With Every Christmas Card I Write

by Jane Davitt

Many thanks to April Valentine for betaing.

"Hi, Jim. What are you doing?" Blair disentangled himself from a scarf and then shrugged out of his heavy coat. Jim, over at the kitchen table, just grunted, so he tried again. "God, it's cold. Wet snow is just mean rain in disguise."

"It's December; get used to it."

Blair, feeling pounds lighter, as if he could float if he jumped high enough --okay, way too much punch at the Anthro party -- walked over to the cluttered table. Cards, an address book, stamps, a list…

With the easy interest of the mildly drunk, he leaned over Jim's shoulder and then jerked back as melted snow dripped from his hair onto the card Jim was writing. "Oh, man, I'm sorry! Let me get a cloth."

Jim gave an exasperated 'tchah'. "No, it's made the ink run. I'll do another. And back off; I can't write with you breathing down my neck." He began to tear the card in two, but Blair tweaked it out of his hands. "Hey!"

"I want to see," Blair said, curiosity overriding courtesy. "Please?"

Jim sniffed the air and looked resigned, as if that single inhalation had measured every sip of overly sweet, seasonally red punch that Blair had drunk. "Whatever."

Blair retreated and studied his prize. Like Jim himself, the card was generously sized. Good quality, too; sturdy, not flimsy, and the picture on the front… hmm. The abstract design was blue and silver, shiny, but chilly. He turned it over and discovered that it was a reproduction of a painting called 'The Heart of Ice'. Brr.

He opened it, and felt a small rush of pleasure at seeing Jim's handwriting. It was so -- so Jim. Neat and precise and touchingly careful somehow, as if Jim had been taught how to form his letters by someone he liked and had never stopped making them that way. Blair conjured up a kindly, silver-haired teacher with glasses and a motherly smile called, umm…

Okay, way too much punch…

He stopped getting maudlin over some ink transferred to paper and read the words under the printed greeting.

'Dad' followed by a gap, white paper blank for an inch or two, and then 'Jim'.

Blair doubted the water drop had prevented Jim from going to town and adding a 'love from'; Jim had been about to slide the card inside the envelope when it'd gotten wet.

Jim was frowning at another card now, the front gaudy with a decorated Christmas tree, a family around it, their faces lit with excitement.

"Who's that one for?" Blair asked tentatively.

Jim shrugged, his expression unreadable. "Same person. He won't get the irony, but I do."

Blair processed that, shivered, and reached for one with a reindeer on. "Jim, that's cold, man; send him this instead."

Jim didn't answer or take the offered card. Just wrote two words with a gap between them and sealed the envelope on the happy family around the tree.

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