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There's No Place like Home (For the Holidays)

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On the edges of a seaside town, there was a farmhouse which was home to an odd family. Two men and five little girls, all of whom were adopted. One of the men had black hair, piercing blue eyes and often wore button-ups paired with suspenders, while the other had light brown hair, gentle green eyes and no shortage of sweaters. The shorter of the two men went to work most days in a factory, but always returned home in the evening, while the quieter man worked in their garden during the day and looked after their daughters. Their garden was small but plentiful, and two pigs as well as a sheep lived on the farm as pets.

Though they were always friendly, the pair usually kept to themselves. They would go into town about once a week to sell extra produce. The neighbors would sometimes see the family taking careful walks on the edge of the shore, all seven looking out at the ocean like it held secrets that nobody else could understand. 

Now, it was December 24th. Their little farmhouse had been decked out for Christmas for weeks. It was early; barely past dawn, but inside the home's kitchen was lively. Only the two men who lived there were awake, all of the girls still sound asleep. Christmas music was playing quietly through an old radio on the counter; baking ingredients, pans and utensils scattered all over the place. The brown-haired gentleman, Jack, was working diligently, as the other, Atlas, looked on admiringly.

"You do realize that the girls'll be hyped up as it is, boyo, and that sugar'll make things worse?" Atlas asked lowly, but the other knew by now that there was no true malice behind it. While the Irishman hadn't been exactly keen on the idea of adopting five little girls at first, Jack had eventually convinced him. They were a handful of the girls that Jack had saved from Rapture. Now, Atlas would do anything for the girls when it came down to it, even if he might not admit it upfront. 

"Oh hush," Jack chided softly, tapping his foot to the music as he worked. "It's Christmas Eve, they're allowed to have sweets. Tenenbaum is coming with her bunch of kids, too. But they won't be eating all of this at once, so don't worry too much. Besides, how can you resist sugar?"

 

Atlas took the cigarette out of his mouth. He tried to refrain from smoking a lot around the girls, so he was taking advantage of the fact that they weren't around. Regardless, he snuffed it out, pushing himself off from where he was leaning against the counter so he could slink over to Jack. Once the black-haired man got close enough, he took the taller into his arms from behind, effectively taking him by surprise. Now, Atlas wasn't short, he was a good 5'10". Jack only had four inches on him, so if he stood on the tips of his feet, he could rest his chin on Jack's shoulder and reach his neck. 

"I can resist sugar because I've got something sweeter in my arms, right this very moment."  He purred suggestively, turning his head to kiss at his boy's neck. Jack in turn squirmed a little, laughing and without a doubt blushing. Even after all the time they'd been together, all that they'd been through, Jack still got flustered thanks to Atlas. It was adorable.

"Come on, Atlas! I've gotta finish this dough, and I don't wanna risk waking the girls up with... noise." Jack tried to fight it, but Atlas could feel him leaning into touch anyway. But he knew his boy was right, that in the end he wouldn't get Jack away from his baking. The Irishman made a noise of disappointment anyway, to which Jack giggled in response. The taller slotted his hands with Atlas' from where he was holding him, craning his neck back to meet his blue eyes. "Later, okay?" 

That got Atlas to break into a grin. It was Jack who dipped his head forward to deliver a quick kiss to the older man's lips before he turned back to his work. 'Here comes Santa Claus' by Gene Autry was playing through the radio now. 

"Do you want help with anything, darlin'?" Atlas asked, his arms still wrapped around the younger's torso. 

Jack hums for a second before opening his mouth. "Actually, you know what'd be great? You remember how I taught you to make pie crust, right?" 

Atlas nods before remembering Jack couldn't see him. "Yep." He responded affirmatively.  

"Could you get two pie crusts going for me? I've got a cherry and a pumpkin pie to start on after this cookie dough. Thankfully, the fillings are already made." Jack asked, his tone of voice as soft as ever. 

"Got it, love." The older replied, reluctantly letting go of his partner to make his way to the refrigerator and cabinets to dig for the needed ingredients. 

There was a little banter between them, humming to the music. The song that was playing begun to fade out, switching to a new one in it's place. One that they both recognized quickly, "No Place Like Home for the Holidays" by Perry Como.   

