As Scott stepped out of his car, a slight breeze practically blew icicles in his face. It caused a shiver to run through him, but he still had a smile on his face. It was December in New York and no matter how cold or hectic or stressful it could be it was truly his favorite time of the year.
He closed his car door and buttoned up his long navy trench coat - a coat that was probably two sizes too big for him, which he insisted on wearing over a shorter, slightly thinner black wool jacket. The trench coat was his dad’s, one of the only things he’d left behind when he moved after he and Scott’s mother split up. Scott felt a little silly for being attached to it, but it reminded him of better times with his dad; though he wondered if he should pick one up while he was inside the mall.
As he walked closer to his destination - Bloomingdale’s - he took in a deep breath and smiled. Even though he wasn’t inside the mall yet, he could smell the aroma of gingerbread cookies and eggnog that was coming from the food court. It was the smell of Christmas and it put a bounce in his step.
When he walked inside it was almost like being hit with another blast of cold air. Scott immediately reconsidered the colossally stupid idea of shopping in one of New York’s busiest department stores, on a Saturday, one week before Christmas. But he was on a mission and he didn’t want to put it off any longer.
He needed to find something for his new girlfriend, Allison Argent. They’d only been dating for three weeks, but while his best friend Stiles insisted it wasn’t necessary, Scott would feel bad if he didn’t get her anything for Christmas. She was the first girl he’d gone out with in a long time. He really liked her and didn’t want to blow it. The only problem was he had no idea what to get her.
Scott went to a few clothing stores, but most of their outfits didn’t feel right. He passed by Victoria’s Secret and briefly paused. It felt like it might be in bad taste to present to his new, not quite girlfriend (who he hadn’t even slept with yet) a thong for Christmas. He moved along.
After about an hour, with nothing but a sprained foot - it had been stepped on about ten times - Scott was almost ready to give up. He thought he might go get some eggnog and maybe take one more pass through the bustling store. While he was contemplating this, a man two times Scott’s size knocked into Scott and he got completely turned around. Two seconds later a woman stepped on his foot with her impractically tall red high heel.
Scott yelped and knelt down. For his trouble, he got knocked in the head by a couple of loaded shopping bags. Frustrated, Scott groaned as he stood up. He walked straight to the relative safety of the store in front of him. It was a men’s store and Scott’s eye was immediately caught by the mannequin in front. It had on a black V-neck, black leather jacket, and navy blue scarf.
Scott really liked the color of the scarf. It matched his coat. While he hadn’t really planned on shopping for himself, it wouldn’t hurt to get it. He did need a new scarf after all.
Just as he was about to reach out for it, someone snatched it up.
“Excuse me, I -” Scott turned around and stopped talking abruptly. The tall, curly-haired blonde man standing before him had the prettiest blue eyes he’d ever seen.
Scott gulped and realized how long he’d been staring. He shook his head.
“I’m sorry?” The man smiled. It seemed hesitant, but genuine.
“I was reaching for that.” Scott pointed at the blue cashmere scarf.
The other man looked down. He looked up at Scott with such an apologetic expression which Scott found adorable.
“I’m so sorry. I didn’t see you there.”
Scott bit his lip and stared down at the floor. As if the blonde’s eyes weren’t attractive enough, he had a thick British accent that sounded heavenly. Get ahold of your hormones, McCall,” Scott thought.
“I was looking for something like this and the salesmen said this one on display is the last one left,” the stranger continued. He clutched it in his hand and then held it out. “Happy Christmas.”
Scott giggled. He inwardly cringed. “No, I can’t. You got it first, fair and square. I don’t really need it.”
“Are you sure? This isn’t an absolute necessity for me either. Just trying to do a little retail therapy,” he explained.
“Now I definitely can’t take it if it’s part of some therapeutic process.” Scott chuckled. “Besides…” He gently took the scarf out of the man’s hand and wrapped it around his neck. He took a slight step back. “It looks much better on you.”
The man graced Scott with a wide and toothy smile.
