DISCLAIMER: The characters and show belong to Gekko, Double Secret, SciFi Channel, and a whole host of others whose names I've forgotten. I'm simply borrowing them temporarily and they'll be returned in better shape than they left in. I make no money from this hobby.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is something I've rather hastily scribbled because I wanted to get a holiday story out there. I haven't done much editing at all, so just ignore any typos or awkward wording <g>. It's a nice, light, fluffy Christmas story and I hope it brings a smile to your face. Happy holidays!
SEASON: could be any, let's say four for no particular reason.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Christmas With the Kalashi
By ocean gazer
"Have I mentioned just how much this bites?"
Sam fought the almost overwhelming urge to roll her eyes as her commanding officer asked his oh-so-rhetorical question for what felt like the 120th time in the past two hours. Instead, she glanced over at Janet, sharing a bemused look with her lover, but also seeing the irritation in brown eyes. She knew the woman had considerably less patience with the colonel's antics and grumpiness than the rest of them, since the doctor wasn't a regular part of their team and hadn't been forced to get used to him.
But as Sam heard Daniel's voice, she realized that even among her teammates, patience was running thin. "Yes Jack, you've mentioned it. Frequently. Repeatedly. One could even say annoyingly."
Sam credited her years of military training as the reason she didn't break into laughter at the offended look on the colonel's face. Being able to keep a neutral expression was invaluable, especially since O'Neill stopped dead in his tracks to stare down the younger man.
"Tell me I'm wrong, Daniel. Tell me that you're just thrilled about this."
When the colonel started windmilling his arms to emphasize his words, Sam tugged on Janet's vest collar, pulling the shorter woman back a couple of steps and out of range. A millisecond later, she realized the move wasn't exactly in keeping with her role as simply a colleague to the doctor. Oops. So much for their private policy of "no show, no tell." Not that her teammates were unaware of the romantic relationship between the women; it wasn't the kind of thing Sam could have, in good conscience, kept from them. She and Janet just preferred not to make it obvious so that the rumor mill couldn't run amok.
"Believe me, Jack; I'm not disagreeing with you. But complaining endlessly about it isn't going to change anything. The Kalashi want a trade agreement and their cache of abandoned Goa'uld weapons is too valuable to pass up. Even though we probably can't use some of the stuff, we still can't turn down the chance to trade basic medical technology for it."
Sam, her hand still resting against her lover's shoulder, found herself nodding at Daniel's words. This could be one of the more important trade agreements worked out in recent months on behalf of the SGC. The Kalashi wanted to be their allies in the fight against the Goa'uld even though they were a peaceful and pastoral people, and the SGC could never have enough allies. And even though some of the weaponry here would be worthless to humans, at least it wouldn't still be sitting around for some System Lord or other unfriendly force to get its hands on and use against Earth. And she knew perfectly well that the colonel knew all of that, which made his display of petulance all the more annoying.
"It's Christmas Eve, Daniel. You know Christmas that big important holiday that we all, well, except for Teal'c, celebrate. And we're going to miss it. It sucks."
Again, Sam fought the urge to roll her eyes. Ok, so she agreed that the timing of this mission wasn't the best. Ok, so he was right it sucked. But he knew as well as the rest of them that there was a very limited window of opportunity to hammer out the treaty with the Kalashi before the planet's harsh winter storms arrived to make travel in the mountains near impossible. Given the Stargate's position in the foothills of said mountains, they only had three choices. Work out the agreement before New Year's; wait until July or August when the snow finally melted, or try traveling down a steep slope in ten plus feet of snow and ice.
Somehow, she thought that last option sucked a lot worse than sacrificing her holiday. They could always celebrate later. But literally breaking their necks would definitely put a damper on future celebrations. And since both the Kalashi and the SGC wanted the treaty signed ASAP, that meant only one of the options really was viable. Too bad the aliens only wanted to negotiate with "their friends" on SG-1. Sam wouldn't have minded handing this one over to the diplomatic team.
She managed to pull her meandering thoughts back to the present when she heard Janet's no-nonsense voice. "Sir, trust me, I'm not thrilled about this either. Especially since I'm not even part of a field team. It's just sheer luck that General Hammond said he'd have his family take Cassandra to Aspen so she'd have company for the holidays. But Daniel's right, Colonel, bitching and moaning about it won't change the facts."
Sam heard the slightest note of humor creep into the other woman's voice. Not enough to qualify as insubordination, but enough to be noticeable. "Besides, sir, it's not like any of us really do a lot for the holidays. What exactly are you missing?"
