A.N. I finally wrote something. Isn't that amazing? I wrote something, had it beta'd and I am posting it. Which is amazing as well, since I've written about two one shots and started two other fics that won't be finished nor will they be posted. All the thanks for this one shot goes to Jess, because she's the one who issue the challenge to me and she's the one who held my hand along the entire way. Well, the hand holding was shared by Elena, Ella and Miranda. So big thanks goes out to them as well. And finally thanks goes out to Christina who did a last minute beta job so I could get this posted tonight! Thanks everyone!
I'll Be Home For Christmas
"Come to Boston with me," she'd known the words were coming. She'd been expecting them all weekend. It was, after all, his year to ask the question and her year to give the response that would break their hearts just a little bit more.
Softly in the background is the faint sound of The Christmas Song drifting from the radio alarm clock beside them. She doesn't move, afraid to ruin the picture perfect moment that they've painted themselves into. She's snuggled under his arm lazily tracing circles on his bare chest, while he gently strokes her dark hair. The picture perfect couple, curled in bed the weekend before Christmas, content to let the city outside their window keep on bustling while they spend the rest of the day in wrapped in each other's arms.
If she laid there long enough, she could convince herself of this. Pretend that they were just that. Normal. That she didn't have to make every single moment she spent with him count because she only had two out of three hundred and sixty-five days to be with him. If she closed her eyes, and drank in the smell of them, she could pretend. Pretend that this was just one in a long line of weekends spent together. Pretend they were the perfect couple.
Except they weren't. Never had been. Nor could they ever be.
"Or maybe not Boston, pick a place we can go there." He sounds almost frantic and he's pulled himself up so that he is resting on his elbow, his beautiful blue eyes locked onto hers. He was pushing this harder then he had in the years before and, as always, she's tempted to say yes. To give up everything she had in LA.; her marriage, her daughter, her career. So in turn he could walk away from his wife and family, to hurt all of those people just so they could give into years of longing.
He knows she can't say yes. Knows she won't. And yet both of them hope she does. The tears that slip down her cheek are evidence enough that the answer is going to be the same as it's always been. "I can't." Her words are hoarse from all the choked back tears she wished would go away. She wished she could be strong about this, that she could pass it off as nothing more then a no strings affair that occurred once a year for the last twenty years.
Twenty years. That was how long this affair had been going on but it never got any easier when it came to saying goodbye.
"We could stay here, right in this hotel room. Never leave."
"Did you know that in twenty years you and I have only spent forty days together," she's found her voice again and they both wish she hadn't. "We don't know how to do anything outside of this hotel room. Life is complicated outside of these four walls." She gestured absently around the expensive décor of their hotel room at the Carlton Hotel on Madison Avenue in New York City. "We'd never survive out there in the real world." She buried her head in the soft pillow to hide her tears. She hated wasting their precious final hour crying.
She can't help the tears though as her mind wanders onto what their lives would be like outside of the hotel and the city that was magic to them. Into a world that consisted of juggling fifty hour work weeks, and soccer practice and violin lessons and left little time for romance in a marriage. They'd never survive that, the romance would die within the tenth load of laundry and the first argument about who would run to the store for the missing piece to a science project. The thought alone broke her heart and she had the feeling that the reality would destroy her. Destroy them. So she said no. Always no.
They could never be real because they'd never had to be. Their entire relationship was based on the romance that New York City exuded at Christmas. Walks around the huge Christmas tree in Central Park. A fire in the lavish hotel room's fireplace and making love for two beautiful days. It was a fairy tale and that's all it could ever be. Fairytales were good bedtime stories, but out in the light of day they fell apart and showed themselves for what they were; the things that has seemed so magical in the shadow of dreamland seemed fabricated and garish.
"Hey," he turns her to face him, and gently with the pad of his thumb he brushes the tears off of her cheeks, "no tears, remember? It's a rule."
"It's a stupid rule," she half laughs and half sobs, "how can I not cry when an hour from now there's going to be a taxi down there waiting to take me away from all of this?" Her eyes roam the plane of his face, they'd met when they'd hardly had a chance to experience life, when they were babies even. Twenty years had passed and he hadn't been left unchanged, silver lined his temple and there were lines around his eyes that hadn't been there so many years before. But to her he was still the same man she'd fallen in lust with twenty years before and a part of her had fallen in love with over a decade ago.
She could remember the first time she'd seen him, he'd sent her a drink at a bar. She thought he'd be her last hurrah before she accepted her boyfriends engagement. It wasn't that she didn't want to marry her boyfriend but she needed to make sure that she wasn't making the wrong decision. When she'd walked away from their weekend together she knew that she was ready to get married, but she didn't know that in a year she would be pulled back to that city – or that he would be there too. The first couple years it hadn't been planned that they would meet, but they'd both, on a hope, gravitated to the hotel.
Five years in she'd admitted to both of them that she was planning on coming back the next year and that maybe he meant more to her then a yearly affair. And they were both gone from there, their feelings for each other were undeniable. They were connected on more then just a physical level but they only knew the basics about their personal lives. He knew that she was married to a man whom she loved despite their fighting, and a daughter that was an amazing mix of their best qualities. She knew that he had married his high school sweetheart right out of high school and they had a house full of children. But they didn't talk about their families. While they were wrapped in each other's arms they talked about the dreams that they didn't dare share with anyone else.
His regret that he hadn't gone farther with is basketball career. Her dream to one day own a fashion magazine, not a fashion label. He could look into her eyes and speak back to her exactly what she was thinking and she could do the same. It would probably scare her more if she didn't rely so much on this connection with him. In his arms there really was nothing else out there, he could make her forget about everything with a gentle caress.
