Teahouse Comics is the property of Emirain and CC. Man, I think I'm totally obsessed with this comic, lol! Well, I don't know if they celebrate Christmas in Ivore, but I've been taken up with the holiday spirit myself, and was inspired to write a total fluff story!

No real warnings, as this one's a little tamer than Another Day. Just some OOCness and fluff. Enjoy!

Seasons Meetings

He didn't dare breathe. His hands shook a little as he squeezed the frosting tube very gently, creating a delicate ripple affect around the perimeter of the white cake. The cake itself looked like it belonged in a display case. Nothing was smeared, and the double-layer cake wasn't lopsided. It looked perfect.

Rory finished with the frosting, and took a step back. He sighed shortly and turned to the strawberries he'd slice earlier. The entire process, from preparing the cake, to baking it perfectly, to applying the frosting and the strawberry filling, had taken him three hours. He was covered in flower and a white frosting smudge was smeared on his left cheek. He smelled like strawberries and vanilla.

But he wanted it to be a perfect Christmas cake…especially for the person he intended it for.

He'd drained the strawberries, so they wouldn't drip on the white frosting and stain it. Still very carefully, he applied six of them in a circular fashion, barely touching the rippled frosting he'd just applied. Once the final one was applied, he looked at the cake from each angle to make sure nothing was out of place.

"…It's perfect," Rory said finally. He couldn't help but laugh and he clapped his dirty hands together. "It's absolutely perfect! Oh, I hope Lord Reed likes it!"

He checked the clock hanging next to the refrigerator and gasped. "And he's going to be here in less than an hour! I have to get ready!"

Rory tore off his apron and turned to leave. But wait…he almost forgot! He picked up the slender note card he'd written before starting his cooking. It read 'Do not touch! For a very important guest!'. He propped it up in front of the cake and took off running out of the kitchen. He knew the servants would clean up his mess, though he felt guilty about making such a mess for them on Christmas Eve.

But if Lord Reed likes the cake, then it will all be worth it!

Rory had been surprised when Reed had scheduled an appointment on Christmas Eve of all days, but he wanted the visit to be a special and pleasant one. Baking a Christmas cake had certainly been fun, but he'd also prepared some mulled wine based on a recipe Argent had given him. And—well, Mercutio had also given him a recipe, but he immediately passed it over when he saw the word diazepam written as an ingredient.

But this will be so perfect! Rory giggled to himself. I'm certain Lord Reed will be impressed!


Two minutes after Rory fled the kitchen; a suspicious person sauntered in, looking for something to drink. He saw the cake sitting on the counter and paused.

"Well, what have we here?" Mercutio mused to himself. He rubbed at his chin thoughtfully as he walked over to the cake. "Well aren't you cute? Hmm…" he saw the warning notice Rory had left, and picked it up. "'Do not touch! For a very important guest!' So this cake is for a guest?" he looked back at the cake, and at the perfect frosting and the perfect strawberries forming a circle.

After a moment though, Mercutio frowned. "This cake looks boring. How will a guest be impressed with this?"

He grinned sinisterly, and a dark glint entered his eyes. After checking to make sure the coast was clear, Mercutio slowly reached for his back pocket. "I know the perfect thing to liven this cake…"

"'O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree! Thy leaves are so unchanging!'"

"Careful, careful! The tree is tipping!"

"It's not tipping! The tree is straight!"

Atros tried not to sigh as the servants struggled to steady the very tall Christmas tree in the main foyer. The very top of the tree went past the second-floor rail. "It's straight," he said curtly. He looked up towards the second floor. "Are you ready, Claret?"

"R—Ready!" Claret called out. She was standing on a step-ladder that was being held steady by Linneus. Her hands still shook though as she reached out with the star to secure it to the top of the tree, but she couldn't stop singing Christmas carols to herself. "'Deck the halls with balls of holly—Fa la la la la la! La la la la! 'Tis the season to be jolly—'"

"I'm really impressed," Lilith said, observing. "Where did you find such a huge tree?"

Atros shrugged. "I didn't find it. You all were insistent on having a Christmas tree again, so I had that tree-farm send over whatever they had left over. It just so happened that the tree left over was twenty feet tall."

"Hmm…" Lilith smiled suddenly. "Are you sure you didn't special order—"

"Is it ready?" Atros cut her off, shouting up to Claret.

"Almost got it!" Claret called down to him. "Just a little more—GOT IT!" Claret hopped off the step ladder and gave Linneus a hug. "We did it, Linneus! All of the lights are now on the tree!"

"Yes, we did do a good job!" Linneus agreed.

"Hurry and get down here so we can light it!" Lilith called up to them irritably.

"I can't wait," Mercutio giggled, rubbing his hands together.

"Shouldn't we wait for Axis and Rory?" Linneus asked as Claret and he raced over to the others.

Atros shrugged. "Axis won't care and Rory still needs to get ready. Throw the switch!" he announced.

One of the servants hurried over to the wall and flipped the on switch. The massive Christmas tree became ablaze in a beautiful glow of rainbow lights. The star on top of the Christmas tree glowed bright yellow.

"Yay!" Claret cheered, clapping her hands.

"Wow," Lilith breathed, completely impressed. "It looks beautiful…"

"Hey, BOSS!"

Everyone jumped as Axis stomped down the stairs. He was tugging irritably at his collar, though he was dressed in posh clothing. With his usually messy hair stylized, and the tailored shoes on his feet, Axis almost looked like a noble.

Without any of the class, of course.

"How nice of you to join us, Axis," Lilith said snidely, folding her arms over her chest. "And right after we set up the tree!"

"Whatever," Axis fumed, glaring at the tree. "It's a stupid idea anyways to put up a Christmas tree on CHRISTMAS EVE! And in a fucking whorehouse no less!"

"But we always do it," Linneus reminded him.

"I hung up the star!" Claret said happily.

"I'm going to hang up my ornament," Mercutio giggled, skipping over to the tree.

"Atros, WHY are I dressed like this?" Axis demanded, gesturing to his fancy clothes. "I look like a fucking fairy!"

"You look like a noble," Atros corrected him. He reached out to straighten Axis's collar, ignoring the other man's protests. "And I've been paid a good amount of money to loan you out for a Christmas Eve party. Do me a favor and not embarrass me, or you'll be sorry."

"Why do I have to work on Christmas Eve?" Axis complained, trying to swat away Atros's hands. "I mean, I'm totally worth it but nobody else is working on Christmas Eve!"

"Rory is," Claret said playfully.

"Fuck Twinkle Toes!" Axis snapped at her.

"Shut up and deal with it," Atros ordered him. "You're being loaned out for a high-profile party Axis, for all of tonight into tomorrow morning, so at least pretend to act like an adult. Besides, it will be quite a relief to have you out of the Teahouse considering how you always act around the holiday season."

"Always act? What the fuck does THAT mean?"

"Last Christmas you got drunk off of mulled wine, knocked over the Christmas tree, and called all of us "faggots" and "assholes"," Lilith reminded him curtly.

Axis gaped at her. "Huh?"

"I do look forward to it being quiet around here tonight," Linneus teased.

"Axis was a bad little boy!" Mercutio cooed at him from beside the tree. He ruffled through a box on the floor. "Now, where should I hang our stockings?"

