Length: 4100 words
Rating: PG; mild swearing
Summary: Sam saves Ba'al's life during a random Go'auld encounter and he decides to pay her back with his version of the Twelve Days of Christmas. Written for the gift giving at stargateland for obsessivemuch1. Pre-Continuum AU.
"You just saved my life."
Sam wheeled around at the sound of the voice, bringing up her pistol again so that it was aimed squarely at the speaker's head.
Oh, she blankly thought as her mind slowly started to kick back in over her reflexes. Just what she needed.
Ba'al was still there, lying flat against the cold cement of the parking garage and trying to turn his incredulous expression into something more suited for a self-proclaimed god.
Sighing, she lowered her gun. He wasn't a threat to her. Not currently anyway.
All things considered, it'd been a successful mission: three enemy Go'auld who had been hiding out on Earth dead and an interplanetary smuggling ring uncovered. Proceeding with a futile capture attempt or her other option, killing a man who posed no immediate threat, who'd just thanked her for his life, would only spoil the mood.
"Don't flatter yourself," Sam said. She glanced at the dead bodies, knowing that he would follow her gaze. "Just because you rank slightly higher on my list than all the other megalomaniac Go'auld in the galaxy doesn't mean I like you."
"You could have killed me with them." Ba'al paused, wiping a fleck of blood off his lips as he shakily stood to his feet. "The two of us will certainly be at odds again in the future."
"Don't push your luck." Given his invitation, Sam debated whether or not to shoot him after all, but eventually settled for a simple snort. He hadn't been in her mission brief, and it really wasn't worth the extra paperwork for what was probably just another clone. "They try to kill me on sight just because I'm me," she continued. "At least with you there needs to be some sort of strategic gain before you take the effort to do anything, well, diabolical."
"Why Samantha, you make me sound so unfeeling."
She raised an eyebrow at him.
"Which, of course, I cannot deny."
"Goodbye, Ba'al," Sam said, stowing her pistol back in its holster as she turned to leave. The SGC had outfitted her with an automatic communicator for the mission, and based on past experiences the clean up crew was due to come in any second now. Between that and her current conversation partner, Sam hardly felt a pressing need to stick around.
"Would you prefer that I repay you somehow? As a genuine sign of my appreciation?"
"That's a shame." She heard him pause. "Isn't this your quaint, Tauri time of giving?"
Sam sighed. She was half-way to the parking garage exit, but the concrete structure carried the ex-system lord's voice as if he was still two feet behind her. His tone was calm and delicate, and yet there was no ignoring him.
"I assume you're talking about Christmas," she said, turning back around to see Ba'al lounging against one of the richer sports cars like some spoiled, overgrown cat. Sam let her deadpan expression show him that she was not impressed.
"Yes, I think that's the one."
She turned back around and kept walking.
"Such a shame. And here I was hoping to bask in this thing you Tauri call the 'holiday spirit'. Perhaps it would have succeeded in warming the icy recesses of my heart."
"You don't have a heart," is what she wanted to say. But that was too expected even for her and especially with Ba'al's blatant lead in. He was probably waiting her to say it, no doubt prepared with yet another oh-so-not-witty comeback.
So she settled for ignoring him, getting an small, unexpected delight when the parking garage's elevator opened for her the instant she pressed its button. The last thing she would've needed was an awkward five minute wait in front of an elevator shaft as Ba'al continued to needle her about the joys of Christmas.
At least that - of all things - was over now.
Several days later, Sam was awakened by a large buzzing outside her window. She groaned, resisting the oh-so-tempting urge to throw her covers over her head and block out the noise as best as possible. Her alarm clock mocked her with the time, 5:40 AM blazing out at her in a garish, eye-searing red.
She recognized the sound as it continued to force her awake. Someone was trimming the hedges in her front lawn.
Sam didn't have a gardener.
Pulling on a bathrobe and a pair of blue slippers, Sam made her way to the front door. After the events of the previous week, she also brought her gun. Just in case.
