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[RPF] The Most Wonderful Time of the Year [3/3]
Summary: Christmas with the Hemsworths

A/N: Better late than never, and I had a case of the Christmas blues for a short while.

“Are you sure you’re going to be alright?” asks Tom’s mother via his laptop for what feels like the hundredth time. They had just spent the last hour chatting to each other via Skype and broached various topics such as his sisters and their impending pregnancies, other family news, his schooling, if he needed any money wired over, his dieting habits, general health and his holiday plans. The most current incarnation regarding his general wellbeing is in regards to this last topic.

With a sigh, Tom replies, “Yes, mum. I am going to be okay.”

“Where did you say you met him again? At work you said? As in one of the fellow elves?”

“Um, not quite. I mean, I did meet him at work, but it’s rather complicated,” answers Tom.

“Thomas,” warns his mother, and it’s amazing how she can still make him feel like a little boy from over thousands of miles away.

“Not complicated in a bad way,” clarifies the young man. “Just that he works at a Footlocker, and we happened to have coinciding lunch breaks where he would sometimes share his delicious lunch with me.”

A content smile breaks over his mother’s face. “How sweet of him. And you say he’s the one who offered to let you spend Christmas with him?”

“Yes,” answers Tom.

“Well he sounds very upstanding. I wish I could meet him.”

Tom nods absently in agreement before glancing to the corner to check the time. As if on cue, his phone buzzes within his pocket, and it contains a text from Chris telling him that he’s downstairs. “Speak of the devil,” starts Tom slowly, “he happens to be here right now.”

“Well don’t keep him waiting on my account,” urges his mother as she makes a shooing gesture at the screen.

“Love you, mum. Send my love to Sara and Emma as well and Happy Christmas,” says Tom in farewell.

“I will and Happy Christmas to you as well. And don’t forget to ring your father,” she reminds him gently.

“Already have,” he shoots back, having used his calling card for a brief exchange with his father.

“Okay then. Good bye, dear!”

“Bye, mum,” says Tom one last time before they both seem to cut the connection. He powers off his laptop and gathers up his items for the gathering: a bottle of unopened brandy from Ken (he had been quite adamant about Tom taking it, citing that hosts instantly warmed to guests with excellent taste in alcohol), presents for the girls, a plate of cookies to add to the food table and a sentimental little gift for Chris. He stuffs what he can in his canvas bag, zips himself into his coat and trudges out the door looking akin to some sort of balancing act.

Managing to lock the door, he makes his way to the lobby (thankfully, their apartment was on the ground level), and before he opens up the glass doors with either his hip or foot, it opens from the other side.

“Lemme get that for you,” offers Chris as he props his foot in front of the door and goes to relieve Tom of the cookie platter.

Tom hands it off with zero fuss, and they make their way to Chris’ little clunker, a powder blue Nissan Stanza. Settling into the front seat after placing his bag in the back seat, Tom rubs his hands together due to the chill in the air which prompts Chris to fiddle with his heating in an attempt to keep them from freezing. The air is slow to kick in, but when it does, a blast of warm air encompasses Tom, prompting him to fiddle with the vent so he’s not overwhelmed.

“Sorry about that,” apologizes Chris as he brings the dial to a lower number.

“No, it’s fine,” insists Tom while actually being thankful that he’s not being assaulted by the musty air anymore. Adjusting himself in the car seat to get accustomed to what will be a considerably lengthy ride (it’s amazing that they live equal distances from the mall and yet in completely opposite directions). “So how was the service?” he finally asks politely.

“Boring as always,” answers Chris immediately. “I was probably itching more than the girls to get out of there.”

Tom stifles a laugh at this response and instead replies, “Then why keep going?”

The thick jacket surrounding those large shoulders rises and falls quickly as Chris shrugs from behind the wheel. “Tradition I guess? We’re not all that religious if that’s what you’re afraid of. Just going through the motions and all that, though the children’s choir was very nice to listen to. God knows I could never sing like that even before puberty.”

Tom smiles as an image enters his head. “Hmmm. I can just see a miniature version of you throwing a fit in your little robe and making quite the scene in the house of the Lord.”

