DISCLAIMER: I only borrowed them for a while. MGM and whoever can have them back whenever they want.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story originally written for the FemSlash Advent Calendar 2004. http://fsac.shatterstorm.net/calendar.html.
SOURCES OF INFORMATION: http://www.christmas-time.com/mummers.html   http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/5567/wassail.html   http://www.worldwidewords.org/weirdwords/ww-was1.htm   http://www.carols.org.uk/the_wassail_song.htm
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author

Tis the Season
By Celievamp

1 Secret Santa Blues

"Daniel, I need a favour."

"Erm… what kind of favour." Even for him Daniel looked unusually skittish.

"I need to swap secret santa assignments with you."

"Erm…" Janet knew that pained look. Daniel had something to tell her that she was not going to want to hear.

"PLEASE… I drew Sam…"

"And this is a problem…?"

"It just is, okay."

"I'd really like to help, Janet, but I already swapped once."

"Who with…"


Realisation dawned. Oh. "She drew me, didn't she…"

Daniel nodded, laid a comforting hand on her shoulder. "Sorry."

Janet knew it was completely unreasonable, as she had just tried to pull the same thing but she was more than a little put out that Sam had swapped her. Why didn't she want to buy Janet's present? Come to think of it why did she have a problem with buying Sam something? They were good friends, best friends, they hung out together outside work all the time, had a similar sense of humour, widely different but strangely compatible tastes... Sam was a great help to her with Cassie, her adopted daughter adored the blonde captain. And she…


Sam was in her lab. The artefact that SG4 had brought back from P3X-494 was being particularly opaque. It was emitting a constant low level power signature but appeared to have no moving parts, circuitry or internal mechanisms. However it was also apparently resistant to x rays and any other scan she tried to perform on it. The power signature was still there, unchanged. It was not putting out any other signals or radiation that she could detect.

There were a number of different routes she could take as a next step in the analysis. She decided to leave tinkering with the device for a while and consider her next move.

Metallurgic analysis of the casing was an obvious… take a scraping, try it with some solvents, acid… send varying frequency pulses through it, see if it responded in any way.

She sighed. She still felt bad about what she had done earlier, swapping secret santa assignments with Daniel. It wasn't that Janet would have been hard to buy for – Teal'c certainly presented more of a challenge but…

The things that first came to mind as presents for Janet when she had opened the envelope and seen the woman's name were entirely inappropriate. They were things that would be given between lovers between people with a greater level of intimacy than shared work interests, the occasional girl's night out and a teenage girl in common warranted.

They were things that spoke of how she would like it to be, the thoughts she had those nights alone when she wondered what it would be like to have those small deft hands touch her skin in a non-medical manner. To look into those deep brown eyes and see something there that spoke to her and her alone. To kiss… It was horrifying, embarrassing. How could she have let things get so far out of hand?

Dammit. She was blushing even now, just thinking about thinking… The secret santa might have been a good opportunity to test the waters. Nothing that Janet had said or done had indicated that she felt more than friendship for her. But there had been moments of closeness that seemed to go beyond – but that could be all so much wishful thinking on her part. There was no evidence at all really… and the one chance to find out for certain and she had chickened out.

"Carter, you are an idiot!" she chided herself.

"I wouldn't say that!" a familiar voice said from the doorway.

Oh god, okay so she had said the last bit aloud, but nothing else, please. Sam turned, feeling the colour still impossibly rising in her cheeks. "Hi Janet."

"Hi Sam," Janet was looking at her curiously, obviously noting her distracted air and flushed cheeks. "Are you feeling okay? You're looking a little feverish?"

"I'm fine," Sam said. "A little embarrassed at being caught out talking to myself is all."

Janet smiled. Sam relaxed a little. God, she had a beautiful smile. Oops. She really should not be thinking things like that, not at work, not after all those other thoughts.

Janet watched her curiously. "Are you sure you're okay? You look a little out of things." She stepped forward and took hold of Sam's wrist, feeling for her pulse, reaching to brush her fingers over Sam's brow and cheek, testing her temperature in the time honoured fashion. Sam's pulse was a little fast but strong and regular and her temperature seemed only slightly elevated. "When did you last eat, Captain?"

