Christmas Eve: Tomas's apartment: Chicago: 2016

"The fully exonerated Father Marcus Keane, who was found to have heroically saved the pope from an assassination attempt during his visit to Chicago, along with Father Tomas Ortega led the highest attended midnight mass in St. Anthony's history.." and with that the television clicked off.

"That was the biggest mistake of my life" Marcus says leaning back in a chair. "Saving the pope or staying up until midnight on Christmas Eve?" Tomas says handing him a cup of coffee. Marcus smiles and thanks him. "Staying up" Marcus says and takes a drink of his coffee. He knows he needs the energy as Tomas's sister and nephew will be there soon. Tomas laughed and was just about to get more coffee when he heard the knock on the door. "And the fun begins" Tomas says smiling at Marcus and heads to the door.

Opening the door, Tomas smiled at his sister Olivia and his nephew Luis. Luis wrapped his arms around Tomas saying with a grin "mama has the gifts in the car, she said you could bring them up". Tomas looked up at Olivia who smiled wickedly at him. Tomas laughed and before he could unlock himself from Luis, Marcus was up and offering to go and get the gifts. He watched as Marcus left, catching ever so casually the look of sadness dancing within Marcus's eyes.

After unloading the car of gifts and edible goodies Marcus watched as the Ortega clan opened their gifts and sipped on his coffee. He wasn't going to come but Tomas wouldn't relent until he did.

Luis came over and handed him a gift. "This one is for you Uncle Marcus" Luis said hugging him and going back to his gifts. Confused at both the gift and Luis calling him Uncle, Marcus opened his gift. Inside was a brand new collar and bible. Inside the book was a single black feather and a note saying "my child, you are needed once again this time in a world outside the world". Marcus became more confused by the minute but chose to just let it go for now.

Olivia made everyone a wonderful dinner and as they were getting ready to say Grace Marcus felt a shiver go through him but again ignored it. He felt Tomas place his hand in his and they said Grace together. Olivia couldn't help but smile at the two being in complete unison.

After a few more hours filled with board games and a viewing of It's Christmas Charlie Brown, Olivia announced it was time they headed home. As they were leaving Olivia stopped and hugged Marcus and whispered softly in his ear "take care of him". Marcus nodded and said "I promise I will".

Tomas walked his sister and nephew to their car. "Tomas, don't be afraid to let yourself fly" Olivia said giving her brother a tight hug. "I will remember that" Tomas said hugging her back. He opened the car door and then watched as the two drove off. A feeling of slight panic and then nothing resonated through him. Taking a deep breath, he headed back up to the apartment.

Tomas gasped at the sight in front of him. All the paper had been cleaned off the floor and Marcus was finishing up the dinner dishes in the kitchen. "You didn't need to do that" Tomas said closing the door softly. "I thought I should repay you for allowing me to spend Christmas with your family" Marcus said keeping his eyes on the dishes in front of him. "I think of you as family as well" Tomas said and slumped down at the table.

Upon seeing the Bible and collar on the table Tomas became inquisitive. "To answer your question, I believe god sent that" Marcus said before Tomas could speak and not turning away from the dishes.

When he got done, Marcus went over to the table and handed the collar to Tomas. "Will you help me with this?" He asked with a cat like grin. Tomas smiled and put on the collar. It was beautiful. It was nothing he had seen before.

With a deep breath and a lot of inner dialog Tomas said "I have a gift for you". Marcus looked at him. "You didn't need to" he said quietly knowing he couldn't afford a gift for Tomas. Tomas once again took a deep breath, went over to the other man and kissed him on the lips and as he did, music from out of nowhere started to play. It was Tomas's favorite, O Holy Night.

The two men embraced for what seemed like an eternity. When they finally broke apart Marcus had tears in his eyes. He never thought he would find someone and would be alright with it. "Will you stay the night?" Tomas asked quietly and the candles in the hall lit up on their own but neither man noticed as their eyes were locked onto each other. "I would like that. I could stay in the guest bedroom" Marcus said as quietly. Tomas shook his head. "I want you near me" Tomas said holding Marcus's hand like a vice. Marcus nodded and hand in hand the two men headed to Tomas's bedroom.

As they did a paper gently slid out of the Bible on the table. It read "The Christening of Dinah Lance and Laurel Lance will take place at St. Anthony's on Nov. 15, 1986" but that is a tale for another time.