At that, Sam couldn't help herself, she had to smile. Of the five of them, Janet was about the only one who did anything for Christmas, and that was mostly since Cassie had come to live with her. Sam hadn't been big on holidays since her mom died, since they held too many painful memories. Daniel was in the habit of working through holidays, something he'd gotten into back in his student days, taking advantage of the break from school. The colonel, for all his bitching, spent the day alone, making a huge pizza and catching up on either his taped sports matches or The Simpsons. And Teal'c, obviously, didn't see the point.
Still, she couldn't quite believe the woman's audacity in saying the words out loud. Daniel was actually chuckling about it and even Teal'c had raised an amused eyebrow. So Sam was a bit relieved when O'Neill simply shook his head and started walking again. They were close enough to the main village that glimpses of the red tiled roof of the main hall could be seen through the trees. Their hosts might think it a bit weird that they had stopped for a conversation. Not that she could see any of the Kalashi moving in the distance or coming towards them. Of course, since they were tall and thin and as mottled grey-brown as tree trunks with wild green hair, they rather blended in to the background. Not to mention the fact that they moved really, really, really quietly.
Despite the fact that the five-some was once again moving forward, Sam just knew the discussion wasn't over. And, sure enough, she could hear the colonel grumbling.
"I've got a tree a big Douglas fir and I haven't been home long enough to enjoy the lights. Or even to finish decorating it. And I always touch base with a couple of old buddies won't get to do that. I turn on my holiday CDs and drink some eggnog I've got stuff I'm missing."
She almost jumped when she heard both Janet and Daniel giggling at the litany. Not that she disagreed with the sentiment, but the man was her commanding officer and she had to at least keep up the pretense of being neutral. Too bad her poker face wasn't quite as good as Teal'c's. She exchanged a long look with the Jaffa, seeing her own barely hidden amusement reflected in his eyes, which made her feel a little better.
The overly amused doctors weren't paying any attention to her or Teal'c or the colonel, for that matter.
"His CD collection is the one with the dogs barking 'Jingle Bells'."
"Or maybe the one with 'Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer'."
"No, wait. Maybe it's some kind of Weird Al does Christmas songs."
"Weird Al didn't do any Christmas songs, did he?"
"Well if he had, they'd definitely be the kind of thing he'd go for."
"Well, yeah. There'd be stuff like 'O Holy Fight' or 'Drinking Around the Christmas Tree'."
"Or how about 'It Came Along With A Midnight Beer'?"
Sam was starting to get dizzy at the rapid fire exchange, so she was actually glad when she saw the colonel come to a stop and turn to face the laughing duo. Clearing his throat gruffly he asked, "Are we all done?"
She caught the embarrassed looks on both Janet and Daniel's faces, and while she felt somewhat bad for them, she could also tell the colonel wasn't really angry, despite the flatness of his tone. The way Janet backed up a couple steps, bumping into her in the process, told Sam that her lover didn't quite realize that. But before she could do anything to reassure the woman, having only had time to put out a steadying hand after their minor collision, Daniel's irrepressible nature did it for her.
"No, we're not quite done yet." But after a heartbeat's pause, the man continued. "Seriously, Jack, I know you're not mad, so stop trying so hard to scowl. Don't be a Scrooge."
Sam watched Teal'c cock his head to the side, a question in the rich brown eyes. The team had given the Jaffa a crash course in Christmas 101, 202, and 303, explaining both the religious and the secular sides to the holiday, giving him the origins and meanings of the various traditions. But there were so many little things like 'A Christmas Carol' that hadn't been covered.
"I am not yet familiar with that terminology."
And leave it to him to ask a pointed question without actually asking a question at all. She'd have to take notes and try to emulate him someday. But since no one else seemed inclined to jump in, Sam figured she may as well answer the stated question.
"Scrooge is a character in a famous story and "
But Daniel cut her off. "Scrooge is a greedy man who cares only about himself and his money, until Christmas Eve when he's visited by three ghosts and travels to Christmas past, present, and future "
And Janet had to add her two cents. "And don't forget about Tiny Tim "
As did O'Neill. "And all the food the pudding and the Christmas goose "
Sam barely saw the swift upward motion of Teal'c's hand as he preemptively cut off the free-for-all. "I see."
The tone of his voice left no doubt as to the fact that he did not, indeed, see.
Sam had to admire the subtlety of his approach, the way he could stop long-winded explanations that left him with more questions than answers. She had no doubt that, had they not been on a mission and had they not all been randomly talking over each other, the Jaffa would have listened quite patiently. He certainly had when Daniel had explained the entire origin of the Santa Claus mythology.
