The Reindeer Clause: Part 6

By Nocturne13
published February 12, 2021
8350 words
Summary

Gary has to deal with the consequences from his fantasy, and finally discovers exactly what Miles did.

January 2: The Ninth Day of Christmas

The Feast of Saint Basil the Great

Gary became dimly aware that he was waking up, and then rapidly sped back to consciousness. It was the kind of awakening that felt like you were bobbing up to the surface after diving into water and discovering you were too buoyant to stay down. His eyes opened and he immediately felt fully awake. From the light coming in through the slightly parted bedroom curtains, he assumed it was mid-morning already. As he began to look around, everything felt abnormally sharp and clear; it was almost to the point that he felt disoriented. Between the daylight and the weird feeling, he was pretty sure he’d slept more than eight hours. To his dismay he realized that he was sleeping in the center of the bed with the pillows arranged behind him and propping him up slightly instead of on his own side as usual. He saw that one of the kitchen chairs was sitting nearby with Comet’s phone on it. It implied Comet had been at his bedside as he rested, and that didn’t seem good.

Gary immediately thought of the wild sex they’d had last night and the intense state he’d ended the session in. He didn’t feel injured, but something felt just a little different about him internally this morning, and it wasn’t just the feeling of oversleeping. Gary hesitantly lifted up the covers and looked down the length of his body. He saw that his stomach, which had been distended with Comet’s supernaturally huge load, was completely normal again. In fact, it felt a little empty. He carefully clenched his ass and there was no butt plug in it, or any sense of discomfort. His skin – and ass – felt clean. He wasn’t naked either; Comet had apparently dressed him in pajamas. It was an old shirt & long pants pair that he normally saved for a last resort. He undid a button on his pajama top and felt his chest to confirm; it was clean and smooth, as if he’d been gently washed and dried. So it seemed his extremely considerate boyfriend had cleaned him up, dressed him, tucked him into bed, and then sat by the bed keeping an eye on him. And somehow he’d slept through all that tender care?

And thinking of Comet, had that sex scene straight out of a hentai manga really happened? Had his supernatural hunk of a boyfriend actually dumped so much cum in him that he felt gravid? He felt his face flush. He was pretty sure it wasn’t a dream. He also remembered baring his soul and then conveniently passing out. He blushed with embarrassment just thinking about it, but shivered with the thrill of the memory. The power exchange had been intense, and thinking about it now made his heart race. Comet used him in a way that both turned him on and made him feel so good. What was wrong with that, though? And why was he blushing? As long as they were both consenting adults and they shared genuine passion, wasn’t that a good thing? Comet seemed to be enjoying himself with Gary, and he also seemed to need at least daily release. Gary admitted to himself that he loved giving himself to Comet. He took an extra deep breath and slowly exhaled, trying to calm himself down.

As he lay there, he thought more about Comet. He was a wonderful guy, and seemed like a gentle giant now; but supposedly he had been bad enough that Santa came out of his corner of Faerie to drag him away. Miles had too, supposedly; but what had Miles really done? He had been a terrible boyfriend: manipulative, diminishing, and slowly becoming more and more emotionally abusive; he’d even begun gaslighting Gary. However, Gary had finally realized it was abuse and started distancing himself. The pandemic had actually provided him with a way to slowly distance himself. Was Miles’s behavior actually enough to warrant a supernatural judgment on a par with a life sentence? By Christmas, Gary had already let their mutual acquaintances know that their formal split was imminent, and was nearly out of the relationship; he’d almost not gone to the hospital to get Miles when they called.

Gary sighed. Comet and Miles had their identities switched in the process; it was great Comet had a birth certificate and driver’s license, but he got all of Miles’s baggage at the same time too. That made everything awkward. There was no way Gary could get on Facebook and announce Miles had seen the error of his ways and was now nice, and also to please call him Comet instead. People would think Gary was a complete idiot, and probably being manipulated by his abuser.

For that matter, if Miles had done something really bad that had a legal impact in the world like insider trading, it would still be on Comet. Comet basically served fifty years imprisoned in Faerie and instead of coming back to a clean identity, he was given Mile’s mess. What a shitty system! Gary wondered if it was intentional, to punish the reindeer even further, or if Santa had some other reason. Even if Comet had done something really bad in the past like, say, murder… Gary paused at the thought, hoping that was an overshoot. But even if it wasn’t, fifty years of being tormented and abused in Faerie surely was more than enough punishment, wasn’t it? Shouldn’t Comet have a fresh start? Was the mental hobbling simple cruelty, or was it a safety measure? Comet was, after all, huge and strong, with some level of supernatural power.

Gary’s heart tugged painfully and he sighed slowly. He was trying to be objective but he couldn’t imagine Comet ever doing anything bad, at least not deliberately. He told himself he needed to keep an open mind about the subject, but even so it was hard to consider. Comet could already have easily overwhelmed Gary, but he’d actually been diligent about treating him well and being gentle in his pursuit of him. He was just a little pushy, strategically so, just the perfect amount to keep Gary from freezing up.

