Hello everyone! Welcome to day 16 of the Rainbow Advent Calendar! If you’re new here, I’m C. J. Anthony, and I write M/M Romance. If you click on the Books tab above, there is a listing with links for all of my stories.
“What is wrong with you? Do you need to use the little Santas room before we take off?”
“The little…what?” Nick stopped shifting in his seat and looked over at Jack, his face crinkled up in confusion.
Jack, seated next to Nick, looked at him with amusement…and concern. “I was wondering if you had to go to the bathroom. We’ve been sitting in this sleigh for fifteen minutes and you’re fidgeting so much the rocking of the sleigh has me almost seasick! Anyone who looks over here is going to think we’re having way more fun than we really are. If the sleigh’s a rockin’….” He winked at Nick.
Nick rolled his eyes and growled. He shifted and moved his body again so much that Jack had to grab the iron handlebar to avoid being pitched overboard.
“Jesus, just what we need. To give everyone more town gossip about us. And no, I don’t have to…‘go to the little Santas room!’” He glowered at Jack.
It was a week before Christmas and the little town of Great Falls, Vermont was holding it’s annual Christmas Parade. Nick St. James—the town handyman—was reprising his usual role as Santa, and Jack Frost—the town’s head librarian—was in his second year of playing, well, Jack Frost.
Last year, as the town’s newest citizen, Jack had been drafted by the town event planners—Mabel and Flo—to take over the vacant role of Santa’s helper for the parade. The role was supposed to be an elf, but because of his name Mabel and Flo thought it would be hilarious if he portrayed a real Jack Frost. He agreed but regretted it when he saw the skimpy tights they expected him to wear. This year he got proactive and found some powder blue sweatpants at the Goodwill in Rutland and convinced the ladies that with some glitter fabric paint the pants would do just as well as the tights. (Okay, “convinced” might be too light—he had to put his foot down and threaten to not participate in the parade ever again unless they let him wear the pants. That brought the ladies around pretty quickly.) Last year he practically froze his “cute little buns” (as Flo called them) off in those stupid little tights.
“Why are you so antsy then?” Jack asked.
Nick shrugged. “Not antsy,” he mumbled.
“Are you nervous?”
“I’m not nervous! Dammit, I’m fine!” Nick raised his voice so loud a few people nearby turned to gawk.
“Well what’s wrong then? I’d say you got up on the wrong side of the bed, but I know you got up on the same side you do every morning.” Jack waggled his eyebrows and smiled at Nick before leaning over and giving him a quick kiss on his cold, red and very adorable nose. “Calm down, babe, and get your happy jolly smile on so you don’t frighten the poor little kids. It will all be over before you know it and then we can go home and Jack Frost will figure out some way to warm you up.”
Jack’s voice was quiet and calming and the lines in Nick’s face eased. His whole body grew warm and relaxed as he focused on Jack’s smile. Jack never failed to settle him and ease his grumpiness. He still didn’t know how or why Jack wanted to put up with him. But Jack had told him he wasn’t going anywhere and a year later he was still here.
Just then Herb—driving the sleigh—called out to his horses, and off they went.
The parade wound it’s way through Great Falls’ small streets and ended at the gazebo in the center of town. “Santa” and his sleigh brought up the rear. Once at the gazebo, Santa would sit on his throne and chat with all the children and take pictures. Jack Frost’s job was to assist and hand out candy canes to the little tykes.
When they arrived at the gazebo, loud cheers and whistles erupted from the group of town members who were standing in the cold waiting for them. This was only Jack’s second year doing this, but he was sure the smiles and cheers were a little more exuberant than necessary. Looking over to Mabel and Flo—ever over the top—even they were practically bouncing up and down, smiling and waving at him. He caught them elbowing each other and giggling like middle-age schoolgirls.
He frowned and turned to Nick. Nick’s head was down, ignoring everyone, and he seemed to be concentrating on settling himself into his Santa throne.
