The Present Exchange

The buzz of activity could be heard along the corridor as Jack stood with a large wrapped package just outside the lift doors. He was hoping that he could arrive at the SGC commissary before the crowds started gathering. That way nobody would know the large present was from him. Looking down at the wrapped gift he couldn't believe he'd done it. He'd known there was going to be trouble as soon as he'd pulled Sam Carter's name from the glass bowl held by Walter Harriman.

He turned around and punched the lift button, hoping beyond hope that nobody would see him standing with a three-foot high gift cradled in his arms. The lift doors opened and as he tried to enter the lift he walked into a solid form. Lowering the parcel, his eyes met the raised eyebrow of the former first prime. Teal'c's lips curved in a shadow of a smile as he stepped to one side. No words were exchanged as Jack's eyes met Teal'c's in a silent plea to keep this to himself. The Jaffa's short bow to Jack was all he needed to know that the message had been received.

He placed the gift in the corner of the lift as he punched a random button. He didn't know what he was going to do with the less-than-subtle present. As the doors of the lift opened he realised he had unconsciously pressed the button for the floor on which Sam's lab was housed. The doors opened just in time to see the slim figure of a certain blond Major walking out of her lab and away from the lifts carrying a small gift bag. Jack made an instant decision. Hoisting the present into his arms, he strode purposefully toward the lab that Sam had just vacated. He pushed the door open with his toe and flicked the light switch with his elbow. He walked toward the central bench, trying to find a space in which to divest himself of the package. He made the decision to put the present on the lab stool, resting it against the backrest. He pulled a yellow sticky note from the pad in front of him and wrote four words on it. Sticking it on the present he turned and walked out of the lab and back toward the commissary.

The crowd at the commissary was spilling over into the corridor. Jack fought his way through toward the three other members of SG-1 who were stood in a little group near the back. Sam's back was facing him; she was animatedly discussing some problem she was having with an alien artefact. She didn't realise he was behind her until he gently brushed a hand across her lower back. She looked around quickly and beamed a special Carter smile in his direction before turning back, resuming her conversation with Daniel. Jack squeezed between Teal'c and Sam, trying to ignore the faint smile on Teal'c's lips.

All of a sudden there was a clatter of spoon against saucepan and silence descended over the crowd. Sergeant Harriman who was standing on a chair, cleared his throat "As you all know, this is the first year that we have been able to arrange an SGC Secret Santa. I just want to say thank you all for joining in." Harriman looked toward Siler, gesturing at him with the spoon he still held. Siler shook himself and pushed his way toward the entrance of the commissary. Walter cleared his throat again to return the attention to him. "After much persuasion I have been able to get a member of the SGC to pose as Santa in order to distribute the gifts." As he finished a short man, dressed in a red Santa suit and fake white beard appeared in the commissary doorway. It took a while for the gathered crowd to realise who it was. There was a sudden ripple of action. Members of the crowd snapped to attention as General Hammond moved toward Walter Harriman.

"At ease everyone. This is just a bit of fun." The startled silence filled the hall and was suddenly broken by a burst of laughter. Jack had collapsed in the corner of the room; tears of mirth streaming down his face. The shocked looks of the gathered men and women did nothing to stem his laughter. The crowd tentatively looked toward the Santa-clad General and were just as startled to see silent laughter grace his features. The rest of the crowd took this as an invitation to enjoy this moment. Giggles and laughter filled the room for a brief moment before Walter called the room to order.

"Santa will now offer out the gifts."

It took a while for the names to be read and the gifts to be distributed. Finally, there were only two members left, but only one present. Jack felt mortified. He didn't really think about the effect that not having a gift would have on Sam. He knew that last gift was for him. Sam's was sat neatly on her lab stool waiting for her return. She could already see the sadness in her forced smile. He also knew that she knew the last present wasn't hers. It was the small gift bag that he had seen her with, when she exited her lab. General 'Santa' Hammond called his name and he walked over and took the bag with an embarrassed "Thanks." The General looked toward Walter expectantly, waiting for a gift to give Major Carter. All he got was a shocked look on Walter's face and a sad shake of his head.

"Major Carter, I'm so sorry. Whoever got your name must've forgotten." Walter was stumbling his apology to her. Her smile, although forced, went to the Sergeant.

"Don't worry Sergeant. It's all a bit of fun." She turned toward Jack, eyeing the bag, almost nervously. "Aren't you going to open it, Sir?" she asked. He looked down at the bag and then back at the beautiful woman in front of him. He smiled at her and put his hand into the bag. As his hand wrapped around a small figurine, he looked around the commissary. He noticed that there was nobody else around, even Teal'c and Daniel had left. He slowly pulled the figure from the bag and looked at it.

He smiled, a beaming smile, and looked at Sam.

"Thank you Sam. It's…." He stopped short of finishing his sentence when he noted the startled look on Sam's face. He couldn't tell whether it was the use of her first name or the fact that he had known who the gift was from.

"…um…how did you…?"

"I saw you with the bag earlier." His eyes held her gaze steadily, his fingers rubbing the little statuette in his hands. "...and I'm sorry." He dropped his eyes to the small penguin figurine he had been fiddling with.

Sam's brow furrowed as she lost his train of thought. She reached out and covered his hand with hers, obscuring his view of the penguin "Sorry for what?"

"Well, I was your Secret Santa."

Comprehension dawned on her face and, ever so briefly, disappointment. "That's ok, Sir. I don't mind that you forgot. You are very busy"

Jack's head snapped up from their joined hands "I didn't forget. I just didn't want to bring it in here with everyone around." Her face lifted and met his intense look. A smile played at her lips. "Well it's rather large, and I didn't want everyone to know it was from me." She nodded slowly and let her hand slip from his. Jack immediately missed the warmth that they had created.

"Well without sounding impatient, Sir, where is it?"

Jack turned around toward the door; looking back over his shoulder he inclined his head for her to follow. With a smile she fell into step beside him.

It took her a few moments to realise that he was leading her toward her lab, and when they reached the door, he opened it and waved her inside, flicking on the light he had earlier extinguished. She gasped at the large present sat resting on her stool. Jack's heart missed a beat as she hurried over to the gift. She lifted the sticky note attached to it and saw her breath catch. She looked toward her CO, giving him a tentative, almost tender, smile. Turning back to the present she began removing the wrapping paper.

Jack shoved his hands into his pockets, holding his breath as she read his note. The present could be explained by their day at the zoo, the note however, could not be taken any other way. When she looked toward him, Jack could see an unguarded look in her bright eyes. Something more than friendship and camaraderie shined at him before she returned her attention to the unwrapping of gift.

She carefully removed the garish Christmas paper, and he couldn't help smile when she gasped as she revealed a big yellow beak, followed by the rest of the three-foot tall penguin cuddly toy he had bought her.

She turned toward Jack, unshed tears shining in her eyes. In three strides he was next to her, pulling her into a tight embrace.

"Merry Christmas, Sam" he whispered, his breath soft against her ear.

"Thank you…Jack. Merry Christmas."

At the sound of his name on her lips, Jack's heart swelled. They stood for a few moments in their magical embrace. As she gently pulled away from him he looked down at her.

"Feel like pie? I hear it's Pecan today" he whispered.

She nodded and turned back toward the penguin. Wiping her eyes quickly she placed the note in the top drawer of her desk. Reading it one last time.

"To my special friend."

She smiled and turned back toward her CO. Falling into step they left the lab and headed for the commissary, both knowing that they had found, in each other, their 'penguin.'