Author's Note: Well, I had this crazy idea pop into my head, after several years of being absent from the fanfic writing scene, and I thought I'd jot it down. So, I started this story on the Saturday after Thanksgiving 2011. And, I thought I'd be ambitious and try to post some type of Sam/Jack story every month. So, here is my first offering – on the last day of January. Of course, this was supposed to be a Christmas story. So, I'm sorry it's late, but try and enjoy it anyway.

Also, I like to try and stay within canon but I might have pushed it just a smidge here in this story. I'd like to think of it as being set in current timeframe – Christmas 2011 (afterall, Stargate SG1 is so real! *wink*), and think that it would be in line with the series – if it had continued – around Season 14 or so.

Disclaimer: I did not receive the SG1 characters in my stocking last year at Christmas, so alas I still don't own them or anything Stargate related. *pouts* I make absolutely no money doing this, unfortunately, but have lots of fun doing it.

Summary: Christmas is a time for remembering past family traditions and making new current memories. But can one certain individual let go of previous memories of Christmas in order to picture it an entirely fresh and obtainable way for the future?

"Picture It"

It was a day like any other – unfortunately. The holiday season was in full swing and all the usual Christmas accoutrements were in place. The mall was crowded; cash was flowing; syrupy music was piped out over the speakers; children were wailing and running amuck; parents were already exhausted. Yep, this Saturday morning was as normal as they came these days.

Day after day former Colorado Springs Detective Pete Shanahan spent most of his time patrolling the Chapel Hills Mall. He was a mall cop. It was humiliating, to him in so many ways, but he had a job in a police related field and for that he was trying to be grateful. And although the salary was a huge step down for a Detective of his pay grade, it was helping to pay his mounting bills. Technically, he was still employed with the force; he just wasn't drawing a paycheck right now. He kept trying to look ahead to January 18th when he was scheduled to be reinstated to his position with the Colorado Springs Police, pending yet another, and hopefully final, review. Being on unpaid administrative leave for three months really sucked, especially this time of year.

Pete had been reprimanded for his "questionable" actions. A complaint was lodged and of course internal affairs just had to investigate. Sure there were a couple of other cops that were interviewed as well but since Pete was the senior detective sergeant he was singled out and made an example. He was still bitter and felt that his punishment was unjust. Every cop, at some time in their career, bent the rules from time to time or stretched the boundaries of protocol in order to make sure the bad guys got what was coming to them. That was the way he was trained and he knew that it was effective, so that was how he mentored the rookie detectives. Pete had operated like that for years, both in San Diego and Denver, without anyone the wiser – or caring, and he had a great record for arrests and convictions. It was because he was such a good cop that he went the extra mile to get the information that was needed, that was one reason why he had maintained his connection with his old Police Academy friend FBI Agent David Farrity over the years. It had proven invaluable on many occasions – professionally and personally. It wasn't like he was truly ever operating outside the realm of what was legal. Pete would just do what he considered needed to be done. But, not everyone with the Springs' force had felt the same way.

So, here he was roaming the mall every day. The only real highlight was that at least he got to spend his time out and about instead of sulking in his small one bedroom apartment. The weeks before his suspension were spent fretting, denying, arguing and trying to find a way around the disciplinary action that had been forced upon him.

Now, he was here on this fine cold snowy day walking the warm and artificially tree scented mall. Overall, it wasn't so bad. He only had to patrol the second floor so he could avoid that annoying kiddie train on the first floor that almost ran over his foot during his first week. There were even some things that could be considered perks. He got twenty percent off all purchases from any store and fifteen percent at the food court. The theater kept him supplied in soda and popcorn and quite often he got to see the last movie showing of the day for free when his shift ended early. There were other intriguing benefits as well. The flashy dressed cologne guy, in the muscle tight shirts at the little kiosk in the middle of the mall, always made sure and give him a free squirt of that high end cologne. That guy sure was incessant that it was "so Pete's scent." Pete, and all the security guards, got his hair cut for free at the Hair Ball salon. Unfortunately his hair just wasn't growing as fast as it used to do – must be from the recent stress, so he wasn't able to take advantage of that deal too often. Occasionally he got free samples at the pretzel shop from that cute little college gal whom he was sure was sweet on him. After all, who could resist his boyish charm? Maybe he should ask her out for a movie or something. He wouldn't mind getting twisted up with her! He let out a snorted laugh thinking about his own joke: pretzels, twisted. "Funny," he thought to himself. Smirking he glanced down at his watch and noticed that it was almost ten o'clock and therefore time for his free pretzel, and maybe something more.

No, the mall wasn't too bad after all. And, he got to walk around which provided some exercise. He subconsciously patted his belly and thought how he really needed to work on losing those twenty-five pounds that he had put on these last couple of months. How did he put on so much weight? "Maybe I should join a gym."

The mall opened an hour earlier on Saturdays than on week days, and it was always more crowded on Saturdays. And today was no exception. It was the first Saturday in December and it was Santa's first Saturday mall appearance. Every kid in Colorado Springs must be lined up for pictures. It was insane. The line of rowdy toddlers and kids dressed in their red and green festive outfits extended from the contained Santa workshop area around the escalator and down the middle of the mall to the nearby sweet shop. The kids were so eager to sit on the old guy's lap and tell him all they wanted for Christmas. Pete chuckled slightly since they still had at least another ten minutes before the Santa shop opened for business. With this long line, it was easily going to be a solid thirty minute wait, or more, for their quality Santa time.

