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i'll be home for christmas

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“Yes, I know,” Hugo mumbles into his phone, draws his knees up closer to his chest. “I know, maman, I’m sorry.”

His mother is close to tears on the other end of the call. Hugo’s not too far off himself.

“I’m sorry,” he tells her again. “There’s nothing I can do - everything’s cancelled until the twenty-ninth. I’m sorry.”

It’s hard to believe her when she says it’s alright. When she tells him to stay safe and keep warm and come home as soon as he’s able. She’s sniffling as she hangs up the phone and so is Hugo.

He sets his phone aside and scrubs at his face with the heel of his palm. Curls his toes against a pillow and hooks his chin over the back of his couch to look out the window.

It’s been snowing steadily for over a week, fat white flakes that have been piling up for days. The last time Hugo had gone outside it’d been up to nearly his hip, and it’s meant to keep on snowing this way for at least another four days. All flights out of all of the airports in the area have been completely shut down, incoming or outgoing.

He’d been scheduled to fly out on the twentieth, and then rescheduled to the twenty-first, when they’d pushed it. And then everything had been cancelled entirely, the woman he’d managed to get through to from the airline telling him irritably that “there’s nothing we can do, weather is weather.”

There’s no way he’ll make it home for Christmas. He’s starting to accept that.

It’s not like it’s a spectacularly important holiday for him and his family; just that this is the first year that he’s not living at home, and he’d been looking forward to seeing everyone.

He smiles wryly out the window. He’s only been away for a couple of months and he’s already getting homesick.

--

He means to just take a nap but he wakes up on the couch the next day, late in the afternoon on Christmas Eve. It’s still snowing, of course.

Some part of him had hoped for some kind of Christmas miracle - a sudden heat wave, a meteorological phenomenon that would end with melted snow and flights pouring efficiently out of JFK again. No such luck, of course.

His back pops when he hauls himself up off the couch and pads across the cool floorboards into his little kitchen. He makes himself eggs and toast numbly, running on autopilot. The toast is burnt and the yolks of his eggs are too runny but he doesn’t really care.

When he settles back on the couch with his lunch there’s a notification on his phone. A text from his mom, saying good night, wishing him a happy Christmas. As he’s texting her back there’s another notification - a text from Porter.

It’s a picture message, one of the dogs wearing a Santa hat and looking decidedly unhappy about it. Hugo manages a smile and taps out a message back.

Zorro Claus may actually be cuter than you.

The typing indicator pops up almost immediately and then disappears, then pops up again and disappears once more. Hugo rests his chin in hand and watches idly. Porter’s probably trying to find some clever comeback, almost definitely failing and -

Another picture message comes in, this time a photo of Porter pouting in the hat.

Hugo’s smile widens, even through his gloomy mood.

Alright, alright. I was wrong.

yeah bitch

Hugo snorts and shakes his head as he writes out his next text.

Are you having a nice time with your family ?

Another immediate response; i’m boooored and i miss you. when is your flight?

Hugo chews at his lower lip and runs his thumb along the edge of his phone. Porter knows about the delays but Hugo’d forgotten to tell him everything’s been grounded entirely.

He hasn’t told Porter about his conversation with his mother either. It doesn’t seem important right now.

He swallows against the lump in his throat and takes a breath.

Everything’s cancelled until the 29th, he types, very casually. I’m stuck in New York. Sounds like a bad holiday movie, doesn’t it ?

The typing indicator pops up for a split second and then it’s gone again. Hugo’s phone screen goes black.

He sighs and takes a disinterested bite of his toast.

The phone dings and Porter’s asking if there’s really nothing flying out, if maybe there’s a plane that could get him to North Carolina. Hugo manages another smile at that - Christmas with Porter’s family would have been nice.

Nothing in or out of any New York airport, he taps out, then hesitates. I don’t really want to think about it too much, if that’s alright.

Porter responds with a sad face emoji, followed by okay, i love you, let me know if u want to facetime later?

Hugo considers asking him to FaceTime now. He’s feeling rather fragile, though, and he doesn’t like the idea of bursting into tears on camera with Porter.

Of course, he writes eventually, if not today then tomorrow morning for sure !

Porter sends him what looks like every available heart emoji and Hugo sends a half-dozen red hearts back, then sets his phone aside. His toast and eggs are cold now but he eats anyway, takes his plate into the kitchen and makes coffee.

It all feels very normal, as he cracks his living room window to lean out and smoke a cigarette. He’s not technically supposed to do that but going all the way out onto his snowy fire escape doesn’t sound particularly appealing.

The city is quiet. Snow-muffled and soft. It’s beautiful in its way.

Hugo frowns, slams the window and shuts out the city with it. He’s feeling rather irritable, which he thinks is fair, all things considered.

His coffee has over-steeped in the press but it’s fine once he adds a bit of milk to it. He takes it to the couch with him and wraps himself in a blanket before clicking on his barely used television. There’s an ocean of Christmas movies, every channel Santa or an elf or a little girl and her animal sidekick delivering presents to save the day.

He settles on a channel running a Die Hard marathon, because it’s the only thing on that doesn’t make him feel sick and Grinchy.

