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Al sat slumped on the floor of the Imaging Chamber, looking glumly at the brightly-wrapped box he'd placed on the floor in front of him. The Chamber was turned off – Sam was between leaps, and there was no point in wasting power – but he was strangely reluctant to leave. This would be his first Christmas without Sam in...God. More years than he cared to count.

He didn't know how to face the holiday alone.

He felt his connection to Sam most strongly in this room, so in this room he would stay.

His fingers flicked idly at the bright-red curlicue of ribbon that adorned the package. He'd bought the most godawful, tacky, appallingly Christmas-y tie he could find to give to Sam this year – it featured hula-dancing reindeer – as a gag gift. He had several, more serious, appropriate gifts back at home under the tree, but he'd found himself picking this one up and bringing it with him today. Sam would have hated it, Al knew that. But he also would have worn it.

He hoped Sam was safe, wherever he was. He hoped he was happy.

But mostly he hoped that he came home soon.

"Merry Christmas, Sam," Al said, then got up and went inside.


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