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    Headstall
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Gay Authors 2015 Secret Santa Short Story Contest Entry

Chrisis Eve - 1. Story

Goddam, it was cold. Another in a long line of nights designed to finish him off. Well, it would soon get its wish. He’d already had the flesh almost stripped from him. What more could he give? He thought he knew what words like desolate and diminished meant, when he still lived at home with his stepfather. Those agonies paled in comparison to his new definitions. He was bereft. There was a new word to focus on. Anything but fixate on his decision. He could flitter across it, but to stay, to dwell, only scared away what little sense he still had left. He was terrified, but determined. Another ‘D’ word to ruminate over.

The wind that rose from nowhere, threatened to take his already labored breath away. It returned fallen snow to the air in swirls that both blinded and choked, searing his eyes and lungs. A coughing fit that was his most familiar companion of late, reappeared from the absolute depths of him, pulling up red-tinged phlegm along with it. An opening in the surrounding cloud of snow offered him respite in the form of a sheltered alley. Stumbling, seemingly guided in by powers unknown, he struggled for air, life-giving oxygen to keep him going just a little bit longer.

The barrage of snow lessened the further he stepped into the sheltered space, and so did his coughing. Thank God for small blessings. ‘God.’ What a joke. There was no God. How could there be? How could any rational person believe in such a thing? Just walk the cold, cruel streets of the city at night, catching glimpses of hopeless, homeless people everywhere, and any faith you may have held on to would soon be obliterated. The blinders would fall away, and force you to really see. With a sudden feeling of near-panic, he squelched his bitterness, because if there was no God, then there might not be any kind of existence after death, and his desperate act relied on there being such a thing. He sent up a silent, but fervent prayer, asking forgiveness for his traitorous thoughts.

As this latest bout of air-deprivation temporarily subsided, Darren pulled in shallow breaths, trying to fill his depleted lungs while he could. He rolled the small, orange plastic bottle around in the pocket of his flimsy jacket for at least the thousandth time over the last couple of months, in anticipation of this special day. He hated drugs with a passion. Watching his strung-out mother get hit by a car when he was thirteen, was a brutal reminder of what drugs can really cost. She was attacking a stationary pickup truck while in a crack-induced haze, and he was powerless as he witnessed the horror of another vehicle taking her out. The sound of it still resided in his head.

But now, he needed to transcend… move on to a different place, and what he gripped in his hand would give him deliverance on this impossible-to-forget anniversary day.

Darren walked farther back into the narrow chute containing a long line of garbage bins. It had a loading dock at the end of it, lit by a feeble light. Doors on either side of the alley were blocked with drifted snow, indicating no one was around to shoo him away like he was some vile piece of filth. He could rest here for a bit… sit on his haunches and lean against brick until the snow died down. Then he would continue his journey to the special place he’d chosen. He wanted to be completely alone when he succumbed.

The sound of retching, a most unpleasant disturbance, reached into his awareness where it pulled him out of his mind, and into his bleakly-cold surroundings. His empty stomach roiled in commiseration. It was coming from between the two bins closest to him, and his immediate instinct was to leave. Survival. Flight, not fight, had saved him many times in the past, but what did it matter now. Curiosity took a lot of effort, something he couldn’t afford to expend. It was always safer to mind your own business… so he completely surprised himself when he stood, and edged closer to the source of the obvious physical distress. What the fuck am I doing?

“Are you okay there, dude?” The question started up his coughing again, and he had to grip the side of the closest bin to keep the light-headedness from taking him down.

The vomiting stopped. Dead quiet was interrupted by a cackle, as a voice from the dark replied. “You’re asking me if I’m all right. You sound worse than a cornered fox in his death throes,” it slurred.

Oh, shit… A drunk… and an odd one from the sounds of it! Cornered Fox? Death throes? Darren questioned his wisdom when a shabby-looking Santa Claus stepped out into the snow-filtered light. At least that’s what he appeared to be, although he was a far cry from the one Darren had helped up from a bad spill a couple of weeks ago.  That Santa had been the typical kind-eyed roly-poly version.  A closer look at this one showed his coat wasn’t a cheap velvet, but more of a wine-red brocade, like the curtains from his deceased grandmother’s dining room. There was a subtle raised pattern through it… writing, but not in a language he knew, and symbols of which only a few were recognizable. Stars, crosses, and quarter moons were faintly visible. The coat, over similar pants, was long… knee length, and beaten up black leather boots almost reached up to the bottom of it. Darren couldn’t be certain, with the obscure lighting, but the eyes staring holes through him looked black as coal, a perfect match for the coat’s buttons and leather belt. The hair on his face was a mottled silver… a far, far cry from white.

