Title: Christmas with the Family at Home
Sequel to: Thanksgiving at the O'Neills
Theme: Shipmas 2012
Category: Fluff, Romance, Family, AU
Season: post SGU
Summary: The old team can't make it to Colorado Springs for Christmas but Jack isn't bothered by it as that means he gets to spend the holiday with his favorite girls.
Disclaimer: see profile
A/N: This is a sequel to Thanksgiving at the O'Neills from the GW Shippy Holiday Series but each story can stand alone. I don't have a beta, so any mistakes are my own. I always appreciate feedback and/or constructive criticism or just a comment to let me know why you (don't) like it.
December 21, 2012
Colorado Springs, CO
Jack had snuck off to the master bedroom to retrieve the Christmas wish list Carter had hidden there last night. Something had gone wrong in his and Sam's planning for this year's Christmas… well, several things really and with the twins, her job at the SGC and their friends scattered over two galaxies matters had already been complicated, but losing the Sears catalog in which Gracie had circled all the things she wished for had sent him in a momentary panic a few days ago. It wasn't like he could ask their daughter to do it again because she was under the impression her letter and accompanying wish list had already been sent to Santa. Granted, Jack had managed to post the letter to Santa he'd helped her write but normally he would have kept the separate wish list for himself to make shopping for Christmas presents easier and a much more pleasant experience.
However, this year he had the twins to take care of during the day while Gracie was at school, meaning he couldn't simply go out to do some Christmas shopping while his daughter was at school and his wife at work. Sophie and Tess had finally settled into the sleeping schedule he'd tried to enforce from the beginning but while the three of them had finally gotten into a daily routine, Jack would still avoid taking them out for a trip to the supermarket or mall if at all possible. Not only was it more difficult to do simple things with two babies instead of all those years ago with just Gracie – one baby carrier easily fitted into a shopping cart but with two there was hardly any room left for the actual groceries, for example – but he had come to the conclusion that two cute four-month-old baby girls drew even more than double the attention Gracie had gotten as a baby from passersby, mostly women, which meant any shopping experience was torturously long for him with all the cooing over his daughters.
But since he was retired and being a full-time dad now they didn't have a babysitter – and they didn't know anyone reliable, capable and trustworthy enough around here either – so he had to postpone the Christmas shopping until the last moment. Jack dreaded going into town this close to the holidays but it wasn't like he was left with a choice; online shopping and having it home delivered wasn't his style. Not to mention that he only ever heard Daniel complaining about messed up orders or bad purchases after he'd gone to an online store and Jack also didn't know how he would explain a boatload of Christmas presents delivered to their doorstep if Grace happened to be around. Anyway, the late shopping trip also meant he'd postponed going through the catalog to make a list of things to pick and choose from for his daughters… and then he'd been too late because the catalog was gone!
Fortunately for him and his family, Carter had called him yesterday because Siler of all people had found the catalog! Apparently it had somehow ended up in Carter's briefcase and she had accidentally taken it with her to the SGC, where it had fallen to the floor somewhere on base! Jack had no idea how Siler had figured out what he'd found and how important it was, but he wasn't going to ask questions; he was just happy that the O'Neill Christmas had been saved! After a long day of work his wife had shown him a handwritten wish list made of the suggestions in the catalog last night when Gracie had been asleep, so Jack had decided to get the Christmas shopping out of the way as soon as possible before some other disaster would occur. Plus, Cassie had arrived in town a few days ago and she'd offered to babysit the kids so he could buy the presents to 'repay' him for helping her out with a Christmas tree last weekend. The two of them had gone to Pike National Forest to chop their own trees, one for her new place here in the Springs and one for his house.
"Aha," Jack crowed when he finally had the wish list in his hands. There was a ridiculous number of items on the piece of paper but he figured that was better than there only being a handful, in case everything was sold out since he was so late. Closing the nightstand's drawer he got up from the bed and pocketed the note, ready to brave the mall.
