Operation Christmas Tree

by Jaz

Category: Smarm, Humor

Summary: An early SG-1 Christmas tale with plenty of warm fuzzies. More sap than a Christmas tree…

Disclaimer: This story is solely for entertainment purposes. No copyright infringements were intended and no money is being made. The characters and situations are the property of Gekko Film Corp., Sci-Fi Channel and MGM Television. They're not mine--more's the pity. December, 2003

***********

Jack pulled his truck over to the side of the road and shut off the engine before climbing out. Immediately feeling the bitter chill hit him as he opened the door, he was grateful to have found a parking place directly in front of the building.

He walked quickly up to the entrance, not at all surprised to see the doorman to Daniel's apartment complex already on duty, although it was barely after 6:00 a.m. The older gentleman recognized him and held open the door in invitation.

"Morning, Colonel," he said, snapping off a salute.

"Ray," Jack answered with a smile in his voice, secretly amused at the man's insistence on saluting every time Jack saw him. He threw Ray a halfhearted salute in return and headed over to the elevator. "No sign of Daniel yet?" he asked.

"No, sir," Ray answered. "I haven't seen Dr. Jackson this morning."

Jack nodded absently and stepped into the opening elevator, his eyes sweeping over the lobby and its festive holiday decorations. A few minutes later, he was knocking on the door of Daniel's apartment. He turned the knob, and finding it unlocked, let himself in.

"Daniel?" he called out.

"It's open!"

Jack heard the disembodied voice coming from the direction of the bedroom.

"No kidding," he answered as he made his way towards the kitchen.

Daniel poked his head around the corner, briskly rubbing a towel over his still damp hair. "I'll be done in just a sec, Jack. Help yourself to coffee."

Jack rubbed his hands together in anticipation. He'd hoped Daniel would have some coffee going and they could skip the stop at Starbucks this morning. "You got any of those travel mugs?" he asked.

"Yeah," Daniel called back, "in the cabinet next to the sink." He disappeared into the bedroom again. "By the way, thanks for the lift to work."

"No problem," Jack responded as he located the mug he was looking for, "although I think it's time we do something about this car of yours."

"There's nothing wrong with my car."

Jack noted the defensive tone of Daniel's voice and smiled to himself. "Uh huh," he said. "So why is it I'm giving you a ride to work for the third time this week? Not that I mind, but…"

"It just doesn't seem to like the cold weather," Daniel defended his older, battle-scarred vehicle.

"Daniel, we live in Colorado, for cryin' out loud."

Daniel reappeared and joined Jack in the kitchen. "Yeah, well, a car just isn't a priority with all the time we spend off-world. This one gets me along just fine," he said, reaching for his own mug. "Mostly," he added under his breath.

"Right."

Daniel finished pouring his own coffee and snapped the lid on tightly. Leaving it on the counter, he headed into the living room. "Hang on a second, okay? I've got to grab the book I was using to help with the translation from those tablets that SG-7 brought back from PSR-847."

Jack followed him into the living room, watching as Daniel dug around under a bunch of papers on the coffee table. He gazed around the room, as always amazed by the number of different artifacts on display. Though he'd never admit it to his archeologist, Jack secretly found the different histories represented here interesting. As long as he didn't have to listen to Daniel expound on them incessantly.

What he saw on a small table near the window nearly made him choke on his coffee. He stopped in his tracks and stared, open-mouthed.

"What the heck is that?" he asked incredulously.

"What?" Daniel answered, not looking up from his search.

"That!" Jack reiterated strongly, pointing toward the window.

"What?" Daniel repeated, finally looking up and following the direction of Jack's outstretched finger.

"That…thing. Over there."

"It's a Christmas tree, Jack," Daniel answered patiently, wondering where Jack was heading with this.

"That is SO not a Christmas tree, Daniel."

"Is too."

"Is NOT."

"Is."

"Isn't."

"Jack," Daniel began.

"Oh, c'mon, Daniel. Even Charlie Brown couldn't in good conscience call that thing a Christmas tree."

"It's fine, Jack. It's all I need, really. It's not a big deal." He picked up the book and stuffed several papers inside and headed back to the kitchen to grab his coffee. "Let me just get my jacket, and we can go, okay?"

There was that word again, Jack thought to himself as he followed his teammate out of the apartment. How often had Daniel used the word fine? With Daniel, everything was fine. The car was fine. The tree was fine. It was as if Daniel never expected that anything needed to be better than fine. Fine was enough. Fine was…fine. And Daniel, well, he just…he settled. Settled for fine. Never once hoping for more.

