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The 12 Things I Hate About Christmas/Jingle All the Way by iiiionly

The Twelve Things I Hate About Christmas

“Jack?  Psssst, Jaaaccckk.”

“Daniel,” Janet’s voice, “leave him alone or you’ll have to leave the infirmary.”

A small hand pats my cheek lightly, then with a little more force, and a voice inside my head picks up where the voice outside my head left off.  ‘Come on, Jack, wake up!  We have to go home.  Janet’s going to make me go home with her if you don’t wake up soon and I don’t want to.  Please wake up?’

Oh, for cryin’ out loud.  I shake my head and reach automatically to hold it on, except I miss and hit myself smack in the eye instead. 

Small hands wrap around my wrist and pull my hand down to my side. 

“You awake?” Daniel whispers, looming directly in my vision like someone’s applied a fisheye lens to my corneas. 

This time my hand reaches the right destination and clutches the getting-sparser grey hair at my temple.  “What happened?”  Is that really me?  I sound a hundred years old.

“Uhm,” Daniel says, scrunching up his face; though that might just be my blurry vision.  “You . . . tripped.”

“Tripped.”  I don’t have the energy to frame it as a question and wracking my fuzzy brain I can come up with no good reason for being this fuzzy. 

I’m relatively certain there were no Fuzzy Navels involved since all the hard liquor’s been removed from the house with Daniel’s downsizing.  I’ve been tempted a couple of times, to get plastered, this parenting thing isn’t always fun and games, ya know.  I raise my other hand to my head as well – or at least I try.  But it’s damned heavy . . . and flamingo pink . . . and I’m positive I’m hallucinating. 

“What the hell is this?”  I wave it in front of my face, but the color doesn’t change. 

Daniel’s scrunched-up face does though.  He looks appallingly guilty. And another face slides into my line-of-sight.

“Get down, Daniel.  I told you to leave him alone.”

I curl an arm – the one that’s not strangely pink – around whatever part of him I can reach.  I’m not sure at the moment what part it is, but I hang on anyway.  “He’s not bothering me.”

 Janet sighs and taps my cheek.  “Follow my finger . . .”

Ohhhh, not a good idea; I barely make it over on my side before the nausea gags me.  Memory strikes a return, along with a lightening bolt of pain that shoots from the top of my head out through my left big toe, except it’s trapped inside my hiking boot, reverberating back up to my skull. 

“Why the hell did you put me out to cast the damn thing?”  I never do well with anesthesia and Janet knows it. 

This is payback for something. 

“You were in a lot of pain, Colonel, and not being particularly cooperative.”

Okay, I have to think about that for a moment.  I don’t remember that part.  I remember lights spread out from one from one end of the living room to the other.  I remember an intense desire to murder Cassie for letting Teal’c and Daniel’s bring home tree lights that play Jingle Bells every time someone walks past.  And I remember wondering if I could accidentally smash a few while they were spread out on the floor, hoping they’d be those kind of lights that if one dies, they all die.  Wait . . . it’s coming back . . . slowly. 

The dog, something about the dog . . . Hershey got tangled in the singing lights . . . somehow . . . but that doesn’t explain why Janet put me out to cast a broken arm.  Or why the cast is bright pink.

I roll back over with a groan to be met with a warm washcloth and an arm around my shoulders heaving me up.  “Oh . . . shit . . .” I’m gasping for air now. 

“Uhmmm, you have a couple of cracked ribs, too.  Take it easy, Teal’c.”

A cup is pressed to my lips and tilted so I inhale water and gag again. 

“Don’t swallow!” Janet’s voice admonishes, “This is just to rinse your mouth.  Here, spit.”

I spit all right.  “T?”

“O’Neill?”

“Back . . . gently, please.”

“Jack?”  Daniel’s voice, contrite, “Is he going to be okay?” and frightened.

I grope for his hand.  I’m in street clothes, lying on the bed, not in it, so I’m still at a loss as to why she’d put me out just to put a damn cast on my friggin’ arm.  I remember very well getting run down by a frantic Hershey, wrapped in lights singing Jingle Bells louder than he could bark, and landing on my ass.  I guess I should be thankful it’s not my tailbone that’s broken.  On the other hand, I don’t remember breaking anything else. 

“I’m okay, Sport.  Just a little cloudy.”

“That would probably be the electrical shock you received.”

“Electrical shock?” I repeat dumbly.  Maybe that explains the continued buzzing in my head.

“From the lights.”

“Hershey’s okay, too,” Daniel reassures.  “Janet says all that hair insulated him.”

“Feel better?”  The washcloth pats my face again.  “Let’s try it this way this time.  How many fingers?”

