Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

A/N:After I posted "Do Over" last Christmas, a few people requested a bit more – particularly about the kids. Here it is. It's just a little holiday gift to thank you all for the wonderful support you've given me and my stories over the past year. It really means a lot to me.

Special thanks to mariahjilEfor pulling last-minute, uber-fast beta duty on this.

WARNING:This story contains schmaltz, sappiness, and generous doses of schmoop. Read at your own risk.


Epilogue, Part II: Visions of Sugar Plums

Nine years later…

First, a whisper.

"Daddy?"

Then, a little bit louder.

"Daddy?"

Edward shifted slightly under the warm blankets, his face pressed into the pillow as he mumbled incoherently. It had been a late night at work, and Saturday morning was for sleeping in, after all. He hadn't even bothered to set his alarm clock.

Apparently, though, someone else had a different idea. A little hand shook his shoulder once...twice. Then his morning visitor released a heavy sigh, obviously considering a different approach. Edward was just slipping back into a deeper sleep when tiny fingers prodded at his eyelids, gently prying them open, and the blurry mass of white and red before him slowly took shape. Wide green eyes peered into his only open one, so close he could see the little flecks of gold and darker emerald in the bright irises.

"It's time to wake up, Daddy," she whispered, blinking owlishly.

Edward stared at her through his one open eye. "Makenna, what are you doing? What's wrong?" he grunted into the pillow.

"Nothin," she said. "It's time to get up!" She finally released Edward's eyelid and stepped back to twirl in a quick circle. It's time to go see Santa!" she squealed, throwing her hands up and bouncing on her toes.

Edward still didn't move, lifting his gaze to the clock on the nightstand. "Baby, it's five in the morning. The mall doesn't even open for hours."

Makenna frowned. "But you have to get ready."

"I don't need five hours to get ready."

"You said you'd make pancakes," she reminded him in a sing-songy voice.

"Makenna," Edward groaned, rolling onto his back and throwing an arm over his eyes. "It's too early."

His daughter stepped to the side of the bed, placing her little hands on his cheeks and tilting his face to hers. "But I have to write my letter to Santa," she said quietly. "I need you to help me, Daddy."

Edward gazed into Makenna's pleading green gaze, the mirror image of his own, and knew he was lost. His daughter had him wrapped around her little finger, and he found it extremely difficult to deny her anything, especially when she asked for his help.

"Okay," he said finally.

"Yay!" she shouted, jumping up and down.

"Shhh!" Edward hushed her, swinging his legs over the side of the bed. "Mommy's still sleeping."

Bella groaned slightly, rolling over on the other side of the bed. "You're kidding, right?" she said wryly, shoving her hair back from her face. She sat up, rubbing a hand over her growing belly. "It's been a whole two hours since I've had to pee."

Edward smirked, reaching over to touch her stomach and then leaning down to kiss it. Bella was six months pregnant with their third child – their surprise – the one Edward hadn't known was coming. After Masen's birth almost nine years ago, they'd waited anxiously for Makenna's arrival. When she'd shown up four years later, they'd assumed their family was complete. Then, the past summer, Bella found herself rushing to the bathroom for the third day in a row. At first, she'd dismissed it as food poisoning, but when the morning sickness continued, they'd both quickly realized a third child was on the way. Once the shock wore off, they were both thrilled, actually reveling in the fact that they didn't know what to expect. When the doctor asked them if they wanted to know the baby's sex, neither had hesitated in telling him "no."

As exciting as it was to see the children from Edward's strange other life appear in this one, he and Bella felt this child was even more of a miracle in some ways.

Edward smiled at the thought. His whole life was a miracle, really.

"Daddy!" Makenna hopped up and down a few times, demanding his attention.

"Okay, okay," Edward muttered, getting out of bed and kissing her on top of the head. "Let me take a quick shower, beautiful. Then I'm all yours."

"Makenna?" Bella slid to the edge of the bed, and Edward saw her eyes narrow on their daughter as he grabbed his bathrobe. "What in the world are you wearing?"

For the first time, Edward took a good look at Makenna's outfit and couldn't keep back a choked chuckle when it fully hit him. She wore the new red velvet dress Bella bought for her Christmas pictures, but evidently, Makenna didn't feel that was Christmassy enough. Underneath, she had added a bright green tulle skirt from her dress-up chest, as well as red and white striped tights and sparkly red Mary Janes she'd received for her birthday; the girl was obsessed with TheWizardofOz. She'd also added a bright green sweatshirt with an embroidered Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer on the front, as well as a white cardigan with sequined poinsettias for buttons.

Makenna had attempted to tame her wild hair – apparently with every red, white, or green barrette she owned. Half of her bronze curls lay matted to her head, the other half sprouted wildly, clipped in haphazard tufts. On top of it all, she wore a sparkling tiara from the past Halloween's princess costume, tilted just a little to the left. It slid a bit more when she tipped her head, her fists propped on her hips.

"It's festive, Mommy," she said with an exaggerated eyeroll that spoke to Edward of what lay ahead for her teenage years.

Bella stood up, reaching for her hand. "Maybe a little too festive, sweetie," she said with a smile. "You know what they say. 'Less is more.'"

Makenna's brow crinkled. "That doesn't make sense, Mommy."

Bella paused, curling a lock of Makenna's hair around her finger. "Think of it this way. If you're too festive, you might make all the other little girls feel bad that they're not festive enough."

Makenna considered that a moment, then smiled brightly. "Okay, Mommy." She skipped out the bedroom door and Bella cast an amused glance at Edward over her shoulder.

"Not bad," he admitted, more than a little impressed.

"That's why I'm The Mommy," she said with a grin, following her daughter to her bedroom.

.:~:._.:~VoSP.:~:._.:~:.

By the time Bella made it to Makenna's room – after a brief stop in the bathroom, thanks to the child currently taking up residence on top of her bladder – her daughter had obviously made another dive into the dress-up trunk. Apparently, a Superman cape and a pair of green fleece mittens with the word "Ho" embroidered on the back were necessary additions to her holiday ensemble.

But before Bella could say anything about it, Makenna plopped on her bed, patting the space beside her.

"Mommy, I have a serious problem," she said. Her brow furrowed as her tiara tipped over her eye, and she shoved it back distractedly. Bella sat down next to her daughter, wondering what could have sparked such a change in mood.

"What is it, baby?"

"I'm not a baby, Mommy."

"You're mybaby," Bella insisted. "Always will be."

Makenna shook her head slightly, but let it slide, glancing toward the door and lowering her voice.

"I'm worried Santa won't bring Masen any presents," she said.

