Spoilers and warnings: Set in Season 1, no real spoilers for anything. A couple of minor OMCs.

Written for the chuck_slash Xmas fic exchange 2009, with the prompt 'A drunken Christmas'.

Christmas at the Buy More was a special circle of Hell all on its own, Casey thought as he growled at yet another dithering customer. Between the store's rampant commercialism and the desperation of the last-minute shoppers, it was enough to make the biggest fan of Christmas scowl and say, 'Bah! Humbug!' and Casey hadn't been all that fond of the holiday to begin with.

When he found himself gripping the edge of a shelf and leaving dents in the metal after yet another person asked him where the blenders were – while standing right in front of them – Casey barged his way to the back of the store through the crowds, ignoring all requests for assistance, and escaped into the quiet of the stock room. He sighed in relief, feeling some of the tension leaving his shoulders.

'It's a mad house out there! How you holding up, big guy?'

And the tension was back. Casey fixed a scowl on his face and turned around. 'Bartowski. Tell me you had a flash. Something. Anything.'

'No can do, sorry. Nothing, nada, zip. Looks like the bad guys are all shopping elsewhere for those must-have evil stocking-fillers.' Chuck bounced on his toes, then wandered into the cage and picked up a broken harddrive. 'What's the matter? All those crazed shoppers giving you the heebies?'

'The next person who asks me if we stock Gran Turismo 5, I'm going to take out in the Nerd Herder and show them what a real power-slide feels like.' Casey paced in front of the cage door.

'Hang in there – tomorrow's Christmas Eve. After we close, there's the staff party, and after that, we can cut loose until Boxing Day. Oh, Ellie says it's 2pm for Christmas dinner, but you're welcome earlier. We'll just be watching tv, cooking, drinking eggnog, you know, the usual.'

Casey stopped and turned, staring hard at Chuck. 'What are you talking about?'

'Christmas dinner. You are coming, right? There are presents under the tree with your name on. It'll be fun!' Chuck's grin faded as Casey continued to glare.

'Why on earth would I be having Christmas with you?'

'I kind of assumed you wouldn't be going home for Christmas, wherever that is, and the store's closed, so unless bad guys try to blow up Burbank or, you know, achieve world domination, we have a day off.'

'And since when do I spend my days off with you and your sister?'

'Well, ah... Actually, I think pretty much every single day off we've had has involved getting together to defeat bad guys. So I don't know about Ellie, but you definitely spend some of your downtime with me.'

Casey growled. 'Fine! But if you got me socks, I'm not going to be happy.'

Chuck beamed. 'Great!' He bounced out of the cage, edging past Casey. 'I'd better get back before Big Mike's forced to come out of his office and do some work. I'm pretty sure he has the door locked and his headphones on, but still...'

'Later, Bartowski.' Casey watched Chuck head back out to the store, lost in the way the bounce his red chucks imparted to his step made his unruly curls bob around the back of his neck. Casey felt the urge to brush those curls aside, to bare that pale neck and bite down, to feel Chuck shudder and go limp underneath him, all that lean, wiry strength submitting to Casey's hard, heavy muscles.

'Crap!' He reached down and adjusted himself surreptitiously, silently cursing his uniform's beige trousers which hid exactly nothing of his state of mind. Taking a deep breath, he forced his mind away from the nerd and onto a list of terrorists and criminals known to be in the LA area. It was another five minutes before he was able to go back out on the sales floor without embarrassing himself.

As the tide of frantic shoppers rose to a closing-time frenzy, Casey managed to smile his way through the last hour of inane requests by planning exactly where he'd plant C4 to utterly destroy the Buy More. Then he worked out where he'd plant it in order to simply destroy the exits, leaving all the idiot staff and idiot shoppers trapped. Finally, he worked out how he could use a series of small charges to herd the shoppers from one end of the store to the other, through as many of the display areas as possible.

'Like rats in a maze,' he murmured in satisfaction as he passed the Nerd Herd desk where Jeff and Lester were doing as little as possible.

'What? What's he talking about? Does he mean us?'

He strode over to household appliances, ignoring Lester's alarmed queries, only to be cornered by Morgan. Manfully, he resisted the urge to simply shut him in one of the large freezers.

'Hey, Casey, just the man I wanted to see!'

Casey growled softly, but undeterred, Morgan came closer, showing an incredible disregard for his safety.

'I hear Ellie invited you to spend Christmas at Casa Bartowski this year. It's fine, man, it's cool. Chuck and I usually spend at least part of Christmas Day in an epic Call of Duty tournament and hey, you're more than welcome to join in.'

'What's your point, Grimes?' Casey could feel his hands clenching into fists and he quickly mapped out his escape strategy in case the need to do bodily harm to the little bearded man became overwhelming.

'I just wanted to ask what you've got, you know, for Ellie...' Morgan shifted uneasily from foot to foot. 'I don't want to find out we've got her the same gift, that's all.'

'I don't do Christmas presents,' Casey snapped. 'And besides, shouldn't you be worrying about what to get Anna?'

'That's all sorted, all taken care of. I found this awesome gold-plated locket on sale in a little store down near the beach. I put a picture of me inside. She'll love it, man.' Morgan beamed, pleased with himself. Then Casey's words sank in and his face became a picture of concern. 'Wait, what do you mean you don't do Christmas presents?'

'What do you think I mean? I don't do them. I don't buy them, I don't get given them.'

'Oh, man, that's cold. And besides, I know for a fact there are presents waiting in the Bartowski living room for you to open! What're you going to do, throw them back at Chuck and Ellie?' Morgan's face was fierce, his eyes shining with fervour in his defense of his friends. 'I don't care how awful Christmas has been for you in the past, although that would certainly explain your Grinch-like demeanour. This year, no one steals Christmas, you hear?' Morgan jabbed at Casey's chest with one pointed finger.

Casey growled again and slapped Morgan's finger out of the way, fighting the urge to break it. 'Fine! I'll play nice. We'll all have a happy Disney family Christmas. But that makes you the dwarf.'

'Whatever, man, just be human! It won't kill you to be nice for one afternoon, will it?' Morgan tutted and walked away, turning back to say, 'And get Ellie a present!'

'It might,' Casey muttered. 'I could go to Peru and insult a drug baron. I'm sure they'd kill me if I asked nicely.' He scowled ferociously and avoided helping any more customers in the few remaining minutes that the store was open. But the car-pool ride home with Chuck and Sarah, who smelled of processed meat and deep-fat fryers, had unaccustomed anxiety prickling in his stomach.

