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This Christmas
Chapter Fourteen


"Ooh! J, check it out! Is that not the prettiest sarong you've ever seen?"


She smacked me. Playfully, yes, but aren't we supposed to be sweet to each other now that we've kinda consummated the relationship? Multiple times too.

God, I love Taylor. I loved her prior to making love to her, but dating her is WAY too much fun.

"Come on, man! It's beautiful. It looks like the ocean, for God's sake."

"Yeah, but you're supposed to be minimally clothed on the beach. Besides, Tails, you've got gorgeous legs. What's the point of covering them up? It's just one more piece of clothing for me to take off of you."

She rolled her eyes, but she was smiling. "You're such a pervert."

"But you love me anyway."

She sighed heavily. "One of these days, I'm going to figure out a retort to that."

"But not today, right?"

She chuckled. "No, AJ, not today."

We started to move past the stall, but I stopped her. "Look, Tay, if you really like the sarong, you should get it."

She grabbed my arm and steered me towards the next booth in the street market. "Not today."

"But you said it was beautiful..."

"It's also freaking expensive..."

I frowned. Deeply. Money is always an issue with Taylor. I mean, I understand the whole struggling college student concept and all, but sometimes I wish she'd let me help her out. I've spent my whole life milking money from teenagers, dammit. I've got more money than I know what to do with.

"So let me pay for it."

It's downright amazing how a smile can become a glare that quickly. "Nick moment."

"Shut up. I'm serious. I love you, Taylor. Would it kill you to let me show it every now and then?"

She groaned. "Monetarily? Yes. I know how to fend for myself."

"I recognize that, and I admire it a lot. I just want to know that I can get my girlfriend presents when I feel like it."

Girlfriend. It's kind of pathetic how much I enjoy saying that word. Especially in reference to Taylor.

God, she's turned me into a Hallmark card already, and we've only been dating a few days...

"You can get me little, inexpensive gifts. Not gifts that count for half of a hundred bucks."

Back to the original whine. "But you said it was beautiful..."

She rolled her eyes. Again. "And this is where you tell me that it's not half as beautiful as I am and let it go."

I sighed heavily, knowing that this was an argument that I wasn't going to win. If there's one thing that Taylor values, it's her ability to pay her own way. She works damn hard to do it.

"It is, you know."

She frowned, already scanning the contents of the next stand. "Beautiful?"

"Yeah. But it really isn't half as beautiful as you."

Taylor looked up with a smirk. "AJ?"


"That was a line."

Women. You can't win, I tell you. "It was not!"

"It was SO a line."

I folded my arms petulantly. "Was not."

"Was too."

Okay, now she's just mocking me.

"Shut up."

She laughed. "You know, you seem to be saying that a lot lately..."

"Because you SHOULD. I'm your boyfriend, dammit."

She arched an eyebrow in amusement. "Your point?"

"You shouldn't be making fun of me! You're supposed to defend me!"

She shook her head and stifled a smile. "Oh, Age..."


"I love you, babe, but it doesn't mean that I'm going to stop teasing you."


"Not even a little bit?"

She gave me a pointed look. "Think about it, AJ. Who are you talking to?"

And, at long last, it was my turn to roll my eyes as I steered her to the next booth. "Fine. But don't expect to dish it out if you can't take it."

"Bring it on, babe," she shot back with a grin. It was kinda cute, actually. So I pinched her butt.

"Hey! That's attached!"

"And damn if I'm not glad that it is..."

All semblance of a retort vanished as she squealed in girlish delight. "AJ! Look! This would be perfect for you!"

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why I take Taylor shopping. Not only do I love clothes, but she gets as giddy as a little girl over stupid shit like a tie. All for me.

It sounds silly, but I've never had a girl who enjoyed shopping for me before. It's cute.

"Tay...you're squealing..."

Her eyes lit up as she dragged it over to me. "Stand still for a second." She pulled it around my neck, dropping a kiss on my cheek as she did so, and grinned broadly when she saw the effect. "I was right. You look sexy as hell in this thing."

Now, I pretend to be embarrassed. "Taylor...come on, chica. When do I ever wear ties?"

"Never. But that's not the point. You look positively delicious all dressed up. You may not wear ties very often, but you should."

Well, shit...

"Especially this one."

I glanced down at the pattern, expecting a horrible, girly combination of bright colors and diamonds. I should've known better.