Bella smiled. "Of course he will, sweetie. Masen's been a very good boy."

Makenna's eyes narrowed. "He pulled my hair the other day. And he says girls are stupid."

"He doesn't really mean that, honey. And he said he was sorry about pulling your hair."

"But that's not the worst thing, Mommy," Makenna said in a hushed voice, her eyes growing wide. "I don't think Masen believes in Santa anymore."

Bella blinked, surprised. "Why would you say that?"

"I heard him talking to Ben," she whispered. "Ben said only babies believe in Santa, and Masen said, 'Yeah.'"

"And you think he won't get any presents because of that?"

Makenna nodded soberly.

Bella leaned over, touched by her daughter's concern, and kissed her lightly on the forehead. "Don't worry, baby. Even if Masen doesn't believe in Santa, I know for a fact Santa believes in him."

"Really?"

Bella nodded, running her fingers over Makenna's soft cheek. "He'd never do anything to hurt your brother, sweetie. You don't need to worry, okay?"

Makenna thought for a moment, then smiled brightly. "Okay, Mommy."

"Now," Bella said, standing up. "I think you need to take all of this off for now, at least until after breakfast."

Makenna's shoulders stiffened, and Bella braced for an argument.

Thankfully, it only took a little convincing for Makenna to trade her "festive" outfit for something a little more breakfast-friendly. Once she was dressed in a t-shirt and jeans, Bella kissed the top of her head and sent her off to the kitchen, telling her she'd join her after another trip to the bathroom.

"But Mommy, you just went!" Makenna said with a pitying shake of her head.

"I know, baby. I know," Bella replied. "Go on now. I'll be down in a second."

Bella was so intent on her goal that she didn't notice that her daughter didn't go downstairs right away. Instead, she watched her mother go into the bathroom, then tiptoed down the hall to Masen's room. With a quick glance back and forth to ensure she wouldn't be caught, she slipped into the bedroom, closing the door quietly behind her before making her way to his cluttered desk. Luckily, she knew just what she was looking for, and it only took a moment before she slid it carefully into her pocket, patting it gently.

With an ear to the door, she paused before quickly exiting the room and heading down the stairs, singing "Jingle Bells" with a smile on her face.

.:~:._.:~VoSP.:~:._.:~:.

Edward had only spared a few minutes for his shower, dressing quickly and rubbing a towel over his head before running his hands through his hair to tame it. He headed down the hall, smiling at the sound of the heated discussion coming from Makenna's bedroom.

"But I need to be ready, Mommy!"

"Sweetie, you can't go to the mall for hours, and you don't want to spill syrup on your pretty dress, do you?"

"I won't spill," Makenna said stubbornly. "I'm not a baby!"

Edward smirked and slipped by the room unnoticed, not even feeling a little bit guilty for avoiding the conflict.

It was a girl thing, after all, he told himself.

He made his way downstairs and into the kitchen, quickly gathering the ingredients for his world-famous pancakes.

Okay, they were Bisquick, but he did add chocolate chips on special occasions. That counted for something, right?

He had just put the electric griddle on the counter and was measuring out the pancake mix when his son shuffled into the room in his pajamas, rubbing at his eyes, his hair sticking up in every direction.

"Why is everyone up so early?" he grumbled, glaring out the still dark windows. "It's still night time."

Edward smiled at Masen, ruffling his hair and earning another half-hearted glare. "Your sister's a little excited to see Santa today."

Masen rolled his eyes, taking a seat at the breakfast bar as Edward poured in the milk and began cracking eggs. "Do we have to go?" he asked.

His father paused mid-egg-crack. "Since when don't you like to go see Santa?"

Masen just shrugged, avoiding Edward's eyes as he crossed his arms on the countertop and lay down his head.

"Masen?" When the boy didn't move, Edward leaned over, touching his head softly. "What's wrong, buddy?"

He peered up, frowning slightly. "Ben told me the truth...about Santa," he said.

Edward forced a benign expression, reaching for the pancake bowl and turning his attention to whisking. "What do you mean?" he asked.

"He told me there is no Santa."

"What?" Edward whisked a little harder. "Why would he say that?"

"He snuck into his parents' bedroom and looked in the closet. He found all his presents," Masen said flatly, his unwavering eyes watching for his father's reaction. "He asked his big brother about it and he told him Santa isn't real."

Edward sighed heavily, silently cursing little Ben Cheney. He had hoped he'd have a few more years before he'd had to deal with this. It wasn't that he enjoyed lying to his son, but the wide-eyed awe at the magic of Christmas was something rare and short-lived, and he hadn't been in a rush for Masen to outgrow it. He could also sense that his son was waiting for him to confirm or deny his suspicions. His father's word obviously outweighed that of his friend or his friend's big brother.

But although he wanted Masen to hold onto his childhood for as long as possible, Edward wouldn't outright lie to him. Instead, he scooped pancake batter onto the griddle, asking quietly, "And what do youthink?"

Masen was silent for a long moment. "I don't know," he said finally. "What do you think?"

Edward should have known he wouldn't get off that easy. He smiled at his son. "Well, I believe in lots of things that most people don't," he said. "I believe in magic and miracles. And I would never be the one to say Santa isn't real."

Masen considered that. He knew all about Edward's strange trip to his alternate life, and that he – and his mother, for that matter – both believed it was real. He didn't know what to think about it but would never voice his doubts to his father.

He was only eight – almost nine – but he knew enough to know that no man wanted his son to think he might be crazy.

Edward seemed to know what he was thinking anyway, so he reached over and ruffled his hair one more time. "What you believe is a choice, buddy," he said quietly. "You have to decide for yourself what you believe. There's no way to know for sure if you're right or not. That's why they call it faith." He stiffened at the sound of Makenna singing as she came down the stairs and turned to flip the pancakes. "But do me favor, okay?" he added. "Until you figure it out, don't ruin things for Makenna. She's really excited about seeing Santa."

Masen rolled his eyes, still confused and feeling a little too old for all of this. He was, however, also unwilling to hurt the little sister he loved, despite the fact she sometimes annoyed him to death. He smiled slightly. "Okay, Dad."

"Thanks, buddy," Edward said, sliding a plate of chocolate chip pancakes toward his son and turning back to make another for his little girl.

.:~:._.:~VoSP.:~:._.:~:.

"How do you spell 'Dear?'" Makenna asked, red crayon clutched carefully between her fingers.

Bella smiled at her. "D-E...Masen, don't play with your milk, please."

Masen grunted, but stopped blowing bubbles into his straw.

"D-E…?" Makenna prodded.

"Sorry, baby. A-R."

