SUMMARY: It's their first Christmas as a married couple, and they're 2000 miles apart.
RATING: T – I really can't keep them innocent, can I?
DISCLAIMER: Nothing has changed. They still aren't mine. I'm just borrowing them.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is the ninth and absolute final chapter of the Elvis series! I wasn't going to continue it at all, but it's Christmas, and I wanted to do a Christmas fic, and I was thinking about this song, and how could I not use it to add another chapter to my series?
Unbeta'd, so all mistakes are my own.
MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL MY LOYAL READERS! HAPPY HOLIDAYS! HAPPY CHRISTMAHANNUKWANZAAKAH!
Snow was falling gently, blanketing the entire city in a thin layer of white. Were it not for the late hour, traffic from passing cars and pedestrians would have reduced the fine powder to gray, unattractive slush. But as it was so late – and considering it was Christmas Eve – traffic was minimal, and so the snow remained almost completely pristine for the time being. It muted the sounds of the city and made the Christmas lights strung along nearby windows stand out all the more. It looked like something out of a Normal Rockwell painting.
Not that Danny cared. The snow was just one more thing pissing him off.
He really had no right to be angry that he was stuck almost completely alone in the lab at this late hour on Christmas Eve. He had volunteered to work. He could have had dinner with his parents and then gone to church. He probably should have, given the circumstances. The only reason he had even offered to take the Christmas Eve shift was because his wife was in Montana – two thousand miles away – and spending the evening alone with his parents was something that did not appeal to him.
Make that 2,213.04 miles, to be precise. Not that Danny was counting.
It wasn't Lindsay's fault that her father had quite suddenly passed away. It wasn't Lindsay's fault that she had to fly to Montana and assist with the arrangements. It wasn't Lindsay's fault that Danny couldn't go with her because they had used up all their vacation time on their honeymoon, and he couldn't get bereavement leave. It wasn't Lindsay's fault that she was from way the hell on the other side of the country. It wasn't Lindsay's fault that a massive snowstorm had descended on that part of the country, burying Montana and several other states under more than a foot of snow. It wasn't Lindsay's fault that the stupid airport in Bozeman had delayed her flight until the day after Christmas. It wasn't Lindsay's fault that it was their first Christmas as a married couple, and they couldn't spend it together.
But knowing that did nothing to assuage his mood. He didn't blame Lindsay for anything, and he certainly wasn't angry with her. He was just upset at the whole damn situation. Because he definitely had not intended to spend Christmas Eve up to his elbows in old case reports, attempting to file them under the cockamamie new system Mac had devised, surely just to torture his CSIs.
Danny continued to stare out the window, his eyes on the softly falling snowflakes, wondering what Lindsay was doing at that moment. Staring out the window was preferable to staring at his paperwork, or staring at the Christmas decorations Stella and Lindsay had put up around the lab. Looking at the Christmas decorations only reminded him of Lindsay. Everything reminded him of Lindsay.
He couldn't help but remember the previous Christmas. They had only been 'engaged' a few weeks – though they were legally already married – and for some reason, that made Lindsay extra giddy. Christmas Eve, they had dinner with his parents and attended midnight mass, as was the Messer family tradition. Christmas Day, however, they hadn't left the apartment. They'd barely left the bedroom.
Lindsay had jokingly told him that he was her favorite present, and the best part was that she got to unwrap him over and over. Danny privately echoed the sentiment, delighting in the childlike gleam that had settled itself in her eyes whenever they finally stumbled into the living room to spend some quality time in front of the tree.
It was unbelievable how much he loved her. Unbelievable, because he never expected to fall in love at all, much less so quickly and so completely. But Lindsay had staked out a permanent place in his heart, in his mind, in his soul, and he knew it would be impossible to ever extricate her. Not that he would ever want to.
Now, their apartment was quite festively decorated. At the time, he'd loved it. Lindsay had gone all out. There were lights, tinsel, and little knickknacks all over the place. Now, it depressed the hell out of him. The mistletoe she'd hung in the kitchen mocked him with its very presence. The tiny nativity she'd assembled on top of the entertainment center caused a lump to form in his throat. The Christmas tree that she had so painstakingly picked out, dragging him to lot after lot until she found just the right Frasier fir, brought tears to his eyes.
