A/N: This is it my last hurrah, while I truthfully finished this chapter in August I guess it's now better suited. Please don't mind this overly fluffy chapter, I'm a sucker for a happy ending.
Chapter 17: Christmas Eve
He watched as her blonde hair blew around in her face, one hand rested confidently on the steering wheel, while her other arm dangled out of the car window. He would have preferred if both of her hands were on the wheel, since her driving rivaled Earnhardt's. She pressed her foot further down on pedal, and he watched with horror as the speedometer continued to rise. "Love, maybe slow down a little" he requested, as she passed a mini-van, the driver and the passenger staring at them with terror all over their faces.
"Oh come on" She said turning her head towards him, her big blue eyes sparkling, as she batted a few off her long lashes with a grin on her face. "You know, that has no effect on me" he bit out.
"That's not what you said last time" she teased in a sing-song voice but slowed down considerably. She turned to face him "Happy now?" she asked exaggeratedly like a petulant four year old.
"Nope, still scared shitless" he answered, glancing out the window as the mini van was making a valiant effort to catch up to them.
"Of my driving?" she asked, innocently.
His only response was a withering glance, and she giggled happily. "Oh come on, Princess" she said patronizingly, looking at him pointedly. "My dad's not that bad"
"Oh yeah, he only glared at me last time 99.9 percent of the time. Those dimples aren't fooling me!" he said, crossing his arms across his broad chest while she laughed loudly.
"I'll protect you, baby" she said glancing at him and making kiss-y noises at him, while he looked on, not impressed.
"Yeah well, that might be a good idea, considering last time I was just your boyfriend. Now I'm your fiancée" he said.
Layla Littleton only smiled broadly, slipping on her sunglasses and pressing her foot down on the pedal again, the speedometer whizzing upwards once again. Carrying them towards home. The pull in her heart and the pressure in her foot pressing the gas down was the same; she knew she was almost there. And Jordan's nagging wasn't going to affect her. When it came to getting home, Layla was never, ever going to slow down.
"I'm home!" Layla called, stepping into the door of the boiling house on Maple Drive. One would never have guessed this was her dad's former bachelor pad. Flower boxes hang from the windows, and a porch swing sits on the new deck that Dad and Aaron had built last summer.
"Layla!" her mom launched herself at her oldest daughter. "Mom god, take that sweater off" Layla said untucking a reindeer wooly sweater. "One, it's like a bazillion degrees" she stated yanking the sweater over her Mom's head "Two, this sweater is a fashion tragedy"
"I missed you love" she said, laying her hand on Layla's soft cheek, and giving it an affectionate pinch.
Layla smiled, and glanced at Jordan, her fiancée who Claire had now moved on to, hugging him tightly and warning him about her father's mood today. Apparently he had gotten into a one-sided fight with the Christmas lights.
She walked into her old bedroom, smiling at the cut-out pictures of boys that adorned her side of the room. And plopped down on the bed, where her younger sister Olivia (affectionately known as Ollie) was fast asleep, a university text book- more specifically about statistics was balanced on her stomach and a highlighter was on the floor. Layla snuggled closer to her sister, and Ollie opened her clear blue eyes and smiled brightly.
Teagan wondered in, shaking her bangs out of her face. Before collapsing on the bed next to them. Ollie was eighteen, in her first year of Uni. And Teagen was the child most likely to follow in Layla's rebellious footsteps. She saw a lot of herself in her youngest sister. Including her Barbie collection that now sat in the back of Teagan's closet. If Jamie, her little brother took after Aaron, then Teagen took after her.
Layla knew five kids could be confusing. And it was. Her older brother Aaron had surprisingly married right out of college; he was a middle school teacher and his wife Amber had had a baby last year, it was a boy named Timmy. Well actually it was Timothy and Aaron grew cross whenever Layla called him Timmy or Tiny Tim.
Layla was twenty-two, and had landed herself a very prominent job of playing Emberlynn on Restless Hearts, an Australian soap. She played a crafty, spoiled brat trying to weasel her way between her mother and step-father since he was loaded. Her story line distressed her own father greatly and he rarely watched. But Teagan and Ollie watched every single day in support of Layla and maybe as a guilty pleasure as well.
