Chapter Thirty-Two: Yuletide Ship Tease
It was, predictably, Skinner who woke them all up the day after they hiked back from the ruined temple.
"Oi!" the invisible Cockney said gleefully as he burst into Daria's room. "Wake up!" He snatched a pillow up from the bed and chucked it at the pair curled together on the loveseat.
Daria awoke with a yip and nearly tumbled off of Jekyll's lap as the pillow hit the side of her head. "Skinner, wha-? Mai'tac, I thought I told you to knock!"
"Up!" Skinner said as he dodged the Tau'ka's return throw. "It's Christmas!"
Jekyll eyed the thief dubiously as he straightened his tie. "You're certain?" he asked, running a hand through his red hair.
Skinner nodded eagerly, his greasepainted face bearing a huge grin. "Get downstairs, mate," he said, not even bothering to comment aloud on the spectacle of the two of them dozing in each other's arms like they'd been. He'd save that for teasing them with later- but he had to admit that they had been quite adorable. "I got all your presents already."
Daria raised an eyebrow at the startled look on Jekyll's face as she slid off his lap. "Problem?" she asked curiously.
"N-no," he stammered as Skinner grinned again and left the room. "I just… are you alright?"
She nodded, still looking at him inquisitively. "I am," she replied. "Did you sleep well?" She wasn't entirely sure how they had ended up like that- she vaguely remembered staggering in with Henry and the League sometime shortly after dawn once they had made their way back from Nebthet's temple. They had all given brief reports, tended their wounds, eaten a light meal, and finally lurched off to their respective rooms around noon- except Holmes, who had left about then to get back to his own work. Henry had seemed rather leery about letting her out of his sight- a sentiment that Daria found quite touching- so she had made no move to send him on to his own room, despite the fact that they were both about ready to drop. Somewhere in the midst of Daria thanking him, Henry practically ordering her to never, ever disappear on him like that again, and Edward Hyde making suggestive comments for them both, they had found themselves on the loveseat. Had they not been so tired, something might have happened between them, but as it was, exhaustion had taken them both nearly the moment they sat down together.
He smiled at her, his expression both sheepish and affectionate. "Quite," he admitted. Yes, it had been very pleasant to have her in his arms last night, even barring the fact that every law of propriety he knew frowned upon that. And then there had been the little issue of Hyde whispering suggestions in his ear… He wasn't certain how many of those Daria had heard, but she had heard enough to make her blush, laugh, and make one or two flush-worthy comments of her own before they had both fallen asleep.
Daria smiled and caught his face in her hands, gently pulling him into a kiss. Again, thanking you for coming after me, she told him silently, smiling as he instinctively pulled her closer.
He wants me to tell you you're welcome, Hyde grumbled. Though if you really wanted to thank us you could-
Henry jumped away with a start. "No, no, that's r-really not necessary…" he stammered, his pale face going redder beneath his sunburn. "D-despite what Edward says…" Even if he could privately admit to wanting at least some of what his alter ego was hinting at oh-so-unsubtly… It did not help that Daria was very pretty, in possession of that vibrant personality he had fallen in love with, and very close…
The Tau'ka chuckled softly. "One of these days we will have a discussion about 'necessity' and 'what he knows we are both interested in'," she said wryly, watching him go even redder as she looked up at him.
Oddly, though, he did not make any protest, apart from apparently cutting Hyde off right before he said something smug. Daria was about to comment on that before Skinner pounded on her door again.
"Come on!" he shouted from the hall.
Looking rather sheepish, Henry gestured for her to go ahead of him. She smiled and obeyed, waiting for him to escort her down the stairs.
Skinner had apparently been up early- and judging by the crystalline spheres and bright little mage-lights hanging from the potted palm 'Christmas tree', so had Jason. Brightly wrapped packages, each neatly labeled, formed a pile beneath the zealously decorated plant.
"'Appy Christmas!" the thief said cheerily
How Skinner had coerced Mina to wear a bit of tinsel in her long braid was a mystery Daria decided that she would never solve- nor did she particularly wish to. There were some things one should not know…
The lovely vampiress smiled as Daria and Henry joined the group already assembled, a cup of tea in one hand. "They certainly outdid themselves," she said, nodding to the 'tree' off to the side.
"It's lovely," Henry replied, taking a seat across from Mina.
Sawyer had eschewed the tea the others were drinking in favor of a cup of coffee. Glancing at Jason, he shook his head. "Don't understand how you Brits can live off that stuff," he said.
The mage grinned and raised his cup in an ironic toast. "There's a reason the Empire is as large as it is," he pointed out. "Rule Britannia."
That sparked off several amused chuckles, as did Sawyer's riposte of "Maybe that's why we had a revolution." The blonde American was still looking rather pale and drawn after his ordeal- his ongoing ordeal, for he was still struggling to assimilate the memories Kheti had left. Only trace memories remained, but they were powerful traces that would haunt Sawyer forever. They were supposed to fade with time, but he privately feared that they never would… how was he expected to live with all the things his jailor had done?
