Well, here it is at last folks. Sorry I didn't post yesterday, but this took me longer than I thought to write and it's a lot longer than normal too. I said it would be the last chapter, but I could have drawn it out into another three, but it's as I'd promised. So here it is...complete!
I hope you all enjoy it...it's sappy, happy, tear-jerking and gives off a warm cosy feeling. If you like that sort of thing!
I wish you all a very Happy New Year, and may 2006 be everything you wish it to be! – Lin.
A CHRISTMAS NIGHTMARE.
The room erupted into noisy rapturous cheers, and it stole Jack's breath.
Jack couldn't help the smile that split his face when Sam sat down next to him at the briefing room table. Her grin was impossibly wider than his, and she couldn't seem to take her eyes from the engagement ring sitting proudly on the third finger of her left hand.
His fingers reached out to close over the top of her left hand and he held it there, giving her a loving smile. Her head dropped and she knew what he was saying without him having to say the words. Business first. Of course, there were details to go over during this debrief; serious ramifications to examine closely etc., and Jack's own part in the drama of 24 hours ago.
Sam nodded to her now fiancé. She loved the sound of that as she thought it over, but brought her hand down to rest it in her lap so that she could at least give the impression she was focused on the debrief and not miles away in the land of happy dreams.
General Landry took his seat at the head of the table on Jack's left and called the meeting to order.
As far as debriefings go, this was no exception, but Jack did learn a few things that he had mistakenly taken for granted during his 'recovery'.
"Before we move on," Jack interrupted, "I need to officially thank Maldek for saving my ass. Again I might add..."
"Not this time Jack. Your miraculous recovery wasn't due to anything I'd done," Mike said, brushing off Jack's thanks.
"What?" Jack gaped in surprise, the little vertical crease in his forehead deepening with puzzlement. "Then how…? Who?"
He felt Sam's giggle from beside him, and Daniel's snort of amusement from across the table had his head swivelling from one to the other.
"You only have yourself to blame for that Jack," Daniel grinned.
"Me? What did I do?" Jack gasped, giving his friend an indignant scowl. "I was completely out of it!"
"Jack. Do you recall playing with an Ancient's artefact in Sam's lab?"
"I remember you three fussing over me when I was just fine!"
"Yes, you were fine. Better than fine, I recall you grumbling."
"And I was!" he confirmed with a pout. "And I don't grumble! So?"
"We believe you activated what appeared to be a type of personal shield sir," Sam informed him, speaking professionally for the first time during the meeting. "It...when you were shot..." she said, her voice quavering a little with a memory that she did not want to be reminded of. "...it somehow healed your wounds. By the time you were rushed into the OR, the bullet wounds were almost gone." She closed her eyes, thinking back over those agonising hours when she thought he had died, until she felt his hand on hers again, giving her a little squeeze before he withdrew and returned to the discussion.
"Are you telling me that I am now bullet-proof?" he asked, a wry smirk on his lips as the thought of bullets bouncing off him like he was some sort of Superman, came to mind.
"We don't know that Jack, and I'm not about to test that particular theory on you," Landry sighed wryly. "Just in case you're not!" he added as an after thought.
Jack's eyebrows rose at the irony if it should prove otherwise.
"I'm with you on that Hank. Thanks but no thanks, if you get my meaning!"
Hank Landry nodded in full understanding. Then beckoned Master Sergeant Harriman over, who placed the said artefact on the table in front of Jack, then left.
Jack stared at it, wondering what they were all waiting for.
"Pick it up Jack. We know it won't hurt you," Daniel encouraged.
Jack sighed with resignation and picked it up, just like he had on Christmas Eve. He rolled it around and even placed his finger into the indentation, but still nothing happened. After several tries, he placed the sphere back onto the table and shrugged.
"Well I guess that answers that question," he sighed.
"Not necessarily sir," Sam refuted his supposition.
He turned to look at her, frowning.