Scott returned it. The smile quickly dropped when he noticed something - or rather someone - over the stranger’s shoulder.
“Oh, God,” Scott muttered. He crouched down further behind his new acquaintance’s broad chest.
“What is it?” The clear concern in his voice would have pleased Scott more if he weren’t so anxious.
“It’s just this guy I knew in high school - Matt. He had a really big crush on me and he had a hard time taking no for an answer.” Scott slowly started to straighten and tried to look over the man’s shoulder. “I bumped into him the other day and he cornered me for twenty minutes. I had to come up with a lie to get away.”
“He’s not dangerous is he?” The man started to look behind him.
He swiveled his head forward quickly.
Scott sighed. “Not dangerous, just really aggravating and stubborn.”
He crept up slowly, but he must have stuck his head out too far because suddenly Matt’s eyes locked onto him and he grinned.
“Shit! He saw me.”
Scott thought about continuing to use the tall blonde as a human shield, but didn’t want to make things more awkward or put this nice, attractive stranger in the middle. He took a deep breath as Matt got closer. Just as he was about to step aside, the blonde in front of him stepped back and put his arm around Scott.
Scott’s eyes widened as he looked up at him. Only Matt’s loud clearing of his throat got his attention.
“Hello, Scott.” Matt turned and stared daggers at the man holding Scott. “And who is this?”
“I’m Isaac. His boyfriend.” The blonde offered in explanation while giving Matt a tight smile.
“Boyfriend?” Matt looked between the two of them and crossed his arms over his chest. “When I spoke with you a couple of days ago, you said you had a girlfriend. What happened to her?”
Scott opened and closed his mouth a couple of times. Fuck! He was never very good at lying. “That’s…”
“It’s because…” Isaac cut in. He looked at Scott and furrowed his brow. “He’s not used to it.”
“Used to what?” Matt asked.
“Having a boyfriend,” Isaac supplied with a grimace. He seemed to be signaling to Scott with his eyes.
To Scott’s shock, and amusement, he picked up on where Isaac was going with this. “Uh, uh, right. It’s only been a couple of weeks since the operation.”
“Operation?” Matt’s face scrunched up in confusion.
“Sex change operation,” Isaac clarified.
“Yeah.” Scott nodded. See, Isaac used to be Isabelle...my girlfriend But now he’s Isaac...”
“His boyfriend” Isaac pointed to himself and grinned. He clapped Scott’s shoulder. “I can’t really blame Scott for not being used to it. I’m still adjusting myself.” He gripped his chest. “I had great boobs.”
Scott snorted and tried to cover unsuccessfully with a cough.
Matt narrowed his eyes and looked between the two of them. “You expect me to believe that?”
Scott and Isaac shared a look and then turned to Matt and both shrugged.
“I thought you were better than this, Scott.” Matt frowned. “If you don’t want to go out with me just say so.”
Scott rubbed the back of his neck. There was a part of him that did feel slightly guilty, until he remembered that he did tell Matt exactly that several times.
“Hey,” Isaac piped up. “Scott is not a liar.” He touched the bottom of his gray sweater. “Do you want to see the scars?”
“No!” Matt held up his hands. He backed away slowly. “I’ll see you around, Scott.”
Scott didn’t respond, just nodded stiffly.
As soon as Matt disappeared into the crowd, Isaac started chuckling. Scott couldn’t help laughing, too. It didn’t escape Scott’s notice that Isaac still had his arm around him. Considering Isaac was a stranger it should have felt odd, but Scott felt very comfortable.
It must have dawned on Isaac how he was holding Scott because he stepped back with an awkward chuckle. “Sorry about that.”
“It’s no problem.” Scott smiled. “And thank you for the save, even if it was sort of a bizarre story.”
Isaac shrugged. “I don’t know. It’s 2000. The new millennium and all that. I don’t think sex change operations are that uncommon.”
“That’s true.” Scott bit his lip and looked down at the floor.
