Ah. Solitude. Sweet solitude.
Holtz smiles as she solders in time to the beat of 80’s synth pop. With one final adjustment of metal, her delicate little project is finally done. She’s holding the little jumble up to the light to assess her work, when she’s interrupted by footsteps coming up the stairs.
She swivels around in her seat to see Erin, still in her winter coat and rosy-cheeked from the cold winter morning. Holtz swivels back to scramble and hide her project from the one person she really didn’t want to see it. After a second of fumbling, she remembers she can just shove it in one of her many pockets and attempts to do so in a casual manner (it reads more as panicked flailing).
She turns back around to face a perplexed Erin, who asks, “I thought you left to see your family already. What are you still doing here?”
“Uhhhh…” Holtz wracks her brain for an excuse, when she remembers something important: “Wait. You said your flight to Michigan was at 11, and it’s 10:30.”
She quirks an eyebrow and Erin pales.
“Erin,” Holtz insists.
Erin bites her lip, and relents, “Okay, I lied. I’m not going home for Christmas. Now why are you still here?”
“I also lied and was hoping that you all would be gone so I could get a secret project done. So I said I was leaving, then snuck back in when I thought you’d all be gone.” Holtz replies haughtily.
Erin crumples onto one the lab benches.
Holtz wheels her chair over to her friend, “Er? Something wrong?”
Erin sighs, “I just… Nothing personal, but I just wanted to be alone for a while. Think about stuff. Deal with everything that’s happened this year. And you can’t really do that around my family at Christmas. Besides, a girl can only handle a Yooper Christmas every couple of years.”
“But you said you loved going to the U.P. for the holidays. You finally got to see the stars again. See that big ol’ wolf one you like that you and Abby kept trying to find that one time we were out in that bust at that kid’s camp in the woods.” Holtz’ brain catches up with her mouth and she backtracks when Erin looks at her funny, “Which I only remember because you fell into patch of poison ivy and you were itchy and miserable for days.” Holtz nudges her with her elbow.
Erin rolls her eyes and shoves Holtz playfully away, “It was canis major. Well, Abby was looking for Perseus because I bet her it was too early to see it, I was looking for Canis Major. And yeah, I guess that part is nice. But then I have to deal with everything else that comes with the beautiful lack of light pollution.”
“Like…” Erin pauses to think then continues, “Like how my family deep fries two turkeys in these giant pots that occasionally just explode because my uncle keeps putting them in frozen, because they ‘taste better that way.’ Even though I explain to him every year the science behind why it’s going to explode every time.”
Holtz grins, “Sounds amazing so far.”
Erin shoots her a look, “How there is somehow always mistletoe, even though this is a majority blood-relative gathering.”
“Oh god, mistletoe. Ah, the year I put those up around Higgins. Good times.” Holtz comments wistfully.
“How I am like forty, yet because I’m not married, I sit at one of the kid’s tables,” Erin says in a huff.
Holtz is grinning from ear to ear at this point, “Please, says it’s shorter than the adult tables.”
Erin grumbles, “It is! And then after dinner we all go shoot stuff out back that my dad sets up.”
The engineer pats Erin’s back patronizingly, “Hey Erin? Your Christmas sounds amazing.”
Erin pushes Holtz’ chair hard enough that she rolls a few feet away. “I’m sure you’d enjoy it, it gets a bit much for me, though.” Her eyes narrow at a sudden realization: “So why are you avoiding Christmas?”
Holtz blanches, “Oh. Um. Uhhhhh… Flu! Took down the whole Holtzmann clan. They told me to stay away. Suits me fine, I have plenty of projects that need my attention.”
“Oh. Okay. Is that all? You could’ve told me that,” Erin shrugs.
Holtz sighs. Erin believes her 100%, because of course she does. That makes it so much worse.
She clears her throat, “That’s- that’s actually not all. It’s just… easier to lie about it.”
Erin gives her a quizzical look.
“I don’t actually have a family to go home to,” Holtz admits, “And I don’t tell people because everyone gives me the look you’re giving me right now.”
Catching herself, Erin blushes, “Sorry.”
Holtz spins in her chair nervously, “It’s okay. It’s pretty sad that the only thing I do on Christmas is see my social worker from when I was a kid for dinner a few days before to catch up. Then on Christmas I eat Cookie Crisp and hope I can find Die Hard on cable.”
Erin stares at her for a long moment, as if the engineer just posited a particularly evasive equation for her to solve, “Die Hard?”
“A Christmas classic,” says Holtz matter-of-factly.
“So Die Hard and cereal? Every year?”
Holtz shrugs, “Pretty much. I did it one year and then it became tradition.”
