Hazel! Can I submit ““i got you for secret santa so i got you this really expensive but sentimental gift that you’ve always wanted, hoping you’ll never find out it’s from me - and that i’ve been in love with you 1234567 years” for lashton??
as you wish my dear
Ficmas Day 2
Rating: teen and up
Read on AO3
Ashton knew he was screwed the moment he picked Luke’s name out of the hat for Secret Santa, but it doesn’t fully hit him until the night before the last day of school before break. They’re going to exchange gifts once all of the students leave at the end of the day, and Ashton has to admit that he went a little overboard.
He’s supposed to wrap and bring one gift. He has six.
“Hey, Calum,” he says once the other person picks up the phone. “So. I’m in a bit of a pickle.”
“Why?” Calum asks, voice tinny and almost overpowered by Michael’s very loud singing in the background. He gasps. “Ash, tell me you didn’t leave Luke’s present until right now. There’s no way I can help you with less than 24 hours to go.”
“How do you know I have Luke?” Ashton frowns. “Have you been snooping?”
“No, but I saw your face when you drew the name.”
Ashton sighs. “Fuck, do you think he knows?”
“Well, he’d have to know that you’ve been in love with him since he started at the school, and we both know Luke is not self-aware enough for that. You can’t drop hints with him, because he won’t pick them up. Remember when we all went to eat and the waitress was tripping over herself to flirt with him? He didn’t even notice.”
Ashton remembers that night well. It hadn’t been the first time a stranger tried to chat up Luke, and just like every instance before Ashton had to tamp down his jealousy. Luke is an attractive and appealing guy. He can’t fault other people for noticing that too and shooting their shot.
“That doesn’t help my crisis.”
Ashton glances at the presents sitting on his floor with wrapping paper next to them.
“Can you come over?” he asks.
“You didn’t get him another dog, did you?” Calum asks dubiously.
“Of course not,” Ashton says. “I’m not an idiot Calum. Dogs aren’t surprise presents. I just… still may have gone a bit overboard on this one.”
“I have six presents and I need you to help me choose.”
“I’ll be there in five minutes, and I’m bringing Michael.” He hangs up before Ashton can protest.
Great. Now instead of being subject to Calum’s quiet judgement, he’s going to have to deal with Michael laughing at him, too.
They find him sitting on the floor of his living room, wrapping paper tube in hand but no closer to figuring out what he’s doing.
“Hey,” Calum says, sitting down next to him. Ashton grunts. “Walk me through the presents. Let’s see what we’re dealing with here.”
Michael flops down on the couch behind them.
“Well, I got him a cookbook, because I saw it at the store and know he wants to start cooking for himself more, plus it says they’re easy. But cookbooks are so bleh, so I made a donation to the shelter he got Petunia from in his name, but I don’t want to show up and have him be the only person who doesn’t get to take something home with him at the end of the night, so then I started thinking about how he’s always late so I got him this personalized watch with his name and an engraving on the back, but I don’t want him to take it as something passive aggressive so I got him a framed artistic map of his hometown since I know he misses it, but then I thought that’s lame because he can get a map anywhere, so I called up his mom and there are these rings that you can get thumbprints engraved on so I worked with her and got one of those with her fingerprint because I know he misses her like crazy, but that’s way too much and I wasn’t sure if it would arrive on time so I got one of those books of affirmations and personalized a few for days when he feels bad.”
Calum gapes at him. Michael pats him once on the head.
“I think you should just fuck him for Christmas.”
Ashton groans and buries his head in his hands.
“Shut up, Michael. No one asked you.”
“I’m just saying!”
“Ashton,” Calum says slowly. “We are teachers at a public school. There was a $20 cap on the presents. How much did you spend?”
“Um,” he says. “If the cookbook was paperback it might have been less than $20.”
“Well,” Calum sighs, “at least you aren’t the economics teacher.”
“If you fuck him, it would be free.”
“Shut up, Michael!”
“Babe, stop antagonizing him.”
“But I’m right!”
Calum gives Michael a look that makes him sulk off to the kitchen, probably to eat all of Ashton’s ice cream.
“Okay,” Calum says. “You can’t give him all of that in front of everyone. He’ll definitely know you’re in love with him, and it’s not fair to everyone else getting smaller $20 gifts. Wrap the cookbook and give him the rest later.”
