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Creeper Boyfriend

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It’s as though my ears have become sensitive to the sound of Gavin’s screams. Whether I’m sleeping or awake, just hearing his high pitched panicked squeals causes me to jump into action regardless of what’s happening around me.

It’s no surprise that as soon as I hear it this morning, I’m out of bed and out the door before I even think to grab my sword.

I stop dead in my tracks when I see that everything is covered in a clean sheet of white snow. Thick white snowflakes are falling to the ground around me gracefully and continues to decorate the trees. Yesterday there wasn’t a hint of snow, but the air has been feeling colder lately.

It is December after all.

"Michael!" I hear Gavin cry, and I look over at his house to see him standing in his doorway. He has his hands wrapped around his arms and I don’t know if it’s because he’s cold or scared.

"Gavin!" I yell back, running the short distance from my house to his, "What’s wrong, are you okay?"

He points down at the snow covered ground, his bare feet a mere few inches from it. I look back and forth between him and it, he looks incredibly worried and confused.

"Yeah, it must have snowed last night. A lot too," I murmur, and kick around some of the loose snow surrounding my feet.

He squeals and grabs me by the shoulders, roughly pulling me into his house.

"Jeez, what’s wrong with you?" I manage to catch myself from falling to the floor when he lets me go in favor of closing the door.

He just looks out of the window with a worried expression on his face, not bothering to answer my question.

Why is he freaking out so much? Does he not like snow?

To test this I open up the door and he turns around immediately with wide eyes.

"No, Michael!" he cries and tries to shut it again. I hold it open though and fight against him.

"Gavin, fucking stop! What the hell is wrong?"

He just gives me a pitiful concerned look that makes me want to scoop him up in my arms. “Have you been possessed or something? Are you okay? Should I go get the witch doctor?”

*

I end up going to get the witch doctor.

Or in other words, Ryan.

I stay with Gavin for an hour or two and try to keep his mind away from whatever is upsetting him. It works for the most part, but he’s constantly looking back towards the window nervously.

He yelled and fought the entire time I tried to leave his house, but when I finally got out he refused to run after me. Hearing him cry out for me to stay with him made me feel really bad, but I know that nothing is going to happen to him within his own house. He’ll be fine, Gavin just tends to overreact over nothing. You get used to it when you’ve been dating him for a few months.

"Town meeting!" I to them all once I leave Gavin’s. Almost everybody is awake and already outside anyways, so it doesn’t take long them long to gather together into the middle of town.

One of the best things about our little community is that when you announce a town meeting, everybody drops everything to come without question. Sometimes it’s for serious matters, sometimes it for something as simple as asking when lunch will be.

"What’s up?" Ray asks, but it’s obvious that everybody knows it has to do with the town’s resident creeper boy due to all of the shouting he was doing when I left his house.

"Gavin’s being weird," I state out right. Everybody turns toward the small boy’s house and we can see him still worriedly looking out of the window.

He scoffs, “What else is new?”

"No, I mean, he isn’t jumping around and being a moron like usual. He’s just hiding in his house terrified to leave."

Geoff raises an eyebrow, “Think it has anything to do with the snow?”

"But why? He’s a creeper. He’s lived the majority of his life outdoors." Jack questions.

Ryan rolls his eyes as though he’s annoyed at our lack of creeper knowledge. “Creepers usually travel to warmer climates when it gets cold. I imagine Gavin’s spent his winters in desert biomes, that’s usually where they migrate.”

"So he’s never seen snow before?"

"Probably not. I can’t imagine anybody being this scared if they’re familiar with it."

"Well how about we just teach him that it’s safe?" Ray suggests.

"I think you just want an excuse to play in the snow all day," Geoff accuses him, and I have to admit that it’s true. I wouldn’t mind taking a day off of our usual duties to play around and goof off.

"But it’s to help Gavin," I point out, "Do you really want all of us to pack up and spend winter in a desert biome?"

He rolls his eyes but I know I’ve made my point. Gavin is Geoff’s weak spot. They really are like father and son, and it seems like Geoff would do almost anything to keep the kid safe. Their relationship makes me incredibly happy just because I know that I’m not the only one watching over him. Everybody else loves Gavin and would protect him in an instant, but not to the same extent as I would.

"Fine. You three can dick around in the snow if you want," he mutters, "Butonly because Gavin looks like he’s going to shit himself every time he sees it.”

"Why only those three?" Ryan asks, a childish frown on his face.

"Yeah, we wanna play in the snow too!" Jack argues.

"Jesus Christ," Geoff groans, "Fine, all of you can play in the damn snow. I’m surrounded by children."

Ray lets out a loud noise of celebration, “Snow day, bitches!”

*

"Gavin?" I knock on his doors, ignoring the numerous snowballs being thrown at me by Ray. They have not wasted any time in beginning to play in the snow.

"Michael?"

I smile and open up the door to find him still staring out of his window looking conflicted. He can see everybody else outside playing and having fun, and it’s obvious that he wants to join them.

"Hey, buddy, wanna come out and play?"

"No," he shakes his head stubbornly, still refusing to believe that snow is safe.

"Come on, just try it. It’s really fun, I promise," I say as I wrap my arms around his shoulders and pull him in for a hug.

"No danger?" he asks while nuzzling his cheek against my shoulder softly.

"None whatsoever," I grin and walk away from him towards the door, "Look, I’ll prove it."

I open up the door and scoop a bunch of snow. Gavin watches me quietly from inside the safety of his house as I throw it up into the air and it rains down on me, covering my hair and shoulders in snow before I gently shake it off. I make sure to keep a grin on my face the entire time so that he knows that it’s fun and there isn’t one moment of discomfort or pain.

"See? Completely safe."

He still looks suspicious of it and although it’s fairly annoying, I can’t blame him. Imagine never seeing snow before, not knowing what it is or ever hearing about it. Then suddenly your entire home is covered in it with no explanation to you at all.

"It’s just winter, Gavin," I try to explain, "Which means that the air gets colder and snow falls from the sky. This is all the snow that’s fallen so far."

"What is it?"

"Like, cold water." I pick up a handful and swallow some just to prove a point, "Totally harmless."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes. But that means that you have to dress warmer too. We’ve all got winter coats and stuff, but we’ll have to ask Ryan to make you one."

He nods and steps to his door frame, staring down at the snow near his feet.

"Come on, Gavin!" I hear Ray yell out. He’s hiding behind a small snow wall, throwing snowballs at Jack who’s trying to make an igloo.

