Title: Gift of the M. E.
Hoyt/Bug Vijayaraghavensatyanaryanamurth/Nigel Townsend
They belong to Tim Kring and NBC.
Summary:It's Christmas, and two lovers each ask 'Santa' to give the other a very special gift.
Minor spoilers for The Four
Fathers in season 1, Is That Plutonium in Your Pocket, Or Are You Just Glad to
See Me?, Second Chances, All the News Fit to Print, and Revealed in season 3.
What can I tell you? It was a very slashy season!
Notes: This story was completed in August, before the Red Sox took the American League pennant from the Yankees, and went on to win the World Series. Part of the SAC-2004 at: http://www.kardasi.com/Advent/2004/SAC-2004.htm Title by way of O Henry's Gift of the Magi. Dal makhni is a lentil delicacy flavored with tomatoes, ginger, garlic and cream. This story was written before Jordan Cavanaugh got one of her Christmas wishes. Beta by Gail, who else?
Gift of the M.E.
As a boy in
That had changed as he'd grown older. His
mum had passed on, and his dad hadn't much cared for a youth who didn't meet his
standards of masculinity. So Nigel had left home.
To prove to his father that he was a man, he
enlisted in the military. He learned a great deal, and when his tour of duty was
over, he moved on.
The years passed. He studied criminology and
forensics and became quite an expert. Eventually he wound up in the
The men and women with whom he worked at the
Boston Coroner's Office took him seriously only about his field of expertise.
They thought of him as a devil-may-care, find 'em, fuck 'em, and forget 'em sort
of bloke who had no worries in the world.
He saw to it that they never saw what he
really was – a very lonely man.
And the only one who gave him presents at
Christmastime now was himself.
The staff at the Coroner's Office had been
invited to the annual Christmas
party at the local police precinct. It was a huge hit; everyone brought their
kids, and every one of the little dears had sat on Santa's lap, promised they
had been good boys and girls, and told the jolly old elf what he or she wanted
to find under the tree on Christmas morning. Santa had given them a present and
a candy cane, and they had gleefully scampered off to shred the paper and play
with whatever was in the box.
"Bloody hell, I'll be glad when this is
over!" It was Nigel Townsend behind the long, fluffy white beard. Somehow
he'd let Woody Hoyt, the detective he occasionally worked with, talk him into
playing Father Christmas this year. It had taken a lot of padding, since Nigel
was lean and lanky, but he made a half-way decent St. Nick, if he said so
Not that there'd be anyone waiting for him
when he got back to his apartment, he thought ruefully. //Come the New Year,
m'lad, you are *definitely* making some resolutions, including one to
stay with someone for longer than the time it takes you to shag him.//
"Now, now, Santa! Don't want to shock
the kiddies, do we?" Woody Hoyt was standing there, laughing. In one hand
he held a cup with some sickeningly sweet, cherry-red punch. Nigel knew -- he'd
tried a sip and almost gagged on it. If it wasn't for the fact that the kids
were drinking it also, he'd have been tempted to spike it and make it more
potable. "Besides, Santa is supposed to be from the North Pole, not
"Wanker," but there was no heat in
Nigel's growl. He let his eyes roam over the studly body of the detective.
Woody was dressed in what Nigel assumed he
must wear on his off time, jeans that clung lovingly to his arse and thighs,
and, no doubt in celebration of the season, a red flannel shirt, the top buttons
undone to reveal a bright green tee shirt underneath.
Nigel thought Woody always looked good
enough to bend over a desk and shag, but he couldn't remember seeing him look
Bug gets to see him like this all the time,
he groused to himself. Bug gets to kiss that mouth and touch that body…
//Bugger. *I* was the one who made a
pass at him first! Wasn't I?//
He'd teased Woody about his white-bread
preferences, crowded him, walked into his personal space, and Woody had taken
off like a scalded cat. Nigel had let him go, chuckling and murmuring to
himself, "Too easy."
He'd been so sure there would be another
There wasn't. Somehow, when he hadn't been looking, Woody and Bug had hooked up and were now living together in a discreet relationship.
