"…so in the end I was the only one of the girls in boot camp who ended up drenched in mud." Jeez, I can't believe I just told Dee the story about my first foray into the obstacle course.

And I can't believe he's grinning. I really shouldn't have told him about being entitled to an equal place in the team. "Obviously the beginning of a wonderful friendship."

I manage to throw him an evil look while unlocking the door. "Just a piece of advice, Sergeant: if you want to stay in my good graces… no more 'Casablanca' jokes."

Trying to smother his grin, he tries to answer matter-of-factly, "Of course, ma'am." However, then he dares to add, "By the way… does that apply to the Major as well?"

What the…? "I will not dignify that with an answer, Sergeant." Okay, maybe that was just a little bit too…

"Your prerogative, ma'am." Why, you little… I bet he's just doing that to tease out some officer reaction from me. Which is, I admit it, exactly the reason why he won't get one. Yeah, well, anyw…

Why exactly is there light in the living room and… "You know, I keep wondering… oh, hi, Maureen." For a moment, I'm a bit too perplexed to answer anything, so Laura gets the opportunity to add, "Oh… and hi, Dee," a little bewildered herself.

Maybe it's the equally baffled look on the Major's face that lets me snap out of my own astonishment and I manage to ask, "Uh, weren't you two… like… supposed to be on your way to Maine?"

At that, Laura's face changes to disgruntled and a little resigned, while the Major looks… pleased? Mh. "Yeah, well, mom called an hour or so ago. Whole east coast is snowed in." Okay, that explains her disgruntled look.

"Real pity." And that explains the Major's pleased look. Apparently, someone wasn't exactly keen on having to spend Christmas with the family.

However, it gets him a shove against his healthy arm from Laura. "Hey, I actually miss my family."

He glares at her for a moment and I manage to share a look with Dee. Did he just roll his eyes? "Say, Kid, weren't you supposed to be on stand-by 'Gate security?"

Right. Uh-huh. I'm tempted to ask him if he maybe turned blind or suffered from some form of temporary amnesia… but then my big mouth decides to take it up another notch, "Yeah, well, they let me go home. Apparently, all the Milky Way's bad guys got a card saying 'Shop's closed until after New Year's Eve. Please don't bother attacking us. Merry Christmas.' or something. Or maybe it had something to with the black eye I brought home from P7G-973." Oops.

I can't believe I just said that. Also, I seem to be not the only one thinking that because the Major's usually inscrutable face looks pretty much like that as well. From my right I can hear a faint snort and Laura looks like she has a hard time holding back her amusement. Ladies and gentleman, once again Lieutenant Maureen Reece managed to piss off her superior while simultaneously amusing the rest of her team. Well done, Lieutenant, really well done.

For a moment it looks like he might decide to take out whatever bad mood the arrow wounds caused him on me but then suddenly I hear him snorting and after another moment of trying to hold back, he's laughing and… God, I just can't get used to that sound. It's just so… different. Makes him look a lot younger and less like… himself. Takes off that grumpy look and a few worry lines and… okay, I'll just stop here. He's still my boss, after all.

However, I simply can't help grinning at the open amusement. It takes him another moment to quiet down a little and then he says, "Good point, Kid. So… how'd you manage to drag our good Sergeant away from the sacred halls of the Mountain?"

I want to answer but Dee is faster. "She promised me a fireplace, sir." A little taken off-guard, I turn to Dee and see a smirk gracing his face. Jesus, I should really stop underestimating him. Just because he's a rather quiet person doesn't mean he's a shy person.

The Major quirks an eyebrow. "Fireplace, huh? And here I thought I knew everything about you."

Actually… I thought that, too. From what Laura told me, Dee and the Major served together even before they both came to the SGC – Laura says she suspects their time together dates back into a time she calls the Black Year where the Major apparently was gone from everyone's radar, including hers – and I just always took for granted that they knew each other inside out.

