The Christmas decorations shimmered all around the Liberty Diner as Brian and Justin settled themselves into their favorite booth for dinner one evening in early November. Debbie was working so they didn’t need to order. She’d get them what she thought they should have anyhow.

“Do you think maybe Christmas comes a little earlier every year, Baby?” Brian asked. “The stores are all redded and greened up and the carols are playing and it’s not even Thanksgiving yet.”

“Hey, Brian,” Justin pointed out. “Weren’t we just out doing a little early Christmas shopping of our own? If there’s a problem, I guess we must be part of it…”

“You might be, Taylor,” Brian pointed out back, “Yeah you might. But I don’t remember doing any Christmas shopping myself – and you didn’t do any serious Christmas shopping either. I could still see over top of the packages I had to carry back to the car. That’s not serious Justin Taylor Christmas shopping by a long shot …”

“Ya know, Bri,” Justin ignored any provocation. “We have a lot of Christmas traditions built up over the years. So just which one is your favorite? I think I know which one it is.”

“Well I bet I know which tradition is your favorite, Kiddo,” Brian laughed. “My showering you each year with expensive Christmas gifts. That has to be your very favorite tradition.”

“Like you’re implying I can be bought? So you’re trying to see if you can dampen my Christmas enthusiasm already, Mr. Kinney,” Justin laughed back. “But it won’t work. When Justin Taylor gets the holiday spirit, it stays through the whole season.. So get serious, Bri. Which tradition do you …?”

“What about our Christmas night tradition, Baby?” Brian thought out loud. “That is really sentimental all right. You know - the one where you drag me outside to build a snow man and then ambush me with a stash of snowballs that you have hidden somewhere earlier – with malice aforethought…”

“Come on, Brian,” Justin prodded. “That’s not your favorite tradition at all. And anyhow, I do not attack you either. I’m like – just defending myself from the mad snow-man-builder. I’ll admit maybe it’s a little like a preemptive strike – sometimes… And I know how much you enjoy our fun times building that snowman and sledding in the park afterwards too – but I know that’s not your favorite.”

“Well then it must be our wonderful decorations which make the loft look more Christmassy than Macy’s toy department,” Brian tried again. “I really do enjoy putting them up – and Gus’ Christmas party and all …”

“Like you ever put up one single decoration, Kinney,” Justin was amused. “Like I’d let you – when I have so many expert friends who can help and not break anything either.”

“Geez, Baby,” Brian told him. “We’re running out of traditions. Maybe I don’t have any favorites.”

“Yeah you do, Brian,” Justin insisted. “There are two more - and one of them has to be your favorite – you playing Santa Claus at Childrens’ Hospital on Christmas afternoon – or our choosing and decorating our own ‘Charlie Brown’ tree – and one of them is your favorite…”

“Well you know, Baby,” Brian protested. “It’s hard to pick a favorite Christmas tradition. It’s a lot of fun at the hospital – seeing those kids and all. And I love how you fix up the very ugliest trees imaginable and turn them into works of art – for a week or so. I didn’t even know all this stuff about Christmas till …”

“But you do know about it now, Brian,” Justin insisted. “And you like Christmas too – but sometimes you won’t admit it. Maybe that’s your favorite tradition, Kinney. “Complaining about Christmas …”

“OK, Taylor,” Brian came back. “Sorry to disappoint your all-knowingness but maybe I do have a favorite Christmas tradition – and maybe you don’t even know about it. So there…”

“And maybe you’re gonna tell me about this secret tradition that I don’t know anything about, “ Justin challenged. “Like there could be any such thing …”

“OK, JT,” Brian smiled at him. “I guess I should admit that I do love all our traditions – and I hope we keep them going forever - but my favorite is on Christmas Eve when we finally get back home after we do all the crazy things you want to do on Christmas Eve. When we get in the door, you always say the same thing …”

”I do?” Justin seemed surprised.

“Yep you do,” Brian affirmed. “You say: ‘I love this loft, Brian. I love Christmas – and I love you – in reverse order. Merry Christmas, Brian. I love you.’ You say the same thing every year.”

“Gee whiz, Brian,” Justin told him. “I never knew I said the same thing every year. Now that I know, I hope I don’t forget this year. Maybe I better write it down on a notecard so I’m sure I’ll get it right.”

”No notecards, Baby,” Brian commanded. “And you better get it right.”

At that point Debbie arrived with their non-orders – as she usually did – and which looked pretty good to the guys too. “You fellows arguing about something?” she asked. “It looked like that from over at the counter – but I guess arguing is an old tradition for you two….”.”

“Nope,” they replied in unison. “We never argue.”

But Deb completely ignored their shared protest. She had some traditions of her own.

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