The tie was a sexy, subdued yellow-gold with the illusion of saxophone keys on it. Truth be told, it actually looked really cool.

"Hey! I like it!"

She grinned even more brightly, if that was possible. "Told ya. With the right suit and those yellow-tinted glasses of yours? Good God..."

And the lady turns into a pool of sexual tension. Yeah, we're definitely getting the tie.

She flipped it over and her eyebrows rose in pleasant surprise. "Cool. It's not as bad as I thought it was going to be."

"Not that it matters," I laughed. "Remember, I'm the rich one here."

"But I'm getting it," she replied with a sweet little smile. "Stay here."

Wait, rewind...

"You're getting it? Taylor, come back here. Weren't you the one just talking about money crunching?"

"It's nothing," she returned over her shoulder. "Besides, this trip was your gift. I owe you."

Groan. I'm beginning to sense another defeat in the near future.

"You owe me nothing. You're the one who gave up Christmas with your grandparents to jet to the beach with me."

"Oh, and what a huge sacrifice that was," she muttered sarcastically. "I'm getting the tie. No arguments."

"No need," I fired back. "Because I'm paying you back."

"Nonsense!" she continued cheerfully as she shelled out a few bucks for the booth's owner. As soon as she'd gotten change, she whirled back around and handed me the bag with a smile.

I gave her a scolding look. "I can't believe you did this."

She smiled, obviously pleased with herself. "Don't pout. Don't argue. Just smile and say 'thank you, Taylor'."

I sighed heavily. Arguing with Taylor when she gets like this is pretty much impossible. It's right up there with getting Brian to shut-up about Leighanne.

"Thank you, Taylor."

She hugged me happily. "You're welcome. Now, let's see what else they've got in this place."

And we did. She didn't buy me any more presents though. At least none that I knew about. She did, however, try on a bunch of goofy outfits to make me laugh. She also conned me into buying the world's most ridiculous hat and sunglasses with her at the last shop.

"Oh, come on. You're always whining about a disguise."

I stared doubtfully at what could only be described as a monstrosity. The hat was beret-style, yes, but it looked like at least three animals in drag had been murdered for its creation.

"It's bright pink. This isn't a disguise, this is a target."

Taylor winked at me from under her two-foot-tall jester's hat. It even had bells. God help us all.

"It's hilarious! Besides, it's less than ten bucks. With the neon green leopard-print sunglasses, it'll be perfect."


She grinned. "Fabulous. We'll go back to the room and pretend to be snobby movie stars sitting in a hotel on Sunset Boulevard."

I had to laugh. "Maybe gay snobby movie stars..."

Her eyes lit up. "Yes! You can be that director from The Producers!"

I winced at the thought of the diamond-encrusted dress worn by the same character. "Tay, that's not gay. That's flaming."

She chuckled. "No more flaming that the pink fur hat you're sporting, Mr. Man. Come on, it'll be fun."

I picked up the sunglasses and tossed them on for her amusement. "I suppose so. But only for tea. I've got an appointment with my manicurist then," I informed her politely, lisp and all. She clapped with glee.

"Brilliant! I love it! Come on, Age...now you've got to get it."

I squinted at her. "Why me, Tails? Nick's the fashion criminal. Have you forgotten about the fugly shirts?"

She rolled her eyes. "As though anyone could forget about the fugly shirts."

"My point exactly."

She shrugged. "So give the hat to him when you get home."

"He'd kick my ass."

She winked at me. "I'd kiss it and make it better."

Well, in THAT case...



My girlfriend, the cheerleader. "You sure you don't want a pleated skirt to go with that spirit?"

She took her hat off and swatted me with it. It jingled.

"You know you love this. Hell, you're the one who's always talking about the value of taking time to be retarded."

This is true. And so I caved and laughed. "You're right. You think Kevin would flip if we got off the plane like this?"

Her eyes brightened. "Oh, HELL yes! AJ, you're a genius!"

And so it was settled. We left the market that day with a tie for me that was "sexy as hell", a cute little sand-in-a-bottle critter that was "freaking adorable" for Taylor (despite her protests of "AJ, you fuck, I TOLD you not to get me anything"), two hats that were "ugly as sin" and two pairs of sunglasses that "screamed Lil' Kim".

I'd say it was a pretty successful shopping trip.