Conquering Christmas Stress

Written for the WL Christmas Challenge

Todd walked through the kitchen door, letting it swing shut behind him. He paused to take in the disarray in front of him. Every square inch of flat surface throughout the room seemed to be hidden. Dirty glassware, china and cutlery appeared as far as the eye could see. It was an overwhelming sight to behold.

He smiled tiredly. The party had been a grand success and was more than worth the mess that greeted him here. During their many years in Vancouver, he and Hayden had become well-known among family, friends and associates for their annual Christmas get-together. That changed when they first arrived in Jade Heights three years ago. Of course, planning and hosting the piglets wedding that first year had more than compensated for them missing out on their usual round of Christmas activities. And they had held somewhat smaller versions of their annual party over the last two holiday seasons. But tonight’s gathering was almost back to what it had been in the big city and although it had left Todd feeling a satisfied sense of accomplishment; it also left him exhausted.

And yet he sensed something missing. This was niggling at him. What had he forgotten? Unaware that he had taken a step backwards, he was unprepared for the door swinging open behind him and hitting his back. It propelled him forward and he narrowly missed dropping the large platter in his hands. Fortunately, the island prevented him from falling.

He turned to find his husband staring at him. The surprised expression on Hayden’s handsome face turned to one of concern.

“Sweetheart, I’m sorry. I didn’t expect to find you standing up against the door.” Hayden quickly put down the tray he was carrying and took the platter from Todd’s hands and balanced it rather precariously on top of another on the counter. He wrapped his arms around his husband and looked intently at his face. “Are you okay? You look a little pale.”

“Hmm?” Todd responded somewhat absently. “Oh. Yes, I’m all right. Just a tad tired.” Tempted as he was to lean into the warm embrace, he straightened himself up and smiled. “The living room and dining room all back to normal?”

“Yes, yes, the living and dining rooms are fine,” Hayden replied, still feeling a little concerned about his husband.

“Good! Then as soon as I catch my second wind, I’ll tackle this mountain of dishes.” Todd paused and his brow crinkled. “I keep getting this feeling that I’ve forgotten something.” He swayed slightly and put out his hand to balance himself against the counter. “I think I’ll sit down for a couple of seconds while I try to remember what I’ve missed.” He slowly made his way over to the table and pulled out a chair. “My, there’s an empty surface or two after all.”

Hayden followed Todd over to the chair and squatted down in front of him. Taking his face into his hands, he looked intently into Todd’s eyes. He leaned forward to smell Todd’s breath and was relieved not to detect the scent of alcohol. Not that Todd was much of a drinker, but he wanted to be sure. “Todd, I want you to think carefully. How much have you had to eat since lunch this afternoon?”

Todd frowned for a moment and then slumped back in his chair. “That’s it! I forgot to eat, unless you count a tidbit now and again. I kept meaning to properly fill a plate and sit down with you. But every time I tried to do so, I got sidetracked. With guests talking to me, punchbowl and platters needing to be refilled; it just kind of got away from me. I’ll have a substantial snack now and then get this room cleaned up.”

“Like hell. Don’t move,” Hayden ordered. He stood up and went to the fridge, pulled out a can of coke, poured some in a glass and placed it in front of his husband. “Drink this while I get you something to eat. I’ll get the leftovers put away while you’re eating and then you’re going to go up to bed.”

Todd remained seated and quietly ate the sandwich and mug of tomato soup Hayden brought him. As he watched his husband tidying up, he couldn’t help but smile secretly. Although the older man was quite adept at ordering him about when need be; he rarely used profanity.

Quickly finishing his meal, Todd got to his feet and began assembling dirty dishware. He found keeping things categorized helped when a job seemed overwhelming.

Hayden was leaning into the refrigerator looking for a place to put some of the leftovers when he heard the clatter of dishes being stacked behind him. He calmly straightened up and walked over to where Todd was working. He took the dishes from his husband’s hands, placed them on the counter, turned him around and smacked his butt firmly three times. “I believe I told you that you were going to eat and then go to bed, and that I would deal with this.”

“But, Hayden, I’ll never be able to sleep knowing I’d be facing this chaos in the morning.” Todd glanced around the room and bit his bottom lip while absentmindedly rubbing his backside. As delighted as he’d been with the success of their party, he suddenly felt the joyful labour of the past week catching up to him. With his emotions playing havoc, he fought back the urge to either cry or throw a major fit over the work still remaining.

He looked pleadingly up at his husband and murmured, “I’m really in need of a de-stressor, Hayden.”

Hayden paused to look at Todd’s face, and then gave him a small indulgent smile. “You’ve worked yourself ragged for this party. And yet I know it also gave you great pleasure doing it. So here, my darling, is what we’re going to do. I am going to take you upstairs and fill the tub and you are going to climb into it and soak. I’ll bring you your newest copy of Food Network magazine and you can read it while you’re soaking. Then I am going to come back to the kitchen, finish loading the dishwasher and rinse and stack the rest of the dishes. No arguing, it won’t take me long and it is only fair that I do my share since you did the lion’s share of the preparations.”

Todd thought momentarily to argue about Hayden doing so much, but the appeal of a long soak had him quickly changing his mind. “That sounds absolutely heavenly, my love. And I promise not to feel too guilty about you slaving down here while I do my best to follow your instructions to the letter.” He grinned and a bit of his usual exhilaration appeared in his eyes, making him seem less tired.

