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The Simple Necessities of Life

 

Chapter 6

The previous day had been spent in utter, absolute relaxation. Other than the two hours or so spent ice fishing, the group hadn't left the cabin. Now, they were out to find the perfect Christmas tree.

"Pappy used to bring me up here," Jack said, puffing slightly as he walked, the snowshoes on his feet keeping him from sinking into the deep snow. "We might have to dig a bit to find the base of the tree."

"Can't we just cut what we can see?" Casey asked. She was proud of herself...it hadn't taken long for her to get the knack of walking with what looked like stretched out tennis rackets on her feet. She wondered just how deep the snow actually was...and was grateful that Jack had provided the means for safe and relatively easy maneuvering.

"I suppose we could. Leaves one hell of a stump, probably a few lower limbs as well," Jack replied.

"Is that really a problem?" Daniel held his hand out, helped Casey up the slight incline that they seemed to be climbing.

"I dunno. I'm not a forestry expert."

"This is your property, right?" Sam asked, taking Teal'c's outstretched hand. "I don't want to cut down a tree on someone else's property."

"This is O'Neill land," Jack told her. He hurried ahead. It had been years since he had been this far into the acreage that came with the cabin. Bought by his wise old Pappy, in order to prevent neighbors from encroaching on his cabin, and his peace. The old man had known what he was doing; other lakes in the area were crowded with cabins a mere ten feet apart, which completely surrounded the shores, and streets of houses were built up against those lakeside cottages. Vacation homes, as they were described by the realtors who sold them at inflated prices for a tidy little profit to city dwellers anxious to experience 'the country'. That was not the way to spend time at the lake...no way to try to relax, he groused silently. Nothing more than the city taking over in the last bastions of wilderness.

The thump came from nowhere. Hit him squarely in the back. Okay, check that. It came from one direction. He turned around. Four faces peered at him innocently.

"What's wrong, Jack?" Casey asked.

"I am so not amused."

"Not amused about what?" Daniel asked.

"Who threw it?"

"Who threw what?" Sam inquired, her blue eyes wide and innocent.

Okay, it had to be one of the Jacksons. His money was on Radar. On second thought...she didn't have that guilty look in her eyes, one that gave her away so easily. Daniel. Yep, it was Daniel. Standing there smirking at him. Jack leaned over, scooped up a nice clump of snow, began to pack it into a snowball. He concentrated on the archaeologist, watched the man's every move. The way he shifted back on one foot. Getting ready to run.

Another snowball hit him, this time in the shoulder. And it came from...

Teal'c raised one eyebrow slowly. Launched a third snowball. "Is this not an activity to be enjoyed when one is outside in the snow?"

Now, damn it to hell, Teal'c was the last person he would have suspected! His glance moved quickly over the other three. They had known...had watched, and hadn't said a word! He hurled his snowball at the Jaffa, caught him squarely in the chest.

"I believe that to be a challenge," Teal'c growled.

"You should have thought of that before you started this," Jack replied, ducking down behind a small sapling. Well, the top three-quarters of a small sapling. He was gathering more snow for another snowball. "I should warn ya, T-man, I'm the best snowball fighter in the neighborhood!"

Casey burst into laughter. "Oh, puh-leeze!"

The snowball meant for the Jaffa hit its secondary target instead.

"You'll pay for that, old man!" the seer declared, wiping the snow from her arm. She bent down to gather snow for her own 'projectile'.

While Jack had been distracted, Teal'c had managed to make three more snowballs. All of which hit him in quick succession, one narrowly missing his face, impacting high enough on his shoulder that some of the icy powder managed to slide down his neck, beneath his coat. He shivered slightly.

Sam dropped to her knees beside him, her mitten-covered hands pulling a mound of snow toward her. "I'll protect you," she giggled.

Another snowball went flying through the air. Landed with precision against Teal'c's massive chest. "Payback!" Jack shouted. He pulled his snowshoes off, enabling him to move with a bit more ease, even if he did sink in some of the deeper spots...his team taking note and following suit immediately.

Within minutes the battle had regressed into a free-for-all fray, in which snowballs were tossed, thrown, launched, heaved, and chucked at any moving target...or any target that didn't move quickly enough. The still air of the early afternoon was split by shrieks and yells, shouts and laughter as the five adults reverted temporarily into children. The combatants were trying, unsuccessfully for the most part, to hide behind the few trees that were available in the immediate area.

