A Christmas Tale
Jack's holiday plans have fizzled, and he's not a happy General. This little fic was written as a 2007 Secret Santa gift to L.A. Doyle on the Gateworld Sam/Jack Ship Family Discussion Thread. I hope she likes it. Merry Christmas, Jena! And thanks, Eve, for organizing this!
Whistling, Jack O'Neill sprang up the steps of the little house they had kept in the Springs…the one that used to be Sam's house. Unlocking the door, he struggled to get inside without dropping any of the bags and packages he was carrying. Once inside, he pushed the door closed with his foot. The house was dark, and a little cold. No use letting any more cold air in. Of course, no one had been here in several weeks.
Placing the packages on the kitchen counter, he walked back out to the hall to adjust the thermostat. Yep, 60 degrees was a little too cool. He moved the dial up until it read 75, making a mental note to cut it back to 68 once the house got warm. By then, Sam would be there…although, since the last time they had seen each other was Thanksgiving…he doubted either would notice much besides each other. He stifled a grin at that thought, as a current of excited anticipation ran through him. Yep, this was going to be a great Christmas.
Jack continued bustling about the house, bringing in luggage, groceries and the gifts he had bought for Sam before he left Washington. Champagne was chilling in the fridge, along with the favorite treats he had picked up for tonight's Christmas Eve dinner from their favorite Colorado Springs restaurants and delicatessens. He checked his watch. Sam's message indicated she would try to be home by mid-afternoon. It was nearing 2:00 now. He probably had just enough time to bring in firewood, take a shower and change. He imagined himself sitting in front of a roaring blaze with his feet up, sipping a beer when she arrived. The picture pleased him, and he continued to work to complete his to do list.
The only thing Jack wasn't going to try to do was decorate the tree. He had brought it in and set it up, but he thought they'd decorate it together tonight…after they had dinner and got…reacquainted. He was getting lost in his thoughts about the evening ahead when his cell phone rang.
He looked down. It was the SGC. Great! Sam had just arrived. Flipping the top open, he said in his most cheerful voice, "Hello, gorgeous. Jack O'Neill at your service."
There was an awkward silence before a noticeably nervous, very familiar voice finally spoke. "Walter Harriman here, General. "
Crap! Jack took a deep sigh before answering. "What is it, Walter?"
"Uh…I have a message from Colonel Carter, Sir," the sergeant replied. A heavy silence followed.
"Well?' Jack barked. "Spit it out, Walter!"
"Colonel Carter regrets that she has been detained, Sir. I've sent a password-protected message to your e-mail."
"Thanks, Sergeant," Jack replied. Not waiting for a reply, he closed his cell phone and unpacked his laptop. Logging in to his e-mail, he impatiently waited for the messages to load. Finally, he saw the SGC e-mail. He entered the password he and Sam shared to open it.
The next thing he saw was Sam's face. She was sitting at her desk. She wasn't wearing her Atlantis jacket It could be any desk, in any office, anywhere. One thing was sure. Her expression was not happy. "Jack, I wanted to let you know that I don't expect to make it home tonight." She sighed. "I may not make it tomorrow either. We have a…situation…going on here. General Landry can give you more details…but as you know, that's about all I can tell you without a more secure means of communication."
She took a deep breath before speaking again. "Jack, you know I would be there if there was any way possible.' He voice faltered slightly. "Just try to relax, and I'll do everything I can to join you as soon as I can." He could tell her eyes were watering as she closed her message. "I love you, Jack."
And then the file stopped. Jack stared at the image of Sam's unmoving face for a moment before leaning back resignedly. He looked around the house at his work…all for nothing, he thought to himself. Rising from the chair, he started to the fridge to get a beer when the doorbell rang. So not a time to bother him! He charged the door, ready to give the intruder a piece of his mind. Jerking it open, he found himself face-to-face with Hank Landry.
Landry quickly assessed Jack's expression and apparent state of mind. "I see you got Sam's message, Jack," Hank said. "I can't say I'm surprised at your mood."
Jack glared at him.
Landry stood his ground, returning Jack's gaze unflinchingly. "Aren't you going to invite me in, Jack?"
"Suit yourself." He turned and stomped down the hall. He heard the door close and footsteps following him, so he assumed Hank had decided to stay. Arriving at the fridge, he grabbed that beer. Without turning, he asked Landry, "Want one?"
"No thanks, Jack. Gotta drive home. Besides, I won't be here long enough to finish it."
