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sweet dreams of holly and ribbon

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She’s clearly suffering from a horrible case of deja vu. There is no other way to explain how Lu ended up here, on Christmas fucking Eve, having dinner with Guzmán’s parents, of all people. 

It’s been a couple of years since she’s even really spoken to Guzmán. There’s a multitude of reasons for that, one of them being the way she sometimes still flinches at the memory of their less than stellar high school relationship. She’s not gonna call it post-traumatic stress — even Lu isn’t that dramatic — but it was a lot. Sometimes it still feels like a lot. Especially that summer after Marina died. There’s no way she’s ever gonna shake the memory of seeing him that broken, and unfortunately, there’s no way she’ll ever stop connecting that memory with the knowledge that he broke her trust and cheated on her.

The reason they barely speak is more practical though. She’s been in New York for almost three years and rarely ever comes back to Madrid. Even if she were to pretend she thinks of him as a friend, she still wouldn’t think they’re the kind of friends who text each other. So of course they lost touch. It makes total sense.

She’s back in Madrid for winter break. That’s a first. The holiday period is normally when she avoids the city most — it’s when everybody else she went to school with is in town, too. There’s always at least one bigger get together, and she’s always been glad to only have to see those happening on Instagram. This year she isn’t so lucky.

Obviously, she knows what Carla’s been up to because they’re the kind of friends who can go months without talking and pick up right where they left off. That, and Carla is in California at UCLA, so they’ve met up a couple of times, usually somewhere in between New York and L.A. She’s obviously stayed in touch with Nadia, too — they live together, so it would be hard not to. Everyone else, though? Not really. Sometimes she’ll hear rumors about what people are up to, from Valerio or Carla or Nadia (listed in order from least to most reliable intel) but she hasn’t actually spoken to most of her former classmates since graduation. Since... Since the accident. Anyway. Her therapist suggested she might want to try not to think about that night too much while she’s here.

Getting sloppy drunk is not a concept Lu believes in, under normal circumstances. She figures a party on Christmas Eve-Eve involving every single person in this universe that knows she accidentally caused their mutual friend’s death warrants a couple of extra drinks.

It doesn’t come as a surprise that Guzmán feels the same way. They end up draped over each other at two in the morning, stumbling through the streets of Madrid on their way home. Well, on their way back to his place; Lu is staying with Nadia’s family over break, and she’s not gonna make them think less of her by drunkenly coming home in the middle of the night. Guzmán very kindly offered to host her for the night, and it would’ve been rude to turn him down.

Plus she kind of wants to see his apartment. The idea of Guzmán being an adult with his own place is kind of impossible for drunk Lu to picture.

He seems more settled in his skin these days, less anxious and angry and overwhelmed. She likes how, even through the flimsy layers of drunken happiness and enthusiasm, she can tell he’s genuinely doing better.

Neither of them pretends for even a second that she’ll sleep on the couch. It’s not like they haven’t shared a bed a million times before.

He throws a shirt at her, and she instantly recognizes it — one of his Las Encinas gym shirts, which she used to wear all the time. It’s got a few holes at the bottom, so chances are this is the very shirt she wore when they used to share a bed three years ago. “You know, for a second I thought you were an adult, but this shirt clearly proves you can’t be.”

Guzmán grins, unbuttoning his shirt and taking it off, then reaches for the hem of his wife-beater. “I know how good you look in that shirt.”

This is… uncharted territory. She’s been so careful all night, hasn’t complimented him like she wanted to once, and now he’s standing in front of her with those stupidly defined abs on display, stepping out of his jeans. It’s not fair. He shouldn’t be allowed to still look this good. She shouldn’t still be this attracted to him.

She’s just standing there, holding the shirt in her hand, watching as he folds his jeans and drapes them over a chair in the corner of the room. He’s grinning at her, motioning for her to change, and there’s clearly an unspoken challenge in his eyes. She’s infamously bad at admitting defeat, so she takes him up on it, bites her lip and says, “Unzip me?”

