Friday, December 14, 2012

Christmas Coda 10


Today is a very special holiday treat. LB Gregg, Harper Fox and ZA Maxfield are all writing Christmas codas for their characters from the His for the Holidays anthology. Just follow the links to see what everyone is up to one year later.

 

 

 

Noel and Robert from ICECAPADE

 

 

 

Coffee.

Noel’s nose twitched. He pried open his eyes, tried to focus.

Robert stood beside the bed cradling a yellow mug of coffee in his big hands.

“What day?” Noel croaked.

“Tuesday. Merry Christmas,” Robert replied. “How do you feel?”

Noel sat up very cautiously, prepared for that dismaying, sickening swoop of giddiness that had defined the last feverish week.

Thank God. Thank you Baby Jesus. And Father Christmas and Grandfather Frost and the Snow Maiden and anyone else who might have had a hand in this Christmas morning miracle. He was okay again. The vertigo had passed. He could sit up without falling over. He could smile reassuringly at Robbie and reach for his coffee without spilling a drop.

“Happy Anniversary,” he said in a flu-raspy voice. He cleared his throat, took a mouthful of coffee.

Robert sat down on the edge of the bed. He wore his wool plaid bathrobe and he was already shaved, his dark hair neatly combed despite the fact that it was six o’clock in the morning. Noel liked to tease him about sleeping in a suit and tie, but it wasn’t quite that bad. Although maybe it had been back when Robert was Special Agent Cuffe.

“I thought our anniversary was New Year’s Eve?”

Noel shook his head. Barely a twinge of dizziness. He really was on the mend. He smiled widely at Robert. “No. Last Christmas Eve was when we really got together.” He took another sip of his coffee, tasting the bite of whisky and the sweetness of Bailey’s. Deja vu. A year to the day.

Robert watched him and observed, “True.” He added, "You look a lot better. You certainly sound a hell of a lot better."

Noel made a noncommittal noise and hid his face in the oversized mug. Flu for the holidays was bad enough, but he’d developed an inner ear infection that had literally knocked him on his ass. He hadn’t been able to sit up without help or take three steps without hanging onto Robert for support. It had been up to Robert to take care of everything, including running the stables. Something he knew nothing about and cared for even less. Noel had been as helpless as a baby perched precariously on a spinning ball, and that feeling of powerlessness had culminated yesterday afternoon in something that had probably looked all too much to Robert like a bout of hysterics. Robert had dealt with the tears -- which had been embarrassingly more like sobs -- as coolly as he'd dealt with everything else that week. He'd held Noel, told him he was okay, he was going to be fine, that it was just the fever making him feel like he’d reached the end of his rope.

Noel wouldn't have blamed Robert for packing his bags and hightailing it after that. But no. Here he was, shaved and combed and calm as ever.

The ironic thing was the flood of tears had seemed to open Noel's sinuses or maybe the antibiotics were finally working their magic. Whatever it was, by last night he’d been able to turn over in bed without feeling that the bed was rolling over on him. And today…Noel felt almost back to normal.

 But poor Robbie. What a shitty holiday season for him. Noel risked a look.

Robert, as grave as ever, said, “Want to see what Santa brought you?”

Noel stepped into his slippers. Robert brought his robe and Noel shrugged into it. He didn’t need help to walk anymore, but he was still surprised and grateful for the warm hug that went with the robe. He hugged Robert back so fiercely he nearly knocked him off balance.

Noel muttered, “Sorry for this. I didn’t even have a chance to pick up your Christmas present.”

“I don’t care about presents.”

“I do.”

“I know you do.” Robert sounded amused. “Don’t worry. Someone obviously thought you were a good boy this year.”

No lie. There was a landslide of gaily wrapped parcels beneath the ten foot tall silver spruce tree dominating the front parlor. The fireplace was ablaze and crackling. A tray with more coffee and pastries sat on the table before the sofa. Noel could smell the wonderful aroma of roasting turkey from the kitchen.

“You did all this?” Noel sat down heavily on the sofa. He couldn’t believe it. He couldn’t have done a nicer job of preparation himself. It was all the more touching because he knew Robert didn’t give a damn about the trappings of Christmas.

Robert had done all of this for Noel.

Noel swallowed hard.

“You okay?” Robert frowned. "Maybe you shouldn't be up yet."

Noel shook his head. Found a napkin on the breakfast tray and gave his nose a good hard blow. 

“You want some more coffee?”

Noel shook his head. “I got you a pony,” he said.

“Finally.”

“Really.”

“I know. The owner of White Rock Farm called when you didn’t show up to pick up the horse.”

Noel met Robert's dark eyes. “You know, I thought last year was the best Christmas of my life, but this year is better.”

Robert made a sound that was somewhere between a snort and a splutter. “Maybe you are still feverish.”

Noel laughed too. “I think so.” But then honesty compelled him to say, “No. I know it sounds…it’s just…I’ve never had anyone. To depend on. Like this.”

“Yeah.” Robert poured himself a cup of coffee. “I know.”

“I never wanted to depend on anyone.”

“I know. Safer that way.”

That wasn’t how Robert Cuffe had grown up, though. He was the product of a loving family and a responsible job. He had lost both those things, but somehow losing them hadn’t changed him from the kind of person you could rely on, count on, lean on.

Noel had loved Robert Cuffe from practically the first time they’d met, but he wondered if he had ever really truly and completely understood him -- or even trusted him -- until last night.

He looked at the avalanche of presents beneath the tree and said, “I wish I had something to give you right now.”

Robert answered sounding genuinely amused. “You do. You have. You gave me the last year and you gave me today and you’re giving me all the days and nights ahead. You don’t really think a pair of cufflinks or even a new car would make me any happier than I am right now, do you?”