--

At some point during the first act of the second Die Hard movie Hugo falls asleep; he wakes a solid nine hours later to the credits of the fifth film scrolling and scrubs blearily at his eyes.

He can’t figure out what had woken him at first but he slowly processes that it’s light out. It’s still snowing, but softer now - flakes drifting lazily from the sky instead of storming down like they have been for nearly a week.

He yawns and stretches, one arm dangling off the edge of the couch, and he’s groggy and warm enough that he thinks he could fall asleep again -

There’s a knock at the door.

He’s not expecting it and he jolts, knocks over the half-empty coffee cup he’d left on the floor. “Shit,” he hisses, righting the mug and heaving himself up off the couch. The floor is cold against his feet and there’s a little puddle off coffee spreading under his couch that Hugo stares at dumbly until there’s another knock.

He realizes, distantly, that the knocking is what had woken him up. A second realization; that it’s Christmas morning and more than likely his - he glances at his watch - very early visitor is one of his neighbours, maybe telling him to turn down his TV. The first Die Hard is starting again when he looks back.

There’s one more knock before a voice calls, “...Hugo? Are you awake?”

Hugo turns to stare at his apartment door. He knows that voice. But…

He crosses the room in four long strides and unbolts all of his locks, tears the door open and -

“Hi!” Porter says brightly.

Hugo blinks. It really is Porter, standing in his hall wearing a Santa hat. He looks exhausted, dark shadows under his eyes and a five o’clock shadow that looks sort of silly, especially with the hat.

But it’s Porter and he’s standing right here, right in front of Hugo.

“What are you doing here?” Hugo breathes. He can’t find the presence of mind to reach out, to invite Porter in, even though he knows he’s being rude and his apartment hallway is even colder than his own apartment.

Porter’s dopey grin goes softer around the edges in a way that makes Hugo want to touch, to run his thumb across Porter’s lower lip. To confirm he’s really there.

“I didn’t want you to be alone on Christmas,” he says, like it should be obvious.

“How did you-,”

“I drove!”

Hugo stares. “You drove here through a snowstorm?”

Porter shrugs one shoulder, grinning sheepishly. “I left pretty much right after you texted,” he explains. “I just got here - I drove slow! Easy.”

Hugo keeps staring. Porter shrugs the same shoulder.

“I have, uh, winter tires,” he says. He looks down at his shoes. Hugo looks down at them too and there’s bits of snow sloughing off of them as it melts, a puddle forming on the hallway floor. No one’s shoveled out front of Hugo’s building in a couple of days - there’d really been no point.

There’s a beat, a moment of silence between them as they both stare dimly down at Porter’s wet sneakers before Hugo finally throws his arms around Porter’s neck. Porter makes a soft sound, startled, then slips his arms around Hugo’s waist and squeezes him tight.

Hugo buries his face in Porter’s jacket. He’s crying, now, shuddering sobs as Porter rubs his back and makes soothing noises in his ear.

“I love you so much,” Hugo mumbles, muffled in fabric and down. “I love you, I love you so much, Porter-,”

“I love you too,” Porter says, rubbing his cheek against Hugo’s hair and tightening his grip. “So much, man, it’s okay, I’m here now!”

Hugo sniffles and clings. He doesn’t want to let go, now that he’s got his armful of Porter, but Porter’s shivering and the hallway is cold but it shouldn’t be that cold.

“My heater stopped working a couple hours ago,” Porter says, with chattering teeth, when Hugo asks. “A blanket would be nice.”

“Oh, yes, fuck,” says Hugo, finally letting go and hurrying Porter into the apartment.

He gets Porter settled on the couch and makes more coffee, since the last press has gone cool and sludgy on his counter. Porter takes his mug gratefully when Hugo hands it over, glancing down at the puddle on the floor.

“Did you know-,”

“Yes, uh, I wasn’t expecting visitors.”

Porter snickers and Hugo sheepishly cleans up his mess with a couple paper towels.

And then the mess is gone and he’s standing awkwardly in his living room, staring down at Porter all wrapped up in a blanket on his couch like he might disappear if he looks away. Porter beams up at him and he still looks tired but genuinely happy to be there.

“C’mere,” he hums, opening up the blanket. He’s still wearing the Santa hat and he looks ridiculous and Hugo loves him so much he can feel it baking in his chest.

He catches himself smiling back as he settles on the couch next to Porter, lets himself be wrapped in a cocoon of blankets and body heat. Hugo leans his head on Porter’s shoulder and he’s thankful that the shakes have mostly abated by now. Porter yawns, jaw popping.

“D’you mind if I-,” He interrupts himself to yawn again and Hugo slips an arm around him. “Need a li’l… nap, maybe…”

“Of course,” Hugo murmurs. “Whatever you need.”

Porter makes a sleepy sound and turns his face into Hugo’s hair, lays a little kiss on the top of his head.

“Thank you for coming,” Hugo says after a pause and for a moment he thinks Porter’s fallen asleep. But then the arm around his shoulders goes a bit tighter and he can feel Porter smiling against his hair.

“Merry Christmas,” Porter mumbles.

“Merry Christmas, Porter.”