“Probably can’t beat the actual image of an angry mall elf putting you in your place,” counters Chris with a little smirk. “I honestly thought you were going to knock my lights out or something.”

Tom toys with his zipper with his head bowed so the other man can’t see the flush that has crept into his cheeks. “Have you seen yourself? Even if I had been properly ticked off then, it would have been as effective as hitting a zebra striped brick wall.”

Chris actually guffaws at that for a split second and takes a hand off the wheel to push Tom lightly. “Have you seen yourself when you’re in a fury? Not such a holly jolly sight despite your funny little outfit.”

Now it’s Tom’s turn to playfully smack Chris back but just a smidge harder than what was done to him.

“No assaulting the driver!” cries out the younger man in faux distress as he exaggeratedly hunches over the wheel in a show of protecting it.

“Well that’s what happens when you make a mockery of my uniform,” replies Tom with an affected sniff and an upturning of his nose.

“Come off it. It was an eyesore, and you know it.”

“You’re one to talk,” scoffs Tom as he squints and purses his lips at Chris.

“Yeah,” replies Chris sarcastically as he keeps his eyes on the road. “Because a look-a-like referee’s shirt is so much worse than those sculpted tights that turned your legs into candy canes.”

ldquo;Further accentuated by a pine green vest and shorts combination,” continues Tom.

“And topped off with an adorable little jingle cap,” finishes Chris in a higher pitched voice as he pats his head and mimes the conical shape of the hat.

Tom smiles at his pantomime before stretching his head towards the back seat where his bag is. “They let me keep it though I can’t imagine what for.” He hums to himself and drums his long fingers against his suit pants (they’re a step down from his Sunday best, but he would have felt bad showing up in jeans despite Chris’ insistence that it was a laid back luncheon). “Perhaps my future partner will want to roleplay as a naughty elf,” he says with an impish grin.

Rather than react as expected with a laugh or a shove or something in that vein, Chris’ lips press firmly together, and his eyes seem to focus more on the suburban view from beyond the window shield.

“Here we are,” announces Chris suddenly as the car pulls into a driveway alongside a dull gray minivan with an inset sticker of a stick figure family on the rear window that is on Chris’ side. Peering through the windows, Tom finds they are parked in front of an unassuming one-storey house painted white with sky blue trim. In the spirit of Christmas, white icicle lights dangle from the roof and wrap around the posts of the porch. A potted poinsettia sits perched on the railing of the perch, and a wreath with bauble ornaments woven into it hangs on the wooden door.  The small front yard has well maintained grass, and a light-up Frosty is the only occupant on the lawn.

Staring at it and the faux frosted front window, it suddenly hits Tom that he’s about to meet Chris’ family. Granted, he’s already met half of the family that will actually be gathered, and Chris is a friend so this really shouldn’t be as big a problem as he’s making it but still…He’s meeting Chris’ family.

And suddenly a slew of insecurities slam into him, ranging from the hand-me-down jacket he’s wearing to the cookies he had chosen to bring (especially in lieu of the fact that Samantha is a master chef) to the presents he had picked out. His hands clench on top of his knees, and he inhales slowly through his nostrils in an attempt to calm down.

A knock on his window startles him out of his reverie with a severe flinch, and he gasps in surprise. Turning towards the noise, he finds Chris leaning down with his canvas bag dangling from those broad shoulders. The shoe salesman is smiling softly at him through the glass and mimes a rolling motion with one hand which prompts Tom to roll down his window so as to hear whatever message is about to be relayed to him.

“So are you coming in or have you decided to just camp out here for the night?”

Tom’s hand shoots out for the door handle as apologies stream out of his mouth. He’s trying to roll his window back up as his legs stretch outside of the car. That’s when he notices Chris taking both the platter of cookies and the bag to the door.

“Let me get one of those for you,” offers Tom as he reaches out for his bag.

Chris doesn’t give it up that easily though and edges forward onto the little cement porch. “What kind of host would I be if I didn’t give you a hand?”

