Just Another Miracle On 34th Street
Author's Notes: My thanks to Thyme for her
wonderful editing help and to Sabina for providing her great inspiration and
artistic help. This story was also written for QueerAsChristmas on LJ.
* * * * *
“Hurry up, Justin! The big meeting is in just a
few minutes! Not a good idea to be late to this one, I’m thinking,” Cassidy
poked her head into Justin’s cubicle on her way past.
“Yeah, I know. I just want to finish this last board.”
The corn-rowed head withdrew after rapping sharply on his partition.
“Watch what you say, dude. That just might be your last board if sales don’t pick up around here...and I’d don’t know about you, but I don’t have any sugar daddies back home to support my march to the top of the acting world.” Her pretty brown eyes sparkled at him. “Did I say march? Make that my crawling, scratching, biting, kicking, fighting....”
Justin laughed and waved her on. “I get the message, and I’ll be sure to stay out of your lane, killer. See you in the meeting. I’ll be along in a sec.”
He flashed a bright smile before turning his attention back to his computer screen. He was trying to come up with a knock-out presentation for Macy’s Black Friday Internet Ads that would be hitting screens promptly on midnight Thanksgiving Day. The economy was in terrible shape and people just didn’t have money for sweaters and shoes, candles and cookware and the tons of other things that Macy’s tried to make look irresistible for the holidays.
Justin sat back in his chair and sighed. There was just one thing...make that one person... that he would find truly irresistible for Christmas, and you wouldn’t find him in Macy’s. He gave a rueful smile. Sak’s over on Fifth Avenue, maybe, but not Macy’s.
Brian. They’d kept in touch ever since Justin had taken off to find his fame and fortune in the big Apple. Brian had even given Justin the reference that had helped him land this job in Macy’s New York advertising office when he desperately needed something to pay the rent after Daphne’s cousin moved on to grad school in Boston. This job didn’t pay a lot, but it enabled him to move from the sofabed in the living room and into the small bedroom and not have to look for a new roommate, using the extra space for his easel and paints. Even better, the art director at Macy’s let him use their top of the line art programs to work on his own graphic art projects on his own time. Which was shrinking all the time, since he was also able to take a few art classes at Parsons. He’d found a professor who was really excited about his work, and he was working as a teaching assistant in exchange for studio time and a break on tuition.
A win/win/win situation if ever there was one. He had a great job, his own apartment, and was finally going to finish his BFA. He’d even gotten some pieces in a few galleries and sold some for respectable amounts, although with all the people who took a cut, he’d been dismayed at how little profit he actually made. But, it was a start!
Three years had flown by before he even realized it. And, as Brian had once said, it was only time. You had a lot of that when you were in your twenties...or so you thought.
But, he was lonely. No one really cared if he was looking a little thin like Debbie always did and if he went home with a rough looking character, there was no one to worry about him like Emmett would have, and, let’s face it, like Brian would have, even if he wouldn’t have admitted it. He’d have made Ted or Lindsay check on him. Which meant that Justin had to learn to be a lot more careful than he ever was in the past.
Sugar Daddies back home. The thought made him smile faintly. The first time he ran out of money three days before payday and had to go to a soup kitchen when he got really hungry, he was mortified. The second time, he swallowed his pride and called Brian, who was his usual, matter-of-fact, snarky self, catching Justin up on all the news from back home, slipping in casual comments that hid nuggets of pure gold in the nature of advice in how to handle life alone in the city, and even how to budget when living alone in the city. Before he got off the line, Brian had mentioned that some money was already in Justin’s account, and a similar amount would be deposited each quarter, while he was taking classes. “Part of the original deal, Sunshine. And…” Brian had cleared his throat and Justin had to strain to hear him, but the words had been said.
“I’m proud of you, and I love you. Now let me get back to selling some cereal to suckers here.”
