Under the Mistletoe
CATEGORY: KW/DM, romance
SPOILERS: Season seven up through “The Dance We Do”, possible minor ones for “The Greatest of Gifts”. Takes place on Christmas Eve.
ARCHIVE: Heather, if you’re reading, feel free to add this to your page. Everyone else, please contact me. Most of my other fics can be found at “The Lounge” (neoxer.com; Heather’s site)
DISCLAIMER: The ER characters are not mine, but I am borrowing them and will return them unharmed. Please don’t sue :)
AUTHOR’S NOTE: I had a rush of inspiration and the story just flowed. This did not undergo any outside editing; I was in the holiday spirit and the idea just dawned on me. Oh, and by the way, my grandma played her Christmas Nat King Cole CD all night last year on Christmas Eve.
SUMMARY: A Christmas Story of two lonely people who find each other on the holiday.
“Under the Mistletoe” (KW/DM)
A Christmas Story
Dave Malucci whistled to himself as he strode down the hallway. His last shift before Christmas was finally over. Yes, he’d planned this to be his wildest Christmas Eve yet -- plenty of egg nog and plenty of skirt. It was gonna be a great night. Sure, Christmas hadn't always been candy canes and sugar plums for Dave -- especially not the previous year -- but if he got himself into the hoopla enough, and if he could get drunk enough, it could all be forgotten.
Dave entered the lounge, preparing to head home and get ready for the evening. Chuny Marquez and Abby Lockhart sat at the table laughing. Chuny said something about a “Croatian Sensation” and Abby cracked up hysterically. It was a nice change to hear Abby smile and laugh. She had been so upset recently, but since her mother left, she cheered up immensely.
“Hey, ladies,” Dave said to the girls, trying as usual to be as suave as possible. “I’m off and ready to have a little Christmas fun.” He winked at them, which sent the pair of nurses into another fit of laughter.
“Malucci, I swear, you’re gonna be one of those forty year olds who still acts like a ten year old for the rest of you life,” Abby said, shaking her head, but smiling.
“Bet he still believes in Santa Claus,” Chuny teased. Dave shook his head. Boy, were women weird. He opened up his locker and began to pull his stuff out and shove it in my backpack. John Carter entered the lounge looking completely exhausted.
“Hey, Carter! Man!” Dave yelled. “Ya gonna spread some holiday cheer tonight, if ya know what I mean?” He smiled like a Cheshire cat and raised his eyebrows suggestively.
John sighed. “I’m not really in the holiday spirit, Malucci. Deb’s gonna deliver any day now, and Mark...” he trailed off. The girls stopped their chatter and silence filled the room. The entire staff had heard about Mark Greene’s brain tumor and that the prognosis was not good. It was a suffering blow to the morale of the entire hospital staff, not just those who worked with him daily in the ED. Carter continued, “Anyway, Dr. Weaver’s having a Christmas party at her house tonight for anyone who’s off. Kinda of a way to try to raise everyone’s spirits. I’ll probably stop by.”
Chuny sighed. “God, it’s a shame I’m working tonight. I’ve always wanted to see what kind of place Weaver’s got. Besides, even an evening with Weaver is better than working on Christmas Eve.”
“Or Christmas day,” Abby finished. “Luka gets off at ten and I’m on tomorrow at seven, so we’ll probably just rent a movie or something. But maybe I’ll stop by before ten. It’s not quite the happiest Christmas....” Chuny nodded in agreement.
“How about you, Malucci?” asked Carter.
Dave laughed. “Are you kidding me, Carter? Go to the Chief’s party? You’ve gotta be out of your mind! I’m gonna be at the most happenin’ places around. Hit the bars, hit the clubs. No... Dave Malucci would never EVER be seen at Kerry Weaver’s Christmas party.”
“Nice way to spend Christmas Eve, Malucci,” Chuny said sarcastically. “Drunk with a bunch of strangers.
Dave turned extremely defensive. There was a hint of anger in his voice. “Well, I’d rather spend my Christmas Eve having FUN instead of with the Chief, drinking non-alcoholic cider and singing lame-assed Christmas carols. Maybe she’ll read the Chicago Journal of Medicine out loud as as special holiday treat. Believe me, I wouldn’t be caught dead at the Chief’s tonight.” With that, he grabbed his backpack and stormed out of the lounge.
“Sheesh, what got into him?” Abby asked. At that, Carter began to chuckle and shake his head. Then the chuckle became a full on laugh. He slammed his hand against his locker and continued to laugh.
“What?” asked Chuny. “Do you know something about Malucci we don’t?” Her eyes sparkled; she loved gossip.
“What?” asked Abby with a small smile of curiosity on her face.
“Not only will Malucci be there tonight, but I think he’s got a bit of a crush on the ‘Chief’,” Carter said between his laughter.
“You’re kidding,” replied Abby, dryly. At that moment Kerry Weaver burst into the lounge.
