NOTES: So I said I wasn't doing Christmas fic explicitly this year because I have Pause the Tragic Ending in the works. But this idea just wouldn't leave me alone. I hope you all enjoy, and have a great holiday season.
Christmas in the Room
Cameron's apartment doesn't have a fireplace, or a large dining room, or an oven filled with fragrantly baking holiday goods. In fact, they've both been so busy at work this year that the only tree that's gotten decorated is the one in the ER with the charity gift tags. Until tonight, anyway.
"What is this?" Chase asks, holding up what looks to him to be an ambiguous purple blob, with the numbers 12/24/79 written on it in faded silver marker.
The thing has a wire poked through a little hole near the edge, and Cameron takes it from him, looping it neatly over the end of a bare branch near her hand. "My kindergarten class made them."
It's just like Cameron to insist that her tree gets decorated, Chase thinks, even if it's already Christmas Eve, and they'll be taking it down in scarcely a week. The haggard man at the lot that springs up on the corner near campus each year had given him a funny look, but Chase had been given a mission to find a tree, and he'd known better than to come home without one.
"Okay, but what is it?" Chase asks again, still fixated on the ornament Cameron's just hung. It's backlit by one of the delicately-blinking lights now, making its slight translucence glow.
"It's a Christmas bell," says Cameron, as though it ought to be obvious. She's moved on already and is searching for the perfect place to hang a tiny teddy bear in a sweatshirt. Her tree is utter chaos in comparison to the streamlined decorations in the rest of her apartment, a virtual visual autobiography in its collection of ornaments and lights and bows.
"The whole class made things out of clay. Then the teacher put them in an oven and baked them," she continues, biting her lower lip delicately as she places a little glass bluebird near the top of the tree. "We got to watch. They bubbled."
"Why?" Chase asks, feeling slightly bewildered as he watches her start fluffing the large red bows she's just removed from the large garbage bag near her feet. She looks like a relative of the angel at the top, he thinks, even in a faded t-shirt and a stolen pair of his boxers, shower-damp blonde hair curling down her back. Cameron gives the tree every bit as much concentration as she'd bestow upon one of her most critical patients, brow furrowed in thought as she places one lopsided bow after the next.
Cameron turns toward him for a moment to shrug. "I don't know. I guess just--to have something pretty to remember that year by. And to give our parents. My mom always got so excited to see what my brother and I would bring home for the tree."
"Oh." Chase swallows, the thought of having anything to bring home and give to a parent seeming as foreign as the rest of Cameron's holiday traditions, though he knows it shouldn't be. "That's--sweet." Her eyes on his face feel like they're penetrating just a little too deep, threatening to see too much, so he reaches out to touch the edge of the bow she's just finished arranging. "Make these in school too?"
"No." Cameron shakes her head and takes a step backward, placing her hands on her hips to survey the tree with a critical eye. "I made those with my mom. I think I was in high school, although you wouldn't know from looking at them." She leans in to adjust a confetti-filled ball before stepping back again. "I was never particularly artistically gifted."
Chase laughs softly, reaching out to lay a hand on her shoulder, gently turning her to face him. "It's still a very nice tree."
Cameron looks at him like she's coming back from a very far off place, then frowns again. "You don't have one, do you? You didn't last year, either. We should do something about that."
"No," he says quietly, sliding his hand down her arm until his fingers find hers and tangle with them, keeping the holiday melancholy at bay. "Wouldn't have anything to put on it anyway."
"That's okay," Cameron murmurs against his neck before leaning up to kiss him. "We can start our own collection. We can even bake some clay, if you want."
"That's okay," Chase echoes, wrapping his arms snugly around her waist and tucking her head under his chin. "What do we do now that it's decorated?"
"Now we drink hot chocolate," she answers, voice muffled in the folds of his shirt. "And watch cheesy Christmas specials until we fall asleep on the couch."
"Oh?" Chase asks playfully as she unwinds herself and tugs him toward the kitchen. "Another Christmas tradition in your family?"
"No." Cameron's eyes seem to reflect the twinkling lights from the tree as she stands on tiptoe to pull mugs from a cabinet. "Christmas tradition for us. Starting right now."