Manips by JoaG
Illustrations by Wilma
I'm bored. I'm bored and dressed, as my mom would say, in my Sunday finest. Daniel and I are due at Fraiser's house--I check my watch again--in about forty minutes. Daniel is still at the mountain and me, I'm at Daniel's, waiting for him. His idea. His loft is closer to Fraiser's than my house, but even if he left the SGC at this exact moment, there's no way we wouldn't show up late.
Daniel's cable hookup is basic, so it holds my attention for all of two minutes. His reading selection leaves a lot to be desired, so I begin to wander. Touching his stuff. A picture here. A sword there.
I end up in the kitchen. I open the fridge door then close it. No surprise there, it's as barren as my own. I rearrange the magnets on the door, placing them in a circle. It's only when I step back, do I realize that to my eye, it resembles a Stargate, so I hurriedly move them around into another configuration.
Cabinets reveal no surprises. Cereal. Cans. Boring. Boring. Normal. Sometimes boring and normal are nice, especially in our lives. One drawer reveals silverware. The next potholders and towels. Another drawer holds utensils: a ladle, that spaghetti stirrer thing with the prongs, a whisk, and more than a handful of those stupid measuring cups held together with matching colored plastic rings. I take out a red set and a blue set and play a little castanet number, dropping them like hot potatoes when I think about just how wrong it was.
The next drawer sticks and I have to tug on it three times before it opens. A single chopstick goes flying, and I duck; it narrowly misses taking out my eye. Stunned, I stand rooted, hands protectively thrown over my head as it shoots across the room and hits the opposite wall.
I peer cautiously into the drawer, wondering what other booby traps Daniel has hidden away.
"Holy shit." I burst out laughing. How did I not know about the existence of this drawer? Doctor everything-in-its-place Jackson has an honest-to-goodness junk drawer. A junk drawer, just like every other person since the beginning of time, though knowing Daniel, he's probably named the drawer and connected it with some deep sociological meaning.
Never one to resist a challenge, I poke around in the jumble. "What the—" I pull on a string and reel in my Duncan yo-yo. My red ProFlyer, I've been looking for this since—well, since I lost it. Slipping the noose around my finger, I flick my wrist and the yo-yo falls downward and stays there. I bob my finger up and down, but still nothing. Ahhh… in my haste to play with my rediscovered toy, I didn't notice the string was all twisted and bunched up. Slowly, methodically, I work out the kinks. This time when I flick my wrist, the yo-yo descends beautifully. It takes a few failed attempts, but like riding a bicycle, in no time, I'm walking the dog like an expert.
With the yo-yo still attached to my right hand, I continue rummaging through the drawer with my left. There's the obligatory junk drawer items. A ruler. A spool of thread. A plastic wrapped spork and napkin from Taco Bell.
"Oh." I remove the yo-yo's string from my finger, and carefully extricate a slightly bent, wire framed pair of glasses. Bittersweet memories hit me while my thumb strokes the crudely taped right earpiece. Abydos. Sha're.
I place the glasses on the counter next to the yo-yo. Some things aren't meant to be buried in a junk drawer.
There is a menu from a now defunct Thai restaurant. A crumbled menu from the local Chinese place with our usual order circled. My stomach rumbles, the menus serve as a reminder that Fraiser is serving dinner, I'm hungry and Daniel's late. I toss a four pack of Oreos in the trash because they're pretty much smashed beyond recognition and the crème filling's stuck to the side. The tiny bag of Planter's peanuts follows the Oreos, though I save the complimentary, unopened airline sized bottle of Jack Daniel's stuck to the pad of fluorescent orange post-it notes. Just because. Thinking that Daniel must've saved it for the same reason.
Pencils. Pencils. Pencils. Some with points. Some with points minus erasers. Others with erasers and no points. All these #2's have one thing in common. Teeth marks. Like wooden ears of corns, Daniel has certainly made his presence known. Pens of all sizes litter the drawer and I test them out by one on the Thai menu. Some work, some don't and I trash the ones that don't, though I save the deep green and black pen bearing the name of that tiny, very expensive, off the beaten path Italian restaurant, even though it does nothing but scratch out circular indentations on the menu. Smiling, I place it to the side, and make a mental note to remind Daniel it's been a while since we've had gnocchi.