With a growl of exasperation, Gary grabbed his phone off the charger on the nightstand to check the time and discovered it was 10:37 am on January 2. He had been unconscious for more than a day and a half. “Oh. Oh that’s not good,” Gary said to himself as he flung back the covers and cautiously swung his legs out of bed. He stood and stretched; a few things in his back popped slightly, but it was the good feeling of tension relief. The slight sense of inactivity in his muscles told him they could use some stimulation, but he didn’t feel like they’d degenerated. Similarly, his stomach felt empty, but he didn’t feel famished. A glass of water sounded like a great idea though. Gary looked down at his phone. It had a ton of notifications on it, ranging from app updates to new emails – mostly ads – and a few texts and Facebook messages. There were so many it was difficult to scroll through the previews, but he could see his family had pinged him a few times and he caught the first line of one from Bennie, ‘Where the fuck is Miles he…’ prompting Gary to sigh. He was now officially late getting back to a bunch of people, and his family was probably freaking out that he’d missed their scheduled New Year’s Day video call.

He slid on a pair of slippers and did some arm and leg stretches in the open space of his room to make sure everything really was working normally. There were no problems, but that sense of something being slightly different inside him persisted. He frowned and ran his hands all over his arms, shoulders, chest, then around to his back and down to his ass. There was no soreness or strain, but the best he was able to frame the sensation was like he’d been refreshed or reinforced somehow; he felt new and invigorated. Sadly, he had not developed a six pack overnight or anything like that, but at least the massive filling he took didn’t seem to have injured him. And more importantly, Comet had cut loose and seemed to really enjoy it. He just wanted Comet to not feel like he had to treat Gary like a porcelain doll just because he had a big dick. Though, Gary suddenly thought with a flash of worry, what if his passing out actually made Comet more hesitant?

He headed to the kitchen and got a glass of water. The tapwater was icy cold with the chill of winter seeping into the house’s old pipes. It felt like rocks falling into an empty can as it hit his stomach at first, but a few moments later his body greedily absorbed the liquid. As Gary knocked back the glass of water, he noticed through the small window over the kitchen sink that snow flurries were falling. They looked clean and pretty swirling on the wind.

The rest of the house was empty. Both of Comet’s winter coats and his boots were in the outerwear area behind the front door. That meant he was probably in the garage, or upstairs in the finished attic. Gary opened up the connecting passage door and stuck his head in. “Comet,” he called lightly upstairs. There was an immediate crash and the sound of running. Gary stepped back, well away from the door in anticipation of Comet needing braking room. Heavy footsteps came pounding down the stairs, the force of the tread echoing through the wall beside it. Comet virtually exploded out of the door and barreled right at Gary, grabbed him by the shoulders first for a quick, intense, look, and then swept him into his embrace and delivered a bear hug which pinned Gary’s arms at his side.

“I thought I hurt you!” Comet said with a rumbling tone that communicated volumes of worry.

“Nope, I’m ok!” Gary insisted, speaking into Comet’s upper chest with the minimal lung volume left to him. Fortunately, Comet quickly released his grasp and slid his hands down Gary’s arms as he crouched to drop his face level with Gary’s. Comet looked wild-eyed and far more upset than Gary expected. It stung him with a powerful sense of guilt.

“I’m so sorry,” Gary said, preempting him. “I worried you, I can see that you’re really upset.” Gary moved forward and threw his arms around Comet and hugged him as hard as he could. He felt like he was barely making a dent against the man’s thick muscles, but also just squeezed as hard as he could assuming he couldn’t hurt him. Comet sighed appreciatively. Gary let go and they disengaged.

“You were in pain. I didn’t stop,” Comet said. “I thought you were enjoying it–”

“I was,” Gary said, intent on reassuring Comet even if he had to cut him off. “I fucking enjoyed it so much I wonder if I took advantage of you. You gave me everything I would have struggled to ask for. The rimming, the power fucking, it was all amazing, and you filled me up so much I–” Gary looked aside and opened his eyes wide, struggling to believe he was about to say what he was. “You filled me up so much I feel like I’ve literally absorbed some of your masculinity.” He returned his gaze directly to Comet. “I feel like I’m more of a man now. Basically you did a bunch of stuff that I had fantasies about and I felt so freed by that. You took me to a place where I could say some difficult things. I just hope I didn’t push you into doing anything you didn’t want to,” Gary finished, his face scrunching up in concern.

