Billy: *I wake up in a position I haven’t been in with anyone for a very long time. I’m curled around Dom, my arm flung across his waist protectively, my head resting on his shoulder. I smile against his skin but don’t dare a kiss for fear it will wake him. It takes me a moment to untangle our legs, feeling the chill of the bedroom hit me as I sit on the edge of the bed and look around for my bathrobe. Finding it, I slip it on and pull on a pair of sweatpants as well, slipping my feet into a pair of slippers. It’s 8:30 on Christmas morning, and where I really want to be is back in bed, next to my favorite Christmas present of all, but there are some things I should have taken care of last night that were forgotten, and now is the time to take care of them. From under my bed I pull a plastic bag with several wrapped packages in them and, casting one last longing look to the gorgeous man lying in my bed, I turn and leave the room, heading downstairs to the Christmas tree in our living room. I unload the packages there. These are presents that I had intended for MS and had put away after everything went to hell, but I am delighted now that I can give them to him anyway. Frowning, I set the smallest of the three down next to a nearly identical package marked for Dom, but I smile in the end, plugging in the lights and backing away from the tree, satisfied. The next step in my plan is a bit more painful. I open the front door to a gust of freezing air, unprepared for the feel of it against my partially unclothed body. But it’s too late now. I pad through the snow to the side of the house where a tarp covers my final Christmas present for Dom, next to his old bicycle. Whipping off the tarp, I wheel his brand new bike around to the front of the house, soaking my slippers in the deep snow as I position it directly in front of the front window. Then, with a final adjustment to the red bow on its blue frame, I dash back into the house, deserting my wet slippers in the front hall alongside much of the clothes we had abandoned the night before and head back upstairs. My bathrobe and sweatpants I drop into a chair near the bed and then I crawl back underneath the covers, sighing softly. I’m a bit afraid to get too close to Dom because my skin is absolutely freezing, and I don’t want to wake him with the cold. But the warm blankets do not quite suffice in returning the heat to my body, and I shiver slightly under the covers.*
Dom: *A touch of cold shocks my knee and my eyes blink open immediately. What on-... But my thoughts cease on the sight of him; curling himself together in a ball under the covers beside me and trembling. My concern crosses my face at once and I nudge nearer to him, lifting my arms under the blankets and over his body. But I jolt and take my arms away as soon as I've made contact.* Bill, you're freezing! *I speak softly, wondering only mildly if he is still asleep. Once I am over my initial surprise, I hastily come close to him, tucking both my arms and legs around him despite the chill of his skin. He'll soon be warm again if I have anything to do about it. I rub my hands over his back and peer down at him worriedly as his shoulders shiver to my touch. Why in the world is he so cold? Have I been sleeping apart from him all night when I'd meant to be protecting him from every breath of winter? Some lover I'm making out to be; only my first day on the job and Billy's dying of frostbite. It feels as though he's been running out it the snow, my poor thing.*
Billy: *I sigh audibly when his body curls around me, shivering not from the cold but from his touch, and I back into his warmth despite my resolution to not make Dom cold as well. But I think that maybe if he just stays right there that we’ll both warm up in record time.* Sorry... *I breathe, turning in his arms to face him with a soft smile.* I didn’t want to wake you. But it seems I couldn’t quite control it. *I laugh and tuck myself a bit closer to him, deciding that, for the time being, I won’t tell him exactly why I’m so cold. Not until we’re ready to get up, at least.* You can kick me out of bed if you want. *I tease, but slide an arm around his waist, not sure I could let him go even if he asked.*
Dom: *My skin jumps under the icy movement of his arm on my waist, but I relax after a moment, still looking into his eyes with a groggy smile. A chuckle bumps in my throat and I lay my head contently near his on the same pillow.* Well, I can't really do that; it isn't my bed. *I let my eyes adjust to the sight of his, then lean in and kiss his cold, pink nose lightly.* And I wouldn't do it anyway; not after what happened last night. *I pull back resolutely, raising an eyebrow at him and grinning. Inside I know I'm melting all over the memory of last night, but I don't want to gush sweetly on Billy just yet. That can be saved for later; while play, I believe, is suited much better for bed this moment.*
Billy: *I warm slightly at his words, allowing the memories of last night to come flooding back over me. I wiggle slightly in his arms.* Don’t be daft, it’s as much your bed as it is mine. *After all, it’s not as if I’ll ever be able to sleep in this bed without him again. Nor would I want to. There’s another Christmas present to Dom: a permanent place in my bed. Though I think that’s as much of a gift to me as it is to him.*
Dom: *I kiss him again, this time on the lips, sighing, deeply in love with what he has said.* For my part, then... *I whisper, leaving a small space between our mouths.* ...I don't want you to leave the bed. *I hesitate, already becoming too soft within his arms. I don't want to completely lose myself here; I'm awaiting his reaction to my Christmas presents with silent excitement already, and I know they won't be opened until tomorrow morning if I continue to kiss him softly like I am doing. After all, I've discovered what those things lead to. I shift out of our hesitation then, giving him a little squeeze and a bright smile.* So...what do you suppose Santa left for you this morning?
