Sequel: In Unexpected Places

Against the Odds

Chapter Seventy Nine Part One

London just felt like Christmas to Alex at this time of year; it always had. Maybe it was the fact that it was cold outside but that because of the lights and the decor and the spirit of people, it made her feel warm on the inside; warm and comfortable and at peace. And after the previous six months that they’d had, she welcomed that feeling with open arms.

And with the Christmas season and the warmth that came with it, there was also a handful of new traditions for her and Emma; their first year as official members of the royal family. Just over a week before Christmas, a series of luncheons were scheduled given by various royal households for their staff members, meant to thank their employees for their service that year. The first of these was given by the Queen at Buckingham Palace. Members of the family who were in London and could make it were invited to attend, and Harry, Alex, and Emma were delighted to join in the festivities and spend time with Harry’s grandmother and other family members.

The second of these parties that were on the schedule for the Sussexes was for their own staff, the group of people who had run their office through the downright crazy beginning of their marriage. If any group of people deserved to be thanked, it was the people who had kept their lives running when they were in no state to do so themselves.

“Are you sure you are okay with having the luncheon at the restaurant?” Harry asked Alex that morning as they got ready to go. “I’m sure the paps will be out and…”

“It’s not the first time I’ve been photographed since we came back, Harry,” she laughed when he expressed his concerns. “We were papped coming out of the train station when we first got back in October.”

“I know,” he smiled and shrugged his shoulders. “But they’ll be waiting...more of them. And we could easily just change it to here and...”

“Come on,” she smirked as she turned to him, reaching up to help him with his tie. “Don’t be ridiculous. We can’t ask your father’s staff to somehow cater a lunch for ten people in an hour. And, besides that...I can handle it,” she assured him with a soft smile. “I want to go. Can we go?”

He sighed, his smile tipping higher as he nodded, happy to see her so determined to live her life again. “Of course we can go.”

But as it so happened, somehow the press hadn’t discovered their planned get together at the restaurant in Notting Hill. They arrived to no outside fanfare, only to the smiling faces of some of the most important people in their lives, tucked into the private room at the back of the trendy eatery.

Mia was the first to greet them and though Dr. Ben had also been invited, it seemed that he had accompanied Mia to the lunch and Alex couldn’t help but smile at the evidence that their romance seemed to be blossoming. Robin, who had done a wonderful job filling in for Charlotte, was also there with his significant other, a very handsome and incredibly nice man named Jack whom Harry and Alex hadn’t met before, but were very happy to have the chance to do so. Charlotte, with Matt in tow of course, was the last in line to greet them with hugs and kisses on their cheeks.

“Where’s Cooper?” Alex pouted as she hugged her brother and then turned to Charlotte.

“With my mother and father,” Charlotte smirked. “And you know, you used to be my friend, but now when you see me all you want is my kid.”

“Well, that’s what you get for giving me such an adorable little nephew,” Alex grinned, knowing her friend and sister-in-law was joking.

“Well, he is pretty adorable,” Charlotte’s smile turned smug. “So I suppose I can’t really blame you there.”

“So your mother and father are” Harry interrupted, pulling a face as he said the words.

Matt chuckled and his hand moved to squeeze Charlotte’s shoulder. “They are. And at the risk of getting smacked by my beautiful wife, they’re actually pretty sweet together. They smile and laugh a lot.”

Charlotte snorted at the same time as Harry snickered.

“Why do you not think that’s a good thing?” Alex giggled. “Your parents are smiling and laughing together. I mean, they’re happy...right?”

“No no. It is a good thing,” Charlotte waved a hand and then sighed. “It’s just...weird. That’s all. But speaking of smiling and laughing…” Her gaze shifted to focus on Alex. “I saw that The Sun published those cell phone snaps of you two at Emma’s school Christmas Pageant last night.”

Alex’s nose wrinkled up and Harry grunted beside her.

“I really hate that someone - most likely another parent - took those and sold them,” Alex said.

“I know,” Charlotte nodded, sympathetic. “But...and I’m speaking strictly as your friend here and not from a PR looked really, really happy, Alex.”

Alex couldn’t help but smile at that and without looking, she knew Harry was smiling too; happy because she was happy and more than that, because other people could see it too.

“Well, Emma was the most adorable little Sugar Plum Fairy there ever was,” Alex grinned, pulling a chuckle of agreement from their little circle. “And I suppose it can’t be all bad then, press wise. Maybe the papers will stop speculating that I’m going mad locked up in the castle tower.”

