The Ghost of Christmas Past - PG13

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The Ghost of Christmas Past - PG13

Postby Lilly » Fri Nov 30, 2018 8:23 pm

Author's Note: This is not a bright and shiny Christmas tale – at least not most of it. In fact, it's comes from a rather dark place where it's been taking shape several years. I have debated whether it's appropriate to post this piece at Christmastime, but to be honest, I don't know when else it would make sense. So, I'd like to dedicate this story to anyone who has suffered a loss during the holiday season.

PG13

Posted: 11/30/2018


The Ghost of Christmas Past


There were four quick raps on the frosted glass panel before the door inched open.

“In here,” came a reply of sorts, called out over the low strains of a melancholy jazz tune coming from the adjacent room.

“Mick?” A young woman moved tentatively through the office alcove and then stopped to peer into the main living area.

“Oh. Uh – Audrey. Hey.” He had been expecting someone else. In fact, Audrey Pell was about the last person Mick expected to see in his apartment again. He stood, grabbing the audio remote from the table, and muted the stereo. He moved towards his guest, his hand outstretched to welcome her into the loft.

As Audrey entered the apartment from the office, her eyes scanned the room, checking every corner. Even in the daytime, with sunlight filtering in through the blinds, the place was dark. She was looking for any signs of that last encounter, Mick thought. The night he killed a dead man. The truth was she was looking for any signs of Christmas. A tree, some greens, anything at all festive. But the apartment looked as it always did – stylish, tidy and utterly lifeless.

Her hands gripped a small package – a gift from the looks of it – wrapped in shiny gold paper and topped with a small silver bow. She set it carefully on the coffee table, and then repositioned it for no apparent reason.

“Please – have a seat.” Mick gestured toward a chair as he settled himself onto the couch opposite her.

Audrey sat perched on the edge of the seat cushion, her hands folded in her lap. She smiled nervously.

“Is everything OK?” Mick could feel her unease. Of course, Audrey had been a bit edgy ever since he first met her. To most people she seemed quiet, maybe a little self-conscious, but Mick had seen a complex young woman balancing a fine line between the past and the present. Now, however, she was even harder to read.

“Yes." She made eye contact at last, her smile warming. “Thanks to you – yes, it finally is.”

Mick smiled and nodded, “Good. That’s good to hear.” His eyes shifted from her face to the package that neither one of them was mentioning and then back again. "Can I, uh – can I get you something to drink?"

Audrey smoothed her hands across her lap and stood.

“Mick, I need to say something and, well, can you just let me finish before I lose my nerve?”

He nodded and she continued.

“I...” She paused and then let out a long breath. “It’s just that this time of year is really hard for me. At least, it has been for the last fourteen years. The closer we’d get to the holidays, the more I’d feel like something terrible was going to happen. Happen again. The New Year has never meant a new beginning or a chance to start over or any of those inspiring things that people always say it should be. For me, the end of the year just means – the end. And I could never get past that while Shepherd was still alive.

“Even when he was prison, it was like he was still there every Christmas – like some phantom. He haunted us – Gram and me – like some horrible Ghost of Christmas Past. I saw his face distorted in every ornament and heard his voice from every Santa. When something terrible happens during the holidays, you can never get away from it, you know? There are fresh reminders every year."

Mick's brow furrowed, but he let her go on.

“That night – the night of the murders – my mom and dad and I... we were just visiting our friends. We liked to do that at the holidays, stop by friends' homes, bring dessert, a few small gifts... Sometimes the Ryans came to our house, but that night...," she sighed, "...that night, we went to theirs.

“We had exchanged gifts. Marta, the Ryans’ housekeeper had cleared the dessert dishes from the coffee table, and we were sitting around their big, open living room admiring their huge Christmas tree. It must have been ten feet tall. We were laughing, listening to holiday music…

“There were sleigh bells. We heard them ringing outside and thought maybe it was be carolers. Can you imagine -- Christmas carolers in Brentwood? But the minute Mrs. Ryan opened the door, Shepherd had a knife to her throat. And they – he and two of his followers – they pushed their way in, jingling those bells as they came. My dad whispered for me hide.

