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The Answer Is "No" (But Baby, It's Cold Outside)

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I wish I knew how (Your eyes are like starlight now)
To break this spell (I'll take your hat, your hair looks swell)
I ought to say, no, no, no sir (Mind if I move in closer?)
At least I'm gonna say that I tried (What's the sense in hurtin' my pride?)
I really can't stay (Oh baby, don't hold out)
But baby, it's cold outside


It was three in the afternoon but the sky was already dark, it was snowing so heavily. What should have been a three-hour drive was approaching the five-hour mark, and Alec was still a long way from New York. There was a snow plough just visible in front, and a flashing sign ahead. Alec had a sinking feeling as he put pressure on the brake and squinted to make out what it said: "Road Closed When Lights Are Flashing - Due to snow". 

Fuck. Now wasn't that just great. He supposed that's what he got for taking a detour off the interstate and for driving instead of taking a flight like Jace and the rest of his team mates. 

A man wearing a neon yellow road-maintenance crew vest over his parka noticed his car and came up rap on the window. Alec rolled it down a bit, mindful of letting the cold in.  

"You won't be getting out of here today," the man said apologetically. "We're clearing the road as quick as we can, but the snow is coming down faster than we can shovel the stuff. Boss has given it up as a bad job anyway, we're all heading home in a bit."

Alec supposed he shouldn't blame the workers for wanting to go home - it was Christmas Eve, after all. Who wanted to be out here shovelling snow when they could be home and warm with their family?

The man gave Alec a sympathetic look. “If you had places to be... well, you’re outta luck. But there's some decent motels back in town."

"Thanks," Alec muttered, then got his car in reverse and went back to the town.

He cruised slowly, keeping his eyes peeled for motel signs. It was a picturesque little town, he had to admit - fairy lights in every window, refracting through the frost on his windscreen to cast scattered rainbows on his dashboard, and all the roofs and trees covered with a thick layer of snow. There weren't many people out on the streets in this snow storm, making everything feel surreal.

He saw a B&B with a neon vacancy sign, but it looked kind of fancy, so he drove on in search of another place to spend the night, but every other motel in the small town seemed to be full, so he doubled back. To his relief, the vacancy sign was still up. He shouldered his backpack and got out of the car with a sigh, already prepared to pay through his nose for lodging on Christmas Eve.

The B&B was called the Cherry Hill Bed-and-Breakfast. It was two stories tall with an attic, one of those refurbished Gothic-style stone mansions built at the turn of the century with full corner bay windows and actual turrets. Alec pushed open the front door and the warmth inside flooded out like a tidal wave, making him realise just how cold he had been. He stepped into the lobby in a hurry, suddenly desperate to get out of the cold. The entrance room was small but cosy, with a high wooden counter for the reception - and there was someone else standing in front of the counter, someone he unfortunately recognised.

"Bane," he greeted him grudgingly.

Magnus Bane was Izzy's boss at the hospital, and they had both been forced to endure each other's company on occasions such as Izzy's birthday party, but neither of them seemed to have a civil word to say to each other, so Alec just tended to avoid him. What the hell was he doing out here? Of all the people in the world to bump into...

"Oh, were you looking for a room? I'm afraid I beat you to it - no more vacancies at this place," Magnus said smugly.

"He's right, I'm afraid," the motherly-looking old lady behind the counter said apologetically. "Perhaps you could try the Lone Pine Motel a couple of streets down?"

Alec had. It was full. Alec cursed his previous indecision, but there was nothing he could do, not when he was stuck in this town for the night. Maybe he could find a 24-hour diner or something and just hide in there and keep ordering hot drinks so they wouldn't throw him out. "Thanks," Alec told the lady, and turned to leave.

"That'll be two hundred dollars per night," he heard her tell Magnus, and Alec let out a low whistle. Maybe he'd been lucky to have missed out on the room after all.

"Wow. Ok. Um, I don't have that much cash on me, do you take credit?" Magnus asked.

"No - cash only. And I'm afraid the bank is closed for the holidays."

Alec turned back around, the beginnings of a smug grin creeping up on his face. "I have cash." 

Magnus glared at Alec as he approached the counter and whipped out his wallet.