Matt laughed and shook his head. “Where do they come up with this shit?”

“Ah, my friend,” Harry offered, his own shoulders shaking with laughter.. “Fleet Street has the most impressive selection of fiction writers I’ve ever seen.”

“Alright,” Alex clapped her hands together and glanced around the room, at the familiar faces all caught in groups of conversation. “Enough of the press and the fan fiction they write about us. Let’s sit down and get started. I’m hungry and have presents to give out.”

“Food and presents,” Charlotte grinned, leaning in to hook her arm through Alex’s as they turned and led their husbands towards the table set for the luncheon. “A woman after my own heart.”



“Yes, my darling?” Alex asked with a smile as she stepped from her closet, several different evening gowns in her hands.

“Why do you have to bring so many clothes for Christmas?” she asked dramatically, eyeing the different items lined up on the racks Alex had pulled out to sort through potential outfits.

“Well, Harry’s family Christmas is a bit different than what we’re used to,” Alex explained. She hung up the gowns and then turned to Emma. “And it’s not just me who is bringing so many clothes, after I get my stuff sorted, your clothes are next, munchkin.”

Emma’s eyes widened. “Nu uh.”

“Yes huh,” Alex teased in return. “You’re going to be doing just about everything we’re doing.”

“What’s the first thing we’ll do?” Emma asked, suddenly interested in her role in the upcoming Christmas celebrations.

“Well, first...we’ll get there a bit early so that your Dad and Uncle Will can go play their traditional soccer game with some of the people who work on the estate.”

“It called Football!” The response came back at Alex as a chorus of two voices and she laughed and rolled her eyes as she watched Harry walk into the room.

“Fine. Football,” Alex turned playfully narrowed eyes at both her daughter and her husband. “I’m going over all the outfit changes with Emma,” she explained as Harry came over and kissed her and then went and plopped down next to Emma on the bed.

“Ah yes,” Harry sighed. “And we’ve only made it through football so far?”

“Yep,” Emma nodded. “What’s next after football?”

“Tea,” Alex answered, looking over to check with Harry for confirmation. “And then you and the other kiddos will help to decorate the Christmas tree.”

“I need a special outfit for decorating a tree?” Emma interrupted.

“Well,” Alex laughed. “You’ll change for tea and you’ll wear the same thing for decorating the tree.”

“And presents,” Harry grinned wide and Alex laughed. “We’ll all open presents after the tree is decorated and you won’t need a special outfit for that.”

“That’s good,” Emma sighed in dramatic relief, amusing Harry and Alex to no end.

“But then, we’ll get dressed for the formal dinner,” Harry winked at Emma.

“Oh, I got a new dress for that!” Emma exclaimed. “It’s sooooo pretty.”

“I’ll bet,” Harry laughed.

“And then, my little bugger, it’s bedtime for you after dinner,” Alex continued on. “And then the next morning we’ll do breakfast.”

“Then change clothes for church,” Harry added.

“Then we come back and change for Christmas Lunch,” Alex said, laughing as Emma’s eyes grew wider.

“And that’s it,” Harry chuckled, ruffling Emma’s long blonde hair. “After lunch, we change into our comfortable clothes to watch Gran’s Christmas broadcast. Then we do whatever we want for the rest of the afternoon.”

“Like...take a nap because you’re so tired from changing clothes so many times?” Emma deadpanned.

“Ha!” Harry fell back on the bed as he laughed, loving the sounds of Alex and Emma giggling along with him. “I’ll tell you what, Em. If there were ever a child who belonged at a Windsor Christmas, it’s definitely you.”


It was later that night, after all the packing had been done, after they'd eaten dinner and Emma had been bathed and tucked into bed, that Alex finally got a chance to talk to Harry about something that had been on her mind for most of the day.


He looked to her as she climbed into bed with him, her eyes wide and her lip pulled between her teeth as she pulled the covers up around her legs and he smiled, loving that he knew instantly that something was on her mind.

"What's up, love?" He asked, his voice soft as he reached over to tuck a piece of hair behind her ear.

"Well..." She took a breath and scooted a bit closer. "This is going to be the first Christmas without your grandfather. I wanted to know if you wanted to talk about that at all."

