“Merry Christmas, Hardy”
Hardy was so engrossed in his paperwork that a few seconds passed before he realized the soft words had been spoken to him. He raised his head only to see Ellie’s retreating form making her way to the break room.
He was blinking owlishly at the door when he noticed a brightly wrapped package had been deposited on his sofa.
"What the hell..."
Hardy stood up slowly and made his way to the sofa where he took a closer look at the gift.
The rectangular shape had been wrapped with great care with dark red paper and a green ribbon. A bow brought a beautiful finishing touch.
He went to the break room and found Ellie preparing a mug of tea.
“Care to explain what this is, Miller?”
His voice startled her and she splashed hot water on her hand and let her mug crash to the floor.
“Bloody hell, Hardy! What’s wrong with you, you great wanker! Can’t you tell it’s a Christmas gift for you? Any normal person would be delighted to get one and would be opening it instead of charging in here to harass me!”
She turned her back to him and started picking up the mug’s broken pieces off the floor.
Hardy realised she was a bit teary-eyed and she winced when she moved her hand.
He gently took the broken pieces from her hands and led her to the sink where he turned on cold water. He looked at her sheepishly.
“Here, put your hand under the cold water for a minute, it’ll help.”
She gave him a thankful nod and did as told.
“I didn’t mean to startle you, I’m sorry. I’ll fix a new cup for you.”
“You’re such a drama queen, Hardy. Nothing can go smoothly with you, can it? Why are you so upset about the gift? You haven’t even opened it yet.”
“You are the one who dropped it on my sofa and ran!”
“I didn’t want you to be embarrassed about it!”
He looked shocked and left her newly made cup of tea on the counter to come closer to her, his hands on his hips.
“What do you mean embarrassed? What kind of gift is this?!”
“Don’t be an ass! It’s not an embarrassing gift, I just didn’t want you to be embarrassed because I was giving you one.”
“Why would I be? For god’s sake, Miller, it’s Christmas! Everybody is exchanging gifts, I have one for you too!”
That shut her up. For one long moment, they were both breathing heavily, their faces inches from each other.
The noise of the cold water still running in the sink brought them back to reality. Ellie flushed bright red.
Hardy’s arm went around her to turn off the water and pick up some paper towels.
“Here. Does it hurt?”
He was gently drying off her hand.
She was completely flustered. Hardy ran a hand in his hair.
“Awright. Pick up your tea and come to my office then. We’ll open our presents together.”
He smiled and turned around and she followed him numbly, wondering how a man who didn’t know what to bring to a diner party would know how to pick a Christmas gift.
Once they were in his office he went behind his desk to retrieve the gift he’d found for Miller.
She was standing in the middle of the office gaping at him.
“You really have a present for me?”
He raised his eyebrows and answered gruffly.
“Of course I do. I knew you’d get something for me, so I had to be prepared.”
He shut the door and sat on the sofa.
“Come on, Miller. Sit down.”
She sat down next to him and he gave her a wrapped package. It didn’t look as nice as the one she’d prepared for him but it seemed like he had put some time to try and wrap it himself. She had the funny urge to hug him suddenly. She shook the idea off.
“Right. We’re opening them together, then.”
They looked at each other with a tiny smile and started unwrapping their presents like excited children.
Hardy was looking blankly at a framed picture.
“Where did you…”
Ellie thought she heard a little catch in his voice as he turned wide eyes towards her.
She wasn’t faring much better: a tear was running down her cheek and she had her hand over her mouth to stifle a sob.
The second she caught his eye she engulfed him in a tight hug.
“You silly prat! Thank you, I love it!”
Hardy squeezed her as tight as she did and whispered softly on her shoulder.
“You’re welcome, Miller. Thanks for the frame, I love it too.”
They’d been embracing each other for only a second when he chuckled.
“I should have known you’d cry and give me a hug for that!”
She let him go and slapped his arm as she dried her eyes.
“You’re such a wanker!”
Suddenly he started to laugh fully.
“Miller, we’ve had the same idea, we got framed picture of our kids for each other.”
“Great minds think alike, don’t they? Anyway, I thought you needed a bit of cheering up in your office. I took that picture last summer when Daisy came to visit you and we had that picnic on the beach all together, remember? You both look so happy. I meant to send it to you then, but I forgot.”
He had a soft look in his eyes when he turned his attention back towards her.
“It’s funny, I thought you needed cheering up too. I’ve had this picture of you and your boys since last August, when you forced me to spend the day at the beach. I remember when I took it, I knew I’d give it to you for Christmas, thinking you needed a new one on your desk.”
Her eyes were still a bit misty but Ellie was feeling good, the laughing faces of her sons hugging her joyfully on the beach was heart-warming.
“You’re so soppy, Hardy!”
“Oi! You’re the one crying over a Christmas gift!”
Ellie stood up awkwardly and kept her picture frame close.
“Well, better get back to work, then.”
Hardy made his way back behind his desk and found a place on his desk for his picture.
“Awright. Thanks, Ellie.”
The use of her name made her pause by the door. He had a full on smile, with dimples and all.
“He knows my name! It’s a Christmas miracle!”
She ran out to avoid a stapler and laughed all the way to her desk. As she sat down and enjoyed her new frame by her computer screen, she couldn’t help but throw a look at Hardy.
He’d had the same idea and they smiled softly, each knowing how much these thoughtful gifts meant to the other.