There was only one more day until Christmas, and he hadn't done any shopping.

After a quick shower and some much-needed stress relief in the form of target shooting, albeit using the hidden mini-range in the fireplace of his living room, Casey re-heated a bowl of chili and sat down to review the day's surveillance tapes. He kept having to rewind, finding himself distracted by thoughts of Chuck.

He knew exactly what was in each of the Christmas presents currently laid out under the small tree in Ellie Bartowski's living room; he'd watched over the hidden cameras as both Bartowski siblings and Devon shut themselves in separate rooms and wrapped their gifts. He also knew, down to the last video game, what was in Chuck's bedroom. He had a report with a pie-chart detailing to the last five minutes just how much time Chuck spent each week in playing those games, or reading books and comics (titles listed in the appendix), or eating, or sleeping. He knew exactly what Chuck liked, what he liked to do in his increasingly rare free time. He knew Chuck more thoroughly than even Chuck did. But Casey didn't know what to buy him for Christmas.

Casey was up early the next morning. After a quick five-mile run, he showered, changed and was at the mall just as the stores were beginning to open up. With a large coffee in one hand, he stalked the length of the mall and back again. An hour later, he had a blue leather change purse for Ellie, a small set of hand weights for Devon and a Star Wars mug for Morgan. He was especially proud of the mug: it had Princess Leia on it, on one side wearing her white dress, on the other, the metal bikini that had fuelled the dreams of nerds everywhere for the past thirty years. But when the mug held hot liquid, the dress and the bikini slowly faded into nothing. Casey grinned. Morgan was going to have a heart attack the first time he used it. He just hoped he was there to watch.

Still nothing for Chuck, though. Glancing at his watch, Casey scowled. Time to head over to the Buy More for Christmas Eve madness. At least the store shut at seven: Casey was pretty certain that any longer than that and he'd be planting the C4 he'd been daydreaming about yesterday. Muttering, he strode back to his car and dumped his purchases in the trunk.

'Couldn't have an asset with a decent job, no. Have to get stuck babysitting a nerd. And what the hell do I get a nerd for Christmas, anyway?' He grumbled to himself as he drove through the busy traffic. 'No computer games out that he wants and hasn't got. Not a t-shirt. Can't give him a gun – he'd only shoot himself. NSA's already given him a bullet-proof vest.' With a groan, he pulled into a parking spot and climbed out of the car, still muttering to himself.

'Hey, I could tranq Walker and gift-wrap her...' He forced down the jealousy that flared in him at the thought, then scowled again. 'Crap. Have to get her a gift too.' He made a mental note to gift-wrap the spare set of throwing knives he had tucked in a drawer at home, maybe hide the box inside a stuffed toy so Ellie didn't freak out. Sarah would understand.

As he stalked into the Buy More, the first people he saw were Jeff and Lester, flanking Anna, who was seated on top of the Nerd Herd counter.

'All ready for Christmas, Johnny?' Anna asked sweetly.

'Bah, humbug!' he snarled and banged back into the staff room. Wondering if he was expected to buy Anna a gift too, Casey stowed his bag in his locker, pulled out his customized price gun and made his way back out into the store, where he managed to get half a shelf of blank CDs ticketed up before he was disturbed by anyone. After dealing with the first moronic query of the day, Casey hid out in the Home Theater room instead.

'So, I knocked on your door this morning to carpool, but you were already gone. Anything exciting happen?' Chuck asked casually, leaning against the doorway.

Casey grunted. 'Why would anything exciting have happened? You haven't flashed in a week.'

Chuck shrugged. 'Can't help you there, buddy. If it were up to me, I'd gift-wrap you a terrorist; I know how much you want one for Christmas.'

The corners of Casey's mouth twitched, but when he spoke, his voice was still gruff. 'If you don't flash on something soon, the General's going to start questioning why Sarah and I are still here.'

'And we don't want that, now, do we? I mean, where would I be without my beautiful super-hot fake girlfriend and her handsome super-intimidating colleague?' Chuck smiled wistfully. 'It's not as though I'd have, oh, a fulfilling but non-life threatening job and someone other than my sister and her boyfriend to come home to, is it?'

Casey scowled and put down the tv remote. 'The only thing that was ever stopping you having a warm body in your bed was you, you moron.'

Chuck gave Casey a curious look. 'I don't think so, big guy, but thanks for the ego boost. It's pretty much out of the question now, though, thanks to having not one, but two government agencies cock-blocking me.'

'So if it's not Walker with a bow around her waist and wrapped up in your duvet, what do you want for Christmas?' Casey held his breath, hoping for an answer.

'World peace? The Intersect out of my head? My best friend to stop creeping out my sister?' Chuck smiled. 'Maybe some underpants. I swear the washing machine is eating mine. I think I'm down to, like, five pairs.'

Casey blessed his training for making him immune to blushing. He knew exactly where one pair of Chuck's underpants were. The blue and grey plaid boxer shorts were tucked into the corner of the case of his favourite rifle, the soft cotton perfect for polishing the gun. 'Can't help you there, Bartowski. There comes a time in every man's life when he just has to buy his own shorts.'

Chuck laughed. 'Too true! Maybe I'll go sales shopping next week, unless we're busy saving the world again.' He pushed off from the doorway and flopped on the couch. 'Think we can sneak in a movie before anyone notices we're missing?'

Casey's mind helpfully provided him with images of him and Chuck seated together on the couch, sharing a bowl of popcorn, fingers brushing over each others as they reached for the same kernels. Shifting closer, putting an arm along the back of the couch, letting it drop around Chuck's shoulders. And when Chuck turned to look at him with those big, dark eyes wide in surprise, leaning in those final few inches to drop a kiss on those mobile, expressive lips...

He took a deep breath. 'Doubt it. Those morons out there will be yelling for you inside five minutes.' Casey found his mouth running on, listened to it saying, 'But if you wanted, you could watch one at mine this evening, maybe order in some takeout.' Chuck's eyebrows shot up, and there was that look of surprise he'd been imagining. Well, more shock, Casey supposed, but still...

'I'll have to check with Ellie, see if there's anything she needs a hand with for tomorrow, but sure. That'd be great.' He grinned. 'Wow, I think your granite-like exterior is cracking!'

'Don't make me regret it, Bartowski,' Casey groused, eyes narrowing to an approximation of his usual scowl.

'Don't worry, your tough guy image is safe with me,' Chuck hastened to reassure him, still grinning.

