Notes: Written for Yuletide 2011, just a bit of cute shippyness that I miss about writing in this fandom. Normally I'm not quick to jump on holiday pieces, but it seemed like the thing to do with them.
Disclaimer: This is a work of fictional parody in no way intended to infringe upon the rights of any individual or corporate entity. Any and all characters or celebrity personae belong to their rightful owners. Absolutely no money has or will be gained from this work. Please do not publicly link, repost or redistribute without letting me know first.
The holidays seemed to come early in the village of Sandford – the shiny new station was buzzing with activity as the officers went about stringing lights; Doris taking point up on the ladder with tinsel and the detectives taking great pleasure in holding up the ladder for her – just in case. Fisher and Walker loomed over a small artificial tree, leaving Nicholas to revise with Danny for his sergeant's exam in his office. Christmas or no, he was to be sitting for exams after the first of the year. With him mostly up and about after months on the mend, it was only a matter of time before Inspector Angel had hammered enough information into Danny to pass with decent marks.
Of course, if you believed the Sandford rumor mill, he was hammering him with a might bit more than procedural guidelines up Spencer Hill. Talk started back six months before when Angel took it on himself to keep after him when he was released from hospital; he'd even let Danny stay at the cottage until nearly Halloween. The Porters' daughter reopened the pub in June, and kept close tabs on the both of them, insisting they always came together and left together – inseparable like a couple of right love birds. 'Course Danny said there weren't nothing to it and whose business was it if his place sat empty most of the time while Nicholas' light was on half the night.
"Pub tonight, then?" Nicholas asked, lifting his eyes up from his paperwork to where Danny sat at the edge of his desk scribbling in his notebook.
Danny shook his head negative, continuing his quick chicken-scratch notes on vocab guidelines. "Can't. Headed up to Buford Abbey after shift."
"Oh." Nicholas nodded and looked back to the paperwork. After a long pause, he asked; "Visiting?"
"No." Danny finally looked up, smiling. "Doris invited me out shopping with a couple of her lady friends. I haven't found a gift yet for you."
"Just you and a bunch of girls out on hen night, then?" His lips twitched, nearly smiling. "I don't want a gift; I told you I'm not fond of Christmas."
"Everyone loves Christmas! Sandford's not like Christmas in London – there's the panto and caroling and crackers and dinner at The Swan and especially presents for all the special people in your life."
"And there are more incidents involving domestic violence, traffic collisions and alcohol related crime than any other time of year."
"You're just sore you got stabbed by Father Christmas." Danny shrugged, "Don't gotta be a Grinch about it."
"I am not a Grinch, I just don't like the holiday." Nicholas defended himself; "It's got nothing to do with a criminal that was on drugs assaulting an officer. I've never liked the whole bloody season."
Figuring it was best to just let the subject drop, Danny returned to his handbook and a silent lull passed between them before he asked; "Don't suppose you'll have any traditions or anything planned then?"
"Same thing I do every Christmas, Danny." Nicholas sighed and flipped to his next page. "I'll be here to ensure you have a safe holiday."
"Work." Danny groaned; knowing full and well some things would never change. "You all right with me goin' out, then?"
"Of course, why wouldn't I be?"
Danny was silent for a long moment and then replied; "Dunno, I mean it's just me and some single women… might get a little tipsy…"
Nicholas nodded slowly, flipping the page again and jotting a few numbers. "I would expect that you make sure everyone gets home safely."
"Yeah, 'course." He replied with a subtle pout.
The Sunday before Christmas, Nicholas had yet again awakened on his sofa – in his cottage – listening to the selection menu from the US Marshalls repeating itself to deaf ears. Danny was still well gone, draped over his shoulder and snoring softly against his cheek. It'd been another pub night… as most Saturday nights seemed to be, followed by DVDs until they dozed off. It was comfortable, routine, and there was something to be said about waking up beside someone again. Sure, Janine didn't smell like stale beer and twiglets in the morning but she also didn't feel solid and secure beside him and made him feel bad when he slunk off to go for his morning run. He was comfortable with Danny and knew it should unnerve him, should make him think about the sort of things he'd heard whispered around town about them – but the fact of the matter was he'd never intended any sort of overtures towards his subordinate… his friend.
