Twas the Night Before…
A Tate Pack Christmas
A Visit from St. Nicholas: BY CLEMENT CLARKE MOORE
Dedicated to all of those who still believe in the magic of Christmas.
‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse; The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there…
Gianna Dieson-Barber crept down the steps of the home she shared with her brother, Alex, his mate, Ross, and their very large family, made up of Alex and Ross’s children, Alex and Gianna’s siblings, and friends of Alex and Ross’s that they’d taken in, hoping that the steps didn’t make a sound. She covered her mouth when the steps creaked and plastered herself against the wall. When no one yelled at her to get back to her room she continued down the steps. She’d been asleep in her bed when she’d heard a noise and had decided to go and check it out. Okay, she hadn’t really been asleep. She’d been faking it. But ever since Ross had told her the story about some really big fat man named Santa who brought presents to all of the boys and girls of the world, Gianna hadn’t been able to sleep. Tomorrow was Christmas, which meant that if she wanted to see Santa Clause she had to catch him while he was on the ranch and in her house.
She reached the bottom step and squeezed the stuffed panda bear that Ton had given her a month before to her chest as she tried to still her racing heart. Walking slowly towards the living room she heard footsteps and rustling. She took one step and then another closer and closer to living room and then froze at what she saw. Standing in the middle of the living room was a man dressed in a red suit, trimmed in white fur, with a white beard and white hair. He had a huge stomach and he had four smaller men around him, who all wore green outfits. They were putting presents beneath the tree and every so often the man in red would stop and take a bite out of the oatmeal raisin cookies, left on the coffee table, that Gianna had insisted her Uncle Tommy make for Santa.
Gianna stepped into the room and gasped.
All of the men froze and looked at her. The biggest man, dressed in the red suit, the man who had to be Santa Clause smiled at her and stepped forward.
“Well hello, Miss Gianna,” he said. His voice was deep and sounded extremely happy like he was about to laugh at any minute. It made Gianna smile. “What are you doing awake? You should be sleeping right now.”
“I wanted to see if you were real,” Gianna confessed, looking down at her socked feet, ashamed.
She saw the toes of Santa’s booted feet come into view before her head was tilted backwards and Santa knelt before her. “Well I can understand that. You’ve been through a lot these past few years. You and your family, haven’t you?”
Gianna merely nodded, her eyes filling with tears. She didn’t really remember her mommy and daddy but she did remember their scent. That was what she missed the most. The way they smelled when they would hug her and tell her that they loved her.
“Well, Gianna, I exist on faith. Do you know what that is?” Santa asked her.
Gianna bit her lower lip at the strange word and shook her head.
Santa chuckled. “That’s when you believe in something even when you can’t see it. Like when you believed that Alex was going to come and save you even when you couldn’t see him.”
Gianna nodded her head. That she understood. She’d always known that her big brother was going to rescue them when the bad people had taken them away. Alex loved them and he would never let anyone keep them away from him as long as he could help it.
“Well, that’s faith. And I need you to believe that I exist even if you can’t see me. You have to believe that I can deliver these presents to every boy and girl in the world on Christmas Eve, even if it seems impossible and more than that, you have to believe in the magic of Christmas because that’s when the most amazing miracles happen.”
Gianna’s eyes widened. “Really?”
Santa nodded. “Really.”
Gianna smiled and hugged Santa when the man held out his arms for her to step into. She squeezed him tightly, her nose twitching at the slightly familiar scent on his skin. She couldn’t really place it, but she knew it. After a long moment her eyelids began to droop and she yawned. Santa released her from the hug and stepped away from her. Winking he chuckled and gestured to one of his elves.
“I think it’s time you let my elf, Hermes, take you back to bed, what do you think?” he asked her.
Gianna nodded. “Night Santa. I’m glad you’re real.”
Santa’s white eyebrows rose, “Oh really? Why’s that?”
Gianna rubbed a fist over her eye as she struggled to stay awake. “Because that means that you got my letter, even though I just wrote it.”
Santa smiled. “Yes, I did. Remind me of what it said, because I got quite a few letters from this house.”
Gianna yawned again and laid her head against Santa’s shoulder. “I asked you to make send my brother Alex a sign that our mommy and daddy were looking over his baby, Tabitha. He still cries for her sometimes when he thinks we can’t hear him.”
Santa stroked Gianna’s hair. “You are a very sweet little girl, Gianna. I’ll make sure Alex gets his sign.”
“Thank you, Santa.”
“C’mon, Little One, time for bed,” the elf, Hermes, who had fangs like Gianna’s uncle, Asher, said before he lifted her up into his arms and wiggled his nose. Gianna blinked and found herself back in bed. Her panda still clutched tightly in her arms.
She sighed and rolled over onto her side. Santa was real, that meant they were going to have a really great Christmas.
Ton watched as Hermes popped Gianna back upstairs and rose to his full height. He wiped his eyes and turned to face Tommy, Richard, Fitz, and Maurice. All four men looked at him with tears in their eyes and he swallowed the lump of emotion in his throat.
“That sweet little girl,” Richard said, wiping his eyes.
“I told you guys,” Fitz said, brushing his hair out of his eyes.
“Well,” Tommy said, straightening the skirt of his elf costume around his hips. “Last year we helped Maurice see that he had a family in all of us. This year, we’re going to remind Alex that has one. So, I don’t know why you’re all standing around flapping your gums when we have work to do.”
Ton chuckled and saluted his mate before he stepped forward to finish putting the presents beneath the tree. Ross had told them all that Gianna had just learned about Santa and that he was pretty sure the young girl was going to be snooping around trying to catch “Jolly Old St. Nick” in the act, so Ton and his “elves” had dressed the part when they’d entered Alex and Ross’s home to decorate the house, the tree and fill it with presents. The couple had been too busy raising the kids to do too much shopping so the rest of the pack had taken it upon themselves to help out, especially when different members had mentioned that Alex’s smiles and laughter had seemed a little more forced than usual. Tommy, with his usual “Tommyness” had decided that this Christmas would be titled “Project Alex” and that they would dedicate the holiday to making sure that the Dieson-Barber clan had a Christmas that they would never forget.
