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 The Simple Necessities of Life

 

Chapter 3

Daniel watched her as she sifted through a pile of sweaters. She was searching for Christmas presents for her two best friends. He figured that she, Sam, and Janet exchanged enough gifts of clothing throughout the year to open their own boutique. It wasn't unusual for one of the 'Three Musketeers' to find something that was 'just perfect' for one of the other two. Casey hadn't had much when they'd met. Now he was finding her clothes tucked away in the unused portions of his closet. He wasn't complaining. From what he'd learned of her childhood, she'd never even had enough of what she needed...the simple basic necessities, let alone anything 'extra'; she had washed her meager clothing in the bathtub at night before going to bed, hoping it would be dry by morning. What a hell of a lousy way for a kid to live! If she wanted to fill the whole damned house with clothes, he wasn't going to deny her.

"...so he tells her that he'll think about it. I mean, really, it will be strange to have Dad living with Janet. Well, if he accepts her invitation. Personally, I think he has a hang-up about being there with Janet, while Cassie's still living there. I know she'll be heading off to college in a year or so, but still..." She glanced up. "You haven't heard a word I've said," she accused.

He couldn't help but chuckle. He'd been too busy admiring the way her slender body stretched and twisted to reach across the wide table of colorful knitted creations. "I heard most of it," he replied.

Casey sighed. "I was really worried about Dad...I mean, this would be our first Christmas together, and I was feeling guilty about taking off to go to Jack's cabin. We managed to miss Thanksgiving...and I know he was looking forward to being here for this holiday. I'm glad that he's going to spend the holiday with his aunt. Apparently this 'Aunt Janelle' is something of a petty tyrant. He told me that she never had children, and so she sort of 'adopted' him. She's got a bit of money, so he says, and she lords that over everyone else in the family. I mean really, who the hell does she think she is...demanding that he be at her house for Christmas...'or else'...like she's some sort of royalty handing down a summons! And just what's she going to do, write him out of her will? Dad isn't doing so badly on his own, if she'd just pay attention." She paused, frowned slightly. "I wonder why he didn't ask us to go along with him? Maybe he's afraid that I'll tell the old biddy to get over herself. She'd order me to do something and I'd have to tell her to take a flying leap at the moon!"

Daniel grinned. No doubt that fire had indeed figured into the lack of an invitation to meet the members of her extended family. Gary had been forthcoming with the news of his fatherhood, in fact, the man had practically trumpeted the news, telling anyone who cared, and even those who didn't, that the beautiful blonde was his daughter. As thrilled as he'd been to find her, she'd been equally happy to learn about her birth parents. And Casey was tenacious when it came to defending and protecting those she loved. Gary undoubtedly understood that. No doubt there would be a 'meeting of the family' in the future. When the added stress of the holidays wasn't a factor to be considered.

"I told him that next year is mine, though. His aunt is more than welcome to come and celebrate with us, but he's going to be here next Christmas."

The grin widened. He'd have to warn Gary. When Casey made up her mind about something, there wasn't a force on Earth, in heaven, or in hell that could change it. That stubbornness had seen her through far too many dark days in her life. And he always thought she was cute as a button when she lifted her chin just slightly, her very stance daring anyone to challenge her. Sometimes he did, just to see the fire in those green eyes. And for the incredible 'make-up sex' that always followed. "Sounds good to me."

"So, which one do you think Sam would prefer?" She held up two sweaters, one a thick, cable-knit in deep royal blue, the other a more delicate weave in aquamarine.

He had absolutely no clue what Sam would or wouldn't like. Hell, he was still surprised at times when he saw her in anything other than the customary BDUs. Most of the time they'd spent together for the first five years of working together on SG-1 had been done within the SGC. He'd been downright shocked to see her and Jack both clad head to foot in leather, riding their motorcycles down the street. He'd known that both had a passion for motorcycles...wasn't sure whether they'd been aware of that about one another before they were able to be together as more than just 'colonel' and 'major'. It was just one thing that they could enjoy together, he thought, before turning his attention back to his Wife, who was waiting patiently for his response. "Either one, I guess," Daniel said.

"You're no help," Casey groused.

"Sorry."

She tossed a smile in his direction. "You can make up for it by carrying everything."

"It's a deal," he grinned in return. "Did you finish the photo album for Teal'c?"

