Saturday, December 31, 2016
TLR CHAPTER 99
Christmas at TLR
Jeff rolled over in that limbo of half-asleep, half-awake state and reached over toward where his husband slept, only to find that side of the bed empty. He grinned, knowing exactly where his boy would be. He looked at the clock radio which read 2:40 AM.
He got out of bed, put on his slippers and robe and checked on Griff who was still thankfully sound asleep. He'd been afraid that Mutt, in his excitement, would have woken his fellow brat. Closing Griff's door gently, he walked quietly into the living room. His suspicions were correct.
There, kneeling next to the tree, Mutt was picking up the presents which were addressed to him and shaking them gently.
"You're not going to figure out what they are. Not the way I told your friends to wrap them," Jeff said with a grin.
Mutt looked up sheepishly and grinned. "I should'a known," he laughed.
"After so many years together, I sort of get to know most of your quirks." Jeff smiled.
"Soooo, can I give you your present yet?" Mutt asked, giving Jeff his best puppy dog eyes.
"Sure, we can open the presents to each other now then after breakfast we can open the ones from our friends. Deal?"
Mutt gave Jeff a look of reluctance and was about to argue the point when he saw Jeff's eyebrows raise in that way that only Jeff could seem to manage. "Ok, fine," Mutt replied with a crestfallen expression.
Jeff walked up to Mutt and knelt down beside him, pulling him into a hug. "We have all day together, sweetheart, there's no rush."
Mutt smiled sheepishly and gave Jeff a bear hug. "Alright, Chief."
"Here, open yours first," Jeff offered, handing Mutt a large, heavy box.
As usual, Mutt carefully picked the wrapping apart and laid the slightly creased but intact paper to the side before opening the box. His eyes widened in surprise and pleasure as he picked up the fleece lined, leather Bomber Jacket.
"You... but... I... you said..." Mutt stammered, overwhelmed by the present which he had been ogling in the catalog ever since they'd received it in the mail. "Jeff, thank you! Thank you so much!"
Still clutching the jacket to his chest, he grabbed Jeff and hugged him even harder than before, planting kisses all over his husband's face before focusing on his lips and kissing him to within an inch of his life.
"Now," Jeff said with a wide smile as Mutt finally released him, "My turn?"
Mutt blushed deeply. "I feel bad now, Jeff," he confessed, looking guilty. "I... I made your gift. It's not nearly as wonderful as this."
Jeff pulled his boy back into his arms. "I truly believe it's the thought that matters, Hon. I know I'll love whatever you made me, especially since you went to the trouble of making it."
Mutt looked uncertain but then leaned forward to pull the largest box from behind the tree. "Here... for you," he said, blushing somewhat.
Jeff wasn't as careful with the wrapping and looked appreciatively at the handmade cherry finished wooden chest. "This is beautiful!" Jeff exclaimed.
"Open it... there's something inside," Mutt replied shyly.
When Jeff opened the chest the sweet aroma of cedar wafted up. Inside was something wrapped in layers upon layers of red, white and green tissue paper. Not standing on ceremony, Jeff tore the paper off, his eyes growing wider and wider as he saw what was inside. He carefully picked up the heavy items, admiring them from all angles, and laughed when he realized that the faces on the sculptures belonged to him and Mutt.
Jeff gazed lovingly at the hand carved wooden busts of two Native American males, one with a chieftain's ornate feathered halo war bonnet, each feather carefully carved to look as realistic as possible. The beads and other decorations on the headband looked as though they could have been placed individually into a beautiful pattern.
The second bust, which looked like Mutt, wore a simple feather headband with two very detailed feathers and identical pattern on the headband to Jeff's. The two busts were designed to be placed side by side where they could gaze at each other.
"Matthew," Jeff breathed softly, "these are... amazing."
"You... you like them then?" Mutt asked uncertainly.
"I love them, sweetheart," he replied quietly. "They're perfect," he said, standing and putting the two busts on the fireplace mantle where they stood, shoulder to shoulder, looking forever into each other's eyes.
"Come on back into the bedroom, Love. I'll give you another present there."
Mutt, still clutching the jacket, fairly ran back into the bedroom.
An hour and a half later they laid in their bed, cuddling while Jeff stroked Mutt's arm gently.
"Ready to open the rest of your presents now?"
"Not right now," Mutt replied sleepily. "I don't know what can be better than this. Merry Christmas, Chief."
Jeff kissed the top of his boy's head and whispered, "Merry Christmas, Darling."
The two men fell back into a satisfied slumber only to be woken up by the scents of coffee and bacon a couple of hours later.
Duke walked back to the bungalow with his man Jake. It was early Christmas morning and for the first time in a long time he was excited about Christmas. Once they got there they took off their jackets and while Jake went to take care of some things Duke sneaked into the living room and his grey eyes widened at the sight of the Christmas tree with presents gaily wrapped underneath. He wondered when they had gotten there and quietly went over and began to look at the tags and gently shaking those labeled for him. He had put his gifts for Jake under the tree last night before he went to work and there hadn’t been the profusion of them that there was now. He couldn’t help but grin at the sight.
Jake, finishing up his tasks smiled to himself, anticipating the look on his man's face when he finally opened his presents. He hoped that Duke would like them. He headed to the living room eager to see his mischievous brat.
As quietly as he could he walked up behind Duke who was too busy shaking and pressing on the gifts to notice him. Fighting down a grin, Jake crossed his arms and loudly cleared his throat.
Duke jumped guiltily. "Jake!"
"And what, may I ask, do you think you are doing young man?”
Duke blushed. "I’m excited Jake...It's Christmas!" The big man gave his lover a wide grin, grey eyes sparkling.
Jake uncrossed his arms and smiled. This would be their first Christmas together as a couple and he could understand his lover's excitement. "Well," Jake teased, "I think we should have some breakfast before we open presents, don't you agree?"
Duke shook his head. "I couldn't eat a bite until I knew what was in the boxes," he replied with glee. "C’mon Jake...Pleeaassee?"
Jake pulled the footrest closer to where his lover knelt on the floor and sat down. Duke's head was still higher than his even in a kneeling position and he nearly laughed again. The man pretended to think for a moment. "Well," he said finally, "it'll cost you a kiss. I mean, I'm very hungry, and if I can't have actual food, you'll do for now."
Duke grinned and bent down and gave Jake a passionate kiss and a bone crunching hug, picking up the shorter man off the ottoman and then twirling him around laughing.
"Ah! Now if that doesn't deserve presents, I don't know what does." Jake laughed delightedly as Duke finally put him back down on his feet. He rummaged through the presents and picked one seemingly at random. "Here, Hon, see what this one is."
Duke took the package and carefully opened it, savoring the moment by taking off the ribbon and then removing the paper and when he saw the care package grinned. "It has a stuffed Gorilla! And look Jake...stress balls and all kind of treats too! Thank you!" He hugged the man tight once more.
"Argh!" Jake groaned theatrically, "You're crushing me! Hug the gorilla! Hug the gorilla!" he wheezed. He'd searched high and low for a stuffed moose but hadn't been able to find one, and frankly, the gorilla was very cute, as gorillas went. He was happy that his lover was so pleased and he couldn't hide a wide smile.
"Next one, Hon," Jake prompted once Duke had released him again.
Duke picked up the package and again went through the same slow ritual he had with the first. He hadn't had very many Christmas presents in the past and wanted to savor each one to its fullest. His grey eyes widened as he beheld a tinker toy set. He looked a bit puzzled at Jake, but shook his head. "How'd you know I always wanted one of these?"
"I remember playing with those for hours on end when I was a kid," Jake replied "and I wanted you to have the same kind of fun I had. Think of all the great things you can make with these any time you're feeling stressed."
The large man grinned widely. “I can use these at the security office."
“Your turn now,” he said to his lover and Duke handed Jake one of the packages he had wrapped for him.
Jake hefted the squarish package. It was quite heavy considering its relatively small size. He unwrapped it carefully and his eyes widened in delight. "A complete collection of books by Kurt Vonnegut!" he exclaimed. "My copies were ruined in a cellar flood at my parent's house when I was a teenager. Duke, thank you!" he said, hugging and kissing his lover with gusto.
He put the books carefully aside. "Your turn again, sweetheart," he told his lover with a happy grin.
Jake handed Duke another package, hoping and praying that his lover would like it.
Duke slowly opened the next package Jake handed to him. It was smaller, but fairly heavy and when he saw the USMC emblem on top he hugged Jake. It was a keepsake box. "Oh Jake...I love it, now I just gotta get stuff to put in it!"
He hugged his lover once more. "This is the best Christmas ever Jake, especially since I get to spend it with you!"
Duke turned from his man and rummaged under the tree and handed Jake another package. “You need to open this now."
Jake took the small box and shook it experimentally, frowning as he failed to place the sound offhand. He took off the wrapping paper only to find that it had been wrapped again with artistically placed layers of colored tissue paper. He tore the second layer of paper off. He gasped again. "Duke! Hitchcock videos? You must be psychic! Thank you! Oh, we gotta watch Psycho as soon as we finish breakfast!"
Duke grinned at Jake’s excitement and laughed. “Sure, a great Christmas movie,” he teased.
Jake just smiled. “Now... your turn," he said, handing an equally small box to his lover.
Duke took the small package and when he discovered what was inside, tears began to fall. It was a bracelet made of sterling silver that had his name engraved on it and inside the dates of his service and his company and platoon. He grabbed Jake hard to him and buried his face in his shirt.
Jake hugged his man and nuzzled the thick sandy blonde hair, kissing every available spot he could find until he finally just breathed in the scent of his lover and held him close.
"Merry Christmas, Duke," he murmured, eyes closing in pleasure, happy just to be able to hold this man and call him his own.
