Secret Santa fic for RyanThorpe. I fudged the rules/requests just a little, but I hope you enjoy it nonetheless. PS - Sorry it's late. You know, the muse and all that. But it's still 10 January in some parts of the US! Barely. :)
"I'm ready whenever you are, Cal," Gillian practically sang as she entered his office, her coat draped over her arm, scarf already around her neck.
"I'll never be ready for this nonsense," Cal replied, searching for something on his desk that he could pass off as "work."
"Cal Lightman, Christmas isn't nonsense! It's-It's the most wonderful time of the year!" she finished with a grin.
"I'm not going if you're going to keep quoting Christmas songs."
"Oh, no!" she said matter-of-factly, as she tossed her coat over the back of a chair before rounding his desk and taking him by the arm. "You promised me that you wouldn't back out on Christmas shopping."
He put up little resistance to her insistence and "let" her pull him from the chair. He hated breaking a promise to her, after all. Still, he wasn't looking forward to fighting through the crowds of other last-minute shoppers.
"Why can't we do the Secret Santa thing again?" Cal asked as he passed in front of Gillian.
"Because you didn't play fair last time."
"I was in Afghanistan, love. I didn't have time to buy a gift."
"Excuses, excuses," she teased as she watched him put on his coat. "Besides, we had a decent year, Cal. We can afford a little something for our employees."
He glanced at her as he fixed his collar. "We?"
"Well, you, mostly, since it's your name on the door," she grinned. "The gifts will mean more coming from you, anyway."
"Uh-huh," he replied skeptically. "Positive reinforcement for jobs well done and all that?"
"Exactly! Good to know I'm finally rubbing off on you."
More than she realized.
Then she was in front of him, putting his scarf around his neck. "It's cold out there; can't have you getting sick at Christmas," she told him, smiling as she tucked the ends of the scarf into his coat, her hands lingering on the lapels.
"Gillian…" he whispered, lightly touching her elbow.
"I know, Cal," she smiled at him. "You're welcome. Now let's get going. The stores won't stay open forever!"
"Coming, dear," he replied unenthusiastically as Gillian stepped away to get her own coat.
Three hours-and hundreds of dollars-later, the pair had finished his shopping, and Cal admitted-to himself, of course-that it wasn't as bad as he'd imagined it would be. That was all because of Gillian. He glanced at her out of the corner of his eye and noticed that she seemed happier than she'd been in a long time. He smiled and shifted all the bags to one hand then took her hand in his now-free one.
She looked at him questioningly for a moment then smiled brightly and squeezed his hand, a task that proved rather difficult with both of them wearing gloves.
Still, the gesture was appreciated, and they continued walking gloved-hand-in-gloved-hand.
As they approached a jewelry store, something in the window caught Gillian's eye, and she pulled Cal with her so she could get a closer look. "Emily has to have that necklace!" she exclaimed.
"I already got Em a bloody lot of stuff," he told her.
"Then I'll buy it for her. Cal, that necklace was made for her. Come on," she said, ignoring his protests as she pulled away from him and hurried excitedly into the store. Inside, Gillian gasped as she looked around in awe at the hundreds of pieces of jewelry, no two the same. "Wow, this place is amazing!" she exclaimed, moving to a section of the store displaying only jewelry with green stones.
A petite blonde woman-Kay, according to her nametag-approached them. "Are you looking for something in particular?" she asked politely.
"Yes," Gillian replied. "I was looking at the necklace in the window-the turquoise one. Is it possible that I could purchase that one?"
"Certainly! That's a fine choice," Kay replied. "Browse as long as you'd like. I'll get it and hold it at the counter until you're ready."
"That'll be fine," Gillian said. "Thank you."
Gillian took time looking at many pieces, and Cal waited patiently, albeit awkwardly, as she did so. Eventually deciding that the necklace for Emily would be her only purchase, she walked to the counter.
"Did you find something else?" Kay asked.
"You have lovely jewelry here, but I'm only going to get the turquoise one," Gillian said.
"It's a beautiful necklace," Kay replied as she rang up the purchase and put it in a small bag. "It will look lovely on you."
"It's a gift for someone."
"Gillian, that's much too expensive for a necklace for Emily," Cal interrupted when he saw the total.
"Cal, I want to get this for Emily. She's a responsible young woman. Besides, it's my money, and I'll spend it how I want."
Her determined smile put to rest any further argument from him.
What was with women and jewelry?
Some things would always be a mystery to him.
After completing the purchase, they left the store, this time, Gillian's ungloved hand finding Cal's equally bare one. Tiny smiles passed between them as heavy, wet snowflakes began to fall.
The next morning, Christmas Eve, Gillian awoke and was immediately aware of the bright light outside-a light that meant the snow had continued through the night. She pushed aside the covers and climbed out of bed before walking to the window and opening the blinds, squinting at the glare as she confirmed her suspicions. Still, the snow-blanketed scene was beautiful, and she smiled, remembering snow days from her childhood. She'd always loved snow.
The doorbell rang then, and she glanced at the clock wondering who would be at her house so early on a snowy Christmas Eve morning. She was surprised to learn that it was already after nine o'clock-she rarely slept that late! Hurrying to the door, she was even more surprised to find Cal on the other side of it.
"What are you doing here?" she asked. "Is everything okay?"
"Good morning to you, too. Yeah, everything's fine, love. Why would you think otherwise?"
"Because you don't come here unless something bad has happened."
Cal chuckled and leaned in close. "Nothing bad."
She breathed a sigh of relief and took a step back. "Then what brings you by?"
"Mind if I come in?" he asked, turning sideways as he stepped past her.
"Cal, what's going on? You're acting weird. And what are you hiding behind your back?"
"I, uh…here," he mumbled, handing her a small box wrapped in shiny green paper.
"Open it and find out."
She tore off the paper and removed the lid, gasping when she saw the necklace inside. "Is this from the store we were in last night?"
"If this is because of Emily's necklace…"
"Gill," Cal interrupted, stepping close to her again, "it's not. This one caught your eye, and I wanted you to have it."
"But I looked at a lot of necklaces last night. How did you know this one was my favorite?" she asked, admiring the necklace again. After a moment, she looked at him again, her eyes narrowing. "Did you read me?"
"Unintentionally," he admitted. "You know, you're very expressive when you let down your guard."
"Stop trying to change the subject, Cal. Look, I appreciate this, but I can't accept it."
Gillian sighed. "I know what it cost you."
"It's my money, and I'll spend it how I want," he replied, using her words from last night against her. "It's only a small token of my appreciation for all you've done."
This time, Gillian was the one who invaded his personal space. "Thank you," she whispered, embracing him tightly. When they pulled apart long moments later, she removed the necklace from the box. "Would you help me put it on?" she asked with a grin, handing the necklace to him and turning around. She swept her hair to the side, and a few seconds later, the necklace clasp was secured.
She faced him once again, and he reached up and touched the pendant, his fingers brushing against her skin.
"Beautiful," he said softly.
She smiled broadly and cupped his cheek. "Thank you, Cal."
"You already said that."
Gillian rolled her eyes but leaned in again, this time pressing her lips to his.
"What was that for?" he asked, most definitely surprised by-though certainly not complaining about-her action.
"A small token of my appreciation."
He chuckled and slipped his arms around her waist. "Merry Christmas, Gillian."
"Merry Christmas, Cal."
Thanks for reading!