Not all of their missing persons cases had nefarious causes or tragic endings. Grace Sommers was found safe and sound, one of the happy outcomes. The elderly woman’s family should have put her in assisted care years ago, since she was clearly senile, but that was a hard decision for any family to make. Grace had wandered off on her own, somehow managing to get from where she lived in Manhattan all the way to a public park in Jersey. Given that it was December and she didn’t have a coat, it was something of a miracle that she was unharmed by her adventure.
Then again, it was the season for miracles.
Martin watched Jack supervise Grace being loaded in the ambulance, an open look of satisfaction on the older agent’s face. That expression was marred, however, as Jack glanced down at his watch, forehead wrinkling at he saw what time it was. Martin knew what the problem was and knew how to fix it, if only Jack would listen.
"You can leave, you know," Martin suggested as he approached the other man. "You’ve got an efficient team that can handle all the mopping up and paperwork. Let us."
Jack looked at him fondly. "You just don’t want to have to calm the girls down if I’m late."
Martin snorted. "The girls aren’t a problem." He mock shuddered. "It’s Marie I don’t want to have to face down."
There was a time when mentioning his ex-wife’s name to Jack would have been like waving a red flag in front of a bull. Instead of going into a temper, though, Jack just chuckled.
"Well, considering how much you’ve helped the girls with their lines for this thing, I’m sure you’re in her good graces," Jack commented. "For the moment, anyway." His expression softened. "You’re always in mine."
Martin flushed at the praise from his lover. "I didn’t mind; it was fun."
The fact that Jack had kids was a bonus, as far as Martin was concerned. His own family had been aloof and cold, so it was wonderful to find himself part of a family. He hadn’t been used to kids, but Jack’s girls were easy to love and Martin soon found himself as fond of Hannah and Kate as he was of their dad.
"Go," Martin repeated, gently pushing at Jack’s shoulder. "The girls’ Christmas program starts in a few hours and you promised you’d say hello to them in the dressing room beforehand."
Jack looked torn. "You should come too."
Although he wanted to, Martin knew that both of them couldn’t leave just yet. "I’ll get there as soon as I can."
The look Jack gave him was searching, but Martin was used to coping with the Malone stare and just returned it calmly. It helped that he believed what he said; he loved Jack’s girls, but it was far more important for their father to attend their Christmas program than it was for his father’s boyfriend to be there. Besides, even with remaining to help the others with the clean-up, there was a possibility that he’d make it in time.
With a nod and a wink that served as their public goodbye kiss, Jack headed towards the car, pausing only long enough to bend and speak into Vivian’s ear. Martin watched him drive off and then turned his attention to his work.
"You’re a good man."
Startled, Martin looked up from his clipboard a little while later to find Vivian looking at him warmly. "What?"
"You’re a good influence on him," Vivian told him. Without another word, she turned back to her own tasks.
Viv wasn’t an easy woman to impress, so a warm feeling kept Martin going through the rest of the tedious process of wrapping the case up. He hurried his paperwork along, fudging a few things he figured he could fix the next day. Sam didn’t entirely approve, but Danny gave him a thumbs-up and Viv nodded her goodbye as Martin flew out the door.
He made it, although he probably broke a few speed limits in the process.
Martin walked into the auditorium just as the lights were going down. He knew that Jack would be saving him a seat and, sure enough, Martin found him about five rows back from the front. For once, Jack had not only been on time, but apparently, been early. Martin slipped into the seat as unobtrusively as he could.
"Hey," Jack turned to greet him. With the lights down low, the men risked a quick kiss. "Kate and Hannah will be thrilled to see you."
"I wouldn’t have missed this for the world," Martin assured him, squeezing Jack’s hand quickly.
Martin squirmed in his seat, trying to get his coat off without blocking anyone’s view. As he did, he noticed that Marie was sitting on Jack’s other side. Marie caught his eye and mouthed ‘thank you.’ Martin blinked. Relations between Jack and his ex had improved, but Martin hadn’t thought they’d improved that much, unless. . . .
He looked again. Sure enough, Holly was sitting on Marie’s other side and had a hand on Marie’s knee. Martin relaxed. He didn’t know if it was admitting to herself, and the world, that she was a lesbian or entering into a relationship Holly that had mellowed Marie, but he was certainly grateful that the other woman was part of Marie’s life. If for no other reason than Marie had changed her plans for moving out of the state once she’d met her.
The Christmas program was full of holiday music and costume miscues, and was borne along with childish enthusiasm. Martin was charmed and, from the look on Jack’s face, even the hardened FBI veteran was too. It was over all too soon and Martin puffed up like a proud daddy himself when Jack’s girls said their lines perfectly. All of that diligent work had paid off.
Afterwards, the school’s auditorium was a seething mass of parents and children. Just when Martin was beginning to wonder if there was going to be a missing persons case right then and there, he heard a little girl’s voice squeal out his name.
Martin turned in time to catch the small, female missile. Soon, Kate was perched on his hip while her sister looked on. Martin looked at the other adults sheepishly, but Jack just shrugged. The others had gotten their enthusiastic greetings before the program.
"We did good, didn’t we?" The child demanded.
"Yes, you certainly did," Martin assured her.
"And so humble too," Jack teased, tugging on the little girl’s ponytail. She just grinned back at them.
"Holly and I were planning on taking the girls for hot chocolate," Marie stated awkwardly. "Would the two of you like to join us?"
Jack couldn’t resist and neither could Martin. Before long, they were bundled up in their winter coats and walking towards the local coffee shop. A gentle snow had started to fall, making the quiet street seem almost isolated from the rest of the world. Still, the sound of the girls’ enthusiastic retelling of the whole program was easily heard. Somehow, Jack and Marie had ended up walking ahead, each with a daughter hanging on one hand. Martin found himself walking next to Holly, one of the few times he’d been alone with
"This is really nice," Martin finally said. "Thank you for inviting us."
"You’re welcome," Holly smiled, but demurred. "But I didn’t invite you, Marie did."
Martin was a big believer in giving credit where credit was due. "Maybe, but I couldn’t help but notice how much. . . easier. . . relations have gotten between Marie and Jack since you’ve been part of the picture. Thank you for that too."
Holly laughed. "The FBI aren’t that much different than cops and cops are something I understand all too well." When Martin looked at her in confusion, she explained. "My ex-husband is a New York detective. Believe me, compared to John McClane, your Jack’s a teddy bear."
Martin grinned at the comparison. Teddy bear was not the first description that came to mind when he thought of his lover. "That bad, huh?"
"You have no idea," Holly rolled her eyes. "The worst part about it is that our daughter, Lucy, is just like him."
"I didn’t realize you have a daughter," Martin commented, surprised.
"And a son," Holly explained. "They’re grown now, but when I moved them across the country from their father, that was a mistake. Kids need their dads as much as they do their moms."
"They sure do," Martin agreed. Technically, he’d had both parents, since his had never been divorced, but they’d hardly been involved in his life. "Marie’s lucky to have you."
"Funny," Holly said, linking her arm through Martin’s. "I was just thinking the same thing about you and Jack."
Martin looked ahead of him at the two happy girls walking with their parents. If Marie’s relationship with Holly was as solid as his with Jack’s, then Kate and Hannah had two mothers and two fathers, all four of which loved them dearly. He thought of his own, traditional family unit and how pale it seemed in comparison.
It was a season of miracles indeed.
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