"Looks like I'm the one who's going to beat you to it, after all," Alec said. "And I'll save you the trouble of driving around town - everywhere else is full." 

Alec counted out his bills - he had a little over three hundred on him, which left him with a hundred and change for food and gas - he supposed that should tide him until New York. He slid the money across the counter.

"I'm sorry, dear, but you're probably going to need the room for two nights - the road-maintenance crew doesn't work on Christmas day, so the roads are likely to remain closed until the day after Christmas," the receptionist said.

"Shit," Alec cursed.

Magnus chuckled. "Well, perhaps if you'd been a bit more polite, I'd have spotted you for the extra hundred, but - too bad. Guess you're joining me out in the cold tomorrow night." 

The old lady cleared her throat delicately. "If I could just suggest - it appears the two of you know each other. Perhaps you could share the room? It's our biggest room - it has a king-sized bed, private bathroom, and there's definitely enough space for both of you."

Alec frowned, glancing at Magnus.

"It's Christmas, love. Where's your Christmas spirit?" the woman chided them. "Surely you don't want to make each other sleep outside in this weather?"

"I- Sure. We could share," Alec muttered, chastised. 

"You're right, Mrs Penhallow, we're being silly," Magnus agreed, taking the cash out of his wallet to make up the difference.

Mrs Penhallow moved with brisk efficiency behind the counter, picking up paperwork and a set of keys. “The room is up there," she said, gesturing at a narrow staircase. "It's in the attic, so just keep going until the stairs run out.”

“Thanks,” Alec said, taking the key.

"You go on ahead, I need to go get my stuff out of my car," Magnus said, and went back out into the cold. 

Mrs Penhallow smiled at him reassuringly. "It'll be fine - I've met all kinds of people, over the years, and I can tell you boys are going to get along just fine, if you give each other a chance.”

Alec shrugged, gave her a small smile, and headed up the stairs.



The stairs were too narrow and too steep, and Magnus had to learn how to pack less. He raised a tired arm and knocked on the wooden door, and Alec opened it, then frowned. "You do realise we're only in this room for two nights?"

"Shut up and move out of the way, Lightwood," Magnus huffed, and the other man took his sweet-ass time to move aside so Magnus could dump his luggage on the floor.

"Hey, watch it, that's hardwood - you're going to scratch it," Alec fussed.

Magnus had to admit it was a pretty nice room, though. The ceiling slanted down at an angle, but it wasn't too low that either Alec or himself would bump their heads on it. There were window seats that had a nice view of the small town, with its twinkling Christmas lights, and there was an actual fireplace in the room even though the house obviously had central heating, with cedar logs cut and placed ready to be lit, filling the room with their sharp scent. There was a huge monster of a wardrobe to one side, a huge flat-screen television, and the king-sized bed they'd been promised was a huge four-poster with delicate cream drapes piled with more pillows than they could possibly need. 

"You get to pick the side you prefer, since you paid more," Magnus offered graciously. "I'll pay you back for my share when we reach New York, of course. You'll be at Izzy's New Year's Eve party, right?"

"Yeah," Alec replied absently, then startled. "Shit! I forgot to call Izzy!" He dug out his phone from his pocket and went out of the room, presumably for some privacy while he called his sister to tell her he was going to be stuck in Nowhere, Philadelphia, over Christmas. 

Magnus checked his watch - it was almost five o'clock. He should probably go get some food, since only breakfast (and a special Christmas dinner tomorrow) was provided in the dining hall. The thought of going down those stairs again, though... also, he had no money. Magnus groaned and peered out of the window, trying to see if he could spot some recognisable chain restaurant that would take his credit card, but there wasn't even a MacDonald's in sight. Where the fuck was this place, anyway? Well, he wasn't going to borrow money off Alec - he'd gladly starve instead - but he did have some protein bars stashed in his bag, so he put the small portable kettle in the room on and settled down to a rather miserable dinner, then went for a long, hot soak in the bathtub.  



Alec was munching on a cheeseburger with extra bacon when Magnus finally came out of the bathroom. He was supposed to keep to a diet during the regular season, but he still had two months before spring training started, it had been a shitty day and it was Christmas Eve. Anyway, Christmas Eve dinner at the Lightwoods was generally pizza and beer, which wasn't much better. 

