Des Joyeux Noël
Title: Des Joyeux Noël
Natalia pressed closer to the window, staring wide-eyed down at the lights getting ever closer.
“I still can’t believe we’re spending Christmas in London, of all places,” she murmured, tightening her fingers around Olivia’s hand as the plane shuddered in the clouds. “I wish Emma were with us; Christmas is about family.”
Olivia fought against rolling her eyes. They’d been having this argument since that late November day she’d announced the possibility of franchising the Beacon overseas. Natalia had been thrilled, until she realized that the first meetings were going to be held the week of Christmas, due to the busy schedules of all parties. The only time available for everyone and their lawyers was the three days before Christmas Eve, and no matter how many people Olivia threatened, she wasn’t able to get flights back home until the 27th.
“I did tell you that you didn’t have to come; we are partners in this, but I could have handled these meetings without you, and you could have stayed home and spent Christmas with her and Phillip and Beth. Even if I decide to buy this hotel, we’d have to come back in a few months to finish the paperwork anyway. Besides, I get more frequent flier miles on Delta like this.”
Natalia sighed, and leaned back in her seat. “I know… But I didn’t want you to be alone either. It’s just… this is the first Christmas we’ve not spent together since we moved to the farm.”
“You know Emma is excited, right? Everything she asked for this year involves something British. Somehow, I don’t imagine I’ll be able to talk one of those guards at the Tower of London out of his uniform. She wants one for her Halloween costume next year.” Olivia tugged Natalia closer and pressed her lips against Natalia’s in a soft kiss, and whispered, “I’m glad you came. I always miss you when I have to go away. And just think… you, me, Christmas morning in a gorgeous hotel room, champagne on ice, chocolate… we haven’t had a romantic weekend away in a long time.”
As Olivia had predicted, Natalia blushed at the images that raced through her mind, and Olivia settled back as the pilot announced their approach to Heathrow Airport. Her job was done, and she grinned, satisfied. If only she didn’t have those damned meetings, they could spend all their time in that hotel room.
“Honey, I’m home!” Nikki called out cheerfully as she toed the door shut and dropped her keys on the table in the hall. It was Trisha’s night to manage the club, so after she’d finished the day’s administrative work, Nikki had taken off to do some last minute holiday shopping that Helen had been putting off for weeks. She dumped the bags she was carrying onto the couch and wandered into the kitchen, searching for her partner.
“Helen?” she called again, not finding her anywhere on the main floor. Climbing the stairs, she found Helen asleep in their room, burrowed under what looked like every comforter they owned. Shaking her head, she walked quietly to the bed, straightened the top blanket, and pressed a light kiss to Helen’s temple. Shutting the door behind her, she went back downstairs and brought the shopping bags into the kitchen. She might as well wrap the last minute gifts, and then start dinner. The scent of cooking food usually woke Helen from her naps, and it was safer than trying to wake her up personally. Helen was not a morning person, no matter the time of day.
Sure enough, an hour or so later, she heard slow, heavy footsteps on the stairs as she stirred the stir-fry in the wok. Arms slid around her waist as Helen pressed against her from behind, as well as she could anyway. At seven months pregnant and only 1.6m tall, Helen did look like she’d swallowed a large beach ball. Not that Nikki would ever tell Helen that. For one thing, she thought Helen looked absolutely gorgeous pregnant. For another, Helen’s legendary temper had become even more legendary since the start of the second trimester.
Helen didn’t respond, resting her forehead against Nikki’s back instead. Deciding she could leave dinner alone for the moment, Nikki turned around in Helen’s arms and wrapped her arms around her in a loose hug.
Helen was only working half days now at the public relations firm she’d been at for the last four years. She’d never admitted it, but Nikki knew that she’d finally been burned out working full time with a prison reform organization, and when a friend had offered her a job at his PR firm, she’d jumped at it, deciding to volunteer with Monica Lindsey’s organization instead.
“Mike wanted me with him at this meeting today. Some Yanks want to buy a hotel here for their franchise, and he’s representing the local owners. It lasted until half four.”
Nikki swallowed the urge to recommend again that Helen start her maternity leave. No matter how exhausted Helen was at the end of the day, any mention of it had Nikki sleeping on the couch. It was not a comfortable couch.
