Disclaimer: I don't own KND or the characters.


Snowfreckles

Snow glittered like sugar in the afternoon sun. Every kid in town had abandoned the warmth of their houses and video games to play in the rare miracle of winter. It was Saturday, so they were not getting an extra day off from school, but snow was snow, and no one complained.

Least of all Numbuh 2, who had slipped away from a snowball fight to his ultra-secret sledding spot. A nearby ravine had dried up years ago, leaving a deep, sloping edge that made the best sled ride ever. He pulled his sleigh off the side of the tree lined road up to the very edge and looked down. Several yards from the bottom of the hill, snow had piled generously before the thin trees and bushes that managed to grow through the rocky soil. There was more than enough snow to soften his landing without danger. Or much danger; nothing fun was completely safe.

Hoagie was settling himself on the sled, preparing for the ride of his life when he heard someone… grunting? Hoagie looked behind him, the direction of the noise. That was definitely a grunt, he thought. The area did not have many houses nearby, and even those people rarely took the road close to the ravine. In the summer, the ground was too jutted for driving or walking. In the winter, everyone was so used to going the other way, it was habit. Leaving the sled, Hoagie sneaked through the thin growths and half-hid behind a tree, waiting for whoever it was to come around the curve.

A figure in a bulky green jacket backed down the road. The reason for the grunting followed in the form of a huge yellow backpack stuffed full of files. There were so many a few were in danger of slipping from the confines of the sack to the snowy ground. The figure pushed back the hood of its jacket with a sigh, and pushed frustrated fingers through bright red hair.

"Numbuh 86?" Surprise made Hoagie forget about staying hidden.

Fanny whipped around, startled. "Numbuh 2? What are you doing here?"

"Uh… nothing," he stammered, still wanting to keep his secret sledding hill a secret. He eyed the backpack curiously. "What are you doing here?"

Fanny picked up the fallen strap of her backpack and started yanking again. "I have to work," she grumbled.

"What?" Hoagie looked around, as if to see if it was still winter. "But... it's a snow day! And Saturday," he added.

Fanny inched her load slowly passed him. "Well," she answered, panting from exertion, "these operatives are still turning thirteen tomorrow." She paused to catch her breath. "I have to take these to Moon Base."

Hoagie watched her progress, surprised. He never thought any kid—especially a Kids Next Door operative—would have to miss out on a snow day. And even if she was a loud-mouthed brat, Numbuh 86 was still a kid. He did not know if he could do anything, but he felt like he should do something.

Hoagie thought back to his sled. He still didn't want to reveal his secret area, but every kid should enjoy a snow day. And with all the exploring some other kids did, it was just a matter of time before his ravine was popular snow day hangout.

"Hey," he called before he could change his mind, "you wanna go for a sled ride?"

Fanny stopped her dragging and stared at him like he had grown a second head.

"I've got my sled just over here," he continued, pointing his thumb over his shoulder.

"Tch." She sneered at him. "I told you I have work to do."

"Ah, come on," he said coercively. "Just a quick one. It's a snow day!"

The sneer slowly fell from Fanny's face, and she glanced around. She couldn't remember the last time she actually played on a snow day—there were always teenagers to decommission and paperwork to fill out before she could have fun. But she hated to let a boy talk her into anything. Fanny eyed him suspiciously, searching for some kind of ulterior motive.

"Come on," he enticed, grinning stupidly. "You know you want to."

Fanny should have gotten mad, but the thing was… she did want to.

The yellow strap fell to the ground. "I guess a short break can't hurt."

"All right!" Numbuh 2 pumped a fist in the air, looking for all the world as though he actually wanted her to say yes. "Come on, this way." He darted into the trees. Fanny followed at a slower pace, suddenly wonder if she had made a mistake.

She reached the clearing at the top of the hill, and Numbuh 2 waved her over. "Come on! You can sit up front." An excuse hovered on the tip of her tongue, but— she glanced at the sled—she had always wanted to try this. Biting her lip, she jogged over to the sleigh, sat down as close to the front as she could with her feet tucked under her, and picked up the reins. Then she looked down the hill.

"Are you crazy?" she shrieked. "That's almost a 90 degree drop! You'll break both our necks!"

"Hey, relax," Hoagie climbed on behind her before she could get off. "This is perfectly safe. Well, almost."

