I still believe in Santa Claus
Maybe that’s just because I’m still
A child at heart
And I still believe in old St. Nick
But then again maybe that’s the trick we need
We need to retreat to a world of make believe
– I Still Believe in Santa Claus, New Kids on the Block
December 25, 2005
Spencer House: Upstairs Hallway
Laura Spencer had always thought that raising a daughter would somehow be simpler than raising her sons—or more specifically, raising her son as she hadn’t had much of an input in Nikolas’s upbringing. She’d imagined being able to understand her more than her boys because she’d been a rebellious teen herself.
But Lulu was in a class all her own. She’d been sweet and loving for the first sixteen years but one morning, she’d woken up and her daughter had been replaced by a sullen, angry and disobedient young woman and Laura couldn’t understand where the hostility had come from. She’d plodded along, battling each crisis as it came up but for Lulu to reject a gift that was meant to be a legacy in their family—Laura just couldn’t fathom it.
She knocked once more at Lulu’s door but knew it was a fruitless effort. If Lulu were in the room, she would never answer and it was more likely that she’d crawled out the window. Laura reached into her pocket, withdrew the trusty hair pin that she no longer traveled without and with a few careful flicks of her wrist, unlocked her daughter’s bedroom door.
When Laura had found out she was pregnant, she’d been stunned. And thrilled. She loved her son Lucky and she broke for the loss of her son Nikolas. She craved a daughter and she’d been so sure that her third child would be a female that she’d immediately painted this room a soft pink in preparation. She’d decorated it with white wicker furniture, stuffed animals and a gorgeous oak rocking chair that she used every night for the first year or so of Lu’s life.
Lulu had long ago repainted the walls from the original pink to a loud purple and the carefully selected baby furniture was now gathering dust in the attic. Lu had replaced it with a large brass double bed, a beaten down dresser that she’d painted ebony black and posters of bands that Laura had never heard of covered the walls. Lu’s clothes were strewn over the carpet, still the same cream color and the ancient computer that they’d bought three years ago sat on the second hand desk Laura had refinished for Lu’s fourteenth birthday. Lu had painted it black shortly after she’d turned sixteen.
The window was cracked open and a piece of notebook paper was tucked under one of the pillows on the window seat. Laura sighed, resigned and plucked it free. She unfolded it and read Lulu’s loopy handwriting. I’m sorry, Mom. I had to get away for a little while. I’m at Dillon’s. I’ll call you.
She folded the paper and tucked it underneath one of Lulu’s notebooks on the desk. Some mothers—her own included—would have gone over to the Quartermaine estate and dragged her daughter back if it meant tugging her by the hair. But Laura liked to think that she had learned from her childhood, and from her time raising Lucky on the run. She and Luke had raised a level-headed young woman and no amount of dragging Lulu home would solve this. She would wait until Lulu called (she always did) and then they would take it from there.
She closed Lulu’s door and rejoined her family in the living room. “Lulu’s not feeling well,” Laura lied without guilt. “She needs some time to herself.”
“I don’t think so.” Luke started to rise but stilled with one touch from his wife. “She can’t just sulk whenever she wants—”
“She’s having some boy trouble,” Laura remarked. “She’s not feeling herself and doesn’t want to ruin everyone’s holiday. Sometimes girls just need some time on their own.” She flicked her eyes to her mother. “Right, Mom?”
Lesley Webber hesitated but then smiled at her son-in-law. “She’s right, Luke. Teenage girls will rebel whether you like it or not. You might as well give her some space or else she’ll run off with the first reprobate she finds and before you know it, she’ll spend the whole summer on the run.”
“Ah, hell,” Luke muttered, chastised properly at the reminder that he’d once spirited his beloved angel away from her family and friends simply because he’d wanted her at his side. “The kids were always your area, Laura,” he admitted. “You know better than I do.”
If only Laura could believe that as firmly as Luke seemed to. She smiled and handed a gift to her son, hoping the observant young man had taken her explanation at face value. “Your turn, honey.”
Lucky hesitated before taking the brightly wrapped present, studying his mother’s face. Whether he believed her or decided to support her, Laura wasn’t sure, but Lucky took the gift and started to rip it open.
Quartermaine Estate: Dillon’s Room
Dillon closed the door, coming perilously close to shutting it in his grandfather’s face. For some reason, Edward had decided to pay attention to his youngest grandson and bombard with questions about his future. The words future and Edward never went together in the same sentence without a healthy dose of fear so he’d done his best to escape. Dillon had plans that did not include ELQ.