Ton couldn’t have been happier to chip in.
Maybe it was becoming a father himself, but he had found himself, more than once, going to stand at his daughters’ bedroom and watching them sleep, imagining what he would do if one of them was gone. It had caused him to inadvertently shift more than once because of the emotion it invoked in him. He couldn’t imagine what Ross and Alex experienced on a daily basis. His friends were very strong people and they deserved a happy Christmas celebration.
“So, what’s next on the list?” Ton asked when he’d pulled the last gift out of the bag and pushed it under the tree.
Tommy consulted his list. “Time to bring in the Christmas tree for the kitchen.”
Ton nodded and turned to the doorway. He came to a halt when he saw Declan standing there, his mouth hanging wide open.
Ton barely held back the curse that wanted to escape his lips and instead let out a deep “Ho, ho, ho!” as he stepped forward to talk to the young boy. The Dieson children were a curious lot. At this rate, they might not ever finish decorating the house before Ross and Alex woke up and Ton still had to figure out some kind of way to give Gianna her Christmas miracle. How in the world was he going to give Alex a sign that his parents were watching over Tabitha in heaven before Christmas, when Christmas was only six hours away?
The children were nestled all snug in their beds; While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads; And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap, Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap, When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter, I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Howell closed the door to Mariah’s room and breathed a sigh of relief. He didn’t care what the books said, or what the girl’s teacher said, at her age Mariah talked. Too. Much. Howell looked up at the clock on the wall and let out a soft curse. He was late getting out to Ross and Alex’s place because he’d had to sit in Mariah’s room and listen to her talk about some little boy in one of her classes at the shifter school who she just knew was her mate because they always came to school wearing the same color and he had given her his last cupcake that day and blah, blah, blah.
Howell’s brain had melted somewhere around cupcake.
Shaking his head and wondering how anyone could actually put up with people who talked as much as Mariah did and then feeling bad for the man, woman, men, women, or hell, the people who ended up with his adopted daughter, Howell opened the door to his bedroom to change into his elf costume…
And almost swallowed his tongue.
In the middle of the king-sized bed, on his knees, his shoulders pressed against the mattress, head turned to the side, eyes closed and completely nude was Howell’s beautiful mate. Howell licked his lips as he stepped closer to the bed, reaching back to close the bedroom door and lock it behind him. Hearing the snick of the lock, Howell slowly undressed as his eyes traced over every delicious inch of Michael’s exposed, delicious, pale skin. This was a very big step for them. Since his rescue from the compound, Michael had been unable to allow Howell to have sex with him. They still slept in the same bed together, though there were some nights when Michael needed pillows between them as a safety barrier, but they hadn’t had sex at all. But if he was naked and presenting himself to Howell in this manner, then he was ready.
“Merry Christmas to me,” Howell whispered.
He stepped up to the bed and stroked a hand down Michael’s back, smiling at the sigh Michael released. His mind flooded with images of Michael’s dreams and he felt heat swarm his body and harden his cock as he struggled to maintain a semblance of control. His mate was extremely turned on and apparently desperate for Howell.
All to ready to oblige the other man. Howell walked to the side of the bed, on the opposite side from where Michael’s head was turned, and began kissing his way up Michael’s arm. He placed gentle kisses up the delicate skin of his mate’s forearm to his shoulder, every so often flicking out his tongue to taste him, relishing in the taste of the other man. It had been too long since he’d tasted Michael. Too long since he’d done more than just hold his hand, or given him a kiss on the cheek. They didn’t even kiss on the lips any more. Howell was trying to be patient and understanding, he really was, and he thought he was doing a good job, but it was hard, really hard. But now he had his lips on Michael. He was breathing in his scent again.
Howell’s wolf let out a howl of satisfaction and happiness that they finally had their mate back where he belonged. Howell couldn’t agree more. He let out a low growl, pressing his face gently against the side of Michael’s neck, feeling him tense slightly, but figuring that it was only because Howell had nuzzled the spot where Michael’s mating mark was. Continuing his languid exploration, Howell kissed and licked his way down over Michael’s back and spine to his ass.
Grabbing both cheeks in his hands, Howell squeezed them and spread them apart, before placing a gentle kiss on them. Rising up to his full height, Howell leaned over Michael and reached under his body to grab onto his breasts. He fondled one and then the other as he licked his mate’s ear, the head of his cock pressing against the crease of Michael’s ass.
Howell wasn’t sure what happened then. One minute he was nuzzling his mate, stroking him, caressing his body, and the next he was on his back on the floor of their bedroom and Michael was pressed against the wall, hidden behind the dresser, shaking and trembling, tears streaming down his cheeks.
Howell gasped for breath before he pushed himself up into a seated position. He looked over at Michael, his mate’s blonde hair a thick, wavy mess around his face, giving him a sexy, disheveled look as if he’d just had a sexy romp in the bed.
Dammit. Howell had to focus on what was going on and not against his now purple balls—because they were way past blue.
Love? What happened? Was this not your intention? He asked.
Michael sniffed and nodded his head, then shook his head, and then shrugged. I thought I was ready. I did. I’ve been dreaming about it. About us. Being together. That way. Again. Every night, for weeks. So I thought it was time. So while you were putting the kids to bed, I showered and prepared myself and the whole time I thought about you.
Howell nodded and rose to his feet. Michael pushed himself farther into the corner of the room and Howell winced as pain sliced through him. He whimpered loudly and for the first time in his life, since meeting his mate as a child and then reuniting with him and mating with him as an adult, Howell was glad that Michael was deaf and couldn’t hear him. The sound was so completely unmasculine, so helpless, so animalistic, and fragile that Howell knew that if he’d been out in the woods and had heard the noise made by any other animal he would have taken his gun and shot the poor animal to put it out of its misery. Shaking his head, Howell walked around the edge of the bed and sat on the side to look at Michael. He wanted to pat the side of the bed and tell Michael to come and sit next to him but he knew that when Michael was having one of his attacks, one of his flashbacks and episodes, that Howell’s size was too intimidating, his scent was too “Alpha” for Michael’s more submissive wolf and so it was better for them to keep their distance until the moment passed.
