AN: Here you guys go... I hope you enjoy it. It was a real blast to write. As for categories... limits it to two and really, most of my story dance across at least threecategory lines. Really, pretty much everything I've ever written has been angst/humor/romance. Maybe they'll create a category just for me. Please let me know what you think! It means a lot to read your notes.
Part Five: Christmas Present, Take Two
Jack bolted upright in his bed. He looked around, the idea of waking up alone almost a novelty after being harassed by the dearly, or so dearly, departed all night. He took a moment to try to slow his racing heart, staring into the dark hallway for several minutes before he decided that his dreams really were over. And they had to be dreams. Because there were no such things as ghosts and even if there were ghosts they surely had better things to do than bug him personally and certainly even if there were ghosts with nothing better to do than bug him there had to be more pressing social or political issues they would want him to address besides his own personal life and even then, bored, intently focused, Jack O'Neill-centric ghosts with nothing better to do and no sense of social justice most certainly did not also possess time machines because, if for no other reason, aforementioned ghosts would be kept in line by Einstein and Newton and Avogadro and Planck and all those brilliant scientific types who would undoubtedly side with Carter about mucking around with changing history purely for personal gain. But really, it all came back to the fact that there were no such things as ghosts.
Jack smiled as he reached for the phone. Carter would be able to list for him at least a thousand different scientific facts that proved, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that there were no such things as ghosts.
"What's wrong, sir?" The panic was evident in her voice, but even the voice of a panicked Carter warmed his heart at that moment.
"Hey, how'd you know it was me?"
There was a pause and Jack could imagine the boggled expression on her face. She was probably sitting up in her bed with her mouth hanging open, staring at the phone like she wasn't entirely sure what it was for. But then Jack shook his head and reminded himself that he should not get distracted by such thoughts as Carter and bed in combination.
"The caller ID says Jonathan O'Neill and while I'm certain there are more than one of those in the world, I'm not sure many of them would be calling me at this hour."
"Oh, right." He squeezed his eyes closed. He always felt like an idiot around her; forgetting about the existence of caller ID was even dumber than his usual antics. Unfortunately, concentrating on not saying anything stupid for a minute rendered him mute.
"What?" His voice sounded gruffer than he'd intended.
"It's four in the morning. Was there something you needed or did you just dial the wrong number?" Now Carter sounded angry. Well, Carter didn't really sound angry. Carter never sounded angry. She actually just sounded very, very patient and understanding, which in Jack's experience meant that Carter was very, very angry with a superior officer and couldn't let on for fear of getting in trouble.
"Have I ever called you at four in the morning for no reason?" There was a long pause, during which Jack feared she'd put down the phone and gone to sleep. "Carter?"
"Sorry, sir, I'm just trying to remember the last time you called regardless of the time and I'm drawing a blank."
Ouch. That hurt. Jack winced as he thought about his dream Carter and how not-pissed she'd seemed. "Well, I had a reason to call, but you're obviously in a bad mood, so I'm not going to tell you now."
"Fine, don't. Good night, sir."
"Aren't you even curious?"
"Yes, you are." Jack reasoned that if she wasn't curious, she would have hung up. Although he was pretty sure she wouldn't hang up on him because she wasn't that rude and she might, depending on his mood, get in trouble for it.
"No, I'm really not because you want to tell me something or you wouldn't have called and you're certainly not going to not do something you want to do simply because I don't want you to because my personal opinions have never once stopped you from doing anything you wanted to do."
Damn, she knew him too well. "Breathe, Carter."
"Permission to speak freely, sir?"
He grinned. She never asked such a thing from him. "Of course, Carter, although I reserve the right to hang up if I don't like what you have to say."
"Would you like to hear me tell you to shut up and go back to bed?"
Jack grinned and reveled in how small the distance seemed between them at that moment. "No, not at all, Carter. Unless we were considerably closer than a million miles apart."
"Never mind then." She yawned, making no attempt to hide her tired sigh, in a blatant attempt to make Jack feel guilty for waking her from her precious sleep. "And we're not a million miles apart. It's only about seventeen hundred."
"Only you would know that."
"If I'm so damn annoying, why did you call me?"
"I never said you were annoying. I called because I wanted to talk to you."
"In the middle of the night?"
He grinned harder at her response. "So, Carter how many miles is it from the Springs to Minneapolis?"
"How the hell should I know?"
"What about New York?"
"A couple hundred more from DC."
"What about Chicago?"
"A couple hundred less."
"Than New York?"
"Than DC." Carter groaned and he could hear her actually sit up, which revealed that she'd been lying down while they were talking which damn near distracted him again. "What is this about, sir?"
"I'm just curious as to why you measure distances based on their relation to DC."
"Maybe because I'm talking to someone who lives in DC, sir?"
"Carter, how do you know how far it is between Colorado Springs where you live and DC where I live?"
The silence told him he was on the right track. The silence stretched on and on and on.
"Carter? Still there?" Jack got up, pulled his bag out of the closet and started throwing clothes in it. Carter never admitted defeated. Dead silence was the closest anyone ever got to Carter admitting defeat.
"I'm here." She paused again and then sighed. "I looked it up, ok? Are you happy now? Can I go back to sleep?"
"Good, very, and yes. But one more thing before I let you go - don't go to work today."
