“We can just go back home,” Sammy says again, for the fifth time since they got into the car for the twenty minute drive to Troy and Loretta’s house.
Jack reaches over gear shift and pries one of Sammy’s hands off the steering wheel from where they have a death grip. “If you don’t want to go, you can just say,” he replies lightly. “I’m a little tired, sure, but I’m good to stay for at least two hours. Ask again then.”
It was something they were working on, the whole communication thing. Jack had never liked to admit when he wasn’t at his best, and it hadn’t gotten any better even after… everything. But Sammy worried so much and while early on it had definitely helped to keep Jack from trying to do things way sooner than he should have, the worry still stuck around.
“Okay,” Sammy agrees, turning his hand over in Jack’s to squeeze it once before letting go. “I won’t ask again. But tell me if you need to leave any sooner.”
Jack leans over to quickly land a peck on Sammy’s cheek. “You need to chill out, baby. It’s just a Christmas party.”
Sammy rolls his eyes as Jack hops out of the car and closes the door before he can say anything else and delay them further.
Given how many cars were in the driveway and parked on the street, it seemed like they were the only people in town who hadn’t arrived already, so Jack started walking towards the door. A few seconds later, the heard the drivers side door open and Sammy curse as he slid on the ice underfoot. “Gimme a second, c’mon.”
Jack pauses for just long enough for Sammy to reach him and grab his hand. “Took you long enough,” Jack teases.
Sammy squeezes his hand and bumps their shoulders together as they walk up the driveway. “Not my fault, I had to grab the wine from the back seat..”
“Sure, nice excuse,” Jack says. He raises his free hand to knock on the door but before he can it’s pulled open by Loretta.
“There you boys are! We were beginning to think you’d gotten lost on the way,” she says cheerfully, opening the door wider so that they can walk past her into the house.
Sammy thrusts out the bottle of wine in her direction. “I’m sure there’s more than enough around here tonight, but I hope you can use it anyway.”
Loretta smiles at him. “Oh, I’m sure we can find something to do with this.”
Just as Sammy looks like he’s about to reply, Jack hears Ben in the other room call their names and come bursting in, grabbing Sammy in a tight hug that makes him drop Jack’s hand to hug Ben back. “You guys made it!” Ben says excitedly, and Sammy laughs.
“We left ten minutes after you two.”
Ben finally lets go of Sammy to give Jack a more careful hug - it clearly takes a lot of restraint, but Jack is grateful for it. There’s still a stiffness in his chest sometimes that’s unused to the warm air, and any constriction can be uncomfortable. “Still,” Ben mutters. “We didn’t want to get started without you.”
Deeper in the house, Jack can hear everyone. Emily, Troy, Lily and Katie, Mary and Tim and their kids. Everyone who came around to the house since he’d come back, who cared about Sammy and already card about him, too, even though they didn’t know him. Jack knows that he’s never been somewhere with such a concentration of people who loved him, loved Sammy, who were excited to see them walk through the door together.
It makes him pause for a second as Sammy starts to walk forwards and follow Ben into the dining room. Sammy stops in the doorway and turns to look at him questioningly, but he doesn’t ask, and Jack knows that he’s got a goofy grin on his face as the warmth in his chest grows.
“What’s that face about?” Sammy asks with a smile as Jack joins him in the doorway.
Jack shrugs. “I’m happy we made it,” he says. He means the party, but he also means - all of it. That they made it here, together.
Sammy’s eyes go soft and he blushes, ducking his head slightly. “Me, too.”
Jack is keenly aware that everyone is watching them, taking their sweet time blocking the door after arriving fashionably late, so he starts to move when he spots Emily who just points up. Jack squints his eyes at her and then looks to see a sprig of plastic mistletoe hung above their heads.
“Hey, Sammy,” Jack says softly, and Sammy gives him the same look that he knows he just gave Emily. Jack nods upwards and Sammy looks up to see the mistletoe, too.
Jack can feel a twinge somewhere, deep in his stomach. An old instinct from before, from a time when this would’ve been the worst possible outcome to arriving at a party together, where they would have had to find some way to play it off. But they don’t have to do any of that, worry about any of it, anymore, so Jack pushes it down and kisses Sammy in front of their family.
It’s a slightly awkward kiss, both of them grinning as Jack cups Sammy’s face to try to get an angle where they aren’t bumping noses. It’s one of the best kisses they’ve ever had.
Lily wolf-whistles even though it’s a very chaste kiss, certainly much less than she would’ve done in their place. There’s laughter bubbling among the party goers at her over-reaction and Jack can’t help but laugh, too, as he pulls away from Sammy.
“Merry Christmas,” Sammy says with a smile, his face flushed a deep red that makes Jack want to kiss him again, just because he can, but he doesn’t.
Jack’s face feels warm enough that he knows he’s just as red as Sammy, and his cheeks hurt from smiling. “Merry Christmas.”