Welcome to Day Eleven of the Rainbow Advent Calendar!
I’m Alex Jane. I write various flavors of M/M – werewolf homesteaders, private detectives of dubious moral character, deep-dark-wrong romance, and fluffy, lovely, family feels.
If this is your first introduction to the Rainbow Advent…you’ve been missing out! We have 48 authors, posting free stories from the 1st to the 24th December. You can check out the posts, twice daily, on the Facebook group or here on the masterlist.
My offering is a little future fic from my Christmas book, Tinsel Fixes Everything. Hope you enjoy <3
Platinum Fixes Everything.
Chase strode towards the double doors, bouncing on his toes a little in his impatience for them to slide open. Once through, he walked quickly, all his focus on the nurse at the reception desk, without so much as bothering to brush the snow from his shoulders. He didn’t run. No matter how much he wanted to. His skin was prickling and hot with the urge to do just that but he knew if he started to lose his composure now, he’d end up a blubbering wreck on the floor.
The woman looked up at him as he came close, her eyes friendly behind her wire-rimmed glasses but calm in the face of his panic. Running both hands through his damp hair, he leaned forward placing his elbows on the counter and gasped out, “Joel Levine. I was told he was brought here.”
The woman, Brenda according to her name tag, nodded and looked to her computer screen, typing deftly. Chase resisted the urge to lean over the counter to get a better look or just grab the screen and yank it around.
The ER was pretty crowded but Chase figured it would be after the heavy snow had turned to thick ice—only to be covered with more snow—in a freakish cold snap that had caught everyone by surprise. Plus, being so close to Christmas probably didn’t help. It was kinda sweet how the waiting room had a sad plastic tree and a bunch of decorations but it didn’t make Chase feel any better.
“Are you family?”
“Yes,” Chase replied, without really thinking about it. He wasn’t, not legally anyway but in all the ways it counted he was.
Brenda paused, looking doubtful or perhaps waiting for some clarification. She wasn’t going to get it, so Chase only tried to look more trustworthy. Brenda’s frown deepened, but before Chase could open his mouth to try to persuade her to let him through, he heard someone calling his name.
Theo was in scrubs, rather than in her paramedic uniform, which didn’t strike Chase as a red flag until she pulled him into a hug and just about squeezed the life out of him.
“Is he—?” Chase started, pulling back but Theo lay a hand on his chest and shook her head.
“He’s fine, I swear. A little battered but okay.” She glanced over at Brenda as she took a firm hold of Chase’s elbow. “Thanks, Bren. I’ll take him back.” Brenda nodded and went back to whatever she was doing before Chase had interrupted her.
Taking a deep breath, Chase let it out slow as Theo dragged him along the corridor, attempting to calm himself while she filled him in.
“The doc has seen him. They wanted to x-ray before they sew him up, just as a precaution but he’s alright, honestly. They’ve given him the bare minimum of pain relief so if he’s a little cranky, its only because of that. You okay? Did you drive yourself?”
A laugh bubbled up and Chase couldn’t stop it. Technically, yes, he had driven. More accurately, he had broken just about every traffic law to get from the high school to the hospital. He’d been sprawled in the teacher’s lounge, catching up with some marking during a free period as he often did when Joel was on shift. Not that he minded being in the house alone but it was too easy to fall asleep in front of the TV by himself. Right in that moment, he wasn’t sure if he’d ever sleep again.
“You gonna tell me what happened?” Chase asked. Theo hadn’t said much on the phone. Getting a call from Joel’s partner while they were on shift had Chase answering with “What’s happened?” rather than with a hello. And when she had said that Joel was on his way to St Agnes’ but that he was okay and not to panic, Joel gathered his things—admittedly in a panic—grabbed his coat and sped over there.
“It was a domestic. The cops were there. It was all cool until it wasn’t. I think the guy was off his meds or something. He—he had a piece of broken glass in his hand and took a swing for Joel,” Theo’s hand instinctively tightened as the breath punched out of Chase’s body. “It barely touched him but Joel slipped on the ice, fell back and banged his head on the floor. He was only out for like a second but—”
Chase nodded. It was a second too long.
