Authors: Alix Bekins
“There isn’t one, I guess,” Dan said in a thoughtful tone. He did love manhandling Taj, but sometimes… well. Sometimes he worried that Taj liked it
much. He just wanted to take care of Taj. “I just wanted to make sure. I mean, we started this as a hobby and because I wanted to get back into fighting shape. I didn’t want our personal life to get all messed up as a result of… carryover or something.”
Taj reached out his hand and rested it on Dan’s knee. “We’re good. Honestly.”
Taj glanced over at Dan, raising a skeptical eyebrow. He slid his hand further up Dan’s thigh, and Dan felt a jolt of sensation in his groin.
Dan laughed. “Yes, we’re really okay. Now get your hand off my balls before we get into an accident.”
pulled the car to a stop in front of Taj’s building, checked his watch, and turned the key in the ignition until the engine cut out and all he could hear was the radio and the sound of the wind from the approaching storm. It was late evening, later than he liked, and he closed his eyes, trying to remember if there was any food in the house. After six weeks of late nights and weekends spent running at full-speed, he was dragging. He was busy with a project at work, trying to get the revisions to the Engineering Department’s accreditation renewal finished before the holiday break.
Taj’s graduate research wasn’t quite as pressing, but they’d both been pulling long hours at the university. In addition, Taj had weekly meetings with the SCA’s Arts Guild. He and his co-host, Matilda—the Lady to his Lord of Misrule—had divided up the planning duties so that she would coordinate food and decorations and he’d be in charge of entertainment. He refused to tell Dan any of the specifics other than there would be a play, some games, singing, and dancing.
“Hey. How, um, bawdy do you think is acceptable?” Taj asked as he got into the car and settled in his seat. “I got a draft of the play that Santiago is planning to put on, and it’s pretty raunchy.”
Dan leaned over to give Taj a quick kiss and then started the engine. He shrugged a little as he answered. “I’ve only been to a couple of Twelfth Nights, and that was a long time ago, when I was a student. I don’t recall any nudity, but there were kissing games and a lot of joking about how to stay warm on cold winter nights. Humor about the reversal of social roles, servants being the masters for the day, and the masters being servants. That kind of thing.”
“Did any of the kids come?”
“I don’t think so. If you’re concerned, ask. Matilda might know, and if not, she’ll know who to talk to. There aren’t that many people who bring their kids to events anyway, and since this’ll be at night, the little ones would probably be in bed for most of it anyway.”
“That’s true. And if we keep the risqué stuff until after the feast, that would probably work. But you’re right, I’ll ask.” Taj leaned his head back against the seat, obviously tired. He’d had a bad case of bronchitis a few weeks ago, and with the event planning and errands and research and work, he was still pretty run-down despite being “better.” Dan had been worried about him, but the doctors had prescribed antibiotics and didn’t seem concerned, despite the lingering rattle in Taj’s chest.
“You’re taking this so seriously,” Dan asked. “Are you enjoying it at all?”
Taj shrugged. “I am. It’s kind of like herding cats, but I like Christmas, you know that. I think it’ll be fun to have a medieval-style one. It’ll be like Dickens Fair, only about five hundred years earlier.”
“And with less shopping,” Dan agreed. “Well, let me know if I can help. I worry about you.”
They were at a stoplight, so when Taj leaned over to kiss his cheek, Dan turned his head and brought their lips together instead. The rest of the drive was uneventful, Taj snoozing a little in the passenger seat. At home, it was Taj’s night to cook. There wasn’t much in the refrigerator or cupboards, but Taj found some leftover frozen curry from the last time Dan had made a big batch, and Dan was too tired to care that it was a little freezer burned. Since Taj had “cooked,” that left Dan with the cleanup, such as it was. Finished, he found Taj in the living room, slumped on the sofa, staring blankly at the TV.
“Come on, get up. I turned on the hot tub when we got home. You’re not even watching that,” he said, glancing at the buddy-cop show that was playing. “This’ll help you sleep better.”
Taj smiled. “You have really good ideas. Especially when they involve things to do while naked.”
“What can I say, it’s my area of expertise,” Dan joked. “Your bathrobe’s on the bed. I’ll get some towels. Something to drink too? Herbal tea? Hot toddy?”