They rode the elevator in silence, Jack lost in his thoughts. Maybe it had something to do with how Daniel had been brought up after the death of his parents. Being shuffled around from foster home to foster home couldn't have been easy. Daniel didn't talk about it much, but Jack definitely got the feeling that young Daniel had to learn to roll with the punches if he wanted to survive. Come to think of it, Christmas probably hadn't been much for Daniel.

As he climbed back into the cab of his pickup, Jack suddenly had an inspiration. He pulled back out into the traffic and picked up his coffee.

"You know, Daniel," he said, picking up the conversation where they'd left it, "one of the best parts of Christmas is the tree. It's…it's tradition. Least in my family it always was. When I was growing up, we'd usually spend Christmas in Minnesota. About a week before Christmas, we'd all bundle up and head out into the woods. Find us the biggest honkin' Christmas tree we could, and my granddad would cut it down. We'd bring it back, and once it was decorated, we'd just sit around with hot chocolate and play Monopoly."

Daniel smiled, for some reason pleased that Jack would share this memory with him. It wasn't often Jack opened up about anything in his past. "Sounds nice," he stated, not a trace of wistfulness in his voice.

Jack glanced over at his younger friend and sighed. "Daniel, you need a tree. A real tree. Nothing's better than the smell of evergreen, the colored lights, the tinsel, candy canes hanging off the branches. Why don't we head out after work and pick one up? I know a place where we can cut one down ourselves. What do you say?"

"I can't, Jack."

"Why not? You got plans?" Jack asked, feeling put out.

"No, I don't mean I can't go with you. I mean I can't get a real tree. I'm allergic to Christmas trees."

"Oh." The small sound escaped Jack's lips and hung on the air, abandoned.

Jack searched his brain for something more to say. He was completely nonplussed. It shouldn't have come as much of a surprise—Daniel was allergic to darn near everything. But still…Christmas trees?

"Well, that…that just sucks."

Daniel let out a little laugh. "It's not a big deal, Jack. Really. It's fine."

As they pulled onto the road leading to the mountain, a plan began to form in Jack's mind.

*************

Jack breezed into Carter's lab, his hands shoved deep in his pockets. He found her deeply immersed in her latest experiment, something no doubt destined to extrapolate nuclear power from a piece of recycled gum.

"Carter. My office. Ten minutes. We have a mission. Bring Teal'c," he added, and turned to head back out the door.

"Good morning to you too, sir," Carter said, looking up. "I thought the briefing wasn't until 0900."

"It isn't," Jack replied mysteriously. "This is for something else."

Seeing the serious expression on her CO's face, Sam nodded. "Yes, sir," she replied. "Shall I get Daniel too?"

"Not this time, Major. This op will only require the three of us." He walked out the door, leaving Carter more confused than before.

***************

Ten minutes later, Jack sat with his feet propped up on his desk and gazed from Carter to Teal'c and back again.

"Close the door, T," he commanded.

Teal'c did as he was requested and returned to stand in front of O'Neill's desk, his hands held loosely behind his back.

O'Neill took in his stance and wondered idly if the Jaffa ever stood in any position other than parade rest. He stood up himself and began pacing restlessly.

"Daniel needs a tree," he stated without preamble, fully expecting his team to follow his train of thought.

"Okaaayyy," Sam said, waiting for further explanation.

"For what purpose does Daniel Jackson require a tree?" Teal'c asked.

"For Christmas, Teal'c!" Jack said, his hand rising in agitation.

"But Colonel," Sam pointed out, "Daniel already has a Christmas tree."

Jack stopped pacing and turned to face her, a look of exasperation on his face. "Have you seen Daniel's tree?"

"Yes, sir. I thought it was…cute."

Jack made a noise of disgust. "Christmas trees are not supposed to be cute, Major. They're supposed to be…big. Way big. With lights. And tons of ornaments. Tinsel—you know. The whole nine yards." He looked to Teal'c, as if seeking confirmation.

The Jaffa merely raised one eyebrow and spoke slowly, as if addressing a small child. "I have been on your planet for over two years, O'Neill, and I do not begin to understand all the customs you associate with this holiday you call Christmas."

"You don't need to understand it, Teal'c, you just need to do it! It's…it's tradition. You don't mess with tradition."

Sam hid a small smile, infinitely pleased at seeing this side of her CO. And the fact that the object of his concern was Daniel made it more difficult to keep the smile to herself.