“Luke deserves better than just a cookbook, though. He’s…”
Ashton has known Luke for three years and is still no closer to figuring out how to describe him. He’s an English teacher, yet all words fail when he thinks about the math teacher who’s classroom sits down the hall. It makes him want to read more Shakespeare or Browning or EE Cummings to see if someone else can say it better than him.
Luke is a breath of fresh air when he’s been underground too long. He’s flowers in bloom, meteors visible from Earth, and rain when the sun is still shining. He’s incredibly grumpy in the mornings when he comes in to work, but always gives Ashton a smile. He gives his students pop quizzes but doesn’t count them towards their grades, only uses them to see what concepts need clarifying. He has his students complete logic puzzles for extra credit and brings snacks on Fridays. He has stupid rhymes and songs to help people remember formulas and they actually work. Ashton had never seen a group of students truly excited about math until Luke joined their staff.
“He deserves better than a stupid cookbook for his present.”
“Meet him later to give him the rest,” Calum says. “Unless you want everyone else on staff to know you’re hopelessly in love with him, too?”
“You don’t,” Michael calls from the kitchen. “If you think I’m bad, you have no idea what Sierra is capable of. When she found out I like Calum, it was brutal. Hey, do you have any chocolate sauce?”
“You were no help tonight. You don’t deserve chocolate sauce,” he calls back. Michael appears in the doorway with a bowl and spoon, distressed.
“I said you should fuck him. If you need different advice, then do what Calum says. He’s smart most of the time.”
“Aw, thanks,” Calum says.
“Most of the time,” Michael emphasizes, brandishing his spoon. “You’re still stupid for liking the lesser science.”
“Please don’t start that again,” Ashton says. “If you two start arguing about chemistry and physics I’m kicking you out. I know it’s foreplay for you, and that makes it weird.”
“Well, Michael and I do have a lot of chemistry together.”
“Nice,” Michael says. “We should use my lever to shift your center of mass.”
“I hate you both so much,” Ashton groans.
“You’d hate us less if you had a boyfriend of your own,” Michael says over his shoulder, already heading back to the kitchen.
“That’s not the point,” Ashton says. “I’m not trying to get a boyfriend right now. I just… I don’t know. I want him to have nice things.”
Calum clasps his shoulder, giving him a small shake.
“You’re a nice thing, too.”
Ashton buries his head in his hands again.
“Hey. He’ll love his cookbook, and if you give him the rest he’ll absolutely love that, too.”
Something crashes in the kitchen.
“I’m going to go check on him,” Calum says. “Give Luke the cookbook. Ask him to meet you later so you can give him the other presents. I’ll be right back to help wrap them.”
Ashton nods miserably and unrolls the wrapping paper.
Ashton wakes up the next day with a headache already pressing against his skull. Calum and Michael had stayed late the night before, helping wrap the presents and then poking at him until he agreed to play a few rounds of MarioKart with them. Halfway through the first race he remembered that he still had papers to grade that he promised the students would be done before break, so he moved his grading to the living room and listened to Michael and Calum trash talk each other and the cheesy music of each course. Nothing managed to fully distract him from the presents sitting in the corner, though, and even when he eventually went to bed he spent most of the night tossing and turning.
The kids are always squirly the day before a break, but the lack of sleep only makes his patience shorter. The end of each class period brings a sigh of relief for everyone, and he relishes in the few minutes he gets where he can relax instead of teach as long as he doesn’t dwell on the impending gift exchange.
Not even seeing Luke this morning and having lunch with him had managed to ease some of the tension pressing against the base of his skull. He can’t fully enjoy his company when he’s the source of his problem.
When the final bell rings, Ashton wishes he could rush out of the building with the students, but instead he puts his classroom back to rights, monitors the hall for a few minutes, then grabs his present and heads to the staff lounge.
“Hey,” Michael says, sliding up to him after he deposits his present on the middle table. “How’s it going?”
“I’m shitting bricks,” Ashton says. “And I slept like shit because you and Calum didn’t get out of my house until midnight.”
“Relax, dude. It’s Luke. What’s the worst that could happen?”
Ashton doesn’t say he could hate my present and then hate me or he might figure out that I’m hopelessly in love with him. He shrugs. Michael snorts, then promptly forgets about Ashton as soon as Calum walks in the door. Luke walks in right behind him, so Ashton pretty much forgets about Michael, too, because Luke is wearing a red button up and black slacks and his hair is a big curly mess. His math classes seem to be perpetually bursting with activity, and Ashton loves seeing the transition from grumpy and put-together to beaming and unkempt throughout the day. Luke is the only person he knows who gains limitless energy from his students, always bouncing after the last class instead of exhausted by a full day of work.
