A/N: This is sort of a sequel to Magic of the Season, in that it uses what Riley says in it as a set-up. You do not necessarily have to have read it, you can still manage fine, but it might make a little more sense if you do.
I'm doing this as a 25 days of Christmas thing, to off-set the darkness of the other sort-of-but-not-really Christmas fic I'm plotting out right now. You should all be getting one short story a day from today until Christmas. That's the plan anyway. We'll see what reality brings.
Disclaimer: I own nobody. How sad for me.
Summary: In which Ben tries to make up for all the Christmases Riley didn't get as child. (Semi-sequel to Magic of the Season. BenRiley brotherly fluff with a side of BenAbby.)
The Perfect Christmas
Chapter 1/25: Decorations
"Ben?" Abby's tone made it quite clear that she wasn't really questioning if the person perched precariously at the top of the ladder leaning against the side of the house was her husband. Rather, she was asking whether or not he was currently sane enough to recognize his own name.
"Yes, Abigail?" Ben grinned down at her from over his shoulder, very careful not to shift his weight too much. He was pretty sure that being able to hang by Christmas lights was a myth, and he didn't really relish the idea of plummeting three stories to join his wife on the ground, thank you very much. He'd wait until it was possible to climb down.
"What are you doing?" Again with the sanity questioning tone. Honestly, one would think she didn't trust him!
Not that she had any particular reason to trust his sanity. He was the one up on the ladder at dawn, after all.
"What does it look like, dear? I'm putting up Christmas lights."
"I can see that." This time, she just sounded exasperated, which caused Ben to grin a little bit. "But I thought we'd agreed that we weren't going to be making a big deal out of Christmas until we had children. That we were going to celebrate it quietly, with minimal decorations."
"Well," Ben grunted as tried once again to get the lights to stick to the side of their house, "you see, I've decided that decision may have been a bit premature on our part, as we failed to take in all factors."
"Really? Like what?"
Ben felt rather than saw Abby take a hold of the ladder, steadying it as he leaned out to try and maximize how far he could make these lights go without moving the ladder. He made a mental note to thank her for that when this was all done. "Riley."
"You're out here in below freezing weather and snow to hang Christmas lights for Riley?" Abby sounded somewhere between angry and amused. Ben knew he'd have to word what he said next very carefully, as it would be what decided which way her mood swung.
"You see, Abby, when you left us alone the other day, Riley and I had a talk. It seems that he didn't get much of a Christmas as a kid. He said they couldn't really afford it."
He glanced down to see if he'd said the right thing. From the soft look on Abby's face, it seemed he had.
She smiled up at him as he let the lights fall and began to back down towards the ground. "So, you want to give Riley a nice Christmas?"
"That's sort of the idea, yes."
"Benjamin Franklin Gates, you are possibly the biggest softie I know." Abby hugged him once his feet were both firmly back on the ground.
"Possibly, yes," he smiled, kissing the top of her head. "Is that an objection?"
"We'll see. What are your plans for this great Christmas of yours?" Abby stepped back, crossing her arms and looking him up and down with a bemused sort of smile.
Ben shrugged, reaching to scoot the ladder over. It had taken him nearly four hours of looking yesterday to find a ladder tall enough for him to put lights around their house, and even more time to get the boxes and boxes of lights required for what he had in mind.
He really hoped he could sell Abby on the idea of helping him, because he didn't fancy the idea of spending the rest of the day trying to get all those lights around all the windows, the door, the wall, and the trees and bushes closest to the house on his own. "Tell me, Abby, what's your favorite Christmas memory?"
She looked a little taken off guard, and frowned in thought for a moment. "My favorite Christmas memory?"
"Yeah. The thing in your childhood that just made Christmas magical for you. The thing that you loved best, besides presents."
"Caroling. In Germany, we celebrate St. Nicholas day on the sixth of December. Every year, my family and I would get together with our friends and go caroling. I remember I was allowed to open one present that night, before we went, and it was always a new scarf and some warm gloves." Abby smiled as she tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear, her eyes looking very far away. "The kids would all get hot chocolate when we were done, and by then we were too tired to even think of trying to stay up and spy St. Nicholas."
