Disclaimer:  Well, I begged and pleaded with TPTB, but they still won't relent and give me the characters. 

My Notes:  Has anyone heard Diamond Rio's "I Believe"?  If you haven't heard the song, find the lyrics because…well…wow, what a great song to accompany the reading of this fic.  Also, when you read this chapter, please be willing to have an open mind and believe that love will always find a way.  Thank you Alexandre and Vix, and thanks to all of you have been reading this story.

Chapter Eight:  Christmas Presents

Logan quietly enters the bedroom, moving over to his side of the bed to watch Max sleep.  I have to stop doing this, he thinks as he climbs into the bed, I don't know who I hurt more, me or them.

Max rolls onto her side as she feels the bed shift with the weight of her husband.  "Finally coming to bed, huh?"

"I wanted to check on them," he leans over to whisper in her ear.

"Oh, of course," Max says with a knowing grin on her face, "check on them, he says.  What he means, is that he wanted to give them an early Christmas present."

"Oh you know me too well, my love," Logan smiles as he leans down to kiss Max's lips.  "Would you like an early Christmas present, too?"  he grins mischievously.

"Hmm, I don't know," Max mockingly replies.  "I've been awfully bad this year," she pouts as she leans up to kiss him.

"You?" Logan questions as their kiss ends.  "Never," he declares as a wide smile graces his face.

"So what did you leave for the little munchkins this year?"  Max asks as she wraps her arms around Logan's body. 

"Well, let's see," Logan begins as he snuggles into her embrace.  "Jessica is going to wake up to find the charm bracelet she's been begging for these past three months.  Michael will be waking up to a new laptop.  I just don't understand why that boy is so attached to the computer," he adds playfully.

"Well, I seem to remember a time when I couldn't drag you away from one either," Max grins at him.

"That was before I figured out how much fun there was to be had away from the digital world," he whispers as he trails a finger down her back.

"Hmm," Max shivers, "let's hope Mike plays with the computer for a few more years at least."

"I agree," Logan chuckles.

"What about Allie," Max questions.

"Allie-bear gets the surprise gift this year," he grins.

"No fair," Max pouts.  "You could at least tell me what her part of the gift is," she reasons.

"Nope," he replies smugly.  "That's why they're called surprise gifts.  Whatever I left for Allie is part of what I left for you."

Max huffs softly in disgust.  "Well," she says relenting as sleep begins to claim her, "at least you didn't wake them up."

"No," he smiles sadly.  "No, I didn't wake them."

"I love you, Logan," Max whispers as she falls asleep.

"I love you too," he says as he softly kisses her.  He watches over her for a moment, thinking about all the Christmas memories they have shared and about how big his family has grown.  The past few years have been hard for Max, and Logan yearns to ease her pain.  He silently berates himself for coming back, reminding her of him and opening still fresh wounds.  How can she heal, Logan, if you're still with her?  Logan softly shook his head; he had to stop visiting her.  Max and the kids, they need time to heal.  To move on…to move away from him.  The only question was could he let her go?  Drops of silver sparkled in his eyes, and he bent to kiss Max one more time before he disappeared.

"MOMMY!"  Allie exclaims as she jumps onto the bed, rousing Max from sleep, a few hours later.

"Good morning, Allie-bear," Max smiles as the four-year old bounces into her open arms for a hug.

"Look at what Santa Claus left for me last night," she excitedly chatters as she hits Max in the head with a stuffed kitten. 

"Allie," Max laughs, "watch out where you throw that thing, will you?"

"Sorry, Mommy," Allie grins.  "Oh, guess what?  Santa left you something too," she says as her blue eyes sparkle.  "M-A-X," Allie carefully spells, "that's your name right?" 

"Yes, Sweetie, that's Mommy's name."

"Then see," Allie says holding out a small ring box to Max, "this one is for you.  It was attached to my kitty.  Isn't my kitty pretty, Mommy?  She looks like that statue in the living room."

"Bast," Max nods in agreement, "she looks like Bast."

"Mom!"  Jessica screams as she comes running into the bedroom trailed by Michael.  "I can't believe you got the bracelet for me.  Thank you, thank you, thank you," Jessica repeats as she flops onto the bed beside Max and hugs her.

"But I didn't," Max begins slowly, before being interrupted by her son.

"What's that?" Michael asks, seeing the ring box his mother is holding.

"Santa left it for her," Allie states proudly, "it was attached to my new kitty. See her Mikey," Allie says, whacking her brother with her new toy.  "Her name is Bast," she says proudly, hugging the kitty to her chest as Michael rubs his head.

"Aren't you going to open it, Mom?" Jessica asks eyeing the package.

Logan?  No, Max thought, it had to be a dream.  You have to move on, Logan is gone.  Oh really, another voice began that sounded a lot like Logan, how do you explain the gifts?  I'll always be watching you. 

Reaching out a hand to touch her mother, Jessica begins, "Mom."

"Yeah," Max says as a tear falls from her eye.  "Let's see what's inside," she chokes out as she opens the ring box.

"Wow," Jessica gasps as she gazes down at the intricately designed platinum band.

Max takes the ring out of the box and reads the inscription out loud. "For my goddess," Max sniffles, "my dark angel, my love."

All three of the children sit silently on the bed watching their mother as the tears fall from her eyes.  "I miss him, Mom," Jessica whispers.

"So do I, Baby," Max smiles through her tears.  "We all miss him."  Max looks at the inscription in the ring one more time before slipping it on her finger.  Wiping away the tears she looks at the sad faces surrounding her.  "Why don't we go open some more Christmas presents," she asks allowing her brave face to fall into place. 

"More presents!" Allie exclaims leaping from the bed and running into the living room.

Max smiles as she watches Allie disappear from view.  She then looks at Jessica and Michael.  "You better go get her," she warns them, "otherwise she'll open up all the presents, like she did last year."

"Not again," Michael whines as he darts off the bed following Allie's path.

"Go ahead, Sweetie," Max says seeing that Jessica hasn't moved.  "I'll be there in a minute," she explains giving her a nudge off the bed, and a forced smile.

Max slips out of the bed as Jessica leaves the room and walks to the dresser.  "It's been two years," she whispers sadly as she picks up the photograph of the two them dancing at their twelfth wedding anniversary, two months before he died.  "We had so much fun that day," she reminiscences, as she relaxes her posture, imagining Logan standing behind her.  "I love you, Logan," she whispers softly, running her finger along the silver-filigree of the frame. 

"Mom!"  Michael yells from the living room.  "She's doing it again."

Max looks longingly at the photograph as she puts it back on the dresser and walks out of the room.

"I love you, Max," Logan whispers as his presence fades from position beside the dresser.


~*~*I hope you enjoyed reading the story as much as I enjoyed writing the story.  To clarify, Max didn't give herself a ring, I hope it was clear that it came from Logan—this was the whole suspension of belief thing that I discussed in the notes at the beginning.