Make Believe 4.5 – Merry Christmas to All
"Mom! Jacob's playing with the ornaments again!"
Sam couldn't help but chuckle as she looked over to find eight-year-old Grace's distressed look and nine-month-old Jacob's pudgy hand reaching for one of the brightly colored ornaments at the bottom of the tree.
"Not for you," she laughed as she caught the baby up in her arms.
She won a whimper from the infant before he tried to wiggle out of her arms.
"It's the playpen for you, kiddo," she murmured as she set him down in the playpen with a blanket and some toys. "At least until Daddy can keep an eye on you or Mommy's finished with her decorating."
"Did I hear my name?" Jack asked, poking his head into the living room.
"Yes, our little explorer was playing with the ornaments again, and distressing his older sister," Sam said with an amused chuckle.
"What'd I say about that, kiddo?" Jack asked, reaching into the playpen for the active infant who giggled and reached for his nose. "You know what that does to your sister's Christmas spirit."
Sam shook her head as she reached into the box of Christmas decorations and pulled out a couple of boxes of ornaments. "Okay, Grace, which box do you want to put up?" She asked, holding them both out for her to see.
"Um...this one." Grace said, picking the box in her mother's right hand.
"Excellent choice." Jack said, walking over to where his wife and daughter were putting up ornaments. "Those are my favorite ornaments. Had 'em since I was a kid."
Sam turned an amused smile to her husband as Grace looked wide-eyed at her father. "Really?"
"Yep." He said, nodding.
"They're new." Sam murmured, sotto voce, to her husband.
"Yeah, well...I had some just like them when I was a kid," Jack teased. "They're just...a little more...sparkly and...shiny...and..."
Sam shook her head with a small laugh.
"Are you telling tall tales again, Daddy?" Grace asked with her hands on her hips as she fixed him with an unamused glare.
It was all Sam could do to keep from laughing loudly at her daughter's stance. Instantly, Jacob was back in her arms, and Jack was headed toward his daughter with a mockingly gruff look on his face.
"Come here, you little squirt," Jack said, catching the young girl by the waist as she squealed and tried to run. He suspended her in the air as if she was a football. "I'm still your dad...and I'm still bigger than you..."
"Mercy! Mercy!" Grace giggled.
"I thought so," he said, smugly, as he returned the girl to the ground.
Sam laughed as she bounced Jacob in her arms, gently, eliciting another giggle from the baby.
"Happy baby." Jack said with a grin. "We like happy babies."
Sam smiled. "It's "happy baby's" first Christmas. I think he's enjoying all of the activity."
"Oh, this isn't even the beginning, kiddo." Jack said with a grin. "Just wait until Charlie and Cassie show up, and then Daniel, Vala, Nicole, Mitchell, Teal'c, and of course, Neill. It'll be one big party."
It had been interesting to watch Jack embrace his clone a little more fully when he'd realized that the boy who had shot himself with Jack's personal side arm so many years before had been his son's clone.
"All right, Dad," Sam said, turning to her husband as she returned the baby to his arms. "How about you and the kids finish this up and I'll get the kitchen ready for our baking."
"My favorite part of the holiday season," Jack grinned.
"Mine too." Grace murmured, licking her lips hungrily.
"What about you?" Sam asked, turning to the infant in her husband's arms. "You a fan of Christmas cookies?"
He offered her a toothless grin as he reached for her face and offered her an open-mouthed kiss. She quickly returned it with a grin of her own. "I sure love you, little guy," she cooed, affectionately.
The doorbell rang, and Grace ran toward it. "I'll get it!" She cried, halfway across the room.
Jack laughed as he and his wife followed. "Speedy Gonzalez makes it to the door first yet again."
"I'm not Gonzalez," Grace cried, shaking her head with an eyeroll as she opened the door. "Charlie!"
"Hey there, little sister!" He laughed as she wrapped her arms around his legs tightly. He easily picked her up and held her in his arms. "Ooph...you're getting a bit big for this, don't you think?"
"Silly." She laughed, shaking her head.
"Merry Christmas everyone," Cassandra said, turning from her new husband and sister-in-law to the rest of the group.
"Merry Christmas, Cass." Sam said, offering the younger woman a hug before she herded the couple further into the entry and closed the door. "How are you?"
