It's Cold Outside

By Seniya

Christmas was different in Meridian.

There was no "jingle" or "cheer" back home. Caleb frowned to think of it, certainly, this was unnecessary and ridiculous. Everywhere he went people practically skipped, bouncing from store to store, burdened with packages but still intent on collecting more.

And they sang! Groups of them, crowded around street corners singing the same songs!

"Why is it so bright?" He was sulking, Will might have smiled if he hadn't been doing it for the last hour and a half.

"Those are Christmas lights, Caleb."

"Are they different from other lights?"

"No..." She sighed heavily. Where was Cornelia? This Caleb baby-sitting duty was getting more than a little old. Especially at Christmas. He had the uncanny habit of draining Christmas spirit by asking never ending questions and then using the answers in rants about the glories of Meridian's "Sun Festival".

"Then why are they called Christmas lights?"

"Because you put them up at Christmas."

"Why?"

"I don't know. You just do."

"You don't know?" Oh God. Will rolled her eyes and shuffled her boots in the snow. Here it was.

"In the Sun Festival, there are no lights. They would take away from the..."

Glory of the Sun God. Will nodded absently as the monologue continued, all the while peering out the corner of her eye down the crowded street, still desperately looking for any sign of her blonde haired salvation.

"And then on the fourth day, there is the Wild Boar tournament. I won last year, but this year Gidren says that he has been..."

Will pivoted suddenly beside him. He paused then, confused because her small, bundled frame, topped off with a pink hat had been stationary for this entire evening, and suddenly it seemed filled with energy.

"Um...Caleb...you wanna go into one of those stores?"

She shuffled uncomfortably in front of him, her cheeks were pink from the cold and her eyes seemed watery and frantic. "Like...you know...now."

The emphasis on the now wasn't lost on him, and it was because of that and not because of any genuine concern about why she suddenly seemed so frantic that he prolonged any movement from their position.

"No. I like it right here."

"For God's sake, Caleb!" She was practically jumping on the spot right now, several people grunted in annoyance at having to move around her. He smiled at her obvious annoyance.

"Stop grinning!" She looked around once more, her face falling instantly at what she saw. Caleb made an effort to find what had dampened her mood so quickly, but heard rather than saw the culprit.

"Hey! Will!"

She didn't reply.

"Isn't that—"

"Yes."

"So then why are you—"

"Caleb."

"And who's that girl that he's—"

Will was fuming by the time he came over. It was Mark—or Mike—or Milk or something. "Caleb!" He was smiling, clearly intoxicated by the simple Christmas cheer. He was wearing a thick wool sweater with a man of snow on it. There was a pretty dark skinned girl attached to his arm.

"Hello," Caleb greeted him solemnly, and then because he couldn't recall his name he added, "You."

"Here for Christmas then?" Will remained silent at Caleb's side. Her hands were stuffed into her pockets, and she actually seemed invisible among the layers of wool and cotton.

"Yeah...Just for a few days." The girl beside Milk seemed to perk up at that.

"You're from out of town?" Her voice had a high, nasal quality to it.

"Yes."

The foursome remained quiet then, deep amid the sounds of bells and people's laughter and singing.

"So, Will," Caleb felt her quick, jerky motion at her name, "how...how are you doing?"

"I'm fine." Her voice was small and her face was down, permanently interested in her boots.

"Will and I were just going inside that toy store there. So we'll see you later." Caleb reached for her arm before she had the time to protest and carefully winded the both of them through scores of last minute shoppers into the nearest store.

"This is a flower store." She hissed.

"You're welcome."

Will smiled then, and tugged off her pink hat. "So, you're not going to ask about the gory details?"

"I think I got the idea."

She played with a bunch of poinsettias before scrunching up her face, "I think that she gets prettier every time I see her."

He was quiet for a while, watching her as she dragged the red petals along her palms. They matched her hair. "I think," he moved closer and plucked the flower from her hand, "that it's his loss."

She looked up at his face, some of the Christmas lights were caught there, deep beneath the heavy brown. A smile curved her lips before she quipped, "You would."

"That, my lady, is an insult. And completely against the Christmas spirit."

Will laughed at that. He was glad, sadness didn't suit her. "What do you know about Christmas spirit?"

"Enough to realize that all of you need to come to Meridian for the Sun Festival."

"And cheer for you at hog wrestling?"

"It's wild boar wrestling."

"Oh so it's different." She was already half-way out of the door.

"I'd like to see you try and wrestle a wild boar."

"You'll never get the chance."

"I should have left you to Milk."

"To who?"

"What's his name."

"You mean Matt?"

"Something like that."

Will shook her head at that and at the same time a laugh erupted from her throat. It mingled with the tinkling of the bells and the chorus of the carollers to create one bright, pretty sound. The combination made his insides tremble—freeze—he wondered, briefly, why it suddenly had that effect on him.

"Caleb," the remnants of her mirth still lingered on her lips, "Merry Christmas."

He didn't reply immediately, still baffled by the strange rhythm that his insides had created while he concentrated on her upturned face. "W-What's so merry?"

"Nothing." Her smile grew wider, "You just made my season, that's all."

It wasn't a very poignant thing to say, yet it touched him all the same. Before he could reply, some yelling behind him distracted them both. "Will! Caleb!" It was Cornelia, conspicuous even in the thick crowd because of her height and long, flaxen hair.

The moment was gone.

Cornelia was by his side now, she had safely tucked her hand in the crook of his arm and rested her head on his shoulder. "Sorry I'm so late. God, I hate Christmas Eve! What could these people possibly be buying now?"

Will shrugged, looking at her boots again, "something they don't have—I guess."

"Or something they didn't know they wanted." His reply caught Will off guard, she met his eyes for a mere second, saw something that terrified her, and then looked away, finally mumbling something about getting home.

Cornelia seemed not to notice. "Well, I already did all my Christmas shopping. Thanks for baby-sitting again Will."

"No problem," Glad to finally be relieved of her duty, for more reason than one, Will scampered away, disappearing in the thick crowd.

"And now, you," Cornelia turned to face her boyfriend, "what are you getting me for Christmas?"

FIN

Author: Oh look, smuff for the holidays. I had written a Christmas Will x Caleb in my series of one shots called Atonement. X-mas, it was called. I feel christmasy and as I was writing this, another idea came to mind. But I have to go bake now....so I'll see what I can do later. Merry Christmas to all!!!!