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Christmas, Malls, and Jaffa
Casey was near tears as she and Teal'c were led down a long hallway, and into the security office. Head held high, she fought the heat she could feel in her cheeks. Used the techniques that Teal'c had taught her to center herself, to slow her rapidly beating heart. She turned to face her accuser, determined that she wouldn't let the woman know just how embarrassed and angry she was. And was surprised to see fear in the hazel eyes. Apparently that woman had had no idea that she'd be required to do more than just tell the mall security her story. The fact that her eyes kept darting to her friends, who weren't looking any too happy themselves, gave Casey hope that the entire matter would be solved quickly.
"Sit down," the older man told them.
She perched on the edge of the seat. "Am I under arrest?"
"Not until the Colorado Springs police arrive."
Good lord. I'll have a police record! Daniel would be embarrassed, and probably angry as well. The random, unexpected thought that it could affect her security clearance raced through her mind. What a mess! "May I make a phone call? I'd like to call my husband so I can explain why I'll be late getting home."
The older man studied her for a moment. Could see that for all of her effort to remain calm, she was on the brink of tears. With a short nod, he unlocked the handcuffs, and watching carefully over her shoulder...knowing full well that what he was doing was breaking a rule or two...allowed her to dig into her purse for her cell phone. She pushed the number one. Hoping against hope that Daniel wasn't in the middle of a meeting and would have his phone off, requiring her to leave a message.
'Simply Irresistible' began to play from Daniel's pocket. He cast a worried glance at Jack. "Hey, gorgeous," he said, as soon as the phone was open and against his ear.
He could hear the tears in her voice. "What's wrong?"
"Oh, Daniel...I'm at the Silver Springs mall...and there was this woman, and she shoved me, and then she put a sweater in my bag, but I didn't know it, and then she told security that I attacked her and that Teal'c threatened her..." she took a shaky breath. "They're going to arrest me for shoplifting, and I didn't do it!"
He could feel the anger flare in his veins as he listened to her trembling voice explain what had happened. The need to reach her, protect her, had him nearly running toward the hallway where the security officers had led his Wife and best friend. "Deep breath, babe. Jack and I will be right there."
Feeling better knowing that Daniel was on his way, she closed the phone, sat back and closed her eyes. Almost jumped out of her skin when a hard, sharp knock on the door filled the room.
One of the younger security guards opened the door.
"Daniel!" She was out of the chair and into his arms, the fact that it was impossible for him to have arrived from the base so quickly never registering in her brain.
Teal'c's eyebrow went up. "You have been here for some time," he said quietly.
"Er...well...yeah. Sort of a rescue mission," Jack mumbled. He turned to the security officer who sat behind the desk. "I'm Colonel Jack O'Neill. Second-in-command at the Cheyenne Mountain Military Complex." Okay, so he was technically 2IC of Stargate Command, a section of the mountain that technically didn't exist. But these bozo's didn't know that. "Mrs. Jackson works for me. What's going on here?"
The woman with the dark hair dropped onto one of the empty chairs that sat against one wall. This was about to get very ugly. She'd been so angry when the lovely blonde had dared to stand up to her...something that very rarely occurred. And the blonde was so pretty, and it just...she'd been so angry! She'd only expected the woman to be stopped, the sweater returned, and nothing more to be done. This was...this was getting out of control! And no way were Dana and Trudy going to back her on this, she could already see that in their eyes! What happened to people who filed false reports?
Jack glanced at Teal'c. Did a double take. What in the hell? Was that...Holy Hannah! The Jaffa had pierced his ear! "Teal'c, just when did you do...that?" he asked, motioning to the man's ear.
"Earlier in the day. Casey Jackson has a piercing also."
Daniel jerked, looked at his wife. "What?"
"I sort of...well, it's kind of a long story..." she mumbled.
He bit back his grin. "Where?"
Oh, shit. That had the anaconda's attention! He'd seen women with tiny little rings in their bellybuttons, had always thought it was sexy as hell. "Can't wait to see it," he whispered in her ear.
