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UAgirl
12.8.11, 3:47 PM
25 Days of Christmas




Title: Warm and Fuzzy
Rating: PG-13 (nothing too in-your-face)
Warning: sexual situations, innuendo, tiny sprinkling of language, some borderline sappiness a la the title, lol
Pairing/Characters: Gwen/Fox, mentions of Sheridan/Luis
WordCount: 1,329
Summary(for chapter): "I'm not a warm and fuzzy type of girl." A follow-up of sorts to my ficlet, Can You Hear the Horses.


~*~


"I'm not a warm and fuzzy type of girl."

"Really?" Fox raises a sly brow, cups his hand around her elbow, carefully maneuvers her down the sidewalk, crawling with wide-eyed tourists and disinterested, blasé natives weaving in and out of the crowd in their haste to make it to their unknown destinations. "I hadn't noticed."

Gwen bites back a smile, bites back a shiver (December in New York is damned cold), ignores his teasing. A stiff winter wind lifts her loose blond hair from her shoulders, and she carefully removes a strand from her lips, laments again, "I can't believe I agreed to this."

"I did tell you I make an outstanding cup of hot cocoa," Fox reminds her with only the slightest trace of mocking amusement twinkling in his brown eyes. "With whipped cream," he adds, somehow (expertly) turning that little addendum into an innuendo that makes Gwen's cheeks burn (and not, he knows, from the frosty air that nips and tugs insistently at their skin, their clothing).

Gwen turns to him when they reach the appointed, quaint little coffee shop, stares up at him with brown eyes earnest and lips trembling just slightly from the cold. "You know why I agreed to this." Her gloved hands slip into his, curl tightly around his fingers.

Fox leans forward, warms her lips with his own, before he answers, his tone serious but his eyes dancing, "Because Aunt Sheridan is a warm and fuzzy type of girl?" He grins when she rolls her eyes at him, captures a fine strand of blond tickling at his cheek, and tucks it behind her ear, earns himself a smile that curls its whispery fingertips around his heart strings and tugs with his next comment, "Because you're a good friend, to my aunt and anyone that earns your loyalty. I think even Luis can appreciate that."

"Speaking of Luis," Gwen prompts him, stamping her feet slightly against the sidewalk, stealing her hands beneath his wool coat briefly to warm them, "he's not very approving of having to wait, so…"

"Into the lions' den," Fox nods sagely, releasing her and gently propelling her forward.


~*~


Gwen's cheeks are flushed and pink from the cold, her lips slightly chapped as Fox presses her into the door with his long, lean body, his fingers sweeping her hat from her tousled blond hair before traveling down her neck (lingering briefly over her thrumming pulse) and sliding beneath the parted edges of her coat.

The heavy garment slips from Gwen's shoulders, down her arms, pools at her feet, and she winds her arms around his waist beneath his own coat, wedges her cold fingers beneath his waistband (where had her gloves gone?), stares up at him, unspoken questions in her curious brown eyes. "You're trying to distract me," she breathes out the realization. "Why?" She sucks in a startled mouthful of air when his cold fingers burrow beneath her sweater, settle in the small of her back, caressing idly.

"I'm not trying to distract you," Fox responds easily, his fingertips tracing (said) distracting patterns on her back, tickling to her front and creeping beneath the lace of her bra. "I am distracting you," he says, a slow, lazy grin flirting with his handsome features as he watches her eyes flutter shut at the gentle, possessive contact. He touches his mouth to her parted lips, savors her moan as he kisses her deeply, thoroughly, robbing her of her thoughts. "I think it's working quite well, don't you?" he murmurs against her lips, cradles her head with one large hand, blond strands falling like a waterfall from his grasp.

"Mmm," Gwen hums, eyes still closed, smile on her face. "It is," she sighs, following him blindly as he backs them deeper into the quiet, darkened space. She allows the pleasurable distraction to continue, caught up in the red haze that always threatens to consume her whole when they are together, like this, and the faint yellow light of a lamp illuminates their penthouse bedroom, crystal snowflakes swirling like little wintry tornadoes outside their window. "It won't," Gwen gasps when the cool air and Fox's skillful hands make her body tighten, shudder with anticipation. "It won't work forever though," she insists finally, shakily.

Fox holds her close, tight in his arms, and their clothes disappear, melt away, underneath greedy hands (his, hers). "Good things come to those who wait," he grins against her throat, making the world beneath her feet fall away as he lays her down, melts against her like a forgotten puzzle piece.

"That so?" Gwen smiles back at him with feverish eyes, one hand feathered through his soft hair, the other gripping his shoulder as he descends down her body, his sly, smug mouth mapping out a few points of considerable interest before reaching their ultimate destination. "I'm going to hold you to th…Oh," she breaks off as he steals the very breath from her lungs.


~*~


His gray turtleneck flirts with her knees as Gwen pads into the living room on bare feet, the cashmere soft and indulgent against sensitive skin still tingling from his phantom touch. "Fox?" His name is (more than) a question lost in the silent room, and the world outside is nothing more than a cloud of white, the metropolitan landscape outside transformed into a Christmas-time postcard during the few short hours of their respite. "Fox?" she calls again, startling only momentarily when she feels him blanket her with his (protective?) embrace without an answering word.

Her blond hair is fragrant, delightfully disheveled, and Fox lets his nose linger there for a second before he pulls it back with the fingers of one hand, carefully places a kiss at the juncture of her graceful neck. "Looking for me?"

Gwen rolls her eyes at the smile she can hear in his voice, but she sinks back into the arm he wraps more firmly around her, accepts the steaming mug of hot cocoa he offers as a token of his goodwill (apology), brings it to her lips. She does smile at the whipped cream she finds, and her brown eyes dance at him as she sips gratefully. "Truly outstanding," she concurs after a moment, recalling their earlier conversation.

"I'm not one to brag," Fox responds with his characteristic slyness. "But someone," he says, taking her by the hand and leading her to the plush sofa and its mountain of decadent pillows, "doesn't know the meaning of patience." He softens his scolding with a fleeting kiss to her knuckles before he gently pushes her to the sofa below, and Gwen curls her legs beneath her like a child's, gooseflesh pebbling her exposed skin.

Gwen's mouth twitches, and she watches him drag the soft, tattered chenille throw (that had been a constant, traveling companion of hers since college) from the back of the sofa to tuck around her snugly. "I understand the meaning of patience. I just don't fully appreciate it anymore."

"That so?" Fox echoes her earlier words, more than a touch of humor in his eyes as he instructs her to close hers. His faint, purposeful footsteps lead him away from Gwen for but a moment before he returns, sits down beside her, carefully loops a (falsely) casual arm about her shoulders. "Now." His lips brush her earlobe, making her shiver deliciously.

Christmas lights twinkle from a tiny tree before her, and tears start to fill Gwen's eyes with an embarrassing quickness. She struggles to hide her smile at his slightly irritating, proud smile, and she feels another little piece of the protective ice around her heart fall, helplessly, away. Her hand reaches up to capture the hand draped over her shoulder, brings it down to rest over her rapidly beating heart, and she admits, "Maybe I am a warm and fuzzy type of girl."

"Maybe," Fox agrees knowingly as she rests her head contentedly on his shoulder.

"But only kind of," Gwen can't help one last, stubborn amendment.



~*~




So...what did you think?

LOL!

