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A Different Kind of Christmas Carol

by Zustara Orur

A story (C) 2002/2003 by ZUSTARA ORUR. Contact address: 1.2 May not be redistributed, commercial use prohibited!

Please see chapter 1 for standard disclaimer blurb and the dedication and acknowledgements section.


I thought of Lyra and Pantalaimon, her daemon, as we walked that last stretch to my parents' house. They were a unity, one connected to the other on a fundamental level. They couldn't stray very far apart or it would start to hurt. That's how I felt about Jeff too. I felt, it was like I was his daemon... He was my friend, and my lover, and my beloved also. I let him squeeze me in tight to his side, wearing a small and contented smile on my lips. Jeff was chatting with me about how nice it was to hold me and walk with me, and the crisp winter morning and how nice these neighborhoods were and such. I answered with a 'hmm' or such every now and then, which was enough for him. I just loved listening to his voice, enjoying his closeness and the arm he had around me, and his strong frame that I could feel right next to me.

I'd warned my sister of course. The Dark Materials trilogy weren't children's books, or at least no children's books I'd like to have read when I was a kid! It was barely I managed it at the tender young age of fifteen when I'd got them on my birthday! Phil Pullman isn't a very nice man I thought even though he'd written three great books, there was war and loss and separation, and even death and maiming in that fantastic tale... No, not children's books at all. Thus, I'd warned my sister, but Jo just told me not to be such a sissy crybaby. They were just books after all she said (she's such a pragmatist, just like mom - nothing seems to unsettle her!). Except they aren't, not to me. They felt real when I read them! They still do! I cried so many tears for Will and Lyra, and Pantalaimon and for Roger especially, and Baruch and Balthamos too of course. To me, the books are real, as real as you and me, and I cried for all of them as I read about them. I did it quietly of course, because I didn't want to wake my brother and make him worried. I read the books when we were both in bed, me reading as he slept just on the other side of the fairly small room, him sleeping soundly and me still awake. Some of my tears couldn't help falling down on the pages of the book and they made wrinkly spots on the paper and as my sister were reading those same pages, she used to nudge me and say she'd noticed I'd been upset again in a teasing voice, and then she'd hug me warmly to show it was okay, and I would hug her back of course because I love my pragmatist of a sister. Once, she even said she thought it was CUTE I cry so much! She said she thought it was wonderful I was so close to my emotions, that I didn't repress them like most guys do... I asked her of course why she did not cry (it was years literally since I'd last seen her do it) and then she stuck out her tongue at me!

That morning however I wasn't upset. It was alright, of course. Everything was, just like Will had met his daemon, I had met mine in a way, and he was a strong, powerful one...!

"I just finished with your books", Jo told me as if on cue, the very first thing after we'd entered the door. She didn't even say hello. Jo has never been a fan of doing stuff just because it's expected of her, she knows I know she thinks it's nice that I'm home again, why waste breath on stating the obvious? Besides, she was in a slightly precarious situation herself, and didn't want to attract any attention to herself right then. You see, she had come out of the kitchen carrying a small plate loaded down with cookies and gingerbread men... She tried to be casual, but something in her eyes told me she wanted me to keep quiet about it because our parents don't like it when we snack in between meals, especially not on the Christmas yummies since they're in limited supply and are supposed to last all until new-year. I thought, if I helped her smuggle her loot to her room without mom and dad noticing, she'd be indebted to me and I could use that to my advantage later! We got our clothes off (not ALL of them, silly! Just our winter clothes!), and then we started talking about the books. I took Jo back to the kitchen because I'd hatched a different plan than her own. She was anxious to get to her room and eat her newly-stolen cookies, but I thought why should she be the only one to enjoy them? Thus, I gave her a push and she was forced to go along with it. If the 'rents came in from the living room where they were watching that old classic movie I could hear coming from the TV they wouldn't get upset because they saw Jeff was there, and me and Jo were merely being good hosts by offering him something to chew on.

I can be smart sometimes!

"Timmy, is that you?", mom asked from the couch out in the living room.

"Yes, we're back!", I returned in a strong voice to signal it wasn't necessary for them to come and say hello. I didn't want another two people helping themselves to 'our' cookies (and they can both be total cookie monsters too at times!). Yes, sometimes I really can be smart!

