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SJ_Everyday Advent Calendar - Day 15 - Fic

Title: The Gift of the Magi
Author: Thothmes
Pairing: This is for sj_everyday so it's not gen, for those who care about such things.
Season: Futurefic. Ten years from now
Spoilers: Teeny-tiny ones for Abyss, Emancipation, and One False Step. That's all, I think.
Warnings: Beware the literary allusion.
Synopsis: You can't always get what you want, and if you try sometimes you find, you get what you need.





The Gift of the Magi


It was a cold soaking rain coming down as Jack O'Neill strode out of the White House and into his waiting car. Not that he could feel it. Like all men of consequence summoned to see the President, his car had been brought around to a sheltered door, and he would enter it dry, and leave it dry at the other end, even if the airman detailed to drive him had to scramble out into the damp to guide him in under an umbrella. It was something that Jack had come to tolerate, although he suspected it would never stop making him feel like the world's biggest humbug. Behind the dark glasses Jack squinted in disgust at the rain. Seventeen years in D.C., and the Minnesota boy that still lived within him was still half expecting a white December.

The door closed behind him, and the driver scrambled to the front and settled in. As the car pulled away, Jack glanced out at the wet streets and the scurrying pedestrians with their umbrellas and their briefcases, and listened to the thrum of the tires on wet pavement. The weather reports said that the S.G.C. would be getting 6 to 8 inches by nightfall. He wished he were there.

He wished he were anywhere but in Washington, with its protocol and precedence. Well... almost anywhere. Ba'al had a fortress he'd rather not see again, and he'd really been kind of creeped out by those funny white naked guys with their plant songs, and - Sighing, he resigned himself to opening up his briefcase, and taking out the briefing notes that Walter had typed up for him, so he'd be prepared for his next meeting. Two more weeks of meetings, and conference calls, and forms and reports in triplicate, and an endless parade of paper for his signature, and he'd be out of Washington for an entire week and two days. He'd be off to Minnesota, where winter was winter, and people knew how to drive in snow and keep the roads plowed. It had better be cold, damn cold at his cabin, or he was going to have Sam reverse engineer one of those touchstone-thingies for him as his Christmas gift, so he could make it cold. He missed it.

Down in the bowels of the S.G.C. in the commanding general's office, it was the same temperature it always was, and carefully designed to be that way. On her drive in to work that morning Sam had noticed that the air outside was warmer than it had been the day before. Warm enough to snow, but cool enough that the snow was likely to stick around for a while. It was one of the things that Sam had found took a bit of getting used to, the way that in the dry climate of the Rockies, snow tended to sublimate, rather than melt and run off. Of course she understood the physics behind the phenomenon but - She'd better get back to the matter at hand. She had two pre-mission briefings and a debriefing all in a row, and then her weekly meeting with the science heads. Those files were not going to read themselves.

She was looking forward to getting out of the mountain for a while. Two weeks, and she'd be off duty and curled up by a warm fire, watching the snow whirl, and finally getting a chance to catch up on that stack of astrophysics journals that had been piling up on her bedside table unread. She was really looking forward to spending her days in someplace with windows and natural light!

Jack put down the phone with more enthusiasm and vigor than was probably wise, considering how touchy the Chinese I.O.C. rep. was these days, and took a sip of his rapidly cooling tea. He'd come to appreciate fine tea over the years. It was Walter who had pointed out that after his tenth cup of coffee in the day, Jack tended to become a little... dyspeptic (Walter'd said "out of sorts", but Jack knew the root cause, and liked a good old fashioned word from time to time, so "dyspeptic"), so Jack had switched to tea. He hoped that the Chinese representative wouldn't withhold the pu erh and the jasmine green, just because Jack had laughed at his proposal that China be given full schematics of the Moon Base. Fully an eighth of the base's crew were Chinese. He'd have to settle for that.

It was five phone calls, two check-ins with commanders of hyperdrive capable ships, one chat with the President, and a meeting with the Joint Chiefs later that Jack got to go home. The rain had stopped, but it was still dripping from the trees and cars were still splashing it up from the puddles as they passed when Jack emerged from the door of his car and waved his driver off from opening the door for him, sending him back to the motor pool, and home. His driver, who had long since become inured to the General's unusual penchant for actually experiencing the weather that lay between the curb and his front door, did not protest, and hustled off with just enough constraint as to not seem unflatteringly eager.

Jack stood on his top step, taking in the view. The trees were bare, and the grass brownish and drab, as the season dictated, but there were no signs of what Jack called winter. That really snowy winter not long after he'd started his stint at Homeworld had suckered him into believing that Washington really had winter. It was all a lie, a damn lie. And he was getting sick of Washington and its endless lies.