He wasn't stupid; of course, he'd known months before that his partner wasn't exactly in agreement on that front. It was one of the small blessings of having someone like Danny on that end of the equation – he didn't lie, didn't pretend things were any different than they were. Didn't play games. It was just comfortable… and Nicholas was certain that if he never had to have another relationship in his life, he'd be fine with what they already had. He knew all too well that Danny wanted more than that. In a way, he deserved it.
With a sigh, Nicholas dislodged himself from Danny's friendly embrace and changed out for his jog. While it had always been part of his routine, it felt better on Sunday mornings in Sandford – a welcome chance to clear his head from the night before and the morning after. When he returned, Danny was puttering in the kitchen and had produced a box of Frosties that Nicholas didn't recall buying and a pot of oolong freshly brewed. "Morning." He smiled, inviting himself to the bowl that Danny had laid out for him.
"Hope you don't mind Frosties, we're out of… erm… everything." He laughed slightly and shook his head, letting out an obvious hangover groan. "We can do the shop this afternoon."
"We? I just bought groceries on Monday. For me. You do realize you have your own place to live?"
"Aw, get off it, Nick. I'll buy, since I've been stayin' here and all." He shrugged in reply, settling in with half a quart of milk left between them.
Nicholas sighed, he didn't mind Danny staying at the cottage – it was nice to have someone around to keep company when he wasn't working, and he did actually help out from time to time when he was asked. "I'll go this afternoon. I was actually hoping I could talk you into setting up the new stereo system."
Danny's eyes lit up as he spat his sip of tea back into the hot mug; "For serious? You… Nicholas Angel… bought a sound system?"
"Thought I ought to." He shrugged innocently, reveling in the obvious joy on his friend's face. "Just that… we've been watching a lot of films here and I know you enjoy the explosions in surround sound." His smile spread before he added; "Happy Christmas, Danny."
For a long moment, Danny was silent and smiling broadly over his soggy bowl of Frosties. He'd not expected a gift at all, let alone one that was something specifically to be his and stay at Nicholas' place. "My own sound system, here?"
Nicholas shrugged again and sipped his tea. "You've got one, besides… it's sort of your second home anyway." More like his first lately, at least four nights a week… sometimes six or seven. His new sofa had already taken on a Danny shaped dent where he fell asleep watching videos late into the evening.
"I am literally speechless…" He replied, idly dragging his spoon through the cereal; "I mean it, this is the best thing that anyone has ever gotten me…"
"You're not literally speechless, Danny… you're still speaking."
"Yeah, but now I've got… things… here. In your house, my things. Nice things."
"You lived here for nearly six months… I'm still finding your laundry. And you've still got a backup toothbrush."
Danny shrugged it off and gave up on his breakfast, settling for a heavy slug of tea. "I'm buying you a gift. I won't take 'no' for an answer."
"Oh? I assumed you already had." Nicholas shook his head, pouring the last of the milk on his small bowl of sugary flakes.
"Yeah, but nothing like that…"
"Come off it, I'm sure it's fine." He replied casually.
Danny let out a frustrated sigh; "It was a mug with a nine-millimeter handle." When Nicholas raised his eyebrow, he clarified, "So it looks like you'll shoot yourself in the head when you're drinking."
The opposite eyebrow rose and Nicholas paused with his plain, white mug against his lips.
"Right, I'll work on that while you do the big shop." Danny nodded quietly, there was a lot to be done… and the stereo certainly wasn't gonna be one of them.
