A/N: A brief note: this is indeed the final chapter. But fret not because I get the feeling you guys will enjoy it. Thoroughly. If you know what I mean.
Max's morning began very unceremoniously.
Mostly because it began at six o'clock in the morning.
KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK! The pink-haired teen groaned and rolled over, her voice a husky, incoherent growl.
"Five more minutes, Melissa!"
"C'mon, get up! Get up, get up, it's Christmas!" Matthew McGinnis hollered through the door, scampering off down the hallway to wake up his mother as well. Max had barely understood what he said, having burrowed one side of her face against the nearest thing beneath the covers—which happened to be Terry's chest. Part of her seemed to realize this fact, but she was too sleepy to care.
As if on cue, the teenage boy stirred, letting loose a deep and equally sleepy growl that indicated he too had been awakened.
"Does he always do this?" Max grumbled, stubbornly staying put in her new spot.
"Yes," Terry groused, not moving either. "When we get out there, I'm gonna give him a swirly he'll never forget."
She snorted, choking on a laugh. "I'll take pictures."
He lifted the comforter, staring down at her with an amused look. "Sleep well?"
She closed her eyes, sighing. "Would have slept better if you'd stop kicking me in your sleep."
He scowled. "I don't kick in my sleep."
Max propped her chin on his ribcage, arching an eyebrow. "Yeah, you do. Because you fight bad guys even in your sleep."
A small blush crawled over his cheeks. "Oh. Then I guess I owe you an apology."
"You owe my knees an apology," the girl mused. He flashed her a quick grin and rolled over suddenly, hovering above her on his hands. He rolled up the hem of her pajama pants and stared down at her kneecaps with a completely serious expression.
"I'm very sorry. Can you find it in your hearts to forgive me?"
Max collapsed into laughter, no longer caring about being up so early considering the amount of entertainment she was now getting. "You are a sick man, McGinnis."
He shrugged. "Hey, you told me to apologize."
"Since when do you listen to me?"
"When it allows me the opportunity to get underneath your clothes." The grin turned very sly and she rolled her eyes, stretching her back for a moment and suppressing a yawn.
"Sometimes I think you're as delusional as your ex-girlfriend."
Terry tilted his head slightly. "What does that mean?"
Max waved her hand dismissively. "She called last night and said she thinks the reason you two broke up was because of me. As if there's any truth to that."
She expected him to laugh it off with something clever, but instead he paused for a moment and when he spoke, his voice was low.
"What if there is?"
Her brown eyes widened in surprise. "What are you talking about?"
She nearly jumped when he touched her knees, pushing her legs down, and crawled above her until they were face-to-face. Her pulse skyrocketed as he knelt above her, his expression somewhere between solemn and desirous. He planted his hands on either side of her waist, leaning in and erasing several important inches between them.
"You know what I'm talking about," Terry replied softly. She swallowed hard, trying not to let her eyes slide to his muscular body damn near close enough to touch.
"I'm not sure I do."
"Max. You're way smarter than you give yourself credit for. You know exactly what I'm getting at. I know you've been avoiding talking about it because it makes you nervous."
Nervous, her brain laughed. Not even close. More like induces a total mental shutdown. She ignored her cynical inner voice and tried to figure how to get herself out of her current position and into another one. Er, not that kind of position.
"Look, I think we've just been spending too much time around each other and you're mistaken it for chemistry. We're just friends—" She tried to explain, but he cut her off.
"We are not just friends, Max. I know you've noticed how things have changed. You can't keep pretending not to know how I feel about you."
Her brow furrowed. "How do you feel about me?"
Terry reached down and gripped her right wrist, lifting her hand to his mouth. He kissed her palm gently, pale blue eyes locked on her shocked face. A wave of warmth flooded down her arm and all through her body. His lips parted to say more but then there was a knock at the door. Again.
"Terry, Max, it's time to get breakfast started!" Mary called. Max licked her lips and tried to recover her voice, not glancing away from Terry for even a moment.
"In a minute, Ms. McGinnis."
"What's taking them so long?" Matt wondered aloud as the two sat down at the table, having finished an entire stack of pancakes, a casserole dish full of scrambled eggs, and a pan full of bacon by their lonesome. Mary glanced furtively at the still-closed door, resisting the urge to smile.
"They must have gotten…preoccupied."
"I am so going to Hell," Max groaned, though the statement was muffled against Terry's lips since she was stretched on top of him with her hands balanced on his shoulders. He smirked, running his fingers up the back of her tank top and enjoying the little shudder that went down her spine as a result.
"Well," she mumbled in between frantic, heated kisses. "It's Christmas morning, your family is waiting in the kitchen for us, and we're making out like a couple of horny middle schoolers."
"I could see how that would make you feel bad," he replied in a thoughtful voice as he cheerfully yanked her shirt off and slid his palm against her flawless, flat stomach.
"We should probably get out there. Y'know, in five minutes or so."
She nodded too many times, trying to clear her head but damn the boy could kiss. "Five minutes. Right."
He rolled them over suddenly, grinning at the alarmed expression that flooded across her face at being beneath him again. "Let's see how far we can get in five minutes."
