The Christmas Guest
Ways to kill General O’Neill for this: #1 – Slip arsenic in Froot Loops ™. It’s slow, it’s painful and he so deserves it!
This is a nightmare waiting to happen.
She shut off the engine and looked out onto the picturesque scene before them. There was about a foot of snow on the ground, but the studded tires and four-wheel drive had made it possible for them to reach the top of the mountain. An expansive log home was there, decorated in white lights, red ribbons and greenery. The Christmas tree was clearly visible in the window of the living room and a large wreath hung on the door.
“It looks… festive.”
“It’s Christmas. It’s supposed to look festive. And you’re going to have to remember to use a normal-sounding voice while we’re here. Remember, you’re a…”
“A co-worker at Cheyenne Mountain who is here because he has no family to home to over Christmas. Yes, I remember.” He had also changed to a normal voice. “Your family thinks you work with deep space telemetry and have no knowledge of the Goa’uld or that life even exists on other worlds.”
“Exactly.” She took the key out of the ignition and unfastened her seat belt. The front door of the house opened and a group of seven children came pouring out, running towards the Jeep. “Okay, here we go.”
They both exited the Jeep as the children reached it screaming “Aunt Peace! Aunt Peace!” She carefully avoided looking at her guest, knowing that he’d likely be smirking. He had thought it highly amusing when she had confessed that her full name was ‘Peaceful Heavenly Day’. She still didn’t know why she had to get stuck with the hippie name, but she suspected it had something to do with the fact her birth was the only one her mother had agreed to take painkillers for. Seven pairs of hands all tried to wrap around her at once and she tried to return as many hugs as she could.
After receiving her hug, one of the children detached herself from the throng and ran around to the other side of the Jeep where the passenger now stood. “Hi! Who are you?”
He looked over at Peace, one brow raised. She caught on quickly. “That’s Cam. He’s going to spend Christmas with us.”
Another girl, this one about ten, smiled up at her aunt, whom she was still hugging. “Is he your booooyfriend?” Her smile was mischievous.
“No, he’s not my boyfriend. He’s a co-worker and you’re not to pester him. Save your torment for those actually related to you, preferably your parents. Now come back here and make yourself useful.” She hit the button to unlock the back of the Jeep. The four eldest children following her so that she could have them help her carry in items.
The child standing in front of him was still staring upwards. She couldn’t have been more than six. “You’re pretty.”
One dark brow arched upwards, an amused smile touching his face. “I know.”
“Molly, sweetie. Go inside, it’s cold out here.” He looked over his shoulder to see Peaceful all but glaring at him. The feel of a small hand taking hold of one of his drew his attention back to the child.
“Come on!” She pulled him towards the house. When they got close enough to open the door her high voice rang back to the Jeep. “Grandma! Grandpa! Aunt Peace is here, and she brought a boy!”
Peaceful sighed as the children still with her began to giggle and laugh. “I hate my life.” She grabbed the two suitcases and carried them into the house, the kids hurrying along behind her.
Her father’s voice was clearly heard as she entered the house. “Call me ‘James’. Can’t have you feeling like you gotta call me ‘Mr. Day’ when you’re supposed to be here for the holiday.”
“Thank you for inviting me, James.”
“Oh, it’s nothing. When General O’Neill called and said he had an officer with no family to go home to, we figured another body in this place wouldn’t make a difference. I just hope you like children, because there’s gonna be a lot more than this before tonight.” James looked over and spied his daughter, his face cracking into a bright smile. “There’s my little angel.” He held out his arms and she walked into them, hugging him tightly.
“I was just getting to know Major Jones, here. What’s your first name, Son?”
“Camulus, ‘Cam’ for short.”
“Camulus? That’s different.”
Peaceful gave him a silent warning. “It was the name of a Celtic god of war. My father was a historian.”
“Wow, named after a god.” James looked at his youngest child. “Maybe we should done that for you. Might have made growing up a bit easier if we’d named you ‘Isis’ or some such.”
She rolled her eyes and ignored Camulus’ smirk. “Doubtful.”
“Peaceful?” All eyes turned to see Helen Day hurrying out of the kitchen, looking like the stereotypical grandmother with her snow-white hair and a red apron with daubs of chocolate and flour here and there. She wiped her hands off on a kitchen towel before hugging her daughter. “I was so worried that the snow would keep you away.”
“Nah, it’s just a bit of frozen water.”
“I’m glad you made it. After you backed out of Thanksgiving I was worried you might not.” She released her daughter and looked over at their guest. “And you must be the young man General O’Neill called me about. I’m Helen, Peaceful’s mother, and I see you’ve met my husband, James.” Camulus extended a hand but was obviously surprised when Helen opted to give him a welcoming hug instead. “It’s good to have you here.”
“Mom, let him go. Don’t go hugging complete strangers.”
Helen did let him go, only to glare at her youngest child. “Peaceful Day! I raised you with better manners than that.” She smiled back up at Camulus. “Never mind her. She’s always cranky after a long trip. Always has been.”
Camulus smiled at her over the top of her mother’s head. “I’m used to her temper. We’ve been working in close quarters for some time now.” Peace gave him one of her best glares, which he returned with a smirk. The day was saved when three women came out of the kitchen.
“Girls, come over here and meet Peaceful’s friend. Cam, this is my eldest daughter Samantha and these are two of my daughters-in-law. This is Caroline, Justin’s wife, and Juliet, she’s married to Mark. Sammie’s husband is Stephen. I’m sure the boys are outside in the stables and there are ten children running around as well. I’ll let them introduce themselves as you meet them. It’s impossible to round them all up at once.”
Peace watched on as he greeted each of the women present so far. He was charming, he was elegant… he was so full of it! Sammie, mother of four and showing it, was blushing like a damn schoolgirl! Caro and Julie weren’t too far behind her, each of them with three kids a piece. Peace rolled her eyes and picked up the suitcases. “Where’d you put him, Mom?”
“In the guest room across from you. I’ve got the boys on air mattresses in the play room.”
“Oh, I bet they’re loving that.”
“Hold up, I’ll help.” Juliet grabbed one of the suitcases and walked upstairs with her. When they were close to the landing her sister-in-law decided to put in her two cents worth. “You work with that? Oh my God, he’s gorgeous!”
“Don’t let him hear you say that. He’s got a habit of ego trips.”
“Peace, you need to jump all over that man. I’m serious.”
“No, I don’t. And don’t you start with me.” They made their way up the stairs and down the hall. She knew where her room was, and the room across from them had been where her grandmother had lived until a heart attack had claimed her when she had been in her final year of college. Juliet opened the door to the room and carried Camulus’ suitcase inside. It had changed somewhat from when Grandma Florence lived there, but the old black and white photographs still hung on the walls and the bedspread was still one of the thick, handmade quilts she had always been making. It was so ‘Norman Rockwell’ it was painful.
Cammy was gonna hate it.
“Why are you smiling like that?”
“Oh, nothing.” Peace turned around and opened the door to her own room. It was just as she had left it. Disgustingly cute bedspread her mother hand selected on a sugary sweet canopy bed that was also her mother’s doing. Pictures of her on horseback when she was barrel racing in the rodeos and the buckles she had won lining a shelf her father had made for her. Draped over the bed was a lovely dress that looked newly made. “Oh, not in a million years, Mom.” She set her suitcase down, picked up the dress and hid it away in the closet. She was not dressing up for dinner.
Juliet had wandered back downstairs, leaving her in blissful solitude until she heard the bane of her existence behind her. “Not what I would have expected.”
“Mom was determined to turn me into another girley-girl like the others. I just wouldn’t cooperate.” She hefted her suitcase and laid it on her desk chair. He walked further into her room, making his way over to the shelf with her pictures and buckles.
“What are these?”
“I used to be barrel racer, competed in rodeos and the like. Usually came out the victor, but that was as much the horses as it was me. Dad breeds the best in three states.”
“And this?” He had picked up a framed photograph that had been standing on a bedside table. Peace craned her neck over to see what it was and sighed.
“That is my mother’s most painful memory. I try to hide it every time I come home and she always finds it and puts it back as a reminder.”
“A reminder of what?”
“In her words? ‘The one that got away’. That’s a picture of me at my senior prom with David Hatchley. I didn’t want to go at all, but Mom thought it was a sin for me not to, so she asked my brothers to find me a date. Justin dug up David Hatchley. Sweet enough guy, but we just didn’t have the same goals for the future.”
“What were his?”
“A wife to cook him dinner and have his children. Just didn’t fit well with my goal of saving the world. He got married to some girl he met in college. She stays at home and is the perfect wife and mother while he owns and manages three feed and supply stores in the county. He’s wealthy and handsome, Mom’s idea of a perfect son-in-law.”
Camulus set the picture facedown on the bedside table. ”Clearly a poor match.” He frowned at the pink canopy top. “I think I am beginning to understand why you turned out the way you did.”
“Oh, wait until the rest of the family arrives. Then you get to meet Aunt Louisa.”
Peace looked up to see her eldest brother standing in the doorway. She dropped the sweater she had been holding and leapt to hug him. “Justin!”
The man wrapped his arms around her and picked her up off the floor. “Hello, Trouble. It’s good to see you.” He hugged her close for a moment longer before setting her down. His eyes fixed on the man standing on the other side of his sister’s bed. “You must Major Jones. Welcome to the mad house.” Camulus moved to meet him halfway across the room. They shook hands. “I hope you have a hefty appetite. Mom tends to go overboard during holiday gatherings.”
“Or whenever there is going to be more than five people present for a meal. And what’s that about Aunt Louisa? I thought she and Uncle Henry were going to spend the holidays with her relatives in Italy.”
“Change of plans. With all the crackdowns in security, they decided not to bother. See you already got rid of the that perfectly lovely dress Mom made for you.”
“I am not wearing velvet and satin for dinner. It’s not even Christmas Eve yet.”
“Oh, but she’ll be so disappointed!”
Camulus watched as Peaceful’s eyes narrowed suspiciously. “Name.”
“Two years now.” Justin shrugged. “And with three children who are now without a mother. So tragic. So sad. Surely even you, cold-hearted and unnatural that you are, can’t possibly turn him away in his time of need.”
Camulus managed not to chuckle as Peace groaned and threw herself across the bed, her face buried in the mattress. “I’m in hell!”
Justin didn’t bother to stop himself from laughing. “Well, Cam, can I call you ‘Cam’? That’s as much torture as I dare dish out to her just now. Peaceful may look all sweet and delicate, but she’s never really done a good job at living up to her name. I’m sure the military has taught her all kinds of nasty tricks that could be very painful to me.”
“I’ve seen her at work. You’re right.” He sounded amused. First thing she was going to do when they got back to the base was shove his butt back through the Stargate. Let Baal put up with him. She was sick of it!
“Come on. I’ll show you all the best places to hide from the women around here.”
“Is this something I need to know?”
“Have you looked in a mirror lately? You’re young, handsome and single. Trust me. You need to know this.” She felt Justin reach down and pat her on the back of her leg. At least, she hoped it was Justin. If Camulus was going to push things this far while pretending to be a normal human she was going to have to kill him. “Buck up, Peace. It’s only one week out of the year. And you have the Barn Blast to look forward to.”
“Barn Blast?” Camulus sounded intrigued.
“Huge party for the young folks, only. I’ll fill you in.” She heard heavy footsteps exiting the room and the door being closed.
Yeah… Arsenic sounded like a great plan.
Ways to kill General O’Neill for this: #2 – Rig the elevator so that when he swipes his access card the car rises to the top floor and then the cables detach, plunging him to his demise.
This concept of Christmas wasn’t entirely clear to him. From what he gleaned from his research it was a celebration that was originally intended to celebrate the birth of Jesus, or “Christ”, thus Christmas. However, it appeared that in these more recent times that the celebration had become more of an exercise in capitalism and mercantilism, with very little of the original meaning still found.
However, he wasn’t sure what to make of Peaceful’s family and their observance of the holiday. There were presents under a brightly decorated tree, but there were also the children in the den, practicing a Nativity play under the direction of Caroline. Helen’s voice could be heard singing hymns as she busied herself in the kitchen, occasionally joined in harmony by Samantha and Juliet. There was a sense of warmth and caring in this house.
There was also a sense of smothering, when he tried to view it through Peaceful’s eyes.
He could clearly recall the day he first actually looked at Major P. Day. It was when he had attempted to trick the Tau’ri into destroying themselves by leading them to the tampered power cell for the device of the Ancients. They had figured it out far too soon for his liking, soon enough that he had not been able to leave Earth. O’Neill had confronted him with the plot, which he had denied at first, but acknowledged off-handedly shortly thereafter. It was then that the human had advised him of his new situation.
“Cammy, I’m willing to give you another chance. Major?”
Peaceful had not looked the part of a soldier. Not entirely, anyway. She was slightly shorter than average height for a Tau’ri female and possessed a delicate bone structure that made her appear fragile. Her hair was pale blonde and her eyes an odd shade of light green. Camulus had thought it almost laughable that this mere doll was parading around in a soldier’s uniform. It had been even more ludicrous to him when O’Neill had advised that she was to be his new ‘handler’. How wrong he had been.
The woman was a competent soldier. It was as if she felt she had to work five times harder than everyone else to prove that she wasn’t as delicate as she appeared. In truth, the fact that people were so ready to discount her worked in her favor. His underestimating her had allowed her to get the upper hand in more than one negotiation. He had quickly gotten over the habit and started being more cautious when dealing with her. After that he had learned that the real Peaceful Day was anything but. She was short tempered, shrewd minded and always at the edge of erupting into violence if the occasion warranted it.
Now he understood why. He couldn’t imagine how it must have been for someone so strong-headed and independent to grow up constantly fighting with those trying to force her to conform to their idea of what a human female should be. The photograph of a younger Peace in an exquisite gown of pale pink and an obviously fake smile had made him want to laugh. He might have had it not been for the boy whose arm had been about her. That he would have to look at the man that boy had become did not sit well with him. He wouldn’t insult his own intelligence by lying to himself as to why. General O’Neill had ‘given’ Peaceful to him, in a manner of speaking. That someone was coming to try and change that pricked at his possessive nature.
“Earth to Cam. Come in, Cam.”
The Goa’uld looked over to Justin Day. “I’m sorry, I was elsewhere.”
“I noticed.” Justin nodded over to where a man with his hair and basic facial structure was approaching them from a newly arrived vehicle. An attractive woman was still nearby, rounding up four children and ushering them inside the house. “My other brother, David, and his wife Mary.”
“With yet more children.”
“Oh, definitely more children. This family is big on the whole having children gig. Well, with the exception of Peace. But really, has anything that mankind has ever done really warrant such punishment as half a dozen mini-Peaces running around?” The man grinned broadly and waved his brother over. “David, get over here and meet the new victim.”
David didn’t smile quite as brightly as Justin and appeared to be a bit more reserved than his sibling. “You’re new. Is Mom importing men from out of the county now?”
“This is Cam. He came with Peace.”
David’s face fell into an expression of disbelief. “Our Peace. The woman who, last year, told Mom that men are a waste of flesh and an unreasonable burden on precious resources?”
Camulus’ brow rose. “She said that?”
“She was hacked off at Mom. Didn’t really mean a word of it, just wanted to see if she could make her faint. It almost worked. So… what’s the deal? Is she paying you to act as a shield against the scheming matriarchs of Clan Day?”
“Nah, Cam here works with her. That General guy asked Mom and Dad to let him come home with her.”
David laughed. “What did you do to get damned to that fate? Park in his space?”
Camulus shrugged. “Actually, I think it was your sister who did something wrong. She isn’t that fond of me.”
The brothers exchanged a look. Justin looked away first as David rubbed his hands together. “This should be a fun Christmas. Peace brings home a handsome soldier, and don’t think that Mom and Aunt Louisa won’t notice the fact that you’re single, and I’m sure there’s some other poor man lined up to be torn down by our beloved sibling.”
Cam bit off a chuckle. “Someone named David Hatchley.”
“Eww! Peace can’t marry someone with the same name as one of her brothers. That’s just… wrong. Besides, isn’t he married? Someone named Amber, isn’t it?”
Justin frowned. “Widower, and I thought her name was Judith.”
David shrugged. “Whatever. Still, that means it’s time for the annual wager. I’ve got fifty that says it happens by eight o’clock.”
Justin looked at Camulus and shook his head. “I’ll put down a C-note that she won’t last until six.”
“What exactly are you wagering over?”
David grinned. “How long it takes before Peace threatens to kill somebody. In case you haven’t noticed, the name didn’t really take very well. And with both Mom and Aunt Louisa hounding her, someone’s gonna get a death threat.”
Justin laughed, finding the whole thing amusing. Camulus shook his head. “You are both wrong. She’ll be threatening someone’s life within the hour.” He reached into his jacket and pulled out a small phone, flipping it open.
David looked curious. “What makes you say that?”
“Because she threatens my life at least three times a day.” He began to press the buttons.
“Because I can do this.” He hit the ‘send’ button, smiling towards the house.
Peace had already tuned her mother’s voice out as she helped her niece lick the bowl used to whip up chocolate frosting. Her mother wasn’t saying anything of great importance anyway, just going on about how handsome ‘Major Jones’ was. She was so surprised when her pager went off that she yelped, her hand going to it immediately.
“Oh, Peace! They can’t possibly be needing you now!”
She looked down at the display and saw a four-digit code she knew all too well. Her eyes narrowed and she threw her spoon back into the bowl. “Excuse me. I have to go commit an act of senseless brutality.”
The women of her family stared after her in confused shock as a rather angry Peaceful stormed out of the kitchen.
“Whoa… I haven’t seen that look since that time the cheerleaders got that picture of her in the shower after gym class and plastered it inside the boys’ locker room.”
David frowned and looked at his younger brother. “How did the cheerleaders get it into the boys’ locker room?”
Justin shrugged. “They paid me fifty bucks. It was me she was glaring at.”
Camulus gave a snort. “Aren’t you the perfect picture of a loving and supportive sibling?” He allowed himself to smirk as the woman in question came to a stop in front of them. She held up her pager in one hand.
David grimaced at the icy tone of her voice. “And I think we have a winner. Nice meeting you, Cam. Sorry I couldn’t have gotten to know you better.” He patted the taller man on the shoulder before heading towards the house. Justin gave a smile to his sister.
“Just remember; be sure to hide the body someplace that it won’t be found come Spring thaw.” He gave a mock salute to Camulus and followed David, leaving him and Peaceful alone at the tree line.
“And just what was the purpose of paging me?”
Camulus gave an amused smile. “To prove a point.”
“That you’re still at my beck and call, even when we are in the loving bosom of your family.” He noted the rosy flush of anger that flooded the woman’s cheeks and resumed his previous smirk. “You have something to say, Major Day?”
“You know, there really are a lot of good places to hide a body out here. I could cut you up into multiple pieces and scatter you all over the mountain. By the time they found anything it would be impossible to identify. Scavengers, you know. All kinds of little woodland beasties to gnaw away at your bones.”
“What a pleasant picture you paint. And here I thought I was doing you a favor by getting you away from your mother.”
“Oh, don’t even try to make yourself sound generous. You’re a self-centered, egotistical, power-hungry megalomaniac! It comes with the job description.”
“You forgot handsome and intelligent.”
Peace rolled her eyes. “You wouldn’t be any good at being a power-hungry megalomaniac if you weren’t intelligent and it’s not you who’s good looking, it’s your host. He’s a doll. The real you is a slimy, creepy-looking parasite.” She folded her arms over her chest, smirking at the less-than-pleased expression he now wore.
“Careful, Major. There are no guards to call out here.”
“No, only a houseful of relations, most of whom are pretty damn decent in a fight and all of whom know which end of a rifle is the dangerous one. Surely you didn’t think I got this mean by birth.”
“The possibility had crossed my mind.” He looked towards the house. “So, what’s your plan at dodging your mother’s machinations?”
“Plan? I have no plan. It’s the same thing every year. She’ll bring David in to try and sweep me off my feet and I’ll play nice until he wears on my nerves. In the end I’ll be forced to strip him of any feelings of self-worth he’s ever garnered.” She paused, considering something. “Actually, I’m surprised there are men still falling for this.”
“You would think your general, disagreeable nature would scare them away by now. However, your brothers mentioned something in passing that has me thinking. I think I could be of help to you.”
“Ha! You? Help me? And why would you even contemplate doing something like that?”
Camulus gave her a placid, almost human smile. “In spite of our differences, you do perform your job admirably. You’ve gotten me in better quarters, improved the quality of my meals and have seen to it that I am treated with a great deal more respect and dignity than before. We still have our disagreements, but my life here has become almost… acceptable. I owe you.”
Peace hesitated, uncertain of how to respond to the almost compliment. “No… that’s all right. You don’t have to do anything. Just… try not to tip off anyone that you’re not human. I don’t want to have to try and explain it to my folks.” She frowned, apparently suddenly uneasy around him. She unfolded her arms as she turned around and went back into the house.
