Chloe rolled over that morning, half out of it, only to come face to face with her husband grinning widely at her. She smiled sleepily.
“Since only a few months ago I was seriously doubting if we would have a first Christmas together as husband and wife,” she yawned, then fingered the scar on his chest that the bullet had left behind.
“I will forgive you for smiling creepily at me while I sleep”.
Ben’s response was to lean over to kiss her, his smile growing wider as he nuzzled her strawberry smelling curls.
“Let’s go open presents,” he said into her hair. Chloe smiled, her husband’s childlike enthusiasm rubbing off on her.
“Will you make me coffee?” she asked as she glanced at the clock on Ben’s side, where is was conveniently kept as they had found out early in their marriage that Chloe had the tendency to hit snooze one too many times.
Tim nodded, pulling her up out of bed and handing her some slippers as he dragged her upstairs to the kitchen in their matching flannel pajamas, which, believe it or not, was her idea to start with.
Nate was already there making their traditional meal of crepes. “Merry Christmas,” he smiled at Ben’s enthusiasm and Chloe’s half-asleep state. “Coffee is already on”.
Chloe mumbled a thanks and headed for the coffee, but not before pulling Ben into a kiss. “Merry Christmas, hon”.
She hugged Nate, wishing him a Merry Christmas, and then went to pour a steaming cup of dark, liquidy goodness.
“When?” Ben started to ask.
“When everyone gets up, Ben,” Nate said patiently. Ben looked momentarily crestfallen until Chloe slid up next to him and placed a cup of coffee in his hands.
“Come on, Hon. Let’s go snuggle on the couch until people emerge”.
“Okay,” Ben said, the smile appearing on his face as he pushed his brown hair back with his hand.
As Chloe and Ben disappeared into the living room, Sadie was the next sibling to emerge.
“Anyone else up besides Ben dragging a sleepy Chloe out of bed?”
“Nope. There is only a limited amount of time though before Ben goes into the room of the last two though and makes sure they get up”.
“I will go wake them up myself. Save him the trouble of doing so,” Sadie decided as she temporarily forgot about the prospect of coffee and skipped to Sam’s and Chase’s room.
Lord, have mercy on her, Chris prayed silently on behalf of his little sister. He knew for a fact Sam and Chase and stayed up just a bit too late after their concert last night, watching the Nightmare Before Christmas no doubt.
Sadie turned the doorknob, softly pushing the door open to her brother’s bedroom. She smiled as Sam stirred, shoving his head underneath the pillow. Chase was still out like a light, sleeping prostrate on his stomach. As she glanced between the two, she decided to have some fun with Chase first, as Sam was most likely awake but refusing to acknowledge the fact that it was morning.
“Wakey, wakey, big brother. It’s Christmas morning”. She started pulling the covers off him, which he immediately pulled back on tighter over himself.
“Five. Ben. Late. night.” he muttered in his sleep as he rolled over onto his back. Sadie giggled. Ben and Chase, being twins and all, had been the two to share a room until Ben had married Chloe. She could hear her little brother stirring from the other bed behind her.
Glancing over, she still could tell he was trying to pretend he was asleep, but in the light filtering the room in between the curtains Sadie could see that from underneath the pillow, his blue eyes were open, watching her interactions with Chase.
Sadie once again tried to pull back his covers, only to have them gripped by an almost possessive tightness by Chase.
“Ben. Stooooppppp,” he whined, rolling back over to his stomach.
From the other bed Sam threw off the pillow and his covers simultaneously and stood up, making his way over to where his sister stood.
Sadie smirked as she let her little brother take over, watching as he crept closer and closer to Chase’s ear.
“P dom p dom p dom p dom p dom. Merrrrrrrrrrrrrryyyyyyyyy, weeeeehhhhhhhh ohhhhhhhh. Chrissssstttttttttttmaassssss, dehhhhhhhhh ohhhhhhhhh. P dom, p dom”.
Chase shot out of bed at Sam’s drumming/dj-ing in his ear, glaring daggers at him as Sadie doubled over laughing on Sam’s vacated bed and Sam grinned mischievously.
Ben appeared at the door out of nowhere. “You are awake!” he exclaimed, hazel eyes twinkling. “Now we can open presents”.
“I was having a nice dream that was interrupted,” Chase pouted at his twin. “No thanks to them two”.
Ben smiled. “Well, you are awake now. We can…”
“I know, I know. I’m coming,” Chase mumbled as he looked for his slippers.
“The Grinch muth (must) have thole your chrithmath thpirit (spirit),” Sam said over his shoulder as he followed Tim and Sadie out.
“That ain't all he took,” Chase said grumpily as he held up one of his slippers, covered in tiny teeth marks that could only have come from one orange feline. “Where is she by the way??”
Only Sam did not hear him as he had just left the room. Chase shook his head and went and rummaged through his dresser drawer, settling for a pair of Christmas socks over his slippers.
