Happy Holidays to all of you National Treasure junkies!
It is now exactly one month until Christmas! Woot! And I haven't really seen a Christmas-themed one-shot or story in this section of the site, and I had the urge – and the idea – to add one for Christmas. It's based mostly from my story 'Another Clue' that I'm sure some of you have seen, and this is just a little snapshot of Christmas Eve in the Gates' manor, focused mostly on Riley and traditions he has grown up with and continues to share with everyone, including Carolyn. Not entirely tied to 'Another Clue,' but set after it obviously.
Thanks for having a look, and have a wonderful holiday!
- Dis/ Claimer -
x x x
. The Christmas Eve List .
For many people, it meant tradition.
For Riley Poole, he kept a list of his traditions, and they were taken very seriously (but lightheartedly) every single year since he was very young. He still had the scrap piece of paper he had written the List on when he was six, and it now resided within the depths of a shoebox in the bottom of his closet with some of his favorite Christmas cards and special ornaments, mementos of the best time of the year.
Yet again, as it did every year, Christmas Eve had come. And with it came the traditions of the List.
x . x . x
1. Last Minute Christmas Shopping.
He dashed through the crowded aisles of people and decorations looking around frantically. People were pushing shopping carts with mountains of things covered in clearance and sale tags while he ran around with two baskets of giant red bows ('On Sale! Six for a $1!'). His eyes darted all over the faces of the forgetful last minute shoppers and their impatient children.
Of course this year, Riley felt just like everyone, but then again, there was emptiness. He had already gotten everyone's presents; he was just here on last-minute duty grabbing things for the Christmas party the next day. Ben and Abigail were too busy at home with the twins and their new six-month-old boy to have time to go shopping for giant red bows they would put on the guest tables tomorrow night, so it was Riley's job.
And he really wanted to leave. It wasn't that he hadn't found the checkout or the exit yet; he just couldn't find his evasive girlfriend he had brought with him that morning.
He sped passed the clogged home interior aisles, stopping quickly at an empty aisle. To his amazement, there was Carolyn standing by herself looking at an entire wall of candles. He ran up to her, not believing his luck. Carolyn laughed upon seeing him; he looked so ridiculous running with two large baskets of red bows. She stepped aside as he stopped, shaking the baskets off of is arms and into the cart.
"That's the last time you leave me to fend for myself at the restroom," he said very seriously. She laughed more.
"Why don't you go before we leave the house next time?"
Riley chose not to answer as she leaned forward and reached for a cinnamon scented candle and pulled the airtight seal off of it. She held it up to Riley's face and said, "Smell."
He did so, a wonderful feeling of dullness relaxing him. He loved the smell of cinnamon, and Carolyn knew it. She smiled as she slowly took it away, capping it to retain the heavenly scent.
"We're buying it," Riley said dreamily, eyes still shut.
"I've already got pine, too," she said, not yet returning the candle to the shelf. Riley looked down in the cart, parting his mass of red bows to see a litter of ten green candles at the bottom of the cart.
"How many different kinds did Abigail want?" he asked, smelling one of the pine candles in the cart. It was wonderful. It wasn't too strong, but it was a soft, potent smell. He loved it just as much as the cinnamon.
"Well, she wanted green, red, white, and a tannish color if we can find it," Carolyn said. "Pine is green, I've got Toasted Almond for the tan one, but I'm debating between cinnamon and cranberry for the red ones."
Riley went forward taking nine cinnamon candles from the shelf. He also grabbed the one out of Carolyn's hand, and she watched in surprise as he lowered them into the cart.
"Cinnamon," he said simply.
Carolyn laughed, looking back at the wall of candles. "All right. What do we do for white? There's vanilla, and oh! Sugar cookie…" Her gloved hand reached out for the candle with a pile of cookies on the label, and with one deep breath, she decided, "Sugar Cookie."
Riley moved in to collect some of them from the shelf. After dispensing them into the cart, Carolyn began to push it up the aisle as he walked beside her. She pulled a list out of her coat pocket Abigail had hastily scribbled for her before they left, looking it over quickly.
"Okay… so candles are done, bows are done… We have everything else I think… Oh wait! No! We just need to get the extra fifteen feet of garland, and we'll be out of here," she said. "Then we have to pick up the name cards at the printer's in town."