He let himself in the door, and after changing out of his Class A's and in to a comfortable and ratty pair of sweats, he puttered around his kitchen, making himself a sandwich and a salad for his dinner, and awaiting the last phone call of his day with mingled anticipation and dread. He still wasn't ready. Like he had so many times before, he'd have to think fast on his feet and find a way out. The phone began to ring, and as he had expected, the necessary inspiration popped into his fron.

"Thank you," he said to no one in particular, and hurried out to the living room, plate in hand, to answer the phone.

By the time the preliminaries were over, he'd noticed a tired quality, and a discouraged tone.

"You sound tired," he said. "Maybe I should hang up and let you get to sleep."

"Still at the S.G.C.? What's up?"

"Oh. Writing those letters, that's the worst. Sure it's a little easier now that the 'gate's gone public and you can let the family know what actually happened, but it never gets any more pleasant."

"Oh, nothing much. Meeting with POTUS, check-ins with the Hammond and the Thor, Mitchell says 'Hi!' by the way, more meetings, lotsa things to sign, and all the usual phone calls. I ticked of the Chinese I.O.C. rep., so I think I might have to make do with an inferior quality of tea."

"Yeah, he's the one who gave me the pu erh and that jasmine green you liked last time you were at my office."

"Well, I couldn't give him the schematics to the Moon Base!"

"Yeah, that's me. Great American Hero. Sacrificing my pu erh for the sake of the nation!'

"Are you laughing at me? 'Cause if you are I might have to bring up that time on P3X-595-"

"I'm just sayin..."

"I knew you'd get around to that. I really don't have too many great ideas. I kinda have all the stuff I need, and-"

"No, if it's Simpsons I have it. The chess set, the cuckoo clock, and you've seen the boxers..."

"So I was thinking--"

"I have been known to, from time to time! Anyway, how about a new, more recent picture of you to put on my desk. You could get second copy, and I could put it here."

"Really? You weren't just stealing my idea?"

"Yeah, well I have ideas from time to time too, you know. I'm not an overachiever like you, but I do have some good ones."

"Yeah, well after that stroke of genius, my thinker got all worn out. I'm going to need some time for it to recharge, so I dunno. I guess I could use some new socks, because the ones I have are getting pretty full of holes, oh! and a new putter."

"Nope, it wasn't me. General Swift, if you'll believe it, missed a shot, and took it out of my bag and broke it!"

"Yeah, well if I hadn't seen his face when he realized it was mine he'd wrecked, I'd think that too."

"Well that's what I thought too, but he sent me a fruit basket and a note of apology instead. The Prez let me use his for the remaining three holes, and I haven't played since, but how the hell does he expect me to make the putt with a fruit basket?"

"Yeah. It's even later here, remember."

"Nah. Don't apologize. Sleep is overrated. I'd rather hear your voice."

"Me too. More than I'll ever be able to figure out how to say."

"Same Bat time, same Bat channel!"

"Yeah, but I'm your kinda weird. 'Night."

Sam put the phone down and looked at the sheets of stationary on the desk before her. Getting command of the S.G.C. and her star (two by now!) had been a great honor. Her dad would have been so proud to see her fly so high! Things were so much better for women in the military now than they were when she started out, but up here where the air was rare, she was part of an exceedingly small sorority. It was quite an achievement, and Jack was proud enough that he could have lent some extra to her father if he'd been there to take it, but she was beginning to hate the job. There were the deaths, and the hours of impotent worry when a team was late. There were the tricky issues of personnel and personalities, the rivalries, professional jealousies, and raging ambitions to deal with. Jack and General Hammond had made that look so easy, but Sam was always a little more out of her depth where people were concerned than they were. She had to work at what they did naturally. There were the long hours spend deep underground, and no hours spent in a lab. There were days spent in the tedium of requisitions, and budgets, and performance reviews. The endless stacks of reports to read, and forms to sign, and always the gauntlet of people wanting a moment of her time the moment she left her office. She looked wistfully at the pictures of her nearest and dearest ranged on the shelves behind her, and at the one picture, some twenty-five years old now, on her desk, and with a sigh, picked up her pen again and began to write.

Christmas in Minnesota did not disappoint. The journey there had been a bit of a nightmare, what with D.C. getting socked in with a blizzard the day Jack left, forcing him to fly standby in coach to get out in time when his first three flights all canceled, and then the last minute lockdown for a suspected alien virus that almost kept Sam immured, but which turned out to be a bad batch of potato salad in the commissary instead. Fortunately Sam didn't like the commissary spud salad because it had olives in it ("I know! It's like freaky little eyeballs looking up at you as you eat it. I'm totally with you on that, Carter!" "Actually, Jack, I just don't like the way green olives taste. But anyway, I didn't eat any, and I'm here." "Here is good. Closer would be better."), and Carolyn soon worked out the Earthly nature of the virus and lifted the quarantine. Now they were both there, and to Jack's unquashably boyish delight there were three fluffy feet of snow preventing their escape any time soon, and the generator Sam had insisted on installing a few years ago after a similar event had left them with a cabin full of SG-1 and no running water, heat, or power, was functioning at peak efficiency, and thanks to being able to buy naquidah on the galactic market, would be doing so for the foreseeable future.

