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When Jack had suggested Gabriel go home with him for the holidays — that the SEP was surprisingly gracious to give all of its participants under the strict stipulation they keep their mouths shut about everything they'd been subjected to for the last couple of months — he didn't honestly think Jack had meant it. After all, wasn't it a little awkward to go home with someone you weren't even romantically involved with — not for a lack of desire to make it so on Gabriel's part — for a holiday that centered so much around family? He originally made plans himself to head home to Los Angeles and see his own family, but when Jack hopped on his bed one morning and threw a plane ticket straight to Indiana in his face, eyes glittering and cheerful in a way Gabriel could probably never grow tired of seeing, there was no way he could say no.

So, after a very long and heart-rending phone call home — with endless apologies to his abuela and promises to fly home right after to celebrate New Years’ — Gabriel found himself in an economy-class window seat with a conked-out mess of blond hair and freckles resting against his shoulder. The bulk of the two of them didn't help the seats feel any less small, but Gabriel couldn't find it in him to complain at all, what with Jack's warmth on his shoulder being more pleasant than it was uncomfortable. Gabriel himself must have fallen asleep at some point, as he woke up to Jack nudging him awake, cheeks slightly pink as Gabriel lifted his own head off Jack's broad shoulder.

“We’re here… and hey! It’s snowing!” Jack pointed out the window and Gabriel’s gaze followed his finger, eyes widening at the blanket of stark white that seemed to cover everything as far as the eye could see. Large flecks of white fell past the small little window and Gabriel could already feel himself shivering. Perhaps this wasn’t a great idea after all.

Bloomington, Indiana was both everything Gabriel expected and nothing at all like he had imagined. It was bright, sprawling, and lively as you would expect from a city, but it had nothing on the business and excitement that was L.A. Still the city looked pleasant from what he saw on the car ride — Jack insisted on renting a car, pointing out that it would be more convenient and cheaper than waiting for a pickup or taking a cab — as did the suburbs. It was everything Gabriel expected.

The sun inched closer and closer to the horizon the longer they drove, and before Gabriel knew it, they’d gone beyond the suburbs into what was undoubtedly the rural countryside — “ It’s really not that rural, Gabe, it’s just farmland…” — tracts of farmland beyond what Gabriel could see, all covered in a steadily growing blanket of white. There were houses here and there, and Gabriel could do little more than marvel at just how spaced out everyone was from one another.

The farms soon started melting into each other in Gabriel’s tired eyes, and just as he was about to nod off again, the car stopped. There they sat, in the driveway of a large house, the kind Gabriel had only ever seen in movies and holovid shows about the rural countryside.

“Well, we’re here!” Jack chirped happily, turning the engine off.

Dazed, Gabriel got out of the car, and immediately jolted awake at the crunching sound below his feet and the sudden shock of cold air hitting his skin.

“Holy shit!” he shouted, “It’s fucking cold !!”

Jack had warned him to wear and bring extra layers when they had been packing, but Gabriel had completely underestimated just how cold it was going to be. Immediately, he curled in on himself, shivering despite his thick coat and hoodie he had worn on top of his long-sleeved shirt. He couldn’t wait to get inside and back into the comfortable warmth of an environment that, hopefully, didn’t feel like hell had frozen over and he was being hugged by ice-cold Satan himself.

He realized after a few moments of silence that he didn’t hear or feel any of Jack’s presence, and just as he turned around to look at what Jack was up to-

S P L A T

A loosely-packed snowball met his head, exploding against his face and into his mouth. Cold!!

“Jack! You piece of shit!” Gabriel nearly roared. Thankfully he had his beanie on to shield his ears and hair from the assault, but clumps of the snow made it into his clothes and melted against his skin. Gabriel had already been irritated by the cold, but that snowball made him absolutely livid . Running around the car to get his hands on the asshole who had the gall to make him even colder than he already was, and even worse, wet .

Jack cackled as he ducked away, grabbing more snow and chucking it at Gabriel, who nearly slipped and fell on his face as he chased after him.

It didn’t take long for Gabriel to catch on and he began grabbing snow as he gave chase, lobbing snowball after snowball. He hit more trees than he did Jack, who bobbed and weaved through them with the grace of a deer. Despite that, Gabriel slowly found himself growing less and less angry about the cold as their makeshift game of cat and mouse and snowballs continued and his body warmed up.

At some point, Gabriel had lost track of Jack completely, and just like that, his irritation came back. Now not only was he stuck out in the cold, but he was stuck in the cold alone and soon to be in the dark with how quickly the sun was setting.

Just as he was about to start heading back to the car, he was tackled into the closest snowbank with the force of a freight train.

“Jack!!” he yelled, trying to throw Jack off of him.

Just like with their usual spars, Jack never went down without a fight, and after several minutes of grappling, Gabriel finally chose to just throw in the towel. The bragging rights to a silly snowball fight was definitely not worth rolling around in the snow for any moment longer. He groaned tiredly as he lay defeated, spread-eagle in the snow as his gloved hands tapped himself out.

“I win. Now let’s stop goofing around so I can finally introduce my family to my boyfriend,” Jack declared, chest heaving from exertion as he straddled Gabriel’s waist.

Hold the phone!

“Boyfriend? W-Wha-? Since when?” Gabriel asked, incredulous.

Jack looked down at him for a moment, expression equally as confused as Gabriel’s as if he didn’t quite understand what Gabriel was asking. But nevertheless, Jack gave Gabriel an answer, as plainly and obviously as anyone could ever possible make it.

Gripping the lapels of that puffy, overly thick coat, Jack pulled Gabriel up just as he bent himself forward.

Their lips met, warm and wet from the condensation of their own breaths, and pressed against each other with just the perfect tenderness that Gabriel — as much as he hated to admit it, what with how sappy the notion was — nearly melted beneath Jack’s lips despite the utter freeze of the snow around them. And just as slowly as Gabriel’s eyelids fell closed, Jack pulled away from him, cheeks stained an even darker red than before.

“Since now,” he answered simply, licking his lips as if the kiss had made him realize just how chapped they had become in the cold.

“Oh, okay. Since now,” Gabriel agreed, completely dumbfounded. His brain had lost all ability to think. Utterly overwhelmed by the sudden swell of emotions and the undeniable desire to tug Jack back down to him and capture those rosy lips with his own, Gabriel clung onto Jack’s coat like a lifeline. He just had to experience that first kiss one more time. He had to make absolutely sure it was real, and not just some crazy delusion brought on by wishful thinking.

“Yeah,” Jack smiled, “Now come on, let’s get back inside before really do freeze to death out here.”

As if reading his mind, Jack kissed him once again.

Just like Gabriel had expected, it was absolutely perfect.