"Why not? Half the staff will be out. I'll actually be able to get something done without being interrupted, you know, unless the world is in grave danger of being obliterated, overrun, or invaded, although really how often is that?"
"Because it's Christmas, Carter, and it's depressing and I said not to."
She didn't hesitate. "Ok, if you insist."
"Carter, if I call the SGC and they tell me you're there, I will be very upset. And don't think for one second I won't call."
"Are you serious?" The tone of her voice sounded exactly like a petulant teenager. He remembered the image of her from that Christmas in his dream and he decided that was exactly right.
"For once, yes, completely."
More silence. "Fine. I'll sit here and bake cookies by myself cause that's somehow less depressing."
"Good girl. I like the kind with the red and green sprinkles on top."
"Night, Carter." He disconnected the phone before she had the chance to say anything else. He was quite scared that, given the chance, she'd say something that would dissuade him from the brilliant, albeit not well thought out, plan he'd hatched to go visit her. He hastily zipped up his bag and was heading out the door when he realized he should probably either put himself back in his uniform from the day before or change clothes entirely, because he doubted anyone, including Carter, would appreciated him half-dressed in clothes he'd worked all day in and then slept all night in.
Being a general was not without its perks. By six, he was on a flight to Colorado Springs. By nine, he was in her driveway.
His nerves caught up with him then, having had a few hours to rethink his decision. He'd had a damn dream, nightmare, hallucination, what have you. Maybe brought on by latent loneliness. Maybe because of the requisite holiday melancholy that befalls any middle aged man who finds himself alone during the season.
So he could even rationalize calling her, if he ignored the obvious desperation involved that would allow him to call an ex-coworker he hadn't spoken to in months in the middle of the night on Christmas, on the grounds that she too was alone and didn't have much family to speak of.
It was the fact that he was there, on her property, after a mad dash across the country, seventeen hundred miles of it at least if he deferred to Carter's assessment, first thing in the morning on a holiday that really and truly drove home the point that one should not chase their dreams. Definitely not if their dreams were particularly odd and involved dead people visiting him who wanted him to not be lonely anymore.
He picked up his phone and dialed her number, figuring she was still asleep, if she'd taken his advice about staying home, and deciding he'd base his next move on her. If she seemed as playful as she had earlier, despite the inconvenient hour of the call, he'd get out of the car. If she wasn't in a good mood, he'd drive away, fly back home and pretend he'd never taken the flight of fancy.
She answered on the first ring. "Carter."
"What happened to your caller ID?"
She said nothing for a minute and he knew she was checking the display. "Your cell is restricted. It could have been anyone with a blocked number, including the base or half a billion telemarketers who have the audacity to call on Christmas morning."
Damn she was good. She always had an answer for everything. "What're you doing up?"
"You're not going to believe this, but some guy called me at four this morning and woke me up and wanted me to make him cookies although I don't know how fresh the cookies are going to be since I'm going to have to mail them two thousand miles to get them to him."
"Isn't it more like seventeen hundred?"
She giggled. He had his answer.
"So you're actually making me cookies, Carter?"
Silence. "I'm making cookies, most likely because I had nothing better to do when you woke me up, but not for you, per se, since they smell really good and I might just have to eat them all myself."
He got out of the car, smiling happily. "That would just be mean to make me cookies and then eat them all yourself."
"Hold on. I think someone's outside."
"Why would you think that?"
"Because I just heard a car door-" He grinned over the roof of the car as the curtains moved in her front window. She didn't have time to hide the smile that lit up her face; he was mostly impressed that she didn't even try.
She came bounding out the front door a minute later, hugging him fiercely before either of them had a chance to think better of the decidedly intimate action. "Why didn't you tell me you were in town?"
He stumbled over his words, not knowing what he was supposed to say and dumbfounded by the blinding smile on her face. "Um- I-"
Her eyes narrowed as she crossed her arms over her chest. "You called me from your place this morning."
He looked down, reminding himself of her ecstatic welcome of a few moments earlier to stave off embarrassment at his grand gesture. He shrugged; she smiled. "I didn't really have anything better to do today."
She looked him in the eye for a long time, searching for an answer to a question she was afraid to ask. After a moment, she reached for his hand and led him toward the door. "I missed you too."
He reached for her then, kissing her tenderly in the hopes of resolving any questions either of them might have had. When he pulled back, his smile mirrored hers. "Someone's been eating my cookies."
She laughed as she walked toward the kitchen. "It's really a good thing you're here cause these never would have made it to the post office."
The counter was a veritable mess, flour and egg shells and bowls littering the counter. A novice chef, she'd managed to dirty every flat surface in the room and some of the vertical ones as well. She had also, however, managed to make some of the most delicious cookies Jack had ever eaten, made especially so by the red and green sprinkles she'd put on top at his request.
They spent the morning snuggled together on the couch, gorging on cookies and watching sappy Christmas movies. At one point, Jack squeezed her hand and grinned.
"So, Carter, explain to me why there are no such things as ghosts."
She turned to face him, her incredulous expression amusing him to no end. He usually ran from her scientific proofs. "You want the long version or the short version?"
He grinned, thinking of the bag he had packed for several days. "The long one. I'm in no hurry." He closed his eyes as her voice lulled him to sleep, content in the fact that any ghosts who chose to wake him would be vanquished in the wake of her systematic disproval of their existence.