Author’s Note: This was a Christmas gift for my friend, Christina, some years ago, and thus prominently features a pair of her OCs. If that’s not your cup of tea, I’d much rather you not read than read it and complain about her presence, a presence I’m darn proud of. Thanks to Debbie for planting the idea in my brain, the OC Challenge community on LiveJournal for giving me the excuse ;-), and Medie for long nights of hand-holding, especially where Charlotte was concerned! (Another note: this Bastet is not the Bastet from the series–Christina wrote her as a Tok’ra before the show made her a Goa’uld and this is set in the same AU.)
“Nervous?” Jacob asked as he pulled up to the curb in front of Sam’s house and glanced over at his passenger with a fond smile.
“Why should I be?” Charlotte replied crisply.
Liar, Bastet informed her pertly at the same time as Jacob pointed out:
“It’s Christmas. And you haven’t met Mark or his family, or the two newest members of SG-1. This isn’t just hanging out with Sam and the team–this is the official ‘meet the kids’ part of the relationship.”
He will not think less of you for admitting weakness–you know this, Bastet pointed out.
True. Jacob loved her unconditionally–something that Charlotte had to admit she was still not accustomed to. “Very well, then. I suppose I am…a little nervous. I am not good at socializing in such an informal setting.”
He gave her a warm smile and leaned in to offer an equally tender kiss. “Just relax and be yourself. You’ll do fine.”
Charlotte pulled back and gave him a relaxed, genuine smile that only appeared when they were alone together. “Relax and be myself?” Her voice changed as Bastet took over, determined to get her say in: “You do realize you’re asking the impossible?”
He laughed. “Well, it was worth a try.”
Two years ago, Selmak would probably have had a thought or two on the matter to contribute as well, but Selmak was gone and all three of them still felt the loss keenly. Charlotte’s heart contracted painfully as it hit her, not for the first time, how close they’d come to not having this moment at all. She felt an echoing wave of sadness from her symbiote. If they had not been able to persuade Jacob to let them handle the situation with the Replicators on Dakara, she knew she and Bastet would be mourning both their lovers, not just Selmak.
Sam knew it too, and Charlotte suspected this “family Christmas” was her way of apologizing for the bad blood that had arisen briefly between them over that choice. Once she’d understood that Charlotte and Bastet’s “butting in” had saved her father’s life, she’d apologized whole-heartedly, but things had nevertheless been tense between them. Now that Jacob had decided to come back to Earth to live, though, and Charlotte and Bastet with him, Sam was determined to mend fences and while her pride was still injured, Charlotte hoped she was gracious enough to accept the offer of peace even without any symbiotic prompting.
Would I do that? the Tok’ra asked innocently.
Yes, Charlotte retorted with undisguised affection. After all, it was impossible to be formal with the creature who shared her body and her thoughts. Just as you ‘encouraged’ me to act on our feelings for Jacob, despite the ‘inappropriateness’ of our age difference.
The symbiote fell quiet, but Charlotte thought she could hear her silently laughing in the back of her mind.
“I do not…I don’t wish to make a negative impression upon your son and his family,” she confessed.
Jacob gently touched the side of her face and murmured, “You let me worry about that, okay? Just enjoy yourself.”
She took a deep breath and nodded, indicating she was ready to go inside.
“I just…doesn’t it bother you?” Mark asked as he carefully unwrapped the Honeybaked ham that he and Helen had brought. “From the pictures you sent, she’s younger than both of us, Sam.”
Sam sighed and set down the spoon she’d been using to scoop scalloped potatoes out of the catering container and into a casserole dish. She’d wondered why Mark had been so insistent on helping with the food: now she knew. “It’s hard to explain, but Dad and Charlotte have been through a lot together.” She saved his life, she didn’t add. As far as Mark knew, their father had met Charlotte in a cancer support group while they were both undergoing treatment. It was a lot less complicated than the truth, except for when everyone in the house knew the truth but Mark and his family.
“And that’s all you can tell me,” Mark guessed, giving her a rueful look. “I’m sorry, Sam, but it’s not easy when your whole family’s whole life is classified and you’re not in on the big secret.”
Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea, Sam reflected with a sigh. But after the past couple of years…so much had happened that she’d needed her whole family here for Christmas this year. And whether Mark liked it or not, her family included her team. “I know, Mark, and I’m sorry, but…”
But what? It wasn’t like she could just use the excuse that she’d learned her lesson with Pete. She’d gotten him clearance because at the time she’d been convinced she wanted to spend the rest of her life with him, and then forever had fallen through. But Mark was different–he was her brother, he was part of her life forever no matter what. Maybe she just needed a part of her life that wasn’t tied up in the Stargate program. Something normal: and Mark was pretty much all that was left that could qualify.
“But that’s the way it is,” he stated, resigned. “Sorry, Sam, it’s just that when Dad said he wanted to be part of our lives again…” This with a sweeping wave meant to include Helen and the kids. “…this isn’t quite what I had in mind.”
Sam was almost relieved when the doorbell rang before she had a chance to answer, since she didn’t really have an answer for that. She glanced at the clock. “Damn, that’s them. Can you stick this in the oven to keep it warm until everyone else gets here?”
“Are you sure it’s Dad?” Mark asked.
She looked at him. “Have you ever known him to be anything less than strictly punctual?”
He shook his head, but there was no bitterness in his reply. “You two and your military training. Can’t even leave it at work over the holidays, can you?”
She flashed him a lopsided smile and dropped her oven mits on the counter, hurrying to the door. On the way she found herself cataloguing everything as she passed: tree up, lit, and decorated, table set, lights and mistletoe hung. God, she felt so weirdly domestic, trying to make a good impression as if she too were meeting Charlotte for the first time.
Taking a deep breath, she opened the door.
“Well, it’s about time,” Dad teased, a broad smile covering his face, as he pulled her into a hug. “Merry Christmas, Sam.”
“Merry Christmas, Dad.” If she held on a little tighter than was strictly proper for a woman of almost forty, well, she’d almost lost him twice in the past two years–once when Selmak died, and once to the Ori plague.
Charlotte was standing stiffly next to him, a large wicker basket full of gifts in her gloved hands. Sam glanced at her, not entirely sure what to do, but Charlotte handed the basket to Jacob and awkwardly offered a hug of her own. Her almost-daughter-in-law didn’t turn it down: she knew just how much prompting from Bastet even that small act probably took and wasn’t about to make her regret it.
“Come on in,” she stated with a welcoming smile after stepping back. “Mark and Helen are already here and everyone else is on their way.”
“Oh, Holy Niiiiiiiiiiiiight, the stars are brightly shiiiiiiiining. It is the niiiiiiiiiiiight of the deeeeeeeeear savior’s birrrrrrrrrrth.”
“Daniel, stop him. Please,” Vala asked in a surprisingly meek voice from the back seat.
“Aw, c’mon,” Cam protested before Daniel could get a word in edgewise. “It’s Christmas. Half the fun of Christmas is singing Christmas Carols. ‘O Holy Night’ was one of my Gramma’s favorites.”
“Hey, you didn’t complain when I turned the radio on,” he pointed out.
“That’s because unlike you, the people on the radio can actually carry a tune,” Daniel suggested.
“Well, yes, that’s certainly not helpful,” Vala agreed. She made a face. “But to tell the truth, I’d rather it were one of those songs about reindeers–whatever they are–or fat men in red suits or jiggling bells in the snow. These are hitting a bit too close to home, if you must know.”
The two men looked at each other, suddenly uncomfortable.
“Why exactly do your people still celebrate this holiday, anyway?” she asked next. “I mean, not that I’m not all for any celebration that involves the receiving of gifts, but really, what’s so extraordinary about this Jesus fellow? If all it takes to have your birthday celebrated for two thousand years is being born without a father, you’re all quite welcome to shower me with presents again on Adria’s birthday. Provided, of course, that we can persuade her not to conquer the universe and turn it into some sort of all-day-prostration thing rather than the traditional gift-giving orgy.”
A shell-shocked silence descended on the vehicle for a moment before Cameron finally turned to Daniel. “You invited her, Jackson.”
The archaeologist turned slightly green. “Ah…”
“Tell you what,” Cam suggested. “Ask Teal’c.”
“Is this a traditional Jaffa holiday as well?” Vala piped up, suddenly interested. “I certainly don’t recall it from my time as host to Qetesh.”
Daniel dropped his face into his hands and groaned. “If we get through this night without the SGC’s cover being completely blown to Sam’s brother, it’ll be a miracle. Landry’s going to kill me if Jack doesn’t beat him to it.”