Pete paused patrolling his routine route on the second floor and was currently leaning on the railing while looking down onto the bottom floor. He could see a good portion of the Santa setup. It was complete with giant puffy red velvet chair for Santa, humongous Christmas tree, a few teenage girls dressed as elves scurrying around prepping the set, and of course the photographer and multiple cashiers eager to capture and provide each parent that treasured, and costly, memory of their child.

The commercial side of Christmas never mattered to him. Oh sure, he indulged and participated in the buying and exchanging of gifts. But he was always too busy with work and keeping the bad guys off the streets to really think one way or the other about Christmas being so marketable. However, recently he thought how truly ridiculous it was now that he was constantly around the shopping hub and saw the multitude of consumers buying nonsensical, wasteful, and overpriced items that just had to be purchased to ensure the perfect Christmas. No, Pete decided that Christmas shouldn't be about gifts and expenses but about love and family.

Family was something Pete definitely missed, especially this time of year. But because he was working as many shifts as possible as allowed this season, he wasn't going to have the opportunity to go home to his parent's house in Denver for Christmas this year – even though the drive would only take an hour and thirty minutes. He would be too tired to make the trip. It was going to be a lonely holiday this year.

Sighing, he briefly reflected on how special his mom had made the entire holiday season while growing up: the sleigh rides, the baking, the caroling, decorating the tree, slipping old Uncle Louis too much spiked egg nog, and of course attending the Christmas Eve service at church. And yes, he and his two brothers and three sisters had been made to sit on Santa's knee, year after year. His mother was like Mrs. Clause and had even shipped him a small four foot tall thoroughly decorated tree packed in fake snow to his college dorm room one year at San Diego State University. Pete and Mark Carter, his roommate at the time, had displayed it on his desk. While growing up, Christmas was definitely more memorable and it was without the apparent financial extravaganza. When he had been married to Patty, she had a tendency to get caught up in all the spending. But, she also took the time to occasionally pull him into the old-fashioned decorating spirit. They would do some fun things, but they hadn't been married long enough to really establish any lasting traditions or memories. He mainly let her do all the merry stuff. It's what women did after all. Plus, he was working hard to make Detective back then and didn't really have the time to be involved in all the festive fanfare. Patty was fun - sometimes, and he missed her - some days. Pete thought briefly how if they had stayed together they might have had a kid or two by now in elementary school. As much as he might want to have a kid, he cringed at the thought of having kids with her. He most certainly did not want that scenario. He was glad to be rid of Patty and not be leashed to her for the duration of child rearing. But, having kids with Samantha Carter would have been great.

Letting out a heavy sigh, Pete spoke her name in a hushed way, "Sammie." He hated to admit it, but he really had a hard time getting over her. "Who am I kiddin'?" He muttered quietly to himself then let himself think about her. "I'll never be over you."

Falling for Sam was the easiest and hardest thing he'd ever done. She was a mystery and a challenge. He had to pull out all the tricks in the book, but he had wooed her and won her. It was so perfect, until she had broken his heart. His heart still felt damaged. Pete didn't think he'd ever know the real reason she'd ended it with him. Mark certainly wasn't any help in providing insight into his sister's choices. For months after the breakup, every time Pete attempted to have a conversation with Mark and bring up Sam or the idea of trying to get back together with her, Mark just told him to leave it alone and then changed the subject.

"Oh Sam," he leaned on the brass rail with his left forearm and rubbed his eyes with his right hand, "we would have had beautiful kids." Blinking the slight moisture gathering in his eyes, he looked back down at the cheerful children. He had wanted kids with her so much. He would have made a great dad. And that yard in back of their dream house would have been big enough for a fort, pool, swing set, trampoline, dog, and all the other things that kids would have wanted.

He shook his head in frustration and straightened up while patting the railing with his right hand fisted. "The house," he managed a strangled utterance. That house had cost him a pretty penny. Sure Sam had been gracious enough after calling off the nuptials to give him back his ring, and, without having been asked, she paid him for all of his fair share of wedding planning expenses that couldn't be refunded. But, he alone was stuck with that house since only his name was on the final papers. He figured she'd be added later once they got married. However, it was too late by the time she had called off the engagement for him to back out of the deal. But he wouldn't be able to make the monthly payments on his own. He had been approved for the loan based on a sizeable down payment from his parents that was supposed to be a wedding present, but Sam's income was crucial for the monthly budget. He knew that with her added income the house was comfortably affordable. After all, Pete had done his research and checked on-line to determine the salary for USAF Lieutenant Colonels. They would have been fine. But as it was, he had no choice but to sale it even though the housing market was ridiculous at the time. However, after a few months without any takers, he decided to rent it. Nevertheless he wasn't able to rent it for the entire mortgage. So, he had to pay the mortgage difference for a house he'd never live in and pay for his tiny one bedroom apartment that he didn't want to live in - ever. Finally after almost a year, he just let the bank take the house back. It set his finances and credit score back severely. "Maybe I should just keep the mall job even after the Christmas holidays. The extra income would certainly help." He thought to himself.