She managed a watery smile. For the first time it occurred to her that he might be less than thrilled about her new body jewelry. "You're not angry?"
He rested his forehead against hers. "No. Why would I be?"
She reached up and caressed his cheek.
"Now, back to my question," Jack said, still staring at the gold ball in Teal'c's ear.
"This woman assaulted the lady sitting over there," the older officer replied.
Jack turned to look at the woman. Who refused to meet his gaze. "Want to tell me about it?" he asked gruffly.
The dark haired woman shook her head.
"Well, you're going to have to make out your report. Shall we wait for the police to arrive, or do you want to get this straightened out now?"
The woman jerked. Dared to look up into very angry brown eyes. "I...she..."
Sitting beside her, the woman named Dana shook her head. "I will not get involved in this," she hissed. She stood to her feet. Looked straight at Jack. "That woman did nothing wrong. Susan here just pitched a bitch because the blonde didn't capitulate when she grabbed that sweater. Susan did the shoving, not...not her," Dana said, nodding toward Casey. "And that big guy never said anything threatening to her."
The security officer frowned. "What about the stolen sweater?"
Dana looked down at Susan. "Susan dropped it into her bag. She had no idea it was there."
Susan could feel the weight of the stares. Every eye in the room was focused on her, and none of the gazes held anything but contempt. "She pissed me off," she mumbled lamely.
Jack stared at the dark haired woman named Susan. Noticed that the other woman, a short, stocky blonde had stood as well. "So which story is the truth?" he asked her.
The woman, Trudy, nearly fainted when those angry brown eyes focused on her. "Dana is telling the truth," she replied, her voice shaking. "Susan was just being mean...and she thought it would be funny to get back at...her."
Jack turned to the head security officer. "Well now, it seems that we have quite a mess here, doesn't it? Did Mrs. Jackson admit to stealing that sweater?"
"No, sir," the man replied. He hated thinking that the military would get involved in this! A large portion of the mall customers were military personnel and their dependants. None of the shop owners would be happy to see those numbers suddenly decrease, or disappear. He was a vet himself. He knew that it was damned possible for the base CO to 'blacklist' the mall, making it 'illegal' for at least the military people themselves to shop there. If the man standing in the middle of the room was second-in-command, there was the real possibility of that happening. Not a good thing! "She...Mrs. Jackson vehemently denied taking the sweater, and insisted she had no idea how it came to be in her bag."
"But you ignored her and cuffed her anyway," Daniel growled. "So much for innocent until proven guilty!"
The man had the decency to blush.
Casey's eyes widened. "How...you couldn't..."
Daniel smiled. "Jack thought Teal'c needed to be rescued."
She looked up at Jack. "I don't know whether to thank you or deck you," she said after a moment.
Jack grinned unabashedly. "Thank me. Definitely thank me."
She smiled, shook her head. "Would you please uncuff my friend? He's done nothing wrong," she said to the security officer.
Teal'c was immediately released.
The arrival of four of Colorado Springs' finest caused a bit of momentary confusion. The security officer in charge quickly explained the situation. One of the officers turned to Casey. "Ma'am, you'd be within your rights to file assault charges."
She shook her blonde head. "It's almost Christmas. It's supposed to be a time of brotherly love. Let's just forget the entire thing happened."
"Are you sure?" the police officer asked.
"I'm sure." She looked over at the woman named Susan. "I'm sorry that you're so unhappy, that you feel so...out of control." She cocked her head sideways.
"Incoming," Jack muttered automatically.
"You should see your doctor. I think...I think there might be something wrong," Casey said softly. She stepped closer to the woman, lowered her voice so that only Susan could hear her. "Your missed periods don't mean you're pregnant. I think there's something very wrong. Please, see your doctor as soon as you can."
Susan's eyes went wide with shock...and disbelief. "How...how..."
Casey smiled. "It's a gift. But for your own health and safety, call your doctor. This afternoon."
