Sequel: In Unexpected Places

Against the Odds

Chapter Seventy Nine Part Two

A/N: Sorry for the long wait! But I really wanted to get the Christmas spirit right for this one. I hope I’ve succeeded. As always, please let me know what you think. Remember, your likes, comments, and messages only encourage my creativity :)


If Alex were being honest with herself, before coming out to Sandringham for Christmas, she had been slightly nervous. Not because it was a ‘Royal Christmas’ or because of the company she was keeping, but because it was going to be different. All of her life - and for all of Emma’s life too - Christmas had held the same traditions for them year after year. It wasn’t that she wasn’t very much looking forward to this new tradition in their lives, it was just something new and different and for something as special to her as Christmas was, it gave her a tiny case of the butterflies.

But of course, there had been absolutely nothing for Alex to be nervous about. From the second that Harry had shown up in the drawing room dressed as Santa and thrilled all of the children, Alex felt that warmth and happiness that always came with Christmas settle right into her heart and soul.

The kids had been so excited to see ‘Santa’, even if most of them knew exactly who was under that suit. They had laughed and giggled and tried to pull on the fake beard Harry was wearing and he took it all in such stride. In fact, Alex was pretty sure Harry had just as much, if not more, fun as the kids during his time as Santa.

After the tree had been fully decorated, Harry snuck out to change into his clothes and then snuck back in just before the family gift exchange started, sliding back in the door and moving back over in beside Alex with a wink and grin.

And she couldn’t help but grin back at him, her entire heart lifting at how happy he was; at how happy they were.

She remained relaxed and happy as they returned to their rooms in the early evening so that they could get ready for the the traditional formal Christmas dinner that evening. Her focus moved to showering, getting Emma bathed and dressed, getting her own hair and make-up done, and then getting her gown on. In fact, she he was so focused that Harry was fully dressed and stepping up next to where she stood at the dresser, sliding her earrings into her ears, before she snapped out of it and took notice of the tux he was wearing.

“Oh wow…” Alex let out a breath and her eyes widened as she turned to him. “You look...amazing.”

“I believe that’s my line, my darling,” Harry chuckled as his eyes traveled down her body, taking in her midnight blue floor length gown.

She laughed lightly and shook her head. “No no, it’s just that I haven’t seen you in your tux since…”

“The night of the Boodles Boxing Ball,” he finished for her. His eyes flashed as he remembered that night and what had started unfolding then, the pain that events of the days after that had caused his wife and his family.

Alex tilted her head to the side and stepped closer, her hands moving to his chest. “Hey...don’t do that,” she soothed, her smile soft as she looked up at him. “I just meant that it’s been a long time since I’ve seen you dressed up like this…” She reached up to straighten his bowtie, and when her eyes moved back to his, they were soft with just a hint of that innocence she always carried with her. “And you look so sexy, Harry.”

“Oh yeah?” His smile tipped smug and his hands moved to her hips.

“Mhmm…” She nodded and then her voice softened and he felt him being pulled right under her spell. “Though, if I’m being honest, I also found the other suit you wore today a bit sexy.”

His lips twitched. “My Santa suit?”

Alex giggled and her cheeks flushed as she nodded her head. “A little bit. Maybe you could…” She shrugged and cashed her eyes down to her fingers for a moment. “Put it back on later? For me?”

Harry’s brows lifted. “Really?”

Alex grinned. “Yes.”

His smile matched hers. “Well...ho, ho, ho…”

She giggled as Harry’s lips dropped to hers and his hands pulled her closer, her unexpected request sending a wave of want through him.

“Hey!” Emma’s groan as she opened the door that connected her room with theirs put the kiss on hold and they both laughed lightly as they pulled apart. “I leave for five minutes and you’re already kissing!”

“Absolutely,” Harry chuckled. He winked down at Alex before they both turned to their daughter. “You look very pretty tonight, Emma Rose.”