Atlas was the one who was singing along to it quietly, Jack following in humming the tune. Jack fell silent for a couple minutes as the song trudged along, him speaking up after a moment. "Atlas?" 

Atlas hums to let him know he was listening. "I know this might be a sore question but... do you ever wish you were still back home in Ireland? Like... with Moira and Patrick?" The younger asks in a volume that was softer than normal. The older was a bit alarmed by the question and he spun his head up to take the other's expression in.

Upon looking at him, Atlas could see a genuine wonder, but also a bit of insecurity hiding behind it. Insecurity that Atlas was familiar with and desperately wanted to quell, it seemed to truly take it's place in Jack's mind once he learned his true life story. 

Atlas wanted to give him an honest answer though, so he thought about it for a moment. "... No, I don't. I miss Miora and Patrick everyday. I wish I could've saved them... I'm always gonna love them. But what happened happened, and because of Rapture... I found something else wonderful. Something that makes me happy to wake up every mornin'. I found you and our girls." He saw Jack smile faintly, and a thought came to him. "What about you, though?"

Jack turned his head to look at him in confusion. "What do you mean?" 

The blue-eyed man blinked, figuring out how to phrase his question. "I mean... would you go back and change how you came to be? Make that family and life you thought you had real, they really raised you up normal?" 

"No." Jack immediately responded, not a second passing by. Atlas was surprised by how quickly he was able to answer the question. "I've thought about that before, and the answer is no. How I was brought into this world was... by all means terrible. But what came out of Rapture... I defeated Fontaine, I broke free of his chains. I am a slave no more, and I got out of there finding everything I wanted. A comfortable life, a family, a lover. I'm happy. If I had been raised normal... I'd have never wound up here."

Atlas was taken a little back both from the absolute confidence in his voice and the amount of words he'd just said. It was unlikely for the brunette to speak in more than one or two sentences, so when he did, it was clear he had a lot of emotion on the subject. Then, he felt a surge of emotion rising up in his own chest. The other man had a habit of causing that. 

So, the Irishman temporarily abandoned the pie crusts to make a few strides across the kitchen, feet planting right in front of the taller man. Jack turned to him and as soon as he did, Atlas reached up, entangling his fingers in soft light brown hair to angle his partner's face downward. He had to push himself up just a hair in order to kiss Jack senseless. 

Jack responded quickly, taking a hand and snaking it around his waist. The pair stayed like that for a few minutes, in their own little bubble. Eventually Atlas pulled away from the brunette's lips, just so he could rest his head on his chest and hear his heartbeat, which was pounding. 

Jack kept his grip on him firm, trying to catch his breath. "I love you." He whispered, resting his cheek on the top of Atlas' head.

The black-haired man responded by bringing his hands up to completely wrap them around the taller's torso. "I know, darlin'. I love you too." 

Much later in the day, evening had fallen, the sky going dark; their house was filled with eleven excited little girls and three adults. There Atlas was, leaning up against the counter just like before, observing. There were dozens of sugar cookies scattered on the table, tubes of different icing colors, sprinkles of the sorts. The lights were on, and light from the Christmas Tree was pooling into the dining area as well. Christmas music again played from their old radio while the girls were seated at the long dining table, Tenenbaum sat at one end to assist, Jack at the other. Each girl had at least one cookie in front of them as they tried their hand at decorating. 

Atlas' eyes roamed over each one of them, an odd feeling of comfort rising in his chest. Then his eyes landed on Jack, watching as he gently held one of their girl's hands around a tube of icing to guide her, then as he laughed when a bit of icing was accidentally shot out too fast and struck him in the face. With his heart's pick-up in pace, Atlas had a thought run across his mind. 'I'd never do anything to change this.'

Then, out of the slightly crackling speakers, the familiar lyrics began to play.

        "Oh, there's no place like home for the holidays

       'Cause no matter how far away you roam

        If you want to be happy in a million ways

        For the holidays you can't beat home sweet home."

Atlas smiled a bit to himself. 'That song sure knows what it's talkin' about. I can't imagine anywhere else I'd rather be for Christmas. This is home.'