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This is the less shippy of my two offerings for the Advent Calendar over at sj_everyday, because it is in keeping with what is going on at this time in the arc of the show. I'm saving the more overtly shippy one for my Christmas Eve posting.

Title: Christmas Comes But Once A Year

Season: Any season when Carter is a major

Warnings: Look out for the icy patch!... Ooops! Sorry. Wrong holiday special. Oh, and as I mentioned above, this is team, with a bit of ship at the end. More shippy stuff to come on the 24th.

Disclaimer: Look, MGM, etc. It's Christmas, the season of good will and giving. Given that I am not profiting from your property, just playing with the characters for a bit, it would be really Grinchy of you to come after me for that.




Christmas Comes But Once A Year




The natives were restless, and SG-1 was on the run. This was a bit of a surprise, since the planet had previously been visited by another SG team without incident, and reported that the natives were friendly and welcoming. The footage of the ruins they had brought back had been the only thing that was problematic. The buildings near the gate were covered with inscriptions Daniel felt were likely to add greatly to his understanding of the history of the Ancients in our sector of the galaxy, but Lieutenant Ackerman had not had a steady enough hand for Daniel to read a few key sections, and so SG-1 had set off with the intention to use a tripod and get hi-res still photography of the key wall, and meet the natives. All very straight forward. They would be back in time for Christmas for sure, Hammond had assured them.

He had not counted on Jack O'Neill's own very Irish brand of luck, the kind that brought glory and deeds of renown with every new disaster. What had occurred to no one (And why should it?) was that the original team that had returned with the tales of the friendly natives were all dark eyed. The Goa'uld who had ruled the planet as recently as a generation ago did not. One look at Sam and Daniel's blue eyes, with Teal'c looming behind, gold tattoo on his forehead, and the locals took extreme exception to the presence of this group of people on their planet, nay indeed to their continued existence.

Fortunately for SG-1 they were all four of them fairly tall and in excellent shape. The natives were mostly pretty close to five feet, so before long, SG-1 had outrun them, and was looking for a place to spend the night. It was not getting any lighter, and a couple of attempts to circle back to the gate had run across patrols, and the gate was very well guarded. Jack decided that they should hole up for the night and see if the natives had lost interest by morning.

They passed up a couple of promising looking shallow caves, because Teal'c had seen evidence of disturbance by human feet in the recent past. No one wanted to settle down for the night in the first place the natives would think to look. They were armed with what appeared to be small bore muzzle loading firearms, and very recent history had proved that they felt SG-1 were worthy targets. It was providential that the local substitute for gun powder didn't quite have the same kick as the stuff SG-1 was using, and their hunting method was not based on waiting on the game trails, and not at exercising marksmanship on the run. SG-1 had not fired a shot in anger, beyond the initial few rounds, aimed more at the ground separating them from their pursuers, in order to buy time to escape. Still, if the natives surrounded them and could pick their targets, they would be sitting ducks.

It was Sam who found the cave where they finally spent the night. The entrance was four feet up, and almost too small to admit Teal'c's broad shoulders, but inside was dry and had space for the four of them. Best of all, if it was free of snakes, and there were no signs that any mammals had been denning there in the recent past. Once Teal'c was in and comfortable, Jack sent Daniel in, followed by Sam, and when they were safe he used his rock climbing skills to scale the rock face and then lower himself down into the opening foot first, rather than end up in and uncontrolled head first entry into an already crowded space.

Dinner was a fairly quick affair, and by general agreement it was decided that it was better to eat before they were hungry but while there was still a bit of light filtering down to the cave floor. There seemed to be very little use to set watches. If someone was coming in, whether native or animal, they would hear. The night stretched out before them, pitch dark, because they could not risk a light, and very, very boring.

Daniel, remembering his very brief history as a boy scout, suggested a few campfire songs. He could not see the withering look of incredulous disapproval on Jack's face at that, but his tone made it clear as day.

“Daniel! We're in hiding!” Jack hissed.

Before Daniel could apologize, Teal'c backed the Colonel up.

“That would not be wise.”

It was definitive.

They settled for talking quietly. Plans for the morning moved swiftly on to plans for Christmas. Daniel and Teal'c had planned to spend the day quietly together, experiencing a Christmas movie marathon. Teal'c had a surprising penchant for them, the schmaltzier the better. Sam had been planning a trip down to San Diego to spend the week with her brother's family, but unless a miracle happened, she would probably miss her commercial flight. Whether she could catch a military flight would depend on the traffic out of Peterson, but perhaps there would be something. Jack was... vague.

“Oh, I've got plans. Good food. Some 'nog. Plenty of relaxing.”

Things were quiet for a bit. Jack was wondering if he'd said too much or too little, and the others were wondering where to go from there. Characteristically, it was Daniel who wandered, with apparent innocence into harm's way.

“You are welcome to hang out with us,” he said, “But it's bring your own popcorn.”

“Thanks,” said Jack, and it took Daniel, bright as he was, a moment to realize that Jack had not said whether he would come.

There was another silence, and a small tussle while each of them tried to adjust to Jack's restless feet. His knee was not letting him forget the day's long run, and no matter how he positioned it, it was just not happy. Not that he was willing to mention it to the others. Better to annoy them with fidgeting than with whining.

Teal'c, a very patient man, had been kicked twice by O'Neill, and once each time by his other team mates as they tried to move out of his way, and was about to indicate his displeasure when Major Carter spoke up with rather determined optimism.

“So what was your favorite Christmas?”

