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ice within a cupped palm

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“You know they’re not going to come, right?”

Raleigh snorts at his brother—or, at least, snorts as best as he can while licking an envelope. Yancy rolls his eyes at him.

“Careful. Don’t want to give yourself another paper cut on your tongue, kid.”

“You just don’t want to go a week without blowjobs again,” Raleigh fires back, sealing the envelope shut. A thrill runs low through his belly when Yancy’s face colors underneath the scar running down his left cheek—a gift from the meeting between his faceplate and an iceberg.

“And you’re dodging the question. Why bother sending them an invitation if you know they won’t come, let alone RSVP?”

Raleigh runs his fingers over the seal, pressing lightly, as Yancy sighs and uses his right hand to rub at his face. For just a moment, Raleigh finds himself wondering if Yancy realizes that his circuitry-lined fingers are tracing the scar on his cheek.

“Because I want to give them a chance to come willingly.”

Yancy’s eye twitches behind his hand. Raleigh pretends not to notice.

“Rals, you know that ever since the war—”

“Fuck that,” he flips the envelope over, but when he goes to write out the address Stacker’d given them, Yancy’s holding a green pen out to him. It matches the card Raleigh’d included, so he grabs it with a smile before going back to copying down the address. “Even before the war. And during. Yeah, Yance,” he glances up at his brother for a heavy moment before going back to writing, “I saw. I know. I was there too, remember?”

Yancy’s already standing and retrieving the stamps from their drawer before Raleigh can even ask, tossing them over the table so they land neatly beside Raleigh’s hand.

“I remember,” Yancy shuts the drawer with perhaps a little more force than necessary—though probably more force than he means to, if his wince means anything—making the lights Raleigh had strung up around the base of the hanging cabinets shake slightly. “I remember them telling us to go to hell when we tried to haul them out to scramble alley that one year.”

He sighs, rubbing his face again. Raleigh looks away to copy down their return address.

“‘Course,” Raleigh doesn’t have to look up to know Yancy is smirking when he turns back around, “I also remember you and Scott making out once we finally pulled them out of their room.”

Raleigh rolls his eyes and holds the envelope out for Yancy to inspect. They’ve had mail returned before because of his chicken-scratch handwriting, and this particular envelope is a bit too important to risk.

“Yeah, well, we were both pretty drunk—” Yancy grunts at him, and, yeah, even Raleigh will admit that’s a bit of an understatement, “—and you can’t tell me that you wouldn’t’ve done the same.”

With a scoff, Yancy returns the envelope and circles the table to ruffle Raleigh’s hair.

“No comment.”

“Oh, come on Yance, I’ve been in your head, remember?”

Yancy’s already out of the kitchen, and Raleigh can hear the creak of the stairs.

“No comment, kid. Go mail that while it’s still light out.”

 

———

 

About a week later finds Yancy sprawled out on the bed in the most beautiful way while Raleigh deepthroats his brother like a fucking champ, if he does say so himself. When he pulls back just enough to get a breath through his nose, he laves his tongue around the shaft and what he can reach of flared head, making his brother moan like he’s in some kind of bad porno. As cheesy as the sounds Yancy makes may be, it’s all it takes—plus the taste and weight of his brother on his tongue—to have Raleigh hard and dripping where he’s pushing himself against his thigh.

“Oh fuck, kid,” Yancy’s voice is hoarse, like he’s the one who’s had a cock down his throat. Plenty of time for that later, his mind helpfully supplies. “Fuck, if you keep that up, I’m gonna—”

The wall console lights up, indicating an incoming call. Yancy’s words are cut off by a groan, low and growling, because, Raleigh knows, they’d set the house system to Do Not Disturb. The only way a call is getting through is if it’s a: been flagged by the system as an emergency, or b: from someone on their Always Accept list. And since it’s probably about 5am in London, and Bruce and Trevin called earlier, Raleigh’s fairly certain that means—

He smirks around Yancy’s cock and makes the hand gesture that accepts the call without video. Hisses and hums deep in his chest when Yancy’s fingers tighten in his hair.

“H-Herc,” Yancy’s voice sounds a half-octave too high, and Raleigh would laugh if he could. He pretends not to notice the way Yancy’s cock practically throbs on his tongue when the video feed appears. Yeah, no comment, asshole. “I, uh, h-hi.”

“You and your brother are cocks,” Herc says by way of greeting, holding up the card Raleigh had sent them. “He there?”

Raleigh swallows around Yancy, pulling back to get a breath and tease the sensitive rim of his brother’s head.

