Hugo spent the next few months in a state of near-bliss. Yeah, he still had to act the good "Christian" most of the time, but there were those few hours every week when he and Brian were alone and could share intelligent discussion. True, Mary and Erin (though the latter had assured Hugo that she still "liked him best"), and indeed many of the girls in school, had tried to get Brian to ask them out, he was still somehow single, which gave Hugo a shred of hope. Which he would cling to. And continue to cling to until he had no choice but to stop.

All too soon, it was winter break. Brian was headed to California with his parents, and Hugo would be spending a few days at a ski lodge with Mary. James had to stay home with his flock every Christmas, but this year Mary and Hugo had persuaded him to let them go on a two day-long vacation to a nearby ski resort. Hugo loved it-the thrill of speed as he raced down the hill, the sight of kids playing in the snow, even the wet coldness when he tripped over his skis and fell in the snow.

Mary seemed to love the snow as well. The two of them made snowmen and had snowball fights. Thinking about it, Hugo realized they'd probably spent more time together that day than they had on any other day since he'd moved to Forks. It was kind of nice.

When the sun finally set and dinner was eaten, the two headed up to their room in the ski lodge. After they were ready for bed, they chatted a while. They talked of school, of Youth Group, and of their (well, Mary's) friends. Eventually, the topic turned to Brian.

"I really do like him," said Mary in an earnest tone. Hugo couldn't help believing her. "Do you think I've got any chance with him?"

Hugo paused. If he said no, she might give up on him, and Hugo himself might have a slightly better shot.

But he knew she would be sad.

And anyway, if Brian did turn out to… not be into Hugo, Mary would definitely be Hugo's first choice as to whom Brian might date. She was better than Erin, at any rate.

"Yeah, I think so," said Hugo, trying to sound casual.

"You really think so? Thanks, Hugo!" Mary gave him a hug so tight he nearly suffocated, but he returned it anyway.


Brian loved his parents.

Because whose parents but Brian's would blast Broadway music from their car stereo all the way from Forks to Anaheim?

And whose parents but Brian's would let their son sing Fraulein Sschneider's part in "It Couldn't Please Me More," even though his voice had long since grown to low to sing female parts?

And whose parents but Brian's would, during the times when the music was turned off, ask their son about school, and actually care?

Just as Brian was fascinated with his father's stories of vampires and other demons, so were his parents intrigued by his much more mundane tales of what he, Hugo, Mary, and Erin and Carlisle (even though there wasn't really anything besides friendship between them, Brian couldn't help thinking of them as a pair) got up to. They hardly did anything crazy-the girls could barely stand their Saturday afternoon trips for a picnic in the woods. But Brian's parents listened as if they were being told the most exciting story in the world. And he loved them for that.

Mostly, they talked about Hugo. The others were nice, in their way, but there wasn't much to talk about with them. Out of all his friends in Forks, only Hugo was willing to put up with his rants about various musicals and the seriousness with which he took show tunes. He appreciated Hugo for putting up with his antics.

Of course, what he really wanted to hear about was his father's work. If Brian wished to follow in his dad's footsteps someday, he had to learn as much about the hostile sub-terrestrials as possible.

"So, how's the assignment, Dad?"

Aaron Hannel hesitated.

"You know I'm not supposed to tell you."

Brian grinned. "But you know you're going to anyway."

Brian's dad sighed. "I suppose," he said, aiming for exasperation, but he was laughing. "I've been looking through the town's files. There've been loads of incidents in the past. Nothing recent, though. Maggie wants me to stay there for a while. Stay on the lookout."

"So… how long will we stay in Forks, do you think?" asked Brian.

"At least a few years," said his father. "You'll probably be able to graduate at Forks High."

"So yes, you've still got at least three and a half years to spend with Hugo," said his mother knowingly.

"That's not it!" said Brian. "I'm just interested in the assignment!" Part of him had been thinking of Hugo, though.The boy was the first real friend Brian had ever had. Due to his dad's job, his family had moved around a lot. During his childhood, he'd been largely ignored by most of the school. Recently, he'd been getting more attention due to his good looks, but he'd still never felt close to anyone before Hugo.

"Ok, dear," his mom said, but her smile told Brian she didn't believe him.


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