Emma’s face brightened at that and she skipped further into the room. Her fingers pulled at the green satin material of her dress, pulling the skirt out at the sides to show it off. “Thank you, Dad. It’s so pretty. I couldn’t wait to wear it tonight.”

“You look beautiful,” Alex assured her daughter as she left Harry’s side and went to smooth her hand back over Emma’s blond hair.

“So do you, Mummy,” Emma grinned up at her.

“Thank you,” Alex smiled in return. “Alright, Miss Em. Are you ready to go?”

“Yes!” Emma nodded, clearly excited for the upcoming dinner, happy to be included at such a formal affair.

“Alright then,” Harry clapped his hands together and moved towards his girls. “Allow me to escort you both to dinner.”


Dinner was enchanting.

There was no other word that Alex could think of that conveyed the feeling in the formal dining room that evening. The lights were dim, enhancing the glow of the candles lit around the room. They were served dinner on the most beautiful china that Alex had ever seen and the food was simply amazing; rich and flavorful and delicious. The hum of conversation from around the table only added to the mood; combining with the clink of silverware against china to create almost a melody of sorts.

As was custom for formal dinners, couples were not seated next to each other for the meal. Alex didn’t mind though; with Mike Tindall seated on one side of her and Harry’s brother seated on the other, her dinner conversation had promised to be anything but dull.

It was just after their salad plates had been pulled away and the dinner plates were being served that Mike leaned in, his voice lowering so that no one else but Alex could hear him.

“So tell me, at some point do you and Harry plan on making another little one to call me Aunt Mikey?”

Alex nearly snorted wine up her nose.

Coughing discreetly, she turned slightly narrowed eyes to Mike. “I don’t believe that is proper dinner conversation, Mr. Tindall.”

Mike grinned. “I don’t believe that anyone has ever said that I’m known for being proper, Your Royal Highness.”

Alex pressed her lips together, trying not to laugh. “It’s been a tough year, Mike. But we’ll get there.”

Mike’s face changed instantly, wincing slightly as he realized how inconsiderate his question had sounded. “Ah Christ, Alex. I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean…”

“Hey.” She reached out and touched his arm lightly. “It’s fine. Really, don’t worry.”


“Of course,” Alex nodded and then her lips twitched as she leaned in a bit closer. “Though...I’ll have you know that you’re the second person in this family to use the Lord’s name in vain today - on Christmas Eve - and I’m honestly starting to worry about the lot of you.”

And this time, it was Mike’s turn to nearly snort wine through his nose.

A giggle threatened to slip from Alex’s lips, but just then the sound of silverware clinking against crystal came from the other end of the table and conversation dimmed. Charles stood from his seat at one end of the table and Alex pressed her lips together, pushing her amusement with Mike down as Charles button his tuxedo jacket and took his glass on his hand.

“There’s always a speech at dinner,” William leaned in and whispered to Alex, somehow catching the slight curious confusion that had wandered into her mind. “It’s given by the most senior male member of the family.”

“Ah,” Alex took a breath as the meaning of that sentence washed over her. “Which is now your father,” Alex whispered in return, her eyes turning to meet her brother-in-law’s.

“A Christmas of firsts,” William nodded with a smile, though Alex caught the emotion that wavered beneath.

Alex blinked in surprise, but before she could reply, before she could really take in how big of a moment this was for not only her, but everyone around the table, Charles cleared his throat, took a breath, and began to speak.