“For richer for poorer, in sickness and in health?”

“Well? That’s the truth, isn’t it?”

“Yes. It is for me.”

“It is for me too.”

A light went on in Noel’s brain. “Robbie,” he said slowly. “How do you feel about diamonds?”

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

  

50 comments:

  1. It's so good to be the first to say "Awwww"!
    Loved it.
    Roby

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey! We had a tie for AWWW. :-D This is turning into a dead heat!

      Delete
    2. It's not a tie.
      It was always me but something went wrong in the first post...
      I can't log with LJ, I hate to be anonymous.
      Roby

      Delete
    3. I don't know what the problem is with Blogger, but a lot of people have trouble logging in. Me too for that matter!

      So don't worry about it. You're not
      alone!

      Delete
    4. Me too, both for the ''Awww!'' and the troubles logging in in other ways than anonymous...

      Ciao

      Antonella *waves at Roby*

      Delete
  2. Oh, my. I always liked these two, especially Noel. He is such an engaging combination of vulnerable and slick. I loved this coda. And hey, who knows? Now that same-sex marriage is legal in New York, maybe diamonds CAN play some legitimate role in their future! (Or, er, will it always be too soon for that joke! ;-))

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Clearly Noel's brain is still clouded if he's talking diamonds to Robert!

      Delete
  3. You had me crying in the car while listening to Icecapade and now I'm sniveling in front of my laptop. Thank you and thank God for Kleenex.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aww. (Now I'm doing it!) Thank you, Sylvia.

      Delete
  4. I was really hoping for a coda for Noel and Robert - was so excited to see this today! Thank you!! This was such a cute one (・∀・) Really happy to see these guys are doing so well! Love the picture of the llama too by the way ;)

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  5. Loved it, although I nearly covered the keyboard in tea when I read the line about diamonds :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I think Noel should be very careful about mentioning diamonds in front of Robert! :-D

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    2. By the way, thanks for providing that last picture next to the story, or some of us not-so-good-at-mornings people might have been confused.

      And this might be the best one yet! (Is there a way to keep heaping praise on these things without sounding sycophantic?)

      Delete
    3. True! That could have been confusing without the picture. ;-)

      Hey, they're gifties. I WANT them to be duly appreciated. You can't go wrong with that.

      Delete
  6. AWWW. How sweet and caring Robert is. Noel is so lucky. This is so much more than what I expected from this couple after the last page of Icecapade. Thanks so much for making me envy them, Josh! ;D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm guessing they've butted heads more than a couple of times, but these two really want it to work, and that's half the battle.

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  7. This was so freakin sweet! There is just something so sexy about a man taking care of his sick mate. I love Robert and Noel. They are probably my second favorites. Very nicely done. Thank you! Boy you sure do know how to throw a Christmas party don't you? Thanks for that too! You rock!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. :-D

      My pleasure! I sure do hope we eventually get to your FIRST favorites. I wonder who they might be....

      Delete
    2. I bet you can't guess! I make such a secret of it...NOT! LOL

      Delete
  8. What to say that hasn't already been said. Lovely.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Josh, Noel and Robert are such a loving couple. So delightful to see them again this Christmas. When I opened the story I had to first pause and admire the photo at the window. Just beautiful and peaceful. Thank you again for writing another charming coda.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Susan.

      Oh -- I love that photo too!

      Delete
  10. Loved the stories in His for the Holidays so glad to read these little updates, thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so glad. And LB, ZAM, and Harper did such a great job with their stories too, didn't they? So much fun to revisit this anthology.

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  11. I just finished listening His for the Holidays audiobook this morning, so the timing for Noel's and Robert's coda couldn't be more perfect! :) Thank you!

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  12. Josh, thanks for letting us share Christmas with Noel and Robbie...I loved Icecapade. P.S. Lloved the photo of the Llama. *wink*

    ReplyDelete
  13. Aw, how adorable! Is it wrong of me to hope he steals the ring?

    ZAM

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  14. (sigh) So wonderful, even if the ring is hot!

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  15. Sooo sweet!

    I will always have a special warm fuzzy place in my heart for these guys--Icecapade was the first story I read by you. :)

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  16. I've never read Icecapade! How did I miss this? I'll have to rectify this asap.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What?! Someone failed to read one of my books? I feel faint! Someone get me the smelling salts! :-P

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    2. It was an accidental oversight I swear! :) Somehow I got Lone Star and Icecapade confused. The sad part is I missed out on this story until now. The great part is I have a new Josh Lanyon to read. \O/

      Delete
  17. Really nice! Everybody else has already said everything...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh but it sounds different coming from YOU. :-)

      Delete
  18. OH MY!
    So cuuute!
    I really love Noel and Robbie. Why is it that I love all your christmas time story couples?
    "reached the end of his rope" Now that is a phrase to someone of Noel's old profession :)
    I loved this.

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  19. I think that's my favorite so far :) Love it.

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  20. Diamonds are a boy's best friends...

    I loved Robert taking care of Noel and doing Christmas preparations for him even though he doesn’t give a damn about Christmas.

    Thank you for writing!

    Ciao

    Antonella

    ReplyDelete
  21. Lovely story, but the diamond in the picture would be grounds for divorce...mingy little thing! Never accept a diamond that isn't big enough to break a few teeth if you chuck it back at him...it's probably no suprise that I've always bought my own!

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  22. I'm torn between awww-ing and laughing! Thank you so much for this Christmas coda and for convincing LB Gregg, Harper Fox and ZAM to do their own Christmas codas! :D

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