"You know you want to," I grin at the look on his face. He’s just fighting against himself to finally give in and join them.

"Can Michael help?"

"Of course," I take his hand and he takes his first step onto snow. His feet sink into it and it makes a satisfying crunch noise. I snicker when his eyes widen at it with amusement.

He lifts up one of his feet only to bring it down again, enjoying the sound it makes.

"See? It’s fun."

He nods slowly, and hesitantly kick some snow around to test it.

"Here," I pick up a handful of snow and press it down into a tight ball, "This is a snowball. Ray spends the majority of winter throwing them at people, but they’re totally harmless."

As if to prove my point, a snowball flies over our way and I duck just into time for it to miss me and hit the wall of Gavin’s house instead. Gavin squeals out of fright and he would run back to his house if it weren’t for me grabbing his arm and holding him back.

"Not helping, Ray!" I yell but he just laughs in return, "See, Gav? Ray’s having a good time. If it would have hit me it wouldn’t have hurt."

"But you got upset."

"Only because I’m trying to show you that it’s safe and I didn’t think immersing you in a snowball fight would be the way to do it."

"Snowball fight?" he questions, cocking his head with confusion.

"Yeah, it’s when everybody throws snowballs at one another."

He thinks about this for a few moments, committing the unfamiliar words to memory and trying to process their explanations. “Is it fun?” he asks with a hopeful but still hesitant look in his eyes.

Finally we’re getting somewhere.

"Yeah," I smile, "Of course it is. Otherwise we wouldn’t be doing it all of the time."

Gavin watches the snow around his feet for a few silent moments before finally meeting my gaze again, “Can we have a snowball fight?”

I let a grin spread across my face, “Fuck yes.”

*

Ray, Gavin, and I are are crouched behind our snow fort wall, trying to quickly make as many snowballs as we can and pile them up. We have no idea what the opposing team (which consists of just Ryan and Jack) are doing. As I explain to Gavin the rules of a snowball fight, Ray continues to pester Geoff until he finally gives in an joins us.

"Come on, Geoff!" Ray hollers over to the man that’s leaning against his house, watching us with an amused look on his face.

"Fuck off!" he calls back, but it’s obvious that he’s only a few seconds away from caving. As much as he hates to admit it, he loves to play silly games with us too. Whenever he allows himself to be in the Let’s Plays, he raves on and on about how much fun they are.

"Please, Geoffrey!" I say, "It’s not as fun without you and your game structure!"

He lets out a dramatic sigh and begins to walk over to Ryan and Jack’s side with a grin.

"If we’re going to do this, we’re going to do it right!" he states.

"What do you suggest?"

"We need an actual winning team by the end of this. First team to lose every member of their team to the other, loses. If you get hit by three snowballs, each by a member of the opposing team, then you have to switch."

"Sounds fair enough. Any rules?"

"No."

This is going to get dangerous real fast, but that’s always when things are the most fun.

We all cheer that he’s joining us and he crouches down behind the enemy base. Thus making this a game of Lads vs. Gents.

"Perfect!" I whisper to the lads who are busy making snowballs. Our fingers are all freezing since we aren’t wearing gloves, but it’s easy to ignore. "Keep your eyes open. Geoff is the scheming one. He’ll probably be coming up with all of their plans. Jack is a builder and will probably be assigned to fortification, so be prepared for their base to be high quality. Ryan… is a fucking lunatic, let’s be honest. Just make sure he’s always on your radar."

The two nod, even though I’m sure Gavin didn’t really understand what any of that meant.

"Ray, you’re aim is the best out of everyone in Achievement City, but try not to be too reckless. I don’t want to hear any cries of yolo. Try your hardest not to get tagged.”

"Got it."

"Gavin… uh…" Ray smirks as I fail to think of something that he excels in, "Just don’t die. ‘kay, babe?"

"Got it!" Gavin grins.

It’s quite apparent that we take stupid children games like snowball fights waytoo seriously in Achievement City. I peep over the edge of our little snow fort to see that Geoff is talking to the Gents in hushed whispers, obviously making a game plan.

Fuck that.

"Gav, snowball me," I hold my hand out to him and he quickly places one in my palm. I don’t hesitate to throw it right at Geoff. I just want the war to start completely. If I were going for annoyance I would have gone for Ryan. But hitting Geoff means that this will be kicked into high gear.

"Ow! You fucking cocksucker!" he yells at me.

Of course, the game continues for a few more minutes. An uncountable amount of snowballs are thrown back and forth between our forts. Gavin’s quickly trying to conjure up as many as he can, attempting to be helpful is any way possible.

Ray and I both take turns looking out and seeing if the coast is clear for the other to make a shot. It’s a good system, and so far we’ve gotten Geoff once, Jack twice, and Ryan once. They’ve gotten both Ray and I twice each so far, but only Gavin once.

I tell Ray to shut up when he begins humming battle music, and it’s only when he stops that I realize how quiet everything is.

"What’s going on?" I whisper to him, "They’ve stopped."

"Think they’re up to something?"

"I don’t know."

"Hey!" a voice calls out, and all three of us look out to see Geoff standing in front of his base, completely defenseless.

I hold up a snowball threateningly, but he puts his hands up in surrender.

"Don’t fire. I’m peacefully offering a discussion of exchange."

I give him a suspicious glare, “What kind of exchange?”

"No. First we must know that we can trust you. I am unarmed and as you can see from my men, they have no plans on attack." he gestures to the rest of the gents, who are watching from behind their fort much like us. They also raise up their hands in surrender, showing that their empty.

"Let us discuss among ourselves first."

"Of course."

We duck back behind our wall and huddle around each other, Gavin’s still smiling at the excitement of all of this.

"You following any of this at all?" Ray asks him.

"Snow is fun!" he beams.

"Great," I roll my eyes at his incompetence, but turn back to the matter at hand, "Think we should trust them?"

"I don’t know. It seems pretty risky. But they’ve offered a peaceful discussion, so breaking their own offer would be dishonorful."

"True. I don’t think Geoff could ever look Griffon in the eye again if he brought that kind of dishonor upon his own team."

"I think we should at least see what they’ve got to say. We can always decline if it’s unsatisfactory."

I know Gavin doesn’t understand most of these words we’re using, but it all ties in to the war-type game we’re playing, and it wouldn’t be as much fun without it. He seems to be content regardless, so it isn’t much of a bother.

"Agreed. I’ll go out and you guys be prepared for attack if something goes wrong. Gavin, watch Geoff. Ray, watch the remaining Gents."