“It’s been quite the year, no?” His rich, deep voice filled the air as he looked around the table. Alex felt tears spring to her eyes as his gaze moved to Elizabeth, around the table to Alex, and then shifted and settled on Harry; a moment passing between father and son before he continued. “I could absolutely address the bad. But, this is Christmas and I think maybe this is the time to reflect on the good...and the good that will be.” He took a breath and his eyes cast down for a moment before lifting back up as his smile pulled a bit higher. “So let us choose to have wonderful memories for those we’ve lost…” He took a moment; a brief silence for Phillip to move over the room. “And let us look forward to the wonderful memories of those our family has gained.” He turned warm, affectionate glances to both Alex and Emma, who both blushed slightly while Harry beamed from his own seat. “And to those who we’re going to gain in the coming year.” His gaze shifted to Kate, who grinned and placed a hand over her pregnant belly. “And finally, to those who’ve taught us how to be strong through everything that’s come our way.” His final gaze moved to the Queen, his mother, seated with her own dignified grace at the head of the table. She responded with a nod and smile that was tinted with pride and raised her glass slightly. Charles nodded in return. “Merry Christmas.”

“Merry Christmas,” echoed the room as they raised their glasses along with him.

And toasted to each other.


After dinner the family parted for the evening. The next morning was Christmas; they had to get up early for breakfast and then church. Children needed to be put to bed and the adults wanted to get some rest before the big day that was almost upon them.

As it was nearly always a struggle to get Emma to go to sleep on Christmas eve, Alex was surprised when Emma voiced no objections to changing into her pajamas and crawling right into bed. She was out nearly as soon as she hit the pillow and Alex and Harry exchanged an amused look before they slipped back into their own room and changed out of their formal wear and into their own pajamas. But as much as they both would have liked to climb into bed right then, they had one more thing to do before they could curl up together and get some rest.

Alex grinned when Harry pulled the little artificial tree from the box they had so carefully packed and hidden away from Emma’s sight. Alex found the accompanying box of ornaments and together they found a place by one of the small windows in their room and began to assemble the small tree.

It didn’t take too long; the tree wasn’t big or fancy, but it was a Christmas tree. A Christmas tree that they placed several presents under for Emma; presents that their daughter could open up first thing in the morning.

Just like she had always done as long as she could remember.

“This was a wonderful idea,” Alex sighed as she plugged in the small string of lights and the tree lit up, glowing against the black of the night through the window behind it. “She’s going to be so happy, Harry.”

Harry grinned and stepped back to admire their handiwork. “Well, I wanted her to be able to keep a part of this holiday that she loves. And I know she loves Christmas morning...and presents.”

Alex snickered and gave him a look. “She loves the feeling of it; waking up with such excitement and sitting around in pajamas and messy hair opening presents.

“I know,” Harry chuckled.

“And this…” Alex waved a hand towards the tree and bit her lip. “She’ll love this. Thank you for thinking of this, Harry.”

“Ah, love,” Harry shook his head. He moved to her and wrapped an arm about her, pulling her into his side and kissing the top of her head. “It was nothing.”

“It’s not nothing…” she sighed, leaning into him. “But you know that.”

“Mhmm,” he murmured in a non-committal way and silence fell between them for a moment, both of their minds wandering over the day they’d spent and the day that was to come.

“Look…” Alex suddenly whispered, nodding to the window behind the Christmas tree. “It’s snowing.”

“Ah, look at that,” Harry murmured, his eyes soft and warm as he turned to look. “It is. And just in time for Christmas.”

Alex sighed and leaned into him, resting her head on his shoulder. “You know, if we were in a movie, White Christmas would start playing right now...and the camera would pan out and the credits would roll…”

Harry chuckled and then moved his arm around her, tucking her closer to him. He turned to kiss the side of her head and then leaned his head in to rest on hers.

“Are you saying this is our happy ending?” he asked, his voice hardly louder than a whisper.

Alex smiled at his question. “Nah. I don’t think it is.”

“Really?” He turned to her, a bit surprised with her answer.

“I’m not saying this isn’t a happy moment,” she shook her head, clarifying what she meant. “It is absolutely a happy moment. I just meant, we’ve been through...God, so much. A lifetime’s worth of bad moments this year really. Surely we’ve that means we’ve got a whole host of good one’s due our way? How could this be the happy ending? We’ve got so much to look forward to; all of Emma’s moments growing up, having more children and raising them to be good people, hopefully watching them find people that they love as much as we love each other. You see, Sussex...I damn near lost you this year and I damn near lost myself too...and I really want to take advantage of the fact that we came out of all of that okay. And so I’m not ready for a happy ending just yet. There’s too many happy moments in between that I want.”

