Merry Christmas, Yami's Girl 117! :) Lemme just tell you, I was SO grateful when you gave me the option of writing a VaughnxChelsea fic, because otherwise I would've been screwed with that other pairing. Not that I couldn't've done it with a little research, but still. I definitely enjoyed writing this, and I hope it's worth the wait!
P.S. Hope everyone reading this had/is having a wonderful holiday season! Cheers to all!
"You're... you're kidding me, right?"
I stared at my husband with disbelief apparent in my gaping mouth and owl-like eyes. He kept his own downcast, seemingly preoccupied with studying the swirling patterns of the hardwood floor. My fingers itched to snatch him by his stubbly chin and force his gaze to meet my own, but I resisted and instead took a deep, calming breath.
"So," I began, flexing my fingers- a habit that presents itself whenever I get annoyed. "Let me get this straight. What you're telling me is that you, Vaughn, my husband for the past eleven months, twelve on the thirty-first, also known as New Year's Eve..." My voice trembled with the rage that was building up inside of me. "...are going to leave me, Chelsea, your wife for the past eleven months, twelve on the thirty-first, also known as New Year's Eve, your wife who is due to have our first child any day now, home. Alone." My voice rose several decibels. "ON CHRISTMAS EVE?"
I could have sworn I felt the baby jump on that last part.
Vaughn shrugged his shoulders, a careless gesture that I found even more infuriating than the fact that he wouldn't look me in the eyes.
"It's my job, babe," he muttered gruffly. "What do you want me to do about it?"
The dwindling bubble of self-control inside of me finally burst.
"What do I want you to do?" I screeched, most likely startling half the islanders from their peaceful sleep. "WHAT DO I WANT YOU TO DO? I want you to take off, goshdarnit! I want you to tell your psychotic slave driver of a boss that he needs to find a heart somewhere in his dark abyss of a soul and let you enjoy Christmas Eve with your family! For Pete's sake, I really don't think that's asking for too much!"
Vaughn grunted. "Yeah, I'm sure the way you worded it would go over real well with him. Look, Chels, I need to support my family. How would getting fired over one silly night help either of us?" He gently placed his gloved hand on my bare stomach, which puffed out a good six inches beyond the waistline of my plaid pajama pants. "Any of us, I should say."
I hung my head as tears of surrender pricked at my closed eyelids. He was right, of course. He was always right. I was just being a selfish, hormonal woman. As usual.
"So it's just a silly night to you, is it?" I choked, burying my face in my hands to hide the tears that were pouring down my cheeks.
"Sweetheart, you know that's not what I meant..." My husband sounded bewildered, as though he couldn't imagine how on earth I could take offense to what he just said.
"Go then," I spat, the order muffled by my palms. I must have sounded like a whiny four-year-old to him. I didn't care. "Go away Vaughn. If that's how you feel about, then leave your silly wife and your silly daughter here and just go already."
I peeked through the cracks between my fingers to see my husband looking both shocked and mystified at the same time.
I lost my patience. "GO!" I screamed, wobbling to my feet and pointing in the direction of the door.
When he still didn't move I launched my pregnant body in his direction. However, he was quick enough to catch me by the wrists before I could topple both of us over. I struggled to free myself so I could use my hands to pound on his chest until it caved in, but the strength I had gained pushing stubborn cows around on the farm was no match for his natural man-power.
A legitimate, animal-like snarl burst through my teeth. This feeling of helplessness only made me madder than I was before. "Let me go, Vaughn!" I shrieked. "Let me go and get the hell out of here!"
The hurt and fury that burned in my husband's radically violet eyes pierced me like a razor. He silently released me and I stumbled backwards into the mattress of our bed, covered in sweat and panting with sudden fatigue.
Vaughn stared at me for several unbearably long moments before turning and leaving without a single word.
Natalie said nothing when I waddled through her threshold at two in the morning with tears streaming down my face, my arms clutched around Vaughn's old t-shirt I had worn to bed and my hair thrown up in what could hardly be recognized as a ponytail. After making sure I was wrapped in a thick wool blanket and settled comfortably on a couch in the living room, she disappeared into the kitchen and returned several minutes later with a steaming cup of cocoa laced with whipped cream and peppermint. Leave it to my best friend to take on the role of the compassionate innkeeper when I most needed her.
After taking a seat beside me with her own drink, all she had to say were four words:
"Lay into me, girl."
