Welcome to the winter collab/challenge, organized by the almighty ncisduckie, to whom we are all thankful. My words were tradition, gingerbread, polar bear, and the bonus snowed in! I hope you enjoy it despite me knowing nothing.

Kuon awoke to Kyoko's fingers lazily tracing patterns on his skin. She was lying next to him, propped up on one elbow. A soft smile graced her face when she saw that he was awake. "Good morning," she murmured, leaning down to give him a kiss. They scrunched up their noses at one another's morning breath, then laughed. "C'mon, let's go make breakfast."

"Must we?" he mumbled.

She hummed in response, her fingers still dancing across his skin. "Yeah," she said at last, "we've got a long drive today."

Today was the last day of their week-long vacation. It had become something of a tradition of theirs since they had gotten married, taking a week off of work right before Christmas to have just to themselves. This year, they had rented a cabin up in the mountains. It was a lovely little place, secluded and cozy. It had a large kitchen, a beautiful view, and a fireplace - and it got bonus points for having a bed big enough for Kuon. This was a relief, since last year's getaway hadn't. They had made do, but this was definitely more comfortable - and had far more room for activities.

Kuon sighed and sat up, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. "The party's not until the 27th, right?"

Kyoko nodded, sitting up as well - and then immediately diving back under the covers. "It's so cold!"

"Hey, you're the one who said it was time to get up." He poked her side through the comforter, making her pout up at him.

"Bring me a sweater?" she asked.

He let out a groan as he stood and walked over to their freshly repacked suitcases. He tossed her one of his sweaters. "Bra?"

"Thanks." She caught the sweater and retreated under the covers to put it on. "Eh, I'll put one on before we leave. I'm not awake enough for one yet." She emerged, wincing when her bare feet hit the floor and hastily shoving them into her slippers.

"Temptress," he said fondly.

"Playboy," she shot back, enjoying the view as he got dressed. "I'll start on breakfast if you get the fire going? We've got a couple of hours before we really need to leave."

"Deal. Going to hit the bathroom first, though." He pecked the top of her head on his way past her.

vVvVvVvVv

"Ready?" Kuon asked, zipping up his coat.

Kyoko tugged on her boots and stood. "Ready!"

Kuon opened the front door - and was met by a solid wall of snow. "Houston, we have a problem." He stepped back so Kyoko could see.

She blinked. "We're snowed in?"

"Unless we want to crawl out the chimney, I would say yes." He closed the door. "I guess this is why the cabin owner left us an extra week's worth of supplies. Mountain weather."

"I guess we should call. They'll worry if we don't." She kicked off her boots and began shedding her other layers. "It kind of sucks that we'll miss the party, though. I was looking forward to seeing Maria."

"Me, too." He took off his coat and hung it on the peg by the door. "She's getting so big. I keep expecting her to be a little kid."

She laughed as she hung her coat up next to his. "I'm just glad she grew out of her crush on you."

"She likes you better, anyway." He wrapped her in a hug. "You call people and I'll get the fire going again?"

"Sounds good." She tugged him down for a quick kiss, then went to get her phone out of her purse. "I just hope that there's reception."

"Well, the lights are working, so there's that." He shoved off his boots and went over to start the fire.

"Fingers crossed!" She pulled out her phone and dialed. "It's ringing."

"Huzzah!" He knelt down and focused on starting the fire, coaxing the logs they had used this morning to relight. He heard her apologizing to Maria in the background and reassuring her that they had enough food. Soon, the crackle of the fire drowned out the soft conversation. He held his hands out, warming them. He wasn't sure how long he sat there, mesmerized by the flames, before Kyoko came up and slipped her arms over his shoulders.

"Oh, that looks gorgeous, Corn." She pressed herself against him and kissed his cheek. "Maria said she'd pass on the news to the others. Our connection was kind of spotty."

"I'm really sorry we have to miss the party, princess," he sighed.

"You don't control the weather, Kuon." She kissed his cheek again, then grinned. "And oh, no. I'm snowed in here, in a lovely cabin, with the love of my life. Woe is me. Whatever shall I do?"

"What indeed," he purred as her arms slipped off his shoulders. She circled around to face him.

They were both glad for the plush rug in front of that fireplace.

vVvVvVvVv

Kyoko stretched, grateful that the rest of the cabin had warmed up while they were busy. "I feel like baking!"

Kuon followed her with his eyes, his head propped up on his arm. "Yeah?"

"That cookie house that Dad made - what type was that?" She paused with her arms outstretched, looking at him expectantly.

"Gingerbread." He stood and wandered over to the bookcase. "I think I saw a Christmas cookbook on here. Ah, here it is." He handed it to her, and she flipped through it until she found the recipe. She smiled when she saw that they had the right ingredients.

"I think a whole house would be too big for us, so how would you feel about shaped cookies?" She smiled up at him. "There's some cookie cutters in the bottom drawer over there."

"Sounds good to me, princess." He squatted down and started rifling through the drawer. "What the heck…?"