Billy: *It’s about time I got a proper good-morning kiss, and he certainly doesn’t let me down.* I don’t know; maybe I wasn’t good enough this year to get on his “nice” list. But I am very interested to see what he’s brought you. Shall we go and look? *I’m mad at the fact that there was no time to go shopping again between last night and this moment, because had I known what I now know, I would have filled that space under the tree with gifts for him. I hope he’ll be happy with what I’ve got him; I’d give him anything just to see the same delight in his eyes that I saw last night.*
Dom: *I bite my lip, relapsing to childhood giddiness at the thought of presents wrapped up for me this Christmas. Nodding happily, I dip in and press a quick kiss on his mouth and then begin to wiggle my way out from under the covers. This is inevitable, I know, I think as I finally let go of Billy's body and push the covers away from me. I'm going to get myself so excited about opening gifts only to abandon them for ideas of returning to Billy - my best present. Still, the idea that someone other than my mum may have gotten me something other than a free trip to the local pub is renewing, and I'm quick to bounce out of bed and onto my feet. Billy rises from the other side of the bed, and I smile at him from across the way. We're both still unclothed, but I feel no ounce of uncertainty or shame standing before him. And neither should he, for as far as I look, all I ever see is beauty. Grinning, even blushing a bit at how right this feels, I take a step around the bed, picking up one of the blankets off of it and, stopping before Billy on the other side, wrap the blanket around his body soundly.* By the way... if Santa knows anything about last night, you are most definitely on the nice list.
Billy: *I blush and laugh, grabbing him and pulling him into the circle of the blanket and my arms.* You’d better stay close or you’ll catch cold. *I warn him, wrapping my arms around his body for a quick hug before giving him a nudge towards the bedroom door and out into the hallway.* Go on then, see what Father Christmas has left for you under the tree. *His enthusiasm gives me more love for Christmas than I ever thought I could.* What was on your list this year?
Dom: *I hold onto his hand behind me as I make for the stairs, and Billy's body bumps into me a bit as sometimes I tug him in my anxiousness to be downstairs to get a look at the tree. I can imagine the wrapping and ribbons, all of the colors, in my head now, and as I bound down the stairs, I reply to his question saying "You, you, you," as my bare feet bounce on each step. I grin widely as we finally reach the bottom of the stairs, and I can see the lovely little evergreen waiting patiently in the living room, little packages wrapped up and sitting underneath its boughs. My excitement runs over and I scrunch my shoulders to my ears, holding in my anticipation as my eyes fall upon each parcel separately; one with green ribbon, one with a bow instead, some with simple print... My stomach butterflies whir around and I look back to Billy with a gleeful smile. Taking his hand, I lead him eagerly into the living room to the couch, where Billy sits and cuddles himself up onto the cushions in the warmth of his blanket. Pulling the quilt off of the back of the couch and wrapping it loosely around my body like a cape, I sit down next to Billy and gaze off under the tree, admiring Santa's bestowments. I don't know quite what to do. I shouldn't take one yet, should I? I can't remember the etiquette of gift opening. I can't remember much now. Oo, I love Christmas.*
Billy: *I settle against the cushions of the couch, content to just watch him for a moment, watch the way his wide eyes try to take in everything at once. But I can see that he's trying to restrain himself, hesitating before the packages, without need to.* Go on then, open one before you explode. *I tease, sitting forward to eye the packages nearest to him.* Take... *I try to remember what each one is.* ...that one. *I point to a mid-sized rectangular package wrapped in bright red and green spotted paper. Best to start with something small.*
Dom: *My eyes dart from Billy to the package, and without much hesitation I get to my feet and retrieve the small box from under the tree. I grin at Billy as I sit back into the plush of the couch, his own smile returning to me, and I put the package in my lap and begin to rip at the edges of the paper. Soon, however, I'm tearing right through the wrapping, and as the wrinkled paper falls to the side, I'm left with a small, closed box in my hands. I shake it a bit, but hearing only a small, muffled shuffling sound, my curiosity overtakes me and I make quick work with the lid of the box, tossing it back over my lap. Brushing a layer of tissue paper aside, I reach in for the contents of the package and lift my hand to reveal a very durable pair of leather gloves. My smile brightens instantly, and I glance at Bill, already shoving my hand into one of the pair.* Aw, Bill... *I wiggle my gloved fingers before me, stretching and curling my hand as though to test the things out, admiring the squeaky pull of the leather over my knuckles. Oh, and they are warm inside, too; and soft. Quickly, I pull on the other glove. Leaning toward Billy on the couch, I take his face gently in my covered hands and kiss him.* Thank you, love.. *Then I sit back again to admire my present. From my Billy. In our house on our Christmas morning.* You wouldn't imagine all of the cold things I have to put my hands on everyday - bike handles, door handles, mailbox handles... You know, lots of cold handles. *I grin at him shyly for lack of my creativity in giving thanks for a gift.* But now I won't get my hands stuck to someone's frozen mailbox. *I hold my hands up firmly, then smile and pull the gloves off and put them into their box, deciding no one looks very attractive wearing nothing but gloves.*
Billy: I’m only sorry you didn’t have them last night. Before my hands had the chance to warm yours, I mean. *Because from now on, whenever I’m around, I want to allow my hands to warm his on their own. Pleased that he seems happy with the practical gift, I take his hand and lean forward, looking for the next one. I see one labeled “MS,” a flat, rectangular package wrapped in snowflake paper.* You’re very lucky, you know. You’ve got presents under two names under that tree. *I squeeze his hand and grin.* I’ll bet that was all a part of your plan, wasn’t it? *I point out the package.* That one next.
Dom: *I lean forward and reach for the gift, not wanting to let go of Billy's hand now that it's taken a hold of mine. I finally catch the package between my fingers and drag it toward me, then scoop it up when it is near enough and place it in my lap. Leaning the present against my stomach, I'm able to tear off the wrapping paper with one hand, revealing another box underneath. I smile to myself and slowly tug open the top of the box and peek inside. As I see the gift, laid neatly between the tissue paper, a broad smile spreads on me, warming my whole face. I carefully lift out each item one by one.* Paper...envelopes...a very lovely pen... *I look at Billy, beaming.* You're going to regret giving me this, you know. I'm going to write you all the time, until you're sick of me.
