A/N: This is my Christmas gift to you.
I hope you enjoy your time with friends and family this holiday season, even those relatives that drive you nuts. Perhaps we can all give an extra ounce of grace to one another, knowing that life is both fleeting and precious.
Thank you, AgentInWaiting, for taking time from your busy work schedule to beta this for me. Our collaboration and your friendship mean the world to me. Merry Christmas, my friend.
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and have a Happy New Year!
Chuck vs. the Sound of Music: Christmas Can't Be Very Far Away
Snowflakes fell from the low, gray clouds overhead as Chuck, Sarah and their seven kids tromped through a blanket of powdery snow. Sarah trailed a short distance behind Chuck and the older five kids, her gloved hands holding tightly to Martie's and Megan's. The little girls' shorter legs had a harder time plowing through the snow so they moved a bit slower, although the trick of stepping in the holes stomped out by their brothers and sisters helped. The exertion of walking through the deep snow warmed Sarah despite the frigid temperature.
The forest was eerily quiet. It wasn't simply because they were the only ones in the area, but rather the falling snow seemed to absorb all the sounds around them. Even the kids' shouts and laughter seemed muted. It was as if the sounds could only travel a short distance before they were carried to the ground by the snowflakes and buried in the snow.
Sarah's gaze swept the area. She saw nothing but trees and snow. Even though the immediate Fulcrum threat had recently been neutralized, she wasn't going to let her guard down. She'd promised Chuck in her wedding vows to him only two months before that she would always protect him and that's what she was doing.
"You've really never cut your own Christmas tree down before?" Megan asked, her voice muffled by the scarf wrapped around her face. Between the knit cap and the scarf, the only part of Megan's face that was visible were her eyes.
"No, I really haven't. I've never lived in a place where Christmas trees grew in my backyard." She didn't want to tell them that the only tree she'd ever had in her whole life was the foot tall plastic one she stood on top of her TV. And it that only appeared those rare Decembers when she was actually at her apartment in DC. She had preferred to be on assignment during the holidays and was usually out of the country. Otherwise, it was too depressing.
"This is the first time Megan and me get to come along," Martie said, her face upturned toward her aunt, her cheeks and nose rosy with cold. "We were always too little to go and Uncle Chuck couldn't keep track of all of us out in the forest, so we had to stay at home with Mrs. Smith."
"But now that you're here, we get to come, too," Megan said. Sarah could hear the excitement in her voice. The way the little girl's eyes shone, she knew there was grin behind the scarf as well.
"Well, I'm glad all three of us get to go on our first Christmas tree hunting adventure together, then."
Up ahead, Chuck pointed at a tree to his left that had potential. "How about that one?"
"Nah, it's too short," Lizzie called back.
"That's a pretty good one over there," Fred said, indicating a conifer off to the right.
"Too tall," Chuck answered. He stopped suddenly and turned around, a brilliant grin splitting his face. A warm feeling coursed through her when he smiled at her that way. It was one of her favorite things. "You guys doing okay?"
She smiled back at him. How could she not when he wore that awesome taupe colored knit stocking cap with the pom-pom on top? "We're doing fine." She tipped her head toward first Martie and then Megan as they came to a stop in front of him. "It's a little more work for shorter legs to get through the snow."
"You two are doing a great job," he said, encouraging them.
Megan's cap had drifted dangerously close to covering her eyes altogether. She pushed at the front of it and tipped her head back to look up at her uncle. "It'd be a lot easier if we had some tauntauns to ride."
Martie nodded enthusiastically. "Even if they do smell really bad."
Chuck laughed and tweaked Martie's nose with a snowy glove. "'Ah, I thought they smelled bad… on the outside,'" he said, mimicking Han perfectly.
The three laughed again while Sarah remained silent, clearly missing out on the joke.
"Sorry, kiddos, no tauntauns. You'll just have to keep plowing through." To Sarah he said, "I don't think we'll need to go much further. I've already seen a couple that I think will work for us. The trees out here aren't cultivated like the ones at Christmas tree farms, so ours won't exactly belong on the front of a Christmas card. But we like coming out here to the forest to find one. Besides, cutting down the smaller trees reduces fuel if there are wildfires. We're doing the forest a favor."
Eyeing the handsaw he carried, she teased, "You're quite the knowledgeable and accomplished lumberjack."
