Here’s a little Christmas story, my contribution to the amazing Rainbow Advent Calendar, where a bunch of authors teamed up to bring readers some holiday cheer!
Last Minute Santa features Daniel and Noa from Married before Christmas, but it should stand on its own. All you need to know is that Daniel and Noa are best friends since college who had to marry for *waves hands* reasons and then they fell in love. Oh, and Daniel and his uncle work in a pediatric hospital.
And if you did read it, this happens a couple days after the epilogue.
I hope you enjoy!
LAST MINUTE SANTA
Daniel Collins woke up entirely too early on a Monday morning, especially since it was also Christmas Eve. Then again, he was warm, pressed against Noa’s body, and he still had half an hour until his alarm, so maybe it wasn’t so bad that he got to enjoy himself a little bit before getting up.
After all, sleeping in the same bed with Noa like this was still new. Still exciting.
If someone would tell Daniel a few months ago that he would end up here, married to his best friend and ridiculously in love, he wouldn’t have believed it. Yet, here they were.
He hid his grin in his pillow when Noa nuzzled against his nape.
“Good morning,” Daniel murmured, pressing back into the embrace and tilting his head so that Noa could have an easier access to his neck.
“Good morning,” Noa whispered between soft, barely-there kisses he left on Daniel’s sensitive skin. “Someone’s up early.”
Daniel, half-asleep but still unable to resist a bad pun, pushed his hips against the hardness he could feel against his ass. “Looks like you’re up, too.”
Noa snorted, but lowered his hand from where it rested over Daniel’s stomach to his groin, cupping Daniel’s morning erection through his boxers and squeezing lightly.
“How long do we—”
Daniel’s phone cut him off and the familiar melody of his uncle’s ringtone threw Daniel out of the moment instantly.
Nothing good came from early morning calls, and with the drama they’d been dealing with lately, it could be about any of the doom scenarios he’d envisioned a while ago.
He pulled away from Noa and reached for his phone.
“Hey, what is it? What’s wrong?” he asked as a way of greeting, turning onto his back and preparing for the worst as he stared at the ceiling.
“Hey, it’s not that bad,” his uncle, bless him, returned right away. “No family drama, no lawsuits, nothing like that.”
Daniel sagged against the mattress. “Good. Okay.” He glanced towards Noa who was looking right at him, hands tucked under the pillow as he lay on his stomach. “But it has to be something, if you’re calling so early.”
“Yeah, well, we’re not lucky enough to skip all the minor emergencies as well.” His uncle sighed. “Larry’s sick, so we don’t have Santa for the afternoon rounds. I don’t want to call anyone in, since everyone I know has some kind of plans, so I thought that maybe Noa would be willing to agree to one more favor for you? Since the last one turned out so well.”
“Ha, ha,” Daniel grumbled, but then raised his eyebrows at Noa, who raised his in an answer. “I’ll check and call you back.”
When his uncle gave his okay and disconnected, Daniel rolled onto his side and lifted himself onto his elbow, looking down at Noa.
“So, here’s the thing…” he started, then bit the corner of his mouth, trying to stop himself from smiling. There was no way Noa would say no to this, and Daniel was already looking forward to seeing him in a costume. “We’re out of Santa and we need him this afternoon for the afternoon round we do each year, where Santa visits all the kids stuck in the hospital over the holidays. And you’ve been nominated as a replacement.”
“What have I ever done to your uncle to make me do this?” Noa complained, but he rolled onto his side as well and mirrored Daniel’s position. “Long beard is definitely not my look.”
Daniel chuckled. “First of all, you always look good and you know it. And second, the kids won’t care.”
“Shouldn’t it be someone older? Like Richard?”
“Yeah, well, my uncle and I usually go with Santa, so it can’t be one of us.”
“Clever,” Noa offered dryly, then shrugged before nodding. “Sure, okay, I’ll do it.”
Daniel grinned and leaned in to kiss him.
“Thank you,” he murmured against Noa’s lips. “I owe you, again.”
Noa put his arm around Daniel’s waist and rolled them until Daniel was on his back, with Noa towering over him.
“And can I collect now?” Noa asked, slipping his thigh between Daniel’s legs. “A little present for Santa?”
“Sure.” Daniel pulled him closer. “Whatever you want.”
It was Christmas Eve, after all. He could be a little bit late.
Noa appeared in the doorway to Daniel’s office twenty minutes past two.
“I’m sorry, the traffic was awful,” he said, walking in hurriedly and taking his coat off as he went. Then he paused at the desk. “What is it? You have a face.”
Daniel shook his head, getting back to the present as he chuckled. “Everyone has a face, you know.”
“This was your worrying face. Am I too late?”
