Category: Daniel/Janet, Cassie, a little bit of team dorkiness
Summary: What do you get for an alien teenager who has everything?
Challenge: from besyd: Daniel/Janet and a big red bow.
Daniel brushed snow out of his hair as he beelined for the car, six parking lots away from the store entrance.
It was getting ridiculous. Six craft stores, three automotive stores, a Wal-Mart, and no closer to the ultimate goal.
Actually, the ultimate goal was changing a little bit: at first, the goal had been to find one of those big red bows "like the ones in car commercials!" Daniel's new goal was to get home before New Year's, before he froze to death in a packed parking lot somewhere, and before he heard White Christmas even one more time.
"They do exist," Janet told him as she crawled into the driver's seat and tossed a bag of last-minute gifts onto the mountain of similar bags in the back of the SUV. "I saw them at a new car lot when I was in Denver last week."
"Can we go to a new car lot and steal one, then?"
Janet gave him a sharp look. It seemed to be a reflex with her whenever she heard whining -- be it Cassie's or his. Cassie was getting good at ignoring it, but then, the seventeen-year-old had much more practice. "Yes, that'll be a great Christmas for Cassandra. 'Sorry, hon, we can't have Christmas dinner... we have to go visit Daniel in jail.'"
Jail would probably be warmer. And less crowded. And given the decidedly hostile attitude of the soccer moms whose shopping carts he'd been dodging for the better part of 3 hours, jail would have less likelihood of him getting shivved in the back.
He tried one more time. "Is she really going to care one way or the other? I mean, she's getting a car. Is she going to care at all what it's wrapped in?"
Janet didn't look particularly swayed. For the past few months, she had been especially devoted to making everything as perfect as possible for Cassie. There were a few reasons for that. For one, Cassie seemed to be finally over the hateful teenager phase of screaming and door-slamming, and everyone was really pretty determined to make sure nothing caused her to relapse. For another, she had applied to art schools all over the country, and Janet had every intention of giving Cassie a happy last year at home to encourage her to come back as often as humanly possible -- every day, if Janet could convince an Asgard to hang around and transport her.
Also, it had barely been six months since Janet had nearly died off-world, and the very real scare -- and month-long hospital stay -- had been hardest on Janet's daughter. Janet told him that for weeks after she came home, she would wake up in the middle of the night to Cassie sneaking into her bedroom to check on her.
Lastly, there was Daniel. He knew he was a little bit responsible for Janet's decision to make this The Best Christmas Ever. Their relationship was fairly new, actually started, in a way, while Janet was still recovering at the military hospital. Cassie was nothing but welcoming and supportive of the new third wheel in the Fraiser house -- at least to his face -- but he knew Janet still worried about it.
"Daniel, this bow thing was your idea."
So, maybe he was worried about it too, and just as determined to bribe his way into Cassie's good graces as Janet was. The car itself was a group gift, primarily from Janet, Jack and Sam. Jack had a buddy who started an auto wholesaling business after retiring from the Air Force, half the people in the SGC offered to chip in a few dollars, and Janet was wholly sick of part-timing as a chauffeur for teenagers, so it was decided, and a four-year-old four-wheel-drive Honda was currently hiding in Jack's garage, just waiting for a big red bow.
"I changed my mind," he said. "She doesn't need a bow. We can stick a regular-sized bow on the keychain."
"One more place," Janet argued, and since she was in the driver's seat and he was never very good at talking her out of things, they ended up circling yet another parking lot and finding a spot about half a mile away from the Party Warehouse.
"Christmas shouldn't be about the presents, anyway," Daniel pointed out as he trudged after Janet through parking-lot slush. "It's all about family cheer and togetherness, right?"
"You and I are together," Janet pointed out, not in a sappy, merry-christmas, tidings-of-comfort-and-joy sort of way, but in the sort of way where she was probably wishing she'd left him at home.
"And Cassie is...?" He didn't actually know. He slept under the same roof as the girl four nights a week, but for the most part, he had no idea what she actually did with her free time outside of school. Mysterious teenager things, he suspected.
"She's at a Christmas Eve party at her friend Shannon's. I thought I told you that."
"We should have thrown a Christmas Eve party."
"Do you know how much shopping goes into that?"
Not that much, he figured. They could always just order in pizza. Stay at home, drink eggnog, say hi to some friends, and not play any Christmas muzak whatsoever.
When they finally made it to the store, his hair was wet from snow again and White Christmas was playing over the loudspeaker. Janet took his hand, and even though it was probably mostly a practical gesture to keep from losing him in the throng of last-minute shoppers, it was still nice. It had a long way to go before it made up for the entire evening of trailing after a shopping cart, but it was nice. Her fingers were warm, after all, and if she kept holding long enough, it might thaw out his hand from all the walking through parking lots and brushing snow off the car and just generally not being at home drinking eggnog.
It did remind him of something, though. It was their first Christmas Eve together, and he hadn't said it yet today. "Hey. I love you, you know?"
Without missing a beat, she said, "You'd better, because we have to go to another store."