Unable to do anything other than nod, the woman watched as Casey as she gathered the packages the other security officers had taken.
"Shall we?" Jack said, motioning toward the door.
Her hand wrapped tightly around Daniel's arm, she followed her CO into the corridor. "So you guys followed us? To spy on us?"
"Not exactly," Daniel said immediately.
"Then what, exactly?"
"Couldn't let you drag Teal'c into any of those foo-foo places, could I?" Jack asked. He frowned. "Never thought you'd get the big guy pierced, for crying out loud!"
"Hey, it wasn't like that!" Casey objected.
Teal'c put his hand on Casey's back. "Do not attempt to explain. O'Neill does not understand that not all men object to shopping in the mall."
Daniel snorted. Casey giggled. Jack glared. Teal'c remained stoic. Although his three companions were certain he was laughing on the inside.
"Try to do a guy a favor..." Jack muttered.
"Come on, let's find Janet and Sam," Daniel said.
"They came with you?" Casey squeaked.
"We saw them in Harrold's Gift Gallery. Before we went to Penney's," Casey informed him.
"They said they were going to do a bit of shopping," Daniel replied.
"We could have them paged," Jack suggested.
"Might be easier to just sit down by Santa's Workshop, and wait for them to see us," Casey said. "Less...embarrassing."
"Less chance of pissing them off that way," Jack admitted. "And I could do with a rest."
It was a stroke of sheer luck that two benches were empty when the four arrived at the center of the mall, where Santa Claus continued to visit with the children brought to sit on his knee.
"I really was worried about you. Thought maybe you weren't here by choice," Jack said quietly as he and Teal'c settled onto one of the benches.
"I am touched by your concern, O'Neill," Teal'c replied.
"I mean, I know that it's damned near impossible to say no to her, even when you want to."
The Jaffa's cheek twitched. "Indeed."
"And no man, or Jaffa, should be subjected to going into some frilly foo-foo boutique. It's just not right."
By now the large man was smiling. "Fortunately for me, Casey Jackson did not subject me to any such...horrors."
"She got you pierced!"
"I quite like the piercing, O'Neill. Daniel Jackson has told me of many tribes of people on this planet for whom piercing and tattooing one's body is a means of displaying status. Casey Jackson tells me that I look quite 'sexy' with my ear pierced as it is."
Jack choked, stuttered, then grinned. "Gotta hand it to her, she has a way of getting people to do exactly what she wants them to do."
"There was no coercion. I was quite willing to have my ear pierced."
"She desired to have her navel pierced."
Jack jerked, glanced over at Casey. There were times that images of that slender, nubile body haunted his dreams. The idea of a tiny ring flashing against the skin of her flat belly... oh hell. Not gonna think about it!
Daniel put his arm around her shoulders, pulled her close. "So, you pierced your navel."
"I saw a model, a really beautiful model, who'd had it done. It just looked so sexy, and she said..." Casey blushed, and dropped her eyes.
"She said?" Daniel coaxed softly.
"She said it made her more sensitive there."
He couldn't help but grin. Now that could be interesting.
"You're sure you're not angry about it?"
"Angel, it's your body. If you want a piercing, fine. I'd prefer that you don't pierce anything else."
She frowned. "What else would I-" she broke off, looked up into laughing blue eyes. "I don't think there's anything else I'd want pierced...ever!"
He laughed. "Good."
"So, are we still going to go find a tree this evening?"
"Yep. Jack says there's a nice tree farm about fifteen miles from town. We can go out, find a tree, cut it down, have some hot spiced cider or hot chocolate, listen to a few Christmas carols-"
"The Merry Christmas Tree Farm?"
"That's the one," he confirmed.
"They have two kinds of trees, Blue Spruce and Scotch Pine. I don't know the difference between a Blue Spruce or a Scotch Pine, but it will be interesting to find out what it is," she smiled. "I want a big tree, if we can find one."
"Whatever you want, Angel," he said softly.