Then he looked at Mina and smiled a little into his coffee cup. With her help, that was how… She had already been incredibly helpful, comforting him after the nightmares, always being there when he stopped what he was doing to stare off into space, caught up in the grip of another memory of pain and destruction….
The room had gone quiet, and he was jolted out of his meditations as he suddenly realized that everyone was staring at him. He looked up, raising an eyebrow as he saw a sprig of greenery held in the air at the end of a seemingly empty sleeve between himself and Mina. A second sprig of greenery- hanging from a string tied to a long stick- dangled above Daria and Henry.
The Tau'ka looked curiously up at the greenery. "What's that?" she asked.
"Mistletoe!" Skinner said gleefully. "Doc! Show 'er what it's for!"
Henry blushed scarlet as everyone in the room looked at him.
"Go on, Jekyll," Quatermain said in amusement. "While some of us are still young."
He went redder, if that were even possible, then kissed Daria. She looked thoughtful as he pulled away. "Kissing under mistletoe…" she mused, smiling lovingly at the physician. "I think I like the tradition."
"Welcome to Earth," Sawyer told her as he copied Jekyll's example with Mina. Despite the coolness of her skin, the vampiress's lips were always pleasantly warm. She returned the gesture in her usual sophisticated manner, ever aware of the eyes on her.
Nemo shared a significant look with Quatermain. It was only a matter of time before the two couples made their arrangement something more… official. They could both smell it.
Having successfully gotten both couples under the mistletoe, Skinner seemed to become bored with that prospect and set his greenery aside. "Presents!" he exclaimed, going to pass around the packages. Quatermain looked on in amusement as no parcels materialized in front of him- why should there be? They had all believed him dead until thirty-six hours ago.
"Are ya gonna come back with us?" Sawyer asked him quietly.
The old hunter glanced at him in surprise. "Of course not," he replied. "Why would I? I told you, I washed my hands of the legend of 'Allan Quatermain' years ago."
"I haven't exactly done a stellar job of leading them," the American pointed out. "Particularly not with that… thing… in my head…" He shuddered, feeling chilled at the thought.
"But if I come back," Quatermain said reasonably, "You never will lead them. I don't want you to be relying on me for every little decision, Sawyer. I told you- this century is yours, as the old one was mine."
"I don't know if I can…" Sawyer replied slowly, looking up at his mentor. "What if something happens again?"
"There can't be that many Goa'uld on Earth."
The agent stared at him, then laughed. "That's not what I mean…"
"I know." Quatermain shook his head wryly as he watched Jason unwrap a deck of cards with a dubiously amused look on his face. "When it all comes down to it, you do what you can where you can. Your place is with the League. Mine is here. You can do this, Sawyer. And it's not as if you'll be alone." He nodded towards Mina, who was looking very pleased over a new set of hair-pins- the largest of which was actually a concealed dagger- courtesy of Daria.
"Fenix adores these things," the Tau'ka was saying. "And they seemed like your style."
"Thank you," Mina replied, minutely inspecting the blade on the dagger as Daria picked up a tiny wrapped box, smaller than her fist. Next to her, Jekyll tensed slightly, prompting Quatermain to hide a smile.
Daria looked from one to the other. "Is something wrong?"
"No," Quatermain said, trying very hard to hide his amusement as the doctor hurriedly shook his head. So that's how things were, were they?
She narrowed her gray-green eyes in suspicion, noting that all of the other League members were looking at her now. They hadn't stopped to watch while anyone else opened their gifts… why had they paused now? And why was old Quatermain looking so smug?
Carefully, Daria unwrapped the paper to reveal a small velvet box, the sight of which caused several of the others to gasp a little in surprise.
"What do you all know that I don't?" she demanded, starting to get irritated at not knowing. This must be a strictly Tau'ri thing…
"Open it!" Jason urged as the rest nodded their agreement.
She obeyed, and felt that the revealing of the object inside the box was rather anticlimactic. Prying out the ring from its cushion, she looked it over in confusion, feeling a little self-conscious because of all the people staring at her like they expected her to do something.
"It's pretty," she said after a moment, not sure of what else to do.
This did not seem to be the reaction that they were looking for. Next to her, Jekyll's shoulders slumped, as if in defeat.
"What?" Daria asked, looking around.
Mina shook her head. "Daria," she said slowly, as if the matter were perfectly obvious. It probably was, the alien mused- if one were Tau'ri. "He's asking you to marry him."
"Oh." Then Daria blinked in realization and looked at Jekyll. "Oh."
