Hey! I'm back! How are you all? I hope you had a Merry Christmas. Here's the last chapter of this story. I hope you enjoy it, and please tell me if you do. Oh yeah, and if you've been reading "Holding Forever", the "How Long is Forever?" sequal, please tell me if its any good so far and if I should continue. I stopped it to finish this christmas story, and I need to know if I should go back to it. Please let me know that too, and if this last chapter of this is any good. :P Thanks to all of you! Happy New Year!
DON'T LET GO!
Daniel jerked awake, gasping. Vala's panicked voice rang in his ears; the image of her dangling form with nothing but air below her as only his fingers kept her from plunging downward was burned into his mind's eye; and her screams echoed behind it all. It had been days, but the nightmares still came ever night. Daniel shivered and sat up. He started to wipe the sweat from his face, but the shaking refused to stop. For crying out loud, he'd almost lost her. For several minutes there he'd thought he had.
Beside him, Daniel didn't notice Vala pushing herself up to a sitting position as well until she quietly wrapped her arms around him; she didn't have to ask. Daniel turned and held on, burying his face in her shoulder.
"Shhh…It's all right. I'm here," Vala murmured in his ear.
Daniel held tight until his body stopped shaking, and his mind had been eased. "I know," he sighed, pulling back a bit to look at her. "Thank you…"
She smiled at him. "It's okay. You're not the only one around here having bad dreams."
"Right. I'm sorry, are you okay?" Daniel asked, wincing. It hadn't occurred to him yet that there must have been a reason why Vala was already awake. Just as he'd been having nightmares of the incident during their last mission, she'd been having both dreams of that, and what had happened here bon earth as well. She had come just as close to losing him as he had come to losing her.
Vala shrugged. "I'm fine. Granted, I don't really feel like sleeping anymore now, but I'm all right."
"What time is it?" The clock was on the table behind him next to the bed, so she was the one looking toward it.
"Uhm…four-thirty a.m.," Vala answered, glancing over his shoulder.
Daniel smiled and kissed her. "Merry Christmas."
Vala grinned and pulled his head back down. When the two surfaced for air a few moments later, Vala glanced at the clock again.
"Janet will be wide awake in an hour or two," she reminded him.
"We might as well get to work then, since I don't think either of us is going back to sleep," Daniel suggested.
"Just what I was thinking."
"And I sincerely hope that all you residents of Colorado Springs are already where you need to be for the holidays, because it looks like most of the city is snowed in this Christmas morning. And as if that isn't enough, weather forecasts aren't showing a reprieve from the heavy snowfall for another day or—"
From the couch where he and Vala sat Daniel pressed the button on the remote in his hand and turned off the television, cutting off the hushed news channel voice in mid sentence. Well, that wasn't entirely bad news. They didn't really need to be anywhere until New Years Eve. The snow had a week to stop falling and melt enough for the Jacksons to be able to get out on the roads and head back to the O'Neill's for another party that night. It had become a tradition over the years to greet the new years together as one big family, even if the children had to take a nap in the guest room to be awake enough at midnight.
"It's six-thirty; Janet will be up any minute now," Vala commented absently, shifting as she sat snuggled against him. "I don't want to get up."
Daniel smiled and squeezed her shoulders with the arm he had wrapped around them—his right, because his left shoulder wasn't completely healed yet even though it was well on its way.
Both he and Vala had already been up for two hours, still unable to sleep, and they were tired, but satisfied that they had everything ready. The presents were under the tree, the glass of milk on the coffee table empty, and most of the cookies eaten. Neither were quite sure if their smart daughter still believed in Santa Claus, but better safe than sorry. Besides, now there was another little one to keep the magic alive for.
"Me either," he chuckled, kissing her cheek. Daniel was quite comfy where he was, thank you, but with any luck they'd have a few more minutes just to sit together before Janet woke up ready to open presents and they would have to go get Charlie too.
No such luck.
Janet's voice drifted down the hallway with the sound of small feet padding back toward their bedroom. Daniel and Vala grinned at each other, stood and followed their daughter's voice down the hallway. They found her halfway there, turning away from their room with a confused look on her face.
"Oh, there you are," she said, smiling when she saw them. The girl started to bounce up and down on her toes. "Can we open presents now?"
"Sure we can," Daniel answered.