Well, he was never one to cry over lost
A thought occurred to him, and he was
pleased the fake beard concealed the expression on his face. He'd have a little
fun and tease the man who stood before him.
"Come sit on Santa's lap, luv," he
said, directing a playful leer at Woody and patting his thighs. The red suit was
dry; thank god none of the really little ones had leaked through their nappies.
He could never understand why parents would want their wriggling toddlers to sit
on the lap of someone just because he had a long, white beard and wore a red
suit and a hat with a pompom on the end.
To Nigel's surprise, Woody, flushed but
grinning broadly, slid onto his knees. The weight was warm and solid. Is this
what it would feel like if Woody lay atop him, their cocks aligned, their mouths
feasting on one another?
//He chose Bug, remember?//
Although Bug had much to recommend him also.
Smooth skin the color of mocha, dark, intelligent eyes, black hair that seemed
to beg to have fingers running through it. Nigel gave a dreamy sigh. He
certainly wouldn't kick Bug Vijayaraghavensatyanaryanamurth out of his bed, if
he ever had him in his bed.
//Get your mind out of bed right this
instant, Nigel Townsend.//
Nigel got a grip and went into his Santa
routine. "So, little boy. Have you been good this year?"
"I've been very good, Santa."
Woody was stroking a finger over the white beard.
"I'll bet you have," he muttered
under his breath. He shifted a bit, unwilling to let Woody know how his body was
reacting to that delectable arse so close to his cock. He cleared his throat.
"Jolly good, then. Suppose you tell old Santa what you'd like for
"You aren't old." Was Woody
flirting with him? "I have pretty much everything I want, Santa. Would it
be all right if I ask for something for someone else?"
"Of course. That's the spirit of the
holiday, after all."
"Great!" Woody leaned close. He
spoke in a whisper, and Nigel shivered as the warm breath tickled his ear.
Nigel's eyes behind the round, clear plastic
lenses of his Santa glasses drooped shut, and he knew his smile had to be
blissfully idiotic, but he was sure the beard once again disguised his
expression. He inhaled deeply and enjoyed the scent of
And then the import of what Woody said burst
through his fog of pleasure.
"Shhh! Santa isn't supposed to yell,
Nige! You'll scare the kids!" Woody was giving him that innocent grin that
didn't fool him and wasn't getting to him. It hadn't fooled him since…
Hmmm. Well, it hadn't gotten to him since…
Nigel realized with some embarrassment that
he *was* buying Woody as an innocent.
And the smile always got to him. His sigh this time was more resigned than
"You want what?" he asked in a
more moderate tone.
"You heard me, 'luv', but I'll repeat
myself. I want to give Bug a very special gift for Christmas."
Nigel's mind was boggling at the thought of
what… or rather *who* Woody wanted
to give his lover as a gift. And then he had another thought. "Uh… Woody,
you do know Bug is Buddhist."
"What's your point?"
"Buddhists don't believe in Baby Jesus
and Santa Claus and all that."
"Humor me, Nige."
"But… me?" This was too surreal.
"You bet. I told you I wanted to give
Mahesh a very special gift; he'll love having you for Christmas." Bug's
real name, and for Woody to use it revealed to Nigel how very serious he was.
"So, what do you say?"
"I must be out of my ruddy mind,"
he said, mostly for appearances' sake — after all, he had a reputation as a
cool operator to uphold, "but I say I'll do it."
"Er… will you be there?"
"You bet! I wouldn't want to miss
it!" He finished the last of his punch and crumpled the paper cup.
"Hey, Santa! Don't I get a candy cane?"
"Oh. Sure." Absent-minded. He was
busy trying to wrap his mind around the idea that Woody wanted to watch, that he
thought Nigel would make a good present for Bug, that Bug might have said
something to indicate he wanted him. "Here you are, little boy."
