Vicki's Christmas Party
(Time: After The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and before Deep Dark.)
It was two days before Christmas and Vicki sat at her desk staring at the ceramic Christmas tree her mother had made the year after the divorce. Seeing it called up memories she wished she could forget of her mother, father and the day he left. Her mother had been depressed and the doctor suggested she get a hobby to keep herself busy. So her mother made ceramic gifts for everyone she could think of including Vicki. Her special piece was a Christmas tree that she could keep in her bedroom. After following her from place to place over the years, it looked old and a little tired. There were chips in the green glaze and a few of the bits of colored plastic shaped like miniature lights were missing, but when it was plugged in it did it's best to give off a cheerful glow. The reason it was sitting on the corner of her desk was setting up food and cookie trays in the waiting room. Coreen had found the tree stuck in the back of the closet when she was hunting up decorations for the party. Vicki shook her head in wonder. Who would have guessed a goth would want to have a Christmas party, but Coreen had talked her into having one and managed to get Mike and Henry to agree to come. So now in a few minutes there would be a group of people who barely got along these days sitting around eating food, cookies, drinking spiked eggnog and pretending to enjoy themselves while wishing they were somewhere else.
Since saving Henry's life by drinking his blood and using dark magic, he'd been almost rude to her and Coreen, but he continued to stop in at the office and even help with cases.
Mike acted like she was persona non gratis whenever she came to the precinct and begrudged making any effort to talk with her let alone help her with a case while Coreen acted her perky goth self and did her best to pretend everything was normal.
Tonight's gathering would include Henry, Mike and his guest, Rajani, Coreen and herself. Again Vicki wondered why and how she got talked into this but there was no backing out now. She straightened her red top with a touch of lace at the neckline and smoothed it over her hips. Wearing red was her concession to the holiday spirit. She picked up the envelopes that held gift cards and hoped that the recipients appreciated the effort she made to buy them and walked into the waiting room in time to see Coreen place another miniature tree with lights and black lace on the bookshelf in the corner.
Looking around at Goth does Christmas, Vicki asked, "Coreen don't you think you've done enough decorating?"
Coreen turned around and smiled, "Just about. I want us to have fun tonight. We used to have fun between cases. You remember that don't you?"
Thinking about the times Vicki felt the sparks in Henry's presence she sighed, "There were some moments when I thought so."
"Good. Try not to say anything to get Mike and Henry agitated with each other."
"You think I do that on purpose? And don't you go trying to get Henry under that mistletoe I see you've hidden over the door."
"I guess I didn't hide it all that well if you can see it. You can't blame a goth girl for wanting a kiss from a real vampire can you?"
"Henry's been pretty clear about your previous advances. Don't go putting him on the spot tonight. He's barely tolerating our company as it is."
Coreen put her hands on her hips, "I told you it was a bad idea to use his blood with black magic."
Vicki glared back, "You didn't have any better ideas. He's alive, so I guess that has to be good enough."
Coreen saw the sadness in Vicki's eyes. She seen the same look in Henry's eyes whenever he was around Vicki. It was up to her to get them back on the right track if only she could find a way to do it.
Vicki heard a car door slam and said, "Heads up Coreen! Your party is about to start."
"My party? It's our party."
Soon the room was full of the people Vicki cared about the most. Mike's guest happened to be his partner Dave. Secretly Vicki was relieved it wasn't Kate with him tonight. She liked Dave better. He was happy, funny and annoying all at the same time. It was easy to forget she was not a part of the cop team when he was around.
Rajani came with her eyes wide open and said, "Interesting all of us together and no bodies to examine. It's not often I spend an evening among the living." Everyone stopped talking and looked at her. "Well that's true isn't it? The only time you people come to talk with me is when there's a body on my table."
Laughing they had to agree with her and continued talking about some of the more interesting cases over the last few years.
Henry stood in a corner with his arms crossed watching the others. His eyes kept going back to Vicki studying her every movement. He heard the voice beside him say, "Her arms haven't been hurting. She's not talking to demons and no one has fallen down dead at her feet."
Henry glared at Coreen, "Thanks for the update."
Coreen fought to keep from stomping her foot, "Why did you come if you're still so mad at us?"
"I care about her more than I should. More than I want."
"Then talk to her. Let her know how much she means to you. Can't you see that the way you've been treating her is breaking her heart."
"Mine's not in the best of shape either thanks to her. And I might add, with your help."
"After saying 'I'm sorry' for so many times there's not much else to say is there?"
"I know you're both sorry. But I can't help knowing that there's much worse yet to come."
"Can't you relax and have some fun? Please give her tonight if you can't or won't give her more."
Henry tilted his head slightly, "As you wish. Tonight I'll try to forget my fears for all of you."
Henry straightened his shoulders and walked over to where Vicki stood talking with Dave.
Dave looked around the office at a Goth's attempt to decorate for Christmas. "It looked a little more like 'Nightmare before Christmas' than 'The Night before Christmas' but it's interesting."
Coreen beamed at hearing Dave's words and raised her blood red goblet, "Glad you like it. I wasn't sure if anyone would get the connection."
Mike put his hand on a cobweb covered Santa, "I'd say it was hard to miss."
Rajani's eyes sparkled, "I loved the scenes in the movie with Santa being full of roaches and stockings stuffed with heads."
From behind, Henry put his arm around Vicki's waist and pulled her to his chest kissing her cheek. Before she could elbow him in the stomach, he quickly stepped back pointed up and said, "You were standing under some mistletoe. I couldn't let the opportunity pass could I?"