Crossing the room, Jack plopped down on the couch. "Spit it out, Hank. I'm not exactly in the mood to entertain right now."
"Jack, it's an emergency. Sheppard's team was out on a standard reconnaissance mission. On their way back to Atlantis, they discovered a Wraith hiding in their puddle jumper. As you can imagine, a fight followed. Sheppard changed course away from the planet where Atlantis is now. They killed the Wraith before they got back to the city, but there was some damage to the puddle jumper. They came in hot and clipped one of the main towers of the city. There's a major storm front on the way, and Colonel Carter felt she needed to make sure personally that all the repairs are done. If she doesn't…"
"If she doesn't and something goes wrong, the responsibility would be on her shoulders, and Carter knows she can't leave her post in the middle of a crisis."
"Right," Landry replied, casting his gaze toward the floor to avoid letting Jack see him smirk. He really hated that this situation was interrupting O'Neill's holiday, but despite Jack's sour mood, he felt affection for his old friend. It was hard for him to imagine Jack so disturbed because a soldier was detained by duty. But then again, this wasn't just ANY soldier who had been detained.
Regaining control of himself, Landry glanced up at the stone-faced visage behind the beer bottle. "Problem is, Jack, that these repairs are extensive. We've been gating through supplies and technicians, but they're still working on the problem. It really shouldn't be more than a couple of days."
Jack shot Landry a glare, but said nothing.
"I know you understand, Jack. I'm going to leave now," he said, rising up and heading for the door.
"Yes, Jack," Landry replied from the foyer.
"Thanks for the heads up."
"She's in no danger this time, Jack. It's only time we're talking about…and you know Carter's dedication to duty better than anyone."
"Yep, I do."
Jack heard the door open. "Merry Christmas, Jack." Then, he heard it close.
Jack sat on the couch for awhile, feeling sorry for himself. He had so looked forward to this holiday, this week of peace with his wife. Now, his perfect expectations had been shattered before they even had a chance to begin.
'All right,' he thought to himself finally. 'Might as well make the best of it.'
He decided to go ahead and decorate the tree. There went his visions of the two of them decorating it together, but at least it would be done when she arrived.
If she arrived.
Trying to lighten his mood, he turned on some Christmas music. He knew how much Sam liked the holiday tunes, and he thought having them on would make her seem closer.
As daylight faded and darkness stole the light from inside the house, the lights of the Christmas tree provided some warmth to Jack's wounded soul. Carefully, he wound the lights around the branches, careful to hide the wires because he knew Sam hated to see them. Alvin and the Chipmunks were singing Christmas, Christmas, and the snarky Alvin's attitude suited his perfectly.
Then, the music changed.
"I'll be home for Christmas,
You can plan on me,
Please have snow and mistletoe,
And presents on the tree.
Christmas Eve will find me,
Where the love light leads,
I'll be home for Christmas,
If only in my dreams, …"
"Oh, for cryin' out loud!" he muttered to himself. Then he decided that for every sad holiday song he heard, he'd have a beer. That would make him feel better!
So he took a break and downed 12 more ounces of liquid tranquilizer. Once the beer was gone, he got back to work, stringing lights and hanging decorations. He added the glass seahorse they had bought on their trip to the beach last summer. Things were going pretty well. He could actually feel his Christmas spirit returning as he worked to Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Winter Wonderland. Jingle Bells followed, but then, the blues hit him again, as he heard Karen Carpenter's voice:
"Merry Christmas, darling,
We're apart, it's true,
But I can dream,
And in my dreams,
I'm Christmasing with you…."
Time for another break…and another beer.
Once that beer was gone, Jack realized he was actually feeling a little bit better. He kept adding ornaments to the tree while Burl Ives sang Holly Jolly Christmas. Paul McCartney's Wonderful Christmas Time joined the mix, followed by Sleigh Bells, Jingle Bell Rock, Away in a Manger and O Holy Night.
Then Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas came on the radio:
"Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Let your heart be light,
Next year, all our troubles will be out of sight…"
Time for another beer.
Then came Same Auld Lang Syne…and another beer.
Several lighter tunes followed before Joni Mitchell started singing River. Jack took a break and had another beer.
He was just finishing off that one when Carol of the Bells started, followed by Deck the Halls. Then, the Eagles' one and only Christmas tune played:
Bells will be ringing, the sad, sad news,
Oh, what a Christmas to have the blues,
My baby's gone
I have no friends to wish me greetings, once again….