"Fair warning - there's no hot water left," Magnus said. "Also, must you eat that here? You're stinking up the whole room."

Alec half-turned, and noticed that Magnus had come out of the bath with only a towel wrapped around his waist. Not that he hadn't seen some very fit men in less clothes, since most of his team mates had no problems walking around the locker room naked, but he hadn't quite expected Magnus to be so ripped. Also, he had never seen Magnus without make-up or without his hair styled up - the lack of make-up made him look younger, and seeing him bare-faced felt even more intimate than seeing him half-naked. He looked away quickly. "You were in there for, like, an hour. I'm not surprised."

"That's a blatant lie, I couldn't have been in there for more than half an hour," Magnus replied, and bent over to dig in his luggage for some clothes, and dear god why couldn't he have gotten his clothes out before his bath, like a normal person would have done if they were sharing a room with a near stranger?!

Alec scowled and tried to concentrate on his fries. Alec was out-and-proud, and there had been plenty of media coverage when he had come out publicly after his first Pride Night game with the MLB. He knew from Izzy that Magnus was bisexual and currently single because she had tried to set them up on dates more than once. But none of that should be making him uncomfortable. Why was he uncomfortable? 

He turned back when he was sure Magnus was safely clothed, and frowned. He hadn't expected Magnus to be a baseball sort of guy, but he was wearing a baseball fan hoodie - with the Baltimore Orioles logo.  

"You're an Orioles fan," Alec said flatly.

"Duh. Why else do you think I was passing through this town as well on the way back to New York?" Magnus said with a haughty expression. 

"I suppose it could have been worse - you could have been a Yankees fan," Alec muttered, then couldn't resist adding, "Too bad you went all the way to Baltimore to see them get trashed."  

Magnus glowered at him. "It was a charity game. You know, for fun - that word that you don't understand the meaning of."

"And what, the Orioles aren't professional enough to bring their best game just because it's for charity?"

"Whatever." Magnus rolled his eyes.

"Wait - is that why you don't like me? Because I play for the Red Sox?"


Alec crossed his arms and glowered at Magnus. "This is ridiculous."

"Look, people get irrationally attached to their sports teams, alright?" Magnus said. "Now pick a side of the bed so that I can go to sleep."

Magnus took some time building a small wall of pillows in the middle of the bed, separating Alec's side from his side. "Don't you dare throw those food wrappers in here, Lightwood."

"Yeah, yeah," Alec muttered.

"Well, good night then. And for the record, I don't dislike you, because that would actually take effort - I just don't care about you." With that, Magnus pulled the covers over himself and turned away from Alec.

Alec sighed. He couldn't decide whether it was worse to be spending Christmas alone, or spending Christmas sharing a room with a slightly hostile stranger. He might as well get rid of the trash, then see if there was enough hot water for him to take a bath, and go to sleep.



Alec woke up in the middle of the night, teeth chattering. Someone had pulled the covers off him. He growled in frustration and bulldozed his way through Magnus' pillow wall to get to the other side, so he could grab the covers back. 

"Mine," Magnus grumbled sleepily, trying to bat Alec's hands away. 

"Jesus! Your hands are like ice!" Alec hissed. 

"Cold," Magnus complained.

"You're hogging the blankets."

"'m not."

"Are too!"

"Oh, just come over here and shut up," Magnus mumbled, pulling Alec over to him. 

Alec pulled away a bit but while his hands were cold, Magnus' body was so addictively warm. And wasn't huddling together supposed to be the best way to conserve energy when it was cold? Alec was too cold and too sleepy to care - he pulled the covers over himself and fell asleep again.  



Magnus was dreaming - dreaming of a warm body against his, of the sound of someone's gentle snores, and of pressing himself into another person's body heat. He frowned. No, wait - 

He woke up to find himself with his arms wrapped around Alec Lightwood, his morning erection pressed into the other man's ass. Fuck, this was embarrassing. He tried to extricate himself carefully without waking Alec, but when he moved away, Alec grumbled and pushed back into him, pulling Magnus' arm back over himself. Somehow, during the night Alec had dismantled the wall of pillows that separated them and rolled over to Magnus' side of the bed. And now they were spooning. Great. 