"What's wrong?" Kyoko padded over from where she had been getting out ingredients. "Oh!"

"They're all polar bears," he said, looking up at her in bewilderment. "Why are they all polar bears?"

She shrugged, a habit she had picked up from him. "Maybe the cabin owner's a fan?"

"Weird. Well, I guess we're having polar bear cookies." He stood, bringing a few different sizes of cookie cutter with him.

"Gingerbear?" Kyoko mused as she went back to getting out ingredients.

"...I can't think of a better mashup," Kuon admitted after a moment of thinking. "Are you doing wet or dry ingredients?" In the years they had been together, Kyoko had managed to make Kuon into a vague approximation of a competent cook.

"I'll handle the wet."

Kuon chuckled to himself.

vVvVvVvVv

Once they had finished mixing everything together, they wrapped up the dough and set it to chill in the fridge. Kyoko hung up her apron and turned to Kuon. "Well, we've got at least three hours until we can do anything with that. What do you want to do?"

He hung up his own apron, a thoughtful look on his face, and then said, "Dance with me." He held out his hand, and she placed hers in it. He escorted her over to the fireplace, where a small CD player sat on the mantle. He hit play.

Kyoko's other hand slid upwards to find its place on his shoulder; his free hand alit on her waist to tug her closer. They swayed with the comfortable ease that comes from truly knowing and trusting one's dancing partner. Outside, snow continued to fall. The two inside remained gloriously oblivious as they danced.

vVvVvVvVv

Three hours later, the pair perched on bar stools at the counter, covered in flour and pressing out gingerbread polar bears. Kuon kept forgetting to dip his cookie cutter in flour, forcing him to re-do his cookies. "Argh!"

"Another headless bear?" Kyoko asked, hiding her smile as she carefully poked out a perfect bear.

"It lost a leg," he whimpered. "Why is this so hard?"

"Because you were cursed with Mom's cooking skills?" she suggested, giving him a floury pat on the shoulder. It left a handprint on his sweater. "C'mon, cheer up. You had to be bad at something."

"I swear this cookie cutter hates me," he grumbled, making sure to dip it in flour this time. The cookie came out intact this time, but when he transferred it to the baking sheet, it ripped. He stood up, brushing the flour off his hands. "I'm going to go check on the fire."

"I doubt that it's changed in the last five minutes, but okay." She swapped their cookie cutters and started pressing out more polar bears. After a few bears, she glanced up at him, enjoying the view. He was squatting down in front of the fire, muttering as he poked at it with the metal poker. After a few more moments of huckishing, he stood and returned to her side.

"Okay!" He washed his hands, then clapped them together. "Let's do this."

"Flour up," she reminded him.

He obeyed, watching how she did it before working on his own cookie. This time it made it to the tray intact. "I did it!" he cheered, planting a kiss on her floury cheek.

"You did!" She smiled up at him. "Wanna give it another go?"

He stole a kiss for luck, and then dove back into the flour and dough.

vVvVvVvVv

"Ooh, they're done!" Kyoko pulled the last of the gingerbears out of the oven and moved them over to the cooling racks with a spatula. "These smell so good, Kuon."

"So have one?"

"They're still too hot." She took off her ove-gloves and set them on the counter. "Bleh, I'm all covered in flour! Why do I even bother wearing aprons?"

"Because you look so cute in them?" he offered, leaning on the counter next to her.

She elbowed him. "Playboy."

"Temptress." He elbowed her back, making her laugh. "Wanna send a picture of those to Dad?"

"Ooh, good idea!" She scurried over to get her phone. "We can do before and after pictures!"

"Before and after? Are you planning to eat them all?" he teased.

She stuck out her tongue at him as she walked back. "No, I meant after we decorated them!" She passed him her phone. "I'll start making icing, you take a picture for Dad?"

He nodded and took a few pictures of the cookies, then several more of Kyoko in her apron. He forwarded the latter to his phone and the former to his Dad. Before he could even set it down, Kyoko's phone buzzed with a video call from Dad. He swiped to accept it. "Hey, Dad."

"Kids! I'm glad you're okay. Maria-chan told us that you're snowed in." Kuu's face showed his relief. "Looks like you're having fun. And that your lights are still on!"

"Don't jinx us," Kyoko called over the whirring of the hand mixer. "And hi, Dad!"

Kuon switched the camera view so Kuu could see Kyoko. "She's making the frosting right now."

Kyoko waved at the camera with her non-mixing hand, smiling. "We'll send you a picture when it's done!"

"And bring some back for me, too," Kuu ordered, grinning. "We're going to miss you kids at the party."

"There's always next year," Kyoko said at a more normal volume, finally finished mixing. "But we're going to miss you, too. It's been months since we were in L.A." Depending on scheduling, she and Kuon generally split their time half-and-half between Tokyo and L.A. Their main struggle was when they couldn't be in the same country for long periods. Neither of them slept well alone anymore.

"Well, enjoy a romantic Christmas alone, you two. And Kuon, make sure to spoil the birthday girl enough for the rest of us!"

