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As promised, here is the shippier of my two offerings for this year's Advent Calendar on sj_everyday



Title: Secret Santa

Author: Thothmes

Season: Eight

Warnings: Okay, for you Pete haters: He is mentioned. He does not appear. It's safe. For those of you who have to research and find every weird thing you read about: No, these renditions of the first two Christmas songs do not exist [I hope!] and so far as I know the hats are not commercially available. We do have a pretty amusing family favorite Santa hat here where the trim around the brow which is traditionally white is holstein spotted, but it is utterly appropriate Vermont SantaWear.

Spoilers: Do you know Pete exists? No? Stop reading then... Oh... You may have a point there. Sorry!

Disclaimer: You know, oh individuals and corporations that actually own the intellectual property, you've been letting me fly off the radar for years now, because I am not profiting, and I put the characters back nicely when I am done playing. Don't I have some kind of adverse possession thing in place by now? Anyway, all I am doing is seeing Sam and Jack through a spot of loneliness, and sweetening their Christmas. Why would you want to discourage that?

And if all else fails... LOOK! OVER THERE! ON THE WEST COAST! A COPYRIGHT VIOLATION! QUICK!

[scurries quickly away]





Secret Santa



General Jack O'Neill had a lovingly curated grumpy old man persona, one that he had been crafting and perfecting for years, starting before he had either lines on his face or silver in his hair to support it. It was a barrier to hold the world at bay, a cover for moments of unseemly sentiment, and occasionally, very occasionally, it was an accurate reflection of his inner world. Today was one of those days.

He was sure that he had been around this monstrous mall five or six times already, searching in vain for inspiration to decide on the final present on his list. He had long ago decided on the little gift bags for all of the support staff in the Gateroom, with a little extra for Walter, who had gone the extra mile in making sure that Jack was well plied with coffee, and was well warned before a phone call came in to Jack's office that might require a modicum of tact. He had spoken with a helpful fellow down at the liquor store who found him some whiskey that was not cheap, but not too rich for Jack's pocketbook, which had been duly ordered, delivered, and gift-bagged for each of the senior officers and the department heads. He had a really special bottle of single malt Irish whiskey all wrapped and ready in his office for when George Hammond stopped by to exchange holiday greetings before heading off to his daughter's house for the holiday. He had gifts for Doc, and Cassie. He had taken care of gifts for two thirds of his former team, and he'd even found that the fabric store in the mall was making custom Santa hats, substituting patterned fleece of the buyer's choice in the place of the white brim on an ordinary hat. He'd chosen camels on a tan background for Daniel, Yoda with a lightsaber on black for Teal'c, and Earth's sun and planets on dark navy blue for Carter. He was sooooo close to being done, to being able to escape the hustle and bustle of the thronging and jostling crowd. Jack was a tactile man, but only if he himself was the initiator, and he was beginning to feel a little overwhelmed by all the inadvertant pokes and bumps, the people who stood too close, the careening escaped toddlers. And the music! Worse than that weird stuff the Gadmeer put out. In the last half hour alone there had been a particularly lugubrious rendition of The Carol of the Bells, a doggie choir of dubious pitch and tempo attempting We Three Kings to little avail, and a well executed version of Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel. That one Jack took exception to on principle. It irked him to be enjoined to “Rejoice!” in a minor key. There were prisons scattered all over the galaxy that he had been less eager to escape than this mall, but he needed a gift for Carter, and he needed it before he showed up at Daniel's door at 7:30 the next Saturday night. He was never going to find anything. He would not make it to Daniel's little SG-1 shindig, and the mall would have a new legend, a true legend, of the Shopping General, doomed to forever wander its linoleum floors and industrial carpeting, riding its elevators and escalators, searching, always searching for that perfect gift for his lovely subordinate.

It's not that he was totally without ideas. There were plenty of things that he considered. There was the book of funny captioned cat pictures. Carter liked cats, but that was a little too... arm's length. Jack was well aware of his habit of hiding behind humor, but this was taking it to extremes. The coffee table book on astronomy was better, but even he could see that it was inaccurate in places, and a little bit out of date. The butter soft riding leathers were too personal, particularly in that shade of red. He probably wasn't supposed to be able to pick out the right size to hug her form without binding, not now, with her dating the cop and all. The necklace with the pendant that looked like the one she'd admired on the chieftain's daughter on that planet with the weird pink and purple trees was inappropriate too, although one glimpse out of the corner of his eye in the window of the shop, and he could imagine the chain draping across her collarbones, and the pendant resting on the upper end of her sternum, the gold contrasting with her milky skin and it's subtle freckling.

