~ The Christmas Family Story ~
by Little Bear

Disclaimer: A couple of my characters have a strong resemblance to characters from TV shows. Bette belongs to The L Word which belongs to Showtime, Viacom and Ilene Chaiken and Gabrielle belongs to Xena: Warrior Princess, which belongs to MCA/Universal Renaissance Pictures. I just borrowed them for this little fanfic work. I mean no harm and no copyright infringement was intended in the writing of my story. All the rest of the characters are ALL mine. This story can not be used or reproduced without the author's expressed permission.

Author's note: I'm actually working on a sequel to "The Family Story" and this popped in my head on the drive home for the holidays. Hope you enjoy!

Feedback: Let me know what you think. You can comment or email me at ursjohn79@yahoo.com.


The ding of the oven signaled baked chocolate chip cookies ready to be devoured, but the warm inviting scent wafting through the house was the indicator for the children to rush through their baths and put on warm pajamas.

The carpet hushed his hurried steps, but somehow his Mommy, who was not even in the hallway, knew he was running in the house and reminded him to walk. Shaking his almost dry dark blonde curls, Lance walked very fast to the kitchen, wanting to beat his big sister. Because Momma said the first one finished was the one to pick the perfect cookies to leave out for Santa.

The squeal of his sister and a flash of her honey colored skin rounding the corner to the kitchen made Lance forget the "no running" rule and he pumped his four-year-old arms and legs as fast as he could. Hearing the deep tones of his Momma had him slowing down again, but grinning from ear to ear.

"Brianna Taylor Roberts! Get your butt back in this room right now!"

"But Momma," whined Brianna as she turned her back on the warm cookies cooling on the counter.

Lance collided into Brianna as she took the corner fast again, going the other way. She flew back and landed on her behind with Lance collapsed over her lower body. Before he could tell which way was up, Brianna pushed him off of her and leaned close to his face.

"I win," she whispered before whirling out of the room to put on her nightgown.

"No, you don't have your pj's on. I win," he complained as he hustled to his feet.

Spinning back to her little brother, she sing-songed, "I am the winner, you are the loser," and began to skip out of the kitchen.

"Brianna," called Gabrielle as she turned away from the cookies, hearing the tail-end of the tease.

Bette walked into the kitchen carrying the nightgown to cover her panty-clad child, only to see her youngest lunge for his sister, knocking her to the floor. He screeched at the top of his lungs that he was the winner and tried to pin the wild child to the floor.

Bette's deep brown eyes met her wife's across the counter pleading for patience and sanity with these two. Lifting one eyebrow, she deadpanned, "And you want another one?"

Gabrielle's giggles made Bette's night and reinvigorated her flagging reserve of energy. With one long bronze arm she reached in to grab Lance, while Gabrielle caught the tossed nightgown and pulled their girl up.

Each parent took a child, explained the no running, no hitting, no teasing rules for the 267th time and attempted to calm the over-energized pair down.

&&&

Lance leaned on the counter and stared at each and every cookie, taking in all the imperfections; immediately discarding any cookie that wasn't round enough, didn't have enough chocolate chips and ones that weren't the perfect brown color. This was an important job, Santa worked so hard and he had to have the perfect cookies as a treat.

"How many again Momma?" mumbled Lance as he continued to stare at the cookies.

"Three. Right, Momma?" Brianna responded now clad in her favorite nightgown and helping Gabrielle to pour Santa some milk in a clear glass.

"That's right Baby," Bette answered absently as she searched for the Santa cookie plate.

Of course the plate was on the highest shelf in the farthest cabinet, thought Bette. Setting the plate down beside her methodical son, she placed a kiss on the dark curly head of her oldest and wrapped her arms around the blonde woman.

Gabrielle twisted slightly in her grasp to whisper softly in Bette's ear. "He is so your son. It's taking him 10 minutes to pick 3 cookies. If it was Brianna, we'd already have each eaten three cookies."

Laughing softly in the clean smelling locks she nodded, acknowledging her son's behavior as her own. She kissed her wife behind her ear and tightened her hold as she looked to see that there was only one more cookie that needed to be chosen.

"Want some help Lancey?" Brianna leaned near her brother with her glass of milk, waiting for him to finish. "I did the cookies last time, right Momma?"

"Yes you did."

