Title: The Sense (scents) of Christmas
Characters: Rolf & Matthew
Matthew turned from the corner he had been occupying for the past fifteen minutes and made his way slowly over to where Rolf was sitting. His stomach was tight, certain that he was going to be spanked for arguing.
Instead, Rolf pulled him down into his lap and wrapped an arm around him. "Can we talk now, rather than yell?" Rolf continued after Matthew nodded. "I know you're disappointed about the hockey game on Sunday. It's just too late in the day to make that trip, especially with the test you have on Monday. We also don't want to start a long week out with a very short night of what would be sure to be restless sleep anyway. You didn't give me a chance earlier to say that we can trade Sunday's game for one on Saturday the 6th in Nashville."
"Really?" Matthew asked, his still wet eyes starting to brighten.
"Yes, really. Isn't that better than the 'A'?"
Matthew nodded, a small smile playing at the corners of his mouth for a fraction of a second.
Rolf set Matthew on his feet, then stood up and kissed him, wiping the last of the tears away with his thumbs. "Just so we're clear, raising your voice isn't an acceptable means of communication?" Rolf nodded when Matthew responded. "Then how about we head out to pick out our tree?"
A little over an hour later, Matthew and Rolf stepped from their truck into the parking lot of a small tree farm just outside of town. The air was crisp, with a bite to it that you had to get used to. The sky was heavy and just dark enough that at four in the afternoon the lights were on in the parking lot. Their boots crunched in the muddy snow covered gravel as they made their way to the plywood constructed shed that served as the sales counter.
"What can I do you for?" asked a jolly man with the bulk of Santa's beard hanging from his chin.
"We're looking for our tree this year," Rolf said, inhaling the pungent aroma of hot cider while Matthew warmed his feet in front of a floor heater.
"Looking for a fir, a pine or a spruce?"
"What are the differences?"
"The firs are usually the favorites as they have the strongest aromas, though they don't have the strongest branches. The pines smell a little less, but the scotch pine has the strongest branches of the bunch if you have heavy ornaments. The blue spruce is the best of the spruces, but it costs a bit more as they are a little more rare around here."
"I think we'll take a look at the firs. The smell is the reason we wanted a real tree over plastic this year."
"You'll head out on the path marked in green then. The path has at least been cleared of snow and is flat, but watch out for your footing once you leave it. There will be a hut in the middle of the main tree stand, make your pick and let him know and he'll cut it down for you. Take one of the wagons to make it easier to carry back to your car."
"Thanks," Rolf said, shaking the man's hand before putting his gloves back on.
"Stop back here to pay, and make sure to take a cup of the hot cider," the owner said as the two men headed out to pick a wagon.
Matthew pulled the wagon, walking behind Rolf down the mulch covered path, the sounds of the Christmas music slowly fading in the background. The trees started to thicken as they made their way further from the hut, closing out any of the sounds of civilisation. The two men carried on a conversation as they made their way further into the tree stand, their voices getting steadily quieter as all the other sounds had disappeared. Matthew saw the sign pointing to the hut where the worker waited, and continued on past him until they'd reached the end of the path that had been cleared.
"Leave the wagon there, we'll walk around and see what we like."
Matthew pushed the handle back towards the wagon and followed Rolf, looking at the various trees. He stopped and turned around, looking at the still pristine white of the snow, marked in places by footprints and in one or two more places, by the trail left as someone had pulled a tree out to the path. He bent over and packed a small snowball together, then rolled it in the snow. Finding that it stuck, he quickly built a small snowman, then two more, going to the path to find some mulch to make facial features. He looked up when he felt he was being watched to find Rolf smiling at him.
"Come here, you," Rolf said, giving his partner a chest crushing hug. They kissed, feeling alone in a forest of trees. Rolf tasted the hint of cherry in Matthew's lip balm, the smell of the fruit a warm contrast to the smell of fir and cold snow. Far in the distance someone yelled "Timber!". Rolf breathed deeply, closing his eyes and kissing Matthew again, stopping only when something cold his the back of his neck.
"It's snowing!" Matthew said, his face lighting up immediately. "It's snowing!" He did a little happy dance, then stuck out his tongue to try and catch a few of the very large flakes coming down. Rolf couldn't help but smile, appreciating yet again his partner's very childish reaction to falling snow. Rolf's first thoughts usually turned to the roads and what accidents could happen because of it, rather than the pure joy that Matthew exhibited whenever the snow fell. He stood there, watching his partner spin around, looking at the sky, taking in the beauty and joy of the moment.
"Do you like this tree?" Rolf asked a few minutes later, looking at a balsalm fir.
"Yes, it's nice," Matthew said, giving the tree a two second look over before returning his gaze back to the sky. "It's so thick up there."
"Yes, it is. I'm going to find the worker, you stay here so we don't lose the tree."
"Okay." Matthew continued watching the snow, then went back over to his three snowman arranged by a much larger tree. "You need some kids, a dog and a cat." And by the time Rolf came back with the worker, Matthew had quite an extended family. He stopped his artistic work to help with the harvesting of the tree, yelling timber as it slowly sank to the ground. A couple minutes of wrestling and they had it bungeed to the wagon and were heading back down the path.
Matthew headed immediately to the large container of cider, pouring the hot liquid into one of the paper cups standing ready for duty. He wrapped both hands around the cup for warmth and inhaled the steam, hoping his nose would quit running from the cold. He sipped the hot liquid, tasting more of the cinnamon and spice than the apple at first. It felt good going down, thawing out his face and throat from the cold of outside. He refilled the cup and put that in the cupholder of the truck before helping Rolf secure the tree to the roof.
"Want some of this cider?"
"Thanks," Rolf said, taking off his gloves and blowing on his hands as he waited for the truck to heat up. He accepted the cup and closed his eyes, breathing in the spicy aroma before he downed half of it in a couple of swallows. "We need to try brewing some of that ourselves," he said, handing the cup back to Matthew, who polished it off in two swallows of his own.
"Yes, we do."
"Merry Christmas!" Matthew and Rolf said as they closed the door against the cold December air and the last of their guests. Rolf picked up a few of the glasses and looked at the rest of the mess, about to tell Matthew to help when he changed his mind. Pouring a fresh mug of cider, he joined Matthew on the couch in front of the crackling fire. He pulled Matthew against his side and settled his arm around him, holding the mug of cider up to his partner's lips to drink.
"It was a very nice party, wasn't it?" Rolf asked, putting the mug down on the table beside him.
"Mmmhmmm," Matthew said, snuggling deeper against Rolf.
Rolf closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. He could pick out the faint scent of the fir tree that was sitting, lighted and decorated in the corner of the room. The closer and stronger scent of the spicy cider, the steam wafting slowly from the cup. The sweet scent of fruit from the shampoo Matthew had used in his shower. The smile playing quietly across his face couldn't be denied when he thought of Matthew's pure joy at the sight of snow.
"You're the best gift a man could ask for."
The only sound for the longest time was the crackling fire. Then...."You mean I don't have to get you anything?" Matthew laughed and tried to shrink away as Rolf's mouth closed on the sensitive part of his neck.