Ashton doesn't have a chance to greet him before Principal Feldman walks in, promptly starting the gift exchange since "so many of us will be happy to go on break and there are a lot of us to get through." He takes it upon himself to start passing out the presents. Ashton joins along with everyone else "oooo-ing" and "ahhhh-ing" at each gift, but he's too distracted to try to help people guess who their particular Santa may be.
Michael gets a stapler and a gift card to an office supply store because he keeps misplacing his desk materials. Calum gets a shirt with a chemistry pun from Anne in the office. Ashton ends up getting a small care package from Calum with some bath bombs, chapstick, and a scented candle because Calum says he needs to learn how to relax more. Ashton is just happy it wasn't another mug with a book pun on it, because Calum likes sending him pictures of those whenever he runs across one but Ashton already has too many to fit in his cupboard.
Luke is one of the last people to open his gift. He comments on the cute snowflake pattern on the wrapping paper then tears through it, flipping the book around to fully read the cover.
"It's a cookbook!" he enthuses. "I need this. Who knew I needed this?" He looks around the room, lighting up once he locks eyes with Ashton. "Ashton! Is it you?"
"Yeah, that's from me," Ashton says.
"Thank you!" Luke beams. Feldman quickly moves on to the next present and Luke opens the cookbook, pursuing the pages instead of paying attention. By the time everyone has their present and starts to filter out of the lounge, Ashton has been doing breathing exercises to ensure he doesn't psych himself out. Michael pats him on the back when he drags Calum out, which does less to encourage Ashton and more to ignite his nerves, but he's not about to let the other five presents he has go to waste.
"Hey, Luke," he calls. Luke pauses in his tracks, stepping to the side to get out of the doorway and let the rest of their coworkers pass. "Can you stop by my classroom? There's another part of your present I need to give you."
"There's more?" Luke asks. "Ash, the cookbook is already amazing, I don't need anything else."
"Don't you want to know what it is?" Ashton asks.
Curiosity wins out over any lingering politeness. Luke eagerly follows Ashton out the door and through the halls to his classroom. It's tucked into a corner, which Ashton likes because it means he has a lot of windows, and he's been there for long enough that the walls are covered in posters, quotes, pictures, and some particularly striking student works. Four boxes and an envelope sit wrapped on the desk in the same snowflake wrapping paper.
"Are all of those..."
"Yeah," Ashton says. "I got a little carried away."
"Here." Ashton hands him the envelope. "Start here."
Luke tears open the flap as messily as he tore open the wrapping paper earlier, pulling out the donation receipt inside.
“This is the place I got Petunia,” he says.
“Thanks,” he says. “I try to donate to them every year but… thank you. They’ll be able to do some good with this.”
Ashton clears his throat. “You’re welcome. Here’s the next one.”
He unwraps the map next.
“I know you miss it,” Ashton says. “There’s some star stickers in there, too, if you want to mark important places.”
Luke’s eyes glitter with memories as he looks over it. He gasps and turns the frame towards Ashton. “Here’s my house! Right there. And then over here was my school, and the movie theater…. Sorry. You don’t want to listen to me go on about this. What’s next?”
Ashton could listen to Luke tell him stories about his hometown all night, but he’s looking expectantly at him and there’s still three presents sitting on his desk.
He tosses him the watch next. Luke fumbles when he catches it. Ashton is extremely thankful that it’s packed in the box well and won’t break, especially when Luke shakes it.
He laughs when he sees what’s inside.
“I get it. I won’t miss our lunch dates anymore.”
“Sure you won’t,” Ashton teases. “There’s an inscription on it, too.”
Luke takes the watch out of the box and flips it over.
“‘Education is our passport to the future.’”
“‘Education is our passport to the future,” Ashton recites, “for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.’ Malcolm X.”
“Appropriate,” Luke says. “Thanks.”
He puts the watch on, struggling a little with the clasp. Ashton reaches out and helps, careful not to make it too tight or too loose. Luke’s wrist is soft beneath his fingers, a patch of smooth pale skin covering his pulse. When he finishes, neither of them move away.
“It’s wonderful, Ashton. Thank you,” Luke says. “I’m going to wear it every day.”
“It suits you.”
Luke gives him a smile that sends Ashton reaching for another present before he does something uncalled for like lean forward and try to kiss him.
