I'm taking part in the Flash Fiction Holiday Blog Hop with 39 other fabulous writers. We each had to write a short piece, 500-3000 words, using the photo below as inspiration. We had to include a winter holiday, a "bad boy", and some kind of gift.
Unfortunately, my bad boy is mostly reformed and I totally failed my hoped 1000 word count with exactly 3000 words. That does not seem very Flash to me. Apologies. I believe I have caught Kage-itis. Lol.
Anyhow, I hope you like what I've written, leave me a comment either way because you know how writers are...always looking for comments. I also urge you to check out what everyone else did with the same prompt by clicking this LINKEDY LINK LINK. Happy holidays.
He was late. The store was just about to close, the crowd finally beginning to thin out so Miles didn't feel quite so claustrophobic. They'd agreed on 5:15, the soonest Jeremy would be able to get there after work. Of course, that was contingent on whether Jeremy still had a job after blowing it off the day before. Miles was pretty sure his boss wouldn't consider a trip to the ER because of a fight as a good excuse, especially since Jeremy's injuries and the fight itself had been Miles fault..
Miles sighed, careful to not meet anyone's gaze as he peered around the department store. Crowds weren't his thing and neither was Christmas. The garish decorations and over-blown holiday posturing made him more than a little nauseous, and didn't everyone start celebrating and prepping earlier and earlier every year?
He might be only twenty-one but that didn't mean he couldn't long for the good old days when Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas didn't merge into one clusterfuck of holiday overload.
Jeremy ate it up though, and that made their trips to brightly lit malls and suburban neighborhoods also decked-out in decorations, not quite so bad. But this visit, this foray into the ultimate commercial madness on Christmas Eve, had not only been Jeremy's idea—was all Jeremy's fault, too. He was the one trying to find a last minute gift. Miles' presents had been finished a couple weeks back.
Being an art student meant his budget was in the negatives so he'd relied solely on homemade projects for gift-giving again this year. His part-time job at the gallery didn't bring in enough to even get a place of his own which he really, really wanted. He didn't suppose the next few years would get any better financially, at least that's what his father never failed to remind him.
"Art's a great hobby, son, and you have a knack for it. But getting a business degree will put food on your table and money in your pocket."
His dad tried to be supportive but the charcoal drawings his mom swooned over just never had the same effect on him. And his installation art just made his father's forehead wrinkle like he'd suddenly been subjected to a very bad smell. He didn't criticize but he didn't understand either.
"Hey, sexy. Come here often?"
Miles couldn't help but smile with elated relief when strong arms wrapped around his waist and Jeremy buried his nose under all his layers so he could breathe warmth into Miles' neck.
"You're frowning. No frowns allowed at Christmas."
"You're late." Miles was happy to see his boyfriend but that didn't mean he couldn't also give him a hard time.
"The train was packed. Didn't know so many people shopped the night before Christmas."
Jeremy smelled great. It distracted Miles from why he'd been so frustrated and impatient only moments before. He also felt unbelievably good with his body pressed to Miles' even if they were in a very public place. Miles loved how comfortable Jeremy was with things like that. He was gradually working his way into being okay with it, too.
He twisted in Jeremy's arms, winding one arm around his neck, taking another quick peek around for any over-interested or critical bystanders before brushing a kiss to his mouth. The reward for his bravery was a contented smile against his lips.
"You're an idiot. Everyone knows this is the worst time to shop," he said as he released his hold and wiggled out of Jeremy's arms. "You're cutting it kind of close. Better get what you need cuz I gotta go soon."
Jeremy let go but stayed close at his side. "Oh, yeah. The Carter family Christmas sing-a-long, right?"
Miles dipped his head, sliding his hands into the pockets of his coat. He knew Jeremy was just messing with him but it was a sore spot. He'd been struggling with himself all week to invite Jeremy along. His parents had even been the ones to bring the idea up, but he was worried it was too much, too soon for them to be that open, or more precisely, too soon for Jeremy to want to hang with Miles' family. He also had doubts that Jeremy would even want to go to something so lame where everyone might just gawk and stare. Of course, Miles had no facts to back that up, but it might be embarrassing for Jeremy all the same..
Having a boyfriend was new to him and kind of scary. Having a boyfriend with a former drug habit and juvey record was even more intimidating. Jeremy was Miles' first in a whole lot of ways—first kiss, first touch, first time he'd felt his heart flip flop in his chest. He'd also been the ultimate reason Miles had finally come out to his parents.
They'd been together almost five months, and it had been a period of ups and downs, just as Miles assumed all relationships went. But the positives far outweighed the negatives and although he'd never admitted it to anyone—especially Jeremy—Miles was in love. He was in don't want you to leave my side and please just kiss me forever love. It was almost embarrassing how strong his feelings were for Jeremy, how often he thought about him, how those thoughts turned so quickly to shivers under Miles' skin and an ache deep in his gut.
"Is there anything I can help you boys find?" The saleslady smiled at them but it was overly sweet and definitely forced.