"Anything after that?" Riley asked as they headed for the checkout.
"Nope. We'll go home after that."
Riley sighed. "Great."
x . x . x
2. Snowball Fights.
Sally shrieked as Riley pushed her behind a large snow embankment in the backyard. Immediately, ten snowballs were fired and bursting into snow showers over them. Riley picked up one of the snowballs they had accumulated for their own ammunition.
"Stay here," he said to her
He nodded to her in the affirmative before rolling across the open flat of powdered snow to the safety of the tall poplar tree. As a round of snowballs hit the other side of the tree trunk, he climbed the wooden planks attached to the tree. Ten feet later, he peered into the doorway of the tree house spotting Charlie and Ben and their large pile of snowballs right next to the doorway.
He smiled maliciously, raising his own snowball.
Ben and Charlie turned around in surprise as Riley fired a snowball between their heads, the snowball flying out the tree house's window. He panicked as Ben laughed, taking a fistful of snow from another pile beside him. He climbed inside, running out the other door to the higher tree branches to evade them.
"Get him, Dad!"
They were relentless, however. Riley tried not to slip as he was hit from all sides by his best friend and his best friend's son, but one finally hit the back of his head, the force behind it surely being one of Ben's throws, and he lost his balance. He screamed as he fell, landing numb in a large cold pile of snow. He felt woozy.
"Uncle Riley! You crushed the igloo!"
Riley opened his eyes trying to shake off the pain and the snow, indeed realizing that he had landed on and ruined the igloo they hand built two days ago. Sally and Carolyn were now standing over him; Sally with a slight pout and Carolyn with a large smile. He went to extend his hand for some help up from her, but Carolyn just laughed, pulling out a snowball.
"Yeah, Riley!" she shouted through laughter. "You crushed the igloo!"
He twisted his expression in confusion, and she suddenly threw the snowball right in his face. Laughter came out loudly now from the darkness now upon Riley. He laid his head back down in the snow miserably.
That's the last time he tried to storm the fort.
x . x . x
3. Visiting Family.
The airport terminal was pretty full. People were divided into two groups – those waiting for the plane that would take them to their families for the holiday, and those waiting for the plane that would bring family to them for the holiday. Riley, Ben, Charlie, and Sally were in the second category.
Ben stood next to the three seats his children and friend sat in looking at the toys section of a catalog and checked his wristwatch.
Then, the loudspeaker came on, and a man's voice made an announcement.
"Flight 856 at Gate 4A," he said. "Flight 856 is unloading at Gate 4A, 2:15 P.M."
Ben tapped Riley on the shoulder, and he looked up.
"That's him," Ben said.
Sally jumped out of her dark blue seat excitedly and ran over to him. "Grandpa's here?" she asked happily.
"He sure is," Ben said, picking up his daughter. "And he'll be coming through that door any second." Sally clapped happily while Charlie frowned beside Riley and began to tug at his pant leg. Riley looked down at the six-year-old.
"What is it, Clyde?" he asked.
"I can't see Grandpa!"
"Well he's not here yet-"
"But he's coming!" Charlie said. "Dad says he's coming!"
Riley rolled his eyes, but an idea struck him that his dad did for him when he couldn't see his aunts, uncles, grandparents, or cousins coming through the tall grown-ups around him.
"All right, here we go." Riley bent down and lifted Charlie under the arms, setting him to rest over his head and on his shoulders. "Better?"
"No," the boy whined. "That guy's wearing a hat!"
Riley looked around. There was nowhere else to move unless he wanted to run over an old woman and her daughter sitting down. He smiled at them in his process before spotting the seat he had sat in seconds ago. He had another idea.
"You holding on tight?" he asked Charlie.
"Good, keep holding."
Carefully, Riley lifted his leg and put it on the chair. With extreme caution and great balance (and possibly an angel watching over him), Riley boosted himself up to a standing position on the terminal seat. Charlie laughed, and Riley did, too, somewhat amazed that he had accomplished this feat.
"Can you see now?" Riley asked.
"Yeah!" Charlie laughed. "We're the tallest ones here!"