Camulus watched her go, a mischievous smile crossing his face.
Perhaps this little respite from the mountain would turn out to be amusing
Ways to kill General O’Neill for this: #3 – Stock his favorite fishing spot with giant, mutant Snakehead fish. It seems to work on Sci-Fi.
“Dad played with dolls?”
“Yep.” Peaceful opened the trunk in the attic that contained Justin’s G.I. Joe collection. Amanda, Rachael and Sue crowded around her. Mandy reached in and claimed a soldier doll as Rachael scowled.
“Those are boy dolls!”
“They’re still dolls.” Sue giggled as Peace handed her a couple to play with. “Some of them are girls.”
“Like you?” Amanda put the tiny gun in ‘Duke’s’ hand and made rat-tat-tat noises.
“Yep, like me.”
“Grandma Helen says it isn’t right for a girl to be a soldier.”
“Yeah, well, Grandma Helen forgot to enter into the twenty-first century. Women can be soldiers, just as men can be soldiers. Anyone who loves their family and their country can serve.”
Sue dug deeper and found a toy tank. “Mom says Grandma Helen’s afraid they’ll make you go somewhere far away and you’ll never come back.”
“Well… Sweetie… that happens to soldiers sometimes. I knew that when I signed up.”
“Does it make you afraid?”
“Of course it does. But then I think about how there are evil people in the world who want to harm my family and my country and I know that I have to do my part to keep you all safe.”
“Pa-paw calls you his ‘Angel Hero’.” Rachael sat down next to her, examining a miniature Jeep. “He talks about you with the other old men at church. Goes on and on about how brave you are.”
Peace smiled, a warm, happy feeling blooming in her chest. She was about to say something when the thundering sound of footsteps came up the steps. Four boys came barging into the attic storeroom, each red faced and gasping for breath. The eldest, Derek, recovered first. “Grandma Helen says you’re to get your scrawny butt downstairs and say ‘hi’ to Mr. Hatchley.”
“I’ll pay you twenty each to go downstairs and say you couldn’t find me.”
“Grandma’s baking us chocolate chip cookies that she says we don’t have to share with the girls.”
Peace scowled at the boys. “Ungrateful little snots. You’re getting coal in your stockings. All of you!” The girls giggled as she got to her feet and headed towards the door. She descended the stairs, stopping at the landing before she was in view of anyone downstairs. Doing this year after year after year was getting boring.
“I doubt hesitation will make him disappear. Your mother seems like the persistent sort.”
She jumped and turned around, frowning at Camulus. “Make some noise when you walk. Stop sneaking up on people like that. And I thought you were hiding from the rugrats.”
“No, I was hiding from your sister, Samantha. She wanted to interrogate me about my love life.”
“Which is even more non-existent than my own.” She grinned up at him, batting her lashes before turning away and heading down the stairs. She didn’t see his scheming expression or the brief flash of his eyes before he followed her.
David Hatchley had not aged well. He was carrying an additional fifty or sixty pounds that he hadn’t had when she was in high school and more than half of his hair was gone. There were two children, a boy and a girl, being cooed over by her mother. Peace steeled herself as she drew closer. David caught sight of her and smiled, but his expression dimmed when he noticed the handsome man behind her.
“Peace, you look great. You haven’t aged a day.”
She plastered a phony smile on her face. “Neither have you.” She noticed that Justin, David (her brother) and Mark were standing to the side, watching the show with enthusiasm. Torn between the desire to wipe the smiles off their faces and screaming, she felt it best to fall silent.
That was when she felt a large, strong hand come to rest on her shoulder as Camulus stepped forward. He extended his free hand towards Hatchley. “Please forgive her, we had a long trip here. I’m Cam Jones, Peaceful’s fiancé.”
Her blood ran cold as silence fell like a lead weight in the hallway. From somewhere far off she heard her mother stutter in shock. Justin made it a whole ten seconds before he broke out into laughter. David Hatchley looked as though someone had hit him between the eyes with the blunt side of an axe.
“Peaceful! Why didn’t you say anything?” Helen pulled her daughter into a tight hug. “I’m so happy for you, Sweetie!”
“I apologize for not saying anything sooner. Peace wasn’t sure how you would react, considering that she’s never had the chance to tell you about me before now. I’m afraid that when I learned why you were inviting David to dinner tonight, my jealous side got the better of me.”
He sounded so believable! And then he had the gall to wrap his arms about her waist and pull her back so that she was snug against him. Her weapon hand twitched, but she was painfully without a side arm. Killing him would simply have to wait until they got back to Cheyenne Mountain.
Helen frowned at her daughter’s pale complexion and placed a hand on her cheek. “Honey, are you okay?”
“Yeah… I’m fine. Could you excuse us for a bit? The attic was a bit stuffy and I could use some fresh air.”
Helen looked from her daughter to the handsome man she had brought home with her. Cam was such a good-looking individual! Those dark eyes, all that thick, shiny hair and so tall! She did hope her grandchildren got their father’s height. The boys, anyway. “Of course, Sweetie. Don’t forget your jacket. It’s cold out there.”
“Yeah, I’ll do that.” She turned and gave a brittle smile to her ‘fiancé’. “Sweetheart… walk with me?”
Camulus gave her a winning smile as he followed her to the side door. She reached for the latch but he stopped her. “Your jacket, Darling.” He reached over and pulled the garment from the coat rack by the door and held it open for her. She gave him a glare that only he could see, but slipped her arms into the jacket.
“Thank you, Darling.” He went so far as to open the door for her, even. Oh, he was gonna get it! She headed down the roughly shoveled path towards the main stables. The sound of his boots on the snow and ice assured her that he was still following. She waited until they were inside the stable and the door was shut behind them before attacking. “Fiancé?”
“Your mother cannot seriously consider that pathetic excuse for a man as a potential son-in-law?” His contempt at the idea was evident. “I wouldn’t entrust him to scrub the steps of one of my temples!”
“Don’t you change the subject! What was that?”
“You should be thanking me. Your dear matron clearly realizes that I would be the better candidate. She should spend the rest of the holiday in perfect bliss. You can enjoy yourself without any more of her interfering.”
“Sure, except now she’s going to want to talk about wedding dates and china patterns. She’ll probably drag out that damn dress from the attic for me to try on!”
Peace rolled her eyes. “My great-grandmother’s wedding gown. I’m the only one who was ever small enough to have a chance at fitting into it!” She ran her fingers through her short, blond hair with a sigh. “She’ll probably even drag out those awful shoes with all the buttons. And it’s your fault! What were you thinking telling her that?!”
He smirked, folding his arms over his chest. She was rather adorable when she got like this. Of course he knew that she could be quite dangerous when she chose to be, but it didn’t stop her from looking more like a fine porcelain doll. She couldn’t even blush grandly; her cheeks would only turn a soft rose color that some women used cosmetics to imitate. Anyone else would have thought her temper rather charming. He only dared it because he knew that she couldn’t actually harm him as long as he didn’t try to escape or do harm to others.
“I thought I might repay you for the kindness you have shown me since O’Neill assigned my care to you by helping you escape the plots and schemes of your family.”
Peace started to laugh. “Oh, that was good. If I didn’t know you so well I’d have believed that. You sounded so sincere.”
“One has to be a skilled liar if one is to outsmart system lords.”
“I hope you’re enjoying yourself, because I’m hurling your butt through the ‘gate the second we get back!”
“Over this? O’Neill would not sanction such an action of something so trivial.”
“Trivial? You just told my family we’re going to be married. That’s not what I’d call ‘trivial’.”
“Then you are not putting it in the proper perspective. Getting your mother and the infamous Aunt Louisa to leave you alone regarding your non-existent love life isn’t even worth mentioning. Afterwards you can always say that we had a falling out and called it off. It’s not as though I told them… say… that I am an alien life form who once ruled here as a god and that your job actually involves traveling to other worlds through an ancient device hidden inside a mountain in Colorado.”
She stared at him, her jaw slightly open in shock. He kept his smile placid and calm, his expression one of complete innocence. He was really good at looking innocent when he wanted to be. Her mother probably thought he looked like an angel. She knew that Aunt Louisa would.
“All right. Fine. Just remember; you’re the one who got us into this mess. You’ve made your bed, now you gotta lie it. Don’t come crying to me when the harpies get their claws into you.”
“I have nothing to fear from your family. After dealing with you on a daily basis, they should be easy. Besides, you mother and sisters already believe I can do no wrong. What was it Juliet said to you? You need to ju…”
“Ah!” She held up her hand to silence him. He smirked down at her. “I remember what she said. I wouldn’t let it go to my head if I were you. She’s married. I’m certain having sex with the same man night after night gets boring and makes the mind wander.”
“How would you know? I can account for most every one of your nights over the past year. You haven’t had the chance to experience sex with even one man, let alone many.”
She glared at him, her raised hand curling into a fist, which she shook at his nose. He grabbed her wrist and placed a playful kiss on her knuckles. Peace jerked her hand back as though burned, then smiled. “You know what? I think I know exactly how to break it to Mom that we’re calling it off.”
“Oh? And what is your grand plan?”
Peace smiled brighter. “I’m going to tell her how heart broken I was to learn that you’re actually gay.” His smirk vanished, a look of incredulity and insult taking it’s place. She only continued to smile and walked by him towards the stable door, humming a little holiday tune as she did so.
She supposed it would have been too much to hope that he would have been so dumbfounded that he remained in the stables, giving her time to get to the house without him. Camulus returned in time to meet her at the door as she opened it to go back into the house, his expression carefully schooled. Peace knew he was furious, she had learned enough about his behavior over the past year that she could almost read his mind. Why did they need to be married? She knew him better than her mother knew her father.
She stepped across the threshold, but was stopped by her brother, Justin’s, shrill whistle. “You’re forgetting something, Trouble.” Peace frowned, not sure what her idiot sibling was talking about until he pointed above her head. She craned her neck upwards and scowled. She was pretty certain there had not been any mistletoe over the door when she had walked through it a little while ago.
Camulus seemed confused as to why a bit of greenery would increase Peaceful’s surly mood until one of the smaller children tugged at his pants leg. He looked down to see the pretty child who had complimented him on his arrival, her face split in a grin from one ear to the other. “You’re s’posed to kiss her!”
Justin laughed. “That’s right, Sister Dear. All couples caught under the mistletoe have to share a kiss. Come on! Show my wife how it’s really done!” He was rewarded with a sharp slap on his shoulder. He rubbed at it as though she had really hurt him. “You know I’m just teasing you, Sweetie. No one kisses better than you.”
Peaceful turned slowly, her eyes narrowed in a silent warning to him. He could almost hear her thoughts. ‘Make it quick.’ Well, what would be the fun in that?
He wrapped his arms about her before she could react, making sure to catch her own arms in such a way as to prevent her from being able to hit him. She frowned and opened her mouth to scold him, but he silenced her quickly. Her brothers cheered as he kissed her, making sure to turn it into a proper kiss. His actions seemed to have surprised her so greatly that she returned it for a time before she started to squirm in an attempt to break free.
He broke the kiss, but did not let her go. Letting her go right now, before she had time to recover from the shock, could end in bodily harm. He would have sworn her eyes flashed if he hadn’t known that she wasn’t a Goa’uld. He could have probably locked her in a room with Baal right now and she would have torn him into little pieces before she was done, so he wasn’t foolish enough to give her the chance to get her hands on himself just yet.
“Now, Cam, you’ll need to let her go. I know it’s hard for you young folks to do, but we need Peace to help with dinner.” Helen was beaming at the pair of them. The woman didn’t know it, but she was his savior. Peaceful wouldn’t dare cause him injury with her mother watching on. To add to his crime he smiled down at his ‘fiancé’ and placed a brief kiss on the tip of her nose.
“I didn’t know you could cook. I’m looking forward to it.”
Peaceful gave him a tight smile and spoke quietly enough that only he could hear her. “I don’t cook, I bake. I hope you like arsenic.”
Ways to kill General O’Neill for this: #4 – Find a really good excuse why he has to go through the Stargate with SG-1 and then tell Baal where he’ll be. Let the Goa’uld do the dirty work.
She was in Hell. This hell was located underneath the pink canopy of her childhood bed and was in the form of her sisters and sisters-in-law, all of whom where rather giggly and talking incessantly!
“I can’t believe you didn’t tell us when you got here! He’s gorgeous!” Samantha was busy going through Peaceful’s luggage. “Don’t you have anything nice in here? What do you wear when you have to dress up?”
“It’s called a ‘dress uniform’. It has all my pretty ribbons on it.”
Sabrina rolled her eyes. “You always were hopeless when it came to behaving like a girl.” The middle sister had arrived shortly after Camulus’ big announcement. Her response upon being introduced to her baby sister’s fiancé was to crack up laughing at the idea, followed by condolences for such a handsome man to be stuck with the family ‘hellcat bitch-queen’.
Helen Day had smacked her over the head with a wooden spatula.
“I didn’t need to be the prissy little prom-queen. That was your job.”
Juliet grinned. “Helen did make the dreamy velvet number for you.”
“I am not dressing up for dinner.” Peace looked at the clock. Another two and one half hours until the family meal. “When’s Aunt Louisa showing up?”
“Justin left for the air port about thirty minutes ago to pick up her and Uncle Harry.” Juliet grinned. “She’s gonna adore him.”
“Hell, I adore him.” Sammie threw aside a sweater after deciding it would never do. “Are you sure you can handle that much man, Sis?”
Peace glared at her sister. “Bite me!” She sat up and grabbed a red sweater from her suitcase. “I can handle him just fine.” Caroline made a ‘hubba-hubba’ motion with her hand while Juliet and Brina giggled, actually giggled! Peace was about to unleash on them when her sat phone went off.
“Do those people even know what ‘holiday’ means?”
Peace frowned. Camulus would use her pager. Only the base, or worse, would use the phone. “Clear out. I need privacy.” Her tone was abrupt, but the other women in the family didn’t mention it. They knew that there were things that Peace couldn’t talk about around them. They got up and left without comment, shutting the door behind them. Peace flipped the phone open, frowning when she saw the number. “This is Day.”
“Major! Just checking up on things. How’s the problem child?”
She sighed. “Sir, I really think that you should send a guard to come and collect him.”
There was silence on the other end of the connection. It went on for several seconds before General O’Neill spoke again. “May I ask why?”
“I believe that Camulus may be an unwelcome distraction to my family, Sir.”
“Of course he is, Major. He’s an orphaned Army officer who needed a place to spend the holidays.”
“Sir, it’s more than that.” Her voice was pleading and she hoped he would just believe her in this. Of course, he didn’t.
“What, exactly, has he done, Major?”
She took a deep breath and let it out. “Sir, he just introduced himself to my family has my fiancé.”
There was a heavy silence over the line. She was beginning to wonder if she had caused the general to have a heart attack, which he would have deserved for putting her in this position in the first place, when he cleared his throat. “Could you repeat that, Major?”
“I’d rather not, Sir. It’s too embarrassing.”
“Major, I’m sure that I don’t need to remind you about protocol and…”
“He isn’t really! He’s just screwing with my life and trying to drive me insane. And it’s working! Sir, I’m begging you to please send a guard and haul his butt out of here in shackles!” The general fell silent again. She had the sneaking suspicion that he was trying not to laugh.
O’Neill cleared his throat. “Major Day, I realize that this may be a burden to you, but we discussed this. There isn’t anyone available with the clearance needed to watch him right now. If he comes back I’ll have to throw him back into a cell, which will undo all the progress you’ve made with him so far. Just bear with him. When you get back you can tell your family that the two of you had a big fight and called it off.”
Argh! He was actually using the same logic as Camulus? Life was not fair! “General, I don’t know what I’ve done to make you hate me this much, but I swear I’ll never do it gain. Please just send someone to get him.”
“Then can I at least shoot him?” It came out far too fast and hopeful to sound professional. Deciding that the damage was done, she decided to run with it. “Just once? I’ll aim for something non-vital… like his…”
“Major, I order you not to shoot Camulus unless he does something that compromises the security of the base or endangers the planet.” He paused for a moment and Peace thought she heard him give an aborted chuckle. “I’ll also allow you to shoot him if he does anything to harm a member of your family. Do you understand?” Peace groaned into the phone, rubbing her eyes with her free hand. “Do you understand, Major?”
“Yes, Sir, I understand.”
“Good. Now, have a happy holiday with your family, Major. Try to relax. I’m sure it will all work out in the end.” The phone disconnected without a good bye, leaving Peace staring at the wall in silence.
It was official; she was in Hell.
Camulus swallowed his mouthful of hot chocolate and frowned when the small communication device he had been provided rang. Peace would not bother to call him if she wanted to speak with him, not when they were within the same building. She was more likely to storm down the stairs, eyes burning hot enough to incinerate anyone in her path, and drag him outside to yell at him in private. Curious, he pulled out the small device and opened it.
A smiled crossed the Goa’uld’s features. “That was quick.” He set down the mug and excused himself from the room, stepping outside on the wide deck that overlooked a large pond in the rear area of the property. “I take it that you’ve spoken with Major Day.”
“Yeah. She wants me to send in Special Forces to drag you off in chains.”
“Hmm. She can’t be too angry with me, then, or she’d be requesting your permission to kill me herself.”
“She did that, too.” He heard the human sigh. “Cammy, I thought we discussed this before you left. You have to behave.”
“I am behaving. Do you know anything about the Days? I’m surprised that the major is as stable as she is. This family is obsessed with marriage and childbirth, and the women of the family seem to find something lacking in the major because she hasn’t fallen into line with the rest of them. You should see the man they’ve drug here in hopes of getting her to submit! He’s absolutely laughable.”
“So you’re doing this out of the goodness of your heart.”
He could no longer keep a straight face. “And it torments Major Day. I wasn’t going to until she insulted me earlier.”
“Camulus, allow me to remind you that Major Day is your second chance. She’s the one that’s keeping you alive. She’s gone to bat for you on more than one occasion when I wanted to shove you through the gate with a bright, shiny bow taped to your butt. You’re biting the hand that feeds you.”
Day had stood up for him? That didn’t sound like the woman who never missed a chance to remind him that she was the one in charge. “I assure you, O’Neill, the Major and I will get alone well enough to avoid any unfortunate incidents.”
“See that you do.” He didn’t bother to say ‘good-bye’ before disconnecting, leaving Camulus to close and pocket his phone in silence.
Peaceful had stood up for him when O’Neill wanted to throw him to Baal. He tried to think of a time when she had been in good enough spirits to do something like that, but could not recall a moment when she wasn’t surly and ill tempered. He didn’t like it when people did not behave in a manner in which they were expected.
Peaceful put the final white chocolate rose atop the cake. She didn’t bake often, but the concentration and steady hand required to do a proper decorating job always helped her to tune out her family. Standing back, she wiped her hands clean and smiled at the finished product; a three-layer double fudge cake with chocolate ‘lard’ icing and sculpted white chocolate roses trailing over the tops and sides. A masterpiece fit for a wedding reception or fancy state dinner.
“Can we eat it now?” Dustin’s cherub-like face was inching closer and closer to the cake. Peace reached over and pushed him back with an index finger against his forehead.
“Not yet. You’ll have to wait until after dinner.”
“Not even a lick?”
“You already licked the bowl. Here.” She handed him the remains of rose buds that hadn’t turned out well enough. The child accepted them greedily. She grinned as she watched him devour the chocolate; glad she wasn’t the one who had to clean him up later.
“Oh, Peace, that’s beautiful!” Sammie came in with three bags of ice from the freezer out in the storage shed behind the house. “Have you told Cam you can cook?”
“It’s never come up. I don’t have time to cook at home.” She picked up the top of the cake safe and carefully lowered it over the dessert to protect it, twisting it in place and moving the entire thing to an out-of-the-way place on the counter.
“That’s a shame. You know what they say; the fastest way to a man’s heart…”
“Is to slaughter all of his enemies and help him achieve world domination.”
“That is so you.” Sammie threw a dishtowel at Peace, who caught it and grinned. Both women turned their attention to the door of the kitchen as the sound of a car engine was heard outside. “They’re here.”
“Oh, relax. Justin’s probably filled her in all ready. She’ll be too busy drooling over Cam to pay you any attention.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of.” Peace washed her hands up properly using dishwashing liquid at the kitchen sink. She was still drying them when she heard Aunt Louisa’s in the other room, talking to her mother.
“Where is he, Helen?”
“He’s in the other room with James.”
“Helen! That husband of yours will scare him off talking about the finer points of horse manure, or whatever.”
Sammie grinned over at her sister. “Are you going to hide out in here all night or are you going to go out and take your medicine?”
Peaceful glared at her eldest sister. “Sometimes I really wish I were an only child.” She took a deep breath and walked through the kitchen door and out into the entryway. Aunt Louisa, a handsome aging woman with olive skin and black hair that refused to succumb to gray, was standing there next to her mother. She was looking around, no doubt in hopes of seeing Camulus, when her eyes rested upon the youngest Day.
