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“Hey,” Taro said, interrupting my reading.

“What?” I asked absently as I turned a page in my astronomy book. I was curled up next to him, resting my head on his chest. One advantage to dating a big guy was I always had a soft place to rest my head.

“I was wondering, what kind of Christmas celebrations do you do?”

I put my book down, and twisted my neck to look up at his face. From this angle, it was an unflattering view up his nostrils, so I sat up. I didn’t have my legs on, so I had to prop myself up to do so. “Nothing, really, since Dad was Hindu and Mom is Shinto. I’m kinda Shinto by default, I guess.”

He waved his hand dismissively. “I don’t mean, like, religiously. Christmas is a romantic holiday in Japan.”

My mouth twitched, as I began to get the drift of what he was asking about. “And I’ve never had anyone to share that romance with.”

“Until now?” he asked, suddenly sounding a little unsure of himself.

I stretched up and gave him a brief kiss. “Until now,” I agreed. “This will be the first.” Taro wasn’t the first guy I’d ever dated, but it was the first time I’d ever had a boyfriend at Christmas time.

“So, um…” He ducked his head a little, suddenly looking shy. He was so damn cute I wanted to climb on top of him and kiss the living daylights out of him, but I restrained myself. Not only was it daytime, and I could hear other people in the dorm around us, but I also wanted to hear what he had to say. “I was hoping, maybe you might want to spend Christmas…with me?” His blushing smile was both hopeful and diffident.

I briefly considered teasing him, stretching this out a little longer, but he looked so earnest that I couldn’t bring myself to do that. He was still a little insecure in our relationship, for some reason not quite believing that I found him attractive. Guys get too hung up on looks. “I’d like that,” I said with a smile.

His eyes lit up. “Really?”

I laughed, and kissed him again. “Yeah, of course, doofus. Who else would I spend it with other than my boyfriend?”

He pulled me into a hug with his good arm and I fell onto his chest. Not that I was resisting all that hard. “Your boyfriend,” he murmured happily.

I wrapped my arms around him and kissed the side of his neck, earning a shudder from him. “Yeah, you’re my boyfriend,” I repeated, since he seemed to like hearing it so much. “Which means I’m your girlfriend, too, you know.”

“I know. It’s just…I still can’t believe it.”

“Silly man,” I said fondly. I snuggled into his warm bulk, enjoying the solid presence underneath me, supporting me. “So, what did you have in mind?”

“Um…I…hadn’t thought that far ahead,” he admitted wryly.

“You’re going to make me figure it out?” I asked, mock-offended.

“I’ve got couple of weeks!”

“And if we’re going to do a special dinner or something, you’d better make reservations yesterday. Things fill up fast this time of year.” Restaurant dates were kind of a given with Taro, foodie that he was. I’d been to more local restaurants during the past six months that we’d been dating than I had in the prior couple of years that I’d been at Yamaku.

“Oh. Right. I hadn’t thought of that. Where would you like to go?”

I shook my head and burrowed in against him more, feeling warm and cozy. “You invited me. You decide. Is there someplace we haven’t tried yet that you really want to go to?”

“Hmm.” He was silent for a few moments, and I closed my eyes, relaxing. A nap in the middle of a Sunday afternoon sounded ridiculously sybaritic, but also so very inviting at the moment.

“I’ll give it some thought,” he said.

“Mmmkay,” I murmured. I took a deep breath, enjoying the scent of him, and relaxed further into his embrace.

“Molly? Are you awake?”



Two weeks later, I found myself wishing I’d given into my impulse to ravish him with kisses instead of napping, because end-of-term exam hell kept us from more than an occasional peck or two here and there in passing. We studied together, but that wasn’t nearly the same thing, especially since half the time we also had Lelouch and/or Suzu studying with us. Even Miki joined us a few times, in a rare display of academic focus. Or perhaps more accurately, desperation.

But at long last, exams were all over. Saturday after classes, I staggered back to my dorm room more literally than usual, my exhaustion affecting my balance. I collapsed onto my bed, gracelessly shucked off my legs, and fell into a deep and exhausted sleep.

I was awakened several hours later by a knocking at my door. I groaned and rubbed at my sticky eyes. “Whozit?” I called out. I glanced at my bedside clock—it was a little after six.