Mitchell just shrugged and took a deep breath. “Grandma got run over by a reindeeeeeeeeer…”
About ten minutes and four off-key non-religious Christmas carols later, they finally pulled up in front of Sam’s house. A bit of haggling of who got to carry what ensued, but was sorted out by the time Sam opened the door and stepped outside to see what was taking so long.
“Come on, guys, it’s freezing out here!” she shouted playfully at them.
She wasn’t exaggerating: Colorado Springs had thoughtfully provided a full-blown White Christmas. Snow covered the yard and there was already a lopsided snowman waving a twig hand at them from beside the front walk. They tramped up to the door and Vala proudly handed Sam a square cardboard box. “One traditional holiday dessert, as requested. I believe they said the flavor is ‘pumpkin.'”
“Thanks,” Sam smiled dubiously at the pie, although the words “Marie Callendar’s” printed on the side of the box were reassuring. “Come on in.”
While they removed coats and snowy boots, she made introductions: “Daniel, you already know everyone…”
He nodded, setting down the basket full of packages and shaking hands with Mark while Sam pointed around the room. “Cameron Mitchell, Vala Mal Doran, my father Jacob Carter, my brother Mark, his wife Helen, their kids, Alex and Olivia, and Charlotte Rameses.”
Cameron noticed that the woman Sam had introduced as Charlotte seemed stiff as a board until Jacob touched her arm, then seemed to relax a little. Ah ha, so this was the Tok’ra that Sam had told him about–the one who had saved Jacob’s life during the last battle with the Replicators by forcing him to give up Selmak before the symbiote’s slow death could poison him as well. He deliberately offered her his hand first. “Always a pleasure.”
Charlotte took it, looking a little surprised. “Thank you. I am likewise pleased to meet all of you.”
Jacob’s eyes narrowed and a smile crept over his face that made Cam more than a little nervous. “So you’re Lieutenant Colonel Mitchell, are you?” He offered a hand and Mitchell took it. “What exactly are your intentions towards my daughter?”
“Dad!” Sam exclaimed, horrified.
Well, hell, he should’ve seen that coming. He all but snapped to attention, fighting the instinct to salute. “Entirely honorable, Sir, unless she wants it otherwise.”
Sam buried her face in her hands, but Jacob laughed aloud. “Honest–I like that.”
“Well!” Vala exclaimed, clapping her hands together. “Now that all the necessary pleasantries are out of the way, where are my gifts?”
Mark laughed. “She’s as bad as the kids.”
Daniel sighed, but the look he shot Vala was fonder than he probably realized. “Tell me about it.”
Sam fought a smile. “General O’Neill is picking Cassie up at the airport–his flight got in an hour before hers–so we’re just waiting on them. Why doesn’t everyone go ahead on into the living room?”
“Can I play elf this year, Aunt Sam?” Olivia piped up eagerly.
“Sure, only…” she glanced over at the rest of SG-1–minus Teal’c, who had politely declined in favor of spending time with Ry’ac and Ca’ryn. “…why don’t you play Santa, and let Vala be the elf? This is her first Christmas, after all.”
“I can be an elf!” Vala announced proudly. “What do I have to do?”
“First Christmas?” Mark asked, casting a puzzled glance in his sister’s direction.
“Ah, Vala was raised in, um…” Daniel started to fumble out an explanation.
“–a cult,” she interrupted, schooling her features into a stern frown. “Dreadful, really. All thouse hours of prostration, never a party in sight. The cult leader took a disliking to me, had me drugged and made to sleep for a hundred years. Daniel here came and woke me with a kiss–”
Cameron nudged her from behind. “Vala, they’ve all read Sleeping Beauty. And Snow White.”
She frowned. “Oh. Damn.”
Olivia giggled, while Alex rolled his eyes, being all of a mature twelve. “That’s dumb. Fairy tales don’t happen in real life.”
“Oh, don’t they?” Vala retorted with a wicked smile. “Remind me sometime to tell you the story about the time I–”
“Some other time,” Daniel interrupted, grabbing her by the elbow and steering her towards the living room. They could see him lean in close to whisper something to her: probably reminding her of the meaning of the word secret.
“Sounds like that one has quite an imagination,” Helen stated with a smile as she watched her two offspring promptly attach themselves to Vala’s side.
Cameron shrugged, glancing over at Sam and winking. “Second childhood.”