This was probably about the time they should part ways. He was sure Isaac had places to be. A boyfriend (or perhaps girlfriend) waiting for him. With that thought, Scott remembered Allison. They were supposed to meet up tonight.
Despite that, Scott didn’t want to let Isaac go just yet.
“Um, I was thinking about getting out of here and grabbing some lunch. Would you like to join me? It’d be my treat. I owe you one.”
“You don’t owe me. Not really. You let me have this gorgeous scarf and I saved you from harassment by a weasel-faced stalker.”
They both laughed.
“We could probably just call it even,” Isaac finished.
“Right.” Scott felt disappointed, but tried to hide it.
“But I wouldn't mind getting out of here. If one more person steps on my foot, you might see my mug on the evening news for assault.” He took a step closer. “I’d love to join you.” Isaac smiled.
A slow smile spread over Scott’s face and he knew he was in serious trouble when his stomach did cartwheels looking at that smile.
They decided to walk to the cafe since it wasn’t far from Bloomingdale’s. On the walk there all the awkwardness he hadn’t felt before started to creep in. It wasn’t really like Scott to pick up a total stranger - not that he was picking him up. This was just a friendly lunch. He had to repeat that in his head over and over.
Scott and Isaac mostly talked about boring trivial stuff like the weather - Isaac had been living in New York for a few years, but still couldn’t get used to the New York winters - and their current favorite TV shows - Isaac had been embarrassed to admit he was quite a big fan of Jackass.
When they finally sat down at the cafe, Serendipity, most of Scott’s nerves had subsided. They quickly looked over the menu and soon a waitress stopped by their table.
“Can I start you off with some drinks?”
“Yes,” Scott answered. “I’ll have the Serendipitous Hot Chocolate.”
Isaac looked at the menu for another second. “The Jasmine tea for me, please.”
The waitress smiled and nodded. “Alright. I’ll be right out with those and take your order.”
Scott smiled. “I guess some British stereotypes are actually true.”
Isaac’s eyebrows furrowed for a second and then he grinned. “Right. Yes. Guilty. I am great lover of tee. I am also incredibly pale, say sorry almost twenty times a day, and am a bit of a sarcastic arse.”
Scott chuckled. He leaned forward in his seat. “Sounds like the perfect personal ad.”
Isaac shuddered. “Yuck, I would never resort to something like that.”
Scott thought about it for a second. “I probably wouldn’t either.” He leaned forward in his chair. “Not all the stereotypes are true. Your teeth are pretty awesome. I think your smile almost blinded me that first time.”
He playfully displayed a wide smile - his teeth gleaming - and laughed. “I suppose I was just lucky.” His smile slowly dropped as he stared into Scott’s eyes.
The waitress came just then and Scott wasn’t sure if he wanted to thank you her or throttle her. She put their drinks down. Scott noticed Isaac eyeing his drink with wide eyes. “I know,” he simply said.
His hot chocolate came in a huge glass, with two straws - red and blue - and was topped high with whipped cream and shaved French chocolate.
“That looks like a future sugar crash just waiting to happen,” Isaac said still staring at it.
The waitress laughed. “What can I get you guys?”
Scott hurriedly picked up his menu. He’d been too busy flirting with Isaac to take a look at it.
“I’ll have the Chef’s salad and the Lemon Chicken.” Isaac answered.
Scott decided to have his usual. “I’ll take the Cheddarburger.”
The waitress took their menus. As she did, Isaac took off his jacket and looked around the cozy cafe. “This is nice place. Unusually crowded. Usually you have to wait on a line that long for some fancy club.”
“Yeah, it’s pretty popular around here. Their hot chocolate and desserts are to die for.”
Isaac pointed to Scott’s drink. “I hope not literally.”
Scott chuckled. “I’ve had these before. I’m doing okay.”
Isaac reached for a few sugar packets. “How’d you find this place?”
“My stepbrother is a big fan, too. He thought I would get a kick out of it,” Scott explained.
