AN: Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays everyone! I don't know where this came from. Honestly. El Muso made me do it. I have been working on an MDA Christmas fic for at least half this year, but this isn't it. Trust me to pull something like that. It's un beta'd, so any bloopers are my bad. I hope it's not too fluffy.

AN2: I'm not 100% sure what Layla's sister's name is. I listened to her say it on the show and looked up Persian names, but I may have it wrong. Apologies if I do!

AN3: For Christmas I'd like a review :P I'm half kidding, just enjoy.

Set: Post season two, but only a few weeks after.

Pair: Amanda and Simon, with everyone else friendship.

Christmas, Actually

Layla was fielding calls from panicked members, Jamie was typing apology letters on behalf of a well meaning but apparently non-thinking doctor, Happy was studying statistics on staph infections, Amanda was trying to decipher the notes she'd taken in a meeting earlier, and Simon was on the phone to someone impressive – the head of the Mayo Clinic or someone equally awe inspiring.

It was a regular day in the office, except that it was the twenty fourth of December and there was a mere half day until Christmas. Aside from two decorative, foot-high Christmas trees, one on the reception desk and one on the kitchen bench, it was business as usual - or at least, it would be until five thirty tonight, at which time the various staff of MDA would go their separate ways {in theory; in reality they'd probably all head to The Watering Hole} and return, as Happy would put it, to the loving bosoms of their respective families.

Happy removed his glasses and tossed them onto his desk with a shudder. Staph was not a pretty thing. "I believe the hour for replenishing nutrients has arrived." He stated, standing and donning his jacket before going in search of his trench coat.

Amanda noticed Layla's face flicker with desire for food. "Layls, I can answer the phones if you want to go." She offered.

Layla looked at her, eager but unwilling to so easily inflict reception duties on the already stressed lawyer. "Are you sure?"

"Mhm." Amanda nodded, smiling encouragingly.

"You don't want to come?"

Absently Amanda brushed her curls off her face. "If I'm going to leave early I really need to get some things done."

"Do you want me to bring you back something?" Layla asked as she zipped her caramel coloured suede jacket around her, anticipating the totally unseasonal chill outside.

The recent weather in Melbourne had done nothing if not unequivocally prove the existence of climate change, fluctuating between mid thirties temperatures, and mid teens. Today it was sixteen degrees, and for once the heater was pumping – Happy having decided that it was Christmas, and that was no time to attempt penny pinching; not because Happy was miraculously feeling in the Christmas spirit, but just because he recognised a losing battle when he saw one.

"Sure. As long as it's fattening." Amanda grinned cheekily.

"You, my dear, have been spending far too much time with me." Happy stated, smirking at the other lawyer on his way past.

"Well, it is Christmas." Amanda teased, and with that Happy and Layla departed for some much needed 'father figure-surrogate daughter' bonding time.

"Are you sure you can't spare an hour?" Simon asked quietly. It was friendly, the affection in his voice well masked.

"Not if I have to leave here by three." She replied, her tone remorseful. She did want to spend an hour with him that wasn't in the context of the office, she wanted to tease him about Christmas plans and tell him she'd miss him, but she wouldn't get the chance. She had to catch a plane to Adelaide at five thirty, and she had "ever so slightly neglected" her packing.

This was Amanda language for: she hadn't started.

"Okay." He nodded understandingly, fingers seeking her shoulder and barely brushing it for fear of Jamie becoming suspicious. So far they'd done well at hiding their relationship, although that was perhaps more to the credit of their co-workers not paying attention than their own stealth.

"I feel bad leaving you alone." Jamie said brightly, not bothering with a coat. Ah, the young and their lack of attention to the cold. Or perhaps it was just that he'd become immune from morning bike rides in eight degrees...

"Oh, Jamie, don't be silly, I'm a big girl."

"Well you're not going to fix that by letting Layla buy you something fatty for lunch." Jamie stated, deadpan.

Amanda laughed, outraged, and threw her pen lid at him. Simon watched the exchange, amused. Had they been alone he would've kissed her and told her exactly how many kinds of nothing was wrong with her body. As it happened, though, they weren't alone, and he didn't have the chance. The couple exchanged a fond smile before the two doctors set out for lunch {probably something boring. Amanda thought}, leaving the lawyer with the office to herself.

