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It's Beginning to Taste a Lot Like Christmas

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It was a slight shock to Harold to see John looking so incredibly domestic. Harold has seen John in the kitchen before- John was an exceptionally talented cook- but this was different. Harold wasn’t sure how to react to John wearing an apron, with streaks of frosting and flour across his face. The counters were crowded with bowls and pans and cooling racks. The kitchen smelled like oranges and cloves and allspice, and Harold had no idea what to make of it.

John was so invested in his work that it took him a few minutes to notice Harold standing in the kitchen doorway. “Harold,” he greeted with a smile, “You’re just in time. I just finished the first batch.”

Harold blinked. “First batch of what?” he asked, still drinking in the sight of John puttering, for lack of a better word.

Beaming, John held up a small plate of cookies. Harold couldn’t hold back a small, surprised laugh. The cookies were little gingerbread snowmen carefully decorated with gumdrops.

Mouth slightly agape, Harold limped over and picked on up. It was so delicate- the gumdrop buttons were equidistant apart, there was sparkly sprinkle snow around the edges, and John had painted a smiling face with a carrot nose on each and every one with what must have been painstaking care.

“What’s all this?”

John was already busy again whisking something else. Still, he replied, “I would hope you’d know a Christmas cookie when you saw one, Harold.”

Examining the cookie, Harold said, “I’m quite familiar with the tradition, Mr. Reese, but this seems excessive. Are we hosting a bake sale?”

John chuckled. “No, but I hope you don’t need your kitchen back anytime soon.”

“Well, you certainly don’t need my permission to use it.”

Looking at Harold from across the counter where he’d stopped to chop some walnuts, John grinned. “Good, because I didn’t ask.”

Harold took stock of all of John’s productivity. The snowmen were the only cookies, but he saw a tray of brownies, at least one pie on the windowsill, and a couple dozen cupcakes waiting to be frosted. “Who on earth is going to eat all this?” he wondered aloud.

“Well, I doubt we’ll be able to eat all of this even with Root and Shaw’s help,” John observed, “I was thinking we might make a donation to Fusco and Carter’s precinct.”

Harold nodded. “That is a good idea. But surely you’re-” He paused. Was he hallucinating or was John… humming?

After a few seconds, Harold identified the melody that was undeniably coming from John as an old-fashioned Christmas song, but then John stopped, watching Harold expectantly. “But surely what?” John prompted.

Harold cleared his throat. “Are you doing all of this simply out of the goodness of your heart?”

It wouldn’t surprise Harold very much. John was as thoughtful as he was reckless. But John shook his head.

“While they’ll probably end up with most of the product,” he teased, “I didn’t start baking with our boys in blue in mind.”

“Then what-?”

Harold let his question hang asked in the air. He watched John with a soft, curious expression.

John fiddled with the waistband of his apron. An apron , Harold thought to himself. He never thought he’d see the day…

His musings were interrupted by John clearing his throat. “I do enjoy baking,” John admitted, “but I also just… wanted to do something nice. For you, for Christmas. I didn’t know what you liked, and I wasn’t sure you’d tell me if I asked…"

They shared a quiet laugh over John’s dig at Harold’s privacy. Harold had certainly opened up more over the years, but John never quit teasing him about it.

“I just started making a bit of everything,” John continued, “and- well…” He trailed off, gesturing to the kitchen carnage.

Harold felt his heart swell in his chest. He had to fight to keep from grinning like an idiot, but he couldn’t keep his lips from quirking up as he studied John with sparkling eyes.

When John looked up, he caught Harold staring. Laughing lightly, John asked, “Why are you looking at me like that?” He pawed at his cheek. “Do I have frosting on my face?”

Harold chuckled. “Yes, but that’s not it.” He studied the cookie in his hand, crafted so carefully. “I’ve just-” he started, before getting choked up and having to start again. “I rarely get to see you so happy.”

John’s lips parted slightly. Harold took the opportunity to hobble over to him and give him a chaste peck on the cheek. “Seeing you so content is the best present I could have asked for.”

John smiled back, and he leaned down to kiss Harold’s lips. When he pulled away he asked. “Does that mean I don’t have to get you a real gift?”

“Ha ha,” Harold replied flatly, “You wish.” His eyes twinkled as he bit off the gingerbread snowman’s head. Delicious.

“I’m serious!” John exclaimed, returning to his work, “It’s hard shopping for a guy whose go-to birthday present is a penthouse apartment…”