"Last night," she replied. 

Casey had been able to give what she had considered extravagant gifts to her friends the year before. Daniel had enjoyed watching her, the absolute delight she'd taken in wrapping each present she had so carefully selected, the pride in her voice as she told him about her search for the 'perfect' gift. This year she'd determined to make the presents a bit more 'personal'; because, she had informed him, she felt she knew her teammates and best friends even better than she had before. He had a feeling that what the team had endured together had as much to do with that desire as her knowledge of each of them as individuals.

The sweaters she was buying for Sam and Janet would conceal daily planners, each carefully decorated to reflect the interests of the recipient. Jack was getting a leather bound book that she had located at the antique mall, full of fishing stories from bygone eras. Teal'c was getting a photo album, filled with photos of those he considered his dearest friends and family...Casey had decided the dearth of photos in his quarters was just unacceptable. When he had pointed out that perhaps the Jaffa didn't want framed photographs sitting around, she had insisted that Teal'c at least needed a photo album. To which he had agreed.

She was amazing, his Wife, Daniel thought, still watching as she tried to make a decision. Obviously the bright red sweater was for Janet, it went over his arm as she continued to examine the other two. Casey was the most giving person he'd ever met. If her friends had any idea of the amount of time she spent just wrapping those gifts, let alone searching for, or as was the case this year, creating them, they would treasure them all the more.

Even though she had begged him not to buy 'expensive' gifts for her this year, he'd been unable to resist when the flyer from the local jewelry store had arrived in the mail. He'd watched her looking at the advertisement, paying particular attention to any of the pictures those amazing green eyes lingered on. There had been a gold hoop earring and bracelet set that she'd seemed interested in. The box containing the items was already wrapped, and hidden in the basket that contained all that he had of his life with Sha're. Casey insisted that the basket remain in the house, and not in storage on the base. It sat on the floor in the far corner of his closet. He had tucked the journal he'd filled with his thoughts, his dreams, his discoveries, his observations of that time into the basket as well. It just seemed fitting that the red book should be there. An entire year, condensed to a few items. He held the memories dear to his heart, cherished them...but didn't dwell on them. He lived for the moment now...not that ever elusive 'someday'. He'd lived that way for three years, hoping - praying - that 'someday' he'd manage to find Sha're, get her to the Tok'ra to have the Goa'uld removed from her body. He'd never given up hope. Even when, in the deepest recesses of his heart, he had feared that 'someday' would never come. He'd often wondered, after Sha're's death, if his lack of faith had been the reason for the outcome he had to live with. Now he understood that his Destiny had always lain in another direction, on another path. That Fate, not his lack of faith, was the reason that Sha're had been taken from him.

Casey was moving away from the table now, the bright red and royal blue sweaters in her hands. When she stopped and looked over her shoulder at him, he felt his knees go weak. Did the woman have any idea how damned sexy she looked when she did that?

It was all she could do to keep from laughing. The look of lust that had filled his eyes for a brief moment had been there for all to see. He'd barely tamped it down before he started walking toward her. She couldn't help it when her eyes dipped to his crotch. The faintest outline of that magnificent manhood could be seen beneath the denim of his jeans. She shivered imperceptibly at the thought of how that beautiful cock looked when he was naked and fully aroused. Had no idea that her own lust had flashed in her eyes.

His heart pounded against his ribs at the look she gave him. He'd never in his life had a woman look at him the way Casey often did. Not even Sha're's dark eyes had filled with such primitive, animal desire...such raw need. There were times those green eyes would focus on him, darken with unspoken lust, then fill with such love that it was nearly overwhelming. That look could have him hard and aching in an instant. He was damned close now to losing control, battling his body as he dropped his arm around her shoulders. The warmth of her arm around his waist gave him something to focus on, gave him just the distraction he needed. Odd that it was her touch that was helping to calm the inferno that had begun to rage. He wouldn't question...he'd accept what was and be grateful for it.

She glanced up at him. His five o'clock shadow was pronounced on either side of his chin, and on his upper lip, darker than the shadow on his cheeks and jaws. There was something so sexy about that! She loved him clean shaven. She loved him when he had five o'clock shadow. She loved him when he went for days without shaving. She giggled silently. The constant in all of that was...she loved him.