Comet’s eyes widened with relief and Gary braced himself for another powerful hug. Having learned the other man’s body language by now, he was right and a second later Comet’s arms were around him, squeezing him tightly. “No, I like having you,” Comet muttered in his ear. “So much. Being wild again, but smarter, felt good. And with a human being, amazing. As long as you’re ok.” Comet’s hotter than normal human body temperature and hard muscles felt amazing. It was like being hugged by a fire tornado. Gary was really enjoying being smushed up against Comet’s chest, though it did make thinking a little more difficult. Comet relaxed the hug and pulled back and took Gary’s shoulders in his hands again very carefully. “You slept a day, Gareth,” he said gently. “I was scared. Almost asked neighbors for help. Thought Reindeer Milk would protect you. But I worried.”

“Let’s sit down on the couch where we can talk easier, ok?” Gary asked him. The chill coming off the nearby front door was piercing his pajamas and he thought they should get comfortable anyway. Comet released him and nodded his assent. They took the few steps needed to enter the living room and Gary took his usual spot on the right side of the couch, but sat turned sideways with one leg crossed. He figured this would be a good position to chat in, but also a way to keep a little distance between them so he could stay focused.

“Look… I’m sorry,” Gary said. “I don’t think I’ve done as well for you as I should have. Realizing you were left on your own for a day and starting to panic makes me feel sick.”

“What do you mean? You’ve been wonderful,” Comet protested. “You’re gentle, considerate, and sweet.”

“I should have tried harder to get you acclimated,” Gary disagreed. “Suppose I slipped in the bathtub and hit my head, you don’t know how to call for help do you?”

Comet thought for a moment. “Santa called 9, 1, 1, on the phone. I guess that’s instead of dialing Oh for Operator?” Gary blinked in surprise.

“Oh, you do know how to do that.”

“Or ask the neighbors,” Comet continued. “The lady across the street is nice. Grannie down the block always thanks me.” He mimed snow shoveling.

“Wow that’s great,” Gary said, faltering as his main concern was turned on its head. “When I woke up, everything seemed so sharp and I suddenly thought I had just been going along with all that’s happened in the last week like I was in a dream. When you came down stairs so freaked out, it hit me hard. I just feel like once we started to have sex, I just was caught up in the excitement of having this wonderful boyfriend living with me. I wasn’t thinking as much about making sure you got what you need to recover from your time … away, and I didn’t really question what happened either to you or Miles.”

Comet sighed with understanding. “You are a worrier,” he said mildly. “It’s kind of cute, sometimes.” Comet’s light tone shifted to firmness. “You have been helping me a lot. And I’ve been dragging you to bed.” Comet reached out and rubbed Gary’s shoulders affectionately. “I could tell you liked my looks. You felt… guilty?” Gary shrugged uncomfortably. Comet let go of Gary’s shoulders and considered him for a moment before pointing at his face with both hands. “This is my real face. I was tall and strong before. I’m used to people liking me … lots.” He winked at Gary sexily, making the other man feel a nervous flutter. “It’s stronger now. But you don’t just like my looks.” Comet reached out and playfully ruffled Gary’s hair. Gary felt himself tingle with excitement at the familiar touch. “I do need some help, like numbers. Speed limits. Money, shopping. Planning things. I’ll always need help. I trust you,” Comet concluded simply.

“That… that means a lot,” Gary said. “Even if you’re ok with how things have been going, I do want to explain one more detail. This is serious, I’m afraid. It’s about the pandemic. It isn’t like a bad winter flu season; it actually started back in the spring. The whole world has literally been going into and out of quarantine periods all year long to try to control the spread of the disease. Almost this entire year has been Hell.”

“What?” blurted Comet, shocked.

“It’s a bad and very weird disease, it doesn’t kill everyone, some people hardly even know they have it; but that’s part of the problem. It spreads super easily and it’s a total crapshoot how it affects you. It could feel like nothing, or a cold, or flu; but it might cause heart damage or stroke; it might kill you with lung damage. If you could understand the numbers, you would probably be numb with shock at how many people died just in this country. I think one source said it was like Pearl Harbor every day, another was comparing the deaths against various wars, and the numbers are almost too big for that now.” Comet gaped at the information, Gary took a breath and gave him a moment to process it. “I’ve basically been alone in this house for nine months, and we’re just now vaccinating people to fight it. So when Santa suddenly dropped you into my life, as much as I thought it was wrong on so many levels, I was so lonely. And the extra thing you came with, a magical spell to protect me from the disease, and all I had to do was let you fuck me once? I couldn’t say no. I feel bad because even if you didn’t want to be with me, I would have asked you to do that at least once, it was a trap I couldn’t escape.”

Comet shook his head, “No I wanted to give you that.”

“I’m glad you feel that way. It doesn’t excuse things, though. I just feel like you’re giving me so much. I haven’t seen my family in person for a year, I haven’t been with friends, just phone calls. Miles and I were still in physical contact at the start of things, but I got the impression really early he wasn’t taking things seriously enough, and we isolated alone. That was actually a relief because he was bad to me and it helped me get away from him.”