“Three . . .” I make an effort to sound authoritative.  I’ve got eleven kids coming over tomorrow night and lights still to put on a Christmas tree.  “I’m good, Doc.” 

I try to swing my legs off the bed and realize, belatedly, the railings are up on both sides.  Probably to keep Daniel from falling off - but how the hell did I just vomit over the side?  “Teal’c?”

“I am here, O’Neill.”

“Where’s Carter?”

“Sam’s at home putting the rest of the lights on the tree so we’ll be ready tomorrow night.  She did that breathing thing on Hershey and he waked right up.  But we couldn’t make you wake up.  I was scared you were dead,” Daniel says.  “But Teal’c said no and we brought you here.”

That probably explains why he’s wrapped around my arm like one of those Honduran jungle vines.  Only one other thing registers. 

“Carter did mouth-to-mouth on the dog?” 

“The jolt knocked you out.  You were still woozy when they got you here.”

“Teal’c drove really fast,” Daniel says admiringly.  “It only took us a couple of minutes to get here.”

Okay, so I was woozy, that doesn’t explain why there’s an IV in my good arm - for all I know still running junk into my system - or why a flamingo is nesting on my other arm. 

And Carter did mouth-to-mouth on the dog?

“Just painkiller now.  Can you sit up?”

Since when did Janet start channeling my mother?

“Your mother, sir?”

Oh, for cryin’ out loud! 

“What?” I shake my head in an effort to clear it. 

Oops, railroad spike, and the spike kinda spirals out of control when I clunk myself in the head with the – oh, yeah - flamingo pink cast from the middle of my fingers to just below my elbow, on my right arm. 

“Never mind.  Carter did mouth-to-mouth on the dog?”

“He got jolted, too,” Daniel answers.

“Having a little more body mass than the dog, it only knocked you out.  Can you sit up, sir?  I need to tape those ribs if you have any hope of going home tonight.  Not that I should even be thinking of sending you home doped up like you are with only an adolescent in the house.”

“I will stay with O’Neill and Danieljackson tonight.” 

“I’m fine.”

“Oh, my,” Janet says, “I’m hearing echoes of adult Daniel.  Isn’t that strange?  I miss him, too, sir,” she says, smiling in profile as she motions me over to the side of the bed where she lowers the railing, “but really, there’s no need to sacrifice yourself like that, sir.”

“You just want to tell me what I did to make you knock me out?” 

The question is barely out of my mouth when she turns around with her supplies and I get my first genuine, straight-on, non-fuzzy look at her. 

“Oh, shit.” I automatically reach out my right hand, which she grabs in both her own before I can knock her over with it.  “I did that?”  I feel, suddenly, as though I’ve been punched in the gut.  She’s got a shiner like you wouldn’t believe.  “I’m sorry.”

Got to love this woman.  She smiles, strokes the fingers of the hands she’s holding, and puts my hand back in my lap.  “Lucky swing, sir.  Can you unbutton your shirt?  Or do you need help?”

“I’m perfectly fine.  I can unbu . . .” Another wave of nausea swamps me unexpectedly and I’m doubled over barfing all over her shoes.   

“Jack?  Are you okay?”  Daniel’s bent double, too, peering into my face as his small hand pats the back of my neck.  “Are you sure he’s okay?”

“Maybe we should keep you tonight, sir.”  Janet motions for an orderlie to clean up the mess, steps out the way and calmly kicks off her high heels, using the washcloth she was probably just using on my face to wipe off her pantyhose.

“Sorry,” I offer stiltedly and hear her husky laugh. 

“I should have expected it.  It’s been so long, sir, I’d forgotten how badly you react to anesthesia and I didn’t bother to pull your chart after looking at the x-rays.  My fault.” 

Once the floor is clean, she pads over in her bare feet – damn, she’s a pocket fairy without those heels – helps me up again and props a couple pillows behind my back, then unbuttons my shirt herself. 

“If Teal’c will go home with you, I suppose I’ll let you go home tonight, but no more lights.”

I manage a surreptitious glance at my watch.  It’s only 17:00 hundred hours.  We were home with the tree around 15:00 hundred, so we can’t have been here very long. 

“It happened shortly after 4:00 p.m, O’Neill.”

I just nod, as I’m holding my breath while Janet tapes my ribs.  She slides a finger inside the wrapping.  “Too tight?” she asks, when I exhale very carefully.

“No, it’s good.”

“Good,” she repeats.  “Now lie back.”

“You said . . .”

“That you could go home tonight if Teal’c goes with you.  I didn’t say when tonight.  You’re not leaving until I’m sure you’re not going to pass out in the corridor or the elevator.”  She waits until I lie back - thankfully - though that word is not passing my lips any time soon.  “I’ll get you some compazine; then an hour without throwing up and I’ll let you go home.”