Taj agreed to the tea, and Dan met him outside on the back deck with a mug in each hand. They soaked in silence for a while, heads resting on the padded rim, Taj’s dark, shoulder-length hair curling in the water while Dan’s face turned pink from the heat. They picked out the astronomical bodies they could identify through the light pollution and steam and wispy clouds, their legs tangling in easy contentment.
“You’ve had quite a few packages delivered lately,” Taj noted, his eyes closed.
“It’s December,” Dan pointed out. “You know what happens to naughty little boys who go prying into their presents before Christmas.”
Taj glanced down at his lap. “Watch who you’re calling ‘little’.”
Dan moved his feet and tickled the parts in question with his toes. “My apologies, nothing little here. Of course, sometimes size and shapes are distorted under the water….”
Gliding forward, Taj wrapped his arms and legs around Dan and abruptly pushed him under the bubbles. Dan came up gasping with pretend outrage and lunged, pinning Taj against the side of the tub. He struggled a little, smiling and not really trying to get away, as Dan leaned in and licked his way into Taj’s mouth. They traded kisses, still laughing as they splashed and wrestled lazily.
“Inside. Or must I hoist you over my shoulder and carry you to the bed to claim you?”
Taj rolled his eyes. “You’re undoing all that lovely relaxation, you know. How about a piggyback ride, if that’ll make you feel like you’ve won?”
Dan chuckled as he got out of the tub, wrapping a towel around his waist and then tossing the other to Taj. “Climb on, then,” he offered, crouching patiently while Taj jumped up. “Why is it called a ‘piggy’ ride anyway?”
“Good point, no one rides pigs. You can be my horsey,” Taj agreed. “Onward, noble steed! To the bedroom.”
Obligingly, Dan pawed at the ground with his foot and then carried Taj inside. The dismount onto the bed was clumsy, but both knight and steed agreed they could practice more often.
Once the giggles had passed, their earlier mood of languor returned. Dan ran his hands over Taj’s moist skin, sliding through the drops of water possessively. Taj reached up and pulled Dan’s head down to his so they could trade lingering kisses, fingers twining in Dan’s hair, as they made quiet sounds of pleasure. Taj was pliant as Dan moved them into position on their sides, echoing the many mornings they’d awoken in a sleepy tangle. He set a slow, gliding pace, kissing Taj’s shoulders, neck, and jawbone, letting their desire contribute rather than interfere with the soporific mood as their passion built with a gradual but inevitable momentum.
Taj’s orgasm seemed to drain every last bit of tension from his body, and he was dozing before Dan had even finished. Dan didn’t mind. A few more thrusts and he was there as well, coming and then crashing, fucked-out, sleepy, his body curled around his lover. He closed his eyes and let the sensations overtake him, listening to Taj’s breath even out into sleep.
After a short doze, he eased himself out of the bed and tiptoed to the bathroom to fetch a warm cloth to clean Taj up. The house was quiet, traffic noises barely audible even outside as he shut down the hot tub. One last autumnal cricket chirruped somewhere on the patio, lonely and unaware that its days were almost up; winter was coming soon. Dan turned off the lights and put the house to bed.
first Thursday of December was the gay men’s chorus. Dan was in the bedroom the night before, sorting laundry and trying to find a button-down that was still clean. He was going to need to make a trip to the dry cleaners in order to have stuff to wear for all the parties on their social calendar—Taj had booked them solid for the whole month, as usual.
“You sure you don’t mind all this?” Taj asked, returning to the bedroom with the laundry baskets and continuing their earlier conversation about holiday plans.
Dan shrugged. His family had never made a huge deal out of Christmas, but he was willing to change, since it seemed important to Taj. “Yeah, I’m fine. Honestly, it’s not like I’m against celebrating, it’s just kind of new to me, you know?”
“Tell me,” Taj said. “I’ve heard pieces, but what was Christmas like when you were a kid?”
“Well, most of my mom’s family is local, but it was usually a small group, between six and twelve,” he said, mentally counting seats around remembered dining tables. “When my grandma was alive, the day started with church…. Well, no, even after I was in college, the day
with presents as soon as I woke up, eating too much candy from my stocking, and
church. Followed by a late breakfast at my grandma’s house, more presents, playtime, and ‘dinner’ around two. Nothing extravagant. By the time I was in junior high, I usually spent most of the day reading whichever book I’d been given that seemed the most interesting.”