Darren attempted a deep breath, and to his astonishment, his lungs felt clearer than they had in days. Months even. “Sorry, sir, I didn’t mean to bother you. I was just seeing if you were all right. I’ll be on my way now.” Was that real fur— ‘white ermine’ came to mind for some reason—on his floppy hat and coat? This was one strange, drunken Santa. What the hell was an ermine, anyway? He’d never seen an ermine. Was it the weasel thing that lived in the Artic?

“Before you take your leave, could you be so kind as to spare some change for a poor soul down on his luck, young sir?” The red-suited man hiccupped, but the expected smell of booze wasn’t present. “A few pieces of silver would see me to a cup of milk and some sweetbreads,” he smiled, and his teeth were not pleasant to look at.

Two years, much of which was spent destitute and on the streets, and Darren had always managed to care for his teeth. A cup of milk and sweetbreads? Who was this guy, and what the fuck were sweetbreads? Was that like donuts? The suited-up dude cackled again, like he was enjoying some private joke.

“I’m sorry, mister, but… oh damn, listen, you know what?” Darren reached into the only jean pocket intact enough to hold anything, and withdrew a handful of change. “Here, take this—there’s a little over three dollars there—get yourself something to eat, and get out of the cold for a while. Maybe there’s still room in one of the missions for you. The one on Carling St. might be a good bet… I mean, if you need a place to stay.”

“So very kind of you, young sir.” He looked quite pleased when he took the money. “In return, might I grant you a wish?” Darren stifled a laugh when the man gave him a slight bow. “It is Christmas Eve after all. As Lord Claus, I would be remiss if I didn’t extend the offer.” The bearded man smiled, and for a split second, the light played games with his teeth and made them gleam white.

Lord Claus. This guy was a hoot. “No, that’s okay, but thanks. Christmas is just another day to me, and I don’t put any stock in wishes.” The snow had leveled off, and having done the only good deed he was capable of, Darren backed away from this rather peculiar man.

“I understand,” the man wavered on unsteady feet, and looked close to pitching forward. Without hesitation, Darren reached out to steady him. It was a long reach, but he caught him in time. “I’m sure I’m a little wobbly on my pins. Could you possibly help me out to the sidewalk, where the snow has at least been tended to?”

“Sure, mister.” Wobbly on his pins? Weird. Darren started walking with the man gripping his arm. It was probably just his imagination, but he thought he felt a tingling sensation beneath the hand. He looked sideways, and met an intensely interested stare… the kind of stare he had seem so many times before, like he was being gauged, and measured.

“Such a fine, charming young gentleman, to be sure. Could you do me one more favor, and humor me, lad?”

“I’ll try, if I can, but if you’re looking for companionship, I don’t do that anymore,” he said defiantly… the last bit of the Darren he used to be had risen for a brief moment. Never again… that was his deal with himself. His final one, and he’d made it months ago, once he’d acquired the means to embark on his intended path. His left hand closed around the pill bottle once more.

“Oh dear heavens, lad. Nothing of the sort. I just want you to clear your mind for a second, and think about what would make you most happy in this world. Indulge this old fellow, would you, please?”

“You don’t look very old to me.” Darren looked closer at the man, expecting him to say something, but all he received was a mysterious smile. It was then he noticed that while he was covered in snow, the red-suited Santa had not a speck on him. That must be one special suit. Lord Claus had a decidedly kinder look to him now, but Darren was becoming anxious to return to his journey. It didn’t help that his feet were starting to go numb. Why had he even stopped here in the first place? His brain felt foggy… out of sorts. “I’m sorry mister, but I have to get going.” A memory of Elliot had come from nowhere, and that just wouldn’t do… not yet.

“I absolutely won’t detain you any longer. Thank you for your generosity. It has served us both very well indeed. You are most certainly the right one. Good night, young master.” He released his grip on Darren’s arm and turned from him. The person who walked away did not look like the man present in the alley. His stride was sure and purposeful… certainly not the gait of someone who’d been drinking. The right one? What the fuck did that mean? Lord Claus? What a nut-bar. His drinking must have been an act, or he was awfully fast at recuperating. Darren set out again, but turned back around to look at the departing man. He was gone. All Darren saw was a tornado of blowing snow. His Lordship had to be in the middle of it.