"Ummm… what time is it?" Sam asked. She remembered eating breakfast with the Colonel, Teal'c and Daniel. And she was fairly certain she had sent one of her lab assistants to fetch her a sandwich. Then she caught sight of the saran wrapped bread roll on the table by the door. Ah.

"It's a little past four," Janet said. "And I'm guessing by the guilty look over at the sandwich that you forgot to eat lunch."

Sam winced. "I didn't mean to, really. I know I have this reputation…"

"Come on, I must admit that I haven't eaten lunch myself yet. Let's see if the Commissary has anything edible left," Janet said. "Perhaps a change of scenery will help you with whatever problem you were thinking about when I came in."

"Perhaps," Sam said. Probably not though. Not when she had just committed herself to spending at least the next twenty minutes sitting opposite the problem in question.

The Commissary was still serving hot food and Janet got herself a plate of the chicken korma which was usually pretty good. Sam dithered between salads and a sandwich.

"Sam… have some hot food if you can manage it. At least get some rice. You need the calories," Janet suggested. "Try the curry. It's not too spicy."

"Okay," Sam said. "Actually it looks pretty good. I think I will." The server handed her a generous portion of the dish. They both got coffees and then sat at a corner table to talk.

"So how's the Christmas shopping going?" Janet asked.

"You know how it is," Sam said. "I got some bits and pieces in a few months ago intending to get a head start on it but I've done nothing since. I'm off duty tomorrow and I was going to hit the mall and try to do it in one fell swoop as I've at least one mission scheduled next week but…" she shrugged and took a forkful of curry. "Hmmm this is good. You know how it is. I've no idea what to buy Mark's kids. Or Cassie for that matter." Or you. Even if I'm not your secret santa I have to get you something, she thought. You are my best friend after all. And even if I can never tell you…

"My shift finishes mid afternoon tomorrow," Janet said. "I could meet up with you if you want, give you some pointers on what to get for Cassie. Although if you asked her I'm sure she could furnish you with a long list of ideas. For a child who wasn't subjected to the Christmas spirit until a year ago she's certainly embraced it wholeheartedly." Janet smiled. "She's a great kid though. She's been saving most of her allowance for months to make sure she can buy you and the guys nice presents. I said I would match whatever she saved. I got quite a shock when she showed me how much she'd put together."

"You didn't have to do that, Janet. Neither of you did," Sam said, her cheeks pinking again. "You know me, I'm ridiculously easy to please. So are the guys."

"It's something she wants to do," Janet shrugged. "For some reason she thinks you're worth making a fuss about." She grinned at the face Sam pulled. "So, have we got a date for tomorrow afternoon?"

"Sure," Sam smiled. "It'll be great."

Sam walked Janet back to the Infirmary and then continued on to her Lab. She realised that she felt completely rotten about swapping Janet. Here was an opportunity to show exactly what the doctor meant to her as a friend – as a friend, she told herself firmly – and she had wussed out.

"Carter, you are an idiot!" she told herself again. Not to mention completely chickenshit. She continued past her lab to where she had a good chance of finding Daniel. She had to swap assignments back again.

Daniel was in the storeroom set aside for artefacts that had not yet been catalogued with three jars set in front of him and a magnifying glass. He was poring over what were possibly inscriptions but to Sam's eyes looked nothing more than random scratches set into the surface of each vase.

"Daniel – about the secret santa thing…"

Daniel paused, deliberately put down his magnifying glass. "Not again. What is it with the two of you?"

"What?" Sam looked genuinely puzzled.

Daniel looked slightly stricken. "Oh, er nothing. Yeah, the secret santa deal. I've got some ideas what to get Janet, don't worry. I'm not completely clueless you know."

"I know that, Daniel. I don't mean to mess you around but I kind of feel bad about what I did. I want to swap back, if that's okay with you."

"You… want… to… swap… back," Daniel said softly. There was a dangerous light in his eyes. Sam stepped back a pace, made sure she had a clear exit.

"That isn't a problem, is it?"

There was almost something feral in his grin as if he knew something that she didn't, something that was causing him almost savage amusement. "No, not a problem. I hadn't actually had time to do anything about it yet."

