Disclaimer: I own neither the characters used in this story nor the books/television show from which they originated. Unfortunately. Also, the poem used in this story is, quite obviously, not my original creation either. Rather, it was penned by Clement Clarke Moore.
Pairings: Mainly M/L, mentions M/M and K/I
Summary: When Liz's son comes to her, fearing that Santa Claus isn't real, she both confesses the reason behind her own unconditional belief in the legendary holiday figure and walks away from the conversation with a steep promise for Santa to fulfill in order to convince her son of his existence.
A/N: This is a fun, playful, fluffy one shot meant to reflect the spirit of the holiday season and to explore a version of what Max and Liz could have been like as a happily married couple. If you have questions about how the various characters mentioned in this story became the way they're hinted towards being, just ask, and I'll share my thoughts with you. Also, the italicized sections are flashback scenes. And that's it. Enjoy, everyone, and happy holidays!
A Dreamer Holiday One Shot
“Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house,” Liz Evans recited to her sleepy, six year old son. “Not a creature was stirring not even a mouse.”
The holiday poem was such a tradition in their home that she no longer even needed the book to read it by, and Parker didn't mind the lack of pictures, for he, too, had long since memorized their images and had them firmly cemented in his mind. So, as she whispered the legendary words to him, the two of them snuggled up together in his little, twin bed, the young mother knew that her son could see every bright color, every festive illustration behind his heavy, drooping, long lashed lids, the images playing before his closed eyes like a kaleidoscope of Christmas pageantry.
“The stocking were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would he there.”
As she said the words St. Nicholas, Liz could have sworn that she felt her little boy pull away from her embrace just slightly, but she shrugged off her paranoia and settled back in to finish telling the classic tale. This – reciting 'Twas the Night Before Christmas' for her son was just one of their many family traditions. While the holiday had always been special to her, especially when as a teenager she finally learned the true meaning of the season, now, as a mother, it meant even more. Now, she was able to spread her remarkably strong sense of faith to her child, a child she shared with her husband, and that meant so much more to her than any gift ever possibly could. Even Max's amazingly thoughtful gifts from the heart.
“The children were nestled all snug in their beds,” she whispered, making Parker laugh when she tickled him slightly while, at the same time, tucking the blankets in even tighter around his small form. “While visions of sugarplums danced in their heads.”
And the best part about the holidays was that she didn't have to work, that her job as a professor of biology at UNM allowed her to spend an entire month home with her son. They decorated the house together, baked Christmas cookies, and they would even spend quite a few of their days helping Isabel, the original Christmas Nazi, with all her various charitable contributions and efforts. While she wasn't nearly as crazed and obsessed about the holidays as her sister-in-law, Liz admired Isabel's drive and ambition, her zealous approach to giving back to others, and she wanted to imprint that same spirit of generosity of spirt onto her son.
“And mama in her kerchief and I in my cap had just settled down for a long winter's nap.”
Just as with all the years before when she had read or recited the poem to her son, Parker laughed at the image of his mom and dad going to bed wearing a kerchief and a cap respectively, but, if Liz wasn't mistaken, his sounds of amusement were perfunctory, put-upon – as though he were giggling simply because he knew his mother would expect him to. While she had been able to dismiss her worries moments before that her little boy was shying away from her embrace, this – his pretending to enjoy a part of the story he had always cherished in the past – she couldn't ignore. Despite her suspicions, though, Liz recited on, both anticipating and fearing whatever it was that was on her son's mind.
“When out on the law there arose such a clatter, I sprang from my bed to see....”
“Mommy,” Parker started only to pause, freeze, frown, and begin again. “I mean Mom. Is Santa Claus real?”
The fact that her little boy had, for some reason, changed his mind about calling her mommy was disturbing in and of itself. Parker had never before just simply called her 'mom.' But, at the moment, she couldn't focus upon her own pain – the twisting torture her heart was being submitted to; rather, she had to place all her attention upon Parker's hurt and anguish. After all, that's what good mothers did, and, besides, despite her own grief, his hurt her more anyway.
