Holiday Intrusions
    by Rusty

Jack couldn't move or breathe; there was something crushing his chest.  And IT was.....ALIVE!   Not wanting to open his eyes because it was to damn early in the morning to be awake, especially on a Holiday when they didn’t HAVE to get up for work;  he tried jerking his shoulder, hoping the creature would move.  IT didn’t budge.

He opened his eyes, just a little, and peeked out from under his dark lashes.  There were two eyes staring back at him.  Green eyes!  Wide awake green eyes that on any work day, had to be pried open with a crowbar in order to start the day.

“It’s CHRISTMAS!”  The green eyed monster pronounced. 

“It’s not ..Christmas.”   Jack groaned and tried pushing IT off his chest again.  “It’s only the day after Thanksgiving. A very early Thanksgiving.”

“You promised!” Gavin reminded him, although Jack didn't remember any promises about getting up in the middle of the night. “We have tons to do today.  You said you’d get up early.”

“It’s still dark outside.”  Jack complained a little, not really wanting to get up, but knowing it was a lost cause. 

Gavin lifted his head off Jack’s chest and sat up in bed.  “It’s six o’clock!  That’s MORNING!  Come on!  We have to start decorating now if we want to get anything done and still SHOP.  We can’t miss shopping today.  It’s tradition!”

Jack chuckled a little, a sleepy chuckle.  “And we wouldn’t want to miss that tradition!”

“We have to do our part to help the economy.  It’s the patriotic thing to do.”  Gavin smiled, not being able to resist rubbing his hand over Jack’s jaw.  Gavin liked the feel of Jack’s face before he shaved. He looked SO hot in stubble. 
“And you know you like shopping the day after Thanksgiving, so don’t even go there.”

Jack smiled back at Gavin.  He lifted one hand and gently combed his fingers through Gavin’s hair.  It was falling down over his forehead and his normally sleepy morning eyes were already wide-awake and sparkling; his face already lit up with his very own holiday glow.  For some reason, and Jack couldn’t begin to explain it, he suddenly just didn’t care that it was a holiday and that they didn’t have to get up. Certain parts of his body were already up and... raring to go.

He pulled Gavin back down on his chest.  Who needed to breathe? 


Jack started nibbling a little.  “Why don’t we open a few presents early?  Start this Holiday out right.”

Gavin smiled, truly enjoying how this morning was starting out. He had known all a long that it wouldn't take much to get Jack moving. Jack was a really easy guy and it didn't take much. But it was The Season and Jack always got extra horny during any holiday, especially when they started the decorating.   It was some kind of fetish or something. As soon as Gavin started pulling out the decorations, Jack would get that look in his eye. It never failed.  And it was just the FIRST day!  They hadn’t even started the actual decorating YET. 

Man, this was going to be one fantastic Christmas. 

Gavin thought about getting on the Internet, maybe start one of those Yahoo discussion groups under.... fetishes.  Just to see if anyone else suffered from this...Holiday Decorating kind.  He was curious to see how many others were out there that shared that fetish.

No, he thought, most people would probably join a group like that thinking it was a “Martha Stewart’s - Tips on Decorating for the Holidays”  type thing.  They could just go to Martha’s page and get THAT information.  Who cared if anyone else suffered from this...particular one? 

Not Gavin, that’s for sure!  Jack could give him all the tips he needed.  He was just going to enjoy all the “suffering” he could get.

Gavin rolled off of Jack’s chest, pulling him along.  He slid one hand down that chest and then over his stomach, until he found what he was looking for.  

“I found my present..… you find yours..”

“I can’t wait to give the angel statue to Mom.”  Gavin was so excited; he was going to have a hard time not giving her the angel before Christmas.

“She’ll love it, but don’t ever let her know how much you paid for it or she’ll clobber you.” Jack said as they passed the fountain at the center of the mall.  “Now I’m going to have to come up with something to give her that’s at least half as good.  She already likes you better than me as it is.”

“Hey, don’t try and usurp my position as favorite son.  She may have given birth to you, but I’m still the apple of her eye.”  Gavin smiled, thinking how much fun Christmases were since becoming an honorary Ryan family member. They were so different from the quiet, reserved and often lonely ones he remembered sharing with his “blood” family.  Although, things were better between them, Gavin still felt more comfortable with his “Ryan” family than with his “McCourt” one.