After their wedding, his mother had given him some of their old Christmas decorations. She had said that no Christmas was ever complete without a few heirlooms. Danny had picked through the box carefully, touched by his mother's gesture but only mildly interested – he liked Christmas as much as the next guy, but decorating just wasn't his thing. Lindsay, however, had practically squealed with glee when she pulled out an old music box shaped like a piano that played "Silent Night" when wound.
The music box sat on the small table in the hallway where he generally tossed his keys. He'd almost broken it one night when he got home late from work. He tossed his keys on the table without thinking, knocking the music box off the table and onto the floor, where it thankfully landed on top of his jacket that he never bothered to pick up. Lindsay had read him the riot act. So he started just dropping his keys wherever, which of course meant that when he left the apartment the next morning, he spent a good ten minutes trying to remember where he put his keys.
Since Lindsay had been in Montana, he wound the music box every night and let "Silent Night" lull him to sleep. But it only served to remind him of Lindsay, and it usually ended up keeping him awake far longer than he wanted to be up. He went to bed dreaming of her and woke up wishing she were beside him.
He knew it was silly to be schlepping around the city as though his world was crumbling down around him. She was only in Montana; it wasn't like she was gone forever. He had spoken to her earlier that day, when she'd called to tell him that her flight had been postponed. She would be back on Wednesday. He felt incredibly guilty, especially when he saw people like Stella, who had no family, and Mac, whose wife was gone, enjoying the holiday with smiles and springs in their steps. Danny swore he caught Mac singing along with Bing Crosby on the radio in the break room that morning.
Elvis would have been more appropriate. His Christmas wasn't white, it was blue – just like Danny's.
His cell phone rang, startling him out of his reverie. He rubbed his hands over his tired eyes and answered without bothering to look at the caller ID. "Messer," he mumbled, resting his head on his hand.
"Merry Christmas, Mr. Messer."
He was instantly awake. A slow smile spread across his face. He couldn't believe he hadn't identified the first few notes of "Can't Help Falling in Love" – the custom ring tone he and Lindsay had designated for each other. "You're a little early there, Mrs. Messer."
She laughed. God, how he loved her laugh. "I beg to differ. It is 10:01 in Montana, which means that it's 12:01 in New York. At that means it's Christmas morning. So… merry Christmas."
"Merry Christmas to you, too."
"Oh, no. It's not a merry Christmas for me yet."
He licked his lips. "So, what, are you planning on keeping me on the phone until it's midnight there, too, so I can wish you a merry Christmas?"
He could almost hear her smile through the phone. "Oh, now you've gone and figured me out. I guess I'm not as sneaky as I thought."
"Why, however were we going to pass the time?" He could think of a few ways. He knew she'd never go for any of them.
"Give it up, Messer," she said, and he bit back a smile. He loved it when she called him by his last name. She so rarely did it anymore, now that she shared it. "You're at the lab. You have no idea who might be watching."
"Right," he muttered, rolling his eyes. "The walls have eyes, now, do they?"
"No, but Mac does. I swear, that man knows more than he should. It's inhuman, how much he knows."
"He apparently knows how to sing."
"You're lying." He could picture her expression perfectly – her eyes narrowed, her lips pursed in that sexy pout she always gave him when she thought he wasn't being truthful.
"Nope. Heard it with my own ears. 'White Christmas', sung by our very own Mac Taylor."
There was a pause. She was probably chewing on her bottom lip. He'd much rather prefer if he could be the one chewing on it. "Is he any good?"
"Is there anything Mac isn't good at?"
"Sending his employees home at a decent hour on a holiday, for starters."
Danny reclined in his chair, propping his feet up on his desk. "Actually, he sent me home hours ago. It's just that the thought of going home to an empty apartment didn't appeal to me."
"Because being in an empty lab is so much better?"
He smiled. "You got me there, Linds."
"Why didn't you go to your parents'? I thought it was the Messer family tradition for you all to have dinner together and then go to midnight mass."