Wedged against the side of the drawer is a folded piece of beige construction paper that's seen better days, frayed at the edges. It takes a two handed maneuver to remove the paper. I unfold it. It's a child's crude drawing. But not crude enough that I don't recognize Daniel sitting in his office working. Big glasses, longish hair, a gangly stick figure surrounded by books and scribbles. Daniel through the eyes of a child. Cassie's name in the right hand corner is larger than Daniel.
That little girl has grown into a headstrong, beautiful teenager. Slowly, I refold the paper, saddened by how fast the years have flown by, annoyed that experience should have taught me to 'stop and smell the roses' by now.
Three instant scratch off lottery tickets are my next discovery, none of which have been scratched off. I dig in my pocket for a coin, pull out a dime and begin to rub away the grey covering. "You go, Dannyboy." I blow away the pile of shavings and flip the coin into the air. He's won two hundred fifty dollars. Guess who's treating me to Italian food.
The passport takes me by surprise. It's old, the cover curls into itself and for the first time, I feel like I'm invading Daniel's privacy. All these years, and I've never seen it before. Feeling like a voyeur but unable to stop myself, I open the passport. The black and white picture has faded with time, but not enough that I can't recognize the bright eyes magnified by the huge glasses. An eight year old Daniel, sporting a gap tooth grin.
The passport is stamped with a date that's worn out, but I can make out New York and I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it would be a long time before that Daniel smiled again.
I hear a key in the door. Caught with my hand in the proverbial cookie jar, I drop the passport back into the drawer and with a sweeping motion, I dump everything I placed on the counter back inside, wedging the folded up picture back into position. I contemplate pilfering the glasses and the yo-yo, but I stop short of stuffing them into my pockets.
I have no right to these items; though the toy is mine, these are Daniel's memories. To Daniel, this isn't a junk drawer, it's a culmination of the pieces of his life.
Nonchalantly, I meander out of the kitchen, just as Daniel's tossing his coat over the back of the chair. His smile doesn't make it up to his tired eyes. Damn. Piss poor timing tonight. He knows it. I know it, but neither one of us would even consider calling Fraiser and canceling. Tonight's Cassie's eighteenth birthday and it'll be a full house.
"I'm just going to…" His hand scrubs his five o'clock shadow.
"Be quick without killing yourself…" I tap my watch and my eyebrows perform a Groucho Marx dance.
He's too tired to appreciate my humor and he bristles, his tension radiating to every corner of the room.
I back down and extend the peace pipe. "Coffee coming right up."
Daniel exhales. Anger tangibly dissipates. "I won't be long."
"Neither will I," I promise.
I'm pouring the coffee into a travel mug, leaning over the sink, trying not to spill a drop.
"Hmmm." I'm concentrating. Deeply.
"I'll be done in a second."
I put the pot down. Screw the lid on the travel mug then turn to face Daniel, who's standing, leaning against the doorframe twirling the chopstick that tried to take me down.
"Ready?" I ask, stepping up to him, ignoring the obvious. "Here's your coffee."
"Where's my other lucky chopstick?"
I pluck the implement from his hand, replace it with coffee, then toss the chopstick on the table. "Let's go, we're late enough…"
Dark shadows under his eyes don't lie, he's been awake more than he's been able to sleep the past week, but he cleans up damn nice. I kiss him once on the lips as I walk past. "We'll look for your lucky stick when we get home."
"You're trying to distract me." Daniel's tongue flicks out to capture the area I just kissed.
"Not trying to distract you, trying to save your life. Fraiser's gonna kills us—"
"Yeah, I bought Cassie some lottery tickets as a gag. Being eighteen she can collect—"
He's heading towards the drawer and I throw myself in his path. "Makes no sense trying to waste time trying to find the lottery tickets, we'll pick some up on our way to Fraiser's."
I'm on the receiving end of Daniel's patented 'what the fuck' glance. "Look, by the time you stop someplace to pick up the tickets…" Daniel doesn't finish the sentence, he just skirts around me and opens the drawer.
Me? I'm trying to see if Thor can read my silent prayers for rescue.
"Were you in my drawers?"
"Don't you remember, about two nights ago, you were falling asleep on the couch and I mentioned how cute you looked, you got angry, then I mentioned how cute you were when you were angry…"
"Not those drawers," Daniel growls, slapping my hand off his ass. "These drawers." He grips the drawer handle and moves it up and down, rattling the drawer. "This drawer in particular."