He quickly left the bedroom and checked the nursery, where his babies were sleeping soundly. Once he and Sam had been told she was actually expecting twins they had been forced to buy some extra items and clothes, but so far the second crib hadn't been used yet. Sophie and Tess both seemed more than happy to continue sharing one bed and the folks at the hospital had recommended keeping them together until they'd start to wake each other up or something. Smiling, he leaned over the crib and stroked his finger over Sophie's chubby cheek, before sliding it down to her neck to check her temperature. Her skin felt fine, not too hot or cold, so Jack pressed a kiss on her forehead and grinned as the wisps of sandy blond hair tickled his nose. Next he checked Tess, pleased to find her skin warm from sleep too and wiped a bit of drool from her chin, before kissing her ginger mop of hair.
Checking his watch he reluctantly decided it was time to get a move on and left the nursery with one last glance at his daughters. After descending the stairs he quickly grabbed his winter coat, scarf and beanie and made his way into the living room where Cassandra and Gracie were. "Hey, you two. What're you doing?"
"Showing Cassie Santa's letter, Daddy," Grace replied, beaming proudly.
The young alien woman looked up from the paper, smirking. "Too bad Santa can't give Grace a little brother," she commented dryly.
"Um, yeah," Jack muttered. For some reason she had decided she also wanted a brother after the twins had arrived, as she'd been hoping for a boy and a girl since Tess' sex had been unclear on the sonogram due to her awkward position and they'd only known for sure that Sophie was a girl. Fortunately, 'Santa' had said her mommy and daddy probably had their hands full with her and the twins, so he wasn't able to give her another sibling. "Pretty sure Carter is relieved, though. Don't think she wants to do it all over again."
"I can imagine," Cassie replied, shuddering. No doubt recalling how terrified they'd all been when there had been complications during the delivery and Carter had been wheeled off to the OR for an emergency C-section.
"Well, I should probably get going. Are you two gonna be okay?"
Gracie perked up at that, canting her head curiously. "Where are you going, Daddy?"
He exchanged a panicked glance with Cassandra and cleared his throat. "Um, I have to do some boring grownup stuff. You'd be bored to tears, munchkin."
"Exactly," Cassie agreed, "and I have brought some very important things with me for which I need your help, Grace."
The Hankan woman nodded and bent down to rummage in her bag at her feet. "Look," she said, pulling out two stockings, "we need to decorate these for your sisters or there's nowhere for Santa to put their presents!"
"Oooh," Gracie awed over the brand spanking new stockings and quickly snatched them to get a better look. "They're very pretty."
Jack couldn't believe he hadn't even thought of buying new stockings for the twins! If it hadn't been for Cassie's thoughtfulness he probably would have forgotten until it was too late! "Thanks, Cass," he said earnestly, smiling his gratitude. "Munchkin, did you know that when Cassie was little she made the stockings your mom and I use? She also made ones for Uncle Daniel and Uncle Teal'c, so she's very good at it."
"Really?" She squealed, her previous desires to join him on his trip long forgotten. "Will you teach me?"
Cassandra grinned and got up from the sofa, grabbing her bag that no doubt held more decorating stuff and making her way to the large dining table where Grace would usually do her crafts. "Sure, you go get your things while I prepare the basics."
He watched as his kid scurried off to get her box with craft stuff and turned to the young woman who was like a daughter to him as well. "Thanks for doing this, Cass."
"It's no problem, really. You know I love to spend time with Grace and the twins are so cute!"
"That they are," Jack admitted with a proud smile. "I just checked on them and they were still asleep, but they'll probably wake up in an hour or so and need a bottle at-"
Cassie rolled her eyes and interrupted him. "I know, Jack. Don't worry about it; this isn't the first time I've done this."
He squirmed uncomfortably even though he knew she was right and she was more than capable of taking care of the girls. "Sorry. It's just that this is the first time you'll be alone with all three of them for a couple of hours and that's hoping things aren't too hectic in town, or Carter will probably be home sooner than me."
"That's okay, I'll be here all day anyway, remember?"
"All weekend, right?" Jack asked sharply, wanting to make sure she'd stay until her own place was more livable. "Because I told you I'd help you out with the larger boxes and furniture this weekend and I meant it. I don't want you to sleep on a mattress on the floor at your house when we have a perfectly fine bed in our guestroom."
