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SJ_Everyday Advent Calendar - Day 13 - Fic

Title: Chinese
Author: Thothmes
Pairing: Sam/Jack. This is for sj_everyday people!
Summary: You can run, but you can't hide, and the company is what is important, not the meal.
Season: Early. Sam's still a captain, but after Cold Lazarus
Warnings: UST. See season, above.



Chinese




0630 Cheyenne Mountain, General Hammond's Office

Jack yawned and stretched in the large comfortable leather chair, and slowly swung his long booted legs down from where they had been resting on the desk blotter to the floor. The next shift would be drifting in soon, and it wouldn't do to be seen lounging at his ease. He closed an issue of Cracked he had been perusing, and slipped it under the graphic novel he'd spent the wee hours of the night on. Both of them lay under a stack of requisitions that he'd started the night with, each in triplicate, and each with his signature on it , all ready to go into the General's inbox and await his own signature when he returned after the... in a few days. The two requisitions that he'd recommended against had post-it notes with his reasons attached, and lay on the top of the pile. None of the notes was longer than 4 words. When it came to cutting to the verbal chase, Jack O'Neill believed in leading by example.

Once his feet were on the floor, Jack stood, wincing as he stood to his full height and his back (as always) reminded him that a late opening chute and a happy back were pretty much mutually exclusive propositions. It was always a bit of a relief when he didn't have to hide that little grimace, and alone in the office, Jack took full advantage, and then depositing the requisitions in Hammond's inbox, and stuffing the Cracked and the graphic novel into a briefing folder (not that it hid much, but at least it covered the titles from the prying eyes of the curious) he began to make his way down to the control room. If Walter was there, he'd make a business of dropping the folder, and scattering the contents over the floor. Walter had started making him feel uncomfortably observed lately. It was time to remind him that Jack O'Neill was a buffoon with the luck of the Irish, not some conquering hero.

Walter, it seemed, was not around to be disappointed by the amazing density of the O'Neill mind ( Come to think of it, isn't that what Carter and Daniel have, minds made more dense by the vast number of extra neuronal connections, transmitting ideas at a rate approaching the speed of light? Maybe it should be the astounding airiness of the O'Neill mind). Airman Morgenstern was there, explaining that she'd traded Walter the duty today because she was Jewish, and this wasn't her holiday. This was treading perilously close to territory that Jack did not want to get anywhere near, so he moved swiftly away, leaving her wondering how she'd managed to offend the high ranking officer with such a simple declaration.

Jack was not the idiot he loved to portray, and he knew that it was only a matter of time before Oh look! The flag. And the SGC flag. Nice fringe. I wonder how long it takes to sew on all that gold twisty stuff, and -

"Merry Christmas, Jack!"

Damn! 0643. Only six hours and forty-three minutes in.

"You too, Edwards. What are you doing here? G'wan home. I can hold down the fort here."

"Hammond warned me you'd try that, O'Neill. He said, and I quote: 'If Jack O'Neill tries to take Christmas too, tell him to go home, and tell him I said that was an order!' Get out of here Jack. Nice of you to offer, but my kids are back from college, and likely to sleep almost until Dave Dixon comes running in here to escape that little horde of savages and their arguing over who can play with which new toy. It's not like we still do stockings. I'll be back in time for Christmas dinner, and we did the presents last night..." Edwards was not a people person. Numbers and facts and getting it done were higher on his agenda, but even he noticed a certain lack of enthusiasm for this topic, so he wrapped it up quickly. "Just gimme a chance to refill my mug, and tell me about any overnight developments, and you can skedaddle."

"Yeah," said Jack, and almost, almost managed to banish the image of a silky head of little boy hair bent intently over a bulging stocking, the pajamas with the jet planes on a light blue background, and the red and green elf slippers with jingle bells on the curling pointed toes.

It had been an uneventful night, and Jack was soon on his way down to the locker room to put on his civvies. Time for Plan B. He'd get in his truck, with the radio off and drive home, keeping his eyes on the road, and not on any extraneous lights or decorations. He'd keep the TV off, and head straight to bed, and catch up on that sleep he'd missed being on duty. Then he'd go out into the back yard and take the trail that ran behind it and off up into the hills and burn off some energy in a hike. Maybe take a thermos of chicken noodle soup, a couple of p.b. & j.'s and another thermos of coffee make a picnic of it. By then, at this time of the year it ought to be getting on for dark and he could go home, shower, get dinner together, and if he'd pushed himself hard enough, he could get into bed with his copy of Astronomy and bury himself in planning his stargazing for the month of January, lost in a world of degrees and declinations and azimuths until it was all over for another year.