They were preparing to spend their second Christmas together, and still she found herself astonished by the fact that a man like Daniel loved her...her! Plain, average Casey Renee. She'd certainly taken a tumble into the rabbit hole...awakened to the reality of the Matrix...pick a theme, she thought, because either fit. Her idea of reality had been shaken up, turned around, flipped over and twisted a time or two just for shits and giggles. The reality she'd come face to face with the first time she had descended into the heart of Cheyenne Mountain, when she'd learned about the SGC and the Stargate and all that the two encompassed, had been challenging, but not without its moments of absolute wonder. Learning about the Goa'uld, however, had caused more than enough grief and anguish for a lifetime. There were far more moments of fear and anger and absolute terror, because of those snakes. Yet she wouldn't change a thing if it meant not being with Daniel, not knowing him, not having his love in her life, wrapped around her heart and soul like a warm, protective blanket.

Daniel's love had gone far in healing the wounds on her heart, was a balm to the scars that marred her very soul. His love, his reassurances, his view of her had been a boost to her self-esteem, as well. She was more confident than she'd ever been in her life. She no longer walked with her head lowered, her eyes on the ground. She met life full on, moving head up, knowing that she had an inner strength she'd never even suspected. She shook herself slightly, corralled her meandering thoughts, turned her focus once again to the reason for the late evening trip to the Mall.

She needed to pick up a gift for her father, something for each of his 'crew', and she wanted one more thing for Cassie. The young woman had expressed an interest in old movies, and Casey wanted to find a copy of 'Casablanca'. It was one of the few that Cassie didn't have, according to Janet. Sam was looking for 'The African Queen'. Both were Humphrey Bogart films...apparently he and Jimmy Stewart were the current favorites. She contemplated checking the movie titles to see if there might be something that her dad would enjoy. 

My Dad.

Those two words still brought out the butterflies to bump around in her stomach. She knew that he battled his anger over not knowing about her just as desperately as she fought against the cruel, hateful lies that had become ingrained in her psyche, put there by Helen Webster. She suspected that he was as angry at her mother, Brenda, as he was broken-hearted over what had happened to the woman he had loved so dearly. She knew about Cookie...Constance...Connie...Cookie. She hadn't yet learned how or why the woman had that particular nickname. Only that she'd been Cookie to her father as long as he had known her. There were pictures of her on the wall of his apartment. Along with over a dozen of her school photos. She'd noticed, however, that two of Cookie's photos had been replaced with photos of Janet and Cassie. But Gary had admitted that it had been Brenda who had been the great love of his life. She had no doubt that he loved Janet. Just as deeply as he'd loved Cookie. He wouldn't be with Janet now if he didn't. But she understood that what her parents had shared, in that one night of love, had given him a glimpse of what his future could have been...should have been. That rare 'once-in-a-lifetime' sort of love.

Okay, so she'd check for a movie, but she wanted to get him something...special. For all of the time they'd been able to spend together, the long talks that they'd engaged in, she really didn't feel like she knew him well enough to get something 'personal'. He was her father, but he'd only been in her life for a few months. She didn't want anything too 'general', either, something that might make him feel as if she were trying to hold him at arm's length. She sighed softly.

"Babe?"

A smile tugged at her lips. Just as he could say Jack's name, and make it a greeting, a question, a protest, or even a complete conversation...or argument; he could utter her name, or either of the endearments he frequently used, and she knew exactly what he was saying...or asking. "Just trying to decide what to get Dad. Other than the cliché gift of a tie," she added.

"No, you wouldn't want to forget the obligatory tie," he teased. "What are some of his hobbies?"

"I don't know," she confessed. "I guess it's just never come up in our conversations."

"Okay, think about his apartment. Does he have books? Music?"

"I've seen a few books around. Best sellers, I think. Wait..." she stopped walking, a frown on her face. "Damn it! I know I'll remember when I see it. He has several of the same author...all paperback. It's a man's name."

"We'll stop at the bookstore."

Well, it wasn't the most personal thing she could get him. But maybe the choice would be enough to let him know that she was aware of his likes. Hopefully the books hadn't been gifts that he was just too kind to discard or give away! "Okay. I need to stop at 'Bath&Body Works' first."