“I snuck back to the kitchen to see if I could call the police, but Marta was already on the phone. She was struggling with a man -- he must have come in through the back. She was trying to fight him off. I couldn’t help her. And I couldn’t get out. The only place I could go was the hall closet.

“I could hear Shepherd. I heard him tell Mr. Ryan to play the piano – that they we all going to sing. But the singing turned into screaming. The voices were all jumbled up. I couldn’t tell what was happening. But I knew it was bad.

“When I didn’t hear my father or Mr. Ryan anymore, I opened the door just a crack to see what was happening. His back was to me, but I knew it was Shepherd. He was hurting someone. Slashing them. Over and over and over. Then he turned… and that’s when he saw me. He had blood all over him and he moved toward the closet and looked at me and said those awful words. It felt like an eternity with that horrible face staring at me. And I knew I was going to die.

“But then I heard the police shouting. There were gunshots out front. And then inside. Then, ‘Drop the weapon.’ And then finally, the face disappeared.

“I don’t know how long it was until a policeman opened the closet door. He bent down and held out his hand. He told me that I was safe – that it was okay. But I knew. Even then, I knew – it would never be okay again.

“He wrapped a blanket around me and tried to keep my face hidden as he carried me out. But I saw it anyway.

“There was blood everywhere. Trails of it on the floor, winding like red ribbons from presents that had just been opened. The walls, the white sofa, were covered with dark, wet spatter that lit up like bits of glitter every time one of the flashing police lights strobed through the window. Except on one wall. That's where he wrote, 'Oh Come All Ye Faithful.'”

She closed her eyes for a moment. “I found out later – after the trial – it was Mrs. Ryan's blood he used. That's what he said, you know, when he came in. He said, 'Oh Come All Ye Faithful. Oh, but someone here hasn't been faithful, has she?' He was looking right at Tracie. Tracie Ryan. She was nineteen. She used to babysit for me sometimes... She had been one of his flock, but when he started getting freaky – that's the word she used – she left and went back home to her folks. Her dad was a lawyer and he was trying to get something to use against Shepherd, something to prove he was dangerous, that he was into more than just drugs; but no one would listen. No one believed them.”

“I guess you know all this if you read the case files. But what the files won't ever tell you is that there was no way to move on.

“When we got out into the front yard, there were more police officers. They were stringing up that yellow plastic tape they use at crime scenes. I saw all the flashing lights of the police cars and ambulances, bodies gift-wrapped to be taken away, and the Ryans' blinking plastic snowman and light-up candy canes that lined the walk. It was a fancier neighborhood than ours; a lot of the houses had those little twinkling white lights. But Mr. Ryan always got such a kick out of shocking his neighbors by going 'bigger.' He said no damn neighborhood association was going to tell him how to celebrate. He was so funny...” Her voice trailed off and she turned away.

“His house was always the brightest on Ventana, but that night the lights in front of his house lit up the sky for blocks. And the neighbors who used to give him such a hard time for his 'garish' display all came out of their houses and learned the true meaning of the word.

“And ever since that night, whenever I'd see Christmas lights, all I could see was the flashing red and white of emergency vehicles. Garland looked like crime scene tape. And every Christmas song brought back the sounds of sirens and sleigh bells... and screaming.” She shuddered, almost imperceptibly, but Mick saw it.

“I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was nine. But I stop celebrating Christmas when I was ten.

“You know, Beth told me she felt like she had a guardian angel. Someone who saved her when she was little. Someone she felt was always watching over her. About a dozen police officers saved me. But somehow that wasn’t the same. Maybe because there was no way they could put me safely back into my mother’s arms like Beth's angel did. Or maybe because, at the end of the day, I was a closed case. They did their jobs, caught the bad guy, and went home to their own families. But guardian angels don't go home to anyone. They don't punch a clock.”