“Sweetie, why would you even ask me that? Of course there's a Santa Claus! Did someone tell you something that made you....”
Again, her son interrupted her. This time, though, his innocent voice was ripe with animosity and sorrow, and, if she listened closely, Liz thought she even heard a hint of betrayal in his childish tones. It was a sound she had hoped she'd never hear from her little boy. “Yeah,” Parker confirmed. “Uncle Michael told me that there's no such thing as Santa Claus, that you and Daddy... I mean Dad... that you guys just made him up. He said that, since he became a man when he was six, that I should, too, and men don't believe in silly things like Santa Claus and flying reindeer.”
Inside she seethed; she raged. As the first of their group to have a child, this situation was not the first time someone had said or done something to Parker that she and Max disagreed with. It seemed like all their friends considered their son to be their trial run at parenting, no matter how unfair to Parker those thoughts and actions were. But this – Michael's decision to just completely obliterate her child's innocence, his belief in magic and miracles – was, without a doubt, the worst transgression yet. In fact, it was so bad that Liz wasn't sure she'd be able to forgive the overgrown man-child anytime soon.
But she didn't allow her pain and turmoil or her anger to shine through to her son. Instead, she simply smiled and kissed his forehead before, once more, pulling him tightly against her. While the gestures were meant to reassure her little boy, she also needed the few brief moments they allowed in order to gather her thoughts, for she had to scramble to find a way to prove Santa's existence without lying to her son. While some parents would consider the fact that she told Parker that Santa was real a lie in and of itself, Liz didn't, because, despite being an adult and a parent, she still believed in the jolly holiday figure – perhaps not literally but at least the spirit from which his legend was created. After all, one could not be married to Max Evans and not have faith in the miraculous, the unexplainable.
Finally, she decided upon how she was going to explain the existence of Santa Claus to her little boy. “I think this year we'll skip the rest of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas,' and, instead, I'll tell you a different story – one from when I was a little girl.”
“Like me,” Parker questioned.
“Sort of,” Liz responded, nodding her head thoughtfully despite the fact that Parker wasn't looking at her. “But I was also a little bit older than you are now, but, like you, someone had just told me that Santa Claus wasn't real when this story takes place.”
“Who,” her son asked, shifting around in her arms so that he could look at her while she told him the tale. “Was it Uncle Michael for you, too, Mommy?”
Her chilled, saddened heart thawed slightly when her little boy called her 'mommy' once more. “No, it wasn't your Uncle Michael. In fact, I didn't even know your Uncle Michael then. Actually, it was your Uncle Kyle. See,” Liz told him. “It was like this....”
Liz and her best friend Maria were in their customary recess hideout – the tunnel which led to the slide that made all the girls' hair stand up straight, so no one used it – talking and not playing like always. “So, did you write your letter to Santa yet, Maria,” she asked hopefully. Liz, ever the more responsible one of the two nine year old girls, had sent her letter to the North Pole weeks before, but Maria was a procrastinator (Liz had looked that word up in the dictionary three days before), and she was fearful her best friend would put the task off one too many times and not get what she really wanted for Christmas.
“I forgot,” Maria confessed, ducking her head shamefully.
“Hey, I'm sorry,” the other girl rushed to say, looking up and furrowing her brow in response to the huge storm of emotions she was feeling. “I just... I forgot. My mom was acting all crazy last night, she got talking about my dad, and, by the time I calmed her down, writing my letter to Santa was the last thing on my mind.”
“Or maybe you realized the truth,” a third voice from behind them taunted, making both girls spin around to glare at their intruder – Kyle Valenti, the third grade tormentor of all girls. “That Santa isn't real!”
“Take that back,” Liz demanded, sliding out from inside of the tunnel to stand upon the walkway which connected all the various parts of the extensive piece of playground equipment together. Without having to look or turn around, she knew that Maria had followed her and was standing up against the bully with her, because that's just what best friends did, and Maria was the very best of best friends. “You just don't believe in Santa anymore, because you always get a lump of coal!”
