Title: All I Want for Christmas
Summary: Modern Persuasion; It's been four years since Anne Eliot and Erik Wentworth ended their engagement. Now, they're both back on faculty at Kellynch College, and they find themselves dateless at a wedding on Christmas Eve. Will they get all they want for Christmas? A three-part story
A/N: I don't own Persuasion. I'm just trying to throw a little pre-Christmas fluff your way, and I hope you enjoy it.
Anne Eliot planned on chalking 2011 up as the worst year on record. In fact, she planned on throwing her own personal "Good Riddance, Misery" party on December 31, 2011. As long as 2012 was at least slightly better than 2011, she would be happy. Heck, the world could end, and she would consider that to be a better year.
But 2011 had been awful. First, Eliot Enterprises, her father's business, went under and was bought out by Croft Industries. And the CEO of Croft Industries was Adrian Croft, husband of Lucy Wentworth-Croft, the older sister of Anne's ex-fiancé, Erik Wentworth. As it happened, with Adrian and Lucy in town, Erik who had just finished his PhD in British Literature got a position at Kellynch College.
The man she hadn't seen in four years was suddenly back in her life, living two doors down from her, in fact. And Anne was heartbroken. She'd broken up with Erik four years earlier when it became apparent that their lives were going in separate directions. She was headed to grad school at Uppercross College and he was headed to Queen's College in Belfast. She didn't want to force him to commit to a four or five year engagement. That was just cruel.
But now, as fate would have it, they were both back in Kellynch teaching literature in the same English department where they had once been undergrads together. They seemed to have an unspoken agreement to avoid each other as much as possible that they were both keeping faithfully.
Throughout the year, Anne had gone to six weddings and she still had a seventh on Christmas Eve. And she had been a bridesmaid in each of those weddings. Back in college, she had spent four years living in Austen House with a group of lovely other girls-Jen Bennet, Elinor Dashwood, Liz Bennet, Kate Morland, Emma Woodhouse, Francesca Price, and now Marianne Dashwood. Only Marianne Dashwood would get married on Christmas Eve, and only Chris Brandon would agree to have his wedding on Christmas Eve.
Over the past twelve months, each of Anne's roommates had gotten married. She was only single one left of the bunch. And Jen and Charles Bingley, who had gotten married on New Year's Day, already had a baby girl, Lily Olivia, who had been born in November.
But Anne had always ended up alone after all of those weddings. Oh, sure Will Darcy, Charlie Bingley, Ed Ferrars, Chris Brandon, and George Knightley always danced with her at weddings. And Will even went so far as to get his cousin, Mike Fitzwilliam, go to a couple of the weddings as her date. But as nice as Mike was, that couldn't change the fact that he had been transferred to Vienna in September and was currently dating a very pretty Austrian girl.
She wanted to be happy for her roommates; she really did. But as Anne put on her burgundy dress and silver heels, she knew she was jealous. She didn't want to be jealous of Francesca Bertram who had finally married the love of her life in September and was now throwing up at regular intervals. Francesca deserved the happiness that Josh had finally given her after breaking things off with Molly Crawford a year and a half earlier and realizing that his best friend was actually the woman of his dreams.
On the other hand, she had little trouble being jealous of Marianne Dashwood who had gone from boyfriend to boyfriend over the years before being diagnosed with cancer three years earlier and settling down with Chris, a man whom Liz Darcy deemed to be "almost too wonderful" for Marianne-or really any woman. Indeed, Anne was a little confused as to why she was the maid of honor instead of Elinor, Marianne's cousin and longtime best friend. But Elinor had admitted that Marianne didn't want to have a matron of honor when there was still someone around to bear the title of "maid." Mercifully, Elinor and Jen Bingley had been more than willing to help Anne write a kind and endearing toast.
But in spite of it all, Anne knew she would be going home alone at the end of the night-and probably with the bride's bouquet in her hands. Still, she was determined to be the perfect bridesmaid. She walked down the aisle with Ed Ferrars and smiled her best. She did blush when Ed slipped her a tissue before they started walking down the aisle. "I know you, Anne," he whispered in her ear. "You always get teary-eyed at weddings."
Somehow that had only made her smile more.
As she watched Marianne and her dad walk down the aisle, Anne noticed Erik Wentworth sitting behind Gina Darcy and next to Jane and Mark Rochester. There was no sign of Lindsey Musgrove anywhere near him. In fact, as she took a quick glance around the church, she didn't seen Lindsey anywhere.
The reception was lovely, all the class and elegance that Anne expected out of Chris and Marianne. She gave a toast that talked about how well suited the bride and groom were to each other and how inspirational their love for each other was. She talked about how devoted Chris had been to Marianne while she battled cancer a few years earlier. Anne danced with Ed, Will, Charlie, and George, caught the bouquet, and then spent most of the rest of the evening with Lily Bingley and Ava and Jacob Rochester.
Around ten-thirty, Anne was sitting by the dance-floor with a sleeping six-month-old Ava Rochester in her lap watching Ed and Elinor, Will and Liz, Jane and Mark, Charlie and Jen, Henry and Kate, Josh and Francesca, and Emma and George dancing. "They look so happy," a deep voice said suddenly, interrupting Anne's (slightly jealous) thoughts.
Anne looked up to see Erik standing next to her. She smiled. "Yeah, they do."
"Can I sit?" he asked.
She nodded. "Yeah, it's a free country."
He laughed and sat down, stretching his long legs out in front of him. "You look tired, Anne."
She shrugged. "I can sleep in tomorrow. Nobody in my family gets up early for Christmas anymore."
Erik shook his head. "That's sad."
