top of page
  • Writer's pictureBrigham Vaughn


Updated: Dec 23, 2023

 Dark blue background with gold sparkles and lights. White text saying "celebrate Brigham Vaughn's 10 Year Publishing Anniversary with The 12 Days of Christmas. Day 9: Gabriel & Lance - The Christmas Market

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!





DAY: 9

CHARACTERS: Gabriel Theriault & Lance Tate

PROMPTS: Christmas Market + A Kiss on the Nose

NOTES: Set one year after Changing the Rules ends.

As Lance strolled beside Gabriel at Le Grand Marché de Noël in Montreal, the snow settling gently around them, he listened to the words flow from Gabriel’s mouth, washing over him without registering. Lance had never dreamed he’d find himself here, sharing a romantic moment with the man he loved.

It was two weeks until Christmas and the Evanston River Otters had squeaked out a miraculous win against the Montreal Lynx last night.

Last week, when Lance had pulled Ken Daniels—the team’s head coach and the man who was, in essence, Lance’s boss—aside and asked if he and Gabriel could fly back to Illinois separately from the team, Daniels had shot him a skeptical look.

Lance suspected that Daniels still didn’t love that his assistant coach and player were dating, or the headaches it caused him. But in the year they’d been together, he’d come to see how good it was for both of them and was as gracious about it as he could be. 

“Look, Gabriel could use the break,” Lance insisted. “This season has been a lot.”

Daniels grunted and reached for his mug. “Tell me about it. I think I have at least three new ulcers.”

“Might want to lay off the coffee then,” Lance shot back.

Daniels had given him an unamused look and took a sip anyway but he’d, grudgingly, agreed to give them a day off during the team’s rare three-day gameless stretch in the middle of December.

Gabriel and Lance would fly home tomorrow morning and would, hopefully, make it in time for afternoon practice. Though, at this point, Lance wasn’t sure if it would matter if they both missed it. The team was a mess this season.

It wasn’t just the tough rebuild the team was dealing with that weighed on Gabriel though.

His father’s declining health took its toll as well. The repeated head trauma that Alain Theriault had suffered in his years as a professional hockey player had led to dementia and eventually Gabriels’ trade from Toronto to the River Otters.

But it was better now that Alain had more stability.

The renovations on the house Lance and Gabriel had bought were done and they’d been settled in for a while now. Better experimental drugs, better nursing care, Lance and Gabriel both there to look out for him … they helped.

The mental deterioration would never completely stop but it had been slowed enough that they were piecing together some semblance of a life for Alain.

The improvement in the relationship Gabriel had with his father had helped Alain and Gabriel both. But Lance knew every trip away from Alain was stressful for Gabriel.

Lance had debated if the extra time away would help or make it worse, but Gabriel had sounded grateful when he’d proposed the trip.

Last night, following the game, they’d had a candlelit dinner at a nice restaurant and Gabriel had relaxed enough to allow himself a small glass of wine and a delicious dinner.

After, in the luxe, modern hotel room, they’d made love. Touching, tasting one another. Savoring the time alone.

They’d spent today exploring the city, walking around or hopping on the Metro, stopping occasionally to eat or shop or just rest and take in the sights.

Lance had been to Montreal plenty of times but never like this. He’d never had the time to enjoy it as a tourist. As a player and now a coach, he’d always flown in for a game and then out again. But watching Gabriel show him around a place he loved was something Lance felt keenly appreciative of.

And the Christmas market they were exploring now was magical.

“You are not listening to a word I say, my love,” Gabriel teased, catching Lance’s hand, and tugging on it to get his attention.

Lance turned to look at him, feeling a little sheepish. It was true. He’d heard Gabriel speaking, but the words hadn’t really sunk in once he’d gotten lost in his own thoughts.

But Gabriel’s dark eyes were amused, rather than upset.

“Sorry,” Lance murmured, stepping closer. “Sometimes I get distracted when you look so happy.”

He drank in the sight of Gabriel, still barely able to believe a man so beautiful loved him back.

Unlike when they first met, Gabriel smiled readily now, his brown eyes warm and light.

Tonight, snow had settled on Gabriel's knitted stocking cap and the ends of his long, dark hair. His cheeks were a little red and so was the tip of his nose. Unable to resist, Lance touched his lips to the spot, warming it a little .

When Lance drew back, the look Gabriel gave him was soft. Tender. He reached up to touch his mittened hand to Lance’s cheek, then leaned in, brushing their lips together in a gentle kiss. “I am happy. Thank you for this.”

Gabriel murmured something else in French, too quickly for Lance to understand.

Lance was trying though.

He had a language-learning app on his phone and practiced his French daily. The lessons were geared toward Quebecois rather than Parisian French, but Lance was still unsure of a lot of the slang and often missed some critical detail when the words were spoken quickly.

It didn’t help that Gabriel often spoke it in bed, usually at moments when Lance was very focused on something far more pleasurable than vocabulary.