She smiled sweetly at him, reminiscent of that little twelve-year-old alien girl they'd rescued from Hanka. "Of course I'm staying the weekend; Sam promised me you'd be making us breakfast in bed and everything."
"C'mere you cheeky little…"
Cassie squealed and sounded more like Gracie than a twenty-seven-year old woman when he grabbed her and tickled her sides. "Ah!" She cried, laughing and squirming. "Jack!" She tried to return the favor but her attacks weren't very effective because of his winter coat. "Grace, help me!"
He saw his daughter, box in hand, in his periphery but it was too late…
"Daddy!" Gracie yelled, put down her box and suddenly launched herself at him, worming her small hands under his coat and tickling his stomach. "Let her go!"
The tickle fest continued for a few more minutes until both he and Cassie were out of breath and they called it a truce. "Okay, okay, I give up!"
"Yesss!" The two girls both exclaimed, high-fiving each other.
Jack grumbled about how unfair it was that they were both ganging up on him and he had brief moment of panic at the idea that in a few years the twins would be old enough to join allegiances with Gracie and Cassie; he was totally outnumbered! Perhaps asking Santa for a little brother hadn't been that outrageous after all? That would go a long way to counteracting all the girl power in the house… Still, Carter probably wouldn't be convinced by that argument so maybe he could at least get her on his side? "Well, I guess it's really time for me to go now. Don't forget about Sophie and Tess, make sure to eat and drink something – no soda or alcohol though – don't burn the house down while I'm gone… yadda yadda yadda. Be good, girls!"
"Yessir!" Gracie quipped, standing at attention and throwing him a lazy salute.
Cassandra grinned and ruffled the girl's hair. "Of course, Jack," she said, pressing a kiss on his cheek. "Drive safe!"
He watched them warily for a moment, their faces far too innocent for his liking but nodded eventually. "Okay. I'm taking the truck so if you need to drive… Um, never mind. Obviously you're not going anywhere. If Carter comes home before me and for some strange reason you need to go out then you can take the SUV; the car seats are still inside." When it had been just Sam, him and Gracie the truck and even Carter's Volvo had been fine but with two extra car seats they had decided to get an SUV as the truck became too cramped. Fortunately for him his wife understood his unwillingness to part with his old truck – it wasn't until she'd gone to Atlantis that she'd sold her Volvo s80, keeping her classic Volvo – and with the bad weather he felt more comfortable having the truck at hand as well, in case they both needed to go somewhere on icy or snowy roads. "Have fun, I'll see you later!" With that, he went to the hallway and headed out the front door.
December 23, 2012
Colorado Springs, CO
Sam was sitting on the floor in front of the fireplace with her two youngest lying on the floor mat. Tess was biting on a teething ring, drool slowly dripping down her chin and Sam wondered not for the first time if she was going to be teething soon. Meanwhile, Sophie was trying out her rattle, happily alternating between softly shaking it and sticking it in her mouth. Cassie was upstairs tucking Grace in and reading her a bedtime story while Jack was cleaning up in the kitchen.
Smiling at her babies, Sam decided this was the perfect way to relax after a busy weekend. In order to have the next three days off she had worked a double shift yesterday, from morning until late in the evening and another shift this afternoon. Working the weekends wasn't an entirely strange concept for either her or Jack and they both knew it came with the job, but unlike him, Generals Hammond or Landry she relied more on her 2IC, Colonel Altman, to run the base while she was absent. It had been one of her conditions when the higher-ups had offered her command of the SGC, since she already had Grace and a baby – or two, as it turned out – on the way at that time and she had seriously considered resigning, to be able to spend time with her husband and kids.