"It's all right," she replied in a forced cheerful tone. "Marianne is the last of my really close friends to get married. I don't mind wearing myself out for her. And besides, I'm resting now. All I'm doing is holding an adorable sleeping baby."
He ran a long, slender finger over Ava's leg. "You always were a natural with kids, Anne."
"How's Lindsey?" she said.
He shrugged. "I don't know and don't care. She's dating some grad student. They started dating after the car accident."
I ignored his comment about the car accident; it had been a mere fender-bender from what I'd heard. "I thought you were all hot and heavy."
He shook his head. "I wasn't serious and she knew that. She was just a light distraction from what I really wanted."
"And what is that?"
Erik picked up the bouquet from the table behind them. "Do you really not know, Annabelle?"
"You haven't acted like you were interested," I replied, adjusting Ava in my lap.
"I was confused. You ended things all those years ago. I thought you didn't want me."
"You clearly weren't listening when I said that I loved you but I didn't want to make us suffer through a five year engagement."
"You could have come to Belfast with me."
Anne sighed. "Well, that was four years ago. And it didn't happen."
"Do you regret that?" he asked.
"Of course, but that doesn't change it."
Erik nodded. "But it could change the future."
"Only if we want it to," Anne replied.
"Do you want to?" he asked as he leaned forward, his brow furrowed.
Without thinking, she nodded.
Erik smiled. "Then find something to do with the baby and come dance with me."
She glared at him. "I know that I haven't seen you in years and we're finally fixing an awful situation, but I can't just leave the Rochesters' baby sitting here on her own. She can't take care of herself."
He looked around. "Surely there's got to be somebody who can hold her."
Just then, the song ended, and Mark and Jane came over to Erik and Anne. "Hey, Anne," Mark said. "We'll take Ava back now. We're going to head home. Adele and Jacob want to be in bed before midnight to make sure that Santa gives them their presents."
Anne handed Ava over to Mark with a smile. It still amazed her how he had gone from a forty-year-old playboy to a devoted husband and father. Around the same time that Erik had left for Belfast, Mark had learned that he had a three-year-old daughter, the product of a brief affair he'd had with a co-ed while teaching at McGill University. Through a series of events that weren't entirely clear to most people, Mark had acquired full custody of the little girl. Then, he'd hired Jane Reyes as a babysitter, only to fall in love with her and marry her.
"Have a merry Christmas, Anne," Jane said as she settled two-year-old Jacob on her hip. "If your family gets to be too much for you, don't be afraid to call us."
"We mean that," Mark said. "The kids would be more than happy to make your Christmas merrier."
Anne smiled. "I'll remember that."
"And even if you don't, we're expecting you for New Year's Eve. And if you try to skip that one, my husband will bring you over by force."
"I'll be there," Anne promised.
"Wonderful, we're looking forward to it," Jane told her.
"And seriously, don't forget to call us tomorrow if your family is too much," Mark added, kissing Anne on the cheek.
"Good night and Merry Christmas," she replied with a smile.
After the Rochester family left, Erik looked at Anne. "So can I have that dance now?"
She shook her head. "I think the reception is over. I need to help clean up and then head home."
"Can I get a rain check then?"
She shrugged. "I don't see why not."
"You look lovely, Annabelle," Erik said as he helped her put on her coat. "I don't think you've changed a bit in the past four years."
"That's not what Lindsey said you told her," she whispered bitterly.
"Hey, I was angry when I first came back. I said and did a lot of stupid things. If you want to hate me forever, I would understand that."
He had done so many stupid things and essentially insulted her to her face numerous times. "And then what happened? Why are we walking together now?"
"I heard you arguing with Darcy and Rochester at the department Christmas party."
Anne blushed and was grateful for the darkness that kept Erik from seeing her face matching her dress. She had spent a good half an hour disagreeing with Will Darcy and Mark Rochester over who loves longest when all hope is gone-men or women. "You must think I'm a fool."
"No, I'm the fool, Annabelle. You never stopped loving me, did you?"
"I knew I was being an idiot the whole time, but I couldn't help myself."
Erik smiled. "Well, I'm glad that you couldn't because I know what I want for Christmas."
Before he could say anything else, Anne lost her balance on some ice, her left ankle buckled, and she flew to the ground.
"I knew I shouldn't have worn heels," she sighed as she tried to collect her purse and the two bouquets that had flown out of her hands.
Erik bent down at her level. "Let me see your ankles."
"They're right there," she replied, pointing at her feet. "They're the painful things in the stupid silver heels."
"I'm glad to see you haven't lost your sense of humor," he replied, feeling her ankles with his hands. "But I think that at least one of these ankles is sprained. Why don't I take you home and we'll get your car back later?"
She nodded. "That's fine."
"Can you walk?"
"What do you think?"
Erik laughed. "All right, hold onto your stuff and let me pick you up."
Once they were in his car, Erik looked at Anne. "You're staying with me tonight. Or I'm staying with you. I don't really care, but I don't want you to wake up alone tomorrow with a sprained ankle and no one to help you out."
She nodded. "We can stay at my place. It's probably cleaner."
"What are you saying? Maybe I've changed in the past four years."
"Erik Wentworth, some things do change over time, but your cleaning skills are not on that list. Some things will never change."
"I'm sorry. Cry me a river." I already cried a river over you, she thought but did not say.
Back at her apartment, Erik helped Anne to her room and left her alone while she changed into her pajamas. Before she went to sleep, he came back into the room to check on her. It was only then that she remembered the last thing that he said before she fell. "Erik," she said sleepily. "What was it that you wanted for Christmas?"
"All I want for Christmas, baby, is you," he replied before tenderly kissing her forehead. "Now get some sleep and we'll talk in the morning."
She nodded and rolled over.
A/N: Please review!