If You'll Let Me

Jean blew a breath into the cold air around him, watching the clouds dissipate over and over again. For whatever reason, his breath fogging up never ceased to amaze him.

It was the night of Christmas Day, and the world was swathed in white. It had been snowing almost non-stop for days, and it had only just relented that morning. Now snow covered everything, and there was no other color where he was walking besides the undersides of the branches that were covered over the top.

At present, he was traversing the woods just a couple blocks from his house in order to get away from the chaos of pre-Christmas dinner. All of the relatives who had stayed the night had left this morning for their own family celebrations, and now it was just Jean, his mother, father, grandmother, and younger sister.

But all the same, that was enough people for the house to resemble a beehive, and Jean thought that if someone told him to move out of their way one more time he would lose it.

And so he found himself out in the cold in no time. He didn't really mind, if anything he liked the cold, if that much wasn't already obvious.

And the woods were quiet, silent even, now that night had fallen. It wasn't really all that late, but it was still very dark, and he probably wouldn't have been able to see anything if it hadn't been for the cloudy sky. At least now it was light enough that he could see where he was going surprisingly well.

He was making his way over a bridge, where the river below ran fast and strong, when he saw movement from the corner of his eye. He stopped and looked downriver, and that was when he noticed there was a person there.

He squinted and tried to look closer, finding the figure familiar in a way. Whoever it was, was balancing on a large branch that had fallen and was half-submerged in the water. Even Jean knew that probably wasn't such a good idea, especially in winter, but who was he to tell someone what to and what not to do?

When he finally got a good look at their face, his eyebrows rose a hair. 'Marco?'

He knew the kid because he was in his lunch hour at school, and he saw him in the hallway a lot. He was a perpetually happy, kind boy with a smile that could placate a rabid bear.

'It certainly works on rabid people.' Jean dryly recalled the incident where the school's star football player, Reiner, had been one snarky comment away from letting the resident 'badass', Annie, know exactly how he felt about her shit-talking his 'sweaty green giant' best friend to his face when Marco showed up.

The kid had to be some sort of saint to calm that mountain of a guy down with hardly a glance. 'Hmm, Reiner is close enough to a bear…'

To be perfectly honest, Jean liked Marco a lot, he even happened to find him quite attractive, but he didn't think they would ever get along. Marco was pretty much the opposite of him.

But he was pulled from his musings by a sound. "Wa-woah! Gah!" Followed by a splash.

Immediately Jean was racing off the bridge and down the riverbank, following the figure being quickly swept away by the current.

'Why me?' His mind slightly groused as he overtook Marco, taking a flying leap into the water and going until it was up to his waist.

"Sonofabitch!" He yelped at the agonizing cold, but within the same second had reached out and grabbed Marco's coat and surprised himself at the strength he used to haul him out of the middle of the river and almost entirely to the bank.

Marco had managed to stand by himself, albeit shivering like a son-of-a-gun, and Jean immediately unzipped his still-dry jacket. "T-take your wet coat and s-shirt off. Hurry!"

Marco did as he was told and Jean threw his jacket over Marco's shoulders. "Come on, I'm t-taking you to my house."

Marco was too busy trying to keep his teeth from chattering, so he just nodded. Jean put an arm around his shoulders and rubbed briskly, trying to keep the both of them a tad warmer.

From this close proximity, he could see the water already turning to ice on the ends of Marco's hair and clumping in his thick eyelashes, looking like miniature horizontal icicles.

'Pretty…' He snapped out of it, however, when he noticed just how pale Marco was, his always-prominent freckles standing out starkly against snow-white skin.

They hurried, but it still seemed to take longer than eternity for them to finally be inside Jean's suddenly too-warm house.

His grandmother watched with wide eyes as Jean led Marco over to the stairs leading up, keen on getting him in a hot shower.

But Marco stopped at the foot of the stairs, shivering madly. "W…wait…just a minute." He sounded so quiet, and far too breathless, and Jean shook his head. "We can't wait. If you can't walk I'm carrying you."

With a small, startled noise, Marco was hoisted into Jean's arms as he carried him upstairs.

"What in the world…?"

"What's wrong ma?" Jean's mother peeked around the corner from the kitchen.

The old woman was already up and bustling towards her. "I'm not sure, but Jean's got a friend with him and he looks cold enough to turn to ice." The old woman got down mugs and her tea kettle, and Jean's mother hurried upstairs.

She heard running water and found the bathroom door open, and when she investigated further, found both boys, still in their clothes, huddled together in the bathtub filling with hot water.

"What the holly-haired humbugs happened!?" Jean didn't know if his mother was pissed or just worried.

