Lonely This Christmas
Title: Lonely This Christmas (Based on the song with same title, by the band Mud)
Genre: holiday, angst
Warnings: *blush and has a real bad habit of doing this...awkwardly admits to canon death*
Summary: A piece done for the A-Slash Secret Santa story exchange! Prompt given was: "A Face/Murdock fic inspired by the song 'Lonely this Christmas' by Mud. Can be as loosely inspired as you like. Series universe if possible."
Author's Note: ...*bawls!* I'm sorry!! This story got away from me!! It was not supposed to go in the direction it ended up going in! When I'd originally planned this out, things went much different!! *will blame the morose way this ended up playing out on Pandora Radio's "Instrumental (Holiday)" station as was listening to that entire time was writing this and seemed to just get lost in the almost hauntingly beautiful yet strangely gloomy way the songs sounded.* Anyways...I apologize, profusely! Maybe someday I'll write a Christmas story with a happy ending that's not incredibly depressing and has my muses out looking for a generic brand anti-depressant for me!
Hands stuffed in his pockets, his eyes stared straight down at the snow covered ground crunching under his designer boots. Lord they were expensive and looked absolutely amazing on him, but cold? Damn were they cold! He'd stop being able to feel his toes about two hours ago as he was wandering through the streets of that small New England town. He may not even have toes left at this point. May need to have them removed or they could fall right off if they got cold enough. Had heard stories of that happening, limbs becoming so dead and frozen that they've been able to just be broken clean off. Of course, those stories were usually about hikers lost in the Himalayas in the dead of winter, and nine times out of ten usually ended with being found days later only with one member of the group missing and everyone looking incredibly guilty but strangely well nourished.
At this point, he'd almost rather be the one guy who didn't make it off the mountain, would at least save him from wandering the streets like a bum on Christmas. Hated that worst of all; not really having any place to go for Christmas. Why he was even still in that damn little Massachusetts town, he didn't know! It was that little town he and best friend, confidant and lover, had decided on staying in every year at this time. Which was how it was supposed to be this year, just as it was last year. They were supposed to be walking down that picturesque Main Street together, admiring the brightly decorated store windows and shops, taking in the sight of every old fashioned lamp post being wrapped in green garland and red felt bows while store owners smiled and waved to them from the wreath adorn doors of their shops. This little town was exactly the type of town they'd seen on Christmas cards for years throughout their lives. It was almost too perfect. Walking through the street in frozen boots and a grey wool pea coat, collar popped up around his neck, Murdock realized that yes, the town had been too perfect. But then, so had his life until a few months ago.
They'd gotten their pardons; Hannibal had made sure of that. They were free. Free!! For the first time in nearly fifteen years they were free to walk the streets without fear of being picked up by the military or shot on sight. It had been with that new found freedom that he and his long time, though rather secret, partner had taken a trip up the coast and stumbled upon that sleepy little town. Face had been right when he wistfully said it'd looked like something out of a dream. It was like they'd been magically transported back through time each time they stepped into town. They'd only spent one Christmas in the sleepy little village, but it'd been so nice.
Tears prickled at his eyes as he slowly made his way through the shops, window shopping and for the first time ever, stopping to admire the nice leather loafers and dress shirts on display in the display window for Neumann's men's clothing store, a pang of pain twanging in his heart as he thought about how Face would be fawning over them and how nice the man would look dressed in them. The urge to go in and buy them was almost too much to bear. Forcing himself away from the window, he continued down the snowy sidewalk, gentle flakes falling from the heavens and dusting lightly over the freshly cleared street. Face would have loved this. Sure the man was a warm weather boy through and through (they both were, what with having been born and raised in states that rarely ever saw a day that dipped below 60 degrees), but oh how his face would light up at the sight of the snow covered evergreen trees, that voice would carry through the chilled air in its awkward, off-key attempt to sing age old carols and hymns while gathering up snowball after snowball to throw at his partner. It was the first time (and subsequently the last as well) that Murdock had ever seen the man so carefree and genuinely happy! Laughing and playing in the snow like a couple of school boys; starting snowball fights and building up forts they'd try to overpower, even managing to get the town's boys to join in on their mock war. They built a snowman together, right over there in that little park, next to that big old pine tree sitting all by its lonesome. It had been, of course, Murdock's idea to give that tree a snowman companion so it didn't have to be alone at Christmas. Christmas wasn't a time to be alone; it was a time to be with friends and loved ones.