“Peaceful! Come here and give your auntie a hug!”
An obedient Peace walked over, a forced smile straining her features, and hugged Aunt Louisa. Louisa was a statuesque woman, just an inch short of being six feet tall, which made Peace feel even shorter than she really was. Hugging her was like being grabbled by a lumberjack. “Merry Christmas, Aunt Louisa.”
“Louisa! Let the girl go so she can breathe!” Uncle Henry pulled Peace from his wife’s arms and hugged her as well. “How have you been, Angel-Girl?”
Uncle Henry was far better than his wife. Peace hugged him back happily. “Busy. Working hard from sunup to sunset.”
“I hear you. This crazy wife of mine has been in a tizzy ever since they started sending soldiers over to Iraq. She’s convinced they’re going to ship you off any day now.”
Peace grinned and shook her head. “Not likely.”
“Oh, not likely! You’re the fool who ran off and joined the Air Force! You have to do what you’re told!”
“Louisa!” Henry glared at his wife who merely responded by putting her hands on her hips, her chin lifting a bit. Still, she fell silent. “Well, Peace, where is this young man of yours? Drag him out before your aunt has a stroke.” Louisa gave a ‘humph’ behind him.
“They’re in the study, Darling. Why don’t you go and introduce him to your aunt.” It was not a request. Helen Day rarely made requests when it came to the serious business of possible future sons-in-law. Peace turned and went towards the study, knowing that Louisa would be close behind.
Camulus and her father were facing one another over a chessboard. Chess was one of James Day’s favorite ways to hide from large gatherings. Both men looked up when Peace entered, followed by Henry and Louisa. James smiled broadly and got to his feet, beaming at his only brother. The two men hugged in greeting.
James turned towards Camulus, who was standing up from his seat. “Henry, I want you to meet Major Camulus Jones, United States Army.”
Henry smiled and shook Camulus’ hand. “Pleasure to meet you, Son. Mighty brave of Peace to bring you home in the middle of this chaos, and you’ve only got one half of us here so far.”
Camulus looked surprised. “One half?”
“Oh, sure.” Henry let go of the other man’s hand. “This is just James’ brood, six grown children and eighteen grand children. Louisa and I had five kids of our own and twelve grand children so far. They probably won’t all get here until the day before Christmas.” He smiled over at his wife and waved her towards him. “This is my better half, Louisa.”
Camulus gave the dreaded ‘Aunt Louisa’ his warmest, most charming smile. However, it didn’t seem to work as well as it normally did. The handsome woman looked him over from head to toe with an appraising gaze, her dark eyes unreadable and her expression cold.
“Well, where did she find you?”
Camulus arched a single brow at the woman’s abrupt behavior. “We met at the base. We work together.”
“I thought that wasn’t allowed.”
“It wouldn’t be if I were her superior or she mine. As it is I’m Army; she’s Air Force. It’s a fortunate little loop hole.”
Louisa folded her arms across her chest with a ‘humph’. “That’s rather foolish, isn’t it? What if one of you gets transferred to another base somewhere? What then?”
Camulus flicked his gaze back towards the door. Peace was now leaning against the doorframe, an amused grin on her face as she watched the show. Deciding that if ‘Aunt Louisa’ was going to be rude then there was no reason for him to pretend to any niceties, he sat back down in the chair he had been using before, relaxing into the leather cushion. “That is something the two of us will discuss should it ever arise. It would be difficult, I am certain, but it isn’t impossible.”
Louisa narrowed her dark eyes. “You mean you’re just going to let her carry on with this Air Force foolishness? I had hoped that once she’s found a man he’d put an end to this and make her get out.”
Camulus frowned at the woman’s acerbic nature. He looked back towards the door where Peace was rolling her eyes, apparently used to this line of attack. “Why would I do that?”
Louisa Day gave him an incredulous expression. “Because she needs to settle down and raise a family! Not go gallivanting all over the globe getting shot at.”
“I hardly see where it is any of your concern what Peaceful chooses as a career.” The room fell silent. Louisa looked at him in shock. James and Henry exchanged a look over Camulus’ head. Peace blinked, her jaw falling open. “But since you have insisted on making it your business, I would never ask her to leave the Air Force if it wasn’t what she wanted to do. She’s an exemplary officer and a credit to the uniform. As for children, there are many women who serve who also raise families. I see no reason at all for her to walk away from her commission.”
Aunt Louisa snapped her mouth closed with an audible click, her chin rising up defiantly. She turned on one heel and marched towards the door. Before exiting she looked right at her niece. “He won’t do.” Peace’s brow rose as she stepped aside to let the angry woman exit the room.
Henry gave a deep chuckle. “Oh, I’m not getting much sleep tonight. She’s gonna be complaining until daybreak.” He gave Camulus a pat on the shoulder. “Glad you could make it, Son. Welcome to the mad house.” He walked past and out of the study.
Peaceful was giving him an odd look, as though no sure what to do. Camulus gave her a brief, inquiring look, but couldn’t keep from smiling. He had a feeling that ‘Aunt Louisa’ was going to be more amusing that his ‘keeper’ ever was. He turned his attention back to the chessboard, intent on continuing the game.
He didn’t hear anyone approach him, but he was aware of it when two small hands framed his face and turned it back upwards. He got just a glimpse of delicate features and green eyes before Peace pressed a sweet, gentle kiss on his lips. It was surprising if nothing else, and just as he was going to start participating, she broke it off.
“Thank you.” Her smile was grateful before she let him go and walked out of the study. He heard James Day chuckle warmly before he resumed his own seat across from him.
“Cam, you seem like a smart boy, but you’d better try harder to not look surprised when my daughter kisses you. Otherwise Louisa and Helen are going to realize this is all a farce.” He reached out and moved his knight into position.
There was a rustle of activity in the front den; caused by eighteen children all trying to figure out which brightly wrapped packages belonged to whom. Camulus, freshly showered and dressed, spared them an amused glance as he came down the stairs. He was about to walk past when one of the boys called out to him. “Hey, Uncle Cam! Where’s Aunt Peace’s present?”
“I beg your pardon?”
The boy, one of the older ones, pointed to a large package wrapped in glossy white paper and dressed with an elaborate silver ribbon and bow. “There’s one here from her to you, but I couldn’t find the one from you to her.”
He frowned and moved towards the tree, crouching down to examine the package. It was rectangular and thick, and surprisingly heavy when he picked it up. Attached to the ribbon was a white card with ‘To: Camulus, From: Peace’ written in silver calligraphy.
“Nice paper. That’s a high dollar wrap job, there.” He turned to see Sammie standing in the doorway. “She either took it to a professional wrap stand or got it at one of those fancy little boutiques. She must really think the world of you. My little sister hates to shop.”
“Time’s up.” One of the boys took the package from him and put it back under the tree. “That’s the house rule. You can’t hold a present more than twenty seconds. The adults don’t want you to have time to guess correctly.”
Camulus stood up, frowning. Sammie arched a brow. “Don’t tell me you forgot to bring her present. That’s not a good way to kick off a relationship, Cam.”
“I didn’t forget. I… I didn’t think we were exchanging gifts this year.” It had never occurred to him that Peace would give him anything. She didn’t like him most of the time.
“She’s not about to let you be the only person without a gift. Tell you what; I’m going into town to pick up some last minute items that were on order and a few things for the Barn Blast. You can tag along, if you like. Maybe you could find something nice.”
“Find something nice for what?” Juliet had come downstairs, turning down the top of her turtleneck as she walked.
“Cam still needs to get a gift for Trouble.”
“Oooh! Shopping! Count me in.” Juliet grinned brightly. “I’ll go raid the hubby’s wallet.” She bounded back upstairs.
He had never thought that he would be expected to provide a gift to anyone, but now he supposed it made sense considering the season. He considered the heavy, perfectly wrapped present with his name on it and found himself wondering what his keeper had gotten for him. Also on his mind was how he was supposed to purchase anything considering that he didn’t truly have a means to get money here.
The answer came to him quickly. “If you’ll excuse me. I need to get my coat.”
“Sure thing. Don’t worry about Peace. Mom and the kids will tell her where we’ve gone.”
He nodded and went upstairs. He took the coat from the chair in his room and crossed over to Peace’s room. The doors in this house had no locks, save for the ones on the bathing facilities. He opened the door and looked in, spying the small form of the woman still asleep in the bed.
He walked over and looked down at her. He had never seen her while she was asleep. Usually she was up, perfectly groomed and breathing fire. Asleep she almost seemed to live up to her namesake. The sweet, frilly bedcovers accentuated her doll-like features and her short blond hair was tousled in an endearing fashion. He smiled to himself as he turned around to find her slim pocket book. It was on the wooden seat before her small dresser. Opening it, he took out the slim wallet and flipped through the cards until he found the slim piece of plastic that her superiors had given her so that she could access SGC funds if needed. Either of them could use it in an emergency, it was just that she had possession of it as the one ‘in charge’.
He had fastened the pocketbook closed and slipped the card into his own wallet, empty except for some fake identification provided for him, when she stirred restlessly. Her eyes flickered open blearily, but she grew more alert when she saw him. “What is it? Are you all right?”
The genuine concern in her voice took him by surprise. “I am fine. I was merely wondering if you were still asleep. I don’t see how anyone could be with so many children around.”
She sighed and snuggled back down into her pillow. “It’s a gift.” She seemed reluctant to get up. “Anything else?”
He couldn’t help but smile. She seemed so docile when she was just woken up. “Nothing else. Your mother is busy preparing the morning meal. She’ll be worried if you don’t eat.”
“I’ll make a sandwich from the leftover ham. She’s used to it.”
He leaned down and pulled the cover back up over her shoulder. “Then sleep. You’ll need all your strength to deal with Aunt Louisa.” She gave him a look that was half suspicious and half tiredness before her eyes fluttered closed and she snuggled her pillow again. He left the room quietly and went downstairs to join Samantha and Juliet.
“All ready?” Sammie was wrapping a scarf about her neck as Juliet looked over a list. “Mom gave us a few things that she wants us to pick up in town.”
Camulus nodded without comment and took Juliet’s coat from the back of a chair to hold it open for her. The woman gave him a warm smile as she slipped her arms into it. “We’re taking my car. It’s newer, a four-by-four and has studded tires. Mom’s paranoid we’ll go off the side of the mountain in Sammie’s mini-van.”
She did sleep in longer. A little after eleven her mother had resorted to sending in the ‘Morning Brigade’ to get her up. No one could sleep through six children, all under the age of seven, jumping on your bed while screaming your name. After a few whacks with a pillow and some tickles, she chased them out of her room and hit the shower. Once she was cleaned, dried and dressed, she went out to face the day.
The house was in the usual holiday uproar. Somewhere there were siblings bickering. In another part of the house there were her brothers, father and uncle watching a game and ‘arm chair coaching’. Through one window she saw that the annual contest to see who could build the best snow fort had already begun. She pondered whether or not she should go outside and help the girls out so they’d be better prepared when the snowball war began as she went into the kitchen.
Helen and Louisa were already busy with preparations for that night’s meal. A pair of pork roasts, loaded down with carrots, onions, potatoes and celery, were being slid into the main oven as Louisa rolled out her pie crust. Aunt Louisa made the best piecrusts, light and flaky and always buttery. Peace stole a pecan half from a bowl on her way to the fridge. During the holidays the kitchen was usually reserved for dinner. Mom would make simple breakfasts, but lunch was usually leftovers from the night before or simple sandwiches. Truth be told, for the women lunch was usually a slice of pie or cake. Holiday calories didn’t count.
She had pulled out what was left of the ham from last night and set it aside before reaching back in for the mayonnaise, mustard and pickle relish. “Where’s your ring?”
“Huh?” She found the dill relish hiding behind the milk and pulled it out. Aunt Louisa was rolling out the circle of dough with long, strong movements.
“You’re engagement ring. Where is it? Hasn’t that young man of yours bought you one?” Even after all her years in this country, Louisa still spoke with a detectable Italian accent.
“We haven’t bothered.” Crap. She hadn’t thought of a ring.
“Why not? Every girl should get a ring.”
Thinking fast she considered all plausible explanations. “We work with a lot of machinery. Most people in our job don’t wear rings, or even watches. There’s too much danger of them getting caught in something and tearing your hand off.” That was just the right amount of gruesomeness, apparently, because Louisa stopped rolling her piecrust to cross herself, muttering a prayer in Italian. “Besides, you know I’ve never been able to keep up with jewelry.”
“Peaceful! Don’t traumatize your aunt.” Helen glared at her daughter as she measured out rice to go in a broccoli and cheese casserole.
“Why not? You saw how she was treating Cam last night. She acted as though he was something she found on the bottom of her shoe.” She truly had. Louisa had snubbed Camulus something horrible, doting on David Hatchley instead. She knew she was in the wrong, as well, because the older woman fidgeted uncomfortably.
“I don’t like that he’s going to let you keep working. A woman’s place is in the home.”
“Wake up and smell the new millennia!” Peace slathered mayo and mustard on bread and layered ham and pickle relish on until she had a thick sandwich. “Lots of women have both a career and a family these days. In this economy it’s often a must. I happen to like what I do and Cam knows it.” She put back the mayo, mustard and pickles and grabbed a soda from the bottom shelf before sitting down to eat.
“What exactly do you do in that mountain of yours?”
“I told you, Mom, deep space radar telemetry.”
“What does that mean, exactly?” Louisa carefully put the crust into the pan. “You were a good enough student, Peace, but you were never overly intelligent.”
She gave her aunt an incredulous look. “Feeling the love here. You know, with relatives like you who needs in-laws?” She was through half of her sandwich, washing it down with her soda. “Where’s Cam?”
Helen passed her a paper towel to wipe a spot of mustard from the side of her lips. “Sammie and Julie took him into town to help with some last minute shopping.”
Peace nearly chocked on a bite of sandwich. “What?”
“Don’t worry, they took Mark’s new SUV and Juliet has never had a wreck.”
Peace got up, wiping her mouth off hurriedly. “How long have they been gone?”
“Peace, I know the two of you are in love, but you can survive being apart for a few hours.” She noted that her daughter was making a run to the kitchen door. “Peaceful Heavenly Day you haven’t finished your breakfast!”
“No time!” She ran up the stairs two at a time and hit her bedroom door running. She kicked the door closed and grabbed her cell phone, hitting the pre-programmed number for the general. It rang three times before it was picked up.
“Sir, I have a situation.”
“Tell your mother that it’s your wedding and you don’t have to use pink taffeta if you don’t want to.”
“General, Camulus is gone.”
There was a pause. “Excuse me.”
“He apparently left with my sisters while I was sleeping, Sir.”
“And why would your sisters go anywhere with your fiancé?”
“Shopping. Mom says they’re in Mark’s new SUV.”
“And this helps how?”
“It’s one of those new ones with the On Star setup. I need someone with a bit more pull than me to get them to track the GPS on it.” She sat down on the bed, pulling on her boots. Standing back up she grabbed her suitcase and put it on the bed, unzipping a compartment inside the bottom to take out her shoulder holster and side arm.
“I see. I’m very surprised at you, Major. The holidays seem to have made you lax.”
She sighed. “Sir, with all due respect, could we please hold off on the lecture? I know I screwed up and you can court martial me, dock me three months pay, whatever you want to do. Right now I need to know where that SUV is.”
“Agreed, Major. Give me something to work with.”
She gave him the information on Mark and Juliet for him to use with the On Star people as she fastened her shoulder holster and made sure she was loaded. The call ended and she closed the phone with a flip before slipping on her coat and heading back downstairs.
“Peaceful Day, where are you going?” Helen was wiping her hands off on a dishtowel, frowning at her youngest child.
“Uhm… just something I gotta do, Mom. I’ll be back later.” She kissed her mother on the cheek before running outside. There was fresh snowfall on the jeep and she cursed under her breath as she scooped it off the windows with her bare hands as quickly as she could. She didn’t have time to waste to get out a scraper. There was a brief struggle to get the door open, but she did manage it.
She was halfway down the mountain when her phone rang. She flipped it open. “Day.”
“Major, this is Brad with On Star. We have located the vehicle in question. It’s parked outside the Walnut Mall.”
So they did at least get to the mall. “Thank you.”
“Do you require police assistance?”
“No, thank you. I’ll call them directly if I need them.”
“Thank you, Major. Have a nice day.”
Have a nice day? She closed the phone and sped up as much as she dared on the rural road. Once she hit pavement she felt a lot better. There wasn’t much traffic out, thank goodness, until she reached town and had to deal with everything from bad drivers to traffic lights. She did, eventually, reach the mall and locate her brother’s car. Unfortunately the parking lot was packed, forcing her to park her jeep in the very back and walk across the expanse of asphalt to get into the mall itself.
The mall was crowded, which she hated. They were playing canned muzak, which she hated. There was a large, shopping center Santa in the middle of the foyer, which she… okay, she didn’t hate the Santa.
She started to make her way through the crowd, moving slowly and casting her eyes from side to side to look into the glass windows of the various stores, watching for any sign of a tall, bronze-skinned man with thick dark hair. She figured he’d be easy to find. He’d be the one with the women crowded about him.
She wasn’t jealous.
Moving through another crossroad within the mall, she ignored the person trying to give away free samples of gourmet cookies, blew off the woman trying to show her the latest fragrance and didn’t even blink at the poor kid dressed up as an elf in front of the toy store. She tried to think of where her sister would have been going when she rounded a corner and heard Cam’s low baritone.
“She’s not really the type to need anything that extravagant. She’s military. The only time she dresses up is in a uniform, and this would not meet regulations.”
“Surely she wears something other than a uniform when you go out together.”
She stopped and looked over, spying Camulus in a store filled with glitter and shine. Looking up, she felt the blood freeze in her veins. What was he doing in Smiths’ Jewelers? She looked back in the store and saw Hyram Smith, the old man who was the family patriarch, overseeing the conversation between Cam and Joey Smith.
Joey still had a face that could stop traffic. She clenched her hands into fists within her pockets, old pain flooding back in on her. She felt her strength falter for a moment, but then shook her head and took in a deep, bracing breath. Taking her eyes from Joey she looked over at Cam. A smirk touched her lips as she realized why Joey looked to be in pain. He never was able to stand anyone being better looking than himself.
Making sure that her coat still covered her sidearm she made her way towards the jewelry store.
It had been halfway to the town when Juliet pointed out that either Helen or Louisa was going to ask why Peace wasn’t wearing an engagement ring. He considered making that Peace’s ‘Christmas Present’, but Sammie had been dead set against the idea.
“You can’t give her an engagement ring as a Christmas gift. The engagement ring is a promise that you’re going to marry her and a gift in it’s own right. A Christmas gift is supposed to be separate.”
They had left him to his own devices once they reached the indoor marketplace. It was different from what he was used to, louder and more chaotic. The holiday decorations and music gave the place an almost unreal quality to it. He had explored for a bit, amazed at how these humans seemed to lose all sense of rationality during this season. They seemed to be battling over unattainable prizes in some of the shops geared towards children. The jewelers, thankfully, were more docile.
He examined them from the outside, making his selection of which to patronize by the mannerisms and dress of the attendants. If he were going to truly irritate O’Neill, then he needed to make sure that the shop he went into was likely to be the most overpriced. He settled, finally, on the one called ‘Smiths’ because of the handsome man attending it. The human had a smug, superior air about him that needed to be taken down a notch.
“Can I help you, sir?”
Camulus noted that the man already seemed less than comfortable with him. This might be more fun than he had previously thought. “Yes, I’m looking for an engagement ring.”
“Very good. Any ideas on what cut or size?” The man led him over to a case with several black velvet boxes of rings. Camulus looked over them with a curious eye and pointed out the marquis. The clerk pulled out the box.
They were nice rings, all of them, though he had trouble imagining any of them on Peace’s finger. It wasn’t because she wasn’t truly his intended; it was because none of them were… her. They were too cold, too elegant. She needed something that was more like her own wild temperament.
The clerk noticed his displeasure. “Is there something wrong with the selection, sir? Perhaps you had something else in mind.”
“Yes, something more suited to my fiancé. She’s… spirited. These are all too reserved.”
“Well, then, perhaps you should tell us a bit about her.” This came from an older gentleman with the feeling of someone ‘in charge’. “I’m sure we have something here that will suit her.”
Camulus noticed that the younger man shifted a bit now that his superior was there. Upon closer look he thought he could detect a familial resemblance between the two of them. “She’s small, smaller than me. Short blond hair, green eyes. Easy to anger and military.”
“Military? Is this a local girl?”
“She is from around here, yes. Peaceful Day.”
The young clerk drew in a sharp breath before he could stop himself, his face paling. The older man, however, smiled broadly. “Well, I never thought I’d see the say that some young man managed to get that girl to stand still long enough to kiss her, let alone marry her. Congratulations, son. James Day’s always known how to grow’em and that girl is his best piece of work yet.” He waved Camulus towards another case. “You’ll want something with a little color to it.”
