This story begins around the time of Stephanie Forrester's death in late 2012, with all the plot and character histories on B&B taken into account until that point. Anything that happened on the actual show after the Queen's death is not part of this narrative, so as the story progresses, it moves more and more into AU territory.
Chapter I: One Year Left
"Merry Christmas, everybody!"
Dayzee smiled as she welcomed family, friends and acquaintances to her cozy coffee house. It was usually crowded, and even more so today, when she was hosting a big Christmas party and had invited virtually everyone she knew. It was not unusual for her to arrange these kinds of holiday celebrations for the homeless and lonely, whom she had dedicated most of her life to helping, but this year was special. It was the first Christmas since Stephanie Forrester passed away.
She had died only a few weeks before Christmas, and at first, Eric had not wanted to celebrate the holidays at all. After some persuading from Thorne, he had finally relented, but was adamant that he could not bear to spend Christmas Eve in the house where he had lived most of his life with Stephanie. So, instead, Dayzee had had the idea to invite the entire extended Forrester family to Dayzee's for the evening, so they could share this joyful time of year with those less fortunate than themselves.
And they had all come. Dayzee looked around at all the familiar faces - Marcus, Eric, Thorne and his daughter, Taylor and her children, Pam and Donna, Brooke, Rick and Hope, the entire Spencer family including Katie who had finally begun to overcome her deep depression and was cradling her newborn son, and even Ridge had returned to Los Angeles at last. It was amazing, she thought, what a diverse group of people they were, and how they were still tied together in so many ways - through children, through marriages and former marriages, through Forrester Creations… through Stephanie. Her powerful presence was really what they had all had in common, and now that she was gone, it was painfully obvious how little it would take for this family unit to crumble and fall apart under the pressure of its own internal conflicts.
"But not today", Dayzee thought to herself as she got on the stage and grabbed a microphone. "Tonight, we are all family."
The noise in the room subsided as Dayzee asked for everyone's attention.
"I would like to wish all of you a Merry Christmas", she began. "May your holidays be filled with peace and hope for a brighter future. Anthony…"
Her friend joined her on the stage, bringing his guitar. Dayzee smiled at him encouragingly, and he started playing a few chords. Together, they started singing a Christmas carol to Anthony's accompaniment, and soon most of the guests were singing along with them.
"O come all ye faithful…"
Suddenly, Anthony stopped playing and put his guitar down abruptly with a startled look on his face. It took a while for Dayzee to notice, as everyone else continued singing merrily, not seeing what had happened. After the song was over, the crowd burst into applause, but Anthony seemed not to notice. Instead, he rose and turned away to face the wall. Dayzee followed him with a vague sense of anxiety.
"Anthony, what's wrong?" she asked. "What was that all about?"
"Nothing", the man said, but he didn't meet Dayzee's concerned gaze.
"It didn't look like nothing to me", she insisted. "Come on, tell me! Are you feeling sick?"
"I'm fine", Anthony said in a voice that clearly signaled that whatever it was, he would not talk about it. "It's nothing. Don't worry, Dayzee."
But Anthony was worried. Because as he was sitting on that stage, playing the guitar and looking out over the singing crowd, he had had a sudden vision. He had experienced similar things before, and he knew from experience what they were - glimpses of the future. They were what had earned him a reputation on the streets of LA as a psychic. He had never been wrong yet. And this time, what he had seen had truly frightened him:
The sound of a Christmas carol. Then, a flash of light and a loud sharp sound. A carpet soaked in blood. Faces - some of the same faces that surrounded him today, but empty and lifeless. And the feeling of inevitability. The certain knowledge that somewhere, not too far away, something was about to happen that would set this horrible chain of events in motion. Something that he would be unable to stop.
The young girl sneaked into the badly lit Nevada nightclub. The place was thick with cigarette smoke and full of people. Some were sitting around tables, playing poker. Others were drinking at the bar. A couple of tired musicians and a haggard-looking singer were performing jazz standards on a small stage, but nobody seemed to pay any attention to them. In the darkest corners of the room, pairs of scantily clad ladies and seemingly wealthy men were engaged in intimate conversation. Dollar bills were exchanged and the couples quickly disappeared to somewhere more secluded. The newly arrived girl approached the bar. A couple of heads turned in the darkness - she seemed much too young to be there.
"What can I get you?" the bartender said, not one to ask too many unnecessary questions if the answers might get him in trouble.
"A job", the girl said and looked at the man behind the counter with a steady gaze. He laughed.
"Hey, Luigi!" he shouted, turning his back to the girl. "There's a kid here who wants to work for you!"
A large bearded man with black hair approached from an inner room behind the bar. His looked around in the darkness until he saw the girl standing there. He smiled enigmatically.
"Hello there, little lady", he said. "Do your parents know you are here?"
"Haven't got any", the girl retorted.
"Really?" Luigi laughed. "No mother? No father? Maybe you just rose from the waves of the sea, like Aphrodite? Judging by your looks, I might believe it."
Luigi looked at the girl. In spite of her heavy makeup, she looked quite young, thirteen, fourteen? Her dark eyes looked at him defiantly but not without a certain charm, he thought, and her face was beautifully framed by her short black hair. He reached out to touch her cheek with his fingers. She started and recoiled.
"What is your name, sweetie?" he asked, smiling again.
The girl paused, but only for a second. Then she answered with confidence:
It was probably for the best that she didn't reveal her real name, she thought. After all, someone might try to find her.
"All right, 'Laura', what kind of work is it that you do?" Luigi asked. He had clearly picked up on her hesitation but decided to let her get away with her lie.
"I could wait tables", the girl who had just named herself Laura answered. "Or I could help out in the bar, or… well, anything, really."
Luigi was still smiling in a way that was starting to make her uncomfortable.
"I think we'll go with the 'anything'," he said slyly. "Let's go into my office and discuss it."
A waitress had just walked up to them, carrying a tray of empty glasses. She couldn't have avoided hearing part of the conversation. Looking at Laura, she took her gently by the elbow.
"Get out of here, honey", she whispered. "This is no place for you."
Luigi shot the waitress a hateful look. He seized her by the arm and pushed her away violently. She dropped the tray and nearly fell to the floor, but managed to regain her balance at the last moment by grabbing hold of a table.
"You stay out of this!" Luigi hissed. "Now, look at the mess you just made!"
The waitress didn't reply, but started picking up the broken glass from the floor. Meanwhile, Luigi extended his hand to Laura.
"What do you say, little lady?" he cooed. "Shall we go somewhere private to settle the terms of your employment?"
Laura pondered his offer for a second. Her every instinct said she should just turn around and leave while she had the chance. She didn't like the atmosphere here, and Luigi frightened her. But where would she go? She couldn't go back home, she had sworn that she would never return. It was this or the street.
Slowly, Laura took Luigi's outstretched hand. He grinned.
"Merry Christmas, kid!" he said.