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one more sleep 'til Christmas

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"Merry Christmas," Melinda says, standing with hands full of bags on the curb. It's a compromise her parents make, Christmas together, and he's not sure how many of these she's been through, but this year and last year, he's been able to pick her up. He hurries to meet her, taking some of the bags while Melinda shakes her head.

"I thought you agreed not to buy gifts this year," he says. 

"We're not talking about it."

He smirks to the trunk and the bags, because Lola's full of so many things Melinda's mother must have thought she needed, or couldn't live without and they're likely all spy gear, or new guns that aren't on the market yet, not even for SHIELD. Arranging the bags, he shuts the trunk and gets back in next to her. It's not far back to the base, especially not with Lola.
The radio plays Christmas songs that neither of them really listen to, his mind's on the road, then the sky in front of them and Melinda keeps her thoughts to herself.

He's used to that. Visiting her parents, especially when they're together, brings up things she often doesn't want to talk about. He's accustomed to the quiet. Maybe if his parents were still alive, he'd feel the same way. There's always something a child isn't doing well enough, even when they're a highly respected secret agent. May's mother wanted her to join her organization, not SHIELD, where it would be easier for her mother to look after her, but Melinda's independent.

He lets the stars be his company, absently humming along to radio because he's always liked this song, because he loves the Muppets. (What's not to like about the Muppets?) He'd turn it up, but Melinda doesn't usually appreciate his singing.
She won't comment, but she'll make that face. (even if it's one of her more endearing, Phil what are you doing now, looks he can avoid it if he just--)

"You can sing."

He almost doesn't hear her and he has to look, just to make sure she actually spoke.

"You can sing, I won't say anything."

"I wasn't singing."

"You were mouthing the words."

"That's not singing, that's more like talking to myself."

Melinda shakes her head and her hair falls over her shoulders, impossibly black in the darkness. He wants to run his fingers through it. Always does, but tonight, more than usual. Even though she's frustrated, or tired, she's so beautiful. The holidays make him wistful, or maybe it's that he has nowhere to go most of the time and it's only when he thinks about his family and what he misses that he wants more than his work. He has her, and the rest of their team. That's a family.

"I know how much you love that frog."

"Don't you?"


"I can turn the radio off if you'd rather make the trip in silence."

"I don't mind your mouthing along."

"You don't?"

"It's better than your singing."

He shrugs, feigning hurt and they drive on in silence, above the desert, below the stars. The radio switches to something gentle, with bells and he'll never admit that it's terribly romantic, being here, with her. Not that romance is something that they do. It's not them.

It's not.

Melinda's hand strokes the back of his, toying with his wrist. The heat of her fingers only rests there for a moment, but it's real.
That's almost romantic, and he flicks his eyes over, trying to get a look at her, but her face is still, her expression as enigmatic as usual. Thinking about her takes his mind off the radio, and it could be playing anything by the time they land. Melinda circles the car with him, meeting him by the trunk. She already has it open, and her head's beneath the lid, looking through he bags. He leans in beside her, half-humming that song from the Muppets, because it's outrageously catchy.

"Phil," she says and he stops, because she's going to make fun of him again.

He turns and her mouth is so close, too close, and her lips are on his and kissing her is the kind of sensation that could make him forget all the Christmases past in favor of this one moment. Now he's really lost his voice, and he stares at her.

Melinda smiles and points upward at the mistletoe she managed to attach to the trunk so it hung above their heads. "Merry Christmas." She takes two of the bags and leaves him, standing there like an idiot, half in the trunk.

With no one there to see, he grins like one too.