It had already been a difficult week. Jack was in D.C. shadowing General Hammond again, Teal’c had gated out on Monday to Dakara to begin his work with the Jaffa Counsel. Daniel was spending the week with Catherine Langford’s family at the invitation of Sabrina Gosling, Catherine’s niece.
That left Sam as the sole member of SG-1 still on the base, and since each team had pulled straws to cover down on the base in Jack’s absence, she took over a lion’s share of the postings.
It was Thanksgiving week, and for the first time in the history of the Stargate program, the base was assigned minimal manning. The replicators, Goa’uld, Anubis, and every other threat the universe had thrown at them was defeated or had retreated, and they could all take a much needed breather. The last off-world team had returned on-time yesterday from a simple diplomatic mission on PX4-31T setting up trade for a new medicinal plant the science team was excited about.
There were still about fifty people on base, with another one hundred on two hour recall around the Springs, but all in all it was shaping up to be a pleasant Thanksgiving for the SGC.
Pleasant for those who had family and friends there to enjoy.
Sam had volunteered for the worst shift, twelve hours on Thanksgiving Day. She relieved Lt. Col Stevens this morning at 0545, arriving early as usual for her 0600 shift. Siler was manning the control room with two Airmen who were just too new to have earned the day off. Dr. Brightman was working a shift at the Academy Hospital, so there were just two nurses on site just in case.
There was always a team of SF’s, they never really got the chance to exercise “minimal manning,” however Jack had made it clear they needed to volunteer before they were volun-told, so this group all elected to work today to ensure those with families were able to enjoy some time with them on at least this one holiday.
Looking up at the clock, Sam began to ponder the ratio of time dilation, and wonder if there was another black-hole situation going on since it felt like she had been there for hours but it was only 0722.
Jack had forbid her from working in her lab as she would often lose track of time and he was not there to ensure she ate and slept on a regular schedule, so she sat in the briefing room alone. Jack had made it clear to everyone that if you were “the man” you could use his office, but as of yet not a single person had taken him up on it. Sam looked over at his leather chair and just shook her head.
Needing to move, Sam walked down to the control room and suppressed a grin as the young Airmen saw her and snapped to attention, one spilling the coffee they had just poured. Ignoring the mess, she gave them both a pleasant greeting as she made her way over to Siler.
“Ma’am,” Siler called out as she approached.
“Sergeant,” she responded in her best ‘boss voice’
“Getting better,” Siler replied, “But you gotta drop the smile from your voice.” After a moment he added, “So how did you pull this shift?”
“Volunteered,” she answered.
After the recent death of her father and breaking off her engagement with Pete, Sam was in a current of change. She and Jack had finally connected, but he was two time-zones away. Mark had invited her to join Heather and him at the In-Laws, but Sam was not in the mood to be a fifth wheel.
“Figured I would let those with families here enjoy the day,” she finished.
“That is why you are one of the good ones,” Siler replied, “You want to take care of the troops.”
“I try,” She said, thinking how she had learned it all from Jack, her mood dipping again. “Time to make the rounds.”
Leaving the Control room, Sam walked the empty halls of the SGC, each step echoing off the concrete walls reminding her just how alone she was at the moment. It was ten minutes before she saw another face, one of the SF NCOs checking on the locked rooms on the far end of the quarter’s wing.
Sam continued her walk, swinging by the med bay to greet the nurses who were deep in a board game, and the security center to check on the guards watching the wall of monitors showing all the empty halls and rooms.
By the time she finished it was almost ten, so she worked her way back to the briefing room.
All the Team leaders had made a pack that they would complete as much of the paperwork as possible in the General’s absence. It was to be their gift to him for making it possible for the SGC to get the down time it had needed. That and to a man, everyone on base knew that Jack hated paperwork, so if they didn’t do it, it might never get done.
Sam had worked one stack when she took a shift on Tuesday, and now did not look forward to tackling yet another stack of forms and requests. She was capable of losing herself to a math problem, working an engineering problem to the tiniest detail without complaint, but now she understood Jack’s hatred of forms. Maybe that was why he always made comments about the trees, since they were cut down to make paper, and he hated the paperwork.
After an hour, it felt like she had not made a dent in the stack, but closing the folder she had just completed, declared a victory and decided it was time for lunch.
