A/N: This Story was written for Hannah, GW's Sam O'Neill for her Secret Santa gift. This is the first chapter. The second will be posted on 30 December 2006.. That's the real gift to a reader who is always begging for the next part… getting it two weeks before everyone else ;-)

Merry Christmas, Sam

By Jennifer JF

"Ah-hem."

Major Samantha Carter started guiltily at the sound of the familiar voice behind her. Turning to look over her shoulder, she grinned sheepishly, "Oh, hi sir."

"Carter—" Colonel Jack O'Neill began, but Sam cut him off, knowing what he was going to say.

"Please sir, don't start…. I need to get this done by the time the rest of the research team gets back after Christmas…"

"Carter," he began again patiently, "I thought you were supposed to be gone by now yourself? Didn't you have an 1800 flight out to San Diego? I'm pretty sure I remember signing your leave request myself."

Actually, if she remembered correctly, he had practically filled it out for her, insisting she take some time off over the holiday to spend with her brother Mark and his family. She hadn't had a chance to get there last Christmas, so it would have been her first Christmas with Mark since his kids were born. Which, of course, was the whole problem, but she'd be damned before she'd tell the Colonel that.

"I know sir, but then we found these artifacts on P3X-746, and I really want to get my preliminary report done before everyone else gets back…"

Now Jack's patience was clearly wearing thin. "For crying out loud, Carter, it's Christmas. Correct me if I'm wrong, but those doohickeys will all still be here after the holiday? Right?"

She nodded in reluctant agreement. "Yes, sir."

"No one should have to spend Christmas alone if they don't have to." When she nodded again, he continued, his tone far too gentle and caring for her peace of mind, "Then why are you still here?"

She opened her mouth to explain, to try to get him to understand how important this research was. Sam would never let Jack know how she couldn't bear the thought of spending Christmas with Mark and his wife and kids, of being so forcibly reminded of the things she knew she could never have because of the Air Force… and because of him.

She saw his eyes narrow as he looked at her, a hard glint darkening them as he saw past her defenses to the tears hiding in her eyes. Damn. She would rather die than hurt him. Again.

"Sir…" she pleaded, but there was nothing left to say.

Jack raised one arm slightly, reaching unconsciously for her in a forbidden gesture. He recollected himself, and the hand quickly dropped. With a sigh, he nodded. "Okay. Well… Have a Merry Christmas, Sam."

She smiled then, really smiled at him for giving her the one gift he still could. "Thank you, sir. Merry Christmas to you, too."

He nodded, looking at her for a moment before returning her smile with one of his far farer ones. Completely unaware that with her smile she had given him the one gift she still could, Sam watched as Jack turned and left her alone in the lab.