AN: A Christmas plot bunny that got hold of me. It takes place during a hypothetical Christmas – definitely not canon for this year. It’s A/A friendship, not particularly romantic, but friendly-fluffy. I’m not sure if this is all I’m writing or if I’ll do another chapter or two. Depends on how busy I am the next few weeks, and whether I feel particularly inspired. I’m open to ideas for more holiday escapades for Auggie and Annie. Feel free to comment and make suggestions.

Annie stepped into the apartment, pulling her coat off and hanging it up while Auggie slid the front door closed behind her. He leaned against the wall, waiting for her to finish removing her warm outer layers. Something struck her as different in the apartment. She sniffed to clear her chilled nose. There was definitely a strange smell in the room. Evergreen? Her eyes scanned the room, as she inhaled more deeply. She didn’t have to search far for the source of the scent. There was a squat little evergreen tree standing in the middle of the coffee table. And as she took in the rest of the room, she noticed a few more evergreen branches standing in vases and even somehow affixed to the wall above the windows.

She turned to look at her friend, who was still leaning against the wall, grinning.

“You… decorated.” Annie finally blurted.

“Tis the season.” Auggie said, by way of explanation.  “But, really, this is just kind of a start.”

“A start?”

“Well, the tree’s still naked. I don’t have any ornaments, and you know how much I hate going to those kinds of stores alone. I thought maybe you’d be up for a little Christmas shopping this weekend.”

“Uh sure.” Her mouth managed to say, even while her brain was trying to absorb this surprising information. She wasn’t sure why, but she had never imagined Auggie being very into Christmas. And certainly not Christmas decorating. His personal style was so minimalist, all the gaudiness of Christmas seemed anathematic.

“You don’t sound very enthusiastic.” Auggie pointed out.

“No!” Annie said, jiggling her brain loose from the tangent she’d been on. “I just hadn’t pegged you for a big Christmas decorator.”

“I’m not, usually. My mom was really into it, but once I moved away from home, I never bothered getting a tree or anything. I went home a lot for holidays in college, and once I started at the agency, I was usually traveling a lot. And in recent years I’ve been busy with work.”

“So what inspired you this year?”

“Funny you should ask. You know that empty lot down the block, where the creepy old gas station used to be?”

“Yeah.”

“They put a Christmas tree lot there this year. I was walking past yesterday, and the music caught my attention. I wandered in, just to soak up the festive atmosphere, and it smelled so good. It brought back all those memories of tree hunting, decorating, presents on Christmas morning… you know, the whole nostalgia thing. And I thought it might be nice to have that here.”

“I can’t believe you bought a Christmas tree.” Annie said. “How did you even get it up here?”

She was trying to picture him carrying the tree, his white cane sweeping out from the branches.

“I paid one of the guys at the lot five bucks to help me carry it. I’m pretty sure they were gonna offer to do it anyway, but…” He trailed off and shrugged. Annie knew he felt uncomfortable taking advantage of people’s kindness toward him because of his disability. He was, for the most part, a very capable person, so he felt he didn’t deserve the extra help he was often offered.

“I guess he was glad you have an elevator when you told him which floor you live on.” Annie said, effectively bypassing the uncomfortable topic.

“One of my neighbors always brings his tree up the stairs, because he gets one that’s too tall to fit in the elevator. I moved in here in January, and the first time I met him, he and his oldest son were carrying it down the stairs, dropping needles and tinsel the whole way.”

Annie laughed as she pictured the sad post-Christmas tree dropping all its needles on the way down from the 12th floor.

“His son’s in college now, so I helped him with it last year. No way was I dragging my tree up if I didn’t have to.”

“Well, I’m sure that one fit just fine in the elevator. Is there a reason you went for a coffee-table tree?”

“Well, even though I like the idea of a Christmas tree, I wasn’t sure I wanted to commit to walking around it all season. I don’t have a really obvious good place for a tree. No empty corner or anything.”

“Well, if you move that chair…” Annie gestured. Then stopped herself. Auggie’s face crinkled in good-natured skepticism.

“I’m not a huge fan of rearranging the furniture.” He stated, humor in his voice.

“Good point. I guess the coffee table is a good place for it then.”

“I’m just not sure what I’m going to do about the cord, though. Might have to tape it to the floor so no one gets a toe caught on it and pulls the whole tree over.”

“Cord? You’re going to put lights on it?”

“Figured I would. That’s how it’s usually done, right?”

“Well yeah, but…”

Auggie walked over to the tree, reaching out tease a branch with his fingers. He sighed. “It’s not about the end result. Seeing the finished product.” He shrugged. “That part’s going to be anticlimactic – lights or not.”

“Sorry to be… obtuse… but what is it about?”

“The experience. Picking the tree, shopping for ornaments, trying not to tangle the lights, decorating, listening to Christmas music, drinking eggnog with more brandy than egg, watching A Christmas Story and quoting every line. Hopefully, some of it with my best friend.”

He turned toward her, his face open and honest.

“Oh.” Annie said, regretting questioning his plans. While there were some things that Auggie would miss out on, there were a lot of Christmas traditions he could enjoy, and he was clearly looking forward to sharing those with her. As she had learned to do when aspects of Auggie’s situation made her feel a bit sad, she kicked any thoughts of pity out the window and vowed internally to be an encouragement, not a downer.

You’re right, Auggie. It’s a fantastic idea.”

“Smelling Christmas in my apartment every time I come home isn’t a bad return for the expense either.”

“You could get one of those pine tree air fresheners.” Annie said, teasing.

“I spend enough time inside cabs.” Auggie stated flatly. “I don’t need my apartment to smell like one.”

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