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Author's Note: As is obvious from the chapter number, this is a continuation of the entry I submitted last year at this time. You may need to find that story and reread it since this picks up right where that one left off.
Noel thought he would not be able to sleep at all after the events of the day, but as soon as his head hit the pillow, he was out like a light. He was awakened very early by his alarm clock. He fought getting out of bed for just a moment in the hopes that he could return to the dream he was having of Nick. The realization that if he got out of bed and went to work he would see Nick for real was all the motivation he needed to get him going though.
It wasn't until he got out of his shower that Noel realized that he still didn't have his uniform for his job as an elf. He dressed in a loose pair of jeans and a long sleeved t shirt, figuring he would just have to change in the office at the mall. He called Jenkins to ask for a ride, but the man was so hung over he could hardly talk. Noel called a taxi and then went downstairs to the formal parlor to watch for the car out the window.
"No sir, you don't," Lovey said as she walked into the room. "You ain't going out of this house without eating breakfast."
"But Aunt Lovey," the boy began.
"Don't but me, Mister Cute Butt," the woman scolded.
"Well, you boys were standing right outside the kitchen when he told you about that," she explained.
"Oh, I thought you heard later," Noel sighed in relief and then blushed from head to toe at the raised eyebrow on his old nanny.
"I told you boys to go to that room and talk," she said seriously. "If you done something else…."
"We did just talk," Noel assured her. "Well, we did kiss a little, but that's all I swear."
"You best keep it that way for a while," Lovey told him sternly. "I might not have to worry about you getting some trashy little thing pregnant, but I don't want you being a trashy little thing either."
"I didn't… I mean he didn't… We didn't…. We just kissed and talked, honest."
"Settle down boy, I believe you," Lovey assured him. "Now you eat that breakfast or I'll have to force it down you."
"I don't know if I should eat right now, Aunt Lovey," Noel told the woman. "I'm kind of nervous about the first day of work."
"That reminds me," Lovey said. "Rachelle wanted to know where you were yesterday so I told her about the job you were going to get. She wants to come down and see you at work today."
"You don't think it will kind of confuse her when she sees Mr. Nicholas playing Santa?" Noel asked.
"He's not playing; he is Santa." Lovey and Noel both turned to see a still sleepy little girl standing in the doorway.
"I know he looks like Santa, Baby Rae," Noel started saying, but the girl cut him off.
"Cuz he is," she insisted. "But I know you're not really an elf, cuz you don't have pointy ears."
"I'll try to explain it to her later," Lovey whispered to the boy. "You better get outside now," she added as they heard a horn blow outside.
Noel kissed his little sister on top of her head as he rushed for the front door. He jumped in the cab and told the driver to take him to the mall. He showed the driver a twenty dollar bill so the man would actually start driving.
"In my day, we just walked to the mall when we wanted to goof off," the driver mumbled.
"Yeah, well in my day, I'm on my way to work, so could we try to get there quickly?" Noel responded.
"What you gotta work for, kid?" the man questioned. "You live in the biggest house on the block in the nicest neighborhood in town."
"That don't mean that everything gets handed to me," Noel told the man honestly. "I want to work for the money I spend on my family for Christmas this year, especially this year." His voice trailed off as he thought of the fact that this would probably be his sister's last Christmas. "I want her to have something really fun to keep her mind off being in the hospital when she goes back in there." He didn't realize he had said that out loud.
"Who's going back to the hospital?" the driver asked.
"My little sister," Noel answered. "She has cancer and this is going to be her last Christmas most likely."
"Don't talk like that," the driver said quickly. "She might beat it. How old is your sister?"
"She just turned four this summer," Noel replied. "The doctors have already told us that it will take a miracle for her to see five. That's why this Christmas has to be the best ever."
"You seem all right, kid," the man told him. "Tell you what, this ride's on me."
"I couldn't let you do that," Noel told him.
"You don't have a choice," the driver told him. "When I was your age, my brother had cancer. He managed to beat it. We kind of grew apart as we got older. Thanks for reminding me how much he really means to me."
