“Iraq.”

“Iraq, sir?”

“You asked for my most memorable Christmas, Carter, not necessarily the happiest one.”

“Sorry, sir, I just assumed…” Sam poked a stick in to the dying embers of their campfire as Teal’c added another log. 

“Yeah, well, spending Christmas day thousands of miles away from you family, while the rest of your unit is getting shot to pieces, kinda stick in your mind.”

Daniel looked up from his MRE, brows knotted in thought.  “You weren’t with them?”

“No, Daniel.  I took a bullet in the leg a few days earlier when our convoy was hit passing through Karbala on our way to Al Musayyib.  Spent the next few days at the rear echelon aid station while my boys went on without me.”

Taking up his place next to Jack, Teal’c met his friend’s downcast gaze. “You have never before spoken of your time during this conflict, O’Neill.”

Jack shrugged.  “It’s not a topic I care to revisit.”

“I wondered about that, sir,” Carted said.  “Those incursion missions were highly classified.  I’m a bit surprised you brought it up at all.”

“Carter, it was all over the news!  Heck, Sara mentioned it in her next letter, and she had more details about what went down than I did.  Hardly a state secret when you’ve got reporters imbedded in almost every unit.”

“True,” Sam replied glumly, staring off into the flames.

“So, that’s my most memorable moment over, whose next?  Teal’c?  Daniel?”

“The Jaffa do not celebrate Christmas, O’Neill.”

“Ah-”

“However, we do have an ancient custom that is very similar.”

“You do?”  Daniel’s natural curiosity was piqued, his MRE forgotten.

“Indeed we do, Daniel Jackson.  The ceremony is called K’Het Sha’Mel.”

“I don’t recognize those words.”

“They are not spoken often.  The ceremony was first preformed around the same time the temple complex at Dakara was established.  Written in the old tongue of the Goa’uld, it means ‘the day of the giving’.”

Daniel’s jaw dropped.  “The Goa’uld have an even older language?” 

“The Goa’uld celebrate Christmas?”  Jack chimed in at the same time.

“Although the principal is the same, the Goa’uld do not celebrate Christmas, O’Neill.  The ceremony was established by Jaffa priests and kept hidden from their masters for fear it would be seen as asserting independence.  The Goa’uld dominance over the Jaffa was in its infancy at that time.”

“Good.  I suddenly had this vision of Anubis playing the part of Santa.”  Jack shuddered and rubbed the whiskers on his chin.  “It was the whole beard thing.”

“Not pretty?” Daniel asked.

“Not really.”

“What about you, Major Carter?” Teal’c asked.  “Do you not have a memory of Christmas you’d like to share?”

Sam briefly mulled over her litany of Christmas’ – the good and the bad – but pinning herself down to just one was difficult.  She’d had the maudlin ones just after her mother died.  Years spent trying to take on the lofty mantle her mother had set, and only succeed in over-compensating for her loss by trying to be more like her.  It hadn’t worked at all.  Moving on to the Air Force Academy, she’d suffered through silent Christmas’ with an absent father and an emotionally distant brother, ultimately finding more solace in her class-mates than her family.

The festive seasons that followed her graduation were mostly a blur of cobbled together dinners with friends and work colleagues, none of which held any particular significance.  If happiness was measured by her most memorable Christmas, then Sam felt she had nothing to be truly thankful for.

Until she joined SG-1. 

There was nothing particularly significant about the last seven years of Christmas’ spent with her team.  Each of them celebrated the day in their own unique way, and it wasn’t necessarily with each other, although somewhere along the path of their friendship, a Christmas evening ritual had been born.  A simple meal, good wine, some cheesy B-grade movie, and lots of conversation was the order of the evening, and no one ever complained about the distinct lack of festive tradition.  They were friends, and perhaps that was the best reason for celebrating.