Last year the baskets of 'goodies' she had given Sam, Janet, and Cassie had been big hits, and all three had been hinting at anticipating another such gift. Her friends insisted that her gift of sight had made her choices perfect for each of them. She disagreed, maintaining that simple observation had given her an insight to their individual tastes, likes and dislikes.

"You lead, I'll follow," Daniel said.

She couldn't help but smile. "I like the sound of that...you following me so loyally..."

"Don't let it go to your head," he replied. "I'm the man of the house."

"Yes, you are."

"Good, just so you don't forget."

"Darlin', there is no way to forget that you're a man," she said softly, rubbing her hip against his as she put the sweaters on the customer service counter. She glanced up in time to see the rush of lust that filled his eyes. Bit back a gasp when he subtly pushed against her. She could feel the anaconda, and while it wasn't exactly hard, it certainly wasn't flaccid, either!

"Have mercy on me, Angel," he whispered in her ear. "Or we'll never be able to shop here again."

She burst into giggles. "You're so easy to turn on!"

"Only you, Casey," he replied softly. "Only you can keep me burning out of control."

The sense of pride - of power - that rushed over her would have shocked her not so very long ago. Now she reveled in what she could do to him...for him. Sometimes, she felt as sexy as he continually told her that she was. In his eyes, she was the most beautiful, the sexiest, most desirable woman in the world. And as long as he saw her in that light of love, she wouldn't complain.

The subtle by-play had been missed by those around them, as the intention had been. But two hearts beat just a bit faster, blood burned just a bit hotter in their veins as the very harried clerk rang up the purchases.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Sam had seen her best friends as they wandered into Macy's. She'd almost called out to them, but the crush of holiday shoppers, and the fact that she was carrying Daniel's Christmas present, had prevented her from doing so. She knew that they were doing the same thing she was, finishing her Christmas shopping before leaving for Minnesota.

Minnesota. Holy Hannah. 

She'd managed to get out of it for almost seven years. That thought gave her pause. While she wasn't fond of fishing - she'd done it a few times - her reluctance to join Jack at his cabin had nothing to do with fishing. And everything to do with the man who always invited her. It had been difficult enough working with him at times. Especially off world, when they were often in situations where their lives were in danger. Where the clandestine touches weren't noticed, wouldn't be reported, wouldn't result in the loss of their commissions; wouldn't be a disciplinary 'stain' on their service records. The thought of accidentally winding up alone with him in an isolated cabin had been more than her nerves could take. And it would have been just her luck to accept, only to find that Daniel and Teal'c had once again declined the invitations. Leaving her the choice of going, and being miserable and totally stressed in trying to remain 'aloof', or changing her mind, which would be an admittance to how deeply her feelings ran. That was the true reason she'd never accepted the many invitations that had been issued.

For the first time she had been able to accept. Thanks to her best friend, a slender seer who had more moxie than a platoon of Marines, all of the regulations that had prevented her from being with Jack had been swept aside. Walter had told her that prior to the president's decision, during a phone call the general had made to the White House - in Casey's presence, the slender blonde had simply taken the phone from General Hammond's hand. Which was a move that would have resulted in court martial for any military personnel, or being tossed into the brig for civilians, had anyone but she been the perpetrator. The staff sergeant had reported that the general had only chuckled, and had continued to do so, as Casey explained, very bluntly, that he - the president - had it within his power to do something about what the seer considered a very unfair set of rules. And apparently she had pointed out that the SGC, being unlike any other military installation in the world, shouldn't be held to regulations that simply didn't fit. Sam didn't find herself at all surprised to learn that the president had not only been unable to counter Casey's argument, he'd fully agreed with her. Had she ever thanked that little fireball for paving the way for her to be with the man she'd loved for so long?

Sam slipped into Borders bookstore, knowing that without a doubt the Jacksons would be stopping here, if they hadn't already. Casey had told her about a series of books she had stumbled upon, and she was hoping to get the next two or three in that series. She'd never been one for romance novels. She supposed her studies had kept her too busy to do much reading for pleasure for so long that she'd fallen out of the habit of doing so. She still read the occasional best seller when she had the chance. Casey was as voracious a reader as Daniel. She smiled as she thought about how alike the two really were. Opposites might attract, but those whose souls were so similar were the ones who were truly 'in sync'.