Justin blinked back tears at the memory. Brian had hung up before he had the chance to tell him he still loved him too, but he hoped he knew it. Surely he knew it? That had been almost two years ago and he’d taken to calling Brian every couple of months just to chat. At first Brian had been tentative on the phone but once he seemed to understand that Justin was neither asking for more money nor going to make him uncomfortable with mushy thank you’s, he seemed to relax and the conversations flowed easily. They both discussed their work and the people they interacted with, even the men they fucked was ripe for discussion, Brian enjoying Justin’s anecdotes about being a gai boi in the Big City.
But, no visits were planned, neither Brian to New York nor Justin to Pittsburgh. And, underneath the witty stories, Justin was lonely. He lived for the glimpses of life back in Pittsburgh, even as he told of exploring the big museums and glittering clubs, the fashion shows and concerts, tree lightings at Rockefeller Center and ice skating in Central Park, the tale of the latter adventure making Brian roar with laughter.
Lost in his daydreaming, Justin also lost track of time, until his I-Phone, a recent birthday present from his “Sugar Daddy” that had Cassidy green with envy, buzzed with a text message.
U R so DeD Get that Bbl Butt in MTG!!
Fuck! He was late to the big meeting for the parade preparations and Thanksgiving advertising planning. She wasn’t exaggerating that he was dead!
Justin grabbed his laptop and started to dash out of his cubicle. He wasn’t looking where he was going and ran right into an elderly man who was looking around at the nameplates on the partition walls as he walked along the aisle. The impact almost caused both of them to tumble to the ground, but by sheer force of will, and luck, Justin managed to catch the man by the elbows and regain his balance as well.
“Are you okay?” Justin asked, taking in the man’s long white hair and flowing white beard, which did little to mask his lined face. He was quite old, Justin realized, and felt even guiltier for almost knocking the man down in his rush to get to the meeting. “I’m so sorry! I wasn’t looking....Let me get you a chair! Do you need a doctor?” He ran a hand through his hair, distracted. He needed to get to the meeting but he couldn’t leave this old guy without making sure he was okay. What was he doing wandering around the marketing department?
The man started to chuckle, a rich, full sound that was so infectious, it made Justin start to smile. “I’m fine, sweetie. The day I can’t handle an armful of blond is the day I hang up my suspenders. I should be apologizing to you! Wasn’t watching where I was going, was I? Whew. A chair might be a good idea, though. Love that sweater on you, by the way. Blue is your color, isn’t it?”
Justin smiled at the way the man was eying his ass as he pulled the chair from his cubicle. Some guys are never too old, he guessed, with a twinkle in his eyes, as he put an extra swing in his step.
“Can I help you find what you’re looking for, Mr...?” He paused expectantly.
“Chris is fine,” Justin’s new friend answered. “I’m looking for ....”
Justin’s manager stood at the end of the aisle, hands on his hips, legs apart, looking like he was ready to throw a fit – or a marketing associate out a window. “Too good to show up at the biggest, most important marketing meeting of the year, in the lousiest market that Macy’s has known in its entire 150 years, Taylor? You must have already solved our crisis then! What a hero! The boy hero from Pittsburgh has saved all of our asses and found us a...”
Mr. Snyder, a middle-management manager from hell, stopped his rant long enough to stare disbelievingly at the man sitting in front of Justin. He looked at Chris, then at Justin, then back at Chris.
“How...? The memo just came in from the parade supervisor fifteen minutes ago! The parade is in two days...you couldn’t have known!” He turned to Cassidy. “Did you know?”
She shook her head. “Nope. But congrats, Jus. Saved me a lot of looking on my last two days before Turkey Day. Aren’t you the cutest thing!” The last comment was made to Chris, as Cassie bounced by on her way to her own cubicle.
“Thanks, hon, love your hair,” Chris told her, his eyes twinkling in response. “Wonder how my hair would look like that?”
“Only one way to find out! Have Justin get us together some time and I’ll corn-row it for you. Bet it’d be hot.” She giggled and the two of them knocked knuckles together before she finally slipped into her own area. About time, Justin figured that Snyder was about ready to have a coronary.
“Taylor! You and your Santa, my office, now!”