“Do you not just own a copy of Die Hard?” she asks, because of course that was what was bothering Erin the most out of all this.
“I did at one point, but it’s no fun to watch it on Christmas if I don’t find it naturally. It was showing at this little hipster theatre one year and that was probably my best Christmas.” Holtz tries to hide behind a laugh that’s a bit too loud.
Erin’s not buying what Holtz is trying to sell, “So you’ve never had a real Christmas?”
“What is reality, anyway?” she shrugs.
“Okay,” Erin says with determination.
Holtz furrows her brow, “Okay, what?”
The physicist stands, her solution clear, and offers her hand to Holtz, “Okay: we’re doing a proper Christmas.”
“Um…” Holtz blushes, but takes the offered hand and stands. She’s sad when Erin let’s go and confused when Erin bolts upstairs. Erin is already halfway up the stairs to the firehouse’s bedrooms by the time Holtz can register what’s happening.
“Get your coat and meet me by the front door, we’re going Christmas shopping,” she calls back down at her.
“Erin, you don’t have to,” she tries, but Erin’s having none of it.
Erin turns and smiles genuinely, “I want to. C’mon, my gift to you: a real Yooper Christmas.”
That gets her. Holtz perks and calls up the stairs at Erin’s retreating form, “Do we get to deep fry things and shoot things and have inappropriately placed mistletoe?
“Yes, except that last one. Now go get ready,” Erin shouts, presumably from her bedroom.
Holtz chuckles, “Two outta three ain’t bad.”
“You have a shopping buggy like a little old woman. Ah! I love it.” Holtz comments at the three feet of red plaid fabric, metal and all-terrain wheels that Erin has brought forth from her room. She’s nearly skipping as they make their way down the street.
“Mock all you want, we’ve got a lot of things to buy.”
“No mocking, just pure admiration, babe,” Holtz winks and of course, Erin blushes.
Holtz rubs her hands together as they walk through the doors of the grocery store, “So what are we buying?”
Erin surveys the store and hands the cart to Holtz and beelines it to the holiday display. “I’m gonna wing it, just follow me.”
Holtz barely catches the Cornish game hens that are thrown her way. She gives Erin a look.
“We’re improvising. Now grab that big thing of oil.”
Several ingredients for sides and an argument over Cookie Crisp’s validity as a foodstuff later, they’re successfully prepared for Christmas dinner. Erin checks the exceedingly long receipt as they walk back out into a now snowier New York, “Okay, Christmas food is done. We still need decorations and presents.”
Holtz laughs nervously, “We’re doing presents too?”
“Well yeah, it’s Christmas. I’m not expecting much, but we have to have something under the tree,” Erin shrugs.
Holtz laughs, “You’re getting a tree? Oh, this is gonna be hilarious to watch you get back home.”
“Already ordered it. There’s a place in Soho that delivers,” Erin says smugly, “Now let’s get into that mall and scrounge up some decorations and presents.”
To say that the mall where Erin is pointing is the seventh level of retail hell is an understatement. It’s elbow to elbow last minute holiday panic, and Erin hesitates a moment at the cacophony, chaos and Christmas music she is witnessing from the safety of the sidewalk outside.
“Erin, we might die,” Holtz says gravely.
Erin shushes her, “We go straight for the decorations and grab any potential presents along the way.”
“Not to be a Debby Downer, but this is insane.”
“Welcome to Christmas,” Erin laughs, grabbing Holtz’ hand and plunging them into the thick of it.
They emerge in the clearance section and pick through the remains for any decorations they can find. It’s actually not a bad selection, considering they fill the remaining space of Erin’s shopping buggy with tinsel et al.
As Erin deems their efforts sufficient, she hears Holtz gasp and turns to find her holding up a throw blanket emblazoned with three wolves howling at the moon.
“A wolf blanket? Really?” Erin rolls her eyes.
Holtz clutches it close to her chest, “They howl to my soul, Erin. You never know when you need a blanket.”
Erin chuckles, “Okay, well, I think we’re done here. I’m gonna go pay for the decorations and find you a present.”
“You’re seriously getting me a present?” Holtz gawks.
“Yep, in fact, I now know exactly what to get you.” Erin says confidently.
“Alright then,” and with a flourish, Holtz wraps the blanket around her like a cape, “C’mon boys, let’s go get this insane Christmas monster a present that puts her present to shame.”
Erin gives her a look, “Oh we’re competing now? Well, prepare to be out-presented and I’ll meet you by the gift-wrapping station.”
Holtz salutes her and winks. Erin tries not to let it show how flustered that makes her.
