Wreathed in Smiles

by Jane Davitt

"You're bleeding," Jim said as Blair walked into the loft. He'd been standing there for a full minute, sniffing and trying to track down the source of the faint copper-bright tang to the air, but even for him there had been too much space in the way, too many doors. He'd just been about to go out into the hallway to follow the scent trail back, when it had grown stronger and he'd recognized Blair's hurried footsteps and opened the door.

"Holly," Blair said bitterly, around the thumb stuck in his mouth. "That stuff is lethal, man." He pulled his thumb out and stared at it. "Ow."

Jim didn't need to get closer to see that it was a small, ragged tear, the kind that bled freely and copiously, and stung like hell, but nothing serious.

"Wash it and I'll get you a Band-Aid," he said. "And stick it back in your mouth until you get to the sink; I mopped the floor this morning."

"Your sympathy is the stuff of legends," Blair said indistinctly.

"How did you do it?" Jim asked as he wrapped the Band-Aid around Blair's thumb.

"Some idiot put a wreath on the street door and it was lopsided, so I tried to straighten it. Whole thing fell down and I slashed my thumb catching it."

Jim winced. "Blair -- you put it back up, didn't you? This is your first Christmas here, so I guess you wouldn't know, but that's Mrs. Driscoll's wreath. She made it herself at a class, years back when she could still see well enough to do crafts, and she's really attached to it."

"It's back up," Blair said. "It's dented and bloody, but it's in place."

Jim patted Blair's shoulder. "You're  a hero."

Blair wiggled his thumb gingerly. "Do heroes get special treatment?"

"Such as?"

Blair grinned. "I don't know, Jim. You could kiss it better."

There was enough expectancy in Blair's eyes, enough hope, to strip the playfulness from the words and make them mean something more. Jim fitted Blair's hand into the curve of his palm and drew it up to his mouth, slowly enough to give Blair time to stop him, in case he was wrong.

Blair didn't. There was no resistance at all to the gentle upward pressure Jim was applying, and with his ears buzzing because he'd stopped breathing at some point, Jim brushed kiss after kiss over warm skin and the rough, brown Band-Aid covering it until Blair's hand moved to cup Jim's cheek and the kissing became mouth to mouth, slow and sweet.

Jim's last coherent thought for some time was a grateful one, aimed a floor down at the small, neat apartment where Mrs. Driscoll was sipping sherry and humming along to a carol, arthritic fingers tapping her knee a beat behind.

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