Happy New Year everybody! Sorry I haven't updated this recently; things got a little crazy. Anyway, here ya go, and the third and final Christmas of this story will hopefully come soon! :) Enjoy!

Christmas without Carter continued

"And why can't we tell her?" Sheppard questioned over the video link.

Vala crossed her arms. "Because if she had time to think about it, she might decline to come. We both know she wants to, but that flawless sense of duty might get in the way if we allow her to decide for herself."

"Okay…good point."

"Exactly. Now will you help me?"

The colonel nodded immediately. "Of course. Colonel Carter certainly deserves the time off; but I'll need to be able to tell a few more people around here to make this work."

Vala shrugged. "Do whatever you have to do. I'm just not telling the rest of SG-1, so it'll be a surprise for all of them." She grinned mischievously, and Sheppard smirked for a moment, until his expression softened.

"That's nice. I hope you guys have a good time."


He nodded again and straightened. "Merry Christmas then."

"Merry Christmas." Vala waved once, and the link was cut. Grinning, she hopped up to let General Landry know she was done using his computer.

The city-wide Christmas party on Atlantis took place the day before Christmas Eve—as tradition dictated so Carter had heard. By then there were enough extra string lights in the mess hall and surrounding corridors to almost require a naquidah generator of their own for power. The intercom system patched Christmas through to that area of the city, and those from Earth that celebrated Christmas or simply wanted to have a good time overflowed the mess hall.

Sam wasn't obligated to give any sort of address at the party, but when John mentioned that that, too, was tradition, she couldn't refuse. It seemed a fitting time to compliment everyone on their work this year, since she'd arrived…and to thank them again for welcoming her.

Though she couldn't help but get the familiar feeling of being just a little out of place when she remembered that in the past it had always been Elizabeth Weir giving this holiday congratulatory speech.

No one else let on if they were feeling the empty space, and Sam realized she was having just as much fun at this party as she would have back home at the SGC, or at Daniel's house, or at her own with the guys and Vala. She wondered how they were doing. She'd hoped they would send a message or something, but so far she hadn't heard from any of them since before the mine accident. When the Deadalus had arrived from Earth yesterday it hadn't brought anything from her friends, either.

Jennifer Keller wandered over with a glass in her hand, as couples and friends started to converge in the middle of the cleared floor to dance.

"Sorry you couldn't have the brace off in time for this," she apologized.

Sam shrugged. "It doesn't matter; who would I dance with?"

Keller's eyebrows went up a little. "I'm sure there's more than one guy here who wouldn't mind."

"Sure," Carter smirked.

"Come on, go find somebody. You're not completely immobile with that thing on, and you're healed enough by now. Besides, this is the twenty-first century you know. You don't have to wait for a guy to ask you to dance," Jennifer encouraged.

"I don't know…"

"Uhm, Jennifer?" Mckay had suddenly materialized beside them, hands twitching nervously behind his back.

"Yes, Rodney?"

Sam chuckled inwardly as McKay stumbled through asking Keller to dance.

"Not that I wouldn't want to dance with you too, Sam, but you know, you've still got that brace on, and I wouldn't want to inconvenience you. I mean, I'm sure we could dance some other time, but, uhm—"

"That's fine, McKay. You two go on," she said quickly, before he hurt himself.

He blinked. "Right. That is, if you want to, Jennifer…?"

"Of course." Keller smiled warmly and set her glass down on the nearest table before waving to Carter and following Rodney onto the dance floor.

Sam waved back, waving them off, and nodded silently. Good. Finally someone to get his mind off Katie…and herself.

"May I have this dance?"

She turned a little too quickly, wincing at the twinge in her leg, and felt her eyebrows go up to her hairline when she saw John Sheppard behind her holding out a hand. "John?"

"What? I'm not going to let our new leader be a wall flower at her first Christmas party on Atlantis," the colonel answered simply. Well, that seemed innocent enough.