However, the brass wasn't willing to let her go as Jack had predicted and thus she'd made sure – with her husband's support – there would be plenty of time left to spend with her family. She still worked long hours during the week, coming home late in the evening and more often than not too late for dinner with Grace, although Jack often waited for her or at least sat with her while she ate a meal but the weekends were more relaxed in that she would often work one shift on both days, sometimes two and had at least two Sundays and one Saturday in the month off as long as they weren't in the same weekend. Her competent and single 2IC made this working schedule possible and on certain important dates – like Christmas or birthdays – he happily traded a few shifts with her since he had no dependents. It also helped that they had fifteen years of experience at the SGC now and pretty much knew what they were doing; there were no more Goa'uld or Ori knocking on the iris in unexpected attacks and now Earth had its own spaceships, Atlantis and off-world bases too. Not to mention HWC and a lot of research that was handed over to Area 51, all to take some of the responsibility off the SGC and making her job much easier.
She looked up when she heard Jack's familiar footfall heading her way and beckoned him over to join them. "Did you get everything done?"
"Yep, the kitchen is spic and span," he said as he lowered himself into a seating position. "Won't be much longer until she'll be teething."
Following his gaze towards their youngest child Sam nodded in agreement and watched as he picked her up and placed her on his lap. "She's early."
"It happens," he replied, shrugging.
Sam reached out and grabbed a bib from the coffee table to wipe Tess' chin gently. "She's smiling again," she said fondly, returning the gesture.
"She hasn't stopped since you got back home," Jack said, pressing a kiss on the baby's ginger hair. "She missed you."
"Then it's a good thing I'll be home the next few days," she replied. It was difficult to be away from her babies, especially as she had just gotten used to having Jack and Grace around all the time now that they were all living in Colorado Springs and she'd spent almost all day with them during her maternity leave. She knew he didn't say this to make her feel guilty but it still had that effect and that only made her own conflicted emotions even worse. "Yes, I'll be home for Christmas, hon," she said, holding Tess' hand.
"It'll be their first," he commented needlessly. "Daniel said to make lots of pictures since he couldn't get away from Atlantis."
Sam nodded and turned towards Sophie, who'd fallen silent and was watching them intently. "So did Cam."
Jack frowned as she picked up their other baby. "You spoke to Mitchell?"
"Yes, he arrived at the SGC today. Apparently he also took time off from commanding the Alpha Site and is going to spend the holidays with his parents."
"Will he be dropping by or joining us for dinner one of these days?"
She shook her head as she cooed at Sophie, praising the little girl as she sat on her lap as best she could and moved her head in the direction of Jack and Tess. "No, he already left for Kansas this afternoon and won't be back for a few more days. He said to wish you guys a merry Christmas and even handed me a few presents for the kids, from him and Vala. Apparently they've been in contact and she asked him to get the girls some gifts from her, so he bought them when he was Earth-side around Thanksgiving."
Jack groaned as he repositioned Tess in his arms. "Let me guess; more colorful toe socks for Gracie?"
"Aw, c'mon, they're adorable and she really loves them," she countered, grinning at him. When he muttered something under his breath she rolled her eyes and relented. "But I have no idea if that's the case; the presents were all wrapped up so I don't know what they bought. They're still in the car, though. Figured we could get them out tomorrow and put them in the stockings along with the other things you've bought for the girls."
"Okay," he said, smiling as he nuzzled Tess' hair. "Cass and Gracie did a great job on the stockings for the twins, don't you think?"
"Hmm, they're wonderful. They kind of match the ones Cassie made for us, although ours are more worn."
They played with the girls and talked to them and each other about their first Christmas for another twenty minutes until the babies were starting to tire and Sam nursed them before Jack took them upstairs to put them to bed. To Sam's surprise he was back in a few minutes and joined her on the couch, wrapping an arm around her and pulling her against his side.
"Cassie offered to take care of them so we could have some alone time," he commented, nuzzling her hair.
"Hmm, that's sweet," Sam replied as she snuggled closer to him.
She could feel him nod. "Yeah, we should keep her. It would be like having an au pair we don't have to pay and someone we actually like."
Snorting, she decided to play along. "You're right, she could stay in the guestroom."
"Why did we send her to college, anyway?"
"Waste of time and money," she agreed. "It's not like she needed to go to UCLA to learn how to take care of our offspring, let alone getting that PhD at Berkeley."