“Let’s look in the pet store.”  Jack said, coming to a halt  in front of the petstore.  They had already purchased gifts for several people and would have to make a trip to the car before they could shop for anymore.

“NO! I hate going in there.”  Gavin’s face lost its holiday glow at the very mention of the pet store.

“Gavin, it’s been two years since we lost Henry.  Don’t you miss having a pet around the house?”  Jack asked as he shifted the packages in his hands.  He missed having a pet around the house.. that’s for sure. 

“I miss having HENRY around the house.  I’ve told you just can’t replace something like that, Jack.”  Gavin turned his back on the pet store entrance.  He didn’t want to see any sweet little eyes that might tempt him into LIKING them. It was cruel to keep those little things in a place like that anyway.  There should be a law!

Jack sat his packages down beside the wall of the pet store and leaned against it.
“Gavin, I know we could never replace Henry.  It would be different,...but we could still love it. It’s like family or friends... you can love different people in different ways. Each one brings.... different things to your know.   There’s enough room for everyone.”

“Oh, and what if something happened to ME!  Would you just say...  “I’ll never FORGET about Gavin, but I could get USED to someone DIFFERENT!”  Gavin sat his packages down beside Jack’s and crossed his arms over his chest.  “I couldn’t do THAT if it were… YOU!”

Jack tried to hide a grin.  “Gavin, I don’t think it would even be possible for anyone to *ever* replace you.  You’re one of a kind.”

Gavin leaned against the wall of the pet store and tried to hide a grin of his own. “For some reason, I don’t think you meant that as a compliment.”

Jack laughed out right and leaned over to pick up his packages.  “Compliment or not, since you ARE one of a kind, I’m just glad I’m the one that found you.  Come on, let’s go in the pet store... for just a minute, okay?”

Gavin leaned over and picked up his own packages.  “What do you found me?  *I* found you,  remember!”
“Look at that one Gav.  He looks just like Henry.”  Jack pointed to the Carmel colored Cocker Spaniel puppy. The pet store was packed with holiday shoppers, pushing and shoving to look through the glass.

“He doesn’t look anything like Henry.  Henry had much more… personality.”  Gavin looked down at the bottom cage.  There was a Basset Hound lying in it, not moving a muscle.  He was so lazy looking Gavin didn’t think you could get him to move if there were a fire.  “If we ever did get another dog, it would have to be one that wasn’t the type to run off….or….. run out in front of… cars, you know.”

“Well, we’d definitely get a fence for the yard and teach him to stay there.” Jack glanced once more at the little Cocker Spaniel puppy and started for the door. “Come on, we can put these packages in the car and do some more shopping.”

Gavin glanced back at the Basset Hound once more before following Jack out of the store.  He wished he could take all the little darlings’ home with him for Christmas.  No one should have to spend the holidays in little cages like that.

Maybe getting another dog wouldn’t mean that he was FORGETTING about Henry. Maybe he could love more than one dog and it still didn’t mean he was *replacing* him.  But losing Henry that way had been so awful.  

Gavin thought maybe he must be suffer from sort of a....Borderline personalty Syndrome thing where pets were concerned and he was just having a hard time getting over it.  He’d read about stuff like that.

He’d have to look that up on the Internet.

“I still don’t understand why HE is coming here to OUR house!”  Gavin grumbled as he jerked on his pants.  “I don’t understand why I got in trouble for voicing very natural concerns about it….either!”

“Your natural concerns aren’t even a reality and not really the point.” Jack tucked his shirt in his pants, then zipped and buttoned them. “And it was the volume and the language used to voice those concerns that got you in trouble.  Not the actual voicing of them.”

Gavin flopped down on the bed and winced. He shifted his seat a bit, still not happy. He pulled on a sock. Hard!  

“Okay, I’m not yelling and swearing now.  I don’t think it’s unreasonable to feel a little uncomfortable having someone your partner has SLEPT with...LIVED with even...invited for a visit in your own home.  It’s....SICK!”

Jack sighed and sat down on the bed beside Gavin. “Gavin, I lived with him and SIX other guys in a big house during law school.  The sex was very casual and not a real relationship.  We were good friends, not really lovers.  We’re way too much alike for it to have ever been anything more.”

“See!  Sex! You had SEX with him!”  Gavin accused, as he pulled on his other sock.  “And why is he in Cleveland anyway?”