"Ah. All right then." Carter took the proffered hand and let Sheppard guide her slowly to the edge of the dance floor, careful that neither of them tripped over the brace. She thought he would stay there, but eventually he worked their way closer to the middle of the floor near Rodney and Keller. The two of them really weren't doing so bad. McKay could actually dance, it seemed, though it was obvious that Jennifer was better.

Sam wasn't so bad herself when she wasn't recovering from a broken leg, but even with his current partner John was showing them all up. He pulled her up from a dip she been able to do well enough using her good leg for support, and McKay rolled his eyes over Sheppard's shoulder.


John laughed, and Sam exchanged amused glances with Jennifer.

"You just couldn't let Rodney get all the attention out here, could you?" Carter asked, when they were farther away.

"Okay, I guess that had something to do with it," he shrugged.

The party was over too soon, and the four of them left together, Rodney still complaining about Sheppard's deliberate display on the dance floor.

"Well what was I supposed to do, leave Colonel Carter by herself?" John protested.

"No…I don't know! What kind of question is that?"

Jennifer tapped McKay's shoulder. "Rodney, don't you have somewhere to be…?"

"What?" The scientist looked baffled for a moment before something dawned on him, and he glanced at Sheppard. "Right, right. Uhm, later." He waved once and headed quickly off with Keller.

"What was that about?"

"Oh, nothing," John said.

"Uh huh…"


"I don't know, but I think you're up to something."

He grinned sheepishly. "Why don't we stop by the 'gate room."

Sam had no idea what for, but she followed him anyway. When they arrived, coming in from the side near the stargate, Teyla and Ronon were already there. The only other person in sight was Chuck, up in the control room. The man smiled and waved.

She waved back absently. "What's going on here?"

"Got them!" It was McKay, coming in from the other side with Jennifer. They were both carrying a smaller travel bag—both of which were hers.

"Wait, those are—"

"Yours," John agreed. "Didn't we tell you you were going home for Christmas?"


"Good, because we weren't supposed to."

Sam frowned in confusion. "What?"

Teyla smiled softly. "Your friends on Earth wished that you could be there for the holiday. One of them acquired permission."

"And asked for my help in getting you there—namely by not giving you time to think about it," Sheppard added. He waved up to Chuck. "Dial it up!"

McKay took the bag Keller was holding, and set both of them at Carter's feet. "Tonight you're going through to the midway station, and you'll be on Earth in the morning," he told her.

"W-what?" she sputtered, as the 'gate burst to life. "But I can't. I'm responsible for the city. I can't just—"

"Relax. I can hold down the fort for a week or so," John promised.

"Yeah—with our help," Ronan smirked.

"Yeah, that…"

"We'll be fine," Jennifer assured her.

Sam sighed. "Well I know I can trust you to keep everyone alive, anyway."

John raised an eyebrow. "Does that mean you're not going to give us any more trouble?"

"No, I guess not. I can't really argue with this, can I?"


"That was surprisingly easy," McKay said with relief.

"What, so eager to get rid of me, McKay?"

He looked confused again. "No, of course not. I'm just glad that you get to see your friends." Okay…not the response that she'd been expecting, but it was better.

"Thanks, Rodney."

John picked up her bags and handed them to her. "We all think you deserve this."

Vala seemed to be the only member of SG-1 happy to be at work on the morning of Christmas Eve. Of course for her nothing was different, seeing as she lived on the base, but having her bouncing around excited about something or other was incongruous to every else's grumblings.

"Would you chill already?" Mitchell finally demanded—and it was only the end of breakfast. Daniel couldn't help but laugh inwardly at Vala's innocent look as she visibly tried to settle down.


"What's gotten into you?"

"Nothing." She shoved a spoonful of cereal in her mouth to keep from being questioned further. Daniel smothered a smirk with a forkful of a piece of waffle…wishing Sam was here to grin and struggle with him to remain silent.

