Disclaimer: Oh, who am I kidding? If you're reading this piece of fanfiction, you already know that I don't own them, somebody else does. I'm just borrowing the characters, and I didn't make any money off this story... Darn.

A/N Sixth in the 'Relationship Series.'

Celebration?

by Linda Bindner

Sam stood in the frigid air of a typical winter day in Colorado Springs, and rang Jack's doorbell. Snow surrounded the sidewalk she was standing so patiently on, and Christmas lights blinked on all the houses on the block except Jack's. Sam hadn't thought anything about the relatively bare condition of Jack's house last year, but this Christmas season, she knew Jack a whole lot better than she had a year ago. She ought to know him, as they had been dating in secret for well over a year, now.

As Sam stood in the cold of early evening, she thought about her reasoning for even being here, a place she undeniably wasn't supposed to be. She'd had plans to spend the holidays with her brother in San Diego, as she had done the previous year. Of course, Jack had supported her jaunt last year, suggesting that fewer rumors would be spread about them if it were known that she was going to spend the Christmas holidays with Mark. The same had been planned for this year, but as she was waiting to board the airplane that would take her to California, she had suddenly decided that she wanted to spend the holiday with Jack instead of Mark's family. She had retrieved her bag from the baggage employees, cashed in her ticket, and now here she was, after driving three hours through a freak snowstorm that seemed to only be affecting the holiday travelers in between the Springs and Denver. She hadn't counted on the weather not cooperating with her change of plans, and now she was hungry, tired, and cold. Actually, she just wanted to snuggle with Jack, knowing that a good snuggle would solve almost anything life could throw at her, even bad weather.

Impatient, Sam rang the bell again. Was it even working? She strained to hear the distant peel of the doorbell. Suddenly the front door was thrown open, revealing Jack, looking slightly pained until he realized who she was. His surprise gave way to delight first, followed swiftly by confusion.

Sam! What are you doing here? Did something happen? What's going on?

Sam smiled. No, nothing happened. She shrugged helplessly. I decided at the last minute that I wanted to spend Christmas with you instead of Mark's family. So, I called Mark, canceled, grabbed my bag, drove through a really weird snowstorm that only seems to be hitting the interstate between here and Denver, spent three hours on the road when I should have only had to spend one, and here I am! Again came her bright smile, which slowly faltered when he didn't immediately invite her into his home. I hope that doesn't bother you... Me being here, I mean, she said in a small voice that was growing even smaller by the second.

No! Jack exclaimed then. I'm not bothered at all! he went on. Um, he continued, finally stepping back, out of her way. Come in. Sorry about it taking so long for me to invite you in... I was just so surprised to see you is all.

Sam stepped across his threshold, then hung her coat in the entryway. I'm sorry about all this changing around.., she insisted on saying. But Christmas is all about spending time with who you love, and...

You don't love Mark? Jack teased from behind her as he followed her down the hall, and into the living room.

Sam rolled her eyes. Of course I love Mark, but I can't even pretend that I'm in love with him... That would be fairly illegal, anyway, wouldn't it? she asked as a teasing aside of her own, then went on with her explanation. Anyway, I was sitting at the airport in Denver when it hit me that this plan of ours was slightly silly. I mean, I can spend the holidays with you without causing too much speculation, and... Suddenly, her wandering gaze caught sight of the coffee table. Actually, her gaze caught site of what was scattered on top of the coffee table. The mess, or more precisely, what was in the mess, stopped her commentary, and she was only able to stare blankly in the direction of the coffee table.

On the low table sat one full glass of whiskey, its fumes telling her about the contents of the glass without her having to bring the foul-smelling liquid to her nose for a sniff, and a scattering of letters, cards, and pictures, all of Jack's previous family. What's going on? What are you doing? she asked then, a confused wrinkle to her nose.

Jack hunched his shoulders. He didn't pretend to be doing something innocent, like cleaning just to clean, in order to fill up his free time. He instead told her exactly what he'd been doing, or had been about to do. Wallowing.

