A/N: This was written for the Secret Santa exchange - I got Lornacat who asked for either a fic where Loker played Santa for kids and Gillian and Torres fawned over him to Cal's jealousy OR a fic where Cal and Gillian took a walk in the snow OR to surprise her. Well, SURPRISE, I combined them hahaha. SUCH IS MY BRAIN. Mostly I really wanted to include the first idea, but was reluctant to actually tackle Loker's voice, or Torres'. I have a hard time with them lol. ANYWAY. HAPPY MERRY UNIVERSAL HOLIDAY SEASON, LORNACAT.
can't remember a worse December
It wasn't like he was bloody Ebenezer Scrooge or anything.
It's just that he's never really loved December, for a lot of reasons. His mum had killed herself the last weekend of November, and he vividly remembers that December. Stuck with a cold father, attending a funeral and standing knee-deep in the snow in an overcoat that did nothing to ward off the chill in his bones.
The ground had been too frozen to even bury her.
No, December had never been his favourite month, and that year had been when it had started to die, a little bit more, a year at a time for him. His childhood Christmases – those were memories he cherished. Happy and warm, flushed red cheeks and warm chocolate, boots bleeding melted snow across the kitchen floor while his mum tutted, and wiped up the mess before turning back to the gingerbread she was rolling out, her face and apron dusted with flour all over as she hummed carols under her breath. Those holidays had been filled with colour. But the year she died, it was like everything had started to fade, and someone had desaturated the entire season, the entire month in her absence.
When Emily was small, he'd tried, he had. He' smile forcefully, string fairy lights and hang ornaments but everything felt off – garish and hollow and never genuine.
But he didn't – he didn't hate Christmas. He did hate all the constant lies that seemed to wrap the holiday up, pretty words and prettier actions that were blanketed over the entire month like gold wrapping. And you could see it if you looked closely enough, the masking smiles, and controlled happiness written on everyone's faces like sparkling red ribbons to hold all the wrapping in place.
But children – well, he didn't mind them at Christmas. They lit up with an iridescent joy that couldn't even attempt to be falsified.
Which was what brought him here, really, to this cold bench in this even colder weather, sat by a play structure and watching as small children scrambled over it, somewhat encumbered by their snow pants, but determined to have fun none the less. There were giggles and screams of delight, and each child had that look on their face – the look that said Christmas was imminent, and they were so filled with excitement, they all but vibrated.
"There you are," her voice was soft and amused, and he glanced over to see her holding two paper cups, both steaming into the cold evening air. "I've been looking for you, you know."
Gillian handed him a cup of black tea, and he took it gratefully, sipping it and watching her as she settled gracefully on to the bench beside him. Not that she ever did anything ungracefully, really. Her red coat fell perfectly over her hips, and its big black buttons were fastened all the way up to her neck in deference to the cold. She an ivory scarf around her neck, and it matched the wool hat on her head and he stared at her in the dying afternoon light as she sat beside him, seemingly content to be silent for the moment.
"You've found me," he observed dryly, and she smiled in response, clearly not bothered by the fact that a good ten minutes of silence had followed the statement he was responding to.
"I always do," she observed, her fingers were pale and slender, delicately wrapped around her paper cup which was also red. With snowflakes printed on it. Even the bloody coffee was cheerful, though he doubted her cup contained coffee at all. Probably hot chocolate or cider or something equally as festive. Because Christmas for Gillian Foster, he was sure, was a full technicolour experience. "He didn't mean anything by it, you know."
He nodded, knowing she was referencing Loker and his terrible idea for what passed as humour. "Well he did mean it, actually."
"It's just a song, Cal." He was watching the mums gathered their children, some escaping for just one more slide even as their mothers smiled in exasperation.
"He called me a Grinch!"
"Well no," Gillian smiled over at him, her eyes meeting his for a moment, "technically he called you Mr. Grinch."
He huffed slightly and shrugged, and she scooted closer on the bench, until her thigh was close enough to his that he could feel her warmth, spreading across the miniscule distance between them.