"I love you so much, Jake." Duke said, fighting back tears.
"Ditto my Dove," Jake grinned, kissing Duke's neck.
Duke said, “I have one more thing for you Jake” then the large man rummaged under the tree and pulled out a small package. Placing it in his man's hand he said blushing shyly, "A little somethin' special for my best lover."
The man took a breath and let it out slowly. It was a small box but he knew that the best present he was ever going to receive was in it. He opened it and found a gold chain with a matching football pendant inside. "Duke... this is... this is... wonderful!" Jake said, his hands trembling slightly as he put it around his neck.
Duke kissed his lover back. "I hope you like it."
"I love it, darling. Merry Christmas.” He hugged Duke.
Duke snuggled into Jake, clasping the bracelet onto his wrist. "Merry Christmas to you too Jake." He smiled happily.
The older man said, “I’m so happy my dove, let’s have our breakfast now, then get some sleep. We’ll need to head for the lodge for the resort party by three and you need to report for work by six.”
Duke pouted a little, but then grinned. “Sounds like a great plan and we can have a little fun to help us relax and sleep good.”
The other man laughed and kissed his large brat and they set about getting a simple breakfast together so they could get to the more fun part of their first Christmas together.
Eric was woken early on Christmas morning when his two brats snuggled into him on either side, gently kissing and licking his cheeks and ears and fighting for dominance on his lips.
He stretched out his arms to encompass the two younger men and pulled them in close, alternating kisses between the two of them until they giggled and planted huge, wet kisses on each of Eric's cheeks before leaning over him and kissing each other with wide, pleased smiles.
"Merry Christmas, my sweethearts," Eric said sleepily.
"Merry Christmas, Eric!" they replied in unison.
"Breakfast is waiting," Torren said with a grin.
"An' the presents 'r cryin' out t' be opened," Adam hinted shamelessly, his accent thick and sexier than ever, in Eric's opinion. If it weren't for the fact that breakfast was already made he'd have suggested that they start the festivities in other ways first.
Reluctantly, Eric got out of bed, helped along by his two brats who sat him on the edge of the bed while Torren helped him slip into his robe and Adam knelt down to put his slippers on for him.
"What's with the royal treatment?" Eric asked teasingly, "Are you two up to something?"
"Nothin' bad, I promise ye," Adam replied innocently. A little too innocently for Eric's taste, but he said nothing further for the time being. He knew all would be revealed soon.
Once he was properly attired, Adam and Torren took their Top by his hands and led him out into the kitchen where they sat him down comfortably and served him an insanely large meal before sitting and serving themselves.
"My Top sense is tingling," Eric joked. "Something is up, I just don't know what right now."
Adam hammed up the theatrics and replied in an offended tone, "An' what may I ask d'ye think we could be up to, me dearest Eric? Is it agin' the law ta spoil yer Top once in a while?"
"Especially what said Top spoils us 24/7, 365 days a year?" Torren added.
Eric grinned at his boys. "You opened your presents again, didn't you?"
Last year they had gotten up at the crack of dawn, carefully unwrapped their presents and then taped them shut again once they'd seen what was inside. Eric had made them put everything, still boxed, into the closet and they hadn't been allowed to touch them til the next day.
"Oh, no sir!" Torren said in a definite tone. "Not after what you did to us for doin' that last year."
"Cruel that was," Adam added, his tone injured though his eyes sparkled.
"Then fess up," Eric replied. "I promise I'll go easy on you if you come clean now."
"Huh!" Torren huffed, trying to suppress a grin. "Well, if that's what you think we're going to put your present in the closet and you won't be allowed to open it til tomorrow."
"Now you know you guys always open your presents first. It's my first Christmas rule and we're not going to break it."
"But ye gotta open it now," Adam insisted. "Yer gonna need it t'day."
"Please Eric? We really want you to open this one first. Break the rule for one time?" Torren pleaded.
Eric had to admit that he was intrigued. "Alright, just this once," he relented.
"Close yer eyes an' put out yer hand."
"Last time I did that I was ten years old and Kathy Simms spit in my palm," Eric joked. He laughed when he saw his brats wrinkle their noses in distaste.
"No spit. Promise," Torren said, crossing his heart.
Eric grinned, closed his eyes and put out his hand. The boys handed him a box and said, "Ok, open your eyes now!"
Eric looked at the box wrapped in silver and red paper with a scarlet bow on it. "If it was wrapped, why did I have to close my eyes?" he laughed.
"Fer the suspense of it," Adam giggled.
"Open it, Eric! We want to see what's in it."
Eric's eyes opened wide as he looked at his brats. "You don't know?"
"Sure, we know, but we don' wanna give anythin' away. Ye have a bad habit of readin' our minds," Adam replied with a grin.
Eric carefully unwrapped the present. Inside was a black leather box with a glass top with the words 'With deepest love, always,' engraved on it. Inside was a new watch which Eric removed and put on carefully. Instead of the usual watch face, there were the smiling faces he loved most looking back at him. He touched the watch face tenderly with a finger and then looked up at his brats.
"This is... wonderful. Thank you," he said softly.
"So... you like it?" Torren asked quietly.
"I love it guys. Thank you so much," Eric replied, pulling his boys toward him and kissing each of them deeply.
Adam and Torren exchanged a meaningful glance. Deciding that they were in no rush to open their own presents just yet, they convinced Eric to go back to bed with them for a while. There would be plenty of time for presents before the party at the lodge.
At seven o'clock on Christmas morning, Tristan stretched one more time and headed out toward Brendon's place. Bren had promised to make breakfast for them before they had to go do the last-minute baking for the party, and his mouth was already watering at the thought. He'd made a fruit salad so that he wouldn't arrive empty handed. Snitching one more piece of honeydew melon out of the bowl, he covered it and walked across the resident's compound to knock at his lover's door.
Brendon came to the door still in his sleep pants and his hair tousled and grinned. "Come on in Tris...I see you brought some fruit, good. I'm just finishin' up the makings for Denver omelets." Taking away the bowl and setting it on the table he pulled his lover in for a kiss.
Tristan returned the kiss whole heartedly and grinned at his lover. He couldn't remember a time when he was happier and he never wanted this moment to end.
Bren tasted honeydew on his lover's lips and murmured, "The honeydew tastes even better on you my sweet."
Tristan blushed and grinned, snuggling into Brendon's arms and giggling.
Tris opened the bowl with the fruit, picked up a fork and speared a piece to feed to Brendon. "My turn," he said with a smile.
The older man received the piece of fruit as well as the kiss he had provided to the younger man.
Bren then took his lover's hand and said, "Sit down and I'll get the omelets goin'." He pulled out the pan and poured the egg into it and then the ingredients and when the egg was ready folded it over and browned it a bit on both sides before sliding it onto a plate and then repeated the procedure and placed both plates on the table. He had put slices of the homemade bread into the toaster and slid them onto plates and had placed butter, apple butter and jam on the table for them.
Tris reached for the still warm bread and slathered it with the warmed, softened butter biting into it with a sigh of contentment. It was always the same. Even though he baked, himself, Brendon's efforts were always light and fluffy, the crusts just crunchy enough. After finishing every last morsel of the first piece, he took two more slices, placed half of his omelet between them and bit in, letting all the textures and flavors tumble over his tongue. "Yer th' bes'," he mumbled around a mouthful of food.
Bren shook his head and smiled. "Don't talk with your mouth full Tris." He cut off a bit of the omelet and ate a piece of the bread with it.
Tristan was tempted to open his mouth and show off the half-chewed food to Brendon. The thought made him laugh which caused him to choke a little, which in turn caused him to laugh even harder. Imagining the look on Brendon's face was nearly as priceless as the real thing. He reached out and took a sip of his coffee to clear his throat.
Brendon's amber eyes widened in concern as Tris choked a bit, but then relaxed as the other man sipped his coffee and seemed all right. "Don't do that again Tristan...you scared me," the older man said quietly. "I thought I was going to have to perform the Heimlich maneuver."
Tristan laughed and blew a kiss at his lover. "If I'd done what I thought of doing you'd have performed something else, I'm sure. And I don't want to start my Christmas off with a sore backside," he said with an impish grin.
Brendon smiled and said, "Good choice."
Tristan finished his breakfast and reached back to pull his jacket off the back of his chair. Putting his hand in his pocket he pulled out a small box wrapped in gold foil with a tiny bow and sprig of holly on top. "I know you haven't declared it present giving time, but I'd like you to open this before we head to work. It's... it's not much..." Tris said, blushing a little, "but I hope you'll like it."
He then took the proffered present. He unwrapped the foil wrapped package carefully, placing the sprig of holly in his hair with a grin, then opening the box took out a polar bear ornament and smiled. "I love it."
"Look under the batting," Tris said quietly, hoping that Bren would like his real gift and worried that he might not.
Bren removed the batting and saw a bracelet underneath. He took it out the silver shining in the light and smiled. "It's beautiful."
"Read the back," Tris said with a shy smile.
Brendon's amber eyes widened and he grinned as he observed the braille symbols engraved on the back. He read, "I'm incomplete without you." He blushed some and lowered his eyes for a moment. "Tris...I'm really touched. How'd you get them to do that in Braille?"
"I had it special ordered. I wanted it to... be special. Mean something... and be... private between us," Tris admitted. "See?" he asked, holding up his hand to show Brendon a ring. He fitted the heart into the matching hole in the bracelet.
Bren put down the bracelet and pulled Tris to him and kissed him thoroughly. "The only one who will know is my brother Seth...or my parents and of course any blind person who can read braille and have fingers sensitive enough to discern the markings," he told the other man with a fond smile.
"Which we can count on one hand at this point." Tris laughed, after Bren had released him. "I'm glad you like it."