"Hey, wait a minute!" Axis hollered, jabbing a finger at Mercutio. "I remember now! I only got shitfaced last year because YOU stuck your dick in my stocking! So it's all YOUR fault, asshole!"

"Didn't you eat three pieces of chocolate from your stocking before—" Claret began.

"SHUT UP!" Axis roared, his whole face turning red.

It was then that Rory came running down the stairs. His hair was still wet from the shower, but he was dressed up nicely. "Lord Reed will be here in twenty minutes," Atros reminded him.

"I know!" Rory said, not even pausing in his running. "I just need to get the cake and mulled wine! Wow, the tree is beautiful!" he gushed as he ran past it.

Atros let Axis go and walked over to the tree. The servants, Claret, Linneus, and Lilith had begun hanging ornaments on it. "It's certainly aesthetically…" he trailed off as one ornament in question caught his eye. He sighed shortly. "Mercutio."

"Hmm?" Mercutio gave him a pervy smile. "What is it?"

"What the hell is that?" he pointed to the ornament in question. It was the size of the palm of a hand. It was colorful too, and depicted a naked Mercutio, with a pink cowboy hat covering his crotch, riding a baby blue dildo covered in bumps.

Mercutio pressed his lips together and touched his finger to his chin. "A special ornament I received from a special friend."

"It's fucking gross!" Axis snapped, gagging violently.

"Oh, now you care about the Christmas tree?" Lilith demanded.

"I have others," Mercutio said, rummaging through the box again.

"It—" Atros began.


Everyone jumped at this horrified scream. Argent even pulled out her sword as Atros twisted around. "Rory!" he shouted. "What's wrong?"

The teenaged redhead burst out of hallway leading to the kitchen, holding something in his hands. "M-Mercutio!" he wailed. "What have you DONE?"

"Oh?" Mercutio slowly rose to a standing position. "So that boring cake is yours, sweetie?"

"What have you DONE to my cake?" Rory shrieked, shaking said cake at Mercutio. It was his beautiful Christmas cake that he'd spent three hours preparing. All for Reed.

But on top in the center sat a bright red, seven-inch long dildo that was tipped to the side and slowly sinking.

"My God, what is the matter with you?" Lilith demanded of Mercutio harshly. "The cake was fine before you stuck THAT in!"

Mercutio pouted. "What makes all of you think I would do that? How cruel to accuse me without proof!"

"Linneus and Lilith would've left it alone, Axis would've dumped it on the floor, and Claret would've stolen a slice," Atros told him matter-of-factly. "Only you would've stuck one of your toys on a cake."

"Hmm…" Mercutio suddenly smiled. "You caught me!" He stuck his finger into the frosting and then stuck said finger into his mouth. "Mmmm! That tastes good, Rory!"

Axis dry-heaved violently, while everyone else looked extremely disgusted.

"I-I spent three hours preparing this cake!" Rory sputtered. Tears filled his green eyes as he looked at everyone assembled. "I made the frosting from scratch, and the cake mix from scratch! W…What am I suppose to offer Lord Reed now?"

"We still have some leftover cookies," Linneus tried to reassure him. "Why don't you fill a plate of—"

"Y-Y-You don't understand! Lord Reed is very specific about what he eats! He barely eats the food I gave him! Ah…" Rory ducked his head and his shoulders shook. "All that hard work for nothing!"

"Wait, are you CRYING?" Axis exclaimed. He screamed with laughter, pointing at Rory and nearly doubling over.

"Axis, that's horrible!" Claret scolded him, rushing to Rory's side. "There, there," she tried to soothe the young man.

"Axis, knock it off!" Atros snapped at him. That barely quelled Axis's hysteria as he turned to Rory. "Rory, get a grip! Go throw this cake out and get your mulled wine! You made that from scratch too, right? Go get that and stop crying! Lord Reed will be here shortly!"

Rory jerked out a nod. "Y-Y-Y-Yessir…"

"I'll take THIS off your hands!" Mercutio cooed, snatching the cake from him. Hands now free, Rory scrubbed at his eyes as he turned and fled into the kitchen.

"Ha!" Axis sighed, wiping tears of laughter from his own eyes. "Man…anytime I have a bad day now, I'll just hold the ginger's weepy face in my head and it'll be better!"

"Ever the classy gentlemen, aren't you?" Lilith scoffed.

Before Axis could respond, there was a loud clatter outside the front door. Atros checked his watch and looked at Axis. "Your escort is here."

"Yeah, yeah," Axis grumbled, waving a dismissive hand. He tugged at his collar again as he shrugged on his coat.

"OH!" Claret cried out, looking out the windows showing their inner garden. "It's snowing!"

"Great," Axis said sarcastically. "Now it's going to be fucking freezing inside the carriage!"

"Just go and don't embarrass me," Atros told him sternly.

"Whatever." Axis was still muttering to himself as he stormed over to the front door. There was a knock at it, and he swung the door open. "I'm here so let's go," he said irritably.

"Indeed," the footman agreed. He directed Axis towards a fancy-looking carriage. Up the street a large group of people were out caroling together, belting out 'I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus' as loud as they could. It proved to give Axis an even bigger headache.

"To the Rose Plaza," the footman called up to the driver.

Axis stiffened as he climbed into the carriage. Rose Plaza? That was the most expensive hotel in the city! So he wasn't going to some lordships house for the party? Well, that was a bit of a relief, in any case.

The carriage was otherwise empty except for Axis, but the chill from outside seeped in regardless. He kicked his feet up onto the opposite seat and sank down, gritting his teeth as the carriage drove past those annoying carolers. "This fucking sucks…"

"Just calm down," Linneus soothed, brushing Rory's shirt out. "Atros is right; the mulled wine should suffice. Didn't Lord Reed say he would only be staying for two hours anyways? The cake was a nice touch, but there was no way you two would've finished it in two hours."

Rory nodded, and sighed. "But I wanted to do something nice for Lord Reed, since it's Christmas…"

"Well he's going to be here soon, so go and get ready."

"Right." Rory picked up the tray holding his jug of mulled wine and glasses and hurried out of the kitchen.

"Poor Rory," Claret sighed, shaking her head. "He was so surprised that Lord Reed scheduled an appointment on Christmas Eve, and he wanted it to be a pleasant visit."

"I'm sure it still will be." They both left the kitchen in time to hear another shout.

"Get THAT off the tree this instant!"

Linneus rolled his eyes. "What's Mercutio doing now?"

They came around the front of the tree to see Lilith screaming at Mercutio. Atros was standing off to the side, rubbing at his face and looking like he was in pain.

Linneus looked at the tree…and paused.

"But it's a nice ornament," Mercutio said, holding it up for emphasis. Lilith tried to grab for it, but he held it out of reach. "My friend made ornaments of all of you! Wasn't that nice of them?"

"My breasts are visible on this ornament!" Lilith screamed. "I REFUSE to allow my privates to be showcased on a CHRISTMAS TREE!"

Linneus arched an eyebrow. Was Lilith, who was a courtesan, honestly self-conscious about being shown naked on a Christmas ornament? Who hadn't seen her naked?

"Ooh, I look cute!" Claret squealed, spying her ornament already on the tree. "But why am I sitting on an éclair?"

