The tall blond man jogged with heavy steps on the spongy earth, his breathing quick and his gaze focused. Drizzling rain mingled with fog in a fine mist that surrounded him, reminding him of the first time he had entered the city. Away from the steady glow of the lights of neon signs, darkness marked the presence of enormous trees, ones that would overtake them all in mere decades.
But for now, life remained. Aldric kept jogging, turning away from the bright white neon lights and following the perimeter of the city, the trees to his left. Roots and hardy saplings jutted from the ground under his feet.
Daniel would have to hear about those, as would the city’s new mayor, Trinia. The saplings would have to be cut quickly before the city shrank even more.
Aldric shook his head as he headed back toward the pitted roads that would take him to the house he and his lover Daniel shared. He had been here for only half a year, and already he was beginning to fall into routine.
Of course, it was better than his old life of wandering.
Memories of his time alone, and his time before that, during the war, flowed into his mind. Rather than fight it, as he always had before, he let it happen, the quiet decay of the city and the sound of his jogging feet dulling in the remembrance of his time as a soldier, and the faces of his old comrades and friends from the war. Dino had always been the only one who could run faster than Aldric when they all jogged, the taller man’s longer legs giving him an advantage. He had always called back to the others, urging them on.
All of them were gone now, Aldric the only one left. The sound of a mortar whistled in his mind.
Aldric sighed, his breath puffing in the night air. The memories still hurt, but not as much as they once had.
And now, he had Daniel.
The house they shared emerged from the misty gloom as he drew closer, and with it a strange red and green glow. Aldric slowed, his heart beating hard, and anxiety tensed his muscles. The glow undulated with the roiling mist, like lights from ambulances or headlights, which he hadn’t seen in over a decade.
“Aldric?” Daniel’s voice came through the gloom, with no trace of fear or pain. Aldric took a deep breath. Calm down. “Aldric, is that you?” Daniel called out again. “Come help me with these!”
The mists parted when Aldric approached, and his eyes widened.
“What’s the matter?” Daniel asked from his place on the deck. He held a string of multicolored lights up over his head. The rest of the string decorated the front of his house and the door to the room where he kept his computer, the lights forming giant loops. “Not a fan of Christmas lights?” he grinned.
“Its…it’s Christmas?” Aldric asked, his voice raspy and quiet. Daniel blinked, silent for a moment, and Aldric wondered if he had heard him.
“You haven’t celebrated Christmas in a long time, have you?” he asked, setting down the portion of the lights that weren’t yet hung onto the deck. His feet sent ringing thuds out into the silence of the nearby forest as he came to stand by Aldric. He took his hand, squeezing it lightly through the gloves Aldric wore. “It’s the solstice tonight. Christmas is in two days.”
Aldric peered at the lights, blues and purples and greens and reds swirling in the mist. The last time he had celebrated the holidays, it had been during the early part of the war. During the years he had wandered, the seasons had ceased to matter, the warm stickiness of post nuclear earth all anyone ever felt.
“I didn’t know people still bothered,” he said. Daniel frowned.
“Many don’t. But I do.” He touched Aldric’s shoulder, lightly massaging the muscle there. Tension melted away. “I’ve always liked Christmas. I’m not really religious, and my family never was either, but…I don’t know. The togetherness always made me happy.”
Aldric just nodded, his throat tight. The lights flickered in the evening dark, dredging up ancient memories of his family, distant hazy images of a shimmering tree and his smiling mother and father. It felt like…no, it was. It was a completely different lifetime. A time before the anarchists had killed his parents, before he had fought in the war that ended the world.
He wasn’t even angry about their deaths anymore.
Aldric cleared his throat. “Who…who do you celebrate with?”
“In the past, before, it was my family of course. Then…Blake.” Daniel’s voice dropped on the man’s name. “But the past year, I went into town, and asked others how they used to spend their holidays. They liked to talk about it.” He smiled. “Now, though…” he turned, facing Aldric, and kissed him lightly. “I have you.”