"And Santa brought a bunch of gifts last time. I got a bike and you got that big Spiderman Lancey. Right, Momma?"

No longer looking at the cookies, but at his big sister with his big round brown eyes, Lance looked into her knowing gaze.

"Uh huh," affirmed Bette.

"She's good," whispered Gabrielle.

"Wonder where she gets that from? You get only one guess," snickered Bette.

"Hey, I'm not that bad!" exclaimed Gabrielle rotating fully in the snug embrace.

"Oh, yes you are. She's manipulating that poor boy into getting what she wants."

Wrapping her arms around Bette's waist, bringing them flush against each other, Gabrielle leaned back a bit to gaze into those beautiful soft brown eyes. "I manipulate you?"

Lost in the verdant gaze, Bette could only run her hands into the thick strawberry blonde locks and bring her mate closer. Before their lips could touch Gabrielle stopped her and looked questioningly at Bette.

"Huh?"

"I asked you a question."

Closing her eyes from the too tempting visage, the dark curly haired woman tried to recall the question. "Oh yeah. You don't manipulate, you just help me remember what I really want, which happens to be what you want."

"Good answer Dr. Roberts." Gabrielle leaned into the warm body that she knew almost better than her own and touched the soft lips that called to her. Immediately, Bette opened for her and they were the only people on earth.

"Right Momma?" called a voice, bringing the couple back to an inhabited globe.

"Mm hmm," mumbled Bette as she pulled away slowly from the nice soft warm space. She placed another kiss on the moist lips and pulled Gabrielle into a hug. "I love you."

&&&

"Why aren't you naked and in bed, waiting for your early Christmas gift?" called Gabrielle from the bathroom.

Eyes big and round, reminiscent of her son, Bette thought, how does she know that?

Dressed in her robe and nothing else, she leaned against the bathroom doorway, watching Gabrielle wash her face and moisturize, she said, "Because I don't trust our girl. She's going to sneak into the living room one last time."

"You think?" asked Gabrielle, their eyes meeting in the mirror.

"I know. She still looked a little shifty while I was reading the last story." Cocking her head towards the bedroom door, she beckoned Gabrielle near and shushed her. "Listen."

Sure enough a door opened and soft footsteps could be heard. Then another door opened and silence, until more footsteps could be heard leading to the front of the house.

"Seems like she was able to get her brother up too. Let's go make sure they don't get into too much trouble."

$$$

"There's no presents," whispered Lance to his accomplice who sat beside him.

They sat cross-legged on the floor in front of the 6 foot Christmas tree. The blinking lights, ornaments, tinsel and flashing angel on top mesmerized the pair for a couple of minutes.

"And the milk and cookies are still there," whimpered the boy.

Wrapping her arm around his shoulder, she pulled him close and tried to reason with him. "Maybe he didn't come yet."

"But why Bree? 'Cause we naughty?"

"No." Her brow contracting, thinking hard, trying to remember everything her mom told her about Santa. "Oh yeah! Remember Lancey? Momma said we have to be sleep and then Santa comes. I never went to sleep, so he didn't come."

He looked into eyes like Mommy's and believed her.

"'Cause Momma's always right. She knows everything," she further explained. The girl tugged her brother up and pushed him back into bed and returned quietly to her room, never seeing her parents in the shadows.

"Well damn, Gabrielle, I can't believe she said that."

"What? Are you surprised? That girl believes you hung the moon and put the stars in the sky for her delight alone."

"I know she loves me, but?wow." Going to the side table she quickly consumed one cookie and sipped at the still cool milk, while Gabrielle pulled presents out of the closet. "Now I'm going to have to take that lump of coal out of her stocking."

Gabrielle muffled her laughter.

&&&

12 Years later

"She doesn't know everything, she just think she does," stated Brianna unequivocally and flopped back on her bed.

Lance slouched into the bean bag chair listening to his sister rant again about their mother. That's all she'd been doing for the last 3 days since she'd been home for the holidays from her first semester at college.

"But she may be able to help Bree," pleaded Lance.

"She's just going to tell me what to do, instead of listening to me. She never listens."

Using the heels of his shoes, he scooted closer to his older sister, laying his head beside her leg on the edge of the bed. "Tell me. I'll listen."

