I'm still working on all my other stuff, but I thought I'd write a short fluffy Christmas story for a change, for the holidays. Enjoy!

Third Christmas is the Charm

1st Christmas: Made With Love

Where is he?

Vala's eyes scanned the bulletin board in the commissary, numbly taking in the green-and-red-covered cards and announcements and greetings posted there. A cheap silver garland with little plastic trees of the same colors was stapled around the edges of the board, but it didn't improve her mood any.

Thanksgiving had come and gone, and her introduction to the holiday had barely been brightened by the fact that Sam was back, wasn't stuck out of phase, and the alternate timeline she had really been stuck in for two weeks was just fine. The turkey dinner they had all shared last Thursday at Carter's house had instead been a somber occasion. They were all glad to have Sam back safe, sound, and visible, but it only served to remind them all that Daniel, well, wasn't.

Vala brushed the tears away when she felt them coming, and turned away from the cheery bulletin board. By now everyone else on base was already excited about what seemed to be one of the largest Earth holidays of the year, and the last thing she wanted to do right now was cry, but if anything had happened to Daniel…

She jerked when she felt the hand on her shoulder, and turned and saw that it was Sam.

"Hey." Her friend smiled and gave Vala's shoulders a squeeze. She glanced at the board and seemed to understand. "Look on the bright side; Christmas is still three weeks away. There's still time."

"Good point." Vala couldn't help but smile back, just a little. Sam always knew what to say, which was further proved a moment later.

"Speaking of the holidays, I'm going Christmas shopping this weekend. I figure it's best to keep things in routine. After all, when he gets back we don't want Daniel feeling like he disrupted too much being gone, right? He hates that."

Vala appreciated the when, even though none of them really knew.

"Anyway, are you coming?" Sam was asking.

She didn't have to think about it long before nodding vigorously.

It was Friday afternoon, and Mitchell was looking forward to getting home and crashing for the weekend. Despite the holiday atmosphere, there was too much stress in being at the base, what with Jackson still missing. That was the only reason he wasn't surprised when he met Sam and Vala at the elevator, both in civilian clothing and bundled up for the cold weather.

"Where are you girls headed?" he asked curiously.

"I'm staying with Sam tonight," Vala announced immediately, holding up an overnight bag.

Sam shrugged. "We're going Christmas shopping in the morning."

Cam found himself nodding. "Good. That's…that's good." Maybe it would help cheer both of them up. They all needed it. He grinned lopsidedly. "Don't forget to buy Jackson something big and ridiculous—or funny. Funny's good too. When he gets back we might as well embarrass him for staying away on us so long."

Vala chuckled softly, and Sam just smiled. "Yeah."

The elevator doors opened and the tree of them piled in. "Going up," he muttered as the doors closed again. At least, he hoped they were.

He hoped they all would soon.

"What do you think would qualify as big, ridiculous, and funny?" Vala questioned, as she and Sam walked the mall the next morning. The floor was crowded, those peculiar themed decorations were everywhere, and there were an exorbitantly high percentage of children running around.

"I'm not sure. We'll know it when we see it," Sam mused.

"Oh. Anyway, so what's the idea here again? We need to purchase gifts to give on this holiday? How many people are we giving gifts too?"

She shrugged. "It's up to you. Usually people give gifts to their family and close friends, as well as some co-workers and employers. Personally I need presents for all of you guys, and my brother's family. How many you buy is up to you."

Vala swung her arms and sighed. "Where did this tradition come from, anyway? I still don't understand all of these decorations, either."

Sam laughed a little. "The internet could probably answer that better than I could, Vala. Of the things that became parts of Christmas today, some of them started as much as two thousand years or more ago. The holiday itself based in Christianity though, which I'm sure you've heard of."

"Yes, I've heard of it," she answered skeptically. "After all of my experiences with 'gods,' however, I'm not too thrilled with the prospect of looking into any others just yet."

"That's fine," Sam assured her. "Christians aren't the only people who celebrate it." She glanced around. "As is probably very obvious, most people in this country celebrate it in one way or another."

