Disclaimer: All characters (unless otherwise specified) belong to Aaron Spelling, E. Duke Vincent, Gary Tomlin, NBC, et al and are used here strictly for non-profit entertainment purposes.
Rating: PG 14
Genre: Romance
Spoilers: None. (This story is completely alternate universe.)
Summary: A mysterious stranger and a precocious child bring two lonely people together. A Christmas story.


Chapter One: "Jack Frost Nipping at Your Nose"

"Any questions?"

Nick Klaas eyed the young building manager, an uptight woman anxiously checking her smart phone. He brushed the lapel of his uniform jacket, the brass buttons glowing against the maroon wool. The gold thread of the seams caught the sun, flashing merrily in the newly risen winter sun. He flexed his hands in his gloves, the leather giving generously. He looked up at the sudden silence, the clicking of the phone's keyboard ceasing. "I said, any questions?"

He shook his head, smiling kindly. "No, Madam. I believe you were clear with your orders."

"Good. The last guy had an issue with being polite. Apparently, it was against his religion," she murmured, turning back to her phone.

"What religion is that, Madam?" Nick asked seriously.

The manager looked up slowly, her face frozen in disbelief. After a long moment, she shook her head and smirked. "You know, Klaas? I think you just might work out." She smacked him affectionately on the arm and turned for the street. "Call me if there's any problems."

Nick hurried after her, reaching to open the taxi door for her. "There won't be, Madam. I assure you." He closed the door after her and stepped back to the curb, watching as the taxi disappeared into the morning traffic. A brisk wind howled down the street, funneled between the skyscrapers. He pulled the heavy coat tighter around him and breathed deep, sucking the icy air into his lungs.

In the street, a horse-drawn carriage trotted by with bells jingling from the harness. He smiled, humming to himself. But the moment was short-lived. A harried mother rushed by, dragging her three children behind her. From the opposite direction, a business man flew past them, his briefcase bumping the shoulder of the youngest child. In horrified fascination, Nick watched as the mother spun around, shouting an obscenity after the man. The man turned back long enough to flip his middle finger up before he jumped into a cab an elderly woman was poised to claim.

Nick shook his head, a gloomy feeling dampening his spirit. Everything was spiraling out of control. The idea of kindness and the feeling of oneness were rare, the human race descending into a nauseating lampoon of civility, underwritten by tabloid sensationalism. He sighed, pining for a time when people were neighbors, concerned for one and other's well being. Instead, a pastiche of goodwill replaced the sincerity of yesteryear.

It was almost enough to break his heart.

Movement from inside the lobby interrupted his reverie and he sprang to attention, pulling the door open. "Good morning, young lady!"

A little girl looked up, a polite grin lighting up her face. Dark curls spilled forth from a navy beret and framed her rosy cheeks. "You're new."

"Indeed, I am." Nick bowed to the child, matching her grin. "Nicholas Klaas, my dear. But I think that you may call me 'Nick'."

She nodded, seemingly approving of his name. "I'm Alexia Blake, but you can call me Lexi. Everybody does." She held out her hand, her bubblegum pink mittens belying the formality of her introduction. "How do you do?"

He chuckled, shaking the tiny hand gingerly. "Very well, thank you." He turned back, looking through the glass doors to the lobby. "Shall I call you a taxi or should we wait for your parents first?"

"No, thank you." She pointed to the chauffeured Town Car pulling up to the curb, the strap of her school bag falling from her shoulder as she did. "That's my mother's driver right there. She takes me to school every morning before she goes downtown to work."

Nick followed the young girl's direction before he turned back to her. "I see. Your mother must be very important if a car picks her up every day."

Lexi nodded, pride sparking in her eyes. "Oh, she is. She's the Creative Director of Leslie Wallis. Have you heard of it?" Nick had barely shaken his head before the little girl continued, "It's a famous fashion house. My mother used to be the face of their perfume line, but she doesn't model anymore."

"I see."

"Yes, she's quite important. Most people don't take fashion seriously, but my mother makes sure that everything on the label is beautiful and perfect for the people that buy it. She's so smart that she knows what people want to buy before they do. Then, she makes sure that their advertisements are like beautiful paintings." Lexi sighed with an awestruck innocence that made Nick smile as she looked up at him. "My mother is an artist."

"Well, you must certainly be very proud of her."

"Oh, I am!" Lexi exclaimed. "My mother does all of that and she raises me, all on her own." She watched Nick open the door for a couple leaving with a pair of suitcases. When he turned back to her, she eyed him curiously. "Excuse me, but is your beard real?"

"Of course it is!" He tugged the end of it, causing his eyes to bug out and making the little girl giggle at his expression. "It's as real and white as the hair on my head. I was born that way."

Lexi shook her head. "I'm sorry, but babies aren't born with white hair or a beard. I saw a documentary on TV about it."

Nick chuckled, opening the door for a man on his cell phone. "Could you hail me a cab?" Gregory Richards asked. Lexi followed Nick to the curb, his whistle ringing out over the morning cacophony. "That's Mr. Richards. He lives in the apartment down the hall from me and my mother."

"Oh, does he?"

"Yes. He moved in a couple of months ago, but he's very nice. He works for the District Attorney's office. He told me that it's his job to make sure that people who commit crimes go to prison."

"Well, the world needs more people like him."

Lexi sighed, her face falling. "I wish my mother thought like you."

Nick turned, concerned with the sudden change in her voice. Within moments, the child went from bubbly and happy to sad and broken. "Why? She and Mr. Richards don't get along?"

She shook her head, glancing back to where Gregory stood, still talking seriously into his phone. "I think that Mr. Richards is in love with my mother, but she won't give him the time of day."

A taxi broke free of the traffic and swerved over to the sidewalk. Nick opened the door and gestured Gregory over. "Well, maybe she just doesn't know him that well."

At that moment, Olivia Blake rushed out of the building, her cell phone glued to her ear as she fought with her briefcase. The driver of her car jumped alive, scrambling to open the back door. Lexi and Nick watched as Gregory and Olivia reached the curb at the same time. "Good morning, Olivia."

Olivia lowered her phone, smiling politely. "Good morning, Gregory."

He smiled back and glanced up. "Looks like snow for the weekend."

She followed his gaze, looking up at the bright white sky. "Yes, it does." She passed her briefcase to her driver and said, "I'm sorry Gregory, but we're running late. Lexi?" She stole away into the backseat, returning to her call.

Lexi frowned, looking up at Nick with fallen blue eyes. "See what I mean?" she asked in a sad whisper. She sighed and called back, "Coming, Mommy!" She waved at Gregory before climbing into the dark interior of the car.

Nick strolled over to Gregory, the two of them watching as the chauffeured car pulled away from the curb. "Your cab, Sir," Nick said, Gregory's eyes still on the car as it fought its way into the traffic.

"Yes, thank you."

He was about to climb into the backseat when Nick said, seemingly to himself, "She seems like a very lovely woman." Nick turned, slyly watching Gregory's reaction out the corner of his eye.

Gregory nodded, stealing one more glance in the direction they left in. "Yes. She is…unbearably so." With a resigned sigh, he climbed into cab and pulled the door shut.

Leaving Nick on the curb, watching as the three lost souls left in the same direction, but couldn't be more apart.