So what happened? Howell asked.
Michael shrugged. I don’t know. I got out of the shower and came into the bedroom. I put my robe on the chair. I brushed my hair, put on a little makeup, and got on the bed. I stretched out my hole for that monster that you call a dick and I waited in anticipation for you to finish with the kids and walk in to see me. I was going to say “Merry Christmas” and we were going to make love. It was going to be slow and beautiful and I was going to move past what happened in that awful place. Michael shook his head. Howell’s wolf snarled within him desperately wanting to get out and hunt down those who had dared to put their hands on his mate, but he didn’t move because he knew in that moment that any act of aggression, even walking over to the wall and driving his fist through it like he had so many times before, would just scare Michael even more, and wake up the kids.
That all sounds really great, baby. So, what happened? Howell asked through their mind link.
Michael looked at Howell and shrugged again. I fell asleep and I guess when you were waking me up that confidence that I had before, that feeling of safety that I had was gone. I didn’t know where I was when I first woke up, Howl, and you were on top of me, with your hands all over me and I just freaked out.
But it’s me! I’m your mate! Don’t you know my scent by now? You should have known it was me as soon as you woke up, Howell said, knowing his words were a little angry but unable to help himself.
Michael narrowed his eyes and stepped out from around the dresser, he walked right over to Howell and stopped directly in front of him. He wrapped his hands in Howell’s dreads and gave them a slight tug, making Howell’s head tilt backwards. Howell’s cock, which had softened in the face of his mate’s distress began to plump again. He’d always loved it when his gorgeous, and usually very timid mate, asserted himself in the bedroom and acted the aggressor.
When I left you I took a few of your shirts so that I could have something of yours that still smelled like you. Not just for the kids to help keep them calm, but for me and my wolf, to keep us sane. They used it against me while I was there. They would wave one of your shirts under my nose before they… Michael shook his head.
Howell felt his stomach flip and he had to fight not to vomit. It was amazing that his mate didn’t have a negative reaction every time he scented Howell. That was the most logical response to receiving such negative treatment after smelling such a familiar scent.
I’m so sorry, baby.
Michael shook his head and smiled at Howell before he leaned down, pressing their foreheads together.
What they didn’t understand was that I lived for those moments.
Howell looked up at Michael, confusion racing through him.
What? He asked.
Michael stroked his fingertips over Howell’s cheeks. They were trying to turn me against you. I’m not sure why. I’m sure it has something to do with their ultimate plan or whatever, but I lived for those moments when they would wave your scent beneath my nose. Instead of me associating the smell of you with something negative, I knew that if I had your scent in my nostrils I could face whatever negative thing was coming my way. I was able to be strong in those moments without breaking because I’d had a whiff of your shirt beforehand. They had no idea that the reason I never cried was because I could hear your voice telling me to be strong for our kids, for you.
Howell swallowed the tears that threatened and then finally gave up the fight and let them stream down his cheeks. Michael smiled softly at him.
I’m not ready for penetration, but I do want to give you a special Christmas present. So I do think I am ready for this.
Howell looked up at his mate and his breath caught in his lungs as Michael lowered his lips until they rested against Howell’s. For the first time in months, Howell shared a kiss with his mate. Their lips pressed against one another. Howell refused to take it any deeper than Michael wanted to take it, but when he felt the flick of Michael’s tongue against the seam of his lips he felt more tears fall from his eyes. Howell opened his mouth to allow his mate entrance and he gently and slowly allowed his tongue to duel with Michael’s for dominance before allowing Michael to control the kiss.
Finally after long moments, Michael lifted his lips from Howell’s and smiled down at him with a sweet smile.
Merry Christmas Howl.
Merry Christmas Mikey.
Twenty minutes later, with Michael tucked into bed, Howell trooped across the ranch towards Alex and Ross’s home with a wide grin on his face. He hadn’t truly believed in the magic of Christmas until tonight but he was now he was a firm believer that there was something truly magical about the holiday and that miracles could happen.
He could only hope that the same thing happened for Alex and Ross.
Away to the window I flew like a flash, Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash. The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow, Gave a lustre of midday to objects below, When what to my wondering eyes did appear, But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny rein-deer, With a little old driver so lively and quick, I knew in a moment he must be St. Nick. More rapid than eagles his coursers they came, And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name: “Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donder and Blixen! To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall! Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”
Bae opened his bedroom window and stuck his head out. He could scent the wolf out there and it soothed him, made him desperate to want to climb out of the window and let the other man claim him but he couldn’t do that. He wasn’t ready for that. No one was allowed to touch him.
He sighed and leaned his head against the window sill. “Zavier?” he called out softly. The wolf approached the window and began to shimmer, the other man initiating his shift. “No! No. Don’t shift back. Stay like that for right now.”
The shimmering stopped and the wolf let out a soft whine of distress before sitting back on its haunches and tilting its head to the side as it observed Bae, curiously. Bae felt his face grow hot and he lifted a hand to push back his shoulder-length russet colored hair, before nibbling on his bottom lip. He looked up at the dark sky, decorated with stars and sighed again.
“I know you want to know why I won’t let you claim me,” he started talking. “And I want to tell you. I just… I can’t. Not right now. And you have more important things to worry about, you adopted two young boys. You need to be a father to them and stop worrying about your crazy, fucked up mate.” He laughed darkly, shaking his head. “Fate screwed you over big time, buddy when she strapped you down with me, especially knowing what she knew about what was going to happen in my life? If I were you, I’d file a complaint with the head honcho. Eclasius can take it right up there. He’s got connections, you know.”
Turning to look back at Zavier, Bae gasped when he found himself staring right into the angry, hazel gaze of his mate. Zavier shook his head and gestured.
“Come,” he said.
