Title: This Is All I'm Asking For
Series: All I Want For Christmas (Is You)
Feedback address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Date in Calendar: 24 December 2013
Pairing: Nikita Mears/Amanda Collins
Word Count: ~3600 for this part
Summary: Amanda has no holiday spirit, and no holiday plans. Nikita is not okay with this...
Advertisement: Part of the FSAC:DD11
Author's Notes: Set during Nikita's first Christmas as a full agent.
When the penthouse's landline started ringing, it was such an unfamiliar sound that Amanda actually stared at her cell phone a moment in confusion before identifying the noise's source. Frowning as she wondered what on earth it could signify, she moved to answer the call. "This is Doctor Collins."
"Good morning, Doctor," replied a sweet if slightly-too-cheery voice. "This is Dani with the front desk. I'm sorry to call so early, but we have a Miss Mears here wanting to see you."
Amanda bit back a sigh - apparently yesterday's conversation hadn't sunk in as well as she'd hoped. She was tempted to have Dani send Nikita away, but couldn't quite bring herself to give the order. "Go ahead and let her up - this time."
"Of course, Doctor," Dani said, the clacking of keys in the background indicating she was noting down Amanda's request in the front desk's computer system. "I'll give it about five minutes and then send Miss Mears up."
Amanda thanked her, absently returning her 'Merry Christmas!' with as close to the expected level of enthusiasm she could muster, then frowned again as she hung up the phone and glanced at the clock. It was eight in the morning on Christmas Eve - not so early that she'd been in bed asleep, but still early enough that she hadn't been even remotely prepared for visitors, expected or otherwise.
Five minutes wasn't nearly enough time to fix that, so she settled for pulling a brush through her hair and throwing a robe over her pajamas. She'd much rather have had this conversation in a more formal capacity, but she didn't need designer clothing to remind a newly-graduated agent about rules and boundaries.
Reminding a somewhat over-exuberant woman by the name of Nikita Mears about those same rules and boundaries might prove a little more difficult, but she was annoyed enough by the second invasion of her privacy in as many days that she was confident she'd find a way. She stayed perfectly confident in that assessment, too, right up until the moment Nikita stepped off that elevator.
Whatever she'd been about to say simply died unspoken as she took in the gaudy and somewhat worn Christmas sweater Nikita had paired with equally worn jeans and her favorite winter boots. "What in the name of god are you wearing?"
"Good morning to you, too," Nikita replied with a laugh. Then she held out the casserole dish in her hands. "Here, hold this a sec…"
The thing was already in Amanda's hands before she even thought to object, and that only served to annoy her further. Still, watching Nikita struggle to set down her coat and the two bags she was also carrying, Amanda had to concede that cooperating - for now - was better than having a mess to clean up.
She handed the casserole dish back to Nikita the instant the other woman's hands were free again, then made sure she had Nikita's full attention. "One of us must be having memory problems, Nikita, because I distinctly remember having a conversation yesterday about privacy, and boundaries, and how both need to be respected."
"We did," Nikita conceded, "and I promise not to make a habit of just dropping in on you uninvited. But it's Christmas Eve and I thought it would be nice to have breakfast together."
That was an exceedingly difficult statement to argue against without sounding completely churlish - especially on Christmas Eve - and Amanda found herself both strangely touched by Nikita's thoughtfulness and further irritated by feeling somewhat trapped into accepting the gesture. "Fine - but we will be discussing this further later."
Nikita just grinned in a way that made Amanda despair for that future conversation, then scurried off down the hallway toward the kitchen that Amanda kindly pointed her in the direction of. Amanda, assuming that Nikita could handle a simple stove without further supervision, headed off to her suite to get dressed.
Twenty minutes later - feeling a little more in control with her clothes, hair, and makeup properly tended to - Amanda followed the scent of vanilla, sugar, and cinnamon back to the kitchen. She detected further hints of ginger, nutmeg, and allspice as she got closer, and was none-too-subtly reminded that she hadn't had anything other than her customary cup of tea that morning.
Nikita, seeming quite at home as she bustled around the kitchen Amanda rarely even bothered to use, stopped and turned toward the sound of Amanda's footsteps. She gave Amanda an unconscious - and strangely innocent - once-over before smiling. "You look nice!"
