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The Simple Necessities of Life


Chapter 8

The cookies were spread out on a platter, thick and soft and sweet, the decorative sugar sparkling in the firelight.

The Christmas tree was standing near the bookcase, out far enough that it would be easy to move around it. When it was decorated, it would be slid into place, closer to the shelves and the adjacent window.

"Daniel, how many ways can you say 'Merry Christmas'?" Jack asked, holding the string of lights as Sam carefully wound them around the tree, anchoring them to the branches with the hooks that were attached to the back of each light socket.

"I dunno. Let's see, there's the easiest, Spanish, 'Feliz Navidad'."

"Even I know that one," Jack harrumphed.

Daniel smirked. "Fine. 'Froehliche Weihnachten'. 'Joyeux Noël'."

Sam grinned. "The last one was French."

"German, the first one was German," Jack said.

Daniel gave a suspicious glance at Jack. He knew German? "'Hyvää Joulua', 'Gledelig Jul', 'Kala Christouyenna'."

Jack frowned. "Okay, ya got me. Not a clue."

"Finnish, Norwegian, and Greek," Daniel replied flippantly.

"Each society has developed its own traditions with which to celebrate the Winter Solstice," Teal'c said from his place on the sofa. He was waiting patiently until that time when the actual decorating of the tree would commence. For the moment, remaining out of the way was his intent.

"That's true," Daniel nodded. "Most of the traditions are actually based on ancient rituals. Such as the celebration by the pre-cursors to modern Germans, who honored Odin in their winter celebration. The Romans celebrated 'Saturnalia', which was a festival to honor the god Saturn, who was their god of agriculture. Lots of food and drink consumed, and the normal Roman social order was turned upside down. For a month, slaves would become masters, peasants took over the running of the city. Business and schools were closed so that everyone could join in the fun."

"I wonder just how many of those noblemen and women learned what kind of masters they were during that month," Casey mused.

"Considering that the slaves returned to their 'proper station' at the end of the month, I doubt that they were harsh taskmasters," Daniel said.

"Good point."

"Also around the time of the winter solstice, Romans observed Juvenalia, a feast honoring the children of Rome. Members of the upper classes of Roman society also celebrated the birthday of Mithra, the god of the unconquerable sun, on December 25th. It was believed that Mithra, an infant god, was born of a rock. For some Romans, Mithra's birthday was the most sacred day of the year. The concept of Christ being 'born' on December 25th, and taking on the symbolism of being the 'sun', which was translated into son, s-o-n, was taken from this holiday. It was a way for the Church to keep the 'pagan' holiday', which none of the people were anxious to give up."

"Most of the Christian beliefs and traditions are based on pagan rituals," Casey pointed out.

"I think you'll find a lot of theologians who will try argue that point," Daniel smiled.

"Let them argue, it's the truth," Casey insisted. "Some early Church leader decided it was easier to not fight what was already an established tradition, and basically absorbed a Roman holiday."

"Saturnalia," Daniel murmured. "Pope Julius the first."

Jack shook his head. "How do you remember all of that...stuff? Names, dates, places...how?"

Daniel flushed slightly. "I don't know. I just do."

"Steel trap. Your mind is like a steel trap. Anything that goes in, isn't coming out," Jack muttered. "Well, except when you're spouting it off."

He couldn't help but grin. He understood that Jack meant what he said as a compliment. "The 'modern' concept of Christmas actually came into being in the early eighteen-hundreds. Writers and illustrators 'created' the American holiday, which embraces customs from many different countries, mostly Germany. Washington Irving wrote a book that convinced most Americans that what were actually new ideas and customs were old, cherished traditions, handed down for from one generation to the next."

"So when did Christmas trees come into the mix?" Sam asked. She was on her knees, the top half of her torso beneath the tree as she anchored the last of the lights to the limbs.