Outside a middle-aged man stood trimming the hedges on her front lawn. His large, grass-stained parka stretched over an unmistakable beer belly. If he had been sent as some sort of revenge assassin he certainly didn't look the part. On the other hand, Same had seen stranger.
The man was so engrossed in his work that Sam had to yell at him several times before he was finally able to hear her.
"What?" he asked as he turned off the electric hedge trimmer.
"I asked you what you think you're doing," Sam yelled, her ears still buzzing with the sounds of the machine's motor.
The man regarded her with a confused stare.
"Trimming your hedges?" he said hesitantly.
"I know that," Sam said. "But what for? I don't have a gardener. And I haven't hired one," she added, thinking about a possible paper or address mixup.
"Well someone has," the man said. "Here. Look."
As he took a step forward and reached into his jacket, Sam took a step back.
"It's just a contract," the man said. He unfolded a piece of paper and held it out to her. "A year's worth of service for the residence at this address, signed by a..." he paused, glancing at the paper, "Samantha Carter."
Sam squinted at it, trying to make out the small writing without stepping too close to the strange man. Yes, she had seen stranger plots, but even she had to wonder what was the point of someone forging her signature just to hire a gardner... if indeed there was a point.
Regardless, there was definitely something fishy going on, and the SGC was going to help her figure it out.
"Sam? General Landry wants to see you."
Sam glanced up from her research to see Daniel's head poking into her lab.
"What is it?"
"Something was left at the entrance of the complex. It was addressed to you."
Sam frowned. "You mean like a letter?"
"Not exactly." He gave her his usual inquisitive, tight-lipped perusal. "He's waiting for you in the surface quarantine room, and that's all I know. This wouldn't happen to be related to the whole gardener thing from yesterday, would it?"
"We're not bringing that up again," Sam said with a sigh. She stood up and followed Daniel outside into the hallway.
In the end, the gardener had proven harmless. Several hours of military confinement and SGC probing had seen to that. Afterwards, given all the alien technology used during the investigation, they'd been forced to erase the gardener's memories of the entire day. As for the contract - other than the fact that the signature on it was most definitely not Sam's, despite the SGC's leading handwriting experts unable to tell otherwise - there was nothing else amiss with either it or the company it came from. With the money that had funded the contract unable to be traced, General Landry had advised her to keep the gardener just in case the situation did lead somewhere. After he left, one of the nearby scientists had jokingly congratulated Sam on her new lawn care service.
She could only imagine what today had in store for her.
"There you are," Landry said as Sam and Daniel entered the quarantine observation room. "You wouldn't happen to have any explanation for this, would you?"
Sam followed his eyes past the quarantine glass to the bare concrete room beyond. On a single steel table lay a plain wooden sled with a shiny, red bow tied across its front. Next to it, a scientist in a full hazmat suit scraped a small wood chip off its side and placed it in a sealed jar. A million dollars worth of state-of-the-art tests were sure to follow.
"This was with it," Landry added, seeing the blank look on Sam's face. He passed her a piece of paper. "Well, a photocopy at least. The original is currently in its own quarantine."
Sam accepted it and read:
I hope you enjoy your new gardening service. I've heard from certain sources that you occasionally complain about not having the time to provide proper maintenance.
It's customary in your culture to give twelve such presents, is it not?
On that note, laying before you is an exact replica of the sled you requested from the Christmas twenty-six years ago that your parents never saw fit to give you. I fear the toy is too small for your current adult frame, but surely you must agree with the popular adage that it's the thought that counts.
He left it unsigned.
"Don't bother," Sam said.
"What? Do you who sent this?"
"Just an idiot with too much time and money and powers of stalking on his hands," Sam said, crumpling up the letter into a tight ball. When it was as small as her palms could crush it, she tossed it into a nearby trash can.
"What about the sled?" he asked as she pushed past Daniel towards the elevator back down.
"Don't care. Burn it."