Jack had opened his socks ("I like them all, but I'm gonna put on the red pair first. Red socks always look like they'll be warmer!"), Sam had opened her sweater ("Oh, Jack! I love it! So soft and fluffy!" "I thought the color would set off your eyes, and I was right."), and her smallest package, which proved to be a delicate platinum and sapphire bracelet to match a necklace she'd inherited from her mother ("Oh, Jack! Matches perfectly! How did you get it done?" "Remember that time you came out for that White House function, and you thought you'd lost it, and had to make do with the pearls, and then we found it between the bed and the table on your side? It wasn't lost. It was at the jewelers."). Jack was surprised to find that the long thin cylindrical package was not a new putter, but fancy new composite fishing rod he'd admired at Colorado Mountain Supply the last time they'd been there together ("Oh, man, this is a beauty! I can't wait for spring to try it out! The fish won't know what hit 'em." "You know, as far as I can tell, hitting them with it might catch more than your usual method..."). There were only two packages left, both the same size, and the same shape. Jack brought Sam the one he'd wrapped, and took the one she'd brought for him.

"I know what this is!" they said in unison.

After they'd argued about who had said "Jinx!" first, and finally agreed that it was moot as neither of them had been silent as a result, they got into a debate on who should open first, since both of them not-so-secretly wanted to open the last gift of the day. They finally agreed to go together, and ripped into the packages with childish glee. If they couldn't be the last, then they both would rather be first.

Each reacted with stunned silence. Then they began to laugh.

"How long can that generator keep running?" asked Jack.

"Until spring, if necessary," she answered, but I'm pretty sure the power company will get their act together before then. Besides, we'll probably want groceries before too long."

"Maybe," said Jack. "Depends on how much you like canned soup."

"Not that much."

"Okay. Well, as you see, I'm in a position to be looking for a new hobby. I think I may take up snow shoveling," said Jack.

That summer when Daniel brought Teal'c by for a visit, the cabin was much changed, with a new addition that had been filled with machines with blinky lights and scientific equipment of various sorts. They were surprised to find that Jack had built it himself, and they had financed the outfitting of the lab by the sale of their houses in Colorado Springs and Washington D.C. Their teammates were not surprised by what was displayed on the mantle of the fireplace in the living room, because they had seen them first when they had beamed in from Cam's command, The Hammond, along with both Vala and Cam, to celebrate New Years Eve. There in a silver frame and a dark cherry frame were two papers, each reluctantly granting a separation from the Air Force, one for Jack, and the other for Sam, each with a message added later in a familiar hand.

Now I can do the Air Force spouse thing, and have teas and play bridge, and volunteer, all to benefit your career! read Jack's.

It occurred to me that home is where you are, and I guess that means D.C. read Sam's.

Still, when he approached the mantle, Daniel peered at the framed papers again, and smiled.

"Have you ever read O. Henry's 'Gift of the Magi' Teal'c?"

"I have."

"I like this version. It has a happier ending."

"Indeed."

"Geographically speaking, I guess they agreed to meet in the middle."

"You say this each time."

"Oh. You may be right."

"I am," said Teal'c, and in that voice, no one could doubt it.

Comments

( 23 comments — Leave a comment )
sjhw_tolerance
Dec. 15th, 2011 12:41 pm (UTC)
While I always enjoy Advent, I am particularly enjoying this Advent season! What a great story and I am much relieved that it is a gift of the Magi in spirit only. Very nice story! I wonder how I missed this whole Advent thing, I might have been able to pull something off...

Thanks!
thothmes
Dec. 16th, 2011 04:53 am (UTC)
Thank you.

I was never too fond of the O. Henry story myself. I admired the tricksy ending, but found it utterly depressing and rather anti-Christmas.

And we certainly wouldn't mind extras if something happened to pop into your fron!
lolmac
Dec. 15th, 2011 01:19 pm (UTC)
Daawwwwww!!! And here I was braced for something lovable but stupid, and got squee instead! I never actually liked the original, because even in my tender youth I immediately observed that watches don't grow back.

