Pairing/s: Matt/Ethan, Becker/Danny
Word Count: 3,268
Summary: “I thought it would be nice to give Ethan a proper Christmas but I don’t really know where to start”
Notes: Takes place a few months after Misunderstood but it's not essential to read that first.
‘Tis the season
Matt watched as Ethan paused at the edge of the square, close to the city centre, a smile spreading across his face as he looked up at the huge Christmas tree. It towered above them, hundreds of twinkling lights covering the branches in a multitude of colours. It was like watching a child, he thought, glancing around at the parents nearby, holding onto children’s hands as they too stared, mesmerised by the sparkling lights.
“Me and Danny always used to put the tree up at home,” Ethan said. “We’d put the decorations on it and a big silver star at the top. That first year after I went through the gateway, I wondered if he’d put it up on his own. I missed it.”
Looking slightly embarrassed at his trip down memory lane, Ethan glared at the tree and turned away, setting off toward the ARC and leaving Matt hurrying to catch up with him.
That night, Matt tapped his pen against the notepad on his lap. So far he’d got-
And then he’d stopped. What else were you supposed to have at Christmas? It wasn’t his fault that he hadn’t done most of the things that other people took for granted, such as celebrating birthdays and Christmas. Sure, he’d played along in the interests of blending in when they first arrived, but it had all been for show. When he’d been in the Army and his squad had been given Christmas leave, he’d listened to the others talking about what they were going to do, parties with friends and family, and discussing favourite festive foods. Then he’d gone home to his father and there hadn’t been a twinkling light or turkey in sight. All there had been was training and plans: nothing but the mission.
In desperation he picked up the phone and went out onto the balcony where Ethan wouldn’t hear him.
“Danny, its Matt.”
Danny sounded worried when he asked, “What’s the matter? Is something wrong?”
Matt frowned. “Why would it be? Actually, I need your help with something,” he said. “I want to…”
“Matt, who are you talking to?”
Matt stuffed the phone behind his back quickly, turning to Ethan. “No one. Just some stupid survey people who called.” He smiled. “Let’s go back inside.”
Ethan eyed him suspiciously for a moment before following him inside again.
The following morning, Danny was waiting for Matt in his office.
“Mind telling me what all that was about last night?”
Matt glanced out to make sure that Ethan hadn’t followed him and closed the door.
“I thought it would be nice to give Ethan a proper Christmas but, well, I don’t really know where to start,” Matt confessed. He saw the bemused expression on Danny’s face and continued. “Back home it was no different from any other day- the predators didn’t take a day off just because it was Christmas- and then when we got here, my father insisted it was just a waste of time, a distraction from the mission. The only thing I know about Christmas is what I’ve seen on TV.”
“And you want me to do what, exactly?”
“You knew what he was like when he was a kid, what his favourite things were,” Matt told him. “If you could just give me a few hints.”
Danny smiled. “You know, I didn’t really get this thing with you and my brother to begin with,” he said. “But you really care about him, don’t you?”
When Matt didn’t answer, Danny’s smile grew wider. “Admit it, and I’ll help you.”
Matt glared at him for a minute. “Yes, I care about him,” he said. “Happy now?”
“Yep. So, have you got a tree yet?” Matt shook his head. “Okay, grab your jacket. We’re going shopping.”
Ethan paused by the door to Matt’s office, frowning. Something was going on. First the weird phone call the other night that Matt had lied about and then yesterday, he and Danny had left together shortly after they’d arrived. Now today he’d come to see Matt and found him and Danny talking about something so intently that they never even noticed him.
It was happening all over again; people eventually got tired of him and left. He just hadn’t expected Matt to go to Danny.
Without saying a word, he turned and walked away.
By the time he went home that evening, Ethan was convinced that Matt was just waiting for the right time to tell him that he didn’t want him any more, that he had to move out. He had been avoiding both Matt and Danny all day, not wanting to talk to either of them, but he knew he had to go home sometime. And, like it or not, Matt’s flat was home. Unfortunately, he’d left a message telling Matt not to wait for him and so he had to walk there.