I rather like the end result, especially considering this is not the story I set out to write at all. I hope you don't mind that the Gwen and Fox from my ficlet Can You Hear the Horses hijacked this first installment.

This is another one of those grand ideas of mine that's been on the backburner for a while, pushed there by my genuine attempts to update my other, older fics. I sat down to try to finish up the latest chapter of The Story languishing on my hard drive then attempted Anna Begins when that didn't work, and then, well then I just said to heck with it and started writing, and this is the finished the product.

I can't promise this story will be finished before Christmas because RL and creative pursuits don't always have each other's best interests at heart, lol. But I will be working on this little collection of ficlets whenever I have the time or whenever I just can't seem to find the right words for my other fics (which seems to be all the time these days).

Like Game of Love (which I hope to someday add more to), this fic will feature all manner of pairings and characters. Unlike that fic, as I'm sure you can already see, this fic will occasionally visit different scenes from other fics/universes of mine. I hope you don't mind that particular indulgence; I think it has definite possibilities. ;)

Anyway...enough of my rambling.

Feedback is love!

Thanks so much for reading!

P.S. Mistakes are all mine.

UAgirl
12.9.11, 12:12 AM
~2~




Title: Joy to the World
Rating: G, PG if I'm stretching it
Warning: complete and utter sap with a small smidgen of obligatory angst, with nods to some Christmas favorites and even a sly (not) mention of Waldo
Pairing/Characters: primarily Jessica/Reese, with one-sided Kay/Reese, Kay/Miguel, Sam/Grace, oblique nod to Sam/Ivy, mentions of Hank, Noah, and a whole host of other characters and surprise pairings; this rapidly devolves into a sort of UA wish-list, okay? Lol. But only one version of my wish-list, because there are several, as my other stories so obviously attest to.
WordCount: 3,052.
Summary (for chapter): He'd given her back what she'd so sorely been missing: the joy of the season.


~*~


He loved her sister first.


~*~


"I'll get it," Jessica quietly offered, stepping off the last stair and heading for the door, where the bell pealed cheerfully.

"I'll get it," Kay insisted, nudging Jessica aside, wrestling her for the doorknob. "It's probably Miguel anyway."

After a minor scuffle, and their parents' ensuing gentle reprimands, Jessica relented with a sigh, long used to diplomatically relinquishing the spotlight and other things to her older sister. She ducked when Noah tried to ruffle her hair as he passed them by, her cheeks staining pink when, too-soon, the door sprang open under the force of Kay's eager hands.

Reese's bright, goofy smile was not enough to warm the frigid air that had followed him on his annual Christmas Eve trek to their house, and the poorly wrapped present cradled in his red mittens was paltry pittance indeed, but his blue eyes were lively and his smile sweetly confused but forgiving when Kay swept past him to greet Miguel and the rest of his family. "Jessica," he waved politely. "Mrs. B.," he acknowledged, a skinny finger lifting to push his glasses further up his nose.
In his red and white-striped sweater and matching hat he bore more than a passing resemblance to the curious character always lost in a sea of strangers, and Jessica held a hand up in an attempt to hide her giggles as her mind whispered I found you.

"Chief Bennett," Reese greeted seriously, respectfully, letting her father take his coat and hang it up. Holding out the oblong package in his hands, he nervously, hastily admitted in a flurry of words, "It's a fruitcake. I wasn't sure what to get." Shrugging his thin shoulders and scratching at an imaginary itch beneath his chin, he gazed up at the elder man as Pilar shepherded her children inside the toasty, welcoming home, tugging scarves and mittens away and putting them aside with Jessica's mother's help.

"Hey, Reese," Miguel called as Kay pulled him deeper into the house, toward the Christmas tree with its tinsel and handmade ornaments, its twinkling fairy lights and enticing candy canes.

Reese blinked owlishly and returned the gesture before stumbling backward in an attempt to avoid her uncle Hank bursting through the door, his arms laden with presents and Christmas carols spilling from his jovial lips in an endearingly embarrassing stream, Santa hat perched crookedly atop his unruly mop of brown hair.

"Reese-Man," Hank crowed, plucking a medium-ish package from the towering top of his present mountain and presenting it to the boy with a flourish. "This one's for you."

Jessica grinned, self-consciously pushing her tongue through the gap left by a missing baby tooth (or two), and disappeared into her uncle Hank's one-armed hug as her mother and father rushed forward to help relieve him of his burden, and a glittering green gift found its way unerringly to her waiting hands. "Thank you, Uncle Hank," she issued her sincere, pleased thanks.

"Hank, this is extravagant, even for you." Her mother's eyes sparkled with affection as she leaned forward to kiss his proffered cheek, and her father gruffly ordered him to shut the door behind him (It's about time you showed your face around these parts).

Luis appeared and offered an additional helping hand, and Uncle Hank found himself crushed in her father's unexpected embrace, and there were hugs and laughter all around.

Eventually, the adults left them to rejoin the party brewing inside, and Jessica caught Reese shaking his present with a puzzled frown.

"Do you think maybe it's a chemistry set? I asked the department store Santa for a chemistry set, but I don't know if he got the message to the real Santa and delivered it through your uncle Hank instead."

Jessica erupted with giggles, earning curious glances from Kay and Theresa, Paloma and Miguel, alike. "Are you calling my uncle an elf?"

Reese's cheeks flamed, and his mouth sputtered comically in attempted denial, but the damage was done, and Jessica's attention had already shifted elsewhere with the insistent peal of the doorbell.

"I'll get it," Jessica volunteered, scampering forward to admit their latest guests.

Whitney and Simone smiled back at her on the other side of the door, snowflakes floating around them and clinging to their eyelashes.

Mr. and Mrs. Russell mirrored their daughters as Jessica turned back around and let the rest of their guests in on the magical, surprise turn of events. "It's snowing everybody!"

"You know what that means," Uncle Hank declared, scooping Jessica up on his way out the door, her brother and sister and a whole gaggle of excited children hot on his heels while the rest of the amused adults and parents looked on. "Snow ball fight!"

"But Mr. Bennett," Reese's well-intentioned objections fell on deaf ears. "That snow is hardly the right texture or configuration."

"Reese," Jessica giggled at him pointedly, dangling upside down like a lightweight sack of potatoes over her uncle Hank's shoulders, snowflakes lacing through her dark pigtails in shiny, wet sparkles. "It's snowing. Who cares?"

Reese reclaimed his coat and followed her and everybody else outside.



~*~








The seasons changed like clockwork, and time passed, years.

Jessica's missing baby teeth were replaced with braces, and she bit her lip shyly as she opened the door, letting Reese and a blast of cold air into the darkened house. Her mother was upstairs, cocooned in a sea of shielding blankets with only her grief to keep her company, and her father was at the station working through his guilt and confusion. Noah was gone, somewhere far away, and Kay had left hours ago, probably to stalk Miguel and Charity. Her uncle Hank had asked her to go ice skating with him and Sheridan Crane, but the favored past-time had held little appeal for Jessica this year, and so she'd stayed behind, dressed in her pajamas and nursing a cup of steaming apple cider as she watched Christmas movies on the television, each one more syrupy sweet than the last. "Reese, hi," she attempted a smile. It collapsed in the face of her confusion as he held out a brightly wrapped package (his wrapping skills had improved only moderately over the years). "We're not having the party this year," she said, frowning slightly.

"Take it," Reese insisted, thrusting it forward. "I promise it's not fruitcake again."