“Christmas is in three days, why are they doing this now?” With one hand, she rubbed Helen’s back gently, and then slid that hand around to rest against Helen’s belly.
Helen just shrugged. “Something about vacation plans, or something. But there are two more meetings scheduled that he wants me at, and then I’m off ‘til after New Year’s.”
Nikki turned partway around and added more sauce to the stir-fry. “Will you be up for tomorrow night after all that? Trish will understand if you don’t want to come by the club.”
Chix was closed from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Eve, and a few years earlier had started hosting a Christmas bash every December 23rd to make up for it. Neither owner had expected it to be as big a hit as it turned out to be, rivaling the New Year’s Eve party in terms of profits made. Helen had sworn she would come to this one, even if she couldn’t dance and drink the night away as she usually did.
“I’ll be there, if only to keep the young ones from chatting you up.” Helen leaned up and kissed Nikki, nipping at her lower lip. “That’s my job, I need to remind ‘em that.”
“Wanna dance, pretty lady?” At least, that was what Natalia decided the woman had said. Even without the noise of the club, Natalia was still having trouble deciphering the accents in London. Olivia had no trouble, but she was currently at the bar ordering drinks, and this was the third woman who’d asked her to dance since Olivia had abandoned her.
“No, thanks, I’m here with someone.”
And really, when it came to dancing, she was better at the foxtrot or the tango, which she’d learned with Emma two years ago for a girl scouts thing, than she was at the type of dancing she was watching on the dance floor. A place like this wasn’t high on her list of places to go, either, but Olivia had heard from somewhere about this club and their Christmas party, and wanted to go. Looking around, Natalia frowned when she saw Olivia leaning against the bar. She was laughing with some tall brunette in a skimpy tank top who was mixing drinks.
Olivia waded her way through the crowd around the bar and waited for one of the bartenders to notice her. She hadn’t expected this many people at the club tonight. To many years of going to ladies night with Doris back in Springfield, she supposed. London would have more lesbians in it than her small town, and a club like this wouldn’t be out of the ordinary. She didn’t think so, anyway. The club scene had never really been her thing anyway, so she didn’t have much basis for comparison, though she liked to dance. This one, Chix, seemed like fun at least, good music, lots of alcohol, no men. That really wasn’t the surprise of the night; the surprise was that Natalia had agreed to come at all. Of course, she’d agreed only to “keep Olivia out of trouble,” but she’d come, nonetheless. She was looking forward to dancing with her. After a martini, if she ever got one.
“Hiya, what can I get you?” A tall brunette appeared out of nowhere in front of her, and Olivia grinned. Perfect timing.
“Two martinis, extra olives.”
“Right up.” The brunette eyed her as she pulled down two glasses. “First time here?”
“What makes you think that?”
“Not often we get Americans in here, especially this time of year. You tend to get noticed.”
“I’m here on business, heard there was a good party here.” Olivia glanced back, and smirked when she saw a tall blonde walk away from where Natalia sat, a disappointed look on her face.
“We like a good time. You came on the right night, we’ll be closed until New Year’s.” She added several olives to both glasses and pushed them across the bar. “Do you want a tab?”
Olivia took a sip on her martini. “Sure, if you keep making martini’s like this, I may need one.”
The bartender grinned. “Welcome to Chix.”
The martinis were very good, as was the atmosphere, and the music. When they finished their first round, Olivia pulled Natalia out to the dance floor and Natalia realized she was actually having fun. Dancing with Olivia was always an amazing experience, but with the Christmassy pop music and the warm feeling from the alcohol and the shared laughter and the eyes only for each other, fun seemed like such a small word for the way she was feeling. Free, maybe. Or maybe it was how, when she kissed Olivia, no one stared at them like they still did at home. Free was the right word, she decided, pressing herself tightly against Olivia.
As the latest song ended, Olivia pulled back from their embrace enough to say, “I’m going to find the bathroom, can you get me another martini? There’s a tab in my name.”
They parted ways, and Natalia made her way up to the bar, waiting impatiently behind a woman who seemed to be ordering all the whiskey in the place. Someone else was ordering a diamond romeo, a drink that Natalia had never heard of, not even when she waitressed at a bar.
