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O Christmas Tree - Secret Santa for facet


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Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to my Secret Santa recipient, @facet! I really wanted to get this done by Dec 25th but ended up being super busy writing a paper for uni – apologies for the delay. I hope it’s worth the wait at least :) It was definitely fun to write!




Deck the halls with boughs of holly, fa la la la la, la la la la...”

Zach rolled over in bed and yawned. It was only two weeks into December and between his housemate Liam’s constant carol singing, fruit mince pie making and adornment of every room with tinsel and ornaments, Zach was already a little over Christmas.

Tis the season to be jolly, fa la la la la, la la la la...

Though he did have to admit, even if only privately, that Liam’s childlike enthusiasm for the holiday was somewhat endearing.

Don we now our gay apparel, fa la la, la la la, la, la, la!"

Zach hauled himself out of bed and opened his bedroom door. “Really, Liam? Can’t a man sleep in over Christmas break? It’s not even eight y-ye...yeeet...” His final word became a breathy gasp as a prickling, crawling sensation assaulted his sinuses. His nostrils flared, his eyes squeezed shut, his chest expanded - “HuhRUSHoo!”

Liam looked up with a grin from where he was decoratively arranging pine boughs on the mantelpiece. “Bless you Zach on this fine morning, fa la la la la, la la la laaaa!” He stepped back from the fireplace and admired it. “It’s not quite holly, but it will do.”

Zach sniffed and scrubbed at his large nose with his fist. “It’s far too early for you to be this cheerful.”

“We have so much to do before our dinner party tomorrow! I was just about to  drag your butt out of bed anyway, you promised you’d help me prepare. Coffee’s in the pot!”

Zach chugged down his standard two cups of coffee at the kitchen table while Liam chattered on about the tasks he had planned for the day.

“We’ll finish making the food, of course, I bought the rest of the drinks yesterday so we’re all set on that front. The music playlist needs finalising, we have to make the place cards –“

“Place cards? Liam, no one under forty uses place cards. Especially not for six guests,” Zach snorted and immediately regretted it as his nose started to run. He stood to grab a fistful of tissues from the box on the windowsill and gave his nose a lusty blow.

“That’s not true, have you seen Pinterest lately? I found this really cute idea for card holders using pine needles decorated like mini Christmas trees!  It’s our first Christmas in this place, I want everything to be festive and perfect.”

Zach rolled his eyes at his friend, though a grin spoiled the effect. “You know when I said I’d help it was only to stop you pestering me about it, right? I thought I’d mix up some potato salad, maybe hang a couple baubles. Now I’m doing kindergartner arts and crafts.” He scrubbed at his large nose furiously, though it failed to vanquish the irritation building within that made his eyes water and his nostrils flare. “Dammit, I need another good sneeze.”

“Well, you haven’t met your morning quota of three yet, I’m sure there’s another coming. Probably with a friend.” Liam left the kitchen and returned with a box of craft supplies that he began to unpack on the kitchen table. “I thought we could make everyone’s mini tree unique, so mix and match! We’ve got fake snow, sparkly pipe cleaners for tinsel, beads and fishing wire to make strings of lights, a block of Styrofoam we can cut bits off and wrap to make teeny presents for under the trees...”

“I’m torn on whether this is going to be fun or tedious.” Zach’s nose twitched and he tilted back on the hind legs of his chair, squinting up at the light and sniffling experimentally. “I think...this might be it...”

“Definitely fun!” Liam enthused. “For the cards, we have –“

“Hold on.” Zach waved a hand in Liam’s direction distractedly. “Concentrating.” His face slackened as he turned his focus to nurturing the tentative beginnings of a sneeze. Slow, deep breaths. He hitched slightly, then again, louder. “Come on...hih...I’m going to...gonna...hih...heh-heEHH...” It was there. It was coming. Right on the edge, just a bit more – fuck, he was rearing so far back his chair threatened to tip over. He blindly flailed for the edge of the table as the sneeze culminated and he sucked in a final huge gasp. “HUUURUSSSHHHOOOOO!”

