jeeps: (btvs ♡ let's start from the top)
Jeeps ([personal profile] jeeps) wrote in [community profile] jeepers2009-04-19 04:40 pm

A VERY TRIO CHRISTMAS [INDESOLUTION]

a very trio christmas; an indesolution log
buffy the vampire slayer ([livejournal.com profile] indesolution-verse) | jonathan levinson, warren mears, andrew wells | 7,265 words | log

begun on 12/26/07
notes written with [personal profile] amber (andrew pov) & [personal profile] sailor (jonathan pov). UNFINISHED.


They've re-shot Jonathan's introduction sequence three times since Andrew originally opened the gift from his Secret Santa. The first time, Andrew made him stop and go fix his hair. The second time, the lighting was too bright and apparently washed him out. The third time, Jonathan just gave up. This was ridiculous. He tried drama sophomore year, thinking it'd be easier to pretend to be someone else, but he was a horrible actor.

To his credit, he managed to feign happiness when Andrew unwrapped the camera. The expression of surprise was easy enough, mostly because it was genuine. He and Warren had just assumed that whoever Andrew's Secret Santa was, he wouldn't go for the more expensive option.

Jonathan managed to convince him that he needed to borrow the camera to film a Rule 42 promo, and who knows where the heck that excuse came from? Still. The camera is in his possession now as Andrew flits around the kitchen, chopping this and simmering that and babbling the entire time, but Jonathan just isn't listening.

"Keep cooking, I'll let him in," he says hurriedly when the knock finally comes. Jonathan ushers Warren into the apartment, doesn't even say merry Christmas, just hesitates only a few seconds before grabbing his arm and nodding to the camera sitting on the couch. "Epic fail, holiday edition."

Warren's brow remains furrowed even after the reason for the clandestine and hasty welcome becomes apparent. "Who—" he mutters, staring at it, then glancing in disbelief at Jonathan before walking to the couch and snatching up the camera. His fingers rapidly snap things open and closed and push buttons, turning it in his hands and learning everything he needs to know about it within seconds with his cursory inspection. "It's a piece of shit," he concludes irritably, in a low voice.

Warren drops the camera back onto the couch and turns to Jonathan. "Andrew in the kitchen?" It's rhetorical; the apartment is filled with the smell of food, and besides, he can hear Andrew moving around in there. Warren is pissed. Who the hell buys a complete stranger a camcorder? Such gifts are reserved for those who know the giftee well enough to say when it would only encourage said giftee to ask for expensive gifts from complete strangers in the first place.

Warren looks Jonathan in the eye gravely. "There can only be one. It must be destroyed."

Truthfully and despite the circumstances of his life in Babylon, the presence of the camcorder in their house has annoyed Jonathan more than many things in recent memory. He and Warren had worked really hard on their camera. It just wasn't fair. And, okay, so it was mostly Warren — but Jonathan had tried his hardest to lend his knowledge. It was mostly futile and exhausting work, but there was at least a very tiny bit of magic in Warren's creation. The point is that they had been working for weeks, and some anonymous benefactor wasn't about to take that away from them.

"Andrew thinks we're borrowing it for Rule 42 stuff," he says as he picks it up from the couch and holds it up between them. "I thought we could just hide it, but..." Jonathan trails off and looks at Warren, eyebrows raised. It's been a long time since they schemed together. And a super-camera doesn't even rank on the Richter scale of evil, so he has to say he kind of missed it.

A quick glance toward the kitchen before he lets out a little sigh and nods dutifully. It must be done. "All right. How should we do it?"

Warren inclines his head in the direction of Jonathan's glance. "Think you can keep him distracted, slick? Long enough for me to take care of our little problem?" Warren grins, and it's not free of the dangerous edge from old schemes. Something deep down in his gut resents the ease with which they slip into it, the scheming — not for the thing itself, but for the limitations on it. He doesn't want to think of that right now though. Warren recognizes what the holiday should be, even if the day itself has always been a disappointment. It wasn't that he didn't get stuff, even cool stuff, but he'd always felt like there was supposed to be some bigger, better gift hidden behind the tree, the payload that made the rest of the year worth waiting through.

Warren takes the camera from Jonathan with his good hand. He's been working through the discomfort for the sake of his camera and again there is no way he is going to be shown up by an overzealous secret Santa, not when it's Andrew, and not when there was literal pain involved, which makes it a gift of blood, sweat and tears. Oh, he will show this inferior camera no mercy. "You know what to do," he says to Jonathan, then turns on his heel and walks back out the front door, clicking it closed behind him.