And there was another interesting thought. She and Jack were so opposite of each other, yet there were similarities that couldn't be denied. When she'd first seen him, in the briefing room, listening to him try to wheedle his way out of having her on the team that would return to Abydos for one Dr. Daniel Jackson, she'd been attracted to him on a physical level. At first, she'd been hell bent to prove herself to him. Then she'd been determined not to disappoint him. The more time that passed, the more she got to know Colonel Jack O'Neill, the more she found to love about him. His sense of humor was obvious. So was his sense of honor. His commitment to duty. His loyalty to those he called friend. But there were the subtle things. Things that only those who knew him could see. The guilt he carried for every one of the 'damned despicable things' he'd done as a Special Ops agent. For every wound that she, Daniel, or Teal'c received. Jack kept people at arm's length, tried to prevent himself from caring too much, because when he cared, Jack O'Neill cared with his whole heart. He loved the same way. She understood how devastating Charlie's death had been for him...why he couldn't talk about it, why she'd worked with him for months and had known nothing about his private life. Sara had left him, she was certain, more because Jack's guilt had shut her out than for any blame she might have laid at his feet. Yet for all of that, he would willingly lay down his life for anyone he felt was an 'innocent'. His ability to reach out, in spite of the emotional cost to himself, was one of the most admirable things about him.

She was aware that her feelings for him had developed long before he'd fallen for her. She wasn't certain if he had fallen in love with her simply because of the emotionally charged situations that SG-1 found themselves in time and time again, or because of an honest attraction. With a firm shove, she pushed those annoying and troubling thoughts to the back of her mind. Jack loved her. Sam had no doubt that Jack loved her. How or why he'd fallen in love with her, or when, made no difference. And for the first time ever, she was going to spend time with him in the cabin he was so proud of...so enamored with. Their second holiday together as a couple. She was as eager for this Christmas as she had been last year. That was still something new for her.

Holidays had been something to be endured for so long, that actually anticipating the season was a unique experience. Even as a child, Christmas had been filled with such tension that she remembered dreading it as much as anticipating her presents. Oh, she was well aware of the fact that her parents had never intended for it to be that way. Her father would probably be upset to learn that her memories were less than pleasant when it came to her childhood.

It wasn't that she'd had a bad childhood. She hadn't. Nothing she had experienced could come close to what Daniel and Casey had been subjected to as children. And to be honest, when she'd been very young, she hadn't felt, or recognized, the tension that seemed to permeate the very air of the Carter home. She'd been born in England, at the military hospital on the Mildenhall Air Force base. It was actually an English owned and operated air base, but there were half a dozen American squadrons and operating groups that were stationed there as well. She remembered the Christmas in Germany. She must have been around five, maybe six. Her father had been on duty that day, and she and Mark had waited until he arrived home late in the evening to open their presents. It seemed that the years when her father was absent, or on duty, far outnumbered the Christmas days he had spent at home with his family.

She recognized now that what she had perceived as tension had been her mother's frustration; even though she knew without a doubt that her parents loved one another, her father's career had always come first in his life...and that was something that Carolyn - Carrie - Carter had never fully accepted. And Carrie had done her best to play peacekeeper between her husband and her son, a young man so disillusioned by his father's life that he wanted nothing at all to do with the military. Something that had been a bitter disappointment to Jacob Carter. Sam hesitantly admitted to herself that her own entry into the Air Force had just as much to do with trying to please her father as it did finding a career that would allow her to pursue her interests...and her dream of getting into space.

Getting into space. Boy, she'd certainly accomplished that! Done so much more than she ever could have dreamed if she'd been accepted by NASA and the space program. There was so much out there...so much more than what a few revolutions around planet Earth could ever expose. The experiments that were being performed on those shuttle flights were important, and were leading to interesting discoveries. Not as interesting as what she'd found. None of those astronauts had ever blown up a sun! Something that she continued to be teased about, even when those doing the teasing looked at her with not a little awe and a touch of trepidation in their eyes. Thank goodness for her teammates! They took her abilities for granted. A thought that gave her pause. They never questioned her, never doubted her. Not once did they doubt the results of her calculations. Not once had they hesitated to do exactly as she suggested. Never thought she was a geek or weird for being able to come to the conclusions that she did. It was a part of who she was, and they accepted that with the same nonchalance as they accepted the color of her hair, or her height; and they bragged about her brilliance to anyone who would listen, something that always left her breathless with surprise...and gratitude.