"You got something you want to share, Carter?" Jack asked pointedly, his eyes narrowing.

Sam did her level best to slip on a mask of indifference, but the smile refused to die. She coughed slightly. "No, sir. Nothing."

"Okay, so here's the plan." Jack walked behind his desk and placed his hands on it, allowing his weight to rest on them. "We've got the briefing today for the mission on Monday. Tomorrow's Saturday--you doing anything, Carter?"

"Actually, sir, I was planning on finishing up my Christmas shopping…"

"Perfect! Take Daniel with you."

"Sir?"

"I need you to keep him tied up and out of his apartment for a while. That way I can swing by here and grab Teal'c. He and I can stop at Treeland and get a tree and some decorations and stuff. We'll set the whole thing up at Daniel's and have pizza and games ready by the time you guys get home."

"Umm…okay. Yeah, that could work. We'll do some shopping and then stop and get some lunch."

Jack clapped his hands together. "Excellent! I love it when a plan comes together. Teal'c, I'll pick you up at 1000 hours."

Sam paused as a thought occurred to her. "You're going to get the tree at Treeland? Don't you want to cut your own?"

"Can't." Jack answered. "Daniel's allergic."

"Aaahhh," Sam said in understanding.

"Oh, hey, that reminds me—can you stop by one of those candle shops on your way home?"

"You mean like Yankee Candle?"

"Yeah, that'll do. See what you can find. They got stuff that smells like papaya and cucumbers—they must have something that smells like a Christmas tree."

"I'll see what I can do, sir," Sam smiled.

************

Sam stuck her head through the doorway of Jack's office about half an hour before they would leave for the day. Making sure no one, particularly one overly curious archeologist, was in hearing range, she stepped in and closed the door.

"Operation Christmas Tree is a go, sir," she reported, giving the colonel a full salute in the spirit of the day. "Daniel was delighted that I wanted to help him with his shopping. We'll head out at 0930 hours tomorrow and be back to his place at 1700."

Jack sat back, glad for an excuse to take a break from the paperwork that was forever piling up on his desk. "Well done, Major. Teal'c and I will have everything taken care of by the time you get back."

Sam paused, clearly undecided about whether to say what had been weighing on her mind.

Jack noticed her hesitation. "Spill it, Carter. What's going on in that overworked little brain of yours?"

"Nothing, sir. It's just…well, I've been thinking."

"Big surprise."

Sam smiled in spite of herself. "Yes, sir. Like I said, I was just thinking, and, well, maybe the reason Daniel has a small tree is that…um…well, he doesn't have any family. As far as I know, we're the only ones who give him any gifts. Maybe a small tree just doesn't look as empty when there aren't many presents underneath it." She glanced up at O'Neill, unsure how he would react, before her eyes darted away.

Jack leaned back further in his chair, steepling his fingers under his chin, his expression thoughtful. "So, are you saying we shouldn't be doing this?"

"No, sir, not at all!" Carter answered hurriedly. "I just…well, to be honest I'm not sure what I'm saying." She watched her CO silently for a moment before curiosity overcame her sense of judgment. "If you don't mind my asking, Colonel, what brought this on? You know…your plan to do this for Daniel."

Jack was silent for so long that she began to wonder if she'd overstepped her bounds with this man in front of her. Perhaps not in the military sense. But Jack O'Neill seemed to have his own set of rules and regulations when it came to personal conduct, at least when it had anything to do with even approaching an emotional level.

Jack sighed, a truly heartfelt sound, as if the weight of the world were on his shoulders. Again. "I don't know, Carter. Just…well, sometimes it seems like Daniel gets the short end of life's stick, you know? All lemons and no lemonade? He's had a pretty tough year. Hell, his whole life has been tough, and it never even seems to faze him. He just gets up and keeps moving forward, never expecting anything better. Just once, I thought, we could do something…I don't know…" his words trailed off. "It's probably a dumb idea."

"No, sir," Sam stated emphatically. "Not a dumb idea at all."

"You think?"

"Yes. I do."

Jack smiled. "Alright then. We go ahead with it. Only, maybe…" he stopped, the wheels in his head spinning as his smile grew. "Only maybe we take it a step further. If a big tree looks empty with just a few presents under it, we'll make sure there's plenty. Maybe make up for a few of those lousy Christmases he had as a kid." He looked up expectantly at Carter.

Her smile more than indicated her approval. "Good idea, Colonel. May I suggest we commence Operation Christmas Gift on Sunday afternoon? I'm sure that between you and Teal'c and myself, we can come up with quite a few things to put under that tree on Christmas morning."

