Spoilers: None (okay, perhaps a small one for "Secret Agent Man")
Disclaimer: These characters belong to DPB, CBS, Paramount, et al. "A Visit From St. Nick" is by Clement Clarke Moore. No infringement is intended.
Author's Notes: This is an early birthday present for Jen (on ajmacfic). Happy birthday! (Oh, and a happy holiday season to you all!)
"''Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring--not even a mouse.'" AJ Roberts gazed at his godmother with rapt attention. Every year, Auntie Mac read from Mommy's special book, and she always made the story sound so pretty and magical. AJ loved Christmas. He got lots of presents, and he got to see all of his favorite people, too.
"'The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that Saint Nicholas soon would be there,'" Auntie Mac continued in a hushed voice.
"We have stockings by our fireplace! Daddy put them up!" AJ said.
"He did?" Auntie Mac asked, smiling.
"Yeah! And he said that Santa Claus is gonna come an' fill them up!" AJ bounced in his bed.
"Really? Well, let's get through our story, then, so you can get to sleep. The sooner you sleep, the sooner Santa comes."
"Okay!" AJ said brightly. He really wanted Santa to come.
"'The children were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.'"
"What's a sugar-plum?" AJ asked, his little brow furrowing in confusion.
"It's a funny word for a piece of candy," Mac replied patiently.
"Oh. I like candy!" AJ said.
"I know you do," Mac said, chuckling softly. "'And Mamma in her kerchief, and I in my cap, had just settled down for a long winter's nap.'"
"What's a kerchief?"
"It's like a scarf you wear around your head."
"Okay." Auntie Mac knew everything.
"'When out on the roof there arose such a clatter, I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter. Away to the window I flew like a flash, tore--'"
The bedroom door opened quietly. Admiral AJ stepped inside, carrying AJ's little brother Jimmy. "Adm'l AJ!" the boy exclaimed. He had heard Daddy tell Mommy that Admiral AJ wasn't an admiral anymore, but he would always be one to AJ.
"Shh!" both adults shushed him. Auntie Mac said, "Jimmy's sleeping. You have to be quiet, okay?"
"'Kay," AJ whispered. Admiral AJ laughed, and his namesake smiled happily. "Are you gonna stay and listen to the story, Adm'l AJ?"
"Of course I will," the big man replied, tousling the little boy's hair.
AJ frowned and smoothed his hair with his palms. The adults grinned at each other. What was so funny? "Read, Auntie Mac!" he demanded.
"Yes, sir!" Auntie Mac said. "'Away to the window I flew like a flash; tore open the shutters and threw up the sash. The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow gave the luster of midday to objects below.'"
"That means it was bright like daytime, right?" AJ asked.
Auntie Mac smiled at him. "That's right! You're such a smart boy!" AJ beamed in pride. "'When, what to my wandering eyes should appear but a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer, with a little old driver so lively and quick, I knew in a moment it must be Saint Nick.'"
"Adm'l AJ? Will you read some?" AJ asked.
His admiral raised an eyebrow at Auntie Mac. "If you want to, AJ." It sounded funny hearing Auntie Mac call the Admiral 'AJ'. She had only started a little while ago.
"I'd be glad to, Mac." Admiral AJ took the book from Auntie Mac's hands. They looked at each other for a long time. "Adm'l AJ!" AJ exclaimed, tugging on his sleeve. "Read to me!"
Finally, his admiral picked up the story. "'More rapid than eagles his coursers they came, and he whistled, and shouted, and knew them by name...'" AJ held his breath for his favorite part. "'Now, Dasher! Now, Dancer! Now Prancer and Vixen! On, Comet! On, Cupid! On Donder and Blitzen! To the top of the porch! To the top of the wall! Now, dash away, dash away, dash away all!'" AJ clapped excitedly, and Admiral AJ grinned. "'As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly, when they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky, so up on the house-tops the coursers they flew, with the sleigh full of toys, and Saint Nicholas, too.'" AJ yawned. He was getting tired, but he really wanted to hear the rest of the story.
"'And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof the prancing and pawing of each little hoof. As I drew in my hand, and was turning around, down the chimney Saint Nicholas came with a bound. He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot, and his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot; a bundle of toys he had flung on his back, and he looked like a peddler just opening his sack.'" AJ's eyes began to droop. He struggled to stay awake as Admiral AJ continued. "'His eyes--how they twinkled! His dimples, how merry! His cheeks were like roses; his nose like a cherry! His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow, and the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.'"
"AJ... I think he's asleep," Mac whispered. The man looked at the child. Indeed, he was fast asleep.
"I suppose we can stop now," AJ replied, closing the book.
"Oh, no; please don't end it!" Mac said. AJ looked at her askance, and she blushed. "I--I was enjoying it," she mumbled.
He opened the book again, inwardly smiling at the way Mac's face lit up in delight. "'The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth, and the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath. He had a broad face and a round little belly that shook when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly. He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf, and I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself. A wink of his eye and a twist of his head soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread. He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work and filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk; and laying his finger aside of his nose, and giving a nod, up the chimney he rose. He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle, and away they all flew like the down of a thistle.'" AJ closed the book slowly and finished the story in a low voice. "'But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight--'"
Mac whispered the ending with him. "'Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.'" She smiled. "Thank you, AJ." She stood and leaned over the child. Kissing him on the forehead, she
murmured, "Merry Christmas, AJ." She moved to the crib and brushed her fingers over the baby's fine hair. "Merry Christmas, Jimmy."
When she turned around, she found that AJ was standing right behind her. "They're probably wondering where we disappeared to," he said.
Mac shrugged. "Harriet knows I was reading to AJ. I'm sure they've figured it out by now. After all, they're a bunch of lawyers," she grinned.
AJ chuckled. "You're right." He held out his hand. "Shall we?"
Mac slipped her hand into his and smiled shyly. He gave her hand a squeeze, and they walked out of the nursery.
A pair of mischievous blue eyes popped open. The little boy grinned. Santa Claus must have gotten his letter after all!