That was the start of a very busy month. Seshat and several of her advisors decided on a new homeworld, P8X-327, whose stargate was located in similar terrain to that of their towns and farms on Kalimar. The Tok'ra shipped in tel'tak after tel'tak of supplies and set up a tent city for the evacuees while Free Jaffa, Cimmerian and Daltregonian volunteers replaced them on Kalimar. Corps of Engineers and Cimmerian miners joined forces with Seshat's folk on Aravis. SG-1's direct part in it was over for the time being, as they moved on to other missions.
Sirikat sat on the corner of Jack's desk while he finished up a mission report. "Jack, you know I have some four hundred of my people on Kalimar, with more arriving daily. I must go to them."
"I guess you do," he said resignedly. "There's no way I can keep you out of it, is there?"
"I have to be seen to lead," she replied. "Trust in Master Bra'tac as I do. He has already been onworld for a week."
O'Neill nodded. "Teal'c told me."
Sirikat realized that was why he wasn't arguing--he'd already had time to think it through and realized that her presence was necessary. She was no Goa'uld queen who could wait in the luxury of her ha'tak while her First Prime did her fighting for her. The warriors of Daltregon followed her personally. Still, they both knew that Bra'tac would keep her as safe as possible.
O'Neill told her, "You'll be commanding a garrison, and with any luck, you won't have to defend it. Keep focused on your mission, though. Your objective is to keep Anubis from realizing anything is happening with Seshat's people. If there is an attack, the mission is already blown and your job becomes very simple--don't die. Defend the gate until the last of the non-combatants are away, then fight an orderly retreat. Don't try to hold anything you don't need. If Anubis' forces take the stargate, then fall back to secondary positions and stay alive until the Asgard can pull you off."
Sirikat assured him, "I understand that, and I have no intention of taking foolish chances."
"If I didn't believe that, I swear to God I'd lock you in the basement."
She laughed. "I do know that. And you--give me no more worries while I am away."
"Always careful, Punkin. When are you going?"
"Tomorrow," she said.
O'Neill sent the report to the printer and cleared his desk. He called and arranged for Jamie to stay late at day care. When they got home he told her to get dressed up, then made a few calls and went upstairs to shower and change.
Sirikat asked, "Where are we going?"
"Out on the town," he grinned. "Call it the Earth equivalent of one of your bonfire dances."
"I do not ask this of you," she said, but her eyes were dancing with excitement.
O'Neill grinned. "I know that."
The town was all decked out for Christmas. The celebrations this year were a little subdued--there was the flu epidemic, and so many military families here had loved ones in Iraq. But there were still plenty of lights and store displays.
O'Neill pulled into the valet line of one of the fanciest restaurants in town. Sirikat felt like a debutante or a fairytale princess as she took in the other women's beautiful dresses and the elegant surroundings. After he hinted to leave room for dessert, she ordered the trout, which was excellent.
Jack taught her to waltz, something that she would never even have guessed he knew how to do. It turned out that he was a very good dancer--if a little rusty at first. "It's been years," he admitted. "Sara is an excellent dancer."
Her eyes sparkled with surprised joy. "Oh--I remember--there was a party somewhere? Something military--the officers were all in class-A's and all us children were all scrubbed and dressed up and expected to be on our best behavior. Mom was wearing a blue dress and I remember thinking that she looked like an angel. I think that was when I realized how beautiful she really was."
"That was Harley Beck's wedding reception. You were--I mean, Charlie was--about seven at the time. You remember that?"
"Oh, yes, was I a terrible brat? I hope not, it's such a wonderful memory."
"I was the brat that time out. Lou spiked the grown-ups' punch and by the time your mother found out, she had to drive us home."
Sirikat laughed. "I remember now. She wasn't that upset."
"No. She wasn't," O'Neill agreed. He'd forgotten that night himself. "You know--I think you're going to grow up to look like her? I know it's crazy, because who were you-who-were-Kat before? But I swear you have Sara's eyes."
She gave him a strange look. The deeper tones of Siri's voice never came out anywhere off base, but still somehow he could tell it was Kat who said, "My mother always wondered where I got this color of eyes when she and Da both have green eyes. He teased her about it all the time. Another sign that Siri is the other half of my soul--but when Siri-I was Charlie I looked just like you, didn't I?"
"Pretty much," he said. "But there was a lot of your mom in you, too. Your hair was more of a sandy brown."
"Should I not speak of these things?" Once again, Sirikat.
With a catch in his voice he told her, "Don't ever think that. For years when I remembered Charlie it was always the accident. But now you keep reminding me of the life we all lived together--the good times. Don't ever stop doing that."
Her eyes were very bright with unshed tears, but she was smiling. "If I have done that then I think I leave a heavy weight of karma behind me."
They finished the rest of the dance with her head on his shoulder. When they returned to their table, dessert had arrived--sinfully delicious Black Forest cake. It looked at first like a small serving, until she took a bite and realized how rich it was.
"Oh, now this is good!"
"As good as those giant cinnamon rolls you get from the place in the mall?" Jack teased.
"Well....umm. Maybe." She laughed in delight and for an instant she seemed frozen in time, the little boy that Charlie had been and the girl that SG-1 had rescued and the woman that Sirikat was fast becoming clearly visible in her radiant smile. That moment, that memory etched itself in crystal. Forever after, no matter what dark paths he had to walk, he would have that precious moment of seeing this daughter of his soul smiling. And in a corner of his heart, through all the years and no matter how grown-up she became, she would always be just-turned-fourteen-two-months-ago and trying to decide if Black Forest cake was better than giant cinnamon rolls.
Sirikat was surprised when, after they left the restaurant, they didn't head straight home. Instead they parked on the icy lot of the college theater.
Jack got out first. "Watch out on those high heels, Punkin, this ice is bad. Let me help you over to the sidewalk."
"These shoes really are silly, aren't they?"
"I swear I don't know how Janet works in them, but Sunday go-to-meetin' clothes don't have to be practical."
"The Nutcracker. It's a holiday tradition. You've seen ballet on television, right?"
"Yes, some." Watching television, however, was nothing like sitting in the darkened theater with the graceful dancers and the live orchestra bringing the beloved story of Clara and her Nutcracker Prince to life. She sat enthralled by the entire performance, and left the theater reluctantly when the final curtain fell.
There were actually a few snowflakes falling. Not that Colorado Springs would have a white Christmas, it had been years since the last one. Jack told her, "Wait here and I'll get the truck."
Just as he pulled up beside her, she stuck out her tongue and caught a big snowflake.
She climbed into the passenger seat. "Jack, thank you." She reached awkwardly over Jamie's car seat to hug him.
He dropped a kiss on the top of her head. "These are the things you remember, Punkin."
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