Author's Notes: SYuuri, Mollylyn, Tirsh and I agreed to do a Christmas fanfic story exchange this year. We got a neutral party to assign us each a person to write for and we submitted our "wish list" of story items for our writer to choose from. Over achiever me liked something from everyone's list so I went overboard and did a story for each person. Yes, I'm that person. The person whose name I drew was SYuuri so to make her story special, I'm including all of her wish items: snowman, mistletoe, Christmas Carol, All I Want for Christmas, and hot chocolate with marshmallows. After she made a special request of me that had nothing to do with the Christmas fic exchange, I decided to add that as well. So, SYuuri, I hope it meets and exceeds your expectations. Merry Christmas.
Author's note 2: I don't really know anything about military bases and especially not Canadian military bases. Most of my knowledge comes from watching Army Wives. So please forgive any details I might get wrong later in the chapter when the military base comes up. This story takes place between Slow Burn and Broken Peace.
Disclaimer: The show Flashpoint and its characters were created by Mark Ellis and Stephanie Morgenstern and belong to them and its respective networks. I am making no money off this story and it is for entertainment purposes only. However, this particular story is my creation and should not be used without my express written permission.
Christmas Green…with Envy
"Stay tuned for more sounds of the seasons. Remember there are only ten shopping days left. Have you gotten that special gift for that special person? If not…"
Sam tuned out the rest of the radio announcer's appeal. He didn't need the reminder of how many days were left. He'd wrapped up his shopping weeks ago, both figuratively and literally. Especially that "special gift for that special person" which would not be found no matter how creative she got trying to sneak a peek, not that he'd ever seen her snooping. He glanced over at the beautiful woman who was napping in the seat next to him.
He couldn't blame her for sleeping now. In order for them to get the time off together for this trip, they'd had to switch shifts with different people. She'd worked one of those shifts the night before and from the way she'd described it, it had been a busy night. The fact that she'd managed to stay awake for almost three and a half hours of the five hour drive had surprised him.
He wouldn't admit it to just anyone, and especially not to her, but he loved to watch Jules Callaghan when she slept. There was just something so sweet and innocent about her then that was a stark contrast to that tough, no-nonsense exterior that she projected at work. The only thing that had kept his eyes more on the road than on her peaceful, beautiful face was the fact that it had started to snow about ten minutes after she'd fallen asleep and he needed to keep his eyes on the roads that would soon get slick. He'd driven in worse weather but he was glad they were going to reach their destination before the sun went down.
With a little intake of breath that indicated she was waking up, her eyes fluttered open and she gave a little stretch that reminded him of a cat. "When did it start snowing?"
"A little over an hour ago. We're almost there. Not too late to change our minds." Sam offered. He made it seem like a joke but underneath he was completely serious about turning around and going home before they ever reached their final destination. If it wasn't for the snow, he'd have reached over and taken one of her hands in his to hold as he drove taking comfort from her touch to help him overcome his own increasing discomfort for every mile closer they got. As it was, however, he needed to keep both hands on the wheel no matter how much he longed for the feel of her hand in his.
As if sensing what he needed without him saying anything, she reached her hand out to his left side and lovingly placed the gloved palm of her hand against this cheek, making sure to keep the crook of her arm out of his field of vision. He puckered his lips and kissed the base of her hand. Her voice was still sleep-filled as she responded to his suggestion. "You know we can't do that. Your mom was disappointed that you couldn't get the time off to come up for the actual holiday. When you told her you would make it work so you could visit and attend the Christmas party I could hear her squeal of delight through the phone."
"You weren't even in the same room when I was talking to her." Sam reminded her with a slight eye roll.
"I know," Jules agreed. "That's why I knew she was excited. Heard her clear across the house. Seriously Sam, how bad could it be?"
The noise that came from Sam's lips could only be described as a snort. "Thus says the one who's never spent any time around the General. He can suck the Merry right out of Christmas just by entering a room. Seriously, if there was an award given for the Grinchiest person and it came down to the Grinch and the General, the General would win hands down."
Jules lowered her hand to rest it on the top of Sam's thigh, giving the muscle a slight squeeze. "Now I know you're exaggerating. Natalie showed me some pictures of some of the Christmases the two of you had growing up. The two of you sitting in front of a beautiful Christmas tree…"
"That we weren't allowed to decorate because it had to look perfect if company came by." Sam inserted.
