Title: Naughty or Nice
Author: Rina (Searider Falcon)
Pairing: Niles/C.C. Babcock
Disclaimer: The Nanny and its characters are all the property of Sony Pictures, High School Sweethearts, and Sternin & Fraser's Ink, Inc. I make no profit from writing and sharing this story.
A/N: Written for the 2012 Niles/CC Advent Calendar.
The thing about Santa's "naughty" list was that very few individuals truly qualified as bad enough to make the cut.
Megalomaniacal dictators. Most of Congress. The guy who dreamed up the concept of telemarketers. Those were individuals who didn't even merit a bundle of switches and a lump of coal on Christmas morn.
No, some folks simply had a bad run of worse luck, shaping otherwise good people into total humbugs in the face of the winter holidays.
For instance, at first glance, one would summarily qualify the cranky woman fuming nearby as a certain candidate for the naughty list, no doubt. From the moment she swept into the terminal, her chilly, foul mood broadcast for all to know with the staccato click of her stiletto heels and her snide remarks.
Great tidings of comfort and joy for the season seemed to have missed this young woman for many years now.
She answered to C.C. now, but he remembered a time when she'd gone by her actual given name. Chastity, though fortunate in so many material ways, found herself left wanting for many of the true gifts life had to offer in any season. Her family loved her, of course, but their emotional distance led a lonely little girl to grow into an embittered adult who never learned to extend much of any of her own love that she had to offer to those around her. And perhaps even worse, she hadn't learned to accept it in return.
Santa was fully aware of the exasperated looks she sent his way as he rang his bell that night. The frustrated scowl on her face only grew more frustrated when Maxwell Sheffield, the business partner in question, insisted on checking in with his family one more time before liftoff. She grumbled under her breath as she followed him to the wall of payphones, not at all understanding why he needed any more reassurance before leaving on the holiday.
To her credit, she did appear genuinely concerned as he received distressing news from the party on the other line.
"Well, that's terrible, Niles...yeah, well thank you for telling me...yes, Merry Christmas to you, too, Old Man."
"Ah, I gave Miss Fine a vase in lieu of a check and apparently she's just had to pawn her grandmother's watch to pay for presents she'd already bought the children."
Her sympathy was short-lived.
"Oh, that's tragic. It's positively Dickensian...oh, well!"
"I just wish that there was something I could do."
"But there's no time. Our flight leaves in ten minutes."
He smiled inwardly as a voice came over the intercom system.
"Flight 851 going to Washington Dulles International Airport will be delayed three hours."
There. That should offer him enough time to straighten out the situation.
"C.C., I'll be back in time, I promise."
"But Maxwell," she sputtered, "what if you miss the plane!? What about all those poor unfortunate people who are counting on us?"
He was already gone around the corner, though, so she found a new target instead to air out her aggravation.
"If you ring that bell one more time, I'll wring your neck!" she snapped.
It took a lot to surprise him but her outburst took him aback, and he, along with a few nearby travelers who overheard the outburst, gaped at her in shock.
C.C. gave him a fake smile that made him want to rethink leaving her off the Naughty list. Then she just looked plain disgusted with herself.
"Good lord, I did not just address a low-rent Salvation Army castoff as if he really were Santa," she murmured.
He shook his head and resumed ringing his bell. If she only knew...
A few moments later, the bell was snapped out of his hand and his world went black.
With a groan, he blinked his eyes and tried to focus through the pain that throbbed at his temple.
As his vision cleared, he realized a wide-eyed crowd surrounded him, a couple medics leaned over him ready to offer any necessary medical attention he might require. They assisted him in sitting up.
Well, she was nothing if not honest, he had to admit. She did warn him after all.
"Sir, are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'll be fine."
"Do you think you'll be up to answering a few questions from authorities?"
Oh, dear. As disappointed and upset as he was at this woman, he didn't wish to see her spend the holiday in a jail cell.
"No, no, I don't wish to press charges or anything. Please let her go."
"Are you sure?"
C.C. wrenched herself out of the security officers' grip and brushed her hands down the sleeves of her coat, trying to sweep away whatever filth she perceived to be left on it.
Santa motioned for her to step closer. After a moment's hesitation, she stepped forward and crouched by his side.
"I hope that the true spirit of Christmas eventually finds you someday."
Her lips curled into a frown and he could tell she was holding back a sarcastic retort, probably all too aware that she toed a rather thin line to say anything too nasty in that moment.
"Merry Christmas, Miss Babcock."
"Same to you, I guess." She gave him humorless smile as she stood and turned away and stalked off to find what he suspected would be the nearest bar in the terminal.
She wasn't ready yet, he knew.
C.C. Babcock wasn't sure if it was the producer or the parent in her that appreciated the authentic look of this particular mall Santa. No cheap nylon beard or ratty, worn costume for this Kris Kringle; with an actual snowy white beard and a plush, fur-lined suit, along with the perfect pleasant demeanor to match, this gentleman looked and behaved every bit the part, like he'd stepped straight out of an illustration from one of Natalie's books.
She suspected him to be a struggling older actor throwing himself into the role, of course, but so long as he impressed her daughter, she wouldn't judge too harshly.