After letting Siler know she was stepping out again, Sam made her way to the Commissary. Entering the room, she was surprised by the touch of decor the staff had added to brighten up the room. Each table had a small center piece and there were streamers and pictures spread around giving the room that extra cozy feel.
As she made her way to the serving line, Sam began to notice that the Airmen in the room were just a little more engaged than she had expected, chatting amongst themselves and laughing. Moving down the line the first thing she realized was the servers were carving actual turkeys, not just simple processed turkey bi-product meats. Looking closer she saw the ‘fixings’ were all just a bit more than the usual spread. The potatoes, yams, green beans all looked fresh, as did the gravy and stuffing. Reaching the end, Sam felt a pain as she saw that there was a large selection of pies and cake, but only one color of Jell-O. Blue.
As she reached for a jell-o, Sam was again reminded just how much she missed him.
Sitting at her table, Sam was realizing that there were so many more layers to Jack than just the gruff CO. He had always been there for the team, but now she was discovering that he had always been there for her as more than just a teammate. He had been there for her as a friend since almost the first time they met.
As she finished and cleared her tray, Sam again found herself wandering the halls, and without realizing how she had arrived here, she found herself outside of the medical room where it had changed. This was the room where Daniel had died and ascended after his exposure to radiation. This was the room where Teal’c had watched his former god die. This was the room where Cassie had gone through the transformation because of Nirrti’s experiments before Janet had pulled out a gun and forced the Goa’uld to help restore her daughter.
It was the room where her father had died.
This room was full of emotion for her. This was a place where many of the worst experiences of her life had started or ended. This room reminded her of all the people she had lost over the years, the friends and family that were gone from her life forever.
Well, normally forever, Daniel had a habit of coming back she mused.
Looking up at the observation room she was also reminded of some of the good. That was where Teal’c and Janet had been when Jack and then she had been forced to admit their feelings for one another under the Za’tarc, the opening of the door, even if only a crack, for them to be where they were today.
That was where Jack had told her, “Always,” the further cracking of the door for them to have each other now.
Sam gave a sad smile as she turned from the room, purposely walking back to the briefing room so she could drown her building emotions in the paperwork. It was even sadder to her that the paperwork could be the escape she now needed from the profound loneliness that was gripping her yet again.
Sam found herself pushing through the stack of files and requests as the time continued to pass. Eventually she found herself holding the last file in her assigned stack long before her day was scheduled to be over. Looking at the clock, she still had over forty minutes before her relief, Col Dixon, was scheduled to take over.
Knowing Dixon, he was already on the base somewhere, using it as an escape from cleaning up Thanksgiving dinner behind his kids.
The phone ringing in Jack’s office startled her out if her thoughts. She knew only a few important people had that extension number, so she hurried into the office. Standing next to the General’s desk, she answered the phone, “Lt. Colonel Samantha Carter.”
She smiled while replying, “Sir.”
“Just checking in to see how everything is going.”
“Everything is going fine, sir.”
“Great! Did you enjoy the turkey meal?”
“Yes sir, it was actually good this year.”
“I wanted the best I could offer for a hard year.”
“Everyone seemed to enjoy it, sir.”
“Yes, well…hey, your shift should be ending soon, you have big plans afterwards?”
Sam knew that was his subtle way of telling her that he wants her to go home. That way they can have a much more personal conversation. “Yes sir, I am finishing up as we speak. Thinking about starting a fire, grabbing some wine and relax watching a classic Christmas movie.”
“Hmm, that sounds nice. You deserve to have a relaxing evening. Any particular movie?”
“It’s a Wonderful Life”
“Nice! Enjoy the rest of your Thanksgiving, Carter.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Sam hung up the phone, went back to the briefing room to grab the files. She placed the completed files in the outbox and put the one she didn’t finish back on the next stack in the briefing room. Grabbing her stuff as she made her way to the control room to see if Col Dixon had checked in. Siler passed on that he was in his office, and after a quick call passed the torch to him and let them know she was leaving, wishing them a good evening. She then headed up to the locker room to change and left the mountain.
Exiting her car, Sam walked up to her house and could smell the fragrance of a turkey dinner getting surprisingly stronger as she approached the door. Muttering to herself, “Somebody is having a nice Thanksgiving.”