The older man pulled out a tray of rings that were primarily diamond, but with other precious gems as well. “Now, if I remember correctly, Peaceful has her grandmother’s eyes. Dora Day was a remarkable woman right up until the day she passed away. Had the most beautiful green eyes, real light, like new spring leaves.”
“You have something in mind?”
“Indeed I do, son.” The rings he showed him were diamond and emerald, set in various bands of platinum and white and yellow gold. They were a vast improvement over the others. “Now, Peaceful was always built like her grandmother, small and fragile looking. You’ll be wanting a size five band for her.”
Camulus looked over the rings. These were far easier to picture on Peace than the previous selection. He disregarded platinum; it would have been too cold against her coloring. In the end he selected an exquisite creation set in 18k gold, an oval cut center stone with emerald baguettes surrounding it. “This one.”
“And excellent choice. Joseph,” the clerk stepped forward, “ring this up for, I’m sorry but you didn’t give me your name.”
“Camulus? Nice sounding name.” The old man grinned as he walked to ring and his clerk over to the far side of the shop. Camulus pretended to be interested in a tray of diamond bracelets, all the while taking advantage of his superior hearing.
“Dad, you can’t cut the price that much. You’ll take away all the commission.”
The older man leveled a steely gaze at the clerk, his voice low so as not to be overheard. “I don’t think you realize just how badly you messed things up for us when you pulled that little stunt of yours. James Day may not have ever said a bad word about us, but folks around here noticed that we weren’t his favorite people any longer. You almost cost this family it’s livelihood. The least you can do it to forgo a fat commission. Now see if the customer needs anything else, and be polite about it.”
Camulus schooled his features into passivity as the clerk returned. “Is there anything else you would like to see, sir?”
Cam smiled. He got the distinct impression that this toady of a man didn’t like him, even without his connection to the Day family. “Yes, I also need a gift. Something nice, something special. For Peace.”
A little muscle ticked at the corner of the man’s eye. “Of course. Let me show you a few of our more elegant pieces.” He pulled out a velvet case with several bracelets laid out for display. Each was gold and diamond, staring with a single line of stones and going up to some that were almost an inch wide. The man pulled up one of the wider ones. “What about this. Ladies often enjoy the solid weight of a heavier piece.”
“She’s not really the type to need anything that extravagant. She’s military. The only time she dresses up is in a uniform, and this would not meet regulations.”
“Surely she wears something other than a uniform when you go out together.”
“Sometimes.” Actually, he liked the bracelet, but he didn’t want to let the man go too soon. He was about to ask to see something else when he heard a familiar voice.
“Cam? I’d wondered where you ran off to.” Peaceful came into the shop from outside with a smile on her face that didn’t quite reach her eyes. He recognized the look of displeasure, and when she wrapped her arms around one of his and squeezed it a bit more than was needed, he was certain she was furious. “What are you up to?”
“I am shopping for your Christmas present, so you really shouldn’t be here.”
“My Christmas present?” She didn’t seem to know how to responds to that particular answer. The clerk cleared his throat, drawing her attention towards him. Camulus saw the shift in her eyes, from anger to something else. He had learned to read his keeper’s emotions quite well in the time that he had known her. He could tell when she was angry, sad, nervous or happy. What he saw now was something that he had never seen before, not even directed towards himself. It was hate, pure, unfettered hate. “Joey. You’re looking well.”
The old man came back over, the small ring box in his age worn hand. “Peaceful Day, you certainly have grown up into a beauty, just like your grandmother.”
“Hello, Mr. Smith.”
She seemed uncomfortable with the present location. Camulus was suddenly unwilling to force her to stay. “Since you’re here, I might as well give you your ring.”
“My ring?” She looked up at him, puzzled. He smiled and held his hand out for the ring box. She watched as he opened the box and removed the diamond and emerald ring. “I can’t have your Aunt Louisa thinking that we aren’t serious about this.” He took hold of her left hand even as she was shaking her head.
“Cam, you don’t have to get me a ring.”
“Yes, I do.” Mr. Smith had been correct. Her hand did seem rather fragile and delicate, and the tiny ring slipped over her finger easily. He looked down and was surprised at just how right the ring looked on her hand. She seemed to be uncertain of how to respond to it as well, her eyes fixed on the ring. He recovered first. “Now, why don’t you go find your sisters so that you’re present will be a surprise?”
She shook herself. “I don’t need a present, Cam. That’d be too much. This is fine.”
He gave a snort. “With your family? I’d be shot.”
“Peace? What are you doing here?” They both turned to see Julie and Sammie coming in, each burdened down with purchases. Sammie gave her sister a mischievous grin. “Can’t let him out of your sight for a few hours. You’ve got it bad, Sister Dear.”
Peaceful was quickly recovering and gave her sister an irritated glare. Camulus smiled and took advantage of his new allies. “I was trying to get her to leave so I could finish buying her present, but she’s being stubborn.”
Julie rolled her eyes. “That’s our girl.” She hit the smaller woman in the leg with a handful of packages. “Move, Brat. Let the man be sweet. Believe me, they grow out of it after you’ve got them locked in. I can’t remember the last time that brother of yours bought me jewelry.”
Juliet and Samantha herded her from the shop, allowing Camulus to turn his attention back to ‘Joey’. He saw that the clerk was still watching Peace with an unpleasant expression in his eyes, a mixture of resentment and disdain. It was obvious that doing anything to help out Peaceful Day, or even another member of the Day family, was not something he was willing to do. All the more reason for Camulus to take his time in selecting the perfect gift for his fiancé.
Ways to kill General O’Neill for this: #6 – Two Words: Strategic Nuke
She picked up the small box, about six inches square. It was wrapped in heavy, low-gloss red paper and had an elaborate ribbon of red velvet and gilt around it. Curious, she shook it next to her ear until someone snatched it from her hands. “Aunt Peace, you know the rules.”
“They don’t apply to me. I’m a grown up!”
“Peaceful!” She flinched and looked over to where her mother was standing. With a huff, she stood up and walked away from the tree, children giggling. Camulus smiled from the doorway of the study before turning around to join James in another game of chess. For a man who had only served briefly in the military, and as an enlisted man at that, he was a skillful strategist.
“She certainly tore out of here in a hurry when she found out you’d gone into town.”
“I think she was afraid of what her sisters might say about her in her absence.” He took his seat, examining the board.
“Hope the jeweler lets you take that ring back without a fuss. Where did you go?”
He moved his pawn forward. “Smiths. I got the impression that they aren’t a comfortable acquaintance of yours.” He noted that his host had gone rather still and frowned. “In fact, I don’t think I’ve seen Peace that hostile towards anyone, not even myself.”
“Yeah, well, my Angel Girl has good reason to want Joseph Smith to die a slow and painful death. He hurt her badly.” James made a counter move. “He’s the reason I knew the two of you aren’t really engaged.”
“You’re too good looking. Peaceful hasn’t had anything to do with handsome men who aren’t a blood relation since she was fifteen. She feels none of you can be trusted.”
Camulus made a non-committal noise in his throat and returned his attention to the game. It lasted well over an hour before they were called to dinner. David Hatchley, he was pleased to see, had not returned to the house and Aunt Louisa seemed even more disgruntled towards him now that Peace was wearing her ‘engagement ring’, which made Peace actually want to talk about it. He couldn’t have asked for a better partner in crime.
“Take a walk with me?” Peace threaded her arm through his and tugged him towards the front door after dinner while the older children went off to clean the dishes, grumbling all the way. They put on their coats and headed outside. “You realize that the general is going to hit the roof when he sees that bill.”
“That’s part of the reason I did it.” The snow crunched beneath their boots as they made their way to the fenced in lot off the house stables. Camulus leaned up against it, folding his arms over one another. Peace turned around and pulled herself up so that she was sitting on the top rail.
“You shouldn’t have taken off like that.”
“Afraid I might run away?”
She sighed. “Camulus, I know you think I’m your watch dog, but I’m also your caretaker. Your safety is my responsibility. The NID, the Trust, there are people out there who know about you and would be more than happy to strap you onto an examining table to dissect you.” She kicked at the iron rung below her foot. “Your safety and well being are my responsibility.”
“So you were worried about me?”
“I’m always worried about you. Half the time I’m worried that you’ll drive me insane, but it’s my job to be worried that you’re safe.”
This was new. He turned himself so that he was leaning against the railing with his shoulder, looking up at the woman next to him. “Why did you get chosen for this job?”
“Truthfully?” He nodded. “I opened my big, fat mouth.”
She sighed. “It was right after O’Neill took command, when we thought Baal had SG-1. You had been brought in and spoken with him, and obviously were your usual, charming, asinine self. I was in the elevator on my way up to medical for a routine eval when O’Neill and that guy the Pentagon sent were talking. The general was complaining about your attitude and I… kinda mentioned that you sounded like one of my younger nephews; spoiled rotten and impossible to reason with.”
“Well, you were! Most of the System Lords do, for that matter. You all behave like irrational toddlers. I suggested that maybe you needed a babysitter. Someone to keep an eye on you while at the same time providing you with one person to whom you could make your requests and voice your complaints.”
“So you’re my ‘babysitter’.”
“I didn’t volunteer for it. O’Neill was throwing a hissy fit after that stunt you pulled with the power source. He passed me in the hallway on his way to confront you and grabbed me. He told me to wait outside the door when he went in to talk to you and the next thing I knew I was being assigned to the job.” She shrugged. “I was as surprised as you.”
“That’s fair enough. I thought it was laughable that he thought you an acceptable choice at being my liaison.”
“And why would that be laughable?”
He smirked. “You looked better suited to being in someone’s bed than in a uniform.”
“Ah!” She balled up her fist and made a swipe at his nose. He was expecting it, however, and caught her hand. “Oh, that does it! Just see if I go out of my way to save your butt any time soon. We’re a long way from the base, Buddy, and I bet those money guys in the Trust would pay me a lot of money to turn you over.”
He laughed. “Now, now. That’s no way for a loving bride-to-be to speak to her future lord and master.”
“You’re a little behind the times, Cammy. Husbands aren’t the lords of anything anymore. Not even their own minds. Women rule all.”
“So that’s what’s wrong with this world.”
“Careful. Remember, I’m the one who keeps you safe.” She kicked him lightly, her expression mirthful. “You do realize we’re being watched, don’t you?”
“I figured that we were. Your mother or the children?”
“Aunt Louisa in all her tyrannical glory.”
“Really?” He grinned as he changed his position. She gave him a puzzled frown as he pushed her knees apart so he could stand between them, wrapping his arms around her back.
“What are you doing?”
“Keeping up appearances. She is supposed to believe that we are in love.”
“So you’re going to get grabby on me?” She leaned away, her expression skeptical.
“What’s wrong? You don’t think you can make it convincing?” His expression was challenging. She narrowed her eyes before framing his face in her hands and lowering her mouth to his.
There was a lingering sweetness from the pie they had eaten for desert clinging to his lips and tongue. The angle between the fence and the kitchen window was such that they would be in profile to the house, so she made the kiss as convincing as she was able. It wasn’t that hard, actually. Camulus seemed very well versed in the art of kissing, far more so than she. She let him take the lead and was rewarded with a kiss that she was able to feel down to her toes.
Through the small sliver her eyes were still open she saw the change in the light, a sign that Aunt Louisa had snapped the curtains on the kitchen window closed, most likely in a huff. Some part of her told her that they could stop now but she just wasn’t able to pull away. The arms around her tightened, pulling her off of the cold metal of the fence and flush with a body that was substantially larger and stronger than her own. The winter chill was forgotten as she wrapped her arms about his neck.
There was a low, feral growl from somewhere deep in Camulus’ throat, bringing her back to reality. She wrenched herself away from him with a gasp, bringing her hands back to his shoulders. “Down boy! She’s gone.”
Camulus’ eyes flashed, giving her a start of concern, but he did release his hold on her, allowing her to slide down until her feet touched the snow covered ground. “Do you think she believed it?”
To the untrained ear he would have sounded perfectly normal. She, however, had learned to recognize his various moods and could detect the faint tremor to his voice. “She’s probably in there tell Mom that we’re practically having sex out here in the open.”
“We’ll save that for the next time she decides to be nosy.”
Peace blinked. He sounded dead serious about that. “Uh… yeah. Not likely.” She tugged her coat straight.
“How much longer does this holiday last?” He seemed desirous of changing the subject. That was just fine with her.
“Tomorrow’s the Barn Blast. The day after that is Christmas Eve when we have the big dinner and open the presents. Christmas Day everyone who’s married packs up and goes to their other relations. We’ll likely head for the base the day after that.”
“Hmm.” Camulus looked up into the clear, night sky. “What did a mortal man do to make you hate him so much?”
“I beg your pardon?”
He looked back at her. “I’ve seen you angry, witnessed you when you’re mad enough to kill, but I’ve never seen you look at anyone with hatred, not even me. Yet you truly despise that clerk at the jewelry store. Your father says that he’s the reason you don’t trust men. What did he do?”
She took a deep breath, putting her hands in her coat pockets and stepping away from him. “It’s personal.”
“If I am to entrust my safety and well-being to you, then I need to know that I can trust you. How can I do that if you won’t tell me what it takes to turn you away from a person completely?”
She gave a short, bitter laugh. “What it takes? It takes betraying me. It takes breaking my heart into a thousand little pieces. It takes knocking me up and then…” she stopped, her throat constricting too tightly to continue. She took a deep breath and collected herself. “I was fifteen, Joey was seventeen. Before that summer I never paid attention to anything male that didn’t have at least four legs.”
She turned back around to face him. The scant light from the house windows reflected in her eyes. “He was the catch of the county. All the girls were crazy about him. A little kid like me who had never been kissed before didn’t stand a chance. He turned my head so many directions I couldn’t think straight. Then I came up pregnant. I told him… and he just laughed. He said it wasn’t any concern of his and moved on to the next girl.
“I’ve never been that scared, not before and not since. I didn’t know what to do. I had no idea how to tell my parents. I got caught up in the stress of it all and it made me careless, careless enough that I got thrown off a horse I was supposed to be training. I got thrown from a horse. I hit the ground hard. A high ankle sprain and a really bad wrist sprain, then the cramping started. I was about… two months along then? Dad wrapped me up in his coat and hurried me into town.”
Camulus frowned. “What happened?”
“Dad played stupid. He still does, actually. He has six living children and there were a couple of miscarriages in there somewhere. He’s smart enough to know all the signs, but he played stupid. Pretended like he just thought that I had a really bad menstrual cycle that month and never breathed a word of it to Mom.”
“But if this Joey wasn’t going to claim the child…”
“Yeah, that. Dad played stupid to me, but I’m pretty sure that he said something to Hyram Smith about it. Next we knew, Joey’s dad yanked him out of his senior year of high school and shipped him off to some military academy. The Smith’s have money, and Joey was always the pampered son until that year. Suddenly, he no longer got the fastest cars, no longer had an endless supply of pocket money… his father made him work for every penny he got while he continued to spoil his other two children. Joey’s always blamed me for that.”
“And your father’s sudden ‘private’ fall out with the family damaged their business dealings.” It made sense. The eldest son’s indiscretions, though never made clear, had tainted their livelihood.
“The Days and the Smiths. We’ve both been here about the same amount of time; both of us have a lot of influence in the county. The difference is that the Smiths are Country Club while we’re just Country. Still, not much happens in this county that doesn’t get the approval of both families.”
“That I can understand. I often had noble houses under my dominion with the same balance. Some where more highly regarded by the merchants and upper class while others were more loved by the soldiers and commoners.”
She tilted her head to one side. “Which did you prefer?”
He considered the choice for a moment. “The merchants were needed to keep wealth and supplies coming in, but the soldiers and commoners got more work done. You can’t succeed without one of them, but if I had to choose… I would have chosen those who were more like the Days.”
She smiled, her expression still somewhat sad from reliving the past. “I bet you say that to all your body guards.”
Camulus laughed. “In the past my body guards have been Jaffa warriors who at least looked as formidable as they were.”
“Are you saying I look like a cream puff?”
He arched a brow at her. “I’m saying that should you ever come face to face with Baal, you should try batting your eyes at him and looking coy before you try hitting him. Trust me when I tell you that your appearance is your best weapon.”
She wrinkled her nose. “Ewww… what if he wants to kiss me?”
The image of Baal touching her flooded his mind. It was not a pleasant thought. “Then I’ll rip out his tongue for you.”
She laughed out of surprise, covering her mouth. “You certainly know how to win a girl’s heart, Cammy.”
He gave her a mock bow. “I have often been accused of being too charming for my own good.”
The door to the kitchen swung open as Justin leaned out. “Hey, you two! Mom says to stop playing tonsil hockey and get your butts in here before you freeze to death!”
Peace glared at her brother. “Oh, go shove your head in a feeding trough!” Justin laughed and closed the door. “I don’t suppose you do anything about annoying siblings, do you?”
Camulus smiled. “Not your siblings. I’m too frightened of your mother.”
“You’re smarter than you look.”
Ways to kill General O’Neill for this: #7 –Deliver him wearing nothing but a strategically placed ribbon to Anise/Freya. Get video.
“Hey! Cam! Give us a hand here!”
He looked over to see Justin and Mark unloading barrels and boxes from one of the vehicles. They were carrying them into the smaller barn that was used for extra hay, tack, blacksmithing supplies and, for tonight, the Barn Blast. He walked over and selected one of the boxes. It was filled with bottles of amber liquid. He carried it into the barn and set it down with others on one of the several tables set up. A stage had been erected at one end of the structure. The women, including Peaceful, were up on ladders and chairs stringing garlands made of greenery and ribbons and riddled with lights. The interior of the barn was starting to look as festive as the house.
“This ‘Barn Blast’, it’s a yearly tradition?”
“For as long as anyone can remember. The Country Club set has their Holiday Cotillion and us working stiffs have the Barn Blast.” Justin took out one of the bottles and examined it. “Ours is cooler. Music, dancing and spirits. Great fun to be had by all and you don’t have to wear a tuxedo to enjoy it.”
Mark grinned. “And the kids stay indoors.”
“Count me in.”
Justin laughed. “Yeah, I imagine the Day Brood can be a bit much for a single guy. Best get used to it. On the bright side, however, you only have to bear with it once or twice a year.”
Mark grinned. “We should warn you, too, that when you and Peace have your first kid, Mom’s gonna move in for a month. She did it with all of us. It about killed her when Justin and I had kids only three weeks apart. She actually tried to convince my wife that, since she had her’s first, she should travel with her to their house.”
“Yeah, if you haven’t figured it out by now, she’s a bit insane.”
“Who’s insane?” David was wheeling in a large chest filled with ice.
“A bit? She’s completely nuts. But we love her anyway.”
“Well, at least I know Peaceful comes by it naturally.” Camulus looked over to where his keeper/bodyguard was currently hanging by her knees from a top railing and frowned.
“Oh, don’t worry. If she falls she’ll only land on her head rather than on anything truly important.” Justin handed him a beer, which he accepted without really noticing it.
“Still, she should take such foolish risks with her life.”
“Uh oh. You’re starting to sound like Aunt Louisa. Don’t let Peace hear you talk like that or you’ll find yourself minus one fiancé.”
Camulus found himself smirking as he looked back towards Justin. “I’d never let that happen.”
“Listen to Mr. Attitude here. How’d you end up with our sister? She usually hates your type.”
Cam shrugged. “I’m very persuasive.”
“Your husband has spiked the eggnog again.”
“My husband always spikes the eggnog. Our brother puts him up to it.”
Peace gave a chuckle. “I told you that this family would corrupt him.”
“Yes, but he was so cute when he proposed. It was raining and his hair was all plastered down from where he had run across campus after he had to go back for the ring.”
“Sammie, you are hopeless.”
“I’m a woman in love. Surely Cam knocked your socks off when he proposed.”
Peace nearly choked on her drink. She coughed a few times before daring to speak. “Hardly. I’m just lucky he doesn’t out rank me or he would have made it an order.”
“You’re the one who ran off and joined the military. You’ve no one to blame but yourself.” Samantha pushed away from the wall and went to join her husband. Peaceful rolled her eyes and gave the crowd a scan. Camulus was easy to find. He was one of the tallest men present and easily the best looking. Also, being her ‘fiancé’ made him an oddity of sorts. How he managed to convince everyone that he was actually going to marry her was a mystery even to her. It should have been obvious to anyone that they were completely wrong for one another.
The party was in full swing. The center floor was filled with dancers and the liquor was flowing freely. The band was really just locals who came in for the sheer pleasure of playing together. The air was heavy with the sweet scent of hay, roasted meat and evergreens. The tree that had been set up in the east corner was draped in garlands the kids had spent all day making from popcorn and cranberries as well as chains made from links of multi-colored construction paper. The scene was like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting; only their Santa was wearing cowboy boots and spurs while doing the two-step.
