Neil was making himself some coffee to bring with him to a meeting he had at the hospital. He checked the time, hoping that Claire would get back from the store before he had to leave. They had officially been together for six months and living together for three. He liked to tease her that they really had been together much longer. Now that they were together, he wondered how he had ever pretended to just be friends with her.
It had taken a while for them to admit their feelings to each other, and then even longer to take the risk to act on them. At first, they had agreed that it was too complicated for them to move beyond friendship while she was a resident. He told himself repeatedly that it was the right thing to do for both of them. That didn’t make it easy. He wasn’t even sure what it was that pushed them towards something more. One night while working late at the hospital, exhaustion lowered their defenses and he had placed his hand against her back as they had walked out to the balcony for some fresh air. She had turned and looked up at him, and neither knew who moved first. It was the night of their first kiss and the beginning of what they both had wanted for a long time.
They went to dinner that night and discussed everything from if they wanted to try a relationship, to what they wanted from the future, to even questioning if one of them should leave the hospital. Thankfully once they admitted that they wanted a relationship they realized they were on the same page about wanting a future together and that neither should leave the hospital. They had spoken with Audrey, Aaron and Marcus the next day before making it official with HR. They had tried as long as they could to prevent the inevitable. Despite some of the work complications, it was the best decision he had ever made.
He heard the front door open and went to see if Claire needed any help with the groceries. She reached up and kissed him as he took some bags from her hands.
“I thought you’d be gone by now,” she said as they placed the bags on the counter.
He held up his travel mug, “Making coffee first,” he sat it back on the counter and walked over to wrap his arms around her waist. “And hoping to see you before I left.”
She smiled up at him. “Do you have any idea why they are calling you in on your day off?”
“Torture,” he answered as he captured her lips with his. “I think they realized we both had off and had to mess with it somehow.”
She laughed as she moved out of his embrace. “Hopefully it won’t be too long. Are we still going to see Gabby for dinner tonight?”
He had first taken Claire to meet his sister before they had even officially begun dating. It had taken Gabby a little while to warm up to a new person, but now he thought she loved seeing Claire even more than him.
“As long as you’re okay with that.”
“Of course,” she smiled.
“How was the store?” he asked.
“The usual.” She rolled her eyes as she put the milk in the refrigerator. “Although it looks like Christmas threw up in the store.”
“What?” he asked with a laugh.
“There were Christmas decorations everywhere. It looked like I had walked into Santa’s Workshop.”
“And that’s a bad thing?” he asked as he continued to help her put things away.
He shook his head, “I don’t understand what that has to do with anything.”
“It’s still summer,” she said incredulously.
“For a few more days,” he stopped putting away the groceries and leaned against the counter. “What do you have against Christmas?”
“Nothing, I love Christmas,” she said, “Just in December where it belongs.”
“Only in December?” he asked.
“Oh no. Please tell me I’m not going to have to end this because you’re one of those people.”
He crossed his arms. “People who want to make the Christmas spirt last longer?”
“People who ruin the Christmas spirt?”
“How?” he asked in disbelief.
“It’s not special if it lasts for months,” she answered. She moved to stand next to him and took a deep breath. “Christmas wasn’t something special growing up. Half the time Mom didn’t even realize it was the holidays.”
“Claire,” he sighed as he took her hand. “I’m sorry.”
He knew how difficult her childhood had been and he hated the reminders of how much her mother had failed her.
“It wasn’t special in our house but there was something magical about watching everything slowly change. There was something special in the air.” She squeezed his hand. “I know it’s silly, but it seems to lose some of that when you start it so early. I mean we haven’t even decorated for Halloween.”
“It’s not silly and I’m ready for Halloween whenever you want.” He reached out to pull her back into his arms. “I guess I’ll just put all the Christmas stuff away first,” he teased.
“You better,” she wrapped her arms around him. “What do you usually do for Christmas?” she asked softly.
“It depends if my parents are coming here or if I’m going to see them. I usually but up some decorations. Gabby enjoys them.”
“Does she come spend a lot of time here over the holidays?”
“Not as much as I’d like,” he admitted. “But I do try to bring her as often as I can.”
“Then I guess I’ll have to adjust to some early Christmas decorations.” She hesitated before adding, “Maybe we could start some new traditions together.”
“I’d like that. What did you have in mind?”
“I’m going to need your help with that,” she sighed. “I can’t wait to spend Christmas with you.”
“Even if it’s only September.”
She leaned forward and kissed him, “Maybe you just make every day magical,” she said with a laugh.
“And you say I’m the sap?”
“You must be rubbing off on me.”
“Good, I’ll make a romantic out of you yet.”
“Don’t hold your breath.” She glanced over at the clock. “What time is your meeting?”
“In fifteen minutes. I’ll just blame you for being late.”
“Don’t you dare,” she said handing him his travel mug.
He kissed her again. “Not my fault you’re so irresistible.”
“Go,” she said pressing against his chest. “The quicker you leave, the quicker you’ll be able to come home.”
“I love you.”
“I love you too.”
He grabbed his keys and left for the hospital. He honestly hadn’t thought too much about the holidays but now that Claire had put the thought in his mind, he looked forward to starting new traditions together and making her Christmas special. As he drove to the hospital, he wondered if the gift shop had put out the ornaments yet. He would love to see the look on her face if she saw that he had gotten her a Christmas ornament after their conversation. Maybe they would have one of the Grinch. He hoped their meeting was short so he could get back home to her. Even if she had just been teasing, he agreed that every day was magical.