"Just a minute; let me get Charlie," Vala added. Janet and Daniel nodded, and Vala disappeared into the master bedroom. A moment or two later she came out again, carrying a yawning baby Charlie with his wild black hair even more mused than usual.
Daniel held his arms out to take the boy off her hands, but his wife wagged a finger at him.
"Oh no you don't, Daniel. That shoulder isn't healed nearly enough yet for you to be carrying a baby around."
"He's thirteen-and-a-half pounds."
"Exactly. You can't be too careful with that kind of injury."
Daniel sighed and shook his head at her, but he knew she was right.
"Okay, okay, can we go now?" Janet asked anxiously, bouncing again.
"Yes, let's go," Daniel replied, bending to kiss her cheek. "Merry Christmas!" The he gave her a small playful shove toward the living room. Janet squealed and raced the rest of the way, her parents and brother close behind.
The open presents lay scattered on the floor around the tree, along with a small scrap of brightly colored green and red wrapping paper that had escapes the clean-up a few minutes before. It was rather obvious with most of Janet's gifts which parent they had come from. Anything that could be considered 'girly' was Vala's doing, while several middle and high school level books and other things that would nurse Janet's growing interest in archaeology and Ancient Egypt were unquestionably the work of her father.
Daniel, of course, would proud no matter what his daughter ended up doing in the long run when she grew up, but he couldn't help but fell quite happy that she too, was fascinated by the things that had caught his attention at her age, and still interested him to this day. Vala wasn't nearly as understanding of his chosen career before the SGC—she was pretty much with Jack in thinking archaeology was all a bunch of boring rocks. Oh well.
Janet was in the living room with her things, sprawled out on the floor in front of the couch by the tree with a new book, Charlie was in his playpen with his new toys, and Vala was in the kitchen putting the final touches on a Christmas dinner that was almost ready. Daniel could smell the turkey from where he sat in one of the two large cushioned chairs that sat on either side of the couch, reading his own new book.
He had to give Vala a lot of credit. For someone who had once been a Goa'uld host and after that had spent her days wandering the galaxy cheating and stealing, she had changed a lot for the better. Now she was a darn good cook; come to think of it, that woman could do just about anything well if she put her mind to it.
A knock on the front door pulled Daniel from his thoughts and brought him to his feet, wondering who would be coming to call just then. Granted, the forecasted second and worse onslaught of heavy snow and ice wasn't really supposed to start until later that night, but it was still Christmas day…Shrugging to himself with his good shoulder, Daniel shuffled in his socks to the door and opened it. The door swung open, throwing a waft of cold air toward Jackson, but he didn't notice as his eyes widened a bit. Quickly he controlled the action and simply blinked.
"Travis. Hi," he managed.
The teenager offered a tentative smile from just outside the doorway. "Hi, Dr. Jackson. I heard what happened after you left the other night, and I was worried; I knew I should have made sure you got home. I'm sorry. But anyway, when I didn't see you or even your wife at the store since then I just wanted to make sure you were all right…" he trailed.
Daniel nodded. "It's not your fault, and I'm okay, thanks. Do you want to come in?"
Travis shook his head, his mane of dark blond hair falling over his ears. "Thanks, but no sir. I know this isn't the best time to be just showing up; I'll go-"
"No, it's all right."
The teen shifted uncomfortably. "Not really. I would have come sooner so I didn't have to bother you today, but with most of the other guys from the store gone for Christmas vacation I've been working extra shifts all week. I was even in this morning. Not that I mind; but it took all my time…"
Daniel didn't know terribly much about Travis, but he did know that the teen was an orphan as he had been. Unlike Daniel, though, Travis had had a grandparent that had agreed to take him in. His only remaining grandmother had raised him, and he knew they weren't rich.
"It's okay, Travis, really. Why don't you come in for a minute." Daniel smiled at him. "If you're going to take the time to explain there's no reason for you to stand out in the cold." Finally the young man relented and stepped into the house, after shaking the snow from his boots and giving a hearty thank you.
By now Janet had noticed who was there, and even Vala had been drawn from the kitchen through the living room and into the entryway.
"Hey Travis," Janet offered in greeting, and Vala smiled at him.
"Hello Janet, Mrs. Jackson…" the teenager nodded back.
"What were you doing working this morning?" Daniel asked incredulously.