“What kind of guest would I be by foisting all my things upon you?” insists Tom as he reaches out again but this time for the cookie platter.

Chris finally relents before angling his key into the lock and opening up the door. Stepping through it, he proclaims, “We’re here!” to whoever might be around to hear.

Comfortable warmth greets Tom this time as he immediately steps into a wide living room, soon followed by delectable smells wandering from the kitchen. A long beige couch helps set the barrier to the picturesque Christmas setup before them. Along the walls are makeshift snowflakes and snowmen of varying design. Of note are the snowwomen with only their eyelashes to differentiate them. A decorated tree stands tall in the corner with a star situated at the top with fiber-optic threads exploding from its points so as to give off a miniature light show. Though the tree is nicely decorated with the standard mix of normal and uniquely sentimental ornaments, he notes how the bottom of the tree differs from the top with an overload of candy canes, tinsel, and less fragile ornaments. Vibrantly wrapped packages lie beneath some of the drooping ornaments, waiting to be torn to shreds.

A single stair designates the divide between living and dining room. He can spy various foods already laid out on the table as well and also briefly takes note of the short hallway which leads to the bedrooms.

He takes all of this in right before two familiar little girls race out of the previously noted rooms to greet Chris. Both are dressed in holiday themed sweaters and simple black pants, presumably what they wore to church. Holly sports a crimson red sweater with stripes of snowflakes running across it. Ella is dressed in a forest green sweater with a single mistletoe plant promptly displayed on the front with the white berries providing a nice contrast.

“Uncle Kip! Uncle Kip!” exclaims Holly as Ella just squeals, “Kip! Kip!”

At the sight of Tom though, Holly stops short with gaping mouth and widening eyes while Ella smiles at him while continuing to race up to Chris with raised arms. He obligingly picks the younger girl up, and she waves enthusiastically at Tom until Tom returns it with a wave of his own and an assuring smile.

“Mr. Pretty Tom!” says Holly with complete awe. She places both hands on her small hips and cranes her head back while tilting it to the side. “Why are you here?”

“Didn’t I tell you that I was friends with one of Santa’s helpers?” answers Chris as he looks fondly down at Holly. Just before Tom looks back down to Holly in order to nod his head in agreement, he catches how that fond look remains on Chris’ face as the younger man briefly glances back up at Tom.

“Yes, your uncle discovered my weakness for sweets and has used it to his advantage ever since.”

“Is that why my house has smelled so wonderful nearly every day?” asks a new voice as a woman emerges from the kitchen with a welcoming smile. She has platinum blond hair which is swept into a simply ponytail, only comes up to about Chris’ shoulder and is wearing a navy blue sweatshirt which has a Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer flying through a sea of ornament-shaped stars. “I must thank you for that then as it’s quite the treat to be awakened by Chris’ special Christmas cookies.”

“Yeah, firing up our oven at odd hours of the day for someone at work,” chimes in another voice, this one belonging to a man who bears a resemblance to Chris when the two of them are near each other but also only barely gets past Chris’ shoulder. His short, sandy blond hair is brushed back, and his white sweatshirt has a 3D version of Santa’s face with beaded eyes, a felt hat and thick, white beard.

The man sticks a hand out for Tom to grasp in a sturdy handshake. “It’s great to finally put a face to the stomach,” greets the man jokingly. “I’m Luke…”

“And I’m Samantha,” continues Chris’ sister-in-law, “and it’s a pleasure to have you in our home.” She wraps both of her smaller hands around Tom’s larger one when they shake, and it reflects the comfort conveyed in her tone.

“It’s a pleasure to be here,” responds Tom. “I really can’t thank you enough for letting me you’re your home.” Remembering the cookies, he holds them out to the couple. “And these are for the…uh…spread.”

Samantha takes them and walks them over to the table, accompanied by Holly who tries to see what kind they are by jumping every step of the way.

“Surveying the gathered Hemsworth clan who all smile so warmly at him, Tom feels the little knot in his gut begin to untangle. The sight of the ugly Christmas sweaters has a hand in that, but their receptive air is what’s mostly doing the trick. Then he does a double take as he realizes that Chris is also one of the ugly sweater clan with his black sweater sporting symmetrically dancing snowmen in the falling snow.

