“Fools that go about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on their lips should be boiled with their own pudding,” Ripper grumbled and hid deeper under the covers.
“Your education is showing again, mate. True rebels do not quote Dickens,” Ethan poked him.
“Piss off then!”
“And where’s the fun in that?” Ethan laughed. “I even got you a present and everything.”
Ripper’s tousled head poked up from under the blanket, eyes still red and heavy with what little sleep they’d gotten after a night of festive debauchery. There was nothing quite like last minute holiday shoppers for entertainment. Or for filling one’s pockets.
“You bought me a present or you stole me a present?” Ripper’s eyes narrowed suspiciously.
“Little bit of both, actually,” he replied. “One of these days I will rid you of that pesky conscience you cling to, unless you’ve had enough pints to drown it out.”
Seeing that Ripper didn’t have any intentions of going back to sleep, Ethan left the bed to go get his gift.
“Don’t you ever get cold?” Ripper asked him.
Ethan stopped and turned with a grin, making sure to give Ripper an unobstructed view of his naked body. “With you in my bed, Ripper? Impossible.”
Not that Ethan needed the affirmation of Ripper’s hungry look to assure him he looked good, yet being a narcissist, he could never pass up the chance to show off. But there were things to do, so he left his lover quickly before leaving was no longer an option. Because when Ripper got that gleam in his eye...Ethan’s grin widened. Well, his gift might just be more perfect than he’d thought.
He returned a few moments later with his carefully wrapped package and placed it on Ripper’s lap, the metallic designs on the rich paper winking in the light. His friend got an odd look on his face.
“Did you wrap this yourself?” he asked, fingers running over the smooth paper.
“One of my many hidden talents. Could have made a good name for myself in the department stores, don’t you think? Though I think my life is far more interesting not being a productive member of society,” Ethan said lightly, not quite sure what to make of Ripper’s shift in mood.
Ripper carefully slid his fingers under the tape, not tearing the paper to shreds as Ethan had expected. He wondered what Ripper was thinking about. Probably holidays past at his family’s estate. It brought Ethan’s good mood down, wondering if maybe Ripper would rather be there after everything. Not Ripper, of course. This was Ripper’s life. But Rupert Giles was still in there somewhere. And while Ethan wasn’t the sort to worry on such things, there were times when he half expected his lover to wake up one day and go back to his old life.
“Ethan?” Ripper was looking at him, the box now half open.
“Sorry, dozed off for a bit. But you were taking for bloody ever just to get the wrapping undone.”
“Never know when it might come in handy.” Ever resourceful, his Ripper. Though Ethan didn’t have the faintest idea of what use fancy wrapping paper could be put to, other than as fancy wrapping paper, that is.
Finally Ripper had the box open and was pushing aside the paper until he was pulling out a simple, black leather guitar strap.
“It’s not much, I know. But the other one you had was really tacky, mate. And what kind of respectable musician doesn’t have a decent guitar strap?” he explained jokingly, trying to laugh it off as something stupid. Because it really was. A new guitar strap? It was an idiotic gift at best.
Ripper was looking at him, a soft smile on his lips. “This is the one from McGinty’s, yeah?”
Ethan shrugged. “Actually paid for it,” he mumbled.
“Stole the money, naturally. But yeah, otherwise a legitimate purchase,” he didn’t meet Ripper’s eyes. It was a stupid idea. Christ, what had gotten into him?
That’s why he was completely surprised by Ripper leaning over and kissing him gently.
When he pulled back, Ripper remained close, hand still cupping Ethan’s cheek. “Thank you,” he said. And Ethan knew it wasn’t coming from Ripper.
“You really like it?” Ethan asked uncertainly, enjoying the taste of Ripper still lingering on his tongue.
“I can’t lie to you, Ethan, remember? I really do like it.”
And in that moment Ethan could almost believe that maybe this wasn’t just a phase that Rupert Giles was going through. Maybe there really was something between them after all.