"Now you're talking, Major."

***********

O'Neill led the way toward the elevators the next morning with Teal'c following closely behind. The Jaffa looked imposing dressed in the all black street clothes he seemed to favor when leaving the base.

"You know, Teal'c, you ought to try adding a little color—maybe something a little festive?"

"For what purpose, O'Neill?" Teal'c inquired.

"Oh, no reason. Listen, I've got to stop by Daniel's office for a second, okay? Meet me at the elevators."

Teal'c nodded his consent, watching as O'Neill made his way down the hallway toward Daniel Jackson's office.

Jack pulled out his key and entered quietly, flipping on the light switch. He knew exactly where to find what he was looking for, and he slipped the picture into his coat pocket. Turning, he saw something red and fuzzy lying on the corner of Daniel's desk. On impulse, he grabbed it and closed the door behind him.

Seeing Teal'c waiting patiently by the elevator, Jack tossed the Santa hat in his direction. "Here—put this on, big guy."

Teal'c looked uncertainly at the hat in his hands as the elevator doors opened. "You wish me to wear this?" he asked.

"Yeah—you gotta have something to cover up your…you know…" Jack pointed to the golden serpent embedded in Teal'c's forehead, stepping inside behind Teal'c and pushing the button for the surface.

"I have this," Teal'c stated, holding up the black knit cap he often wore off-world.

"Trust me on this one, T. Go with the red one."

He looked at O'Neill skeptically before reluctantly agreeing. "If you are certain."

"Oh, yeah. I'm certain." Watching the big Jaffa as he placed the cap over his bald head, Jack smiled and started whistling 'O Christmas Tree.'

************

Daniel pushed his way through the throng of shoppers, doing his best to catch up to Sam before he lost her altogether. Coming abreast of her, he watched as she navigated the shopping mall without ever taking her eyes off the list in her hand, idly wondering how she managed to avoid bumping into anyone else. Must be a female thing, he thought to himself.

"Sam…not that I'm questioning your judgment or anything, but are you sure that scarf is the right gift for Cassie?"

"Oh, Daniel, she'll love it!" Sam turned to look at him, her eyes alight. She reached down and pulled the scarf in question out of Daniel's bag, lightly rubbing it against her cheek. "It's so soft! And the color is perfect for her."

Daniel eyed the hot pink scarf uncertainly. "I don't know…it kind of reminds me of one of those feather boa things they wear in the Broadway musicals…"

"I know! Isn't that great? I'm telling you, these scarves are all the rage right now. You couldn't have done better." She returned the scarf to the shopping bag. "So, where next?"

"Well, I still need to find something for Jack. Got any ideas?"

"Actually…." Sam stopped walking and pulled Daniel by the arm over to the side of the crowded hallway, the twinkle in her eye growing.

"What?"

Sam's gaze swept the mall, as if she were afraid she might be overheard. "Have you noticed how lately the colonel's arms are barely long enough to hold his Gameboy far enough away to see it?"

Daniel nodded, smiling. While they certainly understood the Colonel's reluctance to admit defeat in the face of age, especially given his status as a pilot, the signs were slowly beginning to show and it took everything within them not to give Jack some gentle ribbing.

"The new Gameboy Advance has a magnifying adaptor…" Sam continued.

"Perfect! Lead on, my lady, lead on."

***********

"Ow##!" Jack shook his hand repeatedly, trying to wipe out the sting of the hundreds of scratches he'd received from the plastic needles on the tree. Make that one hundred and one, he thought in frustration.

"Teal'c!" he called in exasperation. "Check the box again. I think they gave us the wrong pieces for this stupid thing. The branches on the top are too long. I knew I should have had Carter handle this while I took Daniel shopping," he continued muttering under his breath.

"I believe the problem is that you have put the wrong branches in the wrong place. According to the directions, the branches with the red tape at the base go on the bottom of the tree."

"There are directions?"

"There are."

"And you actually read them?"

"Is it not customary to read the directions if you are uncertain of how to proceed?"

"Only if you're a geek, Teal'c!" Jack said, indignity ringing in his voice. "We real men do things the old-fashioned way…we figure it out for ourselves."

"I see. And that would be why your tree is looking so…" Teal'c searched for the right word, and settled for tilting his head and letting his expression speak for itself.

Jack leaned his head in the same direction, finding that, unfortunately, the tree did look better from this angle. He glanced back at his companion and saw the smirk on his normally serene face.