Pausing by the door, he listened, feeling his heart drop when he heard Danny’s laugh from inside Matt’s flat. He’d brought Danny here with him?
“If you’d had enough of me, you should have just told me,” he said angrily, barging into the flat. “And you!” he snapped at Danny. “Why did you have to get in the way? Even when we were kids you used to take whatever I wanted just because you were the oldest.”
Matt looked confused, going to him. “What are you talking about?”
“You and him,” Ethan said, backing away from them.
Danny’s eyes widened in surprise. “No, no, no; you’ve got totally the wrong idea! I mean, I’m with Becker!”
“Danny, can you give us a minute?” Matt waited until Danny had gone into the kitchen and turned back to Ethan. “How could you even think that I’d cheat on you? I wouldn’t.”
“You’ve been sneaking around with him,” Ethan said defensively. “You kept lying to me about where you’d gone.”
Matt sighed. “I was trying to organise this,” he said, leading Ethan by the hand into the living room.
They had the tree put up but with no decorations on the branches, the opened boxes still stacked around the base, decorations on the walls with sprigs of holly on top of the picture frames. Over the doorway was a piece of mistletoe.
“I wanted to surprise you.”
Ethan walked past him, looking around the room. “You did this for me?”
“Yes,” Matt told him, moving closer and sliding his arms around Ethan’s waist. “Danny has been helping me.”
“So you don’t want me to go?”
Matt laughed, turning Ethan in his arms. “No, you idiot. What am I going to have to do to prove that to you?”
“How about forgetting that I just accused you of sleeping with my brother?” Ethan asked hopefully, looking embarrassed.
Matt nodded. “Done. Now, let’s go tell Danny it’s safe to come out and then we can decorate this tree.”
Half an hour later, Matt and Danny stood back as Ethan put the last decoration on the tree; a silver star for the top.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve decorated a Christmas tree,” Danny said. “I’d forgotten how much fun it was.”
Ethan turned to him. “What do you mean?”
“After you disappeared it didn’t seem right, putting it up on my own. Mum offered to help but it wasn’t the same. It was the one thing we always did together,” Danny explained. “In fact, after that first year we didn’t even bother with Christmas. It felt wrong without you there.”
Matt could see the surprise on Ethan’s face, as well as a suspicious shine to his eyes, and gave him a hug.
“I’ve got an idea,” he said to Danny. “Why don’t you come and join us for Christmas day?”
Danny looked hesitant, glancing between the two of them. “I don’t know. I was supposed to be going over to Becker’s.”
“So bring him along too.”
“I thought that maybe you’d want it to be just the two of you.”
Matt rolled his eyes. “If I didn’t want you here, I wouldn’t have asked. We want you to join us.”
Beside him, Ethan nodded.
“Okay. I’ll ask Becker.”
“Good. Though if you complain about my cooking, you’ll be doing the washing up,” Matt informed him.
Danny smiled. “Oh, come on; even you couldn’t manage to burn a turkey.” He frowned. “Could you?”
A week before Christmas and the dinner had gone from four to five. Jess was supposed to be going to a friend’s for dinner but she’d had a call this morning to say that her friend had to go back home for a family emergency and wouldn’t be returning until the New Year.
“One more isn’t going to make much difference,” Matt told her, when she began to refuse, saying she didn’t want to be any trouble.
“You really don’t mind?”
He shook his head. “Danny and Becker are coming over too,” he told her. “It’ll be fun, though I should point out that none of us are what you’d call gourmet chefs.”
“Actually, Becker is,” Danny pointed out. He’d been sitting nearby, listening in. “Trust me; that man can cook.”
Jess thanked him again for the invitation. “If there’s anything I can do to help, just tell me.”
Christmas morning arrived and Matt was awakened by a noise in the room. He rolled over and squinted at the clock.
“Do you have any idea what time it is?” he murmured to Ethan, who froze mid way to the door.
“Sorry. I can’t sleep.”
