Happy Christmas Eve! How amazing have all of the stories shared this December from the Rainbow Advent authors been? It’s my turn to share something with you tonight — A Casus Fortuitus Christmas. The fourth and final book in the series went live yesterday, so this is a cheerful little one-shot showing that they’re all okay after I was through with them. You can find them all here on Amazon. The names and inside jokes might be a little overwhelming if you aren’t familiar with the series, but you might still have a giggle at the Yankee Swap all the same.
Check out the previous stories on offer here at the masterpost http://alexjane.info/rainbow-advent-calendar-2018/ and in the FB group https://www.facebook.com/groups/1673039336093815/ too! Keep going under the cut for the story!
A Casus Fortuitus Christmas – three couples, separate but still intertwined, with plenty to celebrate on the most wonderful day of the year. James Carter and Derek Moore are still recovering, slow and steady, but brimming with relief and gratitude to be home with their friends and family at Christmas. Daniel Callahan and Peter Saracen are thankful for lots of things—their new apartment and that the nightmare that brought them together is finally over—but mostly that they don’t have to host this get-together. Brock Hart and Cohen Bailey are still in the early days of a new relationship, one complicated by their careers and distance, but the future they see is bright enough to fight for. Everyone else—well, they’re just along for the ride.
James leans on his cane, reaching up to adjust the string of lights around the tree. “I’ve been looking at this thing all month and still think it’s kind of… bare,” he says. “No character. We need to up our game before people start arriving.”
“That’s because it doesn’t have any of the ugly baubles you kept letting me put on it,” Sam says from the doorway. “Some of those things were straight-up illegal, Dad. I think I was actually color-blind at some points.”
“You were a creative child,” James admits, tilting his head and squinting at a plain, glass ornament. “This just looks like a display tree from some department store though.”
“A very classy blank canvas for us to make our own,” Lydia corrects, coming up beside him. She touches his elbow lightly to let him know that she’s on his left side, and then reaches up to hang something near the glass ornament. “See? I bought this one last week. It reminded me of you.”
When she pulls her hand away from the tree, James can see the bright, glittery candy cane hanging against the dark green of the tree. “Oh, clever.” He cuts a sideways glare at her. “Pick on the cripple.”
Sam cackles from the doorway. “You always taught us to take the first opportunity we saw.”
“It adds some character,” Derek says from the sofa. He’s been curled there for most of the morning, splitting his attention between tree shenanigans and the notebook on his lap. People aren’t due to start arriving until later in the afternoon and both James and Derek had been told in no uncertain terms to stay out of Lydia and Sam’s way during the preparations. Neither were willing to argue.
“Which side are you on?” James takes a couple of uneven strides towards the sofa and eases down onto the cushion beside Derek, lifting his leg up with a grunt so it laid elevated across the arm.
“Yours,” Derek murmurs after a second, frowning down at the notebook. He looks down at James after another couple of seconds, the corners of his mouth lifting slowly as James settles his head on Derek’s thigh, pushing the notebook over onto his other leg. “You comfy?”
“Yes.” James wriggles up a little further, pleased when there’s only a brief flash of dull pain instead of a stabbing, sharp agony, and smiles up at Derek. “We’ve been ordered to take it easy, so I think I might nap here for a while.”
Derek’s hand settles in his hair, his thumb brushing over the curve of his ear. He makes a sound but falters, swallowing loudly, and his fingers twitch, but then his breath comes out steady. “Nap while you can,” he says, and swallows again. “My family will be here soon.”
James huffs out a laugh, reaching up to rest a hand on Derek’s chest. “Your mom will be checking my range of motion inside the first hour,” he mutters, shifting his hand a little until it settles over Derek’s steadily beating heart and then closing his eyes.
The quiet scratch of Derek’s pen against the notebook and Sam and Lydia clattering about in the kitchen lull him to sleep.
“Christmas is really important, okay?” Peter’s voice wavers, somewhere between stern and anxious, and he straightens the two stockings hanging from the knobs of the dresser drawers before taking a giant step back. Too far back, as it turns out, and Daniel is too far away and too amused to make it across the room in time to stop him from toppling backward onto the bed.
“Christmas is going to be amazing,” Daniel says, kneeling on the bed and looking down at Peter, sprawled out and staring at the ceiling with wide eyes. “Remember Thanksgiving? That went off without a hitch. We aren’t even hosting Christmas, there’s nothing for you to be worried about except for whether the cat finally manages to destroy the tree while we’re out. We just need to turn up at James’s with a couple bottles of wine and whatever that is in the fridge.”
“Thanksgiving did go well.” Peter blinks, and then turns his head to the side to look at Daniel. “I just—this Christmas is really important. I haven’t had a Christmas with anyone but Tia in years.”