“This one’s for bad days. It’s not much, but I wanted you to have reminders of how amazing you are.”
Luke rips off the paper and softens like butter once he starts flipping through the book of affirmations.
“A lot of them are generic, but there are a few personalized ones in there, and all of them are true anyway.”
“Ashton, this is too much,” Luke says. “This is insane. You went above and beyond Secret Santa.”
“Well.” Ashton scratches the back of his neck, the feeling of a blush prickling under his skin. “I can’t exactly return them since they’re personalized. I kept seeing things that made me think of you.”
“Thank you. I don’t--” he laughs-- “I don’t know what to say.”
“Save it until you get your last gift. Then you can judge them all.”
The last box is the smallest, but it’s heavy with a phantom weight. Ashton went above and beyond for this one, going so far as to contact Liz when he’s only talked to her a few times before, and Luke is either going to think it’s sweet or creepy.
“It’s small,” Luke says, testing the feel of the box in his hands. He glances up at Ashton before taking off the paper, then again when he sees that the box is a ring box. Ashton holds his breath while he opens it, wanting to spare himself from seeing Luke’s reaction but not able to look away.
The silver ring glints in the light, a thick band pinched between Luke’s fingers so he can look at it closer.
“What…” he trails off.
“I talked to your mum,” Ashton says. “The engraving on the outside is her fingerprint. I know you miss her, and this way you can have a piece of her with you all the time.
“I can’t accept this,” Luke says. “It’s too much.”
He tries to hand it to Ashton, but he closes Luke’s hand around the ring and pushes it back towards his chest.
“It’s personalized,” he says. “It doesn’t mean anything to me, so you need to keep it.”
Luke briefly looks down at the ring again. When he meets Ashton’s gaze, his eyes are glistening.
“You’re going to make me cry,” he laughs. “Sorry. Thank you. So Much.”
He reaches for him, and Ashton’s thankful that Luke seems to fit perfectly in his arms.
“I can’t believe you got all this for a stupid Secret Santa,” he sniffs when he pulls away.
“You deserve it,” Ashton says earnestly. “I kept seeing things I knew you would appreciate. Guess I got a bit carried away.”
“A bit,” Luke teases. Ashton smiles. Luke’s teasing is a different kind, always giving the impression that it’s somehow an inside joke between them instead of Luke laughing at him.
“I have something for you, too,” Luke says. “I know I wasn’t supposed to, but if you got me so much I feel better giving you this one thing.”
Luke reaches into his messenger bag and pulls out a book. Ashton can tell what it is even before Luke hands it to him.
“Leaves of Grass,” he says, running his hand over the vines and leaves adorning the hard cover behind the gold leaf of the title.
“You said you wanted another copy since your old one is full of annotations.”
“You didn’t have to do this,” he says, tracing the swirling script of Walt Whitman’s name.
“Okay, Mr. I-got-a-billion-presents-for-my-Secret-Santa. I wanted to give you something nice.”
It’s a thought Ashton has had thousands of times during his own gift-buying process, and that’s what compels him to finally ask “Do you want to go on a date with me? We could go to dinner or a movie, maybe ice skating or something more festive?”
“I thought you’d never ask!”
Ashton grins, smile threatening to split his face in two.
“Maybe not ice skating, though,” Luke says. “I’m all legs and no coordination.”
“Dinner, then,” Ashton says. “Do you like Italian? I could pick you up next week.”
“I love Italian, and getting picked up.”
“Good,” Ashton says. “Great!”
Ashton knows his smile is verging on dopey, but it’s okay because Luke has the same stupid-happy look on his face. Luke’s phone rings and shatters the moment, but Ashton can’t even be that upset when Luke takes a few steps away to answer, glancing back with immense fondness and answering the person on the other line with vague and distracted noises.
“I’m so sorry,” Luke says when he hangs up. “I have to go. I promised Sierra I’d help her with some last-minute classroom things.”
“That’s okay,” Ashton says. “I’ll call you.”
“Okay,” Luke smiles. “Please do. I mean--yeah. I’d like that.’
“I will,” Ashton says. Then, because someone has to be responsible and get Luke out the door instead of locked in a staring contest, he stacks Luke’s gifts and passes them off to him.
“Okay. I’ll see you later! On our date!”
“See you, Luke!”
Luke stumbles on his way out the door, too distracted trying to look back at Ashton. He’s right: he really is all legs and no coordination.
Watching him leave with his new book in hand, Ashton thinks that he got the best gift of all this year.
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