"Well, most historians credit Germany with starting the Christmas tree tradition that we know. It's said that it started in the 16th century when devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes. Some built Christmas pyramids of wood and decorated them with evergreens and candles if actual fir trees were scarce. It's widely accepted that Martin Luther first added lighted candles to a tree."

"Martin Luther...he was some religious guy, right?" Jack asked.

"He was a sixteenth century Protestant Reformer," Daniel grinned.

"Right. So what made ol' Marty put candles on a tree?"

"The story goes that Martin Luther was walking one evening, preparing a sermon," Daniel said, biting back his grin. "He looked up through the pine trees at the stars, and was taken by how beautiful it looked. So he went home, cut down a small tree, took it inside and wired candles to the branches to 'recapture' the scene for his family."

"Would have been easier to just take them outside," Jack replied dryly. "So that started the whole tree thing?"

"Well, sort of...it certainly led to the idea of putting lights on the trees. The idea of bringing greenery into the home is a much older idea. Most cultures believed that the sun was a god. And that anything that remained green during the winter was special. Those plants, whether they were palm fronds or pine boughs, were believed to protect them from evil spirits, demons, sickness...and the people used them to protect, and to a certain extent, to decorate their homes."

"Not hearing anything about Christmas trees, Space Monkey," Jack said. He opened the boxes of ornaments.

"Christmas trees as we know them come from the Germans, and were first seen in homes in the early 19th century. The Germans decorated their trees with apples and nuts. Americans adapted the tradition, putting on colored paper streamers, and even colored popcorn or cranberry strings. The idea caught on, encouraged by the work of men like Washington Irving, and...well...now we have Christmas trees. "

"The Puritans attempted to prevent Christmas revelry," Teal'c said. "They believed it to be mockery of what they observed as a 'holy day'."

Jack stared at the tall man for a moment. "You read too much," he complained. Daniel was definitely a bad influence on the Jaffa!

"Yes, they did," Daniel nodded, not bothering to hide his grin. "That attitude is what kept Christmas celebrations from really catching on in America until the mid 1800s."

"Well, one tradition that SG-1 is going to observe, is the singing of Christmas carols while the tree is decorated," Jack declared. Not that he would actually sing. Jack O'Neill did not sing. But he liked listening to the carols, and he knew that his kids, Radar especially, would enjoy a bit of a 'sing along'. Sara's family had done that, and he'd always found it to be one of those things that just made him feel good. He didn't think she'd mind if he 'borrowed' it.

"I love that idea," Casey declared.

Jack opened the door of one of the wooden end tables. Inside which, it turned out, was an old phonograph player. There were nearly a dozen albums in the other end table. He chose one, put it on the turn table. Bing Crosby began to sing about a white Christmas.

Teal'c was on his feet, ready to help 'trim the tree'. Because of his height, he was directed to attach the silver and crystal star that would grace the top of the tree.

"Oh, Jack, these are beautiful," Casey said softly, gently lifting one of the Tiffany glass ornaments from its tissue wrapping.

"Those were Grandma O'Neill's favorites," he replied. He waved a hand toward the waiting tree. "Okay, Radar. Do your decorating thing."

She tossed a smile at the older man, then stepped toward the seven foot pine. Looked at the branches, and finally selected a spot. "Teal'c, jump right in, just put them wherever you want," she said, aware that he was still waiting patiently.

No prodding was necessary. While Jack, Sam, and Daniel managed to hang a few ornaments, the seer and the Jaffa did most of the decorating. And while they hung the colorful ornaments on the tree, they sang along with the albums that played, Jack changing the records as necessary. Their voices drowned out the sound of the wind that was beginning to blow outside of the snug little cabin.

Casey shyly pulled a small box from beneath the sweater she had put on the table. Handed it to Daniel.

"Christmas is tomorrow," he teased.

"It's not a gift...not really," she replied. "It's sort of a...substitute."

Intrigued, he opened the box. Looked up at her, the wonder on his face causing his teammates to crowd closer.

"What is it?" Sam asked.

He pulled a snowman from the wrapping paper that had been crumpled up to protect it. It wasn't ceramic, like the one that had been his childhood favorite. It was crystal, and absolutely beautiful.

"Put it on the tree, Stud Muffin," Casey said softly.

He gave a short nod. Couldn't help but smile when her soft voice filled the air. She was singing 'Frosty the Snowman'.

Jack looked from one face to the other. Whatever this was, it was special...and private. He stood back and watched, felt honored to be able to share something so...precious...as it obviously was. This was something that Casey had made special arrangements for. No one, as far as he knew, had noticed when she had gone for that small box.

Teal'c watched as well. No doubt this 'tradition' was something remembered from Daniel Jackson's childhood, something that he held dear. Nor was it surprising that Casey Jackson had made certain that even though they weren't in their own home, this moment of remembrance would not pass unobserved.

Sam smiled. How typical of Casey to make certain any special 'tradition' was incorporated into the holiday. She remembered Daniel's heartbreak, his grief, had...in a way...shared those painful moments with him, when they had encountered the being known as the Game Keeper. She knew how haunted he'd been. One horrible afternoon, shortly after his eighth birthday, had indelibly marked him. Casey had helped him to reclaim all of the other memories, days and nights and holidays that had been overshadowed by those heartbreaking minutes of one late summer afternoon.

"Now that is a picture perfect tree," Jack announced, when Daniel stepped back.

"I agree," Sam said, stepping up behind Jack, wrapping her arms around her lover's waist, resting her chin on his shoulder.

"It is quite pleasing," Teal'c announced.

"Time for the lights," Jack said. He and Daniel carefully pushed the tree into position, then he plugged in the connector.

The lights flickered for a moment, then began to burn brightly. Casey was closest to the light switch, and she reached out to flip it off, bathing the room in the soft glow of red, green, blue, and orange Christmas lights.

"Sweet!" Jack said softly.

"It's beautiful," Casey agreed, sighing softly.

Arms around one another, the team stood and beheld the most prominent of Christmas adornments. Casey started humming, not knowing the words of the song, but finding it appropriate anyway.

Sam joined in, the tune easily and quickly recognized.

Casey would never ask him to sing. Hell, it took a six pack and a whole fifth of Jack Daniel's to get him close to a singing mood. He could just tell her the words. He argued with himself for a moment or so, before admitting that when it came to Radar, he was just as captivated as everyone else who knew her. The woman asked for so damned little. She gave unconditionally...enthusiastically...generously. She'd given him back the memories of Charlie...the good ones. He could look at them now without feeling as if someone were shoving a knife straight into his heart. She'd saved his freaking life, for crying out loud! He glanced sideways at Daniel. Seemed that he owed both Jacksons...big time. And, he had learned the damned song that year...just to impress Sara...He took a deep breath.

Jack's gravelly voice added the words to the soft hums of his 'kids'. "O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum, Wie treu sind deine Blätter! O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum, Wie treu sind deine Blätter! Du grünst nicht nur zur Sommerzeit, Nein auch im Winter, wenn es schneit. O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum, Wie treu sind deine Blätter!"

Casey looked over her shoulder, surprised to hear him singing...Jack just didn't sing! His eyes smiled at her, and she couldn't stop the tears that formed behind her lashes. It was a gift from him, to her. She reached out, caught his hand, gently squeezed his fingers. Nothing needed to be said...he'd have been embarrassed had she said anything. But he knew...and accepted her thanks with that crooked smile and a return squeeze of her fingers.

Daniel glanced at his friend. Jack singing? Just didn't happen...especially when he was sober...much less in German! Jack insisted that he couldn't sing, that all he could do was growl at best. For a moment he wondered if Jack had any idea what the words even meant. One thing was for certain, he couldn't let Jack sing alone, not knowing how his friend felt about singing. He knew the words, even though it was obvious that no one else did. Daniel's voice joined in for the second verse. "O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum, Du kannst mir sehr gefallen! O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum, Du kannst mir sehr gefallen! Wie oft hat schon zur Winterszeit Ein Baum von dir mich hoch erfreut! O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum, Du kannst mir sehr gefallen!"

