Tis The Season

Written for Comfortember 2020, (Alternate) Prompt: Board Games. AU of Tis The Season (1x11). Comments and kudos would be awesome. Enjoy! Happy Holidays!

It's late on Christmas Eve. Snow is falling over New York, blanketing the streets below and muffling all the sounds of the city. The three of them sit around in their comfiest pajamas, sipping delicious hot chocolate while White Christmas plays on the television. None of them are watching it.

Instead, they're crowded around a game board. It's Nicole's turn, at present, and she is perilously close to winning her second game in a row. A roll of the dice gives her just enough moves to get where she needs to be. "Hmm..." she muses, consulting her notes one last time, "I accuse Professor Plum, with the wrench, in the study," she announces, seeming quite confident in her answer.

"You sure about that?" Joey tries, even as Michael passes her the envelope to verify her answer.

She secretly inspects the cards, and reveals them proudly when she finds her accusation to be correct. "I am," she says, reveling in her victory. She grins at them, delighted, as she gathers up the cards they set down. "How about another round?"

"One more," Michael agrees, even as he gets to his feet, "but first, let me get the cookies out of the oven before they burn."

"Oh, I am more than willing to delay the game for cookies," Nicole says, but when Michael returns with the plate of fresh-out-of-the-oven sweets, she gets a little more somber. "Thanks again for doing this, I know it's kind of a weird tradition. Mom and I always used to play board games on Christmas Eve since she didn't have any family to visit."

Michael and Joey exchange looks. They're both thinking the same thing – that they would have been there, would have had, collectively, dozens of aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents to share with Nicole and Marcy if they'd been given the chance. But there's nothing they can do to change that now.

Joey's closer, and wrangles her into a hug, pressing a kiss to the top of her head, "If you'd rather it just be the three of us tomorrow, Nic, we can do that," he offers. He looks to Michael again, to make sure he'd be on board with that drastic change in plans. As much flack as they'd take from their respective extended families, it would be worth it to make sure Nicole's not upset. They're both well aware of how overwhelming their families can be at times, and they'll surely be even more overwhelming since this is Nicole's first Christmas with them and there are bound to be questions.

"No," Nicole decides, wiping away her tears. "No, I think mom would want me to make new traditions with you two. Christmas Eve, that can be for mom and the three of us, but tomorrow…"

Michael shuffles closer to the two of them, joins the hug as best he can and holds tight for a moment before they both release her. "Whatever you want, Nicole," he promises. "Do you still want to play another game?"

She sniffles away the last of the tears and surveys the board. "I do," she says, quickly fighting her way back to the less serious nature of their previous conversations. She gathers up the cards needed for play and starts to shuffle them in their respective piles. "Bet you next week's chores that I can beat you again?"

Michael manages a laugh, exasperated and fond, "Good to know you got the competitive streak from one of us, at least," Michael teases, taking the cards she deals out to him. "Joe, let's see if you or I can salvage any of our dignity here."

"You say that like we have any left."

"A fair point," he concedes, as he watches Joey shove an entire cookie into his mouth.

It is a strange way to spend Christmas Eve, but certainly not a bad way.