0722 Suburban Colorado Springs, Sam Carter's Bedroom

When she could ignore the light of the new day no longer, in spite of the comforter pulled high around her head, and the silence from an alarm unset, Sam knew that it was time to face the day. The first and most difficult task, from Sam's point of view, sheltered in a nest of body-warmed covers, was going to be facing the 60 degree temperature of the bedroom at large. She really must get around to buying that programmable thermostat she'd promised herself, and install it. She had plenty of time today. She should go out to the hardware store and...

At just about the same time the cool air hit her warm body, the memory hit her brain. There would be no new thermostat today. It was Christmas, and the stores were closed. Grabbing the clothes she'd laid out on a chair the night before, she fled to the bathroom and a warm shower, turning up the thermostat in passing.

Christmas day. Mark was still refusing to communicate, and her most recent phone call to her Dad had foundered on the rocky shoals of N.A.S.A. and ended in stilted civility long before she could extend the invitation for Christmas that had been the whole point of her call. Well she was a Captain in the U.S.A.F., and a woman with resources. She'd be busy all day. Her books were still stuck into the built-in bookcases that she had admired when she'd first toured this house willy-nilly. It was about time she got around to alphabetizing them. And of course there were the plants to water. She'd share her new insights into the common characteristics of planets high in naquidah content with them this time. But first breakfast. She'd picked up a lemon yogurt and an expensive, out-of-season pint of blueberries on her way home last night, and that and a cup of coffee would be a breakfast fit for a queen.

1822 O'Neill Residence, Colorado Springs, The Kitchen

Things had gone pretty much to plan. Singularly focused drive home, a few hours of sleep, a long hike with a pleasant picnic eaten standing up, in a sheltered spot below the ridge, where he could be out of the biting wind, then a bit of a scramble to get down and home before the gloom gathered in and he did something foolish, like sprain an ankle. Then there had been a long shower, and since it was a bit early for dinner, he'd done some laundry and tidied up the place a bit, but now he was hungry, and the plan had fallen totally by the wayside.

Jack O'Neill, who prided himself in his ability to plan ahead and marshal resources to keep his team alive and well in the most challenging of circumstances, was currently looking at a spectacular failure of planning. That was one hell of an empty fridge. And today of all days, was not the day he could order in Pizza from Belzoni's or Mexican from Tia Antonia's. This would mean he would have to go out to find some place open. Out with all the lights, and the fake spruce garlands, and the music.

Swearing slightly under his breath he retreated back to his bedroom to fill his pockets with his wallet, his truck keys, and a jumble of change from off the top of his bureau. He grabbed a leather jacket and a black watchcap from their hooks inside the closet door, and slamming the door behind him in frustration, he stomped off to his truck. He had a couple of options open to him, but chose the place that was a longer drive, but had the better food. If he had to go out, he was damn well going to reap the rewards!

1849 Carter Residence, Colorado Springs, The Kitchen

Carter wrinkled her nose in disgust. Clearly, steak was not on the menu tonight. How could it have gone bad so quickly? She'd bought it only last...or was it the time before...oh. No wonder it was rotten. She really hadn't thought it was that old. Time to plan an inventory scheme for her fridge. She could make a few tweaks to the program she'd written for... The loud and derisory rumble her stomach added to the discussion made it clear that the first order of business would be food, then organization. She was stymied for a moment trying to think of what place would be open for dinner on Christmas without a reservation, but a memory of a childhood Christmas, when her mother had been too distracted with working out a puzzle that Mark had given her that morning, and she'd burnt the roast had given her and answer. She'd go for Chinese.

Sam picked up her keys from the bowl by the door, and taking an old, worn, navy blue peacoat from the closet, and picking up a woolen hat, mittens, and a scarf all white in a matching set from a basket up on the shelf, she opened the door and stepped out into the frigid night, buoyed by the happy memory of eating crisp scallion pancakes, a rich won ton soup, pan-fried dumplings in a sweet, salty brown dipping sauce, and a vast array of other dishes, surrounded by parental love, and the usual chatter and banter between the four of them, before filling the last corners with quartered oranges and a fortune cookie each, and heading out into the surprisingly warm Christmas night. It had been the year Jacob had been stationed in Texas, and the weather had been unseasonably warm that year. Looking back on it, it was one of the happiest Christmas dinners she could remember.