Linneus saw his own ornament on the tree and arched an eyebrow. He looked like a little girl snuggling a bouquet of pink roses. He sighed and shook his head. At least I'm not naked…

Other ornaments included Rory, with bright rosy cheeks, sitting on a toadstool wearing pink bunny ears and a bunny tail, Atros dressed like Santa standing next to a donation box ringing a bell, and Axis wearing an out-of-character smile while snuggling a black teddy bear. Linneus sighed, relieved that Axis was gone for the night and wouldn't see this particular ornament.

"Mercutio, just give her the damn ornament!" Atros snapped finally.

Mercutio sighed, but held the ornament out to Lilith. "Here you are, darling."

Lilith snatched it back. "If I catch you hanging up anything related to me, I'll make you pay!"

"Yes, make me pay!" Mercutio encouraged her. "Make me pay hard!"

Lilith turned green and turned her back on him. "…Never mind."

"Let's find some other decorations to hang up," Linneus said to Claret, shifting through a box that didn't belong to Mercutio.

"Oh, this is so much fun!" Claret squealed. She pulled out an innocent-looking angel from the box, and starting to sing. "'Just hear those sleigh bells jingling, ring ting tingling too! Come on, it's lovely weather for a sleigh ride together with you—'"

"Enough, Linneus," Atros said to Linneus suddenly. "You need to go get ready."

"Eh?" Linneus looked up at Atros in confusion as he held a small blue star. "W-What do you mean?"

Atros checked his watch. "You have a client in two hours."

"A client?" Linneus asked incredulously. He quickly stood up. "This is the first I've heard about it!"

"He'll be waiting for you in the music room," Atros said, ignoring Linneus's statement. "Make sure you're presentable."

Linneus gritted his teeth as anger snapped through his body quickly. "Xanthe!" he insisted. "When did this request come in? Up until this moment you've told me I had the day off! How—"

"Linneus." Atros's tone was harsh and he glared at the smaller man. "It's an appointment and you will do it. Rory and Axis are working today, so stop acting childish about having to work on Christmas Eve! Remember; two hours from now in the music room."

Linneus flushed at being dressed-down like this in front of everyone. He didn't dare look at Lilith and risk seeing her smug expression. "I'm not being childish. If you want me to work, even after implicitly giving me the day off, I will gladly do whatever means for you to turn a profit."

He briskly brushed past Atros and stormed towards the stairs. He hated the constant reminders that he was just another prostitute under Atros's control. He honestly wouldn't have minded to work on Christmas Eve. He once had a desperate client who requested him on Christmas Day. But why would Atros clear his schedule, only to put on a last-minute client? Rory and Axis were working, but Rory had his exclusive client and Axis was just loitering at a party.

So why did Linneus have to be shafted in such a way? Especially when he'd wanted to spend a quiet evening with Atros!

Every time I let my guard down…Every time I begin to wonder if Xanthe cares for me…he always works so hard to prove me wrong.

Linneus bit down on his lower. But he would be damned if he allowed Atros to see how much these last-minute changes truly hurt him.

Rory tested the heat of the jug with the palm of his hand. "Still warm…"

The table looked so empty when all it had to offer was two mugs and warm mulled wine. A small box rested beside the jug of mulled wine. It was carefully gift-wrapped with black wrapping paper and a golden ribbon. Rory had put a lot into this specific gift, and he hoped Reed liked it.

…Then again, he doesn't like a lot of what I prepare for him. His shoulders drooped mournfully. That's why I put so much time and energy into that Christmas cake…

The sharp knock at Rory's door startled him. He got his emotions under control and brushed his clothes out. Even though he saw Reed quite constantly, his nerves always jumped when the older man arrived for their sessions. He wanted to do everything he could to please his client, but oftentimes he ended up annoying Reed.

That's not going to happen tonight.

Nodding his assertion to this, Rory snapped a smile on his face as he opened the door. "Good evening, Lord Reed! Merry Christmas!"

Sparing no words as usual, Reed swept into the room. Rory had kept the lights on, though he'd lit a few candles for ambiance. Reed slowly slid his coat off though, and slid off his gloves.

It was slight…but Rory noticed a slight tremor in Reed's right hand. He gulped, and saw his opportunity. "Is it terribly cold outside? I know it started snowing a short while ago. Here." he hurried over to the table and reached for the jug. "I've prepared some mulled wine for you."

Reed paused as he draped his coat over a chair. He said nothing, but he looked right at Rory. Rory flushed reflexively, and coughed. "It two me two days to get the recipe right, but I've had it simmering for the afternoon so it would be nice and warm for you when you arrived."

"…You made it?" Reed said finally. It didn't sound like a question and made of a statement.

"Y-Yes," Rory stammered. "It's not my personal recipe, but I was the one who prepared it. See?" he poured himself a glass and took a quick drink. The warm, spicy alcohol burned very slightly down his throat. "I think it turned out well."

Reed said nothing for a long moment, and simply stood there. Then he slowly slid into the seat he'd put his coat on.

Rory stared back at him, feeling a little awkward.

"Well what are you waiting for?" Reed asked coldly, breaking the uncomfortable silence. "Pour me a cup, Rory."

"A-Ah!" Rory hurriedly poured Reed his own cup of the mulled wine. Inside, he was jumping with joy. Reed was trying something he made! He wasn't brushing it off!

Reed held the cup for a moment, looking at the contents inside. Rory carefully set the jug down, though he kept his eyes on Reed.

Reed took a mild sip, his expression unreadable. He set the cup back down. "It's sweet."

"I-I'm sorry!" Rory cried out, hugging his hands to his chest. He could feel his heart sinking that he disappointed Reed!

Reed looked at him. "Did I say that's a bad thing?"

Rory flushed even darker red. "Ah…"

"I appreciate the effort, though." Reed took another tentative sip. "Most mulled wine I try tends to be watery."

"I see—"

Rory's bedroom door suddenly slammed open. "RORY!"

Rory cried out in alarm and jumped. Reed didn't even flinch, though he turned in his seat to see who it was.

"This cake is simply the BEST!" Mercutio cheered from the doorway. To Rory's utter horror, he was holding the Christmas cake he'd ruined, DILDO and all! "The sweet frosting and thick cake makes the three hours you labored over this splendid cake that much more worth it!"

"Ah-uh-um-uh-ah—" Rory looked at Reed helplessly, who was staring neutrally at Mercutio and the ruined Christmas cake. "T…Thanks?"

"It's worth every bite!" Mercutio gushed sensuously, giving a slight wiggle of his hips. Rory shuddered, while Reed remained unmoved. "So thank you for all your hard—"

"Mercutio!" Atros shouted from down the hall. "What are you doing?"

"Well, Feliz Navidad!" Mercutio quickly closed the door behind him and took off running down the hall.

Rory felt absolutely mortified. He didn't know if Mercutio was trying to do him a favor by showing Reed that horrible cake. "Ah…"

Reed slowly turned in his seat to face Rory again. He idly picked up his cup of mulled wine and took another sip. Then he set the cup back down and said, "So…that's why your usual refreshments are somewhat lacking tonight?"

"Yes," Rory admitted reluctantly. He gulped down the entire contents of his cup. "I'm so sorry, Lord Reed."

Reed motioned to Rory to come over. Rory swallowed thickly and hesitant walked over to stand in front of Reed. "A—Are you mad?"