“He—he’s, uh, busy,” Yancy tries, but Raleigh can practically hear Herc’s eyeroll in his snort.

“Raleigh, get off your brother’s dick. I know you’re there, little fucker. I can fuckin’ hear you.”

Raleigh laughs as he pulls off his brother with an obscene pop.

“What’s up, Herc?”

“You’re a little shit, that’s what,” Herc’s eyebrows furrow. “How the fuck do you expect us to—”

“Bruce and Trevin are already on their way to pick you three up,” Raleigh takes hold of his brother’s slowly softening length and pumps it in his fist, making Yancy grunt through his teeth. On-screen, Herc positively scowls.

“And if we don’t want to go?”

“Then I’ve instructed them to be,” Raleigh strokes his brother once firmly, from base to tip, Making Yancy groan loudly, which Raleigh finds himself admiring as appropriate punctuation, “persuasive.”

He could be imagining it, but Raleigh could swear Herc’s skin tinges faintly red.

“Look, boys,” Herc looks away from the camera, and oh his face is definitely red, “we don’t really—”

“No one should be alone for the holidays, Herc,” Raleigh interrupts him, his voice as steely as he can make it. “The three of you may have each other, but you... you don’t in some of the ways that really matter.”

He half-expects Herc to turn redder and start yelling, as he’d be well within his rights to do. And, really, it’s what Raleigh’s expecting.

Instead, Herc sighs and looks back at the camera, face drawn.

“You’re not gonna let this go, are you?”

“As surely as I’m gonna fuck Yancy’s brains out the second this call ends.”

Another sigh. Herc runs his hands over his face in a very Yancy-like fashion. The comparison has something—something old and familiar and warm—curling in Raleigh’s guts.

“Fine. We’ll be ready for the twins.”

“Good,” Raleigh gives Yancy’s cock another pump, squeezing gently and lapping at the pearl of clear fluid that gathers at the tip. “Y’know, Herc?”

Yancy moans at the same time Herc answers, huffing, “What?”

Raleigh grins, even though he knows Herc can’t see it.

“If you want, I can start before the call ends. I’m sure Yancy wouldn’t mind. Hell, I can even turn our video—”

Herc coughs loudly and, with a wave, ends the call.

“Ass,” the word is strangled through Yancy’s teeth. Raleigh smirks, leaning up and swallowing down the moan his brother makes when he twists his wrist just so.

“You love me anyway. Now,” Raleigh gently takes one of Yancy’s hands in his own, sucking two of the fingers into his mouth and coating them with his spit, “show me how pretty you look opening yourself up for me.”

 

———

 

Raleigh’s fairly certain Yancy’s going to kill him before the week is out.

“Raleigh, we don’t need to—”

“Yes, we do,” Raleigh insists where he’s rolling out dough. There are dozens of containers of sprinkles and multicolored sugar scattered over the counter in what he’s sure Yancy would call ‘randomness’ and that Raleigh calls ‘my system so don’t fuck with it, Yance.’

“You really think that any of them like cookies?”

Raleigh glances back to glare at Yancy where he’s untangling more lights. Raleigh’d offered to let him bake—after all, one of them hasn’t set the kitchen on fire, and it isn’t Raleigh—but Yancy had, in his own, annoying, big-brother way turned him down. It probably had more to do with the fact that Raleigh had nearly lost his thumb the last time he tried to detangle lights. Loss of circulation and all that.

Hey, not everyone could be as skilled at everything as Yancy. Besides, Raleigh knows for a fact that he gives better head. Thank you, ghost drifting.

“Cookies are an integral part of the holidays,” Raleigh argues back, grabbing a cookie cutter he’d found in the shape of a dog and ignoring Yancy’s mocking “oooh, big word, little brother!” with practiced ease. “Besides, don’t they have those chocolate things in Australia? Tim-tims or something?”

“Tim Tams,” Yancy corrects him, and Raleigh rolls his eyes.

“Whatever. Cookies.”

Chocolate cookies.”

“Well then,” Raleigh turns and sticks his tongue out at his brother, because duh, like he hadn’t thought of that, “it’s a good thing I found an awesome chocolate cookie recipe online.”

“Huh,” Yancy looks at him, raising an eyebrow, tone completely deadpan. “But then, how will you know when they’re burned?”

Raleigh throws one of the big, red cinnamon sprinkles at his brother’s head.

“Keep it up, mister, and I’ll make sure your balls are blue for the next week!”