They weren’t exactly strolling along but Chase wished they were going a bit faster. Theo was leading him who-knows-where, past the nurses station and down a long row of bays partitioned only by thin curtains. Each one had a strange little tableau—the tired mother rocking two small children, both crying and red in the face, an old man sitting in a plastic chair holding his wife’s hand as she lay on the gurney with a mask over her face, the young man, alone, holding a bloody cloth to his head, nodding as a nurse noted down his replies on her clipboard. It wasn’t until they got to the last one in the row that Theo slowed.
The curtain was partway open and Chase could see the pair of argyle socks Joel had put on that morning, even though Chase cussed him out repeatedly about taking his clothes. As they came to the end of the bed, Chase could see Joel was wearing his dark uniform trousers but naked to the waist. The sight of his tattooed chest and arms had Chase tightening his jaw. Joel wasn’t one to parade around with his shirt off in public. Despite the extensive body art, he was a private person. Modest. Seeing him exposed like this, made Chase a little angry on his behalf. But in that moment the thing that took precedence was the large wad of padding that was taped horizontally across his abdomen.
Stopping dead at the end of the bed, Chase’s frightened gaze caught Joel’s eyes for just a second before he couldn’t take it and covered his face with his hands.
“I’m okay,” Joel said firmly, like he was talking to a child. “B-baby, l-look at me. Everything is alright, I sw-swear.”
Chase took a couple of deep breaths, then lowered his hands. He wasn’t going to cry. At least, not here in front of everybody.
Joel tilted his head just a fraction and held his hands out as if to say, See? I’m fine. Stop making a scene. And Chase had to admit that he did appear okay.
Huffing out a sigh of relief, Chase took the few steps to the side of Joel’s bed and bent down, kissing his lover firmly on the mouth. It wasn’t a peck but neither was it obscene. It was proof of life and I love you and a thousand other things.
“You scared the shit out of me,” Chase murmured, as he gently pressed his forehead against Joel’s.
“T-technically, Theo scared the sh-shit out of you.”
Chase chuckled despite his best efforts not to. “Goddammit, Joel. Don’t do this again, okay?”
Joel pulled away and smiled up at him. “Okay.” Up close it was clear that Joel was tired, and in some discomfort despite his smiles.
“You really alright?” Chase whispered.
Joel nodded and would have replied had a young looking doctor not swept into the cubicle without looking up from the notes in his hand. The kid—because, Holy Hell, the guy could have passed for one of Chase’s seniors—looked a bit embarrassed when he saw Chase standing there. “Sorry, sorry, I should have…” Knocked seemed a little unlikely given the lack of door but Chase got what he meant.
“This is Michael,” Joel said cheerily. “And before you ask, yes, he is a real d-doctor and he does kn-know what he’s doing, although he did mistake me for a g-gangbanger earlier—” It was lightly teasing and the doctor, blushed a little before muttering that Joel was full of shit.
Chase had to shrug though. “Well, if you will lie around flaunting your—everything.”
Joel snorted. “My everything?” Rather than incriminate himself, Chase just gestured at the piercings adorning Joel’s nipples like a game show hostess, which made Joel laugh, and then wince.
“Well, the good news is the radiology didn’t pick up anything lurking in your wound,” Michael said, as he slid the notes into the box at the end of the bed.
“W-what’s the bad news?” Joel asked.
Michael smiled. “You caught the short straw, and I get to be the one sewing you up.”
Joel groaned but thankfully Chase could tell he was acting out for affect, and patted him on the hand like he was having a case of the vapors. “Come on now, dear. Don’t aggravate the man with the pointy needle.”
“I’m not w-worried about that. He’s just so sl-slow, I was hoping to get home before N-New Years.”