Still, Sam couldn't resist finishing the original statement she'd been trying to make, knowing it spoke to what Teal'c wanted to know. "Scrooge is a description of someone who's a miser, a killjoy, a grouch."
She saw the flash of understanding, as well as a flash of amusement, in his eyes. "Indeed."
Once again, the colonel clearing his throat got her attention, especially since it was followed by the same "are we all done" question he'd asked earlier. Sam felt herself flush and instinctively looked over at Janet. The reassuring smile her lover directed at her helped, as did the gentle brush of a hand against hers. The contact was brief, but powerful. She saw that O'Neill noticed it, but he didn't seem inclined to care. Without him having to say anything though, she knew he wanted them all to get back on track. But as he opened his mouth, she heard something far different than expected.
"Is there some problem of which we are unaware? We would assist in any way possible."
It took Sam a minute to recognize the voice. Thankfully, she hadn't completely started in surprise like both Janet and Daniel. Still, the surprise was understandable since although she had recognized the tenor tones of Janasi, the speaker was currently invisible, blended in with the trees. Hearing a voice coming out of thin air definitely tended to make people jump.
Of course, she noticed with a twinge of envy that both the colonel and Teal'c seemed completely unruffled. Both men had pivoted and were facing the alien, or what she presumed was the alien since all she could see were trees. Not for the first time, she marveled at their observational skills.
The Kalashi leader stepped out of the trees as O'Neill spoke. "No, there's not a problem. We were just talking about an Earth holiday. Nothing to worry about."
Despite knowing that the aliens on this planet were hermaphrodites and didn't have any gender specific pronouns, something about Janasi's fluid movements and serene presence seemed feminine to Sam. She knew the other members of the team well, except Daniel felt the same way. And Daniel was more entranced with the way their society was structured with an absence of gender roles than anything else. Though he also wondered aloud about why the parasitic Goa'uld, who took hosts of either gender, had been so disconcerted by the Kalashi that they'd abandoned earlier attempts to subdue them and use them as hosts. Sam's feeling, echoed by Teal'c, was that the Kalashi were not precisely supermodel material, and the Goa'uld were more bothered by their physical ugliness than their sexual duality.
Suddenly and achingly aware of a sharp elbow in her ribs, courtesy of Janet, Sam pulled her thoughts away from these completely irrelevant musings to focus on the situation at hand.
Janasi was flapping her its twig-like arms in dismay. "You are missing a holy day? For purposes of this treaty? We are saddened. We would not want such a thing had we known."
Sam could tell from the rapid blinking of the colonel's eyes that he wasn't quite sure how the alien had picked that up from what he'd actually said. And now he had to try and salvage the situation. She was suddenly very glad that she wasn't the one in charge.
"It's not a problem, Janasi. Really. Tomorrow is a holiday called Christmas, but it's something we can celebrate later, once the treaty is signed and we've finished our visit here."
Clearly, the alien was confused. "How can a holy day be celebrated some other time?"
Sam did not miss the look O'Neill shot at Daniel, a very clear request for help. To his credit, their diplomat didn't even blink.
"It's difficult to explain, but Christmas is a holiday that means many different things to many different people. On Earth, we do not all share the same beliefs and we all have different rituals for the same special days. And there are some people who don't celebrate at all. On our world, unlike your own, it's not the day itself that is holy but the reason behind it."
While that explanation seemed vague at best to Sam, it seemed to make sense to Janasi. She it was clapping its hands. "An unusual custom, friend Daniel, but this one understands. You honor us by delaying your celebration on our behalf."
Feeling the faint tug on her jacket sleeve, she glanced down to see Janet smiling up at her. Her lover usually only saw Daniel's argumentative side: the side that emerged when he was trying and failing to wheedle his way out of the infirmary. Sam could tell the woman was vaguely amazed by his silver tongue. Smiling back, she turned her attention back to the colonel and the alien.
"Well, Janasi, shall we head back to the village and begin our talks?"
She could see the look of surprise on the man's face when the Kalashi shook h its head. "In a moment, leader O'Neill. This one would learn of this Christmas."
As expected, Sam saw Daniel step forward, ready to respond. And as half-expected, she saw the colonel's emphatic head shake. She supposed she should feel bad for the archeologist, since this kind of exchange was the kind of thing he loved. But then again, it wasn't exactly warm outside and they didn't really have time for an hour or more of elucidation. Especially after all their previous delays in getting here.
Without quite knowing what she was doing, Sam stepped forward a half pace, shooting a questioning look at her commanding officer. He shrugged and gave a "go ahead" gesture by waving his hand.