He grinned, goofily as ever, and Jessica found her smile returning briefly before she remembered the disappointing news she had to tell him. "Kay's not here."

"I know," Reese answered her simply, scuffing his feet on the hearth rug and shrugging his shoulders.

The unconscious gesture was almost as familiar as the one that followed, and Jessica felt herself blushing to the roots of her hair with the warm feeling it created within her when Reese reached up to push his glasses further up the bridge of his nose. Ducking her head, she bit her lip again and quietly murmured an invitation, "You can come in if you want."

Reese seemed to freeze in indecision.

Jessica filled the ensuing awkward silence with a rush of awkward, jumbled words. "There's cider. And I made cookies. A Christmas Story is about to come on. I've already watched it once today," she sheepishly admitted.

Confusion clouded Reese's blue eyes behind the lenses of his glasses before comprehension dawned slowly, and he grinned, looking fairly reminiscent of Ralphie himself as he remarked, "Ah. The Red Ryder 200-shot Carbine Action Air Rifle."

"You'll shoot your eye out, Kid," Jessica responded seriously before dissolving into helpless, shy laughter, and smiling back at him. She felt herself growing warm again as the seconds stretched long and she found herself wondering what he'd look like without his glasses. She decided she liked the glasses just fine when Reese's hands tugged at the zipper to his jacket, and their hands brushed as she took it from him, hanging it up. "Um…let me go get you that cider."

Reese was waiting for her when she returned from the kitchen, cider in one hand, plate of cookies in her other.
Jessica felt her breath catch in her throat when she realized he'd turned on the Christmas tree lights, and they twinkled merrily back at her in the reflection of his glasses. His present rest under the tree, with all the other gifts (that she hadn't felt like opening), and she felt moisture fill her eyes as she stared down at his dear, thoughtful figure.

Reese began to ramble various factoids about Jean Shepherd and the holiday story, each new nugget delivered more animatedly than the last as the movie played on, until finally, Jessica shushed him with a hand clamped over his mouth and a giggle of gratitude as she breathed out his name. The action brought them closer together, but Reese didn't seem to notice, and Jessica didn't bother to retreat to her faraway corner of the couch, content to revel in the comforting, boyish heat of him.

Jessica opened Reese's present last on Christmas Day (true to his word, it wasn't af ruitcake), in no hurry because he'd already given her a much better, more meaningful gift on what had been a lonely Christmas Eve. He'd given her back what she'd so sorely been missing: the joy of the season.



~*~










Children thundered up and down the stairs, giggles and mischief and general bedlam as the rest of them gathered in the crowded living room, glasses of eggnog in varying states of fullness raised to their lips and smiles of happiness on their lips.

Kay's slim figure materialized beside her, and one glance at her sister had Jessica rolling her blue eyes (though much had changed over the years—so, so much, much had stayed the same). "This game again? Why don't you let me get it?"

Their brother sidled past them en route to his wife, ruffling the hair on each of their heads and making identical frowns of displeasure appear on their faces. "Seriously, I thought you two had grown out of this. It's not a competition, you know."

Kay's nose twitched with the effort it took to hold back her smile, and her shoulder bumped companionably against her sister's as she nodded her head in the direction of the living room. "I think I hear Fancy calling for you. You better hurry. It's not wise to keep a pregnant woman waiting."

"She would know," Jessica nodded, blue eyes twinkling with amusement as she recalled Kay's own pregnancy, and the various irrational acts she had committed in Maria's name. "And if you touch my hair again," she warned as Noah wisely retreated into the living room.

"You'll what?" a familiar voice teased, just as a telling chill snaked its way inside.

Jessica's mouth fell open as spied her uncle, standing just inside the open door, and the frown she tried to covertly send her sister didn't go unnoticed by Hank.

"I let myself in." Hank's laugh stirred the hair at her temple as he gathered her and Kay both in his arms for a boisterous hug. When he stepped back, holding them both at arms' length, he grinned at them, his brown eyes crinkling just slightly at the edges. "Jeez, you two make me feel so old."

"Obviously not old enough, Casanova," Luis remarked, moving forward and pulling Hank into a hearty bear hug, just as Gwen stepped around him with a fuzzy blue bundle cradled in her arms.

Jonathan Henry Bennett peered out at Jessica from beneath his blanket with wide brown eyes fringed generously with heavy dark lashes, his chubby baby cheeks flushed and rosy from winter's sharp sting. He gnawed wetly at his fist as he was passed to his honorary uncle, and his large eyes welled as his mother started to fade from his sight.

Gwen gratefully handed off her coat to Jessica, and she hastened to offer her apologies as she quickly followed Luis.

Hank's mouth quirked into an affable smile in the face of his nieces' amusement, and he made no discernable effort to deny what was so obvious to them all. "Kid's a total mama's boy." Lifting a shoulder as he shrugged off his own coat and hung it up beside his better half's, he
looked to Kay, then Jessica. "Sheridan in there?"

"And she's about to pop," Kay gleefully informed him.

"I heard that," Sheridan's clear (unamused) voice rang out.

"Careful, Little Brother," their father joined them, "those are our future goddaughters she's carrying." He smartly lowered his voice before he continued with a smile, "It briefly crossed my mind to move the nativity scene inside."

Hank's brown eyes danced in appreciation of his brother's sense of humor, and he left Jessica and Kay and their father waiting in front of the stairs to see just how pregnant his best friend's wife really was.

Their father looked from one of the girls to the other and shook his head slowly, before pressing a kiss to each of their cool cheeks. "Look at you two. It's just like old times. Relax. They'll be here." He mounted the stairs, intent on joining his wife, currently refereeing a rather spirited discussion between his two granddaughters.

Jane was poking her lip out, Maria was glaring back with her fists on her hips, and Grace looked fit to be tied.

"I want to watch Miracle on 34th Street," Jane pleaded her case with tears in her big Theresa eyes.

"But Elf is so much cooler!" Maria rejoined, with every bit of her mother's fiery spirit.

"How about we watch It's a Wonderful Life instead?" Miguel offered, opening his arms to receive his wife and the little girl who forgot all about her vehemently argued cause in favor of racing down the stairs, two at a time, to launch herself into her father's arms.

Jessica found herself smiling at them and reveling in the Christmas spirit that filled the house of her childhood to brimming, and she stood quietly off to the side as she remembered all the Christmases past, and the sometimes bumpy roads they had each taken to get here, to this one.

A gust of cold wind brought snowflakes swirling in around her, a timely reminder that lost in the happiness of Kay, Miguel, and Maria's reunion, no one had remembered the door.

"Jessica, Sweetheart," her mother smiled gently down at her. "Why don't you get the door?"

Before she could turn around, though, a red mitten slid over her shoulder, and she shivered as she felt his breath tickle the sensitive shell of her ear.

"I've always preferred A Christmas Story. It's a real classic." Reese's much adored blue eyes smiled at her behind the lenses of his glasses, a faint echo of the grin that toyed with his lips, and he held out a present, small and wrapped with his usual horrendous lack of aplomb.

Jessica finally found her voice, and her hand shook slightly as she took the offered present. "It's too small to be a fruitcake." Joyful laughter bubbled up within her as she raised her hand up to her mouth in her attempt to shield him from the sheer giddy brilliance of her smile.

"It's not a chemistry set either," Reese teased her, his goofy grin rivaling hers in wattage at the faraway, shared memory, and the perfection of this long-awaited moment. "Why don't you open it up and see what it is?"

