“Son of a bitch,” Monroe cusses under his breath as the string of lights fall to the floor. He groans, limping over to the sofa and gently sitting down. He rubs his thigh, trying to ease out the tension. He hates to admit it, but Nick’s gotten a lot better at the whole tracking and catching thing. They took quite the tumble down a hill a few days ago, and Monroe was having trouble bouncing back. He looks around at his pathetic, barely-decorated home and sighs. “Decorating should not be this hard,” he says to himself aloud. He attempts to get up, but the sharp pain that rips through his ribs sits him right back down. He decides taking a break is in his best interest.
Sticking a few pillows under his knee and heel, he props up his leg then turns on the television. He flips through a few channels before settling on a Doctor Who Christmas special courtesy of BBC America. The episode gets his mind off the hassles of decorating his house and the soreness of his body. He gets a text from Nick letting him know that he would be late for dinner tonight. Monroe texts back and asks him to pick up some take-out. He hadn’t actually said anything to Nick about still feeling sore; Nick had been back to normal in a day or two. Reality had this way of always reminding Monroe that he’s not as young as he once was.
Monroe’s still on the sofa, watching Christmas programs, when Nick walks in the door three hours later. Briefly he wonders where that time went off to, but shrugs when he smells veggie lo mein and egg rolls from his favorite vegan Chinese restaurant. A groans slips passed his pursed lips as he picks himself up from the sofa. Nick doesn’t seem to notice, he’s too busy pulling a couple beers from the fridge. Monroe shuffles in, trying his best not to limp like some old wolf. As he’s surveying the food, he misses Nick’s eyes wandering over his body and his brows bending into a furrow.
“Monroe, what’s wrong?”
Nick glares at his friend across the table. He keeps his voice firm. “Monroe.”
Monroe sighs and rolls his eyes. “Fine. I’m just…sore.”
“Sore? From what?”
“Gee…I don’t know…maybe falling down a mountain!”
This time Nick is the one rolling his eyes. “Really? Dude, we rolled down a hill. And you landed on me. You had some cushion.”
“I think you forget that I’m old.”
“Old? You’re not old. Older than me, yeah. But you’re not old.”
“Yes I am and I feel old.”
Nick lets the subject drop as he scoops food onto his plate. He opens his mouth to offer Monroe some help carrying his stuff to the living room, but he just gets glared at. He shrugs and flops down on the sofa next to Monroe, to whom he keeps tossing stern looks at. Monroe puts on Home Alone which he knows is Nick’s favorite Christmas movie. He figures it’ll get Nick to shut up for an hour and a half. He’s wrong. About half way through the movie, Nick starts to look around the room, paying close attention. He frowns.
“You didn’t really decorate. After last Christmas and this past Halloween, you kind of…dropped the ball, man.”
“I started decorating, but…” His voice drifts off as he pushes food around on his plate.
“But when I reached up to hang some lights, well, it didn’t feel very good.”
Nick downs the rest of his egg roll, sets his plate on the coffee table, and jumps up. “Alright, where are these pesky lights? I’ll get them hung up!”
“What? No. It’s fine. I’ll just try again tomorrow.”
“No you won’t. You’ll still be sore. You’re old, remember?” Nick jabs.
Monroe crosses his arms over his chest and nods towards the hallway. “They’re on the floor over there.”
Nick grabs the lights and proceeds to hang them down the hall. Monroe splits his attention between watching the movie and telling Nick he’s hanging them wrong. Nick just rolls his eyes and keeps hanging, insisting that Monroe shouldn’t complain about the help or said help will leave. They both know Nick’s bluffing. Where else would he go? He’s living here now. It takes Nick about an hour to hang the rest of the lights. He smiles at a job well done. He starts looking through all the boxes of decorations and pulls things out and puts them here and there. Monroe watches him with a smile; he’s happy to know he’s got Nick in his life. Nick is what he’s most thankful for this year. Nick throws in the towel around eleven and plops back down on the sofa next to Monroe, who’s watching another Christmas movie.
“So, what do you think?” Nick asks. He’s got a huge, toothy smile plastered on his face.
“Looks better than ever!” Monroe smiles back.
“Tomorrow I’ll hang the outside lights when I get home. And we’ll put out the blow-up Santa with the reindeer.”
“You don’t have to do all this, ya know.”
Nich shrugs. “I live here now, it’s about time I start helping out. Besides, you love Christmas, I’m not just gonna let you miss it.” He leans toward Monroe and presses a light kiss to his cheek. “Merry Christmas, Monroe.”