Ollie was the brain. She was in her first year of med school and secretly dating Sayid and Shannon's gorgeous son, Adam. He had inherited his dad's dark eyes and Shannon's good fashion sense. If she were only a bit younger then he would have to look out.
Teagan was a typical teenager. Sweet as sugar one moment and then bitchy as all get out the next. Claire often blamed Teagan for her graying hair, which she hid with a box of Clairol every couple of months.
And Jamie was a sweetheart, quiet and shy and spent almost too much time with her father and his namesake. This probably didn't bode well in his coming teenage years. Jamie was fourteen, just on the brink. And she was sure her Dad was passing around some secrets and tricks that her Mother would not approve of.
And speaking of which, a tall man with a weathered face and short gray hair walked into the room and wearily smiled when he saw three blonde beauties sprawled out on the bed, legs overlapping, Ollie's t-shirt riding up to expose a few good inches of her belly, while Layla was busy tickling her sister's bare tummy and Teagen was trying not to get jostled off the bed by the jerky movements that Ollie was making trying to get away from her sister.
After the commotion died down some, Teagen hugged her legs up to her chest which made enough room for her dad to sit down on the creaky old bed. "I see you brought Mr. Ripped Jeans, Susan Lucci" he said to Layla and she rolled her eyes, scooting over to her dad. His favorite pastime was teasing her about her acting.
"Hi Daddy" she said planting a slobbery kiss on his forehead. Which he wiped away with a look of only slight disgust on his face. "Now, I want you to remove the stick firmly lodged up your ass that years of working in the library has only pushed it further in, and give Jordan a chance."
Teagan gave a gleeful cackle and Sawyer only rolled his eyes, "Dinner's almost ready" before standing up and disappearing off to the kitchen.
After Aaron's arrival, a dinner so big that Layla unbuttoned her pants, and three bottles of wine Layla had finally worked up the courage to tell everyone their big news. She glanced at Jordan seated beside her. He still looked like he was about to throw up any second. Apparently it was going to take him considerably longer for him to work up the courage. Oh well, too bad for him.
"So Daddy" she said draining the rest of her wine glass. "I have some news" his eyes immediately narrowed. "We're engaged!" she shouted, in her typical loud, drama queen way.
Excited noises were heard all around the wide table, mismatched chairs moving in to accommodate the big family, which also included Shannon and Sayid, and Adam of course, who Ollie had been discreetly staring at all night.
"Congratulations, Monkey" Claire said leaning across part of the table to plant a big smacking kiss on Layla's cheek and then on Jordan's. Layla barely had time to register her mother using her embarrassing pet name. She put her arm around Jamie, who was sitting on the other side of her, and he leaned his head against her shoulder as she breathed in his familiar teenage boy smell, which was basically an overdose of Axe.
"I guess that makes me Mrs. Ripped Jeans, right Daddy?" she said innocently before winking.
"Good luck with this one" He said, looking right past her to Jordan. "Seriously, you'll need it"
"I think you should take offense to that, Ma" Aaron said, with a bouncy baby boy on his knee, who was reaching aggressively for the pepper shaker.
Claire smirked. "Oh, I'll get him back for that. Don't you worry".
Teasing words were passed around the table but Layla couldn't hear them. She was too busy staring at her mother. With her wide blue eyes and flushed face it seemed like not too long ago when they shared that crowded apartment, although all Layla had left of that time was hazy memories, not quite wrong or right, just fragments that needed to be pieced together in order to tell the whole story.
Layla felt herself smile. It wasn't very uncommon to hear that a young woman's most important person in her life was her mother, but that was the case for Layla. No matter how cliché that might be, facts couldn't be disputed. Claire had a quiet, incredible strength and Layla really admired and even envied. Because she knew no part of her would ever be quiet.
Apparently Jordan had been paying attention to the conversation. "So how did you two meet?" he asked and Layla grinned. She had told him that they didn't really know each other on the island and when Jordan asked how they got together she just shot him a knowing smile and had said that it was complicated.
