Disclaimer: Not mine, never have been.
Summary: Set after Toy House. A little something for all of us who wanted an S1 Christmas ep.
Author's Note: Written for the first Support Stacie Fanfic on Demand Author Auction, for tequathisy, who asked for fluff. I tried? I'm sorry this is so late. I hope it's not too sappy? Happy New Year, everyone!
MICHAEL: I tried the "no present" idea last year. It didn't work.
ISABEL: Last year was your first year together, and you didn't give her a present?
Haven’t you always been curious?
It wasn’t just that she was tired… though that was enough. She ached all over. She’d worked ten hour shifts every day since Christmas Eve, and today was her first day off in all that time. She could have saved herself the torture, but the money was too good, and besides, she’d had another reason for sticking around the diner.
It was stupid. She knew it was stupid, especially after the last conversation they had. She didn’t really want to go revisiting that memory at the moment, but then she’d replayed it way too many times in her head already, so the words just tumbled through her mind.
He’d said he felt “confused” when he was around her, which she could convince herself was a good thing, except for the fact that immediately afterwards he’d said that he “didn’t want to feel that way,” which basically means that he didn’t like the way he felt around her. And that… there was nothing in that that she could put a positive light on.
But that napkin-holder…
Shut up, shut up, it was just a stupid project, and I had to goad him into it anyhow.
As if that could stop her from thinking it was something… well, kind of sweet. Whatever.
But she’d been so sure that he’d turn up at the diner at some point. Not that she’d been holding her breath, it just seemed so obvious. He was there all the time, so was it really such a stretch of the imagination to think he might turn up at some point.
Now, a gift exchange might have been a stretch. It was stupid, beyond stupid to expect a voluntary present from Michael Guerin. And she hadn’t been. And that pint of pistachio ice cream that she’d tucked in a corner of the diner freezer certainly hadn’t been intended for him, she’d just put that bow on the top of it because… well, it was festive. Even if she had given it to him, it wasn’t a gift. It was just… ice cream. His favorite, if any of what he’d said to her in that disgusting motel had been true. (She shushed the part of her that said of course some of it had.)
She definitely hadn’t imagined placing it casually in front of him and walking off, or how the very corner of his annoyingly delicious mouth just might have turned up in an appreciative smirk.
Finally dragging herself up to a seated position, she glared at her surroundings, punching a pillow for good measure. She’d waited over a week for him to show up, and he hadn’t. Freaking Czechoslovakian.
He probably didn’t even believe in Christmas, the jerk.
And that certainly wasn’t an extraterrestrial trait, from what she could tell of Isabel Evans. Girl took the holiday way too seriously.
Maria was somewhere in between. Christmas was her favorite time of year… but she didn’t go to excesses. It was kind of bittersweet for her, because every year as a kid she’d get excited over the lights and the music and how beautiful everything was, and she’d think maybe this year, maybe finally…
Not that she was expecting her father to drive up in a limo or anything. Not really. But you know, a phone call would be nice. A simple “hey, I’m not dead.” She’d gotten a postcard from him when she was twelve…
But, bygones. He wasn’t the one who’d disappointed her this year. Whether Michael Guerin owed her a Christmas or not… she’d wanted one. Something more than the Crashdown rush and barely seeing her mother between work and Sheriff Valenti. (Ugh.)
Her plan for the day was to chill. Preferably alone. As far away from people as possible. She’d been around so many people lately she could barely think straight. She could have sworn she’d seen every citizen of Roswell at least twice in the past two weeks. Well—every citizen but one.
She ended up at the park, with a journal. It was one of those new year’s resolutions she never ended up keeping. She had songs scribbled in notebooks, yeah, but trying to keep a day-to-day record of things… it was just too formulaic for her. That was Lizzie’s department, not hers, not really. Still, most January 1sts she found herself huddled over one, and this wasn’t any different.
“What is it with girls and writing all their sloppy feelings in a diary?”
Many feelings hit her at once when she heard the gruff, annoyed question. Shock, surprise, pleasure—and extreme embarrassment, not to mention irritation.
She thought about threatening his life if he stole her journal like he had Liz’s, but settled for a chilly, “What are you doing here?”
Michael shrugged nonchalantly. A little too nonchalantly for it to be genuine. “Liz said you might be out here.”