"You bet." Riley looked down at Ben who seemed very far away, and Ben and Sally looked up in surprise. Ben had a warning in his glance, and Sally started to giggle.
"Daddy, I wanna do that!"
"Daddy is not as brave as Uncle Riley," Ben laughed.
"Uncle Riley, I want a turn!" Sally said.
"No way!" Charlie said. "I was here first!"
"Next year I'll get a cart so you'll each have a seat on each side of my head, how about that?" Riley said. Before an answer came, Charlie suddenly began to bounce on Riley's shoulders and point forward excitedly.
"It's Grandpa!" he shouted. "Grandpa!"
"It's Grandpa!" Riley mimicked with Charlie and Sally.
From across the terminal as Patrick Gates exited Gate 4A, the first thing he saw was his oldest grandson above everyone else on Riley's head, both of them screaming 'Grandpa!' He rolled his eyes and shook his head as he headed in their direction.
"I'm getting too old for this."
x . x . x
4. Christmas Cookies.
"Look, Mom! I made a blue candy cane!"
Abigail leaned back to see with a tray of cookies just out of the oven in her hands, and she fussed over the cookie excitedly that was heavily laden with blue sugars.
"It looks wonderful, honey!" she said. "We'll give that one to Santa tonight."
"How about mine, Mom?" Riley asked Abigail, pointing to his Christmas tree cookie with little Lucky Charm marshmallows on it for ornaments. "Looks pretty good, huh, Mom?"
Abigail laughed as she took the cookies off the pan and put them on a cooling rack with three-dozen other cookies. "It sure does."
Riley looked around. Patrick and Charlie were working on the annual gingerbread version of the Gates' manor at the other end of the island bar with little Alexander Hamilton Gates sitting in his highchair beside them. Ben sat with his daughter putting sprinkles on the cookies. Carolyn walked by the bar with a bowl of cookie dough, and Riley grabbed the edge of her sweater quickly, pulling it and stopping her next to him.
"That's a nice cookie, isn't it?" he asked her. Carolyn laughed as Abigail had when she saw it.
"It's beautiful," she said.
"I made it for you." She smiled as he pointed back down at the cookie. "See how I turned that rainbow marshmallow in the middle on its side to look like a 'C?'"
"I'll eat it as soon as it's baked," she promised. She gave him a quick kiss, but before she walked away, Riley stopped her by grabbing her sweater again. His bright eyes stared her down.
"What?" she asked.
"You taste like cookie dough," he said seriously. Carolyn smiled. "I like cookie dough. A lot," Riley pressed.
She giggled guiltily at being caught, scraping the spoon in her bowl off some before handing it to him. "Enjoy," she said. She went to walk away again, but he pulled her back again. "Riley!"
He stared her down again, and she now understood. Smiling, she bent down and kissed him again. Riley enjoyed this much more than he would the spoon, and before he knew it, she was standing up again.
"I've got to go make more cookies," Carolyn said. "Can I have my spoon back?"
He suddenly licked it, and she made a face of disgust and amusement as she reached out and grabbed it from him. "Give me that! Now I have to get another one."
"Why can't I keep that one?" Riley asked as she walked away to the counter behind him.
"Decorate your cookie," her voice said.
He turned back around, his shoulders slumping. He looked back down at the pan of cookies he had half-decorated. Well, over half. Five out of eight were sprinkled, candied, and/ or marshmallowed. He had a Santa, an angel, and a holly sprig left to decorate.
He eyed the angel with a flowing dress and hair and grabbed the yellow sugars, making its hair a lovely blonde. Then, he took the brilliant blue sprinkles and filled in the dress. He pushed three dark brown sprinkles into her face for two eyes and a smile. He smiled himself; he was proud of his latest cookie that resembled Carolyn the first time he had ever seen her in a dress. It wasn't the same shade of blue – her dress from the Fourth of July was much darker – but it still brought a nice picture to his mind.
He looked up at his name and over at Charlie, Patrick, and baby Alex.
"You have to come make the Christmas tree outside in the snow!" Charlie said, waving around the ice cream waffle cone box and a bag of green icing.
Riley got up and went over to them, pulling out the cone and taking the icing. Patrick watched Riley push the icing onto the cone and then pull it out to make it look like the pointy branch of a fir tree.
