O’Connor Residence
November 23, Thursday 8:30pm

Evie, Sam and Rachel sat around the living room enjoying their coffee and pie.

“I still cannot believe we got our butts kicked earlier by Mrs. O and Elwood, Sam. We never lose.”

Evie smiled and buffed her nails on her shirt.

“I know but Munch seems to be a bottomless pit of useless trivia knowledge,”
Sam added.

“Do you want some more coffee, girls? Or something else to eat?”

“Good grief, no, Mrs. O. If I eat another bite I’ll explode. Dinner was incredible.”

“No kidding.”

“Thank you, girls. I just wish Casey and Olivia were here. I hope nothing bad happened to their friends.”

“I’m sure they would have called if it was something bad.”

There was a knock at the door.

“I’ll get it. Stay.” Rachel pointed at Evie who sat back. She walked to the door and looked through the peephole. “Speak of the devil....” Rachel opened the door.

“Hi. Sorry, I’m late.” Liv made her way into the room and leaned over the back of the couch. She kissed Evie’s cheek. “I’m sorry, Evie. It couldn’t be helped.” She looked around. “Hey, where’s Case?”

“Hungry, Liv?” Evie asked, answering Benson’s question with her own. She stood and headed for the kitchen.

“Starving. I haven’t eaten anything since this morning.”

“Let me fix you a plate and the girls here can fill you in.” She winked at Rachel and Sam.

“Thanks a lot, Mrs. O.”

“What’s going on?” Liv looked around the room for something amiss. “Where is Casey? Munch? Alex?” She sat on the edge of the couch cushion and waited for answers.

“Well about that....”

Sam interrupted. “Let’s start with the easy one first. Munch is at the precinct. He took some plates to your friends Fin and Captain Cragen.”

Olivia smacked her forehead in self outrage. “Dammit. I forgot. I’m glad he remembered. Those guys were stuck catching all day.”

“Well, if they eat everything Mrs. O sent, they won’t have to eat for a week.”

“Okay, so where’s Casey and Alex?”

“How come you didn’t ask about your friend Abbie too?”

“Because, smartass, I know where she is. That’s who called me earlier. There was an incident at the parade and they got separated. I figured Alex would have come here. She knew she was due here for dinner.” She looked pointedly at Rachel. “Where is Casey?”

Just then there was another knock at the door.

“Saved by the bell... errr... knock.” She waved her hand at Benson. “I’ll be right back.”

“Speak of the devil, part two.” Rachel said after looking through the peephole. She opened the door and let Casey in.

“Hi guys. Hi honey.” She smiled at Liv. She placed her hands on Liv’s shoulders, leaned down over the back of the couch and kissed the top of Liv’s head.

“Where’s your coat, Case? Where have you been?” Olivia asked.

“My coat is next door. I stopped there for a second.” She gave Liv a puzzled look. “Hey, waitaminute. If you are here, who is that hot brunette on the couch that I was just making out with in our apartment?” She sighed. “Man, what a kisser.”

“Her nose isn’t the only thing that is gonna be broken. I’ll kill her.” Olivia stood up and moved past Casey.

Casey grabbed her elbow. “Relax there, Benson. I was only kidding.” She pulled her in for a kiss. “I flipped the light on when I saw movement on the couch and I saw it was Abbie. She looks like a freight train hit her.”

“What?!?” Both Sam and Rachel replied at the same time.

Just then Evie appeared from the kitchen. “Casey dear, you finally made it.”

“Happy Thanksgiving Evie. I’m so sorry I missed your dinner. It couldn’t be helped.” She gave Mrs. O’Connor a hug.

“There seems to be a lot of that going around today.” She nodded her head at Olivia. “How about I fix you up a plate? I was just heating something up for your worse half over there.” She smiled.

“Hey.” Olivia objected.

“G’wan and catch up with the girls. I’ll be out with the food in a few minutes, okay?” She wandered back to the kitchen.

Rachel watched the kitchen door swing shut. “About that broken nose....”

“I was getting to that,” Liv answered.

“I can’t believe Alex hit her that hard. Who knew blondie had it in her?” Casey laughed.

“She hit her?” Rachel and Sam exclaimed at the same time. They looked at each other and grinned.

“You know?” Liv fished.

“I was with Alex. I got called right after you took off this morning. I am going to assume Abbie called you, yes?” Casey responded.

“She and Alex got into a, ummm... scuffle and got separated.”

Casey snorted at the word scuffle.

“Will someone tell us what happened, please?” Sam pleaded.

Olivia handed off the answer to Casey with a gesture. “Go ahead. I think you know more than I do.”

“I can only tell you what Alex told me.” She made her way to the couch and sat down. She took a breath and then bit her lip as she thought of the best way to start. “They were at the parade and someone dressed like Santa groped Alex. Abbie grabbed him to subdue him so they could get a Uni. He broke free and grabbed Alex’s purse and took off. She chased him down. When she got him she kicked him....”


“Good for her.”

“Yes, ow.” Casey pointed at Rachel. “Bad for her.” She pointed at Sam.

Casey continued. “The Santa she actually caught up with was an undercover cop who had snatched the purse back from the running perp.”

“Oh boy.”


Olivia closed her eyes and rubbed the back of her neck. “Alex assaulted a policeman?”


“Oh no.” She looked pleadingly at Casey. “Tell me they didn’t press charges?”
She winced, waiting for the answer.

“Casey Novak for the defense, your honor.” Casey raised her right hand.

“Oh sonovabitch....” Liv began to pace. “They arrested her; no wonder I couldn’t get her on her cell. Where is she now?” She stopped. “She isn’t still in lockup, is she?”

Casey stood up and joined Liv. “I’m not that rusty on the other side of the lawyer fence.” She smiled. “I got the charges dropped.”

“Sorry, I didn’t mean it that way.” Liv apologized and gave Casey’s hand a squeeze.

“Uh, about the broken nose....” Sam waved her hand at Liv to get her to explain more.

“Apparently when Abbie grabbed him, just before he broke free, Alex took a swing at him. He ducked under it and Abbie took the brunt of the punch.”


“Yeah. Her eyes are blackened and because of the swelling, her vision is messed up. So I brought her home with me. I figure she could stay in the guest room until she can see clearer.” She looked at Casey who nodded. “I left her sleeping on the couch. She’s wiped.”

“Well, Alex has a jammed finger which is now splinted. It should make her very popular with other New York drivers.” Casey snarked and held up her hand showing which finger. “She didn’t break anything which is really surprising considering how hard-headed Abbie is.” Casey smirked. “I took Alex to the ER after court to check it out. That’s why I was so late getting back here. Thank goodness for shiny little badges.” She shrugged, semi-apologetically.

“Which ER?”


“We were at St. Vincent’s.” Olivia shook her head in disgust. “Casey, do you know who the officer was that Alex assaulted?” Her eyes softened. “Maybe I can get one of the guys to pay him a visit to smooth stuff over.”

“His name was Jackson and I think he’s out of the one-two but I’ll check the file and let you know for sure. Thank you. Alex is feeling bad enough. She doesn’t need to add embarrassment too.” Casey shrugged. “I think that is why she wanted to go home instead of facing everyone here. I don’t know what she is planning on saying to Abbie.”

Just then Evie popped out of the kitchen with two plates in her hands. She set them on the table. “C’mon girls.” Casey and Olivia made their way to the dining table.

“This looks and smells wonderful, Evie. Thank you." She turned to Casey. "I dunno Case. If I was her I think I would make the sign of the cross and back away slowly. Abbie reminds me of that cartoon coyote.” Liv offered.

“Wile E. Carmichael.” They both said at the same time.



Benson-Novak Residence
Parking Garage
December 22, Friday 7am

“Okay, Santa Liv, check your list one more time.” She pulled the list from her pocket. “One: Luggage. Check. Two: Presents for Stablers.” She looked over the brightly wrapped parcels and double-checked all the tags. “Check.” Olivia took a pen out of her pocket. “Three: Take the booty to the Stabler tribe. Next stop Queens.” She crossed off the items and slammed the rear closed.

She reached into her pocket for her keys and her hand came into contact with her cell phone which immediately started to vibrate. She looked at the ID. “Hey Tex,” She answered. “Merry Christmas.”

“Hi Yankee. Merry Christmas to you too. Whatcha doing?”

“I’m just about to head over to the Stablers to drop off some presents. You?”

Abbie ignored the question. “Queens, right?”



Liv pulled the phone away from her ear and looked at it, bewildered. “Wha...?”

“I gotta go, call me the second you get done and get back in the car, okay? Okay. Bye.”

Stabler Residence
December 22, Friday 9:30am

Olivia stopped by her car door and gave Elliot a hug. “Merry Christmas El, and please thank Kathy again for those delicious cookies. Casey is going to love them... if I share them.”

“How do you know I didn’t bake them?”

“They don’t have O-R-E-O stamped on them.” Olivia laughed at the mock pout on his face.

“That’s okay, manly men barbeque.” He waved her off. “They don’t bake.”

“Hey, barbeque cookies. You might have something there, partner.” She slugged his shoulder and got into the car. She immediately rolled down the window.

“Get out of here.” Elliot patted the roof. “Drive carefully. Don’t stop for any hitchhiking reindeers and don't sleigh sloshed.” He grinned.

“Gotcha, Dad.”

“Have a great time Liv and let us know how the trip went, okay?”

“You bet. See you next week. Merry Christmas,” Olivia yelled back as she drove away.

Olivia stopped at the red light. She pulled the list back out of her coat pocket. “Four: mail Abbie’s present. Abbie!” Olivia fished her phone out and hit recall.

“It’s about time you called back.”

“Yeah, yeah. So what was so important?”

“You still in Queens?”

“Yeah, I’m just about to head out, why?”

“Swing by the JFK. I have a present waiting for you.”

“Ab-bie!” Olivia said with a bit of a whine.

“Right on the first guess.”

“Waitaminute. You’re at the airport?”

“Well, we may have broken our tradition of Christmas dinner last year since it was your first year with Casey but I figured the three of us could celebrate at least one day this weekend. No?” She was met with silence. “Liv? Do you have plans?”

Olivia thought for a moment. “I’ll be by to get you in a few. I’ll explain then.”

Somewhere on the New York Thruway, going north
December 22, Friday 11am

Abbie bounced up and down in her seat, excitedly. “C’mon Benson, are we there yet?”

Olivia looked over, with raised eyebrow, at the grinning attorney. “You're doing this just to drive me nuts, aren’t you?”

“Uh huh. I have to take my fun where I can get it.”

“Oh, you’re gonna get it all right.”

Abbie leaned over and put her head on Liv’s shoulder. “You love me and you know it.”

Olivia pushed her back to her side of the seat. “Yeah, yeah... it’s the only thing keeping you alive right now.” She laughed.

“Are you sure Casey isn’t going to mind me tagging along? I don’t want to put you in the doghouse.”

“She’ll be fine with it. We ended up booking a two-bedroom suite because it was the only thing they had left. So it’s not like the three of us will be sleeping in the same bed.” She looked over at Abbie’s mock lecherous grin. “Don’t even think about saying it.” She waved a finger in warning.

Abbie laughed. “Nope, not saying a word.” Abbie made the gesture of locking her lips and throwing away the key. Her silence lasted about ten seconds. “Nice wheels, by the way. An SUV for the SVU.”

Liv chuckled. “Thanks. I know - when we went to the dealership, I kept calling it an SVU. The salesman didn’t have a clue.” She paused. “Casey thought we should get something a little more grown-up. So we both got rid our vehicles and bought this one.”

“Your Mustang was plenty grown-up.” She grinned. “Vroom, vroom.”

“Spoken like a twelve year old.”

“What was she driving?”

“A ten speed.”

“A ten speed what?”



Olivia began to laugh. “She used to ride to the courthouse on her bike.”

“You’re kidding?”


“But you gave up your ‘Stang and all she gave up was a bike.”

“Both bikes actually.”

“What was the other one, a trike with a bell and basket?”

“No, a Harley.”

Abbie’s mouth dropped open and no sound came out. Olivia leaned over and closed it.

“Whoa.” She finally uttered, impressed.

“Yup.” Liv kept stealing glances at Abbie who was still processing that information. She shook her head. “That reminds me.” Olivia pulled her phone out and dialed Casey. She frowned when it went to voicemail. “Hey Case. We have company for the weekend, so all that running around naked will have to wait for another time.” She chuckled.

“No it doesn’t,” Abbie leaned over and spoke into the phone. “Naked is good. Nekkid is better.” She waggled her eyebrows at Benson.

Olivia playfully shoved Abbie back to her side of the car. “Call me back when you get the message. See you in a few hours.” She gave Abbie a look.

“Oh please, like that look works on me anymore. Drive.” She made a shooing motion with her hand. She waited a few moments. “So, are we there yet?”