“His *partner* has family here. He e-mailed Mike and me, letting us know he was going to be in town and Mike invited the *two* of them to his party tonight.  Mike shared the same house during law school, and you don’t get bent out of shape that I’m friends with him.”  Jack rubbed Gavin’s back.

Gavin scooted over further away from Jack.  He wasn’t going to yell or swear, but that didn’t mean he was happy. At all!  “You didn’t have ..SEX...with Mike.  Or did you?”

“No, I didn’t have sex with Mike.  Gavin, you weren’t exactly a virgin when we met.”  Jack was already regretting inviting Brian and his partner to their house for drinks before Mike’s Christmas party.  He should have realized what Gavin’s reaction would be.

“Oh, so you’re going to throw all my ex-lovers in my face now!” Gavin stood up from the bed and put his hands on his hips.  “Not that there were THAT many! But I’ve never invited any of them for OUR home! And you bought him a PRESENT!”

“I bought him a bottle of wine.  It certainly wouldn’t be what you’d call an invitation for sex.”  Jack was trying to be patient and he did understand Gavin’s feelings…..some. “We’ll just have one drink and then go to the party.  It won’t be that bad.  I’m sorry that I didn’t think to check with you first before inviting them over.  It’s not something we normally do when inviting guests, but maybe this time I should have thought ahead. I really didn't think it would bother you.”

“Oh, you’re always getting onto me for NOT thinking ahead.”  Gavin glared at Jack. “How come you get away with stuff like that and I don’t?”

Jack shook his head.  “I’ve never “got onto you” for inviting anyone over and you know it.”

“I’ve never invited an ex-lover over either!” Gavin’s voice sounded strained in an effort not to yell. His butt already stung from NOT straining it before. Okay, so maybe the “fucking asshole friend” statement had something to do with that.

“And you bought him a PRESENT!”

Jack stood up from the bed, grabbing his socks.  “I’m not arguing about this anymore. I’m sorry I didn't check with you first, I really am. But they’re already on their way over here.  They won’t be here more than half-hour at the most, before we have to leave for Mike’s.”

Gavin thought a half-hour was thirty minutes too long.  “You know, if I thought about this long enough, I’d think you were leaving your options open.  You case something happened to’d have someone else to *replace* me with...someone you could “get used to” the same way you’ve always wanted to replace ...HENRY!”

“Gavin, I could never replace you.  I wouldn’t want to.  He’s an old friend. A good friend. Nothing more.  He lives in California and I haven’t seen him in years." Jack pulled Gavin in front of him and rested his arms on his shoulders.  "I want you to be polite at least.  If you’re thinking I’ll put up with you acting like a brat all night, you’re mistaken.   I’ll haul you out of that party so fast you won’t know what hit you.  That’s a promise. ”

Gavin...sort of nodded his head after seeing the Look on Jack's face, but he didn't actually say anything. He wasn't about to make any promises *he* couldn't keep. Because he wasn't anywhere near ready to give up, yet!

Jack kissed Gavin wrinkled forehead and turned him around with a swat.  “Now hurry up and finish dressing.  They’ll be here in a minute.”

Gavin silently stomped towards the bathroom.  He wanted to stomp really loud, but his butt wasn’t in any condition for another round.  YET!

Gavin almost had a Green Eyed Monster fit when Jack opened the door and hugged, HUGGED this...INTRUDER...right in his OWN home.

“It’s so good to see you Brian. This is Gavin, my partner.”  Jack gave Gavin a subtle glare when he didn’t stick his hand out right away for a handshake.

“Garvin, it’ so good to finally meet you. From Jack’s e-mail letters it feels like I already know you.”  Brian shook his hand; an innocent smile, Gavin was sure it was fake, spread across his face showing perfect white teeth.  He probably had them whitened every week.  It was DISGUSTING!

“It’s G.a.v.i.n." Gavin practically snarled. “And I feel like I know you too, B.y.r.o.n.”

Gavin didn’t even cringe when he saw Jack give him a dirty look over B.y.r.o.n.s shoulder. 

Brian’s partner smiled and stuck out his hand.  “Don’t mind him Gavin.  He’s from New England. They talk funny.  I’m Mason.”

Gavin shook Mason’s hand and immediately felt some sort of ....kinship with this man.  Mason probably didn’t like HIS partner visiting an ex-lover anymore than Gavin did.

Jack shook Mason’s hand when Gavin was finished with his ...bonding handshake. “It’s good to meet you Mason.  And it’s the same here. I feel like I already know you from Brian’s letters.”

