A/N: Due to popular demand (and an adorable idea from Fonz), I decided to write a part two to this little holiday one shot. This will be the last part of this though, no matter what. ;) Anyway, just like the last one, this is light, fluffy, and pure fun. So, I hope everyone enjoys their New Year's present. BTW, I'm posting this now, because I work tomorrow night, and, if things are crazy, who knows what type of mood I'll be in when I get off. :D Bon Voyage, 2006; Viva 2007!
Santa's Little Helper – Part 2
Sometimes paybacks were priceless. Eight years before to the day, Ryan had surprised her with a proposal pretending to be Santa Clause as Seth tricked her into sitting on his lap, but now it was her turn to use the jolly Christmas symbol of good will and generosity to give her husband of six years his own surprise. Claiming she needed to look for a present for Hadley Noël, their daughter who had been born on Christmas Day three years before much to Seth's dismay, she had sent Ryan and Hadley off to explore the store with Cameron and the most juvenile member of the family: her 31 year old, single, video game connoisseur brother-in-law Seth who just happened to live with them in a studio apartment above their garage. Because of how she and Ryan had met and started dating, Seth and Cameron always insisted they come with them to see Santa every year just in case something important happened. Needless to say, their annual trip to the toy store was always eventful, and she knew this year would be no different.
Fortunately for Marissa, the owners of the store still employed the same elderly gentleman to play Kris Kringle as when she worked for them, so, once he recognized her, she motioned for him to speak with her privately behind 'The North Pole' set.
"Why Mrs. Atwood," he greeted her warmly, leaning in to give her a fatherly hug, "where's little Hadley. I hope you brought her with you again this year. I've been looking forward to seeing her."
"Oh, she's here," Marissa revealed with a smile. "We could never miss seeing Santa. She's just out in the store with her Dad and Uncles while I talk to you. I was wondering if you could do me a favor."
"Anything for one of my former elves."
Looking around for she was nervous, Seth and Cameron had a terrible habit of spying and eavesdropping to learn the family's secrets, she motioned for the elderly man to lean in closer so she could whisper to him. After a moment of covert conversation, they separated, a matching, conspiring twinkle flashing through both of their eyes, hers a young, energetic, electric blue, his a seasoned, comforting, warm chocolate brown.
"This might be even more fun than the plot we orchestrated against you," he finally responded, chuckling good naturedly. Winking at her, he teased, "next Christmas should be interesting."
Walking away, he went back to the set to sit and greet hundreds of innocent, starry eyed children, a rosy tint to his cheeks and a smile for all. Marissa watched him leave feeling so excited she had a hard time controlling herself. All she wanted to do was find her husband and daughter, drag them to the front of the line, and watch the confusion and shock on Ryan's face turn to expressions of joy and wonder. Though she had gotten him many different presents for the holiday season, she knew the gift she was giving him today, the knowledge she was sharing with him, would be the only present he cared about, the only present he loved. With a wide, euphoric grin across her face, Marissa practically skipped off to find her family. Everything was ready; it was time.
"Mommy," the precocious, petite Hadley posed thoughtfully, "why does Santa wear red?"
Marissa shared a knowing look with her husband, stifling a laugh at her daughter's adorable nature. Hadley had just recently entered into a new stage of her development where she was curious about everything. If she wasn't sleeping or eating, she was asking questions.
"Well, baby," she answered, reaching up to adjust the little girl's curled pigtails, "I think it's because red is a Christmas color." Smiling mischievously, she added, "plus, not everyone has our complexions and can wear green." Looking up at Ryan she saw him roll his eyes and grin at her comment, but Hadley started giggling profusely despite the fact that she really had no idea what her mother was talking about.
They were standing in line. Ryan was holding their daughter in his right arm while his left hand was tightly clasped with Marissa's. It had been an hour since they'd gotten behind the dozens of other children waiting for their turn to see and talk to Santa. Although initially Ryan and Marissa had attempted to discuss their holiday plans, to organize in their mind what they still needed to purchase for family members, what they were going to take to the various dinner parties, and when they wanted to spend time alone together at their house, just the three of them, but Hadley had other ideas, so the past sixty minutes had been spent answering her questions one after another. Rarely thirty seconds of quiet would pass before she would think of something else to inquire about.