"How is that so Carter?" he asked.
"It could mean several things sir," she theorised. This was how Jack loved to hear her voice; expounding on some outlandish theory, that on most occasions proved to be the case.
"Like?" he prompted.
"Well sir... like it might just mean that it has recognised your touch and..."
"That I don't need a top up?" he said, grinning. He loved to catch her out, revealing that he wasn't as dumb as he made out.
"Something like that sir," she gaped in surprise. Oh, she was going to have to have a word with him soon about his so called dumb act.
"Or? There's always an 'OR' Carter!"
"Or, it's just a one off, and it won't work for you again," she finished.
"Meaning it only works for a person once and then protects the next person to activate the shield?" Jack expounded.
"Yes sir," Sam frowned, realising Jack actually understood her.
"It didn't work for me!" Mike added, feeling disappointed.
Jack looked up at his brother and shrugged.
"What can I say? Ancient technology seems to like me!"
Daniel grunted with amusement again, as did Sam.
"Okay folks, can we move on now. Time is a wasting and I for one want to spend the rest of Christmas with my family," he said, giving Carolyn a meaningful look. She smiled back and nodded, giving him hope that all would be well between them from now on.
"So Jefferson was a Goa'uld?" Jack asked, not really remembering much at all, except getting shot after greeting Mike, but he'd heard that much.
"He was sir. He called himself Mim."
"So how come neither you nor Teal'c felt the Naquadah in his blood when SG-9 returned?" Jack wondered, asking Sam. Usually the two of them could detect a Goa'uld whenever they came near. What had gone wrong with their inner radar?
"I did indeed feel the presence of a symbiote O'Neill, but I believed it was merely the presence of Maldek I was sensing," Teal'c explained.
"Me too," Sam confirmed. "Mim's Goa'uld was masked by Maldek's presence sir. I'm sorry, but I never thought anything more of it," she apologised.
"It's not your fault Carter. Teal'c. Nor yours Mike!" Jack sighed. It's just one of those things."
Landry went on to explain what happened after the rescue, studiously avoiding telling Jack about Sam willing to sacrifice herself to save his life. He didn't think it was necessary to upset the pair of them at this point in time. He carried on telling the story about how Jefferson, aka Min, was killed during the brief battle for the gate-room, and the actual snake had tried to escape but was zatted three times, disappearing into thin air, before he could possess somebidy else. As for the rest of the Major's team, they were both taken down by a zat blast and bundled off to the holding cells where they made a full recovery. Dr. Lam had confirmed the presence of a substance referred to as Nishta. Something that SG-1 was intimately familiar with from their clash with Seth.
Hank then drew the debriefing to a close and ordered everyone off base to enjoy what was left of Christmas.
Jack fondled the fingers in his hands and looked into the adoring blue eyes gazing up at him, searching the depths for her heart.
"You really want to do this?" he asked, running a finger tip over the ring sitting proudly on Sam's finger.
"More than anything Jack. I love you!"
"I love you too Sam. I just can't believe you actually return my love. I mean...I'd dared to hope, but I never thought..."
Sam extracted a hand and pressed a finger on his lips to stop his doubts.
"You'd better believe it flyboy! This is real. I have loved you almost from that first moment in the briefing room Jack. I never for a minute believed that you would love me. You said yourself you had a problem with scientists."
Jack chuckled with laughter when he recalled her entrance back then, she was bristling with bravado and itching to prove herself better than any man round that table. He had been ready to take her on, liking what he had seen and eager to discover what made her tick. Her appearance had certainly stunned him that much was sure.
Now here they were nine years later, having worked, fought and actually died together as only a close knit team could have; and only now were able to show their true feelings for each other. Jack was the happiest he had been since that fateful day when Charlie's death had shattered his world.
Jack pulled his fiancé into a tight embrace and kissed her deeply, their bodies clinging to each other with hunger and need. The temperature rose as the kiss grew more passionate. Hands roamed, carving a path through mussed hair. They were the only two people on the whole planet.