"Thanks, Nige. Make sure you show up
early on Christmas morning. Here. Spare key. You know where Bug lives, don't
"Yeah." Nigel had been there once,
but that had been before Woody had transferred to
The entire staff of the Coroner's Office had
gone to Max Cavanaugh's bar, primarily to celebrate the fact that none of them
would be laid off. Lily Lebowski, then the chief M.E.'s secretary, had come up
with the brilliant plan of each of the employees giving up some vacation time or
personal time -- or in the case of Bug, that incubator that he had really wanted
-- and the threat had been nullified like Pepto-Bismol soothing the discomfort
They'd also gone to help out
Over the drinks Bug and Nigel had, they
mended fences; the possibility that they might become redundant had driven them
to play some unsporting tricks on each other. Bug made it appear that he left
late and arrived early by showing up in rumpled scrubs and telling Garret Macy
that he'd accidentally parked in the chief M.E.'s spot because it was so dark
when he arrived in the morning. Nigel, knowing Bug had ridden to work with him
on the T, had retaliated by placing a cannibalistic female weevil in the tank of
male weevils that Bug had intended to use to demonstrate his expertise as a
Bug had had a few beers. Nigel's drink of
choice at that time had been something violently fuchsia. By the end of the
evening, Nigel had been feeling no pain, and when Bug suggested he spend the
night at his place, he'd happily agreed.
Nigel often wondered what would have
happened if he'd pulled Bug against him that night, kissed him silly, then
stripped off his clothes and made passionate love to him, but it was moot; he'd
passed out on Bug's ratty sofa, and when he awoke the next morning, it was to a
nagging headache and Bug busy in the kitchen brewing coffee and toasting a
couple of what some Yank named Thomas called English muffins.
After he had dosed himself with aspirin and
eaten, he had gone home, showered, and gone to work. He'd never mentioned how
eminently shag-able he thought Bug.
They'd had other drinks together after that,
mostly at Max Cavanaugh's bar, but to Nigel's regret, they'd never again wound
up in Bug's apartment.
Back once more in the present, Nigel noted
that Woody's eyebrow was arched in question, and he realized he was waiting for
him to acknowledge his command.
"I'll be there on time."
"Good." Woody tweaked Nigel's left
ear and bounced to his feet. "Gotta run."
Nigel watched Woody stride to the table that
held the remains of the buffet lunch, pick up a paper plate and load it down
with whatever seemed to tempt him…
Nigel wished Woody was tempted by him, might
want him as much as Bug.
He regarded the key thoughtfully, then
slipped it into the pocket of his Santa trousers. When he turned up on Christmas
morning maybe Woody *would* be
tempted. After all, no one made love like a Brit.
And bugger, wouldn't he just be aware of
that? After all, Bug had arrived in
He stared after Woody as he vanished through
the door, no doubt heading for his office, and sighed. A detective's work, much
like a forensic expert's, was never done.
Ah, well, Nigel thought, I guess it's time
for this Santa to head back to the North Pole.
Hmmm. Not quite time to fire up the old
"Ho, ho, ho." He grinned his
patented grin at Bug. Nigel's eyes behind the glasses grew huge and the grin
faded as Bug made himself comfortable on Nigel's knee. "What are you
"I'm gonna ask Santa for something for
Christmas." Bug moved his thigh until the only thing that separated it from
the vee of Nigel's thighs was the bulk of his Santa coat.
Nigel's cock twitched, and he swallowed.
//Good thing Bug can't feel that!//
"Bug, you're a Buddhist."
"What's your point?"
Nigel groaned. Talk about deja vu.
"Never mind, I'll play along. Have you been a good boy?"
"Yes, I have, Santa." Bug shifted
slightly, and Nigel's cock took even more of an interest. Bug smirked, an
expression that would have done Nigel proud.
"Uh… you have?"
"Mmm hmmm. A *very*
good boy." Bug's voice was laden with sexual innuendo, and Nigel's cock got
"So, er… " He cleared his
throat. "What would you like Father Christmas to bring you?"
Bug brought his mouth close to Nigel's ear.
"Not me, Nigel."
Nigel closed his eyes and drew in a deep
breath. He was inundated with the scent that reminded him of home…
Abruptly, what Bug was whispering in his ear
got through to his passion-clouded brain, and his eyes shot open.
