Disclaimer: no one belongs to me. not at all. they play in my head, and
i refuse to stop them. the lyrics at the end are by the pretenders.
Summary: takes place in the "not even the rain" universe... it's the second christmas after michael has left.
Category: Unconventional Couples
Authors Note: this is my favorite christmas song, ever. and my favorite christmas movie ever.
For Elizabeth and Shimi - they have permanently etched the idea of maria and kyle in my head.
For Fionna - who mentioned a few things and made the hamster in my brain start running.
For willa - because because because :)
Most definitely Maria's least favorite holiday, just ahead of Labour Day. Labour Day always signaled the beginning of school, cutting short her much-needed mental vacations and bringing forth another year of stress and stupid memorization. But Christmas Eve was different… it reminded her of a different kind of ending, and one that she still wasn't so prepared to deal with. The cost of paper, pencils and notebooks paled in comparison to the cost that her heart was already paying.
Her mother was at the store, staying open late for last-minute shoppers. This was fine with Maria. In all honesty, she preferred being alone on this night. She could avoid all the Christmas programming on television, turn down the lights and pretend to ignore the inevitable carolers. If she could, Maria would sleep through the next two days. It was easier that way.
Actually, this year hadn't been as bad as she expected. The year – the holiday, it somehow ended with Maria just this side of the edge of the mental cliff she'd been camping out on. Her life was drastically different from a couple of years ago… and that place was something she would have never foreseen a few years before that. If she stopped to think about it, Maria would start worrying about what drop-off she'd hit three more years down the road. But she stopped thinking about the future a while ago.
She had just pulled her grandmother's crocheted blanket over her when there was a knock on the door. Carolers, she assumed, and flicked on the television. They'd go eventually. A minute or so later, another knock. And then another. Annoyed, she got up and walked to the door. Maria decided to peek out the curtain and hope that none of the traveling "joy-bringers" would spot her. But she saw only one person, with his back to her. Sighing, she opened the door.
"Hey, Maria." He turned around and dug his hands into his pockets. There was something about him… something that Maria couldn't quite put her finger on. "Merry Christmas."
Maria grunted in response, rolling her eyes. "Home for the holiday?"
"Yeah," he nodded. "But dad has to work tonight and I didn't feel like being home."
"So you came here? Seems like an odd choice."
An embarrassed smile brushed across his lips. "Well… you know…"
"Liz sent you?"
The boy lowered his head sheepishly, then met her eyes again. "She was just worried. Especially since she's out of town."
"I told her I'd be fine," Maria snorted, shaking her head.
"I know… but you know Liz."
They stood on opposite sides of the doorway, sharing a smile.
"Your dad really working tonight?"
"Yeah. He usually works on Christmas Eve so he can be home on Christmas morning." Kyle looked off to the sound echoing down the street. He squinted his eyes. "Carolers?"
Maria stepped out and checked it out for herself. "Oh God. I thought they would have been done by now. I really don't want to deal with them. Do you want to come in?"
Surprised by the invitation, Kyle nodded quickly and was pulled into the house a second later. Maria slammed the door shut and locked it. She walked toward the kitchen, turning off every light in her path. The boy stared after her in confusion for a moment, then started after her – bumping into just about every piece of furniture he tried to avoid.
"They can be annoying, yes… but I've never found them to induce flights of terror." Kyle slumped against the kitchen doorframe and watched the girl at the stove.
"Huh?" Maria asked, lighting a match under a pot.
"Carolers," he explained. "I've never seen someone slam the door and run from them. And I would think that you, as a singer…"
"I, as a singer, do not have to subject myself to this ritualistic massacring of traditional holiday songs." She sneered. "And besides… I did not flee in terror. I just didn't want them to think I was home and needing a little 'Christmas cheer.'"
"Oookay." Kyle took a seat at the table and rubbed his bruised shin. Coffee table. The couch checked his hip. He turned and peeked over into the darkened living room. There was a small smattering of blinking colours – very faint and easily missed. "Christmas lights?"