A voice reached in and penetrated the fog which had surrounded them in their passionate need to feel each other.
"Come on you two! Either get yourselves a room or dish up this dinner. I'm starving!" Mike grumbled.
Jack broke the contact with a guilty smirk. He'd forgotten they were in the kitchen getting the Christmas dinner ready.
Sam giggled, blushing when she looked over Jack's shoulder to see they'd had an audience.
Daniel, Mike, Teal'c and Cameron were all standing in the doorway, huge grins on their faces as they'd witnessed more than they should have.
Jack ignored the cat calls and derogatory comments and pulled her back into an embrace, giving her another quick kiss before letting her go. They were right, he and Sam were supposed to be getting the dinner ready to serve.
"Merry Christmas kids!" Jack toasted, raising his glass.
The others followed, chinking their glasses together over the single candle now guttering in the middle of the table. The meal had been great, the conversation better, and no-one was feeling like moving just yet. Cam complained bitterly that he would need to run solidly for the next month if he wanted to run off all that food. Teal'c made them all groan when he started on his fourth helping of pie and cream.
Sam stood to clear the dishes and Jack followed her out of the dining room with another pile of dirty plates.
As soon as he disappeared, there were calls of derision and whistles of disapproval.
"We know what you're up to out there!" someone yelled.
Sam giggled as she turned into Jack's embrace.
"Ignore them!" he ordered.
Sam pushed him playfully, turning back to the dishwasher and began loading plates into it.
"Later Jack. We have guests."
"So? I gotta go back to Washington soon," he grouched, pouting at the thought of being alone there while she was all alone here. "I can't get enough of you Sam!"
"Jack," she sighed, shaking her head slightly with amusement. She turned back to him and frowned up at him. "We've waited for this for nine years, surely you can wait another few hours until we're alone?"
"Don't wanna wait. Waited too long already!" he grumbled.
"You're incorrigible, Jack O'Neill!" she laughed.
"I know, but ya love me anyway!" he said with a grin.
"Go look after your guests Jack. I'll be there in a minute."
He looked sullen and for a moment she thought he'd argue.
"Go on, open your presents Jack!"
He grinned and nodded like a little kid.
"Okay, but I'm not opening the one from you until you're there too."
"I'll be there in a bit," she said, shooing him out of the kitchen.
"On your own?" Daniel asked sarcastically, seeing Jack walk in alone. "I thought perhaps you two were joined at the hip."
Cameron snorted, and Mike hooted with laughter while Jack gulped back a startled choke. Daniel looked at them in puzzlement, wondering if he'd said something funny.
"What?" Daniel asked innocently.
Jack gave him a funny look and glared at Cameron and Mike who were trying hard to stop themselves from giggling. Teal'c merely raised an eyebrow, but Jack saw that tell-tale twitch at the side of his mouth.
"Get your mind out of the gutter Mitchell," Jack growled. "You too Michael O'Neill! You should be ashamed of yourself!"
Mike sniggered harder, earning him a sigh of exasperation from his elder brother.
"What? Oh! I didn't mean... I mean, I..." Daniel stuttered with embarrassment now he understood what Cameron and Mike were laughing about.
"Daniel!" Jack snapped, stopping the young man from rambling an apology; then softened his voice. "Pass round the presents!"
Daniel was more than grateful to do just that; giving everyone their gifts from under the tree. It was late on Boxing Day, but nobody cared. It was more important to them that they were each alive and among friends.
Jack watched Daniel's face light up when he opened the present from him. His jaw opened and shut several times as he attempted to voice his surprise. It was a leather bound book. One that Jack had discovered lying forgotten on a dusty shelf in a tiny antique bookshop tucked away in a side street in Washington. He'd bought it and had it recovered in a dark red leather with gold lettering.
