Christmas Lights... (AU M/L TEEN) Pt 4, 1/2 Complete

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Heavenli24
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Christmas Lights... (AU M/L TEEN) Pt 4, 1/2 Complete

Post by Heavenli24 » Thu Dec 24, 2009 7:15 am

Title: Christmas Lights and Snow Moments
Author: Heavenli24
Pairings/Couples/Category: M/L
Rating: TEEN
Disclaimer: The characters of "Roswell" belong to Jason Katims, Melinda Metz, WB, and UPN. They are not mine and no infringement is intended.
Summary: It’s coming up to Christmas and it’s time to pull names for the office Secret Santa, put up the Christmas decorations and attend the work Christmas party. Liz Parker is used to being alone for Christmas, but will this year change everything?

Author's Note: This is just a short Christmas story, probably no more than 4 or 5 parts (I haven't quite finished writing it yet) and I'll be posting it every couple of days over the next week :). There'll be no Making It Work update this week, I'm afraid, as I've been working on this story instead, but hopefully I'll be able to post a new part next week :).

Merry Christmas, everyone :D!

***


Part One

Friday December 11th 2009

I let out a soft sigh as I took a seat at my desk on Friday morning. It was only a couple of weeks until Christmas, yet I had a ton of work to do before then and barely enough time to do it in. I shook my head as I glanced over the pile of notes and article drafts scattered across my workstation, wondering how on earth I was going to tackle it all in such a short space of time. Of course, it didn’t help that my office mates included the likes of Max Evans and his accomplices Pete and Sam, who seemed to view this job as one big joke and never actually appeared to do any work whatsoever… just like right now, for example, where they were currently sitting around Max’s computer screen debating the cup size of Amy Winehouse’s newly enhanced assets.

“Deck the halls with boughs of holly,” sang Maria DeLuca jauntily, interrupting my inner musings as she skipped into the office with two steaming hot cups of coffee in her hands. “How are we all on this lovely winter morning?”

Across the room, Max rolled his eyes and muttered to Pete beside him, “It should be illegal to be that chirpy so early in the morning.”

“You have a problem over there, Evans?” retorted Maria as she handed one of the coffees to me, which I took from her with a grateful smile.

Max shared a smirk with his co-worker, before pasting an innocent expression onto his face and replying sweetly, “Of course not, DeLuca.”

I rolled her eyes at him as I took a sip of coffee. Why couldn’t Max and his little followers just take their jobs seriously for once? They might only be journalists for our small newspaper, but this job was worthwhile and provided great experience for the future. I had dreams of writing for one of the big national papers one day and I was eager to work hard and make a name for myself here, but the guys just seemed to think the job was one big doss-around opportunity; in the two years we’d been working together in this office I didn’t think I’d ever seen them actually doing any serious work.

“Good,” replied Maria pointedly, as she took a seat at her desk, which was next to mine and began arranging her paperwork.

“How was your weekend?” I leaned across my desk to ask her. “Mike have good time at your parents’ house?”

“Oh, yeah,” deadpanned Maria. “He just loved having to spend the weekend making small talk with my mom about her cookery adventures and then sitting through the ball game on TV with my dad.”

I let out a laugh at Maria’s face; anyone who knew Michael Guerin knew he was decided not a baseball fan.

“Sounds fun.”

“Yeah,” Maria rolled her eyes. “And he’s got to go through it all again at Christmas too… they’ve invited him to spend the holiday with us as he hasn’t really got anyone else.”

“Good luck with that,” I teased with a grin.

“I’m looking forward to it,” replied Maria sarcastically. “So, anyway,” she nudged me, “what are your plans for Christmas? Still spending the holiday here in Long Island?”

“Yeah,” I nodded. “It’s not like I’d really have anyone to spend Christmas with if I flew home… Mom’s off on some cruise with her latest boyfriend and Dad is going to be working over the holiday.”

“Aww, hon, tell me you’re not gonna be alone for Christmas? You know I’d stay here with you if I could.”

“Hey, it’s okay,” I insisted. “Really. I quite like the peace and quiet.”

“But you know, you’re always welcome to spend Christmas with us,” Maria replied with a gentle smile.

I shook my head, “I’ll be fine, Maria. Honestly. Besides, you’ve got Michael coming for Christmas anyway.”

“Well, if you’re sure…”

I was definitely sure. Christmas has never been the best time of year for me, especially after Daniel… and everything that happened afterwards.

No, it was easier all around if I just spent the holiday here, in my apartment, as I’ve done for the past two years.

“Okay, everyone, listen up,” called Carrie from downstairs as she made a big entrance into the office, with a Santa hat on her head and carrying a red plastic bucket with gold tinsel around the top. “Has everyone put their name in for the Secret Santa draw? If not, you’d better do it now, ‘cause we’re gonna draw names in the next five minutes.”

There was a quick shuffling as the last couple of people took sheets of paper from Carrie, scribbled down their names and folded the sheets before dropping them into the bucket.

“Okay, then, everyone ready?”

“Ooh, I hope I get Jessica from HR,” piped up Sam eagerly from his desk next to Max’s. “I know exactly what to get her.”

“Oh, I bet you do,” smirked Max with a wink.

Jessica, the tall blonde who worked downstairs in Human Resources was known for being rather flirtatious and adventurous when it came to the opposite sex and I could just guess what was going through in Sam’s head at the prospect of pulling her name out of the draw.

“Right then, here we go,” said Carrie as she moved around the room, offering the bucket to everyone in turn. “Now, you all know the rules: one, no telling anyone who you’ve got – this is strictly confidential; two, the maximum spend limit is fifty dollars; and three, we’ll be giving out the presents at the Christmas party on the twenty-third, so I need everyone’s gifts in by the twenty-second.”

There were a few half-hearted murmurs of agreement, as everyone focused on unfolding their pieces of paper to discover whose name they had picked. My heart sank and I tried not to let my reaction show on my face as I opened mine and read the black scrawl written there: Bob Johnson.

Great.

Bob was a stout, grey-haired man of about sixty years old who spent his days sitting at the desk in the corner hand-writing the obituaries. He’d been with the paper since it was established over twenty-five years ago and had yet to learn how to use a computer properly… which meant that someone else always had to type up his work ready for publication. He wasn’t a bag guy, as such, but he was kind of standoffish and grumpy and no one really knew all that much about him; which meant it was going to be very difficult to find a suitable Secret Santa present for him.

Glancing around the office, I saw everyone else trying to be discreet about their Secret Santa choices. It was obvious that some of them were desperate to discuss who they had with their friends, but were trying very hard not to open their mouths.

“So?” hissed Maria, from my right. “Who have you got?”

“I’m not telling you,” I retorted. “It’s against the rules, remember?”