It had been years since she'd celebrated...endured...a holiday with her family. Since joining the SGC, and being assigned to SG-1, she'd spent every Christmas with her teammates...her best friends. Even if they hadn't been on Earth, even if things hadn't been going well for them, they'd been together. Family. She had family here. Family of the heart, as Casey liked to say. Never had Sam felt so at ease, so happy, so...wanted. Yep, she was definitely looking forward to Christmas. And her first visit to Jack's cabin.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Teal'c glanced around as he entered the building. Couldn't hold back the smile that tugged at the corners of his lips. His first experience at shopping in this mall during the festivities known as the 'Holiday Season', which included Winter Solstice, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and probably others of which he was unaware, had been a most - interesting - day. Spent in the company of the young seer who was one of his dearest friends. They'd devoted several hours in pursuit of the 'perfect' gifts, as Casey had called them. He'd gotten his ear pierced, something that had shocked O'Neill, amused Daniel Jackson and Major Carter, and had been the catalyst for several betting pools run by Major Ferretti and Sergeant Sabotti. There had been an...incident, one that had further convinced him that the slender blonde possessed a talent...a gift...which he would never fully understand.

This year he would brave the crowds on his own, to seek for and purchase gifts to exchange with the four people who had become his family. His list tucked into the pocket of his jacket, he headed directly for the electronics store. His birthday gift from Casey Jackson had been a Zen MP3 player. To replace the Ipod she'd given him for Christmas, which had suffered an untimely demise when it had fallen from his pocket during a training exercise. He had been crushed when the device had somersaulted into the small creek that ran through the government owned land that served as training grounds for cadets. He so enjoyed the new MP3 player that he was certain she would as well. Her love of music was well known, and the player, along with the 'earbuds' that provided excellent sound quality while keeping the music completely 'private', would serve her well; especially as she struggled with the database she was constructing. He would see to it that a selection of classical music was loaded onto the player for just that purpose...he had found several of Mozart's concertos most conducive to relaxation. He was particularly fond of Horn Concerto Number Three, in E Flat Major, although not being a musician himself, the key designation meant nothing to him. It was a beautifully done work, however, and he found that it particularly leant itself toward relaxing him at the end of a trying day.

He stepped behind a pillar when he saw the object of his thoughts and her husband, also one of his best friends, stroll by arm in arm. The smile that had been playing along his lips broke free as he watched them...they were so wrapped up in one another they were totally oblivious to the world around them. Casey Jackson was chattering happily, the look of love and indulgence on Daniel Jackson's face as he listened quite familiar now. It had taken time to equate the serious, quiet, often sad archaeologist with the happy, smiling man that Daniel Jackson had become the moment that Casey Jackson had entered his life.

He had agreed with O'Neill upon returning from the alternate reality into which they'd been thrown, that Daniel Jackson needed not only persuasion to seek out the woman who was his Destiny, but permission as well. Not that he needed actual, literal permission. What Daniel Jackson had needed was to hear someone...someone he trusted...say out loud what no doubt he already knew. So O'Neill had determined to convince Daniel Jackson to seek the woman - the counterpart of the woman they had met in that alternate reality. He could clearly recall the look of satisfaction on O'Neill's face when he reported that Daniel Jackson was on his way to Tacoma, Washington.

The love between the two had been apparent the moment that Daniel Jackson's eyes had seen the young seer approaching in the baggage claim area of the Denver airport terminal. Neither had been aware of anyone around them for the few moments they took to greet one another. He'd sensed then that the bond between the two, already 'visible', was something...special. He'd witnessed with his own eyes just how special the couple truly was, although he knew that they were totally unaware of the phenomenon that surrounded them . He watched them enter the Borders bookstore.

Confident that he wouldn't be seen, at least for an hour or so, given Daniel Jackson's love of books...a love shared by his wife, the Jaffa hurried on, his thoughts much less direct than his steps. There were holy days that were observed among the Jaffa, usually having to do with whichever of the false gods they were in service to. There were those times when gifts were given...the betrothal of a couple, the birth of a child, the death of a Jaffa who died in battle. All were times of celebration. But there was nothing to compare to the Christmas holiday, with its myriad of beliefs and traditions...yet the same message of hope and peace. The Jaffa celebrations were meant for family and close friends; the Tau'ri custom of celebrating Christmas included everyone. It was the only universal holiday that existed, recognized in every country in one way or another. The only difference being the name, and perhaps the day upon which the celebration occurred. It didn't seem to matter how Christmas was observed, only that it was.

