Disclaimer: I don't own anything related to the characters of Cal and Niko Leandros. They are the creation of the wonderful author, Rob Thurman.

A Snowball's Chance in Hell

By: Vanessa Sgroi

I'm not sure what made me do it. I really, really have no idea. Hell, I knew I was taking my life in my hands. Not that he would actually kill me outright. Oh no. He'd just "train" or "chore" me to death. Still those universal threats didn't stop me from doing it. Maybe it was the monster in me. In fact, if Niko asks, that's what I'm going to say—it was my monster half.

See, Nik and I were walking back from Pizza Verde, a little hole-in-the-wall pizza joint, in the snow. Don't let anybody tell you that it doesn't snow much in New York City. It does. Not often, but when it does, it's an event. We'd stopped at Pizza Verde after a job only because of my incessant whining and begging not to be forced to eat Nik's Tofu Edamame Surprise or whatever for dinner. Don't laugh—he's made it before. As it was, Niko made sure we ordered a vegetarian pie, which was only tolerable because it actually had real cheese on it. He'd stopped trying to make me eat soy cheese when I once claimed that all that estrogen was gonna cause me to grow ginormous boobs. The only mistake there was that I'd said it in front of Robin Goodfellow, and the puck waggled his eyebrows at me for weeks afterward. It was enough to give a person nightmares.

Anyway, a block or so away from Pizza Verde, I was overcome by a sudden, ridiculous, and completely uncontrollable urge. I was a few strides ahead of Nik and quickly bent down, gathering a large fistful of snow into my hand. I formed the wet, white fluff into a good-sized ball as I spun around. Without hesitation, I let the snowball fly. It caught my brother somewhere on the side of his head, but I didn't dare stick around long enough to see exactly where or what his initial reaction was. No. The second the snowball cleared my fingertips, I took off at a run—sprinting for our apartment building.

After a minute or two, I could hear my brother right behind me, no doubt plotting his revenge. I would have laughed if I had enough breath to do so. Seeing our building come into view, I put on an extra burst of speed. It wasn't enough. Niko tackled me from behind, and I sprawled face first in the now grayish-white slush. He flipped me over onto my back with no effort at all and secured my wrists in one of his hands. I was chagrined to see that Niko was barely winded, while I was sucking in air like a 99-year-old who'd made a trip to the mailbox.

Niko still had clumps of snow plastered over one cheek and buried in one ear. He actually looked slightly disheveled for once and I couldn't help myself, I started to giggle in between huffing for much needed air. God, Nik was right. I'm out of shape.

"Oh, you think it's funny, huh?"

"N-No. I'm s-sorry. I swear!" I gasped, before giving in to the laughter once more. I tried to squirm away but no luck. Niko had my legs firmly anchored to the ground with his knees.

"I'll show you funny," he growled.

Without further warning, Niko grabbed a huge handful of snow and somehow managed to shove it down the neck of my t-shirt. I yelped when the freezing cold snow met warm skin.

Another giant handful appeared before my eyes.

"You give up?"


Without further ado, the handful was shoved into my face and swirled around.

More snow appeared. "Say uncle!"


A battle of wills ensued. One I was destined to lose. Niko's will was an indomitable force. After four handfuls of snow down my shirt and three to my face, I caved. My sides were actually hurting from laughing. Believe me, this was not a phenomenon I was familiar with.

"Uncle! Uncle! I give up!"

Niko let go of my arms and stood, holding out a hand to help me up. I thought about making an attempt to retaliate but decided against it. I was probably already facing time down at the dojo or cleaning the bathroom with a toothbrush for the next week.

I accepted my brother's offer of a hand up and brushed off as much of the clingy snow as I could. My clothes were soaked through. Even my hair was wet. I shivered as a blast of wind whistled through the concrete canyon that was a New York City street.

Seeing my shiver, Niko said, "C'mon, let's go get warmed up."

"Hey, we got any hot chocolate?" I perked up at the thought.

"No. But I have plenty of Hairy Crab Oolong tea."

My wild hope deflated. I sure as hell didn't intend to drink anything with the words "hairy crab" in the title.



"Good to hear you laugh, little brother."