Brian looked around the foyer and into the sitting room.  “You’re house is beautiful, Jack.  I could almost imagine it from your letters.”

“We’ll do a quick tour.  You can see what we’ve done so far.”  Jack took their coats and hung them up in the foyer closet. 

Showing the house didn’t put Gavin in any better mood.  Jack actually showed them their bedroom. Their BEDROOM!  It was.. SICK!...Having this …INTRUDER in their room, seeing the bed that they slept in.  And Gavin just knew that this B.y.r.o.n. was wishing that he could sleep in there with Jack! 

"Not in THIS lifetime." Gavin muttered under his breath, not paying any attention at all to the looks Jack was giving him. 

“We'll go downstairs and I’ll get you both a drink.  You still drink Scotch, Brian?”  Jack asked as they made their way down the stairs.

Gavin snarled under his breath again. “You still drink Scotch, Brian?”  How did Jack remember THAT after ..EIGHT years.  It must be some sort of.. SECRET between them!

Brian laughed and followed Jack in to the GOOD sitting room.  “Yes, Scotch is still my drink.  Mason prefers vodka and orange juice.  The heathen.”

“You two get comfortable in here and Gavin and I will get the drinks.”  Jack motioned for them to have a seat and gave Gavin a LOOK that said he had better follow him.

Gavin snarled yet again at Jack’s back.   The GOOD sitting room.  When did anyone ever sit in THERE?  When did anyone EVER even GO in there? 

Only.. INTRUDERS.. apparently!

Jack was already pouring the Scotch when Gavin made his way to the kitchen.  When Jack looked up, his nostrils flared and he started speaking in hushed tones before Gavin made it to the kitchen bar.

“I’m warning you for the last time.  Behave! Be polite! Or you are going to BE very sorry!”  Jack put ice in a glass and poured the Vodka.

Gavin poured himself a drink.  Apparently Jack didn’t care to ask HIM what HE wanted to drink. Like HE wasn’t as important as this....INTRUDER!

“What! I’m not allowed to *feel* how I *feel* anymore.  You get to decide *that* along with everything else.”  Gavin dumped a couple of ice cubes in his glass.

Jack whacked him once, HARD, across the seat of his pants.  Gavin was sure the... INTRUDER...could hear the sound of it clear at the front of the house.  The sting of it had worked it’s way threw the fabric of his pants.  The fact that his backside still had some leftover sting from *before* the ...INTRUDER here, didn’t help any.

“OW!”  Gavin hollered, before realizing he didn’t want anyone to KNOW! Especially THAT anyone.   “What was *that* for?”

“You are treading on very thin ice, buddy.”  Jack picked up the glass that held the Vodka and passed it to Gavin.  He had poured himself a coke, picked up that glass and the one that held the Scotch. “You have been warned.”

Oh right!  I’ve been warned, Gavin thought.  And why did Jack just HAVE to take the Scotch glass in for B.y.r.o.n.  Why didn’t he give Gavin the Scotch glass and Jack could take the Vodka glass in for the other guy.  Gavin knew why! 

That Scotch MUST be some sort of...SECRET between them.

They sat in the GOOD sitting room for about a half-hour and drank their drinks. B.y.r.o.n. sipping SECRET scotch, smiling with his perfect WHITENEND teeth.   Jack gave Brian the PRESENT he’d paid for with THEIR money.  Brian decided they would open the bottle at the party and have a drink with Mike. 

“It will be like old times.  The three of us.” Brian smiled.  That really fake innocent WHITE smile Gavin hated.

Yeah, just the three of them, Gavin thought.  Leaving him...and this other guy...out in the cold.

After arriving at the party, Gavin tried to stay as far away from the INTRUDER as he could, but NOT so far away that he couldn’t keep an eagle eye out for Jack. He could see Jack, Mike and B.y.r.o.n. all huddled together around the fireplace, apparently talking about OLD times.  Laughing and ...touching! 

The INTRUDER actually had the nerve to place one of his hands on Jack’s shoulder.


Gavin noticed Mason was standing with the three of them.  He was laughing and sharing in the fun, completely unaware that his BOYFRIEND...was SO obviously flirting with Jack!  The INTRUDER was just trying to hide his TRUE motives by keeping his arm around Mason; whispering things in his ear, making him smile.  It was a COVER-UP!  Gavin was SURE of THAT.

