A/n: This is just a little story I wrote last year for my mum as a Christmas present. I don't think she fully appreciated it, because of the slash when she wanted a sappy hetero story (despite how many times I've told her I can't write those because I hate them sooooo freaking much), but she liked it nonetheless. At least, I think she did....

Well, anyway. I decided to post it seeing as it's Christmas Eve. It's actually a little more pre-slashy than slash, but oh well. Enjoy!

Of Snowball Fights & Mistletoe


Does she really think I'm going to answer her? Honestly, woman. She really needs to get that assumption looked at.


Nope. Not going to answer her. In fact, I can't even hear her; my headphones are in and my music is on.


Lalala. Nope. Can't hear anything except the sweet, beautiful voice of D—


Oh. Shit. Middle and last name? Crap, crap, crap. I'm done-doomed-dead. And you and I haven't even properly met yet! Oh, woe is us! But, from the sound of the footsteps stomping up the stairs, I'd say I got about five seconds—give or take a few—to tell you a bit about myself. Are you ready? Yeah? OK!

I'm a blonde, 17 year old male with grayish-blue eyes (why that's relevant though, I'm not exactly sure . Don't really think it is--but whatever.) You already know my name from my mother's shouting, and—yes, I know what an odd name it is, but more on that later. I'm one of those secret-spazzes (you know; the kind that maybe appear to be quiet and normal, but really, the inside of their head is just a big colorful whirlwind of confetti, pop-rocks, and British slang words that I probably use incorrectly. Yeah... That's me.). My favorites include music, reading, peppermint hot chocolate, t-shirts with sarcastic sayings on them, using the caps lock to EMPHASIZE things, rambling, and run-on sentences. Oh, and boys. Cute boys. Have I mentioned that I'm also gay? No? Oh, well. Now I did. Heh.

And seeing as my mom—AKA Mum (because I like to pretend I'm British); AKA Julie Nox (because that's her actual name)—just BARGED into my room WITHOUT KNOCKING, we'll have to pick up the intros later on. If I'm still breathing, that is. If not, well… It was nice knowing you for all of…*checks watch*…two minutes.

"Orion," says Mum, her hands NOT on her hips or crossed. She doesn't need to do that to be intimidating. It's all in the tone, and Mummy has perfected the tone. She needed to with my brothers, but we'll get to them later. "Care to tell me why you're not downstairs, ready to leave?"

"Because," I intone, pulling my headphones out of my ears, "I don't want to go to Aunt Sue's for Christmas! She'll ruin it for me." I give her a pathetic look so she knows exactly how tragic that is.

"And why is that?" asks Mum, cocking her eyebrow. And even though her tone's light and that gesture's seemingly harmless, I know deep underneath, there's definitely a threat lurking in there somewhere. It took several years for me to finally be able to hear it, but now that I can, I know I better have a damn good reason or I'm going to get my ass kicked. All just from an eyebrow raise.

Someday I'll be able to do that, but right now, I have to appeal my case to her or I'm going to have one sucky XMAS.

"Aunt Sue's too conservative!" I exclaim, throwing my hands in the air for emphasis. "Whenever I go to her house I feel as if Bill O'Reilly or SARAH-freaking-PALIN are going to pop out of one of her ridiculously clean cupboards and try to force me into a SWEATER VEST and then proceed to try to PRAY THE GAY AWAY—or, in O'Reilly's case—SPEAK UTTER BIGOTED SHITE about how if I'M ever allowed the right to marry, then we might as well make it okay for people to marry their PETS! Because apparently homosexuality is the same thing as besti—"

"Enough, Orion," she says. "You are not going to be attacked by Sarah Palin or Bill O'Reilly at your aunt's house."

I narrow my eyes at her. "Are you forgetting that when we went there the last time, she tried to get you to send me to a de-gaying summer camp?"

"And are you forgetting that I got into a spectacular fight with her about that?" Mum smiles at me. "If she starts anything like that again, I promise we'll leave—after I've given her another piece of my mind, of course, and you give her a piece of yours."—I smile back at her; bitching out Aunt Sue has been a regular fantasy of mine—"But, if and until that happens, you're going."

"Mummmmm!" I whine. "Don't make me go! Pleeeeeease!!"

Mum shrugs. "I'm afraid you have no choice." She turns around and leaves my room, calling over her shoulder: "You've got five minutes to be in the van and ready to go. I suggest you get your ass in gear, or…" She lets the sentence drift off, shrugging as she walks down the stairs, which makes the threat all the more threatening.

Nnrrrrgh—NOT FAIR!

Making this weird sigh-whimper sound, I haul myself off my bed and grab my bag. I drag it across the floor as I make my way slowly down the stairs, totally stretching that five minutes for all they're worth. I really don't want to spend Christmas at Aunt Sue's. She'll ruin the holidays for me completely.

And so will her Daughters from Hell.

~ ~ ‡ ~ ~

It's not even been two hours on the road, which means we got about three to four to go, depending on the traffic and weather, before we reach Aunt Sue's, and I'm already about to bash my head against the window until I've given myself a concussion. Why? you ask. Well, remember when I mentioned my brothers and about getting to them later? Yeah, later has become now since I need a rant or I really am going to give smash my head against the freaking window.

So. My brothers. Um. They're five year old twins, named Lysander and Leander, and with the way they're going now, they will be co-dictators of the world by the time they are sixteen. They're terrors—ones that I love to pieces, don't get me wrong! But there's only so much POKING I can take before I'm driven INSANE!

"Cut it OUT!" I yell at them, which, of course, makes Mum tell me to stop yelling. Which, in turn, causes the Twin Terrors to burst out into giggles. Then they start jabbering in their own made-up language. I pause my music and listen to them, even though I don't understand what the frig they're saying. I really don't need to, though. Like I said before, it's all about tone.

"Zsig mez?" Leander asks Lysander. "Cool lecamt?"

"Uoh," Lysander answers, nodding. "Ori nicoh dymmu dikoh."