He watched, satisfied with his choice, as Daniel caressed the soft cover, his fingers running over the names of the authors. 'Claire and Melburn Jackson. A Journey through Egyptian History'. Daniel opened it carefully, his eyes lighting on the fly page where an old photograph of his parents, along with a small blonde headed, bespectacled boy, held pride of place.
"Jack..." Daniel tried to utter his thanks, but he was for once, he was stunned absolutely speechless and near to tears. "I... I don't know what to say?" he stuttered, sniffing.
"You don't have to say anything Daniel. It's my way of thanking you for being a good friend," Jack explained gently.
Sam sniffed back the tears too as she watched her pseudo brother fight with his emotions. Jack's gift and words to Daniel had stirred up her own feelings of affection too.
Jack heard her sniffle and smiled warmly at her, moving to take her into his arms and together they sat down on the sofa.
Teal'c had watched his young friend's emotional reaction and felt moved too. He accepted his gift from Jack and with everyone's eyes on him, he tore off the wrapping, letting rip a loud, deep bark of laughter.
Inside the wrapping lay a 2006 Calendar featuring the cartoon character 'Dilbert' and one of his books entitled, 'It's Not Funny If I Have To Explain it!'.
Sam giggled when Teal'c held it up for her to see. She nudged Jack who was very pleased with Teal'c reaction. It was time Teal'c saw the funny side of life; he was always far too sombre, and Jack wouldn't be there to explain the idiosyncrasies of human nature to his friend.
There was a present too for Cameron. Another book about the history of flight, which Jack discovered Mitchell was interested in. Of course, he had a little help from a certain blonde someone when he'd pleaded ignorance as to what Mitchell wanted.
Jack felt guilty about not having any gift for Mike, not knowing that he would be here for Christmas, but Sam had known and had gone out and purchased something in Jack's stead. Both Jack and Mike had been surprised when Daniel handed Mike a brightly wrapped gift saying it was from Jack.
Mike opened it cautiously, wondering if it was a joke and whether anything would jump out at him; he wouldn't put anything past Jack. However nothing leapt out at him, nothing snapped his fingers in a trap and nothing broke under his touch. What he found was a slim hard covered book around four by three inches with several plastic pages inside. He frowned at Jack in curiosity, but Jack was just as curious too.
Mike pulled it from the wrapping and opened it to find it was a photo album. Protected by the plastic coverings were several recent photos of his wife Suzie and son Johnny.
Sam had kept in contact with Suzie and had persuaded her to send some recent photos that she promised to forward onto Mike if and when she saw him.
Mike glanced down at the pictures and marvelled at how his son had grown and how Suzie was looking more beautiful than ever. They couldn't make it to Colorado this year but maybe another time. Sam had already apologised to Mike for their absence; not knowing if Mike would make it there, she couldn't tell Suzie for fear of disappointing her and Johnny.
Mike smiled sadly as he looked up at his brother and Sam sitting side by side, hands entwined. At least he got to see Jack again, even if he had feared for his life not 48 hours ago, and they looked so good together. He, like Daniel was lost for words, and too inarticulate to express his feelings, rather like his brother, he snorted inwardly. He and Jack were two of a kind and some. He would be able to keep this small album with him and gaze at the pictures whenever he felt the need to be reminded why he was fighting the Goa'uld; so that they could live in a Goa'uld free world.
"Come on Jack, open your present!" Daniel pressed, wanting to ease the emotional tension that had sprung up in the room, suffocating them all with a bad case of affection.
Daniel handed a package over and Jack read the label, seeing it was from both Daniel and Teal'c. Jack lifted it to his ear and shook it, listening for a tell-tale sign that might reveal the hidden treasure within; except it didn't rattle, squeak, or tick. It felt soft and yet it was firm. Jack frowned, then tore the wrapping off in one sweep of his hand to reveal another wrapping beneath the first. The frown deepened as he ripped the next layer off, then the next, followed by another. He grew frustrated; his impatience growing in proportion to the diminishing size of the gift.