“Half an hour?”

“Daniel, go get your book and read to the Colonel.  It will help him pass the time.”

“Sure!” Daniel agrees, scrambling down off the bed.  He whirls through the infirmary doors like a small devil dervish.

“May as well pull up a chair, Teal’c; sounds like we’re going to be here for awhile.”

In less time than it takes to say Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, Daniel is back with the tome he’s in the middle of – for the at least the fifth time. 

“No spoilers,” I tell him, as he crawls back up on the bed and settles himself against me. 

“You already know the end,” he chastises. 

“That electric jolt knocked it right out of me and I don’t want to know what happens to Dumbledore.”

“Okay,” he agrees equitably.  “Close your eyes and rest.  If you fall asleep I’ll wake you up when it’s time to go, okay?”

“It’s a deal.”  I pull my casted arm into my right side, Daniel against my left side, and relax back against the pillows Janet shoved behind me.

Daniel rests the ten-pound book against his drawn up knees, slides his finger into the spot he has bookmarked, and opens the book.  “So, all in all, not one of Ron’s better birthday’s . . .”

Somewhere in the back of my mind Jingle Bells is accompanying the quiet lilt of Daniel’s voice as he reads, with nearly as good an accent, and just as many voices, as Jim Dale.  I remember, as I drift off to sleep, what’s at the top of my list of the twelve things I hate about Christmas . . . putting up the lights. 

I sure hope Hershey put paid to those damned singing things.

But how the hell did I end up with a flamingo pink cast?

*~*

Jingle All the Way

 

“Daniel, get the door.  And put Hershey in your bedroom until everybody’s here; he’s driving me crazy.” 

This is insanity.  I can’t believe I ever agreed to this and the worst of it is, I can’t even blame it on the pain pills Frasier’s got me on because Little Miss Everybody-Takes-A-Turn-It-Will-Be-Fine talked me into doing this a month ago. 

There’s nothing I hate worse than chaos and I’m standing in the middle of my living room surrounded by it; eight screaming kids, the dog barking, the radio blaring Christmas music, and now the doorbell. 

One-handed, I snatch up the kid bouncing on the sofa before she falls face first into the coffee table.  I’m so going to murder Paige. 

“Daniel!” 

With every new arrival Hershey goes into his guard dog routine – barking like he’s going to take a chunk out of you if you so much as step across his threshold; then wagging his tail like mad the minute you’re inside the door. 

“It’s Mrs. Paige and CoriAnne.”

“Are you going to let them in?”  I look down to see who I’m holding and have to scroll through the list of names.  “Frankie, stay off the sofa.”

“I’m not Frankie, I’m Lisele.”

Exasperated, I set her on her feet.  This was supposed to start at six.  It’s only 5:45 and we’ve had kids for two hours.  “You’re welcome to sit on the sofa, Lisele, my insurance doesn’t cover kids bouncing on it.”

“Okay, Colonel Jack.  Are you going to let us sign your cast?”

“For at least the tenth time, no.  End of discussion.  Go - decorate the tree or something.”

“Hi, guys!  Wow!  Everybody’s here already?”

“I told you we’d be the last one’s here, Mom!”  CoriAnne rushes straight to the boxes of decorations.  “Oh!  I love decorating the tree!”  She’s a born organizer, just like her mother.  The haphazard decorating crew gets an instant make over and General CoriAnne is assigning duties with the highhandedness of a benign, well-loved dictator.  I should take a few lessons. 

“No, Anna!”  Naturally she pronounces it correctly.  It’s Ahhnna – not Ann-a.  “Not there, there are too many ornaments there already; you have to look for a bare spot.  Francis, you can reach higher, put your ornaments up further and leave the bottom for the little kids.  No, no, no, Anna . . .” 

Paige does a quick head count.  “Is Mikey still sick?”

Oh, for cryin’ out loud! Just what I need, a sick kid dumped on my doorstep. 

“Funny, Rachel didn’t bother to mention he was sick when she called to say they were running late.” 

Paige waves an airy hand.  “It’s probably nothing.  She said he was running a little temperature yesterday.  I’m sure he’s fine today.  What did you do to your arm?

“Arm?  Oh – my arm.”  I wrapped one of adult Daniel’s bandana’s around the cast in hopes of disguising the flamingo nesting there.  “Hershey was offended by the singing lights Cassie insisted Daniel and Teal’c bring home.” 

Apparently my disguise is ineffective.

Paige looks at the tree, where there are no singing lights - the one and only saving grace of this whole situation - then back at me. 

