Well, here it is, a little late, but here :). I want to thank everyone for their support on this story, you guys are awesome. It's a little sad to see it end, but I think it ends in a nice, logical place. Please, enjoy.
Husband for the Holidays
"His name is Preston McCall. He's 25, almost 6 feet tall, maybe 150 pounds. Blond hair. He just came in on an ambulance."
"And you are?" The nurse looked at him over the counter, attitude brisk.
"Husband," Carter growled impatiently.
"Are you injured, Sir?"
"What?" Carter glared across at her and then looked down at himself. His jacket was hanging open, shirt underneath splattered with blood. "Uh. No. This isn't my blood."
The nurse's eyes flew wide.
Carter grit his teeth, praying for patience. "I grabbed the men who were beating up my husband. I might have punched them a few times. It might be their blood. It might be my husband's."
"Have the police been called?"
"Yes, of course," Carter snapped. "They arrived with the ambulance. Now, where the hell is my husband?!"
"Don't! Just pick up your fucking phone and find out where he is!"
"Mr. Jameson?" Irritably, Carter turned to see a young man standing behind him wearing baby blue nursing scrubs. Carter recognized him. He used to dance at the Forum about three years ago. Brad or Chad maybe. "Can I help you with something?"
"I hope so, this…woman obviously can't." Carter barked. "My husband, Preston McCall, was brought in by ambulance. But now no one can tell me where he is."
"If he came in by ambulance, he'll be in the trauma center. I can take you there."
He followed the male nurse down several busy corridors to the trauma center. There, he waited impatiently while the nurse spoke to a few people before bringing a doctor back over to Carter.
The doctor looked rushed, her hair dishevelled, not wearing a lick of make-up. But she looked competent enough. "Hello, I'm Doctor Mai."
Carter shook her hand briskly. "Carter Jamison."
"And the patient is…"
"My husband, Preston McCall."
She nodded. "He is doing fine, Mr. Jameson. Some cuts and contusions on his face, as well as contusions on his chest. He was fully conscious by the time he entered the T.C. I gave him a preliminary exam and ordered a CT scan." Before Carter could get more worked up, she quickly explained, "That's just a precaution in lieu of his head injuries and injury to his torso. We just want to make sure there is no internal bleeding. I suspect once we get the results Mr. McCall will be free to go home, with a prescription for something to manage the pain."
"Where is he now?"
"Our imaging department in though those doors," the doctor pointed them out beyond the exam rooms, "But it is patients and personnel only. If you would like to take a seat, there is a waiting room, just down the hall."
"I'll wait right here," Carter dismissed.
The doctor looked like she might protest but then decided it wasn't worth the fight and returned to her work with a nod.
"There you are."
Carter didn't take his eyes off the frosted glass doors leading into the imaging rooms. Even when he heard Stephen voice beside him.
Stephen had driven Carter to the hospital behind the ambulance, which Carter was grateful for because he wasn't in any condition to drive.
"How is he?" Stephen asked.
"The doctor I talked to says he's okay." Carter answered. "He's getting a CT scan now. Just a precaution."
They both watched the door for a while, silently. Finally, Stephen smirked, "So…Work him out of your system yet?"
Carter didn't even snicker, eyes never leaving the hospital door, "Getting there. Give me another 40, 50 years."
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"Really, Carter, I'm fine," Preston stressed, sitting up in the small exam bed. He had a few butterfly bandages on the worse of the cuts on his face; one on his temple, a cheek , his jaw, and corner of his mouth. His left eye was swollen and turning an ugly purple/black colour.
They were in a little curtained off exam room, waiting for a doctor to become available to give Preston the results of the CT and discharge him. The police had been by to take their statements. The men, they claimed, had already been arrested and their connection to the local drug rings was being looked into.
Now, Carter paced at the foot of the bed, clearly on the warpath. Stephen sat on a doctor's stool by the wall, waiting much more patiently.
"You're not fine," Carter growled. "You were beaten up. Outside myclub."
"And you stopped them," Preston added, "And they were arrested."
Carter didn't look appeased. Before he could continue his rant, his phone gave a low buzz, vibrating in his pocket. He pulled it out and glanced at the screen. "I'm going to take this outside. You," he looked at Stephen. "Don't leave his side."
Stephen gave a mock salute, "Yes, Sir!"
"I don't need a baby-sitter," Preston yelled after him.
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Carter answered the call as the curtain closed behind him. "Mother?"
"Carter!" Eileen's voice sounded worried. "I called your home. A nice, young woman answered. She said were at the hospital. She gave me your cell phone number, I hope that's okay. I wanted to make sure everything was okay."
"Yes." Carter answered tersely and then, after a moment, elaborated, "Preston was hurt, but he's been checked out and everything seems okay."
"Oh, thank God. Are the babies okay? Did you need someone to watch them?"
"They're fine. That nice, young woman you talked to is watching them for us." Carter wondered what his mother would think if she ever found out that 'nice, young, woman' was a flamboyant, brazen transvestite.
