Christmas to Remember
Title: Christmas to Remember
Verse: AU (teens)
Warning: Face goes go off on a bit of a tyrant that could prove to be a touchy subject for some. I try not to bring religion into things very often but sometimes the muses demand it and well...if I want to sleep at night, I sometimes must do as they command. So, please, I don't mean to offend anyone or step on any toes...it's just the angry spoutings of an angry teenage Face.
Summary: The boys spend Christmas in Chicago with BA's parents and Murdock gets to give Face a very special present.
Author's note: I've become a bit of a Scrooge and Grinch these past few years...I blame it on growing up going to huge family Christmases at my grandma's house with all my cousins and family there and more food than anyone knew what to do with and then having that all suddenly stop when she passed away. On top of that, having a mother who hates to cook or decorate coupled with my own siblings not getting along well enough with the folks to even stop by for a little while for any holidays...it's pretty much tarnished my cheery outlook on the holiday season (so much so that I'm counting down the days until I'm back in school and don't have to hear about anyone's Christmases). That being said, that's probably why I write depressing Christmas stories every year...but, I'm gonna give a shot at writing a non-depressing one. We'll see how this goes. At least no main canon character is going to die. Also, these are just silly little AU Teen versions of the boys that I've been toying with. They won't give me enough to work with and create a full story about them...but I think I can at least get a one-shot Christmas bit out of them. *crosses fingers all goes well*
That being said, I do sincerely hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and wonderful New Year.
Murdock sat curled up on the couch, long, lanky legs pulled up close to him, toes wiggling inside his Kermit slippers as he hugged his mug of hot cocoa close to him. The lights on the tree in the corner twinkled brightly in the darkened living room, a small stack of presents stacked nicely under it while the six stockings, five older looking and worn, one brand new (complete with tag from Walgreen's still attached to the back), hung off a string draped in front of the frost covered picture window. He loved coming to Chicago to spend Christmas with the Baracus', Mrs. B always treated him -and everyone really--so much like they were her very own, despite the obvious skin tone difference. That didn't matter though; she loved taking care of them and made sure she invited them to their meager apartment every holiday just so the boys had somewhere warm and homey to be.
The smells of their delicious Christmas Eve dinner still hung in the air and filled him with just as much warmth as that chocolaty drink cooling in his hands. Oh what a feast it had been too! A turkey large enough to feed a small army (which, in Hannibal's eyes, that's exactly what their little group was), pecan pie, French chocolate cream pie, pumpkin pie (all of which Murdock expertly tasted before hand, just to make sure they were suitable to serve...they didn't disappoint!), cornbread muffins and crescent rolls, a small ham, and two whole dishes each of green bean casserole and sweet potato casserole. There was a bread pudding for BA and his father (though, it had to be put in the refrigerator for Mr. Baracus to eat once he returned from work), rice pudding and banana nut bread. Man alive, for not having much in life, Mrs. Baracus sure did make certain that Christmas was at least a special time for her little boy and his poor friends.
They were a pretty pathetic group if Murdock took the time to stop and actually think about that. BA was really about the only one to still have a family and home to go back to during breaks. Hannibal had a family back in St. Paul, Minnesota, that much was true. A mom, a stepdad and two younger brothers he hadn't seen in years. He'd been in boarding schools since his eleventh birthday, his parents not wanting to see him or think about him after the last winter he lived at home. Ten years old and was so very protective of his (then three) brothers, especially his youngest, Peter. Six years younger than him and just the absolute light of that ten year olds life, he'd taken Peter, Joshua and Mark out to the skating pond behind their house to teach the four year old to skate. Being incredibly bright for his age, Peter took to the ice like a fish to water and before long they were all having too much of a good time to realize their youngest brother had skated onto thin ice. In the instant it took Hannibal to notice, that little body disappeared through the ice. From what Murdock had taken from the one and only time he'd heard the teen tell the story, he'd dove into the water, skates, coat, hat and all in an attempt to pull the little one back out of the water and onto thicker ice. When he finally reemerged empty handed, shivering and half frozen, it was too late. Murdock was never told the end of the story, except to hear that his parents blamed him for Peter's death and refused to let him live it down. A sad, quiet voice in the back of the boy's head told him that the family probably had to wait for spring thaw to come around before they were able to get the boy back and that most likely had a lot to do with why they all but tossed their oldest son out on his own.