"I love it." Bren grinned and slipped the bracelet on and saw how it looked on him.
"It looks so good on you," Tris said admiringly. Brendon had such strong looking wrists. Sturdy. Hard working. He'd worried that the bracelet would be too slender for him, but it only accentuated that beautiful, well-shaped wrist. He picked up Bren's hand and kissed the back of it before placing it against his cheek. He so loved his man's touch.
Bren stroked Tris's cheek and smiled. "All you hoped it would be?"
"And more," Tris whispered.
Bren pulled Tris into a tight hug. "I'm so glad. I love you Tris."
Bren watched as Tris pushed the heart on a ring he was wearing into the carved-out heart on the bracelet once more and felt his heart swell with love as the two pieces fitted perfectly together and blinked back tears of joy.
Bren then dug into his pocket and brought out a small package as well gaily wrapped in red and gold paper with a red ribbon and a sprig of mistletoe on top. "This is for you..." He handed over the package. "For us, actually."
Tris grinned widely, plucked the mistletoe from the package and held it over his head.
Bren then leaned over and kissed Tris again in the age-old Christmas tradition.
"Now that's what I call a present!" Tris said happily. He gently untied the ribbon and opened the box. There inside he saw two more rings in a style he'd never seen before. Two hands holding a crowned heart. "This is... beautiful, Bren," he said, taking out the one that had a little tag with his name on it and admiring it.
Bren gently pulled the other ring off and slid it onto Tris's middle finger so that he could put the new one on his right ring finger. He said, "It is called a Claddagh ring, the heart is for love, the love I feel for you, the hands friendship, the strong basis of our relationship and the crown for loyalty, what cements us together. It's how I feel about you Tris," he shared softly. "Placing the ring this way, with the point of the heart toward our wrists, means... we're in a relationship."
Tris smiled shyly, took the other ring from the box and carefully placed it on Brendon's right ring finger in the same position. He went to put the box down and heard a rattling inside. He lifted the batting only to find a sturdy gold necklace on the bottom.
He looked at Brendon curiously.
"We won't be able to wear the rings while we're baking, so I bought us matching necklaces to put them on while we're working. This way they won't get lost."
"Don't say another word, Hon," the slightly older man said with a smile.
"Thank you," Tris whispered.
Brendon blinked back the tears that burned at the back of his eyes and said in a somewhat husky voice, "You're welcome...you deserve that and much more."
Tris blushed hotly and replied, "You're all I need." He knew it sounded lame once he'd spoken the words out loud but he knew that Bren of all people would understand. Before his lover had a chance to reply, Tristan leaned forward and gave Brendon a kiss that warmed him right up.
Brendon, at first a little surprised, returned the kiss kindling it into a fire that burned in his heart.
Just as Tris was sure he was going to get lost in the heat of the moment, and in Brendon's beautiful amber eyes, his phone alarm went off, reminding him that he was supposed to be at work, doing the last-minute baking for the celebration at the lodge later that afternoon. He sighed in frustration.
"C'mon, Bren. We need to get going. Don't wanna be late. The boss is a real hard ass," he joked as he got up to retrieve his jacket.
Brendon frowned a little in frustration, but then smiled and shook his head. "You're right and the boss's boss wouldn't be very happy if there weren't any baked goods for the Christmas Celebration." He put on his own coat to head over to the bakery.
Tris put his hand in Bren's as they walked over together, the cold feel of the ring at odds with the warmth his lover was projecting. "I love you Bren," he whispered as they entered the building where Warren and Spencer were already hard at work.
Bren said, "I love you too."
"Merry Christmas, guys!" they said together as they entered the bakery.
Vic and Arnie called, "Merry Christmas...we have everything under control here boss."
"Many hands make light work," Tris quoted his favorite saying as he removed his rings and placed them on the chain around his neck. He held them in his warm fist for a moment before tucking everything down under his shirt, not willing to share his happiness with his other friends just yet.
Bren, tucking his rings into his own shirt as well said, "Well if we don't get the baked goods to the lodge in time the boss will probably demand we return our Christmas bonus checks and we wouldn't want that and besides...I really would hate to see James cryin' on Christmas."
The other men had a good chuckle knowing that neither event would come to pass and then got to work in high spirits.
Later that morning Jeff and Mutt went back downstairs and found Griff, wide awake and making breakfast.
The young man smiled at his friends. "Good morning! Have a seat, gentlemen, just in time for breakfast. Merry Christmas!" he said happily. "The bacon is done, how would you like your eggs?"
"Merry Christmas, Griff, and scrambled is fine," Jeff replied with a smile.
"Scrambled it is. Mutt, would you mind putting some bread in the toaster?"
"You got it," Mutt replied.
"I'll get the butter," Jeff offered.
Jeff put the butter and the bottle of orange juice on the table before going to the cabinet and taking out three juice glasses. "Anything else we need, Griff?"
Griff smiled weakly. "Can't think of anything, Jeff. Let's eat."
Jeff knew that Griff was doing his best to be happy for their sake, and he wished there was something he could say or do to make the young man feel better. He could only imagine how he would feel if he had to face a holiday, or any day, without Mutt.
"Everything tastes great," Jeff praised.
Mutt jumped up when the toast popped and brought the hot slices to the table on a small plate before taking his seat once again.
"Thanks," Griff replied as he pushed his eggs around on his plate. "Are you guys going to the lodge later?"
"Yep," Mutt replied, "and you're going with us. The boss said so." He grinned. "But first, after breakfast that is," he said, looking sheepishly at Jeff, "we get to open our presents."
Panic flashed across Griff face but he got his emotions in check and said, "Ah, I thought I'd just hang around here today."
Jeff looked at the young man with an understanding expression. "I know this is going to be difficult for you, Griff, but all of your friends are going to be there. They'll be disappointed if you don't come. It's only for dinner and a little party afterward. The company will do you good, and we can leave any time you feel you want to."
The young man looked at Jeff then at the hopeful expression of Mutt's face. "Ok, Jeff, if you think I should go, then I will." He owed these two so much he couldn't disappoint them.
"Wonderful, Griff," Jeff smiled. "Once we're done here we'll open gifts, then I'll set the timer to record the Ravens against the Steelers before we have to leave for the lodge. We'll be home in plenty of time to catch the Broncos and Chiefs."
Just then the three men heard a knock on the bungalow door.
Frowning slightly in confusion, Mutt got up and went to answer the door. His confusion turned to pleasure when he saw Dean at the door. "Come on in, Dean! Merry Christmas! We're just sitting down to breakfast," he said with a smile, leading the older man into the kitchen and putting a place setting on the table for him.
"Merry Christmas, guys," Dean replied with a smile. "Sorry to bother you but Duke and Jake are still asleep and I didn't feel like spending Christmas morning alone."
"You're no bother," Jeff reassured him. "Coffee?"
"Thanks, coffee would be great," Dean answered. "Hi, Griff, good to see you."
Jeff poured the coffee and placed it in front of Dean, gently pushing the creamer and sugar bowl toward their friend.
"Good seeing you to Dean," Griff replied, a slight blush on his cheeks.
Jeff passed the plates of scrambled eggs, toast and bacon to the newcomer. "Dig in. Griff is a great cook. I don't know what he did to these eggs but they're as fluffy as clouds."
Mutt deftly placed four more slices of bread into the toaster and brought them to the table when they were done. He also went back to the refrigerator and pulled out a bottle of grape jelly, just in case, before sitting back down to finish his breakfast.
"Just made then the way Chad showed me," Griff said. "Added some milk and whipped them up a little.”
"Well, they're great," Mutt said with a grin. "And now I know how to make them from now on. Thanks for the hint, Griff."
Griff blushed at the praise.
"Aren't you going to eat, Griff?" Dean asked watching the young man carefully.
"I snacked on the bacon while I was cooking," he answered.
Dean made short work of his meal and stood to take his plate to the sink.
Jeff and Mutt finished shortly afterward, covered the leftovers and put them away. "We'll be right back, guys, we have to get out of our pajamas," the older partner laughed. "Won't be long, I promise."
Both Griff and Dean laughed. "No, rush guys," Dean said as the men left the room. He turned back to the young man and said, "Griff, I know this is your first Christmas without Chad but I want you to know if you feel over whelmed just come get me and we can go for a walk or something."
The boy smiled, “Thanks Dean, I'll try to remember that."
Mutt and Jeff arrived shortly and Mutt ran back to the tree. "Jeff and I exchanged gifts early this morning," he admitted with a sheepish grin, "but we have stuff for you here, Griff, and you too, Dean! Who wants to go first?" the young man asked with a wide smile.
Jeff evened it out by taking the presents and placing them on the men's laps. "On the count of three," he grinned, “One... two..."
"Wait," Griff and Dean said at the same time. They both laughed and then Dean stood back up saying, "I have gifts for you three too.” He headed back to the front door to pick up the bag he had left there when he arrived.
Griff ran to his room coming back out with an arm full of brightly wrapped boxes.
He handed gifts to Jeff and Mutt before turning to Dean, "It's not much but I think you'll like it, Dean."
"I'm sure I will, Ba..Bud," the larger man answered. "This gift is for you," he said handing Griff his gift. Then he passed Jeff and Mutt theirs.
The men all opened their packages at once and exclaimed over the gifts they'd received. Mutt held up one of the movies that Griff had bought for him and said, "You guys wanna watch this one until it's time to go to the lodge?" he asked excitedly.
"Works for me," Dean said looking down at the tee shirt Griff had given him.
"Come on guys," Mutt said with a grin, "I'll put it in the player and then I can make some hot chocolate. Sound good?"
"I'll make the cocoa right after I put the dishes in the washer," Jeff offered. "You guys go on ahead. I'll be right in."