"Surrounded by mountains of brightly wrapped packages." Jules continued as if Sam hadn't interrupted. "That doesn't sound very Grinch-y to me."
He didn't answer her; didn't need to. Though he'd booked them a room at a local hotel for the two nights they would be in Ottawa, he was sure they would be forced to spend the majority of the time in close proximity to the family. She would see soon enough. It wasn't that the General was a bad father. On the contrary, he'd provided the family with everything they could possibly need and most of the things they'd wanted. He just had a tendency of treating his family the way he ran his units. Always had, always would.
Seeing a sign advertising a roadside diner a couple of miles ahead, he risked a momentary glance in her direction before returning his focus to the road. "You hungry? We haven't stopped for anything more than bathroom and gas the whole drive."
Jules glanced out the window at the snow falling in increasing drifts. "You don't want to try to make it before the weather gets worse?" Her stomach took that opportunity to audibly announce its hunger and she blushed. "Yeah, I'm hungry but me and my big-mouthed stomach can wait until we get to the hotel if you don't want to stop now."
He saw the diner that the sign had promised and turned on his blinker before slowing and turning into the parking lot. "You know what I'd rather do but since it seems we're staying, I'm starving as well. My stomach just isn't as vocal about it."
She slapped his thigh as he shot her a cheeky grin. Though there were a few cars already parked in the parking lot, the diner was far from crowded. Still he parked away from the door, leaving the available front spots for someone who came along who might needed the shorter trip to the front door. As soon as he turned off the ignition and the heat cut off, the temperature in the jeep started too cool. He and Jules both unfastened their seat belts and slipped their arms into the bulky coats they had shed in the heated interior of the vehicle.
Sam waited at the end of the vehicle for Jules to join him and wrapped a well padded arm around her waist as they made their way through the falling snow to the door of the diner. A bell dinged signaling their entrance, the sound blending with the holiday music playing in the background. Sam led her to a booth and they sat opposite each other, once more shrugging out of their jackets.
A waitress with frizzy blonde hair greeted them and handed them menus. Despite Jules's presence, the waitress had eyes only for Sam. If he were the menu, it was more than obvious that she wanted to order one of everything. Jules resisted the urge to roll her eyes. She was used to women openly ogling her boyfriend and while she appreciated their good taste at the same time as being annoyed by their brazenness, she didn't let it bother her because somehow Sam never seemed to notice the attention and certainly never returned it. The waitress smacked her gum as she smiled. A smile that seemed as big and as fake as some of her other attributes she seemed proud of. "I don't think you're from around here. I'm pretty sure I would have remembered you."
Though you was a pronoun that could be either singular or plural, it was more than obvious the Sam was the only "you" she cared to address. Still Sam was busy looking at the menu and lost in his thoughts and didn't acknowledge her. Jules pasted on her own fake smile. "No, we're just passing through. I think we need a few minutes before we know what we want."
The waitress seemed disappointed but nodded. "Sure, while you are deciding can I get you something to drink? Coffee maybe?"
"Hot chocolate with marshmallows." Jules requested. She could probably use the caffeine boost coffee would give her but there was something about falling snow at Christmas time that brought out the little girl in her that loved curling up by the fireplace with a steaming mug of chocolate and slowly melting white puffs of sticky sweetness. "Sam?"
"The same." He requested, looking over his menu and giving Jules that boyish smile that always made her melt just a little like she was one of those marshmallows in the hot chocolate.
It apparently made the waitress melt a little as well if the little giggle that escaped her lips as she took down the order was any indication. She retreated from the table to get their drinks and Jules looked down at the menu. Like most roadside diners there were choices that ranged from sandwiches to hot plate specials that all claimed to be "homemade." She pursed her lips considering. "What are you thinking?"
"I don't think you really want to know." Sam mumbled.
She gave him a little nudge with the toe of her boot under the table. "I meant on the menu. But you're wrong if you think I wouldn't want to know what you're really thinking about."
He reached across the table and gave her hand a squeeze. He didn't release it. "I think I'm going with a greasy cheeseburger and a pile of equally greasy fries. If I know Mom, and I do know my mom, there will not be a morsel of unhealthy food that passes our lips during her watch. She has a way of even making deserts and party foods less than decadent. We should eat it while we can."
Jules frowned. "She's not going to make me eat brussels sprouts, is she?"