They both turn to me with identical mischievous grins, and I blanch. I know they were talking about me (Ori is what they've been calling me since they learned how to talk) but I have NO idea what they were saying. For all I know, they might have decided to push me out of the car or something equally heinous, like feeding me to a clan of carnivorous, psychotic chipmunks. And—ah! I don't like that look in their eyes! Or how they're leaning closer to me!


I scramble into the back-back seat of the van. Never mind that it's filled with stuff and there's barely any room for me back here, and never mind that my dad just yelled "Oi! What the heck're you doing? Get your seatbelt back on!" at me. At least I'm safe from them!

Sighing in relief, I settle down so I'm lying down across the seat. That's the only way I'll have leg room when the bags of stuff and things are piled so high that it's a miracle Dad can even see out the back window. Though, it's rather comforting and oddly relaxing to be closed in like this, watching the snow fall from the sky out of the window.

I un-pause my music as I watch it and let myself get lost in a daydream.

~ ~ ‡ ~ ~

At some point, I must have fallen asleep, since the next thing I know, we're at Aunt Sue's. And the only reason I wake up is because Dad, being the loving father that he is, opened the trunk and dropped snow on my face. I jolt upright, spluttering as he laughs, and then somehow maneuver myself over the back seat and out of the van without falling on my face.

Grabbing a handful of snow, I make a snowball and then throw it at Dad. And SCORE! I get him right in the neck so it falls down his jacket into his shirt. But now he's glaring at me, so I quickly grab my bag and haul my ass away from him, running as fast as I can without slipping on the snow. A snowball whizzes passed my head and I laugh loudly.

"Ha-ha! You MISSED!" I shout back at him.

And just as I'm about to taunt him a bit more, both of my legs are, for some reason, suddenly incapable of being lifted from the ground. But because I realize that after I try moving them, I stumble and end up falling.

Oh, hello ground; it's nice to meet you. My name's Orion.

Luckily for my face, the snow is of that fluffy variety so I suffer minimum damage. But like most snow, it's also of that COLD variety, and I'm not exactly dressed for this occasion. I want up. Which means the two, giggling terrorists sitting on my back are going to have to move. They might only be five, but there are still two of them and they weigh enough to keep me stuck in the snow.

"Did Daddy tell you to do that?" I ask, turning my head to the side and spitting out a mouthful of snow first so they can hear me.

"Yup!" they both chirp.

"Did he also tell you what's going to happen to you two once I get up?"

Lysander and Leander shriek and laugh as they jump off of me and start to run away. I scramble to my feet as fast as I can myself and then proceed to chase them up to the front door of Aunt Sue's house.

It's mansion-like. I mean, seriously; it's huge. Aunt Sue's husband, Stanley—*snicker*—is some suburbia fancy-pants that got a shitload of money when his parents died. Oh, he's also the CEO of some corporation that's probably half the reason why the icebergs are melting and little children in Africa are dying of hunger. So, yeah. He's extremely wealthy, which is why I think my aunt married him. It sure wasn't for his personality, and I can't tell you whether or not he's attractive since I'm unable to get past what an INSUFFERABLE PRAT he is.

Then, again, Aunt Sue is rather insufferable herself, so maybe they're made for each other. And it explains why my cousins are the SPAWN OF SATAN.

Ahem. Anyway.

My brothers and I are at the door now. And what a lovely door it is! All big, white and imposing! I scowl at it then open it without ringing the stupid doorbell. They know we were coming, so is it really necessary to announce our presence? Nooooo. Besides, I want to go unnoticed by my aunt—and her Children from the Underworld—as long as humanly poss—

"Orion! Lysander! Leander!"



"Hey Mackenzie," I say to my younger cousin. Rather unenthusiastically, I might add. She's eight years old, and though she looks harmless in her adorable (i.e. sickening) pink outfit, complete with white stockings, don't let her fool you. She's an absolute DEMON! See—look at the way she smiles at me now. There's a malicious edge to it if you look close enough and her creepy doll-like blue eyes just scream PURE EVIL. I stare at her suspiciously, my brain hastily trying to figure out what horrible thing she's about to do to me.

But then I notice the mischievous looks are back in the Twin's eyes as they stare at the cat that's now rubbing up against Mackenzie's legs. She notices me noticing them notice her cat, and she instantly bends down to snatch it from the floor.

Only, all she manages to do is startle it, causing the feline to bolt from the room. Immediately, the Terrors are chasing after it, cackling gleefully, and then Mackenzie's chasing after them, screaming at them.

"Don't hurt Fluffy!" she screeches.

"Caggu!" Leander shouts.

"Tog ag!" Lysander yells. "Tog ag!"

I grin after them as they disappear from the entranceway. Then, just as I'm about ready to slink away before anyone else can notice me, Aunt Sue—OF COURSE—walks out here. She looks me over, a displeased expression on her face, and believe me, the feeling is more than mutual.

"Orion," she says flatly.

"Aunt Sue," I say in the same manner.

And then we just stare blankly at each other. We're both waiting for the other to make a move; blink or whatever. It's like an old Western standoff or something, only…neither of us have a gun. Or a cowboy hat. Which is rather sad, now that I think about it. I should have a cowboy hat. I wonder if it's too late to put that on my Christmas list…



"So!" I say just because I can't stand this awkward silence any longer. Of course, I just made it even more awkward since I really didn't have anything in mind to say after my 'so', SOOO… Um. Yeah.

Way to go Orion. Way. To. Go.

I'm about ready to excuse myself to the bathroom so I can just get away from her, when the door opens. Both Aunt Sue and I turn around—and, oh! What good luck I have! What wonderful timing Mum and Dad have! What a lot of stuff they're carrying!

Wait. Waaah?



"Thanks for helping, Orion," Mum says.

"Well, it's your husband's fault!" I tell her, pointing an accusing finger at Dad. "Attacking me with snowballs then sending the twins after me! Would YOU have stayed and helped after THAT?" I raise my eyebrows and tilt my head to the side a bit. "Hmm?"

"He's got a point," says a familiar voice from behind Mum and Dad.