"What?" he squawked, then hastily
lowered his voice. "You want me to be Woody's Christmas present from you?
"Woodrow has been fantasizing about
you. Oh, I don't mind," he hastened to assure Nigel. "Woody deserves
something special." His voice hinted of bodies entwined on tangled sheets.
"Me?" They wanted to give each
other a special gift, and they each thought the gift was Nigel?
Bug ran his fingertips over the Santa beard.
"Do you have a problem with that? Nigel?"
"But… but…" He couldn't tell
Bug that Woody wanted to give him the same gift.
"I know that Woody is planning
something similar for me."
Bug grinned. "He may be a great
detective, but at home he can't keep secrets for spit."
"Oh, well, in that case… no. I don't
have a problem with that."
"Good." Bug leaned back, his grin
widening. "I assume Woody gave you his spare key? Very good. Don't be
Nigel offered a smile he hoped was polite
and agreeable. He wasn't sure how much longer he could prevent his hips from
jerking against the man on his lap; he didn't want to alarm Bug. After all, he
was supposed to be Bug's gift to Woody.
But Nigel was so hard he wanted to hustle
Bug to Woody's office and jump them both right then.
"Oh, and if I act like I'm surprised to
see you, don't be surprised."
"Uh… sure. Got it. Here. You may as
well have a candy cane, too."
"Too?" To Nigel's relief, to his
disappointment, Bug vacated his lap.
"I've given one to all the other
Bug stripped the cellophane from the red and
white striped candy and slid it in and out of his mouth seductively.
"Thanks, Santa." He tugged the
gold ring in Nigel's right ear, then sauntered out of the room.
Nigel touched his ear. Bug was going in the
same direction that Woody had taken.
Was Bug going to Woody's office? Nigel
licked his lips, his breath coming faster.
Would Woody be sitting behind his desk,
waiting for his lover to arrive? Would Bug lock the door, lower the blinds over
the window in the door, then walk around the desk to see that Woody's jeans were
unzipped and his cock was out, hard and oozing precome? Would Woody be slowly
stroking his cock, his blue eyes hot as he watched Bug? Would Bug drop to his
knees between Woody's wide-spread legs and go down on him, taking that luscious
cock in his mouth? Would…
"Ooof!" A body dropped onto his
"Hey, Santa! Is that plutonium in your
pocket, or are you just glad to see me?"
Jordan Cavanaugh had been out of town when
NEST, the Nuclear Emergency Search Team, had conducted an exercise in
"Sure." She flicked his earring
It was at times like this that Nigel was
thankful he had never been attracted to the volatile M.E. His smile was a little
ironic. "And have you been a good girl?"
"Nige, 'good' is not the word for what
I've been this year!"
"Mmmm hmmm, Then why don't you tell
Santa what you'd like him to bring you for Christmas."
For a moment she looked sad and lost, like a
little girl without her mum, but then a cheeky grin lit her face. "Well,
Santa, I want a Jag, and a condo that's fully paid for; oh, and hey! How about a
winning season for the Red Sox? And…"
It was early Christmas morning. The Santa
hat sat at a jaunty angle on Nigel's head. His black leather duster, his
Christmas gift to himself, concealed most of the Santa suit he wore beneath it,
and fortunately it was so early that there were few people out to gawk at his
Nigel had taken the T to Bug's stop and
walked the short distance to his apartment house. He climbed the stairs up to
Bug's floor and found he had no trouble recalling the way to his apartment.
The white pompom at the end of the Santa hat
kept dangling before his eyes. He was a little nervous, and he tossed it over
his shoulder and looked at the key in his hand.
//How is Woody going to react when he
realizes that I'm Bug's gift to him, as well as his gift to Bug?//
He let himself into the dim, quiet
apartment. There was no foyer; the door opened directly into Bug's living room.
He closed the door behind him and placed the key on a small table by the door.
Nigel glanced around curiously. He noticed
the sofa was no longer ratty. Was that a gift to Bug from Woody, or had they
purchased it together, for themselves?