"So, you're okay to get something for Teal'c instead," Sam clarified.

"Yes, Sam."

"And we're okay."

"We're fine, Sam. Just fine."

"Okay, well, I'll… I've got some work to finish off if I want to get my day off tomorrow so…" she pointed towards the door. "I'll just go."

"Okay." He picked up the magnifying glass again.

As Sam walked back up the corridor to the lifts, she was sure she heard him giggling. Perhaps she wasn't the only one who had been working too hard.

2. Mall Rats

She had been in the mall for a little over three hours already had managed to buy precisely one present and was fairly certain she was slowly going insane. Sam was also completely lost. She had arranged to meet Janet at Starbucks in Blue sector in twenty minutes. She was currently standing somewhere in Red sector. The Christmas muzak reached the heights of Ding Dong Merrily on High, the falsetto notes grating. Her feet were hurting, her eyes were painfully dry and if one more young woman drove a pushchair into her legs she would not be responsible for her actions.

She was a highly trained, decorated military officer. Finding her way around a shopping mall could not be that difficult. She could do this.

Sam looked at the map display. You are here flashed despondently at her. She looked around, then squinted at the map again. If J C Penney's was behind her and Waldon Books to her left then she should take the right hand hall back towards the food court, walk straight through the food court keeping Dairy Queen on her left and then she would be in Blue Sector. Starbucks was at the second intersection on her right after the food court. Piece of cake.

Okay. Made perfect sense. She turned to her right and started walking.

Ding Dong segued unhappily into the Little Drummer Boy, one of the entertainment industries more bizarre pairings of David Bowie and Bing Crosby. Twenty or more years on it was still pretty bizarre. She paused outside a gaming shop and looked at some of the figurines on display. Cassie had got into roleplaying games recently. She had even suggested that they play one some time rather than their more usual Saturday chess tournament. There was a warrior woman who looked like a slightly more buxom version of Gairwyn. And another figure, regal and cruel. All she needed was a hand device and she would be a perfect… no, perhaps not that one. But the warrior woman was kind of cool.

She had fifteen minutes before she met Janet. And being able to say she had bought two presents sounded so much better than having bought only one. She walked into Games Workshop.

Being so obviously checked out by the sales assistant would have been better if she didn't feel old enough to be his mom. Stowing the boxed figurine in her bag she glanced at her watch again. Five minutes. She was going to have to hurry.

Five minutes later she still hadn't reached the food court but some how she was outside Games Workshop again. The muzak was now warbling a song about travelling spacemen that made her long for the Bing and Bowie show again. The queenly figure in the window smirked at her. Sam glared at it. The assistant in the shop noticed her reappearance and smiled hopefully. Sam glared at him as well. What was going on with this place? No way had she doubled back on herself. She thought that all roads were supposed to lead to the Food Court in places like this. Steeling herself, she tried again.

Janet glanced at her watch. She was running so late! Sam would be waiting. The car park had been full to overflowing and it had taken her ages to find a place. Starbucks Blue Sector. She hurried towards the entrance.

Her mind flicked through all the things she needed to get prepared this afternoon. So much to do. Considering at one point she had thought she wasn't going to be able to get away at all. It would be good to spend some time with Sam. They had not seen much of each other recently outside of Sam's regular Saturday visits to see Cassie. Certainly they were overdue a girl's night out. She loved seeing her friend relaxed, wearing pretty clothes for a change. Sam was such a beautiful woman.

Ah ah, she reminded herself. Don't go there Fraiser. Few things were more out of bounds for her than Samantha Carter. God, even her name was beautiful. Samantha.

She would just have to make the most of this afternoon in her company especially as it seemed fate was insistent on keeping them apart for the rest of the time. The Medieval banquet was a good example. Cassie's school was organising it to raise money for the local hospice and tickets were like hot cakes. Janet had not bothered to get one as she was scheduled to be on duty that night but she knew that Sam had bought one, eager to support Cassie who was singing and performing at the Banquet. And now as it turned out she was free to go and there were no tickets left. Life sucked sometimes.

Okay. Blue Sector. Turn left here and Starbucks was the next intersection on the… "Hey!"