"How come he gets to make the tree outside?" Patrick asked Charlie.
"He does it every year!" Charlie said. "And we put lights on it," – he pointed to the bowl of mini M&Ms – "and then we put a star on top!"
"What do you use for the star?" Patrick asked.
"Lucky Charms," Riley said, taking a shooting star marshmallow and cutting its tail off. He stuck it on top, receiving an odd look from his friend's dad. Just then, Abigail stopped next to Alex and handed the baby a small piece of cookie.
"What is it with him and Lucky Charms?" Patrick asked her. Abigail shrugged.
"Some people never grow up, I guess."
"Hey!" Riley said as she walked away. "Lucky Charms are timeless!"
x . x . x
5. Eggnog and The Grinch.
"'The Grinch got a wonderful, awful idea."
Carolyn smiled at the ageless cartoon as she sat with Riley on the couch watching the Grinch's smile curl on the television. Charlie and Sally sat in front of them munching on Christmas cookies while the others straightened up the library within earshot of the TV, getting ready for the party tomorrow.
She looked over at Riley with still smiling. His eyes were glued to the television, but he was still able to absentmindedly lift his glass of eggnog up and take a large gulp of it. Alex sat in his arms watching the Grinch with big, curious eyes, and he made a sound of surprise every few seconds. Carolyn giggled at him as Riley came out of his trance, dabbing the baby's mouth on its bib from its excited gibberish.
"Yes," Riley said to him. "Mr. Grinch! The best Christmas show ever! It's never too early to start watching the Grinch steal Christmas. Or eggnog for that matter. Want some?"
"Riley, not too much," Abigail said from the curtains she was closing. "I don't want him getting an upset stomach."
"Aw, don't worry about your mom," Riley said to Alex. "Eggnog is an absolute good." He dipped his finger in the drink and held it in front of the baby who leaned forward slowly. Before he knew it, Riley had Alex gumming at his finger. "See?" he said. "Good. Tell Mom it's good. You like it."
Carolyn let a laugh out. Riley looked over at her.
"You want some?" he offered.
"I have some, thank you," she said.
He looked back the TV but glanced back over at her. He pointed to himself and then to her and nodded up to the sprig of mistletoe placed above the space in front of the television. He lifted his eyebrows suggestively and Carolyn smiled slyly.
'Later,' she mouthed.
Riley gave her a look that she guaranteed held her to that. She felt herself blush and looked back at the television. Riley smiled, doing the same. He took another long, slow sip of his eggnog, almost emptying the glass this time.
Great. Refill at commercial.
The Grinch got stuck in the chimney.
Alex made another excited sound with Riley's finger still in his mouth.
A smile melted onto Riley's face.
Every year he got his eggnog and his Grinch special.
And this year, the two new people he shared the tradition with made a lopsided smile melt over his content face.
He looked over at Carolyn.
Maybe if he played his cards right, there'd be another new person by next Christmas gumming eggnog off of his finger.
x . x . x
6. One Present.
"All right, you know the rules," Ben said. "You can only open one present on Christmas Eve. The rest you can open tomorrow after Santa comes."
They all gathered around the Christmas tree behind the couch, Abigail kneeling next to her excited twins on the floor while Patrick held Alex, bouncing him some.
"I want that one! That one!"
"I want Grandpa's present!"
"Okay! Okay!" Abigail said. "One at a time! Charlie, which do you want?"
Riley made a face of admiration as he sat down beside Carolyn on the floor. "Oh boy…"
"I want Grandpa's!" she said.
"Okay." Abigail handed her the large rectangular prism in penguin paper, and Sally's face lit up. She scooted back, ripping off the wrappings in a hurry.
He looked from Abigail to the packages under the tree when Sally suddenly shouted 'Open mine, Uncle Riley!' He laughed.
"Give me Sally's," he said. Abigail handed him a messily wrapped object that was thin and hard. There was more tape than paper there. He knew it. Carolyn looked at the present giggling, and he started to open it. As he did, Sally shouted tanks to Patrick for the new ice skates, and Charlie made it known to the world that he had the best uncle in the world (he had finally gotten the BB gun of his dreams).