“Gareth … Gary. You were alone. I was never alone like that. Had the others at least.” Comet leaned over and very gently kissed Gary on the forehead. Despite the distance Gary had tried to put between them, it wasn’t enough to stop the larger man from closing the gap. Gary felt a surge of warm feelings fountain through his body, making him feel fuzzy all over and flush with excitement. The next thing he knew Comet’s mouth was on his, gently nibbling his lips and their tongues met and they were really making out. Kissing, nibbling, tongues playing, Comet’s hands cupping his face, all that worry and guilt forgotten. After a few minutes, Comet drew back and looked Gary in the eyes. He saw a mix of confusion and desire in them, so he gently grasped Gary’s torso and pulled him onto Comet’s lap, turning him in the process.

With Gary’s back resting against Comet’s chest, Comet wrapped his left arm around Gary’s midsection for support. With his right, he gently took hold of Gary’s chin and caressed it while turning him to the side so he could gently kiss his cheek from behind. Gary gasped and pressed back against him. Comet released his grasp on Gary’s face and reached into the fly of Gary’s pajamas. The single snap popped with no resistance, and Comet found Gary was already fully erect and leaking pre-cum. Comet nuzzled his neck and licked it sensually while his hand fished Gary’s large cock out of his pajama bottoms. Once out, Comet brought his hand up to his face and broke off nuzzling Gary just long enough to spit in his palm a couple times. He resumed nibbling on Gary’s neck as his spit-slicked hand wrapped around Gary’s fat cock. Comet deftly unbuttoned Gary’s pajama shirt with his other hand and reached inside to gently caress his chest and play with his nipples.

Gary gasped as his nipples hardened at Comet’s touch, feeling a lot more sensitive than usual. Comet began to stroke his cock earnestly. “I like your cock a lot,” Comet whispered in his ear. “I want to play with you lots,” he continued. “But right now. I want you to feel good. I want to make you feel good.” Gary gulped, he could tell Comet was intensely serious. Everything he was doing: the way he was holding Gary, the way he was touching him, and the tone he was using, it all felt dominant, but in a protective way. As Gary realized how serious he was, Comet began flexing his glutes and thighs in time with his stroking, bouncing Gary in his lap as if he were riding. Gary’s eyes widened at the sensual assault. “Not enough moaning,” Comet whispered playfully into Gary’s ear. He simultaneously applied his tongue to Gary’s ear and started doing something with the fingers of his right hand to the tip of Gary’s engorged, uncut dick. Gary squealed at the sudden sensations as he realized Comet had drawn back his foreskin, and was teasing his extremely sensitive penis tip. Comet also lightly pinched his nipple at the same time and Gary gasped. His nipples were hitting him with far more sensation than usual and it was rapidly pushing him along. He found his breathing rapidly becoming deep gasps as his body flushed with arousal. “Wait, should I stop?” Comet asked suddenly as he pulled his tongue out of Gary’s ear, but not actually halting his stroking or the rhythmic riding motion.

“Nuh-no!” Gary blurted, unable to tell him anything different. Gary couldn’t think, he could only react.

“Sure?” teased Comet. He punctuated the question with a quick lick behind Gary’s ear and this time he did stop stroking Gary’s dick for just a moment, but used the time to shift his hand to reach inside Gary’s pajamas and gently cup his balls briefly. Gary absolutely loved the feeling of Comet’s hot hands cupping his balls, which he realized felt quite heavy already.

Gary moaned out loud, enjoying the feeling of warm hands on him. “Don’t stop,” he hoarsely whispered.

“Are you sure?” Comet teased. “Beg.” Gary gasped. Even Comet’s mild display of dominance made him feel all quivery inside; he couldn’t resist.

“Please don’t stop. Don’t stop Comet. Please.” Comet released his gentle hold on Gary’s balls and resumed jacking him off. “Oh Comet oh Comet,” Gary gasped, completely electrified and bouncing with anticipation against Comet’s measured rises.

Comet growled happily and adjusted the pressure of his grip on Gary’s dick and focused on his most sensitive area. “I really like it, Gareth. I really like you. You’re swell.” Gary giggled at the old-fashioned compliment, delivered with hot breath tickling his neck. Gary made tiny whimpering noises with every change in stimulation, fighting to not blurt several extremely sappy things out loud, settling for just yelling Comet’s name several times. Comet chuckled, a deep rumble that shook Gary’s chest. “Cum for me,” Comet said when he felt Gary’s dick begin to throb a little more. It was a request this time, not a command; yet it turned Gary on so much it pushed him over the edge.

He groaned in surrender, and with Comet’s arms holding him tight, Gary yelled “Yes Comet, YES!” and started shooting hot ropes of cum across the living room, almost reaching the fireplace. Time felt like it was standing still as the warm fountain erupted from him and his penis pumped hard to shoot the thick ejaculate. He cried out wordlessly as the spike of pleasure hit him hard, and only Comet’s warm body wrapped around him kept him steady as his body’s entire strength focused into a long, powerful orgasm as each pump slowly launched another volley the length of his penis and out into the air. After several moments, he slumped against Comet, spent, and stunned by the intensity of his ejaculation.

