"UNCLE NOAH! AUNT NICOLE!" Hannah screamed, still in her pajamas and Spencer turning on the lights.
"It's Christmas!" They said together, jumping on each of their beds. Noah took his hand and reached out to his phone next to him, looking at the time - it said 5:04am.
"Do you guys know what time it is?" He said, looking over at them as they sat down beside each of them.
"We couldn't sleep." Spencer told Noah. "Come on! Wake up!" Spencer shook Noah, which made him sit up and rub his eyes as he yawned. He looked over to Nicole, who was sitting up as well with Hannah next to her. As soon as the two of them were both up, both kids began to pull at their arms to get them to go out of their beds. Noah and Nicole looked at each other, shrugging as they went out to the living room.
Both kids gasped as they saw the pile of presents, running over to them and to see if their cookies and milk were gone.
"Look!" Hannah said, tugging at Nicole's arm. "Santa ate it all!"
"He sure did." Nicole said, remembering how good they were when she finished them all with Noah, Bethany and Joshua while the kids slept.
"Can we open just one present?" Spencer pleaded.
"We should probably wake your parents up." Noah told them. This excited them, as they ran directly to their rooms and opened the door to jump on their beds.
"Mommy, daddy, wake up, it's Christmas!" They squealed in rhythm to their jumps. Bethany and Joshua got up, grabbing onto each of them and hugging them in their laps as they woke up. Noah and Nicole watched them in the doorframe, still in their pajamas.
"Do you remember when we used to do that to Joshua? He hated it." Noah told her.
"Now the cycle continues." She replied. The kids began to run out of the room, and Bethany and Joshua followed, looking over at Nicole and Noah with the mutual understanding of how tired they all were.
Before anyone could say anything, Noah looked at Joshua.
"I'll go get the coffee started." He told him.
"You read my mind." Joshua told him in his groggy state. Noah headed straight to the kitchen.
"Woah, woah, woah." Joshua said, walking into the living room. Joshua, Nicole and Bethany sat on the couch as the kids rushed over to the presents on the floor, looking for anything that was theirs and fighting over which large present was and wasn't the other's. "You know the rules, one person at a time."
"I'll go first!" Hannah said, sticking her tongue out at a bitter Spencer as she opened a box-shaped present. She ripped it open to reveal a singing Elsa plush, and her eyes sparkled as she hugged it.
"Let it go, let it go, can't hold it back anymore." She sang with the doll. "Just what I wanted."
Bethany motioned over to Spencer. "Okay, your turn." He took his time to find the biggest present, then proceeded to open it with force. He looked at the present in amazement as he looked at a box of the new BB-8 droid moving toy stood before him, his mouth opened in a gasp.
"This is what I wanted! Santa did listen!" Bethany smiled at him.
"Yes he did, baby." Noah came in just in time, holding four coffee cups in his hand and handing them out. "This is all I wanted this Christmas." She sipped her coffee, smiling as Noah sat next to her.
"My turn!" Hannah screamed, looking for the perfect present.
"Woah there, what about the adults?" Joshua said to her. "Why don't you and Spencer pick something out for mommy?" The two kids looked around the tree, finding a big box that was addressed to their mom from their dad and handed it to her. She put her coffee down on the end table as she took the present from the kids.
"Thank you, my loves." She smiled and opened it, revealing a crockpot, something Bethany had been wanting.
"Oh, honey, you know me so well." She said as she caressed the box. "Thank you." She looked to him and kissed him on the lips, and the kids began to scream in disgust.
"Ewwww." Spencer said.
"Why don't you pick out a gift for daddy?" Bethany said, looking down at the kids. As the kids dug through the tree, Noah got a call on his phone and he looked down at the caller ID: Cody. He went to the kitchen quickly and answered the phone.
"Merry Christmas." Cody said to him. Noah smiled hearing his voice.
"You too." He said. "I'm surprised you're up so early. You're usually up until all hours of the night."
"I could say the same about you. Why are you up?"
"The kids couldn't sleep." He chuckled. "What are your Christmas plans for the day?"
"Oh, um… My parents are out of town, I think they're in Vegas? My mom's office closes every year from Christmas Eve until New Years Day, so she takes her yearly vacation with my dad then."
"And they don't bring you with them?" Noah replied.
"Not unless I pay my way." There was a short pause before Noah got an idea.
"Do you want to come here for Christmas? No homophobic family members allowed. It'll just be me, Nicole, Bethany, my brothers, my sister, my aunt, the kids… well, you get the point. There's no 'just a few people' when it comes to us."