Pete was a fighter – always had been. He wouldn't let his loss of finances, or of Sam, or any other setbacks affect him. Plus, he was a catch. Any woman would be lucky to be with him. Sure, his dating scene was a bit slow lately. But after the first of the year, he was determined to finally let go of Sam and find the next future Mrs. Pete Shanahan. After all, he needed to get started on that family soon – as his mother kept reminding him. Perhaps "pretzel gal" could be her. "What is her name?" He said to no one in particular. She was cute, not a blond, but cute enough. Their kids would be ok looking.

Pete had often thought that his and Sam's kids would have blond hair, like both of them. And they'd have two boys and a girl. Of course, he would have wanted more but didn't want to presume too much. He figured three was just the right number, and Sam would be able to handle three kids just fine.

He scanned the children below and searched for any kids that might have looked like the kids in his mind. There were lots of kids, all different sizes, shapes, ages, races. Finally his eyes settled on two small kids who weren't too old probably but definitely not toddlers. They might have been four years old. They weren't blonde, but they were cute. There was a curly headed girl with long dark brown hair that seemed to have a constant smile, or was it a smirk, on her face. She was adorable. The boy, well, he was a bit less animated. But he was sure something though with much lighter brown straight floppy hair. The kid could certainly use a haircut. The two children were pointing and gesturing and seemed eager to get their picture taken with Santa. And since they were only about fifth or so in line, they wouldn't have to wait too long. He could tell they were probably good kids. And for the briefest of moments he believed that he could picture it: him, the wife, the kids, out for a festive day of fun and excitement while making sweet memories.

Pete couldn't see whom the kids were with because the escalator partially obscured his view. After a couple of minutes of being drawn to the kids and just watching them interact, he saw the young mother, he detected, taking their hands and leading them away to the restrooms located off in the corner hallway nearby. They got half way there when the boy broke loose and ran back to where they had been standing. Pete noticed an attractive woman step out from behind the escalator to wrap her arms around the young boy and raise him up high for a big hug. Then she kissed his cheek and set him down so that he could rejoin his sister. Pete's gaze followed the boy but quickly turned back to the lady who was much more visible now. She was waving spiritedly to the youngsters as they left.

Pete thought to himself that she was an awfully attractive grandmother. He continued to watch her – mesmerized. Nah, she couldn't be a grandmother. She was young and thin. Heck, she was hot! Maybe she was an older aunt?

After the kids had disappeared, the very attractive lady turned back to the opposite direction. It looked like she might have been talking to someone but Pete couldn't see anyone. Again, the escalator blocked his view. As he continued to watch her, he took inventory of her. Those had to be three inch heeled suede boots – definitely sexy. The jeans were fairly dark and shapely. She had some kind of wide belt riding low on her thin waist. And what was with that blouse she was wearing? It was so feminine and soft and looked sort of like one of those pirate type blouses. It was almost slipping off one shoulder which was so suggestive. The creamy silvery shimmery color of her blouse was a nice contrast with her dark hair. She was stunning. The gorgeous grandma was too far away for him to notice if she had a wedding ring or not on her hand. He sure hoped she didn't. Pete was a goner. "Man, I wouldn't mind meeting her." And then she turned around.

Pete couldn't believe his eyes. That lady could have been a dead ringer for Sam. But, this gal had long wavy silky brunette hair. No, this wasn't his Sam, but she was beautiful none the less. Grandmother or aunt, he didn't care. Pete would definitely like to share a box of wine with her.

Glancing at his watch again he knew that it was almost time for his morning break. So, he decided to take it just a tad early. Keeping a watchful eye on this obvious treasure, as best as he could what with all the shoppers, he quickly made his way around to the escalator and hurried downstairs.

He stepped off and realized that he didn't have a clue of what to say. Pausing behind the large Christmas tree, he hastily tried to think of something witty. He needed an opening line. He stood motionless desperately wondering how he should approach her. Of course if she was married it wouldn't matter what he said. But who knows, maybe she wasn't "happily married." "Think! Think," he mumbled to himself. If he didn't think of something soon, the photo shoot with Santa would begin, the line would move, and Pete would lose his opportunity. Not to mention, the kids might be back at any moment, and he couldn't pick up a gal with annoying kids around.

"Yeah," he assertively smirked to himself as it suddenly came to him. He knew what he would say to grab the attention of this woman. "Pete, 'ol boy, you still got it," he smugly thought to himself. He stepped out from behind the tree and was directly behind her, only a foot away.

"You like sitting on the old guy's lap, huh?" It was clever and he was a bit cocky. Why shouldn't he be? He couldn't help but break out in a huge grin as he waited.

Caught completely off guard, the beautiful brunette went instantly rigid. But it only took her a second before she straightened her shoulders for what was apparently going to be a confrontation on her part.

He knew by her reaction that she might be inclined to act perturbed, so he instantly leaned in and added more quietly with a cute lighthearted tone, "So, are you naughty or nice?"

The sexy brunette bowed her head somewhat and slightly shook it from side to side. Turning around almost as if in slow motion, she replied slowly with surprised indignation, "Excuse me?"

