Title: Advent Calendar (December 17): Five People Mac Might Have Kissed Under the Mistletoe
Pairing: Hawkes/Mac, Stella/Mac, Danny/Mac, Mac/Peyton, Mac/Abernathy
Summary: These kisses happened, even if they didn't.
Disclaimer: None of these are mine. Characters are the property of Anthony Zuiker, Jerry Bruckheimer Television, CBS, and Alliance Atlantis.
Notes: This is my attempt at a fic version of an Advent calendar. There will be 25 of these.
***All realities are alternate realities.
Christmastime takes place very near the winter solstice, and the barriers between the worlds are thin that night. All things might be true, just as all things might be false. Echoes can be felt across time, and time runs both ways; its river flows uphill and down.
Mac Taylor might have, could have, kissed all of them, or none of them, or some of them.
"Did you know that the god Baldur was said to have been killed with a sprig of mistletoe?" Hawkes asks. He takes a sip of his wine and looks at Mac, smiling.
"No, I didn't," Mac says. "But somehow I'm not surprised that you do."
Hawkes looks pleased with himself. "He was," he says. "Straight through the heart, at least according to some stories.
"And because of that, people are supposed to kiss under it."
"I don't know that it's specifically because of that. The plant is also associated with Druidic solstice rituals in pre-Christian Britain. Some customs also say that it's not supposed to touch the ground until it's taken down for the year after Christmas is over."
"What would happen if it did?" Mac asks.
"Something very bad, I'm sure," Hawkes says. "It was also believed that mistletoe left hanging all year would protect a house from fire or lightning."
"All right, I'll bite," Mac says. "How do all of those things add up to kissing beneath it?"
"Maybe that was once part of the Druids' rituals, too," Hawkes says. "Or maybe -- and this is what I like to think -- kissing offers two people the same protection as a house that keeps its mistletoe."
Mac considers this. "So they'd be safe from fire and lightning?"
"Among other things," Hawkes says. He sets down his wineglass and steps into the doorway. "Let me show you."
Mac goes to him. He doesn't believe that this will keep him safe, but he does want to kiss Hawkes, very badly, and Hawkes is a lucky man; if there's any truth to the superstition, maybe it will, at least, protect him.
"What does a girl have to do to get kissed around here?" Stella asks. She backs into the doorway, under the mistletoe, and stands there, arms raised and hands braced against either side of the doorframe, eyes bright with challenge.
"You really think you need that as an excuse?" Mac says.
"No." Stella shakes her head. "But who cares? It's fun, Mac. And it's tradition. Traditions are important; you should know that."
"I do know that," he says.
"So then get your ass over here." She gestures to him. "You think I let just anyone kiss me under the mistletoe? You should count your lucky stars you're one of the few, buddy."
Mac laughs, and kisses her. Her arms go around his neck and she kisses him back, hard. He holds her to him and closes his eyes, and thinks of the mistletoe above their heads, concentrates on the feel of her in his arms and the steady beat of her heart against his chest. It's good and it's real, and he tries to memorize as many of the details as he can.
He'll remember the feel of her mouth on his; he'll remember the way the small of her back curves beneath his hand. He'll remember all of this, he tells himself; he will. He'll hold her as long as he can, and after that, he'll carry this kiss with him.
Danny is drunk; that's a given. Mac isn't far behind him, but he doesn't try to tell himself he's any more drunk than he really is. He's given up trying to lie to himself like that. It doesn't do either of them any good, nor does it work.
They sit together and drink. Danny holds steady for most of the night, but sometime around midnight, sometime as the year slides into the very deepest part of winter, he crumbles a little, and he talks about Louie in disjointed sentences.
"You have to admit it when you're responsible for something," he says. "You have to acknowledge your own. If it's yours, if it's part of you..." He seems to struggle for words. "You can't pretend it's not. Or, I mean, you can, but all it's gonna do is fuck you up in the end, even if you keep going that way right until the day you die."
