“Brian, what do you want for Christmas?” Justin asked.
They were each working at their computer in the loft. Neither had said much during the evening. Brian had been working. Justin had been googling sites on the internet that had unique gifts. Nothing he had seen seemed right for Brian, so he decided he might as well ask.
“Oh, let’s see – world peace, the end of pollution, universal health care, the right for gays to marry…”
“What…What the fuck did you just say?”
“I don’t know. Was I speaking in tongues?”
“You said ‘the right for gays to get married’.”
“Did I?” Brian asked with a smirk.
“Asshole,” Justin reacted.
“I don’t want anything for Christmas,” Brian declared.
“What do you mean, you don’t want anything? Everybody gets presents at Christmas, including you,” Justin informed him.
“And most of the gifts are shit. I never use them, and end up throwing them out.”
“But not all of them?” Justin asked.
“I’ve gotten a few good ones over the years.”
“Hm, let me think. You know, I can’t think of one good gift I’ve gotten.”
“Not even mine?” Justin asked with a little tinge of hurt in his voice.
“You usually give me a drawing or a painting, and it’s hanging somewhere here in the loft as we speak,” Brian said flipping his hand out to indicate the loft and its artwork.
“So, you really don’t like anything I’ve given you?”
“I didn’t say that. If I didn’t like it, it wouldn’t be hanging on the wall.”
“Are you expecting another piece of artwork?” Justin asked with a frown. He hated being predictable.
“I hate that you know what I’m likely to give you. I wanted to make it something different this year,” Justin said.
“Make it whatever you want. I don’t care. Better yet, make it nothing at all,” Brian said with an edge of sarcasm in his voice.
“God, you are such a Grinch. Can’t you show a little Christmas spirit?”
And that was the end of that discussion.
Christmas Day was spent in sections. In the morning Brian and Justin were at Lindsay and Mel’s watching Gus open his presents. Lunch was at Mother Taylor’s. And finally everyone met up at Debbie’s for the traditional Christmas dinner. By the time Brian and Justin arrived back at the loft late that night, they were stuffed to the gills and over-saturated with so called Christmas spirit.
“Who the fuck invented this holiday?” Brian griped as he slid back the loft door and threw his leather jacket in the direction of the sofa.
“It certainly wasn’t you,” Justin replied as he slid the door closed and locked it.
“You got that right.”
“It’s over, so can we not talk about it?”
“That would suit me just fine,” Brian said as he drank half a bottle of water.
Justin half expected him to pour the rest of the bottle over his head, like he had done the first night Justin had come home with him.
“I don’t know how much fucking salt Debbie had in that damn gravy, but I’m dying of thirst,” Brian continued.
“From the teaspoonful you ate, no doubt,” Justin said sarcastically.
“What’s your problem?”
“I like Christmas, Brian, in case you haven’t figured that out. I get tired of hearing you complain about it. I want to enjoy it.”
“I don’t complain,” Brian retorted.
“You either complain or you don’t say anything,” Justin told him. “I’m not sure which is worse.”
“I thought we weren’t going to talk about it,” Brian said smugly.
“Right! I’m going to bed.”
“I’ll be right up,” Brian said with a smirk.
“Don’t bother. You’re not getting any.”
“Hey! What happened to the spirit of giving?”
“Oh yeah, here’s your Christmas present,” Justin said fishing a brightly wrapped box out of a kitchen drawer. “Enjoy it … all by your fucking self,” Justin snapped. He tossed the box at Brian before he disappeared up the steps to the bedroom.
Brian caught the box as it headed for his face. Then he stared at the spot where Justin had disappeared. Well this was a fine Christmas how-do-you-do. With a glance at the gift box, Brian ripped off the wrapping. He found a plain box underneath with no indication of the contents. He lifted the lid and folded back the tissue paper. He extracted the red … thing that was inside. He turned it over and over trying to figure out what the fuck it was.
“Justin,” he called up to the bedroom, “what is this?”
“You should be able to figure it out. You’re soooo smart.”
“Sarcasm doesn’t become you, Sunshine.”
“And there are times it doesn’t become you either,” Justin retorted.
Brian was about to make another snarky remark, but he bit his tongue. He really didn’t want to fight with Justin on Christmas. “Point taken,” he said.
“It’s called 'the happy man bottle stopper',” Justin told him, no sarcasm evident in his voice this time. He didn’t really want to fight with Brian. He just wished that Brian wouldn’t be so negative about Christmas just for once.
Brian studied the ugly red object in the palm of his hand. Then a chuckle escaped his lips. “Yes, it is, a bottle stopper,” he said. “Good one.”
“You like it?” Justin asked in surprise.
“What’s not to like?”
“It does have a big dick,” Justin laughed.
“Just like me,” Brian bragged.
“Yeah, yours is almost as big.”
“Twat!” Brian said as he mounted the steps. “Is it safe to come up here?”
Justin was lying on his back on the bed. His eyes locked on Brian’s. “I guess I won’t kill you for now.”
“Thanks heaps,” Brian said. He walked over to his side of the bed and sat down. Without saying anything more, he opened the drawer in the nightstand and pulled out a small box wrapped in golden paper with a shiny bow on top. “This is for you.”