"Mom complained about the lack of decorations around the house. I told her she could put all her trashy stuff up in her store… around this time of year she's there more than she's here." Maria pulled two mugs from the cabinet. "Hot Cocoa?"
The blonde poured the hot milk into two mugs and stirred in chocolate. She brought them over and sat next to Kyle. "So, lights. And a tree… even though you probably couldn't see that. I~"
An inquisitive doorbell interrupted Maria. She pulled back in shock and whispered, "Don't say anything. Don't even move."
"They won't come in." Kyle whispered back teasingly.
Shooting him a nasty look, Maria held her breath until it seemed as if the visitors had left. As she slowly exhaled, Kyle shook his head at her.
"Okay, I'll bite. What's this about?"
"I don't understand."
Leaning forward, Kyle spoke softly. "You used to love Christmas more than anyone I knew. The first to round up a bunch of people to go caroling. Now you're sitting in a dark house, lit only by a few strings of lights in a couple rooms and hiding from singers. What's up, Maria?"
"Nothing." She took another sip of cocoa.
"Nothing, okay, nothing. Why is it such a fucking crime to not be so gung-ho over Christmas?" She got up and began pacing in the kitchen angrily. "Do I need to convert to Judaism, or…" Maria stared pointedly at the boy. "…Buddhism for people to respect my feelings and accept that I have my own personal reasons?"
Throwing his hands up in supplication, Kyle sat back and let out a slow breath. "I didn't mean…"
Maria sank down to the floor and covered her head in her hands. "I know, I'm sorry. It's just been…" She looked up. "I'm just tired of everyone asking me how I am, what I want for Christmas, why I'm not more cheery, why I haven't decorated." She leaned back against the wall and the boy could see that she was on the verge of tears. "I just want to sit in the dark, maybe watch a movie and try to forget it's Christmas."
Kyle walked over and squatted down. He placed his hands out for her and smiled. "That we can do."
Two hours later, the two still sat all swaddled up in blankets on the couch. Maria curled herself into a ball on one side while Kyle was sprawled out in the middle. They had flipped through sitcoms, infomercials and several shows on every educational channel they could find. Kyle insisted on having control of the remote at all times, but he proved to be a very conscientious navigator. He quickly clicked past commercials that had even the slightest holiday reference and somehow managed to find actual programs of interest to hold their attention. At one point, he paused on a channel and before he could keep going, Maria stopped him.
"Wait… I know this. What is this?"
Kyle stared at the television for a moment. "Scrooged. It's a Christmas flick," he warned.
"But… is it funny?"
"Yeah, it's funny. It's Bill Murray," he laughed. "I thought you wanted~"
"Shut up," Maria slapped him. "Is it mostly funny? Or does it get sad?"
"There are sad parts."
"Is there some big mushy love story?"
Groaning in frustration, Kyle snapped his head at her. "Look, why don't we just keep it on? If you want, I'll change it later. Just let me know."
Maria nodded and he settled back into the cushions. It wasn't until the movie was over that he realized that he had heard nothing but laughter and a few grumbles – but no protests. Kyle looked over and studied the girl on the side of him. Her eyebrows were furrowed and she was staring intently at the screen.
"Whatcha thinkin' DeLuca?"
"Huh?" Maria shook herself out of her daze. "Oh, I dunno." She rested her head on a pillow and pursed her lips. "Do you think he felt better?"
"Who?" Kyle turned on the couch and faced his friend.
"Bill Murray. Frank. Whatever. Do you think he felt better after he said all that stuff?" She started to pull at the frayed pieces of yarn in her blanket. "Do you think it made a difference?"
"I think so," the boy nodded. "They say confession is good for the soul."
"But what if she didn't come back? What if he said all that stuff and nothing happened? What if Claire didn't want to have anything to do with him?"
Kyle smiled, trying to determine to just what conclusions the little wheels in Maria's head were spinning. "I don't think that's what it's about. He confessed to stuff he didn't like about himself. Or maybe some of it were things he didn't want to keep bottled up anymore. It just felt better saying it and not carrying it alone anymore."