Her smile widened. No matter how many times he said those beautiful words, the wonder, the absolute amazement that he meant exactly what he said would never fade.
The four hadn't been sitting very long when Janet and Sam happened by. "Uh oh, busted," Janet grinned.
"Literally," Casey mumbled.
"What?" Sam asked, immediately understanding that something had happened.
"Case and Teal'c were arrested for shoplifting," Jack said easily.
"They...who...what?" Sam stammered.
"Yeah, my thoughts exactly," Janet nodded, her brown eyes wide. "What happened?"
Jack gave the two newcomers a quick rundown of the events of the afternoon. Then looked pointedly at Teal'c. "Notice anything...new...about the big guy?"
Both women studied him. "Oh, my god!" Janet exclaimed. She hurried over to examine his ear, her trained eye telling her that there was not even any redness near or at the site of the piercing. It seemed that his Immortality had already healed the 'wound'.
"Case got her belly button pierced," Jack announced, a wide grin on his face.
"No kidding? I want to see!" Janet said, whirling to look at the young blonde.
"Not here!" Casey protested.
Janet glanced around. Dropped her packages at Teal'c's feet. Grabbed Casey's hand. "Restroom. We'll be right back."
Sam followed as the petite doctor dragged the slender blonde toward Macy's, and the restrooms within.
"I can't believe that Teal'c pierced his ear," Sam said, shaking her head.
Casey grinned. "I told him it would drive Jack nuts."
Janet burst into laughter. "That would do it!"
"That Jaffa surprises me, sometimes," Sam grinned.
"Actually," Casey said, "he has a very wicked sense of humor. You should hear some of the jokes he tells me...in Goa'uld!"
Janet and Sam traded glances. "Such as?" Sam asked.
Casey frowned. "To be honest, they sort of lose something in the translation. But there was one..." She explained a few details that were necessary to understand, then told the joke. Her companions giggled hysterically.
"Oh, that's bad," Janet gasped.
"But funny," Sam added.
"Oh, yeah," Casey agreed.
Standing in the back of the ladies' restroom, Janet looked at Casey. "Let's see it."
With a sigh, knowing that arguing would do no good, Casey unwound the scarf from her waist, raised the tunic and unbuttoned and unzipped her jeans enough to expose the new piercing.
"Wow," Sam murmured.
Janet examined it carefully. "No redness, no puffiness. Does it burn? Itch? Bother you at all?"
"No, it doesn't bother me," Casey replied honestly.
"I'd have to say that your...well, you know," Janet said, glancing around, "is what has made it heal so quickly."
"It's healed?" Casey asked incredulously.
"Completely, from what I can see," Janet assured her.
"Wow. That's cool," Casey grinned. Now she wouldn't have to 'forbid' Daniel from giving her belly his attention until the piercing had healed. Which meant...she shivered slightly.
"Casey?" Janet asked, a flash of worry crossing her face.
She could feel her cheeks burning. "Nothing. Just thinking that now Daniel can-" she broke off when her friends began to giggle. "Well, I thought he'd have to wait!"
"Daniel? Wait? Not possible," Janet teased.
"So what made you do it?" Sam asked, curious to know just why Casey'd done something so...bold.
Casey repeated the story about the model. Blushed brightly when she admitted to wondering about the extra sensitivity.
"I want to know if it's true," Sam said, her blue eyes dancing.
The tall blonde grinned. "Oh yeah. Who knows, I might shock a certain colonel!"
"I want a picture of his face if you do," Janet declared.
Casey looked at her friends. "Did you get your shopping done?"
"Most of it," Sam replied.
"I think I have everything. Daniel and I are going to go cut a tree tonight."
"That sounds like fun," Sam said.
"Just remember, it might look small out there, but when you get it home it will be much, much bigger," Janet warned.
Sam began to giggle. "You should have seen the tree we found two years ago!"