"Look, I'm sorry. I was wrong."
"You were bored."
I'm not too sure if I hate that he knows me this well or love that he knows me this well. Either way, it's disconcerting. "We need to leave."
With more gentleness that I showed, Daniel sifts through the jumble. "It's a mess."
I tug on his arm. "It was a mess when I opened it."
He says nothing. Daniel removes the glasses and his fingers caress the frames before he puts them on the counter. The yo-yo, well, he doesn't even make any excuse for that. The drawing, the menu…"Where's the other—"
Busted. The garbage is filled with stuff from the drawer. "I had no right."
"No, shit, Jack."
"It's a junk drawer. Keyword being junk."
"It's my junk drawer."
Daniel locates the tickets. "You scratched off the instant lottery tickets."
I point at my handwork. "They're winning tickets. Two hundred dollars worth."
Daniel gazes at me, then at the tickets. He rips them up before I can stop him.
He tosses the scraps onto the table. "We'll pick up some more on the way to Janet's."
"I know what I did, Jack."
"You just threw away—"
"Oh, I did? That's nice."
There's ice in his voice. Anger in the set of his jaw, but it's the disappointment in those blue eyes that destroys me.
"Pull into… there." He points to a strip mall on the opposite side of the street.
"There's a place further down the block where you can get the lottery tickets…"
His tone of voice let's me know it's really not fine, and I cut across two lanes of traffic to pull into the strip mall with the card store.
Daniel's out of the truck before I even park, without even a 'thank you' that I didn't get us killed. And then he's back, grim-faced, a small brown paper bag in his hands.
"Got what you wanted?" I ask as Daniel takes a seat and buckles up.
I shut up… until we pull in front of Fraiser's house. "Look, I'm sorry."
"We're late, let's go."
One look at Daniel's face, and no one has the courage to even question why we're late. Except, Cassie, he melts for her, hugging her close, kissing the top of her head, then hands her the brown bag with the lottery tickets, whispering something in her ear.
She smiles, kisses his cheek then goes to open the bag.
He stops her, shakes his head then looks over his shoulder.
Fraiser appears at my side and I take the beer she offers. "Daniel didn't just hand my daughter a pack of condoms, did he?"
Thankfully, I haven't yet taken a mouthful of beer. "No. He didn't," I promise. "Sorry we're late, by the way."
"Apology accepted. And Daniel?"
Daniel's focused on Cassie. His mouth is moving, I can't make out a word, but Cassie nods vigorously at him, disappears for a second then returns, a huge smile on her face sans brown paper bag.
"I'm sure he's also sorry we're late. And even though it's because he was at the SGC, I'm sure he'll blame our tardiness on me."
"That's not what I mean, Colonel."
Daniel and Cassie make their way to a table laden with food. My mouth waters jealously.
"Have you tried apologizing to him?"
Not only is it not worth the effort to argue, but disagreeing will only prevent me from getting to the food. "A million times. A million and one if you count the time on the ride over."
Fraiser pats my arm. "You have my sympathy."
"I'd rather have a plate of lasagna."
"Right this way, sir."
Daniel removes the stick from his ass somewhere after his fourth glass of wine. Not that I'm counting or anything, but I know if he's drinking, I'm driving, which means I hold at one. I take it as a positive sign that Daniel doesn't move away when I sidle up to him.
"Coffee. Cake. Presents. Home?"
He hesitates, downs his glass of wine, then nods.
I want to say more, but the wall Daniel's constructed is so high, I'm going to have to use the emergency grappling hook to climb over. "Rumor has it there's chocolate mousse—"
The lights go off and Fraiser enters the room already singing Happy Birthday. We all join in, the wine loosening up Daniel's tongue enough for him to sing, instead of his customary humming along. We clap, and Carter blows a wolf whistle.
"Ow." I rub my ear. It doesn't help that my Carter was plastered to my right side.
"Oops. Guess I was a bit—"
"Shut up," Daniel hisses as he leans over and pours himself another glass of wine from the bottle on the counter. "The two of you pay attention."