"Aunt Drea!" I exclaim, and when she steps out form behind my parents, I launch myself at her. She promptly lets the bags she's holding drop to the floor so she can hug me back.

"How are you, Orion?"

"Great!" I tell her. But then I lean over and whisper in her ear, "Would be better if I wasn't here, though."

Aunt Drea laughs quietly and pats my head before she lets go of me to go greet her sisters. She gives my mum a hug and a kiss on the cheek first, and then does the same to Aunt Sue, though it's obviously a bit forced between them.

It's like this, you see: Aunt Drea's the oldest, my mum's the middle child, and Aunt Sue's the youngest. Their level of awesomeness goes in the same order, as well. Aunt Drea's simply fantastic; she's got the gypsy-style thing going for her, and though she's kind of a recluse, I like spending time with her since she's a lot like me (weirdness and all, you know). Mum's mum—she's normal, though her tastes in names aren't, hence why mine and my brothers' are what they are. And though I love her dearly and know she should be the awesomeness person in my book, she's still the one who takes my iPod away when I get in trouble and the one who forced me here; that knocks her down on the awesome-scale a bit.

Then there's Aunt Sue—dear Auntie Sue. Yeah. She's, like, negative 500 on the awesome-scale. She's psycho, and not in the good, fun kind of way. Ergo, why her and Aunt Drea don't really get along. They're polar opposites.

"So…" Mum says, looking between Aunt Drea and Aunt Sue, who are now staring at each other much like A.S. and I were doing earlier. "Sue, how about you show us where we can put our things?"

"Right," Aunt Sue says, and then begins to lead the four of them—my dad has been standing awkwardly to the side, like me, for that whole exchange—out of the entranceway.

And THIS is the perfect opportunity to slip away, unnoticed. So, that's what I do, weaving in and out of a whole bunch of people that are half my relatives, the other half Aunt Sue's and Uncle Stanley's 'friends'. (They think that having a huge house means they can invite everyone over for an Christmas party. It doesn't. They're stupid.). But just as I'm about halfway to the room where I know I won't be found or bothered for a good hour or so, my path is suddenly blocked by a girl with hair so offensively ginger that I want to claw my eyes out. Instead, I scowl at her.

"Move Kelsifer," I tell my cousin. "Don't you have souls that need sucking?"

"Ha-ha, Oreo," she says back with a fake smile. "You're so…not funny." She gives me a flat look, putting her hands on her hips.

I roll my eyes at her. "I wasn't trying to be, you twit. That was me being completely serious."

"Whatever, loser," snaps Kelsifer (real name Kelsey, but that's completely misleading; Kelsifer let's you know right off the bat that she's Satan). "Mom said you and me are in charge of the little kids. C'mon."

She grabs my wrist before I can even think of words I could use to protest, and I'm dragged into a large playroom that's horrifyingly pink and girly, filled with numerous oversized dollhouses, other toys, and about eleven kids, ranging from age 4 to 9. I stare at them all, terrified, because THIS was not how I imagined spending my XMAS eve. Hiding from evil relatives, bored, and slightly miserable—yes; babysitting ELEVEN kids, which include the TWINS and my LITTLE COUSINS OF MISERY, with KELSIFER—no. This is not on. Nope. Not at all. I'd rather throw myself in front of a truck, thanks.

"Um. Yeah, no." I shake my head slightly, unable to tear my eyes away from where the five boys in the room are currently running over Barbie with a monster truck I know one of them had to have brought with them since Aunt Sue never would buy that for her precious Daughters of Death. "I'm not staying here. See you!" I start to turn around to leave.

"Oh, no you don't, Oreo," Kelsifer tells me, smiling nastily at me as she grabs the back of my shirt and yanks me to a halt, nearly choking me in the process. "Aunt Julie was there when Mom told me that we had to watch them. So, you really have no choice but to stay here."

"Damn it!" I say, which gets me a smack across the face from Kelsifer. I hold a hand to my cheek and stare at her incredulously as she glares back at me. "Ow! What the hell was that for?"

She slaps me again, this time in the back of the head. "Stop swearing!" she hisses.

Oh. Right. Little children ears. But still!

"You could have just told me!" I snap. "You didn't have to HIT me!"

"Oh, I know," Kelsifer tells me. "But what fun would that have been?"

She smiles at me sweetly before going over to where Mackenzie and Alyssa—her youngest sister—are playing with their copious amount of dolls with the other girls. I seethe after her for a moment, wishing I could strangle her, then sullenly go over to join the group of boys, who have successfully torn the arm off the Barbie. My brothers' doing, I bet, either by doing it themselves, or ordering the other boys to do it. Like I said; future co-dictators of the world they are.

I sit down next to them on the floor, causing them to look over at me curiously. As an answer, I sigh pitiably and let myself fall completely to the floor.

"Ori?" they ask.

"Shoot me," I tell them. "Please."

Both make their small hands into pseudo-guns and hold them to my temples, Lysander on my left and Leander on my right.

"Bang," they say together, and then tackle me.

I groan and contemplate if I really should have bashed my head against the car window after all. That would probably be better than having my ribs crushed by two out-of-control five year olds.

~ ~ ‡ ~ ~

About forty-five minutes later, I've got several new bruises, but I'm alive, which is all that really matters. The twins have gone back to ordering the other boys around, and I am now sitting safely on the sidelines, supervising, so they don't get too crazy with practicing their dictating skills. And it's in that moment that the door opens. I look up, wondering what person in their right mind would come in HERE of their own free will, and then freeze.

Ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod.

Cute boy. Very cute boy.

Please, please, PLEASE don't be related to me!

Cute-boy-that-I-really-hope-isn't-one-of-my-many-cousins (CBTIRHIOOMMC for short) is looking around the room uncertainly, and I know I'm staring at him, but I can't help it because he's absolutely ADORABLE. And then he sees me, and I quickly look away, fighting back that blush that wants to overtake my face, though I can still see him out of my peripheral vision, and—oh, god. He's still looking at me. I pretend I don't notice, except that's the biggest lie ever, and I really want to go over there and ask him if we're related, and if we are, then I'll ask him to murder me since life is really unfair.