Still, he could speak little bits of the language. He’d been—awkwardly—trying on this trip and though Gabriel had gently chirped him at times about his pronunciation, he’d looked pleased with Lance’s attempts.

“What did you say just now?” Lance asked. “I heard you say something about love, but the rest went right over my head.”

Gabriel flashed him a teasing grin. “I said it is a good thing I love you or I would be offended that you don’t listen to what I say.”

Lance grinned back. “Tell me again what you were saying earlier when I was lost in thought.”

Gabriel shrugged in that lazy, indolent way of his. “Non. It was just a silly story about one time Noah and I spent a day at the markets here in Montreal. Nothing important.”

But everything Gabriel said was important. Lance wanted to hear it. Remember it.

He wanted Gabriel to know how special he was to Lance. How happy he was that they’d risked everything to be together. How every moment had been worth it.

Lance almost said that aloud, but Gabriel tugged on his hand insistently, pulling him toward a row of small European-style chalets overflowing with wares. “I will tell you later. Come. I want to pick out something for Kisha.”

They did owe Alain’s private, and favorite, nurse something extra this year for all she’d done for them.

So Lance followed, allowing Gabriel to tow him this way and that, as he looked for a gift that would be special enough.

As they browsed, the sky darkened and the colorful string lights glowed, shining on trees and draping overhead, as they strolled through the crowded market hand-in-hand. The night really did feel magical, like something out of a dream.

Their relationship had begun in the midst of so much turmoil that practicality had won out over romance. Worry over Alain’s condition and trying to keep their relationship a secret had meant that their dates were quite nights in.

They hadn’t been able to go on the typical dates that most couples were able to enjoy when they began dating.

Even now that the public knew they were together, they rarely had time for dates.

But this perfect stolen time in the middle of a stressful, tumultuous hockey season would help sustain them when reality intruded again. 

Lance picked up a few things for his daughter and something for his son while they shopped. Gabriel merely smiled when he found a hand-carved wooden Santa that looked like something Lance’s ex-wife would love.

C’est parfait. Buy it,” Gabriel urged. “Cammie will love it.”

It was perfect for her. She adored anything Santa-related.

Lance smiled, thinking of how well Cammie and Gabriel had gotten along at Thanksgiving this year. Frankly, it had been a little terrifying to see them whispering over their glasses of red wine, conspiring about something as they stared at Lance.

Gabriel had shot him a wink at one point and later, when Lance had asked what that was about, he had only given him an inscrutable little smile.

Maybe someday Lance would know what they had planned.


Once Gabriel felt satisfied with the gifts he’d picked out, Lance steered him toward the food stalls.

“Maple syrup-laced hot whiskey, hot chocolate, or mulled wine?” he asked.

Gabriel hummed as he considered his options. “Mulled wine, s’il te plait.”

A few minutes later, he murmured his thanks as he wrapped his palms around the red and white enamel commemorative mug, relishing the heat of the drink, even through his warm mittens.


Gabriel scoffed. As if he would want anything else when he was visiting Québec. “Oui,” he said emphatically.

Lance shot him a smile and led him to the stall to place their order.

Gabriel studied Lance as they waited in line. He looked so handsome today in his gray wool jacket and plaid cashmere scarf. So relaxed. This trip had been good for them both.

Lance was everything Gabriel had ever thought to wish for and more.

Gabriel pressed their upper arms together and Lance automatically slid an arm around his waist, holding him close while they waited for their turn. Gabriel softened against him, enjoying the live music in the background, the sounds of his native language filling the air around them.

He loved Evanston, loved the life he had there with Lance and his team, but it settled something in him to be home. To immerse himself in the familiarity of it and to proudly show it off to Lance.

When they reached the front of the line, Lance took a large, steaming container of fries heaped with gravy and melting cheese curds, the scent of it alone making Gabriel’s mouth water.

They stepped out of the crowd’s path to eat, laughing as they tried to avoid making a mess, juggling their warm mugs of wine and bags of gifts as they passed the cardboard container back and forth.

After they were done sharing the more-than-generous serving of poutine, they began walking again.

“I think we’ve seen it all,” Lance said. “And possibly bought it all. Shall we head back to the hotel?”

Gabriel nodded, chuckling as he turned toward one of the exits.

“What is a beaver tail?” Lance asked as they passed another food chalet, nodding toward a sign advertising the treat. “It sounds … suggestive.”

Gabriel laughed and took a final sip of his mulled wine. It was nearly cold now but still delicious. He tucked his empty mug in the bag beside Lance’s. He’d smile every time he opened the cupboard in their kitchen and spotted them nestled in with their other coffee cups. “Beaver tails? They are fried dough with toppings like Nutella or cinnamon sugar.”

“Sounds delicious.”