Wiping the back of his mitten covered hand under his nose, he sniffled as he moved into the park and over to that old tree. The poor thing was all alone in that clearing and looked as if it had at one point been a beautiful and full evergreen. Probably would have made a majestic town Christmas tree in its day; now it just sits there sad and lonely looking. Funny, it looked how he felt.
Slowly, with tears nearly crystallizing on his lashes, he set himself down on the cold, wet snow, a tiny ball forming between his gloved hands. Gradually, the size grew as more and more snow was added to it until he finally had to crawl on his knees, pushing the ball along in front of him. Getting to the size he wanted and the place he wanted, his hands instinctively set about to start building a second on, smaller this time but just the right size for his purposes. He gulped back a lump that was starting to form in his throat as he set the second snowball down on top of the first and moved a bit further away to fresher snow to roll the third and final one. Carrying it carefully back to the others, he reverently patted it into place. Mitten tips cold and wet, the wetness seeping through to his fingers, he yanked the stupid things off and let them fall to the ground as he set to scraping away snow here and there, adding a bit in places while making sure things stayed just so.
He was sure he had to look absolutely ridiculous standing out there building a snowman by himself, especially one that was quickly getting whittled down in height and roundness. It would probably be the skinniest snowman the town's people had ever seen, and if they looked closely they'd be able to see folds of clothes, coiffed hair swept off to the side in perfection. In fact, the snowman was beginning to look less and less like a traditional greeting card, childhood fun time snowman and more like a certain Lieutenant who should have been there with him. Would have been there with him if they hadn't fought, if Face hadn't stormed out, if...
Taking a step back, he quickly wiped at his eyes, clearing away the tears and hiccupping softly as he took in the sight in front of him. Wasn't by any means a beautiful piece of work like those ice sculptures he'd seen pictures of, and was fairly certain other people had created far nicer and more realistic looking snow people, but he knew who it was supposed to be, knew that those eyes were supposed to be a beautiful crystal blue and that that smile was supposed to have that little lit to it in the corners.
Lip trembling, he stared at the snow figure for a long moment before making his next move. If he didn't look crazy before, he sure would after this. Stepping back up to the Face-snow-man, his arms instinctively moved to wrap around the waist, face burying against the lumpy frigid neck. Sobs wrecked through his body, the snow melting away as his tears pooled together. It wasn't much of a goodbye, but since he'd been robbed of it the first time, would take full advantage of it this time.
Words would seem cheap and meaningless, their apologies never came in the form of words because as Murdock had stated just a couple years before, the one thing he'd always liked about the two of them was that they never had to stumble over their lips apologizing. It was all just water under the bridge. They'd share a hug, a sweet and gentle kiss the kind that both asked for and gave forgiveness, but never would the words "I'm sorry..." be heard between them. He would, however, silently beg for forgiveness through the tears that were steadily melting a hole in the man's neck. How ironically cruel.
He would mentally apologize for starting the fight, a stupid fight that had them both spouting off words they didn't mean. A fight that ended in Face storming out. Murdock had gone to bed alone that night, too frustrated and upset that the man he'd promised to be faithful to for the rest of time still for some reason felt the need to go out and flirt with the girls, occasionally follow a few (the real lookers with the killer legs, Lord but Face was always a sucker for long legs) back to their place for a night of passion. So Murdock had called him on it, insisted that the man was being unfaithful and yes, was certainly cheating. Face had argued back, defending himself and his action as best he could before he'd finally had enough and went out the front door, not even bothering to slam it shut behind him. That had been the last time Face had gone storming out. The last time they spoke and it was words of anger and hurt. It was 4am when the phone rang, the Baltimore Police Department calling, looking for a "Mr. HM Murdock" on behalf of Templeton Peck. He doesn't remember much of the phone call, hadn't been really awake until he heard the words "shooting". It had been the worst day of his life, his entire world came crashing down in that instant. A robbery at an all-night convenient store gone awry when Face walked in at the wrong time. A simple case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The only reason for Face even being at that little store would be to pick up a peace offering; a brand of sweets the pilot had grown particularly fond of and could only be found in that store. If it hadn't been for the fight that Murdock started, the conman wouldn't have even been there.