"Great." She said with a grin. "I've got to go in for a few hours tomorrow morning, but other than that, I'm free."
"They're working you awfully hard, aren't they?" Jack asked, concerned.
She shrugged. "I'm a resident. They treat all the residents like that. But I'm getting a lot of valuable experience, and I love my job."
"That's the important thing." Sam said with a grin as Cassandra walked over to the baby in Jack's arms.
"Oh, hello there, little Jacob." Cassandra cooed as he reached toward her. She easily lifted the baby out of Jack's arms. "How's your Christmas? Do you like Christmas? Yes, you do. Yes, you do."
Sam turned a coy smile to her husband who rolled his eyes, knowing that Sam was anxious for grandchildren. And truth be told, so was he, though having little Jacob and Grace around the house seemed to keep him young enough at heart.
"Don't even think of asking until after I'm finished with my residency," the doctor said, sensing the shared sentiments of her in-laws.
"For what?" Sam asked, innocently.
"You know what..." She said, shaking her head in amusement.
Even Charlie managed a small smile at the banter, though it was clear that he was somewhat distracted by other thoughts.
"Why are you sad?" Grace asked, studying her older brother intently and winning the attention of all the adults in the room.
"Grace," Sam murmured as she shook her head.
"It's okay, Sam." He interrupted, putting up a hand to stop her. "She asked a very good question." He turned back to her. "Do you remember when I was gone?"
Grace nodded, silently.
"Well, when I was gone, I had a family. Just like yours. I had a wife, and we were going to have a baby."
"Really?" Grace asked, her eyes widening.
He nodded. "But something happened and the baby died. And my wife died too. So, sometimes when I think about them, I get a little sad."
"Like me and my other parents." She said, sagely.
He nodded. "Just like that."
"I'm sorry about your wife and baby," Grace whispered as she wrapped her arms around his neck tightly.
He returned the hug with a grateful smile. "Thanks, kiddo. But this Christmas is a sign of new beginnings." She pulled away, and he looked at her. "I have a new sister." He looked over at his wife. "I have a new brother, and I have a new wife. And I'm back with my family. What more could I ask for?"
"We're here!" A feminine voice called as the front door opened.
The unseen speaker was clearly exasperated with the woman who'd walked in the front door. "You don't just walk into someone's house! What if they had the security system on?"
"We don't have a security system," Sam said as Daniel appeared behind his wife, carrying a small pink and brown baby carrier. She grinned as she hugged her friend. "Hi, Vala!"
"Hi, Daniel," she greeted, turning to Daniel.
"Hi, Sam." He said with a smile as he leaned in and kissed her cheek.
"And who do we have here?" Sam asked, bending down to see the baby in the carrier.
Daniel set the carrier down as Sam undid the restraints and pulled the red-velvet clad Nicole out of her car seat. "Why hello, Miss Nicole," she greeted with a small smile. "Did your mommy pick this dress out for you?"
"Actually...no." Vala said, turning a wink to her husband, who blushed.
Sam turned an amused smile to Daniel. "Who knew you had such good taste in women's fashion," she teased.
"You goin' soft on me, Danny?" Jack teased.
"Ha ha..." The archaeologist said, shaking his head.
"It was his idea to buy the matching headband too," Vala said, attempting to fix her daughter's hair though the fidgeting 8-month-old was making it difficult. "Calm down, darling," she murmured. "Just a few more seconds...there!"
Sam grinned as she shook her head. "She's adorable even with a bow that's a little lopsided..."
"Especially with a bow that's a little lopsided." Jack said with a laugh as he took the baby from his wife. "Well, hello there, princess. Come to Uncle Jack."
"Who's going soft now?" Sam teased.
"It's not soft to give royalty the attention she deserves," he winked.
"I see..." She said, skeptically. She turned to the group. "We were about to start our Christmas cookie baking. Anyone interested in joining us should come this direction."
"Ooh...cookies..." Vala called, enthusiastically.
Sam laughed. "Well, what are you just standing there for? Come on!"
"Where's T?" Grace asked, looking at her family.
"He's coming. Neill and Mitchell asked him to drop them off at the airport."
Sam looked over in surprise. "Airport?"
"Cameron changed his mind and decided to spend his leave with his family." Vala said, matter-of-factly.
