Several months later...

"Arise, dog!" came a voice that jolted Brian out of his sleep. "Wake up and be productive! It's Christmas, Brian, and if you think I'm celebrating it alone, you're the most mistaken that you've ever been!"

Stewie had been jumping up and down on Brian, who had retreated to sleep on the floor of Stewie's room because Peter and Lois had decided to "get intimate" as a Christmas Eve celebration. Stewie continued to try to get Brian to wake up, doing everything from yanking off his blanket to slapping his face. Brian made several sputtering sounds before finally sitting up, pushing Stewie's hands away.

"All right, all right," he groaned resignedly. "I'm up."

He glanced at Stewie's bedside clock. "Stewie, what the hell? It's six o'clock in the morning!"

"Oh, lighten up, Brian," Stewie said nonchalantly. "It's Christmas morning, what'd you expect? Besides, the Fat Man and Lois are already downstairs, as are Chris and Meg. We're the last ones to awaken; now let's get downstairs so we can receive the gifts!"

"And give some of our own, right?" Brian asked, stowing his pillowcase away before grabbing his Christmas sweater and pulling it on.

"Whatever gave you that idea?" Stewie scoffed, and the two of them headed to the hallway and descended the staircase.

The family was waiting for them: As they reached the Christmas tree, Lois swooped over to Stewie and scooped her up in his arms, giving him a kiss on the cheek (much to his chagrin). "Merry Christmas, my little baby angel. Oh, you were so wonderful in the pageant last night, just like last year."

Beside Lois, Peter kept making little "cuckoo" signs around his head while pointing to his wife, and also doing the "I'm scared" motion towards Brian, who sighed and rolled his eyes. "Peter, I keep telling you that last year was a one-time thing. Lois will not go crazy this Christmas, all right? So you might as well relax and enjoy it."

"Yeah, well, you might want to have your car warmed up for a quick getaway, just in case," Peter whispered back nervously. "Hey, you got it fully restored, right?"

"That 'e did, thanks to Geico!" came a heavily accented little voice, and Peter and Brian looked down. A green gecko had emerged and was now addressing them in an Cockney accent. "Y'see, all 'e had to do was go to Geico-dot-com, an' get a free rate quote! Geico. Fifteen minutes could save you fifteen percent or more on car insur— ACK!"

Peter had raised his foot and now squashed the little gecko flat, turning him into nothing more than a disgusting (albeit festive) green stain on the carpet.

"Man, I hate that annoying little lizard!" Peter said angrily.

"Hmm, not very Christmassy," Stewie said as Lois set him down. "God, that miniature reptile is even worse off than Alyssa was after she was hauled off to jail..."

Alyssa sighed, reclining on the bed in her cell. It wasn't very comfortable, and by the looks of things she'd be sleeping on it for a very, very long time. Behind her, the bars of her cell clanged open and someone stepped inside.

"Number 159771, meet your new cellmate," came a guard's voice, and a big, beefy woman with spiky hair and lots of tattoos came to stand up beside Alyssa, her arms crossed. Alyssa sat up nervously, wondering what her problem was.

"Hey, I know you," said the woman at length. "You're that one gal who done shot the gay dog on the news."

"Yes," Alyssa growled, standing up, "and I'm not sorry I did it! How he survived is beyond me, but society needs less people like him. It goes against the Bible, for one thing; and for another, it's just not natural."

"Oh, is that so?" smiled the beefy woman. "Well, you won't be thinkin' that in about five minutes, sister. You've got till then to strip and get in the shower. I'll be watching."

Alyssa gulped. This would not go well.

Stewie scurried over to underneath the Christmas tree, picking up one of his presents and shaking it before starting to unwrap it. Brian followed him, and Stewie said, "You know, Brian, in spite of myself I've come to enjoy the holidays."

"Oh, yeah?" Brian asked. "Do tell."

"Well," Stewie said thoughtfully. "I have the whole rest of my life to take over the world, enslave its people, and rule with a merciless iron fist. But for now, I'm a baby, dammit, and it's Christmas! It can be fun — presents, parties, food..."

"Won't argue with you there," replied Brian; he had finished unwrapping Peter's present. "Lord knows I love a good martini, no matter what the party. Thanks, Peter," he added.

"No problemo, Brian," Peter said cheerfully, but then his smile grew mischievous. "But, uh, what exactly did I give you?"

"Peter, you know what this is," Brian said, showing him the present.

"Come on, Brian, tell me!" Peter giggled.

"Peter, I'm not gonna —"

"Go on!" Peter was nearly in hysterics now.

Brian rolled his eyes and sighed resignedly. "You gave me another bone—"

"—ER!!" Peter finished, throwing up his hands (and also the ornament he had been holding) and dancing around with glee. "You got a BONER!! Hey, everybody, Brian just said I gave him a boner!! Eeeew!!" Peter rolled on the floor with laughter.