Holy crap, he's freaking gorgeous. He's got kind-of-short brown hair, and I can't really see his eyes from here, but they look brown as well. His shirt is blue and yellow plaid with the sleeves rolled up, and his jeans are dark grey, making him look highly delicious, and I really am going to kill myself if he turns out to be my cousin. And now CBTIRHIOOMMC is starting to walk towards me and my little group of imps, and my heart feels about ready to burst forth from my chest.

But just as he's about to take another step, Kelsifer appears in front of him, blocking his path, and even though I'm on the other side of the room from them, I can still hear every word she says since her voice is really that obnoxiously loud.

"Tommy!" she exclaims. "I'm so glad you could make it!"

The she literately JUMPS on him to give him a hug, which he returns, except it's so obvious from the expression on his face that he's doing so reluctantly and probably wishing he didn't have to. A burst of laughter escapes my throat before I can stop it, because, OF COURSE no one wants to touch Kelsifer willingly, and immediately CBTIRHIOOMMC—oh, wait—Tommy is looking at me again. He smiles a bit and pulls away from Kelsifer, and I, deciding that no, he cannot be a relative or Kelsifer would hate him like she hates me, I get off the floor and go over there. Kelsifer scowls at me once I'm standing next to them, moving closer to Tommy, but he moves away from her, still looking at me, and I silently celebrate.

"Tommy, this is my cousin, Oreo," she tells him, glaring at me.

"Stop calling me that, you HAG!" I hiss at her. Then I turn to Tommy and smile at him. "Hi. I'm Orion, Kelsifer's cousin."

Tommy laughs. "Nice to meet you, Orion. I'm Tommy, Kelsey's neighbor."

Then he holds out his hand for me to shake, which I do since being old school like that is awesome, and—oh, he's got nice hands. I don't want to let go of it, but I have to because if I didn't then that would be rather creepy, and yeah. You really don't know how much I love the word and concept of 'neighbor' right now, either.

"So…" I say once we stopped shaking hands. "You're Kelsifer's neighbor?" He nods and I give him a pitying look. "I'm so sorry."

Tommy laughs and Kelsifer glares at me before she latches onto his arm like the soul-sucking leech she is.

"Let's go somewhere else, Tommy," she says. "So we can hang out without all these distractions"—she shoots me another glare—"around."

And then she tries to pull him towards the door, but because I've got reflexes like a ninja, I grab a hold of her shirt, much like she did to me earlier, and stop her.

"I don't think so!" I singsong with a cheery smile. "I'm not watching the kids all by myself—especially not your Evil Sisters of Wickedness."

"My sisters?" Kelsifer asks incredulously, her eyebrows going up. She lets go of Tommy's arm to put her hands on her hips. "Your brothers are the ones who have the other boys tied up!"

"Well, they—! Wait…what?" I stare at her confusedly.

She points behind me and I turn around to see that Lysander and Leander have indeed tied up the other three boys, and are now playing with their toys. I gape at them. Where the hell did they even find that—what is it? *squints* Oh, I see—yarn to do that with? And are they—oh, my god. They've gagged them too....with dress-up clothes. Dear god.

"Hey!" I say, walking over to them. "Terrorist 1 and 2!"

And, of course, they look up from playing with my cousin Zach's soldier figurines with identical questioning looks.

"Ori?" Leander asks just as Lysander asks, "What?"

"Why?!" I ask, spastically motioning towards the other three boys before I start to untie them all. (I'd like to know how, too, since Zach's nine and easily bigger than them, and that's kind of impressive that they managed to do this, but now is not the time to ask.)

"They weren't playing it right," Lysander says.

"And they didn't listen!" Leander adds.

"Yeah, well," I begin, giving them a stern look as I finished freeing my cousins, "that's no reason to do that to them. Apologize, now."

"No!" both yell.

"Do it," I tell them. "Or we can go see Mum."

Lysander turns to Leander and says, "Gsih ah ipp ueyj diypg! A gepf uey ag zih i vif afoi!"

"Ag zih ueyj afoi!" Leander shouts at him then shoves him.

"Me ag zihmg!" Lysander shoves him back. "Piaj!"

And then they begin wrestling, still yelling at each other in their language. I sigh and go over to break them up, but end up getting hit a few times myself when I try to detangle them from each other. They're beasts, I tell you. Every time I think I get one away from the other, they slither out of my grip and go right back to fighting. I know they won't hurt each other that badly, but still. This is ridiculous, and I'll be the one Mum yells at when they both end up with bruises and black eyes.

"ENOUGH!" I shout at them, but of course that doesn't do a damn thing, so I try to pull Lysander off of Leander. That doesn't work either. And now all my other cousins, including Kelsifer, are just standing around us, watching. I throw her a look. "A little help here!"

She shakes her head. "No, Oreo. You're on your own."

"Kelsifer!" I growl, and then yelp and snatch my hand away when one of them bites me—Leander, probably. "Ow, you plebeians! Have you both gone off your trolleys?!" I try to grab a hold of one of their shirts, but once again, it's useless. I straighten up and glare down at them. "I will not stand for this gallivanting any longer! I say! Cease this tom-foolery at once!"

A laugh behind me makes me glance over my shoulder, and I see Tommy standing there with a slight smile. I blink at him in confusion.

"Need help?" he asks.

"Stupid question," I tell him, too frustrated to even care that I'm being rude to the cute-boy-that-ISN'T-related-to-me. "Get Leander."

"Which one's that?" he asks, eying the twins and dancing out of the way when they roll towards him.

"Blue shirt," I say as I move to the side so I can grab a hold of Lysander. "Careful, though. He bites."

"Oh, great."

And even though he sounds less than enthusiastic, he doesn't hesitate when he leans down and gets a hold of Leander. I go after Lysander, and together we pull the twins off of each other. They both try to struggle out of our grips, but this time they aren't going anywhere, and eventually they give up and start to pout instead. I smile sarcastically at them both.