Yep. There was a reason why, according to the teachings of the Church as explained by the comedian George Carlin “ 'Wanna!' is a sin in and of itself!” If he ever escaped the Mall, he was so going to Hell.

Jack stood for a moment at the window of The Book Nook, trying to decide what to do. A sixth circuit of the mall would be a true triumph of hope over experience, and Jack's hope was running out. A toddler, mistaking Jack's long blue-jeanned leg for the similarly covered leg of his daddy grabbed Jack from behind, and was lucky not to have been kicked off like a fly on the leg of a horse. As the kid's father bustled up apologetically to pry the boy off and assure him of his safety, in light of the strange and frowny man who was not his daddy at all, Jack, whose paycheck and coveted parking spot was based on his ability to make the right decisions in the right order, and quickly, finally made up his mind. Cat book it was. He was through with malls, through with people, and through with shopping. He was going to go home, haul his purchases into his house, and flop on to his couch and forget carols and crowds, Lt. Col's and cops, presents and parties, and lose himself in the world of televised sports and a longnecked cold one, straight from the fridge. Stick a fork in him, he was done.

The Lt. Col. was feeling a similar feeling of defeat and disgust as she stood in the liquor store. It was different this year. She needed to get something for the General before Daniel's get together, but it was changed this year from what it had been. She had admitted to herself, at last, that her appreciation of her commanding officer's long, lean form, his even features, his confidence, his courage, his compelling brown eyes, his energy and his boyish antics were probably never going to fade, but sitting around waiting for him to declare himself was a fool's game, and Jacob had raised no fools. She had Pete now, and her gift to the General should reflect that. A certificate for Yoga classes for Teal'c at the Mindfulness Center downtown so he could get a glimpse of how humans meditated without a symbiote. Tickets to Crystals of Mystery, an exhibit of all the known examples of crystal skulls when it came to Denver in February for Daniel, and then something appropriate to give the General. She struggled to come up with something better than this, but when she thought back over the gifts that Jacob had given and received back from his fellow officers, this was the only thing she could recall. A bottle of good scotch. Time honored. Traditional. Proper. Tasteful. And rather cruelly impersonal. Still, she could think of nothing better, so off to the liquor store she went. She would buy the best, and hope it was good enough.

As it turned out, the General almost didn't make it back in time to attend the party. SG-9, who had been sent off to finalize a treaty on a planet with abundant trinium which they were willing to trade for modern medicines and a cadre of medics to teach them how to best use them. SG-1 had been the first contact team, one of the last missions before Jack had looked again into that Ancient head-sucking light show device, and came back to himself to discover that they wanted him to be a general. The natives wanted the leader of that first team to come and seal the deal. The back and forth with the Pentagon about letting Jack go through the gate meant that by the time he got permission to go, it was going to be touch and go getting done and back in time for Daniel's thing. Daniel was pouty, Teal'c was – no surprise there! - stoic, and both Jack and Sam were secretly slightly relieved. It would be easier just to leave the gift on a desk and not wait around for the reaction.

The gate was already dialing as Jack, in his B.D.U.s with the black, embroidered star on the lapels, came out of his office on his way to the Gateroom. Rank had its privileges, and if he slipped into place at the base of the ramp just as the last chevron locked, there was no General looking down from the Control Room in disapproval. It was strange, and a little spooky to be going through the gate without his team, no Daniel to make nice with the natives, no Carter by his side, no Teal'c watching his back. At the last minute he had grabbed a small pocket knife out of his top desk drawer, a talisman for luck. Charlie had given it to him on Jack's first birthday after he got back from Iraq. “To help you stay safe,” he'd said. Jack hadn't taken it offworld before, but now, traveling without his team, the time seemed right.

As it turned out the signing went well, and the feasting afterwards was delightful, and since SG-9 had been eating the local chow for weeks now without any odd aging, unexpected aphrodisiacs, or more importantly, a bad case of the trots, Jack felt free to join in. At last, fat and happy, the men of the S.G.C. set off for the gate and home. On the way they passed an open air market, with stalls piled high with foodstuffs and trade goods, here and there wares were spread on blankets on the ground.