And it didn't help that even though Alec played for the Red Sox, Magnus had noticed him during the games. He was fit, good-looking, and was a strong pitcher - pity about the team though. Magnus had been particularly impressed with Alec's courage coming out as a gay man, since there weren't many out LGBTQA+ professional baseball players, and he knew from years of working with youth at risk just how important it was to have positive role models like that. He didn't even seem like much of an asshole now that Magnus had spent some time with him, just naturally grumpy. 

Alec pressed backwards against Magnus again, and Magnus bit back a moan at the delicious heat and friction against his erection. He knew it was just his body's response to the physical stimulus because the penis was a dumb thing. But it felt good, and so damned wrong to be feeling like this when Alec was asleep and obviously unaware of his effect on Magnus. Alec stirred in his arms, and Magnus quickly closed his eyes and kept his body lax, pretending to be asleep. He felt Alec stiffen in his arms, then quickly roll out of Magnus' embrace. Alec was quiet for a while, then he got out of bed, hissing when his feet touched the cold floor and fumbling around for the slippers provided, and he disappeared into the bathroom. Magnus let out a sigh of relief - crisis adverted. At least Alec had been reasonable enough not to take offence. 

He stretched and let himself enjoy the residual warmth of their shared body heat lingering in the sheets. Hmm. Alec had been gone for a while, and Magnus hadn't heard any sounds one usually associated with the morning rituals of brushing teeth and using the washroom. Had Alec fallen asleep in there? Magnus got out of bed and padded closer to the bathroom door, but before he could knock on the door, he heard an unmistakable bitten-off moan from the other side, then a quiet "Oh my god, fuck." His eyes widened and he backed away quickly, then determinedly made plenty of noise clattering around looking for his make-up and putting together his outfit for the day. He couldn't decide what was more embarrassing - waking up with his hard-on pressed against Alec, or accidentally overhearing him jerking off in the bathroom. And Magnus didn't embarrass easy.  

By the time they were both ready to go down for breakfast, Magnus had mostly gotten his straying thoughts under control. Mostly. Breakfast was a selection of fresh fruit, bread, homemade preserves, cheese, sausages, and eggs done in whichever way the guests preferred. The guests in the other two rooms in the B&B were already in the dining room. Mrs Penhallow made the introductions - there was Aline, Mrs Penhallow's daughter, home for Christmas with her girlfriend Helen, and Tessa and Jem, newlyweds on their honeymoon road trip who had also been caught in the snow storm.  

"Hey, aren't you with the Red Sox?" Helen asked. "My brother is a fan! Could I get your autograph for him later?"

Alec nodded, flashing her a brief smile, and Magnus resisted the urge to roll his eyes. 

"So how long have you guys been together?" Tessa asked the two of them. 

"Huh? Um, we're not-" Alec replied. 

"We're more like frenemies," Magnus filled in. 

"Oh," Aline looked surprised. "But you're sharing the honeymoon suite."

Well, Mrs Penhallow had certainly forgotten to mention that little tidbit, Magnus thought. What he said instead was, "All the better to have torrid hate sex in."

Alec glared at him. "What he means is, there weren't any other rooms left in town, and he's my sister's friend, so we decided to share," Alec explained, and didn't speak for the rest of breakfast. 

Conversation petered off to other topics, then Jem suddenly said, "I thought you looked familiar. Magnus, are you on the board of PLOT?"

Magnus brightened up and nodded. "Yes! Are you thinking of volunteering?" 

"Is that the youth-at-risk programme you were thinking of volunteering with?" Tessa asked. 

Jem nodded. "But I'm a violinist with the New York Philharmonic, you see, and we tour a lot, so I wasn't sure..." 

"Oh, it's only four hours a month, I'm sure we can work something out," Magnus enthused, eager to convert another person to the cause of mentoring troubled youth. 

He might have dominated the conversation at the table after that, but that tended to happen when he was talking about something he was passionate about. Alec did look a bit interested though, and Magnus wondered if it was worth the effort to try and recruit him too. Probably not - they'd probably tear each other's throats out in front of the kids. 