A thump from his window jarred him from his thoughts and Dillon glanced over in time to see his window slide open and a duffle bag plop to the floor. “Lu?”
His best friend’s blonde head popped in through the opening and in another moment, her body followed. “Hey. Ah, I need a place to crash for a while.”
“You should not be climbing the trellis,” Dillon said, crossing the room and closing the window. “You’re in a delicate—” he gestured with his hands, “you know, condition.”
“Gee, I didn’t know,” Lulu retorted. “Because it’s so easy to forget I’m knocked up.” She huffed. “Relax, I can climb that thing in my sleep.” She sat on his bed and pulled off her boots. “How’d your day go?”
“Edward realized I existed,” Dillon kicked his shoes off and flopped on the bed. He laid back and rested his head on the pillow. A moment later, Lulu’s head appeared on the adjacent side. “My mother and Grandfather had their yearly go around about my brother Ned and his running of the company. Alan and Monica had the house argument about eight times.” He frowned. “The only thing that didn’t go as usual was the Nikolas argument.”
“What, they actually saw Em’s point?” Lulu asked.
“No…Emily never mentioned him so it never came up.” He folded his hands behind his head. “Maybe she’s finally realizing that she’s been wasting her breath. They’re never going to accept him as part of the family.”
“That must be so hard on her,” Lulu sighed. “I mean, my parents never approved of Will, but at least I wasn’t planning on marrying him. And you know, Em like totally lives for this family. It must be really hard knowing they don’t approve of the man you want to marry.”
He’d never thought of it that way before and now it troubled him. Dillon didn’t really mind Nikolas Cassadine—he’d helped Emily bail him and Lulu out of that embarrassing St. Paul mess last year—but Dillon had never really given his cousin his support either. He didn’t think that she had needed it; Emily had always seemed so strong and confident but he supposed it wouldn’t hurt to know that someone was on her side.
“So, speaking of Will,” Dillon said casually. “I ran into him a few days ago.”
Lulu tensed but otherwise didn’t move. “You didn’t tell him I was pregnant,” she stated. “He would have knocked down my door otherwise.”
“Well, I didn’t mention it because it was clear he didn’t know.” Dillon turned his head to face her. “What encouraged this sojourn from home anyway?”
She sighed and pursed her lips. “My mom gave me the pearls today,” she said quietly. “Like it was all normal and they hadn’t waited two years. She just handed them to me.”
“Lu…” He’d never understand girls. From the moment Lulu had told him about the legendary pearls and how she’d been so upset when she didn’t get them on schedule, he was kind of confused. Lulu didn’t even wear jewelry. “What’d you do?”
“Oh, you know—made a huge scene of running out of the room. I packed a bag and climbed out my window.”
Typical Lulu behavior. “What’re you going to do?” he asked and they both knew he wasn’t referring to tomorrow or even the day after.
Lulu flopped back on the pillow. “I wish I knew,” she said. “I know I’ve got options. They’re limited, you know, but they are there. I could go with adoption, I could go with the young mother routine or I could…” she tapped her fingers restlessly on the bedspread beneath them. “Whatever.”
“You know I’m here no matter what happens, right? No matter what you pick.”
“Yeah, I know.” Lulu smiled faintly. “That’s pretty much the only thing I do know but at least it’s something.” She turned her head to face him. “You think I could pull off the Molly Ringwald routine?”
“Well, that movie did have a happy ending.”
“I could probably be okay at it,” Lulu said after another moment. “I wouldn’t be spectacular I guess, but I could learn. I’ve watched a lot of Gilmore Girls. It would be cool to have a Rory.”
“Does that make me Luke?” Dillon pondered. “I think I might like to be a troubadour though. That looks like fun.”
Lulu snorted. “Please, you’re so Sookie.”
Elizabeth and Patrick’s Apartment: Living Room
Will had just discovered three months worth of Veronica Mars on Patrick and Elizabeth’s DVR when a knock interrupted his impromptu marathon. Grumbling, he paused and stood to answer the door.
In the hallway, stood Jason Morgan with a fistful of flowers and a brightly wrapped box under his arm. The two men stared at each other for a long moment before Jason coughed and shifted his eyes to the left. “I need to speak to Elizabeth,” he said roughly.
Will had spent the day with his cousins, had watched them interact with each other and with their father and he’d become aware that something was bothering Ellie, there was a shadow in her eyes. Will didn’t really like seeing her sad because she was too nice for that and she’d offered to move out without even blinking. It was his turn to look out for her.
He folded his arms across his chest and aimed best steely look at Jason Morgan. “Ellie’s sleeping.”