"I am. I sleep all night and work all day. Well, I don't sleep all night," he replied with a grin and a waggle of his eyebrows. His remarks were met with an uncomprehending stare. "Right," he sighed, "note to self, introduce wife to Monty Python." He reached out and playfully tugged at the short red braided tassels that hung from the earflaps of her gray and red Sherpa hat. "This is my fourth year in a row as head of the Bartowski/Woodcomb Great Christmas Tree Expedition."
"I'm impressed, Lumberjack Chuck. I'm glad I get to be a part of the Fourth Annual Bartowski/Woodcomb Great Christmas Tree Expedition."
His face softened. "You have no idea how happy I am that you're here with us—with me. Sometimes I have a hard time believing it." He leaned in and kissed her. His lips and face were cold, but even so, his words and kiss warmed her.
Their kiss broke when Fred called out, "Hey, you two! Break it up." He bounded through the snow toward them. His hair was covered with snowflakes—the hood of his jacket had slid off his head again—and when he stopped, he swiped his arm across his wet, cold nose. Panting, he waved an arm and said, "Come on. This way. Bridget thinks she found the perfect one."
They plunged through the snow and followed Fred to where Lizzie, Lisa, and Curtis stood around a Douglas-fir. Bridget, her eyes narrowed, slowly made her way around the tree, examining it closely. Sarah had seen that look on Bridget's face before and had learned to trust her niece's instincts on all things aesthetic. The girl reached out and knocked snow off a branch. She then closed a mittened hand around a section of needles and pulled it through her hand. After inspecting her open palm, she nodded with approval. "No needles came off."
Sarah didn't know the first thing about what to look for when choosing a tree, so she let the rest of the family scrutinize it while she stood and watched. She was thankful for the wool socks she wore as she waited there, knee deep in snow. She'd recently mentioned her feet being cold and although Chuck was more than willing to allow her to warm them on his when they were in bed, that wouldn't help the rest of the time. So the other day, he presented her with several pairs of thick, wool socks. She bit back a smile when she recalled their flirty exchange about how he wanted to "give her some really good socks to warm her up." What happened next had certainly warmed her.
Her gaze followed her husband as he circled the tree. "It's the right height, probably about ten feet," he said, gazing up toward the top. "There's a bit of a bald spot on this one side, but we can always put that toward the wall. Otherwise, I think it looks pretty good. What do you say, guys?"
After the unanimously enthusiastic response, they got down to business. Fred and Curtis took turns shoveling the snow away from the base of the tree. Then, the four oldest kids stood around the tree and stuck their arms through the branches to hold onto the trunk while Chuck used the handsaw. Once it was cut through, Chuck stood, stepped back and called out, "Okay, Fred! Timber!" The other three let go, moved behind Fred, who then gave the tree a shove. It fell over and sunk into the deep snow with a muffled thwump. There was hearty cheering and clapping, although with everyone wearing gloves or mittens, the clapping was more like thumping.
Chuck tied the permit he'd purchased from the Forest Service to the tree and then he and Fred lifted it by the bottom branches and dragged it back toward the van with the rest of the family trailing behind. It took everyone over the height of five feet to wrestle the tree up onto the top of the van and lash it to the roof with about a half-mile of rope.
The drive back to the house was a short one since they lived so close to the area that allowed trees to be cut. The chatter in the van was curbed by noise of the heater blowing full blast. By the time they pulled into the driveway, the van had warmed and every window in the vehicle was fogged except the front windshield. The van doors opened and everyone tumbled out. The three youngest girls headed into the house while the rest took the tree down from the roof and placed the stump in a big bucket of water.
The kids filed into the mudroom to shed their wet coats, hats, gloves and boots as Chuck leaned the tree against a garage wall. "The tree can have a nice drink of water before we haul it into the house."
Sarah pulled off her gloves and hat and tossed them at the door that led to the mudroom. She sauntered over to him, pulled off his hat and tossed it over her shoulder. It flew across the garage and landed near her gloves. Running her fingers lightly through his hair, she purred, "You are quite the sexy and nerdy lumberjack."
A pleased smile appeared. He put an arm around her waist and hugged her close. "How did I score both sexy and nerdy?"
"You not only cut down the tree, you knew all the good reasons for doing it. Sexy and nerdy."
His gaze dropped to her lips. "It's good to be informed," he said and kissed her.
When it broke, she looked into his eyes. "Speaking of nerdy, what were you and the girls talking about earlier about tauntauns? What's a tauntaun?"
His eyebrows shot up in surprise. "You don't know about the tauntauns that live on the frozen ice planet of Hoth?"
