Title: In the Bleak Midwinter
Characters/Pairing: Peter, Diana, Neal; Gen
Word count: 5100
Notes: My entry for the advent calender at whitecollarhc. This is set somewhere in season 4, or at least it would be if the show's timeline made any sense.
Thank you to sholio for supplementing my very vague understanding of how cars work. This was also originally for her prompt, but wandered away from it somewhat… This fic fills the Loss of Shelter square for my hc_bingo card.
Summary: Driving back to the city right before Christmas, Peter, Diana and Neal get trapped by a blizzard. (Basically just floof and hypothermia.)
The blizzard hit without warning.
The high pines on either side of the road had hidden most of the low grey sky. Neal had exclaimed delightedly from the back seat when snowflakes started to fall, lightly at first and then thickly whirling down — and then the storm-front slammed over them, the narrow road instantly turning into a wind tunnel down which snow hurtled. The white-out was shockingly fast, and absolute.
Peter slammed down the brakes, not even trying to get them to the side of the road. The road was already gone. Everything was gone.
"Oh, hell," Diana said, somewhere between horrified and faintly impressed.
Peter killed the engine. The howling passage of the storm was suddenly very loud.
Neal peered out of his window, rubbing his sleeve at the fog on the inside of the glass. Everything was white, the individual snowflakes rushing by too fast to be distinguished. "How are we going to get back to the city?"
"We're not, obviously," Diana said, before Peter could open his mouth. "Not any time soon."
"We're certainly here until the blizzard's over," Peter said. "And after, probably. This car's good, but it can't handle the amount of snow that's being laid down right now." He sighed, gloomily. "I promised El I wouldn't be out too late."
It was the 23rd December. "We won't be here all night, surely?" Neal asked. "The Bureau'll send someone to dig us out before then. Won't they?"
Diana shrugged, twisting around in the passenger seat so that she could see him. "I can't imagine we'll be top priority. We're just one car, and no one will know exactly where we are."
"But it's Christmas," Neal said, anxiously. "Or will be soon, anyway." Something more pertinent occurred to him. "We're not going to freeze to death out here, are we?"
As if to illustrate his worry, the timer for the in-car lights kicked in and switched them off. The inside of the car wasn't dark without them, but the light which came through the whited-out windows was pale and strange. The effect was eerie.
"Neal, don't be ridiculous," Peter said, after a long beat. "We're inside a vehicle, and we're going to stay put. I know for a fact you've been in worse situations."
"You don't know that for a fact," Neal countered, automatically.
Peter sighed. "Fine, I allege you've been in worse situations. Can you get into the trunk from there? There's a couple of blankets and emergency supplies."
"You're such a boy scout," Neal said, but he obediently popped the seat down and leaned into the trunk, pulling out everything he could find. There were the promised blankets, a heavy torch, a battery radio, a first aid kit, and a two litre plastic bottle of water. "No signal flares?" he asked. "You should let Mozzie pack you a survival kit next time."
"Please don't tell me what he considers would be vital in an emergency; I really don't think I want to know." Peter attempted to peer out through the windscreen, but he could only see the underside of the thick blanket of snow which had piled up over it. "Actually, what I wish I had is a shovel."
"Not much call for it in the city," Diana pointed out. "Anyway, I don't see how we could dig our way out of this."
"For clearing the exhaust pipe," Peter said. "Then we could run the engine every now and then to blast the heating. As it is, we'd be risking carbon monoxide poisoning."
"We wouldn't be able to do that until the blizzard stopped anyway," Diana said. "Any hole you cleared would just fill right back up a second later."
"Great," Neal muttered. "We are going to freeze."
Peter elected to ignore him.
Neal with nothing to occupy himself got bored very quickly. "I could be sitting in front of a fire right now," he said, morosely. "June has a secret eggnog recipe. It's amazing."
"I remember you being plenty excited about getting to go upstate for the day," Diana said. She was checking her phone. None of them had signal, but she kept trying anyway.
"No one mentioned getting snowbound."
Peter sighed. "Because obviously Diana and I are thrilled to be in this situation. Especially with you." Tired of craning his neck to see Neal, he instead shoved his seat back as far as it would go. That put him in a position where he could see both other two. "I could be home with my wife right now, making a hash of present wrapping and eating cookies."
Neal grimaced guiltily. It was a silent apology.
