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12.

"Good morning!" Marian said, when Martouf walked into the kitchen. "Slept well?"

"Thank you, I did." He smiled. "Good morning." He looked at the others - Jacob/Selmak, Mark, and the children, William and Lisa. "To all of you."

The children looked at him, a little shyly.

"That's aunt Sam's friend, Martouf," Mark explained. "Say hello to him."

"Hello," William said. "Mar... touf."

"Hello, Mar-toff," Lisa whispered.

He smiled at them both. "Hello William, hello Lisa. Your aunt Samantha has told me about you. She says you are nice children."

"I am fiiive," Lisa squealed. "How many years are you?"

"I'm... twenty-nine," Martouf said, remembering to go with the age on his identity papers.

"Sit down and get some breakfast," Marian told him, smiling.

"Thank you." He inclined his head politely, and sat down on one of the free seats.

"There's coffee - and tea. And orange juice and milk," Mark said.

"Ah, milk, please," Martouf said, realizing they wanted him to make a choice. "Thank you," he told Mark, who poured some into his glass. He looked out over the food options on the table. *Do you have any preferences, Lantash?*

*There does not seem to be either porridge or fresh fruit, so either take some of the bread, or maybe that... cereal, I think it's called, that Jacob is eating.*

*In that case I prefer the bread.* He took two slices of the roasted bread that was standing in a basket nearby. *Cheese or jam?* he wondered, while putting butter on the bread.

*Cheese on one, jam on the other. Take the red jam, if it is strawberry - I think it is.*

"What do you do, Mar-toff?" Lisa asked.

"She means what do you work with," Marian helpfully said.

Martouf nodded. "I work with Samantha."

"You're a scien-tist," William said. He was two years older than his sister, and was convinced he knew mostly everything about the world. "I am going to be a scien-tist too!"

"That is a good choice, William," Martouf said.

"Sam lets you call her Samantha?" Marian wondered.

Martouf frowned. "That is her name, is it not?"

"Yeah, but she usually doesn't like people calling her that."

"It is a beautiful name - and she is the one who told me I could call her that."

"Hm." Mark shrugged. "Interesting."

Martouf took a bite from his bread. *I wonder why she doesn't want people to use her name? She did suggest we use it.*

*Perhaps she only let's certain people use it - like men she has a romantic interest in,* Lantash suggested, sounding smug. *I believe this is a very good sign!*

Sam entered the room then, smiling at them all. "Good morning! Wow! I don't usually sleep this late!"

"It's only about half past nine, and you're on vacation. Don't listen to anyone if they're giving you a hard time about it," Marian said, smiling. "Come and get a cup of coffee."

"Thanks." Sam went to sit down beside Martouf.

"Good morning, Samantha," he told her, smiling warmly.

"Good morning Martouf." She returned his smile, then turned to Marian who handed her a cup of coffee. "Thanks." She grateful drank some of it. "Much better than the stuff we get in the mess hall!"

"Sam, I've put some wrapping paper and ribbons, and stuff on the table in my office," Marian said.

Sam nodded. "Thanks, I'll take care of it as soon as I've had breakfast - then we can bake cookies afterwards, right, kids?" She smiled at Lisa and WIlliam.

"Yes!" William said, eagerly.

"Can we make caramel corn too?" Lisa asked, hopefully.

"I... don't know. Ask your mom and dad," Sam said.

"Sure," Marian said. "We have popcorn. Mark - could you buy some brown sugar and more butter together with the other things?"

"Yes, no problem." Mark poured more cereal in his bowl and added milk. "You wanna come, dad?" he asked Jacob.

Jacob looked like he wanted to say no, but nodded anyway. "Yeah, why not."

"Oh, by the way, Mrs. Jenkins next door wants to know if we want to go caroling with the church group later?" Marian wondered.

"Ah..." Sam said, clearly looking for an excuse not to. "I think baking cookies will take most of the afternoon."

"God, no!" Jacob mumbled, clearly wishing Marian had not mentioned that.

"What is caroling?" Martouf asked, predictably.

"Walking around to people's houses and singing Christian hymns to them," Sam said.

"I do not know any Christian hymns," Martouf said.

"You don't sing in your churches?" Marian asked, curiously.

"We do not have churches - or any other religious temples," Martouf explained.

"You are not religious?" Marian asked, looking shocked. "Does that mean you don't celebrate Christmas?"

"Listen, just tell the nice lady no, okay?" Jacob said, trying to end the conversation before it escalated. "We all have a bunch of stuff we need to do."

"Right." Marian shook her head. "Of course. I'll tell her."


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