Murdock himself had grown up as normally as he could. His father died shortly before he was born and his mother had done the best she could to take care of her beloved little boy. Oh does he remember her, at least, thinks he does. He could remember curling up in her lap, little head resting against her chest to listen to her heart beat and that soft rumble of humming as she stroked down his ever unruly mop of brown hair and rocked them back and forth. He could remember her smile and soft eyes always sparkling and laughing as she'd take him to the airfield to watch the planes land and take off. She was the first one to tell him that he could be anything in the world he wanted to be and even made him his own WWI fighter pilot costume for Halloween when he was five, complete with goggles and little faux leather and fur bomber jacket. One thing he couldn't remember, no matter how hard he tried -and honestly, probably for the best--was her death. He just remembered one day her no longer being there. Remembers going to bed one night and her tucking him in, next thing he truly remembers is sitting on the front porch of his grandparent's house (having been moved from Huntsville, AL to Beaumont, TX) crying himself to sleep because he wanted his mommy. His grandparents were decent enough folks though; they even encouraged his love of planes, flying and especially animals. They raised him to be polite and thoughtful, to have an imagination that wouldn't quit, and to take care of those who were less fortunate than he. When they passed away (Myrtle first of a heart attack, Hogarth second a few months later of a broken heart) when he was thirteen, it was stated in their will that he was to be sent to Hawthorne-Arbor College Prep, the school his father had attended growing up, until his eighteenth birthday, or he graduated, which ever happened first.
Then there was Face. That poor kid from Los Angeles. He was definitely worse off than the rest of them. At least Hannibal had the comfort of knowing someday he might still be able to reconnect with his family, Murdock knew he was orphaned but it wasn't by choice, BA still had his parents, but Face? The poor kid was left to wander the streets of LA when he was five; his mother having just abandoned him and didn't even bother to attach a note to his jacket or anything. He didn't have any family to call his own; no one ever picked him on visit days and now that he was living on campus, no one ever would. There was a hidden anger and bitterness in that freshly turned sixteen year old, one that had peeked out during dinner when he'd snapped at Hannibal over something as silly as not wanting to say thank you when he was handed a second slice of pie by Mrs. B. Admittedly it was a bit rude, but the woman had just waved it off and seemed to be unfazed by it all. Face hadn't even wanted to come along with them in the first place, arguing instead that he'd rather stay back in the dorms and study or catch up on his sleep and television shows. They did finally convince him to tag along, informing him if he didn't go with them, then he'd be forced to spend Christmas alone with Rodney Decker, their arch nemesis.
So there they went, their little rag-tag army all piled onto a train free of charge thanks to Mr. Baracus -paid to have a dad who was an Amtrack engineer--and carried away to the Windy City. They'd spent the day after arriving, wandering the city, taking in the sights and spending what little cash they had to buy souvenirs and trinkets to give Mrs. Baracus for Christmas/thank you gifts. While he'd spent most of the day heckling BA and making Hannibal laugh, Murdock had done well to keep an eye on Face. He tried to hang back and talk to the boy, get him to play along and joke with him like he'd do back on campus, but it failed every time.
After dinner, while Hannibal and BA watched football in BA's room, Murdock watching "A Charlie Brown Christmas" for the third time, Face had quietly helped Mrs. Baracus clean up the dining room table, scraping the dishes before stacking them neatly in the sink. When Murdock had glanced back again to see if maybe the teen would like to watch the ultimate in Christmas cartoon movies, he noticed the blue knit cap and gloves were missing, as well as the body that filled them. Mrs. B wouldn't tell him where Face had slipped off to, or why; she just smiled and fixed him another mug of hot chocolate -made with milk, not water and two packets of cocoa mix--and sent him back to the living room to watch "White Christmas".
Which was exactly what he was doing when the door finally reopened and a figured slipped back into the dark apartment, granted, he was on his third cup of cocoa and his second time of tearing up when Phil and Bob started singing "We'll Follow the Old Man (As Long As He Stays Away from the Battle's Spray)". Tilting his head back, he watched as those gloves, scarf and hat were hung up carefully next to the door, followed by a rather tattered jacket. Biting his lip, he waited for a moment before speaking.
"Facey? You want some cocoa?"
Face paused at that quiet, accent laced voice coming from the dimly lit living room. Head poking into the room, he spotted the Santa hat clad teen on the couch looking pathetic, adorable and way too childish for his own good. Giving a slight sniffle, Face shook his head as he started moving towards the guest room he was to share with Murdock.
"No thanks...I'm goin' to bed."
Frowning and scrambling to untangle his legs from himself, Murdock moved to sit up straight and watch after him. His brown eyes sparkled in the reflection of the red, orange and blue lights of the tree and there was an almost desperate plea for companionship etched on his face.
"Wait...c-could you...maybe...uhm...I can't sleep, see and...well...I...I'd really rather not s-sit up alone, ya know? Sometimes my imagination's okay to run free, comes up with some p-pretty neat stuff sometimes but uhm...but other times it...well...it's not so good, so...d-do you think you could m-maybe just...c'mere and watch `White Christmas' with me? Please?"
Stopping dead in his tracks, Face's shoulders slumped and his head dropped just a bit as he heard the tone in his friend's voice. Being roommates at Hawthorne-Arbor, he'd learned to pick up on the different little tones the teen used and had become quite fluent in Murdockish. The tone he just heard was one that was only brought forward when Murdock truly was having issues and wanted someone to be with him so he wasn't alone to face his demons. Turning slowly, the crystal blues lifted until they locked with those dark chocolate browns. Heaving a heavy sigh, Face nodded slightly before moving back for the living room couch.