"And Neill?" Sam asked, confused.
"Neill's spending Christmas with Mitchell and his family."
"Why would he do that?" Jack asked, surprised.
"Uh...I don't think we really need to ask that question," Daniel said, looking at his friend.
Sam swallowed before nodding.
"Besides, I believe Cameron was going to introduce John to some of the young women in Kansas." Vala said, simply.
Jack and Sam looked at her in surprise. "Really?"
"Yes. His mother's active in church and has several friends with daughters about John's age."
"And he's thinking of requesting a transfer to Whiteman," Daniel said, quietly.
"Oh..." Sam said, quietly.
"Anyhow, he'll be here in no time," Vala said, lightening the mood.
"So, let's make him some cookies." Sam said, managing an enthusiastic smile.
"Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there." Charlie began, sitting on the couch with Grace tucked closely on one side of him so that she could see the pictures and Cassandra sitting on the other side of him as Vala, Nicole, Daniel, Teal'c, Jack, Sam and Jacob sat around the fireplace. "The children were nestled all snug in their beds, While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads. And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap, Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap."
Little Jacob began to fuss from where he sat on Jack's lap, and he stood to take him out of the room, muttering something about bedtime.
"When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter," Charlie continued. "I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter. Away to the window I flew like a flash, Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash. The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below. When, what to my wondering eyes should appear, But a miniature sleigh, and eight tinny reindeer. With a little old driver, so lively and quick, I knew in a moment it must be St Nick. More rapid than eagles his coursers they came, And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!
"Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen! On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen! To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall! Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!" As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly, When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky. So up to the house-top the coursers they flew, With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.
"And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof The prancing and pawing of each little hoof. As I drew in my head, and was turning around, Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound. He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot, And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot. A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back, And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.
"His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry! His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry! His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow, And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow. The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth, And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath. He had a broad face and a little round belly, That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly! He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf, And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself! A wink of his eye and a twist of his head, Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.
"He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work, And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk. And laying his finger aside of his nose, And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose! He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle, And away they all flew like the down of a thistle. But I heard him exclaim, 'ere he drove out of sight..."
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a Good night!" Came a cry from the hallway.
Grace looked up in absolute surprise as a robust man in a red suit with white trimming and white hair and beard. "SANTA!" The eight-year-old cried, too excited to notice her mother's stifled smile.
"Ho! Ho! Ho!" He laughed, merrily, as he set down his bag on the ground. "You must be Grace."
She nodded, repeatedly.
"My elves have told me that you've been a very good girl this year." He said, getting down to her level.
She nodded, enthusiastically. "I have, I have."
"And you've been a very good big sister, showing your new baby brother everything he needs to know."
"Well, because you've been so good, I've come down from the North Pole a little early so I can give this to you."
Her eyes were wide with excitement as he reached in the bag and retrieved a brightly colored package which he then handed to her.
"Can I open it?"
"Ask your mom."
Grace turned eager eyes to her mother who nodded affirmatively. Grace grinned as she sat down on the ground and eagerly opened the gift. She stared at the present for a few moments before she looked up at Santa, clearly flummoxed. "What is it?"
"Ho, ho, ho!" Santa laughed, causing Sam to chuckle at her husband's antics as he held the stuffing in the Santa suit from falling out with the belly laugh. "It's a kit for you to write your own book. You can draw the pictures too."
"Thank you, Santa!" She cried, flinging her arms around his waist as she hugged him tightly.
"Oh, you're welcome." He cheered, merrily. "Now, I have to get back to delivering gifts to the rest of the world." He winked at her with paternal affection. "Can't have them thinking you're my favorite."
She shook her head, soberly. "Of course not."
He stood again, looking at the rest of the group. "Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!" He called before he walked back out the hallway.
It was only a few minutes before Jack reappeared, and Grace ran up to him. "You missed it! Santa came and he gave me this!"
"No kidding!" Jack cried, suitably impressed.
"Where's Jacob?" She asked, her brow furrowing in confusion.
"It was his bedtime and with all that ruckus, it was hard to get him down."
"It was Santa," Grace said, rolling her eyes. "Not ruckus."
"I stand corrected." He smiled. "Now...who's up for a Christmas movie and cocoa?"
