Title: "The Grandest Present of All"
Author: Pirate Turner
Dedicated To: My beloved, wondrous, and always inspirational and amazing Jack, and our darling babies - Merry Christmas and Happy Solstice, my loves! This is the sixth story in my 12 Days of Solstice/Christmas for my beloved Jack and our darling babies of the year 2011.
Rating: PG
Summary: True love is the grandest present of all.
Warnings: Het, Established Relationship
Date Written: 28 November, 2011
Word Count (excluding heading): 1,821
Disclaimer: Rich Halke, Dana Foster, all other recognizable characters mentioned within, and Step By Step are οΎ© & TM their rightful owners, not the author, and are used without permission. Everything else belongs to the author. The author makes absolutely no profit off of this work of fan fiction, and no copyright infringement is intended.

Rich stared down at the one gift he had to give this holiday season. It was small and wrapped in Santa Claus paper that was far cheerier than he felt. He glowered down at the ancient, red-faced Elf as his grip tightened on his present. The old man could give all the children in the world presents every year, but yet he could barely afford to buy a simple gift for the woman he loved.

He sighed. He was tired of being poor and barely managing to scrimp together enough money to survive each semester of college, let alone any special occasions. He wanted to lay the world at the feet of the woman he loved - she certainly deserved it -, and yet all he could get her was this dumb gift. He sighed again, heartbroken. What he wouldn't give to give a gift that told her how much he really did love her!

And then he froze as he heard Dana moving closer to the place where he stood behind her family's Christmas tree. "Rich?" she called. Then she spied the gift he held and beamed at it as she asked, "Is that for me?"

"Yeah," he admitted softly, almost mumbling, "but, hum, it's not much."

"Rich, you're always too modest," Dana gently chastised him, taking the present out of his hands. He almost didn't want to give it to her, but she managed to tug it free of him nonetheless. She laughed. "What is it?" she questioned, sensing his reluctance and not understanding his mood.

Rich shook his head, his brown eyes falling from her happy gaze. His hands twisted nervously behind his back. "Like I said," he warned, his gaze falling to the floor where he shuffled his tennis shoes nervously amongst the shredded wrapping paper, crumpled bows, and discarded boxes, "it's not much."

"Baby, it's from you," Dana told him, her blue eyes softening as she suddenly realized how upset he was. She reached out and took his hand in hers. Tugging on his hand, she led him to look back to her and smiled reassuringly at him. "Whatever it is," she told him, though she already knew, from its simple wrapping paper, that it was a book, "I'm sure I'll love it, but not more than I love you."

She leaned over and kissed his soft lips. She squeezed his hand as she pulled away from him again. "Now please don't be upset," she reassured him. "I'm sure it's a great gift." She started unwrapping it.

"It's just a stupid book," Rich muttered underneath his breath, not intending for her to hear him. Her sweet kiss still lingered upon his tingling lips, but he couldn't help being upset. Dana deserved so much more. She deserved all the best things in the world, and yet all he could get her was a book.

"Which just proves to show how much you know me," Dana told him, and then she spotted the title and grinned. "Rich, it's exactly what I wanted!" The tassel of a bookmark hung out of the top of the book. She opened it to look at her new bookmark and gasped at what she found. "And you stood in line for hours to get it signed for me!"

A small smile began to tug at Rich's lips. He shyly rose his brown eyes up to his beloved's beautiful and smiling face. "I did," he admitted shyly and then was delighted and had his doubts chased away as Dana jumped over the trash in the floor to wrap her arms tightly around him in a huge hug and rain kisses over his mouth. He laughed, and she reached out with her free hand - her other hand was still clutching her new book, the latest from her favorite author - and tickled him, bringing even more laughter from him.

"Dana!" he squealed. She tackled him further, pushing him pass the bristles of the Christmas tree, wrapping her arms around his neck, and kissing him passionately.

It was only the clearing of Frank's throat from the other side of the tree that finally made Dana cease her onslaught of kisses. She blushed as she peeled herself off of her boyfriend and righted her clothes. "Now," she questioned, looking back into Rich's eyes as she brushed her blonde hair back into place with her free hand, "do you want to tell me why you doubted yourself so much?"

Rich sighed. He glanced around the tree at their family. Frank and Carol had given them their privacy again as Dana was once more being Miss Proper, but JT was still looking. He was relieved when Sam brought his friend's attention back to her.