"…so going to Hell."
Five minutes and twenty-seven seconds later, Terry and Max emerged from the bedroom. Mary noticed that Max's legs seemed a bit wobbly but said nothing about it, welcoming them to the table.
"Just in time. I was worried the food would get cold before you two showed up."
"Sorry, we just got to talking and you know how we are," Terry explained smoothly, selecting a couple strips of bacon while Max piled on the pancakes and opened the syrup bottle.
"Yes, well. I was starting to think you'd already eaten."
Max accidentally squirted syrup halfway across the table. Terry bit the inside of his lip to keep from laughing. Matt burst into giggles, although for a completely different reason. She muttered an apology, getting up to grab a dishcloth to clean the table. The remainder of breakfast was largely uneventful and they cleaned up afterwards, leaving Terry and Max to whisper to each other at the sink while his mother ushered Matt off to start organizing the Christmas presents.
"Do you think she knows?" Max asked, chewing on her bottom lip. Terry shook his head.
"Relax, she doesn't know. How could she possibly know?"
Max shot him a sarcastic glare. "One, she's your mother and two, you're about as subtle as a tank that's been lit on fire."
He assumed a haughty look. "Oh, I'm not subtle? You're the one who doused the table in maple syrup, Miss Gibson. I wonder where your mind went during that comment."
She avoided his teasing gaze, instead focusing on rinsing the dishes he was washing. "No idea what you're talking about. My hand slipped."
"So did mine." He ducked as she swung her sudsy fist at his head, chuckling.
"I'm kidding. Besides, even if she did know, it wouldn't be a big deal anyway. She's crazy about you."
She blinked up at him. "Really?"
He smiled, letting the amusement drain out of his voice and transform into warmth. "Really."
He shut off the faucet and shook the water from his hands, beckoning her. "C'mon. It's time for your first McGinnis Christmas."
When they walked into the den, Matt was seated in the midst of a pile of presents, making Max giggle because she could only see the top of his tousled black hair. Mary sat in the loveseat, watching patiently as the two of them sat down on the couch.
"Now can I open them?" The eight year old pleaded. Mary waved a hand in admission and he grabbed the first one, tearing off the wrapping paper with glee. Terry shook his head and got up, fetching the rest of the presents from underneath the tree. He handed five wrapped boxes to his mother, sorted out three for himself, and hefted the biggest box over to where Max was sitting. She blinked rapidly, confused.
"You want me to help you open it?"
"No. It's for you."
Her jaw dropped. "L-Look at the size of this thing! What on Earth did you get me?"
Terry grinned mysteriously. "Open it and see."
Casting him one last suspicious look, she carefully pulled off the green wrapping paper and priedthe lid of the box open, going silent.
"Where…where did you get this? It's so…cute." She reached inside and pulled out a life-sized stuffed Hello Kitty—her one and only guilty pleasure.
"I was in this retro shop last week getting something for Mr. Wayne and that's when I saw it. Now you have something to match your PJs."
"I hate you," she moaned, hugging its incredibly soft furry stomach. "Now Melissa's gonna find out and she'll never let me live it down."
Terry shrugged. "Worth it."
"Here, open this one next," Mary suggested, handing Max a slender rectangular box. "It's from all of us."
"You didn't have to get me anything," the girl started, but Mary waved the comment away.
"Nonsense. You're practically one of us. Open it."
Carefully, Max peeled off the wrapping paper and found a white box containing a ceramic angel, painted red and green with the words, "Merry Christmas" across the angel's sash in gold.
"It's one of the first ornaments Terry and I made when he was little. He was pretty good with a brush for a five year old." She said, smiling when she noticed the slightly embarrassed look on Terry's face. Max rose from her seat and hugged her, her voice soft and meaningful.
"Thank you. It means a lot to me."
"No problem at all, dear." She patted the girl's back and Max went back to her seat just as Terry got to the present she'd left for him. He tilted his head slightly.
"A picture frame?"
"A digital picture frame," Max corrected, flipping it over in his hands so he could see the controls. "I noticed all the photos you have of your Dad in your room and thought you might want to scan them all and put them in here. That way if any of the originals get damaged, you'll always have them to remember him by."
He smiled and it warmed her all the way to her toes. "Thanks, Max. Really. It's perfect."
"Not as perfect as Space Ninja Pirate Dinosaurs IV!" Matt exclaimed, plucking the video game from the wrapping paper. He flung himself into his brother's arms, gleeful.
"How did you know I wanted this one?"
Terry ruffled his brother's hair, chuckling. "Oh, I have my ways. Why don't you go get it started in your room and I'll catch up."
"Schway!" Matt raced off down the hallway. Mary arched an eyebrow at Terry, who rolled his eyes.
"It's rated E for Everyone, Mom."
"Yes, well, everyone isn't into outer space ninjas and pirate dinosaurs," she replied in a mild voice, rising to retrieve the scattered bits of wrapping paper. Max helped her gather the pieces up, tossing them in a garbage bag they'd gotten specifically for this reason. Terry glanced at his watch before catching Max's attention.
"Hey, you want to come with me to make a quick stop?"
"Yeah, sure. Where are we going?"