When she finally got to the bar, she found herself facing the same woman who’d been laughing with Olivia earlier. “What can I get you?” the woman asked, a pleasant if slightly harassed looking smile on her face.
“A martini with extra olives, a coke, and two waters, please.”
The woman nodded, and Natalia looked around for Olivia, but didn’t see her yet. She did see someone else she recognized, however, and her eyes widened. “Oh!” she exclaimed quietly.
“Something wrong?” The bartender was looking between her and the woman Natalia was looking at with a wary look on her face.
“No, sorry. I just wasn’t expecting to see someone I recognized here.” She turned back fully to face the bar, and found her drinks waiting for her. “Thank you. This is on Olivia Spencer’s tab?”
“Sure thing, darling,” the bartender said, writing something down and moving on to the next customer.
Natalia realized she wasn’t going to be able to carry all the glasses, so she settled for pushing them a few feet down the bar away from the crowd wanting more alcohol, and perched on a stool. A few minutes later, Olivia materialized in front of her, a cheerful grin on her face. Natalia reached out and pulled her closer, resting her hand on the back of Olivia’s neck as she leaned up to kiss her.
“Mmmm…” Olivia moaned, pulling back a few minutes later. “What did I do to deserve that?”
Natalia grinned back, feeling a warmth settle into her bones as she leaned into her partner. “I love you.” She picked up the martini, took a sip, and handed it to Olivia. “Extra olives, just like you like it.”
Olivia took it from her and drank. “Thank you, my lady.” She took another sip, and set it aside. “Does this make you my Romeo, then? Or my Juliet?”
They rested there by the bar for a few more minutes, as Olivia finished her drink and shared the olives. They both drank the water, though Olivia did roll her eyes when Natalia handed her the glass, and then they danced.
Olivia never imagined she’d be having fun dancing to Christmas pop music, but she was. A woman would have had to have a heart of stone not to be affected by the energy of the club, and she laughed out loud as she twirled Natalia around and pulled her close again. Natalia’s face was flushed and her eyes were shining with laughter as they pressed together, a fire burning inside her belly. The last echoes of the music faded away as Natalia tightened her arms around Olivia’s shoulders. When another song didn’t start playing, they and everyone else in the club turned to look at the DJ to see a blonde woman in black climb up onto one of the tables with a microphone.
“I hope everyone is having fun tonight!” the woman started, and laughed when someone in the crowd yelled out, “Do you want some fun, Trish?”
“Come find me later, Gina, and we’ll talk. Now, we’ve had a request to slow things down for a few songs, so that a pretty bird can dance with my lovely co-owner. Now, and I quote, ‘Nikki, get your lovely arse out from behind the bar and dance with your wife,’ before she decides to go home with someone else for Christmas!”
There was more catcalling as Olivia and Natalia watched, interested, as the brown-haired bartender blushed and was pushed away from the bar by her other bartenders and made her way across the dance floor. The crowd parted way for her, and Olivia watched, interested, as Nikki walked up to a short, very pregnant woman and hug her, laughing, and then flash two fingers at the blonde woman on the table.
“Hey… isn’t that the woman from the PR firm? Helen something?” Olivia asked, vaguely recognizing the woman the bartender had walked up to.
Natalia giggled into Olivia’s shirt where she had pressed her cheek above her breast. “I thought that was her, when I saw her earlier.”
They watched as the music started again, and the two women started dancing. Nikki leaned down and kissed Helen gently, and Natalia sighed. “They look happy,” she breathed.
Olivia held her tighter, and then moved her hands to rest on Natalia’s hips. “Everyone should be happy at Christmas,” she murmured, starting to sway. “I’m definitely happy.”
As the sun peeked its way through the curtains on Christmas Eve morning, Nikki was already awake, lying on her side just watching Helen sleep. A cuddler by nature, that was the one thing that annoyed Helen the most about being pregnant, that she no longer could wrap herself around Nikki while she slept. Nikki missed it to, but she could not complain too much about the added distance that let her simply enjoy watching the Scottish woman breathe, especially on mornings like this one, with no alarms going off two hours after Nikki crawled into bed after work. After awhile, Helen shifted on the bed and her breathing changed, and Nikki smiled to herself. She was waking up at last.