Again Sam's gaze flitted back to the glass of whiskey. Hard liquor? she asked herself. Jack never drinks hard liquor. Or, at least, I've never seen him drink hard liquor. At last, she looked at him in obvious suspicion. Are you drunk? she asked, and with good reason, considering the tumbler full of whiskey he must have had sitting at his finger tips.

Well, that was the plan, Jack told her. But, no, I'm not yet, he confessed.

'The plan?' Sam questioned. The wrinkle on her forehead etching itself even deeper into her skin.

Jack looked guiltily down at the floor, and stuffed his hands in his pockets, something he hadn't done at any place besides the SGC in months. This is what I do during the holidays, he told her. I... remember.

'You remember,' she repeated him in a dazed fashion.

And regret, he ended.

Sam peered once more at the pile of photographs on the coffee table. They were mostly pictures of Charlie, from his infant years all the way through to the year of his untimely death. Sam could tell what she was seeing, as he grew progressively older in each photo. Most of the pictures had been taken at his school. Then something new caught her wandering gaze. Her eyes widened for just a second, and she slowly crossed the room to the table to pull out the picture that had halted her gaze.

It was the photo of Jack, Sara, and Charlie, when Jack was still married to Sara, the one that he'd displayed on the shelf between his living room and dining rooms when she had first known him. It was not an unfamiliar photo to her. She would have recognized it anywhere, even though he had removed it from the heavy frame it had been displayed in. Since the time when she'd first known Jack, he had removed that picture from its prominent place of display, now showing a more recent picture of his team mates having fun in the sun of an abandoned planet somewhere in the Milky Way Galaxy. She hadn't seen the picture of Jack and Sara and Charlie for several years, at least.

Now, however, she was getting an eyeful. The threesome were standing happily outside their house, smiling at the camera. This photo must have been fairly near the time Charlie had accidentally shot himself and died: He was pretty old in the picture, she decided absentmindedly. She especially looked at Jack, as she always automatically looked at him in pictures. But what really caught her attention was that they all looked so happy together, both as a family, and Jack with Sara.

Without warning, jealousy hit Sam like she had been punched in her stomach as her gaze swiveled next to the woman standing in Jack's willing (or so it looked) embrace. She herself had wanted to be embraced in his arms exactly like Sara was in the photo, yet here he was, thinking that she was gone, so he was free to look at pictures of the family... the ex-wife... that he had lost...

Jack spoke first. Um... You know, maybe this isn't the best time for you to see me like this...

'Like this?' Sam again repeated him, slowly lifting her suddenly heavy head so that she could stare at him.

Yeah, he softly said, his expression of guilt only increasing. I'm not the best of company around the holidays...

Jack, Sam chastised as she lowered the picture to her side. She tried to ignore the feeling of jealousy that was accosting her, but couldn't quite eradicate it entirely. I don't care how you behave... You know that... I just wanted to be here, in the same house with you, for a holiday...

Jack crossed over to her, and gently removed the picture from her grasp. He placed it upside down on top of the other pictures scattered on the coffee table. Maybe this particular holiday isn't the time for you to be around me...

Was he trying to get rid of her? That's what it sounded like to her... Sam blankly gazed at him, just beginning to comprehend and connect what she had seen with what she was discovering about his Christmas habits. Jack... She tried her best to once again rein in her feelings of jealousy. She had no reason to feel jealous, she thought to herself. It was just a picture of his ex-wife and his lost family... She knew how much he had always claimed to miss them...

But, then, on the other hand, what was wrong with what she and Jack had? True, it had to be kept secret, so nothing possibly incriminating, such as photos, had ever been taken of them, but he'd always professed to adore her, so she'd had no reason to be jealous before now.

Until... Still thinking that Jack had been in the process of perusing photos of his old family, and he had quite obviously laid the picture she'd been holding face down on his coffee table so that she couldn't see it, Sam had very little reason not to think that, maybe, perhaps, he was still missing them, in spite of his relationship with her.

