Jack O'Neill retired from the Air Force and the SGC at age forty-nine. At the birthday party his friends surprised him with in his own home, he told General Hammond that he wanted to enjoy his "golden years" while his knees still allowed him to go for long walks in the evenings and hold him up long enough to play horseshoes in the park. Yeah, he sounded pathetically old before his time but he was mostly joking.
The truth was that Jack had had a plan in place for months now. If it didn't pan out he could retire and slip into obscurity, albeit with a shattered soul. There was a slim to none chance that his plan would work out so that he would truly enjoy his retirement, but Jack had decided to gift himself with what he had wanted most.
For his forty-ninth birthday Jack wanted Dr. Daniel Jackson.
It might take longer than a few hours amidst cake and revelry to convince the archaeologist to become his birthday present, but Jack was prepared to extend the period of gift giving for as long as it took. He was on a campaign now to win the most precious battle of his long military career, of his life, actually. He knew he should have started sooner in order to achieve his goal, but the one snag he ran into was a throat drying, knee quaking fear that this was the battle he would lose. In fact, the fear was so bad he deliberately delayed the start of it. Jack did not like to admit to weakness, especially one such as this, but he also did not like to lose. It wasn't like he wasn't taking Daniel's feelings into consideration. It was quite the opposite. It was all about Daniel's feelings, now that Jack's were staring him in the face.
What if Daniel did not feel the same way? That was the most terrifying thought. Well, the most terrifying after the one where Jack actually got up the nerve to broach the subject to him. What if Daniel was revolted by the idea of the two of them in a relationship involving love not of the brotherly kind and, oh yeah, sex, lots of sex? What if Daniel never wanted to see him or speak to him again afterwards? Jack didn't think he could live without Daniel in his life. That particular realization hammered home the news that he really was in love with his best friend, and so Jack swallowed his fear and his pride and set his cap for Daniel.
There he was deep in conversation with Myra Burton, one of the infirmary nurses. She gazed up at Daniel in total adoration while he chattered on completely clueless, if Jack knew his geek, that she was attracted to him.
Back off, sister. He's mine.
Sidling up behind Myra, Jack smiled at the archaeologist who was actually more in anthropologist/linguist mode tonight here among human beings instead of communing with his books or with his nose pressed up against a shard of pottery. Jack was quite often privileged to witness the native Daniel in his natural habitat, but usually it was off world rather than here on Earth. On Earth the indigenous Daniel tended to burrow into his office and only surfaced (was dragged out) for meetings and the consumption of food and trips through the Stargate, the latter being something the species often looked to with some eagerness. Tonight he was apparently in a mood to share information and the person he chose to impart such information to was hanging onto every word he was saying.
Jack took his growing jealousy firmly in hand and patted Myra on the arm.
"I overheard Airman Johnson asking Doc Fraiser for your phone number," he whispered conspiratorially in her ear.
Startled, Myra glanced towards the airman and considered Jack's words. Then, just as Jack had hoped, she looked back at Daniel. Johnson was a handsome man, not in Daniel's class but the women in the complex seemed to think he was something special, also the quiet and reserved type but not likely to talk her ear off on boring subjects when he did get wound up, and more likely to actually want to date her. The fact that Jack made up the part about the airman wanting her number was beside the point. Myra knew how to flirt and Johnson knew how to respond, so they could let nature take its course.
"If you'll excuse me, Dr. Jackson, Colonel O'Neill, I'll just, uh," she smiled winningly at Daniel one last time, did not get the response she had hoped for when Daniel turned to look distractedly at Jack instead, and she drifted towards the appetizers near where Johnson was standing.
"Hey," Jack said, happy that Daniel had looked at him instead of Myra. Score one for O'Neill.
"Hi, Jack," Daniel responded. "Are you enjoying yourself?"
"Immensely." And he meant it, too. Good food, good friends, and the prospect of freedom and maybe even life with Daniel ahead all put him in an excellent mood.
"Really? I mean that's good. That's, uh, good. I thought you'd be annoyed by a surprise party in your honour." Daniel's eyebrows danced above the top of his glasses.
"Nah. This one's special."
That earned him a curious look. "It's your forty-ninth, Jack. Wouldn't the big five-o be considered more special?"
"It would and it will be. Look, Daniel, I... Let's go outside for a minute. There's something I want to talk to you about."
"O-kay." Daniel was clearly intrigued but he followed without questioning Jack further.
Sliding the glass door closed behind them, Jack turned around and led Daniel out into the yard and into semi-darkness where the light did not quite reach. He wanted to put a bit more distance between them and the noise and laughter coming from within the house. Out here it was relatively quiet -- for the moment.
"Is something...wrong?" Worry furrowed Daniel's brow.
"Ah, God. No, Danny. Nothing's wrong." Jack took a deep breath and plunged right in. "I just handed the General my resignation."
Daniel's mouth opened and his eyebrows went up before returning to their roost. Jack loved Daniel's expressive eyebrows. He loved them almost as much as he loved the blue eyes underneath and the rest of the six foot tall package that went with them. His fingertips itched to touch Daniel.
"Already a done deal. Well, there's some paperwork to be taken care of and I have to clean out my office on Monday, but yeah. I am now retired."
"But you're still young."
Jack couldn't help but grin at that description. "My knees and back would disagree with you but I wanted out while I'm still able to enjoy my retirement."
Daniel blinked at him. "You seem okay with it."
"Well, it is my idea."
"I know but somehow I pictured you sticking it out for a few more years, maybe even taking over command of the SGC when Hammond retires."
Jack frowned at the tone of his friend's voice. "You don't sound happy about it."
