Title: Stupid Holiday
Author: SLynn
Fandom: Heroes
Rating: PG-13
Spoilers: None

Summary: Audrey really hates Valentine's Day. Or at least she used to.

Notes: Screw canon! Seriously. This story has nothing to do with canon. It's about a year or so into the future and assumes a lot of things. It's just fluff, deal with it!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Stupid Holiday by SLynn

"It's just a stupid, pointless holiday."

"No, it's not," Niki argued.

"Yes, it is," Audrey said in return. "Actually, you can't even call it a holiday. Hallmark made this day up to increase their sales."

"That's not very romantic," Claire said, joining the conversation as the three of them sat around the table.

"No," Audrey agreed, "but it's realistic. Valentine's Day is a fake holiday designed to make people spend money. End of story."

"No," Claire returned, "you've got to look past the commercialism. It's about showing the people you love that you care about them. It's about giving and friendship and…"

"Kittens and sunshine," Audrey finished for her, rolling her eyes.

"You forgot the rainbows and butterflies," Niki added with a smirk.

"Blah, blah, blah," Audrey continued. "It's crap. Valentine's Day is a crap holiday that just…"

She trailed off, moving towards the refrigerator to get a drink.

"Just what?" Claire asked.

"Nothing."

"No," Niki countered. "I think it's important. You've obviously got some pent up frustrations about this day. Let's hear it?"

"It's nothing," Audrey sighed, returning to her chair with a soda. "It's just that every year is the same. Every year this stupid holiday… You know, I've just come to accept that certain things aren't meant for everyone. I'm fine with that, I really am. But today… I'm just not as fine with it as I normally am."

"Why today?" Niki asked. "Why just on Valentine's Day?"

"Because this day has, and always will, suck for me. It's a fact of life."

"It can't be that bad," Claire said kindly. "I'm sure…"

"Do you want the details?" Audrey asked, completely serious.

"There are details?" Claire asked hesitantly in return.

"Let's see," Audrey said, leaning back and mulling it over briefly. "When I was sixteen I went to my first dance on Valentine's Day with Christopher Jamison."

"That doesn't sound too bad," Niki said warily.

"He dumped me halfway through it for Casey Phillips. I caught them making out in my car."

"Was she like the town trollop or something?" Claire asked.

"She was a he."

"Ouch," Niki winced.

"They had a beautiful commitment ceremony three years ago," Audrey continued, "which I went to alone. They very graciously thanked me in the toast for bringing them together."

"Well," Claire said, "at that age a lot of guys don't exactly know what they want or who they want it from."

"Oh, that was nothing," Audrey continued. "I'm just getting warmed up."

"There's worse?" Niki asked, with her eyebrow raised.

"When I was in college," Audrey went on, "I thought it would be different. I'm not ashamed to say I was a bit of a book nerd in high school. I had to be if I wanted to make it out. I didn't exactly grow up in the lap of luxury. Anyway, you always hear that in college it will be different. That's all I heard through high school. College will be different. That guys will actually want you for your brain instead of your body."

Claire laughed.

"I know," Audrey said, nodding in agreement. "I was so naïve. Still, I had hope then. My freshman year I went to some sorority sponsored Valentine's Day kegger or something. I don't know. I was never into the whole party scene; doesn't matter. This was before I knew I wanted to be in the FBI. It was before I'd started running or working out at all. So I was basically this horribly gawky girl, rail thin, complete with glasses and I was pretty much a mess."

"Do you have pictures?" Niki asked with a smile.

"No," Audrey said sharply. "Back to the story. A few friends convinced me to go and I thought it would be fun. I ended up spending the whole night sitting alone on the couch as everyone else paired off."

"That's not too…"

"I'm not done," Audrey said cutting Claire off. "As I'm sitting alone on the couch this guy comes over and starts talking with me. He's being really nice, really polite and I'm thinking 'finally some guy that isn't a complete animal', right?"

"Was he a perv?" Claire asked.

"No."

"Not gay again?" Niki asked.

"No," Audrey answered. "Turns out he thought that I was the sorority president's younger sister who happened to be visiting from out of state. He was only talking to me to get on her good side."

"That's not so…"

"Her twelve year old sister."

"Wow," Niki said with a shake of her head.

"I was mortified," Audrey finished. "I changed my course schedule so I didn't have to walk on that side of the campus for the rest of the year."

"They're not all like this, are they?" Claire said in a worried tone. "Because, I'm not sure I want to hear anymore…"

"Just one more," Audrey promised. "The big one."

"Dare we ask?" Claire said weakly.

"Michael Fisher."

"Not the Michael?" Niki questioned.

"Yes," Audrey said with a tight smile. "The Michael. I met him at the academy. We were both assigned to the same district. We'd hit it off great. Dated for nearly a year and then boom -- Valentine's Day."

"You can't blame the holiday," Niki argued.

"Oh, I completely blame the holiday."

"For what?" Claire asked.

"Expectations," Audrey said. "Valentine's Day comes with certain expectations."

"What happened?"

"Michael invited me out to a nice dinner that night," Audrey said tersely. "I was excited. Nervous. We'd gotten serious, I thought. Had talked about moving in together. Had talked about a lot of things."

"Oh, no," Claire said, dreading what was bound to be an unhappy ending. "He didn't…"

"He broke up with me," Audrey said with a nod. "I thought he was going to propose and he broke up with me. On Valentine's Day. In public so I wouldn't cause a scene."

"Did you?" Claire had to ask.

"Hell yes I did," Audrey fired back.

"I'm so sorry," the younger woman replied.

