I know so many of you have been so patient, waiting for me to finish my other stories. I've been working and going to school, and I've been too busy to do much writing anymore. I'll try to finish up the other stories, but in the meantime, I'll post this and hope you all enjoy. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Colonel Samantha Carter leaned over the railing of the balcony just outside her new Atlantis-based office. Christmas was approaching, but she couldn't help but dread the holiday. It may not have been the first time she was away from home on the holiday, but it would be the first time in over ten years that she wouldn't be spending it with the rest of her team. It was strange, she knew, that she still referred to it as "her team" since SG-1's team dynamics had changed a little over three years ago, but still, she'd spent nearly ten years on that team with the exception of her time as research and development director at Area 51, only two years ago. Still, she was more than a galaxy away from her fairly newfound family, and it hurt her heart to think about spending a holiday season away from them.

Poking his head through the door as he tried to verify that his commanding officer was indeed standing out on the balcony, John Sheppard walked out. "Maybe it's just a base commander thing, but Elizabeth liked the view out here too."

She turned a small smile to the lieutenant colonel. "John." She greeted.

"Hi."

"Hi." She returned.

"What's on your mind? Atlantis isn't in danger, there's no IOA invasion..."

She chuckled appreciatively. "Nothing much."

"General O'Neill assured me that you were a verified genius. I have a hard time believing that "nothing much" is happening in that brain of yours."

She sighed, looking back out over the water. "It's my first Christmas on Atlantis."

"Hey, you make that sound like a bad thing." He said, with mockingly serious tone. "You haven't even given us a chance...we do the forty-foot Christmas tree in the gate room, the Santa Clause on every corner of Atlantis, and even...tinsel on the Stargate."

She laughed. "Forty-foot Christmas tree, huh?"

"You better believe it." He said with a grin. He took a deep breath as their laughter died down. "Elizabeth had a hard first Christmas too. Again, I think it's a base commander thing..."

Sam sighed. "I guess it'll just get harder before it gets easier."

He shrugged. "I don't know, but once Elizabeth made friends, she professed to having some of her best Christmases here. Even Rodney said his best Christmases were on Atlantis."

"That wouldn't be so hard for Rodney, I could imagine."

"Yeah..." John said, thoughtfully.

"I'm sure I'll enjoy the holidays. It'll just be hard. I lost my dad a few years ago, and now, I'll be celebrating the holiday without my team."

He nodded. "I know how that goes."

She straightened as her radio activated. "Yes?"

"Colonel Carter, we're receiving an unscheduled wormhole."

"I'll be right there." She said, tapping the headpiece to deactivate it. She turned to John. "Thanks for trying to make me feel better."

"Hey, it's what I do." He said, with a nonchalant shrug.

"Now, let's go see who's knocking at the door." She said as she started walking back into the city.

John nodded, his mind going a thousand miles an hour to try and figure out how he could make this Christmas an unforgettable Christmas.

--

Christmas Eve dawned bright and early for Sam Carter, and as the familiar ache in her chest welled up. She looked at the clock, and sighed. "I deserve a few more minutes in bed." She whispered. But her radio activated, and her old friend Murphy seemed determined to remind her of his law. Sitting up, she reached for the headset and replaced it on her ear. "Carter."

"Ma'am, we're receiving a report from Stargate Command. We thought it would be important for you to take a look at it."

"I'll be there in just a few minutes." She said with a sigh. She tapped the earpiece to turn it off, and looked around her quarters. They were some of the nicer quarters on the city and by far more stylish than her quarters at the SGC, but still not as homey as her small house on Earth. Of course, she'd not spent much time in that house, so...she shouldn't judge anything by her house's standard of homey.

Stretching, she pulled the covers off of her legs and threw them over the side of the bed. Slipping her feet into her bedside slippers, she stood with a yawn before donning her uniform as quickly as she could. Running her hand over the entrance console twice to open the door, she took a step, and found her feet in the middle of a small plant decorated with ornaments. It was far from an evergreen tree, but Sam managed a small smile at the lengths to which her personnel went to make her feel better about spending the holidays away from her friends and family on Earth. She quickly brought the small, treelike plant into her quarters and hurried back out the door to receive the important message from her homeworld.

Arriving at the Gate Room, she walked over to Chuck, the gate dialer. "What's the message?"

"Hi, Sam." Greeted a voice from the shadows.

She whirled around in surprise. "Daniel?"

"I'm NEVER going to get tired of this guy!" Cameron Mitchell said, one arm around John Sheppard in a headlock.

"Cam!"

"Daniel, I'm bored!"

"Vala!" She said with increasing surprise.

"Well, Carter, you run a tight city."

