"That was Sam - she said she's going to be able to make it here for Christmas anyway," Mark said, smiling, as he put the telephone receiver down and turned to face his wife, Marian.
"That's great! I thought she had some work she needed to do?" Marian said.
"Did you hear that? Sam's coming here for Christmas too!" Mark told Jacob, who entered the room together with Mark's children.
"Aunt Sam will be here? Will she bring gifts?" William asked.
"Gifts!" Lisa happily squealed.
"Sam? I thought she was busy." Jacob frowned, thinking of the alien device she had mentioned she needed to look at before it was sent to Area 51.
"Apparently she found a colleague who could help her with whatever it was she needed to finish, so she'll be able to get it done in time anyway. Oh, by the way - she asked if she could bring him here. I said yes. I hope that's not going to be a problem?" Mark looked at his wife. "I mean, it's just for a few days."
"No, not at all." Marian smiled. "A colleague? Sure it's nothing more?"
"That's what she said." Mark shrugged.
"Really? A colleague? She said that? What's his name?" Jacob asked, frowning.
Mark thought it over. "You know, I don't think she told me."
"Well, if it's a colleague, then he is just a friend," Jacob said with conviction.
"Right. Your stupid regulations." Mark rolled his eyes. "That's just too bad. Sam ought to find someone nice, and it sounds as if she never has time to meet anyone outside work."
"I'm sure she can decide that for herself," Jacob said, prodded by Selmak. They both still remembered last time they had visited, and Mark had talked about inviting someone he knew, for Sam to meet at the next family gathering.
"So, separate rooms?" Marian asked.
"Yes!" Jacob said, flatly.
"Give them the connected rooms upstairs - then they can decide for themselves how friendly they want to be," Mark suggested.
Sam looked up at the man entering her laboratory.
"Did you speak with your brother, Samantha?" he asked.
Sam nodded. "Yes, I did. He said it was okay for you to come too, Martouf."
"That is very kind of him. I must admit I very much look forward to learning more about your world and culture - and to meet your family, of course."
She smiled. "Then let's go get you some ID. We've got a lot to do before the plane leaves tonight."
It was almost two hours later when they were finally ready to leave Stargate Command. Martouf/Lantash had been given some BDUs to wear, since a Tok'ra uniform had been deemed too unusual, and would call unwanted attention to them.
Before leaving, Martouf/Lantash went briefly to the room they had been assigned while they were at Stargate Command, to pick up a bag with some gifts and other stuff he had brought. He had originally intended to just give it to Sam immediately, but now when he was coming with her he would wait until Christmas.
Martouf stopped just outside the exit and looked around at everything, the buildings, the trees, and then up at the sky.
"Martouf?" Sam asked, when she noticed he was not following. "What is it?"
"I apologize. This is the first time I am truly on the world of the Tau'ri. On the surface, I mean." He smiled, a little sheepishly. "It is something I have looked forward to for a long time - something which all Tok'ra would want very much to experience."
"Really?" Sam frowned. "Why?"
"Because it's the First World. It is... the place where it all began, in a way. Ra and the other System Lords started their empires, took human hosts... it is where humans are from."
Sam smiled. "I think I understand. Have none of you except Selmak been here before? Earlier, I mean."
"Egeria stayed here for short periods of time, and a very small number of other Tok'ra have at some point or another accompanied her here, but none have been here in the last thousand years, as far as I know."
"Right, she tried to stop the Goa'uld from taking hosts from Earth." Sam nodded, suddenly getting a memory from Jolinar.
"Correct. She was also fairly successful."
"Well, if you're all interested in seeing Earth, then I suppose we should try and see if we can make it happen. They'll probably only be allowed to get to the surface here around Stargate Command, though."
"That would be very well received, I am sure of that."
"Okay, when we come back I'll talk to Hammond about it, and see if we can arrange something. Now, it's just after noon, and we need to buy some things, and also pack, before we take a plane to San Diego, so we should probably get going."
"Plane? San Diego?" Martouf wondered.
