Christmas Countdown: December 7
The closer he got to home, the lighter Steve Sloan felt. He’d never been the Christmas freak that his father was, but this year was special. It was his first Christmas with Jesse Travis and, like with every other aspect of his life, that made the season extraordinary. With his father spending Christmas out of state visiting his brother, the lovers had the house to themselves. Steve’d had to work late, which was made better by the fact that he knew Jesse would be there when he got home, waiting for him.
“Hey, Jess,” Steve called out as he entered the beach house. He stopped as a new scent tickled his nose. “Mmmm. . . what smells so good?”
“I have no idea.”
Jesse’s voice sounded a little morose and a frown marred Steve’s expression as he followed it until he was in the kitchen. Steve blinked in surprise. The normally neat space looked like a tornado had hit it. Bowls littered the counter, along with canisters and an army of dirty spoons.
His lover was sitting at the kitchen table, staring sadly at a platter stacked with cookies. The young man wore a dejected expression and his eyes, when he looked at Steve, had a hangdog expression.
“I remembered how your dad always bakes Christmas cookies,” Jesse explained glumly. “And I thought maybe you were missing that, since he wasn’t here. So I tried to bake you some.”
Steve sat across from him. “That was thoughtful of you.”
“It’s harder than it looks,” Jesse admitted with a sigh.
After taking another look around the room, Steve couldn’t help but grin wryly. “I can see that.”
“It seemed so simple, just read the recipe and follow the instructions,” Jesse stated. “But after I got started, the phone rang.”
“Me, telling you I’d be late,” Steve interjected.
“Yeah,” Jesse slid the cookbook towards Steve. “Do you see the problem?”
Steve looked down at the page. It had been his mother’s favorite cookie book and it seemed perfectly normal to Steve. It was opened to a dog-eared page of family favorites, with four recipes listed.
“No,” Steve shook his head. “I don’t. What is it, Jess?”
Jesse sighed. “Four recipes, Steve. I started out making the sugar cookies, but when I went back to stirring up the cookies, I used the shortbread recipe by mistake.”
It was hard to keep from laughing, the young man’s face looked so woebegone. Unfortunately, Steve could see all too well how his lover had become distracted. On a medical case, Jesse was nothing but focus. On non-medical things, though, he sometimes let his enthusiasm get away from him. It was one reason why it worried Steve so much when Jesse helped them out on a case.
“Well, a sugar-shortbread cookie doesn’t sound so bad,” Steve suggested gamely. “It sure smells good.”
“After that the phone rang again,” Jesse continued. “Another doctor at the hospital, needing some information on a patient of mine.” He sighed. “And when I went back to the cookies, I used the snickerdoodle recipe.”
“A sugar-shortbread-doodle cookie,” Steve offered. “Those are three of my favorites.”
“I got one last call, from my mom,” Jesse added. “After the first batch was in the oven. While I was talking to her, I stirred up the icing and used the gingerbread icing recipe.”
“Oh,” Steve grunted. “An iced sugar-shortbread-doodle cookie. How bad could they be?”
Jesse shrugged. “Darned if I know. After the cookies came out of the oven, I realized what happened when they didn’t look like any of the pictures. I’ve been afraid to try any of them.”
Steve looked at the full platter of iced cookies. “But you finished baking and icing them anyway?”
“Well, I thought if nothing else, you’d at least have cookies to look at,” Jesse stated. “Even if they taste terrible.”
No longer finding Jesse’s expression amusing, Steve picked up a cookie. “Nothing that smells that good can taste terrible.” He opened his mouth and started lifting a cookie to it.
“You sure you want to do that?” Jesse warned him, putting a hand on Steve’s wrist and stopping them. “They’re made from bits and pieces of four different recipes.”
Steve kissed Jesse quickly. “You made them for me; damn straight I’m going to eat one.”
Without further ado, Steve took a big bite of cookie and immediately received an explosion of tastes on his tongue. The cookie was sweet and cinnamony and all but melted in his mouth.
“Jess, that’s really good,” Steve exclaimed. “Delicious.”
Jesse shook his head. “You don’t have to lie to make me feel better, Steve. I know they’re awful, they have to be.”
Steve had shoved another cookie into his mouth while Jesse was talking. “I’m not trying to help you feel better, honest. These are really good. Try one.” He held out a cookie to the other man.
After giving Steve a suspicious look, Jesse took the cookie from him and gingerly took a bite. The expression on his face was almost comical as he got a first taste of his creation.
“Hey, that is pretty good,” Jesse’s voice was pleased.
“I told you so,” Steve was smug. “Hey, do you remember what you did?”
“I think so,” Jesse didn’t sound so sure.
Not wanting to risk the possibility of the delicious cookies not being able to be recreated, Steve grabbed the pad of paper they kept by the phone and shoved it at Jesse. “Write it down, babe.”
While Jesse scribbled, Steve started cleaning the trashed kitchen. Thanks to modern technology, it wasn’t that bad, mostly just a matter of stacking everything in the dishwasher. By the time he’d picked up the worst of it, Jesse was done.
“There, I think I got it all down accurately,” Jesse lifted his eyes to look at the rest of the room. “Wow, you really cleaned up in here.”
“I’m glad you noticed,” Steve said. He grinned as he took a good look at his lover. Jesse was as messy as the kitchen had been. “Looks like we need to hose you down.”
“What?” Jesse asked, absently rubbing at his cheek and smudging the cookie batter smear on his face.
Steve reached out and swiped one finger through the batter. He licked it off. “Mmmm. . . sweet.”
“Oh,” Jesse blushed. He reached for a washcloth, but Steve stopped him.
“Let me.” He bent down and kissed Jesse’s cheek. “Mmmm. . . butter.” He moved down to Jesse’s cheek, where another splotch was located. “Sugar and cinnamon, I think.”
Jesse giggled. “This is going to take a while at this rate.”
Steve pulled the younger man into his arms. “You’re right. I think we ought to move this into the bedroom. I’ll want to check you over thoroughly, just to make sure I don’t miss any.”
“Yeah, right,” Jesse looked at him askance. Sometimes Steve forgot that his young lover wasn’t as innocent as he looked. “And that’s all you have in mind?”
“Well, there might be one or two other things we could do while we’re at it,” Steve conceded. He released Jesse and gently pushed him towards the bedroom. “We better get started or we’ll be at it all night.”
Jesse grinned. “You say that like it’s a bad thing.”
“Brat,” Steve returned the grin as he slapped Jesse on the ass. “Now get moving.”
Steve waited until Jesse was a few steps away before he grabbed the icing bowl, the one item from Jesse’s baking frenzy that Steve hadn’t put in the dishwasher.
His grin as Steve followed Jesse out of the room was full of anticipation. Icing was good for more than cookies. It looked like they’d both be getting a lot messier before the night was over.
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