Body Shop… Zales… Fredericks of Hollywood… Teddybear Factory… Radioshack… Chocolatiers… Cookie Cabin… shoe shop… another shoe shop… another shoe shop… one that seemed to sell only candles that she must remember to tell Teal'c about if he didn't already have an account there. It was definitely weird. Normally when she went out shopping she seemed to navigate her way around places between branches of Starbucks and now she could not find one for love nor money. She was getting increasingly desperate. Janet was going to think she had forgotten about their date or got sidetracked somewhere.

She wove through the crowds of people, wishing she had her P90 with her. Or a zat. That would come in very handy about now. As she turned into another hallway someone heading in the opposite direction rather fast cannoned into her. Automatically she reached out to steady the smaller woman before she fell on her ass only belatedly realising that it was Janet.

"Hey!" Janet still hadn't realised who it was. "Why don't you watch… Sam!" Sam felt a shiver of delight at the grin that suddenly wreathed Janet's features. A smile aimed only at her. "Seems like the whole town decided to do their Christmas shopping today."

"Only three weeks to Christmas," Sam reminded her.

"Don't say that!" Janet sighed. "I've got so much still to organise! At least I'm not cooking Christmas dinner this year. Cassie and I are heading down to my mom's for the holiday. What are you doing?" Somehow they had reached Starbucks. Sam could not remember how they got there. It seemed to have magically appeared before them. Perhaps they had perfected cloaking technology as well. They gave their order and found a table near the window.

"Umm. Not much. Mark is with the in-law's this year and Dad is…" she shrugged. She had no idea what to say about her father. "I've volunteered to work through the holiday period anyway. Give those with families a chance to take some time off."

"You have family, Sam," Janet said softly. "There's always room for another with us, you know. Mom always cooks enough to feed a small army. She'd love it if you came along too. Cassie talks to her about you all the time."

Sam smiled, overcome by the gesture. "That's very kind of you Janet, but I couldn't impose on you like that, it wouldn't…"

"Think about it, please," Janet urged. "We're not leaving until the 23rd, after Cassie's term finishes – not that they seem to be doing much at the moment other than preparing for the Medieval Banquet. You did manage to get tickets for that, didn't you?"

"Yes, I got tickets," Sam said. "It's a pity you can't make it."

Janet shrugged. "I know. I was supposed to be working that night but I'm free now. Dr Warner asked me to swap shifts with him later in the week so that he could attend his son's sports prize giving. Anyway I tried to get a ticket this morning but they've all gone. Apparently there's a waiting list for returns so my chances of getting to see Cassie sing look pretty bleak." She shrugged. "There'll be other concerts, I'm sure. But this was pretty special." Changing the subject she nodded towards the bags by Sam's chair. "Well I see you made at least a start on your Christmas shopping."

Sam grinned. "Yep, I even bought something for Cassie."

Janet gave her a little round of applause. "Well done. How about your secret santa gift?" As soon as she said it Janet felt bad about it. Her tone had sounded unbelievably catty even though she knew that there was no way Sam knew that she knew that Sam had swapped her. Sam looked distinctly uncomfortable.

"I'm working on it," she said at last. "I want to get something special, you know what I mean."

Janet nodded. "I know. Its one of those things that its too easy to buy a joke gift or a generic present you know – socks or a tie if it's a guy, smellies or a scarf if it's a girl."

"So are you looking for socks or smellies?" Sam asked.

"I was looking to go a little more upmarket I think. My recipient is one of the great unsung you know. Half of what they do just doesn't get recognised for the importance that it has."

She must have got someone like Siler or Davis, Sam thought. The SGC would have fallen apart years ago without the two of them. "My recipient is the same," she said. "There aren't enough flowers or chocolates in the world to say thank you for everything they put into the SGC."

Blushing is an uncontrolled response but Janet did her best, paying extra attention to her coffee cup for a few moments. Once she was reasonably sure her cheeks had stopped flaming she glanced up at Sam. "So, where do you want to go first?"

Sam's attention had been momentarily taken by a poster on the wall advertising a Christmas craft fair which was housed in one of the larger currently unlet units in the run up to the holiday. "How about trying in there?"