“I wasn’t sure that your siblings remembered how to interact with people over the age of ten.”
She jumped in surprise. The noise of the crowd had kept her from noticing that Camulus had made his way to her side. He offered her a fresh cup of eggnog, which she accepted. “You’re being nice.”
“I figured it would be expected of me, since I am your fiancé.” He took a drink of something that clearly wasn’t eggnog. “Your brother Justin has been experimenting with various combinations of alcohol. He’s rather good at it.”
“Careful. He has a way of mixing things so that you don’t taste how strong they really are. Some of his creations will knock you on your ass before you can blink.”
“I have a substantial tolerance to intoxicants.”
“Must be nice.” She reminded herself to take it easy on the nog. She had noticed that she was becoming entirely too complacent of late, almost having a tendency to forget that Camulus was, technically, an enemy. It shouldn’t have been possible, but she was finding herself more and more often these days, thinking of him almost like a friend. It disturbed her that she was beginning to think of him during the times she was supposed to be off, like on a rare weekend of after she left for the day. There were times when she would hear a bit of news or see something that she wanted to share with him the next time she saw him, but she never did. She couldn’t let herself get too close.
Camulus was not a friend.
“Would you care to dance?”
She blinked. “What?”
Camulus motioned towards the floor. “Would you care to dance? I’ve been studying them. None of the steps seem too difficult and it would be perfectly acceptable for two people with our perceived connection to step out onto the floor together. In fact, it may even look strange if we did not.” He smiled, taking advantage at her obvious imbalance at the question to take back the drink he had given her and place both it and his own to the side. “Come. Surely you know how. After all, you grew up with these people.”
He took her hand and led her out onto the floor just as a new song started up. It was a waltz, something slow and easy. The warm, gentle weight of his hand at her waist was oddly comforting and disconcerting all at once. He was right, though, she did know how to dance. All Day girls knew how to dance. Helen had insisted. It had been a long time, however, that she had been able to dance with someone without worrying where he might try to put his hands.
“I have a confession to make.”
“And that would be?”
“I’m rather enjoying this Christmas. Although, I’m not looking forward to tomorrow morning, not now that the other half of your family has arrived. They really have doubled the number of children and I shudder to think how loud things will be.”
She laughed. “It is hectic. We don’t have a normal Christmas holiday, not when compared to most families. There are so many of us that it’s hard to get us all rounded up at one time. That’s why this is such an important time for us. In truth, General O’Neill asked me if I would give up my holiday, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do so.”
Camulus tilted his head to one side, studying her. “He would have ordered you to stay in the mountain if you hadn’t brought me along.”
“Most likely. And I would have steadfastly refused to re-up when my time comes around in June had he done so. In the end, however, I opted to bring you along.”
“Thank you. It’s been… educational.”
“Don’t judge all Earth families by this lot. We’re far from typical.”
“I’ve already figured out that much. Most families aren’t this large or this… complex. I realized that when I was visiting with various people here tonight. Are you aware that you are related, either by distant blood or marriage, to at least half of the people here?”
She laughed again. “Yeah, I’m aware of that. The Days have been here for a while. Ever since settlers first started branching out into the area. Our family made up part of the founding members of the town.”
He twirled her around and off the floor, ending up someplace set apart from the others, a dimly lit corner where they sat down on bales of hay, side by side. “I’m curious: why do you resist your mother’s attempts to see you wed?”
She shrugged, pulling out a stalk of hay and playing with it. “It may happen one day, if I can find someone who will accept me for me and not try to turn me into the perfect wife. That’s why I dodge Mom’s choices; they all want a homebody. I want someone…” she trailed off, not certain how to finish.
“Someone more like you. A warrior, or at least a patriot. Someone who will understand the drive you have to protect your country and your planet, and will not stand in your way or try to stop you when you find yourself required to put your life on the line.”
She pondered this for a moment and nodded. “Yeah, that sounds about right.” She looked over at him, smiling. “You have a guy like that in your back pocket somewhere?”
Camulus shook his head. “Even if I did I wouldn’t hand him over. He’d probably find a way to get you reassigned.”
“Why would he?”
“Jealousy, of course. He wouldn’t want to have to fight with me for your attentions.” That got him the unrestrained laugh he was looking for. He watched as she let her head fall back, her doll-like features bright. He leaned in towards her, pressing his lips against the soft skin of her jaw. She turned her head in towards him, but not enough to invite a kiss.
“I really haven’t had that much to drink.”
The message was clear. He stopped his actions. “Pity. Shall I get you another glass?”
“Nice try, Snake, but no go.” She gave him an amused smile as he gave her a playful shove with his shoulder. “You’re really getting into this game of yours, aren’t you?”
He hesitated, not knowing how to answer that. He didn’t have to, however, saved by a commotion at the front of the barn. Both of them looked over to where a tall, lean figure was confronting several of the partygoers. Peace stood up on one of the bales, one hand on Camulus for support as she craned her head to get a better view. He heard her take in a sharp breath and bite off a rather unlady-like curse. “Who is it?”
She stepped down, her features in a scowl. “Joey. What is he doing here? He’s Country Club set.”
Camulus frowned, a unsettling emotion settling in his gut. He stood up, taking a rather protective position at her side. He watched as the man pushed his way into the crowd, staggering and obviously already intoxicated. Pity that he hadn’t managed to run off the side of the mountain.
“This is a party, isn’t it!? I’m here to party!” He wasn’t as well kept as he had been at the marketplace. His hair was disheveled and his clothing was wrinkled and wet, as though he had fallen down in the snow. He turned to the band. “Don’t stop! Keep the music going!” He grabbed a random woman and tried to dance with her, but she pulled away from his grasp, heading over to a group of friends at a fast pace. Joey moved as though to follow but caught sight of Peaceful instead.
“Well, look what we have here. The little bitch that screwed up my life! Merry Christmas!” He took a couple of staggering steps towards them. Camulus arched a brow in his direction.
“You are clearly intoxicated past the point of reason and unwelcome. I recommend that you leave.”
Joey stopped, swaying on his feet. “You. I bet you think you’ve accomplished something grand, hooking up with her. Let me tell you something, Friend; she’s highly overrated. I know everyone around here thinks the sun orbits around her, but it’s not true. Hell, you should thank me! God knows she was a lousy lay when I met her.”
Peace drew a sharp breath and made to move forward, but Camulus stopped her. “You will apologize.”
Joey gave a bitter laugh. “The hell I will. I taught that little slut everything she needed to know to keep a guy satisfied. Served her well. How else would she ever get promoted?”
She made a move towards the party crasher again, but Camulus merely turned around and picked her up by her waist. Taken off balance by this, Peace looked at him in askance. He set her atop the stack of hay bales. “Wait here. This won’t take long.”
His intention became clear, bringing another concern to the forefront. “Camulus, no.” She pitched her voice low so no one could hear her save him. “You could easily kill him.”
He smiled at her. “I have no intention of killing him. He merely needs to be taught some manners.” He kissed her on her forehead and turned to approach the little toad of a man.
Joey gave what was meant to be superior swagger, but at his current level of drunkenness it came across as sloppy and poorly controlled. Camulus still had a good four inches on him in height and was a great deal more impressive in build. “You will apologize to Peaceful. I will not tolerate her character being besmirched in such a manner.”
“Besmirched? Where they hell did she dig you up? Some fancy, high-brow university?” Joey laughed and cast a look over at the lady in question. “Never thought you’d go for the ivy-league type. I heard you started to prefer your men stupid and easily trained, like your horses.”
Justin gave a bark of protest from somewhere off to their left. “Now he’s insulting Dad’s stock. Kick his ass, Cam! He deserves it!”
Joey stumbled and almost fell, but Camulus reached out to steady him, pulling up onto his feet. “I commanded you to apologize to my intended.”
Joey pulled out of his grip with a sloppy, poorly coordinated jerk. “You don’t command me. I’m not one of your little grunts who have to dance to your tune. I call them like I see them, and Peaceful Day is nothing more than a two-bit tramp, and a badly skilled one at that.”
Camulus shrugged. “I did offer you a chance.” Joey didn’t see the first blow as it approached, but he felt it as Camulus’ fist connected with his jaw. The smaller man stumbled and fell, turned around from the force of the blow. Camulus took a step towards him, looking down at the man as he tried to scramble to his feet. “Peaceful Day is a Major in the United States Air Force, a respected and decorated officer. She has achieved this rank through her dedicated service and outstanding performance at her duties.” Just as the man’s feet had started to make enough purchase that he could get back up, Camulus planted a foot solidly in his backside and kicked him back down. “She has taken an oath to serve and protect, an oath that includes you and yours. At a moment’s notice she is prepared to put down everything to take up arms and fight for this country, and for you, even at the cost of her own life.”
From somewhere off to the side he heard David talking to Justin. “He sounds like he thinks rather highly of Peace.”
Justin gave a brief chuckle. “He’s still single and trying to get her to actually walk down the aisle. He’ll settle down and start acting like a regular guy once he’s got her roped.”
Joey was trying to scramble away from what appeared to be a very upset suitor. Actually, Camulus was upset. He recalled the look of hatred Peaceful reserved for this man and the tale of a young girl left frightened and alone because of what this pathetic worm had done to her. If she looked frail and small now, how much more so must she have seemed when she was still hardly more than a child? This man was a predator, and a soulless one at that. He reached down and picked up the man, turning him around and gripping his jaw so that he was forced to look directly at the object of conversation. She was still where Camulus had placed her, sitting atop the bales of hair with muted light striking her blond hair so that it lit up like a halo. Her eyes were sharp, watching him intently for any sign that she may have to intervene. She was still intent on protecting him, even if it was from himself.
Camulus lowered his head so that he could speak to Joey without being overheard. He let his voice slip into its usual resonance, confident that with the man in his current state, no one would believe him if he said anything. “Look at her. So small, so delicate, so graceful. I’ve often thought she resembles one of those little dolls her nieces enjoy carrying around, or one of those angels people use to decorate everything during this season. She seems like the perfect picture of harmlessness.” He pitched his voice lower until it was almost a purr. “But it’s a disguise. That sweet creature has the knowledge, the skill and the strength to reach through your gut and rip out your spine. A wise man would remember such things before he began to insult her. The most beautiful things in nature are also the most deadly. Their beauty is how they lure in their prey.”
He straightened the man up, turning him so that they were facing one another and dropped the resonance of his voice so that he sounded ‘normal’ again. “Are you ready to apologize now?” Joey looked up at him, his eyes wide and fearful. Apparently he had overdone it with the voice. Rolling with the man’s discomfort, Camulus gave a sigh. “I would really like to kill you, or at the very least, damage you enough that you have to spend the rest of the year in a hospital. Unfortunately, that would upset Peaceful, and experience has taught me that her bad side is not a place a sane man wishes to be. It appears that I shall have to settle for this.”
He made a fist again and slammed it into the fool’s jaw. Joey Smith went crashing to the floor, unconscious. Camulus looked down at the sprawled body with a disgusted sneer, even as applause began to break out around him. Justin came over and used one foot to kick Joey over onto his back. “Out like a light. Davey, help me toss him up in the loft. Let him sleep it off and stagger home when he can see straight.”
Camulus walked back over to Peaceful who was giving him a rather perplexed expression. “What?”
“Nothing. I’ve never had anyone defend my honor before.” She gave a little chuckle. “Well, no one I wasn’t related to, anyway, and never where I could see it.”
He smiled and leaned against the bales, looking up at her. “I believe it is my place and my duty to do so as your fiancé. Besides, someone should have put that pathetic child in his place long ago. One should never tolerate such appalling behavior towards an honorable soldier. He owes you respect and gratitude.”
Peace leaned over and gave him a brief kiss on his lips. “My hero.”
Ways to kill General O’Neill for this: #8 –Drill a hole in the bottom of his fishing boat. Nuff said.
The interior of the barn became lighter as sunrise of December 24th reflected off of the ice and snow that blanketed the ground. The crisp bite of winter cold was kept at bay by layers of saddle blankets and the warmth of someone solid lying next to her. Peace stretched, content, and then woke up with a jolt. She quickly lifted the layers of blankets, glanced down and then sighed with relief. All clothing was still present and accounted for.
Towards the end of the party Joey still had not re-awakened. Following an, according to Justin which meant it was complete bovine scat, old Day family tradition, since Cam was the one to knock him out, he had to remain here to make sure the guy didn’t die of alcohol poisoning or accidentally stumble out of the loft and break his neck in the fall. After shooting her brother a dirty look, Peaceful had set about making a place for her and Cam to crash for the night, pulling out a dozen or so thick saddle blankets to cushion the hay and provide some protection. With everyone gone, the barn had soon cooled down to where they relied on one another for warmth. Or rather, she relied on him. She didn’t think Camulus was affected by cold the way she was.
Concern over the state of her clothing was understandable, given that she recalled that things were getting quite friendly before she had finally succumbed to sleep. After the tension of Joey showing up, she had decided that she’d have another cup of eggnog, followed by a second. Somewhere in there had been one of Justin’s creations and eventually she was feeling quite mellow. After the crowd had gone and their makeshift bed was ready, she and Camulus had stayed up a bit longer talking about various things with Joey snoring loudly in the background.
She recalled being cradled against his chest with him running his fingers through her hair while he told her a rather humorous tale involving the system lord Bast and how she was humiliated when someone rigged it so that her gown tore free from her body during a meeting of the other system lords. Camulus claimed it was a childish prank, unworthy of a Goa’uld, but he would have gladly applauded the one who had thought of it, had he known who they were. He, of course, claimed innocence. Somehow she couldn’t imagine that he was ever innocent.
He stirred beside her, shifting his weight so that he rolled over, throwing one leg and arm across her and effectively pinning her down. After registering that there was a body next to him, his arm tightened, pulling her closer. “Hey,” she kept her voice soft as she raised one hand to pat his cheek, “it’s morning.” A murmur of disinterest was his only response. “So that’s the secret to defeating the Goa’uld; you sleep like the dead. We’ll just have to attack during nap time.”
“Hmmm?” He lifted his head to look down at her.
She smiled. “It’s time to get up, Sleeping Beauty.”
He gave her a crooked smile before lowering his face to kiss her. That’s right. That was why she had to check her clothes. There had been kisses and touches and quiet laughs. However, she had managed to keep things from going too far. In time she had managed to coax him to just fall asleep, with the plan of sneaking to the house after he was gone. She, of course, had ended up staying.
She was going to be in such deep trouble when she got back to the base.
“Cam,” he kissed her again but she managed to turn her face away. “Camulus, we need to stop.” It was hard to think with someone nibbling on your earlobe. “Camulus, we keep this up and I’m going to end up court martialed while O’Neill has you neutered.”
There was an unhappy growl as he moved away from her. His eyes flashed in annoyance. “Must you always be so level headed?”
“It’s my job. Now, get your sex drive under control and let’s get up.” She pushed at his shoulders until he moved enough she could get out from the mass of blankets. She looked over to where Joey was still snoring and rolled her eyes. “Pathetic. I can’t believe I actually used to dream about marrying that.”
“You were young and impressionable. Girls have silly fantasies when they’re young. The important thing is that you grew up wiser and better adjusted.” He didn’t move as she walked over to where her antagonist was passed out behind the bales of hay they had moved to keep him from rolling out of the loft. She didn’t see his smile as she prodded Joey with a boot.
“Hey, loser, get up.” He made a muffled sound of protest, prompting her to kick him over. “Get up! I’m not feeding you breakfast.” He eventually woke with a snuffled snort, blinking up at her blearily. “Can you find your truck on your own or do you need a map?”
It took a while, and thankfully he managed not to throw up until he was outside, but Joey did eventually get into his truck and drive off. Camulus and Peace watched him until he had gone downhill long enough that he vanished as Sammie came out with a couple of mugs of steaming coffee. “Good riddance to bad rubbish. You two are in the dog house, by the way.”
Peaceful blinked. “What did I do this time?”
“Mom’s fuming about you staying all night in a barn with Cam. And don’t try to claim you were chaperoned. A passed out drunk doesn’t qualify.”
Camulus hid his smirk with his cup as Peace glared at her sister. “All clothing remained on.”
“Sure it did.” Samantha clearly wasn’t buying it. “But she’s bound to leave you alone about it. Wouldn’t want any of the rug rats to overhear her about such a sensitive topic, would we?” The older woman smiled and returned to the house. Camulus waited until she was out of earshot to comment.
“We should have just given into are baser urges, if everyone is going to assume we did anyway.”
“It’s official; the universe hates me.”
December 24th was spent trying to prepare a meal for twenty-six adults and thirty children, while keeping those thirty children entertained. After witnessing the insanity that was the kitchen, Peace had opted to do the entertaining. For her, that meant inciting the children into the snowball war to end all snowball wars. They had already built the forts. Now all they needed was to get started.
The little ones were happy to make ammunition while the older kids did the throwing. One of her more industrious nephews had built a catapult, inspired from watching “punkin’ chunkin’” with his father. She was really going to have to speak to Juliet about her husband’s viewing habits. To compensate she had given the girls a crash course in covert operations. It looked as though they were gaining the upper hand until she started noticing the more organized movements of her nephews. Frowning, she scanned the fort on the other side of the yard and saw a dark head that was too large to be one of the boys.
“Camulus! Cease fire! Cease fire!” She scrambled around the fort as her nemesis was standing up with an inquiring expression. “Get out here!” She stopped between the two forts, waiting in the cold as Camulus trekked out to meet her.
“Is there a problem, ‘General’ Day?”
“Don’t be teaching my nephews battle tactics.”
“Why not? You’re teaching them to your nieces.”
“The girls are smaller than the boys, not to mention there are four fewer of them and they’re average age is younger.”
Camulus affected a shocked expression. “Are you suggesting that the girls aren’t equal to the boys? Peaceful Day! What would the women back on the base think if they heard that?”
She narrowed her eyes, placing her hands on her hips. “Don’t you start with me. Those boys are trouble enough without you teaching them how to be even worse. Cut it out, now!”
“FIRE!” Suddenly both of them were being pelted by a storm of snowballs from both sides, all aimed at them. Peace shrieked, covering her head automatically as Camulus grabbed her and drug her off of the battlefield and into the side door of the kitchen. Both were wet and laughing hard as they shut the doors, snow balls pelting the glass.
“Peaceful! What on Earth are you two up to now?”
“He started it!”
Cam gave her a hurt expression. “I did not! You were the one who taught the girls how to sneak around and sabotage the catapult.”
“It was too big for them to steal.”
Helen Day glared at her youngest child. “Upstairs and dry off, both of you!” She pointed towards the interior of the house with a long handled wooden spoon. They hurried through the kitchen, tracking mud and snow in their wake. “And in separate rooms!”
Peace shut the door to her bedroom behind her when she got upstairs and pulled off her wet clothes. She hadn’t realized how cold she had gotten outside, but the heat of the house was a welcome change as she grabbed her blow dryer from her dressing table and started to dry out her damp hair. She combed her fingers through it to get more heated air to her scalp as she worked her boots off by running her feet together. She had just finished drying her hair and starting to feel her toes again when the door opened up unexpectedly. She yelped and grabbed a pillow from her bed to cover up her bra. “Cam!”
He grinned, unrepentant and already changed. He shut the door behind him and took a seat on the bed. “You’ll be pleased to know that the girls have once again gained the upper hand.”
“Yes, they have. Apparently they took a leaf out of your book, the one that says you should take advantage of looking precious. They had one of the toddlers cry gloriously, claiming to have been hit too hard by a snow ball, and then ambushed the boys when they rushed over to see if she was all right.”
Peace burst out laughing and hit him with her pillow before digging out a sweater and pulling it over her head. “What can I say? They learned from the best. Turn around.” He did so, allowing her to shimmy out of her jeans and underpants to change them for something dry. “Your hair’s still wet. You’ll catch a cold.”
“Doubtful.” He turned back around as she patted a spot on the bed a foot to his left. He moved over as directed as she flicked on her hair dryer once more and set about drying his own hair. To do this she had to stand close to him, something he took advantage of by slipping his fingers under the bottom edge of her sweater and running them across the smooth skin of her stomach.
“I am. I’m behaving like a love struck fool who is in the company of the woman he intends to wed.”
She ruffled his hair to reach more of it with the warm air. “There’s no one in here at the moment for you to act for. You can drop it.”
“But you don’t want me to drop it.”
“What makes you say that?” She turned off the dryer and frowned down at him. He merely smiled and pulled her closer.
“Because you aren’t stopping me.” He lifted the edge of her sweater up and placed a kiss against the flat of her stomach. She jumped out of reflex, but she didn’t do anything to stop him. On the contrary, she ran the fingers of one hand through his hair as the hand holding the dryer went limp at her side. He took advantage of her hesitation to pull her forward so that she was forced to kneel on the bed, her legs straddling his hips until she was sitting on his lap facing him. No longer able to reach her stomach in this position, he opted for kissing the soft skin along her jaw line instead.
