This is set one year after Trimming The Tree
The fire had already burnt down to glowing embers by the time she returned to the living room. Jack was slouching on the couch watching - or rather, not watching - an old black and white movie on the television; the sound was down low but Sam smiled when she realised it was one of her favourite movies. In front of him on the table, next to his casually propped feet, were several half eaten cartons from Fu-Yung's. She sighed and flopped down on the couch next to Jack. "Any of that still hot?"
"Probably not." He shot her a look. "You want me to warm it up for you?"
"No, it's ok, I'm not even hungry now." And really, she wasn't. Just incredibly tired. Jack lifted his arm and she accepted the invite, snuggling safely into his side. Somewhere in the background Jimmy Stewart was standing in the snow pleading to go back to his wife and kids.
"She go off OK?" Jack asked after a moment.
"In the end. I had to give her medicine." Sam replied, stifling a yawn. "Teething sucks."
"Yeah," Jack added, "and just wait until it's her turn."
Sam stifled a giggle against his side. He always said the right thing. Always.
"It won't last forever." Jack added, and she took comfort in his confidence remembering he'd done all this before. "Here." Jack said, bringing around an arm to hand her an already open bottle of beer. When she hesitated he added, "C'mon, one beer won't hurt."
Sam nodded and took the proffered bottle and took a long swig savouring the cold liquid sliding down her throat. "That feels good." She settled her head back against his shoulder taking in the gentle rise and fall of his breathing under her cheek and felt… at peace. Yes. This was, utterly perfect.
They sat for a long moment in completely comfortable silence as Sam took in the room. The fire had all but spent its flame, but the soft glow of the lights on the tree bathed the room in gold as the television cast soft white light from the other direction casting odd shadows against the walls. Somewhere in movie land people were singing, a bell was ringing and an angel was getting his wings. The tree itself, looked almost exactly the same as last year; right down to the slightly wonky star that, try as she might, Sam could never get straight. Of course the one noticeable difference this year was a small white bauble with a picture of a pink teddy and their daughter's name embossed on the front. The bauble was pride of place in the front and centre of their tree this year, and had been a gift from Daniel just the last week to signify Abby's first Christmas. Sam swallowed the small lump that formed in her throat. In her more fanciful moments, she had dreamed of this life, but never once imagined it was anything more than a wistful fantasy. And here she was; living that life, with the man she thought she could never be with and the child she thought she'd left it too late to have. And damn it, but if becoming a mother hadn't turned her into a fountain; she swore she never cried like this before. She blinked back the sudden happy tears and covered with a yawn and rubbing her eyes.
Jack shifted to look at her and assumed, as she'd wanted him to, that she was tired. "Bed for you I think." He said, sitting up and clicking off the television.
"Oh but we said we were going to…"
"Uhuh! He wagged a finger at her. "If you don't go to bed you know Santa won't come."
"Jack, you do know there's no such person as Santa Claus." She smiled. She'd got the 'humour Jack' smile and look down to perfection in the last few years.
"Carter, please! Of course Santa exists."
She ignored the last name, "He's an anthropomorphic personification of…"
"Ah…" Jack raised a hand an his eyebrows. "I don't wanna hear it."
Sam laughed. "OK. I won't destroy your illusions."
Jack smiled back. "Speaking of…" He abruptly got up and walked into the kitchen, leaving Sam wondering what he was up to now.
A moment later Jack returned balancing a plate and a glass. On the plate sat a small pie and a carrot which he placed carefully on an end table near the tree. The glass was a quarter full of a pale golden liquid.
"What's that for?" Sam asked puzzled.
"O'Neill family tradition." Jack replied. "It's for Santa when he comes visit tonight." He grinned and Sam got the distinct impression that he was relishing the whole thing much more than he let on. "We did this when we were kids. Every year we'd leave out a plate for Santa. He's got a lot of houses to go to y'know; he's bound to get hungry."
"And very drunk by the looks of it." Sam added picking up the glass and sniffing the liquid to confirm it was the rather expensive Irish single malt he kept for special occasions.