“I feel a little overdressed,” Tom confesses as he pulls the zipper down his coat to reveal his asparagus green long-sleeved shirt underneath a simple black waistcoat. Shucking his coat on to a nearby coat rack, he barely rubs his arms out of habit before Luke is racing down the hallway.

“I’ve got just the thing!” yells Chris’ older brother as he opens up a door and pulls something off of a shelf. Striding back, he holds the material from shoulder to shoulder to reveal a royal blue sweatshirt with a Punnett square full of bells and a big red bow printed in the center of the intersection of those four squares.

“Luke,” hisses Chris not so subtly.

Samantha merely pats Luke’s shoulder. “It’s really up to you, Tom. This just happens to be a side hobby of Luke’s which gets ramped up times eleven around this particular holiday.”

“And it was easy going until all these teens suddenly got hip to it. Now I’ve got to beat off a bunch of underfed looking college students in order to get a sweater portraying Santa and the elves at the table like it was the Last Super.”

Chris rolls his eyes at the description while jiggling Ella in his arm. “And we’re all the poorer for it,” he jokes.

Tom feels the smile spreading across his face the more and more he eyes up the sweater. The token is indeed appreciated, and his arm reaches out to accept it. “I’d be more than glad. Thank you very much.”

Tugging it over his head and pulling it so that it falls past his waist, he marvels at how it fits well. Not overly baggy at all.

“Now you fit right in,” comments Luke with a clap to Tom’s arm.

“I’ve got more things,” says Tom as he bends down for the bag that Chris had left on the floor. Stuffing the presents under one arm, he presents the bottle to Samantha whose eyes widen in shock as she reads the label.

He waves his bottle in the air at his wife. “Guess what we’re having tonight, Sam,” he remarks jokingly.

“You wish,” she jokes right back as she hugs the bottle to her chest. Noticing the presents Tom carries, she leads him by the shoulder and gestures to the tree. “You can lay those underneath there, and now that we’re all here, we can sit down to eat.”

A rumble of consent rises between the two brothers, and after a pretty heartfelt—yet short—speech about those who are near to us from Luke, the patron of the family urges them to get their grub on and dig in.

Tom doesn’t need a second invitation from there and loads up his plate from the assorted dishes on the table. True to Chris’ word, the turkey is quite scrumptious though he keeps going back for the heavenly four cheese pasta and addictive deviled eggs.

espite their parents’ lighthearted warning, the girls load up on the red and green M&M cookies Tom brought along. They tear through their lunch with an alarming speed and nearly vibrate in place after disposing of their paper plates. They never voice their ardent desire though it is evident in their frenetic body language and shifty eyes that switch from their parents’ plates to the tree. Sam finally gives her consent with a nod of her head as she swallows the last bit of turkey on her plate, and the girls skip to the tree, poking and prodding all the gifts (Holly sets to separating the packages as she can make out the writing on the labels whereas Ella contents herself with a candy cane).

Tom sits down on the couch as Sam and Luke situate themselves on the loveseat. Chris, meanwhile, helps the girls in sorting out the presents. A small argument arises between the two over who gets to present their parent’s gifts to them, but it is quickly resolved by having the two of them do it together. Squeals of pleasure arise from the girls after each opened one, followed by a chorus of thanks. (He’s relieved to find Holly fiercely hugging the stuffed koala he had gotten her and Ella waving about the dancing ribbon.) The loudest squeal comes from the Barbie scooter and two pairs of helmets. Both girls insist on trying it out in the backyard, and with an obliging sigh, the four Hemsworths are on the move. The whole thing brings about a wave of nostalgia for Tom as he remembers the Christmases of what seemed to be not so long ago with his sisters.

He’s brought out of his reverie when Chris plops down into the seat right next to him. He has Tom’s package and a festive bag in one hand and a rectangular gift in the other one. He offers the rectangular one to Tom. “Happy Christmas, mate,” he says with his sideways smile.

