Of Santa and His Helper
by CuzinDon and Nightlady
circa December 1997

LaCroix sat staring glumly at the glass of dark liquid before him. Not even
his finest 'vintage' could raise his spirit tonight. "How did I ever allow
myself to be placed in this position." He muttered in disgust. Of course,
he knew exactly how this had come to pass. He lifted the glass to his lips,
and allowed his mind to drift back to the cause his present situation.

South America, early 1800's

The young native child paused near the edge of the clearing. He was used to
the sounds of the jungle, of the various predators that roamed there, but
what ever was hiding in the thick vegetation was something different. He
turned to go back to the hut he shared with his mother and siblings, when
the bushes in front of him stirred. The youngster's eyes widened as pale,
dark-haired woman stepped into his path. "Ah, mon petit," she said, "you
will do well as an appetizer."
The last thing the child remembered was seeing the woman's blue eyes
suddenly change to the golden glow of a jaguar's. Then darkness descended
on him.

Janette dropped the small body to the ground. "Nicholas does not know what
he is missing." she said, to the aristocratic man that stood watching her.

LaCroix smiled. "No, he doesn't. A pity, we had such fun hunting together."
He looked over toward the collection of huts that formed the village.
"Come, the hour grows late, the sun will rise in a little more than two
hours, and I am hungry." Not waiting to see if she followed, LaCroix moved
silently toward the village.

Less than an hour later, both Janette and LaCroix were, at last, sated.
They stood in the midst of the bodies of a dozen or so women and children,
all the humans they had found in the tiny village. The feast they had just
enjoyed dulled their senses, and they did not hear the small sounds that
should have alerted them to the presence of other mortals. It was not
until the first small, wooden dart penetrated LaCroix's neck that they
realized they had been surrounded.

With a hiss, that was more irritation than pain, LaCroix reached up and
pulled the offending piece of wood from his neck. It was small, only three
inches in length, and the wound it had caused healed quickly. LaCroix
stepped forward just as a barrage of similar darts rained down upon the two

Furious at the assault, both Janette and LaCroix swiftly dispatched the men
who had dared to fire upon them. They then took several minutes to remove
the darts that had penetrated their skin. All in all, each had been hit at
least a dozen times.

Not until they attempted to take to the sky, the first indication of rising
sun was already turning the eastern sky a pale pink, did they became aware
that something was seriously wrong.

Janette, felt has if her head were spinning. She felt vaguely ill and could
not seem to see clearly. Staggering she collapsed at LaCroix's feet.

LaCroix had not felt this bad since he had over indulged in wine during his
mortal days. He glanced at Janette, who lay moaning softly, then turned
his back to her and took to the sky. His flight was short, however, as
acute dizziness forced him to land only yards away. As he too, collapsed
he knew that both of them were doomed if they did not recover in the next
several minutes. They would be caught in the burning rays of the sun.

The shrill ringing of the phone startled LaCroix out of his reverie.
"Yes?" He said, answering it.

"LaCroix, something horrible has happened!" Janette said.

LaCroix could hear the panic in her voice. He smiled, grimly. "Let me see,
Nicholas has decided to collect on that debt you owe him for saving your
life that time in South America."

"How did you know?... Ah, he is collecting his debt from you, too."
Janette paused. "What are we going to do, LaCroix?"

LaCroix could hear the cold rage in Janette's voice. He sighed, then spoke
bitterly. "What CAN we do. We must repay the debt." He listened briefly as
Janette broke into a string of French curses, then replaced the phone on
its cradle.

(Earlier that day)

Nick walked down the hallway of the Coroner's Building with a smile on his
face. It had been many years since he had looked forward to Christmas Day
as much as he did this year. Waving to Grace, who was seated at her desk,
before opening the office door in front of him. For a moment, he stood
just inside the doorway, looking at the reason for his happiness.

Nat looked up from her computer screen and smiled. Nick had been so
cheerful these past few weeks. After over five years of watching him
agonize over everything, she had to admit that she enjoyed the change in
him. "Hi," she greeted him. "I'm almost done here." She returned to the
program she was working on.

