'Bed time!' Greg sang out to his small gathering of two six year olds and a twelve year old.
'Otherwise Santa Claus won't come!' Katie said, picking up Ellie whilst Greg picked up Jay. Neither of them noticed Rachael roll her eyes.
'Oh please, Santa isn't…' she began before Greg put his hand over her mouth and gave her a warning look.
'Santa isn't what?' Jay asked, worry on his face.
'Going to come unless we all go to bed and to sleep right now!' Katie improvised, Greg gave her and impressed look and Rachael rolled her eyes again.
'Ok!' Ellie exclaimed, jumping from her mother's arms and running to the stairs, she climbed them quickly, Jay hot on her heels.
'That was easier than I expected,' Greg said, 'maybe we can actually go to bed before ten for one Christmas?'
'Oh no,' Katie said, walking over to stand beside him, 'They won't be asleep for hours, and we can't put the stockings outside their doors until they're asleep or else they'll just get up, assume it's morning and we won't be getting any sleep at all!'
Greg looked at her, 'How the hell do you know that?'
'Rachael. You have no idea how much trial and error I had to use… especially that Christmas when you practically wanted nothing to do with us!'
'I never wanted nothing to do with you! I was just a bit sick of the sight of you!' he said playfully, pulling her into his arms and kissing her forehead.
'Ugh, get a room…' Rachael said before getting up and walking up to her room.
'Bed!' Greg shouted after her, she muttered something that they couldn't hear but they didn't imagine it was polite.
Katie looked as if she was about to burst into tears again.
'Don't worry!' Greg reassured her, 'Just think of it, six years and we can pack her off to college!'
Katie laughed and pulled herself from Greg's arms and grabbed his hand.
'Come on,' she said, beginning to drag him towards the stairs, 'We have to say goodnight to our children and then finish wrapping and then put the stockings outside their rooms and then we can finally rest.'
'No rest for the wicked hey?' he smiled.
'I thought we were on the opposing team.' She grinned dragging him up the stairs.
! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !
At around one o'clock in the morning Greg stuck his head around Ellie's door. She lay fast asleep in her bed, not faking it, but actually asleep. He was pleased about this, he was shattered and expecting a wake-up call at about six am. He crept over to her bed and placed a small present on the end of her bed before leaning down and kissing her on the forehead. He left and shut the door quietly, checking that her stocking was hanging on her door-handle neatly.
As he emerged he saw Katie doing the same from the room on the opposite side of the hallway, they smiled at each other, this was all part of the magic, hanging the presents out for their children, they'd already put all the other presents downstairs.
They walked into their own bedroom and hung their own stockings at the foot of their bed, all they contained were a small present from the other half, and they didn't really bother with presents anymore. But they put small one's out because they'd made the mistake of not doing so one year and Ellie had protested that she was going to write a complaint letter to Santa about the fact that her mummy and daddy didn't get any presents.
They climbed into bed, exhausted, and fell asleep. Both with mixed feelings about tomorrow. Excitement of course, there was nothing better than seeing your child's delighted face opening something they'd wanted since September and you'd kept saying no but bought it for Christmas. And worry, Christmas never went without a hitch, and this time, they had all their friends over. And the worst part was, Nick had offered to cook.