While Ben had gone to investigate the cause of the commotion , Chloe sat on the sofa in the living room sipping her coffee and studying the bottom of the tree. She could have sworn she was seeing things, as one of the brightly wrapped packages had appeared to have moved ever so slightly. Plus, if she studied it closely enough, she could swear she could see something move about below every so often.
It’s still too early, Chloe thought as she gave herself a little shake, taking a big gulp of hazelnut flavored coffee.
Nate appeared from the kitchen, carrying a couple of yummy-smelling plates.
“Nutella crepe?” he held a plate out to her.
Chloe smiled. “Thanks, big bro”. She took the plate and cut into the crepe with her fork, smiling as it oozed with chocolatey goodness. Her husband and the other three siblings chose then to reappear.
“Food!” Sam said excitedly as he turned on his heels and made a beeline for the kitchen.
“Wait, do I smell bacon?” Ben went and followed his kid brother into the kitchen. Chloe shook her head and smiled at her husband’s seeming ADD like nature.
As Sadie followed her brothers into the kitchen, Chase appeared looking at Nate and Chloe bleary-eyed.
“Sam?” Nate asked, trying not to laugh at his appearance.
Chase merely nodded as he took the proffered mug of coffee Chloe had retrieved from the tray on the table, settling down on the couch opposite her knowing Ben would want the middle. Chloe saw his eyes momentarily widen as he looked underneath the tree, but a split second later his expression was back to normal.
Maybe I am not seeing things after all, Chloe said to herself as she went back to studying the bottom of the tree.
Moments later, the other three reappeared with their plates piled high with food. Chloe smirked as Ben settled in between herself and Chase, his plate piled high with two crepes and enough bacon that would have caused Chloe to say something any other day, considering the fact he was still rehabbing his heart. She could let it slide for one day though. It was Christmas after all.
“So,care to do the honors, Sam?” Nate smiled once they had all had a few minutes to settle in with their food.
Sam smiled and nodded, setting his already half eaten plate of food aside as he headed towards the tree, shuffling the packages that had been carefully prepared around.
Chloe glanced to Sadie, who looked back to her in equal bewilderment. It had been soft, almost inaudible, but she and Sadie had been situated close enough to the tree to be able to pick up on it. Chase was still sipping his coffee, expressionless. Nate and Ben were still digging into their food with gusto.
Sam finally retrieved a red package tied with a silver ribbon the shape of a DVD. Glancing at the name tag, he smiled as he tore it open.
Once open, he grinned wildly at Ben and Chloe.
“You're welcome,” Ben answered around a mouthful of bacon. “Chloe and I decided to get you a copy of the software I use to make our music arrangements so you don’t have to always borrow our computer”.
“You do have a knack for arranging, Sam,” Nate added. “It would be nice for Ben and I to not to have to do most all of it for a change”.
“Thanks, guys,” he said quietly, almost shyly. He turned his attention to the package, his eyes reading over the back of the packaging as he took another mouthful of crepe.
Nate was next. He unwrapped a package covered in pictures of candy canes in the shape of a box. He smiled as he opened the box to find a hat.
World’s Greatest Band Leader, it read as he slid the hat over his bald head.
“Since it’s already in your head,” Chase said with the tiniest of smiles, his baby blue eyes twinkling with amusement. Ben and Chloe looked to each other, then to Chase and Nate. They all knew that what Chase had met as a joke was actually his way of being heartfelt.
Nate smiled at Chase. “I am gonna wear this on our next tour, bro,” he smiled in appreciation as he looked to Chloe.
Chloe handed her food to Ben, giving him a look that told him to not eat the rest of her bacon that she knew would end up being utterly futile in the end. It felt good to at least pretend to be the wife that cared about her husband’s health, though.
Ben smiled innocently, grabbing a piece of her bacon and biting into it as Chloe rolled her eyes and headed for the tree.
She grabbed a package that was super soft, squishy, oval shaped, and wrapped in paper with little Rudolph's all over it.
Her eyes met Ben’s. “Open it!” he said enthusiastically, sitting up and setting her now almost empty plate on the table next to his empty one. Chase leaned forward as well as he helped himself to her few remaining pieces of bacon.
Chloe squealed like a little girl as she ripped the paper, only to find a stuffed penguin holding a jewelry box with embroidery on its white belly. She gently removed the jewelry box that had been taped to its wings so that she might be able to read the embroidery that was formed by a heart..
You are my penguin. Penguins mate for life and recognize each other by their own unique heart songs to each other.
Chloe smiled as she opened the jewelry box to find a necklace strung with half a quarter cut in the pattern of two penguin. She stood and went over to Ben, only to be somewhat taken aback when he pulled out another half of a similarly cut quarter hung around his neck.