“Aww, come on, Liz…”

“No way,” I chuckled at her pleading expression. “It’s a Secret Santa, remember?.”

“Spoilsport,” she pouted, but rolled her eyes and turned back to her desk with a sigh.

Following suit, I turned back to my desk, folding up the paper with Bob’s name on and sliding it into my jacket pocket as I tried to figure out what on earth I was going to buy for him. As I began organising my paperwork ready to start the day I glanced up to find Max sitting at his desk across the room, watching me with an odd look on his face. I narrowed my eyes and shot him a pointed glare, not appreciating being ogled in the office, especially by one of the three sex-crazed idiots who occupied that side of the room, and he lowered his gaze, returning to his computer screen.

***

Tuesday December 15th 2009

“So, I was thinking,” started Maria, as we stood in line at the cafeteria downstairs waiting to buy lunch. “That I want to take Michael to Midnight Mass at my parents’ church on Christmas Eve.”

“Yeah?” I wondered, reaching for a plate as we moved along the line.

“Yeah,” she nodded. “But I’m not sure he’s gonna go for it.”

I frowned, “Why not?”

“Well, he’s not very religious and I’m not sure he’ll want to go with me,” explained Maria as we grabbed some food and took it to the cashier. “But at the same time, it’s a family tradition and I want to share it with him, you know?”

“Yeah,” I agreed, carrying my tray over to our usual table. Maria followed me and we took a seat. “I get that.”

I reached for my fork and dug into the pasta on my plate, trying to ignore the tightness I felt in my chest at the thought of Christmas.

Maria frowned and then leaned over to pat my arm sympathetically, “You okay? I know the holidays can be hard for you.”

“I’m fine,” I brushed her off with a shake of my head as I concentrated on my food. “Look,” I changed the subject back to Michael again, “I really think that if you explain why going to Midnight Mass is so important to you and why you want Michael to go with you, he’ll be fine with it?”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah, I mean, if he knows how important it is to you, I’m sure he’ll agree to go.”

“Yeah… yeah, I think you might be right,” she nodded, looking a bit more chirpy now as she tucked into her own lunch. “Thanks, Liz.”

“No problem.” I gave her a small smile.

We ate in relative silence for the next few minutes before Maria spoke up again, “Hey, you know what I caught on TV last night? A Christmas Story! You remember that film?”

“Yeah, I do,” I nodded, a wistful smile appearing on my face. “I used to watch that film every year when I was a kid. God, you know what I always loved about it? That scene right at the end when Ralphie’s Mom and Dad sit by the window with just the Christmas lights on and watch the snow falling outside.”

“Really? That’s your favourite part? Not the Ovaltine or ‘You’ll shoot your eye out’ or the little brother with the coat and he can’t put his arms down?”

“Yeah,” I let out a soft sigh as I remembered the warm feeling I always used to get when I watched it. “When I was little, it always made me think of my parents and how in love and happy they were together, but then Daniel died and they split up and things were just...they were never the same, you know?”

“I know, honey,” Maria said, reaching over and patting my arm in support. I moved away by taking another bite of my sandwich. Pity wasn’t what I was going for right then.

“Anyway,” I continued, “there was just something about that scene that I really liked. The sense of family, of togetherness, you know? The tree was lit, the boiler was quiet, the next door neighbour’s dogs were asleep. Everything was perfect there for a moment. Every time it snowed at Christmas, I felt like that kind of moment was out there being had by some other family right at that instant. It’s sort of stupid, but that’s why it’s my favourite part of the movie. Like, maybe if I can capture that again someday, with the snow and the family and the tree and the calmness, maybe things can start to be good again.”

“Aww, Liz…” teased Maria, although when I looked up from my food to give her a dirty look, I saw a softness in her eyes and a small smile playing on her lips. “Well I hope that one day you can have your own Christmas lights and snow moment.”

“Yeah, well,” I rolled my eyes, “I don’t even have a tree this year and as for the guy, well, you know…. So it doesn’t look like it’s gonna happen anytime soon.”

“Hey, don’t be so hard on yourself, Lizzie. I bet there are plenty of men out there who’d jump at the chance to be with you.”

“God, that makes me sound like I’m easy or something, Maria,” I scoffed.

“No, not easy, Liz,” she just smiled at me secretively and shook her head, before turning back to her food again.

I just watched her curiously for a moment, trying to figure out what she had meant by that, but her attention was solely focused on her lunch now and I gave a sigh, realising that I wasn’t going to get any more out of her today.

TBC…
Last edited by Heavenli24 on Sat Jan 02, 2010 5:49 am, edited 3 times in total.

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Heavenli24
Obsessed Roswellian
Posts: 585
Joined: Tue Feb 22, 2005 9:41 am

Re: Christmas Lights and Snow Moments (AU M/L TEEN) Pt 1, 12/24

Post by Heavenli24 » Sat Dec 26, 2009 3:21 am

Hey everyone, hope you all had a great Christmas :).

Thank you for your feedback :):

L-J-L 76 - Thanks :).

Rowedog - Thanks :).

nitpick23 - Thanks :).
Yeah, what do you get for someone you don't really know?
I had a similar dilemma this year - I had to buy a Secret Santa present for a Muslim pharmacist who I don't know very well at all! (everyone usually takes part in our Secret Santa, even if they don't celebrate Christmas themselves)
Seems like Maria seems to know something that Liz doesn't. Are Max and Michael friends in this story and she's overheard them talk or is Maria just her usual perceptive self?
It's only a short story (and isn't quite finished yet) and Michael's not really gonna feature in it other than being 'Maria's boyfriend'. Maybe Maria's just noticed something that Liz hasn't? :P

mary mary - Thanks :).

Natalie36 - Thanks :).

Alien_Friend - Thanks :).
Secret Santa I love it! I'm so glad you got a chance to write this and you're posting. Awesome start. My heart goes out to Liz, it's no fun being a lone on Christmas.
I nearly didn't get it written because I've hardly had any time to do it - it's been a big rush to write it the last couple of weeks!

begonia9508 - Thanks :). Yeah, it must be hard being alone for Christmas. A couple of my colleagues are in a similar position - one is from Malaysia and couldn't get enough time off for Christmas to justify a trip home and the other only has his brother around because their parents live in France and he hasn't got the time off to go there either :(.


***


Part Two

Friday December 18th 2009

I rolled my eyes at the boxes in front of me. Why on earth did I have to be the one to volunteer for this? Oh, yes, because Carrie asked me… and used those puppy-dog eyes that somehow everyone in this office was susceptible to. I could be such a pushover sometimes. With a sigh, I piled a couple of the boxes into my arms and made my way upstairs to the office with them. It was just after five p.m. and everyone else had already left for the weekend, but of course I had to agree to organise the office Christmas decorations this year, so I was still here and about to embark on a Friday evening of putting up the tree and making the office look festive.