Nikki reached up and trailed a finger down Helen’s nose, and laughed softly when Helen scrunched up her nose in response, but refused to open her eyes. Nikki wrapped her arm around Helen’s waist, pulled her closer and closed her eyes as well.
Only a few minutes passed before Nikki started chuckling, helplessly. She slid her hand around from Helen’s back to her belly, grumbling, “She’s kicking me!”
“She’s saying, ‘don’t be waking me, it’s too early,’” Helen replied, unapologetic.
“It’s ‘too early’ in Quebec, darling; here it’s already half nine.”
“Ugh…” Helen groaned.
“Didn’t you want to do one last bit of holiday shopping? You were complaining the other day that you had nothing yet for Claire and Susanne, and you wanted a kilo of chocolate yesterday morning.”
Helen said nothing for a moment, and then she shifted against Nikki, pressing her lips lightly to Nikki’s shoulder. “I hate it when you’re right, you know…” she mumbled.
Hoping Helen couldn’t see her, Nikki grinned victoriously for a second before forcing herself back into a straight face. Rubbing once against Helen’s belly, she trailed her hand down lower.
“If you get up now, you’ll be duly rewarded tonight. An early Christmas present, as it were.”
Helen blinked her eyes open, her eyelashes brushing oh so lightly against Nikki’s skin. “You are way too good to me.”
“Because I’ll shag you even when you’re grumpy? It’s hardly a sacrifice.” She winced when Helen pinched her side, but said nothing more.
They lay there for a couple more minutes before Helen rolled over onto her back. “Alright, you win. But I get extra cream cheese on my bagel this morning.”
“No full English breakfast?”
“No, but don’t forget we’re having porridge and crepes tomorrow. We’ll need to get apples, too.”
Olivia woke to the delicious sensation of slim fingers sliding inside her and teeth nipping at her shoulder, and she responded with a low moan and a tightening of her leg around Natalia’s hip.
Rolling her hips in time with Natalia’s slow thrusts, she whimpered, “I didn’t wear you out last night?”
Natalia laughed against Olivia’s breast as she kissed her way down to her nipple, which she bit lightly before answering. “I woke up and was inspired,” she said, trailing her tongue over the puckered skin.
Olivia could believe that. Happily drunk, they’d returned to their hotel room and made love for several hours. They’d finally collapsed in exhaustion around 3am, staying tangled together as they fell into sleep. As sleepy as she still was, she had to admit that the sight of Natalia leaning over her, her thigh adding to the wonderful pressure of her thumb against Olivia’s clit, was equally inspiring. She came with a low moan, pulling Natalia up so she could kiss her deeply.
“Mmm… Good morning,” Olivia said as Natalia settled back down against her, and she felt her smile against her shoulder.
“I think so.” Natalia hugged her tightly. “It’s Christmas Eve.”
“Yeah…” Olivia slid her hand down Natalia’s back. “We need to call Emma before she goes to bed tonight.”
“And find her something ‘British’ enough.”
“Think she’ll take the tea from the hotel coffee service, and we can spend the day in bed?”
“Only if you want her to ignore us until Valentine’s Day.”
“That’s a good point… We could take another vacation then, and have Doris keep an eye on her.”
Natalia started laughing so hard that she had to roll away. “She would hate you for life. Emma would have her job after two hours…”
Olivia followed her, and pressed a hand to Natalia’s cheek and kissed her. “You make another very good point. I should reward you for all your brilliance.”
“But, what about Christmas shopping?” Olivia raised her head at Natalia’s question; her lover had a serious look on her face, but her eyes were amused, and Olivia grinned.
“Shopping can wait,” she said, pulling the comforter up over them as she lowered herself once more onto her partner.
Nikki shivered as she settled into a chair outside the café, and wrapped her hands around her coffee. She’d left Helen at the cheese shop down the road; every year Helen insisted that Neal’s Yard Dairy in Covent Garden was the only place she could get cheese for Christmas, and every year she put it off until the day before. It had been eight years, but Nikki still hated this particular trip, with the tiny, crowded shop and it had become tradition for her to drop Helen off and go imbibe in expensive coffees and try not to freeze. Crowds she could deal with, but she hated the feeling of being trapped in small places, and preferred to do her shopping in the larger stores.