Dean stood and held up his new shirt for the others to see, a big grin on his face. Griff blushed and did the same. Both shirts sported identical gorillas wearing a tool belt and hard hat.
Mutt and Jeff got a good laugh from that. "Put them on, you can be twins for the day," Mutt suggested with a grin.
Jeff finished up in the kitchen and brought out a tray with four large mugs of freshly made hot cocoa and a bowl of mini marshmallows. "If you like marshmallows you'd better get some now before Mutt grabs them all," he joked.
Then Jeff and Dean settled on the couch with Mutt and Griff between them.
"Well, if you'd put the whole bag in the bowl instead of only half, there would have been enough for everyone," Mutt replied.
They sat back, warm and comfortable, and watched the movie and then the Ravens against the Stealers until it was time to leave for dinner at the lodge.
Bo finished feeding the horses and was returning to the house for his first Christmas breakfast with his lover Shorty and the twins. As he passed the massive oak near the front steps of the bunkhouse he was smacked in the back of his head by a snowball. He turned in time to see two figures running through the front door.
Jarrod and Little Jake rushed into the living room, laughing, boots packed with snow and wearing only their jeans and sweaters against the cold.
Bo bolted up the steps and through the door only to run into Shorty.
Shorty, nearly bowled over by the force of the young man's weight colliding with him, put his hands-on Bo's shoulders, both to balance himself and to stop the boy in his tracks. "Whoa up there! What's going on here?" he asked, looking for answers between the twins and his lover.
"Th..they..threw," Bo panted trying to catch his breath.
Shorty pulled Bo into a hug and only then did he feel the residue of snow and tiny ice crystals stuck to the back of his head and jacket. He looked over at the twins who were bent over taking off their boots. He released Bo for a moment and gave the two boys a solid swat each which made them jump upright with an identical, loud "Ow! Hey!"
"We were just having a little fun," Jarrod complained, rubbing his backside which between the cold and the swat stung like a swarm of bees.
"That's not the best way to wish someone a Merry Christmas now, is it?" Shorty asked, eyebrows arched.
"Neither is a swat on a cold backside," muttered Jarrod.
Bo shook the snow off. "It's ok Shorty, I don't want to spoil Christmas. They just took me by surprise."
"You're not spoiling anything, Bo," Shorty replied with a smile. "If I know these boys, and I think I do," he said, looking at the twins, "this won't happen again. Right boys?"
"Right, sorry, Bo, it was just in fun," the boys replied, somewhat sulkily.
"Well my boys, breakfast is ready!" Shorty announced. "Everyone, dig in."
Jacob and Jarrod sat down immediately and began to fork waffles and bacon onto their plates while Shorty poured out cups of coffee for all of them.
Bo tousled the twin’s hair as he passed them to get to his chair.
Jarrod scowled and tried to flatten his hair, unsuccessfully since he was still suffering from a severe case of bed head. Little Jake just grinned and began to eat his breakfast.
"Light duties today, my boys," Shorty announced. "With it being the holiday we don't have any trail rides scheduled," he explained to Bo. "So, the morning is ours."
"I already fed and watered the stock," Bo added.
"And we got up early too, and cleaned the stalls," Jarrod said proudly.
Shorty's eyebrows rose considerably, "What time did you get up to do that?"
"Around four?" Jarrod asked little Jake, who nodded.
"The stalls were clean when I got there, Shorty," Bo verified.
Shorty laughed. "I have to use a fork lift to get you guys out of bed on a normal day, and on a holiday, you wake up at some ungodly hour and do your chores without being asked... what do you want?"
"Nothing!" Jarrod protested. "What makes you think we want anything?"
"All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth, my two front teeth. See my two front teeth?" Little Jake lisped.
Bo laughed. "I bet they want to open their presents."
"I think you're right, Bo," Shorty grinned. "I dunno... a snowball to the back of the head isn't exactly nice behavior, is it? I wonder if Santa is going to take back their gifts and leave them a switch instead?" he joked.
"A... a switch?" Jarrod asked with a gulp.
"Sure, don't you know the stories?" Shorty continued. "If Santa thought the kids had been bad he'd leave coal in their stockings and a switch to be used later."
"Well..." Little Jake said hesitantly, "we know there's no Santa, so... we don't really have to worry about a switch then... right?"
"Shorty is just teasing you two," Bo said. "Right, big guy?"
Shorty grinned at his lover and winked. "Well, that's the story I grew up hearing," he explained with a smile. "But yeah, I guess I'm teasing. I've never had to punish my boys on Christmas Day, and I don't intend to start now. No more snowballs though, not until we're all ready. Got it?" he said pointedly to the twins.
"Yes, sir," they replied.
"We have an annual event when there's enough snow," Jarrod explained to Bo. "We build forts and have snowball fights."
"Sounds like fun. I'll make sure to dress accordingly."
"Make sure you do," Shorty replied. "Which reminds me," he said, looking at the twins again, “exactly what did you think you two were doing out there without jackets and gloves, at least?"
"We were only out for a minute, Shorty, honest," Little Jake said hastily.
"And we did have our boots on," Jarrod added.
"Which you didn't take off at the door before you tracked snow in," Shorty reminded them.
"We'll clean it up, promise," Jare replied.
"Good boy. Now finish your breakfast."
Bo loved watching Shorty and the twins banter back and forth. It made for a comfortable family and that is what they were a family.
Heath, arm wrapped around the warm torso of his brat, looked at the clock which read 8:12 am, and then smiled as he heard his other partner moving around the kitchen. Bright light filtered into the bedroom around the edges of the curtain over their big bay window.
Even though the two tops had taken great pleasure in wearing their boy out the night before in hopes of getting a couple of extra hours of sleep they had expected to be driven from their warm bed at the crack of dawn by their young brat who they knew was excited to be celebrating their first Christmas together.
Footsteps grew louder until they stopped just outside the bedroom door. Heath smiled when James gently pushed the door open and stepped into the room.
“Good morning, JW,” Heath whispered to the big man framed in the doorway.
The older man grinned and shook his head. "Still sleeping?" he asked quietly. "You'd have thought he would have been up and jumping for joy on Christmas morning...looks like we did too good a job wearing him out last night," he observed with a smile.
Jax groaned, raising his head from Heath’s chest he squinted as he looked across the room. “It’s too early,” he mumbled.
Heath laughed. “JW, I think we might have the only brat who wasn’t up and raring to go at daybreak.”
James grinned, shaking his head and went over to the bed and bent down and kissed their brat. "Wake up sleepy head. It's after eight and breakfast is ready."
Jax groaned again but turned over and returned the kiss. He let his older lover pull him from the bed and guide him into the master bath.
The young doctor laughed as he climbed out of their bed too.
The resort owner guided his brat to the shower, turning it on and readying him, stripping him of his sleep pants and warm shirt. "Get in and let's get our day going," he said with a light swat to get Jax going in the right direction.
"Hey, it's Christmas, no swatting," the young man said but stepped into the shower all the same.
James laughed. "I'll take that it's Christmas into consideration."
Heath slipped past the older man and joined their boy in the shower. "Want to join us JW?” he invited.
The older man shook his head. "I've already drowned myself. I'll go back to the kitchen and I may just eat without you and you can eat cold food," he teased.
"We better hurry then Jax," Heath teased back, "cold eggs are just yucky."
"Yeah," Jax sputtered from under the spray of water, "we'll be right there James."
The older man smiled, feeling good this Christmas. In times, past, it had been a bit lonely waking up and eating a quick breakfast and then heading to the lodge to supervise the preparations for the resort Christmas party he held for his staff and whatever residents were there each year. This year was going to be different. He wouldn't have dreamed of not only having a partner, but a brat of his own as well and the three of them were so very happy together. He entered the kitchen and put everything in the oven on warm so the food would still be hot when his lovers arrived.
A few minutes later Jax and Heath walked into the kitchen.
Heath smiled at his partners lovingly. This would be the first Christmas in a very long time that he had someone special to share the day with. And not just one someone but two very special someone’s. He hugged a still slightly damp Jax to him, "Merry Christmas, guys."
James turned and returned the greeting.
"Merry Christmas, Doc," Jax returned the sentiment then crossed to James. "Merry Christmas, James."
The big man pulled his boy into a hug and squeezed him tight. "This will be the best Christmas ever," he told the young man. He looked up and then held out an arm to Heath. "Come here, Doc."
The younger man joined his lovers in a big bear hug. He kissed each in turn and said, "Bring on the food! We have presents to share."
James released them and turned toward the oven. "Your wish is my command!" he teased, his smoky blue eyes twinkling as he retrieved the food and placed it on the table. He gave the blessing and then began to pass around the plates of prepared food.
Jax didn't seem eager to eat, instead he just pushed his eggs around on his plate.
Heath noticed, placing his large hand over the younger man’s hand. "What's the matter, Babe?" he asked.
With tears in his eyes Jax looked at both men. "I was just remembering last Christmas. Things have changed so much."
"They've changed for all of us, Babe," Heath said. "And you're the reason for it."
James came over and put his arms around the young man. "I was thinking the same thing earlier and it is very different...for all of us and I hope it will be a joyous one for all of us from now on," he said softly.
Jax wiped his eyes. "Yup, it's gunna be the best day. Right, Heath?"
"Yes, the best day possible," the young doctor answered smiling over Jax’s head at James. "Now, as your doctor I order you to get busy eating."
The older man of the three echoed the doctor's orders. "Yes, before he starts talking about vitamin shots and such." He winked at his other lover.
Once the meal was finished Jax cleared the table. After filling the dish washer, he pronounced, "All done. Now what do you two want to do?" He had a megawatt smile plastered on his face.
James pretended to think. "Hmm...maybe we should vacuum and dust..." he said, but his eyes had a teasing light in them.