Edward handed a plate of pancakes to Bella as she sat down between the kids. "You sure you don't want to come today?" he asked.

"How do you spell 'Santa?'"

"S-A-" Bella said, taking a bite of her breakfast. "Wish I could, but I've already put off this interview twice – N-T-A." Since SecondChances was made into a TV movie, it had become a holiday classic. As a result, Bella was always in high demand during the Christmas season. The local station was putting together a Twelve Days of Christmas special and asked Bella to be part of it. She would be one of several local celebrities to share their favorite holiday traditions. That left Edward to take the kids to the mall to see Santa and find a Christmas gift for his wife.

The mall, the Saturday before Christmas. Edward had covered wars and natural disasters, but he had to admit to more than a little trepidation at the thought.

He wasn't complaining though. This was the first year he'd actually have some time off over Christmas since he took over the nightly news, and he planned on enjoying every moment of it.

It was a lesson he'd learned years ago and one he still took very seriously.

"How do you spell 'want?'" Makenna asked.

"I don't know why you're writing a letter anyway," Masen grumbled. "Do you really think Santa has time to read allof the letters from allof the kids in the world?" He raised an imperious eyebrow and Makenna's lip trembled slightly.

She steeled herself, however, her chin lifting. "The elves help," she said simply.

Masen snorted, and Edward shot him a warning look before answering Makenna and spelling 'want.'

"Daddy, can Claire and Roger come with us to see Santa?" she asked, adding some red and green swirls around the edge of her letter.

"Uh..." Edward glanced at where Makenna's favorite doll sat on the countertop near her, unseeing eyes focused on the letter she was writing. Next to the doll, a G.I. Joe given to Makenna by her brother lay on its side, dressed in its trademark camouflage pants and combat boots, but inexplicably wearing one of Barbie's flowered halter tops. Makenna loved the action figure, but it made Edward more than a little uncomfortable. Bella just laughed at him, assuring him it was perfectly natural for his daughter to have a cross-dressing army man named Roger.

Edward, however, was certain there was Ken doll living in a loft in Tribeca, brokenhearted and alone.

"Probably better to leave them at home this time," Edward answered, ignoring Bella's smirk. "Wouldn't want them to get lost."

Makenna nodded absently. "How do you spell, 'Barbie Sisters Traveling Camper?'"

For a moment, everyone just looked at Makenna, unblinkingly. She just stared back. "Roger likes camping," she said simply.

Edward rubbed his forehead, but Bella just smiled. "Honey, why don't you just draw a picture? I bet Santa would like that."

Makenna grinned. "Good idea, Mommy." She reached for another crayon and began to sketch out Roger's soon-to-be RV.

"Shoot, I've got to go," Bella said, glancing at her watch as she took her plate to the sink. She kissed Edward lightly. "Good luck today," she said. "I'll see you when you get back." She turned to Makenna. "Remember what we talked about, Makenna. The dress and the shoes...and let Daddy do your hair, okay?"

"What about the tights?" she asked stubbornly.

Bella sighed. "The tights are okay."

"And my pretty crown?"

"No crown," Bella said firmly. Makenna frowned, but with a glance at her father, a slow, mischievous smile lit her face.

"Okay, Mommy," she said obediently, but Edward recognized that smile.

The girl was going to talk him into the tiara.

Bella raised an eyebrow at him, obviously thinking the same thing, but Edward just shrugged. "Give me some credit," he said. "I can totally take her."

When they finally got in the car, hours later, Masen wore a nice red sweater and jeans and Makenna her red dress and sparkly shoes.

And the tiara.

It had taken an offer of hot chocolate and cookies to get her to leave the Superman cape at home.

Edward thought he got off easy.

.:~:._.:~VoSP.:~:._.:~:.

The screams cut through the air, Edward's shoulders hunching under the high-pitched assault.

"Nooooooo!" the toddler shrieked, blonde curls sticking to the tears on her cheeks. "I want to ride the horsie!"

Her mother hushed her gently. "If you're good and smile pretty for your picture, you can ride the horsie after."

The girl's sobs cut between her words, hiccups of gasping breath. "I. Want. To. Ride. The. Horsie. NOW!"

Edward curled an arm around a wide-eyed Makenna as Masen looked up at him.

"Wow," the boy said under his breath. "Somebody needs a time out."

Edward bit his lip to keep from laughing, ignoring the glare from the little girl's mother. They'd been waiting in line for Santa for a half an hour and had barely moved ten feet. He couldn't blame the little girl for her meltdown.

Although, he had to admit he was glad he wasn't the parent on the receiving end of it.

Then, like a disease spreading through an unvaccinated population, it began to spread. First, it was just an irritated rumble.

"How long do we have to wait?"

"Where is Santa?"

"I'm tired."

But the rumble grew, amplified, until the screams and sobbing multiplied into a virtual wailing Armageddon.

"I don't want to be quiet!"

"I'm hungry!"

"I want to go HOME!"

Edward could swear he heard the theme song from ApocalypseNow.

He watched in shocked amazement at the ripple effect of the toddler's tantrum, frantic parents hushing and pleading and bribing and stuffing pacifiers into gaping mouths.

But it was too late.

One by one, they were picked off. Disgruntled parents packing up their screaming children and abandoning the line in favor of the food court or the toy store, living to fight another day.

Edward felt a little bad for them but couldn't keep down a little thrill of victory as they moved forward in the line.

All's fair in love and war. And waiting for Santa.

He tucked a hand in his pocket, the other gripping Makenna's lightly. Her narrowed eyes scanned the area carefully, her letter to Santa clutched tightly in her fist.

"What are you looking for, Makenna?" he asked.

"Santa," she whispered.

"He's right over there." Edward released her hand to point to the big red throne at the front of the line. "You'll see him in a minute."

Makenna looked at him like she couldn't quite believe he had said that. "That's not the real Santa, Daddy."

Edward wasn't sure how to respond, but Makenna continued without his input. "That's the pictures Santa. The real Santa doesn't have time for this. That's why he has helpers."

Masen snorted, and Edward elbowed him lightly.

"There he is!" Makenna exclaimed suddenly, then she was gone, darting through the gaps in the crowd and across the mall, one hand holding her tiara in place.

"Makenna!" Edward shouted, grabbing Masen's hand and dragging him along in her wake. "Come back here!"

Panic rose in his chest as he kept the head of red curls in his vision, breathing a sigh of relief when she finally stopped in a small hallway between two shops. She looked up at a janitor holding a mop in his hands and gestured wildly, only glancing back toward Edward once he touched her arm.

