MARCUS STARED at the numbers, again. He clicked the drop-down box under “Passengers” on the airline website and changed two to one, stared, then changed one to two.

You know you’ve already taken the days off. Might as well bite the bullet and go. Besides, isn’t there a tradition you want to uphold?”

He scowled at Cathy. Busybody she might have been, but she was right. “I know.” And it was that tradition, started by James’s father on a Christmas so long ago and carried on by the rest of James’s siblings, which had Marcus going against his better judgment. He left the drop-down on two and went through the rest of the steps to purchase his tickets with a lot more dread than was necessary, but it was hard getting over the one time he’d gone with James to visit his lover’s family for Christmas. Talk about overkill.

And, from what James said every time he’d visited over the past four years, they still overdid it. At least, to Marcus’s mind they did. It was too much. Stringing up lights around the outside trim of the house, in all the bushes and trees, all throughout the inside of the house, and even around the TV! Then there were the four Christmas trees, the overabundance of baking, and the caroling. Marcus twitched. Going out in close to zero-degree weather, bundled up but still cold, to sing songs he didn’t believe in…. Rather than dwell on it, Marcus sent James an e-mail to let him know the flight had been booked, with his customary “Hope you have fun <3” typed at the bottom.

 

All Marcus could say was James had better like this Christmas present. Then, peeking over his shoulder to make sure Cathy was distracted—she wasn’t, but at least she pretended—Marcus clicked open a new tab and searched for a somewhat familiar site. He’d visited the page every day at work since Cathy directed him to it after he’d mentioned to her how he’d wanted a particularly unique Christmas gift for James. One that added a more personal touch and helped out a smaller-time artist. Since he’d placed his Christmas order, Marcus was too afraid to check the site at home or even on his phone in case somehow James found it. Marcus logged in and stared at the progress meter—an interesting feature the designer incorporated because she knew how nerve-racking these sorts of gifts were. The progress of his gift was at the same point as yesterday, and the day before that, but the meter was half full, and the hint of limbo terrified and elated Marcus. This Christmas would either be the best or worst idea he’d ever had.