ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS

This was written as a Secret Santa gift for SamJackShipLover at Gateworld's Sam/Jack ship family discussion thread.

OoOoOo

It was Jack O'Neill's first Christmas Eve as a father, at least his first in a very long time.

After Sarah and Charlie, Jack had decided family life wasn't in the cards for him. It was hard at first, but with years of practice, he'd accepted the inevitable. Not so long ago, he felt destined to live a solitary life, expecting to die a lonely, cantankerous old man. What's more, as recently as three years ago, Jack believed this was the fate he deserved. Hell, he'd done some damn distasteful things in his career; loneliness would be the least of his punishments.

Of course, that was before he opened his eyes. Before he and a certain Lieutenant Colonel were no longer in the same chain of command. Before two seasoned military officers finally came to their collective senses and decided to give some long overdue attention to their personal lives. Once that happened, all bets were off. When Samantha Carter and Jack O'Neill put their minds together to solve a problem, well, the problem had better watch out. Sure enough, they figured out how to be together.

They married shortly after Sam became commander of the Atlantis expedition, formalizing the relationship that had blossomed months earlier. A glorious, month long honeymoon was followed by months of forced separation, with Sam in the Pegasus Galaxy and Jack earthbound. Still, they persevered. Perseverance was a quality the O'Neills had perfected over the years. And they were rewarded for their patience.

Less than eighteen months ago, during one of his visits, Sam presented her husband with twin surprises. In retrospect, Jack wasn't sure which surprise he enjoyed the most. First of all, Sam announced she'd decided to come home, or at least transfer planet-side, stationed at the SGC. Then, she'd announced they were pregnant. Jack was thrilled on both fronts.

After a threatened miscarriage during a seemingly harmless trip to Teyla's homeworld, Sam's pregnancy had been uneventful. Leilani, their daughter, was born a slim eight months ago. Sam and the baby had been saved by Teyla's friend and shaman, Leilani's namesake. Jack was eternally grateful.

Now it was the baby's first Christmas. Everything was perfect: all was in readiness for a wonderful family celebration. Well almost.

"The best laid plans…," Jack thought. That's one cliché that can never be overused. Plan A seldom worked in Jack's estimation. And right now, he didn't much like Plan B.

This weekend was supposed to have all the hallmarks of an old fashioned family Christmas. Sam and the baby home with him by the tree. Friends over for a holiday party, later a nice dinner. And of course, what he was looking forward to the most: a romantic Christmas Eve night, followed by a magical morning opening gifts with Leilani on her first Christmas. That had been the plan.

Unfortunately, things had a way of happening at the SGC, and at the least opportune time. A lockdown was underway at this very moment, 1400 hours on Christmas Eve.

Wouldn't you know it! Christmas Eve, and Sam was stuck in the mountain.

An alien contagion had found its way through the Stargate yet again. Wildfire had been engaged to ensure nothing leaked out to the surrounding community. And Sam was trapped inside the mountain with everyone else. When Jack was officially notified earlier this morning, worried didn't begin to describe his feelings. But now, after a follow-up communiqué assuring him the immediate threat had been neutralized and Sam was unaffected, he'd relaxed. Now he simply wanted her home.

OoOoOo

Jack's musings were interrupted by an expected knock on the door. Teal'c, Daniel and none other than General Hammond were on his doorstep, arriving as scheduled for the planned festivities.

Coming to the door with Leilani in his arms, Jack welcomed his guests. "Now the party can begin," he announced, in as jolly a tone as he could manage. "Where've you guys been? Come on in, we've been waiting for you."

Jack did his best to be mature and professional– it was just another day after all. Heaven knows it always had been for years and years. Sam would be home soon. He simply had to be patient. He'd make the best of things, for Leilani and his friends.

"Jack, from everything I hear, things are coming under control at the SGC," George Hammond said, recognizing the younger man's discomfort. "Hank isn't able to release the lockdown yet, but it shouldn't be long. I'm sure Sam will be home soon."

"Thanks, George," Jack said. "I appreciate that." Then, handing Leilani to her honorary grandpa, he proceeded to bring out the rest of the decorations. After all, the plan for today was to trim the O'Neill Christmas tree. For now, he supposed it would have to be done without Sam.

