Merry Christmas, Jack O'Neill

By Mary Kleinsmith ()

Rating: K, maybe T

Pairing: S/J (I tried, honestly, but I just couldn't *not*! But most of it's at the end.)

Category: Christmas, Holiday fic

Warnings: Angst, ship

Archive: , SJD, samandjackalways, jackfic, and helio.

Summary: Jack's first Christmas in Washington after being promoted

Spoilers: Only very vague ones for S9

Disclaimer: Wish they were mine, but they're not. I'm only playing with them.

Feedback: Please? It would be my favorite Christmas gift

Author's Notes: A special thank you to my friends at the GW forum. You're all great!

Merry Christmas, Jack O'Neill

General – why did he ever let them promote him – Jack O'Neill stood in the window of his Pentagon office, gazing out over the five-sided center courtyard. The area, which in the summer was full at most times of people on lunch or break, carrying trays or reading books, was now lightly covered with the purest of white snows. In most years, everything would have been blanketed weeks ago, but this year was proving to be the warmest in awhile. He was grateful, he admitted to himself. He didn't need to be reminded how much nicer and more wintery it was in Minnesota. Or Colorado Springs.

He'd forgotten what it was like to spend Christmas alone. Before the Stargate came into his life ten years ago, he'd spent many alone. Between being away from his family on assignment and those last two years after Charlie's death where he and Sara were separated, he'd come to deal with it. And then they came into his life. Daniel first, the geeky archeologist who alternately made him want to hug him or punch him, depending on the day. Teal'c, the incredible former first prime of Apophis, who'd turned his life around and dedicated it to protecting this world. And Samantha Carter.

Jack sighed. What was there to say about Sam? She'd saved the world more times than he could count, and saved his life at least that many times, only not the way she'd think if he were to tell her. How many times had he pulled himself up by his bootstraps and continued on, against all odds, because he had her standing behind him, offering her strength.

And, of course, all the others at the SGC and off world. Siler, Janet, Walter, Bra'tac, Jacob, and Jonas just to name a few. He thought he'd at least have George to talk with over the holidays, but it turned out he was taking his daughter and grand-daughters on a Christmas cruise of the Carribbean. How could you have Christmas with swim suits and palm trees?

So that left him here, in his office on Christmas eve day. He'd sent his secretary and staff home almost as soon as they arrived, arguing that work was no place to be on the eve of such an important holiday. Bless their hearts, some of them refused to leave until he assured them that he, too, was on his way out. So what would it matter if he fibbed a bit?

His body craved the winter as much as his mind craved companionship, so a walk proved to be in order. His townhouse wasn't far from the Pentagon – he'd walked many times the distance on missions through the gate – so he sent his assigned driver on his way and took to the sidewalks. He'd never wanted a driver, and missed his truck, but he was told clearly once he arrived in DC that for a General with is level of authority, it was required. For protection if nothing else.

First priority was to cut down on resistance. He slipped into his private bathroom and changed from his uniform to his civvies. Dockers, a black sweater (better to match his mood), and his most comfortable pair of sneakers.

Once out of his office, it became a study in covert actions. Avoiding the security force wasn't easy, but several stations were conspicuously empty, and he tried to decide whether something should be said after the holiday about people taking time away from their stations to celebrate. He decided in the same heartbeat that the guard were really overkill and why should he ruin their Christmas just because his was going to be crappy?

If anybody noticed him leaving, they didn't say a word, and he didn't know whether to be relieved or sad that nobody cared. Back at the SGC, there were always people to greet you or say goodnight to you at the end of the day. Nobody came or went without their actions being recognized. But those days were in the past, he reminded himself. He had to stop with the "remember whens." It wasn't going to make anything better.

He walked along the sidewalk, more of a stroll than a purpose-filled walk. The lights on people's houses were beautiful, he had to admit. Maybe he should have decorated his own home, but it had only just occurred to him, and, to be honest, he just hadn't been in the mood.

Before he knew it, he was half way home, and a forboding building stood sentry in the next block, the cross illuminated at the top of its steeple. It was too early for services to have begun, but the doors stood open, and as he walked past, he saw that it was nearly dark inside.

