Christmas Countdown: December 3
Without a Trace

By Juli

December 2008

Martin would have given anything for a camera, because no one would ever believe him. He took another look. On second thought, it was just as well that he wouldn't be able to document what he was seeing. If he did, Jack would kill him and hide the body so well that his own team would never be able to figure out what had happened to him.

"Do I dare ask what you're doing?" Martin asked as he walked into the room. He didn't bother to hide his grin.

Jack looked up, the frown of frustration on his face softening as he got a look at Martin's amused expression. "Marie said the girls wanted a dollhouse for Christmas. She even suggested one." He looked ruefully at the pieces spread out on the floor around him. "She neglected to mention that I'd have to put it together."

The two of them were supposed to meet at Jack's before heading out to dinner. Obviously, those plans were going to have to be changed. The girls would arrive to celebrate Christmas with their father the next day, so Jack didn't have a lot of time to get ready.

Martin stripped off his shoes, tie and suit coat before plopping himself down on the floor next to Jack. "Some assembly required, huh?"

With an expression that wouldn't have looked out of place on a kicked puppy, Jack held up a long pink plastic piece. "I have no idea what this even is."

Martin rooted around until he uncovered a set of instructions and then paged through it until he found the ones in English. "Is it about 14 inches long and covered in hearts?"

"Yeah," Jack replied. "And has a scalloped edge."

"Okay," Martin nodded. "I think that's the fascia."

"Fascia?" Jack's voice was laden with amusement. "On a doll house."

Martin waved a hand at him absently. "Well, that's not what they're calling it, but that's what it's pretending to be." He frowned at the instructions. "Although the way this roof is engineered, it would never work." Jack snorted and Martin gave him a mild glare. "Do you want me to help you with this or not?"

"Help, please," Jack replied in an uncharacteristicall y meek voice. "I'll be quiet."

For the next hour, the two men crawled around the floor, trying to make sense of instructions that had likely been originally written in Chinese and then translated badly into English. They snapped plastic into place until their fingers hurt. Martin was very glad they were getting the house set up the night before the girls were to arrive; it would give the plastic time to breathe so hopefully the fumes wouldn't be quite so strong when Jack's daughters were playing with it.

"Hannah and Kate are going to love this," Martin declared as he held up one of the small pieces of furniture. "I bet they'll play with it the whole time they're here."

"I hope so," Jack cleared his throat. "Speaking of playing house. . . ."

At first, Martin didn't notice the way Jack's voice had trailed off. He placed the small bed in the dollhouse and only then realized that Jack hadn't finished speaking. "I'm sorry, what?"

Jack cleared his throat and wouldn't look away from where he was hanging the miniature curtains in the toy house's living room. "I was wondering, if you'd like to play house with me?"

"Huh?" Martin said, inelegantly.

Realizing that Martin totally wasn't following his train of thought, Jack turned to the other man. "We've been seeing each other for a while now, Martin. It doesn't make sense for us to have two different places to live. I'd like for you to be here when the girls arrive tomorrow. In fact, I'd like for you to be here, period."

Martin was unsure that he'd heard what he thought he'd heard. "Are you asking me to move in with you?"

"Yeah," Jack replied.

Taken completely by surprise, Martin wasn't sure how to react and said the first thing that popped into his head. "What would Sam think?"

Jack's laugh was not nice. "That she's an idiot for letting both of us get away."

His response made Martin relax a bit. Their whole team knew about their relationship and, despite a rocky acceptance in the beginning, were fine with it. Jack's ex-wife was indifferent, but Martin's family was completely unaware that their son was dating another man.

"And the girls?" Martin asked. Jack was first and foremost, a father.

"They love you," Jack shrugged. "Hannah especially and you know how Marie and I have struggled to get through to her. You practically live here now and the girls know it."

Of course they did; they were Jack Malone's daughters and more observant than the average child.

"They love you," Jack went on to say. "Let's make it official." He grimaced. "Well, as official as it can be with the current laws in New York."

"It's a good thing too," Martin replied, dazed. "Spouses can't work together in the FBI."

"So does that mean that you will?" Jack pressed. "Move in, that is."

Martin looked at the other man, rumpled from working on the dollhouse and an unusually vulnerable look on his face. How could he say no?

"Yeah, I will," Martin stated, growing happier by the moment with both the offer and how he felt accepting it. "I've heard that the New Year's a good time for new beginnings."

Jack smiled broadly and grabbed Martin for a hug. He wrapped his hand around the back of Martin's neck and pulled the younger man in for a deep kiss.

"Merry Christmas to me," Jack murmured as the kiss ended. "To both of us."

Happy, Martin wholeheartedly agreed.

~the end~


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