The Lodge 2

Quinn had wandered into the lodge and frowned when anyone near his age just seemed to... disappear. They all beelined in different directions. So he just flopped and curled up in the corner of the couch, pulling out a DS from his bag and just drifting off into his own little world of solitude. It wasn't uncommon, having no real friends from school. So he didn't mind too much.

Zoe gently ruffled his hair and leaned over the back of the couch. "Where's everyone at?"

'Gone :(' he wrote.

She frowned and gave her son a kiss on the top of his head. "Don't worry, Curly Q. I'm sure they'll come back out."

Quinn huffed softly but nodded, going back to taking care of the virtual dogs on his game.

When the inquiry to go play in the snow came up, the boy seemed less than enthusiastic. 'Too cold...'

Frowning, Dillon made his way down the stairs and flopped down on the couch with his oldest friend. He put an arm around him. “What's everybody so mopey for? Did my depression seep into the walls or something last time I was here?” He put on a little grin again.

Casper, who was preparing the kitchen for starting dinner, seemed to know the mood wasn't ideal. “After dinner, I have some gifts you kids can open,” he said. “Unless you want to wait until we have the tree up?”

“Oh yeah,” Dillon looked over at the pile of boxes. “Let's decorate!”

The exterior of the lodge was always already done every year, but the interior was a little family tradition to decorate together. He got up and started moving boxes. “Where's the garland?” They usually wrapped it around the railings.

Quinn's eyes focused on Dillon while he was talking, but he didn't touch or pick up his notebook to say anything in response. He didn't even move to help look through the boxes. He just watched in silence before the tiny yips of the dogs in his game brought his attention back to that. Zoe sighed.

The first half of freshman year hadn't been the best for Quinn. He'd just receded into his shell and kept to himself, even with people he'd known for a long time. He hadn't made friends, at least from what he told Zoe. He wasn't even very conversational with her anymore.

She'd been happy Dillon's new friends had made him talk as much as he did, but it seemed that excitement had gone away. "Don't you want to help decorate, Quinn?" she prodded gently.

He just looked up at her before turning back to his game. His expression was unreadable.

Dillon found the Garland, but when he saw Quinn hadn't moved an inch, he shifted gears. He pushed the box up to the stairs and left it there.

He dropped back on the couch again, unsure what to do. He peeked over Quinn's shoulder at the double screens. “What game? Nintendogs?” He stopped talking there, realizing he was probably being an annoying older cousin. He sat back, looking at his aunt. Her expression communicated a lot. This wasn't new.

Dillon resisted a sigh, looking over his little cousin. He wished they were as close as they used to be when they'd see each other and play together almost every day. When they'd go back and forth between the backyard and video games. Back when Quinn was the more confident one. Back when they were the person the other knew the best.

Now, Dillon didn't know Quinn as well. Time changed people. They'd grown apart. All Dillon could do was sit with the younger boy and hope he'd warm up in the following days.

Quinn didn't look up at either until Dillon sat down, and the look at the older boy was only a glance. He nodded at Dillon's inquiry, but didn't sign nor write anything out to him. He just continued to play. There were three pups gallivanting around the screen, two labradors and a corgi. All three were playing with each other and making happy little yips.

Zoe stood up from leaning on the back of the couch and sighed, running a hand through her hair and walking out of the room. Quinn just watched her go, then looked at Dillon again.

Dillon gave him a small smile. “I'm gonna help with dinner. If you have anything you wanna do… let me know.”

Dillon vacated the couch to join Casper in the kitchen. “What're we making?”

“Lasagna, garlic bread, and some salad.”

Dillon nodded, looking over the supplies Casper had taken from the pantry. He went to the sink to wash his hands. When he turned to face Casper again, he was presented with a watch, essentially a fitbit.

“Before we forget…” said Casper.

Dillon nodded, taking it and slipping it on. “Right, right…” The simple device would be monitoring his vitals over the trip, making it easier to tell when the time would come, serving as an alert for any sudden changes.

“How are you holding up so far?”

“Alright… I've got probably a few days, I think…” His temperature had been very slowly rising over the last few weeks along with his energy levels and appetite. His fridge at home was empty and it had been getting harder and harder to fall asleep every night. There had been more than a few three AM jogs to fast food.

He doubted he'd be getting any sleep that night. He was desperate to try and burn off some of the excess energy, eager to go run around in the cold and heavy snow.

Theo and Elias stayed in their room for a bit, unpacking and neatly putting their things away. At some point, Theo had went from a more feminine form with a cute outfit to his more usual form, along with a sweater about three sizes too big, and sweatpants.
They came downstairs together, Theo popping a fresh stick of gum into his mouth. He curled up the wrapper and stuck it in Elias’ ear before sliding down the rails on the stairs as slime, giggling mischievously. Elias yelped from surprise, then tried his best to follow Theo down the stairs, but was much too slow and too busy trying not to laugh.
Theo made it to the kitchen much before Elias, and he was still giggling. Now, though, he was no longer a slime, just Theo.
He grinned at Casper and Dillon. “Hey guys, can Elias and I help with… whatever you're doing?” He paused. “Probably cooking, which I'm not great at, but I can like… wash dishes?”
He finished up his sentence just as Elias snuck up behind him, and he gently pinched the back of Theo's neck. Theo laughed, being ticklish, and proceeded to cover his mouth with one hand while swatting at Elias with the other. The Thyri just snickered.