"Best tradition ever!" Jack sighed in satisfaction as the film credits rolled. "I love that movie!"
"Oh?" Sam asked, turning to her husband as she pegged him with a very suspicious glance.
"What?" He asked, shrugging his shoulders. "It's a great movie!"
"It's an old movie," Charlie laughed from where he sat with one arm wrapped around Cassandra's shoulders and Grace lying across the younger couple's laps. "We watched it every Christmas when I was a kid!"
"And I bet I can tell you why..." Sam said with an amused smile.
"Mary Steenburgen." Teal'c murmured, stoically.
"I don't just like "One Magic Christmas" because Mary Steenburgen is in it." He said, shaking his head.
"Let me guess," Charlie said, looking at his dad. "It's just "so damned awesome"."
"Took the words right out of my mouth," Jack said, pointing at his son.
Sam managed an uncomfortable smile before she stood, clearing the plates of Christmas cookies and glasses of egg nog that littered the coffee table. Daniel and Vala had gone home about the same time that Santa had left since Nicole had begun her "bedtime fussing" about then. Now, it was just Teal'c, Charlie, Cassie, Sam, Jack, and the sleeping O'Neill children.
"Here, let me help." Jack said, reaching for some of the dishes.
"I'm fine." Sam said, shaking her head.
"You don't seem like you're fine," he said, honestly.
"Look, Christmas is about magic." She said, softly. "I get that. So, I'm not going to say anything about your favorite Christmas film."
She took the dishes from his hands and headed up the stairs.
Jack sighed before he turned to the younger couple. "I'll be right back."
"We'll put Grace to bed for you." Charlie piped up.
"And then, we probably should get going. We want to get some rest before we need to show up aat Sara's tomorrow." Cassandra added.
Jack nodded. "Merry Christmas, you two."
"Merry Christmas, Jack."
"Merry Christmas, Dad."
Jack walked up to the kitchen as his son and daughter-in-law took Grace to her bedroom. "If it's the whole Mary Steenburgen thing..."
"It's not Mary Steenburgen." She said, shaking her head. "I'm fine."
"O...kay...d'you wanna tell me what IS the problem then?"
"There's no problem."
"Jack, I'm just doing the dishes so we'll have a nice clean kitchen for pictures tomorrow morning. Maybe you can start on the presents we're putting under the tree?"
"I'll be there in a minute. Just two more dishes."
Jack watched her for a few moments, waiting for her to finish. Finally, as she turned around, he looked at her. "You don't like the movie."
"I think it's interesting that after watching other movies on Christmas eve, you decided to go back to an apparently "long-standing" tradition."
"Look, it was something I used to watch with Charlie when he was a kid. I thought we'd agreed to try and make this as...smooth a transition as possible – especially when we handled traditions this Christmas."
"I remember that too." She said, nodding.
"This isn't about the fact that it's an old tradition I thought was better left forgotten until Charlie showed up, is it?"
Sam tensed as Charlie and Cassandra walked past the kitchen and toward the entry.
Jack's confused brow looked from where Sam stood, clearly unnerved by something, to where Charlie and Cassandra were trying to discreetly disappear through the front door. "This is about Charlie?" He asked after the door shut.
"No." Sam said with a heavy sigh. "It's not about Charlie."
"Then, what is it about?"
Sam swallowed. "Grace."
"What about her?" He asked, taken aback.
"What are we teaching her? First, Charlie is resurrected, and then, we show her a film where Santa Clause manages to resurrect a girl's father. One of these days, she's going to try it, and it won't work because that's not how things work, Jack."
He sighed, realizing the weight of everything she was saying.
"I understand the appeal on the surface, but...I just don't want her to be disappointed."
Jack nodded for a moment, clearly thinking deeply.
"What?" She asked, studying him.
"Maybe...it's a little farfetched," Jack admitted, slowly. "But...I don't know...maybe it's a good thing for her to believe."
"That her parents can come back if she delivers her letter to the North Pole herself?" Sam asked, raising a skeptical eyebrow.
"Sam, what's the hardest thing about losing your parents?"
She tensed. "Um..."
"It's not knowing whether they're still themselves or if they're actually gone. Yeah, it's still sad that you can't see them, but the torture comes from not knowing what's happening to them."