Sam was well aware of Jules's aversion to the "little heads of cabbages that don't taste anything like cabbage." He grinned, loving the way she so innocently - or maybe she only made it look innocent and she really knew exactly what she was doing - pulled him out of his darker thoughts. "Probably. And knowing my mom, she's going to do her damndest to make you like them. And before you say it, Nat and I tried every trick in the book to get out of eating them so she's wise to every trick in the book."
"I could tell her I'm allergic. Break out in hives, throat swells up, breathing stops, that sort of thing." She suggested, chewing on her bottom lip thoughtfully.
Sam shook his head, outright chuckling now. "Won't work. Unless you have it stamped on some medic alert bracelet she won't buy it. She'll tell you the best way to get over an allergy is to desensitize yourself by eating it. She'll promise to give you Benedryl for the hives and ask where your epi pen is in case your throat swells."
Jules winced. "Nice, and here all this time I thought you said it was your father who was the badass of the family."
Sam's thumb lazily rubbed against the side of her hand. "He is. Except, when it comes to meals and who's going to eat what. Mom makes even him cower and send up the white flag. My advice, when she serves Brussels sprouts, cut them in really small bites and throw them to the back of your mouth. You can bypass your taste buds and practically swallow them without chewing."
"I can't tell if you're being serious or seriously pulling my leg. I'm not sure I want to know which." Jules shook her head.
The waitress returned and placed the two steaming mugs in front of them. She then pulled out her order pad. "You make a decision yet?"
Jules gave Sam a nod, letting him order for the both of them. Once the waitress left, Jules picked up her spoon to stir the marshmallows around in the hot chocolate and frowned once more. There were no tell-tale floating white blobs in her drink. She glanced over at Sam's mug which was practically overflowing with marshmallows. What would be next? She'd get a meatless hamburger while Sam got the extra patty?
Sam noticed the issue and pulled her mug to his with his free hand, keeping the other firmly in hers. Using his spoon, he carefully scooped over half of his own marshmallows into her mug before sliding it back to her. She smiled her thanks and stirred the marshmallows into the liquid.
"Can I ask you a question?" Recognizing the upturn corner of his smirk, she glared at him and amended. "Other than that one."
He nodded. She sighed and took a small sip, being careful not to scald her tongue. Briefly she wondered if maybe she should rethink that plan; if she did, she probably wouldn't have to taste any offensive vegetables that might find their way onto her plate over the next couple of days. "What's really bugging you about being here? I've seen you before when you've gone off to visit your family and while it might not be a trip to Disney World, you don't dread it like you have this time. I've been wracking my brain trying to figure it out and the only thing I've come up with that's different about this trip and the others is that I'm here with you." She lowered her gaze, unable to look at him. "Are you worried about introducing me to your parents?"
"Yes." Sam answered honestly. Jules's head dipped even more as she tried to hide the hurt she knew would probably show in her eyes. He saw it anyway in the rest of her body language and gave her hand a little tug, hoping to make her look up. When she didn't, he sighed. "It's not what you are thinking. It's not about you at all."
At that she did look up, her disbelief evident. He continued. "Jules, I'm not ashamed of you or scared for anyone to know we're together. I'm proud to say you're my girlfriend and that I love you. I'm just afraid my parents - my dad especially - will say or do something that will hurt or embarrass you or worse, make you look at me and think that if I came from their genes maybe you'd better rethink this whole relationship."
"I'm dating you, not your parents." Jules reminded him, taking a bigger sip of her hot chocolate.
The waitress returned with their food and pointedly asked Sam if there was anything else he not they needed. Sam shook his head, not interested in anything but reassuring Jules. And although her words were reassuring to him, he didn't think he'd done much to alleviate her concerns. Not getting the reaction she was hoping for or much of a reaction at all, the waitress left with a frown on her face. Once more alone, Jules removed her hand from his so she could dress her burger but she suddenly wasn't interested in the food. With less force than she really felt like using, Jules piled on the lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles but left the onions to the side. She cleared her throat, hoping it wouldn't sound as pitiful as she felt. "So, you're saying your parents won't like me."
Sam looked at her as he poked a fry around the ketchup he'd squirted into his plate. Jules was normally such a self-assured, confident person that it always took him by surprise when any hint of insecurity leaked out. Now, he wished he hadn't said anything. Since he had though, he felt he owed it to her to be honest. Forewarned is forearmed. "My dad won't, mainly because you don't come from a military family. Dad is pretty snobbish about keeping the family line military pure. Plus, he sort of thinks the role of a girlfriend/wife is to be sort of a 'Yes, Sir; whatever you say, Sir' kind of person. And thankfully, we both know that's not who you are."