“Oh, Alexandra,” Harry murmured, his lips turning up into a sweet smile. His fingers moved to her face, smoothing a piece of blonde hair back behind her ear. “I want that too.”

“Well, it’s a good thing you promised before God to be with me forever then,” Alex grinned, bringing a soft laugh from Harry.

“I love that smile right there,” he murmured, watching as her smile pulled even wider, stretching her cheeks. “You look happy, baby.”

“I am,” she nodded. “I’m incredibly happy, Harry.”

“Ah see,” Harry murmured, with a soft shake of his head. “That’s the best present you could ever give me right there.”

“Speaking of presents…” Alex’s eyes suddenly danced with a bit of anticipation. “What do you say that...we do ours right now? Right in front of our Christmas tree?”

Harry’s face brightened at the thought. “Are you sure? You don’t want to wait until morning?”

“I don’t think we need to,” she replied with a shake of her head. “Tomorrow morning can really be about Emma opening her presents. Besides...I kind of love the idea of opening ours just the two of us.”

“I like it too.” He bent to kiss her softly and then, with excited smiles, they stepped away from each other to grab their presents quickly before returning to the tree. They each sat down in front of it, legs crossed and facing each other.

“It looks like we both followed the rules,” Alex smirked, eyeing the package in Harry’s lap that was identical in shape and size to the one in her lap. Weeks before, when looking at catalogues and decorating ideas, for their new apartment, Alex had come up with the idea for Christmas presents. They were each to select their favorite picture of the two of them together, and it wasn’t limited to their private photos either. They were free to choose from photos from them any of the public events they had attended, including their engagement announcement and their wedding. The rules were that they would have it framed in a specific size and once their apartment was done, Alex would hang the photo Harry chose in her office and he would do the same with hers; forever reminding them of a moment the other cherished between them.

Harry chuckled. “I do pay attention. You first, my darling.”

“No, you first,” Alex grinned.


“Fine,” she giggled. She set the package on her lap to the side as he handed her the one he’d so carefully selected. Her hands ran over the beautiful wrapping paper for a moment before she bit her lip, slightly shy and inexplicably a bit nervous. She’d been dying to know which picture he’d chosen for weeks.

“It’s not going to open itself,” Harry quipped, watching her with amusement.

“Ha. Ha.” Alex rolled her eyes playfully and then started to pull at the wrapping paper, feeling a little thrill at the ‘rip’ that sounded out as the paper pulled back from the glass frame beneath it. “Oh Harry…” she breathed when she saw the picture, the moment it was taken popping into her mind instantly.

It was from Wimbledon, their first outing in public together, when the world had learned who the woman that Prince Harry was so mysteriously seeing. They were looking at the each other as they sat in their seats, Harry’s arm across the back of her seat as he leaned in close. Alex was obviously amused; her smile was a mile wide and her nose was scrunched up in the way it did whenever she was just about to let out a big laugh. He was smiling too, his eyes locked on hers, watching her as she reacted to whatever it was that he had just said. They looked happy and relaxed and not at all nervous about the eyes and the cameras of the entire stadium focused directly on them both.

“I don’t remember what I said to make you laugh,” Harry said, his own emotions washing through him as he watched her take in the picture, as he watched tears spring into her eyes. “But I remember that laugh. I can still hear it as clear as day. And I remember…” He shrugged and swallowed back the lump in his throat as her watery eyes turned up to his. “I remember thinking that if you could laugh like that while jumping right into this crazy life with me, while knowing that within minutes the entire world would know your name and have opinions about you, that you could probably find a way to find a smile no matter what you were going through.”

