Author Note: This story was written for Eventhorizon7's Silly Season challenge on Amaranth Traces and Thraesja's website, so thanks to Eventhorizon7 for the great plot set-up. The challenge is to write a story where Sam and Daniel become stranded on a planet by themselves for Christmas and must find a way to celebrate on their own and grow closer as a result. If you're a fan of Sam and Daniel shippiness then you owe it to yourself to check out this website Thraesja and Amaranth Traces have put together. It's a lot of fun and you should check out their stories as well, they're really great! :)

Disclaimer: As always, I owe no part of Stargate SG1 or its characters. No profit is intended and believe me, none is recieved.

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A Midnight Clear

by Mamapranayama

December 23rd

Vala moaned for the tenth time in the last half hour and Daniel stopped brushing dirt off the wall in front of him and lowered his hands, turning to her in annoyance and frustration. He had been trying to ignore her and get some translations from the the walls of this deserted temple before the sun went down, but her ever increasing need for attention was finally wearing him down.

"Something wrong?" He sighed, looking to her over the tops of his glasses.

"I'm not feeling very well, Daniel. My stomach hurts and I think I might have eaten something bad."

"We've been eating MRE's for the last two days, of course you've eaten something bad."

"No, Daniel. This is different. I really feel like....like..." She stopped cold and then she was up and running out of the abandoned temple, covering her mouth as she fled. Worried that something was actually wrong this time he went after her, finding her just outside the entrance, losing her lunch into the dry tall grass beside the outer walls.

"You okay, Vala?" he asked concerned when she was finished.

"Do I look okay to you, Daniel?"She flopped onto her bottom, drawing her legs up to her chest and resting her head on her knees. Feeling for her obvious distress, Daniel sat next to her and put a hand over her forehead.

"You've got a fever."

"Thank-you, Dr. Jackson." She began sarcastically. "With that astute diagnosis I wonder why it is that you haven't been awarded a doctorate in medicine yet, especially since you seem to have one in everything else." Daniel merely rolled his eyes, knowing she was just a little testy because of her illness.

"How long have you been like this?"

"All day....thanks for noticing, by the way."

"Why didn't you say something sooner?"

"I did, Daniel. But you were too absorbed in your temple to hear me."

"Sorry." He patted her on the back sympathetically, feeling guilty. She had been feeling miserable all day and he had chalked it up to her just being dramatic.

"We should call Mitchell and tell him you need to go back." She just nodded without looking up, keeping her head on her knees. Daniel clicked on his radio.

"Mitchell...It's Daniel, come in, please."

"Go ahead, Jackson."

"Vala's sick, she needs to go home"

"Stay put. Sam and I will be right there."

"Alright, see you when you get here." He switched off his radio and dug his canteen out of the side cargo pocket on his pants, handing it to her. She shook her head, refusing the water.

"C'mon, Vala. You gotta drink something or you'll get dehydrated."

"I just don't think I can stand to put anything into my stomach right now."

"Just give it a try."

"Fine." She sighed and grabbed the canteen, taking a few sips and handing it back to Daniel, satisfying his nurturing side for the moment. As promised, Mitchell and Sam approached a few minutes later.

It was just the four of them on this mission, for Teal'c was off visiting his son and daughter-in-law as they expected their first child to be born at any time. Thinking of Teal'c, Daniel felt a slight pang of envy for his friend's growing family. He had always hoped that one day he could have the kind of family he never had growing up, especially around this time of year when people were getting together with their families for the Holidays. However, as middle age approached and that dream family had still yet to materialize, he put those dreams on the back burner, possibly for good.

"What's going on?" Mitchell asked as the walked up to the duo.

"Vala's got some sort of stomach bug, she needs to go back." It only took one look at the unusually sedate and hunched over form of their resident thief-turned-teammate for Mitchell to come to a decision.

"Okay, let's pack it up and go home." He ordered. That's when Sam shifted on her heels and spoke up.