“And I’m not an insane Christmas monster!” Erin calls out as an after-thought.
“Hey Santa, head’s up.”
Erin turns away from the gift counter at the sound of Holtz’ voice and something being placed on her head. It takes her a moment to register that Holtz is carrying several bags and wearing some absurd new headwear.
Holtz points first at her hat and then at Erin’s, “Camouflage Santa hats, figured it fit the redneck theme we seem to be going for. Ooh is that my gift?” Holtz makes grabby hands at it, but Erin just holds it well above her head.
“Yes, and you get it tomorrow.”
Holtz crosses her arms like a petulant child, “Boo, you’re no fun.”
Erin can’t help it and pulls down Holtz’ hat over her eyes and takes off for the door. “Just how Christmas works. Now since you seem to be done, let’s get out of here.”
Holtz catches up to Erin on the sidewalk outside. She points at something down the street, “Ooh can we go grab a hot chocolate from that cart over there? I need some sugar after all this.”
They’ve ended up nearby Central Park, so there’s plenty of coffee and hot dog carts still out, even on Christmas Eve.
“Sure, go grab one and I’ll call a cab, even though it might just be faster to walk in this traffic.” And it isn’t an exaggeration, the streets are packed with cars and people, and the subways are probably no better.
Holtz smirks, “Actually, since this has already been an absolutely ridiculous day thanks to you, I have a better solution for transportation.”
She points just beyond the cart to a row of waiting horse drawn carriages. They’re especially festive this time of year with wreaths draped around the cart and jingle bells on the horses’ bobtails.
Erin shrugs and laughs, “Sure, why not?”
Why not turns out to be because it is December in NYC. They load up into the carriage and are a few minutes into the trip when the wind picks up and makes Erin rethink agreeing to this. Although, there’s something particularly nice about a horse-drawn carriage ride through Central Park on Christmas Eve. She hears Holtz fussing with some of the bags and is suddenly confronted with the wolf blanket again. Holtz drapes it across both their laps.
“You never know when you need a blanket,” repeating her own words from earlier.
Erin chuckles and leans closer against her for the rest of the ride.
Entirely for warmth and no other reason, of course.
There’s a good additional powdering of snow on the ground by the time their little carriage ride is over. Holtz doesn’t miss the opportunity and jumps into the first snowbank she finds, yelling, “Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker!” as she does.
“What? Die Hard quote,” she replies to Erin’s confused look.
Erin’s rolling her eyes, but also smiling, “Okay, sure. Hurry up though, I told the Christmas tree place I’d be there for the delivery by three.”
“How much is this all costing you?” Holtz asks as she dusts off the remains of the snow and grabs her shopping bags.
With an excitement Erin reserves only for ghost-related discoveries and bureaucratic loopholes, Erin says, “I’m writing it off as office expenses. We’re co-workers, so this is technically a work party.”
“Nice,” Holtz shoots her a finger gun of approval.
They make it back to the firehouse just in time to meet the Christmas tree delivery person; who, for a generous tip, is persuaded to bring the tree up to the third floor living room. It looks oddly right in the space, even if the tree itself is a bit shaggy.
The presents are placed under it and the decorations are pulled out of Erin’s little shopping buggy. A meager amount of ornaments and a significant amount of garland in the clearance section lay before them.
Erin grabs the buggy and heads to the kitchen, “Okay, I’m gonna start on food, you wanna help or do you want to start decorating?”
The engineer considers, “Let’s go with kitchen, I wanna see what you’re gonna do to those tiny birds.”
“Well, we’re deep-frying those, as promised.” Erin begins listing the things she pulls out of the buggy, “Then I have the authentically horrible green-bean casserole, premade stuffing from the box, mac and cheese also from the box, a classic cylinder of cranberry sauce, a pack of rolls, pack of gravy, aaand spuds.”
“Spuds?” Holtz raises an eyebrow at the bag of potatoes.
“Spuds,” Erin confirms seriously, “You ever peeled a potato?”
Holtz shakes her head, but is still put to work peeling, while Erin makes short work of preparing the rest of dinner. (It’s mostly pre-prepared, so it really doesn’t take too much.) She gives Holtz the highly-satisfying privilege of dropping the Cornish game hens into the deep-fryer. Holtz gives a very loud ‘whoop’ of excitement (although, she had been hoping for at least a small poof or something.)
Erin clicks on the timer on her phone, “Okay, that leaves us enough time to decorate.”
“And I know exactly where to start!” Holtz smirks and retrieves a green sprig from the inside pocket of her vest.
It takes Erin a minute, but she blushes redder than the ribbon the object in Holtz’ hand is wrapped with when she realizes what it is. “Holtz! I said no mistletoe!”
