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A Christmas Carter

Teand

"Hey, Sam..."

Maybe if she ignored him, he'd go away and the energy output reading would stop heading for the red zone.

"...Jack and Teal'c and I are heading out to Maloney's for some Christmas cheer. You want to come?"

No such luck on either possibility. Sam dialed the reactor back, flipped up her goggles and glared across the lab at Daniel. "No. Thank you. I'm busy."

He met her glare with a cheery grin. "But it's Christmas."

"What does Christmas have to do with it?" Switching her glare to the screen of equations on her laptop, she added, "For that matter, what does sample density have to do with it?"

"I have no idea." Daniel waved his hand in front of the screen. "But I'm betting you can wait until after Christmas to find out."

Sitting down, she swatted his hand out of her line of sight. "Daniel, no one should know better than you that one day of good will a year is not going to change anything. The Goa'uld will still be out there waiting for their chance and a hundred idiot politicians will still be down here waiting to give it to them if it was the fourth of July. Now go away, I'm working."

"I also know that no one should sneeze at even one day of good will. And Christmas Day..."

"Is an unnecessary twenty-four hours taken out of my schedule. Now go." Keying in a new set of numbers with her right hand, she waved her left toward the door. "Shoo. You go have the Christmas you want and leave me to have the Christmas I want."

"But you don't seem to want Christmas."

She smiled tightly up at him and waved again. "My point exactly. Go."

"But..."

"Out, Daniel."

He sighed but he went and Sam bent her head over the laptop again. Christmas wouldn't stop the Goa'uld or get the reactor running or deal with a hundred and one other technical problems she had cluttering up her lab waiting for her to find the time to deal.

She was close, she knew it, but jiggling a decimal here threw numbers out of whack there and even small changes rippled through equation after equation. Her stomach growled and she pulled a rice crispy square of dubious pedigree out of her desk drawer and ate it as the sounds of traffic in the halls outside her lab faded and the mountain grew quiet.

Her eyes were burning. She closed them for a moment and when she opened them, Daniel's face stared up at her from the laptop's screen.

"Saaaaaaaaaaaaaaam."

"What the hell?" A hard rub, grinding her lids against the corneas, and the lines of formula were back. "Okay, that was weird." She glanced around the lab, wondering as shadows gathered in the corners if some of the lights had burned out. Then the smoke alarm went off. It was a piece of cheap hardware store equipment that the general had insisted she install because he was tired of small... problems in her lab shutting down the entire base.

But nothing was on fire.

Standing, she flicked it off, turned to sit down again, and gave a small shriek at the sight of Daniel standing just inside the door. He was looking a little grey.

"Daniel, are you all right?"

"Daniel Jackson is dead," he intoned ponderously. "Of that you must be certain or nothing that will happen next can be considered at all wondrous."

This was sounding horribly familiar. "You have got to be kidding me."

"In life I was your teammate, Daniel Jackson."

Sam sighed. "Daniel, you're not dead."

"I've been dead," he protested in his normal voice. "That counts."

"Yes, but you're not dead now so lose the Marley's ghost shtick and go home. I'm not going out for drinks with you guys."

Daniel tipped back his head and howled. Lights flashed, alarms went off, and Sam suddenly realized she could see the lab door through Daniel's torso. "Why do you not believe in me, oh woman of the worldly mind?"

"Because you're a bad pastiche of Charles Dickens!"

"I believe the word you're looking for is homage."

Sam sat down and put her head in her hands. Obviously that rice krispie square had passed its best before date. "Come on, Sam. Wake up. You haven't got time for this." When she looked up, Daniel was still standing there. "Okay, you win, let's get this over with."

"Could you cower a little?"

"No."

"It's just that I could get into the whole ghost thing better if you cowered..."

"Daniel..."

"Fine." He cleared his throat and struck a dramatic pose. "I have come from beyond the grave to warn you!" Reaching behind him, he hauled forward the chain that was suddenly wrapped around his waist. Fat reference books hung off it at every link. "The chain you bear was as long and heavy as this when I left your office and it has grown longer since."