“Taro. You awake?”

I sighed. “I am now. Come on in.” I propped myself up on an elbow and tried to look awake. Or at least cutely disheveled.

Thankfully, I’d been too out of it to bother locking the door behind me when I’d returned to my room. He stepped into the room and smiled when he saw me. “Hey, Molly.”

“Hi.” I tried to give him a warm smile, an attempt which was foiled by a jaw-cracking yawn. “Sorry,” I mumbled. I patted the bed next to me. “C’mere.”

He closed the door behind him and came over to the bed. He bent over to give me a kiss. Feeling all too aware of my morning breath (afternoon breath?), I kept the kiss brief and closed-mouth. He smiled, and sat at the foot of my bed, on the third of it I never used. “How’re you doing?” he asked.

I ran a hand over my hair and grimaced as I realized one of my braids had come undone while I slept. “I must look a right proper mess,” I muttered, a little embarrassed to be seen in such a state.

“You’re always beautiful to me,” Taro said with a sappy smile.

I snorted, and pushed myself up into a sitting position. I turned so I could lean against the wall. “You’re so corny. Maybe you need to transfer to 3-2.”

He shifted sideways a little, to get closer to me, and I leaned against his side. “Nope, I see you perfectly fine.” I started to nestle into his side, but he pushed me back upright. “Oh, no, no, no. No going back to sleep, it’s dinner time.”

I groaned as I sat up. “I’ll trade you my dinner for an extra six hours of sleep.”

“Did Suzu swap places with you while I wasn’t looking?”

I punched him lightly on the shoulder. “It’s not unreasonable to be sleepy after exam week.” I stifled another yawn. “How are you even awake? You were studying just as late as I was.”

He shrugged. “It’s dinner time.”

“Ah. Gotta keep my mighty beast fed.” I rubbed my eyes, trying to force them open. “How’d you do on your exams?”

He shrugged. “Eh. Pretty sure I passed everything, but that’s about it. I only have confidence in the science and math tests because you helped me out so much.”

“Always happy to help.” Science was my forte, though this term’s exam was on chemistry, not astronomy, alas.

I ran my fingers through my loose hair and considered redoing my braid. I looked around my bed but couldn’t find the hair tie that had fallen out, then gave up and undid my other braid. With that hair tie, I pulled my hair back into a quick and simple ponytail.

“Aww, I like you with your hair down,” Taro said.

I snorted. “Conditioned response.”


“The only time you see me with my hair down is while we’re making love. Of course you like seeing it down.” He blushed, and I giggled at his response. “Can you hand me my sleeves and legs?”


At least I’d had the presence of mind to drop the silicone sleeves I wore on my stumps onto the desk before I’d collapsed. Dropping them on the floor was an invitation to spending ten minutes picking lint and hair off of them before putting them back on. Really, I should wash them first, but I was too lethargic to worry about such niceties just then. I quickly slathered lotion onto my legs, rolled the sleeves on, then pulled on my prosthetics. Taro gave me a hand up and held my arm as I shifted from side-to-side, settling myself into the sockets.

“Everything in place?” he asked.

I nodded, and took a careful step toward the door. Everything worked fine, so I walked over and grabbed my coat off the hook by the door. “Come on, big guy, let’s eat.”

As we exited the dorm, a gust of cold wind took my breath away, and I hastily zipped up my coat. “Geez, it’s dropped ten degrees since noon.”

“Yeah, and it’s supposed to get colder. Heard someone say we might even get snow in the next few days.”

“That’d be fun. I’ve never seen snow.”

“What do you mean, you’ve never seen snow?” Taro asked.

“Well, I mean I’ve seen it, of course, on TV or in movies. Just not, y’know, in person.”


“How about you?”

Taro shrugged. “I’ve seen a few snowfalls, but not many. It mostly only ever got cold and rainy back home. I hope we get to see it together.”

“Me, too.”

Famous last words, I thought.


