Title: Christmas at the Cabin
Theme: Shipmas 2011
Category: AU, Romance, Family
Season: post Continuum
Pairing: S/J established
Summary: For the first time in years Sam makes it home in time to spend Christmas at the cabin with her family.
Disclaimer: see profile
A/N: I don't have a beta, so any mistakes are my own. I wouldn't mind feedback and/or constructive criticism or just a comment to let me know why you (don't) like it.
December 24, 2011
O'Neill Cabin, Minnesota
Jack O'Neill stealthily moved down the hall, making sure to avoid the loose and creaking floorboard near the master bedroom but winced when the door to the built-in cupboard squeaked as he opened it. He'd been meaning to oil its hinges for forever but had never gotten around to it – it had been years since he'd last needed anything from it and had completely forgotten about it. Pricking up his ears, he took the necessary steps to the bedroom and peeked inside to make sure his wife was still asleep. Jack let out a sigh when he realized luck was on his side and moved back to the cupboard. There were tons of boxes stored there, but he only needed a few. After rummaging about for ten minutes or so, he put the last one on the floor and silently commended himself for being smart enough to label them when he'd packed them up all those years ago.
Just as he closed the cupboard and leaned down to pick up the boxes, he heard the pitter-patter of little feet rushing towards him.
"Shazam!" Grace exclaimed, jumping in front of her daddy with her arms spread.
"Christ Gracie!" Jack muttered, his ears still ringing. When he looked up and saw her wide eyes, he quickly backtracked. "Ah, I meant eh… crap. Ah hell, just be quiet, okay sweetie?"
"Ooh Daddy, you said-"
"I know," he interrupted her with a pained expression. "Just don't tell Mommy, okay?"
Grace pursed her lips together and quickly nodded, before reaching for his pocket to tug him towards the living room. "C'mon Daddy."
"Wait," he held up a hand and moved back to the bedroom door and closed it as quietly as he could. Then he grabbed the boxes, gestured for his daughter to go to the living room and followed her.
"Is Mommy asleep?"
Jack nodded as he placed the boxes near the fireplace. "She got here late last night, remember?"
"I was in bed," she recalled.
"Yep, she came in to kiss you goodnight," he explained. Of course it hadn't been their intention to wake her, but Gracie had been so excited at the prospect of Christmas and Sam coming home that she was hardly sleeping these days. Not that he could blame her; after all, he'd been looking forward to finally seeing his wife again too. If he'd thought it was hard to be in different states in the beginning of their relationship he had been mistaken; her being back on SG-1 or in command of Atlantis – in the Pegasus Galaxy – while he was stuck in DC with Gracie had proven to be harder, but nothing compared to her being in command of Hammond and away from home for weeks, if not months at the time.
The few times she had to check in with Homeworld Command was usually done via audio or visual in the war room with other personnel present and most of the time it meant there was something wrong with her ship and it needed repairs or she was under attack. Either way, it wasn't good for his heart or blood pressure. He cherished the updates that were one-on-one though and it reminded him of when she'd been back at Atlantis and unable to get leave to come home to him and Gracie, but at the same time he knew she was far more vulnerable stuck on a ship in space than when she'd been in the city of the Ancients.
"Can I wake her?"
"No, Mommy needs a few more hours of shuteye," Jack explained.
Grace sighed and sat down on the rug next to the boxes. "What's this?"
"For Christmas?" she squealed in excitement.
"Yeah sure you betcha," he grinned, ruffling her long locks. Kneeling down next to her he helped her open the boxes and then leaned back against the sofa to watch as she started pulling everything out. She definitely had Sam's curiosity and sense of wonder, no doubt about it. "Careful with that," Jack murmured as she discovered the ornaments. He quickly took them from her to keep them safe and snickered when she got entangled in the string of lights. "C'mere," he easily lifted her on his lap and disentangled the lights. "They're supposed to decorate the tree, not you, sweetie."
Grace giggled and snuggled up to him. "I know!" She was quiet for a moment, looked around the room and then tilted her head back to look at him. "Daddy, where's our tree?"
"I'll go out and get one when Mommy's up," he told her as he hugged her tight and pressed a kiss on her crown before putting her on her own two feet and getting up.
"Can I come?"
"No, it's too cold and dangerous."
Pouting, she grabbed his belt and leaned against his leg. "Please, Daddy?"