Casey growled. 'Some of us have work to do.' He dropped the tv remote on the table and hightailed it out of the room. Back on the sales floor, he surfed through a series of panicked, stupid and downright weird requests from desperate customers, carried along by a strange elation that had last hit him after he'd successfully made his first parachute drop in a combat zone and managed to land behind enemy lines undetected and unscathed: Chuck was coming over on a date.

And Casey still hadn't found the nerd anything for Christmas.

By the time the store closed, to a shout of 'Hallelujah!' from Morgan and faint sobbing from Lester, curled onto one of the shelves under the Nerd Herd desk, Casey's good mood had evaporated in favor of a sour feeling compounded of fear and dread. It only got worse when Sarah showed up and got to dance with Chuck for a whole four songs in a row at the Buy More staff Christmas party. Casey stood in the shadows near the registers and watched, scowling, as, with a little prompting by Sarah, Chuck slid his arms around her and held her close for a slow song.

Then one of the holiday staff, a fresh out of high-school gangly youth with a face full of far more pimples than stubble, drank a second beaker of punch and dropped as though he'd been stunned with one of Casey's favorite tranquilizer darts. Chuck broke away from Sarah to help drag the comatose kid into the recovery position, then wandered over to Casey, finding him with ease even in the gloom.

'Jeff spiked the punch again, huh?' Chuck smiled. 'Archie's going to have quite the hangover tomorrow.'

'I'm pretty sure Jeff dosed it with an entire bottle of vodka,' Casey admitted, feeling his bad mood thaw a little. 'Who's getting the kid home?'

'Anna's giving his mom a call. If we're lucky, she'll get here before he barfs all over the floor.'

Chuck leaned against a register and Casey could feel the heat of his bare forearm despite the few inches that separated them. He clasped his hands together in front of his belt buckle to avoid putting his hand on Chuck's arm and closing the gap.

'Having a good time?'

Chuck shrugged. 'So so.' He nodded towards where Sarah was politely refusing Jeff's offer of a beaker of punch. 'I guess my enthusiasm for dancing with people who are only doing it for show kind of wore off in high school.'

Casey grunted in sympathy. 'How long were you thinking of staying?'

'Oh, movie, right!' Chuck's face brightened and Casey felt his mood lifting. 'I'll tell Sarah. I think she'll be glad of the excuse to leave before she has to do some serious damage to Lester.' The nerd in question was wiggling suggestively beside her and Casey could almost feel Sarah's urge to hurt him.

'You do that. I'll meet you in the staff room.' He strolled to the back of the store, avoiding Anna and Morgan, who were kissing frantically as they stumbled towards the dubious privacy of the Home Theater room. Casey walked quietly down the corridor to the staff room, pausing outside the door when he heard voices.

'I'm telling you, something's going on with them.' The voice was nasal and whiney; another one of the temporary holiday staff: Carl.

'What, you think they're having a threesome? Wild, man! You have gotta be smoking some serious weed. The big dude looks like his face would crack if he ever smiled. He'd have to be higher than you to even get started on loosening up!' And that would be Eric, his partner in crime, Casey thought with a sigh.

'I dunno, there's something not right there. I mean, she's hot, like smokin', right?'

'Yeah, totally, especially in that little skirt.'

'Now if she was mine, I'd be all over her, want everyone to know she was mine, know what I'm saying?' Carl laughed in a way that was probably meant to be dirty, but to Casey, it just sounded adenoidal.

'Not everyone's as cool with touching in public, man.' Eric didn't sound convinced.

'But the big dude, Mister Scary, he, like, watches Chuck all the time. All the time! It's like he's got Chuck radar, Chuck-dar, or something. And when you can't find Chuck, you can't find Casey either,' Carl said in triumph. 'They are so doing it!'

'Oh, man, that's not an image I ever wanted to have! I need brain bleach!' Eric protested.

'I bet he just drags Chuck off into some secret corner of the stock room and bends him over the boxes! Wham!'

'Shut up! I'm gonna barf!'

'Just nails him hard and fast!' Carl continued relentlessly. 'Makes him beg like a baby and just take it!'

'God! Stop! I swear you are one sick mo-fo!'

'Pounds him with his big, meaty–'

'If you don't shut up, I'm gonna start thinking you've got a hard-on for Mister Scary!' Eric shouted.

Casey felt, rather than heard, a tiny movement behind him and whirled around, automatically falling into a fighting stance, then relaxed.

'Easy, big guy, it's only me,' Chuck whispered. 'So, nailing me hard and fast, huh?'

Casey swallowed. 'You heard that?' he said roughly.

'Those two have have pretty much everyone in the place sleeping with everyone else. It's, like, their only topic of conversation,' Chuck smiled.

'I almost miss sandwiches...' Casey admitted, a corner of his mouth twitching.

'Yeah, compared to their horrific imaginations, debating the merits of beef with horseradish or ham with mustard really isn't that bad, is it?'

'I guess not. But horrific?' Casey held his breath, his stomach plummeting as the import of Chuck's words hit him.

'Oh, man, if you'd been the one trapped in the john with those guys discussing Big Mike and Jeff's 'obvious BDSM dynamic', you'd pray to be tortured by an Afghani warlord, trust me.'

Casey gagged. 'I could kill them,' he offered. 'No one would ever find the bodies.'

Chuck considered the offer. 'Nah, better not. It's bad karma to kill people at Christmas. Even sick, twisted people who can imagine Archie and Morgan doing it by the registers while Anna watches.' He shuddered, then noticed Casey's scowl and brightened. 'Hey, wanna really freak them out?'

Casey shrugged. 'Sure.'

Chuck grinned evilly. 'Just follow my lead, big guy.' He pushed open the door and stumbled into the break room, grabbing hold of Casey's arm at the last second to tug him along too. 'Hey, remember when you did me on the table in here? Oh, man, I couldn't sit down for two days!' Slurring his words and grinning inanely, he was the picture of inebriation.

Casey plastered a goofy grin on his face and lurched into Chuck's arms. 'God, yeah! Still can't watch people eating off that table without remembering just how tight your ass was.' He leered and made a grab for Chuck's ass.

'Oh my god!'

'Holy crap!'

They looked round in feigned surprise at the youths, whose jaws were well and truly dropped in shock.

Casey grinned, a feral smile that was as much threat as amusement. 'Enjoying the show?' he growled.

'Gah!' Carl paled and fled, with Eric hot on his heels, looking distinctly ill.

Chuck and Casey waited until the door had swung shut behind them before bursting out laughing.

