Title: The Last Christmas
Author:
Annerb
Rating:
Teens
Summary:
It's the last Christmas and everything's wrong. But maybe it doesn't matter.
Classifications: Angst, because really, what else is there?
Season: Any time post-heroes
Disclaimer: The characters mentioned in this story are the property of Showtime and Gekko Film Corp. The Stargate, SG-1, the Goa'uld and all other characters who have appeared in the series STARGATE SG-1 together with the names, titles and backstory are the sole copyright property of MGM-UA Worldwide Television, Gekko Film Corp, Glassner/Wright Double Secret Productions and Stargate SG-I Prod. Ltd. Partnership. This fanfic is not intended as an infringement upon those rights and solely meant for entertainment. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author.

Author's Note: This came out of Rowan's GMCC #3 challenge to "Compose a Holiday Fanfic that those who Hate Loathe and Detest all Holiday Fic will still be able to stand to read." and a comment I made to Mab ("Not that that means I will ever write holiday fic. Hmm...never say never though. But we all know I don't do happy happy. I'd probably burn down the tree just to see Sam cry.") Mab, bless her, said she'd love to see it. So here you go, Mab and Rowan. This is for you. Apoca/Christmas fic!

The Last Christmas

Today is Christmas.

Sam is surprised that she remembers.

All other dates have fallen to the wayside. Birthdays, holidays, anniversaries. There is no place for them in her new life.

Nonetheless, the importance of the date hits her hard as she sits in the commissary with Daniel and Teal'c eating reconstituted MREs. She can barely make out their faces in the dim, brown light that now defines the interior spaces. As with many things, she has completely lost track of the seasons, the time of day or even the day of week. But she just suddenly vividly remembers that today is December 25.

Christmas.

For a moment, Sam considers saying something to them, about it being Christmas. But she really can't be sure of their reaction. Daniel might think she has finally lost it. Teal'c might just look at her in that way he has, enough to make her remember the way things had been. Back before his hands began trembling too much to hide. Before he started rationing tretonin and she'd had to watch him die a little day by day.

Maybe it was better to stay silent. Why bother reminding them of things that were now lost?

It's not like it matters anymore.

Sam drops her fork back into her chicken-tasting macaroni and cheese, her non-existent appetite transforming into nausea. Last year for Christmas she had been eating steak. Not exactly traditional Christmas food, but it really hadn't been the cuisine that had made it such a memorable holiday.

They'd returned from a standard survey mission on Christmas Eve. Hammond had greeted them and joked with them about finally breaking the Christmas SG-1 curse, actually managing to make it back on time before sending them off for post-mission medical evaluation.

Of course, with their luck, rather than being sent straight home, Brightman had found a few small red dots on Daniel's chest. And they had each been running a small fever. Even Teal'c.

That was how they ended up spending Christmas in a quarantine cell on level 19.

So much for the curse.

Jack had badgered and generally cajoled Hammond into giving permission for someone to bring in a nice steak dinner for the cloistered team.

For all their complaining about being stuck in that small room together, there had been something undeniably right about being there together on Christmas. They'd eaten a wonderful meal, taught Teal'c some traditional Christmas songs (he had an amazingly beautiful voice), and generally lounged around. In the sated aftermath of their meal, Sam and Daniel had swapped stories of childhood Christmases, Teal'c listening avidly.

There had been no tree. No blinking lights or candy canes. Nothing, really, that could mark it as Christmas. But that hadn't mattered.

It's easier, when you're older, to realize that Christmas had never really been about presents, pie and mistletoe. It is about taking a break from your life, even if just for the span of a single deep breath, to remind yourself of everything that is wonderful in your life. It is about taking the time to be reunited, even if it was just with people you see everyday. It's so easy to take things for granted when they are always there.

In all honesty, it was probably the best Christmas she'd had in years. And in some ways she is absurdly grateful to the mysterious alien bug that had landed them there.

The last Christmas.

Now Jack's chair at the table is conspicuously empty as it has been since everything began. But she can't let herself think about it, whether or not he ever made it to Washington on his fatefully timed trip. Whether or not he had fallen to the ground gasping along with everyone else.

Today is Christmas. Sam thinks it should matter.

Even though there is no one left to celebrate.

Daniel's hand is cool against Sam's arm and heavy with concern. "Not hungry?" he asks softly, his eyes on her abandoned fork floating in the now congealed meal.

Sam shakes her head and tries to flash him a rueful smile, but she's pretty sure it comes off more as a grimace. "Just thinking."

"Yeah," Daniel acknowledges with a nod and for a moment Sam's heart rate quickens, thinking that maybe he has remembered too.

But then Daniel goes back to his own meal. "You'll figure it out," he says with absent assurance.

Right, Sam thinks. He means the gate. Saving their lives.

She is vaguely disappointed that he doesn't remember the holiday and thinks that maybe she is going a little crazy.

Sam excuses herself from the table and she can feel Daniel and Teal'c's eyes on her as she leaves the room. The uncomfortable weight of their faith in her threatens to snap her into a million pieces.