Reed grabbed Rory by his arm and pulled the younger man into his lap. Rory stiffened as Reed abruptly pulled his collar open. "L-L-Lord Reed—"

Reed dipped his fingers into his cup of mulled wine and smeared it against Rory's now bare neck. Rory shivered violently as the older man began to slowly lick the spicy liquid off Rory's skin. Rory was stunned that Reed would do something so "messy" but he didn't mind. Feeling that tongue scrape across his skin caused butterflies to form in his stomach and his skin began to tingle.

Reed leaned away after the traces of the mulled wine had been licked away. "It's very sweet."

"I—" Rory began.

"But mixed with you…" Reed leaned up and gently sank his teeth into Rory's chin. "It's intoxicating."

The carriage door opened. "We're here, sir."

Grunting to himself, Axis stepped out of the carriage…and promptly lost his balance as he skitted on ice.

The footman thankfully caught his arm before he fell on his ass. "Ah—my apologies. I forgot to warn you about that last step."

"Thanks," Axis said sarcastically, yanking his arm free. He didn't hear any annoying carolers up at this side of town and it'd stopped snowing for the time being. He looked up the front of the Rose Plaza Hotel and whistled. The building itself was pale yellow, but every window was ornate, and curtains closed tightly. Most of the rooms had their lights on, though. He counted the windows and estimated the hotel was fifteen stories tall. "Nice place," he said aloud.

"Here." the footman handed Axis a room key. "Your party is waiting for you in room 15-05."

Axis blinked in confusion, and took the room key from the footman. A little tag hanging from the key did read '15-05'. "Wait…so they're throwing a party on the top floor? Are you sure?"

"Quite sure, sir." The footman bowed. "Merry Christmas."


Axis barely formed a whole sentence before the footman climbed into his perch on the carriage and it took off down the street.

Axis looked back down at the key. Well, his ride was gone and he didn't want to walk back to the Teahouse when it was this cold. Besides, this was some stupid Christmas party at the glitziest hotel in the city. He might as well try to have a good time.

Please let there be some beautiful babe I can hop in the sack with, he wished to himself as he hurried inside. The main lobby was as posh as he would've expected. It was covered with Christmas decorations and even had a Christmas tree, though this tree was absolutely tiny compared to the one at the Teahouse.

Axis heard laughter coming from his right. He saw glass double doors were wide open, leading into a giant ballroom. It was filled to the brim with people dressed in flashy clothing. Undoubtedly a noble's Christmas party.

Axis paused, and gaped at this setting. There was already a party taking place on the ground floor. So why was he assigned to a party on the fifteenth floor?

If this is some kind of joke I'm going to be pissed. He snarled and ruffled his hair. Why can't I just be at THIS party?

A sudden shout erupted from the ballroom. Axis jumped back as two drunken nobles fell into the lobby, wringing each other's necks. The party then spilled out into the lobby. The noblewomen were screaming, but the noblemen were cheering and egging the two idiots on.

Axis scoffed, and shook his head. On second thought, I'll take a quieter party.

Ignoring the out-of-control fight behind him, Axis headed to the elevator. It opened, revealing an overly-cheerful bellboy. "Good evening, good sir! Which floor?"

"15-05," Axis told him bluntly, storming inside.

"Right, the top floor!" the bellboy closed the elevator door and pulled the lever. The elevator ascended in an uncomfortable silence. Axis leaned against the back wall, looking towards the ceiling. He honestly hoped this wasn't some elaborate joke to just get him out of the Teahouse on Christmas Eve.

What a way to spend the holidays. He snorted. Great, I'm sounding like a pussy. Lord Cockbreath came to pork the ginger tonight and I'm here.

An uncomfortable thought entered his mind. I wonder what that queer ass is doing tonight.

Axis almost snarled. No, he didn't care what a certain blue-haired asshole was doing. He was probably entertaining his family, or something. It has nothing to do with Axis.

Nothing AT ALL.

"Fifteenth floor!" the bellboy cheered, sliding open the door. "Merry Christmas, sir!"

Axis saw the bellboy holding out his hand, as if asking for a tip. Ignoring the gesture, Axis stormed out of the elevator without a word. So he's nice just to get a tip. You might as well label EVERY profession as prostitution.

The hallway for the top floor was immaculate. Axis had to gape for a moment at the red carpeting and the orange walls. It was a short hallway though, as he could see a dead-end right at the end. There was only five doors on this floor too, two on one side and three on another; and room '15-05' was the last one on the side with two doors.

Axis approached the door carefully. He didn't hear the sounds of any wild parties coming from any of the rooms. It made him feel a little uneasy. He pressed his ear into the door and listened for a moment. He heard nothing but silence.

Is the party over? If it is, what the fuck am I suppose to do?

Axis got irritated. This 'client' insisted on renting him out for Christmas Eve night and into Christmas morning. He needed a damn place to sleep tonight because he didn't know how to get back to the Teahouse from here!

"Whatever." Axis decided to risk it and inserted the key. It turned easily, and he pushed open the door into the room.

The hotel suite was silent, empty, and dark except for a burning fireplace in the main room. Axis couldn't help but gape as he slowly entered. It was an open floor plan and it was filled with extremely expensive furniture. Plush couches and chairs faced each other beside the fireplace. There was a card game table near a set of double-doors; that was probably the bedroom. A round table with an ice bucket holding a bottle of wine was set up on top of it was placed beside large windows that stretched from ceiling to floor. Two chairs facing each other were set up in front of the table, with two clean wineglasses beside it. There was even a mini-bar on the far-side of the suite.

But the mini-bar was untouched. There was no trash in here to indicate a party, no dirty plates or dirty wineglasses. There was no evidence to indicate that any sort of party was occurring inside this suite.

"W…" Axis turned around, still gaping at his surroundings. "Where the fuck's the party?"

"Good evening."

Axis screamed in shock, and nearly lost his balance. He quickly spun around, his heartbeat accelerating unnervingly. "You—!"

He saw a silhouetted figure sitting in an ornate chair. The figure reached out and calmly pulled the switch for the lamp on the table beside the chair, revealing Rhys's smug face. "A little jumpy, Alice?"

Axis gaped at him for a moment before he could speak. "W-W-What the fuck are YOU doing here?"

"Well, considering I paid to loan you out, it would be important for me to be here," Rhys said smoothly. He leaned his chin into his palm as he looked at Axis. "So, how do you like the Rose Plaza?"

"It's a decent place." Axis waved an impatient hand. "Where's the party?"

Rhys laughed very lightly and stretched an arm out. "We're it."

"W-What?" Axis sputtered. "Are you fucking serious?"

"I'm surprised you're not flattered. I rent out a posh, expensive suite at the city's most expensive hotel to spend time with you."

"You wasted your goddamned money!" Axis snarled. He scrubbed at his face furiously. "Fucking hell! Do you like harassing me like this, or do you not have a home to go to?"

Rhys snorted. "You would hardly stand it, Alice, if I no longer paid you any attention."


"And yes, I do have a home to go to. With a very loving family. But I shall be spending Christmas Day with them so my Christmas Eve is quite free." Rhys stood up from the chair and sauntered over to him. "I think you should feel honored to be spending it with me."

Axis jumped back a little from his sudden approach, and his body tensed up as though he were ready for a fight. Rhys arranged this whole thing just to get him? He let Atros believe Axis was needed for some boring-ass party just to get Axis alone?

It sounded so ridiculous, especially when all he needed to do was go to the Teahouse and he would've gotten Axis alone. It certainly would've saved him some money.

