24. 'Tis The Season

It had been a week since Klaus and Rebekah had left for New Orleans. He'd called and provided a hasty update on what had happened and although both Elijah and Hayley would have given anything to provide assistance, they knew that keeping Hope safe was still the number one priority. So until Klaus felt it necessary, Elijah was not to leave them unprotected. This meant that by some cosmic plot twist, she got to spend Christmas with the two most important people in her life.

Without words, they'd tacitly agreed that they would not discuss the future, not discuss too much of the past, they would live in the present and... they would share a bedroom - in so doing, harness as much joy as time allowed.

Elijah had finally told her about his motivations for pushing her away. It had been midnight and they'd just made love for third time. Being lethargic and ensconced in a warm, sated glow did not stop her from giving him hell about a decision he'd made without her knowledge. The argument had been heated but settled when exasperated, he'd rolled her beneath him, cupped her face between his hands and whispered, "I'm sorry," with the kind of sincerity that only Elijah could muster.

"You were a dick, you know that right?" Her words were soft but even the fire in her eyes couldn't hide her vulnerability. That knowledge had cut him deeply.

"I did what I thought was best." She'd tried to interrupt but he put a finger to her lips. "However misguided."

She'd glared at him, her non-verbal cues clearly conveying, don't you do it again. He chuckled, his tongue playing at the soft indent just behind her earlobe. When she gasped, he knew the storm had passed.

Later she woke to the now familiar mewing of her daughter in the next room. Hayley struggled through layers of sleep, already feeling the bed dip where Elijah moved. She felt his lips against her naked shoulder. "Sleep, I'll see to her."

"No, no, it's ok." She didn't want to miss any moment with her.

He understood. "I'll get her and bring her in."

Hayley nodded, happy with the compromise. His lips pressed a quick kiss to her temple before he exited the room wearing only pyjama bottoms. Hayley roused herself and switched on the bedside lamp, searching under the covers for her discarded t-shirt. She couldn't find it. Dammit. In the golden glow of light from the lamp, she spotted Elijah's neatly folded shirt at the foot of the bed and reached for it. It would have to do. Sitting in only his shirt and her cotton panties, her daughter was brought into the bedroom wearing a red onesie with Santa's Little Helper printed on the front. As usual, Hope's eyes lit up when she saw her, her smile broad as she cooed with pleasure.

"How is anyone this frikken happy at 3am?"

"I suspect," Elijah said as he deposited her into Hayley's arms, "it has something to do with seeing her mother."

She narrowed her eyes. "A slightly rumpled tomboy?"

His lips curled into that elusive smile she had come to know so well, the one that caused deep, attractive creases around his mouth. "You look lovely."

Their eyes met over Hope's head and Hayley realised she could get lost in these moments. It was a constant battle to remind herself that this was not real – or it was real, but it was not sustainable. Soon they would return to New Orleans and she would face the prospect of marrying Jackson. The apprehension that was never far from the surface reared its head. But the look in his eyes - so warm, so loving, made it easy to push away the anxiety threatening their ill-advised cocoon. She knew the memory of these days would only make what they had to do harder. But it was Christmas, she kept telling herself. Didn't they deserve a damned break from all the frikken drama?

Her eyes went to his lips, so close, but the spell broke when Hope demanded her attention.

"Her bottle," Elijah said, the smirk on his face evidence that he knew exactly where her thoughts were headed.

"Right." Hayley watched him leave the room; his hair still sexily mussed from sleep, his pyjama pants riding low on his hips. Oh boy. She focused on the child.

"Hiya baby," she whispered in that singsong voice that all adults tended to adopt when speaking to an infant. "That's your Uncle Elijah," she continued. "He will always make sure you have a choice, baby girl." Hope pumped her legs with excitement, the stout Santa Claus on her chest winking merrily at Hayley. "It's almost Christmas. Yes, it is." The baby's plump little hand went into her mouth, sucking hard and Hayley laughed. "Aww honey, your snack's on its way."

"Actually, it's arrived." Elijah handed her a baby bottle festooned with smiling snowmen. Rebekah really did go all out.

Hayley sat back against the pillows and watched her daughter devour her drink. "I don't know where she gets her appetite from."