Dillon laughed too, and Casper smiled. It was no wonder Dillon was doing so much better. The joy was contagious.

“Let’s see…” said Casper. “We're not doing anything too complicated tonight. One of you could cut up the bread and spread garlic butter on it, and one of you could mix up the salad.”

Dillon was already on the lasagna, putting down layers of pasta, meat and cheese.

Theo grinned again, taking his hand away from his mouth. “I'll do the salad! There's no way I can fu--” he caught himself, “--dge it up. Can't burn a salad.”
Elias raised his eyebrows at Theo, trying to keep himself from smiling or laughing at his boyfriend's close slip up. Theo went over and began to mix the salad up, even though there was plenty of time left before they could eat. He was just happy to help. Though, he tried not to pay too much attention to the meat that Dillon was layering with the cheese and pasta.
Elias began to cut up the soon-to-be garlic bread. “Well, that's debatable.”
“Okay I'm not that bad at cooking.”
“Theo, you tried to boil an egg in my microwave not even a week ago.”
Theo's cheeks reddened. “Yeah, well, maybe the egg should've known better than to explode! It's the eggs fault.” He was just joking, even though he was embarrassed, and Elias laughed.
“Yeah, definitely the egg's fault.”

“That's all that really needs to be done,” said Casper. “The lasagna needs about an hour in the oven.”

Dillon was bouncing on his feet. He simply had too much energy in his body. “You guys…. Wanna go mess around in the snow? We could… like build something.”

“Let's build snow people!” Theo suggested, his eyes sparkling. He gently took Dillon's hand and tried to lead him out of the kitchen and into the yard. “Come on, come on!”
Elias giggled, finishing up the garlic bread. “Theo, you might want to go put on something warmer…”
“I'll be fine! This is warm enough! Let's go!” He was practically jumping up and down now, excited to see actual, genuine snow for the first time in his life. All he'd seen so far is the snow that melts as soon as it hits the ground, and just a thin little sheet of snow. He was more than excited to build a snowman over 2 inches tall.
Elias huffed. “Fine… but be careful, okay?”

As they went out into the yard, Theo kept rambling about all the things they could build, from tiny snow-pixies to an entire fort. Elias had taken Dillon's other hand, laughing at some of Theo's ideas. He was so cute.

Before they went outside, Dillon stopped to make sure Quinn knew he was welcome. “Hey, Quinn? We'll just be right outside. Come find us if you change your mind, okay?”

Once out in the chill air, he took a deep breath, feeling it in his lungs. It was invigorating. “Forts are way fun… I think we have pictures somewhere of most of the ones we've made. The one from like two years ago was HUGE. There was a lot of snow that year…”

He was still bursting with energy… his body was unbearably warm. Without warning, he took a short running start and leapt into a pile of powder, vanishing into it with a puff of snow.

Elias laughed a bit, mostly from surprise, and walked over to Dillon. He gently poked his back. “Well then, I guess you really like snow, huh?” He giggled again. “Isn't it super cold?” He realized how dumb the question sounded after he had already said it, but didn't correct himself.
Theo, on the other hand, was already trying to build snow people. He started rolling a giant snowball, giggling the whole time. Before it got to heavy to pick up, he stopped and looked over at Elias, his face slowly breaking out into a mischievous grin.
Theo picked up the snowball and waddled over to Elias as quietly as he could.
“Hey, Eli~”
Elias turned to look at Theo, blushing from the nickname, and promptly got a face-- and chest-- full of snow. He hit the ground with a fairly loud poof!
Theo cackled, snorting while his boyfriend threw fistfuls of snow at him. At some point, some of it got down Theo's sweater and he more or less squealed, shaking his shirt and jumping around until the snow came out.
Still giggling a bit, Theo sat down next to Dillon.

The snow was indeed VERY cold. It felt amazing. He rolled onto his back and sat up just in time to witness the small burst of snow collide with Elias's face.

When Theo sat down with him, he flopped his body over his, causing the snow under them to give out more, making an indent shaped to them. “I LOVE SNOW!” he said loudly, his face pressed into the stuff. He was like a husky who'd been living in a climate far too hot for him. He wanted to roll around in it.

“AH! I could LIVE our here!” He rarely got so hyped about anything, but as the winter solstice grew closer, all sorts of things about him were out of whack. He was high on the unbalanced chemicals, and the instincts of the creature inside him were telling him that the cold was simply right. He began to giggle a bit, shoving his hands into the snow.

Theo laughed. “I love it here! It's so nice, and the snow is just… Ah, this is great!” He flopped down, kicking his legs in the air and squealing softly for a moment.
Elias just rolled his eyes, a warm smile on his face. “Your excitement is too cute,
But why do you love snow so much, Dillon? I'm just wondering.” He remained sitting, being a bit less loving of the snow as his boyfriends, and was contemplating shifting into his fluffier form.