Rhys reached out suddenly and grabbed Axis by his collar. Axis tried to pull free, but Rhys held fast and began to none-too-gently button his collar. "As refined as you look, your true self always shines through hmm?"

"Fuck you, queer ass!" Axis snapped. He choked slightly when Rhys finished buttoning the top button and let him go. "What the fuck is this, anyway?"

"Hopefully a pleasant evening." Rhys swept past him and to the table where the bottle of wine sat. "Want something to drink?"

"Why am I here?" Axis demanded. "Am I REALLY supposed to believe you rented out an expensive suite just to spend one night with ME?"

Rhys looked over his shoulder. "Why is it so hard to believe? That's what happening right now, isn't it?"

Axis didn't know what to make of this. He'd idly wondered what Rhys was doing tonight, but the asshole himself had rented out Axis on the pretense of a party? Just to spend Christmas Eve with him?

"You're a faggot," he snapped, shaking his head.

Rhys only smirked at him. "Always the charmer, aren't you Alice?"

"Fuck you." Axis turned on his heel and walked away.

"Where are you going?" Rhys asked idly, turning back to the bottle.

"Finding the bathroom!" Axis snapped over his shoulder.

Rhys feigned a sigh of irritation. "I'll have to ask that you wait until after dinner before you get off—"

"NOT THAT! I want to wash this gel-shit out of my hair!"

"Ah." Rhys's smirked returned. "Through the bedroom, Alice."

"AXIS!" he hollered. The bed was so gigantic in the bedroom, but Axis felt a sense of foreboding and tried not to look at it as he stormed into the bathroom.

Once inside the bathroom, Axis ducked his head underneath the faucet and turned on the hot water. He scrubbed the hair gel out of his hair, muttering a few choice curse words. "Fucking queer! I wanted to get with a hot lady tonight!"

Knowing Rhys though, their night was bound to end in that giant bed in the bedroom. Axis shivered very slightly as he finished up and rubbed a towel through his hair. It was all so irritating how annoying this blue-haired asshole was!

But you might as well ENJOY these perks he's giving you. After all, it's Christmas Eve and he's paying for everything.

Axis knew though he was going to enjoy the…perks regardless. And that made him even more pissed off.

Axis left the bathroom. He saw the pristine conditions of the bedroom and casually tossed the now dirty towel on the floor. For good measure, he kicked off his shoes and yanked his socks off, leaving a somewhat messy trail behind him as he reentered the main room.

Rhys had poured two glasses of the red wine. He looked up at Axis's arrival, but his eyes went to Axis's now bare feet. "Where are your shoes?"

"Why do you care?" Axis picked up one of the wineglasses.

Rhys sighed shortly. "I know this will be a difficult task for you, but try not to dirty this suite."

"You make me sound like a slob!" Axis snapped at him.

Rhys smiled thinly. "You'll recall I don't often see the floor of your bedroom. Most of the time it's covered in clutter."

"Whatever." Axis lifted his wineglass.

"Wait a minute." Rhys grabbed him by his wrist and tugged his hand down. "I haven't made a toast yet."

"Why the fuck do you have to make a TOAST? We're the only people here, moron!"

Instead of snapping back, Rhys reached out and traced Axis's bottom lip with his thumb. "So vulgar tonight, Alice. But I look forward to putting this mouth to…other uses."

Axis felt an uncomfortable squirm in his stomach, and he jumped away from Rhys. "Fine, fine! Give your gay-ass toast!"

Rhys looked like he was about to laugh as he raised his glass. "To me, of course. But also, to Christmas. For giving me the inspiration to go through with this idea."

"You wasted your money," Axis grumbled, but he gulped down his glass of wine.

There was a sharp knock at the door. Rhys put down his glass. "That's our dinner." He walked over to the door.

"All right, what are we eating?" Axis asked, showing some mild enthusiasm.

"Roast duck and collard greens," Rhys said bluntly, pausing at the door.

Axis made a face and gagged. "Ugh, then count me out! That shit is fucking nasty!"

Rhys looked over his shoulder at Axis, shaking his head with a slight smile. "Come now, what kind of man do you take me for? We're having steak of course!"

"Fuck YEAH!" Axis immediately brightened up and punched the air a few times. He decided then that maybe this little job wasn't so bad after all.

Even if it meant he had to spend Christmas Eve with a fairy like Rhys.

"Rory has gotten so much better at making cakes!" Mercutio sighed, patting his stomach as he reclined in the kitchen nook. "Though I wish he took my recipe for mulled wine…"

"I can't believe you ate that entire cake!" Lilith shuddered. "That toy you shoved into the cake…y-you've used it on customers, right? And you still ATE THE CAKE?"

Mercutio glanced at her. "Of course I have! I get such a delicious response from my clients!"


"You see, all I need to do is push it in at the right angle, and—"

"Enough!" Lilith smacked the table. "I don't need that mental image, Mercutio!"

Mercutio smirked. "You asked, dearest."

"Guys, we still have some Christmas cookies left!" Claret offered from the counter. "Also, does anyone want any eggnog while I still have it out?"

"I'm full from the cake," Mercutio said.

"Cookies and eggnog make you fat," Lilith scoffed, standing up from the booth. "Well, I'm going to go see Atros—"

"Mr. Atros told me that nobody's to bother him," Claret interjected.

Lilith smirked at her. "I'm certain I'll be an except—"

"No, he's was quite adamant that we leave him alone in his office." Claret finished pouring out her cup of eggnog.

Lilith huffed, and gave a toss of her head. "Well! I'll just have to see that for myself! Unlike you two, I don't desire spending Christmas Eve night by myself!"

She swept from the kitchen. Claret merely shrugged and turned back to her task. She began singing to herself again. "'The first Noel—the angels did say. Was to certain poor shepherds—in fields as they lay'."

"'In fields where they lay'!" Mercutio sang dramatically, sweeping from the booth to hurry to Claret's side. "'Keeping their sheep! On a cold winter's night! That was so deep'!"

Claret gaped at him. "You know 'The First Noel'?"

Mercutio grinned at her and hugged her from behind. "I know many things, little Claret!"

But Claret shuddered. "Somehow, that sounds so wrong." She focused on her task.

Mercutio looked over her shoulder. Claret had prepared a tray with a cup of eggnog and some of the leftover Christmas cookies. "What's this? Atros is drinking eggnog?"

"A-Ah, no this is for Linneus," Claret explained. "He looked so down when Atros sprung that job on him, that I wanted to cheer him up. I know Christmas cookies will hardly do it, but…"

"Hmm." Mercutio grinned and squeezed his arms tighter around Claret. "You're so sweet, Claret."

"Thank you." As touching as Mercutio was being though, Claret would rather he let her go in that moment. Especially since his robe was slipping open, and he never wore anything underneath.

"I don't think we need to worry about Linneus tonight though," Mercutio added.

"Why not?" Claret asked. "I was there this morning when Atros told Linneus his schedule was clear for the day. Then he tells him a last-minute client is coming? Two hours before the client is set to arrive? How can I not worry about him?"

"Just a feeling." Mercutio chuckled very slightly. "After all, it is Christmas. Miraculous things are bound to happen."

"…I don't get it." Claret sighed. "But you definitely still owe Rory an apology for ruining his cake."

