“This is it,” Don exclaims. “This is how I die,”
He gazes around the bomb-site formerly known as the living room, where baubles are scattered across the floor – several of the pretty glass ones that David had recently bought lying in pieces. Pine needles now coat the carpet and at least one of the flimsy branches has snapped. A long stream of silvery tinsel paves out a trail to the perpetrator of what could only be described as a very festive crime scene.
Orlo lets out a soft mew, her eyes wide and innocent.
“You’ve killed me,” Don growls. “David is going to kill me and it is entirely your fault, you little bastard,”
The cat doesn’t even look at him as she stalks past, casually brushing against his flannel pyjama bottoms.
He checks his watch. David won’t be back for at least forty minutes.
“Dear God,” he whispers, closing his eyes. “If you’ve got any spare miracles…now would be the time,”
The doorbell rings just as he’s picking more of the endless bits of tree off the floor.
“Oh hurray, my day has worsened,” he grumbles as Dakin steps into the hallway, not bothering to greet him.
“I’m not that bad!” Dakin protests, shoving a tissue-paper filled bag into his hands. “And look, I come bearing gifts! Practically Jesus!”
“I think you mean Santa, mate,”
“Well, it’s all the same isn’t it? You’re the God botherer, not me,”
“Lovely to see you too,” Don sighs, walking into the kitchen. “Cup of tea?”
“So what actually happened?” Dakin asks between fits of poorly concealed laughter.
Don scratches the back of his head sheepishly.
“I went to answer a phone call and left the living room door open and…” he signals to the mess in front of them. “Yeah, well. The cats decided to re-enact Die Hard with tinsel,”
“Why will Pos even care about the Christmas tree? He’s Jewish,”
“We decorate it together every year. It’s just become a tradition. Although…” Don sighs. “David does most of it. I am….not gifted in terms of interior design,”
“So…you’ve just destroyed your husband’s magnum opus?” Dakin grins.
“It wasn’t me! It was that furry little fucker!” Don yells, brows furrowing.
Dakin bursts into another fit of laughter and Scripps returns back to the eternal quandary of why they are still friends.
“Oh mate,” he gasps, wiping away tears. “Oh mate, he’s gonna have your balls for baubles,”
He yelps as a previously discarded wrapping paper tube thwacks him in the back of the head.
“I’m just saying,” he mutters darkly, rearranging his hair. “Even I’ve never done anything this bad,”
The look of disbelief Scripps gives him is enough to stop eight magical reindeer in their tracks.
“Ok, I’ve done worse but this is up there,”
Scripps nods in agreement.
“Do you think he’ll be angriest about the tree or the fact that I’m going to kill his cat?”
Dakin rocks on his heels in thought before turning to his oldest friend and patting him on the shoulder. He smiles sympathetically.
“Face it, mate. Either way, you are fucked,”
It is fifty minutes, several cups of stress-relief herbal tea (which does bugger-all, he won’t be buying that again) and a very sore cut from one of the shattered glass decorations when Scripps hears the door open again. He swears quickly under breath. The tree is up again and (mostly) straight but, having been hastily re-decorated by himself, looks like a toddler’s drawing.
“Hiya love,” David’s cheery voice calls out.
“Don’t come in!” he yelps, panicked, as he hears footsteps approaching the living room.
“I’m wrapping your presents!” he blurts out, fumbling for an excuse.
“Ok…” David sounds cautious. “I thought we said we weren’t doing presents this year?”
Don tips his head back in a silent groan and walks to the doorway. Posner is waiting with a terrified expression, still wrapped from head to toe in scarf and fetching bobble hat.
“You look nice,”
“Oh my god, what have you done?” Posner immediately replies and Don inwardly curses.
“Technically speaking, it wasn’t my fault,” he begins before David ducks under his arm and enters the room before he can stop him.
There’s a painful silence as his husband stares at the remnants of his hard work. Finally he turns back to Scripps, not quite making eye contact.
“What happened to the tree?” he whispers quietly, disappointment seeping from every word.
“Orlo pulled it down,”
“Okay,” David nods, still staring at the floor. “How did Orlo get into this room? Because the cats aren’t allowed near the tree,”
“I know. I left the door open by accident,”
David swallows miserably.
“I’m so sorry,” Don whispers, wrapping his arms around him and gently pulling him into his chest.
“I spent ages on that,” David sighs, his voice muffled into Don’s thick Fair Isle jumper.
“All my lovely baubles,”
“I know,” Don pulls off his hat and presses a kiss to his hair. “I did try and redecorate it,”
David peers over his shoulder.
“It’s a very valiant effort,” he sniffs.
“Are you joking? Kirstie Allsopp would be jealous of that!” Don grins, pressing more kisses to David’s cheekbones and nose.
David lets out a tearful chuckle and thwacks his shoulder.
“It’s ok. I can redecorate it tonight,” he leans up and kisses Don, hugging him tighter. “But you owe me,”
“Yep. I reckon a mince pie and a hot chocolate is a good place to start,”
“Oh alright,” Don squeezes him tightly then heads off to the squashed little kitchen.
“Don’t need to supervise you, do I? Make sure you don’t smash all the teapots while you’re at it?”
“Sod off!” comes the cheery reply.
David just grins, turning back to the haphazardly-tinselled tree.
“Right then,” he raises an eyebrow. “Where to bloody start with this?”