Second Star to the Right...
"I'b sorry Sab, I juts don' zee 'ow I can gow."
It took Sam a moment to sort through what Janet was saying, the doctor's sinuses were so blocked it was almost impossible to understand her. Fraiser looked miserable and sounded worse. Her red nose was matched by her bloodshot eyes and her skin, when Sam laid a hand across the doctor's brow, was hot to the touch. Beside her, looking nearly as miserable–but for a different reason–was Cassie. The ten-year-old's eyes were as red as her mother's, but Sam suspected that Cassie's eye irritation stemmed from crying more than illness.
"Cass, honey? Are you sick too?"
Cassandra looked at her mother and then back at Sam. She sniffled once then shook her head. "No, Sam, I'm okay. But Mom..." Her voice trembled and her brown eyes filled with tears. "Now we can't go 'tricking.'"
Sam's eyes widened and she bit back a smile. "It's, ah, 'trick-or-treating,' sweetheart, not, um, 'tricking.'" Sam reached out and gathered the little girl to her side. She caught Janet's eye and raised an eyebrow, nodding in response to Janet's equally silent reply. Sam squatted down so that she was at eye level with the girl. "How about you take me around instead? Mom can stay here and get better, and you and I can cruise the neighborhood. But, if you don't mind, we'll go to mine since I don't know yours really well?"
Cass turned, leaning back against Sam as she checked with her mom. "Would that be okay? I mean, I want you to come, but..."
Janet smiled at her daughter, reassuring her that it was, indeed, okay. "Go on huddy, go get your cozdube on and show it to Sab." Janet sighed and leaned back as her daughter of a few months hugged her tight before racing up the stairs to get dressed. She and Cass had worked hard on the little girl's outfit and Janet was sorry she wouldn't be able to take Cass around for her first Halloween trick-or-treating. Janet smiled gratefully as Sam placed a cool cloth on her forehead and set a glass of juice at her side.
After making sure Janet had everything she needed, Sam rose and stepped into the hallway. She flipped open her cell and hit one of her speed-dial numbers. Daniel had shared with her earlier today that Jack seemed a bit down and they both figured it had to do with the holiday so traditionally centered around kids and candy. Daniel was convinced, and Sam agreed, that this kick-off to the holiday season–as Halloween seemed to have become–emphasized Charlie's absence to Colonel O'Neill. O'Neill picked up on the second ring.
"Carter? What's up, you okay?"
"Yes, Sir. Well, no, not really."
"Which is it?"
"Well, Sir, I'm okay, but it's Cassie...or rather Janet." Sam fumbled for words, suddenly wondering if her impulsive idea to include her CO in tonight's activities was a good idea after all.
"Cassie? Is she...wait, you said the Doc? Is she okay?"
"No, Sir. I mean, yes, Sir, Janet's okay, just really sick. We were going to take Cassie out tonight...you know, for trick-or-treat? But, as I said, Janet's sick, so..."
"So...and...therefore...? Help me out here, Carter." O'Neill's voice was brusque, abrupt.
Yep, this was a bad idea. Nice, Sam, way to think things through. Sam paced the hallway, running a hand through her hair. Yeah, this was a really dumb idea. She scrambled to think of a way to gracefully get off the phone. "Well, Sir, I thought...you...I mean, I...oh, never mind. I'll take her to my neighborhood and –"
O'Neill's voice softened and he asked, "Carter? Did you want me to come with you?"
"I wouldn't want to put you out, Sir." Sam was glad he was across town, she was certain her face was glowing like a jack-o-lantern.
"Don't worry about it. Hey, maybe Teal'c would get a kick out of it, eh? I'll give Daniel a call and he can join us. I haven't left the mountain yet, and I can probably still catch Daniel." O'Neill was silent for a moment and Sam could hear him moving around, then the telltale slam of his office door. "Oh...hey, Carter? What about costumes?"
"Taken care of, Sir. Cassie's just putting hers on now."
"I meant you. What are you wearing?"
Sam's breath caught in her throat and she opened her mouth in shock. He didn't mean that the way it sounded, Samantha. Get your mind out of the gutter! She shook her head, trying to clear her thoughts. She stammered, "I...um..."
"I...damn. Wait. That came out wrong. I mean, Carter, what costume are you wearing?"
Carter looked down at her green tights and jagged-edged green felt Peter Pan tunic. It had seemed like a good idea at the time, and Janet and Cassie had been delighted with how she'd looked. Cassie had declared that with her bright blonde hair, Sam looked just like the Peter of her books. She scuffed the toes of her brown, curly-tipped boots and wondered how long it would take to live this down with the guys.
"Carter? Did I lose you?"
Closing her eyes and muttering a small prayer, Sam confessed, "I'm, um, Peter Pan."
"You're Peter... You're joking."