She raised an eyebrow at him.
"The Empire Strikes Back?"
Her gaze never wavered.
"One of the Star Wars movies?"
"Oh!" she exclaimed, the confusion clearing from her eyes. "We watched that one, right?"
"I don't believe… How can you not remember…" He narrowed his eyes and said with mock solemnity, "I don't know how I married you if you haven't memorized every plot detail and creature from all the Star Wars movies."
She snorted. "Because I can do this." Grabbing the front of his coat, she yanked him to her, rose up on her tiptoes, and laid on him a fiery, passionate kiss. His response was immediate and equally zealous. The one arm already around her waist crushed her to him while his other hand entwined in her hair. After an intense moment, she pulled her head back slightly and asked, "Better than Star Wars?"
She smiled and then kissed him harder when he mumbled against her lips, "Star Wars? What's Star Wars?"
~ O ~
Sarah rinsed the last of the hot chocolate from the kids' mugs and set them on the top rack of the dishwasher. Then she wiped the gingerbread cookie crumbs from the table and dumped them in the sink. Tossing the towel on the counter, she picked up her mug of cocoa and wandered into the living room. Large, open boxes of Christmas decorations littered the floor. Chuck, Fred and Lisa worked to make sure the tree was straight in its stand while Lizzie and Bridget wrapped garland and white twinkle lights around the banisters. Martie and Curtis sat on the floor, each with a string of lights they were working to untangle. Megan was no help at all and could only jump up and down on the couch, utterly enthralled by the activities. Unsure of what she should do, Sarah stood off to the side and watched.
Seeing his wife, Chuck grinned and headed straight for her. Dropping an arm over her shoulders, he said, "What do you think? Is the tree straight?" He tipped his head to one side and then the other.
She scrutinized it and said, "Yeah, it looks straight to me."
"Now to put on the lights. You wanna help?"
He seemed to sense her hesitation and squeezed her shoulder. "Is everything okay?"
She sighed. "I don't have much experience with Christmas. The only time I've ever decorated a tree was when I lived in the dorms at Harvard. All the ornaments on it were made from beer caps." With a chuckle, she added, "Some were quite creative."
He snorted and said, "Sorry, we're fresh out of beer cap ornaments." His voice turned serious. "If you're uncomfortable, you don't have to. I don't want to push you."
"No! No, it's not that." She felt stupid saying what she was thinking out loud. "I'm a grown woman and I don't know the first thing about stringing lights, hanging ornaments or putting up decorations. But since I'll be a part of this family tradition for the next fifty years, I guess I should learn."
She could feel Chuck vibrate with excitement. She knew how much he loved this time of year and wanted to share in his enthusiasm. He kissed her cheek and said, "Awesome! Let's get started."
He took her hand and tugged her toward where Fred and Lisa were waiting. She didn't know exactly how it happened, but she found herself standing on a ladder and looping a string of lights around the top of the tree. As she worked her way down, she passed the string to Chuck's awaiting hands as they wrapped the rest of the tree with the lights.
"This probably isn't the way Martha Stewart would do it," Chuck said as he handed the coiled string to her, "but it's the way Ellie and I figured it out, so it's the only way I know."
"If it was good enough for you and Ellie, it's good enough for me," she answered.
Once the lights were on, the kids started digging through the boxes of ornaments. As they began placing them on the tree, Sarah noticed that they weren't fancy or flashy. Some looked to be school projects, some recent and some from years past. Each of the rest identified with a member of the family in some way, whether it was a TARDIS, a Bronco football helmet or a Barbie.
With seven kids hanging ornaments, it didn't take long to fill the tree. When she thought they were done, she asked, "Are we going to turn the lights on now?"
"Nope," Chuck answered. "We do that as the big reveal when all the ornaments are on it."
"I thought they were."
"We have a few more." When Chuck lifted one last shoebox from a larger box, the room grew still. He sat down on the couch and the kids moved silently to find places on the floor in front of him. Catching Sarah's eye, he patted the seat next to him, inviting her to join him. Her stomach flipped with nerves and excitement when she realized she was to be included in whatever was going on. She carefully stepped around the kids and sat next to her husband. She heaved a quiet sigh of relief when she saw that the faces looking up at her beamed with delight.
Without a word, Chuck lifted the lid from the small box, reached in and took something from it. He held it up by a thin strand of gold thread. It was a flat, round ornament with a baby picture framed at the center. The picture was of a newborn, face red and squished. Underneath the picture were the words, "Baby's First Christmas."
