Hibiya Amamiya didn't mind winter.

Really, it wasn't the worst thing in the world. Sure, the cold sucked and he still had to work on the farm (but not in the fields anymore! Hell yeah!), but it wasn't bad, per se.

It was a hell of a lot better than the summer, at least.

The thing he didn't like about winter though? The huge sheet of ice that, every winter, appeared without fail outside his school. What's worse than that sheet of ice? Slipping on that sheet of ice and falling right in front of everyone.

You think he would've learned to avoid it by now, considering that he'd been going to this school for nearly half his life at that point.

But he mustn't have, because as soon as he set foot on that sheet of ice, he fell backward with a shout.

Ugh, every year... Hibiya thought, blinking up at the sky. At least the sky didn't seem to be judging him, at least. The winter sky was kinda pretty, with the snow was starting to fall again.

But yeah, It'd be nicer to look at if he wasn't currently lying flat on a cold sheet of ice. On the ground. With all of his classmates undoubtedly laughing at him. Ugh.

Seriously, the school should put up some sort-of wet floor sign or.. something. Maybe they should make a sign that said: "Hey, there's a big patch of ice here. Don't go on it - or you'll slip!" because this happened EVERY year. He's surprised someone hadn't sued the school already for ice-caused injuries. Who knows how many bruises he had gotten from it at this point.

He laid there for a moment, contemplating whether or not it'd be worth it to act dead or to play it off as if he meant to fall. The wetness of the ice soaking into his coat wasn't pleasant. Would it even be possible to play it off anymore?

"Really? Again?" Said a familiar voice from above him. Hibiya gulped.


Squinting against the midday sun, Hibiya looked up. Hiyori was standing over him, an annoyed expression on her face as she looked down at him.

…It didn't help that he was late. He was supposed to meet Hiyori after classes, but OF COURSE he had to be stuck with cleaning duty on the day that he had to meet her after school. This was just fantastic.

…And, instead of him meeting her, she found him playing dead on the ice. This was not cool at all.

"Oh, hi Hiyori!" He shot up, his knees buckling underneath him as his feet skidded on the ice again and failed to find purchase under him. Hibiya sighed, looking up at Hiyori with a sheepish grin.

Hiyori just stared at him, undoubtedly wondering if bothering with him was a mistake or not. It probably was, considering he was still struggling to even stand up on the ice.

People weren't laughing at him anymore. Weird. He dared a glance at the other students, and they seemed surprised. It was probably because Hiyori was talking to him of all people. Figures.

(He felt a little bit of pride about that, that he got to hang out with Hiyori sometimes. Maybe he'd feel even more pride if he wasn't laying flat on the ground… On a sheet of ice… Undoubtedly making a fool out of both himself and her).

"I should've known you were doing something stupid like this," Hiyori sighed, and she reached out a hand to help him up, "No wonder you were late."

Hibiya stared at her hand for a moment, blinking stupidly. Was she, Hiyori Asahina, really letting him touch her hand? Sure, they had literally refused to let go of each other's hands on the train ride home from the city that summer, but it was winter now, and they were at school.

…The Hiyori fan club people were probably seeing this. He didn't know if that was a good or a bad thing or not.

"Don't be weird," She said, breaking him out of his thoughts, "or I'll leave you to deal with the ice yourself."

His record for being stuck on the ice? 15 minutes. It had probably been about 10 minutes by then, and he didn't want to beat his record.

He tentatively reached out a hand, and she grabbed it, pulling him up and off of the ice with ease. She spared a glare towards the other students, who were staring at them and gossiping. At her dark look, they scattered. She rolled her eyes at them and turned to Hibiya.

"Let's go before the snow gets any worse," She said, more like an order than anything else.

As always, Hibiya was quick to nod.

Hiyori rolled her eyes at his eagerness, and she motioned for them to start walking. Hibiya smiled, taking that as approval for him to follow.

Hiyori always walked a little bit ahead of him. Each of her footsteps seemed perfectly planned and perfectly placed with practiced ease, as if she knew everything that she wanted.

Hibiya always followed a few steps behind, tentatively, as if struggling to fill in her footsteps.

Their difference in confidence and status made school… complicated, to say the least.

Yeah, sure, they talked between classes and stuff, and things weren't quite like before summer (she actually looked his way now!). But there was still some sort of gap between them that neither of them felt the courage to cross - not yet, at least. Especially when Hibiya had the Hiyori fan club breathing down his neck after he "betrayed" (their words, not his) them by "stealing their Hiyori" from them that summer.

Yeah, Hibiya knew that he isn't completely out of the wrong for, y'know, being in the fan club in the first place. But at least he knew that Hiyori isn't just some princess that some prince can swoop in and save (if anything, it's the other way around).

..He knew that now, at least.

He didn't know when he realized it. Maybe it was always there (though only a fraction of his infatuation for her), or maybe it popped up sometime during that endless summer... That she isn't just some out-of-reach rich girl - she's her own person and that she'd decide on a future for herself regardless of what anyone wanted from her.

…This might be the doormat part of him talking, but damn if that didn't make him like her more.

Her independence was why he was surprised the first time she asked him, "Hey, walk with me," after the first day of school. After the first day with little to no interaction with her, he kinda just… assumed that she was finished with him. Understandable - him being friends with her was just too good to be true.

In hindsight, it was stupid to think that. Hiyori was swarmed with people that day, after all, be it the group of girls she hangs out with and her not-so-secret admirers.

But he overthinks things, okay? Plus, why would she take time out of her day for him of all people, anyway?

But he was proven wrong because, after school, a little after everyone left, he found her sitting on the school's steps, waiting for him.

( "Took you long enough," she had said, knowing the sound of his footsteps, "I was thinking that you somehow got yourself lost in there."

"You're still here?" Hibiya had asked, a little surprised, because her driver should've picked her up by now.

"Knowing you, you probably managed to get lost in there or something," Hiyori had scoffed and rolled her eyes as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. She had stood up, dusting off her skirt as she did so, "You really think I'd leave?"

Hibiya had blinked, unable to fight the dopey grin that was slowly growing on his face. So she stayed because she cared, right? As much as she tried to be cool about it, she kinda failed that time...