* * * * *
Justin fixed Chris a cup of tea and brought it over to the sofabed where the older gentleman was sitting. He had just unpacked his small overnight bag and the two of them were relaxing after a whirlwind day.
“Nice of you to let me stay with you while I’m doing this Macy’s job, Justin. With my bad leg, my doc wouldn’t like me taking the subway all the way out to Queen’s every day until the Thanksgiving rush is over.”
“I really appreciate you helping me out, Chris! I can’t believe how lucky it was that you happened along just when the only thing that was going to get my ass out of a sling was coming up with a Santa Claus for Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade!”
“This has got to be the first time I’ve ever volunteered to get an ass like yours out of a sling,” Chris sighed gustily, accepting the teacup from Justin, who whacked him on the arm with the tin of cookies.
“Hey, don’t hit that arm, that’s my whip arm!” Chris saw Justin’s blush and laughed. “No, not that kind of whip! I mean the small crop I use on the reindeer, silly. I don’t really whip them, of course. That would get the PETA people after me. Just a little tap to get their attention. Blitzen will pull to the right and Donder will let him if I don’t keep on top of them.”
“Uh, sure,” Justin said, setting the cookie tin down by Chris’s arm and heading to the small linen closet for sheets and blankets. The apartment was cold at night in late November.
“So, they just need me to ride in their parade and wave to the kids on Thanksgiving? Then sit in the store for a few hours each day?” Chris asked, smiling secretively to himself behind his teacup as he watched his young host putter about the apartment.
“Pretty much. Ms. Wells, the head of Marketing– she’s my boss’s boss–said that you’ve a ‘wonderfully organic look, just what the parade needs for this big anniversary year. So after you make your big arrival at the 34th Street Store, see a few dozen kids for the cameras each day, and then take your break. Pose for pictures for the print ads, perhaps do another shift, then you should be able to make your escape for the day and let the trained marketing Santas take over unless one of the morning shows wants to film a spot with the Santa from Macy’s. When it comes to anything official, you’d be the official Macy’s Santa.”
“Marketing Santas?” Chris lowered his tea cup. “What kind of strange creature is that?”
Justin made a face and sat cross-legged on the floor in front of his new friend.
“Well, I hate it myself but it’s the new way. They’re trained actors, and their job is to promote certain products for the store. They are skilled at working the crowds, the adults with the kids more than the kids, and frequently get the adults sitting on their laps to say what they want. Actually, most years the official Santa is too, but he fell off the wagon and is back in rehab. So the stud Santas are what they are left with as well as the Nintendo Expert Santa and Barbie Expert Santas, and those guys are not what they like to trot out for Matt Lauer or Kelly Ripa. Stud Santas might be a good idea though, come to think of it.”
“That sounds like pandering.”
“Oh, it comes pretty close. I swear some of those Santas are pretty buff and the young women, and some not so young women, come to tell Santa some pretty lascivious things they want in their stockings.” Justin laughed a bit self-consciously.
Chris looked shocked. “I’m all for a good time, Justin, but we’re talking Santa Claus here...St. Nick. Kris Kringle. Are you telling me Macy’s has taken a beloved tradition of Christmas, visiting Santa and telling him what you want most for Christmas, and turned it into a Sex and the City episode?” Chris looked genuinely perturbed.
Justin hadn’t quite thought about it that way. He knew he hadn’t been completely comfortable with this part of the Christmas marketing tradition at the store, and just couldn’t find a way to work it into his advertising campaigns, but hearing the outrage in Chris’s voice, and seeing his weathered old face look so troubled...he saw it in a whole new light.
It was wrong. Santa was about honesty and innocence and everything that was right in the world. Not surprisingly, you stopped believing in Santa when you stopped believing that those other things could be found in the world too.
“Maybe the real Santa should stick around for more than a few hours,” Chris said, determination in his blue eyes. Chris reached down to pull his crop out of his bag and set it on the table next to him.
Justin felt a frisson of nervousness. “What exactly are you going to do with that, Chris?”
