GENRE: Gay Romance
LENGTH: 17,079 words
Trey hates Christmas with a passion. Despite the fact he needs to deal with it because he owns a costume shop, it is an anathema to him because he broke up with his lover on Christmas Day three years ago.
Marty is a bartender at the local bar Trey goes to sometimes to unwind after a hectic day. He's more than a bit interested in Trey, but doesn't know how to let him know, especially since he'd never told Trey he's gay, too.
When Trey tells Marty he's suddenly shorthanded, with a week to go until Christmas, Marty jumps on the chance to get to know him better by volunteering to assist at the shop.
Can Marty help Trey overcome his Christmas phobia? More to the point, can Trey accept that Marty is interested in him not only as a friend, but on a more personal level?
Several minutes later, Trey was answering Marty's question. "I don't need a house. I'm hardly ever home. I run the shop during the day, and then spend a lot of my evenings there, making more costumes. By the time I get home I barely have the energy to shower before I fall into bed."
"You've been here the last few nights," Marty pointed out.
"Because I need to get away from red velvet, white fake fur, and green and red elf costumes before I put a torch to them."
Marty chuckled. "That bad, huh?"
"Yeah, it is. Whoever invented Christmas ..." Trey scowled as he took a deep drink of his beer.
"Aren't the other holidays just as bad?"
"Well, I'm not a big fan of bunny suits, but other than that ..." Trey grinned. "I love Halloween. It's exhausting but exciting, and I hire enough temps to keep from going insane."
"It's too late to find another one for the next few days?"
"I'm afraid so. It does take at least some training so they know the difference between, say, Victorian and Biblical. Okay, that's a bit extreme but you get the picture."
Marty nodded as he began wiping down the bar. "I was thinking, but I guess not."
"Umm?" Trey cocked his head in question.
"I'm off during the day, well until six, which means I'd have to leave at five."
Trey's eyes widened in surprise. "Are you volunteering to help out?"
Marty shrugged. "I could do crowd control, sort of. Keep people entertained until it's their turn, if that's how it works. I wouldn't be any good at pointing them in the right direction, although I do know what Santa's look like." He mentally crossed his fingers that Trey would accept his offer. It might give him a chance to get to know him better. Something that was hard to do when the only time they saw each other they were separated by two feet of oak bar top.
"All the Santas are rented, thank God." Trey pensively tapped a finger on his book. "If you're serious, you're on. It doesn't pay a fortune, but if you want to wear a costume here on Christmas Eve, you can borrow one."
"I wasn't thinking about the money, though I won't turn it down. I figured, you're a friend, you need help, and I'm willing to give it."
"You have no idea how much I appreciate that. We open at ten. If you show up at nine I can give you the cook's tour."
"You have food, too?" Marty wisecracked in an attempt to cover his elation.
"No, smartass. I think a café attached to the shop would be more than I could handle."
"Probably, at least right now. Okay, I'll be there at nine on the dot. I do need the address."
Trey wrote it down on a napkin when Marty handed him a pen.
"I used to live close to there. Why didn't I ever see it?"
"Now that, I couldn't answer," Trey replied. "Maybe because you never needed a costume?"
"There is that."
"I better get out of here," Trey said, sliding off the barstool. "Be on time, or I'll dock your pay," he teased.
"Oh, no!" Marty clasped his chest in horror. "Please, Mr. Scrooge, not that."
Trey laughed. "First I'm the Grinch, now I'm Scrooge? Is that a step up, or down?"
"Sideways?" Marty winked, and then watched Trey until he had left the bar. Don't get my hopes up, he cautioned himself. He might never see me as anything more that his local bartender and a sort of friend, especially since he has no clue I'm gay, too. How do I rectify that without sounding like I'm coming on to him? With any sort of luck, working there will give me a chance to figure it out.