As she unlocked and turned the handle on the front door, Sam was assaulted by a blast of that same smell as the door pushed further inward. The light in the kitchen and dining area was on. She laid everything down in the foyer just as she saw Jack step into view. He was wearing a nice pair of slacks with a black sweater that accented his silver hair. He was fresh shaven and had a smile on his face as he said, “Surprise.”
Sam watched as Jack walked up to her because she was frozen in place. She had quite a melancholy day and while standing there the array of different emotions swirling around her had seemed to lock her in place as Jack kept moving closer. He reached her and pulled her in for a kiss and a hug.
Sam went stiff and Jack pulled back, “What?”
She was happy to see him, but at the same time she felt sadness with a hint of anger. Sam looked up at him and just had to ask, “Did you plan this all along?”
He looked down at her concerned, “God no! Sam, I had to whine, plead and beg George to let me be here. He made an excuse for me to miss the official dinner tonight with Hayes and the Chinese ambassador so that I could leave. My place is here. He understood and I was given the okay yesterday evening. I didn’t say anything before because I didn’t want to set up another disappointment. Miraculously, I was able to find a plane ticket for today.”
She took a breath in, and gave him a small smile. She then nodded as she said, “Okay.”
Jack took her hands and locked eyes with her, “Sam, maybe another time and another place, I would have planned some kind of elaborate surprise. I wouldn’t have done that to you now with everything that’s happened.”
Tears began welling up in her eyes, but they refused to fall, “Well, I feel better then and happy that your here.” She folded into his arms.
They embraced for a while and she felt Jack kiss her head. She pulled back to look at him again.
“It smells wonderful in here.”
Jack smiled and took her by the hand as he led her to the table. The table was decorated with two place settings. There was a lot food spread out over the table with fall colored flowers as a centerpiece.
Sam looked over it all in awe wondering where he had found the time to get all this food and quite surprised at how everything was laid out. It looked like Jack had found all her nice serving platters and bowls, the ones that had belonged to her parents.
Getting over her surprise but tongue tied, “Wow…Jack…Where...”
“Like finding that plane ticket, I was lucky. You know that market downtown, the one you can order Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners from?” Sam nodded. “I happened to call, hoping for anything, just after someone cancelled their order. It was for a larger group, but…anyways, I wanted to make this special even though it was last minute. I’m amazed that it all worked out.” He shrugged. “Let’s eat before it gets cold?”
As Jack pulled the chair back and she sat, “You planning on being around this weekend and help me with all these leftovers?”
Jack sat down and started dishing out food, “Of course.”
As they both ate, Jack was telling her all the antics going on in DC. She was vaguely listening because she was thinking about the man that was talking to her. Next thing she knew, he was waving his hands and saying, “Earth to Carter.”
She looked at him then and smiled, “Sorry.”
“Whatcha thinking about?”
“I was getting in the spirit of the holiday.”
“Oh…spirit you say?”
With some mirth, “You know, being thankful.”
He gave her his toothy grin before responding, “Really? What is Samantha Carter thankful for?”
That grin makes her warm inside, giving him her big bright smile back, “You.” Then waving her hand over the table, “The fact that we are having this together and quite surprised at it all.”
“What surprises you?”
“Well...” Trying to finish chewing and thinking of her words carefully, she didn’t want to offend him, “This…all of it. Nice dinnerware and everything is laid out all decorative. Don’t take this wrong, but, this is not a typical Jack O’Neill…thing.” Ending it there because no matter how she tried not to offend the man, she may have anyway.
Sam watched Jack slowly take his napkin from his lap and wipe his mouth with it. Then he cleared his throat. “Sam, I know that in the time that we have known each other that maybe I may have seemed…what’s the word…disinterested…but…you do know that I did have a family once and maybe we did celebrate holiday’s in a traditional sense?”
“Jack, that’s not what I was trying to imply, I just didn’t know that you…you know.” Looking at him pleading with her eyes for him to understand what she was horribly not saying with words.
His eyes softened, “I know, I can understand why you think that way. I did play the gruff Colonel/General card, the man who was the Grinch during the holidays. Sam, I did the traditional holiday thing with my family growing up and with Sara and Charlie later. At the time I did enjoy it. Actually, Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday.” After a slight pause he added, “Well, when I was home.”
Jack then placed his hands on the edge of the table and continued, “Then after…well, you know…I didn’t have a reason to celebrate and quite frankly didn’t want to. It was too painful, so I gave the air of nonchalance to cover it up. It did mean a lot when we were together as a team in the commissary.”