So I did.
Through a fresh avalanche of tears I told her all about how I had secretly planned this marvelous Christmas Eve dinner for Vaughn and I, complete with ham and turkey imported from the mainland (which alone cost me nearly half a season's earnings); how I had spent hours upon hours in the bordering forests, searching until I found the perfect evergreen tree for our humble abode (which I had planned on starting the tradition of decorating it with my husband Christmas Eve); how I had been counting down the days until our first Christmas together since the day after our honeymoon ended; how I had envisioned waking up beside him on Christmas morning, exhausted yet giddy from the night before; how he would ruffle my hair and sweep me into his arms and proclaim "Merry Christmas to one and all!" for all the world to hear.
Natalie raised her eyebrows skeptically.
I sighed. "Okay yes, that last part was a bit far-fetched, I know. But the point is..." I sniffled and brushed a tear from my blotchy red eyes. "...I wanted him to be there."
Meanwhile Natalie was nodding thoughtfully as though trying to take all of this in. She took a generous sip of cocoa, tapped her fingers on her chin a few times, took another sip of cocoa, and finally concurred, "Men are lousy human beings."
I shook my head in fierce agreement. "And mine's the lousiest of all," I muttered, clenching the hand that wasn't wrapped around the handle of my cocoa mug into a fist.
"Hm? You say something?"
It was quiet for a little while after that, besides the occasional slurping of hot chocolate. I heaved another long sigh and fell back into the cushions. My body felt drained of all energy and emotion, and all I wanted to do at that moment was curl into a ball and lose myself in the land of dreams, where it snowed all year round and every little girl got a pony for Christmas and husbands were always home for the holidays no matter what their jobs required of them.
Natalie was first to break the silence. "So, uh... any idea where your hubby's camping out for the night?"
I snorted and shrugged, too tired to think or care about the fact that I had essentially kicked my husband out into the cold. "Dunno. Probably Mirabelle's. Or maybe Gannon will be nice enough to let him stay over."
Natalie cringed. "Ooh. Either way there's other women involved. Not good, my friend, not good."
"Natalie!" I cried, smacking her shin playfully. "Eliza's like, eight!"
"Hey now, you never know what a desperate man will do," Natalie defended. "You should see what my brother does with his dolls when he thinks the rest of us are in bed."
"Oh, stop it." I shook my head. My best friend could be so perverted sometimes. "Besides, Julia belongs to Elliot anyway. I doubt she would do anything even if Vaughn did sleep over."
But the paranoid gears in my head were beginning to turn now. What if Vaughn did do something drastic like cheating on me as a way of getting revenge for what I had done to him?
I couldn't handle that thought. Shivering violently, I suddenly doubled over with nausea. It felt as though the baby had just shoved her tiny foot through my bellybutton.
"Natalie, get me a bucket," I groaned.
She obeyed without question, then patted my back soothingly as I emptied the contents of my stomach into the metal tin her family used to transport drinking water from the river to their home. I reminded myself to make sure it was cleaned out thoroughly before someone used it again.
Once my tummy finally stopped turning cartwheels, I wiped the leftover vomit from my mouth and grinned sheepishly in Natalie's direction.
My best friend merely rolled her eyes. "You good?"
"Fine, thanks," I replied.
A tear rolled down my cheek and I slumped over, suddenly gloomy again. Then I felt another hand clasp my own, and I looked up in surprise to see Natalie gazing at me with tenderness in her eyes. When I opened my mouth to comment on this rare display of affection of hers, she placed a finger over my lips and shushed me.
"You're spending Christmas Eve with my family," she said firmly. "No if's, and's, or but's about it."
She then stood up, about-faced, and marched into an adjoining room.
"I'll prepare the guest bed."
Spending Christmas Eve with my best friend's family was better than I would have expected it to be. Everyone was nicer than usual (even Felicia, which I hadn't thought was humanly possible since she was the nicest person I knew). Taro treated me like a second daughter and only went off on a rant about the impending snowstorm once. Elliot of course had Julia over so he didn't pay much attention to me, but he was still just as sweet as ever. I kept secretly watching for Julia to show any signs of inner guilt or treachery, but the polite smiles and confused glances she kept throwing my way eventually got to me and I stopped.
Besides the fact that I was in my pajamas all day and my hair was tangled and greasy from not having showered since two nights before, I can honestly say it was one of my favorite Christmas Eves.