Bae shook his head. He couldn’t go with Zavier. If he did go, he would end up doing something stupid, like telling the man everything about his life and really driving the man away, or crying and having a flashback of the pain and horror of the compound and attack his mate. He did not want to do that. While he knew that he would never be able to mate Zavier, it really just wasn’t in the cards for them, he liked the idea of them. He liked to dream at night about being mate to the big Greek man. Being a member of the Laskaris family. But it was hopeless and he’d accepted that.
For the most part.
“Yes.” Zavier nodded his head, holding out his hand. Zavier was a man of very few words and while Bae had heard different members of the pack say that they thought it was because he was slow, or stupid, Bae knew that it was because Zavier just didn’t have much to say. When he needed to speak, he did and it was to the point. Which would have really worked out well for them because, had Bae been well and completely himself, they would have balanced each other out. Before he was fourteen he was a chatterbox. He’d never found a subject he couldn’t talk about or a person he couldn’t talk to. His mother had thought him the cutest thing ever, but that had all changed when he turned fourteen.
Everything changed then.
“Bae. You need me. You need us,” Zavier stated.
Bae blinked away the horrific memories that still gave him nightmares and looked at Zavier in confusion. “Who is us?” he asked.
“Our children,” Zavier said with a big grin.
Bae shook his head. “Oh no. No, Zavier. I’m too fucked up to be mated, what makes you think I can be someone’s parent?”
Zavier smiled at him. “Because I have more faith in you than you have in yourself.” He sighed and turned his head to look across the massive acreage of land that was the Tate Ranch before looking back at Bae with a smile.
“Okay,” he said, nodding as if he’d come to a decision. “I won’t wake the boys up, though they’ve been waiting to meet you for a while.” He smiled at Bae again and Bae’s heart pounded in his chest, the air in the room slowly became sucked out slowly but surely. This was why he couldn’t have a mate. Everything was so fast. No one was ever consulted and decisions were always made for the more submissive mate. Besides not wanting to be touched, and never, ever having sex again, he would never be in a position where all of his decisions were made for him, and that was what a mating was.
“Will you please just come for a walk with me?” Zavier asked and Bae’s eyebrows rose.
“You’re asking me?” his voice was breathless as he pressed himself against the window, as close as he would allow himself to get to Zavier without touching him.
“Of course I’m asking you.” Zavier shook his head. “I’m your mate, not your Master. I don’t want to tell you what to do every hour of every day and control you. I want you to be my partner. To share my life with me. And right now? Right now I really just want you to take a walk with me.”
Bae chewed on his lower lip as he considered Zavier’s request. What could happen on a walk? And he knew Zavier to be an honorable man, if Bae said “no,” “stop,” or “take me home,” the bigger man would do it, no questions asked. And besides, there were only four hours until Christmas. Bae could give this to Zavier as his Christmas gift, a walk around the ranch.
Nodding his head, Bae turned to get his shoes and his jacket, the late Texas night bringing a little chill to the air. When he turned back to the window, Bae’s mouth dropped open and he felt a long trail of drool make its way from his mouth and down over his chin.
Zavier was getting dressed. His large, muscled body was currently bent over, the tanned, Greek skin glistening in the moonlight as he pulled on his jeans. Oh gods, he’s going commando. Bae swallowed hard and watched as Zavier settled his jeans around his hips and the muscles in his arms flexed as he fastened the pants, before he grabbed his shirt and pulled the maroon shirt down over his broad torso. Bae watched as the muscles in Zavier’s back bunched and moved as the shirt came down to cover the expanse of flesh and found himself whimpering. He didn’t want Zavier to cover his delicious body, and that in and of itself was strange. Bae was pretty sure, or he had been, that those bastards at the compound had completely destroyed his libido and chance for ever feeling arousal again.
“Are you ready?” Zavier asked and Bae blinked as he realized that his mate had finished dressing and once again stood in front of the window, with his hand outstretched. Bae nodded and put one hand up on the windowsill. He looked at Zavier’s hand and turned away from it, as he climbed out of his window. He could smell the acrid scent of Zavier’s disappointment and he felt a twinge of guilt but Bae only allowed the briefest of touches from people that he knew he could trust, which weren’t many. Alex, Ross, Fitz and Eclasius were the only ones in the house, besides the children who were really too small and innocent to hurt him. But Zavier? Zavier was big and had, for all intents and purposes been stalking Bae, which sort of freaked him out and simultaneously made him feel safe knowing that his mate was outside his window at night, sometimes sleeping out there. Zavier could hurt Bae if he wanted to. Zavier could really do some damage to Bae and since Bae was just starting to heal, he really didn’t think it was a good idea to open the door to the one person who had the ability to ruin all of his progress.
So why was he out walking with Zavier? Bae mentally shook his head as he looked at Zavier out of the corner of his eyes, the other man walking alongside him across the ranch towards his home. Bae couldn’t explain it. Part of him was screaming at him to turn around and run back to his room and stay there where he was safe. Yet, another part of him was saying that he needed to give this thing between him and Zavier a chance. While he wasn’t ready for that, not in any sense of the word, he wasn’t going to run away either. Not tonight. Not on Christmas Eve.
Talking to himself and giving himself a pep talk had completely distracted him and when he finally realized that they had stopped, they were at the shed out behind Zavier’s house.
“With the boys moving in I had to move all of my stuff out here,” he explained, suddenly looking shy and embarrassed and Bae found the curiosity that came very natural to him, what with him being a cat shifter and everything, sweeping over him. He tilted his head to the side and looked at the shed.
“What’s in here?” he asked.
“Part of your Christmas present,” Zavier told him.
Bae turned to look at the taller man. “You got me something?”
Zavier shrugged. “Technically I made you something, but yeah. You’re my mate and it’s Christmas. I mean I know that Christmas isn’t about the presents and everything, but from what I understand, you haven’t been able to celebrate Christmas for a while, so I wanted to make this one special.”