He'd fought for a good long week trying to get the city to turn the man's body over to him. Hannibal had flown back from his vacation with Maggie early to try and help make arrangements and to try his luck at having the poor lieutenant's body released. They may not have had any papers stating otherwise but, they were family. The only family they'd had left. Since nothing could be linked officially or legally to their relation to Templeton, the man was handed instead to the military so that they could bury him among the rest of the soldiers who had no one to claim them; a sort of military version of a potter's field. Again, Murdock had been robbed of a chance to say goodbye.
Standing there clinging to the closest thing he could get to his partner, Murdock felt his heart breaking all the more. Christmas wasn't a time to be alone and he knew that. Pulling back from the snow figure, now in desperate need of quick repairs in places, his near frozen fingers worked to fix the spots that had been ruined on Face's snowman -especially that damn hollowed spot in his neck, scarily in roughly the same place he's told the real life version had been shot--before starting in on a second. Building it out of piles of snow behind the first, he frantically struggled against the bitter cold and increasing darkness to get it done. Legs first, then the hips and torso; arms getting packed hard around the chest of the Face-snow-man before having to fight to get the head right. Not bothering with any fancy details like folds of clothes or even attempting to sculpt a hat, frozen fingers instead concentrated on making the face look as close to what he believed he looked like as possible. Eyes closed peacefully, heads resting together gently and looking as if his lips are hidden in a kiss to the shoulder, Murdock was scarcely aware another person was even present with him until the hand fell on his shoulder and gently guided him back a few paces.
"Come on, Captain...we need to get going or we're going to miss the flight."
Brown eyes ringed with red and rimmed by puffy pink skin, turn to gaze at the source of the voice. Blue eyes sparkle back at him, rimmed with unshed tears of their own...but they're not his eyes, not the gorgeous clear sky blue of his partner. Sniffling and wiping at his nose again, the pilot's own eyes turned back to the snow figures, embraced in a warm hug standing under that lonely old tree.
"Right...right, Colonel...I...I'll be just a minute."
He listened as those heavy booted feet moved further away, back out onto the sidewalk and ultimately back into the waiting rental car. Christmas was going to be cold this year, didn't matter if he was in sunny LA with Hannibal, Maggie and BA or alone in his empty apartment in Baltimore or in this tiny cookie-cutter town, it was going to be cold without Face, without a place to really call home. At least he won't be alone for Christmas. He'd be lonely, but wouldn't be alone.
Stepping back up to the snow figures, he closed his eyes and huffed softly as he nuzzled his nose against Face's frozen cheek. Kissing it in a rather desperate hope that wherever the conman was, that he'd feel it, his lips moved to where an ear should have been.
"You fellas keep Old Man Green here company. Don't let him spend Christmas alone, hear? No wanderin' off, no fightin'. Just...stand here and make sure he don't have a lonely Christmas," pausing to gulp back the lump again, he sniffled softly, "Love you, Facey...Merry Christmas..."
Taking a deep breath to fight back to the urge to cry again, he quickly scooped his soggy and half frozen mittens off the ground, tucked them into his coat pocket and turned to hurry for the waiting car. Pausing at the edge of the park, just on the other side of where soil met concrete, he glanced back at the silhouettes, illuminated softly in the pale rising moonlight, he swallowed hard. It wasn't much of a goodbye, but it would have to do. Taking in the sight one last time, he bid a final silent farewell before slipping into the passenger seat heavily, allowing the park and that picturesque little town to fade into the distance.
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