Chris gave him a look of cherubic innocence. “Why, just keep the reindeer in line, Justin! I already told you that!”
Justin didn’t know why, but he didn’t trust that look at all. Maybe because it was the same look Brian used to give when he was up to the most mischief? But just then, his mind played back Chris’s words and a spark of an idea came to him. He looked at Chris sitting on the sofa, sitting in his old pants, suspenders hanging down, a wild print shirt like the type Vic loved open over an old white t-shirt, wire rim glasses low on the bridge of his nose while he read the copy of People Magazine with Barack Obama on the cover and sipped his tea. His fingers itched for his charcoals.
“Chris, would you mind if I sketched you?”
The warm smile beamed his way.
“You go right ahead, Justin. I’m just going to read about Barack...took a couple of years but his Christmas wish came true. Sometimes you just have to believe.”
Chris winked as Justin did a double-take.
Nah, Justin told himself. He’s just a nice old queen in a Hawaiian shirt. But what a really nice old queen he is. Picking up his sketch pad and a charcoal pencil, Justin started to sketch. At least he wasn’t as lonely with Chris for company. It wasn’t like having Brian, but then, Justin was beginning to realize that nothing was ever going to be like that again.
* * * * *
Justin sighed. “Yes, Mr. Snyder?”
“Meet me down by Santa’s village.”
“Yes, Mr. Snyder.”
What could possibly be wrong? Chris had done a fantastic job in the parade this morning. Justin’s ad campaign, “It’s Time for the Real Santa Claus”, with its sketch of a determined looking Chris in suspenders picking up his crop to head off to Macy’s to save the day for shoppers was chosen as its Thanksgiving Day banner ad. Ms. Wells loved it and promised that Justin’s holiday bonus packet would reflect her approval, as would Chris’! He was asked to come up with follow-up drawings for each day of the follow-up holiday weekend. What could have gone wrong so quickly?
Justin rushed down to the main shopping floor of the store. Pushing his way through the throngs of shoppers, he reached the back of Santa’s Village, and was ushered into the Candyland House, which was actually the security booth, which allowed store personnel to listen in to Santa’s conversations. For safety sake, Santa had a buzzer which allowed him to alert security if he needed help, and also conversations were monitored to ensure that no Santa could be accused of impropriety. When this was explained to Santa, it was one more thing that had made him shake his head sadly at the state of modern day Christmas.
Justin joined Cassidy and Mr. Snyder, who were sitting with Manny, one of the more cynical security guards.
“What’s the problem?” he asked, looking at the trio.
“Listen to what your protégé is telling our customers!”
“Well, Sugar, you could ask for Ugg boots for Christmas, but what I’m telling you is, one, they’re so 2006 only people from Jersey would wear them, two, you’d have to be built like an Olson twin to not look like you have legs like the Abominable Snow Man in them, and three, sweetheart, three, didn’t you figure out that the Ugg stands for Ugg-ly? So if you want to get nice boots this year, don’t spend a fortune on Uggs, you get yourself some nice TImberlands, a third the price and waterproof.”
“Don’t they look boyish?” The pretty brunette frowned.
“Honeypie, ain’t nothing going to make you look like a boy...trust me on this. Unless it is hairy boots like those over-priced Uggs. But, if your heart is set on them, buy them in the Village, you’ll spend half the money in a second hand shop and maybe get a pair that Mary Kate used to wear, then at least they’re a conversation piece.”
“My pleasure...and remember...I know if you’ve been good, and you have got some room for improvement, Mary!”
Giggling, the teenage girl jumped down from Santa’s lap and made way for the next young lady. This one had her heart set on an expensive Coach pocketbook, but Chris convinced her that one by Fossil at half the price would be just as good.
“He’s been doing that all morning!” Snyder screeched in Justin’s ear. “Ms. Wells will have my job…your job...Manuel’s job! We’ll all be out looking for jobs! All because you hired the Consumer Advocate from HELL!”