Billy: *The very idea is ludicrous.* As if that’s possible. *Still, although his letters are lovely, the best I’ve ever received, I’d trade them all if he’d just keep holding my hand.* I eye the packages, curiosity finally getting the better of me. I grin at him, eyes wide with anticipation.* Well, come on then, which one’s for me?
Dom: *I bite my lip and grin at him brightly, heart racing for him to open all that I've bought for him. I set my box of writing supplies softly at my feet and then squeeze Billy's hand as I begin to get up.* Just a second. *I step anxiously away from the table, regretting having to let go of Billy's hand, but needing to retrieve my present for him which I've hidden under a blanket bundled beside the tree. I hold the edges of my quilt tight around me as I try not to step on anything important around the branches of the little evergreen. As I reach my gift, I quickly pull aside the blanket from atop it and tug the large, foot-tall, two foot-long box with effort toward the couch. Finally, I have to resort to bending over and dragging the thing with two hands along the carpet, careful not to rip the green wrapping paper as I swerve the box around and offer it at Billy's feet. I glance up to him with an expectant smile as I sit back down on the couch, resisting the urge to take up Billy's hand, knowing that he'll need it for unwrapping. I curl my legs up beside me on the cushion, tucked tightly again in my quilt.* You're going to laugh at me. *I shake my head and smile, still looking at the package on the floor adorned with a large red bow.* I know it; you'll think I'm crazy.
Billy: *My mouth drops open slightly, wondering how he could have had that under a blanket and I hadn’t noticed. I shake my head with a laugh as I set about ripping off the paper. Oooh, mysterious, heavy boxes... my favorite kind. I bite my lip to keep from grinning to hard as I place my palms flat against the top. I pull the lid off and my eyes widen. Books... a lot of them. War and Peace sits on the top, next to Great Expectations and Moby Dick... underneath is The Three Musketeers and Les Miserables... I look at Dom, a curious smile on my face.*
Dom: Right; so... *Turning toward him on the couch, grin spreading across my face at his adorably characteristic expression, I prepare to tell him of the 'meaning of all this,' considering he might like to know why half of the classical section of the book world is sitting at his feet. I grasp my hands on my knees.* The story about this... I kind of had to assume what to get you for Christmas; I didn't find out what you wanted; I generally have no idea anyway, on and on, you get the point... anyway! I was thinking about you...and MS...and the letters, which got me thinking about you writing and reading, and then I thought about you sitting in front of this fireplace *I gesture to my right.* reading for hours, which is very lovely, and I always though that would kind of be nice; to settle up beside you as you were reading. *I try not to lose my nerve here, but he smiles as I say this and I can't help smiling back and reddening a bit. I turn my eyes and raise my open hand toward the books to distract myself and continue again slowly.* Wouldn't you know they have a bookstore in town, and when I happened in one day there was this great thing set up, selling all of these classics that had been put out through the same publisher. I thought they looked nice, but I really had no idea which ones you'd like best so...I bought one of each. See? *I actually feel kind of crazy myself now, having gone through the whole thing out loud. Maybe it looks like I didn't really try to find a gift specifically for him; I'm just a rampant buyer. But...* I read over all the back covers, and they all sounded pretty good to me.
Billy: *For having no idea as to what to get me, he did a bloody good job. He does know how much I read, and it was a terrific idea, but still... I don’t think I’ve ever had so many books at once. I look up at him, shaking my head but grinning.* This is quite possibly the most thoughtful and oddest present I’ve ever received... you’re insane. *I say fondly, plucking Great Expectations out of the box and thumbing through it.*
Dom: Thanks, love... *I grin, comforted that he actually likes the gift, and ball up the paper that he's torn from the box in my hands, finally setting the wad on the ground. Looking to the box again, I gesture with my most 'nonchalant' grin.* Uh…why don't you take a look through War and Peace, Bill; see if it's all still there. *I look away, biting on my smile merrily, and feeling very clever.*
Billy: *He’s up to something, and I’m more lost by the minute. But I’ll follow his lead. I shrug and pick up War and Peace, and I can immediately feel there’s something odd about this book. I eye Dom curiously and flip open the front cover.* Oh... *Inside are two necklaces, matching postage stamps sealed onto polished wood, hanging on short, leather bands. I pick them up and smooth my fingers over them, flipping them over in my hands to see the letters on the back of them... B.B. on one, D.M. on the other. I can barely contain my grin as I slip the one marked D.M. over my own head. Turning to Dom, I place my palms against his cheeks and tip his head forward, planting a solid kiss upon his forehead before slipping the B.B. necklace over his head.* They’re absolutely gorgeous... you have impeccable taste. Thank you, Dom.
Dom: *I smile uncontrollably. He's taken mine, and given me his. It's perfect; he's perfect. This reminds me of a more tangible way of trading hearts, somewhat like he and MS did so long ago. But it was he and I, wasn't it? We were the ones trading hearts. I feel, as he slips the necklace marked with his name over my head, that he is restating our trade; that it still holds. He hadn't thought of me that day he gave his heart away, I'm sure. At least, I'm fairly sure. But now he must know; it's been us the whole time. I feel like that necklace around his neck is a part of me that I've given to him; a part that I can't leave without. Which means I'll undoubtedly have to stay with him forever. Does he feel that way? When he sees his name hanging from my neck, does he see a part of him in my care? Whether he does, or if he doesn't, I'll care for it; like it's his heart. I silently lift my mouth to his lips and lock us there for a moment. So good...so soft... No..., I think to myself, you have impeccable taste... And as I let us pull away I smile and speak softly.* Thank you, Billy...