"Oh, Mummy's not going to be very happy with you two," I tell them, which makes both of them look at me with a trembling jutted out lower lip and pleading eyes. Not about to be suckered into their oh-we're-so-cute-and-sad-so-please-don't-tell-mummy-about-us-being-naughty game, I ignore them and look up at Tommy. "Care to help me escort these hooligans to my Mum?"

"Sure, why not?" he says.

I nod at him then pick Lysander up and put him over my shoulder like a sack of potatoes, seeing Tommy do the same to Leander out of the corner of my eye. They both shriek and then erupt into giggles as we make our way out of the playroom.

"Ori!" Lysander laughs. "Put me down!"

"Nope," I say. "You'll run away."

"Nooo," he says in a totally unconvincing tone.

"Yes." I nod.

He flicks me in the back and I pinch his leg for revenge, which makes him yelp. I smile then look to my left where Tommy is walking next to me, being interrogated by Leander.

"Who are you?" asks the five year old suspiciously.

"Tommy," Tommy tells him, an amused smile on his face, "your cousin's neighbor."

"Oh," Leander says. He pauses for a moment and then asks, "Do you watch cartoons?"


"Code Geass?"


Because I'm now a step behind Tommy and Leander, I am able to see Leander's incredulous expression on his face, and I laugh. Tommy looks at me questioningly, but before I can explain to him what Code Geass is, Leander starts babbling.

"How don't you know what it is?" he demands. "It's only the best show ever! Lys! So feohmg cmez zsig ag ah!"

"Zsig i pehoj," Lysander says thoughtfully. "Imw im afaeg."

"Uois!" Leander nods. "Afaeg!"

Tommy frowns and gives me another questioning look. "Um…what did they just say?"

"I've lived with them for almost six years now and I still don't know," I tell him truthfully. "But from their tone, methinks they just insulted your intelligence."


"Yeah," I say. I shift Lysander higher up on my shoulder and stop, looking around the crowd for Mum. My shoulder's getting numb and—oh, look! There she is! I start towards her, telling Tommy, "C'mon."

He follows, and in a few seconds, we're in front of Mum, setting the twins down. Immediately, they try to take off, but I snatch a hold of their shirts before they can get away and push them towards Mum, who's staring at us with her eyebrows raised.

"Here," I tell her. "Take care of your ruffians."

Mum sighs. "What did they do?"

"Well!" I begin, grinning at her. "They've officially been kicked out of the playroom for tying up Zach, Robert, and Bret, and then fighting. I refuse to watch them anymore seeing as I'm significantly underpaid to do it."

"Mom doesn't pay you!" Lysander exclaims, and I look down at him.

"Exactly," I say. I look back up at Mum and give her a meaningful look. But of course she completely ignores it and stares down at the twins with a thoughtful expression.

"You tied up your cousins?" she asks them. I fake-cough the words 'And gagged', which makes Mum's eyes widened. "You tied up and gagged your cousins?"

"It was his idea!" they both say, pointing to the other. And then they glare at each other for a second before try to start fighting again. Tommy and I separate them once more, and I send Mum another look. She sighs.

"Okay, Orion," Mum says, taking them each by the hand. "I'll deal with them."

"Thank you!" I tell her with a grin.

She purses her lips at me and hums, then starts to lead the twins off. They begin to argue with her, but fall silent when she glares at them. Poor devils. They're in for one hell of a long time-out.


I mentally shake myself out of my thoughts and turn towards Tommy, who's giving me a sheepish look. I blink at him. 'Um...' is right. Now that the Terrors are gone and I can devote my full attention to the Cute Non-Cousin in front of me, I have no clue what to say to him. Despite how awesomely witty I am in my mind and around my friends, put a cute boy in front of me and my brain short-circuits. I'm pants at flirting, too. And honestly, I don't know if I should even try, because with my luck, he's straight. Then I'll not only have shown how utterly naff I am, but I'll probably get punched in the face, too. So. I should just walk away right now and forget about Tommy the Cute Non-Cousin.

But because I am Orion, King of Spazzes and Hater of Awkward Silences (though those tend to be my fault most of the time), I don't. Instead, I ask, "Paper or plastic?"

"Um…plastic," he says a bit uncertainly. I raise my eyebrows at him.

"You sure?"


"Good man."

Tommy laughs and I smile at him.

Then we start talking and it's so surprisingly easy now that we've broken the ice that I can't help but think in the back of my mind this can't be real. But it is—it really is!

He really does listen to the same type of music as I do, like the same books I do, and finds sarcasm and irony just as entertaining as I do. It's like…insane how much we have in common and—dear god, murder me—how we just clicked. But we did—we did, and now we've been wandering around Aunt Sue's massive house for over a half an hour and we're still talking, and I don't think we're going to stop anytime soon, which is good because I really don't want to, and I've just realized how unreservedly screwed I am if Tommy really does turn out to be straight.

God, please don't let the Cute Non-Cousin be straight.

~ ~ ‡ ~ ~

"Why don't you and Kelsey get along?"

I sigh and set my hot chocolate down on the kitchen counter. "Well, you see," I begin, "it all started because Aunt Sue is—if you'll excuse my language—an uptight, stuck-up bitch. She doesn't really like my Mum because Mum didn't marry some uppity rich man like she did. And she DEFINITELY doesn't like ME for various reasons. So NATURALLY, her daughter isn't going to like me. Plus; genetics didn't really help Kelsifer much. Her father's a pillock, too."

"So…you've never gotten along with her?" Tommy asks. Then he goes back to nibbling on a cookie, staring at me with wide, intrigued eyes, and I swear, if he gets anymore adorable, I think I might just keel over dead.

"Nope," I tell him. "The animosity passed from my Mum and her sisters to me, my brothers, and my cousins. Mum and Aunt Sue get along decently now, but only for short amounts of time, which is why we only see each other on holidays—thank god!—but Aunt Sue and my other aunt, Drea, really kind of hate each other. She only showed up here to see Mum, me, my brothers, and my dad."

"Is she the one who looks like a gypsy?" he asks.