That caught her off-guard. “You asked Liz where I was?”
He glared. “What? I checked in at the Crash and she said it was your day off.”
“I…” Maria was stunned. Speechless. All she had left were repeated words. “What are you doing here?”
“Obviously looking for you.”
“Yeah, but… why?” He disappears for some of the most relationship-prominent days of the year, and then comes looking for her?
Michael rolled his eyes, resigning. “Fine, whatever. I’ll see you at school.”
“No, Michael, wait,” Maria called after him, dropping her journal as she got up to stop him. “Where have you been? I mean, it was Christmas. You disappear off the face of the planet for the most important day of the year and then act like nothing’s happened? Where have you been?”
“Look, Christmas is a stupid human holiday. What do I care about it? So I left town for a couple of days, big deal.”
Maria crossed her arms. “Well it may not be a big deal to you, but it is to some of us normal people.” Then she cringed inwardly. Normal sounded so inferior when it was compared to him, and she didn’t want to be inferior. “Where have you been?” she asked again, to distract her own thoughts.
Michael shrugged, still looking annoyed. “I was just out in the desert, it was nothing.”
“But why… I mean, why did you have to go this week, of all weeks? Why couldn’t you at least… pretend to care about other people sometimes.” Great. Now her anger and bravado were starting to fail her. Succumbing to her stupid girl emotions. She hated him sometimes.
“Look, I’m not big on Christmas, okay?” He said, like he was admitting some big secret. He shrugged his shoulders roughly. “Never really had one.”
“Oh.” In her mind’s eye, Maria saw a young Michael walking home past Christmas lights and decorated houses to… Hank. “What about Max and Isabel?” she asked, knowing it was the wrong thing to say even as the words left her mouth.
He snorted. “Yeah, it’s a real tough time of year for them. Family board games and big dinners and Santy Clause still stuffing their stockings at night,” he said, obviously pissed off that he was so bitter about something so “human.”
“But couldn’t you have… I don’t know, done Christmas with them?”
He nearly laughed at that. “You’re kidding, right? Just what the Evans need, one more charity case for the holidays. ‘Sides, Isabel likes everything perfect, and I’d just get in the way.”
Maria just watched him. She’d been so caught up in not seeing him that it hadn’t really occurred to her there might be a good reason, that he’d needed to get away. Any minute now she’d say something pitying and just piss him off.
“So I go to the desert. Christmas is supposed to be about family, right? All I know is that that’s the closest I can get.”
Now Michael did look pissed off. That he’d said so much. Maria could understand that.
“Michael you’re not—” she stopped short as he looked up at her, daring her to do it, to say something that he could use as an excuse to walk away. She didn’t care if he did, she had to say something, make him understand. “That’s not the closest family you have.” When he didn’t respond, she sighed. She’d gone out this far on the ledge, she might as well jump. “I mean, some people might have wanted to have you here.”
His eyes cut to her face, then back again in a flash, and Maria cursed herself inwardly. Stupid, stupid. Fine, whatever, let him walk away again. Give another speech about stone walls and keeping his distance. She didn’t care.
Then after a minute, he asked, “Aren’t you cold out here?”
She was going to bite back and say no, but then there was a breeze, and she shivered, laughing at herself. She had a jacket on, but winter always hit Roswell hardest in January. “Yes, okay? Cold. Aren’t you?”
Maria picked her journal up and put it in her pocket for safe-keeping. She’d gotten about three sentences down, but whatever.
“Look, do you wanna go somewhere?”
That pulled Maria up short again. She was never going to make sense out of this guy. She wondered for the millionth time if it was worth risking her heart to just deal with it.
“Uhm, sure. Do you have somewhere in mind?” Don’t say the Crashdown.
He shrugged again. “I could go for a Blue Moon Burger.”
She hesitated for a moment. She’d been practically living at the Crashdown lately. A part of her felt like if she saw so much as a single sparkly antennae, she might be sick. But it almost felt like Michael was… reaching out. For once. And that didn’t happen very often. Besides, now she could give him his present, maybe. Or not. Or whatever.
Liz raised an eyebrow at Maria when they came into the café, no doubt in point of the numerous times over the past few weeks that Maria had pulled her aside and lamented, ranted and generally angsted over Michael not coming in, then finally throwing her uniform in her locker and saying she was sorry but there was no way she was going to set foot in the Crash until her three days off were over.
