A.N - I'm taking it upon myself to be the poster of this year's Mediator Christmas one-shot. Millie did one last year, and I'm hoping she'll forgive me if she thinks I stole any ideas - I didn't, they're just very similar. Which is what fluff is all about. :)
So, this is also an apology for taking forever to update. And the best part is that it's complete - no waiting for an update. Yay. :)
So I hope you like. Inspired by the Dicken's classic A Christmas Carol.
Disclaimer: I own nothing. You all know it.
A HELPING HAND
- Mediator Christmas Special
'Twas the night before Christmas
And all through the house
Only one creature was stirring,
But he wasn't a mouse.
Cursing in a foreign tongue wasn't something heard often, had you lived anywhere but the apartment that Jesse de Silva shared with his girlfriend, Susannah. Jesse's work in the hospital where he had almost completed his internship kept him busy at all hours through the day, calling him in even when it was his day off, such was Jesse's talent.
Stubbing his toe on the edge of his bedside table, he bit his lip to not scream out his expletive or call to his higher power. He was, after all, in the presence of a lady – even if she was asleep – and, being raised in the nineteenth century, manners were paramount.
He collapsed onto the bed tiredly, eyes shutting as he turned to place a lazy kiss against his querida's temple before sleep finally overcame him.
The edge of Jesse's vision blurred with the kind of ethereal glow that could only belong to a ghost. But that ghosts existed was not the shock it should be, it was more who it was that Jesse saw when he opened his eyes.
"Get up, De Silva!" The familiar voice barked at him, doing everything short of pulling him from the bed to wake him up.
"Shut up," was his instant response. "You'll wake Susannah."
The ghost remained silent, eyes softening as they fell on the sleeping form of Suze Simon.
"Hey, eyes away, Slater." Jesse pulled himself away from the comforting warmness of sleep and stepped in to block Paul's line of vision. "Since when are you dead, anyway?"
Paul shrugged and turned away, reluctantly. "Beats me." He paused. "I was sleeping – a first, considering it's Christmas Eve and well, look at me, it's not like it's hard to get someone in my bed – and the next thing I know, I'm here. With you." Slater rolled his eyes. "Why couldn't I have appeared on Suze's side of the bed? She'd be a lot more interesting to talk to."
The eyebrow that Paul had raised grated on Jesse's nerves and he sighed exasperatedly. "Well, you're stuck with me so just leave Susannah alone, and –"
"Oh, like you do, you mean?"
"You heard," Paul continued, glaring at the man he had once regarded as competition. "You never make enough time for her. Whenever you're at work – which is more often than not, I might add – I get a phone call from your girlfriend here."
Jesse's fists clenched.
"Do you even remember how you got here, to be with her?" Paul asked. "What you went through? What she went through?"
Jesse whirled onto Paul, slamming him against the wall with such force he wondered why nothing had smashed, why no pictures had fallen or mirrors had cracked. "Of course I do," he spat at the ghost from between clenched teeth. "It's just –"
Paul rolled his eyes, effectively cutting Jesse off. "No excuses." He shook his head and firmly pushed Jesse away, shaking imaginary lint from his t-shirt after Jesse's grip had been removed. "I think you need a reminder."
And, a second later, Paul and Jesse were witness to the moment Jesse had first laid eyes on Susannah. A sixteen-year-old girl wearing a leather jacket and jeans was not a sight the 150-year-old ghost saw often, but it didn't make her any less beautiful. The fact that she could even see him at all had given him joy beyond belief.
"How did you …?" Jesse's voice trailed off as Susannah began to speak to his ghostly form.
"All right. Who the hell are you?"
Those first words out of her mouth had been undeservingly harsh and his ghost-self, some five years before, turned and glanced behind him, looking for someone else, anyone who wasn't him.
"Nombre de Díos!"
"Alright," Paul praised himself, smirking as he glanced up at Jesse's shocked face. "Guess I'm the ghost of Christmas Past."
