Agent James West of the Secret Service sat in the Wanderer and looked out at the falling snow. The lamp on the table in front of him was burning low. There was absolute silence around him. No one else was there to disturb the quiet, but sometimes he thought he could hear his partner Artie's voice. It was a familiar sound in the train cars, and one that Jim dearly missed.
Artie had been called to Washington some weeks ago. Since then there had been occasional letters and ever more occasional telegraphs, but not nearly enough communication to satisfy Jim. He thought of all the different gadgets he and Artie had access to as Secret Service agents – most of which had been invented by Artie himself – and wondered why no one had yet come up with a device to enable voice communication over distances. How he wished for an implement he could use to hear and speak to Artie.
Jim was lonely. The fact that it was Christmas Eve made him even more lonely. He didn't have a family; nor did he have any friends where the Wanderer was currently sitting to wait out the storm. He supposed he could have gone into town and picked up female companionship for the night; there were women who worked on holidays, as well as women who were simply lonely at this time of year. But that wasn't the type of companionship he was looking for. A stranger wouldn't fill this Artie-shaped hole in his heart.
He swirled the whiskey in his almost-empty glass and looked yet again at the letter Artie had sent him. In that letter, Artie had confessed his love for Jim, saying that if Jim didn't reciprocate his feelings, Artie would simply stay in Washington, and Jim could ask for a new partner. Jim's first impulse had been to send Artie a telegraph to say how he felt, but telegraphs were simply not private enough for that kind of communication. Nor were carrier pigeons. He had to settle for writing a letter.
In that letter he had poured out his heart to his partner. He had said all the things he'd wanted to say for more than a year but had held back for fear of losing Artie for good. It thrilled him to know that Artie wanted him – more than that; that Artie loved him – but the knowledge didn't do much good with Artie so far away. He had no idea if Artie had received the letter; he'd heard nothing from his partner since sending it.
Washington was a good place to be at Christmas time. There were plenty of parties for Artie to attend. He wondered if his partner was even thinking about him. Artie could be charming when he wanted to be; he could easily have his pick of women – or men, if he chose. Jim knew that he shouldn't wish for Artie to be as lonely as he was this night, but part of him wished that he were, just so that he knew he wasn't alone in feeling this way.
Of course, what he really wanted was to have Artie here with him in the Wanderer, even if they did nothing but hold hands with each other. To hold the hands he loved would make Jim deliriously happy.
The snow continued to drift. The fire and the lamps were dying. Jim didn't feel like restarting them. It would soon be morning. He supposed he should go to bed.
Just then, Jim heard a noise. He was instantly on alert. The noise was coming from just outside. Who in his right mind would be out there on a night like this? It must be the wind.
The noise continued. Jim figured he must be imagining things. He could have sworn he heard someone putting a horse into the stable car, but that had to be wishful thinking on his part. He wanted Artie here so badly, he was imagining him here. Artie was in Washington, probably having a good time without him. It was late. He should go to bed before he imagined anything else.
Now he was hearing voices. He was hearing Artie call his name. He turned to the door...
...and there stood Artemus Gordon, brushing the snow off his clothes.
Artie grinned at him. "It's wicked out there, Jim. Got anything to warm me up?"
Jim could hardly believe his eyes. The one thing he wanted for Christmas was standing right in front of him. "Artie, what are you doing here? You're supposed to be in Washington!"
Artie shrugged. "I took a leave of absence after I got your letter. Once I knew how you felt, I couldn't stand to be away from you any longer."
"Artie...." Jim took his partner's hands in his. "Your hands are like blocks of ice! Where are your gloves?"
"I ran into a beggar at the train station. He had no gloves. He didn't have anything, really. The poor man was freezing. I gave him some money and my gloves. Hopefully he can use the money to find a warm place to sleep for the night."
This unselfishness and caring was one of the many things Jim loved about his partner. He opened his arms. "Come here, Artie," he said.
Artie's grin got even wider as he stepped into Jim's embrace. "I love you, Jim."
"And I love you, Artie."
"Merry Christmas, Artie."