They haven’t made plans for Christmas. In Liz’s mind at least, making plans would have been too deliberate. Too much like something a couple would do. And they aren’t. At least not really. It’s... complicated. Unofficial.
Almost a year and a half of unofficial, a traitorous voice whispers in the back of her mind.
Anyway, whatever they are, they aren’t the sort to sit down and make some kind of deliberate plan about seeing each other over the holiday and eat Christmas dinner like some God awful conventional couple in a relationship with nothing better to do.
Thanksgiving, she reminds herself, was not like that. He’d cooked, granted, under her instructions, but that was because he was always complaining about American holidays and her cooking. He’d called it saving her from food poisoning, while she’d sat at the counter and critiqued his use of the kitchen. It had been cross cultural bonding. A fruitless attempt to persuade him of the superior nature of the American tradition. An argument left unsettled in favour of shutting him up by any means necessary, something they both probably considered victory.
That was Thanksgiving. This is Christmas. Completely different rules apply.
What it means in the end is that Liz is standing on the doorstep of Finn’s place on the day before Christmas Eve, with a bag that might or might not contain a few changes of clothes (to supplement what seems to have already taken up residence in his wardrobe) and a present she’s spent way too much time choosing, wrapped up with the most offensive card she could find to offset any possible meaning he might read into the gift.
Unfortunately when she arrives he doesn’t look entirely pleased to see her, which is kind of a downer if she lets herself acknowledge it. Too many times she’s been unwanted and oblivious to it. She’s always looking now, for that cue to leave, and it hurts to see it on his face. She’s planning a strategic exit. A lie perhaps, about dropping off the card before she goes elsewhere. Then he suddenly blurts out, “I’m going to my mother’s.”
“Going to my mother. For Christmas.”
“But... I thought, I mean, I didn’t know you had plans.”
“You didn’t ask. I assumed...” Finn has that suddenly vulnerable look, the one that gives her a feeling in the pit of her stomach that she tells herself is loathing. “Given the lack of input from you, I made other plans.”
Well fuck. There they go again. Two great minds not thinking at all alike. She likes to tell herself that, however much they disagree, they're on the same wavelength most of the time. It bothers her to realise that they aren't.
"I'm leaving in the morning," he says, "so if you can stand my company this evening..."
"I reckon I can cope Finn, since it's Christmas. Tradition and all that."
He makes a face like he's bitten a lemon. Liz smirks.
She'd brought wine, because that's the rule if she's going to expect him to cook for her, and Finn starts rummaging in cupboards with fewer complaints than usual. It’s not a bad evening really, although the twinge of disappointment stays. Even after they’ve gone to bed and he’s lying there sleeping, she watches him in the dim glow of the street light outside and wonders if she dares to put a name on the feelings she has about not seeing him for a few days.
She stays awake long enough that she oversleeps in the morning, blissfully oblivious to the noise of his usual morning routine (the bang of cupboards in the kitchen, the shower, the wardrobe with the creaking door). In the end she wakes up to the smell of coffee and him shaking her shoulder.
“Dear God what are you wearing?” is the first thing out of her mouth. It’s completely involuntary, and really it’s entirely his fault. The jumper is green, white and blue and ugly as sin. Festive crimes against fashion. Someone call the police.
Finn grimaces. “It’s traditional,” he says, as if that’s any kind of defence.
“That, too, is traditional, Liz. Did you not get the memo?”
She sips coffee as a defence mechanism and squints at the jumper. Even with her eyes half closed it’s still awful but she does have to admit that as far as hideous jumpers go, he wears it quite well. Arrogant enough to pull it off. Inglis had notably not been able to do the same.
“At least I don’t have to be seen with you wearing it.”
Finn looks shifty. “Well...” he begins, and stops.
“I wondered if you wanted to come with me.”
“To your mother!” Liz is aware it comes out as a yelp. Coffee sloshes onto the duvet.
“I did ask her first.”
“Yes, but...” Liz has met his mother before. Not in a ‘meet the parents’ way. She’d just happened to be in London a couple of times and there’d been dinner. Not, she’d thought, the sort of meeting that led to spending Christmas. He’s managed to render her speechless. It’s not something she enjoys.
“I’ll let you think about it,” he says, with an uncharacteristic amount of tact, and retreats from the bedroom. From the kitchen she can hear him humming something. Hark the Herald, she realises. She smirks, because she’s coming to the conclusion that despite all his outward disdain, Finn rather likes Christmas. She can add that to the precious hoard of things that she knows about him that nobody else does.
Liz sips her coffee, wriggling her toes against the still-warm sheets. Going to Finn’s mother would be madness of course. No sane person would go. No sane person would have invited her. Yet set against Christmas alone in her flat... what’s the worst that could happen?
She’ll tell him in a minute. When she’s finished her coffee. And come up with a plan to get him out of that jumper.