Jonathan nods again. He doesn't want to be a minion, he isn't a minion, but it's Warren. It's what they do. If they're not fighting with each other, they're probably plotting something. Even a lame or completely improbable something. He hates it, but it's still true. It probably always will be.

"I can do that," he says, looking at Warren's other hand instead of the camera. Jonathan can write as many letters as he likes, but it doesn't matter — he still doesn't regret it. Still. He watches him walk out the door and gives a little wave. "Good luck." Not that he needs it, a horribly inferior camera doesn't really fight back.

Jonathan takes a few deep breaths (the rush of scheming will never leave him) before walking into the kitchen, smiling unconvincingly. "How's fooding? Um. Cooking."

Until feeding all those girls in Sunnydale, Andrew had never even really had the chance to cook. It's a thrill to have his own kitchen, with all the ingredients and implements he could want, and this Christmas has mostly been Andrew lost in a haze of food-smells and happiness. He knows it's mother-hen of him, but he likes watching other people eat; even more than that, he likes the knowledge that he can look after himself if he has to.

Jonathan has barely entered the kitchen before Andrew drags him over to the stove and starts him stirring thick custard with one hand and gravy with the other. Yes, he's still fooding. He checks the ham in the oven and the vegetables in the steamer before moving back to the counter to keep chopping fruit and only then does he turn and give Jonathan a little confused look. "Um, who was at the door?"

He bites his lip, narrowly misses his finger with the knife. "Did Warren turn up... and then leave again?" What he's really asking is: is this SzechuanGate all over again? Andrew still secretly puts cookies out for Santa; the idea that Warren would even consider being a dick on Christmas is too hideous for him to even contemplate properly.

Jonathan freezes for a few seconds once he's stationed in front of the stove. He feels out of his element in the kitchen, useless and in the way. It's Andrew's domain, definitely not his own. But, okay, this is just stirring. It's easy enough. He can't really screw this up.

"He forgot our gifts," Jonathan lies, surprised by how easily it slips out and grateful that Andrew can't see the guilt written all over his face. He's not exactly good at the deceptive part of scheming. Glamour spells were the perfect lies. Everything would be so much easier if he could just do that. Jonathan's stomach twinges a little at the memory of magic. He had mostly put it out of his mind once they got to Mexico, but the whole camera ordeal has brought it back with a vengeance. That was how easy everything used to be.

He tastes the gravy before craning his neck to look at the back of Andrew's head. Jonathan knows what he's saying, because the thought has crossed his mind too. "He wants to be here, Andrew. He's not, um, mad or anything." Well, at least not with them. Mr. or Ms. Secret Santa is a different story. "He just forgot. You know how Warren is."

Oh, yes, they know how Warren is. He's destructive, and the thought of smashed camera bits makes Jonathan grin as he stirs.

"Mmm," hums Andrew, not entirely convinced but letting it slide. He throws chopped fruit into a bowl with the dressing and rinses his hands, leaning heavily against the sink. He's sick of double and triple guessing everything, of the fact that Jonathan has to reassure him about something he should be taking for granted.

"That should come off the heat now," Andrew says, remembering where he is and coming over to take the gravy away and pour it into a gravy boat. "Don't stop stirring!" he adds, motioning to the custard. There's so much to do, and okay, maybe Andrew's channelling a little bit of his anxiety about having all three of them together into the cooking (fooding) process, but it's totally not obvious.

He slips on oven mitts and motions Jonathan out of the way. "Yeah," he says, continuing a line of thought that Jonathan has probably already lost, "I know how Warren is. Which is why I thought—" He pulls the ham out of the oven and it slides against his arm a little. "Ow!" It was just a touch, barely enough to leave a mark, but after he's put the platter down Andrew runs it under cold water anyway.

Jonathan stands as far back as he can while still stirring the custard, his other hand bracing him against the corner. Hot things are moving around and Andrew is completely in his own world. He doesn't want to interfere more than he already has.

"I swear, he's not mad," he's mumbling when Andrew burns his hand, and it makes him jump a little. "He'll be here soon — are you okay?" Jonathan thinks he should move to help Andrew, but this is a custard of life or death at the moment, so he stands awkwardly and keeps stirring. Right, Warren told him to be a distraction, and how hard can it be to break a dumb camera? "Um. So."