"Alright...I'll watch a little bit with you. But then I'm headin' to bed, okay? I'm tired."
Head nodding enthusiastically, Murdock moved and wiggled and squirmed until there was enough room on the couch for them both and reached out to hit play on the remote again just as Face settled himself in next to him. They sat in silence for a long moment or two, both pairs of eyes glued to the screen as the two main characters schemed on how to make Christmas special for their old Commanding Officer. Shifting and wiggling again, Murdock leaned his bony shoulder in against Face's, snuggling himself in while pulling the knitted wool blanket off the back of the couch to drape over both of them. He saw the sudden flash of panic wash over his friend's face and felt his own heart sag low in his chest.
"It...it's chilly in here...ain't it? Or is it just me? Sometimes my internal thermometer goes all wonky on me and I never know if it's cold or hot or what it is so...if...if you ain't cold or chilly or nothin' then by all means, you don't hafta stay under the blanket, I just thought ya might be since you was out for awhile tonight and it's been awfully cold lately and I...I don't want you getting' sick cuz ya know, ya snore, really loud, when you get sick and it makes it hard for me to sleep when ya do that so--"
"M-Mur...Murdo...Murdock it...it's okay, Murdock, it's okay, really. I was kind of chilly actually, so...thank you. You just surprised me, that's all."
A relieved smile and sigh passed over the taller teen as he relaxed into the couch and that younger body once again. "Good. Cuz I was getting' chilly and you're sure doin' a good job of keepin' me warm."
Giving a small smile, Temp sighed softly as he moved his hand to pat Murdock's head gently, allowing the hand to then fall so it rested on the teen's opposite shoulder, as if giving him silent permission to snuggle in closer to leech body heat from him. They were both rather pathetic when it came to the cold, both having come from warm weather climates, but one thing that set them apart from each other was the fact that HM thought the snow was pretty and fun to play in, Face wanted to take a torch and melt it all. Feeling that almost scarily thin body nestle in next to him, the teen couldn't help but give a soft smile.
Silence fell over them again as they continued to watch the movie, Murdock occasionally spouting dialog along with it or humming softly to a song or two. It was strange how comfortable the pair were together, especially sitting cuddled up on the couch in such a way. This wasn't the first time they'd cuddled up together, in fact, there'd been a number of times Face had woken up in the night to find the teen had crawled into bed with him and was snuggled up to him like a child with their favorite teddy bear.
Never one to keep quiet for very long (unless engrossed in a comic book or cartoon), Murdock finally wiggled himself around so that his long, gangly legs hung off the arm of the couch while his upper body slid until his head was resting precariously on his friend's lap and he was able to look up and see the boy's face clearly. The startled, momentary look of surprise on the boy's face was near priceless and it brought a goofy, lopsided grin to Murdock's.
"Facey? Where'd'ja go when ya disappeared for awhile? Ya just kinda vanished, like the invisible man. You got super powers you're hidin' from me?" He questioned, blinking and smiling up at his friend in a near upside down position.
Somehow Face really shouldn't have been all that terribly surprised when he suddenly had a head in his lap. Blinking down into those innocent brown eyes, he could feel his defenses start to fall, as they always did whenever the older boy played cute and innocent with him. Sighing, he shook his head before looking back at the TV.
"Nowhere...just went for a walk."
"Around a strange and dangerous city all by yourself?"
"Hey, this place is like a small town compared to LA...nothin' to it."
Murdock had to nod, Face did have a point. Deciding to drop the subject for now, he turned his head to face the television again. Rolling up onto his side, left arm draping over the other teen's knees, he tucked the blanket under his head so Face's lap could still be covered and he could use it as a partial pillow. Watching Murdock move, Face couldn't help but smirk and chuckle softly.
"Thought you said you were chilly."
"Was. Now'm not. Told'ja my internal Therm-O-Meter was all outta whack."
"Heh, right...my mistake."
The room danced in shades of white and blue from the old television screen, illuminating both teens in a ghostly glow. They watched the screen, both lost in their own heads as the story played out before them. Face had never actually seen the movie before, hadn't seen a lot of Christmas movies come to think of it, and Murdock would probably cry if he ever found out. That was, before he strapped Face to a chair and made him sit through each and every sappy, tear-jerking, heart-wrenching holiday movie the childlike teen felt was worthy of being called a Christmas Classic -starting most likely with `It's A Wonderful Life' and moving on to `The Lemon Drop Kid', `Going My Way', `Holiday Inn', `White Christmas' (from the beginning) and `The Bells of St. Mary's' before starting in on the more contemporary films like `Christmas Vacation', `Prancer', `The Santa Clause', `How the Grinch Stole Christmas' (both the original and the live action remake) and `The Polar Express'. Gads there were just too many damn Christmas movies out there; it was enough to be depressing really.