"Oh, just shut up and hand me the stupid directions."

***********

"I didn't see Jack's truck out front, so we must have beaten them here," Daniel commented as he inserted the key into his lock.

"Maybe they stopped to pick up the pizza on the way here," Sam replied innocently. Her furtive phone call made from the ladies room at the mall just before they left had confirmed that Jack and Teal'c were indeed here and ready for them, though as she entered the darkened apartment, she could see no signs that they had been here.

Daniel flipped on the light, but not before he noticed the persistent glow coming from the living room. "What the heck is that?" he mumbled, placing his bags next to the doorway and heading down the hallway.

The sight that met his eyes as he entered the room would stay with him for the rest of his life. There, inside his own living room, was a tree nearly seven feet tall, lit up and decorated to the hilt. Glass ornaments of all colors, candy canes, tinsel and garland all sparkled at him as the colored lights reflected off their shapes. A beautiful angel dressed in white and gold topped the tree.

And next to the tree sat Jack in his customary chair, with Teal'c standing by his side. With a Santa hat on.

Daniel stopped and stood stock still in the middle of the room, completely and utterly unable to speak. He felt Sam come up beside him and gently kiss his cheek as she lightly squeezed his arm.

"Surprise, Daniel," she said softly, rubbing his arm in a show of affection and support.

He turned to look at her, gaping, but his gaze was drawn back to the tree as if by magic. Christmas magic.

"I…" he started, but the words, words in any of his 23 languages, just wouldn't come. "I don't know what to say…" His gaze fell upon Jack, and he knew without a doubt who had been the brains behind this grand scheme. "Jack…"

"You don't need to say anything, Daniel," Jack said, rising from his chair. "What you do need to do is open these." Jack handed him two small packages, each identical in their wrapping.

Daniel took the packages, doing his best to keep the trembling in his hands from showing. "But Christmas isn't until next Thursday…" he said, as if that explained everything.

"Well, these aren't exactly Christmas presents. They're sort of…pre-Christmas presents. You know. For pre-Christmas. Kind of a before thing. Before Christmas, that is. Aw, just open them, Daniel."

Sam knew what was in the gifts, and knew that Daniel was already shaken. She gently led him to the couch and sat down beside him, reaching next to her to turn on the lamp.

As Daniel began carefully unwrapping the first package, Jack moved closer to the couch. "Remember how I was telling you about the O'Neill family tradition of the Christmas tree? Well, we have another tradition in the O'Neill family. The spot right up at the top center of the tree is always reserved for the family ornament. Every year, the angel on top of the O'Neill tree looks down upon the family picture. We…" Jack paused, the barest of hitches heard in his voice, "that is, Sara and I…we continued that tradition on for Charlie—we had our own family ornament."

Daniel glanced up at Jack and held his eyes briefly, knowing as always what it cost the other man to talk about his son.

"Anyway," Jack said, clearing his throat and attempting to ease the solemn mood in the room, "we figured since you now had an official O'Neill approved Christmas tree, you should have your own family ornament. Go on—open the box."

Daniel lifted the lid off the small box. Inside was a small golden ornament, and framed within it was a picture of smiling couple holding their infant son in front of the pyramids of Egypt. With hands that were now shaking in earnest, he lifted the ornament up and held it so that it dangled from his fingers.

"How…how did you get this?"

"Aahh, now that was the easy part," Jack said with a gleam in his eye. "I lifted the picture off your desk this morning and had the photo shop make a copy of it. Remind me to give you back the original."

Daniel stood up and carefully placed the ornament at the top of the tree, suddenly feeling a wistfulness that his parents were unable to share this moment with him. As he stared at the tree, surrounded by his closest friends, he felt a warmth within him that he wouldn't trade for anything in the world.

"Daniel?" Sam said. "You forgot one." She stood and handed him the remaining gift.

Opening the box, Daniel lifted out another ornament, a twin to the first. Only this one encased a picture of SG-1, caught in a candid moment from Sam's camera off-world. The four of them were standing next to the DHD. Sam and Daniel were laughing at something Jack had said; Jack had his hand on Daniel's shoulder, and Teal'c was gazing at them with a soft expression on his face. Daniel vaguely remembered Sergeant Miller shooting the picture on PCS-342.

He gazed up at Sam, a question in his eyes.

"From your other family, Daniel," she said simply.

Daniel took a deep breath and placed the ornament next to the first, blinking rapidly as he felt moisture gather behind his eyes. He turned to face his teammates, his family. "Thank you. Sincerely. Thank you."