Matt beckoned him back to bed. “I’ll bet you were one of those kids who woke everyone up at the crack of dawn on Christmas morning so you could go and open your presents, weren’t you?”
“No. Well, okay, maybe.”
Grabbing Ethan’s hand he pulled the other man back into bed and threw the covers back over them both, shifting so that he had Ethan pinned down with a leg over his and an arm around his middle.
“Go back to sleep,” Matt told him, not willing to surrender his nice warm bed just yet.
Ethan sighed. “But I’m wide awake now,” he complained, trailing his fingertips down Matt’s spine and then groping his arse. “Of course, if you just want to go back to sleep, that’s your choice.”
Matt managed to resist for another minute of Ethan’s teasing before giving up on sleep. He had to admit that there were worse ways to be woken up, even if it was still technically the middle of the night, he thought. He let Ethan roll him onto his back, bodies close as Ethan’s lips pressed to his throat. Yes, there were definitely worse ways to be woken up.
Three hours later, Matt had the turkey in the oven as per Becker’s instructions and was slowly working down the rest of the list, trying to get things organised. Maybe there was a reason why he’d never celebrated Christmas before, he thought, eyeing the disaster zone that currently doubled as his kitchen. It was an awful lot of work to make one meal.
The look on Ethan’s face more than made up for it, however; he had been smiling for the past couple of days, each time he walked past the Christmas tree or saw the decorations. He even looked happy now, when Matt had him peeling potatoes.
When the doorbell rang, Matt almost ran to answer it, knowing that the cavalry had arrived in the form of Becker. He’d promised to come over early to help and, in Matt’s eyes, that couldn’t be too soon.
“I brought eggnog and a cook,” Danny announced as he strolled into the flat. “And a present, but I thought you’d appreciate the first two more at the moment.”
Becker inspected the mess in the kitchen, having it cleared up and organised within half an hour, turning the food preparations into a precise military operation. Though Matt didn’t particularly like being bossed around, he was grateful enough to keep quiet and do what he was told. The way Becker had it, all he had to do was come back in and switch appliances on or put things into the oven. Now, he could actually spend some of today sitting down rather than standing in the kitchen.
By the time he got back to the living room, Jess had arrived and Danny had opened the eggnog despite Becker’s protests that it was only nine o’clock in the morning. He handed Matt a glass.
“Happy Christmas,” he said, holding up his own glass. “And thank you for inviting us to spend it here.”
The others echoed the toast as Danny set his glass aside and reached for the gold-wrapped parcel he had brought in with him. He handed it to Ethan.
“I know we said we weren’t going to do presents but this… well, I thought you’d like it.”
Ethan stared at it for a moment before carefully peeling off the tape and opening the paper carefully. Danny laughed.
“He used to do this when he was a kid, too,” he told Matt before turning to Ethan. “Just rip the damn paper open.”
Eventually, Ethan did, tearing off the wrappings and taking out the contents. It was a leather-bound photo album and as he began to flick through the pages, Matt saw the smile form on his face.
“I didn’t think you’d have any pictures,” Danny said, “So I went through and had a load of mine copied.”
“I do have one picture. Just one.” Ethan reached into his pocket and took out the crumpled, worn photo of him and Danny, handing it to his brother. “I had it in my pocket when I first went through the gateway. Even when I thought you’d abandoned me, I still couldn’t bring myself to get rid of it.” He looked at the album again. “I didn’t have any of mum and dad, though. Thank you.”
Jess reached into her bag and brought out tall gift bag with a cartoon Santa Clause on the front. “Actually, I brought something too. I know you said not to, but I didn’t feel right arriving empty handed.”
Matt looked in the bag and smiled, pulling out a bottle of rum.
“You can never have too much rum, right?” she asked. “I also brought Christmas crackers because I figured you’d forget. You did, didn’t you?”
Matt and Danny nodded as Becker protested that his role in this was just the cooking. The other two were in charge of supplies.
Ethan, on the other hand, beamed happily. “I used to love those silly toys you got in crackers. And the jokes and party hats.”