"Everyone's running from something," Mac says. "You've told me that."
"Have I?" Danny runs a finger along the rim of his glass. "Maybe so. Maybe I was right. But I think I forgot to mention the part where whatever you're running from always catches up with you in the end." He looks out across the bar, but Mac wonders what he's really seeing. "Or maybe it's with you all along. Maybe you never outran it in the first place, you just thought you did. You know what I mean?"
"I do," Mac says.
Later, in the alley, Danny shows Mac a sprig of mistletoe he snagged off the bar, and Mac pushes him up against the wall and kisses him. "Mac," Danny says, and holds Mac's face between his hands and kisses him over and over again, soft, quick kisses that make Mac pull Danny back to him over and over again.
"Danny," Mac says. He drops his forehead against Danny's and they stay like that for awhile, not kissing now but with their mouths still touching, sharing the same air.
Mac goes with Peyton to a party up at Columbia with some of her old teaching colleagues. There's a sprig of mistletoe hanging in the door that leads out to the balcony, and Peyton points it out to him laughingly when they go outside so she can have a quick cigarette. He takes her hand and kisses her: a quick, soft public kiss, but one that makes her smile and touch his cheek all the same.
"Ready for your flight?" he asks her when they're leaning on the railing and he's looking out at the campus lights beneath them.
"As much as I can be," she says. "Thank you again for taking me to the airport."
"Sure," he says. "I'm happy to do it."
"Maybe some time you could come with me," she says, and he's aware that she's watching him closely to gauge his reaction. "I think you would like London at the holidays."
"I'm sure I would," he says, and lets his hand rest on top of hers. She smiles at him again, then turns her head away so she can take a drag of her cigarette.
He wants them to last. He does. He watches smoke trickle into the night and wonders if he ever will see London in the winter.
Abernathy has managed to acquire a Santa hat from somewhere. Mac doesn't even bother to ask how, or why, because he knows that, if questioned, Abernathy will just come up with some elaborate story that bears, at best, a tangential relationship to the truth. He also has a sprig of mistletoe stuck in the brim of the hat, and Mac doesn't comment on that, either.
"Drink up, Chicago," Abernathy says out back of the supply room late that night, and sets out two shot glasses.
Mac looks down at the glass. "I really don't think we should -- "
"Oh, I think we absolutely should," Abernathy says. "It's Christmas Eve, it's goddamn freezing out here, and we're on the opposite side of the world from home. What can we do but drink up?"
"When you put it that way..." Mac raises his glass and clinks it against Abernathy's in a toast. He doesn't tell him that he's glad to be here instead of at home, that he doesn't mind that he wasn't able to get leave for the holidays. It's not a conversation he wants to have.
The whiskey is smooth and good, and heats his throat all the way down to his stomach. Three or four or maybe five shots later, Abernathy leans close to him and says, "Now don't tell me you don't know the proper thing to do when a boy has got himself some mistletoe."
This time he doesn't even try to protest. He kisses Abernathy, because it's Christmas Eve and because he does know what to do with mistletoe, and because Abernathy's mouth is warm and his arms are steady when he holds Mac close. Mac closes his eyes and presses his mouth tighter against Abernathy's, and he tries not to think about Chicago, or about the fact that he'd rather be here than there. He tries not to think about what tomorrow will bring or what's happened before.
The scar over his heart is almost two months old now, but it's still healing, and he feels it give a sudden little throb beneath his shirt. Abernathy's hands warm him and brace him, and this can't, won't, last.
All realities are alternate realities. The past is as yet unwritten, and the future is dead and buried. There's no such thing as the present.
This is true if you know how to look at time. It depends on how you look at it, on what you want to believe.
Mac Taylor might have, could have, kissed all of them, or none of them, or some of them. Christmastime is a time of change, and a time of miracles, but miracles hurt as often as they heal.
There's only one thing that's a constant here, no matter where he stands in time or in space.
He carries all of them with him, always. He keeps faith for them.
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