Alex laughed then and wiped at her wet eyes. “You’re killing me, Sussex. This is...beautiful. And the reason you chose it…” She shook her head slowly and then leaned over and kissed him. “Thank you, Henry Charles. It’s perfect. I love it and I just...I love you.”

“You’re so very welcome, my love,” he smiled against her lips as she kissed him again. “Okay. Now it’s my turn,” he grinned and she giggled as she sat back, cradling her new photo in her lap.

He tore right into the wrapping paper, having none of the hesitation or nervousness that she did. She giggled and then watched as his face lit up as he saw what picture awaited him.

“Alexandra Mae…”

The photo in his hands was taken on their wedding day at the altar of Westminster Abbey. It had captured the moment just spoken her vows and a tear has slipped out of one of her eyes and by reflex, he’d reached up and wiped it away softly with his thumb, the sweetest smile on his face as he did so. Though it had been shared with the entire world, it was a private, intimate moment. One that Alex loved with all of her heart.

“God,” he murmured, his hand reaching up to press against his chest, right over his heart. “ did good,” he whispered, his eyes finally rising up to meet hers. “This is amazing.”

Alex beamed. “I love that moment. I was trying so hard not to cry and of course I went ahead and did it anyway, but you were right there...taking care of me. Like you always do.”

“We take care of each other,” Harry replied, his gaze moving back down to the photo for a moment before his eyes lifted back to her. He set the photo to the side and then held out a hand to her. “Come here, Alex.”

She went without hesitation, setting her photo to the side as well and moving right over into his lap. Her legs settled on either side of his and her arms wrapped around his neck.

“Merry Christmas, husband,” she whispered, her lips tilting up at the sides.

“Merry Christmas, wife,” he whispered back to her. His fingers lifted to her face and cupped her cheeks, pulling her lips down to his.

He kissed her long and warm and with such reverent passion that she couldn’t help but respond. Her arms tightened around his neck and she pressed herself closer and the softest breath of a moan slipped from her mouth and into his. Harry knew what that sound meant, what she wanted. And he absolutely wanted the same thing. With a groan, his arms moved around her and he shifted, turning her over and laying her back onto the plush rug below them.

And he made love to his wife right there, in front of their tiny little Christmas tree and the snow falling outside of the windows.


Though they’d had a rather late evening, when Alex and Harry were woken up by Emma just as the sun began to peek into the windows, they didn’t mind one little bit. They’d been excited to see Emma’s reaction when she realized there was a tree with presents under it for her and the anticipation was well worth it.

“Oh my gosh!” Emma exclaimed, plopping down in front of the tree and gazing at the wrapped gifts under it. “I didn’t think I’d get to open presents this morning! I thought I’d have to wait until we got to Mimi and Poppy’s tomorrow!”

“You’ll have some there that you’ll open,” Alex smiled as she tied her robe around her waist and then slid in next to her daughter on the floor. “But we thought you’d like to open a few this morning, like we’re used to doing.”

“You thought right, Mummy,” Emma nodded with wide, happy eyes.

Harry chuckled and ran a hand through his hair as he pulled his own robe on. He picked up the phone by the bed to order up coffee for him and Alex and hot chocolate for Emma. They’d be going down for breakfast in a bit, but the need for caffeine couldn’t wait until then. Once he’d taken care of that necessity, he joined his family in front of their little Christmas tree. His eyes met Alex’s and he chuckled as she blushed, memories of their lovemaking from the night before right in that spot washing over her. She shook her head at him and then took a deep breath and turned towards their very excited eight year old.

“Alright, where do you want to start, Em?”

“Does it matter which one I choose first?” Emma asked.

“Not at all,” Alex waved a hand towards to beautifully wrapped gifts. “Go wild. Whichever order you want.”

Emma clapped her hands together and nearly dove for the first present, naturally going for the biggest one first.


“When do you think I can try out my new riding saddle?” Emma asked, her eyes hopeful as Alex slipped the headband that matched Emma’s dress for church into Emma’s thick blonde hair.

