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  • Writer's pictureBrigham Vaughn

THE 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS - DAY 11


White background with evergreen branches and white ornaments. Red text saying "celebrate Brigham Vaughn's 10 Year Publishing Anniversary with The 12 Days of Christmas. Day 11: Chris & Elliot - Beach Picnic

To celebrate my 10 year publishing anniversary I'll be posting one short story per day here on my blog from December 13-24th.


Every day will feature a different couple and the stories will vary in length. They'll range from sweet to a little bit spicy and hopefully will leave you with a smile on your face and a warm feeling of holiday cheer in your heart.


Thank you for ten wonderful years!


 

BEACH PICNIC


DAY: 11


CHARACTERS: Chris Allen & Elliot Rawlins + the Allen Family


PROMPTS: Beach Picnic + Knitted Stockings


NOTES: Set the Christmas Eve after The Ghosts Between Us ends.


“I think it might rain soon.”


I glanced at the sky, squinting at the dark clouds. “Definitely looks like it.”


“This was nice though.”


I lowered my head to look at Elliot. He stared out at the crashing surf a few yards away, strands of dark hair tangling in the wind. “Yeah?”


Elliot turned, bending his head to rest his cheek against his updrawn knees, looking at me with his unfathomable gray eyes. “Yeah. I know this first Christmas without Cal is going to be tough. And your parents are trying to make new holiday traditions so we all have a good time. I just … I think it was good that we took a little time to acknowledge what we’re missing this year.”


“I do too.” I reached out to take his hand, tangling our fingers together.


It was complicated, being in love with a man who’d dated my brother. Who’d lost him and grieved him like I had.


I’d thought spending an hour or two where I felt the strongest connection to my brother right before a holiday when I’d feel his loss acutely would be good for both of us.


Still, I’d been a little hesitant to suggest we take a picnic to Rockaway Beach, afraid of upsetting the equilibrium we’d worked so hard for.


When I’d finally proposed the idea of visiting Cal’s favorite beach, Elliot had seemed —if not enthusiastic— in agreement about going. Knowing it had been healing for him too made me glad we’d done it.


I was relieved that Elliot and I were in a good place now. Settled.


The loss of Cal was still there—would always be there in some small ways—but it had broken down a little, like new denim beginning to soften with wear.


With time.


“Love you,” I murmured.


Elliot flashed me a soft smile, so much less rare than it had been when we first met. “Love you too.”


“We should probably pack up and get out of here before the skies open up,” I said reluctantly. We’d been foolish to leave our rain jackets in the car. The weather in Oregon could be fickle at best and rain was a frequent part of our lives, even on Christmas Eve.


As if I’d conjured up the rain with my words, a fat, wet drop plopped onto the scuffed, well-loved surfboard of Cal’s that we’d been using as a makeshift picnic table.


Elliot laughed. “I think we might be too late actually.”


He was right.


By the time we gathered the remainder of our food and packed it away, the rain was coming down in a steady drizzle.


We ran, hand in hand, clutching our belongings, the surfboard tucked under my arm.


“We’re gonna be drenched before we get to the car!” I shouted over the noise of the wind and waves. We’d walked quite a distance to get to the sheltered cove where we’d enjoyed our picnic and even at a sprint, it would take us at least ten minutes to get back.


“I have an idea! C’mon.” Elliot tugged on my hand and I followed blindly, the rain making it difficult to see.


A few moments later, he pulled me under a rocky outcropping, a shallow cave carved into the shoreline by the elements.


“Shit,” I wiped the water from my face. “It’s really coming down hard now!”


I could hardly see through the opening of the cave, the rain a sheet of water that obscured the crashing surf and sky from view.


Elliot grinned, his wet hair tangled against his cheeks. “This is your fault!”


“Yeah?” I grinned back, helpless to do anything else when he was happy.


“It is! You said it!”


“Well, good thing you know all the secret hiding spots then,” I teased, grateful I no longer felt the need to shout.


I set Cal’s board down, leaning it vertically against the cave wall.


“Wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been caught in a rainstorm here,” he said with a shrug. “I like to come in here and wait it out before I go back out in the water.”


He hadn’t surfed today, but it was something he did regularly. I did it more than I had in the past, although my schedule as a doctor allowed me a little less flexibility than Elliot’s as a full-time artist.


“It’s very nice,” I said. “For a cave.”


Elliot laughed and set down his soft-sided cooler and backpack. “What can I say? I know how to show you a good time.”


I smiled, pulling him close. “You do. You showed me a very good time when we woke up this morning.”


