Disclaimer: All characters are property of ABC/Disney. I'm using them for my own enjoyment and will put them back when I'm finished.
A/N: I really hadn't planned on there being another Joliday fic. I had a few ideas in my head-reuniting them this way, but also seeing what a teenage Liam was like (and I love the idea of who he's seeing-it's almost kismet, ya know?) and how Natalie and John would handle having a teenager. So those ideas meshed together and then I realized that I would need a future point for the flashbacks and Christmas season would be perfect. Ya'll enjoy! Until next time-ya'll are the best-PCGirl
John walked down the steps and into the living room and watched Natalie just standing there in the middle of the living room staring at the Christmas tree. It amazed him after all this time something as simple as seeing her in a room would make him smile, "Hey."
Turning around to look at him she smiled. This time of year she was always nostalgic of the past. How it was during the holiday season that their friendship began and grew into something that she couldn't imagine not having all these years later. "Hey yourself," she said as he reached her and covered her mouth with his, his arms instinctly wrapping around her waist as they got lost in the moment.
"Will you two get a room?" said a voice from the kitchen and they both looked over to see their teenage son walking in.
"I'm sorry-were Cristian Vega and I imagining seeing you and Charlotte stealing kisses at the tree lighting a few days ago in Angel Square?" questioned John. Thank God he had a few more years before the twins were this age-but then he had two girls he was going to have to deal with while Cristian only had the one.
Natalie watched Liam give a shrug and decided to defuse the situation by jumping in the middle, "Don't forget, John, I need you to go to Rodi's to pick up some stuff before the party at Llanfair tonight."
"I'll go with him," interjected Liam.
"No, you can't."
"Mom-I know that's where you keep the Christmas presents. I saw them the other day in the storage room."
"What were you doing in the storage room?" questioned John, his voice louder than even he had planned. Calming down for a moment he shook his head, "Just get in the car, Liam."
Natalie had to stifle the giggle at the look on John's face as Liam quickly went out the front door, "I can go with him instead."
"No, I'll go. Apparently, him and I need to have a chat."
"Ok, just try and not kill our first born. I mean, after all, tomorrow is Christmas."
"I'll try my hardest," he said as he leaned down and gave her a quick kiss before leaving.
John walked into Rodi's office and found his son sitting on the edge of the desk, his dark hair blocking his blue eyes from being seen as he looked through a bundle of papers.
"You came with me to help load up Christmas gifts, remember? Not reading through junk."
"I know, sorry-I just found these and got sidetracked," said Liam and gave a smile that mirrored his mom's.
John looked over his shoulder and gave a half smile at seeing them again, "I wondered where she kept them."
"This gift didn't have a name on it," he said as he nodded to the wrapped package on the desk. "I called mom to find out who it was for and she said there were some extra nametags in the drawer. I found these in the back. When were these from?"
"You were pretty young so you won't remember that there was a time period I wasn't in your life. For almost two years starting the summer after you turned one."
Liam nodded, "That's right-you are missing from pictures back then."
John nodded, "Yeah. I had gone undercover with the FBI and couldn't really talk with you all. But before that your mom and I weren't on speaking terms. So, I wrote this out and dropped it in the mail to her."
Natalie walked into Rodi's and smiled at Jeff. When John had first left town, she had tried to juggle the Bar, her forensics job, and raising Liam. It had only taken a month before she realized something had to give. Her heart had broken at the thought of closing down Rodi's, a place that had meant so much to her and John. After a talk with her mom she'd decided to let her mom's accountant handle the books and reached out to Jeff to see if he had wanted to take on more duties. He'd gladly accepted the job and challenge.
So now she'd come by once a week to help with orders and make sure everything was still on the right track.
"I put the mail you need to look at on your desk," said Jeff with a slight smile as she made her way around the bar and into the back office.
She didn't think anything of it until she started flipping through the mail and saw one addressed to Rodi's and attention Natalie Banks. It was from John. She took a breath as she found the chair behind her and just stared at the envelope unsure as to what might be said inside. Studying the envelope, she noted there was no return address and it was postmarked out west.
I got the message about the restraining order. I should have known better than to think you'd keep him away from me.
I really shouldn't be writing this-could get in a hell of a lot of trouble if it were intercepted and this whole operation is blown, but I need to. Need to tell you I'm sorry about everything.
When this case is done, I'm coming home. I'm not asking you to wait on me-I want you happy, and if you find it with someone else then I'll accept that. But I love you and what I said at the airport is still true. Now you have it in black and white.
Give L a hug and kiss from me. Tell him every night I love him and will be home soon.
She let out a breath and wiped the tears from her eyes. She wished she could reply and tell him to be safe. That Liam needed his dad-hell, that she needed him just as much. Pulling out a piece of paper she began writing a note-why she didn't know, but she felt she needed to. Felt she needed to give him some sort of response, that when he came back she'd give it to him.