Charlotte looked up from the pie she had offered to help serve as Sam appeared in the kitchen doorway with several dirty plates in her hands, smiling.
“How are you holding up?” Sam asked.
“I am…I’m…doing my best to relax as Jacob asked,” she answered, a little less stiffly than usual. “It does take some getting used to. We did not celebrate Christmas much when I was a child–too often, it fell during the Holy Month of Ramadan, and my father would not tolerate any of us breaking the fast for a Christian holiday. He did not want it to appear as though he had ceased to be a good Muslim when he married a Christian woman.”
Sam blinked, surprised and warmed by Charlotte’s unusually candid words. “That must’ve been…difficult.”
“Only when we were in America,” the other woman admitted. “When we were at home in Egypt, everyone else was keeping Ramadan as well, so there was feasting every night instead of the one day. Still…” she met Sam’s eyes hesitantly, with an awkward smile. “…it took me many years to realize that I did not have to be everything my father wished me to be. Since then I have discovered I have a…greater affinity for my mother’s faith.”
Sam almost laughed, glancing back towards where Dad currently had Olivia balanced on one knee, carrying on an animated conversation with Daniel. “Yeah, I know the feeling.” It was a strange place to find common ground with her father’s chosen mate, but in a way that made it oddly appropriate too. She lowered her voice, so that there was no chance of Mark overhearing what she had to say: “Dad was…different before Selmak–their blending taught him a lot. I’m glad he didn’t lose that, when…”
Charlotte lifted her chin proudly, looking every inch the Egyptian goddess that her body housed. “Bastet and I would not have let him dishonor Selmak’s memory so, even if he had wished to. They–Bastet, your father and Selmak–taught me a great deal too.”
Sam’s gut tightened for a moment. Blinking back tears, she stepped the rest of the way into the room, setting the plates she carried carefully in the sink before turning back to Charlotte. “By the way…I don’t know if I ever thanked you. Both of you, for helping us on Dakara.” She still carried the shame of the way she’d treated them both before Jacob had bluntly informed her that Selmak was dead, and he would be too if Charlotte and Bastet hadn’t insisted on taking his place.
“You don’t owe us anything.” It was Charlotte’s voice, but the sentiment came from both of them, as evidenced by the lack of hesitation before the contraction.
“I owe you my father’s life,” Sam corrected gently. “That’s something to me.” Taking a chance, she stepped forward and pulled the surprised Egyptian into a tight hug. “So…it may be a few years late, but welcome to the family.”
Touched beyond words, Charlotte uncoiled enough to return the embrace, something she might never have been able to do before Bastet, before Jacob and Selmak and all of these people came into her life. She realized that they had saved it in more ways than one. “Thank you, Sam. That means a great deal to me, too.”
The doorbell rang and Sam pulled back. “That’s General O’Neill with Cassie. Would you mind terribly taking that–” She pointed towards the pie. “–out to the living room while I get the door?”
“Not at all,” Charlotte conceded with a small, private smile that acknowledged, at least to herself, just how much she’d changed. A few years ago, such a request would have insulted her–preparing and presenting food was servants’ work. Yes, Bastet had taught her much.
We have taught each other, the symbiote answered affectionately as Charlotte set the plates of pie carefully on a tray and headed back in to where her…family waited.
“So, are we all here?” Jack asked, stomping snow off his boots while Sam hugged Cassie.
“Everyone who’s coming,” she answered. “Which is good, because I think Daniel was about to start tearing his hair out–or someone else’s–if Vala asked one more time when she could start opening her gifts.”
Cassie peeked into the living room before stepping back over to the coatrack and divesting herself of her coat. “What about Teal’c and Jonas?”
“Teal’c decided to take advantage of the time off to visit his family, and Jonas…” Sam swallowed a painful knot in her throat. They hadn’t heard from Jonas since Langera had fallen to the Ori. One of her most fervent Christmas wishes was that he was still alive somehow, maybe heading up a resistance movement.
Cassie’s face sobered instantly. “Oh. I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay.” She forced a smile onto her face. “Come on. Everyone’s in the living room. You arrived just in time for the pie.”
“Pie?” Jack asked, visibly perking up.
“It was either serve dessert first and keep Vala distracted, or run the risk of her deciding to regale us all with her life story,” Sam revealed with a grin, a genuine one this time. “Considering Mark and Helen and the kids aren’t cleared to know her life story–”
“Pie is always a good alternative.” He nodded. “Or cake. Cake works too.”