OoOoOo

The guys did an admirable job of decorating the tree. It was a stately, seven-foot Balsam fir Jack had brought home earlier that day. Whatever else was going on, it wouldn't due to have an undecorated tree on Leilani's first Christmas. And Jack had to admit, next to Sam, there was no one he'd rather spend a holiday with than these good friends.

"I'm certain Colonel Carter will do everything in her power to make it home for the celebration," Teal'c announced, taking in his friend's quiet demeanor as the men prepared the evening meal.

"I know that T.," Jack answered. "I just want her to be safe, and yes, I'd like it if she were here." Jack chuckled blithely to himself. "But," he began, standing up and raising little Leilani over his head with a flourish, "whatever happens, we are going to make this the best first Christmas any little girl has ever had!"

By now Jack's enthusiasm was on the upswing, as he warmed to his goal of making his little angel happy. His attitude was infectious. Leilani squealed in delight and Daniel gave an answering whoop of his own. George Hammond sat back, watching the action, admiring the ongoing resilience of one Jack O'Neill. And T.? Well Teal'c, as the original shipper he was, was certain all would be well for his friends.

After a friendly Christmas Eve meal, Jack's guests prepared to leave. It was 2200 hours and Leilani was fast asleep in her crib. The kitchen had been cleaned up and the empty Christmas storage boxes put away in the closet. The family room looked pretty good if Jack said so himself. Sam would be pleased, even if disappointed she hadn't been part of the decorating process.

"T., help me move Leilani's crib into the family room before you leave," Jack said.

"For what purpose O'Neill?" Teal'c asked innocently. "I believe she is fast asleep in the room you call the nursery."

"Yes, she is," Jack agreed. "But it's Christmas, my friend. And my daughter and I are sleeping in front of the Christmas tree tonight."

"As you wish, O'Neill," Teal'c said with a smile and his usual head bow. "Daniel Jackson," he called, "our work here is not completed. Come and help me."

Without further ado, Leilani and her crib found their way into the warmly decorated family room, coming to rest mere inches from the sofa.

"Should I turn out the lights before we leave?" Daniel asked.

"Are you kidding? It's Christmas Eve. I'm leaving them on for Santa," Jack said with a smile. He knew everyone realized he was leaving them on for Sam. "Thanks, everybody," he continued. "It was a great night. Sam will be sorry she missed it."

With that the friends took their leave, Merry Christmas wishes all around.

OoOoOo

She'd sworn she would never be one of those hopelessly sentimental mothers, the kind that saved every first, from tooth to drawing to report card. The kind that treasured every holiday memory, saved greeting cards, and put family before work. Well, in spite of herself she'd become exactly that kind of mother. And Sam the mother was less than happy she'd missed out on her first Christmas Eve with her little family.

It was 0500 when Sam turned her key in the front door lock. Though the house was silent, there was a warm glow emanating from the area of the family room.

Jack has the tree up, decorated and lit, she thought. The image in her mind warmed her heart. While she regretted missing out on the fun, she knew there would be more to come. I'm home in time for Christmas, she reminded herself. For the first time in her life, she realized work was getting in the way of her life, something she'd prefer to be doing.

As she slowly opened the front door, careful to avoid waking her family, Sam could smell the homey scent of a wood fire, no doubt from last evening. It mingled with the fresh cut scent of the Christmas tree. She smiled and pictured Jack and Leilani, suddenly needing to be with them and so very glad she was home at last.

Slipping off her coat and boats, Sam stealthily made her way to the family room for a quick glimpse of the Christmas tree before heading upstairs to her family. Though she was surprised Jack had left it lit and unattended, she had to admit it was breathtakingly beautiful. She would have had a hard time turning off the lights as well. Still …

As Sam dutifully made her way toward the back of the tree to pull the plug, she spied a rather large piece of furniture that didn't belong, Leilani's crib, of all things. What the… Then she saw her husband sprawled unceremoniously on the sofa less than a foot from the crib. When she listened carefully, she could tell he was snoring softly. Then there was their sweet eight-month-old, snuggled on her side, sucking her thumb, the embodiment of 'peace on earth'.

Tears came to her eyes unbidden. Just as well Jack's sleeping, she thought. He hates it when I cry. Never could figure out why I cry when I'm happy.

