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“What are you doing?” Dylan asks, seventeen degrees of suspicious and already in Mitch’s face as soon as he opens the door to their apartment.

“Nothing!” Mitch squeaks innocently, clutching his sustainable shopping tote to his chest protectively as he pulls his mask off and flicks it in the bin by the door to be spelled clean later.

Dylan eyes the bag immediately, laser focussed on all of Mitch’s weakest points. “What’s that?”

Nothing,” Mitch repeats, kicking off his shoes and shoving from toward the pile of footwear that is threatening to take over the entryway, clutching the bag closer to his chest while he shimmies out of his cloak and adds it to a coat hook that has so many cloaks and puffy coats hanging from it, it’s definitely only staying up by grace of the dodgy sticky charm Alex cast on it the last time it collapsed under the weight of various wool blends.

Narrowing his eyes further, assessing, Dylan makes a leap for him and Mitch, knowing this tactic well, spins out of the way, making a break for the living room. Dylan richotetes off the wall and barrels toward him, catching his foot before Mitch can fully break to the freedom of his room.

They land in a clump on the couch and Mitch keeps his bag under one arm and beats Dylan with a pillow in his free hand.

“You aren’t allowed to be nosy around Christmas,” Mitch grunts, keeping up his assault. “It’s illegal.”

“I have to be nosy when you’re being weird,” Dylan bites out, hair sticking up at all ends, doggedly looking for an opening. “It’s my job.”

“Well, you’re fired,” Mitch tells him.

“You can’t fire me. It’s a lifetime appointment.”

When Dylan grabs the pillow from him and flings it across the room, Mitch gives up on the offensive approach and curls his entire body around the tote bag, shouting, “I support term limits!”

It’s a brilliant defensive play right until Dylan gets his nibbly fingers under Mitch’s armpits.

And tickles him.

Mitch screeches out a yelp and jolts against his will just enough for Dylan to get around him and pull at one corner of the bag. Mitch recovers and grabs the other, just fast enough for the whole of the contents to be sacrificed in the melee and dumped onto the floor.

“Oops,” Dylan says glibly and falls onto the Mitch’s purchases before Mitch can do any more than twist at the bottom of his ugly Christmas sweater. The sweater deserves it anyway. It’s extra ugly and the fact that Dylan’s wearing it is only the half of it. It has Merlin in a Santa hat on it and is charmed to wink whenever someone enters the room. Mitch has had to deal with this sweater winking at his mother. It deserves what it gets.

Dylan casts the jelly jinx curse on him with one hand and picks through the scattered supplies mercilessly while Mitch struggles.

“Hmm,” Dylan hums around one of the cake pops he steals from the mess on the ground. “Fairy light charms, Candle Night talismans, self-stringing popcorn garlands.”

“Yeah, totally,” Mitch assures him, finally getting his wand out and spelling away the curse before he kicks over the coffee table. “I picked up some fun and festive things for the apartment. I’m just trying to be festive and embrace the joy of the season, Stromer.”

The fact that he says this with Dylan’s Santa sweater balled between his fists and his feet (clad in reindeer socks) kicking out at Dylan’s shins is irrelevant. He'll be plenty jolly once Dylan gives back his stuff and gives him peace about it.

Dylan gives him a pointed look and the apartment around them an equally pointed look. “The halls are already decked, my dude."

The walls around them are covered with red and green striped wrapping paper fixed up to the walls with another sticking charm and lined with a cranberry bunting that he and Auston had crafted out of parchment and a home brewed color changing potion while sitting on the couch, trading kisses and stories. Every flat surface was covered in kitchy holiday knick knacks that chimed or sang or gleamed, and the whole effect was probably overwhelming for most people, but for Mitch, it felt like a slice of winter wonderland. Satisfying.

"This is your third trip for decorations this week. What is going on?”

They’re currently sprawled under the biggest pine tree Mitch could fit in the space and it has ornaments that Mitch begged off Auston’s mom and had shipped in for the holidays. There's a pile of gifts that Mitch has been squirreling away and slowly adding to with pressed perfect wrapping and shinny bows.

“I’m just trying to make Auston’s first Christmas in the apartment nice,” Mitch admits sheepishly, pulling the bits from his shopping together, making places in his head of where they can still fit in among the rest of the decorations. “I want it to feel, you know, homey. Like this can be his home.”

“Mitch,” Dylan says, looking at him with an extremely pained look, like they’re kids again and Dylan had just heard some story about his dad that he’d found weird and wanting. “It’s already home for him. You’re here.”

Mitch bites his lip and feels as warm as if he’d just had his first sip of mulled wine.

 

“And not because of your seasonal hoarding,” Dylan puts in, throwing a bag of peppermint candies at his head and Mitch lunges at him.

- - -

“Uhhh,” Auston interrupts with his eyebrows furrowed, and Mitch looks up from where he has pinned Dylan down by sitting on his back and Dylan struggles to see from under the box tree wreath Mitch is shoving into his face, a pinecone hitting his giant forehead for his troubles. “Why are there like 500 cinnamon apple candles in our room?”

Before they can answer, Alex bursts into the apartment with a string of carols audible from his earbuds and bounds into the living room, sweeping up dropped candy from the floor. “Cake pops,” he chirps. “Sweet!”

In the entryway, the hook gives up and they hear the sound of every coat they own hit the ground.