Christmas Goes Analog is the story of one man’s wish for a perfect Christmas and the lengths his boyfriend goes to, to make sure he has it. And, of course, a part of every perfect Christmas is Christmas food. Not just the foods that make up your Christmas tradition, but the new and fancy things you try out each year.
My father-in-law was from the Netherlands, so we always opened our presents on Christmas Eve. The entire family, all thirty-six of us, would cram ourselves into my mother-in-law’s living room, sitting on the stairs, on the floor, on windowsills and on each other. Mum, as we call her, would cook a goose, and there was usually a roast of some sort and olieballen (a kind of Dutch doughnut—sort of). Everything else was potluck. Some years were successes; some were—not so good.
Like the year I decided to make traditional Turkish Delight, which calls for rosewater. Turns out, adding a drop of rose oil to water is not the same thing and the Delight was anything but—common consensus was that it tasted like soap.
Then there was the raspberry pie, which everyone ate. But when asked if he’d like a second piece, one of the kids said, “I know it’s good pie, but I don’t like sour pie.” That was the year I learned to taste the filling before I put it in the pastry. Turns out, our raspberries were much more sour than the ones from the grocery store.
But these are the stories that get told and retold, becoming–in their own way–a part of the Christmas tradition. Because it’s the things we do and the people we are that make Christmas what it is, not what we give or get.
For Shawn and Rob, this is all new, and their Christmas food traditions are just beginning.
Title: Christmas Goes Analog by Kate Lowell
Publisher: Loose Id
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: Novella/Word Count: 32000
When Rob’s dad was injured by an uninsured driver, it spelled the end of Rob’s carefree childhood and, more important to Rob, the idyllic Christmases they used to have. Hard work and sacrifice nets him a degree in computer programming and then a contract at a rapidly-growing video game company. Things are looking up, especially when he meets his new System Administrator, Shawn. But the closer it gets to Christmas, the more bugs there are in the system.
Shawn’s found him. The Guy. But Rob’s had it rough and it’s been years since he’s been anything but responsible. It all comes boiling to the surface when a family financial crisis is followed by a work emergency that ruin Rob’s plans to bring Shawn home to meet the family over Christmas holidays.
With Rob’s mood growing darker the closer it gets to Christmas, Shawn needs to find some way to give Rob the Christmas he’s so desperate for. And he just might have the plan…
Not long before lunch, a flash of movement in the door caught Shawn’s eye—and his irritation. Like any other sysadmin, he hated it when people came looking for him instead of sending a ticket. First, it usually screwed up the documentation, so he ended up doing it all at the end. Second, it meant they thought they were going to butt in line ahead of everyone else. He spun in his chair to give the interloper a good lesson in “don’t bother the dudes with the system access” but froze instead. A tall, dark-haired guy with a slightly self-conscious smile and eyes full of laughter stood in the open doorway.
“Hi. Sorry. I tried to make a ticket, but the system wouldn’t let me. I’m Rob.”
Rob? Oh, Robert Forbes. “Come on in,” Shawn heard himself say. It was like his whole body was on fire, or he’d stuck his finger in a socket. He wondered if he was having a stroke; his brain seemed to be caught in an infinite loop.
Blue screen of death. Wonder if he’d give me mouth-to-mouth? He shook himself mentally and made his lips form the words, “What can I do for you?”
Rob took a couple of uncertain steps into the room. “I don’t want to push—I know there’s a protocol in place—but my access keeps going in and out. Sometimes I can get in; sometimes I can’t. And there doesn’t seem to be any kind of triggering event. It’s just random.”
The part of Shawn’s brain that wasn’t completely occupied in wishful thinking poked at that and came up with several possible solutions.
Easiest first. “Let’s check your cables.” He got up and slipped past Rob, catching the other man’s scent as he moved by. Damn, he even smells good. What are the chances?
Rob followed him, his expression baffled. “But I can get on sometimes.”
Shawn dug through the box of spare cables and pulled out a couple of Cat 5e’s and an IDE cable, just in case, though he doubted the problem was inside the box. Unless there was a corrupted file in the operating system, but that wouldn’t cause the intermittent connection issues Rob was experiencing. “Occam’s razor,” Shawn told him. “We’ll try the cables, then have a go at other things if the cables don’t work.”
Rob held out his hand. “I’m sure you have more important work to do. I’ll take them up and try them out.”
Not likely. “That’s okay. I need a break, and it’s a good excuse to stretch my legs. Besides, getting you online is pretty important.” Lucky his name wasn’t Pinocchio, or his nose would be six feet long after that lie. He gestured at the door and smiled. “Let’s go get you set up.”
It only took a minute to swap out the Cat 5e cable. But it was definitely worth the effort, because when Shawn crawled back out from underneath the desk, Rob turned quickly away and blushed.
Yes! Nothing says gay better than checking out your coworker’s assets. And that blush…
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