"Okay." they both nod in synchronization and we all lift our heads again.

"Alright, Geoff. We agree to the discussion of exchange, but we want no tomfoolery to take place during."

"That is acceptable," he nods, "Who is going out for discussion?"

"Me."

"Ryan will meet you in the center of the battle field."

"Excellent."

I duck down behind the fort again with the Lads, “Fuck, they’re sending out Ryan. I figured they would send out Geoff. Keep an extra close eye, okay? I don’t want anything going wrong.”


"We got your back, Jones." Ray says, giving me a firm pat on the shoulder.

"You’re a good man, Narvaez."

"Bye, Michael!" Gavin smiles cheerfully and waves as I leave, totally ruining the illusion.

"Goddammit, Gavin," I mutter and roll my eyes.

As I walk to the center of the battlefield, Ryan meets me there. There’s no sign of snowballs in his hands and although I know I shouldn’t, I trust that there won’t be any backstabbing taking place.

"Ryan."

"Michael."

"Sup, bro?"

"Oh, you know," he shrugs, "Nothing really. Trying to take down your army and then bathe in the blood of the innocents. The usual."

I gulp. Even after all of these years of knowing him, Ryan can be really fucking creepy when he wants to be. “Okay, whatever you say, psychopath.”

He chuckles, “We have agreed to meet here to discuss an exchange the Gents are willing to offer.”

"I’m listening."

"We are willing to give your team fifty well prepared fresh snowballs," he states out right.

I turn to look at the Lads and Ray’s mouth is dropped at the thought. Fifty snowballs is a lot of ammunition, probably enough to last us the rest of the game. We could stop snowball production altogether.

But I’m not stupid. I know if they’re willing to give away that many snowballs they must want something more valuable to them.

"In exchange for what?"

Ryan smirks evilly at me and I resist the strong urge to wince or look away from him. “We want Gavin.”

My eyes widen, “Absolutely not.”

"We believe it is a fair trade. That number of snowballs is worth another player on our end. We believe it is evening out the field in your favor."

"In our favor!? You’d have four guys against two!"

"But you would have all of our current ammunition."

I glare at him, easily breaking character, “We are not trading off my boyfriend.”

"Oh please," he scoffs, "He won’t care. That kid will do anything you say."

"I don’t own him, Ryan. He’s a human being.”

"Who caters to your every whim. We, the Gents, want that."

"You make him sound like he’s my pet."

"Because he basically is!"

"He is not!"

"Oh yeah?" he challenges, "Whistle for him then. Like a dog."

Fuck.

He sees the hesitation on my face and continues to mock me, “Whistle for your little creeper pet, Michael.”

"You’re so fucking creepy, Ryan," I mutter, glaring into his eyes, "Gavin is not my pet and I’m not going to exchange him for fifty snowballs. He’s worth more than that to me and my team."

He leans in close to me with that smirk still on his face before whispering the words, “Whistle.”

I know I’m not going to get out of this unless I whistle for Gavin. I’m hoping that he won’t come, although whistling is actually what we use to find each other when we part ways out in the woods. I’m fearful that he might come running to me out of habit.

I take a deep breath and then whistle softly.

"Gavin, no!" I hear Ray say, but it’s hopeless because within seconds Gavin is latched onto my side, out in the middle of the arena with me and the goddamn mad king.

"Told you," Ryan grins.

"Fuck off," I roll my eyes, "What I’ve said still stands. Gavin isn’t for sale and all of the snowballs in the world wouldn’t make us sell him to you. You’re sick."

"Yeah!" Ray yells, "What he said!"

"Yeah!" Gavin repeats him, probably still not following the conversation at all and just wanting to join in, "What he said!"

"Gavin," Geoff hollers from his base, "Do you want to be on our team?"

He gasps excitedly at the thought, “Yeah!”

"Gavin!" I yell, giving him an incredulous look. He stares back at me innocently, not knowing that he’s just agreed to betrayal against his own team.

"Grab him!" Jack yells.

Before I can do anything to stop him, Ryan harshly shoves me so that I fall backwards onto the snow before grabbing Gavin and running back to his base with him.

I’m about to run after him but I’m reminded of the danger of the situation when Ray yells out to me.

"Michael get back!"

I’m out in the middle of the battlefield with nothing but a single man who is back at base to protect me. I scramble back as quickly as I can, dodging a snowball thrown by Jack.

Once back to the safety of my own base I yell over at them, “We said no tomfoolery!”

"Too bad!"

"I’m gonna skin you alive and feed the remains to Edgar!"

"This is goddamn ridiculous," I hear Geoff say between sinister giggles.

"Are you alright, man?" Ray asks me.

"I’m fine, but-"

"I know. We didn’t even get the fifty snowballs."

Ray!”

"Okay, okay, sorry. Yeah, I get it. Lover boy has switched sides. In all honesty this is worst case scenario for us. We’ve only got one hit left each, we know they’ve got fifty snowballs back there piled up, plus now they have Gavin, who can make them more if they need it. Which I doubt they will. We’re completely outnumbered."

I sigh, “We’re more fucked than you and Geoff were that time we played The Walls and you dug yourselves to bedrock and then blew it up.”

"That was entertainment value."

"It was dumbass value, and now we’re worse off than you two were during that. We’re fucked no matter how we go about this. We have nothing, and they have Gavin. Which sucks for us.”

Ray raises an eyebrow, “Does it though?”

I glare at him, “Yes.”

"Should we surrender?"

"Yeah, but let’s do it with a bang. Grab all of the snowballs you can."

We gather up as many as we can in our arms before running out. There’s no sign of the gents or Gavin peeking out or keeping watch as we carefully sneak out, trying our hardest to be unheard.

As soon as we reach their fort we peek over the ledge and see them huddled up and talking to Gavin, who is nodding at their words. Ryan sees us first and opens his mouth to alert everybody else, but we’re too fast and begin pelting them with snowballs. Easily taking down everybody as screams and battle cries fill the air.

Although the game is obviously over, we continue to attack them, everybody is laughing too hard to actually argue over the legitimacy of the previous moves and instead we all turn to physically attacking one another.

"We were trying to train our new recruit!" Geoff argues, still laughing his ass off as he playfully pushes me.

"You mean kidnap victim!"

"He wasn’t kidnapped, he agreed to join our side!"

"Michael!" Gavin cries out, and leaps at both of us. We stumble at the impact but laugh regardless when he giggles and fights back against us too.

"You’re such a double agent, you little fucker!" I grin at him.

