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MERRY CHRISTMAS [ profile] dr_jasley

Title: Christmas, Maybe
Characters: Spencer, Ray, Gerard, Mikey, Gabe, Frank, Brendon
Pairing: Gen with background Brendon/Frank/Gabe
Rating: PG-13
Warnings: Mention of reactions that could be considered PTSD, mention of past minor character death (non-explicit), profanity
Summary: After the disaster the past year has been, Spencer dreads Christmas even more than usual. Gerard, however, is all about the Christmas Spirit. It’s a problem.
Word Count: ~3,000
Disclaimer: I deal in lies.
AN: Christmas present for [ profile] dr_jasley (hope you like it, bb)! This is a one-shot from somewhere in the middle of a ‘verse we’re working on (short title: Spy AU). The ‘verse hasn’t been posted anywhere yet, but we’re in love with it so it will absolutely show up one day. I think all you need to know for this is that Gabe, Frank, and Brendon are in a relationship. The trio and Spencer went “underground” after some work mishaps and were taken in by Mikey, Gerard, and Ray. It should make sense on its own, though. If not, I’m sorry but hope you enjoy it anyway!

Gerard has decked the motherfucking halls. Literally. Spencer isn’t sure how it happened, but Gerard’s managed to turn the shabby interior of their overpopulated house into something out of an old-fashioned claymation scene.

It’s sort of frightening, actually. Spencer had sworn off the top floor after Brendon and Frank dragged him upstairs to see Gerard’s handiwork. There are still splashes of bright red and green interspersed with shadows of blue and silver; everything appearing oddly psychedelic against the tan backdrop of the drywall.

Avoiding the stairs, though, stops being enough the day Spencer walks in to see a tree brushing the ceiling in the living room. Boxes are scattered all around, including one marked ROOF LIGHTS!!!!! that he’d tripped over coming through the front door.

“It’s… very festive, Gee, but – “ Spencer pauses to clear his throat, tries to think of somewhere to go from there.

“But it’s not enough,” Gerard nods, as if that was what Spencer had actually planned to say. It wasn’t.

Mikey snorts from where he’s sprawled on the couch Spencer crashes on when trudging all the way across the street to Ray’s guest room feels like too much work. “He’s gone into Christmas overdrive. You’re fighting a losing battle.”

Gerard stretches out until he’s practically horizontal in his armchair and kicks Mikey in the shoulder. “Like you’re not planning –“

“It’s a surprise,” Brendon cuts in from the doorway, Gabe leaning against the wall and peering over his head. “Don’t make Mikey ruin my surprise, Gerard.”

“Surprise?” Gabe asks, sounding legitimately confused.

No amount of control keeps Spencer’s eyebrows from shooting up. He hadn’t thought it possible for Brendon, Frank, and Gabe to keep secrets from each other. They’d been through too much, been ripped away from each other for too long. It’s rare to see them outside a whole three person group, let alone hear one of them surprise the other two.

Gabe slides his fingers through Brendon’s hair – shorter and nearly back to its natural color after Brendon’s bleach experiments while on the run. As Spencer predicted, Brendon shifts to lean back against Gabe’s chest. They’re a little touchy-feely; Spencer can’t blame them.

“Are you keeping secrets, Bren?”

“Yeah,” Brendon laughs. “Because you and Frank wouldn’t fucking call me on that.”

“I call you on everything,” Frank’s voice drifts in from somewhere behind Gabe. “Move, fuckers, I’m trying to finish Gerard’s fort of decorations.”

“Like a Fortress of Solitude?” Gabe and Brendon ask, nearly in sync.

Frank groans, kicking at Gabe’s knee if the way Gabe nearly buckles seconds later is any indication. “Stop letting them read comics. Mikey, I’m not fucking kidding, asshat.”

Mikey turns his head to smirk at some point near Frank's head. “Asshat? Stop using the cool kids’ terms, man. It doesn’t suit you.”

“Fo’ shizzle,” Gabe adds, somehow keeping a completely straight face. Spencer’s a little envious.

Frank, clearly against his better judgment, cracks a small smile and tosses his box on the floor by Spencer’s feet. Spencer rubs at his nose to cover his own grin.

Frank and the guys haven’t smiled enough, not lately. Not since before the whole clusterfuck Spencer had gotten them into. Even after Frank had pulled some strings and Brendon had broken out, even once Gabe had them back and safe in Gerard and Mikey’s crowded, Victorian-style, suburban house – even then there had been too many tense moments where just being near them made Spencer’s head ache.