"Yeah, Jess. Open it," Kay encouraged with twinkling eyes.

For the first time, Jessica became aware of the large, expectant audience surrounding them, and her fingers trembled over the paper until Reese's hand covered hers, helped her along, and the cheerful paper fell away to reveal a velvet box that made her eyes sting and her breath stall in her tightening throat.

"You were always there, standing right in front of me," Reese grew solemn as he stared into her tearful eyes. "For a long time, I couldn't see the moon for the stars."

"Did you just call my sister…"

"Kay," Theresa hurriedly hushed her sister-in-law, bringing her clasped hands to her mouth as she watched the unfolding scene safely cradled in Ethan's arms.

Reese blushed, blood-red, and he ducked his head as he began again, uncomfortable with the scrutiny of the multitude of Jessica's loved ones, but his confidence grew with the strength of his convictions as he stumbled on. "But I see it now. I see you. And I wanted you to know…I wanted to know if you…"

"Reese Durkee," Jessica mercifully interrupted him. "Yes, I'll marry you."

Reese lifted his eyes to her smiling face, lifted a finger to push his glasses further up his nose when his wide grin threatened to dislodge them, and he hopefully sought further confirmation. "You will?"

"I will," Jessica repeated as sighs and applause echoed in the wake of her declaration. She cupped his dear face in her hands and kissed him, and when she pulled away, she didn't know who was blushing more, herself or Reese or each member of the Russell family standing cluelessly in the threshold of the open door, staring at them all with their mouths agape.

T.C. cleared his throat awkwardly and limped forward. "I told you we always missed the fun, Eve."

Laughter swelled in the face of his too-true assessment, and the crowd dispersed, leaving Jessica and Reese, blessedly, alone.

"Did you really call me a moon?" Jessica challenged, her arms wound around Reese's neck.

Reese shrugged, his ears adorably pink with embarrassment. "I need to work on more than my gift-wrapping skills, don't I?"

"I wouldn't say that," Jessica smiled as she leaned in to kiss him again. "I like your gift-wrapping skills just fine."

"Mom!" Maria yelled, loud enough for every occupant in the house to easily hear. "They're kissing again!"

Jessica giggled against Reese's mouth and broke the kiss to press her forehead into the curve of his neck, simply content to hold him and be held. "I don't know how you're going to top this next year," she murmured against his skin.

"I might have an idea or two," Reese's answer rumbled deep in his chest.

Jessica lay a hand over his heart and sighed happily. "I can't wait."


~*~


He loved her last; he loved her best.



~*~
Thank you for indulging me in a little UA wish fulfillment.

LOL!

Feedback is love!

Thanks so much for reading!

P.S. Mistakes are all mine.

UAgirl
12.24.11, 1:53 AM
~3~





Title: What Child Is This
Rating: PG, maybe
Warning: um, unwed teenaged pregnancy, mild hints of Fox's playboy ways, UST, minor language; AU
Pairing/Characters: Kay/Fox, with hints of past Kay/Miguel, implied Charity/Miguel, Fox/Other, roundabout mentions of Theresa/Ethan, Sheridan/Luis/Antonio
Word Count: 3,522
Summary (for chapter): It wasn't a fairytale first meeting.





~*~


It wasn't a fairytale first meeting.

Boy meets girl. Boy meets girl's eyes. Boy (falls truly, madly, deeply in love with girl) meets girl's parents.

No, it surely was not that kind of a first meeting.

Not that Fox believed in those. Being born and raised in a family that routinely ate its young kind of precluded such fanciful thoughts, and the fairer sex, well, they served their purpose, but singing birds and happily ever after's…definitely not on his agenda.

Still, something about her, maybe her guarded blue eyes, probably her sassy (smart-ass), sulky mouth, sparked more than just his usual sense of conquest. She interested him, intrigued him, on an elemental level, so much of her similar to himself (unsaid), so much of her so different too (he pretended to be fearless, she simply…was).

It wasn't a fairytale first meeting, but it was a memorable one, and it changed Fox, maybe not in some big, grand way, not at first, but in a lasting way (in enduring increments, like the earth moving along unseen fault lines, shifting and realigning, preparing for something infinitely more momentous).

The first time Fox Crane offered her (Kay, he'd learn much, much later) his hand, she promptly threw up on his shiny (expensive) shoes.

There was definitely nothing written in those asinine fantasies about that.


~*~



Kay lifted a shaky hand to her mouth, lifted her eyes to his shocked (handsome, whispered the sneaky little devil that had gotten her into so much trouble in the first place) face, and barely mustered a glare. "I'd say I'm sorry, but…" The glare gained true ferocity when her words seemed to have the exact opposite effect. Clearly, this golden playboy's trust fund greatly outpaced his I.Q. She hadn't meant to be amusing, but apparently, to him, she was.

"I never cared much for these shoes anyway," he lifted a nonchalant shoulder. "Too European."

Kay rolled her eyes, turning on her heel and sending him what she hoped was a much clearer message (get lost!). Unfortunately for her, she only succeeded in making her still queasy stomach lurch forward and threaten to once again spill its meager contents, because he didn't get the message, more likely he ignored it as completely meaningless and not worth his time, because he…was…following…her. "Aren't you afraid your girlfriend will get lost in that big, smoky bar by herself?" she shot over her hunched shoulder. "I hate to say this, but the signs to and from the bathroom might be above her reading comprehension level." Kay pulled her threadbare coat tighter around herself to ward against the distinct chill in the New England air and marveled at the little clouds forming in front of her with each word she spoke. She cut her eyes over to him at his outright laugh.

"Jordana? She's not my girlfriend."

Dark tendrils of hair escaped the messy ponytail at Kay's nape as she shook her head disbelievingly at him. "Right. She's not your girlfriend, and I'm the Virgin Mary." That comment inspired genuine confusion in him, and she slowed to a stop to regard him curiously. The little scene she'd encountered back at the bar (before she'd dumped the mug of green liquid down the front of the blonde Betty Boop's bust-enhancing shirt, before Manny had unceremoniously fired her) had certainly spoken differently, whether he wanted to admit it or not. "You may not think she's your girlfriend, but she thinks she's your girlfriend."

He mulled the thought over with a slightly distasteful frown and quickly dismissed it, matching his stride to hers in her resumed flight from the scene of the crime. "She's not my girlfriend," he insisted. "She's not even really a friend, more like a casual acquaintance."

"I see," Kay remarked with feigned disinterest. "A casual acquaintance," she said, making the misnomer sound dirty and illicit coming out of her mouth. "She thinks she's your girlfriend," she reiterated. "She was draped all over you like a cheap suit, and she had her hand tucked down the front of your pants. Obviously, she feels entitled to take a few…liberties."

He narrowed his brown eyes at her, surprised at how much she had observed in so little a time and considered her anew. "Jordana feels entitled to a lot of things; that doesn't mean she owns them, and that doesn't give her a free pass to act like a bubble-headed bitch."

Of their own volition, Kay's blue eyes widened at his condemnation of the nouveau riche princess that had cost her the job it'd taken her weeks and much begging to land. "Harsh words."

"True words," he answered matter-of-factly. "Look, I'm sorry she got you fired. I can talk to the manager if you'd like."