There was also a recliner that faced a big
screen television. Neither had been there the last time – the only time –
Nigel had been there.
A plush area rug in a geometric pattern of
blacks, whites, and greys covered the hard-wood floor.
The scent of pine filled the air. In a
corner was a live Christmas tree.
//Did Bug do this for Woody?//
There was an electrical cord near an outlet,
and Nigel crossed to it and plugged it in. Fairy lights of blue, red, green,
yellow and white began to blink in sequence.
On the top of the tree was a star, and the
lights around it were reflected in its gold foil and glitter. Tinsel dripped
from the full branches. The ornaments were spare. Nigel had a strong feeling
that it would make no difference that Bug wasn't Christian; each year there
would be more and more, bought to celebrate another Christmas spent together.
The lowest braches framed a small wooden
stable. Inside were the figures of Mary and Joseph kneeling on either side of a
manger in which lay the swaddled Baby Jesus. To the left of them were shepherds
and their sheep, some beside them, some draped over their shoulders, and to the
right, with their camels, were the three wise men, the Magi, bearing gifts of
gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Beneath the tree were boxes wrapped in paper
covered with holly and ivy, Santas and snowmen and reindeer. Long boxes, wide
boxes, boxes square and rectangle.
He bent down to examine them. Some had tags
that bore Bug's name and some had Woody's name.
One box was the size a jeweler might use for
a ring, and Nigel straightened abruptly, not bothering to check the tag to see
who it was for. He turned away from the tree, rubbing his eyes. "Bugger-all
pine trees," he groused. "Must be allergic to 'em."
He removed the leather duster, then crossed
to the recliner and folded the duster over its back.
The Santa suit hung rather sadly on him
since, knowing he wouldn't be wearing it long once he got to Bug's, he hadn't
bothered to add the padding.
Bug's voice came from the back of the
apartment where his bedroom was, but it was quickly approaching the living room.
"I tell you I heard something…"
"Should I bring my gun?" There was
laughter in Woody's voice.
Bug appeared in the doorway, blinking
sleepily. "Woody, I told you I heard something!" he said over his
Bug was wearing the bottom half of a pair of
pajamas that were decorated with reindeer. His cap of black hair was in
disarray, and the way he was rubbing his head guaranteed to make it even
Nigel's fingers itched to smooth it down. He
rubbed his palms over the soft red felt material that covered his thighs.
Tight curls the same color as the hair on
Bug's head lightly covered his chest and wandered in a narrow line down past his
It was cool enough in the apartment that
Bug's nipples had peaked from the chill air.
They were small and dark like bittersweet
chocolate, and Nigel wanted to taste them. He dragged his eyes away from them to
see how Bug was going to react to his presence. After all, he was supposed to be
"Yeah? How about that?" Woody
sauntered into the room.
Nigel's mouth went dry. He had been
wondering if Woody would be wearing the top to Bug's bottoms, and what would be revealed
if he was. "You're wearing pajama bottoms!" His disappointment was
evident in his tone.
Woody burst into laughter. "I usually
do when I go to bed." He paused to adjust the thermostat, then glanced over
at him, his eyebrow raised. "Is that too 'white-bread' for you?"
"Oh, bugger." Nigel had been
studying Woody's naked torso, which was almost hairless, and the way the pajama
bottoms dipped low over his hips. He dragged his eyes up to the blue ones that
were laughing at him.
"So, Santa, are you here to deliver a
present for a good boy?" Woody turned to stare pointedly at Bug.
"Two good boys, actually."
Woody's head whipped around, and he blinked.
Nigel loved the confused look on his face.
The detective so seldom let anyone see he wasn't on top of his game. Nigel
winked at Bug, then turned his attention to Woody and let the tip of his tongue
peek out to touch his lips.
The pompom of the Santa hat was in his eyes
again, and he tossed it over his shoulder. The movement set the tiny green and
gold ornament that dangled from his right ear to swaying. His hands went to the
wide black belt that held the coat closed, unfastened it, gave it a snap, and
tossed it aside. He was humming something as he reached for the top button.
