This was gonna turn out to be a thing. Daniel sighed, scratched his head, and held his tongue. Sam had been planning this leave for weeks, talking about it for longer, and had caught the Christmas cheer bug harder than he’d ever seen her catch it, and now, yeah, this was gonna be a disaster.
It wasn’t Jack’s fault. It just wasn’t, and Daniel pitied him, but it was Jack that Sam was facing with her hands on her hips and her displeasure radiating off her in big, pulsating waves.
“Carter,” Jack sighed, sounding a little helpless. “What do you want from me, here, exactly?”
“Sir, I just think you’re being overly cautious and...”
“Overly cautious?” Jack sputtered. He looked over at Daniel who wished that Jack would leave him out of it. “She says to me in her scrubs from the infirmary.”
“I feel fine!” Sam interjected.
“You in fact have a fever of one hundred and one degrees, Colonel Carter,” Teal’c said.
“Yeah, but I feel fine,” she stressed.
“You threw up twice already, Sam,” Daniel said, giving in. If she was just going to be irrational...
“That was hours ago,” Sam said, crossing her arms. Jack gaped at her.
“You really want me to bring the rash into this, Carter?” Jack said, lowering his voice just a hair, but of course, all of SG-1 and any one else in the infirmary heard him just fine.
Sam blushed, but held her ground. “General...”
“I’m sorry, but you’re staying here until the Doc clears you,” Jack said. He held up his hand to forestall her sputtering. “Look, you fell in the alien plant, you got the alien rash, my hands are tied. Quarantine procedures are clear.” He grinned. “Don’t worry. Daniel and Teal’c can’t leave either.”
“Actually, Doctor Brightman informed me that I am unaffected,” Teal’c said. Jack didn’t let this bring him down.
“Daniel is gonna stay with you,” Jack said. “I gotta go, but, hang in there, sport.”
They watched him leave.
“Well,” Daniel said. His Christmas plans were to sit alone in his apartment and drink a bottle of wine by himself, so he wasn’t really too put out, but Sam’s face had already fallen. “Sorry, Sam.”
“He’s right,” she said. “I did fall in the stupid plant.”
“Anyone could have tripped,” Daniel offered.
Sam held out her arm and inspected the red, swollen skin. The rash radiated from the scratches the branches of the plant had inflicted. So far, Daniel had felt fine and Dr. Brightman’s working hypothesis was that the infection wouldn’t spread to any one else. Daniel agreed, however, that Sam needed to be monitored in case she got worse, despite her claims that she felt fine.
“Maybe it will be better in the morning?” Sam asked hopefully.
“I bet it will,” Daniel said. “Come on, back in bed. I’ll bring you some Jell-o.”
“Fine,” she said, getting back onto her infirmary bed. “Blue, please.”
“No kidding,” Daniel said, and headed toward the elevator.
Sam woke up around four am to find her team asleep at her bedside. Teal’c sat ramrod straight in the chair by her bed, but he was definitely asleep and Daniel was sprawled on the adjacent cot, his glasses askew on his face. As disappointed as she was, she could be grateful her team was staying by her side.
She looked away from Daniel to see Jack loitering in the doorway.
He nodded at her in greeting. She glanced at the clock and then back at him and then he just shrugged. She offered him a slight smile - maybe an apology for before and he walked softly to the foot of the bed.
“Hey,” he said softly.
“Hey,” she replied.
“How you feeling?” he asked. She was about to say fine, they both knew it but then she decided to really answer his question.
“Pretty crappy,” she said. “Sorry I...”
But he waved it away.
“So,” he said, glancing at Daniel who hadn’t stirred. Teal’c was probably awake now, and faking it. “I called your brother.”
“What?” she asked. “I could have... Sir, I was gonna...”
“I didn’t want you to get in trouble,” he said. “He understood.”
“Did he?” she asked.
“Well,” Jack said. “I made him understand.”
