She pulled her feet up on the couch and leaned closer against him. "He looks like a Christmas angel," she whispered, watching their son sleeping on the deep-piled carpet next to the tree, surrounded by colorful shreds of wrapping paper.
He grinned, subdued. "An angel with a trident maybe."
Motherly instincts prevailed. "It was General Anderson's grandson Leroy who brought up the idea about snow and snowmen he'd learned about on that Baltic base."
"And it was Anderson's driver who parked the general's staff car on our garden fence at the sight of a well-rounded, bright white snowman in Phoenix at 70F," he returned dryly.
"You have to admit, he knows how to help himself," she giggled faintly.
"Yeah, who else would wrap a barrel cactus in cotton to build a snowman on his own?"
"Don't forget the rolled-up standard for a nose."
"How could I?" He raised a brow at her. "At least your father had no problem with driving home one-flagged."
She gave him a sparkling smile. "He's got experience with that sort of boy," she said with a wink, and then grew earnest. "Grandma showed me photos once of Dad at that age. He looked at least as sweet."
"And was as devilish, too, I am sure."
"Of course not," she giggled. "He was the nicest, sweetest, best-behaved little boy in all of Russia!"
He snorted. "Reliable source?"
"Most reliable. Grandma works for the secret service."
The room was dimly lit at night. And chilly. Someone patted his shoulder. He gathered himself up and blinked dully. With a shake of his head, Joseph realized that he must have fallen asleep.
Max put a mug of steaming coffee down in front of him. "You should go home, Joe. This isn't the most comfortable place for sleeping."
He threw a lingering glance at the surveillance monitors embedded in the console in front of him. One monitor showed a certain sleeping cubicle, where a beam of moonlight shone through an unshuttered skylight and the force field that covered it, adding a golden glow to the shock of blond hair that stuck out from under the rough military blanket. "I know it isn't, Max," he said faintly. "But it's the best place left for dreaming."
Many thanks to Elizabeth 'fatima' Bales, who found – in spite of her own Christmas preparations – the time to help me polishing this year's Christmas story on short notice.