He shrugged, even though he knew she couldn't see. "Didn't feel like it, I guess. Can't really have a Messer family gathering without the entire Messer family there." Tears pricked at the corners of his eyes, but he blinked them away. The holidays were hard on him anyway, since Louie had finally passed. Facing them without Lindsay was damn near unbearable.
"Seriously, Danny," she said, and her tone softened, "go home. I hate the thought of you being all alone in the lab on Christmas Eve."
He shook his head. "No can do. Home isn't 'home' without you there."
There was a rather loud sniffle on the other end. "Don't make me cry, please. The tears won't stop once they start."
He put his feet back on the floor and leaned forward. "Shit, Linds, I didn't mean to make you cry. I was just telling the truth. Without you, the apartment… Well, that's all it is. An apartment. It's having you there that makes it home."
"Well, my flight is on Wednesday."
Danny made a noise in the back of his throat. "Wednesday isn't Christmas."
"I know," she said softly. "But there's nothing I can do, Danny. I can't control the weather."
He pinched the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger. "It just sucks, you know? It's our first official Christmas together, and we're not together."
Lindsay cleared her throat, which she usually only did when she was annoyed. "This wasn't exactly how I planned on spending Christmas, either."
He felt like the world's biggest ass. Here she was, alone in a hotel room on Christmas Eve, having had to endure her father's funeral by herself. He wished more than anything that he could have been there for her. He knew how much it meant to him that she was there for him at Aiden and Louie's funerals. He honestly didn't think he could have made it through without her hand on his arm. She was made of stronger stuff than he was. Not that he didn't already know that. "God, I'm sorry. I'm not even…" He trailed off. "Are you okay?"
"No, Danny. I'm not okay. I'm really pretty shitty. I'm sad, and I'm lonely, and I miss my dad, and I've been crying all damn day, and all I want is to go to bed with my husband tonight, and he's not here." She sighed, and his heart broke. "I wish you were here."
His eyes burned with tears. He removed his glasses and wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. "I wish I was, too. You have no idea how much I wish you didn't have to go through that alone." He groaned and threw himself against the back of his chair. "This is officially the worst Christmas ever."
"Well, look at it this way. They can only get better."
A smile tugged at the corners of his lips. "I love your optimism."
"That's just basic logic, actually." He could tell she was smiling, too.
"Whatever. I love your logic."
She exhaled into the phone. "I love you."
He felt a dull ache somewhere in the vicinity of his heart. "I love you. More and more each day." There was silence on the other end. He looked at his phone, wondering if maybe it had lost the signal – with the crazy weather Lindsay was having in Montana, he wouldn't be surprised. "Linds? You still there?"
"Yeah, sorry," she said. "I think I may have choked on all that sap."
He blinked and stuck his tongue out at the phone. "Ha, ha. You're a riot. I'm trying to be serious, and you're making jokes."
"I don't know if you knew this, but women are supposed to be the sappy ones in a relationship, you big sissy."
There was no mistaking the teasing lilt to her voice – especially given that she started laughing into the phone. Considering everything she had been through lately, the fact that she could even summon enough humor to be joking with him like this only served to prove what a phenomenal woman she really was. "That's right," he muttered. "Secret's out. You married a sissy."
After her laughter died down, she asked, "Guess what?"
He waggled his eyebrows. "You've changed your mind about phone sex?"
She snorted. "No. But someone's never going to let that die."
"So that's a 'no' on the phone sex, then?"
"As long as you're in the lab, there is no way."
He froze, contemplating his next statement carefully. "And if I weren't in the lab…?"
"Moot point. You're still at the lab."
"I can be home in twenty minutes. Fifteen if I don't care about avoiding traffic."
"You damn well better care about avoiding traffic." He didn't miss the hitch in her voice. "You think I can live without you?"
His chest clenched painfully. It never occurred to him that she would take him seriously. "Shit, Linds, I was joking."
"Oh, yes, the thought of your death is insanely hilarious." He could tell that she was close to tears. "Tell me another one." She sobbed into the phone, and he died a little inside. He hated when she cried. He especially hated being the reason that she was crying. He would have done anything to have her never cry again.