Mentally shrugging, he continued in the opposite direction, more intent than ever. It had to be this night. The hope now, and it was a slim one, was that he, and the man he still loved, would be reunited in some kind of afterlife. It was two years to the day since he’d learned of Elliot’s death, when he had been gleefully told of it by his miserable drunken asshole of a stepfather, of all people. It was the day he’d left his home town forever. Graduating from high school was not to be. He couldn’t function. There was nothing there for him after that news. No real family left, and the man he was supposed to spend his life with, was no more. He was 1500 miles away, in the province of New Brunswick, crushed beyond recognition under a pile of logs, along with all of their hopes and dreams. He still couldn’t accept it… it felt so wrong. Darren shuddered, and walked faster, trying to outpace the pain that only ever retreated, but never left.

The park he was headed for was still a fair distance away. It was a place he had been to before, in summer. He would climb the locked gates and lay there in the darkness under the trees, surrounded by peaceful souls, and let his deceased lover come to him. He would let the memories of their lovemaking wash over his body and through his mind. These weren’t the tortured memories and images that battered him while he slept. Not the gruesome ones that would cause him to wake up in a screaming frenzy, and send him over the edge, into hysteria. No, these were peaceful and calming. It was a place reminiscent of where they used to show each other their love… under the green canopy, surrounded by nature, and it was where Darren knew he’d feel closest to him when he drew his final breath. It was fitting, and he was ready. The closer he got, the stronger the blossoming memories became, but it was too soon. He had to get there first. Pulling the bottle, compliments of a passed-out client, from his jacket pocket, he stopped and untwisted the lid. Two of them should ease the pain until he reached his goal. He tried swallowing quickly but they caught in his throat. A handful of burning snow solved the problem.

Relentless barriers of moving snow came from nowhere once more, doing their best to impede him. He hurried, but his legs began to work like rubber against the driving force of the white needles. Christmas lights on the big homes set back from the road, became massive blurs of color, the lights themselves indistinguishable. Shit! He wasn’t going to make it. It was only two pills… he needed to sit down. Dizziness overtook his weak and ravaged body. Sinking to his knees, he crawled to a large tree, and managed to lean back against it before oblivion struck. He had failed. He would freeze to death right here. It was time to think of Elliot, and he tried, but the memory of his face eluded him. Wait. There; he had it. God, he was beautiful, perfect, with the sun shining over the back of his head, illuminating his reddish hair like a wreath of fire. It was a wondrous vision to keep him company as he slipped into unconsciousness.

 

Elliot was heading to Toronto for another, likely futile attempt. Maybe his last one. His previous search was supposed to be the last time, and when he came away with no success, he’d been devastated… even worse than all the trips before. He needed answers, but it looked like he was never going to get them. All he had to go on was an arrest report from a year ago, saying Darren had been picked up for solicitation. It was hard to believe, but the picture faxed to the local police station had been the man he needed to find. His blond hair was scraggly, and he was noticeably leaner, but those big expressive eyes were the same ones he dreamed about, night after agonizing night.

Darren could be anywhere now. He may not even be alive. Elliot shuddered at the thought, and closed his mind to the possibility of it. He would know. He would feel it, wouldn’t he? All he knew was that it had been impossible to get his life back on track. Godammit! He needed to know why Darren had abandoned what they had. It was inconceivable. Darren’s piece-of-shit stepfather had told him the ‘faggot’ had enough of small town Sudbury, and took off for the bright lights of the big city, but that sounded so unlike the Darren he knew. He didn’t trust that bastard, but Elliot was able to confirm he had bought a ticket for the train, and had been on it. But why? They loved each other. Their plans had revolved around being park wardens. It had been both of their goals… that, and to build their life together. And why had he never contacted Elliot, or left him a message?

The closer he got to the downtown core, the more rancid the sick feeling in the pit of his stomach became. What was it that mall Santa had said a week ago when he took his niece to meet him. “You’ll find what you’re looking for in Toronto, on Christmas Eve. One of us will help you.” That was it. How cryptic was that? The guy was probably crazy, with those weird fucking eyes of his, black as coal, and staring holes in him. He could still feel the creepy guy’s hand on his arm, gripping it with surprising strength. When Elliot handed little Cara back to her mother ten minutes later, he went back to the Santa House out of curiosity. It freaked him out when he found a different Santa, and was told he was the only Santa present that day. He left when he realized his raised voice was causing a scene.

So here he was, on Christmas Eve, and he had no idea where to start. He knew his family was worried about him… had been for almost two years, but what could he do? He had to try one more time, even if Darren didn’t want to see him… didn’t want to be found. He entered the city by way of the Don Valley Parkway. Traffic was minimal. Christmas Eve was a time to be home with loved ones. He would head for the stroll… the rent boy district… and ask around. The young guys who worked there were reluctant to give any information, and any he had gotten in the past, turned out to be bullshit… but he had to try, at least once more.