"Mom wrote you back?" laughed Liam as he looked at the next sheet.
"Yeah, she did. There should be a response to every letter or postcard I sent her during that time," he said as he read the first one.
You aren't getting the last word-and it's crazy that I'm even replying to this when I don't know where to send it. But you promised you'd come back so I know you will read it eventually.
L misses you, and so do I. Please stay safe. We need you.
"How long did these go on?" he asked as he flipped through the rest of the notes.
"This job lasted about nine months."
Natalie smiled at Jeff as she walked in and made her way to the office. He'd texted her earlier that she had mail to pick up. She hoped that meant there was a new note from John. Some had been letters; some had been postcards. Nothing more than a few lines and always ending with he loved them and would be home soon.
It had been nice-to have some sort of connection with him still. They'd been coming every few weeks until the last two months when it had become silent. She'd called Michael to see if he'd heard from him, but he hadn't. Hopefully it meant he was going deeper undercover and would be home soon.
Seeing the postcard on the desk she picked it up, it was a picture of the sunrise on the Atlantic City boardwalk. That was strange-all others had been out west. He was closer to home now? Closer to her? Flipping it over she felt her heart begin to race at what it said.
Meet me on the roof
As Natalie took the stairs slowly she realized how much this felt like a dream, and kept waiting to wake up. Walking out onto the roof she felt goosebumps rise at seeing him standing there, looking out onto the city. She didn't say anything, but at the sound of the door closing he turned and looked at her. His hair was long-it reminded her of Las Vegas and right after.
"Hey," he said with a smile and let out the breath he'd been holding. He hadn't been sure what he was coming back to-even after talking with Michael on the drive from AC to Llanview still felt uneasy about coming back. Like he was going to disrupt the life that Natalie had built for herself and Liam. "I wasn't sure you'd come. Or care."
"Of course, I would-I'm glad you are ok. The silence the last few months-."
John nodded, "I went in deeper to finish the job and didn't want to put you in any danger. Thought it was best to go silent."
"I figured it was something like that. I wrote you each time I got a letter or card," she laughed. "I left them at Rodi's," she said, unsure why she had to share that with him just now.
"We'll go by and get them later. Natalie-,"
"It doesn't matter. Nothing matters but you being here."
"Yes, it does. I kept something from you before. Your dad put everything else into play that kept us apart this whole time, but I hurt you," he said as he began to pace the small area. "I swore I was done hurting you. Done keeping secrets or putting other cases and ghosts ahead of our family. And I failed at all of those."
"When you first didn't come home, I was angry and confused. How you could walk away from Liam and I like that? How you could choose a woman you barely knew over your family? I began to doubt what we had. Was it ever real or had I just imagined it?
"And then I found out my dad was behind a restraining order and letter that I had no clue about. You have to know I never would have done that to you John."
"I know-and I should have known before," he said, keeping his head down for the most part. Looking up at her he saw the tears in her eyes and wanted so badly to wipe them away.
"When I got that first letter from you, I knew. I knew that you still loved us. I knew that all this distance and time apart hadn't stopped what we meant to each other. And I knew you'd come home to me. To your family. I forgave you then, John. It's time to forgive yourself and let's go home to our son."
John was pulled out of the memory of getting his family back by the ringing of his phone. He smiled at seeing her name pop up, "Hey."
"Hey-where are you two? It's almost time to head over to Llanfair."
"I know-we got sidetracked," he chuckled. "We're finishing up loading the car and will meet you there."
"Are they down?" asked John as he finished putting the last few presents under the tree.
"Who knows. I think I heard Liam talking on his phone. Probably with Charlotte," she teased. Sitting down on the couch she had to smile, "I know the thought of your son dating bothers you, but when I hear him call her Vega-I don't know," she said with a shrug as she tried to describe it. "It brings back memories of us at the beginning of our relationship."
John nodded, "Hopefully he treats her better than I did back then."
"He will," she smiled. "You and Liam seemed good when you got to Llanfair. What happened at Rodi's?"
John picked the letters up off the coffee table and handed them to Natalie before sitting down beside her, "Liam found those. And we sat there and read through them."
Natalie felt a wave of nostalgia come over her at holding them in her hands again, "I haven't looked at these in years. I forgot they were in that drawer. That's where I kept them while you were gone."
"I realized while I was sitting there how you didn't have to forgive me back then. After everything I put you through you could have told me where to go and I would have accepted it. But you did-and now we have this family that I couldn't imagine being without," he said with a slight sigh as he pulled Natalie closer to him and kissed her on the top of the head.
"Merry Christmas, Natalie," he said softly into her hair.
Nuzzling herself into John more she stared into the fire and smiled before closing her eyes and relishing in him holding her like this, knowing he would never let her go, "Merry Christmas, John."