We spoil Cassie, and a long time ago Fraiser learned to deal with it and take it in stride. Today, I think we might have gone a bit overboard, even for us. A pink cell phone from Carter elicits squeals of delight. Pink? And Carter sprang for a day at the spa, though I'm beside myself as to why a beautiful girl at the tender age of eighteen needs a day of beauty. A laptop from Fraiser's parents who have adopted this child with open arms, no matter how far the distance is that separates them. I, against my better judgment, allowed Daniel to talk me into getting Cassie an iPod, which replaces her older iPod. I had reservations, but Daniel won the argument. Our present, accompanied by Teal'c's purchase of a gift card to a place called iTunes, earns me a glare of contempt from our intrepid CMO.
"We'll talk later, Colonel." Fraiser has switched places with Carter.
"Hey, what about the other two names on the card?"
She smiles innocently at me.
My skin begins a slow crawl.
"In my world, Teal'c walks on water."
Great. "And Daniel?"
As one we both glance at him.
"I'm thinking tomorrow's hangover is going to be payment enough."
"So that leaves me?"
Fraiser clicks her tongue at me. "When you least expect it, sir."
Cassie's at the end of the present pile, the only thing left is the brown envelope containing the instant lottery tickets. "Thank you." Daniel gets a smile that leads me to believe there's more to the lottery tickets than just lottery tickets.
He toasts Cassie with a once-again filled wine glass, digs into his pockets then flips her a coin.
One-handed, she catches it, finds an empty corner on the table and begins the scratch off process. Cassie shakes her head, tsk's and tosses one into the garbage. All I can think about is the winning, ripped to shreds, ticket in Daniel's garbage.
"Cassie," Fraiser yells. "Language."
"I won, mom. Look." She shoves the ticket so closely under Fraiser's nose that the good doctor goes cross-eyed.
"Hold on." She takes the ticket from her bouncing daughter's grasp and holds it arm's length. "Holy shit. You won."
Cassie answers for her mother "Ten thousand dollars. Ten thousand dollars." She flings herself at Daniel, who would've fallen on his ass if I hadn't stepped behind him. He leans into me as she rockets up against him. Cassie is kissing him and from what I can see from my vantage point, Daniel has a huge shit-eating grin on his face.
We say our goodbyes. Cassie's still bouncing and it's only Fraiser's restraining arm on her shoulder that keeps the newly eighteen year old from pinging around the room. There had been a moment of disappointment when her mom informed her that she couldn't just go to the store, pick up her ten thousand dollars and then go to the mall, but that cloud swiftly passed.
Daniel pours himself into the front seat, buckles in and literally falls asleep while still waving. His hand is in the upright position, elbow resting on the arm rest, fingers splayed. He sleeps the entire ride home, stirring only when I park the truck.
"Hey." I prod him gently. "Home."
"I'm up." He doesn't even open his eyes.
"I'm patient. It saves time getting in the truck in the morning and going for breakfast."
The SOB still hasn't opened his eyes, though he's acknowledges me with a drunken roll of his head against the back of the seat. "My treat."
I stay glued to Daniel's six. Waiting to catch him should he decide to take a header in either the hallway or the elevator, but he manages both with a slight sway to his gait.
It takes three tries of Daniel trying to fit his key into the lock before I take it from him. "Let me." He's in and through the door before I even get the keys out.
And then stops, turns and stares at me.
I ignore him, take the keys out of the door, then drop them on the divider.
"Staying?" Daniel asks as if he's unsure if he wants me to stay. Or wants me to go.
"Staying." I make the decision for him.
I'm left standing in the room, alone.
Daniel's pissy. Tipsy. Exhausted. Stubborn. On an individual basis, I can handle any of those. Even in pairs, I've managed. Hand me all four on one plate and experience has taught me kid gloves and treading lightly is a necessity.
It's going to be a long night.
I listen to the sounds in the apartment. Bathroom door - opening, closing. Water On. Water off. The bathroom door opens again. I wait until I hear the creak of the bed as Daniel settles onto the mattress before I make my move. A bottle of water. Two aspirin for me. Two aspirin for him. I put his aspirin in my pockets, toss back my two, then break the seal and take a sip from the water bottle.
"It's not a junk drawer."
I spew my semi-dissolved aspirin and mouthful of water into the sink, then wipe my mouth with the back of my hand. "Daniel." I say his name as I turn, taking a drink of water to wipe out the horrific taste.
Daniel's leaning against the door frame, arms crossed, wearing boxers, a tee shirt and a pair of socks. For the five minutes he'd been horizontal, he already has bed head.
He senses where my gaze has landed and works to bring his cowlicks under control.