Reaching the top of the stairs, I turned around and pushed against the door with my shoulder, entering the office backwards as I struggled not to drop the heavy boxes in my arms.

“Oof,” I gasped as I accidentally knocked into the ancient coat hanger just inside the door. “Shit.”

With an annoyed roll of my eyes, I dumped the boxes down on the floor near the water cooler and then, without even a glance around the office, headed back down the stairs for some more. After three trips, I had all of the boxes upstairs and was ready to begin my decorating challenge. However, as I stood over the large pile, contemplating my starting point with my hands on my hips, I suddenly heard a rustling sound behind me. With a startled gasp, I whipped around to find someone sitting at one of the desks along the wall, looking at something on their computer screen.

It was Max Evans.

My eyes locked with his and we simply stared at each other for a moment, before he gave me a slight smile and a nod.

“Hi, Liz.”

“Max?” I frowned. “What are you doing here? I thought everyone had gone home already.”

He raised an eyebrow and smirked, “I could ask you the same thing.”

“Carrie roped me into putting up the Christmas decorations this year,” I explained with a roll of my eyes. “Apparently everyone else is out partying on the last Friday night before Christmas.”

“And you’re not?”

“No,” I replied shortly and giving a shrug, not really wishing to get into my personal Christmas issues with him. “What about you? I thought you always got out of here the second the clock struck five… especially on the weekend.”

He gave a shrug, before letting his eyes roam across the computer screen in front of him, “I just have some stuff to work on.”

“Oh, okay,” I murmured, not really knowing what else to say.

He was focused on his screen again now and I was beginning to feel feeling slightly uncomfortable just standing there, so I let out a soft sigh and then turned back to the pile of boxes again. Kneeling down on the floor beside them, I began opening boxes. I found the small office tree in one box, decorations in another and finally the tree lights in a third. Looking around the office space, I quickly decided that the best place for the tree would be over by the window, so one by one, I carried the three boxes across the room and started to get to work.

However, putting up an artificial tree was harder than I expected and ten minutes later, I was still struggling with it. It also didn’t help that the office was almost silent, save for the furious clicking of keys on Max’s keyboard, and the quiet was making me self-conscious. Eventually, I let out a sigh and stood up, walking over to the small radio on Maria’s desk.

“Do you mind if I turn the radio on?” I asked Max, who was frowning at his computer screen.

“What?” he muttered distractedly, barely glancing up from the screen.

“The radio,” I clarified, a little puzzled by his serious demeanour; I’d never seen him with anything less than a smirk on his face. “You mind if I turn it on?”

“Oh,” he shrugged. “No, go ahead.”

“Thanks.”

I pressed the ‘on’ button and the sounds of ‘Let It Snow’ rang out through the office. There, that was better; something to get me into the Christmas mood. I crossed the room and settled back onto the floor, determined not to let the tree get the better of me this time. I had just about got it standing a few minutes later when a groan came from Max’s desk.

“Dammit!”

I turned my head to see what was wrong and found Max with his head in his hands, glaring at his screen in frustration.

“What’s wrong?” I couldn’t help but ask.

“God damn fucking article,” he replied angrily, letting out a heavy sigh before looking over at me. He shook his head, “Sorry, just having some issues with it.”

I nodded, “Believe me, I know what that’s like. Need any help?”

I didn’t really know why I was offering, since it wasn’t like we were on good terms with each other normally.

He sighed, “Nah, it’s okay. I’m not gonna get any more done tonight anyway.”

I nodded, before turning my attention to the box of tree lights, raising an eyebrow at the tangled mess inside. Reaching in and pulling out a knotted bundle, I made a face.

“God, this is gonna take forever.”

With a deep breath, I dove in and attempted to begin the untangling process. After five unsuccessful minutes though, I heard a chuckle behind me and I whipped around to see Max watching me, shaking his head in amusement.

“Hey, what’s so funny?” I frowned.

“Nothin’” he denied with a smile. “Just… come on, let me help.”

He got up from his desk and walked over to where I was sitting on the floor, tangled lights in hand, and planted himself down beside me. Before I had a chance to figure out if he was being nice or just trying to get a rise out of me, he had taken the lights from my hands and was twisting and turning the cord to try to untangle it.

“Okay, we’re getting there,” he announced a few moments later, after he managed to free a short length of lights.

I couldn’t help but watch him as he continued to work on the cord; his expression was concentrated, his tongue peeking out from between his lips as his long fingers gently coaxed at the knotted string of lights. My heart skipped a beat as it struck me how beautiful he really was. Of course, I’d always known he was attractive, but I never really thought of him as a potential love interest before. For a start, his personality— or at least what I’d seen of it so far—wasn’t exactly something to be desired. He always seemed to be much more interested in pissing around and making inappropriate jokes with his friends than in actually taking life seriously.

“Hey,” his soft voice interrupted her thoughts and her head snapped up from watching his hands to find him looking at her with a small smile. “Can you grab the rest of the lights and lay them out on the floor so I can see what we’re dealing with?”

“Oh, um, sure,” I nod, slightly startled at his use of ‘we’ to refer to my decorating job.

I reached into the box and began pulling out the lights, attempting to lay them out in as untangled a state as I could.

“Man, who put these away last year?” muttered Max as he eyed the mess on the floor. “They could have at least made an effort not to stuff everything in untidily so that it got into such a mess.”

I smirked, “I never realised you were a neat freak. I mean, just look at the state of your desk.”

“Hey,” he frowned. “I’ll have you know that my desk is in perfect organisation, thank you very much.”

“Right,” I murmured, glancing over at the haphazard piles of papers strewn across his workspace with a grimace. “Okay.”

Max just smiled and returned to sorting out the lights again. I reached for some of the ones laid out on the floor and we worked together to make them tree-worthy. After plugging them in and checking that none of the bulbs were blown, we began winding them around the tree. The office was mainly dark and apart from the multi-coloured Christmas lights we were holding, the only other light came from Max’s desk lamp and from the ceiling light near the door.

“Crap,” I muttered, as I tried and failed to position a section of lights high up on the tree. “Being short sucks sometimes.”

“Here,” murmured Max as he moved to my side and gave me a soft smile that for some reason made my breath catch in my throat. “Let me.”

“Oh, thanks,” I replied as he reached for the lights in my hand.

But he didn’t get any further than that because his hand suddenly brushed against mine and we both froze. I stifled a surprised gasp and my eyes flew back to his only to find him looking right at me. There were several seconds of silence, during which time I found I couldn’t tear my eyes away from him; those amber-green eyes of his just drew me in and captured my attention completely and despite the fact that I’d never even looked at Max in a romantic way before, I couldn’t deny the warmth that suddenly spread through my body in response to his gaze.