"What about the others?"

"A lot of them do, too. It's a bit of a universal thing on Earth. Those that don't hold the religious views behind it take it solely on the family and moral values, and others just use it as an excuse for another holiday, I guess…"

"Hmm…what about you?"

Sam blinked and slowed. "Me? Well…My mom was more into the religious side of it than dad was. She was the one that took us to church at least several times a year. Now I'm just glad for the family and friend time we get from it. Besides, you have to admit that it's fun decorating, eating good food, and getting presents," she grinned,

"I wouldn't know because we haven't done any of that yet."

"Well that's why we're here; come on!" Sam pushed her forward and Vala laughed and stumbled with her into a department store.

An hour later, as they made their way to the register with their potential purchases, Vala stopped suddenly and smirked at a large display in the middle of the wide tiled aisle. "Sam, I think we've found it."

Carter stopped and turned to her. "Found what?"

"Daniel's present."

Sam looked around. "Where?"

"Right here." She pointed to the display and Sam's eyes widened.

"Are you serious?"

"I think it certainly qualifies as big, ridiculous, and funny. Besides, it's got glasses, blue eyes, and light brown fur. It looks just like him."

Sam tilted her head and looked at the tall display of large stuffed animals. The things were half as tall as she was. After a moment she smiled. "You know, I think you're right. The Santa hat and the candy canes don't look half bad, either."

They looked at each other for a moment.

"I'll pull one down."

"I'll catch it," Vala nodded.

With out another word, but more than enough giggles, the two women claimed one of the stuffed Christmas monkies and lugged it to the register to check out.

Three or four more hours later, Sam and Vala finally left the mall for the last time that day. The back seat and trunk of Sam's car were piled with bags and boxes of Christmas presents, clothes that had been on sale, and other Christmas paraphernalia. Among those were a small four-foot fake Christmas tree and a few other decorations for Vala's room that Sam had insisted they buy.

"Just because you have to live on a military base doesn't mean you can't get into the Christmas spirit, too," she explained. "This is your first Christmas here; we're going to make it a good one, I promise."

Well, it would certainly be a good one, thanks to Sam—if they found Daniel in time. This would all be useless otherwise.

Vala slid into the passenger seat and shut her door. Sam was already starting the car, and she ticked off on her fingers the presents she had bought. "Let's see…you, Mitchell, Teal'c, Daniel, Carolyn, a little something for General Landry…I think that about covers it for me. Have you got everything?"

Sam paused a moment, and then nodded. "Yeah. I'm good. I found something for everyone but my sister-in-law…"

"What are you going to do about that?"

"I already have a plan," Sam smiled as she pulled out of the mall parking lot. "I'm making hers."

Vala blinked. "Making…?"

"Yea. You know, 'homemade gifts are special,' and all that. Anyway, she loves anything crocheted, and I've always wanted to try my hand at crocheting anyway. I figured I'd make her a scarf or something; they aren't supposed to be too hard or involved, which is good because I don't have a lot of free time." She fell silent for a moment, and then quietly added. "Besides, this is a good year to try because…because doing anything with my hands keeps me from thinking."

She winced as if she'd said too much, and then seemed to decide that if she'd already gone that far, she might as well add something. "The year Daniel was gone after he ascended was the year I really learned to cook."

Vala swallowed and laid a hand on her friend's shoulder for a moment. She didn't have to say anything.

Now there were only two weeks until Christmas. Along with a few other decoration, Vala's small tree was up in her room and decorated to bursting with cheap packaged ornaments and garlands, a few nicer ones given to her by her friends, and several packages of candy canes that she snacked on whenever she felt a wave of anxiousness and worry coming on.

For days she had been running to the control room every time the Unscheduled Offworld Activation signal went off, hoping for news of Daniel. Every time she was disappointed. She didn't even have to get all the way up the steps anymore. General Landry knew she was coming; he gave her a small shake of his head if he already knew by the time she started up that it had nothing to do with their missing archaeologist.