'That was priceless! Oh god, tell me you have cameras in here!' Chuck wiped his eyes.

Casey leaned against his locker. 'I'll burn you a disk,' he promised. 'I've never seen two guys so close to crapping themselves without being threatened with some serious violence before.'

'It just goes to show that violence isn't always the way, my man.' Chuck grinned and Casey's heart twisted in his chest.

'Guess you're right,' he said, forcing his tone to stay light. 'You do know they're going to run out there and tell everyone we're doing it.'

'So?' Chuck shrugged. 'From the smell in here, they might as well tell people they saw Santa doing the Easter Bunny for all anyone's going to believe them. And besides, if anyone does, the next time we see them at work, it won't be Christmas any more and you can threaten as much violence as you like.'

Casey nodded his approval. 'You'd think they'd want to take care of what tiny brains God gave them, not kill them off with dope.' Casey opened his locker and grabbed his bag and jacket.

'Well, I doubt either of them were ever going to become brilliant scientists and win a Nobel prize.' Chuck opened up his own locker and pulled out a couple of plastic bags.

'Been shopping?' Casey asked, slamming the metal door.

'Just a couple of things Ellie asked me to pick up for her on my way in.'

'Ready to go?'

'I'll meet you at yours. I'm in the Herder and I promised I'd drop Sarah off at hers, then after I give this stuff to Ellie, I'm all yours.'

Casey grunted and casually held his jacket in front of his groin to hide his reaction to Chuck's innocent phrase. 'After you.'

They made it back to the party just as Archie was helped out of the building, to a chorus of goodbyes from sniggering colleagues. Lester let loose a wolf-whistle when he caught sight of Chuck and Casey, and when people turned to look, Chuck pointed at Carl and Eric, and the more sober among the remaining Buy More staff burst into laughter.

'See? Nothing to worry about,' Chuck smiled. 'Pretty much everyone's heard those two idiots spouting off, ' He strolled over to Sarah and kissed her cheek. 'Your chariot awaits!'

Sarah laughed, easy and indulgent. 'I think that makes you my fairy godmother, at least according to Carl.'

Chuck laughed along with her. 'No, that'd be Casey, surely. You should have seen their faces!'

'I'm sure it was absolutely priceless.' Sarah patted his arm. 'Shall we?' Together they left the store. Casey waited until they were safely out before stalking over to Carl. He loomed over the youth, intimidating without even trying.

'You know, maybe you should stop speculating about everyone's sex lives and work on that case of denial you've got going.'

'I, I, I don't know what you mean,' Carl stuttered.

'You and Eric. The only reason you spend all your time thinking about who's sleeping together is so you don't have to think about wanting to put your dick up his skinny little ass. Or is it that you want his dick in you, but you don't know how to ask for it without sounding like a girl?'

'Oh, god!' Carl went, if possible, even paler.

'Yeah, that's it.' Casey leaned in, relentless and eager in his vicious assesment. 'You want Eric to hold you down and fuck you, but you don't have the guts to tell him. You're just hoping if you talk about all these nasty things, he'll get a clue and that way you won't have to ask and he'll be the gay one, not you. Let me give you some advice.' Casey dropped his voice to low and deadly. 'If you aren't man enough to ask for it, you certainly aren't man enough to take it.'

He straightened up and walked away, leaving Carl white-faced and whimpering. He smirked as he heard a strangled squawk as Eric appeared; he knew that every word he'd said, Eric had heard from the other side of the display unit. Carl, on the other hand, hadn't known Eric was there. With an evil grin, Casey left the Buy More. Oddly enough, he was looking forward to seeing them after Christmas, whether they imploded or not. Either way, he figured Carl would have shut up, so he counted that as a win.

Casey had time to get home, hide presents in his closet and grab a quick shower and a shave by the time Chuck knocked on his door. Barefoot, he padded to the door, pulling a soft black polo shirt over his head. With a gun in one hand, he checked the security panel before unlocking the door and pulling it open.

'Hey,' Chuck said with a little wave. In the other hand, he held a large bowl shaped like a sombrero.

'Your sister's famous guacamole and chips?' Casey asked, stepping to one side.

'How did you guess?' Chuck walked past Casey and sniffed appreciatively. 'Is that a new aftershave? Nice.'

Casey thanked the genetic heritage that kept the warmth he felt in his cheeks from showing as a blush. 'Yeah, not all of us are slobs,' he said.

'If you want, I can go home and shower,' Chuck offered, completely unoffended. 'I just thought it was late enough for getting started on a film as it was.'

'Grab a seat, Chuck,' Casey said. 'Beer?'

'Sure, why not? It's not like we have to be up for work in the morning.' Chuck sprawled out on one end of the couch and put the sombrero platter down on the coffee table.

'Pizza?' At Chuck's grin, Casey tossed him the phone. 'Call in what you like, make it a large. With meat.'

Chuck rattled off a list of toppings as Casey snagged two beers from the fridge and uncapped them, then carried them through. He took the other end of the couch and passed Chuck one of the cold bottles. As he picked up the remote and turned on the TV, Chuck put the bottle to his mouth, tilted his head back, and swallowed. Casey was mesmerised by the long, pale column of neck, Adam's Apple bobbing, the way Chuck's lips wrapped around the glass. An image rose, unbidden, of Chuck's lips wrapping around Casey's dick, and Casey was instantly, achingly hard. He shifted uncomfortably, glad his shirt was untucked.

'So, what're we watching?' Chuck looked quizzically at Casey and put his beer down on a glass coaster.

Casey cleared his throat. 'I was thinking Star Wars.'

'Really? That's awesome!' Chuck's face shone with enthusiasm.

'Yeah, well, I haven't watched it in years and I know you like it, so...' Casey grabbed the dvd remote and cued up the movie.

'That's... really thoughtful. Thank you, Casey,' Chuck said. Casey could feel the weight of his gaze, warm, assessing.

'John,' he said, and pressed play.

'Okay, John.' Chuck was silent as words scrolled up the large screen. A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...

Casey got up and turned the lights out, ignoring the pressure in his groin as his dick pressed uncomfortably against black denim. When he sat down again, though, he was a little closer to Chuck.

'In case I forget to say later, I had a great evening,' Chuck said softly, eyes on the screen.