Yancy dodges it with a laugh.

“But what if I have...other suitors?”

Raleigh throws a handful of the sprinkles this time, aiming directly for his brother’s stupid, cackling face. And, obviously, the heat rushing through his entire body has nothing to do with the mental image that calls up.

Obviously.

 

———

 

It’s the day after that—about eight days after Herc had called them—and Raleigh is in fucking heaven. Literally.

He and Yancy are on the couch, Yancy beautiful beneath him as Raleigh straddles his brother and rides his cock for all he’s worth. Yancy’s hands are gripping his hips, hard enough that Raleigh’s sure there will be bruises later, and Raleigh can’t help the low sounds his brother’s cock punches out of him every time it hits that perfect spot inside of him.

Yeah, he’d threatened no sex for a week. But, well, even if he’d meant it?

He’s weak for Yancy.

He doesn’t mind.

And, he’s pretty sure, Yancy really doesn’t mind.

“Fuck, Rals,” Yancy’s panting, his hips stuttering irregularly, his eyes wide and cheeks flushed bright red. He matches the decor, all the red tinsel the two of them had strung from the tree yesterday and the glowing lights hanging in every nook and cranny. “Fuck, kid, I’m gonna—”

“Do it,” Raleigh growls out, his brother’s words making desire sweep through his entire body like a molten wave. He clamps down on his brother’s cock as best as he can, cries out when Yancy pulls him down and drives himself just that little bit further. “God, fuckin’ do it, Yance, fuck—”

Without any warning, the front door slides open.

“I’m sure they’ve gone all out decorating, like alw—oh.”

Bruce is the first one in, closely followed by four others. They’re in so fast that by the chill from outside only reaches the couch in the second that Chuck—the last one in—slams the door.

Heat crawls up Raleigh’s body, and with a grunt he realizes he’s coming all over his brother’s chest. Dimly, he’s aware of the sensation of his own release driving Yancy over the edge as well, a deep warmth seeping into his guts.

Silence settles over them all, save for Raleigh and Yancy’s panting breaths, before,

“Well shit, if we’d’ve known it was that kind of party, we’ve come prepared.”

And Raleigh is suddenly, almost painfully aware of how exposed he and Yancy are. On a couch that faces the front of the house. With the fucking open layout that Yancy’d loved and their clothes scattered around them in a halo. He gropes for the quilt along the back of the couch they keep there for cuddling and tries his best to spread it over the two of them. Yancy makes an undignified squawking sound and pulls himself from within Raleigh. At the same time, Herc punches his brother.

“Shove off, ass.”

“What?” Scott’s voice is light, teasing. “It’s not like none of us have seen it before. Or have done the same fuckin’ thing.”

There’s a strangled noise from Bruce, and Raleigh realizes when Trevin slaps the top of his brother’s head that Bruce is laughing. He wants to ask what the fuck they’re doing here, a whole day early, but instead what his mind comes up with is, “How the fuck did you get in?”

Bruce’s face is still set into a too-wide grin, but he holds up a black metal disc.

“You gave us a spare key, remember?”

And...oh. Well. That is true.

“Ever heard of knocking?” Yancy asks for him, his entire face beet red as his arms pull Raleigh close, as if to minimize the target they make under the quilt. Bruce’s face twitches, and Trevin smacks him again.

“We tried,” Trevin scowls at his brother, “but the security system said the doorbell was disabled.”

“Because we were—”

“Fucking,” Chuck interrupts Yancy’s exasperated reply, raising his eyes skyward, “we saw. Up close and fucking personal. I need a goddamn drink.”

“There’s eggnog in the fridge,” Raleigh offers quietly, earning him a squeeze from Yancy. “Help yourselves.”

“Yeah, that,” Trevin swallows visibly, “that sounds like a great idea. You guys go...get cleaned up, and we’ll just...be in the kitchen.”

 

———

 

“So,” Raleigh takes a swig of his eggnog, letting the burn of the alcohol in it slosh between his teeth and across his tongue. Lets the heady taste mix with the gentle classical christmas station he’d had the sound system pull up in the background, filling him with pleasant warmth. “How was the trip?”

“Fine,” grunts Herc, glowering at Scott. Raleigh turns to Scott, raising an amused eyebrow.

“Le didn’t wanna join the mile-high club,” Scott explains with a lewd grin, one hand reaching out to grip Chuck’s shoulder. It’s a testament to how much Chuck’s had already—Raleigh’s fairly certain the kid is just diluting his booze with a few splashes of nog at this point, just to keep up appearances—that he doesn’t smack Scott’s hand away immediately. “Lucky for me, Charlie here was more than willing to step up.”

