Yuletide
By Syrinx
Rating: PG
A/N: For mask_and_mirror, who wanted Brad and Ashleigh on Christmas Eve, avoiding Lavinia and Mike, but not going to the barn. Brad/Ashleigh.

Lights dance on the little glass panes, Christmas tradition twinkling through the greenery. There's music in the bitter cold air, not that she feels it in here. The notes are muted through the glass, but she can still hear it slipping in, trembling off the orchids and the ferns. The air is warm, sticky. It smells like earth and fertilizer. Like living things.

The door to the greenhouse clicks open, snaps shut. In the interim, the music crescendos and a burst of freezing wind makes the plants quiver and dance. She shivers right along with them, the tiny hairs on her arms rising with his warm breath on her neck.

It's an unspoken arrangement. A casual game of hide and seek. Sometimes she thinks it should bother her that they've started to do this so easily, that all it takes is to simply slip away and he will just know to follow. She doesn't have to say anything, doesn't have to give him a look. She hides, and he seeks.

He always finds her.

His hand is on her hip, warm through the silk, like everything else in this room, and she turns in his grasp. She lifts her chin, feels her back dig against the dirty work table as he presses closer, and meets his mouth. They kiss like they're starved for it, a little too eager to care about bruises and teeth.

It's not like they have forever. She can practically count down the days now, ever since she received the pearly white wedding invitation in the mail. The names Lavinia Hotchkins-Ross and Bradley H. Townsend looked so beautiful together in that black ink. It was an effort to check the box indicating she would come, that she would bring a guest. It felt like choking on air, and she knows he's felt the same, because she's done exactly the same thing to him.

They've always known how to hurt each other.

She pulls away, sucks in a breath that burns her lungs. His fingers clench on her sides, itching and impatient. Sometimes they never really know where they're going to wind up, don't know where to take things even after they've had their chance. There's no set playlist, no way to determine what they'll have next. Usually they just spin right out of control at the word go.

"Where is she?" Ashleigh asks, and something in him shifts, or sinks. She's not quite sure.

"With her parents," he says, and then manages a smile. "Imagine, spending time with family on Christmas Eve instead of here with the social mob. I told her that her priorities clearly weren't in order."

"Yeah, well, I know why you're here." Her fingers press against the material of his suit, rest flat against his chest.

"Do you?" he asks, narrows his eyes.

She doesn't say it, so he asks, "Where's Mike?"

"Whitebrook," she says simply. Always Whitebrook. Instead she's here, and he kisses her again, because that's what desperate men do. They cling to the things they can't have; make something out of nothing, and then burn it to the ground.

Ashleigh wonders if she's just as desperate. Probably, she is. She doesn't know what she wants, hates and loves at the same time, wonders what she's becoming and what she's already become. She laughs a little against his mouth. Desperate it is.

She doesn't want to think about it. Won't.

"I think," he says, talking between kisses, "that you chose a really inconvenient place."

"Why's that?"

"I don't want to get your dress dirty," he says, pulling away to gather the slippery material, tugging it up her legs.

"We're doing that, are we?" she asks, arching away from him, smiling at the surprise on his face.

"Ashleigh," he groans, leaning forward, resting his forehead on her chest while she giggles, wondering how she's fallen in with such a guy. His fingers find her ticklish spots from memory and she lets out a surprised shriek that she has to force herself to bite back. They're in a glass house after all. She looks at the lights flickering on the windows and acknowledges that he might be right.

"Fine," she says, pushing him away. "I challenge you to find a better spot."

You run, she thinks. I'll follow.

"Well," he says, straightening his jacket and giving her that look she's associated with warning bells since what feels like the beginning of time. "That will be no contest."

"Prove it," she says, ever defiant.

He snags her wrist and draws her up to him for a quick kiss that winds up drawing itself out, moves down her jaw, over her neck. She feels his teeth, and then nothing at all. The hairs rise on her arms again, and it's not because of the December air that seeps in when he walks out the door.

Don't think about it. She endeavors not to think at all.

She opens her eyes, soaks in his absence, and begins to count.

Three, two, one.