“Why is everyone so loud? Did Mabel spike the cocoa?”
Nick didn’t say anything and didn’t look up at him, and frankly Jack didn’t have the time to ponder why Nick and everyone else were acting so odd. Kids were already lined up and ready to see Santa. He turned to grab his bag of candy canes but it wasn’t on the floor where it was supposed to be. Swiveling around in a complete circle, looking everywhere, he stopped when his eyesight landed on Mabel.
“Jac-k-k-ie!” She came rushing over to the gazebo. “Here’s your bag Jackie.” She was out of breath and her cheeks were red from the exertion and the cold.
“Great, thanks Mabel.” He bent down and loosened the drawstring on the bag to open it enough so he could easily reach in. Glancing up, he paused when he saw Mabel still there…watching him with a smile so wide he didn’t know how her face contained it. “Um…Is there something else Mabel?”
“Oh! No…no! Just…have fun!” She gave him a wave before turning and bustling off into the crowd.
Jack shook his head. The stamping of little feet drew his attention and he quickly put a smile on his face and grabbed some candy canes.
~ ~ ~
As the last child was handed off to mom and dad, Jack let out huge breath. They were done for another year. Now all that was left were a few “ho, ho, hos,” a few waves to the crowd and then back in the sleigh. He grabbed his now nearly empty bag and stood to go but was stopped in his tracks by Nick. Nick—usually already headed to the sleigh before the last child was gone—was still sitting in his Santa throne. He was very pale and pulling at his furry Santa collar.
“Santa, are you okay? Don’t you have to…” Jack nodded toward the waiting sleigh. “…get back to the North Pole soon?”
Nick reached up and took his Santa hat off. He gripped it so tight, Jack was afraid the fabric might rip.
Nick cleared his throat a few times. “There’s, uh…well, um…there’s something left in the bag.”
Jack narrowed his eyes at Nick, trying to telepathically communicate what he was really thinking—“What the hell is going on?” Nick wasn’t getting his message though; in fact he looked like he was scared shitless.
About this time Jack also picked up on something else odd. It was…silent. He swiveled, looking out at the crowd of his neighbors. They were all looking at he and Nick…expectantly.
Turning back to Nick—still white as the snow and fidgety—Jack slowly reached his hand in the bag. His fingers rifled through the leftover candy canes before touching something solid and boxy. Pulling it out he saw it was a normal looking Christmas gift—a rectangular box about eight inches, wrapped in red and green striped paper with a red pre-made bow in the middle. There was a small white tag attached with the words “For Jack,” on it.
Glancing quickly at Nick, then back at the box…then back at Nick, he finally gestured to the box. “For…me?”
Jack just nodded.
“Am I supposed to open it…now?” He glanced around at the crowd again before turning back to Nick.
Yet another wordless nod from Nick.
Jack’s gut churned uncomfortably as he tore off the wrapping and opened the lid of the plain brown box.
Then blinked again. He opened his mouth, then shut it, not knowing quite what to say.
Inside the box…was a bright pink rubber…dildo.
He looked up at Nick. Nick looked at him, then at the open box, and his eyes got so wide they looked like they might pop out of his head. His face went from pale white to beet red, as he swore under his breath. He lunged for the box, but since Jack had a hold of it, he only succeeded in knocking it out of Jack’s hand. The box fell and the dildo promptly bounced across the floor several times before it finally landed—a blazing neon pink beacon that was hard to miss.
Gasps and murmurs rang out from the crowd, along with plenty of “Mommy, what is that?” and “Is that a rubber snake, Daddy?” and “Well…that’s sure…different.” Parents hustled their kids away, some covering their little ones’ eyes.
Nick stalked over and grabbed the rubber toy and stuffed it back in the box. Then he grabbed Jack’s arm and propelled him toward the sleigh so fast, Jack had to skip to keep up. This only prompted a few whistles and catcalls from some of the adults in the crowd, followed by, “In a hurry, boys?” and raucous laughter.