*** *** *** *** *** *** ***
Unless you have seen yourself without the aid of a camera, or a mirror, you cannot actually grasp how strange a notion it is. Jesse had seen himself before, of course. When Susannah had brought his nineteenth century body back from the past and he'd been put in the hospital, Jesse had seen himself then. Susannah, too, had seen herself during that attempt to exorcise her that still had Jesse's heart twist in pain when he thought of what she'd risked. For him.
But both times the body had been still, unmoving. Seeing yourself move, act out an event in your past you once remembered so vividly but had now began to blur … the sight was perplexing.
Jesse felt like he could jump in and begin to change the course of events. Perhaps, if he was forced to relive his entire relationship with Susannah – not that all of that would be a bad thing – then he could prevent her from the acts of astounding idiocy that had ruled her life.
"Wouldn't count on it," Paul interrupted his thought process. "They apparently can't see us. I doubt we could touch them either." And, to demonstrate his theory, Paul reached out a ghostly hand, passing over Jesse to hover over an area of Susannah's that Jesse certainly did not want him touching.
Paul's hand was pushed away from its target angrily, the unexpected force from the action causing his hand to swing and collide with the top of Jesse's ghostly head, Paul's handing sliding straight through.
"Ow!" He complained, massaging his wrist. "That hurt."
"Don't touch my girlfriend like that." Jesse's voice was dark, his eyelids lowered and his eyes dark with fury.
"She's not your girlfriend," Paul reminded him with a smirk. "Not here, not yet. It took you a few more months before you decided to kiss her. I didn't wait so long."
"Paul!" Jesse's shout was one of warning but by the time his fist had clenched and was ready to find its way to Paul's nose, the scene around them had changed once again.
Paul's eyebrow rose as he regarded the scene with composed feelings of nausea. "When did this happen?" He asked, uninterested.
"Earlier." Jesse answered him, eyes fixed on Susannah. "Before I –"
"Before you left?" Jesse's silence gave Paul his answer and the ghost shook his head. "Figures," he muttered to himself. "Guess I'm the ghost of Christmas Present now too."
It had taken until Christmas Eve for both Jesse and Susannah to have the time to put up their Christmas tree and considering this was their first year of living together – sometimes Jesse's gentlemanly upbringing had a bad side – they wanted it to be special. They'd put on cheesy Christmas songs – George Michael was a particular favourite of Jesse's – and pulled out the tinsel, baubles and decorations before going to work on the apartment.
The finished result had been outstanding. A glistening creation of soft silvers and bright blues were already wrapped around the tree as fairy lights glowed gold. The only thing unfinished now was the presents under the tree, which were being put there by Susannah as Jesse stretched to complete the tree itself by placing the ornamental star on top.
Susannah had to admit, though, she had a nice view. From her vantage point at the bottom of the tree, when she looked up she could see the expanse of Jesse' tanned stomach, revealed to her when his shirt lifted up. His jeans rode low on his hips, as well, showing her that little bit more. She certainly wasn't complaining.
Jesse's tall frame easily fitted the star on the tree, even if he did have to rather embarrassingly balance on his tiptoes, and he stepped back to survey his work. "Done," he called down to his girlfriend. "Querida, come look at this."
She stood and walked into the comfort of his waiting arms, looking up at their handiwork. "I think, Mr. De Silva, that we make a formidable team."
Jesse smiled. "I think you're right."
"We should so start our own business," Susannah continued. "'De Silva and Simon, Decorators Extraordinaire.'"
Her only response was a chuckle before he titled back her head and captured her lips with his.
*** *** *** *** *** ***
Paul watched the scene with a growing sense of sickness. "Ew." He stated, pointing at the kissing couple. "Do I have to watch this?"
Jesse wasn't listening; of course, he was drawn to the sight of Susannah – the sight he hadn't bothered to actually see all day. She looked beautiful, as always, with her shapely legs encased in tight blue denim and a black sequined top adorning her upper half. His eyes kept flitting between her sensational outfit, and the radiance she emitted when she smiled, or the glint in her emerald eyes. He really was a lucky man – he knew that, yet he still took it for granted.
