wrote this in a kind of response to something a friend wrote, and thus, it's dedicated to him. and i think it's my first ever xmas story? maybe. anyway, im out for the semester and i seriously hope to get some writing done! and to finally reply to those awesome reviews for Stepbrothers. :laughs: i'm getting there, slowly but surely.

hope you guys enjoy reading.

monday, 15 december, 2008. 4:36pm.

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A dumb mook, big size equals small brains, and how often had he heard that before? When did it stop hurting? The first time. The last time.

Two seconds ago, when his sister's kid looked at him and flashed cocky eyes back at his mother and mouthed off about having to sit next to 'Uncle Biff.' And she chose to snap at the brat for his elbows on the table but not for using the name he gained the year 1985, when it seemed every seventh grader in the nation saw Back to the Future and conspired as one to torture the overlarge kid in the back row of every class.

His name was Armand, and his mother called him Mandy as a kid until his growth hit so hard as to show that he was never going to be a effeminate slip of a boy. Most call him Armand to his face, now, but he'd heard himself talked of as Biff more often than not.

When did it stop hurting? Never.

And Christmas had always been overlarge in their family. Fifteen people in one house for a week or two or three, staggered intervals of people living here and there and gone when work called them back to the norm, and as a kid, that spoke to him in leaps and bounds. It was exciting.

But somewhere over the years the largeness of the holiday turned into the vast empty inside, a flickering low dull spot on his everyday horizon, and every year, he grew to dread it a little bit more.

The hulking moose off to the side, shunted between Vicki's brat and his ever-increasingly deaf Aunt Jessa and her peering glances that always wormed guilt in him for being so big and stupid in her presence.

He wasn't stupid, he'd done well in school and what little of college he'd been able to afford before Dad had his stroke and Armand had to quit and get a job cutting high-quality planks of wood for jackass carpenters.

Dad was dead three years now and Armand still cut planks of wood for a living and came home to the empty smell of old work clothes full of sawdust and splinters.

Home to the largest aquarium outside the doctor's office than most people had seen, but so few knew that. So few had seen it. He came home and sprinkled flecks of fishy-smelling food over the surface of the water and he'd watch as flashing colored bodies gathered it before it'd had time to get soggy enough to sink.

He didn't have a television.

This Christmas was more the same, despite his deepest wish that somehow he'd become less indifferent, more infused with that long-ago childlike enthusiasm for the holiday. He was only stopping by for the Christmas dinner before heading back to his own small home for the night on the assumption that he'd be back by ten for the ritualistic gift-mongering parade that went on thereafter.

There were plenty of gifts with his name inked on, but they were of the variety of needing to buy him something, and what do you buy a guy who didn't even have a television? There were never any indications of the gift-giver on packages, and it was why he'd been able to get away with buying nothing for the past two years.

There was nobody left to buy for.

-

Armand left before dessert, driving his dad's truck gifted him from the leftover assets not specifically distributed by the will. His mother told him to take it after noticing him standing like a lump in the back at the wake, and it was the only physical reminder he had of his dad other than the photos nobody knew he lifted from the photo albums.

His dad, another big-boned man with an even bigger personality, friend of everyone and stranger to no one.

Armand resembled him a great deal, physically.

-

Getting up at seven that Christmas morning, Armand knew he wasn't going to his mother's. She might call him that evening once it became apparent that he was indeed MIA, but she might not.

Instead, he went through his normal morning routine of shower and shave and morning splash of tomato juice and dry toast. He sat in his La-Z-Boy to sip and watch colored flits from active fish, and the sultry hidings of the less-active.

Sometime around nine, he'd had enough and put on his boots and coat, walking out the front door and closing the door securely behind him, stomping on the gritty snow that had drifted onto his porch steps overnight.

It was cold, and calm, the morning sun striking against the two-foot-deep drifts and shallower valleys of his yard.

Pulling on the weather-resistant gloves he'd bought himself at the beginning of the colder season, he stepped out into the snow with care, lest he trample snow he'd want later. Then he bent and set to work on a relatively moderate snowball, rolling it on the wet snow hidden beneath the finer drift of powder that had fallen in the night.

The dry stuff was no good for this, but the stuff beneath was decent, and soon enough he had a good ball going, keeping his rolls uniform for an even round base.

By the time he had a third ball going for the head, he was sweating enough to have removed his coat, working in sleeves pushed up to his elbow as he picked up the ball before it could become too heavy, and placed it atop the stacked mound of snow he'd already started.

It was about shoulder high to him, which was about the height of a typical person. Looking at the undefined snowperson with a critical eye, he decided that yes, it needed two heads.

Soon enough, the being was complete--with two scavenged sticks for arms, and impressions filled with rocks for eyes on both heads.

Armand gave a soft grin of satisfaction, and went into the house.