The next day her neighbor's car was stolen, and she almost had to laugh.
Car alarms were more obnoxious these days than ever, and the one that had belonged to this particular car had been notorious for going off at two o'clock in morning, usually blaring out across the neighborhood for almost an hour before its owner finally turned it off.
She had talked with her neighbor about it before, almost half the street had, but nothing ever came from their talks.
So she almost had to laugh. Almost. It was still grand-theft auto after all.
"If he hasn't gotten you a partridge yet, what's the point?"
"I somehow doubt that Major Carter shares your enthusiasm for the situation, O'Neill."
"Partridge? What's that?" Vala asked as she nibbled on one of the SGC cafeteria's many holiday cookies.
"It's a bird," Daniel said, not even pausing to look up from his food.
"A bird?" His answer seemed to only make the alien girl even more confused. "I thought the traditional Christmas bird was that big one that everyone likes to eat. The brown one with the red dangly thing..."
"No, I'm sure it's called something else. Something with a 'T'. Anyways, wouldn't it make more sense for him to give her one of those?"
"Earth stuff, Vala," Jack said. "Sometimes... it's just easier not to understand. And on the much better, unrelated topic of snake-free matters, am I still hosting this year's Christmas party?"
With no objections around the table, the team continued on to set the exact date and time. Vala was insistent at having eggnog at the party once she found out that alcohol was involved, and Daniel had to persuade Teal'c away from the idea after the words "Star Wars" and "Holiday Special" were mentioned in the same sentence.
Sam still had a lot of work to finish before the end of the day, so once they'd somehow managed to start talking about Christmas flamingos in Norway she said her goodbyes and made her way back to her lab.
"Oh, Colonel." A junior assistant scurried over as Sam entered and handed her a large manilla envelope. "While you were at lunch, the archeology department sent you the fax they said you've been waiting for."
"But I didn't-"
She paused as the lab assistant's eyes darted between her and the envelope, the young woman hanging on her every word. It'd been happening for eight days now, and there was no way she was bringing in the SGC quarantine team again. So far all of her "gifts" had been proving non-lethal, and she could only hope that this was the same.
"Nevermind. I remember now," she said with a smile. "Thank you."
The assistant nodded and left to continue her own duties. Sam sighed, settling down in her favorite swivel chair to read the inevitable.
It was a long fax; over 30 pages had been crammed into the small envelope. As she perused the first page, nothing of interest stood out other than its striking resemblance to the content of the fax that the actual archeology department had sent them last week. Flipping through the rest of the document, Sam was about to just toss the whole thing in the trash when one of the middle pages caught her eye.
I've heard that you and your team recently discovered an alien artifact last month which emits a form of radiation as of yet undiscovered by your primitive scientists. I've also unfortunately heard that you've been having difficulties determining the precise way this artifact functions and how its radiation is produced.
I have thereby enclosed some knowledge on the workings of said artifact, encrypted in an otherwise mundane report about electromagnetic pottery. As you're an intelligent woman, I have no doubt that you will be able to decipher my code.
Sam had to take several deep breaths before she was able to resist the urge to throw the entire packet across the room.
That bastard. There was a mole somewhere in the SGC, no doubt about that. Perhaps there was one within the science department itself.
Sam stole a glance at the lab assistant who'd given her the envelope. The young woman was currently poured over a microscope, her glasses lying on the table next to her as she fiddled with the focus.
Perhaps... no, it was no use suspecting random people. Sam would alert General Landry to the situation and together there'd be an organized security... thing.
She sighed and looked through the papers once again. Sam had little doubt that the breakthrough she was looking for was hidden in here somewhere, but as for the time it'd take her to find it... Not to mention the chance that his letter was a complete lie and there wasn't a hidden breakthrough at all. She could see his smirk in her head now, mocking her after weeks and weeks of pointless searching for clues that weren't even there.
And yet it was Christmas, and Ba'al seemed to be increasingly in some sort of Christmas spirit... even if it happened to be a difficult and intentionally exasperating one.