“Ha, yeah, right,” Kyle snorted, mocking her. “Or maybe I'm just not a baby anymore who believes in fairytales like you, Parker.”
She wasn't a baby, Santa was real, and so what if she did believe in fairytales? They were beautiful, and hopeful, and everyone needed to dream about something, but beauty and hope were obviously two things Kyle Valenti just didn't understand. Tilting up her chin and finally noticing the crowd of students which had gathered around them to listen to their argument, she held her ground. “Nothing you say will change my mind, Kyle, so you might as well save your smelly breath!”
“Fine,” the taunting boy relented, spreading his hands in front of him in a conceding gesture. (Conceding was another word she had looked up in the dictionary.) “If you won't listen to someone who is obviously smarter than you, Parker, how about a little bet?”
“A wager,” she repeated, inquiringly.
“No, I said a bet,” Kyle argued, making Liz smirk in confidence and supremacy. Ha! And Kyle thought he was smarter than she was. Boys were so stupid. As she glanced around the group of third graders crowding them, her eyes fell upon quiet, shy Max Evans, and Liz silently relented somewhat, admitting that maybe not all boys were dumb, because Max certainly wasn't. But her thoughts were quickly pulled away from the dark haired, dark eyed boy when Kyle said, “so, this is what we're going to do, Parker: you're going to make a wish right here, and right now for everyone to hear. If it comes true, then Santa's real. If it doesn't, then Santa's fake... like I said.”
“But Santa Claus doesn't work like that,” Liz argued passionately. “He isn't a... a miracle machine!”
“You're just afraid that you're wrong and that I'm right,” the bully teased back.
“Fine,” she shouted, throwing up her thin arms in emphasis. The next thing that came bubbling off her lips was the very first wish she could think of, the one she really wanted but knew would never come true. After all, they lived in Roswell, New Mexico, the desert of all places. “I wish for snow on Christmas morning!”
Kyle laughed. “It's your funeral, Parker,” and then sauntered away. As soon as he left, most of the other boys and girls slipped away as well. They left in groups or pairs until, eventually, it was just Maria and Liz once more. In the back of her mind, she was somewhat aware of the fact that Max Evans had been the last one to leave and that he had watched her carefully, closely, and with sympathy in his friendly gaze, but Liz was too upset to think about the boy she secretly wanted to be friends with and, instead, could only focus upon the mess she had made of the entire Kyle confrontation.
“Oh, Lizzie,” her best friend said sadly, slipping her arms through Liz's and holding her close in comfort. And, in that situation, really, what else could Maria say?
“So, what happened,” Parker asked anxiously, now sitting up expectantly on his knees before her. “Did it snow? Did you prove Uncle Kyle wrong? And why was he so mean to you, Mommy?”
“He still thought I had cooties at that point because I was a girl,” she answered her son's last question first, “just like you think Sunshine Troy has cooties.” And, man, was Liz thankful for that small, kind favor! “As for whether it snowed or not,” she continued before Parker could encourage her to continue with the tale once more, “it did, but, you see, I was the only one who saw it.”
Her little boy scrunched up his face. “What do you mean, Mommy?”
“Well, when I woke up a week later on Christmas morning and looked out my bedroom window, it was snowing. In fact, there was a thin layer of snow all around my balcony's ledge and on my lounge chair and table, but it only snowed at the Crashdown that year; it didn't snow anywhere else in Roswell.”
“So, Uncle Kyle didn't see it, and he didn't believe you, right?”
“Right,” Liz stated, “And he teased me terribly for weeks after we went back to school, but I didn't care, because I knew the truth. Maybe Santa hadn't of made it snow all over Roswell, but he had made it snow for me, and that's all that mattered.”
Parker shrugged his thin, small shoulders. “But maybe it was just something weird that happened, maybe Santa had nothing to do with it?”