Noticing his look, Hiyori had huffed, puffing up her cheeks. Not taking a moment to spare, she had stepped towards him.

"Come on," She had said, grabbing his hand, "we're walking together." )

…He didn't hesitate to say yes.

Sure, it wasn't a long walk or anything, considering he had to wait for the school bus at the bus stop while she had to go to the parking area a few blocks away from the school, but it was something at least. It was the thought that counted, and, considering it was coming from Hiyori, it meant a lot.

They were in the same predicament today, walking to their respective pick-up areas. The streets were pretty vacant - he doubted anyone would like to be out in this weather.

Hibiya's eyes wandered to the snow. The bus stop they usually waited for their respective rides at would probably be covered in snow. Hibiya sighed, knowing that the bus was probably going to take longer than it usually did because of the icy roads. That's great. The already hour-long ride that took him to his side of the boonies would last almost as long as one of Momo's concerts.

His distaste for the snow must've shown on his face because he saw Hiyori's questioning look from the corner of his eye.

"You hate winter and snow that much?" Hiyori asked, causing Hibiya to turn back towards her. She had a thoughtful look on her face, and her cheeks were tinted pink from the cold.

"How did you know?" He asked, even though he knew that she could probably read him like a book.

"It's written all over your face," she said matter-of-factly, "I, for one, don't know what you're going on about. I think they're both great."

She stepped onto a fresh pile of snow that was pushed over to the side of the sidewalk. A footprint was left after she took her foot out, and she stared at it for a moment.

"You can do what you want with winter - with the snow and cold and everything," she looked at the footprint for a moment, before kicking fresh snow over it as if trying to cover her tracks, "plus it's easier to warm yourself up when you're cold than cool yourself down when you're hot. Duh."

She said it so simply and so confidently that anyone else probably would've believed her. But he knew that that's probably not all there was to it. But, for the moment, (and because he knew that she really, really hated summer), he didn't question it.

Plus, she was right. He did think the crunch of the snow under his shoes was satisfying. He could go for an alternative that wouldn't end up with him having wet socks though.

He didn't hate winter - he really didn't. It just sucked sometimes, as did a lot of things. He just didn't want to sit on that freezing bus for a god knows how long amount of time.

The sun was starting to dip further into the horizon - not quite set, but not quite midday either. All the same, the light reflected off the snow and the icicles on the trees, creating rays of color from the refracted light. It was pretty, and he was glad it wasn't creating some sort-of weak but blinding white-out effect like it probably was supposed to.

He remembered having snowball fights with his class during weather like this when they were little. He remembered the feeling of the snowballs in his palm and the exhilaration of landing a hit. It was fun, even if he almost always got sick afterward.

..Hiyori didn't often participate when the class had snowball fights. At least, not in the last 6 or so years anyway.

Hibiya saw the bus stop in the distance, and he slowed his steps down a little bit. Sure, they hadn't talked much today, but it wasn't like he wanted their time together to end. Plus, there was something of interest in front of him.

..The pile of snow in front of him was almost too enticing. It wasn't powder-soft, but it wasn't rock hard; the white goodness was perfect for throwing and jumping in. Not doing anything with it would be a waste.

…Plus, Hiyori said that winter and snow were great, right?

"Hey, Hiyori!" Hibiya yelled, succumbing to a brief moment of bravery and scooping up snow in his hands, "think fast!"

"What?" Hiyori asked, turning around to face him, annoyance written all over her face. That was probably the wrong time for her to turn around because Hibiya chucked his snowball right at her.

He didn't know what he expected, but his chunk of snow hitting Hiyori right in the face was not it.

In a moment of weakness, Hiyori stumbled, thrown off guard by the snowball. Her perfect steps were thrown off-kilter, and she stopped in her tracks.


"Ah, I'm sorry, Hiyori!" Dropping the snowballs in his hands, Hibiya ran over to Hiyori, ignoring the way that the wetness of the snow caused his shoes to uncomfortably squelch, "I didn't mean to throw it that hard!"

He crouched down next to her, reaching out a hand before pulling it away, not sure whether or not he was overstepping his boundaries or not. He already screwed up by, y'know, pelting her in the face with a snowball.

He looked at her face, but she wasn't crying or angry like he thought she'd be. He glanced down at her to see her looking at the ground with an expression that he hadn't seen her wear before: her eyes were wide, shocked even, and her mouth was sober and pressed in a thin line. It was a little unsettling.

But when they locked eyes, a more sinister expression crossed her face, and her eyes, once wide and shocked, were now narrowed and bloodthirsty, as if waiting for the perfect moment to strike.

"You'll pay for that!" She yelled, eyes gleaming with challenge as she jumped up from her place on the snowy ground.

Now it was his turn to have wide eyes, honestly feeling betrayed as Hiyori whipped her arm back and began to pelt him with snowball after snowball (where the hell was she even getting them from? There was no way that she could be making those that fast!)

He stumbled back, battered by snow, before collapsing back on the ground when the force was too much.

Through the barrage of white, Hibiya managed to catch a glimpse of Hiyori's face: her bangs were plastered to her forehead, her coat was damply clinging to her skin and crumpled up around her elbows, her cheeks were flushed, and—

She's laughing.

She's laughing! Hibiya sighed in relief, the fear within him melting away like the snow that covered the ground. She wasn't mad at him! Immediately, he felt a surge of adrenaline take over his fear, and he jumped forwards.

"Two can play at that game!" He yelled back, breaking out of his revere, reaching back and grabbing an armful of snow, "let's do this!"

But it was for naught, for he was immediately bombarded with a handful of snow, causing him to fall back with an undignified yelp.

There had to be somewhere that she was getting the snowballs from - there was no way she could just have that many! Well, it wouldn't surprise him if she was just that good at making snowballs (because, duh, Hiyori's good at everything). But come on! By the time he made one, she had made at least three and flung them at him.

Through the barrage, he managed to spot a pre-made pile of snowballs next to her. Oh yeah, the younger students got out before them and probably had snowball fights before the middle schoolers were let out for the day.

This was SO unfair.

"You're playing dirty!" He whined, falling back into the snow mound, his breath rushing out of his chest in a mixture of laughter and shock from the cold temperatures, "that isn't fair!"