"Thank you, sir," Noel whispered as he and the driver both wiped their eyes. "Merry Christmas," he said as he got out of the cab at the mall a couple of minutes later. "I wish I could have managed to sneak this twenty into the front seat or something," he thought as he walked into the employee entrance of the mall.
"Now how did that get there?" the cab driver wondered later as he reached into his pocket to get the five that was all he had to buy a breakfast sandwich and came up with a twenty dollar bill.
When Noel got to Santa's Workshop he walked into the backroom as Nick was changing into his outfit. The boy wasn't completely naked, but he might just as well have been. All Nick had on right then was a pair of red tights. Noel was stunned by how gorgeous Nick was without a shirt.
"Hello Joyous Christmas Bell," Nick said with a grin.
"It's Joey, not Joyeux," Noel countered with a grimace. "How did you find out my first name?"
"It was on your application," Nick told him, but he suddenly seemed a little nervous.
"You know I still don't remember filling out an application to work here," Noel said as he began to change into the elf costume he had been given. His tights were green and his shirt was red, just the opposite of Nick's. He blushed as he realized that Nick was watching him strip.
"I was trying to imagine last night what you would look like when you weren't wearing a big baggy sweater and cargo pants," Nick whispered.
"Do I look ok?" Noel asked nervously as he stood there in just his underwear.
"Boys, are you about ready in there?" Nick's grandmother called from outside the door.
"Yes ma'am," Nick answered. "I'm done and Noel will be in just a minute." To Noel he whispered, "Hurry up and get dressed or you will see just how hot I think you look, and I will have to change tights."
Noel blushed from head to toe and began yanking the tights up and practically dove into the shirt. The two boys walked out together giggling about how difficult it was to walk in the shoes with long curls on the toe that ended with jingle bells. When Noel tripped, Nick reached around him in a hug to keep him from falling.
"Now, now, boys," Emily told them. "Be careful where you show your affection. Some people won't understand it."
"She knows?" Noel gasped as the older woman walked away.
"I told you I was going home to talk to Grandpa and Grandma," Nick told him. "They are okay with it. They really are. I never thought it would work out for me, and I was afraid to tell them for a while, because of the family business, but…."
"What does your family business have to do with it?" Noel asked.
"Nick, Noel, we're ready to open," Nicholas announced. Noel turned to look at the old man and was amazed at how realistic he looked. Of course actually having a beard made a big difference. "I'm afraid you boys will have to wait and talk things over a little later."
"But Grandpa…." Nick started to complain.
"No, he's right," Noel told his boyfriend of all of one day. "The kids come first."
"You're absolutely right, Noel," Nicholas said with a smile. "I think you'll do fine with your future. I mean in the future." The older man in the fabulously rich looking Santa suit walked away quickly and Noel noticed that Nick was blushing at the same time as he gave his grandfather a very stern look.
Within moments, the doors to the mall were opened and kids started pouring in. The time flew by for Noel. Sure there were some bratty little kids that he thought deserved a lump of coal, but there were a lot more that he could see really believed in Santa still. It was about lunchtime when he saw Lovey and Rachelle in line. He waved to his little sister, but she didn't return the wave. He saw the look on Lovey's face and knew that Rachelle was having a bad day.
Nick must have seen too because he caught Noel's attention. "Do you want to have her jump line?"
"No, that's not fair to the other little ones here," Noel whispered back. He looked back up just as Rachelle began to sway a little on her tiny feet and he swooped in to catch her just before she fell. He could feel the other children in line and their parents watching him. "Lovey, why did you bring her? She's too sick," he asked holding his frail tiny sister in his arms.
"I tried and tried to get her to stay home," the woman answered. "Dat little angel said she was gonna come see her big brother at work no matter what. She was throwing a tantrum to beat the band she was. Give her here and I'll take her on home now. I'll call the doctor when we gets there. Maybe there's something….." her voice trailed off. They both knew that the doctors had already told the family that there was nothing else that could be done. The treatments would work or they wouldn't, and they would know by the end of the year.