"Nige, if you're stripping to Christmas
carols, I'm going to hurt you."
"I've got more class than that,
Woodrow." Nigel smirked as he shrugged out of the coat, revealing the black
leather vest that hung open over his naked chest. Leather bands encircled his
biceps. He turned his back to them, slid his fingers under the waistband of the
trousers, and bent at the waist, easing the red felt down over his hips.
Nigel wiggled his arse and grinned at them
over his shoulder.
"Jesus, Nigel! I knew you were
comfortable in that leather bar, but…"
"You just didn't realize why I was that
comfortable? Ah, Woody, it saddens me, how underestimated I am."
Under the Santa trousers was more black
leather, butter-soft chaps so skintight they could have been spray-painted on. A
red thong, which Nigel had chosen with care, separated his butt cheeks.
He let the baggy trousers slide down his
legs, stepped out of them, and turned to face them. The two men gasped. Bug was
looking stunned and Woody had a strained expression on his face.
Nigel's cock was framed by the leather
chaps, but that hadn't been the reason for their reaction. It was the pouch in
which it was lovingly cupped, which sported the head of a red-nosed reindeer.
Nigel held his arms out. "Where would
you gentlemen like to unwrap your present?"
"Merry Christmas from Bug, Woody."
"No… but… you're supposed to be for
"And so I shall be. But I'm for you
"Merry Christmas, Woody!" Bug
grabbed his hand, grabbed Nigel's bare arm, and dragged them both along behind
"Whoa!" Nigel had peeked into
Bug's bedroom the one time he'd been there, and this was new. The bed was
king-size, possibly a bit large for two men, but it was perfect for three.
"All right, let's get naked!"
Lying on Woody, still buried deep inside
him, was everything that Nigel had imagined.
Being sandwiched between Woody and Bug was
beyond anything he had imagined.
"Gah." Woody was struggling to
catch his breath. "That… that was awesome."
"I couldn't… couldn't agree with…
with you more." Bug was panting almost as hard.
"Y'know something, luv?" Nigel
nudged Woody's chin up and licked his adam's apple. "You've got a marvelous
command of the English language. I've always admired that about you."
"Oh, really? I… I always thought it
was my… my ass you were admiring." Woody fluttered his lashes, his smile
"Someone is full of himself."
"No, 'someone' is full of you."
Woody turned his head and his lips slid across Nigel's.
"It's a good thing you turned the heat
up, Woody." Bug stretched, the action undulating his hips and driving his
still-hard cock deeper into Nigel.
"Oh?" Woody propped himself up on
an elbow. Nigel was pleased to note that their connection remained; his cock
hadn't quite softened yet. "I thought between the three of us, we generated
plenty of heat."
Bug leaned forward and kissed him.
"This is true." Then he angled his head, ran his teeth along the side
of Nigel's neck, and bit down gently.
"Well said, Nige." Woody was
snickering as well as he could with the weight of two men resting on him.
"Sod off, Hoyt," Nigel said
mildly, more interested in offering his neck so Bug had better access.
"I love when you talk dirty. Man, what
an experience! It nearly killed me, watching you roll that condom on Bug's dick
with your lips and teeth."
"Oh? How do you think it felt to be on
the receiving end?" Bug asked. "Nigel going down on me, giving me a
look that told me I was going to get the best blow job of my life?"
"And didn't I deliver?"
"That you did, Nigel, although I did
fear for my manhood for a moment when Woody started rimming you."
"Jesus, no one's ever done that to me
before. Are you sure I'm *your*
"Hmmm?" Bug was back at working
the skin, and Nigel knew it would leave a bruise, but he was feeling so good he
couldn't bring himself to care. He'd wear something to conceal it, and if anyone
questioned him, he'd just say he was making a fashion statement.
Nigel shivered and groaned. "I've never
had a Christmas like this!"
"My man, it's gonna get even
"Couldn't, Woodrow. If it got any
better I'd have to think I died and went to heaven."
"Hold that thought."
