Chapter Six

Memories ’round the Christmas tree
Are the sweetest ones that remain with me
It’s a comfort deep inside
Though you can’t stop the race of time
To know that Christmas will always be

At Christmas, Hanson

December 25, 2005

Elizabeth & Patrick’s Apartment: Living Room

Elizabeth yawned and stumbled out of her room, almost crashing into the Christmas tree in her trek to the kitchen for some coffee. Unfortunately, this was not a normal morning where Patrick would have risen before her and prepared it. So she clumsily set up the filter and poured the water and hoped for the best.

She peered out into the living room and frowned when she saw a tall lanky form sprawled over their couch. Why would Patrick have crashed on the couch when he had a perfectly good bed just ten feet away? She rubbed her eyes and stepped forward and finally realized that while the person was taller than she was, he didn’t have Patrick’s height. And his hair was somewhat lighter than her brother’s.

Why was her cousin Will on their couch?

Too bleary for complex thoughts this early, Elizabeth decided to wait until she’d had at least eight cups of coffee before thinking the matter over.

Patrick exited his room and joined her at the coffee machine, wincing at the strange smell coming from inside. “What did you do wrong this time?” he demanded. She scowled at him—stupid morning person. How did he think so clearly so early? She should do the world a favor and crack him over the head with something hard.

Patrick dumped her coffee attempt and restarted it before turning to his sister. “You wanna go back to sleep until it’s finished?”

She glared at him wordlessly and then sat at their kitchen table. He sat across from her and reached for a medical journal to peruse through until the coffee was finished. Restless, Elizabeth started to tap her fingers. After a few moments of trying to ignore it, Patrick reached over and grabbed her hand. “You know that annoys me.”

“It’s a sister’s prerogative to annoy her brother,” Elizabeth said dryly. Just the aroma of the coffee was perking her up a bit. “We need to look into some kind of intravenous coffee line.”

“Or you can just stay in bed until you smell the coffee,” Patrick replied, releasing her hand. “I suppose you’re wondering why we have a houseguest.”

“The thought crossed my mind,” Elizabeth stifled a yawn. “I thought you took him home last night.”

“Ellie, are you awake yet?” he asked. “Because this isn’t a conversation we should have until you are.”

Jolted by the serious tone in his voice, Elizabeth stood and crossed to the fridge. Orange juice helped in an emergency. She poured herself a glass and gulped it down. “Okay, I’m awake.”

“I took him home and his mother was drunk. She was insulting and she slapped him around.” Irritated remembering it, Patrick tossed the journal back onto the table. “And I don’t think it’s the first time she’s acted like that.”

Elizabeth sighed and set the orange juice back in the fridge. “I haven’t spent enough time with him since Uncle Liam walked out on them.” She returned to her seat. “So what do you propose we do? Arrange for Aunt Cheryl to go to rehab?”

“Sure, we can do that. But I think Will should stay with us until she’s put herself back together.” He shook his head. “I can’t change the way I treated you after Mom died. How I treated Robin and anyone else who cares about me. But I can stop myself from watching another train wreck just pass me by. He needs someone to stand up for him, Ellie.”

“Absolutely, he should stay with us,” Elizabeth agreed. “Robin rented a two bedroom apartment, maybe I can go stay with her for a while and Will can use my room—”

“You don’t have to do that, El,” Will said, appearing in the doorway. “I’m not putting you out of your home.”

“Will, honestly, I don’t care about me,” Elizabeth assured him. Patrick stood up to pour three cups of coffee. “You need a place to stay and you can’t just use the couch. For one thing, you’re too tall—”

“No, I have to go back to my house,” Will said. He took the mug of black coffee and took a long gulp. “You have any aspirin?” he asked Patrick hopefully.

“You’re not going back there-” Patrick began. Elizabeth stood to retrieve some aspirin from the medicine cabinet.

“I can’t walk out on my mom,” Will argued. “That would make me no better than my dad.” He took the pills his cousin offered. “Thanks.”

“I appreciate that you want to stick by her, dude, but c’mon. You’re practically falling down drunk most of the time, you’re getting into fights and your grades have probably taken a serious hit. You’re not an adult yet, you don’t have to act like one,” Patrick told him.

