For CsiAngel. Just because :-)
Disclaimer: Don't own any part of it.
The Loneliest Time of Year for the Lonely
Her hand stills as she places the final decoration on the tree; it all happened too fast, somehow, this ritual that she used to love. When she's doing it, she can focus on the exact placement of each bauble, on draping the angel hair carefully over the branches, on angling the star on the top so it looks just right. She can think about these things, and not on how lonely the holidays have become since her divorce. And it's ironic, of course, that her loneliness should hit her so hard, because she was the one who walked away, but that doesn't make it easier. She misses him. At Christmas time more than any other. She stands back to admire the tree, its lights almost mocking her with their joyful glow. She wishes she didn't feel like this, but she does. Every damn year, she does.
He tries not to think about his ex-wife most of the time; really, it's just too painful. It's not that he never thinks about her – images of her invade his mind at the most inopportune of times, and it takes an enormous amount of strength and willpower to push them away. But he tries. Because letting her in, again, into his mind, hurts too much. Allowing himself to reflect on the mistakes he made, on how he never appreciated her as much as he should have done, how he drove her away; all of it makes him ache all over. Some days he thinks about her more than others; their wedding anniversary, her birthday, Christmas. She loved Christmas. So did he, when he had her to share it with; now it seems hollow, and empty, and he just can't bring himself to love it the way he used to. Loneliness and Christmas are not a happy mix.
She doesn't know what makes her do it; exposing her vulnerability has never been a habit of hers. But the tree stands forlorn in the corner of the room, she misses the man she used to spend her life with, and there's only three days until Christmas day and she's lonely. She almost reconsiders as she's pulling on her coat, as she's backing the car out the drive, even as she comes to a stop outside his house. She doesn't know what she wants from tonight; doesn't know what she'll get, either. But all the reasons she can think of to drive back home disappear as she remembers what is waiting for her there: nothing. She walks up the drive, her footsteps growing heavier with each step, and knocks on the door. She inhales sharply as she hears him approach, and then he swings it open.
"Hi," she says, because she doesn't know what else to say.
He regards her for a moment, then wordlessly holds open the door, and she steps inside.
He hasn't spoken to her for months, but it's three days before Christmas and he just needs to hear her voice. He hesitates briefly before picking up the receiver, then dials her number. It rings once, twice, three times. He feels a mix of emotions when she answers; relief, nostalgia, happiness, sadness. "It's me," he says, as though she wouldn't recognise his voice.
Her reply is soft, but tinged with confusion. "Hi."
It's the day before Christmas Eve, and there's been a light falling of snow, just enough to make it feel festive without causing disruptions. Her office is adorned with decorations, fairy lights, a small tree on her desk; he, of course, turned up his nose and told her it was over the top, but she just laughed and swatted his arm and told him not to be such a Scrooge.
When he arrives in her office, she greets him with a smile that he only half returns. "Everything okay?"
He nods. "Yeah. You?"
Now it's her turn to nod. "Finished wrapping your presents?"
He laughs. "Not even started. You?"
"Maybe." She gives him a playful smile, and he laughs again before growing serious.
"Zoe called round last night."
Her face registers surprise, although she really shouldn't be; is it so strange for his ex-wife to visit him just before Christmas? "Must be the time of year for ex-spouses," she says lightly, standing up. "Alec called me last night."
Now he's the one showing surprise. "What for?"
She shrugs. "To talk. Christmas can make people lonely. He doesn't have anyone, right now..." She trails off. "He just wanted to talk."
"So did Zoe."
She raises her eyebrows. "Really?"
"Yeah. Well... she might have wanted something else. She didn't get it though."
"I should hope not," she murmurs, stepping closer and wrapping her arms around his neck. "So did you tell her about us?"
"No," he admits. "But only because we agreed not to, yet. Not because I didn't want to. Believe me, I'd love to shout it from the rooftops."
She smiles as she presses a kiss to his cheek. "Fair enough."
"Did you tell Alec?"
"No. We agreed."
His hands fall to her waist, pulling her in closer. "Maybe we should tell them."
"Maybe we should."
"Ever thought about setting those two up together?"
She pulls away as she bursts out laughing. "Now that would be interesting."
"Wouldn't it just?" He grins. "We could go on double dates."
She laughs again. "Well, it would certainly cure their loneliness."
He looks suddenly thoughtful, and strokes her hair lightly. She tilts her head to the side as she gives him a gentle smile. "You okay?"
"Yeah. Just thinking." He cups her face and kisses her softly, then smiles at her as they break apart. "About how lucky we are to have each other."
"Yes." She returns the kiss as she wraps her arms around him again, feeling him tighten their embrace. "We are."