Bae’s eyes filled with tears and he wiped them away and looked up at Zavier with a smile. How did he wind up with a mate who was so kind? If only he wasn’t so big things might be different between them. “Thank you,” he said softly, lifting a shaking hand, intending to touch Zavier’s shoulder. Halfway across the distance that separated them, Bae dropped his hand and shook his head. “I’m sorry,” he apologized.
Zavier shook his head. “Don’t be,” Zavier reassured him. “You’ve been through a lot. I’d be worried if you bounced back so quickly from it.” He turned back to the shed. “Now, come in.”
Bae smiled and followed Zavier in. He’d never heard Zavier talk so much, not in the whole time he’d been on the ranch. It was refreshing and nice to actually be able to have a conversation with him. Even if it didn’t solve the problems Bae was having.
Bae stopped in the center of the room when Zavier held up his hand and looked around the room. There were a number of canvases of various sizes on easels all covered with cloth and Bae’s eyebrows rose when he realized that his mate was a painter. He had to revise that thought when he looked closer and noticed that interspersed between the easels were what appeared to be figurines all covered in cloth as well.
“You paint and sculpt?” he asked Zavier in amazement.
Zavier nodded as he brought one fairly large canvas front and center and placed it in front of Bae before walking away. He returned seconds later holding a covered figurine and a stand for it, which he placed down in front of Bae as well, directly in front of the painting.
“For the full effect,” he said and walked away once more. Bae began shaking in fear when the lights in the shed went out until a spotlight came on overhead, directly over where he was standing. He could hear Zavier’s footsteps as his mate walked back to him. Bae tracked Zavier’s progress and knew when the man had finally reached him. He turned his head and watched as Zavier walked around to the easel.
“Painting and sculpting is what I do when I’m in my room all the time,” he explained. Bae nodded, glad to know that it wasn’t something else like bomb-making like everyone else on the ranch had been saying, though he was pretty sure they were teasing.
“I started on these the day I scented you the first time, so I’ve had months to tweak it, but there was something that was missing and then I figured it out and when I added it, well I knew it had to be your Christmas present,” Zavier explained before he pulled back the cloth on the canvas. Bae gasped at the image painted there and wanted to weep.
It was of him, well, three versions of him, walking forward as if he were about to come out of the canvas. The first image, the furthest away on the canvas, looked lost and helpless. Scared. His arms were wrapped around himself, his hair looked dirty and unkempt, and he looked untrusting. The second image of him, the one in the middle, had a small smile on his face, his arms were at his side, his hair was down around his shoulders, clean and brushed, and his clothes looked comfortable. But it was the third image that held Bae so enthralled. He was smiling widely, his arms were outstretched, his eyes were glittering with happiness, his clothes looked brand new and fashionable, and his hair blew around his shoulders as if he were standing in the wind. He looked… hot and happy. Bae went to look up at Zavier and ask if that was the way he saw him when he noticed the wolf in the corner. The wolf watching over Bae as he went through his transformation.
The tears that Bae had been trying to hold back spilled down over his cheeks and he gasped out a sob.
“It’s beautiful Zavier,” he said. “Thank you.”
“Wait, there’s one more thing,” Zavier said and lifted the cloth off the statue.
Bae looked down at the statue and began to cry harder. Zavier had sculpted the two of them but not the human versions. It was a wolf curled around a Caracal cat. He could sense Zavier’s hesitation and confusion, not knowing exactly what to do, could smell it in the air, so he took the decision out of the other man’s hand.
Bae walked around to Zavier and hugged him tightly. “Thank you,” he said.
Zavier sighed. “Merry Christmas, Bae.”
As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly, When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the housetop the coursers they flew, With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too—
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof, The prancing and pawing of each little hoof. As I drew in my head, and was turning around, Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound. He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot, And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot; A bundle of toys he had flung on his back, And he looked like a pedler just opening his pack. His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry! His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry! His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow, And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow; The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth, And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath; He had a broad face and a little round belly
That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.
Maurice bit his lip as he tugged on the long strip of garland, trying to get it to line up perfectly with the railing of the stairs leading up into Alex and Ross’s home.
“Stop obsessing. It looks gorgeous,” Calvin’s voice came from behind him and Maurice turned with a ready smile. He laid the garland over the post of the railing and rushed into Calvin’s arms, so happy to see the other man again. Calvin and Eclasius had left on an errand for Ross, there had been talk of a stranger in town who had been asking about the Tate Ranch, and Maurice hadn’t seen the man all day. He wasn’t normally clingy, but ever since the whole kidnapping incident, he tended to need to know where Calvin was at all times. It worked though, because Calvin had the same burning need to constantly check up on Maurice. Maurice knew that they both needed to see someone or maybe even talk to each other about what they were feeling, but for now they were happy as they were and he was not going to mess with that.
“I missed you,” he murmured against Calvin’s chest.
“And I missed you,” Calvin replied, kissing the top of his head. Maurice shivered as Calvin stroked his hand up and down his back and pressed himself closer to the other man, wanting to purr like a cat. Which was funny since, as an UnSeelie faery, he was pretty sure that he didn’t purr.
“So, where is everyone else?” Calvin asked, trailing kisses along Maurice’s forehead to his temple and down to his cheeks.
“Um,” Maurice hedged, sighing as bliss soared through his being. He loved it when Calvin touched him. His wolf was gorgeous with his thick black hair and bright blue eyes. He tilted his head back to give Calvin more room to explore and only felt a slight twinge of his UnSeelie genetic predisposition rearing its head telling him that lovemaking in public was “improper.”
“Tommy and Ton are inside the kitchen preparing everything for dinner. Richard just went back to the house to send Vet this way so he could help put the lights up on the house. Howell just got here and he’s helping to decorate inside the house and the garage. Everyone else is scattered around outside and inside decorating or leaving clues about presents and stuff,” Maurice said finally pushing Calvin away slightly.
“So they put you outside on garland duty?” Calvin asked.
Maurice shook his head. “No, they put me on front porch and front yard duty, because you know,” he inclined his head and rolled his eyes a bit and Calvin nodded with a grin. “But, I sort of manipulated Tommy into it, a little bit.”