She cast her eyes across her desk. It was chaotic as always, that came as no surprise; she just had to work out what more she could do before she left. It wasn't like she was short of work, the pile of 'to-do' papers {yes, there was a pile if you squinted hard enough} was a little imposing, but the issue was which aspects of it she could finish in the next hour and a half. She rose from her ball restlessly, not even bothering to tuck it under her desk, and headed for the kitchen. Coffee would help her think.

She poured herself a cup and leant on the counter, studying the little Christmas tree before her. Ironically enough, Layla had done the decorating, despite the fact that she was Baha'i and didn't celebrate Christmas. Amanda had chosen to ignore this and buy her a present anyway. It didn't have to be a Christmas thing, she reasoned, it could just be a 'we're friends' thing. Layla could take it how she chose.

Amanda drummed her fingers along her mug and returned to her desk with newfound resolve.

True to her word, at one o'clock Layla returned with Amanda's requested national cuisine of Trans-Fat. A bag of hot chips and a huge packet of gingerbread men were placed on her desk cheerfully, alongside an orange juice and a double tall cappuccino.

"Layls, you're my hero." Amanda breathed, reaching for the chips. Layla squeezed Amanda's shoulder, smiling. Happy had swept in behind Layla and was currently arranging himself at his desk, slinging his coat over his chair and perching his glasses on his nose.

"Simon and Jamie not yet returned to the loving embrace of the office, Amanda?" Happy asked her back, looking down at a page of patient notes.

"Not yet. I'm sure they won't be long." She replied, her tone bright despite her mouthful of food.

"Well, they'd better not be. We have mediation in an hour." The elder lawyer grumbled.

Amanda swallowed and twisted to face her boss. "Are you meeting the client here or there?"

"Here, in half an hour."

Amanda flashed her eyebrows at him. Suddenly she understood why Happy was concerned about their return. Doctors were many things, but punctual was not necessarily one of them.

By the time they had returned Amanda had finished her chips and her orange juice {they cancelled each other out. Kind of...} and was pondering her gingerbread men. Also how much compensation a four-fingered carpenter deserved, but mainly the gingerbread men. The doctor and surgeon entered the office laughing and chatting, waving greetings to Layla. Happy was close to exploding point as Jamie flopped into his chair and Simon crossed to the coat rack to hang his coat and scarf. Amanda caught his eye and took deliberate care to snap her gingerbread man's leg off at the knee before shooting an unsubtle look to the surgeon's own knee.

His eyes narrowed at her but his still offered her a bright smile. Had they been alone he would've stolen the other leg, but the public nature of their office restrained him. This was definitely for the best, as their client walked into the reception area less than a minute later, and the two doctors and lawyer piled into the conference room.

"Well we're off." Jamie announced, as the trio of case managers and the doctor they were representing emerged from the conference room in fifteen minutes and prepared to leave for mediation.

"Well, I should say goodbye now; I'm not going to see you before you get back." Amanda said, studying the three men with whom she spent most of her time.

She stood and kissed Happy's cheek briefly. "Hap, try to relax for a few days?" The younger lawyer suggested, knowing her boss and his inability for personal time far too well.

"You too, Amanda. Have a safe flight."

"Thank you." She smiled warmly at him.

Jamie enveloped her in a brotherly bear-hug. "Merry Christmas." He said into the curve of her neck.

Her response was a simple "Merry Christmas, Jamie," but she was awash with affection for the young doctor, and he knew.

Next was Simon, and the awkward moment that passed between them was unavoidable. They started with an uncomfortable handshake, which turned to a cheek kiss, which in turn melted into a one armed hug, their hands still clasped in a shake with 'Merry Christmases' exchanged in the process. Simon knew this would be the last time he would see his ill-defined-other-half for a week, so he took the moment of intimacy to keep in reserve for when he really missed her. It wouldn't be enough. He already knew it.

"What time is your flight?" He asked once they'd disentangled.

"Five thirty." She responded, feeling a pang of anxiousness at her lack of preparation.

Simon smiled, a note of sorrow in it. "Have a good time in Adelaide."

"I will," she assured, though she herself was uncertain. "Good luck with mediation."

"Thanks." Jamie replied, though the statement was clearly directed at Simon.

"At this rate we're likely to need it." Happy grumbled, his voice low so the doctor {who was currently trying, unsuccessfully, to chat up Layla at the reception desk} wouldn't hear.

