It was Christmas Eve, decorations lined the streets, trees covered with flickering lights, little children were asleep in their beds waiting for Santa Claus, everything smelt of cinnamon and it seemed like holiday spirit was all around. The only people out were those running to do last minute shopping except for one. Jack was walking along the famous street, the cold December wind biting at his skin as he walked past the merry couples, drinking and dancing. The lights shined above his head but Jack didn’t notice, to him it could have been any other day of the year because it just didn’t feel like Christmas, not without Alex.
Jack couldn’t even remember the argument that had caused Alex to pack his bags and storm off into the night. It had seemed so important then but now it was nothing more than poisonous words that had driven the only good thing in Jack’s life away and with him it seemed all of Jack’s Christmas spirit had gone too. It was hard to get in the holiday mood when the love of your life was gone.
Jack sighed and pulled his jacket a little tighter around his shoulders, the wind was cold and there was a promise of snow. He knew Alex would be looking at the sky, from wherever he was. Alex loved the everything about the sky, he was a huge space nerd but more than that he loved snow. Jack was reminded of a Christmas Eve a few years before when he was with Alex and life seemed so much better.
It was late on Christmas Eve of 2011 and Jack found Alex sat by the window in their living room, a blanket wrapped around his shoulders and a hot mug of cocoa in his hands. He couldn’t help the smile spread across his face, Alex just looked so adorable curled up in front of the window watching the sky. He walked over to him and put his arms around his boyfriend’s shoulders. Jack had just finished wrapping Alex’s presents and had expected the boy to have fallen asleep but there he was, sat by the window like a child waiting for Santa.
“Isn’t it beautiful?” Alex asked, staring out at the white flakes falling from the sky.
Jack couldn’t help but agree but he wasn’t looking at the snow covering the street, no he was looking at the person in his arms.
“Come on,” Jack said, pulling on Alex’s wrist.
“Where are we going?” Alex asked as Jack pulled him along.
“Outside, of course.”
Alex broke into a huge smile and stood on his tip toes to kiss Jack’s cheek before rushing off to put his boots on.
They got to the door of their building, quietly tip toeing down the stairs as not to wake their neighbors at such a late hour. As the boys peered outside everything was covered in a blanket of pure white, the only light coming from a few streetlights dotted along the road.
“Wow,” Alex whispered.
Jack just took Alex’s hand and pulled them both out into the snow. The flakes were still falling, dusting their hair white and making their noses go cold. Theirs were the only footprints in snow, the only evidence that anyone was around at all.
“This is amazing,” Alex said, spinning around with tongue out trying to catch the flakes.
Jack just smiled as he watched Alex dancing around like they were the only two people in the world.
Jack wrapped his arms around Alex’s waist, lifting him up and spinning him around. Laughter filling the empty streets as they spun around until they were dizzy.
“Snow angels!” Alex cheered, laying down on the snow.
Jack just smiled before lying right next to Alex on the cold ground, ignoring the freezing feeling that seeped through his clothes. Alex was still giggling as he made his snow angel, Jack couldn’t help but beam at the sound of him so happy. Alex turned to look over at Jack, his cheeks flushed in the cold, hair wet from lying in the snow and a huge smile on his face. Jack reached out to hold his hand, his cold fingers against Alex’s gloved ones. When they stood up to see their creations, two perfect snow angels who looked like they were holding hands.
“Merry Christmas Jack.”
“Merry Christmas Alex.”
Jack wrapped his arm around Alex’s waist and kissed him with the snow still falling. It may have felt like something out of a cheesy Christmas movie but it had been perfect.
Now he walked all alone down a famous street and it didn’t feel like Christmas at all. Jack looked up at lights above his head, flicking like candles in the wind. He couldn’t get Alex out of his head and yet he still hoped the boy would come back. That somewhere in the cold with the promise of snow he’d find the answers to bring Alex back to him, to have his very own Christmas miracle.