"Actually, I was kinda hoping that I could spend a little more time exploring that ridge nearby. I was getting some pretty strange energy readings from over there and I wanted to check it out. Maybe one of you could go back with Vala and the other one stay so I could collect more data. It shouldn't take long, no more than an hour or so."

Mitchell nodded. He couldn't really argue that they all needed to go back. They were still scheduled to be on the planet for another day anyway. Daniel knew that the planet itself offered very little that Cam was interested in. Virtually lifeless, It was completely abandoned long ago by a group of people that Daniel believed were decended from the ancient Greeks and all that was left standing was the mostly ruined temple. Whoever had lived here had been gone for ages. Daniel had only made it half-way through transcribing everything on the walls and wanted to get it all down so he could study it in greater detail later, then maybe he could learn what had happened to them.

"I'll stay with Sam. That way I can also finish up in the temple." Daniel offered.

"Gee, thanks for all of your support, Daniel." Vala griped. He figured she would be upset for staying instead of taking her back, but she wasn't seriously ill and Mitchell would get her back safely. After all, this might be his only chance to get everything translated from the walls.

"I'm sorry." Daniel sighed. "Look, we'll be back in a few hours, it's not like you're on your deathbed."

"Not yet, anyway." She came back, serving him a deadly look.

"Alright." Mitchell interrupted their spat. "You two can stay here and finish geeking out and I'll take the Princess back home. Just promise me you two will stick together and not get lost or hurt or killed or anything else that would piss me off. You guys have two hours, then I expect you to call back. Got it?"

"We can do that." Sam nodded.

"I think we handle ourselves for a couple of hours, Mitchell." Daniel added.

"Well, sure you can. I just don't want you two finding any excuses for missing that Christmas party tonight. One of you is getting my secret Santa gift and I spent an awful lot of time and energy picking it out."

"Notice how he didn't say money." Daniel pointed out jokingly.

"It's the thought that counts, right?" Stooping down, Mitchell offered a hand to Vala and pulled her up.

"Ready to go?"

"Sure, it you don't mind carrying me." She smiled wanly and shivered, her attempt at humor doing very little to make her look any less miserable.

"Don't press it, Your Highness." Cam countered as he led her towards the Stargate situated just beyond the site of the ruins, leaving Sam and Daniel behind. They watched until Mitchell and Vala disappeared through the event horizon, only turning to each other once the gate deactivated.

"So, temple or ridge first?" Daniel asked her.

"Flip a coin?" she asked. Daniel dug around in his pockets, but could find no money and Sam couldn't either.

"Okay....rock, paper, scissors?" He asked her. In response, Sam held out her fist and the two scientists pumped their hands three times, Daniel ending with two fingers made to look like scissors and Sam with a closed fist, made to be a rock.

"Yes!" She exclaimed. "Rock crushes scissors!" Laughing, she took her closed fist and made to crush Daniel's outstretched fingers with it.

"Damn." He swore. "I knew I should have gone with rock."

"Well, let's get going. Daylight's burning and we need call Mitchell in just a couple of hours." Agreeing that they needed to hurry in order to get all of their work done in the time alloted, Daniel and Sam took off in the direction of the ridge, side-by-side.

OOOOO

Satisfied with Dr. Lam's diagnosis that Vala indeed just had a stomach virus and would be fine with a couple days of rest and fluids, Mitchell left her in the infirmary. She was still pretty pissed off that Daniel had remained off-world with Sam and after nearly two hours of listening to her complain about it, he excused himself and headed for the control room.

Daniel and Sam were due to contact them at any time and he would feel a lot better knowing that his team was all safe and sound back home. It had been against his better judgment to let them stay behind and a feeling gnawed at him that something could go wrong. Despite the fact that the planet had been a complete bore to him and appeared to be completed desolate, he had learned from experience that even the most innocent seeming of places could hold hidden dangers that one could not see at first.