"Makenna, you can't run off like that," he said, crouching down to look her in the eye, his worry tempered by relief. He glanced up at the janitor. "And the nice man is trying to work, sweetie. We should leave him alone." He straightened, taking her hand. "I'm sorry about this," he told the man.

"Daddy, no," Makenna said, pulling free of his grip. "It's Santa!" She widened her eyes to emphasize her point, and Edward turned to the man apologetically. He had to admit the man did look like Santa with his close-cropped white beard and white hair curling out from beneath a baseball cap. His blue eyes twinkled merrily, his cheeks pink from the exertion of mopping the hall. He was big, although not the bowl-full-of-jelly round usually associated with Santa Claus, and wore a stained gray jumpsuit, a white rag hanging over his shoulder.

"It's all right," the man said with a wink. "It happens all the time."

"Makenna, come on," Masen said quietly. "This isn't Santa. Let's go get our pictures taken so we can get our hot chocolate."

Makenna glared at him. "Masen, it isSanta. Look at him."

"He just looks like Santa," her brother replied, irritation winning over. "He's a janitor."

"He is Santa!" Makenna shouted, stomping her foot, and Edward winced as a few heads turned their direction. He feared a full-on meltdown could be on the way and ran his hand through his hair, trying to find a way to diffuse it.

He didn't have to, though, because the janitor just crouched down and tapped Makenna on the nose. "Well, Makenna, have you been a good girl this year?" he asked.

Makenna nodded, then winced, shooting a glance at Edward. "Most of the time," she admitted.

"She's been very good," Edward interjected, thankful that the tantrum had been averted. He ignored Masen's annoyed grunt. Evidently, he didn't agree.

"Ah, that's wonderful," the janitor said with a wide smile. "And what would you like for Christmas?" he asked.

Makenna bit her lip, looking briefly over her shoulder at her brother. She held out her letter. "It's all in here," she whispered.

The man took the letter. "Ah, good idea. Write it all down so I get it right."

"I had to draw some pictures 'cause I don't know all the words."

"That's fine," he said. "I like pictures." He stood up, nodding at Masen. "How about you, son? What would you like for Christmas?"

Masen flushed, his gaze falling to the floor as he shrugged. Edward wrapped an arm over his shoulders, reaching for Makenna with his other hand.

"We really should be going," he said. "Thank you so much...Santa. Sorry to bother you."

He started to walk away, but Makenna darted back, throwing her arms around the janitor's neck and whispering frantically in his ear.

"Makenna!" Edward groaned, embarrassed and irritated. He pulled her arms free, apologizing again for his daughter's enthusiasm.

The janitor grinned, standing up and leaning on his mop. "No problem at all."

"You won't forget?" Makenna asked soberly.

He smiled at her. "Not a chance. You all have a merry Christmas."

They returned the sentiment before Edward led them back to the line for Santa pictures.

The end of the line.

Edward sighed, shifting on his feet as Makenna bounced excitedly, chattering about this and that. Masen was quiet, and Edward saw him glancing toward the hallway every now and then, even though the janitor had moved on.

"You okay, buddy?" he asked. Masen just nodded.

Eventually, they made it to the front of the line, and Makenna skipped over to hop up on Santa's knee, Masen dutifully standing on the other side of the jolly old elf. (He'd argued he was way too old to sit on Santa's lap and Edward didn't push it.) Santa ho-ho-hoed and bounced Makenna on his knee before asking what she wanted for Christmas.

"Well, I'd like an Easy Bake Oven, and a dress for Claire – that's my doll – and a Barbie Sister Traveling Camper for Roger..."

"Roger?"

"He's my other doll."

"He's an actionfigure," Masen corrected, "and his name is G.I. Joe."

"No, his name is Roger," Makenna insisted, eyes flashing.

A girl wearing an elf costume popped in with a wide smile to interrupt the escalating argument with a candy cane. Santa flashed her an appreciative look and turned to Masen.

"And what would you like, little boy?"

Masen bristled at the "little" comment, but at Edward's pointed glance took a resigned breath.

"A dog," he said.

Edward grimaced, shaking his head slightly as Santa's eyes darted his way. They'd had numerous conversations about a dog, but he and Bella agreed that with their busy schedules, it wasn't really fair to bring one into the house.

Masen didn't agree.

"A dog is a big responsiblity," Santa said soberly. "Maybe you should wait until you're a little older."

"I'm almost nine."

"Well, what else would you like? Maybe a football? Or a cool video game?" He glanced up at Edward, who nodded imperceptibly.

Masen sighed, defeated. "Yeah, that would be cool," he admitted. "Or a skateboard?"

"Sir?" A quiet voice drew Edward's attention from his children. He was surprised to find the janitor standing next to him, holding out Makenna's letter. "I thought you might want to have this."

Edward took the envelope, smiling at the drawing of a stick figure in a red suit across the front. "Thank you," he said, tucking it into his pocket quickly with a surreptitious glance toward his kids. The little elf was back, drawing their attention to the camera and waving a handful of jingle bells as she counted to three. They smiled widely as the camera flashed and Edward couldn't hold back a smile of his own.

He turned back to the janitor, but he was gone. Edward spotted him heading toward the food court, pushing his cart and nodding at the people he passed.

"Daddy?" Makenna tugged at his sleeve, sucking on her candy cane. "Can we go get hot chocolate now?"

Edward nodded as they turned toward Starbucks. The janitor had disappeared, probably into the bathrooms, so Edward just took his children's hands and led them through the crowd.

.:~:._.:~VoSP.:~:._.:~:.

"So, how'd it go?" Edward asked, crossing the bedroom to rub Bella's shoulders. She sighed, relaxing into the massage, and Edward kissed her temple.

"Good," she said with a shrug, leaning back into him. "You know those interviews. They're all basically the same. How'd it go at the mall?"

Edward wrapped his arms around her, running a hand over her belly. "Good. Fine."

"Any surprises?"

"Masen tried to ask for a dog again," he said, and Bella laughed. "Think we nipped that one in the bud. But he did mention a skateboard, too."

"I picked one up last week."

"And that's why you're The Mommy," he said, nuzzling her neck. "What are the kids doing?"

"Playing in their rooms," Bella replied. "I can't believe it's so quiet."

Edward hummed, nosing under her hair to press a kiss at her nape. "Maybe we can take advantage of that."

Bella's shiver belied her words. "It's the middle of the day."

"So?" he said against her skin, his tongue darting out to taste. "We'll be quiet."

"You sure?" she asked, covering his hands with her own and interlacing their fingers. Edward spotted the flush working its way up her neck and instantly knew the reason. Bella had always been especially self-conscious while pregnant, and making love in the light of day still made her nervous, even after all of these years.