“I . . . see.”  Her brightly painted lips twitch suspiciously.  “I didn’t realize you were so in touch with your feminine side, Colonel.”

I conjure up a smile I hope isn’t as sickly as it feels.  “Surprise.”

“So . . . ?”  She prompts.

“So, what?”  I can play dumb with the best of them.

“So, you’re not going to share why your cast is pink?”

Unfortunately, it’s just as disturbing to admit I don’t know how I ended up with a flamingo pink cast as it would be to tell her the damn thing was my choice.

I try redirection.  “It’s a long story and you look like you’ve got a hot date.”

Paige preens, doing the ‘reveal yourself to art’ thing with her coat; exposing a strapless, turquoise number, covered in sparkly sequins, that ends approximately a Teal’c-size-foot above the knee and plunges to . . . never mind. 

“Like it?”  She asks, sliding her coat down off her shoulders to reveal the dress’s backless state as well.

I oblige with the low wolf whistle she’s looking for. 

“Really hot date,” I add, shoving both hands in my pockets, though the right pocket has a slight disagreement with the cast and only the thumb goes in.

She runs her tongue over her top lip, accompanied by a slow wink.  “Smokin’,” she purrs.  “Peyton’s in the car; don’t want him keep him waiting.”

“Uh – no; don’t keep him waiting.” 

Paige bends artfully, the side slit in her dress revealing a long length of dancer’s leg. 

“Night, darlin’,” she air kisses CoriAnne, “you be good and do what Colonel Jack says.”  She flashes another saucy grin over her shoulder before prancing to the door.  “See you in the morning.  Have a good time,” she trills.

“You too,” I parrot glibly. 

“Oh, I will, Colonel.”  She pauses, sliding one hand suggestively up the doorframe, the ultimate vamp.  “Hey, if you can get Daniel to stay for the next sleep over, we should paint the town.  Sam could bring her boyfriend, Teal’c can bring his Ishy person, and I’ll be your date.”

All nine families in the home school group are hosting The Gang for a night during the month of December; we’re number five on the circuit.  We stayed an hour at the first one and Daniel came home when I left; he lasted a couple hours without me at the second one; spent half the night at Paige and CoriAnne’s before calling to come home, and flatly refused to go to the one the middle of last week, even though we were off-world and he was staying with the Doc. 

“We’ve been down this road, Paige.  I could never keep up with you.”  I’m not even tempted. 

“Honey,” she drawls over her shoulder, “I’d slow down for you.  I promise; you’d have a real good time.”

And a heart attack.  “Go make Peyton happy.”

“Ahh, you don’t know what you’re missing,” she sighs, blowing me a kiss, also over her shoulder. 

The front door closes behind her and I glance down to find Daniel watching the exchange with a calculating look on his face.

“How’s the tree decorating going?”

He shrugs and looks over his shoulder. 

CoriAnne’s gang-pressed the remainder of the wild Indians and divided them into two groups of four; two collect ornaments for the crew in front of the tree and two collect ornaments for the two behind the tree.  CoriAnne is kneeling by the boxes handing out the decorations, keeping track of what goes where so one side of the tree isn’t overhung with the same kinds of ornaments. 

“Are we going to do cookies soon?”  Daniel wants to know. 

“They need to cool a little longer, then you can do cookies.”  The timer rings for the second batch.  “Why don’t you go put a movie in,” I tell him, heading for the kitchen as he heads for the DVD player.

He wanders in a few minutes later and climbs up on a kitchen chair so he can watch as I start rolling out the next batch of dough; which, by the way, is a little difficult with a fiberglass cast clear to the middle of your right hand. 

“You like her?”

“Who?”  I strip the trailing bandana off the cast; it’s just getting in the way now. 

“Mrs. Paige,” he says, in that way he has of making it obvious he thinks I should know what he’s talking about.

“Sure, I like her.  Just not that way.” 

“Not what way?” he asks innocently and I glance over at him.  The grin he’s trying to suppress sneaks out.  “She was wearing a pretty dress tonight.  I like the glitter in her hair.”

“You would.”  This incarnation of Daniel loves glitter. 

I suppose it’s possible the adult Daniel loved glitter too and I just never knew. 

“She’s pretty.”

“Don’t start, Daniel.”

“Start what?  Is this mine?”

“Match making.  I’m not interested.  Is what yours?”  I look up again. 

He has the bandana rolled around both hands and stretched tight between them. 

“Yes, it is.”

“Why not?  She likes you and I like her and CoriAnne.”  He moves his hands up and pulls the bandana tight across his forehead, but there’s too much material for his small hands to negotiate easily so it slips down over the new glasses the minute he tries to tie it behind his head.  “Why not?” he repeats, shoving it up off one eye to glower at me as I chuckle and return to rolling out the cookie dough.