He had at least seen `The Muppet Christmas Carol' when he was just a kid...it scared him senseless. Other than that, he really hadn't seen many Christmas movies, they all seemed too cheery and happy and downright depressing! He never could figure out what made that damn little girl in `Miracle on 34th Street' so fricking special that Santa befriended her of all people and made sure she got the one gift she wanted most for Christmas. Or how come it was always a little girl who saved Christmas or had a magical Christmas wish come true. What was this Santa guy? Some kind of sexist bastard? Well, he shouldn't think that really, Murdock had read him the storybook version of `The Polar Express' and it had been a little boy whose wish had come true, but statistically speaking, it was generally a girl who got to have the special Christmas. Any time he'd written to Santa asking for something, he'd never gotten it. Not the toy train, or trucks, or remote control car, not even the one time he wrote asking for something for a friend instead had it come true! He had even tried for the pathetic route he was sure would get some kind of answer, he wrote asking for a family one year. That was all he'd truly wanted, a family to spend Christmas with and to love him. He didn't even care if they didn't get him presents...he just wanted someone to love him and bring him into their lives as a member of their family.
"Murdock? Did you have good Christmases growing up with your grandparents?"
The words were soft and thoughtful that filled the air between them. Blinking at the screen and bringing himself out of his own thoughts, the lanky teen rolled onto his back again to look up at his friend. There was a distant look in those blue eyes that brought a pang of sadness to his heart. Shrugging slightly, Murdock sighed softly.
"We had pretty decent Christmases. Wasn't nothin' real fancy. We'd go to Christmas Eve mass, I'd usually wind up an altar boy or singin' in the choir most times. Then we'd come home, I'd go to bed and first thing in the mornin' before anything else we'd go back for Christmas morning mass. Once that was finished, we'd come home, I'd get to open the few presents left under the tree and in my stocking for me, gramps and I would go out to take care of the animals, come back inside for breakfast...and that was pretty much it. We'd have a ham for dinner, maybe some sweet potatoes and green beans with cranberries and almonds, but that was really about it. We didn't really have much so, made do with what we did have." Turning his head, his brown eyes stared up to his friend's. There was something deeper in that simple little question that was asked, something wondering if perhaps there was something wrong with Face that he never had a decent Christmas in his life. Worrying at his lower lip, Murdock sniffled softly and moved to tug part of the blanket up around his shoulders, when would his body finally make up its crazy mind?!
"What about you, Tem? You have any good Christmases?" It was almost a dumb question to ask, but one he knew needed to be. A hand absently reached out, pulling the Santa hat from his head and slowly began to stroke through his disheveled brown hair, desperate for a trim at least.
"No...not really." Face's voice was quiet and obviously thick with pain. There was enough dejection in those three little words that made Murdock's chest tighten in sorrow. Oh how he wished he could go back in time and make sure the teen had at least one good Christmas under his belt, the boy deserved that much at least. Temp was really too good of a person to not have had a decent holiday ever in his life.
Deciding maybe it was time to change the subject a bit and relate to his friend on a more personal level, he heaved a heavy breath before wiggling his shoulders into Face's thighs in hopes of warming them up more.
"Ya know what I always wanted?" Murdock started as his eyes cast to the ceiling to watch the lights mingle and dance there.
"I always wanted to have one of those big fancy houses, ya know, on the lines of a mansion but not quite so many rooms? Just a nice big house, with one of them big, curving polished wooden staircases that come Christmas time could be wrapped up in pretty evergreen garlands and red ribbons and bows. And a tree, a big ol' tree!! A tree so big ya have to stand on the top stair just in order to put the angel on it. Have it decorated with all sorts of blue, green and purple lights, those blue and silver ribbons or streamers, and icicle ornaments. Tons and tons of icicle ornaments. I always wanted a nice house like that to decorate and make all nice and fancy for Christmas, and then have people to share it with, ya know?" Giving a soft sniffle, he blinked a few times as he thought about it all. His idea of the perfect Christmas changed from year to year, but the want for someone to share it with stayed the same every time.
"You had your grandparents at least, though."
"Yeah...but they were already so old by the time they got me, they couldn't keep up and play and get all excited about things with me like someone more my own age could do. I hated bein' an only child. When I grow up, I want a whole shoeful of kids. Well...okay, maybe not that many but, at least two, ya know? Give `em someone to play with at least. Make havin' that fancy place with all the fixin's worthwhile. Christmas just don't feel quite right without someone to share it with and help make it feel special, does it?"
Temp scoffed lightly as he shook his head, fingers still dragging through Murdock's hair without even realizing it. God that image the teen projected out there was everything and then some of what he'd always wanted. A nice house, beautiful decorations; it didn't even have to be a big house like what HM had been dreaming of, he'd settle for just a typical single-family home in a subdivision somewhere.