His heart swelled with love for her at the same time as it clenched with the thought of Christmas without his grandfather. Of course he'd realized that this was the case, but with everything else going on he'd pushed it to the side, choosing not to think about it. But leave it to his wife to pull him back to it, to bring it back up in that soft, kind way she had.

"I'm going to miss him," Harry said quietly, his eyes filling with emotion as they held Alex's. "I've never known Christmas without him."

Alex blinked at the tears that rose in her eyes with his words. "Did he enjoy Christmas a lot?"

"Yes," Harry replied, a laugh falling from his lips as memories of his grandfather at Christmas ran through his brain. "He really did. He loved the family together."

"Tell me more," Alex said with an encouraging smile.

"You sure?" He lifted his brows.

"Of course," she laughed lightly and then shifted, moving in to snuggle up against him. "I want to hear all about your grandfather at Christmas."

Harry grinned and pulled her her closer, tucking her into his side and then leaning back against the headboard.

"Okay..." He started, taking a deep breath and trying to figure out where to begin. "You know how we all give each other gag gifts? Well, he started that."

"Did he really?" Alex asked, looking up at him with slight surprise.

“Yes,” Harry laughed and nodded his head. “He did. He loved it. The more inappropriate the better.”

“Like the Grow Your Own Girlfriend gift that Kate gave you one year?”

“Ha! How do you know about that?”

Alex giggled. “I read it once somewhere. I thought it was tabloid crap but apparently not.”

“Sometimes they get things right,” Harry admitted with a sigh.

“Sure,” Alex replied with a yawn. She settled further into him and wrapped her arm around his waist. “Tell more more.”

And Harry, amazed at how she could bring this subject up and make it one he wanted to talk about and not something that just brought him down, pulled her closer to him and settled in to do exactly as she asked.


“Christ! It’s cold out here!”

Alex snickered and turned to the tall brunette standing next to her on the frozen ground next to the makeshift football pitch. They had arrived at Sandringham less than an hour before and though she wasn’t quite sure she should go watch the football match, knowing the photographers would be out there, Kate had put her foot down and insisted that she go. Emma was excited to be able to watch and even more excited that Aunt Sophie had agreed to let Louise to come along to keep Emma company.

“Using the Lord’s name in vain on Christmas, Kate? Nice.”

Kate shivered and turned an amused glance to Alex. “It’s not Christmas yet.”

Alex grinned in return and then both of them laughed, a look of shared humor passing between them. Her gaze moved to the side for a moment, watching to make sure Emma and Louise were still close by. Confirming that her daughter and cousin-in-law were still playing just a few yards away, she turned back to Kate and sighed.

"I do agree with you though. It is bloody cold out here."

"Bloody?!" Kate's eyes flashed wide and her lips twitched at the corners. " almost sounded British there for a moment."

"Ha. Ha," Alex rolled her eyes playfully. "But seriously, how do they play in shorts in this weather?"

Kate shook her head. "Listen, I love sports. I'll play in almost any condition. But I draw the line at the brink of snowfall."

"Or, you know, nearly 8 months pregnant."

"That too," Kate chuckled, her hand moving to rest on her belly. "Though if this one is anything like Henry, she'll stay in there..." She trailed off, her eyes widening as she realized her slip up.

"Did you just..." Alex's smile spread wide even as Kate started to shake her head. "You did! You just..."

"Shhh..." Kate waved a hand and glanced at the handful of people standing several yards away, waiting for the game to start.

"Sorry. I'm sorry," Alex whispered and then stepped closer. "Kate..."

Kate sighed and then her smile spread wide, despite the secret she'd inadvertently given away. "Okay. Yes. You heard me correctly."

Alex resisted her immediate impulse to squeal, but instead emitted a sort of squeak that made Kate giggle.

"Anyway," Kate continued with a laugh. "I know this doesn't need to be said..."

Alex waved a hand. "Not a word. I promise. Not even Harry."

Kate smirked and shook her head. "You can tell Harry."

"What? Are you sure?"

The tall brunette shrugged her shoulders. "I would hate for him to find out that you knew I was pregnant before he did and that you knew the sex of the baby before it was born too."

Alex giggled. "Poor guy. Alright then. But only, him. I promise."

"Mummy! There's Uncle Will and Daddy! They're about to start playing."

Both Alex and Kate looked up to wear Emma was pointing out on the field and nearly identical smiles graced their faces as they spotted their husbands on the field, trotting out into position with their respective teams.