“First of all, she likes Teal’c better; second, she’s far too young; and third, I’m just an old slow Colonel; rode hard and put away wet.  They usually put down animals that make it to my age.  You want some help with that?”

“You’re not that old,” he denies, holding out the bandana. “Can I start decorating cookies?”

Then why are there days I feel like one of the Ancients? 

“As soon as we check to see if they’re cooled.”  I wipe my hands off on the nearest kitchen towel and tie the bandana on for him. 

He hops down off the chair and goes over to the microwave we’ve moved off the counter so he can use it without having to drag over a chair. 

“I look funny.”

He looks . . . okay, he does look funny - and cute - and maybe it will keep icing out of his hair.  We did a practice run on this cookie thing last weekend, so we have a system worked out.  It took several days to get the food coloring out of his hair and the clothes had to go in the trash.  So, now there’s a box of food prep gloves on the table next to a pile of kid-sized chef’s aprons.  The bandana is inspired.

Daniel climbs back up beside me, collects an apron from the pile and turns around so I can tie it for him as well. 

“Thanks,” he says, hunkering down as he pulls on plastic gloves and reaches for one of the cooled cookies. 

He’s five fingers deep in frosting when the doorbell rings again, so I answer it.  Down the hall, locked in Daniel’s bedroom, Hershey starts to howl. 

“Hey, Jack.”  Mikey’s dad, Cliff, steps inside carrying a blanket-wrapped bundle. “He’s asleep.  Want me to wake him up?  Or do you have someplace I could put him down?  He might actually sleep through the night; Rach gave him some cough medicine that puts him out like a light.  She’s right behind me with his stuff.”

A light knock and the door opens as mom steps inside.

“Hi, Jack.  Looks like you’ve tamed the wild horde already,” Rachel says admiringly, closing the door with high-heeled, strappy-shoed foot; her arms are filled with a rolled-up sleeping bag and a kid-sized backpack. “Where are you going to put the kids to sleep?  Mikey will probably sleep through the night.  Don’t worry, the doctor says he’s not contagious.”

Yeah, right. 

“For now at least, better put him in Daniel’s bed.”  I lead the way down the hall.

“Where’s Daniel going to sleep?” 

“If Daniel wants to sleep in his own bed, we’ll move Mikey later.  They’ll all probably sleep in the living room.”

Hershey shoots out of the bedroom the second I open Daniel’s door.  He loops us, barking madly, gallops down the hall to check on Daniel, then gallops back to give the strangers in his house a good sniffing before pronouncing them safe and trotting back down the hall to shadow his charge, who’s probably ten fingers deep in the icing by now. 

“Hey, man, thanks for pitching in like this.  None of us really expected you guys to take a turn, being new to the group and all.  Taking on eleven kids at once can be a little intimidating.”

“I work for the Air Force, Cliff.”

He grins.  “Yeah? Well, I still think you’re a brave man, Colonel.”

“And I have reinforcements.” 

“Oh, Sam and Teal’c are on their way?” Rachel chimes in.

“I’m not crazy enough to take on this group on my own.  Looks like you guys are off to a party.”

“My office party,” Rachel answers.  “Mikey’s been so excited about spending the night here; I feel bad he’s conked out already.  I hope he wakes up before we get here in the morning.”

“I’ll wake him up in time for breakfast.  Go; have a good time.”

“I don’t think there should be any problems, but just in case, here’s my cell number.”  Cliff hands me his business card.  “I doubt you’ll need to call us,” he grins, “but I’ll keep the cell by the bed.”

Yeah, everybody knows I’m the sucker who gets up in the middle of the night to go collect my kid. 

“Thanks for doing this, Jack,” Rachel stretches up on tiptoe to hug me as I escort them back to the front door.  It didn’t take us long to figure out this is a very touchy feely bunch.  “I feel bad Daniel won’t stay with any of us; have you had a moment to yourself?” 

I’m not anxious to be separated from Daniel; it’s bad enough when we’re off-world and have no choice.  So it hasn’t bothered me in the least when he’s called wanting to come home.  I prefer having him within arm’s reach. 

I shrug as Rachel steps back and offer a half truth.  “This is his first Christmas without his parents.  If he needs a little extra security right now, I’m certainly not going to withhold it.”

“I love watching the two of you,” Rachel smiles, glancing over my shoulder at the roomful of kids busily engaged in decorating our tree. 

I should probably acknowledge CoriAnne’s contribution to taming the wild horde. 

“You’re so good with him; he’s lucky you were there to step in when he lost his parents.”

