A/N: I would like to take this opportunity to warn you, dear reader, of the perils of reading this last chapter. Embedded in the not-so-unfortunate events in this certain moment in the lives of Jeremiah "Orange" Gottwald and Sayoko Shinozaki is a tributive game of chess, mentions of their pink-haired adoptive daughter, a ring, and CHEESE. Many, many cheese.

But in case you are not willing to heed my warning, read on, my dearest reader. Complete the set of seven that you had, I assume, started in the hopes that the last chapter won't end as sappy romance.

But we can't help the sap if Jeremiah and Sayoko are involved am I right?

Did I sound like Lemony Snicket? 'Cause he's totally my idol.

Seven Christmas Firsts

Jeremiah + Sayoko

This is the first Christmas that they are not serving under anyone's command.

For some reason, it bothered Jeremiah that there was no royal party to attend to, that there was no royal dinner to assist a high-ranking officer with, and that there was no notice from the higher ranks of off-duty hours.

For some reason, it bothered Sayoko that there was no Christmas dinner to prepare, no Ashford Academy Christmas parties or balls to assist Milly or Lelouch or the student council with, and there was no notice from either Lelouch or Nunnally that she can skip the night and spend it with her family instead.

But Sayoko had no family anymore.

Jeremiah had since the completion of Zero Requiem resigned from military duties and started his own orange farm.

A few months after the Gottwald Orange Farms' foundation, she had turned up, inquiring for a job with Jeremiah and Anya.

Anya didn't mind in the least. Jeremiah was overjoyed.

Because he really wanted to get to know her.

Now, it was their first Christmas together, and... they are not serving under anyone's command. It felt different. It felt so free, yet nostalgic. This was the way things used to be before the war.

How long has it been since they didn't have to worry about anything else?

The two looked up from their chess game - a small tribute to Lelouch-sama, of course - when Anya passed by them holding a tray of treats for two. The girl gave them a small, polite smile.

"I hope you are having a good time."

The pink-haired girl stalked off and they both smiled back, nodding in acknowledgement. They went back to their game of chess and talked over the shared wine.

"I never really knew how it felt to be this free." Jeremiah's deep voice resounded as he moved his knight. Ever since entering the military and the royal guards... never did I imagine myself living a laidback life like this."

"Let us thank Lelouch-sama for that." Sayoko smiled fondly, remembering the teenage boy that she had assisted with firm loyalty. "He did everything for Nunnally-sama and everyone. I am glad to have served under him and gain his trust. It was almost hard to imagine him as someone who did all these changes back when I was still taking care of the Lamperouges, but he really proved everyone wrong."

"How was it?" Jeremiah asked back. "Serving the Lamperouge siblings, I mean."

"Every ounce of effort is worth it. Lelouch-sama is brilliant. Nunnally-sama is simply kind and loving. They both treat every person with respect."

"So that is how they gained your trust."

"My loyalty is unwavering."

"I am honored to get to know someone who thinks like me."

"To tell you the truth, I was surprised that you will serve under him. The 'Orange incident' supposedly destroyed your image-"

"I grew to appreciate it. See, now I'm planting oranges."

Sayoko giggled. "Yes. And I am officially a production manager in your farm. I really have to thank you for this."

"Stop that helplessly grateful aura, Sayoko." he looked at her, smiling. "I am open to all of my old comrades. Always."

"But it's more than that."

He looked at her and saw that she was wearing a radiant smile and that her eyes were spilling with honesty as she talked. "What do you mean?"

"You are a great man. You listened to everything I had to say when I was just recovering from all the sadness that Lelouch-sama's death brought. You offered me beforehand of a position in the farms. You welcomed me so warmly when I accepted your offer. You are a compassionate "boss" for your crew here, and have become a father-figure to Anya in just the course of weeks. The people who have needed you - you provided for them. You told me that you knew that this particular area is full of unemployed workers and war victims and so you gave them an opportunity to survive by opening numerous slots in the farm crew."

"This is too much flattery. I only did the best I can-"

"-to help others. And that's what makes you great." She smiled wider, reaching a hand to lay over his. "Someone has to eventually say this to you. I remember someone who used to tell me that I have to thank people and praise them for their greatest attributes, because it makes that person invigorated to continue his work. I hope you appreciate this little 'Thank You' from me, in behalf of everyone who I know owe you their thanks."

"Sayoko," he started, squeezing her hand. "I... well, you're welcome! I appreciate it. That's the least I can do to make up for my past sins. Besides, I'm not the only one who deserves thanks. You're someone great, too."

The woman nodded her head earnestly, looking fondly at their intertwined fingers, the chess game now completely forgotten.

They stayed like that for moments, the only sounds they heard was a hushed conversation between Anya and Gino outside, the chirping of crickets, and the whistles of the wind blowing outside.

"Um, I've been thinking..." Jeremiah started, a hand diving into his pocket and pulling out a small, red box. "I have to give you a Christmas gift, see. And..."

The box flipped open. Inside was a ring. Sayoko gasped lightly, her grip on his hand tightening for a second, before she blushed and let a stray finger brush against the golden ring and the diamond embedded in it.

"It's... beautiful."

It was too cliched, she knew that - but there really was no other word to describe it. Now she knew how it felt for love story heroines when they see an offered ring... There really was no other choice but to say that the ring is beautiful, particularly because it really is.

"I'm glad you think so. I was thankful for Anya's help in this, although she grumbled something about.. cheese. I didn't understand that part." he chuckled a bit, pulling out the ring and sliding it in her finger. She marveled at the jewellery as he put it on her.

"This is the first time someone's given me a ring..."

"Well, we're free now. We won't have to worry about the things that we have worried over in the past - we can.. commit ourselves to something new."

At that moment, an unspoken promise was made.

"I guess I'll have to agree." Sayoko said, leaning in to give him a brief kiss on the cheek-

"HEY, JEREMIAH! Would you mind if I-..... AAAAAHHHHHH~!!! I'm sorry! I'm sorry!"

Both jumped to see a flash of blonde hair barge in and then bolt out again.

"What?" they heard a muffled voice from the front porch.

"I just interrupted a private moment."

At the sound of Anya's light laughter, Sayoko looked at her new partner smilingly and Jeremiah could barely hold back his laugh. He tugged at her hand and she let him lead her outside to join Gino and Anya in their little celebration.

. F I N I S .

A/N: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for finishing this set. ILOVEYOUSOMUCH!

Anyways, I'm glad I was able to post this! Dang... I knew it. I knew knew knew that I'd end up finishing this long after Christmas. This is late, but at least I didn't post months after! :D

I love you guys - HAPPY NEW YEAR!