“Look, thanks, but no thanks. I don’t need you guys to fix me, okay?” He took another long gulp of his coffee. “Mom just needs time—”

“Hey, who do you think has kept you out jail?” Patrick demanded. He slapped a hand against his chest. “Me. I’m the one that gets up in the middle of the night and convinces Robert Scorpio not to toss your skinny ass in jail.”

“I only called you because you’ve got an in with the commissioner,” Will said sourly. “If I’d known you’d throw it in my face later—”

“That’s not what he’s doing, Will.” Elizabeth covered his hand with his own. “We just want to help. We know we haven’t been there the way we should have and we’re both sorry—”

“You’ve got your own lives to worry about,” Will jerked a shoulder. “It doesn’t bother me.”

“In any case, you’re staying with us,” Patrick said firmly. “Ellie, when’s Robin moving into her new apartment?”

“After the holidays, I think. She’s staying with her dad until then. I’ll give a call later and see if I can use the extra bedroom.” Elizabeth took a long sip of her coffee. “Now, why don’t we all get showered and dressed? We’ve got to hit Dad’s for breakfast.”

It was clear his cousins weren’t going to give him much of a choice. If he just left and went home, Patrick would only follow and drag him back. When the twins made up their minds about something, there was no talking them out of it. So Will sighed, sat back and finished his coffee.

Robert Scorpio’s House: Living Room

Robin sat in the window seat, staring at the falling snow as she twirled the white phone cord around her finger. “Merry Christmas, Mom.”

“Well, Happy Christmas, darling. I confess, I’m still not used to hearing your voice,” Anna Devane remarked dryly.

Robin sighed. They’d never give up on the guilt trips. “Well, that’s over now, Mom. Is it snowing where you are?”

“Raining,” Anna replied. “But that’s England for you. Has your father driven you mad yet?”

“No, not yet,” Robin smiled over her shoulder at her father who was cursing at the lights on the tree that refused to light up. It was a yearly battle that Robert lost more than he won. “But the thought that I’ll be moving into my own place in two weeks keeps the insanity at bay.” She hesitated. “I wish you were here, Mom.”

“I know, darling, and I do as well, but I just wasn’t able to get away this year. Perhaps next year.”

“Right.” Robin shifted and looked out again at the landscape that she’d grown up with. The house had been in her family for two generations now. Her grandparents—her father’s parents—had bought it when this section of Port Charles had been rural and there had been nothing but fields and trees surrounding it. By the time Robert and Mac were old enough to have their own families, the growing city had started creeping in. A house here, a house there.

Robert had married Anna and they’d always lived in this house, even when his parents had been alive. Mac had married Felicia Cummings and they’d moved to a newly built house a few streets away to raise their girls. But this house had always been in Robin’s dreams. Once, she’d dreamt of raising her own family here. Of graduating from medical school with Patrick and then in a year or two, after the first years of being interns were behind them, they’d marry or maybe they’d already be married and then they’d start talking about children.

It had always been Patrick Drake in those dreams though she felt disloyal now to Stone for feeling that way. But with Stone, there hadn’t been time for dreams and plans for the future. There had only been the precious gift of right here and now. And now the future was a concept Robin couldn’t visualize.

And now, the home she had grown up in was still there but there were more houses now, more streets and there was even some stores. It was a blinding reminder that time didn’t stand still and that things would always change.

But this house would always be here for her and Robin didn’t even have to live there to know it. “Next year, Mom. You can come here and you and Dad can pretend that you still hate each other. And we’ll have a huge Christmas party.”

After she’d slid the phone back in the receiver, Robert joined her, perching at the other end of the window seat. He handed her a mug of hot chocolate. “It’s Christmas, love, you shouldn’t look so down.”

“I’m not down,” Robin said. She sipped her drink and smiled at him. “I’m just reflecting. It’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks and I can’t believe everything that’s happened since I’ve been home.” She set the mug on a nearby table and pulled her legs up to tuck her knees under her chin. “Dad, you told me that you were glad we weren’t involved with the Drakes anymore. Is that because of his cousin?”