Billy: *I wonder if I could get away with never taking this off, if people would begin to wonder why exactly I was wearing a postage stamp around my neck and what D.M. stood for... and I decide I don’t care. Let them wonder. They don’t need to know. This is something between us, a precious symbol of what exactly transpired last night. No, this is something I will wear every day. It’s not something as mundane as jewelry; it is now an everyday part of my existence, just as Dom is. I kiss him again, wishing he’d stop thanking me when I have done nothing, when all that we’ve found is because of him. One hand rests against his chest, palm covering the small pendant. I allow myself to become too engrossed in the kiss, too absorbed, and I have to positively tear myself away.* Lovely... *I breathe, resting my forehead against his for a moment before turning back to the rest of the presents. My eyes linger on another package marked for MS, a large, square box covered in shiny red and gold paper. I nudge him and point to it.* That one next.
Dom: *I pull my eyes from him, (a difficult task, really, after that kiss), and bend down for the package, taking it up on my lap again to open. I quickly pull through the paper and look the box over. And the more I look, the more I love Billy and his sweet little memory. It's a sundae kit; all necessities included - a sundae dish, scoop, chocolate, biscuits... It all makes me, really, too hungry for ice cream, considering the time. But Bill certainly knew what he was doing, buying this. I remember...MS told him he liked ice cream sundaes with all of the toppings. It's been so long since I've had one. I glance at Billy.* Perhaps we'll have to share this one? *I smile and lean in for a quick kiss.* Thanks, Bill. *Leaning back, I stare at the delicious picture of the ice cream on the cover of the box as I set it away.* I can't believe you remembered that.
Billy: As if I would forget about something like that, especially when it yielded such an appetizing gift idea. *I had seen it in a shop over in Towerston right after the dessert letter, in fact, and I knew that I had to get it. What Dom doesn’t know is that there is cookies and cream ice cream in the freezer right now, waiting for later.* We’ll see what it’s like later, ok? *I smirk and lean against him, looking at the dwindling pile of presents.* What’s next, what’s next... *I point to the two same-shape packages, one labeled for Dom in green wrapping and the other labeled for MS in Christmas tree print.* Those two are next. *I smile to myself, hoping you’ll enjoy them, similar though they may be.*
Dom: Both? *I chime, not really caring if I'm to have two presents at once. In fact, that's much better anyway. I look at the labels as I pick the two small packages up, tilting back in to Billy; one for MS...and one for Dom. They're relatively the same size. In fact...the packages are the same size. I link an arm around Billy's front and pull him halfway into my lap while I smile curiously at his gifts. I decide to open the one labeled to MS first, and carefully unfold the edges of the wrapping, taking off the paper and tossing it aside. It's a CD; a mix, made by Billy. My smile glows as I read each of the song titles listed. I lay my head lightly against Billy's, and he points to a few tracks; particularly romantic ones. And memorable ones.* "Love Me Do;" Beatles. Good choice. *I decide that I love the whole thing and nuzzle Billy's hair a bit to emphasize.* Now I suppose I should open this one... *I take the second package, labeled for Dom, in my hands and tear off it's wrapping. Another CD, much like the first one; mixed by Billy for me. The only difference is that this one has a new track listing. Or... My brow furrows a bit as I read some of the song titles. No... I point to one of the tracks and think silently. Then I pick up MS's CD again to compare.* This is the same song... *I point out to Billy; wondering if he meant to do it. But then I notice another common title. And another.* Billy... *I begin to smile.*
Billy: *I blush a bit; I’d almost forgotten the lists had common titles.* Of course, when I made these, I hadn’t the foggiest idea who MS was. I just made them with songs that reminded me of the both of you, and it just so happened that several were the same. *I shrug and burrow myself closer against Dom.* I didn’t really think the two of you would be comparing track lists... seems I was wrong. *I hope he doesn’t mind. Most of the ones for MS are lovey-dovey, picked while I was head over heels for him. The ones for Dom are mostly upbeat, reminding me of him at happy times, seeing him smile. But they all just made me feel good, which was the only thing I knew at the time MS and Dom has in common.*
Dom: *Smiling, I duck in and kiss Billy's cheek teasingly.* You silly thing. I love them. *Holding the two CDs for a moment, I admire them - how they serve to remind me of Billy while they were made as his memory of me. I nod, wondering what they will sound like later, while I listen to them with him in my arms; while kissing him and, well...doing other things. I'm sure we've both thought about it again already. The very thought puts my heart in my throat.* Can't wait to have a listen. *Setting the CDs with my other gifts, I flash my smile back to Billy, already excited about opening more presents. He shouldn't spoil me so much. I take too much joy in it.*
Billy: And I can’t wait to hear what you think of them. *I’m pleased that he likes them; I’m already formulating a list for the next one I make, this time only one volume. I climb over Dom’s lap to get at the tree myself, seeing only two packages left.* Looks like we’re getting down to the last of them... *I murmur, picking up the last wrapped package for MS. It’s a flat rectangular box, wrapped in pale paper with a holly pattern and a big red bow on top. I kneel on the floor in front of Dom, offering the package up to him, and I chew on my lower lip nervously. Out of all of them, this is probably the most sentimental, and I’m a bit afraid of his reaction.*
Dom: *I grin at him oddly, wondering what his nervous action over this present is for. I take the package from his hands, lightly brushing my thumbs on his fingers as I do and smile at him to comfort, though I don't know what's in the package myself. I feel the texture of the gift through the wrapping for a moment, then slowly begin to loosen the paper. On the first rip, I see a small brown corner; something like a book, with pages and a hardy cover. But as I tear off the rest of the paper, I see that it isn't really a book at all - well, not the kind with writing included, anyway. It's my journal - the one Billy had promised for MS so long ago. And it is absolutely beautiful. The outer covering is leather, light brown, and seemingly embroidered with an intricate picture of a great oak tree. I can't believe it; it's just like the oak tree I lit up for Billy last night. Well, besides the lights. And all I can do is stare at the journal for the longest time before coughing a bit nervously through my great smile and turn my ungrateful eyes up to Billy.* Bill... Billy, this is...wonderful. I don't know if...I can fill it up with anything worthy of the cover. *I laugh a bit, turning the journal over in my hands, still disbelieving, but loving it yet.* Though, I suppose that's not how you're supposed to judge a book. *Unwinding the tie strap on the side, I rifle through the thick pages of the gift, stopping suddenly as my eyes catch sight of black writing on the very first page. I read it silently, eyes brimming with compassion:
As promised, here is a journal for you to write your everyday accounts, your deepest dreams, your fondest memories, or whatever else you choose to fill these pages with. Write whatever comes into your head, and whether or not you decide to share it with me, know that I think your thoughts are beautiful. And next year, when you've filled it to the brim with your heart's words, I will be there to give you more pages.