"A plane is a type of aircraft we use for travelling longer distances on Earth. San Diego is the city where my brother lives with his family. It's more than a thousand miles away, so we can't just walk - or take a car. Come on, my car is parked over here."
"Selmak has told us about cars. She finds them a noisy, unsafe, and generally unpleasant means of transportation," Martouf said, following her.
Sam laughed. "I'm not surprised! Relax, we'll be fine." She opened the door to her car for him. "Get in and buckle up!"
Martouf frowned, but sat down in the seat, placing his rather large bag at his feet.
Sam closed the door, then went to the other side of the car and got in.
"Buckle up?" Martouf asked, confused. "What does that mean?"
"Sorry. I mean that you should fasten the seatbelt. This." She showed him the one on her side. "See? It extends when you pull it, and locks in place in a slot down here." She clicked it in place.
Martouf nodded slowly, before trying to repeat what she had done. After a few attempts he succeeded in replicating it. "This is a safety measure?"
"Yes - in case we crash." She grinned. "You know, the roads are a bit slippery today."
"Crash!" Martouf looked at her with alarm.
"We won't," she quickly reassured him. "It was a really bad joke. The seat belts are also good to have if we need to, say, brake hard."
"Okay," Martouf said, looking as if he was not sure he wanted to drive anywhere.
"We'll be fine. Really." Sam gave his hand a squeeze. She started the car and slowly took them out from the parking lot. She then turned out onto the road, and sped up.
"Samantha!" Martouf exclaimed, gripping the edge of the seat so hard his knuckles turned white. "This is not safe!"
Sam smiled. "We do this all the time. Humans on Earth, I mean."
"You are very brave!" Martouf looked like he thought foolish was a just as good - or better - descriptor.
"Don't worry, you'll get used to cars quickly. We're also not going far this time. We just need to go to a place where we can get some presents for my brother's kids, and some clothes and other stuff for you."
"This is not acceptable?" Martouf touched his borrowed BDU.
"Yes, but you'll want something else to wear too. Besides, while it's warmer in San Diego, you'll need winter clothes if you're staying here in Colorado Springs until after New Year's - which you were going to, right? I'm assuming you don't want to stay inside on the base the whole time."
"No, I would very much appreciate it if I am allowed to see some more of your world, even if it is only the area around this city."
"Good. We should have plenty of time for that, maybe even to go other places. With you here to help, I can finish studying the artefact quickly and get the report done too."
"Lantash and are most pleased that we can help you. It was fortunate our mission ended much sooner than expected."
Sam nodded. "Yes, it was." She turned off the road and into a large parking lot. "We're here. This is called a shopping mall. It just means they've got many different stores in one place."
"That is not something we are unfamiliar with. Some planets have large markets or bazaars where many different salesmen gather, selling almost anything imaginable."
"I guess it's a bit like those, though I think you'll find some things different." Sam smiled.
They went into the shopping mall.
"This place is indeed... unusual," Martouf said, stopping and staring at the many Christmas decorations hanging from the roof or on the walls. There were also Christmas trees covered in lights and decorations, and here and there stood life size santas and reindeers.
"Yes, I'll agree to that!" Sam slowly shook her head. "It doesn't look like that all the of the time, though - this is because it's Christmas."
"I see." Martouf nodded slowly, looking from one decoration to the next. "This is part of a religious ritual?"
"Ah, no. The decorations are mostly just... well, okay, I guess you could actually say that." Sam sighed. "Why don't you ask Daniel next time we see him? I'm sure he can explain it much better than I can."
"I shall do so."
"Okay. Now let's go get those presents for my brother's kids first, then maybe we could take a break and get some late lunch afterwards. Have you eaten?"
"I had breakfast an hour before arriving at Stargate Command."
"Right - and Vorash is about two hours ahead of Stargate Command." She grimaced. "You must be getting pretty hungry."
"I can manage," Martouf said.
Sam nodded. "Okay, let's get those gifts then - quickly."