"He already got one from me though, I believe. And I'm certain Lord Reed cheered Rory up all on his own…"

Rory was exhausted. He wanted to curl up underneath the covers and go right to sleep. He didn't even care he was still naked.

Reed was shrugging on his coat, his back to Rory. As per usual with their sessions, Reed spoke very little and they never quite went all the way. Reed seemed content with testing the limits of Rory's body without actually penetrating him. And Rory felt like all his senses were molding in such a way to meet Reed's needs and expectations.

It was a bit startling…but it didn't frighten Rory in any way.

Rory saw Reed reach for his white gloves. All of a sudden he remembered and quickly sat up. "Lord Re—" he sucked in a sharp breath at the slight pain in his hips.

"Don't be so hasty," Reed said, picking up his gloves.

"B-But I…" Rory shrugged on his robe as he hurried over to Reed. "I want to give this to you!" he picked up the gift-wrapped box and held it out to Reed. "M-Merry Christmas, Lord Reed!"

Reed looked down at the box for a long moment and then looked at Rory. "What is it?"

"Why don't you open it and see?" Rory offered.

Reed sighed shortly. "Just tell me what it is. I'll determine for myself if I want or need it."

Rory flushed. He knew he should've expected this cold demeanor, but it was still so surprising. "A-Ah…" he ducked his head. "I…I sewed you a pair of gloves."

Reed said nothing. Rory looked up pleadingly. "I picked out the fabric myself—it was special-ordered, and nobody touched it without wearing gloves. Then I studied your other gloves and your fingers, so they should be able to fit!"

"…You sewed a pair of gloves?" Reed asked after a moment.

Rory nodded. "I did everything I could to make sure they would fit you perfectly. Both for comfort and for style."

Reed stood there again for a long moment of silence. Rory felt his heartbeat in his throat and he swallowed thickly. Please…please take my gift, Lord Reed!

Then Reed set aside his white gloves on the table and took Rory's gift. Rory tried not to sigh heavily in relief as Reed delicately removed the yellow ribbon. "Did you wrap this yourself, too?" he asked.

"Y-Yessir," Rory stammered.

Reed put the ribbon on the table carefully and set about removing the wrapping paper. He did it with such meticulous care, not tearing at it at all. Rory had been careful too when cutting the wrapping paper, so that it didn't look sloppy. He didn't want Reed to find any fault with his gift at all.

Taking away the wrapping paper revealed a slim white box. Reed removed the lid, and looked inside. A single pair of black gloves rested very neatly inside.

Still remaining silent, Reed put the box down and held the gloves in his hands. He rubbed the fabric between his fingers. "Soft and durable."

"Then…you like it?" Rory tried not to get his hopes up too much. But he couldn't help but feel a little giddy.

Reed shrugged stiffly and casually tossed the black gloves on top of his white ones. Then he picked both pairs up. "They will do."

"Really?" Rory cried out. He slapped his hands and cheered. "That's wonderful! I'm so happy you like them, Lord Reed! I really hope—"

Reed suddenly grabbed Rory by his robe's lapels and tugged him forward. Rory grabbed for Reed's shoulders as the older man enveloped him in a deep kiss. His heart was pounding, and not just from the intensity of the kiss. He was happy. He was so happy that Reed accepted the mulled wine and the gloves he'd worked so hard on both for. It really made it feel like his efforts were worth it.

Reed broke the kiss and leaned away. Rory licked his lips and said, "S-Shall I see you out?"

"I know my way to the front door," Reed said coldly. He turned to leave.

Rory's shoulders drooped slightly. "R…Right."

Reed suddenly paused. He turned back around to face Rory. After a moment, he said, "…Merry Christmas."

Rory jumped in surprise, but he smiled and quickly nodded. "Thank you. Merry Christmas to you too, Lord Reed."

Reed nodded, and left the room without another word. Rory took a few steps backwards and fell back onto his bed. He curled up on his side and traced his lips with his fingers. "He really likes it…"

Outside Rory's room, Reed looked down at the two pairs of gloves he now had. He tucked the white ones into his pocket and pulled the black ones on. He was only mildly surprised to feel the material glide over his skin smoothly. It felt a little tight around his thumbs, but otherwise the gloves were comfortable. Reed had to admit he was impressed.

I'll have to properly thank him later, he decided.

As he turned to leave, he heard a muted ruckus down the hall. He turned and saw one of the doors open.

"—just listen to me!" Lilith insisted. Her voice had a note of desperation and anger in it.

"I've told you a dozen times I want to be left alone!" Atros reprimanded her. "Now, will you leave on your own, Lilith, or do I have to forcibly remove you from my office?"

"…I'll leave." Lilith stormed out of the office. She was barely over the threshold when the door closed sharply behind her. She turned to glare at the door, and she ducked her head. Her hands were clenched at her sides and she shook slightly. Reed couldn't tell if she was angry or crying.

Finally, she started storming down the hall and she noticed Reed. Her whole face turned scarlet and she turned and ran in the opposite direction, disappearing down the corridor.

Reed stood there for a couple of extra seconds, and then turned to walk towards the main foyer. As he entered the foyer, he made a brief observation.

"It's snowing."

Maybe he'd consumed too much wine, but Axis was starting to feel a little giddy.

Across the round table, Rhys idly drank his wine as servants cleared away their empty plates. Axis had been very impressed with the food, though Rhys had taken the opportunity to make fun of his table manners. It pissed Axis off, but drinking more wine had helped to mellow him out at least.

It also allowed Axis to really enjoy himself. Even though he felt like he was one some gay date with Rhys.

"Leave the wine," Rhys told the servants.

Axis watched him carefully as the empty plates were loaded onto the dish cart. The servants took their leave of them then, leaving the two of them alone again. Rhys got up from his chair to walk around the suite. He shut off all the lights in the room, leaving only the fireplace as the only source of light in the room.

"So what happens now?" Axis asked snidely, taking another drink of wine..

Rhys returned to his seat and glanced to his left. "It's snowing again," he pointed out idly.

"Fuck," Axis whined, looking out the window. "I hate snow!"

He stiffened suddenly. Something felt different about watching the snow now, out the window of this posh hotel suite. The fireplace illuminated the otherwise very dark suite, and the lack of lighting made the snow very bright. The setting seemed…intimate all of a sudden.

That was most likely the reason Rhys turned off all the lights.

Axis swallowed thickly, and looked away. He realized in the span of a few seconds, the mood had abruptly changed.

Rhys was watching him, tracing the top of his wineglass with his index finger. "What do you think of your Christmas present?" he asked.

"C-Christmas present?" Axis sputtered, looking at him in shock.

Rhys smiled. "This lovely evening is my Christmas gift to you, Axis."

Axis felt his pulse jump. He knew that tone of voice. Rhys's attentions had shifted right along with the overall atmosphere. Axis knew that easily enough by the look the other man gave him.

"I think it's funny how you waste your money," Axis said, covering up the sudden anticipation he felt. He reclined back in the chair. "And I know you want something in return."

Rhys smirked. "Really, now?"

"You rented me out for tonight and into tomorrow morning," Axis pointed out. "What the fuck else do you have in mind?"

Rhys laughed very lightly. "Yes…I do suppose I already have your Christmas gift to me already planned out."