Too late, as Holtz seemingly materializes a step stool and a roll of tape and is proceeding to tape it to the doorframe of the kitchen.
“C’mon! You can catch Kevin under it when he gets back from Australia,” Holtz winks.
“I’m not– I’m not interested in Kevin,” Erin rolls her eyes. Holtz doesn’t look like she believes her. It’s technically not a lie, but as she brushes past Holtz, Erin tries not to think about how Kevin is not who she’d immediately thought about catching under that little festive tree parasite.
Holtz drags her stool into the living room and up to the tree. She bounces on her heels excitedly, “Okay, where do we start?”
Erin surveys their options.
“I mean… we can plan it, or we can just go for it and see what happens.”
Holtz grins, “Ooh, the Dr. Jillian Holtzmann methodology. That one!”
“Do you have any music?” Erin asks as she unwraps a pack of red garland.
“Baby, I always have music.” She digs out her phone and after a minute the speakers kick on with some very Holtzmann-type music.
“Don’t you have any Christmas music?” Erin specifies.
Holtz’ eyes light up and she grins, “This is Christmas music!”
“How is this Christmas music?”
“‘Christmas in Hollis’?” Holtz says, as if that should help Erin understand.
“Run DMC?” She tries.
Holtz nearly weeps, “Die Hard? Oh my god, did you just accidentally quote Die Hard without knowing it?”
“Holtz, I’ve seen that movie maybe once,” she shrugs.
“You’re killing me, Gilbert.”
Holtz gets a face full of garland for that.
After an excessive amount of garland, only one broken ornament and a miraculous feet of engineering by Holtz to get the star on top all by herself, the tree and the rest of the firehouse don’t look half-bad. Not good, but also not bad. The style is a little akin to how children would decorate, with everything just a little askew, but it’s Holtz’ first real Christmas, so it’s fitting. By the time they run out of decorations, they are woefully short of dinner being done, however.
Erin looks at the timer, trying to figure out what other Christmas activity they have time for before dinner. She looks at the tree, then back to Holtz and asks, “Hey, do we have any popcorn, needles and thread?”
Holtz wracks her brain, “Uh… Mircrowave popcorn in my cabinet in the kitchen and there’s a sewing kit in the second floor supply closet, I think?”
“Go pull those hens out of the oil and microwave some popcorn, I’ve got an idea how we can kill a bit of time,” Erin orders as she goes downstairs to find that sewing kit.
“Boy, you’re bossy around Christmas.” Holtz teases, but heads to the kitchen.
Erin just smirks.
Holtz pops the corn and returns to find Erin on the floor, threading two needles. Erin pats the space beside her when she sees Holtz, inviting her to sit down.
Holtz gives her a questioning look as she sits. “What are you doing?” she asks.
“Popcorn garland. Mostly because I wanted a snack,” Erin explains as she grabs a handful of popcorn to eat. She saves one to spike onto the long length of thread.
Holtz follow her lead, eating and threading popcorn. She looks up at Erin for approval, and when Erin nods, she strings another kernel. They fall into a comfortable quiet as they work away, actual Christmas music playing faintly in the background. Both women fall lost in their thoughts; there’s been a lot to ponder today.
“I can’t believe you’ve never had a real Christmas,” Erin says, finally breaking out of her musings as she finishes her length of garland and stands to adorn the tree with it.
Holtz doesn’t look up from where she’s stringing the popcorn with a needle and thread, “I can’t believe we’re making popcorn on a string to put on a dead tree.”
Erin considers the popcorn garland in her hand, “I guess it’s kind of silly when you think about it.”
“It’s nice, though. I guess I’m liking it a little better than Die Hard,” Holtz shrugs.
“I’m glad Yooper Christmas gets your approval.” Erin looks down at her from up on the stool where she’s just placed her finished popcorn garland on the tree. Holtz looks up at her.
“We haven’t shot anything, so I think it’s just Erin Christmas, technically,” Holtz pauses, averts her gaze and smiles, “But I think I like it better that way.”
Erin feels her heart rate pick up, so she excuses herself to go check on dinner.
She misses the defeated little look Holtz gives her as she retreats.
When Holtz follows Erin into the kitchen after finishing her little chain of popcorn, she has to laugh, “We made way too much food.”
There’s a glint of determination in Erin’s eyes as she hands Holtz a plate and says, “Only if you’re a quitter. Now dig in.”
Holtz takes that as a challenge. They load up their plates and head to the coffee table in the living room.
It turns out neither of them are quitters as they absolutely demolish dinner. There’s maybe a single tupperware of leftovers remaining when they’re finished. Christmas is hungry work, as Holtz is finding out and Erin is remembering.
