Heartless Holiday

I didn't have a lot of memories of Dad from early on. He didn't take a lot of interest in us until we got our powers. Before then, my strongest memory of him was at a party. The memory was clear as a bell, untouched by the dreamy haze that seems to fill all childhood memories. I couldn't have been more than five or six at the time.

Christmas at the Vasil household.

I was on his lap. That in itself was unusual. Dad wasn't the touchy-feely sort- not for us at least. The women- moms, bodyguards, whoever, they'd be all over him. But for us, his kids? Not a chance.

And yet I remembered. I was balanced across his lap, one of his arms around me. The faint scent of his cologne mixed with the scent of evergreen needles and turkey. That blend of scents always made me think of home. Even years later, triggered by a whiff of sap or a man on the street. In that moment, I was home.

My Dad's scent, his strong arm around me, my back to his chest. The rumble of his laughter carried through me, and I couldn't help smiling too. I was too young then to understand what kind of man my father was. Too young to realize just how rare an opportunity I had then.

"Taylor, why don't you go first?" Dad said.

Mom beamed at him from where she sat at his elbow.

Dad motioned, and Cassie, his favorite bodyguard, picked up a present from under the tree. A couple of the other kids protested, but I ignored them. Not even Nicholas' furious glare could detract from the moment.

Dad loved me. I knew that with a child's certainty. It was a fact. Santa Claus was real, the sky was blue, Cherie was a jerk, and Dad loved me.

"Go ahead, Taylor." Mom said. The sunny warmth of her smile made the moment perfect. Dad loved me. Mom loved me.

I reached out with trembling hands to take the present from Cassie. It was blue, wrapped with green. The same shade of blue as Dad's eyes.

I told him so, and he smiled at me- another rarity, I would realize later. Not the charming smile he used on his women, but an honest, open smile that wrinkled the corners of his eyes.

"Open your present." Dad said. His smile quirked at the edges. "You're making the others jealous."

Cherie scowled at me from across the room. I'd catch hell from her later, but so what? She didn't get to be the favorite. I was the favorite.

The paper crinkled under my fingers as I slowly unfolded the edges of the little box. Next came the ribbon, which I folded up and set carefully to one side. Ribbon gone, I finished unfolding the paper, revealing a box about the size of my hand.

I was almost shaking with restraint by then. For a five year old, holding back while opening presents was meeting the greatest temptation in life and coming out victorious. Moses, Gandhi, Taylor Vasil.

I slid the box top off with the care of a girl defusing a bomb. Tissue paper wrapped the present inside. I reached for it and-

Cold liquid splashed over me. I blinked up through glasses covered in red. A few drops fell from the tip of my nose, and I tasted something nasty and tart.

One of the women- a new girl- Lauren had spilled her drink on Dad. Red wine spread like clouds on Dad's clean white shirt, and my yellow Christmas dress was ruined. The empty wine glass lay on the rug, still beaded with wine.

Everyone in the room stared in horror at Lauren. The Christmas cheer had gone, replaced with a danger I could actually feel; like a thunderstorm on the horizon. Lauren gaped, her mouth working as she tried to say something.

"I- I oh God, Nikos, I didn't- I tripped and-" She babbled on, trying in vain to wipe some of the wine off Dad.

I shifted in Dad's lap, sticky and uncomfortable. Something cold brushed my fingers, and I looked down at my present. Wine sloshed around in the box, the tissue paper already turning to pulp. A glint of silver shone up through the wine.

Numbly, I tilted the present, letting the wine dribble out onto the carpet.

What remained, now just as sticky as I was, was a necklace. A silver chain, with a little pendant shaped like a cracked heart.

"Taylor, why don't you-" Mom reached for me, trying to get me away from Dad before he got angry.

His arm locked around me, almost painfully tight.

"No." He said, not looking at either of us. His gaze was fixed on Lauren. She was almost crying; her fear creeping over into hysteria.

"Taylor," Dad said. He sounded calm, but I could tell he wasn't. "Taylor, I want you to help me with something."

