Christmas Eve. Jim had never told anyone -- they'd laugh -- but as a child, he'd preferred it to the day itself. He loved the thrill of being able to believe that the gaudy presents under the trimmed tree were the ones from his wish list, before the morning brought its inevitable disappointments; loved the sparkle in the air of flurry and hurry and excitement.
Loved holding the spirit of the season in his cupped hands, snowdrifts and carols, candy and smiles, though at eight, that translated more to an unformed but comforting awareness that Dad would be home and not working -- much -- and Sally would be allowed to spoil them.
Now, on a blustery, rainy night, with no tree in the loft (the pine scent made him sneeze and Blair had sucked in a sharp breath of horror at the idea of an artificial one), no presents ("Look, Jim, I'll probably just buy you socks, you'll panic when you look for something for me, overcompensate and get me something way too expensive so I'll feel guilty, and hello, Jewish, anyway; let's not and say we did, huh?"), no family around, and a shift that ended at midnight, Jim supposed he didn't have much to go home for and not a lot to anticipate the next day.
He went to the break room to pour himself some coffee. The last cup had been lukewarm and bitter, but maybe someone had started a fresh pot.
Fine. He'd be the Christmas elf and do all the goddamn work.
He scrubbed the pot clean and threw out a soggy filter that he was morally certain had been used more than once. It shredded on the way to the trash and the grounds spilled over him, coffee soaking into his khaki pants and staining them.
Jim set his teeth, mopped up the damage, and started off a new pot; fresh water, clean filter, a new can of coffee. The aroma was enticing; the burble and drip of liquid a homey, cheerful sound. He found himself hating the world a little less.
Then a tap came on his shoulder and he turned, jolted out of the fog of tiredness from pulling a double shift, to see Blair in front of him.
"Got something for you."
"What?" Annoyance surged. "Sandburg, we said we weren't swapping gifts and I took you at your word, okay?" He shook his head. "I don't have anything for you and I don't want anything, got that?"
The kid looked crushed. "It's not a present," he said defensively. "It's more of a tradition."
Blair held up a crushed piece of greenery with a lone white berry dangling from it forlornly. "Mistletoe. I've been kissing everyone on the naughty list because they're the nicest to kiss --" Belatedly, Jim realized that Blair wasn't entirely sober. "And I'm passing the baton on, because I feel kinda kissed out now, you know?"
"I don't want to kiss anyone at the station," Jim snapped, unreasonably irritated by the visual of Blair up close and personal with every giggling flirt in the building.
Blair pouted, his lips sticky and suspiciously red. "No one at all? Way to make me feel unwanted."
A year ago, Jim might've fallen for that gambit, reacted with a predictable jerk of his knee, and left himself open to be mocked. Not now. "Why, Chief," he purred nastily. "I’d never do that." Without a single good intention, he locked his hand around Blair's wrist, forced it and the mistletoe up high, and slid his arm around Blair's waist, pulling him close.
Then he kissed him, a stinging smack of a kiss on lips parting in shock just wide enough that his tongue could flick against them and taste -- taste --
He moaned against the sweetness of Blair's mouth, helplessly deepening and softening the kiss, a rush of excitement and anticipation filling him as his bad mood melted away.
Because Blair tasted like Christmas Eve -- he did, he really did -- and Jim had always, would always, love Christmas Eve best.
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