THE snow crunched as Geoff walked between the trees, branches hanging heavy with white. “This one looks good.”

Eli stepped up and knocked the snow off the limbs, sending white flurries flying on the breeze and right into Geoff’s face. “Sorry.” He couldn’t stop himself from snickering.

“You think that’s funny?” Geoff bounded toward his lover, arms gripping him tightly as he sent them both flying into a huge drift of white. Eli started to protest, but Geoff quelled it with a touch of his lips, capturing Eli’s with his own. The snow, the cold, the wind—all vanished, as Geoff felt his lover beneath him, a soft moan mingling with the song of the winter birds. Geoff traced his tongue over the ridge of Eli’s lips, the shape familiar, the taste known, the warmth home.

The winter wind picked up, its tendrils working beneath his layers, and Geoff slivered slightly. Pulling away, he got to his feet before helping Eli to his.

“We should decide and get back. It’ll be dark soon,” Eli commented as he trudged out of the drift, stomping off the snow. “The temperature’s going to start dropping fast.”

Geoff pulled Eli to him, chest to chest. “I’ll keep you warm.” He felt Eli shiver against him and smiled, knowing it wasn’t entirely from the cold. After another kiss, they returned their attention to the Douglas fir standing in front of them. “I like it,” Eli said, as he felt the soft needles.

“Me too.” Geoff picked up the canvas bag they’d brought with them and pulled out the saw, handing it to Eli. He held the branches up at the base and watched as Eli leaned into the tree and began to cut. A crack and a shift signaled that the tree was ready to fall, and Geoff held it upright as Eli cut through and stepped back. Geoff let the tree fall away from them and retrieved a length of rope from the bag. Tying it around the trunk, they put away the tools and grabbed the bag before dragging the tree along the row toward the road.

“Find a good one?” Old man Nichols smiled as they approached the office of the cut-your-own Christmas tree farm.

Geoff grinned as he displayed their prize before stowing it in the back of the truck. “How much do we owe you, Greg?”

The man made dismissive noises, “After all you helped out after the storm this year? You take it, and have a merry Christmas.” He patted both Geoff and Eli on the shoulders as he walked over to other customers emerging from the field of trees.

With a final wave, they climbed into the truck and Geoff started the engine, pulling out of the parking lot. Geoff turned on the radio and Christmas music filled the cabin of the truck as they drove the short distance toward the farm.

Pulling into the drive, Geoff parked near the house, and together he and Eli unloaded the tree, setting in the snow near the back door. “We’ll bring it in tomorrow.” Eli nodded his agreement as he opened the back door, holding it for Geoff.

The warmth of the house wrapped around him like one of Eli’s warm hugs, and after stomping off the snow, he slipped off his outdoor gear. Geoff then tromped into the kitchen, with Eli right behind him. Heading for the coffee pot, he poured them each a steaming mug.

“Did you get a good one?” Len called from the living room.

“Sure did. We’ll put it up tomorrow.” Geoff carried their mugs into the living room, setting them on the coffee table before sitting on the sofa. Thinking Eli was right behind him, Geoff looked around for his missing lover, then heard his footsteps climbing the stairs. Geoff retrieved his mug and sipped, the warm liquid finally thawing him from the inside. Turning to Len, he whispered, “I can’t figure it out what to get Eli for Christmas.”

Len scoffed. “And you’re asking me?”

Geoff shook his head; he knew better. “No, just hoping for some inspiration.” He shifted, getting comfortable as the images on the television flickered, capturing his attention.

The sofa next to him dipped, and Geoff handed Eli his coffee, moving closer to hold his lover as they watched the mindless chatter. Geoff knew Eli wouldn’t sit long—he never did, rarely watching television at all—so Geoff enjoyed the quiet closeness before Eli’s energy got the best of him.