This was it. He was so excited to meet…, "Sam!" Pete's mouth dropped open and his eyes grew large with disbelief.

Sam couldn't believe the audacity of some rude man actually hitting on her while in a line for Santa pictures of all places! This guy was definitely a jerk! She had barely turned around to confront the stranger and his lack of manners when she heard her name.

Well, this was awkward. Pete stumbled for the right thing to say, "Wow!...it's you…I didn't think…wow…a brunette…very sexy…I mean I saw you from…stammer stammer…it's great…," his arms were flailing about as if trying to grasp the right words. They didn't come so he reached out to hug her with the ease of familiarity but unfortunately it came off extremely clumsily. Sam responded with one of those unreciprocated half hugs.

When he stepped back, he could tell that she clearly was uncomfortable with his presence. Seeing her reaction, Pete would give anything to have not approached her. He should have left well enough alone. Now, he knew he had to salvage his dignity, but he wasn't sure how to do it. Besides, the truth was he was actually ecstatic for having run into Sam. He was like a kid on Christmas morning. In spite of this awkward moment, he was quite pleased that the sexy Grandmother was actually his Sam.

Pete's face was beginning to ache from the huge smile he was sporting. He was so glad that he hadn't called in sick today. Running into Sam like this was a gift, a perfect gift. He quickly thought back to the first few months after the breakup and how he was hoping to randomly run into her somewhere. Even though she had broken his heart, he was certain Sam was just having second thoughts because she was too traumatized from her father's passing to continue with wedding plans and she just needed a break. He figured that if he gave her a few months that she would realize how much she missed him and would want to reconcile. For many weeks Pete managed to be at most of her frequented establishments: her gym, her grocery store, her dry cleaner, her masseuse, her salon, her biker diner, etc. It was a puzzle that he just never saw her at these places. He knew her routine but it was as if she just stopped patronizing these places. Pete never did find out what had occupied Sam's time. All he knew was that he had missed her so much.

Now, his superwoman was standing right in front of him. And for the first time in years his heart felt like it was beating again. He knew he was grinning like an idiot. The silence had stretched just a little too long. Finally he let his hands drop from her arms and shoved his hands deep in his security jacket pockets and nodded his head. "So, how are you? You look really…really great." "That's right Pete, play it nonchalant and cool," he gave himself an internal pep talk.

Startled, Sam didn't know what to say at first. Seeing Pete Shanahan standing in front of her wasn't something she ever expected. It clearly took her a few seconds to realize who it was talking to her. It was more awkward than comfortable. She was speechless but tried to recover quickly after that strained side hug. Not trying to appear too aloof, she tried to sound cheerful, "Pete, I'm…fine. Doing well." She turned fully to him and took in his appearance. "And you?"

"Good," he began with an almost forced upbeat tone. "Yeah, good. Great."

She had no idea what to say.

Pete realized that he had caught her off guard. He figured a little levity was in order. So, again he leaned slightly into her, "Still keeping the universe safe from those glowing eyed aliens?" He attempted a mock whisper but failed.

Sam never liked how Pete always seemed to joke about her job. It was definitely something she didn't miss about him. Briefly closing her eyes, she began with an exhausted huff, "Pete…." He just wouldn't ever change.

"Oh I know. Classified." He attempted to humorously interrupt her rebuff and waved a hand at her. "Still at the mountain?"

"Not exactly." She replied almost slowly. Sam didn't really feel the need to explain her life or current position to him, besides she couldn't.

"Really?" That would explain why he hadn't seen her in the Springs. When he had tried to research her whereabouts through Farrity, it was as if she just dropped off the charts. Not having access to any other contacts, and without Mark talking, he couldn't find a trace of her. "Did you get stationed somewhere else?"

"Well, I've been stationed a few different places over the years." It was said matter-of-factly.

"But you're back now?" He really hoped she was.

With a slight shake of her head she said, "Just visiting for the holidays." Of all the places that she had lived, Colorado Springs was the place she thought of as home.

"Your old team?" Pete asked and Sam merely nodded. "So where are you stationed now? I mean assuming you're still with the Air Force." But he had really hoped that she had quit it since it was clearly too dangerous for her.

She could tell that she had to give him something. "I'm doing some work out of the Pentagon." Well, that was the truth, sort of. Ok, she was based at the Pentagon but all the other X303 commanders were based out of Nevada. She wasn't sure how much longer she'd be in command of the Hammond.

"Wow! Washington. Long way away." He nodded his head. Pete had no idea what to say now. He was beginning to wonder if he could try for that position again with the FBI in Arlington, Virginia.

Pete realized he was just staring at her. "Oh, I saw you," his left hand gestured to the upstairs railing, "from up there. Well, I wasn't exactly sure it was you." He smiled at her then gestured at her hair. "That brown hair." He paused. "Wow! Really nice. Sexy." He now had a goofy grin on his face – the one that was picturing her in prior intimate ways.

Sam just felt so uncomfortable and didn't actually desire to continue with a conversation, but she was too polite to just stop. "Uh, thank you." She couldn't help but notice the security jacket, so she thought she'd trying changing topics. "Are you...," she motioned to the jacket.