"Don't bother," Kay sighed. The smoke and the leering patrons with their grabby hands did more to turn her stomach than the clinging morning sickness that reminded her every day how terrible of a person she really was, how desperate for love, that she would mistake lust for the life-building foundation of an (out of reach) ever after.

"What about a ride?" he hastened to offer.

She glanced at him suspiciously. Something told her the offer was an unusual one for him, no strings attached, no romantic designs in play (romantic, the giddy little devil scoffed). She had him seriously off-balance, and the knowledge was more than a little empowering. "How do I know you're not the reincarnation of the Boston Strangler?" He grinned at her question, and had her heart not been disabused of such frivolous notions, she would have swooned, but she wasn't prone to such silly, demeaning antics. She repeated her question and desperately tried to pretend she wasn't giving his offer serious consideration. "How do I know?"

"You don't," he replied with a devil-may-care twinkle in his eyes. "I guess you'll just have to trust me."

In the end, Mother Nature gave her a none-too-gentle nudge in the manner of a particularly wicked blast of cold wind that must have been lifted directly off of the harbor, and Kay's violent, defenseless shiver answered for her, long before she sighed a beleaguered acceptance. "Fine." She shrugged off his gentlemanly (ha!) hand on her elbow and stalked ahead of him as he pointed out his car, a two-seater that screamed testosterone and total disregard for the rest of the (unemployed, homeless) paupers like her. "Just so you know," she felt compelled to warn as she folded herself, pretzel-like, in the leather passenger seat and stared up at him, searching for his shadowed eyes, "I'm packing in this purse."

"I wouldn't doubt it," he answered, his smile carefully hidden as he settled into the seat opposite her and the car's engine purred to life under his deft hand. "Where to?"

His dancing eyes made Kay's very skin prickle indignantly, and her brows drew together in irritation as she stroked the worn-out bag cradled in her lap meaningfully, daringly, before his amusement dropped a few notches and nary a twitch of his lips betrayed him. He cleared his throat, and his (handsome) face was a blank mask as he repeated the question, his eyes on the road that stretched in front of them.
Kay swallowed down a smile, swallowed down the unwelcome hint of nausea that crept up her throat as the car whirred into motion, and she rambled off the address, still so foreign on her tongue, as she rest her fevered cheek against the cooled glass of the car's window. The nightlife of Boston (such a different animal from Harmony) coalesced into a kaleidoscope of shifting colors behind her drifting eyelids, and she pressed back against the swell of longing that made her throat tighten and her fingers clench and unclench in her lap until music filled the car, something soft, jazzy, melancholy, and she opened her eyes to find him staring at her in something akin to concern.

"I can change it."

"Don't," Kay whispered, allowed her smile to soften her face, her demeanor as she searched his eyes and found something familiar, something kindred, in them. "I like it."


~*~




The second meeting between them was not exactly planned but an act of serendipity.

Not that Fox would admit to believing in such a thing. Being around his brother's on again-off again paramour had that kind of unfortunate consequence; talk of fate and kismet lingered in his subconscious for days, weeks, months after the incidental meeting (his aunt Sheridan's life, by the way, was straight out of a Hollywood tabloid, two potential daddies, and the kooky would-be aunt in waiting with dubious ties to his own family standing by on the sidelines). He'd find Theresa attractive if her misguided feelings of love for his (doltish) brother weren't so damned tragic, but she amused him instead, until she planted that annoying little seed in his head, the one that painted happenstance encounters in bright, flashy colors that proclaimed that perhaps a higher power had its hand in the cookie jar.

She looked younger than he remembered, even while new life strained against the firmness of her rounded belly. Her blue eyes were just as guarded, but her mouth lost some of its sulkiness when a ripple of recognition crossed her pretty features. She carried her shoes in one hand (her ankles looked tender and swollen) and supported her back with another, and there were lines of worry and tiredness that shouldn't be there on her face (that he'd searched for, in dozens of church shelters, up and down every street his feet touched, since that night, months ago, when she'd first opened up his myopic eyes, his intellectual mind, his fisted heart).

He offered her his name on a breath of hope, coaxed her into a reluctant smile, and waited for her to bestow a similar gift.

She wove him a pretty tale and captured a little more of his curiosity in her gossamer web.

It wasn't echoes of forgotten fairytales Fox heard floating along the pre-fall breeze, but something much more real, something much more promising.

~*~




"Great," the corners of Kay's mouth tugged into an unwilling smile, and she groaned at the grin that greeted her in response. "You again."

"I prefer Nicholas. You is so impersonal, lacks originality," he quipped.

"You don't look like a Nicholas," Kay's brows furrowed in skepticism. Memory, faint and taunting, told her she was, indeed, correct. But she was feeling magnanimous and decided not to challenge him further. He was just as handsome as she remembered, more so, even, and she allowed herself to bask in his gilded shadow, even if it were only for a little while. "It took you longer than I thought it would," she finally said, inwardly delighting in the fact that she had, again, caught him off-guard.

He ignored her insightful comment, choosing instead to state the obvious. "You're pregnant."

"Really?" Kay's hand came around to rub idly at her belly. "I hadn't noticed."

"Definitely not the Virgin Mary," he laughed suddenly, his brown eyes warm, his mouth wry.

"Looks like I have myself a stalker," Kay rolled her eyes. "Karma really is a bitch. Stop staring. You'll give me a complex."

"I wasn't staring," he defended himself. "I was admiring."

"My imitation of a whale," Kay joked at her own expense.

"You make an exquisite whale if I do say so myself," he teased gently, pulling a more genuine smile from her.
"One without a name," he added. "Mary feels so wrong."

The lie that wasn't a lie was harder delivered than all the others that had left Kay's lips over the last several months, but though she knew, on some instinctual level, he wouldn't betray her, at least not in this way, she couldn't trust herself enough, to give him a freedom she hadn't allowed herself. "Katherine, and don't you ever, ever call me Mary again."

"Duly noted, Mary," he added a beat later, underneath his breath. Her answering glare only seemed to spur him on. "You don't look very much like a Katherine either."

Kay wanted very much to kick him (or kiss him, jeered the mischievous, all-knowing, hormonal little devil enjoying the afternoon stroll with them both) in that moment, but she settled for striking him with a seething censure and haughty toss of her head. "Well, looks can be deceiving."

"Tell me about it," he muttered beside her.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Her contrary nature showed its hand, and her blue eyes flashed at him in open defiance.

He wisely backed down, but only for the briefest of moments, because his curiosity was a living, breathing thing where she was concerned, and it wouldn't be deterred. His eyes drank her in, glossy dark head to cinnamon-painted toes, and he weighed his words (none too) carefully before he asked, "How old are you?"

"Eighteen," the untruth rolled automatically from Kay's lips, and she uttered a falsely blithe reminder that brooked no further argument from him. "I guess money can't buy you everything. Those fake ID's were not just criminal, they were criminally bad."

"Touche," he offered her his hand, and she touched her fingertips briefly to his before snatching her hand away. "Truce?"

"Don't worry," Kay quipped slyly. "My gun wouldn't fit in my purse today." She stifled a smile as his eyes traveled unwittingly to the small bag that dangled carelessly from her shoulder then immediately darted back to her face. "Truce."

"So," he looked straight ahead with a smile curling the corners of his mouth upward. "Haven't seen you around these parts lately."

It was as much of an admission as he was going to give her (he had been looking for her), and still, an unexpected, warm, pleasurable feeling spread within in Kay, all the way to the tips of her bare toes. "Oh, I've been around. Here and there."