"I don’t know what’s happening!" he says, still not following the game or lack thereof.

Once everything settles down and we’re all just laughing at the ridiculous snowball fight that had just taken place, Gavin rubs at his bare arms with his hands, trying to create some friction in an attempt to warm himself. It’s only then that I remember that he’s the only one out here without a coat on or any other winter clothing. Fuck, he’s probably freezing.

"You okay, buddy?" Geoff asks him, but Gavin just nods easily, not bothered much by the cold.

"We should get him inside and get some warm, dry clothes on him. He still isn’t used to this type of temperature, but I’m sure it will catch up once all of the excitement wears off," Ryan says, helping Ray off of the ground where he was tackled during the fun.

"I’m fine!" Gavin protests as Geoff leads him back to his house by the shoulders, "I want to play!"

"Nope, it’s not safe for you to be out in the cold like this with no coat," Geoff explains, "We were stupid to completely forget about it, but you’re going to end up getting sick."

"Michael said snow is safe!"

"It is, but only when you’re wearing warm clothing."

"Oh."

"You feeling cold?"

"Yes," he nods, snuggling into Geoff’s jacket.

I grin at their fatherly son relationship. So much care and love shouldn’t be physically possible because sometimes it’s just too goddamn adorable.

"Well, that was a wildly successful snowball war, and even though it’s still early in the afternoon, I am exhausted." I say, and everybody else nods in agreement.

*

Gavin’s snuggled up in blanket as we sit on the floor of his house hours later. He keeps raving on and on about how much he likes the snow and keeps interrupting our lesson to ask when we can go out to play again.

"You look insanely adorable all cuddled up in a blanket like that," I point out, smirking at the sight of him.

"It’s warm and fluffy," he grins, "Ryan gave it to me."

"He had to, we still don’t have a coat for you yet. You’d probably freeze otherwise."

"Winter is fun," he muses, "Is there more fun?"

"Well it’s going to be Christmas in two weeks," I point out, "So we’ll probably get a tree and everything."

"Christmas?" he cocks his head to the side.

"Yeah," I nod, "I haven’t told you about it yet?"

"No. What is it?"

"It’s a holiday to celebrate those you love and care about," I try to explain as simply as I can.

"I love and care about Michael," he says, innocence and confusion in his wide eyes.

I grin and pull him forward to kiss his temple, “Yeah, buddy, of course that counts. But it’s not just to celebrate how much you love your boyfriend. It’s about being with your friends and family, and giving presents to one another.”

"Presents!?"

"You do not need to get me a present." I state outright, "We all know how badly that ended last time. Usually what we do is everybody gets one present each from the others."

"Gavin gets a present?"

"Yeah, of course."

"Is Christmas as fun as snowball fights?"

"Well here in Achievement City it is," I smile as I watch his eyes grow even wider in excitement, "We get a tree and then decorate it with a bunch of flashing lights."

I take the next few moments to draw a picture of a Christmas tree onto his wall. My artistic skills have still not improved much since our first lesson. He watches with fascination, already bouncing giddy in place at the very idea of it.

"Christmas sounds fun!"

"There are other holidays too," I point out, "Lots of people celebrate different things. Our friend Barbara came for a visit last year and we celebrated Hanukkah with her. She gave us all little Hanukkah stickers for fun and Geoff is still annoyed that she didn’t bother to give him one."

"Tell me more!" he demands when I don’t continue.

I laugh and spend the rest of the night teaching him about the holidays that we typically celebrate and what we do on those days. His excitement grows more and more and he seems amazed at the entire concept of holidays.

*

I probably should have waited until Christmas Eve to tell him about these things, because even a week later he’s still squealing about it and bothering Geoff when he comes back from visiting Griffon.

I feel like, other than Gavin, I talk to Geoff and do chores with him the most. I’m always playfully pretending to be a kiss ass and doing whatever he says, but we honestly are really good friends. Right now we’re in the mine underneath Jack’s house, searching for any coal or iron we may have missed before.

"I’d been busy all week taking care of Griffon. She was sick with the flu while I was visiting and I had to keep going back and forth from her house to Slomoville to get medicine for her."

"Ah," I murmur, "Shitty. She okay now?"

"Yeah. She wanted to come back here to celebrate Gavin’s first Christmas with him, but she didn’t even feel well enough to get out of bed sometimes. Hence why I stayed a few days extra because even though she’s better now, I wanted to be sure before I left her on her own again."

"Did you take her to the clinic?"

"She’d threaten to break my arm whenever I’d bring it up. Unhealthy Griffon is not a happy Griffon."

"At least you managed to time your visit well enough to be there while she was sick. Would have sucked if she was all on her own."

"Yeah, no kidding," he nods, "Can you try to convince your dumbass boyfriend to stop pestering me about Christmas? We were trying to make the new Let’s Play yesterday and he wouldn’t shut the hell up about it."

"Can you really blame him?" I smirk, "It’s his first winter and Christmas. Poor thing is freaking out."

"Only one week left. Then no more overexcited Gavin." he mutters.

"Have you met Gavin? You think he’s going to calm down after Christmas? New Years is only a week after.”

"Fuck."

*

A few days later I’m incredibly confused when I wake up on my own accord.

It’s very rare that I am not woken up by my screaming excitable boyfriend. Usually the only peaceful mornings I get are when he’s busy helping Geoff build the new Let’s Play.

I try to keep my calm and get up as casually as possible. I need to stop panicking and worrying every time that Gavin isn’t in my sight. He isn’t a kid, even if he is a little dependent. I take my time putting on my winter coat and boots, attempting to push the overreacting thoughts from my head.

Gavin’s probably fine. Maybe he just slept in or decided to let me sleep for a few more hours. The more excuses my brain conjures up, the more unlikely it all seems.

My feet sink into the snow as I walk to Gavin’s. It isn’t snowing anymore, but the air still is pretty cold. Hopefully it doesn’t get stormy or we may have to post pone the Let’s Play.

I attempt to focus on other unimportant things like that as I come up to Gavin’s door and knock on it a lot harsher than intended.

"Hey, Gav?" I call out loudly, and then proceed to knock again when he doesn’t respond.

Worry begins to creep up my spine as more time passes in silence.

"Gavin?" I ask, my voice sounding a little more frantic. I say fuck it to Gavin’s personal space and open the door to his house. It’s not like he’s ever respected mine and waited outside when I told him not to come in.

All of my earlier fears come crashing down all at once when I see his house is empty. I spend no more than a few moments searching through for any sign of him, but he isn’t here.