"Well, when you put it that way…" Cody said, joking about the incident from a week ago. "That sounds awesome. I can't wait."
"Cool. See you then." He hung up the phone, trying to go back to his 'cool' state while being flustered over inviting his boyfriend of two weeks to Christmas dinner. As soon as he came back, the kids began to hand him presents from them, fighting over which one he gets to open first.
Noah looked down at his phone, shaking as he saw the time change from 6:00 to 6:01pm.
"Noah. Relax, will you? He's coming." Nicole said to him. She was wearing a red velvet dress to her knees with a v-neck and mesh bell sleeves, and her hair into a bun.
"We need to take away anything that states the time when he's waiting for Cody." Trent joked to her.
As soon as he finished speaking, there was a knock on the door, and Noah put his glass down on the table next to him as he got to the door. He adjusted his hair, looking down at his clothes to make sure there were no stains, then opened the door to see Cody.
"Hey." Cody said. He held up a bottle of wine in a gift bag. "Merry Christmas."
"Merry Christmas." Noah said, smiling. He walked into the room and took his shoes off at the door, and as he was about to give Cody a hug, Aunt Amelia came up to Cody.
"Cody, how are you doing?" She said, hugging him tightly as she air-kissed him. "What do you have here?" She looked down at his gift bag.
"I saw you drink this at the Christmas party. I thought I'd bring it." She smiled as she pinched his cheek and took the gift from him, looking inside of it.
"You know, the strangest thing happened after the Christmas party. I didn't get a hangover at all the next day. Must be Christmas magic!"
In the distance, Valerie and Gerard held back giggles, high-fiving silently as she brought the wine bottle over to the table. Moving on, Cody and Noah walked over to Trent and Nicole.
"Hey man, glad to see you here!" Trent said, fist-bumping Cody.
"Holiday dinner isn't as bad as the holiday parties, though this time the quints didn't tamper with Aunt Amelia's wine and she gets really honest when she's tipsy." Nicole told him.
"Don't scare him. Please." Noah hissed. Bethany in the distance raised her glass, tapping it with a spoon.
"Now that everyone's here, let's begin!" She said. The family came up to the table, sitting down.
Everyone began to sit down at the table, and Noah held out Cody's chair for him as he sat down.
"Before we get into this Christmas dinner, I just want to welcome two new guests for this year's Christmas dinner, Cody and Noah. Thanks for being here!" The two boys blushed as everyone looked at them.
"I'm happy to be here. I already feel like part of the family." Trent said, looking at Nicole as his hand slid into Nicole's.
"I'm just happy to be here." Cody said, looking at Noah and smiling.
"We're glad to have both of you, and hope to see you here for the next holiday. Now dig in!"
It was 1AM, and it was just Trent, Nicole, Noah and Cody left in the living room, the Christmas tree lights shining bright above them as they enjoyed time with just the four of them. Trent had his leg crossed over his thigh and his arm around Nicole as she laid on his shoulder, while Cody was laying down on the couch, his head on Noah's thigh.
"What a night. You were right, babe, everything is easier when the extended family isn't here." Trent said to the room.
"Tell me about it." Cody said.
"Did you have a good time, Cody?" Nicole asked.
"I'm gonna need your sister's recipe for that chocolate coconut pie." Cody said, looking over at Noah and Nicole. "I would have eaten the whole thing if I could! I was barely able to get just one!"
"Yeah, well, when there's so many of us, the dessert bar is like the hunger games." Noah chuckled, the rest of them chuckling back. Trent began to yawn.
"I gotta head out. I've got some stuff to work on for the new album." Trent said as he began sitting up.
"Oh yeah, that starts after the new year, right?" Nicole asked as Trent got up.
"Yep! Album number three!" Cody held up the number three and smiled. He walked over to Cody and Noah, fist-bumping both of them.
"Good seeing you guys again." He said to them.
"I'll walk you out." Nicole said as they walked out the door.
"I should probably head out, too." Cody said. He got up from Noah's leg and Noah took his hand.
"I have something for you before I go." He smiled as he brought Cody to his room, digging in his drawers for a gift for Cody. He got nervous upon hearing he was being given something.
"Wait, we were supposed to get each other something?" He asked.
"Don't worry about it. It's just something small." Noah sat Cody on his bed. His present was in the shape of a rectangle. He carefully opened it, noting Noah's gift-wrapping precision in the process. He opened it to reveal a painting Noah made. It was of the two of them, and they were holding hands and sitting down under a tree. He gasped as he processed all the hidden details within the painting, but Noah figured it was a negative gasp.