“Because you’re a fan of ridiculously large sweet drinks?” Isaac said a teasing grin on his face.
Scott shook his head. “No, smart guy. He thought I would like it because of the name.”
Isaac just quirked his eyebrow up in question.
“In high school when I was studying for my SATs, I kind of became obsessed with looking up words and had this program where I had these words of the day. Serendipity was one of them and it was always one of my favorites. It rolls off the tongue really well and I think it’s a really nice way to describe what it means.”
“Happy accidents.” Scott scrunched up his nose. “Though I don’t really believe in accidents.” He cringed a little. He thought he always sounded a little weird when he talked about this.
Isaac swallowed his tea. “You don’t believe in accidents?”
Scott shook his head. “I think fate is responsible for everything we do.”
Isaac put his cup down and leaned forward. “So fate’s responsible for everything? Everything is pre-destined? We don’t have any say in anything at all?
“No.” Scott rushed to clarify. “It’s not that we don’t have any choices at all. I just think that fate sends us little signs and signals and it’s how we interpret those that determines our happiness.”
Isaac just stared at him. He looked like he was pondering this.
Scott was worried that he thought he was a weirdo. “If you think that’s weird you can blame my mother. She’s a big believer in fate and she made me one too.”
“You’ve had a lot of happy accidents in your family?” Isaac sat back and picked up his cup.
“Yeah, I think so.” Scott looked up at the ceiling. “A really long time ago my mom and dad were arguing…” Scott sighed. “They were always fighting.” He shook himself and continued. “Well, anyway, this one time after the fight she stormed out in the rain and just started driving to cool off. She came upon this accident. This man and woman had driven their car into the tree by the woods. There were no cars for miles and it was really late. If my mom hadn’t been driving by, I don’t know what would have happened.”
“Wow,” Isaac exclaimed.
Scott waved his hands. “Wait, I’m not done.” He chuckled. “I know this is going to sound like some kind of TV movie, but the woman was eight months pregnant and my mom - she’s a nurse - delivered her baby right there.”
“That’s unbelievable.” Isaac put his cup down and pushed aside. He leaned forward, his eyes glued to Scott’s.
Scott had to divert his eyes or he wouldn’t finish the story. “My mother drove them to the hospital and stayed with them all night. The next day the woman told my mom that she would never forget her or what she did. My mom said it made her feel really good, considering everything that was going on in her life. Because my mom at this point was seriously considering leaving my dad. She was just so worried about how she would support the two of us. But one day she lost her wedding ring.”
Isaac shrugged slightly. “Doesn’t that happen to a lot of people?”
“Yeah, but not my mother. She does not lose anything especially not something that important. She rarely ever took it off. She said for the life of her she couldn’t figure out what she did with it. She tore the house apart. She looked at the hospital lost and found, but couldn’t find it. She sat down and started crying, not because she lost the ring, but she knew it was a sign that it was over. The next day, she told my father and he left.”
Scott wrung his hands and looked down. He would always remember that moment. His dad started to leave and Scott called out to him. The look on his father’s face was hard, but he did try and smile for Scott. He gave a little wave and left.
The touch of Isaac’s hand startled him. He glanced up and Isaac’s arm was outstretched and his large hand covered Scott’s. There was deep concern in his eyes. Scott gave him a small smile.
It occurred to Scott that he was sharing something so personal with someone he’d known for less than an hour, but it didn’t feel wrong.
“It’s okay.” Scott patted Isaac’s hand.
Isaac slowly dragged his hand over Scott’s and leaned back, never taking his eyes off Scott.
The waitress finally came over with their meals. They thanked her. Isaac instantly pushed his tray aside.
“After he left, literally a few minutes later my mother got a call. It was the woman whose baby she had delivered on the side of the road. She was the Chief of Staff at this hospital in New York and she called to offer my mother a job as head nurse. It was an incredible opportunity. A step up for her professionally and financially. So, we moved from Beacon Hills to New York a few weeks later. A day after that we met our neighbors. My mother ended up marrying him and that’s how I met my step brother and best friend.”