"Oh this…yeah…just…ya know…picking up a few extra dollars this season." He didn't want her thinking he was only a mall cop. "I'm still with the Springs police," he hurried to add. "Just…ah…doing some training…for the security force and what not."

"Oh well, that's great." She smiled her uncertain smile, the one that meant she knew there was more to the story than what she was being given.

Pete waited for a few beats expecting Sam to add something else to the conversation, but realized that she wasn't going to speak. So, he jumped in to fill the void. "I'm assuming the world's safe at the moment?" He winked at her. "No imminent destruction." Pete had always loved to tease her about that back when they were together, funny how he hadn't thought much about aliens and outer space much during these last few years.

With a terse smile Sam said, "You could say that." She had always hated it when he did that. She hated it almost as much as she did when he called her "Babe."

"Good." Pete really didn't know what to say, but there was so much he wanted to know. Mark hadn't mentioned anything about Sam over the years, despite Pete's efforts to find out more about her. And, Farrity was of no help lately. It had actually been a while since Pete tried to find out anything about her. "Still a Lieutenant Colonel?"

"No, actually, I'm a full bird now." She managed to sound both proud and modest.

"Wow. That's great." This was more sweating than when he had met her dad. Pete decided to try and change topics. "Pictures with Santa?" He gestured with his head back toward the big chair.

"Ah, yes, the kids wanted to come." Sam seemed somewhat hesitant but nodded eagerly.

"Kids?" Pete inquired with raised eye brows.

And as if right on cue, two bundles of energy appeared running and careening into Sam. "Momma, Momma! Cassie said it's almost time for Santa!"

"Momma?" Pete managed to squeak out. Dumfounded he frowned and looked up at Sam as if to ask a silent question before looking back at the two children. Clearly these kids were four, maybe five, years old more or less. And Pete knew that it had been just over five years since Sam had broken up with him. It was almost too much to imagine that these kids might be his. He hurriedly tried to remember when the last time was that they had been intimate. If his memory was correct, it was actually a couple of months before she broke things off. She had convinced him that it would be nice to hold off "activities" until their wedding night. She pointed out that it would make the wedding night all the more special. So he had begrudgingly agreed. But there would still have been enough time right? Twins were often born premature right? Or maybe she carried them to term? Had she been overdue? His younger sister had been two weeks past due.

Bending down to hug her overly excited children and appease them in that universal sweet motherly way she said, "That's right kids. Just a few more minutes, now calm down. Santa will be out soon." When she straightened up she uneasily motioned to the young woman that had appeared. "Pete, you remember Cassie." She said as a way of diffusing a strange encounter.

He didn't know what to think. Sam roused him from his calculations. "Huh?" He turned slightly but was still looking at the kids, "Oh sure." He finally looked up at her. "Casey."

"Cassie." She said stated firmly. Cassie really didn't like Pete.

"Uh, yeah. Sorry. How are you?" He didn't really care.

"I'm fine." Cassie deadpanned.

"Good." Pete had already turned back to Sam. He motioned with his right hand to the two munchkins. Samantha Carter was a mom. He couldn't believe it. "So…?"

Sam positioned the kids in front of her proudly with a hand wrapped around each of their shoulders so that they could look at this stranger. "Kids I want to introduce you to a friend of your Uncle Mark's. This is Detective Pete Shanahan."

The kids were very discerning for their age. The girl almost went even more stoic, if possible, with just the slightest narrowing of her eyes. She was clearly sizing up this man. "Are you a policeman?"

The small boy provided her answer. "No, silly he's not a real cop just a mall cop." Then he pointed to the man, "See, no gun." After that he rolled his eyes, "Girls."

Sam quickly but lovingly admonished her son. "David. Be nice."

"Sorry." The boy droned over to his sister as if with the ease of much practice.

Sam went to apologize. "Pete, I'm…."

He dismissed her with a wave of his hand. "It's Ok." Pete smiled at the boy and turned to the girl. "I am indeed a policeman, Detective Sergeant actually." He looked back at the boy, "And no I don't carry a gun when I work here. But I do have one."

"Pete, this is David and this is Jessica," she said as she smoothed out David's hair. Sam thought she'd introduce her sweet children.

"Twins?" Pete didn't think there was a difference in their ages.

"Yeah sure ya betcha!" Jessica uttered with a super cocky grin. "But, I'm older!"

"Only by two minutes!" David clearly didn't like this and was both sulking and annoyed.

"Hey! Don't be a grumpy." Cassie gently chided David and playfully tweak his left ear.

"So how old are you?" Pete inquired of the little girl, ready to do the math.

"We're five!" David proudly announced before his sister could answer and held up his small hand with outstretched fingers.

"We just had our birthday. I got a scooter. And it's pink with streamers on the handles." Jessica declared proudly.

David wasn't about to be ignored. He moved in slightly closer to the stranger. "I got a Dragon Castle!"

"That's great." Pete didn't sound too enthused. The twins quickly lost interest and turned back to Cassie in order to watch for Santa. "Cassie where's Santa?" David asked.

"He'll be here soon. But we need to be patient. OK?" Cassie

The twins, Samantha Carter's twins, were five years old. They just turned five. Pete couldn't help but be hopeful now. He looked at Sam then softly asked with a slight frown, "Is there something I need to know?"