No one had a big red Honda-sized Christmas bow, but the fourteenth store had large red ribbon-like material, the fifteenth store had wrapping paper and tape for all the other last-minute Christmas gifts Janet had acquired throughout the evening, and the sixteenth store had liquor.
Jack's house had liquor, too, but it seemed like a good idea to bring their own supply.
"Took you long enough," Jack pointed out when they arrived at his place. "Where's Daniel's giant bow?"
Janet held out a roll of red material. "Here. Some assembly required. I have a thousand things to wrap-"
Daniel nodded to Jack over Janet's head to indicate that, yes, it was around a thousand things.
"-so can I trust you boys to do the physical labor?"
Jack took the roll of ribbon and held it out at arms' length. "Did I sign up for this?"
"Yes. Now go. I have to pick Cassie up at ten-thirty."
It was eleven-thirty, and he and Jack were a six-pack in (the situation required bigger guns than eggnog) before the deed was done. It certainly wasn't a bow ready for commercials -- despite some helpful internet ribbon-art websites, it looked more like a tied shoelace than anything else -- but it was at least something red and ribbon-related and on top of Cassie's car.
And it was freezing cold in Jack's garage.
"Cassie's going to laugh at your bow," Jack pointed out. "She's an art student, you know? She probably knows all about 'ribbon art.'"
"I know. I know. At least I didn't try to draw her a card."
"So are you meeting all of us over here at two tomorrow?" Jack asked. "Janet and Cass are coming over a little after then, after they do stuff at their place."
Daniel nodded. That was another result of Janet's worries that things were moving too fast for her daughter, who had already dealt with far too much change in her short life. The Fraisers were going to do Fraiser things in the morning, without him. Fraiser things apparently involved getting up at 5 a.m. to put the turkey in the oven for the Christmas Dinner at Jack's that afternoon (Janet swore up and down that she would never cook a turkey dinner in an oven that was purchased solely for heating up frozen pizza). Daniel wasn't too sad to be missing that early wake-up call.
Well, he was a little sad. He really loved watching Janet be a mom, and there was something just so... wonderful about her little family. They'd been all but thrown together, but after so many years, no one in the world would ever guess that the bright, funny, smart-mouthed Cassandra Fraiser wasn't really her mother's daughter.
He didn't think about his own childhood all that much anymore -- plenty of things had happened since then, after all -- but whenever he did, he was envious of Cassandra. He saw how hard both she and Janet worked to make their intergalactic-adoption-family work, and he knew things weren't always easy on either one of them, but Cassie was lucky to have someone willing to try that hard for her. With her. Even now, so late in the game, Daniel wanted to be part of that.
He must have had a misty look on his face, and Jack must have mis-read it, because he guessed, "First Christmas with Janet, huh? Hope you got her something nice. She deserves sainthood for putting up with you."
Daniel shot him a partly-drunk glare. "Sam helped me pick it out."
Nothing had really seemed right. He'd ended up going with earrings, because Sam said it was hard to go wrong with jewelry, and because the diamond commercials on TV were pretty convincing. There was a necklace in the same store with three diamonds in a gift box display talking about how it represented "family" and "togetherness," and he lingered over the case for a long time, but it seemed too forward. It was in his nature to fall fast and hard, but he didn't know whether Janet was that way, too. The last thing he wanted to do was scare her off.
Shopping for Cassie was easier, because Janet had a list, and Cassie had video game systems that could always use new games.
It might have just been a sentiment borne of alcohol, but he really wished he'd gotten her something more personal, too.
After being checked over for signs of underage drinking, Cassie's first words were: "You're late, Mom."
"Sorry," Daniel offered, because it really was mostly his fault.
Cassie buckled herself into the back seat. "I'm just saying, the next time you tell me 'ten-thirty on the dot, no later'-"
Janet shot Cassie a look through the rearview mirror. "We got caught up at Jack's wrapping your presents."
"Oh, I don't mind or anything. Shannon's brothers were setting off fireworks. I just want it on the record that the next time I'm coming home late from the mall-"
Trying to forestall a Fraiser family argument, Daniel jumped in with: "Are fireworks really part of the Christmas holiday now?"
The Fraiser women ignored him, but the argument seemed to have been nipped in the bud. "Mom, I still have to wrap your present when we get home, okay? But we can watch the movie afterwards if you want."
"Oh, honey, it's pretty late..."
They talked back and forth, something about marinating turkey and holiday traditions and why staying up all night would or wouldn't be a really bad idea, and Daniel watched the windshield wipers battle it out against the falling snow on the way to drop him off at his place. After off-world missions or all-night researching adventures, his favorite place to nap was on Janet's couch to the sound of her and Cassie chattering away in the kitchen. He didn't usually know what to say, how to involve himself in their conversations, but for some reason, he really liked listening to them.
He was brought out of his reverie by Cassie's hand shaking his shoulder. "Daniel?"
"Hmm? I wasn't sleeping."
Janet smirked. "He might have had a few drinks during the wrapping of presents."