Scott looked up at Isaac with a sheepish grin.
Isaac just blinked up at him with a warm expression on his face.
“And that is my incredibly long-winded way of saying that is why I believe in fate.”
“Makes sense,” Isaac said simply.
Scott stared at Isaac. “You don’t believe in it, do you?”
Isaac took a deep breath and blew it out slowly. “Not really. It’s kind of hard to believe in happy accidents and fate when you’ve had the kind of childhood I had.”
It was the first time since Scott had met Isaac that his features hardened and his eyes clouded over. Scott could tell whatever it was had to be pretty awful.
“Isaac, I’m sorry.”
“No, no, no.” Isaac waved his hands. “You believe in fate. There’s nothing wrong with that.” He slid his lunch over and started to pick at his salad. “I said it was hard to believe in it, but not impossible. I’m starting to come around a little bit. If I really think about it, take today for example. I was spend the day at my best friend Erica’s house and just watch the telly all day, but she got called into work. She said I could stay in as long as I liked, but I got restless after an hour and had the brilliant idea to go to a mall a week before Christmas.”
Scott chuckled. He had to cover his mouth before burger bits went flying out.
“I was getting ready to leave because if I heard one more version of “All I Want for Christmas” I was going to ram my head into a wall. But then I remembered I needed a scarf because I lost mine because unlike your mum I would lose my head if it weren’t attached.”
Scott decided to put down his burger. He was smiling and laughing too much and it was going to be a choking hazard.
“Then because I did a happy accident occurred and I met a sweet, dimpled man and I’m now having a lovely lunch date.”
Scott beamed at Isaac’s description of him. But then Isaac’s last words registered. “Date?”
Isaac nodded. “Yes.”
“You think this is a date?”
Isaac’s smile fell and his cheeks reddened. “It’s not?”
Scott put his head in his hands. “Oh, God,” he muttered. This was his entire fault. Of course Isaac thought this was a date what with Scott’s flirting and heart eyes. Scott’s hands slid down his face.
Isaac looked like he wanted to sink into the floor.
“I’m so sorry, Isaac.”
Isaac finally recovered enough and shook his head. “It’s my fault. I’m sorry I shouldn’t have made the assumption that you wanted to date or that you were even gay. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why you didn’t want to go out with that Matt fellow. He couldn’t take a hint, but I can and -”
Scott put his hand over Isaac’s and interrupted his ramble. He realized what he was doing and snatched it back. “Isaac, it’s not that...exactly. I’m not entirely straight…”
Isaac hesitantly looked up.
“But I’m not entirely single either. I have a sort of girlfriend.”
Isaac’s eyes crossed. “‘A sort of girlfriend?’”
Scott looked up at the ceiling and blew out a breath. “We just started going out three weeks ago so we haven’t labeled it yet.”
“But you like her?” Isaac whispered.
Scott’s head shot up. “I...Yes.”
Isaac pinched the bridge of his nose. “How’s that for fate? You just started dating someone and I just ended my relationship.”
Isaac nodded. “A couple of days ago. That’s why I mentioned retail therapy and why my friend wanted to stay in all day and cheer me up. It was the right thing to do - breaking up with him - but I was sad and I thought it might be a miserable Christmas...but then I met you…”
Scott felt incredibly small and incredibly conflicted. Allison and he had only been going out a few short weeks. In that time, he grew to really like her, but the way he was starting to feel about Isaac was completely different. It was a completely new feeling for him and he didn’t know what to do with it.
Was meeting Isaac a happy accident? A sign? Should he end things with Allison? He couldn’t imagine doing that. He couldn’t just toss her aside because someone better came along...not that Isaac was necessarily better...Scott hung his head. His brain was starting to hurt.
“You know what, it’s fine,” Isaac suddenly stated. “It’s probably too soon to start dating again. This is for the best and I could always use new American friends.”
Scott looked up. “Really?”
“Yeah.” Isaac smiled, though it didn’t quite reach his eyes.