The unscheduled off-world activation klaxon went off a few minutes later, as they were putting up their trays, and Vala was the first to head for the door. "Come on!"

Daniel, Cameron, and Teal'c exchanged glances and followed her. Instead of heading for the control room she went straight to the 'gate room, leading them all in just in time for a single figure carrying two bags to step clear of the event horizon.


Daniel was up the ramp and hugging her in a moment, and she'd dropped the bags to embrace all of them in turn. "Hey guys! I didn't think I'd get any time off for a while; I didn't think I'd see you guys so soon. It's good to be back..."

General Landry was already on the floor. "Welcome home, Colonel Carter." The general smiled, though he did not seem surprise. Neither did Vala.

"Thank you, sir," Sam answered, a little tiredly. She was in civilians clothes, and her hair was down—but then again if she was here she'd been on the midway station all night. She'd had time to change, if she hadn't done it before leaving Atlantis.

"Carter, what are you doing here?" Mitchell questioned incredulously.

"That's what I'd like to know," she smirked.

Vala grinned sheepishly. "I hope you don't mind."

Daniel stared at her. "You did this?" He and Sam spoke at the same moment, and she glanced at him.

"You didn't know I was coming either?"

"Either?" he echoed.

"Nobody told me until John and the others practically shoved me through the stargate last night."

"I thought it would be more fun that way," Vala nodded.

"So you did do this," Daniel stated, almost incredulously. "You and General Landry."

She clapped her hands. "With a bit of help from General O'Neill and our friends on Atlantis, yes."

"It was Vala's idea in the first place, though," Landry clarified. "She wanted her home for Christmas."

Daniel watched as Sam thanked Vala, hugged her again, and they laughed over the whole thing. He followed as the rest of them climbed down off the ramp again, welcoming Sam home for the holidays.

And he couldn't help smiling at Vala's back as they went.

Christmas the next day was at Daniel's house, and it was even happier than the previous year. Jack came again, this time because he'd planned to. Vala, who'd needed to get rid of all the material she'd bought last year, had made hats for everyone in her distinct patchwork style. She was thrilled to find that everyone loved them.

"This'll definitely give everyone back on Atlantis something to talk about," Sam laughed, pulling hers over her hair.

"I sure hope so. Take orders for me," Vala giggled, and from behind the couch were Daniel was sitting she shoved his onto his head and down over his eyes. Blindly he batted her away and pushed it up enough that he could see to grab her arms and pull her over the arm of the sofa as she tried to run away.

Vala yelped in surprise as she fell into the cushions beside him, and only then did she realize that Cam was up to his old habit of mistletoe-ambush again. In a second he'd trapped them under green-blue leaves. Vala glanced at Daniel, hoping maybe he wouldn't skirt the obligation this year, but at the same time knowing he wouldn't kiss her.

And then he did.

It didn't last long. It was short and sweet, and seemed so characteristic of him. But he did it, and it wasn't reluctant, and…though perhaps this was only wishful thinking…it didn't seem so much of a purely friendly gesture as it did when he gave Sam a brief kiss at these parties.

Daniel sat back on the couch, and she was staring at him. The others chuckled some, only a little surprised that he'd actually done it, but then they moved on. Vala didn't. She was still staring at him.

"What? You deserved it, after everything you did to get Sam home for us."

"Oh. Right. Thanks…After all, it's just tradition and everything…"

"Exactly," he smiled.

Only a thank-you. That's all it was. But that was all right…at least it was something. At least he was still looking at her that way, warmly, smiling at her. Though he was never so hostile anymore as he had been at first, what seemed like such a long time ago, seeing him act like this toward her was still something that didn't happen often.

"Thank you," he said after a moment.

Vala grinned and tucked the moment away for safekeeping. She kissed his cheek, and he didn't flinch. He didn't even stop smiling, and he was still wearing the hat she'd made. The matching scarf from last was still draped over his sweater.

"You're welcome."

Who knew; maybe there was something to that deity idea, when it came to Christmas.