Heat began to curl like flame in Aldric’s body, and he pulled Daniel closer. His lover molded against him, his body firm. Daniel’s arms snaked around Aldric’s waist.
“You aren’t…” Aldric’s gaze traveled to the house, to the door that led to Daniel’s machine. The array of electrodes that would record memories, and ultimately send those memories to the rest of humanity that now lived in the stars. “Do you want me to record my memories of Christmas?”
Daniel laughed, shaking his head. “No, Aldric. Those memories are important, of course. And if it’s alright with you, I will ask you later. But…” he kissed Aldric again, deeper and slower this time, his lips soft and wet. His tongue flicked against Aldric’s lips when he pulled away. “How about for now, we focus on making new ones?”
The heat in his body sharpened into desire at Daniel’s words. “I’d like that.”
“Come on then,” Daniel said with a wry smile. “To start, help me hang these up.”
Swallowing against his rising lust for the other man, Aldric nodded.
With Aldric’s help, the lights were hung in no time at all. Aldric had no eye for it, but Daniel told him how to make pleasing patterns. Soon, festive loops of color decorated the normally bland house and sent cheery beams into the misty darkness.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?” Daniel asked. He sighed, leaning against the porch railing. “And it doesn’t take long at all. It feels like a lifetime ago when my dad and I…” he tapped his fingers against the wood, a light staccato that reminded Aldric suddenly of a woodpecker. He hadn’t heard one of those in years. “It always took us forever. I guess because I was so young. And not as tall as you.” He reached out and squeezed Aldric’s bicep.
Aldric moved closer, resting a hand on his shoulder. “Did you hang these last year?”
“No. This was the first year I bothered, since....” He trailed off and stood up straighter, meeting Aldric’s eyes. “A new experience for both of us, eh?”
Aldric nodded. For him, this year was incredibly different, and it was more than just because of hanging lights. “I’m glad to be here,” he said, his throat tight on the words. He wished his horrible rasping voice could be normal, like it had been before the mortar, before his injury. Daniel would never hear his real voice. “I’m glad to be with you.”
Daniel smiled, a warm breeze blowing over them both as he put his arms around Aldric and pulled him into a kiss. The gust sent some of the lights shuddering against the house, lights dancing around them both.
“Come on inside,” Daniel said, his breath hot on Aldric’s neck. “Let’s celebrate.”
Aldric blinked in the dim interior, and a smile crept over his face when Daniel turned on the lights. A small pine tree sat in a pot of water in the center of the room, and more lights like the ones outside festooned the dark green boughs.
“I know,” Daniel said with a rueful smile. “I’ll have to get rid of it soon. But I like to pretend some traditions will last.” The tiny tree didn’t even reach Aldric’s knee, but knowing the fast growing trees of the area that had taken to Overgrowth, it would double in size in mere weeks. “Tabitha over on the other side of the city sells them every year. Nothing bad has happened yet.”
“Its nice,” Aldric said, taking Daniel’s hand.
“Did you have Christmas trees, before?” Daniel asked.
Aldric nodded after a pause. “We had a large pine on our property, about a quarter mile away.” His gaze lost focus as he remembered. “Every year we would walk outside and decorate it. On Christmas mornings, we would walk out to it, first thing. My father always left one present—something the animals wouldn’t get.” He smiled, and Daniel tightened his hand around his. “The last year before the war, there were no gifts, but we decorated it anyway.” He could still remember the still, bitter cold, but also the clean, sharp scent of winter and pine. “Tradition, I guess.”
“That sounds rough, making your kid walk a quarter mile in the snow for his presents.” Daniel laughed. “Fun, though. Maybe we should do that next year.”
Aldric nodded, facing Daniel. “That would be nice.” He reached out, stroking Daniel’s face lightly with his gloved hand before leaning down for a deep kiss. “But this is nice too.”
“Mm.” Daniel deepened it, and heat flashed through Aldric. He moved his hands over Daniel, his firm body and shoulders, and he shuddered when Daniel’s soft hands moved under his shirt.
“C’mon,” Daniel said, breaking the kiss with a gasp. He took Aldric’s hand, pulling him toward the bedroom.