“What, no hustler?”
“You would bring that up,” Brian griped. He started to stand up, but Justin grabbed his arm.
“That was a cheap shot,” Justin apologized. “I shouldn’t have said it.”
“It wasn’t one of my finer moments,” Brian admitted.
“No it wasn’t, but what’s this?” Justin asked turning the box over in his hand, and looking at it from every side.
“I believe it’s called a Christmas present – part of a quaint local tradition that I’m told takes place in these parts every December 25th.”
“No shit,” Justin said with a grin. “Should I open it?’
“I believe that’s also part of the quaint local tradition.”
Carefully Justin removed the wrapping paper. There was no card or sentimental endearment attached to it anywhere. But that would have been too much to hope for. This was Brian Kinney that he was dealing with after all.
When he lifted the lid, Justin held his breath. He didn’t know what he was receiving. He was glad Brian had bought him something, and he hoped it wasn’t nonsensical like the bottle stopper he had mischievously decided to give Brian.
“Wh…What’s this?” Justin asked as he pulled a piece of paper out of the box.
“Read it and see,” Brian said softly.
“This entitles the bearer to the framing of one piece of artwork at the Sidney Bloom Gallery,” Justin read aloud.
“I couldn’t think of anything that I really wanted to get you. You know, something that would be meaningful.” Brian couldn’t quite bring himself to look into Justin’s eyes. The framing coupon was obviously a big mistake. Justin hadn’t drawn or painted his gift this year, so Brian’s gift seemed very hollow. Brian supposed that Justin could always frame a piece for someone else, but that wasn’t what he had intended. He had expected Justin to paint or draw something for him, and that was what he wanted to get framed.
Justin could do his own framing if he wanted to, so Brian’s gift was actually pretty useless. He had made a stupid choice once again, just like that fucking hustler. “I had hoped you might frame whatever piece you made for me this Christmas…” Brian said lamely.
“But you didn’t make artwork this Christmas,” Brian said interrupting. He didn’t want to hear Justin’s feeble excuses about how he would use the useless gift Brian had just given him.
“You don’t know that.”
“I said that you’re wrong. I did make you something else for Christmas, but I thought it was too predictable, so I got you…”
“The bottle stopper,” Brian said as he completed Justin’s sentence.
“Yeah, it was a stupid joke.”
“I … rather like it,” Brian said sitting it up in the palm of his hand. He had been holding it all this time.
“Close your eyes and don’t move,” Justin said as he stood up.
“Can’t you do as you’re told without an explanation?”
“Okay, fine,” Brian said not wanting to break the good moment they had been sharing. He closed his eyes and waited. He could hear Justin moving around, but couldn’t place what he was doing by the sounds he was making.
“Open your eyes,” Justin ordered.
Brian opened his eyes and looked around. Justin was standing beside the bed looking at him. At first Brian couldn’t decide what he was supposed to be looking at then he saw it behind Justin on the dresser. It rested against the shutters.
“It’s … wonderful,” Brian said. He stood up from the bed and walked towards his gift.
“I made it over the last couple of weeks, whenever you weren’t around,” Justin said with a soft smile. “Do you like it?’
Brian picked up the sketchbook that had been leaning against the shutters. He studied the faces in the drawing. “It’s … perfect,” he whispered.
Justin smiled radiantly. “I don’t know about perfect, but I like it.”
“So do I,” Brian said honestly.
“You mean it?”
“One hundred percent,” Brian affirmed.
“So should I use your gift and have it framed?”
“I … I’d like that,” Brian said sounding like he really meant that.
“Where will you hang it?” Justin asked with a mischievous grin. “It looks pretty good right there.”
“Except that we can’t actually hang it there,” Brian contradicted. “It’s leaning against the shutters.”
“I think I’d like this one to hang in my office at Kinnetik where I can look at it all day.”
“Seriously?” Justin asked with one of his famous smiles.
“You know what I said before … about you not getting any tonight?”
“You are so getting some.”
Brian chuckled. “How changeable the winds.”
“Count your blessings, my man.”
“I am,” Brian said as he tumbled Justin onto the bed.
Some time later Brian propped himself up on his elbow and glanced over at the sketch that still leaned against the shutters. He studied the three faces from across the room. He remembered the event this sketch was based on. He and Justin had taken Gus to the park that day. It was a fine spring afternoon and Gus had had so much fun running around, using the slides and the swings. They had asked a passerby to take a picture of the three of them, and that’s what Justin had based the sketch on.
It was beautifully done with so much detail. They were sitting on a park bench with Gus on Brian’s knee. Brian’s son looked so happy … they all did. It was a good day. Justin had captured it perfectly as Brian had told him.
And the thing that made it so special was that Justin hated to sketch himself. This drawing had turned out so well that maybe Justin would consider doing more of himself in the future. Brian wouldn’t mind several more, if truth be told.
He smiled and looked at Justin sleeping peacefully beside him. Justin never needed to worry about what gift to get him at Christmas. Brian’s best gift ever was lying next to him in his bed, and hopefully would for a long time to come.
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