“Sorry,” he said, his voice just barely above a whisper.

“S’okay,” I managed, finally forcing myself to break eye contact and move my hand away from his.

“Okay, so where do you want these?” he asked a moment later as I stood looking up at the tree.

“Just up here, please,” I told him; pointing to the area I was planning to put the lights.

As Max leans up to wrap the string of lights around the tree, I moved around to the side and glanced out of the window.

“Oh, hey, it’s snowing!” I exclaimed suddenly, my eyes widening in surprise as I watched the large flakes swirling outside the window.

“Is it?” came Max’s voice from the front of the tree.

I nodded, even though he wasn’t looking at me, “Looks like it’s coming down fast.”

Max fiddled with the lights for a couple of seconds more before he moved round to the side of the tree. I was still looking out of the window, but I could feel his presence as he came to a stop just behind me.

“Makes it even more festive now, huh?” he said. “What with the lights and the snow.”

His words struck a chord with me and I frowned slightly as I recalled the conversation I had with Maria at lunch the other day, about wanting my Christmas Story lights and snow moment. A wave of sadness washed over me as I was abruptly reminded that I was in fact nowhere near experiencing a moment like that for myself.

“Yeah,” I murmured softly, not trusting my voice to remain steady if I spoke any louder.

I shook my head quickly and stepped away from the window, turning back to the tree again. Together, Max and I finished winding the lights around the tree and then I dove into the remaining boxes to find some tinsel and baubles to further decorate the tree with. Max continued to help me with my task until all the decorations had been put on the tree. I wasn’t really sure why he chose to stay and help instead of heading home, especially considering that I’d never been particularly pleasant to him during our time working together, but I wasn’t going to complain. The more help I had, the quicker the job would get done.

Once the tree was finished, we hung the last few decorations around the office and then stepped back to admire our handiwork.

“It’s looking pretty good,” mused Max, nodding in appreciation.

“Yeah, it is,” I agreed. “Thank you for helping out. Sorry if I kept you from enjoying your weekend though.”

“Hey, don’t worry about it,” he shook his head and then turned to me, his eyes catching mine as he smiled, “It was my pleasure.”

We stood in silence for a few seconds, before I moved across the room to my desk, where my coat and bag were.

“I guess I should be heading home now,” I said.

“Yeah,” I heard Max’s voice from where he was still standing in the middle of the office. “The snow looks pretty heavy now though. Are you gonna be okay getting home?”

“What?” I murmured, moving over towards the window again. “Oh, no, I’m sure I’ll be fine…”

As I peered out of the window though, I realised what Max was talking about. The snow was falling fast and beginning to pile up on the streets. It was looking rather deep already, and there was not a soul, nor a cab or bus, to be seen.

“Uh, on second thoughts…” I shook my head. “Maybe not.”

“Hey,” he said, from behind me. “Why don’t I walk you?”

I shook my head and turned to face him, about to protest when he held his hand up to stop me.

“It’s no problem, really and honestly, it’ll be safer if there’s two of us.”

“Oh, okay,” I had to agree. “That makes sense.”

“Great. Let me just grab my stuff and we’ll head out.”

I perched on the edge of my desk while Max moved over to his and gathered up his things. Five minutes later, we had turned out all the lights and were heading downstairs and out of the office building.

***

“This snow is crazy,” I muttered as I gingerly made my way along the sidewalk outside the office. “I can’t believe so much has fallen in such a short amount of time.”

“I know,” replied Max, falling into step beside me.

We took our time walking slowly along the road, mostly because my work shoes were not really cut out for walking in the snow and I kept tripping over my feet, so Max had to reach out and steady me every couple of minutes. Unfortunately, the snow wasn’t showing any signs of letting up and by the time we’d made it four blocks, my teeth were chattering and my extremities were beginning to turn numb. Looking up at Max, I found he wasn’t doing much better, his cheeks bright red and his shoulders shaking in the cold wind.

“Okay, maybe this wasn’t such a good idea,” I admitted, coming to a stop and turning to face him. “It’s freezing out here and neither of us are dressed warm enough for trekking through the snow.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” he replied, rubbing his hands together and blowing on them to try and warm up before glancing back down the way we came. “But it’s too far to walk back to the office now.”

“Yeah,” I agreed softly. “I know.”

Max glanced around at our surroundings, his eyes roaming the scenery as if he was trying to figure out a solution to our predicament. I watched his face as his gaze stopped on something and a hint of a smile graced his features.

“Hey, there’s a café over there,” he pointed across the street. “How about we go get a coffee to warm up and see if we can wait out this snow?”

“Sounds good,” I replied with a grateful smile, clenching and unclenching my cold fingers in an attempt to warm them up. “Let’s go.”

Carefully, we trudged over to the café and I let out a sigh of relief as Max opened the door for me and I was assaulted by warm air as I entered the building. He led me over to a small table against the wall and I took a seat, reaching for the small menu as he joined me at the table. The café was mostly empty, so it was only a couple of minutes before the waitress came over to take our orders. I decided on a hot chocolate with whipped cream – the perfect winter-warmer – and a blueberry muffin, while Max just ordered a coffee.

“So…” I started, when the waitress left our table to fill the order.

I was at a loss as to how to act now. Sitting in a café with Max Evans on a Friday night wasn’t exactly a situation I’d ever expected to be in.

“So…” he repeated, his lips curling up into an amused smirk.

“Is it me, or is this weird?”

He frowned in confusion, “What do you mean?”

”Well, you… me… a café?” I tried to elaborate. “I mean, it just seems, I dunno…”

“You mean it’s weird because you’ve spent the last two years rolling your eyes and glaring at me from your desk across the room?” he clarified.

My eyes widened at his bluntness and I struggled to reply, “No! Well, I–I mean… it wasn’t that I…”

He chuckled and I found myself relaxing a little.

“Liz, it’s okay,” he assured me. “I know what you think of me… and the guys.”

“I, uh…” I gulped, feeling my face flush with embarrassment. “I didn’t mean…”

“You think we spend all our time messing around and not doing any work,” he added, a smile playing on his lips. “And you know, you might well be right.”

“Yeah?” I replied sceptically, surprised that he would actually be admitting this to me instead of trying to convince me that he took his job seriously.

“Yeah,” he gave a slight chuckle. “I admit it doesn’t look like I get that much done in the office, but I assure you that I have never missed a deadline and so far, I haven’t turned in a bad article yet.”

I had to nod in agreement to that – I’d seen some of his articles before and I had to admit that they were pretty good.