Guiding her four year old into the line, she gave an inward sigh at the long wait ahead of them and the general din of the busy, crowded mall. C.C. may have mellowed considerably in the last few years, but patience never would be her strongest suit. Thank goodness her child took after her father in that regard or the wait would be unbearable.
Finally, after about half an hour, it was Natalie's turn. She stood to the side as her daughter assured Santa she'd been the very portrait of a good girl, which was mostly true, and offered a few suggestions for what she might like to see under the tree on Christmas morning.
Her daughter was growing up. Just a couple years ago, the very sight of Kris Kringle reduced the tot to terrified tears. Now she was chatting the old man's ear off.
The cameraman prompted Santa and Natalie to smile before snapping a picture, then Natalie hopped down from Santa's lap and ran across the platform to tug her mother's sleeve.
"Mama, your turn!"
C.C. gave her little girl a patient smile.
"Darling, Santa's not here to discuss presents with people as old as Mommy."
"Uncle Max says you're never too old for Santa."
She managed to restrain herself from rolling her eyes at "Uncle" Max's proclamation. Chancing a glance at the line of weary parents still waiting in line, she knew that the extra visit would likely exasperate them.
Natalie gave her hand an impatient tug.
Well, whatever. If it made her happy, she didn't really care what the rest thought.
Sharing an amused glance with Santa, she shrugged and stepped onto the platform. She'd make it a quick visit.
"Have you been a good girl this year?" Santa asked as she perched on his knee.
"Oh, of course!"
"That's not what Daddy says!" Natalie whispered, and Santa chuckled in amusement..
She flushed a bit, knowing that the definition of "naughty" she and Niles shared differed a great deal from her little girl's concept of the term.
Naughty for them was actually pretty damned nice.
Clearing her throat, C.C. winked at Natalie, causing her to stifle a giggle. God, she loved it when she could make that kid laugh.
"I'm pleading the fifth to any further questioning along those lines, just so you know, Mr. Claus."
He laughed at her tongue-in-cheek response. "Fair enough. Answer me this, though: are you happy?"
What an odd question. She gave Santa a somewhat confused look, wondering why the philosophical tone to his question, but hesitated not even for an instant as she answered.
"Very much so." Once again, her gaze shifted back to Natalie, who gave her a lopsided grin that reminded her so much of Niles. She smiled back at her daughter, her heart warming the way it always did when she looked at this dear child who'd changed their lives in so many ways.
"More so than you've ever been? Like you've been given more than you could ever have asked for?"
'Okay...nosy much?'she thought.
"Yeah..." she responded as she wondered where this was going.
"So no more whacking poor bell-ringing Santas upside the head with bells?" he asked quietly.
C.C. started to roll her eyes at what she expected to be another abstract, New Age-y, feel-good query that she only accepted from her therapist, but then his words caught up with her, conjuring a memory she wasn't particularly proud of to flash into her mind.
Her head whipped around to stare at the seemingly omniscient Saint Nick.
He couldn't possibly be! Could he? Dear god. What were the odds that she'd run into this particular Kris Kringle ever again on the opposite end of the country?
No, no, no. Someone must have tipped off some third-rate tabloid rag that she never saw about that unfortunate incident, but this guy, whoever the hell he was, managed to read it, remember it, and recognize her now.
"The Christmas Spirit finally found you at last, I believe, Miss Chastity."
It was him. But oh god. Her breath caught in her throat. With the exception of those present at her wedding and her immediate family, of course, her first name was a tightly held secret. Only the former Nanny Fine's age was a harder code to crack.
"Merry Christmas, Miss C.C., Little Natalie." The jolly old elf dismissed them with a cheery nod of his head before she could manage to formulate a response though her shock.
Oblivious to her mother's miniature freak out in progress, Natalie responded in kind and then pulled her mother away.
C.C. was still giving startled backward glances while her daughter tried to lead her to the nearest toy store when Niles slipped up behind her to plant a kiss upon her cheek, somehow managing to shift the giant pile of packages and bags he held in order to do so.
"You look like you just saw your old pal Jacob Marley, my pet."
"Only because you just showed up," she responded in a whisper low enough that their young one wouldn't hear. She decided not to tell him just how close he was to the mark, considering her brush with an apparent Ghost of Christmas Past.
She still offered a kiss to his cheek as well, despite her snide remark, and he glowed with affection at her as she pulled away.
"You still haven't told me what you want for Christmas, you know. If you leave me to my own devices, I may end up taking some shopping advice from Fran."
C.C. gave a not-entirely-faked shudder at the thought. "Don't you dare!"
"Daddy, I'm getting tired of walking."
"Alright, princess, you want me to carry you too?"
As C.C. took a several of the bags and packages from Niles, freeing up an arm so he could pick up Natalie and carry her, she considered her family and the how they really were her world now.
She knew she already had everything she could possibly want for Christmas. So long as she could wake up on Christmas Day and each day afterward to their happy faces, to love them and have their love in return, that was all she'd ever want or need. Santa Claus, or whoever that man might be, was right in that regard.