Chuck looked at the picture and smiled. The anticipation in the room was palpable. After a beat, he said, "Lisa."
Their niece grinned and stood. Taking the ornament from her uncle, she walked over to the tree and hung it. All eyes were on her as she did so. When she was done, she hurried back to her spot on the floor and sat down.
One by one, he lifted an ornament from the box, looked at the picture and called out a name. They each had a turn putting their special ornament on the tree. Sarah saw that just as each baby picture was different, the ornaments themselves were different as well. Lizzie was the last name called, and after she finished placing her ornament on the tree, Sarah was surprised to see her return to the floor and look up expectantly at her uncle. Glancing down into the box, she saw that there were a few more ornaments lying at the bottom.
"Let's see," Chuck started. "Lisa put it on the tree last year, so it's Curtis' turn this year."
From the way her nephew's eyes shone, Sarah saw that Curtis already knew that was the case. He stood and slowly approached his uncle. Chuck swallowed hard and took the ornament from the box. It was similar in size and shape to the ones the kids had just hung. When he held it up, her heart leapt to her throat. At the center was a wedding picture of Ellie and Devon, heads together and grinning for the camera. The words that encircled the picture read, "Our First Christmas." He carried the ornament to the tree like it was the most precious thing on earth. Reaching toward the top, he hung it front and center. While the kids smiled as Curtis performed his duty, Sarah had to blink back the tears that burned her eyes.
Once Curtis was back in his seat, Chuck took another ornament out and held it up. This time, the "Our First Christmas" ornament held a wedding photo of Devon's parents, Woody and Honey. "Bridget, you're up." When Bridget was done, Chuck looked to a beaming Martie. "Your turn." Martie jumped up from her seat and took the ornament with Stephen and Mary's wedding picture over to the tree.
Chuck put the lid back on the now empty box and set it to the side. For some reason, however, all eyes were on Sarah. Chuck smiled, winked at Megan—who looked squirmed in her seat like she was about to come completely unglued—and said in a soft voice, "Okay, Megan. Showtime."
Megan scrambled from the floor and zoomed into the TV room. Sarah heard a drawer open and slam shut and then saw Megan run full tilt at her, zigzagging her way around her brothers and sisters on the floor.
Panting, she skidded to a stop in front of Sarah and held out a small box wrapped in Christmas paper. "Open it!" Megan commanded, waving the box while hopping from foot to foot.
Sarah's heart pounded as she took the present, unwrapped it and removed the lid. Lying on a bed of cotton was an ornament that read, "Our First Christmas" with one of her and Chuck's wedding pictures in the frame. Swiping at the moisture under her eyes, she smiled at the kids and said in a voice thick with emotion, "Thank you."
Chuck stood and offered his hand to his wife. "Shall we?" She grinned up at him, took his hand and answered, "Yes."
Hand-in-hand, they walked to the tree, the kids following behind them. A loud cheer went up when Sarah placed the ornament on the tree. After each kid received a hug from their uncle and aunt, Lizzie hurried to the back of the tree and plugged in the lights to a chorus of ooos and ahhhs. The tiny colored lights nestled on the branches glowed like vibrant jewels.
Chuck and Sarah shared a warm embrace. "You're pretty good at this whole tree trimming thing," he whispered into her hair.
She kissed his ear in response. "I have a good teacher."
~ O ~
The logs in the fireplace popped and snapped as the fire burned, making the room toasty warm. It—along with the lights on the tree and on the banisters and a few candles scattered about —were the only sources of illumination in the living room. Strains of Christmas music played softly in the background and the room was infused with the piney fragrance of evergreen.
"I hope you don't mind that we skipped watching the movie tonight," Sarah said as she bent forward and set her wine glass on the coffee table. The charms of her bracelet gleamed in the firelight. Leaning back, she tucked her feet up and snuggled under Chuck's arm draped across the top of the sofa, his hand resting on her shoulder. "I really want to just sit and enjoy the lights."
"Hmmm. Spend a quiet evening by a romantic fire with my gorgeous wife sipping wine and taking in the Christmas lights? Twist my arm."
"You don't like the movie the kids are watching?"
"Oh, sure I do. It's a Wonderful Life is a classic. You haven't seen it?"
She turned her head just enough to look at him side-eyed.