"Oh come on, Cal." She laughed, and her arm looped through one of his. Above them the park's lights illuminated suddenly, trees lining the walkways wrapped in a warm glow that seemed to chase off the depression of it being dark enough to light them at barely past four in the afternoon.
"I don't hate Christmas. Just because I don't put on a bloody red velvet suit and a fake beard to traipse around handing out presents to underprivileged children doesn't mean I hate Christmas." His tone was petulant and he knew it, but he seemed powerless to make those words pop out of his mouth in any other fashion. Gillian studied him for a moment before standing, tugging him up with her.
"Walk with me." She pulled him along until he walked mostly willingly with her, depositing his empty cup in the trash and waiting while she followed suit before pulling her close against his side as they walked. Her arm was through his and her other hand rested on her own forearm. "Listen, it was a very sweet thing Eli did for those kids today. And just because you were jealous-"
He stopped dead in his tracks, staring at her open mouthed in astonishment. "I was not jealous!"
"You were. Come on, Cal, admit it. A little bit, you were."
"Jealous of what precisely? Missing an opportunity to have a bunch of small, sticky fingered children clambering all over my lap?" He made a sound of disbelief, but Gillian just stared at him knowingly, her face expectant and he huffed in annoyance. Sometimes he hated that she could see through him so very well. If everyone else was a person masquerading as a present wrapped in lies over the holidays, he assumed that to Gillian, he was a bit like a gift basket. Nothing fancying him up but a bit of cellophane and maybe a ribbon or two.
"Cal." She didn't even add anything to it, simply the weight of her tone was enough to give the utterance of his name enough heft to drag him down, kicking and screaming though he may be.
"Fine. I just didn't see the need for every single female in the entire office to fawn over him as though he'd footed the bill and selected every bloody gift himself. He just put on a suit!"
"Every female in the office?" She needled him in amusement and he nodded, moving forward and dragging her along as he turned them down a smaller path, still lit by festive trees, but less wide of a path, and less people traipsing down it. He picked his way through the snow, since less traffic meant that the pathway wasn't quite as clear.
"Oh don't give me that look Foster, even you were all simpering and fluttering and complimenting him 'Oh Eli, how sweet!'" He mocked her in a falsetto and she laughed out loud, her hand clutching at his bicep as she smiled.
"I'm sorry, Cal. Did I not pay enough attention to you today?" She was pouting at him, widening her eyes and fluttering them at him in exaggeration but all he could focus on was just how crystal clear they were in the warm glow of fairy lights.
"Not even nearly." He whispered the words but she paused, turning to him in the middle of the path, her face suddenly serious.
"He did it to impress Torres, you know that right? He's been trying to impress her ever since they slept together this year."
His jaw dropped and he shook his head. "Nah. No way – they – when did they sleep together?"
"Before you promoted him." Gillian responded promptly, grinning. He knew she just loved when she saw things he didn't, but he just spotted the lies, she always had been the feelings department. And if he wasn't directly asking Loker or Torres if they were shagging each other, how was he supposed to know they were keeping anything from him?
"Oh. And when did you find out about this, then?"
"Probably the day afterward. They were very awkward for a few weeks there. She won't date him because he's above her, because of the promotion I think." She bit her lip and shrugged and he frowned down at her.
"Well that's just bloody stupid."
"Relationships at the workplace are a bad idea for a reason, Cal." She pointed out gently and he shook his head in disagreement.
"Bollocks. That's just stupid people making stupid decisions and blaming the stupid consequences on the fact that they work together. Look, right – either someone, I don't know, meshes with you or they don't. And most people know who does and who doesn't right away, but they stay or go for stupid reasons. Sex or money, or convenience or fear. But that's on them see, not on any external circumstances. You know?" He stopped talking, realizing he was going on quite a bit and she stared at him blankly, opening and closing her mouth in search of an appropriate response.