"It's called playing smart!" She laughed, stepping forwards and pushing him farther into the pile of snow, squealing a little when some of the snow that he was kicking around landed on her, "Social Darwinism! Survival of the fittest!"

He flailed through the snow, and, through his semi-panicked laughter, he caught a glimpse of her.

He looked up at her and saw his sun. Their breaths were coming out in little puffs against the cold air, but, though he could see his breath in front of him, he felt like he was suffocating. It was like his whole body had frozen solid as something wrapped itself under his skin and squeezed. After the initial shock, he felt air back in his lungs, but it wasn't under his control. He tried to calm his racing heart, but couldn't. Tried to slow his panting, but it couldn't. But it wasn't bad - odd as it was, it was a good feeling. He grinned wide enough that his cheeks hurt, and he realized that, for the first time in a while, he was happy.

He hoped she felt the same.

But as quickly as the happiness came, it was interrupted by another snowball to the face. He really should be fighting back. He was going to go down swinging.

He flailed in the snow a bit, kicking some at her before sitting up and going for more snowballs. He thought she would do the same, but no - she got closer to him, and before he knew it, she was grabbing the hood of his jacket.

Just as he realized what she was about to do, it was too late, and he felt the snow go down his hood.

"So what do you want to do?" She challenged, shoving a fistful of snow down his coat, "do you surrender?"

"AAAA! Never!" He scrambled in the snow a little more, cringing as he felt the coldness and wetness from the melting snow. No, he wouldn't give up, not now - not in front of Hiyori! That would be totally uncool! He had to win this!

Then he tripped over a hidden rock in the snow, toppling face forwards once again into the whiteness. Hibiya then realized that maybe it was a little too late to win.

"Are you sure you don't surrender?" She demanded again, shoving another fistful of snow down the back of his coat, and Hibiya screeched.

"Okay, okay, fine!" He cried out, knowing that, even though it looked totally uncool, there was no way in hell that he would win against her (and he really didn't want any more snow in his clothes!), "I surrender, now could you get off of me?"

Hiyori grinned, letting him up with a satisfied hmph!

He wasn't exactly fond of being cold. The fact that he had just toppled into a snowbank didn't help that at all. So, as he no-so-graciously brushed snow off his clothes, Hibiya shivered.

Hiyori was gloating her victory, brushing the snow off of her pink coat and out of her hair with a satisfied smile.

He was a little jealous that he had lost like that, but he wasn't surprised. He knew he could never win against her - but it'd be nice if he could! If he did, he'd have dry clothes too... Hibiya pouted, before sneezing, the cold starting to creep up on him.

At the sound of his sneeze, Hiyori looked up from brushing snow off of herself. He thought she was going to tell him to sneeze quieter or something. Instead, she was looking at him with a gaze that he couldn't quite decipher.

Usually, he can read her silences a lot easier than her tough words. This time, he cannot read either.

"I know I said I liked winter, but that didn't mean that I'm overly fond of the cold," She said pointedly, "but.. sorry if I took it too far."

Hiyori rarely said 'sorry' for anything, and certainly not to him. Maybe she'd said it once or twice in the past - but that was more like apologizing for him. And Hibiya was fine with it. That's just the way Hiyori was.

So, he was confused.

"Don't be. I started it anyway," Hibiya raised an eyebrow, a little surprised by the sudden apology, "I wasn't expecting an apology from you, though."

Hiyori huffed, holding up her hand (which had another snowball in it), and Hibiya immediately took a step back.

"Sorry, sorry!" He apologized, covering his face with his gloves, "I didn't mean it!"

"Relax, I was just kidding," Hiyori rolled her eyes, dropping the snowball to the ground. Hibiya sighed in relief when he saw the snowball crumble into the ground. He's had enough coldness for today, thank you very much. "Besides, you already look like a soaked puppy. Any more wetness and you'd be more fish than human."

Hibiya groaned, feeling the fabric squelch as he moved. His parents would NOT be happy if he came home soaked. What would his excuse be anyways? That he fell into a snowbank? His dad would NOT believe that.

"My dad's gonna kill me when I come home soaked like this," Hibiya sighed in defeat, shaking his arm to help peel away the wet fabric from his skin (spoiler alert: that didn't help).

He probably wouldn't get sent out to the dogs for this, but he didn't want to risk it - especially when he didn't know whether or not his dad was in a bad mood or not.

Letting the elastic slap back down with a disturbing wet noise, Hibiya looked back at Hiyori, who, having seen the mournful expression on his face, seemed deep in thought.

"Hey, Hibiya," Hiyori said after a moment of silence, her eyes glaring holes in him, "do you want to come to town with me for a bit?"

It was hardly phrased like a question (more like a demand), as most of Hiyori's 'questions' were. However, it wasn't followed up by some sort of jab (like usual), instead, it was followed by silence.

"What? Me? Why?" Hibiya questioned, thrown off by the sudden remark, "Wouldn't your parents care that you're not going to come home on time?"

"They don't care what I do," Hiyori said matter-of-factly, but Hibiya recognized the way that her tone bordered self-deprecating, "so what's another few hours away from home?"

"Don't you have piano lessons though?" Hibiya asked before mentally kicking himself because. Right. Yeah. He promised Hiyori and Momo would stop remembering Hiyori's schedule because it was creepy.

But old habits die hard, and he could only grin sheepishly when Hiyori sent him a dark look.

"Stop that, and no, my teacher canceled today because her son was sick or something," Hiyori explained, rolling her eyes, "Honestly, if she said she didn't want to come I wouldn't have cared. My parents are totally going to get on me about it though."

"You should go home then!" Hibiya said, turning back towards the bus stop, "It's not worth it if your parents are going to be mad at you."

"They don't matter, and you're the one that's here now so…" Hiyori shrugged, casting a look over her shoulder, "Why not? Besides, if your dad is going to be mad at you, then it's better if you wait until you're dry or something, right?"

"But Hiyori-" He argued because really, there were no positives for her when it came down to this trip. What's even the point

"I don't want you going home," Hiyori said, and Hibiya immediately forgot everything he was going to say because.. Oh. "So look, I'm not going to force you or anything, but I'd prefer it if you came with me."

She stopped moving and, like a planet who lost its star, he stopped too, his footsteps faltering on the snowy ground.