Scott sat up. “Yeah.” he hoped that sounded convincing.
They both looked down at their plates and ate in silence for a few minutes. Scott took a sip of his hot chocolate - still as good as ever - and he slid the glass across and offered Isaac a sample. He shook his head.
When Scott was finished with his burger and just playing with his fries in the mountain of ketchup on his plate, Isaac finally cleared his throat and spoke up again. “So...where’d you meet her?”
Scott paused. “Who? Allison?”
“Is that your...sort of girlfriend’s name?”
“Yeah.” Scott nodded. “I work at a veterinary clinic and she came in with this injured dog she found on the side of the road. I bumped into her the next day and…”
“Took it as a sign?” Isaac asked a hint of something in his voice Scott couldn’t quite place. It wasn’t bitterness, but not genuine curiosity either.
“Yeah.” There was a crack in his voice and Scott had to clear his throat. “She’s really sweet...the only problem is her father isn’t so sweet. He hates me.”
Isaac’s head snapped back. “You? How’s that possible?”
Scott grinned before shrugging. “I don’t know. He seemed to take an instant dislike. It was the weirdest thing. I walking home one night - my car was in the shop. And her father rolled up beside me in his Mercedes. He offered - more like insisted - on giving me a ride home. I told him where I lived but he decided to take the scenic route, which just so happened to pass a cemetery. He said he passed by it a lot and it always reminded him how “accidents happen.””
“He was not subtle at all.”
“Did he also give you a little speech, “Anything happens to my daughter, I got a .45 and a shovel…”
“I doubt anybody would miss you.” Scott finished the line with Isaac and they both laughed. “You’re a Clueless fan, too? It’s one of my favorites.”
“Don’t sound so surprised. Just because I’m British doesn’t mean I only like stuffy, Period films...Well, I like those two, but not only that.”
Scott grinned. “I don’t know. I just don’t picture you as watching something like that.”
“Well, you don’t know me very well, Scott. Not yet.” There was a mischievous look in his eye.
Even though he worried they were headed into flirting territory again, Scott pressed on. “So tell me something about you I would find surprising?”
Isaac cocked his head to the side and hummed. “I don’t have an athletic bone in my body.”
“I said tell me something surprising,” Scott teased.
“Shut it.” Isaac grinned and then frowned. “It’s never really bothered me, except that every winter since I’ve moved here I’ve wanted to go ice skating, but I’m so rubbish at it I’m sure I’d go arse over tea kettle as soon as I stepped out there.”
A slow smile spread over Scott’s face. “I think I can help you with that.” The waitress came over with the check. Isaac reached for it, but Scott’s hand was quicker. “Not on your life. I told you this was my treat.”
“Anyway as I was saying, I think I can help with the skating thing. Allison and I are supposed to go skating tonight. You can come with us and I can teach you.” It didn’t sound like the worst idea ever, though maybe not the best.
Isaac scrunched up his face. He drummed his fingers against the table, before shaking his head. “I don’t think that’s the best idea. It’s probably not polite to make a pass at someone in front of their girlfriend.”
“I know we’re going to be friends, and I would like that, but I don’t think I could help myself. It’s just not a good idea to be the third wheel on your date.”
Scott started to protest. His phone rang. He saw Allison’s name on the caller id. For some reason, he turned around as he picked it up, as if that would afford him more privacy. “Hey….Are you…? Oh…” He turned back to look at Isaac, who was sipping on the remnants of his hot chocolate. “No, it’s okay. I understand...Yeah, I’ll talk to you later.” He hung up and pursed his lips.
“Who was that?”
“That was Allison. She has this group project at school and she says she can’t make it tonight.”
Isaac finished the hot chocolate with a loud slurp. “So that means…”
“I guess that means I’m going solo tonight. Unless…”
Isaac bit back a grin. “Can’t be a third wheel if there isn’t a third person.” He stood up and smiled. “I think I’m starting to come around on the idea of the whole fate thing.”