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Happy Holidays, lovely FFn readers!
I was feeling the holiday spirit quite a lot this month, so I decided it might be time to carve out a little home for some of my new holiday fluff in its own collection here on FFn. This first one-shot is a story some of you may remember. I couldn't start a holiday one-shots group without including Holidaze, my winning entry in Tricky Raven's 2013 Christmas Contest for Authors and Artists (my first writing contest ever!), so I hope you enjoy this blast from Christmas-past. Keep an eye out for my next holiday one-shot, Muffin Top. which should be available to read by tomorrow evening.
If you're interested in entering this year's contest, check out Tricky Raven's 2014 Christmas Contest for Authors and Artists on Tricky Raven's main page.
❅ ChrissiHR ❅
(There's a more typical author's note at the end of this one-shot for my regular readers with other fic updates and whatnot. Feel free to skip it if you hate long author's notes.)
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"I don't understand how someone who's so thoughtful sometimes can be such an ungrateful prick to everyone!" -Bella, Holidaze
Genre: Hurt/Comfort and Romance
Rating: M for strong language
Summary: Paul hates the holidays ... for good reason. Bella brings him a gift he never knew he wanted or needed.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
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Post-New Moon, no cliff jump, Deadwood Sullen never came back, yada, yada, yada...
Paul and Jake ambled along quietly through the old growth snow-crusted forest on the outer edge of the rez, making their way back around to Paul's place on the outskirts. They'd taken to leaving their clothes somewhere inconspicuous outside because they'd get soggy tied to their ankles for a ten-hour patrol in the sloppy, three-day old, crunchy snow.
The rest of the pack was scattered around the rez, most of 'em at home with their families, celebrating the holiday. They would all take turns patrolling short shifts throughout the long night, but Paul had deliberately volunteered for a long one on Christmas Eve so the others could spend more time with their families ... and so he could spend less time at home staring at four walls and-if he was really lucky-avoid the sloppy fucking Christmas cheer playing in a loop on every channel on network TV for the next twenty-four hours.
Jake, the baby-Alpha-in-training, happy-fucking-boy-scout that he was, volunteered to run the long patrol with Paul in order to give the pack more time with their families. He arranged for Billy to spend the day with Charlie, then for Seth to pick him up and take him over to the Clearwaters' for dinner when Charlie took his turn working the late Christmas Eve shift so his deputies could spend time with their young families. Bella was supposed to join the Blacks at the Clearwaters' later.
Paul's pace slowed cautiously when they approached his run-down, piece of shit house. The scent of burning motor oil lingered in the air from a vehicle Paul knew for certain had no good reason to be out here.
Jake huffed a lupine chuckle, "Yeah, I'll have to check her O-rings soon. She's burning through a quart of oil a week now, I bet."
He looked at Paul when the big red truck came into view parked in front of his house. "Don't be pissed okay? Seth was happy about having most of tonight and tomorrow off for the holiday and let it slip that you were going to be alone today and tomorrow and that you volunteered for the extra patrols because you didn't have anything better to do. Then Sue told her how she asked you to come over for Christmas Eve dinner and you said it was 'just another goddamn day like any other day and what did it matter?' and that was when Bells pulled her bossy boots on and decided to try to fix you again. She means well," he said apologetically as the bluesy-moody strains of Elvis's "White Christmas" drifted towards them from the house along with the scents of ginger and chocolate, a little vanilla, and some almond.
"Is she playing Christmas music? And baking cookies? In my house?" Paul's wolf's eyes widened in bewildered outrage.
"I think she might be decorating, too. She made me help her get out some decorations and lights and stuff last night when I stopped by her house after patrol," Jake murmured quietly in the pack mind, nodding his muzzle toward the faint twinkling lights behind the blinds in the front window before he trotted around back to grab his clothes.
Paul stalked after Jake, a muted growl rumbling in his chest. He rose up on his rear legs and phased out mid-stride as he climbed the back stairs in full view of the kitchen window. He heard a startled yelp from inside and chuckled darkly.
"Paul... " Jake growled the warning from the yard below the window-out of sight-where he'd tucked his clothes before patrol so he could change in privacy knowing Bella might be there when they came back. He'd been very firmly, but lovingly friend-zoned the previous summer, so he knew she had little-to-no interest in seeing his goodies-no matter how fucking hot he looked buck ass naked. Her loss, he snickered. She was his best friend. He figured the least he could do was try not flash her his ass while shetried to do something nice for one of his pack mates.
Paul's lip curled in response as he turned on Jake and told him to fuck off.