Nick walked over and sat on the edge of her desk. Nat's car was in the
shop, again, and he was going to give her a lift home. For know, however,
he was more than content to just watch her and smell the unique scent that
was Nat.

"Done!" Nat exclaimed happily. She stood and head for the alcove where her
coat hung. Just as she was reaching for the coat, Grace stuck her head in
the doorway.

"Nat, I hate to bother you but the manager of Eaton Centre. He says that
there is a problem with the charity Santa for tonight." Grace said.

Nat frowned. Through a lot of hard work, she had arranged for a special
Visit with Santa at the Eaton Centre. The huge mall had agreed that for
every child that visited with Santa from 6PM until Midnight, the mall would
make a donation of $10.00 worth of food to the local food bank. This being
only two days, before Christmas, Nat figured that there would be at least
one hundred children seen during that period of time. She picked up the
phone and listened.

Nick saw the sudden look of disappointed that crossed Nat's face. At his
questioning glance she motioned that he should use his abilities and listen

"...and this close to Christmas, I doubt that I can find a replacement
Santa and Santa's Helper." A male voice was saying. "I'm sorry, but I guess
we'll just have to cancel the whole thing."

"Can you give me a few hours to try and come up with replacements?" Nat
asked. "The food bank really needs the supplies."

"Tell you what. I'll give you until 10am. If you have replacements by then,
fine. If not, that still give me time to issue a statement canceling the
evening 'Visit with Santa." The man paused. "Believe me Dr. Lambert, I
sincerely hope that you can pull this off." He gave a small chuckle. "Who
would ever would have thought that Santa and his helper would be felled by
chicken pox."

"Thank you, Mr. Michaelson, I'll get back to you as soon as I can." Nat said.

As she hung up the phone, Nick could see how upset she was. "If I can't
find replacements to play Santa and his helper tonight, the Metro food bank
is going to miss out on close to $1,000's worth of food."

Nick looked at her and raised an eyebrow. "Chicken pox? I thought that was
strictly a childhood disease?"

"Normally it is. If an adult does catch it, it can make them very ill."
She slipped on her coat. "Hmm, I wonder what Schanke is doing tonight." She

"Sorry, Nat. He's taking the next four days off. He's taking Myra and Jenny
to New York for the holiday." Nick saw Nat's shoulders sag. Moving to where
she stood, he hugged her gently. Suddenly he smiled. "I think I may know of
two people who can act as replacements for you." He said, an underlying
tone of mirth in his voice.

Nat looked up into his face. "Oh, Nick that would be wonderful! Do I know

Nick's eyes sparkled with glee. "Oh yes, you know them."

Nat looked at him, her eyes narrowing. "You can't be serious! They'd never
agree to do this!" She chuckled. "But wouldn't it be something to see!"

Nick glanced at the clock. It was getting uncomfortably close to sunrise.
"Come on. You can spend the day at the loft, and I'll see what I can arrange."

Nat had sat giggling into a pillow as Nick had called first LaCroix and
then Janette. When he hung up the phone from speaking with Janette he gave
Nat a big grin. "All set. They will be at the mall as soon as the sun goes
down, and we can help them into their costumes." Nick said, moving to sit
next to Nat. He handed her the phone. "Call Michaelson and tell him that
everything has been taken care of, okay?"

"Nick, you are amazing!" Nat said, happily. She looked at him quizzically,
"You're sure that this is going to be safe? LaCroix and Janette will behave

Nick pulled her into his arms. "Don't worry, we'll both be there to keep an
eye on them."

Nat looked at Nick and laughed. "Just so long as you're there to protect me
from them. I doubt if I'm winning any popularity awards with either of them
right about now."

Nick grinned back at her. "I'll be sure to keep you safe, and I'll start by
holding you safe and secure all day long while we sleep." He gently kissed

Nat returned the kiss with enthusiasm. "I like that idea."

They rose and went hand in hand up the stairs.