“We really shouldn’t be doing this.”
“Then get up.” He tilted her head back so he could scrape his teeth against her throat. She shivered.
“You aren’t moving very quickly.” And she wasn’t. Instead she leaned closer, wrapping her arms about him, the dryer falling to the bed, forgotten, as she kissed him deeply. He was just running his hands up under the back of her sweater when a firm voice echoed up to them from downstairs.
“You two are being awfully quiet up there! What are you doing?”
Peace broke away from the kiss, looking over her shoulder to the door as Camulus growled in frustration. “That woman is a walking contradiction.”
“We’ll be right down, Mom!”
“She constantly harasses you about settling down and finding a husband, but if you spend too much time alone with a man you tell her you’re going to marry, she becomes worse than the keeper of a chastity belt!”
Peace started to pull away. “We need to go down.” He stopped her with a firm grip.
“No, I don’t want to.” He opted for pulling her back close and capturing her lips in a kiss. She returned it readily enough, but wrenched herself away with a reluctant noise.
“We have to go downstairs.”
“Why? You’re an adult. I’m old enough to be her ancestor many times over. Why should we dance to her tune?” This time she kissed him, smoething he was quite happy to return until she broke it off again.
“Because if we don’t go downstairs, she comes up here, most likely with a loaded shotgun.”
“I don’t want to stop.”
Peace sighed, clearly not wanting to stop either. She kissed him again, twice, before pulling back. “Later.”
He gripped her tighter when she moved to get off his lap. “Promise me.”
She smiled. “I promise.” She kissed again, quick and hard. “Now, downstairs.” This time he let her go when she scrambled to get off his lap. He watched as she turned and checked her appearance in the mirror, smoothing down her hair and making sure that her clothes weren’t too wrinkled. She started to head towards the door but he grabbed her wrist before she could get too far. She turned towards him, her expression questioning.
She smiled again. “I promised.”
If the meals up until now had been grand, they were nothing compared to the official Christmas meal. There wasn’t enough room for everyone to sit at a table, so the table was used as a makeshift buffet instead. A prayer of thanks for the meal was lead by James and then the mothers fixed plates for the younger children before everyone else was able to fill up their own. You ate wherever you could find a place to sit down and the house was filled with conversation and laughter. There was a subtle, intangible change in the atmosphere, as though the night was imbued with some sort of magic.
Helen Day had orchestrated a wonderful meal for the evening. There were five different kinds of meat; turkey, ham, goose, venison and elk. Vegetable dishes were plentiful as were three different types of rolls and a large pan of savory dressing. The real buffet table was ladened with various desserts, though Camulus couldn’t imagine anyone having room left to eat them.
Peaceful had gone to claim a deviled egg before her brothers ate them all, leaving Camulus sitting alone. He almost didn’t hear James approach him through the din of noise. “Things have changed since you go there, haven’t they, Son?”
“How do you mean?”
James smiled a bit, looking over to where his youngest child was apparently threatening one of her brothers with a punch to the nose if he didn’t hand over the egg. “When you got here, you weren’t a couple. That’s not the case any longer. I don’t know if this was just some brilliant idea of yours to break through her defenses or if you just stumbled into it.”
Camulus was surprised. Not because James approached him to mention this, but because of the heavy feeling of truth within it. Something had changed between himself and Peaceful. James seemed to take his silence as confirmation and patted his shoulder warmly. “It’ll be great to have you in the family, Son.” He walked away as Peace came back over, her smug little smile indicating that she had won the argument.
Somehow they had managed to eat dessert, too. Helen had ordered her daughter to the kitchen after they had emerged downstairs, ostensibly to help out. Camulus suspected it was to keep them from sneaking off somewhere. The result, however, had been another one of her marvelous creations. Peace apparently had a fondness for chocolate and she did rather inventive things with it. Perhaps it was a way to ward off sexual tension, but he didn’t mind as he a bite of pie melted in his mouth.
Once dinner and dessert were over the women rounded up the older children to help clean everything up. There was much grumbling and griping, but it allowed the men in the family to join in the den where the younger children put on the skit they had been practicing. It was the story of the nativity, complete with three wise men, four girls pretending to be a choir of angels and sheep. Camulus wasn’t sure why, but apparently the children thought the sheep were very important. Camulus watched it with interest, curious about this religion that seemed to have supplanted the Goa’uld on Earth.
The kitchen was clean before the last of the play and songs were over, allowing the elder children to join in to sing carols. Once everyone was settled in, the children were set to distributing the gifts. The older ones would read the tags and tell the younger ones which people to give them too. It took a long time, given the sheer number of gifts to pass out. The adults didn’t have very many, but the children were showered with them.
Helen gave a shrill whistle to bring everything to order. “All right…” she looked at her grandchildren with a fond smile, “begin!”
The room was suddenly filled with the sound of ripping paper and a flurry of bows. Shouts of excitement rang out as toys were unwrapped. Older children were begging for batteries to power motorized cars while younger girls were squealing over the latest dolls. One little girl ran over to Camulus to have him open a particularly tricky package for her as Peace opened a present from her parents. She grinned as she looked over the finely crafted knife, looking over at Camulus. “Obviously Dad did the shopping for me this year.”
Camulus chuckled as he set aside the fine quality sweater that James and Helen had given him and picked up the heavy package from Peaceful. He looked over and saw that she was holding the smaller, crimson wrapped gift he had gotten from him. They gave one another a glance before unwrapping them. Camulus removed the paper to reveal a box. He lifted the lid to uncover a tome with a tooled leather cover. He lifted it out gingerly, puzzled by its age but somehow feeling that there was something quite special about it. He opened the cover to reveal pages that were yellowed by time, but still graced by carefully written script and colorful depictions along the borders.
“Whoa! Peace, is that real?” Camulus looked up at Mark. The other man was leaning forward with interest. “I saw one of those on the History Channel, on a show about the history of books.”
Juliet rolled her eyes. “You and your television programs.”
Peace shrugged. “Yeah, it’s real.”
One of the older boys scowled. “It’s a book!”
Mark laughed. “Not just a book. That’s an illuminated text from back when books had to be hand copied by monks, before there was a printing press and only the wealthy or the Church could afford books. Where did you find it, Trouble? Museums pay fortunes for those.”
“One of my co-workers found out about a private collector in some financial trouble and had to liquidate part of his library.” She looked over at Camulus, her expression somewhat troubled, as if afraid he wouldn’t like the present. “It’s the only confirmed account with any detail about…” she gave her family a quick look, “about Mars Camulus. The monks were apparently recording the local deities to be used to ferret out heretics.”
He smiled. The full meaning of the difficulty she would have faced to find this particular item wasn’t lost on him. “Thank you.” He leaned over and kissed her, taking care not to crush the book. Suddenly his own gift seemed so woefully inadequate, but Peace opened the case just the same. Her sister-in-law gasped when she saw the necklace. It was three strands of perfectly matched pearls, with a band of platinum and emeralds linking the strands every eighth pearl.
“That’s gorgeous. Mark hardly ever gets me jewelry.”
“I bought you a diamond bracelet for Valentine’s day!”
“That was almost a year ago!”
“Cam, it’s beautiful.” She lifted the necklace out of its velvet-lined box, draping it over her hand. He smiled, reaching out to take it from her so he could fasten it about her neck.
“I’m pleased you like it.” It went well with her, the creamy pearls complementing her pale skin and the emeralds as bright as her eyes. He couldn’t resist kissing her again, this time letting it linger until a chorus of children voiced their disgust at the scene. They broke apart, both laughing as one of her younger nephews inserted himself between them forcefully, pushing on Camulus’ face to move him away from his aunt with a stern, “No, Uncle Cam, no!”
The children were too wound up to help with clearing up the shredded paper and bows. Camulus excused himself to put the tome upstairs where it would be safe only to have to swim through a sea of small bodies as Louisa and Helen herded the girls upstairs to the two rooms where they were housed, the boys still relegated to the game room downstairs. When he reached the bottom floor again, the paper had been cleaned up and Peace, her siblings and her cousins were raiding the kitchen for left over pie and cake. Camulus joined them, noting that James and Henry were leaving the game room after herding the boys in there. The room behind the door was anything but quiet, but he suspected that it would be some time before the children would calm down. James smiled his direction and both men bade him good night before they headed upstairs.
Peace looked up, still wearing the necklace, as he entered the kitchen. “Name your poison.”
“Is there anything left of your pie?”
Justin looked over, his fork at the ready, and then groaned before handing the dessert plate with the last slice of her chocolate pie to Camulus. “Pass me a slice of the cherry, Trouble.” Camulus was unrepentant at taking advantage of being a guest in the household. He sat down next to Peaceful as she gave her brother a fresh slice of dessert and accepted a slice of the pecan from Sammie, just heated up in the microwave and topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Mark poured him a glass of tea. “So, what’s it like for someone on his own to be exposed to a Christmas like this? Have we scared you out of marrying our sister yet?”
“Not even close.” He added sugar to the tea, becoming an old hand at eating and drinking Tau’ri fare. “I will admit that all of this is overwhelming, but I’m assured that it isn’t a frequent event.”
“Nope, next time will probably be… your wedding!” Justin grinned over a forkful of pie. Sammie finished unloading the dishwasher, apparently forgoing a second dessert. She came over and hugged her younger sister.
“Any ideas what kind of ceremony you want? The gown we’ve got covered. There’s no way you’re getting out of wearing The Dress.”
Juliet grinned. “And it will be perfect with your new pearls.” She looked over at her husband. “I like pearls.”
Mark shot Camulus a dark look. “Thank you.”
“We haven’t discussed the ceremony, yet.” Peace stabbed at her pie. “I’m still trying to get used to this whole marriage idea. I mean, look at you guys. It’s driven every single one of you completely and utterly nuts!”
“Oh, ohohoh! Cammy, better do something fast. She’s starting to hedge.” Sabrina looked positively mischievous. “I recommend throwing her on the first plane to Vegas and dragging her off to one of those tawdry little quick-marriage chapels before she can change her mind entirely.”
Sammie laughed. “Yeah, and spend the rest of his life dodging Mom’s flying cutlery every time he comes to visit.”
“Oh, that’s easy to circumvent. Just have a kid. You know her and babies.”
“Could you two please stop discussing my marriage and my… womb? I’ll get married when I want and how I want.”
“Notice she didn’t say ‘wearing what she wants’?”
Peace shot Sabrina a dirty look before eating the last bite of her pie. “I’ll let you guys do clean up. Cammy, wanna take a walk with me?”
He arched a brow at her before chasing down his pie with a gulp of tea. “Certainly.” He got up, leaving his plate and glass for the others before following Peace. Sabrina called out after them.
“You behave yourself, Trouble.”
“I will if you will.” She tossed him his coat from the rack by the door and slipped on her own.
“Where are we going?”
“I want to visit the horses. I haven’t had a chance to say ‘hi’ since we got here.” She led him to the main stables and inside. The interior was dimly lit from muted electric lanterns and music was playing. The scent of hay and oats was mixed with that of some of the finest horseflesh in three states.
“They’re impressive animals. Your family does a fine job.” He gave an appraising eye at a mare with a graceful neck and strong looking flanks.
“It’s in our blood. We do show horses as well as rodeo. We’ve had some success with racers, but the boys in Kentucky still corner the market there.” She took his hand and pulled him towards the small tack room that held just enough to work with the horses in the stables without having to trek up to the tack barn for more.
“Where are we going?”
She unlatched the door and pulled him inside. “I have a promise to keep.” Her smile was playful as she shut the door behind them both, shutting out the faint light from the stable.
Ways to kill General O’Neill for this: #9 – Let’s have another French Revolution!
The horses had quieted down somewhat when they finally left the tack room. Peace reached to open the main door, only to have Camulus pull her back and wrap his arms about her. She smiled, enjoying the warmth. “We need to get inside before someone comes out looking for us.”
“Yes, but we have to pretend to be well behaved and innocent once we go back inside. Though why you and your siblings continue to cater to your mother’s sense of decency I have yet to figure out.”
“Because she’s still not above beating us over the head with a wooden spoon, and she’s a lot faster than she looks.” He chuckled and tilted her head back so that he could kiss her soundly. She returned it whole-heartedly, but broke off to open the stable door. The bitter cold air rushed in, making Peace pull her jacket more tightly about her.
“We could stay here. I am more than capable of keeping you warm.”
“Oh, that’s smooth. But we’re still going inside.”
“It was worth a try.” He followed he through the door, his expression smug. The expression faded, however, as Peaceful froze in place. The reason why was evident; the muzzle of a rifle leveled at her head. A matching weapon was soon pointed at his own person.
Peaceful gave an irritated look to their antagonists. “I don’t suppose you stole my side arm from my room before we came out here.”
“No, I fear that I did not.” He had let his voice slip into it’s normal resonance, lifting his hands in surrender as four more armed individuals in snow camo and darkened faces joined the first two. One of them motioned them forward with his weapon.
“Move it, you two. And I wouldn’t raise an alarm if I were you. We wouldn’t want to endanger any civilians.” Camulus heard Peace bring a sharp intake of breath and noticed her shoulders stiffen in anger. He knew that his eyes flashed in irritation on her behalf, but he followed her lead as they were led from the stables. They were marched through the woods surrounding the house until they came to a service road her family used to run between the hay barn and the fields. Two dark vans were parked and waiting for them, the back of one opening up so that they could be ordered inside.
There was a bench built into the side of the van, much like a prison transport. They sat down, their captors keeping weapons trained on him. Peaceful looked at the men who were bigger and stronger than she, and armed, and gave an irritated glance to Camulus. “Do you think they give a damn that I’m an officer in the United States Military and that they’re breaking some pretty serious rules right now?”
“No, Major, we do not.” A tall man in camouflage entered the van, the doors shutting behind him. He was tall, close to six and one half feet in height, and handsome in a dark, smarmy, full-of-himself kind of way. “Or rather, we care that you are an officer, but we doubt that your idea of protecting our planet meshes with our own. For example, we would not consider sleeping with a Goa’uld a valid way to protect Earth from alien attack. I must admit that I am highly disappointed. Your record indicates that you are an exemplary and faithful soldier.”
“Woof. Woof.” Peaceful’s bright green eyes narrowed as she glared at the man before her. “You do realize that my family is bound to notice we’re missing. General O’Neill will find out we’re gone.”
“Eventually, yes. However, by that time you will both be far away from here.” The man walked over to the back of the van and rapped it sharply. They heard the engine turn over and felt the vehicle lurch forward a few seconds later. The man took a seat on the bench across from them and looked over at Camulus. “So, Gould, I trust you enjoyed your holiday. After all, the major has been so wonderfully accommodating.”
“Keep a civil tongue in your head, Sir.” Anger boiled in the pit of his stomach.
“Concern for the lady’s sensibilities. This is surprising.” He looked over at Peace. “You’ve tamed him quite nicely. It seems that O’Neill knew exactly what he was doing when he assigned you to him.”
“Let me guess; The Trust.”
“They do bankroll our operation, yes. Since O’Neill helped to take out the members of the NID that were actually trying to protect this planet from creatures such as your boyfriend here, someone had to step in to take their place.”
“To commit crimes against our country.”
“To do what it takes to defend our planet, Major Day. You forget, it is creatures like him,” the man jabbed a finger towards Camulus for emphasis, “that have tried on more than one occasion to destroy us. We are doing what must be done in order to protect our way of life. You’ve let a pretty face blind you to the monster inside. He is still just a vile, twisted parasite.” Camulus tensed up, but kept silent.
Peaceful lifted her chin just a bit. “Where is it that you are taking us?”
“You don’t need to know that just yet, Major. Rest assured, however, that you will remain unharmed as long as you cooperate.”
“That’s very reassuring. Does that apply to both of us?”
The man smiled. “Not really, no. It applies to you because you are human and, until this little trip home, a loyal officer. Lord Camulus, however, is an enemy of Earth and is not allotted the same privileges.”
“Of course he isn’t.” She looked over at Camulus, her expression carefully blank. He knew that she was blaming herself for this, but now was not the time to try and reassure her otherwise.
“Girls, stop talking and go to sleep. Don’t make me come in here and tell you to again.” Several small girls giggled while trying to pretend that they were asleep. Sabrina shook her head slightly, amused that they actually thought she was going to fall for that. Her attention was caught by a slight figure by the large window, illuminated by the moonlight. “Molly? What are you doing, Sweetie?”
“I’m watching the funny snowmen outside with Aunt Peace and Uncle Cam.”
The woman arched a brow. She would have thought Peace was a little old to be building snowmen, not to mention she could have sworn that she and Cam had gone out to the stables for other reasons. “You need to lie down and get some sleep.”
“Why are they pointing guns at Aunt Peace?”
Sabrina frowned, not sure she heard the child correctly. A flurry of blankets filled the room as the other girls leapt up to run to the window. “Mom! There are people down there!”
She went to the window, gently moving the girls aside. The moonlight and the security light by the stable made it possible for her make out Peace and Cam, as well as the men pointing weapons at them. “Girls, get in your sleeping bags and don’t make a sound.”
“Mom! Those men are taking them away! We have to stop them!”
“Go to sleep! Let the grown ups handle this.” She hurried the girls from the window and left them to tuck themselves in as she hurried out of the large makeshift dormitory to knock on Justin’s door. He opened up to frown at her.
“Peace and Cam are in trouble. A bunch of commando guys just took off with them at gunpoint.”
Her brother frowned in mid-yawn. “Huh?”
Brina rolled her eyes. “Men, wearing military clothing and pointing guns at our sister’s head! At least six of them.”
The color drained from Justin’s face. “Crap.”
“Get the others and grab the guns from the study. I’ll call the sheriff.” Sabrina was about to head off when Justin grabbed his arm.
“Wait. Why would commandos take off with Peace unless she’s into something nasty?”
“Which is why we should call the cops.”
Justin shook his head again. “This is military stuff, Brina. It’s got to have something to do with whatever she’s doing in that mountain. She’s got a phone to check in. It should be in her room. Go grab it and hit redial. They should know about this.”
“Brina, do you really think our baby sister is working in deep space telemetry? Find the phone.” Justin hurried from his room to knock on David’s door while Sabrina hurried to Peace’s room. She searched the dressing table and bedside table before flipping over the pillow on the bed. She jumped back with a yelp; bringing Justin hurrying into the room, a bleary eyed David in two. “What?”
“She’s got a gun under her pillow.”
Justin gave her an irritated expression before his eyes landed on the phone, sitting behind a box of tissues. He picked it up and flipped it open, calling up the last number dialed. It rang twice before a man picked up. “Walters.”
“Yes, this is Justin Day, Major Day’s brother. Is this the base?”
“Sir, how did you get this number?”
“I hit redial. Look, we’ve got a problem. My sister and Major Jones have been kidnapped.”
The man on the other end of the line got very quiet. “Could you please repeat that, sir?”
“My sister, Major Peaceful Day. She and her fiancé were up here for Christmas and some commando types just lead them off at gunpoint.”
“Are you certain of that?”
“Yeah, I’m pretty certain. My sister and all the girls saw it from upstairs.”
“Sir, I’m going to call the General on this. I need you to keep Major Day’s phone on you. Someone will be calling you.”
“Wait! Aren’t you going to send some…” He frowned and looked at the phone. “He hung up on me.”
David stood in the doorway. “They’re sending someone, right?”
“He said to wait and someone would be calling. Something about telling a General.”
Brina folded her arms, hugging herself. “Should we wake up Mom?”
Justin shook his head rapidly. “Are you nuts? She’d have a heart attack and it’d be all our fault!”
“Why would I have a heart attack?” Justin, David and Sabrina all jumped and turned towards Peace’s open bedroom door. Helen Day stood there, hands on her hips and eyes narrowed with suspicion. One half of her children all exchanged nervous glances. “Well?”
Brina punched her eldest brother between his shoulder blades, designating him to be the bearer of bad news. He stepped backwards instead, shaking his head, until David shoved him forward. “Mom, we don’t know that anything’s wrong.”
“Why are you in here? Where’s Peace?”
“Well…” he faltered, uncertain of how to phrase this. The silence made Helen begin to panic.
“Oh Lord! What’s happened to your sister?” She dashed from the room, throwing the door to the guest room wide open. “They’re both gone!”
“Relax! Your sister’s run off and eloped! I can’t relax! What are the ladies and church going to think?”
Justin frowned. “Well, it’s not exactly like…”
Sabrina interrupted quickly. “Oh, can’t we just let her believe that?”
“I’ll go with that.” David gave Justin a hopeful look, but the other brother shook his head. They were saved from having to say anymore by the cell phone in Justin’s hand going off.
“Who is that? Is that your sister?” Helen lunged forward and snatched up the phone, opening it quickly. “Peaceful Heavenly Day! Don’t you dare say ‘I Do’ without me there!” She stopped, frowning. “O’Neill? Why are you calling? What kidnapping?”
