"Are you serious, Ian?" Nate demanded of his boss. "It's four days before Christmas!"
Ian shrugged. "I can't help when thieves steal, Nate, but I have to send people after them immediately, and you're the best. I have to send you."
"You have people who don't have kids, Ian. People who can go in my place." Nate argued.
"You're the best I have, Nate. You're going, or you're not coming back here." Ian growled. Nate glowered. "Now, are you going or not?"
Nate checked the overwhelming urge to hit his boss. "I'll go, but no more sending me out on the holidays." He strode off and went home, fuming. Sam wouldn't be happy, and Maggie would be even less happy.
"What? I can't believe him! Ian Blackpoole is such a bastard! He threatened your job?!" Maggie ranted. Nate sighed over the coffee.
"Quiet down, Maggs. Sam's sleeping." He murmured. "I'll just have to go and hurry home. I'll try to be back by Christmas. Don't tell Sam that. I don't want him to get his hopes up if I don't make it."
"Please try. It's Christmas, Nate." Maggie murmured. Nate kissed her.
"You know I'll do my best." Nate promised.
Three days to Christmas and Nate found himself in Prague once again: a beautiful city, a place he loved to be on good conditions, but it was three days until Christmas, and he wasn't at home. He wanted to be, more than anything.
"You're kidding me!" Sophie's voice surprised him and he spun around.
"You!" Nate glowered. "You're the reason that I'm not at home with my son right now! Give it back!"
"I didn't mean for Ian to send you!" Sophie complained. "I mean… I did, but I mean for him to send you after Christmas. Poor Sammy. His Daddy won't be home for Christmas."
Nate strode up to her, backing her into a wall. "I will be home for Christmas, and nothing is going to stop me."
"Oh really?" Sophie arched an eyebrow. "I beg to differ."
"I don't care." Nate growled. "You won't keep me away from my son, Sophie. You don't have it in you."
"You think so, hmm? We'll see." Sophie snapped. She pushed him away from her and strode away, down the street.
Nate searched, calling in every informant he had to try and find the painting to no avail. It was Christmas Eve, and he still had no idea where to find the painting. He had checked Sophie's three safe houses, all her favorite haunts. He had found nothing.
It was bitterly cold, the temperature somewhere in the 20s (Fahrenheit) and he was wandering down the windy street, his collar turned up against the cold.
"Nathan." He looked up to see Sophie, wrapped in a coat and watching him intently. "It's freezing, Nate. Come warm up."
"Mhmm. I have a fire built." Sophie assured him. "Come on." She came forward to tug on his arm. He followed her reluctantly into the apartment building and into the elevator. He sidled closer, cold, and she snuggled up against him, letting him wrap her in his arms.
Nate hugged her close. "It's almost midnight. You'll have to do for Christmas." Sophie chuckled, then gasped abruptly. Nate looked at her nervously. "What?" She pointed above their heads, looking stunned.
"Mistletoe." She whispered. Nate smiled and tipped her chin up to him as the elevator made it to her floor.
"Well then." He lowered his mouth to hers, brushing a chaste kiss over her lips. "I can't fight that, can I?"
Sophie stared at him for a long moment, her gaze wanting, then shook herself and pulled him out of the elevator. "Come on, Nate." She pulled him inside her apartment where there was a warm fire. She cuddled up against him on the couch, resting her head on his shoulder and pulling his arms around her. They sat like that in silence for a long time, until the clock struck midnight.
Sophie pulled away to walk out of the room. She came back in with the stolen painting in her hands and presented it to him. "You have a flight booked for an hour from now. Don't miss your chance to be with your little boy, Nate. I just wanted to spend one Christmas with you. Now I have."
Nate took the painting with a soft smile. "You're a saint, Sophie."
"I don't know about all that."
"I do. This is the best Christmas gift you could have given me." He set the painting down and pulled her close for a much less chaste kiss, sliding his tongue along hers softly for a long moment, then pulled away and retrieved the painting. "Merry Christmas, Sophie." He murmured.
Sophie watched leave with wide eyes, her fingertips brushing gently against lips that held his kiss. "Merry Christmas, Nate." She half ran to the balcony of the apartment as Nate left downstairs, his painting tucked under his arm. Sophie laughed at the white in his hair and then looked into the snowy sky. "Merry Christmas."
Of all the gifts Sam got that Christmas, the sight of his father walking through the door at seven in the morning was by far the best.