“No, you’re fine, we still have time, don’t worry.” Daniel got up and rounded his desk to circle his arms around Noa, who mostly smelled like cold winter air but there were hints of his cologne in there as well. “It’s good news, actually. I think.”
“Oh?” Noa put his hands over Daniel’s chest. “What is it?”
“Remember how I told you on Friday that one of our doctors is in trouble because of his expired visa? Turns out he’s getting married, to no other but another of our doctors. We didn’t even know they were dating!”
“And they’re getting married for the green card?”
“Yeah. I can’t fault anybody for a quick wedding, though, can I?”
Noa kissed him softly. “Well, we were quick when you count since the proposal, but terribly slow if you count from our freshman year.”
“Let’s agree we were right on time, how about that? And I’m happy about Tommy, especially since our lawyers weren’t much help, but it has taken me by surprise. We’ve been invited, by the way. It’s the day after tomorrow, at Fort Greene Park. A small gathering, just for the ceremony, so I thought we could come, since we don’t have any plans.”
“Sure,” Noa agreed easily. “Now that I’m a married man—”
“Oh, you’re here!” Daniel’s uncle announced from the doorway, interrupting them for a second time today. “Good, good, we should get going.”
“Hello, Richard,” Noa said, sending Daniel a wink as he took a step back. “You’re in a hurry today, aren’t you?”
“Yeah, well, you know how that is, trying to do as much as possible before the holidays,” Daniel’s uncle said, waving at them to follow him out, so Daniel pocketed his phone and they all left his office. “At least this part is always the best. The kids love it.”
Noa nodded along as he listened to the explanation of how the Santa’s visit usually went, and he had that air of getting-things-done attitude now, focused on the task at hand and ready to excel at it.
Daniel couldn’t look away, itching to tackle Noa in a hug, because he was suddenly ready to burst with all the emotions. Romantic love was still so new between them, that it was sometimes overwhelming with its intensity. They’d known each other since they were still boys, really, and yet, there were so many things that they were only now discovering.
And he was looking forward to it all. He couldn’t imagine anything better, actually.
But now, they had a bunch of sick kids to entertain.
Which turned out to be better than any other year they had done it, although Daniel would readily admit he wasn’t unbiased about it at all.
Because seeing Noa with the little ones… Damn.
He’d long decided that he didn’t want to have kids of his own, but working in the pediatric hospital obviously meant that there were times when his heart strings were pulled particularly hard. He worked in the hospital’s administration, so he didn’t have a lot of contact with their little patients, but every once in a while, he would witness something or hear something that would make a lasting impression—for good or bad.
This, right now, was one of those good times.
Noa’s face was hardly visible under the impressive beard and mustache, but his eyes, crinkling in the corners as he smiled at something the boy in puppy pajamas was telling him, were shining brightly.
“Tell you what,” Noa told him in a low voice. “You take care of yourself and do what your parents and doctors tell you to do and who knows, maybe you’ll tell me all about that trip next year.”
The boy frowned. “I don’t want to be here next year!”
“Of course not! But who says Santa only visits hospitals, huh? I visit homes as well.”
“How come I’ve never seen you before?”
Noa put his hands on his hips. “Well, I’m quite busy on Christmas, aren’t I? When I’m dropping by people’s homes, I have to be quick to manage them all. That’s why I’m here early, visiting all of you now, so that I can make sure I’ll still be on time everywhere else. Because being punctual is important, you know?”
Daniel hid his smile behind his hand. Trust Noa to offer a life lesson even in the most bizarre circumstances.
“Okay, that appears to be it,” Noa turned to address all the kids, who were staring at him with wide eyes from their beds. He flipped over the bag to show everyone it was empty. “Yep, no more presents. I have to go, then. Other kids are waiting for me. Bye, everyone!”
The shouts of “Bye, Santa!” followed them out, but Noa paused at the doorway and addressed Daniel and his uncle loud enough for the children to hear.
“Please point me to the elevator that would take me to my reindeers. They are probably getting impatient up on the roof.”
Daniel, swallowing down the laugh, took a step forward. “Of course, of course. Right this way, Santa.”
It wasn’t until the two of them were alone in the elevator that Noa sagged against the wall and pulled his hat off.
“Wow. That was…”
“Amazing,” Daniel told him when it appeared Noa wasn’t going to finish the sentence. “You were absolutely amazing. The kids loved it.”
“Well, sign me up for the next year, too,” Noa said, taking Daniel’s hand in his and tangling their fingers together. “You’re taking me on new adventures all the time, aren’t you?”
Daniel grinned, leaning in to kiss Noa, the beard and mustache be damned.
“There’s no one else I’d want with me,” he whispered as he pulled back. “Now or ever.”
Noa smiled at that and lifted their hands to kiss Daniel’s knuckles.
“Now or ever, indeed.”
If you want to check out Married before Christmas, you can find it HERE.