“Thank you for flying with us, have a nice day,” The too perky flight attendant said to Hannah as she got off the plane, finally back home after the first semester of college. Hannah gave her a quick smile, desperate to see her partners but still trying to be a pleasant person. Hannah hurried into the main area of the airport, clutching her backpack tight and craning her neck around to look for her partners.
“Hannah! Over here!” She heard someone yell and she spun towards the sound, seeing Amanda, Mike, and Sam standing there waving their arms. Sam was sitting perched on Mike’s shoulders and was waving a homemade banner. She grinned at them and ran over.
“Hey, Hannah!” Amanda ran up and pulled her into a tight hug. She hugged back just as tight, glancing over Amanda’s shoulder and watched as Mike flipped Sam off of his shoulders, letting him land right on his back.
“Oh my god I’ve missed you, idiots,” she laughed as she pulled away from Amanda and she walked over to Sam to help him up.
“Missed you too,” Sam clambered to his feet and pulled her into a kiss.
“Damn,” Hannah pulled back and studied him, “you did miss me, are you ok?”
“Of course I am,” Sam grinned at her, but the smile was slightly strained. Before Hannah could comment on it he spun her into Mike and stepped back.
“Hey Han,” Mike gave her a quick hug and a small smile before taking her hand and pulling her towards the main door.
“So we haven’t decorated the house yet, or gotten the tree, or done most of the Christmas shit,” Amanda said, coming up on her other side with Sam under her arm.
“How long have you all been here without me?”
“Just a day, at least for me,” Sam said. “I think Mike, you’ve been here for three days yeah? And Amanda you’ve been here 5 days?”
“Yeah, you guys are late to the party but we’ve been waiting for you for the fun stuff,” Amanda said, reaching out and catching Hannah’s hand.
“Perfect, we need to do everything. I have to spend some time with my family but not the whole time,” Hannah grinned at them all.
“My dad has no clue I’m home.”
“My mom doesn’t know I’m alive.”
“And this is why we’re having our own Christmas,” Amanda said looking at the boys. “Cause you two deserve so much.”
“Nah, but I appreciate it,” Mike said.
“Oh shut up,” Hannah pinched his side and glared at him. He gave her a sheepish look that melted into a hesitant smile.
“My dad would argue with you but you know, he’s kinda stupid.”
“At least you know that now,” Amanda rolled her eyes and stepped forward to unlock her car. Hannah was excited to see the car that they had made many memories in and hopefully would make more in the future.
“Alright, so what’s first,” Mike changed the subject quickly before they could dwell more on the tragedies of the past.
“Cookies? Ice skating? Shopping? Decorating? Movies? Music?” There’s so much to do!” Amanda said, climbing into the driver's seat. Hannah slid in the back with Mike while Sam claimed the seat next to Amanda.
“Uh, maybe we start by decorating?” Mike suggested, “I haven’t had a tree since my dad died so it may be fun to have one again.”
“Why didn’t you come decorate the one I put up last year?” Amanda asked, glancing at him in the rearview mirror.
“I didn’t either,” Sam said.
“Well, why the fuck not!?”
“I think your parents were home and we hadn’t quite told them about us yet?” Hannah suggested, trying to remember.
“Oh yeah. Hmm, that wasn’t a good enough reason, you should’ve come over anyway.”
“Well, either way, we’re getting to do it all this year together!” Hannah said, feeling Mike getting tense beside her and watching as Sam shrank in on himself. Amanda glanced back and noticed the sudden tension in the car, immediately changing the subject.
“You’re right of course! I have the best cookie recipe ever. We could work in teams, I shouldn’t bake but Sam, you would make them amazing. If Mike and I decorated a little while you and Hannah did some baking we can end the day with the tree, cookies, and cocoa.”
“That sounds perfect,” Hannah leaned forward and shoved at Sam’s shoulder. “Between the two of us, we should be able to make the perfect Christmas cookies and the perfect Christmas mess.”
“Yeah, Amanda do you have everything at the house to make the cookies already?”
“I think we do, if we don’t we can make a run to the store,” Amanda said, reaching over and catching Sam’s hand.
“Perfect!” Hannah cheered from the backseat, draping herself across Mike and reaching up to cup his cheek. “Fuck I’ve missed having you guys around.”
“We’ve missed you too, fuck do we really only have two weeks?” Sam asked, reaching back to touch her arm.
“Yeah, which means we need to do a lot in these two weeks.”
They pulled into the driveway of Amanda’s house and piled out of the car, Mike and Hannah going to the back for Hannah’s luggage and Sam and Amanda going ahead into the house, talking about ingredients and shopping trips. Mike and Hannah hurried after them, and as soon as they all stepped into the main part of the house a sense of peace and comfort washed over them all. They were finally back together in a safe place, even if it was only temporarily. Mike pulled Hannah into a quick kiss before hurrying up the stairs to their shared room to put her luggage down.
“Ok, so you’re only missing a couple of ingredients, but before we plan any sort of trip to the store we should see what the decoration situation is like so we can get everything in one trip,” Sam was saying as Hannah walked into the kitchen. He was half buried in a spice cupboard while Amanda was reading from a recipe.
“Sounds perfect, I think the decorations are in the basement, Hannah wanna help me grab them?”
“Sure! You good in here Sam?”
