Rocky sat to the side of the lookout yard as Rubble and Zuma scrambled to amass as many snowballs as possible, hiding behind their crudely constructed snow forts as snow showered the lookout yard, giving them ample amounts of ammunition. It actually made Rocky happy to see them both relatively unscathed by the nightmarish months that had come to pass. And although they were still cold to him, they had no trouble warming up to eachother.

Skye was down at City hall doing some last minute shopping leaving Rocky without any friendly faces to talk to, or more importantly, help him with his plan. The sun was not working in his favor either, already making it's decent behind the snow-covered mountains.

Uncertainty swarmed his thoughts as he tried to organize everything he needed to set up before Skye returned. Their were doubts whether or not he could accomplish everything in time, if he could even enlist one of the pups to help him, if Skye would except his special gift for her or leave him alone in the cold.

Even though she had been supportive as his wounds healed, and seldom brought up the incident that led to them, he felt increasingly uncertain about where he stood with her. She was still supportive and made herself available if he needed to talk. She was like an overly emotionally evolved friend carring for him as he recovered. Though he appreciated it, he never gave her a reason to treat him this well, never gave her what it was she really wanted from him, the only thing she asked in return if there was any hope of a future for them. She wanted the hardest things for Rocky to give her, honesty and vulnerability.

It was his choice to make. She made that perfectly clear at the hospital. And so she left the pivotal question in his paws to come to terms with and, in her words, decide what it is he truley wanted.

This unanswered request still loomed over their fragile relationship. And from what Rocky could tell, Skye was doing her best to avoid bringing it up. Whether she was scared of his answer, or if she was simply giving him space to decide, he didn't know. He did know, however, that he needed to make one fast. Even if that ment opening up to her about his dark side, realizing that the world would be a much darker, colder place without her.

A growing sense of urgency flushed Rocky and pushed him to take closer steps towards Zuma and Rubble playing carelessly in the yard. With a sense of delusional happiness that Rocky thought impossible for any of them to retain after everything that happened. It was infectious though, and Rocky had to restrain his puppy side from running over and joining in on the war. It hurt that he couldn't. Gaining their trust back, it wasn't that simple. And though he fully intended to make amends with every member in his own time, he needed to speed the process up with the two of them, for Skye's sake and his own.

Taking care not to get caught in the crossfire, Rocky scampered towards Zuma's base; which was a five foot wall with little twigs sticking out of it's face. He reached the cover of the base, and although the wall did it's job of keeping him protected, he had never felt more vulnerable than he did now in Zuma's presence. His anxiety grew as Zuma was about to hurl another snowball at Rubble when he noticed him.

"Time out!" Zuma called over the wall and turned his full attention on Rocky. All of the joyous laughter and glee had left Zuma, instead he adopted a guarded stance. Before Zuma could get anything out, Rubble had joined them with a displeased frown on his muzzle.

"What do you want? Rubble sneered, looking over Rocky with disgust.

Rocky shrunk lower to the ground as he tried to find his voice. "I wanted. . . I wanted to apologize —"

"Ha. It's Chase you should be apologizing to. If your even sorry at all." Rubble said narrowing his eyes.

"Ovcourse I am!" Rocky said as convincingly as he could. "I never wanted—"

"Never wanted what? To attack our leader? It's a little late for that."

Rubble's words cut him deep. And when he looked to Zuma for help, the labrador merely shook his head disapprovingly.

"Stay away from us. C'mon Zuma." Rubble said starting to head inside but stopped when Zuma didn't respond, nor did he move.

Rocky watched Zuma intently, suprised that he hadn't immediately gone with Rubble. His body was tense. Seemingly rooted in place and only moving with the rise and fall of his chest. He looked back and forth between Rubble and Rocky. The mix could have sworn he could hear the debate going on inside of Zuma as he struggled to decide.

"Zuma?" Rubble said again growing impatient.

"I'll catch up with you. . . latew." Zuma said lowering his head.

"Whatever." Rubble scoffed. "Just be careful." He shot Rocky a angry glare.

Rocky watched astonished as Rubble stormed off, kicking up snow and heading for the lookout.

This left a quiet chocolate lab alone with Rocky. The air was thick between them, neither pup remembering when they had spoken last, if at all, during a time when they needed eachother the most. Rocky could feel it, the growing rift between them.

Finally a squeak left Zuma's steal trapped muzzle. "Why?"

"What?" Rocky asked, feeling increasingly on guard.

"I need to know why you did what you did. That's the only way I can fowgive you."

Ovcourse it came to that. Ovcourse he would ask the hardest, most challenging and complex question for Rocky to answer. A question he himself hadn't began to come up with any kind of answer that made him feelrelief or justification for his actions. They were all hollow and lacked the normal sound judgment that he carried with him.