"Oh good, I didn't realise they were doing it again this year. Cassie and I went to one last year. A lot of local arts and crafts people have stalls there, you should be able to find some unusual gifts there, definitely."

"Sounds like a plan then," Sam said, draining the last of her coffee. "Shall we?"

The store was bustling but not overly crowded and the two women spent a leisurely hour wandering from stall to stall each taking careful note of items that the other favoured without drawing attention to what they were doing. Janet noted that Sam spent a lot of time examining some hand tooled leather belts and bags, particularly one set designed to fit on a motorbike. And on another stall Sam noted in turn that Janet seemed very taken with some carved and inlaid wooden boxes, running her fingers across the satin smooth wood.

Now all they had to do was distract the other one so that they could make their purchases.

They made a few other small purchases each and then sauntered out of the store heading by unspoken consent back in the general direction of the food court.

Think of something, Sam urged herself silently. She glanced at her watch… "Damn – I need to go and check something in Radio Shack," she lied. "I'll be twenty minutes or so. Do you want another coffee? I think I can find my way back to Starbucks again. I can meet you there."

"You are talking to a registered caffeine addict," Janet reminded her with a laugh. "Sure. I want to check out a couple of shops as well – presents for my mom and my sister. So, meet you in say… half an hour in Starbucks?"

"Sounds good to me," Sam smiled. Janet matched her smile and Sam felt her mouth go dry. She just stared at the smaller woman. Janet seemed equally dumbstruck, staring right back up at her, her liquid brown eyes wide and dark. And Sam knew at that moment that she wasn't just seeing what she wanted to see. She was seeing something that was real and true.

Janet could very well be in love with her.

Her heart sang. Oh wow. Oh joy. Reality bit. Oh shit.

3. Wassail

WASSAIL A festive occasion on which toasts are drunk; the ale or wine in which such toasts are made.

"Daniel, I need a favour."

"Sam, I swapped with you. Then I swapped BACK with you. I am not doing it again…"

"It's not that it's…" Sam Carter sighed. "You know I got us tickets for the mediaeval feast that Cassie's singing group is performing at…"

"Yeah, I was quite looking forward to that. Haven't tasted mead in ages," Daniel said. He watched the wince pass over Sam's face. "You're standing me up, Carter."

"Not exactly," Sam said. "Actually it's the other way round. I want… I need you to stand me up. It's like this… would you mind if I took Janet instead? She was scheduled to work that night so she didn't bother to get a ticket but now Dr Warner has asked her to swap so that he can go to his son's annual prize giving and so she's free now only there's no more tickets and I sort of told her already that I had a spare ticket as you couldn't make it and I'm really sorry and…" she jerked to a halt as Daniel put his hands on her shoulders.

"For god's sake, Sam, take a breath before you pass out. Of course you should give my ticket to Janet. It would be a terrible shame if she missed Cassie singing. The two of you have a good night."

"Thanks, Daniel," Sam embraced the lanky archaeologist. "You're a good friend."

"And in that light I'm just going to say one more thing," Daniel said. "Take this opportunity. Tell her, Sam. Tell her how you feel. You've both been dancing around each other for far too long."

Sam bowed her head for a moment and then gazed up at him, her vivid blue eyes sparkling. "I will, I promise," she said softly. She laughed self consciously. "Am I that obvious?"

"You both are – but only to someone who knows you both well," Daniel said. "Well, as I find myself unexpectedly free tomorrow night I'd better go and make some plans before Jack makes them for me."

Sam wandered along to the Infirmary to confirm plans with Janet. She stopped suddenly as something Daniel had said came back to her. "You both are," she whispered. She had not been able to stop thinking about that Janet, about that moment in the store when they had just stared at each other. It had only lasted a few moments (or an eternity – several laws of physics had seemed to be temporarily in abeyance) but the self awareness had coloured the rest of her day.