Amanda shook her head, a dry smile on her lips. "Bye," she called after them, returning to her desk to finish her work in what little time she had left.

At five minutes to three, when it got to the point where Amanda couldn't refrain from checking her watch at thirty second intervals, she decided she needed to pack up. She hefted her overstuffed green shoulder bag onto her desk and unpacked a pile of presents before filling it with paperwork to look over on the plane.

She deposited gifts on Happy, Jamie and Simon's desks, debating momentarily how difficult the current situation with Simon was making gift giving, politically; she would much rather give Simon his gift in private, however she did realise how much more awkward and obvious the whole thing would be if Simon was the only person she didn't leave something for. So, she was stuck; she had no choice but to leave his gift at work, but she still felt awkward about it.

Satisfied that everything was nicely positioned and that she had everything, she collected her scarf and coat before heading to the reception desk to search out Layla. The two had been chatting during the past few hours, but really they hadn't had a proper conversation in a week.

"Well, I'm off!" The lawyer announced brightly once she reached Layla's desk.

"Have a great time." Layla enthused, hugging her friend tightly.

"I'll try. I think I'm going to have MDA withdrawals, though." Amanda joked. "Do you and Mahsh have any plans for your week off? She must be on school holidays now."

"We're thinking about driving up the coast. Seeing the apostles maybe?"

"Oh, beautiful." Amanda smiled. "Anyway, I know you don't do Christmas, but we can call this an embarrassingly belated Ayyám-i-present. Did I say that right?" The last was self conscious, but beginning was bubbling with enthusiasm as she passed Layla a small wrapped parcel.

"Oh, Amanda, you didn't have to get me a present."

"I know. I wanted to. It screamed 'Layla would love me' when I saw it."

"Thank you." Layla said, genuinely touched.

"You're welcome." Amanda beamed. "Anyway, I really should head off. Take care of yourself while I'm not here." She teased, hugging the small brunette again before setting off.

"I will. You, too."

Once Amanda had departed, Layla bent her head to read the card attached, lighting up at her friend's words. She opened the box, and discovered a necklace which matched a pair of earrings she had; not expensive, but beautiful, thoughtful, and perfect for Layla. Layla fully understood what Amanda meant when she'd said she was going to have MDA withdrawals. She set the card in pride of place on her desk for everyone to see.

When the boys returned from mediation the card didn't escape their notice, especially when Simon set a hot chocolate for Layla beside it.

"Was this here before?" Jamie frowned.

"No, Amanda gave it to me before she left." Layla laughed at Jamie's confusion before thanking Simon for the hot beverage he'd somehow divined she'd been craving.

He dismissed her thanks graciously, before gesturing to the card and asking a soft "may I?"

At Layla's encouraging nod he picked up the item and read.

Layls,

There's a distinct possibility that you make me a better person.

I'm not sure I would've survived Melbourne this long without you.

Lots of love, Amanda xx

'Lots of love'. 'Love'. This was not a word that passed between them – which wasn't really unusual, they'd been together for less than two months, and love was not something Simon Lloyd freely handed around; what surprised him was that it seemed to be something Amanda was comfortable declaring. Of course it was nearly Christmas, he was stressed and confused and recently divorced; he put the consideration of the offending four letter word down to these factors and decided to move on.

After all, Amanda and Layla were close friends; it was a perfectly normal way to sign a card to a close friend. Well, from her it was.

In the body of the office the younger doctor and the lawyer had already discovered gifts of their own. Jamie, while loosening his tie and mumbled "she's like a kid about Christmas. It's – "

"Exhausting?" Happy offered.

"Sweet, Hap. It's sweet."

"And this coming from the atheist." Happy mumbled.

"I have to admit, I was going for something closer to exhausting." Simon stated as he sat at his desk, shedding his jacket. Suddenly the lack of a female presence in the main body of the office became glaringly obvious. Simon didn't like it. He wanted her back. They needed her balancing force.

Jamie laughed as he read his card.

"Classic Amanda." He announced, grinning fondly before reading the card to the other two. "Dear Jamie, Merry Christmas. Here's a little something to help you learn how to win. I mean that in the most loving way possible, Amanda xx"

The two older men gave Jamie blank looks.

