Squeezing in under the wire to bring you this little holiday story with Sam and Hector from the Chaos Magic series. (Chaos Magic, Love Runes, and Personal Demons, as well as a Sam and Hector short in Toy Boxes: Public Places) Sorry if this is rough. I just finished it tonight.
Chaos Magic is urban fantasy. Sam and Hector are pagan gods, but that doesn't seem to make life any easier for them.
This is just a sweet (except where Sam gets a little carried away with his story) little tale of Hector and Sam at the Dewey farm for Christmas. Sam's sister Linda talks Hector into playing Santa, and Sam plays a Christmas angel for one of his nieces.
"Ho, ho ho!"
My sister Linda and I set down our coffee mugs on the big kitchen table in my parent's farmhouse at the same time and turned to the foyer. I must have been hearing things, because I could have sworn that was my big, badass Master Hector laughing like Santa Claus.
"Ho, ho, ho!"
I peaked around the corner, and there, between the parlor and the kitchen, stood Hector in a Santa suit. Swear to the Gods. White fluffy beard, a big sack (not that kind, get your mind out of my gutter) and those shiny knee-high black leather boots he wears when he dresses up like a cop and we play… Never mind. This is a Christmas story, and I'm going to keep it as wholesome as I possibly can.
I'll have to say, Hector looked pretty hot in that Santa suit. Oops. Mind, back on track. Wholesome, Sam. You're telling a wholesome story.
Anyway, while Linda, Mom, Pop, Linda's husband Doug, and I, stood gaping at Papi Christmas, my nieces and nephews and assorted second cousins who stayed over for our Solstice celebration stampeded down the stairs. All except Cora, of course, who probably thought that she was too cool for that kind of thing. She slinked halfway down the staircase then leaned against the banister and folded her arms across her chest. One sorrowful eye showed through the jet black bangs that hung in her face.
Hector had to shout to be heard over the kids who had gone into hyperactive overdrive. I swear the little rats were bouncing off the walls already. That might have been because I kept slipping them candy all day, but I'm their uncle, and that's my job to spoil them, get them all worked up, and then take off before they puke.
I had no idea that Hector was going to play Santa. From the smirk on Linda's face, she was the one who talked him into it. Sometimes I wondered if I should be worried that my bratty older sister and my Master got along so well, and that they kept secrets from me.
The kids had made such a racket that my cousins appeared one by one on the stairs, peering down from the upstairs landing, and in the hallway until the foyer was so packed that no one could move.
"Maybe you should have a seat, Santa." Mom took Hector's arm and led him into the parlor. Mom looks like a mom should, very huggable and loving. She's also a wiccan High Priestess and a witch like Linda and me. I don't know if it's priestess power, witch power, or mom juju, but she can change from the sweetest person on earth into a drill sergeant in seconds flat. My sister, Linda, is just like her, except for the nice part. (Linda, if you read this, I'm kidding. Sort of.)
The kids followed Hector like he was the Pied Piper with the adults straggling in after them. Mom had him sit in Pop's recliner next to the Christmas tree. Pop already had his camera set up on a tripod facing the chair, so I guess he was in on the secret too.
Between the fire crackling in the fireplace, the scent of Christmas dinner lingering in the air, and the tree, the parlor smelled like Christmas should. I was so glad that Hector suggested that we spend the holidays at my parent's farm in southeastern Oklahoma, even if it meant sleeping on those lumpy beds in the converted sewing room on the third floor of the farmhouse. He didn't grow up around a big family, so sometimes the Dewey Clan could overwhelm him, but he never complained about spending time with them. I was one lucky boy.
Cora slid into the parlor behind me, still hugging herself so tightly that I wondered if she was afraid that she'd fly apart if she let go. I used to feel like that all the time. I put my hand out but didn't look at her. After a while, she took it. Poor kid. I could almost feel the misery rolling off her.
Hector stared at the kids. They stared back.
"Who wants to talk to Santa first?" Pop asked. Pop is tall and lanky like me, although I have my mother's deep blue eyes. If Pop ever unbraided his hippy hair, it would probably reach his waist.
Suddenly, all the kids were shy.
"Davey?" Pop asked.
Little cousin Davey - four and a half if I remember correctly - took one look at Papi Claus and just about peed his pants.
Did I mention that my Master is big and badass? Imagine Santa Claus as a Mexican muscle bear a little over six feet tall. A hot, sexy, Mexican muscle bear with a butt like…
Where was I?