“WOW!” Comet exclaimed, impressed at the distance, as well as the volume and solidity of the output. He chuckled and wrapped his right arm around Gary’s stomach to deliver a back hug as the smaller man’s spent penis twitched a few times and finished draining out all down the front of Gary’s pajama bottoms. “My lover,” Comet whispered in his ear. “We take it easy today. But again, soon.”

Gary relaxed in Comet’s grasp and leaned his head on the bigger man’s shoulder. He couldn’t speak for a few minutes until his breathing got back to normal. “I’m so glad I’m yours, and you’re mine,” Gary murmured. “You may not have fucked me but how is that taking it easy? Haha,” he said, eliciting a tight squeeze from Comet. Comet’s warm right hand somehow found its way into the pajama top and Gary felt it caressing his tummy again. “Hey, Comet,” Gary said dreamily, pushing his head back onto Comet’s shoulder.

“What, Gary?” Comet said, continuing to let him bask in the afterglow with gentle touches.

“I know you think you hurt me, but I want you to know that even though you got a tiny bit rough the other night, I’m pretty certain you didn’t. I can handle the fucking, somehow.” Gary relaxed completely into Comet’s arms, enjoying the sensation of feeling limp and boneless for a few moments. “I think what happened is that your cum is so magical, especially when you’re making a lot, that I absorbed too much. Later in our play, I started to taste mint. I think that means it’s more magic than cum that’s coming out of you, or something like that. Anyway, I think I just overdosed on magic.” Gary took a deep breath and quickly continued, worried he hadn’t explained it well, “Not even in a bad way, I mean! I think I just needed to sleep to absorb the extra magic. I had wicked crazy dreams, but now I feel good, totally rested and refreshed. If we ever do that kind of play again,” Gary paused, shocked he was even going there, “we just need to not do quite as much. That’s all. And wow I feel really good right now, you big hunk,” Gary concluded. In truth, he was feeling the afterglow of the orgasm very strongly, but he could tell his clarity and vigor was quickly returning.

“That – maybe!” Comet agreed, sounding somewhat reassured. “We feed low elves with sex. Could be magic strain?”

“Also, we should maybe pick a safeword,” Gary continued, his thoughts continuing to regain focus.

“What’s a safeword?” Comet asked.

“It’s a way of saying ‘no, stop immediately’ when you’re playing rough. Like an emergency stop.” Gary said. “Normally no is enough, but there might be times when it feels right to ignore that, or you get caught up in the play and need something stronger to get attention. I think. I’m not an expert on how people use safewords, so maybe we need to read up a little bit on this together. But I think the general idea is good.”

“Yes, safeword sounds good,” Comet said. “Still. Taking it slow. I’m full of magic now. You probably need a break.” Gary was disappointed they were stopping there, and playfully bounced on Comet’s lap a couple times before relaxing back into his warm grasp.

After snuggling a few minutes Gary finally felt completely satisfied and made himself get up. “Ok Big Guy, I have to shower up now and put on some pants since I creamed all over my pajamas. Oh and my cum’s all over the floor. Thank goodness I have original hardwood floors in this place!”

Comet laughed. “You clean you. I’ll wipe floor. Make lunch!”

“You’re cooking?” Gary asked to clarify, thinking it was a request of him.

“I’ll make sandwiches,” Comet offered modestly.

“That’s great, it’s perfect for lunch! I’ll shower fast.” Gary slid forward and Comet released his grasp and gently set him on his feet. As Gary started to step away from the couch, Comet’s long arms easily allowed him to smack Gary on the ass as he stepped away. “I should have seen that coming,” Gary thought to himself as he grinned, laughed, and headed to the bathroom.

Comet got up and took at look at the cum on the floor and narrowed his eyes. To his view, Gary had shot a lot over the floor. He walked to the kitchen and came back with paper towels, cleaner, and a set of measuring spoons. Before wiping up Gary’s cum puddles, he compared them to the spoons and concluded Gary really had come a lot. Like, maybe almost twice as much as normal. Not as much as Comet, but certainly his orgasm had lasted several seconds longer than previously and was much more intense, enough so to leave him acting light-headed for a bit. Comet wasn’t sure it meant anything, but it was interesting to keep in mind.

The shower felt so much better than Gary had expected. He vigorously scrubbed everywhere and despite having just cum, he felt invigorated instead of lethargic. He shaved in the shower as well as thoroughly washing and conditioning his hair. He lost track of time and suddenly realized he was supposed to be taking a quick shower, so he rinsed off and hopped out to towel dry. The bathroom door wasn’t fully closed and he heard some ambitious sounds coming from the kitchen, including the distinctive hiss of butter in a frying pan, which confused him. The bathroom’s window had privacy film on the lower pane, but through the upper pane Gary could see that although the snow was still swirling, the flurries were letting up. He opened the bathroom door and walked towel-draped to the bedroom, receiving a hit of the distinctive smell of grilled cheese wafting from the kitchen. His stomach growled, so he rushed to get dressed, tossing on jeans and a sweatshirt without fully drying off.