Yes, she could have unzipped her own dress, but the side zip really is awfully inconvenient for her to reach, and she’s drunk enough to want to see if he’ll actually take this further and make a move. He leers at her, then crosses the room with two confident strides, reaching for her waist with one hand while the other goes for her zipper. After he’s pulled it down, she turns around slightly to look up at him, holding the dress to her chest.

“Nothing I haven’t seen before,” he touts, a little too confident for her liking. She isn’t a sure thing anymore, and she wants him to recognize that. Her dress falls to the floor, leaving her in a strapless simple black lace bra and matching underwear. She takes a step back. Mainly because she needs more room to put his shirt on, but also because he’ll probably be able to get a better look this way. “Jesus, Lu.”

Satisfied with his response, she slips the shirt over her head and sits down on his bed, draping the covers over her lap. He’s still just standing there, staring at her, and this is such a bad idea. She should not be falling for this. They’re exes for a reason. For many reasons. Reasons she is struggling to remember at the moment, too busy letting her eyes trail from his chest to his abs to… God, she needs to get over herself. Why did she let herself have that last drink?

Guzmán sits down next to her, reaches over to play with the fabric of her shirt for a second, then scoots over to his side of the bed and turns off the light. Wait, what? No, Lu tells herself, she should be relieved, not disappointed. They should just sleep off the alcohol.

She feels him slip under the covers and turn around, and when he reaches for her and pulls her closer, she lets out a low whine. He splays his hand on her stomach under her shirt, making sure she’s pressed flush against him and she hates herself for the way she feels herself wiggling closer to him.

His hand moves up, playing with the cups of her bra, and she turns around to face him, reaching back to take it off. She does it for practical purposes — sleeping with it on would be uncomfortable.  Her hand goes out to touch his pecs because… Because she wants to be touching him. Because she’s drunk. She can barely make out his face in the dark, but she can feel his chest heaving, his breath coming out in frantic bursts.

He’s bolder than her, maybe still slightly more stubborn, because he runs a hand through her hair and leans in to kiss her. It’s the absolute weirdest feeling in the world to be kissing him again, almost exactly three years after their third (fifth? seventh?) and final breakup. She’d successfully made herself forget how nice his pillowy lips feel under her own, how good he is at coercing her mouth open for him, how she can never quite get enough once she gives in. She rolls them over so she’s on top, instantly moaning at the friction where she’s rubbing against him, and she can barely remember why she shouldn’t be doing this at all.

They’re both single. They’re both drunk. They might both regret this tomorrow.

“Guzmán,” Lu says, trying for commanding, but it comes out slightly breathy like she’s spurring him on. “We shouldn’t.”

He scoffs, and she smiles at the sound of it, even in her current state of frustration. It reminds her of the exasperated way he used to scoff at her no matter what she’d say, and it’s the sort of amusing relic from the past that reminds her she shouldn’t let herself enjoy the way she can feel him pressing against her right now. (She still is.)

“Then get off of me.” He removes his hand from her waist, leans back and grins at her.

Sixteen-year-old Lu would’ve never had the willpower to reject him, but she’s twenty now. She’s got a whole newfound sense of self, and a therapist, and friends who like her for who she is, not who she claims to be. So she reluctantly runs a hand down his chest, then swings her leg over his hip and falls back against the pillows.

She hears him laugh, feels him shuffling around, and then he’s back to spooning her, his body heat offering much-appreciated warmth. “Goodnight, Lu.”

And no, she doesn’t trust herself to speak right now, so she hums instead, just lets out a short affirmative sound and closes her eyes.

In the morning, he’s up before her and makes her breakfast. She gives him a dubious look when she walks into the kitchen and sees him standing at the stove. Seeing Guzmán in such a domestic setting is kind of bizarre. She fights the urge to wrap an arm around him from behind and breathe him in. That stupid kiss last night definitely left her wanting more. It’s probably just sexual frustration; she doesn’t need to have sex with him to get rid of it.

Unfortunately, most people she could booty call are an ocean away.

“Merry Christmas,” he tells her, handing her a plate of eggs. Right — it’s Christmas Eve. “Here’s your present.”

