Disclaimer: All characters (unless otherwise specified) belong to Aaron Spelling, E. Duke Vincent, Gary Tomlin, NBC, et al and are used here strictly for non-profit entertainment purposes.
Spoilers: None, but it is a prequel to show canon.
Summary: It's that time of year, when the world falls in love. (A Christmas story.)
Christmas Eve, 1987
Olivia sighed, her hip jutting against the window sill as she gazed through the frozen pane. Her breath clouded the glass as she sighed, raising a glass of Chardonnay to her lips. Outside, the wind howled down the mountain, snowy gusts that whistled through the trees. Darkness was falling, the last rays of sun falling to the west as the blanket of snow glowed silver in the rising moonlight.
In the corner of the living room, a full Noble Fir stood grand, glowing with twinkling lights and shiny ornaments. Presents spilled out from beneath the boughs, a pastiche of red, green and gold, snowflakes, Santa and candy canes wrapping paper. A fire crackled in the stone hearth, popping with a warm abandon in the silent room.
The hillside chalet was pleasant enough, surrounded by breathtaking views of Lake Tahoe and the idyllic majesty of the snow-capped mountains. "The perfect Christmas rental!" the real estate agent gushed when she showed them the photos. Gregory, forever attracted to the idea of perfection, immediately wrote a check for the deposit.
She turned away from the window, glancing around the living room filled with someone else's furniture. It was fitting that they should spend this most revered of holidays away from everything that was familiar. Their own memories were silenced, banished over five hundred miles to the south. Where they seemingly belonged, she sullenly thought to herself as she gently swirled the wine in its crystal glass.
The rage that coursed between her and Gregory throughout the autumn had quelled in the weeks leading up to Christmas. She frowned, contemplating the golden wine as it caught the light from the fire. The passionate fury that usually erupted between them had faded to an uncomfortable silence, as if an unspoken agreement had been brokered. "A Christmas truce," she muttered with a sigh as she perched on the arm of the sofa. "Let's just get through it."
For the children, they would.
She allowed herself a small smile, recalling the awestruck way Caitlin and Sean wandered through the chalet for the first time earlier in the week. Every room was an adventure, filled with mystery and enchantment just waiting to be discovered. The bright red sled that came with the house had endured numerous trips down the gentle hill, their excited shrieks filling the chilled air.
The front door banged open, causing the bells hanging from the knob to jingle. "Mommy, we're back!" She looked up quickly as Sean ran into the room. His grin stretched ear-to-ear, his cheeks dusted rose as he looked up at her with bright eyes. "Well?" she asked, setting her wine glass aside as he jumped into her arms.
"It was great!" he exclaimed, squirming in her lap as Gregory walked into the room. "We went to the movies and ate lots of popcorn and candy." She looked up and frowned at her husband, who merely shrugged. "Then we went-"
"Sean, go help your sister," Gregory interjected, his eyebrow arched. Sean nodded seriously, jumped off his mother's lap and scampered through the living room. "Don't run." He turned back to his wife, meeting her eyes for a long moment before his attention turned to the nearly full glass of wine next to her. "Were we gone long enough?"
Olivia nodded, leaning back into the full sofa as she tucked her legs beneath her. "Everything's wrapped and hidden away in the guest bedroom closet." She rested her head in her hand, watching as he stoked the fire. "What did Sean need to help Caity with?"
"It's a surprise." He stood tall, wearing an amused grin. "They'd be upset if I ruined it for you."
She couldn't help but smile back at him, her eyes raising as she heard a pair of feet racing down the second floor hall. "Oh, I see." He collapsed next to her on the sofa, exhaling heavily as he rested his feet on the coffee table. His hand brushed against hers and she froze, glancing at him sideways. Other than sharing a bed, they hadn't been close enough to touch in months. "How many stores did they drag you to? At least five or six?"
He nodded. "How did you know?"
"I went through a similar ordeal with them before we left home." Gregory chuckled and a warm feeling bubbled in her chest. "How we ended up with two indecisive children, I'll never know."
"Well, there's a simple explanation," he replied, turning to her with a long gaze. "They take after their mother." She rolled her eyes, scoffing into the well of the glass. "It's true," he said with a reluctant grin, taking the wine glass from her as she reached to set it aside.
She huffed a sigh and folded her arms across her chest. "I'm not always indecisive," she mumbled.
Gregory's hand danced against hers, slipping his fingers between hers. She glanced down at their joined hands as her heart leapt into her throat. He watched her quietly for a long moment, the way the flickering light from the fireplace scattered on her face. "That's true," he said quietly. "You couldn't say 'Yes' fast enough when I proposed."
Her heart thundered in her chest as she kept her eyes firmly on their entwined hands. She smiled bashfully, slowly whispering back, "You didn't exactly give me any other option but to say 'yes'." She finally looked up, encouraged by the contented smile he shared with her.
The strains of music drifted down from the second floor, flooding the chalet with sugar melodies and heartfelt lyrics. His arm stretched along the top of the sofa, falling just enough to drape around her shoulders. "You could've said 'No'."
Her head went back, resting against his arm as she looked up at him with bright eyes. "I may be indecisive, but I'm not insane." His thumb danced against the stone of her engagement ring before he gently squeezed her hand. Her mind raced as she watched him, apparently fascinated by the bends of her fingers. Months of barely civil conversation…and now this? "Besides, you didn't have to ask."
He looked up, surprised. "Of course I did. I couldn't let someone else take you away."