"Rich?" Dana prodded, anxious to know why he'd been so upset. She waved her present in the air before him. "This proves how well you know me. It's exactly what I wanted: the book I've been waiting to come out for for months and that was sold out everywhere in town during the first few hours it was released. It's by my favorite author of all time, and you even got it signed. Honey, I know you put a lot of work into this, and it took loads of patience for you to stay in line as long as you had to to get it signed with everybody pushing against you," she rolled her eyes, "and all those fangirls screaming! So why did you doubt that I'd want it?"

"I . . . Well, I . . . " He rubbed his chin and then thrust his hand nervously up into his thick, black hair. He drug his shoes again across the floor. "It's not so much that I thought you wouldn't want it, sweetheart," he admitted at last, "as it was that you deserve so much more! Karen practically got a brand new wardrobe from all of her beaus."

"Yeah, lots of stupid presents from way too many guys who don't really know her but happen to know what's in fashion - or, at least, their mothers or sisters do. I'd rather have you, my love, any day than all those guys she keeps on a string and so many different, silly presents."

"Frank scored Carol diamonds, and even JT managed to buy Sam a necklace."

Dana shook her head. "All things I wouldn't want," she told him, stepping closer to him again, "and you know that, Rich." She cupped his handsome face in her loving hands, stroked his tender flesh, and gazed into his eyes with all the love she had and would always hold for just him alone in all the world. "Baby, this gift is exactly what I wanted! You gave me what I wanted, not just some present for any chick without an intelligent mind. You didn't waste your money on clothes or jewelry that I wouldn't want and would either not wear at all or would wear one time to make you happy."

Her fingers ran up his skin, massaging him and catching the lobes of his ears in her grasp. She kept massaging him, and Rich tingled from the top of his head throughout the ends of his sneakers. "You got me what I really wanted, love, and that proves you know me! And I know you've been upset this Christmas, because you don't have a lot of money to spend on me." She shook her head. "I don't need a lot of money or a lot of gifts. I don't want what other women want. I would have been just fine and happy without this book even, but I'm thrilled that you got it for me."

"Rich, I know it's been said before, and I know it's kind of cliche, but I mean it nonetheless." She gazed into his eyes, leaned her body against his, and gently rubbed his ear lobes. "All I need for Christmas, all I want any day or night of the year, is you, my darling! I love you, and as long as I've got you and our love, I don't need anything else!" She pressed her lips to his in a kiss so sizzling that it shot fire throughout both of their bodies, hearts, and souls, and she only pulled away again when she heard Frank coughing urgently.

Dana smiled up into her beloved Rich's chocolaty eyes, then took his hand in hers again and led him back around the Christmas tree to her family. "Look, everybody," she said once they had come back around the tree as every one was already looking at them any way. She waved her book at them and grinned from ear to ear. "This is what Rich got me!"

"A book," Frank and Karen spoke dryly at the same time. Karen rolled her eyes; Frank gave his head a slight shake.

"Oi," Jean-Luc muttered and turned away to play with Lily and her new toys.

JT laughed.

"Cool," Cody commented. He laughed, as well, but unlike JT, there was nothing condemning about his laugh.

Carol smiled. "Rich, that's a great gift!" she exclaimed, easing his growing embarrassment.

"Yeah!" Sam enthused.

"Leave it to a brainiac," Al said, rolling her brown eyes heavenward as well, "to want a book for Christmas."

Carol shot her stepdaughter a look, then smiled back at Rich. "Dana's been talking about that book for months, ever since the author put out her last one! She's going to love it!"

"Can I borrow it when you're done?" Mark asked shyly.

Still beaming, Dana nodded. She gently squeezed Rich's hand. "You can," she told him, "but I'm pretty sure I won't be done with it for months." She smiled at her beloved boyfriend. "You've given me the best present ever, Rich!" she said, and though she was thrilled over her new book, they both knew that it was the wonderful love they shared that was truly the best present of all. "Thank you, and merry Christmas!" She leaned closer to him and kissed his cheek.

"Merry Christmas, Dana," Rich said, "and do you know you're standing under mistletoe?"

"I am?" she asked innocently.

He grinned and nodded. "You are." He closed in on her, wrapped his arms around her, and kissed her long and deep again.

Carol gave a happy sigh though she shook her head. "I told you to get that mistletoe out of here before the children came in, Frank."

"Oops," he spoke sheepishly with a grin. He grabbed the mistletoe, but Rich and Dana kept kissing. "Merry Christmas, everybody!" his strong voice boomed out, and as their family converged upon them with Christmas wishes and hugs, Rich and Dana finally broke apart again. Still they stood side by side, and when nobody was looking, they snuck away again to kiss once more in the shadows, celebrating not just Christmas but the truly grandest present of all, true love, well into the night and happily beyond!

The End