If he was disappointed by her roundabout answer, he showed little evidence of it, and he didn't say much of anything else until they neared a park bench, and he lowered himself into it, lounging like royalty and giving her that vaguely princely grin. "I'm feeling a little tired. Do you mind if we rest for a little bit?"

With a grateful sigh, Kay joined him, and she wiggled her toes in the cool grass at her feet, hesitantly let her head rest back against his outstretched arm. She picked shapes out of the cotton candy clouds (animals, things, faces) and let the pleasant breeze tickle like spidery fingertips across her sensitive skin, and she hummed revelations into the magical air, secrets and truth-wrapped lies alike. "I'm thinking about naming the baby Maria if it's a girl."


~*~


The third meeting between them was the same as their seventh was the same as their twelfth (but their last meeting…it will defy the boundaries placed on it by written words, but that is another story for another time).

Not that Fox really believed that. Being around Katherine was remarkable in its satisfying sense of the ordinary. By turns, she was sweet and sarcastic, silly and wise, stunning and the epitome of the girl-next-door. She was secretive and sincere, and he marveled at such an exquisite creature of contradictions, surprised himself (her) with the desire to learn more.

Harmony wasn't home.

Boston beckoned, even in Barcelona, even in Brazil, even in Britain, and he didn't fully (allow himself to) understand why (because of her). His nomadic nature rebelled; his newfound need to play the part of the white knight confounded and concerned him.

Her guarded blue eyes became his compass.

Still, nobody wrote fairytales about two people who were not-quite friends (and a baby). Fables, maybe, but not fairytales; Fox rather preferred it that way.



~*~




Kay sighed and smiled down at the pointy ends of her boots against the sidewalk. "You know, I've really missed my feet." The frayed, woolen fringe of the bright (red) scarf around her neck lifted and fluttered around her, tickling at her winter-pink cheeks, and Jack Frost slithered his icy fingers down the sleek line of her spine, making her shiver, but only slightly. Christmas lights blinked all around her, each window front more elaborate than its predecessor, and she could smell the sugar-spice of gingerbread and warm, baking cookies with each breath she permitted to escape.

His brown eyes glanced distractedly at her toes, and he paid her the expected compliment. "They're nice feet."

Kay rolled her eyes at him, her elbow bumping sharply
into his side as she moved closer to the warmth he emitted so effortlessly. "They're big feet. I was always so jealous of my sister. She had such little, dainty feet, feet like our mom's. I inherited my dad's boats."

"They're not boats," he reflected after a moment's more careful study. "They're dinghies."

"Dinghies are boats," Kay cried indignantly.

"Small boats," he qualified.

"As opposed to…"

"Yachts," he shrugged affably. "Cruise ships," he extrapolated with a broadening grin that earned him a mock-outraged slap to the side of his head.

His eyes twinkled at her in the darkness, and had there been mistletoe anywhere in sight, Kay (and the naughty little devil whispering quite excitedly into her ear) would have seized the opportunity to put to rest many a question that had plagued her since that first time, that first meeting (would that sly grin make her lips tingle, her heartbeat skip as she suspected it would?). But there wasn't any mistletoe, strangely enough, and his grin had all but melted away to be replaced by a more serious imposter, and the first little truth broke away like a crack from a melting polar glacier, sliding just beyond her futilely grasping fingertips. It was a toss-up as to who was more stunned. "My name's really not Katherine. Well, it is, but it isn't," she explained, or tried to. "All my life, everyone's called me Kay. Just Kay."

"Just Kay," he marveled. "It suits you, much better than Katherine."

"And what is that supposed to mean?" Kay huffed, wrapping her arms about herself and narrowing her eyes.

"Does it have to mean something?" he shook his head with a laugh. "It just does." His lips twitched as he caught her (annoyed) glance, and he voiced another long-held suspicion, "You're not eighteen either."

Kay shrugged and off-handedly replied, "Close enough. Clearly, age and maturity level are not mutually exclusive. Case in point: Jordana. Remember her, Nicholas?"

Twin spots of color erupted on his cheeks, and he looked appropriately chagrined. His own admission spilled without thought from loose lips. "Fox."

Kay's eyes widened, and she stopped in her tracks, a helpless giggle escaping her sulky-sweet mouth. "Excuse me? Did you just say what I think you said?"

"Fox. Foxworthy, actually," he feigned (distinction, ridiculous though it was in this particular case, suited him far better than trite commonalities) a long-suffering sigh. "My parents are insensitive sadists."

"Fox," Kay tried it on for size, scuffing her boots against the cracked sidewalk pavement and sidestepping a harried family of four as they weaved in and out of the growing herd of would-be holiday revelers, bobbing along like little ducklings all in a row.

"Save it," he held up his hand, cutting off the words that threatened to bubble from her wide, beaming smile. "I've heard it all before." His hand shot out to steady her when a passing pedestrian in a ridiculous-looking Rudolph sweater (and antlers, seriously, antlers, perched atop his pony-tailed head) pushed past them, and her blue eyes shone up at him as her hand came to rest carefully against the small bundle cradled against his chest. One corner of his mouth tugged upward as he told her, "I'm not sure he realizes Santa is here solely for the kids. Not the grownups. Right, Maria?"

The blanket fell away to reveal the dark peach fuzz of her baby daughter's head, and Kay tucked the thick fleece around the tiny shoulders, cupped a protective hand at the base of the fragile skull as her daughter's unfocused dark eyes sought out his, Fox's, face. "Maybe he's a kid at heart," she said, slipping easily into the role contrary to his own, the devil's advocate. "Huh, Maria. Maybe he's…"

He waited, expectantly, watched her eyes light up (with the reflection of the rainbow lights blinking merrily on the giant, newly-lit tree just ahead of them, with admirably restrained laughter, with mischief, with more openness than he'd dared hope for) and curled his hand at the small of her back while the holiday celebration carried on, in its beginning throes, around them.

"Stop looking at me like I'm jailbait," Kay finally told him with a quirk of her lips and a flip of her hair. "That ship's done sailed."

He saw definite (far off, future) possibilities in her sweetly sarcastic smirk, and he groaned as he blocked the worst of the cold December air from the baby's sensitive, sweet-smelling skin, fell into resumed step beside her. "I thought we were finished with our discussion of boats."

"My dad has a boat. It's called the Amazing Grace."



~*~





Feedback is love!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Thanks so much for reading!

UAgirl
12.26.11, 1:13 AM
~4~






Title: Santa Claus is Coming To Town
Rating: G
Warning: fluff, implied angst (lol, how can angst be implied you ask? This is how); this is pre-Unforgettable, guys. If you've read that story, you know what I mean. If you haven't, you shouldn't have too much trouble just enjoying the fluffy image of Luis and his little girl waiting in line to see Santa.
Pairing/Characters: Luis, Hank, past Luis/Sheridan, past/pre- Hank/Gwen, original characters, mention of Theresa
Word Count: 1,743
Summary (for chapter): "And you, little girl. Tell Santa what you want for Christmas."












~*~




"It's not too late to blow this joint," Hank's voice amounted to barely more than a whisper in Luis's ear, and no wonder. It looked like the entire population of Harmony had chosen this particular day to finish up their holiday shopping, and to make some last-minute pleas to Santa, which was the only reason Hank had agreed to this suicide mission, but even so. "I'm sure Sam still has my old Santa suit somewhere up in his attic. It probably even still fits."