She sat there contemplating her coffee and people watched, imagining the next year when she and Helen would make this trip, their baby in tow. Their baby. She still had trouble wrapping her brain around the fact that soon they would have their own little family, but the thought warmed her. She was distracted a few minutes later, when she overheard two women talking. It wasn’t so much the conversation that caught her attention, but the voices, and she realized that she recognized one of the American accents she could hear. Twisting around in her chair, she saw behind her two women, one whom she remembered clearly from the night before, and one she thought was vaguely familiar.
“I can’t believe Phillip is taking Emma miniature golfing on Christmas Eve!” the one she recognized (Olive? Olivia?) was saying, holding up what looked like a Blackberry phone where the other woman could see it.
“Well, it has been really warm out the last two weeks… And you know her, she probably talked him into it so well that he thought it was his idea in the first place,” the shorter brunette replied, smiling indulgently as she read whatever was on the phone. “It could be worse… Remember when Sahira’s family moved in a couple years ago, and all she could talk about for weeks after was going to India? I think we all would have been willing to buy her a one way ticket there if it would stop her talking about it for ten seconds.”
“That is true.” The woman put her phone away, and wrapped her arm around the shorter woman’s shoulders. “Any thoughts yet on what to get her for Christmas? ”
“I’m sure we’ll find something. It can’t be that hard to find her something ‘British,’ right? I mean, we are in London…”
“Hmm… Hey, you want something to drink?” The two women stopped a couple meters from where Nikki was sitting, and looked towards the door.
“Apple cider, if they have it?”
“Ok. It looks crowded in there, I can go get it if you want to wait out here. It’s not too cold out.”
“Thanks, Olivia.” The shorter woman waited until Olivia was inside, and then sat down at the table next to Nikki’s.
Nikki was busy congratulating herself on remembering the name of one of the several hundred customers who’d been at Chix the night before, and she didn’t notice that the woman was staring at her, confused, until she heard, “I’m sorry… But have we met?”
Nikki looked up, startled, and met the gaze of the other woman. She smiled self-consciously, and nodded. “Yes, at Chix, I was tending bar last night during the party.”
“You’re… Nikki, right? You were dancing with Helen Stewart.”
Nikki’s eyes widened in shock. “You know Helen?”
“She was at several of the meetings we came to London for. We didn’t speak much, but they introduced us the first day.”
“Oh. You are the Americans she was telling me about, then.”
“Must be,” the woman smiled prettily, and Nikki was momentarily distracted by the sight of dimples. “I’m Natalia Rivera,” she said, holding out a hand.
“Nikki Wade.” They shook hands, and there was a moment of awkward silence. “How did you enjoy the club? Not going to ditch us for Charlie’s next time you are in town?” she asked, naming another popular club in the same area as Chix.
“It was fun, more than I expected.” At Nikki’s confused look, she added, “I used to work in a bar; that had a very different atmosphere from your club.”
“Well, we do what we can. The Christmas event has become one of the most popular events in Tower Hill.” She drained the rest of her coffee, and set her coffee mug aside. “Is this your first time in London?”
Natalia laughed lightly. “Yeah. Olivia had those meetings to go to; she’s been here before, I never have.”
“You two looking for gifts for someone?” Natalia looked at her askance, and she clarified, “I couldn’t help but overhear when you guys walked up.”
“Oh, right. Yeah, our daughter, Emma. She wanted us to bring her back the uniform of one of those Tower of London guards, or else something ‘British,’ but we don’t really know what that would be.” She shrugged. “We’ll find something, I suppose.”
“Have you been to Oxford Street, yet? There are a lot shops there, including several souvenir shops. Maybe you’ll find something there?”
“I don’t think so. We can get there on the subway?”
“Yeah, it is pretty easy, four stops along there.”
“You’re in luck, they had cider,” another voice interjected into the conversation. Olivia had walked up unseen, standing close beside Natalia’s chair, her posture the epitome of the alpha female.
Natalia looked up, and Nikki watched as her smile became more intimate and she reached up to take the cup Olivia was holding out. “Thank you, sweetheart.” She gestured towards Nikki with her other hand as she nudged out another chair with her foot. “This is Nikki, from last night?”
Nikki held out her hand genially as Olivia eyed her. “Nice to officially meet you. Nikki Wade.”
After a beat Olivia took her hand. “Olivia. Nice place you have there.”