Jack caught Gavin’s eye and motioned for him to join them by the fireplace.  Well, Gavin thought, maybe he should be a little closer to Jack.  Just to make sure this guy wasn’t trying anything funny that Gavin couldn’t see from where he was.

When Gavin walked over and stood beside Jack, he felt that familiar arm wrap around his waist and rest there.  Comfortably.  Like it belonged there. 

It DID belong there!

Jack whispered in Gavin’s ear.  “We’re just getting ready to open the wine and have a toast.  Stay with me.  I miss you when you aren’t near by.”

Brian opened the wine bottle and poured some in each of the wineglasses that sat on the mantle. He passed them around one by one, giving Jack a ...SECRET smile...when he passed a glass to him. 

Gavin inhaled sharply at seeing that smile.

Secret smiles!  Secret Scotch!  Secret Shoulder Touching!  Little Presents! OLD Times!  White Teeth!  And let’s not forget...the GOOD sitting room!

It was just all TOO much!

When Brian handed a glass of wine out to Gavin, smiling at him with that same SECRET smile, which Gavin was sure was just another "cover-up" SECRET smile, so no one would suspect his TRUE motives; Gavin lifted his hand up, in a rather quick motion and ... accidentally .... dumped the full glass...all over Brian’s crisp white shirt. 

“Oh!”  Gavin purred.  “So sorry....B.y.r.o.n.!”

Gavin felt Jack’s arm tightened around his waist for a second.  Probably in an effort to NOT whack Gavin senseless with the hand that was attached to that arm.

Mike moved fast and came back with some towels.  Everyone stood around B.y.r.o.n., all trying to do something in order to soak up the stain that appeared down the front of his shirt.  No one really thought the spill was anything but an accident.  Well, except for ...B.y.r.o.n , Mason and most importantly...Jack!

Mason just stared at Gavin, sending him silent daggers, wanting to punch him for doing this to HIS partner.  He moved to stand beside Gavin and whispered hotly in his ear.  “He doesn’t have any designs on Jack, if that’s what you’re worried about.  I had some problems with us coming to your house at first too.  But Brian loves me.  They’re just friends.”

“Well, Jack loves me too.” Gavin stared back at Mason, trying to send a few daggers himself.  He wasn’t feeling nearly as justified in what he had done, as he had been before...the accident.  Why didn’t these feelings ever show their head....BEFORE ...he acted on them?  It was like he had a death wish... or something.

That Green-Eyed Monster Personality that had taken over his body in the past few hours was slowly being taken over of his OTHER personalities!  The one that was usually very sorry about whatever mess he’d made at any given time.

After seeing the GLARE Jack was giving him, Gavin thought that *now* might be a good time to start....carrying on a conversation with himself.  Maybe a three or.….even a four way conversation with himself.  He could just say that he had ..... Multiple Personalities and that the... REAL Gavin part of him had NOTHING to do with ANY of this.  It was just like that.... SYBIL person!  She had six or more personalities!

He’d read about stuff like that!

Jack gave Gavin a silent message with his eyes that literally screamed for him to head for the door.  Gavin let out a sigh.  He was SO dead. 

Before heading for the door, Gavin looked back at Mason.  “Have you ever heard about any third world countries... ones without... airports?”

Mason was beginning to feel a little sorry for Gavin.  He gave him a wry smile.   “No, I haven't. But there have been many times when I’ve thought about looking into where those countries were myself.”
Jack made sure that Gavin was heading in the right direction...towards the door.  He didn’t want to give him too much of a head start.  Knowing Gavin, he’d start making those …...airport plans he was always mumbling about whenever he was in trouble.  And he was in SO much trouble!

“We’re going to take off, now.  I’m really sorry.  He’s not usually like this.  At all.”  Jack shook his head in wonder. “He’s such a gentle soul really.”

Brian laughed and shook Jack’s hand.  “Hey, I completely understand.  Mason had a similar.... problem regards to you,  just before we left for your house.”

Jack laughed along with Brian.  “Call before you head back for California.  We can meet for lunch or something.”

Watching Jack head for the door, Mason put his arm around Brian’s waist.  “I think Gavin is feeling really bad about what he did.”

Brian smiled down at his partner.  “Oh, I’m sure he’s feeling really bad.  Believe me, he’s only going to feel worse.”

Mason’s face turned a little sympathetic as he watched Jack grab Gavin’s arm and..kind of...push him out the door.    “You did say you and Jack are a lot alike... right?”