Gary scurried to the kitchen table and sat down, at which point Comet lifted a dinner plate of sandwiches off the counter, walked over, and dropped them on the table. He’d made three and cut each in half. There was already a bag of veggie chips on the table as a side. Comet headed back to the fridge without asking Gary and snagged the orange juice. “You need OJ!” Comet proclaimed, filling a big glass as he walked back over and set it on the table.

Gary reached down and pulled up a corner of the toasted bread to discover Comet had made them perfectly cooked grilled cheese with ham sandwiches; there was a big dill pickle slice inside too. “Wow this looks great,” he said to Comet before firmly grabbing one half of a sandwich and inserting more than a third of it into his mouth. The rest of what he said about the sandwich was completely unintelligible. After he chewed and swallowed a bit his speech became decipherable again. “Mm so this is the sliced ham I bought for New Years Day dinner,” Gary said. “It makes a good sammich.”

“Sorry, opened it yesterday,” said Comet as he sat down at the table with a big glass of water.

“No that’s fine! It’s a good choice and it’s going to take the both of us a couple days to knock off a quarter ham. Eat all you want!” Gary took a smaller bite and chewed well. “How did you get the bread so even? Both sides are the same!”

Comet shrugged. “Use big square pan. Fry both slices at once. Cheese on each. Warm ham beside it. Assemble.”

Gary exhaled. “That’s freaking brilliant, I always just make the sandwich and then flip it in my smallest frying pan. The first side is usually under-done and the second nearly burnt.” It really was a good sandwich. Comet grinned and grabbed a handful of chips from the bag.

“Wait is this American and… Provolone?” Gary asked realizing the sandwich was a 2 cheese blend.

“Nope. Havarti,” Comet replied smugly.

“Huh, it’s great. Anyway, before you decided I needed to be calmed down with a fantastic hand job, I was talking about the pandemic. I just wanted to say that things were really kind of scary for a while, but I’m doing so much better now you’re here,” Gary said calmly. “But now you know why I like snuggling so much. I missed touching people! And honestly you are a fantastic snuggler! You are literally the best ever! But later, if you ever decide I didn’t do enough for you because I got distracted by all the sex and snuggling, I hope you’ll just keep it all in mind.”

Comet looked like he wanted to say something, but just rolled his eyes and ate a sandwich half instead. After he finished he slowly said, “I like you for many reasons. Not just cute. Not just helping me.” He used his hands to mime a packing gesture.

“Uhm, you’re saying, it’s just everything combined and I just… do it for you?” Gary guessed. Comet nodded.

“Not talking good, some days annoying! Another thing, you guess good!” he said and grabbed a second sandwich half.

“Sorry, I’m trying to have these complicated conversations with you and it’s tough for you,” Gary said, making a face.

“We gotta try. Communicate,” Comet said. “So important.”

Gary nodded in agreement. “I’m going to go outside for some fresh air after lunch,” he said. “Looks like the snow’s stopped.”

“I’ll go back upstairs,” Comet said. “If you’re ok?”

“Sure,” Gary said. “Especially now I’ve eaten I feel really good. Really strong and ready to get some exercise.”

“You feel strong?” Comet said carefully. He mimed doing an arm curl. Gary laughed.

“No I don’t feel that kind of strong. You’re still my designated stuck jar opener, ok? I feel emotionally strong. Also very well rested. And, I feel relieved now we had this difficult talk.”

Comet grinned. “I’m building your desk,” he slightly boasted.

“Really? With the tiny little wrench and all?”

“Yes. I’ve been in the Workshop. Done shifts. I’m handy!” Comet explained.

“So you did like, different things there. Some were ok?” Comet nodded. “Huh,” Gary thought to himself. “It sounds like it was prison, working in different chore areas and being punished at other times. This is so fucked up though. What the hell could Miles have done?”

“Gary?” Comet said, concerned by the worried face Gary suddenly made.

“I’m just trying … trying to figure out what Miles did,” Gary said after a pause. “I’m so happy you’re here but it would have been great if Santa had just set you up as a blind date or something. What could Miles have done?”

Comet set his arms down at his side and took several deep breaths. “I had the rings on then. Hard to think, or understand. Was scared, too. Santa…” his voice became quiet and strangled before he resumed, trying to quote from memory. “He said Miles … set up your heart to be crushed. Not broken, crushed. He said Miles endangered … some people. He said Miles killed three people.”

“WHAT?” Gary yelped. “How in the fuck could he ki–” Gary stopped mid-sentence and turned pale, a thought hitting him. “Oh my God,” he said barely above a whisper. “I wonder if Miles did something stupid and spread the pandemic? How could, how could Santa even know who was responsible for spreading a disease?”