“Hats?” Matt asked dubiously.
“Oh yes, you’ve got to wear your hat,” Jess told him. “Besides, when you’ve drunk enough eggnog, you really don’t mind the hats too much.”
A few hours later, Matt realised that she was wrong. He was sitting here with a green and yellow paper hat on his head and he felt ridiculous. But this was for Ethan, who was reading out the joke from the cracker he’d just pulled with Jess. She seemed to be enjoying the silly jokes and paper hats as much as Ethan.
He thought of all the Christmases that he’d missed out on over the years, when the few friends he’d had went home and celebrated while he treated it just like any other day. Still, he’d trade in all those missed Christmases to have his father back for this one. He couldn’t have that, just as he couldn’t give Ethan back any of the years he had missed out on with his own family, but this was a start. Danny was here, and Becker and Jess were like family after so long watching each others backs.
“Are you alright?”
Matt’s thoughts snapped back to the present and he nodded to Becker. “Just thinking about my father. He would have hated this, told me it was a trivial distraction.” He surveyed the dirty dishes on the table. “Come on, let’s dump this lot in the kitchen and leave them to play,” he suggested, seeing Ethan and Jess trying to build a plastic fire engine from one of the crackers, while Danny tried to solve the little wire puzzle that had come from his.
The afternoon was taken up by what Danny insisted was a traditional Christmas afternoon activity.
“He’s right,” Becker agreed. “In our house, everyone sits in the living room, digesting lunch and drinking while watching crappy Christmas television.”
Jess shuffled in behind them and dropped into a chair, accepting the glass of rum that Matt offered. “I think I ate too much turkey,” she complained. “I’m stuffed.”
Becker smiled. “Guess you won’t want any cake later on, then.”
“I might be able so squeeze a little slice in,” she said quickly.
Becker shook his head. “No, you said you were full.”
“But I always have room for Christmas cake!”
While they were distracted, squabbling, Danny had commandeered the television remote and had switched the channel away from the corny old movie that Jess had been watching.
The Christmases that Matt had seen on television were always perfect and organised, with huge families getting together and celebrating, but that just wouldn’t have been the same. Having no family here to speak of, the four other people in the room were the closest thing he had. Thanks to Becker they’d had a lovely meal, and a good laugh over the fact that Matt had discovered that it was indeed possible to burn potatoes. Most importantly, Ethan seemed to be having a good time.
“Are you enjoying yourself?” he asked.
Ethan nodded, smiling as he pulled Matt in for a kiss.
“Someone get a bucket of water for those two!”
Matt sighed as Ethan looked over his shoulder and glared at Danny. Danny didn’t look particularly bothered, sitting there smirking, nor did Becker or Jess. In fact, Jess was watching them with a sappy smile on her face.
“If you could possibly wait until I’m not in the room before you start groping my baby brother…”
Ethan launched a cushion at him, Becker grabbing it out of Danny’s hands as he prepared to throw it back.
“If you can’t tell the difference between a kiss and a grope, you’ve been doing it wrong,” Ethan pointed out with a huge grin. “I’ll show you groping…”
Matt smacked his hand away just in time.
“Oh, what did you do that for?” Jess complained, finishing off her rum. “It was just getting interesting.”
Ethan quirked an eyebrow at Matt, who shook his head. “Don’t even think about it,” he said quickly. “Jess, honey, you’re drunk.”
Pouring herself another drink she sat back in her chair. “I am not! I’ve only had one of these and one glass of eggnog.”
Across from her, Danny shook his head and held up four fingers.
“You shut up; I’m not drunk.”
When Becker and Danny had gone home, and Jess was happily passed out and snoring softly in his spare room, Matt looked around at the flat. Danny and Jess had insisted on helping out with the clearing up, and so it wasn’t too bad. Nothing else needed doing tonight, leaving him free to follow Ethan to bed.
“So, has this been okay? I’ve never really done Christmas before but I wanted you to have a proper one.”
Ethan lifted the bedcovers for Matt to get in, cuddling in close when he did.
“It’s been perfect.”