Characters/Pairings: Michael/Fiona, Sam, Maddy, Nate, Jesse
Word Count: 1,555
Summary: Christmas isn’t Christmas without snow. But maybe there’s more than snow needed.
Disclaimer: USA, Matt Nix, etc. own all. I’m just hanging in Miami.
Notes: Written for the winter_deaddrop exchange, for merryghoul. Thanks to my lovely and talented editor, cornerofmadness, for her help on this story.
* * *
Being a spy means you don’t get much in the way of holiday time. Especially if you’re in a foreign country. What might be a holiday on your home turf probably means nothing in some place like Kazakhstan. It doesn’t mean you forget about them, and what they meant when you were a kid – even if a lot of those memories are painful, and you’d rather not think about them.
But when you’ve been burned, and you’re back in your home town, with your mother, and people who might actually celebrate certain days of the year, your priorities get kind of muddled. Or maybe they become clearer. Because now you have family again, and friends, and a girlfriend for whom days like Christmas actually mean something.
So it’s up to you to get with the program.
* * *
“It just doesn’t feel like winter,” Fiona said, leaning her chin in her palm, her elbow propped up on the table.
“It’s eighty-five degrees out, Fi,” Sam said, pulling his sunglasses down to peer at her over the rims.
“It’s a Miami winter.” Michael scanned the tables around them, taking in the street outside the restaurant. The sun bleached everything to a creamy gold, making the poinsettias and pine wreaths stand out. A conical pine, ornaments, lights and garland decorating it, twinkled in the center of the restaurant’s patio, with a mass of decorated presents tucked under it.
“Get used to it, Fi. It doesn’t snow down here.”
“No,” Fiona said, her mouth turning down, “I suppose it wouldn’t. It’s tropical.” The tone of her voice made it sound almost like a curse. “It just feels strange, Michael. It’s two days before Christmas, and I haven’t even felt a chill.”
“I could ask them to turn down the air conditioner,” Sam said, swirling the ice in his glass. He smirked at the glare Fiona sent his way. “What do you want, Fi? It’s Miami. I mean, snow’s pretty much outlawed here.” He waved a hand around. “And that’s not a bad thing.” Ogling a girl in a string bikini walking by on the street outside, Sam added, “God bless Florida.” He saluted her with his mojito.
Fiona sniffed. “You’re so uncouth.”
“Be that as it may, Fi, but you have to admit, sunlight and warmth beat shoveling snow, hands down.”
She rolled her eyes, turning them toward Michael. “It just doesn’t feel like Christmas.” Lacing her fingers together, she said, “When I was a little girl, we used to get into snowball fights, and make snowmen.” A wistful smile lit her face. “Our noses would be red when we’d come inside, and Mum would have hot apple juice for us, or hot chocolate, if she had the money for it. The house smelled like cinnamon inside, the whole season long.”
“Sounds traditional,” Sam muttered.
Michael fixed him with a look. “It sounds very nice, Fi.”
“I’m thinking Dickens has nothing on your family.” Sam ignored the darker glare that Fiona shot his way. “C’mon, Fi, you gotta admit, the sights and scenery are way better here than up north. There’s snow and ice and sludge, and you couldn’t wear those sandals you like so much.” Gesturing toward her feet, he went on. “I don’t think they make high heeled galoshes.”
Fiona rolled her eyes, turning her attention to Michael. “So, I’d like to do something traditional.”
“Like singing carols?” His face screwing up, Michael said, “Fi, I don’t know.”
“I’d bet Maddy has something planned for Christmas. Traditional. Snow globes and a tree and presents.” Sam swirled his glass at Fiona. “There won’t be any snow, and it might be too hot for a fire and hot cider, but it’d be a family get-together.”
“Maddy’s having a Christmas dinner?” Fiona widened her eyes at Michael.
“I don’t know if she is,” Michael said slowly. “I mean, I could ask her.” Hoping his mother wasn’t cooking, he wondered if this was a party he needed to know about. Was Nate coming with Ruth and Charlie? Was there actually a dinner? “Are you sure you want a family dinner? With my family?”
“Michael.” Fiona’s eyebrow twitched. “Christmas is a time for family togetherness.”
Well, there went that escape plan.
* * *
“A Christmas dinner?” Michael could hear his mother’s exhale through the telephone connection. “Michael.”