The previous Christmas was the first he had celebrated in such a...familial...manner. It had been quite obvious that Casey Jackson was attempting to make the occasion as festive as possible. That she'd so subtly included elements from her husband's childhood, and that Daniel Jackson hadn't objected, but had instead shyly answered any of the questions his teammates asked of him concerning that time of his life, was testimony to the healing that had occurred in him; a result of the deep and fierce love with which the slender seer surrounded her husband. That love had stretched and grown to wrap around him as well, her tender heart taking him in, making him a part of her 'family of the heart'.

There had always been a connection between him and his teammates. He'd felt it on many occasions, when they faced death together...when they beat all odds and escaped, returning to the SGC when by all rights they should never have survived. When they had spent quiet nights together at O'Malley's, or just in the officer's lounge, often involved in individual pursuits, but together nonetheless. The arrival of the feisty blonde had only strengthened that bond. Her gentle tutelage had allowed them to reach out to one another in a way that he suspected had always been available to them, but one that none of them had recognized; nor would they have had the insight to attempt it if they had been aware.

His smile widened as he thought about the regular Tuesday afternoon meditation sessions held in his quarters. There had been times when no meditation had actually occurred, instead the teammates had discussed whatever might have been bothering any one of them, seeking advice or opinions from their companions. There had been the afternoon when silliness had prevailed, and each of his Tau'ri friends attempted to out-do one another telling jokes. He was certain that the howls of laughter had been heard on the entire level. But when the team did meditate, he seemed able to once again reach levels of subconscious introspection that hadn't been available to him after the loss of his symbiote. That quite often the silence was punctuated by the snores of O'Neill only added to the feeling of comfort...of safety...that prevailed around them.

Teal'c was surprised to find that he was most anxious to once again join O'Neill at the cabin in the wilderness of the state called Minnesota. He was not enamored of fishing. He'd found the activity to be as tiresome as waiting to ambush an enemy. Daniel Jackson had suggested that the next time he accompanied O'Neill, that he should take along ample reading materials. There was no doubt in his mind that such preparations would not be required on this visit. Because spending time with the four individuals who were most important in his life was something to be anticipated. He was eager to help 'trim the tree', an activity he'd engaged in only once before, when pressed into service to aid Major Carter in decorating the officer's lounge.

Many times since arriving on the First World he'd been thankful for the miracle that had seen O'Neill, Major Carter, and Daniel Jackson as prisoners in that cell on Chulak; for the moment of freedom that had presented itself to him. It seemed that with each passing year, he had more to be thankful for, more to celebrate. His son and former mentor were heading the Jaffa rebellion that had been a mere dream for so many years. That his betrayal of Apophis had been the first step of the rebellion was still a fact that left him bewildered. That he, of all Jaffa, had been the first to openly declare his hatred of the false gods. He'd never dared to hope that his life could, or would, be as fulfilling; as filled with joy, as his was as a member of SG-1. As Casey Jackson was fond of saying, every day was the absolute best day of her life. Indeed.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Jack leaned back against the wall, crossed his arms and grinned. All present and accounted for. He'd figured that by putting himself here, at the junction of the two main corridors of the mall, he'd see his 'kids' if they were here. It looked as if Teal'c had just arrived. Radar and the Space Monkey had been here when he'd pulled into the parking lot - he'd seen their Jeep. Sam had walked past soon after he'd found this quiet, shadowed spot from which to watch.

The colorful bags at his feet, filled with carefully wrapped presents, were testimony to his own shopping excursion. Before leaving the base for the day, he'd admonished his team to 'pack light'. Had warned them that there would be limited room for the presents that would fill in under the tree they would cut and decorate. Something told him that they weren't listening. If he had to pay Pete extra to make a second run to bring the gifts to the cabin, he'd do so. That wasn't a problem.