She hadn't addressed anyone in particular, so there was a moment as the others decided if the question was addressed to them. Teal'c took advantage of the momentary confusion.

“Last year,” he said. “There was fruitcake. It was delicious.”

Stunned silence. O'Neill's dislike for fruitcake had been clearly and loudly expressed at the time. He maintained that fruitcake was intended to be given, but never consumed. Daniel Jackson saw little need to eat fruitcake when other delights involving chocolate were involved. He had overheard Major Carter tell Doctor Fraiser of the flu she had contracted one year in childhood immediately after having consumed a large quantity of the sweet. Teal'c had known the reaction he would get from his teammates.

He grinned into the concealing darkness.

Daniel spoke next.

“The year I was five, we were in Egypt for Christmas. The cooler months are best for excavating in the desert. It's when the heat is bearable. I was a little concerned about whether Santa would be able to find us so far from our home in New York, but my mother said he would have no problem, and I trusted her word. I asked for a camel that year, and I meant a real one. I thought it would be cool to be able to ride to the dig site on my camel instead of having to take a bumpy, uncomfortable, bone-bruising ride in a Land Rover every morning.

Santa came, and he brought real American chocolate bars, Cheerios, peanut butter, and an orange. Mom and Dad had coffee, pita, and hummus, while I had hot chocolate, made with goat's milk unfortunately, and I spread my pita with Skippy. It was a wonderful taste of home. It was cool still, at that hour, and I was tucked right in between them both in my pajamas, the footy kind.”

He fell into a reverie, remembering the moment.

“Did you get the camel?”

This was Sam.

“No. Not a real one. There was a kid's pith helmet, just like my parents', some books ordered from Blackwell's in England, and a stuffed camel.” Daniel's voice was soft with affection. “I still have him. It was one of the few things I got to keep, after...”

“Funny. Having asked the question, I guess I don't have a favorite Christmas, although the year I got Matt Mason was pretty exciting,” said Sam swiftly, not letting him dwell. “Got a really fancy chemistry set too one year, and I really hadn't expected my folks to spring for it. Mostly though, when I think of Christmas as a kid I think about getting ready for the holiday. My mom used to bake all kinds of cookies for the base cookie exchanges, and she would let me help. I remember how wonderful it made the house smell, and how patient she was...”

Jack just flat out lied. He wasn't going to speak about the wonder of seeing the joy in his kid's eyes when he opened the door one Christmas morning to find not a neighbor, or even Santa, but his Daddy, home on unexpected leave. He wasn't going to speak about how good it felt to relax into the couch in the Land of the Free, Sara leaning on one shoulder, Charlie in his lap, and just watch the lights on the tree in the dark living room. Priceless, precious moments, but forever his alone now.

“The year I was six, we'd just moved from Chicago to Minnesota, to be near my mom's folks. I had skates and a helmet, and I could play pond hockey with the other boys, but to play at the rink you needed all the rest of the gear, the pads, and the other stuff, and your folks had to pay for ice time, and it was pricey. I knew that my parents probably wouldn't want to pay for me to play on one of the travel teams, but I wanted to be able to play during the open stick times, so all I asked for that year was hockey gear. My mother made mention of the expense, so I was really counting on Santa to come through for me.

I had forgotten that all that gear was not about to fit in one little stocking. Santa brought me a fire truck, and a little police car just like the one my dad drove at work, but no hockey gear. And let's not forget the brand new toothbrush to clean up after my candy!

The big, hopeful looking box was a new terrycloth bathrobe.

My gran gave me a sweater. A demon knitter, my grandmother. Always looking for another reason to knit, and the sweater was an annual tradition. My Chicago grandparents sent me a watch and a penknife, and I got to hold the knife and play with it until it was time for mass. We were going to the morning mass instead of the midnight mass on Christmas eve, because my mother thought I was too little to stay up that late.

I tried not to be disappointed. I knew my dad had taken a pay cut moving from Chicago PD to the Minnesota State Police. I knew my parents were trying.

I sat through the mass, and I tried to look cheerful so I'd look like the other kids, but I just wanted to go home and mope.

After mass and all the exchange of pleasantries in the vestibule, we drove home, and when we pulled into the drive way, there was this big wrapped box on the porch.

'You were a brave boy, buddy' my dad said. 'You were polite with your thanks, even though you weren't very excited by the bathrobe. So your mom and I thought you should have a little something more for Christmas this year.'

It was my gear, with a promise to pay for my ice time to play during open stick, and a promise that if I still wanted to play the next year, I could try out for the travel team. I was one happy boy.”

Having ended on a cheerful note, no one wanted to discuss worst Christmasses, especially in view of the fact that other than Teal'c, who had found his first Tauri Christmas, spent on the base, to be quiet and boring, the rest of them would not want to share. The conversation moved on to favorite seasonal food and drink, and from then to rustling silence as each of them tried to find a comfortable sleeping position leaning back on the rough rock walls.

Daniel, who had spent countless hours asleep in library carrels, fell asleep first, gradually slumping down onto Teal'c's broad shoulder. Teal'c made note of it with that corner of his mind that maintained awareness of the world around him, so he could not be taken by surprise, but otherwise ignored the extra weight. If Sam's head rested on her commanding officer's shoulder, if that officer's arm came up to hold her close, well no one in the dark cave could see.

“Merry Christmas, sir!” she whispered softly, as the glowing hands of her watch let her know that in Cheyenne Mountain midnight had passed.

“Very merry, Carter!” he replied, and if he gave an affectionate squeeze, well only Sam knew, and she wasn't telling.




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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