Disclaimer: Not mine.
Archive: X-Posted to , DW journal, Nikita Comment Ficathon.
Summary: And if I should falter; Would you open your arms out to me. (Written for Nikita Comment Ficathon on LJ)
The lights of the city before him were twinkling in shades of red and green. The people in the streets beneath him were laughing with holiday cheer. Michael stood before the large window in his apartment, seeing colors and laughter, but feeling nothing but gray. He held a glass of bourbon level with his eyes, its contents enticing him with the promise of numbness and respite from memories of happier times. He downed the entire contents, welcoming the familiar burn, but frowning at the odd aftertaste. The world spun and he realized belatedly that he had been drugged. Funnily enough, he couldn't find the wherewithal to care. It was only when Nikita stepped into his line of rapidly deteriorating sight that he tried to fight against the effects of the drug, his footsteps faltering, but by then, it was too late.
His hearing returned first, although he wasn't sure it was his consciousness returning. He heard a little girl's voice and he instinctively curl up into himself. The usual spectrum of physical pain was nothing to him and he took to torture like he deserved it. The only genuine pain he could feel was from a raw but hidden wound that only a few people knew he had.
"Don't worry, Santa's just tired from making all the lists. Wake up, Santa!"
A bone crushing grip on his shoulder made his eyes snap open. He blinked with confusion at the sight in front of him. A sea of bedraggled women and children. The children were staring wide-eyed at him with a mixture wonder and wariness. Anger and horror raced through him. His job, his position, the very essence of who he was brought danger and death to his surroundings. He shouldn't be near these kids, what the hell were they doing here?
A bespectacled woman in a red dress stood in front of him, her hands on her hips, her feet tapping impatiently.
Michael suddenly wasn't so sure he wasn't dreaming. "Nikita?"
"No, I'm Mrs. Claus."
He then realized that his face itched because there was a beard strapped to his chin, and the dead weight that was keeping him tied to the chair took the form of a protruding stomach in front of him, covered in red velvet, trimmed in white.
His lips twitched. "I'm Mr. Claus."
Nikita smirked as she leaned in and whispered, "We're in a women's shelter. I volunteered you." She gazed into his eyes, as if she could see his gray world in them. "Sometimes, it's good to come up for air." She turned and ushered forward the first child. A little girl in pigtails. "This is Hannah."
Hannah sat very still in his lap, her hazel eyes cautious as she looked up at him.
Michael felt his heart swell and bleed at the same time. But he smiled gently, his eyes crinkling. "What would you like for Christmas, Hannah?"
"You aren't going to ask if I have been good?" she asked, carefully.
He chuckled, deep and merry. "I know you've been good. What would you like?"
Hannah searched his face for signs of falsehood. Once she was satisfied there was none, she smiled, her cheeks dimpling.
She trailed off, deep in thought, before surreptitiously glancing at him for signs of impatience. Michael nodded at her, encouraging her to continue. Hannah looked down, staring through her twisted hands.
"I want Daddy to be happy again," she whispered ever so softly.
Michael was hit with a sorrow so deep that his chest ached with it, and for a few short moments, he couldn't even breathe or see clearly in front of him. Hannah. Haley. Hannah.
Nikita stood quietly on the sideline, seeing the pain in Michael's eyes, helpless to free him from it.
Hannah's tiny hands tugged at Michael's white beard. She smiled with a sadness that belied her age, looking back and forth from the silent Mister and Mrs. Claus. "I want a ballerina Barbie," she announced loudly. "And a magic wand…"
Nikita forced a cheery smile to return to her face. Michael replayed the Santa's repertoire of ho-ho-hos and general merriment. The initial encounter with Hannah inoculated them against the sometimes heartbreaking wants of the other children.
When they finally finished with the last child, the director of the women's center suggested that they all take a group photo. A few children rushed over to be the one to sit on Santa's lap, but Nikita was quicker. She picked Hannah up and placed her into Michael's arms. Hannah's triumphant laughter rang like bells, and Michael's smile was genuine as the camera snapped the photo.
Michael woke up, what appeared to be hours later. Fire was crackling brightly in his fireplace, throwing golden shades of light around his apartment. The picture on top of the mantle told him it wasn't a dream. He took the picture in his hand, wavering over the fire. He should burn it. Nikita's disguise wasn't that great and having this picture in his home could be dangerous for all involved. He frowned at it, but upon a closer inspection, he saw something unexpected.
Mrs. Claus had opened her arms around Mr. Claus, and at the moment the picture was taken, she had kissed him on the cheek, catching him unawares.
Michael placed the picture back on his mantle.
"Merry Christmas to you too, Nikita."