“And that's why the story's not over with yet,” she told her only child. “Because, you see, after a few months – once the magic of that snow wore off, I started to ask myself that very same question. So, I came up with a plan.”
Her son giggled. “You always come up with a plan, Mommy.”
Although she smiled to acknowledge his teasing, Liz wasn't distracted from the topic at hand. “Anyway, just like with the year before, a week before Christmas that next December, I secretly told Maria my special wish for that year. I wished to see a real reindeer. And do you know what happened? Six days later, on Christmas Eve, I was helping your Grandpa P. out in the diner, cleaning up, when I heard this commotion coming from outside. Well, I was curious, so I ran out the door, and do you know what I saw walking down the street?”
Excitedly, Parker shouted, “a reindeer!”
“You bet,” Liz confirmed, grinning widely. “Just like I had wished for, I saw a reindeer, and it felt like he was my very own surprise, because he walked right past my house.”
In her son's jubilation, Liz purposely failed to mention the fact that her reindeer had just been a legendarily large mule deer which haunted the woods around Roswell, tempting hunters but always managing to avoid getting shot. At the time, though, when she had been ten and desperate to believe in something greater than just the simple truth, that giant mule deer had been a reindeer for her, and, really, wasn't that all that mattered?
“From that year on,” Liz continued once her little boy calmed down somewhat, “I always made a secret wish, and, every year, that secret wish would somehow, miraculously come true. So, that's why I believe in Santa, Parker, and that's why I think you should, too.”
“What were some of your other wishes, Mommy?”
Standing up from her son's bed, she picked him by sliding her hands underneath his arms and repositioned him under the covers, his dark head nestled once more upon his cowboy themed pillowcase. “Why don't we save some of those stories for next year and the years after, what do you say?”
Parker yawned, nodding his head in agreement. “Okie dokie.” When she bent down to kiss him goodnight, though, he started talking once more, and she paused. “Do you think... I know it's Christmas Eve and I probably hurt Santa's feelings by saying he wasn't real, but do you think that I could make a wish like you did?”
Tentatively, Liz said, “yes, I think that would be alright, Parker.” Although she worried about what her son might request, fearing that she'd have to break into the local toy store or do something else equally as drastic in order to prove her promise to be true, she also knew that, by telling her son he couldn't make a wish, she'd only be confirming Michael's statement that Santa Claus didn't exist. The only thing that lessened her trepidation was the fact that she had ended up married to her very own secret Santa.
While she contemplated her concerns, Parker thought about his wish. Eventually, he curled up his mouth in a thoughtful pose, bit his lip, and then announced, “I think I want a baby brother.” Liz's gaze widened nervously, but she didn't say a word. “Just make sure that Santa knows that it can't be a girl; it can't be a sister. Yuck!”
“Sweetie, you do know that babies... well, they take a long time to grow. Santa just can't snap his fingers and make one appear. If this is really what you want, it could take a while before your wish comes true.”
“That's okay,” Parker shrugged. “I'm still young. I can wait. Besides, I'll have real presents to open tomorrow.”
She wanted to laugh at his precocious speech and manner, but the moment was too serious, and a part of her mind had already fled her son's room and was thinking about his request for a sibling – a male sibling. Liz had to admit that the idea of another baby was certainly appealing. Parker was six already, and, though she had treasured her time with her little boy, she didn't want him to be an only child like she was, and, really, the timing seemed right. She had just received tenure, and Max had finally been promoted to curator of Albuquerque's Museum of Natural History and Science. And their house was certainly big enough for another child or two. The only thing that she was concerned about was Parker's demand that a new baby be a boy and only a boy. After all, Max certainly was a talented man, but she didn't know if he possessed those kinds of talents, and, more importantly, she really wanted a little girl someday.
Shaking aside her thoughts, Liz smiled down at her son. “Of course you'll have real presents to open in the morning.” Kissing his forehead, then his nose which never failed to make him giggle, and then his two adorable ears that he had inherited from his father – their nightly ritual, she then said, “goodnight, Parker. Sleep tight. I love you.”