“Wow, I can’t possibly accept this generous gift.”

In the daylight, she seizes the opportunity to look around his kitchen a little, then moves over into the living room. She’s not snooping, okay? It’s just interesting to see what the place is like. She sits down on his couch, still glancing around the room, and he comes to stand in the doorway to laugh at her. His arms are crossed in front of his chest, and he’s only wearing a pair of PJ pants and… none of this is fair, really.

“Do you like it?”

She draws her legs up under herself to make room for him, then smiles at him when he joins her, tucking her legs into his lap.

“It’s nice. Not what I expected.”

“What did you expect?” He asks, and she has no idea, honestly. She shrugs.

It’s not awkward. She wonders if that’s because they’re not close friends anymore or because she’s kissed him a million times before. It doesn’t really matter.

His fingers start drawing random patterns on her thigh, which is a little too distracting. “So, any exciting plans for Christmas Eve?”

Ha. As if. Nadia’s family isn’t celebrating and she’s still not talking to her own. The best response she can come up with is a noncommittal shrug. It’s honestly pretty sad because she loves Christmas. She kind of wishes it hadn’t become such a non-event for her over the years.

“Have dinner with me and my parents tonight.”

She literally laughs louder than she has in days, slapping his shoulder. “Why the fuck would I do that?”

The thing is, she likes his parents. Laura is lovely, the sort of mother who cares about her children enough to sometimes be genuine, which is an experience Lu never really got to have. Ventura is stoic, but genuine once you crack him. She likes them and she knows they love her.

“Because you have nowhere else to go and my mom keeps pestering me about bringing someone home for the holidays.”

She snorts. “That’s the worst idea you’ve ever had.”

It’s the worst idea he’s ever had, but she really does have nothing better to do. He’s kind of pouting at her, putting on his best puppy dog face, and she groans, then lets him wrap her up in a hug. “Fine. I’ll need to go back to Nadia’s to change.”

“That can be arranged.”

###

“You’re spending Christmas Eve with Guzmán and his parents?” Nadia is staring at her, looking slightly scandalized. “Do you have something to tell me? Is that why you didn’t come home last night?”

If circumstances were different this conversation might be awkward. Thankfully Nadia has long gotten over her schoolgirl crush on Guzmán and is now happily dating some guy she met in her intercultural comm seminar last semester.

Lu rolls her eyes. “It’s not like that.”

Well, not really, anyway. Nadia doesn’t need to know they kissed. Nobody needs to know about that. She crosses her legs and lets Nadia braid her hair as she rests her head in her lap.

"It definitely looks like that. Omar saw you two leaving together… He said you looked cozy.”

Ugh. Omar needs to calm it with the gossip. So she slept over at a friend’s place. Big fucking deal.

“Cozy? What the fuck does that even mean?”

“Defensive.” Nadia gives her this knowing look but drops the topic. Good. She probably knows that Lu will tell her eventually anyway if there’s anything worth telling her about.

When she gets out of the shower and picks out her outfit for the night, she finds herself slightly giddy at the thought of it all. She’s kind of missed this — the chance to use her amazing sense of style and her impeccable ability to charm people of any age. She really likes her whole perfect daughter-in-law routine. It’s been a while since she got to use it.

She goes with a simple maroon dress with subtle gold accents in the end, leaves her hair down and curled at the ends, then swipes on neutral makeup that’ll make her look both youthful and gorgeous. When Nadia sees the end result, she laughs and nods her approval. “You’ll definitely woo them.”

Lu doesn’t argue her on how that’s obviously not why she put in the effort. It doesn’t feel important. Instead, she walks over and hugs her, then grabs her purse. As she’s walking away, she turns around and says, “Don’t wait up.”

You know. In case she gets too drunk to make it back tonight.

###

What she didn’t expect is for Guzmán’s mother to hug the life out of her at the door. “It’s so lovely to see you, Lu, how have you been?” She asks, putting an arm around her as she ushers her inside. Ventura is sitting in the living room, a glass of scotch in hand. He shakes her hand aggressively until Laura interjects, “She’s family, Ventura, come on,” and then he jumps up to hug her too.