After breakfast, they went back to their room, and Magnus turned on the television. It was still snowing outside, and it had snowed through the night, but it was looking slightly less gloomy, with a hint of sun, even. The chances of them being able to head back to New York tomorrow were looking pretty good. Unfortunately, there was nothing interesting on the television, and Magnus was starting to feel stir-crazy. Alec was holding his phone, but his eyes were darting between the television, the bed, and Magnus, and the sexual tension was killing him.

"Want to go for a walk?" Magnus asked impulsively. Alec hesitated for a split second, then nodded. 

As it turned out, outside wasn't much better than being inside, especially since it was cold as fuck. The streets were mostly empty, all the shops were closed, and Magnus' designer boots were getting wet. Magnus kicked at the snow a bit as they wandered into a park - the snow was wet and heavy. Kind of perfect for building a snowman. Or...

Alec didn't know what hit him. Magnus' first snowball smacked him in the neck and was probably dripping down his collar as it melted, and Magnus got him right in the face with the second one when he turned around. 

"What the fuck?" Alec sputtered.

Magnus grinned and didn't bother replying, already shaping another snowball. Alec managed to duck this one, and was forming his own snowballs in retaliation in a manner of seconds.

"You do realise you just challenged a professional pitcher to a snowball fight?" Alec asked. "Be prepared to go down, Bane." 

"Well, there's an idea - let's raise the stakes," Magnus said with a mischievous twinkle in his eye. "Loser has to give the winner a blowjob."

"No! What the hell is wrong with you?!" Alec growled, but he was blushing so hard the tips of his ears were red. 

"It was a joke, Alexander. You do know what those are, right?" Magnus sniffed, and used Alec's distraction to pelt him with another snowball.

Alec went on the offensive, lobbing hard-packed snow balls that got Magnus in the shoulder, neck and chest - and fuck, Alec's snowballs hurt. Not to be outdone, Magnus tried to be quicker with forming his ammunition until he was practically just flinging handfuls of snow at Alec. Alec, on the other hand, was slow and methodical in forming very solid snowballs that always got Magnus in the places that hurt most and were probably going to leave bruises. Magnus really hadn't thought this through, but he wasn't going to admit that. There was nothing for it - Magnus jumped at Alec with a flying tackle that sent both of them tumbling into the snow, which was how Magnus found himself on top of Alec in the snow. Alec's face was flushed pink from the cold and exertion, and was only inches away from his own. His eyes were wide with surprise, and their breaths were coming out in white clouds that mingled between them. Alec licked his lips, and Magnus found his eyes following the movement.

"You cheated," Alec finally said.

"What?" Magnus asked distractedly.

"You cheated. I won fair and square."

"I don't know, I'm the one on top. I think I won." 

"It was a snowball fight, not hand-to-hand combat," Alec huffed, and shoved at Magnus until he rolled off Alec.

"Let's go back, I'm freezing," Magnus said. 

"You're the one who started it," Alec muttered, and let Magnus help pull him out of the snow.

The walk back to the B&B was even more tense than before, the silence heavy between them. Magnus really hadn't thought this through. 



Christmas dinner at the B&B was incredible - platters and platters of delicious food, accompanied by perhaps a bit too much wine. Magnus was feeling pleasantly comatose when he went up to the room, the tension between himself and Alec temporarily forgotten. He contemplated taking a bath and getting ready for bed, but he was too full to move. Half an hour later, he heard Alec's heavy footfalls coming up the stairs. His temporary roommate clomped in and dropped something in Magnus' lap on the way to his side of the room. 

"What's this then?" Magnus asked, picking up the brown paper bag.

"Christmas present," Alec replied gruffly. 

"Oh," Magnus said in surprise, and opened the bag to find a small stack of candy bars inside.

"There wasn't much other stuff in the vending machines, and... well, it's Christmas, and we're sharing a room," Alec said, not looking up at Magnus as he removed his heavy overcoat and gloves. 

"Thanks. Well, I've got a present for you too, then."