“You made him hate you instead of me,” she translated.
“Nah,” he said. “Mark and I are old friends. We go way back.”
She smirked. “Right.”
“I told him you’d call him when you were feeling a little better,” he said. “Which... I hope is soon, Carter.”
“Me too, sir,” she said. “It’s promising that no one else seems to be sick.”
“Yeah, I...” Jack said, but then Daniel moaned and rolled over on his coat. Jack squinted down at him. “Carter?”
“What?” she asked.
“What is that?” Jack said. “On his neck, there?”
Jack asked, but he already knew. It was a rash, climbing up past Daniel’s collar toward his jaw. Sam sighed and rubbed her face, which felt warm even to her own touch.
Daniel moaned again, sat up, looked at Sam and Jack and then leaned over the side of the bed to puke.
“Oh boy,” Sam said.
“Total lockdown,” Sam moaned. “This is all my fault.”
“Look at it this way,” Daniel said from his bed. “So far it’s just you and me and the medics who attended to you when we got back.”
“And Dr. Brightman,” Sam said. “And half the medical staff.”
“And Siler,” Daniel said. “But that’s it!”
“For now!” she said.
“We’re not dying,” Daniel said.
“Just infected with something horrible,” she muttered. “And itchy as hell.”
“I’m not itchy,” he said.
“Not yet.” Sam picked at her blanket. “Dr. Brightman was up all night with my blood work, barfing into a bucket.”
“That’s dedication,” Daniel mumbled. Sam wrung her hands. “Don’t get sucked down into your guilt.”
“It’s hard not too,” she said.
“This is not the worst thing we’ve done to this base.” Daniel winced as her face fell even more. “I didn’t mean-”
“I’ve not only ruined Christmas for my family, but for the entire base and their families,” she said. “I am the worst.”
“Sam,” he said, helplessly. “You know what they say.”
“At Christmas play and make good cheer, For Christmas comes but once a year.”
“It just means that it’s Christmas and you have to make the most of it. Just because you aren’t where you thought you would be doesn’t mean it won’t be special,” he said. “At least we’ll be together with Teal’c and Jack.”
“Yeah,” she said. “Thanks, Daniel.”
“Now, if you’ll excuse me,” he said. “I think I need to go throw up again.”
Jack made it until Christmas Eve before showing up in the infirmary looking miserable and red, the rash spreading over his left hand and forearm. She remembered touching him briefly there, what was supposed to be a reassuring pat.
Sam was actually feeling a bit better. Her fever had broken and though her skin was still itchy and mottled, Dr. Brightman seemed relieved that she was on the mend. She’d been sent back to her own base quarters but happened to be in the infirmary when Jack stumbled in, his hand against the concrete wall.
“Man down,” he said.
She rushed to his side, eased herself under his arm and helped him stay standing.
“You’re hot,” she said.
“Thanks, Carter,” he said, allowing her to take a lot of his weight.
“I mean, your skin,” she said, smirking. “Come on, take a bed.”
“I just need something... to get me through...” he said. She tried to ease him onto the mattress, but the most she could do is aim him there as he passed out. She nearly lost her own footing.
“Nurse!” she called.
She hung around until Jack woke up again, curled up in a chair by his bed, an itchy blanket around her shoulders. Jack woke up startled, like he didn’t know where he was, and looked down at the IV in his hand.
“You were dehydrated,” Sam offered. “How do you feel?”
“When you said you were fine, before,” he said, his voice a little croaky.
“You were a liar.”
“Yeah,” she sighed. “I just wanted so much from Christmas this year. It was stupid to... I mean, I should know better than to get my hopes up.”
“I like that about you,” Jack said. “How you always stay hopeful.”
She tucked her knees under her chin and made sure the blanket covered her bare feet.
“Am I dying?” Jack interrupted.
“No,” Sam said. “Brightman thinks it’s just a flu. She’ll recommend to you in the morning that you lift the quarantine for those unaffected.”