“It is,” Gabriel admitted. “Though if I am craving something sweet, I would choose the maple taffy.” He nodded to the chalet on the other side of the aisle.

Lance peered at it. “Is that …”

“Yes. Come look.” Gabriel led Lance over, shifting until Lance could get a good view.

Snow was spread out on a tray and a man poured dark amber maple syrup across it in a thick line. A moment later he rolled a popsicle stick across the hardening candy, wrapping it around the top of the wooden stick.

“Oh!” Lance looked delighted. “I’ve never seen that before.”

Gabriel smiled. “It was my favorite treat as a child, something my grandparents made after they tapped their maple trees and boiled down the sap into syrup,” he explained.

“I’m sorry I never got to meet them,” Lance said quietly.

Gabriel nodded. He missed them, though he had no idea how they’d feel about his relationship with a man.

“We should each get a maple taffy. Unless you would rather have the beaver tail,” Gabriel said, because he didn’t feel like bringing down the happy mood.

“No, I’d like to try your favorite.”

Gabriel squeezed Lance’s arm, then stepped forward to buy one for each of them. They savored the chewy sweetness as they resumed walking, exiting the main market area onto the city sidewalk. 

“Someday I will take you to my grandparents’ home,” Gabriel said quietly.

“You own it?” Lance asked.

Gabriel nodded. “Oui. A neighbor looks in on it and taps the trees in late winter or early spring when the sap begins to flow. It is most beautiful that time of year, I think.”

He tilted his head back, staring up at the soft flakes of snow still drifting  down. As much as he loved the city, sometimes he missed the cold, crisp air in the Quebec woods laced with smoke from the large open fires and with the sweetness of maple hanging over everything as the sap boiled in giant cauldrons.

When Gabriel lowered his head, Lance cupped his cheek and leaned in, murmuring, “Je t’aime pour toujours.

Gabriel pressed their foreheads together. Something in his chest felt bruised and tender at Lance’s promise to love him forever.

The effort to learn Gabriel’s language was a large part of it. It filled a piece of Gabriel’s heart that he hadn’t known needed filling.

But that promise of forever … that was what Gabriel truly treasured.

For so long, Gabriel had believed he didn’t deserve that forever. Believed he wasn’t the sort of man who could promise that to anyone and mean it.

He’d never trusted anyone else when they said it to him either. The ever-present fear that Gabriel had about becoming like his father, of repeated head trauma robbing him of his memories, had made him doubt that promise.

Who would stay with him if his mind began to fail like Alain’s?

Lance would.

Gabriel knew that now. He did everything he could to prevent Lance from ever having to take care of him that way, but he knew now what that promise meant.  How binding it was.

Heart pounding, Gabriel pulled away and set his bag of gifts on the sidewalk. Lance gave him a puzzled look as he fumbled in his coat pocket for the small velvet box he’d tucked in there earlier.

He hadn’t planned to propose tonight. When he’d spoken to Cammie about it at Thanksgiving, he’d been planning it for Christmas Eve.

But, for some reason, he’d slipped the box into his suitcase when he packed for the trip and brought it with him today.

Maybe Gabriel had planned it, without realizing.

Lance stared at him, his clear blue eyes filled with love and surprise, as Gabriel suddenly lowered to one knee.

“Lance, will you begin that forever with me now?” Gabriel asked, heart in his throat.

Lance nodded, croaking out a stuttered, “Oui,” that was the most beautiful sound Gabriel had ever heard.

Gabriel stood and slipped the cool metal band onto Lance’s outstretched finger, barely noticing the people clapping and calling out their congratulations.

Snow settled over them as they kissed on the crowded sidewalk in Montreal, and Gabriel was at peace.


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

Recent Posts

See All


Dec 22, 2023

Another sweet story 😍

Brigham Vaughn
Brigham Vaughn
Dec 23, 2023
Replying to

Aww thank you! 💗


Dec 22, 2023

What a sweet story. Thanks very much.

Brigham Vaughn
Brigham Vaughn
Dec 23, 2023
Replying to

You're very welcome!💖 I am so glad you enjoyed it!


Helen Smith
Helen Smith
Dec 21, 2023

Very sweet! I would love to read their wedding story if you decide to write it.

Brigham Vaughn
Brigham Vaughn
Dec 23, 2023
Replying to

Maybe someday!


Dec 21, 2023

Aww! This was just the sweetest story!

Brigham Vaughn
Brigham Vaughn
Dec 23, 2023
Replying to

Thank you! I am so glad you liked it!


Dec 21, 2023

I love these two, any chance for a wedding story? I have been to Monteral and it's a beautiful city but so cold (and it was only October we went)

Brigham Vaughn
Brigham Vaughn
Dec 23, 2023
Replying to

Maybe someday! I don't have any current plan but we'll have to wait and see. Montreal is beautiful! I've been there too although I think it was in the early spring. I live in Michigan though so I am pretty used to cold weather!

bottom of page