"Daniel...don't you dare!" Casey warned, backing away as he grinned at her, a snowball in his hand. She began to giggle hysterically when a snowball impacted on the side of his head, leaving white snow clinging to his navy blue stocking cap. Her giggles turned to a squeal of squeal of surprise when she was pummeled from three sides.

Dropping behind the largest tree she could find, the seer hastily constructed a half dozen round, frozen grenades. Watched carefully as her friends threw snowballs at one another. She waited, biding her time...now! Teal'c stood stunned, snow dropping away from the back of his red hat. Sam was just as surprised, brushing the snow from the scarf that surrounded her neck. Jack yelled out loud when the snowball broke into pieces, some of which managed to work their way down his back. Payback for sure, she thought with a grin, still shivering from the snowball he had hit her with, which had caused the same discomfort.

Casey stood to her feet, a snowball in each hand. One man was her focus now.

Daniel put his hands up, ready to ward off any potential missiles aimed for him. "Take it easy, babe...it's all in fun."

"Uh huh."

"You know I love you."

"I love you, too."

"You really wouldn't, right? I mean-"

The knitted, blue wool hat moved a full inch on his head. Snow dropped onto his face. He spit the few pieces from his lips, glad that he had decided to leave his glasses in the cabin. "You little imp!"

She was already on the move, running to where Jack had been hiding, ducking behind that man as Daniel very methodically gathered snow, packed it into a ball.

"Hey, leave me out of this!" Jack declared, trying to get away from Daniel's target.

Sam and Teal'c were laughing at the couple, the Jaffa's deep voice filling the air with such joy that it was contagious. Jack was chuckling, even Daniel and Casey, who were still doing the dance of victim and attacker, were laughing out loud.

She should have known as soon as Daniel's eyes went to Jack that she was in trouble. Before she could move, Jack had dropped to the ground, and both snowballs hit her, one knocking her hat into the snow, the other leaving a white splotch on her shoulder.

Panting, laughing, their faces rosy from both the cold and the exertion of their activities, the four watched for a moment as Jack lazily made a snow angel.

He hadn't thought about doing this in years. Somehow, today...right now...it seemed like the most natural thing in the world.

Casey dropped down beside him, making her own angel. Sam, Teal'c and Daniel followed suit.

A voice, one that didn't belong to the five friends, broke the sudden stillness. "Hullo! Hey! Hey, you folks all right?"

The five scrambled to their feet, trying to brush the snow off of themselves, and one another.

The older man emerged from the path between two large pines, on the edge of a wide timber of such trees, from where the team would find and cut the Christmas tree. He'd heard the screams, the shouts, but hadn't been close enough to make out any distinct words. By the time he'd made his way to the clearing, the sounds had stopped completely. "Is somebody hurt...?"

He grinned at the site that greeted him. The snow within a fifty foot radius had been churned up, tromped through, stomped down and scooped up...and five snow angels were distinctly visible off to one side. The five adults were covered in snow, their cheeks rosy, their eyes sparkling, and wide smiles lit their faces. All of that noise had been nothing more than fun-filled shenanigans. "Well, I reckon not."

Jack grinned in return. "Hello, Tom!"

Tom stuck his hand out, grabbing Jack's outstretched hand, his other arm going around the colonel's shoulders. "Jack! I called the cabin yest'rday morning, but there weren't no answer, so I thought meybe ya hadn't made it up here yet!"

"Must have been while we were fishing," Jack replied.

Tom looked around Jack's shoulders at the four people who watched curiously. "He managed to talk you into fishing in that lake? Damned thing hasn't had a fish in it for years!"

Easy laughter moved among them. Casey walked up, playfully punched Jack's shoulder. "I froze my butt off and you knew we weren't going to catch anything?"

"I keep telling you, it's not about catching fish," Jack protested.

Tom hooted with laughter. "Spoken like a true fisherman...who ain't caught a fish in...damn, how many years has it been? I doubt you'd remember what to do if you did hook one!"

This brought more laughter. "Maybe we should all pitch in, have the lake stocked," Daniel suggested.

Jack patted Tom's shoulder, moved back far enough to make introductions.