Still smiling, Sam led them into the living room, where hugs, handshakes and introductions were exchanged while Vala–eagerly embracing her designated role as elf–cheerfully arranged all of the gifts Jack and Cassie had brought with the others under the tree.
“Just remember, you’re supposed to pass them out to whoever’s name is on the tag,” Daniel stated pointedly. “Not hoard them all for yourself.”
Vala stuck out her tongue. “Spoilsport.” She leaned over and stage-whispered to Olivia. “Tell you what, what say you and I make a run for it? We can divvy up the loot, sixty-forty, once we’ve made a clean getaway.”
“Fifty-fifty or no deal,” Olivia shot back, much to Sam’s surprise.
Vala made a face and sent the little girl off into another fit of giggles. Alex rolled his eyes, and Sam fought a smile. He was trying to act grown-up and disinterested, but she could tell he was insanely jealous of Santa and her elf.
With exaggerated sighs and mock reluctance, the pair were finally persuaded to start passing out gifts. Surprisingly, it didn’t take long for Vala to get so caught up in the fun of identifying and distributing each gift that her own small pile remained untouched for a little while. When she finally did dig into it, she went straight for Daniel’s package, tearing the paper off eagerly only to have her expression slide into a puzzled frown when it fell away to reveal a book. “Daniel? What’s this?”
Daniel leaned forward. “It’s a book of Greek mythology.”
“But darling, you forget I met–”
He interrupted her by clearing his throat, before she could yet again try to blow their cover. “Just…trust me. Turn to page 98.”
“What’s on page 98?” She asked, eyes narrowing in suspicion.
“The myth of Prometheus…and a surprise.”
Vala’s eyes widened at the word ‘Prometheus’ and Sam had to fight to keep her expression neutral as regret knotted her insides. Quickly turning the pages, the alien woman might have missed the story if a photograph hadn’t fallen out when she reached it. Picking it up, Vala stared at it, speechless for probably the first time since they’d met her. “Oh. Oh Daniel…”
Sam knew what was between the pages–she’d helped Daniel track down an artist with the skill and clearance to make it, half out of friendship, half out of guilt, because it was her fault, really, that he’d had to settle for a painting. Her fault that some of the best men and women at the SGC were now dead.
“Can I ask what it is?” Mark spoke dryly. “Or is that classified?”
“It’s a painting of the place where we met,” Daniel stated, looking back at Vala. “And it’ll be hanging over your bed when you get home tonight.” He leaned closer and whispered, “You won’t have to steal it this time.”
She grinned broadly and threw both arms around him for a moment before pulling back and exclaiming, “What’s this ‘mistletoe’ look like, so I can drag him under it? Or am I allowed to kiss him without it?”
Daniel turned about seven different shades of red. “Vala!”
Vala smiled sweetly. “Shut up, Daniel. You love me and you know it.” Then, before he could protest, she silenced him with a kiss.
Olivia let out a piercing shriek. “Oh, Aunt Sam, thank you! That is so cool!” She flung herself into Sam’s arms, while Alex stared in undisguised envy at the “working rocket ship” sitting in the wreckage of wrapping paper.
“Hey, that’s not fair!” he exclaimed. “Why didn’t I get anything cool like that?”
“Because,” Sam informed him with a pert smile. “Olivia didn’t write at the top of her Christmas list that she was too old for toys.”
Alex looked properly chastized. “Oh. Well…can I play with it too?”
“I’d say that’s up to Olivia,” Helen stated wisely.
Olivia studied her brother for a moment with a suspicious frown before finally shrugging and declaring, “Okay!”
“Yes!” Alex pumped his fist in the air and impulsively hugged his sister. Sam swallowed hard, offering Mark a weak but genuine smile when he briefly caught her eye.
Around them, the party went on. Vala was still cheerfully passing out gifts, only now she had a cheap rhinestone tiara perched on her head, a beauty-pageant number that was a gift from Cam. Apparently it bore some resemblance to one of the jewels they’d found at Avalon (the sale of which had kept the SGC afloat until Washington was finally forced to admit that the Ori were a real threat, after the plague). Jack disappeared happily into the kitchen to fill his brand new Homer Simpson mug with the donut handle–a gift from Cassie–with coffee.
