Disclaimer: The Mercers aren't mine. Ralphs is not mine. MasterCard is not mine.


"So, where are we going?"

Bobby glanced over at his youngest brother's profile and grimaced. He would never live this one down. Jerry had gotten him to do it, pulling that "family" stuff on him again, telling him it was Christmas and they ought to have the best for Ma. That's why he was here, at six o'clock in the evening, in the car, driving on the snowy road while Jack flipped through the radio channels.

He sighed. He would never live this down.

"Ralphs," Bobby said shortly, keeping his eyes fixed on the road even though he knew Jack's jaw had dropped an inch.

"For what?" Jack wondered aloud. Everything they had needed for any other Christmas had been at the corner market just down the street.

"Christmas bird."

"Must be some turkey," Jack commented, hiding the snicker that crossed his face. Bobby at the corner market was humorous. Bobby in a brand name grocery store would be hilarious.

"Yeah, well, it's Christmas and all and Jerry thought Ma'd like it if we got some big flyin' bird, so…. It wasn't my idea, you know. Just for your think tank. Not me. Not even close."

Jack nodded slowly, his lips folded to hide the smile. "Okay, got it."

"Good." Bobby ended the conversation as he pulled into the parking lot, nearly taking out a loose shopping basket on the way.

"Wanna run out and grab that for me, princess?"

He ignored Jack's muttering and flipped the keys out of the ignition. He didn't bother locking the car. Like anyone would single it out from where it was parked between SUVs and sports cars. And besides, he wanted to make a quick getaway.

"Come on, let's get this done."

Bobby rehearsed the plan in his head. Go in, get the bird, get out. Go in, get the bird, get out.

He repeated it like a mantra as he and Jack approached the automatic doors under the big red sign declaring "Ralphs". This was not going to be easy.


Jack followed Bobby down aisle 9 but his brow furrowed at the food selections. They were definitely not in the right section. He had already tried to ask someone where they sold "poultry" but Bobby had smacked him and told him to shut up with the smart stuff. Surveying the aisle, Jack figured that Bobby didn't know where they were going any more than he did.

Bobby reached up and took a box off the shelf. "I swear they sell this exact stuff at home."

"I didn't know we were having cake." Jack's mouth tipped at the Betty Crocker box held in Bobby's hands. He was surveying it critically like it had some sort of secret code that would tell him where the turkeys were.

"Well, yeah, it's a special occasion," Bobby supplied without looking up.

"So?"

"So we have cake."

"Who's gonna make it?"

"Ma," Bobby said with some surprise. "Unless you've got some new oven mitts you're just dying to use."

Jack glared at Bobby. "Bobby, it's Christmas. We don't eat cake."

"Sure we do. Since when have we not eaten cake on Christmas?"

"Since when have we eaten cake on Christmas?"

"Jack," Bobby explained, "it's like a birthday—people get presents, cake goes with presents. We always have cake on birthdays."

There was a pause as Bobby put back the box and took down another one, wondering if he wanted pink or chocolate cake.

"Not always."

"What?"

Jack was leaning with one arm against the aisle stand and was looking down at him matter-of-factly.

"We don't always have cake on birthdays."

"Oh yeah, like when?"

Since when had choosing a flavor been so hard? Bobby wondered. You didn't have to choose just the cake flavor. You had to choose the icing flavor, whether you wanted sprinkles or not, what colors, what textures. Heck, he just wanted cake.

"Like last year for Jerry's birthday, he wanted chicken fingers and nothing else."

"Well, luckily your older sister's outgrown that picky stage. And we're not getting chicken fingers, we're getting cake."

Jack raised an eyebrow as Bobby picked up another box and then shook his head, muttering something about flavors. He abruptly stacked the two or three boxes he was holding and headed for the opposite end of the aisle. Jack bent down to pick them up and stuffed them in between the other boxes on the shelf.

"Bobby, let's just go get some popsicles or something, it's like two aisles over," he called. This was getting complicated. And they didn't even have the turkey yet.

"No way are we getting popsicles. You think Ma's going to appreciate us coming into the house on a snowy night in Chicago with Popsicle sticks?" Bobby turned back to the cake boxes, muttering under his breath, "Popsicles…"

"Well, I know she won't appreciate you coming in and throwing a cake box at her and telling her to bake a cake."

Bobby randomly grabbed a box with his eyes shut but glared at it. "Key Lime Surprise?"

"Bobby."

"Well, I guess we'll have to rely on your secret kitchen skills, won't we, princess?"

Bobby shelved the box and grabbed another one, pushing it into Jack's arms and heading out of the aisle. They still had to find that bird.


In the checkout line Bobby dumped the turkey on the counter, ignoring the cashier's surprised look, and motioned for Jack to set down the cake box. Bobby fished around in his pocket for some change and the loose twenty he'd shoved in there and didn't notice before it was too late that Jack had started dumping everything from gum to chapstick on the counter while flipping through a gossip magazine.

"Hey, think they'll stay together?" Jack nudged Bobby.

"Jack!" Bobby smacked the magazine out of Jack's hands, hissing, "What are you doing, you crazy or something? Get your head out of the clouds, man!"

"What? What's the big deal?"

Jack was looking at him with genuine confusion so Bobby whispered in his ear, "Just shut up, okay? You're making us look like a couple."

The glee on Jack's face was like lighting up a Christmas tree. Bobby mentally groaned.

"Should I put my arm around you?" Jack asked, lifting his arm to place it on Bobby's shoulder but hastily redirecting his hand's route to rub his hair once he saw Bobby's glare.

"Fairy," Bobby muttered, handing the wondering cashier the twenty and grabbing the bags. Jack was going to hear about it in the car.

It took nearly the entire ride home for Bobby to rant and rave about everything from Jack's comments to Ralphs to the turkey, even throwing in a few comments about sprinkles here and there. But Jack just stared out the window, tapping out the song on the radio with his fingers and laughing to himself about their outing.

Buying a Christmas turkey: $12.

Buying a box of cake mix: $5.

Buying a tube of Sparkle Cherry Chapstick: $2.

Shopping with Bobby: Priceless.

As they got out of the car with the groceries, Jack sang quietly, "For everything else, there's MasterCard."