Jiggle on the Bay

This was nuts, this wasn't happening, this was nuts. Daniel would give just about anything to be somewhere other than here. And he'd give up coffee for a month if he could only be transported to General Hammond's annual Christmas gathering - at least he had been told it was annual, he only remembered one - instead of stuck on this antiluxury cruise. P8Q 792 was supposed to have been a quick mission. No first contact, nothing archaeo or anthropological for him, nothing military. A mineral snatch and grab. Why SG1 got saddled with it in the first place was beyond him.
"You can't tell me we don't have some type of ranking system for missions, and that we're not at the top of the list," Daniel complained, realizing after he said it how pretentious it sounded.
"We do, Daniel. It's called Hammond said we had to go," Jack told him gruffly. "Besides, that which doesn't kill us doesn't...kill...makes..."
Daniel dropped his head as Jack trailed off into uncomfortable silence. He heard Sam give a soft, distressed exhalation, and closed his eyes in recognition of where everyone else's minds had just gone. Clearing his throat, he tried to think of something to distract him from what he didn't want to talk about. Couldn't talk about, because there wasn't much he could say anymore.
He wasn't alone, that was something. He wasn't the only one stuck on a raft in the middle of the deadest bay of water known to man or alien during the holidays. Water, right. He raised his head to scowl at the expanse of unmoving green surrounding them. Leaning over the side until he could see his reflection, he unsheathed his knife and jabbed it just to see what would happen. Aside from a squelching sound, nothing did.
"Daniel, I don't think that's a very good idea. Remember reading about the mission where we had to help the Russians shut down their Stargate? We could be witnessing another life form in action," Sam scolded him.
He remembered reading. He didn't remember it. There were still holes in his memory.
"You think this," Jack said, waving both his arms wide. "This - I don't even know what to call it - is alive?"
"I don't know, sir, but it could be."
Huh. Daniel stabbed the gelled surface again. Nothing reached up and grabbed him. Nothing happened at all. They were well and truly stuck here, until they became so overdue the SGC tried to contact them. On the upside, this mission was only supposed to have lasted three hours. He tried no to think about how long the window was before they'd be noticed missing. He should know by now, but truthfully never wanted to think about that particular aspect to his job.
He envisioned himself at the general's house, eating one of those melt-in-your-mouth, buttery things Janet always made. Everyone at the base was probably already at the party, which meant SG1 was screwed. He poked the problematic Jello. It slooshed.
"Daniel Jackson, Major Carter is correct. It is unwise to continue provoking the substance," Teal'c said.
Daniel flinched, dropping his knife. It glubbed under the surface loudly and sank out of sight. He wondered why the raft wasn't sinking, then decided he shouldn't consider that and just be grateful. He leaned away from the edge of the raft and stared up at the bright moon in a childish attempt to pretend he'd done nothing.
"Provoking the substance," Jack repeated, sounding a bit too amused to Daniel. "Oh, that's funny, Teal'c, whether you meant it that way or not."
"Jack, did you happen to bring alcohol on this mission?" Daniel said, glaring at his friend. Unbelievable. How could anyone find anything about this funny? He was envious. "And if so, do you feel like sharing?"
Okay, he was being pissy, but damnit. Damnit, he could pretend he was at General Hammond's, surrounded by all of his friends and the good cheer they guaranteed, but make believe was just that. He'd always know he was really here, surrounded by silence and darkness and alien goo.
"No alcohol, Daniel, but it's not like we can do anything about our situation right now. We'd all rather be somewhere else."
Jack was right, he was whining. Daniel wasn't really even sure why this was such a big deal to him; his desire to be somewhere other than here was irrational at best - he didn't think he actually celebrated Christmas for Christmas itself. He just wanted, needed. It was the feeling, the comfortable warmth of belonging, if only for a few hours. There was a difference in people around the holidays, something he had never appreciated until he'd come back from Abydos. God, Abydos. There was a hole in his memory about Abydos. There was a hole in him. If he were at a party, he could hide among the festivities and pretend all was bright. Believe all was bright.