Olivia turned the radio on... loud. Abbie just laughed.

A few minutes later Abbie reached over and shut the radio off. “So what’s it like - this Hunter Mountain area?”

“Casey and I come up here as often as we can. It’s a really nice resort area for both summer and winter. Lots of shops and restaurants. That’s why I left before Casey. I want to get some shopping time in. They have a handcrafted jewelry shop up there that has the most unique pieces in it.”

“Whipped.” Abbie said with a smirk.

“You should be so lucky.” Olivia stuck her tongue out at Abbie.

“Oooh, I think I am getting sick.” She threw the back of her hand up to her forehead.

“Just you wait.”

“You know something I don’t know, Benson?” Abbie looked over.

“No, but you know Casey and I will help you any way we can. Happy couples want EVERYONE to be happy.”

Abbie nodded once and turned her attention back to the passing scenery.

“To get back to your question, Abigail....” This got her a glare from the attorney. “The lodge we are staying at, the Snowbyrd Den, is extraordinary. It has a huge fireplace in the central room and smaller fireplaces in each suite. They have a spa, exercise equipment and jacuzzis both indoors and out. Dozens of different runs - from beginner to expert, downhill to cross country.” She turned to Abbie for a second. “You do ski, right?”

“Phft. I’m from Texas.” Abbie dismissively waved her hand.

“Water skiing in the Gulf is not the same.”

“Oh.” She frowned and then brightened. “Putting roller skates on and grabbing a passing truck’s bumper?”

Liv thought for a moment. “Skitching?” She mentally shrugged. “At least you are used to falling on your ass.”

“Funny... not!”

“Well there are plenty of beginner slopes for you to start out on and I’m sure you will be able to find a lovely young ski bunny to give you lessons or to just keep you company around the fire.” She smiled.

Abbie smirked. “With my luck lately, the ski bunny would have fangs and be rabid and come after me like a bacc... vampire.”

Liv looked over incredulously at Abbie. “You watched Xena last light didn’t you?”

“Umm, maybe.”

Casey Novak’s Office
December 22, Friday 12pm

Casey finished putting the last file in her briefcase when she heard her office door open. She looked up to see a blonde head poke in.

“Knock knock, you ready?”

“Just about. The arraignment this morning took longer than I thought. Judge Ebenezer Petrovsky was presiding.” They both chuckled. “I appreciate you driving us up there. You sure you don’t mind stopping at the apartment before we hit the road? I just need to double-check. I’m sure Liv forgot something.”

Alex smiled. “It’s fine. I appreciate the company. When I kept hearing about the weekend you had planned with Liv, I thought about the old Cabot lodge. I haven’t been there since my Mother died. The rest of the family doesn’t use it much anymore. We can’t seem to coordinate schedules, especially this year. I was just going to hang out at home. But I figured why not get some rest, relaxation and a change of scenery? I could use the downtime. Plus I haven’t skied in ages." Then she added, "It’s been a strange couple of months.”

“Good strange or bad strange.”

Alex thought for a second, then shrugged with a half grin. "I'm not really sure."

Benson-Novak Residence
December 22, Friday 12:45pm

Casey keyed the lock and pushed open the door. “C’mon in, Alex; this will only take a second. I just wanted to make sure that Liv grabbed all the stuff she was supposed to take up.”

Alex walked in and looked around the festively decorated apartment. “It looks great in here Casey. Very Christmassy.”

“Thanks. I love Christmas and poor Liv, she just gets swept up in the Novak holiday tidal wave.” She looked beneath the tree. “Ah, good. Liv must have taken the gifts for the Stablers to Queens today. They’re gone.” She moved the branches of the tree a bit and rooted around underneath. She pulled out a brightly wrapped box. Gotta take this one. It’s Alex’s. I knew Liv would forget it, she didn’t know Alex was my ride up. She thought to herself and she put it in her bag. Hmmm, good. Abbie’s present is gone too. She must have taken it to be Fedex-ed.

Casey walked back over to Alex and took one last look around the apartment. “I think we’re set.”

“Let’s hit the road then.” She turned to the door and then stopped abruptly. “Do you mind if we stop at my place first?”

Casey nodded no. “Of course not.”

“I figure we can raid the wine collection. I’ll donate some holiday cheer to your weekend.”

Upstate New York, Rt 23A
Just outside Hunter Mountain Resort
December 22, Friday 4:15pm

“It’s been a really nice trip up here, Alex. Thank you again for driving.” She looked out the window. “I hope Liv had a good trip up. I wonder why she didn’t call when she got there?” Casey took her phone out of her bag. She waved it at Alex. “Guess it would help if I turned it on. I turned it off while I was in court.”

“Been there and done that.” Alex agreed.

Casey turned her phone on and it immediately chirped to indicate messages.
“Guess she did call.” Casey grinned and retrieved her messages. Alex watched Casey’s smile fade and she was sure somewhere inside Casey was stomping her feet.

Alex whispered, “What happened?”

Casey sighed. “The people staying in our suite decided to use the fireplace for something other than snuggling. Somehow or another some embers set fire to the rug which set off the sprinklers. The room is a disaster. They have no other rooms.” She blew out a breath, disgustedly. “We were lucky we got that reservation. The area is booked solid for the holiday.”

Alex put her hand on Casey’s arm. “I have a solution. You can stay in the lodge with me. It’s just a couple of miles outside the resort area. Still close enough to enjoy the resort.”

“I can’t impose like that.”

“You aren’t. The place is huge. I have already called the caretaker to get it ready and stock it with basic groceries. Please Casey, this way you don’t have to give up your holiday.”

“Big house, huh? I don’t want us to be under your feet. This is your weekend too.”

“It has four bedrooms, two have their own fireplaces, a huge living room and there is a hot tub out on the deck. You’d have to make a real effort to get under my feet. You know you want to....” Alex cajoled.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes. It will be fun. I think we even have some Christmas decorations still in the basement up there. You can let the Novak holiday tidal wave go free. It will be nice to see the place decorated again. I miss it.”

“How could I pass up an offer like that?”

Alex signaled and pulled into a gas station. “I am going to stop for gas now; that way I don’t have to worry about getting gas on the way home.” She got out of the car and then she leaned back in. “Call Liv and tell her of the change of plans.”

Casey dialed Olivia’s number. It rang once and Liv answered.

“Hey Case. Did you get my message?”

“I had my phone off. What’s up? Did you get everything done on the list?”

“Everything but mailing Abbie’s present.”

“Well, we can do that on Tuesday. She’ll just get it a little late.”

“Not exactly.”


“Abbie’s here in New York.”


“We are on Rt 23A looking for a convenience store.” Liv put the phone up to her shoulder to muffle the receiver. She pointed to a place off the highway. “Pull in there; you should be able to get your Ring Dings, ding dong.”

Abbie saluted and signaled. She pulled up on the far side of the store.

“Liv? We? Is Abbie with you?”

“Yeah, she came into town to celebrate the holiday. Surprise. I knew we had booked the two bedroom suite so....” Liv was interrupted by Abbie.

“I’ll be back in a sec, Yankee.” Abbie got out of the car and closed the door. She wandered backwards down the sidewalk to the front door. Abbie was playfully blowing kisses and waving at Liv.

“Casey? It’s not a problem, is it? We have the room. I honestly didn’t think you would mind.”

“No Liv, I don’t mind. Abbie is always welcome. But we don’t exactly have the suite anymore. There was a fire at the inn. That’s what I was calling to tell you. Our plans changed. Liv, the place we will be staying at is the Cabot lodge. Alex graciously offered her family’s home for us.”

“Oh.” A pause then a panicked, “OH!”

“She said the lodge had four bedrooms, so sleeping arrangements are not the problem. I just don’t know how to spring this on her.”

Just then Casey looked up to see an exiting Alex, who was looking down putting her credit card away, colliding with the entering tall Texan. She opened the car door and ran for the store.

“Hey! Watch it!” Alex screamed as she fell to the ground from the collision.

Liv heard the scream and bolted from the car. She and Casey made it to the scene at the same time.

“ALLIE!” Abbie cried out the second she recognized the blonde and went to help her stand up only to have her hands batted away once Alex was standing again.

“I should have known.” Alex snapped. “And don’t call me Allie.”

The Detective and the ADA looked at each other. “Case, I don’t think you need to tell her after all.”

Cabot Lodge
Upstate New York
December 22, Friday 6:30pm

“Just get the stuff on the list, okay?” Casey insisted as she practically pushed Liv out the door.

“What about some ice cream?” Liv asked, “And do you mind if I at least put my coat on?” Olivia set the list on the table by the door and grabbed her coat off the rack. She threw her scarf around her collar.

“Fine, get whatever else you want but make sure you get the items on the list.” Casey blew out an annoyed breath. “Otherwise your Christmas dinner is going to be crackers and soup.”

“Okay, okay. C’mon Abs, lets go attack the stores.” She grabbed her keys.

“Hey Allie?” Abbie called over while she put her coat on. “Can I drive the Benz?”

Alex looked behind her. “You can’t be talking to me. My name is not Allie.” She glared. “And absolutely not. You cannot drive my car. Don’t even breathe on my car.”

“You want me to be seen in a... a... pseudo-truck with Butchy McFabulous here?” She waved her thumb at Liv. “It’ll kill my reputation as a sophisticated, charming woman-about-town.”

“If you refer to me as Butchy MacFabulous again, I’ll kill more than your reputation.” She grabbed Abbie by the shoulders and shoved her to the door. “Let’s go, Slick.”

Alex put her head out the door and yelled after them. “And get a Christmas tree.” She closed the door and turned to a grinning Casey. “Okay, the decorations and things are in the cellar. That’s down here.” She unbolted a door that Casey assumed was a closet door. It was just slightly behind the front door. Alex jiggled the knob to pull the door open. “It’s loose. I’ll have to get someone to fix that. She hit the light switch on the light wall and started down the stairs. “Coming?”

“Right behind you, boss.” Casey replied cheerfully. Her tone changed when she saw the condition of the basement. There were webs and dust everywhere. “I guess no one has been down here for awhile, huh?”

“I didn’t think I would be either or I would have asked the mice to tidy up after themselves.” Alex replied drolly.


“Field mice. We are on a mountain surrounded by trees. It happens.”

Casey looked around the cellar. Her eyes darted everywhere searching for movement. “This place reminds me of those slasher movies. Except we aren’t in our underwear.”


“Y’know, the kids in the movies are always making out on the couch, they hear a noise and end up wandering in a creepy attic in their underwear only to meet their doom. So we have a creepy cellar but no underwear.”

“T-M-I, Casey.” Alex laughed.

“You know what I meant.” They grinned at each other.


Abbie opened the front door and yelled back outside. “Keep your shirt on - I’m getting it.” She looked around and spied the list on the hall table. She grabbed it and shoved it in her pocket. A horn honked. “Geez, she’s the one that forgot it.” Abbie slammed the door and the draft slammed the cellar door as well. The knob fell off.


Twin frowns temporarily replaced the smiles when they heard the door slam shut.

“Draft.” Alex said reasonably. “I think the holiday decorations are in those trunks over there.” Alex pointed and they moved to the far end of the basement.

Casey worriedly looked once over her shoulder to the staircase and then followed Alex. Casey took her time exploring the other items while Alex rooted through the trunks. There were all kinds of sports equipment, furniture, bikes and book shelves.

“There are some really nice antiques here, Alex.” She moved a cover off of a rocking horse. “How cute. Was this yours?”

“Yes. My first pony.” She smiled wistfully. “I got him for one Christmas.”

“Alex?” Casey turned serious. “I apologize for the intrusion. If you would like me to take the trouble twins back to Manhattan, say the word. I’ll find a reason and you can have your peace and quiet.”

“No, no Casey. It will be nice having Christmas here again. I had some of my happiest holidays here.” She took a breath. “We didn’t come here much after my Father died. He was the skier. Then when Mother died, there really wasn’t any reason to come up here and celebrate like a family. So now we just grab an odd weekend or week here and there.” Her eyes softened. “I am really looking forward to this weekend. Honestly.” She looked at a pile of boxes. “I think what we are looking for is in the trunk on the bottom. Give me a hand, please?”

Casey helped her lift the other boxes aside and Alex popped the latches on the trunk. She lifted the lid.

“Oh my... it’s beautiful. Casey lifted a porcelain angel out of the trunk. “Was this your tree topper?”

“Yes. Most of the ornaments are glass. There are a couple in there that my brother and I made in school. Popsicle sticks and yarn mostly. We would sneak them onto the tree after the grown-ups got done decorating for real. They would ignore them, of course.”

“That’s nice. One year, when I was a kid, I decided we needed to go all natural at the house. I convinced my brothers to help me string popcorn and gumdrops and we hung candy canes and bubblegum.”