“What is this, a social hour?!” she barked. “Get back to work, there are patients waiting! Now!” She slammed the door. The three paused for a second before they all burst out in hysterics.
“If Malucci has a crush on that,” Chuny giggled and crossed herself, “may god have pity on him.”
Kerry Weaver examined her masterpiece. After she had gotten off at six, she spent her time making everything look absolutely perfect. Lights were strung on the walls and she decorated everything with bows, garland and little sprigs of holly. The perfectly trimmed tree stood in the living room corner and was all decked out with garnish and colorful ornaments. Red and green candles provided the only light most of the house, except for the kitchen, where champagne was chilled to perfection and the cookies sat freshly baked, giving the entire room a sweet, gingery smell. Her Nat King Cole Christmas CD played softly, giving the entire house the perfect Christmas ambiance.
Even with the beautiful decorations, the lights and the music, it wasn’t enough to truly cheer her up. She couldn’t help thinking about Mark and Elizabeth. How this Christmas could be Mark’s last. She had worked with him so closely for the past six years, yet she never really let herself get to know him. Now he was... dying. The word was so final. She got choked up just thinking about him.
Then, there was Kim. She finally had made a friend. Someone to share secrets with, to spend time with. She had never had a female friend; in fact, she barely had any friends at all. So why did Kim have to go and hit on her and make her feel uncomfortable and ruin what had been a nice friendship? Yes, Kerry cared for her, but not in the way Kim wanted her to. The psychiatrist avoided her now; Kerry had hurt her, but Kerry couldn’t help it if she didn’t feel the same way.
Kerry figured that the party would be a nice way to cheer up her staff, but more importantly she didn’t want to spend another Christmas alone. So far, it wasn’t shaping up as she planned. It was 10:30 pm and no one had showed. No one had even stopped by. The only person she heard from was John who told her he couldn’t come because Jing-Mei had gone into labor and she needed him. Mark and Elizabeth obviously wouldn’t show, Peter and Cleo were probably with family, Luka and Abby had each other, and she knew how the rest of the staff felt about her. She was the boss, the villain. Why would anyone want to come to her party?
She was about to burst into tears, when she was startled by the sound of the doorbell. Someone was there! She straightened herself up and took a deep breath. The doorbell rang again. Kerry leaned heavily on her crutch as she limped up to the door. Her leg was hurting -- probably an indicator of snow. She flung open the door to see none other than Dave Malucci standing at her doorstep wrapped in a dark overcoat.
“I heard there was a party,” he said, his breath visible in the cold December air.
“Malucci?” she asked out of surprise. Of all people, Dave Malucci was the last person she expected to show up on her doorstep that night.
“Yup, Chief, it’s me. Can I come in before I freeze to death out here?”
“Sure,” Kerry replied, a bit frazzled as she opened the door wider to allow his entry. At that point, the frigid air hit her just as the warm air hit him.
“Smells like snow out there,” he remarked as he removed his coat. For once he was dressed quite nicely: a dark green opened button-down shirt with a nice white shirt underneath, and a pair of crisp, clean khaki pants. He looked, well, extremely attractive, she thought as she let her gaze wander up and down him again.
“You clean up nicely, Malucci,” she said.
“Thanks, Chief. You’re not too bad yourself.” She was wearing a satin red blouse and a knee length black skirt. He reached out and touched one of the bell shaped earring that hung from her ears. “Cute,” he said as he smiled at her warmly.
“Let me get your coat,” she offered. As he handed it to her, their fingers brushed slightly. Kerry felt a slight tingle. Coat in hand, she limped to the bedroom. She couldn't’ believe that she was thinking impure thoughts about Dave Malucci and his khaki pants. Oh god, she had to get a grip on herself. This was Dave Malucci she was thinking about. Still, Malucci was her guest and she couldn’t hide in her room all night. She composed herself and headed back out.
At this point, Dave had poured himself a glass of champagne and was wandering around the dimly lit living room, admiring the decorations. He fingered one of the white lights carefully as if he was in his own little world.
“Malucci?” she asked, trying to get his attention.
Dave turned around, taken aback. “Oh, hey, Chief. The decorations are beautiful. Really beautiful,” he added quietly.
“Thank you,” she responded politely. A moment of awkward silence passed between them. Kerry couldn’t help feeling a bit nervous and a bit anxious being alone with Dave Malucci.
“So,” Dave said, breaking the silence. “Where’s the big party?” He smirked at her and she blushed as red as her blouse and her hair.
“I’m afraid that this is it,” she told him. “Carter was going to come, but he called to say that Dr. Chen had gone into labor.”
“Well, congrats to Chen!” Dave said smiling. “That calls for a bit of celebration.” He lifted his glass and took a sip of champagne.
Kerry continued, “Abby said she’d try to stop by before ten, but now she’s probably with Luka. And well, Mark and Elizabeth....” she trailed off.