Just as they suspected, it was only moments later when she turned to her father pondering something else. "Daddy, can I get a pet reindeer for Christmas? I promise not to pull its tale like I do to Regina." Regina was their much tortured, beloved, long haired kitten that Seth had given Hadley for her second birthday. Of course, he had forgotten to purchase necessary things such as a litter box and food, meaning Ryan was forced to make a quick trip to a pet store that night during the party. Plus, he had left all the vet visits as Ryan and Marissa's responsibility, too. However the little fluff of fur had quickly taken over the house, earning her name by the end of the first week she had lived with them.
"I don't think so, sweetie," Ryan answered his daughter gently. "Reindeer only live at the North Pole."
Animatedly, she suggested, "we could move there!"
"But what about Mommy and Daddy's jobs, our house," he offered as an argument, but Marissa could tell his reasoning meant nothing to their daughter.
"If we moved to the North Pole," she pointed out, "it would snow everyday, you wouldn't be able to go to the beach or go swimming, and you'd hardly ever see Grandpa Sandy, Grandma Kirsten, Uncle Seth, or Uncle Cameron."
"Oooohhhh," she realized slowly, "okay, Mommy."
Marissa smiled contentedly when she felt Ryan lean over and place a delicate kiss behind her ear, whispering softly so only she could hear, "thank you, honey." Their little moment was broken though when Hadley decided to ask another question.
Trying to get her father's attention, she sweetly asked, "Daddy?"
"Ugh, why is she asking for me again," Ryan complained into the crook of Marissa's neck. "It's your turn to answer one of her questions." Marissa just laughed at his grumbling.
"Daddy," Hadley raised her voice, becoming impatient when she was ignored.
"Why doesn't Uncle Seth have a Mommy, too…like you?"
"He has a Mommy," Ryan replied, confused by her question. "Grandma Kirsten is his Mommy."
"No," she argued with her father, "that's Nana. Why doesn't he have a Mommy?"
Realizing what their daughter meant, Marissa spoke up. "Do you mean why doesn't Uncle Seth have a wife, why isn't he married like Mommy and Daddy are?"
"Yeah," Hadley responded thoughtfully, offering her Mom a cute smile in appreciation for understanding her.
"Be good, Ryan," Marissa warned knowing her husband enjoyed making fun of his adopted brother.
"Well, sweetie," Ryan answered his daughter, smiling cheekily, "your Daddy is just a better catch than your Uncle Seth. He's smarter, better looking, more…athletic, and he doesn't make a woman want to stab her ear drums out after spending five minutes with him." Although his response elicited giggles from their daughter, he was rewarded with a swift elbow into his side from his wife. "But the real reason he isn't married," Ryan amended his statement, "is because he's never fallen in love before."
"And you love Mommy," Hadley offered, proud of her parents.
"I love your Mommy more than anything in the world." That answer, unlike his last one, earned him a loving kiss on the cheek.
"More than ice cream," the little girl pondered in disbelief.
"Definitely more than ice cream."
"More than your Playstation, more than Journey, more than the car," she continued to question him, unsure of her Dad's response. "More than…."
"The only thing I love as much as I love your Mommy," Ryan interrupted her, "is you."
Sweetly, she hugged his neck tightly. "I love you, too, Daddy."
Suddenly, Cameron was at their side. "I'd hate to interrupt this Kodak moment," he taunted, "but Seth wants to know how much longer you'll be, because he said he's about to go into a diabetic comma if he doesn't get lunch out of this trip soon. Oh, and he also said to tell you that you're paying."
"We always pay," Ryan complained under his breath, rolling his eyes in the process. "I think I would go into a comma from shock if he EVER offered to pay for anything."