“Only problem is, I find it hard to concentrate in an office full of people – I get easily distracted – so I tend to catch up on the work after hours.” He rolled his eyes then, “You have to admit, though, that covering the local amateur sports events isn’t exactly the most enthralling career in the world.”

Just then, the waitress reappeared with our drinks and my muffin, placing them down on the table in front of us, before disappearing back into the kitchen area again.

”So, what’s your motivation?” I couldn’t help but ask as I sipped from my mug of hot chocolate. “Why stick with the job if you don’t get enjoyment out of it?”

“I didn’t say I didn’t enjoy it,” he countered. “It’s just not quite my dream career. But the paper is quite well-known around here and it’s a great starting-off point to build up my experience.”

“So, what is your dream job?” I asked, my curiosity piqued now.

He looked out of the window at the falling snow, his expression wistful, “I want to write for Sports Illustrated.”

“Wow, Sports Illustrated… that’s pretty ambitious,” I murmured in awe.

He turned to look at me again, his lips twitching in amusement, “Are you saying I don’t stand a chance?”

“No, no…” I sucked in a breath, quickly trying to backtrack on my words. “That’s not what I’m saying. I just meant that it’s not easy to get a job like that.”

He chuckled, presumably at my uncomfortable expression, “I know. As I said, it’s my dream job. I have no idea what my chances are of actually getting into that field though.”

A thought suddenly occurred to me and I couldn’t help but smirk at him, “Hang on, are you sure you don’t just want the job for the opportunity to be involved in the swimsuit edition?”

“Oh yeah,” he deadpanned with a grin, “that’s exactly why I want the job.”

I couldn’t help but laugh at his expression, “Ah ha, I knew it!”

“I know, best job in the world, right?” he joked. “Seriously, though, it would be an amazing opportunity if I could get there.”

“Well, good luck with it,” I said encouragingly.

“Thanks,” he smiled and his eyes met mine again, holding the gaze for several seconds, before he relaxed against his seat and changed the subject. “So, have you bought your Secret Santa present yet?”

I rolled my eyes and let out a groan, “No. I have absolutely no idea what to buy.”

“Who do you have?” he asked curiously.

“I can’t tell you,” I shook my head. “It’s supposed to be a secret.”

“Aww, come on,” he quirked an eyebrow. “Maybe I can help with present ideas?”

“I don’t think…”

“Liz,” he said firmly. “Are you, or are you not completely stuck for present ideas?”

I sighed, “Okay, fine. I’m totally stuck.”

“Well, last year I had Mavis Young,” he made a face as he mentioned the timid forty-year-old accountant who worked in the downstairs office. “And the year before, I got Bob Johnson.”

“Really?” I asked, as my heart skipped a beat at the mention of Bob’s name. “Well, okay… I kinda have Bob this year.”

“Oh, man,” he muttered with a smirk, as he took a sip of coffee. “Good luck.”

“Hey,” I resisted the urge to swat his arm with my hand. “I thought you were going to help me?”

“Okay, fine, I’ll help you,” he agreed eventually.

I tucked into my muffin as Max began describing what he knew of Bob Johnson and what he’d bought for the man two years ago. Fifteen minutes later, our drinks were finished, the snow was beginning to let up and I had a better idea of what I could buy for my Secret Santa. The waitress brought over our bill and despite my protests, Max insisted on paying. I felt a little awkward about it, but as I prepared to go outside and face the cold once again, I realised there was little I could do about it.

Once outside, Max insisted on walking me all the way home and we made the fairly short journey in relative, but not uncomfortable, silence. As we reached my apartment building and said our goodbyes, I couldn’t help but watch his retreating back as he walked down the street away from me, my lower arm tingling slightly from where he’d given it a gentle squeeze before turning to leave. It had been an interesting and enlightening evening, but I had to admit that Max Evans was still something of an enigma to me.

TBC…

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Heavenli24
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Re: Christmas Lights and Snow Moments (AU M/L TEEN) Pt 2, 12/26

Post by Heavenli24 » Wed Dec 30, 2009 4:14 am

Hey, everyone, sorry about the delay between parts - I was going to post part 3 on Monday, but then I got sick and I've been in bed with a stomach bug for the last 2 days and wasn't up to posting :(.

Thank you for your feedback :):

begonia9508 - Thanks :).
Hope you had a nice and peaceful Xmas!....
It was nice and peaceful until I had to go to work Saturday and Sunday and then I got sick Sunday night :P!
Loved how Max approached Liz and how they started to talk and know each other! Was funny that he already saw that she rolled her eyes at him!! :lol:
Which means he has been already observing her closely..... :wink:
Wondering how it will evolve!? :shock: :D
It will start to evolve very soon... just keep on reading to find out how ;)...

Alien_Friend - Thanks :).
He definitely has some layers. I love the flow of them getting to know each other. Max seems like a nice guy.
Thanks - yeah, I think Liz has definitely underestimated Max in the past :).
I shall be looking forward to seeing this continue to unfold when I get back from my trip in the new year.
Hope you have a great trip :).

Natalie36 - Thanks :).
aww to sweet i wonder if max has liz :D
We'll find out in this part...

nitpick23 - Thanks :).
Great second part. As Liz is getting to know Max she's learning he's not the ass she thought he was.
Yeah, she's finding out more about him now :).

mary mary - Thanks :).
Oh this is so much fun..especially decorating a tree with the snow falling...I remember the days. :D :D
I wish I could say I remember the days, but as we only get snow maybe once a year (and even then only an inch or two that doesn't settle) and usually in February, I've never decorated a tree when snow has been falling!

Lairabehr4 - Thanks, hun :).
I really like where you're going with this story. It's sweet but poignant as well.

I can't wait to read more!
Glad you're enjoying it :).

Dreamerlaure - Thanks :).
I love where this is going!

It's a cute premise, and if my suspicions are right, I'll bet Max is her Secret Santa.

Can't wait for the next bit ;)
Thanks :)... keep on reading to find out who has who in the Secret Santa :).

***


Part Three

Wednesday 23rd December 2009

I arrived at the restaurant for the office Christmas party with a slight feeling of trepidation. What I was worried about, I wasn’t really sure, but for some reason it felt like the evening was important somehow. With Max’s help, I had managed to purchase what I hoped was a suitable gift for Bob over the weekend and I’d turned it in to Carrie yesterday.

The last couple of days at work had been a little strange. While Maria and everyone else were their usual selves, something had changed between Max and I. Instead of making crude jokes and throwing balled-up pieces of paper at everyone for a laugh, ever since Monday morning, he’d taken to just sitting at his desk relatively quietly, his attention focused on his computer screen. Not to say that he didn’t still mess around with Sam and Pete, but his behaviour was more subdued somehow, and I wondered if it had anything to do with our conversation in the café on Friday night. In return, I hadn’t rolled my eyes in his direction once in the last three days… mostly because he hadn’t actually done anything to annoy me, but also because I no longer felt the need to do so.