Brian wrapped his arm around Mason, smiling down at him.  “Very much alike I’m afraid.”

Mason’s face turned VERY sympathetic at hearing that. “Poor Gavin.”

Brian laughed.  “Poor JACK!”

Jack had barely spoken a word to Gavin in the very short…very long car ride home.  Gavin had felt it was in his best interest to follow that example and just.. keep his mouth shut.  After pulling in the garage, Gavin made a quick exit from the SUV and tried making it to the door, before Jack got any ideas about helping him along or anything.  

When he opened the door to the kitchen Jack called out to him.  “Hang up your coat and March upstairs and get ready for bed.”

Gavin pulled his coat off as soon as he stepped inside the house. “Upstairs?  Don’t you want to go down the basement?”

“No, I don't.”  Jack pulled his coat off and hung it in the closet.  He handed Gavin a hanger and waited for him to hang up his coat. “I don’t know why you’re worried about privacy at eleven o’clock at night in our own home, when you just acted like a complete brat at a party in front of a room full of people”

“I’m sor..”  Gavin yelped when Jack grabbed his arm and swatted him twice, apparently not in the any mood for apologies or explanations.

“Move!”  Jack swatted him once more.

Gavin didn’t need anymore encouragement.  He moved!  Fast!

After washing his face and brushing his teeth, Gavin stood in the archway to their bedroom.  Jack was sitting on the bed, tapping that damned hairbrush against his leg.  Soft little taps.  Like he was testing its effectiveness. Gavin thought if Jack really wanted to know what that thing felt like, he should tap it a lot harder. Those soft little taps certainly weren’t giving Jack any clue as to what it really felt like.

Jack just kept right on…softly tapping that brush.  “Come here!”

Gavin slowly walked towards the bed.  “I’m really sorry.”

“Come on, Gav. Hurry up..”  Jack’s nostrils did that flaring thing.

“I have a right to feel …jealous.”  Gavin took a few more steps. 

Jack cocked both brows and his nostrils flared again.  “That is *not* what this is about and you know it.  Now move.”

Gavin took the few steps needed to stand in front of Jack.  Jack didn’t waste anytime. He pushed Gavin’s boxers to his knees and pulled him over his lap.

“That IS what this is about!”  Gavin started pleading immediately.  “I said I was sorry for the wine, but I’m not sorry for feeling what I .. OW!”

Jack cracked that brush on Gavin’s backside once, before clearing up the debate about what THIS was …about.   After that first crack landed he let that brush fall with about every third or so word.  Making it very clear that he was the far more experienced debater.

“I’m not saying you don’t have a right to *feel* things, but you do have to learn to control them, and temper tantrums and acting like a brat when you don’t know how to deal with your feelings is something I won’t put up with. Ever!”

Gavin didn’t even know why he ever tried to debate things with Jack.  He was a Prosecutor after all.  They were professionals at the “debate” stuff.   The only argument Gavin could come up with right now, were yelps and pleas and I’m sorrys, which didn’t seem to be doing his case ANY good.  At all!

“Pleease…stop.”  Gavin tried covering his backside with his hand.  That tactical move in this debate only got his hand pushed to the small of his back and six extra cracks of that damned brush he knew he wouldn’t have received if he hadn’t tried it.

When that brush finally stopped, debating was the furthest thing from Gavin’s mind.  He couldn’t even catch his breath, let alone make any sense at all.  Jack stood Gavin up, pushed his boxers down and off his feet, pulled back the covers on the bed and plopped him in it.

Over his crying, Gavin could hear the water running in the bathroom and the sounds of Jack brushing his teeth.  The fact that Jack didn’t even stop to hold him before plopping him in bed caused him to cry even harder.

Jack turned the light off in the bathroom, entered their bedroom and slid under the covers next to Gavin.  He pulled Gavin up until he rested on his chest and washed his face with a cold rag he had brought along with him from the bathroom.  Then he threw the rag and ...of course landed right on the laundry basket.

Gavin sniffed into Jack’s shoulder.  “I’m sor.ry I ruined ..your ..reunion and..the party. What I ..did...was so hateful. I just couldn’ feeling that way.”

