Make the Yuletide Gay

"Rudolph!" his father shouts from downstairs.

Rudy winces and stops typing, closing his laptop with a heavy sigh. The inventory lists can wait; his father's angry bellows, not so much.

He gets up from his desk reluctantly when another shout rattles the icicles outside his window.

Despite lore to the contrary, Santa Claus is not always jolly. In reality, he is a workaholic and, sometimes, a total bastard. For as long as Rudy can remember, his dad has been worried about other kids more than his own son, and Rudy has learned to deal with that. Sure, he has a childhood of detentions and acting out and a brief stint in the Holidayland School for Unruly and Vexing Boys behind him, but in the end, he likes to think he's turned out remarkably well adjusted. He works in the family business, he's come to terms with his dad (mostly), and his life is boring, but okay.

If, occasionally, he sneaks out for a joyride in his father's sleigh to escape the boredom, well, he isn't a saint.

He's pretty sure his latest joyride is the reason for his dad's impressive, and vocal, rage; he's probably noticed the dent in the sleigh.

In Rudy's defense, it is the middle of winter, and reindeer are hard to handle even when the roads aren't icy. Plus, that spruce tree came out of nowhere.

He walks down the hall to the head of the staircase and peers over the railing. "Yeah?" he calls.

"Rudolph Kristopher Kringle!" His father's bellow is definitely not jolly. The house shakes and small icicles fall from the eaves outside, hitting the ground with tiny, forlorn tinkles.

He runs a hand though his curly auburn hair and winces again. He has a feeling he's going to be mucking reindeer stalls for more than a week this time.

"Get your magically enchanted arse down here!" his father yells, appearing at the bottom of the stairs, his face nearly as red as the coat he habitually wears. He shakes a finger threateningly. "And your mother has gone shopping in Nome, so don't go looking for her help to get you out of trouble!"

Rudy breathes out a short sigh from the corner of his mouth that ruffles his hair. Great. Instead of making a dent in his workload, he's probably in for Responsibility Lecture #4. (The highlight is when his dad tells him, "Son, I won't be around forever, and someday you'll need to take over," because, yeah, his dad's freaking immortal. He's not going to die; he just wants to retire with mom to Florida.)

"Yeah, yeah. Be right there," Rudy calls back.

"What was that?"

"Be right there, sir," he amends loudly, feeling twelve instead of twenty-eight, as he lopes down the stairs two at a time. He hits the landing with a thud and the polar bear rug slides under him, sending him careening across the slick wood floor. He catches his balance with pinwheeling arms and straightens, glancing around.

The only witness to his embarrassing performance is Snowball, and she just stares at him with her unblinking, judging cat eyes and starts licking her paw. She was a gift from their neighbor, Mr Snowman, and she's a good cat, except that she melts every spring. Rudy hates cleaning her up with the sponge and storing her in the bucket until next winter.

He sighs and walks past the cat.

His father is waiting for him in the study. A fire blazes cheerfully away in the giant brick hearth; the flames crackle invitingly, illuminating the hand-knit stockings hung across the mantle: one for him, one for his mom, one for dad (which he personally thinks is silly – it isn't like the man doesn't already know exactly what he's going to get every year, anyway), and one for the cat, Snowball. Two long sticks lean against the fire grate next to a bag of chestnuts. Probably his mother's touch.

"Rudolph," Mr Kringle says with a calm that belies the glittering anger in his not-currently-twinkling-merrily blue eyes. His pink face shines in the heat from the fire. "Imagine my surprise when I went out to polish the sleigh this morning and found not one, but two, jingle bells missing from the runners, along with an enormous gash along the left side of the sleigh. Would you care to explain to me how this happened?"

Rudy swallows convulsively. Forget mucking out reindeer stalls: judging by the look in his dad's eyes, he'll be pulling the sleigh this Christmas. "Well, um, you see, Dad," he begins.

Loud banging at the front door interrupts him, and he sends a tiny prayer skyward. The front door opens, and he hears a muffled, cheerful voice echo down the hall: "Hi ho, neighbor-folk! I've come bearing gifts!"

Rudy recognizes the voice. He and his father share a helpless glance.

Without giving the residents of the house time to hide or think up an illness to chase visitors away, the Easter Bunny rounds the open archway and enters the room.

"Well, there you are!" he chirps. "The Missus just made a delicious brambleberry pie, and I thought I'd hop on over and share a slice or two. No sense in keeping things to oneself, I always say!"

"Morris," says Mr Kringle, taking off his spectacles and pinching the bridge of his nose with the air of someone who has just realized that there is only downhill beyond this point. "Now is not the best time."

"Fiddlesticks!" says Morris, wiggling his nose. He looks less like a rabbit and more like a middle-aged accountant, a smile creasing his plump face, his buttony pink eyes twinkling behind his large glasses, and his hair combed over his advancing bald spot. He peers at them through large glasses resting on his stubby pug nose. "There's always time for brambleberry pie, especially when my Eloise makes it! She even sent me along with some plates and silverware for you both, bless her. Thinks of everything, she does. Don't know how I'd manage without her!" He beams proudly and rocks back and forth on his large feet, his round tummy swaying.

"Me either," Mr Kringle says. "She's a brave woman."

Morris chuckles. "Now, Kris, don't be a spoilsport! I know you love Eloise's pies as much as the next man. You need to keep your figure for the big day, so you could use a slice or two of this pie yourself. And look at your boy there, practically skin and bones! Why, you're five times his size! No, no, you just sit right there and let me set these plates out."

Rudy can see his father's resistance crumbling under Morris' cheerful, chattering onslaught. Morris' watery pink eyes dart back and forth between Rudy and Mr Kringle as he grins, his large front teeth overlapping his bottom lip.

"Thanks, Morris," Rudy says. Maybe if his dad is distracted by pie, Rudy can escape.

"Nonsense!" Morris exclaims, patting Rudy's back. "It's the least I can do for my favorite neighbors! But where's Holly?"

"Mom's out shopping," Rudy supplies.

"Oh dear!" Morris says. "Well, you boys be sure to leave her some pie. And don't think I won't check to see if you did, you greedy things."

"Morris," Mr Kringle says. His white, bushy eyebrows lower in annoyance.

Morris sniffs, his nose twitching again. He looks at Mr Kringle, still glowering, and Rudy, still sheepish, and Rudy knows Morris can judge the tense situation. People underestimate Morris. He doesn't miss much.

"Right!" Morris says. "Here I am yammering when there's pie to be had! Come on then, fellows! I'm eager to try some of this pie myself." He bustles them out of the living room toward the kitchen and looks over at Rudy abashedly. "Well, that is to say, try this pie, too. I'm afraid I've sampled Eloise's other fine pies already this morning." He pats his large, round stomach.

Rudy grins at the older man. Morris has an infamous sweet tooth, and the popular rumor is that his house is made of candy. Rudy isn't sure, but his visits to Morris' house do always leave vague impressions of sugar and gingerbread. Morris and his wife moved into the house after the previous occupant mysteriously disappeared. Mrs Bunny had been taken with the enormous oven in the kitchen ⎯ perfect for baking ⎯ though she'd had a terrible time cleaning it out.

"Now, then," Morris says when they're all settled. He places crockery and silverware in front of each of them and doles out heaping slices of still-steaming pie, making Rudy's mouth water. Mrs Eloise Bunny makes excellent pies.

"Do I sense someone isn't in the holiday spirit?" Morris asks, leveling a fork pointedly at Mr Kringle.

"My son has been causing trouble again," Mr Kringle says between mouthfuls of pie.

"Oh, boys will be boys, Kris!" Morris says, flapping a white-gloved hand. "I dare say I gave my father my own share of trouble when I was young."

"Did you now?" Mr Kringle asks.

"Dear me, yes! I was one of twenty-seven, you know. I must say, had a bit of the wander-bunny in me, constantly getting into mischief. My father threatened to skin me and make a carpet to put in front of the hearth."

"No, you couldn't have been any trouble." Mr Kringle's voice is bland.

"Oh, yes!" Morris exclaims. "Kept my father on his hind legs, I'll tell you that! I think he was a sight worried when I took over the family business. He'd been at it for over three hundred years, you know. Delivered quite a few eggs." Morris laughs heartily, and Mr Kringle and Rudy obediently laugh with him.

"I must say, I settled down quite nicely once I found the right bunny. That's all your boy needs." Morris pats Rudy's hand paternally, before adding, "My Esther comes back from her grandmother's house today."

"The one over the river?" asks Mr. Kringle.

"Yes, through the copse of trees."

Rudy smiles weakly. Esther Bunny is his best friend, and Rudy is all too aware that both sets of parents would be more than happy to see them get married and start breeding the next generation. Unfortunately, Rudy hasn't told anyone that he doesn't exactly hop that way, and, anyway, Esther is already in love with someone her parents would never approve of.

So, being the gay son of Santa Claus, he's resigned himself to a long and depressingly lonely life.

"That's great," Rudy says. "I'll call her up tomorrow. I'm sure we'll have lots to talk about."

"Good to hear!" says Morris. "I know you two are thick as egg-thieves!"

Mr Kringle nods in silent approval.

As far as her parents are concerned, Esther went to her grandmother's house to work on her egg painting skills for next spring's Easter line. But Rudy happens to know that Esther's grandmother lives next door to a handsome young man named Valentine Cupid. Esther has been stupidly in love with him for years, and she never misses an opportunity to visit her grandmother so that she can stare longingly out her bedroom window, conveniently located across from Valentine's weight room.

Morris leans forward, pinning Mr Kringle with his pink gaze. "And speaking of lots to talk about, Kris, I heard tell from Patrick that old Jack Frost is back again."

Mr Kringle frowns. "You know you can't trust anything that leprechaun says. Why would Frost come back? He's never made a secret of his dislike for Holidayland."

Rudy eats a piece of pie as quietly as possible and tries to act like he isn't keenly interested.

Morris shrugs and smoothes a hand down the front of his tweed vest. "I'm sure I don't know."

"Morris," Mr Kringle says indulgently. "The day you don't know all the gossip in Holidayland is the day I go on a diet."

Rudy snorts and quickly eats another bite of pie to cover the sound when his father looks sharply at him.

Morris runs a hand over his thin comb-over, wrinkling his nose like he smells something disagreeable. "Well. It's all speculation, of course, but I did hear that Old Man Winter called him back on a matter of some urgency."