Elijah settled beside her, both of them watching the child, fascinated. "I might testify if called upon to admit that I have observed her mother enjoying-"

"Hey! Those were cravings."

"I did not think it necessary to point out that cravings only apply when you're pregnant."

Hayley rolled her eyes at him but smiled. "So what if we love our dinner right?" she asked Hope. The baby made no sound, her eyes already drooping. Elijah rubbed her little foot, the appendage covered in a snowflake speckled sock, both watching her in silence until her lips ejected the teat and her breathing became soft and even.

"Perhaps... we could take Hope sledding."

"Great idea." She raised a brow. "Except, there's no snow."

Elijah smiled as if he knew something she didn't. "There's a small rink of some kind in town. Rebekah mentioned it before their premature departure."

"Manufactured snow?" Hayley reiterated.

"A variation, yes. The effect I assure you will be similar to the real thing. Well," he conceded, "one hopes."

Hayley shifted the sleeping baby slightly. "You would go sledding... with Hope... on fake snow?"

"Is that so hard to believe?" Elijah leaned over and placed a kiss to the tiny foot he had been caressing. Her heart flipped over.

"Kinda, yes. Not the doing something for Hope part," she clarified. "The you-in-a-suit-on-fake-snow part. I might pay good money to see that."

His lips twitched. "Well, looks like you'll be a witness to a Christmas miracle for free. 'Tis the season after all." Hayley caught herself smiling at him like a fool. In her defence however, he seemed to be doing the same thing. He cleared his throat.

"She certainly sleeps like you do," Elijah commented. Hope's one arm was flung out to the side, careless in her slumber.

"My arms are not flung out like this."

"I beg to differ." She gasped, light-hearted. "I speak only from recent experience."

"Damn you noble Elijah," she teased. "Besides, I wake up in your arms every morning." Her eyes flicked to his and away, a little shy.

"Yes," he drawled. "I do wonder why. Perhaps it is a tactic I've devised in order to keep those arms from poking at me."

She laughed out loud but sniggered softly when Hope stirred. Eventually, she frowned under Elijah's intense gaze. "What? What's wrong?"

"Nothing. Nothing at all. You're just… beautiful… especially when you're happy."

"I guess I'm finding this damned crazy situation kind of inspires it." Their eyes held for a long time before she carefully rose, taking Hope back to her room.

When she returned, she stood on her side of the bed. On her head she wore a red Santa hat she'd found in Hope's room. "If you're that uncomfortable, perhaps I should sleep in Hope's room. There's a-"

Hayley squeaked when with a lightning smooth action, he toppled her onto the bed and then tucked her comfortably into the side of his body.

"Charming," he drawled, lifting the red and white hat off her head.

"Thought I'd get you into a festive mood." She did some tucking of her own and threw her leg over his, securing her arm across his chest. "Just making sure my limbs are appropriately flung out."

He laughed quietly, the sound deep and sexy. "No complaints." A beat. "It's Christmas Eve," Elijah said.

"Yeah. Not that I could forget. I'm reminded every time I see the giant tree downstairs and all Hope's holiday themed jumpers." Elijah groaned and together they laughed. "There are no gifts from me though. I don't even have anything for Hope."

"She has you. That's the best gift she could ever have asked for."

Hayley nodded in the darkness. "I know the feeling."

"So do I."

He was referring to the time they had together. She shifted, her body, tightening her grip around him. "What are we doing Elijah?"

"Becoming adept at making sacrifices for the sake of ones family."

"I might need a 1000 years to practice."


"No." She sighed heavily, suddenly tired. "It's Christmas."

She felt him nod and leaned into his kiss. It was soft and sweet and irrationally made her want to cry. Perhaps it was the sleep deprivation.

"So, Christmas festivities in town tomorrow it is then."

Hayley nodded. It hit her how much she wished that this could be their lives. The luxury of raising a family away from all the crazy. Like a real family.

She half asleep when she heard him say, "yes." Had she said that aloud?

Elijah covered her hand which lay across his heart with his own and they both drifted off to sleep.

a/n: Christmas fluff. Happy holidays everyone x