Not one of the group was aware that the older man could tell in a glance how close they were, as he cheerfully acknowledged each member of the team with a smile and a 'hello'.

"We're up here to get a tree," Jack continued.

"Did that ourselves a couple of days ago. There are some real beauties this year. 'Bout twenty feet in, maybe forty west of here."

"Good to know," Jack said.

"Well, since there ain't nobody hurt, reckon I'll get on back."

"Nice to see you, Tom."

"Good to see you too, Jack. Your Pappy would be pleased to know you've kept the old place, and that you use it the way he intended," he added quietly.

Jack's grin softened at the mention of his beloved grandfather. "Thanks. Oh, thanks for getting the SUV up here. Tell Dotty hello for me. And thank her for all the food."

"Ya sure, you betcha," Tom winked. "I'll tell her. You young folks have a good time."

"We will."

With a wave, Tom turned and walked back toward the trees. He gave a sharp whistle, and a large, black dog lumbered toward him, veered off and headed back toward home.

Snowshoes, abandoned during the snowball fight, were located, strapped once again to the bottoms of boots.

"He's the man who takes care of the cabin for you?" Sam asked, softly, slipping her arm through Jack's.

"Yep. He and Pappy were good friends." Jack grinned. "Now that we're wet, let's get that tree!"

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Using Teal'c as their 'measuring stick' for tree height and width, the 'perfect' tree was located, and summarily chopped down. Much easier, Daniel observed, using axes, than cutting those bushes on the frigid planet on which they had nearly been marooned, armed with nothing more than hunting knives.

Jack pulled half a dozen 'bungee cords', with their hooked ends, from the pack he'd carried on the trek. The cords were carefully strapped around the tree; this was done so that the branches wouldn't be pulled off as the tree was dragged back to the cabin, a chore that was shared among the three men. Casey and Sam had taken a turn, but neither had the strength to help pull for very long. They were determined, but too slender...lightweights, as Jack teased them...to be able to move the weight of the tree through the deep snow at a steady pace.

When Casey offered to hurry on, get hot chocolate ready, and start dinner, her three male companions readily agreed, urging her on with such fervor that she laughed most of the way to the cabin. Sam had volunteered to help her, an offer that she had quickly accepted, glad for the company on the cold walk back.

She gathered the ingredients to make that perfect winter beverage, surprised to find all of the items needed. No doubt this Dotty made 'real' hot chocolate as well, and understood that nothing could beat it. Sam was building up the fire on the hearth. The two women had been chilled by the time they had reached the cabin, and even with the exertion of pulling the tree, no doubt the men would be as well, given that they would be spending longer in the cold winter air.

"I don't know about you, but I haven't had this much fun in ages," Sam said softly, her hands in her jeans' pockets, leaning against the frame of the door that led into the kitchen.

Casey looked up from where she stood beside the stove, carefully melting the dark baker's chocolate. "I haven't either. It never really snowed that much in Tacoma. And I never had a chance to play in it much, even as a kid."

It didn't take a genius to fill in the blanks, not if one knew Casey, and about her childhood, Sam thought. She knew a little about Daniel's childhood, the foster homes; how he hid in his room, sometimes even under the bed, in an attempt to avoid being bullied or ridiculed. Using a flashlight that had belonged to his father to read by at night, burying himself in books and learning and schoolwork to lessen the sting of always being the outsider, to fill the aching need for love that every child has. To know that her best friends were able to reach those hurts in one another, were gently healing those wounds, made her own heart sigh with happiness for them.

"I don't think I've ever seen Jack as relaxed as he is now. Not even when we were on vacation together," Casey said.

"I guess that's why he loves it here so. It's the one place where he can come and really relax, the one place where it's safe to just...let go. To just totally push everything away and let it all go."

"There is something special about this place," Casey mused. "It's beautiful, and peaceful. It's almost spiritual."

"But we'll never tell him that," Sam grinned.

"Are you kidding? And have him gloating that he's hooked us on the place? No way!" Casey grinned in return. She carefully added the milk, sugar, and vanilla, continued to stir the mixture slowly.

Thumping on the front porch announced the arrival of the men and the tree. The front door flew open, and they dragged the tree inside, letting in a gust of cold air with them.

"Please tell me that delicious smelling concoction is ready," Daniel said, walking into the kitchen, pulling the gloves from his hands. Jack and Teal'c could see to propping the tree up in the corner for the time being.

