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for the lonely place you need a friendly face

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It was just as Gordon finished mixing around his newly spiked eggnog when he heard a knock at his door, jolting a bit and spilling a small trail of blended Scottish whisky infused cream on his hand. With a curse, he set the cup down steady on the counter, sucking the eggnog off his finger as he went to see whoever the hell decided to bother him on Christmas.

“Ah, hello Gordon! It’s nice to see you.”

There stood Dr. Kleiner, a small dusting of snow on his heavy winter jacket, a smile on his face and a bag in hand by his side.

“Heyyyy… uh, can I ask why you’re here? Don’t you have like, family or somethin’ to visit?” Don’t get him wrong, Kleiner’s the only person Gordon trusts, but, today? He just wanted to get drunk, bake cheap Dollar Store cookies, and watch shitty Christmas movies. He just wasn’t in the mood for anyone, including someone he saw like a father (not that he’d ever say that out loud).

Kleiner just huffed a laugh, already used to Gordon’s social nature - not quite reclusive, but more ‘fuck off’-ive. “Well, yes, I do have some family, but a plane trip seemed like too much, plus my siblings are busy with their own affairs, don’t wish to bother them.” He shuffled a bit in place, cocking his head into Gordon’s dorm. “Instead, I’ve ah, opted to stay here, and drop by to visit my favorite student.”

Gordon blinked, eyebrows perked up. Kleiner had already expressed such sentiment before, though he was still caught off guard whenever he was reminded of the fact - not exactly a man used to being someone's favorite... anything. “Oh, uh, that’s cool, I guess, sure. I’m uh, assuming you wanna come in?”

Kleiner just smiled a bit wider and nodded, crows feet crinkled as Gordon stepped out of the way, allowing the older man in before locking his door back up.

“So,” Kleiner spoke up, putting the back down for a moment while he removed his bulky coat. “what are your plans for today? I know how much you value your privacy, so I don’t want to stay all day, just for a bit, see how you are.”

Gordon had already slinked his way back to his concoction, letting the heat of the eggnog burn at his throat as he mulled over his wording.

“Eh, not much. Just kinda planned to get wasted on some ‘nog, bake some tree-shaped cookies that’ll become snowmen by the time I pull them out, and mindlessly watch Christmas movies.” He shrugged, taking a second sip. “Think I got some leftover Pizza Hut in my fridge, can heat that up for dinner if the cookies don’t stuff me like ‘ol jolly Saint Nick.”

“... ah, I see.” Kleiner tried to keep his tone as casual as he could, but couldn’t help the worry tinting through. Still, he didn’t wish to be a rude guest, and only wanted the best for Gordon, even if his Christmas plans weren't exactly… the best.

“Well, um!” He clapped his hands together, bending back down to pick up the bag he brought with. “As you can see, I brought with me something! Specifically, I knew you were going to be staying here for the holiday, and I wanted to do something for you, show you some uh, Christmas cheer, as it were!”

Gordon nodded, inquisitive look half covered by the cup he kept held close to his lips, ready for the next drink. “Uh huh. ‘Christmas cheer’... haven't had that in a while.” The bitter undertone to his statement couldn't be washed down by the heavy drink of cream following it.

Fumbling with the handles of the Walmart bag in hand, Gordon’s reference worrying him for his student’s mood, Kleiner spoke up. “Well uh, how about we sit down a moment? It's probably obvious but, I have a gift for you, er, well, two gifts, and I’m rather antsy to give them to you!”

Blinking as if clearing from a stupor, Gordon nodded, grunting a ‘sure’ as he pulled off from leaning on the counter, walking over and plopping down on his mattress, Kleiner following and sitting down much more carefully on the creaky thing. It wasn’t until he made the motion to place the bag in Gordon’s lap that he sat his drink on the nightstand, giving the empty Coke bottle a companion for now.