"Zuma, I-I don't know." He sighed, watching his breath spread and dissipate into the cool air.

"Give me something, Wocky, any reason why I should trust you again." Zuma said pleadingly, shakily. It looked like his whole body was vibrating under his fur.

"Because. . . I could never hurt you, Zuma. You're too important to me."

"You hurt Chase." His words were razor sharp.

"I wasn't in control." Rocky said bitterly.

"And now you awe?" He continued to pry.

"More than I was before." He said half heartedly.

"Have you talked to the Doctow about it? What did he say it was?"

"It's complicated. But he called it an. . . anxiety disorder." Rocky said trying to remember the term. This was all so new to him, to everyone.

"I have one too you know, what is it about youw's that caused you to huwt Chase?"

"I don't know, Zuma!" Rocky barked, dejected, " Do you think I haven't been trying to figure that out? Trying to be absolutely certain that I won't hurt anyone else?" Rocky looked at the snow, hating the position he was in now. "He won't let me rest until then."

Zuma sat in silence processing everything. "Him?"

Rocky looked down as anxiety crawled up his throat. "The voice. . .the one that terrifies me. Crushes me. . . with pressure until I have no choice but to listen. He makes me question, makes me doubt everything that matters to me."

"He contwols you." Zuma said watching him sadly. Lowering his ears to the ground at Rocky's slow nod. Zuma looked nervously at him.

"Does Skye know?"

"I'm . . . working on it."

Zuma opened his mouth to respond, but there was nothing he could offer up in return.

"I can't loose her, Zuma. I will do whatever it takes, but I can't do it without your help."

"Do what? What awe you planning?" Zuma said tilting his head to the side.

"Something to fix this." Rocky said full of determined.

Whether it was Rocky's confession, Christmas spirit, or a combination of the two, Zuma placed a paw on his friends shoulder and smiled. "How can I help?"

7:00 p.m

"She's coming, get weady, Wocky."

Zuma called, rushing over to him.

Rocky was fiddling with his tie, which was giving him plenty of trouble, but it kept his mind distracted at the very least. Zuma reached him and helped, and together they made it work. Rocky looked over himself and presented himself to Zuma. "Do I look okay?"

A confirming nod from Zuma quelled some, but not all, of his anxiety to a subtle buzzing in his chest. He felt a paw on his shoulder. Zuma looking at him with a reassuring smile. "Good luck, dude."

Rocky watched as Zuma ran for the lookout, and called out to him, "Thank you!" But wasn't convinced that he heard him with the noise Skye's helicopter made as she landed. Quietly he took in a deep breath and approached cautiously.

"Hi, sorry I'm late." Skye began grabbing her bags and jumping out of her vehicle. "There was a long line. . .at. . .the store." She trailed off fully taking in the details of Rocky, and the shinning yard.

A black dress shirt hugged his form, peaking out from underneath his slightly crooked scarlet red tie. With a ridiculously cute Santa's hat resting on his good ear.

Skye didn't know whether to giggle or pounce on him, but she lost her breath looking past him to the sparkling and bright yard.

White lights draped down from the balcony, to her pup-house. A trail of the twinkling lights hung overhead from her pup-house to a tree further away in the yard, where a single table tucked neatly underneath it with a circle of lights around it's perimeter.

"Merry Christmas, Skye." Rocky said, pulling her out of a dream-like trance. But he felt uneasy when her full attention was drawn to him with the face she wore. She looked ready to cry, or scream, or faint. Rocky couldn't tell but was not fully prepared for all of her emotions to be unleashed on him. They hadn't even had dinner yet.

"Rocky. . .this is beautiful." She said putting her paws up to her cheeks. She seemed to come down from the wave of excitement she had been riding and came closer to Rocky wearing an infectiously sweet smile.

They were inches apart, the closest they had been in weeks. Rocky looked down at her hesitantly as she straightened his tie. "You look beautiful, too." She said looking up to him holding his tie loosely in her paw. Feeling his cheeks burn he mumbled out a thank you, and diverted his attention to the table.

"We should eat, before the food gets cold." He smiled shakily taking her paw in his and followed the gleaming lights overhead to their table.

As the got closer Skye noticed the two silver domes on either end of the table, separated by a slowly burning candle.

"You cooked too?" She gasped.

"I should've." Rocky grumbled to himself. "No, I ordered it from Mr. Porters." He said, feeling the slight vibrations coming from Skye as she giggled. It calmed him.

Rocky pulled Skye's chair out for her, taking his own seat and placing his hat on the table.

A comfortable silence washed over them. Both of them lifted up the domes covering their food. Rocky inhaled, letting the aroma of Mr. Porter's specialty burgers warm his insides. He had concerns about the food he chose, having deliberated obsessively back and forth about the perfect meal for their night, among other things. But after seeing Skye's entire body go slack after her first bite, he knew it was the right choice.