Jack growled audibly as he strode over to the fridge for another brew. He wasn't getting the same satisfaction out of this one as he had the first few.
His mood changed to melancholy when memories of Christmas 2006 came to mind as he heard the oldie, All I Want for Christmas is You:
"I don't need sleigh rides in the snow,
Don't want a Christmas that's blue,
Take back the tinsel, stockings, and bows,
'Cause all I want for Christmas is you…"
Jack remembered holding Sam close at O'Malley's the year before, after the biggest blizzard in decades had hit Colorado. Determined not to miss Christmas with Sam, he had managed to get home by snagging a beam down from Daedelus. He had made it home! Why couldn't she?
Then he stopped himself. Drunk as he was, he was ashamed of those thoughts! He mentally scolded himself, reminding his brain that he loved her because of all the qualities that made her Sam Carter O'Neill. If she had left her post in the middle of a crisis, she wouldn't be the woman he married. He vowed to keep reminding himself of that. By the time that depressing Christmas shoes song came on the radio, Jack had mercifully passed out.
Music…there was music, Jack realized. He could hear it…but it seemed far away. He also had a perception that the room might be rocking slightly, or maybe even spinning, but he wasn't sure. Realizing there was only one way to find out, he bravely opened one eye. Everything was blurry, but the music was still playing, he could see the tree lights twinkling and there was something…no, someone…standing above him.
"You are the angel atop my tree
You are my dream come true
Santa can't bring me what I need
'Cause all I want for Christmas is you."
That's it. It was an angel…or at least, that's what Jack's fuzzy brain told him. He vaguely remembered the angel taking his hands in hers, and then…nothing.
Jack stirred, then stretched, thinking to himself how comfortable the bed felt.
He sat up quickly before a sharp pain reminded him of the "drinking game" he had engaged in the night before. Crap! He really must have been drunk, because he didn't even remember how he got to bed.
Suddenly, he realized that the pain in his head had lessened considerably. But how could that be? He had drunk so much on Christmas Eve that he passed out and didn't even remember getting to bed. So how come his head didn't hurt? Why wasn't the hangover like every other hangover of his life?
It was then that he felt a slight movement to his side. Glancing down, he saw he wasn't alone. A familiar blonde head peeked out from under the covers. He reached over to adjust the sheet and there was Sam, lying on her side, facing away from him.
The movement of the covers awakened her, and she sleepily turned toward him. "Hi," she muttered softly.
"How did you get here?"
"Jack…you know how I got here. I stepped into the event horizon in Atlantis, went through the gate bridge and stepped out at the SGC."
"Yeah, but I didn't expect you to get here so soon."
Stretching (and he thought to himself how delectable she looked when she stretched in the filmy gown she was wearing), she sat up, grinning at him. "Disappointed?"
"No, of course not! But I thought you had a crisis, and…hey, why doesn't my head hurt?"
She tried to stifle her laughter. "Well, by all rights, it should. I found almost a dozen empty beer cans on the coffee table…"
"Hank came by," he inserted quickly.
"Um-hmm," she said knowingly. "Anyway, by all rights, your head should hurt, but your wife convinced you to take a couple of aspirin while she was helping you to bed. That's why your headache isn't worse."
"Carter…I'm impressed. Throwback to some wild college party days?"
"Let's just say that I know things."
He grinned. "I've known that for ages." Brushing a lock of hair back from her eyes, his voice grew softer. "I'm really glad you made it."
"It was a little dicey for awhile, but things came together sooner than I expected."
"Genius at work," he smiled, reaching out to put his arm around her. "Merry Christmas, Sam." Then, he kissed her…a long, deep, lingering kiss that conveyed the feelings of a husband and wife separated for too long.
"Merry Christmas, Jack," she whispered when the kiss ended. Her hand, which had automatically gone to his silver hair, moved to caress his face. "So…breakfast, presents or back to bed?"
"Your choice," he murmured, as he moved his lips to her neck.
She gave an involuntary shudder. "Well, I want you at your best, so maybe a little breakfast is in order…just to give us energy."
He chuckled. "Actually, I could do with some coffee…despite your hangover preventive. So, breakfast, presents and back to bed?"
"How about breakfast, back to bed, presents—then, back to bed again?" she smiled.
"I believe we have a plan." He stood up, holding out a hand to her. "The coffee maker is loaded. The Danish is ready for the microwave, and the juice is in the fridge. Let's get Christmas underway."
And together…they began to celebrate the day.