She had eventually got her body to move and headed out towards Radio Shack only to double back and re-enter the store going back to the stall with the carved wooden boxes. They had been way over the price limit for the secret santa but she had bought one anywhere. A long slim box about eight inches long and four inches wide and deep, made of beechwood, the top inlaid in an ivyleaf pattern with satinwood and ebony. It was the same box Janet had not been able to stop herself from touching. It was a wonderfully tactile object. Sam had glanced around as she waited for her purchase to be wrapped and for a moment thought she had seen Janet but then several people had walked between them and when she looked up again she was gone, if it had ever been her in the first place. As she was about to walk away she saw something else, a tiny photograph frame with the same ivy leaf design running up the side. It wasn't large enough to hold something much bigger than a passport photograph but it was exactly on budget for the secret santa present and it definitely fitted the unique and unusual category. Sam had bought it as well.

Their earlier conversation about the Medieval Banquet was still running through her head. Sam had bought two tickets as Daniel had expressed an interest in going. He had attended one or two medieval banquets in England when he was a student, once as a guest, once, as Cassie was doing this year, as part of the Entertainment. And of course providing moral support to his favourite honorary niece was very important. And it was for a good cause.

He would not mind. Not really. Not if it was for Janet.

As she neared Starbucks again she saw Janet approaching from the other direction at her usual speed. Her expedition had also been successful, she was also carrying several extra bags.

"I know it's still relatively early, but I think I'm ready to call it a day," Janet said as they took their seats. "I've got most of what I was looking for and it's starting to get a little too crowded in here for my tastes. I get kind of claustrophobic sometimes."

"I'm pretty much done as well," Sam said. "Is there anywhere else you want to go?"

"Home to put my aching feet up and perhaps crack open a bottle of wine," Janet said. She took a sip of her coffee which had just arrived. "Ahh. Just the thing."

Sam grinned. "You know, watching you and Daniel drink coffee is quite… revealing. You seem to have a different relationship to it than anyone else I've come across."

"I really don't know what you mean Samantha Carter," Janet said, then burst into a fit of giggles. "Come on. No way am I as bad as Daniel. Half the time I don't know whether he's about to drink his coffee or ask it out on a date!"

"Well maybe not quite as bad," Sam allowed. Here goes, she thought. "And speaking of Daniel – I got him a ticket for the Medieval Banquet as well but I don't think he's going to be free that night after all. I'm sure he'd be very happy if you took his place instead."

"Really! Oh that would be fantastic, Sam. Thank you!"

Sam glowed. Daniel would be fine with the change of plan. He would. Of course he would.

And he had been. And now she was going to the Banquet with Janet. It was a date – kind of. She paused. Did she want it to be a date. The answer was unequivocally yes. The question was – what did Janet think it was?

Janet was beyond distraction. Sam was picking her up in twenty minutes and she wasn't anywhere near to being ready. What the hell did one wear to a Medieval Banquet anyway? Especially when you were going with a woman that you desperately wanted to impress, attract… oh who was she kidding! As far as she was concerned this was her first date with Samantha Carter and she was going to make the most of any opportunity that arose to get closer to the woman.

She had packed off Cassie an hour ago, the young woman still mumbling her lines from the play to herself certain that she was going to get on stage and forget them. To Janet's amusement she was playing the Doctor in the Mummer's Play that was part of the evening's entertainment.

"I can cure the itch, the stitch,
The palsy and the gout.
If there's ninety nine diseases in
I'm bound to fetch a hundred out.

I have in my pocket crutches for lame ducks
Spectacles for blind bumble bees
And plaisters for broken-backed mice
I cured Saint Harry of an agony
A hundred yards long
So surely I can cure this poor man"

After two weeks of rehearsals Janet knew the words almost as well as Cassie did.

She stared at the collection of clothes laid out on her bed and shook her head. No. None of them were right. She went to her wardrobe and worked her way along the rail before pausing to duck down to look inside the box that had arrived this morning. Sam's Christmas present. Not just a secret santa present. A real Christmas present, one that would obviously mean something. The black leather saddlebags for Sam's bike had been expensive but she knew that Sam would appreciate the gift. The tooling on the flap of the bags was in a celtic knotwork design that had a wonderfully organic look to it. The box also contained a broad leather belt with a similar pattern tooled on it. This was Sam's secret santa present. She knew Sam would like it. The thought of pleasing Sam made her smile. God, she had it bad.

