Chapter Notes: Written for the schmoop_bingo prompt "Gift giving".

Chapter 24 :: Saint Nicholas Day
By A. Magiluna Stormwriter

++ Dana ++


"He's still too young to really get what we're doing, Monica," I say, but don't stop her from finishing her stuffing of the stockings hanging on the mantelpiece. In fact, I've been holding the box with all of the little bits and bobs to fill said stockings. I even wrapped several of them over the last week while William has been sleeping.

"He'll remember a lot more than he did the last two years, Dana," she replies, reaching into the box for a small package I don't recognize. "Besides, I'll remember and I want to be able to tell him all about it when he's older."

"What's in that box?" I ask as she slips the unknown package into my stocking. "Monica Reyes, what kind of game are you playing?"

"You'll have to wait until you open it to find out."

"Pain in my ass," I mutter, swatting at her rear when she grins cheekily at me. "And you better hurry up if you're going to make sure this is done before William wakes up."

She begins to stuff things into the stockings more quickly, and finishes just as we hear that telltale whine that means a certain boy is waking up. Tossing the box into our bedroom, Monica grins broadly back at me and rubs her hands gleefully. "Do you have the camera ready?"

"Of course, I do," I reply and continue before she can ask another inane question. "And it has new batteries and the card is clean, empty, and ready to be filled. Happy?"

She nods enthusiastically and practically bounces to William's door to crack it open almost before I can get over there with her. "Hey there, mi hijo. Buenos dias."

"Dias, Mami," he mumbles sleepily, scrubbing at his eyes.

"You forget to say hello to Mama?" she asks him, shifting so he can see me behind her.

"Sorry, Mama. G'morning!"

Pushing past Monica, I go to sit next to William on his bed and scoop him up into a tight hug. "Good morning to you, handsome. Did you sleep well?" He nods and presses his lips to my cheek with a sloppy, noisy zerbert kiss. This, of course, sends Monica into peals of excitable laughter, which only goads William on to do it again. I honestly wonder which one of them is older some days.

"Hey, William, someone came to visit last night," Monica says.

"Sanna?" His eyes light up at her words and he starts squirming in my grip. "Wanna see Sanna!"

"Santa's not--" But he breaks free of my hold and scrambles toward Monica and the door. "Oh, to hell with it!" I mutter, getting up to follow them, curious at my Grinch-y attitude.

"Mama! Sanna was here!" William screeches, and I have to wonder what he'll be like on Christmas morning when his presents are under the tree.

"I see that, handsome," I reply as Monica snaps a couple of pictures of William and the filled stockings. "Should we open them now? Or save them for Christmas?"

The look he shoots me as he turns around nearly dissolves my resolve; it's a combination of horror, dismay, and outright death threats. Silent death threats, but death threats nonetheless. Oh dear, he really does have his mami's temper, doesn't he? Or is that my temper? That's definitely a toss-up.

"Mama!" he finally says, stomping his little foot, hands on his hips. Oh yeah, I guess that is my temper, isn't it? "Open now." Monica clears her throat and he has the grace to look ashamed. "Sorry, Mama. Please open now?"

Glancing back at Monica, I shrug my shoulders and turn enough that he can't see me grinning. "I don't know, Mon. Do you think he's been a good enough boy to open what's in his stocking?"

"Santa wouldn't have filled his stocking if he was a naughty boy," she counters thoughtfully. "I think it's okay to open it."

"Yay!" William cries, clapping his hands.

Monica moves to the mantelpiece and pulls down a stocking. "Okay, Billy Bear, this is for Mami. Can you set it in my spot on the couch?"

When he does as she asks, she grins and hands him my stocking with a similar request. I take the stocking and his sloppy kiss to my cheek happily. Finally, she pulls down his stocking and points to the couch. He runs over and climbs up to sit next to me, arms stretched out for his stocking. He's practically vibrating against my side in his eagerness.

It takes a moment to realize that I'm picking up on the nervous energy swirling around the room from my beloved family. Christmastime is Monica's favorite time of the year, and that's clearly rubbed off on our son.

"Oh, Mon, give him the stocking before he explodes and leaves little William bits all over this apartment," I finally say with amused exasperation. "And if he does explode before you do, you will be the one cleaning up the mess, not me."