Daniel lowers himself until he’s supporting his weight with his hands, hovering over Peter. He leans down to press a sweet, chaste kiss to Peter’s mouth. “Just calm down,” he says softly, and then grins. “Besides, you still have to wrap the presents for the Yankee Swap, remember?”
Peter groans, arching up to chase Daniel’s mouth and then falling back to the mattress with a pout. “I can’t believe Kay talked us all into buying sex toys for each other,” he says.
“Not really for each other, who knows what we’ll end up coming home with,” Daniel points out, leaning in to kiss the soft skin beneath his ear.
“Don’t try and sell me on it,” Peter mumbles, stretching out to expose more of his neck. “I needed that last week when I had to spend an hour online, or when I was late to work because I couldn’t leave before the delivery guy got here in case one of our neighbors found a box full of mmphhh—”
Daniel laughs into the kiss and Peter’s fingers dig into the vulnerable spots beneath his ribs until he’s breathless and teary-eyed, hiccupped pleas for mercy falling on deaf ears.
“Not ticklish my ass,” Peter says eventually, from his victory perch over Daniel’s thighs.
“You’re the worst,” Daniel pants out, still gasping for breath. It’s a lie and Peter’s eyes crinkle in the corners when he smiles down at him.
“You know, I was in court when that group message was going on,” Brock says, for the fifth time inside a week. “I opened it at recess, just when Kay sent the link for that butt plug and Marian was right next to me. She saw everything.”
Cohen darts a glance at the taxi driver, who doesn’t so much as flinch. He keeps a wary eye on him, reaching over the middle seat to pat at Brock’s thigh. “We all knew this gift exchange was going to be a terrible idea and we all still agreed to it,” he says. “Everyone is a little to blame.”
“That is victim-blaming,” Brock mutters but he snatches up Cohen’s hand and holds it in both of his anyway. “I was under duress. I told you about that time she cornered me in the break room, right? I can’t even think about cantaloupe anymore without a fear response.”
The snort of laughter is completely involuntary, Cohen swears it, but Brock huffs and pushes his hand away. “She and Morgan are only dropping by for a drink and the gift exchange,” he says, aiming for soothing but unable to shake the humor from his voice. “You’ll be safe all through dinner, I promise.”
“That’s shallow comfort.” Brock looks out the window, but Cohen can see the corners of his mouth twitching upwards. He reaches out and takes Brock’s hand again, settling their tangled fingers on the middle seat, atop the bag with the wrapped presents.
“It’s the most magical day of the year,” Cohen says, squeezing Brock’s hand. “I got to wake up to you drooling on my pillow, and we get to spend the evening with a whole bunch of crazy friends who are here too. We can deal with Kay.”
“You can deal with Kay,” Brock says, but he looks at Cohen and there’s a soft smile curving his lips all the same. “And nice try, but I don’t drool.”
Cohen laughs. “Tell that to my pillow case.”
Daniel hasn’t even raised his hand to knock when the door swings open. Sam is behind it, wearing an apron that looks like a bikini-clad woman. He points the spatula in his hand at Daniel.
“Don’t say a word. I’m in charge of the food and it will not end well for you.”
Peter clears his throat. “That pink looks great against your skin tone,” he says.
Sam’s narrowed eyes focus on Peter. “I lost a bet, teal is more my color, but thank you.” He steps back to let them in. “You’re not the last ones here, but close to.”
“We got a little side-tracked,” Daniel says, hoping the flush heating his cheeks isn’t as visible as it feels. “Merry Christmas!”
“Why is everyone we know constantly late because they’re banging?” Sam says, turning his back on them and heading up the hall. “Shut the door behind you.”
Peter breaks into laughter, his hand pressed over his mouth, at the sight of the back of the apron.
“Work it, Sammy!” Daniel calls after him. “That bow does your ass a favour!”
“He’s going to poison you.” Peter’s laughter dies into snickers as he drags Daniel into the house and closes the door.
Derek hasn’t seen his younger brothers outside of a Skype screen for what feels like a lot longer than a year, but when Marco and Jake both ignore their mother’s “Gentle!” and come at him from both sides, wrapping him in a hug that knocks the breath from his lungs and traps him between them, he feels more like himself than he has in months.
He manages to get his arms free to mess up both of their carefully-crafted hair styles, but they don’t even react, just hugging him tighter.
“Soft!” Lara jeers from outside the hug, but then she catches Derek’s hand and squeezes it and she’s just as soft as they are.
“Enough of the hugging! I want to eat!” Ben calls from the other side of the room.
“Can someone pass the apple sauce?” Tia asks. “I’m taking it home for later.”