Jonathan catches Andrew's eye and looks away quickly, his eyes falling on one of the discarded oven mitts. "I wonder what cavepeople did when they had to take their food out of the fire."

It's weird, but Andrew runs with it as he moved the baked ham onto a rack and puts the tray in the sink. "Um, I guess they kept it on sticks so they wouldn't have to touch it? Green sticks, whatever they are, you know, the ones that don't burn. And then they turned it over the fire, like... a spitroast!" The image worked in his brain. Granted, Andrew had no idea how cavemen did anything, for all he knew they'd had hands made out of asbestos, but if they'd had any common sense that's what they would have done.

The way Jonathan is standing, the out of the blue question, he just screams 'hiding something', but Andrew's brow just furrows in consideration and he doesn't ask. He has to rescue the custard from Jonathan's manic stirring and then turns off the heat. "Can you set the table?" he asks, motioning to the cupboard with plates in it as he peels off the skin and begins to slice the ham. His hands are full when there's another knock at the door.

The horribly awkward diversion makes a stupid smile spread across Jonathan's face. He watches Andrew babble and putter around the kitchen and forgets about evil cameras for a second. There's this little reservoir of happiness in his stomach that the holiday has brought around, and it's something that can only be described as warm and fuzzy. He likes watching Andrew do something he loves for them, and he really likes that he takes the non-sequitur and just goes with it.

The knock shakes him out of his happy little reverie. "I'll get that," Jonathan replies automatically, hurriedly stacking plates and utensils in one hand. He gives one last fleeting smile to Andrew before bursting out of the kitchen. Warren's let himself in this time, and Jonathan crosses to him quickly, plates still balanced on one arm. A summer as a busboy did him well.

"He knows," he hisses, stopping just short of Warren. "I suck at being a distraction, and Andrew's smart, he definitely knows something's up. I think I mentioned cavemen? Oh god, he knows." The last words come out on a little bit of a wail, and that's when he realizes that he's freaking out. Jonathan takes a deep breath and backs off, slowly begins to set the table. "What'd you do to the camera?"

Warren grasps Jonathan's shoulder reassuringly as he begins to babble, rolling his eyes. They flash at the question, however, and Warren smiles, letting his hand drop again as Jonathan moves to set the table. "No man can know," he intones, then fidgets for a few seconds, mouth a tight line. "Okay! I smashed it. It was like," his hands gesture serenely, "music. All the tiny metal parts." He and Jonathan grin at each other for a moment and then Warren's gaze drops down for a brief moment. "I'm gonna," he mutters, nodding his head in the direction of the kitchen.

Warren stands at the entrance for a moment, staring at Andrew. He doesn't know why, but it reminds him of how he used to organize their DVDs on the bookshelves in the lair, and it's weird and familiar at the same time. Andrew notices him and Warren moves across the threshold to his side. "Hey." He reaches for Andrew's arm, turning it and holding on just above the bright red line. "When did you get over your fear of hot things?"

It's not as though Andrew means to strain his ears to catch the conversation in the other room, but he does it almost by habit and still only catches murmurs. It's Christmas, the holiday where secrets are a time-honoured tradition, so he just tries to leave them to it; if he doesn't know by tonight he can bribe Jonathan with promises of cheesecake.

When Andrew turns and catches sight of Warren in the doorway he smiles in a way that is an acre of emotion crammed into a tiny space, and then puts down the carving knife. "Since a whole bunch of teenage girls learned to ask 'Andrew, what's for dinner?' in unison," he responds with a put-upon air that he doesn't really feel. He manages to keep serving without actually tugging his arm away. "Anyway, I like cooking — shut up — and Jonathan helps a lot."

Warren's fingers loosen and his hand falls away. He leans against the counter, reaching for a stray bite-sized piece of ham. "Mm," he murmurs approvingly when it hits his tastebuds, sucking the remaining juice off his fingers. "Yeah, I noticed the short one setting the table out there, are we really gonna do this all sit-down style, 'cause that'd be kind of weird." Warren shrugs. "We're masters of our own fate, I say we buck tradition — eat and open presents at the same time. It'll be like banging the Doublemint twins. Double your pleasure, double your fun? Plus I brought A Christmas Story." He laughs softly. "Unless you're worried about getting something on the couch, but it may be too late for that. Who knows what Jonathan gets up to out there."

