A/N #1: Because of the FFn fail yesterday, some of you might not have read chapter 9. If you haven't, you need to do that before you read this one. ;) (& if you couldn't review, please try again now! :D) I also couldn't reply to most of the reviews yesterday, so if I didn't, know that I read them all and appreciate each and every one of them! Okay, see me at the bottom. :)
Three Years Later
When the bell above the workshop door chimed, my gaze swung to the entrance as everything within me hoped that it was my family. Instead, Emmett and Jasper came through the door, taking pretend swings at one another and laughing.
"Boys," Alice said, rolling her eyes.
When they got a little too rambunctious and bumped into my table, making the dollhouse I was working on wobble precariously, Rose put her thumb and pointer finger to her lips. It was funny to watch Alice, tiny little thing she was, step between the two much-larger men. Between that and Rose's piercing whistle, their roughhousing came to a standstill after one last shove by Jasper at Emmett over Alice's shoulder.
"Apologize to Bella," Rose ordered Emmett, who looked sheepish.
"Sorry, Bellsy," he said, and his grin was so infectious, I couldn't help but chuckle.
"Yeah, darlin', sorry," Jasper echoed.
I shook my head, unable to be upset, especially since the toy was fine. "No worries," I promised.
They smiled again before turning back to their wives, while my thoughts wandered to my family. I missed being at home with my babies, but such was the life of an elf—even one who was Mrs. Claus. Work was light for the first few months of the year, but in June, we were busy making all the toys for all the boys and girls around the world. I'd been lucky that Bree had been born the last day of December, so I'd had a few months that I could actually stay home with her and not feel guilty. Now, though, I had to be at work. Alice and Rose, whose kids were all grown, had assured me that was normal. Still, it made me anxious to be away from Riley and Bree.
As if the thoughts of my family conjured them from thin air, the bell chimed again and a mischievous little face peeked around the edge of the door. With brown hair and eyes, much like mine, our four-year-old was every bit a mama's boy.
"Mama!" Riley called, racing over to me and jumping into my arms, hugging my neck tight.
"Hey, baby." I nuzzled his neck, making him laugh and squirm. "How was your morning with Daddy?" I looked around, not seeing Edward. "Where is Daddy? Did you leave him and Bree at home?"
Riley giggled. "No. 'Dey stopped to talk to PawPaw."
As Riley chattered on about his morning—"I pwayed wif cwayons, Mama!"—my eyes roamed over his face, and I smoothed his hair back from his forehead. His pointy little elf ears poked out from his head, and I took a moment to savor them. Because of his daddy's familial line, once he hit puberty, they would reshape themselves almost overnight, becoming much more human-like. I wasn't looking forward to that day, since it would mean he was growing up. Although, because of that same familial line, he would only age to twenty-five, much like Edward—and now me, since part of the magic of this place was when Santa found his Mrs., she would stop aging, as well. When Edward retired from his position as Santa and Riley took over, we would begin to age, but at the same rate as the elves, so it was still a very, very long life.
"Is this a private party or can anyone join in?" my husband's smooth voice called softly from behind me.
Riley laughed. "Daddy, we not havin' a pawty!"
Edward chuckled, leaning in to kiss my cheek before passing me the baby and then scooping our son into his arms, holding him upside down by his feet. "Sounded like it to me," he said, shaking Riley gently and making him squeal.
I turned my focus to Bree and smiled as her lashes fluttered. If Riley was a little-boy version of me, Bree was every bit her daddy, with copper curls, green eyes, and a smile that would melt hearts. Her tiny ears were pointed just like mine, and since she was a girl, they would remain so.
Lowering my head, I brushed a kiss across her cheek, offering my finger for her to grasp onto.
"Down, Daddy!" Riley squealed, laughing when Edward flipped him to his feet. He took off across the workshop, where Emmett and Jasper were looking at some of the finished toys in the corner. "Unca Em! Unca Japper! I wanna pway!"
Smiling, I shook my head, but I knew Alice and Rose would keep him—and the toys—safe from the three of them.
When Edward stepped up and wrapped his arms around me, I looked back at him over my shoulder. "Hi," I murmured, accepting his kiss.
"Hi, love," he said against my lips, grinning when Bree gave a cry. "I think she's hungry. I didn't bring a bottle, since I knew we were coming here and you'd wanna feed her."
I nodded. "I'll take her back to the office. We can go eat after."
Edward smiled and then turned to our friends. "Keep an eye on him for us? Bella needs to feed Bree."
Alice and Rose smiled.
"Yeah, of course," Alice said. "We'll play with Riley, won't we, Ri?"
"Yeah, Aunt Awi!" Riley called from his position on the floor of the workshop, where he was putting a doll in the kitchen of the dollhouse he was playing with. "Come pway wif us!"
Chuckling, I shook my head and stood, moving immediately to the back of the workshop, to the small, rarely used office.
As I settled onto the couch with Edward at my side and Bree at my breast, I drew in a deep breath, feeling peace settle over me. I had a wonderful husband, two beautiful children, great friends, and an amazing life as one of Santa's elves, not to mention being Mrs. Claus. A girl couldn't ask for anything more.
A/N #2: First, be sure to check out the absolutely ADORABLE manips beffers87 made for this chapter! Squee! There's one of Bella, Alice, Rose, Emmett, & Jasper as elves. There's also one of each of the kids with a parent. Too freakin' cute, I tell ya! You can find a link on my profile.
That's it for this one. :( I'm marking complete. It was so much fun to write, but more than that, your reactions to the entire story have just been...so, so much fun to read. You loved it as much as I loved writing it, and that warms my heart like you wouldn't believe. Your reviews made me smile and laugh so many times over the last ten days. So thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Big thanks, as always, to Deb & Bethany (beffers87) for their support (& for the manips in Bethy's case). I love you, ladies. :) Pamela's eagle eye spotted errors that I totally missed, so thank you!
Don't forget to put me on author alert. ;) I'll be posting a separate, M-rated outtake for this story tomorrow. Until then, leave me a note about this chapter and let me know what you thought of the ending! Mwah! – Jen