I look up to Billy then, knowing that my eyes must really be rimmed with tears. I grip the edges of the journal hesitantly, loving every bit of this. I love this. My hands drop the journal suddenly to my side and reach out to Billy, taking him up from the floor and back into my arms.* My love always... *I hold him tightly and kiss him on his forehead. Taking the edges of his blanket, I wrap him snugly and pull him close to my body.* I'll write in that journal and let you read it every day. I want to tell you everything. Don't let me keep it all to myself; I'm going to write you a thousand things. I love you. *My thoughts are disconnected - I know how strange they sound, together like that - but I also know where they come from, and I think Billy will see that, too. I love him so deeply. I never thought I'd get another letter from him, not after that last one. But here's my letter. My letter in my journal that will be all for him; he'll see.*
Billy: *I’m overwhelmed by his reaction; I was so worried that he’d find it soppy, or, worse yet, that he wouldn’t have any interest in using it at all. But he’s agreed to write in it; better yet, he’s agreed to let me read it, and I am excited for that part, despite all my vows to myself that I would let it be for him and him alone if that’s what he chose to use it for. Still, the idea of such lovely words being so close yet so far would have been hard to resist if he had forbidden me from reading it, and I’m glad he hasn’t given me that temptation. I wrap my arms around his neck and kiss his cheek fondly, brimming with happiness at his words.* I’ll read every last word you write if you’ll let me. Even if it’s only a grocery list. *I rest my cheek against his, sighing contentedly.* I love you, Dom.
Dom: *My heart flips over, leaping with happiness, and my smile curls up. I nudge him with my nose, barely resisting the urge to topple him down on the couch in a surprise kiss. I smile beside his cheek and hug him close with both arms, rocking him a little and causing him a ticklish laugh. He's said it before, but those three words have been foreign to my ears for such a long time, before last night came along. And when he speaks them to me, running them through my ears like sunshine, I know he means what he says, because I can feel his heartbeat through him beating with mine.* Sweetheart... *Ooh, now I want to kiss him even more. Quickly, I gesture to the tree and speak.* I think Santa dropped one of your presents behind the tree. *I look up from him and peek through the branches, noticing my small rectangular package propped up behind the tree trunk. It's wrapped in blue paper covered in snowflakes, tied with a white ribbon, and labeled "To: Billy, From: MS"* Why don't you go have a look?
Billy: *I strain to follow his gaze, peering under the tree and seeing the package he is pointing at.* Perhaps I will! *I drop from the couch to the floor, reaching back under the branches to catch hold of the present and bring it up.* Hmm... *I hum as I climb back onto the couch, sinking against Dom, my finger easing under the seam of the paper. I pull my finger past the tape quickly and yank the paper off, tossing it away as I stare, slack jawed, at the gift before me. It’s a book, but not like the others, no, nothing like anything I’ve ever seen before.* Oh Dom... *Made by Dom himself, it’s a book filled with... us. He’s pasted the letters I’ve written to MS in their envelopes to every other page, leaving space for all of MS’s letters to me. But more than that, he’s got drawings, words, symbols that remind me of everything we’ve spoken of, both as friends and pen pals. Drawings of us on dates (stick figures style), little sketches of activities we’ve spoken of... he’s also included sticky notes with sentimental messages, the kind I wanted to find around the house when I least expected it. And his song lyrics are in here too, along with various bits of poetry he’s written for me. To top it off, punctuating the pages are postage stamps. I spend long moments flipping through the pages, fingers and eyes coursing over every detail, afraid to miss even the smallest word.* This must have taken you ages... it’s beautiful. *I can barely speak around the lump that’s formed in my throat. To spend so much time on this, to put so much effort into something he couldn’t even be sure of at the time, not without my final answer last night, speaks of a love that I’d never have thought possible, not before now. He’s loved me for so long, and I never even knew it. In that moment I am determined to make sure he knows of my love from now on; with every breath he draws from the air I will have him know that I love him. It will be my mission. I set the book aside and climb into his lap, facing him.* You’re beautiful... *I place a small kiss upon his lips.*
Dom: *I look at him, surprised.* Me? *But he looks so honest; so genuine. He's such an angel. His eyes are filled with soft tears, coloured green and white in light's reflections. My reflection is so clear in them, and I look at the wondering expression written into my face. I'm not beautiful. Not me. Come to think of it, I've never really thought of myself that way before. That isn't to say I don't give myself a few mental graces, but...beautiful? He thinks I'm beautiful?* Billy... *I shake my head slowly, heart pounding, but still not comprehending. I consider my previous thought and decide he must be mistaken.* ...you must be looking at your reflection in my eyes, because I'm... *But I don't want to turn his compliment away... For what I can tell from my racing emotions, melting thoughts, he has meant every word with all of his lovely heart. I sigh heavily and look to him, so in love.* You are beautiful, Billy... That's why I made this for you, you know? I love you inside and out, because all of you is very, very beautiful. *I swallow, trying not to cry from watching his watery eyes too long.* You know? *I hope he knows; oh, hell, I hope he knows. He must know he's beautiful. Or must I prove it to him forever until he knows?*
Billy: I know, love. *I don’t know what he sees, not exactly, but I do know that every time he says words like that, the kind of words that no one has ever said to me before, he means them. I don’t know exactly how I know, but it’s something in his eyes, in his voice, in the way my heart jumps and all I can think of doing is kissing him. And so I take his face in my hands and do so, again and again. With a soft sigh and a contented smile I wrap my arms around him and hold him close finally, resting my chin upon his shoulder. He is the best gift I’ve ever received. I pull back to look fondly into his eyes, smiling more broadly.* Are you ready for the grand finale? *Without waiting for an answer I get off his lap and tug him into a standing position. I pick up his blanket and wrap it tightly around his body before taking his hand and leading him in front of the closed curtains.* You’ve got to close your eyes... promise. *When I see his eyes are indeed close I move to the side of the window, pulling on the drape cord and revealing the bicycle standing in the middle of our snow-covered front lawn.* Okay, you can open them now...
Dom: *I peek one eye open first, glancing around and adjusting to the white light of the snow glowing in from between the curtains. Then both of my eyes widen as I realise what exactly is propped up just outside.* Billy... *My grin is enormous; I’d known stories of this gift being one of the classic “best” that a child could receive...but I’d never actually gotten one myself; not for Christmas anyway. I start to shake with excitement, and I think to jump up and down, but I manage to control myself.* Billy, Billy, Billy... *I stop, trembling; speechless. Then I break, and bolt for the front door, making a noise I’d never known myself to produce. Billy gasps and runs after me, saying something about me being undressed, that I should put something on before heading out in the snow, all of that lot, but my mind really doesn’t register. I grab a hold of the doorknob and spin around on Billy, brimming with joy.* I got a bike! *Then I fling the front door open, push through the screen, and stand on the freezing first step of the house bouncing with delight as I see it – blue, shining, with a big, red bow on top. And look! A chain, and gears and fancy odds and attachments on the rail and I could go thirty on that thing and I think I will, and I hope it has breaks! A bike! I turn to Billy as he comes beside me, tugging my arm for me to come back inside. But I ignore the request and envelope him in my blanket with one great hug, nearly lifting him from the ground. As I set him back down, I step happily from one cold foot from the other on the step and giggle to myself gleefully. And when I can’t stand it anymore I lunge forward and press Billy against the doorframe in the biggest kiss I can manage. He stiffens, making a small, muffled squeak as I come upon him, but soon begins to yield to the kiss. As soon as he does, however, I pull away with a great smack! and look at him with dizzy satisfaction.* You got me a bike! A bike! *I jump again on my freezing feet, bounding inside with laughter and butterflies. Taking another glance at the bike sitting beautifully in the snow, I shake all over and pull at my quilt with utter impatience.* Can I ride it? I want to ride it! I can’t believe I got a bike! Let me ride it!
Billy: *This may be a shot in the dark, but I think he likes it. Judging by the fact that he just ran out into the freezing cold snow in nothing more than a blanket, I’d say that’s a pretty accurate guess. I love nothing more than seeing him jump up and down with happiness like this, but I’d really prefer it if he came inside first. The kiss temporarily wears away at any thoughts in my head at all, but when he walks back inside I follow quickly, shutting the door in hopes he won’t try to go back outside again, at least not until he’s put some clothes on.* You can’t ride it until you’ve got some clothes on! How old are you, twelve? *But I’m grinning despite my worries of him catching cold, pleased to be a part of what brought this out in him.*
Dom: I’m twenty-seven! *I state the obvious, grinning proudly as a twelve-year-old might. I give him a peck on the cheek, still jittery from the chill outdoors.* And I’d rather not have my clothes on yet, because I want to hug you as close as I can. *Again I open my arms and take him into my blanket, rocking him lightly in the entryway, feeling him right against my skin.* You’re so sweet, Bill. And lovely, and wonderful, and I’m never going to let go of you again. I love you more than Christmas. *I smile to myself contentedly as I hold him, wondering what sort of expression is written on his face. I really am acting like a kid, but I can’t help it. That’s what Christmas is for, right? And if I’m to have a bike, then I will enjoy it properly. And if I’m to have Billy Boyd...well, needless to say I’ll be enjoying him properly. But I’ll do that later. I still have one more present for him. Though I’m still shaking with glee over the bike, I may as well return his favor with something else for now, before I do run out into the snow wearing nothing but a quilt and a smile on my face. I don’t suppose a bike seat would feel very comfortable on a sore bum anyway. I smile even more at this thought and recall a bit of last night for the millionth time this morning.* Now, come on, you need one more present. *I say, stepping back from him a bit and grinning playfully. Taking his hand, I lead him back over to the couch, setting him down and tucking him in. I pause to give him another beaming smile, then reach down and pull a small box from under the couch, plopping onto the cushions beside Billy and opening the box in my lap, merrily investigating its contents.* Right. *I speak up, glad that everything is in order. I look to Billy and tease him with my cheeky expression. I’ve got a secret, and I’m not telling. I pull my legs up onto the couch, crossing them under my quilt and humming some happy number I’ve just made up.* I can’t have you open this present, Bill; sorry. Do you still want it? *I feel very clever, really. I want him to want my present. I want him to give me one of those curious expressions so I can feel like kissing him again.*
Billy: *Hey now, that’s no fair...* Yes I still want it! *I protest, grinning and trying to see just what exactly he’s got in his box. Another one of my favorite kind of presents: the secret kind!* Please Dom, let me see... *I reach for the box, but he’s doing a good job of keeping it well out of my reach. So I resort to the only method I can think of. My hands come down to the sides of his stomach and I begin tickling him mercilessly, grinning up at him as I attack.* Are you going to let me see, then?