No need to panic.

No need to panic.

"Geoff!" I scream at the top of my lungs, running out of Gavin’s house and towards his, "Geoffrey!"

Fuck, I probably sound like such a kid right now, but I don’t even care. I just need to make sure that Gavin is okay and somewhere safe. If it was warm outside then I wouldn’t be that worried, but it’s winter. It’s cold and snowing, he doesn’t have a coat and the consequences of not finding him in time could be more than just a little flu.

"Michael? What the fuck, man?" Geoff asks when I barge into his house, he’s still trying to rub the sleep out of his eyes.

"Gavin’s gone."

Those are the only words I need to say for him to jump into action.

*

"How long do you think he’s been out there?" Jack asks as we all stand in Ryan’s house. I just want to hurry up and get the okay to go find Gavin. I don’t give a shit about everybody knowing, my main concern right now is finding him and bringing him back here alive.

"Probably not long, but we still have to find him fast. Gavin doesn’t have any understandings of cold or winter," Ryan states, "He’s probably out there with no winter apparel or source of heat."

"Follow any tracks of footprints that you can find. There are still lots just from us doing our jobs and stuff yesterday, but at least one has to lead to Gavin."

"It isn’t safe to go out there without proper equipment," Ryan says, "Most of you can hardly navigate your way through the woods when it’s summer. We don’t want any more people getting lost. So I think it’s about time we test out these."

We all raise an eyebrow as he kneels down next to a chest and opens it. He rummages in it for a few moments before pulling out a black headset looking thing.

"The hell is that?" Ray questions.

"Communication devices," he explains, as he hands it to me and then begins taking out others to give to everyone out, "We’ll all be able to talk to one another easily without any hassle. There’s tracking devices inside of it. That way if one of us finds Gavin then we can all meet back at Achievement City quickly."

When one of us finds Gavin,” I correct.

He nods, “Yeah. When.”

"These are bad ass, Ryan," Geoff says as we all put them on. It’s a simple thing with only a button to adjust volume and to turn the thing on and off. They’re comfortable to wear and there’s no annoying wires to deal with.

"Think of it as my little Christmas gift to all of you." Ryan smiles.

"What’s the sitch, Wade?"

"Not the time, Ray," I glare at him, "Can we go now? The more time we spend here in the warmth, the more Gavin is out there."

"Don’t worry, Michael. We’ll find him."

"Yeah, but I prefer to find him without frostbite."

*

My boots sink into the snow with every step that I take and flakes gently land into my hair. Every few moments I have to shake my head to keep the cold and wet out of my hair as much as I can.

During the process of telling everybody about Gavin’s disappearance and preparing to go find him, I’ve tried to keep my mind off of it as much as possible.

But now I’m just stuck with these horrifying thoughts that sink into my brain. Ireally don’t want to find Gavin hurt or injured. If it were warm I wouldn’t worry at all. Gavin’s survived who knows how long out in the woods all by himself with nobody around to help him. But winter is a whole other story.

The kid can hardly sit on a horse without practically falling off and killing himself. I don’t really have high expectations on his chances of survival out in winter all by himself.

When I go to shake my head again to get the snow out of my hair, I see a flash of green out of the corner of my eye.

When I first see it I think that it’s a creeper. The familiar look of Gavin’s creeper skin shirt both strikes fear and relief into me for a split moment.

"Oh my God," I breathe out slowly, relief flooding my senses when I see him.

He’s sitting on a large rock with his hands wrapped around his arms in an attempt to keep warm. As soon as I begin running toward him he looks up and his eyes are full of panic.

"Gavin!" I yell out to him. I’m only a few feet away when he screams out for me to stop.

"No, Michael!" he sobs, "No stop!"

I obey him, not moving another muscle. Oh, God, is he hurt? I instantly scan his entire body to check for blood or any visible woulds, but he looks fine. Other than the fact that he’s shivering like crazy.

Now isn’t the time to panic. Something is obviously not right and although I want nothing more than to scoop him up into my arms, it might not be a good idea.

"Gav?"

"Stop," he repeats, and puts his hands over his mouth and nose, as though to conceal them in some way. I don’t know why though, he doesn’t appear to be injured or hurt there.

"What is it? What’s wrong?"

His face crumples in a way that completely breaks my heart. “Geoff says I’m not a creeper but I am, Michael! I am!” he cries, his voice slightly muffled from his hands.

"Gavin, what are you talking about!?" His teeth and chattering and it’s obvious that he’s freezing.

"I’m exploding!" he cries, "I don’t want to explode! I don’t want to be a creeper! I want to be like Michael!"

You can hear the chill in his voice. As though he’s fighting against the cold to me. It cracks and wavers with each word as he speaks, and it only helps to feed my worry.

I shake my head quickly, trying my hardest to reassure him in the fastest way possible. But I also have to be calm, Gavin’s acting hysterical enough for the both of us. Panicking is only going to scare him more and I need to calm him down because I don’t know how much longer he can last out here without being severely injured from the temperature.

"You aren’t a creeper, Gavin. You’re not going to explode."

"I have!"

"No you haven’t, you’re still in one piece, aren’t you?"

I can’t fathom why he’s thinking like this. Hesitant realization dances in his eyes and I grasp onto that. The more he realizes that he’s safe and nothing bad is going to happen, then the quicker I can get him back to the safety and warmth of Achievement City.

Gavin seems to consider my words and even looks down to check that he is indeed all there, he hasn’t been blown up yet. He subconsciously moves his hands away from his face as he does so, “…Yeah.”

"Yeah," I nod, taking a few small steps closer to him, "When creepers explode they get blown up too. If you were exploding you wouldn’t still be standing here, right?"

"But I have!" he argues, his face becoming fearful again, "Gavin’s been exploding and I don’t want Michael hurt!"

It’s only when he uses his own name to refer to himself that I’m reminded of the fact that this is still Gavin. The quiet and curious creeper boy that I’ve found orphaned out in the woods all of those months ago. Although he’s learning and discovering new things about what it’s like to be an actual person instead of a creeper, he still doesn’t know everything. He’s still unfamiliar with human concepts and behaviors.

"You aren’t going to hurt me," I take another step towards him but the sound of his horrified shriek makes me stop dead in my track.

I raise my eyebrow when he suddenly sneezes, so harshly that his while body shudders from it. But that isn’t the odd part, the odd part is Gavin’s scream of terror afterwards. He covers up his face again and makes even more distance between us.

Realization strikes.