Sam didn't understand Pete's question and it showed with her own knitted brow.

"Something that you should've told me," Pete continued to prod.

"Momma! Santa's here!" David yelled suddenly and drew Sam's attention away from Pete. David then twisted around to tug on Sam's blouse. "Look Momma!" The little excited pointed to the man in red. Santa walked out from the nearby hallway by the restrooms and was making his way to the photo workshop area. More, even louder, Christmas music began to play from a nearby speaker and the other children started to cheer.

Sam's attention was solely focused now on her young son. "Yes, I see. Let's be patient."

"It's not the real Santa," Jessica stated confidently while David's face appeared a bit crestfallen.

Cassie turned to watch Santa walk out and added in an enthusiastic knowing tone for the other surrounding children's benefit, "Well, real Santa or not, it's still exciting and it might be a while before we get to talk to him."

"Momma," Jessica spun back to Sam, "Where's Daddy? He's gonna miss our picture."

"Daddy?" Pete drawled out silent to himself. He hadn't had time to think about who might be filling the role of Daddy. But, he knew that he didn't want some joker pretending to be his kids' father.

Just then a nice rich baritone voice was heard nearby. "No I'm not Jess. I'm right here."

Pete turned to the intruder and noticed that the voice was from someone he definitely remembered.

"Daddy! Santa's finally here!" David was so eager.

"What did you bring me Daddy?" Jessica was more interested now in what was in the sack that her father was currently holding in his left hand.

"Ah ah ah. This," gesturing to the sack with a nod of his head, "is for after pictures." The children couldn't help but sulk a bit as only children can. "And this," he handed the two steaming drinks in the cardboard drink container to Sam and Cassie, "is for you now."

"Yum! Thanks." Cassie said as she was extricating her hot cocoa with peppermint from the holder while Sam reached for her Gingerbread coffee.

"What's in the sack Daddy?" Jessica questioned again. "Yeah, is it pretzels?" David chimed in too.

"Pretzels? Nope. I have in this sack five of the biggest sweetest most delectable Christmas cookies that ever were." The children beamed, bounced and clapped.

Both children clapped their hands and jumped for joy. "Yeah, Daddy got us cookies!" David yelled. "I love cookies." Jessica drooled.

Pete couldn't help but feel ignored. "Hello?" He spoke up trying to seem cordial to the new arrival.

Sam seemed caught off guard. "Oh, you remember Pete," she said to her husband.

He turned as if just noticing the security guard, but Sam knew instantly from his demeanor that he was keenly aware of who it was, probably long before joining them with the cookies. Appearing to size up the man with a somewhat lofty aloof look, he said, "Shannon."

The minute this man approached the nice little reunion, Pete's heart sank. He knew this man. He wished he didn't, but he did. Perhaps it all made sense now. General Jack O'Neill was standing there extra close to Sam, and had even given her a quick kiss on the lips when handing her the hot beverage. It was obvious they were together, but in what capacity he wasn't quite sure. Sure that kids were calling him "Daddy," but why? "Shanahan," Pete wasn't going to let the older man get the upper hand.

"Right." Jack just bore a neutral expression.

There were the beginnings of a stare off between these two men. Sam looked between them thinking how silly men could be sometimes. She really didn't feel like playing referee. So, she just sipped her nice hot coffee ignoring both of them. After all, it's not her fault that they ran into Pete.

"It's open!" David squealed with anticipation. And sure enough the line began to move slightly.

Cassie turned away from her little group and pushed the rented mall cart slightly ahead since it was bearing all the bulky winter coats and the few Christmas presents already purchased. The children quickly followed her and Sam shuffled over a couple of steps.

"So?" Pete looked back and forth between Sam and Jack.

"So?" Jack parroted back.

"So? You're together?" Pete wasn't sure he wanted to know, but clearly the children referred to him as Daddy. Maybe he volunteered to step in and be a surrogate father figure for the kids. Well, if what Pete suspected was true, the arrogant General wouldn't need to play that part any more.

"Ah yes," Sam knew instantly that Jack wasn't going to answer just by the way he cocked his head. "We've been together almost six years."

"Six years? Nah, more like fourteen Carter." Jack stated self-assuredly and gave Sam a slight eyebrow wag. She couldn't help but smile and utter the tiniest giggle. After finally getting together, Jack insisted that they had to celebrate the anniversary of them meeting in the briefing room of the SGC that first day because for him it was so memorable since she began to affect his life in too many wonderful ways. Who knew Jack was such a romantic? Of course that was their little inside joke. Obviously for the IOA and the higher ups, they officially got together after her transfer to Area 51. After all, everything had to be legal and above reproach.

The line surged forward again. And they were that much closer to Santa. "Daddy come stand with me," Jessica urged. "I don't want you to miss the picture."

"Coming baby," Jack answered and went to stand with the kids without giving Pete a second thought. He left Sam to handle Pete however she chose. After all, Pete was not of any concern for Jack. Pete's previous actions of "stalking" years ago had not gone unnoticed by Jack or anyone up the chain. And, Pete was placed on the watch list pretty early, especially since having been told the standard SGC info and signing that non-disclosure agreement. If Pete Shanahan did anything that seemed questionable or irresponsible regarding the program, or Sam, Jack would have been notified as soon as possible.