"I'm always sure," Edward told her, running his nose along her hairline and nibbling at her earlobe. His hands rubbed lovingly over her belly and she stiffened.

"What's wrong, baby?" he asked.

She shrugged. "I don't know. Just feeling...fat. And old. You know the P.A. at the shoot today called me ma'am?" she said with an incensed glance over her shoulder. "Ma'am for God's sake."

"Asshole," Edward muttered, a smile quirking his lips.

"Shut up." She tried to look annoyed, but Edward caught the smile she tried to hide.

Edward squeezed her a little tighter, resting his chin on her shoulder. "Baby, first of all, you're not fat." At her disbelieving huff, he added, "You're pregnant, carrying my child..." He stroked her stomach to emphasize his point. "...which is so incredibly sexy, by the way."

She tipped her head as he kissed her neck again. "Yeah?" she asked, a little breathless. He'd said it all before, but he knew every once in a while, she needed to hear it again.

"Mmm hmmm..." he murmured, trailing little wet kisses along her nape. "And you're not old. You're more beautiful every day." It was cliche, and he knew it, but it was also true. Despite the fact that she'd just turned forty-three, Bella's skin remained soft and unlined, except for a few little crinkles around her eyes when she smiled. Her hair was still thick and brown, a fact he'd complained about when his own sprouted bits of gray along the temples. Bella had just laughed and told him gray made him look distinguished, but Miss Clairol kept her from the same fate.

He didn't care. She was perfect. And he still wanted her. All the time.

"You say the sweetest things," Bella murmured, turning in his arms and trailing her hands up his chest to link them around his neck.

"I'm a sweet guy," he said with a cocky grin before leaning down to kiss her softly. Bella whimpered, her fingers tangling in his hair as she tilted her head to deepen the kiss. Not for the first time, Edward wondered at the quick jolt of heat that passed between them at a time like this, that it was still just as sharp, just as electric as it ever was.

Slipping his fingers under the hem of her shirt, Edward slid it up as they shifted toward the bed. Bella stumbled, falling back onto the mattress with a slight shriek, and Edward followed, bracing himself on his arms to avoid slamming into her.

"Oops," she said with a grin, rucking his shirt up over his head, eager now. Edward lifted hers as well, planting a soft kiss to her stomach before running his fingers lightly over her breasts. Bella arched, extra sensitive due to the pregnancy, and Edward took the opportunity to slip a hand under her back to unhook her bra. Eyes widening at her larger size, he licked his lips.

Bella giggled. "You look like a starving man at a buffet."

"This is a definite perk of the whole pregnancy thing," he muttered, leaning down to circle her nipple with the tip of his tongue.

"Oh, God," Bella moaned. "Edward!"

"Shhhh..." he whispered, sucking gently as she writhed beneath him, fingernails scrabbling at his back as she wrapped her legs around his waist. Edward's hips rotated against hers slowly and she reached between them, blindly searching for the button on his jeans.

"I need..." she mumbled.

"Yeah." He lifted his hips, hissing as she unzipped him, the back of her fingers brushing over his erection. He slid her leggings down over her hips, taking her mouth in another drugging kiss.

"Mommy?" A tiny fist knocked at the door, and due to years of training, Edward reflexively grabbed the comforter, flipping it over both of them.

Bella's head flopped back against the bed in frustration. "What is it, baby?"

"Masen's going to flush Roger down the toilet!"

In the distance, they could both just make out Masen's outraged voice. "She won't stay out of my room!"

"I just wanted to play with you!"

"You break all my stuff!"

Edward collapsed on the bed next to Bella with a heavy sigh, carefully sliding her leggings back up. She sat up, and he re-hooked the bra behind her back.

"Rain check?" he asked, kissing her shoulder.

Bella smiled softly. "You got it."

"Mommy!"

"I'm coming!" Bella called out as she pulled her shirt back on, grateful that the little girl hadn't just barged in.

Edward zipped up his pants but reached out to grab her arm as she passed him.

He kissed her fast, hard, and deep. When he pulled back, Bella inhaled shakily.

"I love you, baby," he said quietly.

She smiled and touched his face. "I love you, too."

Hand in hand they walked out of the room to save Roger from his watery doom.

.:~:._.:~VoSP.:~:._.:~:.

The next few days flew by in a flurry of shopping and wrapping and various other Christmas activities. It was strange not to have any extended family on hand for the holiday, but with Alice and Jasper expecting their first child in a few weeks, Edward's parents felt they needed to stay close to them this year. After years of living together, Rosalie and Emmett finally took the plunge and got married – eloped, actually – and were in Hawaii for their honeymoon. Charlie had agreed to cover the holiday shifts for a co-worker whose wife was in the hospital. Even though he was semi-retired, he still kept busy with the department and often filled in whenever there was a need.

They'd considered packing up the kids for a trip to Washington, but Bella's doctor put the kibosh on that when her blood pressure popped up a bit too high. She was fine, but he said flying was probably not the best idea at the moment.

So, it was just the four of them this year.

It was harder for Bella than Edward, but she tried to enjoy the quiet time with her family. And the knowledge that the rest of them would all come to visit the following summer to see the baby helped.

To be honest, Edward enjoyed the low-key celebration. The quiet and relaxed atmosphere around the house was something he'd come to treasure. He'd cuddle up with Makenna before her nap, reading a story until she could no longer keep her eyes open. Or play catch outside with Masen, even after it started to snow and their fingers grew numb, despite their gloves. They baked and decorated cookies and Skyped with the grandparents. And Edward loved every minute of it.

On Christmas Eve, they gathered before the television for what had become a family tradition.

"Got the popcorn?" he asked Bella as he grabbed an assortment of juice boxes from the fridge.

She dumped the second bag into a large bowl with a smile. "Extra butter," she said, slapping his hand as Edward grabbed a handful.

Masen called out from his position sprawled on the floors. "What about the M&M's?"

Edward produced a bag of the candy, ripping it open and dumping it into the popcorn bowl with a grin, much to his children's delight. They tossed it together, popping handfuls of the warm, melty combination into their mouths as Bella turned on the TV. She curled into his side with Makenna lying across their laps as Masen propped his chin on his fists from his spot on the floor.

"It's time!" Makenna said happily, clapping her hands as the title SecondChancesappeared on the screen.

Bella smiled softly and Edward reached down to take her hand as the main character – Evan in the movie – sat at a bar, nursing a drink and mourning the loss of the love of his life.