It’s like she literally never left.

She’s sitting in between Guzmán’s parents, nursing a glass of wine when he finally makes his way downstairs. He catches her eye across the room, grins and shakes his head like he can’t quite believe how comfortable she is with his parents. She always has been. She doesn’t even need to interrupt their conversation to slyly wink at him without having his parents notice.

He jokingly clears his throat, making his parents look over, and she gets up to hug him. He kisses her hair and whispers something about her still having his parents wrapped around her finger. She nods against his chest, then giggles because she does, and she loves it.

“So when did you two reconnect?” Laura asks during dinner after they’ve discussed every single aspect of Lu’s life in New York in detail. It’s amusing because she tries to sound super casual and subtle, but Lu can tell she’s clearly assuming she and Guzmán have… reconnected.

Instead of letting her answer, Guzmán just puts a hand on her thigh under the table and rolls his eyes at Laura. “Mom, come on,” he says, notably not denying anything. It’s almost like he wants his mother to think they’re together.

“What? I was just curious.”

“Well, we’ve stayed in touch,” is all Lu says, and Guzmán’s hand is still on her thigh so she figures she may as well grab it.

After dessert, they move to the sitting room and there’s more wine, and then Ventura gets out this aged cognac he saved for the occasion. When he hands her a glass, he jokingly says, “Hope you didn’t drive here.”

She’s about to tell him she doesn’t know how to drive at all, when Guzmán puts an arm around her shoulder and says, “Nah, Lu is staying the night.”

Okay, good to know. She puts on her most polite smile to hide the fact that he basically just insinuated they’re gonna hook up later, then takes a sip of her drink. “This is delicious, Ventura.”

She logically knows she shouldn’t let herself get too drunk because they’re going to church for midnight mass soon, and she knows if she’s tipsy for that she’ll spend the whole time making incredibly inappropriate Jesus jokes to Guzmán. While that sounds entertaining, she’s pretty sure it’s not exactly something his parents would appreciate, and she likes them too much to disappoint them.

Guzmán sees the empty glass in her hand and grins. “Mom, when are we leaving for church?”

“In half an hour, dear.”

He turns to her. “Wanna go look at old pictures in my room?”

He isn’t even being a little subtle. But Laura loves her and is obviously rooting for them, so she says, “Oh, what a nice idea,” like her son didn’t just basically ask Lu if she wants to go upstairs to make out.

He gets up, holds out his hand to her, and she takes it without hesitation. They’re both smiling as they walk upstairs, neither of them bothering to talk until the door to Guzmán’s room is safely closed behind them.

“I hate you,” she groans, jokingly pushing at his chest, but she’s smiling a little too much to really mean it. “Why does your mother think we’re dating?”

He shrugs, then sits down on his bed and pats the spot next to him invitingly. She’s weak, and fairly tipsy at this point, so she sits down. “Wishful thinking.”

Lu decides to be bold. “On her part or yours?”

That gets him to look at her funny, the grin gone from his face. He runs a hand over her thigh, then moves it under her dress, and looks her right in the eye when he pushes her underwear aside to touch her. She has no idea what to do — it’s not like she hasn’t been thinking about this all day. “We have to go to church soon,” she says quietly. “This is—,” a bad idea, but she cuts herself off with a whimper when he pushes a finger inside of her. “Guzmán.”

“We’ve got thirty minutes,” he reminds her, then leans over to kiss her briefly. She closes her eyes and chases his lips when he pulls away, and when she looks at him again he’s smirking at her, looking way too smug for her liking. “Stop acting like you don’t want this.”

She ends up wearing her hair in a ponytail for mass because it was too messy to fix without a brush. (How does he not own a hairbrush? She gets that this is his childhood bedroom, but still — wouldn’t you keep one on hand for emergencies? Male privilege.)

Laura gives her this little knowing smile when she slides into the backseat of the car next to her and Lu is pretty sure she isn’t supposed to hold onto Guzmán’s hand for the entire church service, but she does anyway.

It’s Christmas. She gets to pretend for the day.