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Part 1

I dragged myself back to the loft after a ten hour day at the diner, vowing, as I did almost daily, that after this little stint in hell was through I would never, ever work in food service again. Ever. In fact, I don't think I'll ever even go through a buffet again. The second I get a real job, I am never carrying another plate anywhere, I swear to God.

"Christ, it's about time you got here," Brian groused, the second I slid back the door. "Don't take your coat off, we're leaving."

"Where're we going?" I asked. "I hope smelling like I bathed in frying oil is revered because I'll be their god."

"So go shower, but hurry up."

I hung my coat up and said, "Sometimes I wish you'd let me come in and decompress a little before you get all housewifey on my ass," I said. "I mean, I know how desperately you miss me when I'm gone, but I need a few minutes..."

"Shut up and shower already," Brian said, pushing me up the stairs and into the bathroom. I batted his hands away as he started to undress me. "The malls are only open a few more hours and we've gotta get through my whole fucking list."

"I'm not going to the mall," I said, laughing a little at the absurdity of his idea. "I'm done with my shopping."

"Bullshit," Brian said

I smirked. "Bullshit I'm not going to the mall or bullshit I'm done with my shopping."

Brian sat down on the bathroom counter as I got in the shower. "When the fuck did you get your Christmas shopping done?" he called over the running water.

"In November on the net," I answered. "I hate trolling through the mall."

"I keep thinking I'm making you into the best queer you could be, and you are, without question, the worst fag ever."

"And yet, I am a fag who will not be going to the mall to shop tonight."

"And here I thought you'd be all proud of me, wanting to pick out just the right thing to say 'this is a gift from my heart.'"

"Yeah, that sounds like something that would make me proud," I said. "I didn't know you were exchanging presents this year. Last year you begged everyone not to buy you anything because we all have the taste of...what was it? Hill country in-breds?"

"That was last year when I owned everything. Now I have nothing and need more stuff."

"That's so beautiful, I just might cry." I turned off the water and opened the shower door and was promptly pelted in the face with a towel.

"You know what your problem is?" Brian asked, following on my heels into the bedroom.

"Boyfriends who begin sentences with 'you know what your problem is'?" I guessed.

"Noooo," he drew the word out slowly, pointing out for me how very, very patient he was being. "You have no Christmas spirit. That's your problem."

"Brian," I said his name just as slowly, illustrating that I was just as patient, if not more so, than he. "I will go with you to have the tires on your car rotated, I'll go with you to pick up your dry cleaning, I will even accompany you to the doctor to have a boil lanced and removed from your flat ass. I am not, however, going with you to the mall on the last Saturday night before Christmas."

"Not only are you selfish," Brian said haughtily. "You're mean." He snatched away the cargo pants and sweatshirt I'd pulled out of the closet and replaced them with a pair of jeans and a fugly ass t-shirt. Still, I wouldn't die of heat stroke on the dance floor at Babylon, so I rolled my eyes and put them on. As I was dressing, the light finally dawned, and I turned to Brian and said, "You made Cynthia do your Christmas shopping, didn't you!"

Brian probably didn't want to go by himself because he'd fucking forgotten how to do it.

"Of course not. She was a professional. There's no way she would have done that."

I narrowed my eyes at him. "You used a personal shopper then." He made a face, and I hooted at that. "Oh my God, you did! You *paid* someone to buy your precious gifts from the heart! You are such a shit!"

I headed to the kitchen, hoping we still had some leftover lasagna from Morretti's. "Oh score!" I said, pulling it out and tossing it in the microwave.

Brian sighed and pushed me out of the way. "It tastes like shit when you reheat it that way. Put it in the oven."

"You are so fucking high maintenance," I said, setting the oven on preheat.

"Gives you time to make a nice tossed salad," Brian said with a cheesy smile.

I sighed, but grabbed some spinach and other shit from the fridge and started chopping.

Brian pulled down a couple of plates from the cabinet and opened a bottle of Merlot. He sighed dramatically as he set the table. "I was going to let you put your name on my gift tags and everything," he said, obviously saddened that this apparently was no longer an opportunity he could offer me.

"And yet I don't need to because, as I said, my shopping is done." The oven signaled that it was sufficiently pre-heated so I put the dish in the oven.

I finished up the salad, then put a bottle of ranch dressing and another of Italian on the table. There was another tragic sigh from Brian as he was forced to make his own salad dressing out of olive oil and red wine vinegar.

I sliced a few pieces of the Italian bread Brian had picked up and put them in the toaster oven. A few minutes later, I brought the bread over to the table while Brian served the lasagna.

As I sat down, he turned to me with a ridiculously sly look on his face and said, "What's it worth to you to put my name on your tags?"

"How do you know I didn't spend way more than you can afford?"

He snorted and almost started choking. "You think Banana Republic is haute couture," he scoffed. "I'm not overly concerned."

"I'd think someone trying to attach themselves to my gift coat tails would be doing a ton more sucking up."

Brian just snickered at that, and we ate in silence for a few minutes. Finally, he eyed me from across the table and said, "Two blow jobs, one shower fuck, two massages and an act of your choosing to be named later."

I considered that for a moment, then counter-offered. "Four blow jobs, a shower fuck I am *not* dragged out of bed before six am to participate in, two massages where I'm the massagee, the act to be named later, *and* I get to pick out a gift from you to me."

Brian thought that over for a few seconds. "What if the gift I was going to get you is better than the one you pick out?"

I snorted, quite attractively I'm sure. "Oh yeah, like that's gonna happen."

"Maybe this is the year I planned to cough up some hardware and ask you to make it all legal."

"Maybe this is the year the Baby Jesus *doesn't* cry over your drunken behavior at Christmas dinner."

Brian went back to his dinner. "We have a deal?" he asked.

"You tell me," I answered.

Swiping at the corners of his mouth to keep from grinning, Brian leaned back in his chair and studied me for a minute. "It is the festive Snow Ball at Babylon tonight," he said thoughtfully.

"Babylon would be so much more fun that a mall," I agreed.

"And since I dressed you, you do look awfully pretty."

"It'd be a shame to waste me," I pointed out, smoothing a hand down the front of the fugliest shirt in the Western hemisphere.

"We have a deal," Brian said, and I wondered if I could get him to completely pay up in a single 24 hour period.

I must have conveyed the idea in my grin because Brian smugly grinned back and lifted his wine glass in a toast.

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