A/N: The rather specious scent study that appears in this story really does exist but thanks to the fact that later, more scientific studies pretty much said it was bunk, I felt no remorse for adjusting the top ranking oder to suit my purposes. In case anyone is wondering, in real life the winner was pumpkin pie mixed with lavender.

It was late when Cal finally got back to the office. After fighting traffic made up primarily of holiday shoppers, he had almost decided to go straight home but he really needed to pick up some files. Emily had gone off to visit her mom as soon as school let out for the holidays, she wasn't due back until Christmas Eve, and he was trying to use her absence to get some writing done. Well, sort of trying, or maybe intending to try. Whatever.

Emily's absence had another benefit. Without her here, no one at the office had tried to coerce him into some form of holiday cheer. Sure, they'd hung a few wreaths and garlands, and scheduled the obligatory office party, but so far he hadn't been made to participate. It wasn't that he was a Scrooge, it was just that the whole Secret Santa, fairy lights, bad music, and goodwill towards men thing wasn't his cup of tea. Especially the goodwill part ... okay, maybe he was a Scrooge. The thing was, Cal had this theory that holidays made people lie even more than usual - and he saw every fib. Not exactly a state of affairs conducive to merriment.

That was why his brow wrinkled when he pushed through the office doors only to hear the strains of the "Nutcracker" floating down the hall. He paused before continuing forward more cautiously. If there was a party, he would just have to forget his notes for tonight. He cocked his head, listening, but the only sounds he could hear were some random rustling and the music that played in the background. He continued down the hall, curious now that he had established it was unlikely the staff was lying in wait for him around the corner.

When he reached the main hall, he carefully stuck his head out just in case he was wrong ... and saw Gillian hard at work decorating a massive tree. She hummed along to the "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies," brow furrowing as she tried to drape the tree with a tangle of what looked like at least ten strands of tiny white lights.

"Oh ... shit," she muttered under her breath as she hit a particularly bad knot.

Cal's lips curved into an involuntary smile. He loved it when Foster swore ... she was just so cute when her nose wrinkled up in distaste after a profanity managed to escape her. He leaned against the wall, not alerting her to his presence and enjoying the chance to observe her surreptitiously.

After undoing the tangle, she hung the excess lights over her shoulder and continued working her way around the tree. The twinkling lights illuminated her face with an ethereal glow, and Cal could see the smile that lit her features as well. She looked happier than she had in months; clearly the holidays suited his partner well.

Finally, Gillian's progress moved her out of sight behind the massive evergreen. Cal stepped further into the hall in an effort to keep her in sight, only to be startled when her voice sounded from the back of the tree.

"Are you just going to stand there gawking, Cal, or are you going to come and help me? I could really use another pair of hands."

"Oi, Foster, how did you know I was here?" he said as he walked towards her.

Gillian stuck her head out around the branches and raised her eyebrows. "Just so you know, you are nowhere near as stealthy as you think. I heard you as soon as you came in the door." Then she held out the bundle of lights. "Here, take these. Don't let them get snarled, I'm having an awful time untangling them."

Cal did as she asked, grasping the loops of unstrung lights loosely in his fist and feeding them out to her as they circled the tree. He put on his best long suffering face, although in truth, it was not hard labor and he enjoyed the opportunity to stand so close to his partner. He studied her delicate profile, noting that her cheeks were a bit more flushed than usual.

"I thought we decided not to have a tree this year? I mean thanks to the expense and all that," Cal asked her.

"We did, but one of the clients had this beauty delivered as a thank you, and I saved the ornaments from last year, so it seemed a shame to let it go to waste."

"And no one was willing to help you decorate?"

"I didn't invite them," she said mildly.

She stretched up onto her tiptoes, trying and failing to hook the strand of lights over a branch just out of her reach. Cal leaned forward and took it from her. He wasn't much taller but by stretching out as far as he could, he just managed to get it over the branch. The action brought him right up behind her, his chin over her shoulder and stray wisps of her hair brushing his face. He breathed in deeply before he stepped back, inhaling the sweet scent of her.


Cal remembered reading a study somewhere that listed gingerbread as one of the most arousing scents for men. He had scoffed at the time, but here, pressed in tight between the wall and the tree, with the spicy scent wafting off Gillian, he was prepared to agree with them. Gingerbread was wonderful.

By now they had completed as much of the tree as they could from the ground. Gillian stepped away, reaching for a glass of pale yellow liquid that was resting on one of the tables in the hall, next to a good sized thermos.

"Mmm," she moaned in delight after taking several swallows.

Cal waggled his eyebrows. "Eggnog?"

"Homemade and thoroughly spiked." Then she slipped her tongue out and slowly licked the remains of the beverage off her lips. "Want some?"

Yes ... uh, no." Cal struggled to drag his gaze away from her mouth. "I can't stand the stuff.

Gillian just shrugged and took another long drink from her glass. "You don't know what you're missing."

She grabbed the small stepladder she had handy and moved back to the tree. They continued to hang the sparkling strands with Gillian stopping to sip at her drink each time they moved the ladder. Finally, it was done. The only thing left to hang was the huge golden bow that topped the highest branch. Ribbon in hand, Gillian climbed to the top step of the ladder and reached as far as she could, fingers just grazing the peak of the tree.

"Careful, love," Cal admonished her, moving in close as she teetered on her perch. "We don't want to end up with you hanging from the tree."

"Just a little bit more," she said as she strained to wind the bow around the branch. "There, I got it."

Then, as she started to climb back down, she lost her balance. Cal's hands shot up, grasping her hips to steady her. She giggled a bit and leaned further into his support, forcing him to lift her off the ladder. As he placed her back on the ground, his hands slid up her sides, carrying the hem of her cashmere sweater along with them, until his fingers were wrapped around her waist, pinkies resting on the sliver of bare skin exposed between her skirt and top.