"Maybe a nap is in order, seeing how you were so hard to wake up, Babe," Heath teased.
"Or," Jax said, "we can open presents."
James teased, "Do you think you've been good enough for Santa to bring any for you?"
"Yup, I've been extra special good," Jax laughed at his oldest partner.
"Then...let's go open presents!" He put an arm around Jax and guided him into the living room where the huge cedar tree they had erected and decorated stood with presents underneath.
Heath was kneeling on the floor ready to play Santa.
An hour later each man had piles of sweaters, jeans, and socks next to them as Heath handed out the last of the presents.
James took his and looked at the others before opening it.
Jax opened his gift from James first and laughed when he saw a framed picture of the three of them enjoying the Fourth of July celebration.
"Open yours James," Jax said.
The oldest man smiled at the youngest and carefully unwrapped it as was his habit, putting aside the ribbon and bow and then painstakingly unwrapping the gift until he revealed what it was and grinned widely. "Well...I'll be, would you look at this!" He held up the framed picture of the three of them at Jax's birthday party back in the summer.
Jax looked at Heath. "Go ahead, Doc, open yours from me."
Heath chuckled. He carefully unwrapped the gift his brat had wrapped in festive Christmas paper. Slowly a framed picture of the three of them walking hand in hand along the beach was revealed. Heath wiped his hand across his face then showed his men his gift. "Well, I guess you better open this gift from me, Babe," he said handing Jax the last gift under the tree.
James smiled and watched as Jax opened his gift.
Jax grabbed the box and tore the paper off. Inside was a heart shaped frame with a different picture of the three of them at Jax's birthday party.
Heath laughed. "I guess we all had the same idea."
James laughed as well. "Well at least we know we're well matched and all that since we all thought of the same special present for each other."
Jax leaned into James. "Yup, we are," he said. "I love you guys."
"We love you too, Babe," Heath agreed.
James pulling Heath into the circle said, "I love you guys too and you've both finally made my life complete."
"I wasn't sure I could ever be this happy," Heath said, “but you two complete me."
Jax wanted to say so much but he couldn't form the words so instead he said, "There's one more gift to open.”
James raised an eyebrow. "One more gift? Where is it?" He observed the now emptiness under the tree.
“Um, well, me and Heath’s present to you isn’t really something we can give you right now,” Jax explained. “But we think you’re gunna love it.”
Heath smiled then said, “I heard from a very reliable source about you needing to get away.”
Jax bounced in his chair and eagerly added, “So, me and Doc decided to take you on a vacation.”
James's smoky blue eyes widened in surprise. "A vacation?" he asked a bit shocked.
Both Heath and Jax high fived each other knowing that they had surprised the big guy.
"Yes, a vacation. Something you need and something we will all enjoy," Heath stated before James put up an argument as to why he couldn't go.
James shook his head. "When? Where? I can't leave for too long... there’s always so much to take care of here..." he began to automatically protest.
“We aren't going to tell you where yet, James," Jax answered, "but we don't leave for a month."
James nodded. "Okay...a month? How long will we be gone?"
"We will be gone two weeks, JW. Jeff and the others are perfectly capable of taking care of things here while we are gone," Heath announced.
The older man nodded, then narrowed his eyes. "I have a feeling a very large birdie has been talking."
"Birdie, what birdie?" Jax giggled.
"One rather tall resort manager," the older man said with a little huff.
"Well, maybe, JW, but he only wants what’s best for you," Heath confirmed.
James shook his head and said fondly, "I know, the big lug."
"So, you aren't mad at us," Jax almost whispered.
The resort owner shook his head. "No, it's a great gift because it's nothing I would have done for myself and it shows how much the two of you care and want me to be around for a very long time."
"Of course, we want you around, James, we are family," Jax smiled. “And don't try to get me to tell you where we're taking you either."
"Yeah, because I haven't told Jaxon where we are going," Heath laughed.
James laughed too. "Well now you'll have me looking for clues."
They had to head to the lodge for the resort Christmas Celebration in a couple of hours so before either man could say anything more Heath reached over for the remote and started the movie he had all set to go. It's a Wonderful Life filled the TV screen and the three men snuggled into each other.
Harry woke on Christmas morning with a smile. He looked over at his lover and kissed the corner of the sleeping man's mouth and then nibbled little kisses along his jaw and then nipped his earlobe.
Brody mumbled something incomprehensible as his eyelids fluttered open. He turned his head toward his man and wrapped his arms around him, pulling him in for a deep kiss. He could feel himself getting harder, and his breathing became shallow as he rolled toward Harry, returning the kisses and stroking his smooth, toned body.
Harry smiled and said softly, "It's Christmas...I don't have to report this mornin' so we can open presents and you're the first one I wanted to unwrap," he told his man.
Brody let Harry peel off his tee shirt and sweat pants before he returned the favor, savoring the flavor of his lover's lips and throat, the feel of his skin against his own, the lingering scent of soap from their shower the night before. "I love you so much," he whispered.
Harry snuggled close to Brody and said, "I love you too Brody, you take good care of me and don't mind my mother."
"She gave birth to you. I owe her a lot." Brody smiled as he laid back, pressing Harry's head against his chest.
The slightly older man snuggled and said, "She did and I'm happy you care about her so much. It ain't everyone who would, you know."
"How could I not? She's part of you. I see a lot of her in you, as a matter of fact... the way you hold your head, your smile, those beautiful eyes," he whispered, placing soft kisses on Harry's eyelids.
Harry smiled and proceeded to do the things he knew Brody liked to start their day on the right track.
Over an hour later they got up and showered before getting dressed for the day and making breakfast. "I still have to wrap the gifts for the party later today, don't let me forget, Hon, ok?" Brody said as he finished making the sausage, egg and cheese sandwiches they both liked so much. He poured coffee for the two of them and sat down to eat.
Harry grinned. "Yes, and don't forget mother's present too. We're going to visit her after the party, remember?"
"How could I forget?" Brody smiled. "I think she's going to love everything you picked out for her."
Harry smiled. "I think so too." He ate the breakfast his lover had prepared for them. "When will we open our personal gifts?"
"As soon as we finish breakfast, I think. There won't be much to clean up so we can leave it til afterward," Brody replied, still feeling very relaxed after their morning's activities and not really in the mood to do any actual work.
Harry leaned back and smiled. "All right...though I do wish you'd hurry up!" he said, a teasing light in his eyes.
Brody grinned and stuffed the last of his sandwich into his mouth, trying not to laugh at the look on Harry's face as he did so. "Ok! Done!" he said after swallowing the last of his coffee.
Harry laughed at Brody stuffing the rest of his sandwich into his mouth and draining his coffee.
Brody got up and took Harry by the hand, pulling him toward the small tree they'd put up.
The slightly older man went along with his top willingly.
"This is from your mother and me," he said, handing Harry a box.
When Brody placed the package in his hands his eyes grew moist at the other man's words. "From you and Mother?" he asked softly. "It's been a long time since I received a present from Mother."
"We put it together one day when you were at work," Brody replied. He'd been lucky enough to catch her on one of her more lucid days and she'd been the one to suggest some of the finer details.
Harry's eyes widened. "You did? Wow!" He began to open the package carefully, untying the bow and then the ribbon before peeling off the tape gently.
Brody sat down on the couch beside his man and watched while Harry unwrapped the present, anxious that it would make his lover as happy as he hoped.
The man removed the item from the box and sat silently, just staring at it. It was a portrait of himself and his mother, posed cheek to cheek and smiling broadly. In the lower right hand corner was a lock of his mother's silky hair, tied neatly in a slender, dark blue satin ribbon. In the upper left corner between the glass and the sky-blue border were her favorite flowers, pressed and preserved beneath the glass forever.
When Harry didn't speak, or react at first, Brody worried that the gift was having the opposite effect than he'd intended.
"Harry?" he called softly.
Tears of joy came to Harry's bright blue eyes and fell on the glass of the picture. He couldn't speak for a few moments, overcome by his emotions. Then, recovering he gently put the picture aside and flung himself into Brody's arms. "You couldn'ta gotten me a better present!"
Brody let go of the breath he'd been holding. He hugged his man to his chest and wished they'd never have to let go. "I'm so glad you like it, sweetheart," he said quietly, feeling his own eyes threatening to spill over with tears of mixed emotions.
Harry smiled up at Brody and said, "It was perfect and I'll treasure it forever."
Brody was perfectly content to sit there until it was time to go to the party at the lodge and hold his man. He sighed contentedly and began to lean backwards on the couch, happier than he could remember being for years.
"You gotta let go of me so I can give you my present," Harry told his lover.
"You're the best present I've ever gotten," Brody said, kissing Harry on the lips and forehead.
Harry grinned and kissed Brody back. "Yeah, but I got another gift for you besides me."
"Well thank you, love! I can't wait," Brody said with a smile.
Brody took the small box from Harry and unwrapped it to find an opened pack of playing cards inside. A gold cord hung from the flap. He smiled, obviously confused, until he opened the box and pulled the cards out. It was a stack of love coupons, tied with the cord with his name on them. He flipped through, reading some of them aloud, "One back massage. One ME day." He grinned at that one, knowing he'd never want a day without Harry by his side. "I think I like this one!" he said, “‘Your Wish is My Command Day'. You might regret this one." He laughed. "I love these, Harry!" he said, hugging his man close again.
Harry smiled shyly. "I tried to think of somethin' different, yet meaningful."
"'Weekend Getaway, Erotic Massage, " he read a few more. "I've never gotten anything like this before, Harry," Brody grinned. "And I can see at least three that I'd like to redeem tonight after we get home," he joked.
Harry shook his head. "You can only redeem one a week...that's why there's fifty-two of 'em," he told the other man with a little mischievous grin.