"We couldn't get it through the door," Janet grinned. "Jack, Daniel, and Teal'c had to keep chopping at it...basically I had the top of the tree in my living room!"
"I'll keep that in mind," Casey laughed.
"Well, we'd better get back out there. Now that Teal'c has been duly 'rescued'," Sam said.
"I can't believe that Jack would do something like this!" Casey muttered.
"Hello? We're talking about Jack," Janet said.
"Good point. And he calls me annoying!" the young blonde Immortal grumped. Her friends continued to laugh.
The three men were waiting patiently, and when the women returned and suggested coffee, the group moved toward the food court.
"So, big plans tonight, kids?" Jack asked, carefully sipping on his plain, black coffee. No latte or mocha this or extra skinny that for him. Just plain old joe. Cup of good old fashioned java.
"We're getting our tree," Casey announced.
"Cassie and I are going to make cookies for her class party tomorrow," Janet reported.
"I have to get gifts wrapped tonight," Sam said. "Dr. Lee has a few ideas about that new power source, so I'm going to be up to my ears in experiments for the next few days."
"What about you, Teal'c?" Jack asked.
"I must wrap gifts as well." He didn't say that he still had one special gift to obtain. A message to Master Bra'tac would be required.
Jack sat back, stretched out his legs. "I'm gonna watch the hockey game on television."
"Have you even started your Christmas shopping?" Sam asked.
"Did it last weekend," he said smugly.
"You're just a pain," Sam sniffed.
The older man grinned. "But you love me anyway."
She refused to answer, although she struggled to hide her smile.
"Is Paul going to be here for Christmas?" Casey asked Janet.
"He gets here on the twenty-third," Janet replied, blushing prettily.
"Are you going to let him stay at your house this time?" Sam wanted to know. When the major had visited for Thanksgiving, Janet had asked him to stay at a hotel, rather than with her, wanting to put forth a good example for Cassie.
The blush deepened. "Cassie invited him to stay. She said that she thinks it's great that I'm happy, and she likes Paul."
Casey smiled. Perhaps there was a happy ending for the doctor and the Pentagon major. That would be nice. She loved happy endings.
When the coffee cups were empty, the group stood, and said their goodbyes. Teal'c would return to the base with Jack, Sam, and Janet.
"Thanks for coming with me," Casey said softly.
"I have enjoyed our day together," Teal'c replied.
"Me, too. Well, all except the getting arrested part."
The large man smiled. "We were not technically arrested. And I believe there was a reason, was there not?"
Jack and Daniel were right, Teal'c didn't miss a thing. Casey nodded. "She's sick, Teal'c. I don't know exactly what's wrong, but something was very wrong, something potentially dangerous."
"Then it is fortuitous that she crossed your path, that you could warn her," Teal'c said.
"I guess so."
"Be prepared for a rigorous workout tomorrow."
"Payback for making you carry all of those packages, right?"
He smiled. "Indeed."
"Goodnight, Casey Jackson."
A A A A A A
He sat in the silence of his room, meditating. Images from the day continued to play over in his mind. Christmas shopping had been quite interesting. No doubt the fact that he'd been with Casey Jackson was a contributing factor.
Even now he could see the excited smile on her face, the way her eyes lit up when she found the 'perfect' gift. The way her face had softened as she watched the children who listed their desires as they sat on Santa's knee. The way she'd laughed, carefree and happy as they walked and talked.
Those precious memories he stored with the others...sledding in Grant Park. Picnicking at Pike's Peak. Lazing beside the lake in the middle of August. The team vacation. And they pushed aside the bitter memories of seeing her beaten, raped...her mind broken by Ba'al.
A smile tugged at his lips. His life had been interesting since becoming a part of the SGC, a member of SG-1. With Casey Jackson in his life, anything was possible. She made him believe in miracles, and hope. And Peace on Earth, Goodwill toward Men. If all could share her heart, peace would indeed reign.
He had survived his day at the mall during the holiday season. More than that, he had enjoyed it. It had been a good day. A very good day indeed.
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