"Plus, a new store opened up recently and I wanna check it out!" She continued with a cheeky grin, a bounce in her step as she moved further away from the school bus stop, "what better time is there to go there than now?"

"Really? You're bringing me as your lackey? Again?" Hibiya groaned, his feet squelching in the snow as he walked after her.

"Partially!" Hiyori chirped, stopping abruptly, before changing to a more serious tone, "But really, are you in for it or not? I can call my driver so we don't have to walk to the train station or anything. It's way too cold to do that."

"You think?" Hibiya muttered, wishing his clothes were dry. He sighed, dusting the remaining snow off of his jacket, "But, yeah. Sure. Let's go."

Hiyori smiled brightly at his words, and Hibiya didn't know why he even pushed the matter, because he knows that, when it's against her, he could never win. But, all the same, it's worth it.

(Especially when she smiled at him like that).

"Good, because I already texted my driver to take us! He'll be here soon."

…She already contacted him? Really, why did he even bother...

"How do you like your hot chocolate?" Hiyori asked Hibiya as they waited in line.

So it turned out the store that Hiyori wanted to visit wasn't a clothing store like he had thought. Huh, go figure. At least that meant that there wouldn't be many bags to carry! It was a cute little pink and brown cafe that was sandwiched between an accessory store and the supermarket. Really, It wasn't the sort of place that he expected her to go to. Well, he supposed that the cutesy drawings that lined the walls might be a subject of interest for her.

"I don't know," Hibiya shrugged in response to her question, rubbing his hands together as he tried to warm them, "I don't drink hot chocolate all that often. When I do, it's usually just plain or something."

"That's… so sad," Hiyori said, stepping forward as the line edged closer to the register, "You really don't put toppings or anything on it?"

"Am I supposed to?" Hibiya asked, standing on his tiptoes to see the menus and who was working behind the counter. Honestly, he half expected to see Seto working behind the counter. With the guy's work record, he wouldn't have been surprised to see him. That guy works EVERYWHERE. Shintaro must be jealous. He wasn't behind the counter this time though, so Hibiya ceased looking at the employees.

"I mean, it's kind of sad that you haven't," Hiyori shrugged, "even some of the non-rich people at school have been here, so it's not like you have an excuse."

"Hey! Today's my first time hearing about this place!" He said defensively, trying to justify his lack of experience with this hot chocolate place, "I totally would have come here had I known about it though!"

Hiyori gave him a look - one that told him that she didn't believe any of what he just said (he wasn't sure if he did either). He sighed, knowing that there was no way out of this.

"…Well, what do you think that I should get?" Hibiya squinted at the menu, hardly making out the names of the drinks. Even if he could see the menu properly, he doubted that he would know what any of the French titles would say. He's smart, but there's no way in hell that he would know French of all languages.

"What do you want?" Hiyori shot back, and Hibiya knew that she was not going to make this easy for him,

"I can order for myself! I just, don't know what things like," Hibiya squinted again, pointing to the first thing on the menu, "that is supposed to say?"

"Chocolat chaud à la crème fouettée?" Hiyori said perfectly, raising an eyebrow, "that literally means hot chocolate with whipped cream, Hibiya."

"Of course I knew that!" He said (though he by no means did), "it's just.. hard to say."

Hiyori rolled her eyes and stood on her tiptoes to peek at the menu. The menu was brown and pink, adorned with the names of the products in fancy cursive. She could read them with ease, but she guessed that she could see why Hibiya would have a bit of trouble with it. She'd have to look out for the both of them. Whatever though, it wasn't that big of a deal.

"What about Chocolat Chaud Avec Chantilly et Guimauves?" Hiyori asked him, leaning back on her heels, "It's hot chocolate with whipped cream and marshmallows."

"I guess that sounds good," he gave up trying to read the menu after she spoke, the French text hardly making sense to him, "I guess I could give it a try."

At his words, Hiyori brightened, and Hibiya was suddenly thankful that he didn't know any French.

"Great! I'll order though because you clearly can't say the names right," Hiyori said, shuffling a little closer to the counter, taking off her mittens so she could take the money out of her purse.

Hibiya huffed at her harsh words but didn't fight her on it. She was right. Maybe he'd read into French a little more…

He still didn't know why she wanted to come here of all places. Sure, it was a new place and all, but there were other, better well-known places around town that she went to all of the time. What made this one so fitting of her tastes?

The two girls in front of them in line turned around after they received their orders, chatting with each other. But the contents of their conversation weren't what caught his interest - it was the drinks in their hands. The lids on the drinks were clear, something he found a bit odd. However, the clear lids let him see the contents of their drinks...

..Of course, Hiyori would want to go to a place where they created little cat designs in the drink. He wasn't surprised at all. The cat designs were kinda cute…

After Hiyori ordered for the two of them, it wasn't long before they had their drinks in their hands. Pretty good service for such a new store, if you'd ask me.

"How is it?" Hiyori asked, taking a sip from her hot chocolate. It wasn't too extravagant or anything (to her disappointment) but it wasn't.. bad. It was warm, and heat that seeped through the cup warmed her bare hands. The drink even had little cats on the cup and in the cream! That made it worthwhile.

But Hibiya didn't look all that impressed, simply shrugging when she asked the question. "It's alright, I guess."

"Seriously?" Hiyori stopped admiring her drink for a moment, looking at Hibiya with an eyebrow raised, "how come?"

"I mean, it tastes the same as it usually does," Hibiya shrugged, sipping on his drink, "Just a little more, y'know, brand name."

While Hiyori spent a bit of time admiring her little cat foam design, Hibiya hadn't even taken the lid off of his hot chocolate - let alone taken a second glance at it. Something was not right, and Hiyori was NOT going to let this trip go to waste.

"Give me that," Hiyori said, taking the cup out of his hands and prying off the cap.

The drink was plain - no marshmallows, no fancy design, and certainly no whipped cream. What gives? That was a total ripoff!

"They got your order wrong," Hiyori said matter-of-factly, crunching the lid in her hands.

"Okay?" Hibiya shrugged, reaching back to take his drink, "Did they get your order right?"

"No, Hibiya, don't make this about me," she said, whirling around. Under her steely gaze, Hibiya shrunk in on himself, "you wanted something different and they didn't give it to you."