Luis briefly considered Hank's suggestion then shook his head with a grim smile. The warm weight of Ali's little hand in his own reminded him this wasn't his choice; it was his daughter's, and he glanced down at the top of her golden head then over to Jake, tugging irritably at the buttoned up collar of the shirt peeking out from his forest-green sweater. "The line to see Santa is awfully long, AliCat. Are you sure you don't want Daddy to help you write him a letter instead?"

Ali's pale hair shimmered as it spilled over her tiny shoulders with her vehement refusal, and she gazed up at him with blue eyes that were large, innocent, and filled with serious wonder. "He won't know what I want if I don't tell him."

"That's what the letter's for, Doofus," Jake made a big show of rolling his eyes at Ali's statement.

"Hey," Hank frowned and called his son out on his behavior. "You know your mom doesn't like you using that word." Firmly grasping Jake's young shoulders in his hands, he steered him toward Ali and Luis, looming, intimidating and protective, at her side. "Apologize. Now," he insisted.

"Aww, Ali," Jake breathed out on a sigh that was equal parts disgusted and shamed as the line inched forward without them, causing his brown eyes to widen with worry at the possibility of missing out on all the Santa hocus pocus. He had a beef to pick with the jolly old fat man, after all, and he was going to make darn sure Santa realized he hadn't been a bad boy this year—just a boy is all, like his grandpa said, just a boy, normal and full of mischief and all those boy things, with a side order of Bennett. He didn't want any repeats of last year. "I'm sorry. You know I didn't mean it."

"It's okay, Jake," Ali answered with sweet acceptance. "I know you didn't really mean it."

Satisfied he'd paid his penance, Jake turned around and grabbed onto both of his dad's hands and, hanging his head back to stare up at him, pleaded, "Now, can we please get this over with? I'm tired of looking like a nerd, Dad."

Hank couldn't fight the grin that wanted to break out at his son's self-disparaging words, so he didn't, because what he had said, it was kind of true. From his perfect, not a strand out of place, shiny brown hair to his spit-polished patent leather shoes, the little boy staring up at him only vaguely resembled his precocious son. He was looking at a little Step-Jake, and he liked it about as well as his son obviously did, meaning he was going to have to have another little pow-wow with good ole Becs when this whole thing was over. In the meantime, well, in the meantime, there was really nothing he could do about it without hanging himself out to dry. A promise was a promise, and he'd promised Gwen this year's picture was not going to be the fiasco of last year all over again. He had some brownie points to earn himself if he was to have any hope of getting even a tenth of what he wanted for Christmas this year, after all, and Hank may not have been your traditional boy scout, but he had earned a badge or two in a previous life. He figured that had to count for something. "I can't do anything about the line, Little Buddy," he finally said. "We have to wait our turn."

Jake turned to Luis and put forward his best impression of a little angel. In other words, he tried his best to mimic Ali. "You're a cop, Uncle Luis. Can't you do something? Anything?"

Luis bit back a smile, and in as serious a voice as he could muster in the face of his own amusement, he dashed Jake's dreams of making it out of the local Harmony mall with his dignity intact. "I'm sorry, Jake. It just doesn't work that way."

"Fine," Jake grumbled, giving the collar at his neck another particularly vicious tug. He walked off ahead of them, as far as the two adults would allow anyway, and sulked, at least until something else captured his attention, in this instance, the motion-activated talking Frosty.

Hank thanked Luis and reached down a hand to gently ruffle Ali's silken hair. "So, Miss Ali," he smiled down at the tiny child fondly, recognizing even without having proof positive in front of him that he was looking at a miniaturized version of Sheridan transported more than twenty years into the future. "You gonna give me the inside scoop on this Christmas list of yours? I might be able to put an extra special word in with one of the elves."

Ali glanced up at her father before looking back at Hank and shaking her head. "I can't tell you or Daddy, Uncle Hank. Only Santa."

The little tyke was serious, that much Hank recognized; this visit with Santa obviously meant a lot to her. He tweaked her button nose and winked at her, sharing a long, knowing look with his friend. "S'okay," he grinned down at Ali a microsecond later, letting her off the hook. "I get it." His words had the desired effect, and the expression of intense concentration on her little face softened into a pretty, thankful smile as she leaned into Luis's side, clutching his hand tight. Hank hoped fervently that whatever higher power out there, not including well-intentioned parents and relatives, that specialized in children's Christmas wishes, granted Ali's heart's desire. He couldn't think of a kid more deserving, and that included his own son, who he noticed had resorted to force-feeding Frosty red and white-striped candy canes while his attention had been occupied elsewhere. He broke away from an understanding Luis and jogged up to Jake.

"But Dad," Luis could hear Jake protest. "He kept singing the same song. Over and over again. He wouldn't stop." He nodded at Hank, his eyes dancing merrily, when Hank indicated his need to chaperone his son outweighed any desire he might have to share their company. The line inched forward again, and Hank and Jake disappeared around the winding corner, beyond the tree-lined gate to the North Pole, and Luis looked down when he felt the Ali's head rest heavily against his thigh. "Tired, AliCat?" he asked, rubbing a loving hand over her glossy golden head.

"A little," Ali mumbled into her daddy's pants leg. She let out a quiet little squeal of surprise when her daddy lifted her up in his strong arms, and she wrapped her short arms around his neck, rubbing strands of his dark hair between her tiny fingers as she stared into his beloved face.

Luis smiled as he watched her stubbornly fight back a yawn. "You and Aunt Theresa were up late last night, being awfully sneaky. What were you talking about? My Christmas present?" he teased.

Ali half-nodded before thinking better of it, and she hid her face in the crook of his neck to stave off the need for half-truths. Fibs were lies, after all, even if they were to protect good secrets, and she couldn't lie to her daddy. She just couldn't. So she didn't. Her little fingers traced his chin reverently as she listened to all the sounds around her, all the other little kids like her in line waiting to see Santa. Some of them were crying, some of them were excited, some of them weren't anything at all. Ali wondered if any of the rest of them had a wish as big as hers to ask of Santa. She lingered there, in sleepy half-awareness, until she felt a hand tug at her dangling foot, and she looked down to see Jake scowling up at her. It seemed she and her daddy had made it to the front of the line.

"He says I'm on the naughty list, temporarily." Jake stumbled over the big word, and his scowl deepened when his dad chuckled behind him. "Whatever that means," he huffed and crossed his arms indignantly over his small chest. "It's your turn. See if you have any better luck."

Ali rubbed her fists against her eyes as her daddy set her on her own two feet, and she smoothed out the full skirt of her red dress as she took a hesitant step forward, her youthful heart in her eyes and a lump of hope lodged in her throat.

"At least his beard was real," Jake could be heard commenting as Hank pulled him along to the picture booth just around the bend. "I know because I checked."

"AliCat," Luis bent to Ali's level, smiled encouragingly into her round, sapphire eyes. "It's okay to change your mind. We can come see Santa another time. Or, I can help you with that letter."

Ali swallowed bravely and solemnly shook her head. "It's okay, Daddy. I'm ready."

"Good girl," Luis said proudly. "I'll be waiting just over here, okay?"

Ali nodded and offered him her best smile.

Santa held out his gloved hand invitingly to her, and his blue eyes twinkled behind the lenses of the glasses perched precariously at the tip of his rosy nose.