Head to one side, Sam squinted at the titles. "Hey! Is that my copy of Fun with Fusion?"

"No."

"It looks like my copy - which, I'd like to point out, is missing from my shelf!"

"Well, it isn't." Daniel shoved the books back out of sight. "You have one chance to escape my fate!"

"And what fate would that be? This whole Christmas cliché thing?" She raised both hands as he scowled. "Sorry. Go on."

"You will be visited by three ghosts." He paused expectantly. When Sam merely waited, he sighed. "You're supposed to protest here."

"Would it do me any good?"

"No."

"I didn't think so." She indicated he should keep talking.

"Expect the first when the clock tolls one!"

Before she could protest that none of the clocks in her lab actually tolled, he was gone. Pinching herself had no effect. Nor did face slapping. Half-way across the lab to her sink - maybe some cold water would work - her laptop made a sound somewhere between Big Ben and the gate klaxon. She froze. Maybe if I ignore it...

"I'm not going anywhere, Carter, so you might as well play along."

The familiar voice jerked her around. "Colonel O'Neill?"

"That'd be me."

He was standing beside her desk wearing what looked an awful lot like a flannel nightgown she'd worn back in high school - no mistaking the faded stars and planets. Unable to prevent a shudder, she murmured, "Are you the first?"

"Yep. Apparently, I'm the ghost of Christmas Past."

"Apparently?"

"Hey, I don't want to be here any more than you do." Pivoting on one heel - Sam was relieved to see black boots under the bottom edge of the nightgown - he headed for the door. "Let's move out."

Sam gave thanks that her subconscious seemed to have skipped the whole "bear but a touch of my hand" part of the text. Wandering through her past holding Colonel O'Neill's hand would really be nightmare material. Stepping outside the lab, she found herself standing in a nearly empty parking lot next to a grim two story cinderblock building. Two little girls wearing Partridge Family backpacks ran by.

"What?" she asked as the colonel glared at her impatiently.

"Old school chums," he prodded.

She took another look. "Sorry, I don't recognize them."

"Oh for crying out loud." And suddenly they were inside. "Do you recognize her?"

A blonde girl of about ten stood at the blackboard writing and rewriting, Toilets do not have an orbital velocity.

"Sorry. No."

The colonel rolled his eyes. "It's you, Carter!"

"Due respect, sir, but I've never seen the back of my head."

Before the colonel could answer, the classroom door opened and a middle aged woman in a terrifying pair of paisley bellbottoms came into the room. "Aren't you finished yet, Samantha?"

The girl turned and Sam strained to see features she recognized. "I finished the first two hundred lines, Mrs. Bailey, but then I realized that the information was essentially incorrect because a toilet would, of course, achieve orbital velocity if enough force could be applied and I attempted to work out the formula but then I realized it would be difficult without some experimental data which was when I remember that was why I was here in the first place."

The colonel grinned. "You blew up a toilet? Way to go, Carter."

"I didn't so much blow it up as it blew up," Sam muttered.

"Well, there's no time to finish the lines now," Mrs. Bailey told her. "I'd like to leave for my Christmas vacation and your brother is here for you."

"Mark?" Young Sam and Old Sam asked.

"Not much of one; my father is leaving for Beirut tomorrow," young Sam sighed, shrugging into her NASA backpack. "He won't be there for Christmas..."

"So my father wasn't always home for Christmas," old Sam snorted. "I was an air force brat; half the kids I knew spent holidays without their fathers. It's no big deal," she added, when the colonel remained silent. "And it was a long time ago."

"Shadows that were," the colonel murmured as the room whirled away into silver fog and Sam found herself standing in what looked to be an endless corridor of grey walls and blue doors.

"Now what?"