“Erin, I’ve made a terrible mistake: I can’t move,” Holtz wheezes as she flops down on the couch.
“No, that’s what’s supposed to happen,” Erin assures her.
Holtz manages to prop herself up to stare at her in disbelief, “You do this every year?”
Erin scoffs, “Yeah, but add about five screaming kids and ten drunk adults. Now you know why I wanted to stay here and eat a nice quinoa salad alone.”
“So what’s next?” Holtz asks with dread.
Erin recalls the order of events of Yooper Christmas, which takes a moment, because this is traditionally the point in the night where things get hazy. Erin recounts, “Next is usually drink and then shoot stuff, or excuse yourself early so you can roll yourself to bed and wait for Santa.”
Holtz raises a hand, “Latter option please.”
Erin offers up her own hand, “You need a hand up to bed?”
“No! No moving. I live here now with my boys.” Holtz grumbles as she manages to grab her new wolf blanket from the pile of shopping bags by the tree.
She can’t help but smile at the grumpy little bundle on the couch. “G’night, Holtz.”
Erin waits a beat longer than necessary, standing there staring at Holtz, before turning to head to her room.
Holtz’ voice stops her: “Hey, Er?”
She turns back around and replies, “Yeah?”
“Thank you. This- I’m sorry if I’ve been weird about any of this, I just–” Holtz says in a rush.
Erin cuts her off, “I get it, Holtz. I’m sorry if I’ve been sort of… forceful about this.”
“You weren’t!” Holtz sits up to look at Erin and her stomach immediately regrets it, but continues, “This is definitely my new favourite Christmas.”
“Well, it’s not quite Christmas yet. I’ll see you when it is.” Erin gives her a little wink and Holtz flops back down, utterly stricken by it.
Erin can’t sleep. It’s part regretful indigestion, and part incorporeal butterflies in her stomach. She figures some fresh air might help the former, so she heads up to the roof to brood about the latter. Laying down staring at her ceiling certainly isn’t helping, in any case.
New York City is beautiful when it snows, especially when it’s snowing the thick slowly drifting snowflakes it is now. It’s almost quiet when she steps out onto the roof, and if Erin squints, she can pretend the lights in the sky are stars and not just air traffic. She’d wanted to escape for a second, to think about the year, getting fired, forming the Ghostbusters, thwarting the apocalypse and maybe a bit about the unruly blonde asleep on the couch under a tacky wolf blanket.
As if summoned, she feels her phone buzz in her pocket.
It’s a text from Holtz: ‘Can’t sleep. It’s midnight now so, it’s technically Christmas, right? So can we do presents now? :D’
Erin’s whole body warms. She can picture Holtz downstairs hovering over the presents, desperately waiting for the okay to open them. She smiles as she types her reply: ‘Not until sunrise’
‘But I’m so excited! :(((‘ Comes Holtz,’ reply an instant later.
‘Come up to the roof then. I can’t sleep either,’ Erin texts back.
A few minutes later, Holtz comes waddling out, changed into her pyjamas, wrapped in her new wolf blanket and with her hair down. Erin just stares.
“What?” Holtz asks, obliviously.
Erin finally catches herself and looks back out onto the skyline. She mumbles, “Nothing.”
“Stargazing?” Holtz yawns and throws her blanket around Erin. Erin’s wearing only a tank top and thin pyjama pants, so she gratefully cozies up to the warmth.
She scoffs, “There’s no stars here.”
“What are you talking about? There the Big Bodega.” Holtz points to what is very clearly a moving helicopter.
“Oh? And I suppose that one is Canis Streeticus?” Erin points to a cluster of satellites.
“Pigeonite Major,” Holtz dubs an airplane overhead.
Erin laughs and points in the general direction of Liberty Island, “Liberté Statueas.”
“And there’s Queens,” Holtz yells at the top of her lungs as she points in the literal opposite direction of Queen’s. Her voice’s echo is eaten up by the dampening snow and the thousands of other New York noises.
Hating to break the moment, but knowing it’ll keep her up half the night if she doesn’t find out, Erin has to ask, “You don’t have to tell me, but do you… did you ever know your birth family?”
She feels something in Holtz’ demeanor flip and Erin’s about to tell her to forget she’d ever asked, but Holtz replies, “Nah, closed adoption when I was born. Blonde-haired blue-eyed, so I was an ideal little kid. Until I got returned when they couldn’t handle my uh… quirks, I guess. So I got put in foster care.”
Erin turns to look at her, but Holtz’ gaze is fixed on the horizon. Erin pushes further, “And your foster home didn’t do Christmas?”