“Yeah...” Dave paused for a moment. “So it’s just us?”
“I... I guess so,” she replied.
“What about Dr. Legaspi?” He asked. Kerry was embarrassed. She didn’t know what to say.
“Well, um,” she cleared her throat, “Dr. Legaspi... Kim... thought that our friendship was something it wasn’t. She’s not speaking to me anymore.” Kerry glanced at Malucci. He wasn’t laughing, he wasn’t smirking. He was listening. Her eyes began to tear. “Do you know what it’s like to be alone? I’m not talking about not having boyfriends and girlfriends. I mean not having a friend. Someone to relate to, someone to talk to, someone to listen to you and someone who you would listen to. I hadn’t had a good female friend -- not including Jeanie Boulet -- in a very long time until Kim came along. But she wanted more... and I’m not... I just wanted a friend. Look at me. I invited over fifty people to this party and one showed up. One.” She looked away from Dave. She couldn’t let him see her like this, vulnerable with all her defenses down.
He paused for a moment. “You’re not the only one who knows what it’s like to be lonely... especially on Christmas Eve.” He took a deep breath. “We never made a big deal out of Christmas in my family when I was growing up. Everyone kind of did their own thing. My parents didn’t have enough money to throw big parties or buy us big gifts or anything like that. Now that we’re all scattered all over the country, Christmas was even less of a family thing. The last time I saw my mom was last Christmas Eve... at my father’s funeral.”
Kerry was stunned. “I’m sorry. I had no idea.”
“Why would you, Chief?” He asked. “Anyway, I didn’t really want to go to one of those big parties with a bunch of strangers. I just wanted to spend Christmas Eve with people I know. I know you guys aren’t my friends, but everyone at work IS special to me. You’re special to me, Chief... Kerry....”
Kerry. He called her Kerry. She was shocked; she had no idea what to say. What was he trying to tell her? And why was she suddenly so confused about how she felt about Dave Malucci.
He laughed slightly. “Well, looks like I’m not such a bad guy after all.”
“I never thought you were, and I’m sorry for always yelling at you,” she explained, “it’s just that I want to see you succeed. I want to see all of the residents succeed. You have the ability and I can see the compassion in your eyes. I know it exists. You just have to have confidence and not hide it under the bravado. Because I know under all of that, you have the ability to be a good doctor. I just want you to....”
“Shh...,” he quieted her. “I don’t want to talk about this right now.” He placed his glass on the mantle and walked over to the stereo and turned it up. The beautiful sound of Nat King Cole crooning “The Christmas Song” filled the room. Dave walked over to where Kerry was standing, his eyes locked on hers. She could feel her knees go weak. “Kerry,” he said, “dance with me.”
“Malucci...” she started with a bit of resistance.
“Dave...” he corrected, “and it’s not a question.” He took her carefully in his arms. She released her grip on the crutch and put all her weight on him, letting him hold her tight. They danced as no words passed between them. Kerry took in the moment. It had been so long since she was held like this, touched like this. Kerry opened her eyes when Dave stopped. He smiled at her. “Look up,” he said.
Kerry glanced above her. Hanging from her ceiling was the one piece of mistletoe she had allowed herself to buy. She remembered standing in the story, debating whether or not to purchase it; would she really have a chance of being caught under it and did she even want to be. But she went with her instincts, bough it, and hung it a bit out of the way in one corner of the living room.
“Looks like we’re caught under the mistletoe,” Dave said softly.
“Dave... we can’t... it isn’t...” she protested weakly.
“You can’t break a tradition,” he said, a sly smile spreading across his face. “It’s a tradition to kiss someone under the mistletoe.”
“Well,” she admitted, “if we don’t want to break tradition..” Dave put his hand on the side of her face, stroking it lightly. Kerry was nervous and excited at the same time as his face grew nearer. He leaned down slowly, bringing his lips to hers and kissing her tenderly. Kerry felt a volt of electricity run through her body and she let her lips linger on his softly. Their lips finally parted and her eyes gazed on his.
“Dave....” was the only word she managed to get out.
“Kerry,” he said, “you’re beautiful and wonderful and don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise.” He grinned at her, and she blushed once more.
“You know,” she remarked boldly, “we’re still under the mistletoe....”
Dave smiled mischievously. “I was hoping you would say that....” Their lips met once again, this time longer and more comfortably... wanting nothing but the touch of one another. As the two unlikely doctors found each other that Christmas Eve, a snowflake fell. Then another and another in the quiet night until all of Chicago was covered in white.
However, they were oblivious to it all, as they danced on and on. Kerry looked up at Dave with more happiness in her eyes that had been there in a very long time. The clock struck midnight and they gazed at each other, enjoying every moment.
Kerry smiled brightly. “Merry Christmas, Dave Malucci.”
“Merry Christmas, Kerry Weaver.” Then he whispered in her ear softly in a voice that even she could barely hear. “I love you.”