He hadn't been especially religious in so many years, he couldn't keep count, but despite that, he felt himself drawn to the seemingly abandoned structure. Trying to be as silent as possible, Jack mounted the steps and entered.

As he expected, the lights were off in the church, with only the candles providing the meager illumination that kept him from tripping over the pews. He stared into the candles, moving closer, letting the flames enchant him. By the time he blinked and cleared his vision, he'd lost track of how long he'd stood there.

Telling himself that he had overstayed his welcome, he paid brief respects at the altar and the nativity scene before making his way, unseen by human eyes, to the exit. If a Higher Power had watched, He had also not made His presence known.

Back out on the street, he continued on his way. It occurred to him that he had nothing at home to eat and wondered if the corner grocery near his place would still be open. They sometimes had pre-prepared hot food – a ready-made meal – you could buy, and even if they didn't have anything like that, he could get something from the freezer to heat up for himself.

As it turned out, he was in luck on several counts.

"Hey, Jimmy," he said as he entered the small shop, the bell above the door heralding his entrance.

"Hey, General!" the clerk responded with a jovial smile.

"What the hell you doing open on Christmas eve?" Jack asked with a grin, knowing the shopkeeper put in some long hours to support his family.

"As soon as the clock strikes six, I'll be outta here, don't worry," Jimmy replied. "Something I can get you?"

"I hope so. The cupboard's bare at home. What ya got?"

"It depends. How many do you need to feed?"

"Just me tonight, Jimmy."

If the comment surprised the young clerk, he didn't let it show. "I have one chicken left on the rotisserie, and I could pack up some deli salads to go with it. How's that sound?"

"Sounds perfect," Jack responded with a nod. While Jimmy packed up his dinner, Jack browsed the store, adding a newspaper, a couple magazines, and a bag of chips. As an afterthought, he added a pouch of his favorite coffee. No more than ten minutes after he'd entered, he bid the storekeeper a goodnight and wished him "Merry Christmas" as he left the shop.

The front steps of his home were slippery – the kid he paid to shovel must've taken Christmas Eve off – but he managed to traverse them without falling on his mik'ta. He smiled fondly at the Jaffa-ism. God, he missed the big old bear of a man. But then again, he missed all his team.

He hoped for the briefest moment that one of them would call tonight, but reminded himself the next moment just how unlikely that was. They all had other priorities in their life, other people who were more important than a rusty ol' military man with nothing and nobody in his life but a job he . . . to be honest . . . hated. He could hardly blame them for having other places they'd rather be.

Kicking off his sneakers in the foyer, he went directly to the kitchen to unload his ready-to-eat fare. A beer from the fridge and the food from the store and he settled in to eat, only to be interrupted after the first bite. His spirit lifted – the phone was ringing! Maybe…

Grabbing his phone, he thumbed on the "talk" button.

"O'Neill."

He hoped to hear a familiar voice.

"Mr. O'Neill, we'd like to offer you a service that will protect the balances on all your credit cards should anything-"

With a sigh, Jack interrupted the speaker. "I'm sorry, in case you didn't realize it, it's Christmas eve and I'm not interested. Goodbye." He hung up the phone, wishing they still used the old-fashioned kind you could slam down good and hard.

Returning to the meal with an even lower spirit at the disappointment, he began again to pick at his food. He could never have said how long he sat, his thoughts drifting from one topic to the next, as he tried to stomach the atypical Christmas Eve feast. Eventually, he'd eaten enough to stop his hunger pangs, so he packed up the rest and put it in the refrigerator. Opening a second beer, he moved into the darkened living room and flicked on the television.

Thank God for ESPN, was all he could think as he settled into a repeat of a hockey game from years ago. Call him Scrooge if you want, but he had no desire to watch any of a hundred Christmas movies or even Christmas Eve Mass from St. Peter's. But as the game played out before him, he absorbed very little of it, his mind recollecting Christmases of the past.

Last year, he'd still been at the SGC, and while they weren't as close as they once were because of his promotion into Hammond's former position of base commander, he still had been able to share a Christmas eve meal with Carter, Teal'c, and Daniel, and then had spent the day itself on duty, with the commissary's version of a home-style dinner for all those who had to remain on base or simply had nowhere else to go. He'd been surrounded by people he knew, just as he had been every year since coming to the SGC.

