PAIRING: Read into it as you wish (Lester is hopeful though)
WORD COUNT: 1600
SUMMARY: Lester’s Christmas just got better.
Lester walked through the ARC, nodding at the various people as their shift ended and they left for the day, returning the sentiment with a pasted-on smile as they wished him a Merry Christmas. Within a few minutes, the previous shift had gone, eager to get away to join family celebrations.
Someone with seniority had to remain on the premises in case of emergency, be it him or one of the main response team, with others on call in case an anomaly appeared. After the conversation with his ex-wife, where she had informed him that her new partner was taking her and the children skiing over Christmas as a Christmas present, he’d realised that it would be unfair to expect someone else to cancel their plans when he had nothing to do. So, without mentioning it to the others or asking for volunteers, he’d taken the Christmas shift himself, reasoning that it was better than sitting at home, alone, and feeling sorry for himself.
Of course there were still a few other staff who would be staying for the day shift with him, but he suspected they would be keeping a low profile in the hopes of avoiding him, likely doing as little as possible and expecting to be reprimanded if caught by their boss. He hadn’t expected any different, but it was going to make the day a lonely one.
Reaching his office, Lester stood for a moment, looking out over the control hub. There were tasteful decorations on desks and hung along walls, but instead of making the place feel festive it just made it abandoned now that most of the staff had. The room was devoid of its usual activity. No one rushing about, no movement at all apart from the tinsel around Jess’s desk fluttering pathetically in the breeze from the air conditioning.
It was slightly depressing.
Well, it suited his mood perfectly, he thought, settling behind his desk.
There were a few envelopes on his desk and he opened them up. Soon his desk had Christmas cards lined up on it, adorned with cartoon reindeer and elves, glittery trees and, in the case of the card from Connor, a T-Rex wearing a Santa hat and tinsel around its neck. It did make his office look a bit more inviting.
Well, if he was going to be here, he might as well make a start on his paperwork.
Lester’s phone beeped next to him on the desk, drawing his thoughts away from the expense claim he was trying to find a polite way to decline without using the words ‘ridiculous’ or ‘ludicrous’. Probably another Merry Christmas text from one of the team. He’d already spoken to his children that morning in a too-brief conversation that hadn’t done much to lift his spirits, but they were enjoying themselves and so he had put on a bright voice and let them chatter. The cards and texts from the team were a nice thought too, but the silence of the ARC was getting to him.
Hang on, not silence, not any more. He listened carefully and heard the faint strains of Jingle Bell Rock coming from somewhere in the ARC. When that had started, he had no idea but it was better than the silence. And better than sitting on his own in his office, he reasoned, going out into the hub. The likely place would be the break room; it was 11am, that was a good time for a break and maybe a stroll that way under the guise of getting a cup of coffee might find some company.
He had been in there already this morning. He’d seen the tree set up in the corner, decorated with a with every kind of coloured bauble, string of tinsel and fairy light it was possible to fit onto it. The rest of the room was the opposite to the main areas of the ARC, where tasteful was the main goal. In the break room, it looked as though a Christmas decoration factory had exploded. The rule seemed to have been that if it was still, it had decorations attached to it somehow. Even the kettle had a red bow stuck on the lid.
As he got closer, the music got louder, letting him know he was on the right track.
“Perfect. You’re right on time.”
Lester stopped and stared for a moment. He’d expected to find one of the staff on duty, possibly, but not Becker. He frowned. “Aren’t you supposed to be at your parents’ house?”
Becker shrugged. “I was, and I will be later. Here, hold this.”
Without thinking, he reached out automatically and found himself with a pile of old magazines, pens and assorted debris that had previously been scattered across the large table. A table that Becker was in the process of covering with a red tablecloth. Seeing him staring, Becker smiled,
“I thought since you weren’t having Christmas dinner with family, you might join us instead. I know it’s a bit early – mum made me promise to be back for family dinner at two. She packed up a few things,” he said, indicating to the hamper on a nearby worksurface.
“Becker, Lester wasn’t in his office- Oh.” Connor stopped in the doorway, frowning. “How did you know to come down here now? That’s just scary.”
Lester glanced pointedly at the stereo on the counter, still blaring Christmas music, though Becker had turned it down a little now it had done its job of enticing Lester down here.
“Anyway, my dad sent a few things too,” Connor continued, setting three Tupperware boxes on a nearby chair. Becker began digging out mis-matched plates from the cupboards, setting them on the table as Connor started on cutlery.
“How many places are you setting? There are three of us.”
Becker just smiled.
About five minutes later, the door opened again and Abby and Jess came hurrying in. “Sorry. My car wouldn’t start.”
The boxes they carried were opened and divided up as well, before they sat down.
By the time that Matt joined them they had already started eating and, between them all, they had brought all the makings of a full Christmas dinner complete with Christmas crackers and a bottle of wine supplied by Matt. He had objected to the last part but Matt had convinced him that one glass wouldn’t hurt.
Lester looked around at the team- no, he amended, they were friends rather than team- watching them all laughing at the cheesy joke that Connor had got in his Christmas cracker.
“Thank you. All of you,” he said. “It means more than you can imagine that you did this for me, taking time away from your own Christmases.”
“Like we’d leave you on your own at Christmas,” Abby told him. “Besides, Becker is the one who organised everyone. We just turned up with food.”
Lester saw Becker glare at her to stop. “Well, thank you anyway. And please pass on that appreciation to the cooks.”
“I’m going to have to leave soon,” Becker told him a while later. The others had already gone, most back to their original plans, Matt to get some sleep before he took the night shift, but Becker had stayed to help clean up. “I was meaning to ask, though… My mum is having the family and a few friends around tomorrow for Boxing day, and I wondered if you’d like to join us.”
He had been expecting to spend the next few days the same as today, on his own at home, waiting until the 30th when the kids got home and he could have a delayed Christmas with them. Even then it was only the three of them, having no other relatives nearby. The thought of a proper family boxing day was something he hadn’t expected to have, but the thought was a welcome one. As was the thought of spending the day with Becker, a little voice in the back of his mind added, but he couldn’t let himself start to think that way. It was just an invitation… wasn’t it?
Lester must have stayed silent for too long, as Becker turned away and started pulling his jacket on. “You don’t have to,” he said quietly. “It was just an idea.”
He paused when Lester touched his arm to stop him leaving. “I didn’t say no. I just don’t want to intrude on your family time. You’ve already missed part of your Christmas day to come here.”
“We always have Christmas dinner later so I haven’t missed anything except my brother’s kids running riot as they unwrap presents. You saved me from having to play with them and, trust me, I can live without that bit,” Becker said with a laugh. “As for tomorrow, you wouldn’t be intruding; I want you to be there. As my guest.”
“In that case, I would be glad to accept,” Lester told him, the bright smile that lit Becker’s face telling him he’d made the right decision and that maybe his earlier musings might be more accurate than he’d dared to believe.
Becker’s phone beeped and he glanced at the text. “I really have to go; that was my brother,” he said, heading toward the door. “I’ll see you tomorrow around ten?”
“Merry Christmas James.”
Lester made his way back to his office, humming White Christmas under his breath. Today had been a good day, and tomorrow may just be even better.