When the paper, tape, ribbon, and bow were gone, Riley held a homemade picture frame in his hand. Macaroni, glitter, maker, crayon, sequins, and of course their favorite cereal, Lucky Charms, surrounded a picture of him dressed in a cardboard knight's costume holding Princess Sally after saving her from the clutches of her evil brother one springtime afternoon a few years ago. Carolyn awed at the picture as Riley smiled fondly.
"That was a great day," he said, reminiscing.
"You are quite the uncle to have around," Carolyn said.
x . x . x
Riley relived the day from the comforts of the couch, wishing there were more to it. Ben, Abigail, and Patrick were off at a Midnight Service at the late hour while the three children slept upstairs. Carolyn was laying with him on the couch, pinning him between the cushions and her back as she laid peacefully on her right side. His head down, Riley let his senses flow freely about.
There was no sound, save for the ticking of the clock on the wall over in the library more. He heard silence. It was wonderful.
He tasted the lingering ginger of the eggnog and sugar cookies in his mouth from hours ago, but his stomach was satisfied. He didn't feel hungry or full. He felt content.
The multicolored lights glowed behind him, their lucent colors reflecting in the television screen and shining on several polished or metal surfaces. The light sat perfectly on everything, even Carolyn. The yellow lights on her hair were so lovely he could hardly stand it. She looked nice under any light, but Christmas lights really did something to her, as they did everyone and everything.
Her hair smelled like the dozens of cookies they had made earlier. Some of the scent from the couch mixed in, but it wasn't strong enough to overpower the wonderful smell of the cookies and her hair.
She was definitely asleep; he felt her weight sifting back into him as she lay there sleeping. He felt her breath calmly in and out, in and out… His right arm was somewhat asleep from lying on it now, but that was probably the worst of it. He just loved lying beside her. A missing arm would still be worth it.
He smiled slightly in the still night, sitting up some between her and the back of the couch. Carolyn began to shift some as well, and Riley had succeeded; she was awake. He watched her sit up beside him rubbing her eyes. She laughed in exhaustion as he smiled.
"What time is it?" she asked. "Are Ben and Abigail back yet?"
"No," Riley said. "It's almost midnight."
Carolyn moaned some as she leaned against the back of the couch so that she could properly see Riley. "Are the kids still asleep?"
Riley nodded, taking her hand.
"What?" Carolyn asked.
Riley lifted her hand some. "Take your finger touch the end of the tree branch," he instructed. He placed her ring finger on the tip of the nearest branch, and Carolyn laughed.
"I didn't know you liked E.T. too," she said.
"Close your eyes," Riley said. Carolyn made a skeptical face. "Just do it," he said. She obeyed willingly, still smiling. Riley check to make sure he wasn't looking with a quick hand wave in front of her face.
Okay. She wasn't peeking. Good.
He reached back into the tree, careful not to touch Carolyn's arm, hand or finger at all. He grasped the object he had put around the tree branch Carolyn had her finger to, and with a smile, he gently slid it from the back of the tree branch to the back of Carolyn's finger in the most rushed two seconds of his life. He watched her emit a laugh hinting at disbelief and complete happiness.
"What?" he asked with a tease in his voice.
"I want to open my eyes," she said excitedly.
"Why? You know what it is…"
"But I want to see it."
"Because I want to see it!"
"How do you know for certain-"
"Okay! Open your eyes!" he half shouted, half-laughed.
Carolyn did so, becoming even more ecstatic at the sight of the diamond on the ring she wore. She turned to leap on Riley, but he held up a hand.
"No, wait," he said. "Yes or no? I mean, this is pretty serious, and if I'm-"
Carolyn threw her arms around him and kissed him mid-sentence with all of the happiness she felt overwhelming her. Riley fell back into the couch, wrapping his arms around her. Then, amidst their kiss, the clock over in the library chimed. Carolyn broke the kiss, looking over at the clock and then back to him.
"Merry Christmas," Riley whispered.
Carolyn smiled and kissed him again, this time more lovingly. Afterwards, she laid her head down in the crook of his neck, the impression of happiness not leaving her smile as she fell back asleep. Riley stroked her hair soothingly as he let himself now fall asleep with her. He smiled also, now having added something else to his Christmas Eve List:
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