The ending was sweet, but my favourite part is the marvelous clarity of the look ahead. And this line:

That really snowy winter not long after he'd started his stint at Homeworld had suckered him into believing that Washington really had winter. It was all a lie, a damn lie. And he was getting sick of Washington and its endless lies.
thothmes
Dec. 16th, 2011 04:56 am (UTC)
Oh, yeah. I disliked the original O. Henry story for exactly the same reason you did. I admired the tricksy ending in terms of authorial slight of hand, but didn't like the taste it left in the mouth.

I'd never choose to do that to people in an Advent calendar. It would be... Grinchy.

Thank you.
lolmac
Dec. 16th, 2011 05:00 am (UTC)
There's a wonderfully awful send-up of it in a collection titled "The Book of Sequels". In the O. Henry offering, titled "The Return of the Gift of the Magi", the man sells his hands to buy his wife a hat, and she sells her head to buy him a wristwatch.
thothmes
Dec. 16th, 2011 05:08 am (UTC)
It sounds cute, amusing, and almost as disturbing as the Japanese sci-fi story I read once where a man set out to eat himself, part by part, until only a set of clacking mechanical teeth remained.
lolmac
Dec. 16th, 2011 05:12 am (UTC)
Shades of Erysichthon!
thothmes
Dec. 16th, 2011 05:16 am (UTC)
Appropriate icon is Appropriate!
ardvari
Dec. 15th, 2011 05:45 pm (UTC)
"Yeah, but I'm your kinda weird. 'Night."

I can pleeze haz story like dis every day until Xmas and after, too, pleeze? *puppy eyes*

This was lovely. Lovelier than lovely. I like that they met in the middle and that the Stargate is public and... I like everything! :)
thothmes
Dec. 16th, 2011 04:59 am (UTC)
This was the story (of the two I did for this) that was the one I had to think about to get it to work, the other almost wrote itself, so I'm glad it works for you.

I'd love to spend the time between now and Christmas crankin' 'em out, but I think some of my family would get a little miffed if I didn't get around to some Christmas shopping in the very near future!
bluewillowtree
Dec. 15th, 2011 10:44 pm (UTC)
Oh, this is wonderful!

Also, I'm super impressed at your incredible fic-writing productivity! I'm having trouble coming up with even one idea, and you've written three just this week! Most awesome. Cheers!
thothmes
Dec. 15th, 2011 11:30 pm (UTC)
Now you know how I got through Bryn Mawr. The presence of a deadline has a powerful effect on my brain. Without one, it dithers and dallies, and procrastinates with the best worst of them.
amilyn
Dec. 15th, 2011 11:37 pm (UTC)
I LOVE the bit about it being a damned lie that DC has winter. And the various events conspiring to keep them each in DC/CO. And the LOVELY framed letters on the mantle. This is charming and lovely.
thothmes
Dec. 16th, 2011 05:04 am (UTC)
We live here in Vermont, and although it is currently and very unseasonably raining, pretty generally we get the classic white Christmas, and until global warming stuck its oar in, the build up to that started in November.

My grown daughter lives in Philly, and before my son graduated and moved in with her to share rent, he went to school just north of D.C. in Baltimore, and I have fielded many a phone call complaining of the bogus nature of winter that far south, so I know that D.C. winters have got to be lacking something for a Minnesota boy!

I'm glad you enjoyed this.
not_a_zatarc
Dec. 16th, 2011 03:39 am (UTC)
Very cute and just...YAY. :)
thothmes
Dec. 16th, 2011 05:05 am (UTC)
Thank You!
supplyship
Dec. 16th, 2011 06:09 pm (UTC)
Aw, so sweet! This is a future that I can totally see for them. *hearts*

"Yeah, but I'm your kinda weird. THIS!
thothmes
Dec. 17th, 2011 04:38 pm (UTC)
This is, of course, the future I hope they find for themselves.

I'm glad you enjoyed it.
rdamel
Dec. 17th, 2011 02:44 am (UTC)
Lovely, and once again, off to rec to friends!

Thanks for sharing with us all,
Melissa M.
thothmes
Dec. 17th, 2011 04:39 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
magickmoons
Dec. 26th, 2011 09:42 pm (UTC)
Awww, that was so cute and sweet. It gave me a holiday smile :)
thothmes
Jan. 17th, 2012 02:12 am (UTC)
So sorry to be soooo late to respond. How rude!

If it makes you feel any better (it shouldn't, because it was still rude) I was away on vacation and not keeping up with things, and then I got busy after getting back and forgot.

Anyway... Thank you so much, and I'm glad you enjoyed it. Making people smile is always a good feeling!
magickmoons
Jan. 18th, 2012 04:55 pm (UTC)
Don't fret. Vacation is a perfectly acceptable excuse for just about anything in my book! I hope you had a good one!
( 23 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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