Calvin chuckled. “Oh really? How’d you do that?”
“I kept talking about how the front yard and the front porch needed to be decorated but that it needed to be spectacular. It couldn’t be just an inflatable Santa and reindeer, you know? It had to be breathtaking. It had to make them weep because it was so amazing,” Maurice blushed when Calvin chuckled.
“Go on,” his mate encouraged him.
“And then I asked him who we could get to do something that spectacular and I started naming off the people who were helping and Tommy was rejecting them all on his own, and then when I had mentioned everyone except me, I shrugged and said, nevermind. Then he said I could do it and told me to get out here.”
Calvin let out a bark of laughter and kissed the tip of Maurice’s nose. “You are a tricky little faery. Why didn’t you just tell him that you wanted to decorate the front of the house?”
Maurice shivered as true fear raced up his spine. “Have you ever tried to tell Tommy that you wanted to do something when he’s in full on planning mode?” Maurice shook his head. “No, thank you. I’d rather get him to suggest I do it then to bear the wrath of that New Yorker.”
Calvin tilted his head to the side for a moment before nodding. “You have a point. Ton is a saint. We should totally nominate him for sainthood.”
Maurice rose up on his tiptoes and kissed Calvin’s lips. “Already done.”
He turned to go back to his garland only to come up short by the tug on his long hair. He turned to look at Calvin. He quirked an eyebrow and placed his hands on his hips. “Was there something you wanted, Anam-charaid?” he asked.
Maurice smiled when Calvin shivered, knowing that the cowboy loved it when he called him that. He did not understand why Calvin loved it when he spoke in the language of his people but Maurice tried to do it as often as possible just so that he could hear his Anam-charaid groan and see him shiver like he just had.
“Yes, my mate. I find that I have need of you. I seem to be suffering from a horrible pain that only you can heal,” Calvin said, a grimace evident on his face.
Though Maurice did not sense pain through their mating bond, only arousal, he was instantly concerned and rushed back to his mate.
“Really? Where is this pain?” he asked, running his hands all over his mate’s torso.
“It’s here,” Calvin replied, before taking Maurice’s hand and pressing it against his groin. Maurice’s eyebrows rose and he looked around the yard to make sure they were alone.
“Calvin!” he said, only slightly scandalized.
“C’mon Doll Baby,” Calvin cajoled him with a wolfish grin. “I promise to have you back in time to work your mojo magic.”
Maurice’s eyebrows lowered, “But where are we going?” he asked.
Calvin turned and pointed to a tree set halfway across the ranch, out in the open, but from this distance it looked like a big Christmas tree. It seemed almost poetic.
Calvin lowered his head and kissed and nibbled on Maurice’s neck until Maurice felt himself melt into a puddle of mindless goo.
“Alright, fine,” he panted. “But no extensive foreplay like usual. Quick and dirty.”
Calvin shook his head. “Doll Baby, it’s Christmas, so this is going to be magical,” and with that he swung Maurice up into his arms and carried him off to the brand new SUV that he’d bought months before. When Calvin’s SUV had been returned to him by the police after being found abandoned after Maurice’s kidnapping, Calvin had taken all of his personal things out and then with Vet’s permission had set the thing on fire. Maurice had stood in the safety of his mate’s arms as they’d watched the thing burn and then had gone with him to buy their new vehicle. Maurice moaned when Calvin placed him down on the passenger seat and nuzzled his groin, his already hard cock growing impossibly thicker.
Maurice could barely contain his excitement as Calvin closed the door and went to climb into the driver’s seat. He felt as if it had been weeks since he and Calvin had last made love when it had in fact been only hours. He turned his head on the headrest to look at Calvin and smiled when his mate looked back at him and winked. Calvin pulled the SUV to a stop in front of the tree and climbed out before rushing around the front of the vehicle. Maurice laughed at his mate’s eagerness and once Calvin opened the passenger side door, he swung his legs out and allowed Calvin to lift him up into his arms. He wrapped his own arms around Calvin’s neck and rested his head on Calvin’s shoulder.
“Mmmm,” Calvin moaned. “I feel as if it has been days since I last held you in my arms.”
Maurice laughed. “You held me this way just this morning,” he reminded his mate.
Calvin shrugged. “I cannot recall. You shall have to remind me.” With that he lowered his head and took Maurice’s lips in a deeply passionate kiss. Maurice moaned as the taste of Calvin filled his mouth. He lifted his hand from Calvin’s neck and buried it in Calvin’s hair, tugging it lightly. The world tilted slightly as Calvin placed him down on his feet.
Maurice pressed close to his lover as Calvin ran his hands down Maurice’s back and over his ass. He grunted as Calvin lifted one hand to tug on Maurice’s hair while simultaneously using the other to squeeze his ass, but that grunt turned into a moan as Calvin abandoned Maurice’s lips and trailed kisses down over his jaw to his neck and to the mating mark that rested at the base of his neck. Maurice shivered as Calvin sucked and licked at one of the symbols of their bond before he kissed and nibbled over Maurice’s collarbone.
Releasing Maurice’s hair and ass, Calvin tapped Maurice’s arms. “Up,” he commanded.
Not questioning his mate, Maurice raised his arms in the air and shivered as Calvin lifted his pale yellow, “Born This Gay”, t-shirt off of his head and tossed it on the hood of the idling SUV, before he began placing soft kisses along Maurice’s torso.
“C-Calvin, I really don’t need all of this. I’m r-ready to go. I pr-promise,” Maurice stammered.
Calvin merely chuckled and sucked one of Maurice’s nipples into his mouth, biting the pebbled nub between his teeth and pulling on it gently for a moment before releasing it. Maurice lifted his hands which, until that point, had been hanging idly by his side, and tangled them in Calvin’s black locks. He pressed Calvin’s head firmly against his chest before moving him over to the other nipple so that he could give it the same treatment.
“Eager?” Calvin asked, amusement evident in his tone as he pulled his head away and lifted his hand to the button of Maurice’s jeans and unbuttoned them.
