Thank you so much for all of your kind feedback on this story! I love hearing what you think! I loved writing this story, and I hope you liked reading it as much as I liked writing it. I'm really going to miss it! I hope you like this last chapter. And thank you again for all of your support – it's been a fun ride!
Derek opened the door of his house to the sound of Christmas music. Christmas was only a week away, and he and Addison were in full-blown Christmas mode.
He walked into the living room, and couldn't help smiling. Everything about it screamed Christmas – from the well-decorated Christmas tree in the corner of the room, to the crackling the flames in the electric fireplace, to the gingerbread-scented candles that Addison was burning to give the house a Chrismassy smell.
He looked above the fireplace, where their Christmas stockings were hanging. And as he read the names on the stockings – Derek, Addison, Willa – he couldn't help but marvel at how perfect the names looked together – as if they belonged together.
"Hey," he smiled, as he walked into the kitchen to join his wife and his seven-month-old daughter. Addison was at the table filling out Christmas cards, and Willa was sitting next to her, in her highchair, gurgling happily.
Addison looked up from the stack of Christmas cards in front of her and smiled. "Hey. I didn't hear you come in."
"You probably couldn't hear me over the Christmas music," Derek chuckled, bending down to kiss Addison softly.
"Yeah, well, what's Christmas without a little Christmas music?" Addison laughed. "Besides, I'm trying to get Willa in the Christmas spirit."
Derek chuckled as he lifted Willa out of her highchair, and gently began swaying with her to the Christmas music, playing in the background. "And how's that going?" he asked Addison.
Addison shrugged. "Better than her trip to the mall to visit Santa."
Derek laughed. Operation: Make Willa Love Christmas had encountered a few speed bumps early on. One of Addison and Derek's many Christmas traditions was sending out Christmas cards to their family and friends and, this year, they agreed that Willa sitting on Santa's lap would make the perfect Christmas card. How very wrong they were. They took their daughter to the mall to sit on Santa's lap, determined to get the perfect picture, but Willa broke out into hysterics the moment that Addison handed her over to Santa. Everyone did their best to try to calm Willa down, but she just continued to cry unhappily. Finally, after several minutes of uncontrollable screaming and crying, the photographer gave up and snapped a photo of a very scared, very unhappy looking Willa with a very stressed out looking Santa. Of course, the moment that Santa gave Willa back to her mother, the tears and screaming stopped, and she returned to being the calm, good-natured baby that she usually was.
Addison and Derek apologized profusely for the scene that their six-and-half-month-old had created, giving Santa a generous tip, and even going so far as to buy a package of the photographs. They knew that they wouldn't be able to use them as holiday cards, but they had to admit, the picture of Willa throwing a tantrum on Santa's lap was pretty hilarious. They gave copies of the picture to Mark, Alex, Izzie, and Callie; and Mark and Alex even ended up hanging the picture up in their respective office and locker, claiming that it was always good for a laugh. And Addison and Derek couldn't resist sending a copy of the picture to Archer, figuring that he'd probably appreciate it more than anyone.
After the disaster at the mall, they decided to give getting a picture of Willa on Santa's lap another shot; and although the setup was different this time, the outcome was still pretty much the same.
"Thanks so much for doing this, Mark," Addison smiled, as Mark walked through the front door of her and Derek's house, dressed in a Santa costume.
"Please, Willa's my little buddy; I'm happy to help," Mark grinned. "Although I don't know why you and Derek don't just send out the picture from the mall…nothing says 'Merry Christmas' like a baby crying on Santa's lap."
"Could you imagine what Bizzy would say if we sent that?" Addison countered.
Mark thought about it for a moment. "Even more reason to send it," he smirked.
"Oh, shut it," Addison laughed, playfully hitting Mark's bicep. "Anyway, Derek and Willa are in the living room with Izzie and Alex, and –"
"Izzie and Alex are here?" Mark cut in. "Wow, I didn't realize that this photo shoot was such a big deal."
"It's not," Addison said. "But Izzie's a much better photographer than Derek and I are, and she also loves Christmas, so she volunteered to come over and take pictures. Oh, and on top of that, she made Christmas cookies, and they're to die for."
"And Karev?" Mark asked.
"He offered to help Izzie out," Addison explained. "But, secretly, I think he's here because he's hoping that Willa's gonna give you the same treatment that she gave that poor Santa at the mall."
"You should have made him dress up like an elf," Mark muttered dryly, as he and Addison made their way into the living room. "Ho! Ho! Ho!" Mark exclaimed, as he and Addison joined the others. "And I'm not just talking about the women I saw Karev having drinks with, last night," he smirked.
"Hey," Izzie snapped, jamming a hand on her hip, "Alex was drinking with me, Meredith, and Cristina, last night. I refuse to work with you if you're going to be like this."
Mark chuckled at the blonde's reaction, but Izzie's death-glare made him think better of coming back with a smart-ass retort. "Fine, I'll be nice," he promised. "So, where do you want me?"