Sam started to shuffle forward again when she felt Pete reach out to hold her arm. He turned her slightly to him. "You're together how?" Pete almost sounded jealous.

She was surprised by Pete's attitude and didn't quite understand what he was getting at, "We're married Pete." Surely Pete had known. Sam had just assumed that Mark would have mentioned it to Pete – if only in passing conversation. She certainly had no reason to inform Pete.

The look on Pete's face was one of surprise and devastation. "Really?" He heard them say that they had been together for six years. That meant that they got together just after she broke up with him. "When?"

Sam knew what he was asking. She never meant to hurt Pete. And she would hate to have him think that she had cheated on him, although it didn't really matter if he did think it. "Pete," she stepped out of line completely to let the other people in line go around. Her voice couldn't help but have that placating tone because she knew that what she had to say wasn't going to be well received, "I married Jack three weeks after we broke up."

Pete was dumbstruck and his face showed it. "What?" Surely he didn't just hear correctly. It had taken her two weeks to answer his proposal. She couldn't have just up and married this guy. Besides, that dumb General was her boss. He swallowed hard. "Why?" Pete looked at her with fresh hurt puppy dog eyes. "I mean, wasn't he your boss?"

Sam really didn't have the time or the inclination to rehash her history with Jack now in this line with Pete. But she felt compelled to give him something. Letting out a tiny sigh she said, "Yes, he was. But I took an immediate transfer and we talked…and we just…decided…I knew it was right."

It all suddenly dawned on Pete. "And it wasn't right with me. So, you were just using me then…back then?" He wasn't so much accusing as understanding.

"Pete no," Sam lowered her eyes and shook her head before meeting his eyes again, "I never…I mean we never were together until after we," she gestured between the two of them, "ended things." She tried to comfort him. The idea that she had used him wasn't something she wanted to think, but part of her knew that if she hadn't been with Pete she might never had gone after what she really wanted – a life with Jack.

"You mean 'you ended things." Pete was hurt. Sam stepped slightly forward as the line moved again and attempted to reach out to touch Pete's arm although it felt uncomfortable, instead he shrugged back. "It's ok." He cleared his throat. "I guess I thought there could be someone else. But, I never knew for sure."

"I'm sorry Pete." Sam frowned a bit. "I never meant to hurt you." She took in a slow breath and decided to give him a bit more information. "But, I realized that I was hurting myself." She bit her lip thinking how much more she should say. "Truth though is that I had been in love with Jack for a long time, but…well…I didn't let myself believe it. Mainly because for so long…I mean…we couldn't…he was…." She wasn't embarrassed, just uncertainly how to explain it to Pete.

Pete filled in the unspoken, "You couldn't do anything because he was your boss." Then he just stared blankly at Sam.

Sam nodded. "Right. I will always be grateful for the time we shared Pete." She chose not to add the part about her recognizing how wrong she had been in pursuing something with Pete even though it helped to show her what she really wanted and needed in her life. "I thought Mark might have mentioned it to you."

Pete let out a little chuckle. "Mark? Nope. But it makes sense now." He noticed how Sam frowned. "When I used to mention trying to get back together with you, he just kept saying how it was a bad idea and that I could do better." Pete winced realizing what he had just revealed.

Snorting, she said, "That's not surprising."

"Why?"

"Mark was really upset after Dad's passing and our breakup. He hasn't really spoken to me since."

Mark had been furious of Sam's choice to end things with Pete and had chosen to distance himself from her. Her brother was even more upset when Sam had told him that she was not only with Jack but marrying Jack. Sam constantly made an effort to stay in contact with her sister-in-law Wendy and their kids. But, she hadn't really spoken to Mark in years. However, Wendy had assured Sam that she was keeping Mark informed, but clearly Mark didn't want Sam in his life. It had hurt, but she survived. The few times that Sam tried to take her family to San Diego to visit and let her children meet their cousins, Mark was noticeable absent from the family dinners and activities with only occasionally making an appearance. She suspected that his reaction to her was more of the lingering hurt from their Dad's passing than her dumping his best friend – as least she hoped that was the case. Taking another sip of her coffee she contemplated how she and Mark really needed to resolve this issue.

Thinking of her words, he just couldn't believe it. "What? That's crazy! How could he…?"

"Pete…," she attempted to say something to halt his apparent irritation but really couldn't think of anything to say.

"Momma! Momma! Where are you?" David's little voice sounded urgent.

"We're next Momma!" Jessica sounded worried.

Sam turned her head and called out, "I'm coming kids." Turning back to Pete this time she did reach out to touch his upper arm. "I'm sorry Pete." She hated to think that Pete hadn't let go and moved on. Hoping to salvage somewhat of a friendly meeting, she gave him a gently smile. "I have to go." She gestured with her coffee to the photo area. "It was good to see you."

As Sam turned to go, Pete grabbed her arm almost causing her to splash her coffee. "Are they?" His words stopped as he grasped what he was contemplating. "They're not…." He searched her eyes for truth. No, they couldn't be his children. Sam wouldn't have kept the truth hidden from him. Would she? It was ridiculous for him to even imagine that he would have been that fortunate.

