Pairings/Characters: John/Sara, Sam Smith, Kirby Stone, Anna Seward, Bridget Murphy
Fandom: The Alienist (2018)
Genres: Drama, Fluff, Holiday
Spoilers: For The Alienist (2018)
Summary: John’s love of Christmas is infectious. :)
Date Of Completion: December 18, 2019
Date Of Posting: 2January 3, 2020
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, TNT does, more’s the pity.
Word Count: 1888
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
Author’s Note: The entire series can be found here.
Bells and jingles,
A Merry Christmas
From jolly Kris Kringle!
The smell of roasting chestnuts was pleasant in the cold December air. Red-ribboned wreaths decorated lampposts as electric lights lit the streets. Salvation Army volunteers rang bells as people tossed coins into their red kettles.
John Moore dropped a shiny new silver dollar into a kettle as the volunteer rang her bell enthusiastically. John’s wife Sara smiled approvingly.
Snow drifted down, looking magical. Sara stuck out her tongue and the snowflakes melted cold and delicious on it. John smiled at Sara’s joy. She was holding his arm and they walked along, enjoying the revelry of the season.
“Oh, look. How charming.” Sara pointed a gloved finger at a window display of a decorated tree with a model train arranged around its base.
“That’s a fine train.” John gazed avidly at the hand-carved train.
“What a marvel,” Sara said. “Some child will be delighted on Christmas morning.” She looked at her husband. “Perhaps not just children.”
John looked slightly flustered, breaking into laughter. “It is a beautiful train.”
Affection softened Sara’s gaze. She squeezed John’s arm and he regarded her fondly. They started walking again.
1890s New York could be harsh, but during the Christmas season it transformed into a magical fairyland. Good fellowship softened the edges of New Yorkers, at least for one month of the year. Charities did very well at this time of year, perhaps assuaging Gay Nineties guilt, but at least the poor benefited, even if only temporarily.
John had always enjoyed this time of year. His grandmother always had made sure that their townhouse was decorated and there was a big tree brought in from the country.
Sara considered much of the holidays ‘frippery’, but she had dutifully supervised the decoration of the townhouse and liked the result.
“So tomorrow’s Saturday. We should get a tree,” John said.
“I thought the tradition was to put it up on Christmas Eve.”
“It’s traditional to light it on Christmas Eve. We can decorate it and enjoy it for awhile.”
He looked so hopeful that Sara laughed. “All right, we will get a tree.”
John’s face lit up and Sara knew that she had made the right decision.
The day was crisp, cold and clear, but John and Sara were bundled up with fur-lined coats and hats. Sara carried a muff and a thick blanket was draped over their laps as John took the reins of the horse pulling the sleigh over the snow.
Sara had to admit that it was a beautiful day. The scene was as picturesque as a Currier & Ives print. Snow-dusted trees swayed gently in the morning breeze.
“It’s beautiful out here,” said John.
Bells jingled on the horse’s red harness as John kept him on a steady pace. John began singing, “’Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way/ Oh! what fun it is to ride…’”
Sara laughed. “…’In a one-horse open sleigh’.”
John grinned and they sang together as they traversed the snowy fields. The soft swish of the sleigh runners over the packed snow underscored the merry singing.
They arrived at the tree farm, and a stableboy took care of the customers’ horses. John helped Sara down and they walked to the area where the staff was talking with customers. A young man with a red scarf asked John, “Do you need an ax or would you rather I cut the tree?”
“I’ll do it.”
“Here you go.” The young man added a sled.
“Thanks. C’mon, Sara.”
Sara was glad that she had worn sturdy boots as she and John tramped into the woods. They studied the various trees and Sara pointed. “That one.”
John looked at the chosen tree, tall and full. “Yes.”
He got to work, chopping the tree as Sara stood by the sled. John was efficient and the snow fluttered down from the branches to dust John like powdered sugar. Sara was enchanted by the charm of the scene.
“Timber!” yelled John.
Sara laughed in delight as the tree toppled to the ground, puffs of snow coming up in a shower of cold crystals.
“Would you get someone to come and help me load this?” John asked.
As Sara went for help, she appreciated the fact that her husband had carefully made it a request, not an order. She had heard the stories about tyrannical husbands and fathers and felt fortunate that her own father…she stopped that line of thinking and continued with her task.
She returned with the staff member who had given John the ax and the young man helped drag the tree to the sled and secure it with rope.
“Whew, tree-chopping works up a sweat.” John wiped his brow with a monogrammed handkerchief.
“Seems so.” Sara looked at the large tree. “How will we get this home?”
“Well, my friend here and a friend of his will follow us home, right?”
“Yes, sir, and the name’s Sam.”
“Okay, Sam, let’s get this show on the road.”
Sam and his friend Kirby loaded the tree into a wagon and followed the Moores into the city. They and John brought the tree into the house and set it up in the parlor. Anna had a water bucket ready for it. John tipped the young men generously and Sara studied the tree.
“Did you say you had ornaments from home?” she asked.
“Yes. Grandmother said I could take some with me.”
“Do you have any ornaments?”