Chase smirked, relieved Joel could see the funny side. It might not be that way later. Joel was mostly an upbeat person, quiet and serious but not often down, despite some of the things he witnessed as a paramedic. He’d always been quite good about not bringing his work home with him, but that didn’t stop him from drifting away into thought sometimes. Or having nightmares that he wouldn’t talk about. At least, not to Chase.
Michael started by pulling back the padding that was laying over Joel’s wound. There was a line of red, deeper at one end, thinning as it became more shallow at the other. The edges were ragged and when Chase saw something yellowy-white inside he had to look away.
Joel grabbed his hand. “Hey. It’s okay. You d-don’t have to b-be here for this.”
Squeezing back tighter, Chase sighed. “Of course, I do. And aren’t I the one who’s supposed to be comforting you?”
“Better get on w-with it then.” Joel smiled and Chase managed a smile back even though he could see Michael preparing his suture kit out of the corner of his eye.
“So,” the doctor said, casually, “How long have you two been together?”
When Chase replied, “About two years,” at the same time that Joel answered, “Twelve years now,” Michael slowly looked up at the two of them, before asking Joel, “You having any nausea, blurred vision?”
Joel laughed. “I’m not concussed, it’s just…”
“Complicated,” Chase offered when Joel couldn’t seem to come up with anything.
Michael hmmed, seemingly placated but still confused as he went back to work. Holding up a small syringe, he yanked the plastic cap off, exposing the needle. “Now, this might sting a bit…”
“You sure you shouldn’t be getting straight into bed?” Chase figured Joel knew what he was doing but still scowled with concern as his boyfriend lowered himself gingerly onto the sofa, one arm wrapped protectively around his torso.
“Why M-Mr. Meadows,” Joel said in his best southern belle—which was terrible at best— “what kind of a boy do you th-think I am?”
“It’s not funny, Joel.”
“No. I know.” His smile softened, as he reached up to take Chase’s hand. “But you heard what was said. My head is f-fine. The cut isn’t that deep.”
Chase nodded, and dropped his chin to his chest. “It could have been worse.”
“Yeah, but it w-wasn’t.”
Joel let out a short, frustrated sound and pulled Chase down to sit next to him. “Do you want me to give up my job?”
Chase looked up at him in horror. “God, no! I know you love it and you’re good at what you do. But that doesn’t stop me from worrying.”
Chase knew Joel got it. He’d watched Chase fret over Kyle, his oldest brother, when he had become a cop. The anxiety of potentially losing him weighed heavy on his shoulders, unexpected, perhaps, after being orphaned at sixteen. Joel’s job wasn’t as dangerous but it was certainly more so than ex-baseball player-turned-high school teacher.
There was something in Joel’s eyes for a second, a searching look that Chase couldn’t quite put his finger on.
“I th-think you should open that s-small present from under the t-tree.” It was about the most random thing that Joel could have said in that moment and Chase was pretty sure his expression reflected it. “It’ll ch-cheer you up.”
Shaking his head, Chase laughed. “Christmas isn’t for four days, I think I can wait.”
“Then think of it as an a-a-anniversary present.” The way Joel was speaking, his voice low and almost shy.
Chase laughed again. “Still three days early for that too.”
Joel winced a little as he shifted slightly in his seat to face Chase and grip his hand tight. “Chase,” he sighed. “Get the fucking b-box.”
The previous year, Chase hadn’t bothered decorating his small house. It seemed like so much effort, what with him spending so much time either at Kyle’s place, or helping out at the family bar that his other brother, Tyler ran. When he wasn’t working, he’d spend any remaining hours at Joel’s old apartment and felt like he was hardly ever in the new place.
This year, though, was different. He and Joel had been living together since Joel’s lease had run out in January and Chase had asked him to take the plunge and start living together. They had anticipated having to compromise and adjust to cohabitation but it hadn’t been much of an adjustment at all. In fact, the year had been one of the best of his life and Joel seemed very happy too. So much so, that Chase already had big plans for the future.
It also meant that they had decorated for the festive season.