Laughing, he pulled her to him and kissed the side of her head. "Sorry. Silly question." He seemed to contemplate his sock clad feet crossed at the ankles resting on the table. "I don't mind missing it. I've seen it a bunch of times and this is my first Christmas with you."
"I sort of mentioned this before, but this is basically my first real Christmas ever." He remained silent, letting her say as much or as little as she wanted. "You know I didn't have a very stable home life as a kid." The fear of sharing too much about her past stopped her from saying more. She knew she could trust him, to tell him more about her past, but she couldn't bring herself to do it. Not yet. She knew he didn't care about her past and he'd never pushed her about it. And by some glorious miracle, he had married her anyway. She would confide in him someday soon, but not tonight. Sighing, she leaned her head on his shoulder. "Thank you for making this Christmas so special."
His cheek rested on the top of her head. "You're welcome. But I feel like I should warn you, since it's not even Christmas yet. While you'll be thoroughly and completely heart-warmed by the time it's all over, you'll also probably be exhausted. Between the sugar in the candy canes, Christmas cookies and Mrs. Smith's fudge, the kids will be bouncing off the walls for the next couple of weeks. All the excitement can be a bit overwhelming."
She sat up straight and turned toward him. "Fudge? Did you say fudge?"
"I take it you like fudge?" he asked, his eyes twinkling.
Before she turned and settled back, she snagged her wine glass from the table. "I love fudge." She took a sip, turned her head and stared at the fire. Her gaze drifted up to the nine stockings hung from one end of the mantle above the fireplace to the other. "I need to thank Mrs. Smith for making a stocking for me." She couldn't contain the excitement in her voice. "It even has my name on it." The stockings were quilted and the fabrics were festive: green holly leaves with red berries, dark red and green plaid, tiny Santas on a background of green or candy canes. At the top, each had a name cross-stitched in red letters surrounded by cross-stitched Christmas trees, wreaths, presents and holly leaves. When Sarah's stocking was revealed, Megan had been so thrilled that the fabric of Sarah's stocking matched hers, she squealed with delight.
"She'll be pleased you're so happy with it. She started working it soon after we got back from our honeymoon." He lazily rubbed his thumb back and forth on her upper arm. "She made the stockings for the kids and me our first Christmas here. It was a really tough time for all of us and she wanted to do something special. They were the highlight of Christmas that year."
"That was wonderful of her to do that for you." She couldn't even imagine what a painful Christmas that must have been for them all.
Chuck nodded slowly, lost in his thoughts. "We didn't cut our own tree that year, obviously. I didn't want to get one at all, but I knew it was really important to the kids, after everything they'd gone through, so I bought one at a grocery store parking lot. It was about four feet tall and just really sad looking." He snorted. "I think most of the needles fell off on the way home. I didn't have any lights and the only ornaments I had were the baby and wedding ones. I found those in Ellie's stuff."
He paused. In the background, a smooth baritone voice sang, "Tiny tots with their eyes all aglow will find it hard to sleep tonight." Over the music, he continued. "Mrs. Smith helped the older kids string popcorn." He chuckled. "It's just as well we didn't have much on the tree. Megan was about eighteen months old then and mobile. Her favorite thing to do was to throw everything she could get her hands on onto the floor." She smiled with him when he said, "Let's just say we hung the ornaments more than once that year." He took another sip of wine. "We've accumulated a pretty impressive collection since then." With a hint of wonder in his voice, he said, "We got to add one more today."
She rested her hand on his leg and the conversation drifted off. They each stared at the fire, lost in thought and mesmerized by the dancing yellow flames and red, glowing embers.
A boom of rowdy laughter exploded from the TV room and interrupted the jazzy piano introduction to "Winter Wonderland." Over the merriment, they heard Lizzie shout, "Oh, no! A fate worse than death! Mary's a spinster librarian!"
A low laugh rumbled deep in Chuck's chest.
Sarah glanced off toward the room where the kids were still howling with glee. "What's all that about?"
"In the movie, the main character, George Bailey, thinks the world would be better off if he'd never been born. So an angel, Clarence, shows him what would have happened to all the characters in that alternate universe. Without George, his wife, Mary, would have been an unmarried—and poorly dressed—librarian." His eyebrows pulled together in thought. "Now that I think about it, George somehow made her eyesight better, too. She wears glasses as a librarian, but doesn't in the other timeline."
"Do you have something against librarians wearing glasses?"
His eyes glazed over and an inscrutable smile appeared. "No. Not at all."