Jack caught Daniel's eye, had no idea that the look of surprise, and relief, was plain in his own. He gave a slight grin, and started the final verse..."O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum, Dein Kleid will mich was lehren: O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum, Dein Kleid will mich was lehren: Die Hoffnung und Beständigkeit Gibt Mut und Kraft zu jeder Zeit! O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum, Dein Kleid will mich was lehren! O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum, Dein Kleid will mich was lehren!"

"That was perfect," Casey announced, as soon as the two men had finished.

"Okay, bring on the hot cocoa, the cookies and the Scrabble," Jack said, his cheeks slightly red. He said nothing more, but accepted the hug from Sam.

"Daniel Jackson, what are the meanings of the words to the song?" Teal'c asked. He too, understood that Jack's impromptu choral presentation was something 'out of character'. He even suspected the reason that the colonel had done so. His eyes flickered to Casey for just a brief second. The woman affected others in a way that was truly remarkable, bringing out the best, the most noble, the most honorable in all those around her.

"It's a song about Christmas trees. 'Tannenbaum' is German for 'fir tree', which is what most Christmas trees are. So, it's literally translated, 'oh fir tree, oh fir tree, as your sheets are faithful'; or in the English version, 'oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree, how lovely are thy branches'. Then it goes on to say that the fir tree isn't green just in the summer, but even in the winter in the snow," Daniel replied.

"A most appropriate carol," the Jaffa nodded. He turned his attention to Casey. "You were aware of the meaning of the words to the song?"

"All I know is the 'oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree' part," Casey admitted. "After that, not a clue."

"Uh...Radar? Hot cocoa?" Jack mumbled.

"On it boss," she smiled.


A  A  A  A  A  A


"That is not a word!" Casey declared, objecting as Daniel added up the points.

"It is too!"

"In what freaking language? I thought we agreed that the words have to be English!"

"Technically, every word in what we call the English language has its root beginnings in other languages," Daniel replied smugly.

Jack was studying the letters. Y-e-u-k. "Okay. I give up. What is it?"

"It's from Middle English," Daniel said. "It means, 'to itch'."

"Daniel Jackson, did you look that up?" Casey demanded accusingly.

He grinned from ear to ear. "Not today, no. I learned it during a Scrabble game years ago, from one of my English professors."

"Steel trap," Jack muttered.

"Well, thanks for the assist, Daniel." Sam laid down all seven of her tiles...a-l-m-i-g-h-t...on top of the 'y' that Daniel had played. Her companions groaned loudly.

"We're getting clobbered," Casey said to Jack.

"That's what we get for playing a word game with The Brains," Jack retorted, using the nickname he'd recently bestowed upon the two scientists. He had modified it from a cartoon he had started watching frequently, adapting 'Pinky and the Brain', which was about two laboratory mice, to 'Radar and The Brains'.

"What's downright humiliating is that Teal'c is scoring higher than us, and English isn't his first language!"

"Okay, how about poker?"

Casey grinned. "Now you're talking."

"I don't know if there are any poker chips around here or not," Jack mused.

"No problem. I'll be right back." In her normal burst of movement, Casey was away from the table, dashing up the stairs.

"You might regret this," Daniel grinned, helping Sam and Teal'c gather the letter tiles. "She's been playing with Ferretti."

"Yeah, well I was playing poker with Ferretti long before she even knew about the SGC," Jack responded.

Teal'c tilted his head sideways, listening carefully. "I believe the wind has increased in intensity."

Jack stood up, looked out the window. "Yeah, trees are almost bending over. I'll get out the kerosene lanterns. We might lose power."

