(As promised, this chapter takes a look at the Christmas Sam and Bailey shared in my previous fic, "Play Dead". It helps if you've read that story before this chapter. In case you haven't, what you need to know is simple: Jack kidnapped Sam per the events in "Las Brisas" and held her captive for six days before she orchestrated her own rescue. Sam and Bail have been together ever since.)


Christmas Day, 1999

Sam smiled at the sight that greeted her as she emerged from the kitchen and made her way into the den. Chloe, Angel and Bailey were clearly conspiring together. They had been speaking in hushed voices until she entered the room, and were now exchanging secretive glances. In addition, Chloe was brimming with barely contained glee. Sam was glad to see her daughter enjoying herself so wholeheartedly. The six months they'd spent in family therapy had repaired their relationship nearly to the state it had been before her abduction.

She set down the tray which held the warm ciders for the adults and the warm hot chocolate for the child. "What's going on?" she asked, drawing out the end to convey her slight apprehension of whatever the trio had planned.

"Nothing!" Chloe was quick to allay her mother's fears, which only served to confirm Sam's suspicions that her baby girl was behind the plot. Angel and Bailey did their best to look appropriately innocuous as they both sipped their ciders. "Perhaps we should move to the living room?" Bailey suggested, and Angel and Chloe readily agreed. "After all, that's where the Christimas tree is," Chloe reasoned out loud as she led the way, trying to prevent the cocoa from spilling in her rush. Sam looked on as Bail and Angel filed by her, following Chloe in quick succession. Resigning herself to whatever lay in store, Sam sighed and followed her family to the living room.

What lay in store was a choreographed recital of "You're a Mean One Mr Grinch". Sam had mentioned that the song had been her favourite in her childhood, so the trio had planned a whole choreography for the song, complete with props. Bailey played Mr Grinch, Angel was his trusty dog Max, and Chloe sang most of the song, with the adults chiming in when she forgot the words in her excitement. Sam laughed until she was doubled over, especially when Bailey mimicked going up the chimney or chased Angel around while holding a horn made of tissue paper rolls in his hands.

"Damn, I forgot something!" Sam pulled away from Bailey. They had been dancing quietly, enjoying one another's proximity and discussing the events of the day. He refused to relinquish his hold on her and grumbled: "Is it something that needs attending right now?" She batted her eyelashes at him. "Well, it's a gift to you, but on second thought, I'm not sure you deserve another present. Your performance as the Grinch was so convincing that I'm sure you belong on the naughty list for the rest of the year, at the very least."

"Me, naughty? Let me assuage your doubts."

Sam pulled back from a rather mind-blowing kiss, clearing her throat before speaking. "Mm. 'Giddy up', more like it. I think nice girls would call that kiss decidedly naughty." He growled a little and she laughed. She made him walk backwards, then pushed him down to sit on the sofa. "Good thing I'm not a nice girl. Stay here. I'll be right back." She sauntered out, her hips swaying to the music. She knew Bailey was watching her, so she turned in the door way and blew a little kiss his way. He made a show of reaching up to catch the kiss, somehow missing it and slumping down in defeat. She giggled her way to their bedroom. She rummaged through the closet, which was a mess. Chloe had clearly been there, looking for props for the Grinch performance. Finally, she found what she was looking for and hurried to join Bail downstairs.

He was reclining on the sofa, listening to music and counting his blessings. He mused, not for the first time, the events of the past year and the turn in his relationship with Sam. The first four months had been taxing on both of them. She had been sorting out her feelings about the abduction and all those years she'd lived in terror, and in the process had first tried to push him away for fear of hurting him and had then clung onto him for dear life, as she allowed herself to open up the well of the desperation and helplessness she'd felt for nearly a decade and plummeted into an emotional tailspin.

She had shielded Chloe from this, but with him, there had been no walls. He'd seen every crack, had experienced every tumble and had witnessed every nightmare. In the past month or so, she'd begun to emerge as herself, in some ways resembling the woman she'd been before all of this had happened. She seemed more carefree, laughed more freely and bestowed displays of affection without hesitation. She had opened up, ready once again to live her life forward.

And there she was, the object of his musings and the woman of his dreams. She was holding a wrapped gift in her proffered hand. He took it and she sat down beside him, clearly expectant. He tore the wrap paper and inspected the present. It was a photo album. Had she given him an empty album? Somewhat puzzled, he glanced at Sam and surmised from her demeanour that there was more to the gift. He opened it and was greeted with her distinctive hand writing:

Bailey Ryan Malone,

my faithful friend;

through the years.

The fates were kind

when they sent you my way.

Love, Sam.

"Sam..." he whispered, touched by her dedication. She gestured for him to leaf through the album. It was full of photos she'd taken in the years of their acquaintance. Pictures from Quantico, shared family picnics, 'Bring your daughter to work' days, FBI family retreats and work parties. There were photos of his daughters, even some with Janet, pictures with the members of the VCTF, of him and the Waters women.

Some photos were recent. She'd picked up her camera once again, using it as a way to re-establish her connection to the world. But instead of landscapes, she now focused on people, or more to the point, people she loved. She'd been snapping photos of Chloe and Bailey constantly, and she'd included some in the album. It wasn't full; about half of the pages didn't have photos adorning them. When he reached the end of the photos, she explained "You can finish it yourself."

He drew her closer for a soft kiss. "Thank you. It's perfect." She smiled happily.

"One thing, though." He affected an admonishing tone in jest, and her smile faltered a bit. "Next year, I want a photo album entitled 'Samantha Elizabeth Waters, Chloe Aimee Waters and Bailey Ryan Malone'."

"I think that can be arranged," she murmured before whispering in his ear "Merry Christmas, Mr Grinch."