Maria ignored her.
“Can I, um… can I take your order?” Liz asked, obviously trying not to smile at Maria’s shut up look.
Michael ordered his burger, and Maria asked for a Greek God Salad, adding, “And mine had better be on the house.”
Liz rolled her eyes, but didn’t argue.
“So, uh… was your Christmas good?”
Maria blushed, not knowing how to go into this, now. Why was he the one person who could throw her sense of balance off so easily? “C’mon, Michael, you don’t have to…”
“What? I want to know. Was it good?”
Maria shrugged. “I worked for most of it.”
There was quiet for a beat, and then, “So, what, you wanted me to stick around so I could watch you work?” Michael asked, confused.
“What? No, what are you talking about?”
“Because, no offense, Maria, but I could do that any day of the year, almost.” She continued to look at him blankly. “What I mean is, why do you care so much that I disappeared, if you were busy anyhow?”
“Look, I didn’t have to be here all the time, Michael. I was here because… never mind, it’s stupid.”
“I said forget it.”
She rolled her eyes. They could bug each other so easily. “Fine, alright? Wait here a second.”
She heard him ask where she was going, but she ignored him, slipping into the back and into the kitchen. She pulled the little container out of its hidden corner in the freezer, and in her annoyed mood plucked the little bow off of it. She was back to the table all too fast, and she unceremoniously dropped the pint of Pistachio ice cream in front of him. “Here.”
Michael stared at the small container like it was something he’d never seen before. Then, slowly, he looked up at Maria. “This is my favorite kind of ice cream.”
She was unnerved by the blank expression on his face. “Yeah, I know.”
There was another moment of silence. “I don’t get it.”
Maria crossed her arms over her chest defensively. “You don’t get what?”
He picked up the container and shook it. “This. What is it?”
Maria rolled her eyes. “Think, Michael. Take your time.” When he failed to respond, she went on. “There was this holiday just recently…?”
And then he got it, but somehow looked even more confused. “You got me a present?”
He thought it was stupid. Of course.
“No,” Maria said, defensively. “It’s just ice cream, okay?”
“And… this is why you spent all your holiday working?”
“Look, I thought maybe you’d show up, okay? It’s nothing.” This was enough. She didn’t know what she was thinking in the first place. She grabbed her jacket from where she’d dropped it on the seat and was about to leave in an embarrassed huff when he stopped her.
“What I mean is… thank you.”
That stopped her in her tracks, and she dropped back down onto the seat. “Oh.”
Michael scratched at his eyebrow. “I’m not used to…” he trailed off, nodding towards the ice cream.
“Yeah, I know,” she said, her voice soft. She couldn’t imagine anyone but maybe Isabel or Max had ever really given him presents.
“I, uh… I didn’t get you anything,” Michael admitted, looking guilty.
Maria hid a threatening smile. “That’s okay, Michael. It’s not supposed to be a trade. It’s a gift.” And then because she was worried she was getting a little too close to an after-school special, she added, “I’ll forgive you. This time.”
Michael gave her a glimpse of her favorite crooked smile, and leaned over the table to give her a surprisingly sweet kiss, something altogether different than any other time he’d kissed her, but just as nice. “Merry Christmas, Maria.”
She couldn’t help the sappy smile that was suddenly on her face. “Merry Christmas, Michael.”
There was a danger of things getting uncomfortable after that, but thankfully then Liz arrived with the food. “Both on the house,” she said, giving Maria a smile with a subtle call-me-later-and-tell-me-everything to it.
“Thanks Liz,” she said, with a subtle I-have-to-admit-this-moment-was-worth-it to her own look. Liz would understand.
Michael repeated the thanks, and self-consciously cleared his throat before taking a bite of his sandwich. Things weren’t perfect between them, certainly weren’t anything like how she’d like them to be, and yeah, by the time school started again he’d probably act like this moment had never even happened. He may have disappeared for the holiday, but the first thing he’d done when he’d gotten back was look for her. And maybe, just maybe, by next Christmas, Michael Guerin wouldn’t feel the need to run away at all. That would be enough for her.
Maria smiled as she started on her salad. Maybe this year would be a happy one, after all.