A Kiss At Christmas

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    by elsetterby

  1. The curmudgeon and the princess (Reid)

Can't wait to see you!!

The message popped up with a flurry of heart emojis, followed by a quick selfie of Layla's smiling face. She was dressed as Wonder Woman today, including a long, dark brown wig that matched Gal Gadot's hair in the movie. In a nod to the season, a sprig of holly was tucked into her crown.

Reid shook his head, smiling. That crown suits you.

This old thing? *blush*

He laughed, which earned him a disapproving look from the woman sitting next to him on the bus.

You're still not here, she texted him, after a moment.

Think we're pulling in now. He peered out the window. Then, in a little burst of panic, he sent her: I look different. Even more different than I did this summer. He tried to play it cool: Just FYI.

She sent another flurry of hearts. I know.

Ever since they'd both left their hometown for different colleges, they had never been back for breaks at the same time. But last summer, Layla had been driving down Reid's old street with a couple of her friends and had seen him in his grandparents' front yard, repairing part of their fence. She had actually pulled over and sprinted out of the car to give him a hug, enfolding him in her sweet scent and the long bell sleeves of her elf costume, while he had stood frozen with shock, his heart pounding. They had talked for a minute or two, and then she'd run off, the long curls of her blonde wig swinging along her back.

After that, they had started texting every day, as if they'd never lost touch at their separate colleges. As if their decades-long friendship could pick up where it had left off.

He had not told her directly that he was taking testosterone, but he had sent her a link to his tumblr, where he talked about what it was like to publicly transition. No pictures, because he didn't like being in front of the camera—he preferred to be behind it. Just a lot of happy, goofy gifs.

So, Layla knew. But then again, Layla had always known about him.

His bus finally screeched to a stop inside a gray concrete bus depot and the door flapped open. The driver made a garbled announcement over the staticky intercom that they had reached their final stop.

Reid pulled his duffle down from the overhead compartment and stood, shouldering the bag. Their meeting last summer had been so brief. She had seemed like the same Layla, a glittering chromatic butterfly in a drab world. All of the selfies she had sent him since were like that, too. Full of life and energy and her infectious enthusiasm for color and joy. He had wondered sometimes when they were kids if she'd lose a little of that...Layla-ness...as she grew older. It made his curmudgeonly heart warm to think that she hadn't.

"Reid!"

She was standing up on her tiptoes to see over the crowd, waving at him with both arms. She wore a long pea coat over her Wonder Woman outfit, but the hemline fluttered in the wind, revealing her knee-high boots and glimpses of her bare, slender thighs. Passers-by had left a little space around her, casting dubious looks at her crown and boots and the holly sprig in her hair. To him, she looked perfect. He slipped through the crowd and reached her at last.

2. The shadow and the light (Layla)

"!" She threw her arms around him, overjoyed to see his wonderful face. Almost as quickly, she started to draw back. Reid was reserved, and he didn't always like to be touched. But this time, his arms slid around her, and he drew her in for a hug. She luxuriated in their closeness and his cool, clean scent—the same scent he had always worn, the quintessential Scent of Reid. He felt different, which made sense, of course, since he'd blogged about having had top surgery. He was all muscles now, no softness. She stifled a wow at the last possible second and had to cough to disguise the "w—"

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