Axis shrugged. He was acting nonchalant, but he could feel his blood burning. Maybe it was the wine affecting his judgment, but he didn't feel so self-conscious about wanting to go over to Rhys and initiate this sexual encounter.

For once though, he held himself back. "So what do you have in mind?"

Rhys stopped tracing the top of the glass. Very slowly, he dragged his finger down the side of it. "I'm going to fuck you on every surface inside this suite." The finger caressed down the stem of the wineglass. "Ending in the bedroom, in bed. But starting…" he drew his hand away from the glass and pressed his finger into the surface of the table. "Right here."

Axis almost laughed, but his stomach was doing flip-flops. "You sound pretty confident."

"So you think it's not going to happen?" Rhys asked him. "I tend to be the kind of man who likes to get everything he wants."

Axis stood up from the table. He came around the side until he was standing right in front of Rhys. "What makes you think I'm going to let it happen?" he folded his arms over his chest and smirked at him.

Rhys simply stared up at him, not taking the bait. It made Axis feel a little stupid, and that fueled his anger. "Well, say something you fa—"

Rhys stood up so quickly that Axis didn't have time to react. In a flash Rhys was in a face, leering at Axis with a heated glare. "Because it's me." then he grabbed Axis by his collar and pulled him in for a rough, sizzling kiss.

Axis felt his knees go weak immediately, and his irritation flared again at melting so easily under another man's hands. He pushed hard against Rhys arms, but the other man simply yanked Axis harder against him, crushing his arms between the two of them.

Still kissing him senseless, Rhys turned them so that Axis's back was against the table. He slid his hands down to squeeze Axis's, and to give him leverage as he lifted him onto the table. This freed Axis's arms, but Axis couldn't deny the heat that had ruptured in his body from the contact of this kiss. Spreading his knees, he gave Rhys the room to steps between his legs as Axis slid his arms around his neck.

Rhys broke the kiss, but the intensity of it left them both breathless. "You taste like alcohol."

"So?" Axis retorted. He pressed a hand to his mouth to wipe away the kiss, but his lips tingled in such a way that they felt sensitive against his hand.

"…Yeah." Rhys ran a hand through Axis's hair before his dug his fingers in. "I guess it's better than cigarettes."

"Fuck—" Axis was cut off when Rhys began sucking at his neck. He grunted, and arched his head back as Rhys kissed his way up his neck until he found his chin. He sucked Axis's bottom lip into his mouth and licked at the piercing. "Huh…" Axis couldn't remember being angry. Not when his libido kicked into high gear.

"Like I told you," Rhys hissed, using his grip on Axis's hair to pull the other man's head down for another kiss. "I like to get everything I want."

…And Axis decided that it wasn't necessarily a bad thing.

"—so I wouldn't worry," Claret said, munching on a Christmas cookie. "Christmas Eve is just like any other day. It's not even a holiday. You have Christmas Day off at least."

Linneus forced a smile at Claret as he fixed his clothes. Atros hadn't given him any direction on who this client was or what his or her tastes were, so he dressed in subtly masculine, festive clothing. "Thank you, Claret. I really do feel much better now."

"Don't you want a cookie?" Claret offered him the plate. "I've eaten most of them! And I drank your cup of eggnog!"

"I'm really doing fine. But here." Linneus took a cookie from the plate and bit into it. "These really are good. I just have to make sure not to get any crumbs on me."

"Maybe the client just wants to talk? After all, you're meeting him in the music room. There's no bed in the music room."

Linneus almost choked on the cookie. "Well, you don't necessarily need a bed to have sex with someone."

"Oh, I know," Claret said. "There was this one client I had, and he had a fetish for the smell of clean linen, so we did it in the laundry room—"

"I think I have to be going," Linneus interrupted. "My client must have arrived by now."

"R-Right." Claret stood up and smiled. "Good luck, Linneus!"

Linneus nodded. "Have a good night, Claret. Merry Christmas."

"Merry Christmas!"

Linneus left his bedroom. Once Claret could no longer see him, he allowed his smile to drop and he sighed quietly. Well, let's get this over with…

He hadn't seen Atros of course since he was given this assignment. But he had very little doubt that Atros was giving company to Lilith this evening. It was all so irritating to Linneus, but it was something he'd come to expect. Unfortunately so.

As he neared the music room though, Linneus frowned and slowed his pace. When he'd left his bedroom he'd heard this…hum coming from somewhere. Now he was very close to the music room though, the hum became clearer. It was the baby grand piano in the music room. Somebody—most likely the client—was playing the piano.

Linneus came to a full stop in front of the music's room closed door. The music coming from inside was so soothing…whomever was playing the piano was very skilled. Linneus would've expected a simple Christmas song, but this song sounded a bit melancholy. He closed his eyes for a moment and leaned his back against the door. He loved the music room. It was more of a prop-room than anything, just in case a client wanted to "serenade" his or her courtesan, but he had fond, innocent memories of this room. Sitting at the baby grand, banging his hands on the keys…

"Push the pedals like I showed you! We must hurry though, because Father wouldn't like to see me playing the piano!"

"Which one should I press?"

"When I tap you with my left foot, press the left pedal. The same with the right. Got it?"

"But there are two left pedals!"

Linneus's eyes snapped open and the music washed over him. But now the music unsettled him because he recognized the song. He knew it from so long ago…

He spun around and pushed open the music room door. Still, when he saw who was sitting at the piano, playing away, Linneus felt his jaw drop and he was overcome with shock. "Xanthe!"

Atros didn't even pause as he continued to play, not looking up. "Right on time, Linneus."

"Wha…" Linneus closed the door shut behind him and slowly approached his boss. "What's going on, Xanthe? Where's the client?"

"Have a seat, please." Atros patted an empty spot on the piano bench he sat on.

Linneus continued to gape, unsure of what was going on. Slowly, he walked over to Atros and took a seat beside him. "…Xanthe?"

"I remember this one incident when we were children," Atros said. His gaze remained on his playing. "Father had barred me from playing the piano, but I wanted to play and you wanted to learn, too. But the bench was too high for my feet to reach, so you pressed the foot pedals while I played. We managed to play a little bit of this song I'm currently playing. Father caught us regardless and we were both punished."

"…I remember that," Linneus said. He looked down the length of Atros's body. The little boy he'd been had grown into a man, who could reach the foot pedals on his own. "He almost threw out this piano, but it was a popular—ah—viewing item for the clients."

"It still is." Atros finished his piece and slowly closed the fallboard over the keys. "Here." Atros reached for a nearby table. A bottle of clear champagne was waiting, with two glasses. He poured the champagne and offered one glass to Linneus. "Cheers."

Their glasses clinked and both tip a sip. The champagne tasted expensive and very smooth. Linneus fidgeted as silence filled the music room as they drank the champagne. "Xanthe," he said finally, carefully setting his glass on the floor. "Can you please tell me what's going on?"

Atros set his glass on the fallboard. Then he turned in his seat suddenly so that he was facing Linneus. He cupped Linneus's chin in his hands and leaned forward. "If I kissed you right now," Atros said quietly. "Would you resent me?"

Linneus felt his heart leap, but he didn't know if it was joy or apprehension. "Y-You…" he suddenly turned his head away, breaking free from the hold. "You've been drinking, haven't you? Other than this champagne?"

"I have not," Atros insisted, though his words were not unkind.