“Love you, too, Mommy,” her little boy murmured, already slipping down into the blissful depths of slumber.
Quietly, she turned off the bedside light and tiptoed out of the room, closing the door partially behind her. As Liz made her way down the hallway and then the stairs towards the kitchen where she and Max were going to finish wrapping presents before setting up the scene that would greet their son the next morning, she found herself sliding back into the memories of her youth, pleasantly reliving the Christmas miracles which had helped her fall in love with her husband even before she knew he was the man making her dreams coming true.
When she had been twelve, her dad, overworked and exhausted, had become seriously ill. A tiny, insignificant cold... or so they had thought... had turned into bronchitis and then pneumonia, and then Jeff Parker, a week before Christmas, had ended up in the hospital, fighting for his life. Like the two previous years, Liz had made her wish, only this time praying for her dad to get better, and, miraculously, on Christmas Day he had been released with a clean bill of health. Years later, she found out that Max had snuck into her father's room during his family's charitable visit to the hospital on Christmas Eve – Isabel, already a mini version of her future self, insisting that they help others because they were themselves so blessed – and risked the discovery of his secret by healing her dad.
The next year had brought teenage angst, and, after being tormented and teased by Kyle one too many times, Liz had felt supremely awkward and ugly in her rapidly changing body. So, she had wished to be pretty, only to receive a Christmas card in the mail which contained a poem, a poem she would later find out was written by a boy with a crush on a very insecure girl. In the sweet, innocent missive, Max had described her the way he saw her, and, by the time a thirteen year old Liz had finished reading the poem, she had no longer doubted that someday she would be as beautiful as her secret Santa already believed her to be. And she still had that card. It was tucked away in a scrap book she had made years before to chronicle her relationship with her husband, and sometimes, when she really wanted to tease him, Liz would get the poem back out and make him read it out loud to her. Despite his more put-upon than actually real mortification, Max would comply each and every time she requested such a reading, and, afterwards, he was always duly rewarded. In fact, that's how Parker had been conceived.
By the time she reached the kitchen, Liz realized that Max wasn't there waiting for her like she had thought he would be. Instead, she could hear him tinkering around in the basement, no doubt locating the presents he had hid down there that were for her. So, knowing that she had a few more minutes until her husband joined her in their parental wrapping duties, she simply stood in front of a window, sightlessly looking outside as she recalled her fourteenth Christmas. That year, business at her parents' alien themed diner had been lagging, and, fearful that they were about to lose their livelihood, Liz had, once more, turned to her secret Santa for help, still confiding in Maria despite her best friend's concrete doubt in the holiday legend. Sure enough, Christmas morning, when her family came downstairs for breakfast, they had found that an entire wall of the diner had been painted into a mural. Luckily, Liz had located a note prior to the revelation. In it, her secret Santa had wished her a Merry Christmas and insisted that she simply tell her parents that she had an artistic friend, to pass off the mural as her gift to them. She had done just that, and, just as planned, the mural had started to draw in more tourists, business picking up once again.
After her fourteenth Christmas, Liz had felt silly asking for something special the next year and simply requested the opportunity to go ice skating. What she got, though, was far from a temporary ice rink being set up in Roswell; instead, her secret Santa had turned her cherished patio into a miniature rink, complete with her own pair of shiny, new skates and an adorable pair of red mittens and a matching scarf with little white skates peppering their surface. Her parents had been in awe of the mysterious gesture, and Maria had finally put into words what they had both suspected for years: Liz had herself one major secret admirer. As for Liz, well, even at the tender age of fifteen, she knew that she was falling in love. Now, all she needed was a face to go with the soul she already felt she knew so well.
