A/N Hello everyone! I know Christmas was 2 days ago, and that I'm a little late, but this just wouldn't leave me alone, and I just got a new laptop. So plot bunnies + new laptop = late Christmas. So merry belated Christmas and please review! By the way, if your waiting for a new update of Always Running, it'll probably be sometime next week.

Disclaimer: I don't own. Yet.

It was nearly 5:00 when Rachel got up that morning. Snow was falling against the window, making a little, pitter patter pitter patter, on it's way down to the ground. The house was completely silent except for the sound of tiny feet slowly making their way down the hallway to the room at the end of the hall.

The little red head-had to stand on her tiptoes to reach the door knob, and she slowly pushed open the heavy door to reveal a huge master bedroom.

Once inside, the tiny child rushed onto the bed and began jumping up and down on the fluffy matress, her night gown flowing up around her. "Mommy, daddy, get up! Santa came! He brought me presents!"

The two lumps under the sheets shifted slightly, but made no attempt to get up, which frustrated the ginger, and she started jumping harder. "Come on! I want to see what Santa and the reindeer brought me, and I want you to see!"

The bodies groaned and a handsome man stuck his head out over the covers. " Rachel, go ahead and begin opening your presents. Me and your mother are going to stay in bed a while longer." The four year old sighed and ran out of the room down the long stair case, her footsteps echoing through the silent house.

Rachel Elizabeth Dare was halfway through her presents when her parents finally came downstairs.

Her father came into the living room first, around 7:00, dressed in a nice suit with a red tie and grabbed his brief case wich was sitting by the huge arm chair. Rachel jumped up when she saw him and grabbed his hand, pulling him towards her hord of presents below the Christmas tree and picked up a little stuffed panda bear.

"See my bear, daddy? Isn't he pretty? I don't know what to name him yet." Her dad pulled her hand off his arm and handed her panda back to her, confusing the little girl. " Aren't you going to stay and watch me open up the rest of my presents?"

Mr. Dare just started walking to the door. " Dear, I have to work today, we're trying to get the rights to build a new condo in Connecticut. Mommy will stay and watch you, though."

Rachel raced up the stairs and into her parent's room to find her mom at the dressing table in a nice blue shirt and a silk skirt, putting on mascara. " Mommy, come down and see all the things I got for Christmas!"

The woman continued putting on her make-up. " Oh dear, I can't. I'm going to meet Virginia at the office this morning."

"But mommy, you can't leave, it's Christmas! I can't be alone on Christmas."

Her mother frowned at this. " You won't be alone, the butler and cook are here to keep you company." She then picked up her purse with manicured hands and walked towards the door, kissing Rachel on her forehead on her way out.

Rachel slowly made her way to her bedroom, and climbed on her bed, tears falling down her pale cheeks.

The butler found her there thirty minutes later, still crying into her pillow. "Hello little miss, what's got you so troubled?" He never really associated with the little girl, but he felt bad for her neglective parents, and felt it was his duty to cheer her up.

Rachel slowly looked up at the old man, blinking tears out of her face. " My parents wouldn't celebrate Christmas with me. They wouldn't even come see what I got from Santa." And at this she began crying again.

" Oh, well that won't do. Everybody needs someone to see all of their gifts, ecpecially lucky young girls like you. Why don't you show them to me?" The butler picked up the little girl and carried her downstairs. And thus started a beautiful friendship.

3

All of Rachel's problems started when the Fabre's had shown up.

Her Christmas had been going great until then, even though David the butler was in bed with the flu.

Her father had finally gotten the beginners paint set she'd been asking for for months (Rachel had been obsessed with drawing ever since David bought her that Drawing Made Easy book when she was six) even though he thought that drawing would be a bad influence for his young daughter, and her mom had even played Christmas music all day even though she said it gave her headaches. Rachel had even convinced both of them to play Christmas bingo with her.

But then her father had to anounce that a business investor was going to be coming for dinner. Her dad had put on his business face again, and Rachel knew she wasn't going to have any fun any more.

The Fabre's turned out to be even more rich than her father. There was four of them; Mr. Fabre, Mrs. Fabre, Eric, and little Chantal who turned out to be about the same age as Rachel. Mrs. Fabre was wearing a coat that looked like it was made of some sort of lepoard, which Rachel would have commented against if her father wouldn't have been looking at her so sternly.

Dinner proved to be pretty uneventful. The adults chattered away and Rachel learned that Mr. Fabre loved to gamble, Mrs. Fabre never ate butter, Eric was getting braces, and Chantal had gotten nothing but dolls and clothes for Christmas.

After dinner, Rachel's dad made her take Chantal up to her bedroom to play so the adults could talk, to which Rachel grudgingly agreed to.

All Chantal wanted to do was play barbies, but apparently she didn' t like the way Rachel had cut their hair and highlighted them with colorful markers to make them look like the big girls Rachel saw walk past her school during recess, so Rachel suggested they go outside and build a snowman.

Building a snowman was harder than Rachel thought. Sure, Rachel had built a snowman before, but David always help her put the middle on. So far, the two seven year olds were having a awfully hard time pushing the middle onto the base and Chantal was complaing loudly about how wet her new pink fur coat was getting, which made Rachel so annoyed that she threw a big snow ball at her and made Chantal start to cry and run inside.

Now Rachel was sitting on the cold snow leaning on her half-made snowman. She'd managed to stick the snowman's middle half way up the bottom and it managed to stick so Rachel just stuck the hands at the top of the bottom and put the face on the middle.