“Gavin, what you did was rude and childish.  You couldn’t be hateful if you tried.” Jack rubbed Gavin’s back.  “As far as what you were feeling.... I can understand …jealously… to a certain extent. Being uncomfortable with the fact that Brian and I had something of a history isn’t something I can fault you for.  I would like to think I could be a friend with someone from your past that was important to you, but I’m not completely sure it wouldn’t....bother me some.  I’d hope that I could be …friendly for your sake though, because more than anything, I trust you’re feelings for me.”

“I love you..and ..the thought of you...” Gavin couldn’t finish that thought.

“The thought that I might “replace” you with someone else frightens that what you’re trying to say?”  Jack asked, still trying to figure out a way to make him understand.  He felt Gavin nod his head against his shoulder.

Jack pulled Gavin away from his shoulder and held his chin up so he could look in Gavin’s eyes.   “I don’t want to be *with* anyone but you.  Not now.  Not ever.  And anyone who would even TRY and come between us, wouldn’t be are part of our lives. I can PROMISE you that. But Brian and I are just friends.  That’s all.”

“I know.. that.”  Gavin was feeling like a jerk.

“You can never have too many friends Gavin and... old ones are the very best.  Family, friends...people that share your life, are important...they should never be forgotten or set aside for any reason.   But *you* are irreplaceable to me.  I thought you knew that."  Jack rested his forehead against Gavin's.  "I guess I’ve always been so.... sure of you..... of what we have...I just assumed you felt the same way.  Maybe I was wrong about that.”

Fresh tears poured down Gavin’s face.  Jack’s loyalty and integrity were the qualities that Gavin had loved about him from the very beginning.  He had inherited those things from that wonderful Ryan family that he had always been so generous in sharing with him. He had shown Gavin... over the years... that it was possible to love a lot of people in so many different ways.

Gavin wrapped his arms around Jack’s neck and sobbed.

“I do...feel that way.  I am...sure of you.  Of us!  Please believe that!  I don’t know what I was thinking. I don’t know how you..put up with me.”

Jack laughed and rubbed Gavin’s bottom.  “I love “putting up” with you.  You make life...interesting.”

Gavin wiped the tears from his eyes and looked up at Jack.   “You know, I think I must suffer from this.... Borderline personality syndrome thing.  I’ve been reading about stuff like that.”

Jack didn’t want to get into this new “theory” right now.  He was exhausted and it sounded like this was something that would take a long time in explaining. He was seriously considering the idea of monitoring all of Gavin’s reading material in the future. It probably wouldn’t help though.  Gavin could come up with SOME kind of “theory” in just reading “Better Homes and Gardens”. 

“Well, uhm, we’ll work on that.  Tomorrow I want you to call Brian and apologize.”  Jack chuckled when he heard Gavin groan.  At least that would keep his mind occupied and they wouldn’t have to discuss that Borderline personality thing...tonight!

Missy peeked her head inside Gavin’s office and smiled when she saw the fifteen catalogs spread out over his desk.  “Are you still trying to figure out what to get Jack for Christmas?”

“Yeah, it’s driving me crazy.  I want to get him something really special this year, but I can’t find anything that *screams* special... at all!”  Gavin rested his hand on his chin. He wanted something that showed Jack just how much he was *sure* of *them*. It was important to Gavin that Jack really believed that he felt that way. 

“Any ideas?”

“Well, you did say Jack’s been trying to talk you into getting another dog.  My Maggie has one puppy left. She’s a beauty too.”  Missy smiled, she was so proud of Maggie.  “They make such wonderful pets, Gavin.  They really do.”

Gavin thought about that a minute.  Well, Maggie wasn’t really the type of dog he or Jack had ever thought about getting.  But....this would show Jack just how  *sure* he was of *them* in a REALLY big way.  It WAS the perfect gift!

“You know, I think you’re right.  I’ll stop by your place after work and take a look.”
Jack knew there was *something* crushing his chest..  And whatever it was... was ALIVE. He could feel IT breathing.  He could SMELL IT breathing and it wasn’t a pleasant odor.  At all!  He tried jerking his shoulder, hoping the creature would move.  IT didn’t budge.

He opened his eyes, just a little, and peeked out from under his lashes.  There were two eyes staring back at him.  BROWN eyes!  Wide awake brown eyes, a very wet brown nose.  IT reached over and licked him in the face.

“Merry Christmas!”  Gavin pronounced from beside the bed.  He leaned over and kissed Jack right on the mouth.  Puppy spit was still wet on them.  “Isn’t she beautiful!  Don’t you just LOVE her?”