I restrain a totally inappropriate chuckle and actually manage to keep from raising the proverbial eyebrow; oh, if she only knew. 

“Have a good time tonight, kids.” I tip a salute as Cliff slides a hand under Rachel’s elbow.

“Thanks, we will.  Got the duct tape handy?”

“Laid in an extra supply this morning.”

“Good luck then.”  Rachel reaches to pat the arm I’ve forgotten to keep behind my back.  “Hey, what happened?” 

“Accident yesterday.”

“Yesterday?  Jack, are you up to this tonight?”

“I’m fine.”

“What happened?”

“The dog and I both took exception to the singing lights – at about the same time.”

Rachel slaps her hand over her mouth, trying not to laugh.  “I’m sorry, it’s probably not funny to you,” she giggles.  “Singing lights?”

“Jingle Bells; Hershey thought they were direct competition.”  I purposely give my sigh a little extra drama.  “At least he managed to fry the damn things.”

I’m certain Cliff’s booming laugh can be heard throughout the neighborhood as he opens the door.  “You’re sure you’re going to be okay?”

“Positive.  Go …” I make shooing motions.  “Have a good time, forget about being parents for a little while and just have fun.”

Cliff takes Rachel’s arm again.  “Well, if you insist.  Seriously though, Jack, don’t hesitate to call if you run into any problems, and not just with our kid.  We can be here inside of fifteen minutes.”

“I appreciate it, but we’ll be fine,” I repeat ad nauseum.  “Go on, you’ll be late.”

“It’s an office party,” Rachel repeats, “there is no such thing as late.  I don’t know why we’re going; we both hate these things.”

”Oh, you’ll have a good time once you get there.”

“Probably.  Let’s go, Rach.  See you in the morning, Colonel.”

“Come for breakfast.  Nothing fancy, we’re serving around 9:30.”

“We’ll be here.”

“Good.  See you in the morning then.” 

This is a close-knit group; they do a lot together socially.  If she doesn’t have something going, you can bet our official social director, Paige, has something on the drawing board.  Not only have we been trading off kids for sleepovers for the month of December, we’ve been on two road trips to Denver for Christmas expeditions, put on our own play for relatives and friends, and been to a Trans Siberian Orchestra concert right here in town because Paige knew someone who knew someone who got free tickets for the entire group. 

Working at the top secret facility in the world, I used to think we had some pretty powerful connections; we’ve got nothing compared to Paige.

Hershey twines himself around my feet as I close the door behind Rachel and Cliff and head back to the kitchen. 

Oh. yeah, ten fingers, two ears, one nose and one cheek into the icing.  Daniel’s fine motor skills are a little lacking these days.  He looks up from the cookie he’s decorating and grins. 

Six months or sixteen years, this is one of those Kodak moments I’m going to want to blackmail him with when he’s big again.  It takes thirty seconds to grab the digital camera off the desk in the den.

“So, what ya doing, Daniel?”

“Frosting cookies,” Daniel replies, not bothering to look up. 

Paige supplied us with a dozen plastic cake decorating thingamajigs and Daniel’s concentrating on his cookie for all he’s worth, the tip of his tongue just poking out of the corner of his mouth as he tries to manipulate the icing bag with a dexterity he no longer possesses.  He gets up on his knees on the chair in an effort to come at it from a better angle, except he overcompensates with the squeezing bit and squirts icing halfway across the kitchen.  His head comes up slowly, eyebrows raised questioningly, as he searches for the evidence.  His eyes, magnified by the glasses, widen and his mouth rounds in an O. 

I lower the camera, look down, slick the icing off, and lick my finger.

The eyebrows climb even higher, then draw together in a frown.  “Were you like this when I was big?”

“Like what?”  

“Like a little kid.”  Daniel scrounges for a paper towel and wipes the icing tip clean. 

I’m behind the video camera again.  “There were never any little kids around while you were big, to be a little kid with.”
           
“Oh.”  The answer apparently makes perfect sense to him, which is good because it’s the honest-to-God-truth. 

There’s always been a little bit of kid in me, though when we buried Charlie I thought I’d buried that side of me, too.  Daniel looks back up at me for a moment longer, probably wondering if I’m going to elaborate any further. 

I’m not. 

He returns, with determination, to the cookie.  “Uhm, Jack?”
           
“What?”  I inquire.
           
“What are we going to do with six dozen cookies?”
           
“You think we’re going to have six dozen left after the movies are over this evening?”
           
“Probably,” Daniel replies, absently shoving at the bandana to scratch his ear. No wonder he had icing in his hair last time.
           
“You don’t think anybody’s going to eat them?”
           