"Tell Seth," Marissa advised her youngest brother-in-law, "that he's trying to pull over his fake medical emergencies on the wrong woman. I am a doctor, and the only comma he's going to be going into is if it's caused by blunt trauma when my purse is knocked into his thick head."
"Gotcha," Cameron replied quickly. Picking up his hand, he switched on the walkie-talkie he was holding. "Rubber Ducky come in," he paged Seth.
"How many times do I have to tell you, Triple Threat" Seth complained through the toy's speaker, "it's not Rubber Ducky; it's the Ironist."
"Rubber Ducky fits you better," the younger boy dismissed. "Anyway, Marissa threatened bodily harm if you keep annoying her."
"Fine," Seth whined profusely, "let's recon at the candy counter. I need a snack to hold me over until lunch."
"Roger that," Cameron signed off, putting his walkie-talkie back in his pocket before realizing Ryan, Marissa, and even Hadley were all staring at him in shock and confusion. "Seth likes to pretend we're on top secret missions when we go places," he explained with a shrug of his shoulders. "It keeps him out of trouble." With that, he turned around and walked away, finally rendering Hadley speechless….at least for a few minutes.
The quiet did not last long, and, as the family continued to stand in wait to see Santa, the curious questions came one after another. Ryan and Marissa found themselves scrambling to answer their daughter's inquisitive queries, sometimes at a loss for words as to how she even came up with half of the things she thought of. 'Where did freckles come from?' 'Why were there two little dots above her name? 'When could she get her ears pierced like her Mommy?' 'What were they going to have for lunch?' 'Would Santa eat all the Christmas cookies they baked or would he save some for her?' 'Could she wear her bathing suit to the party they were going to that night since there would be a pool there?' 'How did fish breathe?' 'Why couldn't she wear high heels?' 'Why did Regina chase her own tail?' 'Why did Daddy stand up to go potty?' 'Why?' 'Why?' 'Why?'
Just as Ryan and Marissa were at their wits end and about to suggest a game, any game, to keep their remarkably inquisitive daughter occupied, it was finally their turn to see Santa. Walking up together, Ryan carefully handed Hadley over to the jolly man in red as he and Marissa stood aside and watched as their three year old daughter interacted with an elderly man representing a figure of her childish imagination.
"Why little Hadley Atwood," the Santa Clause greeted her with a bright smile, "it's been a long time since I've seen you. You've gotten so big!"
"I'm three now," she answered him proudly, holding up her tiny fingers to display her age as well. "How old are you?"
"How old do you think I am?"
She pondered his question for a moment. It was unusual for adults to turn her inquires back onto her. "Hm," she finally mused out loud, "probably nine, because that's the most biggest number I know."
"You're pretty close," he answered her, grinning widely. Hadley was satisfied with his response. "So tell me, were you a good girl this year?"
"Better than Uncle Seth."
Ryan and Marissa couldn't help but snicker at their daughter's response, giving the confused older man a smile to show him that he should just continue on to his next question.
"Well then, in that case," he asked, "what would you like for Christmas this year?"
"I get more than anyone else, because Christmas is also my birthday," Hadley responded grinning widely at the thought of all her presents, "and I want a lot of things."
"I want a new bike, not a baby bike but a big girl one. I want some new dolls and a Range Rover for my favorite Barbie, because that's what my Grandma Kirsten drives. I want some makeup like Mommy has, some new party dresses, lots and lots of movies, a swimming pool with a big slide, a surf board so Grandma Sandy can teach me how to ride the waves, a new kitten so Regina can have a friend, a balance beam, a computer so I can make houses on it like Daddy does, bubbles, a penguin, and I want my Uncle Seth to get someone like my Mommy."
Amused, the Santa Clause pushed her last request further. "You want your Uncle Seth to get married?"
"Yep," Hadley yelled out excitedly. "And he can have a little girl like me, too."
"Well, I'll see what I can do about some of those things, but you asked for quite a bit."
Shrugging her shoulders, she replied. "That's okay. I understand. Can I go see my Mommy and Daddy now?"