"Hello Jeffrey!", they both called out in unison, and us kids smiled amongst ourselves.

"Hi Marie! Hi David!", Jeff returned. Then he turned to me and asked quietly, "why does your dad call your mom 'Alanis' sometimes, if it's not her name?"

Both me and Jo giggled! "It's because she just loves Alanis Morrisette so much, that's why! Whenever she's home alone she puts on a CD and dances to the music and sings along and everything, and sometimes one of us walks in on her, so that's why." We giggled more, Jeff also, as we all pictured my slightly plump mom lost in the music like that! "So now you know...", I finished and then made Jo blush when I kissed my handsome boyfriend right in front of her! "Anyway", I added, "Why do you call my mom 'mom'? Aren't you supposed to be like, British and stuff?"

Jeff seemed so amused by this it made all of us laugh! "Why, silly, you got moms in America. That's just the way it is. I couldn't call your mom 'mum', that would be just plain wrong!"

He got another kiss for that explanation...! "So your mom is 'mum' then?", I cooed softly to him, and he squeezed me in tight.

"No, I call her 'Mother'." I laughed again, even though he said it in such a serious voice. "We're not as informal as your family is", he then added. I understood anyway.

"Anyway, I lust love it when you say 'mom', Jeffrey!" I giggled and blushed a little. "You sound so cute, because you can't quite fit the word into your mouth!" Jeff gave me a mock frown, then smiled too and blushed a little just like me. We kissed again, and then Jo of all people said both of us looked really cute! She looked at us with this dreamy expression, and I knew what she was thinking. "Okay Jo!", I told her sharply. "He's mine! You can't have him!" I meant it as a joke, and she knew that. I just couldn't ask outright what she REALLY was thinking of, it was too personal.

She looked at me and was just about to giggle when she blushed instead! "I know he's unavailable, silly!", she replied. "I was thinking of this guy in English lit class..."

"Joey McFarlane?", I said with a big grin and her face went all white!

"Oh my god... How do you know?"

I winked at her. "Well, I'm not the ONLY one who's been talking a lot about a boy in school..." She grinned foolishly at me and made me promise not to tell anyone! Jeff promised too. Then I said I thought Joseph and Jolene would make a really great couple and she blushed a little again and whacked me on a shoulder, reminding me I had PROMISED not to tell anyone! I knew what she was thinking though, I saw so much of my own behavior mirrored in her now that I really thought of it, but of course she was not nearly as extreme. Maybe because she KNEW she had a crush on her boy while I had not...

The topic then got steered back to the Dark Materials books somehow, and Jo revealed she thought the author must have been inspired by Nintendo when he thought up the story. I told her she was nuts of course, but she was adamant! Once she's convinced of something, it's very difficult to make her change her mind (for better and for worse), she's even more determined than Kirsty. Her evidence to support her theory? Pokemon!

"LISTEN to me, alright?", she told me sharply when I couldn't stop laughing. "They both start with 'P', and end with 'mon'. And they're animals, right? You carry them around and nurture them and they change shape too. See? It's the same thing!"

"Pan is NOT a Pokemon, okay?!", I told her firmly, but now that I had started thinking about it, I thought, maybe she was right? After all, it did make sense in a way! I felt a little confused, and both Jeff and Jo smiled at me and patted me softly in an effort to comfort me. It made me smile...! Jo then said she wouldn't mind seeing us kiss again, so me and Jeff... Well, we kinda made out for a bit until Russ came into the kitchen too, and then we used him as an excuse to have a few more cookies each!

It was so funny when Keith came to visit a little later in the day. Like always, he showed up around 11:30, because he knows we have lunch at about noon-time, and he gets nothing at his house during the day unless he makes it himself. It sort of goes without saying, Keith's no good to have around in a kitchen, the only kind of food he knows how to prepare is cereal and milk! I was sitting down on my bed when I heard the boy ring the doorbell, Russ was on the floor and Jeff out in the kitchen incidentally, talking to my mom again.