Elliot laughed again, softer this time, his mouth warm against my jaw.


For a few moments, we just held each other until Elliot shivered. I pulled back, peering at the rain again.


“Doesn’t look like it’s going to let up any time soon. Do you want to just make a run for it?”


“Yeah, it’s coming down hard.” He grimaced. “But no, not really. I’m not sure I want to sit in wet clothes in the car for the two hours it’ll take us to drive back to Portland.”


“Good point.”


“Might as well make ourselves comfortable here, I guess.” Elliot unzipped the backpack, pulling out the beach towel we’d packed. He dabbed at his face before handing it to me. “You should dry off before I wring out my hair.”


His hair was long enough to dust his collarbone and had soaked up the rain quickly, so I nodded and dried my face, arms, and much shorter hair the best I could before I handed the towel back.


I watched, transfixed, as the limp, sodden strands turned into dark ringlets. He shot a brief, distracted smile at me, the way he always did when I stared at him this way.


But there was something compelling about Elliot. Something magnetic. I’d risked everything to be with him, including my own family, and I still felt an electric charge every time he was near.


He rolled his eyes at me and I looked away, still smiling, as I busied myself with pulling the large picnic blanket out of the cooler where I’d hastily stuffed it earlier.


I shook the blanket out, intending to spread it over the sand, but I frowned when a thought occurred to me. “Wait, does the tide come in this far? I don’t want to get trapped in here when it comes in.”


“Good thought,” Elliot said, “but we should be fine. The water never comes this high. I think it’s just wind that brought the sand in here.”


Relieved, I spread out the blanket and took a seat on it. Elliot knew the area better than I did and I trusted him.


“Come here,” I said when he was done drying his hair, the towel set aside. “I’ll keep you warm.”


He reached for a sweatshirt he’d packed too, and after a bit of shuffling, we settled on the blanket, using the backpack as a makeshift pillow.


We curled up together under the sweatshirt, bodies intertwined.


Thankfully, it wasn’t a cold day.


Not like most Christmas Eves anyway, where the temperature usually hovered in the low forties. We’d had a warm spell this week and today it had reached almost sixty, but rain-soaked, there was definitely a chill to the air.


It felt good to have Elliot so close. For many reasons.


“Sorry our picnic ended this way,” I said ruefully.


“It’s not all bad.” Elliot brushed his lips to the hinge of my jaw and I leaned into the touch, closing my eyes.


“No, it isn’t.”


We kissed, the heat growing between us until I shifted, letting the sweatshirt tumble to the blanket beneath us. I reached for Elliot’s trousers and lifted an eyebrow at him, silently asking if he wanted this.


He nodded, leaning back and propping himself on his arms to watch as I peeled away the damp fabric. His cock was soft at first but I took it in my mouth, feeling him harden against my tongue. The air was filled with the rich, damp smell of the sea and I could taste the faint salty richness of Elliot’s skin.


They mingled together until I could hardly differentiate between the two.


His hands were gentle in my hair as he guided me over him and when he came, it was like the break of an ocean swell pouring over a rock. I swallowed then leaned in to kiss the soft skin beside his hip before I tucked him away.


He smiled at me when I was done and pulled me in for a kiss, his mouth warm and sweet against mine.


“You too,” he murmured quietly, and I realized what he meant as he gently pushed me onto my back.


He pulled my clothing out of the way and sucked me slowly.


I couldn’t watch his head bob over me, but the feel of his dark, damp curls brushing my inner thighs was enough to make my heart race. Instead, I threw my head back, staring up at the rough stone ceiling.


When I got close, he pressed his thumbs into my skin, holding my legs apart, and I knew I’d have marks there by morning.


I came with a hoarse cry, the pleasure swelling like the sea until it pulled me under.


When we were dressed and snuggled close again, we lay there silently, listening to the pounding rain and surf, cocooned in our own private world.


I drowsed a little, sleepy and content, until I heard my name.


“Chris?” Elliot whispered.


“Yeah?” I tilted my head and smiled at him.


“I think the rain’s letting up.”


It had slowed to a damp trickle and I could see sunlight trying to pierce the gray clouds.


“I’m not sorry we got caught in the rain,” I said and he smiled back, looking just like the brightening sky outside.


***


Chris slept on the drive home to Portland, head pillowed on my rolled-up sweatshirt.


Mellow music played in the background, the only other noise the soft hush of the tires on the rain-slick road below.


The sun was going down by the time we arrived at Chris’s childhood home.


It was decorated for Christmas, with lights strung around the large, beautiful house and a bright tree in the front window.


