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“Peyton? Is everything going alright in there? I think I smell smoke.”

“Yeah, it’s fine.” But that was a blatant lie, which was made clear as the smoke alarm went off approximately five seconds later, causing Peyton to wince and wave a towel at it, as she immediately moved to open the nearest window.

She was quickly joined by her husband, who looked at the scene with a worried expression.

“Are you okay?” Jake asked, frowning. “What happened?”

“The turkey happened,” Peyton sighed, pulling out the now burnt turkey that was supposed to be the main course at the holiday dinner they were hosting. “Something tells me this won’t be very edible.”

“But you’re fine, right? Not hurt?” Jake persisted, his eyes not leaving her face, and Peyton nodded, her lips twitching into a wry smile.

“Just peachy,” Peyton replied sarcastically and let out a long sigh. “I swear, the turkey needed a few more minutes, and I got distracted with the potatoes and next thing you know … well, this happened.”

Jake looked thoughtfully at the aforementioned turkey, calm as ever, which could be both infuriating or useful, depending on the situation. This time, the part of her that wasn’t completely frustrated appreciated it, because it would be no good for them to both freak out.

“Maybe we can just scrap off the burnt parts,” Jake suggested.

Peyton snorted. “It’s all burnt parts. We’d be lucky to leave, what a forkful for every person?”

“Well, Haley and Nathan are bringing ham so maybe that can be the center piece,” Jake reasoned. “I mean, why does turkey get to be the star of the show anyway? It just got its turn on Thanksgiving!”

“You’re just trying to make me feel better,” Peyton pointed out, and Jake grinned, shrugging and looking unapologetic.

“Is it working?” Jake asked.

“Not really,” Peyton admitted. “I just spent so long on this stupid thing, and I wanted it to be perfect.”

“Everything will be fine,” Jake assured her.

“Will it?” Peyton countered, wrinkling her nose. “I mean, to make things worse, the mashed potatoes are salty, the brussels sprouts are bland … I think we’re just going to have to serve dessert for dinner!”

“Did someone say dessert?” a third voice chipped in, and they looked toward the sound, seeing Jake’s daughter (and ever since they had gotten back together, Peyton’s too), Jenny. Seeing her turkey, her eyes widened. “Oh, wow, what happened there?”

Peyton dropped her shoulders and groaned. “A little mishap, that’s all.”

“Is that why there was smoke earlier?” Jenny quizzed. “I was wondering.”

“And you didn’t think to come running?” Jake asked dryly. “So glad you took those fire safety classes in school.”

“Yeah, well, I figured if it was bad, I’d know,” Jenny replied, shrugging. Her eyes brightened. “Hey, does this mean we can order pizza?”

“We might have to,” Peyton realized. “Is anyone open?”

“No, it will be fine,” Jake insisted, before Jenny could celebrate, causing her to pout. “Why don’t you go get dressed? Everyone will be here shortly.”

“Okay, fine,” Jenny said reluctantly. Before she left, she added, “I’d be okay with ice cream for dinner too!”

“We’ll keep that in mind,” Jake told her, shaking his head in amusement as she darted off once more. “Kids.”

“At least someone is happy,” Peyton said, running her hand through her curly hair, unintentionally pulling a few strands from the ponytail it was tied in, swallowing the sudden lump in her throat as her disappointment came back in full force. “And yeah, we do have the dessert. The yule log and the pies you made look delicious. Which is more than I can say about dinner.”

“Always glad to help,” Jake said. Putting his arm around her, he pulled her close and kissed the top of her head. “Look, it’s not ruined yet. Let me try the potatoes- you have been a bit sensitive to salt lately- and I will look up what we can do about the brussels sprouts. No one is going to show up for another half an hour at least, so I will run to the deli down the street and see what they have.”

Finding her confidence again, Peyton nodded, enthused by Jake’s determination. If he could be positive, well, she could try too, even if it hadn’t always been in her nature. “Okay, and I guess I’ll see what is to be done about this turkey. Maybe it’s not so bad inside.”

“That’s the spirit!” Jake enthused. “Let’s do this!”

Peyton smiled for what felt like the first time that evening, before wrapping her arms around Jake in a hug, which he returned.

“Thank you,” she whispered. “What would I do without you?”

“Now that is something I would rather not imagine,” Jake said seriously, lowering his head so their lips could meet in a kiss. “I’m going to go. I need time to make myself look pretty too, you know. These good looks don’t come naturally.”

She shoved him lightly, letting out a chuckle and rolling her eyes playfully. “Yes, that will be hardest part.”

Laughing, he left, after trying and assuring that the potatoes were indeed fine. Alone once more, Peyton blew out a deep breath, staring at the turkey.

“Let’s do this,” she muttered, rolling up her sleeves, and she was immediately interrupted.

“Hey mom?”

Peyton was briefly started, relieved that she wasn’t holding the knife and looked over at Jenny.

“Yeah?” she asked. “I thought you were going to change.”

“I figured I would see if you need any help first,” Jenny said. “Can I do anything?”

“You know what?” Peyton replied, recognizing the hope on her face. “Why don’t you come here and help me see what can be done about this turkey?”

Jenny brightened and made her way to her side. “Okay! I still think we should try for pizza, now that dad’s out.”

“Maybe tomorrow,” Peyton said, watching her daughter fondly, suddenly starting to feel better.

She thought about her husband, always ready and willing to make everything right, and as she worked in the kitchen with her daughter, she couldn’t feel anything but gratitude for the family that she had formed.

Maybe dinner wouldn’t be perfect, but Peyton had everything she needed (and at one point, never thought she’d get).

So it would all be just fine.

Better.

It was perfect.