Casey looked over at him, watching the way the flickering light from the screen alternately lit up and shadowed the planes of Chuck's face, his high cheekbones, the line of his nose with that cute tilt to the end, the generous curves of his mouth. He was relaxed, the tension of both his jobs, the pressure of his secret identity drained away in this oasis of a couple of hours with a favourite film and a beer. Casey felt a warmth spread through his chest. He liked that he got to be the one to help Chuck relax, when so often he was the one making new lines of stress and worry appear on the young man's forehead and around the corners of his mouth.

'Me too,' he said and stretched out, putting his feet up on the coffee table.

Together they sprawled, echoing, 'Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi; you're my only hope,' in unison. Chuck made a great argument for R2D2 having the filthiest mouth of any droid ever, and finished it off with how Chewbacca and R2D2 together were the ultimate architects of the rebellion.

Casey fetched two more beers when theirs ran out and paid for the pizza when it arrived. If, in getting paper towels and beer and warning Chuck off the meat-heaviest slice with a mock-snarl that only made Chuck laugh and steal diced ham off it as Casey lifted the slice to his lips, Casey ended up sitting closer to Chuck than two men usually sit, Chuck wasn't complaining or shifting away and Casey really wasn't going to think about where this was leading.

The pizza box was in the kitchen, waiting to go out with the trash, and Casey had returned with two more beers, narrow necks clinking together in one loose fist, and the film was rapidly drawing to a close.

'You know, I don't remember the last time I had this good an evening,' Chuck said, taking his beer with a smile and an innocent brush of his fingers across Casey's hand that reminded his half-erect cock of just what it would like to be doing.

Casey sat down with a grunt, sprawling a little so that his thigh touched Chuck's, and casually laid one arm along the back of the couch. 'Yeah, I know,' he said, watching the action playing on the TV.

Chuck looked away from the screen, studying Casey's profile. 'I didn't think that mattered to the General,' he said.

'It should,' Casey said, surprising himself with the fierceness off his tone. 'What you do... It isn't easy for any of us and we chose this life, trained for it.' He risked a look at Chuck, who was frowning just a little. 'What? You think I don't care?'

And maybe he'd given away too much of the secret that simmered inside him, always just below the surface, or maybe it had been his plan all along, a plan he'd been unable to articulate to himself, because the frown had eased again, and the corners of Chuck's mouth were curving upwards in delight.

'Oh, wow,' Chuck breathed. 'No, you do care, don't you?' And he swayed ever so slightly towards Casey, opened his mouth to say something, and Casey put some of that training to good use, bringing his arm down off the back of the couch and around Chuck's shoulders, turning himself at the same time, dropping his beer safely down onto the floor and bringing his hand up in one smooth action to cup Chuck's jaw just as his lips glanced over Chuck's.

He kissed, butterfly light, grazing his lips across Chuck's full, lush mouth. Chuck was motionless under his touch, frozen in surprise, but Casey could feel the energy coiling within that stillness, was half-prepared to be shoved away, not punched out – Chuck didn't have that reflex – but there'd be shock, an understanding but firm rejection–

And then Chuck melted into Casey's embrace, mouth softening, opening, fastening eagerly on his, a hand coming up to Casey's shoulder, not to push away, but pull closer. Casey made a noise at the back of his throat, a whimper, finally not denying what he wanted, finally getting to touch, to love, finally coming home. It was triumph and surrender and Casey found himself pushing Chuck down underneath him, kissing hot and wet and deep into Chuck's mouth, that amazing mouth. A tiny part of his brain registered disbelief, a teenaged Making out! On the couch! With Chuck!, but the rest was lost in the feel of Chuck's slim, wiry body, shoulders broader than they looked, long legs tangling with his, providing leverage for Chuck to thrust up towards Casey's hip and oh god, he was hard! They were both hard, panting, hot, and Casey groaned as he thrust back, involuntary motions he'd had trained out of him years before in torturous lessons on self-control.

Kissing Chuck stripped away the years and the training, leaving Casey bereft of everything except the need for more, deeper, harder: skin. With one trembling hand, he found the bottom of Chuck's shirt and burrowed underneath, desperate for the electric contact of skin-on-skin. Chuck arched upwards as Casey's hand slid upwards over the curve of ribs and muscle until a callused thumb swept over Chuck's nipple.

'God, please, John!' Chuck broke away long enough to gasp, tugging Casey's shirt up until he could press a palm to the smooth muscled back underneath.

'If you want me to stop, say now,' Casey ground out, taking in Chuck's mess of hair, flushed cheeks and swollen lips. His eyes were huge; dark, full of lust and need and something else, something more.

'If you stop now, I'll, I'll, I'll talk about sandwiches with Morgan every night for a month, I promise,' Chuck swore vehemently.

'Have you ever–?'

'No! But anything, please, god, John, just... Anything!'

Responding to the desperation in Chuck's voice, Casey dipped his head again and took Chuck's mouth in a bruising, possessive kiss, plundering the hot depths with his tongue. With both hands, he grabbed hold of Chuck's shirt and pulled, ripping buttons off the thin fabric and leaving Chuck's chest bare. Before Chuck had even registered what Casey had done, he had his belt undone and fly opened and was pushing trousers and underpants down the young man's hips to pool around his thighs. Chuck yelped in surprise as one large hand closed around his penis and stroked up, then down again.

Breaking the kiss, Chuck sobbed a litany of, 'Oh god, oh god, oh god,' hips twitching up, pushing himself into Casey's fist.

With his free hand, Casey fought with the button on his jeans, wrestling it open, then sighed in relief as he pulled himself out from the constraints of his boxer briefs. He tugged Chuck further down the couch and opened his fist, leaving the nerd hissing in frustration until, lining up their cocks, he closed his fist again around them both.


Chuck's shout of surprise was quickly muffled as Casey lost himself in the young man's mouth again, thrusting slowly, carefully, rubbing every inch of himself over Chuck's velvet hardness and reducing Chuck to a series of inarticulate whimpers. Chuck's hands roamed over Casey's back, his thighs, his buttocks, felt the powerful muscles clench and release with each thrust. Harder, faster, into the moist heat trapped between their bodies, both too long celibate to wait, to take it slowly, until at last, Casey released Chuck's mouth and dropped to the curve of neck and shoulder, the epitome of Chuck's strength and vulnerability, and bit down hard. With a cry and a shudder, Chuck came, pumping over Casey's fist, his cock, dripping onto his stomach, and at the feel of that hard length pulsating against him, of hot, sticky-slick suddenly lubricating the sheath of his fist, of Chuck's surrender, going limp underneath him, Casey came with a roar, striping Chuck's belly with white and mine and forever.