Alec looked up and caught the thing Magnus threw him with the quick reflexes of a professional baseball player, then scowled and threw the condom back at Magnus.

"Hey, that was your Christmas present!" Magnus protested with a laugh.

"You're a fucking jerk. I don't know why I bothered," Alec fumed.

"In the interests of full disclosure, I can't actually buy you anything, because I don't have any money on me after I paid for the room," Magnus confessed. He got up. "Well, I'm going to take a bath. Feel free to join me," he said, and winked at Alec. He saw Alec's eyes on his ass when he sauntered into the bathroom, and couldn't help smirking. 

When it was time for bed, though, Magnus found it harder to be that flippant. He'd started building the pillow wall when he'd remembered how they'd woken up this morning, and he blamed the fact that he hadn't slept with anyone in almost a year for how much the memory was affecting him.  

"Try to stay on your side of the bed tonight, darling," he told Alec. 

"Only if you try not to hog the blankets," Alec retorted, turning off the lights. 

"I do not hog the blankets!"

"Yes, you do."

"Do not!"

"I'm not fighting with you over this," Alec muttered. "And don't you have any sleep clothes without the Orioles logo?" 

"If you don't like it, come over here and get it off me," Magnus sniped. 

They stared at each other across the ridiculous pillow wall for a beat, then moved towards each other, lips and teeth clashing together in a furious kiss. Alec's hand went to the zip of his hoodie immediately, and once he'd peeled off the offensive piece of clothing, he started pressing open-mouthed kisses on Magnus' neck and chest. Magnus tilted his head back to give Alec more room to work, hands going to squeeze Alec's ass through his soft sleep pants and groaning when Alec ground his hips against him. 

"Looks like you're going to have a use for your Christmas present after all," Magnus said breathlessly.

They tore at each other's clothes in between kissing and stroking and grinding, lips barely leaving each other's skin. Then, in the middle of Magnus trying to work Alec's boxers off while Alec sucked a hickey in the sensitive juncture between his neck and shoulder, Alec suddenly pulled back. Magnus couldn't see his expression in the dim light, but he felt Alec's fingers brush a lock of hair off his forehead. 

“Why are you stopping?” Magnus complained. 

"This is just sex, it doesn't mean anything," Alec said, his voice low and a little uncertain. 

"It doesn't," Magnus agreed, even as his heart stuttered at the tenderness in Alec's touch. "Now shut up and fuck me."

He found a packet of lube and let Alec prep him as quickly as it was possible without it hurting like hell, and hissed when Alec got the condom on and started pushing himself into his body.  

"Don't stop, I can take it," he urged, forcing himself to relax around the stretch and relishing the burn that was half pain and half pleasure. 

Before long, Alec was using all the hip power he put into throwing those fastballs to slam himself into Magnus' body over and over again. Magnus scraped his blunt nails down Alec's back and was rewarded with Alec crying out above him, then fucking into him even harder than before. It was quick and hard and rough, and they'd both been so keyed up the whole day that they were both done before they knew what had hit them. Alec cleaned both of them up, and they were both under the covers and asleep within minutes.  



The next morning was the most awkward morning-after Alec had ever been through. They packed their stuff before going down to breakfast, pointedly keeping out of each other's way. Then Alec noticed Magnus wincing when he sat down at the corner of the bed to put on his boots. 

"Fuck, did I hurt you?" Alec asked worriedly. 

Magnus shook his head. "Don't worry about it. Nothing I didn't sign up for." He kept his eyes down as he did up the laces of his boots, and said, "Look, we're both adults. It was just a one-night stand. It doesn't change anything between us." 

"No, it doesn't," Alec agreed. Not like they'd woken up wrapped around each other, bodies tangled under the covers. Not like he had thought Magnus asleep in the morning light had been the most beautiful thing he'd seen in a while. 

He resisted the urge to offer to help Magnus with his luggage, and they both plastered on smiles when they said goodbye to Mrs Penhallow and thanked her for her hospitality. 

"Well, I guess I'll see you around," Magnus said while they were walking out. "Izzy's New Year's Eve party, right?" 

"Yeah," Alec agreed, and got into his car. He didn't notice Magnus watching his car go off down the snowy roads until it was out of sight.