"Argh! There had better be something in here kids or I'll have you reassigned to the Alpha site for the next year!" Jack grumbled, still tearing off wrapper after wrapper. What had started out as a present the size of a shoe box, had ended up not much bigger than...
Jack opened the box nestled inside the last colourful wrapper and gaped in bewilderment at the prize in his hands. A blank, black DVD case stared back at him.
He looked up at the two friends sitting there with expectant faces, Daniel's suddenly looking slightly worried.
"Ah, I hope you like it Jack. I wasn't sure about it, but Sam seemed to think you would appreciate it, given time."
"What?" Jack gasped. What did Daniel mean by that?
"You can play it if you like Jack, but I think perhaps you should wait until we're gone."
"Daniel, what the hel...?"
"Jack! Please, just bear with us on this!" Daniel had stopped him in his tracks.
"Jack. We can watch it later, okay?" Sam nudged him and he gave in.
Jack shrugged. He had no idea what was going on, but he was going with the flow. He'd be cool.
"Okay. Now for your present Sam," Jack said, grinning now to ease the tension once more. Daniel handed Jack the plain white envelope with Sam's name written across it, from under the tree and sat back, eager to see what she had gotten from Jack.
Sam looked at her fiancé closely. He was grinning like a cat that ate the canary, and she wondered what he had been up to.
She carefully tore open the envelope and pulled out two sets of flight tickets. One was set for Washington DC in a few weeks time, and the other was two first class return air tickets to Paris, France, a couple of days after the Washington flight.
She studied them closely, still frowning.
"Jack?" she puzzled, holding them out to him. "What's in Washington? And what's going on in Paris?"
"Well," he smirked, not knowing what her reaction would be to his sheer audacity. "Washington is because the President would like to see you. Something about your getting married to an old geezer, I think. And secondly, I guessed that you would find Paris somewhat nicer than Minnesota for a honeymoon."
"What?" Now everyone had gasped in surprise.
"Jack...I know I said yes, but..."
"Too soon? I gotta leave day after tomorrow. I'm a busy man, I have to work round my schedule..." he broke off abruptly when Sam hit him on the head with a cushion.
"Jack O'Neill, you are the most..." she gasped breathlessly, now trying to tickle him.
"Ah guys, I think this is where we leave the happy couple to it," Daniel quipped, leaping to his feet, getting ready to go home.
"Indeed Daniel Jackson," Teal'c agreed. "Do you not think so Colonel Mitchell? Michael O'Neill?"
"No!" Jack cried , holding Sam down, so that she couldn't move. Mike stays here. No arguments little brother," Jack said determinedly.
Mike shrugged and turned back to apologise to the others.
"Sorry guys, I'll see ya tomorrow. I'll let you out, seeing as Jack's a little tied up at the moment."
Daniel snorted, leaned over and brushed a kiss over a hot and bothered Sam; her hair all mussed and her clothes rumpled.
"Congratulations Sam, or should I start calling you Mrs. O'Neill?"
Sam glared up at him, her face flushed, but she couldn't help the giggle that escaped. It had sounded so good; something of which she had dreamed of on countless lonely nights.
"Goodnight Daniel, Teal'c, Cam. Thanks for coming!" she called as they made their way out.
"Night Sam, Jack," Daniel called.
"Night Colonel Carter-O'Neill, General O'Neill!" Teal'c boomed, making the others giggle.
"Goodnight Sir, Sam!" Cameron Mitchell bid the two officers, giving them a little wave as he left.
Mike shut the door behind them and settled back into the chair. Jack released Sam but held up a hand to ward off the expected attack.
"Ack! Sam..." Jack warned.
Mike took one look at the pair of them, then announced that he was off to bed. Jack looked up at him, but Mike merely grinned.