If Gerard’s overabundance of holiday cheer is going to have the guys acting closer to normal, Spencer can suck it up.

Brendon tugs Gabe fully into the living room and immediately curls up against the coffee table. Gabe drops down beside him, Frank nudging at Gabe until he moves enough for Frank to fit between Gabe and the tree. As soon as he pulls a box over, they all start digging through the miscellaneous Santa, reindeer, and utterly unidentifiable ornaments.

Spencer chooses not to ask. “Right. There’s too much Christmas happening in here. I’m going to find Ray. You know, the sane one.”

“Hate to break it to you,” Gerard starts. He climbs over the chair arm, narrowly avoiding kneeing Brendon in the head on his way. When he gains his footing, he scoops up a box marked WORKING LIGHTS (checked by Ray).

“Gee,” Spencer says, a reminder.

“Oh. Yeah. Ray’s working on cookies. I’m making Mikey decorate them later. Even if he always uses too many jimmies.”

“Fuck you.” Mikey throws a discarded water bottle in Gerard’s general direction; Spencer catches it purely on reflex.

“When it’s not mint jimmies, I like those best,” Brendon adds.

“See. Brendon has taste.” Like a typical baby brother, Mikey sticks his tongue out.

Spencer’s chest constricts a little, the phantom pains of missing little sisters who had loved presents and twinkling lights.

“What was your first clue?” Spencer forces himself to ask. Forces himself to fake the normal, if only for the moment.

“Me,” Gabe puts in, confident in ways Gabe never is anymore.

“Or, you know, me,” Frank counters without missing a beat. He nudges Gabe in the ribs with his elbow, but Gabe only laughs and refuses to be bothered.

“Stop being sickening and cute and couple-y,” Gerard mutters, grinning too hard for the statement to have any heat. “If you can pull yourselves away from each other, I’ll be decorating the house.”

Spencer shakes his head, already turning for the kitchen to talk some sense into Ray. “You already did that.”

The front door scratches against he carpet before Gerard’s voice bounces back with “Not the roof!”

Freezing in place, Spencer calculates the risk of Gerard destroying something. The roof seems sturdy and doesn’t leak anywhere; Gerard isn’t using power tools from what Spencer can tell. He figures he has at least ten minutes before someone needs to check that Gerard hasn’t fallen to his death.

“Try not to let Gerard break his neck this week,” Ray calls out over the sound of an electric mixer.

Spencer wasn’t even sure the Ways owned one of those, but Ray can magic things out of nowhere when he wants to. The scent of vanilla hits Spencer as soon as he walks into the kitchen, strong enough that he knows Ray’s using that legit Vermont vanilla the neighbors bought them as a house warming present; Spencer still hasn’t gotten them to believe he and Ray aren’t actually involved. Whatever. Their neighbors are weird.

“I’ll go make sure he’s not hanging upside-down by some tinsel or something in a minute,” Spencer shrugs.

He inches closer, glancing at the bowls and canisters Ray has spread out over every available surface of the kitchen. It was direr than Spencer had thought.

“Gerard’s gotten to you, too, hasn’t he?” Spencer sighs and pretends he’s not going to be sneaking around Ray to get his fingers into mixing bowls all afternoon.

“He’s in a mood,” Ray explains. Not that it’s a real explanation, but it’s about Gerard so Spencer goes with it.

When Ray turns to collect a melon baller and cookie sheet, Spencer scoops a chunk of sugar cookie dough out with his fingers. He barely gets his fingers to his mouth when Ray unceremoniously whacks him in the arm with the cookie sheet.

“Ow!” Spencer yells, more from shock than pain. “You’re making enough to feed the whole cul-de-sac. I can have a scoop.”

“Stop pouting.” Ray rolls his eyes and shakes his hair out. It’s what he always does when Spencer starts whining at him, even though Spencer still refuses to admit that’s what he does. “And stop being a Grinch.”

Spencer narrows his eyes, scooping out another bite of dough and darting away before Ray can retaliate. “I’m not a Grinch. I just don’t get Christmas.”

The disbelieving look Ray shoots his way confirms that Ray has magic mind powers; Spencer resents him a little.

It’s not that Spencer hasn’t ever believed in Christmas. But he ran out of reasons to be cheerful about December when his life fell apart, the first time. This year has added insult to injury, and Spencer’s out of reasons to celebrate. He doesn’t have his family, hasn’t had them in too many seasons to count, and now he’s kicked Ryan out of his life.

Ryan was the only reason Spencer had celebrated Christmas the past several years. Without Ryan around, Spencer doesn’t have a reason to try anymore. He doesn’t have anyone to try for.