Nick stared silently ahead. He gripped the side handlebars of the sleigh so tight, Jack was amazed they didn’t bend in two.
Jack was very confused. What the hell was going on? He recognized the dildo—he and Nick had bought it online a couple of weeks ago. After the Great Falls Pride Parade in June, he and Nick had become friends with a few other gay couples from some of the other neighboring small towns. They got together for dinner or drinks once a month, and this month—next week actually—one of the other couples had proposed a Naughty Toy Gift Exchange. A twist on the typical Gag gift/White Elephant gift exchange so popular at this time of year. The dildo was intended to be their contribution.
But just how in the heck had the gift made it out of their house and into Jack’s bag? Nick looked furious, so he didn’t think he had put it in there, not to mention Nick would be the last person to want the whole town to see something like that. Especially in front of the kids. Had someone played a trick on them?
Jack wanted to talk to Nick about it but decided to wait until they were somewhere more private.
As usual, Herb drove the sleigh back to his farm, just outside of town. When the horses finally stopped, Nick and Jack climbed down. Herb glanced at each of them but averted his eyes immediately. Nick stomped over to his truck and barely waited for Jack to get in before he tore out of the driveway.
Alone finally, Jack spoke. Or tried to. “Nick, what—“
“Home,” Nick ground out.
So, Jack didn’t say any more and they drove the rest of the short trip home in silence.
Once they were inside the house, Nick stomped over to their Christmas tree and rooted through the wrapped presents under it. When he finally stood again, he held a red and green package in his hand. He sank down into the nearby sofa chair and sighed, pulling off his Santa hat.
Jack walked over and stood in front of him. The present Nick was holding was identical in size and shape and wrapping paper to the previous one Jack had already opened.
Without meeting Jack’s eyes, Nick thrust the present at him.
“This was the one that was supposed to be in the bag,” he said heavily.
Jack took the box. He thought about asking if this was the matching butt plug but the expression on Nick’s face was so dejected, he kept his mouth shut. Instead he silently tore the paper off and opened the box.
The items inside this box made him as equally speechless as the dildo had. Inside were two identical platinum rings.
He stared at them, as all of the unusual pieces of the last few hours finally clicked into place.
“Wait a minute. You mean you were going to give this to me, in public…in front of the entire town?”
Nick looked up at him then, eyes wide. He frowned slightly as he comprehended Jack’s words.
“But you hate attention. And spectacles. And everyone knowing our business.”
Nick shrugged. “But you…I thought you would like it. I wanted it to be special for you. You love the town. And they all love you.”
Jack’s heart melted—again, for the thousand-millionth time since he had gotten to know Nick. Nick had been willing to go completely out of his comfort zone and do something he hated…just to make Jack happy.
Nick reached out to take the box. “Just forget it,” he grumbled.
Jack was quicker this time, and yanked the box back. “Hold on, now you’re taking it back?”
Nick stared at the floor as he shrugged. He was silent for what felt like forever, before he finally licked his lips. “You haven’t answered me…about what’s in the box,” he rasped quietly.
“Well, technically you never asked me a question,” Jack responded. “But that doesn’t mean you’re getting these back anytime soon.”
Jack immediately pulled one of the rings out and put it on his hand. He did pause as he stared at the ring, his heart skipping a few beats. When he moved to Great Falls just over a year ago, never in his wildest dreams had he imagined that he would have met someone like Nick. Or that he would be wearing a ring and agreeing to a lifetime commitment. And yet, Jack couldn’t want anything more.
He bent down, took Nick’s face in his hands and kissed him—with all the love and happiness he could put into it.
“Of course it’s yes, you big lug. I love you.”
Nick—big, strong, gruff Nick—had tears brimming in his eyes. He pulled Jack down onto his lap. They kissed and touched and cuddled, before Jack suddenly pulled away.
“Wait!” He exclaimed. He pulled the other ring out of the box and placed it on Nick’s finger. “There that’s better,” he said happily as he smiled at Nick.