None of them spoke, and the silence became oppressive. There wasn't even the gentle sound of waves lapping against the side of the raft to focus on. Daniel stared up at the moon again, watched the stars. It was beautiful here, he had to admit, the moonlight lending a silvery sheen to the green gel that used to be water. His friends looked fragile and ghostly in it, even Teal'c, and yet arresting. He glanced down at his own hands to see if he looked even a little the same. He seemed solid, but felt as though he could fade away any second.
"I've been thinking," Sam said at last. "Clearly, whatever caused the water to turn has something to do with nightfall. We were fine until the sun set, right? Before we left the SGC, we calculated the number of hours in a full day here was about half that as on Earth, which means night should go pretty quickly."
"You know, you could have mentioned we were heading out on a mission at dusk, Carter," Jack said. "Sailing at night is a blast and all, but if I had a choice I'd take day. And to tell you the truth, I'm not even really sure why we had to jet out here to do whatever it is you have to do."
Tell it. Daniel was vaguely justified in being pissy now that someone else was finally showing signs of the same.
"I didn't actually know it was dusk, sir, and there's no way I could have predicted this would happen."
Someone snorted. Daniel had an awful feeling it had been him, but the way Jack shot an incredulous look at Teal'c told him otherwise. Sam stopped talking in favor of turning herself slightly away from them and staring out into the nothingness. God, what a mess they were. He shivered and gazed the direction Sam was. Now everything just seemed a wasteland, the silvery rays illuminating barrenness, cool and bleak.
"Sam," Daniel said softly, moving closer to her. He was ashamed of his behavior. He touched her on the arm and repeated, "Sam."
Half a second later, Daniel had his arms full as Sam latched onto him with a hug as desperate as it was fierce. He was lost in it, so far out of his depth he might just as well have been tipped over the raft and into the gelatinous mess. She pulled away from him before he could gather his senses...or her into a hug of his own, looking back out across the bay. He struggled to breathe, still drowning.
"I'm sorry," Sam said. "I'm sorry."
"Crap," Jack muttered.
The raft jiggled slightly while Jack shifted and resituated himself on the outer edge of it. Daniel remembered a song and he sang to himself, jiggle bells, jiggle bells, jiggle on the bay. Something was so not right with him.
"Carter, it's not your fault. I was being an ass. I know we're not your brother and his family, but we're here and safe. We're together, at least."
They went silent again. Daniel still had his hand on Sam's arm. He squeezed gently, not knowing what he could or should say. Sam sighed, reaching up to touch her face. Brushing away tears, he realized. It had never seemed strange to him that so many found the holidays a lonesome time. It seemed even less strange now.
"Okay, so worst case scenario is we have to stick around until daybreak," Jack said, apologizing again in tone if not word. "That's not so bad."
"It is acceptable, O'Neill," Teal'c agreed.
Daniel nodded, but he couldn't take his eyes off Sam. He could feel her hugging him still, and he was cold. He longed for the warmth of mulled wine, laughter from the den, the smell of cinnamon. He wished once more to be off this planet, as if he kept on wishing then it would magically happen.
"I remember..."
Jack paused and cleared his throat. Daniel finally looked away from Sam, and found Jack staring at him, eyes shadowy in the moonlight. The force of the gaze was as physical a thing as Sam's hug had been, and it had the same effect. He wanted to save himself, to look away, but couldn't. He was powerless. His head spiraled. He clenched his fingers around Sam's arm, trying to steady himself though he knew he couldn't really be spinning. It felt good to touch, filled him somehow.
"I used to love Christmas. So did Ch...so did my son. He'd get so wound up the night before Sara and I didn't know how we'd ever manage to play Santa, but he never caught on. Guess my training was good for something back then, after all. The year we got him his bike was the best, the best. He was so excited and happy, he hopped on it right there and took off outside with his pajamas on. I had to chase him three blocks. It was twenty degrees out."
