This is just a snapshot of Christmas.
It was the first Christmas Eve for the O'Neill's as a family, and the boys found every instant more exciting than the last. Friends called by, and watching with bemusement as the boys crashed around the house like hand grenades, raised their eyebrows questioningly and shrugged.
With nothing but an enigmatic smile, Jack O'Neill shrugged back. All said and done, his unorthodox parenting skills suited the fledging little family. Danny and Cameron found the Christmas experience exhilarating, and flirted with calamity on a minute-by-minute basis. Blinking with surprise at finding themselves positioned on a chair facing the kitchen wall for a spell, the children heaved great sighs.
Jack patted their shaggy haired little heads and reminded them it was just until their brain cells kicked in again.
"But my brain cells are only thinking 'bout Christmas, "Cameron reasoned with the cunning of the very young, "you can 'pect them to work on not shoving Danny as well!"
Huffing crossly, Daniel chimed in, "I didn't take his crayons on purpose! They fell into my lap! Narrowing his eyes, he added hopefully," its Christmas and miracles happen all the time. Just ask Nickelodeon!"
Hearing a knock at his door, and throwing his hands in the air, Jack looked at his watch and muttered, "Oh please! It's just past ten o'clock!" Throwing the dishcloth onto the table and warning the boys to stay seated, the general wondered if placing a sign warning Crime scene! Keep out could mean he would get to read the sports in peace.
Sara was the first of the visitors who felt the need to connect with the lively children. Humming Christmas tunes in her head, she brought over her homemade Christmas cake, and waited eagerly at the front door. Throwing her head back and laughing with her throaty chuckle, she found herself dragged inside, smiling with delight as the boys danced around her legs. Sara O'Neill never quite understood why, but visiting Daniel and Cameron pushed melancholy thoughts to a place where they didn't matter.
Shooing the boys away, Jack grinned at Sara boyishly. Taking the cake tin, bravely exaggerating its weight, he playfully dodged the slap to his arm, and offered her an Irish coffee. Reminiscing, they sat at his kitchen table while he offered boozy coffee and good memories. His brown eyes softening, he leaned over and allowed his lean fingers to brush her fine boned hand. Opening the cake tin and spluttering at the waft of brandy, they laughed at the amount of alcohol she had always used. Shaking his head, unable to help the familiar smile tugging at his lips, Jack scolded her gently, "Sara, for crying out loud! We'll be unconscious after the first bite!"
With a saucy look and a broad wink, she tossed her wavy hair whispering, "Mm, I seem to remember that's how we " Getting to her feet and dumping her mug into the sink, she left the thought unfinished and sashayed from the house. "Bye, Jack, happy memories!"
With a wolfish smile, Jack watched her leave and muttered under his breath, "Oh, yeah, I so have those memories."
Sitting in the car and putting the key carefully into the ignition, Sara felt a tear trickle from her eye.
Hank Landry was the next visitor to find himself at the O'Neill front door. Laden with gifts, he felt oddly light hearted. Unaware of the broad smile on his face, he knelt down and seeing the bright faces beaming at him, threw his arms open widely. The invitation understood and gladly accepted, Daniel and Cameron barreled into him, jostled, and pushed each other for front spot. Laughing and rocking back onto his heels, Hank snorted with delight, and hearing the childish giggles, couldn't help remembering days of long ago.
Slapping his hands on his thighs and waggling his bushy eyebrows, Hank chased the boys throughout the house, wincing at their screams and hollers when almost captured. Panting, red faced and out of breath, the general slumped into a kitchen chair, and studying Jack's amused face, wondered if he'd made a mistake in not adopting the little boys himself.
Shaking the thought from his head and smiling a little sadly, he grabbed the offered beer and chatted with his old friend about nothing. Patting Jack on the back and rolling a shoulder, Hank declined the invitation to spend Christmas. Walking to his Ford, he checked his cell and found a flashing message. Maybe he thought, this year she would forgive him a little.
Sitting in her parked car and watching her father check his cell, Carolyn grimaced and slid into her leather upholstery. Drumming her fingers on the steering wheel, she waited for Hank to pull out and drive away. Pushing her car door open and walking briskly to the general's door, Doctor Lam hoped a medicinal dose of high-spirited children could unearth that elusive Christmas spirit she'd never managed to capture. Smiling at the excited freckled little faces peeking from behind the general's legs, she swiped at the lone tear tracking down her cheek, and giving Jack a watery smile, silently begged for her invitation to enter.
