So this is a fic I wrote last year for Groovysmoothie's Holiday Fic Exchange. I realized the other day that I never actually put it up here, just on my LJ, so here it is!

Sam Puckett doesn't believe in Christmas traditions.

You can try to analyze her; figure out why she's so bitter about something normally so festive and bright, maybe ask yourself Did she have a bad experience as a child? Or, was her family never around, did she have to sit alone on Christmas?

Yes, you can try to analyze her, but you're just going to get shut out. She isn't going to answer you, she isn't going to open up, and she'll tell you to take your crap to Dr. Phil, in typical Sam fashion.

Or, in some cases, you'll just end up with a bruised arm; Freddie Benson, of course, was a special case. Of course, he doesn't see why he caring always results in a bruised (or worse) limb, and he tries to remember an occasion when this did not happen. Then however, he will remember and catch himself smiling, or laughing- and change the mental subject, so to speak.

Sam likes to think that her tradition is not having traditions, that there really isn't any fun in doing the same thing every year over and over, and having it glorified just because something's been done a thousand times. She brushes her teeth every day; do people think that's all warm and fuzzy just because she repeats it?

Of course, that's not to say she does nothing on Christmas- well, no- when she thinks about it, she in fact does do nothing on Christmas. She'll wake up in the morning, and if it's 2 hours before she usually gets up, that doesn't really mean anything, and it's not as if she'd tell anyone anyway. She'll unwrap whatever her mom thought to buy her, ranging from dollar store knickknacks to knickknacks of a slightly more expensive variety, and if she thinks about how Carly and Freddie are getting everything on their wish lists, from new makeup to the latest pearpod, she isn't going to tell anybody, because not only is it not their business, it's not exactly something she wants to talk about, either.

So maybe for someone who had been paying attention, it would make sense that she wanted something new in her life, something exciting during the time where it seems like her current situation that really has been her only situation seems the most prevalent.

But if Freddie Benson expected it, he wasn't going to tell anybody.

It was Boxing Day, and he was fiddling with the new pearpod that he did in fact get when she knocked on his door, and said that they were going on an adventure that day, that she didn't give a damn about Boxing Day crowds at the mall, she wants to go, and she wants to go now, and he knows he's going to give in sooner or later, so he chooses sooner. Never does he ask about how her Christmas went, or why she isn't dragging Carly out instead of him, because somehow he just knows that Carly would be the one asking how her Christmas was, and he knows that Sam wouldn't be able to take hearing it, while Carly sorts out all of her gifts in neat piles, more stuff than Sam has ever gotten on any holiday.

If she finds it unnerving that he knows her this well, Sam doesn't show it.

If Freddie feels stupid nervously hiding behind Sam while she expertly maneuvers through crowds of unhappy shoppers, young families with strollers, little boys and girls screeching for this new toy or that, well, he really isn't going to say anything.

Sam is clearly on a mission, though what for remains a mystery to Freddie, and it starts to seem as if she really isn't looking for anything in particular, that her mission is simply to explore and thrive in the buzz of the shoppers, living vicariously through them. She marches through the toy section, and if her gaze lingers just a moment on the Barbies, toys she never got when she was the age of the little girl demanding the doll, even though, as her parents have just pointed out, she already has 10 just like it at home. If her glance remains on them, of course it means nothing.

She wonders how that little girl's parent's relationship is, if they truly are happy, or if it's a facade, placating the girl until they feel she's old enough to handle what's really going on.

Not like she has any experience in this field, of course, she thinks bitterly; her father seemed to think herself and her sister were able to cope from birth.

She realizes that there was no struggle from the boy currently trying to keep up with her when she told him they were spending the day here, he just picked up his keys, barely a 'bye mom' over his shoulder, and drove until she told him to stop. And even though she knows that she wouldn't have it otherwise, she knows also that this isn't going to be mentioned. Tomorrow, when Carly's apartment is filled with the smell of gingerbread, and maybe even smoke from whatever unfortunate incident happened upon Spencer, and everybody is gathered around for a spaghetti taco dinner (something Sam refuses to call tradition, even if they do it every year), this impromptu shopping day isn't something that is going to come up in conversation. She isn't sure if that's because it just won't be mentioned by chance, or because a day spent with her isn't something Freddie would gladly mention, especially to the 'love of his life'. She knows- and accepts- that either are fully possible.

Another thing she knows is that she really isn't being fair to Freddie, taking him away from his storybook-perfect Christmas, one the same as many before it, one Sam would love to just be part of, just to see what it would be like. She isn't taking him back any time soon though, he can miss one perfect Christmas; he's had 17 just like it, and 17 more to come. So she keeps walking, one foot in front of the other, until she reaches her destination; electronics.

She becomes a whirlwind then, buzzing around the displays until something catches her eye, something she'll hand to Freddie, before starting again, looking around, picking things up and then putting them down, sometimes asking Freddie for advice with her eyes, words never passing between them, but usually not; she is Sam Puckett, after all.

The pair end up with 5 DVDs, all of them, Freddie notices, Christmas related. Miracle on 34th street (the original), it's a wonderful life, all of them, he knows, he will end up paying for; but again, he knows she's had 17 less than perfect Christmases, he can do something to make this one better. As he was thinking this, he notices now, Sam managed (unsurprisingly) to add another to the pile; The Muppets' Christmas Carol. After a questioning look, he was rewarded with the one word answer of "beaker". He has no idea what Beaker is, assuming Sam hasn't taken a liking to science since the last time he saw her, but he knows her too well; eventually, he'll learn.

Learn he did, later that day, after a semi-tearful watching of It's a wonderful life (the tears, surprisingly, did not come from him, but he wasn't going to say anything) in Sam's living room, while her mom was god knows where doing god knows what- or who, for that matter, he thinks with a shudder. Beaker isn't on screen for too long, but Sam loves every minute of it, he can tell; she starts smiling the second he comes into sight, making him follow suit. His mother used to tell him smiles were contagious, (before she realized the horrors of germs and the c word was banished from their house) and he knows it has to be true, because on the rare instances when a smile is flashed his way from Sam Puckett, he can't stop himself from grinning, no matter what the situation, like some private joke is shared between the pair.

Movies are watched and rewatched, Sam steadily going through what would have been a lifetime supply of fat cakes for anyone else, until eventually her eyelids become heavy, and she falls asleep, looking more peaceful than Freddie has ever seen her, whether from finally having a real Christmas, however unconventional, or the belly full of fat cakes, he isn't sure.

And if her head finds a place on his shoulder, where god knows she's comfortable, well;

Neither of them will say anything.