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14.

"All right - that was gingersnaps, snickerdoodles, and peanut butter cookies!" Sam said, smiling. "Would anyone like to try and make peppermint bark while we wait for your dad and granddad to return with the ingredients for the caramel corn?"

"Yes!" Lisa nodded enthusiastically.

"Can we make it with dark chocolate instead of white?" William asked. "And can I have another cookie?"

"Dark chocolate is fine with me," Sam said. "And you can all have one more cookie, but only one per person."

"Okay," William said.

Each of the children - and Martouf - took a cookie.

"Run and get some candy canes then! And the chocolate!" Sam told the kids.

"Yaaay!" they both shouted as they ran to get the ingredients for the peppermint bark.

When the children was out of the door, Martouf's eyes flashed and he quickly snatched another cookie.

Sam laughed. "Did anyone ever tell you that you are naughty..." She leaned closer, and added in a low voice, "Lantash."

"I didn't get a cookie!" He grinned and flashed his eyes at her again, just as he ate the cookie. He whispered into her ear, "I'm guessing the way you say it means you like naughty... and want me this way."

He quickly pulled back and dipped his head, giving Martouf control as the children ran back into the kitchen, carrying the ingredients for the peppermint bark.

"Candy canes!" Lisa squealed, dropping the boxes on the table.

"We must save some for the tree! There aren't any on the tree!" William said.

"I know that your mom has at least a whole box more, so you don't need to worry," Sam told him. "We can decorate the tree with them as soon as we have made the peppermint bark."

"And the caramel corn," Lisa reminded her. "Dad and grandpa are back!"

Mark and Jacob walked into the kitchen just as she said that.

"It smells great in here!" Jacob grinned widely. "Can I try one?" He looked at the mountain of cookies on the table.

"Sure, I think we've got more than enough," Sam said.

Mark placed a box on the table. "Here's the stuff for the caramel corn." He took a cookie and munched on it. "It's very good - did you make all these?" He smiled at his children.

"Yes!" Lisa said.

"With a little, um, a lot of help from Sam and Mar-touf," William added.

"You've worked very hard. Why don't we sit down and take something to drink - and eat a few more cookies - before you make candy?" Mark said. "Where's your mom?"

"Downstairs," Sam told him. "In the small workshop you guys got down there."

"Ah." Mark smiled. "I'll go get her."

"I'll come with you!" Lisa insisted.

"Won't you rather stay here and help me pick out some cookies for us to eat now?" Sam suggested, desperate to come up with an idea - since Marian was downstairs wrapping gifts.

Lisa hesitated. "OK. I can do that."

"You too, William?" Sam said.

"He'll help me carry some stuff from the car," Jacob said, catching on to the fact that the children were not supposed to go downstairs right now. "Martouf can help you with the cookies and stuff." He grinned.


"All right, dinner is served!" Marian told them.

In the living room, Jacob/Selmak, Mark, William, and Lisa were sitting, playing a game.

Sam and Martouf/Lantash had helped Marian prepare and cook the food - or rather, Martouf/Lantash had helped cooking it and Sam had been given the task of peeling potatoes and other similar jobs that did not require her to be skilled at cooking. Which, she had reminded them, she was not.

Mark grinned and walk up to Marian, who was standing in the living room, a few steps inside the door. He caught her up in his arms. "Look up, sweetheart!"

She did, and rolled her eyes. "Mark, you silly..."

He interrupted whatever it was that she had wanted to say by giving her a loving kiss.

Jacob smiled, and the children cheered.

"We put up the mistletoe, mom!" Lisa squealed.

"That plant means you should kiss?" Martouf wondered, having come into the room to see what the commotion was about.

Mark smiled. "It does. It's a mistletoe. You're allowed to kiss anyone standing under it." He gave his wife another kiss.

"I see," Martouf said, smiling.

*We must remember to pay attention to whether or not Samantha stands under this mistletoe!* Lantash observed, enthusiastically, as they walked back to the kitchen to pick up the rib roast they had helped cooking, and take it to the dining room.


"Sit down!" Marian told them. She smiled at Sam and Martouf/Lantash. "Our guests have helped me cook, so I'd like to start by thanking them."

"You cook now, Sam?" Mark said, grinning. "Since when?"

Sam rolled her eyes at him. "Oh, I can cook. Some things, but don't worry - I only did things I can't mess up!"

"I think it looks delicious - whomever it was who cooked it!" Jacob said, looking hungrily at the large rib roast on the middle of the table.

The all sat down and began loading their plates.

"Can I have some mashed po-tatoes?" Lisa asked.

"Here you go, sweetie," Mark said, giving her some.

"I do look forward to trying that," Martouf said.

"You don't eat mashed potatoes?" Marian wondered. "In your country, I mean."

He shook his head. "No. We do eat potatoes, though."

Marian laughed. "Yeah, everyone does that, I think." She handed him the bowl with the mashed potatoes. "Try it."

"I will." Martouf took the large spoon and scooped up a couple of of spoonfuls on his plate, placing it beside the slice of rib roast. "I have seen it in the mess hall, but not tried it before." He gave Sam the bowl afterwards.

*Don't forget the sauce - it is mushroom sauce. I made it,* Lantash reminded him.

*Yes, I know.* He took some of the sauce, then sent it on. *Using a recipe you learned from your first host, Sivnir.*

*Yes, he was a skilled cook.*

"Ah, there's also fresh bread! We forgot it in the kitchen." Marian said, getting up to get it. She returned a few moments later.

"That looks really great! I hadn't expected you to have time to bake fresh bread!" Mark said.

"Martouf baked it, actually." Marian smiled at him.

"It is a recipe I learned from my father - adapted slightly for your ingredients, of course," Martouf said.

"That sounds interesting," Mark said. "Your dad's a baker?"

"He's dead," Lisa told him. "Killed by baaad guys." She leaned across the table, patting Martouf's hand. "Poor Mar-toff."

"He is," Martouf said, somberly.

"Careful, Lisa!" Marian exclaimed, when Lisa suddenly was about to fall, and grabbed hold of the tablecloth - which starting sliding together with everything on the table.

Jacob grabbed hold of her before she could pull anything off the table, and helped her sit down again.

"Don't reach across the table!" Mark admonished.

"Please, she merely wanted to console me. I beg that you do not punish her for it," Martouf said.

"We won't," Mark said, sighing.

Everyone sat back down again.

"My father was a, a minor government official, I guess would be the right translation. He liked to bake in his spare time," Martouf told them.

"Smart guy," Mark said. "Sounds like a relaxing hobby."

"I believe he thought so, yes." Martouf smiled.

"Maybe you'd like to try it, Mark?" Marian asked, grinning.

"Ah..." Mark hesitated.

"I like your bread, Martouf!" William said, smiling.

Martouf nodded at him. "Thank you."

"Beer or coke?" Sam asked him.

"Beer," Martouf said, after a moment's hesitation.

Sam poured some into his glass. "Cheers!" She held up her own glass, looking at him, then the others. "Thanks for letting us come and celebrate Christmas with you, Mark, Marian."

"You're always welcome, sis, you know that," Mark said. "So is Martouf." He smiled. "I mean, we can always use an extra cook!"


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