Justin didn’t think it was the right time to point out that Mr. Snyder hired Chris...he had just bumped into him and offered him a chair. His face had gotten that dangerously red look again.
“Listen...” Cassidy interrupted his rant. Justin admired how she was able to do that. He never had the knack...or the nerve.
“Merry Christmas, little one, how are you, this lovely day?” Chris reached down and started to pick up the dark-haired child standing in front of him. The child cowered behind his mother’s knees.
“I’m sorry, Santa. Jareed is newly arrived from Iraq. He doesn’t know about Christmas or about Santa, I’m afraid. He was raised in a Christian orphanage after his family died in a blast, but we’re hoping he will learn to be comfortable in his new family. He doesn’t speak English yet, either, maybe this was silly of me, but this being Macy’s and the ad saying you were the real Santa, oh, I know it was silly, but...”
Chris just smiled at her then got off his chair and bent down on his knee by the frightened child. To the utter amazement of the watching crowd, and even more so to the eavesdropping trio in the security, he began speaking to the child in a strange tongue. Whatever his words, they brought a shy smile to the little boy’s face, and even a light giggle that presaged a small hand coming forward and tugging lightly on Chris’s snowy white beard. Cameras were flashing in the crowd but Chris and Jareed ignored them as they continued to talk, Jareed ducking his head down after Chris seemed to ask a question and then pointing shyly to his new mother.
Chris smiled at the boy, and said, “Mama.” Jareed nodded, repeating, “Mama.”
Chris got back to his feet and patted Jareed’s cheek. “I congratulate you, Madam. Jareed says he has all that he could wish for, this Christmas. God has given him a Mama, and he does not need anything else. So he would like to know what Mama wants from Santa?”
Jareed’s new Mama had tears on her cheeks as she hugged her little boy and then kissed Santa.
“I have everything I need! Thank you so much, Santa! Thank you! Macy’s does have the real Santa!”
“Well, if you don’t mind a little advice, Santa suggests a language course for Mama, so she can help Jareed until he becomes fluent, and also so he can remember his native language,” Chris said practically. “But otherwise, I do think you two are in good shape.”
A reporter from one of the TV news stations happened to have been having lunch in Macy’s restaurant with the man who was handling the advertising for her new clothing line, which was coming out at Christmas. They’d been discussing last minute details for promos on her station, which had run into conflicts issues which her charming companion had somehow made disappear. She had her suspicions that his charm and her producer’s orientation had something to do with that disappearance, but since it worked to her benefit, who was she to complain?
The two of them had paused to watch the moment of magic that had just happened at Macy’s Santa’s Village. She turned to the tall handsome man, torn between showing New York City cynicism for the sentimental moment and true sentimentality for what had been a lovely moment, and threw the ball into his court.
“What did you think?” she asked. “Staged or sweet?”
Brian Kinney looked at the small new American being held by his proud mother as strangers patted him on the back and offered him welcomes to his new home, while the jolly white bearded man smiled benevolently.
“You may not always be able to buy happiness at Macy’s, but sometimes you can find it here,” he answered.
The reporter looked at him, struck. “May I use that?”
“I hope you will,” Brian said, his eyes looking around the crowd casually.
Excusing herself, she pulled out her cell phone and called her station. “Get a camera crew down to Macy’s. Yes on 34th Street....I know but I have a new angle. Listen to this line and then let me tell you what happened here today. Wait, let me get this woman before she leaves!”
The reporter turned to Brian. “Brian, got a hot story. Let me catch you later, okay?”
He brushed his lips over her cheek perfunctorily. “Your hot stories makes you hot, so get to it, babe. Catch you later. And there goes the mom and kid.” He pointed toward the exit and the intrepid girl reporter took off.
Back in the booth, Cassidy was smiling brightly while Manny was humming to himself, trying to avoid Mr. Snyder’s eye. Justin wasn’t sure what to think. How in the world had Chris known how to speak to that child? He didn’t even know what language was spoken in Iraq, let alone how to speak it!
