Christmas Countdown: December 8
(with apologies to Clement Clarke Moore)
Twas the night before Harp-mas when all through the ship Not a circuit was stirring, not even a blip. The stockings were hung by the engine room with care, In hopes that the Harper soon would be there.
The crew were nestled all snug in their beds, While visions of Sparky Cola danced in their heads. And Dylan in his leather and I with my jack, Had just settled ourselves for a romp in the sack
One of the side effects of having had the Special Collections Division of the All-Systems University library downloaded into his head, even temporarily, was that Harper remembered bits and pieces of it. Not enough to be truly helpful, but definitely enough to be mildly annoying.
For weeks, Harper had been badgering the others about an old Earth custom he’d learned about, something called Christmas. The holiday had involved an exchange of gifts, which was no doubt what had caught the young human’s attention. Under Dylan’s influence and love, Seamus Harper had discovered a streak of altruism that he hadn’t known he had in him, but it was tempered by a healthy sense of materialism.
When out on the command deck there arose such a clatter, I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter. Away down the corridor I flew like the Maru. Flung open the doors and knew just what to do.
The light from the scanner lit up the deck Making it possible to give the surrounding space a check. When, what to my wondering eyes should appear, But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer.
Harper had started lobbying for their own Christmas celebration, especially once he compared the Old Earth calendar to the modern one and found it was only a couple of weeks away. For days and days, all the rest of the crew heard about was Christmas traditions and the wonder of the season.
Dylan had finally caved, declaring that the crew would celebrate Christmas. As much as Beka teased him about spoiling Seamus rotten, Dylan knew that Harper had her twisted around his little finger as much as Dylan was. If it was humanly within her reach, and often even when it wasn’t, Beka would find a way to provide what Harper wanted.
Trance hadn’t taken much convincing. Even though she wasn’t human, she enjoyed exploring their traditions. Frankly, Dylan didn’t know of anything that Trance didn’t find some enjoyment in. Rev Bem was a little uncomfortable participating in a religious observation that wasn’t the Way, but relaxed when Harper assured him that they’d only celebrate the secular parts of the holiday. Not surprisingly, it was the secular traditions that involved presents and merry making. Tyr refused to participate at all. For Nieztscheans, gifts were used to forward one’s position or curry favor; Tyr saw no profit for himself in exchanging presents with the Andromeda’s crew. Dylan didn’t know whether to be relieved or insulted.
With a hot little driver, so lively and sharp, I knew in a moment it must be the Harp. More rapid than slipstream travel his courses they came, And he whistled, and shouted and called them by name!
"Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen! On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen! To the top of the ship! to the top of the wall! Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"
Much to Rommie’s proclaimed disgust, celebrating Christmas had included, at Harper’s insistence, decorating the ship. Trance came up with the greenery, thanks to her garden, and Harper had cobbled together all sorts of shiny embellishments. Harper called it tinsel and claimed it was part of the Christmas tradition, but privately Dylan thought his lover was like a jackdaw and just indulging his attraction to all sorts of sparkly things. The Andromeda was too big to completely decorate and Dylan forbade anything from being placed in the command deck, but the other public spaces were festooned with garlands of red and green and ornaments in a wide array of jewel tones.
“I look like a pleasure barge and not a warship,” Rommie complained to anyone who would listen, but Dylan knew better. He saw her avatar stroke one of the ornaments and smile when she thought no one was looking.
Rev Bem thought the decorations were quite festive and even contributed. His claws, as it turned out, were particularly effective in shredding metallic film to make tinsel. Tyr, on the other hand, had little patience what he termed a colossal waste of time. At one point, Harper came rushing into the command deck and all but hid behind Dylan. Tyr wasn’t far behind and from the garland clinging to the Nieztschean’s braids, Dylan had a feeling he knew what the problem was. Peace was settled only when Harper promised to adhere to strict height requirements that would eliminate the most low-hanging decorations.
As panicked mobs that before the hungry Magog fly When they descend on a plant, a plague from the sky. So up to the ship-top the coursers they flew, With the sleigh full of goodies and the Harper too.
And then in a twinkling, I heard on the hull Prancing and pawing without a discernable lull As I looked away from the scanner, and was turning around Down the ventilation shaft the Harper came with a bound.
Dylan had to admit that the decorations and the anticipation had perked the crew up, with the noticeable exception of Tyr. There were whispered secrets and clandestine meetings, but of the good variety as the crew members planned gift giving and other surprises. He found himself becoming increasingly enthused as well, from the break in the routine as much as anything else. Christmas, it seemed, was a great boost for morale.
Coming up with presents for everyone was a little challenging. Dylan was still used to being a member of the High Guard and having access to all of life’s necessities and many of its niceties. This new era he found himself in was a lot more stretched for resources, but that, he found, was half the fun when it came to devising gifts.
He was dressed all in leather, from his head to his feet, And his clothes were all glossy, totally sheik. A bundle of goodies he had flung on his back, And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.
His eyes-how they twinkled! His dimples how fetching! His cheeks were smooth, his nose was twitching! His sassy little mouth could make a sailor blush, And the hair on his head stood up like a brush.
Dylan had decided on a new surf board for Harper. With Rommie’s help, he’d even managed to craft it himself. A book of philosophy was perfect for Rev Bem and a new plant was a good choice for Trance. Dylan had a more difficult time with Beka, but finally figured jewelry was safe. Harper scoffed at his choice, proudly showing Dylan the lock-pick set he’d devised for her.