“That sounds really nice.”

“It was until we saw the lovely trail of pilfering ants the next morning.” Casey laughed. “After that we stuck to non-edible.”

Alex pulled out some light strands. “We may need to untangle these. Hopefully they will work.” She set the lights aside. “Oh look, we have tinsel too.” She looked up at Casey. “I think we are good to go here for a tree anyway. Hopefully, they will remember to actually get a tree.”

“I’m sure they will. Now how big and what kind is anyone’s guess. I’m going to go out on a limb here....” Casey joined Alex in groaning at that unintentional pun. “Sorry.” She shrugged. “Anyway, I’ll bet that Abbie goes for the biggest tree she can find and my Liv looks for a Charlie Brown tree.”

“You are probably right. I’d expect nothing less from Liv or Abbie.”

“Speaking of which....” Casey looked expectantly at Alex. “What about you and Abbie?” Alex opened her mouth to speak but Casey held up a hand. “Let me guess - yes, no, maybe, I don’t know.” Her tone was light.

“What was the question again?”

“You... Abbie?”

Alex closed the lid on the trunk, she wiped some dust off and sat down. She clasped her hands nervously in her lap. “I would like to try with Abbie but I’m afraid.”

“Of getting hurt? Alex, I don’t think Abbie will intentionally hurt you. The woman adores you.” Casey put her hand on Alex’s shoulder.

Alex looked up. “No, not me. Her.” She paused. “She seems to have lots of accidents while around me. If we got together she would probably implode.”

“If you keep teasing her, she will spontaneously combust.”

“I’m not.” She looked at Casey who just stared back. “Not intentionally. I just want to go slow. I want us to be real friends first. That’s why I am glad you and Liv are around.”

“I see and here I thought you liked the scintillating conversation we bring to every social gathering.”

“That too.” Alex deadpanned. “But you know what I am really glad to have you here for?”

Casey shook her head.

“You get to help me carry all this stuff upstairs.” She stood and slapped Casey on the shoulder. “If you will go open the door again, we can start bringing all this stuff up.”

Casey made her way up the stairs while Alex picked up a few smaller boxes.

“Uh, Alex?” Casey shook the door. “The door won’t open.” Casey twisted and pulled on the knob. “Whoa. The knob won’t even turn.” She walked back down a few steps. “Looks like we are stuck here until the twins get back.”

Alex, who was making her way back to the staircase, stopped. “Well, I guess we can go through some more boxes. Maybe we can find some other decorations. Wreaths, garland, candles, that kind of stuff.”

“Sure. At least we have ligh....” Just then the bulb flickered and sputtered and went out.

“You had to say it.” Alex accused mirthfully.


“Just stay where you are though. There is a lot of boxes and stuff. I don’t want you to trip.” Alex felt around as she started to continue to make her way to the stairs. “Ow!”

“You okay?”

“Yes. I just stubbed my toe. Too bad we didn’t find any candles before the lights went out.” Frustration evident in her voice.

Casey sat down on the steps. “They’ll be back soon and we’ll end up laughing about all this.”

“I’m sure.” Alex replied reassuringly.

“Umm, Alex? Did you just put your hand on my thigh?”

“Casey, I’m still about ten feet away from the stairs.”

“AAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!” they both yelled simultaneously.

Hunter Mountain Resort
December 22, Friday 7pm

Olivia hit the alarm lock on the SUV keychain and it beeped. She and Abbie began crossing the parking lot to the mall entrance.

“Tell me again, why we are at this mall instead of the grocery store?”

“Because thanks to you getting us lost this afternoon we didn’t get a chance to go shopping like I intended. I need to pick up something else for Casey. And if I make my guess right, you need to pick up something for Alex, yes?”

“You think you are so smart.” She looked at Liv who stood with her arms crossed and a smug look on her face. “Yeah, I planned on shopping in Manhattan. Then when you invited me up here, I figured my best bet was to pick Casey’s brain for an idea.”

“What’s wrong with my brain?” Liv held open the door so Abbie could enter the mall.

“What brain?”

“Just for that you’re on your own.” Olivia mock pouted.

“You don’t have a clue either, do you?”

“Nope. Casey picked out Alex’s gifts.” Olivia pointed to the right and motioned Abbie to walk in that direction.

“What did she get?”

“A bracelet that Casey was sure Alex just had to have and some tickets.”

“Tickets? Who?”

“No, not the Who. To Chicago. A concert.”

“You are sending her to Chicago? Why?”

“She likes Chicago.”

“But you are sending her all the way to Chicago to attend a concert?”

Liv scratched her head. “We are sending her and a guest to a concert at Madison Square Garden.”

“Benson, the Garden isn’t in Chicago.”

“I know that, ding dong. But Chicago will be in Madison Square Garden in January.”

“Oh. OH!” Realization dawned.

“Yeah, Casey got tickets for us as well. It’s part of my birthday present.”

“How old you going to be anyway? Eighty?” Abbie snarked.

“Watch it, ya whippersnapper or I’ll beat you with my cane.” She waved her invisible cane at Abbie. Both broke out in laughter.

They continued on in silence for a few shops. Liv kept shaking her head as they walked past the windows.

“What else did you get Casey?”

“Some clothing, some CDs, some toys.” Then she mumbled, “Anewfryingpan.”


“Get your mind out of the gutter. She collects movie toys. I got her some of the latest Star Wars toys.”

“I collect toys too.”

“Whoosh, right back to that gutter, I see.”

“No, I do models. I like working with my hands.” Abbie said matter-of-factly.

“I don’t care who you date AND I just bet you do.”

“Nice of you to join me in the gutter, Benson. No, I do car models and stuff. I have since I was a kid.”

“Wow. I don’t really have the patience for that. How come I never knew that about you?”

“I don’t know. I guess I really don’t share that information much.” She shrugged. “I also like to....” her voice trailed off.


“Nevermind. I am not giving you that kind of ammunition.”

“O-kay.” Liv looked puzzled, but let the issue drop.

They continued their circuit of the mall.

“Oh, look. A pet store. Buy me a Christmas bunny?” Abbie hopped a couple of times and stopped at the first window which had rabbits and guinea pigs in it.

Liv laughed at her antics. “You get bunnies for Easter.”

“What do you get for Christmas?”

“Reindeers.” Liv deadpanned.

“I don’t think my lease covers those. Nevermind.” She walked to the second window.

They stopped and looked at the puppy in the window.

“He... she... it’s so cute. It looks like a walking black pompom.”

“I am pretty sure your lease doesn’t cover that either.” She turned Abbie away from the window. “C’mon Slick, there’s a boot shop, if I remember correctly, right up here. It’s more your style.”

“Okay, okay, no need to handle the merchandise.” Abbie shrugged off Liv’s hands. They continued walking. “So do you have any idea what I can get for Alex?”

“Not a clue.” She grinned at the attorney. “We are pathetic. Let’s keep walking, maybe something will jump out and scream *buy me*.”

“Better than it screaming *bite me*.”


Olivia and Abbie sat in the food court nursing a couple of cups of coffee.

“Okay, we have been through the mall... twice. I managed to get a locket and chain for Casey and all you managed was to pick yourself out a new pair of boots and a ski jacket. We still don’t have your Alex problem fixed.”

“I still have a few days. Maybe talking to her at the house will give me a clue.”

“It must either be late or they spiked the coffee." Liv looked in her cup. That actually makes sense.”

Abbie cuffed Liv on the shoulder. “Okay, so we are done here for the moment. We need to go do the grocery shopping and then find a tree. The superstore we passed on the way here is open twenty-four hours, so I vote we do the tree first. It’s getting late.”

Olivia drained her coffee, pushed back her chair and stood up. “Shhhh, be vwery, vwery qwiet, we are hunting Christmas spruce.”

Abbie stood as well and held out her hand for the keys. “C’mon Elmer, I’ll drive.”

Cabot Lodge
December 22, Friday 7:30pm

“You know, it’s my mother’s fault.”

“What is, Casey?”

“My Mother caught me smoking when I was thirteen and... ahem... convinced me what a horrible mistake it would be to start smoking.”

“O-kay. And this has to do with our situation, how??”

“If she would have let me smoke, I’d have a lighter or matches in my pocket and we wouldn’t be sitting....”

“Standing.” Alex interrupted.

“... and standing in the dark.”

“Well, in that case you need to thank my family.” Alex began to make her way carefully over to Casey.

“Umm, why?”

“Ow, damn.” Alex’s foot collided with a box.

“You okay?”

“Fine. I have more toes on the other foot,” Alex replied drolly. “Anyway, if my mother hadn’t married my father then they wouldn’t have had me and if they hadn’t had me... I hope those are a strand of lights wrapped around my foot.” She tried to shake them loose. “And then I wouldn’t be here and if I wasn’t here....” She finally bent down and unwrapped her foot. She pushed the strand aside. “...you’d be sitting in the dark... alone.” She paused. “Well, except for maybe a mouse or two.”


Alex laughed. “Keep talking. I think I am almost over to the stairs.”

“Would you like me to tell you a ghost story?”

“Not unless you want to sleep in the yard tonight.” Clunk. Alex’s foot hit the riser on the bottom of the staircase. She began to slowly climb up the stairs on her hands and knees. She felt around to see where Casey was sitting. She finally made contact.

“Alex? You touch me there again and you’ll have to marry me,” Casey snarked and pulled Alex’s arm in, forcing Alex to sit next to her.

Alex playfully bumped her shoulder. “Okay, but you’re having the kids. This body was not meant for childbirth.” They both chuckled.

“How long do you think we have been down here?”

“I don’t know. But I hope they get back soon. I’m thinking I’m going to regret having that last soda.”

Casey pushed her body up a couple of stairs. “Higher ground.”

“Very funny, Novak.”

Spruce-It-Up Tree Farm
December 22, Friday 9pm

“Okay, let me get this straight. You want sixty dollars for any tree we pick out. Plus we have to cut it down ourselves. AND you want another fifty for the use of an axe to do that with?”


“That’s highway robbery.”

“That’s supply and demand. You want a tree, I have the trees. It’s only a couple of days before Christmas. How bad do you want the tree?”

Liv turned to Abbie and they walked a couple of feet away from the vendor.

“Oh and cash only.” He called over to them with a big phony smile on his face.

“How much cash do you have on you?” Liv whispered to Abbie.

Abbie rooted through her pockets. “I have about fifty. I didn’t think I would need cash. I always just use my credit cards.”

Olivia did the same. Her wallet produced another twenty. “Okay, we have enough for the tree.” She looked over her shoulder at the vendor, glared and turned back to Abbie. “But not the axe.”

“So how do you propose, genius, that we get the tree out of the ground?”

Liv looked all around hoping for inspiration. She rubbed the back of her neck nervously. She snapped her fingers. Her eyes turned to Abbie. She handed her the twenty. “Pay the man for a tree. I’ll be right back. I have to get something out of the car.”

“Liv? Liv?” Abbie called out after her.

“Just pay the man, Abs. I’ll be right back.” Liv yelled back without looking. She continued walking to her car.

“Here’s your sixty bucks.” Abbie handed over the money.

“So, how are you ladies planning on getting the tree out of the ground without the axe?”

“Nevermind.” Liv spat out as she returned. “You have your money. Now I am going to get my tree. C’mon, Abbie.”

Abbie gave one last look to the vendor and followed Liv. Silently they looked at a few dozen trees before they could agree on the one they wanted.

“I do like this one Liv. Now what?”

Olivia kneeled down and pulled the bottom few branches off the tree. She tossed them aside. She looked at the size of the trunk. It was about eight inches around. She pulled a few more branches off. Satisfied that a good portion of the trunk was now exposed, she wiped her hands on her pants and stood back up.

“You going to cut it down with your laser glare?” Abbie joked.

Olivia looked over her shoulder to make sure no one else was nearby. She unzipped her jacket and pulled her gun out.

“Whoa, Benson.” Abbie held up her hands in surrender. “I didn’t mean it.”

“Thank you, but this isn’t for you.” Liv walked a few paces away. She crouched down again and took aim at the trunk. She fired. The sound echoed but she took aim again. It took five shots and the tree fell over.

Liv, stood back up and put her gun back in the holster, then zipped her jacket back up. About the same time the vendor made his presence known.

“What? How?”


“You can’t shoot off a gun up here!”

“Gun? What gun?”

“I’m calling the police.” He turned away.

“What can I do for you?” When he turned back, Liv flashed her badge at him. “You do know that price gouging is illegal, right?”

He looked at Abbie. “I’m an attorney. Would you like me to quote the statutes?”

He looked back at Olivia. “But the gun...?”

“What gun?” She turned to her friend. “Did you hear any gunshots?”

“It’s hard to tell. Could have been a car backfiring. Sound echoes up here.”

He looked at both women. “Five times?” He tried to look past Abbie to see the tree.

Abbie stepped in his way and stared back at him. She smirked and a twinkled entered her eyes. “You know most guns hold six shots.” Liv just nodded her agreement.

The vendor gulped. “Car backfires, I guess that’s what I heard.” He half turned as he walked away,looking nervously at them. The women unrelentingly stared at him. Olivia moved to put her hands in her pockets. His eyes widened in panic. “Ummm, enjoy your tree.” He took off in a run.

Cabot Lodge
December 22, Friday 10:30pm

Liv grabbed the inside lever to pop the rear hatch. She and Abbie got out of the car and each grabbed a couple of shopping bags from the back. Olivia swung one of the bags at Abbie and hit her.

“I cannot believe you got us tossed out of the grocery store.”

“It wasn’t my fault.”

“Ab-bie, you started a fight over a box of Twinkies.”

“It wasn’t Twinkies. It was Ring Dings.” She argued back. “I didn’t get my fix this afternoon since we got sidetracked meeting up with Alex.” She stopped and glared at Liv. “It wasn’t a fight either. I just convinced that other shopper to give up the last box.”

“You stole it out of her cart when she wasn’t looking and then took off in a run to the registers.”

“Wasn’t my fault she couldn’t keep up. I’m faster and cuter.” She smirked at Olivia.

“The woman was eighty if she was a day.”

“Nah, she wasn’t a day over seventy.” She answered playfully. “And boy what an arm. She nailed me with that snowball in the parking lot.” She shivered just thinking about that cold slush.

The Detective shook her head. “You.” She juggled the bags so she could point a finger at her companion. “Are incorrigible.”

“I prefer to think of it as charming.”

“You would.” Olivia raised her hand to knock and thought she’d try the knob first. A puzzled look crossed her face and she shared it with Abbie. “The door isn’t locked.”

Olivia handed her bags to Abbie and carefully opened the door. “Casey? Alex?”

“Down here,” came twin muffled twin voices.


“The basement.” Casey answered.

“The door is jammed; we couldn’t open it.” Alex added.

Abbie put all the bags on the floor. “I think I found the problem.” She picked up the knob. “It must have come loose.”

“Well,” Liv looked over the door frame, “we can’t take the door off the hinges they are on the other side.”

“Let’s just try placing the knob back, maybe we can get it to turn.”
Abbie did just that and between the two of them they managed to jiggle it enough to open the door a crack.

Olivia reached her hand into the opening and grabbed the door by the frame. She pushed it the rest of the way open. The light from the living room shined down into the dark stairway. Looking up were the attorneys.

“Why are you sitting in the dark?”

“We wanted some alone time to make out and the couch seemed so clichéd,” Casey snarked. She stood up only to be moved aside by Alex who jumped to her feet.

“The bulb burned out.” Alex hurriedly pushed past them both. “Out of the way.”

Liv looked at Abbie and then Casey.

“Big Gulp came back to haunt her.” Casey shrugged. “What took you guys so long?” Olivia and Abbie exchanged nervous glances. “I don’t want to know, do I?”

“Probably not.” Abbie agreed. She slapped Olivia on the back. “Let’s go get the rest of the stuff and the magnificent tree I picked out.”

“You? You picked out?” She glowered at Abbie. “We picked out. And I felled it.”

“Felled? Did you just use the word---felled? How very woodsy of you.” She stuck her tongue out at Liv. “Well, I paid for it.”

“I paid for part of it.”

“Yeah, the bottom three branches.”

They continued to bicker and argue the entire time they were making trips in and out with the groceries. Casey just shook her head.


Alex returned just as they went out to bring in the tree. Casey was in the kitchen putting the groceries away. “Where are they?”

“Getting the tree.”

Alex walked to the front door just as the two reached it. “Why don’t you stand it up right there?” She pointed. “Lean it on the house and we’ll get the living room all prepared for it. Then you can bring it in.”

“Good idea.” Olivia clapped her hands together and rubbed them briskly. “I need to thaw out.” She glanced around the room. “Where are all the decorations and things?”

“Still in the basement.”

“Need help bringing them up? Abbie here was made to carry heavy things.”


Olivia snickered. “Oh right, no light. Got a flashlight handy?”


“A candle?”




“Then I figure we can do a couple of things. We can expose Abster here to masses doses of radiation until she glows like a nightlight.”


“That would take too long.” Casey said reasonably.

Abbie just looked between the two of them.

“We can set Abbie on fire and use her like a torch.”

“NO!” Alex replied immediately. Which cause Abbie to smile. Then Alex added, “We have no matches.”


“Okay. Then I guess we use my last resort idea.” She looked deadpan at each of the women. Then she raised her eyebrow in challenge to Abbie. “I’ll go get the flashlight out of the car.”

“You... you....” Abbie shook her finger at Olivia. “Oooh, I hate you.”

Olivia just blew Abbie a kiss, then grabbed her jacket and keys. She laughed all the way out the door.



“Check. Boxes standing ready.”

“Tree stand?”

“Standing by. Awaiting its tree.”

“Okay, Abbie and I will lift the tree into the stand. Case, can you tighten up the bolts on the stand? Alex will you stand back a few feet and make sure we are holding the tree up straight?”

“Ready Abbie?” She waited for the nod. “On three. One... two....”

“Do you mean on three or right after three?” Abbie interrupted.

“Three.” Liv lifted the tree. “Ooof.”

For a few seconds she was the only one lifting, then Abbie joined in. Casey positioned the trunk into the stand and began tightening down the bolts to hold it in place.

“Liv lean it a little to your right,” Alex directed. “That’s it. Perfect.”

“All done.” Casey stood and threw her arms out in a flourish. “Nicely done.”

They all took a few steps back and admired the tree.

Abbie nudged Olivia. “We did good.” They smiled at each other.

“Liv, honey? Can I ask you a question?” Casey leaned into Olivia and put her arm around Liv’s waist.

“Sure. You can ask me anything.” She rested their heads together.

“Why does this tree have a bullet hole in it?”


Cabot Lodge
December 23, Saturday 8:30am

Olivia made her way into the kitchen, her nose following the scent of freshly brewed coffee. She stopped and leaned on the door jamb. Sitting at the breakfast counter was Alex and Casey. Both had part of the newspaper in front of them and a coffee cup. Liv looked at the part of the paper that was showing. She snorted silently. Casey has the sports page and Alex has business. Go figure.

She stifled a laugh when she watched them both turn pages in some sort of a synchronized display. The paper turned, they refolded and flipped it out and they resumed their reading. When they both reached for their cups at the same time, Liv lost it.

The papers dropped down and both women stared at the laughing detective. Then they both turned to each other and mirrored a shrug. Olivia stopped, pointed and then started laughing again. She bent over her hands on her knees to catch her breath.

“Good morning to you too.” Casey uttered.

Olivia stood and walked over to the attorneys. She leaned in and kissed Casey then turned to Alex. Alex put her head on her hand and stared. She puckered, playfully, and shut her eyes. Olivia looked at Casey and then swiftly kissed Alex on the top of her blonde head.

“Chicken.” She mocked.

“Chicken’s girlfriend in right here.” Casey answered dryly.

Olivia looked over the counter. “What’s for breakfast?”

“There are bagels on the other counter. Help yourself.” Casey pointed to the counter.

“Or I think Abbie left her Ring Dings in the cabinet.” Alex added

Abbie came sliding into the kitchen, Risky Business style. She reached out and used the counter to stop her forward movement. The attorney put herself between the cake and the other occupants of the kitchen. “Touch those and die.” She made a gun gesture with her fingers.

“You’d kill me over a chocolate cake?” Alex asked. She lowered the paper a bit to speak to the brunette.

“You? No. You can have anything I have.” She smiled sweetly at the blonde. “But if Butch here takes one more step, I’m going to have to do something drastic.”

Olivia had quietly sidled over to the sink while Abbie’s attention was on Alex. “Will you stop calling me Butch, please?” She grabbed the sprayer off the sink and pointed it at Abbie.

“It’s not loaded, Sherlock.” Abbie snarked.

Olivia turned the water on. “Thanks for the reminder, stupid.”

“Now Bu... Buddy... you don’t want to do that.” She lifted her hands in surrender.

Olivia grinned evilly at Abbie. “Oh yes I do. You have been driving me nuts.”

“Olivia?” Alex’s authoritative lawyer voice brooked no argument. “Put the gun down.” She paused a moment. “If you get water all over my floor, even if it is a valid reason, I am going to bury you in the snow.”

Abbie smirked.

“And also your instigating... buddy.”

The smirk disappeared.

“Casey? Aren’t you going to say something?” Liv pleaded, looking over at her girlfriend.

“Sure.” She lowered the paper and looked over it. “I’ll get started on the eulogies right after I finish reading about the Ranger game last night.”


Abbie sat pouting in the back seat of the SUV while everyone else got out.

“Coming, Sundance? Or should we call you Snowpants?” Olivia laughed.

“Liv. Be nice.” Alex admonished. “It was her first time.” She patted Abbie on the knee and got out. “C’mon.” Abbie opened her door and got out as well.

Olivia stepped up close to Abbie and whispered in her ear. “Was it good for you, baby?”

Abbie turned and glared at the brunette. “It could have been better, but I'm sure you’ve heard that before,” she sniped back. “I can’t believe you took pictures.”

“Souvenirs.” She turned away and walked toward the house door. Olivia was a couple of steps behind the two attorneys.

“Souvenir this.” As Liv turned, Abbie let fly with a snowball. Unfortunately, Olivia turned, ducked and the snowball hit Casey on the shoulder.

“I am so sorry. That was meant for Butch here.”

Olivia was jumping around in front of Abbie. “Neener, neener. You couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn.”

“Oh, Olivia.” Abbie said sweetly. “I don’t think of you as a broadside of a barn... yet. But you better layoff the donuts.”

“Snowball fight!” Olivia yelled. She pointed her thumb at her girlfriend. “Casey and me against you and Alex.”

“Oh, no. I am not getting involved with this.” Alex argued back and turned to open the door.

Just then Abbie lobbed another snowball that nailed Alex in the back.

Alex took a deep breath and turned. Her eyebrow rose and she glared, evilly.
Casey looked over at the person standing at her shoulder and was sure she saw horns growing out of her head. “Oh you are in so much trouble now.” She took a step forward.

“I want Casey.” Olivia called.

“I want Casey.” Abbie called out a second behind Liv.

“I want Casey.” Alex called out as well.

“Oh what I wouldn’t give to hear *that* in different circumstances,” Casey closed her eyes and muttered to herself. When she opened her eyes again, everyone was staring at her. “What!?!”

“Who you going to side with Case?” Liv asked. “I luvuuvvvvv you,” Olivia warbled.

“We colleagues need to stick together Casey,” Alex replied.

“I can make it worth your while Casey.” Abbie offered, waggling her eyebrows.

“Just what exactly are you offering, Carmichael?” Liv asked seriously; she stood with her hands on her hips.

Abbie visibly gulped. “Ummm. I’ll share my Ring Dings?”

They all looked to Casey expectantly. “Abbie? Can I talk to you a second?” Casey asked. At Abbie’s nod, she and the attorney walked a few feet away so they could talk privately. The other two looked at each other, puzzled.

“What’s up, Case?” Abbie whispered.

“If you promise to give each of them a Ring Ding.” At Abbie’s immediate look of outrage, Casey held up her hand. “Let me finish.” Abbie nodded in agreement. “If you promise to give each of them a Ring Ding as a gesture of good sportsmanship, I will side with you.” Abbie’s eyes brightened. “AND I will give you an added bonus that you didn’t think about.”


“When we annihilate them and you know we will - let’s face it Liv can’t throw and I doubt Alex can either - anyway, I will focus on Liv and you focus on Alex.”

Abbie looked around Casey as she spoke and blew a kiss at Alex and Olivia.
Casey continued. “Once we start and they know they are outclassed, they are going to get a bit, ummm... exasperated. Liv is going to do the only thing that comes to mind - she is going to charge. Alex will follow suit. I am going to end up with a frustrated brunette all over me in the snow. Alex is not even going to think about it and you will end up with a blonde all over you.”

“Oh Casey, I like the way you think.” She leaned over and kissed her.

“Carmichael!” Olivia growled out.

Abbie ducked the snowball aimed at her head. “Let the games begin.” She kneeled down and grabbed a few handfuls of snow. “You’re going down, Butch.”

“Sorry, honey, but she’s offering chocolate.” Casey called out as she ducked behind the SUV.


Olivia, clad in a pair of red sweatpants and a Ranger’s hockey jersey, made her way back into the living room. She had a towel draped casually around her neck. “That hot shower felt great.” The detective rubbed her hair with the towel.

Casey looked over the breakfast bar at her girlfriend and smiled. Liv winked at her. “Guess it’s my turn next.” She looked toward the hallway opening. “Where’s the terror?”

“Probably using up the rest of the hot water,” Liv quipped.

“No chance at that,” Alex called over her shoulder, then turned around. She was stirring a pot. “My mother loved long baths, so father indulged her by putting in a huge capacity water heater.” She gave one final stir to the pot in her hand. “Casey if you will get out some mugs, the hot chocolate is ready.”

Casey opened the cabinet door and grabbed two mugs. She set them on the counter and turned to get two more. Alex poured the dark liquid into them, then set the almost empty pot back on the stove. Alex handed two mugs to Casey who strolled into the living room to join Olivia on the couch. Alex picked up her own mug. She brought it to her nose and inhaled the sweet scent.

“Mmmmm, it smells heavenly.”

Abbie wandered out at that moment. She sniffed herself and replied cheekily, “Yes, yes I do. Thanks for noticing.”

Alex set her mug on the counter and walked over to the brunette. She made a big show of sniffing her. “Eh.” She replied, noncommittally as she walked back over to her mug.


She peered back over her shoulder, “Oh, you smell okay, but this chocolate is exquisite.” She held out a mug for Abbie. “It’s made up of the leftovers of the GoDiva chocolate you sent me.” She waited for Abbie to take a sip. “I hope you are a leg person, because the guys ate all the other body parts.”

Abbie coughed and sputtered. Once she caught her breath, she pointedly looked at the blonde. “You are evil.”

“Thank you for noticing.” Alex replied and set her mug back on the counter. “I’m going to go grab a shower now and warm up a bit. I’ll make dinner in a little while. Casey, are you going to join me?” She blushed when she realized how that sounded. “In a shower.” She continued to stumble, “I mean use the guest shower while I use the master shower. Not join me in my shower.” The others snickered. “Oh you know what I meant.”

“Yep,” Casey handed her mug to Liv who set it on the coffee table. “I’ll be right out.” She patted Liv’s knee as she stood up. “Keep my place warm for me, ok?” As Casey passed by Abbie she looked her over. “Nice jammies. Number thirty one, huh? Interesting.” She looked down. “OOoh, love the socks.”

Abbie looked down at her apparel and wiggled her toes. “Thanks.” Abbie was dressed in a pair of dark blue flannel pants and a blue Giant’s jersey. Her socks were red with sparkle stripes.

Abbie took her mug and joined Liv in the living room. She walked around silently for awhile looking at all the family pictures on the mantle and walls. She held one up. “You think she looks like her Mother?”

Liv took a sip and swallowed. “I met her mother.” She paused for a moment and sighed heavily. “At her WPP funeral.” Olivia looked away. “She was a very nice woman and yeah, Alex does.” Olivia pointed to the switch on the brick. “Could you hit that switch please?”

Abbie put the picture back and did as the detective asked. The gas fireplace roared to life. “Nice.” She stopped in front of another picture. “This must be her brother. They look very happy.” She continued walking along perusing the shelves. “Nice collection of books, too.” Abbie walked over to the piano and sat down on the bench. She hit a few keys softly. “You play?”

“Not even Chopsticks.” Liv grinned. “Maybe you can charm Alex into playing something for you.”

“You think?” Abbie smiled wistfully.

“More often than you do,” Liv replied drolly then turned serious. “What were you thinking out there? Just because you got frustrated by Alex’s prowess hurling snowballs, you tackled her.” She frowned. “You could have hurt her you know?”

“It was....” Abbie stopped. She stood up and started speaking again, “Nah, the snow was soft and I aimed for the drift. Besides, she’s already made me pay for it. Blondie is stronger than she looks. I can’t believe she turned the tables on me so fast. She stuffed enough snow under my shirt to well, boy howdy, I understand the old saying now. No wonder witches are always in bad moods.” She grinned at Olivia.

“Who’s in a bad mood?” Alex ambled out from the hallway. She looked between the two brunettes. “I didn’t hurt you, did I?” she asked Abbie.

“Just my pride.”

“Oh, so no boo-boos to kiss then?”

“Oooh, oh, owie - the pain... the pain,” Abbie began to moan and groan humorously.

“Nice try.” Alex shook her head, disbelievingly.

“Oh and my lips... my poor lips... all chapped and stuff from the wind and the snow.” She began to make kissy sounds.

“Let me see.” Alex came over and grabbed Abbie’s jaw in one hand. She squeezed and mashed the cheeks together. She turned the jaw in one direction and then the other as she looked it over carefully. “Ooh, you are right. Those are nasty. A little kiss would not do you any good.” She patted her face lightly. “You need to rest them.”

“So Dr. Cabot,” Olivia asked sardonically, “does that mean the patient should remain quiet?”

Abbie just stood there with her arms crossed looking back and forth between the two.

“Well, she shouldn’t overuse the parts in question so yes, it is of my medical opinion that silence is advised.”

“Bless you, Dr. Cabot.” Olivia bowed teasingly.

Casey reappeared. “Oooh, Alex is playing doctor? Can I be a naughty nurse?”

Abbie snorted her last mouthful of hot chocolate. She began to cough.

Olivia slapped her on the back a few times. “You okay, Slick?” The detective suppressed the grin threatening to split her face. “Overloaded on visuals?”

Abbie tried valiantly to stop the tears in her eyes caused by the hot liquid up her nose. She nodded vigorously.

Olivia leaned in and whispered. “Those visuals better all be of Alex; otherwise I am going to have to put you in traction.”

“Ni-ice jammies yourself Casey,” Abbie managed to squeak out once she regained the ability to speak. “It looks like we covered the big four.”

Casey was wearing bright blue lounge pants and an old faded Met’s T-shirt. She looked at the others. Liv had hockey, Abbie had football and Alex had on a Celtic’s tank top and long, baggy shorts. “Aren’t you cold, Alex?”

“Nah, naturally hot-blooded.” She replied matter-of-factly. Alex didn’t hear Abbie’s new coughing fit as she moved off to the kitchen. “Who’s going to help me with dinner?”


“No mas, no mas.” Olivia held up both hands in surrender. She then pushed herself up from where she was sitting on the floor near the coffee table. Pacing over to the fireplace, she just kept shaking her head. The others just chuckled. She turned and pointed a finger at Alex. “I don’t get it. You and Abbie whipped us three times now. I can’t believe we lost... again.”

“Face it Liv, you suck at Trivial Pursuit.” Alex replied cheekily.

“What makes you so good at it?”

“In law school we have to memorize a ton of statutes, cases, details. Our brains are just trained to absorb bits of information.”

Liv turned to Casey. “You’re a lawyer,” she said in an accusatory tone.

Casey physically gulped then smiled sweetly. “Umm, I was sick that day?” She shrugged apologetically.

Abbie got off the couch and walked over to Olivia. She threw her arm around the detective’s shoulder and pulled her in for a hug. “Don’t worry, Butch. I can help you.”


“I’ll get you lots of little notebooks so you can write your case notes. That way you don’t have to try to cram anything into your pea sized brain.”

Olivia threw Abbie’s arm off and shoved her away. She stuck her tongue out at the laughing brunette, then turned to look at the fire. Alex and Casey continued to box up the game.

“How about we play cards now?” Abbie suggested. “Draw? Hold ’em? I got it - strip poker anyone?”

“I am not playing strip poker with you,” Liv answered instantly. “Not a chance.”

“What are you worried about Benson? I’ve seen it before.” Abbie immediately regretted the words. She was pretty sure she was going to be incinerated on the spot from the glare Olivia gave her. She closed her eyes and cringed. When she opened them again, she looked remorsefully at Casey. “I’m sorry, Casey; that was uncalled for.”

Casey cut her off. “It’s okay Abbie, I’ve seen it too and I’m not sorry at all.” She waggled her eyebrows suggestively. That was enough to diffuse the tension.

Abbie nodded her thanks. Olivia moved back toward Casey and held out her hand. Casey took it and Liv squeezed it and winked at her. Abbie turned to the wall and took the opportunity to peruse the bookshelves again.

“Oooh, lookie here,” the Texan drawled. She tossed a book she had pulled from the shelves at Alex and it landed with a thunk on the table. “Can we look through it?”

Alex leaned back on the couch and laughed. “I can’t believe you found this. Or that you are even interested.”

“Aw, C’mon Alex.” Casey looked at the title stamped on the book. “It’s not every day that we’d get to see the evolution of an elusive and rare baby Cabot.”

Alex whacked Casey on the shoulder with the album, then looked at the other two. Both wore identical exaggerated pouts.

“Fine. The next time we are up here, you all have to bring your baby pictures.”

“Next time? You’d have us back again?” Olivia asked.

“Sure. I’m having fun. Aren’t you?” Alex asked. All three smiling heads nodded. “Well then, is it a deal?” They nodded again.

Abbie flopped back on the couch to the right of Alex and Olivia squeezed in on the left of Casey.

Alex opened the book, then blushed and cringed.

“OHMIGOD.” Casey exclaimed. “I knew people talked about photos like that but didn’t think anyone really took those.”

“Look it’s a bare skin and a bear skin.” Abbie pointed to the picture. She grinned at Alex, “You had a dimple. Does it still look the same?” She pushed Alex forward so she could look behind her.

“Stop that.” Alex slapped Abbie’s hands away. “You’ll never know.”


Alex cocked and eyebrow. She then turned the page.

“You started skiing young, I see,” Olivia said. “Look at those tiny skis.”

“Father loved skiing. Actually, all winter activities. I think there are pictures of me ice skating in here somewhere.” Alex turned the page.

“Beautiful horse.”

“That was Willow. She was my favorite. Such a gentle soul.” Alex sighed.
“Hey, Abs, did you have a horse?”

Abbie laughed. “Horses, dogs, cats and anything that could follow me home or be dragged there.”

“Is that’s how you get your friends too? “ Liv asked sarcastically, grinning. Abbie made a funny face back. “I had a bunny.” Olivia offered.

“Let me guess - his name was Bugs?”

“No,” Olivia answered indignantly. “Her name was Beatrix.” All three looked at her. “My Mother was a professor of literature, what do you expect?”

“Alex, did you have any pets?” Casey asked.

“I wanted a dog. A big dog that I could run and play with. I think I asked for a dog for every birthday and holiday.” She stared off into space. “My mother was allergic.” She shook her head ruefully. “Then they found out that poodles were hypoallergenic since they don’t shed. So father bought me a poodle.” Alex flipped through the book until she found the picture. She pointed at it. “That’s the dog.”

Casey looked at the background of the photo. “It was a show dog?” She asked in surprise.

“Yes, what else would a Cabot have for a pet?” Alex answered with a bit of self loathing in her voice. She looked at Casey. “Once they started showing it, I never actually got to play with it... him. He was forever being taken to shows or in training. So while it was *my*...” Alex made quote marks in the air, “...dog, it really wasn’t a pet.” She shrugged. “I stopped asking after that. I did like spending time with the horses though.”

“Well, you should have known me when you were a kid,” Casey said sympathetically. “I wanted to save the world one animal at a time.” She smiled. “You would have been up to your eyes in strays. It was a zoo at my house…dogs, cats, birds, rodents…”

“It was a zoo at Abbie’s too. She was the head gorilla,” Liv snarked.

Abbie leaned forward with her hands on her knees and glanced over at Olivia. "Real funny coming from someone who cage dances," she said matter-of-factly.

Alex's and Casey's eyes widened and they turned to look each other.
"Cage dances?" they simultaneously mouthed. Then they turned in sync to look at Olivia. Liv just smiled sweetly at the two attorneys then she suddenly burst out of her seat. Casey and Alex scooted back out of the way.


“Hey watch it. Liv?”

The detective took a shortcut across the coffee table on her way to Abbie's side of the couch. She just missed grabbing her sleeve.

"Whoops!" Abbie yelled as she sprang from her seat and ran down the hallway with one annoyed cop on her tail.


Cabot Lodge
December 24, Sunday 9am

“Got the stuff all packed in the car. You guys ready?” Olivia yelled as she entered the house.

“Just a sec. I can’t find my gloves.” Alex was looking through the coat closet.

“I have an extra pair packed if you need them, Alex.” Casey said as she made her way down to the front door, adjusting her knit cap as she walked.

“Found them.” Alex ducked back out of the closet and closed the door. She moved into the room. “Where’s Trouble?”

“You rang?” Abbie answered, emerging from the kitchen. “I was just having some milk.”

“I can see that.” Alex reached up and removed the milk mustache with her thumb. “Did you get your fix?” She pointed to the cake crumbs on Abbie’s sweatshirt.

Abbie looked down and frantically wiped them off.

“It’s okay. There are worse things to be addicted to.”

“I’m not addicted. I can stop anytime I want.” She replied emphatically. “I just don’t feel the need to stop anytime soon.” Abbie turned to the detective. “Actually, I do need to stop. Liv, can I borrow the car this morning?”

“After last night you dare ask me for a favor?” Liv said sternly. “I mean really. You had to sic Alex on me?” She turned to Casey. “And where were you while they were ganging up on me? Hmmmm? They tossed me in the snow.”

Casey looked bit her lip and looked away, sheepishly. “Well, you were looking really hot, so I thought a few minutes outside would cool you off.”

Olivia arched an eyebrow at her.

“I did warm you back up again, didn’t I?” Casey asked, hopefully.

Olivia fought the grin and tried to keep a stern look. Casey blew her a kiss and Liv lost the fight. She ducked her head, shook it and smiled. She then turned her attention back to Abbie.

“Ummm, yes? Favor? So can I?” Abbie half grinned.

“I thought you were coming skiing with us?”

“I’ll catch up. I have some last minute shopping to do. It shouldn’t take long. So how about it? Can I borrow the car?”

Olivia looked to Casey for any disagreement. “Yeah, sure. Drop us at the resort and don’t forget to pick us up later. I’ll have my cell, so you’ll be able to find us if you decide you want to ski, okay?” She and Casey headed out the door. Alex followed with Abbie last.

“Great…” Abbie slapped her hands together. “Thanks, Mom.”

Hunter Mountain Resort
December 24, Sunday 1:30pm

“Hey guys.” Abbie got off the lift and skied awkwardly over to the trio. Liv grabbed her before she lost her balance. “Thanks.”

“I told you we would meet you on the other slope.”

“Don’t think I can handle it?”

“I just don’t want you to get hurt.”

“I know y’all like to ski this one. C’mon, the instructor taught me how to fall safely. I just thought my ass could use a change of scenery.” She put her hand on Liv’s arm. “I’ll be fine, really.”

Liv pursed her lips and fumed silently.

Abbie eyes twinkled impishly at the challenge there. “Last one down is a monkey’s un... aunt. OOOOOO OOOO AAHHH AAHHH.” She pushed off.

“Dammit, of all the irresponsible....” Liv took off after her. “Abbie, Stop!”

Casey and Alex stood and watched as Liv gave chase and as Abbie veered to one side. “This is not good.” She pulled her goggles down and started to ski.

Alex was right behind her. “Oh, Abbie... nooooooooooo!”

Cabot Lodge
December 24, Sunday 6pm

“Careful, don’t jostle her arm.” Alex directed as they helped Abbie into the house. She moved ahead to get the couch ready.

“If I promise not to touch her arm, can I whack her on the head?” Liv asked peeved. She was holding Abbie up by her good arm.

“Liv.” Casey admonished. “She’s injured.”

“She’s right here, y’know?” Abbie mumbled. “My ears weren’t damaged.”

“Good thing you didn’t hit that tree head first,” Casey acknowledged. She helped Liv steer Abbie around the end of the couch and sit her down.

“Good for Abbie or good for the tree?” Liv asked.

“LIV!” Alex scolded.

Olivia smiled apologetically at Alex.

Alex sat next to Abbie and put her hand on her knee. Abbie’s head was down, the fingers on her good hand were nervously picking at the stitches on the seam of the sling. The blonde gently raised her chin so she could look in the bleary brown eyes. “Can I get you something? Do you want something to drink, eat? Are you hurting? Do you want to go lie down for awhile?”

Abbie shook her head. “Not hungry. The shot he gave me is kinda washing me out. Maybe I should just go lie down.”

“Okay. Liv?” Alex gestured to the detective. Olivia helped Abbie back up to her feet. Alex continued talking to Abbie as they made their way to the attorney’s bedroom. “I’ll get some water and your pills. I’ll set them on the nightstand. They will be there when you wake up.”

Olivia gingerly set Abbie on the bed. Then she and Casey removed the tall brunette’s boots. Casey unsnapped Abbie’s jeans and Olivia helped her to stand again, so that she could step out of them. Casey was helping to pull up a pair of sweats when Alex came back into the room. She patted Abbie on the hip to indicate she was finished and Olivia helped her to sit down. They left her in the scrub top that the doctor’s put on her at the hospital. Both she and Casey moved to the foot of the bed.

“The doctor said you would probably need them for a few days. You didn’t dislocate the shoulder but you did bruise it badly.” Alex helped Abbie lie back. She moved a bit of hair off her forehead. “Abbie what were you thinking?”

“M’sorry.” Abbie whispered and closed her eyes. “I don’t mean to be this much trouble.”

“Oh, honey, it’s not the trouble. I’m just glad you didn’t hurt yourself really badly.”

Hearing Alex’s tone, Casey shot a look at Liv. She gestured with her head that they should leave.

Casey grabbed an afghan, spread it over the brunette and tucked her in. She leaned down and kissed Abbie on the cheek. “Get some rest, George?” She started humming the theme song from ‘George of the Jungle’.

Abbie nodded, “Okay.”

Casey put her hand on Alex’s shoulder as she passed to leave. They exchanged a nod. Alex nervously fussed with the afghan a bit, her eyes downcast.

Olivia leaned over and kissed Abbie’s forehead, then whispered in her ear. “Don’t you EVER scare me like that again. Understand?”

Abbie opened her eyes and looked at the concerned brown ones right in front of her. She nodded slightly.

There was a moment of awkward silence as Abbie focused in on the blonde sitting on the bed. Alex was fidgeting.

“You gonna kiss me too?” She lightheartedly asked Alex, whose eyes shot up. “I mean, if I would have known I was going to get that much action, I would have kissed a tree sooner.”

“Not funny, Abigail.” Alex replied sternly. “You scared m... us. You are not skilled enough to handle that slope. You could have been seriously hurt or killed.”

“I’m sorry. I was just feeling so good and having such a good time. I didn’t think anything bad would happen.” She closed her eyes and turned her head away from Alex. “I’m sorry I ruined everyone’s holiday.”

Alex gently turned Abbie’s head back. “You didn’t ruin anything,” Alex explained softly. “We are all still here, tomorrow is Christmas and we’ll celebrate just like we planned. Although your stunt today probably was the deciding factor as to whether or not you moved from the nice to naughty list.”
She smiled down at Abbie. “Santa might only bring you some coal.”

“With the price of heating oil these days, that might be a good thing.”

Alex chuckled. “Get some sleep.” She stood up and turned to the door.

“Ahem.” Abbie cleared her throat. “Aren’t you forgetting something?”

Alex made an effort to look around the room. “You have a blanket and the pills and water are on the nightstand. Nope, you’re good.” She turned toward the door. “We’ll check in on you in a little while.”

Abbie made kissy sounds.

Alex turned back. “Something you want?”

Abbie pursed her lips and closed her eyes.

Alex walked back over to the bed and leaned over. She pecked Abbie on the nose. “Go to sleep.”

“Aw, man....” She opened her eyes and pinned Alex with a disappointed look.

Alex looked down at herself. “Nope, not since the last time I looked.” She winked and shut off the light. “Pleasant dreams, A-bi-gail.”

“Don’t call me....” she yelled out, then quieted. “Oh who am I kidding? She can call me anything she wants.” Abbie smiled and closed her eyes to go to sleep.


Cabot Lodge
December 25, Monday 3am

Alex awoke with a start and she sat up. She looked at the bedside clock. Three am? She wasn’t sure what woke her up but it scared her enough that her heart was racing. She pressed a hand to her chest. Then she heard a noise out on her deck. She lay back quietly waiting to see if it was an overactive imagination or something else. Yes, Alex there is a Santa Claus and his reindeers are stomping on your deck. She silently chuckled. She heard it again. The thumping in her chest got louder. Okay Alex, calm down. She took a deep breath. Biting her lip, she internally debated. Wake Liv or not? It’s probably an animal. And let’s face it Alex, do we really need to see Liv and Casey in bed together? Right. Not a necessary visual. Can’t wake Abbie. Okay... I’ll go take a peek and if it’s something bad, I’ll get Liv.

Alex threw back the covers and put her feet on the floor. Quietly she made her way to the French doors. She pulled back the drapes and peeked out. Abbie?

She grabbed her robe, then thought better of it. She grabbed some sweatpants and changed out of her baggy shorts. A hoodie went over her tank top and she put on a pair of sneakers. Opening the French doors as quietly as she could, she stepped out onto the deck.

Abbie was standing by the barbeque grill, whistling. And dancing? Alex shook her head to clear it. Nope, she really was dancing. She tilted her head. Kind of. The brunette had an afghan loosely draped around her shoulders. Alex watched as she lifted the hood and moved something around and then closed it again and continued her gyrations.

“Abbie?” Alex called out gently. “Sweetie, why are you out here?”

“Hi ya, Al-lie!” Abbie turned to the voice. “It’s about time you got up.” She said cheerfully. “I thought you guys were going to sleep the day away.”

“Abbie it’s....” Alex hesitated a second. “... three.”

“I know. Guess you guys were really tired from skiing yesterday.”

“No Abbie, it’s three am.”

“What?” She tilted her head and looked at Alex. “Look at how bright it is.” The covering slipped as she pointed to the yard. “It’s daytime, silly.”

“No, Abbie.” Alex moved closer to Abbie and straightened the afghan on her. “It’s the middle of the night. It’s only bright out here because of the new moon reflecting off the snow.” She turned Abbie to face her and looked into her eyes. “And the medicine is dilating your eyes.”

“Oh.” Her shoulders slumped a bit. “I woke up and I looked at the clock, then I took two of those pain pills. Boy howdy are those nice. Pain went bye-bye in a hurry.” She leaned in close and whispered to Alex. “I’m not supposed to take those kinds of pills since codeine makes me a little loopy but I figured it would be okay just this once. I certainly am not going to be operating heavy machinery or light machinery for that matter.” Abbie continued to ramble. “Nope, no machinery around here. You won’t let me drive the car and ‘sides, I got a broken wing.” She flapped the sling. “Anyway, I wasn’t sleepy anymore after that, so I got up but nobody else was up so I thought I would get dinner started. I know turkeys take awhile.” She looked at the expression on Alex’s face. “Did I do something wrong?” she asked in a childlike voice.

“No, it’s okay. Your heart was in the right place.”

Alex laughed when Abbie put her free hand over her heart. “Right c’here.”

“Yeah. Let’s get you back inside; you must be freezing.” Alex put her hand on Abbie’s back to guide her to the doors.

“Nope, I’m good.” Abbie resisted moving.

“Well, I know I am cold.”

She started walking toward the door. “Okie dokie; I will for you.” Then she murmured softly, “Anything for you.” Abbie stopped short. “What about....” She pointed to the grill.

“I’ll take care of that in a few minutes. Let’s get you warmed up, okay?”

Abbie agreed happily, her head bobbing.

“Actually, I think we just need to get you in bed.”

“All right!” She grabbed Alex’s hand and practically dragged her to the door.

“Whoa, Tex. You are going to your bed and I am going to mine.” Alex and Abbie entered and then Alex closed the door behind them.

“You sure know how to spoil a mood.” Abbie’s lip poked out in an exaggerated pout. Then she brightened as a thought occurred to her. “Hey, will you tell me a story and tuck me in?”

“Sure.” Alex took Abbie’s good arm. “How about I tell you a story about two lawyers? One is a gorgeous brunette attorney from DC and the other is a blonde attorney from New York. The brunette attorney has been using every trick in the book to get the blonde to notice her. And though the blonde hates to admit it, the brunette is slowly growing on the blonde like a....” Alex paused, then grinned. “... fungus.”

“Oooh, would that be a good fungus or a bad fungus?” Abbie asked as they entered the brunette’s bedroom. Alex turned down the bed and helped Abbie into it. She sat on the edge.

“Good fungus.”

“Cool. Happy ending.” Abbie mind finally caught up. “You think I’m gorgeous?”

Alex just smiled broadly at her.

“Wow. I think you’re beautiful.” She said sincerely and touched Alex’s cheek with the back of her hand.

“Thank you.” Alex tucked the errant hand back under the blanket. “Now close your eyes.”

“Are you going to kiss me good night?” The question was accompanied by a huge dimpled smile.

Alex leaned in and softly kissed the corner of Abbie’s mouth. She tucked a strand of dark hair behind an ear. “Get some rest. When you wake up, Santa will have brought you presents.” Alex got up and turned to the door.

“Allie?” a quiet voice asked.


“I’m not going to remember any of this in the morning, am I?”

“Not a chance.”



Alex absently flipped through a magazine. She closed it and put it aside as she heard someone approach. The blonde glanced up at the clock. Eight thirty and the troops are finally stirring. She reached for her coffee cup and took a sip just as the detective appeared. Liv was in her jammies.

“Morning, Alex; Merry Christmas.”

“Merry Christmas, Liv.” She watched the detective yawn. “Did you sleep okay?”

“Yeah. I did get up a couple of times to check on Abbie but overall, yeah.”
Olivia’s tone became mischievous. “Did you?”

“Did I what?

“Sleep well?”

“Yes, fine, thank you.” She was puzzled by the smirk on the detective’s face. “Why?”

“Well, one of the times I got up to check on Abbie, she wasn’t sleeping in her bed.”

“Well, she wasn’t sleeping in mine.” Alex answered a little too fast.

“I know. When I found her missing, I went to wake you and when you didn’t answer I opened your door. You weren’t sleeping in your bed either.” Liv’s eyes twinkled. “So tell me, Counselor - where were you and Trouble not sleeping together?”

“Who’s not sleeping together?” Casey entered the kitchen. She was freshly showered and dressed. She moved to stand next to Olivia and put her arm around her waist. “Morning, honey.” She kissed her.

“Alex and Abbie.”

“Well, duh.”

The blonde and the brunette looked at each other and then Casey.

“Of course they aren’t sleeping together.” Casey continued while she poured herself some coffee. “Abbie is injured; it wouldn’t be worth the effort right now.” She winked at Alex. “But wait until she is healthy.” She paused. “Then again, if she’s healthy, I doubt much sleeping would be going on.”

Alex coughed around her sip of coffee. Olivia burst out laughing which only made the blonde glare.

“I’m gonna go shower and get dressed.” Olivia looked Casey up and down. “I’d ask you to join me but it appears that you have already....”

Casey grabbed her hand and pulled Liv toward the hallway. “You can never be too clean... right, Alex? Be back in a few. Maybe.”

Alex laughed as they exited.


A short time later, the couple reappeared.

Alex was still sitting in the same place. She was enjoying a second cup of coffee. She looked up over the rim. “You both squeaky clean now?
Or just squeaky?” The couple looked at her and blushed.

Casey made her way over to Alex. “Thank you for having us up here and Merry Christmas, Alex.” She leaned over Alex and hugged her neck.

Alex patted her arms. “It’s been a lot of fun. I’m glad we did this too and you are welcome here anytime.” Alex gestured to the oven. “There is French toast and bacon warming in there. I had some while I was preparing it.”

“You cooked?” Liv turned to Casey. “I didn’t hear the smoke alarm go off, did you Case? Well, unless you barbequed it.”

Alex’s eyes opened wide in surprise. She looked quickly out the glass doors to the deck. Then sighed. She tried to cover herself by joking back. “Just for that Benson, there is cereal in the cabinet. No French toast for you.” Alex pointed at Liv and teased.

“More for me.” Casey was peering in the oven at the food. “Alex. This smells and looks wonderful.” She took a piece of bacon out and crunched it. “Mmmm.”

“Thank you. I did learn to cook a bit when I was in WPP. It was that or starve. The little towns they kept putting me in didn’t have all-night restaurants and soup, sandwiches and salads get really old after awhile.” She stole another quick glance outside.

Casey made herself a plate and sat at the table.

“Hey, what about me?”

“Like Alex said, the cereal is in the cabinet. Help yourself.” Casey dug into her breakfast. She looked across the table at Alex who sat with her head resting on her palm and an amused grin on her face. Alex was looking at Olivia. Casey finished chewing and looked over her shoulder. The detective was leaning on the counter playfully pouting, her bottom lip quivering exaggeratedly. “Come here, you big baby.” Casey held a forkful of food out for her.

Olivia slid over to the table and took the food. She chewed enthusiastically. “This is really good,” she said, surprise evident in the tone of her voice.

“I think there was a compliment in there somewhere, right?” Alex snarked back.

Olivia stood up straight. “Ahem. This magnificent breakfast you have so nicely cooked for us is delicious. Thank you for your time and for sharing your culinary skills.” She bowed, then went to go fix her own plate.

“It’s always nice to be appreciated.” Alex’s smile faded as she looked out the door again.

“Everything okay, Alex? You keep looking outside.”

“Fine, Casey. I was just thinking. After breakfast why don’t you two go play outside for while? We have the skis and there are snowshoes, sleds and the snowmobile in the garage. Go out and have some fun. I’m sure Abbie will be sleeping a bit longer. When you get back about lunchtime, we’ll do an early dinner and then open presents. How does that sound?”

“You have a snowmobile?” Casey’s eyes lit up. “Sweet. Vroom, vroom.”

“I guess that answers that.” Olivia chuckled. “Sounds like a plan.”

“There are paths that cut through the woods and circle the property. Just stay on them and you shouldn’t have a problem finding your way back when you are ready. If you go walking through the woods, keep an eye out. You should find deer foraging around.”

“Cool. Animals.” Olivia picked up her empty plate and Casey’s and took them to the sink. She rinsed them and loaded the dishwasher. She turned to Alex. “Uhh, deer are vegetarians, right?” She asked seriously.

“City girl.” Alex and Casey both said at the same time.


Alex Cabot closed the glass door. She finished wiping her hands on the towel and jumped when she looked up. Standing in the kitchen door jamb was Abbie.

She looked pitiful.

“Sleeping Beauty awakes.”

“I feel more like Snow White and all seven dwarves are dancing in my head. What time is it? What were you doing outside?”

“Lunchtime. Go sit. Can I get you one of your pain pills?”

Abbie did just that. “No, thank you. Do you have any plain aspirin? Those pain pills make me loopy and they gave me some weird dreams last night.” She waited a moment. “Where’s the happy couple?”

“Oh?” Alex headed out of the room. “Hang on; I think I have some Advil.”

“Outside?” Abbie asked again when Alex returned.

“I was cleaning the grill, Ms. Nosey; and Liv and Casey are out playing in the woods.”

“I cleaned it after we used it the other night to cook those steaks.” Abbie took the pills from Alex. “Thank you.” She paused a moment. “Playing in the woods? On purpose?”

Alex laughed. “I gave them the keys to the snowmobile. Casey is a closet Danica Patrick, apparently. Would you like me to make you something light? I made French toast this morning but it would be charcoal by now.” Alex didn’t comment on the rest of Abbie’s statement.

“Just a glass of milk would be great. I can wait to eat until dinner.” Abbie looked around the kitchen and took a deep breath. “Speaking of dinner, shouldn’t the turkey be in the oven by now?”

Alex turned her back to the attorney and went to the fridge. She poured a glass of milk. “We aren’t having turkey.” She paused. “There was a slight problem, so we are having pasta primavera instead.” She took Abbie the glass and then retreated back into the kitchen.


“Ummm, yeah. I had to throw it out.” Alex then changed the subject. “Tell me about these weird dreams.”

“Did you kiss me?” Abbie asked. “I had a dream that you kissed me.”

The blonde was silent for a second and she put on her best courtroom face before she turned back around. She leaned back on the counter. “Liv and Casey kissed you when we first tucked you in.” Not exactly a lie, Alex.

“Oh.” Abbie sounded so disheartened. “I also dreamt that I went outside.”


“Yeah, and I was....” She quickly looked outside then Abbie closed her eyes as realization dawned. Her head dropped down and her expression fell. “I ruined dinner, didn’t I?” She looked up at Alex.

Alex slipped into the chair next to her. She slid her arm gingerly around Abbie’s shoulder. “No. Nothing is ruined. Come on. Admit it. Cooking a turkey dinner with all the trimmings was going to be an endeavor beyond all of our skills combined. Personally, I think you saved us from nasty bouts of food poisoning.” She leaned her head on Abbie’s. “It’s fine. We are going to have a great dinner and then after we eat some killer dessert, we’ll open presents.” She looked deep into Abbie’s eyes. “Okay?”

Abbie gave a half smile. “Okay.”

Alex smiled back. “Believe me?”

They both looked up as the door opened and Olivia and Casey stomped in.

“Saved, huh?” Abbie asked.

“Who saved what?” Olivia asked as she took her coat and hat off.

Abbie and Alex looked at each other, then Abbie stood up. “OHMIGOD!” She walked over and one-arm hugged them both. “I’m so glad you’re back. And safe. Did you see it?”

“See what?”

“The bear.”


“There was a big... ummmm... bear on the deck. And he ummmm... was hungry. I didn't want him trying to come in here so... uhhhh... so it was either give him Alex....”

“Hey!” The blonde objected.

“But she’s so skinny.” Abbie turned to Alex, then continued rambling. “I figured it would be hungry again in an hour.” She turned back to the couple. “Plus, she is our hostess and that would not be a good way to repay her hospitality. And let’s face it, I am in no condition to fight off a bear.” She flapped her sling. “So I gave it the turkey.” She paused as they looked at her incredulously. “Anyone for a pasta dinner?” She smiled brightly.

Casey and Liv just stared at each other and then back at the still smiling Texan. They looked past her at Alex who just shrugged her agreement with the story.

“With mushrooms or without?” Alex asked.

Abbie turned back to Alex and winked.


Lacy things... missin',
Didn't ask... permission,
Wearin' her clothes,
Her silk pantyhose,
Walkin' 'round in women's underwear,
Walkin' 'round in women's underwear,
Walkin' 'round in women's underwear!

Alex sat at the piano with Abbie next to her on the bench. Olivia and Casey were standing along side. All of them were shaking with laughter.

“I cannot believe you just sang that.”

“It’s a classic,” Abbie replied trying to catch her breath. “I can’t believe you never heard it before.” She took a deep breath. “Whooo. My boss did that at a Christmas party dressed in an evening gown.” They all looked at her. “He has the legs for it,” she said matter-of-factly and then broke out in laughter again.

“Our turn.” Casey leaned over and whispered in Liv’s ear. Liv nodded and looked away. Casey gave her one last look. “Ready?” She frowned. “Ready, Liv?” No answer. “Liv?” Still no answer. “LIV!”

“Okay!” Liv turned and smiled at Casey.

They then launched into a warbling a cappella version of their selected song while the others broke out in gales of shaking laughter. Part of the way through, Alex caught up and started playing.

Christmas, Christmas time is near,
Time for toys and time for cheer;
We've been good, but we can't last -
Hurry Christmas, hurry fast
Want a plane that loops the loop,
Me, I want a hula hoop;
We can hardly stand the wait -
Please Christmas, don't be late.

Abbie then got into the spirit. “Okay guys, get ready for the next part. That was very good, Casey.”


“Very nice playing, Alex.”

“Ahhh, thanks.” Alex ducked her head.

“Liv, you were a little flat, watch it. Liv... Liv... LIV!”


Want a plane that loops the loop,
I still want a hula hoop;
We can hardly stand the wait -
Please Christmas, don't be late.
We can hardly stand the wait -
Please Christmas, don't be late.

Liv and Casey collapsed on each other. Alex and Abbie playfully bumped each other on the bench.

“I got one,” Alex offered. “I just need to remember how it goes.” Her brows knit for a moment as she concentrated. “I got it.” She started playing and singing.

I want a hippopotamus for Christmas;
Only a hippopotamus will do.
Don't want a doll, no dinky Tinker Toy -
I want a hippopotamus to play with and enjoy.

I want a hippopotamus for Christmas;
I don't think Santa Claus will mind, do you?
He won't have to use our dirty chimney flue -
Just bring him through the front door,
That's the easy thing to do

I can see me now on Christmas morning,
creeping down the stairs;
Oh what joy and what surprise
When I open up my eyes...
To see a hippo hero standing there.

I want a hippopotamus for Christmas;
Only a hippopotamus will do.
No crocodiles, no rhinoceroses
I only like hippopotamuses -
And hippopotamuses like me too.

Alex finished with a flourish. Abbie stood up and then realized she couldn’t applaud. So she gestured at Casey and Liv who promptly started clapping. Abbie whistled. Alex playfully stood and curtseyed before she took her place back on the piano bench. “That was fun.”

“I got another one. Play Jingle Bells, please.”

“Batman better not be the star of this one, Abbie.” Liv mockingly threatened.

“No worries, this one is... personal.” She grinned evilly.

Alex started playing and Abbie began to sing.

Jingle Bells,
Stabler yells,
Benson snags a perv;
Munch debates,
Fin interrogates,
and Casey makes ’em serve.

Olivia walked around to where Abbie was sitting and smacked the back of her head. “Ass.”

“Good thing you weren’t a doctor, Liv. That wasn’t my ass; that was my head.”

Olivia just shook her head and resumed her place by Casey.

Abbie took the opportunity while everyone's attention was elsewhere to sneak a peek at her watch. Then she leaned her head on Alex’s shoulder. “Can we open presents now? Huh, can we?” She gave her the puppy dog eyes.

“Yeah, you’ve been good.”

“You have no idea just how good I can be.” She answered with waggling eyebrows and then leaned more heavily on Alex. When Alex stood, Abbie just about fell over. “Oof.”

“I’ll get some coffee up and the desserts out. Who wants what?”

“I’ll help, Alex,” Casey offered. “And I want pumpkin pie.”

“I’ll take a piece of that too and horn dog here will have a milk bone.” Liv moved over to the tree and started sorting presents.

“Funny, Benson. Anything chocolate for me.”

“What a surprise,” Liv replied drolly. “You do know chocolate is bad for dogs... even horn dogs,” Liv added seriously.

“Make mine pumpkin too.” Abbie called out.


The fire popped lazily while the foursome finished up their desserts and coffee. Alex and Abbie sat on opposite sides of the couch and Liv was perched on the arm of Casey’s oversized chair.

“Wow, that pie was delicious.” Casey scraped her fork on the plate once more.

Alex gave her an amused smile. “There’s more in the kitchen; have another piece.”

“I couldn’t.”

“Sure you can.”

“No honest, I couldn’t. I think I’d explode.”

“Please don’t then. It took my mother forever to pick out the color on the walls. I’d hate to have to repaint.” Alex ate the last bite of her pie and then pointed her fork at Casey.

“On that note....” Liv smacked her hands together. “It’s present time. Who wants to go first?”

“I do, I do.” Abbie volunteered. “Casey, that big green box is from me and Butch, that red plaid one is yours.” She looked at them both and her eyebrow spiked evilly. “Liv, you open yours first.”

Alex set her coffee mug on the table and scooted to the edge of the couch for a better look. She could tell by Abbie’s tone that trouble was about to make an appearance.

“Okay.” Olivia pulled the box into her lap. “Kinda heavy.” She then proceeded to shred the paper off of it. She lifted the lid off. She gave a quick look to Abbie and then one to Casey. “All right,” she exclaimed happily. “Look Casey, a complete set of Eastwood DVDs. Including all the Dirty Harry ones.

Casey squinted at Abbie. “Yeah, great,” she deadpanned. “I now know what movie night just became for us. Shoot ’em ups.”

Liv ignored Casey’s sarcasm, she was practically bouncing up and down as she went through all the DVDs in the box. “Hey, there is something underneath.” She moved the cases aside and pulled out a flat envelope. “What’s in here?” she asked Abbie.”

“If you open it, you might just find out,” Abbie replied and rolled her eyes.

Olivia opened the envelope to find a personalized autographed picture of the man himself. “Whoa, not only is it signed, it’s signed to me.” She held it up for them all to see, then handed it to Casey and got up off the couch to cross over to Abbie. She looked down while Abbie looked up. “Stand up, punk,” Liv said in her best imitation. Abbie complied. Olivia pulled her into a hug, mindful of her shoulder. “Thank you. I love them. Where?” She gestured to the picture.

“My boss played in a celebrity golf tournament in DC. Eastwood flew in to play. I asked him if the situation presented itself, if he could get a signed picture. I told him who it was for and he did the rest.”

“You rock.” She gave Abbie another light hug and went back to her seat by Casey. She was still smiling as she looked through the box of goodies.

“Okay Casey, your turn.” Abbie gestured to Casey’s box. “I figured fair is fair.” She winked at Casey.

Casey gave her a puzzled look at Abbie’s cryptic comment. The box was wrapped in lime green paper with a big purple bow. “Geez, make one fashion faux pas and no one ever forgets,” she muttered to herself while she tore at the paper. The others snickered softly. They stopped immediately when she looked up to glare at each of them. She went back to unwrapping.

Casey lifted the lid and peeked under it. Olivia leaned over to get a look. Casey quickly closed the lid again. She smiled broadly at Abbie. “Oh, I take back every nasty thing I thought about you in the last five minutes. This is payback and a half.” Casey threw the lid off and showed Olivia. “Look, a complete set of those cheesy Beach Party movies I love so much.” She grinned broadly while Olivia cringed.

“How’d you know?” Casey asked Abbie.

“Actually, Butch there told me.” Olivia shot her a look that said WTF. “You did Liv; you mentioned it in passing awhile back. I filed that bit of info away.”

“You couldn’t have lost it?”

Casey bumped Liv off the arm of the chair. Olivia stumbled to remain standing. “Be nice. We’ll alternate movie night, okay?”

Olivia made the appearance to think about the proposition for a moment then leaned in and stole a quick kiss. “Deal.” Casey moved to set the box aside.

“Casey, look on the bottom of yours too.”

Casey pulled out an envelope.

“I couldn’t get a picture to match up with your DVDs but I think... I hope... you’ll like it anyway.”

Casey slid the picture out of the envelope and turned it over; it was an autographed picture of Tom Seaver.

She handed the box and the picture to Olivia and practically hopped over to Abbie. “Seaver is just the best pitcher ever!” She threw her arms around Abbie and then kissed her. “You do rock!” Casey fanned herself. “Oh, I think I am gonna swoon.” She hugged Abbie again and then turned around and leaned back against her. She looked at Liv. “I know just where I am going to hang that picture.”

“Uh oh.” Olivia turned to Alex. “Why do I think the apartment is about to get a blue and orange makeover?”

“Experience?” Alex replied, drolly.

Olivia lifted her cup in salute to Alex’s reply. “All right Abigail. I think you need to open what we got you.” Then she added in a low tone, “It can only help your disposition.”

Casey smacked the back of Liv’s head lightly as she resumed her seat. “Be nice.”

Abbie picked up the long, thin silver wrapped box. She shook it but it didn’t rattle.

“Careful, it might explode,” Liv joked.

Using her knees to hold it steady, she managed to work the paper off one-handed. She removed the bow from the paper and set it on her head, then balled up the rest and set it next to her. She carefully opened the box.
“A Hot Wheels car?”

“Recognize the model?”

“It’s my baby.” Abbie’s eyes lit up. “It’s even the right color.” She showed it to Alex.

“You drive a classic Corvette?”

“Yeah,” Abbie said absently as she looked at the papers in the box. “Whoa, a detailing spa for cars. My baby is getting a makeover. How cool.”

“So are you, Slick,” Liv added. “Keep digging.”

“A day at the most exclusive spa in Virginia.” She looked at her companions. “I am going to be pampered to within an inch of my life and so is my baby.” She winked at Alex. “I will be even more irresistible than ever when they get done.”

“Hey Liv? Did they charge you extra for the ultra large ego they will be dealing with?”

Abbie tilted her head and gave Alex a look. “I’m from Texas, baby. Everything is big in Texas.”

Alex agreed. “Bigger bulls, bigger bull....<.cough.>”

Even Abbie had to laugh at that but she still threw the wadded paper at Alex anyway.

“Thanks guys, this is wonderful. My Vette is gonna be the envy of guys at work.” Abbie got up to give first Olivia and then Casey a hug. She kissed each of them on the head as well. Abbie puckered up and leaned in toward Alex.

“Not so fast there, Tex. Keep those lips to yourself.” Alex squeezed Abbie’s chin in her hand.

“Okay,” the brunette squeaked out through her pursed lips. When Alex let go, Abbie went back to her end of the couch.

“Alex, you’re up.” Liv directed.

Alex looked at the brightly wrapped package. It was a square box wrapped in shiny gold paper with a huge white bow. “Casey, you will have to show me how you wrap things so nicely.”

“Hey, what makes you think I didn’t wrap it?” Olivia argued.

“You still have trouble tying your shoes, let alone a beautiful bow like this.” Alex pointed down at Liv’s sneakers. One was untied.

Liv looked down. “Okay,” she conceded with a grin. “You may have a point there.”

Casey patted Liv’s knee. “It’s okay honey; you have other skills.” She paused. “And you are housebroken. Think I’ll keep ya.”

Alex opened the box to find another box inside. It was a narrow jewelry box. She lifted the hinged lid. “Oh, this is gorgeous. I love silver.”

“I saw it and it literally screamed your name.”

“Casey isn’t kidding; I could hear it too. *I want to go home with Alex; I want to go home with Alex*.” Liv added.

“That wasn’t the jewelry - that was me,” Abbie joked.

Alex shook her head at Abbie. “Incorrigible.”

“Focused.” Abbie replied.

Alex looked in the box at the envelope. She opened the flap and pulled out two tickets to a Chicago concert. “Oh my.” She looked at the couple. “I tried to get tickets but they were sold out.”

“I know the head of security at MSG.” Liv shrugged. “Casey and I knew you liked them.”

“Look Abbie - tickets to Chicago.”

“They are sending you to Illinois, yes?”

“No, they are sending me to Chicago at MSG.”

“No Journey?”


“You are going to see Yes?”

“No, Chicago.”


“No Yes, no Journey, no Who, Chicago.” She leaned over and rapped her knuckles on Abbie’s head. “No brain.”

Abbie looked in the box, “Do you even know what concert you are going to?” She laughed at the flustered blonde.

Alex pulled the box away. “Just for that, I’ll take Serena.” Alex got up and gave Casey and Olivia a hug and a kiss. “Thank you. I love them. I can’t wait for the concert.”


“Okay, well, I guess I am up next. Alex walked over to the tree and pulled an envelope out of the branches. She handed it to Casey. “I hope you like this.”

Casey opened the envelope and showed Liv the contents.

Olivia’s eyes widened. “Oh, Alex. I don’t know if we can....”

Casey held up a couple of signed notes that were also in the envelope. She and Liv started to laugh.

She held them up for Abbie to see. “Alex is sending us to the Bahamas for a long weekend Valentine week. And she got Cragen and Branch to sign notes excusing us from work.”

“Sun, sand, surf, bikinis.” Liv sighed.

“No wind, no snow, no cold and no more dessert if I am going to put this body in a bikini,” Casey agreed then sighed as well.

“Thank you Alex. This is more than wonderful.” Olivia gave Alex a hug. Casey followed suit.

“Enjoy the trip; you deserve a little *us* time.” Alex turned to Abbie. “Your turn, Carmichael.” She got a flat package out from behind the tree and a small box from under the tree.” She handed Abbie the flat package first.

Abbie gave Alex a puzzled look and started opening the flat package. “I’m guessing it’s a framed picture, but....” She looked at the picture and then up at Alex. “Oh Alex. How?” The amazement on Abbie’s face was quite evident.

“Do you like?”

Abbie nodded vigorously. “How?”

“I called your mama, Tex.”

“You called my mother?” Abbie’s mouth hung open in shock. “Oh Lord, am I in trouble.”

“Pretty much. She really likes to talk about her baby girl. We talked for an hour.”

“I’m dead.”

“Show us what you got there, Slick.”

“Oh.” Abbie turned the frame around and showed them a Looney Tunes framed cel. “I collect cels and these guys are my absolute favorites. I feel a certain kinship to one of them. Especially lately - go figure.” They all laughed.

“Open the other box.”

Abbie tore into the smaller box and pulled out a Nintendo DS and a couple of games including a Looney Tunes themed one. She looked up at Alex. “Sweet.”

“Every kid should get a toy for Christmas. Merry Christmas, Ab-i-gail.”

Abbie set all her stuff aside and stood as well. “Merry Christmas, Alex,” she whispered and she kissed Alex’s temple as they continued to hug. Then the doorbell rang.

“I’ll get it,” Abbie volunteered, “Y’all stay right where you are. Well, except for Butch. I need her to carry stuff. This is Alex’s present.” Liv got up and followed Abbie outside.

Casey and Alex could hear voices outside but not exactly what they were saying. They did hear an “oh, boy” from Liv but couldn’t tell if it was good or bad. Then they heard a car drive off.

Abbie yelled from outside, “Do you know what else every kid should get for Christmas, Alex?” Abbie stepped back in holding a black bundle of fur. Olivia was behind her with a crate and supplies.

Alex put her hand to her mouth and willed the sudden tears not to fall. She managed to force herself to walk over to Abbie, who was getting a thorough chin licking.

“Stop that - it tickles.” She squeaked out around laughter. Abbie held out the puppy for Alex to take. “Every kid should have a puppy. Merry Christmas, Allie.”

Alex grabbed Abbie in a crushing hug with the dog trapped between them. It was only when the dog objected to being smooshed and tried to crawl onto Alex’s shoulder that they broke apart.

“Oh Abbie.” She took the puppy and held it up to her face, so that they were nose to nose. “He’s...?” She looked for a nod. “He’s adorable.”

“He’s a black lab. Big, friendly but protective and very playful.”

“Look, he’s wearing a little Harvard sweatshirt.”

“Okay, so he’s not perfect,” Abbie quipped.

Alex slapped Abbie’s arm playfully. “Ab-bie,” Alex’s voice was filled with emotion.

Abbie leaned toward Liv and whispered, “I did good?”

Liv took one look at the smiling blonde, who had taken the puppy over to meet Casey. “You did great,” she answered.

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