"It's not that big of a deal though!" He protested because honestly? It wasn't. Sure, it sucked that he didn't get his marshmallows or whatever, but simply being there was enough!

"I want you to try it though!" Hiyori pressed on, only pausing for a moment when she realized that the sincerity in her voice had become far too apparent. She huffed, the lid of his cup audibly crunching more in her hand, "Plus, I'm the one that ordered it! They're shameful for getting an Asahina's order wrong!"

Hibiya opened his mouth to argue, but Hiyori sent him a look - one that said "back off, there's no way that I'm not getting my way here." The rich-kid-that-gets-whatever-they-want-look, if you will. He's been on the brunt of it several times, but he didn't expect the emotion she seemed to put behind it this time, after all, it was just some hot chocolate…

Right? It was just about the hot chocolate?

Hibiya sighed, basically deflating in on himself. When he didn't argue, Hiyori smiled at him as if knowing that she won. It wasn't as smug of a smile as the ones she usually gave him when she got her way - this one was more relieved, If anything.

"Finally! Now I am SO going to tear the baristas a new one if they mess it up again." Hiyori pouted, turning back to the counter, holding Hibiya's cup out in front of her as if it personally offended her, "give me a second."

She sauntered up to the counter as if she owned the place, and Hibiya sighed. For real, he really didn't mind the hot chocolate thing. He felt a little stupid because he didn't stand up for himself and because Hiyori had to take care of it for him. But, at the same time, it meant that she cared, right? Did she care enough about him to stand up for him?

He was broken out of his thoughts by a drink being eagerly thrust into his face. This time, the drink had a little blue cat-shaped into the whipped cream. Its eyes were chocolate chips and its ears were marshmallows.

Huh, it was kinda neat.

He looked away from the drink and was met with Hiyori's eager look. He took the drink from her hand, and took a sip, careful not to destroy the little blue cat.

"How is it now?" Hiyori asked, ready to glare daggers at the baristas if they got anything wrong again.

"It's good!" He saw the skepticism on her face because he was quick to reassure her: "Really, it's good. Thank you, Hiyori - really."

After a moment of surveying the truth in his expression, Hiyori beamed at his words, "You're welcome!"

He smiled sheepishly at her, and the two of them turned towards the door (he made sure to hold it open for her! That's what girls like, right?)

The line they had been on seemed to lead outside the restaurant by the time they left. Good thing they got in before rush hour. He would've hated having to stay in the cold for that long.

"Hey, Hibiya," He turned away from the line of people to look at Hiyori, who was looking right at him. Jeez, those black eyes of hers could pierce right through his soul if she wanted them to. "How come you're okay with things not going your way?"

"Huh?" He asked, a little thrown off by the question.

"You're a doormat," She deadpanned, looking at him with an 'are you serious' look, "how come you're okay with that?"

"What? I'm not a doormat." He responded, but her deadpan expression made him gulp, "But.. I dunno. It's just how I was raised, I guess."

He watched Hiyori's eyebrows furrowed at his comment as if she was concerned. But she didn't say anything, not straight away, at least.

They were quiet for a little bit, walking along the sidewalk and away from the little cafe. But before they could go too far away, Hiyori spun on her heel, facing him with a determined look in her eye.

"You need to stand up for yourself more," Hiyori stated, as if her decision was final, "or you'll never be happy."

He didn't expect the words, so at first, he's taken aback. But then again, he was plain confused. But being with you is what makes me happy! Is what he wanted to argue but couldn't bring himself to.

…But yeah, he understood. The hot chocolate wasn't that big of a deal to him, but he knows that he lets people take advantage of him too easily. Whether it's copying homework or making him take over their school chores… yeah, he gets it.

She's the rich one. She probably knew the feeling better than anyone - that's why she refused to let anyone take advantage of her.

"I will," He said quietly, eyes trained on the melting cream cat in his drink.

"Thanks, Hibiya," she said sincerely, smiling at his words before spinning back on her heel and starting to walk again as if the conversation never happened.

"No problem," he responded, though he still didn't understand why she was thanking him. Not for the first time (and certainly not for the last), Hibiya followed her.

"And that's why I'm still mad that you got Momo's autograph before I did," Hiyori huffed, looking both ways before the two of them crossed the street. Due to the snow, very few cars were on the street, something that the two of them were VERY grateful for as they wandered aimlessly through the town.

(They'd rather not have a repeat of the previous summer, thank you very much).

"But I got the autograph for you!" Hibiya argued, sparing another look back at the street before they reached the opposite sidewalk, "Doesn't that count for something?"

"Don't be stupid! 'The purpose of life is to live it!'" Hiyori declared, eyes determined, "It's all about meeting your idol for the first time, and getting the autograph for yourself after ages of yearning!"

"But now you two are like, inseparable or whatever so does it matter either way?" Hibiya asked, stepping over a pile of snow that had accumulated on the side of the street. He'd be lucky if he didn't trip over at least one of those piles. They were the bane of his existence.

"Wow," Hiyori huffed, her footsteps light as she also stepped over the snow, not an ounce of hesitation in her step, "You don't get it at all."

He didn't, but he'd rather die on this hill than admit that. It's not his fault he didn't have access to technology until he was like, eleven! He could count the number of idols he knew on one hand (spoiler, he only knew one).

Hibiya sighed, "Aren't you happy to be her friend though? Isn't that enough?"

Hiyori smiled at the mention of Momo being her friend, and Hibiya immediately knew that he'd stepped into uncharted territory.

"Yeah! She's the best," Hiyori gushed, a big smile on her face, "We're hanging out sometime soon! I knew that she was nice but I never thought she'd be this nice!"

Honestly? He agreed with her. He didn't know where he'd be if Momo didn't (literally) pick him up off the sidewalk and RUN. But now, he didn't have the energy to think anything other than Man, I wish she talked about me like that.

Caught in his thoughts, It took him a second to realize that Hiyori had stopped talking. He turned around to look at her, only to find that she had frozen like a deer in the headlights, eyes trained on somewhere across the street. Hibiya skidded to a stop.

"Hiyori?" He asked, a little confused why Hiyori, the girl who refused to let anything get in her way, was suddenly stopping now, "You okay?"