Robert sighed and leaned back. “Partly. And because of his father,” he admitted. “I’ve hauled Will Drake in more times than I count and it’s always for fighting, trespassing and lately, it’s public drunkenness.” He shook his head. “Patrick bails him out. Doesn’t want the mother to know. But I don’t know how much longer I can look the other way. Patrick’s a good kid, he always was. But his father’s a lush, his uncle’s worthless and his sister…” He shifted. “His sister’s taken to hanging out with the local criminal element.”

“I thought Noah stopped drinking after the accident,” Robin said, a little dismayed. “That’s what I’ve heard—”

“Well, now, that’s what I’ve heard as well. But sometimes they just get better at hiding it. In any case, it’s a good thing you and Patrick won’t be mixing the genes.”

Robin smiled faintly. “Oh…there’s no danger in that.” She took a long sip of her hot chocolate. “Patrick and I are just friends now.” She smiled at her father. “And Ellie’s not hanging with the local criminal element,” she echoed her father’s words with a teasing tone. “She’s friends with Jason Morgan. It’s hardly her fault if after they became friends, he chose to work for Sonny Corinthos. And he’s only working in the warehouse.”

“Sweetheart…” Robert shook his head, “No, it’s a holiday and we’re not going to get into this today. I’m glad to have you home.” He leveled a glare at her. “Even if you are leaving me again to stay in this lonely house all by my lonesome.”

Robin arched an eyebrow. “Dad, I’ve hardly stayed here since I started college. You’re laying it on thick now.”

“It’s a father’s prerogative,” Robert replied. He touched her nose. “I’m glad to have you home again, love. Don’t you leave again.”

“I don’t plan on it,” Robin replied softly.

Quartermaine Mansion: Living Room

Emily pressed a finger to her head. “Please, God, if you’re listening, save me.”

Dillon shook his head and reached for a scone. Biting into with great relish, he remarked, “Don’t bother. I tried that about an hour ago when Grandfather set in on my hair. God’s off today.”

Emily huffed. “He always is when I need him.” She sipped her orange juice. “Why must we do this every year? How many rounds of Ned’s Not Running ELQ The Way Grandfather Wants are we going to have to sit through?”

“As many as it takes before my mother stops rising to the bait.” Dillon cast a look back to the family gathered on the sofa and the settee. Tracy was needling Edward about the great success that her son had turned out to be, despite Edward kicking her out of the family while he’d been growing up. “You’d think they’d be happy that it’s still a family firm.”

“Careful, Dillon, you don’t want Grandfather to think you care,” Emily popped a piece of bacon into her mouth and chewed. “He’ll be grooming you to take over.”

Dillon shuddered. “Oh, God. Don’t even say those words out loud. Because now they’re out there and they’re floating and they’ll go in his ear and I won’t be able to turn around without hearing about investments and capital gains and all that other crap I could care less about.” He sighed and continued to loiter at the breakfast buffet with his cousin. “You going over to see Nikolas today?”

“We’re meeting at the Spencers.” Emily glanced at him. “You want to come along, see the mother of your child?”

Dillon opened his mouth to accept the invitation before the rest of her sentence filtered in and he flushed. “So you’ve heard.”

“I’ve heard that Lu tried to talk you into yet another brainless scheme. Just as long as it doesn’t involve Minnesota again, I figure I’ll toss my support in.” She set the tongs for the eggs down and glared at him. “Support for Lu telling Will and for you to learn to tell that girl no every once in a while. I love Lulu, you know I do. But isn’t there a point where you gotta tell her she’s on her own?”

“I could,” Dillon said after a moment. “It’s crossed my mind. But she’s family, you know? She’s…” he hesitated. “She’s my best friend. And she’s been there for me. She’d have my back if I needed her. She’s Lu, Emily. I’d like to see you tell her that she can’t count on you.”

“I understand loyalty to friends, believe me. Lucky and Nikolas, they’re my family, they’ve been my friends for years. And Ellie and Patrick and Robin. If any of us needed someone, we know we can count on each other. But, honey,” Emily hesitated. “I think that you need to think very carefully about how you and Lu deal with this situation. If you’re gonna get killed by Luke, I’d rather it be for something you actually did.”