“Either eat that or give it back. I’m not scrubbing it off the floor.” Ray’s voice is jarring when Spencer realizes he’s zoned out for a bit too long.

“Yeah, yeah.” Spencer sucks the sugar from his fingers and tries to get his head sorted out.

It’s such bullshit, dissociating at weird times. He hasn’t done that since he’d first stormed into Pete’s office and demanded answers about his team. Maybe later, but definitely not since the night Brendon came home.

Spencer needs space.

“I’m going to make sure Gerard’s not setting up the house to burn.”

“Ashes aren’t very festive,” Ray points out.

As annoyed as he might be about Gerard’s new holiday plans, Spencer’s willing to admit that Ray has a point. Huffing a forced laugh, Spencer makes his way outside just in time to see Gerard securing a ladder against the corner of the house.

“Holy shit, Gerard. You’re going to die.”

Gerard waves him off, kicking at the ladder and shaking it the check the stability. “It’s fine. I used to do this all the time.”

“Why don’t you just climb out the guys’ window?” Spencer wonders aloud. He’s not actually expecting an answer, even though Gerard gives him a chattered soliloquy about authenticity and the window being painted shut. Or something. Spencer mostly fills it in with facts from his own mind and assumes he’s right.

“Go on, I’ll hold it,” Spencer tells him.

“Thanks, man. I actually hate this shit,” Gerard says. His balance is a little precarious, a box tucked under his arm and free hand haphazardly pulling him up. “Ladders are bad ideas. Whoever came up with them was a masochist.”

Spencer tilts his head, grabbing the ladder as soon as Gerard clears a few rungs. “I think you mean a sadist.”

“Whatever. Same principle.”

“Not really,” Spencer laughs. Surprisingly, he finds that he means it. Sometimes, Spencer forgets how freeing hanging around Gerard can be.

When Gerard clamors over the roof’s edge, Spencer gathers the box from the entryway and follows him up. Gerard holds onto the top until Spencer can reach the roof.

The boxes aren’t as well organized as Spencer hoped, considering Ray had apparently been involved with one of them. Some of the lights are carefully wrapped around green, plastic holders. Others are shoved into corners and tangled with no regard to color. There seems to be post-its wrapped around some of them, which Spencer cannot figure out for the life of him.

Spencer figures Gerard has some sort of plan, though, and probably labeled things based on whatever vision he was painting all over the hallway. It’s better not to ask.

Gerard’s already talking anyway, telling Spencer Christmas stories from when Mikey and he were kids. When Gerard gets to something about Mikey and a train set, Spencer starts to tune out. He doesn’t begrudge Gerard his memories, but Spencer doesn’t like the reminders.

Luckily, Gerard doesn’t usually need much input. He can talk for hours as long as you throw in the right nonverbals at appropriate intervals. Spencer’s concentrating on untangling his lights when he hears someone stomping around on the porch.

“Guys!” Brendon hiss-yells from somewhere on the ground.

Gerard shifts, sliding a little against the loose shingles. Cursing under his breath, Spencer snatches at Gerard’s shirt. Predictably, Gerard’s un-phased, sticking his head out over the gutters.

“What’s up?”

Papers rustle before the ladder clinks under Brendon’s still-too-low weight.

“Brendon, try not to fall. You don’t have a spotter,” Spencer orders. Not that he means to slip into the bossy – as Ryan always called it – tone, but it’s second nature. He forces himself to let go of Gerard in favor of untangling another batch of blue lights.

Which, wait. Brendon doesn’t have a spotter. Gabe, obviously, isn’t coming out; it still takes Frank, Brendon, and a Valium to get him too far away from the front door. Frank is scarily quiet when he moves, but he tends to talk to Brendon and Gabe more often than not. How Brendon had given them the slip is a mystery Spencer wants to investigate but thinks might be overstepping some bounds.

“Shut up,” Brendon tells him, arms wrapped around the ladder and resting against the house. “I had to give you this.”

“What’s it?” Gerard asks, taking the pages. “Is this a blueprint?” He turns the page sideways and continues to stare.

Spencer sits down and scoots closer to the edge, trying to get a decent look. When Gerard passes the papers back, Spencer sees that they clearly are a sort of blueprint. “What?”

“It’s my surprise. I’m doing a light show.” Brendon doesn’t sound as ecstatic as he would have once upon a time, but Spencer can appreciate the way his eyes light up anyway; it’s refreshing to see some of the Brendon he’d met shine through.

