|Santa's Little Helper
Author: x-Serena PM
Once upon a time, there lived a selfish, overbearing elf. This elf, no matter how hard he tried, couldn't keep his eyes off of Mega's seasonal twenty-two year old asshole of a high school dropout Santa. Slash, merry Christmas 09, magalina!Rated: Fiction T - English - Humor/Romance - Words: 7,020 - Reviews: 8 - Favs: 30 - Published: 12-21-09 - Status: Complete - id: 2754762
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
S A N T A ` S - L i T T L E - H E L P E R
x - s e r e n a
Dedicated to: magalina, Secret Slash Santa `o9!
• • •
An unexpected gift (good or bad,)
And a secret.
• • •
Oh god. I am so sorry about the length.
I'm not a very experienced writer; if you have any advice about cutting down length and making the entire plot more clear and concise, I would love to hear it, thanks.
Once upon a time in twenty-first century America, nestled deep in the wholesome, honorable village of San Francisco, there lived an elf of twenty-one years. Or, to put it in politically correct terms, there was a "Santa's helper"—after all, despite the connotations of the word, "elf," this helper was five foot ten, not three feet tall, and didn't live off of a staple diet of chocolate chip cookies and candy canes.
He was more of a salad kind of guy. You know the type, with their hopeless lit majors and their sweaters and their scarves and their earthy brown hair-eye combos and their cute glasses and their blogs.
For two, maybe three weekends of the year, this blogger-slash-elf dwelled, content if not happy, amongst forests of processed goods and chattering midgets in ye olde ammonia-scented Mega store, smiling and watching over abandoned children whilst their oh-so doting parents wandered off to look at cereals. He smiled and smiled and smiled despite the inadequacy of his minimum-wage life. In fact, this happy little elf smiled so hard his facial muscles perpetually felt like they were going to burst.
And, as decreed by the almighty job description, he was occasionally required to shoot kind, fat old Saint Nick a warning look before he told the poor little boy on his lap, the little boy who just wanted to be a pro baseball player for Christmas, that's all, that he was too much of a little whiney bitch to be anything more than a drive-thru attendant at McDonalds, he might as well forget it.
"Sorry everyone!" the elf called preemptively, as it was his task to make sure Santa didn't do anything to damage ye olde Mega store's rep and he looked about ready to burst. "Santa and I are going to take a short cookie break."
• • •
"Why don't you fucking stop it, already?" Levi snapped, yanking the little cotton-tufted red hat from his head and tossing it to the worn-down couch of the break room. He sat right on top of it, sprawling out on the cushions and leaving his little helper absolutely nowhere to sit as he wrestled the pillow from underneath his Santa belt. Grunting, he succeeded, tossing it to the floor and reclining. "I wasn't going to tell that kid anything I'd regret, so quit with the looks.."
Ace glared ruefully at Levi's legs as they hogged the entire couch, leaving no room for a certain deserving elf. Levi ignored him, relaxing and staring up at the ceiling, but Ace waited to be acknowledged anyway. For quite a long while.
Eventually, when it became apparent that his escalating irritation wasn't effecting Levi in the least, Ace sat in the uncomfortable wood-framed chair with the deteriorating cushion, instead. That was so Levi, he thought, to take up an entire piece of furniture, a piece of furniture that could easily accommodate three, and show absolutely no remorse for it.
If he didn't love Christmas so much, he complained inwardly, he wouldn't sign up for this job every year. The job of Santa's little helper was torture, it was the latrine duty of any participating locations, no one wanted it. No one but Ace, that is.
Contrarily, Ace's love for Christmas held its original roots in this miserable job—after all, it was two years ago, after pulling the short straw and being stuck as Santa's little helper, that Ace had met Levi. Levi was the only real reason Ace applied every holiday season since, even if he'd never downright admit it.
He wasn't sure why he liked Levi so much, himself, and others were bound to be even more confused, considering he'd managed to convince everyone he knew that he just didn't want a relationship, period. He was "Asexual Ace." Why would "Asexual Ace" fall for someone like Levi?