"Oh, baby," I coo, trying not to chuckle out of pure relief, "You aren’t exploding. You’re just sneezing."

"Sneezing?" his tone suggests that he’s never even heard the word before.

I nod frantically and take a few more slow steps toward him. He doesn’t jump back and instead remains in place, watching me as he thinks over the word.

He’s still just that scared little creeper boy. Scared of losing people close to him and terrified that he might be the reason that they’re gone. We haven’t talked much about his family, I know that the more time he spends with us the more that empty hole in his heart is filled.

He just wants to be surrounded by those that he cares about and he doesn’t want to be alone anymore. But here he is, sitting out in the middle of the freezing cold, all alone because he’s scared that he’s going to hurt his new family.

"It’s not a creeper thing. It’s a human thing. People sneeze all the time. It’s normal. You’re normal. You aren’t going to hurt anybody.”

"…Really?" his voice is so quiet and hopeful that I can’t help but smile.

"Really," I confirm, and walk the last few steps toward him before engulfing him in my arms. He doesn’t jump away anymore and embraces it, sighing with relief that he isn’t actually a danger to me.

It’s only then that I remember that he’s freezing. I can feel the goosebumps on his arms since he’s only wearing his usual creeper skin shirt and no coat. Fuck, he’s already sick so being out here in the cold isn’t helping that at all. When I go to pull away he pulls me back.

"No. Stay," he murmurs into my shoulder, I can hear the soft noise of his teeth chattering together, "Warm."

"Goddammit, here," I quickly take off my coat and put it around his shoulders.

As soon as I take it off the cold air bites at my skin and I question how he ever managed this long out here. He doesn’t argue and just snuggles deeply into the fabric of the coat which hangs off of his lanky frame.

I turn on my communications device, wasting no time in updating the guys. “I’ve got him.”

"Oh thank god," Geoff responds, breathing out a huge sigh of relief, "Is he okay?" Everybody else keeps quiet, knowing that they may have to be ready for any kind of emergency news. It is winter after all.

"I think so. He’s absolutely freezing and I think he’s sick. I gave him my coat but I don’t know how long he’s last out here before getting seriously ill."

"Fuck, okay, get him back to Achievement City as fast as possible. Everybody else make your way back as well."

"Got it, boss," somebody says in response, but I don’t even pay attention to their confirmations because I’m too busy focusing on Gavin, who now has his eyes closed as he attempts to block out the cold.

"Bring him to your house when you get there," Ryan instructs, "I’ll start up your fireplace and bring blankets over there along with a first aid kit."

"Sound good," I respond, already starting to shiver from the cold.

I turn off the device and look back to Gavin, “Are you okay?”

There’s frost on his eyelashes and if I wasn’t so concerned I’d probably make a joke about icicles hanging from his big dopey nose soon. “Cold,” he murmurs weakly.

"I know, buddy, we’re gonna get you home."

"Carry?"

I scoff and roll my eyes even though I’m not annoyed. I’m more concerned than anything, but I don’t want him to see that. I want him to think that everything is okay and that I’m not panicking right now.

I allow him to weakly climb onto my back, wincing at the feeling of the cold material of his clothing against my skin.

As I begin walking back to Achievement City, I get more and more fearful that I won’t make it back in time. That when we get there we’ll find out that Gavin has frost bite or hypothermia.

"It’s gonna be okay," I murmur, but I’m not sure if I’m saying it to Gavin or myself.

"Michael?"

"Yeah?"

"I’m scared."

Fucking- God fucking dammit.

"Don’t be."

*

My legs and lungs feel like they’re on fire when I finally make it back to Achievement City.

Everybody is waiting for us in the center of town, some pacing, others with worried looks on their faces as they speak in hushed tones.

"Hey!" I yell out, still too tired and cold to walk the rest of the ways toward them.

All of their heads snap up immediately and I can see the relief in their eyes as they run over to us. Gavin is pulled off of my back by Ryan and he already begins walking him to my house as Geoff does the same with me.

"Are you okay, Michael?" he asks.

"I’m fine, just worry about Gavin."

"Trust me when I say that I am. But you don’t look so good either."

I actually feel alright other than the fact that I’m incredibly tired from walking such a long distance in the cold. My arms and legs feel stiff and numb, but I’m fine otherwise.

When Geoff sets me down, we’re inside of my house and Gavin is sitting up next to me. I can feel the warmth of the fireplace to the side of us and blankets being pulled up and around my shoulders by the others.

"Gavin, are you awake?" Ryan asks him, holding him up by the shoulders.

His eyelids flicker a little, which is a good sign because that means that he isn’t unconscious. I move Ryan’s hands away and take Gavin’s cheeks, bring his face closer to mine.

"Hey, Gavvy," I murmur to him, not finding the strength to speak any louder, "You’ve gotta wake up, buddy. We’re all really worried about you."

He moans a little, but leans in to my touch a little more.

I sigh in relief. I know what Gavin’s like when he’s just sleeping. He’ll refuse to wake up and instead whines and complains instead of opening his eyes and giving in to the fact that he’s been woken up. He’s always storming into my house and pulling me out of bed, but when I do it to him he acts like I’m the most horrible person in the world.

"I know you’re awake," I smile, "But we’re out of the cold. We’re in my house, and we need to make sure you stay warm, okay?"

He nods, his eyes opening a little but not fully. I give him a small peck on the nose, and it’s still cold.

"We’ve got to get him out of those clothes. We don’t want the blankets getting wet because he’ll never warm up then," Ryan says.

I begin pulling his shirt off. He doesn’t protest against it, but also doesn’t help the process. It’s sopping wet from all of the melted snow.

I strip him down, using a blanket to give him some form of decency but I’m sure nobody really cares at this point. Warming him up and keeping him alive is more important than not wanting everybody to see him naked. Not like Gavin would be bothered by it anyways.

Jack hands me a warm and dry sweater which I pull over his head. Once I get his hands through the sleeves I see that he’s beginning to drift off again while sitting up. His eyelids flutter closed and he mumbles something about being tired.

"No, no, no," I say, holding him in place so that he won’t fall to the side, "You’ve gotta stay awake, Gavvy."

"I don’t want to," he murmurs, his nose scrunching up in distaste.

He pouts at me when I begin slapping his cheeks lightly, but his eyes open up all the way and I can tell that he’s more alert now.

"I don’t think he has frostbite or anything of the sort," Ryan says after checking him, "But we’re lucky you’d gotten to him when you did. He’ll probably have a fairly nasty cold, but that should be it." He continues talking to Geoff about Gavin’s immune system and other things. I don’t bother paying attention because I’m too busy trying to fully wake up Gavin.