“Maybe we can ask Zara before we walk to church if she can do a special lesson for you between now and New Year’s,” Alex replied, standing to make sure her daughter’s outfit was in order.

“Really?” Emma clasped her hands together. “Do you think she will?”

“Probably,” Harry chuckled, loving how excited Emma was about her gifts, the new riding saddle in particular. It had been exactly what she’d wanted. “She helped pick out the saddle, you know.”

“She’s so smart,” Emma smiled wide. She pushed at the headband, adjusting it to feel better on her head and skewing it slightly. Alex resisted the urge to reach out and straighten it; Emma would just move it again and really, it wasn’t that big of a deal.

“She is smart. And she adores you,” Alex winked down at her daughter before turning to do one last check in the mirror at her own outfit. Her dress was free of wrinkles and any dog hair that may have been transported from their home. Her fascinator was firmly pinned into place atop her hair, which she’d left down but tamed in soft curls. Her tights were free of runs and her suede boots were free of scuff marks.

“Alright, I think I’m ready,” she announced, turning around with a smile towards Emma and Harry, who was dressed in his navy suit, complete with the tie that Emma had given him for father’s day that year.

“You look beautiful,” Harry assured her, recognizing the slight nerves in her eyes. Thought they hadn’t spoken of it much that morning, it was her first time stepping out in public since she’d been held hostage in their home that summer. He knew she was ready and she knew she was ready, but it was still a big moment; a moment where all eyes would be on her. “And I’m sure you’re ready.”

Alex smiled back at him, understanding what he was saying, though the nerves still stayed steady in her stomach. “Thank you. Well, then...let’s go meet everyone downstairs.”

They set about gathering their gloves and coats and then departed their room, moving through the halls and down the grand staircase towards the sounds of the gathered family in the great hall.

But with each step they took, Alex could feel her nerves getting bigger, could feel her anxiety growing greater. She knew she shouldn’t be so worried; her rational mind was well aware of that fact. But she had spent four months out of the public eyes; she hadn’t spoken to anyone she didn’t choose to speak to for four months. She hadn’t had to face questions or sympathy or comments from anyone she didn’t feel comfortable facing those things with in all of that time. Now, she was going to face that head on. And no matter how prepared she thought she was, she couldn’t stop the way her fingers shook a little bit and the way it felt just a bit harder than usual for her to breathe.


She started, blinking several times as she pushed aside her thoughts and turned to look down at her daughter. “Yes, honey?”

“Are you okay?” Emma whispered, stepping closer. “You look like you might throw up.”

Alex let out a breath of a laugh and shook her head. She crouched down so she was eye level with Emma. “It’s okay. I’m not going to throw up, baby. I’m just nervous is all.”

“About walking to church?”

“Yes,” Alex answered honestly.

“Are you worried there will be bad men there like the one that tried to take you?”

Alex took a breath, aware that Harry had moved in close to them and was listening, but keeping her focus on Emma. “No, I don’t think there will be bad men there. I’m worried that all everyone will be thinking about is me almost being taken by the bad guy.”

“Well they might be thinking that,” Emma shrugged. “But only because they’re so glad that he didn’t take you and that you’re still here. Just like I am and Daddy is and everyone else here.”

“I think she’s right,” Harry said softly, drawing Alex’s eyes up to his for a moment. He gave her an encouraging smile. “But you know you don’t have to do this if you don’t want to, love. No one expects you to do anything that makes you uncomfortable.”

Alex bit her lip, seriously considering his words for a moment. “No,” she finally said with a firm shake of her head. “No, I need to do this. I want to do this. I want to be with the family at church.”

“I can hold your hand while we walk,” Emma offered sweetly, nearly drawing Alex to tears.

“Me too,” Harry joined in and Alex’s blinked backed the emotion at the same time as her heart lifted. She was really just so lucky to have them both.