I’d managed to convince my mother to let me stay at Yamaku for a few days after exams so I could spend Christmas with Taro. She didn’t need to know what I’d heard through the grapevine about how lax the dorm security was during break. It seemed like we weren’t the only couple taking a few days for romance before returning to our families. I’d wondered if the staff had any idea of what would be going on, but when I visited Nurse for a pre-vacation checkup, I found a large fish-bowl full of condoms sitting on a table outside his office. I blushed to see that, but that didn’t keep me from discreetly pocketing a few for myself. Better to be prepared.

By Christmas day I’d managed to catch up on both my sleep and my kiss deprivation. Nurse’s extra supplies had come in handy.

“So, where are we going for dinner tonight?” I asked Taro as we cuddled together in his bed. My bed was too small for the both of us, but he had a larger-than-average bed, to go with his larger-than-average size.

“A place I heard about from Hisao, with European cuisine. Apparently he and Lilly went there a couple of months back. He said it was very nice.”

“How nice is ‘very’ nice?” I asked.

“Well, you’ll get to see me in a jacket and a tie.”

“Hmm. I think I know just what to wear.” I had a lovely formal dress in my closet that I’d never had the occasion to wear since coming to Yamaku.

“I like what you’re wearing now,” he said, somewhat predictably.

I rolled my eyes. “I don’t think they’ll let me into the restaurant naked. To say nothing of freezing my kahookies off on the way there.”

“Kahookies? What are those?” he asked, amused.

“You were just admiring them just a little while ago.”

“Given that I was admiring all of you, that doesn’t really narrow it down.”

“Either way, you don’t want me to freeze them off.”

“I suppose not,” he conceded.

“Will there be much walking?” I asked. I hoped I wouldn’t need to bring my crutches, but if we had to climb back uphill to Yamaku afterwards, I would.

“No, I’ve already called a taxi to pick us up at six. We have a reservation for six thirty.”

I glanced at the bedside clock. “Then I should start getting dressed.”


“It takes me longer than you. I can’t just throw on a suit and call it good, I need to do my hair and makeup.”

“Makeup’s just gilding the lily.”

I kissed his cheek. “You’re sweet.” I sniffed, then wrinkled my nose. “Also, I think we both need to take showers first, if we’re going out in public.”

“I suppose.”

I threw back the covers and slid over to the side of the bed. I shivered to be out from under the cozy warm blanket, away from my cuddly space heater. I quickly donned my legs so I could stand up and fetch my clothing, which was scattered around the room.

Taro sat up and pulled on a t-shirt which was draped across his bedpost. “Aww. It’s the saddest part of the day.”


“When you put your clothes on.”

I laughed as I dressed. “You are so corny.”

He gave me a sheepish looking smile. “Sorry.”

I shook my head as I leaned over to give him another kiss. “Corny, and I love you for it.”

He blushed nicely. I pulled on my blouse and buttoned up, and pulled my hair back into a ponytail. “Shall I meet you in front of this dorm a little before six?”

“Sounds good.”


Taro must have been waiting for me just inside the door, because he stepped out of the guys’ dorm before I had to mount the steps. Thoughtful as always. I smiled in appreciation as he approached. “You dress up nice,” I said admiringly. The suit was cut to make him look more impressively barrel-chested than rotund. He even had a nicer sling than usual, in dark red, which worked surprisingly well against his black suit. He blushed at my compliment, which just made him look even cuter.

“And you look beautiful as always,” he replied as he offered me his good arm.

I smirked. “Just wait till you see the rest of my outfit.” Unfortunately, I had to wear a long winter coat over my dress lest I freeze my aforementioned kahookies, but I looked forward seeing Taro’s reaction when I doffed my coat at the restaurant.

We walked to the front gate of the school, where I could see a taxi already waiting. Taro gallantly opened my door for me, then helped me lift my legs into the car. “Thanks.” It had taken me a while to get used to having him do that for me, but I had to admit it was easier.

He slid into the other side of the back seat, and we took off. I glanced out the window as we left Yamaku, and was surprised to see a few snow flakes in the air. “Hey, look!” I exclaimed, pointing out the window.

“Oh, wow. I guess we’re getting a white Christmas after all.”

“Yeah.” I leaned against Taro and looked out the window at the snowfall, enjoying the new experience. It was pretty to look at.

The snowfall got denser and denser over the course of the twenty minute drive, to the point where it was actually accumulating a bit by the time we got to the restaurant. The streets and the sidewalks were painted white, and the streetlights looked lovely seen through the falling snow.