Holtz shifts her weight from foot to foot at the question. She explains, “Never really stayed in one home long enough for Christmas to feel… I dunno– real? I guess? Like I had an okay time, I stayed with some really nice families sometimes, but they had their real kids and their real family. I was just the little charity case. My social worker was great though. She’d always take me out for dinner, then when I was eighteen, I started taking her out instead. It was never on actual Christmas, she had her real family, y’know?”
Erin nods, swallowing the lump in her throat, “God, it’s killing me thinking about a little you all sad on Christmas.”
Holtz tries to laugh away the tension, flinging an arm around Erin and trying to dispel the serious mood. She finally looks Erin in eyes, “Yeah, I’m pretty tragic. But… slightly bigger me is pretty happy this Christmas, I have to say. This felt like a real Christmas.”
“If you want a really real Christmas, you should come to Michigan with me next year,” Erin blurts. Then quickly adds, “We can go drop in on Abby too. My family is nuts, buts Abby’s is twice as big and twice as loud.”
“Do I get to shoot things?” Holtz asks with a wink.
Erin leans in close and whispers like it’s a secret, “Abby’s family has a clay skeet thrower.”
Holtz beams, “Oh my god, we should bring some of the busting equipment to test.”
It’s Erin’s turn to get uncomfortable then. Holtz notices and takes a wild guess, “So, Gilbert family not really into ghosts?”
“Nope,” Erin replies, the ‘p’ coming out with a scornful weight. She continues, “My family isn’t really into a lot of things that I’m into.” She looks at Holtz, and she thinks about one other thing that they wouldn’t be into. A squeeze from Holtz’ hand on her shoulder breaks her from her thoughts.
With a smile, Holtz assures, “Well, you’ve got your New York family. Even if our stars suck.”
Erin chuckles, until a North wind hits her square in the face, a full-body shiver raking down her body.
Holtz clearly feels it, because she offers, “Okay, no more bad vibes on Christmas. Inside now?”
“Yes, please,” Erin agrees.
High-tailing it out of the cold, they head back downstairs, knowing sleep probably still isn’t happening. Erin lays down on the couch and is a little surprised when Holtz flops down beside her. Holtz rests her blanket over where their legs are side by side. Erin fumbles to turn on the tv guide to distract herself from the feeling of Holtz’ warm legs against her own.
Erin nearly leaps off the couch when Holtz suddenly shouts at the tv: “Oh! Oh! Die Hard 2! Only ten minutes in. Please, Erin pleeeease?”
Erin clutches the remote her chest and protests, “No, it’s not a real Christmas movie!”
Trying her best puppy-dog pout, Holtz tries, “C’mon! It happens at Christmas. It has the spirit of Christmas. And explosions. And Bonnie Bedelia. And explosions.”
Ignoring her (barely), Erin scrolls until she finds something acceptable. She kicks Holtz lightly and declares, “You’re gonna watch the little stop-motion reindeer and you’re gonna like it.”
Holtz relents with another pout, “Fiiiiiiine.”
They make it to the first commercial break, before Holtz jumps up from her side of the couch and places her hands on both Erin’s shoulders. Blue eyes stare at her very seriously. Erin tries not have a heart attack.
“Erin. Love ya. Think you’re great. Trust your brilliant opinion on many scientific topics. This movie? Sucks.”
Erin pushes her off, mostly because she’s overwhelmed, partially because she’s insulted on behalf of poor Rudolph. “C’mon, you’ve never seen any of these? You did have cable, right?” She teases. Holtz sits up cross-legged on the couch.
“I mean… I guess… they’re just… hard to watch alone,” She admits in a small voice.
Erin watches Holtz watch the tv for a long moment. She sits up properly, so she’s beside Holtz. She places a hand on hers, and Holtz looks at her in surprise.
Boldly, Erin rests her head against Holtz’ shoulder. She states matter-of-factly, “Well, you aren’t alone now. So no Die Hard.”
Holtz let’s out a sigh of defeat and relaxes against her, “Sounds fair.”
“Guhbuhwha–?!” Erin bolts upright on the couch to a shrieking Holtz perching over her on the arm of the couch like a vengeful Christmas spectre. Not the most considerate way to wake a victim of a haunting.
She’s bouncing excitedly on the balls of her feet, and if Erin was awake, she’s appreciate the difficulty of the maneuver. She manages to make out that Holtz is grinning at her. “It’s past sunrise,” Holtz states with another bounce.
Fumbling around on the floor by the couch and eventually finding her phone, Erin sees it’s nine in the morning, which is not a completely unreasonable time. She manages a, “Mmhm,” in response before collapsing back onto the couch.
