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Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree

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"Mom! Mama! She's eating the tree!"

"The puppy or the baby?" Lexa called back, grunting as she tugged yet another bin of Christmas decorations out of the storage space under the eaves.

"Um... both?"

Lexa groaned and looked at Clarke, who was trying – and largely failing – to untangle a string of lights. "I'll get the dog, you get your daughter," she said, straightening up (narrowly missing hitting her head in the process) and brushing cobwebs from her shirt.

"My daughter?" Clarke asked. "She looks like you!"

"And acts like you!" Lexa countered, grinning. "Smart and stubborn and with a complete disregard for the rules."

Clarke scowled, but she couldn't argue with what was, at its core, a pretty fair assessment. She preceded Lexa into the living room, scooping up Madi and blowing raspberries on her neck until she screeched with delight.

Aden covered his ears. "Mom, tell her can she please scream more quieter?"

"Sorry, kiddo, no can do," Clarke said.

"But I have to use my indoor voice!" he complained. "It's not fair!"

"Believe me, when you were her age you didn't understand about indoor voices either," Lexa said, which wasn't entirely true. Aden had always been a little quieter and more reserved than his sister, even when he was a toddler. He'd taken in the world with wide-eyed wonder and little comment, to the point where they were considering having him evaluated to make sure there wasn't something wrong... only for him to go from speaking barely a handful of words to full sentences practically overnight.

"Why don't we take Marvel outside?" Lexa suggested.

"Okay," Aden said, galloping off to put on his coat and boots and to grab the dog's leash from its hook. "Come here, Marvel!" he called.

The puppy launched herself at top speed across the living room, a branch of the Christmas tree still clamped in her jaw, and it couldn't be comfortable chewing on pine needles (and Lexa didn't imagine it tasted very good, either) but she didn't seem to notice or care. It took a few tries for Aden to get the leash clipped on because she wouldn't stop wriggling in excitement.

Lexa slipped on her own coat, opening the back door to let boy and dog out. "Remind me again why we decided having a puppy and a toddler at the same time was a good idea?" she asked, leaning in to kiss her wife's temple and her daughter's cheek.

"We decided?" Clarke asked, her eyebrows creeping nearly to her hairline. "We nothing. You are the one who can't say no to Mr. Big Blue Eyes."

"Or Ms. Big Blue Eyes," Lexa said, pressing another kiss right between those irresistible blue eyes before aiming a pointed look at Madi, who had settled on Clarke's hip, suddenly fascinated by the texture of Clarke's sweater. Because it had been Clarke who had convinced Lexa their family of three wasn't quite complete yet... and since Clarke would be the one carrying the baby, and doing the lion's share of the work for the first couple of weeks at least, Lexa had given in. It was a decision she wouldn't change for anything now, but at the time she would have been happy to have it just be the two of them and their son.

Clarke smiled and tipped her face up for a kiss, which Lexa dutifully gave her. And then Madi did the same thing – monkey see, monkey do, and Madi definitely had a little bit of monkey in her – and Lexa laughed and kissed her little button nose. "Love you, Munchkin," she told her, and Madi beamed.

"Be back soon," Lexa said, and stepped out into the chill of the December afternoon. Aden had let Marvel off her leash and they were chasing each other back and forth across the yard. Lexa double-checked that the gate was latched, then sat down on the edge of the deck to watch them wear themselves out.

"Mama, look!" Aden called, running as fast as he could away from the puppy while she chased at his heels, her tongue lolling out of her mouth and her breath coming in great bursts of fog from her mouth.

"I see you," Lexa said, half-standing when the puppy finally managed to catch him, jumping up and knocking him to the ground. But he picked himself right back up and now he was the one chasing the dog, so she guessed he was all right.

He had started asking for a puppy not long after they brought Madi home from the hospital. He'd been excited by the possibility of a baby brother or sister, but had been less enthusiastic about the reality of the situation. He'd used such arguments as, "It will keep me busy and out of your way so you can take care of the baby!" (completely oblivious to the fact that it would, in fact, create far more work for them) and, "You got something new to play with so I should too!"

They'd managed to put him off for a little while, making as much one-on-one time for him as they could (and maybe spoiling him a little with new books and toys and outings), but every few weeks he would bring it up again, just in case they'd forgotten. When they'd had the opportunity to dogsit Auntie Anya and Aunt Ray-Ray's rambunctious new rescue over the summer, they'd hoped it would put him off the idea of getting a puppy of his own when he saw how much work went into keeping a dog happy and healthy.