"Your first year at the academy." The colonel grinned. "You didn't go home that Christmas." He opened the nearest door. The sound of ABBA pounded out into the hallway from a familiar common room. Half a dozen cadets, obviously feeling no pain, cheered on a blonde and a brunette standing on the pool table wearing silver garlands on their heads, waving beer bottles and belting out Mama Mia.

Sam reached passed him and closed the door. "I think we've seen enough."

"You were the blonde."

"Yeah, I got that, sir. Are we done?"

"One more."

Again the silver fog.

"You're giving me back my ring?"

Sam didn't wait for the shadow Sam to reply. Teeth clenched she turned her back on the tableau and faced the colonel. "Sir, Jonas Hansen turned into a megalomaniacal psychopath who tried to subjugate an entire planet of people and ended up having his ass tossed through a worm hole. I fail to see how my staying with him would have helped me learn how to celebrate Christmas."

The colonel frowned. "Actually, Carter, it beats the hell out of me too."

And she back in her lab. Alone.

She felt like she was awake...

A brilliant light flared out in the hall and someone began singing the Chef Boyardee spaghetti and meatballs song.

...but obviously she wasn't.

"Come in and know me better, Sam!"

Not the voice she'd been expecting. "Janet?"

Wrapped in a red velvet dressing gown, Janet was sitting perched on top of a pile of fruit cake. All around her were stacks of socks and underwear and ugly ties.

Sam sighed. "It's Christmas present as in, not past or future. Not Christmas presents."

Janet snorted. "And which one of us is sitting on the fruit cake?"

"Uh... you are."

"Then it's presents if I say it's presents." She jumped down and adjusted her robe. "All right, since you wouldn't leave your lab of your own free will, come forth with me now and walk among those who know the joy of Christmas. Doctor's orders," she added as Sam hesitated. "Let's move it, girlfriend; I have to get home and stuff a turkey."

Fruitcake and presents dissolved and became Cassie's bedroom.

"No, I got the coolest stuff!" Cassie told an unknown friend on the other end of the phone. "My mom's really great about listening to what I want." Squirming around until her head was at the foot of the bed, she kicked her feet against the wall. "No, mom's not here now, Derek."

"New boyfriend. Got that whole bad boy thing going for him." The two women shared a been there done that look.

"I don't know when she'll be back." Eyes gleaming, Cassie giggled. "No, I've had a really good Christmas."

"See," Janet murmured indulgently.

Sam shrugged.

"What? You want me to have a better Christmas? You've got a special Christmas present for me?"

"Oh no he does not!" Janet snapped stomping forward. "You hang up that phone right now, young lady!" Her reaching hand made no contact with either Cassie or the phone. "Damn." She turned on Sam. "Would you like to tell me why you're dreaming that Mr. Bad Teenage Moustache has a special present for my daughter?"

"Uh..." Recognizing the tone, Sam grabbed for the first plausible excuse. "I'm trying to distract you from the whole teaching me a lesson thing?" She wasn't sure Janet was buying it then Cassie's room disappeared and they were standing in Maloney's watching the colonel empty the beer pitcher into Daniel and Teal'c's glasses.

"Too bad Sam couldn't be here," Daniel sighed.

The other men nodded and Teal'c lifted his glass.

"God bless us," he intoned gravely. "God bless us every one."

Sam stared at Janet. "Tiny Teal'c?"

"Don't blame me, hon." Janet snagged a pretzel from the bowl on the table in direct contradiction to the rules. "It's your sub-conscious, not mine."

"Although," Teal'c continued, teeth bared, "I do not, of course, desire the false gods who I deny and fight to destroy in order to free my people to bless us."

Daniel untangled the sentiment before the colonel. "Of course not," he said, and raised his glass again.

"You still thinking of leaving us, T-man?"

The Jaffa nodded. "My brother's need my help and we..." His gesture took in his companions and the empty chair. "...are growing apart."

"Oh, give me a break!" Arms folded, Sam glared down at the top of Janet's head. "Teal'c's not going anywhere."

