Chapter 26

Legal Disclaimer-Not mine. Dang it.

Author's Note-I'm back….And even updating a little more…thanks for the warm welcome back guys. Sorry that it took so long. Biggest question I have had is what is in the letter? I'll tell you, in the next few chapters. Please review. Ratboy, three more chapters to go….

The joy of Christmas shopping is anticipating the look of the recipient of the gift. At least, that's what all the marketing folks hope shoppers will think as they walk through crowded stores, looking for the perfect gift.

For Mark Cohen, Christmas shopping was always a small form of insanity, reserved for those who celebrated the holiday, but at the same time, he mused on past memories of shopping at home in Scarsdale.

Soho wasn't the Scarsdale mall, but, it was still crowded, it was still insane, but watching Mary go to town figuring out guitar straps and sweaters for Mimi and Roger was like watching a work of art. If you didn't know that Mary had money, you would have thought her to be one of the local street folk, her bargaining skills were amazing.

"I was hoping to find a bag for Collins," Mary said to him, after her latest purchase was wrapped up, "He's carrying stuff to school in such an old bag, I was hoping to find him something he could use."

"He'll carry that bag until it completely falls apart, Mary," Mark put an arm around her as they started back toward the subway, "Angel gave it to him for Christmas."

"Oh," Mary was quiet, "I still wish I could have met her."

"Christmas is always hard on him, he misses her still, luckily he's got Chang now," Mark continued, "He's bringing dinner tomorrow."

"Tomorrow? We're doing dinner at the loft Christmas Eve?" Mary asked.

"Actually, it's more like a feast," Mark laughed, "Everyone brings something, we all eat, it's kind of like a peasant's feast."

"Cool, I love that," Mary smiled, "I guess we need to stop by the grocery on the way back too."

"You cook too?" he looked at her.

"At Christmas, yes," she handed him her bags, "I make a mean salad. But what about Buzz Line?"

"We'll eat before it airs," Mark began, "I don't intend to miss it."

That evening Roger and Mimi threw glances at each other as the group ate dinner. Collins, being on break, wanted to make sure the bohemians ate regularly, and Chang's giving family gave them a pre-Christmas Chinese feast. It was the perfect set up for the surprise they had planned.

"So, what are you two up to?" Mark asked from his place at their small table, "I've been watching you two for the past ten minutes. Out with it, or Mimi's going to bust."

"Can't," Mimi replied, "It's Maureen and Joanne's surprise."

"And they aren't here," Mary added, "What are you guys up to?"

"You'll see," Roger gave her his best evil smile, "You'll love it too."

Mark glanced over to Mary. Her green eyes were sparkling.

"You sure about that?" she asked.

Roger nodded. His pager going off broke the happy moment, but he waved it off, opening up the bottle he carried in his shirt pocket, taking his AZT then using his glass of water to chase it down. Mark's eye met his. While it was great to have a happy moment, he was used to not having them.

"Mary, don't worry about it," Roger continued, "You and Mark will love it."

"Oh, so it's for both of us," Mark concluded, "From Maureen and Joanne?"

"And Me, and Mimi and Roger," Collins added, "You'll find out tomorrow, children."

His look said it was pointless to continue the argument. They ate, enjoying the evening in a loft, which for the first time in a long time, was perfectly warm.

The morning dawned bright. Mark woke first. He gently leaned on his elbows as he woke, trying to not wake Mary. The redhead was bundled in the down comforter that engulfed their small bed. It was hard to believe it was finally Christmas eve, and tonight she would see what he had worked so hard on.

He also was curious to what everyone had planned for them. The present was for both of them. He hated surprises.

Kissing her forehead, he shifted and moved from the bed, making sure his movements didn't wake her. She shifted, but only to grab the pillow and move back toward her side of their bed.

He took a second to watch her then moved onward to the world outside of their room. Roger was already up, working out a song on his guitar, his concentration on the chords and melody, as he scribbled them down in his ever present notebook. He looked up as Mark walked into the kitchen area, stretching.

"Morning," he said softly, "Sleep well?"

"Yeah, you?" he asked as he started to look for his usual mug. It was missing from it's hook on the wall.

"Check under the stove, you might be surprised," Roger said, "Merry Christmas Eve."

Perplexed, he pushed his glasses back up his nose and looked under the stove. A box marked "Mark, Roger, Mimi from me…" greeted him. He picked it up and opened it. Inside was a series of coffee mugs, all based on what they did, no names included. It was easy to find Mark's. It was covered in film strip artwork.

"She must have looked all over for it," Mark said, looking at it, "It's pretty incredible."

"Totally a gift from her though," Roger replied, "I'm impressed. Mimi found them very early this morning."

"She still here?" Mark asked, "Don't tell me she had to work this early."

"Busiest shopping day of the year," Roger replied, "She'll be joining us tonight though."

"Fair enough," Mark replied, "How does yours look?"

Roger held his up. It was covered in guitars and musical notes. It seemed like Mary had read everyone's minds and made sure that it was reflected in their drinkware.

"I notice she doesn't have one for herself," Mark observed, "I wonder why?"

"Probably couldn't find another one, Mimi's is in the sink and it's unique. I'm impressed, Mark," Roger said, getting up from his perch on the window and making sure that he grabbed the new mug, "Even made more coffee to use it."

"She's fit in around here quite nicely, hasn't she?" Mark asked, putting the water on to boil for his morning tea, "I just keep thinking she's going to leave…"

"Stop it," Roger said, looking at him, "She's not."

"I know that you don't think she will," Mark said, pouring the hot water as it boiled into the teapot, "But, after Mo, I don't know how to keep a woman in my life…"

"Just love her, Mark, that's all she wants," Roger said, "She cares about you."

"Yeah, yeah, I know," Mark looked at him, "Sometimes just hard to remember that."