I don't get anything else done anyway while I think about this, so I might as well write on!

"Hey Jack, what are you doing?" Daniel leaned against the door jamb leading into the kitchen and watched Jack as he rummaged through several drawers.

"Searching for the steak pincers, you know. Have you seen them?"

"No, but maybe you should ask Sam, she spends an awful lot of time in the kitchen today."

Jack snorted, but seemed to give up on his search.

"Is something up, Daniel?" He now noticed how reserved his friend was. Or was it nervousness? Daniel moved further into the kitchen and leaned against the counter.

"No no, I just wanted to wish you 'Happy Birthday' again." He handed Jack a wrapped present. A large, rectangular, flat, wrapped present.

"Daniel, I told you guys not to get me anything, I already have everything I could wish for."

"Jack, just open it, please." Jack shrugged, put his beer aside and grabbed the package with both hands, shaking it a little. He then tried to feel what was inside.

"Would you just open it God dammit!?" Daniel exclaimed.

"Ooookay, nothing to get too excited about. Besides, you already know what's inside." He started tearing the paper off. "And it's definitely not the size of a new game for my….." He paused as he saw the content, "…Xbox…." He finished very silently. Both he and Daniel remained silent. The former out of awe and admiration, the second out of respect for the moment. The tension in the room suddenly shifted from carefree hustle to something else Daniel couldn't decipher. All noise seemed to have come to a stop; all movement seemed hesitant so as not to break the sudden tranquillity and peace that had settled upon the two men. The noises from the people out in the garden seemed miles away.

Jack placed present carefully on the counter, leaning it against the wall and just studied it calmly. Shortly afterwards he turned towards his best friend.

"Thank you." His voice was still quiet and Daniel couldn't remember a time when Jack had been more sincere. Daniel just nodded and smiled contentedly. Together they turned towards the framed picture.

It showed Sam in Minnesota. The photo was taken from up-close, showing her profile as she sat on the dock, the blanket she was wrapped in just barely visible at the bottom of the frame. You could make out the lake and the cabin in the background. Her eyes were set on the lake and it seemed like she hadn't noticed that Daniel had taken a photo of her this very moment. But the most awe-inspiring thing was the sun rising behind the trees behind her, the early morning rays just illuminating the outlines of her face. A small smile played on her lips and she had a most calm and serene look on her face. It was breathtakingly beautiful.

Jack was the first to break the silence. But he spoke so gently, Daniel almost missed it.

"Sometimes…. I think that she does not walk the same world you and I walk in. In her world we are better than we are; we care more than we care. And then I think of how much I don't deserve her. That she's too good to me. But only a moment later she smiles at me, and that smile puts all my worries aside and I don't care anymore, because I love her so damn much that selfish as I am, I want to keep her to myself, no matter what the universe thinks of it…."

Daniel knew he wasn't really required to answer so he didn't. It was a rare moment of openness.

"So, I can only conclude that you're paying off karma at a vastly accelerated rate", Daniel finally stated. They both laughed, the mood returned to it's normal flimsy state and Jack patted him on the shoulder. Their equivalent of a guy hug if the world wasn't about to end.

"Happy Birthday, Jack."


"Hmhm", somebody cleared their throat behind them. "Daniel, dear, I think a certain woman is in need of your attention in the backyard."

Daniel looked between Jack and his mother. Anybody less educated in the fine language of Jack O'Neill's body language wouldn't have seen his internal wince, but Daniel didn't miss it. He shot his friend a last sympathetic glance before he left the two of them alone.

Jack got a new beer out of the fridge. "There isn't anybody requiring Daniel's attention, is there?"


"Yeah, thought so."