The cheery light of the tree cast a colorful beam into the bedroom through the doorway, and Daniel didn’t bother to turn on the lights. Aldric’s old case lay in the corner, dust gathering on top of it. He didn’t need to travel, not anymore.
Aldric let Daniel maneuver him into a sitting position on the bed, tilting his head up to kiss the other man when he stood over him. A bottle of lube sat on the nightstand. Daniel really had prepared.
Daniel pulled off his glove, and Aldric tensed before telling himself to relax.
“It’s okay,” Daniel said, pulling off the other glove. He took Aldric’s good hand, the other metal one clutching the bedsheets. Daniel grinned. “I don’t mind it, I promise.”
Aldric nodded. Six months, and he still felt a flash of anxiety when Daniel uncovered his arm.
“Now, the shirt.” Daniel kissed his neck, and Aldric pulled away for a moment to take it off. Daniel stroked his body, avoiding the metal arm that was bolted to his shoulder. An eternal reminder of the war, of the mortar that had nearly killed him. It had taken him a long time to get used to Daniel seeing it when they were intimate. Aldric still would never touch Daniel with it.
But that didn’t matter. The past, at least the painful parts of it, didn’t matter now.
Daniel removed his shirt also, the light casting shadows on the planes of his flat stomach. Aldric’s erection surged at the sight, and Daniel laughed, moving his hands down to stroke the growing bulge. Aldric gasped, leaning forward into the touch, pleasure surging down his body and tightening his muscles.
“Do you want me?” Daniel asked, kneeling down further and kissing Aldric’s neck. Heat built between their bodies as Aldric nodded, their mingled breathing rushing over them both.
“Tell me,” Daniel said, taking Aldric’s good hand and placing it over the bulge in Daniel’s pants. The cock was firm and twitched under his stroking fingers, Daniel letting out a hissing gasp. “Tell me you want me.”
Aldric gripped him tighter. “Yes, I want you.” Daniel unbuttoned his fly, his cock springing free, and Aldric continued stroking it with one hand, trailing his fingers over the other man’s heavy balls.
Daniel groaned, then returned the favor, cool air rushing over Aldric’s dripping cock. Aldric gasped, hips bucking, when Daniel smeared the leaking precum over the head. The bed creaked when both men moved onto it, Daniel supporting himself as he loomed over Aldric.
“Will you take me?” he asked, the words sending a spike of heat through Aldric’s core. Precum dribbled from Aldric’s cock onto his stomach. “I want you inside me this time.”
Aldric nodded, and then spoke aloud “Yes.”
“Good.” Daniel’s smile sent a warm comfort bubbling in Aldric’s chest, and then the other man was lying beside him, his mouth on his, his body close. Aldric tensed when Daniel brushed his bad shoulder, but the dark haired man quickly moved his hand away, down to his abdomen to stroke both their erections at once. Aldric did the same, taking turns, their hands brushing together along with their cocks.
“Mmm.” Daniel hummed into the kiss, his tongue curling around Aldric’s, gasping every so often to say his name. “Aldric, yes…Aldric, so good.” His hips bucked, and pleasure curled in Aldric’s loins, tight heat and pressure building. He wanted to come, always, so quickly.
But tonight it was his turn to take Daniel.
He pulled away from the kiss, swiping his tongue over Daniel’s neck, savoring the mixed flavors of sweat and the scent of his lover. He put both arms by Daniel’s head, supporting himself on the pillows, on hands and knees above the dark haired man spread beneath him.
Pleasure surged again at the sight. Daniel was so beautiful. Shadows and the faint colored lights from the tree in the other room played over his pale skin, accentuating the strength of his muscles and the red flush on his face and neck.
Daniel laughed. “Aldric, you’re dripping on me,” he said, taking hold of Aldric’s hardened cock and giving it a light stroke. Aldric bit back a groan as more precum dribbled down onto his lover’s thighs. He needed Daniel, he wanted to come with Daniel, so badly. He reached for the lube, popping the cap open with a metal thumb and smearing it on his good hand before slicking his cock.