Keith came into the room and as soon as he saw me he smiled and said hello. I like him, he's a really nice kid, not bratty and annoying like many pre-teens can be (oh yes, I am the epitome of maturity myself of course...). He was dressed in his usual gear, T-shirt with short sleeves (prison-striped in red and white that day) and a pair of VERY dark blue jeans that hung really low on his hips, so that his underwear more than peeked through. The wide, white elastic waistband sat tight around his slim boy body, his blonde, slightly curly hair hung kinda semi-long and tousled around his head. Keith actually reminded me a bit of a young hobbit. He's always had that hair, even before the Lord of the Ring movies came out, except, he's hay blonde of course (right in between my pale platinum and Jeff's golden), and all hobbits have brown hair. It still LOOKED really hobbity though, and the boy had an impish face that just loved to smile which made it even more obvious, but neither him nor my brother had ever made the connection. It was my own private in-joke. Keith also wore small, round steel-rimmed glasses, he could barely see without them so sometimes me and Russ amused ourselves with nicking them and letting him stumble around trying to get them back! All in good fun of course, it's not as if we wanted to torture the guy because he's shortsighted! Nothing wrong with having to wear glasses. My sister Jo wears contact lenses, and so does mom for that matter and she'd grab us by the ear and give us a yelling if we were ever to be even slightly mean to Keith! (We never were of course, how could you be mean to a friend?!)

The small blonde hobbit sat down next to my brother and put down the black backpack (of the kind with just one broad strap that goes up on a shoulder, diagonally across the chest and in under the opposite arm) with the game console and the other stuff in front of him and unzipped it. Both boys started to unpack it eagerly.

"You remembered to bring all four controllers?", Russ asked.

"Sure, man!"

Russ smiled enthusiastically. "Great!" My brother was already thinking of all the fun we'd have once we started playing...!

The two kids got the system hooked up real quick (having done it a number of times before). It was my TV, I'd bought and paid for it with my own money, but both me and Russ shared it. Keith then showed what he'd brought. Turok was one title we'd all played before - Jeff being the exception of course - and I was usually replaced by Kirsty who was always eager to play games where killing and butchering were involved; I think that girl's weird, but don't tell her I said that. She'd kick my lily-white butt! He had Smash Bros and Mario Party 4 of course, some football game which I'd never played before, and last but not least (and he presented it triumphantly to us with a biiig smile on his cute face): Metroid Prime.

"You got it!", my brother called out excitedly and made a grab for the box. Keith snatched it away with a teasing grin.

"I'll show it to you! Keep your pants on okay?!" Knowing my brother, that was exactly what he DIDN'T want! As if he could read my mind, right then he looked at me and I winked an eye at him and he quickly cast down his gaze, a little embarrassed.

"Just put on Mario Party, okay?", I said to save my brother some face. "You guys can check out Metroid later."

Keith giggled. "Okay! I got this GREAT save file on my memory card too, just before a boss you know? I'll show you when I kick his ass!"

"You've been playing it the whole holiday?", Russ asked in an envious voice as the shiny Mario Party disc was popped into the console and the power was turned on.

"Yeah, I'm like halfway through already. I sat up half the night yesterday so I was SO TIRED in the morning... Dad almost couldn't get me up at all, but then he pulled away all the covers and my pillows too so I had to get up."

The kids laughed and joked, and we started a game just to get going already. Jeff came in after a little while, according to plan, and was introduced to the hobbit. I thought Keith smiled extra-wide when saying hello to Jeff, I guess the little hobbit thought he was really good-looking also! Jeff didn't know much about the plan (I'd merely asked him to wait in the kitchen for a while and he'd happily obliged without much question as to why), but Russ was fully in on it. He and I had worked it out pretty much down to a T. My brother had placed himself to the far right, Keith sat to my brother's left, then there was me, and I had Jeff on my left side.

Jeff did pretty darn awful at anything and everything we tried, he didn't seem to have ever touched a console joypad before in his life despite owning a PS2, but still seemed to have a good time. We soon took a step back however and let the younger kids do their thing, and then there was a pause in the action for lunch. Keith was starved as always when he's over, and it was awfully tight at the dinner table with so many people! Fortunately, Kirsty, Russ and Keith are all rather small, so they could be packed together tight, though they did jostle their elbows and complain and giggle quite a lot, though all in good-natured fun of course.