"Of course you can," the good-natured gentleman chuckled, putting back down on the floor and laughing as she ran off and jumped into Marissa's arms talking a mile a minute. As he sat by and watched, he saw Ryan go to follow his wife and daughter down the stairs that took them off of the set, but, following the plan he had formed with Marissa, he stopped him.
"Mr. Atwood," he called out, motioning for the younger man to come to his side. "Hadley forgot her candy cane," he pointed out. Marissa watched as he pushed three into Ryan's hands.
"Thanks," Ryan smiled back at him, "but, trust me, she doesn't need three. She's hyper enough without the sweets."
"Oh, those aren't all for your daughter; the other two are for the other kids."
"In that case," Ryan laughed, "I'm sure Cameron and Seth will appreciate them."
Just as Ryan went to walk away, the Santa spoke up, once again, getting his attention. "Not those kids."
"But I don't understand. We didn't bring any other children with us."
"Yes, you did."
"Ah, no we didn't," Ryan argued, starting to worry that the older man was losing his mind.
"Well," the Santa conceded, "you can't see them yet. Marissa isn't even showing."
That got Ryan's attention. Marissa couldn't help but giggle at her husband's wide eyed, flabbergasted expression. He looked exactly how she imagined he would.
"Marissa's pregnant," he questioned the man sitting before him, waving off the elf who insisted that she had to let the next child talk to Santa. "How do you know this?"
"Let's just say that in my line of work you tend to figure these things out quiet easily."
Still confused, Ryan pressed. "But you said two other children?"
His answer was similar to one he had used just a moment before, simple and to the point. "Yes, I did."
"Yeah," the kind hearted man smiled up at the flustered young father before him, "twins."
Marissa watched as all Ryan could do was offer her laughing co-conspirator a distracted wave as he made his way down the stairs and towards his glowing, overjoyed wife and mystified daughter. Wordlessly, she felt him take her face in his hands, cupping it gently as he peered deeply into her eyes.
"Two new babies, huh," he asked her grinning crookedly. He was starting to get excited.
All Marissa could do was nod quickly; she was too delighted to talk.
As his forehead leaned in to rest against he own, she felt his hands slip down from her face to delicately caress her belly. "How soon will we get to meet them," he queried, a contagious smile on his face. "Do you know what you're having yet?"
"I'm due in June," Marissa answered him, "and of course I don't know what I'm having yet. I wouldn't find that out unless you were there with me."
For that, he gave her a soft kiss. "So, that means we can tell the family, because you're already three months along."
"Actually," Marissa revealed, chuckling softly, "I had these t-shirts made for all of them that's going to make it pretty obvious that we're expecting."
"What do they say?"
"Well, Sandy and Kirsten's say 'I'm going to be a grandparent again….twice,' and Seth and Cameron's say 'I'm going to be an uncle again….twice.' I know they won't wear them," Marissa replied with a dismissive wave of her hand, "but I can't wait to see their faces when they open them."
Ryan joined in on her laugher. "Seth is going to throw a fit."
"I know," Marissa agreed with him, smirking evilly. "It's going to be a great Christmas!"
After sharing one last, sweet kiss with her, Ryan took Hadley into his own arms, insisting Marissa needed to start taking it easy, and that meant no more carrying their daughter around. Just as they had been when they came in, Hadley was in Ryan's right arm as his left hand gripped tightly to Marissa's. Walking out together, the not so little family of five went in search of the missing two members of their party, and Marissa realized as she felt her stomach rumble with hunger that Seth wasn't the only one looking forward to lunch.
Standing in the doorway of her daughter's bedroom, Marissa Atwood stood cradling the slight bump of her stomach that had just become noticeable, betraying the fact that she was expecting, as she watched her husband tuck their first born in.
"Daddy, can the new babies live with Uncle Seth in the garage, because I don't like when people cry."
"Sorry, sweetie," Ryan had a hard time not laughing at her request, "but I don't think Uncle Seth would like that idea too much. The babies will stay in Mommy and Daddy's room after they're born, but eventually they'll get their own rooms just like you have your own."