Both men watched as Jesse and Susannah pulled apart and fell to their knees beneath the Christmas tree, Susannah wrapped in Jesse's arms as they regarded the artfully arranged Christmas presents. Jesse's eyes fell shut as he remembered the events of a few hours before.
"Here," he heard himself say, reaching out to pick a present addressed to Susannah from the pile. "Open this one."
Susannah's smile warmed his heart, nervous as he was with the thought of the contents.
It was a small gift, wrapped beautifully as everything wrapped by Jesse was prone to be. She could hardly dare to open it. But she did. She slid a finger under a flap and pulled up the corner carefully, a lock of chestnut hair falling into her steely determined eyes.
And then a small beeping noise spiked its way through their moment. Jesse's buzzer, of course.
Jesse, watching himself, wanted to slap him. He knew what was in the box – how important it was for their future – and still he wrapped his larger hand over Susannah's small one, preventing her from opening the gift, and he placed it back under the tree before he kissed her softly and left, smiling apologetically.
She understood, of course Susannah understood. This was Jesse's dream. She wouldn't stand in his way.
Sighing, Susannah stood and blinked away a tear that Jesse could see, even from his distance, and watched what Susannah did after he had left. He watched as she tidied away the boxes of Christmas decorations and flipped open her cell phone.
Jesse watched her face as the call was answered. The smile that overtook her face was nowhere near as brilliant as the one she'd worn all day. Her voice, Jesse noticed, also was heavily laden with newfound exhaustion.
"Hey Paul," he heard her say. "You have time to talk?"
*** *** *** *** *** ***
"It was an engagement ring, wasn't it?" Paul's ghost asked gently, eyes fixed steadily on Jesse's face. "The present you gave her?"
His only reply was to nod slowly, eyes still fixed on the sight of Susannah curled on the sofa and talking to Slater. The scene was now muted and Jesse could no longer hear the conversation.
"What is she saying to you?" He asked Paul, who merely shrugged. "You have to know."
"I don't. I don't remember any of this." Paul frowned. "I don't think that I'm actually Paul."
"Either that or you had too much to drink tonight," Jesse muttered.
"Why choose an engagement ring then?" Paul asked, ignoring Jesse's comment. "Why choose now to ask her?"
Jesse ran a shaky hand through his curly, messed hair. "I just thought, …" he stammered through a response. "Well, with me being so busy, I …" He stopped, shut his eyes and sighed, picturing Susannah's face. "I wanted her to know I'll always be here for her, even if I'm not."
Paul snorted. "Cute."
"Does she accept?" The question was an obvious one, so much so that Jesse was surprised he hadn't thought of it earlier.
"What do I know?"
Jesse rolled his eyes. "Oh, come on, Slater. You were the ghost of Christmas Past, now Present. Surely you know how the story goes?"
"Look, Jesse, I have no idea how this thing works," he told him. "I don't even know why it's me, and –"
He didn't have chance to say anything else before the scene shifted and Jesse was given his answer.
Wrapping paper was strewn across the floor, messes of metallic gold and red discarded as soon as the children had caught sight of what was hidden behind the paper.
"Open this for me, mommy!"
Suze smiled at her son, who was older than his sister by five minutes and the very image of his father, save for her eyes.
"No!" Her daughter cried, brown pigtails swinging behind her as she launched herself into her mother's arms. "This one! Please, mommy."
At three years old, neither child was overly articulate. When it came to wanting something done for them though, they were a force to be reckoned with, instantly gaining the proper persona that they had picked up from the one person alive today who knew what it was like living in the 1800's.
"Daddy!" Her son was distracted by the sight of his father and ran to grasp his leg instead. "Daddy, open this!"
Paul chuckled and crouched down to ruffle his son's hair. "In a minute, son. Someone's here to see you."
Their daughter's eyes widened. "Santa?"
"No, you stupid," her brother chastised her. "He's been."
"I might as well be," a familiar voice appeared in the doorway. "I have gifts for the two of you."
The children's eyes lit up and instantly they began jumping and screaming.
"Uncle Jesse! Uncle Jesse!"