Mr Kringle raises an eyebrow. "Urgency? What could Winter have to worry about?"

"I don't know!" Morris says delightedly. "But the rumors are certainly swirling! You know there's a lot of bad blood between father and son. It would take something important to bring Jack back."

Mr Kringle glances at Rudy, who is watching them with his mouth open and a forkful of pie hovering in midair. "Hm, that's true. Fathers and sons sometimes have their issues." But he gives Rudy a small smile when he says it, sharing a private joke.

Rudy doesn't try to hide his answering smile. He and his dad might be at each other's throats half the time, but he knows his father will always be there for him when he needs it, when it really counts. Even when Rudy seriously hates his dad, he still loves him because it's his dad.

"I wouldn't know, Kris," Morris says, "since I have fourteen girls. Right around the end of the month, I'll tell you, there are issues aplenty in my house!"

Mr Kringle sighs and pinches his nose again. "Morris," he says. "What did we say about sharing too much?"

Morris twitters and leans back in his chair. "Right, right. Still, it's some excitement, eh? I'll keep my ears to the ground, see if I hear anything else. Strange news, is all I'll say!"

"Hm," Mr Kringle says, stroking his beard. "Thank you for the pie, Morris. If you'll excuse me." Then he heaves himself up from the chair, his belly swaying, and leaves the kitchen without another word.

Rudy stares after his dad. It's not like him to leave a fight unfinished, especially when he was clearly gearing up to rip Rudy a new one for damaging the sleigh. "What's with him?"

Morris crinkles his nose and taps his fingers against his large front teeth. "Ah, well, Rudy-my-boy, it's not my place to talk about. In fact, I'd best be off. Eloise is supposed to have muffins out of the oven soon, and I don't want to miss them! Tell your lovely mother to call my Eloise when she gets home, would you, son?" He hops up from his chair, gives Rudy a pat on the back, and darts from the kitchen, leaving Rudy with the pie and a lot of questions.

Rudy watches him go, staring after him until he hears the front door close, and turns his attention back to the table and the unfinished pie. He figures that someday he'll look like his dad, belly like a bowl full of jelly and all. Right now, he has a fast metabolism and a gym membership.

The pie doesn't stand a chance.

* * * * *

Rudy's mom comes home a few hours later and eats the tiny sliver of pie remaining on the plate. He meant to leave her more, but it was really good pie. He licks brambleberry juice from his fingers guiltily.

He's sitting at the kitchen table, checking his e-mail and sighing as he scrolls through inventory lists. His mom gives him a halfhearted swat on the back of the head as she passes. "Pie demon," she says fondly, moving to the cupboards to put away her shopping.

Rudy ducks his head. "Dad ate some too," he mumbles, pressing his fingers to the crumbs on the plate and licking them clean.

Mrs Kringle clucks her tongue softly and bustles around the kitchen. She turns the oven on, and Rudy watches her set a pot to boiling on the stove. "Oh, I'm sure. Now, did anything exciting happen while I was gone shopping for you and your father? Anything at all as I braved the cold weather while you two sat here cozy and eating pie?"

Rudy shrugs sheepishly and grins. "Not much. Morris came by and left the pie, said Eloise wants you to call her. Oh, and Morris said he heard Jack Frost was back in town."

Mrs Kringle nearly drops the bag of flour she's holding. "Oh. Where's your father?"

Rudy shrugs again and goes back to typing, fingers clacking across the keyboard. He has four hundred new e-mails for Santa to reply to, because his dad refuses to change with the digital times, and it's up to Rudy to take care of the technological side of the Santa business. (Rudy tried to tell his dad that it was way better for the environment to have kids e-mail their wishlist, but his dad refuses to promote it, says he likes their scratchy, awkward writing and misspelled words. Figures.)

But his dad can't stop progress, and Rudy clicks through the messages. An e-mail with a .mnstr domain catches his eye: its from a vampire asking Santa to swing by an orphanage. Rudy decides he'll reply to that one first. He doesn't want to upset a monster capable of sucking out his blood, even if the idea of an undead Santa Claus… nah, that's too scary. Whoever heard of a skeletal Santa? It'd be a nightmare.

He doesn't look up, hitting the reply button to open a new window. "Not sure. Haven't seen him in a while."

Mrs Kringle sighs in exasperation. "Rudy, can you tear your eyes away from the screen for two seconds and talk to your mother?"

Rudy's fingers halt, poised over the keys, and he glances curiously at his mother. Her voice sounds strange, and she's twisting her apron nervously in her hand. "I think he's in the den," he says slowly. "Everything okay, mom?"

"Fine, fine." Mrs Kringle leaves the flour spilling across the counter and hurries from the room. She doesn't come back for a while, and the pot of water on the stove boils over.

* * * * *

He's lugging his laptop upstairs later that evening when he passes by the den entrance and hears his parents talking in low murmurs. His feet slow.

There's only a desk lamp on in the room, casting dark shadows over his parents' faces where they sit knee to knee on two old wingbacks in the corner.

"Holly," Mr Kringle says gravely, pulling his wife's hand into his lap. "Do you think –?"

Mrs Kringle nods. "Why else would he come back? Kris, I know you don't think it's anything he should worry about, but I'd feel better if Rudy knew."

Mr Kringle nods, sighing heavily, and strokes his beard with one hand, keeping the other firmly encircling his wife's fingers. "Maybe you're right."

Mrs Kringle nods back. "It could be nothing. I talked to Morris, and he said he heard something was stirring with Old Man Winter. It might not have anything to do with… well, you know. I just – I worry, Kris."

"I know you do, honey," Mr Kringle says, nodding and patting his wife's hand. "I'll talk to him."

Rudy frowns minutely. His parents are doing an awful lot of nodding. It gives him a tight feeling in his chest, like he's forgetting something important, something he should know. He stands there for a little longer, but his parents are quiet, just holding hands in the near dark.

He goes upstairs, clutching his computer tightly.

* * * * *

Hours later, he's nearly asleep when he hears a soft knock on his door.

"Come in," he says, knuckling his eyes. They feel dry and gritty. He probably shouldn't have tried to answer all four hundred e-mails tonight.

The door creaks open and Mr Kringle walks in. "You awake, son?"

Rudy wants to roll his eyes, say something like Nope, no visions of sugarplums yet but he can't talk around the thick lump in his throat because his dad looks so serious. He nods and hopes his dad can see it in the darkness.

Mr Kringle comes over and sits on the edge of the bed, making the mattress dip alarmingly. "Son," he says, his voice strained. "We need to talk."

Rudy swallows and manages to find his voice. "I swear, I'll never take the sleigh out again."

His father chuckles gruffly, which is what Rudy wanted him to do, and some of the tension bleeds out of the air. He sits up in bed, covers pooling around his waist, and nudges his dad with his shoulder. "What's up?"

His father clears his throat. "When Morris came by today – do you remember how he mentioned Jack Frost was back in town?"

"Yeah." Rudy wonders where this is going. He doesn't even know who Jack Frost is, just vague memories of a boy older than him. He's never talked to Frost, never really seen him except from a distance. Once, he remembers watching Frost walk through town with his dad, Old Man Winter; Frost passed by shop windows suddenly coated with icy whorls, and Old Man Winter's coat left a dusting of snow under his feet as snowflakes rained down from his staff each time it clicked against the cobblestones.

"You should – you should stay away from him," his father says nervously, and that, more than anything, makes Rudy pause. His father is a lot of things – angry, jolly, happy, grumpy, fat, bastardy, loving, kind – but he is never nervous.

"Oh?" Rudy says.

"He's not," his father starts, and then takes another breath before changing tactics. "Your mother would appreciate it. Jack was a troubled child, and she doesn't want you getting mixed up with him."

"O-kay," Rudy says slowly, because he can't help but wonder why in the world his parents think he'd eagerly seek out Jack Frost. Rudy's a friendly guy, sure, but that's a genetic thing. Kids and puppies love him, and he can usually make anyone smile, but in reality he's pretty solitary. He doesn't go looking to meet new people.

"Rudy," his dad says, the twinkle dulled in his eyes. "Please promise me you'll stay away from him."

Rudy knows he's still missing something, but he claps his dad on the shoulder anyway and grins. "Sure thing. Don't worry. Besides, it's nearly the busy season. You and me are gonna be up to our necks in milk and cookies and mall appearances soon, anyway."

His dad's smile is thin, and he glances out the window into the dark, snowy night, his jaw tight. "You're a good boy. I don't tell you that enough."

"Aw, dad," Rudy says, shifting away.

"Now," Mr Kringle says, turning back to Rudy. The familiar twinkle lights eyes again, and Rudy is positive this punishment is going to suck. "About that sleigh you wrecked."

Rudy groans and braces himself.

After his dad leaves (with a manly clap on the shoulder that Rudy thinks is supposed to translate into a hug because Santa may let little Timmy and Susie sit on his lap and pinch their cheeks and give them great, big cinnamony-warm embraces, but he can't hug his own son without being totally awkward. Rudy's only a little bitter), anyway, after his dad leaves, Rudy sighs and pulls the quilt up over his bare shoulders, shifting around on the mattress until he's snuggled up just right on his side, his hand curled around his extra pillow like it's a person.

He's half-dozing, his eyelids heavy and staring in an unseeing, dopey way out the window, when a sudden gust of snow buffets the glass and rattles the window frame.

He yawns and before he nods off, he thinks he sees glowing blue eyes staring at him through the glass.

Except that's stupid, and impossible, because his window is on the second floor, and besides, the glass is already covered in thick frost.

* * * * *

Rudy was right: his dad's punishment this time is the worst. He sends Rudy to help the elves.

Normally, Rudy likes the elves. They range in size from two to nearly nine feet tall, smoke like chimneys, and cuss like sailors every second word. They taught him some very colorful phrases when he was little and, after one particularly memorable conversation, he hadn't been able to look at candy canes without blushing for nearly three weeks.

But this close to Christmas the elves are total bitches. They're mean and cranky and prone to throwing scissors at his head.

He ducks and keeps sweeping as the fifth pair of sparkly-handled scissors flies across the room. The elves were much better behaved when Hermie, dad's old Head Elf, was here. But Hermie retired three years ago and opened a bar somewhere, and ever since then, the elves go a little crazy with the last minute Christmas prep.