"Don't cry, Linds, please. Please don't cry." He stood up and stormed around the office, searching for his coat. "Okay, I'm on my way home. Okay?" He found his coat and cradled his phone with his shoulder so that he could slip his arms into the sleeves. "And I'll be really careful. I promise. I'll watch out for icy patches and everything."
She sniffled. "Okay," she whimpered. "Call me when you get home, all right?"
He nodded vigorously, practically running through the halls to the elevator. "I will, babe. I promise." He went to hang up, but before he did, he whispered, "I love you."
She sighed. "I love you, too. Now hurry up and get your ass home, so we can…"
His eyes widened. "Are you serious?"
"Get home and find out, Mr. Messer."
He was all too happy to oblige. He shoved his phone into his pocket and punched the button for the elevator. When the doors didn't open automatically, he punched it again. The ride to the lobby was endless. The walk to the subway took forever. He waited an eternity for the train, which seemed to be crawling tonight. He could've sworn that a glacier passed them a couple of times. He resisted the urge to race down the sidewalk, remembering his promise to Lindsay. This late on Christmas Eve, with all the snow they'd been getting, the sidewalk would be icy. He took the steps in their building two and a time. As soon as he hit their floor, he whipped out his phone and hit 'send'.
He frowned in confusion. That was weird. He could almost hear "Can't Help Falling in Love" coming from behind their door. But that was impossible. Unless…
He fumbled in his pocket for his keys, dropping them several times before finally managing to unlock and open the door to their apartment.
Lindsay stood in the living room, dressed in the most amazing piece of lingerie Danny had ever seen in his life – a lacy red number that was almost completely sheer.
Danny was so stunned that he dropped both his phone and his keys. He opened and closed his mouth several times, but no words came out. His throat had gone dry, his tongue was immobile, and there was a definite lurch in the vicinity of his heart as he realized that his wife – whom he'd missed so much – was not in Montana, as he'd thought, but standing not fifteen feet from him.
So what the hell was he still doing in the doorway?
He shut the door with his foot and strode purposefully over to Lindsay, vaulting the couch with practiced ease. He cupped her face and brought her to him, kissing her with fiery abandon. He attacked her mouth, biting and sucking, desperate to mark her with something other than the thin band of gold she wore around her finger. He didn't even care to know how she had gotten home when most of the airports in Montana were closed. He didn't even mind that she had let him think that she was still out west, when she knew how much he missed her. All that mattered was that she was here, now, warm and safe in his arms on Christmas.
He broke the kiss and rested his forehead against hers. "I thought you couldn't get out of Montana until Wednesday."
She smiled and lightly ran her fingers along his lips, then used her thumb to wipe away the tears that had started spilling from his eyes. "I cashed in damn near every favor I still had. What should have taken six hours took about seventeen – snowmobiles, helicopters… At one point I was even on horseback. Just to get to an airport that wasn't closed." Her eyes began to water. When a tear fell down her cheek, he kissed it away. "Christmas is about being with the people you love. The person I love was two thousand miles away. A nuclear attack wouldn't have been able to keep me from getting back to you. I couldn't spend Christmas without you."
The lump that usually formed at the sight of the nativity was back full force. He pulled away slightly, to gather his bearings, unable to believe that she was here. She was actually here. Lindsay's eyes grew wide and fearful. "Danny?"
He placed a delicate kiss on the tip of her nose. "I'm okay," he murmured, threading his fingers in her hair. "I just thought I was going to choke on all that sap."
She laughed and buried her face in his chest. "I happen to like sap. It's good for the soul."
He kissed the top of her head. "It's good for the heart, too."
She pulled away to look him in the eye. "Take me to bed, Cowboy."
He grinned and quickly gathered her up in his arms. "Yes, ma'am."
They retired to their bedroom, where they began what was hopefully a new Messer family tradition.
Later, as Lindsay lay snuggled against him, her face resting in the crook of his neck, one single thought danced across Danny's mind.
Best. Christmas. Ever.