I nodded. Of course I would help him. He was my dad.

"Good girl." His free hand snapped up and caught Lauren's wrist. He jerked her forward and she fell to the carpet, too frightened to even stand. She just huddled there, her hands balled up on the stained rug, surrounded by a room of silent people.

"Taylor, what do you think is a good punishment for Lauren?" Dad said.

I twisted in his lap so I could look at him. He gave me another smile. It wasn't the nice smile he'd given me earlier.

"Don't be shy, sweetheart." Dad said. "Lauren has ruined our Christmas, so I think she deserves a little punishment."

She had messed everything up. But what was I supposed to say for punishment? I knew Dad could punish people with his powers, but I didn't have any powers.

"Nikos, please." Lauren whispered.

"Shut up." He growled. I could feel his whole body tense with anger, and she fell silent instantly.

"Well…" I hesitated. He was really mad, so the punishment had to be something that would make him happy. When I got in trouble, Mom usually took me aside and talked to me. But that wouldn't be good enough here. So… sometimes when I got really mad at Cherie or Jean-Paul, I imagined them getting beat up or run over by cars. But that was only imaginary.

It was a conundrum. I was on the spot in front of everyone. Dad was counting on me. I needed to think- Lauren was in trouble for making a mess. So… you punished a mess with a mess, right? Like when dogs made a mess on tv shows, the owner rubbed their nose in it.

"Hold this, please." I said to Mom. I handed her my present and got up. Everyone stayed quiet, watching me, waiting for me to pass judgment on Lauren. She stared up at me with eyes like saucers.

"Stay here." I told Lauren. If she ran off like Jean-Paul always did when he was in trouble, then she couldn't get punished.

I left the living room and headed for the kitchen. A murmur of talk broke out as I left the room, but Dad turned to watch me, one eyebrow raised.

When I returned, carrying the wine bottle in my arms, the murmur intensified. Cherie was giving me an odd, probing look, and Nicholas was grinning from beside her.

I stood over Lauren, cradling the wine bottle. The moment stretched out, Lauren frozen with horror.

And then I upended the bottle over her. Wine soaked into her sleek party dress and turned the carpet red around her. I held it over her until the bottle was empty and the carpet was swimming with wine.

I mustered all the sternness I could, channeling Mom's best 'angry grown-up' face.

"Clean it up."

"W-what?" Lauren stuttered, looking at me through a curtain of wine-clotted blonde hair.

I jabbed a finger at the soaked carpet.

"You made a mess. Now clean it up."

I'd seen this game before. On one of Dad's weird grown-up tv channels that I wasn't supposed to watch. And once when I accidentally walked in on Dad and Bermuda doing grown-up stuff.

"No hands." I ordered. "Now clean!"

Dad leaned forward and picked me up, settling me back in his lap. He looked down at me, giving me his nice smile again.

"You heard her." He said to Lauren. "Get every drop, or I'll be the one to punish you."

Lauren squeaked with fright, and then bent to try and drink up the wine. I felt a little bad, seeing her crouched there like a bad dog, but being able to sit with Dad outweighed it by a million.

His laughter rumbled in his chest once more, and he waved to the rest of the party. The uncomfortable silence finally broke, and people started talking again.

"Let's get the next present!" Dad roared. "Merry Christmas!"

Mom smiled at me and patted Dad's arm. Cherie was laughing so hard at Lauren that she was crying. Lauren was crying; sobbing silently as she tried to lick the rug clean. Jean-Paul just rolled his eyes at her, and then at me. Whatever. He was just jealous.

Because in that moment, I knew that Mom and Dad loved me.

XXX

A repost of an old fic. I swear, I don't mean to keep reposting all these old ass fics, but I forget I wrote the damn things until something reminds me.

Basic premise came from a fic Prim the Amazing did where a pregnant Annette gets abducted during a trip to Montreal. Danny gets a bullet to the face, and Taylor grows up as a Vasil.

Really, really intend to continue this, though not at length. I know I say that about every fic I write, but really this time.

Chibi!Taylor continues to be my favorite Taylor.