"You don't strike me as the type who'd be comfortable in a house like that. A simple two story farm house, with a fireplace and stockings hanging on the mantle, a good sized but not huge tree in the corner of the living room, and presents stacked up everywhere. That seems more like you. A plate of cookies sitting out on the table with a glass of milk and a note wishing Santa a Merry Christmas...that definitely sounds more your style, bud."
Murdock shrugged as he settled down into the couch a bit more, legs moving off the arm of the furniture to curl up under him to keep his toes warm instead, Kermit slippers and all. That definitely did sound more his style, in fact, that sounded very much his style. It reminded him of what Christmas was like at his grandparent's house, except, there was rarely ever presents stacked up everywhere for him. Still, the fireplace and tree in the corner? A two story farm house? Oh yes, it certainly brought back memories and made his eyes well up. It would probably be years before he ever got to have another Christmas like that, if it ever happened at all.
"Yeah...guess you're right. That does sound more my style, don't it? Well...it's nice to dream right? Sides, not like it'd matter; probably never get either one of those. My luck I'll end up livin' in some crummy apartment by myself, with about a dozen or so cats and one invisible dog, talkin' to myself and makin' everyone around me scared to talk to me."
"Heh...sounds like a pretty alright life to me. Mind if I join ya? Least then neither of us is alone on Christmas, huh?"
A smile formed on Murdock's face as his head turned to look at Face. Oh if only the teen would, it would make him so very happy. Blushing softly, thankful for the darkness and blue hue painted everywhere around them, the Texan teen feigned a Southern belle accent as one hand moved to clutch at his chest.
"Why I do declare, Mr. Peck! I would be mighty honored and pleased to have you share my cat infested abode with little ol' me! And at Christmas we can go out collectin' poor abandoned kitties to bring home with us, give `em right good saucers of milk, warm little beds to lay in, knit `em each a pair of little booties and sweaters and after Christmas mornin' Meow Mix send `em back on their merry little ways!"
A flash of panic crossed Face's eyes at that thought, enough to make Murdock smile even more and laugh out right before rolling back onto his side and giving the other teen's legs a gentle, reassuring hug. "Aw relax Facey-kins. I don't know how to knit and don't plan on learnin' either. So we'll just stick to collectin' and feedin' and sendin' `em off on their little ways. How's that sound?"
"Uh...y-yeah...yeah I think I can live with that."
On the screen, Bob and Phil discussed how much `Wow' was in terms of production costs. Face had to admit the light banter between the two was enough to bring a small smile to his face, but still not enough to make his outlook on the holiday improve any. He gave Hollywood credit, they used to knock out a few good movies back in the day, the kind of movies with heart and meaning and actually spoke to people on a more personal level. That was before Hollywood became money hungry mongers though and didn't care what kind of slop they threw out for the masses to waste their money on and enjoy; so long as it broke even on production and turned a profit, they didn't care. They'd commercialized themselves, just about as bad as Christmas had become in his opinion. The idea of having such a simple Christmas with his best friend though, the boy whose head was still resting on his lap and whose silky soft locks were still sliding so easily through his fingertips, that was an idea that actually made the teen smile just a bit. That had more meaning and spirit behind it than what he'd come to know as `holiday cheer' lately. Huffing softly, Face shifted a bit and slunk just a little lower on the couch, jostling Murdock in the process and making the teen's head slide back so it was cradled in the dip where legs met body. If he were paying more attention, he might almost be horrified at realizing where he'd just shifted the boys head to. He wasn't paying any attention though; he was too deeply lost in thought.
"I think I like the idea of that, Murdock...but, couldn't we maybe still do that but, in that pretty two story farm house instead? I mean, it would give the cats more room to run and play, wouldn't it? And then wouldn't have to worry about the neighbors being scared of us, right?"
Heart racing a mile a minute, it took Murdock a few moments to realize Face had even started speaking again. He was fully aware of where the back of his head was now resting and it was enough to make his mouth go suddenly very dry. Once he was able to process what exactly it was Temp had said, the teen was thrown for an even bigger loop! They were still talking about literal cats, right? They weren't suddenly using cats as a euphemism for `kids' were they? Not that he would out rightly object! Not in a hundred, million years would he object to that! Just, they were still teens, he himself having just turned seventeen on Thanksgiving and Face having turned sixteen on December 7th, and on top of that, Murdock hadn't even expressed his feelings for the guy! Though, if Face was asking to living with him and wanting to have that pretty little farm house with plenty of room for the `cats' to run and play and not have the neighbors scared of them, not scared of us...then maybe he didn't have to express his feelings? Or he could be reading way too into it all and the other teen could be meaning exactly what he says and cats are cats, not kids.
"Uh...right, right yeah...yeah f-farm house sounds...sounds real good to me, Face...real good." Swallowing hard and licking his lips, Murdock's head nodded slightly, his eyes glued to the television screen yet again, forcing himself to think of things not related to the boy with whom he would give his last penny just to spend his days with.
