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There’s this thing that happens, on the day of the first snow, when everyone wants to get home as fast as they can and it's easy to be alone on any given street, if you wait long enough.

The world is quieter in the snow, blanketed in cold and soft and, eventually, dark. It’s half past eight and they’re coming back from a corner store, pockets full of the candy Phil needed, immediately and intractably.

It’s a small secret that Dan prefers the warm seasons. He complains about it, whines about the heat trapping buildings of London and intimates just how often he’s walking around the flat bare-ass, but he loves it.

He doesn’t love the cold, but he does love snow. He loves the way the world goes all muffled and how, on a mostly empty street, wrapped up in a deep dark coat and a scarf bigger than some blankets they own, people can guess, but won’t ever be certain that it’s him.

It means he can stand a little closer to Phil, who’s skin and bones still and shivers even under all his extra layers, and it means that when Phil slips on a patch of melty snow gone nearly to ice just outside of their flat, Dan can reach out to grab his hips and after he laughs out a steady on, mate they don’t have to jump apart like they might be caught.

There’s no catching them anymore, these days. They’ve got money in the bank and half their stuff in boxes en route to a modest house, in a suburb of London that’s close enough that it's posh, but far enough away that when Dan gets the itch to just go he doesn’t have to worry about putting his show face on at a moments notice.

They’ve packed on the layers of protection and inched out of their hidey-hole, an inch at a time.

There are new lines under Phil’s eyes and a tiredness in Dan that he may never sleep away, now, but nothing can touch them now.

There is no winning, not really, not in this world, but there’s security.

Dan flexes his hand on Phil’s waist. He tugs his scarf down under his chin, and does the same for Phil. It wasn’t doing it's job anyway, Phil’s nose has gone soft peach pink in the cold. When Dan leans forward, Phil doesn’t pull away and his nose is cold against Dan’s nose. His mouth is warm though, and soft as always. And Dan, eyes closed and fingers clenching fabric and boots crunching in the hard packed snow, can’t hear a single thing.

They’re standing outside their flat, cosseted in the first snow of the new year and there are plans to make and promises to keep. There are new lines on Phil’s face that he worries over in the mirror and there’s a tiredness that Dan suspects is his to keep for life. It all matters, every bit of it matters, because he’s hear, his mouth pressed to Phil’s and Phil is there, kissing him back.