This is an AU story. I got the concept after reading Nora Roberts' Bridal Quartet. There are a few pieces of background information to note.
Luke and Laura were killed in a car accident six years prior to where the story begins. At the time of their death, Lucky was working for the NYPD and Lulu was studying overseas for college. They both returned to Port Charles after losing their parents and have not left since.
Lucky has never been married, nor does he have children. He and Elizabeth were in a relationship for three years, and their relationship ended after he moved to New York City to go to the police academy. While he was away, he found out that Elizabeth and Nikolas were having an affair, blowing apart his relationship with his long-time girlfriend and brother. Nikolas and Elizabeth decided to move to Paris. Lucky and Lulu have had little contact with either of them.
Ethan came to Port Charles with Holly three years after Luke's death. He has been creating a relationship with his siblings and working at Jake's.
Dante was Lucky's partner when they were on the NYPD. They have been friends since attending the police academy together, and within six months of Lucky's transfer to the PCPD, Dante took an open position with the department to help his friend who was struggling to keep everything together after his parents' deaths.
Olivia told Dante who his father was when he moved to Port Charles, but gave him the chance to decide whether or not he wanted to tell Sonny. Dante has not told anybody, including Lucky, about the identity of his father. He has tried to get to know his siblings, though, without cluing them in that his is their brother.
Georgie was killed only a few months after Luke and Laura's accident. Maxie and Lulu became close friends as they helped each other through their grief. Both struggled to focus on school, so when Maxie developed a business plan to run their own business, they stopped taking classes and put all of their time into their new event planning business.
The rest of the AU background will be explained as we go along.
In my opinion, the best part of a wedding is the moment when the last guest had left the building and I can take a seat at a table of partially filled champagne glasses and wedding cake crumbs. When Maxie drew up our business plan, we knew that weddings would have to be our main focus to keep ourselves afloat financially, but I never considered that the decision would require us to work the craziest hours known to man.
There I was, exhausted and not even halfway through the cleanup, at 1:30 a.m. on December 24th. This evening's groom had spent six months convincing his bride that getting married on Christmas Day would aggravate their guests and cost much more than they had budgeted, but her insistence only died down when a friend mentioned that she would forever share her anniversary with the most commercialized holiday of the year, meaning that she would rarely get gifts for both occasions. Within minutes, she called me demanding that they move the wedding back to the closest Saturday to Christmas Day in order to keep their winter wonderland theme intact.
"Good news," Maxie announced as she came out of the kitchen. "The photographer, caterer and florist have been paid, and I found an extra bottle of champagne!"
I let out a soft moan and kicked off my shoes. "I should turn you down since Lucky will be here any minute to drag me out of town, but that is the distinct reason why I need this so badly."
"I will never understand why you are incapable of saying no to your brother," she started, sitting next to me and pouring two glasses of champagne. "Granted, it would probably be a hell of a lot easier if you moved out of that house to give each other some space. Still, if you don't want to go, then just don't go."
We each took a sip of champagne and shared a moment of silent bliss before our debate began. Maxie was constantly pushing me to move out of my family home. While I had never pictured living under the same roof as my brother in my mid-twenties, I refused to consider any alternative. Neither of us could afford the mortgage payments on our own and giving up the house that meant so much to my mother seemed wrong.
"It's Christmas, Maxie. I have a feeling that me announcing to Lucky that I don't feel like going to Dante's mother's house with him is not going to make it a very good holiday."
In all of the years before, Christmas consisted of Lucky and me rummaging through my mother's box of ornaments to try and recreate the Christmas trees that she constructed for us every year throughout our childhood. We never even got close to what it used to feel like, but I always told Lucky that it was perfect. He tried so hard to keep all of our traditions alive, and I didn't have the heart to tell him that it was an impossible feat.
"I don't understand why he thinks that going to Bensonhurst with the boy wonder is going to be so great," Maxie remarked with disdain in her voice. Dante was the one person in our social circle that she could not hide her annoyance with. While neither of them ever talked about what fueled their irritation with one another, I had a theory.
When Maxie and Dante first met, she was drunk and certainly not trying to conceal her flirtation with him. Full of pickup lines and jokes, Dante happily played along. When they both disappeared at the end of the night, I knew that they spent the night together. Obviously it did not end well, because the two of them took more pleasure in picking on one another than ever considering repeating their obvious one-night stand.
"Lucky wasn't sure when Dante first brought it up," I explained, choosing to avoid the Dante-is-not-such-a-bad-guy speech that time. "I talked him into it. I just thought that if he didn't have to try so hard for one year, he could get past his insane need to make Christmas perfect for me."
"You two need serious counseling," Maxie sighed, refilling her glass. "If you spent half as much time finding a suitable man to whisk you out of that house full of haunted memories as you do appeasing Lucky, we'd both be much happier."