Whirling around again, she paused as her breath was constricted in her lungs. "Sir."

"Carter, it's Christmas. Call me Jack."

"Jack."

A low cough alerted the colonel to her Jaffa friend's appearance. "Teal'c." She said with a small smile as she began to hug all of her unexpected visitors.

"Thought you could use a little family." John said with a smile as he got out of Mitchell's headlock.

She grinned. "You thought right."

"As if he was the only one who concocted this elaborate brown-nosing scheme." McKay complained as he rolled his eyes.

"Yes," Teyla agreed. "Chuck had much to do with it."

Sam laughed as she hugged the Athosian woman. "Thanks."

"You are welcome." She said with a small smile.

"We brought some more...traditional symbols of the season." Teal'c said, pulling out a red velvet bag.

Sam laughed out loud. "Teal'c, are you Santa Clause?"

The Jaffa's face remained stoic as he pulled out a red and white stocking cap from the bag and placed it on his head. "Ho. Ho. Ho."

The whole Gate room chuckled at the sight, and Sam's grin became wider by the minute.

"So, where do you want the tree?" Jack asked, placing a tender hand on Sam's arm.

"Tree?" She asked, surprised.

"Don't get excited. It's a fake one."

"That's more than what we've got here." She said with a small smile as she looked into his eyes for the first time in several months. "Although, whoever left the decorated plant outside my room was very creative."

Rodney grinned widely. It really paid to date a botanist.

"Well, personally, I think it's time to start decorating this city!" Jack said with a grin.

"I agree." Sam said, her megawatt smile firmly in place.

Jack looked over at her with a softer smile. "Been a while since I saw that smile."

"Been a while since I felt like smiling like this." She said, placing an arm around his waist and giving him a squeeze.

He wrapped an arm around her, grateful for the small reprieve they'd gotten with the holidays.

"Ma'am?" One of the cooks from the commissary asked, timidly approaching Sam.

"Yes?" She asked, turning in surprise.

"Can you approve the menu for tonight's celebration?"

"Whatever you feel like cooking sounds good to me." She said with a warm smile. "In fact, I'd like to help."

The cook began to thank her for her offer when Ronan and Teyla approached. "She already does so much for us." Teyla said, turning a small half smile to her commanding officer. "We would love to help you with your preparations."

Jack tried to hide an amused smile from the obvious panic spread through the city at the thought of Sam cooking.

"What's so funny?" She asked, looking at him, questioningly.

"Nothing." He said, trying to remain deadpan.

She raised an eyebrow. "Oh, really?"

"I believe that O'Neill is attempting to remain stoic in the face of the convenient timing of Ronan and Teyla's offer." Teal'c said with a hint of amusement on his own face.

"Are you implying that I can't cook?" She asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Sam, we've told you outright on numerous occasions." Daniel said with a rueful smile.

She rolled her eyes, though the smile that had stayed on her face was a sure sign that she was far from upset.

"Now, come on, Colonel Carter. You owe us a tour of your fair city." Jack said, returning his arm to her waist.

As an tender smile instantly reclaimed her features, Sam placed a hand on his, gently caressing it. "Well, then I'd better fulfill my obligation." She turned to Chuck. "I'll have my radio on."

He nodded. "Yes, Ma'am."

Watching the couple walk off, Daniel and Teal'c exchanged knowing smiles, having been around for ten years of such "stolen" moments. Jack may have said that the tour had been promised to them all, but it was evidently implied that the crowd was cramping the couple's reunion. "So," Daniel began, looking back at the group. "Where do we start?"

--

Walking down to the South Pier, Sam looked at her companion. "I'm glad you were able to get the time off to come and visit."

"Actually, I'm here on business." Jack said, almost regretfully. "I'm supposed to write a bit of a military review of the base. After all, you're not just the civilian director now..."

She sighed. "Yeah. John hasn't said anything, but I know it's killing him."

"Yeah." Jack said with a sigh as he looked out over the water. "But I can't say that I'm sorry."

"I am." She said, softly.

"You are?"

She nodded. "I mean, it was an opportunity I couldn't pass up, but still...I can't help but think that I still have things that I could, and should, do on Earth."

"Hey, Earth will be around when you're old and gray."

"True." She said, nodding.

"And so will I." He said, more softly.

She looked over at him with a small smile. "Yeah. Now that you're a pencil pusher, we might keep you around a little longer."

He chuckled. "One day you'll have that title, and then I'll laugh at you."

She laughed. "Yeah. Well, I'm not far from that title now. Just still out on the front lines."

Jack nodded. "Yeah. I kinda miss that."

"I know." She said, sympathetically.

"But more than that, I miss being with you."