“Nikki was just mentioning some places we could go shopping,” Natalia added in.
Olivia took a seat, eyeing Nikki over the top of her coffee cup. “Really. Any where good?”
Nikki shrugged. “I was saying, Oxford Street is one of the best shopping areas in London, and Regent Street is nearby. The souvenir shops there also have some higher quality things than some of the other places you’d see, if you are looking for nicer gifts.”
Natalia reached over and nonchalantly took Olivia’s hand, pulling it to rest on her own leg, and Nikki wondered if Olivia realized how much her eyes softened when they looked at Natalia.
Olivia started to say something, but Nikki’s mobile chose that moment to go off and she smiled apologetically as she pulled it out of her coat pocket and looked at the number. “Hello, darling.”
“Hiya, Nikki. I’m all done.”
“Ok. Do you want me to bring you anything on my way back?”
“Coffee with sugar?”
“How about hot chocolate?”
She could hear Helen sigh through the phone. “Fine, hot chocolate. I cannot wait to have a coffee again.”
Nikki didn’t hide her grin, “I know. I’ll be there in a few minutes?”
“Aye. Love you, sweetheart.”
“Love you too.”
She tucked her phone away again and turned her attention back to the other women, who had been talking quietly during her quick conversation.
“Well, I should be going now. It was nice to see you two again. If you come back to London, I hope you come by the club again.” Nikki held out her hand once more, and shook hands with both women.
“Thank you again, for a lovely evening last night and also the advice,” Natalia replied, slipping her arm through Olivia’s.
“Merry Christmas,” Olivia added, smiling pleasantly at her for the first time in the conversation.
“Happy Christmas to you two as well.”
Later that evening, Natalia pushed open the door to their hotel room and stepped back as Olivia followed her in, made a huge show of dropping all their shopping bags, and collapsed on the bed face down. She rolled her eyes at Olivia’s dramatics and picked up three of the bags and carried them to the table, leaving the others where they were for the time being.
“I swear to God if I ever hear Madonna sing ‘Papa Don’t Preach’ again, I will shoot someone…” she heard, muffled, from the direction of the bed.
“It did get old after the tenth time they played it,” Natalia said agreeably. “It wouldn’t have been so bad if that line hadn’t been so long to check out.”
Olivia rolled over and looked at her upside down. “What are you doing?”
“I’m wrapping Emma’s presents,” she replied, pulling scissors and tape from somewhere in her suitcase, as well as wrapping paper that Olivia didn’t remember her buying from one of the bags on the floor. “They should let these through the x-ray machines wrapped, right?”
“I think so. Do you want some help?”
“No, I got it.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah. You need to take your pills anyway.” When she heard Olivia mutter “Aww, Mom,” she balled up a scrap piece of wrapping paper and tossed it at her. “Don’t think I didn’t notice that you ‘forgot’ to bring them with you today… Go take your pills, take a shower. I’ll join you when I’m done. If you are good.”
Olivia grumbled, but she sat up on the bed and watched Natalia for a few minutes, a soft smile on her face. Shaking her head, she finally stood up and walked over to where Natalia was sitting. When she looked up, Olivia leaned down and kissed her. She pulled back enough to whisper “I love you,” before kissing her once more, lightly, and walked away.
It didn’t happen often, but when it did, Helen loved those mornings when she woke up before Nikki, and could just watch her sleep for awhile. It still surprised her some days that they had been together for over eight wonderful years, because she felt like she’d loved Nikki forever, and her life before her was meaningless. And here they were, early on Christmas morning, snuggled together in their warm bed, their baby between them kicked against her lightly, and Helen fell in love all over again. They both had changed greatly from who they were when they first met, and she couldn’t imagine life any other way.
Nikki shifted against her, her hand moving from Helen’s back down to rest lightly against her hip, and Helen watched as she blinked her eyes open sleepily. She reached up and brushed a lock of Nikki’s hair off of her forehead, her own eyes following the strands of dark brown hair with a trace of grey, before moving back down to meet Nikki’s sleepy gaze.
“Happy Christmas, love,” she whispered, letting her fingers trace lightly down Nikki’s cheek to rest against her lips.
“Happy Christmas,” Nikki replied, pressing a light kiss against her fingers and wrapping herself closer around Helen.