"You hate it. I knew it was too soon to give you something like this." Cody lowered the painting and kissed Noah, cradling his cheekbone.
"This must have taken so long." Noah blushed as he played with his hands.
"It was nothing. I'm just glad to have someone to paint again." Cody smiled at him.
"I love it." He looked down at it again, taking in more details of it, then looked up at Noah again. "Hey, would you wanna come over for New Years? It'll just be us and the Drama Brothers, and Nicole too, obviously. You could spend the night."
"Really?" Noah said excitedly.
"I would like my boyfriend there for our first New Years kiss."
"I'd love to, then. Can I walk you out?" He said, pointing to the door.
"Yes. You don't have to ask, you know." Cody said.
"I just get nervous, I guess." He said, running his hand through his hair. They walked out of his room, picture in hand, and walked over to Nicole.
"Good seeing you again, Nicole." He began to go in for a hug, but Noah stopped him.
"She doesn't like hugs, remember?" He said.
"Oh, right." Cody said nervously.
She began to initiate a hug with him anyway, then shrugged at Noah as they walked out. Cody walked him to the car, where he took the painting into his passenger seat as he sat at the driver's seat, buckling the painting up as if it were a real person.
"Just for good measure." They chuckled as Cody began to turn on the car.
"Merry Christmas." Noah said as he knelt down to his level.
"Merry Christmas, Noah." He smiled as he rolled the window up, turning on the ignition and driving away. He watched as he drove out of the neighborhood, then walked inside, yawning as he took his shoes off at the door to sit next to Nicole on the couch. They sat for a moment, reeling in the events of the night.
"What a night, huh?" She said to him. "Things seem to be going well with you and Cody, huh?"
"I didn't mean to go so fast, it just came out like word vomit, 'you can come here for Christmas dinner'." He said, panting.
"Noah, relax. It's fine." She laughed.
"I never hear anything about you and Trent. It's always about me. How are you two doing?"
"Trent and I keep it lowkey. I think he's afraid of everything that happened with Gwen happening with us. We haven't even been social media official yet, and miraculously with Trent's following, no one has found out yet. So at this point we're just seeing how long our privacy will last." She smiled. "But I'm really happy with him. He's a really great guy. I feel like I've known him all my life."
"What are you going to do when you go back to school?" He asked. "I know they'll be recording down here, and I took ownership of our car."
"Well, Trent hasn't told anyone yet, but… he wants to go back to school. So maybe soon he'll be living closer to me." She said, sitting up.
"Really? But what about Drama Brothers?"
"Well, they have a contract for another album, so I think he'll have to stick around for at least another year, but it's something he really wants to do eventually. He can't depend on Total Drama or the Drama Brothers for the rest of his life." Noah looked down, understanding what she said. Nicole realized what she said and frowned. "I didn't mean it like that."
"Total Drama and reality TV cannot be my full-time career, and I can't stay at the library forever. I have to do something with my life."
"Go back to school, Noah." She said to him. "You're getting to be in a better place now."
He looked down, shaking. "What if I panic again? What if I don't know what I'd do in school and drop out?"
"Easy. You're going to do art. It's always been art. You just have to figure out what it is you want to do in art." He looked down, not ready to have this conversation. Nicole read the room and responded to his mood. "I think it's time we head to bed." She told him.
The two headed to their shared bedroom, and Nicole got her pajamas out of the drawers, walking out to her bathroom as she closed the door behind him. Noah quickly began unbuttoning his shirt as he picked out a pajama shirt to wear, settling on a plain white shirt, then stripped his belt, dress pants and socks off as he tucked himself into bed, plugging in his phone. He began to calm down as he wrapped himself in the comfort of his comforter. There was a knock on the door, he knew it was Nicole.
"All clear." She walked in wearing maroon elephant pants and a long sleeve white shirt, then turned on the lights as she climbed into bed.
"Nicole?" He whispered.
"Thanks for pushing me to be better. I know it won't happen overnight, but I'm happy with the progress I've made so far."
"You're my twin. I would do anything for you. Just like you'd do anything for me. At the end of the day, we'll always have each other." Noah rolled to his other side, drifting peacefully to sleep.
A/N: Thank you guys so much for tuning in! I hope you liked this chapter and stick around for the next one! I've been trying to write ahead so I can have chapters ready since I've started school. Might just post both chapters I have this week! Let me know how you're liking the story in the reviews!