"You really...." It was on the tip of Joey's tongue, but he didn't say it to Becca. He held on to the stirring wheel, knuckles going white. "messed up my Christmas."
He hated that he'd let Xander down, because he certainly didn't want to be here with her. No, he didn't really want to care and yet he knew Xander would want him to care. At least one last time.
Something was going down. A drug deal. He advised her not to tell him about it. As it was, it was in the wee hours of the morning, snow fighting the windshield and a cold ride to Sioux City. His heater was barely running.
Becca was crying off and on. She'd start in about how she'd never met anyone quite like him. A whimper would set in.
She'd spent six hours with strangers and two men with loaded guns. Finally the police broke it up, and she narrowly escaped. It was not something on the news.
Sure his heart tensed for her, but it was more out of anger, than anything else. He hoped his own little sister had more sense than Becca did.
Joey and Becca were on their way to her grandmother's house. And he drove in silence, trying to see the night through.
Finally, he found the house. Not a light was on.
He didn't ask if her grandmother knew she was coming.
"This is the last time I'm doing this. Don't ask me again." He said ever so cold. When she reached to hug him, he'd have none of it.
"Just get out of my life!" This time he really meant it. Yes, he always threw a tantrum when he broke up. But now he was all nervous, as if he might be next on someone's list. And he knew nothing. He'd done nothing.
Even when he was in the car, alone, he passed by all night places with the thought, someone might rob the place or a shoot out of some kind. J felt jittery.
He thought of Xander, and he felt his heart beat grow stronger. He could drive back tonight. He was wide awake.
Finally, he stopped at an all night Truck Stop for gas. He called Xander. Of course Xander didn't pick up.
"Listen, I'm on my way home. I still want to spend Christmas you." He knew it sound so careless, but he left the message, anyway.
It was then he realized he hadn't even bought Xander a Christmas present.
There were lots of T-shirts with holy scriptures and red neck themes, even a cap with a cross on it (possibly Madonna inspired or just biker chic). He grabbed a cap, thinking of Xander, wearing it. He laughed softly. Only Xander could carry that off in style.
J grabbed another. Well, he might have to wear one too, if he got Xander to wear one. He finally came upon something with a bit of teenage angst. Maybe Xander would find it funny. But did he really want just 'funny'....with Xander?
There were some cheap rings with sculls. Still the price was close to 30 bucks. And then he came across a ring that made him think of Xander. It was simple, and yet beautiful. Just his luck it wouldn't fit, but Joey bought it, because he wanted it for Xander.
Xander intended to take J's message with a grain of salt. Of course, Joey wouldn't tell him what was really going on with Becca.
Still, he must have listened to the message ten times.
Xander really did try to sleep. He'd promised his half-brother he'd be over by ten on Christmas morning. But it had been such a restless night, thinking of Joey, wondering if he was really OK. He tried to watch TV. He couldn't. He cleaned the kitchen and then the bathroom. Even vacuumed the carpet and under his bed.
Honestly, he was ready for bed and it was already seven in the morning. It was true, he really didn't want to go to Nessa's. But she'd been kind to him. She'd helped him get his own place and really was more family to him than his distant father.
It woke him when he heard someone banging at the front door. He wanted to ignore it, but he finally checked through the peep hole..it was J.
"Its freezing out here, man." Joey informed him as he jolted in.
"Is it?" Xander really hadn't thought much about it.
"Yeah." He was acting as if he were freezing, even if he was in a full parka. Of course, he shed it on the floor and was standing there in a white Tee half tucked into his skinny black jeans. Xander looked down at his beaten Converses. They did look really bad. "You, didn't celebrate without me, did you?"
"No, I haven't done a thing." Xander shrugged.
"You got the eggnog, don't you?" Joey asked.
Xander nodded. He went to get it while Joey unloaded a few presents in a brown paper bag.
Before, Xander knew it Joey put the cap on his head. He straightened it just right. Then proceeded to put on an identical one.
"You know, you really are prettier than me." Joey told him. "If anyone can pull this hat off..its you."
Xander smiled, shook his head, no. Xander told him he looked really cool.
Joey only laughed. He showed him the black Tees. Xander was certain, those were meant for teenage girls. After all, there was some boy band on them.
"Nifty, huh?" Joey asked. "We should wear them to your step-mom's."
"OK." Xander couldn't help to laugh.
"And..and this." He got out the ring from his front pocket.
"What?" Xander winced. He was thinking about the shoes in his closet he had never worn. They'd probably fit Joey. They were black Converses. Something, maybe a rocker would wear.
Joey slipped it on Xander's wedding ring finger. "Its a promise..I won't leave you, again."
Xander felt himself shake inside. He was filled with laughter.
All this time, he thought Joey only wanted egg nog for Christmas.