Zach snapped forward, the front chair legs slammed into the ground and his palms hit the table. His heart pounded with adrenaline from the near fall and exertion from the sneeze. Blearily, he opened his eyes to see the damage from his uncovered sneeze. The box of beads was heavy enough not to tip over, thank goodness, but the pipe cleaners were scattered on the floor over spilled fake snow.

Liam stood with his mouth open in shock for a second, then doubled over with laughter. “That’s the Christmas spirit!” he gasped when he could catch his breath. “’Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!’ You can pick that lot up while I get the pine needles.”

Zach groaned. His enormous sneeze had relieved most of the itch in his nose, but his typical third morning sneeze still lurked in there somewhere. “Looks like this is definitely going to be tedious,” he sighed. He set to work, salvaged the pipe cleaners and scooped most of the fake snow back into its canister. He had just swept the last of it into a dustpan when Liam returned bearing a pine branch.

“I hope your nose is under control now,” Liam smirked. He sat at the table, cut off a suitably sized bunch of needles and pushed the branch across to Zach.

The scent of the pine needles hit Zach’s sinuses like a feather duster up each nostril. The breath he had drawn to respond to Liam caught in his throat, repurposed into the first shuddering inhale of the most intense, relentless build up of his life. Liam looked up. Zach’s jaw had fallen slack and his nostrils slowly expanded and contracted, each flare more intense than the last. His chest heaved, each desperate inhale held for a tantalisingly second before rushing out to make room for the next. There was no control here, no hope of covering or even directing the coming blast – Zach was completely helpless before the demands of his nose.

Liam lunged across the table to grab the tissues, hoping at least to mitigate some of the force, but too late.

RAAAAAASHHHOOOOOOO!” Pine needles were blown from the branch, scattering over the table, the floor, the bench – Liam could even feel some in his hair.

“HUUUUHHHH.....RUUUUSSSHHHHHHOOOOOO!” More needles flying. The tissue box was knocked back against Liam’s hand. He hastily started yanking them out. “HEEHHHH...HUUUUUHHH...HUHH-HUHHH-HRUSHHHHMMMMPPHHHH!” Liam thrust the fat wad of tissues over Zach’s nose and mouth just as he exploded. Liam following the hitching movements of Zach’s head with the protective clump as best as he could – one breath, two, three – “RRRRSSSHHHHMMPHHH!”

Zach continued to hitch, but without the note of frantic need. It gradually slowed to the point he could talk. “Liab,” he gasped hoarsely. His nose sounded completely plugged. “I have to sdeeze...it wod’t...wod’t cobe out...”

Though Liam frequently teased Zach about the generous dimensions of his nose, speculating that his frequent sneezes were a proportional increase in housekeeping requirements, it was only up close that he really appreciated just how...bulbous it was. Especially right now, reddened and flaring with irritation. The cavernous nostrils, round and quivering, gave him an idea. Liam grabbed one of the longer pine needles that had escaped being dented during Zach’s nasal assault. He hesitated briefly, but the look of desperation on Zach’s face made up his mind.

Slowly, Liam inserted the pine needle up, up, up into Zach’s right nostril, until he felt it brush some deep wall. He was rewarded with a particularly sharp gasp from Zach. Tentatively, not quite sure what he was doing, he began moving the needle back and forth, around in little circles, in and out – each movement accompanied by a corresponding hitch or twitch. The manual irritation of Zach's nasal passage slowly developed from an itch to a crawling tickle to, finally, an unstoppable sneeze. Zach's eyes fluttered shut, his nose crinkled, an irritated tear trickled down his cheek - and Liam jerked his hand back just in time to avoid most of a truly cataclysmic eruption. “HHHHRRRRRRRRUUUUUUUUUUSSHSSHHHHHHHHAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!”


*     *     *


An hour later, following showers for both, antihistamines for Zach and as much pine cleanup as possible from Liam, the two sat together under a blanket on the couch with mugs of hot chocolate and a movie on television.

“You know what?” Liam ventured, giving the exhausted Zach a wry grin. “I don’t think I care for the idea of card holders after all.”

Zach chuckled drowsily. “I don’t know, I was starting to get into the idea before you tried to put me into anaphylaxis.”

Liam elbowed him in protest. “Maybe we could make some out of candy canes or something...next year.”

“Deal. Next year.”

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