Something like a delicate glass ornament falling from an overburdened branch.

Sam shakes her head at her growing preoccupation. Best get back to work rather than over think. Her lab is now a large storage room on level 20. It had taken three weeks of careful excavation just to retrieve the mangled pieces of naquadah that now grace the floor like an eerie jigsaw puzzle.

The Stargate.

It is their last path off of this decimated, charred planet once known as Earth. Which is probably why the unknown aggressors had gone to so much trouble to destroy it. The initial explosion had been enough to lay waste to the three lower levels.

But the few remaining survivors had salvaged each piece carefully out of the wreckage, digging through crumbled cement and the bloody remains of friends, and brought them here to her. Sam knows that they honestly expect her to make it work again. So she sits in here with the pieces and tries. Every day.

She doesn't have the heart to tell anyone that she doesn't know what the hell she is doing. That they are more than likely already living inside their own tomb.

Sam lifts the nearest piece, runs her fingers over the warped symbol for Earth and absently hums half-forgotten carols under her breath.

Hours later the sound of rubble shifting somewhere on the level is nearly deafening as it echoes in the silent, empty hallways. Sam jumps at the unexpected noise and slices her thumb open on a sliver of naquadah. She swears lowly, sticking her finger in her mouth.

She reaches for her handgun and warily makes her way through the dank corridors. About halfway down the hallway an access shaft door has been ripped off, standing ajar to open air. Sam breathes deeply with disbelief. She can almost smell snow and evergreen on the wind that flows through the tunnel from twenty levels above.

The poison on the surface was non-persistent, clearing weeks before, but the survivors still huddle underground by unspoken agreement. Everyday they continue to breathe nothing but musty, recycled air. Just as they had while the world ended above them.

Sam had been the one to check the surface out initially, to look for survivors. There were none. Not even plants. The eerie quiet of the lifeless planet was worse than the dim, ragged halls of their underground prison. She had never made the trek again.

There is another sound of tumbling debris and Sam swings around, fresh air forgotten.

She blinks for long moments, not sure exactly what she is looking at. Her brain eventually churns back into action, but she can only think one thing.

He looks like living death.

His familiar features are obscured behind a scraggly beard and his skin is dark with layers of grime. But he is standing there. Alive.

"How?" Sam manages to ask, still aware that she is pointing a gun at him.

"Presidential bomb shelter," he says simply, his voice rough with disuse.

Sam nods. Right. So he did make it to Washington. But that is nine hundred miles away. Sam shakes her head as it begins to cloud with confusion. But she can't really bring herself to care how he got here.

"They just let you leave?" she asks instead.

"No."

Sam feels her eyebrows rise in confusion.

He shrugs carelessly. "This is where I belong," he says in explanation.

It is such a Jack O'Neill thing to do, to do something amazing and stupid and heroic and just shrug it off as common sense, that Sam feels laughter rising in her throat.

She lowers her gun and feels nothing but fresh air washing over her face and laughter rattling around in her belly.

Daniel and Teal'c appear at some point, probably drawn by her near-hysterical laughter.

Somehow they end up outside, standing in the still, towering forest of skeleton trees dusted with just a breath of snow. There are no birds or sounds of traffic, but neither is there the persistent stench of death as there had been weeks before.

By unspoken agreement they decide that Jack's return is worth celebrating. Worth spending a night together under the silent sky as they had countless times before.

They build a huge bonfire on the slope of the mountain, the sparks rising into the amazingly clear night sky. Jack breaks out a bottle of scotch from Hammond's secret hiding spot and Sam reveals the last bar of chocolate she'd squirreled away in her lab.

Jack pops a piece of chocolate into his mouth, a look of pure rapture crossing his face. "God," he says, "this alone was worth the trip."

Daniel sniggers absurdly and loudly asks to hear another Jaffa joke from Teal'c, whose face no longer looks so sickly in the warm, casting light of the flames. It doesn't matter if it is only an illusion, Sam decides as she listens to the way Teal'c's deep, velvet voice blends with the crackling of the fire to soften the deafening silence of death.

Jack snatches the nearly empty bottle from Daniel and settles down next to Sam, his knee brushing hers. He takes a deep pull and passes it to Sam. She watches the golden liquid swirl and jostle in the firelight, enjoying the feel of warmth on her face and earth under her body. The liquid burns on the way down and Sam is relieved to feel anything other than the roughness of broken naquadah.

She can feel Jack's eyes on her and she looks at him in askance. He leans over and says so lowly that neither Teal'c nor Daniel can overhear, "Merry Christmas, Carter."

Sam jerks slightly in surprise and blinks back sudden tears. Daniel and Teal'c reach a crescendo in their laughter and Sam blindly grabs for Jack's hand.

She probably can't fix the gate. The food won't last much longer. But SG-1 is together. And Jack remembers what day it is.

"Merry Christmas, sir."

And somehow it is.