Vicki put her hand to the place his lips touched, "No you couldn't." She sighed under her breath and whispered so softly only Henry's sensitive hearing heard her add, "It would have been better if I'd been facing you."
Henry felt her hurt and wanted to kiss her pain away but let the moment pass. Her words had not been meant for his ears to hear.
Rajani stood next to Dave discussing a particularly gruesome case that she'd been working on. "It would have been nice to have Henry examine the murder scene. He so sensitive to the changes in blood."
"Why'd he be of any use. He writes comic books?"
Rajani stared at him muttering to herself as Henry called from across the room, "Graphic novels." Then he returned to his conversation.
Rajani finally realized that Dave didn't have a clue about Henry and said, "Because of his writing, he has a different approach to blood."
Dave shrugged and grabbed a handful of cookies off a tray and walked over to Mike.
As the evening progressed the guests started talking about the worst presents they ever received.
Dave started laughing and told them about his third ex wife giving him a divorce for Christmas. She'd sent his gift to the precinct. The process server was dressed as a Santa helper and she handed him divorce papers with a hug and kiss. "Actually I'm not sure if that was the worst or best present. The forth wife appreciated it."
Coreen talked about her mother's gift of a frilly pink dress and groaned. "She keeps giving me clothes I have no intention of ever wearing. It gets to be a drag returning them."
Rajani passed on the discussion saying Christmas gift giving was not a custom practiced in her home land, but she laughed along with the others as they talked about their experiences.
After listening and thinking for a few minutes she held up her hand and said, "Actually I did get one gift that was rather repulsive."
All eyes turned toward her waiting to hear what that could be. "A gift certificate to the local steak house."
Dave said, "What's wrong with that?"
"I'm a vegetarian."
Coreen closed her eyes and hoped no one asked about the mincemeat cookies.
Mike talked about how all of his family wanted him to join the priesthood and while he was growing up, every year he got religious items. By the time he was in high school his bedroom looked like a chapel. They even continued giving him religious gifts after he graduated from the police academy. Mike wasn't sure who asked, "When did they finally give up on that idea?" But he answered, "The first year I took Vicki home for a visit." There was a collective, "Oh!" and that subject was dropped.
All eyes turned to Vicki and she said, "Don't make me tell." From all directions came, "Awe come on it can't be that bad." Relenting she started speaking in a soft voice, "I was a freshman in college and met a boy from the middle east. He was tall with dark brown eyes and hair. His accent fascinated me. I spent that whole fall teaching him our ways and explained our customs. He spent hours with me and I thought I we were falling in love. By Christmas I was sure we were. After I gave him my gift, I opened his." She stopped talking and waited until someone asked, "What was it?"
"An electric bun warmer from the 1970's. He must have found it at a garage sale or thrift shop."
There was a collective groan then someone asked, "What was your gift?"
Dave asked, "Did you kill him?"
"No, but I don't think he was able to ride a bicycle for at least a year." With the tension relieved everyone chuckled thinking about what kind of pain Vicki could inflict when angry.
"Okay Henry you haven't said what your worst gift was."
Henry looked up at the ceiling, "A whore."
Dave hooted, "Sounds like a great gift to me. Who gave you that?"
"My father... and before you ask, I was only nine."
In an effort to change the subject, Coreen started handing out small gifts to everyone and soon the others were passing out theirs. Boxes of candy from Dave, bottles of wine from Mike, silk scarves from Rajani and caricatures from Henry that he had drawn during the evening.
Clearing her throat, Vicki picked up the envelopes that she'd prepared earlier. "It's not much but I wanted you to know that each of you holds a special place in my life." Looking at Dave she added, "Sorry yours is so impersonal, I didn't know who Mike was bringing."
Grinning, Dave held out his hand, "I don't ever turn down a pretty woman's gifts."
"Trust me Dave, that's all your getting." His eyes opened in confusion before laughing along with the others.
Everyone opened an envelope to find a gift card for a favorite store or restaurant except for Henry. He read his and put it back on the table.
Soon afterward everyone left. Vicki picked up the card she'd written to Henry, ripped it in half and threw it away. Her eyes wandered from one decoration to another before shrugging whatever and went home.
Henry had never been in Vicki's house before but tonight he was there waiting when she unlocked the door. She wasn't that surprised to see him standing there when she turned on the light. "What now?"
Henry handed Vicki the card she'd torn and thrown away. "You knew I'd never accept this from you. Not this way and especially not now. Why did you make the offer?"
Vicki dropped her coat and bag. She walked over to the couch and sat down. "It's what I thought you wanted from me. It's what you've hinted at often enough."
He sat down beside her and pushed the hair from her eyes, "What I want, is for you to love me."
"Don't you see, I don't know how to love."
Henry pulled her into his arms and gently stroked her hair, "I could teach you, but your not ready."
"I don't know if I'll ever be ready, but there is something you can give me."
"I want to know that you truly trust me again."
"How would I go about doing that?"
"By letting me spend the day with you in your room."
"What would that prove? You've done that in the past."
"But that was before I hurt you to save you. If you'd let me do so again, I'd have your life in my hands and when you woke up you'd know for sure you can always trust me with your life."
"I'll put my life in your hands again and when trust yourself enough to love me in return, I'll accept your gift."
"I'm working on learning how to love, but until I do, don't you dare give up on me."
Under his breath Henry whispered, 'so be it,' stood up and pulled Vicki to her feet. "Get your stuff."
"Books, snacks, laptop and whatever else you need to keep yourself amused while I rest."
"You mean now?"
*author's note: a special thank you to Felicitas. Without her help this story would not have been posted.