"What if I don't like them though," Hadley continued to question. Ever since they had sat her down and explained Marissa's pregnancy to her, she had been asking about nothing but the new babies. "Can we take them in an exchange them like Mommy did with that sweater Grandma Kirsten got her that she thought was ugly?"
"Don't worry about that," Ryan assured her standing up from her petite bed and tucking her covers in around her, "we're going to love the new babies. Besides," he added to calm her nerves about her new siblings, "it's going to be a while before they get here." Leaning down, he brushed aside her golden blonde locks before placing a soft kiss on her forehead. "Sleep tight, Hadley."
Yelling excitedly, she finished their nightly ritual as Ryan turned off her bedside lamp. "Don't let the bed bugs bite!"
Walking out of the room, he shut the door behind him before turning to his observing wife. "What do you think you're doing," he chastised her. "You're supposed to be resting."
"I am resting," Marissa argued playfully, "against the wall."
"Well at least you listened and put on your pajamas."
"Ah, but you see," she taunted him, pulling away from his arms, "I didn't listen. I might have changed my clothes, but what I have underneath this robe is definitely not pajamas." Slowly, knowing that her teasing was driving him crazy, Marissa untied the silk wrap that was hiding her body from her husband's very anxious eyes. Letting the robe fall to the floor, she stood there in front of him, a very tiny bikini leaving little to his imagination. Ryan simply remained still, mouth slightly agape, in awe of the woman who he could honestly say was his and his alone.
"Do you know how much I love it when you're pregnant," he asked her smugly, letting his adoring gaze travel leisurely up and down her gorgeous body. "You're always….generous," he explained, - she knew exactly what he was referring to – "but when you're pregnant you're especially…."
His voice trailed off as he left the sentence open ended. Marissa's lips curled into a seductive smile as she gracefully moved towards him. "Let's say I become really affectionate." Her remark made Ryan laugh loudly and nod his head in agreement.
"Holy Hugh Hefner," Seth's shocked and amazed voice made Marissa jump back in an attempt to cover her body from his ogling eyes and for Ryan to quickly scoot in front of his wife to block the sight of her from his prying brother's view.
"What the hell are you doing here, Seth," he asked, visibly annoyed. "You're supposed to be in your apartment."
"I was just coming up to see if you guys wanted to hang out tonight, you know, ring the New Year in with style while partying with your favorite roommate, but," he added audaciously, winking at Ryan, "it looks like the two of you already have plans of your own. Hey, have fun man! Just think about it though. You already knocked her up, I mean REALLY knocked her up, so you don't have to worry about anything."
Having slipped her robe back on, Marissa felt comfortable joining the conversation. Leaning against Ryan's back, she rested her head in the crook of his neck before speaking up. "You don't have to worry either, Seth," she made fun of him, "because it's impossible to impregnate a blowup doll."
"Wow, Marissa," Seth retorted sarcastically, "those pregnancy hormones are already kicking in, aren't they?"
Before Marissa could continue her verbal battle with her brother-in-law, Ryan stepped in. "As fun as this is, watching you stare at my wife and listening to you harass her," he explained, moving away from Marissa to push Seth back down the hallway towards the stairs that would take him back to the ground floor and eventually his entrance to the garage, "tonight is New Year's Eve, and I intend to enjoy the holiday with my wife….alone."
"Actually," Marissa interrupted his thought, moving to lace her arms around his waist, "I set a little something up for us out on the patio….with the hot tub, and I would feel more reassured if Seth was not in his apartment, because then he could spy on us. So," she turned towards the curly haired man watching her intently, curious to see where she was going with her train of thought, "I was thinking Seth could have the game room to himself tonight, free reign of the big screen TV, all the game systems, and I even stocked the mini-fridge down there for him full of his favorite snacks, so there will be no reason for him to leave."
