Candle Five

Dear Reader: Life gets in the way sometimes. Happy sixth day of Hanukkah!

— Emily

 

Candle Five

04.11.12 I have to remind myself that some of Mark’s stress is caused by his shedding. I don’t mean that losing his scales makes him anxious; his emotional temperature skyrockets. So a great deal of his need to compete with me regarding the Hanukkah gifts can be attributed to that. But the rest is simply his nature. My Mark is so good at nearly everything else he does that coming in second is hard to swallow.

So good at nearly everything else… Those words and his talk yesterday morning about leaving SearchLight’s Tampa offices make it hard to hold my tongue. I only do so now because I could lose my place at the Academy, shaming myself and my lover, and letting Mark in on a secret he’ll know probably as soon as his vacation’s over. But if I told Mark about his coming promotion maybe he’d relax enough to realize it’s not who gives the better gift. It’s the spirit in which we give.

Oh! If I could write maniacal laughter into my journal, I’d do so. My Mark’s an intelligent man. If I give him just a little touch of his own medicine, he should get the message. I’ll make a real present too, but I need to pick something traditionally romantic, make sure it’s something I’m bad at, and then present it to him.

Woodworking isn’t my strength. Painting is worse. Even better: poetry! Shakespeare will be rolling in his grave.

 

Luke closed his eyes. “You’re sure this isn’t making you itch?”

Mark continued the bone-deep massage. “Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, but you’ll never know. You said you’re due at an appointment at ten. When you poof out of here, I’ll be free to take an oatmeal bath, work on tomorrow’s gift, daydream about my lover” — he laid a soft kiss on the top of Luke’s head — “or any number of other things. Then we meet for an early dinner back here, and the rest of the day is as you plan it.”

Where’s the stressed man who barely slept last night? Luke twisted on the low backed stool so he could meet Mark’s gaze. “Talk to me. What’s on your mind?” He read instant caution in his dragon lover’s eyes and readied himself for anything.

Mark folded his arms. And scratched. “My lack of holiday spirit’s that obvious?”

Luke stayed where he was, giving Mark the dominant position in the conversation. I never thought I’d be using my knowledge of dragon psychology to do more than keep from getting eaten. He repressed a grin.

“What?” Mark’s dark eyebrows climbed. “You’re smirking at me.” He sighed and all amusement evaporated. “Not that I blame you. I’m supposed to be the Jewish one here.”

“It’s not a Jewish thing. It’s a love thing.” The genie stood, tugged at Mark’s hand until the dragon relaxed enough to let him take it, and bowed. He kissed his lover’s fingers. “Remember you’re having trouble thinking straight right now.” He peeked up through his lashes, aware that his comment could send Mark into a rage.

His lover swore and closed his eyes, but when he focused on Luke, a touch of humor glimmered in his expression. “You enjoy playing with fire.” He stepped close, nipped Luke’s bottom lip, and then gave him a kiss neither short nor sweet.

Luke sensed the teeth just under the fire of Mark’s passion. He moaned.

Mark stepped back. “Go. Don’t be late.”

“You’re a tease.”

“Yes.” Mark crossed his arms again, looking more relaxed. “I am.”

 

Sitting at the long table inside his lamp with the origami paper arrayed before him like a sunrise, Luke opened the conjured glass bowl and balanced it on its rounded arc. When he presented the gift, the tiny bit of glass would have only a three-inch diameter.

The genie glanced at his watch, nodding at the time. He had several hours’ work ahead of him on this project alone.  Then there’s the poetry. Oh joy. He selected a delicate sheet of crimson paper and began the first miniature rose.

 

The menorah’s candles glowed down at them; Luke watched the flames, hypnotized.

Mark said, “I love it when you cook.” He crouched before the couch with his wine glass.

The genie swallowed. I’m stalling.

“Maybe I don’t need a cooking class,” the dragon went on. “All I have to do is hang around in the kitchen when you’re making dinner instead of being lazy.”

Luke blinked hard, but couldn’t look away from the five candles. One for my good idea, one for the good intention, one for the bad idea, one for the terrible poem it spawned… He winced. And once for Mark’s laughter. Now I get what made him so nervous.

He jumped when Mark rested a hand lightly on his knee.

“What’s wrong?”

The genie licked his lips. I’ll go through with it. Gift-giving really is about love. I know that. “Are you ready for me to read your gift?” If I can.

Grinning, Mark joined him on the couch. “Origami, Play-DohTM, and now a letter? Or do you sing?”

It’s amazing how a little alcohol relaxes him. Luke picked up the bottle. “Do you want me to top you off?”

“You were right: I needed to relax. I don’t need to get drunk. My tolerance is next to nothing when I’m shedding.”

Luke swallowed again. “Okay.” He magicked the poem out of his lamp. There’s no way I’d risk Mark seeing this before I could be here to explain. “Poetry’s, um, not my forte.”

“It doesn’t stink up the kitchen. I think we’ll survive.” Mark settled against the cushions, his gaze trained on Luke’s face.

One-Who-Decides, help me. “Your eyes are the color of your Pontiac car/I’d travel long distances for your kisses — oh so far!/Every word you speak is like the light of a star/Shining down on me.

“Your joyous laugh, kitty-litter rough,/Is rich as a millionaire; I can never get enough./I will never leave you, even if you’re in a huff./I belong with you and you belong with me.”

Mark covered his mouth with one hand. “It’s… Luke, it’s very sweet.” He leaned over, laid a soft kiss on the genie’s cheek, and snuggled against him.

“You don’t have to say that.” Luke crumpled the page and hurled it across the living room.

His lover bounded after it like a Labrador after a ball.

It was Luke’s turn to hide a smirk.

Mark returned with the abomination. He crouched beside the coffee table and smoothed the page out. “Will you sign it? Including the date?”

What?”

“I love it.”

He can’t be serious. “Mark…”

“Please?” He returned to the couch, kissed Luke again, and snagged a pen.

Is this love? Luke stared at Mark’s dancing, yet still serious, gaze. He’s enchanted with the poem, bad as it is. He signed and dated the monstrosity.

The real gift can wait till tomorrow.

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