Elliot was pessimistic. That annoyingly mysterious Santa had said someone— ‘one of us’— would help him. What the hell did that mean? He banged the steering wheel in frustration, and screamed aloud in his truck. “Please, please, please… God, help me, please,” he wailed over and over again… a litany that was a prayer. When he got a grip, he found himself in the exit lane for Eglinton Avenue, and he had no choice but to take it, with a huge tractor-trailer boxing him in. Where the hell had he come from? Sighing in disgust, and wiping away stubborn tears, he decided to head west and take Yonge Street into the city. It was a way he’d never gone before, and it would be slower. When he reached Yonge, he turned south, and kept going. Visibility began to worsen, until he found himself in the middle of a whiteout, and out of caution, he pulled over just after a set of traffic lights. It was an unusual-looking weather occurrence, and he felt like he was in a real-life snow globe. His heart started to pound, from what he didn’t know, but it couldn’t be from the stress of the weather. He was used to much worse where he lived. Incredibly, the snow descended to the ground all at once. It was one of the most mind-boggling things Elliot had ever witnessed. He felt too disoriented to pull back out on the road, like his brain had short-circuited.

Things got more bizarre. A tap on his window gave him a jolt, and when he saw who it was, he couldn’t do anything but swallow, and he didn’t dare hope. Santa Claus was standing beside his truck. Not the one from the mall. This was an older, chubbier Saint Nick, with a face you would never be able to pick out in a crowd, and he certainly wasn’t dressed to impress. His suit was ripped at the collar, and the white fur looked dingy. That was no fake beard though. Elliot rolled down the window, but was, for the moment, speechless.

“Could you spare a couple of dollars for a poor soul down on his luck, young man?” The smile that accompanied the words was a curious one. Elliot got an eerie vibe that he was being tested in some way.

“Sure… ah, just a second.” Digging into his pocket, he came up with a ten-dollar bill. Without a thought he passed it over to the Santa, whose eyes had changed somewhat. They were darker, more intense, and his brow was furrowed in concentration. As their hands touched, Elliot felt something tingly, and watched Santa’s brow relax. Was he in a fucking twilight zone? “Are you the one who’s going to help me?” he finally worked up the courage to ask. There was so much at stake for him here, and he heard the quaver in his own voice.

Santa’s brow furrowed again. Finally, he smiled and spoke. “You’re the right one. You have to turn around… go back… and look to your left. Look at the bottom of the trees.”

“I’m sorry, what do you mean?” His question went unanswered. As Santa walked away, the snow lifted and coalesced again, and he was gone. There was nowhere he could have disappeared to so quickly, but he wasn’t there when the snow settled. The hazy, trance-like feeling left with the swirling snow, and with a clear but confused mind, Elliot spun his truck around and headed north, looking to his left as instructed. His hope scared him. Only a short distance up, he spotted a stand of trees, just before the start of a huge cemetery. Slowing to a crawl, he stared at each tree, one by one, until he saw one with a rounded lump at the bottom of it. Elliot’s heart was doing flip-flops from both excitement and trepidation. Could this be happening? Could that be Darren over there? He didn’t think he could handle the disappointment if it wasn’t him.

His hands shook as he pulled the truck over and parked. In his rush to reach the tree, his feet slid out of control on the icy road, so he forced himself to calm down. It was definitely a person, and as he got nearer, he knew. Now was not the time to fall apart. He had to believe he was alive. His park warden training kicked into gear as he knelt in front of the man who walked his dreams at night. He could scarcely believe it, but he had found Darren. He reeled at the coldness of the pale, almost translucent skin, but he sucked up his fear, and felt for a pulse. Relief threatened to stop his own heart when he found it. He began muttering ‘thank you’ to God, over and over again, as he quickly checked him over. His fragile joy plunged when he discovered the bottle of sleeping pills in Darren’s pocket. Their presence meant Darren needed to get to the hospital right away. He looked at the pill bottle again, noting how full it was. Darren groaned, and mumbled something that sounded a lot like ‘Elliot’ and the man with that name felt his heart soar. First things first; he had to get Darren warmed up. Bending his knees, he picked up the cherished man. Even though Darren was taller than he remembered, Elliot was astonished at how light he was. God, he must be skin and bones, and Elliot’s soaring heart broke just a little bit. He carried him carefully to his truck, cautious of his balance, and put him on the bench seat, before running around to the driver’s side to get in. In order to fit, he had to place Darren’s head in his lap. He could have put him in the back seat, but there was no way he could be that far away from him. Not now, and maybe not ever.

Pulling the pills from his pocket, he checked for the amount. Thirty. The name on the bottle was not Darren’s. Recommended dosage: 1 or 2 as needed, once daily. With trembling hands, he counted the pills. Twenty-eight. Only two were gone, and the pill bottle couldn’t have held any more than the prescribed amount, so the most he could have taken was two. He felt for a pulse again, and it was still strong. What if he was wrong?