Chuck grunts at his uncle, but still doesn’t smack the hand away. Unless Raleigh’s very mistaken—which he totally could be—the kid’s turning a faint shade of pink. Of course, that could be the alcohol, too.  

“Alright then, and you?” He throws his question towards the Gages, who are down at their own end of the kitchen island, heads bowed together. They look up together, and Bruce grins.

“It was fine. Although I was a little sad we didn’t get to threaten them at all. I wore a buttplug that day and everything!”

Behind him, Raleigh hears Yancy choke on his eggnog.

Yeah, it’s gonna be an awesome holiday.

 

———

 

Sleeping arrangements are thankfully easy enough. The house has two extra bedrooms, one of which Yancy had converted to an office of sorts, while the other is a plain bedroom with a closet they use for storage. Really, if Raleigh remembers correctly, they’d gotten a house this size exactly for this reason. Growing up, they'd never really had people over often. Besides, once their parents died and their relationship became...significantly more complicated, they’d made almost no friends. After all, it was pretty hard to find the common ground necessary to establish a working friendship.

But after joining the PPDC?

Family may have a somewhat skewed definition to them, but Raleigh knows with the certainty of the drift that he and Yancy had finally found exactly that by crawling into a jaeger.

It certainly didn’t hurt that most of the other pilots didn’t make them feel like they were broken in some way.

So, once they’d gotten out, Raleigh had insisted that their new home be able to accommodate their new family—or at least some of it, if necessary. But then their family had started dying, one or two at a time. When Bruce and Trevin had nearly gone down in Seattle, the spare bedroom had become their new home-away-from-home while they recovered. Raleigh and Yancy both had insisted.

So, when it comes time to decide who is sleeping where, the twins automatically gravitate towards that room. the Hansens, then, take the office.

“You’re sure you don’t need us to blow up an airbed or anything?” Raleigh asks as he glances over at the spare double bed shoved in a corner. “Alternatively, Yancy and I have a queen in our room, and we’d be fine swapping since there’s only two of us—”

“We’ll be fine,” Herc smiles at him before smirking behind him. “Sprog can take the floor if he has to.”

“Fuck off, old man,” Chick snipes back, no heat in the words as he sets about unpacking. Between them, Raleigh sees Scott roll his eyes.

“Charlie—” “Don’t fuckin’ call me that, Uncle Scott.” “—likes to be sandwiched, and holds on like glue, so I think we’ll be good. We’ve made do on smaller before.”

Raleigh blinks at that, mentally trying to process how three men—three large, muscular men—can fit in a twin. He gives up, shaking his head.

“Alright, well, if you guys ever get uncomfortable, our bed is always open.”

He blinks again, his words catching up to him after two of his suddenly-pounding heartbeats.

“I mean—” he swallows his words as Scott snickers and the other two Hansens give him pointed looks. “I, uh, sleep well.”

He runs to check on the twins before he makes even more of a fool of himself. 

 

———

 

This has already taken at least two hours longer than Raleigh had anticipated.

“Well, I don’t want two red ones to be right next to one another,” Chuck grumbles, holding a red glitter-encrusted sphere. “Then it’ll just look fuckin’ stupid.”

“So put it down here,” Raleigh indicates an empty spot further around the back of the tree, where only green and gold and silver ornaments are hanging—not a red one in sight. He does his best not to grind his teeth, but it’s a near thing.

“But then no one will see it,” Chuck huffs, somehow managing to simultaneously sound like a distressed child and someone explaining something to a particularly slow child.

The battle not to grind his teeth is lost quite handily.

“Oi, I’ve never done this before,” Chuck grumbles, head ducking slightly to look at Raleigh sideways. “Gimme a fuckin’ minute, alright?”

“Chuck, it’s not a science, you can just—”

“Boys,” Bruce’s voice carries over from the kitchen, “stop flirting. You’re being obvious, and the adults are trying to get drunk.”

“Fuck off, Bruce.”

Raleigh blinks when he realizes he and Chuck had said the words in unison. There’s a surprised squeak from the kitchen, and Raleigh glances up to see Trevin turning red, a hand on his mouth. Huh. Apparently the three of them had said it in sync. Beside Trevin, Bruce’s mouth gapes before he turns it into a sly smile.

“Well then, why don’t the three of you just get a room, eh?”