“Hey, there you are, girl!” exclaimed Maria as she approached me from across the restaurant, cocktail in hand. “I thought you were never gonna get here.”

“Hey, Ria,” I smile, before rolling my eyes. “Yeah, my cab was late and then we got stuck in traffic.”

“Well, you’re here now,” she replied with a grin as she linked her arm through mine. “Let’s get you a drink.”

As we headed over to the bar, my gaze swept around the room, taking everything in. The restaurant was decorated with lights and streamers and I could see two long tables just off to the side which I assumed were set up for our party. As we reached the bar, I noticed a small gathering of people huddled at the end of it, including the infamous Jessica from HR, Sam, Pete and Max. As Maria leaned towards the bartender to order me a cocktail, my eyes caught Max’s and he gave me a small smile and a nod, holding his beer bottle up in greeting. I returned the smile, but then had to look away as Maria handed me my drink and then dragged me over to another group of our colleagues.

About twenty minutes later, Carrie appeared in front of the bar and announced that it was time for the food, so Maria and I made our way over to one of the tables and took our seats.

“Oh, great,” murmured Maria, as we got settled and I browsed the wine list. “Look who’s decided to sit near us.”

I glanced up from the menu just in time to see Pete sitting opposite Maria and Max sliding into the seat directly opposite me. Contrary to Maria’s obvious distaste for our dinner companions, I found that I really wasn’t too bothered by it, especially not when Max caught my eye and gave me quick smile before turning his head to laugh at something Pete was muttering to him. Before the waiters began serving the meal, Carrie called for quiet and informed us that the Secret Santa presents would be distributed now.

One by one, all the presents were handed out to their recipients and as Bob Johnson was handed the gift I’d bought for him, Max gave me a discreet thumbs-up and a wink. I nodded, but didn’t get a chance to react further as a rectangular box-shaped gift was placed down in front of me. When all the presents had been handed out, Carrie gave the word and we all tore into our gifts. Maria got hers open first and grabbed my arm excitedly to show me what her Secret Santa had bought for her – a gift voucher to her favourite shoe store, a cute pair of earrings and a box of chocolates. I didn’t know who’d pulled her name out of the hat, but if I had to guess, I would say it was Kate, the girl who sat at the desk on the other side of Maria. The two of them were always gossiping about shoes and jewellery.

Across the table, I witnessed Max chuckling at Pete’s gift – a Victoria’s Secret calendar, a book of dirty jokes and a bottle of whisky – and then grinning at his own present when he pulled it out… a Christmas-themed Simpsons tie, a book on sports writing and a pair of novelty boxers. From the high-fives across the table, I gathered that his deskmate Sam had purchased the present for him.

“Liz? Aren’t you going to open yours?” Maria’s voice startled me and I pulled my gaze away from Max and Pete.

“What? Oh, yeah, I am.”

Looking down at my gift, I undid the wrapping paper to find a cardboard box underneath. Unsure what to expect inside, I gingerly lifted the lid… only to find a white envelope and a neat coil of … Christmas lights?

I frowned in confusion; was this the right present? It looked more like a leftover box from my decorating adventure in the office last week. I lifted the wrapping paper to check and sure enough, my name was printed on the label. Turning back to the box again, I carefully lifted out the envelope and opened it, pulling out a small Christmas card. As I opened up the card, a small piece of paper slipped out. I picked it up and frowned again as I read the words printed on it. It was a pre-paid voucher for a live Christmas tree from a local tree farm.

“What the…?” I murmured in puzzlement.

I turned my attention back to the Christmas card in my other hand, hoping that the person had written something inside, and sure enough, there was a short note:

‘Maybe now you can have your own Christmas lights and snow moment’

Well, that was strange.

“So… what did you get?” wondered Maria, as she tried to catch a glimpse of what I was holding.

I chuckled, “Like you don’t already know.”

She frowned, “What do you mean?”

Of course, it was obvious: Maria was my Secret Santa. After all, she was the only person I’d divulged my Christmas lights fantasy to.

“The voucher for a tree? The lights? Come on, Maria, it’s so obvious it was you,” I elaborated quietly. “You’re my Secret Santa… although I’m not sure what you thought I could do about the guy to share it with part.”

“Liz,” she was looking at me like I’d grown a second head or something. “I really have no idea what you’re talking about. I had Carrie for my Secret Santa.”

“Huh,” I mumbled a reply, thoroughly confused now.

Maria was pretty easy to read and I could always tell if she was lying… and she definitely wasn’t lying now.

So, if Maria didn’t buy my gift… then who did?

I was saved from trying to puzzle it out any longer by the arrival of the food, but as I tucked in to the delicious starter and sipped on my cocktail, I couldn’t stop my thoughts from drifting back to my present. More than once during the meal, I looked up to find Max watching me with a small smile. Each time, I returned it with a gentle smile of my own and then returned to my food, not really thinking anything of it except that perhaps we’d found a new understanding between ourselves after the weekend.

The dinner finished up with a delicious chocolate fudge dessert and steaming mugs of coffee, and then after the plates had been cleared away, the music in the restaurant was turned up and several of my colleagues began to dance in the bar area. At first, I remained in my seat at the table, feeling rather self-conscious about getting up and dancing in the middle of a restaurant, but Maria was quick to change that.

“Come on, Liz. You and I are dancing,” she announced firmly, grabbing my hand and pulling me away from the table.

After a quick stop at the bar to purchase more cocktails, she dragged me out onto the small makeshift dance floor and we joined a small group of our officemates in dancing to cheesy Christmas songs. It started with Wham!’s Last Christmas, then moved on to Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas. By the time Paul McCartney’s Wonderful Christmastime was winding down, my cocktail glass was empty and my feet were starting to hurt. As I made my way over to the bar again, I cursed the fact that Maria had persuaded me to wear these very high heels tonight.

“Hey,” came a voice from my left as I leaned against the bar counter to relieve the pressure on my feet.

I looked up to find Max looking down at me with a gentle smile, “Hey, Max.”

“Good night, huh?”

I nodded, “Yeah. The food was awesome.”

“Yeah, it was pretty good, wasn’t it?”

We stood at the bar in silence for a few moments, as Max propped his elbow up against the counter and I lifted my feet off the ground one at a time to ease the discomfort of my shoes. I just about sighed with relief when the up-tempo music ceased and the slow strains of Lonely This Christmas by Mud wafted out through the speakers.

“Would you like to dance?” offered Max, leaning down so that his mouth was close to my ear.