&&&

"I'm telling you, she hates me," sighed Bette, as she beat her pillow into a comfortable shape. Shifting in bed again found her facing her wife of 19 years. The years had been extremely kind to both of them, but especially to her ethereal wife. The golden hair was more blonde than red today with some strands of silver weaved through and the laugh lines were a testament to a good life.

Consciously not rolling her eyes at her dramatic partner, Gabrielle reached for her before she could restlessly alter her position again. Bette placed her dark head on the blonde's chest and wrapped her arms around the still slim waist. Her eyes fluttered closed as Gabrielle raked her fingers through the short dark curls.

"She doesn't hate you Honey."

"But I heard her talking to Lance and she said she couldn't talk to me, that I wouldn't understand and I don't listen."

"She's a teenager Bette. She doesn't think anyone over the age of 25 understands anything."

"But what could be wrong? She's so upset." Immediately raising her head to stare at the steady gaze that met hers, Bette blurted, "Oh my God, please tell me she's still into girls this semester. Please tell me that she's not pregnant."

Gabrielle used all her will to keep a straight face, but Bette was not making it easy. Her brown eyes were wide and searching back and forth and her mouth was open in shock, almost as if expecting a baby to pop into the room at any minute. She knew she had to take Bette's concerns seriously, but she had an idea about what was bothering Brianna.

Zeroing in on her wife's green?amused eyes, Bette sputtered, "Are you amused? Our daughter?our 18 year old daughter could be pregnant and you find this funny?"

She wrenched out of her lover's arms and ran both hands through her short dark locks, trying to order the chaos. This was not something she was prepared for, a pregnant teen. Brianna can't take care of herself, let alone another human being. What would they do?

"Honey? I'm not amused, I'm sorry. I'm pretty sure she's not pregnant and I think she's seeing a girl?a woman at school." The soft, calming voice and massaging hands soothed Bette back into the comfort of Gabrielle's body. She stroked Bette's back to calm her wife. As the tension left her body, her body fell deeper into her body. The familiar weight soothed them both.

"Why can't she talk to me? We never talk anymore, it's like she doesn't trust me."

Any humor she found in the situation was now absent as she heard the melancholy tones. Pressing a kiss to the head under her chin, she tried to reassure Bette. "She trusts you and she loves you. It's just hard for Brianna to see that what she's feeling and what she wants is not only unique to her, but other people can and do feel and think like her."

"You sound like you know what's wrong with her," said the surprised voice, as she popped her head up and stared accusingly at her wife.

Not wanting to stop herself, so she didn't, Gabrielle took advantage of the pouting lips and took them in a prolonged kiss. Bette responded after a few flustered seconds to deepen the pleasurable sparks that ignited between them. Before she couldn't stop, Gabrielle slowed the pace, bringing the inferno to a couple of well-placed blazes.

Foreheads rested against each other, while each brought their breathing under control. Bette's eyes blinked open and she placed a kiss on the sweet mouth again. Snuggling into the warmth, she wrapped her arms around Gabrielle.

"I'm not sure exactly what's wrong with Brianna, but I have an idea. And before you ask, I don't want to guess and tell you. Talk to her Honey. She still looks up to you and does listen to you, even when she pretends not to," soothed Gabrielle.

Gabrielle maneuvered them both so that they looked eye to eye. "But you have to promise and be open to what she has to tell you. Do not rush to offer advice or to judge. Ok?"

"Aww, hell," capitulated Bette, seeing the no-nonsense expression. "I promise to try."

&&&

It was still dark outside and quiet inside. The warmth on her left side and the comforting weight that pinned them both to the bed wasn't working its usual magic. She used only her fingertips to softly stroke the naked back and reign in her careening thoughts.

"I must be losing it," mumbled the blonde limpet. She stretched and then cuddled closer to Bette, kissing the bare chest on which she rested.

"Hmmm Baby," asked Bette as she pulled Gabrielle tighter into her embrace. Distractedly placing a kiss on her head, Bette continued to try to unravel the problem with their oldest. How much trouble could the kid be in? She'd only been on campus for one semester. Even with her penchant for mischief, she couldn't have got into too much trouble. Yet. Gabrielle was pretty sure she wasn't pregnant, so could it be drugs? A crazy girlfriend? Failing?

"I said I must be losing it. Usually after a night like last night, you stay asleep at least until sunrise."