And why was that? Sam suddenly felt terribly inadequate; She had always suffered from a lack of confidence in her interpersonal relationships... Jack knew that. So, what was he doing?

So, Jack continued, his hands once again stuffed nervously in his pockets. Which was strange... Jack hadn't been nervous around her since that infamous (though secret) first date they'd had when they had eaten junk, and talked in a mall full of strangers. Are you here to take pity on me or something, and keep me from..?

Sam's jealousy swiftly turned to anger, red and hot, as she stared at him with narrowing eyes. This has nothing to do with pity, she informed him in a clipped tone.

Jack gazed back at her, just as uncomprehending as she had been. But isn't that really why you even came here this Christmas? he asked. Because I encouraged you to go to Mark's...

Sam's eyes shot to the photo that he had turned over, lying innocently on the coffee table. And now I know why you always seemed to be so encouraging, she answered, her tone still angry, and understandably so, given the circumstances. Look, if you want me to just go so that you can get on with you wallowing, I can. I know where the door is. Sam headed for the stairs leading into the entry hall, and would have left the house, but for the fact that Jack grabbed her arm before she could even reach the stairs.

Sam, that's not what I meant, and you know it, Jack began to say.

Sam whirled around to glare at him. Oh, do I? she challenged, all pretense of having a civilized conversation with him gone. Why don't you fill me in on what else I'm supposed to know, she spitefully suggested.

Jack narrowed his eyes. Why are you so angry at me? he asked. You're the one who's not even supposed to be here...

That's a no-brainer! Sam declared. I'm supposed to be happily and obliviously off at Mark's so that you can be free to... what is this?... To long for your old life, your old family...

What's that got to do with you being suddenly so mad at me? Jack questioned, then he scoffed, And I was not longing, or pining, or wishing, or...

Jack, I'm not an idiot! Sam reminded him. I show up, unexpected, and find that you've spent the day looking at pictures of your ex-wife and son... What the hell am I supposed to think? she scathingly inquired. That you...

I take this one day a year to remember how stupid I was, and Charlie paid the price, and all you can see is Sara? Of course Sara was in all my pictures that I have of Charlie... She was his mother, if I remember correctly...

Sam shot back, I do not want to be forced into some kind of competition with your ex-wife that...

Competition? Jack repeated. I never thought that you were in some kind of competition with Sara...

Just let me go, Jack, Sam demanded, pulling her arm out of his grasp. I can see that I'm just extra baggage to have around, especially on a holiday, so...

Jack's eyes were blazing with his own intense anger now, too. You are not 'extra baggage,' Sam, Jack firmly told her. You know that you never have been...

I don't know anything like that! Sam cut him off. I...

And that was when Jack did something so unexpected that it left Sam reeling and feeling slightly foolish. He took one step closer to her, and quickly wrapped his arms around her. What are we doing, Sam? he asked her, though his tone suggested that he wasn't looking for an answer to his question. The fact that he continued in the same questioning vein supported that line of thinking. Are we fighting?

Sam stood stiffly in his embrace. It was ironic that she had wanted just such a gesture from him earlier, and now that she had gotten what she wanted, she found that she wasn't able to reciprocate it. Perhaps we are, she said.

And about Sara, of all people? Jack went on to inquire.

I know that you must miss her.., Sam began to say.

Jack interrupted her comment. But I don't, he said, his blunt statement surprising Sam enough for her to ask a question as well.

You don't? she inquired.

Jack vigorously shook his head. As unbelievable as that may sound, Jack said, I don't. His arms tightened around her, and, at long last, hers rose to encircle him as well. Now, if you were to die like Charlie did.., Jack started to say, but he stopped himself, and literally clutched at her. God, you can't.., he raggedly said. Just thinking that such a thing can happen again to me will give me nightmares for a month.

That was a surprising thing to say for a man who was secretly longing for someone else, like his ex-wife, Sam's rational mind argued. Aloud, she whispered, Are you sure?