Face nodded slightly as he moved to rest his head back against the couch cushions behind him. If he stayed sitting there like that for much longer, he was liable to fall asleep like that. Wouldn't be complaining all that terribly much if it weren't for the fact he knew he'd wake up with a crick in his neck that would take a hot shower followed by far too talented fingers to finally work it out again, and in a strange house with people he wasn't quite sure how they'd take to things like that, he wasn't about to risk it.
With the volume low on the TV so as not to wake anyone who might be sleeping in the house, it was easy to hear the hustle and hubbub still going on out on the snow covered streets outside, even at that late an hour on Christmas Eve. Shouldn't people be at home with their precious families, all snuggled in safe and warm in their little beds, visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads? Oh how he loathed all those lucky people who actually had a place they could honestly call home and had people waiting and wanting them to come home to spend time with. Homes with pretty decorations and presents waiting for them and someone to kiss under that damn mistletoe. His free hand clenching into a fist at his side, Face's jaw tightened almost painfully as he thought about how that was a life he'd never been privy to and probably never would be.
"HM? You ever write letters to Santa or go to Midnight mass and pray for something so hard you thought it'd be impossible for it to go unanswered and ignored?"
It was a sudden and random question, one that had Murdock's head turning to look back at him instinctively until he remembered just where his head was so inappropriately placed. Clearing his throat and turning it only slightly instead, the teen nodded.
"Sure, write to the old boy every year. It's nice to fill him in on how things are goin', ya know?"
"Murdock, I mean it. I'm being serious."
"So am I! I've written to him every year since I was old enough to hold a pencil and he wrote back every year. Well...till he became too busy and couldn't write back no more. But, as a thirteen year old I suppose I accepted that. After all, I did move out to Virginia and forgot to leave a forwarding address. Plus, times were changin', he needed to keep up with the times. Guess maybe I shoulda started emailing him instead, but there's something special and more personal about a handwritten letter that just -"
Lips clamping shut abruptly, his large brown eyes blinked in surprise at the tone his friend had just taken with him. He was only trying to answer the question and give his explanation. Though, as he lay there actually thinking about it, he supposed he didn't give much of an answer at all really. No wonder Temp snapped at him.
"Forget it...never mind. I never should have asked it in the first place."
"What? No...Temp, I...I'm sorry. I...aw dang it, Facey. I didn't mean to make ya upset, I...yes. I've written to him and prayed for stuff so hard I thought it'd be impossible to ignore or go unanswered."
His blue eyes falling to stare down his friend's ear, it finally clicking in his mind where exactly Murdock's head was but realizing it'd already been there for too long for him to quickly and awkwardly shove it away, Temp frowned. Part of him wondering if Murdock was telling the truth or not. Deciding he was, he continued.
"You do know Santa's not real, right? He's just a rich man's ploy to inflate the pockets of the money hungry business owners and toy manufacturers."
Oh Lord it was next to impossible to keep up with that blonde's line of thought sometimes! And people thought Murdock was crazy confusing? They obviously had never had a late night heart-to-heart with Templeton Peck! Moving to sit up again, legs folding Indian style under him, Murdock's eyebrows knitted in confusion as he stared at his best friend.
"Wha...Face, ya ain't makin' sense, buddy. What's your lack of belief in Jolly Ol' St. Nick got to do with writing letters and prayin' for stuff?"
"Everything! Think about it, Murdock! You wrote and prayed for stuff every year, right?" Not giving the brunette time to answer, Temp started in on the tyrant he'd been building up and bottling away for years.
"How many times would your prayers get answered or would you get what you wrote to Santa for? Rarely, if ever at all, am I right? It's all just a scam! And trust me, I've played enough of them in my time to know one when I see one, and buddy-boy Christmas is the biggest scam of them all! People always going on about how special this time of year is, well what's so special about it? Jesus wasn't even born in December! He was born in the spring. The church just stole a pagan holiday on the 25th and proclaimed it was Christmas in an attempt to convert people and give them a holiday in the winter worth making people brave the frigid cold just to make the trek out and hear the story of how this little baby was forced to be born in a stable with filthy animals just because there was supposedly no room at the inn. It's the biggest scam around! It's commercialism, Murdock! Face it, that's all Christmas and Santa have come down to being. The mother lode of all scams!
"Poor kids all over the world write to this omniscient being hoping he will bring them a toy or warm clothes or a place to live that isn't a leaky cardboard box or a family of their own and they never get any of it! Good little boys and girls go into church at Christmas and pray that they'll one day have a happy family again, that daddy will stop drinking, mommy will stop crying and their siblings will stop fighting and yelling at their parents. It never, ever, happens. And you want to know why? Because there is no Santa and no God. You hear me? Santa didn't stop writing you because he got busy! He stopped writing because your grandparents died. They wrote the letters back to you, not him. And all those prayers that went unanswered? They went unanswered because there was no one there to answer them. Don't you think if there was a God then there wouldn't be so many fuckin' orphans out there without a home to call their own this time of year? That they wouldn't have to share a lodging room with twenty other guys and feel lucky if they even got a new pair of stinking socks for a present Christmas morning?! No, there wouldn't be if he were real because I can promise you every guy I lived with back in LA had the same prayer every Christmas Eve, `God, please let this be my last Christmas in this place. Please let me find a home to finally call my own and a family to love me come this time next year.' Some guys got lucky and they did get adopted out, a lot of us didn't."