“Do you want to sleep some more, or open presents?”
“Mmm… presents…” Nikki replied, her eyelids fluttering closed once more.
Helen laughed softly, and leaned forward to press a kiss to Nikki’s forehead. Pulling the blanket up a little more, she settled back into the warmth and closed her eyes as well.
On Christmas morning, Olivia leaned against Natalia as they shared a cup of coffee. Eventually they were going to get up and go somewhere, but for the moment it was enough to just be together. She’d almost dozed off again when she felt the bed shift as Natalia got out of bed.
Reaching out, she caught her hand and said, “hey, where you going?”
Natalia squeezed her fingers and moved away to where her suitcase was perched on the dresser. Olivia watched as she searched through her belongings before turning back to the bed, and Olivia didn’t see anything she might have picked up. When Natalia crawled back under the blankets, she settled herself kneeling over Olivia’s lap, and Olivia started to wrap her arms around her waist. She was confused, then, when Natalia caught her hand and held it instead. “Natalia?”
Natalia pressed herself closer and kissed her, lips brushing so sweetly against Olivia’s mouth. When they parted, Olivia leaned into the hand that was trailing through her hair.
“Merry Christmas, Olivia,” Natalia said softly.
“Merry Christmas,” Olivia returned. “What’s going...”
“Shhh…” Natalia briefly pressed her fingers against Olivia’s mouth. “I just… I know we said we’d wait to exchange gifts until we were home with Emma and Rafe.” Olivia nodded slowly, and Natalia dropped her hand to wrap it around the hand she was already holding. “But I had a gift for both of us, and I didn’t think I could wait for Christmas at home to give it to you.”
Olivia’s breath caught as Natalia raised their joined hands up to kiss her fingers. “Natalia…” she whispered, her eyes dropping to watch their hands.
Natalia slid something onto her ring finger before tangling their fingers together. “I love you, Olivia. I love you more than I ever thought it was possible to love someone. I love our family, our daughter, our home. I know we’ve made promises to each other, vows that I treasure, but I wanted you to have something from me, a symbol of my connection to you. Because I’m yours; I’m your wife, and you are mine.”
Olivia felt tears well in her eyes and she reached for Natalia, kissing her with all the emotion that was coursing through her. “I love you,” she repeated against her lips, her free hand slipping under the edge of Natalia’s nightshirt. “I’m so lucky, that you love me, that you want a life that includes me.”
There were no more words for a long while, the room filled instead with sighs and low moans and soft cries of ecstasy and reaffirmation.
Nikki turned into a kid at Christmas. She knew it, Helen knew it, all their friends knew it. She couldn’t help it, she loved the holiday, and presents, both giving and receiving, and the dinners and the music. She was already looking forward to their next Christmas, when they’d have their baby with them for the first time. She didn’t think Helen had found it, but a few weeks earlier Nikki had bought a “baby’s first Christmas” ornament that had caught her eye, and had it hiding in her shirt drawer for the next year. Their first Christmas together, Nikki had only taken a few of the ornaments she and Trisha had collected over the years, and their tree was mostly Helen’s more traditional ornaments. She’d had a lot of fun picking up random ornaments whenever she went shopping, and their trees from then on had been an eclectic mix that she enjoyed.
They finally got out of bed in the late morning, and Nikki made crepes with brown sugar and strawberries and cream. After breakfast, they settled themselves on the floor by the tree with glasses of eggnog, and Helen dubbed herself in charge of the presents. They had made an agreement not to buy any baby gifts this Christmas, an agreement made easy by the knowledge of a “surprise” baby shower after the new year, so they’d both ended up focusing on more romantic gifts, some of them in preparation for after the birth.
Christmas morning always showed a different side to both women. Where normally Helen was a disorganized woman with a crap drawer in every room, she was surprisingly fastidious when it came to opening her gifts. Nikki on the other hand, a neat freak even before she went to Larkhall, showed her inner five year old with an ever growing pile of ribbons and rumpled paper surrounding her. There would be dinner that evening with Trisha and her partner and others of their friends, but the morning was theirs, under the twinkling of the lights and the soft music. There were practical gifts, and books and films, and more chocolate for Helen. Nikki was notorious for buying jewelry for her wife, and this year was no exception, with emerald chip earrings that made Helen sigh in appreciation.