"It certainly is. There isn't any whipped cream or chocolate sprinkles...but the fact that Dotty made certain that we had the ingredients for real hot chocolate is amazing enough," Casey replied. She accepted his kiss, smiled at the wink he gave her before turning to leave the room, pulling his coat off as he did so.

"Mugs?" Sam asked.

"Yep."

"Oh god, that's good," Jack said, sipping gratefully from the cup that Sam had put into his cold hands.

"Where are the ornaments, and the lights, and the tree stand?" Casey asked.

"Back porch," Jack replied. "We'll get them after dinner?"

She smiled at the hopeful note in his voice. "I can live with that. There's a ham that I assumed was for Christmas dinner, so I don't want to use it. There are a couple of kielbasa sausages I could fix."

"If there're kielbasa's, there're bound to be a couple of jars of sauerkraut. Dotty is Polish," Jack grinned.

"I'll find them," Casey promised. Wondered if consulting her spirit guide for cooking instructions would be too...weird. Decided that it would be, and determined to check out the shelves for a cookbook. She'd go online, except there wasn't a computer in the cabin. Daniel had already checked. Grumped about buying a laptop to keep with him. There was no doubt that any such device would wind up on the bottom of the lake if he dared to bring it to the sanctity of the cabin. Teal'c had already told her of the cell phone he'd lost when Jack chucked it into the water.

Whether the idea came from Miss Eloise - who had a habit of watching the team, and a propensity of knowing just what her charge was thinking - or if it really was a memory of Grandma Rose fixing the meal learned from her Polish neighbor and adapted by her own Italian heritage, stirred from slumber by her contemplation, Casey probably would never know. Even if she asked the old seer outright, chances were the old woman would just smile and change the subject without answering. No matter where it came from, the information was there. She supposed that it really was only fair, if it was from her spirit guide. After all, she was inundated with images, sounds, smells, feelings...all of them overwhelming, none of them particularly pleasant most of the time when she experienced the 'downloads' that were a large part of her gift.

Just as they had for every meal that had been prepared so far, the team trooped to the kitchen to watch, and offer any assistance she might need. Daniel most often helped, the easy manner in which the two worked together proof that it was a regular occurrence in their home.

She sliced the sausages while the heavy cast iron skillet and a generous dollop of olive oil warmed. Jack opened and drained the two jars of sauerkraut that he had located in the pantry.

"So, are there any Christmas Eve traditions anyone wants to observe?" Jack asked, rinsing the pickled brine from his hands.

Casey glanced over at Daniel, but said nothing. There weren't any houses nearby that they could walk to, and chances are, even if there were, they wouldn't be decorated.

Once again Jack proved that he missed nothing when it came to his 'kids'. "Daniel?"

"We play Scrabble, and drink hot chocolate," he replied quietly. He'd also realized that 'walking the neighborhood to look at the lights' wouldn't be possible here.

Jack nodded. "Okay. Cookies involved, I hope?"

Casey smiled. The cookies she'd baked to bring along were almost completely gone. "I think I can manage to make a batch of sugar cookies, if you have a cookbook somewhere."

"Grandma had two or three she kept here," Jack confirmed. "Sam?"

The blonde major shook her head. Just having her father present for the holiday, in body and spirit, had been the most that she could remember hoping for. Her mother hadn't wanted to do anything 'special' unless he was present. Which meant that any 'traditions' were observed sporadically at best. She'd been in high school before she understood that Carrie Carter hadn't been cut out to be a military wife. She was strong-willed, able to keep the family together during Jacob Carter's frequent and extended absences. But she hadn't been strong enough to do more than that. Whether she'd never thought to initiate routines, and then insist that Jacob observe them when he was present, or whether she had tried, and her father had refused to cooperate, insisting that things be done 'his way' when he was there, she had no clue. Somehow, knowing her father as well as she knew him now, the latter just didn't feel 'right'. Maybe, she thought, a bit sadly, for all of their love, and she knew that her parents had been deeply in love, the two hadn't quite known how to make it all work. Given the circumstances, the constant moves...the command changes with every promotion...her father's drive to 'make rate'...the desire to get that next medal...life had been chaotic at best. No, there had never been Christmas traditions in the Carter household. "Not that I can remember."