"It's a Scrabble set." Jamie explained – or at least he thought he did. The lawyer and other doctor looked no less confused. "Personal joke." The young doctor stated, giving up.

Simon turned back to his own desk, frowning a little. He was sleeping with Amanda and he wasn't sure he had any personal jokes with her. And there it was again: 'the most loving way possible'. Love again.

He wasn't going to drive himself insane about it; he was a man of science. Besides, he didn't know what his or Happy's cards said yet. He was making an issue out of nothing. He stared thoughtfully at the little box on his desk. It was perfectly, neatly wrapped, which surprised him a little; Amanda was not a neat person in any sense. He was reaching for the card, more to idly fiddle with it than to read it, but Happy distracted him by setting his own card down on the ledge between their desks. Surreptitiously he read the inside.

Dear Hap,

A little something for the Elizabethan in you.

Richard won't know what hit him.

Love,

Amanda

Love. Jamie and Layla he could justify, but Happy? He wasn't sure how to deal with that, how to explain it. She obviously had affection for their boss, but they were in a relationship, and this was not a term that passed between them. Ever. Not even in such an innocent way as it was being bestowed upon their co-workers. Then again, as he had before, he reminded himself that they hadn't been together that long, and it was somewhat a sensitive topic. Thankfully Jamie pulled him from the convoluted path down which his thoughts were wandering.

"What did you get?" Jamie asked their boss.

"A dictionary of Elizabethan insults, you beetle headed, gorbellied, hedge-born pignut." Happy stated, his disinterested tone making the sentence hilarious beyond parallel.

Simon took the moment of everyone's mutual entertainment to read his card.

Simon,

Merry Christmas,

~Amanda

There it was; that sold it. He was now feeling officially paranoid. Everyone else got a declaration of love, and Simon got four words, two commas, and a tilde. He didn't like it.

It suddenly occurred to Simon that he was jealous – why he only had realisations at moments of extreme jealousy was beyond him, and was something that would probably annoy Amanda for the rest of forever, but nonetheless he was jealous. He wanted her love. He wanted to be the only person who got her love, and he knew that was possessive and unreasonable. No, everyone else could keep her platonic love, he wanted her heart. In another moment of blinding epiphany, he realised that the reason he wanted her heart was because she had somehow stolen his from him, and he knew he wasn't going to get it back easily. He wasn't even sure he wanted to.

Carefully he unwrapped the gift and found a small velvet box within it; he flipped the box open and revealed a pair of cufflinks. They were flat gold discs, perfectly round, each with a caduceus engraved in it. They were beautiful.

He quietly closed the box in a low level degree of shock. He wasn't sure what they were supposed to mean.

It was ridiculous, though, he decided; he was with a woman whose brilliant theory on relationships was the blindingly simple. If she didn't understand something, she talked to him about it. It really was about time he started doing the same with her.

"Bill, do you mind if I take off early? There's not a lot more I can do here."

For once, Happy didn't make a fuss. "Enjoy your freedom while it lasts."

"Don't you want to come grab a drink?" Jamie asked.

"Not tonight, Jamie. Last minute shopping." He lied, knowing the younger man would understand his {faux} level of male disorganisation.

Simon packed, bade goodnight and Merry Christmas to his co-workers, kissing Layla's cheek and embracing her lightly on the way out, before having the gods smile upon him and deliver him a taxi the second he walked out the door.

x

When a knock sounded on Amanda's door, she was struggling with a suitcase and cursing Christmas. Had she not been carting a family's worth of presents she would've been able to take a reasonable sized case, rather than the monstrously large one with which she was currently wrestling.

She pulled the door open grouchily, pushing hair from her face with the back of her free hand as she did so.

"Simon." She blanched a little at the sight of him. She wasn't displeased, merely surprised.

"I thought you might like a ride to the airport." He stated. It was an opening gambit he'd devised on the way over.

"That's so sweet of you." She said softly. It was silly, they were suddenly so awkward with each other that Simon wasn't sure whether or not he should kiss her.

"Hi, by the way." He said, bending down and pecking her cheek.

"Hi." She beamed, suddenly less frazzled. His kisses were wonderful, able to soothe her or ignite her depending on the occasion. Right now her cheek wasn't where she wanted his lips, though; she leant up and kissed him softly, wondering how much time they had before they had to leave. She still never seemed to be able to get enough of the surgeon, and when her mind would wander place she didn't want it wandering she thought this might be because she never felt she got all of him.