"Christmas is about a special birth that brought hope to the world. It's about being a little kinder, a little more thoughtful. And it's about love, when we give gifts to those we care about."
Abruptly, she stopped, feeling her cheeks heat with embarrassment. It wasn't that her description was wrong, per se. But Sam hadn't gone to church since she was a child, and she didn't spend the holiday doing anything with or for friends and family. And here she was talking about the Christ child and about love. It didn't quite fit her usual patterns of behavior, and she felt the discrepancy keenly. Even the subtle press of Janet's hand against hers again didn't help.
And her explanation, while simple and direct, seemed to confound the alien.
"This one is uncertain of understanding. Is not every child a sign of hope? And is love not always present? This one is uncertain in which ways the celebration commences."
There were times when Sam was very grateful for O'Neill's literal-mindedness. This was one of them, as he offered up a Rockwellian picture of the holiday. "Ah. See, what we do is we set up a tree a pine tree - and decorate it with lights and ornaments er decorations. Like Sam said, we buy gifts for other people and wrap them in colorful paper, and then we set them under the tree. We make lots of candy and cookies. And then we gather together with family or friends and have a big meal all sorts of special food that we don't eat everyday. There's lots of laughing and talking, and then we all open the gifts we've been given."
The recital seemed to break through the alien's confusion. Its homely face crinkled in what could only be a smile. "Ah, this one sees. It is a feast day, a time of merriment. This we can do." Then, without further elaboration on the topic, Janasi turned and said, "Come. We have much to discuss for the treaty."
O'Neill and Teal'c immediately followed the Kalashi, not even blinking at the abrupt request, while Sam exchanged puzzled glances with Janet and Daniel. She saw the one-shouldered shrug offered by the archeologist before he hurried off to catch up with the others. As their primary negotiator, she knew he didn't want to miss any potentially important snippets of conversation.
Taking advantage of the situation, she stared at her lover for a long moment. Sam found herself grateful for the woman's presence on this mission, especially since it wasn't often that the doctor went out in the field like this. Unexpectedly, she realized she wouldn't have wanted to be away from her partner on Christmas, off-world mission or not.
For too many years, Sam had closed herself off to celebrations and spending time with friends or family. For too many years, she'd sunk herself into work and treated holidays like a slightly unwelcome nuisance, always volunteering to take shifts or otherwise close herself off to the outside world. Now, having Janet and Cassie in her life, she realized she didn't want to miss out on any more special days.
Now, being on this planet and being reminded anew of the magic of the season, she made herself a silent promise. When they returned home, she would set up a celebration for her family, would give Cassie the Christmas with her moms that she deserved. Granted, it would be a little late. But better late than never, right?
Something of those internal thoughts must have shown on her face, she mused, because Janet leaned closer and pressed a quick kiss to her cheek. "We'll make a fresh start with Christmas when we get back; we'll start making some new traditions. It's kind of nice that this mission on the holiday has reminded us both that there are things more important than just work and the SGC."
It was a nice moment and Sam wanted it to last forever. But duty called. She said softly, "I think ironic is more the word you're looking for. But speaking of the mission "
As with one accord, they both turned and began trudging towards their companions.
Christmas Day, afternoon
"Wow. That was some feast."
At first Sam couldn't tell if the colonel was being sarcastic or not. Then, glancing over to where he was leaning back in his chair, one hand fumbling to loosen his pants, she decided he was serious. It was a funny sight, especially watching Teal'c watch O'Neill, but with her mouth full of a sweet nut bread, she couldn't exactly laugh. That was probably a good thing. She looked over to see Daniel gnawing on a twisted silvery fruit, which looked odd but tasted like strawberries and cream. Then she looked at Janet, who was leaning back in her chair with a cup of mint tea raised halfway to her lips. Catching her lover's eye, they shared a contented smile.
The negotiations with the Kalashi had gone more swiftly and smoothly than they could possibly have guessed. Janet and the Kalashi healer, Barasi, still had some work to do, figuring out what Earth-based medicines and medical technology could be used with the alien anatomy. But the doctor didn't think that would take more than a day or two to determine. Daniel and Janasi had quickly fallen into rapport and mutual respect. Not only did the SGC get an alliance and all the abandoned Goa'uld weapons and devices, they also got a handful of Ancient devices that had been discovered near a village on the other side of the planet.
And they got permission to send scouting parties to explore the area and look for more Ancient things, provided they didn't mind having Kalashi observers with them to make sure they didn't unwittingly trespass on a sacred site. It had been a very good meeting.