"Rudy!" bellows Kristoff, a tall elf with blond hair done in tiny braids. "Come here, stupid boy! I need your filthy human fingers to help me tie this goddamn bow!"

"Coming," Rudy replies, propping his broom against the wall.

"Not yet," purrs Crystal, a three-foot tall elf with slanted purple eyes and long, dark hair she wears in pigtails. When Rudy first met her, he thought she was cute, like a little kid, sweet smiles and small, dainty feet. Then he found out she was a raging nymphomaniac, and he learned to be scared of her.

He laughs awkwardly, trying to edge past Crystal's grabby hands.

"I wouldn't mind finding you stuffed in my stocking," she continues, trailing a hand down his arm, and, oh God, he does not deserve to be punished with oversexed midgets. The scratch wasn't that bad, the sleigh could survive worse.

He pulls away, just as he hears, "Rudy wouldn't mind if you stuffed his fuckin' stocking. That boy looooves stocking stuffers."

Jingles is an insane, smelly elf who wears a very distinctive hat that's covered in seven hundred tiny silver bells, and the noise drives everyone crazy. Rudy thinks that's why Jingles wears it.

Jingles has also, somehow, sussed out that Rudy is gay, gay, gay. He likes to embarrass Rudy about it as often as he can.

Sure enough, Rudy feels the tips of his ears catch fire as a rosy blush spreads across his cheeks. The elves laugh uproariously, and the bells on Jingles hat tinkle in a crazed chorus as his head bobs with his high, annoying giggles.

Six weeks. He's supposed to help these stupid elves for six weeks. God, they're embarrassing.

Still laughing at his discomfort, Pinky, the tallest of the elves at eight foot eleven, reaches down with one massive hand and slaps Rudy's ass as he walks by.

Rudy yelps, scowling furiously, and the elves laugh even more. "That's sexual harassment, you bitch," he says.

"Nah," replies Jingles, going back to work on the assembly line. "If Pinky sucks your cock, that's sexual harassment."

Rudy chokes, feels his face ignite, and the room again erupts in howls of laughter.

Fucking elves.

* * * * *

At the end of every day at the workshop, Rudy takes home an armload of presents to load into his father's sleigh. Christmas is only two weeks away, and the presents are piling up.

He's taken a giant stack tonight – probably more than he should've tried to carry – but it's cold as Frosty's balls outside, and he doesn't want to make a second trip. He can't see over the teetering tower of packages in his arms, forcing him to rely on memory and luck to navigate through the snow.

Snowflakes spin lazily through the air in swirling eddies. He only takes a few steps beyond the cozy circle of light spilling from the workshop door before he's blanketed in a fine, powdery covering. He looks back longingly over his shoulder.

Jingles and Pinky stand just inside the workshop door and toast him merrily with large, steaming mugs of cocoa. He's tempted to go back, until he sees Crystal run her tongue over her candy red lips and waggle her eyebrows seductively.

He gives a little shudder and steps further into the cold, snowy night.

The forest looms at the edge of the clearing around the workshop, trees standing tall and bare and black in lines like comb teeth, but their shapes twisted, like melted plastic.

He shivers as he adjusts the packages in his arms. Winter rushed in like a team of frigid linebackers a week ago, right when the rumors about Jack Frost started, and Rudy thinks Old Man Winter must be pretty pissed because he can't remember a worse winter. He has a bad feeling about the forest tonight, despite the cheerfully lit path that meanders through the trees from workshop to home.

The path stretches out in front of him, disappearing into the woods. Iron lampposts line the path, flickering with blue witchfire and casting eerie shadows that dance like imps through the bare trees. Some of the lamps are so old that their witchfire enchantments have worn off, and the lamps stand silent and dark and watchful.

He's wearing his stupid red parka with the white furred lining (it's a hand-me-down from his dad, and it's like five sizes too big, and, thank you, he does not need to be reminded that he's Santa Jr.) and giant black boots that are supposed to protect his stockinged feet from the freezing air.

Since it currently feels like he has blocks of ice instead of toes, he's pretty damn sure the boots do not live up to their promise.

He shivers again, wishing he had an extra layer of clothing or that he'd at least worn the ugly long johns his mom insisted on buying him. He focuses his mind on the hot cup of cocoa his mom surely has waiting for him at home, and trudges resolutely through the snow.

He takes the walk slowly, nearly tripping himself on a buried root and then nearly breaking his ankle when he steps into a snow covered hole. His muffled cursing leaves frosty white puffs hanging in the air, and he tests it out to see if "fuck" makes a different cloud than "goddamn." It doesn't, really, but it makes him feel a little better.

He manages to keep a firm grip on the packages. Snow crunches under his boots as he walks. All of a sudden, he feels pretty lonely. It's the middle of winter, it's dark, it's a deserted forest, and the only thing he has to look forward to when he gets home is a hot cup of cocoa and maybe jerking off in the shower. Of the house where he lives with his parents.

He's thinking about what a loser he is, and how his future is going to be endless present-making and flying reindeer with bowel problems and greedy kids and slowly filling out his dad's fat suit and never getting laid, and he's feeling kind of maudlin. He sniffs, tells himself the cold is making his eyes water and his nose run.

He's certainly not planning on colliding with anyone in the middle of nowhere, snot on his face and heavy packages cramping his arms and making him flushed and sweaty.

Except that's what happens.

* * * * *

"Oof," Rudy exclaims. Packages go flying through the air as he pin-wheels backwards. He hits the ground with spine-jarring force, and the gifts come crashing down on his head in a demented avalanche of red and green wrapping paper and sparkly bows.

"Ow, ow, ow!" he says as each package hits.

"Hm," remarks a cool voice.

Rudy looks up. And up. Even taking into account that he's still flat on his back winded and bruised, the tall, sleek man in the black tailored suit standing over him is pretty tall.

As he stares, for one wild second he thinks he can see straight through the man's eyes into the witchfire burning inside the lampposts behind him: his eyes are exactly the same shade of muted, ghostly blue, like a river seen through a film of ice. The eerie eyes are surrounded by lashes black like trees stripped bare by the winter. The man's hair is white as new snow, his eyebrows dark grey. His skin is pale and faintly blue-tinged, and his features are carved sharp like an ice sculpture.

"Is it comfortable on the ground?" the man asks. He makes no move to help Rudy. Instead his stands with his hands hanging artfully at his sides and a vaguely bored look resting on his aquiline features. Actually, the look isn't resting: it's reclining expectantly while people fan it and feed it grapes.

Rudy scrambles up, brushing snow from his jeans. "Not particularly," he says, bending to gather his packages. His father will have a fit if anything comes back broken. "Sometimes I just feel like connecting with nature. This time I connected to it with my ass."

The man quirks his dark grey eyebrow, then narrows his eyes and smirks. "I see. And you are?" he asks, like someone who expects to be obeyed and adored.

Rudy looks back over his shoulder, annoyed. He has a small inkling of who the guy is, but he has melting snow on his butt, package dents in his skull, and no patience for assholes with unimpressive white-knighting skills. "Not interested," he says.

The man's blue eyes widen fractionally. "Is that so? Pity," he murmurs, tilting his head. "I'm Jack Frost."

"I figured," Rudy says. "Not many other people in Holidayland look like walking icicles."

"No," Frost replies evenly. He takes a step forward, and Rudy notices a cane has materialized in his hands. It's a delicately tapering length of blue ice with whirling patterns carved into the side. The handle is bone white. Or maybe just bone.

"Are you lost or something?" Rudy says.

Frost pauses, one corner of his mouth curling up like there's a joke Rudy isn't getting. "I suppose so. I haven't traveled through these woods in quite some time."

"Right," Rudy says. "I don't think you have to worry about freezing to death, but if you follow me I'll lead you out."

"Thank you," Frost says simply.

Rudy tries to shrug to show it's no big deal, but the movement nearly knocks a package off the top and he has to do some frantic juggling to keep everything from tumbling down again.

Frost leans forward and takes several packages. He holds them balanced easily with one arm, his hips cocked at an angle and the packages resting against his side. He leans jauntily on his cane. "I'll take these," he says. "I'll have more confidence in your ability to lead me out if you can see where you're going."

Rudy kind of hates him.

* * * * *

"So," Frost says as they walk. Rudy is surprised to see Frost's breath condense in the air. He doesn't know why, but he thought the guy would be cold inside and out. "Where are you headed?"

"Home," Rudy replies.

They walk in silence.

"Really?" Frost tries again. "I didn't know anyone lived out here besides the Kringles."

"They don't," Rudy answers. He watches Frost from the corner of his eye. It's hard not to look at him, especially when he's the only appealing scenery out here amidst the snow and the dead trees.

A small frown graces Frost's pale lips, and his eyebrows pinch together ever so slightly. "You're not very talkative, are you?"

Rudy grunts. He can barely feel his toes, and his arms feel like spaghetti noodles.

Frost's frown deepens, lines appearing on his forehead. Rudy feels sort of bad for putting wrinkles on something so gorgeous. "I see," Frost says and falls silent.

Rudy can hear the slush and slide of snow as it bends tree branches and falls to the ground. Their shoes make crunching, grinding noises as their feet shuffle down the path. His breathing sounds loud, and he tries not to let it sync with the rhythm of Frost's breathing.

"I'm Rudolph. Rudolph Kringle. But, uh, everyone calls me Rudy," Rudy says, needing to break the mood. It's too quiet, too intimate.

Frost turns his head slightly, and the frown smoothes from his face like it was never there. "Nice to meet you," he says. A small, pleased smile tugs at his mouth, like Rudy still isn't getting the joke.

Rudy clears his throat. "Likewise."

"So, Rudolph?" Frost says, lips twitching. "Isn't that the name of your father's –?"

"Yeah," Rudy says, before Frost can say anything more. And okay, sure, sometimes it pisses him off that his parents named him after a smelly reindeer, but there's a whole heart-warming story behind the reindeer in question, so Rudy mostly ignores it. Until some asshole reminds him. "Like I said, most people call me Rudy. Except for shitheads who think my name is funny."

Frost raises both eyebrows. "Duly noted. Most people call me Jack. Except when they're calling me a shithead."

Rudy can't help his grin. "Likewise noted."

* * * * *

They're only about halfway to Rudy's house, and conversation has petered out again. It's not like the silence bothers Rudy (actually, it's a pretty comfortable silence, which is weird, considering he just met this guy) but he wants to be talking. He likes the sound of Jack's voice. It's cool and smooth and it gives him goosebumps.

