Sam heard the first telltale rumble through the windows and then the chevrons glowed, casting an eerie glow in the dimly lit room. Trying not to appear too eager, she casually stood up and strolled over to Walter. He was busy pushing buttons and then he spoke into the intercom.
"We have an incoming message from the alpha site, sir." He acknowledged her with a grin. "Its SG-1, ma'am."
Sam ignored his grin and tried to suppress her own when she heard Hammond's heavy footsteps clanking on the stairs; she swiftly moved to the other side of Harriman's chair.
Hammond strode up next to her and nodded. "Well?" he asked.
Walter flicked two more switches and O'Neill's face filled the monitors.
"Is this thing on?" O'Neill's hand obstructed his face for a moment and there was a loud tapping sound.
"We're reading you loud and clear, Colonel," Hammond responded, while Walter quickly adjusted the volume.
"Ah well..." he tilted his cap back. "Requesting you send Doc Fraiser to us at once, sir."
Sam got a panicky feeling in her stomach and reached out, grabbing the edge of Walter's chair and to steady herself.
"What's wrong, Colonel?"
"There seems to be some kind of nasty flu bug going around, sir. But that's not why we need Fraiser." He screwed his face up before continuing. "Apparently Airman Sikiowski has some kind of rash that the PA, Bollivar, has never seen." There was a rustling sound and O'Neill unfolded a small piece of paper. "He's advising that only Fraiser come through until such time as the contagion can be identified."
"Very well, Colonel. We'll get things organized on this end."
O'Neill nodded and Sam thought for a moment that he wanted to say something else, but he merely said, "O'Neill, over and out." And his image disappeared.
Fraiser pulled off the hood of her hazmat suit and smiled reassuringly at Timothy Sikiowski. When did they get so young? she wondered idly. She knew from his chart that he was twenty-one, but to her, he didn't look a day over sixteen. "Been around any children lately, Airman?"
His pale, spotty face filled with confusion and he answered haltingly. "Ah...well...not here, ma'am."
"I mean before you came to the Alpha Site. You've been here," she flipped open his chart. "Two weeks?"
"So, what did you do the day before you shipped out?"
"Ah..." his brow furrowed. "Went to visit my parents, then my girlfriend and I went to her niece's third birthday party."
"Lots of kids there?"
"Yeah, I guess so."
"Were any of them sick?"
"I don't know, Doc." He blushed. "I wasn't paying too much attention to the kids."
"That's okay, Tim. The only thing wrong with you is that you have the chicken pox. Probably acquired from one of the children at the birthday party. I'm surprised you weren't vaccinated against it. I'll have to pull your record."
She nodded in understanding and rested her gloved hand on his shoulder. "Tim, you have Varicella, or what is commonly called the chicken pox. I'm going to start you on an anti-viral agent as soon as possible. I hope that will help decrease the severity of the disease."
"I thought chicken pox couldn't hurt you?"
"Normally, if you have them as a child, the effects are minimal. As an adult, it can be a bit more serious." She stood and smiled gently. "Don't worry though, you're in excellent health and we'll take good care of you."
Stripping off the rest of her hazmat suit in the small anteroom, Fraiser washed her hands before donning her jacket. Smoothing her hair with her fingers, she joined the group waiting in the small infirmary. The base commander, Colonel Riley, was there, along with Bollivar and the three members of SG-1.
"It's just the chicken pox." She directed her comment to Riley, who looked immensely relieved. Janet looked at Bollivar next. "First time you've ever seen it?"
"Yes, ma'am. Haven't done much pediatrics, ma'am," he apologized. He gestured toward the sick room. "He doesn't need to be in isolation?"
"No, it's too late; everyone here has already been exposed." She walked over to the window and looked in at the resting boy. "He'll be okay if he doesn't get the flu, like everyone else," Janet commented, the faintest hint of worry tingeing her voice. "That's why I want to start him on the acyclovir right away."
"What about everyone else?"
Janet looked over to O'Neill, who seemed to be lounging casually against the wall. Fraiser knew it was deceptive, he was poised for action. Not that there was much he could do about this.