Woody didn't elucidate. "Damn, you're
slipping out of me," he mourned, instead. He slipped a hand between them
and gripped the base of Nigel's cock so the condom wouldn't spill its contents.
At the same time, Nigel arched his hips in
order to do the same thing. His fingers collided with Woody's, and his butt
collided with Bug's groin.
Bug caressed the sensitive skin where hip
and thigh joined.
And then Nigel completely lost his train of
thought as Bug's fingers twined with his and Woody's around his cock. He
realized that just as Woody was losing him, he was on the point of losing Bug,
and he clamped down on his internal muscles.
"Nice, Nigel." Bug shuddered. He
caught the condom with his free hand and pulled out of him carefully, dropping a
kiss on the back of Nigel's neck. "Very nice."
Bug got off the bed and held out his hand.
Nigel eased off Woody, removed his condom and knotted it, and dropped it into
Bug's hand. He watched with appreciative eyes as Bug went into the bathroom.
The toilet flushed and the shower was turned
"C'mon, Nige. Let's grab a shower, and
then Bug and I will make you breakfast."
And then Nigel would leave. He didn't have
to be told that. They'd given him the best Christmas he'd ever had, even if he
was supposed to be *their* Christmas present.
After a shower that lasted so long the hot
water was on the verge of running out, Nigel wasn't quite ready to put the
leather back on. He wound up borrowing a pair of Woody's pajama bottoms.
They were a little short in the leg, but
Bug's would have been even shorter.
He sat at the kitchen table, savoring the
mug of hazelnut coffee Woody had given him. He didn't remember Bug's kitchen as
being so small, but then the last time he'd been there, Bug had been the only
one doing the cooking. Now Woody worked beside him, and their easy camaraderie,
the way Woody would nudge Bug with his hip to get him out of the way, the way
Bug would reach around Woody, making sure his body was pressed up against
Woody's, made it obvious that they'd done this frequently.
Nigel felt his heart twist. //All right, you
had a taste, don't be a greedy git.//
Once they finished their breakfast, Nigel
pushed himself back from the table. "Well, I guess I'd better be
"Don't you want to spend the day with
Was he kidding? Nigel cleared his throat.
"Woody, I'm sure you and Bug want to open your presents, and I'll just be
in the way." He realized how mawkish that sounded. He hastened to add,
"And I've got places I need to be."
"That leather bar?" If Nigel
hadn't known better, he'd have sworn Woody was aggressively unhappy about that.
Nigel rose and put his mug in the sink.
"Look, I'll just get changed and be on my way."
"Let it go, Woody. If he doesn't want
to stay with us, we can't make him."
"Can we at least give him his Christmas
"Oh, no, listen, that really isn't
Bug walked to the tree and bent to pick up a
small package. It was the jeweler's case-sized one that Nigel had been sure
contained rings that the two men would exchange.
"Just open it, okay, Nige?"
"I don't understand…" Nigel's
hands were shaking as he accepted the gift, and he almost dropped it in his
effort to remove the gilt wrapping paper.
"You're our friend. We'd hoped that
after this morning you'd be *more* than our friend, but…"
Mary in a manger*!" Nigel's jaw hung open. He snapped it shut and
swallowed. It took more than one try before he could get the words out.
"It's… it's a key."
"Yeah. We thought if you saw how good
we could be together, maybe you'd consider moving in with us."
"You want me to live with you?"
"That was the plan."
"You want me to *live
"Nige, that's what Bug said. That was
why we bought the bed."
"I… I don't know what to say."
Nigel examined the key closely.
"I'd love to, but…"
"Nigel, you were Woody's gift to me and
my gift to Woody, but that key is your Christmas gift from both us." Bug
stroked the backs of his fingers over Nigel's cheek. "Say 'yes'."
"No one's… This means… " Nigel
looked from Woody to Bug. "This is the best Christmas I've ever had."
"Thank you." Bug's words were
soft, but Nigel still heard the relief in them.
Woody was grinning broadly, almost vibrating
in his pleasure.
"So. Nige. Wanna wrestle?"
Back to the Table of Contents