"Just look at me, okay?" I whisper.

"Okay."

His eyelids droop every few moments but he continues to stay awake and stare into my eyes as Ryan prepares potions and the others do as much as they can to keep the house warm.

"Drink this," Ryan hands him a bottle filled with bright pink liquid.

Gavin obeys and begins to swallow it. Judging by the amount of cringing he’s doing, it must taste awful. At least he’s smart enough to know at this point that when you’re in trouble and Ryan tells you to take a potion, you fucking take it.

"Yuck," he grimaces after finishing it off, but it’s obvious that it’s helped to wake him up a little more.

"Here, it’ll take the taste away," Jack says and hands him a bowl of warm soup.

Gavin looks down at the liquid, then at the spoon that Jack’s holding out, then at me.

"No." I state outright and shake my head. He pouts and gives me the most pitiful look he can manage but I can still pick out the smugness behind it. Like he knows he’s being a jackass just for requesting that I feed him and it’s just so amusing.

I roll my eyes and take the spoon. Only agreeing because it’s such a relief to see the usual Gavin that is currently trapped behind the sick and miserable one.

"That’s all we can do for now," Ryan says, "I’ll check to see if he’s any worse later but he should be fine for the next few hours. Just keep him warm. I’ve never had to help anybody that’s been out in the cold for too long, so I don’t want to chance anything. You should wake him up every few hours to make sure that he’s okay."

I feed Gavin another spoonful and then take one for myself. “How long do you reckon he’ll be sick for?”

"Not sure, I’d guess maybe a week? He’s never been sick before and we don’t know how his body will react to it. He should stay inside for all of that time period."

"No!" Gavin protests, "Christmas!"

Geoff gives him a sad look and ruffles his hair, “Looks like you’ll be missing this one, buddy.”

The look on his face is heartbreaking. He was so excited to spend his first Christmas with his friends. He was looking forward to going and cutting down a tree with us, decorating, and having a good time. He’s never had a Christmas before and the idea of holidays were completely foreign to him.

It does suck, just because he was so excited about the idea of spending the holidays with everybody and now he’s going to have to spend it sick and alone.

"It’s okay, I’ll stay inside with you the entire time," I smile at him, trying to somehow cheer him up.

"Gross," Ray comments.

"Shut up, not like that," I roll my eyes and turn back to Gavin, " We’ll have a Team Nice Dynamite Christmas right here in front of the fireplace."

He offers me a weak smile in return, obviously trying to stay optimistic about the whole.

I’m willing to stay inside with him while he’s sick. He’s never been ill before, and I think the only reason it’s happening now is because Geoff took Griffon’s sickness back here with him.

"Okay," he nods slowly.

Ryan takes his temperature one last time after I finish feeding him soup. Then Jack makes sure we have enough blankets and adds more wood to the fireplace before they all say goodbye and leave so that we can finally sleep for a while. It’s crazy how much walking through the cold woods can tire you out. It’s still only the afternoon but I feel like I’m ready to just collapse.

Once everybody leaves, Gavin leans over to rub his cheek against my shoulder both for warmth and to apologize.

"I’m sorry, Michael," he murmurs.

"Don’t be sorry," I respond, "You didn’t know. If anything I should be sorry that I haven’t taught you about sicknesses yet."

"Am I in trouble?"

"With who? Me?"

"No, am in trouble? Am I going to be okay?”

I blink at him before nodding, “Yeah, of course. I’ve gotten you back to the house and out of the cold. You aren’t going to die or loose a limb on my watch, huh?”

I grin at him in order to clear away the serious air, and it seems to work because he smiles softly.

"Are you okay?"

"Cold."

"I know," I lift up some other blankets around myself and then pull him into my arms, "But you’re going to warm up soon, and I’m going to stay with you until you feel all better."

"Really?"

"Yeah, of course. You wanna know why?"

"Why?"

"Cause you’re my boy."

"I am your boy.”

I snicker and press another kiss to his cold lips.

"Michael sleepy?" he asks me.

"Yeah," I nod, the reminder makes me yawn, "I just carried your freezing ass through the woods, of course I’m tired."

"Can we sleep?"

"Yeah, we’re gonna sleep right here in front of the fire. All snuggled up and cozy so that you don’t get any more sick."

"Am I sick?"

"Yeah, I think so. Ryan’s going to come wake us up later and then he’ll take your temperature again."

"Okay," he nods, and then kisses my cheek, "I love you, Michael."

He cuddles more into me, desperate to be close and confirm my presence. I let out a sigh and hold him close, knowing that he’s just so pleased that he isn’t a danger to anybody anymore.

"I love you too, Gav."

*

Dealing with sick Gavin, is like dealing with a whiny uncontrollable child.

He spends his time sooking like a little brat and asking me to make him healthy again. He’ll cough all hours of the day, complain endlessly about how sore his throat is, sneeze and then panic until remembering that it’s normal.

The only thing keeping me sane is the fact that my presence does seem to comfort him a little. After spending two days straight with him in a bed where he has a nasty flu, I am hoping and begging that I will be sick after this. I’ll be able to convince Gavin to leave me the hell alone during it.

He spends a lot of time trying to sneak out of the house and go outside to play and I always have to tackle him to the ground to stop him. He’s also incredibly restless. Gavin’s spent his entire life outdoors and he’s not such a big fan of staying inside all day resting. He’s constantly kicking his legs, fidgeting, and moving around. Any time that isn’t spent taking care of him and comforting him, is spent wrestling to keep him inside and yelling at him to shut up.

I’m incredibly crabby by the time we reach Christmas Eve night. I try to keep his mind off the holiday as much as possible by asking him pointless questions and quizzing him on silly unimportant things. It seems to work but he still brings up the subject every few moments.

Christmas isn’t that big of a deal to me now that I’m an adult. As I child I used to get super pumped about the day and would spend the entire time bouncing around hyped up on sugar and chocolate.

Since everybody in Achievement City is a grown up, and we hadn’t even known each other when we were kids, we usually spend the day just dicking around and being morons. We do that almost everyday anyways. The only difference is that we’ll have a Christmas tree up and open dumb gifts.

We’ve never had a child in town before. Not that Gavin is a child, he’s just… very child-like at times. It’s his first Christmas and he was obviously very excited about it. I have to give thanks to the guys for not coming in for the entire day. I know if one of them came in to visit then Gavin would ask nonstop questions about if they’re doing anything or playing any fun games out there.