She jumped a bit at his words but nodded - okay, so she was aware. That was good. She wasn't having a panic attack or anything then (he'd had his fair share since august 15th. They weren't fun at all, and it hurt to know that, behind closed doors, she probably had to go through the same thing).

He followed her train of sight and noticed a group of kids (five boys) standing by one of the stores. He didn't think too much of it, but then he saw it - one of the boys had his coat unbuttoned, and underneath the coat's black layers he saw his school's uniform.

He took a closer look at the kids and gulped. Yup. No wonder they were familiar - they didn't just go to his school… They were part of the Hiyori fan club.

As if the group sensed them staring at them, two of the boys in the group turned to look at them.

If it wasn't winter, Hibiya'd probably be able to see the metaphorical tumbleweeds blowing by. But no, it's winter, so all he saw was snow fly by in flurries. He could imagine the cowboy music though. At least they're smart enough to not bring a knife to a gunfight.

...And they're smart enough to run.

He looked at Hiyori with a panicked glance, but by then, she recovered from her initial shock, grabbing his sleeve and bolting down the opposite street.

Ignoring his startled yelp, Hiyori tugged him faster - until they were out of sight from the other group.

They didn't slow down until they were at least five streets away. The other kids didn't seem to follow them, which was a good thing at least.

Hiyori was silent. Hibiya was silent too.

He didn't understand why she ran. Sure, he probably would've run if he saw them because being an ex hiyori fan club member pretty much painted a target on your back. But why did she look that panicked about it? At school, she looked nothing other than confident (if not disgusted) at those kids. So why? Could it be that…

"Does hanging out with me bother you that much?" Hibiya asked her, and the dejectedness in his voice made her stop right in her tracks.

"What are you talking about?" Hiyori said, turning on her heels, "that's not it at all!"

"Then why did you run like that?" Hibiya asked, genuinely wanting to know. The only times he's seen her do that was in the time loop - when they had to run and when it was the two of them against the world.

So why did she run like that once again? Why was seeing those other kids from their school the thing to make her lose her composure like that?

Him hanging out with her wasn't hurting her, right?

"Just because. Besides, you think I care about what they have to say about me?" Hiyori snorted, an incredulous look on her face, "because if I did, I probably would've gotten suspended for slapping someone by now."

He believed her. He's seen her slap people before and he knew that she wouldn't hesitate to do it again. He's tempted to drop it right then and there, but the thought of the worry in her expression before they ran away made him want to push on.

(Her expression reminded him of that summer, as the truck got closer and closer to her, and he didn't like it one bit).

"If you don't care, then why did it bother you so much?" He pressed, dragging back against her tugging a little bit, "I saw your reaction, Hiyori. Something's up."

Hiyori looked at him with an expression he couldn't decipher. She opened her mouth to talk, but, for once, the words seemed to escape her.

"Hiyori, you told me to stand up for myself more, right?" He asked, digging his heels into the ground once and for all, "Then tell me why, because I want to know."

He didn't want to stay around her if it meant that he was hurting her. That's a truth he learned through at least ten years of suffering in silence.

But it sucks! It really sucks! What's the point of their friendship if most of their time together is spent running away?

…Would they really be happy that way?

His try of confidence earned him a sigh. Hiyori hesitated for a moment, looking back in the direction of the group of kids that they passed. But instead, she's met with Hibiya's face - open, confused, but determined all the same.

She sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose.

"I'm worried about what they'd say about you, Hibiya."

He blinked.

"What?" He asked, puzzled. Of all things that she could've said, that wasn't one of the things he expected, "Why me?"

"Because you don't have riches or a reputation to protect you, and I know the fan club is out for blood." She looked like she hated herself for being so honest, but her voice was strong as she spoke. She shook her head, "you quit the fan club, right?"

"Yeah, I did," Hibiya answered, head reeling.

"Good," She smiled in relief at his words, "so at least let me do this for you."

"Oh," He said, nearly tripping over himself. It's weird, how easily he managed to fall for her.

Hiyori sighed, and when he made no effort to move, grabbed his hand, and tugged him along the street - her footsteps faster and her grip on his hand tighter.

Hiyori was known for her sharp, uncaring attitude. She was also known for her immense talent and beauty that was revered so much that there was an actual fan club about it.

Those were the (admittedly) superficial things that drew him to her in the first place.

But now, as she held his hand tightly as if refusing to let go, he found that he liked the caring side of her a lot.

"Also, Hibiya?" Hiyori asked, though this time she didn't look back at him, "Hang out with me at school sometimes. So people know we're friends and so this doesn't happen again, okay?"

"But wouldn't that just make rumors even worse?" He asked.

"Knowing I was hanging out with a friend after school is different than people speculating why I'm hanging out with the one kid who cried in math class in third grade," Hibiya spluttered the memory, but he could hear the smile in Hiyori's voice. So he'd allow it. Just this once. Hiyori continued: "But, it'd be better if people knew that we were friends. So they know we're actually affiliated and won't mess with you. And I don't have to deal with those stupid rumors."

Hibiya smiled when she said that they were friends. He knew that they were.. something more than acquaintances, but it was nice to finally hear it from her.

(It was better than being called her lackey or fan club member #4, at least).

"I thought you didn't care about rumors?" He asked, raising an eyebrow, but followed along.

"I don't, but they're annoying when that's literally all the gossip that the school gets," She looked back at him with her eyes narrowed, "plus, I know you'll be weird about them."

..She's got him there.

"Alright, fine," Getting his head out of the gutter, Hibiya smiled and took a step forward, "I will."

He's lucky that Hiyori knew her way around the town because if it were just him, he knew he would've gotten lost. Was it really necessary to have all those streets? It wasn't as bad as the city, but just how many cafes are necessary? He swore that he's seen one of the black ones at least 10 times!

By then, their steps were no longer driven by a panicked frenzy - now, they were going slower, taking the sights of the town in as the sun started to sink deeper into the horizon (really, that had to have been the 10th time that they passed this bock - that deli looked way too familiar at this point).

Hibiya rubbed his gloved hands together, blowing onto them in an attempt to warm them. It didn't do much, but when the weather was this cold, anything was better than nothing.