Sam put the papers down and made her way over to Daniel's office. This one was going to require coffee.
It was going to be a green Christmas that year. Sam sat on her bed, finally finishing up a 1920's detective novel Teal'c had gotten her for her birthday as the weather report played in the background. The whole week had been unseasonably warm with the temperature consistently ranging in the mid-fifties, and now that it was Christmas Eve it didn't look like the following morning would bring any exception.
Sam was a little disappointed, always treasuring a white Christmas when she was able to get one, but it did make traveling a hell of a lot nicer.
The only thing on her agenda for tomorrow was Jack's party. Vala had wanted to turn the entire occasion into a two-day slumber party, but luckily - or unluckily - they all had other work that needed to get done.
Once she finished her book and the young widow had confessed her love for the swarthy detective, Sam turned off the TV with a smile and went to sleep.
It was a white Christmas that year.
Sam stared out her window at the three feet of snow draping both her lawn and the streets beyond it. Up above the sky was as blue and clear as the weather channel had predicted. This was the final straw.
Still in her pajamas, Sam flung open her front door and trod a couple steps into the waste deep snow.
"Goddammit!" she yelled for all the world to hear. The only other humanoid life form she could see was an old lady feeding some birds about five houses down, but after the past twelve days she knew that he was listening. "Just because I may have wanted it to snow, didn't mean that I wanted to get snowed in! You've outstayed your gift giving; now leave me alone!"
She trod back into her house, ignoring the snow that she tracked in with her, and slammed the door shut again. With a tiny, slightly hysterical laugh, she leaned her back against it and sank to the floor.
The others were going to have to really surprise her if they wanted to top this.
It took the city three hours to get her street plowed and connected once again with the rest of the world. According to the TV newscasters she watched as she got dressed, the small blizzard had been a "freak weather phenomena" stretching several blocks, caused by a highly-localized fluctuation in the Earth's magnetic field carried down from the North Pole. By the end of the report, Sam thought that even to the average viewer the truth that an alien had caused it was more believable.
All of her friends called to make sure she was okay, with Vala calling twice to ask if anything exciting had happened since her first call.
Oh, this Christmas could not get any better.
It was nearing midnight when Sam pulled back onto her street. The party had been just as fun as she had expected. Despite the group's warnings, Teal'c had managed to get a hold of the Star Wars Holiday Christmas special and spent over fifteen minutes watching the abomination before quietly turning off the TV. He spent the next half hour in silence, staring resolutely at the blank screen. Sam wasn't quite sure what happened to the VHS tape after that; when she'd checked the VCR later on that night, it had already vanished.
Vala had gotten completely drunk, somehow managing to successfully handcuff an unconscious Daniel to the bottom of Jack's sofa. She eventually passed out next to him, and they'd all agreed that it would be best if she stayed the night.
Jack had offered to let Sam stay as well, but she'd politely declined. Sam loved the team, but the one thing she wanted now was peace and quiet.
Unfortunately, as she pulled up into her driveway, the shadowy figure waiting on her porchstep had other ideas. Sam supposed it said something about her that she was able to recognize the figure by the way he casually leant against the side of her house. However - as to what that 'something' was - Sam didn't even want to try thinking about it.
"Isn't it a bit cold outside to be stalking defenseless women at this time of night?" Sam asked as she got out of her car.
"Oh, but you're the last woman I would label as defenseless."
As she approached, her porch's automatic light switched on, illuminating both the ex-system lord and his trademark smirk.
"But you won't deny that you have been stalking me," Sam pointed out.
"I prefer to think of it as," Ba'al crossed his arms as his smirk turned into a grin, "prolonged surveillance for matters of a personal nature."
Sam couldn't help but roll her eyes.
"Good night, Ba'al. And if you're still here in an hour, I'm calling the police. You may be an alien, but you're still a US citizen."
She paused. That sounded a lot more ridiculous out loud than it had in her head.