The deep laugh shook Gabrielle. "Baby you haven't lost a thing. Any more and I'd be walking funny today and the kids would make fun of me."

"Nah, not my boy Lance, he still pretends that his parents never have sex."

Remembering the countless times the kids caught them stealing away for intimate moments, only to be discovered by one of their offspring, Bette chuckled. She schooled her features into her son's shocked and embarrassed countenance upon finding them entwined.

Gabrielle flopped onto her back, sucking in air as she tried to breathe through the rush of laughter. "You look just like him. Stop!"

Bette leaned over her, exaggerating the expression and tickling the blonde; finally relenting once Gabrielle laughter turned into gasps. She leaned on her side, facing the tickled woman, smoothing the blonde wisps from her forehead.

"Well, that's better than Brianna knows looks, which is better than her histrionics when she was younger, hysterical because we embarrassed her."

"God, that child is too much. We thought she didn't want us to kiss in front of her friends because of the gay thing and she bluntly told us, no it was embarrassing to watch her moms swap spit."

Rolling her eyes at the remembered words, Bette leaned down to do exactly what grossed out her oldest. Her dark springy curls brushed against Gabrielle's soft cheeks. Pulling at the end of one supple curl, she watched it bounce back as Bette drew back.

"And Banner doesn't react at all. She's happy that we're happy."

Resting her head in her left hand, she took in the rumpled beauty of her love. "So you're happy?"

"Unimaginably," she breathed and snuggled closer to her darker partner.

"You know, that describes them well. Banner is our easy-going one, Lance is our shy, quiet, sensitive one, and Brianna is our drama queen."

"Yeah," she yawned. With her eyes closed and lips pressed close to Bette's throat, she continued, "Even though we both know we shouldn't label the rug rats, you are right. They're so different."

"Yeah." Twisting slightly, she brought her wife even closer.

"Honey?"

"Hmm?"

"Go see your daughter."

"What?"

"You are really bothered and not going to be able to sleep. Go talk to her."

"You just want me out of bed."

"Well yes Honey, but only because you can't stay still once you're awake and I'm definitely going back to sleep." Opening one eye, she spied the lower lip poking out. She leaned up and kissed the desolate lip and shoved her mate out of bed.

"Go take her running."

Bette pushed her pillow into the hands that were reaching for it and brushed the hair back from the pillow. "Merry Christmas Eve Love."

"Eve you too," murmured the covers.

&&&

The luxury coupe streaked down 45 South, overtaking other vehicles, determined to outrun the silence that filled the car and the semi-darkness outside. The long fingers coiled around the espresso shift knob to move to a higher gear, maneuvering smoothly into the space in the left lane. The clear road ahead was a launch pad for the amethyst pearl-colored SC 830.

Bette bulleted down the road, letting the car soar, hoping it could pace her thoughts. A quick glance to her right showed her daughter pouting and looking out the darkly tinted windows.

Counting to ten before she spoke, Bette said, "It was his reward for winning the science fair."

Not even deigning to turn to her mother, she replied, "I got into college. What did I get?"

"Well, let's see. A new laptop, an education you're not paying for, a generous allowance, a new wardrobe because you pleaded that you couldn't possibly wear high school clothes to college, a-"

"Ok, ok, I get it. But you said no one could drive your car when you got it."

"He won the state science fair, junior division. As a reward all he asked for was to drive the coupe for 30 minutes on the freeway."

"I thought you said our accomplishments are reward enough and we should feel pleased and proud of ourselves for what we do, but not to look outside ourselves for those rewards." She turned away from the window and pinned her mother with her green eyes.

Glancing from the road and downshifting, she returned the gaze and was caught by the look thrown her way. She groaned inwardly because she recognized the smirk that settled on those familiar lips. The brazen attitude seeping from those caramel pores couldn't irk her because it was so reminiscent of herself in years past. This little shit is me, she thought derisively.

But she was also uniquely her own person. The long curly hair that she loved to wear free for most of her young life was cut short. The curls were still present, but since her hair was shorn so close to her scalp, they feathered around her head. The dark hair color was also a thing of the past; in its place was a white blonde hue that made her a striking beauty because it highlighted her honey complexion. This brash, impulsive kid had become an unknown to her mother.

"Plus you said you would never let me drive it even though I've had my license for two years."

"How fast do you think you're brother drove it?"

