Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas! Have a vignette!

Notes: Yay, the holiday, presents, food, fun!  It's just me and my man this year, awesome, but we chatted all the family up earlier, made dinner, ate dinner, hung around in a food coma for a while, and then I figured I'd better give you guys your present.  This is a vignette in the Different Spheres universe (I say universe, it's only one story).  It was the first purely contemporary piece I ever wrote, and Dreamspinner published it a while back.  One of the characters featured has multiple sclerosis, they're both middle-aged, and it takes place in my own town.  My readerwife wanted a follow-up to their story, so here you go, darlin!  Merry Christmas, all:)

Title: D.S. Vignette: Tickets For Two


Gil slid out of bed at 7 am on Christmas morning, the same time he always woke up.  The floor was carpeted, soft under his feet, but Gil stepped into his slippers anyway before heading for the bathroom.  As he turned on the shower, he laid the odds at 50/50 on whether or not Warren would wake up now or not. 

Gil had been a little surprised to discover that his boyfriend of over a year actually wasn’t a morning person; he just got up early because he’d always done so, and forced himself awake by drinking positively noxious coffee.  One of the most pleasant changes Gil thought he’d brought to Warren’s life was, in essence, giving the man permission to sleep in late.  Warren lived in Gil’s house more than he did in his own these days, and so most of the time he got up with Gil, but today…today was Christmas.  The man deserved a lie-in, especially after Gil had kept him up late last night.

Gil tilted his head back and sighed, relaxing on the bench seat that Warren had installed in the shower earlier this year.  Putting it in had been a bit of a fight, because Gil didn’t like the ever-increasing reminders of his multiple sclerosis, but after a brief sulk he had to admit that, yes, it did make showering easier and was safer, god damn it you correct bastard.

Today, though, today was Gil’s turn to reign supreme as the king of gift-giving.  Last Christmas had been pretty simple, since they were still getting to know each other; he’d gotten Warren an espresso maker (because it could only improve on the man’s coffee, really) and Warren had bought him a Kindle.  Gil had resisted getting one for years, despite how his sister Tally raved about how wonderful they were, but he’d tried it for Warren’s sake, and then discovered that he actually enjoyed using it.  It wasn’t the same as a real book, but it wasn’t as heavy as most of the books Gil liked either, and it gave him something to entertain himself with between classes at Naropa.  As soon as Tally saw it, she’d given him a look that said “Oh, he can buy it for you and you smile, but I offer and you spend ten minutes lecturing me on the importance of real books?  Honestly.”

Gil finished cleaning up and dried off, put on a pair of flannel pajamas and his slippers again, then wiped the steamy mirror clean and inspected himself.  His chin was a little rough, but not bad.  He could go another day without shaving.  He stared at his reflection: pale blue eyes, wet, greying blond hair and a surprisingly boyish face, and said, “Well, you’re still here.  Merry Christmas.”

Warren was still asleep when Gil stole quietly out of the bathroom, spread across the middle of the bed like the octopus he was.  For such a taciturn guy, Warren was surprisingly cuddly.  Gil smiled and left him alone as he grabbed his cane and headed down the hall.

There was a bar in the hallway now too, just in case he needed extra support, but Gil was feeling pretty good today.  No sudden aches or pains, his vision wasn’t blurry or indistinct, and he had decent balance.  An excellent day, as far as his disease was concerned.  Gil made his way into the kitchen and turned on the coffeemaker, then went to the Christmas tree and turned on the lights.  It was a little tree, potted actually, and just large enough to fit presents for two reasonable people beneath it.  Gil checked to make sure the envelope he’d left for Warren hadn’t run away during the night, then went back to get a start on breakfast.  He was no chef, especially now, but that was what toaster ovens were for.

Coffee, bagel and lox and the newspaper, which…oh, of course, wouldn’t be coming today.  He could go grab his laptop, but instead Gil contented himself with looking over their mess of holiday cards again.  Most of them were for Gil: cards from colleagues, a few from students and one, surprisingly, from his ex Victor.  In it was a picture of Victor, his husband Franz and their new baby, born last spring, with a big red bow on her mostly-bald head.  Season’s Greetings from the Winchester-Hauptman family! it read.  Beneath the caption was a short hand-written note: Hope you’re happy and healthy for the holidays, Gil.  We’ll be coming through Boulder on our way to California next year.  Perhaps we could meet up?  Merry Christmas!

Gil had taken a probably unhealthy amount of pleasure in being able to write back in the affirmative.  He was as healthy as he could expect to be, he had a wonderful partner, and he didn’t fear what his reaction would be to Victor and his perfect life, not anymore.  Travel, academia, the possibility of adopting or surrogacy…once upon a time, that had been Gil’s life.  Now his prospects were different, but not worse.  Warren made life so much better.

There was a postcard from Tally; she and her husband Peter were on another cruise this Christmas.  There was a letter from his niece Cynthia, who was studying in Alaska right now.  Even her handwriting looked cold.  Then there were a few cards for Warren: one from his old fire crew in South Dakota, another from a gallery where he’d exhibited some of his sculptures this past year, and the last one from his step-daughter Kimmy. 

