Cody knew he was in for a long day when Ava came running in at five o'clock and jumped on the bed. He grabbed her and pinned her down on the mattress and tried to distract her away from the fact that it was Christmas Eve and Santa was coming tonight.
"Ava, daddy knows what day it is. Go back to bed."
"Mommy said you forgot that it was Christmas Eve." He closed his eyes.
"She said that?"
"Yep. She said I should come in and remind you as loudly as possible. So you wouldn't forget." Cody smiled. Of course she did. Sarah was probably sitting in the boy's room laughing her head off.
"Go tell mommy that daddy will get her for this." Ava bounced off the bed and headed out of the room. Cody headed to the shower and hopped the pounding in his head would stop before New Years.
Derek stood looking out the window of the hotel room he shared with Jess. He sipped his coffee and turned to watch her sleep. Neither had slept much last night. Jess filled him in on all the drama with Lee and Hale. Then they had made love till the sun was ready to come up. It was almost time for them to be at Jesse and Jackie's to start Christmas Eve dinner. Derek didn't have the heart to wake her. He sat down on the bed and brushed her hair out of her eyes.
"I thought you left for safer pastures." She whispered, eyes still closed.
"You can't get rid of me that easily Jess." He kissed her forehead. "I don't scare easily. You'd think you would know that by now."
"I just want you to know full well what you're getting into before you sign on for anything permanent." He lay down next to her and pulled her in his arms.
"I think after last night there couldn't be much more you could surprise me with."
"The day isn't over. I have to make a stop before we go to my parents. Shower with me." He shook his head.
"I will not be explaining to your parents why we're late. Now get." Jess was in the shower and out in record time and was dressed before Derek could shave and brush his teeth. They stopped at the station, the diner and the Wal-Mart in Kingsbury. By noon they had three boxes and Jess and Derek delivered them up the mountain to Wayne and his family. She just left it on their porch and they headed back down to her parents.
"He tries so hard to make it up here. It's getting harder when it isn't tourist season. Matt tried getting him a construction job in Sacramento but he wouldn't leave. I don't blame him."
"You did good last night Jess. You were amazing." Jess smiled.
"You weren't so bad yourself." He shook his head.
"Your so your brother's sister. Get your mind out of the gutter Jess." He smiled. "It was pretty amazing though." They laughed and headed to her parents house.
Cody had found a hiding place in the back bedroom rocking Dylan to sleep. His mother had Christmas music blazing though the house. It was almost like she knew. He felt a cool hand on his head. Opening his eyes he looked up to see Jess standing over him.
"You can't hide in here forever." She whispered.
"I can try." He closed his eyes again.
"Did you sleep?"
"It depends what your definition of sleep is." Jess took Dylan and laid him in his crib their mother kept in the back room. She sat on the bed across from him.
"I will say this one time Cody and we will never mention it again. I love you and sweetie if your beating yourself up for the crap that went on back then don't. Please. Yes I was ignored by the people who vowed to love me from my first breath but I found what I needed to get though it. Now you need to."
"I'm hung over Jess, that's all. I drank way more then I should of and made an ass of myself." He looked at her. "I know you are who you are because of them even if I can't understand why you didn't tell me. But I get it Jess. It's in the past. We have bigger and better things to worry about." She smiled.
"Just know I did it to protect what I had here." Jess reached for his hand and pulled him out of the chair. "Just stay away from mom's Figgie pudding and we should be good." He hugged her and they headed out to the very noisy kitchen.
Jesse Hawkes looked at the scene in front of him. Cody with Sarah and the kids spread out over the floor. Derek with Jess on his lap at the end of the couch, his hand resting protectively on her stomach and Matt sitting on the chair in the corner with Robin sitting on the arm whispering something to him. This was the way he pictured his children. Happy and loved. Friends and family drifted in and out all day long but the three of them stayed, right where the belonged, here on the mountain Jesse had claimed fifty years ago. He knew someday they would grow up and leave but he knew they would always come back. Jackie came up and put her arm around him.
"What are you thinking grandpa?" He looked at her. She was as beautiful as the day he married her.
"I'm thinking life could not get any better then it is right now." He kissed his wife. "Let's go open some presents."
"You could never wait for Christmas." They headed into the living and joined their family. The Hawkes were becoming stronger with every passing day. They would all need to draw on that soon enough but for now it all was calm and bright. They all knew it wouldn't be long before the real world would come knocking but until then they took all the calm they could get.
I had to end here or I could have gone on till next Christmas. I have something in the works to get Jess married off and the trip that takes her and Derek across the county to celebrate with family and friends. I'll try not to keep you waiting too long. Thanks again to all of you that feed my ego. I appreciated it greatly.