Peppermint & Mistletoe

"Good God, Specs, you think you could maybe take another week up there?"

Dutchy impatiently drummed his fingers on the worn banister of the Lodging House. He was dressed in his best: best pants (no holes), best shirt, best suspenders—nice ones, made of leather—and he'd even gone as far as to polish his glasses and shake out his worn cap. It was that time again; Spot was throwing a hell of a party in Brooklyn for the holidays. He always outdid himself from the previous years. This year, Dutchy had heard that he had stolen one of them fancy pine trees from Pulitzer hisself's yard. The excitement stemming from that announcement stirred an every-newsie-for-himself sentiment, which was why Dutchy was lingering in the foyer of the same old same old lodgings, waiting for his best friend to finish getting ready.

"You ain't gonna make yourself any prettier by staring at your ugly reflection!"

No response. Not even a "can it, Dutchy!"

Dutchy's eyes rolled towards the ceiling above him. What the hell was with Specs lately? He'd been withdrawn all of a sudden...he didn't even flirt with the girls who bought his papers anymore.

With a sigh, Dutchy started up the stairs. "Specs, you'd better be dressed. I'm coming upstairs."

He came across his friend in the bathroom, staring at his reflection in a streaky mirror, worrying his bottom lip. Dutchy lingered in the doorway, waiting for Specs to acknowledge him.

"I look like a gorilla in oversized clothes."

"When you stand hunched over like that, yeah."

"Who's hunching?"

Dutchy rolled his eyes as he walked into the bathroom. He squeezed one of Specs's shoulders and pulled him back until his back was straight. "Not supposed to have your shoulders past your knees."

Specs turned and glared. "You're exaggerating."

"Stand up straight."

"It's not going to make a difference."

"Difference for what?"

"What kinda girl wants straight posture and not looks, huh?"

Dutchy blinked. "Specs, what the hell are you talking about?"

"Nothing. I just," His shoulders sagged. "Why can't I get a date with those girls Blink's always runnin' around with?"

"Specs, those girls are idiots."

"You're just saying that."

Dutchy clapped Specs on the shoulder. "No, I'm serious, Specs. They ain't got a drop of intelligence in 'em. That's why they can stand to go out with Blink so much. He ain't exactly got anything engagin' to talk about."

"I guess."

"Is this what has been taking you so long?"

Specs shrugged. "Well, I don't have too many nice clothes and I couldn't remember where they were...so then I put 'em on and I look like this." He gestured with his arms. "A gorilla."

"Uh huh." Dutchy snorted. "Come on, yeah? The party will cheer ya up. Plently of booze and girls."

"They'll just turn me down."

"They're going to blind drunk, Specs. They'll flirt with a wall if it shows interest." Dutchy slung an arm around his friend's shoulders. "Now, come on. I'm dyin' to see this tree Spot's got! Besides, once we get some of that special alcohol in ya, you'll feel much better."

"Well." Specs cracked a smile. "Okay, if you insist."

"So this is why you haven't been flirtin' like usual with your female customers?"

"One of 'em wasn't very well-receiving to my compliments."

"She snap at ya?"

"And threw the paper in my face. Called me some mean stuff."

"You get one of those every so often. She tell you no one's ever going to want to date a four-eyed street urchin?" At Specs's nod, Dutchy shook his head. "Don't listen to her, Specs, she doesn't know what the hell she's talking about. A girl like that wouldn't ever be able to see how smart or what a good guy you are."

Specs paused, feeling warmth rise in his chest at Dutchy's words. Noticing his friend's hesitance, Dutchy turned and regarded him. "Something wrong?"

"Do you mean that?"

"Of course I mean it. I'm your best friend, ain't I? Who else is going to tell you how great you are when some stupid girl's got you down?"

Specs smiled a little. "Yeah, I guess you're right."

"You bet I am. Can we go now?"

"Lead the way."

Dutchy grinned. Reaching for the doorknob, he frowned as it stuck. With a confused glance behind him at Specs, he used all his strength to wrench open the door and promptly disappeared under an indoor-bound snowdrift. Specs sprang forward and dragged Dutchy from the white powdery mess. Sputtering, Dutchy shivered and shook himself.

"Wh-wh-a-a-t the hell?" He demanded through chattering teeth.

"We're snowed in." Specs observed.

"Shiiit." Dutchy half-whined, brushing snow off of himself. "What are we going to do now?"

"Stay in," Specs muttered, shoving the door shut. "No one else is going to make it back tonight." He sighed. "Kloppman's not even here...so much for your plans of girls and alcohol."

"Nonsense." Dutchy answered. Reaching inside his coat, he pulled out a large bottle. "We have half."

Specs shook his head in disbelief, cracking a small smile. "You're crazy, Dutchy. How'd you get your hands on that, huh?"

"I made it. Come one, let's go upstairs. It's fucking freezing down here."

"And whose fault is that?" Specs teased, following his friend up the stairs.

Dutchy sat down on his bunk and motioned for Specs to sit next to him. He complied, eyes lingering on Dutchy's fingers as they pried open the bottle. With a pop it opened and Specs wrinkled his nose.

"What is that?"

"Peppermint." Dutchy answered after a healthy swig. He offered the bottle to Specs. "It's a bit strong, but tastes just like those mints Snoddy's always snitchin'."

Specs took a gulp and winced, coughing. Dutchy slapped his back, laughing.

"We'll make a drinker out of you yet, Specs."

As the liquid level in the bottle got lower and lower, the boys' voices grew louder and touches grew more frequent. Eventually, the glass bottle was rolling around their feet and the bunk legs, inching along the floorboards with each vibrant laugh. The wind beat the slow against the windowpanes, but neither noticed.

"You know, it's a shame we didn't get to go to the party." Specs slurred.

Dutchy looked up from where he was sprawled at the head of his bunk. "What's that?"

"I had somethin' special to wear."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah. It took a long time to make, too."

"Show me."

"What?"

"C'mon, Specsie, show me whatcha made for the party."

"Well...okay, but no laughin'."

Dutchy giggled. "Promise."

Specs stumbled over to his bed, pulling from something underneath his bunk. He put something on his head and turned around to show Dutchy. The blond newsie grinned widely and raised his hand to cover an amused chuckle. Specs turned the color of holly berries, looking down at his polished-boot feet. The creak of floorboards gave him the small amount of self-confidence to peek up from under the brim of his newsie hat.

Dutchy ducked his head, grinning at Specs in a way that made his throat dry and stomach more warm than the peppermint alcohol batch could ever do. He found himself noticing the way blond hair had gotten caught under Dutchy's glasses, but none could hide the stunning clarity of his ice-blue eyes. Cool, pale fingers curved into arches, settling on his cheeks.

"I love it." Dutchy whispered, as if telling a secret, and for a moment, Specs's heart stopped, thinking, you I love you.

He shook himself, mentally.

Dutchy grinned again, looking up at the bundle of mistletoe dangling on a wire above the brim of Specs's hat. He pushed it, laughing softly at the wobbling motion that resulted. "Does this work?"

Specs shrugged, trying to ignore the shape of Dutchy's lips. "Never had a chance to try."

"It works."

"You've done it before?"

"Nope."

And that was how Specs found himself kissing Dutchy in a cold bunkroom, with the rest of the world snowed out. He twisted his hands in Dutchy's shirtfront, dragging the other close as he opened his mouth to let in Dutchy's eager tongue.

Peppermint, his brain reeled in delight. Dutchy. Peppermint.

Then Dutchy was gone, pulling off his glasses and reaching for Specs's, clumsily grabbing them by their lenses. Specs tipped backwards, landing with a painful creak on his thin mattress. Dutchy was on him in a moment, open-mouthed kisses and quivering fingers fumbling with clothing. Specs felt cold air on his chest and an embarrassing noise slipped past his lips before he could stop it—his skin tingled in the wake of Dutchy's lips, his wonderful thin lips, so pale like the rest of him (ohgod), or was that the peppermint lingering in his mouth?

Specs hooked a finger in the front of Dutchy's shirt, tugging at the buttons. He tried not to tear anything, despite what his instincts and the look in Dutchy's eyes told him. It seemed a lifetime before he finally saw a pale collar bone and he attacked it, perhaps a bit too zealously—or maybe not, given the noises coming from Dutchy—hands desperately mapping Dutchy's body under the cloth.

Who needed girls? Dutchy was prettier than most of them. Especially with his head tossed back like that and that throat—oh god that pale throat—Specs reached, running his fingers over Dutchy's Adam's apple, tracing the tendons and the blue blood vessels, marveling at the contrast of his hand against Dutchy's neck.

"Been wanting to do this forever." Dutchy moaned in his ear. "Thank God for snow and mistletoe."

"And peppermint." Specs gasped back, yanking Dutchy down for another delicious peppermint kiss.