Andrew splutters out a giggle at the right places — the Doublemint twins gets an eyebrow raise, too — and he listens happily to Warren ramble. "Ew," he says, wrinkling his nose in mock-horror. "I don't want to contemplate Jonathan's um, nocturnal activities, okay. My poor couch." He glances over at Warren from under his lashes. "I guess it's used to it."

Just like that the three plates are filled with Andrew's Christmas dinner, and he hands Warren one before picking up the other two to take them out to the main area. "Anyway, I don't see why we can't buck tradition," he says with a grin. Andrew's been bouncing like a little kid all day; any excuse to open presents early is fine by him. "Which means... you didn't actually have to set the table," he adds as he comes through the doorway, looking apologetically at Jonathan.

Jonathan knows better than to go into the kitchen before he's called to. Obeying orders isn't really his bag, it's more Andrew's, but this is sort of an unspoken thing. Plus, he needed the time to get the other part of their gifts together. A few days of waffling hadn't led Jonathan to any conclusions, and now that Warren is there and all three are teetering on the precipice of truth (where did these metaphors come from?) he decided it was best to just do it. Close his eyes, jump in, splash around, and hope that things turn out okay. He's sealing the second envelope when his friends return, food in tow.

A quick glance toward the table, and he just shrugs it off. "It's fine," Jonathan says, keeping the envelopes hidden behind his back. He can never remember which side the utensils go on anyway, and it reminds him of how his Nana would glare when he set their table wrong. For the eleventh time today, Jonathan acknowledges his secret happiness that he's with his friends instead. They're his family now, and the thought simultaneously makes him feel comforted and awkward.

He takes the plate from Andrew and hesitates. "So, um. What are we going to do, then?"

"Food and presents double feature," Warren says, walking across the room to set his plate on the coffee table. He pulls the DVD out of the grocery bag holding his gifts and loads it into the player, then sits on the floor with his back against the couch, legs stretched out in front of him. He grabs the remote and turns the volume down so that the narrator's voice is only background music; the ambiance seems appropriate.

Warren's fingers fidget and move his plate around unnecessarily. Now that all planning and conspiring over the camera has ceased, he's beginning to feel anxious, which is just stupid because his camera is a thing of beauty. But it's not like the other wouldn't have gotten the job done, piece of shit though it may have been, and he isn't sure if the quality of the parts or all the extra features can be appreciated in all their glory. It's really Jonathan's little bit of magic that is his trump card, since it's what makes the camera distinguishable as truly unique and worth destroying lesser cameras for. Jonathan's gift, however, he's fairly confident about. It's a wonder he can even sleep without it next to him on the cold, lonely nights. Well, not like Warren's been getting much sleep himself lately. He closes his eyes for a beat and tips his head back against the cushions, lolls his head to look at the others and raises an eyebrow.

Andrew balances his own plate on the arm of the chair behind where Warren is sitting and has a brief flurry of handing out napkins and cutlery before he disappears off into his bedroom.

His gifts have been wrapped for days, but since he never hunted down a tree they've been sitting in one of Andrew's drawers, waiting impatiently to be given. It seems disproportionate; Warren's gift is heavy in his arms while Jonathan's is just a slim home-made Christmas card, and Andrew bites his lip with a touch of worry. Gift-giving in front of other people hadn't been the plan. What if it seems all... unequal?

Warren's gift is wrapped as a two-parter, and he leaves half of it behind (still not certain if he has the balls to ever hand that over, let alone casually and with Jonathan right there) and he's straightening the red ribbon anxiously as he steps through the mess on his floor, back through to the lounge room. Andrew swings over the back of the couch and folds his legs under him, looking at the other two with a kind of twitchy joy. "So, who's gonna go first?"

The three of them being in the same room and actually getting along, without anything feeling forced, makes Jonathan nauseatingly happy. Then again, that could also be the extreme case of nerves he's worked up about part two of their gifts. It's probably best to do it as quickly and painlessly as possible, so he just shrugs from his place on the floor. "I guess I will."

Warren and Andrew are both fidgety, something that's always made him laugh. Because for all his stuttering and hesitation, when Jonathan gets nervous, he freezes. Being freakishly still for long periods of time has always come easy to him. His hands don't even shake when he reaches under the couch (his couch) for the wrapped boxes, checking the tags quickly. "This is how it works," he's saying as he matches the envelopes to the gifts, slipping easily into thesis mode. "You guys can open the presents now, um, obviously, but the envelopes are for later. Um, but definitely not now." They're both just staring at him with eyebrows raised, anxious and impatient, so he hands the boxes over.