This morning Vala lay sprawled across her bed on her stomach, sucking on one of the candy canes from her tree and trying halfheartedly to enjoy the Christmas music blaring from the radio on her bedside table. Daniel's present sat in corner, too large to stuff in the closet. Across the room she stared into the stuffed animal's glossy blue eyes and hoped.

The siren frightened her out of a stupor, and Vala hopped quickly off of the bed and out the door, tossing her candy toward her trash can. She was pretty sure she missed, but she didn't care. A sudden ridiculous hope swelled in her chest, making her run faster than usual. She could barely breathe as she reached the foot of the metal steps, grabbed the railing and vaulted herself upward into the control room, looking…

And seeing nothing but General Landry's shaking head.

A team was coming back early, perfectly safe. That was all.

No Daniel.

Vala all but fell back down the stairs and back down the corridor, eyes blurred with tears before she could swallow them back and make it stop. When she stumbled back into her room she tripped. The nice green-and-red sweater Sam had helped her pick out at the mall caught on the doorknob and ripped as she fell.

She pulled her torn sweater off of the knob, let out a frustrated, inarticulate shout and kicked the door closed from where she'd landed on the floor. She didn't bother getting up; she folded in on herself against the wall beside the door and cried helplessly.

Daniel, please come home.

By the time she had calmed herself she was already accessing the damage to her sweater. It was bad; it had ripped almost completely up one side, and it wasn't on the seam either. There was no way to fix it and it ever look wearable again. She could always get another one, but it was still disappointing. Well, maybe she could use the material for something else…

Yea. You know, 'homemade gifts are special,' and all that.

Sam's comment in the car came back to her now, and suddenly it brought her farther back, to her home planet, to her childhood…and to something her mother had told her when she was young.

Vala had been crying because her mother's birthday was approaching, and she didn't have any money to buy her favorite parent a present. Her mother had knelt and taken her into her arms and soothed her tears as only a mother could.

You don't have to buy me anything, dear. I don't need birthday present; I'm old enough already, besides, I'm happy just to have you here.

B-but I want to, b-cause I love you. You should get a present, Vala had cried.

Mother had looked thoughtful for a moment and then smiled. Then why don't you make me something? That would make me just as happy, and homemade gifts are special, too.


Of course. You want to know why? Vala had nodded and leaned close, and her mother has whispered in her ear as if it were the most precious secret in the world. Because gifs you make yourself come from your heart—and nothing is more powerful than what comes from your heart.

Vala gulped back the fresh tears from the memory of her mother, and had to laugh a little when she remembered that she had come home the next week with nothing more than a necklace made of wildflowers, and it had pleased her mother to no end.

She fingered the torn material of the sweater again, taking an inventory of what might be usable. She didn't know what she wanted to do with it yet, but she knew who whatever it was would be for. Quickly she stood, dropped the ruined piece of clothing on her bed, and went to find someone to take her to town.

"What, precisely, it is that you are searching for?"

Vala crossed her arms and scanned the aisles of craft supplies as she walked though the local Michael's store. It wasn't the type of place she'd ever been before, and it was rather fascinating, really—even though she had no idea what most of the things in here were. "I'll let you know when I do, Muscles. Thanks for driving me, by the way."

They passed an aisle of those machines she had seen on television that were supposed to make sewing quick and easy, but they were well outside her remaining budget. Eventually she found the needles and thread and pins and picked several up of all, then went in search of Christmas and winter-themed material.

She was in luck; there was a whole bin of the stuff on sale in time for the holidays. Teal'c raised an eyebrow at her in bewilderment as she dug through the reams of the stuff, looking for the right patterns once she had found some in simple Christmas colors. The snowflakes were perfect, but the fat little men were too bright, and she still didn't really understand the significance of this 'Santa' yet anyway. The red noses on the deer-like animals disconcerted her, so she left them for the Christmas trees and men made of balls of snow.

"Those are snowmen," Teal'c pointed out after a moment,

"Thank you. Now which do you like better, the ones with the brooms or the ones with the red hats?" He picked up the material with the snowmen in red hats.