A little before sundown, Nat backed Nick's Caddy out of the garage. She
grimaced at every bump in the road, hoping that Nick was not too
uncomfortable in the trunk. By leaving while it was still daylight, Nick
and Nat would both be at the Eaton Centre ahead of LaCroix and Janette.
Nat smiled as she thought of the 'supplies' she had with her and the
evening ahead.

Pulling into the underground parking area, Nat made sure that no one was
around before opening the trunk. Nick quickly got out, and giving her a
smile, picked up the small bag that they had brought with them. Together,
they went to the mall manager's office, where Michaelson awaited them.

After finding out where the dressing room was, Nick left Nat with
Michaelson, and went to the main entrance of the mall to await LaCroix and
Janette. They both arrived promptly, if not happily, a few minutes after
sundown. Janette answered Nick's greeting with an irritated glare, while
LaCroix contented himself with an icy look of contempt. Chuckling, Nick
led them back to where Nat, and their costumes, waited.

Nat thought she would burst out laughing at the look on Janette's face when
she saw the costume she was to wear.

"WHAT is THAT!" Janette hissed, as she looked at the green elf costume. She
glanced down at the shoes, also green with stuffed points that ended in
small bells. "You cannot be serious! You don't actually expect me to wear
this...this monstrosity!"

Nat fought to keep a straight face. "It's an elf costume. You're one of
Santa's elves." Nat reached into the bag she'd brought with her and
removed a large roll of four-inch wide elastic bandage.

"What to you think you're going to do with that?" Janette asked, eyeing the

"I'm going to use this to, um, flatten your chest." Nat explained. "Can't
have a busty elf, now can we?" She gave Janette her nicest smile. "If
you'll just take off that blouse, I can start wrapping."

"Don't even think of it, Doctor." She snatched the bandage from Nat. "Give
me that. I'll do it myself!" Grabbing the hanger with the costume, Janette
disappeared behind a small screen.

Nat waited, listening to a steady stream of curses from Janette. She
looked at the pointy elf ears in her hand. "Um, Janette, you forgot a part
of the costume." Nat said.

Janette stepped from behind the screen. Gone was the elegant woman who had
entered the room. In her stead stood a very non-cheery looking elf. "What
other humiliating item do you have..." She spotted the ears. "NICHOLAS!!!!!!"

LaCroix stood sneering at his image in the mirror. Nick approached with a
long white wig and held it out to the elder vampire. With a snarl, LaCroix
took the wig and gingerly placed it on his head. "I believe that there is a
beard that goes with this abomination?" LaCroix said, disgust clear in his

"Yeah," Nick responded. "Nat will come in and help you to fasten it on."

LaCroix raised an eyebrow. "Fasten it? How?"

"I think she's planing to use spirit gum or something." Nick said
uncertainly. Any farther questioning by LaCroix was cut off as both
vampires heard Janette shout Nick's name. Giving his master a shrug, Nick
headed toward the door. "I'll tell Nat to come on over and help you finish
with the costume." Nick told LaCroix.

Opening the door to the room in which Janette was dressing; Nick noted the
angry look on Janette's face. "What's the problem?" he asked, addressing
his comment to Nat.

"I'll tell you what the problem is!" Janette said, angrily. "She," Janette
glared at Nat, "expects me to wear these!" Janette held up one of the
offending ears.

Nick waited until he was sure that he wouldn't laugh before answering.
"Janette, it's just a part of the costume." He gave her is best 'do it for
me' smile.

Janette looked at Nick for a minute, and then she carefully sat one of the
ears on top of her own. When she let go of it, it promptly fell off. "Oh
well, it must be the wrong size. It won't stay on, so I guess I'll just
have to do without them." She said, pleased to have found what seemed to
be a valid reason to not wear the ears.

"Not a problem." Nat said, picking the ear up off of the floor. "You just
need," she rummaged in the bag again, "a little of this." Nat opened a
small tube and ran the tip of it along the edge of the ears. Not giving
Janette a chance to move away, Nat quickly placed the elf ear on Janette's.
"There! That should stay on during your shift." Nat said happily, as she
repeated the process with the remaining elf ear.