Maria closed her eyes and wrapped her arms around her knees. "I miss him," she whispered, barely loud enough to hear. Kyle didn't say anything, but he reached over and placed one of his hands on hers. "I miss him, and I think about him, and I want him to be here."
"When my mom left…" Kyle paused, searching for the right words. "When she left, I wanted her back more than anything. I thought it would stop my father from being so sad, and she would make the house clean again and there would be real dinners to eat again. In time, it started to be okay. My father started to laugh again, my grandmother came and did laundry and dad learned to cook. We did what we had to."
"Oh, I'm not talking about~"
"I know," he affirmed. "You know, I went through something similar when Liz broke up with me. I spent days – weeks – months, trying to sort everything out. I couldn't mentally accept that someone else left me, so I had to put it on Max Evans. I had to figure out what he was up to … it was easier to do that than deal with Liz ending things. We all have our thing – I got angry. You," he reached over and pressed on Maria's nose. "You hide in the dark from renegade Christmas carolers."
"I told you, I'm not~" Maria caught herself mid-sentence. Her protests were hopeless, she knew that. And what would be the point of getting some things off her chest if she was only going to start lying again? She edged herself in, digging her feet between the cushions. "Sometimes I catch myself, and I realize that a whole day has gone by and I haven't thought about him. And I feel guilty." She shook her head. "I don't know what's worse… living in such pain, or starting to forget what such pain feels like."
Leaning forward, she rested her forehead on the boy's shoulder. He ran his fingers through her hair lightly. Maria's lips turned up for a moment, her body truly beginning to relax. "He used to do that, you know. Just like that…"
"Do you want me to stop?"
"No," Maria said, sitting up. "It's nice. And it's a nice memory. It actually doesn't hurt." She laughed softly and glanced up at the lights strung around the ceiling. "He used to come, every Christmas Eve. Even when we weren't together, he'd stop by. Say hello, sometimes give me something. One year he gave me white lights… they looked like icicles. He put them up in my room as a surprise."
Kyle continued brushing Maria's hair, watching a half-smile form on her profile. She really was a beautiful girl, and the more he knew about her, the more beautiful she became. There was not one emotion that he hadn't seen her experience in the time he knew her, and most of the time it was a matter of four or five within minutes of each other. The anger-filled, nervous Maria from earlier had been replaced by a pensive one which gave way to a melancholy, longing one. Now he sat next to an awed one, still feeling the pain of loss but slowly moving on to the joy of remembrance. And this Maria was just as beautiful.
"Last year… well, the last year he was here, he never showed. I went to bed around one – exhausted from a day spent at the store and the inevitable Wilson's annual Christmas party – which I managed to avoid this year, thank you very much."
Maria turned and smiled at the boy, who had been in attendance at said party more times than he could count. This year he stopped by briefly before hitting the DeLuca's, explaining that he was simply exhausted after a rough semester at school and he needed to catch up on last-minute Christmas presents. The guilt only lasted a few minutes. The television screen was filled with a blue screen – perhaps the cable had gone out – and it lit Maria's face with an indigo hue. Somehow, it seemed fitting.
"I woke up around six or something, and I couldn't move. At first I was really freaked out – you and I both know that in this town very, very strange things can happen." She rolled her eyes and laughed again. "But I was warm, really warm. And even though I couldn't move, I felt safe. Then I felt his breath on the back of my neck… and I realized that he came to me after all." Maria paused, closing her eyes in a futile attempt to stop the tears that were filling them. "That's what I remember when I think of him. Not the mean, awful things he's said and done. Not the stupid "warrior" and "destiny" bullshit. I remember that he came to wake up with me on Christmas morning. And I remember that I have never felt like that since."
Sliding off the couch and onto his knees, Kyle held Maria's face in his hands. He delicately wiped the still-streaming tears with his thumbs. She began to sob, her body growing weaker with each shudder. "I haven't… not like this. Only once before. I'm sorry…" Kyle simply kissed her head as she collapsed to the floor beside him, clutching at his shirt. He wrapped his arms around her and fell against the couch.
|Index | Part 2
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