"They're not much, but, yeah. Merry Christmas," Jonathan says awkwardly, shoving a forkful of potatoes into his mouth before he can ruin anything.

Warren smirks a little even as he hesitates for a fraction of a moment to lean forward and take the gift from Jonathan's hands. "You don't have to be embarrassed if you got us all a trip to the Bahamas, though I hear it's kind of radioactive this time of year," he says bemusedly. It's not your usual greeting card, Hallmark-variety envelope, just long, plain and white. It can't really be anything but a letter. A redemptive thesis, maybe, or the apology Warren can't decide if he really wants, or yet more confessions. A hint of irritation hits Warren's pulse. He already knows how Jonathan feels about him, and Jonathan ought to know by now that beating on a very much alive horse is only going to get him kicked. But the hint is only a hint, and Warren ignores it as much as he's capable.

He folds the envelope and shifts his body to put it in his back pocket, then settles back and makes short work of the wrapping paper. He laughs a little to himself when he processes what he's holding. Asimov's Foundation trilogy. They'd thought along the same lines, at least. Reconstitution. They're mismatched and battered and structurally unsound but Warren's found a new appreciation for such things. He's always been meticulous with his books, preferring mint condition; if they aren't, he'll pick at the imperfections — creases and dogears — until he can tear them away entirely. He's been trying not to do that, because not much is replaceable here, but old habits die hard.

He looks at Jonathan, the smirk softer and turned inward. "Thanks, man. I had a hard time finding these even in, like. Non post-apocalyptic bookstores."

His fork still hanging precariously from his mouth, Andrew takes the gift and has a moment of consideration; should he save the paper? But he's too impatient, and the paper and the envelope flutter onto the couch next to him. Almost immediately, the fork follows. "I heard they'd made this," he says in a hushed tone. He holds the DVD up almost reverentially. Batman Begins; he hadn't been able to stick around to see it come out. "So cool..."

Putting it down carefully (as though, even in the case, he could break it) he flips through the cookbook and then looks down at Jonathan with a kid-like grin. He loves Christmas like nothing else; and Christmas with actual (very awesome) presents is like, a thousand times better. "Um, you're amazing," he says happily, using the envelope to mark the page of a dessert that's already caught his eye and resolving to read the contents as soon as was humanly possible. "Thankyou."

For a moment, he thinks he might actually be speechless with happiness, but then he realizes: "Okay okay, my go?" So maybe he's bouncing a little in his seat — he doesn't care. His stomach is still flip-flopping with giddy Christmas nervousness, but he drops the present in Warren's lap and then slides over so he can hand Jonathan his own envelope. It has a bow around it (Andrew went ribbon crazy) and it looks small, but he checked out Spitfire's pricing chart and he's actually wondering if he might need to take out a loan to cover this little IOU. "Happy Christmas, guys," he says, returning to his food, which... well, it definitely doesn't suck, though he probably should have stirred the gravy himself. He draws a fork through the vegetables, pretending he isn't trying to watch both their faces at once.

Jonathan knows his cheeks are burning red, but there's nowhere to hide. Still, the hard part is over. He ducks his head and grins, runs his fingers through his hair, does anything to try and get it to stop. It feels good to do something right, for once, though the full extent of that remains to be seen. But for now, he won't think of it. "You're welcome," he says to both of them, still smiling like a fool and loving every second of it.

"I'm not amazing," he mumbles, more out of self-deprecating habit than any real consciousness of the words, as he runs Andrew's envelope between his hands. He always liked guessing what was underneath the wrapping paper. It made his cousins mad, how he would take twice the amount of time to open the same number of gifts. It's just because Jonathan likes drawing out the suspense, trying to employ all his logic and guesswork to figure out which present was which. At the moment, though, he's coming up goose eggs. He already got his Gameboy from Aya, the greatest secret Santa ever, and there's nothing else he can remember mentioning he particularly wanted. There's no point in drawing it out if he has no idea of where to begin.

Jonathan slides the bow off and thinks to wrap it around Menchi, sleeping under the couch, but decides against it for the sake of his skin. Instead, he gently pulls the envelope open and peers inside. It's not a letter. More like a gift certificate? The suspense finally snaps in his brain and he pulls the paper out, scans it quickly.