"I'm going to look forward to this, one a week makes it even more special. Thank you, Harry," Brody said, pulling his man into a hug and kissing him. "Baby, you're the greatest," he said, doing his best Jackie Gleason imitation.
Harry snuggled into Brody's arms with a big smile and said, "So are you, so together we're the greatest."
"C'mon, Hon, let's get those presents wrapped, and then I can think of a few ways we can pass the time til the party," Brody said suggestively, looking down into those beautiful bright blue eyes he loved so much.
Harry grinned and said, "Sounds like a good idea to me too." He took Brody's hand, wondering if he could convince him to put off wrapping the presents for a while longer yet, and went with his top.
Later that afternoon, Con grinned up at the mass of men on the porch of the lodge. He squeezed Brian's hand and led him up the steps.
Brian, happy and comfortable in civvies, leaned in toward his partner and put his head briefly on his lover's shoulder.
James, snuggled up in his coat grinned and called, "Merry Christmas Con, Bri!"
"Merry Christmas James!" Brian replied with a smile. "Merry Christmas, Jeff!"
"Welcome guys!" Jeff said.
"Merry Christmas, James," Con returned the greeting. "It's great to be here, Jeff. Great day for a party."
"Don't say that to Mutt, please!" Jeff said in mock terror. "He's been singing that Mr. Rogers song all morning.
"Speaking of Mutt, where is he?" Con asked.
"I sent him back inside. He seemed to think he's invincible today and came out here in his shirt," Jeff growled.
"Seems to be a brat thing, Jeff," the older ranger agreed. "Bri didn't want to wear his coat either."
"Hey, we were going from the house to the car and into the lodge... what'd I need a coat for?" Brian said, picking up the thread of the disagreement they'd been having.
Con's eyebrow arched. "We can discuss this further if you want to little boy."
"Ummm, no, that's ok, Con. Sorry," Brian replied hastily.
The other man chuckled. "Bri, why don't you go on inside and find your friends, I’ll be in soon."
"Ok, Con," The younger man replied, glad to be going inside despite his objections.
James shook his head. "Heath and I had to convince Jax to wear his coat here too."
"I wonder if they called each other and planned this?" Jeff joked.
"Are we the last to arrive?" Con asked.
"Yep! Everyone else is inside, ready and waiting." Jeff grinned.
"The road down here was slick so we had to take our time and be careful."
"Better to be safe," the resort manager agreed. "I can ask the guys to put down another layer of sand if we need it?"
"No need, Jeff. We'll spend the night and leave mid-morning so it should be ok," the other man explained.
"Sounds great." Jeff smiled, happy to be going inside. He planned on a nice long defrost in front of the fireplace before dinner started.
Shorty stuck his head out the big door. "You guys going to stay out in the cold all afternoon, or come in and get warm?
"Well if you'd move that head of yours out of the way we'd have room to get inside," Jeff joked.
Shorty laughed and moved aside to let his friends in the lodge. "Come on in and get warmed up."
"Just hang your jacket wherever you like and we can get the party started."
Jeff stomped his feet to get the circulation going again and went straight to the fireplace to warm his hands. He sighed in relief and grinned as his friends all laughed.
James grinned at the banter and said to Con, ”We can have you stay in one of the guest bungalows since we haven't any guests right now."
"Thanks James,” Con said as he walked into the lodge.
The older man smiled. "You're welcome. We want everyone safe and warm and speaking of that, I'm heading to the fire too." He went over to the huge fireplace that was nicely decorated.
"Sounds like a great idea, JW,” Con said. "Well, if we can get the brats to share the fire,” he added seeing most of them in front of the big fireplace.
James chuckled. "I'm sure we can elbow our way in, besides I have an in with the doc and he wouldn't want us getting sick from exposure." He grinned, seeing Heath and Jax among the group.
Jeff looked around to see where Mutt had gotten off to and found him at the table, sneaking a buttered roll. With a quiet smile and a shake of his head he caught up to his husband and took a huge bite from the roll.
Still outside, Shorty walked across the porch and dropped his arm over Bo's shoulder settling on the arm of the chair he was resting in. He kissed Bo and asked, "Where are the twins?"
"Inside already with the others," Bo replied when he was finally willing and able to stop kissing this beautiful man of his. "Can't we stay out here and... I dunno, just... relax for a while longer?" he asked, leaning in to rest his head on Shorty's broad shoulder.
"Maybe for a few minutes," Shorty answered, "but then we do need to go in and get warm and join the party."
Bo took a firmer grip on Shorty's hand and wrapped his arm more tightly around his back, relishing the warmth and strength the man exuded. He snuggled closer and closed his eyes for a few moments, wishing that they were back at the bunkhouse in front of their own fire place.
Shorty kissed Bo again. "Come on Bo, let's join the fun," he said pulling the younger man to his feet.
Adam and Torren were sitting right on the hearth with their backs toward the fire, chatting with Jaxon and Heath.
"I'll get the music started," Torren said to James as he relinquished his spot on the hearth to the older man.
Duke having arrived with Jake saw his brother across the room. He went up to him and gave him a huge bear hug. "Merry Christmas, baby bro!"
"Ooof," Dean huffed but returned the hug in kind. "Hey big bro, bout time you two joined the living."
Duke grinned and took the hug from his brother. "It's so great for us to be able to spend the day together this way, now that you're stayin' on the resort."
"Yeah, and I don't have to worry about getting back to Elmville," Dean agreed. "I'll catch up with you in a few minutes," he said scanning the room for Griff. "Have you seen Griff, Bro?"
"I thought I saw him with Mutt and Jax a little bit ago," Duke told him.
"This is his first Christmas without Chad. It's hard on him."
Duke nodded. "Yeah, it is. I think the other guys are tryin' to cheer him up, but I'm not sure just how successful they're being."
"I know he needs his space but I don't think space is going to help today," Dean said concern clearly in his voice.
Duke shook his head. "I think you're right. I know my first Christmas away from home in the Marines Jeff and James kept me busy and distracted so I wouldn't get too homesick."
"Yeah, I think that’s what he needs, to be kept busy,” Dean agreed. “I made him promise to come get me if he was feeling bad."
Duke nodded but said, "I'm not sure he will. Maybe you need to keep an eye on him. You seem to like him and Jax and look out for 'em," he observed.
Torren had started up the music and shouted, "Come on guys! Let's work up an appetite!"
Jeff and Mutt immediately stepped out and started to dance to the upbeat tune coming from the speakers.
Heath pulled Jax away from his friends and led him out to join some of the others.
James followed his partners and asked when he was close, “May I share this dance with you two?”
"Awe, Doc," Jax protested, "dance with James, I'm not any good at this."
James grinned at Jax and said, "You won't get any better without practice."
"Come on Babe, just do what we do," Heath encouraged Jax.
Con and Brian, by far the best dancers, ran out onto the floor. "Let's show 'em how it's done, Con!" Brian grinned as his partner swung him around.
Con grinned back and let his lover lead the way.
Bren grinned at Tris. “Want to dance?"
Tristan blushed happily and nodded, taking Bren's hand and following him willingly.
Shorty and Bo joined the others. The big vet guided his lover across the floor.
"Looks like it's you and me again," Jarrod said to his little brother who smiled broadly. The two of them jumped onto the floor and began to gyrate wildly, much to the amusement of the other dancers and onlookers.
Warren grinned at Spencer all dressed up in his favorite drag and took him out on the dance floor.
Dean saw Griff over by the fireplace and went to join him.
The young carpenter looked up when Dean approached him, hoping he wasn't going to ask him to dance.
Seeing the look on Griff's face Dean simply sat down on the couch next to him. "How you doing Bud?"
"I'm good, Dean," Griff answered. “Just warming up some."
"I'm a little chilly myself," Dean said. "Mind if I keep you company?"
Griff knew what the older man was doing but didn't mind him being there and said, "No, I don't mind at all."
Duke sought out Jake and grinned, "Want me to carry you around the floor?" he teased.
"Only if we're doing ballet," Jake replied with a smile. "Come on, Dove, we can't let those guys show us up." He took Duke by the hand and led him out to join the others.
Duke grinned and went willingly with Jake onto the dance floor.
James smiled and coached Jax as he and Heath danced.
Adam nudged Eric's shoulder with his own and nodded his head toward the dancers with a question in his eyes. Eric only smiled and twirled his boy onto the dance floor, eyes only for his brat and wishing Torren could join them.
Vic and Arnie joined the dancers as well.
When the song finally finished, Jax stepped back. "Ok, guys, it's your turn to dance. I'll just go sit by the fire with Griff and Dean."
James smiled at Jax and pulled Heath onto the dance floor and danced with the other man gracefully.
Slowly walking over to the fire, Jax smiled at Dean, blushing slightly, hoping he wasn't interrupting anything.
"Hey, Jax, you were looking good out there," Dean said.
"Yeah, thanks, but I can't dance and I think the guy’s toes will agree with me," he grinned.
Harry smiled at Brody as he pulled his partner onto the dance floor. He grinned when he saw Greg and Tank dancing too.
Glancing at his watch, Shorty walked over to Tor. "One more dance then announce dinner is ready, Tor."
"Sure thing, big guy," Tor agreed.
As the song ended James guided Heath off the dance floor.
Once the dance music that Torren had been playing ended, he put on some quiet classical music and announced that dinner was ready. Leaving on a one hour program of classical, he sat down with Eric and Adam, who had filled a plate for him, and dug into his meal.
Heath held his hand out for Jax and the two of them joined James at one of the tables.
James watched as the others went up to the buffet to fill their plates and would fill his when at least everyone had had a chance at the food.
Jeff and Mutt joined the large table where James and his partners were sitting. They were joined shortly by Shorty and Bo, and then Eric. Most of the brats preferred to take a table together and sat there chatting and laughing, telling 'war' stories.
