“I thought Santa was supposed to be jolly,” Connor grumbled as he squeezed at his back cheeks, trying to soothe the sting in them.
Mark, with Santa hat and rented red coat discarded over the back of a chair, purposefully stopped Connor from rubbing and pulled the younger man’s jeans back in place. “Not when you end up on the naughty list,” he claimed as he zipped and buttoned the denim.
Trying to hide his sarcasm in a joke—and not being wholly successful—Connor retorted, “I thought you liked when I was naughty.”
That earned him another swat he wasn’t allowed to rub as Mark brought him onto his knee.
“Do you understand why you got in trouble?” he asked seriously, showing Connor he didn’t appreciate the attitude.
Connor quickly took the hint and nodded. “I promised to help you at the shelter and was almost an hour late. I’m sorry, Mark, but I feel so awkward when I go there. It makes me feel bad.”
“I know, hon. It does to me too, but the kids and families living there deserve a chance at a merry Christmas too. I feel bad for them, but being able to distribute presents to them makes me feel happier for all of us.”
Connor nodded. “I know. I don’t ever regret helping once we’re there. It’s just hard to go at first. I’m sorry I let you down.”
Mark lightly kissed him. “You came in time to help in the end, and the kids loved the horsey rides you gave them.”
“Yeah, that was fun, but I’ll be feeling those tomorrow!”
Mark chuckled. “I think the voluntary physical exertion might have helped put you back on the nice list. So…” He reached for his Santa hat, put it back on and bounced the knee Connor sat on. “Why don’t you tell Santa what you want for Christmas?”