Just after Thanksgiving, Chase had presented Joel with a menorah and had stood with him every night of Hanukkah as he lit the candles and sang the blessings in a quiet voice that was deep, yet sweet and made Chase smile. Joel, in turn, had dragged Chase down to the lot and spent far too long picking the perfect tree for the apartment. It almost reached the ceiling and took them half the night to decorate, especially as there was beer involved. And possibly a festive blow job. Or two.
The pile of gifts underneath the tree was modest but colorful. Chase crouched down and rooted around for a second before he saw the small box he figured Joel was talking about.
He didn’t stand up right away, instead, holding up the gift so Joel could see it over his shoulder and asked, “This one?” The grunt he got in reply sounded like a positive, so he got up and went back to his place on the couch.
Grinning, Chase started pick at the tape holding the wrapping paper together. It looked like a professional job, rather than Joel’s enthusiastic but haphazard wrapping, and he was a little sad to be ruining its perfect presentation. Joel was oddly quiet the entire time, the fingers of one hand loosely curled against his lips as he watched.
Once the gaudy paper was gone, the box was somewhat underwhelming. That was until Chase opened it.
“I was g-going to d-do this on T-T-Tuesday b-b-but…”
Chase instinctive reached out and lay the flat of his hand to Joel’s chest without even looking up. For once, the deep calming breath he took along with the gesture, was not only to help Joel focus, but for him to take a moment too. The platinum band nestled in the ring box had taken his breath away.
Joel slowly pulled in a lungful of air along with him, letting it out slow as he said, “I had a wh-whole thing planned, after dinner. Get down on one kn-knee in front of everyone. The whole bit but—w-well, I just need you to know, right now, I’m n-not going anywhere.”
Chase didn’t know what to do or think. “You were going to ask me to marry you?” he asked, his voice almost a whisper, eyes still fixed on the box. When he caught Joel nodding out the corner of his eye, he asked again, “You were going to ask me—at the Christmas dinner? Did Kyle know? Did Tyler say something?”
Joel cleared his throat and looked a little worried when Chase finally looked up. “Um. Y-yeah, I mean—”
“Son of a bitch!” Chase yelled, not knowing whether to laugh or cry, although he had to school his features into an apology when he saw the hurt look on Joel’s face.
“Oh god! Oh god, not you, I just—wait here, okay?” Joel nodded as he watched Chase get up, confused but somewhat placated when Chase bent and kissed him, quickly adding, “I love you, just—” as he scooted away towards the laundry room.
When Chase returned, he kept his hand behind his back until he was close enough for Joel to be able to get the full effect. The look on his face was worth it—morphing slowly from anxiety, to confusion, to amazement, delight hot on its heels only to be overtaken with amused outrage.
“You h-have got to be sh-shitting me,” Joel said, as he reached out for the gift that Chase had bought him a month before. A similar ring in a neat blue box. “Those bastards.”
Chase laughed and dropped down beside him. “Right! They knew this whole time we were both planning the same thing. I bet they have money on who was going to propose first.”
Joel laughed, “Or m-maybe they just w-wanted to make sure we couldn’t b-back out. Not with an audience.”
“Yeah, right. Like I would say no.”
There was a beat of silence that seemed to stretch on and on until, Joel asked quietly, “Is that a yes?”
Chase considered stringing him along but thought better of it. “Technically,” he said slowly, “You haven’t actually asked me anything.”
Joel smirked. “Maybe you sh-should be asking me?”
“How about we compromise, being that you’re incapacitated?” Chase slipped to the floor at Joel’s feet. He knelt, snatching the ring box from Joel’s hand and offering it up. Joel was grinning like an idiot and Chase couldn’t help but grin back. “Hey, I’m down here being all kinds of undignified, you can do the asking.”
Joel sighed and made a small aborted movement forward, stopping when he winced. Clearing his throat dramatically, he asked, “Chase ‘Slugger’ Meadows,… will you m-marry me?”
Chase stared a second, then burst out laughing. “That’s it? That’s all the romance I’m getting?”