She could see Harry and Will already throwing playful barbs at each other about whose team was going to win and it made Alex and then lean in closer to Kate, her voice dropping as she said,. “Get ready to lose, Cambridge.”

Kate snorted. “In your dreams, Sussex.”

In the end, it was William’s team that proved victorious, with the winning goal made by the Duke of Cambridge himself, much to his brother’s chagrin.

Alex couldn’t help but giggle at the exaggerated pout on Harry’s face as he jogged up to them after the teams had shaken hands and congratulated each other.

“Aw, you poor thing,” she snickered as he bent to kiss her. She did her very best to ignore how attractive she found the smell of him when he was like this; flushed and sweaty and so cute she could smack him. “Maybe next year?”

“Not if I have anything to do with it,” William jokingly called out, making Harry roll his eyes.

“I think you played great!” Emma insisted to Harry, grinning as he leaned in to kiss the top of her head. “Did you hear us cheering?”

“Thank you, my darling girl,” he said happily. “And I did. Best cheerleading section I’ve ever heard. Even if Louise is a traitor and was cheering for Uncle Will.” He turned playfully narrowed eyes to Louise who giggled and shrugged her shoulders.

“Kate needed a partner to cheer with!” Louise informed him, not looking at all sorry.

“Fair enough,” Harry chuckled.

“Alright guys,” Kate announced, checking her watch and then looking around the group. “We need to head back in and getting ready for tea with Gran. We don’t want to be late.”


At some point, Alex figured she would get used to the way timetables worked in Harry’s family. Eventually she would become accustomed to having to arrive to nearly everything after certain people but before certain other people. Even something like tea on Christmas Eve was meticulously planned so that those in the family arrived more or less in order of their place in the line of succession.

“Doesn’t it ever...I don’t know...feel weird to be viewed as more important?” Alex asked Harry as she helped him adjust the collar of the white button down shirt he wore under his soft, tan sweater.

Harry smiled down at her. “It’s not that anyone is being viewed as more important. It’s it’s organized. No one in that room is offended. And if anyone is, it’s me.”

“What? Why?”

“Because there’s a whole host of people who get a go at the chocolate biscuits before I do.”

“Ha!” Alex laughed and shook her head. “Of course.”

“Of course," Harry echoed with a chuckle. "Now, are you two ladies ready?”

Alex nodded and reached for her cardigan, slipping it on over her green, knee length dress. She’d been warned of the chill that could creep into the white drawing room, despite the fire that would no doubt be going. Emma put down the book she’d had her nose buried in and jumped off of the bed, accepting the cardigan that Alex handed her as well.

Alex could feel her smile pulling wider with every step they took down the wide, portrait lined hallways. She almost couldn’t believe it was finally here; she was here with Emma and they were finally spending Christmas with Harry and his family in this big, beautiful, stately home in the country. When she’d come up with Emma on Boxing Day two years before, it had been a dream they’d looked forward to, spending Christmas here as a family. And now it was a very warm, very happy reality.

Nearly everyone was already gathered in the drawing room and they were greeted with a chorus of “Merry Christmas” and lots of hugs and kisses. Will and Kate arrived just after them with Henry, who immediately pulled his hand from Will’s and took off towards the group of kids already gathered near the tree. Charles and Camilla came in right behind them and as strange as it was, Alex couldn’t help but think that Charles reminded her of Father Christmas himself; kind and warm and welcoming...and a bit rosy cheeked at the moment.

And then, the Queen arrived. She was dressed in red and looked at wonderful and regal as she always did...except that for the first time in the memory of anyone in the room, Philip wasn’t by her side in the doorway of the drawing room.

Alex felt the mood in the room dip just a bit; she felt the realization wash over the room and heard a couple of deep breaths being taken. She did just the same as she reached for Harry’s hand, wrapping her fingers around his and giving them a discreet squeeze as they waited to greet his grandmother. He turned and his eyes met hers for a brief moment, thanking her silently for her steady support.

While there was no way she didn’t recognize the way the thoughts of everyone in the room drifted toward her late husband, the ever steady Queen kept calm and carried on, just as Alex knew everyone else in the room would as well. Elizabeth’s smile stayed soft, kind, and delighted as she stepped up to greet Charles first, a knowing smile passing between the two of them before she turned to Camilla and then to those after waiting to greet her.