“Aww baby,” she crooned, settling on his lap as their two half's of
|Find the necklace on etsy here!|
Chloe loved her gift. Not only did it completely fit with her obsession with penguins, it was sweet, unique, quirky, and quite simply had her husband's name written all over it.
After several minutes of cuddling, Sadie spoke up. “I have to interrupt you two lovebirds, but it is your turn bro,” she did not want to sound impatient, but knew that their kiss and cuddle sessions could last for a while if not stopped.
Chloe slid off Ben’s lap and into her previously vacated spot, smiling and squeezing her penguin to her stomach as Chase handed it back to her.
Ben headed for the tree, looking at Chloe questionably.
“Brown paper with the Santa's,” she smiled as she answered for him.
As Ben went to retrieve the package that was the size and shape of a small box, they were all somewhat taken aback when an orange ball of fluff appeared clinging by her claws and teeth to it’s bow.
Sam looked panicked as no one said anything for a long moment. It was Chase who was the first one to break the silence.
“That is one way to introduce her to the family, bro,” he looked at Sam, laughing.
Sadie burst into a fit of giggles, Nate looked unsure, and Chloe joined her husband on the floor, carefully detaching the kitten from the bow.
Meow, it’s little tongue went out to lick Chloe’s hand, her seemingly signature greeting for anyone new she met, Sam noted, looking for Ben to Nate. They were the two who hates cats in the family, and would ultimately be the ones to determine if she stayed.
“She is so cute,” Chloe crooned as she went to read the gift tag.
To: My Family
“Sam?” five pairs of eyes turned questioningly to him.
“I found her abandoned in a cardboard box. The (she) wath tho cold and thared (scared). I took her and me and my new….friend went to the pet thore and got her thuff. I couldn’t leave her,” he looked to Nate, who appeared thoughtful. Tim had tentatively reached out to pet the orange fluff ball, and smiled himself when she also licked his hand.
“Y’all know cat’s are not my thing, but seeing as she is Sam’s little Christmas miracle. I say we keep her,” Tim looked to Nate.
“Did you know about this?” Nate turned to Chase once Ben had given his consensus.
Chase nodded, Joining Chloe and Ben on the floor. “She was hiding in our room for the past few days”.
“Chath thought the wath (was)a little orange alien at firth,”
“Yeah,” Chase smiled ruefully. The kitten had now been placed on the floor and was making her way between the foursome, curious about all the new people she had yet to meet.
Nate scratched his bearded chin, the only part of his body to have any hair, deep in thought. He looked to Sam, and how worried his little brother appeared.
“If you pay for her food and vet bills, you can keep her,” he finally said. “You can even bring her with us on the bus in the spring”.
Sam grinned, jumping up to hug Nate. Sadie, whom the kitten had currently chose as the next Ross member who seemingly needed a bath, giggled.
“Thank you, Nate. Thank you,” Sam said. Nate laughed ruefully.
“No problem, little bro. Does she have a name?” Nate pulled away from him, somewhat uncomfortable as he looked from Sam to the kitten.
“Nope,” Austin answered for him. “This little girl is currently nameless”.
“Miracle,” Ben mused.
“Huh?” Chloe looked to Ben questioningly.
“I said that she was Sam’s Miracle before. Why not name her Miracle?” he looked to Sam, who nodded.
“I like it!” Sam exclaimed. “It hath no th’ (s) in it either,” Nate smiled at his little brother’s enthusiasm.
“Well then,” he joined his family on the floor after a moment's hesitation. “Welcome to the family, Miracle”.
Everyone smiled as they continued to play with Sam’s kitten for several minutes, until Ben remembered his wife’s gift.
“Sorry,” he said ruefully as he picked it up again, pulling at the bow. Chloe smiled at him in understanding as she watched him open it. What was revealed underneath the wrapper as a brand new black leather wallet nestled in a gift box.
Remembering their conversation from a few nights before, Ben took the wallet out of the box and opened it up. A miniature image fell out of it, which he picked up to examine.
“I did the best I could,” Chloe said somewhat shyly. “I still think it could be better”.
“Chloe…” Ben’s voice trailed off as he swallowed, a lump forming in his throat.
“You think you coulda done better?” Sam broke in, sounding awestruck as he was studying the flawless, wallet-sized self portrait that Chloe had drawn in charcoal.
Tim studied his wife’s image, which was drawn softly at a slight angle with her head tilted toward him. Her chin length curls were framed around her face in a way that made her look positively angelic. That was not the only thing included, however. Tim noticed that there was writing on the back of the image, which he flipped over to read until Chloe stopped him.
“Save that for later,” She whispered. “Please”.
Ben’s hazel eyes, brimmed with emotion, looked at her in a loving understanding as he leaned into kiss her once more. He might have almost died this year, but this was the best Christmas he had ever had.