As I opened my car door, Taro said, “Wait a second for me to give you my arm. It looks slippery out there.”

I looked dubiously at the fraction of a centimeter of snow on the ground. “Really?” It didn’t seem like there was enough snow to be a problem, though admittedly I had no experience with it.

“Trust me.”

Given that my stability was always a little suspect, I decided to heed his advice. I pivoted my legs out of the car and waited for him to pay the driver then walk around to my side. “M’lady,” he said, offering me his good hand with a smile.

“Why, thank you, m’lord,” I replied, and pulled myself to my feet. I held onto his arm and closed the car door behind me, then took a hesitant step. “Doesn’t seem too bad,” I said.

“Well, better safe than sorry.”

The ground felt a little slick underfoot, but nothing untoward happened until we got to the steps leading to the restaurant door. Stairs, my eternal nemesis. I grimaced and held on tighter to Taro’s arm as we climbed the three short steps. I knew he was used to how I had to kick-waddle my way up the steps, but I still felt graceless, and pushed a little faster than usual to get it over with.

Which was probably why I skidded sideways at the top of the last step. I yipped in surprise and grabbed Taro with my other hand, hoping I wasn’t going to pull us both down in a heap. Thankfully, the fact that I massed about a quarter of what he did worked in our favor, and we stayed upright.

The door to the restaurant burst open and an embarrassed looking waiter or maître d’ hurried out. “Miss! Are you all right? I’m so so sorry, we shall clean these steps immediately!”

I let go of Taro with my second hand and stood up straighter, and smiled reassuringly at the man. “Thank you, I’m fine.”

He held the door open for us, still apologizing, and we entered the restaurant.

The door closed behind us, enveloping us in welcome warmth, and I looked around curiously. The restaurant was dim, with candles on each table, and the walls were covered in dark red patterned wallpaper. Everyone looked at least as dressed up as we were, if not moreso, and the scents coming from the food were tantalizing. I glanced at Taro, who was subtly taking a deep breath through his nose and looking happy.

“I’d heard good things about this place. Smells like it’s going to live up to its reputation,” he said, sounding satisfied.

I unzipped my coat and slid it off. “Could you give this to the coat check?” I asked, holding it out to him. His reaction was all I could have hoped, as his jaw almost hit the ground.

“Wow. Molly, you look…wow.” He took my coat by reflex, staring me up and down.

I giggled at his sudden paucity of vocabulary. I lifted my arms to the sides to display the embroidery and trim on my dress to full effect. It was a one-of-a-kind burgundy number that my mother and I had sewn together, mixing our family traditions—the cut was basically a Nivi sari, but the cloth and trim were traditional Japanese floral prints, like you’d see on a yukata. It was long, which hid my legs from gawkers, but it was also loose and flowing enough that I didn’t get caught up in it and trip. Mostly. “You like?”

“Um. Yeah.” He ducked his head, looking bashful, and said quietly, “I feel so lucky. I’ve got the loveliest girl in the whole world.”

I blushed a little at his hyperbole, but enjoyed it nonetheless. “Thank you. And I’ve got the sweetest guy in the world.” I took his arm and smiled up at him. The coat-check lady took my coat from him, and we followed a waiter to our seats.

The menu was an interesting mixture of European and Japanese cuisine, with some of the descriptions in English or French, which I thought was kind of rudely intimidating. Fortunately, my beloved giant of a foodie was familiar with culinary terms in at least six languages that I knew of, so I just let him order for us. He knew my tastes well enough that I trusted him to choose well. The waiter was pleasantly unfazed by Taro’s request that all his food be cut into bite-sized pieces. Apparently the customer really was always right at this establishment.

Meal ordered, we sat back and smiled at each other across the table. “So, Molly—” he began.

“I have—” I said at the same time, then we both stopped.

“After you,” he said gallantly.

“Okay. I was just going to say, I have a little present for you. Do you want to wait until after dinner, or would you like it now?”

He smiled broadly. “I was about to ask something similar.”

“What a surprise. Should we do it now?”