"Everyone says they never thought you'd come back to Holidayland," Rudy comments. He doesn't know much about Jack, and he can admit he's curious. Besides the fact that Jack is probably the hottest guy Rudy's ever seen, he's kind of mysterious. Rudy's known most of the people in Holidayland since he was born; mysterious is sort of a turn on.

"I wasn't planning to," Jack says. He presses his lips into a thin line. "Ever."

"Yeah?" Rudy says. "You and your dad don't get along, huh?"

"No," Jack says. "Not for a while."

"Bummer," Rudy says. "But do you think you can put a word in to him about this crappy weather? It sucks. My dad's starting to worry it'll interfere with Christmas."

Jack closes his eyes briefly. "I'll see what I can do."

* * * * *

They stand on the steps in front of Rudy's house. Rudy's strangely reluctant to go inside. "Think you can find your way from here?" he asks.

Jack nods slightly and tilts his head. "Are you working tomorrow?"

"Uh, yeah," Rudy says.

"Do you think you'll need help carrying packages?"

"Maybe?" Rudy is really not sure where this is going.

"All right," Jack says, like he just made a decision. "I'll meet you outside the workshop at seven. You can fill me in on what's happened while I was away."

"Okay," Rudy says, still confused. "But you have to carry more than three packages next time. Seriously, you're pathetic. I hauled like a zillion more things than you."

Jack smiles. "I'll work something out."

* * * * *

"Rudy, that was Jack Frost," Mr Kringle says when Rudy gets inside. He sounds worried and not a little bit ticked off.

"I know," Rudy says, piling the presents next to the front door. He'll take them out to the sleigh in the morning.

"You promised me you'd stay away from him. What was he doing with you?"

Rudy rolls his eyes and turns around. "Dad, c'mon. I didn't go looking for the guy. I ran into him on the way home. It isn't like I planned it."

His dad scowls. "Yes, but I'm not sure he didn't."


His dad huffs and paces back and forth, clearly struggling with what he wants to say. Finally, he stops and looks at Rudy. "He was… interested in you," his dad says. "When you were younger, before he left."

"Huh," Rudy says. "Wait, like, interested-interested?"

His dad scowls. "Yes. I caught him lurking outside the house one night when you were fifteen. He was hiding in the bushes watching you."

"Huh," Rudy says again. "That's sort of creepy. Wasn't that the year you moved my bedroom to the top floor?"

"Yes." His dad scowls at some memory. "Though that didn't do much to dissuade him. I finally had a talk with Old Man Winter, and we both decided that Jack's infatuation wouldn't go well for either of you."


Mr Kringle sighs, and shoves his spectacles up higher on his nose. "I did what was best for you. You're not – that way – and it was best that Jack didn't give you ideas. I explained it to him, and he left for the South Pole."

Rudy gapes. "Wait, I'm not – I'm not what way?"

His dad shifts nervously, clears his throat. "You know, son. Gay."

Rudy starts laughing. He backs up until his shoulders hit the wall, and then he slides to the floor. "Oh God," he says. "Seriously, fuck you."

"What?" Mr Kringle looks shocked. "Watch your language!"

Rudy draws his knees up and wraps his hands around his legs, laughing shakily against his thighs. This is not how he planned this, ever, but he can't stop the words bubbling up his throat. "Not gay? Dad, I'm a total nutcracker."

Mr Kringle takes a sharp breath as he looks down at Rudy. "What are you saying?"

He stands up. "That I am gayer than a rainbow Christmas tree. I'm gayer than a sugarplum fairy. Hell, I am a sugarplum fairy."

Mr Kringle's eyes are wide behind his glasses. "Rudy, you're not – "

They both turn when they hear a quiet cough. "Kristopher," Mrs Kringle says, not unkindly. She's standing in the kitchen entrance, wiping her hands on her apron. "Stop talking."

"Holly," Mr Kringle says helplessly.

Mrs Kringle comes over and pats her husband's arm. "It's all right, Kris," she says. "I've known about it for a while."

"What?!" Rudy and Mr Kringle say in unison.

Mrs Kringle smiles softly. "Rudy, please. I'm your mother. Mothers know these things. And you weren't exactly shy about your interest in Broadway theatre. We want you to know it's all right with us. Don't we, Kris?"

"Of course," Mr Kringle mumbles into his beard. "Though I think you can do better than Jack Frost, son."

"There now," his mother says, patting both of them on the face. "I made pot roast."

* * * * *

"Man," Rudy says later over dessert, after he thinks about it for a while. "I could have been getting laid when I was fifteen. Thanks for totally cockblocking me with that hot guy, dad. Really. Awesome job."

Mr Kringle chokes on his custard, and Mrs Kringle has to slap him on the back.

* * * * *

Jack walks Rudy home again the next day. He makes a sleigh out of ice, and they pile the presents on top. Of course, Jack makes Rudy push it.

"I made the sleigh," he says reasonably. "That was the hard part."

"Uh huh," Rudy pants, and leans his weight forward to propel the sleigh as he tries to steer it around fallen branches and roots.

When they get to the house, Mr Kringle is standing out front. "Jack Frost," he says, and Rudy can't make out the emotion behind his dad's voice.

"Sir," Jack replies, a challenging light in his eyes.

"May I have a word with you, Jack?" Mr Kringle says. It doesn't sound like a request.

Jack inclines his head, a smirk flashing across his lips that melts away as fast as a snowflake on a tongue.

"Rudy," Mr Kringle says, turning to him. "Would you please take the presents to the barn and load them into the magic bag? And do it quickly. Your mother has dinner ready."

"Uh, sure," Rudy says, looking back and forth between his dad and Jack. "Jack, do you wanna stay for –?"

"Sorry," Jack says, never taking his eyes off Mr Kringle. "I'm afraid I'm a bit busy tonight."

"Shall we?" Mr Kringle says, stepping off the stairs. He walks down the path toward the woods. Jack takes a deep breath and follows him.

Rudy is left standing alone, hanging onto a melting ice sleigh. "Well. Bye, then."

* * * * *

When his dad comes in for dinner, he looks thoughtful. He doesn't eat as much as he usually would.

* * * * *

Jack starts walking Rudy home every night, and they take a stroll together after the presents are dropped off and put away. It's something Rudy looks forward to a little more than he should.

"That night we met in the woods," Rudy says one evening, as Jack glances sideways at him, "why'd you pretend not to know who I was?"

Jack hesitates and then shrugs in a soft, fluid motion. He shoves his hands in his pockets, even though Rudy knows the cold doesn't bother him. "I don't know. We'd never properly met until then. It seemed like the right time for introductions." Jack walks quickly ahead, his head bent against the chill wind, his coat flapping around his legs. 

"Hm," Rudy replies noncommittally. He claps his hands together to warm them, cursing himself for leaving his mittens at the workshop. "Did you totally have a crush on me when I was a kid?" he asks, loping to catch up with Jack.

Jack stops dead in his tracks, and Rudy runs into him. He has to put his hands up to cushion the impact, and he feels Jack's muscles slide beneath the coat, his back rigid and radiating cold. "Excuse me?" Jack says.

Rudy laughs lightly and drops his hands. His fingertips are turning blue with frostbite. "You heard me."

Jack stares at him for a long time and then turns and walks briskly away, forcing Rudy to scramble in order to keep pace with him. Jack's long legs eat up the distance. The line of his shoulders looks tight, and his posture screams I'm not talking about this.

"I'm gay, you know," Rudy huffs out.

This time Jack stops so quickly that Rudy does collide with his back. His face presses into the wool of Jack's coat, and he puts his hands on Jack's hips to steady himself, inhaling something that smells like peppermint and evergreen.

Jack pivots sharply, making Rudy stumble back. He grabs Rudy's chin in his hand and brings their faces close together. "No, you're not."

"Uh, okay," Rudy says, eyes wide, thinking, What the ever-loving fuck?

Jack's eyes burn witchfire bright, and frost tips his lashes. He laughs softly, a puff of warm air Rudy feels ghost across his lips, and drops his hand, freeing Rudy. "You're not my type," he says.

Rudy stumbles a step back, but Jack's already walking away.

* * * * *

Jack avoids him the next couple days. As Rudy locks up the workshop, the last one to leave tonight, he turns around to find Jack watching him. Jack is holding two steaming to-go cups, leaning against another ice sleigh. The sleigh has cup holders.

"Hey," Jack says, holding out one of the cups.

"Hey back," Rudy says. "You done freaking out? Seriously, I promise I can keep my hands off you."

Jack snorts and takes a sip of his drink. "Here, take this." He practically shoves the other drink into Rudy's hands.

Rudy closes his eyes as he inhales the warm, spicy aroma of hot apple cider, wrapping his hands tightly around the cup to warm his fingers. His mittens are at home. "Oh, man. This has been my favorite since I was a kid."

"I know," Jack says offhand, and then he freezes.

"Ha!" Rudy crows. "I knew it. You're such a stalker. Dude, you liked me."

Jack groans and closes his eyes. "You aren't going to let this go, are you?"

"Not even a little bit."

"All right," Jack says eventually. "Yes. You were… cute. I thought you looked like some sort of edible Christmas treat. Rosy cheeks, auburn curls, evergreen eyes, bright smile. You were adorable."

"Jack," Rudy says. "You totally perved on me when I was a kid."

Jack sighs and pinches his nose. "Shut up."

"You did!" Rudy insists, grinning. "You're like seven years older than me, man, that is pervy."

"Did you hear me when I said you were adorable? Past tense. Now you're old and unappealing. And annoying."

"Yeah," Rudy teases. "I know I'm not your type now. You like 'em young and smooth."

"Oh God, be quiet."

"Admit it," Rudy says. "You're an old man. A dirty old man."

"I'm not that old," Jack replies wryly. "And you're going to hit thirty soon enough."

"Yeah, and you'll hit foooorty soon enough," Rudy croons. "You're already at the halfway mark. Five more years and I'll throw you a party with black balloons and headstones and over-the-hill banners."

Jack's lips twist strangely as he fights back a smile. "That's for fifty, you idiot."

"Eh," Rudy says carelessly. "Fifty, forty, what's the difference?"

Jack's eye twitches. "Ten years."