"And let's be honest, Charlie's not the first person to come back from the dead in our lives."
"Grace wasn't around for..."
"I know." He interrupted. "But let's be honest – someday Nicole's going to find out about the fact that her dad ascended and came back not once, but twice, and then, she's going to hear about how we thought that Vala was dead, but that she was really in the Ori home galaxy giving birth to the Orici. In both instances, whether literal or figurative, they came back from the dead."
Sam hesitated before she nodded in agreement.
He walked over to her and put his hands on her arms before he slid them down to catch her hands in his. He pulled them up to his lips, affectionately kissing the back of each hand. "I, for one, would like my daughter to have hope that we might still be ourselves when it's our time to go. Even if it does turn out to be a false hope." He looked pleadingly at his wife. "Let's let her have the childhood that she has all but lost so many times."
"Okay," she murmured with a quick nod.
He wrapped his arms around her, and hugged her tightly. "I know you don't want her to get hurt." He whispered. "But that light in her eye when she saw Santa Clause...that was a light I've never seen there before, and it's one that should be there a lot more often."
She nodded with a small smile at the recollection. "I guess there's just...so much about the movie that seems..."
"Awfully autobiographical?" He filled in.
She nodded. "I can't tell you how many times I thought I'd have to live my life without you – literally and figuratively."
He kissed the top of her head, still holding her close. "Same."
"But there was no Santa Clause to ask back then..."
"Unless you count Thor," her husband said, philosophically. "I think there were two times...at least...that he saved my butt."
Sam couldn't help but chuckle as she thought of Thor wearing a Santa hat and saying "Ho, ho, ho!"
"Sam?" He asked, more soberly. "I love you. And I am never going to leave you – willingly or unwillingly. I will always be there for you. You know that, right?"
"Yeah," she whispered, tears shining in her eyes. "I know that."
He brushed a kiss across her forehead before he pulled away. "Now, how do you feel about getting some "Mommy kissing Santa Clause under the mistletoe" action?"
She giggled at the thought of him in his Santa outfit and Grace catching them under the mistletoe. "I think you'd better get changed. If Grace hears us and wakes up, I don't want her seeing just Mommy and Daddy."
"Good thinking, ma'am." He said, carefully pondering the thought. "Perhaps while I'm the Jolly Elf himself, you might think about changing into an outfit that would...befit...Santa's Little Helper."
"And what makes you think I still have that outfit?" She whispered, low.
"I saw out of the corner of my eye as you were trying it on in the bathroom the other day," he returned, just as quietly. "And...it was just what I needed to get into the Christmas spirit."
She blushed and giggled, pulling away from her husband. "We have work to do, General..."
"Ah, but it's Christmas." Jack winked.
"We'll talk about the, uh, elf outfit after we're finished." She said, thinking back to their first "makeup" Christmas in a Denver bed-and-breakfast.
"Oh, yes." He said, closing his eyes with a subdued smirk.
"And I might even be able to find some...cake...around here."
"Don't tempt me," Jack warned, teasingly.
"No, I'm pretty sure there's cake to be had." She said, thinking carefully. "But AFTER Santa comes down the chimney."
"Santa's on his way, ma'am," Jack said with a snappy salute before he darted into the master bedroom.
Sam grinned as she followed him. She paused at the door as she heard something. It was nearly ten o' clock, and yet she could have sworn she'd heard someone call something out against the stillness of the night.
"You comin'?" Jack asked, poking his head out of the door, the white beard already dangling from his face.
"Yeah." She said, nodding somewhat distractedly. "Thought I heard something."
"What?" He asked, his brow furrowing.
"It's just my imagination." She said, shaking her head. "Nothing to worry about."
She nodded. "Pretty darn..."
"Merry Christmas to All," came the sound against the heavens, more distinctly this time. "And to All a Good-night."
Sam looked at her husband who looked back at her. "Was that...?"
They were still for a few moments before Sam laughed. "We're grown adults. There's not way..."
"Yeah..." Her husband laughed with her as he walked back into the bedroom. "Just some parents trying to show off for their kids."
"Exactly." Sam said with a laugh.
And while they were too busy laughing with one another in the privacy of their bedroom, a miniature sleigh led by eight tiny reindeer flew past their window.