"I'll try," he promised. "The presents are at home, though."

Kyoko refrained from asking about the plural. She knew there was no way to stop these Hizuris and their presents. Kuon was actually the most restrained. Julie was, by far, the worst. Kyoko still couldn't really resist her, especially when she framed it as a mother-daughter bonding exercise/rite/whatever suited her at the moment. She shook her head and started frosting the cookies.

vVvVvVvVv

"Perfect!" Kyoko proclaimed, adding the last smile to the gingerbears.

"You missed a spot," Kuon teased, stealing the frosting from her.

"Where?" she asked, looking down at her pristine, smiling bears.

He dabbed some frosting on the tip of her nose. "Right there."

"Oh, I did, did I?" Her eyes narrowed in a playful challenge. "Pray tell, good sir, where else am I missing some?"

He met her eyes and drew a line of frosting across each of her cheeks. "Maybe here?" Then he drew another line across her bottom lip. "Oh, and definitely here."

She stared up at him with the hard expression he had first seen in her Setsuka. The one that asked him Yeah? And now what? So he did what he had wanted to do every time she had given that look as Setsu, and kissed her. The frosting wasn't too sweet, but it was certainly sticky. When he pulled back, she deliberately smushed her nose and cheeks against his face, sharing (and smearing) the joy. "Time to wash, I think."

"Yeah, I regret that."

"No, you don't."

He grinned. "No, I don't."

After they had cleaned the frosting and any remaining flour off of their skin, they returned to the kitchen. There they set to tidying up while the frosting set. Kuon put the music back on, since he preferred to wash dishes with music. The pair hummed and sang along to different songs as they cleaned. This was a pattern they had established early on in their relationship, and one that worked well for them. Kyoko glanced up at Kuon. It's really these little moments that I love the most, the ones when we're just us. No public personas, no flashing cameras, no crowds. Just a couple in love. She smiled as she squatted down to put away a cookie sheet. Though I wish they included fewer dishes.

"I think the rest of this can air dry, princess," he said.

"Ooh, yay." She shut the cupboard and sat down on the floor, looking up at him. "What do you want to do after this?"

"Maybe a movie? We could watch some of those old Rankin-Bass stop-motion cartoons. Those are classics." He washed the last couple of dishes and set them in the rack to dry. "Why are you sitting on the floor?"

She blinked up at him. "I have no idea."

"...Well, do you want to get up?"

"Yeah, I guess." She stood and hung up her apron, then put some of the gingerbears on a plate. "So, movie time?"

"Movie time."

vVvVvVvVv

They cuddled on the couch, the gingerbears long gone and the fire crackling low. They were on their third movie, but given how short they were, too much time had not passed. Kuon was trying to convince himself to leave their blanket bubble to fix the fire. It was only when Kyoko started shivering that he was able to do so. He stoked the fire, ensured that it would burn for a while longer, and then returned to the couch.

"Thank you," Kyoko said, holding the blanket up to let him back inside. When he sat down, she stuck her cold feet on his leg.

He yelped. "I fix the fire, and that's the thanks I get? Your penguin feet?"

She giggled and wrapped her arms around him. "Sorry."

"No, you're not."

"Hey, you agreed to be my personal heater when you married me." She stuck out her tongue.

He raised an eyebrow. "Put that tongue back in your mouth, or I'll make you."

She simply stuck out more of her tongue.

"I warned you," he said with a grin, before capturing her mouth (and tongue) with his.

When they broke apart, she bumped heads with him. "You know, if that was your attempt to get me to stop putting my cold feet on you, it's not a very effective one."

"Nah." He shrugged, then picked up the remote to adjust the movie volume. "Like you said, I knew what I was getting into when I married you."

"You make up for it plenty with your snoring, anyway." She leaned against him and pressed a kiss to his skin.

"Yeah? You're the one who leaves her scripts everywhere." His fingers stroked her side.

"This coming from the man who puts his socks on the lid of the hamper instead of inside it."

Kuon blew a raspberry on the top of her head. "Yet you love me."

She giggled. "Absolutely."

"And you're stuck with me." He pulled her into his lap under the blanket.

"In this cabin, or forever?" She tucked her face into the crook of his neck.

He leaned his head sideways, resting it on hers. "Hmm… both. At least until the snow melts or someone comes to dig us out."

"I think I can live with that." After a moment's pause, she asked, "Did we ever call the cabin owner or anyone in town to let them know we were trapped?"

"...No. No, we did not." He picked his head up and poked his arm out of the blanket to grab his phone. "It's only five. Should I call?"

She hummed, her cold fingers creeping under his shirt to steal his warmth. "After the movie's done?"

He set his phone back down on the couch cushion and tucked the blanket back around them. "Sounds good."

When they called later, they were informed that someone would be there in two days to dig them out. As they still had power and food, they were not a priority. After making some more calls to let their loved ones know, the couple settled in to enjoy their extended vacation.

And done! Thank you again to duckie for organizing everything! 3

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