"Duh," Cassie retorted, and while a response like that was usually grounds for Janet to leap into a lecture on politeness, the holiday spirit must have encouraged her to let Cassie continue without interruption. "Do you want to come over tomorrow morning? I mean, not right away..." Daniel turned his head enough to see Cassie looking a bit sheepish, "... but maybe, do you want to come over to watch Christmas movies in the morning? You can help us decorate cookies."
He glanced over at Janet before answering, and she had the strangest smile on her face, one he hadn't seen before but somehow warmed him to the core.
"Sure. That sounds fun."
Cassie leaned back in her seat before adding, "We still won't let you touch the oven, though."
Sam almost gave the car surprise away by having an oil smear on her cheek when they arrived at Jack's place. Daniel managed to grab her and hustle her into the bathroom to wash it off while everyone else brought the hot Christmas dinner in from Janet's steamed-up SUV.
"I tried to fix your bow," Sam reported. "It didn't work. Why didn't you just get a ready-made one?"
Daniel rolled his eyes. After Cassie saw his cookie-decorating skills that morning, not to mention his attempt to help her make name cards for the place settings, he was pretty sure the teenager wouldn't be expecting much from him. Their cookie-decorating had actually devolved into a bit of an icing fight, and Janet made them both take showers while she finished with the turkey.
"Come on, guys!" Cassie was yelling. "We've got to eat right away or dinner will get cold!"
"Not quite yet, Cass," Jack said, and Daniel and Sam joined the group just in time to see him handing the girl the end of a long piece of string that someone (Sam, Daniel would bet) had trailed around half the house. "We've got a present for you. Teal'c can't wait until after dinner for you to see it."
Janet squeezed Cassie's shoulders. "Go on, honey. Everything will stay warm in the oven."
Cassie followed the string around, Teal'c gamely following after her collecting it, and Janet tugged on Daniel's shoulder to whisper in his ear, "She has no idea."
Daniel doubted that -- the kid was creepily omniscient, like her mother -- but even when the string led her outside and then back in and toward the garage, her bemused expression didn't waver.
When she saw the car, though, she shrieked. "For me? Really? Mine? Really?"
Jack said something about how no, it was for the other seventeen-year-old they all knew, but there was too much screaming from pretty much everyone for Cassie to even hear him. She almost knocked Janet over, while Daniel offered a supportive hand-to-the-back against exhuberant teenage hugging.
"There's even a bow!" she squeaked, hugging the car before going back to hugging Jack and Sam.
Janet smiled at him. "That was Daniel's idea."
"Yeah," Jack added. "We didn't help. Blame only him."
Cassie smiled, tapping one of the lopsided ribbon loops. "I'm going to keep it. Thanks."
As the energy level started to return to normal, Janet asked, "Should I go set out dinner?"
"I want to eat in my car!" Driver's license or not, Cassie sounded exactly like she had when she was twelve.
Janet ran a hand over her daughter's long hair, something Daniel had seen her do ever since Cassie was a child. "Tell you what. Dinner in the house, and you can have dessert in the car."
"Nah. I don't want to get pie crumbs in it. But if we need to run out and get anything, I'm driving."
Janet and Sam exchanged a quick look before Sam said, "Now that you mention it, we could use some more eggnog. Someone will have to go with ID, though."
"I'm not going with you," Jack informed her. "I have my life to consider."
Cassie rolled her eyes.
Teal'c offered, "I would be honored to accompany you to the grocery store, Cassandra Fraiser."
She looked at Daniel again. "Daniel? Mom? Want to come?"
"I should really-" Janet pointed back toward the kitchen.
Daniel was pretty sure that even Janet couldn't resist that one, but just in case, he turned a pout of his own on her. "Yeah, Janet, pleeeeease?"
Cassie gave him a conspiratorial grin before running to the driver's seat.
"You two..." Janet said, tossed her oven mitts to Sam, and gave Daniel a peck on the cheek. "Let's go."
"You're not going to take the bow off?" Jack asked. Since their final bow arrangement didn't involve a ribbon over the front windshield, it wouldn't be dangerous to drive with it, but Daniel agreed it might be embarrassing.
"I want everyone to know it's a present!" Cassie answered. "Want shotgun, Mom?"
"Teal'c can take it," Janet replied. "I prefer to nitpick your driving from the back seat."
It turned out that Janet really shouldn't have worried about reckless teenage driving, because Cassie drove all of ten miles per hour to the store. "I don't want to crash my new car!" she told Teal'c, when the Jaffa inquired whether there were special driving regulations on holidays.
Janet's hand slid around Daniel's in the back seat of the car, and she seemed to alternate between smiling at him and at Cassandra's reflection in the rearview mirror.
The first time they saw another car on the road, Cassie rolled down her window. "This Christmas is awesome!" she yelled, and Janet burst out laughing.
"Go tell it on the mountain, Cass!"
She yelled it again, even louder, and even Teal'c was doing an almost-smirk. "This Christmas is awesome!"
Daniel squeezed Janet's hand, smiled at Cassie, and thought that he really couldn't agree more.