Ben smiled a little, taking her hand. He'd forgotten for a moment that, growing up outside of the United States, Abby would have different traditions.
"A close second was Christmas Eve. We weren't allowed to see the tree until Christmas Eve night, and the first time you see it…" She sighed, looking at Ben with a wistful smile on her face. "That's magic."
"I want to give that kind of feeling to Riley. I want to give him the perfect Christmas; maybe the first really great Christmas he's ever had." Ben took Abby's red gloved hands in his own, lifting them up and kissing one of her finger tips while he looked at her pleadingly. "Please, help me?"
Abby laughed, leaning in for another warm embrace. "Sometimes I think you love that boy more than me."
"Not more than you. Just differently." Ben smiled, holding her tight against him. "He needs us, you know."
"Not that you're just unwilling to let him grow up, or anything." A soft kiss on his cheek as Abby pulled back to smile up at her husband. "Of course I'll help you. I don't think you could plan the perfect Christmas without me, anyway."
"Well, it wouldn't be the perfect Christmas without you," Ben grinned; now starting back up the ladder.
"Do you have anything planned at the moment?" Abby yelled up as she took her spot at the bottom of the ladder once again, holding it safely in place.
"At the moment? Caroling and not letting Riley see the Christmas tree until Christmas Eve night."
The blonde laughed, shaking her head to rid it of stray snow flakes. "What about your favorite Christmas memories?"
Ben paused, hanging the lights carefully before he glanced down at his wife. "My Dad and I used to go sledding. When I was five, I got a new sled for Christmas. We went every year after that, until I told him I was too old. I'm going to take Riley sledding."
"I would pay to see that." Abby laughed, leaning against the ladder. "If you can get Riley to go sliding down hill at high speeds, you will officially be a miracle worker."
"What, finding a history altering treasure doesn't count as a miracle?"
"No. You did that on your own brain power. Getting Riley to go sledding is going to take far more than that."
Ben smiled, but silently had to agree. "I have a plan for that."
"And I can not wait to it action." Abby chuckled, shaking the ladder slightly as she shifted her weight. "That surely isn't all you have planned though."
Ben glanced down at her as he reached the end of that strand of lights. "Do you really want me to ruin the surprise? And can you hand me those lights by your foot?"
Abby grabbed the last loop of lights already lying, untangled, on the ground and half way climbed up the ladder to hand them to her husband. "It's not a surprise for me. "It's not a surprise for me; it's a surprise for Riley."
"That doesn't mean you can't benefit," Ben grinned at her, taking the lights and plugging the ends together.
"Then I eagerly await the end results of your master plot, Mr. Gates." Abby chuckled to herself, backing back down into the snow. "In the mean time, I'm going to go get us some hot chocolate, because you must be frozen."
"I do believe that masterful plan is greater than my own, Mrs. Gates," Ben smiled at his wife, who shook her head in exasperation before disappearing into the house.
Even with the two of them working together, it took them until nearly sun down too get all the lights in place. Arguable, it would have been faster if Abby hadn't kept insisting the lights be just as she wanted them, or if she'd stuck to Ben's plan of just decorating the outside instead of insisting that if they were going to do this they were going to go all out (the trip to the store for additional indoor garland, lights, wreaths, and baubles had taken an additional three hours). And, perhaps, if Ben hadn't gotten tangled in the bushes by the front door twice, and not convinced Abby that having a real model train running on a track around the main floor would be fun, they might have saved some additional time, but the reality was still that it had taken a full day's work to finish.
They were frozen and exhausted, but when Riley showed up for dinner that night—as he did nearly every night— the way his eyes went a round as a pair of Christmas ornaments and his mouth literally fell open, completely speechless, at the way the different colored lights reflected off fresh snow and made everything glitter, at the elaborate decorations put up just for him even though he didn't know it, and his chocked yell of delight at the train somehow made it all worth it.