"I was thinking we could start by getting a couple of shots of Willa sitting on your lap, on the couch," Izzie said, gesturing towards Addison and Derek's black leather couch.
"Okay," Mark nodded, sitting down on the couch.
"Uh, Alex," Izzie said, trying to get her friend's attention. "This picture doesn't exactly work without Willa in it. You need to give her up."
Alex looked down at the baby in his arms and let out a fake dramatic sigh. "Fine," he conceded, handing Willa over to Izzie, so that she could place Willa in Mark's lap.
Bad move. As soon as Izzie handed Willa over to Mark, the little girl burst into hysterics, and began flailing around unhappily.
"Hey, hey, hey," Mark said soothingly, trying to calm his niece down. "It's okay. It's just me, Little Buddy. We're friends, remember? We hang out all the time. Remember yesterday, when we were hanging out in my office, and you were helping me decide which new nose we should give to my patient? Remember that, Willa?"
Willa looked up at Mark, recognizing the familiar voice. But hearing that voice come out of an unfamiliar and strange-looking man did little to comfort her, so she continued to cry with a renewed sense of vigor. Mark looked up at Derek and Addison and shrugged helplessly. "I think she's afraid of Santa."
"Alex, grab Willa," Izzie instructed.
Alex did as he was told, and Izzie moved over towards where Mark was sitting. She gave the plastic surgeon a warning look; "I'm warning you now, if you pinch my ass or do anything inappropriate, I can't be held responsible for what I do to you." Then she turned her attention to Willa. "Hey, Willa, look, Santa isn't scary," she said soothingly, as she sat down on Mark's lap, a big smile plastered on her face. "See, nothing to be afraid of. Okay, you try now."
Their second attempt failed just as miserably as their first, and as Willa continued to cry, Derek, Addison, and Mark couldn't help laughing at the irony that Derek and Addison – who loved Christmas more than any other holiday – had a daughter who was deathly afraid of Santa.
After a few more minutes of unsuccessfully trying to get Willa to calm down, Addison decided to call it. The sound of her daughter's cries was breaking her heart, and she figured that there really wasn't any harm in waiting until next year for Willa to conquer her fear of Santa.
"Okay, Willa," Addison said softly, as she accepted her screaming baby from Mark. She gave Mark an apologetic smile, and turned her attention back to her daughter, who was still crying hysterically. "It's okay," she said softly, trying to soothe Willa. "It's okay," she repeated, rubbing Willa's tiny back reassuringly and pressing a gentle kiss to her daughter's temple.
"You know," Mark reflected, moving over to where Izzie was standing, and gesturing towards Addison and Willa, "that's a pretty picture- perfect shot, right there."
"It kind of is," Alex agreed. "Nice thinking, Santa. All that's missing is-"
"Derek," Izzie called out. "Get in there."
Nobody had to tell Derek twice to join his wife and daughter. And as Derek and Addison continued to comfort Willa, whose wails had subsided into soft whimpers, Izzie snapped away on her camera.
"Got it," Izzie declared triumphantly, after a few minutes of picture taking; and Mark and Alex both leaned in to get a closer look at the picture that Izzie had just taken.
"Yeah," Mark nodded, as a wide smile spread across his face. "That's definitely the one."
"I love that picture of us," Derek smiled, as he continued to sway slowly with Willa.
Addison looked down at the picture in front of her and smiled. "I like it too," she agreed. Truth be told, it was an undeniably adorable picture; Izzie had truly captured a perfect moment between the Shepherd family. Addison was holding Willa, and the baby's pale blue-green eyes were looking straight into the camera, while Addison pressed a gentle kiss to Willa's temple. Derek, who was standing on Willa's other side, was smiling at the sight of his wife and daughter; one of his hands rested on Willa's tiny back, and the other arm was wrapped around Addison's waist, drawing his family in closer, as he looked at his wife and daughter adoringly.
"You know," Derek began, as he studied the picture more closely, "I think this might be my favorite photo of us ever."
"Ever?" Addison asked, raising an eyebrow coyly. "You realize we have a lot of really good pictures."
"We do," Derek agreed. "But I like the story behind this one. This wasn't the picture we had originally set out to take. We had other plans. But, somehow, this picture happened, and I think it's better than anything we could have ever planned for."
A small smile spread across Addison's face. "I think it just became my favorite picture too," she admitted.
Derek bent down, and kissed his wife softly. "I love you, Addison," he smiled.
"I love you too, Derek."
Derek smiled and turned his attention to his daughter. "And we both love you, Willa," he cooed, kissing his daughter gently on the forehead, as he continued to sway with her to the Christmas music playing in the background. He looked at Addison and chuckled; "I think Willa, here, is still having a little trouble getting into the Christmas spirit," he laughed. "You should come dance with us. I think it might help."
"Okay," Addison agreed. "I just have one last card to fill out."
Derek nodded, as he watched his wife personalize the Christmas card with the picture of him, her, and their daughter on it. And even though the message she wrote was a simple one, it still made his heart swell as he watched her write it: Merry Christmas! Love, The Shepherds.