And happy she was. There were her Christmas gifts, under the tree. How she'd gotten so far in her life without them, she could no longer imagine. At this moment, Sam Carter O'Neill knew these two people were more important to her than the SGC, astrophysics and wormhole technology rolled into one. If she ever had to choose, it would be no contest.

Walking over to the crib, she smoothed back baby Leilani's downy blond hair and kissed her gently on the forehead. Then she gingerly lowered herself to the floor next to the sofa and studied her sleeping husband. Thanks to this man, she knew she would never have to make that choice. She was so grateful for his selfless love. He'd given her everything, the true freedom that came with unconditional love. And it simply made her love him more.

With thoughts of wanting to spend as much time with Jack and Leilani as she possibly could, Sam began to run the tips of her fingers gently through Jack's short, unruly hair. The simple gesture calmed and relaxed her after an extraordinarily long work day and night. In moments, Sam joined her husband in dreamland, her head falling back against the sofa, a contented smile on her face.

OoOoOo

Less than an hour later, Jack awoke at his normal hour. Momentarily disoriented to find himself on the sofa in the family room, he was even more surprised at his initial glimpse of Leilani's crib in its unusual position. Then he remembered, "It's Christmas."

Turning over slowly, Jack's arm slipped slowly off the side of the sofa, his hand landing on something soft and silky. "Huh?"

"Soft, hair, Sam…?" Jack sat up and sure enough, there was Sam, sound asleep on the floor. He could feel the smile spontaneous grow on his sleepy face. Home, Sam's home.

"Did you hear that?" Jack whispered to Leilani. "Your mother's home."

Then, he slid off the sofa and sat beside Sam on the floor. Before he knew it, he'd laid Sam's head on his lap and started to softly stroke her face, humming Christmas carols as he did so. It wasn't long before Sam started to wake.

"Mmm… Jack?"

"Good morning," came the muffled reply as Jack gently kissed her awake.

"Good morning, yourself," Sam replied.

"Merry Christmas, Sam."

"Yes, it is," Sam said. "Nice to see my favorite presents waiting up for me when I come home."

"It's the least we could do," Jack answered with a crooked smile.

"I'm sorry I couldn't get home earlier," Sam said, moving to get up on the sofa and pulling Jack up with her.

"Hey, no apologies needed," Jack protested. "You were doing what needed to be done. And you couldn't exactly get out of a lockdown, now could you?" Jack asked, once more sitting snuggly by her side.

"Guess not," Sam admitted, her head lolling on his shoulder.

"You okay?"

"Mmm…hmm," she answered. "Tired, but fine and very glad to be home."

Jack reached over, placed his hand gently under Sam's chin and turned her to face him. He studied her carefully.

"What?" Sam asked.

"Beautiful, as always," Jack said, "but tired. What do you say you go upstairs and catch a few hours sleep while I feed Leila?"

"Leila's fast asleep," Sam protested.

"You and I both know she'll be up in what, three to five minutes, give or take sixty seconds."

Sam chuckled and stole a look at her watch. "It is about that time, isn't it?"

"Yep," Jack agreed. "So you'll go catch a few hours?"

"It's Christmas, Jack," she protested. "A very special Christmas, and I don't want to sleep it away."

"Newsflash, Doctor Colonel Carter!" Jack exclaimed, taking her by the shoulders to make an impression. "Sleep now or fall asleep somewhere in the middle of breakfast! Promise, I'll wake you up by noon, at the latest."

"Promise?"

"Promise," Jack said sincerely.

"What about opening presents?" Sam protested. "It's Christmas morning."

As if on cue, Leilani started to cry softly, letting her parents know she was ready for the holiday.

"See?"

"I know," Sam admitted as Jack bent over to pick her up. "I think you and our daughter are on the same time schedule."

"Looks that way," he admitted.

"So?"

"So, go take a nap, then we'll open presents," he said. "I'll wake you at 11:30. That way it'll still be Christmas morning," he said, bending over to kiss little Leilani. Then leaning in to kiss Sam's lips, Jack continued, "Besides, I already have all I want for Christmas, right here with me now."

Sam smiled. "I love you, Jack."

"And I love you. Now go get some sleep."

Sam nodded, kissed Leilani and turned toward the stairway. Then, pausing and turning around, Sam called back to Jack.

"Jack?"

"Yep?"

"Merry Christmas, Jack."

And a Merry Christmas it was.

THE END