Jack chuckled softly, his breath ruffling her hair. "Yeah, what good is comparative biochemistry when all she needs to do is change diapers, wash and feed the babies and put the kids to bed when we're not around."
Sam sighed, thinking of how proud she was of Cassandra and wondering what Janet would think of her daughter if she could see her now. It was hard to believe so many years had gone by without Janet and that Cassie was moving back into the Fraiser house in town. Upon Janet's death they had debated selling the house but since Cassie had planned on returning to Colorado – the SGC, more precisely – after her studies were done they had decided to sublet the house in the meantime. It wasn't like she had needed the money and neither Sam nor Jack would have wanted Cassandra to have to sell the house if it had been the case and they would have supported her financially if Janet hadn't created a college fund for her daughter. "Janet would be so proud if she could see Cassie now."
"Yeah," he murmured, tightening his hold on her. "I still have trouble wrapping my head around the fact that she's actually all grown up now and will be working at the SGC next month."
"At least we'll be seeing more of her now that she's moving back here."
"You'll probably see her every day," Jack said, grinning against her neck. "Having lunch and dinner together in the commissary whenever both of you are working late and discussing her latest science projects."
She shrugged, smiling at the prospect. "Maybe."
"I guess that means our roles will reverse; now you'll be the one keeping me apprised of what Cass is up to instead of the other way around."
Surprised, she frowned for a moment and looked at him over her shoulder. "Perhaps, although I doubt you'd want to know about her science projects."
Jack let out a deep sigh and rolled his eyes in mock exasperation. "I'm just saying that normally I'm the one who has to give you updates because you were either off flying through space in your tin can or you're making long hours at the SGC and don't have time to catch up every week."
"Does that mean you'll stop visiting those social network sites?"
"I wish," he harrumphed. "But if I were to do that our eldest would grow up socially isolated from her peers."
Chuckling, Jack shifted on the couch so they could look at each other. "These days the parents – mostly mothers – or nannies are the ones arranging the play dates between kids and they do so via those dreadful sites and since Gracie is way too young to have her own account I'll have to keep tabs on her friends and their afterschool activities."
"Ridiculous," Sam muttered softly. What was wrong with kids asking their parents if they could play together after school? Nowadays it seemed like Jack had to 'book' Grace's friends days if not weeks in advance.
"Mostly, yeah," he agreed with her. "Still, there are some useful things there too. Like staying in touch with Cassandra while she was in California and even your brother… And I also learned how to braid Gracie's hair from one of those online tutorial videos."
She had to admit that was impressive. "Handy." It hadn't escaped her that Jack often braided their daughter's hair in one style or another; from two simple braids at night for in bed to prevent her wavy hair from tangling up to some elaborate style she couldn't even name. He'd been doing it for years, ever since Grace's hair was long enough and Sam had never really thought to ask him how he knew all those things.
"What's handy?" Cassie asked as she entered the living room.
"Video tutorials about braiding hair," she replied.
To her surprise Cassandra simply nodded and shared a grin with Jack. "Yeah, they are."
"We were just talking about you," he chimed in as the young woman settled down. "Before the braiding, I mean."
"Jack wants to take your job away so you can be our unpaid au pair and live in our guestroom."
Cassie snorted in response, clearly unimpressed. "That's not exactly why I worked my ass off in college."
"Just kidding," Jack said quickly. "Or I wouldn't have helped you move all your stuff back in the house this weekend."
She grinned cheekily. "I thought you only did that so you and Grace could build a fort in the living room from the boxes and the sheets thrown over the old furniture."
Her husband was quick to deny everything after clearing his throat awkwardly and coloring slightly pink. "That was just to keep Gracie occupied so we carry on."
"Yet you were also sitting in it," Cassie said.
Sam knew he had taken Grace and the twins with him to Janet's old house this weekend to help Cassandra with her last boxes and everything but all he'd told her was that Grace had entertained herself while the babies had slept through most of it in their car seats. He hadn't mentioned anything about building forts. "You were playing in the fort? Remind me, how old are you again?"