“Uh, no.”  He looks up at me.  Imagine Rudolph . . . in glasses.  “Like who wants to eat these things after we’ve had our hands all over them.”
           
“You think anybody’s going to care you’ve all had your hands all over them?  Do you care?”  I ask interestedly, lowering the camera.  “And besides,” I point out, “you’re wearing gloves.  You’re not really handling the cookies at all.”
           
“Justin might not want to eat them.”
           
“Yeah?  So?  If Justin doesn’t want to eat them, we can dig out something sanitary for him.” 
           
“Okay.  Hey!  Sam and Teal’c are here,” Daniel announces, just as Hershey initiates his ecstatic, ‘oh, goody, everybody’s home’ bark.

A frosting-covered missile shoots past me, pauses long enough to yank open the door, and launches off the front porch, straight into Teal’c’s arms. 

I’m following with the camera.

“Hey,” Daniel greets the Jaffa brightly.  “We made some cookies for you to decorate.”
           
“Ah,” the x-First Prime of Apophis intones, thumping up the steps, “that was most considerate of you.”  Shifting the squirt to his hip with one arm, Teal’c swoops a finger along Daniel’s jaw and licks it.  “Do you require assistance in garnishing yourself as well, Danieljackson?”

Daniel cackles like a fiend.

“Hey, you, you look good enough to eat.” Carter grabs his face and licks it right off his cheek, which causes Teal’c to nearly loose his grip on Daniel as the kid falls back, giggling hysterically.

 “Please.” I lower the camera; I have plenty of incrementing evidence. “Don’t encourage him.  You now have almost as much icing on you as Daniel has on himself, T.”

“Hi, Sam, hi, Teal’c!”  A chorus of small voices shout enthusiastically as the pair are swarmed. 

Teal’c has ... I don’t know ... unwound?  Unbent? Chilled out?  Whatever - he’s done it a lot since Daniel got shrunk by the Fountain of Youth thingy. 

Carter, too, although it’s not like she’s ever been as formal as Teal’c.  She’s just .  . . freer; less up tight; more apt to let her hair down and let it all hang out. 

I know there were times when she and adult Daniel got together and did just that, though never when I was around.  Too much military brat in Carter to ever let go like that in front of her commanding officer.

Not anymore.  She had Daniel down on the living room floor the other night, tickling him until he was laughing like a hyena and begging for mercy.  Then she let Daniel turn the tables and tickle her until she was howling like a hyena and begging for mercy.  Next time I looked in they were snuggled on the couch taking turns reading A Christmas Carol.

Teal’c, trailing a kid on each leg and a fourth one clinging to his back, wades to the kitchen where he deposits Daniel back on his chair and listens patiently to a lengthy explanation of the pluses and minuses of decorating with unwieldy bags of icing. 

His accouterments start dropping off the second they realize cookie decorating season is open.  Carter brings along her contingent as well and the kitchen is suddenly teeming with wildlife.

“I already got it all over Jack,” Daniel raises his voice to finish and peruses the cooled cookies on the table before choosing a snowman to decorate this time. 

The first one was a green Christmas tree artistically adorned with red ornaments. 

Teal’c appropriates the rolling pin and holds it up, eyeing it critically.  “This is a formidable weapon, O’Neill.  For what purpose is it utilized?”  The Jaffa extends his arm in a classic fencing pose. 

“Bit short for comfort, don’t ya think?” 

Although, maybe not for Teal’c; he doesn’t need the extra distance a sword gives most people. 

Daniel slides off his chair, grabs a spatula out of the sink and assumes a fencer’s pose as well. 

“En garde,” he challenges, tiny hand on tiny hip as he slides under Teal’c’s guard and smacks him on the ass with the spatula.  “Ha!” he shouts.  “That’s one point!”
           
Teal’c immediately sweeps an arm behind his back, retreating and advancing with an effortless grace that should be unnatural for such a large man. 

“You will not find me so easy again, Danieljackson.  En garde, yourself.”

They fence the length and breadth of the kitchen, Teal’c sweeping chairs and kids out of their way before Daniel can stumble over anything.  T backs him up against the wall, then shows him how to fight his way out of a tight spot without being able to retreat.  Daniel’s got it in thirty seconds flat; he’s off the wall and advancing, forcing the big Jaffa to back up, albeit slowly. 

This is another one of Teal’c’s little rituals with him; last time I ran across them fencing it was in the hall outside the Mess – they were using rolled up napkins.

 They’re halfway back across the kitchen when CoriAnne grabs a wooden spoon off the table. 

“Show me, Teal’c, show me,” she chirps, dancing with excitement as Teal’c swoops Daniel up and kisses him on top of the head.

