If you’re here, you’ve probably come from Tapas. As promised, here’s the uncensored chapter, that I am just barely getting reposted the night before the chapter goes live, because I appear to have caught my sister’s cold and I am exhausted.
“What the hell?” Karl exclaimed when he opened his front door. He’d been expecting Lewis to come by, as the object of his affections had called to make sure he was home, but he hadn’t expected to open the door only to come face-to-face with greenery.
“Surprise,” Lewis said cheerfully from somewhere behind the tree. “The first trees of the season are ready. Mine’s already in my apartment, but I wanted to surprise you with yours.”
“Well, it’s certainly a surprise,” Karl allowed, giving the tree another look. It came up to his chin, and he wasn’t sure how Lewis had managed to get it upstairs on his own. Practice, he supposed, considering where he grew up. He searched among the branches to find the trunk and took a firm hold. “Go ahead and let go. I’ve got it.”
Once he had the tree inside and leaning against a corner, he turned his head to stare at Lewis, who was grinning and covered in pine needles and had a massive tote bag in one hand. Karl couldn’t help but echo the smile.
“You’re a mess,” he pointed out as he moved to Lewis’ side and started to brush the needles off him. “What’s in the bag?”
“Decorations,” Lewis said. “For the tree, mostly, but there are a few other things in there too. And a tree stand.”
“Kind of early for a tree, isn’t it?” Thanksgiving had only been two days before, after all. Did people really put up trees that early?
Lewis thought about it. “Maybe a little,” he admitted. “For me, anyway. I know some people who make putting up the tree part of Thanksgiving festivities. But Dad called this morning to ask if I wanted to pick out one for each of us, so here I am.” He paused, his expression suddenly uncertain. “Do you like it?”
“Of course,” Karl said quickly, despite the fact that he actually wasn’t certain how he felt. He liked that Lewis wanted to surprise him, though, so the answer worked. And he had to admit, it did smell nice. It kind of smelled like home, especially the way it was at Christmas.
“Good,” Lewis said, and his grin returned full force as he pulled things out of the bag and set them on the couch. He seemed to be searching for something in particular. “So, it’s almost December.”
“It is,” Karl agreed, not sure where the conversation was going and unaccountably nervous about whatever was coming next.
“And the Krampusnacht celebration I’ve been planning at the store is coming up soon,” Lewis continued innocently.
It was time to make a decision, Karl supposed. “Yes, it is,” he agreed. He’d been helping Lewis plan things off and on, but he still hadn’t given Lewis an answer as to whether he’d play Krampus for him or not.
“And I still don’t have a Krampus,” Lewis said, batting his eyelashes ridiculously.
Karl sighed. “Your cousin would do it.”
Lewis leaned against Karl and wrapped his arms loosely around him. “Yeah, but Tony isn’t the real Krampus,” he teased.
Karl winced. Come Krampusnacht, Lewis was going to find out that the whole thing wasn’t a joke. Things would implode, Lewis would think he was some kind of monster, and he’d go home alone. But really he’d be going home alone even if Lewis didn’t find out. Either way, Karl had a feeling his heart would end up with more than a few cracks in it.
So, if it was going to hurt either way, why not help out one more time? Why not do one more good deed? He could make Lewis smile before he had to leave.
“Fine,” he said softly as he ran a hand over Lewis’ hair. “I’ll do it.”
“Really?” Lewis asked, and that huge grin of his took over his face. “Oh wow. Thank you. Thank you so much. Do we need to put together a costume for you?”
Karl snorted. “No,” he said dryly. “No, I have the perfect costume. Don’t worry about it.” May as well get some use out of being Krampus again. Hadn’t he been looking forward to it? Granted, he did still want his fur and his horns and his hooves back, but…
“Best boyfriend ever,” Lewis murmured with a contented sigh and rested his head on Karl’s chest.
Karl blinked and stared down at him. “Boyfriend?” Oh god. Oh god, not that. That really would break his heart when things came tumbling down, and it wasn’t fair to Lewis, not when he’d just be leaving.