"Only during our breaks and that was just because the fort was more comfortable than the couch," he said, grinning roguishly.
"Yeah, because you and Grace took the cushions and placed them in the fort," Cassie reminded him.
Jack smirked and shrugged, suddenly not embarrassed anymore. "It was fun, though."
"I'll bet," Sam commented dryly, rolling her eyes. He was such a big kid sometimes!
Suddenly her husband turned serious again, his dark eyes focused yet warm on Cassandra. "All kidding aside, we're very proud of you, Cass."
"Your mom would also be proud," she added.
She smiled shyly, ducking her head. "Thank you."
"Now, tell me all about this guy you've been seeing," Jack said, breaking the moment of silence. "What's his name, Kyle something something?"
"Kyle Braun," Cassandra admitted reluctantly. "He's really nice and sweet."
He nodded slowly, clearly skeptical. "Right, of course he is. Why isn't he coming over for Christmas then?"
She sighed and Sam nodded in encouragement, knowing his interrogation would be over sooner if Cassie would just cooperate. "He's celebrating it with family out of state. We've only been together for six months, it's no big deal."
"Six months!" Jack exclaimed in surprise and turned to her. "You only told me she was seeing someone on Thanksgiving."
Sam grimaced in acknowledgment. "Well, it was still very early and I knew you'd overreact."
"Okay," he said slowly, "so he's going to spend Christmas with relatives, I can understand that. But he could have at least given you a hand moving here if you've been going steady, or whatever it's called these days, for so long!"
Sighing, Sam settled in the couch as her husband continued his interrogation and she wondered if it would look suspicious if she went to bed already. But she really didn't want poor Cassandra alone with Jack when he was playing the overprotective dad…
December 24, 2012
Colorado Springs, CO
Cassie was hanging the stockings on the mantle as the rest of them were lounging on the sofa, having enjoyed way too much homemade pizza for dinner. The twins were in the playpen, Sophie playing with her rattler again while Tess was slapping on the activity center-thingy Daniel had given them. Jack was already tired from all the stress of the past few days and it hadn't even been Christmas yet! This morning he had finished wrapping up all the presents in the master bedroom while Sam and Cassandra had been downstairs, playing with the kids. In a few hours they would have to place all the gifts under the tree and fill the six colorful stockings, only for everyone to tear the wrapping paper off again in the morning…
It was nice though to have all his favorite girls with him these past few days and in spite of the guys not being able to make it for the holidays, he was pretty sure this was going to be the best Christmas ever. He was listening with one ear as Gracie was talking excitedly about Santa and his reindeer, absentmindedly wondering if they kept the fake reindeer footprint-thingy during the move to Colorado because he would probably have to make a trail in the snow when she was in bed. He hadn't done so last year but then they'd been at the cabin and it had been snowing, so he'd simply told Gracie that the tracks were already snowed over.
"… your brother, Sam?"
Jack pricked up his ears when he realized that the conversation between the two adult women had shifted onto dangerous territory; Mark Carter. Every year they invited him and his family for special occasions but they never came and Carter had gotten pretty upset about it after Thanksgiving. Her emotional reaction had made him wonder if Mark would be receiving any invitations in the future – he was pretty sure there hadn't been any yet for Sam's birthday or New Year's Eve.
"He said he couldn't make it," Carter replied, huffing. "Something about celebrating it with Laura and the kids at home."
"Really?" He questioned, unable to help himself. Besides, it wasn't his job to protect Mark and he was getting a bit tired of the guy's behavior towards his wife anyway. "That's odd, since Ryan is celebrating it with friends at some winter resort belonging to someone's father."
Two pairs of eyes were suddenly looking at him, while the three younger girls were oblivious to the tension and playing among themselves. "How do you know that?"
"We befriended each other on that social networking site a year and a half ago, remember?" Jack said, referring to their last trip to San Diego. It had been in the summer vacation during one of the rare weekends both he and Carter had been on leave and it was right before Ryan, Mark's oldest son, had gone off to college. That was one of the reasons they had visited, even though Cassie hadn't been in the state at the time and they usually tried to combine visiting Mark and Cassie.