"I don't need a man," I groaned. "And I don't see how this hypothetical guy and I finding eternal bliss would make your life any better."
"Well… you would be a little more enthusiastic if you got laid every once in a while," she began. "How long has it been? Six, seven months?"
I shook my head in disbelief that she was goading me into this topic. "Two, and you knew that before you even asked. Johnny has been out of town for two months."
"I know it was my idea for you to go along with the friends with benefits thing with Johnny, but you seriously need to take advantage of the no strings attached part of the deal. He leaves town for months, so you should be finding something other than a vibrator to ring your bell."
I had not heard the elevator doors open or close, but when I heard a man clearing his throat behind me, I felt my cheeks turn red. Even though Lucky and I were adults, he had a hard time letting go. I never brought dates home with me or discussed them with him, mainly to keep any men in my life from the scrutiny that my detective brother could provide. Needless to say, I was relieved when I turned around and it was Dante.
"Eavesdrop much?" Maxie griped, standing up from her seat and pulling the champagne off of the table.
"I don't think it's called eavesdropping if I'm out in the open," he responded. "And by the way, Merry Christmas, Maxie."
"Yeah, yeah, where's Lucky?"
I laid my head on the table, half out of embarrassment that Dante heard our conversation and half out of exhaustion. If history was any indication, Maxie could pick a fight with Dante that would go on for hours.
"He's laid out on the bathroom floor at the moment," Dante explained. "Stomach flu. I told him that I'd give Lulu a ride home, but he insisted that we go on to Bensonhurst without him."
I closed my eyes and started counting down in my head 3,2,1… When Maxie remained silent, I sat up and looked at her. Something must have been running through her mind, because she didn't say a word. With her, that was never a good sign.
"That's very chivalrous of my brother, but I'm not going to impose on your family Christmas," I spoke up. "Besides, if Lucky's sick, he probably shouldn't be home alone for three days."
Dante took Maxie's vacated seat and helped himself to a bite of the cake she left. "I told him you'd say that. And he said that he's sure he's contagious and he doesn't want to ruin your holiday by getting you sick."
"You all make me sick," Maxie groaned, picking up her purse and shaking her head in disapproval. "Lulu, just save us all some time and do exactly as Lucky commands. I'll see you back at work in a few days."
Two hours later, I woke up in the passenger's seat of Dante's car. The snow on the roads was at least three inches higher than it had been when we left the Metro Court, which explained why we were still in transit. Between the champagne and my general level of exhaustion, it took exactly three minutes for me to fall asleep once Dante started driving.
"Are you sure you don't want me to take a turn behind the wheel?" I questioned with a yawn. "I feel bad that you're doing all the driving when I'm already imposing on your Christmas with your mom."
Dante laughed softly. "I'm making a rule for the rest of the trip. You can't tell me that you feel bad or apologize about anything from here on out. Understood?"
"Oh my God," he shook his head. "Lulu – stop! My ma is on cloud nine that she has someone else to cook for this year. She's already told the whole Falconeri clan that you'll be there. Imposing is the last thing you're doing."
"If your mom is so excited about having someone else around for the holidays, why didn't she have more kids? I mean, don't you ever wish you weren't an only child?"
The snow outside lit his face, which I watched turn stoic after I finished my question. Dante had always been pretty straightforward about his mother. I knew that she was from a big Italian family and that she got pregnant when she was very young. He had shared a number of stories about the woman, all in which he portrayed her as an extraordinary mother.
"I didn't mean to get too personal," I admitted slowly. "You don't have to answer that."
"No, it's okay," he responded quickly, plastering a smile on his face to reassure me. "My ma never really dated. She was pretty busy with me, and finding someone to settle down with was never a high priority for her."
"My parents never wanted more than one kid," I offered, as if sharing more about my family history would deflect pressure off of him. The way Dante spoke about his mother and her dedication indicated to me that there was some degree of guilt that he felt about her situation. In a small way, I was happy that I was not the only person on the planet with a relative who sacrificed for me in such a profound way.
"I don't believe that for a second," he countered. "Lucky is always talking about how your parents were infatuated with you from the moment you were conceived."
"He's trying too hard," I argued. "I think he's worried that my entire self-worth rests on the assumption that I was not a mistake."
"He wants to protect you," he commented.
"I get that, but what exactly does he think he's protecting me from? Realizing that my parents never set out to have me isn't going to push me over the edge. I wish Lucky would see that I'm a little more adjusted than that," I sighed. "You know, you should talk to him about that."
"What do you want me to say, Lulu? He's my best friend, and I would take a bullet for him. But when it comes to you, he's not rational."
"Well, could you at least find him a distraction or something? Maybe if you introduced him to one of those women you're always out with…"
"Hold on," he scoffed. I could tell from the expression on his face that he, like my brother, thought that I was completely naïve. But the reality was that I had always known that Dante Falconeri was as smooth as they come. He had charisma and charm that made women melt. I wouldn't even have admitted it on my death bed, but I had momentarily fallen under his spell more than once in our friendship.