"What about you?" Peter asked Diana. "What would you be doing right now?"
"Curling up with a book, I imagine," Diana said.
"Nothing festive?" Neal asked.
She shrugged, a little awkwardly. "I've never really been a Christmas sort of person. And this year…"
Neal's face fell. "Are you going to be on your own?" he asked.
"Well, it's possible I'll still be stuck here with you two," Diana said, with slightly forced levity. "But otherwise, yes. My parents are on different continents, and — well." She looked out past the window for a moment, until she was certain she had her expression under control. When she thought too much about it, she still missed Christie so hard it hurt.
"I'm sorry," Peter said.
She half-shrugged. "It's not really a big deal. Like I said, I never really was into Christmas in a big way. Moving through loads of different cultures has that effect, I guess."
"Well, if you ever fancy celebrating some of the more esoteric holidays you should let Mozzie know," Neal said. "He'd be delighted."
Diana laughed, grateful for the chance to do so. "I'll keep it in mind."
"It's getting dark," Peter said. The grey-white light had been dimming gradually, and it was almost a surprise to find that they were having to strain their eyes to make out the interior of the car. He reached up to switch on the light above his seat.
"Is it okay to put that on?" Neal asked.
"If we just have the one light it shouldn't drain the battery that much," Peter said. "I don't much like the idea of sitting here in the dark."
"Agreed," Diana said. She pulled her folded coat from the footwell and put it on. It was beginning to feel chilly.
Neal was staring out at the darkening light. "Do you know if there are wolves around here?" he asked, diffidently.
Peter stared at him. "Wolves?"
"We're not going to be eaten by wolves," Peter sighed.
"We're like a tinned snack," Neal said. "I hate the wilderness."
"This isn't wilderness," Peter said. "We're on a road."
"In the middle of nowhere. In a blizzard."
"I'll protect you from the bears, Caffrey," Diana said.
He pressed a hand briefly to his heart. "Thank you."
Peter rolled his eyes at them both. "That's easy to do, since there aren't any bears around here."
"At least she offered," Neal said. "It's the thought that counts."
The sound of the wind didn't seem as loud as it had been. Either the storm was dropping or the car was buried in a muffling layer of snow. "I'm going to see what it's like outside," Peter said. "Clear out the exhaust pipe if I can."
"Are you sure that's a good idea?" Diana asked, dubiously.
"It's important to keep the temperature up," Peter said. "We don't know how long we'll be here for." Although now he had suggested leaving it, the rapidly cooling car seemed like a haven of warmth. He glanced at Neal, who had just opened his mouth. "I hope what you're going to say doesn't involve wild animals."
Neal shook his head, a touch too earnestly. "I just don't think you should go outside alone," he said.
"Agreed," Diana said. "I'll come with you."
"I was going to go," Neal objected.
"Well, there's no sense in us all going," Peter said.
"Tell you what, I'll flip you for it," Diana offered. She pulled out a quarter and flipped it into the air.
"Heads," Neal said. It was.
"Did you cheat?" Diana asked.
"Right," Peter said hastily, before they could start to argue. "Neal, come on."
Getting out of the car was like stepping into an ice bath. A sheet of snow fell down when Peter opened the door, and the freezing wind instantly knifed into the car, bringing more more snow with it. He gasped at its bite but climbed out into it anyway, shutting the door behind him as quickly as he could.
It wasn't a blizzard, not anymore, but the snow was still falling thickly, flung about wildly by the wind. The car was coated in a blanket of it, and it was piled deeply around. Snow was inside Peter's shoes in a matter of seconds, and soaking into his pant legs. Neal was having the same experience, grumbling as he pulled his coat tightly around him.
Peter fought his way around to the back of the Taurus, donning his gloves as he really should have done before going outside. He began kicking snow away from where he estimated the exhaust pipe was. Neal helped, his hands balled up inside his pockets.
"Note the lack of wolves," Peter commented.
Neal ignored him.
The dark woods in the heavy snowfall would have been beautiful, if not for their predicament. Even Neal gave the surroundings appreciative looks, despite his professed distaste for the outdoors.
Before long they had the area around and below the exhaust pipe cleared, although they were no doubt going to have to come back out in short order if they wanted it to remain so. The exercise had been warming, at least.