The crowds were beginning to thin out a bit. Long lines were forming at the movie theater, which he could see. Lots of kids. Well, it was Friday night. He watched a young teenaged couple walk by hand in hand. Grinned when the young man dropped a kiss on the girl's cheek. Ah, young love. The poor kid has no idea what he's in for! The grin faded when the girl turned slightly. That was Cassie! And he was so going to rip that little bastard's lips off his face!

He'd taken two steps forward when he felt a hand on his arm. Looked down at the carefully manicured fingers, then into the face that belonged to the owner of that hand. Brown eyes twinkled at him.

"I know it's hard to believe, but she is old enough to make her own decisions."

Looking again at where the teenagers had joined a group of friends, the young man's arm around Cassie protectively, Jack shook his head slightly. "Know much about Romeo?"

Janet giggled. "I know him, and his parents. He's a good kid, Colonel. I wouldn't let Cassie date him if I didn't think so."

"Like you could really stop her?"

"There are ways to get the desired results that don't include direct orders," Janet teased.

Another glance at the young couple. "He seems awfully possessive."

This time the diminutive woman sighed. "Cassie says she thinks he's getting a bit too serious. She was going to talk to him about it...after the holidays. She's not ready for a serious relationship, at least, not with Robert."

"Robert? I thought she was dating some kid named Dominic," Jack replied.

"Where have you been? Dominic broke up with her shortly after the entire 'mind fire' thing."

"Little shitass," Jack grumbled.

"That's what I thought, too. Cassie was devastated for a few weeks. Then she was distracted by a new boy in one of her classes, and it wasn't long before every conversation centered around Robert. She was in seventh heaven when he invited her to the prom last spring."

"They've been together that long?"

"Mmmhmm." Janet glanced over her shoulder. Smiled when the group of young people began laughing.

"He's not pushing her to do things she's not ready for, is she? Boys who date a girl that long usually start getting demanding."

"To be perfectly honest, I don't know if Cassie is having sex or not. I don't think she is, I really think she'd tell me if she were. She knows about condoms and birth control...she's been on the pill for two years now."

"What?"

"Calm down, Colonel," Janet grinned. "I put her on them to regulate her periods. I've taught her everything I know about men and sex. She's got a good head on her shoulders. And," she said, giving a soft sigh, "I have to trust her."

"I can find out in about ten minutes. Or less," Jack offered.

"You will not ask Cassie a question like that!" Janet objected.

He paled slightly at the implication. "Not Cassie! But I could have a little heart-to-heart with Casanova and find out everything we need to know."

"And send him screaming into the night, which would break Cassie's heart. If she wants to break up with him, that's her business. I won't have you going all Mother Hen and butting in where you shouldn't."

He deflated slightly. "Yeah, I guess you're right." He watched for a few more moments. Damn, when had she grown up so much? What had he been doing while she had changed from that frightened little girl to that beautiful young woman? "Just when did she go from puppies and Barbie dolls to boyfriends?"

"To be honest, I'm not certain when it happened." A proud smile lit Janet's face. "But she turned out pretty well, didn't she?"

"Thanks to you," Jack said, the sincerity in his voice bringing a blush to her cheeks.

"Well, I've had a lot of help."

"You're her mother, Doc. The burden of raising her was on your shoulders. I'd say you did a damned fine job."

"Thank you, Colonel," Janet replied. "I need to get moving. I don't want her to see me...I have three of her gifts." She lifted two bags slightly.

Jack glanced back at where his bags waited. "Yeah, I should probably head out, as well. Don't want any of them seeing me."

"Um...'them'?"

He grinned. "Must be that SG-1 connection thing we have going on. Whole team is here. Not together, I doubt that any of them know that the other is around. Well, Radar and Daniel are together."

"Not surprising, seeing as how they're married," Janet grinned. "I hear the team is going on leave."

He rolled his eyes. "We just found out ourselves."

"Fastest rumor mill in the military," Janet laughed. "Have a great time, and Merry Christmas, Jack."

"We will. Same to you, Doc...uh...Janet." He flushed slightly when Janet leaned up to kiss his cheek. He waved as she walked away, then stepped back into the corridor to gather his own bags. Yeah, he'd better get back and get these hidden. Sam was supposed to call as soon as she was finished. Tomorrow was Saturday. The team wasn't on weekend duty. He couldn't help but grin. Without a doubt, the colonel was going to get lucky tonight!


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