Daniel reached out and squeezed her shoulder gently. He knew some of Sam's secrets, some of the hurt she had suffered as a child. Odd, of all of them, only Jack seemed to have had a 'normal' childhood. He couldn't help but chuckle silently. Given the way the man had turned out, it was both expected, and surprising!

"What about you, Jack?" Casey asked softly.

He looked at the seer. There had been a few things that he remembered doing every Christmas Eve. Singing Christmas carols. Opening the gift from Pappy and Grandma. Things he had tried to do with Sara and Charlie, things he was certain that Rachel did with her own family. Traditions that no longer felt like...his. "Nope."

"Perhaps we should establish traditions of our own," Teal'c suggested.

"Now that is a great idea!" Jack declared. A little too quickly. A little too enthusiastically. Not that his 'kids' would ever let on that they suspected that his response had been influenced by all the dark things that had happened in his life.

"Cookies, hot cocoa, and Scrabble. I like it," Sam grinned.

"You know," Daniel said, a slight frown on his face, tapping his index finger against his lips, "years ago Christmas trees weren't trimmed until Christmas Eve. We could trim the tree then."

"And sing carols," Casey suggested.

"I always liked the story about Santa coming down the chimney," Jack said. "The only line I can remember is '...and a round little belly, that shook when he laughed like a bowl full of jelly'."

"It's from 'T'was the Night Before Christmas'," Daniel said. "It's a poem."

"Well, whatever. I like it."

"So, we'll have it," Casey said.

"Have to find the words to it," Jack replied.

"I know them." His voice was so low that they almost didn't hear him.

"Now why doesn't that surprise me," Jack sighed.

Casey stepped closer to Daniel, the sausages forgotten for the moment. "Sweetheart?"

He smiled. The concern in her eyes, that one word...the endearment that meant so much to him both a question and a reassurance. "I used to read it to the younger kids in a couple of the foster homes I lived in," he said, shrugging slightly, trying to pass it off as being no big deal.

"And your beautiful mind just kept them," Casey said.

Her comment was almost a sigh. She was looking at him as if he were the greatest thing that had ever lived, and it was doing amazing things for both his ego and his libido. "Something like that, I guess."

Sam shook her head. "There's more to it than that," she said.

His cheeks reddened slightly. "I...uh...well..."

"Danny, we're family here," Jack said quietly.

"When we weren't off world for Christmas, or I could get the time off before Christmas, I'd go to the youth shelter, and recite it for the kids there."

That was so typical of him, Casey thought, wrapping her arms around his waist, kissing his chin, before reaching over to stir the browning meat.

"Why didn't you ever say anything? We'd have gone with you," Sam chastised gently.

He shrugged. "Didn't wanna bother you," he mumbled.

"Daniel, I swear..." Jack said, shaking his head. He reached out, mussed up the younger man's hair. "Next year, we do something for the kids before we come out here."

"Um...maybe we can come up here for New Year's? I really want Christmas with my Dad," Casey said quietly, shyly.

"Deal," Jack grinned, chucking under her chin with his curled finger. "Now that we have determined what we're going to do-"

"Well, there's one more tradition you should know about, even if we can't do it here," Casey said quickly.

"And that would be?"

She glanced up at Daniel. His eyes smiled at her, encouraged her to continue. "We walk around and look at Christmas lights."

"Okay, that will be something we do when we're in the Springs," Jack nodded. "So tonight we'll get out the decorations, Carter can work her magic on the lights, we'll get the tree set up, and then we'll decorate it tomorrow night. Since tomorrow is Christmas Eve."

"I'll look for your grandma's cookbooks," Casey said. "I'll get the cookies baked tomorrow afternoon."

"Right." Jack rubbed his hands together. "Is that stuff," he nodded toward the heavy skillet where the sausages were hissing and browning nicely, filling the air with their spicy aroma, then held up the strainer full of sauerkraut, "ready for this stuff?"

"Almost," Casey grinned.

"So how did you know how to fix this?" Daniel asked. "Is it something your grandma made?"

"I'm not sure if it was her, or her neighbor, or if-"

Just before she ducked her head, averting her eyes, he had caught a glimpse of something in her eyes he didn't recognize immediately. "If what, Angel?" he asked softly.

"You'll think it's silly," she murmured.