Danny had kept himself quiet on the matter, slowly integrating Christmas spirit into the cottage – a runner of silver tinsel one day, the next a wreath on the front door. Then lights… slowly, the lights came up until the sitting room glowed multicolored even with the lights out while they watched Lethal Weapon two days before Christmas. Christmas Eve morning a small tree sat in the middle of the table between Nicholas' tea and Danny's coffee, the other man having let himself in and already started on making them breakfast. Tucked up close against the miniature branches was a rectangular package wrapped in silver paper nearly half the length of the table. They didn't talk about it, only ate breakfast and discussed the Manchester match Nicholas had dozed through and then went about their work day.
By Christmas morning it was starting to annoy Nicholas, the shiny parcel mocking him from beneath the artificial tree's irksome glow of miniature lights and baubles. Overnight an overly large red velvet bow had appeared on the arch between the kitchen and the sitting room and he could see it reflected in the surface as they ate toast and eggs. He'd been determined not to ask how Christmas had invaded his home, but there was a point where enough had to be enough. Halfway into his first mug of tea, Nicholas asked; "Shall I expect a life-sized Father Christmas in the garden when I get home?"
Danny laughed it off; "Of course not, you'd probably break his neck." A slow grin spread across his lips; "Or go Dirty Harry and blow a hole in his chest…"
"I want it gone tomorrow." He cut off the potential conversation about various means to destroy a non-existent representation of a fictional holiday character; "All of it."
He nodded slowly, silent for a long moment before he said; "You should open your gift before you go in to work. We always open gifts Christmas morning."
"It can wait until tonight after supper, you should be happy to know I reserved a table at The Swan's holiday supper." He finished his breakfast and wiped his mouth on a napkin.
"Nicholas…" Danny pouted, "Come on, it's Christmas."
Nicholas sighed again, he understood Danny's holiday excitement – everyone's excitement really – as best he could, but just didn't feel that it was such a big deal to celebrate a holiday he didn't even believe in… that nobody actually believed in outside of a reason to exchange overly expensive gifts and behave like children for half a month. Giving in to the pout, he set aside his plate and drew the wrapped gift closer, turning it over to carefully peel back skewed tape – smiling at the severely unevenly cut paper and long strips of sellotape holding it together. "You wrapped this yourself?" he couldn't help but ask.
Danny smiled; "Dad always said I've got a knack for it."
Biting back an unkind word to avoid an outright lie, Nicholas carefully peeled off the tape and folded back the paper. "Hey… I've got it…" He muttered when a very eager Danny reached across the table and tore the side open. "You ripped it…"
"You're being all tidy with it, where's the excitement of just tearing into a prezzie?"
"It'll still be there in the extra minute it takes to do it properly…"
Rolling his eyes, Danny pulled away another large chunk of paper to reveal the dark wood frame. "Just look at it, awright?"
"I'm looking; it's a very nice frame, Danny… I don't really have any photographs…" He had to admit it seemed very sturdy in construction and the dark stain matched his furniture. Turning it over, he realized he didn't need new photos for it. There were four snapshot slots in a vertical column – each with a picture of them together. "Danny… I…"
"Remember that one?" He pointed to the first snapshot, the fete… before Tim Messenger met his fate. Wearing that awful cowboy getup while Nicholas scowled at Inspector Butterman for insisting they take a picture together. "Back before you learnt how to actually smile." Danny joked, looking up at Nicholas with a slight grin.
Nicholas couldn't help but echo the smile; as much as he hated to admit it… it was the truth. But in his defense, there was murder on his mind. The next was the end of June, while Danny was still generally stuck in the guestroom in a hospital bed watching Neighbors most of the day. They were both asleep; Danny laid out in bed under the covers and Nicholas nodded off dutifully beside him with a packet of Jaffa Cakes in one hand and the other clinging to Danny's wrist.