The fireplace was large, and had had a roaring fire in it almost from the moment the team had arrived. It was warming the large room nicely. There was plenty of firewood, ample available trees, and two chainsaws. No worries about getting cold. The stove in the kitchen was gas, fed from the propane tank in the back yard. The water heater was gas as well, which meant ample hot water, as long as the pump in the well house didn't freeze, and the generator was turned on. As cold as it was, the food in the refrigerator could be packed into boxes and set out on the porch. So other than losing lights, there would be no major problems, just minor inconveniences in having the electricity go out.

With Sam's assistance, half a dozen oil lamps and two lanterns were lined up on the kitchen counter, ready to be lit if needed. Flashlights were put within easy reach on the table.

Casey bounced down the stairs, a two pound bag of M&M's in her hand. "We can use these."

Jack grinned. "Okay, yellow are five dollars, green are ten dollars, orange are twenty five dollars, and red are fifty dollars."

"Um...don't you mean 'cents'?" Casey asked.

"Nope. If we're gonna play poker tonight, might as well make it worth our time."

The seer studied the older man for a moment. "Nuh uh. Not gonna work. You're not going to psych me out. Dollars it is. And I don't take I.O.U.s."

Daniel snickered at the look of skepticism that filled Jack's eyes. "You've been warned," he said.

"So I'm warned," Jack replied jauntily.

Casey dumped half of the bag of candy onto the table, began to separate out the colored candies, declaring that the brown and the blue M&M's were 'ingestible'. Which brought more chuckles from her husband.

Jack located a worn deck of cards. He'd played many a game of gin rummy with his Pappy, using the cards. "Okay, Texas Hold 'Em, and you have to work for it," he announced, dealing the first hand.

Casey picked up her cards, unaware that her teammates were carefully watching her eyes. Not a bad hand. Possible three of a kind. Full house if she were very lucky. She picked up a yellow candy, placed it in the middle of the table. "I'm in."

He studied her. She didn't have a bad hand, he could tell that much. Just how good it was...that was the question. Jack put his own yellow M&M beside the other. "I'm in. He slid a green one out as well.

Sam folded immediately. Teal'c followed suit. Daniel put a yellow and green candy out. Casey tossed a green one out to cover her own bet.

Another round of cards were dealt. Daniel tossed his cards to the table. "Fold."

She looked over at Jack. Frowned slightly. He was up to something, she could sense it. What that was, she hadn't a clue. With a sigh, Casey concentrated on her cards. If the right card came up...she met his bet. They didn't call it gambling for nothing!

The final deal. She couldn't help but grin as Jack made his bet. She raised. Jack raised. Which turned her smirk to a frown. She studied her cards. Raised again. Now it was Jack who was frowning. He called.

"Straight, ten high," he crowed, laying his cards down.

"Good hand," she agreed. Then laid her cards on the table. "Full house. Queens over fours."

Jack shook his head. "You were just lucky."

"That's what Ferretti keeps saying," she grinned.

Five hands later, Casey controlled the largest portion of the M&M's. Bags of chips and crackers cluttered the table. Sandwiches had been made and devoured, and the cookies were long since gone.

Jack looked at the old clock on the wall. It was almost midnight. "I'd say if we want a visit from Santa Claus, we should probably go to bed. But before we do..." He looked over at Daniel expectantly.

For a moment, Daniel was at a loss as to what Jack wanted. The message was in those brown eyes, but he wasn't able to read it clearly. His mind ran over all of the things they had discussed...oh, yeah. He smiled. "'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse..."

The colonel grinned, leaned back in his chair, and crossed his arms over his chest.

Daniel continued, slipping his arm around Casey's shoulders, drawing her close.