* * * * *

"Here's my number," Jack says not long after that. "Call me anytime."

Rudy raises an eyebrow. "Anytime?"

"Sure," Jack says.

* * * * *


"What the – Rudy?"

"Yeah, hey. What's up?"

"Rudy, it is three o'clock in the morning."

"You said I could call anytime."

Jack heaves a sigh over the phone. "So I did. Is something wrong? Do you need anything?"

"No," Rudy says. "I was just testing. G'night!" He hangs up.

A few seconds later he gets a text message. i'm going to freeze off your balls when i see you.

Rudy laughs and texts back. promises promises

He falls asleep with a smile on his face and his phone tucked next to his pillow. He dreams of witchfire.

* * * * *

Jack comes over almost every day for the next two weeks. He claims he needs Rudy to show him around Holidayland because he's been gone so long.

"Dude, it's okay," Rudy says. "You can admit we're friends."

Jack looks at him funny. "We are?"

"Duh," Rudy says.

Jack smiles a lot after that.

Rudy really, really likes it when Jack smiles.

* * * * *

One night a few days later, they decide to take a longer walk after they finish dropping off the presents at the house. The snow banks along the path are waist high and the trees look like they've been outlined in white.

"I need help," Rudy says.

"Yes," Jack replies, "Yes, you do. I have the number of a very respected psychologist in Anchorage – "

"Shut up, jerk," Rudy says, punching Jack lightly in the arm.

Jack chuckles, and bumps his shoulder against Rudy's. "Yes?"

"The elves are having a Christmas party this weekend. I need a date. Someone responsible and, y'know, old. To get me home safely."

Jack rolls his eyes. "How do you know I'm not a party animal?"

"Puh-lease," Rudy says. "I've seen your apartment. You have a sock drawer."

"Pretty damning evidence," Jack says, trying to smother a smile.

"Wanna go?" Rudy asks, aiming for casual and hoping to overshoot desperate.

Jack thinks for a second. "All right."

"Awesome," Rudy says. He shivers suddenly because, dammit, he forgot his mittens again.

Jack glances at him and moves closer, slinging an arm around his shoulder and pulling him in. For a minute, it's like snuggling an ice cube, and then Jack warms with Rudy's body heat, and Rudy's not shivering anymore.

Or at least, not for the same reason.

* * * * *

When Rudy comes downstairs to meet Jack before the party, Jack is already there talking to his dad. They're standing off to the side, and they can't see him from where they're speaking in low voices.

"The coat and the staff?" his dad is saying, something like horror in his voice.

Jack nods. "Yes. You see why I had to come back. Until I find who took them…"

Mr Kringle nods. "All right. I want you to keep me updated."

"Of course," Jack says. Then he catches sight of Rudy, and his expression changes from one heartbeat to the next. His lips curl into a fond smile. "Ah, there you are. Ready?"

"Yeah," Rudy says. "What were you guys –?"

"We don't want to be late," Jack interrupts smoothly.

"No, no," Mr Kringle agrees. "You boys go and have fun." He gives Jack a meaningful look.

Rudy sighs and lets it drop. In all honesty, he really doesn't want to go to the elves' Christmas party because he always drinks too much, and this time, he doesn't want to embarrass himself in front of Jack.

So, of course, he gets drunk, and he and Jack have messy sex at Jack's place. He knows it was messy because these sheets are fucked and this is not his bed. But the thing is, Rudy doesn't really remember anything else about the sex from last night because he was just that drunk.

He remembers Crystal plying him with drinks as soon as he got to the party. He remembers the party, remembers laughing a lot, remembers Jack steadying him when the booze started to hit hard. He remembers way too many cocktails, remembers karaoke, he really hopes he's not remembering the body shot he took off Pinky's stomach, and he remembers kissing Jack under the mistletoe.

But he can't remember what happened after that, which is unbelievably unfair. He finally has sex with the guy he's half in love with, and he can't remember a fucking thing, and he has the worst hangover in the history of hangovers. It feels like Santa's workshop is operating inside his skull, only the elves are wearing spiked boots and using jackhammers and power drills.

He makes it to the bathroom in time to vomit. He's got the sheet tangled around his legs and wrapped haphazardly around his waist, and he's gripping the bowl to keep the room from spinning. He feels cool fingers in his hair, sweeping the strands off his clammy forehead.

"Morning," Jack says casually, like he isn't naked and kneeling next to Rudy in a bathroom with a puke-filled toilet.

Rudy groans and leans against the porcelain rim.

"I'm impressed," Jack says. "I think a lesser man would have died from alcohol poisoning."

"I'm immortal, you asshole, I can't die. It just feels like I'm dying."

Jack laughs and runs his fingers over the back of Rudy's neck. Rudy tries to lean into the touch, and Jack clears his throat and pulls his hand away. "Let's not be awkward about this, all right? We're friends. We can carry on like before."

Rudy really wishes he could remember what he should be awkward about. All he has are blurry sense impressions of heat and sweat and vague recollections of an orgasm or three.

He tilts his head to Jack, squints one eye. "How about like before, but with benefits?"

Jack's smile is a little tight. "Try propositioning me when your breath doesn't smell like vomit." He gets up to leave, halts midway, then swoops down and presses a swift, cool kiss to Rudy's temple. "Now, go back to bed. You look like shit."

Rudy sighs and drags himself to the bed. When he buries his face in the pillow, it smells like Jack.

* * * * *

Despite what Jack said, it's still kind of awkward, so Rudy goes home as fast as his hangover allows and doesn't hear from Jack until the next day when he texts Rudy: still breathing?

Rudy hits the reply button. yeah thnx for caring.

Jack doesn't text back.

Rudy wonders why he keeps dreaming that glowing witchfire eyes are staring at him through his bedroom window while he sleeps.

* * * * *

Rudy sends Jack a text message three days later. He thinks Jack's been avoiding him. wanna jingle my bells?

Jack texts back. no.

Rudy bites his lip. wanna put the carrot in my snowman?

no. and i don't want to roast your chestnuts either.

dude, ur sick. im not in2 that kinky shit

rudy i'm busy

2 busy to toast marshmllws? tinsel the tree? roll the cookie dough?

stop making innocent things dirty.

dude, take ur own advice. u totally date raped me :(

He doesn't get a text back for a long time, and he starts to worry. He hopes Jack isn't pissed, he was just fucking around.

Then his phone rings.

"Yello?" he says.

"Rudy," Jack says. "You can't rape the willing."

Rudy snorts. "Whatever. Alcohol was the only way you'd get this hot ass."

Jack laughs. "I should wrap up my business by seven o'clock. Do you want to meet me for dinner and drinks?"

"Sure," Rudy says. "It's been a shitty day here. Everyone's stressing with Christmas only a few weeks away."

Jack hmms in sympathy. "Sorry. How about we meet at the North Pole at nine?"

"Dude," Rudy says. "The drinks there are expensive."

"Don't worry, I'm buying."

"Okay, but just because you're buying me food and alcohol, doesn't mean you'll get in my pants again. Seriously, don't beg. It demeans you."

Jack laughs, but there's a sigh somewhere in there, too. "Rudy," he says patiently. "We were both drunk, although you were extremely and hilariously more drunk than I was. It was a one-time thing. And you aren't my type at all."

So, of course, they have sex again. Frequently.

* * * * *

Rudy's trousers are somewhere in the kitchen. He's still got his shirt on, but he's otherwise naked on the couch. Jack's on his knees between Rudy's spread legs jacking him slowly with a spit-slicked palm. It's rough and his cock is already sensitive from coming once already (in the kitchen), but it's still good.

A thick bead of precome oozes from the head of his cock, and Jack leans forward, flicking his tongue out to taste the salt and bitter with a kittenish lick. He mouths the tip, his breath hot and moist and his lips cool like he's been eating ice cream, and pauses to drop a kiss to the underside every now and then.

He sucks and licks like Rudy's dick is a fucking popsicle, making obscene, slurping noises as he traces the veins with his tongue. He laps at the head again, cat-like, catching more precome on his tongue and rolling it around in his mouth. His lips are slick and shiny and swollen, the faintest pink under the blue tinge. He kisses the crown, suckles at the head, and the pressure is too light, not enough.

Rudy whines, trying to push his hips farther into the wet heat of Jack's mouth.

Jack pulls back and shakes a finger at Rudy. "Naughty, naughty," he says. "You don't want to get on Santa's bad list, do you?"

"Oh, fuck you," Rudy says, throwing an arm over his face and laughing, caught somewhere between horny and happy. When Jack looks up and catches Rudy's eye, his grin is sharp and hungry.

"Do you want to taste yourself?" he asks.

Rudy makes a small noise that he hopes Jack understands to mean Are you waiting for me to engrave the fucking invitation?

Thankfully, Jack understands his sexspeak, and he gets to work, sucking hard, his cheeks hollowing out and his eyes fluttering closed like he's in heaven. Rudy doesn't last long, and shoots down Jack's throat. Jack swallows most of it, and then climbs up Rudy's body, licking and nipping a trail to Rudy's lips.

He presses their lips together, hesitantly at first, like Rudy might push him away. Rudy rolls his eyes and grips the back of Jack's head, tugging him closer. He can taste himself in Jack's mouth, faint traces that he seeks out with his tongue. Jack moans and rubs his cock on Rudy's thigh, his own precome leaving thick, clear trails over Rudy's skin.

They're shoved up against each other, and Rudy can feel Jack's hand moving between them, working himself off. He's panting into Rudy's mouth, breathless, wordless sounds as their lips slide together, and he comes all over Rudy's stomach. Rudy's shirt is pretty much ruined.

"Gross," Rudy says, wrinkling his nose. "I'm borrowing one of your shirts."

Jack smiles contentedly, biting at Rudy's jaw. "Okay."

Rudy secretly thinks Jack likes seeing him wearing his clothes.

* * * * *

Jack buys Rudy three pairs of mittens and gets adorably embarrassed when Rudy tries to thank him.

"Don't mention it," Jack says uncomfortably. "It's – it's whatever."

"I think it's sweet," Rudy says. He thinks they're having a moment, and Jack looks ready to bolt, so Rudy leers and wiggles his eyebrows suggestively.

* * * * *

They have sex all the time.

"Yes – unf – yes, yesyesyes, oh, fuck, please, harder – " and Rudy feels like he's always begging because 1) Jack really likes it when he begs, and 2) Jack is a fucking cocktease, fuck.