Murdock swallowed hard as he stared at Face in disbelief. He'd never really heard the teen go off on such a venomous rant before. Though, after hearing him out, Murdock at least finally knew what had been bothering his friend so much when it came to Christmas anyways. So that was what this was all about? The snapping at Hannibal at dinner, the grumpy sour mood since going on winter break, and the disappearing for a few hours? It was all because the one holiday that was supposed to be special for all who celebrated it, a holiday meant for family and loved ones being near, it had never been special for Templeton. It was just another reminder of how alone he was in the world.
Not giving it a second thought, the long arms covered in flannel airplane pajamas moved to pull the teen in for a hug. They fought against the squirming to hold him tight, Murdock's cheek coming to rest against that soft mop of perfectly combed and styled dark-blond hair. Oh his poor Faceguy, his poor, poor Templeton. Tears actually stung at his eyes as he thought about everything Face had just said. It was definitely hard being an orphaned teen any day of the year, but especially at Christmas. Pulling back after the squirming finally came to an end, his hands quickly wiped at his eyes.
"Aw Temp'ton...you...you're so fulla shit, ya know that?" Sniffling softly and giving a slight chuckle at the look of epic confusion replacing anger on his younger friend's face, Murdock moved so he was sitting closer, one hand coming to rest on the teen's soft cheek.
"I...I knew my grandparents had been answerin' the letters. I knew it for years; their writin' gave `em away every time but...I didn't care. It made them happy and gave them something to look forward to every year and knowin' I made them happy by writing letter after letter year after year...it made me happy. Even after they left I kept writin' cuz...well..." he paused, worrying at his lip as a few rouge tears escaped and made a break for it down his cheeks, "cuz it made me feel like maybe they hadn't really gone. Like they were still with me and I wasn't alone any more. Made me feel close to them even though I knew I'd never get a letter answered ever again."
God it hurt so badly to actually finally admit that to someone, to reveal one little secret that had people wondering about his sanity. No, he didn't actually still believe in Santa, he hadn't for years, but writing those letters was the only way he knew to keep the memory of his grandparents alive and special in his heart.
Gulping and sniffling, he continued to speak, his voice soft and calming and sounding far more mature than any seventeen year old should...certainly far more sane than people gave him credit for.
"I agree one hundred percent with ya darlin' that Christmas has become too commercial. I feel the same way. I hate that shopping centers start putting decorations up on November 2nd and Wal-Mart starts deckin' the garden center out before they even clear out the Halloween decorations. I would love nothin' more than to hop in a time machine and go back to the days where holidays actually meant something special to people. To hear people sing, "Deck the Halls" instead of "Swamp the Malls". For carolers to sing outside of doors and expect nothing more than a smiling face and the joy of knowing they brightened someone's day for even just a little while. More importantly I wish so much I could take you back in time with me so you could enjoy one good family Christmas with me and my grandparents. See for yourself it ain't all about `gimme, gimme, gimme.' That it's about being with people who care about you and love you no matter what. And if you think your prayers for a family went unanswered all these years, then shame on you Templeton Peck. I take great offense to that and I'm sure Hannibal and BA and even sweet ol' Mrs. B would too. You've seen the way Hannibal looks out for all of us, especially you! Heck, I'm barely less than a year younger than him and he looks after me like a freakin' mother hen sometimes! Hannibal's that big brother we all wanted but never had. BA...well...alright BA's probably more like that illegitimate cousin everyone knows about but won't claim yet loves anyways for some weird reason. And you buddy-boy, you're that little brother everyone loves so very much and would kill for if you asked us too. You've got a family, Facey. Right here in front of you." Murdock gave a semi-sad smile as his fingers moved from Face's cheek to tap out syllables against his friend's nose during his last sentence, driving the point home as best he could.
Their eyes locked and faces only inches apart, Temp swallowed hard as what Murdock said sunk in. Who would have thought the teen was capable of such a simple yet powerful little speech? Especially one that was able to tame the ugly beast of anger and bitterness within him so quickly and easily. Maybe it was the words themselves, which held far more truth to them than he wanted to let on at the time, or maybe it was the way they were said and who was saying them that put that fire out in his heart. Either way, he was finding it harder and harder to stay angry and furious about the holiday season. He still wasn't sure he bought into it all, but, maybe Murdock was right? As unconventional as it was, maybe...maybe his prayer for a family had finally come true? After all, they had kicked his butt until he agreed to come to Chicago just so he didn't have to be back at school alone over Christmas. Mrs. Baracus didn't even bat an eye at a fourth boy suddenly appearing on her door stoop; she'd pulled him in for a hug as if she'd known him since he was just a baby and was an old friend of BA's. They all had sat around the dining room table to enjoy a delicious meal the likes of which he was certain he'd never fully recover from! Heck, there was even a brand new stocking hanging on the line in front of the window filled with goodies for him and him alone.