“So!” Kleiner began, wringing his hands together as Gordon started to open the bag, ripping it open in exchange of attempting to undo the plastic knot. “I’ll admit, I wasn't entirely sure what to get you, considering many of our conversations are of a more academic variety, and lord knows you already have plenty of textbooks on the subjects. With that, I ended up calling back to other things you've mentioned in passing, so I hope what I could recall you speaking about are interests enough to make these mean something - I’d hate to give you something that's about as good as getting socks, you know?”

In his rambling, he watched with anxious eyes as Gordon pulled out the item - a black, long sleeved shirt, folded up. When opened, it revealed a print of the ‘Follow the Leader’ album cover by Korn, which Gordon had mentioned being excited to have bought when it came out just months prior. As he raised it up to look at the print, a dull thud landed in his lap - looking down, he sees an ornament of a C3P0 bust, shiny and nice.

“Ah, apologies if you don't have anywhere to put that! I noticed when coming in you don't seem to have a tree, maybe you can hang it off a hook or-”

“No I, I got a tree.” Getting up, Gordon carefully placed the shirt on his bed, taking the palm-sized C3P0 with him as he walked across the room, reaching into a cardboard box tucked in a corner. “Someone was handing these out and I just planned to toss it or maybe set on fire or somethin’, but now it has a use.” Pulling up a small fake tree, maybe eight inches at best, he shook it out a bit, jostling the plastic fern leaves before walking back over. Sitting back down, he fiddled with a branch, sticking it further out while being poked, and carefully looped C3P0 on one, sitting it down on his nightstand, barely finding space for it.

After a pause, Gordon just looking at the glint of light from the table lamp shine off the glassy surface, Kleiner cleared his throat, catching his attention. “So, ah, do you like them? I hope I managed to get good gi-”

Before he could finish, Gordon looped a hand around his shoulders, pulling him in, hand anxious on his shoulder but deliberate in its action. “Yeah, um, yeah, yes, they're good, great, I really like ‘em.” He nodded his head, free hand moving uncertainly around, fumbling in and out of a thumbs up. “Thanks, Kleiner, really appreciate it.”

After getting over the surprise of being pulled into a one-armed-kind-of-a-hug, Kleiner smilled, shoulders relaxing. “I’m happy to hear that, you’re welcome, Gordon. I want to support you beyond your studies, and I knew you’d be alone with your roommate having gone off to see family, and I wanted to give you, something, on Christmas.” ‘Even if only my company’ was unspoken, but understood between the two despite the lack of expression.

Gordon just nodded again, hand clenched on his thigh as he willed away the glossy sting in his eyes. “Thank you.”

---

Hours later, Gordon was in bed, leaned back on the wall with a warm cup in hand and a heaping plate of near-burnt cookies beside him. The sounds of A Christmas Story were akin to whitenoise by this point, a fine buzz having filled his head. His eyes weren't even focused on the screen, pulled off to the side.

The glint of the glass C3P0 was the focus of his vision, pretty against the fake green. Absentmindedly, he pinched and rubbed his fingers on the end of his sleeve, black material soft and new on his skin. He reached over for another cookie, crunching into it when the box advertised them as soft, hot in his mouth.

The warmth in his stomach on Christmas night, for once, wasn’t (just) from the eggnog, or alcohol, or cookies, and for once not at all from a small fire he started for fun. No, this time, the warmth wasn't born from half-assed attempts to have some sense of tradition when the typical methods were either out of his price range or in the presence of people who hated him and vice versa.

The warmth Gordon felt, it was pleasant. Welcome. A warmth of feeling welcomed, wanted, cared about. A warmth of forged family found on a college campus.

This was the best Christmas Gordon’s had in over a decade, and he let's that warmth blanket him when he sleeps that night, bundled in his new shirt and eyes on his new ornament until they couldn't stay open anymore. He lets himself fall vulnerable to the embrace of emotions he tucks away behind anger and snark. To the warmth.