It had backfired. Two weeks of having a canine companion had only cemented in his head that he didn't just want a puppy, he needed a puppy... and much to Clarke's chagrin, Lexa had started to agree with him. Not out loud where he could hear... but in quiet conversations after he was tucked in bed. It had taken some convincing – of both the verbal and non-verbal variety – but eventually Clarke had given in and agreed, and when Aden got home from school on his birthday, he'd found one of his presents yipping and wagging its tail when he got off the bus.

He'd decided to name the puppy Marvel after his favorite superhero, which had gone a long way to convincing Clarke they had made the right decision. Because neither of them would ever forget the first time he'd seen Captain Marvel, and he'd turned to look at them with his big blue eyes shining, grinning from ear-to-ear, and announced, "Look! That little girl has two moms just like me! And one of them is a superhero!" And then climbed up onto the couch and snuggled between them, which was still his favorite place to be, but probably not for much longer.

Lexa watched them play until they both collapsed in the middle of the yard, panting with exertion. "Okay, buddy," Lexa called. "Let's go in and warm up."

"I'm not cold!" Aden yelled back. "I'm a volcano!"

"Okay, Maui. Let's go inside and you can both get some water to cool down, then," Lexa said.

Aden sat up, giggling. "Maui isn't a volcano god! He's just a regular demi-guy!"

Lexa made a face at him, and he picked himself up off the snow-crusted grass and ran straight at her. She braced for impact, scooping him and spinning him around, which was a lot harder now than it used to be. She pressed her frozen nose against his cherry-red cheek and he turned away. "Gross!" he said. "No kissing!"

"That was my nose, not my lips," she said.

He scrunched his own nose, then leaned in and brushed it against hers before pulling back and squirming to be put down. They tromped back indoors, and Lexa didn't even have to remind him to dry off the puppy's paws before letting her loose, and only had to remind him once not to leave his stuff in a pile on the floor.

She got him a glass of water while he made sure Marvel's bowl was full, and he sat down at the table and gulped it down, his eyes straying to the plate of Christmas cookies Lexa had had forced on her at work, because she had kids and everyone else was 'on a diet'.

"You can have one," she said.

He poked out his lip, and she sighed, "Okay, two. But that's it until after dinner, so don't even ask."

"I won't," he said. "Promise." He drew an X over his heart, then bounced up to inspect the cookies, carefully considering which two he wanted. When Lexa was sure he really had only taken two, she went to see what Clarke and Madi were up to.

"She's napping," Clarke said, looking up from the tangle of lights she'd retrieved from the spare room. "She went down maybe five minutes after you went out."

"You know, it would probably be easier to just buy new lights," Lexa said.

Clarke snorted. "Why do you think we have so many to begin with?" she asked. "I'm going to get to the center of this knot, or I'm going to die—" She stopped when she saw Aden come out of the kitchen. "Or else," she finished instead.

"Nice save," Lexa murmured, and went to get the rest of the bins. By the time she'd gotten them all downstairs, Aden was on the floor next to Clarke, patiently unsnarling wires and winding them around the plastic sheets they came on but never seemed to return to quite as neatly.

"I'm helping Mom," he told her proudly.

"I see that," she said. "You're doing a great job."

"I know," he said. "No, Marvel! No eating the lights!" Because of course the puppy had been about to sink her teeth into one of the strands, and although they had plenty, they didn't need an emergency trip to the vet to make sure the dog hadn't actually swallowed anything she shouldn't.

"Why don't you put her in her crate?" Lexa suggested.

Aden's face fell. "But she hates puppy jail," he said.

"It's not puppy jail," Lexa explained. "It's like her bedroom. You know how sometimes when you need a break from Madi you'll go to your room to read?"

He looked at her skeptically. "Marvel can't read, Mama."

Clarke choked back a laugh, and Lexa shot her a Look. "I know, buddy," she said. "But it will keep her out of trouble while you're helping. Here." She went to the closet where she'd stashed the box of treats and toys they'd bought for Marvel's stocking and found a rubber candy cane. "You can give her this so she won't be bored."

Aden considered, then sighed. "O-kay," he said. "Come on, Marvel! Crate!"

The puppy followed him into the rarely-used dining room where they'd set up her crate. Clarke looked at Lexa, her mouth twitching as she fought back a smile.

"Don't," Lexa said, pointing at her. "Don't even—"

"'Marvel can't read, Mama,'" Clarke said, and Lexa couldn't help it. She burst out laughing, and Clarke followed, and when Aden came back in sans Marvel, he laughed too, even though he didn't know what was so funny.