Ali curled instinctively into the welcoming warmth of his jovial embrace, and her little hand smoothed up and down the velvet texture of the gloved hand that cradled her close as she worked up the courage to voice her fondest wish, her only Christmas wish.

Santa smiled, whispered encouragingly into Ali's ear, his beard tickling her sensitive skin as he waited, patiently, for her to speak. "And you, little girl. Tell Santa what you want for Christmas." When her answer came, it was soft, nothing more than a whisper, but Santa heard her, loud and clear.

"I want my mommy to come back to us. I want her to come home."






~*~



Mistakes are all mine.

I hope you enjoyed this little peek into Luis and Ali's life pre-Unforgettable.

Feedback is love! Really, lol. I can't tell if you guys are reading my stories because you actually enjoy them or because they're basically the only thing being updated in the Passions section. ;) A little clarification would be nice. Just saying.

:D

That said, thank you so much for reading!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

UAgirl
1.1.12, 2:39 PM
~5~




Title: Blue Christmas
Rating: G
Warning: angst, off-screen character death(s)
Pairing/Characters: Ethan, Little Ethan, Jane, Jonathan, undercurrents of Theresa/Ethan, mentions of Pilar, others
Word Count: 1,183
Summary (for chapter): It's their first Christmas as a family (together).





It's their first Christmas as a family (together).



~*~




Little Ethan is the first to wake, flinging his blankets back and swinging his growing legs to the (cold) floor. His toes curl, and he rubs his eyes sleepily before letting his eyes roam his room. Everything is still under the haze of the blue shadows of early (early) dawn, and all is quiet. He pads over to the window, draws the thin curtain back with a hesitant hand, and a small smile escapes at what he sees.

Jane whines when his hands gently shake her shoulders, and she rolls over to glare at him without opening her eyes, her blond hair a messy tangle on her pale pink pillow. "Little Ethan," she pouts. "What is it?"

"It snowed," Little Ethan simply says, and the smile on his lips grows when the words drag his little brother from his sleepy half-aware state and from his own warm bed across the room, standing on tiptoe to stare outside the window at the winter wonderland below.

"Jane, come look," Jonathan beckons, his own fine blond hair still matted with sleep.

Jane joins their brother, and her eyes are bright as she reminds Little Ethan. "Mama loves the snow."

"I know," Little Ethan answers softly, seeks out her smaller hand, squeezes it tight.

They watch the sun creep further up the sky in silence, until Jonathan turns to his older siblings, his eyes widened in excitement. "Do you think Santa brought any presents?"


~*~



Jane swirls her spoon through her cereal bowl, stifling a giggle as she listens to their brother in the other room, his young voice high-pitched with giddy pleasure as he tells his mother all about his holiday loot. She tips her head back when her dad cups his big hand around the curve of her neck, accepts his noisy kiss to her forehead, lets her spoon fall idle with a clatter.

"What do you think?" he asks, his fingers toying with the small silver charm bracelet slipping down her fine-boned wrist.

Jane traces the tiny pink heart charm, feels her own heart swell in her chest, press insistently, painfully against her ribs. The delicate bauble is a gift from her mother, and so, she loves it. "It's my favorite," she finally smiles.

"I helped her pick it out," Little Ethan announces proudly.

Their dad pulls him into a one-armed hug, tightens his other arm around Jane's slender shoulder, sighs long and slow. It's a bittersweet sound. "You did good," he says. "He did good. Didn't he, Jane?"

"Yeah," Jane breathes, turns into her dad's side and rests her forehead there, soaks up the comfort of his familiar warmth. "He did good. Mama did good."

They stay there, hold each other quietly, until Jonathan bursts through the kitchen doorway, his smile as bright as the December sun high up in the sky. "Let's go build a snowman!"



~*~



Jonathan's short arms windmill at his sides, his mouth open in a wide smile. His sister rests beside him, an arm's length away, and her longer, coltish legs scissor through the powdery white snow, as they both watch Little Ethan and their father put the finishing touches on their own version of Frosty the Snowman.

Little Ethan takes off his red scarf, wraps it around the snowman, and gives it a funny little smile. "There," he says.

Jane sits up beside Jonathan, tilts her head to the side, and considers them both. Finally, she gives them an approving nod. "I think he's perfect."

"Me too," their dad agrees, and he rubs his gloved hands together. "Anybody want some hot chocolate?"

"I want some," Jonathan readily volunteers, springing to his feet and kicking up snow behind him as he races his dad. A thin ribbon of smoke curls from the chimney, and the house is warm, welcoming, and pleasantly toasty when the door swings open beneath his eager mitten-clad small hands. He turns back to see Little Ethan helping Jane up out of the snow, and flaps his arm out at them. "What are you waiting for? Come on," he cries.

They sip hot chocolate before the crackling fire, thaw out all their frozen body parts, and Jane and their dad attempt to master Little Ethan's latest board game, best him (the master), until Jonathan falls asleep, and one by one, their interest wanes, in favor of simply being, together.



~*~



Ethan's ears burn, his eyes sting, and his feet are swallowed up the snow as he travels the familiar path. Christmas carols rise, float along the winter air, and Jane easily picks out the tune, hums it under her breath beside him. Jonathan tromps ahead, his nose reddened from the cold, and Little Ethan marches, tall and so-serious behind him.

Familiar friends and family greet them on their short journey, and they linger in the company of some (Grace, Nathan, Fox, Sarah) longer than others, but the day draws short, the air crisp and cold, and the last hours, minutes, seconds of Christmas are unraveling before them. Time is precious, truly the greatest gift of all, and they don't wish to waste it, so they carry on.

Ethan easily picks out the gentle flicker of a candle in the distance, and he knows, without reservation, they have just missed Pilar. Her footsteps are still fresh in the snow, and Jonathan, in his curiosity, wanders off, his boots retracing them. Past experience reassures Ethan he won't go very far, and he casts his gaze on Little Ethan and Jane before him.

Jane's lower lip trembles, tears well and cling stubbornly to her thick lashes, but they do not fall. Her fingers find the charm bracelet dangling from her wrist, hold on to it, and she leans heavily into her brother's side as he steps forward, nods gravely in greeting.

"Merry Christmas, Mama," Little Ethan murmurs, stoically dry-eyed.

Ethan welcomes the sharp sting of thorns digging into his flesh as he feels the first tear fall without his permission, and he kneels, places the rose in his hand next to the candle. It stands out, blood-red, against the snow. Little Ethan's and Jane's roses soon join it, and Ethan wraps his arms around then as they tuck themselves, one on each side, beneath his strong shoulders.

They stay that way for a long time. The small flicker of candlelight threatens to go out in the cold winter air, but it never does, and they feel heartened, encouraged by its act of willful determination (that was her, Jane would later insist, that was her). They tell her they love her, they tell her they miss her, they tell her they always will. They tell her these things and more until Jonathan cries out in the night, and the moment is no more. "Little Ethan! Jane! Come look what I found!"

Ethan stands up, places a kiss against his fingertips, then traces them along the looping letters of her name, whispers his goodbye, "Merry Christmas, Theresa."


~*~


It's their first Christmas as a family (together); it's their first Christmas without her.





~*~



Sorry for the sad one, guys, but I've recently had a death in my circle of loved ones, and this is my therapy of sorts.

Other installments should be forthcoming, and cheerier.

Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, and I wish you all a Happy New Year.

Thanks so much for reading!