Sawyer grinned "She seduced me"
Claire furrowed her eyebrows together "Oh please, I seduced you?"
"Of course you did. You initiated the relationship" he said crossing his arms across his chest.
Aaron grinned, Timmy still valiantly trying to reach the peppershaker. Ollie took a brief intermission of googily-eying Adam in order to roll her eyes. And Teagan muttered "Here we go again". Jamie considered Jordan with serious grey eyes. "You don't know what you've started mate" was his warning.
"Uh, I hate to refresh your memory, Cowboy" she said the last word pointedly. Layla never questioned her mother on that nickname in case there was some sort of kinkiness behind it. She felt in that case, she'd be better not knowing if her Mom and Dad role-played cowboys and cowgirls. "But you kissed me first" she said jabbing her finger in his direction.
"Yeah, but that wasn't when we got together was it?" he argued back.
"Okay!" Layla interrupted, holding up her hand. This could go on for awhile yet, and someone needed to break it up. "Jordan, my mom met this bloke on the island of course" Layla had explained to him about the plane crash when they first started dating "and then they met again a few years after, Mom stupidly asked him over for dinner. And one thing kind of led to another. And now is that so hard?" she asked her parents, exasperatedly.
Claire laughed and elbowed Sawyer in the ribs. "Okay, men are doing the dishes tonight" she said pointedly "Jordan is exempted since he's a guest. And of course Sayid and Adam, don't you dare move."
"Uh, I'm a guest too!" Aaron said passing Timmy off to Amber, who often stayed quiet at these dinners, seemingly overwhelmed by the family dynamic.
"Ha, yeah right. I gave birth to you, on the muddy ground with no meds, no epidural" Claire said, waving him off with her hand "You my love are no guest"
Aaron sighed resignedly and joined his father and little brother at the sink.
Claire scooted over to a few seats and started talking enthusiastically to Shannon. And Sayid managed to distract Ollie from his son long enough to ask her about uni. Teagan was holding Tim; her normal crankiness was replaced by a sweet look, while she tenderly played with his fingers. Jordan watched her amazed. "Wow your sister actually looks nice" he whispered in her ear, and she rolled her eyes and nudged him. "Shut it, Tea's a sweetheart, really" she whispered back.
But she knew what it was like for him. It was hard to join a family that was already so close. She glanced at Amber who had cautiously joined in Claire and Shannon's conversation. But he'd fit in eventually. She stood up, pushing in her chair before joining the three men at the sink. "Take a scouring pad to that pan, men" she said, ruffling Jamie's hair and went to walk to past her dad and Aaron. She felt a hand catch her around the waist. She turned around and saw Aaron looking at her with a broad smile. "Congratulations little sister" he said. And Layla grinned, throwing her arms around her tall brother's neck. She squeezed him tightly. Sometimes Layla saw him and she still saw the same sullen, quiet blonde boy he was when he was six. But somewhere along 8th grade, he shot up like a weed, he let his hair get a little shaggier and soon, he was fighting girls off with a stick.
She pulled away and studied him with bright eyes, "Thank you big brother".
The sleeping arrangements were varied. She and Jordan were on the air mattress in Aaron's room. When Tim started to fuss at One O'clock, she motioned for Aaron and Amber to stay in bed. Instead she picked him up gingerly, cooing softly. She walked out to the living room, and smiled seeing her Mom and Dad, putting the last couple presents under the fake tree, that was decorated with the embarrassing homemade ornaments that had been collected through the years. "Oh no!" Layla gasped breathily "Does this mean Santa doesn't exist?"
Claire laughed and Sawyer rolled his eyes, "Always the drama queen". Layla fetched the diaper bag, taking out a soft flannel blanket and spreading it on the floor, before gently setting Tim down. She felt her mother walk by and smooth Layla's tousled hair down with her hand. She also felt it when her Dad followed after her mom, seeing as he pinched her arm as she was trying change Tim's diaper.
