Title: Reindeer Games

Author: Karen T

Rating: PG

Disclaimer: Try as I might, Stargate SG-1 and its characters do not belong to me.

Classification: Fluff, samandjack Christmas challenge fic.

Season/Spoilers: S7, no spoilers.

Archive: SJD, of course. Anyone else, please ask first.

Feedback: Always appreciated. Please send to poohmusings@yahoo.com.

Notes: Squealy thanks to Jojo and nanda! (Even if they did almost give me an ulcer as I was writing this. *g*)

Jack dreamt of snow. Lots and lots of cold, icy, curse-inducing, ball-making snow. Snow that was so cold his fingers and toes would beg for woolen gloves and socks. Snow that was so cold it would freeze him solid at ten paces. Snow that was so cold it--

"Uh, sir?"

Jack's eyes flew open in time to catch Carter wrinkling her nose in disgust as she looked down at her left hand. He knew nothing was wrong with her hand, other than the fact he was holding onto it with his right one and he -- or maybe it was she; or maybe it was both of them; this was grossing him out just thinking about it -- was sweating profusely.

"Problem, Carter?" He tried to appear cool and completely nonplussed by the heat that enveloped them, but the trickle of sweat that slid down the side of his face and plopped onto his shirt ruined that endeavor. Everywhere he looked was still brown and barren and very much not the frozen tundra he'd been dreaming of. So much for wishing for what you want.

"Do you think we could hold off on the hand-holding until Daniel's ready for us?"

He could feel Carter feebly attempting to wiggle her fingers away from the dampness that surrounded them. Yeah, good luck with that, Major, Jack sarcastically muttered in his head. Tightening his grip, he tipped his head to one side and smiled broadly. "Don't tell me this heat is getting to you, Major It's-just-a-little-bit-hot-and-you-sir-are-whining-like-a-big-baby Carter."

"Sir, I never said that."

She was speaking through gritted teeth, and that only widened his grin. "Not explicitly, but it was in your tone. Your tone hurt my feelings."

"Sir ..."

Ooh, she was growling now. "And, I dunno, I kind of like holding hands with you and Teal'c," Jack continued, feeling maliciously pleased with himself. "Makes me feel so close to you two, and that's what Christmas is all about, right, Teal'c?"

"Indeed, O'Neill. 'Dashing through the snow, in a one-horse open sleigh. Through the fields we go, laughing all the way'. HA-HA-HA!" Teal'c boomed off-key with great aplomb.

"See?"

The searing glares Carter shot him and Teal'c made him grateful for the reflective sunglasses currently perched on the bridge of his nose. Signaling Teal'c with a nod, Jack dropped the hands he was holding and yanked a bandana out of the back pocket of his pants. "Just having a little fun with you, Major. Where's your Christmas spirit?"

"Oozing out of my pores like everything else in my body," Carter retorted as she unstuck wisps of hair from her forehead with the butt of her hand.

"Beautiful imagery there," Jack replied with a smirk. "That Academy education really shines through, doesn't it?"

Carter's only response was to stare him down with her 'bite me' look. Actually, judging by the intensity of her gaze, she might really want to bite him. Whoops, maybe he'd gone too far.

"Daniel!" Jack bellowed to remind his second-in-command that there was another team member she could be pissed at. Holding out his left hand, he tapped against his watch with his right index finger to show his growing impatience.

Twenty yards away, Daniel looked up from the young child he'd been talking to and tilted his head to the side. He appeared completely clueless as to who had called out his name.

Oh, for crying out loud. Jack rolled his eyes and waved his arms wildly in front of his chest to get Daniel's attention. The perfectly round 'O' that Daniel's mouth formed and the 'one more second' gesture that Daniel dismissed him with only added to Jack's annoyance, but they made Carter chuckle so that was better than nothing.

"I swear to god, I'm gonna kill him," Jack groused, scuffing at the dry dirt with the toe of his boot. "It was his brilliant idea to teach these kids how to play 'Red Rover'. 'It'll just take a second, Jack.' 'We'll be home before you know it, Jack.' Two hours later and we're still here."

"In Daniel's defense, sir, you were the one who mentioned reindeer games to the kids."

"I was singing a Christmas carol!" Jack muttered in exasperation. The next time he fell into a holiday mood off-world, he'd be sure to shoot himself in the foot before he began performing any sotto voce caroling. "I didn't know Daniel was going to take it upon himself to try and teach them one. And 'Red Rover'? That was the best game he could come up with? He couldn't have gone with a less team-heavy one like ... poker?"

Teal'c lifted an eyebrow at his game suggestion but refrained from commenting. And it looked like Carter was attempting to do the same by clamping her lips together. "At least 'Red Rover' fits the holiday color scheme, sir," she managed to get out in a strangled voice.