Opening the doors to get back in again released most of the heat the car had still been holding, but Peter turned the key and the engine growled to life. Hot air was shortly blasting out of the vents — a relief, as both he and Neal were now shivering from the chill of their damp clothes.
"You should both get a blanket around you," Diana said. Neal obeyed with alacrity, and Peter did too after a moment's hesitation to check that she was warm enough. "How's it looking out there?"
"The storm's calming down," Peter said. "The bad news is that it laid down more than enough snow to stop anything short of a plough from getting through. We're definitely stuck."
"We already knew that," Neal muttered.
Peter let the car get to the verge of uncomfortably warm before he turned the engine off again. "Neal, can you pass me my briefcase?" he asked. It was in the foot-well behind his seat.
Neal handed it over, and watched with interest as Peter opened it. "Are we going to burn reports for warmth?" he asked, sounding hopeful.
Peter shot him a quelling glare. "I thought I might as well get some work done."
"You're insane," Neal said. "We're snowbound in the wilderness, in danger of freezing to death or being devoured by wild animals, and you're going to do paperwork?"
Peter shrugged. "I've got nothing better to do, and this is at least productive. There's enough in here to go around if you two want to keep yourselves occupied."
"I'd rather try walking home," Neal grouched. He pulled his legs up onto the seat and wrapped himself more throughly in his blanket.
"Di?" Peter offered.
"Hmm. What do you have in there?"
He held out the open briefcase, and she gave it a cautious look. Then chuckled, and pulled out the novel which had been lurking at the bottom. "I'll take this, boss."
"Hey," Neal objected. "You never said you had anything in there other than work."
"Maybe you shouldn't reject things out of hand," Diana said, with measurable smugness.
Neal huffed, and lapsed into a sulky silence.
Peter started reviewing some witness statements. After a while, Neal begged some foolscap paper and a pen from Peter's previously-rejected briefcase and began sketching. The quiet persisted as the car gradually cooled and darkness fell outside.
"It's getting a bit stuffy," Diana said, finally. "Shouldn't we let some fresh air in?"
"It'll get cold," Neal objected.
"We can run the engine again for a bit afterwards," she said.
Peter pressed the button to roll his window down. It sloughed its fresh coat of snow; luckily the bulk of it fell outside the car, rather than inside. Thick flakes were still falling. He took a deep breath of the crisp, cold air.
Neal pulled his blanket over his head almost immediately. "I've had enough fresh air now," he said, somewhat muffled.
Peter met Diana's eyes and they both grinned. He hit the button to roll the window back up.
It hadn't gone more than an inch when it abruptly stopped moving. At the same instant, the light went out.
"Oh, no," Peter said. "No." He turned the key several times in quick succession, but nothing responded. He couldn't get a flicker of life out of the engine, and the window stayed down.
"What's happened?" Diana asked, her voice quiet but tense. The inside of the car was dim. At least the snow meant that it wasn't truly dark.
"I think the car battery died," Peter said. He joggled various controls, more out of frustration than an expectation that they would start working. "The cold must have drained it — I didn't even consider that happening." He gave the key a final twist. "Damn."
"We've got no power?" Neal demanded, alarmed. He sat up. "Peter, the window's still open."
"Yes, I'm aware," Peter said, tersely.
"We are going to freeze to death!"
"Neal, shut up," Diana ordered.
The temperature in the car was already matching the outside air. All three of them had begun shivering. And to put the seal on it, the wind began to pick up again, gusting snow in through the open window.
"Ideas?" Peter asked.
"We could go into the woods and make a fire," Neal suggested. "Do you have matches?"
It was actually a good idea. Except… "I don't," Peter said. "Diana?"
She shook her head.
"So much for that, then," Peter said. "I guess we're staying here and waiting to be rescued. We should all put on everything warm we have."
They were all wearing their coats already, but they put their gloves on. Neal and Diana had scarves, and Diana had a wool hat. "I'm going to move into the back," Diana said. "I'm right in the draft here." She pulled her seat further forward, and then climbed through the gap.
"You want some of my blanket?" Neal offered. "If we both sit against the doors and put our legs along the seat we can share it."
It took some arranging, but it was certainly warmer. "Peter, you alright?" Diana asked.
"Yeah. I'm not as much in the draft's path as you were." He was still close enough to have the wind hit him, though. "I wish we could do something to block the window up, even a bit."
"Actually, I have an idea," Neal said.
Peter looked up. "Yeah?"