Tom takes it with befuddled blinking and rather carefully tears away at the wrapping paper to reveal a white cardboard box. Lifting the lid and the tissue paper within, he gasps at what lies inside: a black leather jacket.

His stomach drops as he thinks of what he got in comparison. Sure enough, Chris is laughing after unwrapping his gift of both Elf and A Christmas Story in their own respective (and convenient) DVD + Blu Ray combo packs. “I know what we’re watching next. Thanks a lot, Tom,” he says while slinging an arm over Tom’s shoulder.

Tom is still staring at his gift in dumbstruck awe when the warm squeeze penetrating the layers of his sweatshirt and other layers stir a response from him. “I-I can’t accept this, Chris,” he says in a hushed tone.

“Why not?” asks the other man with what might be a hint of insecurity in his own tone.

“I can’t imagine what this cost…” his voice trails off as he rubs his fingers against the material and slowly pulls it out of the box.

“Don’t worry about that,” insists Chris. “Overpriced sneakers do fetch quite the paycheck, and I wanted to get this for you.”

Both of Tom’s hands clutch the jacket now, but he still feels as if he must protest. “Well I feel like a proper arse now, having gotten you what feels like a gag gift in comparison.”

The arm around his shoulder slips off as Chris turns to face him. “I have no doubt that your gift came from the same exact place as mine,” counters Chris in a soft tone.

“And where would that be?” asks Tom in an equally soft tone though he already knows the answer.

He watches as Chris’ pink tongue darts out to momentarily wet his lips before the other man answers, “The heart.”

Without any further ado,Tom surges forward and presses his lips to Chris’. A sound of surprise nearly has him pulling away but then the thick arms wrapping around his own body urge him on. What begins as spontaneous chasteness deepens due to the tongue probing at his lips. Opening them up, his own tongue is rolling against the new entrant, and a moan rumbles through him as his hand pulls the band from Chris’ hair in order to tangle his fingers in those blond locks with his other hand palming down Chris’ muscular side.

His neck fitting against the armrest alerts him to the fact that he’s been pushed down on the couch, but he doesn’t bother to pull apart yet. Instead, he encourages further action by angling the rest of his body onto the furniture, toeing off a shoe and stroking his foot down the other man’s legs.  In response, Chris’ hips grind down, and Tom swipes a tongue across the man’s lower lip before lightly biting it which elicits a low growl.

A forced cough has them suddenly pulling apart, though limbs are still pretty much entangled around each other. Craning his head further back, Tom finally see an upside down Sam stands before them with crossed arms and a raised brow.

“I suggest you move this elsewhere before Luke rings up your mum on Skype to introduce her to your boyfriend,” comments the woman airily.

After a sheepish apology from Tom and a muttered one from Chris, the latter nearly hauls the former off the couch in order to oblige said suggestion. Tom then gets a brief tour of the house as he hobbles after Chris who zips through the kitchen to get to the backyard.

Luke steers the scooter with both girls crammed on it, and they all look up at the newcomers, who are in a hurry to get to the little guest house that Chris presumably inhabits.

“Look at me! Look at me!” demands Ella as she jumps in place.

“What did Santa get you, Uncle Kip?” asks Holly.

“Someone who makes me extremely happy,” answers Chris jubilantly as he ushers Tom into his own living space.

Any worries about their eagerness being dampened are immediately doused as the two basically jump each other once the door clicks shut.

ater on, panting and cuddling on Chris’ twin mattress (he feels like he’s in public school again, being so undone by—a thoroughly intense in his defense—second base) with his hands carding through Chris’ hair and Chris nuzzling into his neck, Tom floats a faux concern. “You do know at some point we’ll have to break it to the girls that I’m not actually an elf.”

The arms around his waist drag up a little as Chris merely shrugs in reply and presses a kiss to Tom’s neck. Then another kiss to Tom’s jaw, another one to his cheek and the trail ends with another slow exchange on the lips.

When they part, Tom catches a twinkle in Chris’ eye as his arms tighten their hold. “What’re you doing on Boxing Day?”

Part One
Part Two