Travis shrugged. "Fewer and fewer businesses are shutting down for Christmas day every year. I worked a few hours Christmas day last year too."
A heavy sigh came from the teen, and he shrugged. "I need the extra money. I've been working more shifts than usual for months, really, just even more so the past week or so."
"Is your grandmother okay?" Daniel asked, brow furrowing.
A slow shake of the head.
"She's still here," Travis sighed, "But for how long is a mystery to anyone. She went into assisted living a few months ago. I wanted to take care of her, but I couldn't do that and work…"
Daniel's eyes widened unchecked this time. "Oh…I'm sorry; I didn't know."
Travis gave a small smile. "It's all right, Dr. Jackson; I didn't go around broadcasting it."
"Right, right," Jackson nodded. "Hey, if there's ever anything we can do…" H left the statement unfinished, the offer open. The teenager seemed grateful for the sentiment.
"Thank you, but I should go now—"
Travis blinked in mid-turn and swiveled to face Daniel again. "No sir."
"Then where are you going?"
"Home, I guess," Travis shrugged. To an empty apartment, then, on Christmas day. Alone.
Nuh uh. Not if Daniel Jackson had anything to say about it. He exchanged a meaningful glance with Vala, who returned an affirmative look right back even as she smiled at their visitor.
"Well, we were going to eat in a few minutes, and we're not quite sure what after that, but you're welcome to join us."
Another surprised blink from the boy. "Really?"
Daniel grinned and rested his hands in his pockets. "Sure; why not?"
"We'd love to have you," Vala added.
"Yeah!" Janet agreed enthusiastically. "Come on, Travis; we'll have fun, don't ya think?"
Suddenly the young man's dumbstruck face lit up. "Yeah, I think so," he agreed with the girl. Then he focused on Daniel and Vala again. "Dr. Jackson-"
Travis chuckled. "Either way I don't know what else to say. Thank you…"
Vala started to move off. "I'll go put an extra place at the table."
"Goodbye, Merry Christmas!" Travis said once more before closing the door behind him. His entire demeanor had brightened considerably since that morning. Now it was late afternoon, and the hours since then had been one of the best Christmases Daniel could remember. And it wasn't even over yet.
Janet watched Travis go and then turned back to her father, jumping up and down. "Okay dad, can we watch it now?"
Daniel laughed. "Yes, we can watch it now. Vala, you have the disk don't you?"
"It's already in the player and ready to go," she replied.
"Great! Let's go!" Janet said happily. Then the girl grabbed a hand from each of her parents and pulled them towards the living room. "Come on, hurry; you want to see it, don't you?"
"We're coming, we're coming," Daniel answered. Speeding up, he scooped the girl into his arms and swept her the rest of the way into the living room, plopping her down on the couch. "There. That fast enough for ya?" he asked as he and Vala sat down on either side of their daughter.
Janet giggled and nodded.
Daniel picked up the remote to turn on the television, grinning. "You know, I think I might actually like this better than watching it there. Your mom and I can pause it and tell you how great you're doing anytime we want without having to shout up at you on a stage."
Vala hugged her. "That's right, and don't think we won't."
"What about Charlie?" Janet asked.
"He's asleep, but you can show him later, I guess."
"If you can get him to stay awake and sit still long enough," Daniel smiled.
"Oh. Okay, well, can we start now?" the girl asked impatiently.
"You bet." With that, Daniel flicked on the television and started the video, silently thanking Cassandra again for recording Janet's school program a few days before.
Later that night Daniel found himself in the kitchen, making hot chocolate and waiting for Vala to finish putting Charlie down for the night in his crib in their room. Janet was asleep too. At long last he heard Vala coming down the hallway and stepped into the doorway just as she started to pass into the kitchen. As she went by him he caught her around the waist and pulled her back to him.
"Oh! Oh, there you are, Daniel. What are you doing?"
His reply was to lean in and kiss her. Vala returned it, and when he pulled back she blinked up at him. "Well, that answers that question."
Daniel grinned, his arms still around her as she put hers around his neck. "So, the weather channel says we'll probably be snowed in for a couple of days…"
"I don't have a problem with that," Vala answered, smiling mischievously.
"Good, because I don't either; no problem at all…"
Vala grinned and pulled his head back down; Daniel let her, pressing his lips to her again.