"Is that what you really think?" The moment felt heavier than it should – there was an unnatural silence all around them, a hush that fell and he could hear her breathing, quick and shallow and he took and extra deep breath in response, as if he could take in enough oxygen for the both of them.
"I don't know, yeah, I suppose." He'd known from the beginning that he and Zoe had never been cohesive. But the sex had been a distraction and then Emily had come along and they'd both chosen to believe that she could be some sort of super glue that would fill in the cracks where they didn't meet up and bond them together regardless. And she had, for a while. It was why he never had any serious relationships since his divorce.
At least not of a romantic nature.
With Gillian – oh he'd known fifteen minutes into their first meeting that they clicked. But there were marriages and a friendship and a partnership and then her marriage and Emily and Sophie and a company between them. And, he wasn't afraid to admit it to himself, a whole lot of fear. They'd been in this relationship for so long, he didn't have the slightest clue of how to go about changing it. It was unknown, and that was what made it a bit scary.
She was just looking at him, and he stared back silently watching her face intently. Suddenly she smiled and looked up, breathing in deep and then breathing out one word, "Snow."
Big fat flakes were gently drifting all around them, clinging to hats and hair and shoulders and arms and whatever else they happened to be landing on. Gillian's smile was so wide it lit up the darkened evening and he felt himself smile in response as she beamed at him. "So it is. Not much though, big snow, little snow."
She wrinkled her nose in confusion and he leaned close enough that he could count the smattering of freckles that trailed across the bridge of her nose and cheeks. She always wore make-up to cover them up and he always felt slightly disappointed about that. He thought he'd like to count them one day, in the winter when they were few and again stretched out under the sun in the summer, so he could see how many more popped up. "What?"
"I don't know, my mum used to say that, you know. If it's big flakes, it won't be much snow. But if it's small tiny flakes, we're in for a lot." They began walking again, and instead of letting her take his arm this time, he took her hand in his. He felt ridiculous and a bit like a school boy but she laced her fingers with his and smiled even more brightly if possible, so he pushed aside any thoughts of how ridiculous he looked and gripped her hand more firmly. It was an odd thing, because though they were the types of friends who touched often, a hand on a shoulder or her hand on his chest, an arm rub or an arm wrapped around each other's shoulders, maybe kisses on the cheek but all of those touches seemed impersonal compared to the feeling of her palm pressed against his.
Hand-holding seemed to declare something, even if he wasn't quite sure what words he could put forth to say it.
"I love snow." Her words were quiet, small puffs of frosted air in the still night as they meandered along, further down the winding path that seemed to move them deeper into the wooded areas of the park. "When I was little, I loved how that first snow just... blanketed everything, you know? Covered all the dead leaves on people's lawns and any wayward trash in the gutter. That first snow just covered it all over and made it look beautiful again. Untouched. I'd get so upset when the snow got dirty, but each snowfall would just cover it all once more, and the whole world would be beautiful again."
The snow was falling gently around her as she spoke and she looked up with a small, sad smile on her face. A flake landed on her eyelashes, and she blinked quickly as one hit her nose next. Her reached up and wiped that one away himself and she smiled. "We should head back, otherwise we'll get soaked." She spoke wistfully and he shook his head, sending snow flying around them as he dislodged whatever had managed to cling to his hair already.
"Nah. We can walk a bit and watch it. It's not that cold anyway." And it wasn't, which was nice. It was just cold enough to snow and keep it frozen, but not so far below freezing that people were miserable out of doors. They continued on in silence, until they reached an area that was covered in deep drifts and Gillian slowed to a halt, looking up at the night sky and sticking her tongue out. He laughed out loud, and she tugged on his hand in protest.
"What? Catching snowflakes is the best. They taste great. Try it."
"No." He denied her, and she glared, sticking her tongue out once more and catching a fat snowflake on it that melted almost before it'd even touched down completely. Her tongue was pink and he had the strangest urge to find out what she tasted like.
"Come on." She was pouting now and he shook his head.
"No, Foster – you have no idea where that water came from – are you out of your mind? Just because it falls all nice and white and pretty doesn't mean it's clean."