Carter rolled her eyes, obviously upset at the fact her brother had lied to her. "I think he's still mad at me for that whole thing with Amy."
Jack turned to explain it to Cassandra. "Well, the last time we were there we were talking about Ryan going off to college and Amy was wondering about what she'd do once she was done with high school, as this is her last year. Anyway, they asked about our experiences and why we'd joined the Air Force and by the time Sam had told her about the financial benefits… well, Amy's curiosity was piqued and Mark accused of trying to seduce her to the dark side."
"The Air Force," Carter clarified unnecessarily.
"To be honest, though," he started, "I don't think that's the reason. He's never visited us here or in DC and I doubt he would have come this year if that hadn't happened."
Cassie frowned and it wasn't difficult to guess why; after losing her entire planet – including her parents and siblings – she cherished her adoptive family, including all the members of the SGC. "But that means they haven't even see the twins yet?"
Shrugging, Carter acted as if it didn't matter, even though Jack knew better. He'd been there when she had been on the phone with her brother after all, and he'd heard the frustration in her voice when she'd finally told him it was time for him and his family to visit them instead of the other way around, since she wasn't going to fly across the country with a six-year-old and four-month-old twins. "We emailed pictures."
"But that's not the same," she countered.
"I know, but it's not like they've seen a lot of Grace either. It's usually just a few times a year we visit them if everything works out and now with my job at the SGC I can't just take a week off."
"Flying with the twins wouldn't be an easy feat either," Jack added and gestured towards the two babies, who were now deceptively quiet and sweet.
His wife smiled at their girls before her expression hardened again. "You know, it's always been like this and I'm tired of it. I was always the one going to San Diego, mostly because Mark always used the kids as an excuse; it wasn't easy to fly across the country with two young children, he and Laura both had a job and couldn't take so much time off and it was also more expensive for the four of them to come over compared to my situation, as I was single and he knew I always have plenty of leave left."
"Until you two finally got together," Cassandra chimed in, smiling.
Jack grinned at her, more than happy with the turn of events! Now he had a beautiful wife and three lovely daughters with her. "Yeah, and we dutifully went out to San Diego to see him and his family."
"Even though it was far more difficult for us to both get leave at the same time than it was for him and Laura," Carter said. "Jack and I hardly got time together and I couldn't even see my daughter every day back when I was reassigned to SG-1 again, but still we sacrificed a free weekend or two to visit my brother."
"The only time he came here was when your dad died?"
Carter nodded in reply at the young woman's question. "Yeah, he came over for the service, just without his family and he went back the next day. So, if Mark doesn't want to take the time and effort to visit us then that's fine, but I won't be visiting him anytime soon either. I don't have to keep the peace between him and Dad anymore and if he doesn't want to get to know his nieces that's fine with me."
Jack tightened his arm around her, trying to support and comfort her because he knew she wasn't really 'fine' with it. "Maybe he'll come around."
"Well," Cassandra said, clasping her hands together. "I think it's time for someone's bath…"
Surprised, he looked at the clock and saw it was indeed almost bedtime for Gracie. "Yeah, Santa doesn't give presents to kids who don't take their baths before bed."
Carter grinned and got up before leaning down next to Grace. "Hey hon, it's almost time for bed."
"Already?" Gracie whined, dropping the dolls she had been playing with.
"Yes, you want me to help you take a bath?" Cassie suggested, smiling at her.
Jack nodded encouragingly at his daughter. "Yeah, the sooner you get into bed the sooner Santa will bring your presents, sweetie."
The words had barely left his mouth or Gracie jumped up. "Okay, goodnight everyone!"
He watched as she went over to the twins and opened the playpen. "G'night Sophie," she said, kissing her blonde sister. Then she leaned over to the youngest and pressed a kiss on her cheek. "G'night Tessie."
"What about me? Am I gonna get a kiss?" Jack requested, holding out his arms. He grinned when she suddenly launched herself at him, landing in his lap and giving him a big wet kiss. "G'night Gracie."