Jack put his arm companionably around Daniel's shoulders and led him off towards the kitchen and the waiting pizza. "Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown."

Daniel let out a little laugh, glancing at Jack's profile next to him. "And God bless us, everyone."

Jack squeezed his shoulder before removing his arms and clapping his hands together. "So, kiddos…let's eat!"

"You got hot chocolate for after dinner?" Daniel asked hopefully as Sam and Teal'c followed them into the kitchen.

"Of course! It's an O'Neill family tradition!"

"I guess that means we're playing monopoly after we eat then, right…"

"Actually," Jack said slyly, "I thought we'd play every soldier's favorite game."

"Oh, no…Jack…."

"That's right, Daniel, my boy…Risk!"

**********

Sam uttered a muffled curse as she banged her hip on the table, the noise reverberating in the quiet of the kitchen, which only earned her a glare from Jack.

"You want to do that a little louder, Carter?" he whispered sarcastically. "I don't think the folks in the apartment across the hall heard you."

"Sorry, sir."

"Teal'c, how you doing on those pancakes?"

"I am rotating the last one now, O'Neill." The Santa hat sat firmly atop Teal'c's head, as it had been for nearly all of the last week. While many of the SGC personnel had been amused at the sight of it, none had dared to comment.

"Alright. Coffee's almost done, presents are under the tree—if sleeping beauty doesn't wake up soon, I'm sending you in, Carter."

**********

Daniel woke to the noise of something banging in the kitchen. He raised his head off the pillow, trying to determine if he'd actually heard the sound. Deciding it must have just been the neighbors, he closed his eyes and thought about going back to sleep.

Coffee.

The thought popped into his brain, unprovoked. Not that it was ever a far leap for Daniel to be thinking about coffee. Except this time, he could almost smell it.

His eyes opened again, and he struggled to an upright position. He could smell coffee. His coffee, the one he'd had sent over from Egypt, coming from his kitchen. He swung his legs over the side of the bed and stood, deciding at the last minute to throw sweat pants on over his boxers and grabbing his glasses before heading out of the bedroom. His under-caffeinated brain struggled to recall if this was a workday, if perhaps he'd overslept and Jack had shown up to give him a ride.

Shuffling out to the kitchen, he rubbed a hand over his scratchy chin. The first person he encountered was Teal'c, in his Santa hat, standing next to the stove. He looked at him in bewilderment.

"Hey, Teal'c. Nice hat."

"Ho, ho, ho," Teal'c deadpanned, turning to shut off the stove and carry the plate of steaming hotcakes to the table.

"Merry Christmas, Daniel!" Sam called, walking over and giving him a quick hug. "Breakfast is ready." She moved away to the refrigerator and searched within for the butter.

"Hey, Daniel! Coffee?" Jack asked, handing the confused man a large mug.

"Thanks, Jack." Daniel took a large gulp, feeling the hot liquid trace a path down his throat. It didn't help clear his mind, so he drank again.

"Guys?"

"Yeah, Daniel?"

"What are you doing in my kitchen?"

"Making breakfast, Daniel," Jack answered. "Christmas breakfast."

"Did I…did I miss the memo on this?"

"I do not believe there was a memo, Daniel Jackson. I believe it was Colonel O'Neill's idea to surprise you, and therefore he would not have put anything into writing." Teal's explanation caused Daniel's gaze to swing toward Jack.

Jack merely shrugged, his face heating slightly. "It's Christmas, Daniel. You spend Christmas with your family. It's…"

"…an O'Neill family tradition?" Daniel finished for him.

"Something like that," Jack agreed, smiling as he held out a chair for Sam.

"It's a good one," Daniel said quietly, holding Jack's gaze. No more words were needed for either man.

"So, how'd you guys get in here anyway?"

"Aahh. That was the easy part," Jack said, and Daniel experienced a feeling of déjà vu. "I gave my new buddy Ray the doorman a special assignment for Operation Christmas Gift."

Daniel grinned.

Jack pushed Sam's chair in and went to sit in the one next to her. "So, have a seat, campers. Don't want Teal'c's famous apple pancakes getting cold, do we now?"

As Daniel sat at his kitchen table, surrounded by Sam, Jack and Teal'c, he knew without a doubt that this was probably his best Christmas yet. He voiced that thought to his friends.

Jack and Sam exchanged a knowing look. "Just wait till you see what's under the tree, Danny-boy."

End