“Of course, this is my element,” Sam sat up on his knees on the counter and threw out his arms, immediately losing his balance and falling into Amanda.
“If this is your element I really don’t want to see you out of it,” Hannah laughed as she pulled them both up.
“Oh shut the fuck up and go find your goddamn decorations,” Sam groaned, grinning slightly.
“Sure, c’mon ‘Manda, let’s go find those decorations,” Hannah grabbed Amanda’s hand and led her out of the room, leaving Sam to bitch about his fall. She could hear Mike coming down the stairs and knew that Sam wouldn’t be alone for long.
“So, where do you think your parents kept the decorations?” Hannah asked.
“They should be down in the basement, this way.” Amanda led her to a side door and then down a set of stairs that Hannah had never seen before.
“You have a fucking basement? How come we haven’t ever been down here before?”
“Well, I mean it’s mostly storage there isn’t really anything down here. I didn’t think you’d be interested.” Amanda clicked on the light and Hannah saw rows and rows of boxes, all with different labels on it.
“Yeah, we have a lot of shit. Uh, decorations are over here.” Amanda disappeared into the maze of boxes and Hannah had to rush to keep up with her. Hannah found Amanda in front of several boxes, resting her hand on one.
“Amanda?” Hannah asked, reaching out to touch her shoulder. Amanda jumped a little before glancing back at Hannah and giving her a half smile.
“Sorry, it’s just been a while since I’ve actually decorated myself. A few years back my parents started paying for people to show up and decorate for them. So I’m excited but I’m also kinda sad.” Amanda pressed her hand to her eye and took a deep breath.
“So last year, the tree you did?”
“It was a little tree for my room that I get to decorate for myself. But because my parents were here I couldn’t have you guys over.”
“Amanda, babe fuck I’m sorry.”
“It’s ok, now that we’re all together it’s going to be the best Christmas ever,” Amanda said, shaking herself off and grinning at Hannah. “C’mon let’s take these all up to the boys and see what they’ve already done to my kitchen.”
“Knowing Sam something is in the oven and something else being mixed up.”
“And knowing Mike Sam is working with half of the batter he would want to.”
The girls walked back upstairs with two boxes each, Hannah thinking about how to make this Christmas the best holiday ever, and Amanda thinking about how it was already the best Christmas ever. Up in the kitchen, the boys were having the start of their first real Christmas in many years, and they were over the moon.
“Mike! Please, I want to bake these cookies!”
“And I want to eat the dough, so I think we are at a stalemate.”
Hannah and Amanda stepped into the kitchen to see Mike trying to take a bowl of cookie batter from Sam, while Sam was up on a counter and trying to hold it out of his reach. Just before Hannah could make their presence known Mike pulled a little too hard on the bowl and Sam lost his balance, tumbling off of the counter and onto Mike.
“Fuck!” He yelled as he fell into Mike's arms, dropping the bowl onto the floor. There was a moment of silence as Mike held Sam in his arms and everyone stared at the shattered bowl on the floor.
“So, how about we take a break from baking and decorate instead?” Amanda said, holding back laughter. Sam and Mike snapped their heads up to look at the girls and they both had a look at panic. “I hated that bowl anyway, and the pure entertainment I just got was worth cleaning up the mess.”
“I’m so fucking sorry Amanda,” Sam apologized, scrambling down from Mike’s arms.
“Don’t even worry about it.” Amanda waved it off and smiled at him. “Do you guys want to help us decorate the living room while we wait for the tree delivery?”
“Uh, sure. Just let me clean this up real fast.” Sam bent down to pick up the pieces and immediately the other three dropped to their knees to help him. Hannah and Sam picked up all the pieces while Amanda and Mike used paper towels to clean up the batter.
“Alright, now that everything is clean can we decorate?” Mike asked, glancing at the boxes of decorations that had been abandoned in the door.
“Yeah! We have a lot of decorations and we should be getting a couple of trees in the next hour or so!” Amanda pulled herself and Sam up and over to the boxes. Amanda picked up a box and walked to the living room, trusting that they would follow her.
They spent the next several days in a blur of baking, movies, music, and basking in each others presence. But it was Christmas Eve now and they were all curled up together in the living room, with all the lights off but the tree and a fire. They were all lying in a pile in front of the fire, Sam and Hannah dozing off and Mike and Amanda talking quietly. There was a pile of presents under the tree, all ready to be opened in the morning but for now, they were there to complete the picture.
“I’m so glad we were able to spend Christmas here,” Amanda whispered, playing with Hannah’s hair with one hand and holding Mike’s with the other.
“Me too, everything has been perfect. Even the parts that weren’t.” Mike was tracing patterns on Sam’s back, as they were pressed chest to chest. Sam and Hannah were holding hands, even as they were mostly asleep.
“Like when Sam set the kitchen on fire?”
“Or when Hannah managed to break the bedroom door closing it too hard.”
“Or when you and Hannah were wrestling too close to the tree and you knocked the whole thing over, and instead of telling us you blamed a stray cat that never existed.”
“We have a great time, and I don’t want it to end.”
“Me either, but that is not a conversation we’re gonna have until after the holidays.”
“Alright,” Mike felt his eyes growing heavy and he let his head fall onto Amanda’s shoulder.
“I love you, Mikey,” Amanda whispered into his hair.
“I love you too ‘Manda,” Mike mumbled back, drifting off in the peace of the night.