“Harry,” Elizabeth said, her lips quirking up as Harry bowed and then leaned in to kiss her cheeks. “Merry Christmas.”

“Merry Christmas, Gran,”

“Alexandra,” Elizabeth turned to her next. “Merry Christmas, my dear. I’m so glad to have you with us.”

Alex smiled, her cheeks flushed slightly, and then she dipped into a curtsy. She found she was growing more and more used to that particular action. She leaned in to kiss the Queen’s cheeks in greeting - an action she thought might never fail to leave her a little bit in awe of the company she was keeping.

“Merry Christmas, Ma’am,” she replied, her smile stretching wider as she stepped back. “I’m so happy to be here. I have to say, everything is decorated so beautifully.”

“Ah well, wait until we let the little ones get their hands on the tree,” Elizabeth joked. “Now tell me, where is my newest great-grandchild.”

Alex blinked, confused as to exactly who Elizabeth meant before Harry saved the day, turning around and calling Emma’s name and bringing her skipping over from the group of kids gathered near the tree.

“Gran wanted to tell you Merry Christmas,” Harry said, chuckling at the questioning look on her face.

“Oh!” Emma said with a grin as she turned towards Elizabeth and dropped an adorable bob of a curtsy. “Merry Christmas, Gran!”

Alex bit her lip to stifle the giggle that threatened to slip out; little kids were always so much more relaxed with Elizabeth than adults were and she knew Harry’s grandmother actually really enjoyed how unguarded they were.

“Merry Christmas, Emma,” Elizabeth answered jovially “Are you excited for Christmas?”

“Oh yes, ma’am,” Emma nearly bounced with said excitement.

“And what did you ask Father Christmas for?” Elizabeth asked and Alex swore she saw a little bit of the Windsor twinkle in the Queen’s eyes.

“Hmmmm…” Emma snuck a sly glance up at her parents and then turned back to the Queen, that very same twinkle flashing her gaze. “A new riding saddle...and...a new baby brother or sister.”

“Ha!” Harry clapped his hands together as he laughed and Alex’s cheeks flushed a deep pink. “I hope you only expect one of those things tomorrow morning, Emma. Because otherwise that’s quite a tall order to fill overnight.”

And Alex couldn’t help but flush even further, knowing her cheeks were flaming red by now. Because if anyone was willing to fill that order overnight, it was her husband.

“I can’t believe you said that,” Alex whispered after Elizabeth moved away and Emma had run back off to play with her cousins.

“What?” Harry chuckled, his hand moving to her lower back as he turned to lead her towards the table that held the chocolate biscuits.

“About it being a ‘tall order to fill overnight,’” she said, shaking her head up at him. “You know exactly where my head front of the Queen.”

Harry’s lips twitched up. “You think she doesn’t know how babies are made?”

“Harry. Stop it.”

“What? You like this topic. In fact, as I really like to practice making babies…”

“Oh my God, Henry Charles...” Alex gave a huffing sort of laugh. “I cannot have this conversation with you right now.”

Harry grinned and reached for a chocolate biscuit. “Wanna have this conversation later then?”

“This is not happening to me right now,” Alex shook her head and pressed her hands to her heated cheeks. “My husband is not propositioning me in a room full of his family on Christmas Eve.”

Harry just chuckled and then lifted an eyebrow, obviously waiting for an answer to his question.

“Yes, alright?,” Alex huffed, though she couldn’t help but smile. “We can have this conversation later.”

Harry grinned. “Fantastic. Merry Christmas to me.”


It while the kids were decorating the Christmas tree under the supervision of Elizabeth that Harry disappeared. He has excused himself to go use the restroom but after about ten minutes, Alex began to grow suspicious. She kept glancing towards the door as the minutes ticked on, torn between concern and the nagging feeling that he was up to something. He’d had that slight cheshire grin on his face for most of the afternoon, and she knew it wasn’t only to do with him propositioning her at the dessert table.

But she started to grow a bit nervous as the tree neared completion and present opening grew near. Surely he wouldn’t miss present opening? Surely he knew how important…

“Ho! Ho! Ho!”

Alex’s thoughts ground to a halt as the voice she knew so well called out from the doorway to the drawing room. Her head whipped around and her eyes went wide and she didn’t know whether to laugh or cry as the room around her burst into laughter.

Because there was her husband, with a big, stupid grin on his face, and dressed up just like Santa Claus himself.

To Be Continued...