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by tbossjenn

Disclaimer: I don't own 'em. I just write fanfics about 'em.

"Ashitaka! Get up!"

The young man groaned and pushed away at the hand that was gently nudging him.

"Come on!"

The nudge turned into an impatient shove, and Ashitaka opened his eyes. "San, is it even morning yet?"

"Almost. Get up! I want to show you something." The wolf girl stood over him with her hands on her hips.

"All right." He stumbled out of bed and got dressed.

San grabbed his hand and pulled him outside. "Look."

Ashitaka was surprised to find himself crunching through snow, and it was still falling in big fat flakes. A fading moon hung in the sky; it would be daylight soon. He pulled the girl close to him and said, "It's wonderful, love. I'm glad you wanted me to see it. I'm glad you're here with me."

San snuggled against him contentedly. "See? The forest can be beautiful even in winter."

"Yes, but you're beautiful all the time, San."

She smiled and asked, "Are you cold?"

"Getting warmer."

"I can fix that," San said, stuffing snow down his shirt.

"Yaaahhh!" Ashitaka scrambled to get the snow out of his clothes while San fell over laughing, their voices echoing loudly across the stillness. Somewhere out in the woods, two white wolves glanced at each other and shook their heads. Humans.

Ashitaka grinned and said, "You'll pay for that, princess."

With a little squeak, San turned and ran. At first he was surprised because San never ran away from anything. Then he realized that it was all a game. If the fight was real, she would never run from him. The provocative look on her face was more than enough to make Ashitaka pursue her.

He plunged ahead through snow, his breath coming out in puffy clouds. Chasing her like this was exhilarating - he felt more alive at this moment than he could remember feeling in a long time. He had seen very little of her in the past few weeks because he had been in Iron Town visiting Toki and Korouku. Ashitaka was afraid San was angry with him, and when he returned to his home in the forest several days ago it seemed that his fear had come true. The wolf girl had kept her distance, until today.

Ashitaka was catching up to her now. San could easily outrun him, which meant she wanted him to catch her. Hmmm... He quickly bent down and scooped up some snow, fashioning it into a ball. Using his deadly warrior accuracy, he pelted her with it and she yelped in surprise. "Ashitaka!" He closed the distance between them and grabbed her from behind. The girl was laughing too hard to put up a fight. For a minute he just held her close, savoring the feel of her writhing form. San was so full of life.

Bending his head close to her ear, he said, "That wasn't fair. You put snow down my clothes, I should put some down yours!"

"No! Ashitaka! No!" she gasped, laughing. Ashitaka plopped her down into the deep snow, and she shrieked as the cold snow went up her dress.

"Had enough?"

"Yes!" San giggled. "Let me up before I freeze to death!"

Ashitaka became aware that he was kneeling above San, who suddenly looked very young with her cheeks flushed and snowflakes lightly glistening in her hair. Everything was quiet again, and the snow continued to fall. The sky had grown lighter. It was all magical. The young man reached out and touched her cheek, and San gazed back at him. Why had he been afraid she would stop loving him? He only had to look into her eyes to see that she would love him forever.

He bent down and kissed her. San's arms wound around his neck, holding him close against her. Neither were aware of the snow or the cold anymore. Only the two of them existed in this moment. "I missed you so much," San said. "Why were you gone so long?"

"Toki insisted. I couldn't say no."

"Next time you should try. Spending the winter with me wouldn't be so bad."

Ashitaka wanted to run his fingers through her hair, but he couldn't bring himself to ruin those snowflakes. "I'm sorry, I should have come back sooner."

"It's all right. Everything's fine now that we're together." She left a trail of kisses along his jawline, and his lips claimed hers once more.

Everything was so quiet.

"Ashitaka?" San breathed.

"Yes, my love?"

"I'm really cold."

Ashitaka chuckled softly. "Then let's go inside," he said, pulling San to her feet.

"Can I stay for awhile?"

"Yes, you can stay with me." He wanted to ask how long, but didn't. She never stayed more than a couple of days at a time. San was shivering, so he put his cloak around her shoulders and swept her up into his arms.

"What are you doing!?" she laughed, squirming and kicking.

"Carrying you back. I have to keep you warm, you know."

San stopped struggling and curled up against the young man, resting her cheek on his shoulder. "I love you, Ashitaka. Always."

"I love you, my beautiful princess." He kissed her as the snow continued to fall gently against the brightening sky.