Amanda - maybe by way of apology for insulting it earlier, maybe because she just didn't feel like dressing up for once - had opted for her own version of Nikita's ensemble. Granted, Amanda's red sweater and blue jeans were both designer *and* tailored to fit perfectly, but it was still her version of casual.
Accepting Nikita's comment as the compliment it was meant to be - and completely ignoring the strange degree to which it pleased her - Amanda just smiled back. "It smells wonderful in here. What are you making?"
Nikita, already busy pulling the dishes and silverware they'd need from the various cupboards and drawers, threw Amanda another smile over her shoulder. "Pumpkin spice French toast. It'll be done baking in about twenty minutes."
Those somehow managed to be twenty of the single most awkward minutes of Amanda's life. Nikita occupied herself with exploring the kitchen and all its drawers and cabinets to see how everything was laid out - after getting permission, of course - leaving Amanda with nothing else to do but watch her. After the second or third time she found herself paying more attention to the fit of Nikita's jeans than to the small talk she was making, Amanda decided she'd had enough and went to go set the table in the breakfast room.
Things improved a little once the food was ready - or at least, they improved for Amanda, as Nikita didn't seem uncomfortable in the least. Nikita chattered happily about the French toast recipe, detailing how she'd discovered the original version of it before going into the many various disasters she'd had while experimenting with it afterward.
Lulled by Nikita's seeming relaxation and by the excellent food - it was rich enough that neither of them even touched the maple syrup or powdered sugar on the table - Amanda somehow walked right into a trap. She didn't even realize it at first, either, which was probably some sort of testament to how well she'd trained Nikita.
"I knew it!" Nikita all but crowed when Amanda admitted she'd been completely engrossed in reports and paperwork when the front desk had call earlier - so much so, in fact, that she hadn't even thought about breakfast yet.
Nikita smiled again after that, humming under her breath as she gathered up their plates, but Amanda knew better than to trust it at this point. She was right, too - Nikita paused in the doorway between the breakfast room and the kitchen, glancing back at Amanda over her shoulder. "Just let me get these washed and we can head out."
"I won't take no for an answer, either," Nikita added before Amanda could protest. "It's Christmas Eve - work can wait."
It took Amanda several minutes before she deemed herself calm enough to follow Nikita into the kitchen. "And just where are you proposing we go?"
Nikita didn't even bother to look up from the dishes she was washing. "Skating at Wollman. I brought you skates, just in case - they're in the red bag by the elevator."
Setting the last dish to dry, Nikita turned to face Amanda. "I had to guess your shoe size - you need to try on the skates before we leave so we can exchange them if they don't fit."
There was a certain childlike pride in Nikita's eyes - she'd planned what she saw as an uncomplicated holiday diversion for a friend, successfully managing every detail on her own so that it would also be a surprise. The only problem was that it wasn't nearly as uncomplicated as Nikita thought, for many reasons - not the least of which was that Amanda was still very much her boss.
Amanda sighed as she tried to work out the best way to explain things to Nikita without hurting her feelings unduly. "I appreciate what you're trying to do, Nikita, even if I haven't been very gracious about it, but-"
She never got to the next part of her statement. Nikita cut her off, smiling apologetically to try and take some of the sting out of the interruption. "If you're going to remind me that you're my boss, and this is all inappropriate somehow, I already know that."
Amanda let the interruption slide in the name of curiosity, and in hopes of regaining control over the situation. "Then why are you doing this?"
Something dark replaced the childlike excitement in Nikita's eyes as she crossed her arms and met Amanda's gaze. There was nothing remotely childlike about her reply, either. "Because no one really wants to spend Christmas at home alone, Amanda, and because I get the feeling no one has done anything nice for you in a very long time."
If there had been even the barest trace of pity in those words, Amanda could have hidden behind pride and anger - and it might have been easier if she could have. Instead, there was only understanding born of long and painful experience, negating almost any response Amanda might have made.
Nikita, arms still crossed, leaned back against the counter as she eyed Amanda in a credible imitation of Amanda's own stare. "Look, this is all just supposed to be something fun to get you out of the house for a while, but it's pretty clear I struck a nerve. So I'm gonna back off now and give you a little space to decide what you want to do - and if you want to me to go after that, I will."