"Oh! No, I mean I am happy for you, very happy. It just caught me by surprise."
Jack was certain there was more going on here than Daniel was saying. He needed to find out what that was before he set the stage for convincing Daniel that he loved him. One hurdle at a time, and no, he was not putting it off yet again. He really had to stop arguing with his conscience.
He watched as Daniel mentally distanced himself for a moment and then came back to him. Looking up, his blue eyes glittering in the light from the house, he seemed tense. He was also smiling.
Confused, Jack instinctively lifted a hand out to him.
"Uh, what's going on? There's something..." he waved the hand in a circle trying to conjure up the words he needed.
"Yeah," Daniel uttered softly. "There is something."
Glancing down again, Daniel said, "I thought we'd have more time, a few more years at least."
"I'm not going anywhere except for the occasional fishing trip at the lake."
"That's not what I meant."
"What then? We'll still be friends. You can come by as often as you like, in fact..."
But Daniel wasn't listening, so intent was he on saying whatever was on his agenda that he totally ignored the opening Jack had been waiting for all night. Jack also kept right on talking, suddenly too caught up in his fear again to waste the opportunity.
"I want us to stay friends always," he said earnestly.
"Our friendship means a lot to me, Jack. You're my best friend. I want us to stay friends forever."
"But there comes a time when a man has to say what's in his heart and hope to hell he doesn't ruin such a friendship."
"I didn't give you your birthday present yet, Jack, and it's completely returnable, no strings attached," Daniel went on in a rush; oblivious to anything Jack was saying.
Not that Jack was listening, either. He said nervously, "I kinda had it planned that I could pick out my own birthday gift this year. It's something I've wanted for a few years now."
"This present stems from our deep friendship and I just hope you understand that when I offer it to you."
"For this birthday I want you, Daniel."
"I want to give myself to you. I love you, Jack..."
"I'm in love with you, Danny."
"...maybe even... Yes, I am in love with you."
"I said I'm in love with you, Danny."
"And I said I'm in love with you, Jack, and I think we both missed the signals somewhere."
Daniel shoved his hands deep into his pants pockets and rocked on his heels. He stared at Jack with a mixture of shyness and wonder.
Unconsciously mirroring Daniel's stance, Jack gazed back at him.
"So," he said.
"Well, you are retired."
"And no longer subject to the military mindset of..." he trailed off, still not quite able to voice the words.
"...of relationships between..." Daniel added.
"...two guys," Jack finished hopefully, gaining courage from Daniel's use of the word relationship.
This was going to go on all night, Jack could tell. He took a step forward. Daniel moved towards him. They both halted less than a foot apart. Daniel licked his lips. Jack's arms ached to surround that lean body standing so close and yet so far. They both stood there frozen by overwhelming anticipation, which had replaced the fear.
Jack cleared his throat. "Did you really want to give you to me for my birthday?"
"Yeah, I, uh, didn't have time to wrap. I waited until the last possible minute to make up my mind about giving you me." Daniel's face contorted over that one.
Swallowing hard, Jack sidled closer. It was mere inches but it was closer. "I dunno. That's a nice shirt and pants you're wearing - the blue brings out your eyes."
Watching Daniel clue in was always a cherished moment in Jack's life. The smile that arrived hard on its heels was even better.
"Well, I did take a lot of time over picking out the...wrapping."
Jack's hand strayed over to caress the sleeve of the shirt, at last touching Daniel. It was the barest of touches but he felt seared by the waves of heat coming off Daniel's forearm through the material. "It shows. Thank you for making the effort," he said softly.
"Do you want to maybe open it?" Daniel blushed as he spoke the words.
"Oh, yeah. You betcha, but not now."
"You could stay to help clean up after the party."
"I could do that," Daniel agreed readily. "So you would have picked out me for your present?"
"Nothing but the best for this old soldier."
Closing the distance another inch, Daniel said, "Not so old from where I'm standing."
Feeling the pull of those blue eyes and those full, lush lips Jack leaned in Daniel's direction. His eyes fluttering half-shut, Daniel leaned towards him.
Jack pulled away. "We can't. It's not official yet."
"Our engagement? We haven't even kissed yet."
Unable to help himself from laughing at that, Jack placed his hand on Daniel's shoulder near his neck and squeezed lightly. Daniel turned his head and rubbed his cheek against Jack's wrist, the edge of his glasses grazing the band on Jack's watch. Their eyes locked.
"Not our engagement, although that's a helluva thought. I meant that until the paperwork is done and my retirement is official we shouldn't do anything to jeopardize things. I don't want to spend my hard earned permanent vacation doing time in Leavenworth. I want to spend it with you."
Daniel's big eyes liquefied and he sniffed. "Damn."
Jack's eyes teared up in response. "Yeah."
Shuffling his feet in the grass Daniel said, "Maybe we should go inside and find out what everyone else gave you. I, uh, brought another little present...just in case."
"In case I turned you down?" Jack was incredulous. "How could I refuse you anything, Danny? Especially when you're giving me the one thing I want most?"
He supposed Daniel could have answered those questions in his geeky, cute, endearing way, but instead he just smiled and Jack fell in love with him all over again.
"Yeah, well. It'll look better if I hand you that present instead of throwing myself into your arms."
"You can do that on your birthday - in front of all our friends. By then we can be together openly."
"Maybe even before that."
"Maybe by the end of next week," Jack agreed.
They simply stood and gazed at each other for another minute.
"Let's go." Jack turned and when Daniel was by his side he briefly slipped an arm around his waist before lifting it to rest across Daniel's shoulders.
When Jack looked at him Daniel said, "Happy Birthday."
"Best one ever."