Unfortunately for Dylan, the other crew members hadn’t quite so original as he was for Seamus’ gift. The young man had received cases of Sparky Cola from Trance and Rev Bem. Beka had opted for the candy distilled from the sugar-laden drink, which was far more potent than the liquid variety. Harper had been thrilled; Dylan, less so. Seamus Harper alone was a handful; Seamus Harper under the influence of too much Sparky Cola was human lightning.
Harper was not known for his moderation. He’d downed half a case of his favorite drink, using it to wash down most of a bag of his new favorite candy before Dylan had a chance to stop him. It hadn’t taken long for the effects to be seen. As Harper stood on the table and recited his poem, Dylan smiled smugly at the others’ obvious pain at being forced to listen.
Dylan had no sympathy for them; they’d brought it on themselves.
The circle of a jack was clear on his neck, This guy wasn’t just a looker, he was high tech. He had a cute little face and a perfectly flat tummy, In other words, he was utterly yummy!
He was sexy and smart, a hot little elf, And I fell in lust when I saw him, in spite of myself. A wink of his eye and a twist of his head, Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.
“Dylan, you have to do something,” Beka demanded as Harper’s poem went on and on. “My ears are about to start bleeding.”
Dylan crossed his arms across his chest. “I don’t know. I kind of like it.”
Trance’s smile seemed a little sickly and forced. “I didn’t know that Harper was so creative. Normally his art is of the mechanical variety.”
Rev Bem winced. “The Way tells us to respect all things, but I do not think that this could be called art.”
Dylan sighed. “I suppose I can distract him. . . on one condition.”
“What?” Trance asked.
“Anything,” Beka vowed.
“No more Sparky Cola,” Dylan smiled smugly at their chastened expressions.
He spoke quite rapidly as he went straight to his work, And filled all the stockings, then turned with a smirk. And laying his finger aside of his nose, And giving a nod, up the ventilation shaft he rose!
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle, And away they all flew like the down of a thistle. But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he slipstreamed out of sight, "Happy Harp-mas to all, and to all a good-night!"
“Come on, Harper,” Dylan called out to Seamus as he approached the other man. “The party’s winding down, time to go back to our quarters.”
“Aw, butmypeepsneedme,” Harper’s words were spoken even more quickly than normal. “Ican’tabandonthemnow.”
“Trust me,” Dylan reached up to Harper. It was a little disconcerting to see the other man taller than him, even if it was because Seamus was standing on a table.
“But they don’t know anything about Christmas,” Harper protested, even as he accepted Dylan’s assistance in getting off the table.
Dylan didn’t like the sound of that. Harper’s speech pattern had slowed, indicating that the sugar rush was nearing its end and that Seamus was about to crash. Hard. Using the strength he’d inherited from his mother, Dylan gave a sudden yank, pulling Harper into his arms.
“You taught them everything they need to know about Christmas,” Dylan whispered into Harper’s ear. “You showed them everything. Now it’s time to come back to our quarters with me and show me a few things.”
“Oooh,” Harper purred as Dylan’s tongue found its way into his earl. “I like the sound of that.”
“I thought you might,” Dylan replied. He kept one arm around Harper’s back as he guided the younger man out of the room.
The other crew members called out ‘Merry Christmas’ as they left, but Harper didn’t seem inclined to want to go back. Instead, he just waved at them, his attention focused on Dylan.
“So’d, you like your present?” Harper asked as they neared the Captain’s quarters that they shared.
“The… what did you call it?” Dylan’s forehead wrinkled as he thought hard.
“A gift certificate,” Harper supplied helpfully. “That’s what they did on the old Earth, when they wanted to give a gift of services yet to be rendered.”
“Oh, yeah, that’s right,” Dylan smiled as they reached their door and entered. Once inside, Dylan called for privacy and, grabbing Harper by the elbows, he lifted the smaller man and pinned Harper to the wall with the bulk of his body. “Let’s talk about the nature of the services that are yet to be rendered, shall we?”
Harper squirmed against him. “The kind that make Rom-doll jealous, ‘cause she’s not getting any.”
“Mmmmm. . . the best kind,” Dylan murmured. He backed away enough for Harper to slide to his feet and bent for a quick, but deep kiss. “Why don’t you go over to the bed and we can get started.”
Harper grinned and obeyed, for once without a quip or comment. Instead, he just stripped his shirt off and made a show of flinging it to the side. Dylan allowed himself one quick stroke of the newly revealed skin. “Go on, I’ll be right there.”
The captain made a quick trip to the bathroom for supplies, fumbling in his haste to pull the lube and condoms from the medicine cabinet. By the time he’d picked everything off the floor and hurried back to the main room, it was too late. Harper’s sugar high had worn off and Seamus was sound asleep in the middle of the bed.
Dylan sighed and hung his head for a moment. Nothing kept Dylan Hunt down for long, though. He carefully placed the supplies on the bedside table so they’d be readily available in the morning and made quick work of his clothes. When they were removed, he started in on Harper’s. Seamus murmured in his sleep, but didn’t truly wake as Dylan undressed him like a doll. As lively as Harper was when he was awake, the young man was dead to the world once he was asleep. Dylan often wondered if it was how Harper refueled. Even without the Sparky Cola, Harper was usually a bundle of energy.
Once he’d gotten his lover as nude as he was, Dylan slipped them both under the covers. Spooning himself behind Harper, he appreciated the warm, trusting weight of the younger man.
“Happy Harp-mas, Seamus,” Dylan whispered in Harper’s ear. “I know I’ll have a good night.”
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