Jesse, for his part, smiled and welcomed the twin terrors into his arms, even though it pained him to see his querida's eyes on Paul's face. It was just another reminder of what he'd lost.
"All you need now is the beard and the big fat belly that wobbles like a bowl of jelly," Susannah teased him, a brilliant smile spread across her face as Paul wrapped his arms around her, resting on her slightly swollen stomach.
"You forgot the red cheeks," Paul supplied for her, kissing her on the temple in a move that was so similar to Jesse's that Susannah faltered for a moment.
It hurt, yeah. But all that mattered to him was that she was happy.
*** *** *** *** *** ***
Jesse watched the scene with a growing sense of fear. "Get your hands off my wife." Jesse hissed at the ghost standing next to him.
"Your wife?" Paul laughed. "You took the ring back from her, De Silva. Besides," he turned to look at the gold ring glinting on Susannah's left ring finger. "Looks like she's my wife. Guess the better man won after all."
"How do I prevent this?" Jesse demanded.
"Carry on the way you were," Paul suggested. "I quite like this future, myself."
Jesse groaned, even as anger flushed through him. Hitting Paul's ghost wouldn't help. Nor would desperately trying to attack the Paul who had his arms around his querida. He only had himself to blame for all of this.
"How many years?" Jesse asked in a whisper. "How much longer do I have left with Susannah?"
Paul glanced around him. "Well," he answered. "This is four years from now, so …"
The knowledge that he had less than a year left with Susannah caused something to spark within him. He had to change. He had to go back and spend more time with Susannah. Show her how much he loved her, how he needed her, and that he would never let me go.
"Take me back." He ordered, but the scene remained. The Slater Family Christmas. "I need to go back!"
As his shout finished, his world went black.
"Hmm, Jesse?" Susannah asked sleepily, mumbling into Jesse's bare shoulder. "What's wrong?"
Jesse took in his surroundings, and noted the feel of Susannah in his arms and smiled, holding her close to him and kissed her, mentally obliterating Paul's kiss from her lips, even if he knew it hadn't happened yet. "Nothing. Nothing at all."
She smiled, stretching against him and giggling as Jesse caught her fingers with his lips. "Merry Christmas, Jesse." She whispered and a smile spread on her lips. "Now, present time!"
*** *** *** *** *** ***
When they were ready, she dove instantly on the present she'd began to open last night.
"Can I?" she pleaded, eyes wide and glinting with a hint of amusement.
"Later," he laughed at her pout. "It's just that, I have every faith in my ability to buy awesome presents, querida." He justified. "I don't want the excitement to be taken away from everything else."
Susannah rolled her eyes, but agreed and dove into the pile, throwing presents at him as she simultaneously collected for herself too. "Something about Christmas, you know?" She threw over her shoulder.
"What, that turns you into a big kid?"
She laughed and collapsed back against his chest. "Now," she told him, handing him one of his presents. "We open."
"You know, querida," he told her. "I have done this before."
But she was already engrossed in the action of artfully tearing the wrapping paper and throwing at on the floor.
Within ten minutes, she'd reached her last present - the present - and she turned to face him as she opened it. "Now?"
Jesse pretended to think about it, nodding with a laugh as he saw the excitement on her face. She attacked the wrapping paper more carefully than the rest, pulling up one more corner before Jesse's buzzer went off again.
"That thing has terrible timing," she smiled weakly, tears pooling in her eyes as she put the present down.
He said nothing, only picked up the gift and hadn't it to her again. "Ignore it," he whispered. "And open."
The expression of joy on her face then was almost as gratifying to him as the look of shock as she realised what a box like that actually contained.
"Jesse?" Her voice was hesitant, but her smile … Her smile gave away her game. "Jesse, what …?"
He kissed her, shushing her as he nimbly plucked the box from her fingers and opened it. Inside there lay a sparkling stone that would, he knew, fit her perfectly.
"Querida," he began, heart pounding but he was without fear. "Will you marry me?"
A.N Part deux - Yeah, we all know that answer. :)
Merry Christmas everyone. xD