"So I'm thinking about heading into the city tomorrow night during your watch to get some stuff for the kids. Just a few little gifts, that's all. It won't be much, but hey, it's better than nothing," Max said, lifting her gaze to the sky.

Fang shifted his legs in front of him, thinking about her plan.

When he didn't speak, she went on, "Then I can surprise them in the morning when they wake up. It's not much of a Christmas, but I think they'll like it. Maybe I'll even pick up a cheap pot and plastic cups and some of those little chocolate powder packet thingies, and- and we can… boil some water…"

Max stopped speaking and put her head in her hands. How can I ever give them anything that measures up to a real Christmas?

Max wasn't one to get all excited about something like Christmas, especially since they had never had an actual Christmas and didn't know the meaning of it, but the kids had been hinting that it would be nice to do something, anything, for the holiday. And Max wasn't one to let an opportunity to make them all momentarily happy just go to waste. They were still little kids, and they deserved to have some sort of Christmas.

Fang looked sideways, seeing that Max's hair was concealing her face. She pulled her knees close to her and buried her head in them. She groaned and massaged her temples while she took longer and deeper breaths. He could tell that she was stressing herself out again over things that she couldn't control.

"Whayoowoffakriffmuff?" she said, her voice muffled by her knees.

"What?" Fang asked quietly.

She lifted her head up and angled her body so she could see him better. She repeated, "What do you want for Christmas?"

Fang quickly came up with several witty replies and was wondering which to brighten Max's world with when a small roar made Max's head swivel.

"It's just the Gasman," Fang reassured.

"Since when was the Gasman a dinosaur?" Max implored.

"It's called snoring, Max," Fang said, with a small eye roll that was wasted on Max, whose head was still turned away, looking at Gazzy and the rest of the flock.

"Sheesh, maybe I should get him some anti-snore nasal spray for Christmas," Max said with half-hearted humor.

Fang didn't know what to say to that either; whether to go along with the joke or confront the problem behind the joke.

"So what do you want for Christmas?" she asked for the third time.

"What?" he said, silencing his own thoughts and tuning back into Max.

"Geez, Fang, are you deaf tonight?" she said with concern in her voice.

He was about to say no when she turned to him and he saw that her eyebrows were raised and that there was the slightest hint of a smile on her face. He might have smiled back if he didn't know that she would insist on asking again…

"But seriously, what do you want me to pick up for you at the store? If you don't tell me what you want, I'll be forced to get you one of those red, old-lady Christmas sweaters; one with a big reindeer on the front that has a red nose and lights up whenever you move," Max said, with a stern look on her face.

"How'd you know?" Fang said with mock excitement.

Max hit him in the arm, and of course, they were both inevitably inclined to imagine Fang in the aforementioned sweater. Fang grimaced, and Max held the impossible image in her mind until it sent a shudder down her spine. Creepy.

"You cold?" Fang teased, "Maybe you need that sweater."

"In your dreams," Max replied with a smile as she swiped a few unruly strands of hair out of her eyes.

He shook his head, and she hit him in the arm again.

"But seriously, Fang-"

What do I really want for Christmas? "Nothing that you can get from a store," he muttered.

"What did you say?" Max asked, not understanding the quiet clump of words.

"Nothing," Fang told her, looking away.

Max groaned. "Fine, be that way. But when I get you that sweater, you have to wear it."

"Right…" Like that would ever happen.

"Go to sleep, Fang. I'll wake you up when it's your watch. Okay?"

"Are you giving me permission now?" he said sarcastically.

"Yes, I am," she stated confidently, "Now go before I change my mind."

"Yes, Queen Max," he said, standing up and giving a small bow. "Whatever you say, Queen Max."

He turned to walk away as she swallowed the urge to reply with, 'You better believe it.'

Instead, she called out in a hushed voice, "Don't make me hurt you on the day before Christmas Eve!"

He called back over his shoulder, "I wouldn't dream of it, Queen Max."

This is not the typical Christmas fic you see on the Max Ride archive, but I hope that's not a bad thing. This fic is inspired by "Better Days" by the lovely Buffalo-based Goo Goo Dolls. Happy Holidays, and I hope you like this.

-Skye Maxwell