Washington was a whole new world, and while he'd thought he'd at least get phone calls, he found disappointment in the contraption's silence. He thought at least Cassie . . . .

The "contraption" rang on the end table and he snatched it up quickly. "O'Neill."

"Yeah, hey, dude," a decidedly intoxicated voice responded. "Lemme talk to Jeannie."

Jack let out a heavy sigh. "You have the wrong number, buddy."

"Aw, c'mon. Just lemme talk to her!"

"And I said, you have the wrong number! Sober up and trying making your call again!" Jack said and disconnected the call. Lovely. He thought at least Cassie would call him. On an impulse he picked up the phone again and quickly dialed her cell phone number. Who said the mountain couldn't come to Mohammed?

He listened as the line rang once, twice, then a third time before Cassie's voice finally picked up.

"Hi, this is Cassie!"

"Hey, Cass!" Jack greeted, but she spoke over him.

"I've gone skiing for Christmas and since there's no reception there, I'm leaving my cell at home. If you still need me, leave a message after the beep and I'll call you when I get back. Merry Christmas!"

He held the phone in his hand, trying to decide if he wanted to try Carter or Daniel. And after all these years, why didn't Teal'c have a phone yet? He could call the SGC, but then he'd probably just find out the big guy had gone to visit his son or something like that. Not that he'd ever discourage him from that, but . . .

Setting down the phone on the coffee table, he gave up. It was 11:30 on Christmas eve. If somebody was going to call, they would have by now. Lying down across the couch, he pulled a throw over his legs and watched the game until he drifted off to sleep.

"And they score!!!"

The shout woke him from a sound sleep a few hours later, jarring him into wakefulness from a dream of a blonde-haired woman and four small children sitting under a well-decorated Christmas tree. The dream had been warmhearted and tender, and he found himself sad and cold to find out it was all just a product of his subconscious. Not wanting to dwell on it for too long, he reached for the remote, clicking off the TV.

"Who watches hockey at two am," he grumbled as he made his way up the stairs and fell into his own bed, barely taking the time to strip down to his boxers and t-shirt. It didn't take long for him to fall back to sleep.

"Merry Christmas to me," he mumbled sarcastically just before he dropped off.

SG1SG1SG1

"Oh, crap!" the muffled voice came from under the pillow where O'Neill had taken refuge from the sunlight flowing through his bedroom. Why the hell hadn't he remembered to pull the blinds and the drapes before turning in?

Having no desire to get up yet, but knowing there'd be no more sleep today, he unburied himself and rolled over, reaching for the bedstand. A click turned on the flat-panel television that was mounted on the opposite wall. He'd never had a television in his bedroom in Colorado, and hadn't really wanted one here, but the thing had been installed without his being consulted, along with the choosing of the furniture in the place. It was probably one of the reasons that the place just didn't feel like "home."

Flipping through the channels, he looked for something worth watching. Maybe the news . . .

"Crap," he mumbled again as he came upon the Disney Christmas Parade. He'd actually managed to forget what day it was until the television reminded him. "Peachy."

Quickly flicking to Fox News, he lay back on the pillow, closing his eyes and just listening to the news of the still. It was highly interspersed with Christmas news, charities that helped and were helped, families, decorations, truces, and whatever else could be passed as newsworthy.

An hour later, his thirst drove him from his bed, his body craving the coffee he'd normally have had by now. The stairs seemed unusually steep this morning, and he made a sharp right into the kitchen, zeroing in on the coffee pot.

Which, apparently, he had forgotten to shut off the night before, as it was hot, and half full of coffee. Not feeling it worth the effort to dump it and start over, he poured the dredges of the previous night's coffee into a cup, taking a sip. Oddly enough, it tasted fresh, and wasn't burnt, as it should have been if the pot had been on all night!

Cup in hand, he headed for his living room, having no appetite yet for a breakfast, only to be shocked to find an eight-foot tall pine tree in the corner, adorned with lights, garland, and ornaments. And beneath that tree, shining as brightly as the lights themselves, were the faces of five people he'd never in a million years expected.

"Merry Christmas!" they called just as he began to believe he was truly losing it. They couldn't possibly be here, could they?

"Umm . . . Daniel?" he stammered as the younger man stood and came over to him, extending a hand. "Merry Christmas, Jack."

It was the catalyst that started the rest into action, and in the blink of an eye Jack was surrounded by his friends. Sam, Daniel, and Teal'c all hugged him or patted him on the back, then a small bundle of energy jumped into his arms. Cassie was a beautiful young woman, but she had somehow inherited her adopted mother's stature. Jack had no problem holding her weight as she hugged his neck.

"We've all missed you so much!" she said as he lowered her to the floor. He couldn't help but smile, and then his eyes fell on the fifth and final visitor.

"Jonas Quinn, as I live and breath," he said, shaking Jonas' hand. "When did you get back?"

"I gated through late last night. Sam was nice enough to invite me to come along."

"I'm glad she did," O'Neill replied, no longer feeling the need to hide his affection for the young man of whom he'd grown fond during his time at the SGC. He didn't really know if Jonas was capable of understanding "duty" until he went back to his home planet to help them build their world government rather than stay where he preferred to be. "So how long are you staying?"

"With your permission, for good, Sir." He looked at them all, the frustration clear on his face. "I can't get anything done there; they still can't agree on the simplest of things, and I'm only there as a figurehead. After the Goa'uld were defeated, they went right back to figuring they don't have a care in the world. I tried to make them understand about the Ori, but I got nowhere. At least here, I can be of some use."

Jack was glad to see the young man back, even if he no longer carried some of the innocence he had the first time he'd come to earth. "You're always welcome, Jonas. I'll notify Landry and have him set you up with a lab and a team."

"Y'know, Jack," Daniel started. "We could always use him on SG1 again."

"What about Mitchell?"

"There's a rule that we can't have five on a team?" he said with a grin that somehow told Jack that he was hiding something.

"Well, ultimately, I can only recommend. It's Landry's decision."

"I appreciate whatever you can do, General," Jonas said with his oh-so-familiar smile.

Everybody stood there looking at each other in silence for a minute, almost soaking in each other's presence, their solidarity restored once again. Suddenly, Jack blinked, and the moment was gone.

"So what are you all doing here?"

"We couldn't let you spend your first Christmas in Washington alone, sir," Sam said with a smile that showed all her dimples. God, he loved that smile.

"The holiday did not seem complete," Teal'c said in his low rumble, "without your presence among us, O'Neill."

"Well, thanks for that, T." But his voice held a level of seriousness, and they all realized that he truly thought he would be alone this holiday. The darkness in his eyes was fleeting, and before they knew it, the sparkle was back. "There's just one problem with this little get-together," he said with a grin. "I don't have anything in the house to eat!"

"Did you look in your refrigerator, Jack?" Cassie asked with a devilish grin. It was a look Jack had grown to know well.

"Why? What have you been up to?"

"You slept very late, Jack," Daniel said with forced seriousness. "Somebody could ransack your house and you'd have never known it. Or even reverse-ransacked it."

Jack knew right away that the comments meant they'd brought the makings for meals into the house with their arrival. Which reminded him; he needed to speak to Carter about those lockpicks of hers. He didn't care when she used them on other people's property, but on his . . . He smiled himself at the thought.

But there was one belief that needed to be corrected. "I'll have you know, I've been up for a couple hours. I just didn't come downstairs."

"Good thing," Jonas replied. "Or you'd have spoiled the surprise."

"The tree was quite heavy," Teal'c admitted, the unspoken "even for me" hanging in the air. "Daniel Jackson helped while the rest brought in the gifts and food. We will feast and celebrate with you, O'Neill."

It wasn't until then that Jack noticed that under the tree sat stacks of gifts, all of which couldn't possibly be meant for him. He blushed, realizing that he had nothing to give them. The gifts he'd purchased had been mailed out days before, and he hadn't anything for Jonas at all being that his coming was a surprise. "I'm afraid I don't have anything for you," he said quietly.