Heartache during her sixteenth Christmas, however, distracted her from her tender, budding feelings for her secret Santa. Missing her Grandma Claudia desperately, Liz, despite knowing that such a wish was impossible, asked for just one more moment with her beloved grandmother, never actually expecting anything to come of the wish but incapable of dreaming for anything else. But dream she certainly did on the night of Christmas Eve, for, during her slumber, her Grandma Claudia visited her, and, for what had felt like hours to Liz, she had been able to sit and talk to her favorite person in the whole, telling her grandmother all about the plans, hopes, and dreams Liz had for her future, secrets and thoughts that had unfortunately gone unsaid between them before her grandma passed away. Though at the time she had been totally and completely stumped as to how her secret Santa had managed to give her such a meaningful, beautiful gift, Liz now knew that her sister-in-law had played a large role in her eighth Christmas miracle.
Wanting to spread the holiday magic to someone else she loved, for her seventeenth Christmas, Liz had wished for Maria's mom to finally fall in love again. She had known that Maria was worried about Amy, and, if any family deserved some happiness, Liz had believed it was the DeLuca family. So, when Amy's Jetta had broken down right outside of the Valenti home on Christmas Eve, allowing Amy and Jim Valenti to see each other again for the first time in years and inspiring them to combine their fractured families for a Christmas dinner the next day, Liz had not been surprised. And, when that one meal together turned into Friday and Saturday night dates, she had been pleasantly pleased with her wish. And, finally, when those dates turned into the surprise June wedding of the year, Liz had been downright smug with self-satisfaction.
Her eighteenth Christmas brought dreams of Harvard dancing in front of Liz's eyes, only for her to realize that, in her haste to start her winter break from school, she had foolishly left her application to the ivy league university in her locker. Despondent, for she was on a deadline, Liz had wished for yet another Christmas miracle from her secret Santa, hoping someway, somehow that her application could be rescued and delivered to her. Sure enough, on Christmas morning, her Dad had found an envelope, addressed to Liz, slipped under the Crashdown's doors. Inside, she found her application, just as she had wished, and, inside of her heart, her feelings for her secret Santa grew just that much more.
Studying at Harvard had been everything Liz had dreamed of and more, but, when she returned home on Christmas break after her first semester, she realized just how lonely she was. Sure, she still had Maria, but Maria was off in New York City following her own dream and falling in lust with roadies and groupies. And, sure, she still had Alex, but he was off studying abroad in the Czech Republic of all places, dating one bohemian beauty after another... or so he told her in his profusely enthusiastic and abundant emails. Her best friends were great, but Liz wanted something more; she wanted to fall in love... or, more accurately, she wanted to actually meet the man she was in love with, the boy she had loved since she was nine years old. So, to do so, for her nineteenth Christmas, Liz had wished to meet the man of of her dreams.
It was early, far too early for someone to be knocking upon her window and waking her up on Christmas morning. Added to the fact that she was tired, Liz was also grumpy and slightly depressed. After years of believing in her own personal Santa and finally deciding it was time for the two of them to meet so she could confess her feelings and find out if there was any hope for a relationship between them, she had asked for the one thing she didn't think her secret Santa was willing to give: his identity. And then there was also her fear that he was an old creeper, and, needless to say, Liz wasn't in the greatest of holiday perspectives.
Mumbling to herself as threw off her covers and crossed warily towards her window, Liz threatened, “I swear, Maria DeLuca, if you're here because you have some hair brained scheme you want to pull off and you need my assistance, so help me....”
Her words trailed off as she failed to finish her warning. After all, annoyed or not, she'd never really do anything to Maria, and chances were she'd end up helping her with whatever she needed no matter how much Liz just really wanted to go back to bed. For pete's sake, it was still dark outside, the lack of natural light preventing her from properly seeing out her window and being able to glare at her best friend.
Throwing up the window in a rush of irked adrenaline, Liz was just about to chastise her flighty friend when a voice, one that was decidedly not Maria's, one that she had not heard in months and, in fact, had not heard that much at all over the years, but one that she would never possibly be able to forget, spoke first. “Hey, Liz,” Max Evans greeted her, an adorable half smirk curling up one side of his mouth. “Merry Christmas.”