"It's not my job to remember their names, Dante. That would be your responsibility."
"You think I'm some sort of womanizer, don't you?" he feigned shock.
"No, I never said womanizer. You seem very respectful, and I can't picture you using women. You just have a large quantity of them around you most of the time," I explained. "Look, it's nothing to be embarrassed about. My entire point was to ask you to help Lucky. I wouldn't ask some egotistical jackass to help my brother find a woman to love."
"And if I knew this perfect woman – I'm supposed to step aside and set her up with Lucky instead of keeping her all to myself?"
Dante's tone was getting incredibly playful, which in turn made heat rise into my cheeks. "You aren't ready to settle down."
"How did this conversation become some sort of criticism of my love life?" he defended. "And did I miss the part where you found your prince charming and lived happily ever after? I seem to remember something about two months…"
The slight blush from our flirtation intensified exponentially when he threw that little tidbit into the conversation. I knew he heard our conversation, but I never thought he'd admit to it. Now that it was sitting out there, I figured I only had a few options. I could take the defensive route, but that would probably only let him know how humiliated I was that he overheard the conversation between Maxie and I. I could ignore him completely, or I could own up to it.
"You're right. I definitely don't have a prince charming in my life, and I'm not exactly booked with dates lately. But this conversation is about Lucky, not about me."
Classic deflection. I did not need to be a detective to realize that I had put Lulu in the difficult position of facing her embarrassment from earlier. It had not been my original intention, but something about her impression that I had a large quantity of women in and out of my bed struck a nerve. Plus, the more I pushed, the more she blushed. I could only see it out of the corner of my eye, but I liked that I could push her buttons.
I considered Lulu a friend. She and Lucky were the closest thing I had to a family in Port Charles, at least, the closest thing I wanted to family. Over the years, I had spent countless nights at the Spencer home watching football games or having a few beers and playing pool. While I rarely hung out with Lulu one-on-one, she was around a lot. It was almost impossible not to notice her.
"Okay, then, answer me this. Does Lucky know that you're dating Anthony Zacchara's son?"
I knew the moment the last word came out of my mouth that my question was out of line and very telling of what I was trying to get at. I had never known Lulu with a boyfriend. Sure, she had been on dates, which made her brother cringe more often than not, but she had never been serious with anybody in the six years that I had known her.
"Johnny and I are not dating," she corrected. Her tone was calmer than I had anticipated. I was almost disappointed that she lost her fire from the previous few moments.
"Sorry, Maxie just made it sound…"
"Johnny and I used to date, back in high school," she cut me off with her clarification. "He's still a friend. But we're not together."
"Oh, my mistake," I spoke softly. "Sorry to get too personal."
"You didn't," she answered simply. I glanced over and saw her pull the hair away from her face, swiftly pulling it into a messy ball on the back of her head. Her natural beauty was really hard to ignore.
"Look," I stumbled on my words, desperate for a distraction from checking her out. "I will try to encourage Lucky to date more. But I've got to be honest with you, even if Lucky finds the woman of his dreams, I don't think that he's going to ease up on protecting you. Even with the stomach flu, the man is bending over backwards to make sure you are going to have a great Christmas."
"I'm terrible…" I groaned, rolling off of Maxie and on to my back.
"Sure, it wasn't your best work, but it still got me where I needed to be," she replied with a sly grin. "Give yourself a break. You're not Hercules."
Only Maxie could make criticism of my performance in bed sound like a compliment. I found her honesty refreshing, even attractive most of the time. However, when it came to her views of my living situation, refreshing was not the right word.
"You know I was referring to faking the stomach flu and abandoning my sister on Christmas so that I could spend the holiday in bed with her best friend."
She turned on to her side and ran her fingers up and down my arm. "For the hundredth time, you did not abandon Lulu. She is going to be surrounded by well-meaning but irritating Falconeris for the next two days."
"I know, but maybe that's too much for her. What if being around that huge family just brings back hard memories? I should have gone with to be there for her…"
"Lulu is a big girl," she argued, leaning forward to plant kisses up my arm and on my neck. "Same age as I am. In fact, what you and I are doing here… what we have been doing for the past four months… believe it or not, Lulu does that too."
I felt my stomach turn with the visual. "Maxie!"
"I'm just being honest," she defended, pulling herself on top of me. "Look, I know that this was my idea. And I know that you are always going to have this ridiculous and unhealthy need to protect your sister from anything remotely bad in the world. But you have your own life, Lucky. And right now, you have this gorgeous naked woman in bed with you – a woman who is falling in love with you. Can we just focus on that for the next two days?"
I reached up and tucked her hair behind her ear. "You're right. I just need your help to keep myself distracted."
"Now that is what I wanted to hear," she smiled before bringing her lips back down to mine.