Christmas had always been a special time for Danny. Growing up in Jersey had meant trips into New York City were a standard. Over the years it had become a family tradition to go, the whole Williams family wrapped up in hats, scarves and gloves to keep out the bitter chill of winter.
The lighting of the tree and the ice-skating rink at Rockefeller Center had always been a favorite of his. He'd lost count of the number of bumps and bruises he'd received as a child falling over on the ice, only to get straight back up again before racing to catch up with his brother and sisters and then spending the afternoon with steaming mugs of hot chocolate, watching the snow fall as the evening drew in and the lights sparkled on the tree. Even as a teenager, when all his friends were out at skate parks, he loved nothing more than the annual trip into the city.
He'd never forget the first time he got to take Grace there. She was months old, fast asleep in her stroller, and had no idea what was happening, or what that moment meant to Danny, but to him, he couldn't think of anything better than having his entire family with him. It had been years since he'd been out on the ice, his dodgy knee bringing the skating to a halt, but all his youngest sister had to do was pull the "puppy dog eyes" that she knew worked so well on her eldest brother, and he was there like a shot. It was exactly how he'd remembered: the laughs and smiles from small children, the shrieks of "be careful!" from parents as their children whizzed past them. He looked back at his family, smiles plastered on all their faces, and despite the cold, bitter wind, all that Danny could feel was love and warmth; it was exactly how Christmas should be.
Fast forward eight years, and it was the last shopping weekend before Christmas. It was exactly like being in New York City, people hurrying past and running by desperately trying to get those last few bits before the big day, Christmas music playing in every shop, Christmas decorations scattered all around, children excitedly chattering about what they hoped Santa would bring them. Except it was the exact opposite of being in New York City; there was no ice-skating rink, no chill, no bitter wind, no hats, scarves, gloves, no steaming mugs of hot chocolate and most definitely no snow. Instead there were shorts, t-shirts, ice-cold drinks, shave ice and sunshine.
They'd finished up their shopping on the Saturday afternoon, getting those last few bits that Grace had added onto her list for Santa and were now sat on Steve's (it’s ours, Danny, as Steve kept reminding him) lanai with an ice-cold longboard. There was a comfortable silence between the two of them before Danny broke it.
"Sunshine," he said, causing Steve to look over. "It’s December, and there's sunshine. It’s not right."
"It’s Hawaii, Danny, what do you expect? Five feet of snow?"
"Well, obviously not, Steven, but I'm just not used to it, still, y'know."
"You miss Jersey," Steve said more as a statement than a question.
Danny looked at him with a "well, duh" look on his face.
"You know I do, especially this time of year. It’s just, I dunno...it’s not the same, and please don't think it’s your fault in any way, hell, you make this whole thing better." Danny reached over and linked their fingers together as he spoke.
"I know it’s the baby's first Christmas, but this was meant to be our Christmas with Grace. I know we get her for New Year but its Christmas."
Steve tightened his grip on Danny's hand as he went on.
"It was meant to be just the three of us, but now, what do we get? A ten minute phone call with her? Because that's really the same," Danny spat out, picking up his bottle with his spare hand and downing what was left in it. He scrunched his eyes up and apologised to Steve.
"I'm sorry, babe. I don't mean to take it out on you."
"You've no need to apologize; hell, I'm pissed at Rachel for it too," he told him. "Wait here, I'll be back," Steve said with his 'thinking face' on, before dropping Danny's hand and heading back into the house.
"Where am I meant to go?" Danny thought to himself as he dropped his empty bottle onto the sand as he waited for Steve to return.
A few minutes later he returned, two more longboards and a simple white envelope in hand; he handed one of the bottles to Danny, who nodded his thanks, and took a sip of his own. Idly playing with the envelope Steve spoke.
"I was going to wait until Christmas Day itself, but think you could use it now." As he handed the envelope over he said, "Merry Christmas Danny."
Danny eyed Steve and the envelope and handed his bottle to Steve.
"You sure, babe?"
Steve nodded, taking another sip of his drink, slight nerves running through his body.
Danny opened the envelope and hooked out the contents; inside were three sheets of paper. He started reading them, his eyes growing wider and wider. He swallowed hard, looked at Steve, back at the paper and back at Steve.
"But, you, I don't even..." It didn't happen often, but Danny was speechless
"I know it’s not Christmas, but..."
"It’s perfect," Danny interrupted. "I can't even, but how?"
"Spoke to Rachel, told her you needed this. Apparently I can be quite persuasive at times," Steve said with a grin.
"Oh God, what did you do?" Danny asked with a groan, but with a grin matching Steve's own.
"Hey! I just expressed politely how we felt about Christmas Day, and y'know, mentioned how it had been a while since Gracie had seen everyone, and she was more than willing to agree."
"What else..." Danny asked with narrowed eyes.
"For once, that actually was it," Steve said, looking at Danny, "So, what you say then? Gracie, you and me...New Year in Jersey?"
Danny leaned forward and hooked one arm round Steve's neck, fingers playing with his hair.
"No-where else I'd rather be, babe." As he lightly kissed Steve, mumbling his thank-yous over and over, the envelope discarded on the floor, but tightly gripped in his other hand a confirmation for three first class tickets, Honolulu to Newark, dated December 30th, 2011, returning in the New Year, in time for Grace's return to school.
It might not be the Christmas Danny had wanted, but it would be a New Years he'd never forget.