Miles stood at the window, a cup of coffee in his hand, watching the snow fall. It covered everything, including his and Quincy’s cars, their driveway, and the courtyard. Everything within sight was white, with tiny bits of color peeking out in the greens and browns of the evergreen trees.
One such tree stood in the corner of the room. He’d set into the stand, watered it, then spread the tree skirt around its base. The lights and ornaments sat in still-sealed boxes.
In the years since he’d left home in Washington, Miles hadn’t spent much time celebrating the holidays. The closest he’d gotten was running with the Rainier pack out of Seattle during school breaks or running with the Forbes pack since. In fact, he’d had his first family-type Thanksgiving that year with the rest of their friends, at Tanner and Finley’s place.
He hadn’t had a tree of his own in more than ten years. When he’d been spending time at the wolf headquarters in Denver while learning wolf physiology and doing his residency, he’d enjoyed the beautiful one they’d had. It’d been huge, reaching two stories where it sat in the main front room. But that wasn’t Miles’s tree. It belonged to the headquarters and while it was pretty, it looked like something a company would put up.
With a sigh, Miles turned away from the snow and considered the more than seven feet of Douglas Fir in front of him. Quincy had told him they didn’t have to have a tree. He’d gone almost as many years without one as Miles had, and it didn’t matter to him.
But Miles didn’t want to start out their life together like that. Traditions were important to him and he wanted them to start making their own. Especially now that they both finally had a home. Miles had reason, now, to not work twelve-hour shifts for weeks on end. He had a reason to close his medical office at six every day and come home to the amazing man waiting for him.
They’d just managed to beat the first snows when they’d moved into their new house. The Japanese style suited Quincy, and Miles loved the open feeling it gave. In deference to the climate, rather than the typical wooden and rice-paper shoji doors to the outside, they had solid glass-lined versions that sealed quite well. The courtyard between the wings had a glass ceiling that could be closed over it in the winter and heaters to allow them to use it year round.
The rooms on the inside had an interesting mix of modern comfort and traditional Japanese décor. The main room Miles stood in lent itself more to an American living room than anything else, though the doors leading out to the hall and dining room were still traditional shoji style.
Miles shook his head at his hesitation and picked up a package of lights, then tore open the box and pulled the lights themselves out. He was just unwinding them from the plastic when footsteps sounded behind him. Quincy slid his arms around Miles’s waist and rested his chin on one shoulder.
You at least don’t have to do this by yourself. Let me help, Quincy said in Miles’s head.
Miles sighed and turned around. You said you didn’t like this part.
Quincy tilted his head, looking every bit of the cat he was. Have you ever known a cat to not play with shiny things?
Miles laughed, grateful Quincy went for humor. “Right. We do want to make sure they get onto the tree. Think you can handle that?”
Quincy sniffed. “I’m still half-human.”
Chuckling, Miles turned back to the lights. He handed one end to Quincy, but before he stepped away, he bent and kissed his mate. “Thank you,” he whispered, but left it at that. He’d learned quite well in the six months since he’d met Quincy that his mate wasn’t one for flowery words and lots of discussion when it came to emotion. They talked when they needed to. Quincy was too aware of the problems—some of which they’d already had to face—that came from not talking. Outside of that, Miles had learned not to make a big deal of things, especially if Quincy was comforting someone.
With the two of them working together, the tree was decorated in no time. A bright copper star shone from the top. Glittery balls with bells inside—which had made Quincy laugh, then twitch—hung alongside snowflakes, bells, and icicles. Candy canes filled in a few places and even a few paw-print shaped ornaments hung on the tree. Garland surrounded it, giving it a sparkly effect.
When they sat on the couch opposite the tree and fireplace, both with cups of eggnog, Quincy sighed. “So, Father has hinted he’d like to visit for the holidays.”
Miles turned to Quincy, raising his eyebrows. “Oh?”
Quincy nodded, frowning at his cup. “I’m… it’s still weird from him.”
“I can imagine that.” Miles took Quincy’s free hand. “Is it bad, though? We saw him a couple of months ago, and that seemed to go well.”
“Yes, it did.” Quincy shook his head. “I still don’t understand it very well. He’s changed so much. I get what he said on the plane back from Vegas about almost losing me, but can that really be all of it? The idea that something might have happened to me?”
Miles considered his words, trying to find the right ones. “We’ve talked about, someday, having kids of our own. Cubs or pups or some combination of the two. Try to imagine for a moment a little black cub.” He smiled. “Maybe an Aubrey.” Quincy chuckled. “Then imagine having lost Aubrey, even for a little while. I’m sure you can. Isn’t there an anime or five about losing a kid?”
Quincy chuckled again, but nodded. “Yeah, probably. He told me back on that flight home that he’d been terrified. Not worried, Miles. Not even scared, but terrified. That’s… I’d never have imagined in a million years him admitting something like that. I don’t…” He shook his head again.
“You know what I think part of this is?” Miles got another cat-like head tilt, making him smile. “You’re feeling guilty.” Quincy raised an eyebrow and Miles nodded. “You were so angry with him for so long. You pulled away from him too. And all those accusations—” Miles held up a hand when Quincy opened his mouth. “—were absolutely, one hundred percent justified, but you still feel guilty having made them. He had his own share of fuck-ups for all that, but that doesn’t change you feeling guilty about them.”
Quincy blew out a breath. “When did you go to psychiatry school?”
Miles snorted. “Hardly. I know you, Quince, and as your mate and fiancé, I should.”
“Yeah, yeah.” He took a drink of his eggnog. “Okay, um, I guess I’ll call him. I don’t know how long I can put up with him.”
“Right. Well, you’re still cats. I can’t imagine you can do too much, just, um…”
Quincy turned to him again, raising his eyebrows.
“Just keep working on it with him. It sucks to not have family.”
Quincy winced. “Shit, Miles, I—”
Miles held up a hand. “Don’t. It’s okay. Just… promise me you will? Hell, make it my Christmas gift, if you want to.”
That got a laugh, which he was going for. “I have better ideas for that.” He turned serious briefly. “I will work with him. I’m sorry we’re all you have.”
Miles shook his head. “You’re all I want. Your father is a bonus. We have an extended family in Tanner, Finley, Jamie, Chad, Eric, and Ben. I miss my parents. I’m not going to lie.” He tilted his head toward the tree. “That was a huge family tradition growing up and I will probably think of them every year when we put the tree up. But in the end, what happened had to. I’d never have met you if I’d stayed in Washington. And though I will miss them, I will thank Diana every time I think about them for guiding me to you.”
Quincy leaned in then, and kissed Miles softly. “I’m glad she did too.” He sat back. “And that’s enough of that for one day. How about some anime?”
With a grin, Miles kissed Quincy’s nose, then stood. “I’ll get the popcorn. How about something Christmas-y?” He frowned. “Do they even have Christmas over there?”
“Japan actually celebrates it, though like for the shifter population, it’s not a religious holiday. There’s an entire Sailor Moon movie set in a winter theme. I’m pretty sure I’ve got it on DVD. How about that?”
Miles glanced out the window at the new inches of snow, then back. “Let me get a fire going first. That might be a bit too much cold, even for us.”
“You know…” Quincy said, standing as well. “We could skip the anime and maybe see how warm we can make the bedroom instead.”
Miles grinned, pulling Quincy in. “What anime? I don’t remember talking about any anime…”
* * *
Thanks so much for reading! From all the puppies and kitties–and humans–in the Forbes Mates world to you, have a very Happy Holidays! May your new year be prosperous!