"Sure you do, sir," Sam said with another grin and pair of dimples. "We brought the ones you sent with us. Don't you recognize them?"

And upon closer inspection, she was right. The gifts he'd sent were there, buried among all the others. They truly had thought of everything.

"So now, I guess the only question is . . . who gets to open the first one!"

They took turns, beginning with Cassie and rotating, opening one at a time so that everybody could watch and comment on the gifts. He didn't know how they had managed to get gifts for Jonas on such short notice, but he was glad that the young man felt a part of their group, a member of their family, even if he did have to keep him and Daniel from discussing linguistics or archeology whenever a gift involved one or the other of them. They were two peas in a pod, or, more properly, two sides of the same coin. The disparities were as interesting as the similarities. It occurred to Jack that Jonas was about the same age Daniel had been when they'd first met, and the innocence that Daniel had lost over the years, turning him into a stronger man, was plain in Jonas' face.

Finally, the pile of packages under the tree was depleted and everybody looked fondly at the gifts they'd been given. They spoke of the friendship and familiarity they all shared. How could he ever have doubted them?

And as his eyes moved from one friend to the next, the settled finally on Sam, a friend who was so much more. She looked excited… and nervous.

"Something up, Carter?"

Rather than respond, she nodded quickly and rose to leave the room at a slow trot. Puzzled, he looked to the others. "What's going on with her?"

"Haven't the foggiest," Daniel said quickly in denial in the way that Jack knew it was a lie.

Teal'c's face was also blank.

Before he could question them further, Sam returned with another box, only this one was unwrapped. About a foot square, she bit her lip as she handed it to him without a word.

"For me?" he asked unnecessarily. She nodded and he set it gently on the floor to open the lid.

He gasped at the little ball of black and white fur that pushed up towards him. It was a border collie puppy, no more than seven or eight weeks old.

"Oh, Carter!" Jack exclaimed as he lifted the dog into his arms, cradling it affectionately. "He's great!"

"Well, you always said that when you weren't going off world all the time, you'd get a dog."

As the puppy licked his face and panted, he thought how nice it would be to come home at night to somebody this happy to see him. "What will I name you?" he asked the animal as if he expected him to answer.

"Uh… Sir…" Sam said quietly. "He has a tag."

Jack looked at the small collar and the metal pendant hanging from it. "Thor O'Neill?" he read aloud with a chuckle. "Our little Asgard friend is going to love that!" It didn't occur to him that they didn't even know if they'd ever again see their alien buddy.

He then noticed a second tag hanging beside the first. The room grew deadly silent as he looked closer, examining the engraving.

To Jack, from Sam. Marry us?

His eyes met Sam's, expecting to see a joke or some other explanation, but with a smile and a nod, he knew that she was absolutely serious.

"Sam, I…"

"It's a pretty simple question, Jack," she said, rising to join he and Thor. "Do you have an answer for him . . . and me?"

Their friends all watched in silence, and Jack fleetingly wondered if they knew what Sam had silently asked. But that thought was gone almost as soon as it appeared when Carter's dimples were showing again, her eyes shining with love. God knew why, but she loved him. What else was there to say?

"Yes. Yes to you both!" And he swept her into his arms. If it bothered him that she had been the one to propose, he didn't show it.

As they lost themselves in a kiss so deep as to make up for all the lost time, Cassie, Daniel, Jonas and Teal'c watched with fondness.

"It's about damn time," Daniel said, while Jonas and Cassie exchanged high fives.

As they pulled apart, Thor began kissing both of their faces, inciting an "aww" from everybody present – except Teal'c, of course.

"It only makes sense," Cassie said, rising to come and pet the tiny ball of fur. "After all, as you said, Jack. Every kid has to have a dog." The sparkle in her eyes 'caused Sam to huff and Jack to beam.

"Rushing things a little, aren't you, kid?" he asked.

"After nine years, you two could do with a little rushing," Cassie responded, chuckling as she was once again ignored while Jack pulled Sam into another kiss. She took the puppy from between them, holding him safely so they could be even closer. "That's your mommy and daddy!" she whispered, and Thor's long tail swished with happiness. "Merry Christmas!"

The end.