"Do you have any scotch tape?"
"In my briefcase." Peter found himself following Neal's train of thought. "If you're proposing what I think you are, the answer's no."
"Come on, Peter, it's better having a car full of snow. Paper will block at least some of the wind."
Peter groaned. "Let me at least sort out the least important pages."
It was easier said than done in the dimness. Peter and Neal managed to clumsily swap places, and then Neal armed himself with the roll of scotch tape and the pages from case files which Peter reluctantly handed to him. (The paper on which Neal had been doodling had gone first.) A few minutes later the window was sealed, if flimsily. Two layers of taped-together paper wasn't going to retain much heat, but at least it blocked some of the wind's bite.
"I'm going to love explaining this to the DA," Peter muttered. He was now sharing the back seat and a blanket with Diana.
"I could help," Neal offered.
Peter groaned. "Yes, that's the only thing I can think of which would make it worse."
Neal moved the drivers' seat forwards, and then began to slide himself through the now narrower gap into the back.
"You want us to move our legs?" Peter asked.
"No, I'm okay." Neal dropped down into the footwell, leaning against the same door as Peter and stretching his legs across the middle of the car. "This is more comfortable than us sitting like sardines. Can I have the other blanket, though?"
Diana passed it down to him, and he wrapped himself in it. From the knees down his pants and socks were still damp, and cold.
"I guess we can't do anything now except wait," Peter said. "We shouldn't go to sleep, though."
"This had better not be where you suggest telling ghost stories," Neal groused.
"What about some bear stories?" Diana suggested.
"Not funny," Neal said, indignantly.
Peter chuckled. "Okay, you pick something to talk about."
"What have you got Elizabeth for Christmas?" Neal asked, instantly.
"A necklace and earring set and one of those multi-visit show passes for this playhouse in Brooklyn she loves."
"That's actually pretty good," Neal admitted.
"You don't need to sound so surprised about it," Peter said, stung.
Neal snorted. "I beg to differ."
"Fine," Peter said. "Moving on. What have you got June?"
"I did a painting for her," Neal said.
"What of?" Peter asked. "No, wait. Which gallery is the original currently hanging in, so I can warn them?"
Neal huffed. "Ha. Ha."
"Don't you dare act injured."
Neal ignored him. "How much Christmas shopping have you had to do this year, Diana?" he asked.
"Not much. Some things for a few friends."
"Me?" Neal suggested.
Peter chuckled obediently, and then stopped hastily before it could turn into his teeth chattering. "It sounds like you're having a fairly low-key Christmas," he commented.
Diana shrugged; the movement was just about visible. "Like I said. Never my thing."
"Was it Christie's thing?" Neal asked, with a shrewdness that she sometimes wished he didn't possess.
"Yeah," she said. "I'm used to letting her do all the organising. You know — decorating, arranging plans with her folks, buying weird seasonal stuff and demanding we cook it." She smiled. Sadly, though. "It isn't something I'd expected to miss. Never thought about it until December just snuck up."
"Kate loved Christmas too," Neal said, very softly. "She and Mozzie had a running thing for presents — they competed to see who could find the tackiest gifts. And she loved snow. She could watch it for hours." He lifted his head, staring towards the window behind Diana's head. "I loved watching her watch it."
There was silence for a little while. "Diana, you should come to ours on the 25th," Peter said.
Diana started. "Boss, I couldn't. Aren't you having family?"
"Not this year. My parents have gone to my sister's, and El's have fled the cold for New Zealand, of all places."
"I wouldn't want to intrude on you and Elizabeth."
"If you don't he's now going to worry about you and feel guilty all day," Neal interrupted. "You'd probably be doing him a favour."
"Hey," Peter said, half-heartedly. He wrapped his arms around himself in an attempt to stay warmer.
"I'll consider it," Diana promised. "You'd better run it by Elizabeth first, though, or no deal."
"Sounds fair," Peter agreed.
Neal turned his face up, pale in the gloom. "Am I invited too?" he asked, hopefully.
"No," Peter said, immediately.
"Aren't you having Christmas dinner with June?" Diana asked.
"That's not the point," Neal protested. "It's the spirit of the thing."
"I'm pretty sure you're taking it in the spirit I meant," Peter said. Diana laughed.
They lapsed into silence again, each trying to hide from the others how much they were shivering. The iron grip of the cold was becoming a physical pain.