I shivered slightly at his close proximity as I nodded, managing a soft ‘yes’, and he held out a hand to me in invitation. He led me across the small space to the edge of the dance floor. For an awkward moment, we stood facing each other, neither of us really sure what to do next, but then Max solved the problem by reaching for me and slipping his paced my hands on his shoulders. Max and I had only really been civil to each other for a few days and this was the closest we’d ever been, so the moment was slightly uncomfortable, yet it was also just… right, I guess.

Max tightened his grip on my waist slightly, which caused me to look up at him in curiosity… only to find him watching me with a serious expression, his eyes boring into mine, dark and intense. I could sense that we were sharing ‘a moment’ and while part of me welcomed it, the rest of me wasn’t entirely sure how to react under his gaze. So I did the only thing I could think of to break the sudden tension.

“So, um, did you like your Secret Santa present?”

He looked confused for a second, before he blinked and then nodded, a grin spreading across his face, “Yeah. Especially the tie. The Simpsons rule, man.”

I found myself laughing at his response and I shook my head at him in amusement.

“What about you? Did you like your present?”

I stopped laughing and felt my brows furrow, “Yeah… well, I guess I’m not really sure what it means… and it’s strange because…”

“Because?” his expression is guarded, but I’m not really sure why.

“Well, the gift is kind of meaningful… except the only person who knows the meaning of it is Maria; but she told me she wasn’t my Secret Santa, so I just don’t… get it.”

“What if I told you that Maria isn’t the only person who knows the meaning?” he looks kind of nervous now. “And also that the present isn’t complete yet?”

I looked up at him in confusion, “What do you mean?”

“I’m your Secret Santa, Liz.”

“What?” my eyes widened in shock.

Max is my Secret Santa? But how did he…?

“I might have overheard you and Maria talking in the cafeteria last week,” he admitted sheepishly. “And I knew right then what I should get for you.” He gazed down into my eyes, his expression making my heart skip a beat, “I wanted to give you your very own ‘Christmas lights and snow’ moment, like in the film you were talking about.”

“Max…” I murmured in shock, as I felt tears pricking my eyes at his sincere response. “But how… why…?”

He let out a soft sigh, one of his hands moving from my waist and reaching up to tuck my hair behind my ear, his fingers brushing against my cheek as he did so.

“I like you, Liz,” he admitted gently, the confession making my chest tighten with emotion. “I have for a long time; but I didn’t think I ever stood a chance with you.”

“Max,” I shook my head, wanting to assure him that that wasn’t the case… at least, not anymore. “That’s not true.”

“It’s not?” he questioned softly and I shook my head in response. He gave me a smile, “I heard you tell Maria that you were going to be alone for Christmas; that you didn’t even have a tree this year, let alone any lights, and I wanted to give that moment to you.”

“Thank you,” I swallowed, touched by his thoughtfulness. “That means so much to me. But… well, there’s still one thing missing.”

“Oh,” he gave me a small, secretive smile. “You mean, the ‘family to share it with’ part?”

“Yeah,” I nodded awkwardly.

“Well, I know it’s a little presumptuous, but I was hoping you might consider spending Christmas with me this year? I’m alone here too – my family is out on the West Coast and can’t get back there this year. Liz,” he lowered his head closer to mine, stroking my cheek with his thumb, “I want to give you that Christmas Story moment you’ve always wanted. If you’ll let me, that is.”

“Wow,” was all that escaped from my lips. “Max… I don’t know what to say.”

“Say yes,” he responded with a grin. “I’ll even take you shopping for that tree and help you put the lights on it if you like. And it’s still snowing out there, so that part’s covered too.”

Instead of replying right away, I let my hands slide around his neck as I looked up at him seriously, “I like you too, Max. I just didn’t realise that I did until a few days ago, so if you don’t mind, I’d like to take this slow?”

“Of course,” he nodded quickly.

“Can we spend some time together tomorrow?” I asked softly. “Get to know each other a bit better before anything else happens?”

“Sure, of course. Whatever you want, Liz,” he nodded again, with a smile. “But I’m still getting that tree for you, okay?”

“Okay,” I agreed, giving a small chuckle. “Thank you.”

“My pleasure,” he replied.

The conversation ceased then, but we continued to dance together, a new closeness between us now, even if it was only a tentative one. As I swayed with him, I couldn’t help but feel slightly overwhelmed by the events of the evening. I almost couldn’t believe that Max Evans would do something so… amazing… for me, or that he wanted to share something so intimate and personal with me. But at the same time, it also felt so right that he could be the one I might share my special moment with. How had I made it through two whole years working in the same office as him and not realised what a sweet guy he really was… or that he might actually be the ‘right guy’ I’d been looking for all this time.

Instead of dreading the holiday like usual, suddenly I couldn’t wait for Christmas.

TBC…

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Heavenli24
Obsessed Roswellian
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Joined: Tue Feb 22, 2005 9:41 am

Re: Christmas Lights and Snow Moments (AU M/L TEEN) Pt 3, 12/30

Post by Heavenli24 » Sat Jan 02, 2010 5:48 am

Happy New Year, everyone :D!

Thank you for your feedback :):

Natalie36 - Thanks :).

begonia9508 - Thanks :). She is lucky, isn't she? ;)

Lairabehr4 - Thanks :). Yeah, I'm just about alive... although it was touch and go for a while this week! :P

mary mary - Thanks :).
This is so sweet...thank you so much for sharing and I hope you are feeling better soon. :)


It's taken almost a whole week, but I'm nearly better now, thanks :).
Oh, and I grew up in Pennsylvania and the snow usually started in November and sometime didn't let up until April. My friends that I still correspond with tell me that the weather isn't like that anymore (global warming) but when I was younger it was wonderful, I loved it.
Sounds lovely - I bet Pennsylvania still gets more snow than England does though :).

Dreamerlaure - Thanks :).

***

Part Four

Thursday 24th December 2009

I couldn’t help but smile softly as I watched Max struggle to put up the newly acquired Christmas tree in my apartment. I’d offered to help him do it, but he’d insisted that I should relax and let him do it himself… except it didn’t look like he was having much luck with getting it to stand upright.

It had certainly been an interesting day, to say the least, and I didn’t quite know what to make of it. I had left the party last night feeling pretty confused about, well, everything really. Half of me couldn’t believe that Max Evans, of all people, liked me and wanted to do such a romantic thing for me and, but the other half was excited about the prospect of seeing him again today. I had barely slept last night, tossing and turning for hours as I tried to analyse the events of the evening and how I actually felt about Max.