It was a while before either of them moved. The dvd had scrolled through copyright notices in a bunch of languages and finally gone back to the menu screen, lighting the room in dull shades of blue. Casey lifted his head and pressed little kisses to Chuck's swollen mouth, to his cheeks, his eyelids, the tip of his nose.

'Hey,' Chuck smiled up. 'How're you doing?'

Casey smiled back, soft, gentle, unable to pull his habitual cynicism around himself again and unwilling even to try. 'Good. You?'

'More than good.'

There was a pause for more kissing, for Casey to rest his head beside Chuck's, cheek to cheek, feeling breath whisper past his ear. Before post-orgasmic slump could turn into can't breathe, too heavy, this couch is killing my back, Casey pushed himself up, one arm braced on the floor, the other elbow wedged between Chuck's ribs and the back of the couch.

'Stay,' he whispered, making it an order, a question, an admission of everything he couldn't articulate without fracturing, irrevocably, into a thousand shards of compromised, of caring far too much for his asset.

Chuck blinked, quirked a sleepy half-smile. 'Okay.'

Together they fumbled their way off the couch, avoiding the still-full bottles of beer, and Casey turned off the TV and led Chuck through the dark apartment to his bedroom, to the bathroom, where he wet a washcloth and left it warm and damp beside the sink so that Chuck could clean himself off, waited outside patiently through the toilet flush and splash of water as Chuck washed his hands and when Chuck came out, gave him a t-shirt, boxer shorts, left him to change and climb into the large bed while he went back into the bathroom and did the same. In the bedroom, he stripped and slid into bed naked, unself-conscious as Chuck fidgeted, trying to figure out how to lie beside another man, where long legs and broad shoulders and no real height difference fitted with hard muscle and big bones and no curves. With a little grin, Casey slipped an arm under Chuck's shoulder, turned onto his back and pulled Chuck to him, until Chuck's front was plastered against his side and Chuck's head rested on the same pillow.


Chuck sighed and relaxed a little. 'Yeah, I think I'm okay like this. How about you?'

'If my arm goes to sleep, I'll let you know.' With his free hand, Casey reached up and traced the lines of cheek and jaw that he could barely make out in the gloom. 'Are you okay with this?'

Chuck blinked. 'I... Yes. I'm actually very okay with this. I can't promise not to have a minor freakout in the morning, but right now I'm good. Can we, could we maybe kiss some more?' His voice rose hopefully and Casey laughed.

'Sure.' He turned his head and met Chuck with a gentle brush of lips. They kissed for what felt like hours, lips and tongues sliding together in a languid, unhurried glide, until it was almost a surprise to Casey to feel Chuck rocking, hard against his hip, to find himself hard again too. He tugged down Chuck's shorts and pulled him up to lie on top of him, opening his legs so that Chuck could settle between them, until Chuck was thrusting into the crease of his thigh, until he broke their kisses to rest his forehead against Casey's, panting hot gusts across Casey's parted lips as Casey's hands cupped his buttocks, urging him on.

With a sharp cry and a shudder, Chuck came, wet heat spreading across Casey's groin. Casey held him, gentling him through the aftershocks that rocked through him, holding him easily against his broad chest as Chuck collapsed bonelessly on top of him. He lay there, still hard, content just to breathe in the warm, dark scents of Chuck and semen and sweat.

'You didn't come,' Chuck mumbled against Casey's shoulder.

'Not yet,' Casey rumbled. 'It's okay.'

'C'n I help?'

Casey kissed his temple. 'In a minute.' He waited until Chuck's breathing had evened out, then helped him move back to the side. A fistful of tissues from the box on the bedside table cleaned them both enough that they wouldn't wake itchy, then Casey threaded his fingers through Chuck's and guided his hand to Casey's expectant cock. Clasped together around its length, he moved their hands up and down, stroking lightly as he kissed Chuck again. Feeling those long fingers wrapped around him so intimately, so willingly, it wasn't long before Casey came, stilling their hands as the familiar pulse surged through his groin and left him gasping in its wake, blind and helpless. Then, when he could move in something more coordinated than a flail, with another couple of tissues used and tossed onto the floor and Chuck tucked against his side in a perfect fit, like turning out a light, Casey dropped into sleep.

Dim light filtered around the blinds. Casey woke with his customary abruptness, automatically checking his surroundings. The room smelt of sleep and sex and he could hear little snuffled breaths from under the covers on the other side of the bed. The rest of the apartment was silent, undisturbed. He reached out a hand and felt the smooth expanse of Chuck's back, where his t-shirt had ridden up in the night. He stroked gently, feeling the sweep of relaxed muscle that led up to Chuck's broad shoulders, led down to his incredible ass. He dipped his fingertips below the waistband of Chuck's shorts, feeling the peach-fuzz hair that covered those soft globes. Needing more, he stroked lower, brushing the palm of his hand across Chuck's buttocks, enjoying the way they fit into the curve of his hand.

Chuck's breath hitched as Casey's hand smoothed over his butt, then the nerd gave a little breathy moan. 'So, not a dream,' Chuck murmured.

'Hey,' Casey smiled. 'No, no dream.'

'Good,' Chuck said, burrowing deeper into his pillow. 'You know, since I'm a guy, and you're a guy, I was wondering...' he said sleepily.

'What?' Casey pressed his thumb between Chuck's buttocks and Chuck wiggled, spreading his legs.

'Uh... Does this mean we get to have morning sex, just because?' Chuck shifted his hips, pressing back into Casey's hand.

'Morning wood?' Casey pressed the pad of his thumb against Chuck's opening and ghosted his fingers over Chuck's balls.

'Guh... Yes! Please? Oh, god...'

'Want me to take care of it?' Casey moved his thumb in tiny circles, keeping up the pressure. He shifted up onto his free elbow, looking down onto Chuck's unruly mess of curls.


Casey grinned. 'You just going to lie there and let me do all the hard work?'

'You're obviously... more of a... morning person,' Chuck panted. 'I figure... go with your, uh... strengths.'

Casey let out a bark of laughter. 'Whatever you say, Chuck.' He removed his hand, pleased by the whimper of protest Chuck let out, and set about undressing Chuck. Still sleep and relaxed, Chuck let him pull down his boxer shorts and tug up his t-shirt until it rucked up under his armpits.

'Not gonna help me?' Casey asked, his voice rich with amusement.


Casey chuckled and bent down to kiss the back of Chuck's neck, licking and nibbling at the smooth vulnerable skin there. Chuck sighed and melted into the mattress as Casey's broad hands caressed him, stroking his back and sides, his hips and buttocks. Casey stretched across him and fumbled in the drawer of the bedside table. Chuck sighed as Casey's erection rubbed into the crease between his buttocks.