I hand him the bottle of water and his aspirin.
Daniel takes neither. "It's not a junk drawer," he repeats.
"You said that already. And I said I was sorry." I place the water and aspirin on the table.
"I mean, to the average person it has all the appearance of a drawer filled with meaningless items."
Daniel could talk most people under the table. His repertoire on verbosity is pretty damn impressive as well as being endless, unless the conversation veers into his personal life. Then, he shuts up faster than a clam protecting a pearl. Right now, he's nervous, fidgety, even after the consumption of a bottle of wine. Liquored up was probably the only way Daniel could face discussing his not-junk, junk drawer. I'm thinking, Daniel figured if he got drunk enough, he could prattle the reason of the drawer off and remember none of it in the morning.
"I have a junk drawer." If I don't prod this along we'll be standing in the same spots come sunrise.
"Mine's not a junk drawer," Daniel says, following it up with an indignant huff.
"No. It's not. You said that already," I repeat for the millionth time, rubbing my forehead in exasperation. I can't seem to get the kiddy rhythm, 'the monkey chased the weasel' outta my brain. It begins to play on an endless loop. I'm tired. Annoyed. I can't help but yell to be heard over that persistent, stupid song. "It sure as hell resembles a junk drawer, Daniel."
"My glasses, from Abydos are in there," Daniel shouts at me, pointing at the drawer.
"I know," I scream back, then take a deep breath. "I know," I repeat in a voice just barely above a whisper.
"I had a treasure box when I was young."
Ahhh… it's train of thought without a caboose time. I'll just go along for the ride. "Me, too. Charlie did also." I buried Charlie's with him, but this isn't the time to share that little tidbit.
"I had stupid things in the box. Pieces of rocks."
"No, Jack, rocks. Beads… a post card from Nick. My first journal. An old tool from my parents—"
"Not stupid things, Daniel. Pieces of your childhood."
"I lost the box. All those parts of me, I'll never get back."
Strangely enough, I'm pretty positive Daniel didn't lose the box, but that it was lost for him during the days following his parent's deaths. Bingo. All the dots finally connect and I point to the drawer. "That's your treasure box?"
"Yes, it is." He smiles, not at me, but at the drawer. "It started with the glasses… and my old passport. Menus. Pens from… " Daniel's smile turns into an embarrassed grimace. "It's ridiculous, isn't it?"
I'd recognized those pens. Those menus. My heart warms to the fact that I'm considered special enough to be included in that drawer. "Not ridiculous. Kinda nice, actually."
"I had the glasses and my passport in a box for a long time, but then things happened and I—my treasures outgrew the box."
Good for you, Danny. "And the drawer moves along—"
"Right along with me." Daniel gives a one shouldered shrug and pushes up glasses that aren't there.
God, he's tired. I step up and tug him into my arms. He falls willingly against me, resting his head on my shoulder.
"I think I'm tired." Daniel pauses. "I may be a bit drunk."
"Just a bit." He's like dead weight in my arms. "Whatcha say we go to bed?"
"You do realize," I say just as Daniel's getting under the covers. "That if I hadn't looked in the drawer, I never would have found the lottery tickets, rubbed them off and been a winner. You would never would have gotten angry, ripped them up and had to buy two more lottery tickets. So inevitably, the fact that Cassie has won ten thousand dollars is because of me."
"That's only partially true, because I picked the place where to buy the lottery tickets. If it had been up to you, Cassie would've ended up with diddlysquat."
"Diddlysquat? That's a linguistic word?"
He yawns. "It is when the linguist is exhausted and drunk."
Damn, the aspirin and water. "Hold that thought." I lean over and kiss him.
I grab the bottle and aspirin then put them back down. Instead, I go over to the garbage and begin to pull out all the things I didn't have a right to toss. Pens. Menus. Pencils. Lovingly, I return them to the drawer, making sure everything is in its proper place. Heck, I even put the pieces of the ripped up lottery tickets. I slide the stuffed to the gills drawer closed, then give it a pat. What's that saying? Oh yeah. One man's junk is another man's treasure.
This story is from a zine called You'll be alright, a zine which was a labour of love, put together by devra and I for our wonderful Jmas last year.
If you want to see more of Jmas' ezines, here's her link:
And Darcy made a vid - you may want to check it out on her site here called Stand - by Rascal Flatts
to contact devra