"Whatever, dude. Just try to be nice? Please? I gotta run home and shower or I'll be late for dinner. Tell Bells I'll meet her over at the Clearwaters' in an hour?"
Paul's single sharp nod of assent didn't do much to set Jake's mind at ease, but he heard Bella deliberately humming Christmas carols inside-loudly-so he figured she was determined to carry on no matter how big a dick Paul was going to be.
"Be nice," he ordered, jabbing his index finger at him once before taking off.
Paul took the stairs two at a time, yanking the door open and nearly pulling it off its hinges.
"SWAN!" he bellowed, stomping into the kitchen, glaring at her murderously. "You interfering little..."
"Leech-fucker?" she supplied, sweeping past him, rolling her eyes, all business with a stack of tins and a picture frame balanced in her arms. "Yeah, yeah. I know. 'Go away, pale face.' 'Stop moving my shit around, Swan. I can't find anything when you pull this cleaning shit on me.' 'I left those underwear on the floor for a reason, you nagging twit.' I've heard it all before, so play a new tune. That one's getting old, Lahote," she sneered.
She arranged the tins on the counter and fussed with a few other things, then turned around to glare back at him in challenge, bravely bearding the wolf in his own den.
"Why are you doing this?" he snapped. "Is it just because you can't help yourself? You like interfering and being underfoot all the goddamn time?"
She cocked her hip and crossed her arms, barking back at him, "You took a ten-hour patrol on Christmas Eve so the others could spend more time with their families. You're always stepping up and taking care of everyone else! What?" She threw her hands in the air. "We aren't allowed to take care of you once in a while? Show you that it means something to us-the little things you do? I don't understand how someone who's so thoughtful sometimes can be such an ungrateful prick to everyone!"
She stopped then, dropping her eyes to the floor, murmuring, "Or maybe it's just me."
Paul's heart clenched in rebellion at the sound of those hateful words, the self-doubt in them. He just hated feeling like a fucking charity case, like she had to do those things for him. That was why he'd been avoiding the Clearwaters' place tonight. He didn't realize...
He watched, feeling a little helpless and out of his depth as she swiftly gathered her things and threw on her coat, her lip wobbling a little tearfully, the silence between them humming with tension.
"Swan," he called after her, then cursed, "I mean ... Bella?"
She stopped at the front door and sighed, shoulders drooping in defeat.
She turned around, her eyes cautiously seeking out his, worrying her shaking lip between her teeth as she waited for him to yell again when a single tear spilled over.
But he didn't yell. That one tear razed all of his self-righteous indignation down to the ground. He brought his hands up in a helpless gesture, not sure where to start or how to go about fixing this, or if he should even bother trying.
She put her things on the chair by the door and approached him slowly. When she stood so close she could feel his heat, she threw her arms around his waist and closed her eyes, letting a few more tears escape and hugging him quickly as she whispered, "Merry Christmas, Paul."
Then she was gone, rushing to the chair, snatching up her empty boxes and leftover lights, and out the door.
Paul stood there, shocked into silence.
She clattered down the stairs, heaved the stuff in the bed of her truck and cranked the engine, taking off in a cloud of billowing black smoke.
Paul still stood there, just thinking.
She hugged him.
She put up a tree and hung stockings-enough for the whole damn pack, from the look of it.
She fucking baked cookies.
Nobody had ever baked Paul cookies. Not in this house. His house had never smelled like cookies.
He wondered what kind.
He wandered out to the kitchen, past the tidied shelves and dusted furniture. He looked down. Fuck, she even scrubbed the fucking baseboards and vacuumed and put out little area rugs he had no idea he had. Who does that shit? he wondered.
He found a stack of tins on the kitchen counter-half a dozen of them or more-filled with cookies of all kinds.
In front of the cookies was an empty picture frame and a note tucked under a sprig of mistletoe.
I would have framed a picture of you and I as well, but I couldn't find any, so I baked you some cookies instead to make your house smell like Christmas and left you this frame. I'd like for you to join us for dinner at the Clearwaters' tonight so we can fix that. Fill the frame, I mean, with a picture of you and me. Come for dessert at the very least, if you're not up for the big family dinner. My dad is working tonight and my mom is in Jacksonville with her new husband, Phil. You're not the only one who's without their family on Christmas Eve. There's no reason to stay that way, though. Come have dinner with us. Please?
Merry Christmas, Paul.
He looked up, scanning the house. There were framed pictures of him with the pack everywhere, all over the house; there were big frames, little frames, collages, even a big picture the size of a poster-a picture Bella had taken of his, Sam's, and Jared's wolves from a distance when they were phased to obscure their massive size.