“That means it’s Christmas now, right?” Holtz asks and the excitement in her voice motivates Erin to consciousness. She rolls over and rubs her eyes until Holtz isn’t a bouncing blur.
Erin yawns, “Merry Christmas, Holtz.”
“Merry Christmas, hot stuff. Now what do we do first?” Holtz says as her bouncing somehow increases in speed. Erin would be impressed if it wasn’t a bit disconcerting.
She manages to get into an upright position on the couch and says, “First you stop perching over me like a gargoyle. And then we can either do breakfast or presents. Your choice.”
“Can’t we do both?” Holtz whines.
“No. I dunno. It’s too early for… brain… things,” Erin manages, and moves to lay back down, but Holtz manages to stop her.
Helping Erin upright, Holtz smirks, “Breakfast then, you look like you need coffee.”
“Gee, thanks,” Erin yawns again.
However, a quick survey of the kitchen leads them to an unfortunate conclusion that Holtz unhappily voices: “We have no real food. Just leftover green bean casserole, condiments and snacks. We cleared out the fridge since we were all supposed to be gone this week.”
“Hmm…” murmurs Erin as she fixates on getting caffeine into her system and puts a pot of coffee on.
Holtz does another sweep of the kitchen and only unearths a pile of forgotten takeout menus. A spark of inspiration hits her, “Hey… Bet that McDonald’s or Zhu’s or something like them is still open.”
“That sounds like a horrific combination,” comments Erin, eyes never leaving the too slowly dripping coffee.
Erin glances at Holtz out of the corner of her eye and says, “Let’s do it.”
Holtz puts in their usual order at Zhu’s and their usual order at McDonald’s, so in total they have enough food for eight to ten people. It should keep them until New Year’s (probably).
“We can do presents while we wait for food. It’s gonna take at least thirty minutes, longer for Benny to get here with the Chinese,” Erin declares once all the ordering is done and she’s consumed half a cup of coffee.
Holtz has already leapt over the couch at the word “presents” and is sitting cross-legged in front of the tree by the time Erin catches up. She puts on one of the camo Santa hats Holtz had gotten as she sits down. She grabs one of her presents and hands it to Holtz.
Holtz needs no further encouragement and violently tears open the box to reveal a Die Hard bluray boxset. She looks like she just ate a lemon. “Erin, how dare you?”
Erin snickers and hands her another present, “Here, it’s a matching set.”
Inside is a box of Cookie Crisp cereal and Holtz’ look of disapproval makes Erin laugh so hard the Santa hat falls off. She manages to compose herself enough to hand Holtz her third gift. Luckily for Holtz, the third gift is another three wolf moon blanket, but full-sized. Holtz gasps.
“There’s one more.” Erin tosses her another gift.
“How do you top this?” Holtz clutches the blanket to her chest, but eagerly tears into the last box.
It’s topped by a matching t-shirt with the same design. Holtz immediately puts it on. Erin shakes her head, it’s a godawful shirt, but it suits Holtz.
“Okay, your turn!” Holtz announces as she puts on the fallen camo Santa hat and hands Erin one of her gifts.
Erin is less enthusiastic as Holtz is giving her a look that usually means trouble. She lifts the lid carefully, only to find a whole box of fresh mistletoe with one of Kevin’s saxophone headshot photos laying on top. Holtz is dying laughing as Erin blushes bright red and tosses the box away.
“Oh my god! Your face! Here. Here’s your real gift,” Holtz says as she wipes away a tear and hands Erin what looks to be a small jewelry box.
Erin opens it even more hesitantly than the first one, but all that’s inside is a wolf shaped necklace. She’s about to gripe about it, until she notices that it’s actually a very nice necklace and not one of the tacky three wolf moon adjacent type. It’s solid and has a real weight in her hand. It looks handcrafted and like it’s not made of a metal that would give her a rash.
“Put it on! Become one of the pack,” Holtz grins as she points to the three wolves on her newly gifted shirt.
Erin chuckles and shakes her head, but she does put on the necklace. As she looks at it from a different angle, she sees that it’s really no ordinary wolf necklace. There’s several small silver stars on it, connected by tiny lines of black metal, all on a purple, blue and yellow wolf-shaped backdrop. She recognizes the placement of those stars.
She looks up to an anxiously fidgeting Holtz and says incredulously, “You remembered my favourite constellation?”
Holtz taps her temple and smiles, “Hard to forget after you were cursing it for the week you were itchy because of it.”
“Where did you get this?” Erin flips it over, looking for a brand.