“Fuck off, Bruce.”

They say it in unison again, though this time everyone else joins in.

 

———

 

That night, when Raleigh tries to get them all to sing christmas carols by the fire, wrapped up in the dozens of blankets and quilts he and Yancy have made together over the years, he’s summarily voted down. Instead, Yancy pushes a metal stick into his hand with a marshmallow at its tip.

“But it’s tradition, Yance—”

“No,” his brother’s voice carries no room for argument. “Toast your marshmallow.”

Raleigh doesn’t care that he’s pouting, although his mood does brighten considerably when Trevin loses three marshmallows in a row to the flames. Also, the way Herc is pressed up against one side and Yancy on the other feels pretty damn nice. It gets even better when Yancy disappears to the kitchen, and Scott takes his place.

But the very best? Is when Yancy comes back with hot chocolate. Once he’s handed them to everyone, including Chuck where he’s squirming between the twins, he takes a seat behind Raleigh. His legs bracket Raleigh’s hips, the heat from his body sinking into Raleigh’s back.

Yeah, Raleigh can admit that the warmth in his gut has absolutely nothing to do with the rum he can tell Yancy snuck into the hot chocolate. Because this? The warmth of a fire at his front, his brother at his back, and Herc and Scott to his sides, while the twins and Chuck snuggle together on the couch behind them?

This is the feeling of family that Raleigh’s been missing.

 

———

 

Herc’s kisses taste like chocolate and peppermint and alcohol, his tongue sweeping into Raleigh’s mouth lazily. Raleigh moans, squirming and sinking into the hold Yancy has on him while he can hear Yancy and Scott making fucking obscene sounds up where Yancy is leaning against the foot of the couch. Herc’s hands are blazing hot against Raleigh’s skin when they sneak under his sweater—a regular navy blue, not holiday; those are stored upstairs in their bedroom for tomorrow morning. Herc moves away from his mouth at the same time he rakes nails down Raleigh’s chest, following it up with teeth and tongue nipping and sucking at Raleigh’s neck.

And Raleigh? Well. If he lets out a moan loud enough to rival Yancy, it’s totally not his fault.

Really, it’s Chuck’s fault, the way the kid’d been sucking on that candy cane. Raleigh could tell all of them had been watching, but none of them had said anything until Bruce had finally leaned in and whispered, “You gonna make good on that promise, sweetheart?”

And, oh, Raleigh hadn’t even known Chuck could make a sound like that. It’d gone straight to his cock. And, apparently, everyone else’s cock.

Still, the twins and Chuck had a head start on them. Which is why one of them—in his pleasure and alcohol haze, Raleigh think it’s Bruce?—already has Chuck’s pants unbuttoned and around his ankles, their head bobbing in his lap.

“Fuck me,” Chuck hisses through his teeth, the words swallowed down a moment later by Trevin.

“That’s the idea, love.”

Raleigh makes a noise that he’s sure he’ll never admit to later. He grabs Herc’s neck in one hand and Yancy’s in the other. Forces them to turn and look him in the eye.

“In me. Now.”

And that’s about all the encouragement any of them need.

 

———

 

When Raleigh finally wakes up for Christmas day, the seven of them are still all in a pile in front of the fireplace. The flames are long-since gone, but Raleigh realizes that the warmth of seven adults underneath easily ten different blankets tends to be more than adequate to fight off the Alaska cold. The sky outside isn’t light enough to be day yet, but it’s not dark enough to be night, either.

“Time,” he grunts, trusting the house to interpret his request.

“Eight thirty-three AM, December twenty-fifth, two-thousand twenty-six,” the cool voice of the house AI responds. “The current temperature is—”

“I asked for the time,” Raleigh interrupts it, not caring that he might sound slightly testy—not like the thing has feelings, after all, “not the morning news. Thank you.”

He rolls over as the AI beeps itself to silence, and somehow ends up curled into Chuck’s chest.

“Too much celebrating,” Chuck grumbles to him, wrapping him in an arm and tugging him close. “Quiet. Sleep.”

At his back, Raleigh hears and feels a tired chuckle. He can tell without looking it belongs to Yancy.

“Oh, kid. That was just round one. We still have to get to New Years.”

Raleigh silences Chuck’s groan with a kiss, lazy and so sweet he can practically taste sugar, then lets the sound of Chuck’s heartbeat and the heat of his brother’s chest at his back lull him back to sleep. Sure, they have plans for today—lots of plans. But those can wait.

Right now is for a different kind of celebrating.