Christmas Countdown: December 13
The problem with a house as big as Ben's, Riley decided, was that there was an awful lot of it. Normally, that was a good thing. He and Ben didn't have the drag-out fights that Ben'd had when in a relationship with Abigail, but they occasionally needed their space. The sprawling mansion had plenty of that, which was currently the problem.
The two of them had been working on Christmas decorations for hours. Riley was a fun guy; he didn't mind stringing lights or hanging tinsel. Normally, he loved listening to Ben ramble about little-known historical facts, but hours of it was too much, particularly when it was focused on one subject.
"I bet George Washington didn't have one of these babies," Riley muttered as he hung one of his collectable Star Trek ornaments on the tree.
" America didn't celebrate Christmas in 1776," Ben was quick to correct Riley. "At least not in the upper part of the colonies. In fact, Washington was able to get one of his greatest victories against the Hessians because they were busy finishing Christmas celebrations on the night of December 25. Washington and some of his troops were able to sneak up on them and hand them a stinging defeat."
"Do tell," Riley murmured, biting back a sigh.
"Of course, the whole country wasn't that way," Ben went on. "New England was settled by predominantly puritan groups. They banned the celebration of Christmas, seeing it as a heathen practice. Further south, that was different. In fact, John Smith is credited for celebrating the first Christmas in North America and colonists in the mid-Atlantic region put out greenery and had Yule logs."
"Was that Pocahontas' John Smith?" Riley asked. "They didn't mention Christmas in the movie."
"Yes, it was Pocahontas' John Smith, Riley," Ben corrected him with a bland face. "And you should know better; movies are not known for their historical accuracy."
Riley grinned. "That's why I keep you around." He pretended to have second thoughts. "Well that and you're taller than me. That's handy when I need to get something off the top shelf in the kitchen."
"Is that right?" Ben knew Riley too well to take his comment seriously.
"Yes, as a matter of fact, it is," Riley nodded. "And it's great to know where Christmas traditions started and everything, but there's depth to modern Christmas practices too."
Ben arched one eyebrow. "Go on."
Riley drew himself up to his full height. "I believe it was a philosopher named Cornelius who discovered one of the great Christmas truths."
"And?" Ben prompted.
"Bumbles bounce," Riley pronounced, keeping a straight face.
Ben wiped a hand over his face. "Riley, I would hardly equate bad stop-motion animation with Colonial Christmas traditions."
"Two hundred years from now and more people will remember that Yukon Cornelius tamed the Abominable Snowman than that George Washington didn't celebrate Christmas" Riley protested. "And it's not bad stop- motion animation anyway; it's a classic."
"More people will remember Rudolph than George Washington?" Ben asked quietly. There was a glint in his eyes and Riley stifled a whoop of joy. He'd managed to distract Ben from his history recitation.
"When it comes to Christmas, yes," Riley said with as much dignity as he could muster.
Ben put down the delicate glass ornament he'd been about to hang on the tree. "Them's fightin' words."
Riley grinned. "Bring it on, big guy."
The two men stared at each other for a few moments and then Ben lunged. Riley dodged and then the chase was on. It was a big house and there was a lot of room to run. Riley had shorter legs, but could corner faster and didn't hesitate to cheat. Ben was always a fast thinker, though, and finally caught Riley in the second floor hallway of the second wing.
"Take it back," Ben ordered. He straddled Riley as he kept the younger man pinned to the floor. Ben also had both of Riley's wrists held in one hand, above his head. He dangled the other over Riley's stomach in a clear threat to tickle.
"Never," Riley declared with a grin.
Ben had lovely long fingers and they were wickedly fast. Riley's cocky grin dissolved into a fit of unmanly laughing as Ben tickled every hot spot that Riley had. The younger man twisted and wiggled, but couldn't get away. Just when he thought he would pee his pants, the tickling stopped. It took Riley a few minutes to stop laughing and catch his breath. When he did, Ben was looking at him tenderly.
"I'm sorry, Riley," Ben apologized. "Sometimes I do get stuck too much in the past."
"Just a little." Riley didn't rub it in; he rarely got such a concession from his lover.
"Colonial Christmases can't hold a candle to the present," Ben assured him. "Because the present has you."
As Ben leaned forward for a kiss, Riley hummed in pleasure. He loved that Ben loved the past, but there was something to be said for living in the moment.
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