He glanced around, as if checking for our waiter, then nodded. “I think we’ve got a few minutes before the appetizers arrive.” He reached into his jacket pocket, and I reached into my purse, and we placed similarly sized boxes on the table.

“Merry Christmas,” we both said, then laughed. We exchanged boxes.

“You first. It’s not terribly romantic,” I warned him defensively, “But I hope you’ll like it.”

“I’m sure I’ll love it.” He picked up the box and tucked it between his bad arm and his body to hold it still while he ripped the paper off of it.

Inside was a high-end digital food thermometer. I’d been somewhat taken aback by the price of it, but the clerk at the cooking wares store had assured me it was one of the most popular among professional chefs. “Oh, wow, this is great!” Taro beamed, apparently sincerely, which reassured me. “Thank you, Molly.”

“You’re welcome. I hope you use it to cook us many meals in years to come.”

He blinked at that, and his eyes misted over a little. “Yeah,” he said, a little hoarsely. “I hope so, too.”

We beamed at each other sappily for a few moments, then Taro pointed to my package. “Your turn. I hope you like it, too.”

I eagerly tore into the box, which turned out to be a jewelry box, not a kitchen utensil. I prised it open, and found a lovely golden necklace inside. The pendant was a triangular fan of dark gray metal, with a dark blue stone at the top vertex. It took me a minute to recognize the slashed designs on the dark metal as Widmanstatten patterns, then I looked up at Taro, startled. “Is that…a meteorite?”

He nodded, his smile uncertain. I laughed, delighted. “How perfect! Thank you, love.”

The uncertainty faded from his face, and he beamed back at me. “I’m glad you like it.”

“How could I not?” I asked. I pulled the chain out of the box, and reached behind my neck to put it on. I settled it into place on my throat. “How does it look?”

“On you? Heavenly.”

I giggled. He was leaning into the corny compliments today, but I really didn’t mind. It was part of his charm.

Dinner lived up to our expectations, and the evening passed in a warm, happy blur. In only a couple of short hours, we were stuffed to repletion and ready to leave. Taro retrieved my coat, and held out his arm for me as we exited the restaurant.

“Thank you, sweetie. That was a wonderful meal.”

“One of the best,” he agreed happily.

We walked down the now-shoveled steps, and I looked around. The street was glittering, looking brighter for its coating of white snow reflecting the streetlights. I ran my hand along the edge of the windowsill, gathering up a handful of snow. It was (unsurprisingly) chilly, but I was surprised at how fluffy it was.

The ride back from the restaurant was much slower than the ride out, and I clung to Taro tightly a few times as the cab slid and swerved through the snow. The driver seemed calm, which was somewhat reassuring, but it still spooked me when the car wasn’t fully facing forward while traveling forward.

We had just passed the Aura Mart, and I was beginning to relax a little, when we hit our final challenge: the hill leading up to Yamaku. It didn’t look like anyone had driven it, and it certainly hadn’t been plowed yet. The driver gamely tried to force his cab up the hill, but it kept fishtailing and backsliding. Fortunately, there weren’t any cars parked on this stretch of the street, so we didn’t hit anyone, but we also didn’t make any progress.

After the fourth attempt at the hill, the taxi driver pulled over to the side and put the car into park. He turned to look back at us. “I’m so sorry, but I don’t think I can go any further. Is there any other place I might take you tonight?”

I glanced at Taro. “Hotel?” I murmured quietly.

Taro shook his head. “I, um…I already tried to book a hotel for tonight. For Christmas. To make a full night of it. But every place is full.”

“Ugh. Right.” All those other romantic couples had gotten there before us. I twisted to look out the back window. The Aura Mart was a good four or five blocks behind us. From here, it would normally only be a twenty minute walk back to Yamaku. With canes, usually, but I could lean on Taro if I had to.

“Shall we hoof it?” I suggested. “We’re almost there anyway.”

Taro grimaced. “I dunno, Molly…”

I poked him gently in the side. “Come on, where’s your sense of adventure?”

He sighed. “I just don’t want you to get hurt.”

“I’m tougher than that.” I rapped a knuckle on my thigh. “I’m half metal and plastic, anyway.”

Taro rolled his eyes.

“Besides, where else could we go? A manga cafe?”