Vala nodded. "Good, I like that one better too. But will Daniel?"

There went the eyebrow again. "What?" It was about then that she realized she was drawing attention from people passing by, seeing as she was digging through a bin of sale material with a large dark man like Teal'c at her side. Well, at least that would help her avoid answering annoying questions. It didn't seem like anyone wanted to get too close.

"What will you do with these?" Teal'c asked, pointing to the fabric already dropped into the cart. "Why does it matter if Daniel Jackson likes them?"

"Because," she said brightly. "I'm making him a present out of them."

The eyebrow didn't fall all the way back down, but it was enough that she understood that he approved of the intent, anyway—even if he still seemed to think it a strange thing for her to do. That was perfectly all right, though. She thought it was a strange thing for her to do. But she wanted to do it anyway.

Once they had more than enough material, they were passing the magazine aisle when Vala spotted a holiday issue of sewing chronicle that promised easy instructions on how to make simple winter wear—scarves and hats and blanket, and such. She was sure she could have figured it out on her own and had been telling Teal'c as much, but when he wasn't looking she silently flipped through it and then slipped the magazine in between the fabric.

He saw anyway. "If you are planning to craft such things, you will need more than the material and the threads with which to hold them together," the jaffa advised.

Vala's hands went to her hips and she blinked at him. "How would you know? What else could I possibly need."

"Jaffa are a simple people, despite their former masters' technology. This you know quite well. Did you not know that jaffa must often be aware of how to make their own clothing?"

"Oh! Right…I'm sure I did know that. I suppose it just didn't occur to me." She crossed her arms and glanced around. "All right then. What else do I need?"

"I believe you will need another layer of a thicker substance to secure between the layers of material when crafting whatever it is you desire to make—and certainly if the intent is to keep the wearer warm in anyway."

She shrugged. "All right. Let's find something then." Teal's nodded once, donning that small smile of his that seemed almost shrug when he knew he was right.

The two of them wondered the store, but they didn't dare ask for help. Vala assumed that any normal Earth person coming into one of these stores would at least be aware of a general term for what they sought. They didn't even have that, so there was nothing they could safely ask. Thankfully, Teal'c finally stopped and pointed to a shelf that held plastic bags of a bunch of puffy white stuff.

"That should be sufficient."

The bag reading Grade A Stuffing. Stuffing. What an unoriginal name. Vala looked at it skeptically. "I'm not sure how I'm supposed to use that."

"It is similar to the plant fibers used in foul weather clothing on Chulak. Simply contain it between layers of fabric with stitching. It is already in the form needed to contain body heat."

She stared at him. "Well…this is certainly something I never expected to be taking advice from you about." There went that smile of his again. She smirked and was about to grab a large bag of the stuff when something similar caught her eye across the aisle. This stuff though, was already in sheet form and rolled in thick layers around a cardboard holder just like all of the fabric was.

"Oh look! What about this? I'm sure it would be easier to use."

Teal'c merely gave it a once-over and nodded. "Indeed."

That afternoon Vala sat in her quarters beside her bed with her purchases from Michael's spread across the floor in front of her as she flipped through the craft magazine.

There were plenty of patterns all right, but none that she could do in the time she had without one of those sewing machine things. The 'simple' patterns were for things like sweaters and hats and even a couple of different types of mittens, but no scarves—only ideas for how to embellish scarves one already had.

Well, she could use that…the only idea she liked though was the instructions for making tassels out of a sort of fuzzy material. She wasn't sure what it was called, but it comprised most of what she had bought. It seemed more cozy than the regular fabrics. She wasn't even sure why Teal'c thought she needed the insulation material along with it, she supposed there was nothing wrong with being too warm when it was as cold outside as it could get here in the winter.

"Fine," she sighed. "I'll figure the rest out on my own then." It couldn't be that hard, right?

The first part wasn't so hard. She cut wide squares of the fabrics she wanted in the scarf and set them end-to-end on the bed, then cut a strip of the insulating material half as wide that was as long as all of them.

Now she just needed to put the pieces together.