Without thinking she replied, "The speed limit."

"Yes, and how fast would you have driven it if I allowed you behind the wheel?"

Running her eyes over the leather-trimmed interior, the race car steering column, and cockpit controls, she asked, "Do you have racing pedals?"

"Mmm hmm."

"What's the top speed?" Brianna lovingly touched the gear shift.

"220."

"I would have went 200."

Exactly, thought Bette. Maybe she is not such an unknown after all.

"And that my dear is why you will never get behind this wheel." Brown met green and they exploded in laughter at the truth of Brianna's nature and Bette's statement.

The mirth made the green eyes sparkle. She settled in her seat facing her mother. "So am I in trouble?"

Looking quickly from the road, she shot a suspicious look at her daughter and asked, "Why? Have you done something you'd like to share?"

Immediately Brianna tensed, wanting to share, but scared of the reaction to her news, she nodded her head no. In the next second, her eyes were flashing again. "The last time you and I went to Galveston by ourselves we had the 'talk'."

"Ugh, don't remind me."

"You were so funny. I thought you were going to pass out when I asked you about girls, instead of boys. You would think it would have been easier for you." Laughing out loud at her mother's attempt to talk about the birds and the birds, when she was prepared to talk about the birds and the bees.

"It's not my fault. I was prepared to give you the speech I had as a kid, not the one I should have gotten. Your mom didn't warn me, even though she knew." Their eyes met and the giggling began again.

&&&

"Come on. Let's sit here and watch the sun come up. It's almost in the sky," Bette suggested once they were on the sand.

Wrapping her long arms around her flexed legs, she mimicked her mother's position in the sand. The sun illuminated another day, finding the two leaning against each other, sharing body heat.

"You know I love you right?"

"Yes, Momma."

"You could never do anything to make me stop loving you."

"But I could do something and you could be disappointed in me."

She wrapped her sweater encased arm around her daughter's narrow shoulders, bringing the wiry frame even closer to her. "That's true. But when you were in that fight in middle school and were suspended for 3 days, what happened?"

"You were really mad because I shouldn't have fought and you were disappointed in me because I didn't think of another way of reacting. I was grounded for a month."

"What about when I caught you and that boy in the pool house? Or when you failed math and had to take it again in summer school?"

"You were disappointed in me because you said I knew better and I wasn't thinking about the consequences of my behavior."

"But did I ever stop loving you?"

"No." Brianna placed her head on her Momma's shoulder.

"And why do you think I was disappointed?"

Wet green eyes met steady brown ones, willing her to understand. "Because you expect too much. I'm not as smart as Lance or as good as Banner. I don't want to keep disappointing you."

She pressed a kiss into the surprisingly soft white-blonde curls and squeezed her baby tighter. "I want the best for you. We may not always agree what the best is, but it does not mean that I expect you to be like Lance or Banner. I love you for you. You are my first-born. Your love of life and all it has to offer is refreshing. Your need to experience life to its fullest is a wonder to see."

She raised those troubled eyes to her own, determined to make her understand. "In certain situations you may do something that I may not agree with, but that does not mean that I am ever disappointed in you as a person. Because I really do like the woman you are and can't wait to see how you continue to grow into adulthood."

Turning, Bette brought both arms up to surround Brianna with the comfort she sought. "Tell me."

Head on her mother's chest and words muffled by the wind, she bared herself. "I don't want to go back to school."

She closed her eyes and brought the image of her love promising her to be patient and open. When that didn't work, deep breaths and counting to 10 was her next actions.

"It's not for me Momma. I tried. I swear to you I did, but I don't come alive unless I'm in my one art class or working in the university studios."

More silence greeted her words, but the hold still stayed strong. "Please say something."

"What would you like to do instead?" There, that was patient and open.

"Uh, I'm not really sure. But it has to be something with art." Pulling back a fraction, she came alive, trying to get her mother to understand. "Momma, I'm good. I mean really good when I paint and draw. And I'm getting better with sculpting. We had an art project and I was the only freshman asked to participate in the gallery show at the end of the semester. Even Aunt Chase said I was talented."

And Aunt Chase will pay, thought Bette, while trying to take in everything. "Let's walk a bit."

"What do you think your final grades will be?"

"One C, two Bs and an A."