Three of four of the children in line ahead of Rachelle were standing around looking at her. When Noel looked down at them, one of them spoke up. "That's RaeRae," he said. "She was in my daycare till she got sick. Is she still sick?" Noel nodded and started to speak, but the boy spoke again first. "She can go ahead of me. Maybe Santa Claus can make her better?" he asked hopefully. Several other children then announced that Rachelle could cut in front of them too. Noel had tears in his eyes as he carried his sister to the front of the line. He looked at all the parents and kids and tried to say thank you, but his voice just wasn't there.
Nicholas stood up and took Rachelle out of Noel's arms. The little girl roused slightly and looked into his eyes. "Let Noly and Nicky be happy," she whispered.
"Is that your only wish little angel?" Nicholas asked her.
"Don't need nothing for me," the little girl responded. "Tired now, gonna take a nap." She yawned and was asleep then. Lovey took the tiny angel and left the mall then.
Noel tried to focus on work, but every little kid that had been in line when Rachelle had passed out asked for the same thing from Santa. "Make RaeRae better." "Help that little girl." "Don't let little kids get sick anymore." After they got off Santa's lap many of the little ones came over and hugged Noel before leaving. They all said the same thing when they did that as well. "You smell like pumpkin pie."
Nicholas gave Noel a break for a little bit and told him to go have something to eat at the food court if he wanted. Noel left the Christmas shop, but he didn't go to eat. He just wandered the mall thinking of the little sister he hadn't wanted until the day she was born. The moment he had looked at her in the window of the maternity ward he had practically felt himself being wrapped around that tiny, tiny little finger. He loved her so much and it was just not fair that she was dying.
"What's the matter, kid? Your girlfriend dump you?"
Nicholas turned to see a tired looking man sitting on a bench nearby. He was going to just walk away, but the man spoke again, this time more softly.
"Hey, I recognize you now," the man said. "You were the one with the little sister that got sick in line for Santa. Is she feeling better now?"
"No, she's dying," Noel answered honestly. "She's got cancer. Little baby like her with cancer. What did she ever do to anybody?"
"Damn, kid," the man responded. "I didn't know she was that sick. My son Jack was in there. He likes her. They were in day care. Cutest little thing…his first crush. Told me all he wants for Christmas is for her to get better."
At that moment, the boy in question came out of a nearby store with his mother. He ran up to Noel and tugged on the bottom of the teen's tunic. Noel looked down at the boy who held his hands out to be picked up. Noel looked to the father who made a motion between a nod and a shrug. Noel reached out to the boy who then launched himself into the arms of the teenage Christmas elf.
"When's RaeRae coming back to daycare?" the little boy asked. "I miss her. She thinks I'm funny," he added with a bashful grin. Noel couldn't help but smile at the father's words being proven true. Here was a puppy in love.
"I don't know when she will come back, Jack," Noel told him. "But I can tell you this, she misses you too."
"Really?" the little one squeaked. He twisted around and grinned at his parents. "She misses me too," he announced. He turned back to look at Noel seriously. "You're RaeRae's big brother Noly, ain't you?"
"Yeah, my name's Noel," the teen confirmed.
"RaeRae said it was Noly," the boy in his arms said in confusion.
"Well you know how you call her RaeRae, but her name is Rachelle?" Noel asked. The boy nodded and he continued. "Well she calls me Noly, but my name is Noel." He saw the understanding in the little boy's eyes, and smiled. Then the boy grew serious again.
"Is it ok if I like RaeRae?" he asked nervously. "My friend Sam got beat up by his girlfriend's big brother."
"Now who would beat up a little kid?" Jack's father asked.
"Sam's my babysitter, Dad," Jack said patiently. "Don't you 'member?"
"Oh that Sam," the father mused aloud. "I wondered about that black eye."
All of a sudden the strangest feeling came over Noel. It was like a flash of light in front of his face, but there was no light there. He looked over at Jack's father and suddenly had to say something. He didn't know how he knew this or why he had to tell Jack's father, but it couldn't wait. He eased Jack down to the floor and told him to go help his Mommy with more shopping. When they were gone, Noel took the man by the arm and said, "It wasn't a girlfriend, or a big brother. You have to stop it."