Dean turned to Griff saying, "Let's get our food then we can sit with Jake and Duke...if you want too."
"Sure, Dean, that sounds like fun," Griff agreed.
Duke smiled at Jake and looked around for his brother.
Bren led Tris to the buffet and helped him to fill his plate.
Tristan laughed at the sheer amount of food that Bren insist he eat. "I'll explode if I eat all of this!" he joked.
Duke smiled at his little brother and Griff as they approached their table. "Me and Jake were just goin' to join you, baby bro."
"Merry Christmas, guys." Jake said jovially. "So where do you all want to sit?"
"Anywhere that'll hold all our food." Duke joked, looking at the heavily laden plates.
Griff almost gasped at the amount of food on Dean and Duke's plates. "Where are you two gonna put all that?" he laughed.
Duke laughed back. "In our stomachs, of course."
"They have hollow legs," Jake explained, taking enough food for himself to feed a small army. "Once they fill one leg, they start on the other."
The younger man was almost embarrassed that his plate was only half full.
Dean nudged Griff's shoulder. "You're going to eat more than that aren't you?" he asked.
"I'm not very hungry," the young carpenter mumbled.
Dean grinned at the young man. "We'll try to leave a little food if you want seconds."
Con, pulled along by Bri, joined the line at the buffet.
Brian was quick to take a little of all of his favorites, knowing that Con didn't like him overloading his plate. He knew there would be enough for seconds, and even thirds.
James watched for Jeff and Mutt to see if they wanted to join them. Vic and Arnie as well as Warren and Spencer joined Bren and Tris.
Dean and the other men joined Torren, Adam, and the twins at their table which was closest to the buffet. They all called a greeting to the new comers and made room for them.
"Best seats in the house!" Jarrod said, pointing at the table laden with food.
James smiled at Jax and Heath as he joined them, content that everyone was eating and enjoying themselves.
The resort owner smiled at his partners. "You guys getting enough to eat?"
"Mor'n'nough..." Jax mumbled though his mouth full of food.
James smiled. "Swallow before you talk, my lad," the older partner admonished gently.
"And slow down and enjoy the food, Babe," the doctor gently scolded.
James grinned at Heath as they both spoke to their brat.
Mutt who had been basically hoovering his food, blushed a little even though no one had said anything to him and slowed down somewhat.
Jeff turned and winked at Mutt as he said quietly, "Tastes a lot better that way, doesn't it?"
Mutt blushed again but smiled at his husband before taking a large bite of the barbecued ribs he'd been devouring.
James shook his head and laughed. "I made sure with Duke and Dean coming that there would be more than enough food for everyone."
Griff who was enjoying the chatter at their table began to relax. He looked on in wonder as Dean got up for his second helping of turkey and the trimmings.
Duke went to the dessert table and came back loaded up grinning at Jake.
"So, Griff, what's your favorite kind of music?" Adam asked around a mouthful of salad.
"Chew and swallow like a human," admonished Little Jake, so much like a Top that the other man nearly choked in surprise.
"Country," Griff answered when he had recovered from the other brat’s words. "Old country mostly. Chad loved it too. The older stuff like Hank Williams, Marty Robbins or Johnny Horton."
"You need to talk to Jeff then. The man can't get enough of it. I like it well enough, don't get me wrong, but I like Kenny Chesney and Toby Keith. That could have something to do with them being kind of hot, or it could be their music. I'm not quite sure yet." Jarrod laughed.
“I love the song 'If You Can't Bite, Don't Growl',” Little Jake added. "That song's hilarious."
Griff laughed. "I figured you'd like ‘May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose’."
"I don't think I ever heard that one. But I really like ‘On the Bayou’. Hank Williams rocks... or um... whatever the country equivalent is," he laughed.
"May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose. May an Elephant caress you with his toes," Dean laughed. "Little Jimmy Dickens, right?" he asked Griff.
Griff nodded, his mouth full of turkey.
"Griff, sing it to us!" Little Jake and Jare encouraged him.
"Go ahead, Griff," Dean encouraged. "I'll help you."
Griff blushed but smiled, and began to sing the first two stanzas,
"One fine day as I was a-walkin' down the street
Spied a beggar man with rags upon his feet
Took a penny from my pocket
In his tin cup, I did drop it
I heard him say as I made my retreat
May the bird of paradise fly up your nose
May an elephant caress you with his toes
May your wife be plagued with runners in her hose
May the bird of paradise fly up your nose"
Dean joined in.
“The laundry man is really on his toes
Found a hundred-dollar bill among my clothes
When he called, me I came a-runnin'
Gave him back his dime for phonin'
I heard him sayin' as I turned to go
May the bird of paradise fly up your nose
May an elephant caress you with his toes
May your wife be plagued with runners in her hose
May the bird of paradise fly up your nose.”
James, after eating a plate of food had gotten some desserts and leaving the plate at his table circulated around making sure to speak to each person there personally, letting them know how much he appreciated them and their contributions to the resort.
"Hey, JW, great party," Shorty said when the resort owner got to him.
James smiled at Shorty. "Glad you like it...are you and the twins ready to play Santa and his elves?"
"Yeah, JW, now's a good time to slip away," Shorty answered.
James nodded to Shorty and continued nonchalantly around the room.
The big vet motioned to the twins to follow him. Then they all headed to one of the guest rooms upstairs to get ready.
The twins got into their costumes quickly and at Shorty's request began to help him load the red velvet bag he was going to use to carry the gifts. They began juggling the gifts between them, first three, then four and five, then six gifts were in the air at the same time before tossing them one by one into the bag.
"Boys," Shorty warned, "the juggling isn't necessary."
"But it's fun!" Jarrod grinned as he tossed another one to Shorty who caught it effortlessly.
Little Jake tossed another one to Jarrod and they had six in the air again.
Shorty held the gift out to Jare, "Come here and place this in the bag...gently."
Little Jake and Jarrod nearly dropped the gifts they'd been juggling, fumbling to keep them from falling. They finally got everything in some sort of order and Jarrod handed one of the gifts to Little Jake to put in the bag. "I'm ok here, Shorty, honest."
“Here now," Shorty said pointing at the floor in front of him.
Jarrod licked his lips and walked slowly toward Shorty, his hand and arm outstretched as far as he could to take the gift from Shorty's hand.
When the boy got close enough Shorty grabbed him by the wrist, pulling him over his knee.
"What part of don't juggle the gifts didn't you understand?" Shorty asked with a smack to the boy's rump.
"Ow! You didn't say to stop, you just said it wasn't necessary," Jare gasped.
Another swat landed in the same spot, only this one was harder. "We can do this all night if you choose, Jare."
"OW!" Jarrod gasped once again. "Ok, I'm sorry!" he said, trying to keep his voice down. "I won't do it again."
The big man added one more swat then let Jare up. He looked at Little Jake.
Downstairs, James was waiting to announce that Santa was here, but didn't see any sign of Shorty or the twins as of yet to gather everyone around the huge fireplace.
Shorty held his hand out to the younger twin.
Little Jake hung his head and went to Shorty.
The vet pulled this boy over his knee and applied one firm swat then let him up. He knew that Little Jake had been pulled in by his brother's enthusiasm again.
Little Jake got up quickly and rubbed his backside.
Jarrod was about to complain but then thought that he should keep his trap shut hit before he made a mistake by opening it.
"Finish with the gifts, guys, we have a party downstairs.
The boys carefully placed each gift into the bag and handed it to Shorty, strategically placing themselves behind the older man as they went down the stairs to greet the other men.
James was beginning to pace, becoming a bit anxious at the delay and was wondering what was keeping Shorty and the boys when the men showed themselves.
"HO HO HO! MERRY CHRISTMAS!" Santa sang out as he descended the stairs.
The men in the main room clapped and cheered to see Santa and his elves finally appear.
"I don't suppose you've got my new bike in there," Mutt joked.
James smiled and said, "Everyone gather around the fireplace for Santa." He had placed a chair for Santa to sit on while he dug into his bag to give out the presents.
The brats nearly ran people over to get into the first row with grins of anticipation on their faces. They knew there were no bikes in there, but they always loved the surprise gifts during one of James's Christmas parties.
Shorty sat down. Jarrod pulled out the first present. Santa took it then he stated, "Before you can claim your gift you have to come up and sit on Santa's lap.
"Everyone?" Jax asked.
"Yes, everyone, top or brat."
James arched an eyebrow at the pronouncement.
Jeff and Eric looked at each other and laughed. They loved the idea of James on Santa's lap and got their cameras ready, as did just about everyone else in the room.
Jeff then turned to catch Duke's eye, grinned and winked.
Jax looked at James then back at Heath. Seeing the smile in his younger partner’s eyes he grinned.
Duke grinned back at Jeff.
James would work to delay this as long as he was able to.
"OK," Santa said, "Let's see who is the first one to get a present from Santa's bag."
Jarrod reached into the bag and pulled out the first present, handing it carefully to Shorty.
"Brian, come on up," Santa said.
Brian smiled widely and ran to sit on Santa's lap, going so far as to wrap an arm around his neck.
James smiled to see Brian sitting on Santa's lap.
"Have you been a good boy this year?" Santa asked.
The camera flashes were nearly blinding but that didn't stop them.
"Well, Santa... I can explain," Brian said with an impish grin.
Shorty booming laugh fill the lodge. "Here's your gift anyway."
"Thank you!" Brian said happily as he took his present and went to go sit back down with his friends.
Shorty took the next present from Little Jake. "Jake, your turn."
Little Jake looked confused for just a moment before he understood and laughed, "Come on, Jake!" he waved to the older man.
Jake walked up sedately with a grin and perched on Shorty's knee.