Justin winced. “Uhm…. Mom…” He fell silent when she cut him off with her hand, her eyes going wide as she listened to the man on the other end of the line. All three children present braced themselves as her skin paled. They watched as she drew in a deep breath to scream.
There were three vans loaded with high tech equipment already there when O’Neill arrived with Daniel, Samantha and Teal’c in tow. Teal’c hadn’t minded being pulled away, but Sam and Danny were less than thrilled. Pete had taken Sam home for a traditional Christmas with his family and Danny had been snuggled up to Dr. Sarah Gardner at his apartment. This, however, was too important to ignore.
Daniel got out of the van and looked at the massive log home. “Wow… this is… impressive.” He looked from the house to the stables and barns. “Somehow this isn’t what I pictured when you said we were coming to Day’s home.”
“What did you expect?” Jack glanced over at a horse standing at a fence rail, draped in a blanket that fastened over its chest.
“Something more… urban. I always pictured her as more of a street kid.”
“Nope, pampered little rich girl. Come on. Davis should already be here.”
“Sir, do you hear that?” Carter took a step towards the corner of the house. The rest of the group fell silent and picked up the sound. It was a series of hiccoughs intermingled with strangled sobs. They followed her around the corner of the house where a small figure in a bright read coat sat on a stone bench, crying into a rag doll. “Hey there. What are you doing out here in the cold?”
A heart shaped face framed with golden blond curls poking out from her hood looked up at Carter. Mucus streamed from her nose to match the tear tracks on her cheeks. “Au… Aunt P…Peace is… gone. The bad snowmen too… took her.”
Sam gave a glance to the general standing off to the side before turning her attention back to the child. “It’s going to be all right. I brought a really big hair dryer. That’ll turn those snowmen into ice water, no time flat.” She gave a reassuring smile to the child, tweaking her nose. “Let’s get inside where it’s warm. You aunt would get upset if you let yourself get sick because of her.” The child looked at her for a long, quiet moment, and then held out her arms to be picked up.
“Can we go in, now?” Jack tried to sound serious, but he couldn’t keep the smile off his face.
“Yes, General, we can go in now.”
The house was filled with a combination of children, adults and soldiers. The noise was almost deafening, but somehow Major Davis managed to notice their entrance. “General O’Neill, this is James and Helen Day. They’re Major Day’s parents.”
Jack gave a solemn nod to the couple. “Sir. Ma’am. Let me begin by saying that the United States Military is deeply sorry that this has happened and we are going to do everything in our power to bring your daughter home to you.” Helen gave a strangled whimper and buried her face into her husband’s shoulder. “Yeah… Major Davis. Brings us up to speed, please?”
“Yes, Sir. According to what we’ve been told, one of the Major’s sisters and… most of her nieces, were observing from an upstairs window when they witnessed what appeared to be a group of armed men take the Major… uh… Majors captive as they exited one of the stables.”
“They weren’t men! They were evil snowmen!” The child Sam was holding frowned at Davis. “The pretty lady said she’s gonna melt them with her hair dryer!”
“Molly! There you are! I’ve been looking everywhere for you. Stop bothering these nice people.” A matronly looking woman with the same blond hair as most of the family hurried forward to take the child from Samantha. “I’m sorry about that. I hope she wasn’t any trouble.”
“No, not at all. She’s very sweet.”
“Yeah, well, don’t let her fool you. I’m Samantha.”
“Oh! I’m… Samantha. But everyone just calls me ‘Sam’.”
“Mom! Sam’s gonna melt the evil snowmen with her hair dryer!”
“Yes, Honey, I heard. Now let’s leave her alone so she can find them and bring back Aunt Peace.” The woman gave Sam a strained smile, the stress of the situation showing, before carrying the child away.
“This is a big family.” Daniel looked around at the multitude of children.
Davis nodded. “We think they had the house under surveillance for some time before they made their move. Most likely waited until they were isolated from the rest of the family.”
“I can’t believe she let this happen. Peaceful knows better. I raised her better!” Helen wiped at her eyes, sniffling. O’Neill’s brow raised.
“Better than what?”
“Than to sneak off to the barn with an unmarried man. Even if they are engaged!”
“Engaged?” Daniel looked at Jack, who motioned for him to keep quiet. Teal’c raised an inquiring brow and Sam looked as though someone had hit her over the head with a sledgehammer.
“Don’t worry. We will get your daughter back.” Jack tried to sound reassuring.
“And Cam, too! That sweet, young man. I’m sure whatever happened is Peaceful’s fault! She’s always had a knack for causing trouble!”
Daniel turned away, lowering his voice so that only Teal’c could hear him. “I’m beginning to understand why Major Day has such a short temper.”
Jack gave a nod to the Days. “We’ll bring back Major… Jones, too. For now, however, I will leave you in the capable hands of Major Davis while we work on locating your daughter.” He motioned Davis to take his place and turned to lead his team back outside where it was relatively quiet.
Sam looked at Jack. “Engaged?”
“Long story. Short version; Camulus decided to screw with Day’s life. He introduced himself as her fiancé.”
“And she didn’t kill him?” Everyone looked at Samantha. She shrugged. “She can’t stand him.”
“Well… she did ask me to help her find a Christmas present for him.”
Jack looked interest. “Really? What do you buy a System Lord?”
“A rare and irreplaceable illuminated text that included what the Catholic Church knew bout Mars Camulus when they absorbed the Celts and Gauls. It was a lucky find. I managed to talk the price down to under a thousand.”
“What would something like that usually go for?”
“It wouldn’t usually go for anything, Jack. If Dr. Hamilton hadn’t been desperate he would have died before parting with it.”
“Regardless of that, Sir, someone has managed to capture Camulus. And taken one of our officers in the process.”
“See, Carter, I’m really more worried about our officer. Yes, yes… I want to get our snake back, but I’m more concerned about the Air Force major, the woman with a remarkable record whom I ordered to play nursemaid to this guy. That’s who I am worried about.”
“Sir, you shouldn’t blame yourself for this. The working relationship between the SGC and Camulus improved greatly after you assigned Day. She’s… well, she’s worked miracles.”
“I agree, O’Neill.” Teal’c looked from Sam to Jack. “Major Day has shown an amazing aptitude for placating Camulus without letting him have too much power. I am very curious as to how she has excelled in her assignment.”
“Well, that was her idea. She thought he should be handled like a toddler. Said that the Goa’uld reminded her of her nieces and nephews.” He gave a look over his shoulder at the house. “I would say she’s had a lot of practice.”
Sam nodded, more to herself than to anyone else. “I’ll start going over the data that the sweepers have gathered so far. They found a sight on one of the access roads that looks as though it was a temporary base of operations. I’ll go join them.”
“I will accompany you, Colonel Carter.” Teal’c gave a slight bow of his head to Jack and Daniel before walking away with his long time teammate.
Daniel looked from the house to Jack. “Fiancé?”
“At the time it seemed very funny.”
Ways to kill General O’Neill for this: #10 – Oh, just give me a gun! I’ll shoot him myself!
The cage that he had been placed in was far worse than the drab, gray-walled rooms that the SGC had kept him in after he had requested asylum. His new captors, however, had at least allowed him to keep his dignity by not forcing him to remove his clothing and don either some drafty examination gown or a prison jumpsuit. No one had poked him with needles or subjected him to any tests… yet.
They had also not allowed him to know where they had taken Peaceful. She had been moved in an entirely different direction upon their reaching the safe house. There had not been so much as a word of her since.
The door to the room opened, allowing a man in a white, physician’s smock entrance. He looked as though he had a complete lack of the bedside manner Dr. Brightman at the SGC possessed. His mouth was set in a style that made it looked as though he had been sucking on something particularly sour. “Mr. Camulus, I am…”
“Where is Peaceful?”
The man hesitated. “I beg your pardon?”
Camulus squared his shoulders, lifting his chin just a bit. “Your allies captured an officer of your military when they took me. Where have they taken her?”
The stranger seemed to be taken off balance. “I assume you mean Major Day. She has been detained in other quarters but she is…”
“Bring her here.” His voice was purposefully abrupt, but his ill humor was quite genuine.
“I’m sure that something can be arranged, if you cooperate with…”
“I will not cooperate until I have seen her for myself.”
The little man’s lips pressed tightly together in annoyance. “I will take your request to my superiors, but if you were a bit more compliant now it may go…”
“You will take my demand to your superiors, now. There will be no assistance from me until I see her for myself.” He turned away, clearly ending the conversation. He heard the man give an exasperated sound and walk away. Now he would wait and see.
It was only little more than an hour before armed guards removed him from his cage and led to a room off to the side. Peaceful was brought in from an opposite door with a pair of guards as well. When was glaring at one of them with a murderous expression before turning her head and spying him. He watched her as she examined him as well as she could with the distance between them, checking him for obvious signs of injury.
“Are you all right? Have they hurt you in any way?”
He arched a sable brow. “Concern. Over me. I’m touched.”
Peaceful blinked, her expression one of confusion. “What?” She looked at the guards. “What have you done to him?”
“They have done nothing to me. I am merely intelligent enough to know when I have been betrayed.” He kept his jaw tight, his expression cold.
“Betrayed.” She looked pained, her brow furrowed. “I had nothing to do with this. If you will remember, we were captured together.”
“Of course we were.” He waited until he heard one of his guards give a muffled and brief chuckled before making his move. He struck out at the amused human, hitting him sharply in the face to stun him, then taking the zat’ni’ktel from his belt as he kicked out to the other guard to knock him out of the way. Before the ones flanking Peaceful could respond, he activated the weapon and fired.
Peace was so taken by surprise that she was didn’t have the time to make a sound. She gave him a look mixed with pain and utter disbelief before she collapsed, unconscious, to the floor. Camulus raised the weapon for a second shot, but by then the guards had recovered. The butt of a rifle was slammed into the side of his head. The zat’ni’ktel was knocked from his hand just before he was beaten into senselessness.
“Didn’t you see that when it came in?”
“Yes, but not for very long. It’s amazing. Finding an illuminated text that is this well preserved is almost impossible.” Daniel held the book as though it were the most precious item on the planet. Of course, for Daniel, it might very well be. O’Neill, however, was looking over the trophies on Major Day’s shelf.
“See… this is why I like her so much. Real down to Earth kinda gal.”
“Yes, with borderline-homicidal tendencies. Are you sure the two of you aren’t related?” Daniel closed the book and placed it back into its box for safekeeping.
“Nah, that’d never work. Did you see how many kids are in this family? They’d drive me insane.” He wandered over to the dressing table and examined it. “Oh, sweet!” He had found the knife the major had received as a Christmas present. “I definitely like this family.”
Footsteps sounded down the hallway as an airman came into the room at a job. “General, Sir. Major Davis received a call from a local hospital, Sir. They have the Major.”
“She was dropped off about three hours ago. An unmarked car pulled up at the ER door and she was dumped out, handcuffed, blindfolded and drugged.”
“Any other injuries?” O’Neill followed the hospital director through the floors.
“No injuries, just the fact that she was drugged and some minor bruising. There was evidence of sexual activity within the past twenty-four hours but she refuses to allow us to examine her. Once she woke up, she demanded that she be allowed to contact her superior officer and said she would not consent to examination by anyone other than an authorized military physician.”
“That’s my officer.” The director opened the door to Day’s room. The major made to stand up, but he stopped her. “Rest, Major. You deserve it.”
“With all due respect, Sir, I screwed up.”
O’Neill looked over his shoulder at the director. “Do you mind? This is… classified.”
“Oh, of course, General. Sorry.” One of the guards that had come with Jack and Daniel escorted the hospital bureaucrat out with a polite smile, shutting the door behind them.
“Screwed up, Major?”
“I lost him! And what’s more, he shot me!” She looked unwilling to believe her predicament.
“The kidnappers shot you?”
“No, Camulus shot me!” She swung her legs over the side of the bed. “He accused me of betraying him to The Trust and managed to get a zat from one of the guards.”
Daniel frowned. “Why would he think that you betrayed him?”
“Because she threatens to kill him at least twice a day?” O’Neill looked at his officer and noted the odd expression on her face. “What is it?”
She shook herself and he strongly suspected that she was almost on the verge of tears. “Nothing, Sir. You should know, they never transferred us to a plane. Wherever they had us, it’s got to be local. These mountains are full of places to hide.”
Jack didn’t like the fact that Day might be emotionally affected in some way. He could understand being angry with herself over losing Camulus, but really, did the snake really matter all that much in the big scheme of things? “I don’t suppose you got a look out a window or anything.”
“No, General. They covered our heads before they removed us from the van and into the building. After that, I wasn’t allowed to see daylight. But it’s definitely someplace rural.”
“How do you figure that?”
“No traffic sounds, but there was a lot of popping.”
“Trees, Sir. The ice and snow can cause the weaker branches to snap. It was almost constant, so there had to be a lot of trees.”
O’Neill gave her a grin. “See, Daniel? I told you there were reasons I like this officer.” Jack looked back at Day who was now tapping her feet on the floor nervously. “Wanna get dressed and get outta here?”
She sighed. “Yes, Sir. I would like that very much.” She got off the bed and accepted the duffle that Dr. Jackson had brought with them, containing a fresh change of clothes. “And then I want to help find Camulus.”
“You feel up to that, Major.”
“More than up to it, Sir. I’m going to find him, shoot him with a zat, wait for him to recover, then shoot him again.” She unzipped the duffle and started pulling out the clothes. “And I just may repeat that process several times if I can get you to look the other way.” Her shoulders were tight and shaking with barely controlled rage, and her voice sounded suspiciously as though she were about to cry. Daniel gave her a worried look, but kept silent.
They waited for her to make use of the shower in the private room and pull on her BDU’s. This was work, not play, so uniforms were called for. Her weapons would be waiting for her when they rendezvoused with the rest of the team. Daniel stood by her as she signed out, then escorted her to the black Escalade where Jack already waited inside. The general looked over at his reclaimed officer.
“Any other local knowledge we should know?”
“The vans didn’t drive for very long, not with the roads the way that they are. Wherever they took us, it can’t be more than fifty to seventy miles from the original position. Even with studded tires and the guys around here using their own snow blades to get the bulk of the ice off the back roads, you still have to move slowly.”
“That’s still a nice radius to search. We’ll have to get some helicopters up and start a search pattern.”
He tested the restraints that held him to the narrow examining table. “How long do you think you can keep me here before your military finds us?”
“Don’t you worry your pretty little stolen head about it, Snake. This isn’t the most easily traveled terrain and I believe they’ll be more interested in looking after their officer now that we’ve given her back. O’Neill is funny that way. In fact, if he had to choose between you and Day, I believe he’d tell the Pentagon what to do with themselves and take Day every time.” Camulus’ captor gave a smug smile. “I’d love to be there and hear her try to be debriefed without going into too much detail about what went on in that tack room. Or was keeping you smiling part of her assigned duties?”
Camulus reminded himself not to rise to the bait. He kept his temperament carefully controlled. “She was an amusement, nothing more.”
“Nice looking amusement.” The man looked over at the doctor. “He’s got a point, though. We don’t have much time. How long do you need?”
“I’ll run the tests I need a live specimen for first and take samples for the rest of it.” The physician turned, a medical device of some kind in his hands. “I’ll get started.”
“Carter, any luck?”
“No, Sir. Once the vans left the service road they ran out onto places where most of the ice and snows has been bladed off. There’s also been a lot of civilian traffic with people coming and going from private homes. The trail has been wrecked.”
“Damn.” O’Neill put his hands on his hips and glared out over the mountainside. “This place has got to be riddled with nooks and crannies. Caves, too. They could be hiding anywhere.”
“Not anywhere, Sir. They’ll likely need a structure of some kind. Major Davis has gotten Mr. Day to contact the sheriff. They’re pulling the County Clerk out to open the real estate records, looking for anything currently vacant. There are also a lot of summer homes, too. Places that would be empty right now.”
Peace nodded. “A lot of rich people like the cooler summers and the trees. They keep those places for play and head back to the cities for the winter where they don’t have to worry about getting snowed in for weeks at a time.”
O’Neill arched a brow. “Summer homes as in big, sprawling places with lots of rooms and iron fences?”
“Daddy calls them ‘McMansions’, Sir. They get thrown up quickly, made to order, like a cheeseburger.”
Jack looked at Daniel. “I really like this family. Carter, let me know the moment they get some leads on possible locations. Daniel, you, Teal’c and Day are to come with me. We’ll get a strike team in the extra vehicle and hit the roads, look for anything suspicious.”
Sam frowned. “Sir, should you be staying here at Command?”
“I probably should, but I’m not. I could use the distraction.”
“Carter, I’ll be fine. Besides, I need you here to do all the heavy thinking.” Day handed him a vest for him to put on for good measure. They were suiting up when they heard the voice from the front of the house.
“Peaceful Heavenly Day! What do you think you are doing?”
Day flinched. “Crap! I was hoping that we’d get out of here before she found out.” She turned around to see her mother storming towards her across the wide drive, coatless. “I’m going to get Cam back, Mom.”
“You most certainly are not! I just got you back! You leave the rescue to the General and the other men and get your butt back inside that house this instant!”
Jack made to say something, but Daniel stopped him. “No, let her handle this.”
Peaceful holstered her sidearm. “Mother, I’m going after Camulus.”
“No, you are not! Peaceful, I am sick and tired of watching you leave this house to go off and do God only knows what! Never knowing if you’re going to come back home on your feet or in a box! There’s a war on, and I lie awake every night worrying if you’ll be shipped out to some hellish place on the other side of the world to be shot… or worse!”
“Mother, you’re blowing this out of proportion.”
“I am not blowing it out of proportion!” Helen took a shuddering breath, covering her mouth with her hands and squeezing her eyes shut. After she collected herself, she lowered her hands and turned pleading eyes onto her daughter. “You are my baby. My youngest. You’ve always been on the small side, always been delicate like. Why can’t you just be happy to stay home and be a woman? Why do you have to go out and try to save the world? There are plenty of other people’s children to do that.”
Peaceful tightened the strap on her vest. “Because this is who I am, Mom. All your children are different. Justin’s the clown, Sammie’s the super mom, Mark’s the geek, David’s the brain and Sabrina’s the socialite. I’m the soldier. I have always been the soldier, Mom. You just didn’t want to see it. I’ve never been right for settling down and having half-a-dozen kids, having some husband expect me to be at home, puttering around like the happy housewife. I like doing what I do. I like saving the world. It’s my job, and I’m damn good at it!”
Helen gave a little sob, true fear shining in her eyes. “But you’re my baby.”
Peace reached out placed a slender hand against her mother’s cheek. “Mamma, babies grow up. We all do.”
“I was hoping that man of yours would be a better influence on you. Louisa is right. I should have never welcomed him, not another soldier.”
“Mom, there is no engagement.” Peace let that sink into her mother’s head. “Camulus is not my fiancé. He’s someone I work with, someone who’s very important to the security of this country. I can’t tell you how, that’s classified, but I can tell you that ours is a working relationship. I’m his guard, his protector, and I’ve dropped the ball. He’s been taken by enemies of the state and it is my job to get him back, and I’m going to do my job.”
“Not your fiancé? But you two look so perfect together, and he bought you that necklace and the ring…”
“Mom, he was just trying to get a rise out of me. Now, I’m sorry that I took advantage of the situation but you just can’t take the hint. I’m tired of you always digging up some local boy you hope will sweep me off my feet and keep me home. If and when I ever marry, it needs to be someone I found for myself. And I hate to tell you, Mom, but it will probably be another soldier, or at least someone with a backbone who isn’t afraid to put his life on the line for others.”
O’Neill cleared his throat. “Major, we really should be going. We’ve got to find these guys and get Camulus back.”
Peaceful looked over her shoulder at the general and nodded. “Yes, Sir.” She turned back to her mother, feeling guilty at the sight of the fat tears now trailing down the other woman’s face. “Mom, I have to go to work now. You go on inside, get out of the cold. Daddy would never forgive me if you took sick.”
Peaceful stepped away from her other and started towards one of the two black Hummers they were using for this particular search. O’Neill gave her a shrewd look as she climbed inside. “You gonna be all right, Major?”
“Yes, General. I’ll be fine. I probably haven’t heard the last of this, but I’ve been weathering Hurricane Helen my entire life. I can take anything she can dish out.”
“Good.” O’Neill gave another glance at the matronly woman, now wiping at her eyes with the hem of her apron. He didn’t think it wise to voice it out loud, but he suspected Major Day was more like her mother than she realized. Both women were fiercely protective of their own, it was just that Helen saw to it like a mother hen whereas Major Day would just shoot anyone who threatened. Neither one of them was anyone he’d like to get on the bad side of. “Let’s go get our snake back.”
Ways to kill General O’Neill for this: #11 – I wonder if Ba’al will teach me that nifty trick with the daggers and the anti-grav unit…
Peaceful looked over the digital map on the GPS unit in her hands. “I would say the summer homes are our best bet. Most of the spreads that could be used for anything are occupied. Many of the old ranches were converted to chicken farms.”