Entering the control room, Mitchell came to stand behind Walter Harriman, who was discussing something rather heatedly with Dr. Felger sitting beside him. Mitchell groaned a little to himself. He was not a big fan of the scientist and he wondered how the man had managed to retain his job after so many failures in the past, including a computer virus that nearly destroyed the entire stargate network in the galaxy.

"Are you sure Col. Carter authorized this program?"

"Well, she did say it sounded like a good idea and I have the go ahead from the General."

"Still, shouldn't we wait until she gets back?"

"When she sees how much smoother the transition from the computer to the iris is, she'll be thrilled." He stated confidently.

"If you say so, Dr. Felger." Harriman gave Felger a wary look as Mitchell approached.

"What's going on here?" He asked the two men behind the computers.

"Oh, Colonel Mitchell." Felger looked behind, addressing him. "I've developed a new sub-routine that should decrease the lag time between the computer controls up here and the iris down below, making it more efficient." Felger turned to Harriman again. "I'm implementing the program now, Sgt. Harriman. Next time the Iris receives the command to close, we should see a dramatic improvement."

"It's seems pretty fast to me, I never even noticed a lag before." Mitchell told him.

"Well, there is one, nearly half a second." Felger replied.

"Is all of this really necessary? I mean half a second isn't all that long." Mitchell came back. He was no computer expert, but it all seemed like a bit too much ado about nothing.

"Think of all of those times where you come in hot and you need to get the iris closed as fast as possible to keep the bad guys at bay." Felger grew excited as he explained, dramatically gesturing with his hands as his speech sped up. "With this new program, we should be able to decrease that lag by nearly 10 %." Felger beamed proudly.

"Wow, 10% you say?" Mitchell began with a sarcastic tone in his voice that Felger failed to pick up on. It was then that the Stargate came to life, it's chevrons lighting up.

"Incoming wormhole." Harriman announced. Seconds later the event horizon splashed outward before rushing back towards the gate.

"I'm shutting the iris, prepare to record the lag time." Felger ordered the Sergeant with glee. Smoothly and efficiently the iris slid shut with a metallic clink. Felger watched in amazement as the readings came in.

"Wow! The lag time was actually improved by more than 11%, that's much faster that we could have hoped for. Colonel Carter's jaw is gonna drop when she sees these readings." excitedly the scientist continued to analyze his data while Mitchell really could have cared less. He was much more interested in making sure his team was alright.

"Receiving a radio transmission, sir" Harriman informed him.

"That's gotta be Sam and Jackson. Open up the channel." Harriman pressed a few buttons and nodded to Mitchell, letting him know the frequency was open.

"Stargate Command, this is Colonel Carter, please respond."

"We hear you Carter. Go ahead."

"We're all done here, Colonel. That energy reading was just a naturally occuring magnetic field generated by some magnetized rock in the ridge face and Daniel's finished with his work in the temple."

"Good to hear." Mitchel said, relieved that nothing of consequence had happened to his friends while they were on their own. "Let's get you two back home then."

"We're ready to go whenever you give us the green light to cross over, Colonel." Carter responded.

"Open the iris up, Walter." Mitchell ordered. Harriman typed in the commands for the iris, but after several seconds it remained shut. Mitchell turned to Felger.

"I thought this program of yours was supposed to improve the lag time?"

"It is." He blustered and blubbered. "At least for when it closes.....I'm not sure what the problem could be. Try it again, Sergeant." Again, Harriman entered the commands and yet the iris remained shut. Mitchell shot an angry glare towards Felger, who shrunk back in his chair.

"Must be some kinda bug with the program." Felger admitted guiltily, trying to work the problem out from his computer console.

"Ya think?" Mitchell nearly yelled.

"Do we have the go ahead to come in?" Daniel asked this time across the radio.

"Negative, we're having a problem with the iris, Jackson. Seems our Dr. Felger has messed with its program. Just hold tight till we can get it fixed."

"He did what?!" He heard Carter's distant and angered voice through Daniel's radio. Felger began to sweat profusely.

"I'm getting fired, aren't I?"

To be continued......

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