"L-long story." Jean was pushing the hot water towards Marco, who looked to be in significant pain. "The short of it is he fell in the river and I fished him out and it's fucking cold."

For once his mother let the curse slip, instead taking out towels and rushing back out. "I'll get you boys some dry clothes."

As the bathtub filled, Jean was intermittently rubbing Marco's hands to get his blood flowing again. He observed that even his hands had little freckles on them.

"Are you feeling any better?" Marco nodded, his voice just above a whisper. "Yeah, much. …Thank you Jean."

Jean raised his eyebrows. "You remember me?"

Marco laughed a little. "I find you very hard to forget."

"Eh? How? Oh, let me guess, Eren is always bitching about me."

Marco chuckled again. "That's sort of it."

Before Jean could speak again, his mother was back. "I think this is the first and last time I will be glad that you own so many pairs of sweatpants and hoodies."

Jean huffed, muttering something that sounded like "So what? They're comfortable."

Marco smiled. "Thank you so much."

Jean's mother smiled. "No problem honey. What's your name?"

"I'm Marco."

"Well nice to meet you Marco. I'm going to go get you boys something hot to drink. Your Gramma brought out her tea kettle though, so don't mix them up."

Jean paled as his mother left the room, and Marco had to ask. "Should I be worried?"

"Only if you drink it. My Gramma has one tea recipe to cure anything."

"I see."

After a short silence, Jean asked. "So what were you doing anyway? No Christmas plans?"

Marco stiffened, but soon covered it up with a smile. "Ah, no. Something happened and I'm not doing anything."

Jean gave him a look. 'What a fake smile.' "Then you should stay here." The words were out of Jean's mouth before he even thought of what they meant. And yet, even after, he wouldn't take them back.

Marco frowned. "No, that's okay. You've got your family today, and you barely know me."

"So?" Jean sounded oddly defensive. "I'm not gonna let you be alone on Christmas. Trust me, it's fine."

Marco fell silent, and Jean circulated the water again, reaching for Marco's hands. "Well, at least you've almost stopped shivering. And you're certainly warmer. Does it still hurt?"

Marco shrugged. "A bit. But I'll live."

Not too long after, Jean rose from the bathtub and used one of the towels to dry off as much as possible without having to strip.

"I'm gonna go get dressed. If you want to, you can stay in a little longer. The clothes are on the sink, and I'll wait for you downstairs." He was almost out the door when he turned around. "And don't worry, we don't bite… Accept Emily…she might."

And with that, he was out the door, closing it behind him and leaving Marco giggling quietly.

After Jean got dressed and headed downstairs, his Gramma immediately thrust a mug into his hands and patted him on the back.

Thankfully, she hurried back to whatever she was tending and he got the chance to pour half down the drain. He figured out long ago that no one ever drank it all, and to have your mug emptied set you up for a suspicious look and an instant refill.

He was surprised when Marco came down not long after, looking healthier in color.

After being handed his own mug, Jean inconspicuously swapped with him as his mother handed them some of her hot cider.

"I'm glad you're okay." Jean started after a scalding sip. "You scared the crap out of me you know."

Marco rubbed the side of his neck sheepishly. "Yeah, sorry. But really, thank you."

The smile Jean gave him left him a little breathless. "Well, as I said, I'm just glad you're fine. I've never been so grateful that I jumped into a freezing river."

Marco raised a brow at that. "You talk like you've done it before." At Jean's silence Marco stared. "Oh for crying out loud Jean."

"What?" Jean shrugged. "We were bored! And you never know how cold it is until you actually jump in."

Marco nodded, taking a sip. "Very good point."

"Okay boys, dinner is finally ready. Marco, are you staying?"

Before Marco could answer, Jean nodded. "Yeah. He's not doing anything so I told him he could stay."

Jean's mom smiled. "Oh good. Well come on in."

Jean looked back to let Marco go into the dining room before him, but Marco was looking…hesitant? "What's wrong?"

Marco shrugged. "It just feels like I'm intruding, and I'd hate to be a bother. No one really knows who I am, and I don't want to make anyone uncomfortable."

"How like you."

Marco looked up. "What?"

Jean shook his head with a smile. "You always think of everyone else before you think of yourself. It's very refreshing." Without thinking, Jean leaned forward and kissed Marco's cheek.

But he just as soon turned red in the face and apologized profusely to an equally red Marco until they became aware of giggling.

Emily, Jean's younger sister, was practically bouncing. Jean scooped her up. "Hey, what're you giggling at?"

She giggled again. "I saw you!"

Jean feigned innocence. "What? I don't know what you're talking about."

She suddenly looked at Marco closer. "Is this freckle Marco?"