“I’m sorry.” Sam replied as she reached across the table as he mirrored her action and took his hand in hers, “What’s changed?”
He looked at her for a moment and with a small smile, “I have a family again.”
Sam’s breath hitched, her eyes immediately filled and tears fell down her face.
Jack stood up and pulled her up to him in a hug. “I didn’t mean to make you cry.”
They stood there for a few minutes. In that time, Sam was trying to come up with a reply. She instead pulled her head back and brought her hands to cup his face, “Yes, we are.” She then pulled him into a kiss.
After the kiss, Jack lovingly looks at her with a toothy smile, “Happy first Thanksgiving, Sam.”
After they finished eating, they began to store and clean things up together. After the clean up, Jack grabbed their glasses and the rest of the wine, so they could watch the Christmas movie.
Sam put the Christmas movie in while Jack settled onto the couch with the remote in his hand. She sat down snuggling into Jack’s side with her feet pulled up and laying her folded legs on his thigh. She then picked up her wine and leaned in with Jack’s arm automatically coming around her shoulders to pull her in further.
Sam smiled up at him, “This is much better than watching it together over the phone like I originally thought.”
Jack chuckled, “Good thing we upgraded to unlimited minutes. That would have been one heck of a cell phone bill.”
Sam barked out a laugh, “I was thinking the same thing.”
They sat and watched It’s a Wonderful Life together. Just after Clarence saves George at the river, Jack paused the video and declared it was time for pie as he headed into the kitchen to dish it out. Sam poured them both some more wine. The bottle now empty, she sauntered her way to the kitchen and placed the bottle onto the counter with a thump.
Jack turned around asking, “Do you want your apple pie a la mode?” as he gently shook a carton of vanilla ice cream back and forth.
Sam giggled at the question with a nod.
Jack just looked at her with his expression for ‘what.’
While giggling, “It just, this reminds me of that conversation we had about ice cream…”
Jack smiled at her and cheekily stated, “Yes, well, after all, vanilla ice cream does go better with pie.”
Jack finished up and handed her a plate before heading back and taking their previous positions on the couch. Jack resumed the movie and they both dug into their dessert.
Not much later, Sam noticed that Jack was trying hard not to fall asleep next to her still half an hour from the end of the movie. Even though she was fine and not really tired she looked up at him, “You want to go to bed?”
He looked down at her nodding, “Sorry, this traveling back and forth is the pits. It’s worse than gate lag. Why don’t you go ahead and I’ll clean this up real quick.”
Sam was already waiting in bed on her side when Jack walked in. She felt the bed dip as he got under the covers and scooted behind her to spoon up against her. He folded his arm around her. She grabbed his hand and entwined their fingers while placing them against her chest. She heard a sigh of contentment from Jack and felt his body relax.
She smiled to herself because she felt that same contentment and it was wonderful. As she lied there, she thought this was what her father wanted for her, the true happiness that comes with being with someone who loves you unconditionally. Then her mind wandered to the next holiday that was coming up.
Jack cleared his throat at that moment and brought her out of her thoughts. “You’re thinking too loud again.”
“Whatcha thinking about this time?”
“I was thinking about us going to a tree farm and picking out a Christmas tree this weekend.”
“A tree farm? Like a tree lot?”
“It’s different, it a farm where people grow trees and people come tag a tree they want. They come back and cut it down when it’s closer to Christmas.”
“Ah, I remember when my parents and I would just go into the woods and find a tree. Those were the good ole days.”
She chuckled, “You did that?”
“Yeah, we had lots of land and…trees.”
“We just went to tree lots growing up. What about when you were married?”
“We had an artificial tree.”
Sam turned her head, looking over her shoulder, “Really?”
“Yeah, I wasn’t always around and it was easier when we went visiting family. We didn’t have to worry about trees drying out.”
“That makes sense. Going back to my original question…”
“Yeah, let’s do it.”
She was elated, they were really doing this family thing. “Jack? Thank you, thank you for all of this. Earlier today was hard, but this evening has more than made up for it.”
She felt Jack breath steady out again and thought he was asleep until she felt his lips kiss behind her ear. She could also feel his lips smile as he spoke quietly and sleepily, “I love you, Sam.”
She immediately felt a sting in the back of her eyes. “I love you too, Jack.”