Dom: *I nearly throw the box out of my hands as he leaps upon me. My laughter springs to my lips and out into the room, and I recoil from his fingers to no avail.* No! Billy! Stop! *Tears come to my eyes and I look down at him, grinning determinedly. My stomach tenses, and I grip the box to it, trying to push his hands away in the meantime. But his fingers sneak below my arms and run over my sides, causing me to jump with a startled laugh and roll over, burying my head in his chest.* Stop! Please! *I plead, still giggling uncontrollably. I can’t even tickle him back, for fear of letting the box out of my hands. Not a fair fight at all!* I’ll show you! I’ll show you the box, Bill! *Oh, my sides hurt so much; in a good way. And as his hands finally slip out from under me, I look up at him, panting and still protecting the box with my body.* You... *I breathe.* You have to wait, though... Just a little... *Finally, I’m able to sit back, gripping the box to my chest. He smiles at me with success, and I grin, unable to stop anyway, though I’d like to retort against his surprise attack. I sigh greatly.* First... You have to choose a ribbon from the tree. *I nod to the Christmas tree, eyes dancing over the many brightly-coloured bows tied onto its branches. I had a time of it, putting all of those things on. Especially since I had another tree to worry about decorating; a much bigger one, out in the woods. But I just couldn’t back down on this idea, and I hope that I can be pleased with it still, after I reveal its intention.*
Billy: You and your trees... *I smile and back away from him and off the couch. Wrapping my blanket tightly around me, I step before the tree, looking at all the brightly colored ribbons. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, white, black, and clear. I’m a bit hesitant at first, wishing I knew the consequences of my choices, and stray first towards yellow then, no, maybe blue... this shouldn’t be this hard. Finally I pull a red ribbon off the tree and sit back down on the sofa, presenting to Dom.* I have made my choice, what’s my prize? *I wiggle a little on the cushion, excited.*
Dom: *I smile and shrug my shoulders up.* Well, let’s see then, hey? *Taking the box in my hands, I search through and pull out a red card. As I hold it before my eyes, studying it shortly, a grin spreads softly on my lips, a grin that I toss to Billy with a secretive glance.* Good choice... *As I watch the impatient look on his face, I silently turn the card around in my hand for him to see, and watch him with a smile as he peers in and reads curiously.* You can use it now, or save the ribbon for later, love. Which do you want to do?
Billy: *I’ve got half a mind to go up and pull every last one of those ribbons off the tree, now that I think I understand the general gist of this gift. But I’ll sit still for the time being. I make a show of truly debating over my options, holding the ribbon in my hands and glancing down at it, deliberating.* So what you’re saying is that if I don’t use this, I’m not going to get a kiss? *I’m suddenly quite willing to give this ribbon up. I hold it out to him with a broad smile.* I’ll be greedy and use it now.
Dom: *My smile glows and I take the ribbon from his hand and gently set it in my box.* All right, then... *Setting the box down beside me, I sit up, and lean my hands into the cushions of the couch. The springs below me creak as I come closer to Billy, my quilt sliding from my shoulders and stopping at the small of my back to hang there as I hover over his body. I crawl a bit closer, until Billy leans back into the arm of the couch, my hands coming to rest on either side of him. I grin warmly in response to his hesitant smile. Then I bend down, just enough to nuzzle his nose with mine, and slowly, I lean in to take his lips. My mouth parts down on his with a sigh, and I close my eyes to his wondering gaze, running my tongue softly over his bottom lip. I nudge his lips, pulling them a little, then drift my tongue between them, right at the seam, until he opens up to me warmly. I smile and slide my tongue along the corner of his mouth, tasting his familiar sweetness run tart on my taste buds. He breathes in me and glides his tongue alongside mine, and our mouths move together, tongues curling around one another’s in a perfect fit. My lower lip rises from his enough to move against the velvet of his skin, then covering up his mouth again without hesitation. I lick the taste from his tongue slowly, then press my lips closer together, pulling back from his mouth, bit by bit, until finally my mouth gently closes on his. I pause for a moment, still letting his flavour run in my mouth, rubbing my tongue on the roof of my mouth to taste. Then I lift my lips from his, feeling the air rush coolly to them, and open my eyes as I raise myself above his body again. As his eyes open groggily, I let a fond smile spread across my lips.* Was that okay?