I took a deep breath and then another.


We’d been through so much, all of us, in the wake of Cal’s death. I’d resented the Allens, resented Cal, resented Chris … In different, unknowing ways, we’d all hurt one another

without meaning to.


Christopher Sr. was a recovering alcoholic and his wife, Sarah, had turned to someone else in her loneliness.


Their relationship had nearly broken apart under the weight of their grief last year, and Chris and I had nearly capsized on those same rocky shores. But in the end, we’d fought for one another. Fought to be here.


Fought to create a strange, uncertain family despite the difficult circumstances. Despite the complicated history.


I loved Chris too fiercely to let him go, loved him in a way I’d never loved anyone, not even Cal. But my past made me wary of trusting anyone, and I braced myself for tension and unease before this first holiday together.


But when I shook Chris awake, he blinked sleepily at me and leaned forward to press his nose to my hair. We held each other a moment and I knew that no matter what, I’d rather be here with him than anywhere else.


As we walked up the sidewalk a few minutes later, carrying our overnight bags and a stack of gifts, the door opened.


“Come in, come in!” Sarah said, the glow of the holiday lights and the warmth of her smile drawing me inside.


Christopher Sr. was crouched down, poking at the fire, and he greeted me with a smile too, hands steady and eyes clear, and I let out a breath, allowing the tension in my shoulders to soften.


“Merry Christmas,” he said as he stood to shake my hand. “Oh, you look like you got caught in the rain. Why don’t you and Chris go warm up in the shower? Dinner won’t be for a while yet.”


“That would be nice,” I said. “Thank you.”


My gaze drifted toward the mantle, crowded with framed photographs, and I caught a glimpse of the family from years ago. In happier days. When Cal was still alive.


Christopher must have noticed because he tilted his head toward the photo. “It’s tough, isn’t it?”


I nodded solemnly.


“But we’re here now and there’s a lot to look forward to, isn’t there.”


“Yes,” I said simply. “There is.”


Chris, who had been arranging gifts under the tree, stepped closer. “Should we tell them now?”


“Yes.”


“Elliot and I put in an application to be adoptive parents.” He glanced between Christopher and Sarah. “I know you hoped for biological grandkids, but we feel like this is the right choice for us.”


“Oh!” Sarah’s hand flew to her mouth. “But that’s wonderful news, isn’t it?”


Christopher’s gaze was warm. “It is. We’re happy for you both.”


“It’ll probably take a while,” Chris warned.


“That’s fine,” Sarah said. “It’ll give me time to knit some more stockings.”


I glanced at the stockings hanging over the fireplace, reaching out to touch the one that had the name Elliot stitched along the cuff.


In my tumultuous childhood, I’d never had anything like it. Not a stocking or a mantle to hang it from, and thought that maybe we were all healing. Maybe every shaky step we took was toward a future brighter than the past we were learning to leave behind.


Twenty minutes later as I stepped into the hot shower and Chris slid in behind me, he hooked his chin on my shoulder.


“You okay?” he asked, sliding his hands up my stomach and making me shiver with pleasure.


I nodded, letting my head fall back so he could kiss his way up my neck. “More than okay,” I assured him.


“Yeah?”


“Yeah. I think we’re going to have a good Christmas.”


I could hear the smile in his voice as he said, “Me too.”


I’d spent a good chunk of my adolescence sleeping in cars. Going hungry. Looking for a leg up. Or just a break.


Looking for stability. For love.


Seeing those perfect, happy families from the outside and wondering what it felt like to be a part of one.


But I realized now that perfection was an illusion. Happiness didn’t mean there were no scars.

No flaws. It didn’t mean there weren’t deep wounds or that there hadn’t been rough paths to travel.


Only that at the end of those travels, there were people welcoming you home with open arms.


 

Enjoyed the story? Please leave a comment and tell me what you think!



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5 Comments


Guest
Dec 24, 2023

It is bittersweet but it grabbed me. Thanks very much.

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Brigham Vaughn
Brigham Vaughn
Dec 24, 2023
Replying to

I am so glad it grabbed you. And yes, it's definitely a bit bittersweet. They've been through a lot together but hopefully there were enough hints of light and hope that things are getting easier. I do picture a very happy future for them.

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Helen Smith
Helen Smith
Dec 23, 2023

Bittersweet story. I've been to Rockaway Beach, though, so I thought that was kind of cool.

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Helen Smith
Helen Smith
Dec 24, 2023
Replying to

I'm not sure either, but I'll go with it! The Oregon coast is breathtaking.

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