Jack let out a deep sigh as she blinked her baby blues at him and picked her up. He never could say no to her or her mother when they batted those big eyes and said please. "Fine," he relented. "But you'll need warmer clothes," he said, looking at down at the outfit he'd laid out for her last night and she'd proudly dressed herself in this morning. "And we have to brush your hair first."
"Love you Daddy," Grace mumbled as she wrapped her arms around his neck and leaned her head on his shoulder.
He smiled warmly at her, squeezed her tighter and walked them over to her room. She had him wrapped around her little finger and he loved every minute of it. "I love you too, Munchkin."
Samantha Carter felt as good as new after sleeping half the day away – she'd only arrived at the cabin in the middle of the night – and a nice hot shower. She'd finished getting dressed and doing her hair and made her way to the living room. When she had managed to contact Jack a few weeks ago from her ship to tell him she would be home for Christmas, they had decided to finally celebrate it at the cabin. They'd wanted to do so for years but something had always come up and the last few Christmases had been spent apart; he and Grace on Earth, either in DC or Colorado Springs with some of their friends and she out in space and once even at Atlantis. Spending time away from her family was definitely one of the downsides of her career, but she couldn't just resign and fortunately Jack agreed with her. But it was still hard.
She knew Jack had only just managed to get away from Homeworld Command yesterday and now she felt a bit guilty at getting up so late; she doubted he'd had time to prepare the cabin for Christmas and could probably use her help. Hadn't he mentioned something about going out to get a tree today before they'd gone to sleep? Sam couldn't remember the details of their late night conversation, she'd been too tired and as soon as her head hit the pillow she'd been out like a light. She hoped he'd still be able to go out for a tree now, because she doubted he'd let their daughter home alone while she herself was asleep. "Jack, Grace?"
Grinning, Sam barely managed to brace herself for impact before her daughter flew into her arms. "Hey Hon, I missed you so much!" She murmured into Grace's hair as she hugged her tightly. "You've gotten taller while I was away! And look at your hair…"
"Daddy did it," she replied with a grimace.
"Hey, I resent that," Jack quipped before walking over to the two of them. "Sleep well, Sam?" He asked, before giving her a kiss.
She nodded and wrapped one arm around his shoulders to pull him close. Nuzzling his neck and breathing in his familiar scent, she nodded. "Like a baby… I would have gotten up sooner but-"
"Ack! Don't worry about it," he grinned, pressing a kiss to her temple. "Gracie and I went out and got ourselves a big tree while you were playing Sleeping Beauty."
Looking up, Sam's eyes grew wider at the sight of the huge tree in the corner of the living room. "Wow, that's a big tree. Are you sure we have enough decorations?" She had told him to take their decorations with him to Minnesota but he'd insisted he still had some at the cabin, since he used to spend a lot of Christmases here with his grandparents and later Sara and Charlie. After his son had died he hadn't been up here at the holidays though…
"Plenty, right Munchkin?"
Grace leaned back in her mother's embrace and bobbed her head. "Yeah Mommy, lots of stuff," she pointed at the decorations she'd pulled from the boxes. "Will you help us?"
"Of course I will!" Sam exclaimed with a big smile.
"After you have something to eat," Jack chimed in, gesturing at the kitchen where he'd made coffee and pancakes earlier.
"… and they lived happily ever after," Jack concluded the bedtime story and closed the book. To his amusement not only Gracie was fast asleep but Carter, who was propped up next to her on the small bed was dead to the world as well. After placing the book on its shelf he hesitated briefly before pulling the covers up over both of them. He gave them each a goodnight kiss, turned off the light and went back into the living room. The fireplace and the Christmas tree were the only sources of light but they were bright enough and, plopping down on the sofa, he grabbed his drink and relaxed.
He didn't blame Carter for falling asleep at this hour because he knew she had to be exhausted and experiencing some kind of form of jetlag from spending the last three months in space. It had been a long day for all of them; he had forgotten how tiring it was to chop a tree and drag it back to the cabin. At least he didn't have to bother with the decorations, knowing how… 'precise' Carter could be and clearly remembered the one and only time he'd tried to help her decorate a tree once – she had all but stripped the tree of its decorations to start all over again. Instead, he'd put himself in charge of food, snacks, drinks and disentangling the lights. Gracie had helped him and been in charge of handing Sam the decorations, until she'd grown bored and he'd taken her out to frolic in the snow. By the time their snowman and snow angels were finished it had started snowing again and they'd gone back inside where Sam was busy giving the tree a finishing touch and had lifted Gracie up to put the star on top.