When they parted Simon stepped past Amanda, balancing the suitcase with which she'd been warring before he'd arrived. She hadn't asked him to, hadn't mentioned it, it was instinctive; a silent understanding of her posture.

He fussed with the case, pushing in the handle and pulling it out again to make sure it locked into place and wouldn't collapse on her. She smiled a little to herself at the care in the action, but appreciated that it was partly an excuse to avoid her gaze.

Satisfied with his ability to wheel the case without the handle collapsing, he drew himself to his full height and met her eye. "Thank you for the cufflinks."

She waved a hand dismissively. "Don't mention it."

"No, really. They're perfect. I love them."

"Well, it was those or ones that said 'trust me, I'm a doctor'." She joked.

"Amanda." He said softly. The word conveyed an entire sentence: 'I'm trying to talk to you about something serious.'

"Sorry." She mumbled, her eyes flashing 'I'll be good'. "I'm glad you like them."

"The card..." he cleared his throat uncertainly. "Can I ask you something about the card?" Amanda nodded. "It, uh... It didn't say much."

"Well, I thought..." She stopped herself. "I didn't know what to say." She confessed.

"You didn't seem to have that problem with anyone else." His face was drawn in the shadow of a frown, but his tone remained light, an attempt to lessen the difficulty of the topic.

"That's because I don't have that problem with anyone else." She joked. "I don't know" she searched for the word, "where the line is."

"The line?" Simon queried.

"The line. The perfect balance of how much I should admit to feeling. On one side, I've scared the shit out of you, on the other side, you feel – "

"Unloved."

"Unloved." She repeated. It was definitely not the word she would've chosen. What did his use of it mean? He was completely impossible. "It wasn't my intention." She stated, her tone objective.

"What was?"

A wry smile pulled across her lips. "To not scare the shit out of you." She became serious again after they shared a smile. "This is complicated, Simon. That's all."

"What's complicated about this?" He queried.

Amanda frowned at him, her lips tightening. She wasn't really in the mood for this. "Well, the least complicated of the complications is that in two hours I'm supposed to be in a different state and we're not going to see each other for the next week, so any dire points of contention that get dug up now are going to be put on hold until I get back. And being put on hold is not really conducive to dire points of contention."

Simon changed tack entirely. "I like the idea of spending Christmas with you." She processed the sentence for a moment.

"Sadly, Adelaide's a bit far to do a dual Christmas; and I think your family would miss you."

"Yeah. Yeah, I guess it is." Simon agreed good naturedly, while Amanda fussed about in her handbag. "So I guess," he began again, caching her attention, "in the future we'll just have to alternate."

She seemed to smile and frown all at once. "Alternate...?"

"Your family one year, my family the next. We obviously can't fit them both into the same day, being in different states. Unless we want to spend every foreseeable Christmas in airports." The surgeon explained. A wave of emotion took Amanda by surprise, making her thoughts scatter in all directions.

"Simon..." The word was loaded, 'stop talking if you're not sure what you're saying'.

He didn't stop talking.

"I don't want you to feel unloved. You are not unloved by me."

The lawyer – the strong, confident, ever-capable lawyer – had to gather herself before she could speak, her voice still wavering ever so slightly. "You aren't unloved by me, either." Eyes sliding closed, she reached up and gently fisted her hand in his hair, kissing him adoringly. "I don't unlove you." She whispered. Simon's forehead rested against hers, one of his hands was between her shoulder blades, the other in the small of her back, holding her to him tenderly. He kissed her again before pulling back reluctantly. She whimpered.

"Keys?" He asked.

"What?" She frowned, frustrated.

"We really should leave, or you'll miss your plane; and even though that wouldn't be the worst thing that ever happened to me, you haven't seen your family in six months."

"Why do you always have to be so reasonable?" She half teased, half complained; pressing her car key into his palm. He closed his hand around hers briefly, before he collected her case.

"What have you got in here?" He asked, frowning at the weight.

"Presents." She answered, defensive. He flashed his eyebrows at her. "Lots of alcohol." She admitted. He laughed.

"I hope you haven't bought them South Australian wine." He commented, ushering her out her front door and following her down the stairs, the suitcase in tow.