Jack was silent for a moment and Carter peered suspiciously at her phone. She swore she could hear muffled sounds of him laughing. Finally he came back to her and assured her that she and Cassie should join him at his house in an hour. Sam snapped her phone closed, resting her head against the wall and not caring that she was smashing the tip of her pointed cap.
Teal'c carefully shifted the bags he was carrying, balancing them with the bright orange plastic pumpkin atop the pile of clothing O'Neill had dumped in his arms. Peering carefully around his pile, he picked his way up the walkway, following Jack up and into his house. Jack too was buried under a similar collection of bags and cloth, with additional layers draped over his shoulders. Teal'c could barely see the greying top of his commanding officer's head as it bobbed through the front door.
"O'Neill, I still do no understand why it is we must disguise ourselves. Who will your neighbors believe us to be? What is the purpose of such subterfuge? Will we not frighten–"
"Ah!" O'Neill held up a hand, stopping the Jaffa's questions. "No, Teal'c. Any and all questions pertaining to this particular event get directed to Daniel. I don't know, nor do I care to learn, the history of Halloween, or why we're dressing up." Jack dumped his load of cloth and bags onto the dining room table and headed for the phone. "I do know, however, that we can't survive on sugar alone. Want the usual on your pizza?"
Teal'c nodded his assent as he added his parcels to O'Neill's pile and began sorting through the items they'd brought with them. He was hoping that Daniel Jackson or Captain Carter would more fully explain the evening's activities to him. If he was to do battle on behalf of his friends, he must be prepared.
Dusk was rapidly fading into night when Sam pulled her vintage Volvo into Colonel O'Neill's driveway. The night was mild for the end of October in Colorado, and while Sam had initially been grateful for that, now she was wishing it was colder. Or at least cold enough that she could cover her costume with a large coat. She was so going to hear about this for a long time to come.
"Sam?" Cassie's eager voice brought Sam out of her musings. The girl was fairly bouncing with eagerness. What had looked to be a disastrous evening with her mom's illness had turned into a special treat. Not only was she going to spend the time with Sam, who Cassie loved more than anyone except her new mom, she was going to see Jack! Daniel and Teal'c too, but next to Sam and her mom, Jack was the best. Cass popped open her seat belt and climbed out of the car. She reached into the backseat to grab her fairy wings, poking Sam in the process.
"Sam?" Cass asked again. "Are we gonna go inside?" At Sam's nod the girl came around and turned, waiting for Sam to fasten them on. The Hankan child looked adorable, and Sam was surprised once again at the depth of love and pride she felt for the child. Dressed in a green tunic similar in cut to Sam's, hers was brighter and she wore tan tights and bright green slippers. Janet had even fastened small yellow puff-balls to the tops of her slippers. The frosted blue sparkling wings completed the look. Cass turned and tugged Sam forward, eager to get inside. "C'mon Sam! Do you think Jack will be dressed up?"
Sam shook her head, chuckling softly. "Um, no, honey, I don't think Colonel O'Ne–"
Sam stopped, her jaw dropping in shock. She barely registered Cassie's delighted shriek of surprise and delight. Standing in her CO's doorway was Peter Pan's one true love...Wendy. A greying, six-foot four-inch tall, slightly smirking Wendy Darling. The smirk widened into a full-fledged grin as Carter stood transfixed on his doorstep. Cassie's excited chatter finally drew O'Neill's gaze away from his stunned Second.
"Wow! Jack! You look amazing! Doesn't he, Sam? I can't believe you dressed up as Wendy! How did you know? Did Mom call you?" Cass continued to chatter as she hugged O'Neill and entered the house. Her laughter and volume increased as she discovered the other two occupants, one rather large Captain Hook and a rather scruffy-looking Lost Boy.
For her part, Carter was still stunned. Her reserved, sometimes stoic CO was standing before her in a blue...bed sheet? He'd fastened a blue knit scarf around his waist to further define his "dress," tucking a white hand towel into the front to serve as an apron. Atop his head he wore a small kitchen towel, also blue, to act as a kerchief covering his hair. Looking closer, Sam saw O'Neill's regular combat boot poking out below the hem of his impromptu dress. Jack noticed her interest in his footwear and chuckled, meeting her eyes as her attention lifted to his face once again.
"Couldn't quite swing the slippers."
Sam grinned at her CO, delighted with his costume choice. "I was going to agree with Cass, Sir. Amazing costume."
O'Neill's own gaze tracked up and down Sam's costume, taking in the pointed cap–complete with long feather–the green tunic that hung in ragged edges and stopped just at mid-thigh. Carter's impossibly long legs were covered in green tights and ended in soft brown boots, complete with curled toes. Under his scrutiny Sam slowly straightened, bringing her hands to her hips and spreading her feet just slightly apart, just waiting for him to say something. She cocked her head to one side as his grin widened, his eyes twinkling in appreciation.