"I miss the guys too." She said, believing that she knew where he was headed.

"I miss them too, but not as much as I miss you." He said softly as his fingers slipped down from her back to her hand. Entwining his fingers with hers, he looked at them before looking back into her eyes. "I miss watching your six. I miss seeing you first thing in the morning. I miss hearing your technobabble. I miss you."

She looked at him with moist eyes as a teasing grin found its way to her lips. "Well, I could describe the singularity of a black hole to you again."

Jack chuckled as his eyes took on a far away look. "You know, Daniel never figured out that you fed me that information. He's still baffled by my knowledge of the "ecretian disk"."

She laughed. "I never could figure out how Daniel could underestimate you as much as he seems to have."

"Who said he was underestimating me?"

She leaned her head on his shoulder. "I did. You're capable of a lot more than you think, Jonathan O'Neill."

"Careful. That's the dreaded first name."

She laughed, allowing her face to hide in his dress blues.

"What?" He asked, watching her with an ever-widening smile.

"You make me happy." She said, wrapping an arm around his, keeping his fingers captive in her other hand.

"I only give what I receive." He said, gently.

She sighed as she watched the rising sun. "Look at us. We're a couple of fools..."

"A couple of fools? I see only one fool here." Jack said, tenderly.

"You're right. I'm the fool." She said with a soft chuckle.

"I didn't mean it like that..."

"I know what you meant."

"Why do you think you're a fool?"

"I've let my job rule my life."

"You didn't have much of a choice. We need you."

"Maybe." She said, nodding. "But there are other astrophysicists. There's only one you."

"I'm still here. Not going anywhere."

"But you almost did."

"Sam, that was over two years ago."

"Yes."

"I think I've proved since then that I'm yours."

She nodded. "And I've tried, but...I guess I'm surprised that I'm never quite satisfied."

"You're not satisfied?"

She shook her head. "Not really."

"That's a problem."

She nodded. "Yeah. It is."

"What are you going to do about it?"

"I'm going to leave the city in John's capable hands. He's practically running it while I get my bearings anyway..."

"You'd never be happy just giving it up."

"Maybe." She admitted. "But I'll never know if I've traded it for something better unless I do just that."

"What are you saying?" He asked, quietly.

"I'm asking you to marry me." She said, softly.

His eyebrows shot up. "I wasn't expecting that." He said, honestly.

"Why not? If I resign my commission, we won't have any questions. No raised eyebrows."

"Oh, we'll have plenty of raised eyebrows." He said, honestly. "And I don't want to put you through that..."

"Jack, I don't care anymore. The military can't ruin my scientific name. They could ruin anything else, but I got my scientific name regardless." She said, earnestly. "Besides, Jack, I just want to go to a little town...maybe in Minnesota...where the weather is clear, the fish are biting, and there are students left to teach."

"Oh, so I'm the expendable part of the equation." He teased.

"Never expendable." She said, stroking his arm lightly.

"You are an evil woman." Jack said, looking at where her arm barely graced his. "Don't you know that once you start doing something like that, I can't concentrate anymore?"

She smiled a wicked grin. "That was my intention."

He shook his head as he looked out over the water, sobering greatly. "I can't promise you anything but a worn out, washed up ol' soldier."

"I'd be disappointed if you didn't."

He chuckled softly. "You're right. We make a fine pair."

"Of course we do." She said, leaning her head on his shoulder again. "So...what's your answer?"

"I think I'll have to let you wait a little longer for that, Missy. After all, it's Christmas Eve, and the rest of the city is probably decorating things left and right. If you don't get in there, it'll start to look like Christmas threw up in the Gate room."

She laughed. "Fine, you grumpy bear. Let's go and monitor the situation."

--

By five o' clock that evening, everyone had visited with everyone and the city had been beautifully decorated. Even the commissary had made Atlantis more inviting with the smells of a dozen different lovely things cooking all day. But despite all of the invitation, the Wraith had stayed far from the city, and no signs of trouble were detected. All in all, it was a lovely Christmas that few were going to forget any time soon.

At six, everyone sat down on the pier, having scrounged up enough chairs and tables to house the hundreds of Lantean occupants gathered there. Sam's only regret was that it was impossible to relieve some of the Gate dialers and security detail, but as she looked over the sea of expedition members, she got a little misty eyed, grateful that they'd all lived to see even just one lovely Christmas there.

She felt a hand touch her knee in support and she smiled at her companion. "It's a lovely sight." She said, honestly.

"Yes, it is." He said, never taking his eyes from her face.