Billy: *I’m reeling from the sensations, not able to formulate an affirmative answer for a few moments. My arms come up around his neck as I pull myself up with him.* Yes... you might say that. *I breathe, drawing my lower lip into my mouth to taste the remnants of his kiss.* Wow... may I have another one please? *All the red ribbons are coming off that tree... and now.* Or is there a limit? *Even if there is, I’ll find a way to have whatever it is he’s got in that box.*
Dom: *I laugh very lightly through my smile, shaking my head as I look at him.* No; no limit, love. *I want to kiss him again, but I suppose he’ll need another ribbon for that, and I wouldn’t want to ruin it. I wrap my arms around his body and hold him for the moment that I can, before he returns to the tree and his hundreds of ribbons. Well, perhaps not hundreds, but I wouldn’t be disappointed if that were true. In fact, maybe I should have added a few more...of certain colours. I nudge his forehead with mine as he turns to look curiously over the Christmas tree again, biting his lip in thought.* You can have as many as you want... *All of them. I look at him, his deepening green eyes, his beautiful soft skin, heavy blush slowly leaving his cheeks, unable to take my eyes away, and breathe low.* Lovely...
Billy: *I practically trip over my feet trying to get back to the dream, looking all around for the next red ribbon... but my eyes get stuck on the rest of the colors, all the rewards unknown to me, and I decide to be a bit daring and try something new. I pull a green ribbon from the tree, smoothing it in my fingers before stepping in front of you, holding it out.* Christmas colors... *I whisper with a small smile.* What does that get me? *Nothing I’ll be disappointed in, I’d wager.*
Dom: *Turning to find my box, I take it up and look through the cards within, finally picking out the green square to read it. I hold it before my eyes and smile much like I did with the red card, only this time, more so. I turn the card in my fingers to show Billy, blushing a bit as he reads the word. I clear my throat.* Uh...there’s one that says “Make Love,” too... There’s a difference, you know? *I smile, trying to act casual...but...we’ve only really done this once after all, and my heart is still doing somersaults.* Though...I’m not sure this won’t...turn into that... *The card is small, but I feel like hiding behind it anyway, still waiting for his reply.*
Billy: *I grin and take the hand that is holding the card.* If you’re asking whether I’m going to redeem it now or later, the answer is now. *I pull the cards from his fingers with a flirtatious smile before leaning in and kissing his fingertips.* Now, my question is, am I allowed to kiss you before I drag you upstairs to bed, or is that against the rules?
Dom: *My voice breaks a bit.* N-no... *I smile nervously, loving his lips on my fingers. He’s taking me to bed...again... My smile becomes hazy as I fall into that familiar state of love, just by looking at him. No, he’s dragging me to bed... Which must mean that he’s happy with the word on that card, which also means that he wants to have sex with me, which in the end means that...I’m about to feel something with him that I’ve only felt once before in my life, and want to feel from now on, every day of my life. This isn’t going to remain as sex; not only sex. This, I will make sure – in secret, if I have to – will turn into love. Because he is my love. There is nothing else we could do; and this time, I’ll be making love to him. My smile grows and I link our fingers.* Kiss me... *I’m almost breathless; I want him so badly. I’m going to show him how much.*
Billy: Gladly. *My free hand drops the little green card to the ground and comes up to curl around the back of his neck, pulling him down and me up so that our lips meet midway. And now I understand the cards and the ribbons, because no one could ever fit this in a box. My lips curve gently against his, framing every contour of soft skin upon his mouth. This is where they fit best, and I’m not sure how I could have ever thought to rest them anywhere else. We part our lips with sighs, breath mingling as I deepen the kiss, my tongue sliding gently against the inside of his mouth, meeting again with his tongue in a dance. I bring our interlocked hands down upon his knee, for my own balance before I fall over into his lap and bring this card to a close far sooner than I’d like to. I pull back and bring my lips to a close at the corner of his mouth, before I pull away and look breathlessly into his eyes.* Do you think we can make it up all the stairs in one go this time?
Dom: *I beam at him, nearly laughing as I remember last time we tried our luck with the stairs.* Well... There are a lot of stairs, Bill... *I bite my tongue as I grin, feeling much better now that he’s kissed me. I know I can do this; he’ll be with me the whole time. I reach out and touch him lightly beside his mouth, smiling as the corner rises to my touch.*
Billy: You’ve got a point... *I turn and kiss his fingertip swiftly, standing up and grabbing his hand a second later.* Let’s give it a shot anyway, all right? And if we don’t make it on the first try, we’ll just have to try again. *I giggle a bit and pull him up after me, dragging him in the direction of the stairs.*
Dom: *Laughter escapes my lips and I follow after him, tripping over my quilt as I leave it behind at the couch. Our clothes still lie along the floor before the stairs leading the way for us as a silent reminder. He steps onto the first stair and I tug his hand, coming up behind him on the same step and wrapping my arms around his waist, pulling our bodies together contentedly. With a smile, I brush my cheek along his, over his shoulder, closing my eyes and whispering at his ear.* I love you... *I press my fingers along the plane of his stomach.* I love you...my Christmas present... *I smile on his temple in a kiss.* ...even if you’re already unwrapped... *And I laugh softly against him, holding him as he leans back, charming me with his beautiful giggles.*
Billy: *I tip my head back against his shoulder, covering his hands with my own against my stomach as a thrill goes up my spine.* I love you too... even if you wouldn’t fit into my stocking. *I kiss his cheek as best as I can before twisting in his arms.* Now are you purposely trying to detain us? *I wink and begin tugging you back up the stairs.*
Dom: *I’m gladly tugged away, grinning with silly happiness that I’ll be making love to him in moments. Stepping over our socks, lying mixed on the stairs since yesterday, I call up to him, laughing.* Are you purposefully trying to stop me? *And as we reach the top of the stairway, I twirl him around and take him captive in one great kiss. My body sighs with sudden relief. I love Christmas...*