"Nat, I told LaCroix that I'd send you over to help him with his beard."
Nick said.

"Okay, just let me finish here." Nat replied as she swept down on Janette
with several types of make-up. She moved swiftly. "There!" Nat said with
satisfaction to Janette. "You are now an elf!" Dumping the items she'd
used on Janette back into her bag, Nat left.

Janette sat, mildly in shock, looking at the door Nat had disappeared
through. It was only when she heard a muffled chuckle from Nick that she
finally moved to look into the mirror. In addition to the pointed ears,
Nat had used rouge to put a bright spot of red on each of Janette's cheeks.
In the mirror, Janette could see Nick standing behind her. "Remind me once
again, WHY I am permitting this to happen," she said through gritted teeth.

"Certainly," Nick replied, "it has to do with a little run in you and
LaCroix had with some South American natives, and their curare dipped
darts." Nick grinned at Janette. "Oh yes, and a little matter of getting
the two of you to shelter before the sun rose."

Janette clinched her fists. "If I had know that this would be the cost, I
would almost have preferred to have been left in the sun." She muttered.

Before Nick could answer, the door opened and smiling Nat entered closely
followed by a rather hostile looking Santa. Nick watched as Janette
suddenly found herself the one fighting to keep from laughing out loud.

"Right! You're both ready so let's go make some kids happy." Nat said, as
she winked at Nick. She fixed LaCroix with a hard stare. "And don't you
forget what I told you! You're suppose to be a merry old gent--SMILE!" She
shouted the last word at him.

LaCroix actually flinched slightly. He formed his lips in a semblance of a
smile. "Ho ho ho," he said.

LaCroix knew that he would always remember the six hours that followed as
possibly the worst in his long existence. He had no doubt that Janette felt
the same.

LaCroix and Janette had followed Nick and Nat out into the main concourse
of the mall. As they approached "Santa's Headquarters" LaCroix was dismayed
to see a
long line of children and their parent's awaiting Santa's arrival.

"Remember, the children all go home, with no bite marks." Nick said.

"Then they had better behave themselves." Janette replied, haughtily.

"Even if they don't behave," Nat said quietly to her, "or I swear I will
personally stake you myself!"

Janette glared at Nat, but before things could deteriorate, Nick stepped
between the two women. "I'm sure that Janette won't do anything...rash." He
said, looking sternly at Janette. "She knows the trouble that would cause."

Janette lifted her nose in the air, turned away, and followed LaCroix into
the brightly decorated area.

Following the instructions that Nat had given her, Janette smiled and
approached the first of the children in line. "Are you ready to see Santa?"
She asked extending her hand to the little girl. The girl looked up at her,
nodded, and took Janette's hand. "Very well, come along." Janette led her
through the "Magic Forrest" area of the display, to where LaCroix was
seated on a large, throne-like chair in the "Santa's Cottage" area. There,
she merely had to watch as the girl climbed up on Santa's lap and began
whispering her Christmas wishes to him. 'This might not be too bad after
all.' Janette thought. She still found it hard to keep from laughing when
she looked at 'Santa' LaCroix.

LaCroix nodded, and even managed to smile at the appropriate times, as the
youngster poured out her Christmas wants. There was a brief moment when
Nick, acting as the photographer, took the obligatory visit with Santa
photo, then Janette led the little girl to the exit and her waiting
parents. The whole thing had gone so smoothly, that Janette moved with
confidence to the next child waiting in line.

For nearly an hour things went well. The first sign of trouble came when
Janette escorted a small boy of perhaps three years of age to LaCroix.
Unlike the other children, who had run eagerly to sit on Santa's lap, the
boy seemed somehow reluctant to let go of Janette's hand. Sighing, she
lifted the child in her arms and sat him on LaCroix's lap, unintentionally
producing a sudden shrieking of a volume that Janette would not have
thought possible for a child that small to produce.