The food was gone far to quickly but it had undoubtedly satiated Rocky's more primal needs.

It was quiet at the table. While Rocky half heartedly tried to fight off the food coma that was setting in. Skye had her paws resting under her chin, gazing up at the millions of stars shining down on them.

"Thank you, Rocky, this was the nicest gift anyone has ever given me." She looked down to her side, unsure about something, looking undecisive. "I shouldn't bother giving you my gift."

The guilt Rocky felt set on instantly, and it spread through his body like poison. This was too much, she was overwhelmed and he wasn't even finished yet. Rocky reached his paws out hastily and took hold of Skye's.

"Ovcourse I want it." He said trying to sound as sincere as possible. He gave her paws a squeeze, never loosing her gaze. "Please?"

She nodded and reached down and picked up the silver bag. Rocky noticed her apprehension as she placed the bag on the table and pushed it over to him. Carefully he pulled out the overflowing red wrapping paper and dug deeper into the bag, pulling out something, something small, small and silky smooth. When his gift was visible under the lights, he felta warmth surge through him.

A crystal heart, shinning brilliantly under the lights rested in his paw. It was divided down the center with a small but noticeable line. Each half was enscribed with the letter S and R respectively.he didn't dare fight the growing smile that formed across his muzzle.

"I love it." He said examining it closer and tilted his head to the side, confused, " Why are their two strings attached to it?" He wondered out loud. Skye reached over and took the heart from him and held it in her paws delicately.

"Watch." She said and pulled the two halves apart and then stuck them back together with what Rocky assumed to be a magnet. She reached her paw out and handed Rocky back the necklace.

"Now you'll know, that no matter what happens, you'll always have my heart, and that I will always support you."

Her words were beautiful, heartwarming, and reassuring. But above all, they served as a glaring reminder that it was time, time for him to make a decision. He couldn't continue to avoid it after this. Rocky looked at a silently awaiting Skye, and opened his mouth to speak. Anxiety was quick to suffocate him. His paws shook as he delicately placed the necklace back in the box and hid his paws under the table.

"Skye." His voice came out as a nervous squeak. He cleared his throat and regretted wearing his tie as it squeezed around his neck.

"I know. . . I know we haven't talked . . .about us since the hospital. I know I haven't made a decision." The words came easier now in a smooth flow. "I want to, well I think I'm ready."

He brought his paws up to his face frustratedly. This was so much easier rehearsing it to himself in the mirror. "Skye, I want to try. I want to make us work."

She gave him a small smile as he fidgeting in his seat, as if communicating to him that she was proud of the steps he was taking, or finally noticed just how uncomfortable he was getting. Rocky didn't have to guess what was coming next as Skye pushed him along.

"Then let me in. Trust me enough to have your heart and keep it safe. I'm ready, are you?"

Rocky nodded as he sucked in breath after breath. It was now or never. He pulled the two halves apart. Ready to let his guard down and tell her. " . . . I have a disorder, but it feels like something . . . Something inside of me. A monster."

"It . . . the things it says. . .the things it shows me, makes me feel." The words came easier now, flowed smoother as his guard sank to the ground. " It attacks, everything, that is important to me. And there is nothing more important than you."

He paused trying to guage Skye's reaction. She was silent, looking at him strangely but without judgement. Rocky was suprised she was still listening, and not running away as fast as possible.

"That night, it convinced me that I would loose you, that Chase would steal you away from me . . . I couldn't . . . I had to —"

"That's why you attacked Chase," Skye finished.

Rocky nodded keeping his head low, he couldn't bare to look at her as he uttered out the last of it. "I let it consume me. I was terrified to tell you, I knew you wouldn't understand and I'd just scare you away."

He never looked up, he was much to afraid of what he would see. He never noticed Skye get up out of her chair, or when she was standing infront of him. It was only until she lifted his chin up with her paw that he met her gaze again.

It was Skye's turn to be brave. "I'm curious, just how much it would scare you," she began hesitantly, "if I told you I understood. That you're not the only one that has a monster in your head-" She cupped his head in her paws- "I have my own disorder you know."

"But I choose to fight it, every day. And you have that same choice, Rocky." She rubbed her paws against his fluffy cheeks. "Are you going to fight it, for you, for us? Or will you let it consume you?"

Rocky was scared, uncertain of the future, and conflicted as to if fighting was even possible. The one thing he was certain of was Skye. He knew he could fight the good fight with her by his side. And so for the second time, he made another silent promise; to protect her, to support her, and love her no matter the cost.

"For us" he whispered, taking her in his arms, leaning closer to her until they were inches apart, and waited.

"Rocky." Skye breathed out, closing the distance between them and letting their lips come together, and though the snow continued to fall, the warmth between them kept the cold at bay.