“I know, it’s really late to be thinking about it, but I promised Fi I’d ask.” Michael made his voice sound conciliatory, wondering if she was still on her first pack of cigarettes for the day.
“Well, it was going to be a surprise,” Madeline said, and Michael could hear the hiss of her inhaling through the cigarette filter, “but Nate slipped up and said he was coming for Christmas.”
“Don’t sound so worried, Michael. No, she still thinks Charlie’s too young to travel this far.”
“I’m not worried.” Michael frowned at the sinking sensation in the pit of his stomach. Maybe it was pre-indigestion. “Do you want me to order a turkey?”
“No, I’ve got it taken care of. But tell Fi, and Sam and Jesse, they’re invited, too.”
“Okay, Mom. What do you want me to bring?”
There was a pause. “Do you remember that chestnut dressing your grandmother used to make?”
Michael stretched his memory, back to childhood, back to before being a spy. “Yeah,” he said, drawing the word out.
“That’s what I’d like you to bring. I’ve ordered the turkey, a green salad, pumpkin pies, and Nate said he was bringing a surprise. If Sam could bring something other than booze, it’d be appreciated, Michael.”
“Um, okay,” Michael said, letting his mind trip over this idea, “should I tell Fi and Jesse bring anything?”
“I’m sure they can come up with something. I trust them more than I do Sam. Dinner at two?”
There were few times when Michael felt speechless. This was one of them. “Um. Sure. Two. We’ll be there.”
* * *
When you’re a spy, the life outside of the business doesn’t exist. Being a spy is its own world, with its own rules. Holidays aren’t usually part of it, any more than family. You learn to rely on yourself, and whomever might be your back up – and pray that won’t get you killed.
After living a life where you’re not always sure who you can trust, it’s hard to become a son, a lover, a friend, a brother. Even though a part of you accepts this is a different world, it takes time to acclimate yourself to the reality of it, especially since you’re still dealing with lowlife scum, just on a more localized nature. The fact that these people will stand up for you, and, when necessary, to you, means a lot; more to you than the sentiments of a holiday.
Still, to see everyone together; your Mom, your brother, your girl and your friends, talking like normal people, if normal people didn’t talk about jobs they did in countries that, in general, people don’t know anything about, and would be happier not knowing. Especially when said jobs involved bribing the local government and-or an extreme amount of explosives.
“…and then the guy tried to run off and stiff me with the bill,” Nate said, leaning back into his chair.
“I hope you tore him a new one,” Mom said, taking a puff off her cigarette.
“I did better, I pointed him out to the bouncer.” Nate grinned.
Fiona lowered her wine glass. “You should carry a Smith and Wesson 5906. They’re light, and you can wear them on your ankle. I could get you one, Nate, if you wanted.”
He saluted her with his glass. “Thanks, Fi, but I think I’ll stick with bouncers. After getting shot, I’d rather not pass that pain along to anyone else.”
“If you ever need any help out Vegas way, Nate, I’ve got some pull in that area,” Jesse offered.
“Yeah, thanks, Jesse.” Nate pointed at Sam. “I know what kind of help you’d offer.”
Sam grinned and tilted the beer bottle back against his mouth.
“I’d like to propose a toast.” Michael got to his feet, holding up his wine glass. “To family, and friends.”
“Here, here.” Everyone raised their glasses, or beer bottles, and touched them together. The chime of glass rang out, and Jesse kissed Fiona’s temple while Michael wrapped his arms around his kin. Sam reached across the table to fist bump Jesse and Fiona.
When the food was put away, when the house was cleaned up, when everyone was getting ready to go their different ways for the evening, Michael stopped Fiona at the door to her car. “I know it’s not a snowy Christmas, Fi.” He passed her a small, flat box. “And this probably won’t make up for there not being snow.”
Eyes wide, Fiona opened it, letting out a soft, “Oh,” at the sight of the delicate silver chain, with the snowflake pendant dangling from it.
“But you can look at it any time, and know it’ll never melt.”
Her smile tremulous, Fiona whispered, “Oh, Michael,” and wrapped her arms around his neck, hugging him tight.
He kissed the crown of her head. “Happy Christmas, Fi.”
Maybe, when all is said and done, the only thing you can say is, Merry Christmas.
* * *