Mom asked what Jeff thought about the school and old Mrs. O'Conelly whom mom had had in math as a young girl. Jeff had made us laugh until tears rolled down our faces by saying (after searching long and hard for something nice to say), that she was a very...handsome...woman. We then had this lengthy discussion on whether it is an insult or not calling a woman handsome, and finally most of us concluded it was. A grave one even. Dad disagreed, mostly just to tease us all.

After the meal, Metroid Prime went into the cube and Keith started to show off all his fancy gear that he had collected, bombs and missiles and other nifty gadgets. As he played the game, I placed my hand on Jeff's thigh, caressing him a little. I guess Keith saw the movement out of the corner of his eye, because he looked over at us a couple times and every time I caught him doing it, I asked a question about some aspect of the game. Not because I was particularly interested about it, but so he'd be forced to look more at what I was doing to Jeff as he explained.

After some more playing, Russ got up from the floor and spoke. "I'm thirsty", he stated. "Do you guys want something to drink as well?" That was also part of the script.

"Yeah, sure", Keith agreed. "You got any cherry Coke, man?"

Russ grinned. "Of course!" Keith's the only guy in the universe I know of who LOVES cherry Coke above all else. I mean, if he stopped buying the stuff they would have to stop making it because there wouldn't be any profit in it anymore! My brother bounded off towards the kitchen (closing the door to our room again behind himself.

I got Jeff to get up on my bed with me, and I sat down real close to him. "You can go on, it's okay", I said to Keith and waved my hand for him to keep on playing. "We'll watch you."

"Uh... Okay", he returned quietly, then quickly decided to look at the TV screen instead. I put my arm around Jeff's waist. He's so tall compared to me so it's not easy for me to get it over his shoulders. I saw Keith's eyes dart over in our direction real quick, but he didn't let his gaze linger, nor did he say anything. I knew my brother would be gone for a while so I didn't hurry things along. Soon Jeff had decided it was okay for us to be close even without me saying so, so his arm came creeping around my shoulders. When it did, I noticed Keith's eyes darting off in our direction again, his head turning just slightly to give him a better view. When I saw that, I leaned up towards Jeff's face and he sensed what I wanted and we kissed. Keith had already started to turn back, but when he saw what we were doing he kind of jerked. He turned his head out of surprise, then immediately looked back at the TV screen and held his head fixed at it rigidly (perhaps in an attempt not to invade our privacy, but probably more because he didn't want us to know he'd seen what we were doing).

I gave Jeff a long, nice kiss and then withdrew myself. "Sorry Keith...", I said (not feeling particularly sorry!). "I hope you don't mind?"

He looked quickly at us, a sort of dazed, confused yet exhilarated look on his face. He flushed slightly red of embarrassment. "Uh... Um, no it's okay...", he mumbled, finding it difficult to look at either of us directly.

I grinned back. "Good. Just don't mind us okay? Continue with whatever you're doing." We returned to what WE were doing, and without any further ado! We hadn't kissed for HOURS, and we were both getting rather starved! I have to give Keith some credit, he really TRIED to play! It wasn't easy though, he kept peeking at us I know it. I didn't exactly TRY to look at what he was doing, but Jeff moved, and moved me as well to give himself better access so he wouldn't have to twist his torso 90 degrees to kiss me, and that enabled me to turn my eyes over in Keith's direction. I could not help notice he did that tell-tale motion all guys do when their little guy is feeling squeezed and uncomfortable down in their pants and I realized I hadn't really kept check of what was going on in my own pants either. Oh well. Too late to worry over that now... I let go of every physical inhibition I had and let my body react to Jeff's presence. My response was only slightly less than instantaneous as my hot boyfriend continued to exert his invigorating influence upon my lips.

Soon, Samus Aran was pretty much just standing there deep down in the caverny bowels of Zebes or wherever, not doing much of anything. Keith did some token jumping about and shooting so it would seem he was still playing the game, but I knew he was watching us. Jeff was completely unaware, he had his eyes closed and I kept them closed by kissing his eyelids every so often. I thought I heard a quiet moan over from the direction of Keith and I turned slightly to look at him. I didn't MEAN to, but the sound simply made me act without thinking! The small hobbit's hands immediately went to cover his groin, and I could see he wasn't even holding his controller anymore!