“Thanks, Em. I did talk her out of that first plan, you know that. So I appreciate all the stuff you’ve gotten me and Lu out of. But she’s my best friend. And I’m gonna do whatever she needs me to do.” Dillon set a slice of French toast on his plate. “Just like how you do what this bunch of loons need you to do. You don’t parade Nikolas around, you don’t ask your parents or Grandfather about wedding plans. Because you know that they’re never going to accept Nikolas or his family. And they’re never going to make him feel welcome.” He shrugged. “It’s just what you do for family. You accept what you can’t change and you deal with it. Lu’s impulsive, irrational and half the time, she drives me crazy. But I can’t change her and honestly, Em, I wouldn’t if I could.”

He walked away from her and perched on the arm of the chair his beleaguered older brother sat in. Emily stood at the buffet table for a long moment and finally squared her shoulders and joined her family.

Her cousin was right after all. The Quartermaines would tolerate her marriage to Nikolas, but they would never accept him, never make him feel like part of the family. And that tore at her just a little. She loved her adopted family so much and had worked so hard to make herself one of them. A small piece of her wondered if falling in love with the scion of her family’s worst enemy was a betrayal in some ways.

The Quartermaines had a rivalry with the Cassadines that didn’t quite measure up to the Cassadines and Spencer feud, but it was felt—on both sides of the family, though all the parties excluding her grandparents had been dead for years. She thought that she and Nikolas could be happy with the knowledge that they loved each other and were happy together but family was so important to both of them. Could they really turn their backs on it forever?

“You look like someone just killed your best friend,” her mother said, sliding an arm around her shoulders. “You okay, sweetheart?”

Emily smiled faintly. “I’m fine, Mom. Just anxious to finish breakfast so we can get to the presents.”

Spencer House: Living Room

Lulu shook the box her mother handed her. “I wonder if that’s the new set of door locks for my room,” she teased.

Laura laughed and shook her head, putting a hand on her mother Lesley’s shoulder. “Open it, baby, and find out.”

“Maybe it’s a muzzle,” Lucky called out from the desk where he was putting the finishes touches on the computer he’d bought Lulu for Christmas. He’d built it himself and had been quite excited to give it to her though he knew she’d only use it for chatting and emailing and plotting her ridiculous schemes. Still, she’d be off to college next year and she’d need it.

“Maybe it’s a new brother,” Lulu said sweetly. She tore off the wrapping paper and pulled out a velvet jewelry box. Her hands started to tremble and she looked at her mother, at her grandmother with trepidation. “Mom?”

“We’re a little late giving them to you, darling,” Laura said, “but your father wasn’t ready yet.” She looked at her husband affectionately. “He still thinks you’re twelve.”

“As far as I’m concerned she is,” Luke grumbled. “Daughters should stay twelve forever.” He looked at his wife’s son, the stepson that he grudgingly accepted and to his own son. “Believe me, when you have girls of your own, you’ll understand.”

Lulu lifted the lid and found the double strand of white pearls nestled inside. Her heart pounded as she skimmed her fingertips over them. Her great-grandmother had given these to Lesley on her sixteenth birthday and Lesley had in turn continued the tradition by giving them to her daughter Laura on her sixteenth birthday. Lulu had known this and had been so excited on her birthday but instead, her parents had given her the keys to her brother’s old Chevrolet. She’d been devastated and sure that they had sensed finally what she’d known all long. She wasn’t a real Spencer—she would never be as slick and cunning as her father, as gracious and elegant as her mother, cool and confident like her brother or even sweet and loving like Lesley, her grandmother. She wasn’t a real Spencer and they’d proved they knew it by not passing the pearls down to her.

She’d cried herself to sleep that night and for two weeks afterwards. And from that moment on, she decided to prove to herself and to her family that she was a real Spencer, that she belonged in this family.

And they’d given her the pearls for Christmas now—when she was on the brink of disappointing them forever and having a baby out of teenaged wedlock. The tears swelled in her eyes and she set the box down with care and delicacy before springing to her feet and running from the room.

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