Levi was just your average twenty-two year old high-school dropout. He worked at Starbucks and constantly whined about his mother and how she charged rent, even though he was past the age anyone should be living with their mother. Levi signed up to be Santa every year just to get her off his back, as though it were a legitimate second part-time job, even though he was terrible with kids and didn't fit the job at all. In one word, he was an ass. So why would Ace like him?
Even more than that, the real mystery is this: why would Levi sign up to be Santa when there were so many better jobs out there?
If Levi weren't Santa, the two wouldn't have crossed paths, and Ace wouldn't have to worry about his sanity like this. It's not like Santa was Levi's dream job—lack of money aside, Levi was someone who hated Christmas with a passion, a passion trounced only by his absolute hatred towards kids. It showed every time he nearly cussed out a toddler and Ace had to stop him and call a five-minute recess so he could collect his wits.
Then, of course, the second most prevalent question: why the hell did Ace bother with him despite all the mixed emotions when being around him, petty crushes aside, brought nothing but grief? Really? It was a pain to talk to him, but Ace did it anyway. Self-destructive.
"Alright, you can say that as much as you damn well want to," Ace scoffed, plucking distastefully at the fringe of his ugly green costume. "You were about to say something stupid. I recognized the look."
"I was just skeptical, is all. What fool asks Santa for a fucking career?" Levi retorted with his usual zero-tolerance policy for childish naïvety, even in children. What a charmer.
Ace shrugged, watching absently as Levi swung his legs off the couch and stood again, rounding the couch to the tiny little kitchenette. As Ace observed, Levi filled a mug from one of the cabinets with filtered water, popping it into the microwave.
He watched even more intently as Levi leaned against the counter beside the microwave oven. He waited optimistically, like always, for Levi to show that tiny little sliver of generosity he must have had buried deep in his malicious, nasty persona and offer to make him some cocoa.
No such luck.
"What? Stop staring, it's creepy," Levi made a face, and Ace snapped his gaze away, examining the pillow on the floor, instead.
At first, he found himself wondering how he'd ever fallen for this guy. He was a bastard. But you know, he also had these clear blue eyes and this perfect downy chestnut-brown hair (even if it was currently hidden under a wig of silver Santa-curls.)
Add in various piercings, most of which Ace probably hadn't even seen, and the net sum of all of Levi's parts was so searingly hot, he could probably melt the North pole in one stray glance. He was, of course, still a bastard. To keep the social balance, anyone that hot has to either be an absolute jerk or illiterate.
Ace realized how Levi-obsessed he was being and dropped the Levi train of thought like a hot potato, wondering instead if kids ever found it suspicious how much Santa's tummy felt like feather-down. Who made this shit costume? Didn't they know the expensive pillows are just too soft to feel like lard?
Before long, from the other end of the room, the microwave dinged. And then Santa was back on his couch, sipping his black coffee and reclining in his most practiced bad-ass sort of way.
"How come you work here every year?" Ace reached forward and pulled the pillow from the center of the room to his lap, leaning into it. He had to admit, if he was a little kid, he'd want a marshmallow-Santa, too. So he had to forgive the shoddy costume. Still, when Levi pulled the pillow from his gut and dropped the charade, he was no Santa Claus.
"I've told you this story how many times now?" Levi scowled, chugging his piping hot coffee in the sort of way that only coffee-lovers can do, because the rest of the population still has enough nerves in their mouths to feel pain at the temperature. "My mom is a total harpy about money—"
"Idiot, that's not what I want to know, anyway," Ace cut him off. "I mean, why do you choose this job? There are plenty of other seasonal jobs that would be quick and painless and wouldn't involve working with kids. I can't think of any, but I'm sure they're out there."
Levi stared at him, seeming truly taken aback. He mulled it over for a moment, shifting, taking another sip of coffee. Finally, he set his mug on the floor next to him and spoke.
"That, Ace, is none of your fucking business. So shut up, and I swear if you ask again, I'll pour this coffee down your shirt."
At that, he huffed and turned his face back to the ceiling again with an air of stoicism, continuing to drink his coffee while Ace, pride injured, gaped at him. There were very few things Ace hated more than secrets, especially such trite ones. Did Levi seriously trust him that little?
