Jack’s got it all planned out. Christmas morning, sat at the foot of his parent’s overindulgent Christmas tree, with literal logs crackling on the fire in the hearth, Macy, the seven-year-old Bassett Hound that his Mom insisted on buying when his younger brother Ollie went off to college, sulking because she, too, is waiting to open her presents, and, probably, his heart pounding so hard, that it’ll take him a couple of swallows before he can get his words out: that’s when he’ll do it. Jack’s stomach gives an uncomfortable clench that’s part anticipation, part excitement, and part sheer terror.
Because it’s the right time to do it, isn’t it? The right time to express just how very much he loves Alex, and how he intends to give him that love for the rest of his life. In front of a small audience, already in the middle of the happy season, where there’s so much joy and merriment around, a proposal should be the literal frosting on the cake; complete with sprigs of holly, miniature Christmas trees, and, if he’s got anything to do with it, wedding rings. Jack sighs to himself, and pleads that things will go to plan.
He’s not bought the rings yet, though, hoping they choose them together in the actual part of this that is a Christmas gift to Alex. Because a proposal for Christmas, while sentimental, doesn’t involve a lot of unwrapping, and the weekend away he’s booked for them in the New Year, where they can indulge in each other, as well as hit all the jewelers possible, is something he can giftwrap; sort of. An envelope, containing a schmoopy, handwritten invitation, on thick cream paper with a gilded edge. He’d practiced for hours, gone through three pen nibs before getting it right.
Will Alex feel pressured by such a public proposal, Jack panics out of nowhere. It’s only his family, who already love Alex as one of their own, have spent two of the past three Christmases in his company, and have been not-so-subtly nudging at Jack to propose for months. But still, if it’s in front of an audience, will he feel like he has to say yes, even if he doesn’t want to? The thought clenches around Jack’s heart, makes him pause in the middle of Christmas shopping and have to take a really, really long breath to calm himself.
They’ve been together more than five years now, already live together, and are so in love, that Jack sometimes wakes in the early hours of the morning just to stare at Alex as he sleeps, barely able to believe his own luck. He wants Alex forever, and he’s pretty sure Alex wants him like that too; but does he want that, with a symbol of commitment that ties him to him for that forever? The very idea that he might not makes Jack’s heart pound, sends him seeking comfort in festive cafe corners, with gingerbread lattes and a holly-adorned cupcake.
But Alex does love him, Jack thinks to himself a few hours later, panting breath back into his lungs as Alex does the same beside him. They turn as one, rolling together, fingers tangled between them and sated smiles across their faces, and Alex tells him how much he loves him. Mumbles it against his forehead as he kisses him, then behind his ear as he eventually wraps himself around Jack as they prepare for sleep. Jack allows himself to settle in Alex’s arms, and thinks of the work Christmas party they’ll attend tomorrow evening, wondering what Alex will wear.
They are so very, very drunk. Alex keeps trying to kiss him, but they keep missing for how much they’re giggling, trying and failing to keep each other upright as they fall out of their taxi, then wave at the bemused-looking taxi driver as he pulls away, calling a loud bah humbug after him as he goes.
“Look what I’ve got,” Alex whispers at him—loudly, pulling mistletoe from his pocket and holding it somewhere almost above their heads.
“It was a good party,” Jack declares as he kisses him, hearing Alex’s answer only as a hum against his own lips.
Three days later, and they’re Christmas shopping together, hand in hand walking down decorated streets, peering into windows at twinkling lights, and buoyed by the bags of intended gifts already in their hands ready to be wrapped, as well as the general festive mood. “I can’t wait to spend Christmas with you,” Alex tells him softly, with a nudge against his arm and a sweet smile lighting his face.
I can’t wait to spend forever with you, Jack thinks to himself, heart soaring, but answers only with a kiss and a nod. Leading him to a stall for mulled cider.
They Skype Alex’s parents, who are setting off for a Christmas-themed cruise in the morning, having decided to have this one just for themselves. Alex’s parents adore Jack; it’s clear in the way they smile at him through the screen, remind him openly without hesitation how proud they are that he loves their son, and demand they both come to see them once they’ve got back home.
“I don’t know what they bought you, but the parcel’s huge,” Alex tells him, smiling when the call is ended, and pressing a kiss to Jack’s temple as he closes the laptop lid.
Carol singers stand outside the restaurant they’re meeting friends in, dressed as elves, Santas, even a couple of stars. A woman to the front holds a baby, wrapped up looking very much like a cherub; Alex reaches out to play with their foot, smiles at their delighted squeals in response, as a wistful look takes over his eyes.
One day, that’ll be them, Jack thinks to himself with his heart skipping in excitement. They’ve talked about it, often, which should be another reason for him not to be scared his proposal won’t be accepted. Chides himself for thinking too hard.
“Anna’s got a new boyfriend,” Alex announces as he walks through the door of their apartment, throwing himself down on the couch next to Jack and leaning in for a kiss.
“Has she now,” Jack replies drily, wondering if Alex’s already planned his brotherly shovel talk.
“They’re spending Christmas together,” Alex adds, sounding thoroughly unimpressed by the idea.
“Looks normal, I guess,” Alex sighs, pulling out his cell so he can show Jack the picture she must have sent him earlier, “not getting any serial killer vibes,”
“That’s good,” Jack agrees, smiling, even harder when Alex huffs into his neck.
In his panic over his proposal, Jack thinks he might have overcompensated with presents, intending to shower Alex with mounds of gifts even if the whole proposing thing doesn’t work out. Which it will, he tells himself for the hundredth time, it will. Jack looks at those mounds of presents now labeled and wrapped, and wonders how he’s supposed to hide them all from Alex’s curious eyes.
Alex will love that they’re all differently wrapped, and will, without a doubt, pick up each in turn, press them to his ear, shake, trying to work out what’s inside. Jack can’t wait.