Assuming they had gone to bed, Layla went on changing the diaper, gently sprinkling some baby powder. "You're a beautiful baby boy, yes you are" she said aiming for the bin with the dirty diaper and got it in. "Nothing but net, Timmy" she said picking up his tiny feet and playing with his toes before pressing the bottoms of his feet against her chest. "You're a good boy, Tim. Hopefully you'll turn out just like your daddy. He's one of my most favorite people, Tiny Tim" she confessed using his forbidden nickname.
Layla heard a sound behind her and turned around. "Oh gross!" she said loudly, at the sight of her parents making out against the door of their bedroom. "I know, you love each other, blah blah blah. But don't make out right in front of me, yeah?" Layla said, shuddering. "Night, love" Claire said ignoring Layla's outburst. "Sweet dreams, Drama Queen" was uttered teasingly by her father, who very maturely stuck out his tongue at her.
Timmy was now very quiet, looking at her with big blue eyes. "Come on, Mr." she said, lifting him up carefully. She poked her head in Teagen and Ollie's room. Teagen was snoring like it was going out of style, and Ollie was sleeping with her pillow over her head. The next room showcased Jamie, his face flushed, sleeping shirtless, and his leg trailing off the bed like a half-finished thought. Aaron and Amber curled up together tightly, while Jordan slept on deeply.
Layla didn't hear any suspicious noises coming from her parent's room and knocked gingerly. "Come in" she heard her mother call and Layla opened the door, Her mum was in a matronly nightgown combing her hair out, and her father was already under the covers. Layla crawled up on the bed, and sat in-between their pillows. Her mother joined her a moment later, she smelled of peaches, as always, as she took Tim from her arms. She glanced at her Dad who was staring at her intently. "When did you grow up?" he asked and she laughed, leaning her head on his shoulder. Layla knew she was always the most affectionate of their kids.
She felt his calloused fingers combing through her hair, gingerly. "I have a question for you guys" she said with her eyes shut. "Any advice?" she asked "You know for me and Jordan".
Claire considered this. "Pick your battles" was her piece of advice and Layla snorted. "Yeah right, you guys argue about everything". Claire grinned, "But sometimes I let him win" and Sawyer opened his mouth and then closed it. "See, Layla" he said with a smirk "This is me picking my battle"
A moment later Sawyer glanced at her, looking surprisingly serious "Thing I've learned is that you can't be a dickhead all the time. Sometimes you need to think of the other person, before yourself" Sawyer heaved a sigh, running his hand through his hair, like he couldn't get out what he quite wanted to say "After we lost the baby, I was scared that your mom wouldn't want me anymore. But she did, she was just as scared as I was. You can't just run away. It never solves anything"
Layla nodded and then reached for Tim, as her mom handed him off to her, as she took in her father's warbled piece of advice. She paused at the doorway studying the pair for a moment. Even though they were complete opposites and skeptics (Mainly Sayid) thought they could never work, they did. All because they didn't bullshit with each other, they were honest and mostly because they loved each other. They loved hard. Some cynics would tell you that love wasn't enough, but Layla had always been a romantic and looking at the two of them, she knew that it would always be enough.
"Merry Christmas" She said with a smile, and stared at them with soft eyes for a moment before she turned on her heel, heading towards Aaron's bedroom, where she would set Tim down in his crib, lay down next to Jordan and curl into him. Whether her acting soared or crashed and burned, whether they had 10 kids or none, or whether they were married 100 years or considerably less, Layla would try and love this man, a fraction of what her parents loved each other.
And if she could, she knew they would be okay.
Open close me, leave
your secrets with me,
I can ease your pain,
And my arms will be just like walls around you,
Come in from the rain,
If you're running in the wrong direction,
I will lead you there,
When you're lost in the
When you're out in the cold,
When you're looking for something that resembles your soul,
When the wind blows your house of cards,
I'll be a home to your homeless heart,
shattered like a mirror in a million pieces,
Sooner or later you've got to find, something,
Someone to save you,
A/N- So, that's it. The song is by Amanda Stott (Paper Rain by her is quite possible my favorite ConMama-ish song) and I just want to thank everyone who read and reviewed and liked this story, once again. Thank you. Now please, review. Hahaha. No really.