“If they’re even open.” Taro sighed. “All right. Let’s go for it.” He turned to the driver. “How much?”

The driver waved this aside. “I couldn’t take your money, I didn’t get you to your destination. Are you sure you’ll be all right in this?”

“Sure,” I said sturdily, giving him a confident smile. “We’re tough as nails.”

Twenty minutes later, I was singing a different tune. “Whose stupid idea was this anyway?” I asked irritably as my feet tried to slide out from under me for the umpteenth time.

“Yours,” huffed Taro as we leaned into the wind, trudging up hill.

“Couldn’t be, I never have ideas this bad.”

“Of course not.”

I hung on tighter to his good arm. “We’re going to die out here, aren’t we?”

“Don’t be ridiculous, it’s not that far to go.”

“I’ve never been so freaking cold in my life .” I shuddered as another gust of wind blew down the back of my coat. “Never shoulda left India.”

“Well, just think of it as a new experience for you.”

“Freezing to death? I’ll pass, thanks. Have you ever been this cold before?”

“No. But I’m better insulated than you are.”

“At least my legs aren’t cold.”

He choked back a laugh. “I just hope your prosthetics’ joints don’t get wet and freeze.”

I groaned. “Crap. I hadn’t thought of that possibility. Gimme your pants.”

“This really isn’t the time for that.”

“Your loss.”

“I’d lose a lot more if I took off my pants. There are some parts of my anatomy I don’t want to contemplate in conjunction with the word ‘frostbite.’”

“I don’t want to contemplate any portions of my anatomy getting frostbite. Even my synthetic ones.”

“True, that.”

“How much further, d’you think?” I looked up from obsessively tracking the ice patches on the ground to gauge where we were, but nothing looked familiar in the flurry of white.

“Eh…probably ten minute under normal circumstances, so…fifteen? Or so? We’re not actually moving that much slower than usual.”

“Bugger!” My feet slid out from under me, and my hands slid off of Taro’s arm. I landed gracelessly on my ass in the snow. It padded my impact less than I might have hoped. “Ow. My bum hurts.” Taro leaned over to hoist me back up, but I waved him off. “Just a sec, as long as I’m down, I want to take off my shoes.”


“My feet have better traction than these shoes.” He looked nonplussed, and I gently reminded him, “They aren’t going to get frostbitten.”

“Oh. Yeah. Of course.”

Shoes off, he helped me stagger back up to my feet, and I beat as much snow off my dress and coat as I could. I took a few tentative steps and smiled. “I should’ve done this from the start.” I still wasn’t what I’d call stable, but my feet were better than slick leather shoe soles.

He snorted. “Most people don’t think of taking off their shoes as the first step to walking through a blizzard.”

“Yeah, well, we’re definitely not ‘most people,’ are we?” I banged my shoes together to get the snow off of them, and shoved them into my coat pockets, one on each side. I resumed my death grip on his arm. “Forward, march!”

“Yes, ma’am.”

I still didn’t like walking on snow, but at least I no longer felt in immediate danger of cracking my coccyx with every step. I looked back at one point and giggled. “If anyone comes along soon and sees our footprints, they’ll think someone was walking barefoot through the storm,” I said.

“Well, you are ,” Taro noted.

“Yeah.” I glanced around at the neighborhood we were walking past, the lights on the houses looking specular and pretty through the falling snow. “It’s almost a pity no one will come out and see them before they get filled in.” Taro laughed with me.

We’d gone for almost ten minutes without mishap when I heard the sound of an engine ahead of us. I looked up and peered through the white veil that surrounded us. “Is someone actually driving downhill in this mess?” I asked Taro incredulously.

“Sound like a recipe for— shit!” He jumped in front of me, dragging me around in a half-circle as he did so. I stumbled and ended up leaning against him for support as a truck with a plow zoomed past, spraying snow and slush to the sides of the road as it went. Taro’s huge bulk made a perfect screen for my smaller form, and I barely got splashed at all.

The truck past, I pulled back from him a bit to see him staring down at me, eyes wide. “You all right?” I asked.

“Are you all right?” he echoed. “S-sorry I had to j-jerk you around like that.” He was gasping a little, and as I watched, he shuddered, too.