Carter plucked her off his lap and gave her a big hug and a kiss, before handing her over to Cassie. "Sleep tight, Grace."
He watched as Cassandra took her upstairs while Carter checked on the twins. Jack was about to get up and help her when his wife waved him down. "Sam?"
"I'll take them to the nursery and feed them, while you start looking for those fake reindeer prints. Then you can come up and help me put them to bed, before we can start getting everything ready for tomorrow."
December 25, 2012
Colorado Springs, CO
Breakfast and present time had been hectic and Sam had never been happier to have Cassie over at their house, as the twins had been uncharacteristically sulky and grumpy and Grace had the energy of five children! Jack had made pancakes and omelets for everyone and breakfast had been great, even though Grace had been a bit upset over the Christmas lights; after last year she had expected to do the same game with turning the lights on again, so while Jack had been in the kitchen their daughter had tried to twist every light only to find nothing worked… because they didn't have the same old-fashioned lights here as they had at the cabin, so the only reason they hadn't been on was because they'd pulled the plug out last night before going to bed.
Fortunately, opening the presents in their stockings had lifted everyone's spirits and even the twins had settled down a bit. Jack had complained about Grace getting even more toe socks – thanks to Vala no doubt – but she knew he didn't really mean it. The only thing he didn't like about them was that it took her a few seconds longer to put them on compared to regular socks. It wasn't like all the crazy colors and patterns made it more difficult for him to pair the socks up when doing the laundry considering he always had Grace pick out the socks while he did all the folding.
Her husband had enjoyed the presents in his own stocking, just a few doodads from her to keep those restless fingers of his occupied and Cassie apparently had had the same idea as Sam suspected she was the one who'd given him a new yo-yo and a slinky. Cassandra had been equally happy with the engraved pen and other small office supplies she had received, although even Sam was still mystified as to why she had wanted those items to begin with. Hopefully she would enjoy the bracelet and earrings she and Jack had bought for her as well…
Sam had gotten a book of crossword puzzles, an alien keychain that also functioned as a tiny flashlight and some expensive chocolates in her stocking, while Grace had squealed over the chocolate and new finger paint they had managed to stuff in her stocking. The girl had also been extremely pleased to be the one unwrapping the gifts for her sisters, who had been given a couple of pacifiers, a small stuffed animal, some colorful soft blocks to play with and chew on and a new rattler.
In less than an hour they would start on the presents under the tree and in the meantime Cassie had taken Grace outside to play in the snow and get rid of that excess energy, while Jack had taken the twins with him upstairs. Now that Sam's cookies were in the oven she went looking for him and was surprised – and horrified – to find her youngest daughters dressed up as mutant elves or something. "What are they wearing and where did you even get that stuff?"
Jack looked up, clearly startled by her soundless approach and smiled sheepishly. "It's one of the gifts sent by well-meaning friends and family."
"Okay," she said slowly, "but that doesn't mean they actually have to wear it."
"I know! I'm just dressing them up to take pictures of them and send those to whoever gave us those outfits and then they can wear whatever you want them to. Promise!"
Sam gave him the benefit of the doubt and to her surprise he quickly took a picture of them and efficiently took the clothes off before dressing them in equally awful – and similar – outfits before the girls could even cry to show their displeasure at this treatment. "How many of those have you already done?"
"Well, I did two this morning… although the first ones were actually kinda cute and they weren't dressed alike. I'll show you the picture I took of them with Gracie – who was wearing a Santa hat – later. And I just did three more outfits. Two more to go and then we're done and we'll never have to see those clothes again."
She nodded slowly, finally understanding why her babies had been crabby this morning and watched as he continued with his project. "You do realize that this will only encourage people to send more outfits for next year, right?"
"Nah, they wouldn't," Jack said confidently.
"Of course not," she said dryly, already foreseeing years of photo shoots in awful outfits for her girls. After tapping her watch to indicate he had to hurry up to be in time for the opening of presents she turned on her heels and left the nursery.
"Or would they?" He called after her, his voice floating out into the corridor. "Sam? Sam!"