"Everyone who has had the chicken pox should be all right. As for the flu? We all take our chances with that. Bollivar, I need everyone's medical records and we need to get Sikiowski started on that acyclovir right away."
"I'll give you the records that I have, ma'am. But everyone's full records are back at the SGC." Bollivar looked like he wanted to be anywhere else at the moment when he added, "We don't have any acyclovir here."
Janet closed her eyes and counted to ten before opening them and smiling gamely at Bollivar.
"I'm sorry, ma'am. I don't know who decided what to stock and what not to stock in our infirmary, ma'am."
Janet gritted her teeth, she hadn't been "ma'amed" so much in ages. Bollivar was a good PA, but he was still relatively inexperienced-at least when it came to something like this. "I know, I know. It's not your fault, Bollivar. Give me a copy of your master supply list and I'll compile a list of what we'll need from the SGC."
"Yes, ma'am," Bollivar saluted and scurried out of the room.
O'Neill perked up then, standing up straight. "When you're finished with the list, give it to us, Doc. We'll take it back for you."
"No one is going anywhere, Colonel."
"Hey, I've had the chicken pox!" O'Neill protested.
"I am immune from such diseases." Teal'c intoned gravely.
Fraiser waited for Jonas to pipe in, but he merely looked perplexed. "I think I've missed something here. Chicken pox?"
"Thank you," Fraiser commented dryly.
"Well, Jonas can stay here while Teal'c and I go back to the SGC."
"No one is leaving here, Colonel. And it's not because of Sikiowski's chicken pox." She shoved a pile of charts to the middle of the desk. "Almost half the staff here has this 'flu' and until I'm certain it is just good old fashioned 'Earth flu' no one is leaving this base."
Teal'c opened his mouth and she pinned him with a firm look. "That includes you too, Teal'c. You may not be able to 'get' the flu, but you could still be a carrier." He inclined his head in acceptance.
"It's December twenty-third," O'Neill protested.
"I'm well aware of the date, Colonel."
"Well, just so we're clear then."
"I'm not any happier about it than you are, sir. But we can't risk exposing the SGC to some unknown virus."
Colonel Riley smiled. "Looks like you're stuck with us for Christmas!"
O'Neill grimaced and headed toward the door; Riley followed and clapped him on the shoulder. Janet smiled when she heard his comment. "So, have you been a good boy, Jack?"
"Well, there goes our trip," Jonas murmured, once they were gone.
"We'll have to let Sam know."
Janet couldn't help but overhear the conversation between the two men. She finished gathering the blood tubes she needed and approached Jonas. "Sit down," she told him and he obediently sat in the nearest chair and held out his left arm.
"Let Sam know what?" she asked, tightening the tourniquet around his upper arm.
"General Hammond had okayed a small trip for me and Teal'c."
"We were to go to skiing for Christmas," Teal'c intoned gravely.
That surprised Janet a bit, she had known Sam had plans for the holidays, and when she had been reticent about telling her, Janet hadn't pushed. There were just some things she was better off not knowing. "Just the three of you?" she questioned as she jabbed the needle into Jonas' vein. He didn't even flinch.
"No, Colonel O'Neill was coming with us."
"Major Carter persuaded O'Neill to accompany us."
"Uh huh. I wonder what she used to persuade him?"
"I do not know, Doctor Fraiser. I was not privy to that conversation."
Janet smiled; she imagined it wouldn't have taken much to persuade O'Neill and it was all slowly starting to make sense. That was quite a coup, an officially sanctioned trip where Sam and the Colonel could be together without arousing suspicion. Janet wasn't blind and she wasn't stupid-and she also knew when to look the other way. "She will be disappointed then." She watched as the two men exchanged a look while she filled up another blood tube and then Jonas spoke again.
"Maybe there is something we can do...."
"No one leaves this base, Jonas. I've already told you that."
"I know, I know. But you didn't say that someone couldn't come here." Jonas smiled, an optimistic look on his face, and Teal'c looked almost hopeful-for Teal'c.
"Now look, if there is some kind of alien flu-"
"She has had her flu shot, she was most vocal about it," Teal'c interjected.