1905 Jade Mountain Restaurant, Colorado Springs

Jack could see someone approaching from the right as he approached the door of the restaurant, and registering the feminine gait subconsciously, he stopped to hold the door for her, pivoting to face her and gesture her ahead with his free hand. The big woolly white hat on her head hid her short hair, but the face, still focused on her goal and not yet looking up to see him, was unmistakable.

"Carter!" he said.

"Sir!"

"Burn the roast?"

"It was a steak, and I threw it out before I started. It was rotten."

"Eeewww!"

Jack wrinkled his nose and pinched up his eyes in vicarious disgust, and Sam thought it was one of the cutest expressions she'd ever seen. Definitely forty-something going on nine.

She smiled, and he felt his traitorous heart skip a beat.

What are you, nine? he thought to himself. This felt remarkably similar to how he'd felt in 4th grade when his impression of Sister Mary Agnes made Katie D'Abbruzio smile. He'd wanted to immediately tell a joke or do a handspring or something to make her do that again.

All it took was a whiff of her shampoo, and a glance at her slender graceful neck to remind Jack that he was definitely older than nine, and so was Sam. Carter. He meant Carter. Really. She was his Captain, a member of his team. Carter. But they could share a table and a meal. He'd do that with Daniel. He'd done it with Kawalsky. Nothing wrong with sharing a table.

Sam let the assumption of the waiter that because they came in together they planned to dine together pass uncorrected. It would be awkward, she assured herself to sit separately but alone. If they did that, then they'd get into that watching each other while trying not to get caught watching thing, and that would be all eye-flirty, and flirty was bad. Much better to sit together.

She sat in the chair that the waiter pulled out for her, and settled her napkin in her lap, and then looked up, straight into a pair of intent brown eyes, which suddenly developed an interest in the menu. She looked hastily down, but instead of concentrating on whether she'd prefer the Pork and Fuzzy Melon soup or the Ten Precious soup, or even the tried and true Egg Drop soup, she found herself staring at the way his hand that wasn't holding the menu was drawing circles on the bottom of the upside down tea cup in his place setting, rubbing around, and around, and around with his thumb. She licked her lips and forced her eyes back to her menu.

Jack turned his face to the menu, but not his eyes. He knew what he wanted. To order. What he wanted to order. But under that peacoat and the fluffy white scarf was a bright red scoop necked shirt, and there were collarbones, and that little hollow just above them, and that place in the groove of her neck where sometimes he could see her pulse beat.

It was a testament to the training he'd received for some of his less publicized exploits that he didn't startle or show any outward sign when the waiter approached on remarkably silent feet to take their order, and bring them a small, very hot iron tea pot full of black tea. There was the ordering, and then the business of pouring the tea. Their hands only bumped twice, once on the handle of the tea kettle, and once as she tried to reach for a packet of Equal just beyond where he was reaching for the sugar, and that broke the ice.

Jack told her about his hike, about the bear den he'd spotted, and the lynx tracks he'd seen, and the way the chickadee, with its little black cap of feathers had seen him coming and fluttered ahead in alarm, constantly moving ahead as he drew near, so that it must have flown a good half mile out of its way just because it couldn't figure out to fly off behind him.

By that time the soup, and the scallion pancakes, and the shu mai had arrived, and after they were settled and sampled, Sam didn't want to admit she'd spent the holiday cleaning and organizing. It made her sound so dull. Instead she told him about that magical Christmas when they went out for Chinese, and how her mother had held her dad's hand all the way home in the car, and how they'd turned into their driveway, and just sat there, silent for a moment, and then without saying a word, her dad had backed the car out onto the street again, and her mother had slid over on the bench seat of their old Ford wagon, and rested her head on his shoulder, and tuned the radio to a station playing carols, and they'd driven around the neighborhoods, looking at the lights in the mild Texas night, and even she and Mark had been quiet, watching the sights and getting lulled by the rhythmic swoop swoop of the telephone wires, and the thunk, thunk of the tires on the joins in the pavement, as the carols came and went, and she still clutched her fortune in her hand.

The stars are yours if you want them enough it said.