Jack tried not to look into the shop windows as he passed, all so full of cheer and holiday spirit, like they were reminding him of his misery. Jack was so occupied staring at his feet that he walked into a young couple walking the other way, they never stopped giggling and kissing like they hadn’t even noticed Jack. He just sighed as he watched them go, he couldn’t help remembering when him and Alex were that young.
He thought back to their first Christmas as a couple, in their senior year of high school. Jack was the one that had been in love the longest, he’d been in love with Alex since their sophomore year. Finally he’d drummed up the courage to tell Alex how he felt and that’s how they ended up sitting on Alex’s parents living room floor on Christmas Eve. Again it was late, Alex’s parents long in bed with only them sitting by what remained of the fire.
“Jack?” Alex asked, looking up at his boyfriend from where he was lying with his head on Jack’s lap.
“What do you want for Christmas?”
Jack laughed, his fingers playing with Alex’s messy hair.
“Isn’t it a bit late to be asking me that? All the shops are closed.”
“No, I mean like what’s your Christmas wish,” Alex clarified.
Jack thought for a moment, his fingers brushing against Alex’s cheek. If he’d been asked the year before it would have been Alex, he was all Jack had wanted for so long but he already had him.
“I don’t have one, I already have everything I need, right here.”
Alex smiled before sitting up, crawling over to the tree. The Gaskarth family tree was always large, taller than Jack himself and covered in decorations and lights, presents piled up underneath just waiting till the morning. Alex rummaged under the tree until he came back holding a small present, slightly messily wrapped with penguin wrapping paper.
“Merry Christmas Jack.”
“But it isn’t Christmas yet,” Jack said as Alex gave him his present.
“I think it is.”
Jack looked at the clock and sure enough to said 1am, making it very early Christmas morning.
Alex was smiling, his dimples showing and Jack just wanted to kiss him. He held the small gift in his hands, he had no idea what it is. They’d never really talked about what to get for each other and yet there Jack was with the little box in his hands.
Jack smiled back and began tearing the paper to reveal what was inside. At first it looked like an album but Jack knew better, it was Enema of the State, his favourite Blink album but he already owned it. He looked up at Alex only to see him still smiling.
“Turn it over.”
Jack did and nearly had a heart attack, written across the front of the album in black letters were the words ‘To Jack, Merry Christmas from Mark Hoppus’.
“Alex.. How did you…?”
He didn’t know what to say, his hero has just wished him merry Christmas and he felt like it must be some kind of dream.
“Let’s just say I now know what it means to be a stalker,” Alex laughed.
“But it must have cost a fortune… You didn’t have to…”
“I know I didn’t but I wanted to, do you like it?”
“I love it.”
Jack put the album down and pulled Alex into his arms, burying his face into the boy’s shoulder as to wipe away his tears.
They ended up lying on the floor again, Jack’s head resting on Alex’s chest just listening to him breathe.
“I love you,” Alex whispered, his fingers tracing against Jack’s cheek.
“I love you too ‘Lex.”
It was the first time they said it, on Christmas morning in the dying light of the fire. Their first confession of those famous words like their own Christmas love story.
Ten years had passed since the first time they’d said I love you and now Jack longed to hear those words again. He wished he could scream it from the rooftops in the hope to hear it in return. Jack continued walking, not knowing where he was heading like he was following the lights hoping they’ll lead him back to where he belonged. He passed bars still open and some playing music out into the street, playing songs Jack knew but he still wasn’t in the Christmas mood. Then he heard something that made him stop, he turned to face the small restaurant that was playing the song, the song that always seemed to get played at the time of year despite having no Christmas reference. As Whitney Houston’s vocals continued to play, Jack found himself singing along.
“We both know, I’m not what you, you need and I will always love you…I will always love you.”
The words stung as he sang but he ignored the hole in his heart, he loved Alex and he would tell the world if that’s what it took.