* * * * *

Things aren't perfect, obviously. Everyone is worried because the weather isn't behaving right, and no one can find Old Man Winter. Jack's still being secretive about whatever the hell is going on with his dad, and the tension only gets worse when Cupid goes missing, too.

Esther is especially devastated.

"You don't understand, Rudy," she says. "I know him. He takes love seriously. He wouldn't walk away from the job!"

"Yeah, of course," Rudy says, trying to console her.

* * * * *

Jack comes over for dinner and everyone gets along. Rudy is stupidly thankful that his dad doesn't make a scene, but he and Jack have been getting along a lot better, for some reason. Jack charms his mom in no time, compliments her cooking, and smiles in all the right places.

But Rudy can tell Jack is uneasy, and he catches Jack and his dad exchanging pointed glances over dessert.

After dinner, Rudy drags Jack into the kitchen and tells his mom they'll do the washing up. His mom pats his cheek and tells him he's cute and that he should feel comfortable enough to show Jack affection in front of them.

Rudy chokes out something through his embarrassed gurgling and flees.

He corners Jack and asks him, point black, if he knows what's going on with the disappearances.

"Yes," Jack says. Rudy's never heard him sound so cold. "So does your father. And I'm not involving you."

After that, Rudy notices when Jack comes over, sometimes he goes into the study with Mr Kringle, and they don't come out for a while.

His dad starts to lose weight.

* * * * *

They have some more sex.

"Yeah," Jack growls. "You like that, don't you? Tell me what you want."

"Ah, ah, yeah," Rudy says, "I want it hard, pleasepleaseplease, c'mon, Jack, deep as you can go, mark me up, fuck yes, there, don't ever stop, unnnngh, come inside me, God, I love your fucking cock, wanna feel you, yeah –"

"Keep talking," Jack hisses as he pounds into him, thrusts a continuous chant of mine mine mine.

* * * * *

Actually, they have a lot of sex. It's pretty awesome. Jack ruins it occasionally by pulling back from kissing Rudy senseless to mutter, "You know this is just physical, right? This isn't a relationship or anything."

Rudy usually shuts him up by doing this thing with his tongue and Jack's ear. But when Jack's asleep, breathing softly and curled around Rudy protectively like he's a present that Jack won't share, ever, Rudy squeezes his eyes shut and tries not to be in love with Jack.

It never works.

* * * * *

"Seriously," Rudy says after Patrick disappears, too. "Will you tell me what the fuck is going on?"

"No," Jack says. "I'm working on it. That's all you need to know."

"People are missing."

Jack looks sideways at him. "No one's missing. They're in hiding, lying low until we figure some things out."

"What?" Rudy says. "Your dad, Cupid, Patrick – they aren't missing?"

Jack shakes his head.

"Then where the hell are they? Why are they hiding? Why aren't they doing anything?"

Jack hesitates. "It's complicated. They're too vulnerable right now. Rudy, don't worry about it, really. It's nothing you need to concern yourself with. Ask your father, he'll tell you the same thing."

"Jack – "

"Rudy," Jack mimics. "Back off, for fuck's sake. Why do you act like I'm required to tell you every goddamn thing? Because let me remind you – you aren't my boyfriend. I don't owe you anything. You're a guy I fuck."

"Screw you," Rudy says, swallowing back a hot rush of tears.

"No," Jack sneers. "I screw you, remember?"

* * * * *

They still have sex.

Rudy doesn't like it as much.

Jack seems stressed all the time, and he snaps at Rudy. He goes off in the middle of the night and doesn't come back for hours, and Rudy can see the tension ratcheting his shoulders tighter day by day. They don't talk about it, and then one night when Rudy reaches for Jack, Jack says, "Not tonight," and turns over.

The next night, Rudy says, "I have a headache."

Rudy doesn't stay over at Jack's much after that.

An unexpected blizzard barrels in a week and a half before Christmas, and Old Man Winter isn't around to deflect it. It buries the workshop and halts production.

Mr Kringle barely touches his food. He fits into the Santa suit he wore five years ago, and the skin on his face is no longer rosy; it hangs fleshy and sallow, and there are bags under his eyes.

Rudy tries to begin a conversation. "Dad, can we – ?" but his dad cuts him off.

"Listen to Jack," he says, and then shuts himself in the den.

Later that night, Rudy sits at the kitchen table and pillows his head on his folded arms. His mom comes in behind him and touches his hair gently. "Rudy," she says softly. "They're trying to protect the person they love."

Rudy snorts.

* * * * *

It's the same story all over Holidayland. Romance is languishing without Cupid around; without Patrick, the beer sours and no one has any luck; and the weather – well, the weather just gets worse and worse.

* * * * *

Four days before Christmas, and Rudy hasn't seen Jack in a while, hasn't had a phone call or a text in days. Rudy has started eating a lot of pie and cookies, and even the elves mostly leave him alone when he goes to the workshop. It's so cold that the machines have frozen; they're trying to make everything by hand, like the old days.

It isn't going so well. They're behind schedule, but Rudy just grits his teeth and keeps working. His dad's not up to helping much.

When Rudy gets home late in the afternoon, he goes into the kitchen to make himself a pot of coffee, but frantic knocking at their front door interrupts him.

When he answers the door, he finds Morris standing outside, supporting his wife with one arm. Morris' pink eyes are bloodshot, and he looks like he hasn't slept in days.

"Esther is missing," he says.

For a second, Rudy can't move, can't breathe. Then his mouth tightens in a grim line, and he ushers the Bunnys inside.

He gets his mom and dad to help console Morris and Eloise, and no one questions him when he says he needs a minute alone. He goes up to his room to make a call.

When he gets there he stares at his phone and takes deep breaths to calm himself. Then he dials.

* * * * *

Hello, you've reached Jack Frost. I'm not available at the moment, but if you're important enough, leave a message, and I might get back to you.

"Hi, asshole," Rudy says into the phone, gripping the plastic so hard his fingers ache. "This is just to let you know that we are completely through unless you tell me what is going on. And I hate your guts for keeping shit from me. Also, fuck you, and I hope you choke on an icicle. Esther's missing, by the way. I'm sure you don't care, but she's my best friend, and I'm gonna find her."

He hangs up and throws his phone across the room, then sits on his bed and puts his head in his hands, his chest heaving.

His phone rings a few minutes later. Then it rings again and again and again, the tinny music floating to him from the other side of the room. I'm dreaming of a white Christmas… Jack Frost nipping at your nose…

He doesn't move to pick it up.

* * * * *

He does move when he hears the front door smash in and loud shouts fill the house.

He just doesn't move fast enough.

The sheet of ice covers his door before he can blink more than twice. The ice spreads down and rockets across the floor until it touches his toes, and he yelps.

Then his bedroom door shatters in, icy shards flying through the air and pinging off his walls and his dresser. He sees Jack framed in the doorway, his face terrifying, and snow white, and totally, insanely, angry. Ice cakes his hair, paints his eyebrows white, and frost glitters on his eyelashes. His lips are blue and thin.

"Rudy," Jack says, very calmly, his voice smooth as ice over a skating pond, but Rudy isn't fooled. The ice has cracks running through it and a freezing river raging underneath. "In the future, I'd appreciate if you answered your phone when I called."

"Really?" Rudy says, standing up and squaring his shoulders. "Good to know."

Jack holds up a hand. His fingers are thin and pale, and the nails have gone blue. When he flexes his fingers, the skin cracks and sheds like it's made of ice. "I'm not going to argue about this, Rudy. Pick up your phone when I call. It's important."

"Why?" Rudy asks. Jack doesn't get to show up and order him around like he has a fucking right, like he gives a rat's ass about Rudy, like they have anything special at all, because he's made it clear that they aren't – that Rudy has to realize that any stupid feelings are all on his side.

Rage and hurt simmer in his chest. "Were you worried?" he continues. "That's sweet, but don't bother. I'd prefer if you didn't pretend to care. Anyway, what's the big deal? It's not like you've called me in, oh, four days anyway. Are you afraid I'll suddenly go missing too?"

Jack's eyes flicker guiltily, and some of the fight leaves his stance.

"Well, what the fuck," Rudy says.

"You have to be careful right now, Rudy," Jack says. "There's … look, just answer when I call, okay?"

"No way," Rudy says. "Tell me what's going on."

"I don't want you involved!" Jack says. He sounds ticked off and frustrated. "I don't want you anywhere near this."

"What's it to you? I'm just this guy you're fucking, right?"

Jack's eyes narrow. "Shut your mouth. Don't push me right now."

"Get out," Rudy says, feeling bone tired as he sinks down on the edge of his mattress. He's not sure his legs can hold him anymore. "Get out unless you're gonna help me find Esther. Or is she in hiding, too? 'Cause Esther, man, she's a real practical joker. Maybe she's putting her family through hell, you know, just hiding out."

Jack's jaw clenches. "Esther isn't hiding. She's been taken."

"And lemme guess – you know who took her. But you can't tell me!" Rudy says with false cheer. "Awesome. I love being able to trust you."

"No, I – " Jack makes a frustrated noise. "Fine – fine, I'll tell you what's going on because, dammit, I tried to keep you safe, and you're still right in the middle of it. Esther wasn't just kidnapped, she's bait."

"Bait for what?"

"You," Jack says in a voice like lead.

* * * * *

"Your father and I thought we knew who was behind all this, but we couldn't prove it until now. This was taped to your front door when I got here." Jack hands him a letter.

Rudy unfolds the letter carefully. As he reads, he feels his eyebrows climb to his hairline.

Dear Santa Jr.,

If you ever want to see your girlfriend alive again, you'll meet me at the pumpkin patch at midnight. Alone. And you will bring me Santa's balls!


The Thanksgiving Turkey

Future King of the New Holidayland

Walter Snood

"The bad guy is the Thanksgiving Turkey?!" Rudy says in disbelief.

Jack nods grimly.

* * * * *

Jack explains it to him after Rudy stops laughing.

"He's taking the holiday symbols of power: Cupid's arrows, Patrick's pot of gold, my father's cloak and staff. When he got Esther, she was on the way to her grandmother's house, carrying her father's Easter basket. Your father is the only major holiday figure left, and Snood needs Santa's silver sleigh balls before he has enough power to take over Holidayland."