From the corner of her eyes, Hiyori saw him do that and realized that her pockets weren't doing a good job of keeping her hands warm. She should probably put her gloves back on. That'd help.

She reached into her pockets, only to find nothing but her train ticket. Her footsteps slowed until she was standing still in the middle of the sidewalk. Hibiya skidded to a halt.

"What happened?" Hibiya asked. Hiyori didn't answer, only scanning the ground with a skeptical gaze, before patting down her coat. "Did you lose something?"

"My gloves," Hiyori said, patting herself down, "I can't find them."

"Your gloves?" Hibiya stopped walking immediately, turning back to look at Hiyori, "did you leave them in the cafe?"

"No, I swear that I just had them in my pocket." Hiyori huffed, ruffling around in her coat pockets, only to come out empty-handed, "Ugh, great. They must've fallen out somewhere."

Hiyori zipped open her backpack, rummaging around in it for a moment before sighing. Great, they weren't in there either. Right as she was about to voice her complaints to Hibiya, something soft tapped her arm.

"Here," Hibiya said, holding out his gloves to her, "you can use mine."

Hiyori looked at him for a moment with an expression he couldn't decipher, as if her cold hands rendered her completely frozen. After a moment, she slowly took the gloves from his outstretched hand.

She didn't like being dependent on people but, this time, it didn't feel like the end of the world. So, for her sake and his (though mainly hers), she'd allow it.

"Thanks, Hibiya.." She grumbled. They weren't quite the high-quality material that she was used to, but there was a sort of warmth to them that she liked a lot. It was embarrassing. She hated it. But all the same, she slipped the gloves on. Her hands fit perfectly, something that she wasn't surprised about (when you spend hours holding onto someone's hands, you come to remember the size of it and how well it fits into the groove of your palm). She didn't know why it bothered her so much, and why it was.. a feeling that she couldn't shake off. Ugh, feelings are SO cringe.

"No problem!" Hibiya responded. Man, it WAS cold. It had to have gotten at least a little colder since earlier, right? Hibiya shivered slightly, feeling the cold biting through his jacket. At least his jacket wasn't nearly as damp as it was before, though. That would've sucked.

From the corner of her eyes, Hiyori saw him shiver. She sighed, wondering why she had to do everything herself before she grabbed his hand.

Hibiya froze as he felt her grab his hand, which was rather ironic considering how warm her hands were. He looked at Hiyori for clarification, because there was no way in hell that Hiyori Asahina was holding his hand and this had to be some sort of dream, but her eyes were trained on the road ahead instead of his questioning eyes.

"You're shivering," Hiyori muttered, dragging him along again, "that'll keep you a little warmer, at least."

It took him a few seconds to say something coherent in response as he sputtered, feeling like his heart was about to burst out of his ribcage.

"But what about people we know seeing us?" Hibiya said skeptically, too focused on the fact that she was holding his hand to stop her from dragging him along, "wouldn't that be bad?"

"They're gone by now," She said with enough conviction in her voice that Hibiya believed it and left it at that.

He stepped forward, picking up the slack so Hiyori wasn't basically just dragging him anymore. But he wasn't focused on the twists and turns of the town's sidewalks - he was focused on the fact that Hiyori was holding his hand. It was like angels had descended from the heavens, singing their songs and creating a moment just for them. There was no way that he could be this lucky - this had to be a dream! He'd wake up any moment now and —

"Stop that," As if reading his thoughts, Hiyori dragged him forward with a little more force than she probably needed to, making him stumble, "Don't make this weird."

Facing her glare, Hibiya chuckled sheepishly: "Sorry, I won't."

They kept walking, though now Hibiya recognized this part of the town. It was the town square, a place right by the train station. Around them, the stores were starting to close for the night, leaving the street dark as more and more stores turned off their lights.

"When did it get so late?" Hibiya asked, looking up at the darkening sky. Somewhere along their little trip, the sun had started to dip below the horizon, and now the sky was cast in a beautifully composed array of purples, oranges, and reds, "Should we head back to the station?"

"Yeah, that'd probably be best," Hiyori looked up at the sky as well, frowning at how dark it was getting, "Do you need me to get my driver to drop you off at home?"

"Is that okay?" Hibiya asked, knowing his dad would probably kill him if he called and asked him to pick him up. At Hiyori's nod, he smiled softly, glad that she cared, "Thanks Hiyori."

The worst thing about living in the middle of nowhere besides, y'know, living in the middle of nowhere, was that trains ran hourly, so they had to wait a little while before the train came.

It was fitting that the only store by the train station that had its benches still out was the cafe they had gone to before. Really, it's weird how things could come full circle. They sat there as they waited, watching the town's activity eventually come to a halt.

Hibiya yawned as he eyed the large clock in the middle of the square. It read about eight o'clock, which was WAY later than he usually stayed outside. MAN, he was tired. He'd probably be in bed by now if he was at home.

"Tired already?" Hiyori jabbed, but her fondness showed through her amusement, "I know you have to wake up to help your dad or whatever, but really? Tired at eight?"

Hibiya gave her a look, slouching back against the bench with tired gusto. Hiyori rolled her eyes and leaned back all the same.

Somewhere along the line, it had started to snow again. Hibiya wondered if there'd be a school-wide snowball fight tomorrow (though he knows that he'd trade those school-wide snowball fights to have one with Hiyori anyway).

Snowflakes drifted down in front of them, and Hibiya found himself unconsciously reaching for them with his ungloved hand. The cold's touch made his skin fizz and spark in ways that weren't unpleasant at all.

"You look dumb," Hiyori said, poking his shoulder, and Hibiya could almost feel her gaze locked onto his outstretched hand.

He nearly put his hand down, a little bit ashamed, but was surprised to find that Hiyori had reached out too, having taken off one of her (well, technically his) gloves so she could feel the snowflakes for herself.

He remembered when they were little, going on field trips and playing in the snow like this as a class. They were always partnered together - the two kids with 'A-lettered' last names who couldn't have been more different. Still, they smiled back then, playing in the snow and laughing through the cold.

And in the summertime, they were inseparable. He still followed her everywhere he could, much like those times they spent in the creeks when they were little, chasing tadpoles, crayfish, and all sorts of other creatures that definitely made him cry more than once.