Jack sat up in bed and pulled the dog on to his chest. She started licking his face again, making him laugh. She was beautiful. Pure white, with black torn patches that were scattered unevenly over her not quite puppy-sized body. 

“Yes, she’s beautiful, Gav!  What kind is she?  She must already be full-grown. Her feet are huge!”  Jack was laughing as the dog continued to give him those sweet doggy kisses.

“I wanted her to be the last present you opened this morning, but I had to leave her next door at Mrs. Masterson’s.  Well....Mr. Crandell watched her for me.  Good old Ethel doesn’t like me much, still.”   Gavin sat down on the bed beside Jack and rubbed his hand over the puppy. He laughed when the puppy jumped up and licked him on the face. “They’re having dinner with Mr. Crandell’s daughter.  She lives near Columbus, so they had to leave early.  I had to sneak out of bed and get over there before they left.  So, what do you think of her?”

“She  IS beautiful, Gav.  I can’t believe you did this.”  Jack leaned forward and kissed Gavin’s mouth.  Long and hard.  “Thank you so much.  We’re going to have to fence in the backyard and make sure she knows to stay there.”

“Yeah, I picked up some fencing brochures.  They’re downstairs.” Laughing as the puppy flopped around on the bed, Gavin asked, “What should we call her?”

“I don’t know.  Holly?  Noel? Something Christmasy, maybe.”  Jack laughed as the dog began nibbling at Gavin’s fingers. He was already falling in love.

“What about Martha?  We could name her after Martha Stewart as...sort of a tribute to Holiday decorating.  It wouldn’t SOUND so Christmasy and kind of would be.”  Gavin thought that was a great idea.  The very best part of Christmas was that special Holiday Decorating Fetish he and Jack shared.

Jack looked a little confused, but he was happy.... and didn’t feel like getting a headache trying to understand Gavin’s.... convoluted way of thinking this morning.

“I don’t get the...connection.  But if you like Martha...then that’s fine with me.”

“Then Martha it is!” Gavin grabbed Martha and pulled her in between he and Jack for a family group hug.  He kissed the puppy and then Jack.  They were already a family. He had known since Thanksgiving...this was going to be the best Christmas ever.

Gavin kissed Jack once more, before standing up.  “I’m glad you like her. I fell in love with her at first site. Come on!  Bring her downstairs.  There are tons of other presents to open....and I want to open MINE!”

“Anything under that tree won’t compare to this Gav. I mean it....thank you.”  Jack pushed the covers back, leaning over he put the puppy, if that’s what you could call a baby of this size, down on the floor.  He was amazed at the size of her feet.

“Well, she’s kind of... for both of us anyway.” Gavin started for the door, the puppy chasing his heels. 

“Come on.  We can come back up here for some Holiday fetish stuff, before we have to head over to your parents house.”

Jack picked up his jogging pants from the chair beside the bed, a confused look appeared across his face. Again.

He tried really hard NOT to ask. He just couldn’t stop himself this time.
“What is ...Holiday fetish stuff?”

Gavin stopped at the door and turned around smiling.  “Oh...never mind.  Just this theory I have.  Maybe I’ll explain it to you...after I open MY presents.”

The puppy changed directions and came back for Jack.  She sat down at his feet and watched him pull on his jogging pants.  Jack smiled down at her.  God, she was a beauty.  Such a sweet face. She licked his toes, then nudged his legs with her nose.  Yep, he was in love.  

But he was still amazed at the size of her feet and her head seemed rather… large.  He hoped she didn’t grow much more. This was a nice size.

He called after Gavin, who had already started down the hall towards the stairs. 

“Hey Gav!  You never said how old she is. What kind of dog is she?”

“Oh! Eight weeks.”  Gavin called back down the hall, his footsteps picked up speed.

Jack looked down at the puppy again, his eyes went wide in.... HORROR!

“Gavin….what.. KIND.. of dog is she?”  Jack called out as he started for the door, already afraid of the answer.  The puppy followed.

Gavin picked up his pace in a hurry to get down those stairs. Fast!  He called back up the stairs.  

“Great Dane?”

Gavin stopped on the third stair from the bottom when he didn’t hear any sounds coming from up the stairs and.... chewed on his lip a second.  After a few more seconds of silence, he slowly took the last few steps to the bottom of the staircase.  He changed gears again…. fast... and took off in a dead heat …when he heard Jack screaming from the top of the stairs.

“OH!  MY! GAWD!”