Stealing Christmas

Cookies. Suck.

Without a doubt. They totally do. Well, having to make them sucks. But, since I'm a good son, I offered to help my mom by making them for the church fair that she organized.

Did I mention that I totally can't cook?

I sighed, tried and failed to scrub some of the flour off of my forehead, then looked at the clock. Five o'clock on Christmas Eve, and what was I doing? Making a massive mess in the kitchen.

Just as I was considering beating my head in with the latest batch of blackened things that didn't even vaguely resemble cookies, my cell phone rang. With a sigh, I wiped my flour and icing-streaked hands on my jeans and answered it.

"Hello?" I grumbled as I tried to scrape the blackened lumps into the garbage can.

"Hey, Snitchy."

The pan fell to the ground with a loud thump, and my bad mood disappeared without a trace. Hey, getting a call from your boyfriend tends to do that to you.

"Skitts! Hey! How are you?"

"Um... not so good, actually."

My smile faded. "What's the matter?"

"Um, could you come pick me up?"

"Skitts, I really don't know if I can. I mean, I've got to help my mom, and she's not home right now, so I don't know if—"

"Snitch, please?"

I frowned; something wasn't right.

"Skittery, what's going on?"

"I'm kind of... on the verge of getting arrested."

"... I'm sorry, I must have misheard you. You're what?!"

"... getting arrested."

I stayed silent for a few minutes before lowering my forehead to the counter, not even registering the fact that I'd rested my head right in the middle of a mixture of flour, icing, and spilled milk. All I could hear was Skittery breathing into the phone and a few muffled voices in the background.

"Snitch, you okay?"

"Why are you getting arrested?"

"Well, um, I don't think I really am, but... look, you have to come over here."

I sighed softly; there was no way I could tell him "no."

"I'm coming. Where are you?"

"At Ziegler's."

I blinked. "Ziegler's? The music store?"

"Yeah."

"Why?"

"I'll explain everything when you get here."

"... okay."

"Bye."

"Bye."

I hung up, shoved the phone into my pocket, and snatched up a pen to write my mother a quick note. The last thing I wanted was her to come home, find me gone, and freak out. Of course, once she found out about Skittery getting arrested, she'd freak out anyway. But I could worry about that later.

I chewed nervously on my bottom lip as I tugged on my jacket and hopped into my car. Arrested. How could he be getting arrested?! I've known Skittery for as long as I remember, we've been best friends since sophomore year at Donnelly, and I've been dating him for a few months now, so if anyone knows Skittery, it's me. And he is not the kind of guy who'd go and do something stupid enough to get arrested. Well, at the very least, he wouldn't get caught.

I had chewed my lip raw by the time I reached the music store, which was quite a feat, since Ziegler's was only a few blocks from my house. Then, after parking and managing to get my jacket caught in the car door four times, I scurried up to the store and stepped inside.

I glanced around, briefly admiring the shelves and shelves of sheet music, along with a few beautiful, probably insanely expensive drum sets, before locating Skittery. He was sitting in a folding chair, dressed in ragged jeans and a bulky sweatshirt, with a tiny, embarrassed smile on his face. The owner, Mrs. Kattengall, sat next to him, laughing at something. Two police officers stood in front of them, leaning against the counter and smiling and chatting with Skittery.

It definitely didn't look like the scene of an arrest.

Mrs. Kattengall blinked, then looked up at me with a broad smile. "Noah! Glad you came."

I flashed her an awkward smile. "Hi, Mrs. K."

Okay, so I spend enough time in the music store drooling over their trumpets for the owner to know me by name. I admit it, I'm a loser. But that's so not the point here.

I raised an eyebrow and glanced at Skittery. "I'm definitely waiting for that explanation you promised me."

He sighed and shrugged. "Okay, um... I wanted to get you something really, really good for Christmas. But, of course, I'm broke. As usual. I came in here, just to look, and I saw some stuff that just screamed your name and... well..."

"He tried to walk out of here with all that stuff crammed under his sweatshirt," Mrs. Kattengall finished as she fought a smile and pointed to a rather large pile of stuff on the floor by Skittery's feet.

My jaw dropped. I turned to Skittery and just stared. Really, that's all I could do.

Skittery's sheepish smile grew slightly and he shrugged. "Go check it out."

Blinking, I stepped forward to examine the pile. Two books leaned against the counter itself: Satchmo: The Genius of Louis Armstrong and The History of Jazz. Directly next to them sat a thick book of jazz sheet music, and a brand new trumpet mute stood on top of that. Finally, a bumper sticker that read "Band Geeks of the World Unite" lay on the floor next to the books.

I was shocked. Absolutely shocked.

"Skitts... you tried to steal all this stuff?"

"I know, I know, it was a dumb thing to do."

"I caught him, obviously, and called the police," Mrs. Kattengall explained with a shrug. "But when they arrived here and asked him why he did it, Jared simply explained that he wanted to get his boyfriend something for Christmas."

I could feel my cheeks burning. I wasn't exactly ready to come out to the general public yet.

Mrs. Kattengall chuckled quietly. "Don't worry, Noah, I won't tell your mother. Anyway, Jared and I got to talking, and he told me a bit about you and described you and I decided, 'why, that's got to be Noah!' And, what do you know, I was right!" Her smiled widened a bit more, and she stood up so she could give me a friendly pat on the shoulder. "I'm such a softie; I couldn't let this poor boy get in trouble when all he wanted was to give to someone else. So... I decided to let him have it all. After all, these are the holidays."

Once again, my jaw dropped. I looked back and forth from Mrs. Kattengall to Skittery so fast that I felt like I was getting whiplash.

She smiled once more, picked up the pile of stuff, and handed it to me. "Merry Christmas, boys."

I managed to stammer out a "Merry Christmas" before Skittery said his goodbyes, slipped his arm around my shoulder, and led me out the door.

I followed him to his car, still gaping like a beached fish. "I thought you were going to jail!"

He shrugged and leaned against the passenger's side door with his hands in his pockets. "I did, too. But she really seemed to like you. She's a nice lady."

"Yeah, Mrs. K is awesome."

Skittery quickly unlocked his car, took the pile of stuff from me, and placed them in the passenger's seat. "You can't have these until Christmas, though."

I just stood there, staring at his back as he shut the door. He turned to face me slowly, his head cocked to the side like he was confused. Then, he sighed.

"Look, Snitch, I'm sorry. I know it was a dumb thing to do, but I couldn't help it. I couldn't just not give you a Christmas present."

"I can't believe you'd take that kind of risk for me," I replied quietly. "Skittery, you could have gotten in real trouble."

He laughed softly and reached out to slip his arms around my waist. "Snitch, you idiot, I love you. Of course I'm going to take risks for you."

I could feel myself blushing, but I leaned over and planted a kiss on his lips anyway. "I love you, too, you know."

"I know. You better, after I almost went to jail for you."

"Since I so asked you to steal for me."

"I'm kidding," he said with a laugh and returned the kiss, right there in the parking lot. The door to Ziegler's swung open, and I could hear Mrs. Kattengall laughing merrily as the two cops strolled back to their car. But I didn't particularly pay attention to that.

"Thank you," I murmured.

"You're welcome." He flashed me a lopsided smile and placed a gentle kiss on my forehead.

Skittery did stupid things sometimes, but so did I. And I loved him, no matter how crazy and impulsive he was.

But he loved me for exactly the same reasons.

And I wouldn't have it any other way.

"By the way, Snitch... why, exactly, are you covered in flour?"

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