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AUTHOR'S NOTE: My thanks to Weez for her beta’ing. And to Xenavirgin (aka XV) and pucky_96 for all they do for the world of fanfic.
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The Tree
By Silverie


Somehow the floor under her hips felt harder than she remembered despite the thick inches of carpeting. I'm getting older, she thought as her hands ran over the plush surface, caressing its lush softness. Her left hand met an equally soft body that was not her own. She slowly opened her left eye as she turned her head, looking up at the shape above her.

She took in huge adoring eyes gazing lovingly into hers. Little shivers of anticipation ran over the body right by her side. A tiny whine escaped.

Andy reached out her hand to bury it in soft fur. "Ah, Patricia darling, we've got to stop meeting this way. People will start to talk and the paparazzi will never let us alone."

The St. Bernard knew not to bark in the house but it was about all she could do to contain herself as she loomed over Andy, her tail wagging like crazy at being noticed. Why this particular member of her pack was lying on the floor, she had no idea but any opportunity for pats and hugs was not to be passed by.

"Down, girl," Andy whispered as she patted the floor next to her. Within a nano-second, her left side was covered by a warm heavy weight and her hand received a grateful lick. Warm dog breath passed over her cheek as Patricia let her affection be known. "Good girl, and let's keep those doggy kisses to a minimum, please."

Andy shifted so she was not quite so blanketed by the dog and looked up from where she was lying on the floor. This was a something from her childhood. She always took some time to herself with the tree, quietly thinking and feeling her way through the huge flood of emotions that came with the season. Her head was lying on the tree skirt, tucked under the branches with a few presents pushed aside and her legs stretched out into the room, ankles crossed.

The seven foot Christmas tree loomed above her. If she squinted her eyes, the tiny multi-colored lights looked like an endless constellation of stars. She inhaled the rich, dark odor of fresh evergreen and hummed to herself in pleasure. Christmas ornaments sparkled over the entire tree. Clumps of tinsel caught the light. As much as Miranda had tried to teach the girls the art of delicate tinsel placement, the joyful throwing of clumps had won the battle.

It had been a breath-taking day leading up to this Christmas Eve. She and the girls had found the towering Scotch pine two days ago and had it delivered. Roy had hauled it into the house and set it up with some help from Andy. Miranda had given it her highest stamp of approval with a clear, "Acceptable."

This morning they had dug boxes of Christmas decorations out of storage. After hanging the lights, the ornaments were unboxed and carefully hung. Miranda shared the history of a few of the most fragile, almost translucent, hand-blown ornaments from her family as they were unwrapped. One was a small bird with a feather tail that clipped on a branch and looked so very real. She petted the tail as her eyes clouded for a moment.

"This was my mother's favorite. Her mother had given it to her when she was a child. She always let me put it on the tree for her." She paused for a moment before looking up at the twins. "Now, where do you think it should go?"

Cassidy pointed to a spot at eye level. "Here, it should go right here, away from Patricia's tail."

"Absolutely. Caroline would you hang it for me, please. It's your turn this year."

Caroline placed the ornament carefully, clipping the old spring mechanism to a tree branch. "I wish Grandma was still here. I still miss her."

Miranda's arms went around her daughters comfortingly. "It's part of the magic of the holidays. She's still here with us and always will be every time we see that ornament."

Andy slid her arms around Miranda's waist from behind as she stood with her daughters, her fingers interlocking as they met. Miranda's arms tightened around her daughters, drawing them closer.

Andy spoke softly into the quiet moment of remembering, "We'll build new memories and traditions as each year adds richness to our lives. Together."

She kissed Miranda's cheek and let her go before walking over to a small table against the wall. "And to start that new tradition, I have something for each of you." She carefully passed out three small boxes. "Open them now, please, this is a something my family does every Christmas. We've always given each other something for the tree on Christmas Eve. Miranda, you first."

Miranda gently pulled the golden ribbon that wrapped her box and slowly opened it. She gazed inside before looking up at Andy with sparkling blue eyes. "Oh, so beautiful."