"And if she's had the chicken pox, there really isn't any reason she couldn't come here," Jonas pointed out. "She wouldn't have any contact with those people who are already sick, would she?"
"I don't know...."
"I am confident that Colonel Riley would appreciate the additional help her presence would provide, given that so many of his personnel are sick."
"Did I not hear him expressing concern to O'Neill regarding the naquada generator?"
"Why yes, I believe you did, Teal'c." Jonas looked pleadingly at her. "Besides...she should be here. It just doesn't seem right without her. I'm sure the Colonel would agree."
Janet knew there was more going on, but she also knew enough to play dumb and ignore the subtext currently flooding the room. "All right," she agreed. "But only if Riley agrees, if Sam volunteers and if she's had the chicken pox or been vaccinated." The two men exchanged triumphant looks. Janet rolled her eyes and slipped the needle out of Jonas' arm, slapping a Band-Aid on the small wound.
Sam paced her lab, she had tried working on half a dozen projects, but she couldn't concentrate. She wasn't really worried about her team...she just wanted to be with them...with him. Why did the innocuous little missions always turn into something more? She should have gone with them instead of begging off so she could finish up some of her projects before their trip. Their trip, a trip that might even yet get cancelled.
Sighing, she looked at her watch again, it had been three hours since Janet had gone to the alpha site. It had also been almost thirty minutes since she'd casually walked through the control room for the third time. Walter hadn't said anything, but she'd caught his slight smile. It was nearly 2000 on the December twenty-third and the base was essentially deserted. All off world teams-except for alpha site personnel-were already home and the base had shifted gears into holiday mode. Everyone who could had gone home-except for her.
Finally deciding to give up any pretense of trying to work, Sam grabbed a folder to use as cover and once more headed to the control room. Walter glanced at her and shook his head when she snuck up the stairs. She sighed and plopped down at one of the consoles. After fifteen minutes of trying to concentrate on the latest gate diagnostic reports, she was rewarded when one of the consoles beeped and the gate lumbered to life.
Walter punched buttons, pressing a finger to his ear-piece. "It's the alpha-site."
"Is Hammond still here?" she asked, the words barely out of her mouth when she heard him on the stairs. Evidently she wasn't the only one awaiting news from Fraiser.
Once Hammond was in the room, Walter did his magic with the keyboard and Fraiser's face filled the view screen.
"Airman Sikiowski has the chicken pox, sir, but that isn't what concerns me the most. There is some type of flu going on around here, so I'm quarantining the base. No one leaves until after we've determined this is just good old Earth flu and not some alien virus."
Sam felt her heart sink. No Christmas in Aspen... no Christmas with Jack. This was their first Christmas together and she felt ridiculously close to tears with Fraiser's news. Taking a deep breath, she concentrated on the Doctor's voice.
"I have a list of supplies we need. They can wait until morning, sir."
"Very well, give what you need to Harriman."
There was a flurry of movement on the screen and Colonel Riley's face suddenly appeared. "General, I know this is going to be an unusual request, given the situation. But...could you send Major Carter over with the supplies?"
Sam immediately perked up. She'd risk the flu, chicken pox and System Lords to be with them.
"What about this illness?" Hammond asked.
"Doctor Fraiser assures me the risk to Major Carter will be minimal. I had been kind of counting on her being with SG-1. Our naquada generator has been acting up and we could sure use her help tracking down the problem."
"Major?" Hammond looked at her.
Trying not to appear too eager, Sam schooled herself to keep her expression appropriately neutral. "I'll go, General." She decided to throw in some technobabble, just in case. "If they're experiencing fluctuations with the power differential curve, it could-"
"Right," Hammond nodded and turned back to the monitor. "Major Carter will ship out with your requested supplies at 0800."
"Thank you, sir." Riley disappeared and Janet reappeared. Sam looked at her friend's image closely, was she smirking?
"I've got a list here plus several tubes of blood that I need special studies on. I'll send it all through in a biohazard container. Fraiser over and out."
"Yes, ma'am," Walter replied. The monitor screen flickered and was dark, moments later a container lobbed through the gate and landed with a gentle thud on the ramp.