He didn't remember everything, details were fuzzy, but Daniel knew Jack didn't talk about Charlie. Jack didn't smile about Charlie, but his teeth were displayed now and there was genuine happiness behind it. He sucked in a breath, and smiled himself, unable to help it. He saw Jack, puffing and red-cheeked and he saw Charlie. He smelled fresh snow. Sam moved beneath his fingers, didn't pull from his touch. Icy fingers covered his own. They didn't chill him.
"It was not until I came to Tau'ri that I experienced a feast day such as Christmas," Teal'c said solemnly, continuing what Jack had begun. "On Chulak, we were not permitted celebrations that would strengthen community bonds. However, every year on the anniversary of my birth, my mother would allow me to do as I pleased. This was the only day of the year in which I allowed myself to forget I was Jaffa. I have fond memories of these days."
Sam's hand was warmed now, and her thumb moved in a circular pattern over the top of his. Daniel looked at Teal'c. He noticed for the first time that his friend's eyes weren't lined with kohl, that the shimmer to his skin came solely from the moon. He should have seen that before, certainly after Teal'c had confided in him about the living with Tretonin. He saw it now. It was strange and reassuring to see Teal'c stripped to himself. Forgetting he was Jaffa. Teal'c of the Tau'ri nodded at him, and it was the most important thing in the world.
"We moved around a lot, so much when I was young," Sam started to say, her voice thick with shed and unshed sorrow. "I didn't mind, not really, but I was always worried Santa wouldn't be able to find our house. One year, my dad was transferred a month before Christmas. Mark and I freaked out. We're talking full-scale panic. Mom and dad actually played it up - said we had better be extra good or we really would be skipped over. We were angels for the first time in our lives, and it was torture but it was so worth it. Santa found us, of course, and we got everything that we wanted. Everything."
Daniel wondered what everything was. He didn't have any childhood memories of Christmas. His foster parents tried, but his parent had so firmly established the holiday's origins and traditions with him that he couldn't view Christmas as anything but a commercial farce. Seeing Sam smiling at her memories made him pang with regret for himself, but also happiness that she had something to cherish. He turned his hand until he had hers in a light grasp. She jerked back slightly at first, then relaxed into the hold. He smiled at her. She stared at him as if surprised, and then smiled back. Over Sam's shoulder, Daniel could see the placid gel surface of the bay reflect the dim light like a mirror.
"Daniel?" Jack said softly. He sounded hopeful, afraid. "What about you? What do you remember?"
He remembered going to General Hammond's house that first Christmas, scared out of his wits. His clothes hadn't fit right, and Daniel had been pretty sure he wouldn't fit right into the group of people gathering for drinks and food and good times. He remembered hanging in the corner, standing next to a curious, silent Teal'c, wondering when he could make for the door without breaking some social custom he had no knowledge of. He remembered Sam smiling with Janet, both of them crossing the room to join them. He remembered Jack handing him a cup of spiced rum and joking about building up a tolerance to alcohol. He remembered General Hammond clapping him on the shoulder and calling him son. There had been mistletoe and mischief, and he had relaxed. He had fit. He had felt warmth and welcome.
"Daniel?" Sam said, clutching at his hand.
"You don't have a best Christmas?" Jack prompted.
Daniel looked around at all three of his teammates, then cast his gaze out to the gel. He didn't long for mulled wine, laughter from the den, the smell of cinnamon. The taste of Janet's buttery cookies wasn't what he wanted now. He thought about what his friends had done at Christmas last year.
"Yes," Daniel said. "Of course I do."
"Well, what is it?"
His friends watched him, he could sense it even though he wasn't looking. He felt Sam hugging him, Jack's eyes boring into him as if memorizing every line on his face, every strand of hair, Teal'c tipping his head. Daniel was overwhelmed. He had thought he needed something, but he already had it. They needed more.
"This one," he said. "This one."

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Disclaimer: Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Stargate (II) Productions, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. This story is for entertainment purposes only and no money exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. This is a parody for entertainment purposes only. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author. This story may not be posted anywhere without the consent of the author.