Jake hadn't expected Tor to be all gushy about Christmas in the big house, or even sentimental at all about the holidays this year. It was, after all, the first Christmas without Maureen, and the first year that they really had no choice about what to do or where to go for the week. They'd taken on a lot when they bought the spread--and running off to Texas for the holidays just wasn't in the cards.
It wasn't too bad though, at least not for Jake. He'd had damn near twenty years to get used to being alone for holidays, and only three or so to get used to having bodies around. Tor, though; he'd been heading to Becky's as long as Jake had known him, and it was going to be extra hard this year with both Tor and Becky missing their momma. Jake knew it, and he’d been watching for trouble.
Sometimes having a big house all to themselves didn't seem as wonderful as it had when they'd first moved in. It was damn strange having so much room to wander in, and it’d taken them a while to think of it as their own. Now, when there was supposed to be decorations everywhere and Christmas colours and shit around the doors and stuff… well, Jake got to missing the bunkhouse. He’d been there for more than fifteen years, and he knew where the tree was supposed to go, and what Elias would have on the walls; here it was different and new and just him and Tor. It was good, but… weird as hell.
So, they were a pair. Tor missing his family, Jake missing the smaller house, both of them looking around sort of wide-eyed and stunned as Christmas Eve settled over their land. They’d both spent the day pretending not to notice as the other snuck around making ready for the Christmas surprises. Jake had needed help with his gift for Tor, and he knew Tor’d seen Kirk before he was supposed to. But Tor looked the other way, and for once was good about not pushing to know every fucking thing. Jake returned the favour by just passing the phone over the ninth time Tommy phoned in a three hour period.
They turned on the Christmas lights after dark, and watched some old movie on the TV, then got ready to shut things down for the night, moving slowly and listening to the quiet of the house as they made their way through the hall to the kitchen with their empty bowls from the popcorn.
“Think we should leave something for Santa?” Jake asked with a grin as he turned on the dishwasher.
“Nah.” Tor shook his head. “And don’t bother leaving coffee for Tommy and Dale, either. I told them they could take the morning off and we’d do the early feeding.”
Jake tilted his head, but didn’t say anything. Tor never messed with the schedules—ever, anymore—so he’d had a good reason. The two had actually volunteered for Christmas morning feeding in exchange for both New Years Eve and New Year’s Day off. Jake had thought it a good deal, but if Tor’d other plans… well, he’d find out when he hauled his ass to the stable at the crack of dawn. Yay.
He woke up in the pale light of false dawn, listening for what he knew would be there. Soft slam of a truck door, then another, and someone pulling away. Good enough, time to get this show on the road.
Jake rolled over on top of Tor, knowing that the man was already awake. “Gonna tell me why I’m getting out of this nice warm bed and going to feed the animals on Christmas morning when I don’t have to?”
“Nope. Shift your ass, Taggart. The barn’s awaiting your presence.”
And for all that he was over forty years old Jake dressed as fast as he would have if he were an eight year old kid. He caught the grin and raised eyebrow on Tor’s face and blushed. But he pulled his boots on and headed out anyway, laughing as Tor raced to keep up with him.
Jake flew out of the house and stepped to the right, knowing that Tor was right behind him and not wanting to be in the way when Tor saw what was in the yard.
“Jesus Christ.” Tor didn’t even try not to yell as he bounced down the steps of the porch.
“Nope, try again. It’s a Ford.” A nice new red half ton, with a big black bow on the cab, actually. And a big tag with Tor’s name on it.
“You bought me a truck?” Tor had that bow off pretty damn quick, and was vanishing into the interior, looking pretty serious about not coming out until he’d gone for a nice long drive.
Jake grinned and stepped up to the driver’s side, watching Tor touch everything on the console. “Actually, I bought Karojet Ranch a truck. But hell, you’re the one always stuck with the shit vehicles, so it’s yours this time. Your truck, your keys, your baby.”
Tor slid out of the truck and had Jake pinned up the side of it so fast that the kiss was half over before Jake knew where he was. But then there was a second and third kiss, so that was all right, and Jake decided that making out against Tor’s truck was a fine way to spend Christmas morning.
He’d just settled into it, trying to get things a bit more serious, when Tor pried him away. “Barn. Really, you need to get to the barn.”
“You get me a horse?”
“Are you kidding? River would have my nuts if I did something that foolish.”
Jake laughed and let Tor pull him up the stables, not even trying to guess what Tor had hidden away for him; it would take away Tor’s fun if he guessed right. But when they got there Tor just settled into feeding the horses, the two of them going through the motions pretty quickly as they worked together.
Jake found the box when he hauled a couple of bales of hay out of the empty stall next to Shelby, the lid half eaten and the red ribbon shredded. The scratching gave it away and he looked over his shoulder at Tor, not able to say a word.
“Go on,” Tor said softly. “He won’t… well, he might. But not hard, his teeth are too small.”
Jake had never had a dog. Ever. Crap childhood, running away, prison, and then here at the ranch—no time for dogs.
He still didn’t have a dog. What Jake had was a grey fuzzy thing with four legs and tail that was wagging so fast he couldn’t see it. The fuzz propelled itself into Jake’s lap, licked his hand, belched and puked up the missing part of the red ribbon.
Tor winced. Jake fell in love.
“That thing ain’t sleeping in the house,” Tor said as Jake attempted to defend himself from drool.
“Sure he is.”
“Not in our room.”
“Nowhere near the bed.”
Three hours later, when Becky called to say Merry Christmas, Jake and Tor and Barkley were sitting in the bed of Tor’s new truck, watching Christmas take hold. They’d brought their gifts out to the truck, along with a thermos of coffee, and Barkley had his toys all over the place. Jake and Tor had their toys in the cab, away from pointy teeth.
Tor handed the last gift over to Jake, watching as Barkley suddenly decided to have a nap. “Is that normal?” he asked as the pup walked in a circle three times and settled down, his nose pushed under Jake’s thigh.
“I think so,” Jake said, one hand stroking over Barkley’s coat, the other trying to pry the tape off the big box in his lap. He glanced up at Tor, hoping to fuck that his smile wasn’t as sappy as it felt. “Thank you.”
Tor smiled back and looked down, his eyes happy. “Just open that one, Taggart. If anything will get the dog out of our bed, that will.”
Jake froze, looking at the box in his lap with an exaggerated apprehension. “Anti-puppy device?”
“Nope.” Tor looked smug. “More like a ‘slut promotion’ device.”
Jake’s apprehension became a little more real. He tore the paper off, stilling when Barkley shifted at the noise, and then lifted the cover off and stared down into the box. His mouth went dry and his cock stretched and said good morning again. “Oh shit,” he breathed.
Tor growled in his chest and Jake flashed him a look, nodding. Then Barkley’s nap ended.
“Ain’t fair,” Tor groused, catching the flying puppy in his lap. “’Nother few minutes and I’ve had had him, dog.”
Jake fingered the gauntlets and imagined his arms bound together, wrist to elbow. “He’ll nap again. Swear.”
Or they were getting a puppy sitter.
Sometimes love is complicated.
Copyright 2016 Chris Owen