"What do you mean al—"

He pushed off before she could finish her sentence, and then she could do nothing but scream. Her terrified cries were echoed by Hoagie's exuberant cheers. They sped down the steep incline to the bottom where the snow had made just enough of a curve to keep them from crashing to the ground, across the ravine, and collided with the tree-lined snow bank.

Fanny popped out of the drift, amazed that she wasn't even hurt. But looking around, Numbuh 2 was no where to be seen. She turned her head all directions, but could not find any telltale bumps or holes that would indicate where he had landed. "Numbuh 2?" she called.

Hoagie popped up right next to her. "Yeah?" Then was promptly reburied by a pile of snow fallen from the trees.

He burrowed his way to the top again and glared at the offending branch. A laugh from his side distracted his staring contest with the bough. Fanny had a mittened hand over her mouth, trying in vain to stifle her giggles.

"Oh," he said with mock anger, "so you think that's funny, do ya?"

She giggled until the snowball hit. "Hey!" Fanny glared at Hoagie, who was casually packing another snowball. Quickly, she gathered a handful of her own. Hoagie finished first, and he threw it almost before she could duck. She pitched her missile back and nailed him right on the arm. Within moments, the snowballs were flying, and after another minute, both children dropped any pretense of formality and were flinging loose snow at each other, their laughter ringing off the walls of the ravine.

"Ow!" Numbuh 86 covered her left eye with both hands. Hoagie dropped the snow he was about to launch. "Are you okay, Numbuh 86?"

Fanny rubbed her eye. "Yeah, I just got something in my eye."

Hoagie eyed the snow surrounding them. At first glance it looked perfectly white, but there were twigs and dirt and small rocks permeating it. And rubbing a stone into that tender organ wasn't going to help.

He crawled gracelessly to her side. "Here, let me see."

She ignored his request and kept rubbing. "I told you, it's fi—eep." Her response ended abruptly when he pushed her hands away, took her chin, and squinted into her eye. Not seeing anything, he lifted his goggles for a clearer view. If whatever-it-was was still there, he couldn't see it. All he could see was a pair of wide green eyes and freckles. Fanny was flushed with cold, highlighting the sun spots sprinkled generously across her cheeks and nose. Hoagie wondered why he was even noticing.

Wow, he thought absently. When she's not yelling or scowling, Numbuh 86 is… kind of cute.

A soft wind shivered through the trees, blowing a few strands of loose red hair against his cheeks. And pushing a pile of snow balanced precariously on a branch directly onto their heads. "Hey!" Hoagie glared at the offending tree.

Fanny blew hair out of her face and raked a handful of snow from the damp strands. "Great. I'll probably catch a cold now. Just what I don't need."

Hoagie smirked at her halfhearted grumbling noticing that now even her nose was red from the frost.

The cold must have frozen his brain, because he wanted to kiss her. He didn't know why—the freckles, maybe?— but despite inevitably painful consequences, he suddenly, really wanted to kiss her.

So he did.

Before he could talk himself out of it, Hoagie leaned forward and pressed his lips against hers. Fanny squeaked in surprise, but didn't push him away. He lingered a few seconds. Somehow, this was… different… from kissing Cree. His head wasn't clouded and fuzzy. Instead, his senses seemed to bring everything into sharp focus. The cool air, the sound of the wind, the warmth of Numbuh 86… especially Numbuh 86.

He pulled back and opened his eyes, which had somehow gotten closed. Fanny's cheeks were so red her freckles were almost invisible. Snow had started falling again, and it drifted around them like tiny winking stars.

"I have to go!" Fanny scrambled to her feet and ran up the hill, climbing where it was too steep to run.

"Fanny, wait!" Hoagie shoved his goggles into place and started after her, but tripped on his buried sleigh. He grabbed the reins carelessly and dragged it up the incline as quickly as he could, which considering how bulky a sled is, was not fast enough. At the top, he charged through the trees, hoping he could catch up to her.

He reached the road and stopped. Fanny had grabbed her backpack and was dragging it down the road, but it had moved only a few feet from where she abandoned it before. "Fanny…" he started, not knowing what to say or how to say it.

She stopped pulling, her back still towards him, shivering slightly in the snow. Neither spoke. Even the wind had stopped blowing. The world was so quiet Hoagie thought he could hear the snowflakes land.

"Do… do you wanna borrow my sled?" he finally asked, holding the strap out to her.

Silence again. Finally she responded in a voice husky with something he couldn't identify.

"No. I don't like sleds."