He only smiled. "You'll see."
The windows were all blocked out with curtains and there was a good, strong fire going. He had allowed the Great Dane the luxury of a hambone as his Christmas gift, but went no further to recognize the current holiday. He sat in his chair in front of the mantel, sipping his tea and barring all thoughts of the date from his mind.
"Hrm," Bruce grunted, forcing himself out of his chair with the help of his cane. "Figures. You'd think after getting chased down the driveway by a Great Dane people would stop showing up for caroling."
He hobbled over to the door and yanked it open with his most fearsome death glare only to find Terry and Max standing there with identical smirks. He softened his expression only slightly.
"Can I help you?"
"I'm guessing you weren't expecting us," Terry mused. Bruce glared.
"No. Usually it's the carolers. Stubborn bunch."
Begrudgingly, he stepped aside and let them in, noticing that Terry was carrying something large and wrapped in white linen that made him suspicious. Ace came bounding in from the den, barking happily as he recognized the duo. Max had visited the Manor a couple of times—much to Wayne's annoyance—and so he'd gotten used to her. She knelt to pet the dog, cooing softly as if he were a harmless poodle while the dog contently licked all the snow off her coat, wagging his tail.
Bruce went back into the den, not bothering with any more pleasantries. "What's the occasion?"
Terry sighed, setting the unidentified item down on the carpet. "Like you don't already know."
Bruce resisted the urge to grunt again. "I've told you before I don't want any presents."
"And I've told you before that I don't care," Terry answered with a grin. "Besides, I got the feeling you'd actually like this one."
He undid a couple of pieces of twine and pulled the linen off, revealing a large, beautifully decorated cherrywood frame. Bruce fell silent, his mind slowly putting together what it was for, which drew his eyes to the space above his fireplace where the portrait of his parents hung.
"I noticed the frame was wearing out and I thought you'd like a new one."
For a moment, the former Dark Knight had nothing to say. He examined the young man before him, trying to quantify the feeling growing in his chest. Gratitude, he thought. He hadn't felt in it a very long time. Though he wasn't exactly about to just thank the kid. Didn't want him to get the wrong impression.
"Leave it by the window. I'll have someone put it up tomorrow morning," The old man said, casually sipping his tea. Terry's face split into a grin.
"You're welcome, old man."
"One big happy Bat-family," Max teased as Bruce brushed past, patting his leg to call Ace to his side. Bruce glanced at her, though not unkindly.
"Don't you two have somewhere to be?"
Max opened her mouth to reply, but then she heard the sound of a car horn beeping twice. She instead smiled and walked towards the window, pointing to the driveway.
"Apparently, so do you."
A moment later, the front door opened, spilling cold and a few flurries of snow in, and with it a beautiful brunette woman in a lavender overcoat. She shut the door, noticing Terry and Max with an open smile.
"Hi. Didn't know you already had company."
"Not my idea," Bruce grumbled. The woman's smile widened.
"As if it ever is. Hello, Terry. I see you're still putting up with him."
Terry smirked. "For now, anyway."
The woman giggled. "Of course. And you must be…Max, right?"
Max extended her hand, perplexed that this stunning woman knew her name. "Yeah, that's me. And you are…?"
"A friend. When Bruce lets me be, anyway," She added, cutting her blue eyes to Bruce, who merely scowled and looked away. Terry took Max by the shoulders and ushered her towards the door.
"Well, I'm sure you two have catching up to do so we'll see you around. Merry Christmas."
"Merry Christmas to you as well." With that, they went back outside into the snow. Max tugged on Terry's sleeve, pointing to the door.
"Who was that? I feel like I've seen her somewhere before, but I don't remember."
Terry bit the inside of his lip to keep from smiling. "Well, she is pretty wonderful."
"Pretty wonderful? What are talking about, Ter—" Max stopped dead in mid-sentence, her jaw dropping as she put the pieces together.
"Terry…tell me that wasn't Wonder Woman."
"The one and only."
Max palmed her forehead, feeling slightly dizzy. "I just met Wonder Woman. I just met Wonder Woman."
Terry tried to suppress several more chuckles. "Yes, you did."
"This is officially the best Christmas of my life."
Terry adopted an offended expression, turning to face her. "Oh, so not when I took you ice skating and gave you a foot massage and bought you a gigantic stuffed kitten? This is what made your Christmas the best Christmas ever?"
Max smiled suddenly. "Nope."
"Well then, what did?"
She reached up on her tiptoes and kissed him, slowly, one hand cradling his cheek. He became lost in it, forgetting about the cold and the snow and the ice and anything else in the world. When she let go, he glanced upward, expecting to see mistletoe, but there was nothing there. He couldn't have smiled any harder if he wanted to.
"Merry Christmas, Terry."
"Merry Christmas, Max."
A/N: And that's the end. I hope you enjoyed their little romp. I am eternally grateful for all the reviews and kind words I've gotten. I do admit that Max is a bit OOC in this chapter, but it was only for the sake of humor. Thanks again for all the support!
P.S. Mary TOTALLY knows. Just in case you were wondering. And if you want to know just what Terry and Max were doing in his room...use your imagination. :D