"And Halloween!" Danny giggled excitedly, tapping a somewhat humiliating photo of himself, inebriated and dressed up as a prostitute being cuffed and hauled away by Nicholas before he could cause more trouble than he already had at Doris Thatcher's costume party. "All dressed up to play cop and ladybird…"
"I wasn't wearing a costume, Danny. I should have arrested you with the racket you were making." Nicholas groaned, moving on quickly to the fourth snapshot. It was one he didn't remember and certainly hadn't authorized. He could tell his own slender form from behind, sitting at his desk in the new station while Danny leaned in close beside him, one arm carelessly draped over Nicholas' thin shoulders. For a long moment, he was silent; they could have been doing any number of things, likely going over logbooks or revising, but they looked far more comfortable than a PC and his superior should. They almost looked like lovers. "When was this?" he asked quietly, tracing his fingers over their outline; the lighting was dim, most of it cast by his desk lamp as opposed to the punishing overhead bulbs that always gave him headaches. It would have been in the afternoon, perhaps working late.
"It's a nice one, innit? Fisher found it from when they were testing out the new station cam. Said it looked real cozy."
Nicholas nodded slowly and managed to look back up at Danny, cheeks slightly warmed. "We do… I mean, it's very comfortable. Thank you, Danny… it's a very thoughtful gift, but I don't really need photographs…"
"Maybe it'll be nice to look at them when I'm not around?" Danny's voice took on a somewhat sad note as he stood up, offering a shrug.
The tone unnerved Nicholas; he'd heard it from time to time… but never with that sort of comment attached to it. "What do you mean? Why wouldn't you be around? I mean, you're always around… you've… you've brought your own instant coffee."
"I dunno, I mean… maybe if I start seeing a lady and we hit it off… you never know." Danny turned away, rinsing his cup in the sink. He hated to say something like that, but it was the truth… if nothing was going to happen, then nothing was gonna happen and that was that. "I guess, unless you know something I don't."
Nicholas hadn't really considered that there might be a time when Danny wouldn't be there; at least in the form of a duffle coat eternally hanging in the corner from the one chilly day he'd worn it instead of his lighter jacket, or a toothbrush stowed in the medicine chest, or the dented sofa cushion, or his trainers by the back door, or a half a box of Twinnings because he didn't like when Nicholas made loose tea until he got the infuser shaped like a monkey. The thought was unpleasant, a bit like an elbow to the gut. "Right… of course." He responded in a voice far more calm than he actually felt, proper – the Nicholas Angel that wasn't going to bother with sticky things like relationships or caring for another person as much as the job. "I just mean, you're welcome here… as long as you like. I've sort of gotten used to you being here."
He turned around slowly, just as confused as when he'd started the gambit. More composed than he'd thought he'd be, Danny said; "And if I want more than to stay over?"
"Danny…" Nicholas felt his cheeks burn hot and checked his watch; "I'm… I'm running late." He stood up from the table quickly; ready to flee the small cottage to the sterile sanity of working Christmas day in the village. "Thank you, for the lovely gift."
"You haven't opened your stocking yet." Danny protested, rushing out of the kitchen and toward Nicholas' bedroom where he'd carefully hung his stocking over the bedpost while he was out on his run. "You have to open it now – there's chocolate in it."
"I'm really running behind, Danny…" He was already pulling on his shoes when his friend rushed back toward the arch.
"Turner can handle the calls until you get in – nobody ever does anything on Christmas." He retorted, pressing the elaborately decorated stocking into Nicholas' hands. "Just look."
"Chocolates, good. I like chocolate." He replied quickly, not even looking inside.
Danny grabbed him by the shoulders, holding him still between the two rooms. "One minute, Nick… look inside, please?" His plans had been a bit dashed, he'd known that eventually he'd say something about maybe things being somewhat more than they were already, just a nudge, and had been prepared for everything to fall right into place like Doris said it would and by the time he was due at the station they'd be snuggled in bed eating chocolates.