"Oh," Rudy says. "Christ, am I glad those are the balls he meant."

Jack doesn't look amused. "This is serious, Rudy. He's crazy, and he's not going to stop until he gets what he wants. I have to find his hideout and stop him. Until I do, you and your family are in danger."

"What about you?" Rudy says.

"I'm not in danger," Jack says. "I'm not a holiday. I'm an archetype."


Jack sighs, lifts his hand like he's going to reach out and touch Rudy, and then he stops. He runs his fingers through his hair instead. "I'll handle this. Just stay here tonight, okay?"

"Okay," Rudy nods.

"I mean it, Rudy."

"Fine," Rudy says. "But when this is over, we need to have a serious talk about communication in our relationship because – '

"When this is over, I'm leaving."

Rudy snaps his mouth shut.

Jack turns his back to Rudy. "Don't kid yourself. I told you this was just physical. We wouldn't work out, anyway. It's better if we stop now."

* * * * *

Jack is such a bastard. So fuck him, anyway. Esther's his best friend.

* * * * *

Just after eleven, Rudy slips out to the barn. He ducks under the tarp covering the sleigh, plucks off one single large silver ball at the tip of the runner, and tucks it safely into a canvas bag.

Then he walks to the pumpkin patch.

* * * * *

It is definitely not the smartest thing he's ever done, he discovers, when the Thanksgiving Turkey gets the jump on him and knocks him out cold.

* * * * *

Walter Snood is a tiny, ugly man with beady black eyes and a wrinkled saggy neck. He's nearly baldheaded, his remaining tuft of brown hair haphazardly combed over the shiny crown.

He's also seriously unbalanced.

"No more!" Snood cries, flecks of spittle flying from his mouth.

Rudy watches him warily from where he's tied to the chair. He was barely conscious as Snood dragged him to the hideout, and now that he's more awake, the back of his head throbs like a son of a bitch. He clenches his jaw to keep from groaning in pain.

He tries to keep an eye on Esther, too. She's unconscious on the other side of the room, tied to a chair in the corner. He can see blood matting her fine, blond hair, and it makes his insides boil with thick, gooey rage. He's thinking of all the ways he can kill Snood, slowly, when he gets out of this, and he grits his teeth as he's forced to listen to Snood's gibbering tirade.

"No more will my brothers and sisters be slaughtered!" Snood is saying, shaking his fist at the ceiling.

"Too long have I sat and watched while my people are ritualistically killed to feed repulsive gluttony. I shall end their suffering, I shall give them revenge! Yes, I shall remake Holidayland!" he cackles. "Every day will be a day celebrating turkeys! But people won't eat turkeys, oh no, turkeys will eat people!" he finishes triumphantly.

"I thought turkeys were vegetarians," Rudy says.

Snood backhands him. "Silence! You don't know what it's like. They call it a holiday." There's a crazed gleam in his eye. "A holiday, and what do they do? They murder! It's a holiday for murder!"

Rudy works his jaw. It doesn't feel broken, but he's going to have a hell of a bruise. "All right," he says. "Your holiday is a rough gig, I get that, but – "

Snood leans in close. His breath smells like cornmeal. "If they want murder, I'll give it to them. I'll start with you," he says. "I'll have my little pretties peck your eyes out, and then I'll carve you up."

"I vote no on that, actually," Rudy says.

Snood sneers. "You don't get any say in the matter, you spoiled brat. You, with your stupid holiday and your cookies and your presents and your pagan origins. I have you at my mercy now!"

"Whatever," Rudy says. "You are gonna be in so much trouble when my boyfriend gets here."

* * * * *

He really hopes Jack is smart enough to follow the trail of Christmas bows he left.

* * * * *

Snood does set his turkey army loose on Rudy, but the turkey army doesn't seem interested in feasting on him. Instead, the turkeys cluck and scratch around his feet, pecking halfheartedly at his toes.

"Kill him, my darlings!" Snood urges. "His death will be the first of the new order!"

"I do not even know how you got this far," Rudy says.

Snood turns to him, expression surprisingly lucid. "You know, there really wasn't a lot of evil competition."

* * * * *

Rudy sighs and shifts in the chair. He thinks the ropes have cut off circulation to his hands, because he can't really feel his fingers anymore.

Snood is pacing across the floor, stirring up feathers as he walks. "Well, young man, I do have to thank you for bringing me Santa's ball – "

"Please stop calling it that."

" – because now I'm one step closer. And I have you, so naturally your father will trade your life for his ball – "

"Really, stop."

" – and then, then I will have Santa's balls in my grasp!"

"Gngh," Rudy says, letting his head fall back. There is no way that image is leaving him for a long time.

* * * * *

Thankfully, Jack shows up not too long after that and freezes Walter into a giant, crazy-person popsicle. It's kind of anticlimactic. Except the part where Jack blows open the door to Snood's hideout, and swirls in on a cloud of snow and wind, and throws ice daggers that pin Snood to the wall.

That part is pretty hot.

* * * * *

Rudy's dad waits outside in the sleigh, and when he sees Rudy stumble out behind Jack with Esther propped between them, he gives a hoarse shout and clambers from his seat.

Rudy finds himself smothered by a big, squishy hug.

"Rudolph Kristopher Kringle!" his dad says sternly, squeezing him so hard Rudy hears his ribs creak. "Don't ever do something so stupid again!"

Rudy looks to Jack for help, but Jack's not looking at him. His gaze is fixed on the ground, his expression blank.

Rudy is confused and kind of pissed off by Jack's reaction because he at least thought he'd get a "Thank God You're Alive, Let's Kiss With Tongue" reunion for his troubles.

But Jack just silently helps Mr Kringle and Rudy load Esther into the sleigh and doesn't touch Rudy any more than necessary.

"Jack?" Rudy says uncertainly, brushing his fingers over Jack's arm to get his attention. Jack looks over, and his eyes are hard.


"Are we – uh, I mean, we're okay, right? Look, I'm sorry I lied to you and came out here, but Esther was too important – "

"Don't worry about it," Jack says, in this tight, final voice. "I shouldn't have asked you to trust me to save your friend, I don't know what I was thinking. But hey, it all worked out. We've got the symbols, and I'm going to deliver them to their owners. Things will go back to normal. I'll see you around. Give me a call if you feel like it."

Jack walks away.

* * * * *

With all the excitement, Rudy doesn't really get a chance to call Jack. They're a couple days behind on Christmas prep, and Rudy is seriously afraid his dad is going to have a coronary trying to finish in time.

But the weather thaws, the machines come back online, and the twinkle returns to his dad's eyes. They both labor around the clock at the workshop filling orders, living off coffee and three hours of sleep a night, but it's okay, it's awesome, because everything comes together without a hitch.

Rudy waves from the ground as his mom and dad pile into the sleigh and take off into the night sky.

He really, really wants to sleep for a week.

But instead, when he gets home to his room, he picks up his (slightly battered) phone and dials a familiar number, his fingers crossed.

"Hello?" Jack answers. His voice is subzero.

Rudy's throat tightens, and his hand falls to his side, fingers hanging loose. "Uh, hi," he says hesitantly.

Jack's voice doesn't thaw. "Rudy."

"Yeah. That's – yeah, it's me. I was just… wondering how you were. And stuff."

"It's supposed to be a white Christmas in one-hundred and eighty-nine cities," Jack says. "So I'm a little busy. Is there something you want?" The dismissal is clear in his voice, like he can barely waste the time talking to Rudy, and can't he get a clue already and hang up?

"Oh," Rudy says, in a small voice. "No, there's not – nothing. No. Okay. I guess I'll – see you. I guess. Bye."

He disconnects the call and sinks to his knees in the middle of his room. It feels like the temperature has dropped twenty degrees, and he'll never be warm again. Fuck, he is so stupid. Maybe he can ask Cupid for a refund.

He heaves himself up on wobbly legs, closes his eyes when the room tilts, and tries to take a deep breath. It gets caught in his chest and he ends up hacking, his throat burning and moisture stinging his eyes. After that, it's too hard to stop the tears so he doesn't bother to try.

He goes downstairs to get some milk and cookies, and wipes the back of his hand angrily across his cheek, not caring that his nose is running and he's smeared snot across his upper lip. Fuck it. Fuck everything.

It's Christmas Eve and he's alone and that's probably how it's always going to be. He's gonna stuff his face full of cookies and drink milk until he passes out. And then he's going to get up and do it again tomorrow. And fuck the gym membership, too. Who's gonna care if he's fat and gross? Maybe he'll grow a beard.

He's on his fifth plate of cookies and his sixth glass of milk (and he is really regretting cookie #78 right now) when the doorbell rings. He makes his way unsteadily to the front door, brushing cookie crumbs from his pajamas. He's wearing the most hideous pair he could find in his closet because it makes him feel a little better.

So, naturally, when he answers the door, Jack is standing there, looking perfect in a charcoal suit and a black wool coat.

Rudy feels dumb and ugly. He clears his throat, and knows he probably has chocolate chip smudges around his mouth.

Jack raises an eyebrow. He's so beautiful it makes Rudy's heart ache. Or maybe that's just high cholesterol. Or cookie #78.

"You look… festive," Jack says, taking in the fluffy, white slippers on Rudy's feet and his garish red pajama set with the giant reindeer face sewn on the front. Rudy thanks God that he turned the blinking nose off. And then he remembers that he didn't.

He sighs. "Yeah, thanks. What do you want, Jack?"

Jack studies him. "I think, and this could just be my dick talking, but I think I want you spread out on my bed, begging me to slide home inside you."

Rudy blinks and takes a step back, his face immediately turning crimson to match his pajamas. "W-what?" he stammers.

Jack sighs and rakes a hand through his hair. "I also want to say I'm sorry and tell you that I'm an ass, though I suspect you're already well aware of that fact. I really was busy earlier, and I didn't – I didn't think about what I was saying – how –"

"Assy?" Rudy supplies.

Jack purses his lips. "Yes. How assy I sounded. I just couldn't stop thinking about what would have happened if I hadn't got there in time. Fuck, if you'd been hurt, if you'd been killed – " he cuts off, stumbling over the last word.

Jack takes a deep breath. "You scared me to death."

Rudy rubs a hand roughly across his cheek. "Sorry," he mumbles. "But I'd do it again. For people I love, I'd do anything."

