Thanks to duck for this prompt! As ever, I own nothing.


She'd always loved the taste of it, cold and clean on her tongue. One of her earliest happy memories was digging her gloved hands into a fresh pile of snow in Kyoto and shoving handful after handful into her mouth.

She couldn't really do that in Tokyo - too much pollution - so she stuck to mints instead. Peppermints, to be specific - spearmint made her think of the dentist. She'd mentioned this offhandedly to Kuon once, before they started dating. After that, tins of peppermints started mysteriously appearing in her LoveMe locker twice a month. She'd been suspicious of them at first, fearing some sort of prank. But when she'd expressed her concerns to Kuon, he'd confessed that they were from him. It was an awkward, if sweet, conversation that ended with her being able to eat her mints without fear.

So in her day-to-day life, she would pop a mint in her mouth more often than not: between takes, in the car, and even when she was working at Daruma-ya. It was an almost nostalgic taste, but there was something sweeter to them now. Maybe it was because of where they'd come from. Being able to taste one in the middle of a rough day was almost like - well, she tried not to think of that, lest she blush too much.

Now that they were dating, she found herself in need of those mints more and more often. Sure, there was the fact that she was working longer hours now - and so needed something to keep her feeling fresh - but there was another, far more exciting reason as well. Namely, that she knew how he tasted.

She'd been very shy when they first started kissing. She's only ever kissed him, after all (anteaters don't count), so she didn't know if she was any good. Kuon, who was convinced that any kiss from Kyoko was a good kiss, was nonetheless more than willing to help her practice.

Unbeknownst to Kyoko, her nervous mint-crunching before they made out was having a very Pavlovian effect on Kuon. Namely, that he now associated the smell of peppermint with Kyoko. Specifically, with intimate, loving times with Kyoko. This presented something of a problem once December hit.

Everywhere he went, he smelled her. She was in the air when he was filming a commercial in a department store, but when he turned it was just a candle. She was behind him when he was walking to the car, but it was just Yashiro's peppermint mocha. She was across from him on set, but she wasn't - the actress playing his love interest just wore a seasonal perfume. (He'd received an award for that performance.) She was there, but she wasn't. She was in every red-and-white striped decoration he saw, every winter-cold breath that he took.

He felt like a man possessed.

Worse, she'd left him a gift in his bag one day - a cute gesture to mirror the ones he'd left her. It was, of course, a tin of peppermints. So now he could taste her, too, when she wasn't around. Except it wasn't the same - there was no contrast between chilled mint and her warm breath. The brand was also different, but that was another matter.

Then she'd started wearing more red and white. He had to brush this off as mere coincidence. Kyoko was surely just wearing more festive colors. She even beamed and told him about how she'd gotten one striped sweater at a thrift store for 300 yen. But they were on the way to work, so all he could do was smile back and tell her how nice it looked on her.

But he started to doubt himself when he caught a whiff of her new body wash: peppermint. Again, he tried to argue with himself that it was just her getting into the spirit of the season. It was not, he told himself as he hunted down that same body wash to stock in his spare bathroom, not a deliberate attempt to torture him. Not her attempt at seduction.

When she made peppermint chocolate cookies in his kitchen one day, he was convinced she was doing this on purpose. She had to be. Especially when she took a bite of one, fresh from the oven, and exclaimed about how good it was… then offered him a taste.

Well, he certainly had a taste. She just hadn't expected him to sample the flavor left in her mouth. Not that she had any complaints - at least, not until the timer went off, and she had to get the next tray out of the oven.

(One of her presents that year was a shaved ice maker with peppermint flavor syrup - so she could enjoy her extra minty snow. She loved it so much that her shaved ice had melted before she could pull herself away to eat it.)