She felt foolish at the end of the tale. She'd talked too long. She'd been trying to capture how that moment felt, the feelings, the moments so ordinary, so precious, so memorable all at once. She sounded like a gushing school girl, not a dependable second-in-command, but Jack's the Colonel's eyes were warm and soft when she glanced up, and his mouth held one of his ghost smiles. She was caught in those eyes, saved only by the arrival of the main course.

There was the bustle of setting the dishes down, and a mix up with the rice, but soon they had the brown rice they wanted, and were busy urging each other to try some of this, or take more of that. Jack was clearly very experienced with chopsticks, and Sam was not too bad herself, although she wasn't quite at his level, but when a mushroom made an unexpected bid for freedom half way to her mouth, Sam tried to distract Jack by asking him what his happiest Christmas memory was.

The expression that slipped across his face before he shut it down broke her heart. Such longing. Such sorrow. She should have remembered. She should never have asked.

But he answered.

"Charlie was a May baby," he said. "So his first two Christmases he didn't really get what it was all about. But he got it big time that third Christmas. He'd been listening to the bigger kids in playschool, and he knew all about Santa and stockings, and he couldn't wait to find out what Santa brought him. He woke us up at about 5 a.m., and groggy as we were, it was so worth it to see the wonder on his face when he saw that stocking with the Elmo and the floppy stuffed puppy sticking out of it. He was so happy with the candy he tried to feed it all to us to get us to share the joy. And he just ripped that paper right off of everything, fling it behind him like a saint casting off the works of the devil. With each new thing, he'd squeal and bounce with delight, and clap his hands. In about twenty minutes flat, it was all over, and it was still dark out. I made some coffee, Sara made us eggs and warmed up some sticky-buns, and after that we spent the rest of the morning getting all the toys out of the boxes and trying to get him to play with them. Nothing doing. He only wanted to play with the boxes."

His happy smile of reminiscence faded away, and he spent a moment pushing a baby corn around on his plate, as if it was of great importance to find the right spot for it. When he dared to look up again, her luminous blue eyes were glistening, and filled with pity. That wouldn't do. He spoke before she could make it worse, maybe apologize.

"No, Carter," he said. "Don't apologize. It's a happy memory. I think I forgot that there are those, and that when you remember, those feelings echo. Thank you."

Then there were the oranges, which were sweet and juicy, and just the right amount, and there were the fortune cookies, where Sam's was banal (To begin the adventure you must take that first step) and Jack's was apropos (Happiness is inside you if you look), and the tussle over the check, which Jack won by pulling rank and making noises about letting her pay the next one, something he had no intention of remembering if there was a next time, indeed he intended to forget. Totally.

Soon they were once more outside, both of them thinking or, more accurately, actively not thinking of the kiss that would be allowed and almost expected if they had been...

No. They weren't thinking about that.

A salute would be well within military protocol, but they both rejected that without thought. Too formal. Too awkward.

Finally Jack thrust out his hand, and Sam transferred her mittens to her left hand and stuck out her own right hand. His clasp was warm and firm in the cold Colorado night.

"Merry Christmas, Sam" he said. "The best company is what makes a great Christmas."

His eyes looked in to hers, and hers gazed back at him, for too long, and just an instant, all at once.

"Yes, sir," she replied. "Merry Christmas to you too."

They unclasped their hands, and turned and headed to their respective vehicles. It had been a good Christmas this year. One of the best.

Comments

( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
thothmes
Dec. 16th, 2011 04:08 am (UTC)
High praise indeed! Thank you very much!
ardvari
Dec. 13th, 2011 07:05 pm (UTC)
Ohhhh nice! I think this is one of the best Christmas stories I've ever read. I like the mood in it and that bitter sweetness. If only they knew what all they would see together in the next zillion years... and how much their feelings would grow. :)
thothmes
Dec. 16th, 2011 04:10 am (UTC)
Thank you very much. I think that's what makes this story work, is that we know what will come, and how much it will deepen and grow, but they don't.
sjhw_tolerance
Dec. 13th, 2011 11:20 pm (UTC)
Oh, very nice. I can totally see this type of encounter between the two of them early in their relationship. I do like a good spending Christmas together story. Thanks!
thothmes
Dec. 16th, 2011 04:11 am (UTC)
You are very welcome. Just a small downpayment on all the lovely reading you have shared with us all.
rdamel
Dec. 14th, 2011 05:23 am (UTC)
So good, thanks for sharing. Off to rec to friends.