He left it at that, even though there was more. While he was pretty sure his mother would be her usual gracious and charming self that she demonstrated for all social functions, he knew his mother still carried some ill feelings about the way Jules had ended things before. While he hoped his mother wouldn't say anything that would be upsetting, he couldn't be sure. The truth was, the whole situation, with the annual muckity muck Christmas party mixed in, had too many potential pitfalls for him to be comfortable with it.
Jules hid her frown behind taking a bite of her hamburger. She'd be lying if she said she hadn't had her doubts about attending the party the next evening. Her fears and insecurities had only been fed by her talk with Natalie. She'd called Sam's sister to ask for advice about what to pack for the trip and especially to wear to the party. The way Natalie had described the party had made it seem like the kind of complete social nightmare that Jules usually tried to avoid, the Police Gala only a hundred times worse. Now it seemed like Sam was telling her that it wasn't just the party she had to worry about but the whole trip. Maybe it wasn't too late to change course and spend the next three days elsewhere.
"Relax Jules. You're dating me not my parents, remember? I shouldn't have said anything, but I don't want him to say something that will hurt you."
Jules took another bite of her hamburger and used the time of chewing and swallowing to form her next thoughts. "I guess the General's opinion doesn't matter as long as his son is happy."
Sam reached under the table to give her knee a squeeze. "His son is very happy. Having you by my side tomorrow night is going to be the highlight of my evening. It's not just how my parents are going to treat you that has me worried about the trip. I'd almost have rather worked things so I could have gone for Christmas dinner than this party. All the top brass will be there. People who know all about me and what happened in Kandahar. Maybe by now it'll be old news unlike the last time I went to the party the year after it happened - the last time I went to the party at all. But I'm sure there will be things said by those who won't let me forget the mistakes I've made. Some who think I should have been brought up on disciplinary charges and that that the only reason why I wasn't was because the General pulled strings. Others who think I turned my back on the military by walking away and that that was my biggest mistake. You may hear some not so flattering things about me."
Jules reached out and took his hand in hers once more. "Sam, what happened with Matt was an accident; something you couldn't control. They can't keep blaming you for it. And as for walking away; you did what you had to do for you. You might not be military any more but you are still saving lives and making a difference. If they can't see that, then that's their problem. And if I hear anyone saying anything about what happened, I'm going to tell them just that."
Sam grinned at her, already feeling better about this trip than he had since he first told his mother he would come. "What would I do without you?"
Jules indicated the direction of the counter where their waitress was still watching Sam like a person on a diet might watch the pastry cart in a fancy restaurant. "I think she'd like to give you a few ideas."
Sam shuddered. "I'm not sure I want to know what her ideas involve. Just promise me you won't leave me here alone to go off to the bathroom or something. I'm not sure I'd still be here when you got back; and not by choice may I add."
Jules grinned. "I'll do my best to protect you."
They were just finishing their meal when Sam's cell phone range. Looking at the caller ID, he mouthed the word Mom to Jules before answering. "Hi, Mom… No, we're not far out. Just stopped to get a bite to eat…Yeah, Mom, I know you would have but we've been driving practically all day and we were too hungry to wait….Actually, we'll probably go ahead and check in at the hotel….Yes, Mom, I know there's plenty of room at the house but neither of us wanted to put you to any more trouble. We know you've got the party to get ready for…. Yes, Mom, I know you wouldn't mind. It's just easier this way… We'll be there… I will…Love you too. Bye."
Jules shook her head, having only heard his side of the conversation. "Let me guess, she's still trying to get us to stay at the house on base."
He nodded. "I can't just tell her there's no way in hell I'm not having a planned strategic escape route. But I can't get us out of dinner. She's pretty insistent on that."
Jules popped the last of her French fries into her mouth. Then she looked down to the snow pants and thermal long-sleeve she'd dressed in after getting off work. "Would I be right in thinking that dinner not only means healthy food but dressing up as well?"
Sam nodded. "Not as formal as the party tomorrow night but a bit more than the casual we have on for the drive up."
Jules wiped her hands and mouth with her napkin and nodded. "Then we'd better get to the hotel. If meeting your parents is going to be as challenging as you say, I'm going to need at least a couple more hours of sleep and a really long shower."
If only she'd known.