Well, sort of his step-daughter; Warren and her father Nate had never had the chance to marry, and they’d been shunned by most of his family.  Kimmy was making overtures of peace, though.  If in his heart of hearts Gil thought it was because she needed money, he never said anything.  Warren could afford to help her and he loved hearing from her, getting pictures of her son, who was almost ten now, and news about the rest of Nate’s family.

Slow, shuffling steps alerted Gil to the fact that Warren was coming.  Gil got up and poured a cup of coffee, then readied the espresso maker for two shots.  Warm hands curled around his waist, and he smiled as Warren leaned against him, resting his forehead against Gil’s shoulder as he yawned.

“You could’ve slept longer,” he said, watching the espresso start to drip.

“Rather be up with you,” Warren said sleepily.  “And…and coffee.”

“You are adorably incomprehensible when you’re tired.”  Gil poured the shots into the coffee cup, turned in Warren’s lose grip and kissed his lover.  “Merry Christmas.”

“M’ry Christmas,” Warren agreed, kissing him back before reaching for the cup.  He took a sip and his eyes shut with pleasure, and Gil let his smile become a grin.  Warren was a man of simple pleasures, and Gil liked being able to provide some of them.  “So,” Warren said after a moment, once the cup was down to half-full, “presents?”

“You don’t want to have breakfast first?”

“It’s Christmas morning, presents always come first.”

“You have this on good authority?”

Warren shrugged.  “It was something Nate did.  I guess when his kids were younger he was lucky to eat anything before noon.”

“Well, far be it from me to break tradition.”  Besides, Gil was kind of wondering what was in his own envelope.  “Let’s open presents.”

They did everyone else’s first.  Tally bought them clothes—when his sister had designated herself his mother, Gil didn’t know.  He got socks and, oh wonderful, underwear.  At least Warren got a scarf.  There were a few gift cards, one for a pretty nice restaurant, and some movie tickets, and then it was down to their gifts for each other.

“Go on, open it,” Warren said, sitting back in his chair and savoring the dregs in his cup.  He looked smug, which was interesting because Warren hardly ever had that expression on his handsome, weathered face.  He must be feeling confident.

Gil lifted one eyebrow, but dutifully opened the envelope.  There was no card, just a sleeve with two tickets in it and a brief note: Merry Christmas, baby.  I love you.  Warren.  PS: you can dress me however you want for this.  The tickets were for—

“The ballet,” Gil breathed, holding them up.  Two tickets for the Colorado Ballet at the Denver Performing Arts Center, mezzanine level, right up front.  The Nutcracker, of course, but it had been years since Gil had been to the ballet.  He hadn’t even realized he’d missed it until seeing these tickets.  “Warren, this is…wonderful, it’s…how did you know?”

Warren shrugged, but he looked very pleased with himself.  “Thought it might be something you’d like.”

“It is, it’s fantastic.  Thank you.  And you’re going to look splendid in your grey suit.”

Warren rolled his eyes.  “It’s not the suit I mind, it’s the pink shirt.”

“Pale pink.  So pale it’s barely pink at all, and real men wear pink, sweetheart.  You’ll just have to grin and bear it.  Now you.”  He pushed his gift for Warren over, excitement fizzing in his blood.  It wasn’t his sort of thing, but this year seemed like the year…

Warren opened the envelope, took out the tickets and gaped.  Literally gaped.  It was delightful.  “These are for a playoffs game,” he said after a second.

“Yes, yes they are.”

“A Broncos playoff game.”

“Who else?”

“You don’t even watch football, Gil, how did you think of this?”

“I heard a story on NPR about Peyton Manning breaking some sort of record and thought it might be a nice time to grab some tickets, so we can go and check out this apparent phenomenon for ourselves.”  It would be cold and loud and probably uncomfortable, but Gil could bring his Kindle.  He’d be fine.

His breath caught as Warren leaned forward and tugged Gil out of his chair and over onto Warren’s.  Well, more like on Warren, who pulled him in close and pressed a coffee-flavored kiss to Gil’s mouth.  “You’re amazing,” Warren said, fervent and honest and he meant it, he really did, and it went straight to Gil’s heart.

“If you like it this much, we’ll get season tickets,” he said around his own kisses.

“Nah, better to savor it.  You wanna get me season tickets, make them for the Rockies.”

“Wouldn’t you prefer to watch a team that actually wins?”

“Oh, that’s it.”  Warren stood up and hoisted Gil over his shoulder.  It was completely caveman, and Gil loved it.  “You’re gonna regret those words, baby.”

“No,” Gil grinned.  “I don’t think I will.”


  1. D'awwww! So sweet! Thanks for this vignette Cari! Just the kind of update to this story that I'd hoped for :-) Merry Christmas!

  2. OMG THAT WAS ADORABLE! I need to find this other published work with these two. I'm kinda in love with these characters and I only know them from this vignette.

    1. You should definitely buy it, seburu! Worth every penny.