Jack sat back admiring the tree when he heard Sam's sock-clad feet approaching him. Stretching his arm over the back of the sofa he looked over his shoulder and beckoned her closer. "Hey sleepyhead," he greeted her, reaching for her hand to pull her closer.
Sam let him tug her closer and leaned over to kiss him. "Hi," she murmured against his lips. Too tired to walk around the couch, she threw her leg over the back and let him pull her over and landed on his lap. Shifting until she was comfortably sprawled out, with her head resting in his lap she smiled up at him. "Sorry I fell asleep on you."
"No worries, we're all tired," he replied, caressing her cheek. "God, I missed you."
"I missed you too," she confessed, leaning into his hand. "I've been away too long. Grace has gotten so big and her hair is so much longer now."
Letting his hand slip through her silky blond locks, Jack drank in her features. "Yours too."
"I should probably make an appointment at the hairdresser."
"Don't, I like it."
Sam smiled at him and pulled him down for another kiss. "We'll see," she breathed after they broke it off.
"We're snowed in at the moment, so you can't go anywhere anyway," Jack smirked. "I guess it's a good thing Gracie and I bought enough supplies on our way up here."
"I can think of worse places to be stuck at during Christmas," Sam agreed. "Although I guess that means I can't go out and get new lights tomorrow."
He let out a sigh and rolled his eyes in exasperation. "The lights are fine."
"Jack, they're from the previous century; some were literally burned out," she argued, referring to the handful of blackened lights she'd shown him earlier today.
"I replaced those with the spares I found, Sam. There is nothing wrong with them. At least they don't blink or are colored. And these were much easier to replace than those tiny led lights you had," he pointed out, reminded of her box of Christmas decorations he'd used last year.
Sam glanced at the tree before looking back at him and gestured with her hand in the tree's direction. "These look like the ones my mother used to have on her candle bridge. They're probably a fire hazard and could burn down the cabin."
"Then it's a good thing there's plenty of snow outside," he quipped.
"Oh come on, they have been at this cabin for decades-"
"That's what I'm afraid of," she interrupted him.
"–and there's nothing wrong with them. Besides, they're part of the O'Neill tradition," Jack added with a wistful smile.
Sam raised a skeptical brow at his tone. "The lights were part of a tradition?"
Jack nodded as he remembered all the Christmases he'd spent here at the cabin and how he'd shared his family's traditions with Charlie and Sara. Maybe now he could do the same with Gracie and Sam? "Before we go to sleep we turn off one of the lights and in the morning Gracie has to find it."
"You mean that one light?"
He nodded again and tried to explain. "If you loosen one all of the lights on the string will go out so she has to try all… fifty, I think. All fifty of them to get the lights back on."
"We have three strings so that'll be a hundred and fifty lights," Sam mused aloud. She refrained from telling him how dangerous she thought it was to keep the lights 'on' all night with the wiring being so old and would hear him out, before ruining his family's tradition. "Then what?"
Jack frowned at her and shook his head slowly. "That's it." Seeing her incredulous look he briefly wondered what Christmas had been like at the Carter household when she was little… "Trust me; you just watch her face lighten up when she finds the right light."
"If you say so," she muttered softly. Casting another critical eye on the tree and its lighting, she yawned and snuggled closer to him.
"Maybe it's time for us to hit the sack too," he grinned. Getting up, Jack gestured towards the tree. "Why don't you turn off three lights, one on each string, while I check on Gracie and get the presents?"
Sam shrugged and walked over to the tree. She'd always been a perfectionist, especially when it came to Christmas decorations but she had to admit that even with Jack's… dated decorations the tree looked good. Hell, the entire cabin looked great; it was a picture of hominess and with her husband and daughter here she was sure this was going to be the best Christmas in a long, long time. Reaching for one of the lights on the highest string she pulled back at the heat. "Damn! Jack, these things are hot-"
"Use your sleeve," he replied nonchalantly as he strolled back into the room with the presents and quickly put them in place. "It's perfectly normal." He heard her mutter something beneath her breath and started to lock up the cabin. When she joined him in the hallway, he looked at her with raised brows. "Done?"
"Yep, all the lights are out."