Dillon let out a long sigh that melted a little hole with his hot breath. He rolled over to be face up again. “Probably because of all of this…” he gestured at himself. “I think I'm built for it. I get too hot. Snow just… it feels right. Like instincts or something. Other than that…” he shrugged. “Probably this place. Just… good times with Quinn.”

“Why in the world do you live in Texas, then?” Now, Elias was a bit worried about Dillon. The summer heat for where they all lived could reach up to 110°, and he could only imagine what that must do to Dillon.
“Well,” Theo cut in, “I'm glad he lives in Texas, or else we wouldn't have met him.”
“Yeah, but… isn't it too hot for you there?” Elias paused. “Also, is Quinn alright? He seems… more distant than what you described him as. I hope us coming along didn't interfere.”
Theo made a snowball and threw it at Elias, causing the later to laugh a bit.

Dillon shrugged. “I dunno… Plot convenience.” He sighed. “I dunno what's up with Quinn… I don't think it's you guys, though. His mom- I dunno. I hope he warms up, but I don't want to push him…”

He pushed himself up off of Theo and stood up. “Alright… What're we building? Fort? Forts are fun…” He began to scout a location.

“Yes!” Theo hopped up immediately. “Fort! Let's build a fort!” As he rambled on about all the cool things they could put in the fort, and build inside the fort, he ended up more or less bouncing around from excitement.
Elias giggled as he stood up. “I saw a photo of a group of friends who built a fort in the snow, and then made a little chimney and a fireplace. We should try it! Maybe we could get Cain to come out and light the fire for us, even.”

“Yeah! Yeah, let's try it!”

To speed up the process, Dillon hurried off to the back of the lodge to get shovels out of the shed and came back.

By the time Casper came out the back door, they'd managed to pile up a tall mountain of snow and were working on stomping it down to make sure it would be strong and compacted enough not to crumble on them.

“Lasagna's almost ready. Come get washed up!” called Casper, before returning inside.

Surprisingly, Elias wasn't much help. He'd experienced snow before, but it had been so long ago, and he never really got to play in it. Of course, this was no excuse, since Theo somehow knew exactly what to do.
Despite the amount of fun he was having, Theo dropped the shovel when Casper called to them. “Yeeeessss, fooooood,” he slurred his words, which had progressively been getting worse throughout their building, and he began to run inside. He stopped and turned back, though, picking up the shovel. “... do we jusst… keeep it herrre?” He didn't want to be rude.

“Uh….” Dillon picked one up. “Let's line 'em up by the door.”

Once that was done, they all stomped off their boots and shed some layers. “You okay Theo?” He'd asked the first time he'd noticed, but Theo had insisted he was fine. It crossed his mind that maybe being mostly liquid wasn't ideal for the cold. At least they were back inside where it was warm now.

Simon and Elizabeth were finishing setting the table and everybody else was getting ready to eat, washing their hands.

Zoe had come into the kitchen, but...Quinn had not. He was still sitting on the couch, now on his phone rather than the DS.

"Quinn, come eat," she called to him.

He looked over and signed back to her, 'Not hungry.'

Zoe sighed heavily. It was pretty obvious she was done with Quinn's behavior, though she looked like she was on the verge of tears. "Then at least come sit at the table with us."

Quinn stared for a moment before sighing himself and standing, coming into the room and just plopping himself down at the table. He didn't look at anyone.

Zoe sighed again. At least he was in the room with everyone.

Theo kept stumbling as they walked through the snow, claiming that it was just because he wasn't used to walking in it. Elias held him close in order to help them walk.
Theo grinned at Dillon. “Yeah, I'm finnne!” He took off his boots, which were likely not fit for playing in the snow, and he had a difficult time with the laces. He seemed stiff.
Elias waited until he was done before helping him back upstairs so that he could get ready for dinner.
Once everyone was finished getting cleaned up, and Elias and Theo had changed into different clothes, they began to go downstairs again.
“You really shouldn't be out in the cold like that, moonbug.”
“W-welllll, it's not like I'm gonna gettttt… sick…” Theo punctuated his words by taking the first two steps down the stairs. His words weren't as slurred this time, at least, but his hands were opalescent from the warm water he washed them with. The only concerning thing was that they looked frozen, almost like porcelain glass with hints of pastel colors, and the patterns didn't move around like they should.
The pair bickered quietly the whole way down the stairs, and by the time they were in the kitchen, the rest of Theo was just like his hands. He hadn't noticed, and Elias hadn't said anything.
Theo smiled at the smell of food. “Ah, the lasagnna smells good!” He giggled.

Dillon grinned a little. At least Theo was having a blast. He made a point to sit next to Quinn, though. He still didn't want to push anything, but he didn't want to ignore him either.

Before they began eating, Casper made a little toast. “I just wanted to have a quick word before we eat,” he said. “I wanted to thank you all for being a part of our little family this Christmas. Our lives wouldn't be the same without each other. Christmas is a time to show our appreciation for each other, and… well, I certainly appreciate all of you. Alright… let's eat.” He began to cut apart the lasagna and serve up plates.

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