Frank stopped at the bottom of the gangway, turning to look down at the man he’d looked up at for most of his career, the man he still looked up to. “How did I let you talk me into this again?”
Santa clapped a hand on Frank’s shoulder and had to reach fairly high to do it. “You were the right elf for the job.” He gave Frank a lopsided grin before leaning back a little to avoid craning his neck. “I’ll come for a visit early in the New Year when things have settled down. Well, maybe early in February, after I’ve had a chance to rest a bit. If you need anything, or just want to talk, I’m here. Really busy, but here. Nelson will have a line open and I can always spare a couple of minutes.”
Eugene stuck his head out of the airlock above them. “Final checks complete. Everything is loaded and secured. We’re good to go as soon as you’re on board, Santa.”
Frank looked up and shook his head. “Santa isn’t- oh, that’s me, isn’t it.”
A deep chuckle floated up to his ears. “It certainly is.”
“It’s going to take some getting used to.”
Earth’s Santa folded the Moon’s Santa into a bear hug, short and appropriately manly, considering their wardrobe and job description, then stepped back. “Tell me something I don’t know. It’s a long time ago, but I still remember the early days. I was terrified half the time for the first few years. You’re better prepared than I was. You’ll get over it a lot faster.”
Frank looked back at the shuttle, not quite willing to voice his doubts. “I hope so, Chief.”
“You know, Frank, I mean Santa, I’m going to miss you bringing me two or three ‘real problems’ every day.”
Frank turned back to see Santa smiling. He bit his lip for a moment, then let his own grin free. “Don’t worry, Chief. Hans and Xavier will find their own way to keep you involved.”
“Keep me involved?” The smile disappeared as shock chased comprehension across the rosy cheeks.
Frank’s smile, on the other hand, got bigger. “Of course. You’re a little distant sometimes. If I left you alone, you’d never come out of your office.”
Two big laughs ho-ho-ho-ed across the hangar.
(Note: Branch Santa is released on https://lanceschonberg.com under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 Unported License. It can be shared, copied and distributed, but not changed or sold.)by