There was the memory of one Christmas in those seven years that pulled at her heart.  The year Daniel had died.  Christmas night came and went.  They’d gone their separate ways without even planning a get together; each of them intrinsically needing their own space.  Somewhere along the way, the emotional bond that held the team together had been lost, and at the time, Sam wondered if they’d ever get it back.

Looking up at the anxious faces of her teammates, she shrugged lightly and went back to stirring the embers.  “I think this is the most memorable Christmas.”

“Stuck off world?  Your most memorable Christmas is one spent on some grizzly alien planet without beer?” Jack baulked. “How many times have I told you to get a life, Carter?”

“I agree with you, Sam.  This is a pretty good Christmas.”

“Daniel?”  Jack shifted on his log to face him.  “And might I just add that you’re another one who needs to get a life.”

“I’m on my second one, Jack.  Just how much more of a life do you think I need to get?”

“Okay, wise-ass, what’s you’re most memorable Christmas?”

“The last one,” Daniel said sombrely.

“Last one?” Jack frowned, appearing to search his memories.  “Was that the whole Princess Bride saga we had to sit through while enduring Carter’s homemade Christmas pudding?  Have to tell you,” he rubbed his stomach self-consciously, “it wasn’t one of my most memorable nights, unless you want to count the number of trips back and forth to the bathroom.”

“Hey, there was nothing wrong with my pudding!  A little heavy maybe-”

“Carter, it could have anchored the Titanic! Are you sure you read the recipe right?”

“Hmm, less of a recipe, more of an oral tradition handed down from my great-grandmother.  Pretty sure I got it right though.”

“Oy! I’m posting a moratorium on home cooking at Christmas – there isn’t any, consider it an order.”

“Actually, I was talking about last Christmas.” Daniel stared long into the rekindled fire, the soft light of the flames reflected in the lens of his glasses.

“Last Christmas,” Sam echoed. “As in the one before this one?”

“Yes,” he replied softly, pulling his gaze away from the fire and locking it on Sam.  “The one where you sat at home alone surrounded by pictures of your family and waited on Jack or Teal’c to announce a team evening.  One, I might add, that never happened.   The same Christmas,” Daniel turned to Teal’c, “where you thought meditation would cure what ailed your team when all you had to do was go to them.  You bore your silence stoically, my friend, but for all the wrong reasons.” He turned to Jack who sat watching him with his head in his hand, and whispered, “It didn’t help, did it?”

“What didn’t?”  Jack snarked.

“The bottle.  Expensive stuff to waste on feeling sorry for yourself when you could have been sharing it friends.”

“Yes, and your amnesia is oddly selective.  Besides, I paid for the damn bottle.  If I didn’t want to share it, I didn’t have to.”

“Don’t pout, Jack.  It doesn’t suit you.”

Sam reached over and touched Daniel lightly on the shoulder.  “You can remember what we did last Christmas?  How?  I thought-”

“Flashes, snatches of images.” Daniel leaned into her touch and smiled. “Some are clearer than others, but for the most part they’re fragments of events.  I don’t recall anything I learned as an ascended being, but I’ve been remembering some of the times I visited you guys, and last Christmas was one of those.”

Sam’s breath caught in her throat, eyes misted with tears she’s blinked away by focusing her attention at a heavy moon resting on the peak of a nearby mountain range.  “We weren’t in the best of emotional places, Daniel.  You must have sensed that.”

“I did.” Daniel’s tone was raw with understanding. “But, I guess I’d hoped you’d turn to each other for company instead of letting my absence tear your apart.”

“Hey, I didn’t miss you,” Jack groused.

“I was there, Jack, remember?  The bottle of scotch wasn’t the only thing you drowned yourself in.”

Jack flinched added dryly, “Yeah, good times, but lets spare them all the details. How about we call this the most memorable Christmas and get on with doing what matters most.”

“What would that be, sir?”

Reaching into his pocket, Jack drew out a pack of playing cards and smiled.  “Gin, anyone?”

 

The End

 

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