When the gifts were all opened, they curled up on the couch with Helen tucked against Nikki, talking softly about whatever came to mind. Helen’s dad called after awhile, and they settled plans for him to visit in early March. The baby started kicking when “The Little Drummer Boy” came on the stereo, and they pressed their hands to Helen’s belly in awe as the baby seemed to kick in time with the music.
“She’s going to be amazing,” Nikki whispered reverently.
Helen turned her head to kiss her sweetly. “With you as her mother, of course she is.”
When they broke the kiss, Nikki leaned in and touched her forehead to Helen’s. “I cannot wait to share this with her.”
“Thank you,” Nikki breathed out. “Thank you for our family.”
“Happy Christmas, my love.”
They ended up ordering room service for lunch as they’d be preoccupied during the Christmas brunch they’d intended on attending. When they were done, they showered and settled back onto the bed with Olivia’s cell phone, having been assured by Phillip that Emma would be up by 8am on Christmas morning. Knowing their daughter had a penchant to be up at three, they were just hoping she wouldn’t have had too much chocolate by that point that she was bouncing off the walls.
Curling up again on the bed, Olivia kissed Natalia’s temple and dialed the Spaulding house, smiling contentedly in their cozy nest.
“Merry Christmas, Beth.”
“Olivia! Merry Christmas! You guys still in London?”
“Yeah, we are, until Sunday.”
“Well, I know Emma is anxious to talk to you, let me go get her.”
Olivia heard the phone get set down, and tried to remember where in the Spaulding mansion did they not have a portable phone, but it was forgotten a moment later when she heard her daughter yell “mom!” and rapid footsteps.
“Mom! Dad bought me a puppy for Christmas, his name is Oscar!”
Olivia’s eyes widened. “Oh he did, did he?”
“Yep! And he bought one for James and her name is Sierra, but Oscar is mine.”
Olivia relaxed her other hand, which had clenched against Natalia’s side, and brought it up to rub at her eyes. “Well, that was very nice of him,” she said diplomatically, already plotting torture to her ex-husband. “What else did you get?”
Emma chatted away for several long minutes, attempting to weasel as she spoke hints of the presents she would be getting when her moms came back.
“Hey, mom, I was wondering. What time zone are you in? Rafe and James were arguing earlier, when we were trying to figure out when your Christmas started. Rafe keeps saying that you are in zulu time, and James said it was greenwitch time, or something.” Emma’s question gave Olivia pause, as the conversation switched so abruptly.
“Umm… It’s Greenwich, as far as I know. But, it is two-thirty in the afternoon, if that helps.”
“Oh, ok. Can I talk to Mama now?”
“Sure. Love you, Jellybean. Merry Christmas!”
“Love you too, mom.”
Olivia handed the phone to Natalia, forgetting that she should have probably warned her about the dog. Emma apparently started that conversation the same way she had with Olivia, because Natalia suddenly sat straight up, half yelling into the phone, “He bought you what?”
They passed the phone between them a few more times over the next twenty minutes, before saying another “Merry Christmas” and “I love you” and hanging up.
“I’m going to kill him.”
Olivia started laughing, eventually burying her face in her pillow. Natalia tugged on her shoulder and glowered at her, “What is so funny?”
“I’m sorry, I’m pissed too, but I feel like saying ‘Bravo!’ to him; he’s finally given you cause to threaten to kill him. You’ve officially become a citizen of Springfield.”
Natalia giggled helplessly at that, and laid back down, spooning herself against Olivia and her pillow. “We are never leaving the country for any gift giving holidays ever again. Next thing you know, he’ll have bought her… I dunno, a motorcycle or something.”
“And, next time Emma wants to make him cookies, I’m spiking them with lima beans. For a year. Maybe three.”
Olivia chuckled, and rolled over to face her. “I can’t wait to get home, with you and Emma… and Oscar, apparently. And our ducks and cows, so I suppose this dog will fit right in…”
Natalia smiled, and kissed her. “Yeah, me either.” She pulled Olivia’s hand up so that she could see the ring she’d placed on there a few hours earlier. “I like seeing you wearing my ring,” she said softly, tracing her thumb over the small stone inlaid in it.
“I like wearing it.”