"Oh. I know her," Tommy says, but then shakes his head. "Well—not really know her-know her, you know. She's the one who opened the door when me and my dad came over. She seems nice."

I nod and then pick up my hot chocolate again, taking a sip. Tommy sets his cookie down on the counter and fixes me with a puzzled stare. I raise my eyebrow at him.


He shakes his head. "Just trying to figure out what those 'various reasons' your aunt has for not liking you are. You're very likable."

"Oh, um…thanks, I guess," I say, trying desperately not to blush.


"'So' what?"

"What are the reasons?" Tommy asks, a laugh in the back of his voice, grinning at me.

"Oh, well…" I shrug. "One might be because—if you haven't noticed—I'm sort of odd. Odd and Aunt Sue don't mix. Neither does super-conservative-republican and hardcore-rainbow-liberal."


"I'm gay."

Whoa. Whoa. Way to be blunt, Orion. And god! I didn't even mean to drop the big G-bomb on him like that. It's just kind of…slipped. But, I'm sort of glad that I did, because I would've had to eventually, you know, and it's better to just get that stuff out of the way in the beginning. Now, I'll be able to see his reaction, which will determine whether or not…um…

Well, okay. I don't know what it will determine, but the way he reacts to that will definitely tell me SOMETHING. Maybe. Hopefully.

I look over at Tommy to see him giving me a mysterious half-smile. "Cool," he says.

Then he goes back to eating his cookie and I'm left blinking at him in complete befuddlement because I don't know what the F*%$ he meant by 'cool'. That 'cool' could mean several different things, which doesn't help me AT ALL because I am NOT a bloody PSYCHOLOGIST. SO I have no idea whether or not that 'cool' was just a straight-man-okay-with-gay 'cool' or a straight-man-tolerant-of-gay 'cool' with a silent 'Hit on me and I'll punch your face in' at the end, OR if it even was a 'cool' as in 'Oh, you ride the rainbow-train? Cool, me too'. I. DON'T. KNOW. That goddamn 'cool' tells me absolutely NOTHING!!


So not fair.

Kind of pouting, I go back to my hot chocolate. Just as I'm about to take a sip, though, the Terrors run into the kitchen and latch onto my arm, nearly causing it to spill down the front of me. I fix them both with a glare, but that does nothing to make them stop beaming or babbling at me.

"Gico yh eyghafo, Ori!" Lysander tells me, bouncing up and down.

"Uois!" Leander says. "Eyghafo!"

"English, please," I tell them blandly. They laugh and then start rambling so fast in English that they might as well have just kept talking in their own language.

"Everyone's going outside—"

"And we want to, too—"

"But mom said—"

"That you have to—"

"Go out with us—"

"Or we can't!"

"So, pleeeeeease, Ori?" they ask together, looking up at me with big, irresistible puppy-dog eyes. And damn it! I can't resist the stupid puppy-dog eyes.

I heave a huge sigh. "Fine. I'll go out with you. Go get your stuff on."

Lysander and Leander cheer and then take off out of the kitchen. Sighing again, I look over at Tommy and raise my eyebrows at him. He raises his eyebrows back at me.

"Yes?" he intones. I snort.

"You coming out, too?"

"Sure, why not?" he says, standing up. I smile and stand up, as well, and together we head out of the kitchen to go get our stuff.

When we get to the entrance hall, however, Lysander and Leander are having difficulties and we have to help them get dressed before we can ourselves. It's about ten minutes later that we've finally gotten outside, and immediately, the twins take off towards the middle of the yard where all the others are. I decided to walk calmly for once in my life, since, with my balance in these boots, I'd most likely end up falling on my face if I tried running. Tommy stays by my side the whole way there, and I would be lying through my teeth if I said that didn't make me giddy. Yeah. That's right. GIDDY.

Eventually, we get to the middle of the yard. I see that Kelsifer and her sisters are currently making a snowman. Pffft. Lame. And boring. Why doesn't anyone try making a snow-lizard for once? I mean, that's what I would do if I had any artistic talent whatsoever. But seeing as I don't, I'll stick to demented-looking snow angels and Capture the Hat. Speaking of which…I'm kind of in the mood to play that right now.

"Hey," I say to get Tommy's attention. He looks over at me, looking absolutely adorable in his hat, scarf, co—okay. Yeah, he's cute; we've already established that, Orion. Now focus.

"Wanna play Capture the Hat?"

"Capture the hat?"

I nod. "Yeah. It's a game me and my friends made up. It's like 'Capture the Flag' and a snowball fight combined. Believe me; it's fun."

"Um…okay. Sure, I'll play," he says, and then smiles brightly at me.

Oh, dear god. Stop. Just stop. You're too cute. I'm going to overdose if you possibly get any cuter. This is SO not fair.

"Great," I say. "Now all we need are more people…" I look around, humming thoughtfully as I count the kids, then I smile when I see there's enough to have fair teams and an interesting game. I cup my hands around my mouth to shout, "WHO WANTS TO PLAY A GAME?"

And, of course, everyone turns to look at me, even Kelsifer and her sisters. After a second of just staring at me, she starts to walk over.

"What game?" she asks.

"Capture that Hat," I tell her. "We split up into two teams, then we have five minutes to build forts and collect snowballs—and then we play. The object is to get the other team's hat back to your team's fort. Oh—and if you're hit with a snowball, you're out."

I raise my eyebrows at her. "So. You in?"

"Of course," Kelsifer scoffs. "Do you honestly think I would pass up the chance to show you up?"

"Please!" I laugh at her. "This is my game! There's no way you can beat me at it!"

"Oh, really?" she asks challengingly.

"Yeah," I say. Then I smirk at her. "In fact, I'm so sure you won't be able to beat me that I'll bet on it. Twenty bucks. "

Her eyes spark with excitement, and I can control the urge I have to cackle gleefully. She fell for it! Ha-ha! She's going to get DEMOLISHED and I'm going to be twenty bucks richer by the end of the game! Woohoo!

"You're on," Kelsifer tells me. I hold out my hand for her to shake. She does, trying to crush my hand, but I squeeze hers back, and she winces and snatches it away. I smirk again.