Daniel stepped closer. Wrapped his arms around her waist. "Never," he whispered in her ear. He pulled her back the tiniest bit, until her back was firmly against his chest.

"Miss Eloise might have...um...'dumped' the instructions in my head."

Jack, Sam, and Teal'c exchanged glances. Jack grinned, then made a show of looking around. "Thanks, Miss Eloise!"

It was impossible not to giggle at the look of satisfaction in his eyes, as if he'd been caught doing something right. With a shake of her head, Casey gave the meat another good stirring before deciding that it was brown enough to add the sauerkraut.

Bread, butter, and jam accompanied the meal, the fruit spread all the sweeter when eaten with the pickled cabbage. Coffee and lively chatter about their day completed their meal.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

He was bringing the last box of Christmas decorations from the storage shelves on the back porch when he stopped, just to look...to watch. Casey was sitting cross-legged in the chair, his grandmother's cookbooks in her lap, she was flipping through the pages, then comparing one book to the others. Daniel and Teal'c were carefully untangling the strings of lights, Sam already had one string plugged in, and was checking the two bulbs that just refused to glow. His heart seemed to swell just a bit in his chest. This was his family. Family of the heart, Radar called them. For years he had believed that he was destined to be alone. Circumstances - and his own stubbornness - had often seen him spending his down time by himself, either at the cabin he'd bought near Colorado Springs, and called home, or here. Now...now he had four people in his life that he was closer to than he'd ever been to his own blood kin. That knowledge filled him with such warmth and satisfaction that he sighed out loud. Which caused four pairs of eyes to focus on him.

"Jack?" Daniel asked quietly.

"You haven't left any room for me to walk," he said quickly, not willing to let even these special people have a clue to his private thoughts.

Daniel glanced at the floor, where four strings of lights were carefully laid out. "So go behind the stairs. Plenty of room there."

With another sigh, forced for the benefit of his half-attentive audience, Jack ducked behind the open staircase. Put the box beside the others. "So how's it going?" he asked Sam.

"I need a some denatured alcohol and q-tips," she replied.

"Uh...why?"

"So I can clean these connections. So far, that's all I've found wrong with this string. They're just dirty...from age and use," the astrophysicist replied.

"Sweet! I'll see what I can find."

"Do you have any replacement bulbs?" Sam asked, holding up one of the old-fashioned, tear-drop shaped lights.

"Should be some in one of those boxes," Jack replied.

Daniel couldn't help but smile. The domesticity of the conversation, the relaxed ambiance that filled the very air, the comfort of being with friends so close as to be considered family...it just couldn't be a more perfect evening. He glanced at Casey. So far, they'd confined their love making to pleasuring one another orally. But tonight, regardless of the fact that their friends would more than likely hear them, he had every intention of making proper love to his wife. Which would end the night perfectly.

No one noticed when Casey cocked her head sideways. She closed the cookbooks, slid to the floor beside Daniel. She put her arms around his neck. "Download," she whispered.

He immediately pulled her close, began to run his hand gently, slowly, rhythmically up and down her back. "Deep breaths, Angel," he said softly. "Don't try to force it. Just relax."

"Aw, crap," Jack muttered under his breath. If this was something bad, he was going to have a nice long talk with Miss Eloise and her cronies about just when it was and when it was not okay to interrupt! And it most certainly was not okay to interrupt when they were here at the cabin! This was sanctuary! There was no place for anything even remotely associated with the SGC in this cabin!

She concentrated on him, her gaze locked with his, letting herself go...losing herself in the cerulean blue depths. If it wasn't for Daniel and the 'routine' they had established, the entire process would be far more...frightening. The images, sounds, and smells came so quickly, could overwhelm her if she didn't have him to keep her focused. He used the same words, the same phrases each time, spoken softly...calmly. It was almost zen-like in quality, and was the only thing that prevented her from panicking when the images were less than pleasant. A flash of light, and she closed her eyes, began to sort through the images. What she saw made absolutely no sense. There was no feeling of urgency...not even a feeling of dread. Yet, she could sense that what she saw held a warning.

"Casey?" Daniel asked softly.

"I don't know," she admitted. "All I can see is a blanket...a dark blanket...black I think...or maybe navy blue...no, definitely black. And fireworks."

"That's it?"

"Well, that and narrow tubes. Gold and silver tubes," she replied.