“Yes,” Lewis said decisively as he moved his head just enough to look at Karl. “You got a problem with that?”
“Sounds good to me,” Karl answered. And it did. But it was going to hurt so much.
Didn’t mean he wasn’t going to appreciate what he had for the week he’d have it.
“So, boyfriend,” Lewis said. “How about we get your tree set up? Some of us are old men who have to work tomorrow so they can be ready for a night of festivities.”
“Please, you’re only forty-three,” Karl grumbled. “I’m older than you.”
“Not by much,” Lewis pointed out.
Karl nearly argued about it. Then he remembered the night they talked about age. The ID Noel had arranged listed him as forty-six. “Fine, old man. Let’s get the tree taken care of and order a pizza. Because I don’t know about you, but I’m already tired of turkey leftovers.”
“God, yes,” Lewis said. He sounded ill at the thought. “Don’t get me wrong. I love my mother’s cooking, but I’ve been eating turkey for nearly three days now. Pizza would be fantastic.” He let go of Karl, took a step back, and then tugged him down for a kiss. “Tree first,” he whispered against Karl’s lips. “Then maybe dessert before dinner.”
Lewis had told him he didn’t sleep with someone unless he was in a relationship with him. And a relationship had been confirmed.
Karl gulped heavily. “Tree first?” he rasped.
“Tree first,” Lewis said with a nod. “We don’t want to kill it.”
They managed to get the tree on the stand and in water before Lewis dragged Karl into the bedroom. Karl had expected their first time to be a bit rushed, considering they’d both been holding back for so long, but instead there was tenderness and more than a slight touch of nerves. It had been a long time since Karl had been with anyone, and Lewis had body-image issues.
“I’m old,” he said when he hesitated to let his newly minted boyfriend divest him of his T-shirt. “I don’t work out a lot. I’ve got a layer of chub around my midsection, and the only six-pack I see these days involves either beer or soda.”
“You’re beautiful,” Karl said. “You’re solid and real, and I wouldn’t have you any way but as you are.”
“I’m short,” Lewis added.
“I’m so fucking tall I hit my head coming through the doorway if I forget to duck,” Karl said with a smirk. “Sweetheart, you’re perfect the way you are. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”
That earned him a kiss and then another, and by the time they managed to breathlessly remove the rest of the clothes that were in the way, they were on the bed and pressed together as close as they could get without being under the other’s skin. Karl wrapped his large hand around both their lengths, and by the time they were both crying out from his ministrations, their lips were kiss swollen and maybe a little bruised.
They snuggled together in the bed after that, and Lewis dozed in Karl’s arms as Karl stared at the ceiling and wondered if there was any way he could stay there forever.
Eventually they crawled out of bed and made use of the decorations Lewis had brought. Karl laughed when Lewis pulled out several strands of Christmas lights made to look like seashells.
“What?” Lewis asked him, the picture of innocence. “We’re in California, after all.”
Then he pulled out the melted-snowman ornament, and Karl laughed so hard he couldn’t breathe. After he’d calmed down enough to speak again, he asked, “Have you ever actually built a snowman?”
Lewis shook his head as he tried to figure out just the right place for the ornament. “No. I’ve lived all my life in this area. There are places a couple hours away that get snow, but the snowy season is the busiest time of year, so it’s not like my parents could drop everything to take Barb and me to go see the snow. It’s one of those things I keep meaning to do.”
“I want to take you to see the snow,” Karl said. “I want to build lopsided snowmen with you, have snowball fights, make snow angels… all of it.”
“Yeah?” Lewis asked, his eyes alight with happiness. “I could go for that.”
Karl worried his bottom lip with his teeth. “So what would you do if you found out I really was Krampus?”
Lewis thought about it for a minute and then grinned. “So you’re asking me how I’d feel if you really were covered in fur, had hooves, and stole presents from naughty kids?”
Karl nodded, unable to speak.
Lewis finally hung the ornament and wrapped an arm around Karl. “I think you’re perfect however you are too.”
As Karl brought his lips down to meet his boyfriend’s, he found himself hoping that would still be the case come Krampusnacht.