He wandered into the living room and found more; pictures of him when he was a kid playing with Sam and Jared, and even Leah on the fourth of July, as well as pictures of Jake, Embry, Quil, and Seth facing off against the big kids in a game of touch football at the beach before a bonfire when they were young teens. Every available surface was cluttered with newly-framed pictures.
Pictures of his family, he realized, drawing up short.
Bella had given him family for Christmas this year-had left pictures to show him and baked cookies to prove that there was someone who cared enough to make his house smell like a home. Everything she'd done was to remind him that he didn't need to be alone tonight-he had a family to be with.
He stood there for a second in a daze, unsure of what to do. Would she really still want him to come to dinner after the way he spoke to her?
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Bella was talking to Leah, explaining how the camera app on her phone worked and what she wanted her to do if, on the off chance, Paul actually showed up that night, when all the noise in the house suddenly ceased-everything but the tinkling background noise of A Charlie Brown Christmas playing on TV.
Every human, every wolf, everyone, went completely silent.
Standing just inside the front door-dressed in a pair of neat, dark-wash jeans and a charcoal grey shirt that Bella herself had bought, pressed, and left hanging on his closet door that afternoon in the hope that he would take the hint-was Paul Lahote. He wore an old, well-loved pair of motorcycle boots and looked like hot sex on a stick with the top few buttons of the shirt undone.
He was the only guy she knew who somehow managed to look hotter wearing more clothes, rather than less.
"Paul?" she whispered, not sure whether she could believe her eyes.
He shifted to the side, shaking the fresh snow out of his hair and propping his back up against the door frame as he dropped his eyes to the floor, one booted foot kicked out against the opposite side, toes digging into the molding, "I got your note."
"The one you left under the mistletoe, by the cookies," he said as he held it up, twirling the sprig between his fingers.
"Oh. Yeah, I figured," she said, stepping closer to give them the illusion of privacy in the silent room.
"The house looks nice. I should have thanked you instead of snapping and trying to run you off again," he admitted quietly.
"I didn't get you anything."
"Yeah?" his eyebrows ticked up, in surprise.
"Yeah," she smiled.
He straightened up, clearing his throat, "Listen, if you're not doing anything-" He cleared his throat again, shifting nervously. "Fuck it," he muttered, snapping out of it and lunging for her suddenly. He pulled her into a hug.
She stood awkwardly for a second, just a little terrified and not sure where to put her hands or if it was okay to hug him back. Then, relaxing minutely, she let her hands fall against his shirt, soothing up and down his lower back, mimicking his movements.
"Thanks," he murmured in her ear, "For the cookies and ... everything." He leaned back and looked into her beautiful wide eyes-really looked for the first time-and reached up to tuck the sprig of mistletoe behind her ear.
"You're welcome," she whispered, getting a little teary again and trying to brush it off as she pulled away, lifting her shoulder to her ear in a dismissive shrug. "It's just a few cookies. No big deal."
The unshed tears in her eyes broke down that final barrier, the wall of the inner sanctum, the place he never let anyone into and he whispered apologetically, "I've been a dick."
She lifted a hand cautiously, gently stroking from his temple down to his jaw as his eyelids fluttered in pleasure at her careful touch. She smiled, not the least bit surprised he hadn't actually apologized, and answered, "I know," and then she was kissing him as his lips parted on the beginning of a laugh.
Then he was kissing her back.
Click, Bella heard her phone and smiled at Leah's timing. This was a moment she never wanted to forget.
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A/N: This one still makes me smile every time I read it. I hope you all still enjoy it as much I loved writing it!
Got another holiday fic to recommend? Feel free to rec it with the title and author name in the reviews and share the joy of the season and fandom love with other readers.
To my regular readers, my sincerest apologies for going so long between stories. I know I've fallen a bit off the radar lately. I've been writing TONS, though, including a return to writing my beloved Snowed In this month. I wrote 37 pages alone the first weekend I picked it up a few weeks ago and decided it was time to figure out what I planned to do with it and exactly where it was going. Hint: All the best, naughty places with a side-trip through some feels and angst, bad decisions, and misunderstandings that could have been avoided.
I hope to get more of the other holiday one-shots I have that are mostly finished completed and posted this week, but Tricky Raven is running it's Third Annual Holiday Contest for Authors and Artists and I'm working on an Embrella story that I hope I can finish in time. Entries for that are still being accepted until December 31st, so there's time if you want to enter or you can just head over there to enjoy some new holiday feels and fluff.
Thanks for reading!
"Quil…Honey…" she trailed off, pressing her lips together and biting down hard, trying to find a nice way to say 'your ass is going to have its own zip code soon'. -Bella, Muffin Top