And as Audrey turned and met his gaze, Mick thought that just maybe she was looking straight into his soul. He couldn’t be sure if she had figured out his secret. His lips parted as he searched for a response, but she continued before he had the chance.

“I don't know how Shepherd got out of prison, or came back from the dead, and I'm not sure what happened here the night he really died. All I know is that I finally feel safe. After all this time, he's not haunting me anymore.

“Christmas is always going to be hard. But, I realized it's not about traditions and doing the same thing every year. It's about reaching out – and giving. Because, you know, there's always something you can give. Even when you can't manage the celebration part, you can give. And, you know, family is wherever you find it.

“So… I brought you something. Something to say ‘thank you.’” Audrey picked up the small package from the table and held it out to Mick. She smiled a self-conscious smile as she looked around the room and then gave a little shrug.

“It was supposed to be for your Christmas tree, but...”

“But I don't have one,” he finished, with a lopsided grin.

“Maybe you could just keep it,” she said, “even if you don't celebrate; maybe you could keep it... somewhere.”

*****

Mick stepped back, his hand to his chin, and considered the delicate glass ornament hanging from the tall, dead branches artfully arranged in the corner of his living room. The glimmering wings caught the light from the fireplace as the angel turned ever so slightly on its golden thread. It seemed to glow with a warmth all its own. Audrey's gift was something he would never have bought himself. And that, in so many ways, made it perfect.

Maybe, he thought, he could find room this year for a small tree...
.
..

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Re: The Ghost of Christmas Past - PG13

Postby Ella713 » Fri Nov 30, 2018 9:27 pm

This was so beautiful!! What a wonderful story about how Audrey has been coping since Shepard's death by Mick's hands and the parallels between her and Beth's rescue. Well done Lilly!! :clapping:
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Re: The Ghost of Christmas Past - PG13

Postby MickLifeCrisis » Sat Dec 01, 2018 4:20 am

:smooch: :rose:

That was beautiful and moving, Lilly. And so well written. Hugs to you for sharing with us.
:comfort: :comfort2: :hug:
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Re: The Ghost of Christmas Past - PG13

Postby allegrita » Sat Dec 01, 2018 8:45 am

Oh, Lilly... this is really, really amazing. :notworthy: I could almost see this conversation, as if it were a scene on TV. Audrey's story is so horrific and compelling. Poor thing! No wonder the holidays were so hard for her. :hankie: But as awful as her story is, I'm glad to know what happened the night Shepherd attacked. It's perfectly in character with Shepherd as we knew him on the show, and it gives a piece of the story we always lacked. What a hideous twisting of all the things that make Christmas beautiful--the lights, the ribbons, the garlands, even jingle bells and carols. :bmoon:

The amazing thing about your story is that Audrey, in a wonderful step toward reclaiming the true spirit of the holidays, has the kindness and thoughtfulness to give Mick something he's never allowed himself to have. Just like Beth's hug at the end of NSTAV, Audrey's ornament seems to have cracked another layer of the ice around Mick that prevents him from truly taking part in the things that make life worth living.

This story may have a lot of loss and darkness, but it also has a beautiful sense of hope. :heart: Thank you so much for sharing it with us. :rose:
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Re: The Ghost of Christmas Past - PG13

Postby Lilly » Sat Dec 01, 2018 3:10 pm

Ella, MLC and Alle -- Thank you so much for reading and for your lovely comments here. :hearts:

Alle, I always wondered what exactly happened that night -- why Shepard killed 6 people, how he was stopped before he killed Audrey... I initially did a lot of research trying to pin the event to a certain time of year. I even zoomed in on screenshots of newspaper articles to see if there was anything to point me in a certain direction. :laugh: When I discovered that the event was truly a blank slate, I decided to go ahead and add my twist to the little bit that was canon.

allegrita wrote:Just like Beth's hug at the end of NSTAV, Audrey's ornament seems to have cracked another layer of the ice around Mick that prevents him from truly taking part in the things that make life worth living.