"Doctor Lam? Carolyn? Hey, you just missed your old man. Come in and have a drink, you look as though you could use one." Smiling, and nudging her shoulder gently, Jack looked into her face, and said, "Actually, Sara's cake will warm you up quicker than mere booze." Ushering her into the kitchen, pulling off the determined small boy clinging to her leg, Jack added softly, "What doesn't kill you, Carolyn, will always make you stronger."
Drinking coffee and eating fruitcake, Carolyn felt her tension slip away, and hauling Danny onto her lap, the young doctor chatted about anything and everything. Nodding at the appropriate moments, Jack listened to the lovely young woman closely, and sighing softly, knew she said everything but what she came to say.
Watching Carolyn kneel down and hug his children with a fierce possessiveness, Jack remembered a rhyme Sara used to sing to Charlie and huffed quietly,' the time has come the walrus said to talk of many things: of shoes and ships-and sealing wax -of cabbages and kings.'
Samantha Carter knocked politely at the front door of her friend's home a few hours later, and shivered with cold and anticipation. Stamping her feet a little impatiently, a basket laden with treats biting into her frozen fingers, she knew she should have visited Mark and the kids. Exiting the online booking page, she found herself wanting to be with Jack's family instead. Dan and Cam knew the sound of her car's engine, and whooping and hollering, yelled for their daddy to open the door. Her face instantly creasing into a brilliant smile, blue eyes twinkling with delight, Sam pushed away any niggling feelings of guilt and waved at her favorite general. Studying the decorated table, she picked up her place card and rubbed the candy pink glitter between her fingertips with pleasure.
Standing in the doorway and studying Sam's silhouette, Jack arched an eyebrow knowingly. He was relieved, but a little guilty that Sam had chosen to spend her Christmas with them, and calling her into the kitchen, offered her a slice of the ever shrinking, potent, Christmas cake. "This will clear your sinuses, Carter, trust me." Sitting by the fire, and listening as the rain tumbled relentlessly from the sky, the two friends laughed as the children desperately tried to guess what treasures lay hidden behind the bright paper and gargantuan bows. Looking at each other carefully, Jack and Sam smiled, and wondered about life's strange twists.
His hand brushing the brightly wrapped gifts, Teal'c studied the general's Christmas tree as its lights twinkled, and sighed. Teal'c had spent many years living among the Tau'ri, and found many of its traditions alternatively amused, irritated, or made him feel an intricate sadness. Christmas stirred a philosophical quandary with in him, but feeling alone and adrift, he wanted to share the holiday with them. Struggling to remember Ryac at this age, he knocked on the front door and smiled at the sounds of childish shouts, and fresh faced innocence. He had spent all his life fighting one battle or another, and innocence was something that would always elude him.
Taking him by his hand and dragging him into the family room, Daniel lifted his arms in a silent demand to be lifted. Snuggling under Teal'c's chin and breathing softly, the tiny archeologist intuitively understood his old friend's need for comfort and love. Wriggling a little closer, Daniel looked into his kind face and blinked slowly. Nodding his head in understanding, Teal'c the former first prime of an alien race, inhaled the child's sweetness and allowed himself be fleetingly distracted.
The mismatched family sat companionably in Jack O'Neill's family room, warmed by the raging fire, and listening to Christmas carols warbling in the background. Over the years, SG1 had gravitated together. Drawn by the irrevocable ties that bind. Sometimes the holiday had been successful, sometimes painful, and full of tears. Through the good and bad times, the team understood the importance of staying together. They shared the pain as easily as they shared the laughter.
Not wanting to fill the air with small talk, SG1 soaked in each other's company, and felt contentment. Daniel and Cameron blinked drowsily, and with kittens coiled around them, snuggled into Jack's lap.
Looking around the room, Jack caught Teal'c's glance and arched a knowing eyebrow. The warriors who had endured much in their lives, understood happiness could be fleeting. In a tremor of a heartbeat, everything could change, but sometimes it could be for the best.
Craning his neck and searching for the framed photo of Sara and Charlie smiling on a Christmas Eve long gone, he mouthed, "Merry Christmas, I love you."