The two kids immediately plopped themselves down with the rocket and began removing it from the box. Cameron nudged Sam from behind. “Hey. You ever gonna open that?”
She flushed a little, then stuck her tongue out at him and ripped the paper off the small package in her hands. As she’d suspected from the size, it appeared to be a necklace box. Sam could feel her breath trying to catch in her throat, and she hadn’t even opened it yet–Cam had bought her jewelry. Hands shaking in spite of herself, she opened it and gasped. “Oh, God, Cam, that’s beautiful…”
It was beautiful: A simple gold chain with a diamond solitaire hanging from it…but not just any diamond. No, this one had been painstakingly cut into the shape of a five-pointed star.
“Here,” Cam leaned forward, his breath husky in her ear. “Let me help you with that.”
Sam handed him the box and watched as he carefully removed the necklace, draping it around her neck and letting his fingers brush over her skin as he fastened the clasp. She closed her eyes, suddenly tempted to throw everyone out so she could respond properly to what those feather-light touches were making her feel, but no. Not in front of Dad. Instead she gave him a quick, chaste kiss and whispered, “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. Merry Christmas.”
Across the room, Daniel tore open the box on his lap and immediately exclaimed, “Jack!”
Jack reappeared in the doorway from the kitchen, looking so innocent it was almost a surprise not to see a halo hanging over his head. “Yes, Daniel?”
The archaeologist scowled–although there was a smile trying to creep through it–and held up the gift he’d just opened. Every single member, past and present, of SG-1 started to snicker: it was a first aid kit. “What do you call this?” he demanded.
“An absolute necessity, knowing you,” Jack shot back, shoving one hand in his pocket with a grin while the other lifted Homer to his lips to take a sip.
“He’s got you there, Jackson,” Cam put in with a grin.
Daniel sighed. “The book was very thoughtful. This–”
“Will be going on every mission from this point on, Sir,” Mitchell interrupted, still grinning.
Jack waved a finger at him. “See, I knew there was a reason I liked you.”
Mark leaned over towards Sam. “I thought you did deep space radar telemetry. Who gets injured doing that?”
She gave him a sheepish smile and a shrug. “Daniel.”
“So that’s it, then?” Vala asked, clearly disappointed even though her stack of presents was pretty impressive. “No more gifts?”
“I still have one left,” Cam answered, waving a slim package before winking in Sam’s direction. “Saved the best for last.”
“So open it already,” she answered cheekily, but one hand drifted up to touch the necklace hanging at her throat.
He grinned and ripped the paper off eagerly, letting out a loud whoop when it fell away to reveal a slim, black plastic case with a colorful slipcover. “Excellent! That is awesome–just what I wanted.” He leaned over to give Sam a quick kiss.
“What is it?” Daniel asked, curiously.
Mitchell grinned and chucked it at him. “‘Kill All Humans’?” Daniel read aloud with more than a touch of incredulity in his voice.
“Hey, know your enemy.” Cam shrugged, still grinning like a madman.
Daniel chucked the video game back with a shake of his head. “Being an overgrown twelve-year-old seems to be a job requirement,” he remarked dryly.
“Hey!” Jack stated sharply from the doorway. “I resemble that.”
“I have one more too,” Jacob interjected. “Or rather…Charlotte does.”
Charlotte twisted around to look at him. “What?” She’d been quiet for most of the gift exchange, except for polite thank yous as she unwrapped each of hers.
He ran a hand through her hair with a tender smile on his face. “Don’t tell me you weren’t expecting anything from me.” Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a small, black velvet box. “Merry Christmas.”
Charlotte gasped, and Sam found herself holding her own breath.
Sure enough, her father went down on one knee. Sam deliberately didn’t look at Mark–she didn’t want to know if he didn’t approve. Pretty much all her own doubts about Charlotte had been resolutely laid to rest over the past few years, and she was not going to begrudge them any happiness.
“I know it’s not the way we’ve ever done things…” he started, taking Charlotte’s hand in his own, and Sam had a feeling that “we” wasn’t just referring to the two of them, but the Tok’ra in general. He opened the box and pulled out the ring–a perfect round-cut diamond with several smaller stones on either side of the platinum band. “..but maybe it’s time that changed. Will you marry me?”
Charlotte was shaking. She bowed her head for a moment–probably to hide tears that she’d been taught all her life never to show–but resolutely raised it again a heartbeat later, and when she said, “Yes,” her voice didn’t have to change for it to be obvious for everyone involved with the SGC that it wasn’t just her answering, it was Bastet too.