"I am too old to play gooseberry to my big brother. Goodnight Jack! Sam!" He leaned over and gave Sam a kiss on her cheek, and smacked his brother upside on the head before hurrying from the room.
"Ouch!" Jack moaned, rubbing his head. "I'll get you back for that!" he yelled after Mike, who ignored him.
Jack grew more serious as Sam grew quieter.
"I'm sorry!" Jack sighed, all laughter gone from him now.
"Making assumptions. I should never..."
Sam cut him off with a well placed finger on his lips.
"There's nothing to be sorry for Jack. I love you and I want to marry you. I think it's a wonderful idea. I don't want to wait Jack. We've waited long enough as it is. I love the idea of getting married quickly. And I'm sure Paris will be as romantic as it's supposed to be. Thank you."
Jack pulled her into a hug, threading his fingers through the hair at the back of her neck to deepen the kiss he was giving her.
"Jack," she gasped, pulling away for air. "I think you should watch your DVD now. Don't...em...Teal'c and Daniel, well, they thought this might help. Please don't blame them for trying Jack. Okay?"
Jack nodded with a shrug, but he was beginning to worry now. What the hell was on this disc?
Sam took the DVD and placed it in the player, while Jack flicked on the TV. And after a few moments of a blank screen, it came to life with a swirl of colours and a very familiar peal of laughter rang out.
"Oh god," he gasped, "Charlie!"
He sat mesmerised during the whole time. It wasn't a long movie by any means, rather, there were short pieces joined together, and only lasting for around 30 minutes altogether, but it had Jack in tears as he watched fixated on the small boy running rings around a much younger Jack and Sara O'Neill. Then he was playing baseball in the park, and there was a few scenes of him playing catch with dad while being watched by his grandparents during a forgotten birthday party. Jack's parents and Sara's Mom; all of whom had died some years ago. All familiar faces that he'd almost forgotten. And they were all here on film for him to remember.
He brushed a shaky hand over his face, aware but unfazed by the fat tears rolling down his cheeks.
"How?" he asked when the screen blanked out at the end.
"Sara bumped into Daniel in the Mall, and she said that she had discovered some old home movies of Charlie when he was little, and that you might want to drop by and see them sometime. Then Daniel thought perhaps making a DVD of all those little bits might be a better idea. He did a copy for Sara too, so it would be easier for her to watch it whenever she wanted.
Jack sniffed, burying his head in his hands to hide his tears.
Sam pulled him to her, hugging him tightly.
"Are you mad at him?"
There was a sniff and a shake of his head.
"No," came the strangled response. Jack pulled back, wiping his eyes. "No, I'm not mad. It's just... I've never seen these before, at least I don't recall. It was so long ago, I'd forgotten."
Sam brushed his face, and held it between her hands, kissing his reddened eyes and then his lips.
"It's a nice reminder Jack. Something tangible for you to keep...as well as in here." She placed her hand over his heart, her smile as wobbly as Jack's.
"Did I tell you I love you Sam?"
"You did, and I love you too Jack."
Jack hung his head in silence, sniffing occasionally, and Sam wondered what was going through his head.
"You okay?" she asked after several minutes had passed.
Jack looked up, a warm smile on his lips, and love in his dark eyes.
"I think we'll both be okay Sam. More than okay, I'd say. I have you. That's the best Christmas present I could have. The rest of the stuff is great, but you're better Sam."
He leaned in for a bruising kiss; one that had them both stretched out on the sofa at the finish, Jack slightly on top.
"I think it's time for bed!" he said wolfishly.
"You gonna share with Mike? He is in your bed after all," she giggled.
He tickled her until she was crying helplessly with laughter.
"I'd rather share with you Sam. I wanna share everything that is me with you!"
"Then I guess you'd better lead the way Jack. 'Cause I don't want to waste a moment in sharing my life with you."
Jack stood up and took Sam's hand helping her to stand, then led her down the hall and into the bedroom. The sharing part of their lives was about to begin and last for a lifetime.