To most people, it would be a lame gift, but a huge grin breaks out on Jonathan's face when he looks up at Andrew. He's smiling too, despite himself, and Jonathan knows that they're thinking the same thing. Superstar hair. And it's run by that catty guy on the network, and he's supposed to be good, and it's right before the ball— Jonathan's eyes snap back to Andrew, all expectant and bouncy. "Thank you so much," he says through his grin, running his hands through his hair again. Leave it to Andrew to get him something that'll make him feel better about himself. At that thought, Jonathan flushes again and smiles down at the floor. "Thank you," he repeats before turning to see what Warren got.

Warren leans over to check out Jonathan's gift and rolls his eyes slightly (they're such girls) before tugging at the ribbon around his own, resting heavy in his lap. When it's untied Warren needs only to remove a fraction of the wrapping before he realizes what it is and emits a "Fuck, yes!" He rips off the rest in haste and shuffles through the stack of books (new and old) and paper (photocopies and printed pages) before turning to look at Andrew over his shoulder. "Dude, is this all of 3.5?" It's said with a bit of awe and he doesn't wait for Andrew's answer. "I've already got ideas for a new campaign, I mean since you guys probably don't remember—" His eyes catch on Jonathan for a moment as his gaze slides back down to the D&D manuals. Even the newest books have lost some of their shine, and he thinks it's funny that if he were still in Sunnydale (and not flayed alive) he'd still be waiting for these. Warren leans back slightly until Andrew's knee presses against his shoulder for the rise and fall of a breath. Then he leans to the side, and reaches for the bag at the end of the couch.

He tosses one of the packages to Jonathan, and Andrew's he passes back over his shoulder until he feels it being pulled from his hand. Despite this Warren still shifts around so that he's perpendicular to the couch, resting his arm on a cushion, and he taps the top of the box in Andrew's hand before he can open it. "Consider this an upgrade from a, uh, obsolete model."

As Andrew finishes unwrapping and opens the box Warren adds, "It's got magic. A little magic." He frowns. "We're not really sure what it does. But I think there may be something with the white balance."

They both liked their gifts. A painfully tense ball of something in his stomach releases and he can relax. Well, momentarily, anyway. Then he's holding a box in his lap and he doesn't even hesitate to tear through the newspaper wrapping, telling himself he isn't remotely allowed to turn whatever this is into a metaphor because it's Christmas and he's not a pessimist but he has to remember not everyone places as much importance on presents as he does and—

Oh.

If Jonathan's DVD had inspired speechless reverence, this... joy is like a siren in his head, but he can't seem to vocalise more than a splutter. Andrew realises he's just gaping at the camcorder in the box, and immediately lifts it out, flicks it open, tries not to cry. "Um," he manages to breathe. "Wow." This is some quality machinery, and it's obvious Warren pieced it together himself. And magic. Holy crap. He hadn't even been sure magic even worked here. The other camcorder doesn't even register in his brain. It's not important; it comes in second best (obsolete, Warren had said) so he doesn't even mention it.

After a moment of flicking through the menu and practicing zooming, Andrew flips shut the camcorder and puts it carefully back in the box; as much as he wants to play with all the new functions (magical white balance, oh my god) he also doesn't want to knock it off the couch and smash it when he tackles Warren into a hug. Which is pretty much the first thing on his to-do list; "Thanks," he murmurs into Warren's shoulder, gripping hard and trying to express through contact exactly how much this means to him. His awareness of Jonathan snaps him back to reality and he pulls away, trying to stay frosty even though he's grinning the biggest grin ever. "Thanks both of you," he says, sliding back up to his seat and staring at his hands in bashful glee.

Jonathan turns his gift over in his hands absently as he watches Andrew, and the pure joy on his friend's face is enough. It's undoubtedly Warren's gift (Jonathan knows that, he understands that, and he'd never take that away from them) but he can't help but feel a little proud about it too. It's not that he did much, and like Warren said, they're not even sure what he did. But they can both feel it. Hopefully Andrew can too, and hopefully whatever he did isn't completely lame.

It begins to feel like he's intruding on a happy moment that isn't his, so he returns to puzzling over his own gift. It's definitely too light to be something Warren built, and anyway, he's pretty sure he's not that special. Still. Jonathan carefully peels back part of the newspaper, ignoring the duct tape with SHORT ROUND scrawled across it, and swears, swears that his heart stops for just a second. "It's not," he says, more to himself than anyone else. But it is, it definitely is. When the rest of the newspaper falls away, a copy of The Perks is finally back in his hands, and Jonathan can't make words work. He slips out of the moment and into his own head, just runs his fingers down the spine and flips through the pages, not even taking in the highlighted passages and foreign annotations. All he sees are memories splashed across each page, quotes that jump out even though he's not looking for them. There's a cut of faded yellow ribbon marking page twenty-four. We accept the love we think we deserve.

Jonathan's head snaps up. Warren. "How did you—? It wasn't here. I looked. You're..." He trails off and just stares at his friend for a moment, suddenly infinitely more glad that he wrote that letter. Jonathan forgets that it's Warren and that this isn't what they do, forgets himself entirely as he dives forward and wraps his arms around Warren's neck. He's just repeating "thank you, thank you, thank you," over and over until it's nonsense, and then he actually remembers what he's doing. There's an awkward second where he isn't sure what to do, but eventually just lets go quickly and sits back on the floor, his grin softened into a content smile. There's not much left to say beyond that.

"Oh, Jesus Christ," Warren mutters when Jonathan flings himself against him. He's expecting it from Andrew. It's Andrew, and they— well, it's Andrew. If nothing else Warren is used to how they fit together and his hand moves to Andrew's side almost automatically. It's halfway hidden by the rest of his body, which isn't calculated, but Warren's hand could be holding Andrew in place or keeping him from getting too comfortable, fingers tight and uncertain on his back until Andrew lets him go.

Jonathan unleashes way too much kinetic energy for being directly proportional to his mass as a runt. It's not that the physical contact bothers him; he's used it enough himself in all of its variations where they're concerned. But Warren is almost always the one to initiate said contact, and the purpose in all his touches generally eliminates the possibility for awkwardness. The discomfort thrums under his skin now. He puts up with it, but almost as soon as Jonathan starts to pull away Warren's hand follows on his chest, giving Warren the sense of resisting even if there is no force behind it.

Still, the knowledge remains that he effectively won Christmas, and now that he's not being attacked he leans his side back against the sofa, satisfied smirk involuntary and sparking in the darkness of his eyes. "Well, I do what I can, but it's no salon date. Have you two actually had your dicks removed?"

"No," Andrew says, at the same time as Jonathan says, "Shut up!"

There is nothing better than this; the easy connections that keep them all (momentarily) content. Andrew figures it's safe again to take the camera back out of its box and the same thrill of joy runs through his chest as it did the first time he saw it. He hopes it never stops. He slips the strap onto his hand and thinks, maybe it won't.

"Besides," Andrew adds, turning on the camera and revelling in the familiar ping of the menu, the whir of the lens focussing, the tape spinning. "He's gotta look all James Bond for the ball." He's looking at them both through the camera's viewfinder as he tests it, watching the way Jonathan gets almost serene when he's happy, Warren's charismatic self-assurance now that he's one-upped both of them (Andrew doesn't mind in the slightest; in fact he's pretty sure anything Warren could do or say to make him mad has already been made up for a thousand times over by the technology in his hand.)

He isn't recording, it's just enough to slide back into the familiar role of the documenter, the impartial observer. Not that right now he wants to remain impartial, because hello! Christmas! but he's definitely planning to go all Mark Cohen sometime soon. "I hope my Secret Santa kept the receipt," he murmurs distractedly, his food forgotten.

Indignation and embarrassment color Jonathan's cheeks as he flips through the book again, more purposeful this time. Page ninety-six still makes his throat feel tight, and there's practically an essay written beneath it, tiny and cramped and German? German. He curses himself for never taking the language and vows to use the magic of the internet to translate everything later. He flicks to the end. And I will believe the same about you. It's highlighted in green, there's one word written after it, and it's one he recognizes. Love. Jonathan smiles and remembers his own annotations, wonders how much he has in common with the previous owner of the book.

Andrew's words shake him out of his reverie, and he glances at Warren with one eyebrow raised. A receipt won't help you now, Mr. Secret Santa. It only lasts a second before he inclines his head back to Andrew. "What would you say to them?" At another time, in another world, it would have been dripping with his special sarcastic venom. But in the happy thrall of presents and food and everyone getting along, it's an honest question. "Um, hi, sorry, I don't want this, my best friends totally pwned you? Merry Christmas anyway." Jonathan bites back the urge to throw in something about returning a box of metally bits, because it's best that Andrew never knows. Keeping secrets isn't the direction he wants to go in, but there's no harm in this one. Or he hopes, at the very least.