"The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
while visions of sugar plums danced in their heads.
And Mama in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
had just settled down for a long winter's nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
tore open the shutter, and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
gave the luster of midday to objects below,
when, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
but a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles, his coursers they came,
and he whistled and shouted and called them by name:

"Now Dasher! Now Dancer!
Now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid!
On, Donder and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch!
To the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away!
Dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
when they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky
so up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
with the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
the prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head and was turning around,
down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
and his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
and he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

His eyes--how they twinkled! His dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
and the beard on his chin was as white as the snow.
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
and the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
that shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
and I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself.
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
and filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
and giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, 'ere he drove out of sight,
Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"



"Merry Christmas," Jack said, when Daniel had finished.

"Merry Christmas to you, too, Jack."

The gray head moved from side to side. "No. Santa said 'Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!'."

"Not in the original version."

"That's the way I've always heard it," Jack argued.

"Then you heard it wrong," Daniel pointed out.

Jack studied him for a moment. Knew that this was just one more of those facts, one of those amazing pieces of trivia that were stuck in there with all of that other...stuff. He could argue until he was blue in the face, Daniel would never back down, and chances were damned high that he was right. "So who changed it?"

"I have no idea," Daniel replied easily. "It's probably an adaptation that occurred as the phrase changed from 'Happy Christmas' to 'Merry Christmas'. Language tends to evolve over time, new words and phrases added, old words taking on new meanings. It's a sign of growth in a society when that happens. The Latin that Caesar Augustus spoke had changed by the time of Arcadius."

Without a doubt an entire history and linguistics lesson was on the horizon...Danny was getting that look in his eyes, the same one that he always got when he was warming up to a subject. "Let's call it a night, shall we campers?" Jack said, rising to his feet.

Amused murmurs of agreement filled the air, Daniel not the least fazed at having the discussion cut short. Goodnight wishes were exchanged, and the group split up to go to their separate rooms. For thirty minutes one or another was sneaking into the living room, placing gaily wrapped gifts beneath the tree. It seemed that Santa had indeed arrived, through the giving hearts of the five best friends...the family of the heart.


A  A  A  A  A  A


Christmas morning dawned bright and sunny, although the temperature continued to drop. Five flannel clad, yawning figures gathered around the Christmas tree, appreciating the beauty of the tree, and the multitude of brightly wrapped packages beneath it.

"Coffee," Casey mumbled, heading for the kitchen. Daniel was right behind her, Sam behind him.

"One of these days, we're going to have to wean them off that stuff," Jack muttered.

"You consume as much as they do," Teal'c pointed out.

"But I can live without it if I have to," Jack replied.

"I will concede that point," the Jaffa said. "I do not believe that 'weaning' our teammates from their caffeine addiction to be the most prudent course of action, or even a necessary one."

"Why not?" Jack asked, with sincere curiosity.

"I have observed that Daniel Jackson and Samantha Carter are able to ignore their mugs of coffee for hours at a time if they were deeply engrossed within their work. Casey Jackson seems to drink the most only in the morning. If we were to 'take away' their morning cup of coffee, they would be slower to wake up. And when they are not fully awake-"

"They're grumpier than hell," Jack finished. "You might be right, Rocco. But it still gets annoying."

Teal'c only smiled. Then turned toward the kitchen, pulling a teabag from the pocket of his plaid flannel bathrobe.

Jack shook his head. Even Teal'c needed his morning caffeine injection. The Jaffa just didn't realize it.

Casey frowned as she scooped coffee into the metal basket of the coffee pot. "We're getting low."

"Is there any in the cupboard?" Daniel asked.

She shook her head. "No. I haven't gone through the box of groceries yet, though."

"Jack said he'd bring some."

"Then there's a can in the box," Casey said confidently. Jack knew that she couldn't function without coffee. Jack knew that Daniel couldn't function without coffee, and Sam needed her cup first thing in the morning as well.

Watching the pot like junkies waiting for their next fix, the three stared at the old percolator as it worked the magic that turned ground coffee beans and water into the nectar of gods. Teal'c heated water in the old tea kettle, wisely saying nothing to his companions.

Jack walked into the room, leaned against the counter. Seemed to be the only one to notice that Casey had cocked her head to the side. "Radar, it's Christmas Day," he said quietly.

