"Oh! Look!" Tony yelped as he pushed the curtains to the side and gazed out the window. "It's snowing!"


"So... Snow!"

Damon shook his head wearily as he flipped a page in his textbook. "I will never understand your ridiculous obsession with snow."

"And I'll never understand your ridiculous obsession with never having fun, especially during the holiday season." Tony flopped down on the sofa next to Damon. "I mean, would it honestly kill you to crack a smile every now and again? You sit around all the time, glowering at everyone... Is it any wonder that the other guys left without even asking you if you wanted to join them?"

Damon blinked and pushed a lock of his sandy brown hair back from his face. "And what exactly are our intrepid friends out doing this time?"

"I think that they decided to go sing Christmas carols. Well, actually, it was David's idea in the first place, but once David suggested it, you know how Jack is, he took up the cause and basically told all of the guys that they were going out caroling, not that anyone minded, of course -- " Tony broke off in mid-ramble and arched an eyebrow at Damon. "Are you even listening to me?"

"Do I ever?" Damon sighed. "Caroling. Honestly, I don't care that they didn't ask me. I wouldn't have gone anyway."

"See, that's exactly my point."

"And why aren't you out with them, Boy Wonder?" Damon asked dryly. "After all, the mere sight of snow gives you a hard-on, so--"

"It does not!"

"--so shouldn't you be singing your Italian lungs out with the rest of them?"

Tony shrugged. "I've got a fever, so they pretty much forbid me to go with them?"

"You've got a fever? You?"

"Is that so surprising?"

"Well, you sure don't act like it." Damon paused and shook his head. "Okay, Tony, I'm very happy for you that it's snowing and all that. Now can you let me read my book in peace?"

Tony craned his neck to see what Damon was reading. "Tom Clancy again? Do you ever read anything that's not Tom Clancy?"

"I like power struggles," Damon said calmly. "Now shoo."

Tony rolled his eyes, stood up, and headed for the stairs. He could get a better view of the snow from his bedroom anyway.

Once inside his room, he allowed himself a roll of the eyes. It wasn't that he disliked Damon -- far from it, really -- but he'd never really been sure why the other guys had invited Damon into their senior year suite. Damon wasn't a bad sort of guy, of course, but he was about ten times less social than Tony at his worst... and Tony at his worst wasn't someone you would want to meet in an alley at night.

In fact, Tony at his best wasn't usually incredibly outgoing. The only reason that he was in such a good mood right now was... Well, he knew that it was a bit silly, but he'd always had a bit of a love affair with the holiday season. So much of life seemed so grim and depressing, that once a year (especially with the weather so depressing, itself) it was just nice to smile and sing and genuinely wish other people well. And as for snow... Damon hadn't been exactly correct in his assessment of Tony's reaction to snow. It wasn't sexual, it was just that snow was fun. It was white, and fluffy, and fun to play in, and pretty to watch from inside and have a cup of hot chocolate next to a roaring fire... and being from Florida, snow was still something of a novelty in Tony's world.

He knew that it was a losing battle, but it was something of a secret mission of his to someday get Damon to admit that taking a little time out of the year to care about other people wasn't such a bad thing.

It was an even more secret mission of his to someday get Damon to admit that caring about him might not be such a bad thing either. But that wasn't something he'd ever tell anyone about.

Tony sat down on his bed with a groan. Leave it to him to get an annoying crush on someone like Damon. Someone who didn't give two figs about whether he -- or the whole world, for that matter -- existed. Someone who had probably been Ebenezer Scrooge in a previous life. Someone who -- and let's be honest now -- was perhaps the least fun person who'd ever existed in the history of the world.

All the same, there was a certain banked fire in the backs of Damon's eyes, a kind of hidden intensity that had intrigued Tony since the day they'd met. He didn't know what that intensity really was and why it was there, but he certainly wanted to find out. Tony's eyes drooped closed and he started to drift off to sleep. He hadn't been lying about his fever, after all. He was, as Nick had sympathetically said, "a very sick boy." Not that he wouldn't have completely disregarded that to go out caroling or play in the snow, but... Maybe sleep wasn't such a bad idea either.

He was nearly asleep, with visions of sugarplums and cups of hot chocolate waiting offstage to dance into his head, when a quiet knock sounded at the door. His eyes flew open, and he blinked, disoriented.

Stifling a yawn, Tony said, "Come in." Who could it be? All of the guys were still out --

His train of thought neatly derailed as Damon poked his shaggy head through the door. "Hey."

"Hey," Tony replied, blinking the cobwebs from his mind. "Is something wrong?"

"No... No, nothing's wrong, really," Damon said, opening the door wider and stepping inside. "It's just pretty quiet downstairs, that's all. I guess I've gotten used to all the noise around here, so it's weird to have it be so quiet."

"I thought you liked the quiet," Tony replied, sitting up. "It lets you concentrate on... whatever it is you spend time concentrating on."

"Yeah. That's true." Damon shrugged. "Listen, Tony, I know that you're sick, but... Well, it's snowing pretty hard outside, after all, and you seem to enjoy it so much that..."

"That?" Tony prompted cautiously.

"If you want to, you can come back downstairs to watch it fall," Damon said with another nonchalant shrug. "I've got some hot water on the stove, so you can have some hot chocolate. It's probably good for you to have something hot to drink anyway..."

Tony held up an incredulous hand. "Wait a second. Are you actually asking for company?"

"No, it's not that," Damon said so defensively that Tony knew that he was lying. "It's just that you like this kind of thing, and I just thought I'd humor you, that's all. But if you're not interested, suit yourself."

"Wait. I'm interested," Tony said hastily. "I'm very interested. I'm just surprised, that's all."

"Why?" Damon asked. "I'm not a total Scooge, after all."

"That's Scrooge."


"How can you be twenty years old and not know Scrooge?"

"How can you be twenty-one and be so damn cheery in the middle of the winter?"

"Shut up."

"Make me."


"You want hot chocolate or not?"

Tony stood up and smiled uncertainly. "I want hot chocolate. Are you going to have any?"

Damon shook his head. "Nah. I don't like the stuff."

"Tea, then?"




"So, if you don't want anything, why are you boiling water?" Tony paused. "Did you put the kettle on the stove just for me?"

"Of course not," Damon protested, but his ears were bright red. "Listen, I'm going back downstairs. You coming or what?"

"Yeah, coming," Tony replied, a small smirk haunting the corners of his mouth.

Damon turned and left the room, but Tony was pretty sure that he heard him grumble something that sounded suspiciously like, "Why are the cute ones always so annoying?"

Tony gaped, then smiled. Fever or no, this could turn out to be a very cheery night after all. Maybe he could convince Damon to take a tumble in the snow...

His mind suddenly filled with very interesting possibilities, Tony hurried out the door and down the stairs to where a kettle of boiling water, a vista of snow, and a grumbling boy with his nose already back in a book were waiting for him...