A very merry Christmas to all of you! ^.^

Firstly, this story is the sort of fluff that I'd be ashamed of writing at any other time of the year. However, among other more important things, Christmas is about unashamed sentimentality, and this is piece is unashamedly sentimental. So, I hope you enjoy it, because I had fun writing it. I suspect it's like Christmas candy - very sweet and enjoyable, but not at all good for me. ^.^

Secondly, you have to download 'Christmas Night' from http://withthewill.myrmid.com and listen to it while you're reading this story! It sets the scene so perfectly, and it is just a beautiful song . . . .

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ONE CHRISTMAS EVE

"Don't be an idiot. You know she's not coming tonight," Takeru told himself, as he rummaged through the bottom of his cupboard for his ice-skates. He found them buried beneath a deflated basketball and the volcano he had made for science class. Blowing the dust off one of them, he held it up against his foot a little dubiously. He knew he had grown since he had last worn his skates and he didn't want to spend the rest of his holidays limping around his apartment. Amazingly, it still seemed about the right size for him, "Not that it matters. Hikari's not going to come this time. . . ."

Ever since he had moved back to Odaiba, just under three years ago, he and Hikari had gone skating in the park on Christmas Eve. After that, they had returned to her apartment for hot chocolate and her mother's fruit-cake (which had always been burnt) and had kept each other awake until midnight brought in Christmas Day. It had become as much of a Christmas tradition as paper-chains or pine trees or presents, and it had made him look forward to Christmas Eve almost as much as he did to the day itself.

This year, however, everything was different. This year, Hikari had fallen in love for the first time with a boy by the name of Tanaka Hiroshi. And, as much as he wished he could hate him, Takeru knew he was a decent guy. They had basketball practice together - even though Hiroshi was in the second team and then only as a substitute - and he had gotten to know him fairly well. He was always the first to volunteer for anything, no matter how boring or difficult. He never played selfishly - he was always prepared to pass the ball and let someone else take the credit together with the shot. He helped his father in his bakery in the afternoons and over the weekends. He worked hard in class and got good marks, although it didn't come easily to him. And he really did love Hikari as much as she deserved. They had been a couple for three months now, and they were happy together. He wished he could be pleased for them, but thinking about her relationship with Hiroshi just caused a cold, sick feeling in the pit of his stomach.

Takeru had been in love with Yagami Hikari since a time before he had known what he felt for her was love. When he had been eight, he had had no way of describing what he felt for Yagami Hikari. It had been different to what he felt for his family and Patamon, yet it had been no less powerful. He had known he would die for her, but it took him many more years to realise he wanted to live for her as well. Then, he had spent many nights standing in front of the mirror and trying to find the right words to tell her he loved her, but all of them had seemed clumsy and stupid to him. He had known she would laugh at him, reject him, say she loved somebody else. Anyway, it was too late now. Hikari was with Hiroshi; she loved him; and he would have to find some way of dealing with it.

As he got to his feet and swung his skates over his shoulder, he wondered if she would go skating with Hiroshi before waiting with him for Christmas to come. Even if she didn't, she would have some other plans with him. Christmas was a time for couples, not for best friends. Hikari would want to spend it with her boyfriend; she should want to spend it with him. Takeru knew he was being selfish by wanting her to be with him, and it only made him feel worse.

"I won't say anything to her tomorrow when I go around to her house to give her her present," he resolved, "I'll be cool, as nii-san likes to say." 

He tried to smile at his reflection but didn't quite manage it. The boy in the mirror gave him a smile that looked as forced as it was. He was a tall, sweet-looking blond with eyes the clear, pure colour of the winter sky. He was wearing a red, v-necked jersey over a pair of washed and faded jeans. On his head, he had a Christmas hat with a bell attached the end that jingled when he moved. He had tried to convince Hikari that it had stopped being cute once he had hit puberty, but she had always just laughed and pulled it onto his head. It's still cute, Takeru. You're still cute. Even though he knew she had not meant it any romantic way, the memory made him feel like he had a block of ice in his chest, cold and heavy.

With a sigh, he turned from the mirror and walked through to the lounge to wait for the girl he knew was not going to come. Outside the window, snowflakes drifted down from the sky. They glimmered in the street-lights with frozen beauty, so that it seemed like the air itself was sparkling. It would be a perfect night for skating.

Watching the snow fall, Takeru lost all track of time, so he did not know how long he had been waiting when the knock came on the door. A strange, wild hope rose in him, as he sprang to his feet and ran to answer it. Had Hikari decided to come, after all? Had she decided to spend Christmas Eve with him, rather than Hiroshi?

Hope faded, as common-sense reasserted itself. It was probably his kaa-san. She had said she would be late at the paper that night, assisting with the special edition that was to come out on Christmas Day, but she might have finished early and decided to come home.

"I'm opening, kaa-san," he called, unlocking the door and unlatching the chain, "Did you finish . . . . ."

The words froze in his mouth, when he saw Hikari standing on the doorstep. She was wearing a long, white sweater that was decorated with a subtle pattern of silver snowflakes over her breasts. Beneath it, she wore tight, black leggings, and a set of gleaming, white skates hung from her hands. She wore the slightest suggestion of pearly-pink gloss on her lips and her cheeks were flushed from the cold. Snowdust sparkled in her hair.

"Hey, Takeru," she said, "I'm sorry I'm late."

"No problem," he tried to keep his voice casual, but knew he must have sounded stunned, "Um, anyway, you probably wanted to see Hiroshi before you came here."

"Actually, kaa-san  made me go to the store to buy ingredients for gingerbread men," she explained with an apologetic smile, "She's trying something new this year. If you know what's good for you, you'll pretend you aren't hungry. It takes her forever to get any recipe right."

"I'll remember that," Takeru laughed, but added in serious tones, "Hey, Hika, it's not that I'm not glad to see you, but . . . wouldn't you rather be spending tonight with . . . your boyfriend? You really don't have to spent it with me, you know."

"I broke up with him," her brown eyes met his blue ones levelly, as if daring him to comment. Takeru was too stunned to speak. For the past three months, he had selfishly hoped to hear her say those exact words. He had hoped she would tell him it was over and that he would have a second chance with her. He had never expected to hear them that night, though, any more than he had expected to see her on his doorstep.

"Er, I'm sorry," he took refuge in the polite lie, but knew she could see straight through it.

"I'm not," Hikari gave him a slight, wry smile, "He's a sweet guy, but he's not the right one for me. It took me a long time to work it out, but I knew I couldn't stay with him when I did. Hiroshi deserves someone who loves him as much as he loves her. And I didn't."

"Um, you didn't?"

"Nope."

"So, uh, what made you realise it?"

He could feel his heart pounding in his chest, as if he knew what would happen before it did. A single step closed the distance between them, and Hikari kissed him. It was a soft, cool kiss, like the brush of snow against his lips. Warmth spreading through him, he slipped his arms around her waist to return the kiss. He could hear the silvery sound of his hat's bell ringing, but it sounded as if it were a million miles away from him. When she broke away from him, she smiled at him and said, "Let's just say . . . I realised that some traditions shouldn't be broken."