A chorus of "Let's see, let's see," from the twins, prompted her to delicately pull the ornament free from its wrappings. It was a silvery heart with beautifully edged gold scalloping that glittered in Miranda's hand. The glass was hand blown in the old way. It was so translucent that light seemed to come from inside its fragile core. She walked to the tree and carefully hung the heart where it was visible from all angles.

Turning to Andy, she gathered her close and whispered, "Thank you, it's extraordinarily beautiful, darling. I will cherish it forever." She kissed her just below her ear on that spot she knew intimately.

Andy shivered, turned her head and brushed a kiss over her cheek. "No more beautiful than you, love. You are my heart, Miranda. And you hold mine." Another kiss landed on soft lips.

"Ahem, children here. We're going to open ours now." Caroline stated with a nudge from Cassidy.

The adults moved a bit apart but kept their arms around each other as they watched the two girls rip off the ribbons and open their boxes. A chorus of oh's and ah's broke out as each girl lifted out a smaller heart, blue for Cassidy and green for Caroline, with the same translucent beauty.

"My favorite color!" they each said synchronously.

"She knew?" whispered Caroline.

"Of course she did, it's Andy," responded Caroline with an eye roll.

They carefully hung their ornaments close to their mother's on the tree. Turning, they tackled Andy with twin hugs and a chorus of thank you's. After being released and chuckling to herself, Andy turned to gather the empty boxes and ribbons to put them in the trash in the kitchen. Her name was softly called and she looked back over her shoulder.

"Andrea? Come back, please. We're not done here." Miranda reached up to the mantle and picked up a small, beribboned box that Andy had not seen there. "This is for you." Andy's warm brown eyes widened and filled with barely contained tears as she took the small box.

"How did you know? I never …."

"I talked to your mother, darling. She told me of your family's tradition. I wanted you to have something that makes this a part of our family's Christmas holidays to come, something that we can all count on in the years to come. Open it, please."

She felt Miranda's arm circle her waist as she began to open the box, pulling the blood red ribbon from around it and removing the silvery paper. The object inside was nestled in white tissue paper. As she lifted it from its wrapping, she saw a deep crimson red heart with silver filigree that wound around it.

Miranda laughed softly, "Now you have my heart, as I hold yours, darling."

Andy wiped a tear from her eyes and smiled shakily. "You truly surprised me. Like minds….and hearts." She stepped away to hang the ornament next to Miranda's before returning to her side. "Thank you, love", she whispered as she left another kiss on Miranda's cheek as her hand slid into hers with a brief caress of fingertips over Miranda's palm.

They took a moment to just gaze at the beautiful tree and the family of ornaments they had just hung. They were interrupted by a whine in the hallway. Andy looked at her watch, "Yikes, we promised Patricia a walk in the park before dinner."

They all dressed warmly and tumbled out the door, the twins holding Patricia's leash as she dragged them toward the park. Snow was very lightly falling as the evening quickly came down around them. They were only a few days past the winter solstice and sunset came fast in these early winter days. Miranda shivered and stepped a little closer to Andy who tucked her hand into the crook of her elbow as they walked.

The snow had been falling off and on since the beginning of December this year and was deep in the city parks. A white Christmas had never been a question. The girls had dropped the leash and they ran through the snow to catch Patricia, calling her name. Miranda barked out, "Patricia, come!" to which a recalcitrant Patricia came to her mistress, tail down and sat with an apologetic woof.

Andy turned to Miranda and kissed her hard and fast. "I do love that command voice of yours, makes me shiver and not from the cold. But you know? There's something else my family does every Christmas." She grinned and fell back in the soft snow, flat on her back. "Now, Cassidy I want you at a 90 degree angle to my right and Caroline to my left. Miranda, your place is opposite me. And Patricia is in the middle." She watched as her family took their places.

Miranda moved to her place, looked down at the pristine snow and grimaced. "Andrea, I can't believe you are asking me to do this." She spoke with a tiny edge of frost in her voice covering her trepidation.

"C'mon, Mom. Just let yourself go and fall back," chorused the girls from where they had already dropped into the snow.

Andy watched as Miranda shot her another distressed look then turned her back, put her arms out, closed her eyes and fell backwards into the snow with a finally delighted laugh. They all laid there for a few seconds looking up at the few stars they could see that were not obliterated by the light of the city. The wind softly whispered across the snow, a sibilant rustle of skittering ice crystals barely breaking the silence of the night. It was quiet, peaceful.