Dee, however, simply shrugs and says, "Believe it or not, but sometimes I like to surprise people, sir." It makes the Major and Laura smirk and he adds, "Anyway… in exchange for the fireplace I promised the Lieutenant to cook and if I remember it correctly, you need a kitchen for that. So…"

"Oh, I'll show you," Laura suddenly volunteers a bit too fast and a look towards the Major confirms my assessment. It struck him as odd and he's still a little dumbfounded over Laura's readiness to lead Dee to our kitchen. I can totally understand that because… well, Laura's not a bad cook… she just doesn't like to do it. Jeez, I just hope the Major will be clever enough not to try and talk to her about it.

And then I realize that with Laura and Dee apparently suddenly fully engrossed in food issues, it leaves the Major and I alone. So… cue awkward silence. I know they shouldn't happen anymore – or at least not every time we suddenly find each other alone – but they just do. Which is why I am kind of thankful when the Major says after another moment, "So… how did you really lure him out of his hidey-hole?"

I can't help rolling my eyes when I sit down in one of the arm chairs. "Believe it or not, but he was telling the truth, sir. I really used the fireplace."

It makes him smirk again. "Pity. Thought you actually ordered him to. That would have been something really innovative. Well, for you, I mean." Grrr. He's damn lucky that I don't have anything resembling balls of crumbled paper lying around here or he might have found himself under fire from me. Or… maybe not, seeing I still haven't quite lived down my last foray into that kind of thing. "Oh, come on; stop shooting dagger looks at me. I was just joking." Right. Argh.

"Sorry, sir, I wasn't… I didn't…" And again he's grinning. Hey!

"Aw, Kid, stop trying to apologize. I'd rather you told me… oh, yeah. How did you get that shiner?" Yeah, right. That was to be expected. And here I thought I'd get away without having to tell him that I got kind of thrashed by an extraterrestrial version of the Whomping Willow but… here we go.

I sigh. "See… it was like this…" and his grin broadens. Oh well.


Over the kitchen counter, I throw a short look towards Tom and Maureen, making sure he doesn't harass the poor girl or give her the silent treatment because his stupid arm is bothering him and he needs to take it out on some unsuspecting poor subordinate and then turn back to Dee who started methodically sorting through his ingredients and putting on the counter whatever else he needs for cooking. Interesting. Apparently, Dee cooks like he does his experiments; neat and controlled and… just a little bit on the OCD site.

Trying to hold back a grin at the thought of even Dee having a weakness – and finding it not only amusing but also endearing – I ask, "So… how did she convince you to come here?"

He started chopping vegetables and just looks up to give me a little grin. "Like I told you, ma'am. She promised me a fireplace."

Seeing other people preparing something to eat always makes me want to help them, so I take one of the chairs we keep at the counter and pull it over to sit down – stupid ankle won't stop bothering me – and simply grab a plate, a knife and a tomato. "Mind if I help you?" He shakes his head simply and keeps going on doing his own chopping. "Anyway… you sure it was really just that?"

Despite him not looking at me I can see an amused grin graze his face. "Well, to be honest… the Lieutenant did tell me I had every right to 'fraternize' with officers." Jesus fucking Christ, he didn't just say that, right? And she didn't say that either. Did she? Oh fuck and now Dee is looking at me. "In a, I quote, 'totally… non-romantic way… only platonic'. Well, I think you see where she was getting, ma'am."

That little… he's not screwing around with my head, right? Because I could swear I saw his eyes gleam with wicked amusement and a grin of the same quality flit over his otherwise totally straight face. Oh… oh, wait, is that a blush I just saw? Hah! Apparently, someone just surprised and probably even horrified himself. Still… I can't help having to clear my throat and look away, though. "Of course. So… she didn't order you to come here, did she?"

"No, she didn't." That sounded a little… regretful? Disappointed? I look at him again and he adds, "Hope you don't mind me saying that but… it's rather a pity. I don't quite know how to say this, but…"

Ah, right, seems like he thinks he just forgot himself and overstepped a boundary or something with a comment that could be considered flirtatious but wasn't and is now on the verge of drawing back into his shell. I sigh. "Whatever it is, Dee, I'm pretty sure no one will take offense by it. Just tell me."

He takes a moment to stop chopping and look at me. "Ma'am… I think Lieutenant Reece needs to be taught about the… deeper meanings of how to be an officer by someone… someone who's her peer. There are… lots of things only you or the Major can teach her and… to be honest… I'd rather have you teach her than the Major."

