For the latter half of their winter break, Jack, Kim, Jerry, and Milton had decided to meet at the dojo in the afternoons to get some more practice. Christmas was last week, and they'd all had a great time. (Jerry was even able to tolerate his cousin Pepito.) But, of course, Christmas had passed, and relatives returned home. Having nothing else to do, they'd decided not to let their free time go to waste. Rudy had reluctantly agreed to join their practices because he was a supportive sensei. (though, really, it was because he wanted to look professional in the eyes of Bobby Wasabi.)
Speaking of Bobby Wasabi, on December 30 he dramatically bursts through the door of the sensei wearing a gaudy Santa outfit and carrying a large burlap sack.
"Hi, ho, go, Merry Christmas!" he belts. Rudy sighs in good-natured exasperation.
"Bobby, you're a little late," he responds.
"How ungrateful! I can just take my present back, you know."
"No, no, no, there's no need for that," Rudy placates. "You're just in time."
"Well, in that case, I have a wonderful surprise for you guys!" Bobby pulls out a set of old, weathered keys.
"A key ring?" Jerry asks.
"What are we supposed to do with it?" Jack adds.
"It's not just any key ring," Bobby begins, "it's the keys to my winter lodge."
"Winter lodge?!" Kim exclaims. "That's awesome!"
"I know!" Milton agrees. "I can't wait for the sauna!"
"And the view!" Kim adds.
"And the skiing," Jack and Jerry say at the same time. Kim and Milton roll their eyes. Boys.
Bobby gives Rudy the key ring, saying, "You guys can stay at the lodge until school starts again. Have fun, and don't do anything that would tarnish my reputation!" Bobby leaves the dojo with little fanfare.
"Go home kids, and pack your bags. We've got a lodge to drive to!"
The car ride to the lodge isn't very long in terms of distance. That said, any car ride feels unbearably long when it's filled with light bickering, a sensei who very unhelpfully insists on singing Christmas carols, and absolutely no personal space. By the time they get there, everyone (except for a blissfully unaware Rudy) is anxious to get their own room for a bit of peace and quiet.
After everyone has unpacked and rested, the group reconvenes in the living room. It's early evening, and the waning light from the sun warms the sky just on the horizon. The temperature begins to dip, making it the perfect time to drink hot cocoa. Kim and Milton sit on the couch in front of the fireplace, sipping from their steaming mugs and having a quiet conversation.
"Come on Kim, this is your chance! It's obvious Jack likes you, and this is the perfect place to tell him!" Milton insists.
"Are you crazy?! I can't tell Jack I like him. If he rejects me, it'll be awkward because we're all isolated up here. Besides, you're one to talk. You haven't even told Jerry you like him." Kim responds.
"Okay, that is a vastly different situation. I'm pretty sure that: a.) Jerry doesn't even know I'm gay, and b.) he's not gay, and also c.) even if we're both gay, he wouldn't like me."
Kim frowns. "So neither of us can tell our crushes, huh?"
"Yeah." A pause. Then, "But that's okay. We're here to enjoy ourselves, not get boyfriends, right?"
Meanwhile, Jack and Jerry sit at the island in the kitchen. The two boys are also having a conversation.
"Hey bro, you like Kim, right? You should just ask her out, since I'm pretty sure she likes you too," Jerry suggests.
"I guess I could, but what if she just wants to be friends? That'd be super awkward," Jack responds.
"I guess, yeah."
"Wait, do you like someone? If you do and I didn't even notice, I'd feel like an ass."
"I... don't worry about it. You're not an ass, dude."
"But you didn't answer my first question, so does that mean there's a girl you're crushing on?" Jack has a teasing yet hopeful smile.
Jerry's smile, by contrast, is tight and forced. He looks away as he answers, "I certainly like someone." Please don't let Jack be perceptive, he inwardly prays.
"Wait, someone?" Shit.
Jerry reluctantly says, "Yeah, someone."
"So... does that mean..."
Jerry cringes as Jack trails off. His next words could make it break their friendship, but he'd rather be true to himself than lie to his friend. He completes, "I'm gay. It means I'm gay."
Jack immediately has questions, like how did you know? and what about those girls? and why didn't you tell me sooner? Instead of asking those, though, he says, "So you do have a crush, just not on a girl." Jerry uncharacteristically blushes. Bingo.
Jack is willing to bet Jerry has a crush on Milton. And, given Milton's behavior towards Jerry, he'd say the feelings are mutual. Interesting.