Jason frowned and shifted his weight from one foot to the other. “It’s six o’clock,” he argued.
“She had a long day,” Will replied. “Maybe you should have called first.” He raised his chin and tried not to think too much about the rumors of Jason Morgan working for Sonny Corinthos.
Jason looked hesitant then and Will might have actually won this round if not for the creak of Elizabeth’s bedroom door opening. “Will, who’s at the door?”
Elizabeth appeared at her cousin’s side and her mouth tightened at the corners when she saw Jason. “Hey, I wasn’t expecting you.”
Apparently deciding to ignore the annoying cousin altogether, Jason held out the flowers—daisies, Elizabeth noticed, not easily found in December. “These are for you.”
She hesitated, slid her eyes to those of her very interested cousin. “Will, you wanna go watch TV or something?”
“I’ll be right over there if you need anything.” Will sent Jason a look he liked to think warned the older man not to mess with Elizabeth and then disappeared to the couch.
“Sorry, he’s…unpredictable,” she waved her hand. Elizabeth accepted the flowers. “Ah, thanks, but you know, I don’t need flowers—”
“Brenda said to bring flowers when I apologized,” Jason interrupted. “She said it would show sincerity.”
She arched an eyebrow. “Do you always do what Brenda says?”
“No,” Jason replied, “but she’s usually right when it comes to stuff like this and I figured it couldn’t hurt to listen to her for once. I’m sorry about last night. I’m still not sure what I did wrong, but you were hurt by whatever it was and I don’t want that so—”
Elizabeth sighed and turned away to grab her jacket from the hook. “Let’s go for a ride, I could really use one.”
He opened his mouth to say that the snowfall that morning had made the roads a little too icy for a ride, but he saw the misery in her eyes and knew it was more than just him. “Sure,” he said, stepping aside so she could join him in the hall. “We just can’t go that fast.”
Quartermaine Mansion: Patio
Emily wrapped her scarf around her neck and slid her hands into the pockets of her maroon pea coat before stepping out onto the patio. She was troubled by her conversation with Dillon, by the idea that this could be her last holiday with the Quartermaines.
She could never bring Nikolas here next year and she couldn’t imagine living in Wyndemere after the wedding, constantly under the disapproving eyes of his uncle Stefan. She wondered if Nikolas was disturbed by how violently their families opposed their marriage. Emily had always assumed they would come to accept it, but she wondered now if Edward had meant his threat not to attend her wedding and if Alan would follow his father’s lead and refuse to walk her down the aisle.
She knew Monica would be there, that Ned and Dillon would show up. AJ, if he wasn’t in rehab. She knew they would be there, but she also knew that none of them really understood why she was determined to marry Nikolas, to have a family with him. To be his wife.
She hadn’t chosen the Quartermaines for her family, she probably would never have chosen them if she’d had a say in the matter, but they were hers now and she didn’t want to sacrifice that, she didn’t want to lose that.
There was a scuffling, some footsteps and Emily turned to see Nikolas stepping up from the lake. She smiled faintly—he’d taken a boat from the island and docked at their boathouse, just as he always did when he wanted to see her at her home and not deal with her family. The smile faded. He went out of his way to avoid her family and she did the same with his. How was that any way to start a life together?
“Merry Christmas,” Nikolas said. He brushed his lips over her cheek but frowned when he saw her expression. “Emily, what’s wrong—”
She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. They would find a way to fix this, she was sure of it. “Nothing, just another fun family holiday with the Quartermaines.” She wrapped her arms around his neck and threaded her fingers in his dark hair. “You want to sneak up to my room and make out for a while?”
“I can’t think of a better way than to end this day.” He rested his forehead against hers. “Next year, we’ll be in our home and we won’t have to be apart.”
She wanted to ask where their home would be but kept the words back. She only smiled and kissed him. He was the love of her life and she wasn’t going to give up on this without a fight.
Elizabeth rubbed her hands together and blew into them. “I’m sorry for dragging you out here,” she sighed. She rested her back against the railing and tilted her head up to the sky. There were no stars out tonight. “I just couldn’t sit in that apartment anymore.”
“Your cousin said you had a long day,” Jason remarked. “Is something wrong with his family?”
