Chapter Four

Joy to the World

As the evening went on, Aedan managed to gradually relax.

Matt dished up the food he’d miraculously managed to keep warm despite Aedan not responding to all his calls and texts. When Aedan guiltily checked his phone, his heart panged as he saw all the photos Matt had sent of his progress with the tree and the food as he put it in the oven. He was such a dork. But that was why Aedan loved him so.

Of course, Matt didn’t care he’d been ignored, only that Aedan was home now and okay. And after their chat, he was feeling better than ever.

As Matt plated up all the scrumptious smelling goodies, he insisted Aedan add his few decorations to the tree around the ones he’d already hung. The troublesome blue icicles looked perfectly at home amidst all Matt’s jaunty Santas and plastic pug dogs wearing their own terrible Christmas jumpers. There were even some baubles that Matt had attached cardboard cut-outs of Miley Cyrus to so that she looked like she was swinging on her wrecking ball.

Aedan chuckled and went back over to Matt, kissing his check fondly as he joined him in tucking in to their feast.

Matt insisted on flicking Die Hard back to the start. “I’d only got about twenty minutes in,” he said. Aedan could tell from the shot that had been paused on the screen that he wasn’t telling the truth. But it made Matt happy to watch the film from the beginning because he could share it with Aedan. And that made Aedan happy.

They did indeed get a little merry on the hot, spiced wine. When Die Hard finished, they began wrapping up their mountain of presents. Matt put on Frozen and the two of them sang along to the songs loudly. Aedan hoped their neighbours had already gone out to the suburbs to visit their families. But even if they hadn’t, it wasn’t enough to stop him bellowing ‘Let It Go’ at the top of his lungs.

When they had all the presents laid out in front of them, Aedan realised they had done a pretty good job between the two of them. He couldn’t believe he’d forgotten all about those CDs he’d made that weekend back in November. But that made everything better. To him, music was one of the best gifts you could ever give someone else. The songs he’d chosen to share with each of Matt’s family members might very well stay with them for years to come.

He and Matt bumped shoulders and touched knees as they sat on the floor amidst a mountain of paper, tape, tags and presents. Aedan kept glancing over at Matt as he worked, smiling to himself. This was what Christmas was about. Not gifts; people.

“What?” Matt asked.

“Nothing,” said Aedan, taking another sip of wine. “Shut up and wrap faster, elf.”

Matt laughed and did as he was told, but only after tackling Aedan for a kiss.

Matt’s technique for wrapping presents was horrendous. His family’s dog Buster would probably do a better job with his paws. But for once, Aedan imitated his sloppy style. Not every gift had to be perfectly and evenly wrapped with bows and ribbons on top. They’d be there all evening if they did that, and quite frankly, from the way Matt kept looking over at him, Aedan could tell he probably had other plans for their night.

When the last package was ensconced in the bright paper Matt had bought, the two of them separated to wrap their gifts to each other. Aedan had already stashed Matt’s gifts away in the bedroom, and Matt said he was okay to stay in the lounge.

This was the last thing he had to do tonight, Aedan promised himself as he sat on the bed to work. Matt had even done a load of washing for them in preparation for going away. All he had to do tomorrow was pack his toothbrush and some underwear.

He sighed as he looked at the presents laid out before him. They still weren’t the most impressive bunch, but they didn’t seem like the utter failure he’d built them up to be earlier. He’d still take Matt out shopping for something once the shops were back open, but in the meantime, tomorrow morning shouldn’t be a total embarrassment. It depended what Matt had got him, he supposed.

It took about twenty minutes to get everything wrapped, and he even bothered to stick some shiny bows on them for added effect. “There,” he said happily to himself and gave a little clap. “All done.”

He hopped off the bed and raising his arms up, stretching and popping his back. Hopefully Matt was done with his lot as well now.

When he turned to look out the window he got a surprise. “Oh!” he said out loud, watching the soft, white snowflakes drift down in the darkness. He stepped up to the glass, touching the cold surface as he peered out into the night. Most of his plans might not have come to fruition. But a white Christmas was something he couldn’t have predicted, not in England. Normally they just got rain. This was perfect in a way he couldn’t have engineered if he’d tried.

Maybe, some things were just better when they happened naturally.

Grinning like a fool, he scooped up Matt’s pile of presents and nudged his way through the door back into the lounge. Matt was standing with his back to him as Aedan crossed the room and placed his packages by the tree. Matt was also watching the snow.

He turned and looked excitedly at Aedan when he heard the rustling of presents. “Look!” he whispered.

Aedan bounded back up to his feet and stood next to him. “I know,” he said. He took a mouthful of wine from the glass he’d left on the table. It was lukewarm now, but it still tasted good.

Matt took the glass from him and had a sip himself. “Come on,” he said, his eyes twinkling. “Let’s go take a look from the roof.”

Aedan laughed. He wanted to protest that it was freezing cold and Matt was crazy. But then he remembered how their very first kiss had been in the snow and he was soon jamming his feet into his boots and winding his massive scarf around his neck.

They giggled like children as they raced hand in hand along the corridor towards the stairwell. They could have taken the lift, but there was something more clandestine about sneaking round the back.

“Shush!” hissed Matt drunkenly, pressing his finger to his plump lips. Aedan batted his hand away and kissed them.

“You shush,” he told him with a grin.

This was what his aunt wanted. She wanted him to live his life. To have silly little midnight adventures with the man he loved. To have a home where he felt secure, a place he could be proud of. A job that wasn’t just a job, it was a career he cared about. To have a life where he, and Matt, chased their dreams.

Aedan let Matt pull him to the middle of the landscaped rooftop. It was deserted apart from the snow falling all around them. Aedan fell into Matt’s arms, although Aedan was actually the taller of the two, so he let Matt snuggle against his shoulder.

For a while they swayed together, enjoying the cold snow touching their overly hot skin. Aedan hadn’t realised how warm the flat had got from all their cooking, as well as their own body temperature rising from eating said food and drinking the lovely, hot wine.

“I love you, babe,” he murmured.

Matt smiled against his neck. “Love you too, gorgeous.”

Matt’s kisses started sweetly, trailing up Aedan’s neck and along his jaw. His hands slipped under Aedan’s coat and jumper, finding his ticklish abs. Aedan was pretty sure he’d put on ten pounds from all the festive cheer he’d indulged in, despite not going to as many parties as usual. But he knew Matt wouldn’t care. He loved him whether he was buff or skinny or even a little chubby.

Aedan knew this, because that’s exactly how he felt about Matt.

He knew Matt’s body as well as his own after all these years. Every curve and angle, dip and crest. To Aedan, he was utterly perfect.

“Let’s go back downstairs,” he said as Matt’s lips found his own.

Matt hummed, but he didn’t move. “Just a minute,” he said, smiling against his mouth. Aedan was happy to oblige.

They kissed gently, not moving into anything more urgent, just perfectly at ease with each other. Until Matt pulled carefully away and checked his old Batman watch.

“Merry Christmas,” he said with a grin.

Aedan moved Matt’s wrist to see the time for himself. It had indeed just gone past midnight.

“Merry Christmas, babe,” he said.

He used to call everyone that. Now, he reserved the title only for Matt.

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