Linda pushed through the kids. "Me first! Me first!" She plopped into Hector's lap. Then she wriggled a little. What a slut! (I know - I have no room to talk.) She whispered into Hector's ear while grinning and winking at her husband. Doug - who isn't a Dewey - blushed bright red. After she was done, Hector handed her a candy cane and a present from his red velvet sack.
That was enough to get break the ice. The kids mobbed Hector. Mom and my cousins got them into a line. Hector looked over their heads at me and nodded toward Cora. He saw how unhappy she was too.
I kept a firm grip on her hand and led her back to the foyer. "Let's go outside."
She pulled back.
"Unless you want to sit on Santa's lap?"
She sneered a little but let me take her outside.
I settled on the top step. She leaned against the porch railing and hid behind her hair.
"I don’t get to see stars much in Los Angeles. Too much light pollution," I said as I stared up at the night sky.
After a long silence, she said, "I got accepted to State."
She didn't sound too happy about it.
"Wow." I kept stargazing. She didn't say anything, so I finally said, "Good school. Congratulations."
As if a Dewey would go anywhere but Oklahoma State.
It was chillier outside than I expected. I should have worn a coat, but if I went inside to grab mine, I'd probably lose my chance to talk to her alone. I shoved my hands into my pockets.
Cora sniffled. "Daddy doesn't want anyone to know, but the paper mill is closing at the end of the year."
I nodded. "This economy is rough on everyone."
"I guess I can ask for delayed entry and try to get a job to help out."
From the sound of her voice, she was about two seconds from tears.
I leaned back on my elbows while I thought. The paper mill was the only industry in our little hometown. If her father, Doug, lost his job, it was going to be hard to find work. It as sweet of Cora to think of her family first, but in the long run, a college degree would help everyone in the family more than any job she could get around here.
She looked up at me. I could see her desperate hope for some kind of Christmas miracle. Handing her some candy wasn't going to be enough to fix this.
"Or you could go to college, work your ass off to get your degree, get a good job, and help out your folks then. But--" I held up my hand to stop her from interrupting. "That's four years away, and your folks need help now."
Cora sank down on the step next to me. "This sucks." She wiped a tear from her eye.
"Grandma and Grandpa are getting too old to run this farm by themselves. They've always hoped that your mom and dad would take over. I guess that's what's going to happen, even though it's sooner than your parents wanted to move back here. So they'll be all right."
"I guess so."
"But they won't have any money to pay for your college."
She shook her head.
The door opened behind us. Hector, still dressed in his Santa suit, stepped out onto the front porch. He dropped my coat on my head.
"You forgot something, as usual, boy." He muttered a few things I didn't quite catch, although I heard something about forgetting my head if it wasn't screwed on.
Pulling on my coat, I smiled up at him. "Thanks, Papi."
I turned back to Cora. "I guess it's a good thing that you've got an uncle who thinks you belong in school. Get whatever scholarships you can, and I'll make up the rest."
Cora glared at me. Her jaw set in a hard line. "I couldn't."
"You Deweys are all too stubborn for your own good," Hector said. He sat down between us. "Now you listen to me, Cora Jean. You're going to school. Let Sam and me worry about the money. End of discussion."
I don't know if it was relief or happiness or Papi Claus using his Master voice on her, but she laughed! I would have been on my knees begging his forgiveness. Then she hugged him. "Thanks, Uncle Hector." She let go of him and leaned forward to peer around him. "And you too, Uncle Sammy." She wiped away the tears trickling down her cheeks.
Hector shivered. "It's freezing out here. Get inside," he grumbled.
Cora and I both jumped to our feet. No one argued with Hector when he used that tone of voice.
She went inside, but he grabbed my hand.
"Aren't you going to sit on Santa's lap?" he asked.
I bowed my head and smiled as I shook my head.
"I'll give you candy."
Hector pulled on my hand until I either had to sit on his lap or fall over. He wrapped an arm around my waist. "Have you been a good little boy this year?"
Even though we were alone, I couldn't bring myself to say what I was thinking. I blushed though.
"Say it." Under his Santa wig and beard, his smile made his eyes crinkle up.
"I was a bad boy," I whispered.
Hector shook his head sadly. "It sounds as if Santa needs to put you over his lap and give you a good, hard spanking before bedtime."
Oops! I was going to make this a clean, wholesome story. And it sort of is. Hector and I were Cora's Christmas angels. That's sweet, right? As for what happened after Santa dragged me out to the woodshed (yes, there's an actual woodshed on my parent's farm), let's just say that before he was through with me, I promised to be a very, very, very good boy next year.
But I didn't mean a word of it.