Without saying another word, Nikita took the kettle from the stove and filled it, setting it to heat before walking out of the kitchen and into the breakfast room. The kitchen felt strangely empty to Amanda after Nikita left it, but she pushed that thought aside to focus on the more important thing at hand: she only had the amount of time it would take her to brew and drink a cup of tea to decide what to do with the mess Nikita had made.
Amanda took every minute available to her and then some, stretching things out by forcing herself to drink lukewarm tea for as long as she could stand it. The problem, once reduced to its simplest form, was two-fold: first, Nikita's graceless but well-intended overture of friendship had struck a chord and made her realize that she honestly did not want to spend the holidays alone this year; second, there was no way she could possibly accept that overture and still maintain the emotional boundaries she knew were absolutely necessary between herself and Nikita.
When Amanda finally walked back into the breakfast room, she found Nikita - shoes removed and neatly placed beside her chair - sitting cross-legged at the table, eyes closed as she listened to the classical music Amanda had started earlier when they'd sat down to eat. Nikita didn't actually move at all, or even open her eyes, but something in her posture clearly indicated that she'd heard Amanda approach and was just waiting to see what she said.
Amanda took a deep breath - and then something absolutely unheard-of happened. The firm but gentle refusal she'd so painstakingly crafted in her head emerged as something else entirely. "I don't know how to skate. My father didn't have much use for anything outside of academics."
Nikita, eyes still closed, smiled a little, as if she'd caught the many levels of understatement behind the words. Then she opened her eyes to look up at Amanda. "I can teach you."
One last attempt at refusal failed much the same way Amanda's first one had - mere moments later, she was seated at the table as Nikita taught her how to properly lace her new skates. Mercifully, the lesson was completed and absorbed before Amanda's thoughts could linger too long on the strangely disquieting fact that Nikita had correctly guessed her skate size on a complete whim - or the equally disquieting feel of Nikita's hands on her feet, ankles, and calves.
That disquiet lingered through the cab ride to Central Park - so much so that Amanda barely paid any attention to Nikita's steady stream of chatter about skating and the Wollman Rink. Everything suddenly jolted back into focus, though, as Nikita's words finally registered. "...out there with two giant razor blades strapped to your feet. You'll love it."
Amanda's heart slammed to a stop for a second before it started beating again at twice its usual rate. There were certain aspects to her job at Division that it was necessary to keep as quiet as possible - it was hard to make yourself emotionally vulnerable to someone who had a reputation for being skilled at torture - but the agents who did know still talked, even going so far as to create that ridiculous nickname Percy had so perversely insisted on making her use.
There was no denying in that moment that Amanda wanted Nikita in particular to be kept completely ignorant of that nickname and everything it represented - had always wanted it - even if she shied away from too close an examination of why. Anxiety turned to annoyance with herself, though, as she finally realized Nikita had simply been making a joke that had nothing whatsoever to do with her in particular.
Her annoyance and unease shifted into dismay the second she took a look at the moderately crowded rink and actively considered for the first time the very public battering her dignity was going to take as Nikita taught her to skate. Nikita, seeming to sense that thought, looked up from lacing her skates with a reassuring smile and pointed out the various other adults out there who were also learning.
After that, she wisely allowed Amanda a little more time to gather her courage, under the guise of reacquainting herself with the skill she hadn't used in years so that she could properly pass it on to Amanda. Amanda - grateful for Nikita's empathy and sensitivity - didn't feel particularly inclined to argue, and decided she'd take her time lacing up her own skates while Nikita was otherwise occupied.
Amanda was halfway through lacing the first skate when she caught sight of Nikita out on the ice, weaving in and out of the other skaters with the same quicksilver-like speed and grace she displayed on solid ground. Her hands stilled completely, laces forgotten, as Nikita found an empty spot and ran through a few simple jumps and turns, seemingly oblivious to anything but the feel of moving across the ice.
For once, Amanda was amused with herself for being so easily distracted rather than being annoyed, though she was certainly annoyed with herself after her race to to finish lacing her skates led to hopelessly tangled laces that she was still struggling with when Nikita returned. Nikita just smiled at her and helped her get everything sorted out without even saying a word about it.