Miles was suddenly flustered. "We're just…um…just looking."
Jeremy saved the situation with a big grin of his own, reaching inside Miles' pocket to grab his hand. He squeezed it then proceeded to use his ridiculously effective charm on the woman. "We're good, thanks. That's a great shirt, by the way. It really brings out the colour in your eyes.
Her smile immediately turned warm and real. "Thank you. You make an adorable couple. We're closing in twenty minutes but just let me know if you need anything."
"Merry Christmas." Jeremy said, tipping an invisible hat in her direction. He was such a ham.
"To you too." She walked away, leaving soft laughter in her wake.
Miles shook his head and stopped gnawing on his bottom lip. "You're so good with the ladies sometimes I wonder which team you bat for."
"Both sides. You know that, but just yours now."
It always amazed Miles how Jeremy could just randomly say stuff like that. He appreciated it but was envious at the same time. Jeremy's bisexuality was no secret, as was his experience with both sexes. He was only four years older than Miles, but being on his own since he was fifteen had given him life experiences Miles couldn't even fathom.
"So are we going to get this over with or what?" Miles asked, looking into Jeremy's sweet gaze. "I thought we could grab dinner after. My relatives aren't showing up until about eight."
Jeremy wrapped an arm around his shoulders, long fingers tickling in the collar of Miles' coat.
"I kind of lied."
Jeremy's smile was too cute to let Miles worry about the possible seriousness of his statement.
"The only one I have left to shop for is you, babe."
"I thought you needed to get something for your sponsor? Wait, me? So you want me to pick out something myself? I already told you I don't need anything."
Jeremy chuckled and pulled Miles a little tighter to his body. "Just trust me, okay?"
And Miles did. Despite the differences in their backgrounds, their temperaments, their experiences, and Jeremy's reputation as a troublemaker when he was younger, Miles trusted him completely. The night before had been the first time there'd been any trouble stirred-up, and even though Jeremy had settled the altercation with fists and a little too much gusto, Miles had been at the root of the problem. The guy Jeremy had slugged had been far too handsy with Miles and in the end had even had the nerve to grab his crotch right there in front of everyone. Jeremy had taken the brunt of the beating though since the other's guy's friends had decided to get involved and changed the odds to a three-on-one difference.
It had been a long night, one spent in the emergency room. Miles had stayed with Jeremy, held his good hand while they waited for x-rays for the other and stitches for a cut on his head. He'd even apologized to Miles for losing his temper that way, told him he should go home and get some sleep. But Miles had been right where he wanted to be.
"This doesn't have anything to do with what happened last night, does it? I feel bad enough with your hand all wrapped and that bandage on your head."
"Nothing to do with that. I swear you'll get the details if you hang tough for a few minutes. Deal?"
Miles nodded, finally noticing they'd left the department store and were heading to the entrance to the mall. "The black eye makes you look tough." He chuckled then, "But no more fighting, right?"
"Not even to protect your virtue?"
"You're so weird."
Jeremy grinned, leaning in to nudge Miles' shoulder as they slowed their pace. "Bundle up, babe. It's cold outside."
The next few minutes were spent buttoning-up shirts, zipping heavy coats, wrapping scarves around faces, pulling on mitts and hats. By the time they were outside in the chill neither of them were recognizable. Jeremy reached for Miles' hand, and even though he couldn't actually feel his touch through all the layers of material and stuffing, it made him warm inside.
They didn't walk very far and Miles had to trust that Jeremy knew where he was going because it was completely unfamiliar territory to him. Of course, speaking was out of the question behind the wool and cotton of too much fabric and frozen lungs. When they stopped in front of a house with a tiny pine tree decked-out in lights, Miles braved the cold, tugging his scarf away from his mouth.
"You're not taking me to some weird party, are you?"
Jeremy shoved his own mask out of the way. "Of course not. Just come with me?"
"There's not even a light on, Jer. What's going on?"
With a slow sigh, Jeremy gripped the sides of Miles's face, his bandage dragging rough and meaningful across Mile's stubbly cheeks. "Trust me. This is not another screw-up. I left that Jeremy behind when I met you, remember?"
There was no way Miles could refuse. Jeremy had been a mess the first time they'd met, strung-out on God knows what on top of too much alcohol and an attitude through the roof. Miles had turned down his offer of a stoned blowjob and they hadn't reconnected until six months later—six months after Jeremy had gotten himself clean.
So he nodded, gripping Jeremy's hand through the mitts and encouraging him up the path to the house with a gentle tug. Jeremy's eyelashes were almost white, flakes of snow and frost already settling in, but his eyes showed what was in his heart. They always did. It was kind of like that eyes are the window to the soul mumbo jumbo Miles had heard before.
Jeremy fished a key out of his pocket when they reached the door, and if that wasn't surprising enough, he opened it and just walked in.
"Jer. What're we doing?"
He didn't answer, just yanked one glove off with his teeth and took Miles' hand again. There were two flights of stairs, one in each direction. Jeremy led them down to the basement where another door blocked their path. He used yet another key to open it, grinning nervously at Miles before he shuffled him inside.