“I’ll take a look.”
Sara went up to the third-floor hallway and used a poker to snag the ring in the ceiling and pull down a ladder. She gathered up her skirts and carefully climbed the wooden ladder to the dusty attic.
A small window let in light that accentuated beams of dust motes as Sara poked around an old bureau, a dress dummy, two trunks, old portraits, and several boxes. She found the boxes she was looking for and coughed as she lifted the top box.
John’s head popped up in the trapdoor hole. “Need some help?”
“I could, actually.”
Together they managed to get the boxes down and into the parlor. John went to get his own decorations from a storeroom.
“You all ready to trim the tree?” John asked cheerfully.
“Yes, I believe so.”
John put a record on the gramophone and cranked it up. The tinny sound of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen floated through the parlor.
“Ah, the lovely lady from London.” John picked up an ornament from the box of a fashionably-dressed woman, complete with tiny parasol.
“How lovely, indeed,” said Sara, admiring the detail of the ceramic figure.
“Grandmother picked it up in 1859 while in England. Oh, and this glass tree? Grandfather bought it in 1853 in Germany when he was studying music in Leipzig.”
“Yes, he fancied himself a great violinist. When he realized he was no great genius, he switched to medicine.”
Sara laughed. “Quite a switch.”
“Yes, Grandfather was nothing if not eclectic.” John hung the little violin on the tree. “What have you got?”
“Saint Nicholas.” Sara held up the brightly-painted figure. “I believe Father and Aunt Josephine purchased it in Boston.”
The stories continued as John and Sara decorated the tree. John was pleased to see Sara enjoying herself.
The smell of Balsam fir was certainly pleasant. The maid brought in bowls of popcorn and cranberries.
“Thank you, Bridget,” said John with a jovial air.
The maid curtsied and scurried out of the room. John produced spools of fine black thread. Sara shook her head fondly.
“Really? Stringing popcorn and cranberries?”
“Yep.” John started a string of cranberries.
“Are we going completely old-fashioned?”
“Yes, we are. Candles, not electric lights.”
“You have something against electricity?”
“Oh, well, we can consider electric lights next year.”
They draped the strings of popcorn and cranberries on the tree and also added paper links of red and green.
“We need something on top,” said Sara.
“Right.” John rummaged in the box and produced a beautiful golden star. “Hold this and I’ll go get a stepladder.”
Sara examined the five-pointed star. It was decorated with sequins that sparkled in the light from the fireplace. It was a beautifully-crafted piece and would look perfect on top of the tree.
John’s like a little boy. Christmas really excites him.
She twirled the star gently, experiencing a mix of emotions. She was pleased at John’s enthusiasm but Christmas in later years with her father had been more form than substance. Then the manner of his death had colored everything darkly. With John, she was getting excited about the holiday again.
“Here we go,” said John as he brought in the stepladder. He set it by the tree and Sara handed him the star.
“It’s beautiful, John.”
“Isn’t it?” John was very satisfied. He put the star on top of the tree, climbing down the ladder. “There, doesn’t it look perfect?” He put his arm around Sara.
The star sparkled on top of the tree, a magical sight, Sara had to admit.
“Let’s put the candles on. We’ll light them Christmas Eve,” said John.
They put the candles on, and dusk was beginning to fall.
“How about a skate in the park?” John suggested.
“Sound like an excellent plan, my dear.”
There were dozens of skaters on the pond, colorful revelers enjoying a fine outing. Snow was banked around the pond while people sat on logs and ate hot chestnuts purchased from a cheerful vendor. Laughter trilled around the pond as skaters glided across the ice as stars twinkled overhead.
John and Sara skated hand-in-hand. Sara was able to navigate even with long skirts while John was very proper with his vest and long coat. Sara carried a muff and both wore hats, gloves and scarves.
“Currier and Ives,” said Sara.
They made several revolutions around the pond as other skaters laughed and called to other revelers. Children shouted and raced by the statelier adults.
John smiled at Sara. “Your cheeks are pink from the cold. You look beautiful.”
Sara’s cheeks blushed even pinker at the compliment. John’s smile grew bigger as they continued skating.
John and Sara sat on their parlor couch in front of a warm fire and gazed at their Christmas tree. The candles were lit and sparkled like stars in the night sky. They drank cranberry juice in champagne glasses, eschewing wine because of John being officially on the wagon.
“Well, John, I must admit, Christmas traditions are a pleasure.”
“Of course they are. Pleasant and fun.”
“I like pleasant and fun.”
“You have good taste, Sara Howard Moore.”
“Well, this is true. I chose to marry you, didn’t I?”
John gazed at the tree with a smile, then sobered. “Are you sure it’s been fun? You’ve seemed…hesitant at times.”
Sara sipped her juice. “I haven’t been enthusiastic about Christmas since Father died. Life’s been solemn for me, and I dedicated myself to the cause of suffrage and proving myself in the New York City Police Department.” She looked at John. “And then you swept me up in your joy of Christmas. Thank you.”
John smiled again and kissed Sara as the candles flickered and the ornaments reflected the firelight.
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