“I don’t care if he can speak to reindeer,” Mr. Snyder said, after a moment’s hesitation. “He’s not helping sales so he’s not helping Macy’s! He’s got to go! Tell him he’s fired, Taylor!”
“Me! Why do I have to tell him?”
“Because you found him,” Snyder said smugly.
“That isn’t....” Cassidy stopped when Snyder turned his glare on her. “You want to be in the welfare line with him, girl?”
“Don’t you mean the unemployment line?” she asked.
“I don’t intend to approve paying unemployment to anyone who causes their own job loss by hurting this department,” he screeched.
“Okay, I’ll talk to Chris, no need to get upset at Cassidy,” Justin said placatingly.
Manny interrupted any reply either one was going to give by telling Snyder, “Ms. Wells just buzzed. She wants to see you, Mr. Snyder.”
“Oh my...this is it...Taylor...get rid of that man...quick. Get one of the studmuffin Santas out there right away. Taylor, you get that maniac away from here immediately.”
* * * * *
So, Chris, have you given some thought to what you want to do with your time now that um, well, you must need to get back to your other projects....” Justin’s voice trailed off.
Chris looked amused. They were in one of their favorite little sandwich shops. He had his Santa jacket open so that his bright pink t-shirt with the neon sparkle print that proclaimed it a product of the San Diego Pride Parade of 1986 contrasted beautifully with the red fur of his suit. Debbie would love it, Justin thought, with a wistful smile, missing his surrogate mother something fierce. She’d know what to do.
“So, what you’re saying is, it’s time for old Chris to move on, this City isn’t big enough for the two of us, sweet cheeks? Snyder is your man and you think I’m poaching on him?” He sighed heavily. “I knew it would come down to this. It always does. You think you have a friend but then some low-down man comes between you.”
“That is a terrible imitation of...whoever it’s supposed to be an imitation of,” Justin told him, grinning despite feeling down.
“I know, but that’s the thing, a good imitation of Joan Crawford would be depressing. Think about it!”
Justin did, and had to agree. Emmett loved Joan Crawford movies but they always left him depressed for days. Justin smiled again...Chris always made him want to smile...which thought made him sad because he had to fire Chris, which wasn’t fair.
“Life often isn’t fair, Justin, it’s how you handle the unfairness that makes you the kind of person you end up being.” Chris sat stroking his beard and looking at Justin. “You never told me what you wanted for Christmas, son.”
Justin was still wondering how Chris was able to know what he was thinking without him saying anything.
“Ah, that would be telling, wouldn’t it?” Chris said, winking.
“There, you did it again!” Justin complained, looking at him suspiciously. “How did you know how to talk to that little boy, Chris?”
Chris smiled. “I picked up bits and pieces here and there in my travels. You get to be my age, Justin, you learn quite a bit. Now you owe me an answer. Your Christmas wish, sonny boy, no more evasions.”
Justin was startled. “Why did you call me that?”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you...it just was on the tip of my tongue and came out.” Chris looked genuinely sorry to have upset Justin.
“No, it’s okay. It’s just that...someone I used to...someone I do love...calls me that. I’m not with him anymore and it hurts to hear someone else use it.”
Chris nodded gravely. “I can imagine. I’m sorry. Why aren’t you together?”
“Why?” Justin looked back at Chris and for the life of him, he couldn’t give an answer. It was for him, he knew. For his future. To give him the opportunity to experience life, to see the world. To live and love and be the best homosexual he could be.
To be...lonely. Like Brian?
“I don’t know Chris. I wish I were with him but I can’t be. I need...I need to accomplish more, to achieve success.”
“And what is success, Justin?”
“Fulfillment. Artistic and personal.”
“Do you get that working for Snyder?”
“Well, no, but everyone has to compromise. I work on my art and I work to finance my art. Thankfully my degree is done this semester...seems like that has taken forever, but now I have that piece of paper. Always meant more to Brian than to me, but it’s done. So....I’m working and....”