"I know," she replied softly. "It's odd...I felt the...well, it's like a poke in the back of my mind. Sometimes it's just a thought or an idea...sometimes it happens right before a download. I can tell when I'm about to get a download."

"So you're about to get a download?"

"I thought I was...but then...nothing. Like...it was almost as if, almost as if the connection between me and...whoever fills me in on things...it was almost as if the connection was abruptly cut off."

Sam frowned. "Are you being blocked?"

Casey closed her eyes. Reached out around her. Could 'see' and feel everything just as she always did. "Nope."

"Maybe someone was going to try to give you more...you said that it felt as if what you got last night wasn't meant to be," Daniel said.

"Maybe Radar's connection is on the fritz...on their end," Jack offered.

"Perhaps there are those on the ascended plane of existence who do not wish for Casey Jackson to be privy to the information that she is given," Teal'c proposed.

Frowns creased their foreheads. This, Jack thought, was way beyond his experience and expertise. He had no clue what to even suggest, let alone any ideas on how to deal with the situation.

"Talk to Miss Eloise," Daniel suggested softly.

She tugged her lip between her teeth. "Last night..." she paused, frowned slightly. "When Miss Eloise moves away...it's like she's walking away from me. Last night she was pulled...no, she was dragged away."

"Something is wrong then," Jack said. And that certainly didn't bode well for them.

"Try, Angel. Play 'Twenty Questions' if you have to," Daniel said quietly, firmly.

Casey looked at him. Realized that he wasn't asking as her Husband, but as The One. He needed to know what was happening. She wasn't sure that he was even aware of those two facts, at least, not consciously. She nodded, closed her eyes.


She looked around cautiously. This wasn't the 'room' where she normally 'appeared' when she needed to speak to her spirit guide. It looked every bit like a waiting room...in fact, it looked very much like the waiting room in the Cheyenne Mountain Military Complex Hospital...where she'd waited to receive permission to visit Shannon Ballard. "Miss Eloise?"

A younger woman, Casey would guess around her own age, with shoulder length dark hair and big dark eyes walked into the room, the white of the dress she wore almost blinding. "Hello, Casey."

"Where's Miss Eloise?" she asked, feeling panic grip her heart. For a moment, she forgot that the old woman was Ascended, that her health was perfect, and that she was Immortal. "What's happened? Where is she?"

"Please, calm yourself," the woman said. "She is...preoccupied...at the moment."

"Don't piss me off, cupcake. I've raised hell here before, I'm not afraid to do so again. Where. Is. Miss. Eloise?"

"As I have said, she is...preoccupied."

"Fine. Get Oma Desala's butt in here then!"

"She is also preoccupied."

"Cupcake, I don't know who the hell you are, but if I don't speak to someone in charge in the next five seconds, I'm gonna get really pissy. And then I'm going to tell The One about this, and let him handle it!"

The woman smiled, her eyes full of amusement. "Miss Eloise warned me that you would be...difficult."

"I'm flattered. Just who the hell are you?"

"My name is Arlinda."

"Fine...Arlinda. Just what in the hell is going on?"

"The One defeated...destroyed Dartal. He did not defeat those with whom Dartal was associated."

"I know that."

"They have been...stirring. There is hope that we may yet bring these...rebels...to justice."

"You're kidding! After all of this time, you...meaning the Ascended...are finally going to get off of your self-righteous asses and do something?"

Arlinda laughed out loud. "It seems that your...tirade...just after Dartal's death has been discussed at length."

"Well, I'll be damned," Casey muttered.

"Hardly," Arlinda retorted.

"Look, someone has been trying to send me messages...I call them 'info dumps'. Except there wasn't much to it...today nothing came through at all."

The sudden frown, the worried expression on the Being's face told Casey all she needed to know.

"Miss Eloise and Oma are in battle with those rebels, aren't they?"

"We believe so, yes."