However, after enjoying a hearty dinner prepared by Mirabelle and Felicia and gathering around the piano to listen to Julia play a special arrangement of Christmas tunes, I suddenly felt overwhelmed by a rolling wave of loneliness.
I looked over at Natalie, and she immediately understood.
"Go," she mouthed to me. "Come back when you're ready."
I nodded gratefully and quietly exited the room, not bothering to explain my absence to the others. Natalie was a good liar; she'd think of something half-convincing to satisfy their curiosities. I departed from their safe and happy home without a clue as to where I was going, only knowing that I had to escape before the loneliness consumed me.
The crisp winter air immediately wakened my senses, and I felt an even stronger surge of despair. I longed to be entwined in Vaughn's arms as we cuddled on the couch in front of the fireplace, both his strong hands resting on my stomach where our future child was contained. The thought sent warm shivers up and down my spine.
How I found my way to the beach in the dark I'll never know, but as I curled my toes into the cool sand I relished the feel of the grains rubbing against my bare feet and the sound of seagulls crying off in the distance. It seemed an appropriate place for me to be at the moment- the place I abhorred most; the place where I watched my husband leave me five days a week (six when his boss was in an especially Scroogey mood).
Then, without even realizing what was happening, my feet began to carry me towards the dock. My heart led the way as though with a chain, dragging my screaming, protesting mind against its will. Soon I was standing on the edge of it, hunched over and with my arms folded across my chest. Time ticked on endlessly and I began to shiver with cold, but some intangible force kept me frozen to the spot, refusing to blink, to swallow, to move; only to stare at something on the horizon that was barely within my sight.
And then that blurry spot in the distance began to come into focus, and I saw that it was a boat. A small, canoe-like boat, hardly big enough to stand up against the rough waves that kept trying to push it back, to keep it out of my eyes' reach.
For what felt like hours I simply watched, and prayed, and waited, as hope rose and fell within my chest like the water's restless current.
Finally a gleam of silver in the moonlight confirmed my hopes. I cupped my hands over my mouth, leaned forward, and yelled with all my might.
It seemed like an eternity had passed, but finally the boat won its battle with the with the ocean and Vaughn was able to pull up next to the dock. It took an unbelievable amount of self-control to keep from leaping into the canoe and strangling him with happiness right then and there, but somehow I was able to wait patiently until both his feet were planted on solid ground before throwing myself into his arms.
He stroked my hair and whispered soothingly into my ear while I cried into his already damp shoulder for a good ten minutes before gently lowering me back down to earth. Too overcome with joy to speak, I simply placed my hand on the side of his face and gazed into his beautiful eyes in awe as he did his explaining.
"After our fight last night I came here and found Denny and told him all about what had happened, and you know what he said to me, Chelsea? He said 'Vaughn, you don't even realize what a blessing you've got. That girl is somethin' special, and you better treat her that way or else you're gonna lose her. Learn from my mistakes.' So I sat here and I thought about those words until my boat arrived at dawn, and you know what I told my boss? I said 'Look sir, it's Christmas Eve and my wife's at home missing me. I know this trade isn't going to take all day and I'll go back in a rowboat if I have to, but sir, I have to get home somehow.' So I did."
He tipped the brim of his soaking wet hat lower over his eyes and stuffed his hands into his pockets, suddenly embarrassed with himself.
I reached up and carefully removed the hat from his head, then grabbed him by the collar and yanked his lips to my own.
"I love you," I mumbled into Vaughn's mouth several intense moments later.
"I know," he mumbled back absentmindedly.
I suddenly broke off mid-kiss and twisted out of his grasp, gasping like a dehydrated goldfish and clutching my lower abdomen.
Vaughn's eyes widened in panic. "I didn't mean it like that! I love you too, babe!" he cried, afraid that I might push him back into the rowboat that brought him here.
I shook my head, panting. "It's not you, Vaughn. It's the baby. I thinking I'm having..." I gulped. "...labor pains."
The reality of that statement hit me at the same time it did my husband. We stared into each other's eyes, wonder-struck, and I suddenly began to laugh.
"Merry Christmas, Vaughn," I chuckled.
Without a word my husband swept me into his arms and carried me away across the beach, the pale light of sunrise behind us and the bright hope of Christmas Day and parenthood before us.