“That’s good news,” he said.
“Sir, I just wanted to...”
“Carter,” he said. “Don’t apologize. You didn’t know.”
“You brought back a sample of the plant, you didn’t kill anyone, if this were a different month it would be business as usual and you wouldn’t bat an eye. But it’s Christmas, I get that. Still, I can think of worst things then being stuck here with you.” He looked at his hand, the one with the tape and the IV. “You think some kind of alarm would sound if I ripped this out?”
“Please don’t,” she said, quietly.
“Go get some rest,” he said. “Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and I need to conserve my strength to torture Daniel.”
“He stopped puking, finally, by the way,” Sam said.
“It’s a Christmas miracle,” Jack said, drifting off to sleep again.
By Christmas Eve, Sam felt fine and she and Teal’c spent the morning trying to make the quarantined portion of the base more festive. It was hard in a place filled with grey, standard military materials but Sam printed out some colored graphs and they cut up the paper into strips to make garlands. Teal’c seemed bored by it all, bending the strips into rings and stapling them together, but he cared for Sam so he didn’t complain.
Sam imagined decorating the Stargate and chuckled to herself. Teal’c raised an eyebrow.
“Has something amused you, Colonel?” he inquired.
“I was just having frivolous thoughts,” she said.
In reality, they hung them in the infirmary because that was still where most people were being monitored. Most people were already on the mend. Daniel was back in his quarters and even Jack had shuffled off to his office to speak to the president about lifting the quarantine.
When they were done with their small decorations, Sam left Teal’c and wandered up to Jack’s office where he was sitting at his desk with a blanket around his shoulders, talking on the red phone. She backed away again but he waved her in.
“Yes, sir,” he said. “Thank you. I know we’ll make a lot of families happy this way.”
That sounded good.
“You too, sir, Merry Christmas.” He hung up.
“We can all go home in the morning,” he said. She smiled and then looked down at her feet.
“Hey,” he said. “Not your fault.”
Sam nodded, offered a smile. “Okay,” she said.
They emerged from the mountain as if they had been trapped for weeks and not days. When Sam had entered the mountain, there had been no snow on the ground, but now their shoes crunched over fresh, white powder.
“Merry Christmas,” Sam offered.
“Hey,” Jack said. “Why don’t you guys come over later. We’ll have a snow barbecue and get drunk.”
Sam hesitated only for a moment. She often hesitated when she wanted something so much - it was usually a sign she shouldn’t have it.
“Okay,” Daniel said, deciding for all of them. He looked at Sam. “You drive.”
Sam went home first. She and Daniel both showered at her house. She luxuriated in the warm water, the smell of her own soap and shampoo, her razor, her favorite, fluffy towel. When she got out, she put on her robe and told Daniel she was done and he trudged in after her, using her bathroom instead of the guest. The guys, over the years, had left a fair amount of clothes at her house so she left a pair of sweats out for him, and a t-shirt that must have been Teal’c’s because when Daniel emerged wearing it, it hung off him.
“Shut up,” he said. She loaned him one of her old, over-sized AF hoodies and when they were clean and dry, they trudged back out to the car.
It wasn’t a glamorous Christmas, but it was Christmas all the same.
Teal’c was already there when they got to Jack’s, stirring a pot full of milk on the stove for cocoa.
“General O’Neill is in the shower,” he said.
There was no tree, no gifts. Just warm, chocolaty drinks, tri-tip cooked on the grill, and a fire in the hearth.
“Spend the night,” Jack told them when it got late and the snow really started coming down. Teal’c slept in the guest bed and Sam curled up on the couch. She woke up to Jack covering her with a quilt, his hand warm on her forehead as he pushed her bangs back from her forehead.
“I’m glad you’re here,” he whispered, his hand sliding down her jaw.
Sam had been so worried about missing Christmas with her family but falling asleep now, warm and safe, she realized just how silly that had been.