Jekyll drew a deep breath, then took the ring from her hand and slid to one knee on the floor in front of her. "Daria Noclaf," he said, his voice very formal even though he was bright red. Mina stifled a gleeful cry as he took Daria's left hand in his. "Will you marry me?"
The Tau'ka's eyes were wide. She remembered this part of the courtship ritual… it was simply hard to believe that Henry- shy, skittish Henry, was actually proposing. Slowly, she nodded.
Trembling, Jekyll slid the ring onto her finger to whistles from the three younger League members, a warm "Congratulations," from Mina, and looks of approval and congratulations from Nemo and Quatermain. Daria leaned forward, lightly running the back of her fingers down Jekyll's cheek as she smiled.
"I love you, Henry Jekyll," she said softly, nearly too softly for anyone else to hear- or so she thought. "I wish to take you as the partner of my heart and mind and body. I promise to be loyal, to love and support you in all you do, as you do for me. Are you amenable to this?"
Jekyll nodded solemnly as she spoke the ritual words her people used. Without prompting, almost overwhelmed by the heady rush of emotions, he replied, "I l-love you too, Daria Noclaf. I am amenable, and I promise the s-same in return."
"You may kiss the bride," Nemo cut in, amusement in his deep voice.
They looked up, startled, "I may- what?" Jekyll asked.
"Well called, Captain," Jason said, grinning broadly. "Go on you two- you heard him."
Daria looked up in confusion. "Is he allowed to do that?"
"Marry the pair of you?" the mage replied. "I'm fairly certain- he is a captain, after all…"
"We can make it more 'official' later, if you desire," Nemo added, bowing a little to the couple.
Mina smiled and squeezed Sawyer's hand as Daria's face took on an impishly gleeful expression as she mentally reviewed what she knew of the Tau'ri culture and what it allowed for married couples. Her head turned slightly towards Jekyll, apparently speaking silently to him. He went brilliant red and gave her an amused look that clearly said, "Later," then proceeded to kiss her as instructed.
"I don't expect we'll see much of them on the way back," she said, smiling a little wistfully. She remembered doing much the same with Jonathon, so many years ago…
"Prob'ly not," the American agreed. "But for more reasons than you might think."
It was her turn to turn to her partner with a startled expression as he got down on one knee.
"Mina," Sawyer said quietly, looking earnestly up at her. "I don't have a just ring yet, but I think now's a fittin' time to ask- will you marry me?"
Skinner and Jason shared looks. "Didn' see tha' one coming," the thief admitted.
"You didn't?" Jason replied, raising an eyebrow at him. "How could you not?"
"I'm not an all-powerful mage," Skinner retorted.
Mina smiled as she watched the two men, then looked back to Sawyer. "Yes," she replied simply, pulling him into a kiss herself.
Sawyer grinned broadly as they pulled apart. "Merry Christmas, Mina."
"Merry Christmas, Tom," she replied warmly.
Quatermain watched and shook his head in amusement. "At least I won't have to deal with them," he said wryly to Nemo.
"And they call me a pirate." The Captain's deep voice held a hint of a chuckle. "I am not that cruel, Mr. Quatermain."
"Oh no," Quatermain replied. He gestured to Skinner, who had found himself a bottle of Scotch and had poured himself a rather full glass. "You don't need to worry until they find a girl for that one."
Jason looked up in alarm. "Please don't jinx us…" he said, eyes wide.
"Wouldn't dream of it, boy."
Chuckles ran throughout the room, along with Skinner's "Wha's that?"
"Never mind, Skinner," Daria said, grinning as she leaned against Jekyll. He had his arm around her, mirroring the way Mina and Sawyer now sat together. The Tau'ka sighed contentedly and cuddled closer. Do I have to move- ever? she asked Jekyll silently.
He smiled at her. "No," he replied in an undertone. "I don't want you to."
Oh, really? Hyde interjected dryly. Actually, I think you do want her to move- right on top of you.
How badly would you blush if I said that he's on to something?
Told you, Jekyll. Hyde laughed with altogether too much glee as his alter ego turned scarlet. You'd be a sodding idiot if you didn't take advantage of what's being offered.
Besides, didn't the Captain just marry us?
He looked hopelessly at her. "You are incorrigible, you know that?"
Daria smirked and nodded. She made such a picture, with that smile and her wide eyes full of innocence that he had to laugh.
"Merry Christmas indeed," Jason said, raising the glass that Skinner had handed to him as the thief went about passing out more glasses. He smiled around at all of the others. "To the League- to our adventures, our friendships, and our loves. May there be many more."
That was something they could all drink to.
AN: Well folks, that's it for now. I'm going to post a trailer for my intended next fic then take a hiatus for a few weeks so I can get ahead on things. The next story may be a bit slow, since I am now working on an original story that I'd like to get published. *hugs all* You guys are all amazingly wonderful- thank you so much for sticking with me! I'll send out messages when the new fic is up.
Zhai'helleva, my dears!