December 23rd
by Suz

Disclaimer - MGM/Gekko/Double Secret own them.

Spoilers for ‘Allegiance’ and ‘Sight Unseen’, though they’re barely there. Set in season six.

Made some assumptions about exactly when a SGC year takes place - just run with it (grin). Well, my muse seems to have recovered somewhat, at least in regards to short fics. Let's not even *mention* those longer ones...


December 23rd was one of his favourite days.

Since meeting her it had always been December 23rd, no matter what day of the week it was. No matter whether he was scheduled to be on base or not.

There'd been a close shave once before; a mission gone haywire had left most of his team in the infirmary. Thankfully he'd managed it with minutes to spare - though not without inciting the wrath of their resident Torturer, even if she didn't know the specific reason for his absence from the infirmary.

Today, there were no injuries and no Torturer.

Today it was just him, Carter's lab, and the presence of the object pressing against the outside of his thigh.

Along the way he'd seen some familiar faces and nodded at or greeted them all, trying to make it look as if he were making the rounds. Everyone knew he did it occasionally - walking around most of the twenty-eight levels, putting his face in, seeming as if he was checking up on everyone, when in fact his insane curiosity was getting the better of him.

Eventually he strolled out of the elevator, made sure no one was watching, and ducked into Carter's lab.

Being covert was kinda dumb - if anybody really was *that* interested in seeing what he was doing, the security camera in her lab would give it away.

But he seriously doubted his behaviour warranted such a thorough investigation. Still, he couldn't help but send a silent prayer up that Hammond would be nowhere near security control for the next few minutes.

He knew it sounded ridiculous. It wasn't as if what he was about to do seriously broke regulations; and even if Hammond would have frowned at the idea of Jack giving her a present, there was nothing attached to it; no note, no name, no handwriting.

Nothing that said it was him.

Just the small box wrapped in shiny red paper, that he was pulling free from his pocket.

Holding the present carefully in his hands, trying not to leave fingerprint smears, he pondered. The first year it had been almost...a joke.

Scratch that. It *had* been a joke. He couldn't specifically recall what the gift had been (no doubt, something that really would have bugged her) but he'd delivered it in the same way: leaving it in her lab, with no sign of who her Secret Santa was.

The next time she'd seen him she'd studied him speculatively of course, but he'd never acknowledged her, never given her any obvious sign.

It was never discussed and never referenced, even obliquely. She'd probably thought that was the end of it.

The second year he'd done it again simply because it seemed too good an opportunity to pass up. Anything that would cause Carter a vague level of confusion and consternation was well worth investing in. Jack definitely liked those rare occasions when she couldn't quite grasp why something was happening.

Sure, he'd never want her to stop being the brilliant scientist that she was, but there was a time when *every* genius had to be brought down a peg or two. Especially as she'd been starting to get under his skin and he hadn't quite understood *why*.

After was habit. And he enjoyed doing it, though sometimes choosing what to get her was a nightmare in and of itself: what did you get a woman who knew everything?

Mostly he stuck with the 'joke' route: something that would amuse or offend (hopefully both).

And then came year four.

He probably should have stopped then.

But he thought - hoped - the fact that he didn't could help them keep going with some kind of normalcy. By then there could have been no doubt that it was him even though neither one of them had said a word, and he just kept pushing on blindly, insistent that despite everything, nothing had changed.

He was wrong, of course. Because of 'everything' they had changed...and this year, the sixth year, he was finally acknowledging that. They both were. A few accepting glances, an invite to let her know she was still wanted...

It was enough.

She'd be back soon. Jonas was keeping her occupied (though he didn't know it; Jack's conversation with him had been comprised of the words "I think Carter really wants to hear your findings on that latest Goa'uld dialect.")

Now, Carter was a smart woman. And there was usually a lot of stuff she and Jonas could discuss, theorise and generally just chat about in a way they'd both understand.

Goa'uld dialects weren't part of that stuff.

So, round about the three minute mark she'd suddenly remember some dire emergency or urgent report and...

Placing the gift near the edge of the desk he all but sprinted out of the room and turned the corner to the left, just in time to hear footsteps emerging from the right. Hiding around the corner he stayed close to the wall, listening carefully until the footsteps definitely headed into her office.

And paused.

Silently moving back around the corner, he crept along the edge of the corridor hoping like hell that no one would pass for the next few minutes.

After all these years, he really should have come up with a better plan.

Reaching the edge of the doorway he slowly, carefully, peered around the edge.

There. Standing next to the table with her back to the, not entirely. She was turned to one side just enough so he could see as she carefully picked up the present.

Smiling. Not big, not a laugh, but definitely there.

Not looking up or searching for the source (there was really no need), she carefully started pulling at the edges...before ripping the paper off.

Jack grinned, half in the room, hands shoved into his pockets, leaning against the doorway.


As the remnants of the paper fluttered to the table - and even the floor - she stared at the small, flat black box now revealed.

The bracelet hadn't been particularly expensive, but he'd taken one look at it and it'd just screamed 'Carter'. It was silver, elegant, and uncluttered by heavy stones or bright colours.


Her mouth opened slightly as she flipped the lid up and after a full ten seconds of just staring at it she moved suddenly, pulling it out of the box - leaving that to clatter onto the desk - and affixing it onto her wrist.

She'd have to take it off soon; it wasn't quite regulation to wear that kind of bracelet on duty, but for now she seemed content just to look at it.

And then she started moving.

Slowly, oh so slowly, she began turning, giving Jack more than enough time to retreat to the corridor again, his back against the wall.

Some vague, hopeful, terrified part of him imagined she'd come out and smile, or comment on his disturbing stalker-like tendencies.

She did neither.

Instead a soft, quiet, and incredibly familiar voice barely breathed the words, "Thank you."

She was there, on the other side of the wall. Inches away. It'd be so easy to step around it, to pull, hold, taste...

He did neither.

Instead a long, tumultuous sigh emerged, so loud that she must have heard it.

It was all he could manage. Anything more and it'd be...real. Anything more and there would be *proof* that it was him.

And until that proof presented itself, he'd get away with whatever the hell he could.

Yeah, December 23rd was one of his favourite days.

But there wasn't much competition.


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