“I would be happy to show you some fencing moves, Mistresscori.  Mistressdawnie, take up Masterdaniel’s sword and we will see if you have the makings of a swordsman.  Gentlemen?  Do you also wish to learn the art of fencing?”

“Donnie,” Dawnie corrects, “my name is Donnie.” 

We have some weird names in this group.  Dawnie’s name is spelled like a girl’s, but pronounced like a boy’s.  Then there’s Anna with an h, Frankie who’s a girl, and her brother, Francis.

Francis wants to join in, as do the twins, Justin and Jermaine.  Opponents are armed and paired off.  Susie’s coaxed in from the living room to make up the numbers and by the time I get back to the kitchen from taking out the overflowing trash, Teal’c, still holding Daniel on a hip, has each pair advancing and retreating in perfect harmony.  Wooden spoon and spatula swords are all tilted at correct angles; supple young bodies swaying gracefully in this ancient dance. 

Daniel, from his secure perch, is calling additional instructions; Teal’c courteously allows him.
           
Carter’s at the table, ignoring the hubbub around her as only a theoretical astrophysicist Air Force major can do.  She’s totally focused on those cookie cutters, making sure the edges are crisp and clean. 

“Teal’c?”  She concentrating so hard the tip of her tongue is peeking out the side of her mouth in an exact imitation of Daniel twenty minutes ago.  “You want cookies?”

Teal’c disbands the fencing lessons immediately. “What must I do, Majorcarter?” 

“Well, first of all, you need to make sure the cookie cutter is well floured, the dough kind of sticks if you don’t.”  She demonstrates by patting her chosen cookie cutter in a small pile of flour she’s heaped up on the table.  “Then you roll out some dough until it’s about half an inch thick and press the cookie cutter in it.”  The cookie cutter hovers over the dough, presses down precisely, “like this,” then rises with equal precision, “and you get . . . this.”  Carter triumphantly lifts a perfectly formed cookie out of its bed of dough and slides it on the clean cookie sheet. 

Daniel pulls his chair back over to the table.  “There’s already some made if you just want to decorate.  You don’t have to go to all the trouble of cutting them out, T.”

He’s not too keen on the cutting out process, surprisingly. 

As Carter gives her astrophysicist’s cookie cutter lecture, chairs are dragged back over to the table, aprons are donned, small fingers find the plastic gloves make great crinkling noises, and mass cookie production begins in earnest. 

I lean back against the sink and watch as Teal’c makes his way around the table; repairing broken cookies, offering advice and praise equally, helping with a delicate angle and an extra squeeze wherever needed. 

Watching him, it occurs to me he missed a lot of Ry’ac’s growing up years.  Maybe he wouldn’t have been decorating Christmas cookies on Chulak, but I’m sure there are many other rituals he’s missed out on by choosing to throw in his lot with us; to the detriment of both he and Ry’ac. 

Teal’c has told me many times he would make the same choice again.  Ultimately, he won his son’s freedom from Goa’uld domination, and that, he says, was worth the high cost to him and his family.  Clearly, though, I’m not the only one who’s found an unexpected joy in this downsized Daniel. 

All the girls, and Daniel, are in the kitchen decorating cookies.  The rest of the boys are in the living room watching Home Alone, having switched out the DVD the minute the girls, who out number the boys even when Daniel votes with them, disappeared into the kitchen.

Through the cutout between the kitchen and the living room, I see the tree is only half decorated – the bottom half – the oldest in the group is nine and none of them are tall for their age, like our baseball buddy, Tyler.

Speaking of baseball.  “Carter, when do rehearsals start?”

“Friday evening.  7:30. Are you coming with us?”

“Do I have too?”

“No.”

“Then I don’t think so.  I still need to do my own Christmas shopping.  When’s the Pageant?”

“Christmas Eve,” Carter looks over at me.  “Is that going to be a problem?”

“No, just trying to make sure I have all my ducks in a row.”

The baseball team has been invited to participate in the annual Mt. Zion First Baptist Church Christmas Pageant.  Athelia’s apparently running the show and Daniel’s one of the wisemen.  I understand they’ve been working on his costume as part of Daniel’s art credit for school.

“Something’s burning,” Frankie announces, without looking up from her masterpiece; a Santa Claus, complete with full, curly, white beard, red suit with furry looking white trim and a black belt and boots.  The front of her apron looks like a mad artist’s playground, but the kid’s got talent.

“Holy Hannah!”  Carter jumps up from the table, dashing to the drawer with the potholders. 

I’m closer.  I grab a hand towel and yank smoking pans out of the oven. The smell of baking cookies has already permeated the house and I forgot to set the timer – good one, O’Neill. 

Part 2

 

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