A stall selling the local shawls caught Jack's notice. The shawls were made from the wool of the local llama/alpaca creatures. The things had obviously mutated a bit since leaving Earth, because instead of having a fleece that hung down as expected, their wool was so light and fluffy that it looked to Jack like they were in permanent contact with one of those static electricity generator thingies that made your hair stand out in all directions, even if it was long. A Van Der Grab generator, or something. One particular shawl stood out to Jack's eye. It was a rich blue, just slightly darker than the blue of Carter's eyes, and spangled here and there with tiny glints of trinium. He knew without touching that it would be soft and light, fluffy and warm. The color, when Carter settled it on her shoulders on a cool winter night, would deepen the blue of her eyes. Jack could see it, just as clearly as if she were modeling the thing for him. This. This was the present he wanted to give her. He fingered it, wishing he had something to trade. It was just as soft and luxurious as he thought it would be. He had to have it, but how? Quashing the useless temptation to grab the thing and make a break for the gate (and wouldn't that do wonders for interplanetary relations!) Jack thrust his restless hands in his pockets, encountering his yo-yo in his right pocket, and in his left... He froze. Charlie's knife. The yo-yo wouldn't do, because the local kids already had something similar, which they passed from one end to the other of a string, pulling the string suddenly tight from time to time to launch it into the air and do tricks, but the pocketknife, that was something they didn't seem to have. Slowly, reluctantly, as if he were Gollum, and the knife his Precious, he drew it forth, and began to show it to the trader. He pulled out the knife, and showed that it was sharp. He showed the smaller knife, and pulled out the file, and showed what it could do on a fingernail. He showed off the tweezers and the toothpick, and then resheathed them in their little compartments. When the trader was as intrigued as he ever was going to be, Jack picked up the beautiful blue shawl, and held out the knife on his palm, and for a moment all was stillness, as Jack forced himself not to let his fingers curl around the little knife, to snatch it away. Then the stall owner reached out his hand and took the knife, nodding and pushing the shawl away. It was done.

A shawl wasn't too personal a gift for a General to give his female subordinate, not when they had served in a small unit for as long as they had, was it?

He forced himself not to look back.

Late that night, Sam should have been getting herself off to her bed, but she sat for a moment on the couch in her living room, thinking about the get together at Daniel's. It had been awkward for a bit at the start, everyone not wishing to start the festivities without Jack, but none of them sure whether he would be back in time, but about the time that Daniel was beginning to wonder how to keep the food in the oven warm without desiccating it, there was a knock on the door, and in came Jack, all bluster and buffoonery, with gifts in a bag, and three individualized Santa hats, which he insisted that they don. When Daniel complained that Jack needed one too, the General had made a business of going back to his coat, and fishing a red fuzzy baseball cap with a green brim, and crowned by a matching spherical green puff of fur on top. Curling the brim as lovingly and carefully as he did the brim of the green cap he wore in the field, he put it on his own head, and smirked triumphantly as Daniel demanded to know why he got one that was different.

“Because I'm the Man,” Jack replied.

He looked ridiculous, and he knew it, but among friends he didn't mind a bit.

Friends. That was what Sam was trying to be, with her gift of scotch, but it seemed so paltry and ill-chosen compared to that wonderful shawl. It was so warm, and soft, and light, like wearing a personal warming cloud. She tried not to remember again the moment he draped it around her shoulders, the gentle warmth of his eyes, the physical warmth of a thumb as he grazed her neck in passing. But she didn't want to forget. McKay had called her an artist once. Tonight she had felt like an automaton, proffering her stilted gift. It was the General who was the artist. Sam felt dumb, and she hated to feel dumb.

It was several days later that inspiration struck. Sam had a plan, and since Pete would not be getting into Colorado Springs until mid-morning on Christmas, and that was a few days, there would be plenty of time to do what she needed to do. This, she thought, was rather clever.

First she left a little early and purchased a gift. She had it wrapped there at the store, so there would be no tell-tales as to who had wrapped it. Then she spent a few hours at the range, mystifying the marine gunnery sergeant in charge there by shooting neither a gun nor a zat, but instead perfecting her aim with a pea shooter.