“I was thinking…” Mark commented as he followed Sam once again into the kitchen a few minutes later, no doubt as prelude to another serious conversation. She smiled wryly–had her brother always been this predictable?
He set down the stack of salad plates and glanced towards the dining room. “I haven’t seen Dad smile like that since the first time he met Olivia and Alex.”
She sighed, sensing where he was going with this. “Charlotte’s been good for him, Mark. It may not seem like it, because she’s not very comfortable around strangers, but–”
He held up a staying hand. “No…I get it. I think I finally do.” There was a pause before he admitted, “Not that it won’t still take some getting used to, but if he’s happy…I’m happy. It took a few years, but I can finally say that and mean it.”
Impulsively, Sam hugged him. “As happy as I am to hear that…I’m really not the one you should be telling. Dad and Charlotte–”
“I know,” Mark interrupted. “I will. Promise.”
The doorbell rang then, but before Sam could turn to grab it, she heard Cassie holler, “I’ve got it! It’s probably carolers, like last year.”
Sam chuckled. “Let’s just hope these can sing,” she muttered under her breath, giving her brother’s arm another affectionate squeeze. He returned the smile. “Seriously, the carolers we got last year–”
Her story was interrupted by a shriek coming from the direction of the front door. “Sam!” Cassie yelled. “Daniel, Jack, come quick!”
Panic rising in her throat, Sam bolted out of the kitchen. Cassie had sounded more excited than frightened, but still…even if she didn’t care so much about the girl herself, Sam knew Janet would come back from the dead to kill her if she let anything happen to her daughter.
She almost collided with the rest of SG-1–past and present–as they came tearing out of the dining room. They arrived to find Cassie enthusiastically hugging a man almost completely dwarfed in a winter coat that was at least two sizes too big–in fact, it looked like one of Teal’c’s–with a fur-lined hood that completely concealed whatever of him might have been seen around his armful of college student.
Cassandra let go suddenly, stepping aside so they all could tell who she’d been clinging to, and Sam’s heart almost stopped at the sight of a familiar smile she’d never expected to see again. “Oh my God…Jonas?”
Suddenly she was the one hugging him. “Oh my God. We thought you were dead–we hadn’t heard from you since…” She trailed off, partly because her throat had closed but mostly because she couldn’t finish that sentence. Not in front of her brother.
“Who’s Jonas?” she heard Vala stage whisper to Daniel. “And how can I get to know him better?”
“He’s a friend. From, ah…Northern Ireland. He worked with Sam, Jack and Murray for a year before going home. Last we heard, he’d been caught in a war zone.”
So either Mark, Helen, the kids or all of the above were in the room, Sam deduced. She let go and just looked at Jonas. He was thinner than she remembered, a little harder too–a little more of his youthful enthusiasm had been burned away, although she could still see hints of it in his eyes. He looked awful…he looked wonderful. “How did you get out?”
“It’s a long story,” Jonas answered, assuming a rather bad Irish accent with a conspiratorial wink. “I’m sorry I didn’t contact you earlier.”
“That’s okay. I’m just…God, I’m just glad you’re alive.” She hugged him again before pulling back to make introductions. “You already know General O’Neill, Cassie, Daniel, Dad and Charlotte. This is my brother, Mark, and his family, and this is Cameron Mitchell and Vala Mal Doran, the newest members of our team.”
“Charmed, I’m sure,” Vala stated with a grin, directing a sly look in Daniel’s direction. Right on cue, his hand tightened on her arm. Sam would have laughed out loud if she hadn’t been so choked up.
Cam stepped forward, holding out a hand. “Good to actually have a chance to meet you–I wasn’t sure we were going to.” Sam half expected him to make some sort of macho territorial gesture like wrapping an arm around her waist or something, and for a second he looked like he was considering it, but he didn’t.
“Likewise,” Jonas agreed with an open smile. “Stepping into Colonel O’Neill’s shoes–that takes a brave man.”
“That’s General O’Neill now,” Jack put in mockingly, also offering Jonas his hand. “And I think I’ve just been insulted.”
The Kelownan grinned, and there was a warmth in his eyes similar to the hero worship he’d once regarded the other man with, only more…grown-up for lack of a better word. “Never, Sir. How’d you let them chain you to a desk?”