Even after all of these years, it was still strange for Edward to see his story on screen, acted out by other people. Bella changed some of the names and places when she wrote the book. Bella was Bridget, and she was headed home to Portland, instead of Forks, when Evan found her at the end of the story. But other than that, it was all pretty true-to-life. He smiled when Evan encountered Michael for the first time outside of the bar...and winced when Rosalie (Rachel in the movie) beaned him with a duffle bag when he tried to go home after spending the night on Alice and Jasper's (Amy and Jacob's) couch.

Makenna squealed with glee when her character first appeared on screen. "That's me!" she said excitedly every time "Mallory" said or did something especially cute. "That's you, Masen," she'd add when her TV brother rode his new bike and confessed to ringing his father's magical bell.

Masen, however, was uncharacteristically silent. He watched the movie closely, and every now and then Edward would feel his gaze. But when he turned toward his son, he'd quickly look back at the television. Bella just shrugged, widening her eyes in an unspoken expression of uncertainty and worry.

When Bridget was rushed into surgery and Michael the angel appeared to send Evan back to his world, Makenna looked up at Edward, lip trembling.

"Did Mommy die?" she asked quietly, and Edward's heart broke. It was the first time she'd put together the pieces of the story, realized that, although Edward lived here and now, there was a very real possiblity that the otherEdward and Masen and Makenna had to go on without their Bella. He glanced at Bella, who discreetly wiped some tears from her eyes before gathering Makenna close, planting a kiss on her head.

"I'm not sure what happened when I left," Edward said truthfully, "but I think that when I came back here, maybe the Edward that belongs there went back. I believe he was happy to get back to his Masen and Makenna...and Bella." He reached over to squeeze his wife's hand and she nodded encouragingly. "I think they're all together somehow."

Makenna bit her lip, eyes wide as she considered that. Then she nodded. "I hope so. I hope the other Makenna has her mommy and her daddy." A moment later she squealed, her sadness forgotten as she saw her newly-born brother cradled in his father's arms on television.

"That's you, Masen!" she said, clapping her hands.

Masen rolled his eyes. "You say that every time," he grumbled, but Edward could just make out a hint of a smile as his TV counterpart kissed the baby on the forehead.

They watched the rest of the movie in silence, applauding as the credits rolled.

"I love that movie," Makenna said sleepily, her eyes drooping.

"I know, sweetie," Edward said, picking her up. She rested her head on his shoulder, arms and legs dangling loosely.

"I'm tired, Daddy."

"I know. Time for bed."

"But I want to stay up for Santa," she said, a huge yawn stretching out the words.

Edward chuckled as he started up the stairs. "You have to go to sleep if you want Santa to come. He sees you when you're sleeping, remember?"

"He knows when you're awake," she sang sleepily.

"That's right." He carried her into her room and put her to bed. She snuggled into the pillow, her dolls clustered around her, tangled amidst her riotous curls. Edward sat down next to her, sweeping her bangs away from her face. Of course, they fell right back down.

"I'll see you in the morning, beautiful," he said quietly, leaning down to kiss her forehead.

"Don't forget Claire, Daddy."

"Of course not," he said with a grin, kissing the doll's head lightly.

"And Roger."

Edward frowned. Roger had dressed for the holidays in his army-issue green vest – no shirt – a pair of red shorts, and a Santa hat. Edward pulled the sheets up enough to cover the shorts and dutifully planted a light kiss on the hat.

"Okay?" he asked.

"Okay," she said, satisfied, pulling Roger a little closer as her eyes fluttered closed.

"Good night," Edward whispered.

Makenna's lips lifted, but her eyes stayed closed. "Sweet dreams."

"My love is in the moonbeams." Edward flipped off the light, leaving the door cracked as he walked into the hall. He spotted Bella standing outside Masen's door.

"Everything okay?" he asked quietly.

"I'm not sure." She stepped away from the door, leaning toward him so as to not be overheard. "I'm worried about him."

Edward sighed. "I know. That Cheney kid's a pain in the–"

"Edward!"

"I know it's not his fault. I just hoped..."

"You hoped he'd be a little kid a while longer," she finished. "Me too. He just seems so...sad."

"Yeah." He wrapped Bella in his arms, laying his cheek on her head as she rested against his chest. "I'll go talk to him."

Bella nodded, heading into the bedroom as Edward opened Masen's door, eyes scanning the room with a slight smile. It was a mess but not any more so than Edward's was at his age. Posters of sports stars and favorite movies (mostly sci-fi and fantasy) papered his walls, interspersed with his own drawings. Masen had shown a passion and talent for art at a young age, and his desk was covered with various drawings in progress, as well as notebooks filled with his own sketches. Edward smiled at the sight of a drawing of him and Bella currently in progress. Although the strokes were still childlike, he definitely could recognize himself thanks to the trademark crazy hair, and Bella's belly was slightly rounded, the curves smudged where Masen had repeatedly erased to get it just right.

His son lay sprawled on his stomach, face turned away from the door. He didn't move, but Edward knew he was awake and crossed the room, stepping over toys and discarded clothing before sitting down on the edge of the bed.

"Hey, buddy," he said quietly. "Can we talk?"

After a moment, Masen turned his head, still lying on his stomach but with wary eyes on his father. "Am I in trouble?"

"No!" Edward said with a laugh. "No, of course not, but..." He leaned down, bracing his arms on his thighs as he looked at his son. "It seems like something's bothering you. You want to talk about it?"

Masen just shrugged.

Edward ran a hand through his hair. "Sometimes it helps to talk things out, you know."

"I know. It's just..." He hesitated, not meeting his father's eyes.

"Just what?"

"I don't want you to get mad."

"I'm not going to get mad," Edward promised, reaching out to rub his back gently. "I promise. You can tell me anything."

Masen was silent for a long moment, then finally rolled over onto his back, biting his lip.

"Do you..." he began. "Do you reallythink all of that happened to you?"

"All of what?" Edward replied. "Oh, you mean the movie?"

Masen nodded nervously, obviously worried about his father's reaction. Edward realized that somehow Ben Cheney's comments about Santa had cast a doubtful shadow over everything Masen believed, including the outrageous story about what his father had been through. At the same time, it was obvious he didn't want to doubt. He was caught in that limbo between childlike faith and adult reality, and he wasn't sure if he should move forward or try with all his might to stay behind.

Edward wasn't sure how to help him, other than to tell him the truth.

"Yeah," he said. "I do. I believe it all really happened, just like your mom wrote in her book...just like they showed in the movie."

"You don't think it was a dream, maybe?"