Jean raised a brow. "Eh?"

"I remember! Oooooo you said you liiiiiked him!"

Jean was puzzled for a minute until he realized just what Emily was referring to.

It was back at the start of the school year. The first week, he had seen Marco and liked him instantly, but at the same time didn't think they would get along at all.

For whatever reason, he had been talking to Emily about it, and he had put extra emphasis on his freckles.

Marco blushed and Jean set Emily down. "Go…help set the table."

Even if she was too young to help, Emily still scampered off to help.

Before Jean had the chance to apologize for the umpteenth time, Marco smiled. "You forgot huh? I think she saw this."

And he leaned forward and gave Jean a quick peck on the cheek, going into the dining room before him.

Jean stood there, thunderstruck for a moment, before he followed after him.

Dinner was surprisingly easygoing.

Marco found that it was very easy to talk with most of Jean's family, aside from his father, who was where Jean had gotten most of his personality from.

But all the same, he found his family to be very enjoyable. Once dinner was done and everyone had finished cleaning up, the family went into the living room to talk and later open gifts, but Jean and Marco stayed behind and just sat at the kitchen table, talking for awhile.

Awhile turned into an hour, which turned into another hour, and before they knew it, it was already midnight and Christmas was officially over.

Jean's Gramma had gone to bed already, as well as Emily, and as Jean's parents went upstairs, his mother simply requested that they not do anything to burn the house down, wake up the entire neighborhood, etc.

Marco chuckled and agreed, while Jean just nodded and shook his head.

Once his parents were gone, Jean brought his attention back to the freckled boy before him. "Would you mind a lot if I asked you a personal question?"

Marco sighed and shrugged. "I knew it was coming. Go ahead."

Jean looked him in the eyes. "What happened to leave you alone on Christmas?"

Marco smiled sadly. "I have no one to spend it with. I'm an only child, my mom passed away years ago. She was in a car accident on Christmas Eve."

Jean flinched ever-so-slightly and reached to Marco's side of the table to take one of his hands.

"It practically killed my dad. He was always a gentle person, and it's unimaginably hard for him. He loved her so much. And he's not a bad father, but every Christmas he always ends up in one bar or another, and one of his friends end up taking him back home with them. He'll be back probably tomorrow, but we haven't had Christmas together in years."

Marco's gaze shifted to the tabletop, and Jean ran his thumb over his hand. He only then seemed to notice that his hand was being held, and he squeezed back.

After a moment of silence, Jean spoke. "Next year you should bring him here."

Marco's gaze shot up to Jean's face.

"What?" His whisper was incredulous.

Jean nodded. "Maybe he'll snap out of it. It's worth a try."

Marco blinked, and Jean noticed the tears in his eyes. "You would do that?"

Jean smiled and stood, bringing Marco with him, and pulling the freckled boy into his arms. "Marco, I would do as much for you as I could, if you would let me."

Marco wrapped his arms around Jean's neck and buried his face in his shoulder. "Jean…thank you."

Jean held him tighter, and then he got an idea. He looked over to the kitchen table, where the CD player was still turned on. He saw his mother had paused it on the last song, and he vaguely remembered the last song on this particular Frank Sinatra CD was Silent Night.

He reached over and pressed play, and lowered the volume, and as the music started, Marco looked up.

Jean began to sway back and forth, and Marco smiled and did the same. They mostly just swayed side to side in slow circles around the kitchen, and at some point Jean had pressed their foreheads together.

Towards the end of the song, Jean spun Marco around a couple times, and as his last spin ended so did the song.

For a moment, they just smiled at each other, then something above them seemed to catch Marco's eye, and his smile widened slightly.

Jean followed his gaze, and lo and behold, they had stopped in the archway leading from the kitchen to the dining room, and a sprig of mistletoe hung above their heads.

Marco returned his gaze to Jean with a smile that the sandy-blond returned.

Marco's arms came up to gently rest around Jean's neck, and Jean's hands wrapped around his waist. Marco leaned closer and whispered. "Merry Christmas Jean."

Just before their lips met, Jean closed his eyes and whispered back. "Merry Christmas Marco."


Cheesy and not all that good? EYYY that's what I specialize in ;D Yeah, I love Frank Sinatra Christmas music (only Frankie. Nothing else -_- ) so it'll probably be mentioned every time there's supposed to be Christmas music XD but yeah. No idea where this came from really ^^; Truthfully I'm not even sure if this is bearable or not, so I guess we'll see O.O Enjoi?

BUT ALSO. I copyright 'holly-haired humbugs' XD rofl the best curse my unimaginative self can come up with T^T

Characters © Akira Amano

Story © MarluxiaSutcliff116