"And since when you are a germaphobe? I'm pretty sure you've eaten dirtier things than this!" She clapped her free hand over her mouth as soon as she'd spoken and he laughed so hard he nearly had to bend double at the waist to stay upright. "Shut up, Cal. You know what I meant!"
She was red with embarrassment and he was still laughing weakly as he shook his head, his hand tight on hers. "Well when you put it that way, love," he looked up and opened his mouth, catching a snowflake as she giggled beside him. He closed his mouth, and pointed above them with his free hand. "Look."
She glanced up in confusion, frowning over at the tree he was pointing at. "What?"
"Mistletoe – there, see it up in the tree? Like a big ball in the branches there?" She squinted and then bounced in excitement next to him, tugging on his hand as she did so.
"Is that what it looks like? I never knew that! How adorable!" He scoffed at her and she glared at him. "What?"
"It's a bloody parasite. Feeds off whatever tree it's on, you know. Plus it's poisonous."
"So? It's romantic!" She insisted and he laughed over at her.
"Do you know where the name came from? It's anglo-saxon for-" he didn't get a chance to finish his thought though because she'd gripped his lapel in her hand and pulled him closer until she could rise up slightly and press he mouth to his. He was still speaking, so his mouth opened in shock and she slid her tongue into his mouth deftly. She tasted sweet – it had been hot chocolate she'd been drinking earlier, but she also tasted crisp, and fresh – like snow. His hand released hers and he moved it to her lower back, pulling her against him until his groin pressed into her stomach and she whimpered in the back of her throat.
His other hand had moved up to trace along her jaw line, behind her ear, into her hair so he could pull her even closer, his tongue now wrapping around hers as the kiss grew desperate, an expression of every feeling about her he'd ever had but could never ever articulate. Even when they broke away he only pulled back long enough to inhale deeply before moving closer to press softer kisses against her cold lips, top lip and bottom lip and that corner of her mouth that was always first to rise into her smile, he loved that corner. His mouth pressed against her cheek, up along her eyelashes, still damp with snow and he moved past that to her temple before ducking down to press soft kisses to her ear, tucking her hair back as he went.
"Cal." His name was breathed out, like it was essential, and she repeated it on her intake of breath, like the letters were a part of the oxygen that she inhaled. He worked his way down her neck, his tongue sneaking out there, to taste the soft skin there, and he bit down slightly as she gripped his shoulders tightly and gasped, a sound that sounded so much sharper and crystal clear in the silence around them. When he worked his way back up to her mouth, her hands had moved from his shoulders to his hair, where they gripped, tightly, as she kissed him fiercely, with a level of passion he'd only ever imagined before this moment.
When she broke away, they were both panting and his hand slid along her neck as they stared at each other for a beat. Her eyes were so blue, and he could see the red of her cheeks and nose, the way the ambient light seemed to catch the shades of red and gold that wove throughout her brown hair. She was so bright, so beautiful it took his breath for a moment.
"Okay you win, it's romantic."
She laughed out loud at this, the sound carrying across the cold air all around them as she pressed another kiss against his lips, quickly. Her mouth was smiling through that kiss and even though it was easily the shortest kiss so far, he thought maybe he liked it best of all.
"Hey, at least you didn't have to put on a red suit."
"Or a bloody beard." He laughed out loud and she smiled at him craftily for a moment before stepping in even closer and winding her arms around his neck.
"Although... I've always had a thing for Santa."
His smile grew and he gazed down at her seriously. "Well, you managed to convince me about the mistletoe, I'm sure you can change my mind about the suit. Your powers of persuasion are rather magical, Gill."
She smiled and nodded in agreement before rising to kiss him once more. "You could leave the hat on..."
He chuckled and pressed himself into her, his hand on her back sliding down an inch or two until he could feel her curves and pull her into him even more tightly. She smiled and he reciprocated as he leaned in closer to her to whisper in her ear. "Ho, ho, ho."