“Oh, it’s just the usual Drake family sob story,” Elizabeth murmured. “Patrick and I come from a long line of alcoholics, you know, but it’s not until my dad’s generation that they even bothered to label it that way. No one saw anything wrong with a man coming home after work and drinking a few drinks.” She shifted. “My dad was a social drinker, but you know what happened after my mom died. He just…lost all control, but his brother, my uncle—he was always drinking. We always knew he was alcoholic. He drove my aunt Cheryl from a very loving and bright woman into this cold, hard shell. She finally filed for divorce last year and since then, Will’s been living with the result. She started drinking, too, which makes her a hypocrite, and he started to act out.” She pursed her lips. “But I can’t really tell you what this last year has been like for him because I stopped paying attention. He’s younger than me by eight years and I just…” she shrugged. “I lost track.”
“It’s not your fault,” Jason said when she fell silent. “You have your own life.”
“Apparently, Will has been drinking pretty heavily since Lulu Spencer broke up with him and last night, he embarrassed himself at the Haunted Star. Patrick took him home and Aunt Cheryl…” she shook her head. “She was cruel to him, she slapped him and Patrick didn’t want to leave him there, couldn’t. So he brought him to our place.” She met Jason’s eyes. “Today, we went to my father’s apartment. It’s the first Christmas since my mother died that we’ve tried it but I guess after watching what happened to Will, after I blew up at him, Patrick just couldn’t keep it inside him anymore. He blew up at my father for abandoning us when Mom died. They argued and Patrick stormed out. He still hasn’t come home.”
Jason leaned against the railing next to her. “Maybe he just needs some time to himself.”
“I guess.” Elizabeth sighed. “I’m sorry I made a scene last night. I was just—I was upset and I shouldn’t have been. We’re friends and—”
“I didn’t really spend a lot of time with you,” Jason interrupted. He paused for a moment. “You were right when you said that couriers wouldn’t take a meeting like that. Sonny’s…he thinks I’ve got potential and he thinks I can read people well so he asked me to sit in on the meeting. I was nervous last night because I didn’t want to let him down but I wanted you to know that I had already agreed to go with you when Sonny brought up the meeting.”
Elizabeth nodded. “Okay, I can deal with that.” She exhaled slowly. “So, this is what you want? Working for Sonny…like this?”
“Is that—” He shifted. “Is that going to a problem?”
It should have been, Elizabeth thought. If Sonny Corinthos thought Jason had potential, he would move up in the organization into more dangerous positions and she had grown up as the best friend of the police commissioner’s daughter. She believed in right or wrong, in justice and in the law. Nothing was ever black or white, she reminded herself and Sonny’s world was populated with gray. Jason would be a criminal, but she knew Sonny ran a clean operation and a mostly safe one. Everyone knew what kind of man Sonny was.
But more importantly, she knew what kind of man Jason was and his friendship was too important to her. “No,” she said after a long moment. “I can’t say I wish you’d chosen a more…traditional career path but I know how important this job was to you, how much you respect Sonny. Friends don’t ask each other to give up things they love.”
Jason tilted his head to the side. “But we’re not just friends, Elizabeth. I mean, Sonny’s my friend. I don’t think about him the way I think about you.”
Her eyes widened. “How do you think about me?” she asked, her voice almost a whisper.
Jason wasn’t sure how to answer that but he liked honesty, he valued straight forward answers so he just went with his instinct. “I-I think about your mouth,” he said after a moment. The tips of his ears felt a little warm and he thought he might finally know what it was to feel embarrassed. “The way it would…taste.”
Elizabeth never believed that the heart could actually stop or skip a beat like it did in all those trashy romance novels, but that was before Jason Morgan told her he wondered what it would be like to taste her mouth. Her heart more than just skipped, it started to gallop. “Oh.” She blinked and licked her lips. “Well…I can’t say that I haven’t—” she coughed. “I can’t say that I haven’t given the matter the same sort of consideration with regards to your, ah,” she gestured when words failed her.
And because she knew she’d never forgive herself if this moment passed without a little bit of courage on her part, she cleared her throat and said what any self-respecting heroine in those novels would. “I think we should find out.”
“I think…” Jason drew out the words as he straightened and gripped her under the elbows, “that is a really…good idea.” He dipped his head and Elizabeth felt almost light headed as he lifted her just a little to close the distance between them. His mouth brushed over hers, feather light before settling in for a long sip.
He drew back and Elizabeth remembered to breath and tried to remember what that heroine would say next. “So what’s the verdict?” she finally asked, not even recognizing the tone of her own voice. Surely that was someone else speaking. Her voice never shook or sounded so…unsure.
Jason licked his lips and a smile spread slowly across his lips. “A little cold,” he admitted. “I’d like to conduct further tests if you wouldn’t mind.”
“Oh, boy,” Elizabeth mumbled before he kissed her again.