Ten minutes. She turned back to her bed again and picked up the first outfit she had discarded. She usually trusted her first impressions and this was the one that had 'spoken' to her first before the doubts crept in. The dress was a dark burgundy colour, simply but well cut, fitted to the waist then flaring out falling to mid calf. And she could wear heels with it which would make the height difference between her and her lanky friend less extreme. She left her hair down, putting combs in it to pull it back from her face a little and was sparing with the make-up.

The doorbell rang. She was done. She took a deep breath and assessed herself in the mirror. Yes. She had made the right choice. Her reflection stared back at her, dark eyes glittering, cheeks lightly flushed with excitement, anticipation. The dark colours of the dress brought out the reddish tints in her hair, set off the creamy tones in her skin.

Picking up the shawl that matched the dress and her handbag, Janet went downstairs to open the door to Sam.

"Wow," her friend said. "You look fantastic, Janet. Really…"

Janet smiled at the expression on her friends face. A success. "You look really good as well, Sam." And she did. She had seen Sam wear the suit before and always thought its tailored lines showed her slim figure to great advantage, and the electric blue silk blouse she wore really brought out the amazing colour of her eyes and the fairness of her skin and hair. "You look wonderful in fact. We're going to make quite a pair."

"I hope so," Sam murmured. "I…" she paused as Janet took another step towards her.

Before she had chance to think about what she was doing, Janet reached up and kissed Sam on the lips. As first kisses go it was quite chaste. The second was not quite so chaste. By the third Sam's hands were caressing her shoulders, her hair and Janet's fingers were wound in Sam's thick soft hair. They had to stop. This had to stop. They…

Sam moved back, breathing heavily. "I think we should…"

"I agree," Janet said, equally breathless. "I've been wanting…"

"So have I… was going to tell you this evening how I felt but that way much better much…"

"Quicker. Yes," Janet said. They stared at each other in silence for a long moment. "We need to go…"

"Yes. Yes. We should." Janet had rarely seen Sam so flustered. Janet picked up her jacket and bag again from where she had unceremoniously dropped them on the floor and they left the house, Sam waiting whilst Janet locked the door behind her. They walked down the path towards Sam's car.

The short journey to the school was accomplished in silence. The gymnasium had been converted to a medieval banqueting hall for the evening and a group of squires and wenches met them at the door and led them to their seats on the benches that lined the long tables. Candles and lamps lined the tables and the walls, a group of students were playing Christmas carols at one end of the hall which was starting to fill up.

They elected to sit next to each other rather than opposite one another so that they could talk more discreetly. And the thought of such easy physical contact made them both shiver. Janet rested her hand on Sam's thigh and Sam covered it with one of her own, their fingers entwining. It felt very right, very natural.

"I can't believe this is really happening," Sam said softly. Servers were making their way between the tables, pouring out cups of mead or cider for everyone.

"Part of me can't believe we waited this long," Janet confessed. "I've had feelings for you for such a long time, Sam. I couldn't hope to believe that you felt the same way…"

"Only since the first day we met, I think," Sam joked weakly. "I don't… I'm not one to give my heart easily, Janet. But this… I couldn't let any more time pass without telling you…"

The doors at the far end of the room opened. The lords and ladies filed in to take their places at the top table followed by the entertainers who were singing the wassail song.

"Let every man take off his hat
And shout out to th'old apple tree
Old apple tree we wassail thee
And hoping thou will bear."

"Daniel told me about this," Sam whispered. "It's the wassail, a toast for good health and friendship through the coming year."

"I can drink to that," Janet smiled. "And more. To becoming more than friends, Sam." She gazed at the lovely woman by her side. "I think I could very easily come to love you you know."

Sam smiled and in the guise of brushing a lock of hair back off Janet's cheek, let her fingers caress along one delicate cheekbone. "Friendship and love. All good things," she whispered. "And you. The best of all."

They gazed at each other, smiling as their fellow revellers were encouraged to take up the song:

"Here we come a-wassailing
Among the leaves so green,
Here we come a-wand'ring
So fair to be seen.
Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail, too,
And God bless you, and send you
A Happy New Year,
And God send you a Happy New Year."

The End

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