart, who always manage to make the evening hours something I look forward. Thanks to my beta Jo, for always and forever going beyond the call of duty.
Many thanks to Jmas for accepting this story for her E-zine 'Ancients Gate V - Depths'
If you want to see more of Jmas' ezines, here's her link:
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