Justin looked out at the city street outside the café. He loved the city. He liked his little apartment. But it was only part of a life. He was only part alive, biding time. Like that movie title phrased it, he was waiting to exhale.
Three years was a long time to hold it all in.
“Chris, listen, there’s something I have to tell you....”
“Yes, Justin, I thought there might be.” Chris’s eyes were encouraging.
Saved by the beep of a text message. Cassidy again.
U R so Ded if Kris Kringle fired.!
KK went from 0 2 Hero! U2!
Get back 2 Macyz!
Justin looked up at Chris. “We have to get back to the store. Cassidy says you’re a hero again. Go figure. Better button up, just to be on the safe side.”
Chris looked down at his t-shirt, then up at Justin.
“What? Santa can’t have Pride?” The two of them laughed then left some money on the table and headed out. Justin might have forgotten their conversation but Chris didn’t.
* * * * *
“This is Meg Morgan at Macy’s downtown store, where it has been mobbed since Thanksgiving, Anderson."
“What is the attraction, Meg?”
“The Santa, Anderson! Rumor has it that the real Santa is at Macy’s this year and not since Natalie Wood lisped her Christmas wish into Edmund Gwenn’s snowy whiskers, has the world been more entranced with a vision of the elderly elf.”
“Well, I can think of a few car company executives who might want to get in line, then, if the real Santa is making promises of Christmas largesse, Meg. Is that what we have? Everything you could want for Christmas can be found at Macy’s this year? Including a bailout at fifty percent off?”
“Not exactly, Anderson. This Santa isn’t big on empty promises. In fact, he’s been rather tart tongued to a few whom he’s said were naughty, not nice, so I don’t know if too many of Wall Street’s erring execs want to try their luck with this Santa. But the word among harried parents who are trying to make too few dollars go too far, is that this Santa is the real deal. I have a clip from a scene that took place a little while ago, with newly adopted Jareed and his mom, Amy. Amy’s husband is with the fighting First Division, stationed in Baghdad.”
First an amateur video of Chris with the little boy and his mother played, and then an interview by Meg with the pretty young mother and her shy but photogenic young son. The mom gushed about her experience with Santa, as it marked a breakthrough with Jareed, who’d been especially withdrawn since her husband, who’d been able to speak with him more, had returned for his last three months in Iraq.
As the camera showed a close-up of Amy and Jareed, Meg Morgan’s voiceover said, “As you can see folks, you may not always be able to buy happiness at Macy’s this holiday season, but sometimes you’ll find it here. This is Meg Morgan wishing you and yours a very happy Holiday, from Macy’s. Back to you, Anderson.”
Mr. Herman, CEO of Macy's, turned a beamed face toward Ms. Wells, Mr. Snyder, Justin and Chris. Justin couldn't help staring. He'd never seen a happy CEO in retail before and thought he should preserve the memory.
“That, gentlemen and Ms. Wells, is the kind of marketing you just can’t buy! Pure genius! Macy’s is more than outselling the competition, it is burying the competition. And how is it doing it? By being nice! Mrs. Obama called me and asked if Chris could speak to her girls on the phone? Privately, of course, which is a shame, but what are you going to do...all part of this nice thing...but still....”
Mr. Herman babbled on.
Justin listened with half an ear as Mr. Snyder tried to take credit for his ideas and Chris and Ms. Wells discussed moisturizers.
What did he want for Christmas?
It would be here in a few days and he had no idea, not a clue. While the others all talked at each other, the noise level rising, he quietly got up and walked out of the luxurious suite. Chris was the only one to notice him leaving, and he wasn’t about to spoil his getaway. He only laid his finger along the side of his nose thoughtfully, then returned his attention to Ms. Wells’ problem with cracking cuticles.
Justin, meanwhile, took the elevator to the ground floor and headed out to the sidewalk. Head down, hands in his pockets, he wasn’t looking where he was going as he exited the revolving doors and ran right into a tall, leather jacket clad man carrying a bouquet of flowers.