'You going to, you know...'

'Fuck you?' Casey asked, pulling back with a fistful of lube and condoms. 'Do you want me to?'

Chuck lifted his head and turned, blinking blearily at Casey. 'I think so, yeah.'

'If you change your mind, you tell me,' Casey said, seriously. 'If this stops being fun, if it stops being what you want, let me know.'

With a heartbreakingly cute little smile, Chuck nodded. 'I trust you.'

Casey felt that twist in his chest again and had to swallow hard before he could speak again. 'All right, then.' He flipped open the cap on the lube and squeezed some out onto his fingers, then rubbed them carefully between Chuck's legs. Chuck lifted one knee, spreading himself for Casey and the big man bit back a groan. He pushed a fingertip against Chuck's opening and felt Chuck force the muscle to relax. His finger slid inside and Chuck gasped.

'Okay?' Casey asked, stroking circles on Chuck's lower back with his other hand.

'A little weird,' Chuck admitted, breathing shallowly. Casey waited a moment, then pressed in a little further and his finger slid in to the second knuckle and Chuck tightened around him. A few breaths later and Chuck eased up again, and Casey slid his finger all the way in, feeling the hot, velvet-smooth walls of Chuck's passage. He eased his finger out again and Chuck took a shuddering breath, but as Casey slowly pushed his finger back in, Chuck pressed back against his hand. Casey kept up the slow in-and-out until Chuck's back was covered in a light sheen of sweat and he was rocking between Casey's hand and the bed.

Casey took away his hand, put more lube on his fingers, and pressed two fingers inside Chuck. The extra width made the young man pant, but it wasn't long before he was moaning eagerly. Casey waited until Chuck demanded, 'More! John, come on, please!' before crooking his fingers and catching the little bump of his prostate. He grinned as Chuck yelped and almost levitated off the bed in surprise.

'What, what, that was, oh my god!' Chuck babbled.

'Chuck, meet your prostate,' Casey said huskily.

'Really? Oh, god!' Chuck whimpered happily, so Casey brushed his fingers over it again on his next thrust. When he'd reduced Chuck to incoherent random vowels, Casey slipped out of Chuck and wiped his fingers on a tissue. He tore open a packet and quickly rolled a condom down his achingly hard cock, then snagged his pillow and carefully pushed it under Chuck's hips. He coated the tip of the condom in lube, then settled between Chuck's legs, arranging himself so that he nudged Chuck's opening with his cock.

'You still sure?' he asked and dropped a kiss on Chuck's shoulder.

'Yes!' Chuck answered vehemently. 'John, please, I... I want you.' His voice broke, revealing a depth of vulnerability he rarely showed. 'I need to feel you inside me,' he whispered.

Casey rolled his hips, pressing against Chuck, and suddenly the head of his cock slipped inside. He waited, panting, as Chuck's muscle tightened around the crown and Chuck cried out. He slid his arms under Chuck's chest, holding him through the burn until Chuck relaxed again, then, with tiny thrusts, he inched inside until at last he was seated as far in as he could go. Casey paused again, dropping his head to rest beside Chuck's on the pillow, working on controlling his breathing, on not coming instantly in that amazing tight heat.

'You feel incredible,' he rasped, pulling back slowly and thrusting in again. Beneath him, Chuck moaned and panted and when Casey slid a hand down underneath the nerd, he found Chuck rock-hard and oozing precum. He closed his hand around Chuck's penis, feeling the shiver all the way through Chuck and moaning himself as Chuck tightened around his cock. He thrust again and again, faster, harder, driving Chuck into the circle of his fist until Chuck cried out and convulsed, spasming around him, coming over Casey's fist in long waves and Casey couldn't wait any longer, coming himself with one final deep thrust, pulsing into the condom so hard that he nearly greyed out.

They lay there, panting and boneless, until Casey felt himself softening. To a hiss of protest from Chuck, Casey took hold of himself and the base of the condom and withdrew, moving to the side so he could roll up the condom in a tissue and lob it at the wastebin in the corner. He cleaned himself quickly, then spread Chuck's buttocks and cleaned off the excess lube.

'Wow,' Chuck said dreamily, sounding half-asleep again already.

'Good?' Casey asked, lying back down beside him.

'Mmm, incredible. Do it again later?'

'You'll be sore and Ellie will wonder where you've gotten to,' Casey rumbled, settling one leg over Chuck's, an arm over Chuck's back, tucking his chin into the hollow between shoulder and neck.

'Mph, later,' Chuck dismissed his concerns. ''S Chris'mas. Sleep now.'

Casey chuckled. 'Mm, okay.' Within minutes, they were both asleep.

A couple of hours later, Casey woke again and watched Chuck sleep for a long moment before his bladder urgently made itself felt. Dropping a kiss onto Chuck's shoulder, Casey rolled away and quietly climbed out of bed. Naked, he padded to the bathroom and flicked the shower on to warm while he pissed. He flushed, washed his hands, then quickly brushed his teeth. He turned sharply at a movement in the doorway, but relaxed as Chuck shambled in.

'You mind if I...?' Chuck asked, yawning.

'Go ahead,' Casey grunted and spat into the sink. He rinsed his toothbrush, then dropped it into a glass and stepped into the shower. He soaped up quickly, then rinsed off, letting the hot water pummel muscles he hadn't used in quite a while.

'So, what's your position on, say, water conservation?' Casey looked up to see Chuck standing smiling outside the shower.

Casey found himself smiling back. 'Want me to scrub your back?' he asked with a leer.

'Hell, yes!' Chuck stepped into the shower and pulled the door shut behind him. There wasn't much room for two tall men, but Casey maneuvered Chuck to stand underneath the spray and set about washing Chuck's hair. Lathering up his thick curls, Casey let himself indulge, enjoying the feel of silky hair under his fingertips and massaging Chuck's scalp with slow, firm strokes.

'Oh man, that's good,' Chuck breathed, letting his head fall forwards onto Casey's shoulder. His arms slid loosely around Casey's waist and Casey closed his eyes briefly against the feelings that rose inside him and his fingers slowed. Then Chuck nuzzled his shoulder and kissed the slippery skin and Casey could feel him pulling a face at the taste of the suds. He broke into a grin and finished rinsing Chuck's hair, then briskly washed him down.

'What's the rush?' Chuck asked as Casey turned off the shower and stepped out.