LaCroix flinched as the shrill 'NO!NO!NO!" of the little boy was extremely
painful to his heightened hearing. "Ho! Ho! Ho! Don't you want to tell
Santa what you want for Christmas?" LaCroix managed to say. The only
response from the boy was to somehow increase the volume of his cries,
while at the same time flailing his little fists wildly. One of the child's
fists caught LaCroix directly in the mouth. Even as he could feel himself
wanting to silence the child, permanently, Natalie Lambert suddenly
appeared to lift the child off of his lap.

Janette had stood frozen with shock until Natalie arrived. "I swear, I only
sat him on LaCroix's lap." She said to Nat. "We didn't do anything to harm

Nat nodded. "I'm sure that you didn't. Children this age sometimes have
this sort of reaction to Santa." Nat handed Janette the still sobbing
child. "Take him on down to his folks, and tell them that he is at the No
Santa age." Seeing Janette's skeptical look, she added. "Don't worry, I
doubt if they will be surprised."

Janette carried the boy, who she noted was using the side of her neck as if
it were a Kleenex, to his mother. To Janette's surprise, Natalie had been
correct and instead of being angry, the mother actually apologized for her
son's behavior. Janette barely heard the woman, she was too busy trying to
find something to use to wipe her neck.

Now wary, Janette approached the next child, but to her relief, even though
this little boy was about the same age as the previous one, he was glad to
see Santa.

As she escorted the next several children, Janette realized that there was
a very unpleasant odor coming from farther down in the line. It was growing
stronger with each child that she approached. When she got the next child,
she nearly dropped the one-year-old as he was handed to her. "I think, your
baby needs to have his diaper changed." Janette said, as she tried to give
the child back to his mother.

The woman looked at her. "Listen, I've been waiting in this line for over
an hour. He can wait another few minutes, before he gets changed." The
woman turned and headed for the exit area leaving Janette with the awful
smelling child.

Cursing under her breath, Janette moved as fast as possible, without using
her vampiric abilities and literally dropped the offensive baby on
LaCroix's lap. This turned out to be a less than wise move.

LaCroix had noticed the unpleasant odor only seconds before the apparent
source of it landed squarely in his lap. To his horror the awful scent
suddenly intensified and there was a most disagreeable dampness on his leg
in the area of the baby's bottom. Wrinkling his nose, LaCroix hissed, "Get
this, this thing off of me immediately!"

"I am not touching it again." Janette shot back.

"Just look this way for a minute." Nick called from behind the camera.
"Then I'll take him away. Oh, and LaCroix, try and smile."

LaCroix smiled, and Nick noticed that the elder vampire's fangs were
showing. Quickly snapping the picture, and hoping that the mouth area would
be to small for anyone to notice the fangs, Nick moved to take the little
boy in his arms. He had to admit that the odor was overwhelming, and the
nasty spot on Santa's trousers would have to be tended to before any other
children could visit.

Carrying the baby to where Nat waited, Nick explained the problem. She took
the baby, handed him to his mother and then headed toward LaCroix. After a
fast inspection of the trouser leg, Nat hunted through her bag and produced
a moist towel wipe. "Here," she said handing it to LaCroix, "use this to
clean up."

LaCroix readily complied. In few moments, the offensive odor was gone, but
a damp spot still remained on his leg. "What a shame, I guess we'll just
have to stop early. You wouldn't want some other child to have to sit on a
wet spot, would you?"

Nat shook her head. "No, I wouldn't. Isn't it lucky that you have two
legs?" She smiled. "Just have them sit on the other one until this one dries."

LaCroix allowed his eyes to briefly glow red. "You are enjoying this,
aren't you?" He said, looking at Natalie.

Nat grinned. "You better believe I am." She threw a kiss to Nick and headed
back to her post. "Only another hour to go." She called back over her

The next dozen or so children were old enough to walk to Santa, ranging in
age from around six to ten years in age. Most of the little girls, and the
younger boys were, in Janette and LaCroix's opinions, bearable. There were
three brothers, older boys, however who were a different story.

"I bet that's just a fake beard." One of them said eyeing LaCroix.

"Me too!" The second boy added.