Monica chuckles and hands William his stocking. Expecting to end up in the middle of a wrapping paper snow globe, I'm actually shocked to watch him sit there and stare at the full stocking. His little hand strokes the warm fake fur of the stocking, following the contours over and over. Monica snaps a few pictures and starts up the video camera on the tripod before joining us on the couch.

"So much, Mama," he whispers, tearing his gaze away from the haul in his lap to stare at me in awe. "I good boy?"

"Santa certainly thinks so, handsome," I reply, stroking his cheek. "Do you want to see what's in there?"

When he nods, I pull the coffee table closer and overturn his stocking onto its shiny surface. Out tumbles half a dozen gaily wrapped boxes, a candy cane, a dozen chocolates, a couple of Thomas the Tank Engine coloring books that we didn't feel needed wrapping paper, and a Thomas toothbrush. William spends several moments flipping through the coloring books, crowing at the various pictures and detailing how he'll color some of them.

"Hey, Billy Bear," Monica finally says when his excited stuttering gets worse, "how about we do the coloring later and open some of your other stuff first?"

"Okay, Mami!"

It feels like no time passes at all as William opens the packages to find crayons, a new big boy water bottle, two new Thomas engines for his collection, a package of Thomas underpants to celebrate his potty training, and Thomas slippers. The slippers, of course, immediately go on his feet, and he parades around the room, proud as a peacock.

"So did Santa do a good job for my good boy?"

"Oh yes, Mama!" he says happily, then tilts his head back to yell, "Fank you, Sanna!"


Eventually, we get William happily settled on the floor, coloring in his new coloring books, and within easy reach is his water bottle is filled with apple juice. The trash from his presents has already been set aside for the Winter Solstice bonfire, and the rest of his presents are tucked back into the stocking hung back up on the mantelpiece again.

"We should probably get breakfast going," I say, watching William with a fond smile. "He's going to get hungry and I don't want his first meal to be candy."

Monica chuckles and strokes my arm. "Breakfast can wait a little longer. We have stockings to open, too."

Rolling my eyes, I motion for her to open her stocking first. Scooting closer to the table, she upends her stocking just as we'd done with William's. She pushes aside the candy cane and most of the chocolates, unwrapping one of the Hershey's kisses to pop it in her mouth. "Mmm, that's so good," she moans softly, glancing at me from under her lashes. "Too bad we can't share itů"

"You're incorrigible," I reply, unconsciously licking my lips at the thought of sharing that kiss with her. "Open your damned gifts."

Grinning mischievously, she makes quick work of her presents: toothbrush, elastic bands for her hair, a pony bead necklace that William made, a gift certificate for a dozen cupcakes from her favorite bakery in town, and the paperback version of People of the Moon, the latest in the series of books by W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O'Neal Gear that she's fallen in love with. That book was a bitch to keep a secret from her. Little does she know that she's getting the hardcover edition for Christmas.

"Thank you, baby," she says, leaning over to press a kiss of thanks to my lips. "I can't wait to start reading this when I finish the anthology I've been working my way through."

"You're welcome, Mon. I hope it's as good as the rest of the series has been."

She grins and starts stuffing her stocking with the rest of her things, then hangs it back up next to William's. As she returns to the couch, her smile broadens and she gestures to the stocking still resting in my lap. "What's keeping you from opening your stocking?"

"I was just waiting for you two to finish," I finally say as I repeat the overturning of the stocking onto the table. I know about the candy cane, chocolates, toothbrush, and new spatula, as I bought them when I got the other stocking stuffers; these items get pushed back into the stocking immediately. The new romance novel is a surprise, especially because I'd been with Monica when she bought it, and believed that it was a gag gift for Janet. And I can admit to getting a little misty eyed when I open the necklace from William that matches Monica's, immediately putting it on. The box of candied rose petals is a lovely treat that I don't intend to share with anyone but Monica.

"Thank you, amante," I murmur, leaning in to press another kiss to her lips.

"Nope, not me," she replies. "Thank Santa. He's pretty damned awesome."

We turn to watch William coloring some more, and I can't help but wonder what he's going to be like when he gets his Christmas presents, including his new big boy bed.

I love Christmas.