"I'm guessing the A is in Art," she paused at the head nod. "The two Bs are in English and History and the lone C in College Algebra?" Bette guessed the widened eyes and open mouth meant she guessed correctly. Not surprising because it reflected Brianna's effort in high school.

"That's a good job for your first semester in college Brianna. That's a 3.0 GPA."

"Really?" she asked, seeking reassurance.

"Yes honey."

"Guess I don't suck as much as I thought I did. But it still feels like I'm wasting my time in those other classes. I won't need them."

"I'm not going to even lecture you on how untrue that last statement is." Taking the long fingers into her grasp, Bette swung their entwined hands. "Have you thought about an internship? Or a study abroad program that will allow you to intensely study those art techniques you love? You are a good artist, but you will need additional training."

"Uh?no, but can't I go abroad or do an internship without school?"

Smirking at her daughter she asked, "And how will you support yourself?"

"Uh, I'm guessing you will be the wrong answer?"

Only a laugh and another swing of their joined arms was her answer. "Let's talk to Mom about this. You have a lot of options Brianna and if and only if, we have looked at all of your options and decide that college is not what you need, then you can leave."

"Really Momma?"

"Yes really."

The exuberant shout and jump in the air scared the birds.

She ran back to her mother and hugged her tight. "Race you back to the car. First one there gets to drive home." With a quick kiss, she was off.

There's something to say for dedication to running everyday, experience as a college athlete, and fear that her oldest daughter would drive her true baby, the coupe. Bette couldn't wait to get home and tell Gabrielle that she beat her 18 year old daughter in a race.

&&&

"I'm proud of you Baby."

"I know. I was amazed I beat her back to the car too. I thought my heart was going to beat out of my chest though, but it was worth it."

Chiding Bette from the bathroom as she finished her nightly ritual, Gabrielle responded, "I'm talking about listening to Brianna. Really hearing what she wants to do with her life."

Bette tied her robe closed and stepped behind her wife at the counter. She removed the long locks from the back of her wife's neck and took a quick nibble. "I learned from you. I still believe that she can do what she loves and continue with school, but I am open to other options."

Taking another nibble, she scooted back to lean her long frame along the bathroom door, enjoying watching her wife.

"Why aren't you naked and in bed?" asked the blonde, staring at her wife through the mirror.

"Because I know you want some chocolate chip cookies before you sample my chocolate," Bette answered cheekily, her smile glowing.

"But Baby, I love your milk and cookies."

"My milk and cookies, huh?" Taking the brush from her wife's hand, she turned Gabrielle around and leaned her back on the counter. The gentleness ended there.

The kiss was demanding.

Gabrielle pushed back, relentless in her exploration of Bette. The nip at her lip precipitated the low growl and open robe. The pleasant surprise of a naked Bette made her nearly lose what was left of her self-control.

"Tell me now if you want the milk and cookies," whispered Bette before she bit down on the lobe in her hot mouth. Suckling it inside to take the sting out of the bite, she stepped back allowing some air to come in between them. Kissing along her jaw, Bette claimed that sweet mouth slowly.

Speaking into the open mouth, she said, "You want those damn cookies, don't you?"

One final peck and a shove were her wife's explicit wishes. "Baby those cookies are still warm, but will cool soon. But you will be hot and ready all night."

The last words she heard was a disgruntled, "I knew you didn't want my damn milk and cookies."

&&&

All three sprawled on the couch. Brianna and Lance staked out their space in the corners of the couch, while Banner sat cross-legged in the middle. Her reddish-blonde hair was golden due to the blinking white lights of the 6 ft. tall Christmas tree displayed in front of them. Her round mocha eyes continued to perch relentlessly on all the presents under the tree.

"I'm telling you, no box size fits the new cell phone I want," lamented Banner.

"And there's no box big enough for the new game system I begged for," whined Lance. Unlike his older sister who chopped her hair off, he was growing his hair out. His dark blonde waves reached below his ears and flopped into his eyes. Taller than Gabrielle, but still unable to look eye to eye with Bette, his lanky frame stretched out even more on the couch.

"Who did you ask?"

"Mom," they replied in unison, turning their deep brown eyes on their sister.

"What have I taught you guys? For electronics always go to Momma. She loves gadgets and will usually give in and buy something new."

"But she hates spending money on stuff she describes as 'frivolous'," complained Lance. Agreeing completely with her brother, Banner nodded vigorously.