The next morning, the four teens and Rudy head out to the slopes. At the top of the largest hill, there are five sets of skis. Jerry and Jack are visibly excited, Kim is moderately interested, and Milton and Rudy are noticably concerned. The hill is really steep, and an injury could be quite serious.
"Alright guys, you ready to start?" Jack asks. Two people nod, the other two do not. Regardless, everyone gears up and gets ready.
"On the count of three," Kim begins. "One... Two... Three!" They all lean forward, and gravity pulls them down at an alarming way. Rudy screams the whole way down. He is definitely not crying like a baby, not at all. Jerry's next to Rudy, and he's having the time of his life. The brisk, sharp air pushes against him, and he feels like he's flying. Milton is trying to see the fun part of this, he really is, but the potential for disaster is making it very hard to be optimistic. Kim, on the other hand, is genuinely enjoying herself. Somewhere along the line, the fear had turned into exhilaration. She can see why people enjoy skiing. Jack, who's skiing next to Kim is ecstatic. He's moving quickly, gracefully, and he feels free.
What feels like only seconds later, the group has reached the bottom of the slope. "That was awesome!" Kim yells.
"Wanna go again?" He offers.
"Yeah! Jerry, Milton, you guys coming?"
Jerry looks at Milton, who answers, "No thanks, I think I belong at sea level for now." Jerry snorts.
"I'm fine, too. You guys have fun, though!" Jerry adds. Milton looks at him quizzically, but doesn't question him.
"Wait, where's Rudy?" Jack asks. Rudy is in the sauna, sweating away the trauma of the past few minutes. No one bothers to find him, though. The way they see it, he's a grown man responsible for his own decisions.
At the top of the hill, just before they begin to head down, Kim and Jack say, "Wait!" at the same time. Nervously giggling, they face each other.
"You go ahead," Kim offers.
"No, no, ladies first."
"No, I insist—"
"—Okay, one of us is gonna have to go first," she interrupts. Neither of them say anything. "Fine then, on the count of three. One. Two. Three."
Simultaneously, they proclaim, "I like you."
"Yeah, that was—"
"Okay." The two are at a standstill. Finally, Jack says, "Okay, this is getting awkward."
Kim laughs, relieved that the tension was broken. "Yeah it is."
"Do you wanna, maybe, after we get back to Seaford, go on a date?" Jack asks.
"Yes! Of course!" The two beam at one another, and Kim gives Jack a gentle peck on the cheek.
Meanwhile, Jerry and Milton are in Jerry's room, seated side by side on his bed. Jerry plays Minecraft on his phone while Milton lays his head in his lap, reading a book.
"Hey, Jerry, I gotta know: why'd you stay inside with me? I know you love skiing, and you could've gone with them if you wanted to."
Jerry answers, "Because you're my friend, Milty." Milton almost blushes from the nickname.
"Yeah, but they're my friends, too, and they didn't stay." Although he doesn't ask anything, the question is still implied.
Jerry sighs. This conversation had to happen at some point. There's no time like the present. "Random question: are you homophobic?"
Milton snorts at that. "That doesn't sound very random, but no. It'd be hypocritical of me, considering I'm pretty gay. You?"
Jerry's heart pounds. "Yeah, same."
"Awesome." The boys sit in silence, blushes slowly but surely reddening their cheeks.
"Oh my God, just—" Milton grabs Jerry's face, pulls it down to his level, and kisses him. It's not a good kiss, not by a long shot, but Jerry knows what'll improve it.
Jerry moves his body so that he's laying side by side with Milton. They're kissing from a new angle, now, and it's so much better. The near silent smack of lips, the delicate huffs of warm breath on his cheeks, the light flutter of Milton's eyelashes, it all make him dizzy with want.
Game and book abandoned, the two boys make out until they hear a sharp knock knock knock on the door.
"Jerry," Rudy's muffled voice calls, "It's almost dinner time! Have you seen Milton, by the way? I can't seem to find him."
"I don't know where Milton is," he bluffs, "but I'll come out right away!" Milton Snickers at the word choice but is otherwise silent.
"Come on, Milty, let's head to the dining room."
At the dinner table, Rudy says, "I feel like I missed out on something. There's definitely something here that changed."
"Actually, Rudy, something did change," Jack says.
"Well, whatever it is, it's definitely an improvement. Everyone looks so much happier!" The group smiles. It definitely is an improvement.