Holtz lifts her chin proudly and declares, “Made it. I’m not just all explosions and ghostbusting, Dr. Gilbert.”
Erin marvels at Holtz, then back at the necklace. How she’s still so full of surprises is amazing.
“Holtz, it’s beautiful.”
“Nah, it’s just okay. Comparatively.” Holtz rubs her neck nervously.
Erin doesn’t follow, “Comparatively? To what?”
Holtz locks gazes with Erin and says matter-of-factly, “To who’s wearing it.”
Erin feels her whole body warm and she’s sure Holtz can see it in the red flush of her skin. Holtz’ expression shifts from bashful to embarrassed at Erin’s reaction, so she looks away.
“Sorry, I made this weird,” Holtz mumbles and gets up off the couch, pulling off her camouflage Santa hat and dropping it.
When Erin regains her wits, Holtz is already halfway out of the room. She catches up with her, grabbing her by the elbow in the doorway to the kitchen. “Holtz, wait!”
Holtz looks at her, then up and away from Erin, cursing under her breath. Erin follows her gaze up to a small sprig of mistletoe hanging in the doorway. She looks back down at a wide-eyed and blushing Holtz, who is clearly rethinking the decision to hang it. A yearning howls in Erin’s chest, and she decides not to let Holtz think too hard.
She crashes her lips against Holtz’.
Holtz is left absolutely breathless.
“Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker,” Holtz whispers breathlessly when they break apart.
“What?” Erin blinks, still in a daze.
“Sorry, Die Hard quote.” Because really, she couldn’t resist.
Erin rolls her eyes, “It’s a good thing I like you.”
“You like me?” Holtz replies with genuine surprise.
Erin’s hands drift to the hem of Holtz’ shirt. She can’t quite meet her eyes when she admits, “Yes, Holtz. I like you.”
Erin glances up at Holtz to find her face scrunched up in serious thought. It’s adorable.
“Like… Like me or like like me?” Holtz asks.
“I like like you, Holtz.” Erin smirks. It’s a silly confession, but it sounded better than her actual feelings, which were more akin to, ‘I accidentally started falling for you and your stupid beautiful face and I have no idea how. Anyways, I’m gonna make a Christmas for you.’
“Okay. Cool. Cool cool cool. I like like you too.” Which is a bit of a lie, but it seemed too soon for confessions of undying love (even if they were true).
Erin laughs, “Yeah, I kind of guessed.”
Holtz baulks in mock shock, “But I’m so subtle.”
Erin let’s out an involuntary squeak as Holtz’ hand slips to the small of her back, dipping her low and kissing her hard. Erin’s lips are really as soft as she had been imagining and Holtz wasn’t going to waste any more time not kissing them. Erin sighs into it and wraps her arms around Holtz’ neck.
Holtz swipes her tongue across Erin’s lips, thoroughly breaking mistletoe decorum… and then she nearly drops her when the doorbell rings.
They pull back and look at each other, utterly bemused.
Erin’s phone starts buzzing a moment after. She looks at the screen and see’s that the McDonald’s has arrived.
Holtz looks down at Erin’s phone and laughs, “Oh yeah, breakfast.”
They manage to compose themselves enough to confront both a very confused Uber Eats guy and a rather affronted Benny with Chinese food at the door. It takes their combined willpower to fling money at them before they both dissolve into a fit of anxious giggles once the door is closed.
“You think they knew what we were doing?” Erin manages after a moment.
“I think they were just admiring my delightful shirt,” Holtz declares proudly.
They lose it to another fit of giggles.
“Why do you like that constellation, anyways? Another weird thing all you Michigan kids love that a New Yorker will never understand?” Holtz asks as she picks up the necklace off of Erin’s neck to fiddle with. They’re snuggled up on the couch, much too full after the regretful Chinese/McDonald’s combination. Holtz is turned away from the tv in protest of Erin putting on another Rankin/Bass stop-motion classic.
Erin looks away from Frosty the Snowman to down at the necklace and Holtz, and smirks, “I dunno. Guess it just ‘howls at my soul’.”
It takes her a second, but then Holtz realizes her own words have been used against her. She pouts, “Booooo.”
“Not everything about me is ‘Sirius’.” Erin says with a waggle of her eyebrows.
“Oh my god, go back to Michigan with your puns.” Holtz pushes her away playfully.
Erin giggles and pins her down to the couch. “You’d really rather I’d gone home to Michigan?” Erin asks with a hint of real uncertainty that hits Holtz square in the chest.
“Absolutely not. C’mere,” Holtz says seriously as she pulls Erin down for a kiss.
It’s much better than a bowl of Cookie Crisp and Die Hard on cable.