He narrowed his eyes and scowled. He was prepared to come back with a semi-nasty comment but was still a bit uncertain as to whether Carter would bite him. His military prowess -- and the years he'd spent as a married man -- taught him it was best to err on the side of caution. So he resigned himself to merely saying, "Cute. But if we don't get through the gate in ..." He paused to consult his watch. "In the next twenty-five minutes, then we'll be spending Christmas here. And that's just wrong. It's way too hot and there is a definite lack of snow on the ground."

"This is actually how most of the southern hemisphere experiences Christmas on Earth, sir," Carter patiently pointed out as she either attempted to scratch her back or determine whether she'd sweated through the back of her T-shirt. Jack really hoped it was the former. "And, in reality, white Christmases are pretty rare in the States because serious snow storms don't normally occur until January."

Jack, who had resumed kicking up dirt, stopped in mid-scuff to eye Carter, long and hard, over the tops of his sunglasses.

"I, uh ... Jonas may have turned me on to watching the Weather Channel," she stammered, a blush spreading up her already sun-baked cheeks. "It can be a rather interesting channel, sir."

"If you say so, Carter."

"Maybe I should go see if I can speed Daniel up?"

"Yeah, let's try that."

As Carter jogged -- okay, it was more of a purposeful stroll; the humidity on the planet was insane -- towards Daniel, Jack made his way to the packs they'd tossed into a pile a few feet away. And when he bent over to retrieve his canteen, he almost yelped at how his BDUs clung to him in the most unpleasant -- and unexpected -- places. Oh god, he was never going to complain again the next time the SGC's air conditioner went on the fritz during one of Colorado's heat waves. And he was most definitely going to throttle Daniel for arranging it so they'd remained on this planet for longer than they'd had to.

"Is there someone waiting for you back on Earth, O'Neill?"

Jack angled his head backwards and swallowed a large gulp of water, ignoring how very lukewarm it was. "Only if a nice, cold bottle of beer is now a person."

"Then why are you so eager to return?"

"Well ... because ..." Jack furrowed his brows and stared at Teal'c. What the hell was he trying to get at now? "I don't know. It's Christmas and I want to be home for Christmas."

"But isn't home where your friends are? Aren't Major Carter, Daniel Jackson, and myself your friends?"

Jack snickered, realization dawning on him. "And where'd you grab that little gem from, T? Maury? Montel? Dr. Phil?"

"Geraldo."

Geraldo? The hell? Hadn't his talk show been off the air for a few years now?

"He spoke of it in terms of reporters bedding soldiers in Afghanistan," Teal'c explained further, his expression one of complete serenity.

Jack, who'd been in the process of tossing back some more water, promptly doubled over choking. "Reporters ... bedding ... soldiers?" he asked between gasps for air. "What are you-- Oh! Reporters embedding with soldiers! Embedding, buddy."

"Yes. I do believe that is the word Geraldo used." Teal'c cocked an eyebrow at Jack, who was trying to recover from his winded state.

"Yeah, you wanna make sure you use the right word 'cause soldiers bedding anyone while on duty ..." Jack's voice trailed off as his mind wandered to thoughts of bedding and a certain soldier.

He blinked, his eyes widening in embarrassment. "Daniel!" he bellowed for the second time. Seriously, he needed to get off this planet. Soon.

This time it was Carter who turned and gave him the 'one more second' gesture, to which he responded by shouting, "Twenty minutes, Major!"

He watched Carter whisper something into Daniel's ear before trudging her way back to him and Teal'c.

"They're almost ready for us, sir," Carter informed him once she was within earshot.

"Uh-huh." Jack was clearly unimpressed by the update.

"I have to admit, this is a rather interesting event," she said, blowing wisps of hair away from her face. "This game marks the first time the genders have mixed on the planet. Up until today, males have always remained separated from females until their arranged marriages. Sons and daughters aren't even allowed to live with their parent of the opposite sex. And now, thanks to us and 'Red Rover', Daniel says we'll be advancing this society hundreds of years in terms of their gender relationships."

"So we're what? Starting a ... sexual revolution among the kids?" Jack asked smugly, his lips twitching upwards.

Carter paled underneath her sunburn. "Daniel!" she yelled as she spun around on her heels.

With a clap of his hands, Daniel nodded his head one last time to the planet's children who'd gathered around him, and then ran back to the rest of SG-1. The kids, meanwhile, aligned themselves into one straight, horizontal line, their hands linked together to form a human chain of sorts.

