It was over.
The dust had settled, blood had been shed, but it was over. They had won the battle and Earth was now free. Anubis had been slain, the System Lords were in tatters and the SGC had won what was sure to be its finest victory. All on Christmas day.
Peace on Earth indeed.
"The natives want us to stay and celebrate with them," Daniel told Jack.
Jack looked at the others. He knew they were torn between staying to celebrate and going home for Christmas. "I won't make it an order," he said. "Those who want to get back to their families, you're free to go back through the 'Gate. Anyone who wants to stay, I think the natives would really appreciate it."
In the end, there were eleven who stayed on the planet; all of SG-1, with a few from SG-2, 5 and 11. Jack was pleased that his team had decided to stay. He felt obligated - since so many of the natives had perished in the battle - to stay and celebrate with them, but he knew that Carter had a family to go home to and he suspected that Teal'c would have liked the opportunity to visit his son.
Still, it had become a tradition that they spend Christmas together and he was glad this year was no exception. He'd never been very big on Christmases, not after Charlie died. It was a time for family and he had lost his. But now, he had a new family to celebrate with and - if things worked out as he hoped - maybe in a couple of years that family might change to be the more traditional kind.
As those thoughts flittered through his mind, he heard a laugh. It was like music to his ears, something that he hadn't heard enough over the years. Major Sam Carter was laughing at something Teal'c had said and the big guy actually had a smile on his face as well. He watched her as they talked quietly and wondered about his future. Quite sometime ago, he'd promised himself he'd stay only as long as he had to, before retiring and changing the focus in his life. Perhaps the war would never be over, but they had won a major victory and he had seen today that - if he left - Earth would be in safe hands. He had no excuse left except for his own cowardice and he had a feeling he was about to lose that one as well.
Carter wandered over to him, her smile widening when she spotted him watching her. "You okay, sir?" she asked, coming to stand beside him.
"Peachy," he returned, watching as one of native's grabbed an axe and followed a member of SG-11 toward the forest. "What's happening?"
"They're going to find a Christmas tree," she replied. "The natives found out about Christmas and want to incorporate it into their celebration. Daniel thinks it will probably become a tradition for them to celebrate the demise of the Goa'uld."
"What are they going to decorate it with?" he asked, curious.
"Well, that's the thing," she started, grinning slyly. Jack raised an eyebrow at her. "We've been put on decoration detail. Their leader said there were nuts and flowers down near the river that would be perfect."
"How did I get put on detail? Last time I checked, I was the commanding officer of this mission."
She grinned. "Well, that might have something to do with me volunteering you," she admitted.
He couldn't help but return her grin. "Of course. Only you would have the nerve to do that."
She laughed. "Let's go, sir."
They walked down toward the river in a companionable silence. Though the area had been secured, Jack still kept half an eye out for any Jaffa that may have been missed in the round-up. As the forest opened up into a clearing by the river, Jack heard his major take a quick intake of breath. He looked up and he had to agree. It was a beautiful area. The two suns, that were just setting, reflected off the glassy surface of the river. By the water's edge, there was an abundance of white flowers that seemed to glow in the waning light.
"Wow," Carter breathed. "It's beautiful."
She was right, it was beautiful. It was hard to imagine they were on the same planet that had only hours earlier hosted one of the biggest battles he had ever been involved in.
Jack turned as Carter moved towards the water's edge. The new picture was infinitely better than the last. Even though she was dirty, her fatigues ripped in a few places, and looking bone-wearily tired, she was still a sight to behold. It was the sheer presence of her more than her physical appearance that set his heart racing.
He shook his head at how mushy his thoughts were turning, blaming his own fatigue. He walked down beside her and took her lead, picking the largest of the blooms. But he couldn't stop looking at her, reassuring himself that she was alive and well beside him.
"Do you think the sap in these things is poisonous?" he asked, twirling a flower in his hand and trying to distract his thoughts.
She shook her head, but didn't look up from her task. "I already asked the natives that. They assured me they weren't toxic."
He smiled. Of course she'd asked. If it had occurred to him, then it would have occurred to her ten minutes ago. He looked down at the flower and then looked over to where Carter was still collecting a bunch. He walked over to stand beside her, but said nothing.
She looked up, frowning slightly when she saw him watching her. "Sir?"
She stood up and he simply looked at her for a moment longer, before reaching out and pushing the flower behind her ear. The smile she gave him at the gesture was enough to cement his decision.
"I'm retiring," he told her.
Her eyes widened. "What? Why? There's still more to do."
He nodded. "I know, but there are plenty of people to do it. I made myself a promise to stick it out until I thought Earth would be safe from the Goa'uld. It is safe now and I think it's time to hang up the boots and think about other things in life."
He could see a light in her eyes and knew she immediately understood what he was talking about. "Like what?" she asked.
He grinned. "Fishing."
She laughed. It was a real laugh; one that a few hours earlier he hadn't been sure he'd ever hear it again. Then she stopped and suddenly looked unsure. "Can I... I mean, is that offer to join you still open?"
He stepped closer. "That offer's been open for years," he murmured. "You know that."
She shook her head. "No, I mean, I'd hoped, but it's been so long since you asked me."
That surprised Jack. "But you always said no."
The look she gave him was intense. "I wanted to say yes," she told him. "I wanted nothing more than to go with you. But you know why I said no. I just... when you'd ask me, it made me feel good. It assured me that you still felt the same."
He'd never thought of it like that. He'd stopped asking because he'd thought he looked like a desperate fool. If he'd known that was how she felt about it, he would have asked her every day. "You can come with me now," he told her. "It's beautiful in the winter."
She looked at him. "I can't believe you're really going to do this."
"Believe it. I'm too old and too tired to keep going. It's time to be selfish and put my wants and needs before the Air Force."
She smiled, stepping closer. "You're not old," she assured him.
"Old enough," he muttered. Suddenly he was aware that she was well within his personal space. His eyes locked with hers and what he saw there made it hard to breathe. Love. She really did love him. Without a further thought, he lowered his head and kissed her.
It started out as just the merest touch, a test to make sure she wanted it as well. When she didn't pull away, Jack made another pass, lips connecting more fully this time as her positive reaction to him sunk in. Then it was suddenly frantic, mouths opening, teeth clashing and tongues dueling. They were both pouring everything into the kiss and it was only when Jack registered the feel of her hand under his shirt that he realized that they were well on their way to making love.
He pulled back.
Carter looked shocked at the action, her face a myriad of confusion and hurt. He needed to explain, before she got the wrong idea.
"Let's wait," he grumbled, his voice huskier than he would have liked. "We've been so careful up until now, I don't want to do something stupid and have you pay for it."
She smiled a sweet, gentle smile that made his heart melt. It made it all worthwhile just to see that smile. She stepped closer to him, kissing him gently on the cheek before taking his hand in hers. "Come on, Colonel," she murmured. "Let's go and celebrate Christmas."
He gave her hand a squeeze. "Yes, ma'am."
A very, merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fears.