When John was younger, when the kids filled every nook and cranny of the farmhouse with noise and toys and badly-kept Christmas secrets, he thought he’d miss it all someday. On the days when stray legos unerringly found their way beneath his bare feet, when “I’m not touching you” started hair-pulling fights, when there were tears about who got to put the star at the top of the tree, he’d remind himself that those years didn’t last forever, and one day it’d just be him and Rodney on Christmas morning, and his heart would ache at the very idea.
Jesus Christ, he thought as he woke up on Christmas Day, did he ever have it wrong.
What he hadn’t anticipated was that there was comfort in waking up beside Rodney (presently snoring like a freight train beside him), or that many of the memories that came to mind were not of present-opening bedlam at 6am but of the time they had before the kids, when it was just them and a pot of coffee. John smiled to himself, thinking of how green they’d been back in the beginning, how they’d fumbled their way into something strong enough to last a lifetime, how they’d fought about gears and crank shafts on the kitchen table and electrical guts spread all over the living room floor. How they’d welcomed a kid into that mess, with all of their hang ups ready to trip them, and had made a family that worked out of sheer bloody-minded grace.
“Stop thinking so loudly,” groaned Rodney. He wriggled down further under the covers. “Shouty McThinkerson.”
John smiled and pressed up against Rodney’s back. “Happy Christmas,” he murmured against the top of Rodney’s spine, and Rodney sighed and said, “Yes, yes, Happy Christmas, merry, merry.” But he reached back and grabbed John’s hand, wrapped’s John’s arm around him and relaxed back into John’s touch.
“There are presents,” John suggested.
“Shush now,” Rodney mumbled.
“There can be coffee,” John said.
“Listening,” Rodney offered.
“Kids are coming at 11,” John threw in.
Rodney sighed, seemingly from the very core of his being. “I guess I do like the kids.”
John pecked a kiss to the back of Rodney’s neck, rolled away and got out the other side of the bed. “Come on,” he chided, pulling on flannel pajama pants and searching for a t-shirt that didn’t smell too bad.
Rodney swung his legs out of bed and sat at the very edge of the mattress. “If you go make coffee I will love you forever.”
John rounded the foot of the bed. “You mean you don’t already? Geez, Rodney . . .”
Rodney smirked, a crooked little smile. “Hey,” he said.
John paused in the doorway.
“You’re pretty hot for an old man.”
John couldn’t help but smile as if he were forty again, with the energy of someone much younger. “Get your ass out of bed,” he said and headed for the stairs, hearing “I guess I love you, too!” before the creak of the third tread could drown it out.