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15.

"Can we put up our stockings now?" William asked.

"Pleeease?" Lisa begged.

"Sure, go get them!" Jacob said.

"Put up stockings?" Martouf asked.

"Yeah, it's a tradition here - in the US, I mean. Children will put up socks the night before Christmas," Jacob explained.

"For Santa to put little gifts in, you know," Mark said. "Adults sometimes do it too?" He gave his dad a sheepish grin. "We kind of usually do that."

Jacob grinned. "Sure, go ahead. Don't let me being here with you keep you from your little traditions."

Sam rolled her eyes. "Be nice, dad."

"What? I am nice!" Jacob insisted.

*I want a stocking too,* Selmak told him.

*Absolutely not!*

*Yes. Just suggest everyone gets one, that should solve your silly problem with pride,* Selmak insisted.

*That is not why!*

Selmak snorted mentally. *Of course not. Perhaps Sam would like to hear about how you was supportive of Mark's idea of inviting his boring friend as a potential date, and that you only dropped the idea because of my advice!*

*That's not true... well, not completely true. Anyway, you wouldn't tell her!*

*Is that a bet you want to make? We did bring candy and such things we can put in the other stockings, and I am certain Marian will find something for you as well. Whether you deserve it or not.*

*Blackmail!* Jacob 'hissed'. He sighed and returned his focus to the room, where Lisa and William had returned, carrying their stockings - and those of Mark and Marian's. "You know... why don't we put up stockings for everyone?"

"Yay!" Lisa exclaimed.

"That's an awesome idea!" William said, enthusiastically. "I'll go get some!" He ran out of the room at full speed, followed by his sister.

"What is going on?" Marian asked, as she entered the room just as the kids left it, running like little whirlwinds.

"We're all getting Christmas stockings - is that okay?" Mark said.

Marian laughed. "Sure, that's actually a great idea! And I'm sure Santa Claus has gifts for everyone." She grinned. "You too, Jacob!"


A short time later, seven stockings were hanging on the mantelpiece.

*I have no idea what this tradition means, but apparently sock number six is designated to us,* Martouf observed.

*Stocking.*

*Whatever. Then tonight someone named 'Santa Claus' will put something in them?*

*I am pretty sure that is just a made up person for the benefit of the children - or perhaps some sort of religious figure. In any case, I am sure Mark or Marian will fill the stockings, pretending to be this character and thus fulfilling this ritual.*

*I suppose we have seen stranger things.* Martouf admitted.

*Right now I am seeing something wonderful! Samantha is standing under the mistletoe! Quickly, Martouf, before she discovers it and moves away!*

Martouf immediately closed the distance to where Sam was standing. He smiled at her and pointed above her head. "I believe I am entitled to a kiss?"

Sam looked up and then she grinned. She put her arms around him. "I believe you are correct."

Martouf embraced her and touched his lips to hers, kissing her softly. Then Lantash took over and kissed her more passionately. Sam made a soft sound and pressed herself to him, losing herself in the kiss.

They let go of each other when they realized someone was whistling. Sam was smiling, a bit foolishly and very happily at Lantash.

"Nice, Sam!" Mark grinned. "Well done, Martouf!"

Lantash raised an eyebrow and spoke, using Martouf's voice. "I am glad you approve."

Jacob sent Lantash a look that might suggest he did not approve.

"Definitely. My sister is always so correct and controlled - I'm glad someone can make her respond!" Mark smiled, wiggling his eyebrows at Sam.

Sam sent her brother an annoyed look. Anything she might have said to him was forgotten, though, when Lisa and William entered dressed in their pyjamases, running full speed to the fireplace.

"The chimney is clear, right?" William asked, anxiously, trying to peek up through it.

Lisa had run to the window, and was gazing through it, trying to look at the dark sky.

"What's up?" Sam asked.

"We're looking for Santa's sleigh!" Lisa told her.

"You know when he comes, don't you Sam?" William said.

"Me?" Sam frowned. "Why would I know?"

"You work with NORAD, and they're tracking Santa!" William insisted.