It took him a minute, but finally, he decided the only reason Levi would take that testy, defensive tone would be to distract onlookers from the sweet, endearing core hidden under his black coffee and his bitching. Maybe there was a rose to Levi's thorns after all, tangled and shredded and dying, begging to be found.
Either that, or Levi was even more of a jerk than Ace had ever imagined, but he genuinely hoped it was the former.
• • •
It was Christmas eve, and even Ace had to admit that things were getting chaotic. It was fairly ridiculous how many parents brought their kids to see Santa Claus this late in the season, because here's the thing: Christmas shopping should have been done, so no matter what the poor brats asked for, they probably weren't going to get it unless it was already under the tree.
Levi seemed to share the opinion, simmering under his hat and layers of fake facial hair. Ace almost felt bad for him. Almost. He couldn't feel fully sympathetic, however, seeing as he was too busy being bitter about Levi's obstinate secrecy.
It was the very last day that Ace would see Santa until the next year's Yule tidings crept in. As such, he'd been determined to drag that little rose of sentiment buried under sharp, coiled thorns to the light of day, whether Levi liked it or not, even if those thorns chewed his flesh to bits (metaphorically speaking, of course,) before Christmas eve.
He'd busted his ass trying to make a nice guy out of Levi. What did it get him? Absolutely nothing aside from the looming threat of first degree burns by virtue of Levi's piping hot coffee and cruel, emotionless character. What an ass.
From his throne, surrounded in yipping little kids, Levi shot Ace an imploring glare, silently communicating, "can you please call a five minute break now?"
But there were no five minute breaks on Christmas eve, by decree of Ace. C'est la vie, asshole, who's in charge now?
• • •
"God, I am so glad to be rid of this hell," Levi tore his beard off with a note of finality, tossing it to the red lump on the floor of the employee changing room where his costume had begun to collect as he shedded each individual part. It was kind of a tragic moment, really, Ace thought. Once that costume went back into storing for the year, that would be that, he'd go back to being Asexual Ace, the kid at register nine that never got any.
He could, don't misunderstand, there are plenty of girls that go for the humanitarian blogger-types with the cute nerd glasses. A plethora, in fact. It really is too bad that Ace didn't feel sexually attracted to them, pleasant personalities aside. No, he was sexually attracted to Levi, with his shit attitude and anger issues.
He took his time changing out of his own costume, folding each piece nicely and setting it on the bench before he moved on to the next. Because of this, Levi was finished changing first despite the fact that his costume was so much bulkier.
"Ace?" Levi quirked an eyebrow, pulling his jacket on. "What the hell are you doing?"
"Changing," Ace replied blandly, patting the little stack of neatly pleated clothes. "We're going to store it this way, so it should be folded right."
"We're not storing it," Levi rolled his eyes. "You're wasting time. It's none of my business, I guess, I'm leav—"
"Hey, you two!"
Both Ace and Levi froze, turning their heads to stare at the face peeking through the door with his too-cheerful voice. His hand was shielding his eyes, as though he were expecting Santa and his helper to be stark naked and felt the need to retain his gentlemanly modesty, leaving only his ridiculous grin visible.
Really, Rick was the stereotypical crappy manager.
"What?" Levi spat, moody as always.
To Ace, it was almost a surprise to hear Levi's voice that casually sharp, as that tone, commonplace in regular conversation with others, hadn't been employed towards Ace for a while yet. It was almost flattering, in an obscure kind of way. It reminded him that he'd at least managed to reach acquaintance level compared to the others, if nothing else.
"I'm swamped dealing with last minute shoppers, so I need you guys to carry the uniforms and the rest of the Santa decorations down to the basement. It'll be quick, I promise, all that's left is the red rug, and then you can both clock out for the evening," Rick ordered. Or perhaps, reading his tone, suggested would be a better choice of wording. "Heck, if you want to, you can clock out beforehand. Just see to it that the decorations get to the basement."
And then he was gone.
"... Okay, I guess we are storing it," Levi griped after a long silence, scowling and scooping up his discarded costume. He still didn't bother to fold it, glaring impatiently as Ace leisurely pulled his pants on.