“Merry Christmas,” she returned automatically. Shaking her head in confusion, she asked, “Max, what are you doing here?”
Instead of replying immediately, he held out his hands to her and helped her step out onto her balcony. She had the small space decorated for the holidays, tiny twinkling lights glowing softly against the otherwise dim New Mexican night, and, as she stood in front of Max, her hands still clasped firmly in his, Liz could see the dancing white lights reflected in his purposeful gaze. Despite the fact that she wore nothing but a pair of tiny shorts and her favorite Harvard t-shirt, Liz wasn't embarrassed to be standing there with the quiet, shy man before her.
“I know I've never done anything in the past to show you how I felt, but I like you, Liz.” He swallowed roughly, nervously. “I like you a lot, and I was wondering if you'd want to go out... with me... sometime while you're home on break?”
“Oh, Max,” Liz returned sadly. She was surprised to find her eyes suddenly suffused with prickly, pesky tears. “I wish I could.” And she really did. Though, prior to that moment, she hadn't realized it, a part of her had always liked and admired Max Evans. He was kind and intelligent, thoughtful, and not to mention unbelievably gorgeous. For years, she had wanted to be his friend, and, if it wasn't for her secret Santa, she wouldn't have hesitated for even a second to say yes to his invitation. “But I can't.”
He opened his mouth to respond, but, before he could, she rushed on to explain, “it's just... a long time ago, I gave my heart to someone else.” At his crushed expression, she pressed on, laughing somewhat at the memory. “Do you remember when we were in third grade and Kyle Valenti challenged me that there wasn't such a thing as Santa Claus?”
“Yeah,” Max answered, “and you wished for it to snow.”
She was touched beyond words that he had remembered such a minor detail of her life, but continued on with her attempt to let him down gently. “Well, my wish came true. Maybe it didn't snow at Kyle's house, or at yours, but it snowed at mine, right here on this very balcony, in fact.”
“You mean, like this,” Max prompted before smiling and looking up at the dark sky. Following his lead, Liz did the same thing only to find hundreds of tiny, perfectly unique snowflakes floating down from the clouds to land softly upon her shoulders, her chaise lounge, Max's ridiculously long eye lashes.
Without understanding how, Liz suddenly knew that, once more, it was only snowing for her, and that, once more, the man standing before her was the reason why. While the scientific part of her wanted to ask him a thousand questions, the little girl inside of her who still believed in miracles was simply too in awe to ruin the moment with hypothesis. And then there was also the woman inside of her who wanted nothing more than to experience true love for the first time, so, pushing aside her scientifically minded queries, a barefoot Liz stood up on her tiptoes, delicately cradled Max Evan's jaw in the palms of her soft hands, and kissed him, somehow knowing that he'd be the last and only man she'd ever be as close to again.
Pulling away just slightly, she allowed her legs to relax, going back down to stand flatly upon her chilled feet. Leaning against her secret Santa and the man she was in love with, Liz wrapped her arms around him and rested her face against his chest, against his rapidly beating heart, the heavy tattoo of its pulsing rhythm caused by her near proximity. Smiling widely to herself, she whispered, “yes, Max, I'd love to go out with you,” not realizing that, with that one sentence and with their one shared embrace, she had made both their Christmas wishes come true that year.
“Where is that dangerously complicated, intimidatingly brilliant mind of yours right now,” Max murmured as he snuck up behind her, startling Liz slightly. Before she could react, he picked her up, walking backwards until he fell into one of their kitchen chairs, her form still clutched possessively in his arms. The silly, romantic gesture made her laugh gleefully. Repositioning her so that she was comfortably sitting upon his lap, Max changed his tactics and asked a different question, “so, Mrs. Evans, what do you want for Christmas?”
Instead of answering him, though, Liz said, “I told Parker about my secret Santa, and he put his own request in this year.”
“That's alright. I'm pretty sure I can handle two wishes at the same time.”