This is part of the resolution I was hoping for. :hug: Mick holds so much guilt, he expects to be seen as a monster. (Even if Audrey didn't connect the dots about him being a vampire, he beheaded a man in his hallway. :confused2: ) Having another human being look past everything else to see an "angel" -- that was Mick's true gift here.
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Re: The Ghost of Christmas Past - PG13

Postby jmc » Sat Dec 01, 2018 10:15 pm

Thank you for sharing your lovely story with us.
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Re: The Ghost of Christmas Past - PG13

Postby cassysj » Sun Dec 02, 2018 3:19 am

This is really a beautiful story because the hardest thing to do is move forward which is slightly different from moving on. I consider moving on leaving something behind and you could never really leave your family behind you after a tragedy but moving forward having the bad lifted from you is hard to do and glad to see Audrey feeling better.
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Re: The Ghost of Christmas Past - PG13

Postby Lilly » Sun Dec 02, 2018 4:26 am

On, Carol - what a beautiful distinction between the two. :hearts: Thank you so much for reading and leaving your thoughtful comment. :hug: :rose:
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Re: The Ghost of Christmas Past - PG13

Postby Moonlightsonata » Thu Dec 06, 2018 1:37 am

Lilly - thank you for sharing the story and helping to keep the magic of Moonlight alive.
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Re: The Ghost of Christmas Past - PG13

Postby Luxe de Luxe » Sun Dec 09, 2018 9:23 am

Another Lilly classic. The ending of your fic is quite moving.. one damaged soul reaching out to give a little comfort to another...
You write a brilliantly as always - I could see that lonely bauble hanging off the dead branch. In a way I guess that little image, the bauble, the dead branch, is symbolic of Mick himself, his undead life. For me that final image was about how the power of accepting the compassion offered to us by another breathes a little more hope into our existence.
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Re: The Ghost of Christmas Past - PG13

Postby allegrita » Sun Dec 09, 2018 9:54 am

Oh, yes, Luxe! :heart: That image of the delicate ornament hanging from Mick's dead branches is so poignant. I think one of the biggest lessons Mick needs to learn is to accept compassion, because that entails making himself vulnerable, which would be terrifying to a guy who has walled himself off from life for so long. He's so self-protective that he finds it almost impossible to accept help or sympathy from anyone. Josef's about the only one who's ever been able to do it, and he has to cloak it in snark. I love seeing Mick melt a bit more in this story, as he accepts Audrey's gift and allows himself to contemplate bringing something green and growing into his spartan loft.

And I also love seeing Audrey beginning to heal. Imagine how hard it must have been for her to reach out to Mick in that way, especially since he had, in essence, duplicated her childhood trauma in the process of getting rid of her tormentor. She is a very strong young lady. :notworthy:
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Re: The Ghost of Christmas Past - PG13

Postby Lilly » Mon Dec 10, 2018 10:25 pm

Luxe de Luxe wrote:You write a brilliantly as always - I could see that lonely bauble hanging off the dead branch.

Thank you. :rose: That image was clear to me before Audrey ever finished telling me her story. I'm so glad it resonated with you.

Luxe de Luxe wrote: For me that final image was about how the power of accepting the compassion offered to us by another breathes a little more hope into our existence.

Yes! Thank you so much, Luxe, for this. I truly appreciate your sharing your take on this exchange. :hug: :heart:


Alle, thank you so much for commenting again. :hug:
allegrita wrote:He's so self-protective that he finds it almost impossible to accept help or sympathy from anyone.
We saw this when Beth was so tender with him on the balcony at the end of "12:04" -- he just walked away rather than accept that she could be so forgiving and see him as anything other than a monster. I really felt he needed to experience that sort of kindness from another human being to nudge him in the right direction. :blinksmile:
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