Damn, Sam, Jack softly divulged to her. I dread that very thing every time we go through that 'Gate. Just a little part of me wonders if this is the time that... His voice broke, and he had to take a strained breath so that he could finish. I worry that I might lose you like I did Charlie, like I did my old family... He stood for a moment holding her tight enough to steal the breath from her, as if he could keep bad things from happening to her if he were only able to just squeeze her tightly enough. I don't know how I would live without you in...

His voice trailed off into nothing before he had the chance to finish his thought. He just held her so tightly that she got the impression that he never wanted to let her go. Then his quiet voice started an explanation that sounded just beyond her left shoulder. I always spend my Christmases this way, you know, like wallowing is my traditional Christmas activity, he said. And I did it last year, too, though I had more trouble with it, he told her. And this year, I hadn't even gotten started on it yet. I... I couldn't get started, he whispered in an ongoing, tragic, manner. I kept thinking about you... Remembering you... Our conversations, some of the things we've done together...

But we can't really do anything together here, she reminded him in a matching whisper. We can't be seen together off base, not like a couple, not since that time we went to that movie together...

I know, he interrupted. We might run into someone we know... And I'm so afraid that you being seen with me... with me.., he clarified. Together... As a couple... I'm so afraid that it will somehow hurt you, hurt you career... And I'll never be able to forgive myself for screwing up again.., he went on.

Sam stopped him. If that ever happens, I'll know that it's not your fault, she told him. You would never actively want that...

Which is why I was sitting on my couch, with a glass of whiskey, that I didn't even drink, by the way, and all I could think about was how we have just so many days of downtime right now, and that it would have been nice if I had thought sooner of flying with you to somewhere big, like New York City, or London, or Toronto, where it would be almost impossible for us to run into anyone that we know, so we can be together like a normal couple, but I was too dumb, again, and missed my chance to mention it because you were gone to Mark's... And what a good Christmas present that would have been...

You already gave me something for Christmas, she told him. I wasn't expecting to get anything more for...

This is stupid, Jack suddenly announced. There's no reason why we can't go now that we're both together... It's not like I want to stay home, and wallow by myself, anyway.

Sam lifted her head, pushing it back so that she could look at him. Do you meant that, Jack? she asked. Do you really want to go with me to somewhere like New York City?

Or London, or... Jack argued. Unless you have somewhere specific that you'd rather go instead?

God, no! Sam proclaimed. I've always wanted to go to NYC, but just didn't have the time...

Jack peered straight into her face as excitement began to take hold of his voice. Then let's check the flight times... There's really no reason to wait, not to go...

Sam stared at him. Are you serious, here?

Sam, there's nothing I'd like more than to spend some time with you like we're in a regular relationship, Jack told her. What a good Christmas present to ourselves, he went on to say. And we wouldn't have to explain ourselves to anybody... Teal'c's off world, visiting his family during the break, Daniel's in Chicago, Doc's with Cassie at her parent's in Washington state...

So NYC sounds like it's pretty darned safe, Sam continued.

Hey, we could go to a ball game.., Jack started to say.

Sam couldn't help it... she laughed. You and your sports...

It's not so bad, Jack argued. I'll even let you eat popcorn...

Sam laughed again. I do have to admit that I like popcorn. Then she looked around at the pictures and cards and mementos lying on his coffee table. What about... She pointed. That, she tactfully said.

Oh, that? Jack echoed her, and looked, too. Then he turned back to stare at her. Just leave it, he suggested. He smiled directly into her blue eyes. I suddenly have something better to do.

And with their arms entwined around each other's waists, he led her toward the room he kept his computer in so Sam could work her magic on his computer (he himself knew next to nothing about booking plane tickets online), and get them on a flight to... wherever... Their destination really didn't matter to him. What mattered was that they went on this unexpected trip together...

And he hoped he would remember to bring along the ring he'd bought...

Sequel: NYC, or Bust


Back to [Stargate SG-1 Stories]. Send comments to linda.bindner@gmail.com.

This page has been accessed 1117 times since 2005 Jul 30.