By the time she arrived home at her own darkened house, having driven past house after house lit-up for the holiday, Sam had made up her mind. She had been unable to keep that conversation with Jack out of her mind. He had been right, of course. She would catch an hour or so of sleep then set off in her car. She would be with her family on Christmas.
As she pulled up in front of the house, she noticed a glow coming from beneath the living room curtains. Strange, she could have sworn she'd turned off the tree before leaving that morning. She quickly entered the house and stepped into the living room. Sure enough, the tree was lit. And underneath it… Presents?
"Ya missed Santa."
Sam spun around, smiling broadly as she did so. Jack O'Neill stood in the doorway, grinning back at her. "I thought Minneapolis was snowed in." she said.
He nodded. "Yup. Did you know there are more perks to being a famous retired general than just meeting Oprah?"
She laughed, "I'd hope so!"
"Also, it turns out Santa Claus is actually a skinny grey guy about so big." Jack indicated a spot about three feet above the floor.
She laughed again, shaking her head, struck once again by how grateful she was that, despite everything, her husband had never really grown up. Thinking of which-- She glanced past him down the hall. "The kids?"
"'The children,'" he began, lowering his voice as he quoted, "'are nestled all snug in their beds.'-- Although," he interrupted his own recitation as a confused look crossed his features, "I seriously doubt they're dreaming of Sugar Plums. What are Sugar Plums, anyway?"
He had paused expectantly. "Well, actually, they're…" she began the old joke, then stopped laughing as Jack cut her off with a gesture.
"Ah, yes sir." She came to attention, making Jack laugh in turn. She stepped towards him, looking up into brown eyes dancing with merriment. "You know, Jack, we must have had the same thought. I was planning on driving up to be with you guys tomorrow."
She nodded up at him. "Uh-huh. I remembered what a very wise man once told me."
He cocked an eyebrow at her. "Do I know him?"
She ignored him, unwilling to change the subject. "Do you remember that Christmas, oh -- over ten years ago now -- that you tried to talk me into spending with Mark and his family instead of alone in my lab?"
"Well, Carter, it is sorta hard… There were so many…" When she scowled at him instead of laughing, he continued more seriously, nodding as he looked straight into her eyes. "Yeah, I do."
She smiled, but knew that this time there was more sadness than genuine joy in the gesture. "You were right, Jack. No one should ever have to spend Christmas alone."
They stood silently for several moments, gazes locked, trapped together in the past before, typically, Jack broke the mood with a sly grin. "Wow, Carter, I really was wise!"
She shook her head, laughing as she batted him lightly on the chest. "Smart ass."
"That's why you love me." She nodded, still smiling, and he opened his arms to her. "C'mere, sweetheart."
She stepped into his arms, and he pulled her close, the warm solid feel of him against her pushing painful memories back where they belonged. "Merry Christmas, Sam," he murmured into her hair.
"Merry Christmas, Jack." And, since being together as a family really was the best gift Santa could bring, it really was a Merry Christmas for them all.