Someone catcalls and Marco laughs into the side of Derek’s neck, the both of them finally releasing him and stepping back. Jake’s eyes are shiny but Derek doesn’t tease him about it.
After all, he muses as they pull him towards the long, mismatched bench made of three fold out ones that they’d crammed into the dining room, kitchen and hallway, Christmas is the time for joy. Joy that they’re all together, when there were moments that all could have changed.
“Okay!” Lydia calls out, when Kay and Morgan have taken up the last remaining spaces in the loose, sprawling circle on the living room floor. “All presents in the middle?”
“Yes ma’am!” Daniel salutes her as Peter tosses the last wrapped present into the pile in the middle of the circle.
“Adult-themed Yankee Swap was a terrible, terrible idea.” James’s face is buried in Derek’s shoulder but the words are loud enough that Brock can hear them.
“My parents are here, how do you think I feel?” Derek whisper-shouts back.
“We’re all adults,” Genevieve says, settling her hands in her lap primly. “With healthy sexual appetites, from what I’ve learned.”
“No!” Daniel moans, leaning back so far that he ends up toppling over. Peter helps him sit back up. “Viv, please don’t!”
“I hope you bought me a voucher for a therapist,” Thomas says, blinking owlishly at Melanie and then turning betrayed eyes on Sam. “You didn’t tell me our parents were in on this, dude!”
“In on it?” Melanie sniffs. “What makes you think it wasn’t our idea? Grossing you out is how we get our kicks, kiddo.”
“It was my idea,” Kay pipes up, raising her hand. “My kid’s still too young for this kind of torture, so I had to make do.”
“Andy, please just open the first present and get this over with,” Cohen says, sighing and leaning into Brock.
Andrew grabs the closest present, his cheeks already bright red, and shakes it gently. The paper is a cheerful red and green checker, neatly wrapped and secured with a gold bow. He tears off the two pieces of tape, and unwraps it.
A rectangular box falls into his lap. Bold, bright yellow letters across the dark cardboard read Penis Enlarging Pump and there is a moment of stunned silence before the room erupts into laughter. Everyone’s eyes turn to Peter, who is blushing hotly too, but still lifts his chin under the scrutiny.
“Do you know how hard it was to find something starting with ‘P’?” he insists. “This was my last choice, I swear!”
“Andy doesn’t need it,” Tia says, stretching up to nibble at his earlobe and taking the box from his hands to read the front. “I’m sure we can come up with alternative uses though.”
“Ben next!” Lydia orders, grinning. “Open your present, and then decide if you want to swap.”
“Sorry, Andy,” Ben says, chuckling as he reaches out to snatch a smaller, rectangular present wrapped in silver paper with a red ribbon. It bends a little under pressure and he brings it to his lap. “I’m not taking that off your hands.”
“He doesn’t need it either,” Lara says smugly.
Ben rips the paper open, revealing a book with stick figures on the cover and bold text proclaiming Karma Sutra for Beginners.
“You’re welcome,” Kay says smugly from the other side of the circle.
“Can I swap?” Andrew asks, craning over to look at the cover as everyone laughs again.
“Lara, honey, we might want to borrow that,” Clinton says, holding his mug of eggnog up.
“Us too,” James chimes in, waggling his eyebrows.
“Brock!” Sam says suddenly, standing up with wide eyes. “You’re up!”
Brock leans forward, chuckling, and grabs a package that he hopes it something at least useful. It’s long and rectangular and fairly light. Maybe a tube of fancy lubricant. He glances up at Lydia and then at Lara, but Lara is still faux-gagging at her parents and Lydia doesn’t look any more or less smug than usual.
When he opens it, it is definitely not lubricant. It’s long, slender, bright green and ribbed. ‘For your pleasure’ the box assures him.
He turns to look at Derek and then Daniel, who are both looking at each other and snorting with laughter. “There was a sale,” Daniel says with a shrug and a grin.
James, warm and full and so content that it prickles at his eyes, surveys the living room from his armchair.
Lydia and Sam are tangled together in the nook beside the tree, faces close and the ring on her finger catching the twinkling lights.
Kay and Morgan are sprawled together on the other side of the tree, Tia and Peter and Andrew with them, and they’re still picking over the collection of gifts. Kay and Tia are cackling and Andrew’s blush is bright enough to rival the tinsel garlands.
Melanie is deep in conversation with Genevieve, and Clinton and Thomas are both hunched over one of their phones, tapping at the screen.
Brock and Ben are laughing at something that Marco and Jake are saying, telling the story as much with their flying hands as with words.
Daniel and Derek are pressed together from shoulder to hip in the corner of the sofa, talking quietly, and James leans back further in the chair, shifting until his hip settles into a comfortable position.
“Merry Christmas,” he murmurs to himself as a smile spreads over his face.