He knew he should let go, but he couldn't seem to make himself. Gillian tilted her head back to look up at the finished tree and as her hair brushed his face he smelt the gingerbread again. Almost involuntarily, his hand slid around to her belly and he pulled her back into a loose embrace, his chin resting on her shoulder as they stood there gazing at the tree.

"It's beautiful, love."

"Yes, it is." After a moment, she broke away from his arms to pour two glasses of her holiday concoction. "I think it deserves a toast," she said brightly as she held one glass out towards him.

"No thanks, love. I prefer my liquor straight. I mean why the devil would anyone want to drink raw eggs, cream, and alcohol."

"That's because you've never had mine, which by the way, I cook. Just taste it," she cajoled, but he grinned and shook his head.

Then, with a teasing look on her face, she stuck her finger into her glass and held it up to his mouth. She used the moistened tip to smear the frothy eggnog across his lips, sliding it between them when they parted in surprise. She gave a barely audible "oh" as he sucked the sweet liquid off her finger and pulled her hand back, pausing to gently wipe an errant drop from his chin. Neither spoke, they just stood there staring at each other for a long moment before Gillian found her voice.

"See," she said, "it is good."

A slow smile quirked the corners of Cal's mouth. "Are you talking about the eggnog, love?"

Maybe it was the product of her currently tipsy state, maybe it was a natural response to the challenge she could hear in Cal's voice, or maybe it was the fact that she could still feel the hot, little thrill that had coursed through her when Cal's mouth closed around her finger. Maybe it was all three. Gillian would never know exactly what prompted her next action, but before she could stop herself she had dipped her finger in the eggnog again, only this time she held it to the bare skin above the v-neck of her clingy sweater. Cal watched mesmerized as a single yellow drop began to roll slowly down her creamy skin.

"Maybe you just need to taste some more," Gillian told him in a voice gone husky with desire.

With one quick step forward Cal was there, his mouth hot against her flesh as he licked the eggnog from her skin. Once it was gone, he lifted his head.

"Mmm, lovely, but I still don't like eggnog. You, on the other hand ... are delicious."

Then his mouth was on hers and the feel of his mobile lips pressed to her own took her breath away. She wrapped her arms around him, needing the support as he deepened the kiss and she felt her legs begin to tremble. His hands found her waist, right where they had so recently been resting, only this time when he slid them up her sides he took her sweater with them. The office was warm, but she shivered as his fingers came to rest high on her ribs, thumbs caressing the swell of her breasts through the thin silk of her bra.

He pulled back for a moment and she gasped at the loss of contact, but he had only moved away to give himself room to lift her sweater off over her head. Then his nimble fingers found the clasp of her bra, and that too fell to the floor. She squirmed a bit under his gaze as he stared at her in wonder. No one had ever looked at her like that before, sex with Alec had been a lights out, covers up sort of affair, but Cal's eyes held an amazing mix of hunger and awe, and it was all directed at her.

"You are so beautiful," he breathed in wonder.

He smiled at the blush that spread across her exposed skin and reached out to cup one perfect breast, sighing as he felt her nipple harden against his palm. Then he bent forward and took the other in his mouth, licking and gently biting until her nipple was a hard nub and the delicious ache of it spread all the way to her toes. His free hand slid down to her ass and pulled her tight against him. Even through his jeans she could feel his hard length, the amazing heat of him, pressed against her belly.

Slowly, he walked her backwards until she was pressed up against the wall. He put his mouth back to work, his tongue burning her skin as he moved ever lower until he was kneeling in front of her. He undid the zip on her skirt, releasing it to fall in a puddle on the floor and ghosted a hand up her thigh until he was cupping her, his fingers stroking the damp crotch of her panties. Then he pushed the flimsy fabric aside and groaned against her belly as he slid his fingers into her wet folds.

His thumb traced circles on her clit, drawing small moans from her, as he slid first one then another finger inside her. She closed her eyes as he began to pump them in and out, curling his fingers until he hit her right ... there, and her legs were shaking so badly she had to splay her hands out against the wall to keep from falling.

He took her right to the edge and she gasped, eyes flying open, when he withdrew his hand. She looked down to see him gazing back up at her, his heavy lidded eyes taking in every twitch of her face and body. As she watched, he raised his hand to his mouth and licked her juices off it, smiling up at her the whole time.

Then he hooked his fingers into the waistband of her panties and pulled them down around her ankles. One hand lifted her leg, resting it over his shoulder, and his mouth found the core of her. She was still watching, almost surprised at her own boldness, and she thought that the sight of him, kneeling in front of her fully clothed, his face buried between her naked thighs, might be the most erotic thing she had ever seen. Then his lips closed over her swollen nub and she couldn't think at all anymore.

It was only moments before she felt the first stirrings of her release deep in her belly. He must have sensed it as well because he quickened the pace of his tongue and pressed his fingers inside her once again. She fisted one hand in his hair, the other still clinging to the wall for support, and cried out as she came, harder and more gloriously than she ever had before. He stayed with her, tongue playing in lazy circles and fingers still vibrating within her, until the last spasms of her release faded away.

When she finally stopped shaking, he stood up and brushed her hair away from her flushed face. His hand came down to cup her cheek and then he kissed her deeply. She could taste herself on his tongue and sucked against it, resisting him as he tried to pull away again. She opened her eyes to see a mischievous little grin spreading across his face.

"That," he said in a tone that sent a fresh shiver of desire down her spine, "was quite a bit better than eggnog."