"Guess so," he hummed. Good news, to him. That was seven minutes alone with Levi in a dark room. Merry Christmas! There was a God, after all.
"Cheer up, would you?" Levi sneered, voice dripping with sarcasm. "I'm sure you're tearing yourself from a busy Christmas eve schedule."
"You, too, Scrooge," Ace quipped, plucking his scarf from his locker as a final touch and draping it lazily over his shoulders, scooping up the hated elf costume and hugging it to his chest. "What, did you have plans to volunteer at the soup kitchen? Or play with pitiful orphan children?"
"Just shut up," Levi spat, making a face. "I don't know where the basement is, lead the way."
• • •
It didn't occur to Ace that they'd need a key to open the door to the elevator or stairs until it was too late. Well, "too late" is probably inaccurate—nothing was stopping him from turning and scoping out Rick to borrow a key, he just kind of liked the idea of getting all the way there, having a sudden and very dramatic epiphany, and increasing his time at Levi's side by yet another two minutes or so.
His mind had fastened itself to a single track, it wasn't about to let go.
Luckily—rather, unluckily, depending on perspective—the plan went magnificently awry due to a few extremely convenient events in rapid succession.
It started when the elevator and stair doors with their locks came into plain sight and, exaggeratedly passionate, Ace swore, "oh, shit, we don't have a key!"
As planned, Levi immediately plunged into his personal brand of furious ire, spitting and hissing and threatening and brandishing his little claws as effectively as he could holding a lumped-up pile of Santa clothes. Ace just took the brunt of the attack like a good sport, enjoying it thoroughly, until the rant was cut short by the clicking of the basement's lock.
The door to the stairs swung open and the Hispanic inventory-taker, José, (because you need not know fluent English to jot down how many boxes of specific products there are,) stepped from the basement with his key swinging from his wrist. Levi was off, bolting past him down the stairs. Ace couldn't believe how rash he was, and he definitely didn't want Levi getting himself locked down there alone, so he followed, turning and hurriedly asking José to keep the door open for him.
Unfortunately (and here's when things went terribly wrong, or perhaps wonderfully right,) when Ace said, "prop the door open with something while we're down!" who knows what the hell José heard. It most certainly wasn't "prop the door open with something while we're down," because Ace had descended all of three steps before the door clicked shut behind him. He realized his mistake with a jolt and attempted lamely to repair his grave mistake.
"¡Espera, José! Yo necesito..."
But Ace's mastery of Spanish, unfortunately, ended right about there, because Ace no habló Español and had no damn clue how to say "door" or "basement" or "key" or "unlock" or pretty much any other necessary vocabulary words for this situation. Spanish class doesn't prepare you for practical retail Spanish usage, clearly. He trailed off, gaping helplessly at the basement door, fastened shut.
And you know what? The first tangible thought that popped into his mind was: an entire evening alone with Levi!? Merry Christmas! There is a God, after all!
• • •
"We're locked down here?"
"I don't know, Levi, to me this seemed like a fairly predictable outcome. You did just kind of take off even though you knew we needed a key," Ace reasoned, tucking his green costume and the rolled-up carpet from the Santa display into one of the decoration boxes. "On the bright side, this is the storeroom, so there's plenty of food. We'll just have to pay for it later, probably. I could really go for some cheddar Goldfish right now..."
Levi gaped at him with unadulterated shock, as though the notion of being stuck there hadn't even briefly crossed his mind when he dashed into the storeroom sans key. Clearly, he'd never worked in retail. José was usually the last to come to the store room before closing, so more likely than not, they'd be stuck there over night.
The next day was Christmas, Ace realized with a cheerful jolt. They'd be stuck together for a night and a day, because Mega wasn't going to be open on Christmas. Although the setting could have been better. Like the beach, or something. But it's impossible to be locked on a beach, so Ace could deal.
"Why the hell didn't you prop the door open?" Levi snapped eventually, hackles raised.
"I asked José to," Ace shrugged, too beside himself to bother with being defensive. "He didn't understand. He's in one of those English as a second language courses. So, here we are, you might as well be a little friendly—"
"You fucking moron, I have to visit my brother's grave tomorrow!"