Well, yeah, I knew about that. And he knew that. So what exactly is he trying to… Oh, right. I think I get it. "Dee… you're trying to teach her, aren't you?"

He shrugs. "To be honest… yes, ma'am. But there's only so much I can do." Actually… I think there's a lot you can do… and which wouldn't be considered proper for an NCO by conventional military standards. However, lots of times, they don't quite apply to this team and I want to tell him that… only to realize that to Dee, they still mean a lot and that I could of course ask of him to disregard them… but only for the price of him being uncomfortable. And he probably wouldn't do it anyway, like he never really stopped calling me ma'am even though I asked him to.

"I see. Honestly, I really do. I'll think of something, okay?" He gives me a tight little smile and I'd really like to squeeze his shoulder or rub his arm to show him I meant what I just said and give him a little encouragement but I'd only make things a lot worse with that, so I refrain from doing it and try to concentrate on the task at hand.

"Thanks, ma'am. I appreciate it." By now, he's started to put all his chopped vegetables – how come he's done with all of his and I only did three measly tomatoes? – into a pot on the stove, stirred the stuff and graciously took it upon himself to chop the rest of the tomatoes.

Suppressing another sigh I let him take over and reply, "I know you do. Also… don't think I didn't register your lack of faith in your team leader's social skills."

That… makes him grin and I'm glad for that. I like him best that way – mostly at ease with only an absolutely necessary portion of his usual guard up, witty and showing the very rare wicked side of his – and I wish I could get to see more of it. "I only meant that he really does a lot for Lieutenant Reece's education and training as it is, ma'am."

Yeah. Right. Of course. I can't help snorting. "I'm sure, you did. Anyway…so, now that all the stuff is in the pot… what else do we do?"

"Well… cleaning up, for once," he says and immediately does so, putting away everything in neat stacks and wiping the counter's surface – I can't believe he took mere seconds for something that usually takes me ten minutes at least but most often longer – and then continues, "and letting the 'stuff' simmer for a little while. Actually… I think it's safe to say we can return to the living room for the time being."

Oh, right. I get up from my chair and after a moment of having to find my balance, I reply, "Yeah, someone needs to make sure Tom doesn't harass Maureen too much."

At first it looks like Dee wants to offer me help to walk around the counter and back into the kitchen but thankfully he seems to realize it's a bad idea and instead says, "Actually, ma'am… it looks very much like the Lieutenant can hold her own."

Well… true. Neither of them is glaring at the other or looks like he or she might need some serious consoling or counseling… well, yet. Instead it looks like they're… having an actual conversation. Huh. I exchange another glance with Dee and he gives me a minute shrug of his shoulders and a smirk. Without another word, we both walk over to them – well, in my case limp – and while Dee takes the second arm chair I return to my place beside Tom on the couch.

After a moment of collective silence, I realize that it's Christmas and that I may not be able to pass it with my blood family… but a wholly different kind of family. And it's a well kept tradition in my family to tell the most embarrassing family stories on Christmas in front of the fireplace. Well then… "So… did I ever tell you about that one time where a certain Major that shall remain unnamed for… ah hell. Did I ever tell you about Tom's first – and to date only – attempt at skiing?"

Immediately Tom reacts with a groan and I'm pretty sure if he hadn't been incapacitated he'd have tried physical violence but I guess even SF soldiers aren't immune to the powerful lull of a fireplace on Christmas. After a half-hearted jab to my shoulder, he settles for glaring at me while Maureen and Dee give up trying to cover their interest and I can't resist a grin. "So… he was 16 and I was 14 and our families went on this skiing trip together…" Ah, yeah, there are worse things than seeing Tom trying to disappear into the folds of the couch and the rest of my team settling in for a good story on a Christmas Eve. This is one of the nicer Christmas Eves, I'm suddenly sure.

A/N: Ah, cozy team goodness :D I love my team like that, seriously, I do. I also have a vague idea for a sequel but it could take some time until I get anything definite written down. I did a little venturing into writing Leverage fic but I'm trying to get back into Stargate now, hopefully with a few fresh ideas :) Also... mac would like to tell Tom that he's lucky that Laura didn't want to show other parts of the apartment to Dee...