She was pretty proud of the work she did and was headed inside to tell Chantal she was a little snob, when she a heard a loud crash and turned around to see that her snowman's middle had fallen and crumpled into little snowy peices.

Rachel ran to her half-destroyed snowman, sat down on the cold snow, and leaned against the still solid bottom.

She hated Christmas! She didn't care what everyone said about Christmas being the 'most wonderful time of the year', she hated it! Something always seemed to happen on the holiday that made her so angry, so sad. Just like tonight. She could feel her eyes feel up with tears. Was she really that different that her own parents didn't want to spend time with her on Christmas?

Suddenly a big black streak raced out of a snowbank by the tall fence that bordered the house, which caused her to jump out of her thoughts.

Rachel felt herself freeze. The black thing kept coming closer until it was it was right in her lap. Rachel started to laugh. It was the cutest little black kitten she had ever seen!

He started to fiercely lick her cheeks, and Rachel started laughing even harder. " Aren't you the cutest little thing ever? Come on, you're probably freezing. Let's go inside."

Rachel started to feel a little happier when her parents told her she could keep the pretty little kitty, and she felt even better when she found out that Chantal had always wanted a cat but her mom was alergic and was extremely jealous. Maybe Christmas wasn't so bad after all.

3

Christmas lights aluminated the dark, empty street. Snow fell slowly on the quiet city, melting when it reached the ground. Everyone was inside enjoying Christmas with their families exept for lone red-head walking quietly around the deserted neighborhood, as if trying not to disturb the peace.

Rachel Elizabeth Dare was angry. Angry at her stupid father for dragging her to stupid Arizona. Hoover Dam had been cool-apart from almost being cut in half by some stupid boy (who even brought a sword to Arizona, anyways?)- but the rest of Arizona was just awful. There wasn't even any snow. Well, there was that rain-like stuff, but it wasn't soft, powdery white snow like in New York, so Rachel wasn't calling it snow, and it wasn't even cold!

Her dad had been trying to get her to go to Clarion Lady's Academy again tonight. He'd been trying to get her to go to that school since her birthday in November and she'd become old enough to attend. She suspected that was the whole reason he brought them here. That and because there were a whole lot of investors in Arizona waiting for someone to come chop up all their land.

Rachel turned into a silent playground and sat on one of the benches, watching the swings blow gently in the slight wind. She put her head down on the bench and let the peacefulness wash over her. Slowly, her eyes began to shut and she felt herself relax a bit.

Sleep had just about claimed her when Rachel felt a small tap on her shoulder. She jumped up and turned around, greatly startled.

Behind her there was a girl that looked like she'd just got out of high school wearing wearing a shirt that was way too big, and old, ratty shoes with hair that looked like it hadn't been brushed in weeks. "Didn't mean to startle ya, but this is were I usually sleep. Think you can scoot over?"

Rachel warily sat up and moved over to the edge of the bench. The girl sat down and looked over at her suspicously. "What's a girl like you doing out in the middle of the night on christmas?"

"My dad..." Rachel started to explain, but didn't feel like explaining all her problems to some stranger. Luckily, the girl seemed to understand.

"Yeah, that happened to me last month. I used to live in Nevada. My name's Lynsie, by the way."

Rachel smiled, "Rachel Elizabeth Dare."

Lynsie raised her eyebrow then started to laugh. "Well, Rachel Elizabeth Dare, I think we'll be good friends." And Rachel agreed.

3

Percy was in the living room with Paul, who was trying to teach him to play chess, though right now it was a total fail, when the door bell rang. He jumped up and opened it to a sobbing Rachel dressed in a green kimono covered in paint. Apparently she was to upset to change out of her pj's. " Hey, Rach, what's up?"

She just groaned. " Can't you just let me in, or are you to stupid?" Percy smiled and let her in. Even when she was crying she still attacked him with words.

Sally came rushing in when she heard Rachel's name. She stopped when she saw her. " Rachel? Honey, come on into the kitchen, I'll make you some hot chocalote."

Rachel followed her into the kitchen and sat at the table. "Thanks, Ms. J."

"No problem, dear. You look like you need it."

Percy sat beside her. "So, what's up? Did your dad decide he was going to build a five star resort in the Amazing Rainforest?"

Rachel sighed. " You mean Amazon, do you ever pay attention to anything I say? And no, if he even tried I'd form a protest outside our house."

"Even if he'd grounded you?" Rachel just stared at him for along time. " Oh, right. You'd just vandalize his office."

Percy's mom put a huge mug of hot chocolate in front of Rachel. "Here you go. I put in a little bit of caramel and whipped cream, no marshmallows, just how you like it."

Percy looked around the kitchen furiously. "Where's mine?"

Sally swatted him playfully on the head. "You don't need any more sugar. You're hyper enough already and it's not even noon." Percy stuck out his bottom lip like a indigant toddler, causing both the girls to laugh.

Rachel took a big long sip of her hot chocolate. " Hmmm. This is so good."

"I'm glad you like it. Now, do you want to talk about why you're here?" Sally asked, turning on the worried mother mode.

"Na, it's just my dad being awful, like usual."

Rachel ended up spending the rest of the day with the Jacksons and Paul, and by the end of the day, she was dancing around like she'd never even shown up crying that morning. All in all, it had to be one of the best Christmases ever.