"Please. . .I'm not too late. . .oh, God, tell me I'm not too late. . ." Rick's thoughts were out of control as he raced towards his home on Christmas morning. "If she got into that car, I'll never forgive myself. . ."

He drove recklessly; not that it mattered, it was Christmas and everyone was at home with their families. Everyone but Rick, who was praying that part of his family was still alive. . .

He pulled up his endless driveway and up to the front of the manor. He barely remembered to turn the car off before he raced to his front door. He threw the door open and burst into the foyer.

"Evie?? Evelyn?" There was no answer. "Where is everybody? Jonathan?"

Silence.

He ran into the kitchen, into the dining room, and into the parlor. Nobody was there. He called up the stairs, again. There was still no answer.

Desperately, he ran into the large living room. He breathed a sigh of relief when he saw his brother-in-law asleep on the couch. He ran over to Jonathan and shook him, violently.

"Jonathan? Jonathan! Get up!"

"Huh. . .wha?" Jonathan blinked several times and looked up. "Oh, Rick. . ." Suddenly he became alert. "Rick! You're back!"

"Of course I'm back, I live here, now where's Evie?" he demanded.

"Evie? Well, she, uh. . .well the last time I saw her she was headed upstairs.. .to, uh, to pack. She's going to leave, Rick" Jonathan looked away. "I stayed down here so that I could reason with her some more before she left, but I guess I fell asleep."

"Well, dammit, did she leave?" He asked forcefully.

Jonathan just looked at him. "I--I'm not sure. . ."

Before he could finish his sentence, Rick ran from the room and up the stairs to his and Evie's room. The door was barely cracked open.

Rick paused, almost afraid to open it. He took a deep breath and peeked inside.

And there she was. She was lying on the bed, asleep. Her hair loose, scattered in soft curls around her pillow. There was a half-packed suitcase laying on the floor by the bed. Apparently, she had fallen asleep in her attempt to leave.

Rick slowly crept in the room, not wanting to wake her. She took his breath away. She looked so beautiful and peaceful. But there were tear stains on her pillow and on her face. Rick felt his heart twist; he had caused those tears. Now he had to make it right.

He reached the bed and slowly leaned over, barely kissing the tip of her nose. That was how he used to wake her up every morning. . .at least until recently. Her eyes fluttered, and then slowly opened. She squinted, then opened her eyes fully, surprised.

"Rick?" she said softly. "What are you doing here?"

"Well, I came back. We need to talk. But it looks to me like you've made all your decisions here." He looked down at the suitcase.

She looked and him, her cheeks slightly flushed. Her embarrassment quickly turned into anger.

"Well, what else would you have me do? Just sit around here, at your beck and call, just waiting to fall back into your arms every time you come back? Well, if you think that, then you never knew the real me, Mr. O'Connell." She turned away from him, her arms crossed.

Rick winced. She hadn't called him "Mr. O'Connell" in nearly 12 years. . .but then he smiled, loving her quick temper. His smile quickly dissolved as she quickly stood up and headed to her closet to get more clothes.

"Hey, now, wait just a minute." He protested. "I said we needed to talk, and we're gonna talk!"

She turned and looked at him, hazel eyes on fire. "Well. You've got five minutes, O'Connell. Then I'm leaving."

Rick took her gently by the arm and led her to the bed. She sat down and he sat down next to her. He just looked at her, not knowing where to begin.

"Well. . .uh. . ." he ran his hand through his hair. This was going to be harder than he thought. "OK, here it is. We haven't been getting along lately, I don't need to say that."

Evelyn just looked away. Rick turned her face to look at him, and then continued.

"Well, I know that it's been like this ever since Ahm Shere, and lately it's gotten even worse. I've been distant, and I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, Evelyn." He paused.

"Is that it?" She asked. "You're sorry?"

"No. That's not it. I need to tell you why I've been. . .a jerk lately. You need to know why." He took another deep breath. "The truth is, Evie, after Ahm Shere, I got scared. Real scared. I--I saw you die, something I never thought I would have to see. And I couldn't do anything about it. You see, I always thought that I had some kind of. . .I dunno. . .invincibility. I could control everything that happened around me, and I could fix everything. But then. . .then she stabbed you, and you left me." He looked away.

Evelyn's eyes softened a little. "But, I came back. I'm alive, Rick."

Rick stood up quickly. "Yeah I know that, but still. It was still the hardest thing I've ever gone through. And when I saw that I couldn't really control everything around me, I got scared. So I pushed you away. I was afraid to get close to anyone, especially the one that I loved the most. I was afraid that if I did, you'd only die again, and this time you wouldn't come back. So I got distant, I tried to stay away from what we used to be."

Evelyn just looked at him. "You hurt me, Rick. You made me feel that I had done something wrong, that you didn't love me anymore. .." This time it was her who looked away.

"Well, I just kept telling myself that it was gonna be all right, I just had to hold myself back from you so I wouldn't get hurt. When what I really should have been doing was taking the time we have together for all it's worth. . . I know I can't make up the past year to you, Evie, but can't I at least try?"

"If you wanted to try and make up, then why did you leave? On Christmas Eve of all nights?"

"Well it's just that these past few weeks have been so hard, with everyone talking about Christmas and being with loved ones. . .I guess I snapped. . . I have no excuse. All I can say is I'm sorry. I'm so, so, sorry, Evelyn. I love you. I've always loved you. I always will love you. Please, forgive me?" His deep blue eyes pleaded with her.

She didn't answer right away.

"Rick. . .I. . .I love you, too. But this is something that's not going to just go away, you know. But I am willing to stay here and make it work. Because I love you, I've always loved you, and I always will love you, too." Her eyes brimmed with tears.

Rick smiled and gave her a hug. "Thank you, Evelyn. . .God, I love you. I love you so much. . ." He took her face in his hands and wiped away her tears with his thumb. Hesitantly, he began to lean in. She just looked at him, and then gave him a shy nod.

He smiled, broader now, and leaned in and gave her a gentle kiss on the lips. He had missed her. . .he had missed the feel of her. . .he had missed everything. . .

He pulled away, but her eyes told him she didn't want him to stop. So he obliged and kissed her again, deeper this time. They were interrupted by a snort from the doorway.

"It's about bloody time!" Jonathan said. He looked at them, disgusted. "So I guess now you two are going to be all lovey-dovey. Again." Then he smiled. Whether or not he admitted it, he had missed their affections.

"Awww, Uncle Jon, let them be," Alex said. "Don't worry Mum, I don't mind anymore."

Evelyn smiled at her son. "Merry Christmas, Alex."

"Oh, that's right! It's Christmas! Let's go open presents!" Alex quickly turned and ran downstairs to the parlor, where all of the gifts waited for him.

Jonathan rolled his eyes and just said "Kids." But then he, too, raced downstairs to see what Saint Nick had brought him.

"Well, I guess we better head downstairs to watch our two kids open their presents, " Rick said with a smile. Evelyn nodded.

"I'll be down in just a minute. I just need to. . .clean up in here."

Rick smiled, gave her a quick kiss, and headed downstairs.

Evelyn looked around the room, sighed, and then smiled. It would take awhile, but soon things would be back to normal. 'No,' she thought. 'They'll be better than before.'

She stood up and began unpacking.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Downstair, while Rick and Jonathan began to sort out all of the gifts, Alex paused and went over to the window.

He looked up and the morning sky and simply said,

"Thank you. . ."

Then he turned and went back to his family to open presents and have a merry Christmas.




~*~The End~*~


MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

Love,

Tiffany