"Now move your arms out to your sides up and down, legs too. We're making snow angels. The tricky part is to stand up and step away without messing up your angel." Andy heard the shushing sounds of arms and legs creating angels, then the crunchy noise of the compacting snow as everyone rose to their feet.

When they were all standing, brushing snow from their clothes, Andy reached into the inner pocket of her coat and took out paper bags with Christmassy shapes cut into them. She placed a handful of snow for weight, then a votive candle in each one. Each paper lantern was placed in the middle of each of the four snow angels. They glowed, the luminaries casting dancing shadows that added dimension to the shape they had created together.

Rosy-cheeked, they all took a deep breath, taking in the cold, sharp winter air of this holiday season. The warm plumes of their exhales hovered as Cassidy spoke up. "You know, someone on the space station could see this. It would look like a gigantic snow flake."

They looked back over their shoulders as they left to see the design they had left in the snow, mittened and gloved hands holding each other's and a happy St. Bernard leading the way.

And now, hours later, the girls were finally in bed. Miranda had a small work fire to put out that had her unhappily upstairs for an hour or so. Andy had taken the time to turn off the lights in the house and laid down under the lit tree as she had in her younger years.

From her place on the floor, she thought back to traditions new and old, and how they anchor you in love and time. She could see the heart ornaments gleaming through the branches above. And there was the edge of the big chew toy hidden in the upper branches for the canine member of the family. Her legs and one free arm made snow angel movements on the rug as she laughed softly to herself.

"It's beautiful, it's all just beautiful beyond words, isn't it Patricia?" She heard a loud contented doggy sigh as Patricia agreed and settled closer. Slowly, Andy's eyes closed as she settled into the warmth next to her.

When she finally came downstairs, Miranda found her, lying on her side with one arm draped over Patricia, spooning. She shook her head with a smile on her lips as she gazed down at the woman she loved. The gleam of the lights on the new ornaments caught her attention and a fingertip danced over each one in turn, ending with the red heart. Whatever she had done in her life to bring this love alive in it, she would never question and forever be grateful and amazed.

Quietly, she lowered herself to the floor and curled up behind Andy, drawing her close. She brushed the cascade of dark hair away from sleep warmed skin. Kisses found their way up the back of Andy's neck and around to her cheek, their warmth and wet lingering.

Andy grumpily whispered, her eyes closed. "No, no puppy kisses, please Patricia…bad dog." Her hand moved to wipe away the dampness. Patricia, falsely accused, grumbled and rose, ambling off to the kitchen and the warm dog bed awaiting her there.

A low murmuring laugh began to pull Andy out of sleep. "Oh, Andrea darling, you don't want my kisses?" She left another on those sensual, full lips so close to her own.

"Miranda?" Andy purred as she woke. "Bad Patricia, good Miranda, always very good Miranda. Love your kisses…always, always." She turned and snuggled into the warmth of Miranda's arms. She squirmed a little at the hardness of the surface beneath her hips, waking a little fuller.

"What are we doing on the floor?" Puzzled, she looked up into Miranda's smiling eyes, the blue filled with tiny reflections from the lights of the tree.

"Well, I think Santa left me a very, very special present under the tree. It's in need of unwrapping."

"That would be me? Your special present? Best present ever? Find the end of the ribbon and just pull, I'm yours."

Miranda gathered her present closer, her hand slipping beneath Andy's shirt to rest quietly in the small of her back, fingertips drawing the smallest circles of promise. She felt the answering opening flex of Andy's hips and a quickly indrawn breath in response to her touch.

"The best present ever, absolutely ever. And it's time to go upstairs, darling. I'm pretty sure I can unwrap and unravel you just fine. And the girls will be waking us up in a few hours, pounding down the stairs. We best be gone before that happens."

Miranda rose, helping Andy to her feet, one arm around her to steady her sleepy self. They blew out the candles and turned off the lights of the tree before making their way up the stairs unable to suppress gentle laughter as kisses were exchanged every other step.

In the quiet of the night, four hearts gleamed in the soft light reflected into the room as gently falling snow filled the sleeping city's streets.

The End

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