"Michael!" Gavin squeals as he shakes my shoulders violently, trying to wake me up even though I’m sure we’ve only gone to sleep a few hours ago.

I groan and try to swat him away, not willing to open my eyes right now. “You’re supposed to be sleeping, you’re sick.”

He repeats my name again, and when I peak an eye open I see that it’s still dark. The sun hasn’t even come up and he’s already trying to wake me up. For what? All we’ve been doing for the last few days is relaxing in bed because he isn’t allowed to get up and run around like he usually does.

"No! Get up!" he cries happily, and I have to hold back to urge to strangle him.

"Oh my god," I mutter, rubbing my eyes as I sit up from the bed, "What is-"

I’m stunned into silence when I see the colorful lights flashing across Gavin’s face. He’s no longer looking at me and is now staring out of the window, his eyes wide with awe and excitement.

I scrunch my eyebrows together in confusion and rub my eyes harder, wondering if I’m just seeing things. But his face still flashes a multitude of different bright colors.

It takes me a few moments to fully wake up and look out the window that’s directly above my bed to see what he’s staring at, and my eyes widen when I see a Christmas tree outside. A tall evergreen tree that’s decorated with a million tiny flickering lights and ornaments. There’s a yellow star resting on the top, shining brighter than any of the other lights.

"Whoa," Gavin murmurs, and it looks almost as though he’s hypnotized by it. I smirk as I watch his face, unmoving and entranced by the light show.

I’ve seen Christmas trees before. In fact, we always put up a tree in town to celebrate the holidays, but usually it’s in the middle of the town logo. Not outside of my bedroom window.

Gavin’s never seen one. It isn’t surprising considering that he’s never heard of snow or Christmas before, but it’s still incredibly amusing to watch how enthralled he is by it.

"That’s a Christmas tree," I explain softly, "They’re really pretty, huh?"

"Yeah," he nods, not taking his eyes away from the sight, "Pretty."

"Ho! Ho! Ho!" a loud voice breaks through the sweet moment and somebody begins banging on the door.

Gavin’s eyes widen in surprise and he leans back against me a little more, slightly afraid of the noises.

"It’s Santa!" I grin, playing along with whatever the hell is happening right now.

The door is opened and Jack walks in with a large sack on his back. “Merry Christmas!” he yells out, “I’ve come bearing gifts!”

Gavin grins when he realizes who it is and recognizes a word, “Presents!?”

"Of course!" Jack laughs, "I’m Santa Claus!"

I try to hold back my laughter but it’s almost impossible. Gavin collapses into giggles as well and moves to get out of the bed but I pull him back. He’s still sick so I don’t want him running and jumping around.

"Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays," we hear other voices call out as they storm into the room behind Jack.

"Do you like it, Gav?"

He’s bounces excitedly in place and begins spewing off things in creeper. Even if any of us spoke the language he’s speaking way to fast to understand. We’re all too amused to correct him and tell him to speak in English anyways.

After seeing him so depressed, sick, and sad for the past few days, it’s nice to see him so excited and happy again. It fills me with a fuzzy feeling that makes me want to pull him close and just smile for the rest of forever.

"You guys put up a Christmas tree? How long did that take?" I ask, knowing that we only went to sleep a few hours ago.

"Like two hours of everybody screaming at each other so we could have it up before Gavin saw," Ray says and sits onto the edge of the bed with us.

"Shut the hell up, you prick," Geoff exclaims, "You sat there and watched!"

"We needed a supervisor! Without me that tree would have looked like shit!"

"You went for a nap in the chair!"

"It’s two in the morning, what do you expect?"

"All of your fighting is ruining Gavin’s first Christmas," Ryan jokes and hands the boy a cup of hot cocoa.

"Ah!" he beams and drinks it greedily, still buzzing with excitement.

"We’re sorry that your Christmas got ruined because you got sick," Ryan says, "But we decided we would take the Christmas to you instead."

"I love it!" he grins and turns back to look at the tree outside the window, "It’s amazing."

"This is Gavin’s own special Christmas time," Jack says and pulls a present from the bag, "So only he gets to open his now. The rest of us are going to wait until tomorrow for Christmas morning."

Gavin’s eyes widen at the sight of the shiny wrapping paper and once it’s placed on his lap he hands me his cup of cocoa so that he can hug it to his chest.

"Thank you!" he cries out.

We all laugh, “That’s just the box, Gavin! The gift is inside.”

"How does it open?" he eagerly runs his eyes over every inch of it, and then shakes the present slightly as though that will get it out.

"Rip the paper off."

He spends an annoyingly long amount of time trying to tear it off as carefully as possible. Knowing him he’ll probably keep and cherish the wrapping paper as well.

When he finally gets it opened, I laugh out loud at his present.

It’s a new winter coat made to look like a creepers skin. Obviously the skin that actual creepers shed would not be enough to keep him warm during the colder months, so I’m assuming Ryan had to be a little more creative with it. But I must admit, it looks very accurate.

"Creepers!" Gavin yells and then slides his arms through the sleeves. We all laugh again when he snuggles the fabric as close to his face as possible.

"That isn’t all!" Jack says and digs out another gift from the bag, "One more."

It’s noticeably smaller but Gavin grabs it greedily and tears this one open as quickly as possible. I assume that once he’s realized how nice the presents inside are, the wrapping paper is nothing in comparison.

Inside is a plush doll version of a creeper. It looks like it was made from the same material as Gavin’s coat.

I remember Ryan making little dolls for us once as a joke before Gavin came around. They centered around characters that we loved from our childhood and mine happened to be Banjo Kazooie. I actually still have it in a chest somewhere, but I’d completely forgotten about Ryan’s doll making skills since this all happened over a year ago.

"It’s a little Gavin!" he cries out gleefully and hugs the tiny thing to his chest.

"A little creeper,” Geoff corrects.

"Come on, Geoff, it’s Christmas," I say, watching Gavin fawn over his new coat and doll. He’s quite literally like a small child on Christmas. When we’d gotten our little dolls it was just a funny joke, but he genuinely loves it.

"No, no!" Gavin states, "It is a creeper. Gavin is not a creeper. Gavin is like Michael. And Geoff, and Ray, and Ryan, and Jack!”

I smile at his pride towards being one of us and laugh again when he snuggles the thing closer to him. “But it is still me,” he comments with a smug grin on his face.

"Merry Christmas, Creeper boy," I say to him and kiss his temple, just content to have him here with me.