"Oh, okay. We'll if you need anything…"
Eileen hesitated, "Well, Merry Christmas, Carter. I'm looking forward to our dinner together."
"Once Preston is recovered."
"Good-bye, then. Merry Christmas."
There was a moment of silence over the line, and then Carter spoke again, "Mother?"
"Ah, thank you for calling. It means a lot of me."
"Of course, son," her voice softened.
Carter hung up quietly without correcting her.
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Back in the exam room, Preston caught Stephen trying to hid a smirk behind his hand and demanded, "What?!"
"When I said you'd have to fight for Carter, this isn't what I had in mind…"
Preston lifted his head just far enough to glare at Stephen. "Haha. Idiot. I'm glad you're getting some amusement out of this."
Stephen smiled back fondly, leaning back on the stool and folding his hands on his stomach. "Most exciting Christmas I've had in a while."
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Carter walked her to the elevator.
"No problem, Mr. Jameson. The boys were sweetie pies. I just hope Preston's going to be okay."
"He'll be fine. I'll make sure of it."
Cora leaned in, air-kissing near his cheek. "See that you do."
Carter waited for the elevator to take off and then turned back to the condo. It had been a long day at the hospital. But at least they were home now. Christmas was over. He let out a long breath. Preston was going to be okay, but he still couldn't shake the fear he had felt running out of the building and seeing those thugs hitting him. Watching Preston fall to the ground.
God, if he hadn't known he loved Preston before, he did in that moment.
He walked down the hallway to find the other man, looking for reassurance that he really was okay and there. He found Preston in the nursery.
He was putting the boys to bed. Carter though to offer to put the boys down himself and let Preston rest, but he found himself just watching Preston instead. Over the last few weeks, Preston had improved in his handling of the babies in leaps and bounds. It was oddly appealing to observe how naturally he was becoming.
Preston swept Beckett up off his blanket. "Bedtime."
Beckett twisted in his arms, shaking his head.
"Yes." Preston held the baby against his chest and rubbed his back lightly. He paced around the nursery room, bouncing Beckett and slowly calming him for sleep.
He let the baby nuzzle his head into the crook of his throat, trying not to wince. His jaw was still very sore from the beating.
It took a few moments, but Beckett did start to drift off in his arms and Preston grateful set him down in his crib.
He repeated the process with Cameron and then stood back from the cribs, arching and stretching his back. He groaned softly, reaching around to rub at the small of his spine. Damn, he was stiff all over. He was very grateful he didn't often get in fights.
Carter appeared behind him, hands finding the knot in his back and rubbing gently. Preston sighed. Fuck, that felt good. They stood in silence for several minutes, Carter massaging his back, as both of them watched the babies sleep.
Preston didn't really want to do it. But he knew it had to be done. He turned to Carter. "We need to talk."
Carter gave a nod of his head, jaw clenching and then releasing, "I know. Living room."
Preston nodded and followed the other man back to the living room. He sat on the sofa and Carter moved the armchair closer, sitting in front of him.
They stared at each other for a moment. The sad-looking Christmas tree was leaning to one side by the window. The multi-coloured lights twinkled, blending into the stars seen through the window.
Preston swallowed. "The boys were happy to see you. I think they missed you when you moved out."
"They'll get over it."
"They might," Preston allowed. "But I don't think I will."
Carter looked sharply. "What are you saying?"
"I'm saying I miss you." Preston looked over at him. "And I'm saying I'm sorry."
"What do you have to be sorry about?" Carter looked honestly surprised.
"Well, Declan, for one. I'm not saying I shouldn't have met him. Because, seriously, Carter, I can see any friends I want, whenever I want. But I knew what you were thinking, how you felt about it, and I did it anyway. In my defense, I didn't realize how much it would hurt you until I watched you leave to go meet Wes."
Carter broke in, avowing, "I didn't do anything with Wes, Preston. We went out. Had some drinks. Then I took him home."
Preston leveled him with a serious stare. "You were gone all night."
Carter shrugged. "I had the driver tour around for a few hours after and then sleep in my office at the club."
"Really." Carter looked him directly, "I haven't been with anyone else since I proposed to you."
Preston swallowed, "What do you want out of this, Carter? I mean seriously…Do you even know?"
"I know what I want, Preston. And that's you. And Beckett and Cameron. I want you for my family. I want the forever."
"And I get that's not what you planned to get of this arrangement. I know it was supposed to be temporary. And I know we just sort of jumped in and got married before we even went on a date. If you're not ready for a real marriage yet, I can wait. We can live apart. Date like normal people."
"Yes. Just don't make me wait that long."
"I wouldn't. Three or four Christmases tops."
Preston smiled, the motion pulling at the bandage at the corner of his lip, stinging the cut. "Relax. I'm kidding. I don't want to wait. Marriage worked with us from the start. I don't see why it still can't. For real this time, though. No seeing other men romantically, and no expiration date."
Carter hating that he had to ask, but he needed to hear it. "You're not leaving?"