And then, to the surprise of Sam and her comrades, the Kalashi had brought in a huge banquet for them. Janasi had explained that in honor of their Earth holiday, they would have a special feast day. And feast they had. It had been an incredibly kind gesture, and they'd thoroughly enjoyed both the food and the company of their alien hosts. Speaking of which
Sam glanced around, slightly puzzled. "What happened to Janasi and the rest of the Kalashi?"
It struck her as amusing when the three other humans in the room all looked around in shock, indicating that not a single one of them had noticed the aliens leave. Granted, the beings moved quietly and they'd all been fairly preoccupied with the food. She saw a slightly smug smile tug at the corner of Teal'c's mouth as he answered.
"They left several minutes ago. Janasi indicated there was some aspect of this celebration that remained unfinished and said they would return when all was complete."
Sam almost laughed at the dirty look the colonel shot at the Jaffa. Though Teal'c steadfastly ignored it, she could tell he knew exactly what the man was doing and found it amusing. Daniel was still blushing at having missed the whole conversation, a feeling she shared. They both should have learned by now to not lose track of their surroundings. The only one who seemed unperturbed was Janet.
But before any of them had a chance to say any more, Janasi glided back into the room. Sam saw the crinkle of a smile on the alien face. "You honor us with your presence on this feast day, new friends. This one requests that you come and receive the final piece of this celebration."
Sam couldn't imagine what else they could have planned for the feast, especially if it was something they had to go get, rather than something brought in on a platter. Maybe it was some kind of edible sculpture that was too heavy or fragile to move. She could tell her companions were also confused, but none of them wasted any time getting to their feet. They genuinely liked the Kalashi, and didn't want to cause any unintentional offense by appearing reluctant. Bowing to protocol, she waited until the colonel had made his way to Janasi's side before she followed suit, Daniel and Janet right behind her.
When the alien led them from the room and then out of the building entirely, Sam found herself even more confused. She heard Daniel's soft "where are we going?" behind her, but he knew better than to voice it too loudly. Looking around as they walked, she saw a group of the Kalashi gathered in a circle, and saw that their group was headed towards them. The aliens seemed excited, fluttering their long twiggy fingers in the air and chattering amongst themselves. She couldn't see what, exactly, they were so happy about.
But in a matter of seconds, the mystery was solved as they reached the group of Kalashi and the slight clearing in which they were standing. The aliens were looking at a tree. A pine tree growing on the edge of the forest. A pine tree that had been decorated in honor of the holiday.
Sam sighed wistfully at the sight, and heard the colonel's low whistle in front of her. The tree was a vision of beauty. Candles had been attached to nearly every branch and were blazing brightly. There were all kinds of decorations on the limbs, though the Kalashi obviously had no notion of the kind of ornaments the Earthlings would be familiar with. The pine tree was decked out with white strands of lacy moss, bunches of red and yellow berries, the silvery fruits they'd eaten at the feast, purple and blue blossoms from a nearby bush, and multi-colored strips of cloth.
It was unlike any Christmas tree Sam had ever seen before. It was also one of the loveliest ones she'd ever seen.
She heard Janet's sharp intake of breath, then Daniel's. And even Teal'c seemed moved by the sight, saying something softly and reverently in his native tongue. As she looked further, she saw bright packages under the tree, five of them. They were covered in the multi-colored cloth and each had a bunch of flowers attached in a makeshift bow.
Before any of them could say a single word, Janasi approached. "Happy holy day, new friends."
Sam heard the colonel clear his throat, trying to find words. She was as thankful as he probably was when Daniel jumped in, his words soft but clear. "Merry Christmas, Janasi. We thank you for the honor you show us and for the gifts you give us. And the tree it's so beautiful. We are grateful to you for making this day something special for us, even though we are far from our homes. We only regret not having gifts of our own to offer."
Sam saw the crinkling smile of the Kalashi leader. "This one is pleased that you are pleased. You lend us honor by sacrificing your holy day to be here with us. That in itself is a gift to all of us. We have done what little we could to show our gratitude."
For a long moment, humans and aliens alike stood staring at the tree, comfortable in the presence of each other, finding pleasure in the simple beauty before them. Sam felt the long-forgotten but very welcome sensation of magic and wonder come over her as she stared at the unexpected Christmas sight. She felt strangely ashamed that it took aliens wanting to make the team feel at home to remind her of the power and beauty of the season.
She reached out blindly for Janet's hand, not caring at all that her teammates or the Kalashi were there, and felt the reassuring press of strong fingers against hers. It was safe to say it was the best Christmas she'd had in a long time.
Moved beyond words, Sam's voice was barely more than a whisper. "God bless us, every one."
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