Someone tapped Barnaby’s shoulder mid-conversation, and he excused himself from talking with the sponsors and turned to see Ben standing there with a drink and a very long-suffering expression.
“You need to go put your boyfriend out of his misery,” Ben said.
Barnaby frowned. “I’m afraid I don’t understand.”
Ben nodded across the party, and Barnaby looked to see Kotetsu standing in a doorway across the party. From the three discarded drinks on a nearby table, it looked as though he’d been standing there awhile.
He’d wondered where Kotetsu had gotten off to, but he hadn’t expected him to just be standing off to the side by himself. “What’s he doing over there?”
Ben sighed heavily. “The mistletoe?”
“The—” Barnaby looked again, and this time he saw the tiny plant suspended over the doorway. He covered his eyes with his free hand. “Why?”
Ben blinked at him, looked back over to Kotetsu, and then sighed again. “People usually hang out under the mistletoe when they’re hoping to kiss someone there.”
Oh. Kotetsu was waiting for him. Barnaby’s cheeks heated. They’d only been dating a couple of months; he still hadn’t quite gotten used to things like this. “How long has he been there?”
“Long enough for the others to start placing bets,” Ben said. “He’s been trying to get your attention for awhile.”
Barnaby wasn’t sure how he’d missed that; Kotetsu wasn’t even close to subtle. Then again, Barnaby had been focused on making nice with the sponsors at the Christmas party, so maybe it wasn’t too surprising.
Ben took a sip of his drink. “Better get over there before Karina decides to try her luck.”
Barnaby narrowed his eyes and walked across the room. He didn’t see Karina nearby and he knew Kotetsu wouldn’t kiss her regardless, but still. It was the principle of the thing.
Kotetsu spotted him and his whole face lit up with a smile. The sight made Barnaby’s heart do somersaults, as it always did. He’d thought maybe that would stop now that they were dating, but no. It had actually made the somersaults bigger in most cases.
He stood under the mistletoe with Kotetsu. “Ben told me you were waiting for me.”
“I was starting to think you were avoiding me,” Kotetsu said. “Or avoiding the mistletoe.”
Barnaby glanced up at the plant dangling above their heads and then turned his attention back to Kotetsu. “I was talking to our sponsors, like you should be doing. That is what this party is about.”
“I talked to them earlier!” Kotetsu argued. “Besides, mistletoe is a Christmas tradition.”
Barnaby took a step closer to him. “Do you need an excuse to kiss me?”
“What? No!” Kotetsu blushed. “But it’s nice to have one. And…” He shrugged. “I thought you might like the excuse?”
Barnaby was not very much for public displays of affection; he wanted to do what he could to keep at least some of his private life private. But…it was Kotetsu, and if Barnaby was being completely honest with himself, he didn’t really mind people knowing how he felt about Kotetsu.
And, as Kotetsu had said, it was tradition.
Barnaby leaned in and kissed him, tasting the tang of champagne. He found Kotetsu’s hand with his free hand and took it, and Kotetsu linked their fingers and squeezed. It took his breath away, as it always did, and Barnaby sank a little more into the kiss than he’d intended to when he’d walked over.
“How was that?” he asked.
“Mm, I think we should do it again. Maybe two or three more times,” Kotetsu said. “I was waiting under that mistletoe for a long time.”
“Or,” Barnaby slid his arm around Kotetsu’s waist, “you could come with me to talk to our sponsors like you’re supposed to, and we’ll kiss under the mistletoe again before we leave.”
Kotetsu made a face that showed what he thought about that idea. “Or we can kiss again now and then go talk to the sponsors?”
“What? They wouldn’t have put the mistletoe here if they didn’t want people to kiss under it!”
Barnaby rolled his eyes. “They put it here because it’s a Christmas decoration.”
“That people kiss under.” Kotetsu pointed up. “Everybody knows that. They’ll be happy we’re using it for the intended purpose.”
“Or they’ll be upset that we’re monopolizing it,” Barnaby said dryly. “Come on, Kotetsu.”
Barnaby kissed him again, briefly this time, and pulled Kotetsu away from the mistletoe while he was distracted.
Kotetsu glared at him when he realized they’d moved. “Hey, that’s not fair.”
“It’s perfectly fair when you won’t move,” Barnaby said. “Besides, we need to be talking to our sponsors.”
“And,” Barnaby continued, ignoring the interruption, “if I kiss you again, I’m not going to want to stop. So I’d really prefer to be at home where I don’t have to.”
“Oh,” Kotetsu said. “Well, I guess I can understand that. But…” He slipped out of Barnaby’s hold and grabbed his hand, running his thumb along the outside of Barnaby’s. “We’re holding hands until it’s time to leave.”
Somersaults again. Barnaby was really never getting used to this. He kissed the side of Kotetsu’s head, partly from affection and partly to hide his own smile. “I guess I can live with that.”