"I'm waiting for you to crow."
"Crow. You know." O'Neill stunned Carter, leaning close and humming for a second, then singing softly, "'When I discover the cleverness of a remarkable me, how can I hide it? When deep down inside it just tickles me so that I've gotta let go and crow!'"
Sam's jaw dropped again. This was a night of unending surprises. First to find her CO answering his door in a...dress. Then to have him sing Peter Pan's song. She shook her head. Maybe some of Cassie's fairy dust had rubbed off.
O'Neill reached forward and tugged Sam inside. He couldn't wait for her to see the rest of their team. "C'mon, Peter, I need you to do my makeup."
Sam was exhausted. She slid a bit further down onto the blanket, careful not to disturb the sleeping child draped across her lap. She was glad she'd thought to plan ahead, clearing it with Janet that Cass would stay here with the rest of the team for the night. She didn't think she was up to a drive across town. Moving slowly, Sam crossed her ankles, moving her feet a bit closer to the fire O'Neill had built in his backyard firepit. Gently sliding her fingers through Cassie's silken, auburn strands, she smoothed the child's hair away from her face. Cassie didn't stir. Sam could understand the child's exhaustion. Together she, Wendy, and the Lost Boy that was Daniel had trekked through the Colonel's neighborhood led by the unlikely pair of Hook and Tinkerbell. Teal'c, once he understood that the dressing up was not, in fact, a serious attempt at subterfuge, had thrown himself into the festivities. They'd gone from door to door, Cassie enthusiastically shouting "trick or treat!" to anyone who answered, then eagerly introducing her companion, Captain Hook. Sam chuckled softly as she recalled Teal'c's greeting to Cassie earlier in the evening. Cassie had bounded into Jack's house ahead of her and the Colonel, delightedly showing off her costume for an appropriately appreciative Daniel. She'd come to a sudden halt before Teal'c, cautiously studying his attire as an impromptu 'Hook.'
...Cass stood before Teal'c, her gaze slowly traveling up from his boots to his large, feathered cap. Teal'c sported a long, curling black beard and he'd hung a gold chain from his left ear, further completing his piratical look. One hand rested against a rather wicked-looking sword belted around his waist and his other hand had been replaced by an equally dangerous looking silver hook. Cass didn't say a word, she stood simply staring in awe.
Teal'c became concerned with the young girl's silence. Perhaps the Hankan child did not understand the tradition of disguise? Teal'c slowly bent so that his face was inches from Cassie's. He carefully pulled the false beard away from his mouth, speaking softly.
"Do you not recognize me, young Cassandra Fraiser? It is I, your friend Teal'c."
Cass had giggled, then wrapped the startled Jaffa in a hug. "Of course I know it's you, Teal'c. I was just...wow. You look great."
Reassured that the child was not frightened of him, Teal'c returned her smile and took her small hand in his...
O'Neill's soft voice cut through her thoughts, bringing her back to the present. He eased down beside her, lifting Cass's legs and setting them onto his lap, sharing her weight with Carter. Across the firepit Daniel was quietly explaining the tradition of Halloween to Teal'c. Again. Teal'c was having a hard time understanding how knocking upon the doors of strangers in order to receive candy was related to "tricks" and hauntings. Sam shook her head and exchanged a small smile with Jack at the futility of Daniel's efforts. Bless him, Daniel would talk until he dropped and Teal'c was so hungry for knowledge...the two made a good pair.
"She's out." O'Neill kept his voice low, careful not to wake Cass.
"Oh yeah. Sir."
"Sam...can we let that go tonight?" Jack gestured to his now discarded dress lying haphazardly across the picnic table behind them. "I mean, you've seen what I was wearing under my dress, I guess we can dispense with the formalities. Off the mountain it's 'Jack.'"
"Yes, Sir. I mean, yes." Sam offered him another smile, pleased with how the evening had worked out. After spending a few minutes admiring each other's costumes, Jack had insisted that Sam complete his costume by adding makeup. Hesitant at first, Sam had finally gotten into it when she realized that he was serious.
Jack settled himself on the closed lid of the toilet seat, leaning forward to give Carter access. Sam took a deep breath, studying his face for a moment before reaching for her lipstick. She grinned when O'Neill reared back, his eyes widening in surprise.
"Relax, Sir. I'm going to put this on your cheeks. You know...rosy cheeks?"
"Ah, got it. Okay, good." Jack ducked his head away from Sam again. "Wait...you didn't bring a camera, did you?"
Sam's eyes twinkled and she just grinned. Jack held her gaze for a long moment, recognizing the mischief that danced in her eyes. She raised an eyebrow and laughed slightly. "Oh, of course not, Sir. Colonel. Nope, no camera here."
Jack squinted at her for a moment before slowly nodding. Right. He'd eat his eagles if his Second was telling the truth. That was fine, Carter wasn't the only member of this team with a digital camera. He'd just have to get Siler to how him how to retrieve the photos.
