AN: Y'all might want a box of tissues for this as it is a decidedly different Christmas tale. I was inspired by the lyrics to a Christmas song that I realized was just slightly depressing as it was written around World War II. I hope you enjoy this and would really like to know what you think of it.
I am dreaming tonight of a place I love
Even more than I usually do
And although I know, it's a long way to go,
I promise you…
Max Keenan smiled as he looked around the living room of his house. Fairy lights decorated the tree and a fire crackled in the fireplace merrily. He rubbed his hands together and paced the room slightly as he waited for his family to arrive. Again he looked over the room. Tree lights on, presents wrapped and waiting to be torn open, Christmas music playing on the…that's what he was missing. He moved over to the stereo and turned it on. It was playing his favorite Christmas song, 'I'll be Home for Christmas'.
There was a knock at the door, and Max hurried to the door to open it.
"Russ, Merry Christmas son." He embraced his son before hugging Amy and the girls in turn. "Come on in. Do you want hot chocolate or eggnog? It's alcohol free."
"Hot chocolate would be great Max," Amy said as she rubbed her growing belly.
"Amy, please, sit down. You need to be resting right now. When's that baby due again?"
"In two weeks." She smiled gratefully as he led her to the couch and helped her to sit, placing a pillow behind her back.
"See, you could go at any time. Russ was three weeks late, and Temperance… She was two weeks early, and just as eager to jump right into things as she is now."
"Why does that not surprise me," she grinned and rested both her hands on her rather expanded belly.
"And my little peanut is going to be just like that, I can guarantee you that." Max headed off to the kitchen as Russ unloaded a bag of gifts under the tree. His step daughters, Haley and Emma arranged them rather artfully before sitting down in front of the fire to wait for their hot chocolate.
"Grandpa Max, when can we open up the gifts," Haley asked when he came back in carrying a tray of steaming hot mugs.
"We can open them when your aunt gets here. Speaking of which, they should be here any minute." As he spoke the words, there was another knock at the door. Max handed the tray to Russ and hurried to answer the knocking. His face split into a big grin as the door swung wide open.
"Baby, I'm so glad you could make it." Max wrapped his arms around his daughter, then ushered her inside to help bring in their gifts and a rather large diaper bag. "Now where's my little peanut, huh?" Max set the bags down and took the car seat from Booth and began unstrapping the eight month old from it. The little girl smiled up at her grandfather and giggled, reaching up for him to hold her.
"She's been anxious to get here and see her grandpa," Booth joked with a smile, looking on fondly as Max twirled the little girl around in his arms before planting a kiss on her cheek.
"And where's Parker?"
"Oh, he's with Rebecca tonight. I tried to talk her into letting him come with us, but she's spending tonight with her parents so…" Booth shrugged.
"You'll be coming over to our place tomorrow though, won't you dad?" Brennan emptied the bag of presents under the tree and turned to look at her father. She smiled fondly at him as he planted little kisses on her daughter's cheeks.
"Absolutely I will. Any chance I have to see my little peanut."
"Grandpa, now can we open the gifts," Haley asked again. He smiled at his grand daughter and playfully tousled her hair as he sat down on the floor with her and her sister.
"I suppose so, but you get to help Gracie Kae with hers though, okay? Emma, will you help her too?"
"Of course grandpa Max." He looked over the room and felt a surge of pride at the small family gathering. This was something he'd dreamed of for so long, and now his kids were here with him. The only thing missing was his wife. It would have been so wonderful to have her share this moment with them, but instead he could only imagine that she was there in spirit and watching over the little group.
"How about this girls," Booth began as he rubbed his hands together in anticipation. "Grandpa can read us a poem while we have some hot chocolate first. How does that sound?"
"Okaaaaayyyy," the two girls said in unison as if it was just too hard to wait for the presents. Booth handed Max a hardback copy of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas' as he took his daughter and settled her down with her cousins. Max cleared his throat as he opened the book and began to read.
"Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse…"
Temperance settled onto Seeley's knee and Russ sat next to his wife, wrapping his arms around her stomach and rubbing it as they listened to Max read. The three girls sat in rapt attention on the floor as he began to describe Santa Claus the bundle of toys slung on his back.
"…and this last one is for you, Haley," Max stated as he passed her a rather large, flat package. The seven year old ripped into the paper and squealed with delight at the easel and paint set she'd just been given.
"This is the best gift ever," she cried out as she jumped up and down. Max smiled fondly at the little girl watching as she looked over every paint color in the set. He felt a pair of arms wrap around his shoulders from behind and a soft kiss pressed to his cheek.
"They all look so happy, don't they?" Max turned his head, startled at the voice.
"Christine? What are you…how is it you're here?" He looked into his wife's eyes, unsure of why he was seeing and feeling her here with him.
"Dad, are you even paying attention? I have a surprise for all of you." His daughter's voice pulled him back to the moment and he smiled at her distractedly.
"I'm sorry honey, what was that?" Couldn't she see her mother here?
"Seeley and I just found out…that is, we're pregnant again."
"Tempe that's wow. You just had Gracie," Russ said as he leaned over to hug his sister.
"I know, we weren't expecting this at all, but I'm so happy."
"Yeah, who would have thought that Miss 'I don't want kids' was on her way to having five thousand of them," Booth joked as he reached around her and caressed her tummy.
"He's going to be a beautiful baby," Christine whispered into Max's ear, shocking him back to her attention.
"How do you…"
"I've seen him already Max. He'll be handsome and as smart as his parents. He's such a wonderful little boy."
"You never answered me before; what are you doing here?"
"I came to get you Max. It's time for us to be together again."
"Time for us… you mean this is it for me? But what about Temperance and Russ?"
"You'll see them again, and you can always visit."
"But I'm not ready for this."
"It's time Max, it's time to say goodbye." Max looked from his wife to his family as they sat there talking. He was never going to have another moment like this. He wouldn't be able to be there for other holidays and other milestones. Yet as he watched his daughter laugh and saw the sparkle of contentment in her eyes, he knew that his wife was right. It was time.
"Russ, Tempe, I just want to say how much this means to me, and that I love you." He couldn't help the tears that had gathered in his eyes. Temperance looked at him strangely for just a moment before she smiled at him.
"We love you too dad."
"I know you do honey, I know you do."
The prison guard walked down cell block 'D' making sure that all of the prisoners were awake. As he reached the cell of Max Keenan, he looked inside and eyed the old man who was still in bed.
"Come on Max, time to get up." When the ex-con didn't move, the guard opened the cell and stepped inside to shake him awake. That's when he noticed how cool to the touch he was, and the pallor to his skin. With a sad shake to his head, he pulled out his radio and made the call. It was always tough to find the bodies and could only imagine what it must be like to inform the family that their loved one had passed. At least this one died happy, he thought as he looked at the smile on Max's face. That had to account for something.
I'll be home for Christmas, you can count on me.
Please have snow, and mistletoe and presents on the tree
Christmas Eve will find you, where the love light gleams
I'll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams