Last year, winter's approach had meant that Seto and Ren huddled together in old lady Suzuki's basement with her kotatsu and any number of cats. It had been the easiest winter ever; they'd ventured out on warmer days, but Suzuki had enough room that they'd been able to stock up beforehand.
This winter, things were going to be different.
Seto couldn't regret coming back for PF and Crow, not ever. But they were too far from Suzuki's to make it back before snow started to fall, and making the trip was too risky. "Find someplace of your own," Suzuki had told him through the radio. "Get food, blankets. You're a smart boy, and Ren's a smart girl."
Seto told Ren about it, but not about the wet, hacking cough he'd heard. Ren, who had already made herself a new dress out of a sleeping bag, listened with wide eyes and a solemn slant to her mouth. "We should find out where the cats stay during winter."
Crow's reaction was a bit different. "Aren't you going to have sex?"
Seto rocked back on his heels and blinked. "What?" he asked, then glanced over at Ren and PF. Ren looked, if anything, even more confused than Seto. PF stayed quiet. "Um, I don't-- I don't think that's…"
"Humans have sex to stay warm," Crow said in a condescending drawl. "Don't tell me you didn't know that."
Seto did know, unfortunately; he'd read a few of those books himself, and their first winter together he and Ren had stayed in a shelter with a couple who'd been very noisy at night while Seto pretended to sleep. He tried to gather his composure enough to reply to Crow, but Ren beat him to it.
"I don't like sex."
"Everyone likes sex." Crow folded his arms over his chest and scowled at her.
Ren's chin came up, defiant, and Seto stepped up to put a hand on Crow's arm. "No, they don't," he said. "Maybe they did back when those books were written, but not anymore. Shouldn't we talk about this somewhere else, Crow?" Crow and Ren could get downright nasty when they fought, and he didn't want their winter planning to start with that.
PF whirred loudly, which she didn't do too often. The first time she'd done it, Seto had panicked, thinking she had some sort of malfunction, but everything had checked out. It only seemed to happen when Crow and Ren were having some sort of disagreement, so Seto figured it was some sort of polite reminder that she was there as well. "While there is insufficient data to provide percentages, your assessment is inaccurate and based on faulty sources," she said.
Seto blinked. "Um… Whose assessment?"
"Yours," PF said promptly, then, "I am sorry. And Crow's, of course. It is to be expected, since he wasn't given access to the data that I was."
Crow's scowl deepened. "Oh yeah? I'm not full of useless junk data like you! That doesn't make me stupid, it makes me better."
"Crow, PF," Seto said, his voice high-pitched and a little frantic. "Can we have this conversation later?"
"No, I want to hear," Ren said, clapping her hands together. "See, I knew not liking sex was normal." She wrinkled her nose up. "It's all… sweaty and noisy."
Privately, Seto didn't think the sweat or the noise were problematic; he'd been searching for the human connection for so long that he would have been hard-pressed to find any aspect of human contact gross. But he'd had plenty of time to think about it over the years, with Ren, with other survivors they met and said goodbye to. And what had been profoundly lacking every single time was interest.
Which he could explain later, once they'd found somewhere to spend the winter and started gathering supplies. "Um," he said.
Crow looked at him, his eyelids halfway closed. "Well? Aren't you going to be upset that your girlfriend won't put out?"
"'Put out'?" Ren repeated.
"Um!" Seto curled his hands into fists. "Can't we talk about winter? We really should get started."
"You're not going to get out of answering the question." Crow grinned. "Friends tell each other these things.
Seto sighed and tugged on the hem of his coat. "Yeah, okay," he said, defeated. "Later."
Later turned out to be a good idea. Everything seemed so much less immediate when they were huddled around a fire. PF rested propped on her side a safe distance from the fire, while Seto leaned back in Crow's arms and Ren snuggled into his. She nuzzled his neck and yawned.
Seto sighed. "No."
"You don't get to say no." Seto couldn't see Crow's face, but he could hear the annoyance in Crow's tone.
"No, I mean… Ren's not my girlfriend, and I don't want sex, either." Seto tipped his head back against Crow's shoulder to look up at the stars and listen to the crackling of the fire. "Is it really that strange?"
"Yes," Crow said immediately. "You're the strangest humans I've ever met." But he sounded almost pleased.
Seto frowned and sat up so that he could crane his neck and actually look at Crow. Ren grumbled a protest but slid down to settle her chest in his lap instead. "Crow, you're not… jealous, right? You didn't start this whole thing because…"
"No!" That meant yes, Seto decided, looking at the way Crow was holding himself, like he was uncertain somehow. "Someone as great as me doesn't need to be jealous."
"You're not that great," Ren mumbled into Seto's thigh. "You're loud. Seto really likes you for some reason, though."
"I do," Seto agreed, "um, like you. You definitely don't need to be jealous." He hesitated and watched the way Crow's eyes were flicking rapidly back and forth, even though his neck was starting to hurt. "Just because it's winter doesn't mean…" He trailed off and thought hard. He had to phrase this right. "You're warm, too, Crow. Just because it's a different kind of warmth doesn't mean-- I really like you." He sighed. "Ren is important to me, and so is PF. And so are you. You're my best friend."
"Best friend," Crow repeated. "Of course I am. You really are the strangest humans I've ever met." He leaned forward to press his lips to Seto's, and Seto closed his eyes to relax into the kiss.
Maybe he would never be able to explain it to Crow, whose knowledge of humanity came from books and an adaptive learning system, but Seto didn't think he'd ever need more than this, not the way those books described it. He had Crow's synthetic mouth against his and Ren's heart beating against his leg, and PF was there as well. Who was there to say what he should be happy with? Not anyone, not anymore.
"Traditionally," PF said, "best friends don't kiss each other on the mouth." Seto opened his mouth to protest when she added, "I believe a more accurate term would be 'boyfriend.'"
"That's a stupid word." Crow's voice dripped with scorn. "Seto's my best friend, and I'm his."
"And I'm Ren," Ren mumbled, thick with sleep.