Duke began to snap pictures of Jake on Santa's lap grinning.
Shorty bounced the bartender on his knee. "Good that you came up here now, Jake," Shorty said. "I might not be able to bounce after that partner of yours gets up here.
Jake laughed and whispered, "You got yourself into this mess." He took his present and scooted out of Shorty's reach as the man took a swipe at his backside.
Duke chuckled as he saw his lover scoot out of the way of Santa's hand.
Santa called a few more men before he got to Bo.
"Bo, come get your present."
Bo stood up and went to sit on Santa's lap with a deep blush. He took his present, allowed everyone to take pictures and got away as fast as he could. The other guys clapped him on the back as he passed them and he finally grinned.
Little Jake handed Santa the next gift. After reading the name he set it aside and asked for another one. Looking at that package he called Mutt to the front.
Mutt jumped up and sat with such force that he nearly knocked Shorty over. "Sorry," he said with a grin.
"Easy, little boy, or you'll get a lump of coal."
Jeff smiled as he caught everything on video. Shorty's expression had been priceless.
"Sorry, Santa!" Mutt grinned as he took his present and went to go sit back down. "Thanks Santa!" he called over his shoulder.
Duke was called up next. Shorty groaned as the big guy took his place on his lap.
Everyone laughed because Santa, tall as he was, was still dwarfed by the even taller security guard.
Jeff was having trouble holding his video camera steady because he was laughing so hard.
James was laughing at the sight.
Duke grinned as he put an arm around Santa's shoulders. "You gonna ask me if I've been a good boy Santa?"
"Don't dig yourself a hole you can't get out of, Duke," Jake teased.
Everyone laughed at Jake's comment.
When Duke stood, he whispered something to Jare. The boy stuck his head in the bag and came up with the present Duke had asked for.
"Hey! Look! There's a present for you, Santa!" Jarrod exclaimed after rummaging around in the bag a little bit.
In a moment, Duke, had switched places with Shorty, now holding Santa in his lap and asked, "Have you been a good boy Santa? Do you deserve a present?" he asked with a mischievous grin.
James was laughing so hard he started coughing.
"I've been very very good, Duke. Very very good."
Jarrod rolled his eyes and said in a low voice, "That depends on what your definition of good is." He didn't consider spanking a brat on Christmas to be good behavior.
Little Jake nudged his brother hard in the ribs although he continued to smile at the men gathered.
"Ow!" Jarrod hissed at his brother but stopped making comments.
Duke grinned and handed Shorty his package. "Then you deserve your present Santa."
Pictures snapped all over the place and Duke returned Santa to his seat.
"Thanks," Shorty said.
Duke went to join Jake.
"Harry, your turn," Santa said after Jare handed him the next gift.
Harry went and smiling sat carefully on Santa's lap and looked over at Brody.
Brody grinned at his man and winked in encouragement, knowing that it would be his turn eventually.
As Harry walked back to his lover, the younger twin handed Santa Griff's gift. "Griff, it's your turn."
The young man didn't move. His face began to show a dark blush.
Dean leaned over to him. "You don't have to go if you don't want to, Griff, but it's all in fun."
"It's ok, I'll go," Griff whispered. He made his way slowly to Santa, took his seat on the big man's lap.
Dean's heart ached for his friend but knew the boy was in good hands.
James smiled to see the shy man participating in the fun.
"We are all happy that you are here with us, Griff," Shorty said before placing the gift in the young man's hands.
Everyone clapped as Shorty handed Griff his gift and the young man made his way back through the throng and sat beside Dean once again.
Duke watched his brother and Griff.
To pull attention away from Griff, Shorty picked up the box he had set aside.
"HO HO HO!" he bellowed, " James, come on up."
James smoky blue eyes widened. "Not me Santa...pick on one of the brats," he protested.
Heath smiled, "James, fair is fair and it's your turn."
The older man shook his head. "I'm the resort owner...I should go last," he told his partner, mischief in his eyes and his mouth twitching at the corners.
Jax giggled, this was gunna be fun to watch.
"Come on JW, my lap's cooling off,” Santa said.
With his mischievous side coming out now, James said, "Pick on Jeff first Santa." Noticing his partners both giving him a look, he edged a little closer to Santa..."It's really not necessary for me to sit on your lap Santa...you can just hand me my present," he said, holding out his hand for it.
"Oh, yes you do James," Santa replied, grabbing the tall man's hand. With the resort owner being a bit off balance, he easily pulled James over his lap and applied a quick swat to the seat of his pants.
James, surprised and a bit shocked by the move, yelped, "Ouch!" He then started laughing over Santa's lap. "You'd better let me up now Santa...I promise I'll be good until next year."
Jeff nearly lost control of his video camera as he began to laugh in appreciation.
Cameras flashed brightly as everyone tried to capture the moment.
Santa let James back up only to pull him down on his lap. "See that you are, little boy." He handed the gift to James with a smile.
Then he took another bigger box from Little Jake. "And this gift is from all of us here at the resort, JW."
James blushed when he took the gift. "Well...now thank you," he said humbly.
Cameras flashed and videos were taken again capturing the event.
Having gone through most of the residents Santa called Jeff next.
Jeff handed his camera to Mutt and went to sit on Santa's lap with a grin.
James took pictures and grinned at his friend.
"Now, that's a good boy, Jeff. Not trying to buck the system," Santa chuckled.
"Think we can get a picture with me and Mutt later?" Jeff asked, "That would be a great Christmas present."
"Sure, and anyone else who wants a picture with Santa," Shorty answered.
James smiled. "Maybe the three of us should have one too."
The sudden scrum at Santa's chair made Shorty wonder if he should have been more precise.
Once the gift giving was over Torren put in a disc of Christmas songs and everyone sang along, having a great time.
Jake took up his position behind the bar once again, knowing that everyone was going to want a nightcap before the festivities ended. Pete brought out a fresh bowl of egg nog and prepared to ladle the beverage out to anyone who wanted some.
Mutt and Jeff were first in line to get some egg nog. They knew that there would be plenty but they wanted to leave a little early and go home to celebrate alone.
James watched as everyone had a good time, smiling and caught Jeff's eye.
Jeff cocked his head, wondering if James wanted to talk to him for a moment and went over to his boss and best friend. "We're going to head out soon, James. This has to have been the best Christmas party in the history of the resort. I don't know how we're going top it next year."
James smiled. "Yes, I just wanted to say it's times like this that make me remember why I started all this." He waved his hand to encompass the resort as well as the lodge and all the people happy and enjoying themselves.
"It's all worth it in the end," Jeff agreed. "It's like a child. There are ups and downs but it's always going to be your child."
James nodded at his friend’s observation. “Yes, it is and it’s my child.”
Santa pulled Bo onto his lap. "Merry Christmas, sweetheart."
"Merry Christmas, Shorty." Bo replied, leaning in for a kiss.
Adam, Torren, Eric and the twins sat on the couch and chairs surrounding the fireplace, watching the flames dance and enjoying the music.
Griff walked over to Jeff. "I'm gunna let you two have the night alone without me in the house."
James quirked an eyebrow at Griff as he approached Jeff and made his announcement.
Jeff looked surprised, "Where are you going to be? Will you be alright?" he asked worriedly. The last thing he wanted was for Griff to feel unwelcome or to be alone Christmas night. He and Mutt had planned to finish their little celebration well before their room mate got back to the bungalow.
"Dean has a spare room and invited me to use it tonight," Griff answered. "I'll be ok and see you in the morning. But not too early." He grinned.
"You'll be safe there then," Jeff smiled gently. "Call us when you wake up."
"Um, I’ll just call you for lunch," the young man winked.
Mutt finished his drink and asked Jake if there was enough that he could take some home with them. Jake willingly obliged and handed the young man a full bottle with a grin and a wink. Mutt winked back and went to find his husband.
“It seems you and Dean are getting to be very good friends. I'm glad to see it." Jeff smiled broadly. "Have a good night then, Griff. Merry Christmas."
"Merry Christmas to you and Mutt too," Griff returned the sentiment. "And you too James. It was a fun party. Thanks for including me."
James smiled at the young man. "It was fun and I'm glad you could join us."
"You're part of the family, Griff. Family is always welcome." Jeff smiled gently. "Now, gentlemen, Mutt and I are going to head home. I'll see you in the morning, James." The two of them made the rounds of the room wishing everyone a good night before heading out.
It was almost 7p.m. which was the time the party was to end and most of the couples were helping to put the lodge back together before they left to go back to their homes and have their own celebrations.
Jarrod and Little Jake ran around in a clear race against each other to see who could do the most the quickest, nearly knocking over a few people along the way. "Sorry!" "Sorry!" they said quickly as they ran about.
James watched and was everywhere with everyone helping to put things back to rights and thanking everyone for their help.
"Good night all!" Eric said as soon as the room was back in order. Adam and Torren had loaded the dishwasher and were a little damp from their efforts. He made sure they were bundled up before escorting them back to their bungalow. "Thank you, James." they said, shaking the man's hand as they left.
Little by little the men left with their partners or husbands, all thanking James and Jeff for a great time, and soon the lodge was empty and quiet once again.
Dean came up to James with a purpose. "Jake said to tell you that he'd lock up and for you to take your men home."
James looked for his men and smiled at Jeff and Mutt. "Thanks again guys for a great time and all the support.
Duke smiled to see everyone looking happy and waited for his lover to lock up and walked Dean and Griff out as they all went on to their own places, satisfied and happy. They looked up as the snow began to sift gently down once more coating everything in clean white, erasing the traces of trampled snow, and replacing it with a sparkling blanket, lit by the soft glow of lights from the lodge and different bungalows as they made their way to their own warm homes.
May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose
Recorded by Little Jimmy Dickens
Written by Neal Merritt