“Darren? Darren! Please, Darren, wake up. It’s important. I need you to talk to me.”

“Elliot?” Darren’s eyes stayed closed.

“Yes… yes, Darren, it’s me... Darren, how many pills did you take? Darren, how many pills did you take?”

“Pills? Took two pills. Not enough… have to take more… need to see Elliot… I have to take more so I can die. I need to see him… I need to….” The words were weak, and etched with pain… plaintive.

“Darren, I’m right here. Why do you have to die to see me? Darren?”

There was no answer as the pills and the warmth of the truck heater did their job, putting him back into the deepest of sleeps. Elliot didn’t care. The soft snores were music to his ears. He made a decision for the both of them… the only one he could have. It was time to take his man home. Darren had wanted to see Elliot, and in his messed up mind he had to die to do it. Elliot didn’t understand it… there was still a lot he didn’t get, but he had what he came for. He had his miracle. It was a snowy, six-hour drive ahead of him, but he didn’t mind. The love of his life was with him.

Darren had slept so soundly for the first four hours of the trip that Elliot kept his hand close enough to his nostrils to feel the steadiness of his breathing. It kept him sane. The last two hours, Darren became more active, and while in some ways it was a relief to him, the obvious agitation of the man was disturbing. He moaned and cried out every so often, and the anguish in his voice brought Elliot to tears, and kept him there, on and off, over and over. The word called out with the most pain was Elliot’s name, like it hurt Darren to say it.

It was with immense relief that he pulled into his four-season cabin at 5:10am, the place Darren would remember as Elliot’s grandfather’s… now his. Wasting no time, he parked quickly, and carried his treasure inside. The open and spacious interior had a big bed in the far corner, and that was where Elliot headed. He’d started to convert the old wood-room to a master bedroom, but lost interest. Now he held the reason it needed to be finished, in his arms. The woodstove fire had died out many hours ago, and while a supplemental heater was on, there was a chill pervading the home. He laid the mumbling man down, and covered him with the goose-down comforter his grandmother had crafted some thirty years ago. Elliot turned on the bedside lamp in order to see what he was doing.  He covered everything but Darren’s face, and took a moment to stare down at it. Darren was twenty years old now, but Elliot still pictured the boy who was eighteen when he’d last seen him. That had been the day he’d left for Forestry College on the East coast of Canada, when Elliot was almost twenty. It was a face he feared he would never see again, and here it was… here he was… back in Elliot’s bed, where he belonged. But what if Darren didn’t want to be here? What would Elliot do then? It was too difficult to even think about, so he went over to the big cooking stove, and built them a fire. The wood was well seasoned, and it was blazing in no time.

Elliot, after checking on the now-peacefully sleeping man, walked over to the front corner of the big room. After the unsettling message from the strange-eyed Santa at the mall, Elliot had returned home in a state of confusion. He remembered sitting on the couch, in a kind of mental stupor, before heading out onto the twenty-six acres his grandfather had left him, and cutting down a nicely-shaped spruce tree. He had walked straight to it. And here it was, in the corner, strung with lights he’d only turned on once, to check that they worked. He’d turned them back off immediately, and came out of his brain haze wondering why he’d done such a thing. It was depressing. It was a compulsion he couldn’t resist at the time, and now he was glad he hadn’t fought the urge. He stepped closer and plugged the lights in, only just then realizing what a good job he’d done. It was Christmas Day, and he had a tree, and he had…. Elliot heard movement, and turned around.

Darren’s big, blue eyes looked owlish as he stared at him. He was frozen in the process of sitting up. “I did it? I really did it?” He looked at the Christmas tree, and then around the room before settling on Elliot. “I thought I failed, but it worked anyway?”

“Did what, Dares? What did you think failed?” Elliot’s nickname for this beautiful man rolled off his tongue as naturally as if they’d seen each other a day ago. He made his way towards the bed, almost afraid he would spook him away, leaving Elliot alone again.

“I found you. Just like I hoped I would.” There was a euphoric expression on his face. “So this is heaven? Your grandfather’s cabin… do we stay here or can we move around?”

“Yeah, you found me, or actually, I found you under a tree in the city. I’ve been looking for you for two years, Darren, and I thought I would never find you. But I did and….”

Darren looks so confused that Elliot worried about the effects the pills may have had on him. “I’m dead, right?”

“What? No. Of course you’re not dead, baby. Why would you think you were dead?” Now Elliot was confused… and concerned. He remembered Darren muttering about needing to die when he carried him to the truck, but he hadn’t taken it seriously.