Grabbing her hand he pulled her with him to the master bedroom. "C'mere," he murmured, wrapping his arms around her at the foot of the bed. "Sam?" When he felt her nod, he pressed a kiss in her hair and grinned. "If it makes you feel better you can put a bucket of water in the living room in case we'll wake up in the middle of the night with the tree on fire." The words had hardly left his mouth before she disentangled herself from his embrace and ran out of the bedroom. Chuckling, he went into the bathroom to brush his teeth and changed into boxers and a shirt. By the time he was in bed with the covers pulled up, she came back inside.
"Just in case," Sam whispered, before disappearing into the bathroom. It took her less than five minutes to get ready and then she joined her husband in bed.
"Your feet are cold," Jack complained when she cuddled up against him. He didn't really mind though, he was just happy that she was back. After a few minutes he spoke up again. "You know I'd never risk you or Gracie's life, right?"
"I know," she murmured sleepily, tightening her grip on him. "I trust you. I just want to be prepared… plan B."
He grinned and leaned down to kiss her.
December 25, 2011
O'Neill Cabin, Minnesota
It wasn't even 0630 hours when Sam was awoken by Gracie's squeals of excitement. "Jack?" She reached out, her hand padding the mattress but his spot was empty and cold. Opening her bleary eyes she slowly sat up in bed and looked around the room. She yawned and got out of bed. Obviously their daughter had found the presents and she doubted Grace could contain her excitement for much longer. Sam frowned and stood still in the middle of the room when she realized that she had no idea how Jack and Gracie usually spent Christmas Day together since she hadn't been home for the holidays the past few years. She had heard stories from Jack and their friends, but she'd never been here to celebrate it with them… Swallowing hard, she forced herself to move to the bathroom and freshen up.
Seven minutes later Sam strolled into the living room and found her daughter bouncing in her seat at the table and Jack was in the kitchen, making breakfast. "Merry Christmas," she greeted them.
"Mommy! Look at the tree!" Grace ran up to her and took her by the hand to show her the presents and the lack of lights. "Daddy said we have to fix the lights!"
"That's right, but I don't think we should do it on an empty stomach," Sam replied. Leaning down she gave her daughter a cuddle and carried her back to the kitchen.
"Merry Christmas, Carter," Jack greeted her with a big grin. He gave her a quick kiss and turned back to the counter. "Pancake batter is done but if you're not hungry yet we can check out the lights and presents first?"
"Can we, Mommy? Please?"
Looking at her husband, Sam knew he left it up to her; he was probably trying to involve her more now that she was actually here, but she also knew him and that while he hated surprises, he was very impatient when it came to presents. "Sure, I'm not hungry yet." To her surprise the two of them nearly bolted towards the tree, Jack on one side and Grace on the other and both furiously trying to find the loosened lights. She suppressed a smile at Jack's childlike enthusiasm and got behind her daughter. "Try here," she directed the girl and Gracie immediately started fiddling with those lights.
"I found one! Daddy, I found one! Look Mommy!" Gracie cheered, smiling as part of the tree lightened up.
"That's not fair," Jack complained, glaring at his wife.
Sam chuckled and shook her head. "You're going much faster than Gracie. Besides, she can't reach half the lights on her own!"
"Yes!" Jack exclaimed, doing a fist pump. "I found one too! One more to go, Gracie."
Feeling his eyes on her, Sam looked at him and understanding what he was telling her without words, she lifted their daughter and moved her into the right area. "Any luck, Grace?"
"Not yet, but I'm gonna win!" She replied in a determined voice as she bit her lip in concentration. "Yes, I found it, I found it!"
"Way to go, Gracie," Jack grinned at her and walked around the tree to ruffle her hair.
"I did it, Mommy. I fixed the tree."
Sam smiled at her beaming little face and hugged her. "Yes, you did! I'm so proud of you, hon."
"Food first, presents later?" Jack suggested, sliding his arm around his wife's waist. He waited for Gracie to go back to the table and steered Sam to the kitchen. "So, what did ya think?"
"You were right; she loved it," she admitted with a smile. Leaning into him she gave him a lingering kiss before pulling back. "And so did you."
He shrugged nonchalantly. "Hey, it's no fun if there's no competition," he quipped, reaching for the food.
"I should have known," Sam muttered to herself. "Merry Christmas, Jack."
"Merry Christmas to you too," Jack replied with a lopsided grin. "I'm glad you're here."
A/N: If you enjoyed this oneshot you might also enjoy "Valentine's in DC", which is set in the same universe.