Cocking her head slightly, Sam waited for Pete to finish asking his question. "What?" She prompted softly since she had no idea what Pete was asking.

"Mine?" He pleaded with such vulnerability.

Sam clearly wasn't understanding and knitted her brow with a confused frown.

"The kids? Could they be…ours?" He tried one last time. But would he be more elated or more devastated if he was to learn those sweet children were his biological offspring? "Were you pregnant when you dumped me?"

It was obvious what Pete was asking. Sam was offended and hurt by Pete's accusation. Shrugging her arm out of Pete's grasp she firmly replied, "No Pete. If they had been, I wouldn't have kept that from you. And if you think that I would have done something like that…to you…," she didn't want to hurt him but right now she could care less, "then you never really knew me, and it just proves that our breakup was the right decision."

Pete blanched. He had never heard Sam speak so forcefully, especially not directed to him. "But…."

"Sam," Cassie called out with a sense of urgency, "it's our turn!"

"Mommy come on!" Jessica whined.

She had turned slightly to the direction of the voices calling her then turned back to Pete. "I have to go now." What little friendly banter had existed earlier was now gone. "Good bye Pete."

"Yeah," Pete found himself speaking to Sam's back. "Go on," his voice trailed off. He could hear the excitement and sweet voices of her children upon her rejoining them just in time for the photo shoot.

Pete hurried apprehensively around the Christmas tree and other decorations until he was just on the fringe of the workshop area. From where he now stood, half hidden, next to decorative column, he had a clear view of the happy family that was currently smiling for the camera. Pete was a bit surprised to see all five of them in the picture. They were all smiling – clearly enjoying their day. It was definitely a sweet memorable moment. Then a picture of just the two kids was taken while the two parents were watching. The General was standing behind Sam and had his arms wrapped loosely but securely around her waist as his chin rested on her right shoulder, and she was lightly caressing his arm. As much as Pete hated to admit it, he could tell that Sam was clearly in love with that jerk.

Those kids, Sam's kids, no, Sam and that General's kids, were adorable. They were perfect. She had the perfect life, and what did he have? He continued to watch as the family finished their shoot and went to view their pictures before standing in line to pay for them.

Pete's eyes were extremely glassy. That was the life he wanted. That was the life that he and Sam should have had. Where had it all gone wrong? Squinting his eyes closed, Pete felt overwhelmed by emotion and rested his forehead against the cool column.

"Pete, 'ol boy," he whispered to himself, "you're an idiot." Today had been a revelation. No more would he wallow in self-pity or praise his bloated ego. He wanted that memory, and he wanted to picture it in a tangible way – not just as an allusion. Now, he just had to make it happen.

He snapped his head up and quickly strode over to the escalator, trying not to view the happy family that was now walking the other way. As he stepped on the escalator, Pete took his cell phone and called his longtime friend. When he heard the voice mail pick up, Pete simply left one message. "Dude! Call your sister!"

The End

Author's Comments: Well, let me just say that I'm as surprised as you that I actually wrote a story about Pete. I can't stand Pete! However, with that said…. Every time I sit down and write a story, I focus on a different point, style, technique, etc. I suppose that this "writing exercise" was for me to write about something in a passionate and caring way even though I can't stand that very topic. I wanted to picture Pete as just a normal guy – nothing special – but not as a villainous stalking creep either. It was tempting to make him look even more pathetic than I saw him in the series, but I was attempting to simply stay true to the character as I viewed him in the series. So, that was it. I'm not happy with the ending because I felt that I just ended it so that I could post today. But then again….the story didn't really warrant a powerful ending but a meager dismissal.

I guess this story just originated from the wonderful light hearted day that my family spends at the mall after getting pictures taken with Santa and the awkward situation when running into an ex.

For those of you who know, I based Sam's wardrobe choice on that wonderful photo of AT and RDA from the San Diego Comic Con a couple of years ago. What a loving picture. I think Sam and Jack made for the best TV couple in history.

Oh well, enjoyed the story or not, let me know what you think. Constructive criticism is allowed and appreciated whereas hurtful comments can be delivered elsewhere. Thanks for reading! Check out my other stories. Oh, and let me know if you're interested in reading any of my other upcoming stories. Bye, GS2

Title: "Picture It"

Copyright: ©2012

Author: GateSeeker2

E-Mail:

Status: One shot. Completed.

Season: 14

Classification: Future story

Spoilers: Threads

Category: Angst/Romance

Major Characters: Pete Shanahan, Sam Carter, Jack O'Neill, Cassie Fraizer

Pairing: Sam/Pete and Sam/Jack

Rating: PG

Legend: Ellipses (…) – indicates a pausing or a hesitation in a person's speech as well as indicating unfinished sentences. Words that are bolded indicates words that the character is attempting to emphasize.

Warnings: None

File Size: 69KB as a Microsoft Word Document

Archive: .net Reproducing or posting on other sites is not permitted.

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and places are the property of MGM, World Gekko Corp and Double Secret productions. This piece of fan fiction was created for entertainment not monetary purposes and no infringement on copyrights or trademarks was intended. Previously unrecognized characters and places, and this story, are copyrighted to the author. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead is coincidental and not intended by the author. I just have fun playing with the characters for awhile. Trust me, no harm will come to them in this story. ;-)