The airman across from her looked curious. “Chicken farms?”
“Why not? The big players like Tysons and Georges will pay to put the houses up on your property and deduct the cost out of your checks. In five to ten years, depending on how many you have and how well you do, you can have them paid off. It’s not the best paying job in the world, and you’re pretty much shackled to your land unless you put up enough that you can cycle in a vacation break, but it’s not bad work.”
O’Neill looked between the two. “Can we stick with the matter at hand?” He spoke back into the phone. “Davis, have them run the owners of the summer homes against known and suspected form NID and Trust members. Let’s see if anyone up here has connections.”
Daniel was looking at Major Day with open curiosity. “I just never saw you as being the agricultural type. You always seemed street tough.”
“That comes from trying to survive my brothers. They felt it was their God Given Duty to torment the baby of the family and I felt it was mine to give as good as I got. Some of the stunts we used to do to one another would get non-family members arrested.”
Jack smiled as he closed his phone. “Ah, the joys of family. You know, Major, after meeting your mother, I don’t know why I was ever worried about Camulus coming here. I’m quite certain she’s skin him alive and hang him out to dry if he tried anything.”
“That’s what she has my father for, Sir.”
O’Neill choked back a laugh. “Any ideas on where to start looking?”
Peace looked over the highways displayed before her. “There are several places where the owners keep to themselves, don’t bother with the locals much. I’d say they’d be the most likely places. Many of the others actually belong to people in my generation who have family here, kids who did good and bought someplace close to their parents so they could come back with the grandchildren during the season.”
Daniel was going over the list of names the local records office had provided. “Some of these names are familiar. They’re part of the Elites; politicians, respected doctors and lawyers, retired businessmen.”
Jack perked at the last one. “Businessmen? As in, the type who back the Trust?”
“Those lowlifes in my own family’s backyard. And I always believed this was such a wholesome place to live.” She peered over to get an address from Daniel’s list so she could see how far they were from the first likely address.
“Snakes pop up everywhere, Major. It’s one of the harsh realities of life.”
“Yes, General.” She looked up the distance between another location and the main house and shook her head. “My concept of time may have been warped from stress, but I just can’t see them getting us to a lot of these places without some serious trouble. The slush freezes quick around here, and a lot of these back roads aren’t in the best of repair.”
“That doesn’t seem like good practice if you’re the playhouse for the wealthy.”
“People come here to escape the city, Sir. The mountains offer simplicity of life and we’re close enough to a semi-large city to offer many of the comforts of home within a relatively short drive.”
“Paradise on Earth.”
“We like to think so. Not to mention we’ve got a killer rodeo around the Fourth of July.” She looked over the digital map again. “I used to ride every year. My father’s horses always put on…” She drifted off, her brow drawing together in a frown.
“Something wrong, Major?”
“I may have just had an idea. If you couldn’t be sure when your target was going to move but had an opportunity to move in quickly, you’d take it.”
Jack gave an inquiring look. “Normally, yes. What are you thinking?”
“I’m thinking they had contact, but I’m thinking they didn’t have him until they were here and had us under surveillance.” She reached for the phone, hit the redial and waited for Davis to pick up. “There was an incident at the Barn Blast this year. An old boyfriend of mine showed up, drunk and making a jackass out of himself. Camulus beat the crap out of him.”
Daniel blinked. “So… you think they may have moved on a grudge.”
“They may have.” She shifted the phone as the other end was picked up. “Davis, could you put my father on the phone. Dad? Did Old Man Smith finish building that fancy house of his in town? What’s he doing with his old place? Daddy, did I ever tell you that I love you more than life? Hand the phone back to Major David, would you?” She handed the phone out to the General. “Joey Smith sold us out.” She started pinpointing the coordinates.
“Major Davis, I need you to contact the other teams and tell them to meet us at the location our very clever Major Day is about to give me.”
“So, Day, what is this place?”
“This is the old Smith homestead. The family used to split their skills between beef ranching and making money, but over the past few generations they turned more towards the money part. As the kids started moving out of state, Hyram Smith decided he’d rather live in town, closer to his business.”
“So, it’s empty?”
She nodded. “That’s why I called Dad. He said Hyram finished his place about eight months ago and moved in. So far he hasn’t been able to move this one. Most of the people buying places up here want to build them, custom. An established place like this doesn’t hold as much appeal and he isn’t likely to give it to his son, Joey.”
O’Neill fastened his earpiece in place. “That would be the Joey Smith you think offered this place up to the Trust to act as a temporary base of operations.”
“There’s bad blood between Joey and me. He refuses to realize that his behavior was going to lead him to a bad end, anyway. Considers me the cause of his fall from grace.”
“And having your supposed fiancé pummel him into the ground wouldn’t help matters.” O’Neill squinted through the tree line. “There’s likely to be resistance. Once we engage we’ll need to keep the chatter to a minimum. One of these com sets was acting funny when we tested it earlier; doesn’t always stop transmitting when you let up. We don’t want to risk the bad guys intercepting anything.”
They were at the property line separating the Smith place from that of some federal judge whose name Peace always forgot. They had managed to get the topographical map of the area from the Corps of Engineers, proving that having a direct line to the President of the United States got you just about anything you needed or wanted, even on Christmas Day. In their winter camo they blended in fairly well with the snow and bare trees, but someone who knew what to look for could still see them.
Jack looked through his binoculars. “I see four black vans, windows darkened out. Two SUVs. This far back from the road it’s no wonder we didn’t see them.”
Teal’c was also examining the area. “There is a good deal of cover. We should be able to get close to the building before detection.”
Jack frowned and shook his head. “I don’t like it. Seems too easy. Where are the patrols? Where are the guards?”
“Indeed. It does seem unlikely that they would capture Camulus and not put forth more effort to defend their position. It is foolish not to anticipate someone locating them.”
“Which means they’re probably hold up inside, armed and waiting for us.” Jack looked behind him as four men in camo came up to join them. They were following field rules, so no one saluted. “Major. Good of you join us.”
Stutzman sighed. “Leave it to the Trust to pull a stunt like this at Christmas. They’re gonna owe me big if my wife and kids aren’t home when I get back. Cheryl was not happy about this.”
“Yeah, sorry about this Major.”
“Not your fault, General.” Stutzman nodded towards the other property. “Is that where they’re keeping him?”
“So it would seem.” Jack turned back to the map spread out on the hood of the SUV. “We don’t have much going for us but the thick trees. Now that you’re here, however, we have enough to come at them from the sides and the back at once. There’s another team in place to block the drive to the main road. Day’s team will come around the back of the house. I want you and your men to move around to the east side, Teal’c and his team will take the west side. When you’re in position, send a signal by clicking your com unit twice. Day will use three clicks. When I give the order, you’ll move into the house at once.”
Day looked out of place, as usual, as she began to move out with her team; a tiny little figure that could have been mistaken for a child when next to the three men assigned to her. If he didn’t know she was a capable officer, he would have brought in Davis. Jack watched both of the teams disappear from sight as Teal’c moved his men into position a bit down from where he was staying to watch the entire thing. He could tell when Teal’c was ready. Day signaled in first, having the shortest amount of ground to cover, then Stutzman.
“All right. Move in.”
All three teams threw tear gas grenades through first, three from each side of the house tossed through different windows. The reaction was immediate as surprised noises were heard from inside. The teams all had masks on, which allowed them to push forward without much concern. One of the men took out the lock of the back door with a quick shot and kicked it open. They made their way in carefully.
These were humans, possibly even fellow soldiers, although it was unlikely that they were active soldiers. Standing orders were to avoid deaths, if at all possible. Each member of the team was also equipped with a zat given to the leader. With the tear gas causing fits of coughing along with burning skin and eyes, Peace was able to incapacitate the three men in the back of the house with little trouble. They paused only long enough to disarm them before pressing onward.
The sounds from the front of the house indicated that the other teams were finding more resistance than they were. Peace and her men kept their eyes and ears open as they threaded their way through the halls. They checked room after room, most of them empty, a few with supplies. There were two other armed men down here, both dispatched with relative ease.
Lt. Sands was the one who found the room they were looking for. He trained the little red dot of his laser site onto the crisp white of the lab coat being worn by a man who appeared to be about to inject something potentially lethal to a restrained Camulus. “Don’t do it, Doc.” The man froze and dropped the syringe. Sands came into the room, followed by Peace while the other two guarded the hallway. She made her way to the exam table.
Camulus wasn’t unconscious, but he looked as though he wished he were. A portion of his hair had been shaved away on one side so that electrodes could be attacked to the scalp. Bandages covered where sections of skin and tissue had been cut away for samples and other places on his body had both cuts and burns. She leaned down to speak to him. “Camulus. Can you walk?”
He made no move to answer. Sands was restraining the doctor while Peace poked an area of skin that didn’t look too damaged. “Cam. Answer me.” Still nothing. She opened her hand flat and slapped him across the face. He came to with a shout, his arms flexing against the bonds out of reflex. “Can you walk?”
She was still wearing her mask, but he knew who it was. “Peaceful. Why are you here?”
“Because if anyone is gonna kill you, it’s gonna be me. Can you walk?”
He tested his limbs as much as he was able to against the restraints. “I believe that I can, if I am released. Why did you come here?”
She started undoing the restraints. “Funny thing. I was charged with guarding this annoying alien from outer space and he got captured. Since he was my charge, I had to come after him. Even though he shot me.” She stepped back to let him sit up, watching for any signs that he might be too hobbled to move on his own.
“I shot you to save you, you idiot female.” He winced from the discomfort brought on by moving injured limbs, but he was able to function.
“That has to be the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.” She hit the button on her com unit. “Sir, we’ve got him. He looks a little worse for wear, but he’s mobile.”
O’Neill’s voice came over the link. “Good work. Bring him in.”
Camulus got off the table. “They were holding you to use against me. I had to make them think that you held no such value.”
“Yes, Sir.” She cut off the link. “So you shot me?”
“It was only one shot. It hurt you, but I see that you made your way back to your fellow soldiers.” He seemed heedless of the fact that he didn’t have a shirt on. They had left him with his jeans. Peaceful didn’t comment on his observation. She was too intent on listening to the diminishing sounds from the front of the house. One of the two men outside the door called out to someone else and Teal’c deep voice responded. The three teams met up. “So many. I feel honored.”
Teal’c arched a brow at Camulus, but focused his statement to Peace. “The gathering here does not seem sufficient to be responsible for guarding such an operation.”
She nodded. “Agreed. I’m betting there are more outside, waiting for us to come out.”
Camulus gave a disdainful snort. “Of course there are more waiting outside.” He looked pointedly at Peaceful. “Get behind the rest of us. You will be safer there.”
Peace blinked. “Excuse me? Listen, Pal,” she started as she jabbed him in his bare chest with a single finger, “you are not the boss of me; I’m the boss of you. Now get your ass back there before it ends up full of even more holes.”
“No,” she readied her side arm, “tempted.”
Teal’c watched the exchange with some small amusement, evident by the slight upturn at the corners of his mouth. “Major Day, we should be prepared for weapons fire.”
Peaceful glared at an unmoving Camulus as she responded with a terse “I’m ready”. She turned around to join move with the rest of the unit, ignoring the still glaring alien behind her.
They moved through the back halls of the house, making their way back the way they came. As they neared the kitchen they bean to crouch down to reduce the size of target they presented. They weren’t dealing with amateurs, however. The remaining men outside opened fire as they reached their goal.
Teal’c and his group threw out smoke grenades to allow for enough cover that the soldiers could slip from the hallway into the kitchen. One of them flipped the kitchen table over for added cover. Teal’c turned over the fridge for added protection. Peaceful ignored Camulus’ attempt to keep her in the hallway with him to move where she could return fire.
Everything was drowned out in a storm of gunfire and the acrid scent of burnt powder. They just had to either hold out until the cavalry arrived or lay waste to the other side. Peace’s side arm locked open when she had exhausted the rounds in her magazine. She pressed the release with one hand as she pulled out a fresh magazine from her belt. She slid it into place and loaded the chamber just as the most peculiar feeling sliced through her. It was like a heated sting that seemed to enter at the joint of her neck and burrow it’s way downward, deep inside of her. She couldn’t quite figure out if she should feel pain or not. It was such a strange sensation.
She went to raise her sidearm again, but she was feeling decidedly short of breath. A sharp, stabbing sensation hit her low in the opposite side as she went to raise her arm again and she fell back against the table. The soldier beside her gave a quick glance followed by a more anxious expression. She thought that he might have called out her name, but she couldn’t be certain. Nothing seemed to be connecting any more.
The last thing she was aware of, or at least thought she was aware of, was the soldier beside her helping her to lie down onto the floor. Then everything grayed out.
“He refuses to budge.”
“Then make him budge. We have the guns. Make him move.”
Daniel sighed. “Jack, he wants to know Major Day’s status.”
“It’s not his concern.”
“Peaceful has been his sole contact for everything for almost a year. That was something you ordered. Every privilege, every request, and every concession he had to go through her to get. It’s not unreasonable to think that he feels that she is the only person here he can actually trust.”
“Daniel, you’re thinking of him like a human. He’s not.” Still, Jack did pause. “You think he might be a bit easier to get along with if I throw him a bone?”
“It would be a start.”
Jack gave a grimace and a sigh. “All right. I’ll talk to him.” Daniel didn’t move. “I’ll talk to him! I promise.”
Daniel gave a stern look at him before leaving. Jack remained put a bit longer, mostly just for the secret joy of irritating Camulus, before he exited his office and made his way to corridor outside medical.
Camulus was back in a pair of BDU trousers and a black shirt. He could have passed for a member of the Air Force, except for the arrogant way he held himself. “Cammy.”
“Your medical staff refuses to talk to me.”
“That’s because you’re not her family.”
“I demand to know if she is still within this base.”
Jack’s jaw tightened. “You are hardly in a position to demand anything… but I can tell you that she is still here. She’s just… a bit beat up.”
Camulus scowled. “The armor you equip your soldiers with is inadequate.”
“Not always. It was a million in one shot. Hell, it wasn’t even a shot, just bad luck.” Jack frowned. “The best we can figure a round ricocheted off of one of the metal appliances inside the kitchen and just somehow managed to hit her right above the neckline of her vest. The surgeons said it entered at a downward angle, missed her major arteries but pierced through both lungs, nicked the heart muscle and splintered a rib. She was under the knife for several hours, but she’s strong. She’s going to pull through this.”
There was a visible relaxing in Camulus’ shoulders. He nodded, but said nothing. Jack grimaced, slipping his hands into his pockets and looking towards the guards hovering near by. “Could you guys leave us alone for a moment? I’d like to discuss some… sensitive issues with our guest here.”
Camulus gave Jack a wary look as the guards vacated the area. “There is something wrong.”
“Yeah, there is. I’ve been questioning those hired guns the Trust was using, and they told me something I really didn’t like.”
“They are mercenaries and traitors to your government. No doubt they would lie to protect themselves.”
“Yeah, well… they said that you and Major Day may have taken your little charade a bit too far.” Jack noted the subtle tightening return to Camulus’ jaw. “Tell me, Cammy; when my officer gets back on her feet, do I pin a medal on her or bring her up on charges?”
That got the Goa’uld’s attention. “Charges? For what?”
“Inappropriate relations and conduct unbecoming an officer, for starters. Given the seriousness of the allegations she could loose her rank and get drummed out of the service, at best. At worst, she could spend a long time in a federal prison.”
“This is lunacy!”
“This is life in the American military! Major Day knows this. It was drilled into her head every day of her time training to become an officer. It has been drilled into her head regularly ever since. She has held command positions and has to know the regs inside and out. I put a top-notch officer on your case to make dealings between you and us a bit easier. How dare you jeopardize her entire career just for a few chuckles!”
Camulus’ shoulders squared. “That is not what happened!” His fists clenched. Within his pocket, Jack’s fingers curled around the grip of a small pistol, just in case, but the alien forced himself to relax. “Peaceful… in the beginning it was just a way to aggravate her. She can be so irritating, infuriating. Later… as the time passed… No, even before then.” Camulus turned towards Jack. “She makes being on this world… bearable, even preferable. At first, I thought she would be easily manipulated, but then I realized that I was the one being manipulated. When I caught on, she proved to be… shrewd, clever, and tenacious. I came to admire her, even enjoy our bickering. I cannot recall ever knowing anyone who… amused me more.”
“The Major has been described many ways. ‘Amusing’ isn’t one of them.”
“No. Short tempered. Prone to violence. Those are more like her. But while with her family, I saw a different side of her. There is a remarkable woman inside the soldier, O’Neill.” Camulus gave a faint smile, his expression almost dream-like. “She is everything a true warrior would seek in a helpmate and lover.”
“See, that is where we have a problem here. You were her assignment. Her job. One could even call you her prisoner. Playing footsie was not in the assignment.” O’Neill sighed, running a hand over his face. “She stands to loose everything because of you. That’s really great way to prove your love.” The sarcasm was sharp enough to draw blood. Jack moved to turn away, but Camulus’ voice stopped him.
“What would it take?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“What would need to be done… to make it go away? Peaceful has worked hard to get where she is. What would I have to do to convince you not to destroy her?”
Jack frowned, studying this creature before him. “What if I told you that it would take you never speaking to her again? She would likely be reassigned to another job, maybe a gate team. You would be removed to a facility far away from here and put under someone else’s supervision.”
Camulus frowned, but he seemed to mull it over. “Is there no other way?”
“Not that I can think of, no.”
“But if I agreed, no charges would be levied against her. This would not go on her record.”
“I’d ignore that it ever happened. Wouldn’t be the first time a report got fudged to protect someone’s butt.”
Camulus gave a dark look towards the closed door of the medical wing. “If that is what it would take. If it would protect her.”
Jack paused. Surely he didn’t hear that right. “I almost think you mean that.”
“Of course I mean it! I would prefer to remain with Peaceful… but I cannot ask her to throw away all that she has achieved. She is proud of her rank and her career, and has worked hard to get where she is today. I have observed your people, O’Neill. You make things far easier for your men than you do your women. Many discount Peaceful because of her appearance alone.”
Jack stood in silence, watching for a sign of falsehood. Snakes were just so hard to read! Still, the way Camulus seemed to forget he was even there as he continued to look at the door as though he could see through it to the injured woman on the other side. He could almost believe that the Goa’uld had somehow managed to fall for one of his soldiers.
“Tell you what. I’ll give the matter a bit more thought. In the meantime I’ll ask the doc if the Major is ready for visitors. It might do her some good to see a familiar face.”
Jack shifted uncomfortably again. Next to him, Sam sat in quiet comfort. “Sir, I thought you were going to have a tailor look at your uniform.”
“I did. He said there wasn’t anything wrong with it.”
“Then why do you keep squirming?”
“Because I hate this thing.”
Sam kept any further comments behind her teeth. Jack loathed his dress uniform, and always had. He’d prefer the loose fitting battle dress uniform any day.
Daniel sat on Sam’s other side, looking uncharacteristically classy in a new suit that was jet black. He thought it was fitting, given the circumstances. “I still can’t believe that the Joint Chiefs of Staff agreed to allow this.”
“The President pressured them into it.”
Daniel leaned forward to look around Sam at Jack. “The President?”
Jack glared. “Yeah, our boy pleaded his case to the big guy directly.”
Daniel sat back in his set. Teal’c was stoic. He’d already given his opinion, which was just as disapproving as the others. Sam gave a half shrug. “None of us like it, Sir, but she does get more out of him than anyone else. It could work.”
Jack shook his head. “I was sure that realizing that woman would be his mother-in-law would have changed his mind. It would have been enough to send me running.”
Daniel looked at the collection of children, all dressed in pristine finery. “Well, it is a very long car ride between Cheyenne Mountain and the rest of her family. With any luck he’ll only have to make an appearance at holidays.”
The organ music switched to ‘The Wedding March’ and all present came to their feet. All heads turned towards the back of the church where James Day stood framed in the doorway, a tiny, delicate figure in white lace standing beside him. They watched as he led his daughter to the front of the church where an oddly nervous looking Camulus stood waiting.
Sam leaned back a little. “I can’t believe she gave up on the idea of getting married in her dress blues.”
Jack shook his head. “You’ve met Helen. Would you tell her ‘no’?”
“Only if I was far away from her and had at least three fighter squadrons between us.”
The wedding party was instructed to be seated and all remained silent to witness as Camulus ‘Jones’ and Major Peaceful Heavenly Day were united in marriage. Later it would be noted by some that curiously absent from the ceremony were the parts where she would have promised to ‘obey’ and the pastor asked for any objections. No one really expected Peaceful to ever vow to ‘obey’ anyway.
And it truly was safer for General O’Neill not to be given the chance to object.
Ways to thank General O’Neill for this : #1 – Y’know, Jonathan is such a good name for a boy…