"Is the Motherbrain dead yet?", I asked with a grin. Jeff opened his eyes too to see what was going on. Keith, the poor bastard, was torn between wanting to hide a certain part of his anatomy that was eagerly poking up beneath his loose-fitting pants, and keeping his charade of playing going so it wouldn't seem as if he had been peeking at us while we made out on the bed! The blonde boy squirmed uncomfortably, then reluctantly seized the joypad... Both me and Jeff modestly turned our eyes not to embarrass the kid...! I quickly set about continuing to quench my romantic thirst, because I didn't want Keith to feel as if I'd set him up in an attempt to make him shame himself in front of me and Jeff. Thus me and my boyfriend resumed our task of kissing with vigor and genuinely tried to ignore Keith and his peeks (which I knew he continued to give us) as best we could while waiting for my brother to return with our refreshments.

Russ came banging into the room loud enough to make us all jump! He excused himself with that our mom had wanted him to do some stuff and he couldn't get away. Keith was slightly red-faced and held his controller tight in his lap as Russ put down a whole bunch of soft drink cans and started handing them out. They were so cold a thick layer of moisture had formed on them just during the short trip from the kitchen fridge to our room... Keith held the controller with one hand in his lap while enjoying the cherry coke. We sipped our drinks, and we had a laid-back conversation about nothing. It was just a kids' discussion after all, and of course the topic came up...

"So, you're gay huh?"

"Yes Keith, I'm gay", I said with a chuckle. As if the question really needed asking! "And so is Jeff. I hope you don't mind?"

The boy smiled, not able to stop himself. "Nuh uh. It's cool. I don't mind!"

Jeff kissed me again, and like always it has this really weird effect on me. I mean, I love kissing him! It's great. But when he does it to me, it's just SOO much better! He has this really fantastic technique, the way he holds me, the way his head tilts slightly sideways so our lips really fit together, the intense way he looks straight into my eyes... Everything, and more than that. I feel my body surrendering to him, it can't be explained. It's just totally fantastic. Second kiss. Jeff gathered me in his arms, I held my hands on the sides of his body, feeling his muscled ribs as he reached around me and let one hand slip inside the back of my pants. Keith saw it too, the sneaky hand, and the sum total of everything in that kiss; the way Jeff almost made me faint!

I had to gasp for air when my boyfriend was finished with me, and I could see both kids staring at us with round eyes! Neither of them seemed to have ever witnessed anything like it! Jeff refused to let go of my lower lip after that second kiss. He trapped it between his teeth in a teasing manner, his hands in my hair and all over my face. I put my arms around his neck and leaned in close, and then he had to let go because I wanted to be kissed again. I watched out of the corner of my eye how Russ had crawled up really close to Keith and was looking over the blonde boy's shoulder at us. It felt weird. Usually boys make faces and go 'BLECHH!' at the smallest glimpse of people kissing, but maybe it was the fact I'm a guy, and Jeff's also a guy that fascinated them. That, and the attraction that already existed between them...

Me and Jeff were both peeking at them now. We only sort-of pretended to kiss; our lips were in contact of course and our hands wandered over each other's bodies (except Jeff's right hand, which again had planted itself inside my pants)... I saw my brother's breath tickle the tiny soft hairs on Keith's face, the way his blonde head turned towards Russ. How they shyly looked at each other and into each other's eyes... I grabbed Jeff harder, brought myself closer to him.

Then my brother's shaky hand was on Keith's pale cheek. Turning his head more so they faced each other completely. Their noses were so close together if I'd stuck my hand in between them, I'd touched them both at the same time...

It was as if nothing except the two of them existed right then, both filled with his own doubt and insecurities, yet they knew what they felt for each other, and they felt an echo of those feelings in the opposite boy as well. Like gravity affects an object with a force that is proportional to the square of the distance between them, it meant that Russ and Keith were drawn in towards each other in just the same manner. It was beyond their ability to break off right then. Noses brushed against each other. Eyes that had been steadily locked on each other closed as the last fractions of an inch between them disappeared. They touched for real.

It was the sweetest, most hesitant, shy boy kiss you'd ever seen! Like they both were checking, probing... Is this okay? Can I do this? Is it right? And they found, it was...

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