Author's Note: I don't really have a lot to say right now, so I'm going to just leave you to the story for now. Thanks for the continued support!

As Lovers Do

Chapter Three

It was already beginning to snow when she stepped out of her apartment on that chilly winter afternoon. The snow blurred the ceilings of the colony with a grey haze that Hilde had to admit was slightly eerie. But she lifted her chin upwards to break through the cool breeze stinging at her exposed skin and let her eyes drift outwards towards the growing piles of the soft white snow. A few of the crystalline flakes were clinging to the ends of her hair, sticking out against the raven locks as a stark contrast to the rich color of her hair.

The snow had been falling all night and, rather than let the weather get her down, Hilde buttoned up her lovely sapphire jacket and locked the door behind her. Her white scarf was flying outwards and away from her in the breeze and she adjusted it, as well, making sure that the knot was safe and secure.

Hilde exhaled, letting her eyes follow the small white puffs of air that had escaped from her lips towards the ceiling. Her hands were in her pockets and the only sounds that she allowed herself to concentrate on were the occasional crunches of her boots in the snow. She had a rather long way to go before she would reach her final destination, but she was beginning to adjust to the cool air and had decided to walk. What was five blocks when the first winter snow was falling pleasantly and you had the most wonderful opportunity to enjoy it?

So she continued down the street with a pleasant smile on her face, keeping an even and steady pace. She expertly maneuvered her way through the growing crowds of people as she grew closer to the main shopping district, making sure not to separate shoppers from their bags or children from their mothers in her long strides and quick sidesteps. The atmosphere around the holidays was really something to be noticed; people seemed so much happier, despite the cold weather and overcrowded shopping lines.

On that day, she had set out to purchase two dresses; one to wear to Relena's formal Christmas Ball and the other for the New Year's Eve party that the other woman had assured her would be reserved only for close friends. If she happened to find the appropriate shoes and accessories to accompany the two outfits, well, that would be just icing on the proverbial cake of her shopping trip.

Hilde had decided that her best bet would be to begin at a department store and rely on one of the sales associates to help her pick one out. Dress shopping wasn't something that the young woman had ever spent much time in her life doing and trying to determine the style, size, and color that would best suit her only left Hilde feeling frustrated before she had even begun her search. And frustration was certainly the last emotion that Hilde was looking forward to feeling on that day.

Biting her lower lip a bit nervously, the small girl with dark hair and cheeks rosy from the five blocks she had walked to make it downtown ran her gloved fingers across the handle of a doorway that would let her into the mall. She stepped across the threshold, walking forward and out of the way of many other shoppers bustling into the building around and behind her.

The ceilings were high, the skylights covered in a fresh blanket of snow. But the artificial lighting was enough to keep the building lit well enough and the Christmas lighting and decorations brightened the areas left dark by the lack of sunlight. Loosening the scarf around her neck and unbuttoning the heavy coat that she had worn, Hilde walked forwards, letting her eyes scan the different shops and stores for one that looked as though it might be able to help her.

She finally decided on a used dress store that was tucked away in the back corner of one of the long, winding hallways. The entire area was much less crowded than the rest of the mall had been and Hilde determined that it had to do with the lack of toy stores in the general vicinity. But she stepped inside the store, smiling at the sales clerk her greeted her with an enthusiastic, "Hello! How are you?" and a warm smile.

"Fine, thank you," her voice was soft, flowing with an uncertain sweetness she always reserved for strangers. She stood in the center of the store, looking a bit confused as she noticed that there were probably thousands of 

dresses surrounding her. With a bit more interest in the woman behind the counter, Hilde questioned, "How about yourself?"

There was no one in the store, save Hilde and the tall, graceful blonde behind the counter. She seemed slightly busy, thumbing through a magazine of some sort; but Hilde saw that it was a book of sales receipts and sizing information. But Hilde felt lost among all of the dresses, organized by color and arranged by size. There were a few mannequins dressed in lovely shades of bright red and forest green; for the holidays no doubt.

"Wonderful, thanks!" the girl smiled, finally setting the book down on her stool and walking out from behind the counter. She walked over to Hilde and spoke again, "I'm sorry about that! Can I help you find something?"

Hilde studied the woman in front of her carefully, noticing the khaki color of her pants and vibrant shade of green in her shirt. There was a white tape measure around the girl's neck; her nametag read Chloe. And Hilde sighed gratefully, liking the girl in front of her almost immediately, "I'm not really sure where to begin. I have two formal parties two attend and, since they are in the same place, I'm going to need two dresses."

With a smile the saleswoman took a few steps backwards and crossed her arms over her chest, studying Hilde with a new form of interest. She patiently tapped her right foot on the ground, as her body weight rested on her left leg. Finally, she laughed, breaking through the silence that had settled between the two women, "In that case, we should probably get started. Follow me!"

Doing as she was told, Hilde went to follow the sales women. The other girl's hands were fast at work, pulling dresses in protective slipcovers apart to expose new dresses in shapes and colors Hilde couldn't have previously imagined. The entire time she was at work, Hilde stood behind her, answering the woman's questions about how formal the occasion was, what colors she preferred, if she had a price range, how long she wanted the dresses to be and if she would be attending alone. The raven haired woman obliged, offering as many details as she thought were necessary to help the blonde woman find the perfect dress for her.

There were three dresses in her arms when she finally decided to dismiss Hilde to the fitting rooms. Thirty minutes and seven dresses later, Hilde emerged in a beautiful floor-length ball gown that accented her lovely pale skin and hair so dark that violet streaks could be seen running through it. The color was something between gold and champagne, the material it was made out of was silky under Hilde's touch. Stepping onto the platform in the center of the store and looking at her reflection in the three pained mirror, the lovely young woman gasped at what she saw.

The silk strapless gown had a ruched bodice with beaded lace and embroidered appliqués decorating the top, just above her breasts. The tight fit over her torso accented her tiny waist and slightly wider hips. The silky material slid down her thighs like water, as more beaded lace wrapped around her waist. The embroidered appliqués slid down the dress, splitting apart and continuing around the back and bottom of the dress to expose a rather large slit up Hilde's left thigh.

"Wow," Chloe raised an eyebrow, pressing her index finger to her lips as she studied the girl in front of her. The way that the dress shimmered in the light made it seem as though the girl standing in front of her was some sort of royalty. Clearing her throat, the sales clerk finished buttoning the last of the small silk buttons at Hilde's back and smiled, "It fits you so perfectly, almost like this dress were made for you!"

Blinking a few times, as though she needed to be sure that it was really her reflection she was looking at in the mirror, Hilde took a shaky breath. She smoothed the silky fabric down over her hips and, finally, smiled, "Yes, I think this one is perfect!"

Thirteen more dresses and another hour later, Hilde had two dresses safely wrapped in their plastic slipcases and the shoes and accessories to go with each. She paid the clerk, thanking her profusely before exiting the shop and heading back towards the center of the mall. The young woman planned to take a cab back to her apartment, knowing that it wouldn't have been a very good idea to let the dresses weather the snow. And, as she finally hailed her cab, Hilde slid into the backseat and wondered what Duo would think of her dresses.

But it was foolish to get her hopes up and let herself believe that he was going to be there. It had been over a year since she had even heard anything of him. But if Duo wasn't going to be at Relena's Christmas party, why had Hilde been invited?