She smiled at his confident, playful response, knowing that their son's behest would only make his self-assurance skyrocket. “Well, that's good, because he wants a baby brother and is aware that these things tend to take a little bit of time to make.”
“These things, huh,” Max teased, jiggling his legs and jostling her playfully. “I don't know. The last time we seemed to be pretty speedy in our attempts.”
That's because Parker had not exactly been planned but, afterwards, definitely wanted and appreciated.
However, she couldn't focus upon her husband's flirtations, because, despite convincing Parker that Santa Claus was real and despite reliving some of her most wonderful and cherished memories of the past, Liz was still seeing red when it came to one Michael Guerin. So, instead of flirting back, she raged. “But what if it's not a boy? What if we have a baby, and it's a girl, and then Parker's belief in Santa Claus is ruined because we have absolutely no control over your sperm.”
“Hey,” Max objected, but she pushed right past his remark.
“And it's all Michael's fault! I swear, Max, despite the fact that I know you love him like a brother, sometimes I could really just... I could just hit him!”
Calmly, rationally, he asked, “what exactly did Michael do this time?”
“He told our six year old son that, because he had to become a man when he was six, that Parker was a man now, too, and men don't believe in such silly things as Santa Claus. Parker was crushed, Max, and the only thing I could think of, besides just empty reassurances, was to tell him about what Santa did for me when I was a little girl. Of course, he wanted to make his own wish then, so, now, you need to knock me up... and we're talking like yesterday.”
He tried to respond, but she rushed on, jumping to yet another thought. “Oh, and as for what I want for my special Christmas wish this year, I want Michael to get what's coming to him. I want you to beat him up.”
“Liz,” he warned her softly, compassionately.
“Fine. You can just rough him up a little, scare him, but make sure he knows what will happen if he ever messes with my kids again.”
“Will do,” Max promised, surprising her when he repositioned her once more so that she was straddling his lap. Then, standing, he pushed aside all the wrapping supplies she had gathered prior to tucking Parker in and laid her down upon the kitchen table. “Now, as for our son's request....”
“What, Max, no,” she argued, although she did nothing to deter his mouth from seeking out and then taking possession of her neck. In fact, despite her words, Liz felt her hands lifting up to wrap around her husband's wide shoulders, delving into his thick, dark locks of unruly hair. “We can't... on the table. What if Parker wakes up, comes downstairs, and sees us?”
“Then he'll find Santa hard at work making his wish come true.”
Releasing her mirth, Liz laughed joyously. “Max!”
He stopped kissing her, meeting her happy, sparkling gaze. “Though, come to think of it, you are acting really aggressive tonight – all territorial and possessive over your kids, like a mama bear protecting her young. In fact, tonight reminds me of the afternoon when you kicked Kyle because he told me my layup form was off.”
Liz remembered that afternoon. It had been the first really hot day of spring seven years earlier, and the whole gang had gathered at Kyle and Isabel's house for a barbeque – she and Max, Maria and Michael, and Alex and his girlfriend at the time. While she and the other women had dutifully allowed Isabel to guide them on a tour of her new home, the guys had started a pick-up game of basketball. Just as the she, Maria, Isabel, and Alex's girlfriend rejoined their significant others outside, Liz had heard Kyle insult Max's athletic ability – something that was really insignificant and more in jest than actual fact, but she had immediately erupted, going so far as to kick her friend and future brother-in-law in the leg, taking him down.
And Liz also remembered the night which followed that afternoon – the night during which she and Max had discovered they were going to be parents.
Laughing at the memory and realizing what her husband was attempting to tell her, Liz teased, “looks like the table gets a reprieve.”
“Oh no, it doesn't,” Max announced, shocking her by dropping his pajama bottoms before reaching for her own. “After all, Santa has a wish, too, you know.”
A half an hour later, sweaty, satisfied, and aware of more than one colorful bow sticking to her bare skin, Liz most certainly did know exactly what her secret Santa had meant.