"Shut it down," Hammond ordered. They watched the event horizon shimmer out, one of the guards gingerly picked up the container. Hammond looked at her again. "Are you sure you want to go, Major?"
"Yes, sir. I've had the chicken pox and I've had my flu shot."
He gave her a level look that reminded her of her father when he knew she was being less than truthful with him.
"And we'll have to reschedule our Christmas plans anyway...."
"Very well." Hammond turned, he had one hand on the stair railing when he paused and looked back at her. He smiled. "Have a Merry Christmas, Major."
"Thank you, sir."
Sam fidgeted restlessly, craning her head to look up into the control room. Since it was Christmas Eve, an unfamiliar technician was at the controls and Sam wondered if she needed help, when she finally heard the gate start to move, the first chevron engaged and the technician's relieved voice sounded over the intercom. "Chevron one is engaged."
Satisfied, Sam looked toward the gate, letting her thoughts drift while the gate went through its familiar and comforting sequence. She sighed. It had been easy enough to cancel their reservations; it wasn't so easy to cancel her disappointment. Oh, she knew it wasn't anybody's fault, people got sick, missions went wrong. And it wasn't anybody's fault but her own that she had been counting so much on this trip.
For the past few months she and Jack had been slowly easing into something more than just a working relationship. This Christmas ski trip was supposed to have been something more, the next step in their relationship. She had even been so corny as to even think of it as her Christmas present to him. And now she was going to spend Christmas voluntarily quarantined at the alpha site, with him-and the three dozen or so personnel assigned to the base and who knew how many stray Jaffa.
"Chevron seven is locked."
The wormhole whooshed into life and the voice of the relief duty officer, Major Harris, sounded over the speaker. "Have a good trip, Major."
Sam turned and nodded in acknowledgement, then picked up the large duffel resting at her feet and walked up the ramp and into the event horizon...spilling out on the other side into a winter wonderland. Big fluffy flakes of snow were falling, liberally coating the ground and surrounding buildings with a covering of white. She smiled, her heart beating faster when Jack appeared out of the falling snow. The gate closed down behind her and she walked to meet him.
"Carter." He greeted her in standard fashion and if his eyes were a bit warmer than usual and if his smile was one intended just for her, there was no one else around them to see.
"Sir," she replied automatically.
"Some Christmas, eh?" He took a step closer, shifting his weapon and holding out his hand. "Here, let me take that."
She gladly gave him the heavy duffel and fell into step beside him. "Looks like I should have brought my skis."
Jack snorted and stopped abruptly, pulling her under the tarp overhang of the closest building. "I'm sorry," he said gruffly. "I know this isn't what we had planned."
"It's not your fault." She quickly glanced around; they were protected by the shelter of the building, the snow still falling heavily and there was no sign of any of the base's other inhabitants. Stepping closer, she reached up with cold fingers and delicately caressed his cheek. His eyes flashed with the desire that he usually kept hidden and she felt an answering warmth fill her. She stretched up and kissed him briefly, his firm lips cool beneath hers. As much as she wanted to, she didn't let herself linger, instead she took a step back and smiled. "We can still go skiing."
"But we can't have another first Christmas," he countered.
Her heart filled to near bursting with love for him. She knew that the significance of this holiday meant more to her than it did to him, yet here he was, trying to make her feel better. "There will be others."
"I think that's a definite yes."
"Good," he replied, shifting the duffel and leading her out of the shelter of the building.
They reached the main building and Jack pulled open the door, ushering her in. The room was warm and cheery; a small Christmas tree twinkled with lights in one corner. Jonas, Teal'c and several individuals she didn't recognize were lounging around the room. Jonas grinned and waved, Teal'c smiled benignly and nodded; the sound of the barking dogs Jingle Bells filled the room, over-riding any conversation.
"Just next year?" Jack whispered, setting the duffel down and helping her unclip her backpack. "Let's plan something that involves just the two of us and no easy, last minute missions anywhere?"
Sam was just happy to be with him; but she smiled gently and discreetly squeezed his hand when she took her backpack from him. "Works for me."