From the way his face suddenly fell, it hadn't occured to Levi what he was saying until it'd already accidentally tumbled from his mouth. Shocked at his own accidental openness, he clamped his jaw shut and turned away from the gaping and flustered Ace.
His secret, that rose that Ace had been digging for all that time, exposed and wilted and ugly, had escaped its cage of thorns—but oddly enough, after he'd gotten a glimpse, Ace kind of wanted to shove it back in its little nest of thistles where it was safe. A suffocating blanket of silence fell over the cold, damp room, sucking every ounce of cheer from Ace's veins, chewing it and spitting it out as remorse.
Who spends Christmas at a graveyard? That was too morbid! Ace silently tried to defend and excuse himself, but it backfired. See, the only person more pitiful than the man spending Christmas alone at a graveyard was the man locked in a basement wishing he could be spending Christmas alone at a graveyard.
Ace didn't understand the entire story, not by a long shot, but he did understand one thing: he was a selfish, overbearing asshole, and this entire crisis was his fault. Worst of all was he couldn't fix it by apologizing, it was set in stone, it was his fault.
• • •
Well, to look on the sunny side, the basement storeroom was huge. While Levi sulked by the toys, Ace had the entire food section to mill around, and really, the storeroom was just like a messier version of the store itself. Of course, the food was all packaged in huge bags that he couldn't quite bring himself to tear open, but the point remains. There was a lot of food. It was a nice distraction, even if his conscience prohibited him from eating any of it, and he needed a distraction.
Ace, like the pussy he was, hadn't said sorry. He felt terrible, but "sorry" wouldn't cover it, not even close, and he was scared to death of flat rejection, so he just didn't apologize at all. He just stood and walked off like a coward. It had been at least an hour since then, and his guilt was still eating him from the inside out.
There's a reason remorse exists, you know, but wise men don't feel its effects—not because they don't hurt people, but because they don't leave them alone and bleeding, surrounded by tricycles and bouncy balls. Metaphorically speaking, of course. Well, the first part. Whatever, there's no need for guilt if you take responsibility, and Ace knew that, but he still didn't act.
That is, until he found the freezer section.
It's funny, the kinds of things that can spur a person into action. For some people, it doesn't take any urging, they're always acting. For others, it takes a nice kick in the rear. For Ace, it apparently takes a large chilled box of premixed chocolate-chip cookie dough.
Ace had no clue what he was doing when he pulled the freezer open and tore the tape off the box. He wasn't even sure what he was planning once he had a little tub of cookie dough in his hand, walking with purpose back towards the toy section. It's funny, he wasn't quite sure of his plan at all until Levi was right there in front of him, brooding and moping, and he heard it from his own mouth.
"I found cookie dough. Eat it, get fat, and feel better!" Ace snapped, tossing the tub to Levi's lap. "Make like a girl and spill. Pretend I'm your girlfriend and we're watching Desperate Housewives together after a breakup. Not that I'm accusing you of being hot on your brother, or anything—you get what I mean, what was he like? What happened?"
Levi blinked, glancing between the unopened tub of cookie dough on his lap and Ace, thoroughly confused.
"Did you just steal cookie dough?"
"I'm going to pay for it," Ace scoffed. "Probably after I'm fired. More importantly, spill."
He sat himself down across from Levi on the hard concrete floor, crossing his legs in front of him, resting his elbows on his knees and propping his chin on his palms like a little kid ready for story time. Levi gawked at him for a little longer, silently battling with himself about whether he should continue being pissed or accept his Christmas eve gift and actually talk about all of his problems, his dead brother and his overcompensation, for the first time.
Finally, he sighed, fighting with the seal on the tub of cookie dough and ignoring the ridiculously giddy look on Ace's features.
"As far as presents go, stolen cookie dough isn't exactly high on my wish list," he muttered as he awkwardly pried a chunk from the condensed mass and popped it in his mouth. He paused for a while longer, waiting for Ace to take the bait, but the subject-change was a failure. That was his very last attempt to back out.
• • •
"My parents were probably the worst parents on the face of the planet," Levi sighed, digging out a huge chunk of cookie dough from the tub at his lap.
He'd been talking for a while now, about life in general, how much he missed his brother, how it screwed everything up, and was only just touching on the beginning, on the real meat of the story. It was a backwards sort of way to tell a tale, but also very suspenseful. Ace couldn't tear himself away, hanging off of every word.
"Seriously," Levi continued, "they didn't pay attention to my grades, so neither did I; they didn't care about my health, so neither did I; they didn't care if I chose my friends wisely, so neither did I. I guess this is about Lon, though, not me. Lon was my little brother."
"Was he cute?" Ace asked, feeling the need to specify, "I mean in the baby panda kind of way?"
"Yeah," Levi nodded. "Adorable. He was born when I was about five. They cared for him alright as a baby, but he really wasn't given enough attention. As he grew older, I had to keep people from bullying him and make him his lunches and occasionally offer up my bed if he had nightmares—okay, don't look at me like that, or you can have your fucking cookie dough back."
Ace had to admit, Levi had been a gorgeous rose once. He could be again. That's what he was thinking, as cheesy as it was, smiling like a dork. He snapped his features back to a stony expressionless slate, leaning forward, silently urging Levi to speak. With a grunt, Levi examined him closely to make sure he wouldn't just spring back to that stupid moony-eyed face again the moment he started talking, then continued.
"He grew up nicely for a while, I even managed to keep him caring about his grades, but around eleven, he got severe depression," he recalled. "It was out of nowhere—the therapist said it probably ran in our family, that there were plenty of ways to treat it but not without money and time on our parents' part. They just thought he was self-absorbed, so Lon had to settle with his school counselor and me. The most I could do was listen to him."
He took a sharp intake of breath, shoving some more cookie dough in his mouth before he spoke again.
"Then my bitch of a mother sent me to my uncle's over Christmas break one year as punishment when she found weed in my room," he snarled. Clearly, he was one to hold a grudge. "It didn't seem huge at the time, just inconvenient. I hate my uncle's farm. Back at home, though, things were worse. I don't know, I guess Lon just realized all at once how little he actually had, and over holiday no less."
He paused, considering his words, then sighed and shook his head, changing his mind. "Actually, I guess he'd probably been planning it, they say suicide is rarely spontaneous. I know he wouldn't have done it if I was around, though."
Ace frowned slightly at the self-blame in those words, but said nothing, leaning forward even more for the story's resolution. He already knew it wouldn't be a happy ending—but he also knew that the lack of a happy ending was in part due to the fact that this was as much Levi's story as it was Lon's, and Levi's story was still in pending. There was no ending at all to speak of. Every story has its ups and downs, this just happened to be way down.
Levi didn't share in the optimism, judging by his cryptic tone as he said, "my dad, he always used to keep a gun in his bedside table. Instead of opening presents like normal kids on Christmas morning he... it was painless, at least, that's why I tell myself." His voice cracked a little, but he continued, otherwise unfazed. "That's why I'm Santa Claus every year, even if I'm the shittiest Santa Claus the Western hemisphere has ever seen, because no kid should have nothing—the hell, Ace, was that a tear?"
Ace blinked, reaching up to touch the corner of his eye. Indeed it was.
"Yeah," he answered blandly, finding with dull surprise that his voice was bubbly, like he was about to sob. He coughed, wiping at his eyes with his scarf. He probably couldn't have looked gayer if he'd tried.
"Why're you the one crying? Your little brother didn't off himself, did he?" Levi snapped, defensive and harsh again.
"Well, no, but it would be heartless not to feel anything after that!" Ace retorted, wiping more furiously. "I—I get kind of absorbed in stories. I didn't know something like that, I'm sorry. You know, though, it wasn't your fault Levi, and you still have your own life to look forward to."
Levi's glare softened, and he just stared for a moment, probably trying to decide whether or not Ace was being serious. He resolved eventually that someone as pitifully idealist as Ace didn't have the backbone to poke fun at someone else's dead brother and accepted the sentiments.
"Yeah, whatever, you're such an idiot. Want some cookie dough? Eat it, get fat, feel better—right?"
• • •
"You know," Levi tossed a clean white baseball into the air, "that kid—you know, the pro baseball player—he'd probably like this ball. It's a nice ball."