"Peter!" Lois said severely, as she crossed her arms and glared at him. "Didn't we agree months ago that we wouldn't make jokes about that, after everything that had happened?"

"Aw, c'mon, Lois, who cares?" Peter chortled, wiping his eyes. "Everybody seems to have forgotten all about it by now anyway."

"Diane, I'm standing here at the press conference that police officer Joe Swanson has just called, waiting to see just what the police have to tell Quahog," explained Asian reporter Tricia Takinawa, her tone as bored as usual. The news camera panned from her to the stage, where Joe rolled his chair up to the podium and bent the microphone down so he could reach it while sitting.

"I have just been informed by Brian's family that he was not, in fact, killed by his gunshot wound, and that he is alive and safe in his family's home," Joe said professionally. "They have asked that any charges against him be dropped."

The crowd, which included the entire town except for the Griffins, began muttering amongst themselves anxiously.

"Now, now," said Joe, holding his hands up for silence, "I have also been informed that what we saw on the news was not what we think it was."

"Which doesn't matter in the slightest, because all of you are going to forget about it, starting right now!" came a voice, and Stewie suddenly appeared, leaping from behind the podium on to the stage. Before anybody could register what they had seen, he had pulled out The Device — the gun that he had used on the judge in the courtroom, so long ago — and zapped the entire crowd with it; then he had turned and vaulted off the stage, disappearing into some nearby bushes and fleeing for home.

The entire town of Quahog stood still for a moment, blinking stupidly. Quagmire was the first to come out of the trance.

"Uh, I forget," he said, looking around. "What are we doing here?"

"I have no idea," Cleveland responded, and the rest of the crowd began talking amongst themselves again, each trying to figure out why exactly they had all gathered together.

"Well, we're not celebrating anything," said Joe from his place up on the stage — then he suddenly ripped his shirt off and popped a wheelie, spinning his wheelchair around and around. "That is, not yet! PARTY!!!"

With that, a dance tune began to play, and all of Quahog began jammin' to the beat.

"Yes," said Stewie, with a sideways glance, "it's very suspicious, isn't it?"

"Brian should just feel lucky that I haven't made fun of his totally gay Christmas sweater!" Peter giggled, to Lois's great chagrin; she was positively fuming at him now. "Ooops, looks like I just did!" he added with another uproarious laugh.

Peter then turned around and he finally caught sight of Lois's expression; his look changed to one of worry. "I'll be out puttin' the snow tires on the car; back in a sec," Peter said hastily, and immediately ran out the front door, slamming it shut behind him.

Brian rolled his eyes and went to check on the fireplace (which had mysteriously appeared out of nowhere one day, just like last Christmas), but he was distracted; Chris and Meg were fighting over one of the presents under the tree.

"It's mine!" Chris shouted, yanking on it.

"No, it's mine!" Meg responded just as childishly, pulling back.

"Grandma sent it to me!" Chris retorted with a tug.

"It's got both our names on it, fatass!" Meg shot back. "But mine's first!"

"Oh, for God's sake," said Stewie, exasperated, and he approached his siblings, looking up at the both of them. "Now then, I'll take care of this." He suddenly leaped upward, yanked the present out of their hands and tore off the wrapping paper; then he handed the result (two sweaters) back to Chris and Meg. "There you are. Merry Christmas, fools."

Jasper and Ricardo, who had been invited back for the holiday celebration, were playing with their kids; the puppies had grown significantly in size (almost their father's height) and started to talk, but hadn't managed sentences yet. "Mistletoe!" said one of them (Kara) in a squeaky voice, as she pawed at the little plant Ricardo was holding above her.

"Presents!" said another (David) happily; he was nibbling on one of the ribbons.

"Peace on Earth, goodwill toward men!" said the one named Brian. He chased one of his sisters around, giggling with glee.

Jasper laughed. "Or, all of the above," he added, patting each of the puppies' heads. "Merry Christmas, darlings!"

Brian smiled, then turned back to the tree. There were two presents left; one was addressed to him, the other to Stewie. "Hey, Stewie, you got one more under here," Brian called over his shoulder.

"What? Well, who is it from?" the baby asked, coming to receive the parcel.

"From me, of course," Brian smiled, then looked down at the present in his own hands, which said simply "For Brian" in scratchy, awkward handwriting. Brian looked back up at Stewie. "This is from you, isn't it?"

Stewie smirked. "Perhaps."

"All right, then let's both open ours at the same time," said Brian, putting a paw on the ribbon. "Ready? One, two, three!"

He and Stewie tore at the wrapping paper, shredding it to bits, until it last it all fell away and it was revealed that they had given each other the same present: A homemade, miniature doll of Lois.

"What the deuce?" said Stewie, turning his over in his hands. "Why, what's this for?"

"It's a voodoo doll," Brian smirked, pointing at its hair, which was indeed Lois's. "See, now you can use that to act out on all those plans you have to kill her, without actually doing it. She can be your own little stress buddy, or something."