"I can handle that deal," Seth nodded in concurrence. Turning his back on the happy couple, he moved down the stairs without being instructed to. "Thanks, Preggers," he called over his shoulder to Marissa, annoying Ryan once again. Luckily for him, Marissa's gentle embrace held him back from chasing after his brother.
"Now," Marissa instructed, pulling Ryan behind her towards their bedroom, "come with me. It's time for you to change into your trunks….while I watch."
Fifteen minutes later, she was snuggled into his lap in the hot tub, her fingers idly trailing patterns across his bare, damp chest, the baby monitor on beside them so they could listen and make sure Hadley was safe and sleeping soundly. Marissa had set up candles across the patio, illuminating the night skyline with a gentle, golden glow, and all of Ryan's favorite snacks were out on the table, so, when they got hungry, they could get out of the water and have something to eat. There was even soft music playing in the background. It was the perfect way for them to ring in the New Year.
"I can't believe Seth saw you in that bikini," Ryan complained, still upset and locked in the frustrating moments that had transpired in their hallway. He was so distracted he never noticed Marissa slip her hands up and start to untie the strings of her top. "You know I love my brother," he continued. "In fact, there was a time when he was the only friend I had in this town, but enough is enough! He's 31 years old and lives above our garage. He needs to go out, meet some new people, start really trying to date."
"Not every guy is lucky enough to fall for an elf at a toy store's Christmas display."
"Sexiest elf ever," Ryan trailed his fingers down her bare back as he complimented her. Leaning in, he joined their lips in a slow, sensual kiss. Pulling away, he sighed. "I just don't know what to do about him," he admitted. "We've tried setting him up with your friends, but Seth's an acquired taste." Marissa couldn't help but giggle at his comment. "And, once the babies are born, we're never going to have time to go out with him. Whenever we get private time, we're going to want to be with each other and not trying to find Seth a girlfriend."
They were both silent for a moment, lost in thought. Suddenly, Marissa started laughing softly.
"What, what is it," Ryan wondered out loud.
"I was just thinking that, before we know it, it's going to be Easter, and you know what that means?" He simply watched her puzzled. "Hadley is going to need someone to take her to see the Easter Bunny." Ryan shook his head in amusement. "You never know," she continued smugly. "Seth just might meet the woman of his dreams on 'Bunny Lane.'
"But you love taking Hadley to those types of things."
"Hey," Marissa dismissed his concerns, "desperate times call for desperate measures."
Chuckling at her comment, Ryan leaned in and kissed her deeply, Marissa's mouth opening to his as soon as his lips touched hers, soft moans vibrating against his mouth as she whimpered in ecstasy at his touch. Breaking their embrace, she pushed herself away from him and settled on the other side of the hot tub.
"Speaking of desperation," she began, her hands moving below the water, "I'm feeling pretty frantic myself right now for your mouth to be busy doing….other things besides talking about your brother." Gracefully lifting up her left hand, she threw her bikini bottoms onto the patio before repositioning herself back onto Ryan's lap. Sliding her hair over her shoulder, she pointed to the still fastened top around her neck. "Would you mind helping me," she teased, a seductive smile toying with her plump, inviting lips.
Ryan did not have to be asked twice.
Within seconds, her top and his trunks were tossed aside as well, and he had moved her back around to face him, bringing her mouth to meet his once again. Lost in the kiss, he was startled when Marissa pulled away to whisper softly into his ear.
"Happy New Year, Ryan," she told him happily, punctuating her words with a feather light kiss below his ear.
Pulling his wife's face back to his so he could look into her eyes, Ryan returned her sentiment. "Happy New Year, Marissa, and happy New Year, babies," he added after kissing her lips softly, lowering his head to peer down at her slightly rounded abdomen for a moment. Touched and needing him closer, Marissa ran her fingers though his wet hair, breaking the spell her husband was under and making Ryan return his gaze back to her face. Those sweet, tender, innocent words would be the last ones the blissfully married couple would utter for hours to come. Too lost in their shared passion, Ryan and Marissa would make love long into the night, ringing in the New Year in the best possible way they could imagine. It was a good omen for the year to come.