It'd been a few hours since the breakthrough over cookie dough. Various other foodstuffs had been stolen from the nearby shelves and consumed, but eating is only distracting until one is full, at which point Ace and Levi turned to the toy section to amuse themselves.
"You're right, he probably would," Ace agreed, standing give or take twenty feet away. He tested the metal bat in his hands, brandishing it to get the feel of the thing. He had no clue what he was doing. "This bat, too. I think it's nice, anyway, I don't suppose I'd know the difference. You swear I'm not going to break anything if I hit that into a shelf?"
"You kidding? You've got the muscles of a theater major," Levi snorted, warming up for his pitch. "If you hit it at all, it'll probably only go three feet—"
"You know, believe it or not, that's not what I wanted to hear," Ace cut him off. "And I'm a lit major, thanks."
"Oh, sorry, I get my humanities mixed up. You're still a pussy."
And then Levi pitched, a perfect underhand toss with a clean, smooth arc, perfect for a beginning batter—and as riled up and indignant as he was, Ace couldn't hit it. He tossed it back and the process repeated: strike one, strike two, strike three, and he was out.
Oh, well. A bird in the bush, Ace figured. He shouldn't quit his day job.
"My God, Ace, follow through, would you?" Levi sighed as Ace hurried off in chase of the third ball that had escaped his impeccably terrible swing. "Actually—you know, we should probably tackle your form issues by order of importance. Start with not swinging eight seconds too early."
"I'm hopeless," Ace called back, resigned to his fate. He bent down, plucking the baseball from where it landed a few feet away from their mound of half-eaten bags of food. Hopefully Rick was sympathetic and didn't fire his ass for raiding the storeroom. "How about I try pitching?"
"No!" Levi flatly refused. "C'mere, I'll help you. I'll make a batter of you yet."
Ace sighed a huge, exasperated, deflating sigh, dragging his feet over and shoving the ball into Levi's hand, turning to put twenty feet between them again. Before he could get away, however, Levi grabbed his arm.
"Wait, I can't talk you through this, sports don't work like that."
With that, Levi planted himself at Ace's back, shoving the baseball temporarily in his jacket pocket so he could fix Ace's form prior to tossing it.
He didn't seem to understand, Ace thought as Levi pressed against his back, enveloping him to guide his hands along the bat, that even if it was impractical to talk him through it, anything would be more efficient than this. With Levi that close, breathing down his neck, chestnut-colored hair (as soft to the touch as it was on the eyes) tickling his ear...
Ace's head was way too deep in the gutter to think about baseball.
As he drifted off into his own little dream land of dirty thoughts, Levi released one hand on the bat to pick the ball from his pocket and toss it vertically into the air and then, Ace going along with it like a motionless rag-doll, bringing the bat back and smacking the the little white sphere head-on. It flew off, landing clear of any merchandise.
Ace was only half-conscious the entire time, but he was still mildly surprised at how pleasant a feeling it was to come in contact with the ball... or maybe the pleasant feeling was just Levi pressed against his back, so close.
There was a long moment of silence as Levi waited for Ace to say something to the effect of, "wow, I hit it," and Ace drifted further and further off, until it reached the point at which nothing short of blatant flirting would bring him back. Luckily, Levi delivered.
"Ace?" Levi rested his chin on Ace's shoulder, very nearly giving the poor guy a bliss-induced heart attack right on the spot.
"What?" Ace choked out, imagining all the most romantic responses—hell, screw romance, he changed his mind, he wanted the actions and reactions that opened up the quickest path to hot sex. Next to him, Levi started to sniff curiously at the crook of his neck. It might have been creepy if he weren't so sexy and close and Levi.
"... Do all lit majors use such fruity shampoo?"
Well, that wasn't what Ace had been hoping for.
Even so, he didn't have time to be disappointed, because soon, without warning, the distinct feeling of a metal-pierced tongue was dragging across his skin. Ace sucked in a pleasantly surprised rush of air, breath hitching on its way back out. The bat dropped like dead weight from his fingers. He was too busy enjoying himself to worry about denting his employer's property.