"If...if Hannibal's the big brother, BA's the...illegitimate cousin and I...I'm the little brother then...what's that make you?"
A sparkle of mischief sprang back to life in Murdock's dark eyes, the corners of his mouth turning up in a crooked little grin. Sitting so close, it made the teen's heart flutter and stomach jump just feeling that soft breeze of warm air come from Face's lips and pass over his own. Temp wasn't making any attempts to put distance between them; that certainly did make Murdock's heart beat just a bit faster as he thought up some silly, typical response to give in answer to that question.
"Me? Aw shucks Facey. I'm that crazy relative that no one wants to claim. Who'd want to admit they have a certifiable Looney Toon swingin' from the branches of their family tree? Ya might say I'm that acorn that fell and bounced under the--"
Brown eyes sudden wide open as his sentence is cut short. Though, if ever he were to be interrupted, having an awkward, closed mouthed kiss was probably the best way to go! Eyes fluttering shut as he slowly relaxed and returned that chaste and curious first kiss, his scattered mind rejoiced at the fact that they most certainly were in no way, shape, or physical form related and family!
Heads finally pulling back after a moment, Murdock felt his entire heart swell with happiness. Temp had gotten his Christmas wish, Murdock had gotten his!
"I'd claim you. You're with me." Face said softly as he timidly moved to nudge their noses together, his blue eyes fluttering open to look out from under long dark lashes. Oh Lordy yes, both of their Christmas wishes had been answered!
Exchanging quiet chuckles, Temp glanced away nervously, his eyes casting to the clock on the wall as it ticked over to two a.m. Taking a deep breath and moving to stand, his hand reached out to help Murdock off the couch as well.
"Hey, it's pretty late. Should probably hit the sheets, don't'cha think?"
Murdock quirked a brow as he reached to take the hand offered. He wanted to make a joke about what the girls said about Face was true, he did move fast, but decided against it. He'd have to try and corner the boy sometime to find out just which team it was he swung for and what his intentions were. In the meantime though, he got one kiss out of the ordeal, he was going to see how many more he could get before this Christmas was over.
Smirking, he pulled Face back down onto the couch with him, the discarded Santa hat promptly making its grand reappearance atop the blonde's head. His arms wrapped around Face's surprised form, he dragged the boy with him as he laid back down, snuggling in and pulling the blanket up around them warm and safe. With a smack of his lips against Face's cheek, Murdock nuzzled his nose into that soft hair and huffed contently.
"Nope...you said you'd sit up and watch `White Christmas' with me. It's not done yet. Sides...I wanna try and catch Santa in the act. I know I can stay up long enough this year to catch him, I just know it!"
"...you're never going to catch him, you know that right?"
"Sure I will! He has to slip up one of these years! And when he does, I wanna be there so I can prove to everyone that he's really real."
Temp sighed heavily, his eyes rolling up to see the white faux fur of that hat still on his head. Shaking his head gently, he moved to snuggle down onto the couch more, nestling himself into those protective arms, complete with those silly childish flannel plane pajamas. Trying to hold back a yawn, he blinked blurrily at the television screen.
"Never gonna happen, Murdock..."
"Oh yeah? How come, darlin', do tell."
"Pft...cuz he's magic, duh."
If you can't beat `em, join `em, right? Smirking in triumph, Murdock wiggled happily to himself as his arms wrapped just a bit tighter around Temp's body, holding him close and so carefully. The sleeping teen may not remember in the morning that he gave in and played along with his game of pretend, but that was fine with him. It didn't matter. It was Murdock's hope that Temp did remember their talk though, and what Murdock had said about having a family whether it was how he'd imagined it to be or not. The last thing he wanted to do was have a full and complete repeat of the whole ordeal next Christmas. The snuggling on the couch and kisses he would love to repeat, just not the anger and sadness that lead up to them.
A soft and contented huff ruffled Temp's hair as Murdock moved his nose in closer, pressing a gentle kiss to the base of the teen's neck. His eyes falling shut and failing to open again, he'd just have to wait till next Christmas to try and catch the jolly fat man to have him deliver a letter to his grandparents for him. Three cups of cocoa made with warm milk, a warm body snuggled in against him and a comfortable place to sleep for a change was too much for him to fight off. The lights of the tree and of Bing and Danny stepping out from behind a gorgeous tree dressed as Santas provided the soft, gentle light that helped to lull the teen to sleep. The sweet voices singing of dreams of snow and magically special Christmases finished them off, leaving them to dream of their own white Christmases spent together in that pretty little farm house, a fireplace and tree in the corner, presents stacked everywhere and plenty of space for the `cats' to run and play.
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