It was noon, and a message light blinked on his answering machine. He went upstairs and fished out an old copy of Tale of Two Cities, and sat in his recliner until well past seven.

-

It was dark when he again put on his still-slightly damp coat and boots and left the house, walking past a two-headed snowman with slightly misshapen breasts formed on the chest.

Armand paused, looking over and knowing he'd never given a specific gender to his creative invention, and thus, someone had defaced it of their own accord. He walked over and knocked free the ill-formed additions, and then got into his truck and drove away.

-

Denny's was busier than he'd thought for Christmas day, but the waitress seated him with a friendly smile and buoyant speech. Her shift must have just started. He ordered a water and one of their burgers before pulling his novel from his pocket to resume reading.

"Alone for Christmas, Armand?"

Looking up, he blinked at one of his regulars standing near the booth, a friendly smile on the guy's face.

"I've got Charles."

The friendly smile dipped a moment before he caught the implication of Charles, and then his smile was broader than before, inviting himself to slide across from him.

"Not reading A Christmas Carol, I hope."

Armand gave a faint grin; "No."

The waitress chose then to bring his food, her eyes apologetically confused. "Oh, honey, I didn't know you were havin' a friend."

"That's ok." He wasn't sure why he said that, but it seemed the thing to say.

His 'friend' ordered a fully-loaded meal and didn't even look guilty like most of the people Armand had ever known. He folded up his novel and set it aside, eating slowly so he'd have food to spare by the time his friend received his.

This was helped by the idle chatter that went on between them.

His friend talked about predicting the housing market before it'd happened, and how he'd had to lay off some of his workers because of the lag in people wanting to build houses that were never going to sell.

But his outlook was good, and bright, and oh-so-very novel.

Armand had ever only known him as the 'Sir' from Harpers Construction Co.--among the many different regular Sirs Armand sold lumber to--but he was quickly informed to call him Hayden.

Hayden was a thick man who looked used to labor and laughter, his grin more inviting than all of the "Happy Holidays" doormats his mother could ever put down around the house. There was oil lamp warmth in the man, even beneath his borderline sadness when speaking of this being the first Christmas without his wife and daughter since the divorce.

The food disappeared and the water kept refilling and the words never ran out, never grew as empty as the holidays. And Armand mentioned that he didn't have a television, but he did have some fish, and they took the edge off loneliness the best he knew how, if Hayden were in want.

There was a strangeness to Hayden's acceptance, but they left the restaurant and ended up in front of Armand's small home, the two-headed snowman a silent testament to how he spent his morning.

The breasts weren't back, but someone had added two small twigs for noses, and Armand was ok with that. Hayden laughed and gracefully tromped over to add his beaten-up scarf from around his neck, and Armand smiled faintly in the dark before leading the other man inside.

There was that faint smell of sawdust and splinters. It felt like home.

-

And an hour later, it still felt like home even though Hayden was sitting beside him on the small sofa, and his voice was growingly stranger than before when he asked if Armand was really so lonely as he'd happen to say?

"…I've got Charles."

It was less snappy and more fail than before, and he felt that most poignantly when Hayden's hand touched his knee and his body stuttered into stasis. Oh.

And slowly, ever so slowly, his own rough hand reached out and covered Hayden's, and acknowledged loneliness was swept away for the moment as he turned for the kiss the man then offered. Slightly chapped lower lip against his and then softer pressure, tongue and deeper kissing and the hand beneath his trembled and strengthened, not passive but holding onto him.

-

Upstairs, in bed, there was licking--of neck and slick armpit. Nipples and navel and that crease of the inner thigh, and Hayden's cock in his mouth, along his lips, grunts and sighs in his ear. Wrapped around the man completely, naked on naked, full stomach pressed against him and more, soft and hard and something in-between--there.

This was not friendship, nor Christmas, but something else altogether. Unexpected.

But after, Hayden kissed his cheek and they'd lain there long enough for the both of them to go to sleep, and Armand woke twice because it was too hot.

-

But at seven, waking up and finding the bed empty was disconcerting, until he wandered close to the window after dressing, and saw his friend hard at work in the snow, making another creation to stand with the one already there.

He left him at it and made breakfast, something hot to stick to cold ribs, and remembering that the man could eat a lot if he chose to, so made extra.

And then he went outside and helped, a small snowperson beside his own, with one head and a nose that indicated it was looking at the first, twig-for-arm set against its partners back. Armand placed his hat upon this one, and they went back inside and ate every last bit of breakfast in-between the moments Hayden couldn't resist touching him.

There was sex in the living room and a promise of more, and Armand might look a big mook but he wasn't stupid.

Just no longer unhappy.

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a/n: ah, this didn't start out to be so sappy. it just ended that way. and the snowman additions? done by some local kid, probably.