“Here.” Daniel took the rest, dipping his fingers in before moving them underneath himself. Aldric stopped, his cock throbbing. He was transfixed by the sight of his lover penetrating himself, preparing for him.
“I’m ready,” Daniel said, his face red and voice breathy. “Please, Aldric.” The need in his voice, in the way he said his name, sent a shudder through Aldric’s body. He leaned his weight on his metal hand, holding himself with the other, aching to enter his lover and bring them both ecstasy. He moved his hips, his cockhead pressing Daniel’s entrance.
With a sharp thrust, tight heat enveloped him, and Daniel bellowed his name. “Aldric, yes, AH!” Daniel threw his head back as Aldric shook from the effort of not thrusting more, not fighting for his climax right then and there. He panted, sweat beading on his brow, and below him Daniel gasped.
“Ngh, Aldric…you feel so big.” Daniel moved underneath him, making Aldric grit his teeth. “Yes, there, now, please!”
Aldric thrust again, Daniel’s walls tight around his cock, every movement sending pleasure and heat through his entire body. The fingers of his metal hand dug into the covers below him while he gripped Daniel’s hips with the other, helping the other man arch his back. Aldric’s thighs shuddered with every thrust.
“Mmm, harder, Aldric, there, yes, please…!” Daniel was always loud, and Aldric loved it.
The bed began to creak, in a way it usually didn’t when Daniel thrust inside him. The creak of the springs was a counterpoint to Aldric’s restrained gasps and Daniel’s loud moans, his babbles of pleasure. Aldric watched as Daniel’s tight cock bobbed in time with this thrusts, and he moved his good hand off of the other man’s hips to grasp it.
“Aldric, yes, yes, please, more!” Daniel’s legs wrapped around Aldric’s back, forcing him in deeper. Aldric thrust harder, the scent of sweat and sex filling the room. Pleasure coiled in ever tightening springs in Aldric’s body, his balls full and heavy, his cock throbbing in time with thrusts and the beat of his heart. In his hand, Daniel’s cock twitched, and he pulled on it with hard, smooth strokes, the sensation traveling through to him by virtue of watching it.
“Aldric…Aldric…” Daniel’s babbling grew breathier, turning into long gasps. Aldric’s vision glazed, his eyes focused on Daniel, his blush even redder in the Christmas lights, the scent of his sex and the sensation of him around his cock maddening.
Aldric couldn’t hold on any longer. He thrust deeply, as deep as he could go, and then his climax overtook him, his body shuddering and his cock pulsing deep inside his lover. His vision fuzzed.
“Ah, YES! Aldric!” Daniel’s words met his ears as Daniel’s erection pulsed, and hot white cum pumped onto Daniel’s neck through Aldric’s fingers. The two men shuddered together, their breathing paused in a mutual instant of pleasurable silence as they rode their orgasm.
Together they exhaled, Daniel relaxing under his hand as tension left Aldric’s body. His balls ached, and he gasped as he withdrew his softening penis.
“Come here,” Daniel said, and Aldric lay down in Daniel’s arms. Their breathing slowed as one, contentment and fatigue stealing over Aldric all at once.
“You were wonderful,” Daniel said, kissing Aldric lightly. “That was…well, that was a damn good Christmas memory.”
Aldric nodded, his throat suddenly tight.
“You’ve changed a lot since staying here,” Daniel said with another kiss. “But you’re still so quiet.”
Aldric mulled over the words. He knew Daniel meant more than just his voice. He had spent more than a few days of his years of wandering wishing for something like this, desperate for companionship, for someone to celebrate small things with. Small things like Christmas, a holiday, a time to relax and be together…he had never had it before meeting Daniel. He had been too afraid.
“I’m happy to be here,” he said finally. “And…” he swallowed against rising emotion. “I’m so glad to be with you.”
Daniel pulled him closer into a tight hug, his body warm. The cheery lights played over his smiling face, and Aldric felt more at home than he had in a long time. His bad memories were just that—memories. Now, he had his fantasy.
“Merry Christmas, Aldric.”