“I think I would love that,” she said. She leaned in and kissed Emma’s cheek and then stood and kissed Harry’s cheek as well. “I think I would love that very much.”


In the end, the walk to church wasn’t anything for Alex to be worried about at all. With one gloved hand tucked inside of Harry’s arm and the other holding onto Emma’s hand, they set out with the rest of the family towards the beautiful little church on the grounds of Sandringham.

As soon as they approached the crowds, Alex strangely felt her nerves fade away. Here were this group of people who had waited for who knows how long in the cold and the snow to get a chance to see them. The wide smiles on their faces and their excited waves did more to quell any fears within Alex than anything else could have done for her in that moment. She waved and smiled back and she laughed along the rest of the family at little Henry, who was reveling in his first experience of doing the walk. Several times he made attempts at a mad dash away from his parents and towards various dogs and puppies that people had brought out to wait with them. She smiled wide as people called out Merry Christmas to them as they passed, and it struck her that she actually couldn’t wait for the walk back and the chance to return their well wishes and talk to them for a bit.

The church service was undeniably beautiful. She listened and took in the meaningful words that the reverend spoke, she sang along with the hymns, and she bowed her head in prayer, warmth and and joy and love infusing through her throughout the service. And when the reverend brought it all to a close, Alex honestly hadn’t thought that even ten minutes had passed, much less an entire hour. But she rose with the rest of the congregation, bowed her head in prayer once more, and then smiled as people began to put their coats back on, as conversation began to hum around her.

People began to file from the church and Harry, Emma, and Alex fell in line with them. When they stepped outside, the air was just a crisp and cold as they left it, the sky just as bright and sunny.

They stayed in the courtyard for a little while, the family members chatting with each other while everyone filed out of the church and while Elizabeth took a few moments to speak with the reverend before they made their way out to take the walk back to Sandringham.

“Are you ready?” Harry asked softly, leaning in close to her.

“Absolutely,” Alex replied with a wide smile, her nerves from earlier in the morning all but gone.

Pride flashed across Harry’s face and he reached for her hand, squeezing her fingers with his in a show of support before they began to greet the crowds. “I’ll stay near you and Emma,” he promised.

“Thank you,” she murmured, squeezing his fingers back.

And then they were moving, stepping out of the courtyard and moving down the steps towards the path lined with people.

“Come on, Em,” Alex said to him, holding her hand out for her daughter. “Let’s go say hello to some people.”

They moved down the path, stopping to shake hands and take flowers and exchange well wishes from those gathered. Alex found her cheeks hurt from smiling in happiness and in pride at how well her daughter did, how easily she took to this part of their life.

“Merry Christmas!” Alex smiled as she came across a woman standing on the other side of the line, cradling young babies on each hip. “My goodness...twins?”

“Yes!” the woman nodded, delighted that Alex and Emma had stopped in front of them. “Two girls.”

“Oh my goodness. How precious,” Alex cooed as she reach out to run a finger along the soft, pink cheek of one of the girls. “Watch out for my husband. He’ll be along in a minute and he’ll melt when he sees them.” The woman laughed and Alex giggled along with her. “What are their names. How old are they?”

“This is Stella and Scarlett,” the woman replied, pride moving across her face as she looked between her girls. “And they’re six months old.”

“Those are pretty names,” Emma said with a sweet smile.

“Thank you,” the woman smiled in return. “And I happen to think that Princess Emma is a pretty name as well.”

Emma giggled and Alex chuckled as she took her daughter’s hand in hers again, bidding the woman and those around her a Merry Christmas and continuing the journey down the walk through the crowds.

And she couldn’t deny just how great it felt to be out and about, to be talking to people again. It felt like the journey she had been on for months had finally, finally reached it’s the point she’d been wanting to reach. It had been a long four months but she had gotten there. Her life may never be quite the same; but she was fully living again. There was no doubt in her mind about that.

A/N 2: I’ll cover Christmas at Alex’s parents up through New Year’s in the next chapter :)