Presidential elections may be over, but Sam and Blake are still a work in progress.
The last fourteen months of Sam's life have been a crazy ride that was supposed to by over by now. It isn't. While the presidential elections came and went, things don't seem to be slowing down, despite his efforts. And Blake is a patient man, but even he has his limits. Although old habits die hard, they can be conquered, and when the new realizations occur, it's a chance for Sam and Blake to decide how to move forward and navigate the relationship down the road. It's no Christmas miracle, but it's theirs and they're not willing to back down.
Blake paused at the kitchen window to watch the few snowflakes falling from the sky, marking the first snow of the season. Perfect timing. A moment later he heard his daughter running down the stairs.
"Slow down, Olivia," he told her, putting his empty coffee mug in the sink.
She appeared in the doorway a second later. "It's snowing!"
Blake couldn't help grinning at her joy. She bounced on her feet and quickly crossed the kitchen to look out the window.
"I know," he said. "Are you ready to go?"
Olivia nodded without turning around. It was the second Saturday of December, and according to their tradition, it was the day they would pick out their Christmas tree. Olivia had been excited about it for a week now.
"Okay, I'm going to get Sam and then we'll go," Blake told her and left the kitchen to hunt down his partner.
When Sam moved in three months ago, they had talked about setting up an office for him after the presidential elections, but they hadn't gotten around to it. Blake knew he was the one dragging his feet. He might not love having Sam work in their bed sometimes, but he was sure that pulling him out of his office would be much more difficult.
"Hey you." Blake leaned against the frame of the bedroom. "We're ready to go."
Sam looked up from the laptop and took out the pen that was sticking out from the corner of his mouth.
"It's eleven already?"
Blake nodded. "It's eleven fifteen."
Sam winced. "Sorry, I'll be right out. I'll just finish this email to Greg, okay?"
"Sure." Blake took a step back. "We're waiting in the kitchen."
"I'll be right there with you," Sam told him, eyes already back on the screen. Blake sighed and left the room, leaving the door open. He had learned by now that closing the door meant running the risk Sam would get sucked back into his work again and forget to stop when he said he would.
When Blake got back to the kitchen, Olivia was still staring out the window.
"I think the snow is picking up, Dad!"
He moved to stand behind her then put both hands over her shoulders and squeezed lightly. The snow had "picked up" by maybe a few snowflakes, but he still nodded when Olivia tilted her head back to look at him for confirmation.
"It sure did. Perfect weather to pick out our tree, isn't it?"
She nodded quickly. "Are we going yet?"
"A few more minutes, Sam's finishing up something," Blake said and watched Olivia turn back to look out of the window.
"You promise it's just a few minutes?"
The question seemed innocent enough, but he knew his daughter and it wasn't hard to figure out what was behind it. As much as Blake could deal with Sam's occasional time-slips, he wasn't the only one affected by them. Olivia had her share of them already, too.
Before Blake could say anything, he heard footsteps come down the hall and turned to see Sam appear in the kitchen doorway.
"Who's ready to pick the best Christmas tree?" Sam asked with a smile, gaze slipping from Blake to Olivia.
"I am!" she shouted and rushed past both of them to the hallway. "Let's go!"
Blake grinned at that, the tension from a moment earlier already forgotten.
"Let's." He brushed his hand over Sam's arm when he passed him in the doorway and got a quick kiss in return.
A few minutes later they were all in the car, and as soon as Blake backed it out of the driveway, Sam turned to look at Olivia in the backseat.
"Did you know it's been a year since we first met?" he asked her with a soft smile.
Blake remembered that, of course, but it had slipped his mind until now. He couldn't believe it had been a year.
He glanced in the rearview mirror and saw Olivia smile back at Sam.
Sam nodded. "Yes. You let me tag along for the tree picking last year. It was a great day."
"I remember!" she exclaimed loudly. "I remember now!"
"It's hard to believe it's been a year," Sam said, voicing Blake's thought. Then he glanced from Olivia to Blake and back. "I'm glad we're doing this again."
Blake put a hand on Sam's thigh for a few seconds before returning it to the steering wheel. "Well, you were helpful last time, so we decided we may just as well keep you around."
Sam chuckled. "That's very generous of you."
Olivia leaned in closer. "You weren't with us during Christmas," she said with a frown. "Are you going to be this year?"
Last year their relationship had been so new, they didn't even discuss spending Christmas together. The two of them met up right after the holidays when Olivia left for the annual trip with Blake's sister and her family, and Sam returned from Portland where his family lived.
It was different this year, though.
"Yes," Sam said with a smile that only grew when Olivia smiled back, and Blake had trouble keeping his eyes on the road as he glanced between Sam and the rearview mirror.
"This year some of the presents will be waiting at our house, then we'll go to Grandma's house a little later," Blake told Olivia before Sam could continue.
In the past, when it was only him and Olivia, they had all the presents waiting at his mother's house and they celebrated the entire holidays with the family. This year, Blake and Sam agreed that they should have their own small celebration and unwrapping of presents before the family gathering.
The look of relief on Sam's face when Blake had suggested it was something that stayed with Blake for the rest of that day. Most of the time he forgot how badly his mother had treated Sam up until the last two months. It shouldn't be a surprise that Sam was still a little wary.
"Presents at our house?" Olivia leaned forward so fast, the safety belt pulled her back a little. The excitement in her voice kept Blake's thoughts from drifting to his mother.
"Yes. The presents at Grandma's house are still going to be there, but Sam and I thought it would be nice if we asked Santa to leave something for us all at home too." He smiled at Sam. "Something" could turn out to be an understatement. Apparently even Sam's mom had decided to send Olivia a present.
"That's awesome!" Olivia said and Sam turned his head towards the passenger window, but Blake could see his grin. Awesome indeed.
It was hard not to smile the whole way to the Christmas tree lot. Blake had learned to appreciate Christmas more than ever since Olivia was born, but had never anticipated it as much as he did this year. Sam was a big fan of Christmas and with Olivia's obvious joy, it was hard not to get swept into it.
When they got to the lot, it was predictably filled with people, and Blake made Olivia repeat the rules before letting her out of the car.
"No running away, always sticking close, and no letting anyone walk me anywhere without either you or Sam," she said quickly, impatiently tugging at the safety belt. "Can we go now?"
The snow had picked up quite a bit and when they exited the car Blake put a hat on Olivia's head despite her protests.
"Hey, we don't want to get sick, do we?" he asked her and she squinted but held still. Blake fought not to smile. She didn't like it when he used "we" like that when he meant only her, so he sometimes did it just to distract her from something. "Okay, let's go."
There was almost no snow on the ground, since the people had trampled it into a wet dirty mud, but the Christmas trees all around were now decorated in snowflakes. The sight made Blake realize for the first time that Christmas was really just around the corner.
He didn't notice he had fallen behind until Sam turned around a few feet ahead, walking with Olivia who tugged him forward by the hand.
Blake nodded and fell into step right at their six. Just looking at the two of them, holding hands and smiling with excitement, already focused on the displayed trees, made his heartbeat speed up.
He didn't want to jinx anything, but this Christmas was shaping up to be the best one yet.