Jamie followed the strong smell of gingerbread along the upstairs hallway, down the circular stairs, and across the first floor towards the kitchen. When he was in sight of the kitchen door, he saw a familiar blond ducking in and closing the door behind. The brief glimpse of the kitchen had showed Jamie’s boyfriend squatting with pot holders in front of the open oven. But when Jamie got there, he was surprised to find the door to the kitchen not only strangely closed but locked.

As he stood there, wondering if he should knock, Auntie Al came up behind him, arms weighted down by a stack of wreaths. Jamie turned, tilting his head questioningly towards the door.

Auntie Al smiled. “This happens every year. The holidays always remind Sweetie of his family.”

“His family?” Jamie repeated. “He never talks about his real family. I don’t know anything about them.”

“Then you know nearly as much as I do. But when he gets in this mood, he likes to be left alone so he can think about them.”

Auntie Al’s explanations were only making Jamie more confused. “Alone? But Nik’s in there.”

Nodding, “That’s because Nik knew them.”

It took a few moments for it all to sink in. And, when it did, he became painfully aware of the hurt. Maybe Sweetie still wasn’t used to having a live-in boyfriend. Maybe Sweetie thought there wasn’t room for more than one fucked up past in their relationship. Maybe Sweetie was only able to open up to Nik. It wasn’t as though Jamie hadn’t heard all the rumors about the two of them.

Auntie Al freed a hand from the wreaths and patted Jamie on the back with it. Then, in the same movement, he nudged the man away from the kitchen and towards the entertainment room. “You never struck me as the jealous type, Jamie Decon.”

“I’m not.” Though Jamie did glance back over his shoulder at the closed kitchen door.

“Then let them alone so they can reminisce. It only ever lasts as long as it takes to bake a few batches of gingerbread cookies. And in the meantime…” They entered the entertainment room, where there were boxes upon boxes labeled CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS. Several strings of lights already sat on the couch in tangled heaps. And the house’s fake tree stood in pieces in the corner of the room beside the television unit. “You can help me sort through all of this.” Auntie Al gave him an encouraging smile and the light bulb tester. “If you think you’re brave enough, that is.”

“Hey, I’m a hockey player. I’m not afraid of anything!” His bravado propelled him towards the impossible untangling job. But when Sweetie showed up eighteen minutes later with a tray of gingerbread cookies, Jamie looked into his boyfriend’s bloodshot eyes and took a cookie with a hand that trembled slightly.