"Let's find out." Said the oldest of the trio, and promptly grabbed the
beard and yanked hard on it.

Nick didn't wait to hear LaCroix's exclamation of pain. He was beside the
children before it even occurred. "Boys, if you try to pull Santa's beard,
you'll have to leave without getting your pictures taken." Nick said
sternly. He noticed that LaCroix was sitting very still, with his eyes
shut. Nick knew from experience that this meant his master was furious.

The children appeared to sense this too. "Gee, I'm sorry. I really thought
that was a fake beard." The older child said. "I didn't mean to hurt you."

LaCroix opened his eyes, and the children drew back. Nick glanced and saw
that LaCroix's eyes were still golden in color. LaCroix looked at Nick.
"Get them out of here, Nicholas, or I will NOT be responsible for what
happens." He said in a voice so soft only another vampire would hear him.

Nick eyed LaCroix back. "Let me get their picture with you. You'll survive
the beard pulling." Nick smiled. "He did apologize after all." He said in
the same soft tone of voice.

"Very well, but I warn you, Nicholas, if he does it again, they will be

Nick placed the youngsters on LaCroix's lap, snapped the photo, and
motioned for Janette to take them away.

"How much longer?" She hissed, as she passed Nick.

"Just a few more minutes." He replied.

At last there was only one child waiting in the line. A small impeccably
dressed little girl, about one year of age. Remembering the diaper
difficulties, Janette had gingerly taken her from the child's mother's
arms. The little red velvet dress and the girl's tousled curls made her a
lovely sight. That she smelled fresh and clean too, even caused Janette to
smile as she carried the little girl to LaCroix. The little girl looked at
Janette with a serious expression. "Cherie, why so serious?" Janette cooed
to the child as she approached LaCroix. "Look! There is Santa." This was
followed by a gasp of dismay from Janette.

LaCroix looked up just in time to see an angelic looking little girl, spit
up all over the front of Janette's costume. He raised his eyes and thanked
whatever force had kept him from being the recipient of this latest disaster.

Nick almost burst out laughing at the expression that crossed Janette's
face. Instead, he called for Nat.

Nat took one look at the mess and removed the child from Janette's arms.
She started to leave when Nick called out to her.

"Put her on Santa's lap for a minute, so I can get her picture." He said.
Nat could here the barely concealed laughter in his voice. Shrugging she
did as he requested.

"Don't worry," Nat said as she placed the child on LaCroix's lap, "you
should be safe."

LaCroix only glared at her in reply.

As soon as the picture was snapped, Nat took the little girl back to her
mother and Janette and LaCroix both fled to the dressing area.

Nick waited for Nat, and then they both went to the dressing area. As they
approached, LaCroix and Janette were waiting for them, both in their
regular clothes, but LaCroix still wearing the beard and Janette the elf

"What do we use to remove these things?" He said.

Nat offered them each a bottle of fingernail polish remover and some cotton
balls. "You can use this. Soak the area that where the glue is and then
wait five to ten minutes. You can then start peeling off the beard," she
looked at Janette, "or in your case, ears. You may have to use more of the
remover as you go."

Janette snorted. "Wait five to ten minutes! I want to be away from this
place now! Surely there is a faster way!"

Nat shrugged, "I guess you could just yank it off." With a quick nod in her
direction, LaCroix and Janette went into the dressing areas. "But I
wouldn't recommend that method." Nat finished as they disappeared.

"What DID you use to put those on with?" Nick inquired.

Before Nat could answer, twin shrikes of pain and rage rang out.

"Just a little Super Glue." Nat said her eyes twinkling.

Nick started laughing. "Oh, boy! You know, I think you and Sidney had
better plan on spending couple of weeks with me at the loft." He nodded
toward the dressing area where what were undoubtedly curses, in a variety
of languages, could be heard.

Nat listened for a moment. "Do you think two weeks will be long enough?"

Nick grinned, "You may be right. Why don't you just plan on staying

Nat smiled, "Sounds good to me."

Hand in hand, they turned and left the building, headed home, together.

The End