A (lame) Christmas one-shot for Tawney's challenge. Inspiration from Charles Dicken's (VERY LOOSELY, sorry big guy) and Frosted Glass' 'Channel Hopping'. Hope you don't mind, Alex.
AN: So, I got stuck at Heathrow airport in London today trying to get back to Glasgow for Christmas. It was chaos. Bloody fog!!! And it got me thinking about Tawney's Xmas challenge. So on the LONG train journey to Scotland, I got this......
"Ladies and gentlemen, we are sorry to inform you due to inclement weather flight 611 to Chicago has been delayed indefinitely..."
Pete's head fell into his hands.
"Fucking snow," he muttered to no one in particular. "Christmas Eve stuck in an airport. Fuck!"
He kicked at the bag lying at his feet. The woman sitting to his left pulled her two kids closer to her, giving him a worried sidelong look. He was beyond caring. He stared out the window of LAX, the sunshine mocking his plight. The East coast was snow bound and he was stuck here, in the land of plastic and palm trees, wishing he was freezing his ass off somewhere - anywhere - closer to home.
He had stayed behind when Patrick, Joe and Andy had left three days ago to spend a lengthy Christmas holiday with their families. He wanted to party some more, celebrate the album being done, spend sometime with Jenna, then take her home with him to introduce her to mom and dad. Hell, he was stupid. Turns out she was just some chick trying to trap him, just like the others.
He closed his eyes, trying to remember exactly what she had said. Her tear streaked face swam in his vision.
"Pete, I'm pregnant," she had whispered, when he asked her for the hundredth time that day what was wrong. She had chewed her lip nervously, waiting for his reaction.
He had laughed, nudging her lightly. "Quit screwing around. What's up?" he had joked. But her wide eyes brimming with tears had froze the laugh on his lips.
He winced as he recalled his words. "Get rid of it. I don't want some kid screwing with my life right now." Harsh. Maybe he should have been a little gentler. He certainly shouldn't have given her an ultimatum. "You can have me, or you can have the kid. Your decision." He had been so matter-of-fact. Like they were talking about a new car, not a new life.
The look on her face, hurt mixed with disgust, had been enough to answer his question.
"Well, her loss," he muttered to himself now springing back to reality.
"Not exactly full of Christmas cheer, now, are we?" a male voice from beside him interrupted his thoughts.
Pete turned in surprise. "What?" he asked this stranger, incredulous at the interruption. The guy looked weird. Kind of old fashioned. His tweed suit reeked of age and his eye glasses, perched on the end of his nose, looked like they wouldn't be out of place in a museum.
"Melancholy doesn't suit you, Pete," he stated.
"Do I know you?" Pete reeled. He didn't look like a Fall Out Boy fan. And Pete was sure he would remember this guy.
"No. But I know you," he replied bafflingly. "You've come to my attention before. It's not the first time you've wished you weren't here, Pete, is it?"
Pete stared wide-eyed at him. "What the fuck are you? The ghost of Christmas past?" he laughed at his own joke.
The stranger shrugged, not joining the laughter. "Something like that," he stated simply. "You think your life is a mess. You think nothing could be worse than what you were told today. I'm here to show you that you're wrong."
He stood and gestured to Pete, bidding him to follow. Pete shook his head.
"Some fucking weirdo stalker," he thought to himself.
"I'm not a stalker. Neither am I a weirdo," the stranger replied as though he had spoken aloud. Pete reeled.
"How the hell..." he trailed off, totally freaked out now. The stranger gestured again for Pete to follow him
"What have you got to lose?" he quietly challenged.
Pete followed him to the exit door, pushing through and outside. The freezing cold hit him immediately.
"What the...?" he questioned. It had been 70 degrees when he entered the airport not three hours ago. The biting wind now reminded him that he would have froze to death landing in Chicago in just his hoodie.
He took in the scene which now greeted him. Two feet of snow wet the bottom of his jeans, soaking through the trainers he had thrown on just to get away from her. To his left a figure lay prostrate on a park bench, stinking of booze as couples walked by him arm in arm, heading home to swap Christmas presents below the tree. The stranger headed towards the figure on the bench. He looked like a homeless man, bundled up in old blankets, a whiskey bottle clutched in his freezing fingers.
"Recognise him?" the stranger asked.
Pete wrinkled his nose. Surely smell-o-vision wasn't necessary in this fantasy.
"Jeez, no," he replied disgust audible in his tone.
"Look closer," the stranger bade him.
He moved closer, recognising something in the man's face. Something horribly familiar.
"Dad?" he exclaimed, rushing forward.
The stranger stopped him before he could touch the drunk.
"No, Pete. Not Dad. This man is no one's father. He's no one's husband. He's just no one."
"But...but I don't understand. That's my father." Pete pleaded with the stranger. He simply shook his head in reply, and signalled him to follow again.
They walked towards a bright light, and suddenly the park was gone. Instead, they stood in a small apartment. It was no warmer in here than it had been outside. A tiny Christmas tree stood pathetically in the corner, listing helplessly to one side. A single strand of tinsel was it's only decoration. A woman sat huddled in a threadbare chair, wrapped in a tatty blanket for warmth. A radio played tinnily beside her, the sounds of 'Merry Christmas Everyone' almost drowned out by her sobs. Pete felt his heart wrench as recognition engulfed him.
"Mom," he whispered, a catch in his throat. But he understood now. He understood that she couldn't hear him.
"No, Pete. She's not your mom," the stranger reminded him. "This is what happened to your parents when they didn't become parents. They felt a loss for something they couldn't have. They ached to hold their own baby in their arms. They forgot to love each other because they wanted someone else to love. They wanted you. And when they split up, they fell apart,"
Pete felt the wetness on his face before he even realised he was crying. He closed his eyes against the pain in his heart, balling fists against them to make the vision of his heartbroken mother vanish. When he finally opened them again, he stared around in disbelief. Airport.
He turned frantically from side to side, desperately looking for the stranger. No one was there. He turned to the woman with the two children.
"Did you see where the guy in the suit went?" he asked her desperately.
She gave him a weird look. "What guy?" she asked him, visibly scared. "You were asleep. There was no one here." She grabbed her kids and backed away from him.
He shook his head, trying to clear it, trying to make sense of it.
"A dream," he laughed, relief flooding him.
"But if it was a dream, why are your feet wet?" a niggling voice in his head said.
"It wasn't a dream," a female voice piped up.
He turned towards it. What the fuck was this, read Pete's mind day?
A pretty, dark-haired girl sat cross-legged on the floor beside his bag. She looked no more than 16. She smiled up at him with big brown eyes shining.
"Did you see him?" he appealed to her, determined to hang on to the last scrap of his sanity.
She shook her head, no. She held a hand out to him, silently asking him to help her up. He pulled on her hand, bringing her to her feet. God, she looked familiar.
"I didn't have to see him. I know he was here," she answered cryptically, laughing at his worried expression. "Don't look so worried, Peter," she emphasised his name, a laugh in her voice.
"How do you..." he began, before realisation struck. "Let me guess. You're the ghost of Christmas present," he nodded knowingly.
"This isn't Dickens, Peter. God, you were arrogant. I never really believed it," she stopped herself, realising she had said too much. "I'm not here to talk literature. There's something you have to see," she headed for the door again and he followed, this time without question.
This time, as they stepped outside, the scene that greeted him was very different. They stepped into the garden of a large house, lit by Christmas lights, exuding warmth despite the light snow which scattered the ground. The girl bent to pick a red flower from the poinsettia plant which sat by the driveway. He grinned and jokingly tucked it behind his ear. A huge Christmas tree shone from the window and as they approached he heard laughter and singing. The girl headed towards the door, pushing it open and gesturing with her hand for him to follow her inside. He walked into the house, towards the living area, where a log fire glowed in the grate and seven or eight people gathered around a piano, singing Christmas songs badly, laughed and smiled at each other.
A beautiful dark-haired woman turned towards the door and he instantly recognised her.
"Jenna," he breathed. She looked a little older, a few lines around her eyes, but she glowed from inside. "Happiness," he thought to himself, with a smile. But it quickly faded as the day's events rattled through his brain.
A huge grin lit her face as she looked in his direction. For an instant, he thought she could see him, before he realised she was looking past him. A tall blonde-haired man walked into the room carrying a dark-haired little girl, no more than three years old, in his arms. The little girl, with her huge solemn dark eyes looked just like....
"Me. She looks like me," he whispered, something swelling in his chest he had never felt before. The girl at his side nodded.
"Mommy," the little girl squealed, throwing herself at Jenna. "Has Santa been?" Her huge eyes widened in amazement as she took in the mountains of Christmas gifts left for her. She turned to the blonde man who had been holding her. "Are they all for me Daddy?" she whispered. The blonde man nodded, pride swelling his chest.
"Daddy?" Pete turned to his companion. "But he's not her father," he felt anger inside him. The little girl was his double. She was his.
The girl at his side turned sad eyes on him. "It takes more than sperm to make you a father Peter. This is what happens to Jenna and your little girl when you turn your back on them." There were tears in her eyes as she spoke the words.
"But they look happy. Nothing bad happened to them," he defended himself.
"The little girl grew up feeling rejected and abandoned because she never knew her real father," the girl dropped her eyes. "He never even knew her name. Never wanted to meet her." Tears spilled onto her cheeks.
"But, how do you know? Who are you?" he pleaded.
"I'm her, Peter. I'm your daughter," she whispered.
He jerked awake, and found himself sprawled across two seats in the airport departure lounge. He had drooled on his hoodie, and he wiped his face, embarrassed. His mind reeled from what had happened. Had he really fallen asleep again? Jeez, his dreams were weird. But something had changed. Something felt different. His hand went to his head and a smile ghosted his lips as it brushed against the flower stuck behind his ear. He pulled it out and stared at the red leaves.
A second chance.
He ran as fast as his legs would allow, out of the terminal, straight to the front of the cab stand. He ignored the annoyed cries of waiting passengers as he jumped into the first one.
"I will give you two hundred bucks if you get me home, right now," he called through the glass to the driver. The words were barely out of his mouth when the driver screeched his tyres and yelled "Where to buddy?"
"Home," Pete thought. "Home to Jenna. Home to my daughter. My family."
He settled back in the seat, closing his eyes, picturing the little girl who would call him Daddy.