"Well, that's actually quite practical, Brian," said Stewie, after a moment. "But you know, there's no substitute for the real thing..."

"Oh, yeah? Then what's mine for?" Brian asked, looking down at his own doll.

"Well," Stewie said, and it was he who was smirking this time, "you see, given how much you're infatuated with her, I thought it only fitting that you have your own miniature version of the famous Lois. She can be your own little friend, and this way you can ... oh, I don't know ... 'have' her."

Brian privately felt that this was, indeed, the closest he'd ever get to actually 'having' Lois ... which would make the urge to do some things to this doll quite strong. However, he'd resist (or at least, try); it would be better to preserve it. Brian, struck by the very personal nature of this present, looked back up at Stewie, who was still smirking. "This is ... well, I really like this, Stewie." A pause. "Thank you."

"Well, I'm glad you like it, Brian," said Stewie, with a glance at his own doll. "And I suppose you have my thanks as well." He seemed to think for a moment, then plucked one of the ornaments off of the tree, tore off the wire on top and bent out the curve. He then readied the tiny wire and plunged it straight into the little Lois's heart.

"Ha ha!" he said, stabbing her again. "Die, you vile bitch! Die! Die!"

Brian rolled his eyes. Yep, Stewie liked his gift, all right. "And that is the true spirit of Christmas, right there."

"What, unselfishly thinking of others, assured that our good behavior will be rewarded?" asked Stewie, with a nonchalant glance at Brian.

"You said the exact same thing in the pageant last night," Brian said, exasperated. "And in the one last year, come to think of it."

"Well, it's true," Stewie replied, standing up. "And what it shall ultimately bring is," he paused, "plutonium — and a nuclear missile."

"Please tell me that's not what Santa gave you this year," Brian groaned.

"I shall say no more on the matter," said Stewie mysteriously. "The fact remains, however, that during the Christmas season I was A Good Boy, so it should be only natural that I receive my compensation..."

"Wasn't there one more thing in that list of rewards?" Brian asked, as he too stood up and came to stand next to Stewie. "I seem to recall that there was something else..."

"What?" Stewie said, glancing up at Brian. "Love?"

Brian blinked. He was acutely aware that he and Stewie were looking straight into each other's eyes; that last word seemed to have drained the rest of the sound in the room, leaving just the two of them. Brian stayed like that for a moment, gulped, then finally spoke. "Well ... yeah."

"Oh, you can stop worrying, Brian," said Stewie with a roll of his eyes. "I've moved on."

"Have you really?" Brian asked quietly.

"Well," said Stewie in a matter-of-fact way, "I suppose there will be some part of me that always lusts after you. But yes, I've accepted things the way they are and am now looking at prospects for the future. That's what this time of year is all about, is it not?"

"That it is," Brian agreed, then hesitated, about to say something but unable to find the right words.

"What?" Stewie asked, glancing at him.

"Stewie, I do love you, in a way," Brian admitted at last. "You're a friend, a brother; a family member, even. Of course, I doubt many family members would be savagely beaten for not paying up fifty dollars in a timely manner, but still..."

Stewie raised an eyebrow. "Are you still on about that? That was months ago."

Brian rolled his eyes. "I suppose I am. But Stewie, listen. I like the way things are between us now, and I'm sure you do too. It's back to the old they-hate-each-other-but-somehow-they're-friends model. I'd hate for that to change again."

"What are you saying, Brian?" asked Stewie carefully.

"I'm saying that something like a fifty-dollar bet, or a misunderstanding, or a 'lover's spat' or anything at all, shouldn't mean the end of us hanging out together. I almost let that happen last time, but we got past it, and if we can get through that, well..."

"Then we're set for life," Stewie completed, smirking again.

"Exactly," Brian said with a smile. "As long as we know that nothing will get in the way, then ... we're set."

"Hmm, I suppose you're right, Brian," Stewie said. "And as for right now, well, it is the Season of Caring, is it not?"

"Well, yeah, but what does that have to do with anything?" Brian asked.

"Because if it were any other time of year, then I wouldn't let either you or myself get away with what I'm about to do," Stewie replied, and then he stepped forward and hugged Brian. Surprised, Brian didn't respond immediately, but then he smiled and hugged Stewie back. They remained like that for several minutes, simply content to stay and listen to the familiar sounds of the season — carols on the radio; Jasper jingling bells throughout the house for the amusement of the puppies; Peter cursing as he tried to get the snow tires onto the family car. Brian rubbed Stewie's back warmly, and Stewie looked up at him and gave him a rare, genuine smile.

"Merry Christmas, Brian."

"Merry Christmas, Stewie."


A/N: Happy Holidays, everyone. Thanks for reading. To everyone who reviewed: You are AWESOME, and all of you really made this whole thing worthwhile. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. :-)

Hope everyone has a safe and happy New Year!