She closed her eyes, letting his declaration wash over her. She felt her chin quiver and she inhaled sharply, wondering if he could tell. He answered her silent question a moment later by letting go of her hand, only to cup her chin. Her eyes opened slowly, focusing on the warmth in his dark eyes. "Where was I going?" she asked softly.
He shrugged, reaching up to tuck a lock of hair behind her ear. His fingers danced across her ear lobe, fingering it gently. "Somewhere. Far away." He looked down, chuckling with embarrassment under his breath. "A part of me still thinks you might…"
Olivia frowned, watching as he faltered for a moment and appeared speechless. But that was impossible. Gregory always knew what to say. His silver tongue was legendary. "That scares the hell out of me," she heard him finally admit in the barest of whispers.
She cocked her head, confused as she sat up, cupping his face. "What happened?" she asked softly, gently forcing him to look at her. A vein had been opened and he was vulnerable in her hands, painfully bleeding out.
The name wavered in agony between them and her stomach flipped, suddenly seeing the road before her. She shook her head, seeing the raw hurt that clouded his eyes. "Gregory-"
"Were you seriously considering it?"
"How did you-"
"We ran into him in town. Quite the coincidence to see him here, of all places." He sighed, meeting her gaze with a level of defeat that nearly frightened her. "He's pleased to know that we came up here for Christmas because it means you reconsidered your petition-"
His explanation knocked the breath out of her and she reached for his hand, squeezing it insistently. "I- I wasn't-"
"For divorce," he concluded glumly.
"No." She shook her head, the sound of her heartbeat thundering in her ears as she watched him. "I didn't need to reconsider anything because I never truly considered it in the first place." Gasping for breath, she forged ahead, watching as the light died in his eyes. "Gregory, please listen to me. I wasn't going to go through with it. I was angry."
She nodded slowly, a sickening feeling rising in her throat. "I wanted to hurt you," she admitted shamefully. "The way you hurt me."
He sighed heavily, running a shaky hand through his hair. "She meant nothing," he began and she groaned, raising her hands to her face.
"I can't hear this again!" she exclaimed. "Not now! It's Christmas."
"Do you think I wanted to hear this?" he bellowed, rising to his feet. "Merry Christmas, Gregory, your wife wants a divorce!"
She jumped to her feet, her eyes wide as she cried, "I don't want a divorce! I never wanted a divorce! I didn't go through with it!"
He turned away from her, his hands deep in his pockets. She watched him, unnaturally stiff as he stood in front of the fire. And now, having hurt him as much as he hurt her, she wanted nothing more than to take it all back. To heal him and make him forget. Gingerly, she reached out, wrapping her arms around his waist from behind. He flinched, feeling her forehead press into his back.
"Do you know why I couldn't go through with it?" she asked rhetorically. She sighed, pressing her hands over his heart. "It was right after my only meeting with Charles. He made me talk about everything that had happened and reliving it all utterly drained me. I just wanted to go home, curl up in bed and pull the covers over myself."
His head rotated slightly when she paused and she looked up, a sad smile lighting up her face. "I came home and found you crawling around on the living room floor, playing with Sean. You two were racing those little cars of his." She sighed when she felt his chest shudder slightly and she tightened her grip around him. "The way you looked at him…it made me remember why I fell in love with you. Why I said 'yes'."
He looked back at the fire, lost in the crackle and hiss of the flames. "I never went back to Charles," he heard her say. He closed his eyes, relishing the feeling of her arms around him. "As quickly as I got the idea, I forgot about it." Her voice fell away as she came around to face him, shame clouding her eyes as she looked up at him. She leaned into him, resting her head against his chest as his arms went around her.
"I can't imagine my life without you in it," he whispered, pure honesty rising in his throat. "All afternoon, following Caity and Sean around the shops, I tried to picture it…and I couldn't. I just couldn't."
"I'm sorry," she murmured, reaching up to cup his face. He squeezed her back, turning his face into her hair with a deep sigh. Her arms went around his neck, tears stinging her eyes as she heard him say simply, "I need you, Liv."
She looked up, gazing deep into his eyes as she nodded. "I know." But it was the crooked smile he gave her that made her pause, her fingertips gently combing through his hair. She pushed herself onto her toes, his arms tightening around her as she softly kissed him. A sigh died in his mouth as he took her in, tasting the oak-aged Chardonnay on her lips.
They broke apart slowly, their gazes locked together as he traced his thumb along her bottom lip. "I do love you," she whispered, her breath catching as his fingers swept across her cheek.
"What are you doing?"
Caitlin's question knifed through the silence, laced with tense confusion. They looked over, their blond children framed in the doorway. Yet, their daughter's attempt at composure couldn't belie the wariness clouding her eyes. Sean hovered nervously next to his sister, anxiously tugging at the hem of his red sweater.
Olivia's heart sank, watching their unease from across the room and knowing that her marital war had counted the children as casualties. She sighed, opening her mouth when Gregory cleared his throat and asked, "What does it look like we're doing?" He smiled down at her, taking her hand in his. His other hand trailed down her back until it nestled in the curve of her spine. "We're dancing," he said softly, looking into his wife's deep blue eyes.
They turned in a slow circle, engrossed in each other as the faint music drifted around them. He leaned in slowly, placing a feather kiss on her forehead. "I love you too," he whispered, his lips brushing her skin. "Merry Christmas."
The soft glow of lights from the Christmas tree danced over them, cocooning them. Her heart flipped in her chest when he squeezed her hand, slowly dancing her around the living room. "Merry Christmas, Darling."
A/N: "The Christmas Waltz" (words and music by Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne) has been covered by many singers, but I wrote this story while listening to She & Him's version (which can be found on their fantastic cd "A Very She & Him Christmas").