Later, the siblings were off doing their own things around the house while Ben and Chloe were snuggling on the couch. Ben’s eyes were pursuing the note on the back of the mini portrait, which turned out to be his wife managing to write in incredibly tiny, but still legible handwriting of all the ways she was thankful for him.
Bits of wrapping paper and ribbon still scattered the floor, and Miracle was having the time of her life darting to and fro, jumping into the wrapping paper that crinkled every time her little paws tread on it.
Chloe smiled as her eyes slipped shut, grateful for more than anything to have the chance to be in her husband’s arms, after she had almost lost him no more than two months before.
A knock at the door surprised them both
“Who could that be?” Chloe wondered, getting up to answer it. A red haired girl appearing to be about Sam’s age bundled up in a blue coat stood on the doorstep.
“Excuse me,” she said in an almost angelic voice. “Is Sam here”?
Chloe had no chance to respond as Ben, towering over her, immediately said he would go and get him, smiling impishly as he hurried off to his task.
“Um, won’t you come in?” Chloe asked, opening the screen door. She was equally as curious about the red-haired wonder at their door, and secretly hoped Ben was not giving Sam too hard a time over it.
“Sorry about the mess,” Chloe said as she gestured around the living room.
“Oh, it’s fine,” The girl smiled. A loud crinkle distracted them both.
Meow, Miracle's blue eyes peered up at them both.
“Oh, there you are. I was hoping you and Sam were getting along okay,” the red haired girl stooped down to pick up the kitten, who purred at her touch.
“You are the girl from the coffee shop?” Chloe asked, her eyes widening in surprise. The girl giggled.
“Yes, my name is Alice. Sam said for...” she did not get a chance to finish, as just then Sam appeared, flashing his dazzling smile to her.
“Hello. Good to thee you came by,” he said, coming over to her. Ben was staring at them expectantly, which caused Chloe to approach him and gently give him a shove out of the room.
“Hey,” he protested, earning a harder shove from Chloe.
“Leave them alone,” Chloe said as they disappeared into the Kitchen where Chase and Sadie were helping Nate clean up. “He was only gonna get nervous if you would have kept staring”.
“Me, stare?” Tim blinked as if the idea was totally foreign to him.
“Leave who alone?” Sadie, who was proudly wearing a Santa hat with a tail that was simply too long, looked to the couple questioningly.
“Sam has a girlfriend. She is here right now,” Ben answered with a smirk, causing his wife to roll her eyes and the two brothers to look at him in surprise.
“Where?” Chase said as he tossed his dishrag to the side. Soon, three sets of eyes were peering out of the kitchen into the living room, straining to catch a glimpse of this “girl”.
“Well, I’ll be,” Nate smiled as he spotted the two sitting on the sofa with the kitten in between them, having an animated conversation
“She’s pretty,” Chase commented.
“Adam sure knows how to pick em,” Ben finished.
Both girls were standing back, looking from each other to the guys, clearly annoyed.
“Will you big oafs give him some privacy,” Sadie protested. “I swear nothing can happen in this house without it being a sideshow”.
“Let’s back off guys,” Nate, always the voice of reason, cut into the twin’s protests. “The fact that Sam actually put himself out there to meet someone like her is a God thing. We need to give him some space to see how it goes”.
The twins sighed, and retreated from the kitchen door.
Soon, the dishes were finished and the kitchen was all spic and span. Ben approached Chloe, who was staring out the window at the freshly fallen snow, deep in thought.
“Merry Christmas, darlin’” he drawled as he kissed the top of her hair. “I love my picture, and that list, it was…” he trailed off, for once at a loss at what to say. Chloe turned to him, wrapping her arms around him and resting her head on his chest.
“I actually started the sketchbook a little after it happened. I needed something to keep myself sane as well as to remind myself that I had not lost you, and the doctors said you had a pretty good chance of making a full recovery”.
“Well, I don’t know if you have heard it often enough coming from me, especially since I have been home, but I love you". He rubbed her back as Chloe sighed with contentment.
A ball of orange fluff scuttled into the kitchen, meowing up at them. Ben smiled as Miracle circled their legs, rubbing her tiny head against them.
“You sure have a fitting name for all this year has been for us, little one,” Chloe glanced down, studying the kitten with soft blue eyes.
“I think Sam has helped us to remember we have a lot to be grateful for, and that Miracles can really still happen,” Chloe glanced out the kitchen door, where Adam and, Allison she believed were still in deep conversation on the couch.
“He does not talk to us that much in a single day. I wonder what it is about her”.
Ben followed her gaze. “He better expect 20 questions coming up,” he smirked. “I am happy for him though. I think we all found each other, as well as ourselves just a little bit more this Christmas”.
Chloe nodded. “I can’t wait to see what the new year holds,” she smiled up at Ben as he bent down to kiss her.
“Neither can I, sweetheart, neither can I”.