"Neal, are you all right down there?" Diana asked.
"Yeah," Neal said. Unclenching his jaw let his teeth begin chattering; he shut his mouth tightly again. He could practically feel the heat leeching out of him and through the car's floor.
Peter snaked a hand out from underneath the blanket to rest it on Neal's shoulder. "We should swap places for a bit," he said. "It's warmer up here."
"Not much," Neal said. "I'm okay."
"Swap with me," Diana said. "You two still have damp clothes. You should stay as warm as you can."
He shook his head stubbornly, but Diana wriggled sideways and dropped herself down into the other footwell. Neal was pretty certain she wasn't about to move, so he finally did, leaving her the blanket. She patted his arm as he clambered past and up onto the seat, where he fitted his legs next to Peter's.
It was warmer.
Or maybe he was growing more used to the ache of the cold.
They had run out of things to talk about. Eventually, Neal drifted off into a doze. Peter didn't notice for long minutes, and then kicked him. "Ow," Neal grumbled, groggily.
"Don't go to sleep," Peter ordered.
"I'm not," Neal mumbled.
"Liar," Diana mumbled back. She had her knees drawn up against her chest and her face pressed down into them. It seemed to give some marginal degree of warmth-preservation.
There was some more silence.
Neal realised he wasn't really feeling the cold much anymore. Intellectually he knew that was a bad sign, but there wasn't really anything he could do about it. And in the short term, it was something of an improvement.
"We'll be rescued before long," Peter said, trying to sound encouraging. His face felt frozen stiff, and it was an effort to enunciate each syllable properly.
"Yeah," Neal said, without much conviction. He dropped his head back down.
It was an effort to stay awake.
Peter, after a while, weakly kicked him again. This time Neal jerked slightly and groaned in response, but he didn't lift his head or open his eyes. "Neal!"
Diana tipped her head back, movements slow and stiff. "It's bad," she whispered. Her speech, too, was sluggish.
"Yeah," Peter whispered back. He wanted to do something, but he was too tired to move. Too weak, and there was ice in his joints. "Di, stay awake."
Peter nodded slightly, unsure if she could even see him.
A gust of wind slammed at the paper shield over the window. The next one unstuck one of the top corners, and suddenly there was a draft knifing into the car again along with fat flakes of snow. Some of them made it past the front seats. The ones which landed on top of the blankets and in Diana's hair didn't melt.
We're really in trouble, Peter realised. It seemed so… pointless. He couldn't even feel particularly upset.
Still, he cracked his eyes open when the windows suddenly blazed with bright, golden light. Frost glittered from the metal and upholstery. Sunlight, he thought.
The light came with noise, but he was too close to unconsciousness to register the alarmed voices as people spilled out of a snowplow and kicked aside the drifts of snow so that the car doors could be opened. Diana and Neal didn't wake at all.
A medivac flew them back to New York — it was much faster than the snowplow which Jones had persuaded to search for them after realising that they had vanished somewhere on the road. All three were dangerously hypothermic and only marginally responsive.
It was after midnight, and Christmas Eve, when they arrived at the hospital.
Elizabeth and June had to wait another half hour after that before they were ushered down several hallways by a nurse and into the room where the three of them had been admitted. Jones might have had a hand in that; one of the beds looked like it had been brought in especially.
"Peter," El said, and went straight to his bed. At the touch of her hand he roused enough to smile groggily at her from under a mound of blankets, eyes half-open.
"I'm okay," he promised, his speech slow and slightly slurred. "Docs say I'll be good as new."
"You'd better be," she said her relief making her sound sharper than she'd intended, and kissed him. His skin felt cold, and his responses were off, but they both smiled at each other. "How are you feeling?"
"Cold." The obvious answer, but the biting chill of the snow was still lodged deep inside him, not yet dislodged by the heating packs that were warming his skin.
On his left, June was having a similar conversation with Neal. Peter beckoned El closer, and lowered his voice. "Can you check on Di?"
"Of course," El said, understanding immediately. Diana needed a visitor too.
She was barely awake. "Hi, El," she mumbled. "Peter okay?"
"He's fine," El said. "How about you?"
El correctly interpreted that as 'okay but cold and also really tired'. "Do you need me to make any calls for you?" she asked. "You aren't supposed to be travelling today, are you?"
Diana shook her head. "Thanks, but no plans."