Comet looked aside thoughtfully for a moment before answering. “The Naughty List. He’s given it.” He scrunched his face up. “Not sure if understood this right. From a goddess.”

Gary boggled. “You’re telling me that a goddess gives Santa the Naughty and Nice lists?”

“Think so. Might have it wrong.” Gary frowned, considering that point. Maybe some of Comet’s evasion wasn’t actually evasion at all. Maybe, because his mind was bound by that damn rune ring until the morning Gary cut it off, he couldn’t understand all the things that had happened to him. But still. A goddess?

“A goddess is not part of Santa’s myth,” Gary began and immediately had the thought ‘Mrs. Klaus’ pop into his head. “Then again, neither is there any legend of his reindeer being kidnapped men. Though,” he considered again. “There are other legends of kidnapped men or men with animalistic powers, and if they intersected with the ones around Santa, then it makes a wicked kind of sense. But which goddess, do you know?”

Comet shook his head. “No, but just… fate?”

“A FATE goddess?” Gary exclaimed. “Well, that would make a bit of sense. If some goddess who could predict the future and read the past was cranking out these lists, she’d certainly be in a position to see who was responsible for what! But still, to act to bring ‘divine justice’ if you want to call it that…”

Comet looked wildly uncomfortable and conflicted at this point. He was looking all around the room, everywhere but directly at Gary, and almost vibrating with discomfort. Gary opened his mouth to say something reassuring when Comet suddenly said, “Reject love. Break heart. Cause death. Good ends turned bad.” Gary pondered a moment and then cast the thought aside, smoothly slid out of his chair, and came around behind Comet to gently drew him into a back hug.

“You don’t need to say more,” he whispered as he squeezed him tightly from behind. Comet nodded furtively once. Gary held on for a couple minutes and pressed his cheek against Comet’s from behind before releasing him and sitting back down. “You ok?” Comet nodded and picked up his cooling sandwich to nibble a little. “Thank you for explaining what you could,” Gary said gratefully.

“So if Miles was cheating on me,” Gary thought to himself, “I guess that would count as heart breaking. I might have been more upset if Comet wasn’t here. It almost feels like Miles got hooked on a technicality there. But getting people killed from spreading COVID-19, especially if he was willful about it, and if they were the right people to throw some goddess-planned destiny out of whack, that makes a little more sense. There’s got to be more to it, like Miles has no family in state and I think only a little out of it, and I don’t think he’s close to them. His family might not even realize he’s gone, or swapped out for quite a while. That’s probably a requirement. Ugh, but poor Comet! Confessing like that, hinting what he did. Reject love, huh? A gay man from 1970 rejecting love? I can absolutely guess what might have gone down there. That was probably just a year after Stonewall. With that face he was probably breaking hearts just walking in rooms. If he actively rejected someone, that could have been bad, especially if he was in conflict with himself and sent mixed signals at first. It could have been messy. Well, I may never know. I guess I’ve decided to treat him like an ex-con and just think of life starting here. Provided I don’t screw things up, anyway.”

Gary snapped out of his thoughts and realized Comet still looked very down and wasn’t saying anything. Gary’s best guess was that he’d dredged up very painful memories, and since he wasn’t reaching out for more hugs, maybe he just wanted some privacy to work through them. He certainly hadn’t had too much of that in the last week other than the day immediately before.

“Well uh, I think you might want to be alone for a little bit?” Gary asked gently. Comet gulped and nodded. “Ok, well, I’ll go ahead and do my back yard cleaning. There’s been so much winter weather lately, and I don’t want to trip over any branches the next time we snowball fight. I’ll have my phone; get yours from the bedroom. You can literally just call me back in if you need or want anything. Anything.” He reached over and brushed his hand over Comet’s vein-corded forearm. “Just tell me what you need. Space, quiet, snuggles, kisses, large amounts of emergency chocolate. If you can’t say, just give me a sign, ok?” Comet squeezed his eyes shut and nodded his head vigorously. Gary let go and swiftly moved to the hallway, intent on getting his coat and boots on quickly so Comet could have some privacy. He suspected he might need to have a little cry and considering that it looked like he was fighting to hold it back, Gary thought he wanted to vent alone for at least a little while. And Gary … had to do something. He snagged a couple grocery bags from under the kitchen sink as he peeled out back, leaving Comet to have some solitude and space.

