This story is an early Christmas present for one of my absolutely wonderful tumblr followers, skyeward-otp. I adore her blog and she is always filled with such joy. Merry Christmas!


Ch. 1

Expectations

For Skye, Christmas meant disappointment.

Being bounced around to different foster families and group homes meant that no one really knew her when Christmas rolled around. She was the kid that just showed up a few months earlier, her belongings stuffed into a plastic bag, wearing clothes that never quite fit her right. Some of the families made an effort, making sure that she got at least something under the tree. It was usually a baby doll or a Barbie doll, especially in the houses were they only had boys. The foster parents never really knew what to get her and assumed that a girl would just love something that came in a pink box.

Her name would invariably be misspelled as "Sky" on the gift tag, something she never pointed out, covering her crestfallen feelings with a bland smile. She was told, time and time again, that she should be grateful that she got anything at all. And she tried; she really tried to be grateful. She knew other kids who never got anything at all at Christmas time and even if it was the exact same doll she had gotten the last four years in a row, she would try to remember that it could be much, much worse.

But she saw the picture perfect families on T.V. and her heart would ache a bit. She saw them, sitting around a roaring fire, all wearing matching cozy sweaters. She heard them singing carols around an upright piano. She could practically taste the hot cocoa and frosted sugar cookies as she gazed at the screen, her heart full of longing.

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For Grant, Christmas meant a fa├žade.

The entire month of December, he was on pins and needles, just waiting for the first outburst, for the first blow to land. Everything had to be perfect for his mother; they had to project just the right image to the people around them.

Once or twice, when he was four or five years old and didn't know any better, Grant would proudly come up to his mother and show her a Christmas craft he had made for her, still dripping in glue and glitter and she would fly into a rage, berating him for causing a mess, humiliating him for daring to object.

He learned to never make a mess. He learned to never make a fuss. He learned to look down and not make eye contact, to hope that Christian would get the brunt of her fury instead of him at the holidays.

It culminated in the family photo, taken every year by an outrageously overpriced professional photographer who came to their home. The house was always decorated for the holidays by an interior designer, everything matching, nothing out-of-place. Grant learned to listen intently to the photographer and make sure that he obeyed his every command. He knew the penalty for disobeying, knew that he wouldn't be able to sit for a week, that he'd have to wear long sleeve shirts and button up his collar to hide the bruises.

In the end, his mother would get what she wanted, the perfect holiday picture of the perfect family, all beaming and happy, the lie of it skittering under the surface.

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Skye and Grant both approached their first Christmas together as a married couple with trepidation. Skye wanted to get everything "right". In those twenty-five days of December, she wanted to recapture all of the moments she had felt robbed of in her childhood. She flew around the little two bedroom house they were renting, almost manic in her desire to do all the things she'd longed for all those years. She insisted that they go and cut down a Christmas tree, decorate it, and put up lights around the outside of the house all in the same weekend, leaving Grant drained and exhausted, but he hid it so as not to bring her down.

She bought every single holiday ingredient imaginable. She baked dozens of cookies everyday and even attempted to make a homemade pie (which ended in utter failure and her sitting on the kitchen floor, weeping). She made hot cocoa with peppermint, topped with whipped cream and apple cider with mulling spices. In the days leading up to Christmas, she cooked a turkey and a ham and a prime rib and in the end, Grant had let out a few notches in his belt to accommodate his expanding belly.

And Grant indulged her every whim, although her frenzied attempts to recreate an ideal Christmas set his teeth on edge. It forcibly reminded him of his mother, and although he knew that there was no one more different from his mother than Skye, her insistence that everything be perfect for the holidays. made his skin crawl and brought back sickening memories of his childhood.

But he put his foot down when it came to Christmas Eve.

"No, Skye. I'm not going. I've put up with everything else. Every single request. But I just can't," he said, scratching the back of his neck, looking down at her. She had wanted to go to Christmas Eve service at a local church and he cringed at the thought. He remembered going as a child, sitting ramrod straight on a hard wooden pew, barely daring to breathe. His mother was always praised at how well-behaved her kids were, but Grant wondered if they knew the price her children paid for that praise.

"But Grant, it's my favorite part," Skye pled, her eyes filling with tears. It was the only part of Christmas that she did remember fondly as a child, because it was one of the few things that provided her with stability and continuity. Every Christmas was the same in that regard, no matter where she was, no matter who she was living with at the time. She knew the songs and the Christmas story and for a small moment in her life, she felt like she belonged, that she was wanted, that she was loved. She couldn't imagine Christmas without it.

Grant tensed at the thought of going through some meaningless ritual, but as he looked into Skye's eyes, he knew it held meaning for her. He gritted his teeth and gave her a short nod, worried that he'd regret his decision later on that night.

He didn't.


Author's Notes-

A. I'll be the first one to admit that this ship is in a bit of turmoil right now on the show. So, you can take this story one of two ways.

1) It's been several years since the events of Seasons 1 and 2 and Grant has been through sufficient prison time, therapy, and soul-searching, etc. so that he can enter into a somewhat healthy relationship and marriage.

2) Universe Alteration- The events of Seasons 1 and 2 occurred without Grant's ties to Hydra or Garrett.

One of the fun things about fan fiction is the ability to zig where the original authors/creators zagged.

B. Ch. 2 is coming soon! Fluff is on its way; I promise!