"Any ideas?"

She shook her head, pulled her lip between her teeth. "None. There isn't anything bad...well, that's not exactly true. There's a warning there...I just have no clue where, or what the warning is about."

Jack frowned. "If it was important, you'd think you'd get more info."

"It almost feels-" She broke off, then shook her head. "It almost feels as if I was slipped the information. Like someone gave me as much as they could, but can't do more without getting caught."

"And they're hoping that you'll figure it out," Daniel surmised.

Casey shook herself slightly. "It's not urgent. I'm not even sure it's important. For all I know, I just saw a few aspects of something we'll see or do for New Year's Eve!" she exclaimed. "Right now, I'm going to make another pot of coffee, and check to see that everything I need for the cookies is available."

"Radar, if you need any help, just ask," Jack said quietly.

She paused, then shrugged. "Okay, you tell me what a black blanket, fireworks, and gold and silver tubes have to do with anything."

Sam was frowning with concentration. "The tubes could be noise makers," she offered.

Casey's brows puckered into a frown to match her friend's. "I don't know," she said slowly. "These seem...bigger."

"Maybe the blanket is like...I don't know...protection?" Daniel said.

There was one small poke, so small that she barely noticed it. When she tried to examine the blanket however, she could feel nothing...see nothing. Just a black blanket.

"Fireworks are sort of self explanatory," Jack mused. "And since we'll be in Silver Springs for New Year's Eve, chances are we'll have the chance to go to Grant Park for the countdown." Each year the city fathers set off fireworks at midnight. The park was lit up with Christmas lights, and the bright lights that lit the dozens of stalls that were set up along the sidewalks, most of which offered hot beverages, cookies, and other festive snacks.

"Maybe you are being instructed to carry a blanket to the fireworks display," Teal'c said.

She couldn't help but smile. "Maybe. Guess whoever is in charge of the downloads knows how easy it is for me to freeze my skinny butt."

Chuckles filled the air. "Whatever it is, you'll figure it out, Angel," Daniel said confidently. He smiled when she dropped a hasty kiss on his lips, then climbed to her feet.

"I suppose so." She waited until she was in the kitchen to close her eyes again, to reach out for her spirit guide.

 

"Miss Eloise?"

"Hello, Sunshine!"

She couldn't help but smile. The old woman was dressed like Mrs. Santa Claus. The red velvet dress, with the white fur trim, seemed to hang on the seer's thin frame, and the hat was slightly crooked over that wild mane of long white hair. "You're in the Christmas spirit."

"Trying to be."

"I had an interesting download."

"You don't say."

"All I saw were a blanket...a dark blanket, fireworks, and narrow gold and silver tubes."

The old seer's cheeks paled slightly. "It's a warning."

"I picked that much up."

Miss Eloise glanced up, her cheeks paling further. She gave one sharp nod. "Casey, this is something you have to figure out on your own."

"Not even a hint?"

"It's a warning."

Casey huffed a sigh of impatience. "I know that!"

"Think, Casey. Think about everything you've experienced in the past two years. Think!"

She watched as the old woman moved away from her...almost as if against her will. Something was going on, that was for damned sure! But, until she either figured out what she was seeing, or she received more information, there wasn't anything she could do. And since there wasn't a feeling of immediate concern, she decided to let the images lay in her mind undisturbed for the time being. Maybe her subconscious could figure it out.

 

When she opened her eyes, Daniel was standing beside her. "Casey?"

"Just thought I'd see if Miss Eloise could shed a little light on the matter."

"And?"

"She wasn't any help. Which is really becoming annoying. She's supposed to be my guide, and all she can tell me is that it's a warning...well, duh! And to think. As if I'm not already doing that!"

He smiled at her impatience. There had been a few times that it had taken her several days to finally put the pieces together, to be able to derive from what she had seen, and heard, the information that was necessary. She hadn't been any happier about the wait then, either. "Don't force it."

Green eyes rolled heavenward. "No kidding." She shook her head, reached up and caressed his cheek. "Right. No forcing it."

He wrapped his arms around her, felt her arms tighten around his shoulders. It couldn't be bad...whatever it was, even if it was a warning. It if was bad, she'd have more...she'd be more worried than she was. At the moment she was exasperated. But not overly concerned. Whatever it was...it wasn't bad.


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