"You're confusing me," Linneus said, allowing the frustration to filter into his voice. "You booked me a client, but I see no client! All I see is you, and you ask to kiss m—"

Atros pressed his mouth to his. It was simple contact, a very innocent kiss. But it was enough for Linneus. He was shocked at the tears that stung his eyes and he slowly drew away. "…Don't," he said quietly.

Atros cupped his face, forcing him to turn upwards towards him while he pressed soft, extremely hesitant kisses to Linneus's face. "You're so beautiful," he murmured.

Linneus shook his head. "Please sto—"

"What if I told you I wanted you for myself?"

Linneus was shocked again. It gave Atros the opportunity to pull him into his arms. He wanted to relax, but he waited for the other shoe to drop and ruin this moment. "A-Are you well, Xanthe? You're not acting like yourself."

Atros said nothing for a long moment. Linneus felt him lift his head. "It's snowing again."

Linneus looked over his shoulder and saw the snow. It looked so peaceful outside, and it somehow helped make him feel more at ease. Even though Atros's behavior was baffling him.

"Xanthe…" Linneus took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "I…Does this mean you're my client for tonight?"


Linneus stiffened. So here was the other drop. "I see…"

"I'm yours."

Linneus pulled out of his arms completely and gaped at him. "W-WHAT?"

Atros calmly picked up his glass and drained it. "I felt…since this is the holiday season and you've suffered through enough of my disposition, that I should do something for you for once."

"B-By GIVING yourself to me?" Linneus demanded.

"By offering to do as you like with me." Atros set the glass back down. "You can invite me into your bed, you can strike me and insult me for everything, whatever you like. I won't object."

"W…" Linneus rubbed at his forehead, not sure of how he should feel about this. "Why would you make this offer to me, Xanthe?"

"Because I'm a bastard and I'm sick of this ugliness between us," Atros said bluntly. "And right now I'm full of so much frustration over our circumstances that I don't know what else to do."

"…I see." Linneus swallowed thickly. Atros had just admitted that he wanted to keep him for himself. But now Atros was whoring himself out to Linneus? Because it was Christmas? "And am I to expect this to be a one-time deal?"

Atros gave him a sideways glance. "Whatever you wish."

It was an unfair statement for Atros to make, but Linneus knew him well enough that he knew Atros was being sincere. He was prideful and so warped because of his father. Linneus knew this, and it was why he dealt with so much of Atros's attitude.

But that cold exterior seemed to going away, even if slightly. Linneus hardly thought it was a Christmas miracle, but it was refreshing.

"Whatever you wish."

Linneus dropped his eyes, and let out his breath. He allowed his natural charm to ooze out of him as he looked at Atros again. "If you really mean it, Xanthe, then kiss me. Kiss me like you want to suck my soul out."

Linneus expected a cold rejection, even with the promise. He didn't expect Atros to lift his hand, without any hesitation, and bury it in Linneus's pink hair. He pulled his head forward and kissed him again. This time, it was nothing innocent.

A strangled noise emitted from Linneus's throat as Atros pulled him fully into his lap. They clung to each other and their tongues entwined. Linneus dug his fingers hard into Atros's shoulders and tears stung his eyes. He hadn't felt this close to Atros in over eight years.

Atros cupped his face and slowly drew away. Linneus kept his eyes closed, afraid that tears would spill out. "How was that?" Atros spoke in a soft tone he rarely used for him.

Once Linneus was certain his emotions were under control, he opened his eyes and smiled. Really smiled. "Perfect."

"Hmm." Atros leaned in close again, only a breath's away from kissing him again. "What shall we do next?"

Linneus held onto his smile and said, "Play the piano."

Atros stilled. "Pardon?"

"The piano." Linneus smoothly slid off his lap and took Atros's glass off the fallboard. Then he pushed the fallboard up to reveal the keys. "Play the piano for me. It's been years since you've really played."

Atros put his hands on Linneus's waist from behind. Linneus stilled. "Is that all you want, Linneus?"

Linneus smiled over his shoulder. "Let's see how tonight goes."

Atros hesitated for a moment, and then nodded. "All right, then. What song would you like me to play?"

"'Jingle Bells'."

"No," Atros denied. "Claret has been singing that damned song all week! Something else, please!"

"Oh, all right," Linneus teased, laughing lightly. "How about 'Clair de Lune'?"

Atros nodded. "Much better."

He began playing the piece. The melancholy notes floated across the room. Linneus closed his eyes, and leaned his head against Atros's shoulder. Atros didn't react, but he didn't push him away, either.

"Merry Christmas," Atros said after a moment.

Linneus smiled, though he kept his eyes closed. "Merry Christmas. This is a good present."

"Only good?" Atros paused before he said, "Then I'll have to make it great."

Feeling the tone of the music through Atros's body, Linneus knew that this was probably the best Christmas he ever had.

Red Santa hat on his head, Mercutio wore Santa's coat and his pants, albeit loosely, as he carefully hung the stockings up in front of the fireplace in the main foyer. Starting with Atros, then Linneus, then Rory, then Lilith, then Claret, and then himself. Mercutio stepped back and admired the mantel. "Perfect…but I feel something is missing…"

Then it came to him. "Ah-ha!" he reached down the front of his pants and pulled out the final stocking. Axis's name was stitched up the side. Grinning sinisterly, Mercutio hung this stocking up with care. Then he filled the stockings with candy canes and chocolates. He paused at Lilith's stocking though, and took a huge bite out of one of her chocolates and held it over the fire. It started oozing chocolate and caramel before Mercutio put it inside Lilith's stocking. He gave Claret and Rory a little more chocolate than the others, because they simply deserved it.

Of course, he added the odd stocking-stuffer to each stocking for a little trinket. Mercutio knew, deep down, that Axis would appreciate his little gift. All he had to do was attach it to his finger and presto! He wouldn't need to worry about hurting after being with Rhys!

Mercutio took a step back from the fireplace. It looked perfect. The giant tree, surrounded by presents for the courtesans, servants, Atros, and Argent, looked perfect. The setting looked like a Christmas card, and not something you would expect from a whorehouse.

Mercutio grinned suddenly, and his voice dipped low. "'But I heard him exclaim, as he drove out of sight'."

He suddenly spun around, spreading his arms wide. "'MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL! AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT'!"

"AH!" Lilith was standing on the stairs and she nearly fell over at Mercutio's shout. "W-What are you doing, shouting like that at this time of night? I'm just trying to get a glass of water and you almost caused me to fall down the stairs!"

Mercutio grinned at her before picking up his bag. "Why don't you check your stocking before going back to bed?"

"Oh, they're up?" Lilith looked excited for a moment before her face turned sour. "Please tell me you didn't put my stocking on your di—"

"That was Axis, sweetheart," Mercutio drawled, hefting the bag over his shoulder. "If if you'll excuse me, Santa Claus is still very busy!" Mercutio hurried up the stairs, because he knew things would be explosive very shortly once Lilith found the mess in her stocking.

"I'm sure you are," Lilith muttered. She turned to head towards the kitchen, but she couldn't help but look over her shoulder at the stockings. Maybe things didn't work out for her this Christmas, but she did appreciate gifts. Even if it was chocolate, or something weird from Mercutio, it flattered her to receive it.

"Merry Christmas," she said to herself, flashing the empty foyer a genuine smile.

Thank you so much for reading! Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, Happy Kwanzaa, and all that stuff!