For the V Holiday Fic Fest prompt #13 Erica/Hobbes – "You're acting like the Grinch!"
"Traffic was awful," Erica said as she came back down the stairs to the basement. She threw the can of oil to Hobbes. He caught it easily and sat back down at the desk to work on the disassembled pieces of weaponry. "Damn Christmas shoppers."
"You don't like Christmas? Jack will be crushed," Hobbes said.
"It seems so irrelevant," Erica said, folding her arms. "Eating and drinking and singing, wrapping stuff nobody wants, pretending it's a wonderful time of the year while people are freezing to death in the snow and the V's are watching our every move. They must think we're insane."
Hobbes leaned back in his chair. "You're acting like the Grinch!"
She shot him a filthy look. "What do you even know about the Grinch?" she demanded. "It's an American story."
"Well, see, there's this thing called television," Hobbes said, deliberately slowly and brightly to further wind her up. "We do have it in England, did so even way back when I was growing up. And my cousin had a complete set of Dr Seuss books."
Erica huffed a little. "I didn't think you'd give a damn about Christmas."
"It's a major holiday back home," he said. "We don't have to put up with Thanksgiving, so we get all our family stuff done at Christmas."
She tipped her head. "But you don't have a family," she said and immediately regretted her bluntness. He looked at the oil can for a moment, and picked up one of the metal pieces from the table.
"Christmas is a time even enemies can put aside their differences," Hobbes said at last, carefully applying the oil. "That football match during the Second World War, for example. It's a time of forgiveness and hope, as Jack would tell you. It's close to the time of the Winter Solstice, when the northern hemisphere can look forward to the bloody daylight coming back, while the southern hemisphere can breathe a sigh of relief that the summer might stop baking everyone to death."
She hadn't been prepared for such a speech, but he wasn't finished yet. He shook his head and went on, "All in all, Erica, if you can't find something to be happy about at this time of year, I think we've already lost the war for humanity's soul. And if the V's think we're insane then we ought to celebrate even more. Joy and hope are emotions they lack. Screw them if they can't understand yuletide cheer."
Erica watched him work for a while. "It's just that I don't know if Tyler will even want to eat Christmas dinner with me," she said softly. "I'm worried he'll be doing Peacekeeper duties for the V's. Without him and Joe, I'm having trouble feeling very merry."
He nodded, though he didn't look at her. "Jack's alone too, if you're only counting spouses and children as your family. But Jack isn't alone. He has people he cares about. People who care about him."
Erica moved to sit on the edge of the bed. "Of course I care…that's not what I meant." With sudden inspiration she said, "God, I wish Santa were real. I'd ask him for the V's to be gone."
Hobbes laughed. "Maybe set his elves on them? Vicious buggers with a candy cane, elves."
Despite herself, Erica laughed too. Hobbes set down the oil and stood. "Come here."
She did so.
He pointed to the ceiling. A single sprig of mistletoe hung just above her head.
"I was going to wait until Jack stood under it and see if he got all flustered," Hobbes said. "But this is better. Unless you're still being the Grinch and unwilling to participate in any holiday traditions."
She leaned up and kissed him. Just once, softly, almost chastely.
"Happy Christmas," he said, with no trace of the familiar mockery in his tone.
"Merry Christmas," she returned and wrapped her arms around him. For a moment she could pretend she was safe and happy, and maybe, in some ways, she was. Maybe there was some hope left in the world after all.