A Christmas Carol
Co-authored with BFL
Written December 2001
Synopsis: Madeline is visited by three Ghosts on Christmas Eve who try to teach her that Paul is an integral part of her life.
Disclaimer: The characters within are property of LFN Productions, Warner Bros., and USA Network. This story is a take on “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. No infringement is intended.
When she awoke, her face was still pressed against a cold surface, but it was not a tombstone. It was her desk! She was instantly awake and looked around, taking in her surroundings. She was, indeed, back in her office.
Was it all a dream? Or had she really been visited by three Spirits and her dead sister? Did she go on a journey through her past, present, and future?
Did she even care?
For the first time in years, Madeline felt truly alive. Whether it was a dream or not, she suddenly knew why she lived and who she lived for. Paul. She loved him–and she wasn’t afraid to admit it either.
She hurried into the bathroom to wash her face and brush her hair and teeth. She had a Christmas party to attend! Cheerily, she approached the exit to her office and stopped short of the sensor. What if it didn’t open? What if she was still trapped?
If it doesn’t open, I’ll break it down, she decided. But to her delight, it opened without fuss and she was on her way. She passed a few operatives by Systems, and she had to work hard to keep her excitement to a minimum. She knew she was glowing, but she couldn’t help it. There was too much to look forward to! Unable to hide her joy, she grinned at the operatives, and they looked at her strangely.
The common area looked somewhat different than the Ghost of Christmas Present had shown it. The briefing table had been converted into a buffet, but Paul was standing with the rest of the operatives, in the middle of a toast. Smiling, she took a glass of wine and headed to his side, where she belonged.
When he saw her, he stopped in the middle of his sentence, and everyone turned, equally surprised. She ignored the others, grinning only at him. He returned the gaze. “Did you have anything to add?”
“Actually, I do.” She faced the audience and held her glass in the air. “I would just like to remind everyone that Christmas is about three things. Peace…joy…” She heard Paul draw in a breath; apparently, he recognized himself as the source of the quote. Madeline couldn’t help but turn to him as she finished. “And love.”
Walter laughed. “I’ll drink to that!”
Although the crowd began to gather their food and chatter excitedly, Paul and Madeline remained locked in a gaze of tenderness and longing, similar to the moment before their first kiss.
“You came.” The pleasant surprise was evident in his voice. “Why?”
“Can we go somewhere where we can talk privately?” She was hoping that all of the love she had denied him for so long would show in her eyes, and evidently it was understood. The grin on his face broadened.
“How about your office?”
“Okay.” She let him lead the way, her heart racing. No backing down now…
Once inside, Paul sat on the edge of her desk and looked at her curiously. “So what did you want to talk about?”
Madeline slowly walked over to him, and all of her giddiness was replaced by anxiety. How could she even begin to tell him about the feelings that she had been harboring for so long? “I’m afraid I haven’t been very fair to you. You’ve always shared your feelings openly, but I’ve never given any of myself in return. I thought love would make me vulnerable, and it does…but it also makes me stronger.”
“All of those things I said about Section suffering if we were involved…that was my method of justifying my fear. But I’m not afraid anymore.” By this time, they were nose to nose, sharing the same breath.
“I am,” he said softly as her hand ran up his chest.
“Don’t be,” came her hushed reply. Their lips met delicately but warmly. She trembled, her pulse racing as she leaned into him and parted her mouth. He slid his fingers into her hair, bringing their bodies together as closely as possible. “Merry Christmas, Paul.”
He reached into his jacket and pulled out an all-too-familiar box. “Merry Christmas, Madeline.”
Excitedly, she lifted the lid and beheld a gift that was just as beautiful and exquisite as the box it had been lovingly placed in. She removed the gold ring from its packaging. “Paul, it’s wonderful!”
“Read the engraving.”
She brought it closer to her face and looked on the inside. “‘Love is the only gold.’ That’s Tennyson, isn’t it?”
He nodded, taking the ring from her and grasping her right hand. “Consider it an anniversary ring. Twelve years ago is when we first kissed.” He began to slide it down her finger, but she pulled back.
“Then you’d better put it on the other hand.”
Tears of happiness collected in his eyes, and his lower lip began to quiver. He slid the ring on the proper finger. The kiss he gave her was unlike anything she had ever experienced with him before, and it left her uncharacteristically breathless. She went to kiss him again, but he put a finger on her lips. “We should go supervise the party. I think one of the operatives brought some home-made eggnog, and I want to make sure everyone behaves.”
Smiling, she took his hand and led him toward the exit. They were so engrossed with each other that Madeline, who was in the lead, didn’t even notice that the door was still shut–until she smacked into it.
“Are you okay? What happened, why didn’t it open?”
“Prudence?” He frowned at her then at the door.
Madeline couldn’t help herself; she burst out laughing, nearly tripping down the stairs. Paul watched her, his eyes wide with surprise. She stopped long enough to catch her breath then giggled some more.
She sighed deeply, a wide grin on her face. “We’re trapped.”
“And that’s funny?”
The question made her laugh again. “It’s…great.”
She wrapped her arms around his waist and murmured against his lips, “Forget the party, Paul. Let’s make some merriment of our own.”