Imagine Arguing With Neal About Whether He Should Climb a Chimney
Once Theo was sound asleep on Neal’s bed, you both cleaned up from the Christmas cookies you had baked with the little boy and quietly relaxed. You liked babysitting for Diana, and she and Christie had needed an opportunity to go shopping for their son without him seeing what they were getting before they could gift wrap and hide the presents. Diana had already called to check in on him and to apologize for being late to pick him back up, but neither of you were worried. He had been happy and well-behaved.
“He was so distressed Santa doesn’t have a chimney to come down,” you chuckled, talking at barely above a whisper so you didn’t wake him up.
Neal laughed, grinning while he washed out the bowl you’d used to mix the dough. “You know he’s going to look for the chimney on the other side of the house, right?”
You pretended to be cowed, but lying to stave off tears had seemed like the best choice at the time. Theo was still little enough that he would probably forget about it by the time he next came to see Neal, and he was also little enough not to realize that the penthouse, also known as the top floor, was the only place where a chimney would be.
“Chimneys are so overrated,” you commented. “Santa should just pick the lock. If he can make PlayStations and iPhones, he can make a lock picking set.”
“How do you think I got mine?” Neal teased, drying his hands and wrapping his arms around your stomach. He gave you a kiss at the back of your neck.
“You should repay him by teaching him to pick the locks on the doors,” you suggested jokingly. “He’s gonna get killed by a chimney one of these days.”
“Agreed. All that ash and soot. He’s going to get lung cancer,” Neal predicted gravely, making you giggle. “Santa should invest in a filtration mask.” He tilted his head to keep thinking.
Oh, dear. He was actually thinking through it. “No,” you warned him preemptively, but had the feeling it was too late.
“You’d never want to land on a fire so you’d have to carry a mirror,” Neal mused, “To see if there’s any light if the flue bends. And given a good mortar seal between the bricks, you could use pressure to climb up, but it would be more efficient to use rappelling equipment.”
“People have died trying to dress as Santa and sneak down chimneys,” you told him, frowning and trying to decide if he needed a genuine swat.
“The costume’s a giant mistake,” Neal agreed, but only with part of what you said, and not the important part. “An outfit with less faux fur and fluff wouldn’t snag on the bricks or create unnecessary bulk.”
“Neal, stop, you’re not Santa.”
“You’re right,” he said, his eyes gleaming as you turned in his arms to look up at him. “I’d make a better Santa. I’d be much more efficient at rappelling up and down chimneys. Do you remember if the Burkes have a chimney?”
“You’re not climbing down their chimney!”