For the first time in her life she was grateful for the rudimentary sewing skills her mother had taught her as a girl, but she was also frustrated with how slowly the skill came back to her—not that she had ever been very good at it, but still…

It didn't take too long to thread the needle with the bright red thread, but it took longer to try to remember how to hold the first two squares before she remembered the pins and put them in so she could begin to stitch the first two pieces together. Even then, it went very slowly by hand, and she remembered why she had never had to patience to sit with her mother long enough to hone this particular skill.

"This could take a while," she muttered to herself. Sighing, she stood for a moment to turn on the Christmas radio station, and then went back to work.

A little over a week until Christmas, and still no sign of Daniel anywhere. The quickly approaching holiday wasn't holding much appeal anymore, Sam thought grimly. It didn't help that Vala had been shut up in her room all week but for missions.

And there had been quite a few missions, too. Tomorrow they were heading back to a planet they had visited before, where a prior had shown up recently. Said prior was due to return then, and they wanted to be there. After that there would be no more missions until after Christmas, and she wasn't sure how she felt about that.

Finally Sam dropped what she was doing in her lab and decided to check on Vala.

She wasn't expecting what she saw when she got there.

"Come in!" Vala called from inside.

Sam went in, and froze halfway through closing the door behind her. "What's going on in here?"

Discarded pieces of thread and material littered the floor, and Vala was on the bed putting the finishing touches on what looked like a scarf, pulling strips of fuzzy material through holes on either end and tying them off. She looked quite proud of herself. "Look!" she exclaimed happily, holding up the nearly finished product. "Can you believe I did this all myself?"

Sam took the scarf from her, and looked it over. "Wow." It was longer than absolutely necessary, and sectioned with different patterns of the same soft material as the tassels. Some were merely abstract designs in Christmas colors, and some were small repeated pictures with snowflakes, snowmen, or Christmas trees. Her first reaction was to say they didn't match, but then she realized that it was all color-coordinated.

The thing was thick, as if there were another layer of something on the inside, folded between the outside layer of colorful material that was only sewn up on one side because it was just that—a single layer folded in half. The different-patterned pieces of the outside layers weren't sewn together perfectly, but the stitching was thick and strong even if it wasn't straight. The ends of the sections, instead of being folded down and sewn on the underside like in a normal seam, were simply set on top of one another and sewed together, leaving the one that had been on top visible.

It was a little unorthodox, but Sam had to admit that it was cute. It sure was a piece of work though—very bright. "This is great, Vala…is this what you've been doing all week?"

Her friend groaned and flopped back on the bed. "Yes. You have no idea. It was trial and error the entire time. I have to admit I enjoyed it a little after a while, the whole sewing thing and knowing I made it myself, but it took forever."

"What's it for?"

Vala sat up again and sighed. "Daniel. Crocheting or whatever it is sounds too complicated for me to learn quickly, but I thought I could do this." She smiled a little. "And I did."

"And it's beautiful, Vala. I'm sure he'll love it. She pointed to the seams. Since half the ends are on the outside though, you should probably get some clear fingernail polish or something and brush it over these to make sure nothing comes unraveled."

"Oh! Of course. I was sure I was forgetting something." Vala jumped up and ran to her dresser, where she opened a make-up case that sat on top of it. "Huh. No clear." She pulled out a bottle of bright red polish instead and came back. "This'll do."

Sam blinked. "You're not supposed to use anything that can be seen. Sealing the ends is just to hold everything together; it's not supposed to be visible."

Vala grinned. "So? This is more fun."

"If you want to," she told her, hands in the air now. "It's your scarf."

Vala picked up said scarf and went to the table with the red nail polish. "How is yours coming?"

Sam shrugged and stood up from the bed. "It's all right. It's not the most perfect specimen in the world, but I'm going to finish it in time, at least. It turns out crocheting is actually kind of fun."

"Good." Vala nodded absently and went back to work, and Sam decided she should probably get out of the way.

Sam was still determined that they would find Daniel eventually, but she had all but given up on having him home for Christmas. She was glad at least one of them still had that hope.