“You know that I am,” Maurice told him.
“Prove it,” Calvin told him as he pushed Maurice’s jeans and underwear down to below his knees and then stepped away.
Maurice looked at his mate in confusion, his cock hard and leaking precum as he wondered how his mate expected him to prove his eagerness to him. Smiling when an idea came to him, Maurice stuck three fingers in his mouth and began to suck on them, getting them wet. He drooled on them, laving them just like he’d seen the guy do in that one porno he’d “accidentally” watched the other day. Turning his back to Calvin, Maurice bent over at the waist and lifted the hand with the wet fingers up between his slightly spread legs towards his puckered entrance, while he placed his other hand on the ground at the base of the tree.
Maurice heard Calvin’s low growl as he spread his saliva around his hole before slowly pressing one finger into his hole. He moaned Calvin’s name as he did so, his body shivering as he did so. The ground moved as Calvin stepped closer to him, peeling off his shirt and tossing onto the front of the SUV as well. Maurice pulled his finger free and placed his fingers back in his mouth, getting them wet again before pushing two fingers into his more stretched channel. He jumped slightly when he felt Calvin’s slick, but much wider finger join his deep within his body. He began to move his hips up and down, fucking himself on their fingers before Calvin’s grip on his hip stopped him.
“I need you,” Calvin growled out.
“Finally,” Maurice panted out. He pulled his fingers free, moaning as they slid free along with Calvin’s.
Maurice waited in breathless anticipation as Calvin prepared to fill him and it wasn’t long before he felt the wide, blunt head of Calvin’s cock against his entrance. He breathed out and relaxed his muscles. He groaned at the burn that he still felt as Calvin’s slick dick pressed within his rectum but that burn turned into a blissful pleasure pain that morphed completely into pleasure and soon Maurice was no longer bracing his hands on the ground but had his hands braced against the tree trunk as he pressed backwards against the thrusts of his lover’s hips.
It wasn’t exactly the quick and dirty fuck that Maurice had been expecting nor the slow and tender lovemaking that he’d thought Calvin had alluded to, but as Calvin’s cock filled him again and again, the head of his dick pegging Maurice’s prostate on each entrance, Maurice knew that it was definitely the “magic” that Calvin had promised him. He gasped and panted out Calvin’s name, pleading with him, squeezing the tree trunk, his mind flooding with images of snow falling over the Tate Ranch, making it a beautiful winter wonderland as he and Calvin made love in the open.
The tingling at the base of his spine and his balls rising close to his body alerted him to the fact that his orgasm was imminent and he tilted his head back. “C-Calvin!” he gasped.
“Cum for me Doll Baby,” Calvin commanded him, his words sounding as if they were coming through chattering teeth.
Maurice’s orgasm exploded through him and he painted the tree trunk in front of him with his spend. His ass clenched around Calvin’s shaft which caused him to let out a roar and expel his own seed into Maurice’s body. Maurice shivered as he rested his cheek against the cold tree trunk. Wait… why was the tree trunk cold?
Opening his eyes he looked around and noticed that it had indeed snowed around the Tate Ranch as he and Calvin had been making love. He looked back at Calvin and his mate shrugged and laughed.
“I told you it would be magic.”
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf, And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself; A wink of his eye and a twist of his head, Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread; He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work, And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk, And laying his finger aside of his nose, And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose; He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle. But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight—
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”
“Alex! Get up! Get up! You’ve got to come see!” Declan’s voice, a loud screech in his ear, caused Alex to pop up in bed with a fright, his hand covering his chest.
“What’s wrong? What happened? Is somebody in the house? Where’s Ross?” Alex asked frantically.
“Ssshhh. Lyubof,” Ross’s deep voice was in his ear and Alex stilled instantly. “I am right here. Declan is fine. Everyone is fine. He is merely excited.” Though Ross sounded comforting, he also sounded exhausted as well which meant that he’d just woken up too. Alex looked over at his mate and smiled sheepishly.
“Sorry, baby.” He leaned over to kiss the man.
“Eeww! You didn’t even brush your teeth yet! That’s. Gross!” Declan declared, sticking out his tongue. “Go brush your teeth and use the bathroom and get the babies and then come out into the rest of the house, it’s SO. AWESOME.” With that the young boy turned and ran from the room.
Alex’s eyebrows lowered in confusion. “I didn’t think our Christmas presents were that awesome,” he told Ross.
Ross shook his head. “Neither did I.” He shrugged. “Well, His Highness has spoken. Let’s get a move on it.”
Alex nodded. He pulled back the thick duvet and swung his legs out of bed. Stepping down onto the floor he let out a squeal and hopped back into bed.
“Holy fuck that’s cold!” He looked at Ross in shock. “Ross? Why is our floor cold?”
Ross climbed out of bed and then turned to look out of the window. “No. Shit.” He turned with a chuckle and pointed outside. “Baby. It’s snowing.”
Alex shook his head. “No it’s not. This is Wichita Falls, Texas. It does not snow in Wichita Falls, at least not enough for it to look like this.”
Outside of their window, the ranch looked like a holiday card. There was inches of snow on the ground and when he kept looking out of the window he realized that their garage was decorated in Christmas lights. He tapped Ross on the shoulder and pointed.
“Looks like we’ve been Tommy-ied,” he said with a laugh.
Ross chuckled. “So we have.” He shook his head. “I dread to see what the rest of our house looks like.”
Alex shrugged suddenly feeling the Christmas spirit, the one that had been escaping him as he’d thought of Tabitha, the child he’d lost, infusing his body. With a swift kiss to his mate’s cheek he walked towards their bathroom. “C’mon, let’s get ready. I don’t know about you, but I am suddenly feeling very Christmassy.”
He let out a squeal of happiness as Ross let out a growl and chased him into the bathroom.