"Excellent!" I exclaim. "Now we get to pick our teams." I turn away from her toward everyone else, who are watching us curiously. I grin at them then order: "Front and center, children!"

And because they're all obedient little imps—which is an oxymoron, really—they all do as they're told and scramble over to us through the snow. Even Tommy goes over and stands with them, flashing me a grin when he catches my eyes. I'm so glad that I'm already flushed because of the cold, or the way I blushed at that would have been SO obvious.

"Okay," I begin. "We automatically get our siblings." This is a rule I just made up, but shhhh. I need the Twin Terrors on my team if we're going to win and I'm not ashamed to admit it. "Lysander and Leander! Join me, my brothers!"

They both giggle as they make their way to my side, wearing identical wicked grins. I'm pretty sure mine looks somewhat the same, only a bit less evil.

"Mackenzie and Alyssa," Kelsifer says, and her sisters go over to her.

"Kay," I say. "Rock-paper-scissors to see who goes first?"

She nods then holds out her hand. I end up beating her rock with my paper and I smirk before calling over Zach. I saw him lob a snowball earlier and he's got fantastic aim.

Kelsifer points to our eight year old cousin, Mary, who follows her and her sisters around like they're God. I bite the inside of my cheek to keep from grinning. Let her choose people based on who likes her and who doesn't. That won't get her anywhere. I've actually got strategy.

"Amy," I say, and my six year old cousin who's small, quick, and wearing all white—which will be lovely camouflage—beams at me. I smile back at her as she walks over to my side.

We go back and forth between picking two more, and I manage to get Robert, but Kelsifer chooses Lindsay, so I'm stuck with Kayla. And then there's only two left to choose from—Tommy and Bret—and it's my turn to pick, and obviously I'm not going to choose Bret, because not only is he rather stupid, but because Tommy is obviously the better choice, and I'm not just saying that because I think he's hot.

Well…not completely, but that's irrelevant!

Shut up, you!

"Tommy," I say.

Tommy grins at me and walks over as Kelsifer glares daggers at me. By now I've come to the conclusion that she likes him and she's immensely pissed off that he's been hanging out with me ever since he got here. It makes me feel smug. I grin at her cheerfully, and just like I knew she would, she starts to seethe.

"Take your team over there," I tell her then, pointing a short distance away from where we're standing. "My team'll stay here and then we'll have five minutes to build a fort."

Kelsifer narrows her eyes at me. "Who's going to keep time?"

"My watch," I say, already pushing my coat sleeve back so I can set the alarm. "Just tell me when you're ready to go."

She nods grudgingly then trumps over to the place I pointed at with her team. Once she's definitely out of earshot, I turn towards everyone on my side.

"Okay. Listen up," I say, and immediately I have their attention. What a good team! "The fort needs to be wide and tall enough for me, Zach, and Tommy to hide behind. So, we need plenty of snow. Tommy and I will build it; the rest of you just bring us as much white stuff as possible. Lysander, Leander and Kayla get it for the fort; Zach, Robert and Amy get it for the snowballs. Got it?"

They all nod. I grin.


Just then, Kelsifer calls, "Ready!" and I press a button on my watch, shouting, "Go!"

My team gets to work at once, doing exactly as they were told while Kelsifer's struggling to get her team to cooperate or agree with her. Smug, I smile then start to pile up snow with Tommy. Part of the reason I chose the people I did was because of their intelligence and ability to listen to directions.

"So, what's the plan, Captain?" Tommy asks, without pausing his building, even when he glances at me out of the corner of his eyes and gives me a half-smile. I smile back at him as I use the snow the twins just brought me to make my side of the fort higher.

"You, me, and Zach will stay behind the fort to guard the hat and throw snowballs at anyone at Kelsifer's team who tried to come over here," I tell him. "The twins, Robert and Amy will try to get their hat, while Kayla's the lookout."

"Good plan," he says.

I smirk at him. "I know."

Tommy rolls his eyes, but he's smiling. I grin secretly to myself and finish my side of the fort just as he finishes his and my watch alarm goes off. I stand up and cup my hands around my mouth again to shout, "Times up!" to Kelsifer and her team. And though they most likely spent most of the five minutes bickering, they have a pretty decent fort, as much as I hate to admit it.

"That was not five minutes!" she shouts back, though she knows just as well as I do that it was.

"My watch does not lie!" I tell her. "Now. Put your hat like so." I take my own hat off deliberately slow and lay it on the slightly sloping front wall of our fort. She does the same with her ugly pink one then gives me an impatient 'Now what?' look that I can read ever from this far away. I grin at her. "You can't touch it anymore. Neither can anyone else on your team. If you do, then you're out. And, one more thing—if everyone on your team gets hit by a snowball, then my team wins, even if we don't have your hat. Got it?"

"Yes. I got it," Kelsifer snaps. "So let's just get on with it already!"

I laugh. "All right, all right. Calm down." I pause for a moment, long enough for her to start noticeably fidgeting. Then, without warning, I shout, "GO!"

And because Tommy is absolutely amazing and told everyone what their jobs were while I was talking to Kelsifer, the moment the words leave my mouth, they're off. By the time Kelsifer and her team have stop scrambling in surprise, Amy has already gotten halfway to their fort, with the twins right behind her, and Robert behind them. Bret throws a snowball at Amy, but she manages to dodge it, only that leaves her open the snowball Mary threw and she gets hit. I mentally curse, but no worries. There's Lysander, Leander and Robert out there still, and Tommy just managed to hit Alyssa with a snowball as she tried to cross the space between our forts.

I smile as Mary comes out behind the fort and starts to cross the distance, only to be hit squarely in the chest with a snowball from Zach. Even though the twins or Robert haven't been able to make it any closer to Kelsifer's fort because of the snowballs her and Bret keep throwing, I'm feeling pretty confident, especially when Robert gets Lindsay with a snowball when she peaks out from behind the fort. Tommy glances at me with this heart-melting grin and I swear to god that it's a freaking miracle that I didn't SWOON right there and then. I control myself, though, since this game needs my undivided attention and I'm pretty sure I've spend enough time ogling at Tommy today. (Of course, I don't really think that; it's just what I'm telling myself right now so I don't start drooling when I should be throwing snowballs).