Jack closes his eyes for a moment. "I know. I know I was being ridiculous. I was mad at you because you hadn't called before tonight, but then I remembered that you've probably been a little busy yourself. And I was mad at myself because I hadn't called you, so I sort of took it out on you. And I was – "

"A dick?" Rudy suggests helpfully.

"I am really about to stop apologizing to you," Jack says. "Shut up. After you hung up, I realized you might've… you might've thought." He stops, helplessly, and looks at Rudy.

"Well, yeah," Rudy says. "I was hoping we could – and then you sounded like you hated me. No, no – worse. You sounded like you didn't care at all, and I." He stops too.

They both look at each other.

"All right," Jack says. "Here's the thing: come back to my place. Stay the night. Stay the week. Stay longer. I miss you, you colossal pain in my ass. I can't stand another night without my arms wrapped around you, feeling you sleeping next to me. And believe me when I say I really want to get you out of those pajamas. Because they burn my eyes, not because I crave your body."

"But maybe because of that too?" Rudy asks tentatively, suddenly feeling shy.

"Yes, okay," Jack says. "So getting you out of those pajamas is really win-win all around. I'm an idiot, you're hopeless, will you please let me kiss you?"

Rudy can feel a smile breaking across his face, like a kid who wakes up on Christmas morning and sees exactly what he's always wanted under the tree, waiting just for him. It's made of a little bit of wonder, a dash of disbelief, and a lot of joy and happiness.

"Yes, please," he says. "Thank God you came. I was going to kill myself with cookies."

"I'm not going to ask," Jack says, gathering Rudy in his arms and dropping light kisses across his forehead and nose, trailing his mouth over Rudy's cheeks and down to his chin, catching Rudy's lower lip softly between his teeth. "I'm really not."

* * * * *

They have super hot makeup sex. Like, scorchingly hot. It melts the icicles on Jack's window.

Jack does this thing with a candy cane, and, fuck, Rudy is never going to be able to look at one without getting hard again.

And then, later, there's a ribbon.

* * * * *

"You've gotta – you've gotta be kidding me," Rudy pants.

Jack smiles wickedly and finishes tying the bow around the base of Rudy's cock with a vicious tug. He sits back on his heels to admire his handiwork.

The ribbon is pulled tight around Rudy's cock and balls with just enough length left over for two satiny red streamers to dangle between his legs. When he moves, they slither over the sensitive skin inside his thighs.

"Dude, what am I, a fucking present?"

Jack's eyes glitter. "Yes."

* * * * *

"Oh, fuck that is cold," Rudy says, arching away from Jack's thin, nimble fingers.

"Mm." Jack breathes warm over the head of his cock, and Rudy chokes, flushed and swimming between the sensations of hot and cold, Jack's icy fingers moving inside, scissoring him open, Jack's breath, moist and burning hot, as he breathes on Rudy's cock and then takes the tip into his mouth.

Rudy looks down his body and catches Jack's eye as Jack swirls his tongue around the head, dipping into the slit, pressing hard.

Rudy whimpers and throws his head back, biting into the skin of his forearm.

Jack pulls off with a slick, obscene pop, and his lips glisten with spit and precome. "Now, now," he chides, mouthing his way up Rudy's body, licking through the coarse hair around Rudy's cock, pressing hot kisses over the taught, trembling muscles of his stomach. "None of that. If you make noises, I want to hear them. I want every noise you make, do you understand? They're mine from now on."

Rudy nods, and then whimpers when Jack finds that spot, that perfect spot and, "Yes, fuckfuckfuck, right there," he cries as he arches off the bed, his back a perfect bow. He has to squeeze his eyes shut because it's all too much.

Jack chuckles against his throat, his tongue swiping slick and slippery as he bites at Rudy's Adam's apple. Rudy can feel his cock pressed up tight against Jack's body, precome making skin on skin wet and, fuck, not enough friction, not enough.

He whines and bucks his hips as Jack's fingers press inside him just right, again and again, and he wants to come, so bad, God, he can fucking feel it building, his balls drawn up tight and full, but the ribbon is wrapped tight around him like a cock ring, and he writhes helplessly under Jack, nearly crying with need.

"So eager," Jack says, licking his lips and then latching onto Rudy's nipple. He bites at the tight bud, worrying the skin between his teeth, and Rudy makes a keening noise high in his throat. "Don't worry. I'll take care of you."

* * * * *

Rudy is on his hands and knees, face pressed into the mattress. He shivers as fine tremors run through his arms and legs.

Jack groans as he pushes in, groans long and low like Rudy's killing him, squeezing his life out through his cock.

Rudy pants and bites at his hand, shoves his knuckles into his mouth, sloppy and covered in spit now, and little whimpery moans slide through his fingers. "Please," he begs. "Oh, please, God, fuck," and he pushes back against Jack, once, hard, sinking back on Jack's thick cock until he feels Jack's balls slap against his ass.

"Ungh," Jack grunts, shunting his hips forward, and Rudy doesn't need to see him to know he's biting those pale lips, eyes closed and blissed out with the heat surrounding his dick.

"C'mon," Rudy urges. "C'mon, c'mon, what the fuck are you waiting for, fucking do it already –"

Jack gasps and his hips snap, once, twice, and Rudy shudders out a moan that makes his whole body shake. Jack's cock is huge and so hot, and it feels like heaven, stretching him wide, filling him up until he thinks he might die. He needs Jack to move, he needs to feel it so deep it burns.

Jack's hands are like freezing brands on his hips, tugging him back with bruising force. He can feel the short bristles of Jack's pubic hair grind against the tender flesh around his hole.

Jack pulls out slowly, God, it's torture, he shifts until he's almost completely pulled out, and then he holds himself still, forces Rudy immobile with his huge, cold hands, even as Rudy whines and tries to move. Jack's fingers tighten warningly. The fat head of his cock stretches Rudy's entrance and it hurts, fuck, it hurts so good. Rudy buries his head against the sheets and sobs out harsh breaths.

"Please," he says, the word broken and muffled.

Jack moves quick as a snake strike, slamming in with a grunt, buried to the hilt, Rudy's ass flush against his skin, barely a molecule of space between them. At the same time, he leans down and bites Rudy's shoulder blade, hard.

"Such a slut," Jack mutters against his skin. His lips are cold and his tongue feels like a firebrand. "God, you look gorgeous on my dick."

"Fuck," Rudy says, his eyes nearly rolling back in his head as Jack gives a particularly vicious thrust, hitting Rudy's prostate just right, cock thick and hard inside him, stuffing him full.

"Ah." Jack sounds pleased. "Right there, is that it? My sweet boy." He thrusts in and out, and now he's hitting the spot every time, and Rudy can still barely move, pinned helpless by Jack's hands and his body.

He tries to get a hand underneath his stomach to jack himself off, but Jack doesn't let him, just shoves him down hard with one hand. "No," Jack growls. "You don't get to come like that. On my dick. Only that."

Rudy makes a keening noise. He can't fucking come anyway with the ribbon wrapped tight around him, the silky length brushing against his oversensitive skin. His cock feels swollen and hot, throbbing along with his pounding heartbeat, and his balls drag heavy under his body, swinging in time with Jack's thrusts.

"Please," he says again. He has to try for the word twice because his throat feels dry and fucked and raw. "Oh God, p-please, Jack, please, need it so bad."

"So pretty when you beg," Jack says. Rudy feels Jack's cock harden inside him, and then he feels Jack coming in hot spurts, warmth flooding his insides as Jack comes and comes, and fuck, he can feel it oozing out of his ass around Jack's cock, as he pumps in a few final times, making loud, squelching noises.

Jack groans and tightens his hands on Rudy's hips – shit, he's going to have bruises like fucking handprints tomorrow – and he feels Jack's teeth snapping down on the back of his neck. Jack bites down and holds on and pain flares sharp and bright in a straight line down Rudy's spine, exploding until his whole body tingles, and right then, right then Jack reaches under him and tugs the ribbon loose and Rudy comes so hard he blacks out.

* * * * *

Their breathing finally returns to normal, and Rudy's body doesn't feel quite like liquid jelly anymore.

"Next time," Jack says, mouthing kisses along Rudy's collarbone, "I'm going to come on your ass and then I'm going to rub it in, make you sticky and mine."

"Fuck, you're sick," Rudy says, even as his cock gives a tiny twitch. The back of his neck throbs.

Jack glances down meaningfully and presses a wet kiss to Rudy's nipple. "You love it."

"I kind of do," Rudy says, sounding stupidly hopeful, even to himself.

Jack is suddenly very still, and Rudy is terrified he just fucked everything up. Jack doesn't say anything for two minutes and thirty-seven seconds, and Rudy knows because he counts in his head. It feels like longer.

Jack takes a deep breath and when he lets it out, it sounds sort of shaky. "And then," he says. "I'm going to fuck you while you wear the Santa suit."

Rudy laughs and presses his nose into Jack's hair. He breathes in the crisp, clean scent of winter.

* * * * *

They're still lying curled together on the bed when the sun comes up. Rudy feels loose and sated, and he's drifting pleasantly somewhere between sleeping and waking. He should sleep, he knows that, but he can't bear the thought of closing his eyes and losing the sensation of Jack curled around him. It's all too new and perfect, something he thought he'd never have again just a few hours ago, and he isn't ready to give it up yet.

Jack's body is warm in the spots where Rudy is pressed against him. Every once in a while Jack shifts, and brushes Rudy with his cool skin.

"You said you were going to leave," Rudy says, staring at the ceiling.

Jack makes a small noise and nuzzles the back of Rudy's neck, licking at the bite mark. "I know. Another instance of me being terrified and stupid."


"Yeah," Jack agrees. "We – us – this thing. We have to work out. I don't think I can handle it if we don't."

"Oh," Rudy says.

"Promise me something," Jack says, and rolls them around so his chin is propped on Rudy's chest and his fingers can trace small patterns on Rudy's bare stomach.


"Don't get fat like your father."

"What?" Rudy squawks, leaning up on his elbows to glare down at Jack's head.

"I don't want to have sex with a bowlful of jelly for the rest of my immortal life."

"Seriously," Rudy says, flopping back. "I hate you."

Jack's laughter is warm against his stomach. "No, you don't. Merry Christmas," he says, and his eyes are blue and crinkled fondly at the corners, and his smile is soft and perfect, and Rudy knows he's really saying something else.