Sam began to brush her lipstick onto O'Neill's cheeks, slowly drawing large, rosy cheeks across the stubble that was evident at the end of the long day. She leaned in, easing one leg between O'Neill's to get closer and he jumped. His sudden movement startled her and her hand slipped, marring the circle she'd made on his cheek. Bending close to clean an errant swipe that had landed too close to his eye, Sam rubbed the spot with a scrap of toilet paper before absently licking her finger and using that to clean the smudge. She froze as Jack gasped slightly in surprise, her hand still cupping his cheek, her thumb resting just below his eye, and her other hand holding his head steady. She realized she was inches from his face, his impossibly long eyelashes visible in stark detail at this distance. Sam breathed in slowly, her breath mingling with his, his eyes locked on hers. Time stood still for a moment. She watched Jack's gaze drop from hers down to her lips before flicking back up again. She licked her own lips automatically in response. Daniel's sharp rap on the doorframe was their only warning before he poked his head in, shattering the moment.
Staring at O'Neill now in the light of the fire, Sam wondered what would have happened had Daniel not interrupted them. She hesitated briefly before adding, "Yes...Jack."
Jack smiled back at her, his eyes holding hers for a long moment before turning his attention to the two men chatting on the other side of the firepit. He cleared his throat, getting Daniel's attention. "Hey, story-man." Jack gestured to the sleeping Cassandra he and Sam were cradling. "I think it's time we wrapped up this party. Tinkerbell's down for the count."
"Oh, sure, no problem." Daniel stood and began shoveling dirt over the fire. He stopped in mid-swing and cocked his head at Jack. "Hey, Jack?"
Jack continued to lift Cassie off of Carter's lap, easing her sleeping form up and over his shoulder before rising. He tried to ignore the cracking of his knees as he stood. "Daniel?"
"I was thinking...you know how I was telling Teal'c about the 'bone-fire' and the Celtic tradition?"
"Hmm?" Jack reached down and pulled an equally sleepy Carter to her feet. He continued to hold her hand to steady her as Sam caught her balance, she was obviously more tired than he'd thought. He was glad she and Cassie would be staying here, he didn't want her driving across town as tired as she was.
Daniel idly poked the fire as he spoke. "Well, after the main bone-fire–or bonfire–was lit in the main square, the villagers would put out all the other fires–even in their homes. Then each family, in a solemn ceremony, relit their hearths from the common flame of the huge bonfire–kind of like we do today with the Olympic flame. This bonded each family in the village together as a whole, uniting in the common struggle of survival and celebrating their prosperity. It was a kind of...an act of solidarity."
Jack stood quietly, enjoying the feeling of Carter's hand in his, her leaning sleepily against his arm, and the weight of the sleeping child on his shoulder. He felt...whole...for the first time in years. He looked over at Daniel, realizing the archaeologist was waiting for some sort of response. "I'm sorry, Daniel. It's late, what's your point?"
Teal'c lifted a small, thin log from the nearby woodpile and shoved one end into the still-burning embers in the firepit. Once the end caught fire he held it aloft. "I believe, O'Neill, that Daniel Jackson would like to carry this flame indoors, to light your hearth with a flame from our community fire...to signify our unity as family."
O'Neill studied Daniel for a moment, knowing that the young scientist considered SG1 his family. Teal'c did as well, to some extent. The Jaffa called Jack 'brother' and God knew his family was far enough away. Jack, too, was alone. Of all of them, Carter had the most claim on legitimate family. Jack tightened his grip on Cassie before glancing down to find Carter looking up at him, her eyes brighter, her expression more awake...waiting for his reaction. Unobtrusively she squeezed his hand before sliding hers free of his and giving him a faint nod. Jack swallowed the lump that rose in his throat. Not taking his eyes off of Carter, Jack cocked his head slightly in response. "You know, Daniel, I think that's a great idea."
Daniel flashed a bright, relieved smile at Jack and headed toward the house, taking care to keep his impromptu torch lit. Teal'c smothered the remainder of the fire and followed the younger man inside, leaving Sam and Jack, with a sleeping Cassie on his shoulder, standing beneath a blanket of sparkling stars.
Sam raised her head from O'Neill's shoulder and stepped away. She took a few steps before turning back toward him. "Coming...Jack?"
"Sure." Jack hitched Cass a bit higher on his shoulder and stepped forward, stumbling slightly in the near pitch-blackness. It was nearly impossible to see now that the fire had been put out. "Damn," he whispered quietly, "Can you see where you're going?"
"Of course I know the way." Sam slid her hand back into Jack's, threading her fingers through his, reveling in the warmth and strength she felt there. She tugged lightly and began leading him back up the gently sloping yard. "Second star to the right, and straight on 'till morning."