“Daniel’s fault. He planted the idea in my head that a general can do whatever he wants, and by the time I figured out it was a crock, it was too late.” He shrugged.
“Don’t listen to him. He’s done a world of good for the project, he’s just uncharacteristically modest about it,” Jacob interrupted, elbowing past to give the young man a hug too. “Jonas. Good to know you’re all right.”
“I hope I’m not interrupting anything,” he stated apologetically, looking around and noticing for the first time just how many people there were.
“No,” Sam shook her head. “You’re just in time for Christmas Dinner.”
By the time they decided to leave, Charlotte was more than ready–as pleasant as the gathering had been, and as happy as she was, she was tired. Right now, the best Christmas gift of all would be a warm fire and a chance to curl up with Jacob in front of it, possibly with a couple of glasses of wine to toast their engagement.
Sam stood by the door to see everyone off, and with only a little prompting needed from her symbiote, Charlotte offered her a warm hug. “Thank you for including me.”
“You’re family,” Sam said simply, returning the hug.
Mitchell had already turned down a drive home from Daniel, who was taking Vala and Jonas back to the base before heading home himself. Or so he said, anyway–even Charlotte had a suspicion that would change once he had time to think about the prospect of Vala being left alone at the mountain with no one but the unsuspecting Jonas for company. No, before the night was over, Vala would probably wind up going home with Daniel, and one more Christmas wish would be granted.
Jacob held out his hand to Mitchell. “Well, you’re not Jack O’Neill, so that’s something.”
Jack, who was standing on the other side of the door helping Cassie on with her coat, turned back sputtering. “Excuse me?”
Jacob grinned. “Don’t get me wrong, Jack, I like you. But if you had any designs on my daughter, I’d kill you. You’re too much like me.”
That made everyone laugh.
“Glad you approve, Sir,” Cameron accepted the offered hand with a smile.
“Oh, I didn’t say that,” Jacob corrected with a grin. “I’m still deciding. But if you break her heart, I won’t have to kill you.” He gestured around the room to take in all the other men: Jack, Daniel, Jonas, Mark, even the absent Teal’c. “I’ll just get them to do it for me.”
Cam smiled sheepishly back. “Fair enough. Merry Christmas, Sir.”
Hugs and goodbyes were exchanged all around, then one by one the guests trickled out.
“So,” Jacob stated as he closed the car door and turned to smile at his fiancee. Fiancee–that thought still sent Charlotte higher than dignity should have allowed. “You survived.”
“I did,” she agreed, leaning in to give him a kiss. “Thanks to you. I have to ask, though…is Christmas with your family always so…eventful?”
He laughed, brushing a lock of hair back behind her ear. “No. This was definitely the exception. That kind of eventful I can handle, though.”
She nodded in agreement, covering her left hand with her right and feeling a thrill shoot through her at the feel of the warm metal and cool diamonds beneath her fingers. “It seems this truly is a season for wishes coming true,” Bastet contributed, and Charlotte closed her eyes in agreement.
“It is.” Jacob nodded. “Which is why there’s something else I’d like to ask you about, something I couldn’t discuss inside. Another wish I’d like to grant, so to speak.”
She opened her eyes, frowning as worry gripped her for a moment. Relax, Bastet urged. I think I have an idea what’s coming.
“Selmak and I…discussed this, before he left me,” he started. “And I’ve been thinking about it for two years now, and I think I’ve finally decided, but I want your input…both yours and Bastet’s.” He met her eyes and took her hand in his. “I still have Selmak’s memories, his knowledge, his experience. It would be a shame to let that be lost if something happened to me. So…I’ve thought about taking another symbiote. Especially since, even with the defeat of the Goa’uld, hosts aren’t easy to come by.”
She knew why he was asking, and why he’d proposed first. He’d wanted them both to know he was committed to them, and that he wasn’t trying to replace Selmak.
Charlotte let Bastet voice both their answers: “We did not cease to love Selmak when you became his host, nor cease to love Saroosh when we came to love you. If you take a new symbiote, he will become part of you just as we are part of each other, and we will love him for that until we learn to love him for himself. The Tok’ra have been poorer for your loss, Jacob Carter, not just Selmak’s. And we would be honored to count you among our number again.”
He smiled and leaned in to kiss her again, deeply and passionately. “Then yeah, I’d say all my Christmas wishes came true.”