Casey leaned back in and kissed him. 'It's Christmas.'

Chuck followed him out of the bathroom, hastily scrubbing a towel over himself. 'What time is it?'

'It's only just eight. Ellie won't be calling the police to report you missing just yet,' Casey said, pulling clean shorts out of a drawer and giving a pair to Chuck. 'Here, you said you wanted underpants for Christmas.'

Laughing, Chuck took them and pulled them on. 'You know, every time I move I'm going to be thinking about wearing your boxers, right?'

Casey leered. 'Hell, yeah!' and Chuck laughed again.

'Part of your cunning plan, to keep me horny and coming back for more?' Chuck pulled on his work trousers but gave up on his buttonless shirt.

'Always,' Casey said solemnly. 'I'll sort that out.' He swapped the shirt for a plain black t-shirt. 'You'd better get back home. I'll be over in a couple of hours.'

Chuck pouted, then wriggled into Casey's arms and fluttered his eyelashes. Smiling, Casey dropped a kiss on his lips. 'Scoot.'

'Okay, I'm gone. Don't forget there'll be Call of Duty later on.' Chuck shoved his feet, sockless, into his sneakers and was gone.

Casey shook his head, listening as the front door opened and closed behind the nerd. 'What the hell are you doing?' he muttered, stripping the bed and making it up with fresh bedding. He tossed the sheets in the wash and set it going, then hunted around the couch to find the buttons from Chuck's shirt. Letting the problem of Chuck's present sit at the back of his mind, twenty minutes and a large mug of coffee later the buttons were all reattached, betraying a facility with needle and thread that Casey would rather kill someone than admit to.

It didn't take him much longer to fish the Christmas presents out of his closet and wrap them and by 9 he was out of the house and in the car. Finally, he knew exactly what to get Chuck for Christmas.

It didn't matter that it was Christmas Day and all the shops were shut; Casey knew from experience this place never closed. A short drive later, he pulled up outside a long, low building. He locked the car and strode inside.

At 10am sharp, Casey knocked on the Bartowski family door with a pile of presents in one hand and a plate of mini quiches in the other. Chuck opened the door and beamed.

'Hey Chuck, happy Christmas,' Casey said softly. Chuck was still wearing Casey's black t-shirt, but he'd swapped his work trousers for faded black jeans that hugged his thighs and looked butter-soft. Casey longed to stroke them, but he settled for passing the platter to Chuck instead.

Chuck took the platter and stood aside to let Casey enter. 'Come on in, big guy! There's coffee and eggnog in the kitchen, there's an entire mountain of cookies and I think the table's probably going to collapse under the weight of the food when we finally eat later.'

Casey brushed past Chuck with a tiny growl, enjoying the young man's sharp intake of breath. When he glanced over, Chuck's eyes were dark with arousal. 'Where shall I put these?'

'Uh... Over by the tree. I'll just... kitchen,' Chuck swallowed nervously and hurriedly shut the door.

Presents deposited by the tree, Casey wandered over to the kitchen. 'Happy Christmas, Ellie. Thanks for inviting me.'

Ellie looked round from the counter where she was putting stuffing into a tin. 'John, hi. I couldn't bear to think of you spending Christmas on your own when you're right across the courtyard. Thank you for the quiches; they look lovely. If you want anything, my brother will be only too happy to get it for you.'

'Can I help with anything?' Casey offered, deliberately not looking over at Chuck.

'I'm good, thanks. The turkey's been in for hours and once I've got this stuffing in the oven, everything's pretty much sorted.' Ellie smiled and turned back to her task.

Chuck poured two mugs of coffee. 'Come on, John, let's get out of the way.' He handed over a mug and led Casey over to the couch. Casey sat down beside Chuck and felt himself relax, getting into the spirit of a family Christmas. He didn't ever remember it being this relaxed or this fun, no matter where he'd been or who he'd spent the holiday with, but laughing over corny television with Chuck at his side or later, when Morgan and Sarah had arrived and Devon and Ellie joined them, Chuck sat on the floor, leaning against the couch and surreptitiously pressed against his leg, Casey finally understood what Christmas was supposed to be.

At last, presents were handed around and opened and enjoyed. Casey relaxed as the last of his presents met with genuine smiles, until Morgan, tearing his eyes away from his Princess Leia mug, spoke up.

'Hey, Casey, what about Chuck?'

Chuck looked up at the agent. 'It's okay, I've had my present.'

'Wait, when? You opened yours early?' Morgan protested and Chuck blushed.

John put a hand on Chuck's shoulder. 'I'll go get it. I was thinking you might want to keep it at my place.'

Chuck's blush deepened along with Morgan's confusion as Casey got up and left. He returned a minute later with a carrying case and put it down in front of Chuck.

Chuck opened the lid to find a small black kitten inside. He lifted it out and it yawned wide, blinking at him. 'You got me a kitten?' he squeaked. 'She's beautiful!'

Casey cleared his throat. 'I found her about three weeks ago, hanging around the back of the Buy More. She's been at a shelter, getting her shots and everything. The vet there reckons she's about five months old and they said all her tests came back clear when I picked her up this morning. She's healthy; she just needs a home and a name. If you want to keep her here, that's fine, but I didn't think it was fair on Ellie and Devon just to assume.'

Chuck lifted her up, delighted: he'd clearly falling in love with the kitten there and then. 'She's perfect. Thank you, John.'

Casey took his seat back on the couch and watched as everyone cooed over the kitten and played with her until all of a sudden she ran out of steam and dropped down into a little ball on the carpet. Chuck picked her up and held her as she purred in her sleep. Leaning back against Casey's knee, he looked up and smiled softly.

'Thank you,' Chuck said, love shining in his eyes, and Casey understood all the things Chuck couldn't say with everyone around them.

'Any time, Chuck,' Casey said softly, and Chuck sighed happily, understanding in turn that what Casey really meant to say was, 'I love you,' and 'Always,' and 'Forever'. And when Casey added, 'Best Christmas ever,' Chuck nodded.

'Until next year.'

And Casey knew that was Chuck's own promise of love, and that, thanks to a couple of beers and a film – their very own Christmas miracle – Chuck meant to face the new year with him. So when Morgan had too much eggnog with dinner and, sniggering, made a joke about Chuck and Casey having to be model gay parents now they had a cat to raise together, Casey laughed along, but when everyone's attention was elsewhere, he leaned over to Chuck and whispered, 'Family.' And Chuck smiled a soft smile and took his hand under the table and agreed.