This morning I woke up feeling like I’d barely slept a wink and had struggled to get out of bed, but the moment I answered my cell phone while stirring a mug of coffee in the kitchen and discovered Max on the other end of the line, my day brightened considerably. As we didn’t have to go into work today, he came to pick me up at my apartment and we went out for lunch. Despite the fact that we’d only really begun getting closer a few hours before, it was a really relaxed and comfortable meal; we talked about everything, from our favourite foods and films to how we got into journalism in the first place. I even found myself telling Max about my goal of writing for a paper like The New York Times.

After lunch, we found ourselves hitting the stores to buy decorations to go with the lights and Christmas tree that Max had bought for me, and then we went to pick up the tree that was Max’s Secret Santa present to me. It was early evening by the time we returned to my apartment, tree in hand, and so after we’d managed to get it up the stairs and into my living room, I’d offered to make some drinks while he insisted on putting up the tree. So now I watch sitting on the couch watching him work, with a glass of hot mulled wine in my hand… and I hadn’t felt more peaceful or at home at Christmas in years.

“Are you sure you don’t need any help?” I asked for about the fifth time as he let out a soft curse when the tree wouldn’t balance the way he wanted it to.

“No, I’m fine,” he ground out between gritted teeth as he caught the heavy tree as it began to fall. “You just sit down and relax.”

I rolled my eyes, placing my wine glass on the coffee table before making my way over to him, “Come on, Max, let me help.”

“No, Liz,” he tried to insist, waving me away with his hand, but I just shook my head and stepped forward to steady the tree.

“Stop trying to be all macho about it,” I smirked. “I’m helping you. Deal with it.”

He let out a reluctant sigh as he kneeled down to position the base of the tree, “Okay, fine.”

I couldn’t help but give a small chuckle at his putout expression, “What is it with guys and their need to prove their manliness all the time?”

He looked up at me from his position on the floor and raised an eyebrow, “Well forgive me if I wanted to do something nice for you.”

My heart skipped a beat at his expression, but I still couldn’t let it go, “That’s sweet, Max, but I want to help you… it’s festive, you know?”

He smiled then, and nodded, “Yeah, okay… I know.”

We returned our attention to the tree and within no time, it was standing upright and ready to be decorated. As I pulled out the lights from the gift box he’d given me last night, he reached over for them and our hands met, much like they had on Friday night when we’d been in the office, sending thrills down my spine. Except this time, the atmosphere between us was much more relaxed and as our eyes met, we both let out a small chuckle.

“Déjà-vu,” I commented softly.

“Yeah,” he smiled, holding my gaze for a couple of moments, before nodding to the tree. “Let’s put them up, huh?”

“Sure,” I nodded. “But shouldn’t we check that they’re all working first?”

He grinned, “Don’t worry, I did that before I wrapped them.”

“Okay, then,” I murmured, touched by his thoughtfulness.

We wound the string of lights around the tree, making sure that they were evenly spread out and then Max handed me the box of decorations that we’d purchased earlier that afternoon. Fifteen minutes later, the tree was fully decorated and Max and I collapsed onto the couch, glasses of wine in hand.

“Look, it’s snowing again,” he murmured softly.

“Yeah?” I smiled, turning my head to look out of the window.

Sure enough, large white flakes of snow were falling outside. I let out a soft sigh and settled back against the couch as I watched the pretty scene before me. I couldn’t help but smile as I felt Max’s arm come around my shoulders, pulling me close, and I let me head rest against his chest.

“I guess this is your ‘Lights and Snow Moment’ then, huh?”

“Yeah, I guess it is,” I murmured softly, feeling a swell of emotion rise up in my chest at the intimate moment. “Thank you, Max.”

“My pleasure, Liz.”

We sat in silence for several long moments and I savoured the feeling of being with this wonderful man.

“Wow, it looks great, doesn’t it?” I breathed in awe as I gazed up at the tree. “My first Christmas tree.”

Max lowered his head slightly and frowned, “You haven’t had a tree before?”

“Well,” I shrugged, “not since I moved to Long Island anyway.”

“How come?”

I shook my head, “I just never really felt all that festive, I guess.”

“Something to do with your family?” he enquired softly.

I turned to look at him in confusion and he shrugged with a small smile.

“I told you I heard you tell Maria about your Christmas moment… well, I kinda heard you mention something about your parents splitting up and about someone called… Daniel?”

“Ahh,” I nodded, feeling slightly uneasy about his mention of my family situation. “Yeah.”

“You don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to,” he backtracked quickly.

“No… it’s okay,” I responded with a shake of my head. “It’s just… sort of hard to talk about.”

I took a deep breath before continuing, “Daniel is… was my older brother. He died in a car crash when I was fourteen.”

“Oh,” came Max’s gentle voice from above my head as his arm tightened around me. “I’m sorry, Liz.”

“He was driving home to Roswell from college in Colorado and had been delayed by heavy snowfalls,” I began, willing my voice to remain steady as I recalled the events of that day. “He called us from a gas station on Christmas Eve to say that he was gonna do everything he could to make it back by morning… but a couple of hours later, he hit a patch of ice on the road and the car skidded…” I paused, sucking in a breath before continuing, “He hit another car head-on and was killed instantly.”

“God, Liz…” murmured Max, the pain present in his voice causing my eyes to well up with tears.

I shook my head to clear it, “We used to have wonderful Christmases at home… we would all decorate the tree together and Mom cooked an amazing Christmas Dinner, while Dad would try to entertain us with stories of when he was a kid. But after that Christmas, things were never the same again. Daniel’s death was really hard on my parents and they started arguing a lot… eventually, everything came to a head and by the next Christmas they were separated and filing for divorce. Christmas in our family was never the same again.””

I let out a heavy sigh, settling further into Max’s arms as I felt him press a gentle kiss against my hair.

“I’m so sorry that happened to you,” said Max. “No wonder you don’t like Christmas.”

“Well,” I shifted so that I could look at him face to face. “I think that might be starting to change.”

“Really?” his expression was a mixture of hopeful and surprised.

“Yeah,” I nodded, moving to place my wine glass back on the coffee table before reaching up to run my fingers along his jaw. “I can’t thank you enough for my present.”

“Liz…” he murmured, his voice barely above a whisper.

Before I realised it was happening, his hand was cupping my chin and his mouth was descending towards mine. Of their own will, my eyes drifted shut and I parted my lips slightly in anticipation. A small sigh escaped from my mouth as his lips covered mine, caressing them gently in a soft kiss. My heart began pounding in my chest as I melted into his embrace, savouring the feel of him surrounding me.

Everything around me became magnified… the warmth of his body seeping through his clothes, the softness of his mouth against mine, his wonderful smell… a perfect blend of aftershave and spices from the wine. God, this was everything I’d been missing all this time. It was perfect.

I finally had my perfect Christmas lights and snow moment.

The End

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