Chris knew most people expected him to hate Christmas.
He got it; he looked like he was more into Halloween (he did love Halloween of course, but maybe not more than Christmas...at least not every year), he wasn't particularly into commercialism, and he generally came across as a bit of a misanthrope to some people. So, yeah, he understood why people were surprised when on the day after Thanksgiving he started looking at Christmas decorations, humming classic Christmas songs, and…but that didn’t stop him from doing any of those things.
If there was one thing people would expect from the quiet, emo kid who’d wanted to be a drummer, and wound up being the lead singer of a successful band touring Europe, it was that he’d subvert expectations, and that was exactly what Chris did when it came to Christmas.
Christmas was great, and Chris wasn’t ashamed to admit that he felt that way. He also wasn’t ashamed of all the traditions he had surrounding the holiday season, from decorating to wrapping presents to going out to see the Christmas lights. Every year he went back to Scranton to see his family and they went into town to see all the town had put up.
Unfortunately, there were two problems with that this year.
The first was that he couldn’t go back to Scranton this year; Motionless In White were touring Europe, and wouldn’t be back to the States until the twentieth, and which point Chris would have too much catching up to do to visit his parents before Christmas Day itself.
That was okay; there were Christmas lights everywhere, and even if he couldn’t go see them with his family, he could still go and see them. He was in London: there were going to be good lighting displays around, but that just led him to the second problem - which was that he was the only one on the road for this tour who felt that Christmas lights were worth going out to see on the band’s day off.
Vinny would rather stay on the bus where it was warm, Ricky was working on editing the latest tour update, Justin was watching a hockey game, and Ryan hated all things Christmas, and all the crew were making the most of having the night off to worry about going anywhere with Chris, which left Chris with the option of either going out to see the lights alone, or not going out at all.
So obviously he was going out alone.
It sucked…but Chris was determined to make the most of the situation, which was how he wound up climbing the stairs out of Oxford Circus Underground station, Christmas songs blasting through his headphones, face already tilted up to catch his first glimpse of the gently twinkling lights strung high above the roads.
He was so absorbed in looking up that he didn’t notice the woman directly in his path until he walked into her.
Being a typical non-drunk Brit, she seemed willing to let the incident pass with little more than a dark glare thrown in hi direction, but even though Chris knew his American-ness was probably not appreciated, he couldn’t stop himself from immediately apologising, and apologising profusely: “Oh my god, I’m so sorry! I got distracted by the lights and I didn’t see you - it’s completely my fault, I didn’t like step on your toes or anything did I? I’m sorry if I did, I’m so clumsy when I’m, distracted…”
The woman was looking at him like she couldn’t decide if he was being passive-aggressively insulting or just plain crazy…which, considering several bystanders were also doing the same thing, Chris realised he must actually look like a dick.
So he clicked his mouth shut and offered an apologetic smile: “I’m sorry.”
“Yeah, alright mate.” the woman responded slowly, still seeming uncertain what to make of him: “Don’t worry about it.”
“I’ll be more careful looking at the lights now, I promise.” Chris informed her.
He was expecting to be brushed off, but the woman’s face actually softened, and turned into a small smile: “You’re here to look at all the lights?”
Chris nodded, surprisingly excited that the woman was taking an interest - probably because she was the first person who had all day: “I am. It’s a bit of a tradition, even if normally I do it with my family back home.”
“Aw, that’s sweet.” the woman smiled wider: “Are you getting a friend to give you the grand tour?”
“Unfortunately not, I’m relying on Google for this one. I’m the only one interested.” Chris laughed, the sound a little less than cheerful, even to his own ears.
The woman paused for a few seconds, looking Chris up and down consideringly, before tucking the phone she’d been holding into the pocket of her long cherry red coat and shouldering the black purse she was carrying.
“I was going to go and see them myself - it’s a bit of a tradition for me, too, and I don’t have anyone to go with either…I could show you around, if you want?” she offered, before immediately holding her hands up: “Although if you’ve got a route planned or something, I’d get that, you don’t have to come with me just because you bumped into me or anything.”
Chris didn’t let her talk herself out of her offer: “No, I’d love the company. I really wasn’t looking forward to doing it on my own.”
The woman smiled, holding her hand out for Chris to shake: “Me either. I’m Holly, by the way.”
“Chris.” he responded, shaking her hand and beaming at her: “Lead the way.”
Holly grinned, and set off down Regent Street, walking at a pace that gave both of them plenty of time to look up at the sweeping golden lights above their heads, carefully arranged into the shapes of angels. Chris listened to Holly jokingly announce that December was the only time of year she would set foot on either Regent or Oxford Street, denouncing them as little more than overcrowded tourist attractions - but the Christmas lights made them worth braving.
Chris understood the feeling, aware of the sea of bodies that was moving around him and Holly, and Oxford Street was similar. He still took plenty of pictures of his family, but he was more than happy when Holly turned into a quieter street, heading towards a place she called Seven Dials.
She laughed when he stood at the base of the tall monument in the centre of seven streets, looking at the feathery, branch-like lights that circled around the small circle, looking up in awe. Her laughter sounded like bells to Chris, silvery and cheerful, and right at home with the warm white light that bathed her, standing against the wall of a pub. He knew he was probably looking like a bit of an idiot, so taken in by the lights, but Holly’s laughter wasn’t mocking. It was nice.
He didn’t hesitate over leaning into the charming idiot image and offering Holly his arm when they were back on the same street - his heart fluttering when she accepted with a giggle.
Covent Garden, China Town and Leicester Square, Trafalgar Square, and the South Bank all passed in a blur of twinkling lights and Holly dropping interesting bits of information about the city she lived in, her arm wrapped through his the whole time.
Chris was having the best time, especially when they found a vegan food stall on the South Bank, and he and Holly ended up leaning against the wall dividing the path from the river, watching a street performer do a magic act and listening to the Christmas songs playing through the mini Christmas market a few feet away.
“Thanks for showing me around tonight.” Chris said softly: “It was really nice having company - especially yours.”
Holly laughed: “Flattery will get you everywhere, hun.”
“I mean it.”
“Yeah?” she teased…before seeing he did mean it, and her face softening into a genuine expression: “I had a really good time tonight, and it was pretty much all down to you.”
Chris smirked: “I am pretty entertaining…although I’m sure the Christmas lights had something to do with it.”
Holly took an awkward sip of her hot spiced cider: “Actually, I probably wasn’t going to see the lights if you hadn’t taken me up on my offer to show you around. I was meant to be going on a date…but he decided not to show. You were much better company that he ever could be, though.”
“I’m glad I could make things look up for you.” Chris responded genuinely. He knew what it was like to have someone no-show a date, and they had been some of the worst nights of his life for his self-esteem: “He’s a moron for not showing up. You’re amazing.”
Holly smiled sweetly…then leaned up on her toes to press a kiss to Chris’s cheek, her hand resting gently on his shoulder.
Her lips were soft on his skin, and he swore he could feel the warmth of his hand through his leather jacket. It was just a peck on the cheek…but Chris’s heart was still pounding in his chest when she leant back.
“Thank you,” he blushed: “and…how do I convince you to do that again?”
Holly laughed - and this time pecked Chris on the lips.
Both of them smiled into the kiss.