She was about to ask a probing question when the lights on the tree and banisters unexpectedly turned off. The room fell silent when the music vanished. From the TV room, there were groans of disappointment. The kids spilled out into the living room in search of light. Even with all the lights off, it was still bathed in a warm, yellow glow from the fire and candles. Megan made a beeline for the couch, crawled up next to her aunt and snuggled in. The rest of the kids flopped down on the available furniture or found a space on the floor.
"George didn't even get to find Zuzu's petals again," Lisa said, her disappointment evident.
"Don't worry. I'm sure he will when the electricity comes back on," Chuck answered. Standing up, he said, "I want to see if the whole area is off before I check the circuit breakers."
Sarah tensed. "Should I come with you?" She really didn't like it when electricity inexplicably turned off.
Chuck smiled and shook his head. "No, Agent Walker. I'm just going to peek out the front door. I'm sure it's just the snow."
Even so, she kept her eyes focused on his back as he opened the front door enough to poke his head through the gap. The bells that hung from the doorknob jingled when the door opened and closed.
"Aunt Sarah? Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings," Megan informed her with wide eyes. Martie nodded while their older brothers and sisters snorted.
Sarah had no idea where that had come from, so she smoothed a hand over Megan's hair and said, "That's good to know."
Chuck returned and flopped back down in his seat next to Sarah. "The whole area is out. We'll have to wait until they fix whatever the problem is."
Sarah wasn't going to take any chances. She picked her phone up off the table and texted Agent Barker, asking him to check on the blackout. Two minutes later, she blew out a relieved breath when the return text informed her that the electric company said the snow had affected a local transformer and that the electricity would be coming on soon.
"What'll we do until the lights come back on?" Curtis asked.
"We could sing," Chuck suggested.
Everyone turned and stared at him like he was insane.
Snickering, he said, "Okay. No singing. We've got a fire. And I think there are still some marshmallows left from the hot chocolate earlier today."
That's all he had to say to rouse the kids into action. Sprinting toward the kitchen, Lizzie shouted, "I'll get the marshmallows!"
Fred was close at her heels. "And I'll get the chocolate bars and graham crackers!"
"I'll get the skewers," Chuck said, jumping up from his seat. "Don't want anyone getting accidently impaled."
Within two minutes, the kids were clustered around the fireplace, marshmallows stuck on the ends of wooden skewers that dangled and rotated over the fire.
"The marshmallow roasting I get. What's with the chocolate and graham crackers?" Sarah asked, eyeing the line of light and dark brown squares carefully laid out on the table.
His eyebrows shot up. "You've never had a s'more?" At her frown he said, "Oh, right. You probably were never a Girl Scout."
Snorting, she answered, "Not a real one." This time it was his turn to look confused. With a smirk, she muttered, "Never mind."
He shrugged off his confusion and said in a commanding voice, "Get this woman a s'more! Stat!"
Lizzie pulled her perfectly toasted marshmallow from the fire and set it on one of the stacks of chocolate and graham cracker. Then she set another square of graham cracker on top and squished it down. The warm, gooey center of the marshmallow spread and bulged out the sides. Grabbing a napkin from the pile on the table, she stood and placed the s'more on it. With a deep bow, she held it out toward her aunt. "Your s'more, madam."
Keeping a straight face, Sarah inclined her head solemnly and accepted the treat. "Thank you." Every eye was fixed on her as she raised it to her mouth and took a bite. Her eyebrows shot up and she could only say, "Wow!" Not wanting to spray cracker all over, she held her hand in front of her mouth and enthused, "That's so good!"
Confident that their aunt was now securely under the spell of the s'more's gooey sweetness, the kids began to build their own.
Sarah cut her eyes toward Chuck when she licked the marshmallow that had extruded out along the sides of the graham cracker. "Don't judge me."
A happy, pleased smile twitched on his lips. "Never."
She held the s'more up to his mouth and offered him a bite, which he happily took, his eyes never leaving hers. After she popped the last bit into her mouth, she lifted his arm, snuggled into his side and then lowered his arm so that it draped over her. She laced her fingers with his and stretched out her legs.
Glancing around the room, she tried to take it all in: the candles, the fire, the kids laughing, roasting marshmallows and eating s'mores, the tree, the decorations, being enveloped in the arms of her husband. She didn't know what George from the movie's deal was, but she knew what it was like to be without a family. To have one now—she would never give it up. "Best. Christmas. Ever."