He simply took hold of his husband’s hand and contentedly allowed himself to be led up to their en suite where he leisurely removed his clothing. 

Hayden began to fill the large tub with warm water. He added a generous amount of Epsom salts to help sooth Todd’s weary muscles, and a few drops of sandalwood oil, knowing it was a favourite scent of Todd’s.

When he was contented with the water level, he turned and drew his now naked husband into his arms. He ran his hands up and down Todd’s back and gently squeezed his butt cheeks. There was something totally dominant about holding a naked man against your fully clothed body and Hayden relished the feeling for a few moments.

“All right, my love; in you get. I’ll bring you your magazine and you just stay put and relax.”

Although Todd would have preferred to remain in his lover’s arms a while longer, he just as happily settled for the luxury of the prepared bath. He closed his eyes and moaned out a soft sound of pleasure as he sank up to his chin in the scented water.

After Hayden left the room, Todd briefly glanced through the magazine he’d been handed. Quickly losing interest, he dropped it onto the floor and sat back to revisit the highlights of their party.

Whereas he may have done most the food preparations, Hayden had done as much or more in setting up the rooms to accommodate their many guests. Furniture had to be re-arranged in order to make space for the extra chairs and tray tables they had rented. Last minute vacuuming and polishing had to be completed before the big night, and Hayden had done all of it.

The party had more than met Todd’s fastidious expectations. He was sure their guests had gone home with many fond memories, and he hoped they considered this year’s gathering on a par with the ones held in years past.

“If only,” Todd lamented, “I could be as laid back about things as Hayden. Taking situations in stride comes so natural to him, while I tend to overdo it and get uptight. Then I have to lean on the man I love to get me unwound before I have a complete meltdown.”

Their life-time relationship had steadily evolved since they’d first met. It wouldn’t have been too long ago that high stress-related situations would have ended so differently. Although circumstances varied depending on how quickly Todd’s mood deteriorated and at what point Hayden brought an escalating tantrum to a halt, the end result was always the same. And it certainly wasn’t with Todd soaking in a hot tub.

No, it would have end with them both in bed and Todd clinging to Hayden. His eyes would be red and itchy, his nose stuffed up and a fire blazing in his hind-quarters. And even though this evening’s outcome differed, Todd in all honesty knew it had a lot to do with him being too tired to put up more than a token battle and Hayden swiftly taking charge and warding off a pending fit of temper. And they’d still have a messy kitchen to face in the morning.

Todd readily admitted that this was a much better alternative. He just wished he had learnt this lesson long before now.

His peace came with the memory of Hayden’s thoughts on the matter that had been repeated shared with him many times throughout the years they’d been together. They may be opposites in many ways, but at the same time they complimented each other’s strengths and weaknesses. It was what made them so perfect for one other.

Todd vowed to do something extra special for his man tomorrow and set about mentally plotting. He looked up with a bright smile when the man he’d been thinking about, entered the room.  

“Feeling nice and relaxed, my love?” Hayden seated himself on the side of the tub and bent to kiss Todd’s handsome face. He took the other man’s hand in his and stood up, gently tugging as he did so. “Up and out now.” He waited as his husband stepped out of the tub and then wrapped a warm towel around him.

Todd heaved a sigh and wiggled with delight as loving hands calmly moved the soft material over his body.

Once Todd was dry, Hayden led him into their bedroom. The bed had been turned down and a large towel had been laid over the sheet. A container of hot water with a bottle of massage oil sitting inside of it stood on the night table. “Lie down on your stomach. I’m going to give you a nice long massage.”

Todd’s face split into a wide grin as he happily collapsed face-down across the bed. “Ready, love.”

Hayden took the warmed oil and poured a large puddle into his hand. Then kneeling on the side of the bed, he began to rub the oil into Todd’s back, working it in and using the heel of his hand to apply steady pressure as he worked. He paid special attention to Todd’s neck and shoulders, feeling the knots in the muscles release as he manipulated the area. Adding more oil, he worked his way along his husband’s back and took some time kneading the gluteus and down the slim legs. He was half tempted to pay some extra attention to the space in between those lovely round buttocks, but put that thought from his mind. This massage was to relax his husband, not to get him worked up.

Todd softly groaned and moaned his appreciation with every movement of Hayden’s strong hands. By the time the massage stopped, Todd was completely stress-free and almost asleep. He managed to faintly chuckle when Hayden turned him over to remove the towel and then rolled him to his own side of the bed.

“I feel as weak as a newborn kitten,” Todd mused. He watched through half-closed eyes as his husband undressed and crawled in beside him.

“You sure are a great at conquering my stress, big guy. I’m ready for whatever the rest of the holidays have to offer. That is, I’ll be ready first thing in the morning.” Todd nestled against the bigger man, wrapping an arm and a leg about the body he knew as well as his own. He briefly brushed Hayden’s lips with his own before resting his head on Hayden’s broad shoulder. “I owe you, my darling. You’ve done as much work as I have, if not more, and you deserve a special treat. Tomorrow is an official ‘wait on Hayden day’, and I have plans. Lots and lots of plans,” he added around a wide yawn.

“As long as those plans include us being together, they can never go wrong.” Hayden kissed Todd gently and held him close as they both drifted off to sleep.

The End