"One more smart comment out of you, and I'm going to stay longer than a week." She threatened.

Simon would've replied with something even smarter to annoy her, but was distracted by how big her case suddenly looked next to her car.

"Amanda..." He said dubiously.

"Don't even think it. It fits."

"You know this for a fact?"

"Well, no, but... Oh come on, my car's not that small!"

Simon studied the little Barina. "It's not how small your car is that worries me, it's how big your case is."

She was about to get highly stressed, but she looked at his face and saw he was smiling; she couldn't help but smile too.

"Sometimes I do unlove you." She glared, but her bright smile belied her words. He unlocked the doors and she opened the passenger side, leaning in and flipping one of the front seats forward. She climbed into the back and folded the back seat down. "See? I'm sure it'll fit in the boot." She stated as she clambered out. In a fluid motion she took the key from his hand and popped the boot. "Tell me it'll fit?" She beseeched, mentally analysing the size of the case in relation to the size of the boot.

He took her elbow and kissed her cheek, reassuring her. "I'm sure it will fit."

Sure enough it did fit, and after what felt like only a few minutes {but was actually thirty five} they were at the airport.

"That didn't take long enough." Simon stated, breaking the silence that had fallen between them.

"No. It didn't." She agreed softly. She nodded towards the door, and simultaneously, if a little reluctantly, they got out of the car. Simon unloaded her case, despite her protestations that she could do it herself {in truth she would've been a little pissed off if he hadn't}.

They found her gate and sat quietly, him trying to avoid telling her he didn't want her to go for fear that she might stay, and he didn't want to ruin her holiday. He glanced at her hand, before taking it gently in his own. Their eyes met.

"It's strange being able to touch you in public." His words were soft so only she could hear.

"I'm not opposed to it." The ghost of a smile graced her features.

The final boarding call was sounded and they locked eyes, a silent communication flowing between them. Amanda stood and Simon followed her to the hostess' station, hand still clasping hers. She passed her ticket to the hostess, but turned back to Simon, threading her free hand through his hair, standing on tiptoe and kissing him deeply.

"I'm going to miss you." Simon stated, his fingers curled around her hips.

"Me too." She replied, eyes wide.

He took her hand and brought it to his lips. "Have a safe flight." He mumbled.

"Have fun with your family." She smiled, reluctantly drawing away from him.

"Yeah, you too."

He kissed her once more, quickly, longingly, and then let her go. It was one of the hardest things he'd ever done.

At eight minutes to midnight on Christmas night, after arriving safely in Adelaide the night before and spending the last day being accosted with love by adoring family members, Amanda's mobile phone buzzed. The sound of the vibration on the bedside table was somehow both gentle and insistent. She was in bed, but was lying wide awake in the darkness, so the phone was a welcome distraction.

"Hello?" She answered the small device, voice gravelly from tiredness.

"Hi." Simon's voice replied, a smile in it. Amanda's lips curled lazily at the sound.

"Hi." She breathed happily.

"I just called to say Merry Christmas."

"Leaving your run a bit late, there, Doctor Lloyd." She joked.

"Busy day." He half explained, half apologised.

"Amen." Amanda agreed.

"How is everything in Adelaide?"

"Good. Really good, actually. It's nice to be back."

"Except that you can't sleep." Simon stated, somehow divining that small detail.

"I didn't realise how used to falling asleep next to a handsome surgeon I was." She retorted glibly.

"I wore my cufflinks today." He said softly.

"I can't wait to see them on you. Were they a success?"

"My father was extremely jealous, my mother thinks I've hired a stylist, and my sister thinks I must be seeing someone new."

"Ten points to Elizabeth." Amanda smiled to herself.

Simon made a noise of agreement. "She's really looking forward to meeting you."

Amanda yawned widely. "Me too."

"I should let you sleep." Simon stated, wishing she were falling asleep beside him rather than seven hundred kilometres away.

"I'm sorry. It's been a long day."

"Don't be sorry. Just get some rest."

She didn't take much convincing. "Okay."

"Merry Christmas." He whispered.

"Merry Christmas." She replied.

"And, Amanda?" He asked softly, making sure he had her attention; he needed her to hear this. She made a soft noise, bidding him to continue. "I love you."

Amanda grinned shamelessly. "That's the best present I've gotten all day."