Holding the now empty box, he frowned at it. “Why did you use such a big box?”
Nick grumbled. “That was Flo’s idea. She thought it would be cute. She said with a bigger box, you wouldn’t be able to guess something so small was inside.”
Jack tilted his head. “That would have worked. If maybe the box wasn’t the same size as the—”
“I know, I know!” Nick scowled which only made Jack chuckle.
“Well,” Jack smirked, “This will definitely be one Christmas parade the town won’t forget for a very long time!”
Nick groaned and Jack snuggled closer, kissing him to distraction. When they were both breathing heavily, Jack pulled away and started unzipping the red fur Santa jacket Nick was still wearing.
“You know,” he murmured in Nick’s ear, “This is my favorite part of the Christmas parade.”
“When it’s over?” Nick panted.
“Um hmmm. When it’s over and I get to get a little naughty with Santa.”
Nick moaned loudly as Jack snuck his hand down the front of the soft red pants.
Just then the shrill ring of Nick’s landline phone—because he refused to get a cell phone—pierced the silence.
“Aw dammit, you gotta be kidding me!” Nick snarled.
Jack gripped Nick tighter under his pants. “Ignore it,” he whispered, leaning up and capturing Nick’s lips with his.
After three rings, the vintage answering machine kicked in.
“Hel-l-looo boys! It’s Mabel.”
“And we’re sorry for disturbing you two at this momentous time—at least we assume it’s momentous. I hope you found the right gift finally Nick. We just wanted to be the first to congratulate you two and say how tremendously excited we are! It will be Great Falls’ first gay wedding! Now you two won’t have to worry about a thing, we’ve already got a planning list started, I’ll make the cake and the food of course, and Flo will head up the decorations. Oh, Flo, grooms! Put that down on the list, I’m going to have to special order two grooms for the top of the cake. Anyway boys, let us know as soon as you’ve picked a date so we can schedule it into the town event calendar. We—”
The machine beeped loudly as it shut off, cutting short the message.
Both Jack and Nick groaned at the same time, Jack resting his forehead on Nick’s chest.
Nick sighed. “Well that killed the mood.”
“Did you ask them to plan our wedding too?”
“Hell, no!” Nick exclaimed. “I thought we’d just go down to the courthouse.”
“Where the whole town would be there to greet us once we got there?”
Nick grumbled. “Damn nosy town.” Suddenly he smiled wickedly. “We could elope!”
Jack looked at him dubiously. “And face the wrath of Mabel? When I refused to let her and Flo store all of the various festival decorations in the library basement, she stopped speaking to me for two weeks!”
Nick raised his eyebrows. “And that was bad because…?”
“She also refused to serve us. Remember? None of her famous caramel apple pie for two weeks?”
That made Nick grimace. He grunted.
Jack stood up and walked over to the answering machine, turning it off. He unplugged the phone from the wall, then swiveled around and slowly stalked back toward Nick, a sly grin on his face.
“I say we worry about Mabel and everything else later, and get back to our own private celebration.”
And with that, Jack climbed on to Nick’s lap, ready to claim his own personal gift from Santa.
~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~
When Jack Frost’s aunt dies and leaves him her house in the tiny town of Great Falls, Jack seizes the opportunity to escape the rat race of Chicago for the quaint village he loved as a child. On his first night he’s welcomed by a baseball bat and a trespassing warning from Nick St. James—longtime Great Falls resident and infamous curmudgeon.Jack wants to give Nick the benefit of the doubt—he can’t deny his attraction to the big man—but after several run-ins with Nick’s grumpiness and closed-off heart, he’s ready to give up. Only after discovering the secret Nick’s been covering up for years does he vow to break through Nick’s walls to find the loving man hiding behind them.
P.S. If you’d like to read about the Great Falls’ Gay Pride Parade, mentioned above, I have it posted as another little free story here. 🙂