Stick Around

The course of true love never did run smooth.

When Clementine wakes up on Christmas morning with her nose squashed tightly into the nape of his neck, she has a kind of a moment. Yeah. A moment. One of those things she doesn't allow herself often, and rarely takes on board when she does. But there's something about the way the tag is sticking awkwardly from the neck of his t shirt, and his hair is brushing her forehead in that prickling, should-be-annoying-as-hell manner that makes her lie still and for once, actually listen to herself.

Because she's the kind of girl that sneers instead of giggles, snatches instead of holds. She's traded pink for deadpan monochrome a long time ago and she'll forever quote Watership Down more than she will Romeo and Juliet.

It doesn't seem to bother him. This unnerves her to no end.

He's so many things. Not explicitly to her, mind, but many things all the same. He is blue eyes and off-kilter smiles and uncertain words, and she liked it so she wanted it so she took it. Now she has it, and she's really not sure what happens next.

She's not much older that him, just three years in fact, but sometimes she feels it. He tries so very hard to please. Like he doesn't mind her or the shed-load of issues she's got coming out her ears.

'Clem?' His voice is thick with sleep when she disentangles her limbs from his, and by the time he's opened a bleary eye she's already hugging the wall in that definitive 'just on my way out' kind of way.

'Clem. Where're you...?'

Maybe she smiles; there's teeth involved. 'Out.'

His face falls. Her guard, she tells herself, does not. For a moment there's just gentle breath she could swear comes not from them but from the long, slender shadows cast by the early Southern sun outside the window. It couldn't be hers, this breathing, no; hers would never quicken under a simple gaze like that and son of a bitch.

'Could you not do this, please? Just this one morning?'

'I, uh... need to go for a while. I'll be back.' Even she's not sure if it's a lie.

He's not angry. He's not even irked. 'You're late for an appointment on Christmas day?'

'Oh, my ears and whiskers,' she smirks.

Quoting his favourite book, she finds, doesn't diffuse the situation. What does he expect? Strike that. What did she expect? He's been raised in a montage of ugly reindeer sweaters and tangled mulitcolour light strings. In short, she knew Christmas in Aaron's life was a goddamn Sydney Hallmark card, minus the fake snow. She can't offer that. She's not even sure if she wants to offer that. She's no Scrooge- really, she's not. He doesn't need to play Tiny Tim.

Suddenly it's hard to return his gaze.

'Hey,' he says quickly. 'If you... if you're going... Just wait a sec, yeah?'

Half-listening, she just nods. He edges sideways out of the bed and past her in the doorway, brushing her arm with his drowsy warmth. Rustling noises echo from the kitchen. Clementine wonders where she can go to kill a few hours and if he'll even be here when she returns. How many times have they had this discussion? How many times has opportunity bloomed before her like a flower, only for her to weed it like some deranged gardener?

Since when does she think in lame-ass smilies?

Urgh. This isn't a feeling she recognizes, obnoxiously making its presence known deep in her stomach.

His aura is easy to pick up behind her. She turns, and holy hell how is this kid still smiling? It's anxious and his eyes restrained, but his lips are turning up. Another thing she needs to add to Things I Don't Freaking Get About Aaron Littleton, volume eighteen.

'Look. Just... Merry Christmas, okay?'

He kisses the corner of her lips. He hands her a box. It's about the size of her head and swaddled in gaudy (festive?) red and purple paper. As it shifts a few objects roll and bump softly into the cardboard side, but he doesn't warn her about anything breakable. She's beginning to think this is the longest she's ever been mute in her life.

Break the silence.

Break it, girl.

'I didn't get you anythin'.' The words are flat. Almost nonchalant. She didn't expect him to still be around today. Why is she thinking up excuses? Why the questions? Oh, just shut up.

'Would it be cheesy if I said you didn't have to?' he asks, and she spies perhaps the faintest hue of red filling his face like a kid's paint-by-numbers set.

'Pretty much.' She jiggles the box again, looks down and raises an eyebrow. There's a pattern of six-spoked snowflakes on the paper. She hadn't noticed that before. 'You'd better get some coffee on.'

'... what?'

'Don't pretend ya don' know, Murdock,' she snaps with impatience. 'Ya got me a goddamn present. Now I gotta stay.'

He gapes, embarrassment and shock riddling his features. 'Clem! Of course you do-'

'Yeah,' she says firmly. 'I do.'

'Don't be-'

'Hey, you want me here or not?'

Aaron shuts up. Clementine plops to the floor, bringing the clownish box with her.

'Didn't I say somethin' 'bout coffee? If we're doin' this whole... Christmas thing, I'm gonna need to get high on somethin', and since I don' think the emergency room's a holiday regular...' There's a playfulness in her tone, and this time he seems happy to hear it. When she's playful she's playful like a puma, but it's playful all the same.

Aaron won't say it for fear of scaring her off, but she does know he's grateful. He's started to hum to himself the the kitchen, spoon clinking softly against a pair of mugs when she yells out.

'You bought me a box of goddamn oranges?'

His chuckle echoes down the hallway.

Clementine bites her lip, shaking her head ruefully before tossing a fruit into the air and catching it again. Would it be worth pelting him with? Better not. At least until he's put down the drinks.

They're... good, she realizes. Right here, right now. They're fine. He's naïve. She's nasty. He's noble. She's a narcissist. And those are just the N's. She could go on. But it doesn't really matter. 'Cos he's Aaron and she's Clementine and when it comes down to it, that's all she needs to know.

'Hey, you take sugar, right?'

Yeah. They're good.

A/N: Written for the wonderful Jimelda as part of the Lost Secret Santa Exchange 2010. Here's hoping you had a lovely Christmas and New Year, and I hope you'll forgive me for posting this a day late. :)

On the note of the actually story- yeah, I took a lot of liberty with characters. More or less I based Clementine a lot on Sawyer, and Aaron a lot on Claire. I can just see Clementine having some issues- in this case, she has a very 'I'm awesome' attitude that hides the fact that she doesn't like herself very much. Her real problem is that she doesn't understand how Aaron sees something in her. Aaron has a very sugar-coated view on life, so he gets easily hurt, but tries his best not to show it. Phew. A bit too much thought went into their characters, maybe? XD Also, all internal commentary is Clem's, cos I thought it'd be interesting to see things from her reluctant point of view.

... and yeah. Hope you enjoyed! All feedback is welcome. (: