Contrary to popular belief Santa, like public school teachers, does not get his summers off to bask by the pool. This is a situation that’s been preying on the Not-So-Jolly Old Elf’s mind a lot this summer—worrying about a group of author/public schoolteachers who’ve lost their belief in Christmas magic. It takes his stunning, torch-singing, gender-bending lover Chimera to come up with a plan to bring the joy of Christmas back to Nik, and the belief in the season’s magic back to the teachers Nik cares about.
Even from his spot perched on the edge of his stool in the middle of the stage at Santa’s Workshop, Chimera could tell his lover, the Man in Red himself, wasn’t happy. Of course, he wouldn’t be Niklaus Kristofer Klaus if he were chipper. He was rough, gruff, and more than a little anti-social, and Chimera liked him that way, thanks very much. But this was more than his usual growly bear façade, and Chimera hated to see his man actually upset.
Everyone thought that from December 26 to December 24, Santa had it easy—much like the poor deluded souls who thought that teachers did nothing but hang out by the pool from June ‘til September every year. Well, neither group could be more wrong.
As Nik’s lover, Chimera’d had more than one chance to peek into Santa’s magic mirror and see the misery that made up the lives of most public school teachers, and had a front row seat to see how hard Nik worked year round, trying to come up with the perfect gifts for believers, young and old alike.
Currently Nik was obsessing over several high school teachers scattered across the contiguous United States. From New York to California, there was a group of several dozen teachers who were also authors. They shared a passion for language, for imagination, and for writing the sort of stories that would see them unemployed in less time than it took Nik to cry, “Dash away all!”
They were committed to their jobs, to their students, but each one, male and female alike, was equally committed to making a difference through their writing. And, in Chimera’s opinion, these authors were changing just as many hearts and minds with their stories—whether they were het, lesbian or male/male, whether they were rom-com or filled with enough angst to keep Kleenex permanently in business, whether they were hard-core BDSM or “vanilla”—as they were with their daily acts of sacrifice for their students.
Chimera knew Nik wanted to do something special for these men and women, and he also knew the man felt his hands were tied because life, their jobs, the unstable economy and its disastrous effects on public education had sucked their belief in magic—real magic, not the kind they wrote about—right into the black hole of reality.
At the moment, Nik was scowling into a rare North Pole microbrew, his expression forbidding enough that even Joe, the ubiquitous shlumpy, grubby bartender, was keeping his distance, something Joe hadn’t seemed to feel the need to do since Nik and Chimera had become lovers a little over six months ago.
Chimera sighed and wrapped his hand around his microphone stand. All the obsessing on Nik’s part, and the empathy on Chimera’s part, wasn’t going to do anything to make life better for those poor struggling teachers. There was, however, one way Chimera could always make his lover smile.
With a brief nod to Joe he got his canned music started. When he actually performed there’d be a real DJ and fancy lighting, but for rehearsal, Joe’s boom box, kept hidden behind the bar, was more than adequate.
The opening bars of Fantasia’s version of Summertime cranked through the bar, and Nik’s slumped shoulders straightened. When Chimera joined his voice to the tinny music, Nik’s piercing gaze locked on the singer, giving his performance an extra zing. Singing for an audience of one could be every bit as exhilarating as singing for a crowd of hundreds, when that one managed to undress you with his eyes from all the way across the room.
Chimera knew exactly what Nik was seeing: He’d pulled his waist-length ruby hair to a tail that cascaded in waves from the crown of his head to brush the shoulders of his—well, actually Nik’s—flannel shirt. The shirt, thick and warm, and done in shades of green that did nice things for Chimera’s skin, was open enough to hint at the satiny white skin of his chest, and was long and loose enough to pair nicely with the glittery denim jeggings that covered his long, shapely legs. The glittery green stilettos that tied his outfit together also tied together the gender-fluid appearance he knew drove Nik crazy with lust. It was just a matter of getting Nik to let go.
By the time Chimera’d worked through his repertoire of torch songs, Nik was standing right in front of the stage, something he never did on a performance night—The Santa was not a groupie—pale green eyes stripping layers of clothing and attitude until the singer felt utterly naked before his gaze.
It was a feeling he positively adored.