"Fine." Nicholas sighed, once more caving despite the lingering knowledge that he should be halfway to Chapel Hill. He opened the top, hands tracing over his own name written in shaky gold puff-paint, and saw a handful of chocolate coins and a pink sugar mouse nestled against an orange and a pear – he hadn't received a stocking since he was a child, but it delighted a small part of him no less. "Thank you, Danny… it's lovely…"
"Deeper." Danny grasped the large stocking by the toe and removed the fruit to show a small box of chocolates with nuts and a folded sprig of unnaturally green fake plant life.
"Plastic mistletoe? I don't recall ever getting one those in a stocking before."
He growled in frustration and plucked the fake plant out of the stocking; "You're supposed to take it out and hold it up and then I'm supposed to kiss you and we both have a laugh and then things start moving between us." Danny sighed, holding up the sprig; "It's not tough or anything, I mean… didn't you watch that movie with me the other day?"
"I don't…" Nicholas stammered, shaking his head; "Danny… I really must be…"
"I'm pulling out all the stops, Nick… honest! I even asked for help pulling it off to make it some Christmas miracle and here you are running off just like nothing! "
"No. Don't 'Danny' me like that. You know what I'm asking, I know you know… you know you know, you know?" He trailed off a little, stumbling mentally a second before clarifying; "Please, don't go yet."
"I have to, you know that…"
"I know, it's Christmas and everyone's out beating each other and having drinks…" He grumbled.
Nicholas swallowed hard; "Not just that, no."
A silence fell between them and Danny processed the statement, eventually asking; "Is it me?"
He shook his head negative; "Of course not. You've… you're… I have some… things…"
"You're broken, I know. Doris told me all about it… we can work on it."
"Wait, you and Doris… you just… you talk about me?"
Danny shrugged, "She's a lady – she knows things about making it happen, you know…"
Nicholas hung his head, shaking it slowly. Rumor mills were always a problem, particularly when they held a grain of truth. It was easy to see where they'd get the idea something was going on, easier still when they had a live feed thanks to PC Thatcher's loose lips after a pint or two. "You did all of this…" He waved his had dramatically at the Christmas décor; "…to push something between us?"
"A Christmas miracle." Danny chuckled under his breath, lowering his head as though he'd just realized he'd done something incredibly stupid. "I… I just thought maybe if I could get you swept away in the holiday spirit I could melt your frigid heart." He frowned, "Okay that does sound like the plot of one of those books in the hairdressers."
He meant well, Danny really clearly meant well… he couldn't help it that there was no way to make him understand that nothing ever worked out like it did in the books, or in movies for that matter. With a hesitant hand, he took the loose sprig and held it between thumb and forefinger – looking at the silly thing with a mixture of humor and disdain. For Danny, maybe, just maybe he could bend a little. Giving in, he held it above his head and smiled; "I guess we're under the mistletoe… there's a tradition about that, isn't there?"
Danny nodded, a slow grin stretching his lips. "We haveta kiss, it's the law."
"It's not a law, Danny."
"Tradition, right… I know the difference. Just… you know… we should."
Nicholas nodded and leaned towards him, "We should."
"Right." Danny's grin faltered a brief moment and then, leaning in awkwardly, he pressed a kiss against his friend's waiting lips.
It was awkward, uncomfortable, and not at all what Nicholas would have wanted in a kiss. Taking control, he seized the stocking from Danny's hands and tossed it onto the table beside the photographs and miniature tree. "That would be why you don't take advice from a chronically single woman whose idea of a good time is five pints and a roll in bed."
"Don't sound so bad…" Danny shrugged.
"I think a kiss is a better way to start." Nicholas smirked and then gripped the front of Danny's red and green striped pyjamas and hauled him in close, pressing a much softer and unexpected kiss against his lips. At first, Danny froze – obviously surprised, but after a moment Nicholas' tongue parted his lips and he opened to the new taste of tea and eggs and toast with jam… his arms wrapping around Nicholas' waist as though they'd been there all along.