She knew she should regret these two days a year. That it would hurt so many people if it was discovered; but she couldn't bring herself to ever regret this time together. Nothing else mattered when they were together, there was no one outside the two of them, they were all there was. She had the feeling that they'd be different people if they weren't together once a year, and a part of her couldn't help but think that she'd be a worse person if he wasn't a part of her life, however briefly. Maybe what they were doing wasn't right through a pair black and white shaded glasses, but in one that showed shades of gray it might, just might not be the same.
Three hundred and sixty three (take a few now and then) she was the perfect wife, mother and worker. She dutifully made sure that her husbands work clothes were picked up from the dry cleaner when they needed to be, and helped her daughter study for a major exam. She designed the clothing that was needed to keep her boutique running and she was good at all of it. She was good at putting every other person in her life before herself. For two days a year she put that all aside and it wasn't until she boarded her direct flight from LAX to JFK that she let it all go. She could fully be completely, utterly and selfishly herself.
There were no expectations when they we're together. Some years they fell into bed together and didn't leave each other's arms the entire weekend. Some years they'd walked all over New York City, hand in hand – sometimes talking, sometimes silent; always more connected then she'd felt with anyone in her real life. She was always amazed how in his arms she managed to forget everything but what was right in front of them, no matter what was going on in LA it was all forgotten when he wrapped his arm around her and held her close.
She didn't let herself think about him when she got off the plane in LA. She was able to starve off thoughts of him for months, but the moment the first store put up their Christmas decorations she couldn't get him off of her brain. Her entire body, mind and soul longed for his touch and the connection they shared. She managed to outwardly keep her composition up until the week before she was supposed to travel but that week she was a mess. Her husband and daughter attributed it to the fact that she was just stressed out about leaving the store and traveling in general. The weekend was a chance to recharge her batteries, or that's what they thought. She needed time to get away and relax. When they asked her how the weekend was she'd nod, smile and assure them that she enjoyed herself. She never gave details and they'd given up asking long before.
"Baby, they're playing our song," he turns away from her briefly to turn up the radio on his bedside table so that the first couple bars of Let it Snow can make it's ways to her ears. The song tells her it's almost over, that the weekend is nearing it's end. He moves out of bed and Brooke's heart breaks, but before the tears can even touch her cheeks he's standing next to her with his hand extended. "May I have this dance?"
Oh the weather outside is frightful
But the fire is so delightful
And since we've no place to go
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow
With tears streaming down her cheeks she gets out of bed, tugging the cream colored silk sheet with her to wrap around their bodies. She melts into his arms, with her cheek pressed against his chest she knows he can feel her tears wet against his bare skin.
It doesn't show signs of stopping
But I've bought some corn for popping
The lights are turned way down low
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow
Slowly he moves the both of them in a lazy circle, their bare feet barely leaving the lushly carpeted floor. The way he clings to her tells her that she doesn't want to leave anymore then she does but the thought brings her no comfort. It'll still hurt when it comes to saying goodbye. There are no words for to express how much it hurts to have to walk away from each other.
When we finally kiss goodnight
How I'll hate going out in the storm
But if you really hold me tight
All the way home I'll be warm
Finally she can bring herself to look up at him and she's not surprised to find that he's looking right back down at her. He doesn't kiss her on the lips, he never does because they both know if that an intimate gesture ran the risk of them changing their minds. They couldn't change their minds and they both knew it, so instead he pressed his lips to her forehead and slowly released his tight embrace.
The fire is slowly dying
And my dear, we're still goodbying
But as long as you love me so
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow
With the dying words on the radio, she flees. She can't bear to hear the last notes, nor can she stand to listen to the song change over; but mostly, she can't stand to see him walk out the door to catch his earlier flight. So she'll stay locked in the bathroom, she'll shower and cry and come out into the empty hotel room grab her bags and run. There will be a cab waiting for her downstairs, he'll have made sure of that. From there she'd go to the airport and back to her life and the husband that she loved despite and through it all.
In fifteen minutes she emerges from the bathroom and with a long breath she breathes in the smell of him. With another deep breath of resolution she crosses the room, lifts her Louis Vuitton travel bag to her shoulder and walks out of the room without a second glance.
No sooner is she settled into the cab before real life invades in the form of her cell phone. Her husband. Calling to make sure that her flight will be on time no doubt, so he can be there to pick her up from the airport. "Hey."
"Hang on just a second," there's no other greeting from her husband, but a brief shuffling of the phone and within seconds there's a noise in the background that she can't make out immediately. Soon though there is more shuffling and the music can be heard more clearly through the phonelines.
I'll be home for Christmas
You can count on me
Please have snow, and mistletoe
And presents under the tree
Christmas eve will find me
Where the love light gleams
The song is cut off before it can get any further and then there's more shuffling noise in the background and her husband has come back on the phone. "They're playing your song."
She can't help but smile despite the tears that her swimming in her eyes, "I guess they are."
"We've missed you while you were gone, but I promise we didn't blow up the house." She'd never forget the time she'd come back from her weekend and found the house trashed, and she's pretty sure her husband and daughter would never forget the following explosion either.
"I missed you guys too," she never remembers how much she does miss them until this call comes in. When she's reconnected with them and they're back in her life. She loves them more then anything, even more then him; because really, if she didn't she would choose him over them in a heartbeat. "I'll see you at the airport?"
"Of course, and Brooke?"
"I love you."
"I love you too." The words aren't the automatic I love you, I love you too's that she and her husband exchange on a daily basis. It's the "I love you's" they exchanged before life got in the way. The "I love yous" that were the reason she went home for Christmas and didn't remain in the city forever like she was tempted to in the moment. Nathan would always be a part of her heart and he would always hold a piece of her that no one else could ever touch. He was a vacation from her reality, but he could never be her home.