"That is awful," Niki agreed.

"It's over," Audrey said looking at the table. "And it doesn't matter anymore. I just really hate this stupid holiday."

"But that was only three times," Claire offered up. "They couldn't all have been that bad. I'm sure not every Valentine's Day…"

"Those are the highlights," Audrey admitted, "but mostly I just spend this day alone. It's easier. I don't exactly date. I don't have the time. I've given up."

"What about last year?" Niki asked after a pause.

"What about last year?" Audrey echoed.

"Didn't you spend it with…"

Niki and Audrey shared a look before turning to Claire whose eyes were wide in anticipation.

"With who?" she asked as if on cue.

"No one," Audrey said quickly.

Niki broke into an evil grin.

"Who?" Claire asked, even more eager than before.

"No one," Audrey repeated more forcefully. "And it wasn't a date. We spent the night parked in a car."

"Sounds like a date to me," Claire said with a wicked smile of her own.

"Not like that," Audrey sighed. "We were on assignment."

"Is that what they call it now?" Niki asked playfully.

"Stop," Audrey said, running a hand across her forehead and fighting down a blush. "Stop. It's not like that and you know it."

"So you spent the night with Matt," Claire said a bit louder than she'd meant to.

"Will you keep it down," Audrey spat out through gritted teeth.

The three of them looked at the door momentarily as if expecting half the house to barge in laughing or pointing or worse.

"I did not," Audrey corrected. "It was an assignment. Part of my job, alright?"

"If you say so," Niki said, still smiling.

"I do," Audrey returned very seriously. "Besides, that is not the kind of relationship we have."

"What kind do you have?" Claire asked.

"Not that type," Audrey answered. "And the two of you might want to remember that he's married."

"He is not," Claire immediately argued. "He's been divorced for like seven or eight months now."

"Well he was then," Audrey corrected herself. "And he was when we first met so…"

"So what?" Niki interrupted.

"So, it's just… I don't know. It's strange, okay? It would be…"

"So great," Claire cut in. "It would. The two of you are perfect for each other."

"No."

"Why not?" Niki asked. "Are you not attracted to him?"

"I didn't say that," Audrey said, blushing once more against her will. "It wouldn't work."

"Because you're afraid…"

"I'm not afraid," Audrey interrupted. "I'm not."

"Then go for it already," Claire said, once again way too loud.

"I told you…"

Audrey stopped talking abruptly as the door opened and Matt and D.L. came into the kitchen.

Claire shut her mouth tightly and sat back in her seat, staring at them, as Niki and Audrey tried to appear as if nothing was going on at all.

It didn't work.

"What's going on?" D.L. asked eyeing the three of them suspiciously.

"Nothing," Claire said too quickly, earning a glare from Audrey in the process.

"We were just talking over our plans for tonight," Niki smoothly replied.

"Oh yeah," Matt said, leaning against the counter.

"Yeah," Niki continued. "D.L. and I are going out to dinner and Claire is going to meet up with some of her friends from school."

"What about you Audrey?" D.L. asked. "Got a big date or something?"

"Um…"

"No," Claire answered for her. "She doesn't like Valentine's Day."

"You don't have a date?" Matt asked, his brow furrowed.

"Um, no," she answered, not looking at him; choosing instead to give Claire her best icy gaze. "I'm just going to stay in or something."

"Come on," Niki said, getting to her feet and grabbing D.L.'s hand. "We should go check our reservations."

"I already did," he protested.

"We'll do it again," Niki urged, pulling him out the door with her. "Just to be safe."

"And I should really go study or something," Claire said lamely, jumping to her feet as well and practically sprinting out the door.

For a moment neither of them spoke.

Finally, clearing his throat and moving to sit beside her, Matt said, "I thought you had a date."

"It… um… no," she said as she turned slightly to face him. "I don't."

"Oh."

"It wasn't that I…"

"You don't have to explain," he interrupted. "I understand. But, you know, if you didn't want to go out with me you could have just said so. I can handle rejection just fine."

"It's really not that," Audrey tried explaining. "It's just…"

"What?"

"It's this stupid holiday," she sighed. "Nothing ever goes right for me on this day and I thought if we had our first date today of all days that it would pretty much doom whatever chance we might have together. And I don't want that. I really… I don't know. I'm being stupid."

"So," Matt said, trying to grasp her meaning, "it's Valentine's Day you said no to, not me? You lied about having a date because you didn't want to go out tonight?"

"Yes."

"Because Valentine's Day is evil?"

"Yes."

"That is a little…"

"Crazy?" she provided.

"A little," he said with a nod and a smile.

"I know," she returned with a small laugh, "and I fully understand if you'd rather not ask 'crazy' out again. Really."

"Okay," Matt said slowly, taking hold of her hands, "how about this. How about tonight, we don't go out. We can stay in, as friends, and watch a movie. Maybe order take out, talk about how bad our days were, and just treat it like it was any other day."

"Alright," Audrey agreed.

"But tomorrow night," Matt continued with a smile, "it's a date. Dinner. Movies. Dancing. Bowling. Doesn't matter. Anything you want to do, but it's a date."

"Bowling?"

"I'm just throwing it out there."

Audrey smiled and nodded in agreement.

"Good," Matt said, smiling brighter now and squeezing her hands once before standing to go.

Audrey didn't move. Didn't speak. She wasn't sure what to say or how she'd even say it. She just watched him as he made to go.

"And Audrey," he said, pausing as he got the door. "Next year, I promise, you're going to love this stupid holiday."

"I think I already do."

The End