"You don't get it. She doesn't see electronics as frivolous. She's into new technology. But Mom'll buy you books. Like real hardback books, instead of the discs."

They all snickered at their mom's propensity for non-electronic reading material. Banner scooted down to lay next to Brianna.

Brianna captured her little sister in a loose hold and they all stared at the blinking lights, ornaments, tinsel and flashing angel.

"What did you get them for Christmas?" asked Banner.

"I found pictures of all of us separately and drew us together, like in a family portrait and used oils to paint it. That's for Mom. And for Momma I sculpted two women embracing. They happen to look like our parents."

"That's nice Bree."

"Thanks. So what did you two get them for Christmas?" questioned Brianna, gaze still captured by the tree.

"Nana and Papa helped us. They wanted to send them on a vacation, so Banner and I got to choose where and some of the things they could do while they're there."

"Cool. Where are they going?"

"To Hawaii. They've never been back since their honeymoon, so Banner and I thought it would be special for them to go back."

"Yeah and we had Nana sign them up for a spa package and scuba diving and?what's the thing called where they ride in the water Lancey?" asked Banner.

"Don't call me that," he reminded his little sister again. "And they get to ride Sea-Doos."

Banner and Brianna looked at each other and turned to their brother immediately. "Lancey, Lancey, Lancey," they chanted.

Telling them to stop only made them sing his dreaded nickname, so he did what any self-respecting brother would do, he start kicking them at the other end of the couch. That only made Brianna pull at his feet and hold them down, while Banner launched herself at him and proceed to jump on his stomach. His groan only made her jump off and then get a running start as she pounced on him again, as Brianna continued to hold him down.

Once she felt her brother properly tortured, Brianna pulled Banner away from the boy. But she wasn't finished. "Wanna know what Lancey's girlfriend calls him?"

"And if you say it, I'll tell Momma about the boy you like," he threatened.

"Hold on one minute. You have a girlfriend that calls you special names?" she pointed accusingly at her brother. "And you like a special boy?" she questioned her 11 year old sister with a raised brow.

Her siblings both blushed under her appraisal, but Banner was the first to break. She told her sister about the cute boy that was in her class at school. And how he sat across from her on the school bus and walked her to the door every day for a week before winter break.

Lance broke after Brianna threatened to tell his girlfriend about some of his more embarrassing nicknames. But she wished she didn't know that a girl called her nerdy little brother such a saccharine name.

Noticing that Banner's lids were drooping and even her brother was dropping fast, she rounded their little group up to go back to bed.

"But what about my cell phone? You think I'm going to get it?" sleepily asked Banner as she was led to her room.

"I'm sure Santa Momma has it hidden somewhere," answered Brianna.

"But how can you be sure," asked Banner doubtfully, near her room.

"Yeah," added Lance leaning against the wall.

"Because Momma knows everything and she's usually right. She's not going to disappoint you." With a kiss to her little sister's forehead and a swat on her behind, she sent her in her room.

Lance stopped at his door and turned that trusting gaze on his big sister and asked, "Really, sis?"

"Yes, really Brother." She pushed the hair from his head and kissed his forehead and pushed him in his room. "But you have to go to sleep because Santa doesn't deliver the good gifts until after we fall asleep," teased Brianna.

Brianna returned quietly to her room, never seeing her parents in the shadows.

&&&

"I can't believe she still believes in me like that." The cookies and milk were gone and now they were pulling hidden presents from unused suitcases and from behind boxes on the top shelf of the hall closet. There was the new cell phone, the new video game system, and high quality oil paints and paper among other things their children would enjoy.

"Honey, you're still her hero. That's why what you think means so much to her."

When the last gift was placed just so under the blinking tree, Bette wrapped Gabrielle in her arms and said, "We raised three really beautiful human beings and I will always be proud that they call me mom."

"So no coal in the stockings this year," jested Gabrielle.

"Well," taunted Bette, "you may get coal for teasing me earlier." Bette placed a quick, hard kiss on Gabrielle and then walked away towards their bedroom.

She tossed over her shoulder, "You may redeem yourself by showing me that you prefer my milk and cookies," and she sashayed into their bedroom.

"Yes Santa," replied Gabrielle as she hurried to go unwrap her present.




Little Bear's Scrolls
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