"I think they finally understand the importance of the hand-holding," Daniel huffed as he neared them, one grimy hand wiping away the sweat that had gathered on his grimy face. Jack was instantaneously glad Daniel was holding hands with Carter rather than him. "This is going to be so fascinating, you guys. After I read the Opies' book years ago on how children learn and internalize games, I've always wanted to observe it first-hand. And now we all have the opportunity to do that. Aren't you excited?"

"Sure, Danny, whatever you say," Jack mocked, retaking Carter's outstretched hand. But despite the lack of enthusiasm in his voice, Jack was honestly pretty stoked by what was to come. Not because he was going to observe their 'internalizing' -- he'd have to remember to mention to Daniel sometime how creepy all that observing talk could be -- but because there was sometimes nothing better than playing a good, old-fashion game with some enthusiastic kids.

With his team lined up and holding hands themselves, Jack resumed his most authoritative expression and gave a solemn nod. The game was now on.

They stared down the kids.

The kids stared them down.

They swayed their arms in unison.

The kids giggled with anticipation.

"Red Rover, Red Rover, send--"

A little boy on one of the ends let go of the girl's hand he'd been holding.

"Telvis!" Daniel threw up his arms in exasperation. "You can't let go of Kadhena's hand!"

While Daniel embarked on yet another explanatory mission, Carter chuckled and then asked, "Sir? Have you thought through any specific strategy we should use?"

Jack stared at her, dumbfounded. "They're kids, Carter. While some of them do look like they could skip a grade or two if this place had, you know, an established education system, I don't think we need to strategize how to beat them. Anyway, I'm pretty sure our egos can survive getting beaten by a bunch of kids at 'Red Rover'. You really need to get out more, Major."

And Carter once again looked like she wanted to bite him. "Yes. Sir. Thank you," she said stiffly. "But my point was, SG-14 sung our praises to the elders here in preparation for our arrival, so the elders now think we're the best the SGC has to offer. With that in mind, how do you think it would look to them if a bunch of their children beat us at one of our games?"

"Oh." Jack frowned. "But how would it look to the elders if we went out of our way to beat a bunch of their kids?"

"That's why I mentioned having a strategy, sir," Carter responded. Rather haughtily, he noted. That's it. The next time she begged off accompanying him to his cabin because she 'had to work', he wouldn't accept that excuse. He was going to drag her up there in the new year just for being a smart-ass. Heh.

"Okay, I think they're ready," Daniel declared, slightly out of breath, as he grabbed hold of Carter's free hand. "But we should pick Telvis first because he's not holding on to Kadhena's hand for much longer."

Jack nodded at Daniel and smiled at Carter. "I think we should do what we always do, Major," he said cryptically.

"Red Rover, Red Rover ..."

Carter smiled back at him with complete comprehension. "Make it up as we go along, sir?"

"... send Telvis right over!"

Jack waited to reply until after the small child hurtling himself at him and Carter's connected hands failed to break through. "Exactly," he said, winking over Telvis' head.

The boy, who was pouting a bit from his defeat, instantly changed his demeanor when Teal'c swept him up onto his shoulders and began jostling him up and down. Soon, Daniel and Carter's laughter could be heard mingling with that of Telvis', and Jack's lips stretched in a huge grin.

A quick peek at Telvis' former teammates informed Jack that they weren't at all upset at the boy's inability to get past his and Carter's linked hands. As a matter of fact, the children looked as if they too wanted to join the SG-1 Red Rover team as soon as possible. Hmm, had Daniel spent too much time emphasizing the importance of hand-holding rather than the importance of, well, trying to win the game? At this rate, all of the planet's kids would be on the SG-1 team in no time.

Jack considered this for a second and chuckled. If that happened, then they'd just have to play more rounds of 'Red Rover' than they'd planned to. And if the kids got tired of that, maybe he'd teach them the basics of poker.

"Sir, it's going to be Christmas on Earth in ten minutes. Do want us to hurry this up so we can get home?"

Carter's quiet words shook Jack out of his inner thoughts, and he looked in her direction to see her studying him intently. "Nah," he dismissed, waving a hand at Telvis and the other children. "Look at how much fun they're having. Besides, a wise man once told me that home is where your friends are, and you know what? He's right."

Out of the corner of his eye, Jack saw Teal'c glance at him in surprise before bowing his head slightly.

"Again, again!" Telvis was shouting now, so Jack helped the boy off Teal'c's shoulders and repositioned him between himself and Teal'c, all the while whistling 'Jingle Bells'. A tug of his right hand interrupted him in mid-toot. It was Carter.

"Merry Christmas, sir," she said, her face aglow from either happiness or lots of sweat. Again, he really hoped it was the former.

"Merry Christmas, Carter."

-the end-