It was pitch black, definitely more foreboding than inviting, but it was warm. Jeremy steered Miles further inside, tugging scarves and mitts off as they went.
"Okay, now close your eyes," Jeremy said stepping away from Miles.
"I can't see anything in the dark anyhow."
Miles heard Jeremy snort somewhere off to the side.
"It won't be when I turn on the light, dumbass."
"Jerk," Miles replied with no heat behind his words.
Jeremy mock-gasped. "You can take some layers off too. My plan is to keep you warm myself."
"Promises, promises," Miles said with a laugh. When there was dead-air between them, he sighed and started taking off his jacket and outside clothes. "This better be good because you're acting really weird."
"Okay, cover your eyes."
"Don't trust me to just close them?"
Miles did as directed, forcing himself not to peek through his fingers or throw himself at Jeremy to find out just what the hell was going on. When he saw light leak through the cracks of his hands, he got even more anxious.
"Okay, go ahead. Open them."
He had no idea what he'd been expecting, but Jeremy with a big red bow wrapped around his chest was definitely not it. Then he looked around, behind Jeremy instead of just admiring and looking at him. There was a mattress on the floor in the corner, or maybe it was one of those futon beds. The blanket was familiar, dark blue and a little worse for wear, but having slept under it, Miles knew it was warm despite its age and appearance.
A reading lamp sat on the floor beside the bed and a desk in front of the only window. A chair was tucked underneath with a mug holding various regular and colored pencils on the desktop. There was also a black sketchbook that Miles recognized as the kind he liked to use. Folded clothes that Miles was also familiar with were piled up on another chair at the end of the bed and just a scattering of Jeremy's things here and there.
"What is this?" he finally asked turning back to Jeremy. "Do you live here now?"
"I know it's not much—" Jeremy began but Miles cut him off.
He cocked his head and flung his hand in front of his face. "You moved and didn't even tell me? Why would you do that? I thought you were all about being honest now, Jesus, Jeremy. Can you even afford this place?"
By the time Miles was finished with his rant, Jeremy looked completely deflated. He'd dropped the bow to the floor, stuffed his hands in the pockets of his jeans, his posture slumped and the complete opposite of moments before.
"My sponsor helped me find it, that's why I was late. He was helping me sign the lease and stuff, and setting up in here."
Miles reeled in his overblown emotions, physically calming himself by breathing deep and planting his feet so he stopped his fidgeting. "I'm sorry."
He took a few steps toward Jeremy, met halfway with a hug he really needed.
"Something's been bothering you. Wanna talk about it?" Jeremy asked. He eased back, skimming his hands down the sides of Miles' head. "You said you had time before the party, right?"
"No. I mean, yeah," Miles said. "I thought you liked it sharing with the guys at your place."
"I'd rather share just with someone else." Jeremy looked almost shy, a truly unusual look for him. He moved away from Miles, sliding a hand through his short hair. He walked a few steps then turned and walked back, repeating the processes like some caged animal before he spoke.
"What did you say?"
Jeremy ignored him or maybe didn't even hear him. He crossed to the bed, grabbing something hidden away under the pillow, holding it close to his body when he returned to Miles. "I know it's not Christmas yet but I really want to give you your gift now. That okay?" He smiled and every part of Miles that might have still been chilled, melted.
Miles accepted the blue-wrapped box, intrigued by the size since it almost shouted jewelry. But Jeremy wouldn't buy him something like that, and couldn't afford it even if he wanted to. So with Jeremy's persistent urging, Miles slowly untied the little red ribbon and unwrapped the paper.
"What did you get me?" He couldn't help asking before he'd even finished his task.
"Just do it."
There was key inside the box, just a plain silver key on a matching silver keychain. "A key?" Miles said, more a statement than question for Jeremy.
Jeremy spoke nonetheless. "The guy who owns the apartment is a friend of my sponsor so he's giving me a really good deal. I thought between the two of us we could, you know, manage the rent. Only if you wanted to do that, of course. I know we've never really talked about—"
"Wait." Miles grabbed Jeremy's wrist, his jaw falling open. "You want me to move in with you?"
"I gave you the key so you can come over anytime, but yeah, I'd really like us to be together here."
"Are you serious?"
"Of course." Jeremy's beautiful smile returned as he reached for Miles' hand. "I think it's kind of a serious thing, but if you just wanted to give it a try, kind of a trial run—"
Miles kissed him before he could ramble on. It was the best he could do to reply since he was a little tongue-tied, a little emotionally charged, a lot giddy inside. He thought his reaction must have felt like what happened to the Grinch when his heart grew three sizes.
After taking a few moments to breathe,, he stared deeply into Jeremy's eyes. "I'll make you a deal," he whispered against soft lips. "I'll move in and…" Miles paused to kiss him again.
Jeremy grinned into the kiss. "And?"
"And you and I will show my family with how awesomely we can sing The Twelve Days of Christmas…together."
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