It took the three of them the entirety of Madi's nap to get the lights untangled and strung up on the tree, but by the time Lexa came back downstairs with a tousle-headed, freshly diapered little girl in her arms, Clarke and Aden were beaming with pride at a job well done.

"Now we get to the fun part," Clarke said. She put her phone in the dock and a few seconds later, the room came to life with music.

Lexa was grateful for the decision to put Marvel in her crate, because it was all they could do to keep Madi focused on the task at hand... or at least not actively impeding their progress. For every ornament they handed it that actually made it on the tree, at least two others were wandered off with until they caught her and brought her back. She seemed to think it was a great game, giggling every time one of them snatched her up, and her giggles were infectious.

Finally, though, the ornaments were all hung (if somewhat concentrated on the lower branches) and all that was left was the star on top. Madi's eyes lit up when she saw it, and she pointed to her chest. "Do! Do!" she said.

Lexa looked at Aden, whose job it had been for the last few years to put the finishing touch on the tree – a moment he was always so proud of.

His face screwed up for a second, like he was thinking about pouting, but then he smiled and took the star from Clarke, holding it just out of Madi's reach. "It's a very important job," he said solemnly. "Are you sure you're ready?"

Madi nodded empathically, and Aden handed her the star. Lexa picked her up, and together they got it secured to the highest branch. Lexa took a step back to look and make sure it was straight, and Madi clapped her hands, bouncing in her arms. "Dar!" she said. "Dar, Mama!"

"That's right!" Lexa said. "That's a star!"

"Can I let Marvel out of puppy jail now?" Aden asked.

"Help me clean up first," Clarke said, and they quickly gathered up the various bits of bubble wrap and packing paper that were used to protect the more fragile ornaments (which Clarke and Lexa had made sure were high enough up on the tree that they wouldn't be at the mercy of puppy or baby).

When everything was safely back in the bins, Aden ran to the dining room to let Marvel loose, and Clarke turned up the music a little higher. She took Aden's hands and danced around the room, and at first he looked like he might die of embarrassment because ugh, Mom was so silly, but by the time they got to the chorus, he had forgotten that he was supposed to be too cool to want to rock around the Christmas tree with his moms.

Lexa bopped around with Madi on her hip, singing along to the words she knew and humming filler when she didn't. When they got a little too close to Clarke and Aden, Madi leaned over with her arms outstretched. "Me! Me!" she said, which they were pretty sure was supposed to be Mommy, and they switched partners while Marvel looped around their legs in her own excited dance.

They danced until their legs (and arms, when they were holding Madi) were tired and they were all a little out of breath, then collapsed on the floor in a tangle of large and small limbs (and noses and tails). Aden snuggled himself into Lexa's lap because Clarke had Madi, tipping back his head to look at the tree.

"This is the best Christmas ever," he said.

"It's not even Christmas yet," Lexa said, smiling and kissing the crown of his head.

"So? I can just tell."

"You said that last year," Clarke teased him.

"Well last year it was the best Christmas ever that I'd ever had. But this year is going to be even better. Right, Madi?"

Madi held out her arms, nearly faceplanting as she leaned to get a hug from her brother, and Lexa looked at Clarke over their heads, noticing a telltale shimmer in her eyes that matched her own. She slid one hand across the floor, and Clarke reached out to meet it, tangling their fingers together.

"Right, Marvel?" Aden asked.

The puppy gave a little yip and spun in a circle before laying down again with her chin resting on Aden's knee.

"See?" Aden said. "Marvel agrees."

"Okay," Lexa said, wrapping her free arm around Aden and hugging him tight. She leaned over to kiss Madi's head, and then Clarke's lips, soft and tender and as free of anything but love as she could make it, only pulling away when Aden cleared his throat to signal that that was enough kissing, thankyouverymuch, and they couldn't hold back their laughter.

Lexa squeezed Clarke's hand before letting go, dislodging Aden from her lap so she could stand up and shake feeling back into her legs. "Cocoa?" she suggested, and he nodded enthusiastically, following her into the kitchen to help.

When it was ready, she filled three mugs (and one sippy cup with cocoa that had been cooled and diluted to the point where it was more chocolate milk than hot chocolate) and took them into the living room. "Be careful," she reminded Aden. "Chocolate isn't good for dogs."

"I will," he said.

Lexa handed out the drinks, and Clarke lifted her mug. "Best Christmas ever?" she said, offering up a toast.

Lexa clinked her mug carefully against Clarke's, and Aden did the same. (It was probably for the best that Madi didn't try to get in on the action.) After taking a careful sip, Lexa set down her mug and stretched out her arms to wrap her perfect little family in an embrace. "Best Christmas ever."