After that, there was nothing else to do but head out onto the ice. Amanda panicked a little at the loss of traction as the surface changed, but Nikita, skating backwards as if it were the easiest thing in all the world, took her hands and carefully led her over to the rink's wall. "I've seen you dance - and if you can do that in those heels of yours, you can do this."
Nikita proved to be an extraordinarily patient teacher, even when Amanda proved to be a less than exemplary student - the few times it looked like Amanda might trip or fall, Nikita rushed in to make sure she didn't, and Amanda was eventually able to relax enough to start enjoying herself. It didn't take very long at all, actually, for her to feel comfortable enough to race Nikita for short stints, even though they both knew Nikita wasn't even really trying to win.
If pressed, Amanda wouldn't have been able to remember the last time she'd had that much fun, much less the last time she'd had that much fun doing something so physically active. The various objections she'd so carefully outlined earlier that day while standing in her kitchen faded away to nothing as she found herself simply enjoying the challenge of learning something new under Nikita's tutelage - which, of course, meant that something was bound to bring every single one of those objections back the instant she'd fully forgotten them.
It happened during one of her sprints with Nikita, once she finally felt confident enough to truly test her speed. Nikita usually stayed on the outside, to keep the path clear for Amanda, but Amanda skated out past her in a fit of competitiveness - just in time to realize she didn't yet have the easy maneuverability to avoid the skater about to run right into her.
Amanda managed to move aside just enough to turn it from a full collision into a harmless bump of shoulders, but that bump was still enough to throw her off balance. Cursing under her breath, she felt her feet slip out from under her and braced herself for the inevitable fall to the ice - only to find disaster averted as Nikita grabbed her by the coat and forcibly dragged her to the wall.
Every awkward moment of the last couple days came roaring back as Amanda also suddenly found herself pinning Nikita to the wall of the rink - Nikita's desperate scramble to keep Amanda from falling hadn't left any time or room to get herself out of the way, and she was currently caught between Amanda and the wall. They were both clinging to each other - no one's hands had ended up anywhere inappropriate, for a small mercy - and neither of them could seem to let go.
Amanda finally pushed the breathlessness and touch of vertigo aside - insisting to herself that it was only adrenaline from almost falling - and made herself let go of Nikita when she realized that the person she'd collided with was standing there waiting to speak to them, an amused and somewhat knowing look on their face. She felt her cheeks burn as she took in that expression, but told herself it was just raised blood pressure from all the skating.
It had all been an accident, of course, so they accepted their fellow skater's apology with good grace and even chatted for a moment. Pleasant as that was, though, the happy, comfortable bubble of the last couple hours had been broken, and Amanda suddenly found herself feeling cold, tired, and generally out of sorts. She also found herself with a sudden longing for the quiet solitude of her penthouse that she'd never really had before.
Nikita chose not to comment on Amanda's sudden shift in mood - instead, she bought them both some spiced tea to warm them up, and insisted they walk for a bit to stretch their legs. Amanda didn't argue - despite the fact that part of her wanted nothing more than to be wherever Nikita Mears wasn't - and found that the tea and quiet walk worked wonders on her mood.
She was still more than ready to go home, though, so they called a cab. Nikita's undemanding small talk during the ride back to the apartment building completed the task of settling Amanda's nerves, and they were actually laughing and joking with each other by the time the cab pulled up - Nikita even extracted a quasi-serious promise as they said goodbye that Amanda would at least eat lunch before going back to her reports and paperwork, while easily agreeing to Amanda's request that she let her know she'd made it home alright.
Amanda was, in fact, pretty close to grinning from ear to ear as she walked into the lobby of her building - not that she'd ever have admitted to it. Dani, who'd let Nikita up earlier that morning, was still at the front desk, and couldn't help grinning at that herself - they didn't see much of Doctor Collins, who was apparently very busy most days, but she was always extremely courteous to the staff, and Dani figured she deserved someone to make her happy.
Dani managed to hide her grin as she was asked to add Nikita Mears to the list of permitted visitors, but it came back the second Doctor Collins turned away. Spotting a stack of flyers that had gotten shuffled off to the side, Dani waited until the doctor was a few steps away before calling her back, hoping it seemed completely impromptu.
Amanda probably never even realized the way her smile widened just a touch as she stared at the full-color advertisement for a local Christmas light display. She certainly never questioned her sudden and unusual interest in going to see it...