"All right." El found herself frowning slightly, and would have asked more questions had Diana not dropped off to sleep.
She tiptoed back to Peter's side. "Hon?" she whispered.
He opened his eyes again. "Still awake."
"Diana's doing okay," El reported. She glanced over towards June, who made a sign for sleeping. "So's Neal. They're both getting some rest."
"Good," Peter said, with a relieved sigh. Then he opened his eyes wider and looked at her with a pleading expression that for just a second reminded her of Satchmo when he was attempting to look as adorable as possible. "Hon…"
"What is it?" she asked, stroking his hair.
"The doctor says we can leave in the morning. But Diana's all alone. At Christmas…"
So that was why he'd had El talk to her. Or one of the reasons. He watched her hopefully, until she laughed. "Why not. There's plenty of room at the inn."
Christmas day was a low-key affair. Diana and Peter spent most of it in the living room layered in sweaters, intermittently working on a jigsaw which had been a gift from one of the neighbours. Trying to keep Satchmo from walking all over it was something of a challenge, but they were fitting together the pieces of mountain scenery fairly well.
The doorbell rang in the early evening. El stood up to answer it, setting down her glass of wine.
"If that's Neal, tell him he doesn't have an invite," Peter called.
It was Neal, of course, wrapped up tightly against the cold that was both outside and lingering within his body. "I invited myself," he said, breezily. "June's trying to fit in as many relatives as possible over the holidays, so she left for Boston an hour ago."
"Oh, fine," Peter said. He was looking far too happy to see Neal for the reluctance act to have any chance of being plausible. "If you do the sky pieces you can join us."
Neal shed a couple of layers, and drifted over to sit cross-legged on the floor where his shoulder bumped up against Peter's shin. He studied the picture they were putting together. "Glad you came after all," he said to Diana.
She smiled, slightly bashfully. "I can refuse Peter, but Elizabeth guilt-tripped me."
"Ah. She's a master at that."
El poked Neal's side with her toe, summoning up sternness. "We can still throw you out, you know."
"You can't do that on Christmas," Neal said, sounding hurt and horrified at the very idea. She burst out laughing, and he switched expressions. "Can I have some wine?"
"Oh, not you too." She rolled her eyes, but had to grin at Peter making a hasty mouth-zipping gesture at Neal. "None of you three are getting any alcohol until at least tomorrow evening. I can't believe you're even asking."
"The official government agents tried too?" Neal asked, delighted.
"Neal," Peter said. He groaned. "You're not even trying with the puzzle. Stop staring at it."
"I'm considering my moves," Neal said, loftily.
While he stared at the puzzle pieces, Diana cleared her throat. "I just want to say thank you for having me here," she said. "I wasn't really looking forward to Christmas, but this has been wonderful."
"Aside from the hypothermia," Neal interjected.
"Well, yes. Aside from that."
El got up to give Diana a hug — she wasn't expecting it, and it took her a second to reciprocate. "Special occasions aren't much fun when you'd thought you'd be spending them with someone and then don't get to," El said. "I'm glad you could be here."
"Was that a hint?" Peter asked, made slightly uncomfortable.
She raised an eyebrow sardonically. "It wasn't meant to be, but if the shoe fits…" The effect was then ruined as she leaned in for a kiss.
"Well, in any case," Diana said. "Thank you. And Happy Christmas."
"Happy Christmas," Neal repeated. "And thanks for letting me be here too."
Peter snorted. "You weren't supposed to be."
He shrugged. "Details." And then his fingers flew over the sky pieces, flawlessly fitting them together without a single pause.
The others stared. "Sometimes I hate you," Diana said.
Neal's beaming grin was infectious. "But you're still glad I'm here," he said.
Diana had to smile back. "You're right," she admitted. "I guess it feels like I've ended up with family for Christmas after all."
"Family always has that one relative you want to kill," Peter said, nodding his head towards Neal.
"I did all the sky pieces for you. Don't be so ungrateful."
"You probably cheated."
"How on earth would I cheat at a jigsaw?"
"I put nothing past you."
El, laughing, went to make more drinks. Diana fussed Satchmo, and leaned back against the couch, closing her eyes.
"…it's just pattern and colour recognition, Peter, you just need to accept I'm better at it…"
Outside, the snow was still falling, and the cold was bitter and merciless. But inside the house it was warm, and full of light.
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