Christmas Eve found Jack alone at his house, in a melancholy mood. He would go in to the S.G.C. in the morning, and free Reynolds to go home to his family. He had no one to spend the holiday with. T was taking the time to see his son. Daniel was invited to Christmas dinner with one of his staff and her parents. Jack suspected that he woman had a crush on him, and that Daniel was clueless, but he was a big boy, and able to take care of himself. Carter had the cop, and... Well he, Jack, had a fine bottle of scotch, at least.

He toasted to irony, and leafed idly through the book of captioned cats on his coffee table, finding it less humorous than he had remembered.

His doorbell rang.

Hidden behind a bush, pea shooter in hand, Sam watched as the General opened the door, peered about for a moment, and seeing no one, picked up the gift, wrapped but unlabeled, on his doorstep. It had taken her three tries to hit the doorbell straight on and hard enough to make it ring. She wished he had opened the wrappings right there on his doorstep, but it was a cold night, and even a Minnesota boy like him would not want to linger there in his stocking feet. She straightened up, and pulling her Santa hat more firmly down on her head, she walked away to the end of the street, where her car was parked. It was done.

Settled once again on the couch, Jack looked the gift over. He consulted his watch. Just after midnight. His family had followed the tradition of each opening one present from under the tree after returning from midnight mass. He slipped one fingernail under a piece of tape, and slowly, to make the experience last, he removed the wrappings. A cardstock box. He lifted the lid, pulled out a gift receipt from an expensive men's shop in the Springs, and pulled back the tissue paper to reveal a charcoal sweater, cashmere, and almost as soft as the shawl he had given Carter, but not quite. It was of this earth, and not extraterrestrial. It was just his size. There were no other clues as to the giver, but that was okay. He'd gotten a glimpse of something moving in the bushes, just a glimpse, but that Santa hat was unique.

It was more than a decade later, at the end of an intimate and quiet Christmas day spent snowed in at their cabin in Minnesota when Sam took a good look at Jack as he was bending to put another log on the fire, and she didn't like what she saw.

“You know, Jack,” she said “I have always loved that old sweater on you. The color just suits you, and it's delightful to hug you and bury my nose in the softness, but it really is getting downright ratty. There are holes in the elbows, and bare patches, and that on the right side where you caught it on a nail. Time to get rid of it, and get a new one. I saw a cream one that looked nice in a shop window last month.”

“No!” said Jack, and then pouting like a four year old, “You can't have it!”

“But, Jack! It's ratty! We can afford a new one. Why keep this one when it's falling apart?”

“It gave me hope when I had none,” he said, and sat down beside her, gathering her in.

She felt the softness on her cheek, and smiled. She had not gotten to see him open it. She had not gotten to see his reaction to it as he did, but this was all the thanks she ever needed, or wanted, and more than she ever expected.



*********************************


A Merry Christmas to All! May you never be without the softness and the warmth you crave, and may we all be together again to enjoy the gifts of the season next year.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
nymaeria
Dec. 27th, 2014 02:44 pm (UTC)
Aww, this is adorable! Also the way you describe carters blue shawl makes me want one just like it, lol!
wanderingsmith
Dec. 29th, 2014 01:51 am (UTC)
but only if he himself was the initiator,
snort!

There were prisons scattered all over the galaxy that he had been less eager to escape than this mall,
lol. it's the fact that he doesn't even hesitate as he thinks that..

even he could see that it was inaccurate in places
oh DEAR!

He probably wasn't supposed to be able to pick out the right size to hug her form without binding,
umm...

A certificate for Yoga classes for Teal'c at the Mindfulness Center downtown so he could get a glimpse of how humans meditated without a symbiote
-snicker- I'm seeing an eyebrow fly up

Jack hadn't taken it offworld before, but now, traveling without his team, the time seemed right.
:( {hugs Jack}

Quashing the useless temptation to grab the thing and make a break for the gate (and wouldn't that do wonders for interplanetary relations!)
LMFAO!!! talk about legends being born....

Charlie's knife.
aw, Jack...:(

as if he were Gollum
:D

which he insisted that they don
don we now our gay attire? snort!!

perfecting her aim with a pea shooter
lol, crazy SG teams.... "Always be prepared!"

even a Minnesota boy like him would not want to linger there in his stocking feet
well.. maybe if you gave him incentive..

“It gave me hope when I had none,”
awww. glad carter finally gets to hug him. hard to believe, thinking back, that we actually got RST out of SG1...
( 2 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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