“I have to be dead, Elliot. This isn’t right. I can’t see you and talk to you if I’m not dead… because you’re dead.” An anguished sob followed his statement.

“Oh baby, I’m not dead. Look at me. I’m alive, and so are you. Why would you ever think I was dead?”

“No, no, no! You’re wrong! Are you really Elliot? Why are you playing tricks on me? Elliot’s dead. I know he is. Wally told me. He told me Elliot was crushed under a pile of logs, and there wasn’t enough left to bury.” Darren was becoming hysterical, and Elliot was trying to process what Darren was saying.

He sat on the bed, but Darren backed away from him. The look on his face scared the crap out of Elliot. Wally, that fucking evil bastard. He had done this. He was the reason Darren had taken off… the reason they had both spent two years in separate hells. And all the times he’d seen him… gone over there, the son-of-a-bitch knew! “Baby, I know you’re freaked out, but look at me, and listen. Wally told you I was dead, right?”

Darren, eyes wide, nodded his head slowly.

“Think about what that man was like, Dares. He did everything he could to fuck up your life after your mom died, am I right? He hated you and me being together, didn’t he?”

Another nod, and a frown.

“He did it, Darren. He fucked up your life and mine. I understand it now. You didn’t leave me. You thought I was dead, and baby, I was never crushed by any logs… I broke my wrist, and I asked my dad to go over to your house, and let you know I was okay, and I emailed you about it, but you never replied. That was the day before Christmas. Oh my God, Dares… that awful, sick piece-of-shit… he did this to us. Baby, please believe me. I’m not dead, and neither are you. I found you last night, on Yonge Street, near a big graveyard, and that’s the truth. Once I knew you were all right, I drove straight here….”

“Then this really is your grandfather’s cabin? In our forest… not heaven?”

“Well, it’s my cabin now… ours, if you want it to be? Poppa passed away over a year ago.” He gave Darren a gentle, calming smile. “And yeah, it’s where it always was, just outside town. We can go for a walk later, if you want? Do you believe me now, baby?”

“I’m afraid to, but I think… yeah.” He crawled across the bed and reached out to Elliot’s face, touching it with just the tips of his fingers until he became more sure of who this really was. Shaking hands stroked Elliot’s hair, his face, his shoulders, and his arms, until Darren finally threw himself at the lost love he believed had died a horrendous death, heaving sobs wracking his body. He clung to Elliot, and Elliot did the same. The agony of the release slowly gave way to pure happiness as they both rejoiced in the fact that their biggest wish had come true. They ended up laying side by side on the top of the big bed… their bed now… entangled in every way possible. Little kisses led to one big one that held all the love and yearning of the past two years.

“You’re never leaving me again, are you?” Elliot had to ask.

Darren shook his head violently. “I never left you… ever, Elliot, and I never will… I had to do some things, though, Ell, that you might….”

“Shush, baby, I don’t care… you stayed alive for me, and that’s all that matters. I never want to hear you apologize for anything. I mean that. I’m sorry you had to go through what you did… thinking I was dead this whole time. ” Elliot leaned back in for another kiss, laying claim to what was his, once again.

“Okay, but I want you to know, I’ve been tested, and I’m healthy, and I never let… nobody but you has ever….” Darren was quiet for a minute, and Elliot watched his face go through an emotional struggle. “He wouldn’t let me take anything when I left… not even my phone or my laptop… he locked me out, but I didn’t care. You were the only one I wanted to talk to, and I thought you were gone forever. It was a mistake… a stupid mistake to believe Wally, but, even now, I still find it hard to believe he would do such a thing. I’ll kill him if I see him, I swear.” Darren was vehement.

“I hate the prick for what he did to you… to us. It wasn’t stupid, baby,” Elliot reassured him. “Good just doesn’t understand evil, and that man was pure fucking evil. You needn’t worry about him anymore though, Darren. He’s been taken care of.”

Darren partly sat up. “What do you mean?”

“I mean, that Wally… the heartless prick is dead. Dead and gone.”

“How? Shit, really? What happened to him?”

“He died last Christmas Eve. He was caught in a freak ice storm when he was illegally poaching out on Nicholas Lake. He had a trap-line set up there. He sure got his, Darren. A dead branch coated in ice broke off a tree he was under, and it went right through his heart, and pinned him to the ground. The cops were surprised at the force it would have taken to do that. It must have been one hell of a storm. A couple of snowmobilers found him, and they said his face was literally frozen in fear.”

“Wow.”

“Yeah, wow, but a fitting end, I would say. It was like someone shoved a sword through where his heart should have been.”