Sam groaned inaudibly. "I... well, yes, NORAD is tracking Santa, but my group is not actually part of NORAD. So, ah, they're not telling the rest of us what they know. It's their, um, secret."

"Samantha is telling the truth. We have no knowledge of the whereabouts of... Santa," Lantash said.

Lisa sighed. "Too bad!" She glanced at the window again. "It would be wonderful seeing Santa bring the gifts!"

"Come, time for bed, kids!" Marian called. "The gifts will be there tomorrow, I'm sure!"

Reluctantly, Lisa and William followed her.


"Anyone wants eggnog?" Mark asked. "I can also heat some mulled cider."

Sam yawned. "I was thinking of going to bed soon. It's 11PM. Tomorrow is going to be a long day, and the kids will probably be too excited to sleep very long - and they'll make sure to wake up the rest of us."

"Now? I recorded the midnight mass from the Vatican, and I thought we were going to watch that at midnight," Marian said.

"What?" Sam stared at her. "Really?!"

"Yes. Jacob said that he wasn't interested in attending the midnight mass in our local church, and since the kids are really too small to stay up and go to that anyway, I thought we'd do this instead," Marian told them.

"I... am not sure that's such a good idea..." Sam said, hesitantly.

"I know you've drifted away from the church, Sam, but I thought... this year, when we're all together - and dad recently survived a deadly illness," Mark said. "We thought we should do this. As a family."

Sam took a deep breath. "You know how I feel about it, Mark."

"Yes, but I thought you would agree to it, that you would understand..."

*I am not interesting in attending any sort of religious service!* Selmak made it clear.

"No," Jacob said flatly. "If you want to watch it, fine, but leave me - and Sam out of it.

"Martouf?" Marian asked, her voice strained.

"While I am somewhat curious about your Christmas rites, I am not religious," he answered, carefully, not wanting to insult anyone.

Marian took a deep breath and nodded. "Okay, fine, I understand. It'll just be Mark and me then."

"But I'm guessing you're not going to bed yet, so we can still have some eggnog, right? Anyone want some?" Mark said, hurriedly. He had decided he did not want to fight with his dad further, not during Christmas.

"Yes, I would very much like to try it," Martouf said, feeling how high the tension in the room was, and wanting to somehow lessen it.

"I'd like some too," Sam said.

Jacob sighed. "Yeah, me too. Marian?"

"Why not." She shook her head, but did not say anything further.


"Samantha!" Martouf called, when they had gone upstairs to go to bed, and Sam was on the way into her room.

She turned around and gave him a tired smile. "Yes, what is it, Martouf?"

"Do you think Marian is angry with us?"

Sam hesitated. "I think she is... disappointed. She is fairly religious, more so than Mark, even if he's also religious. But I don't think she's angry. I've never known her to carry a grudge. She'll be fine tomorrow." She opened the door to her room. "Come - let's go inside if you want to talk."

Martouf followed her. "Jacob is not religious, I think? Though he does mention a god sometimes."

"His exclamations? They don't mean anything like that, though I guess he was religious once. Before my mom was killed. Not sure now."

Martouf nodded. "I see."

"My family is roman catholic. It's one of many Christian denominations on Earth. I am not particularly religious, at least not in the traditional way. I became less so after seeing... everything out there, in the Galaxy. And after being host to Jolinar, I guess." She gave him a wry smile.

"My mother believed in the old religion, on my homeworld."

"The old religion?"

"Anubis. He once ruled our world, or rather, one of his vassals did, I think. I remember how terrified my mother was of the chaapa'ai - though I suppose that was with some right, since some of the Jaffa came through it, when Nephthys conquered our world."

"Right. You were a teenager when it happened. I'm sorry." She put her arms around him and gave him a hug.

Martouf tightened his arms around her, and they stood like this for a while, before letting go. He looked closely at her. "Samantha? May I kiss you again?" He smiled. "Though I realize I neglected to bring a piece of mistletoe..."

Sam laughed. "You rascal!" She added, softly. "You don't need that!" She caressed his cheek. "Yes, you may kiss me. Both of you."


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