“No problem, really, thanks for saving me. But you—” He shivered again, and I had a momentary worry about a heart attack or something.

“C-can I have my hand back for a m-m-moment?” I transferred my supporting grip to his suit coat, and he reached back with his hand to wipe an impressive amount of slushy snow out of his hair. “That’s f-f-freaking c-cold!” he exclaimed. I was relieved to realize that his shivering and stutter was from the cold, not heart failure.

I let go of him altogether, and said, “Turn around.” He did so, and I couldn’t help but giggle at the sight. “Sorry, sorry! It’s just…” His back was almost pure white, despite wearing a black suit. I reached out and brushed off as much of the snow as I could.

“At least we’ve g-got a clear road to walk on, now,” Taro observed. He wasn’t shivering quite as much, but he was still obviously chilled.

“Then now is the time to really march,” I said. “Let’s get you into a hot shower.”

“No argument here,” he said, as he turned to face back uphill and offer me his arm. We clambered through the pile of snow the plow had put between us and the road, then we both sighed a little in relief to be walking on the much clearer road. It still was pretty slippery, but not as bad, and we made it the rest of the way to the guys’ dorm in less than ten minutes.

By that point, I was beginning to overheat, despite the snow; walking uphill always took a ton of energy for me, and we’d been moving a little faster since the plow. Taro had also stopped shivering, for which I was grateful.

We stopped at his room to ditch our coats. “Come on, you can join me in the shower,” he said.

“Really? What if someone comes in?” I had no burning desire to slog my way over to the girls’ dorm to bathe, but nor did I feel like putting on a show for someone other than Taro.

“The only other guy on this floor right now is Shu, and he’s over at the girls’ dorm with his girlfriend.”

“Good enough for me.” I grabbed a couple of towels and he got his toiletries kit.

As we headed to the shower, he said, “Actually, I think almost all of the guys who are staying here for a few extra days are at the girls’ dorm.”

“Well, none of them have your lovely large bed to play in,” I said, then enjoyed watching his already pink ears turn pinker.

Once in the shower stall, we both stripped in record time, Taro for once not letting shyness at being seen in full light slow him down. My dress, once unpinned at a few key points, just slithered off my body.

Taro’s skin was disturbingly pale with cold, and his groan of relief as he stepped under the hot shower was almost sexual, he sounded so happy. I sat on the changing area bench and pried off my legs, then slid down and crawled over to join him. The heat was heavenly, and for a minute I just sprawled out on the floor at his feet, letting the hot water that bounced off of him warm me up. He considerately turned on the hand-held unit, and used it to spray my prostrate form while he soaked in the heat coming from the wall shower head.

I smiled up at him, somewhat amused by my point-of-view. “I can’t believe this is the first time we’ve bathed together.”

“Yeah, well, normally the dorm showers aren’t so empty.”


As he continued to spray and warm me, his gaze roamed up and down my body, and his smile grew larger and larger. “You are so so beautiful,” he murmured happily.

I couldn’t help but laugh a little nervously at that. I was starfished naked on my back on the floor, and although I didn’t usually get too hung up on my stumps being visible to him, I felt a little more exposed than usual. And I was sure that whatever was left of my make up was running down the sides of my face. I pushed myself up to sitting, leaning back on my hands, and flipped my soggy hair back behind my head. “You sure you don’t need to get your eyes checked?” I teased.

His answer was to lower himself to sitting beside me, then he handed me the hand-held so he could pull me close. He kissed me gently, almost reverently. “Nope. Never.” I snuggled into his comforting bulk, and he chuckled and hugged me closer.

“What’s funny?” I asked.

“I was just remembering something you said a little while ago.”

“What’s that?”

“We’re definitely not ‘most people,’ are we?” he repeated. It took me a second to recall when I’d said that, right after taking off my shoes to walk barefoot through the snow.

“Hmm. True.” I kissed him. “And I’m glad for it. Because ‘most people’ are nowhere as near as special to me as you are.” I thought for a moment, and amended, “Actually, no one is as special to me as you are.”

“I love you,” he said tenderly.

I smiled up at him, reveling in the warmth in his gentle eyes. “And I love you.” I giggled happily, then added, “Merry Christmas.”

“Merry Christmas.”