“I won’t be shedding any tears, that’s for sure,” Darren said thoughtfully. “Christmas Eve… that’s kind of spooky.”

“Yeah, it is, when you think about it… the whole thing... how he died, was spooky,” Elliot shuddered. “Your mom’s house belongs to you now, baby.”

“I don’t want it. This is where I live, right?”

“Absolutely, now, and forever. But just so you know, I paid the back taxes on it. It made me feel there was hope, and if you sell it, you’d have more than enough money to finish your education, if you want to. Now, how about I make us a little something to eat while you have a long hot shower? Maybe toasted ham and fried egg sandwiches with ketchup?” he smiled, remembering his guy’s favorite sandwich, and Darren’s stomach gurgled at the suggestion. “Then I need to get a few hours of sleep, hopefully with you snuggled up against me.” Elliot smiled his pleasure at the thought. “It was a long drive. When we get up we can really celebrate Christmas. Does that all sound good to you?”

“It sounds perfect, especially the snuggling part. I feel like I’ve been rescued… saved. Merry Christmas, Elliot. I love you. I never stopped, even when….” A few happy tears were sliding down his face.

“Oh Baby, I’ve never stopped loving you either. It wasn’t possible. Merry Christmas, Darren. I feel like I’ve been rescued too.” He grabbed and held Darren’s hand in his as they got up from the bed, and his bright green eyes shimmered with joyful emotion.

Darren pulled Elliot back in for a hug when they stood. “I can’t believe I’m here, or that you’re here. God, I can’t believe you’re alive. Can I ask you a really weird question, Ell?” He wiped away the wetness on his cheeks, and gave a little smile.

“It is a miracle, isn’t it?” Elliot looked upwards, and said, “thank you,” while Darren took it in. Elliot got his emotions back under control, and returned the smile. “Go ahead, baby. You can ask me anything you want.”

“Okay, don’t laugh, but, well, something weird happened, and… Ell, do you think there is a Santa Claus?” He was dead serious.

Elliot looked him straight in the eye. “Absolutely, Dares. A few weeks ago, I would have said there was no way. Now, there’s not a single doubt in my mind Santa Claus exists. He might not be the Santa everyone thinks of, but, oh yeah… he’s real. ” He was just as serious.

“Good. I’m not crazy then.” There was relief in Darren’s voice. “Ell? Was I coughing on the way here… or wheezing?”

“No, baby, you’re not crazy, and I’ll tell you later why I believe he’s real… and your breathing was perfect. Why? Do you have a cold?”

“No, I guess not,” Darren frowned, and then smiled, breathing deeply. “Not anymore. Elliot? What in the hell are sweetbreads?”

“Sweetbread, or sweetbreads?”

“Um, sweetbreads, I think.”

“Oh, baby, trust me. You don’t want to know… not before you eat.” Elliot smiled at the remembrance of Darren’s notoriously weak stomach. He headed for the kitchen area to cook Christmas breakfast for his man.

“But I want to know, Ell… for some reason it’s driving me crazy, like I should know….”

“Okay, Dares, if you insist.” Elliot knew this wasn’t a good idea. “Some people refer to them as offal, stuff you throw away, and others love them. They’re pieces of organ meat… the thymus and pancreas of….”

“Um, you know what? Never mind… you can tell me later… or never,” Darren grinned.

Elliot laughed, really laughed, for the first time in a very long time, and if felt damn good. This was, without exception, the best Christmas ever.

Copyright © 2015 Headstall; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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I think Wally got off to easy. :pissed: But of course I find it so awful that Darren believed him and spent two years in purgatory. The first half of the story was gut-wrenching and while I tried to hope Elliot was alive, I couldn't quite believe it until it actually came true. It actually made me shake from relief and joy.

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A Christmas miracle from a pair of iffy Santas! Love it! Such a fuzzy feeling having the guys find each other again.

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A true Christmas miracle, and the best Christmas present either guy could ever want :)

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Omg, I have tears of joy running down my face, Santa! What a beautiful ending to a story that had such a heartbreaking beginning.

 

I agree with Tim; Wally got off way too easy - although I do hope the frozen 'stake' through his heart hurt like hell!

 

Awesome story, Santa! Terrific job! :)

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I liked how things worked together. 2 years apart and on Christmas Eve a year ago Wally dies and then this Christmas they reunite. Also the mall Santa and the street Santa. All woven together for a wonderful Christmas tale.