But just when I think everything's just going smashingly, Kayla's shouting "LOOK OUT! LOOK OUT!" and out of freaking NOWHERE Sara—who I completely forgot about until now—is five feet away from Robert, and she must have completely circled around the entire playing field since we would've seen her beforehand, which makes me shout "FOUL!", because it is, but no one's listening to me since she just got Robert out and is now facing off with my brothers. No one's moving, and that includes those of us who are still behind the forts, because we're all busy holding our breath to see how this showdown between the five year olds will end.

That's when things REALLY go to hell. Oh, Lysander manages to hit her with a snowball first, yes. But his hits just seconds before Leander's does, and that makes Leander angry since apparently he wanted to get her out, so he shoves Lysander, which means they start bickering in Twin-ish and start shoving each other again, and that causes me to get aggravated since they're suppose to be CAPTURING THE FREAKING HAT not BEATING EACH OTHER UP!

"Hey, dunderheads!" I shout at them, standing up. "Knock if OFF and PLAY the freaking GAME!"

They stop fighting, but not to do what I told them to. No, not to do what I said. Because if there's anything the twins hate more, it's when I yell and order them around like that. (Remember? They're the future co-dictators of the world. They won't stand for that nonsense if it doesn't benefit them. And this, apparently, doesn't). They turn towards me with matching looks of anger, and together, they pick up some snow, pack it into a ball, and then throw it at me. I'm able to lean toward the side just in time to avoid them, but because I'm Orion, I somehow loose my balance and end up toppling over the fort, taking down half of it with me.

THEN, if things couldn't possibly get any worse, Tommy starts LAUGHING HYSTERICALLY at me, making me flush in mortification and indignation. Using what little pride I have left, I make a snowball and throw it at him, bursting out in laughter myself when I get him right in the face, causing him to splutter. He glares at me for a second before lunging towards me, and I hastily scramble away from him.

I only make it maybe seven steps before I fall again, and because Tommy is literally right behind me, he trips over me, landing half next to me, half on top of me, knocking the breath out of me. And before I can even begin to regain it or before Tommy can even attempt to move, the twins jump on us, cackling and giggling, dropping handfuls of snow in our faces. Tommy and I are laughing again, too, as we try to wrestle them off of us.

And when Kelsifer suddenly appears above us, holding my hat and a wearing a smug smirk, I can't even bring myself to care a little bit that I just lost, since playing with my brothers with Tommy, and seeing and hearing him laugh like that, more than makes up for the twenty bucks I owe my cousin.

~ ~ ‡ ~ ~

About an hour later, we came back inside. Tommy and I were in the playroom, watching the kids together since Kelsifer got mad and went off to pout because I'm not upset about losing the game. And probably because she still couldn't get Tommy to pay attention to her instead of hanging out with me, despite her best efforts. It was funny to watch her earlier, though. She's so got a crush on him, but he couldn't be any less interested in her. In fact, he finds her right annoying. He told me so earlier, too, leaning conspiratorially close to me, smiling as he did. Then he WINKED at me, and though I had no frickin' idea what he meant by it, it left me completely dazed and with a weird fluttery warm sensation in my stomach.

That was over two hours ago, though, and mostly everyone's gone now. Tommy and I are in the room I tried to escape to when I first got here, with my brothers, who are caught up watching TV. We've been talking nonstop since we got back in. By now, I think I know his life-story, except for maybe a few details, and him mine. He's so wonderful; I'm dreading when he has to leave. I don't want him to because I like him. A lot. Definitely more than I should given that I've only known him for just about six hours, don't have any clue whether or not he even likes guys, and probably won't ever hear from him again once I go back home.

And it really doesn't help that, in the time we've spent talking, we've somehow moved closer and closer to each other on the sofa until we're literally side-by-side, shoulder-to-shoulder. He's warm and smells of cedar and cinnamon, not strongly, but just enough that it makes me want to rest my head on his shoulder and just breathe him in.

I might have done just that, too, without thinking of what the consequences would be, if his dad didn't walk in just then. Tommy looks over at him, drifting off in midsentence, and blinks at him. I can't help but notice that he makes no attempt to move away from me even then, and though it shouldn't, it makes me a little bit hopeful that he might possibly like me like I like him.

"Time to go?" he asks.

His dad nods. "Yeah. C'mon." He motions with his hand as he turns and walks away.

Tommy gives a long, slow sigh then stands up and starts walking leisurely towards the doorway. I stand up, too, and follow, because I am that helplessly in like with him, but he doesn't seem to find anything strange about it. In fact, when he gets to the doorway, he stops and turns towards me with a slight smile.

"Well," he begins, "I'll see you, I guess. Definitely before you leave."

"Yeah," I say, glancing down nervously at my feet for a moment before looking back up at him. "Definitely."

Tommy smiles at me, then his eyes flicker up and he flushes deeply. Curious and slightly confused, I look up too, only to blush deeply when I see the mistletoe hanging above us, because OF COURSE this would happen. OF COURSE there would be mistletoe there. And OF COURSE I have no idea what to do, and now Tommy's looking back at me, uncertainly and slightly shy. Why? I don't know, but—oh, my freaking god… He's leaning closer to me, and—holy shit!—now he's kissing me. KISSING ME! And for once in my life I manage NOT to be a total spazz or freak out, and I kiss him back.

My god, my god, my god. This is heaven. FREAKING HEAVEN!

But then he's pulling away—no, no, no; come back—flashing me that lovely grin of his. It makes me feel warm, light, and immensely happy.

"Merry Christmas, Orion," Tommy says. Then he pecks me on the lips once more before he turns and leaves the room, waving over his shoulder as he walks away.

And because I'm still in shock, by the time I say it back, he's too far away to hear me.

"Merry Christmas, Tommy."