“That’s fan-fucking-tastic,” Gerard declares.

“To what song?” Spencer asks, hardly able to help himself. Somewhere, through the haze of dread and loneliness, a glimmer of excitement must be fighting its way out. Spencer doubts it will last long

Suddenly, Brendon turns oddly bashful. After everything, Brendon still isn’t much for shy; it’s enough to make Spencer sit up a bit straighter and pay more attention.

“Uh. This dubstep Christmas mix Mikey found last week.”

Dubstep?” Spencer tries – and fails – not to groan. “Though that works well for lights, I guess.”

Brendon shrugs, swaying enough to have Spencer tensing and Gerard reaching out. “The lights are more for Frank. The music is for Gabe. It’s not like we’re really spending much on each other, and it’s Christmas and after…”

“It’s a great idea,” Gerard whispers, soft and earnest. He closes the last bit of distance to squeeze Brendon’s forearm. To his credit, Brendon only startles a little.

Mere seconds later, Brendon puts his happy-face back on, smile a little more strained than before. “Do you think you can do it? Just put them up in order; I numbered the strands this morning.”

Spencer knows this morning means while Gabe and Frank were asleep, means those few minutes that Brendon managed to sneak away before the other two woke up to an empty third of the bed and had minor panic attacks.

“Yeah,” Spencer promises. “We’ve got this. Or we’ll get Ray out here. Go in. You’re going to fucking freeze. Shit.”

Brendon shrugs, clearly not caring that the temperature keeps dropping, and he’s only wearing a t-shirt he liberated from Frank, who stole it from Gabe, who was gifted it by Spencer after a Good Will excursion with Ray back when Frank and Brendon were still missing.

“Frank’s probably tying Gabe up with garland anyway, and there’s no way in hell I’m going to miss that.”

As Brendon climbs down, Gerard and Spencer take the opportunity to complain – loudly – about not needing anymore details on whatever kinky nonsense those three get up to; Gerard hears it enough and Spencer doesn’t need a reminder that he isn’t getting laid.

When they hear the front door slam, they quiet down. Gerard picks at the lights in his hands and Spencer stares at Brendon’s neatly drawn instructions. It’s amazing; somehow, those three keep trying to find ways to prove how much they matter to each other. Spencer wonders how they could think anyone would miss that, from the inside or not.

Gerard breaks the oddly strained silence with a soft “They seem better.”

Spencer bites his lip and nods. It isn’t true, exactly. Frank still flies into blind rages sometimes, Brendon can hold full conversations with himself, and Gabe hasn’t bothered trying to leave the front yard in weeks. Better for this bunch isn’t saying much.

Then it starts to click. He hasn’t been around for a Way Christmas before, but Gerard’s obsession seems a bit exceptional.

“Is that what this is about?” Spencer asks, blunt in a manner he typically reserves for Ray.

“Kind of,” Gerard shrugs. Looking up, cheeks bitten red by the cold, Gerard meets Spencer’s eyes. “They deserve it.”

“Yeah. They really do.” Spencer slides further up the roof, digging around for the lights labeled 1A, ready to let the conversation go.

There isn’t anything else to be said. In the past year, the guys have been through enough shit to break lesser men and have barely come out alive, functional. If anyone deserves someone giving them a nice Christmas, it’s them.

“You do, too,” Gerard adds. When Spencer can’t find anything to say to that, Gerard knocks on the roof, a shingle rattling under his hand. “I mean it. You deserve a good Christmas, too.”

Spencer swallows around the lump in his throat and blinks against the burning in his eyes. No one does sincere quite like Gerard.

“Thanks,” Spencer chokes out. “That’s… Thank you.”

“Don’t mention it.”

When Gerard goes back to his tangled lights, Spencer takes a moment. Just one. He takes the time and makes himself listen to Gerard and Ray. Makes himself believe all the times they swore he’s in this too and deserves as much as everyone else.

Maybe if he thinks it enough, he’ll start to believe it.

For the next couple weeks, if nothing else, Spencer’s going to believe like it was his motherfucking job. If Gerard is trying to make them all have a nice holiday, Spencer damn well isn’t going to take that away.

Maybe he’ll even call Ryan from a burn phone or use one of Mikey and Brendon’s secure servers to send an email. Maybe he’ll take a flight across the country and go out to the cemetery, make sure there are nice flowers on the four Smith graves there.

Maybe he’ll just enjoy being around the only family he has and be thankful for that.

Maybe it won’t hurt so much this time.

Maybe Christmas won’t be such a disaster this year.

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August 2013

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