Beneath the Tree

Caleb hadn't thought he'd make it to this point.

He sat on the floor of Scott's beautiful home—a home he'd only recently moved into—and stared up at the brightly lit tree he'd help Scott decorate weeks ago. Multicolored lights twinkled in the evergreen depths. Balls of blue, green, red, and gold dangled from branches. Glittering white snowflakes graced the boughs in strategic places. The silver garland reflected the rainbow of color, and it all simply made him smile.

On the stereo, Brenda Lee sang about rocking around said Christmas tree, and the scent of pine and cinnamon filled his lungs. It was Christmas. His second Christmas since his diagnosis, but the first where he celebrated rather than slept. His dreams had been quiet, peaceful, since Morpheus had broken with him, and he no longer went to sleep afraid the dream god would harm him through that dreamworld.

Still, he wondered about Morpheus. Did Morpheus celebrate Christmas? Was there someone with the god to ease his loneliness? Did he sing carols and decorate a tree as Scott had done with him? Or was Morpheus alone, distant and disconnected, trying to not feel that ache Caleb had felt just before Morpheus had begun to visit him?

They were all questions Caleb had no answers for, and he knew he probably never would. Morpheus was gone. Scott wasn't. Scott was his.

A smile curved Caleb's lips as he looked down at the piles of gifts beneath the tree. Many were from Scott to him. A handful were from him to Scott. It was a matter of pride, Caleb thought. They hadn't begun sharing a bank account, and Caleb had wanted to pay for every gift he would give to Scott this holiday. Not having to worry about rent or utilities had helped, but he'd not been able to afford the luxurious gifts he knew Scott could.

Did it matter?


That familiar voice sent a chill down Caleb's spine, and he turned to face Morpheus. "I'm asleep?"

Morpheus lounged in the living room doorway, arms crossed, wearing what Caleb imagined the Greek men had worn in Rome long, long ago. "Yes." He stepped forward, slowly approaching the tree. "You fell asleep in front of the tree."

"Why are you here?" Had Morpheus finally come to exact his revenge for being slighted?

"You are well," Morpheus said, eyes trained on an elongated, hand-blown glass ornament. "Healthy."

Caleb nodded. "Scott makes sure I eat well, exercise, and make it to all my doctors' appointments. I'm not on the anti-retrovirals yet, and my lab work looks great." He shrugged. "You'd never know I was dying."

Morpheus looked down, giving Caleb a disapproving look. "You are not dying."

A flush stole over Caleb's cheeks. "No," he whispered. "No, I'm not."

"You... are happy?"

Caleb saw the flicker of uncertainty in Morpheus' eyes and nodded. "I'm happy. I... think we're in love. I want to be sure before either of us says it, but I think we are. I want to be around him. I want him to be around me. The idea of us not together... it hurts. Here," he said, pressing his palm to his heart.

Morpheus nodded. "The idea of you and I not together..."

"Was a relief," Caleb admitted, feeling so very sad about it. "You were amazing as a lover, but I needed more than the sex. I needed to be loved. I wanted to love. I couldn't do those things with you. Please understand, I..." He chuckled. "I guess I wanted to live."

A soft smile curved Morpheus' beautiful mouth. "Yes, you did."


Caleb came out of the dream instantly. There was no soft fading, no lingering goodbye. One moment, Morpheus was smiling at him, the next, Scott was hovering over him, shaking his shoulder gently. "Scott," he said with a yawn. "I didn't mean to fall asleep."

Scott kissed him. It was a familiar, sweet kiss, something Caleb had craved from the first moment he'd let the man do it. "Dinner is ready," Scott murmured.

Caleb cupped Scott's face and drew him into another kiss, this one deeper, a little more hungry. He pulled Scott down against his body, and warmth rushed through him when Scott immediately wrapped him up in his arms. They lay there, kissing softly under the gentle glow of the Christmas tree. When they were breathless, Caleb pulled back just a fraction to meet Scott's gaze. What he saw there made the words in his throat that much easier to say.

"I love you," he whispered.

Scott grinned. "That was the best Christmas gift you could have given me," he murmured. After another breath-stealing kiss, Scott breathed, "I love you, too," before they lost themselves entirely in passionate kisses.

All works contained here are copyrighted to S.L. Armstrong. No reproduction or usage is permitted without written, express consent by the author.