So much for the flowers...the man dropped them so he could catch Justin by gripping firmly under his armpits and saving him from being trampled by the next dozen people making their way through the doors. Justin found himself being securely lifted to the shelter of a nearby wall. The tall man leaned against it and then propped Justin against his body, chest to chest.
“Well, this is more like it...watch where you’re going much?” A gloved hand tipped Justin’s chin back and he found himself staring into hazel eyes – the world’s most beautiful hazel eyes, by amazing coincidence. Raspberry colored lips parted slightly and then moved closer.
“Kiss me, Justin.”
Justin closed his eyes – dazed people were well advised to close their eyes – he was sure he’d read that somewhere. But then, he became even more dazed, as those lips touched his and he had to open his mouth to get more air, and then of course you open your mouth on a New York street, all kinds of things might get in, but if you’re really, really lucky....
You get the tongue of the most amazing kisser you’ve ever had in your life, and while your experience isn’t that vast, it is a hell of a lot more vast than it was three years ago, and if this three years was worth anything at all, it had to have been worth telling you that no one, but no one, held a candle to Brian Kinney when it came to kissing the living hell out of a man.
And it only stood to reason, that if the man was the world champion kisser...better than any homosexual in New York City, based on a three year independent study...he was beyond any logical doubt the best fucking lover too.
God, Justin hoped he didn’t have to spend three more years fucking men in New York City, before Brian would take him home and fuck the living daylights out of him for the rest of their lives.
“Brian...I love you.”
“I didn’t say it...on the phone.”
Brian lifted his head and cupped Justin’s face with his hands. He smiled, that cocky, know it all smile of his.
“I told you years ago...a person doesn’t have to say it for it to be true...and not saying it doesn’t make it not true. Did you think I would worry that you suddenly stopped if you didn’t say it?”
Justin blushed. That’s how he would have reacted. He tightened his arms around Brian. “I’ve missed you so much. I wish...I wish you’d come to visit sooner” A thought occurred to him. He lifted his head. “You are here to visit, aren’t you?”
Brian laughed. “Well, it wasn’t just coincidence that had me in all the thousands of Macy’s joints in all the cities in the world and I happen to happen upon you stumbling out of this one, baby. Is that murdering Bogie or what?” Brian laughed again and this time Justin joined him.
“I was looking for you for a couple of reasons. You graduate this month, so I thought that deserved a little celebration. And...I saw your ads…the sketches. They were fucking amazing. And I wondered why someone that talented was working for Wells and not for me. I came up here to see what it would take to either talk you into taking a job back down in Pittsburgh...or opening up a branch office of Kinnetik here in New York.”
“You mean it?” Justin couldn’t believe it. This was his wildest dream...beyond it. The dream he wouldn’t even let himself dream.
“I wouldn’t joke about this, Justin...He knows if you’re lying, you know, and that Santa would take his crop to me.” Brian nodded toward the doorway. There stood Chris with his riding crop, tapping it suggestively against his hand.
“Him? That’s just....” Justin looked again and Chris was gone.
“I know who it was, Justin. Now...are you going to give me my Christmas wish?” Brian looked anxious.
Justin was confused for a moment but it was a very short moment.
“Can you show me just how good a boy you’ve been this year?” he whispered into Brian’s ear, before throwing his arms around his neck and kissing him deeply.
“The best, Sunshine, the very best.”
By the time Justin made it back to his apartment with Brian, there was no sign of Chris or his things, other than a note next to the empty plate of cookies left from the night before.
Hope you enjoy getting your Christmas wish, boys.
May Your Holidays be Merry and Gay!
Merry Christmas, love, Chris
“Well, that does it as far as I’m concerned,” Brian said, starting to peel off his clothes.
“What’s that?” Justin asked, enjoying the view as the slimly muscled torso he loved so much came into view. Soon naked, Brian walked over and got to work taking off Justin’s clothes.
Holding him close, Brian murmured in his lover’s ear, “I’m going to give you a Merry Christmas...gay style. Now, where’s your condoms and lube?”
Merry Christmas, from Arwensong!
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