But now, as he looked at her, seeing her eyes sparkle as she looked up at the flurries of snow and the small smile on her face, he knew that he'd follow her to the end of the world if she asked him to.

"How come they're falling into your hand?" Hibiya asked, a smile tugging at his lips because he already knew the answer.

"They sense the talent," Hiyori chirped, taking her handful of snowflakes and flinging them back up into the air, "plus, you're holding your hand at a weird angle."

..Yeah, holding your hand upright probably wouldn't help much when it came down to catching snowflakes or anything.

Hibiya smiled sheepishly, pulling his arm back to his side. Hiyori rolled her eyes and reached out for herself. She probably didn't need to do this, but she grabbed his hand again, laying it so his palm was upwards towards the sky. His other hand she kept grasped in hers, and Hibiya chose not to comment about it, scared the saying anything wrong might take her away from him again.

"Was that so hard?" Hiyori chided, her cheeks rosy as she looked away.

"No," Hibiya said, already missing the warmth of her hand, "I guess it wasn't."

Hiyori rolled her eyes, but he didn't miss the small smile on her face as she turned her gaze back to the falling snow.

It was calming. He read somewhere once how snow falling soundlessly in the middle of the night seems to fill people's hearts with clarity, and he supposed that the person who wrote that was right. There's something about winter that made him want to shut up for once and just take it all in.

He realized that winter represented everything but the things that he hated. There were hints of the humid summer heat, no crying cicadas, and no goddamn cats around. It was quiet, cold, and.. empty, almost - like there was more out there that he had yet to create for himself.

It's quiet, it's calm.

It's a fresh start.

He blinked when he felt a weight on his shoulder, and he turned to Hiyori, thinking that she was poking him for being stupid again. Instead, he's met with the sight of the top of her head and - oh. She was leaning on him. Hiyori Asahina was leaning on him. Holy crap.

"Are you being weird again?" Hiyori asked, her face tilted down so Hibiya wouldn't see her red cheeks.

"N-no, I wasn't I swear!" Hibiya spluttered, almost jolting upright before remembering that Hiyori was still leaning on him. Instead, he shook his head frankly, which wasn't much better.

Hiyori sighed, shifting a little bit so his shoulder wasn't poking her as much anymore, but all the same stayed leaning on him, "you're an idiot."

Hibiya took a sip of his hot chocolate, staring out into the snowy expanse in front of him and trying not to spontaneously combust from their close contact, "Yeah, I guess I am."

At his words, she laughed softly, snowflakes clumping against her long eyelashes and her cheeks rosy from the cold. She laughed, and the sound is not like the screams of the endless summers that he had long come to know - the sound of tires screeching across the asphalt or the screams of terrified onlookers as metal beams plunged to the ground. It's a sound akin to childhood laughter amidst that of an overwhelming present — a lovely sound. And it's here that he thinks and he knows, on the precipice of all he has ever loved, of being complicit in 10 years worth of constant suffering, that, through heaven and hell, he'd do anything for her.

Maybe it's hilarity caused by hypothermia that's started to kick in, but he's laughing too, and he holds her hand tighter. The warmth of their gloved palms pressing together wasn't just a comfort, but a reminder that they're both here and that they're bearing the weight of their fucked-up world together.

In the distance, the rumble of an oncoming train sounded, accompanied by a cacophony of car horns and flashing traffic lights. He didn't mind the town or the city, but sometimes there was too much going on. Hard work aside, he liked his farm and the quiet fields.

But Hiyori being at his side made it a bit more bearable.

"Do you think the train's going to come in any time soon?" Hiyori asked him, and Hibiya craned his head down so he could look at her. It was an awkward angle and it hurt his neck a little bit, but he wouldn't trade this moment for the world.

"Aren't you the one that wanted to come out here in the first place?" Hibiya asked, amused.

"Well yeah, but I'm not the one whose dad would send her out to the dogs if I came home late," She almost seemed upset at her words, her bottom lip poked out in a pout, "plus, my house is so big I doubt my parents even realize I'm gone. You basically live in a shack, Hibiya."


"It's not a shack!" Now it was Hibiya's turn to pout, which wasn't cool at all, "it's like, two floors!"

"Sounds like a shack to me," Hiyori said, bringing her cup of hot chocolate to her lips in her attempt to hide her smile.

Hibiya huffed, letting the matter go because he knew there was no way that he could beat her in this argument (how could you argue about the quality of your living space against someone who lived in an 8-floor mansion? Hibiya knew how to pick his battles, but when it's Hiyori on the other side of the battleground, eyes narrowed and guns blazing, at least he knew when to surrender).

"It should be coming in like 20 minutes," Hiyori said, a little sad that they'd have to leave the town and their little spot so soon.

"Should we head over to the platform?" Hibiya asked, looking towards the platform. It wasn't too far away, but heading over there still required moving a fair distance away from their little bench. He wasn't sure if he wanted to move just yet.

Hiyori thought for a moment, looking down at her pink boots. He didn't pry, even though he desperately wanted to know what she was thinking. Hiyori was far too complicated for his own good - in a good way though. She knew what she wanted and wasn't afraid to let people know it.

Things were different now. While they didn't have all the time in the world (his dad would KILL him for staying out too late! He's already bound to be mad because he even went to the town in the first place. He can't afford to make him even angrier!), they had more time than before.

And so he waited, knowing that this time he wouldn't get ten years' worth of "let's go!'" or "please hurry!"

"Let's stay here," She finally said, squeezing his hand a little tighter and snuggling in a little closer, "for a little while longer."

"Okay," he breathed, and he would offer up the world to her if she asked - his dad and the dogs that frequented his farm be damned, "for a little while longer."

The snow drifted down from the sky above him, the sky no longer that clear, solemn blue from that one August day. Ignoring the pretty sight of the falling snow, Hibiya looked down at Hiyori, to see her smile once again.

It was so weird to think that they could finally have a future — that their lives were no longer bound to the same half-hour period on the same day. That that tear-filled summer was no more, and now, as winter began to make its way into the northern hemisphere, it was evident that they could finally move on.

…The "moving on" part they were still figuring out, but, through this whole experience, there's one thing he knew for sure: snow isn't all that pretty when there's someone way prettier sitting next to him anyway.