Preston shook his head, "I'm not leaving. We're not leaving."
Carter leaned in and caught Preston's mouth in a kiss, breaths mingling. Carter ordered gruffly, "Kiss me back."
"I am, Boss" came Preston's muffled reply.
Preston leaned forward, hands curling at Carter's shoulders. They deepened the kiss, tongues starting to explore.
When they pulled away Preston's lips were already starting to look swollen and pump. Carter hoped it wasn't hurting his injuries.
"Look up there." Preston murmured. Above their heads on door frame, was a sprig of mistletoe tied with a red ribbon. "Cora must have put it up."
Carter stood up, reaching and wrapping the red ribbon around his hand. With a hard yank he pulled it down, mistletoe and all, and tossed it on the floor.
"I don't need mistletoe as an excuse to kiss my husband." He proved it, leaning down and drawing Preston in for another lingering kiss.
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One Year Later
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"Merry Christmas." Preston came into the living room, he was bare-chested and his pajama pants rode low on his hips. There was a present in bright red paper held behind his back.
"Merry C'r'mas!" Beckett shouted, running across the room to him. "San'a came!"
Grinning, Preston brushed Beckett's hair back with his free hand. "Oh, he did, did he?"
"See!" The toddler pivoted and ran back to the six-foot spruce tree as fast as his short, little legs would go, babbling about the presents. Preston could only make out about half of what was said.
"Good morning." Carter spoke, sitting on the sofa, Cameron curled up against his side. The boy had become Carter's shadow. When the older man was at home, Cameron never far from his side.
Preston made his way over to them, leaning over to drop a kiss on the top of Cameron's hair, "Merry Christmas, C."
The toddler smiled up at him shyly, thumb stuck in his mouth.
Preston moved up to share a kiss with Carter. Their lips touched softly, lips parting. "Good morning to you, too." They had already shared a more intimate Christmas greeting in bed that morning. Preston could still feel the warm satisfaction tingling through his blood. Even after a year, sex with Carter was as incredible at the first time, better even perhaps, because they knew each other so much more intimately now. They knew how to read each reaction, knew exactly where to touch, lick, kiss, to bring the other the most pleasure.
Preston sank down on the sofa and looked over the tree where Beckett was attempting to lift a present that was nearly as big as he was. "Buddy, come over here."
Beckett looked over, arms stretched wide around the box covered in cartoon reindeer wrapping paper.
Preston held out a hand. "Come for a second, Beckett. Then presents after, okay?"
The blond toddler ran over, throwing himself against Preston's legs. Preston lifted him up the couch, placing Beckett on his lap, red wrapped present now on Beckett's knees.
Preston wet his lips lightly, suddenly nervous. He looked into Carter's eyes. "We, the boys and I, got a present for you."
Carter's eyebrows lifted minutely, questioning Preston's palpable unease. "You know you didn't need to get me anything…"
They had had a discussion before Christmas about it. Preston had been eager to stave off a repeat of the Rolex-pay-off of 2012. They agreed on a hundred dollar limit for presents for each other. And two hundred dollars for the boys, half of which would come from Preston's own money. He could afford it. After he finished his masters, Carter had hired him on as an accountant for the club. The raise in pay had more than made up for the loss of tips.
"Well," Preston admitted, "It's more a present for the boys, and for me."
Even more curious now, Carter took the present. He felt the thin, light, rectangular gift. He gave Preston a menacing look. "So help you if these are divorce papers…"
A nervous laugh escaped Preston's lips. "They aren't!" He remembered the day he had married Carter, just over a year ago. He would never have imagined then, he'd be sitting here with Carter, a year later, still married, and wholly in love. They hadn't even mentioned the word divorce since last Christmas.
Carter didn't look completely convinced, but he reached around Cameron, tearing at the seams to open the red wrapping. Inside was a small stack of papers. Shooting Preston another look, he glanced over them.
Too impatient to give Carter time to read them, Preston blurted out. "They're papers to give you joint guardianship of the boys." Carter opened his mouth to say something, but Preston kept going. "You're already family, and the boys love you, Carter. If anything was to happen to me…"
"Nothing is going to happen to you." Carter growled sternly.
Preston nodded, because Carter sounded so ferocious, but really, he knew more than anyone that unexpected things happened all the time, and nothing was for sure. "Will you sign them? For the boys? For me?"
Carter nodded, reaching across to slide his hand behind Preston's neck. "Yes. Of course, yes."
He pulled at Preston's neck, dragging him closer, claiming his lips in long, soul-searing kiss.
The papers dipped between them, brushing Cameron's head. Tickled, he laughed in delight, reaching up to clap his hands around the papers. "Merry C'r'mas!"
"Merry C'r'mas!" Beckett echoed to avoid being left out.
Pulling back, both men grinned widely, "It's definitely a merry Christmas."
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Thanks again for all your reviews and ratings.
p.s. Also, perhaps to soften the blow of this story ending, the next chapter to Kailin's Keeper will be out ASAP (probably tomorrow). Yay!