Taj nodded. “Dry-clean pile?” he asked, and Dan gestured at a bundle on the floor. “Did you do any other stuff?”
“Yeah, I guess….” Dan thought for a few moments. “I never thought about it before, but I guess most of the ‘Christmas traditions’ in our house happened before the actual event itself: advent calendars with a new picture behind each window, lighting candles and saying prayers when my mom was on her Catholic streak for a few years before my folks got divorced, going out to the farm to cut down a tree and decorating it on the night of the solstice. I think I was about ten when I got put in charge of stuffing the stockings on Christmas Eve.” He snorted, remembering. “I’d carefully divide up all the candy into equal piles, trying to fight the urge to figure out what the small presents were that Mom gave me to put in the stockings for me and my brother. And there had to be Christmas music playing and a fire in the hearth while we wrapped presents—that was Mom’s thing. And we decorated the tree and house while the old holiday kids’ movies played on the TV,
Charlie Brown’s Christmas
and the Grinch and stuff,” he said, smiling at the memories.
“That sounds really nice,” Taj said, and Dan instantly felt like a jerk. With Taj’s family, Christmas had usually been a day full of unpleasant drama. He was one of six kids, and his father drank most of his paycheck. Taj didn’t like to talk about his childhood very much, but Dan had gathered from a similar conversation last year that Christmas had always been pretty stressful for Taj—lots of yelling, his mom and sisters crying, the wealthy grandparents banishing his father from their house and sometimes threatening to call the police. It sounded like the kids’ presents were few and practical, his mother’s folks trying to provide the necessities while simultaneously implying their son-in-law was incapable of taking care of his family.
Dan went over and wrapped his arms around Taj. “It was okay. The holidays are more fun now that you’re here, though.”
Taj turned in his embrace and gave him a kiss on the nose. “Thanks. I’m glad you don’t mind doing all this stuff with me. I like that I get to do all the fun things now.”
Despite all the strife of his childhood—or maybe because of it—Taj
the holiday season. With his sisters scattered, father and grandparents long gone, and his mother relocated across the country with her new husband, Taj had made it his own.
the fun things,” Dan teased. “Thank God work’s slowed down a little so I can keep up with you. When are you dragging me away from my balmy coast to ‘go see the snow’ this year?” Taj had a thing about driving to the Sierra Nevadas at least once between Thanksgiving and Christmas and bringing along a huge basket for a picnic on the snow. Dan pretended to hate it, but he not-so-secretly found it hilarious.
“Next weekend, on Saturday,” Taj said. “Friday is the university’s chorale concert, and Sunday is the panto.”
“When am I supposed to finish my shopping?” Dan asked with more than a slight whine in his voice. Taj, of course, did all of his shopping early, wrapped the presents right away, and put them beneath the tree before it was even decorated.
“There’s this thing called the Internet, have you heard of it?” Taj asked, teasing. “You can order things and they send them right to your door.”
“Not in less than four weeks!”
“Hmmm, good point, although if you were willing to pay for rush shipping,
if you’d planned better….” Dan tickled him in retaliation, and they fell onto the bed, knocking off a basket of carefully sorted laundry. “All right, all right! I give!” Taj panted for breath, his lungs still rasping a little from the residual illness. “Maybe at Dickens?”
Dan hummed, pondering that possibility. Taj had introduced him to Dickens Fair in San Francisco last year—waltzing with him at Fezziwig’s dance party, having tea, and, of course, all the shopping. Maybe he could find the things he needed there, gifts for his mom and sister-in-law.
And Taj, of course
, he thought, sighing a little.
“So what else are you dragging me to?” Dan asked, knowing there would also be several holiday celebrations with their friends and coworkers, everything from Solstice vigils to Hanukkah celebrations to white-elephant Christmas gift exchanges. Taj had been known to wear a Santa hat at the parties. Dan loved him anyway, no matter how ridiculous he looked.
“I put the whole thing on our shared calendar online. What, do you need paper, old man?”
“No, just wondering if you remembered our anniversary,” he said, wiggling his eyebrows suggestively. “I want to make sure you’re all rested up so I can ravish you properly that night.”