Edward reached into his pocket and pulled out his keys, the little silver bell tinkling lightly. "Nope. I have too much proof," he said. "This bell, for one thing. Then, there's you and your sister. You're just as you were there – well, a little older now – but other than that, you're exactly the same. And there's no way I could have dreamed of you before you were born, right?"

"Yeah, I guess so," Masen admitted. "But did you ever tell anyone, and they didn't believe you?"

Edward sighed, flicking at the bell once. "I'm not going to lie to you, buddy. I was very careful who I told about what happened. I know it sounds crazy, and I knew some people would think I was making it up, or maybe even lying.

"So I only shared the story with the people I trust most: your mom, your grandparents, our family and friends."

"But don't you want everybody to know?" Masen asked. "Don't you want them all to believe you?"

Edward smiled. "That's the thing. I don't need that. I know what happened. That's all that matters." He slipped the bell off his key ring, holding it in his palm for a moment before setting it on Masen's bedside table.

"Maybe you can hang on to this for a while," he said. "It's always helped me to remember that I don't know everthing there is to know about the world. And that's okay, you know? There are mysteries and magic out there that we can't understand. I truly believe that, Masen. I hope you can too. It makes life really exciting."

Masen's eyes focused on the bell, but he said nothing.

Edward leaned down to kiss his forehead. "Good night. Sweet dreams."

"My love is in the moonbeams," Masen mumbled out of habit, but it was clear his attention was on the bell and everything it represented.

As Edward walked out of the room, he heard the quiet tinkling of the bell as Masen closed it in his fist.

.:~:._.:~VoSP.:~:._.:~:.

"Daddy, wake up! It's Christmas!" Makenna's squeal roused Edward from his sleep, and he was halfway out the bedroom door before he actually realized he'd gotten out of bed. Makenna gripped his hand, dragging him down the hallway.

"What time is it?" he asked, voice raspy with sleep.

Bella stumbled out behind him. "Little after seven."

Edward yawned. It had been a short night. In what had become a family tradition, they'd gathered in Masen's room just after midnight with a birthday cake ablaze with candles. Edward and Bella knew that sharing a birthday with Christmas could be a little disappointing, so they'd taken to having a birthday party with his friends on his half-birthday every year. But on his actual birthday – Christmas Day – they always had a special family celebration, gathered around his bed in the darkness of the first minutes of the day. After singing a sleepy "Happy Birthday," Masen had opened his presents, and it had been after one before they'd all gotten back to bed. And the rule was no one was allowed to start on the Christmas presents until after the sun was up.

"You said seven, Daddy," Makenna reminded him, skipping along happily. "I had to stay in my bed until the little hand was on the seven. It's on the seven now."

"Yeah, you're right," Edward admitted, rubbing a hand over his face. "Where's your brother?"

"He's already downstairs. But he said he would wait. He knows he has to wait," Makenna chattered. "I already peeked. I have lots of presents, Daddy. LOTS of presents."

Edward smiled at her. "Of course you do. You were a very good girl."

Makenna just grinned before releasing his hand and running down the stairs. "Here they come!" she shouted.

Bella caught up, leaning against him as he wrapped an arm around her shoulders. "You ready for this?" she asked.

He inhaled deeply, the scent from the automatic coffeemaker perking him up already. "Once I get a cup of coffee, I'm good to go."

"Thanks for rubbing it in," Bella grumbled. "Can you bring me some decaf?"

Edward got the coffee, and by the time they all settled before the tree, the first light of dawn began to peek through the windows. He sipped from his cup, relaxing on the couch next to Bella as the kids tore into their presents. Ribbons and scraps of wrapping paper flew through the air, settling into a crumpled mess across the floor. The kids smiled and shouted as they discovered what they'd been given; art supplies, a football and skateboard for Masen, and Makenna got her Easy Bake Oven and Barbie Camper. She happily put Roger in the driver's seat before setting the oven up in the corner, flipping through the packets of cake mix and frosting. Masen fiddled with the wheels on his skateboard but seemed distracted, checking under the tree again before curling up in an easy chair with his new colored pencils and beginning to draw.

After the dust had settled, Makenna left her new oven to climb up into Edward's lap.

"Tired, baby?" he asked, kissing the top of her head. Bella got up and began to organize the gifts and pick up the mess.

"Not really," she said sadly.

"What's wrong?"

She glanced at her brother, cupping her hand around her mouth as she whispered, "Santa didn't bring me what I asked for." Her lip trembled as she blinked back tears, and Edward's stomach clenched.

What had they forgotten?

"But...you got your camper and the oven and the dress for Claire," he pointed out. "That's what you asked Santa for. I heard you."

She shook her head, sniffling slightly. "No," she whispered. "I mean the realSanta. I thought he would give it to me because I tried so hard to be good." Her voice cracked.

"You were good," Edward stressed as Bella looked at him questioningly. He just shrugged in response, pointing a look at Masen, sensing that Makenna didn't want him to hear for some reason. Bella took the hint, asking him to help her take the trash out to the cans. Once they were out of the room, Edward turned Makenna in his lap so he could look into her watery eyes.

"You were very good," he repeated. "We just don't always get what we want."

"But – But I told him it was the onlything I really wanted. That if he could give it to me, I didn't have to have any other presents."

Edward felt tears pricking his own eyes at his daughter's misery. "Baby, what did you ask for?" he asked desperately, thinking if it meant that much to her, maybe they could go out and get it for her. Maybe hide it somewhere so she could discover it later.

He was desperate to make her feel better.

"What was it?" he pleaded, brushing her hair off her of tear-streaked cheeks.

She sniffled. "I asked him for Masen to believe in him," she said quietly.

Edward's heart sank. "Oh, sweetie..." he began.

"Mommy said even if he doesn't believe in Santa, he would still get presents," she said. "But...he needs to believe, Daddy. I just wanted him to believe." She began to sob and Edward held her close, rubbing her back and unsure of what to say.

"It's okay, honey. Don't cry," he urged.

Then, just as Masen and Bella came back into the room, the doorbell rang.

"I'll get it!" Masen shouted, and – to his surprise – Makenna perked up, swiping at her eyes as she raced after him.

"What in the world is going on?" Bella asked.

"I'm not sure. Makenna was just-"

A loud shout cut off Edward's words, and the two of them hurried to the front door, only to find Makenna watching, wide-eyed as Masen giggled hysterically, rolling around on the floor...

...with a puppy.

A big, gangly, long-legged, big-footed, floppy-eared puppy.

"Where in the world did he come from?" Edward asked, mystified.

Masen jumped to his feet, rushing over to his father, his face glowing. "He was just sitting on the front porch," he replied. "It's Riley, Dad. Santa brought him after all. He is real!"