He must have worn his emotions on his sleeve earlier while he drifted around in seventh heaven, ungrounded to reality while Levi innocently taught him baseball. Whatever it was that tipped Levi off, whatever it was that compelled him to, after days of cold indifference, jump right to this interpersonal level at such an uncalled for moment, Ace was very grateful.
It didn't occur to him, but it obviously had something to do with the fact that no one, in all of Levi's twenty-two years of living, no one had showed half as much compassion towards twenty-two year old high school dropout Levi as selfish, overbearing Asexual Ace.
Cold fingers dipped under the hem of Ace's shirt, trailing along his skin, sending hellfire from his toes to the tips of his fingers to his red face. The moist trail Levi's tongue left behind was cold in contrast to the heat of his skin, proof that it had really happened, that this wasn't some ridiculously palpable fantasy.
"You smell absolutely delicious," Levi breathed airily, nipping at the lobe of Ace's ear. "I could eat you up. Even if you are a pussy."
• • •
There are very few things less pleasant than sleeping mostly naked on cold concrete. Not to mention, it's a very strange setting to wake up to—even with Levi's arm draped around him, gripping lightly at the back of his neck in a sort of gently possessive way, Ace didn't know what the fuck was going on for quite a while, waiting for his sleep-restricted brain to boot up so he could figure out why his clothes weren't on his body.
Not that he had any protests, or anything.
All at once, as he slowly woke up, the previous evening's events rushed back to him, flattening him under their magnificent weight. It was Christmas morning, or at least Christmas afternoon, and—well, fuck, there wasn't a gift on the planet anyone could give him more wonderful than Santa's himself. Though, to go on record, they could easily come up with something less painful.
With a huge yawn, he pushed gently away from the snoozing Levi. The grip at the back of his neck tightened momentarily, then Levi groaned, releasing his hold on Ace and flopping over, revealing matted and messy hair.
He didn't look quite as drop-dead sexy with a cowlick the size of Texas formed from concrete sticking up at the back of his head, but it was definitely cute.
Smiling to himself, Ace stood, stumbling slightly and wincing. He awkwardly gathered his scattered articles of clothing and pulled them on, draping Levi's shirt over his bare shoulders so he wouldn't catch a cold now that his source of extra body heat was gone.
His stomach grumbled but, unfortunately, none of the mounds of open packages on the floor were breakfast foods—besides, he'd become accustomed to stealing the night before, thanks to Levi, so he really had no problem with the idea of scoping out those individual cereal packets he loved so much and sampling them.
With one last glance over his shoulder at Levi, Ace set off at a limp along the tall shelves of food, hoping the cereal he wanted would be somewhere he wouldn't need to climb a ladder to reach.
He stumbled about the aisles for quite a while, rubbing his sleepy eyes and keeping a close eye on his immediate surroundings, but he never did find cereal. He would have found it eventually if he hadn't happened upon the elevator, locked, but hanging from the lock—
• • •
"You've got to be shitting me," Levi slurred, still only wearing pants because he was too lazy to dress himself, staring at the lanyard dangling from the keyhole. "Who leaves a key... there? I mean, no one needs an elevator unlocked unless... unless they're there, you know?"
"Yeah, it's a mystery, who knows," Ace marveled. "I just found it."
"So, we've opened all those packs of food without reasonable purpose?"
"I don't know if you can call a bag of Tostidos, a carton of Goldfish, a tub of cookie dough, two Lunchables and a jumbo bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips 'reasonable purpose' anyway," Ace sighed, "but yeah, that sounds about right."
The two of them stared for a bit longer, considering their options.
"Maybe," Levi suggested with a yawn, "if we shove the half-eaten packages back where we found them, they'll think it was rats."
So it is said, so it shall be done. That is, aside from the half-eaten tub of cookie dough which Levi tucked into his jacket as they stepped into the elevator about a half-hour later. It was damn good dough.
PS—I do commissions. I learned writing this that it's so much fun to work off of lists, so if you have something you'd like written, just visit my profile, send me a PM or email, and I'll come up with something for you.
How long it'll take depends on how much time I have, obviously xD. Howeverrr~, it won't be totally free, I'll want you to write something for me ;O.