Just then, John Sheppard stood, gently tapping his glass with a knife as he did so. "Hey everyone, I know you're all excited about what looks like it will be a nice break, but I'd like to say a few words before we start the program. This Christmas, we are all in a new place, even if it's only periforal. We've lost some friends over the last year, and we've made some new ones. And I'd like to start this holiday celebration with a toast to all those who have paved the way for this celebration in some way." He paused. "I know Elizabeth used to make all the speeches, and she was probably the best one for the job. But I'm here now, and I'd like to believe that she'd be touched to see that we're able to hold such a celebration." He looked at Sam. "But I have to admit that we have one of the best women I've ever met as our new leader, and I know that Elizabeth would be proud of her appointment and what she's done since she's come on board." He looked back at the crowd. "So, it's with a hopeful eye to the future that I lift my glass and toast Elizabeth, Colonel Carter, Dr. Beckett, Dr. Keller, and all our friends gone before and friends newly found. To Atlantis."

"To Atlantis." The crowd repeated.

John sat down and suddenly, one of the scientists from the labs stood in front of the group. "In honor of the various cultures celebrating holidays at this time of the year, we'd like to present a holiday look at the Atlantis Expedition. We'll proceed through the program as detailed on your place settings."

Sam watched the program unfold, an unmistakable feeling of gratitude filling her heart. She looked over at the man sitting next to her, but before any thoughts of how much she loved him came to the surface of her mind, he stood up, surprising her.

A microphone was placed in his hands, and he addressed the group. "Well, I know I'm not a particularly familiar face here on Atlantis, but I want what I have to say to have a veritable amount of witnesses."

Sam looked up at him, puzzled.

"You've all expressed to me at some point since I arrived this morning, how much you appreciate Sam and her hard work on your behalf. I may be here as a bureaucrat," he paused for laughter, "but honestly, I hope that someday I'll be able to live on this fine city like the rest of you. Working hard to alleviate the suffering of so many wartorn planets. I have the greatest respect for anyone who heeds the call to Atlantis, and I want you all to know that." He took a sip of water as nervousness began drying out his vocal chords. "I know it will come as a great shock to all of you, but this is my last assignment as a Major General in the United States Air Force. I'm retiring almost immediately after this trip, and I count it my greatest blessing to have been given this last assignment." He looked at the members of SG-1, both past and current. "No, I'm not promoting Sam, though I think she could rise even higher than me. But I will return to Earth with a star report of this city's progress." He turned to Sam. "And I hope that, no matter your surprise, you'll find a place for me here. Beside you."

She looked at him surprised until she realized that he had reached into his pocket and pulled out a ring. "My retirement may not be quite as official as it could be, but after your proposal earlier, I thought I'd better do this as soon as I could." He knelt before her, and took her left hand. "I'll stay with you, whether here or anywhere else in the entire universe. I'll be happy anywhere as long as that somewhere is with you."

Tears wet her eyes as she stared at the beautiful ring he was handing her.

"Samantha Carter, would do me the greatest honor I could imagine and become my wife?"

She looked into his eyes, tears brimming over her own as she nodded slowly. "I would love to."

She leaned in and kissed him before throwing her arms around him, holding him tightly as a large celebration erupted over the city.

--

Much later that evening, celebration had taken its toll. Money had exchanged hands in honor of the newfound engagement, drinks had been drunk, and warm congratulations had been offered, and as Sam rested her head against her fiance's shoulder as they stared out over the Lantean ocean, she was reminded of the gladness the Christmas always seemed to bring. "You make Christmas special." She whispered as the soft breeze caressed their cheeks.

"You make my life special." He said with a soft smile. There was a pause before Jack looked over at Sam. "So...does Atlantis look quite so bad anymore?"

She grinned. "How could it look bad? You're willing to leave the comfort of your own galaxy for me."

He chuckled. "Yeah, I guess."

She leaned in and kissed his cheek. "I've never been so happy here. And I don't think it's any coincidence that I'm so happy when you finally came."

He kissed the top of her head. "Yeah. I've never been so happy here either. Granted, last time, I was captured by replicators..."

She laughed softly.

"But I think I've just had the best Christmas I've had in years."

She smiled. "Yeah. And to think I'd been dreading it."

He grinned. "Just goes to show you how much everything changes on Atlantis."

She laughed. "Or anywhere else that you and I work."

He chuckled. "Yeah. We have a flair for the...inconsistent."

"Just as long as you always love me, I'll deal with inconsistent." She said, quietly.

"Good. Because I'll never stop loving you."

"I'll never stop loving you either, so I think we're set."

The couple kissed before turning back to the serenity of the ocean, knowing that tomorrow would probably bring the tumult of the war raging around them, but for now, they were content to hold one another and bask in the beauty of the Christmas-blessed love that they shared.