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Day 9 - Better to Give

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A light snow was falling, barely enough to dust the deck of the Fiddler's Green . Nick sighed, staring out into the harbor. He'd been the good son and spent Christmas with his family, and now he was rewarding himself with some desperately-needed solitude.

Something caught his eye, a sudden movement in the corner of his field of vision. He spun around to face the marina just in time to see Kelly clambering up onto the deck, carrying his well-worn travel pack along with an awkwardly huge cardboard box. Nick ducked over, taking the box out of Kelly's arms. It was deceptively heavy, and Nick found himself wondering what the fuck was in it.

"Merry Christmas, O!" Kelly flung himself at Nick, who had no choice but to drop the heavy box. He wrapped his arms around Kelly's shoulders, breathing in the familiar scent of pine and earth that Kelly always brought with him. Nick had been thinking he wanted to be alone, but having Kelly here felt right.

"Same to you. Why the hell didn't you tell me you were coming, I could have picked you up at the airport. How the fuck did you even get here with that thing?" He let go of Kelly to gesture vaguely at the heavy box.

Kelly grinned and shrugged. "Wouldn't have been a surprise that way. I knew you, Nicko. Knew you'd be moping around here avoiding people. Stupid way to spend the holidays."

Nick smiled, a comforting warmth flooding his body. Sometimes it felt like Kelly knew him better than he knew himself. Nick wasn't the type to wallow, but every so often dealing with his dad exhausted him, and Kelly knew better than to let him deal with it alone.

Without waiting for further invitation, Kelly picked the box back up and barged into the cabin. Nick followed him, chuckling at the way Kelly always made himself at home no matter where he was. Kelly staked a claim on one of the armchairs in the salon, and Nick headed up into the galley to poke around. He frowned, turning to Kelly.

"I wasn't expecting company, dinner's nothing fancy. Roast chicken and potatoes... Or we could go out if you want?"

Kelly waved a dismissive hand. "Chicken sounds great. Too bad I didn't bring a pie this time." They both chuckled, remembering the potentially disastrous attempt to get out to Nantucket a few years back.

For a while they sat quietly, chatting and catching up, but eventually Nick's curiosity got the better of him. He pointed at the box and raised an eyebrow in Kelly's direction.

"Are you going to tell me what's in there, or do I need to figure it out for myself?"

A wide, guileless grin crossed Kelly's face. "It's your Christmas present. I had to unwrap it at the airport, and didn't have time to re-wrap it. Apparently I look like a security threat. Can you believe that?! Me!?"

He sounded indignant, but Nick just snorted out a laugh. If Kelly were determined enough, he could probably have taken over a passenger jet using a toothpick and an airsickness bag. But the only situation Nick could imagine that happening in was if Kelly had taken it upon himself to take the damned thing back from hijackers.

Curiosity somewhat sated, Nick headed back into the galley to finish preparing dinner. The box could wait. Besides, he didn't have a gift for Kelly yet, he'd thought he had time to find one but Kelly had gone and showed up unexpectedly.

Nick carried two plates and a bottle of wine out into the salon and the two of them ate and drank in the comfortable silence of old friends.  Nick cleared the plates as they finished, leaving the wine bottle and glasses on the table.

"Okay, I'm tired of waiting." Kelly said, as soon as he'd emptied his glass. "Open your box!"

Nick frowned slightly. "I don't have anything for you yet..."

Kelly just flapped a dismissive hand in the air. "I didn't drag this box halfway across the damned country just to have it sit around."

Nick dropped to the floor, sitting next to the box. It would be easier than hauling the damned thing up onto the coffee table. He looked up at Kelly, who just nodded. Carefully, slowly, Nick undid the packing tape, still not sure what he was expecting.

The box was filled with books. Old, heavy books. One after another, Nick pulled them out and spread them out in front of him. They were all history books, non-fiction accounts of everything from the Revolutionary War to the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. They were all in impeccable condition, and there were a few books that looked like contemporary accounts, first editions that had to have been incredibly valuable.

Nick turned to Kelly, his eyes wide. He was itching to start reading them right then and there, spread out on the floor of the salon, but he refrained.

Kelly's eyes were sparkling with amusement, a gentle smile playing across his lips. "Like 'em?"

Running one hand reverently down the spine of one of the older-looking books, Nick just nodded. "How did you even get your hands on all of these?"

Kelly ran a hand through his hair, trying to look nonchalant, but Nick could tell he was bursting with happiness. Something about Kelly's enthusiasm settled deep inside of Nick's chest, warming him to his fingertips. Kelly grinned again.

"One of the kids at the camp, he lives with his grandmother when he's not with us. She needed help moving some stuff. That was one of the boxes to get rid of. I tried to pay her for it, but..." He shrugged again, looking both amused and sheepish. Nick could see the exchange in his head, Kelly being his usual helpful, affable self and charming some poor little old lady. He laughed, and Kelly glared playfully at him.

"She told me to recycle them or drop them off at a used book-store or something, but I figured... You don't mind that they're used, do you?"

Nick stood, reaching around the back of Kelly's shoulders, hugging him over the back of the chair.

"They're perfect, Kels. I just wish I had something for you."

Kelly twisted slightly in the seat, and the shift in position caused their cheeks to brush together. Nick swallowed, his heart pounding in his chest, and pulled back slightly. Kelly didn't seem to have noticed, though. He just smiled at Nick again, wide and earnest.

"I don't need anything, Lucky. I've got good food, and good company. It's more than enough." He reached over and patted Nick on the hip. "Unless you're kicking me out?"

Nick smirked and rolled his eyes. "Only if you start snoring. And then I'll just toss you into one of the other cabins."

"Fair enough. Merry Christmas, Nick."