He feels bad for not eating more of the food Andrew slaved over, but really, he's not hungry at all. He just opens the book again (a random page, one thirty-eight, just tell me how to be different in a way that makes sense) and marks the spot with the gift certificate. James Bond is pushing it, but Superstar hair... Jonathan realizes he's smiling off into space again and catches himself. "You're not going to film us, are you?"

"It's a camera, dude," Warren replies, sucking a stray drop of gravy from the inside of his finger. "But if you'd rather be on the other side of it better get working on Miss T&A for that interview. Though," he grins slyly, "if you were looking for something a little more in depth with her you may not be able to avoid it." Warren slides his gaze to the lens, curl of his lips fading into contemplation. Andrew is seeing them without looking and it makes Warren want to shake him up somehow, shock his eyes onto Warren's. But he doesn't really have anything in his arsenal right now, just the taste of Andrew's cooking on his tongue.

Warren realizes he's possibly been staring at the lens for too long and snaps out of his reverie, pushing himself to his feet and lifting his plate with him. "Not really sure how we'd market that, though. Midget porn?" Warren moves into the kitchen, dropping his mostly empty plate in the sink. There's plenty for seconds. Maybe later. He calls back into the living room and waves a careless hand, says absently, "Oh, and your Secret Santa probably won't want the camera back unless they can use the unbroken bits for spare parts or whatever."

It takes Andrew a moment to realise he means Aya. Then he giggles despite himself. This is the way things go; Warren teases, Andrew laughs. Jonathan's frustration is kind of amusing, even though he feels guilty when he glances over and doesn't quite meet his eyes.

He's zoomed in on Warren and the camera follows him as he goes to the kitchen, snaps back to Jonathan and he's about to mouth something like an apology when unbroken bits registers with him and his arm drops, like the barrier of the camera between him and them falling again. "Excuse me what?" he asks, shifting uncomfortably in his seat.

No, he heard them properly. He hopes he manages to cover his horrified expression. It's not that he really intended to take it back, but it was a gift — and probably one that cost more than fifteen dollars — and Andrew's respect for the tradition of Christmas means that he could never even imagine breaking something someone gave to him. Ever. Sure, there was the coffee as well (which had made him wonder, for a moment) but even if Warren has gotten him a way better camcorder than he had ever dreamt of (apart from that one dream, where he was Neo.) Even if. It still seemed rude, somehow, and Andrew wonders what he'll say if his Secret Santa asks him if he liked it. 'Well, I did, for about half a day before my friend kind of smashed it.'

Andrew tries to push his guilt away — it doesn't work. He can't think of anything he can say which won't make them angry or make him seem ungrateful. In the end he settles for staring at the camera in his hand morosely, biting his lip.

"Oh my god." Jonathan groans and drops his head when their secret is revealed. "Unspoken agreement," he calls weakly after Warren. Way unspoken, but seriously, how was that a good idea on any level? Why ruin the happy vibe? Jonathan just uses this as a reminder to not assume anything when it comes to Warren, to not have any expectations. The dilapidated copy of his favorite book had deluded him for a few minutes, but Andrew's fallen face brings everything back down to earth. Maybe destroying the inferior camera wasn't the best course of action after all. It seemed like an awesome idea at the time, but...then again, so had cerebral dampeners.

Jonathan forces that out of his head. Crushed metally bits does not a murder make. Instead, he tries to smile apologetically at Andrew and explain the act away. "We didn't, um, plan it," he offers up. There's a less-than-comfortable silence hanging between them, so Jonathan just reaches one hand out. "Can I?"

The camera is passed down to him, heavy in his hands. It looks odd, Jonathan just turning the camera over a few times before pressing it to his ear. It's not powered on, but there's a hum. Maybe one only he can hear. Still, it's there, and that restores a little bit of his faith in their new world. His lips quirk into a soft smile before handing it back to Andrew. "Um, it was for the greater good. This is way better. Right? I mean. Magic. And Warren worked really hard on it." Jonathan isn't sure if any of this makes Andrew feel better about the destructocamera, but he's trying. "What your secret Santa doesn't know, um, won't hurt them."

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