“And I will always looovvveeee youuuuu.”
Jack sang that one line with all he had, the odd passerby staring at him but he didn’t care.
“Darling, I love you.”
The song ended and Jack was left with a few tears on his cheeks and his throat aching from the cold. He knew he’d always love Alex, he had done for years and the fact that Alex was gone wasn’t about to make those feeling go away.
With the song finished Jack continued walking, typical Christmas songs were playing again and he didn’t want to have to hear Lonely This Christmas. He was nearing the end of the road, the darkness where the lights stopped looming in front of him and he slowed down, not yet ready to face reality. As Jack wasn’t just walking Oxford Street to see the lights, no he was waiting, hoping, that he’d see him. He knew how much Alex loved Christmas decorations and it’s where Jack thought he would go on Christmas Eve so he’d gone to find him. He just needed one more chance to say ‘I love you’ if he still believed in Christmas it would be his wish.
A cold breeze set Jack shivering, he looked up expecting to see snow falling but there was nothing. He knew that wherever Alex was he’d be watching the sky and still waiting. Jack just continued moving forward, his eyes trained on the floor until something caught his attention. It was a jewelers across the street, it’s lights still on showing off the expensive pieces within. Jack crossed the road to take a closer look, not even bothering to look no one was driving so late on such an important night. In the window where lots of earrings, necklaces and other things men with plenty of money could give to their wives. The reason it had caught Jack’s attention is that he reminded him, reminded him that back it his all too empty apartment, in the draw beside his bed was a ring. He’d been planning on proposing to Alex on that very Christmas Eve but he’d never got the chance. Now staring into the window only served as a painful reminder of all he could have had. Jack pushed away the thoughts of how the night was suppose to be; of Alex coming home and finding their apartment covered in candles, their song playing on the stereo and Jack in the middle, on one knee with ten years worth of I love yous of his lips. He sniffed, putting the running of his nose down to the cold not the tears in his eyes.
Finally it came, the end of the street. The last of the Christmas lights above his head and the rest of London out in the darkness. Jack sighed and pulled his jacket a little tighter around himself, he’d come to the end and Alex wasn’t there. He’d probably never been there, it was just some fantasy Jack had made up to make Christmas just that little bit easier to deal with. He stood there staring at the end of the road for awhile, out of the corner of his eye he could see a clock reading after 1am. It was officially Christmas Day. Jack turned around, aiming to head back to his empty king sized bed and sleep the day away when something made him stop in his tracks. There’d been someone standing behind him, with hands shoved in their pockets, dark hair sticking out from a beanie and brown eyes staring.
“Merry Christmas Jack.”
Jack just stood there, fighting every impulse that just wanted to hug Alex and never let go.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry for everything, I should never have left. Do you think you can forgive me… On Christmas?”
Jack didn’t need asking twice, he ran over to Alex and pulled him into his arms. He was crying, tears running down his cheeks as he held Alex, almost like making sure the boy was real.
“How did you find me?” Jack asked, pulling back so he could look Alex in the eye.
“I knew you’d be looking for me and well, where else would I go?” Alex replied smiling.
“I can’t believe you’re here, I’d all but given up on Christmas wishes.”
“You wished for me?”
“You’re all I’ve wished for since I was fourteen.”
Then it was Alex’s turn to tear up, wiping at his eyes with gloved hands.
“I still love you, always have done and always will.”
“I still love you too.”
That’s all Jack needed to hear, putting his cold hands on Alex’s cheek and kissing him. Just as their lips touched flakes of snow started to fall from the sky. By the time Jack pulled away he was numb from the cold but he’d never felt so alive.
The boy hummed in reply, slipping his hand into Jack’s once again.
“Merry Christmas Jack.”
Jack smiled, looking over at his boyfriend back by his side as they started their walk back down Oxford Street. Jack couldn’t help looking up at the lights above his head, maybe they really did lead him back to where he belonged.