 

I have a guess who might be the ghost writer for this Secret Santa story ;)

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This was beautiful. I was really hoping that Wally had lied and Elliott wasn't dead. I am so happy that wish came true for me and for Darren. I can't imagine what Darren's life was like, thinking the love of his life died in such a horrible way, then getting kicked out and having to live on the streets. Although Darren didn't have the same struggles in those two years, I think his life was about as much of an empty shell. Thank you for giving both men, and me, a happy ending :)

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I felt the tension through this story as well as the despair in Darren. Finding Elliot again after what they'd both been through was so satisfying. The ending was truly a Christmas miracle. Oh and Wally totally got his due!
Great story...Thank you..

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The grief of Your Love will make to end Your Life. I am glad they both finally bonded and all the tensions gone out of their life.

 

Hey You have given a new era to Santa. It so beautiful and all the magic, I can feel through My heart. Lovely Story...

Edited by Emi GS
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On 12/17/2015 02:54 AM, Parker Owens said:

Heartbeat going a mile a minute...great story! Loved the ending, Sweetbreads? Santa likes sweetbreads?

Thanks, Parker. I'm pleased to hear it affected you that way. Glad you liked it, and apparently, yeah, that Santa did like sweetbreads... go figure lol... This was something different for me... cheers... Gary...

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On 12/17/2015 10:56 AM, Timothy M. said:

I think Wally got off to easy. :pissed: But of course I find it so awful that Darren believed him and spent two years in purgatory. The first half of the story was gut-wrenching and while I tried to hope Elliot was alive, I couldn't quite believe it until it actually came true. It actually made me shake from relief and joy.

Thanks, Tim. I really enjoyed writing this, and I'm pleased to hear it put you through the wringer lol. It's the first time I wrote about something magical, so I'm glad it worked. I appreciate the great review... cheers... Gary...

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On 12/17/2015 11:25 PM, Carlos Hazday said:

:worship:

Thank you, Carlos. I'm glad you liked it. It was a lot of fun to write something so different for me. Cheers... Gary...

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On 12/18/2015 07:07 AM, Puppilull said:

A Christmas miracle from a pair of iffy Santas! Love it! Such a fuzzy feeling having the guys find each other again.

Thanks, Puppilull. Gotta have that fuzzy feeling lol. I appreciate you loving it. It was a long hell for the both of them, and if anyone deserved a Christmas miracle, they did... thanks for a great review... cheers... Gary...

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On 12/18/2015 07:10 AM, Graeme said:

A true Christmas miracle, and the best Christmas present either guy could ever want :)

Thanks, Graeme. I can't tell you how much I enjoyed writing this, and being a part of the event. I had to give these poor devastated men the best Christmas ever... cheers... Gary...

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On 12/18/2015 02:23 PM, Lisa said:

Omg, I have tears of joy running down my face, Santa! What a beautiful ending to a story that had such a heartbreaking beginning.

 

I agree with Tim; Wally got off way too easy - although I do hope the frozen 'stake' through his heart hurt like hell!

 

Awesome story, Santa! Terrific job! :)

Thanks, Lisa... I seem to have a habit of making you cry, and I love it lol. Thank you for such kind words... I enjoyed this whole thing tremendously... cheers... Gary...

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On 12/18/2015 10:04 PM, val said:

Thank you for reviewing. Something must have screwed up, but it's the thought that counts... cheers... Gary...

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On 12/19/2015 02:44 PM, wildone said:

I liked how things worked together. 2 years apart and on Christmas Eve a year ago Wally dies and then this Christmas they reunite. Also the mall Santa and the street Santa. All woven together for a wonderful Christmas tale.

 

I have a guess who might be the ghost writer for this Secret Santa story ;)

Thanks, wildone! I like that it you said it was woven together because that's what it felt like I was doing when I wrote it. I tried to be as subtle as possible, but weave the magic throughout. I hoped that it worked. So were you right about your guess? I appreciate the thoughtful review... cheers... Gary...

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On 12/20/2015 06:44 AM, Cinnamon said:

A beautiful story of hope and joy.

Thank you, Cinnamon! I'm glad you thought so... Santa gave them the Christmas they deserved... Thanks for the nice review... cheers... Gary...

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On 12/21/2015 03:07 AM, LitLover said:

This was beautiful. I was really hoping that Wally had lied and Elliott wasn't dead. I am so happy that wish came true for me and for Darren. I can't imagine what Darren's life was like, thinking the love of his life died in such a horrible way, then getting kicked out and having to live on the streets. Although Darren didn't have the same struggles in those two years, I think his life was about as much of an empty shell. Thank you for giving both men, and me, a happy ending :)

Thanks, Lit! I'm glad you thought it beautiful. Both men lived their own hell for two years, and I don't know whose was worse. They needed their happy ending, and the Santas gave it to them... Thanks for a wonderful review... cheers... Gary...

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