Merry Christmas!
Melissa M.
thothmes
Dec. 16th, 2011 04:12 am (UTC)
Oooooh! *Blushes* Thank you!
bluewillowtree
Dec. 14th, 2011 07:12 pm (UTC)
This is wonderful. You've beautifully captured the way that their familiarity is tinged with awkwardness when taken out of their normal elements, but that it's important enough to both of them that they overcome that awkwardness. And both of those memories are lovely.

Also, I'm seriously craving scallion pancakes now! (For that matter, lemon yogurt with fresh blueberries sounds pretty tasty too...)

Edited because although I *know* how to spell "yogurt," sometimes typing doesn't involve as successful a collaboration as I'd hope between my brain and my hands ;)

Edited at 2011-12-14 07:20 pm (UTC)
thothmes
Dec. 16th, 2011 04:17 am (UTC)
I know just what you mean about "yogurt". It's one of my try twice words (my brain insists it's "yoghurt") along with across (accross), attached (attatched), and a host of others. I know how to spell them, but my brain and fingers have to take that detour down the wrong path before I can get it right.

Lemon yogurt with fresh blueberries was breakfast. Yum.

Back when I could eat that kind of thing, I used to make a mean scallion pancake.
supplyship
Dec. 14th, 2011 07:14 pm (UTC)
Ooh, really nice "early" S/J. I love the thought of them comfortably sharing happy Christmas memories. Yay!

Thanks for the lovely Advent present!
thothmes
Dec. 16th, 2011 04:18 am (UTC)
You are most welcome!
txduck
Dec. 14th, 2011 08:11 pm (UTC)
That was truly lovely.. Thank You for sharing it :)
thothmes
Dec. 16th, 2011 04:19 am (UTC)
You're welcome. This was the one that came to mind quickly. The one for the 15th I had to ponder to come up with.
not_a_zatarc
Dec. 15th, 2011 03:24 am (UTC)
Very sweet with promises of things to come for the two of them, even if we didn't get to see it. ;) This easily could have fit into the series well within the realms of canon. I'd enjoy it either way, though, of course. Not a stickler for those things. But anyways, lovely Christmas fic. :D
thothmes
Dec. 16th, 2011 04:22 am (UTC)
I love to read stories that have veered of from canon into terra incognita, and I can riff on them in comment fic, but when it comes to writing myself, I find my brain has a hard time steering away from canon.

Silly brain. Why so serious?
magickmoons
Dec. 26th, 2011 09:57 pm (UTC)
Oh, that was truly lovely. A wonderful prelude to the relationship that did develop between them. I can really see something like this happening in season 1.
thothmes
Jan. 17th, 2012 02:15 am (UTC)
Well it was just as rude of me to be late responding to this comment as to your other one! I am sorry!

Thank you. I was really trying to write something that was both shippy and believable for their relationship as it existed that early in canon. I'm glad that worked for you.
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )

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A Few Words from the Wise

Speak to him, for there is none born wise.

-The Maxims of Ptahotep

~~~~~~~~~~


In mourning or rejoicing, be not far from me.

- an Ancient Egyptian Love Song

~~~~~~~~~~


But your embraces
alone give life to my heart
may Amun give me what I have found
for all eternity.


-Love Songs of the New Kingdom, Song #2

~~~~~~~~~~


To Know the Dark


To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is travelled by dark feet and dark wings.


-Wendell Berry

~~~~~~~~~~


Up in the morning's no for me,
Up in the morning early;
When a' the hills are covered wi' snaw,
I'm sure it's winter fairly.

-Robert Burns

~~~~~~~~~~


Visit to the Hermit Ts'ui


Moss covered paths between scarlet peonies,
Pale jade mountains fill your rustic windows.
I envy you, drunk with flowers,
Butterflies swirling in your dreams.


-Ch'ien Ch'i

~~~~~~~~~~


Mistress of high achievement, O lady Truth,
do not let my understanding stumble
across some jagged falsehood.


-Pindar

~~~~~~~~~~


Every Gaudy colour
Is a bit of truth.


-Nathalia Crane

~~~~~~~~~~


I counted two-and-twenty stenches,
All well defined, and several stinks.


-Samuel Coleridge

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