"Well you know more often than not Santa doesn't actually eat or drink what we leave. I mean, think about it. You're the scientist, how many houses does he have to visit?"
"Umm…" Sam was stumped. It was hardly fair to ask her that. "A lot!" She replied hoping he'd be happy with the answer. Which of course he was.
"Yes, a lot." Jack nodded, "I'm sure he likes pie as much as the next man..."
He glared at her, "....man, but even he has his limits. He may not actually, as such, be hungry or, indeed thirsty when he stops here."
"Because it's important that we think he has stopped here. " He frowned and thought about it for a moment. "Well, OK not us; it's pretty much a given we know that Santa's presents arrive via the Mastercard fairies but for Abby. She has to believe, right?"
"Riiiight." Sam nodded suppressing a smile at both his pseudo seriousness and complete childishness. "You do know she's only seven months old?"
"That's not the point, Carter. Start as you mean to go on."
Sam grinned. "OK."
"So, well, we divvy up the plate and make it look at least half eaten just in case. I'll take the drink…"
"I thought you might…" She interrupted.
"… and you can have the pie and we'll just cut the tip off the carrot and nibble it a bit to make it look eaten." He grinned apparently very pleased with himself.
"What's the carrot for?" Sam asked.
Jack gave her a curious look. "The reindeer."
Sam smiled. Now she had the advantage over him and she wanted to have some fun. "You do know that reindeer don't actually eat carrots, don't you?"
"They do too." Jack assured her.
"No, I think you'll find they eat lichen." And just for good measure she gave him her best humour Jack smile too.
Jack frowned at her but he was smiling too. "These are Santa's magical reindeer we're talking about."
Sam was having too much fun to leave it at that. "Yes and they live at the North pole right? I'm pretty sure carrots don't grow in the Arctic circle."
"But if you give a reindeer a carrot, would it eat it? Would it be able to digest it?"
Sam thought for a moment and then realised how absurd it was giving such a silly subject such serious contemplation but, she didn't mind because it was Jack making her do it. "Yes, well, I'd imagine the could eat a carrot if…"
"Well there you go." Jack responded.
Sam shook her head, really getting into the spirit of the debate. "Even if they can, and even is, by some freak of nature they were able to grow so far North, they're a root vegetable. How do the reindeer dig them u…"
Jack had clearly had his fun so wrapped his arms around her pulling her close to him and dropping a quick kiss to silence her. "I tell you what, I'll go find a rock covered in lichen and you can lick it off, huh?"
Sam wrapped her arms around his neck, and returned the kiss. "I'm just sayin'…"
"Yeah," he replied, punctuating his words with little kisses to the corner of her mouth. "No Santa, no carrots for reindeer. Are you gonna suck all the joy out of this?"
Sam chuckled. "OK, have it your way, but I want you to know I am only entertaining this falsehood for the sake of our daughter. I am in no way whatsoever doing this to encourage you."
"Whatever." He said pulling her close for a long, deep kiss that left them both breathless and with a sudden desire to go to bed. "Let's go up." Jack said pulling her by the hand towards the bedroom.
The first sign was the soft drifting of soot from the chimney onto the ashes below.
Then came a muffled curse, followed by a boot and the fur lined cuff of a red suit and finally, after much huffing and puffing, the large man manoeuvred his way out the chimney into the room dragging a large sack behind him. Had Sam been watching she would have declared it impossible for such a large man to fit down such a small chimney, but then, had Sam been watching he would not be there.
He coughed and glanced around, spotted the pie and popped it into his mouth whole, then washed it down with the contents of the glass before stuffing the carrot inside the breast if his thick red coat. Then he pulled out a list; a very long list that pooled at his feet as he searched for the information on it. Finding what he needed, he pulled out a quill pen, placed three large ticks on the list and began to rummage in his sack.
Upstairs, three figures slept on soundly.
Author's Notes: There was never meant to be a sequel to Trimming The Tree but *sigh* the muse took me. The part about the reindeer - that's an almost direct transcript of the conversation I had with my husband last year. I was in Jack's camp by the way. The movie mentioned is, of course 'It's a Wonderful Life'