"What?" Edward looked at Bella nervously. "Masen, where did this dog come from? He probably belongs to someone. We need to check his tags."

"I did, Dad!" he exclaimed, jumping up and down. If Edward hadn't been so confused, he might have smiled at the boy's genuine excitement. "Look!" he said, wrestling with the puppy and running his finger along his red collar to a shiny silver tag.

Edward and Bella leaned in. Surely enough, it said "Riley" but nothing else, no phone number or address.

Not wanting to quash Masen's enthusiasm but worried someone in the neighborhood might be missing a dog, Bella dropped to her knees, rubbing the puppy's belly. "Sweetie, he's a really cute puppy, but we can't keep him," she said. "We need to find out who he belongs to."

"No, you don't understand," he said emphatically. "This is Riley! I drew a picture of him." He stood up abruptly. "I'll show you!" he shouted, racing up the stairs to his room. Edward noticed Makenna frozen in place, staring at the puppy.

"He did it," she breathed. "He really did it!"

Masen returned with one of his notebooks, dropping onto the floor and flipping through the pages frantically.

"I can't find it," he muttered. "It was right here." He tossed the book aside, reaching for the dog and scratching him behind the ears. "It doesn't matter."

Masen looked Edward straight in the eye. "You have to believe me, Dad. This is Riley. This is my dog. Santa is real." He stood suddenly, reaching into his pocket and pulling out Edward's silver bell.

"It's true, Daddy," Makenna chimed in, jumping up and down excitedly. "Santa did it! He did it!"

"It's a miracle, Dad," Masen added, holding the bell out to his father. "You're the one who told me they're real, remember?"

Edward took the bell, nodding slowly and unable to speak.

"But even if you don't believe me, it's okay," Masen added. "Because I knowit's true."

At that, Edward's head snapped up. Regardless of where the dog came from and what had really happened, his son needed him to believe. If not in Santa, then at least in him.

He knew what that felt like.

Edward dropped to his knees and took his son gently by the shoulders. "I believe you," he said, looking intently into his eyes. "I do."

Masen smiled brightly, and Edward found himself smiling back.

"Edward?"

At Bella's questioning gaze, he nodded firmly. "It's true," he said. "This is Masen's dog. This is…Riley." They'd figure it out. If someone came looking for the dog, they'd offer to pay for him or replace him. He had to give this to his son.

"Yay!" Masen squealed. "Can I take him out to the back yard?"

"Yeah, sure," Edward said, ruffling his hair. "Put on your coat and hat, okay?"

Masen raced back to his room to get his coat, and Makenna grabbed Edward's hand.

"You see, Daddy? He really was Santa Claus!" She jumped up and down, chattering excitedly. "I knew he was when I saw him, and then I gave him the drawing because I knew it was what Masen wanted more than anything, and I told him that I just wanted Masen to believe..."

"Makenna," Edward interrupted, shaking his head. "What are you talking about? What did you do?"

She looked down at her feet, whispering the words in a rush. "I know I'm not supposed to go in Masen's room," she said, biting her lip nervously, "but I just wanted to help. So I took one of his drawings."

"Oh, baby," Bella said, crouching down to give her daughter a hug. "That's not so bad. I'm sure Masen will forgive you if you give it back."

"But...but I can't," she said. "I don't have it anymore."

Edward felt a strange tingle of awareness running up his spine. "Sweetie," he asked, "what did you do with the picture?"

She looked up at him, unsure if she was going to get in trouble. "I told you, Daddy. I gave it to Santa."

Masen rushed into the room at that moment, gathering the puppy in his arms, and Makenna took a deep breath.

"I took the drawing," she told him. "The one of Riley. I gave it to Santa. I'm sorry I went in your room, but I just-"

Masen grinned, cutting her off. "That's okay, Makenna," he said gleefully, too caught up in the excitement to even think about being mad. "I don't mind. Come on! Let's go play with Riley!"

Edward watched them leave, frozen in shock. His mind raced to try to make sense of what had happened.

Something strange. Something impossible.

Again.

You'd think he would have gotten used to strange and impossible things at this point.

"Edward?" Bella reached out to touch his cheek. "Are you okay?"

Without a word, Edward turned, went to the hall closet and shuffled hangers until he found the coat he'd worn the day they went to the mall to see Santa...

"What are you doing?" Bella asked.

...reached into the pocket for the envelope he'd forgotten about, and pulled it out with trembling fingers.

"What's that?"

"Makenna's letter to Santa," he said. The envelope had been opened, so he reached in, drawing out Makenna's letter along with another piece of paper. He unfolded it slowly, knowing what he would find but still laughing out loud when he finally saw it.

"Edward?" Bella repeated. "What?"

He held it out to her and she gasped. Drawn in perfect detail, and signed by her son, was a sketch of the puppy that now frolicked in their back yard; long legs, big ears – one pointing up, the other flopping down – all black except for a light brown spot circling his left eye. Buckled around his neck was a red leather collar bearing a tag with the name "Riley" as plain as day.

"I don't understand," Bella said, awed. "How...Who...?"

Edward grinned, taking Bella's hand and leading her to the back of the house where they could look out at their two children playing in the yard with the puppy.

"It's a long story," Edward said. "We were at the mall, and there was this janitor, and Makenna was convinced he was the real Santa-"

"Wait a second," Bella ordered, holding up a hand. "Let me get my laptop. I have a feeling I'm going to want to write this down."

Edward laughed as Bella ran to the office, then he turned out to look out at the backyard. Masen lay on his back on the snow-covered grass, laughing hysterically as Riley licked his face. Makenna skipped around them in a circle, her unzipped coat billowing around her, eyes glowing with excitement.

And in that moment, he realized that the man from the mall, whoever he was, had somehow given his children more than just a puppy.

He had given them one more year of magic, one more year of innocence.

One more year of childhood.

And in doing so, he'd granted Edward's Christmas wish as well.

He shook the silver bell lightly before putting it back on his key ring and dropping it into his pocket. Bella raced back into the room, setting the laptop on the counter and booting it up.

"Now start at the beginning," she ordered, fingers clicking on the keys, "and don't leave anything out."

Edward crossed to her, closing the laptop gently. "Later," he said, taking her hand and leading her to the back door. "Let's go play with the puppy."

And that's just what they did.


A/N: If you'd like to see how I picture Masen and Makenna, check out the banner on my profile.

Thanks for reading - wishing you all joy and magic this holiday season. See you in the New Year with Cutlass!

A/N: UPDATED 7/23/12 - PLEASE SEE MY PROFILE for important information about my stories. Thank you! :-)