"I knew that something was going on with that boy," Jack's father mused aloud. "I will investigate it first thing Monday."
"Tonight, investigate tonight," Noel stressed. He couldn't have explained it if he had to, but he just knew deep down that something wasn't right and needed to be corrected tonight or there would be terrible consequences. He also knew that little Jack's father was the one that had to do it.
"Ok, I will get on it now," the man replied. He too couldn't explain why, but he trusted and believed this teen in front of him. He whipped out his cell phone and made a call, walking away as he did it.
Noel went back to work then, but noticed Nicholas looking at him strangely when he came back in. He looked over at Nick and saw the strangest thing. He would have sworn that Nick's face was clear when he left a few minutes earlier, but the boy of his dreams now had a very sexy looking five o'clock shadow showing. Nick walked up to his grandfather with the next kid in line and when he turned back toward Noel his face was clear again.
Noel wanted to sit down somewhere and think, but there were more little kids coming in. This time one of the kids had an older brother with him. Noel recognized the brother and groaned. It was Harvey.
"Nice tights, Tinkerbell," Harvey sneered as he walked up to Noel.
"Is there a problem here?" Nick asked walking up.
"OOH there's two fairies," Harvey snorted.
"Did you bring a friend?" Nick asked looking around. "No? Then I guess you must have miscounted. Your kid brother can stay, but you have to wait outside in the mall."
"If I don't stay, he don't stay," Harvey said flatly.
"You promised, Harvey," the little boy whined.
"Shut up before I belt you one, brat," Harvey snapped.
"No one uses that word in my presence." All three teens turned to see Nicholas standing beside them. "Harvey Lynn Foster, you will apologize to your brother this instant."
"How do you my middle name?" Harvey blurted then blushed as he realized that he had just confirmed the information for everyone in the area. "Come on, Sammy let's go home."
"I didn't tell Santa what I wanted," the boy named Sammy pointed out.
Nicholas knelt beside the boy. "You want the fire truck with the working ladder and the flashing lights." The boy nodded wide eyed. "Well, see to it that you don't wind up like your big brother here, and you have a good chance."
"Ok let's go," Harvey said dragging the boy out of the shop.
"He knew," the boy could be heard saying.
When the shop finally closed for the evening, Noel rushed to the back room and was changed before Nick even got there. He noticed the look of disappointment on his boyfriend's face, but he couldn't help it. He was in a hurry to get home and check on Baby Rae.
"I'm sorry, sexy, but I've got to check on Rae," he said as he headed for the door.
"Did you just call me sexy?" Nick asked with a blush.
"Ummm yeah I guess I did," Noel answered with a red face of his own. "You are you know; especially now with that little hint of mustache and beard."
"You noticed that, huh?" Nick said stutteringly.
"Not much about you I don't notice," Noel confessed, blushing a bit more.
"We should probably talk about some stuff," Nick told him looking more nervous than he had the night before.
"Can it wait? I really want to get home to Rae," Noel asked. "I'm sorry. I just get so worried about her." Nick nodded reluctantly it seemed and Noel rushed out into the mall. As he was going through the food court, he saw one of the big overhead televisions playing the local news.
"Authorities arrested a local man and his wife today for multiple counts of child abuse and endangerment," the announcer was saying. Then a voice that Noel recognized from earlier in the day came over the speakers. "Chief Detective Spears had this to say about the arrests he made just a couple of hours ago."
"We had an informant relay a message to me that there was something amiss in the house and I contacted the child services office and coordinated their investigation with one of my own," Jack's father was saying. "There are two kids that will rest comfortably tonight for the first time in quite a while."
The announcer came back on and added, "News Channel 7 has learned that those children will indeed be safe tonight, they have been temporarily placed in the home of Detective Spears. No word was given on who their informant was, but somewhere out there is a person that may have literally saved a couple of kids' lives tonight. On behalf of the entire staff and crew of News Channel 7, thank you, whoever you are."
Noel didn't listen to anymore. He turned around and ran back through the mall to the Christmas shop. It was locked and deserted when he got there.
"What is going on?" he wondered aloud as he walked back toward the mall entrance.