Out in the back yard Gary enjoyed the sharp cool air rushing into his lungs. Though the cold was piercing, it also felt invigorating. He tromped through the snow over to the ash tree and started hunting around it for any small branches buried in the snow, or even any twigs. After finding some he moved on to the hawthorn tree and collected what he could. He walked over to the opposite side of the yard and hunted around the mountain ash. It had so far weathered the winter storms surprisingly well, and Gary started considering breaking a branch off, when he almost tripped over something. He fished around in the snow at his feet and found one solid straight branch, thick as a finger and almost wand-like. “That’ll have to do,” he muttered to himself. He looked up directly at the bedroom window and the covering of English ivy growing up the bricks beside it. He strode directly over to it and gently took hold of a bit curling along the bricks below the window. “Hey, I’m sorry about this, but I’m really going to need your help,” he said and ripped a piece off the wall with a gentle but firm snap. He stuffed it into the second bag and walked to the corner of the yard. There was a tiny side gate there which Gary opened and slid through. He walked through the narrow space between his house and the neighbor’s chain link fence to the front yard. Once there, although it took some reaching to get past the light-covered shrubs, he pulled a couple pieces of holly out of the decorated windowbox. After he stuffed them into one of his bags he returned to the back yard where he set the bags of collected twigs aside. He began cleaning the back yard in earnest and collected all the other sticks, twigs, and branches from the various other trees. These he trimmed as needed with pruning shears, and put them into a medium-sized plastic composter he had behind the garage.

Satisfied with the yard being well tidied, he grabbed the bags of twigs and branches and went back inside. The laundry nook just inside the back door was actually the access to the utility closet which contained the furnace and water heater. As a side benefit, it got a lot of overflowing warm air from the appliances and made air drying things a snap. He hung up the flimsy bags on the small laundry rack just inside the door, hoping the warm, circulating air would dry the wood out relatively well in the next two days.

When Gary passed through the kitchen, Comet wasn’t anywhere to be seen, but the dirtied dishes and pans were all clean and sitting in the dish rack. Gary took off his winter outerwear in the entryway and backtracked into the living room. He took Miles’s phone out of a side table drawer and powered it on, then seated himself in the comfy chair beside the fireplace. He’d already had Comet remove the fingerprint lock so he was able to access the phone himself. He started going through Miles’s social media accounts, intent on figuring out exactly what family he had and what their relationship was. Almost immediately he saw posts he hadn’t seen before. It took a little while but he soon realized Miles had a filter and had excluded him from quite a few posts on the various social media platform. Santa’s spell had done a number on the posts though, every picture of Miles was blanked out with him magically removed as if he’d never been there. Gary also noticed that people’s comments on the last couple posts made right before Christmas were strangely vague, as if people were forgetting about Miles – or at least the exact details of his existence.

Gary stumbled on a particularly strange post on Instagram that initially confused him. It was several attractive men in bathing suits on a beach in Mexico. With Miles removed, the picture didn’t make sense to Gary until he realized Miles had been in the center with the men crowded around him closely. One man in particular wouldn’t have been visible in the photo at all except for Miles’s erasure. He wasn’t posing for the photo, he’d just been standing behind Miles, looking off to the side. At first, Gary didn’t recognize him, as he’d never seen him shirtless and with his hair slicked down and wet. But then Gary realized who he was. Who had traveled with Miles to Mexico in the middle of a pandemic, and gone with him to a notorious super-spreader gay circuit party.

“You motherfuckers,” Gary said stunned. “With each other!” Gary switched to the texting app and saw dozens of notifications. A quick skim back of their chat log confirmed his revelation. There were texts. There were pictures – sexy pictures. There were a lot of comments about how stupid Gary was, and how much fun it was to cuck him and run around behind his back.

Miles and Bennie had been sleeping together, and for a very long time.

“You can go to Hell, both of you,” Gary whispered, numb with shock. He laughed sickly. “Well, I guess Miles is already there.” Gary sat there processing, trying to not be pleased Miles had been dragged off by Santa. “The ninth circle of Hell is for treachery,” he muttered to himself. “But still… damn you for making me feel vengeful like this.” He was so angry he chucked the phone across the room, but with enough self control to only whip it at the couch so it didn’t break. He put his head in his hands and concentrated on just feeling numb.

Some time later Comet came back downstairs, feeling fine again. He shut the stairwell door behind him and strode forward through the hallway, only to stop at the threshold of the living room when he realized Gary was sitting in the chair head down. “Gary?” he asked, worried that he’d suffered a relapse. Instead, Gary’s head popped up and he turned to look at Comet. Comet could see his eyes were slightly bloodshot and bleary.

“I figured out what Miles did,” Gary said simply. Comet stood still, fighting down panic. Gary rose to his feet unsteadily, then stepped forward. Comet moved to meet him.

“Are you ok?” Comet asked as they came close to each other. Gary’s face had a lot of pain crossing it. Inside, it felt like two hands were holding his heart by the sides, and were trying to tear it in half.

“Just barely,” he said, half-sobbing. “But only because you’re here,” and he flung himself into Comet’s arms.

“I’ve got you!” Comet said. “I’ve got you.” He clung tightly to Gary and rubbed his back comfortingly. Gary buried his head in Comet’s chest and sobbed quietly. The world wanted to fall out from under him but … Comet was here.

Comet was here.

Comet was holding him.

It was going to be all right.

He just needed to do one thing to make everything all right.

Version 1.51 2/11/2021

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