Spot hid behind a tree, a snowball clutched in his gloveless hand. He'd been holding it for nearly twenty minutes now, long enough that his hand had gone numb. But on the upside, his body heat had melted the outer layer and it had since refrozen into a thin layer of ice. It would sting like crazy when it hit its target. A numb hand was nothing next to that kind of satisfaction.
His target, however, had thus far been remarkably good at keeping out of sight. Spot growled. Racetrack's good luck wouldn't last forever.
There was the sound of a scuffle nearby. Spot smirked, recognizing the voices. The mad cackle, that was the kid with the eyepatch, whatshisname. Spot didn't waste energy trying to remember. Then the syncopated, high pitched laugh, that was Mush Meyers. And the yelling, the shouts of surprise and sudden cold, they were Crazy and Fins. Two of Spot's own boys. Specifically, the two he'd ordered to keep on Kelly, to keep the bandanna wearing, swaggering, self-styled leader of Manhattan out of his hair. Kelly was a very tempting target, but Spot had bigger fish to fry.
Well, actually, smaller. Shorter. He smirked.
This whole game was actually Racetrack's idea. Spot and Jack had gotten together for a drink and to talk business, maybe talk some about old times, but that ugly little runt had tagged along, had egged them both on. Spot didn't know how he did it, but somehow Racetrack knew all his buttons and just how to press them. Jack's, too. Somehow, Higgins had arranged it so hey were both spoiling for a rumble, Brooklyn versus Manhattan. A fight for the ages.
But those things got dangerous and nasty. And then Higgins had piped up with the innocent suggestion he'd obviously had in mind all along. A play fight. A snowball fight.
The terms had been easy enough to set. Spot hated brining a fight to someone else's territory, but Central Park made the most sense. It had been snowing for days, now; the park was the only spot where it was still fresh enough, and with enough space. And the snowdrifts – now so large they were almost as high as a person – made for excellent makeshift fortresses and strongholds. So the boundary and the means were set – now it was just a matter of who would cry uncle first. And while outwardly Spot's bluster and bravado meant he could never accept a loss to Manhattan, inwardly he had his own target in mind. Spot didn't like being played. Racetrack Higgins had to pay.
Crazy and Fins broke out from behind a snow bank, hair and coats dripping white clumps. Whatshisname and Meyers were hot on their heels--and Kelly was behind them, stooping to pick up and pack more snow, letting them have it. Well, that was one way to keep Kelly out of his hair, anyway.
He stalked quietly, hiding behind the largest drifts, keeping his eyes peeled. And then, finally. Higgins was off by himself, wringing out a wet scarf – someone had clocked him with a snowball to the neck, by the looks of it. Good.
Spot got as close as he dared, chancing that Higgins wouldn't look around, then made his frozen fingers work. Just as Race was about to put his scarf back on – pow. Right on the back of his head. It made a satisfying thud sound as it hit, and Race lout out a genuine yell. He turned quickly, one hand wiping the remnants of the snowball from his hair. Spot was already packing a new snowball. Race's eyes went wide, and, wisely, rather than retaliating, he turned tail and ran.
Spot threw the snowball and it went wide. No matter, though. Catching Race was more important now. He broke into a run, hot on Race's heels, not quite close enough. But Race's scarf, not properly tied in place, came loose and flapped behind him. Spot sped up and grabbed for it, and though it came off in his hand, Race lost a step or two from surprise. Close enough.
Spot threw himself forward and tackled. They both went sprawling against the snow, Spot's lean frame pinning Race's shorter one. Race struggled and rolled over, but no matter. Spot reached for a quick handful of snow and ground it down past the fraying collar of Race's coat, and Race let out a squawk and squirmed.
Another one. This was too fun.
Racetrack finally began to struggle, though it didn't do him much good. But as Spot gathered another handful, Race reached for his coat, pulled him down, and--
Well, that explained a thing or two.
Race's lips were chapped and frozen, and his breath tasted of hotdogs and coffee. Spot ran his tongue across Race's teeth, feeling the jagged, uneven lines and surfaces. He felt Race's tongue in his own mouth.
Their eyes met.
Without meaning to, Spot released his handful of snow. Instead, he rubbed his fingers against the exposed skin at Race's neck, eliciting a shiver that wasn't entirely from the cold.
"Higgins..." he murmured into Race's cheek. It was a question and an answer at the same time.
"Mmm," Race answered, and kissed him again. This time, Spot was expecting it, which actually helped a lot. Without the element of surprise, he was able to enjoy it. Race's body was warm against his, and he felt like they were melting into each other. Details like the temperature, the shouts of warring boys, the snowy ground and grey winter sky, ceased to exist. The world shrank to Spot Conlon and Racetrack Higgins. Not another thought entered Spot's head.
That was when Race made his move. It started out slow and subtle, Spot didn't even notice when Race reached for the handful of snow. He did notice, however, when Race shoved it down the back of his collar. And it turned out there were instincts even Spot hadn't mastered, and the need to yelp when suddenly jerked out of a reverie was one of them. He yelped. Racetrack shoved hard and rolled out from under him; moments later, Race was on his feet running. Moments after that, Spot – who was quick to recover after all – was at his heels, chasing.
Spot couldn't help but wonder if Race was only running in hopes of being tackled again.
Somehow, that thought didn't bother Spot at all.