"I see an empty seat at the briefing table. If these shadows do not change, another Christmas will find Teal'c gone from the SGC." And they were back in the hall outside Sam's lab. "One final warning."

Sam couldn't prevent the small scream as Janet threw open her robe. Crouched at the doctor's feet, in full dress uniform were General Hammond and Major Davis. "That's got to be against regulations! What are they doing under there?"

"They cling to me because they're not getting any anywhere else. This general is duty and this major is..." She paused and glanced down. "Paul, what the hell are you supposed to be?"

"Political expediency."

"Right." Clearing her throat she started again. "This general is duty and this major is political expediency. Fear them both but mostly fear this major!" She closed her robe and slapped a spot at the top of her left thigh. "Stop that!"

Feeling hysteria rising, Sam took two quick steps back. "Okay. I've had about as much of this as I can take. If it means so much to the universe, I'll go out for a beer!"

Janet shook her head. "It's not that easy, Sam."

"Oh yeah?" Closing her eyes, Sam knocked her heels together. "There's no place like home. There's no place like home." All she had to do was open her eyes and she'd be...

...standing in the hallway facing a nine foot high drapery covered faceless ghost of Christmas yet to come.

"Right. That's it." Reaching past the outstretched hand she grabbed a double handful of black fabric and dragged it off the ghost's head uncovering Sergeant Davis. Sitting on Sergeant Siler's shoulders.

The upper sergeant smiled weakly. "Ma'am."

"Can I assume you two are to show me my lab being sold off, my friends getting along fine without me, and my own gravestone?"

"It's more a memorial stone, ma'am," Sergeant Siler interjected. "There wasn't actually enough left to bury."

"But the toilet did achieve orbital velocity," Davis added cheering up a little.

"Fine," she snapped. "Whatever. Let's just pretend you've completed the mission and are now on your way to your next haunting."

"But Major..."

"That's an order, Sergeants! Dismissed!"

"Yes, ma'am!"

They were still saluting when she opened her lab door, stepped into the room, and slammed the door behind her. Shoulders pressed against the scuffed steel, she stared at her familiar equipment, searching for a way to wake herself up. "Bells tolling, I need bells tolling."

She'd just have to make due without the four poster bed and the housekeeper.

No. Not bells. Her watch. She'd program the alarm on her watch to ring at...

What the hell was beeping?

Lifting her head off the laptop, she stared down at her wrist. Eleven fifteen? Why had she programmed her watch to go off at eleven fifteen? Rubbing at the imprint of keys in her cheek, she noticed a familiar package on the desk. And a note.

Hey Sam. You were sleeping so peacefully, I just couldn't wake you. One of my nurses baked about a hundred pounds of fruitcake and I'm sharing the wealth. See you tomorrow. Have a merry! Love Janet.

Under the fruitcake, her copy of Fun with Fusion.

She'd have to go back to the last time she'd saved her equations since the current screen had about six lines of n's added.

Finger above the key, Sam paused. And frowned thoughtfully. "What," she asked herself, her voice echoing in the empty room, "are we saving the world for?"

Not for Christmas.

She, personally, was saving the world for Daniel, and the colonel, and her brother, and Janet, and General Hammond, and Paul Davis, and Sergeant Davis, and Sergeant Siler, and yes, Tiny Teal'c.

They were playing Christmas carols over the sound system in the bar when she arrived and slid into the empty seat SG-1 had left at their table. After the initial exclamations of surprise and welcome, the colonel ordered another pitcher and a fourth glass and poured another round.

They were watching her. Waiting for her to say something.

Sam stared down into her beer, smiled, and lifted her glass. "And they were as good friends and as good a team as the good old SGC had ever known and it was always said that they knew how to keep Christmas well."

She thought for a moment they didn't get it.

Then the colonel raised his glass to touch hers. "God bless us."

"God bless us, every one," Daniel added.

And they all turned to look at Teal'c who sighed and smiled and said, "Mama Mia, here we go again."

--end--