Eclasius clutched the delicately wrapped gift close to his chest as he flew up into the portal that would take him back down to Earth, he could only hope that Alex and Ross appreciated the gift and that it didn’t bring them more distress than they’d already suffered. He flew through the air, the wind blowing through his hair and smiled as he thought about returning to his love and the Tate Ranch. His brethren had asked him when he was returning to the ranks and he’d told them he was thinking of becoming a cowboy. They’d laughed at him, so he’d encouraged them to come out to visit the ranch. He wasn’t sure if they would or not but he needed to warn Vet that there was a possibility that there might be a rank of angels descending upon the Tate Ranch soon.
As he got closer to the ranch, Eclasius’s wings began to heat in order to keep him warm and he wondered about the change in the atmosphere. That is until he flew over the ranch and noticed that it was snowing in Wichita Falls and only in Wichita Falls. Laughing in delight Eclasius headed directly for Alex and Ross’s home, landing directly in front of their home and froze at what he saw out front, getting choked up at what he saw depicted on the front lawn. He knew then that his gift was perfect for them and went quite well with the theme of what had been done by everyone else. With a nod, he folded his wings and allowed them to be enveloped into his back as he walked up the stairs and into the house where he lived. A party was already in full force, Alex, Ross and their family at the center, big smiles on their faces and Eclasius was glad that he’d arrived in time.
“There you are!” Alex exclaimed as Eclasius walked in. “We were wondering where you’d gotten off to.”
“I had to go and get your present,” Eclasius responded with a smile. “Merry Christmas.” He stepped forward and handed them a present that was wrapped in the most delicate silver wrapping paper that Alex had ever seen in his life. Balancing Clayton on his knee Alex accepted the present from Eclasius with a smile.
“I thought it went really well with the decorations out front,” Eclasius said. “Though I didn’t plan it out with whoever did the front yard. It just sort of happened after I talked to Ton and he told me what Gianna wanted for Christmas.”
Alex turned to look at Ross in confusion. Their front yard was decorated as well? They knew that their house was decorated. Oh man was it decorated. Every room, except theirs had been decorated, although that had been done as soon as they’d stepped out of the room. The bathrooms had been decorated. There were a total of seven Christmas trees in the house, one for each child that Alex and Ross had, and Tabitha’s tree was white with a star on top of it. Alex had cried when he’d seen it. Especially when he realized that instead of ornaments everyone had written notes to her or put up Christmas postcards with her name on it.
“The front is decorated?” Ross asked in confusion.
“I completely forgot!” Maurice exclaimed. “Calvin and I stayed up all night doing it too. C’mon!”
Everyone stood up and there was a flurry of motion as parents made sure all of the children were dressed in coats, scarves, hats and boots, things that they never thought they’d truly need out on the ranch in Wichita Falls, Texas and walked outside. Alex carried Clayton on his hip, Ross carrying Carter and Caleb right behind him as they followed their friends out to the front lawn. They reached the edge of their property and turned to see the full effect.
Alex gasped and raised a hand. There on their front lawn was their family, or rather statues of them. Vet, Richard and the triplets. Ton and Tommy with their daughters, Kennedy and Kelsey, Lady Madonna Streisand at their feet, chewing on Ton’s boot. Howell, Michael and their children were there as well, as well as their pets, with Howell and Michael making the symbol for “I love you.” Maurice, Calvin, Devontae, Zander, Zavier, Bae, Eclasius, Fitz, and so many more they were all there, but they were all facing the center and there in the center was Alex, Ross, Declan, Gianna, Leann, Carter, Clayton, and Caleb, all looking upwards. When Alex looked up he expected to see something, but he didn’t see anything, and wiping the tears from his face, tears he hadn’t even been aware he’d been shedding, he looked at Maurice he smiled.
“It’s beautiful Maurice, thank you,” he told his friend, hugging the other man.
“I know you’re probably wondering what you all are looking at, but I couldn’t think about what to put up there,” Maurice told him with a shrug.
Ross shook his head, clearing his throat, his eyes red with unshed tears. “It’s fine Maurice. We know.”
“Besides, I think that’s where my gift comes in,” Eclasius said.
Alex looked at his friend and nodded. Unwrapping the box, he gasped and closed his eyes at the bright light shining within. When it dimmed somewhat, he looked back within, he looked back inside and pulled out the star and looked at Eclasius in surprise.
“Eclasius. Where did you get this?” he asked.
“Your parents gave it to me,” Eclasius said. “They told me to tell you that this star is their promise to you that they will watch over Tabitha just as you watch over their children. They said they are proud of you and they love you very much. They also said you have a beautiful family and Merry Christmas.”
Alex’s eyes widened and the star brightened before floating up from his hand and drifting over to Gianna. Gianna looked at the star and then over at Alex with a wide grin on her face.
“It was my Christmas wish,” she told him. “And Santa made it come true. Santa is awesome.”
Alex swallowed the lump in his throat and nodded. “Yes he is.” He watched as the star floated in the air again before rising to embed itself in the awning of their home.
Alex looked at his mate and smiled through his tears. “I think this may have just been the greatest Christmas ever.” He leaned up and placed a gentle kiss on Ross’s lips, trying not to squish their children between them. He pulled away at the whoop of excitement that came from Tommy and turned to look at the other man.
“Yes! Another successful Tate pack Christmas,” he said. “Project Alex is Mission Accomplished. One that we actually mean, by the way. Now, who’s going to be the focus for next year? Richard? Michael?”
Alex followed everyone else as they laughed and walked away from a still chattering Tommy and walked back into his home. The smells of Christmas dinner drifted out making him smile and when he stepped under the awning of his home he could smell his parents for the first time in a long time. Gianna tugged on his coat.
“I smell Mommy and Daddy,” she told him.
“I know, Gee. I do too,” he told her.
Gianna nodded. “I think I like Christmas.”
Alex nodded in return. “I think I do too.”
“… or you know we can do Devontae! We could go all out and do like a military Christmas theme. Though you know him and Zander like that whole BDSM thing too. The children wouldn’t be able to come to that. Oh! Ton! What about your sister and Katharina! A lesbian Christmas! That could be fun!”
MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR FROM VICKTOR ALEXANDER AND THE TATE PACK!