Green eyes went wide. "You 'believe so'? What the hell happened to all the omniscient shit?"

"We're not omniscient," Arlinda protested. "After you spoke to Miss Eloise yesterday, she contacted Oma Desala. We have not...heard...from them since."

"Oh, lord!" Casey groaned. "Look, if you can get me there, I can at least try to help them."

"That is a very generous offer, Casey. But I cannot send you when I don't know where they are."

Casey folded her arms around her waist. "She contacted you before she left, didn't she? Miss Eloise, I mean."

"Yes, she did. She asked me to...guide you...if you should make such a request."

"I don't suppose playing 'Twenty Questions' will do me any good right now, will it?"

"I don't understand...'Twenty...Questions'?"

"Never mind," Casey huffed. She'd suspected that Miss Eloise had been pushing the rules a bit. She also suspected that it was Miss Eloise, or perhaps even Oma Desala, who sent the information she needed. Although...the old seer's reaction to the info last night...she'd been shocked...and worried. Okay, so that meant..."Miss Eloise isn't the one who sends the info dumps, is she?"

"I have no knowledge of how your gift of sight discerns what information to seek out."

"Okay, sometimes I do searches," Casey said, misunderstanding what the Being meant, "But the info dumps are just that...information dumped into my head. I have no idea where it comes from...it's just...there."

"I'm sorry, but I cannot tell you that which I do not know," Arlinda insisted.

"Right. Well, you might pass along the message that it would be nice if whoever is sending the stuff could be a bit more vague. Half the time it takes me a couple of days to figure out what the images and the sounds mean...and sometimes the two don't even go together! So see if they can make my life any more miserable, will you?"

The Being studied the young seer for several long seconds, then began to smile. "You are being sarcastic!"

"You're fast," Casey snapped.

The sound of a soft chuckle filled the air. "I will pass along your...message."

She'd much rather tell whoever was in charge herself, just to make certain that it was done right...the thought prodded another one into being, pushed it to the forefront of her thoughts. "Point me in the right direction, and I can tell...whoever...myself."

"That is not possible," Arlinda replied immediately. Firmly.

"It was worth a shot," Casey sighed. "As soon as Miss Eloise is...available...tell her to give me a call, will you?"

Another smile. "I will do so."


Casey opened her eyes. "Something is going on, all right. From what I could get out of Arlinda, Miss Eloise and Oma Desala went after Dartal's buddies."

"I didn't think that was allowed!" Sam gasped.

"I didn't either. Apparently when I raised hell right after Daniel killed Dartal, well...it caused a bit of a discussion. Whether or not they had permission to go, I have no idea. The only thing Arlinda said was that they had...left...after I spoke to Miss Eloise last night, and haven't been heard from since."

"Who's Arlinda?" Jack asked.

"Some woman who met me," Casey replied. "Never seen her before. Miss Eloise contacted her, told her to guide me if I needed or asked for help."

Daniel was frowning. "So there could be a battle going on...there on the Ascended plane?"

"So I understand," Casey said.

Jack sighed. "Okay, there's absolutely nothing we can do about that. It's Christmas. Let's go open presents."

Casey's face lit up. "I thought you'd never suggest it!" She refilled her mug, and nearly bounced out of the room.

He shook his head and grinned. If Radar wasn't worried, and she certainly didn't seem worried, he wasn't going to concern himself with the goings-on of beings on a different plane of existence. It was enough to worry about this one. And he was not doing that today!

Daniel couldn't help but smile. If there was any reason to worry, Casey would be worried. He could sense that she had been a bit upset...well, pissed off, actually. But whatever was going on didn't seem to be serious...at least, not for them. Not yet. With luck, Oma Desala and Miss Eloise would deal with the Ascended rebels, and that would be the end of that. He followed his teammates into the living room, sat down beside his wife.

Settled on the floor in front of the Christmas tree, the lights shining brightly, the five best friends began to open their gifts, exclamations of excitement, approval and gratitude filled the air.

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