"You're not going to wish me a merry Christmas?" he asked as she started to fish for her keys. "And after all the expense I went to to have the place decorated."
She turned her head to see him pointing at something above her door. Something dark and green. He didn't...
Sam wheeled around, keys still in her purse.
"I believe it is a Tauri custom for people to kiss beneath such a plant."
"You and your 'Tauri' customs. You want a kiss?" Sam asked. "Grab a phonebook. Call an escort."
"Oh, but you'd be so much more fun."
Sam stared at him. Truly stared at him. The Go'auld was handsome, she'd give him that. But then, as she sometimes had to remind herself, it was only the host that looked that way. She tried to force herself to ignore the face and think only of the snake... and yet the image kept getting tangled up with that stupid smirk of his.
She turned back around with a small cough.
"I told you that I didn't want anything, but you gave me stuff anyway," Sam eventually said. "Annoying stuff."
"I thought that your people liked surprises around this time of the year."
"Good surprises, yes! Not weed whackers waking you up before dawn and cars getting stolen and, and... the sled, really?"
"Best time of the year for nostalgia."
"Of course. Nostalgia."
She finally managed to locate her keys, jangling them in her hand as she turned to Ba'al again. He hadn't moved.
"Just promise you won't do this ever again. Okay? It's just... weird."
"Does that mean the next time you save my life, I won't be indebted to you in any way?"
"What makes you even think there will be a next time?"
"You haven't gone inside yet," Ba'al pointed out. "And I've read that Tauri females who hold their keys like that don't necessarily want to."
Sam turned red.
"Just because I want to make sure that you don't ever come back before I leave, doesn't mean..." She turned to her door, shoving the key forcefully into the lock and opening it partway before looking back at Ba'al. "And I've already kissed Jack tonight, underneath the mistletoe as well as it so happens, so I guess if you really want to indirectly share a kiss with him go ahead."
She didn't know quite exactly what she was saying or why she said it when a straight "no" would've been much simpler, but it seemed to have worked in getting him to back off a bit.
Ba'al was clearly evaluating the situation; Sam could only imagine what scenarios between her and Jack he was picturing in her head. She didn't tell him that it was only a small peck, a kiss fueled by slight tipsiness and the kind she always gave out to close friends at such Christmas parties. It was fun to watch him ponder.
"Good," Sam said. "Now-"
He leaned forward and gave her a light kiss on the cheek.
He smiled. "Merry Christmas, Samantha."
"Now just wait a minute!"
But Ba'al was already out of her grasping range and halfway down the pathway to her sidewalk. He waved goodbye without even turning to look at her. Leaving her keys in the lock, she took a step after him but had to stop when he promptly vanished.
There was no use imagining the many ways she'd harm him now. Glancing around to make sure nothing else was amiss, Sam went back inside and locked the door behind her.
As if she'd even think about saving his life if there ever was a next time. And all the stuff he'd done over the past twelve days, was that really supposed to endear him to her or did he just mean to be frustrating as usual? If he had been going for the former, he'd failed. Miserably.
Though... Sam had to admit that his notes on the artifact she was researching had been helpful, once she'd managed to make sense of his hidden cypher. Not to mention that it was nice without the car alarm going off every other night anymore. The gardener didn't work everyday and actually listened after Sam had politely asked him if he could come at a later time, so that wasn't much of a problem now either.
Maybe Christmas this year hadn't been so bad after all.
Ba'al was right in a way. It was good to be surprised. The presents from her friends had been predictable enough. Jack had gotten her a small pair of earrings. There'd been some pants from Cameron. Teal'c had given her a DVD and from Daniel, a book. Of all them, Vala had surprised her the most by showing up with a rather expensive bottle of wine, but then the alien girl had ended up drinking it all by the end of the night.
That wasn't to say that she'd enjoyed being buried by three feet of snow this morning, but maybe next time... with a little more guidance on her part...
Alright. Maybe there would be a next time after all.