Joel considered him for a moment before leaning in a little and saying quietly, “Okay. How’s this?” His grey eyes were as intense as Chase had ever seen them. “I have l-loved you almost half of my life. For fifteen y-years, I have wanted you, and only you. I’d really l-like it if you would stand up in a r-room full of people with me, so I can tell e-everyone that I intend to keep doing that for the rest of my time on th-this earth?”
When he stopped talking, all Chase could do was sit there with his mouth hanging open.
“Yes,” he whispered, finally. “Yes, I can do that.” Joel smiled at him indulgently until Chase got his wits back, and added, “I fucking love you.”
Joel shrugged, “I figured. What with the ring and e-everything?”
They were both smiling but Chase was surprised to find tears pricking at his eyes. He swiped them away roughly and cleared his throat. “Although, I can’t believe you proposed to me wearing that shirt of all things.”
Looking down at himself and the tee shirt he was sporting, Joel snorted. “I forgot I had this on,” he mumbled, before looking up. “It was all I had in m-my locker.”
Chase pitched forward, pushing up to land a kiss on Joel’s waiting lips. “Right. Just don’t let Justin see it. He’ll only try to find out where you got it.”
Joel tilted his head and smiled softly as he reached out and cupped one hand around Chase’s cheek. “Oh babe,” He sighed, “It’s a little l-late for that. Besides, you c-can’t tell me it’s inaccurate.”
“Oh, really?” Chase smirked.
“Yeah—” Joel grinned and twitched his eyebrows, “—you can even be S-Santa.” The suggestive sentiment was slightly ruined by the stifled yawn that followed it.
Chase laughed and unfolded himself from the floor, groaning a little as his knee protested the movement. “Maybe tomorrow. Come on. Let’s get you to bed. We can role play when you’re not in danger of bursting your stitches.”
Joel might have mumbled, “I’ll burst your st-stitches,” under his breath, but he followed along obediently, pausing only when they reached the door to their bedroom, uttering a soft, “Hey. I’m r-really glad you came home, y’know?”
A burst of happiness welled up in Chase’s chest, and he could only nod and rasp out, ‘Yeah. Me too. Come on.” He took Joel’s hand and tugged him towards the bed. “The sooner you get to sleep, the sooner Santa will get here.”
If you’d like to find out more about Chase and Joel, you can read more of their story in Tinsel Fixes Everything.
After a meteoric rise to baseball stardom, Chase Meadow’s dream is cut short and he’s back home for good, helping his brothers run the family bar while he finds his feet. Plenty of things have changed since he left for college. Although one thing he recognizes right away is Joel Levine.
From setting eyes on the skinny, stammering teen their first day of high school, until reluctantly parting five years later, the two of them had been inseparable. And now, Joel is definitely someone not easily forgotten.
But as Chase settles back into home town life, he finds that under the superficial differences—the leather jacket and tattoos—Joel is still the same person he fell for when they were fifteen. While they’re both older and wiser, Chase never stopped loving Joel. And as Christmas rolls closer, Chase starts to think that maybe Joel never stopped loving him either.
They say you never get over your first love.
Some people don’t have to.
Aaron has spent the past ten months alone. When he meets a sad, yet strangely familiar man on a cold Halloween night, he impulsively invites him home. But the intimate connection they share lasts only until morning. Aaron wakes up alone—wracked with guilt and devastated to have lost his chance.
Or so he thinks.
Thanksgiving brings Aaron another shot at happiness, but letting go of an old love and accepting a new one isn’t as easy as everyone keeps telling him. And by the time Christmas Eve rolls around, it becomes clear that Aaron’s not the only one struggling to let himself love again.
Christmas miracles are all well and good, but it’s going to take more than the Holiday Spirit for Aaron to get his happy ever after.
A story of grief, sadness, and letting it go; and finding love when you least expect it.
Story © Alex Jane 2018
Joel’s Teeshirt – main image courtesy of Stephen Erixon via Unsplash