The entire world was white and crystalline. Snow covered everything, including the planes, helicopters, and any ground vehicles not in the motor pool. Christmas was only a couple of days away, and Cobra had just two weeks ago been thrashed rather soundly, so they were laying low. Overall, the day seemed crafted for winter leisure.
Shana glanced toward the woods of the training grounds where she and Conrad had shared their first kiss. Almost instantly, she could swear she heard the tune to "Winter Wonderland". She knew if she told anyone that she was hearing it audibly, they'd have her committed, but for now, she simply enjoyed it.
Suddenly, Conrad appeared next to her, whistling until she looked at him in amused disbelief. Then he couldn't keep from cracking up. She'd told him before that one of her favorite Christmas tunes was that song; and here he was, whistling it! She hadn't been hearing things, after all. They both burst out laughing at the situation.
Conrad quickly kissed her before saying, "The motor pool decided to build a sledding hill. Care to join me?"
"When did they do that?!" Shana smiled at the idea of sledding; it thrilled her. Growing up in Georgia didn't exactly present one with many sledding opportunities, after all.
"About half an hour ago."
"And you're just now asking me?!" she crabbed in jest.
"Well, yeah; it took me this long to find you. When you were ten minutes late for lunchtime, I knew something was up. So I went looking for you. Found you, too." he stated proudly with a wide grin on his face.
"Yes, you did. I'm so proud. Take me sledding before I hit you." She returned the smile.
They went to the ramp made of snow. Courtney had piled it with a bulldozer, as if she were constructing an earthen ramp, then Clutch and Cross-Country had taken turns driven various tanks over it to pack the snow down. To complete it, they simply threw a ladder to the top against the sides. At this point, sleds were flying down at speeds one usually associated with a need for safety equipment. Naturally, none was anywhere to be seen; though, to the planners' credit, a jeep sat near the bottom of the hill, ready to rush any lunatic unfortunate enough to hurt himself to the infirmary.
The couple climbed the ladder and grabbed a couple of flat sleds, the kind one could roll up when the snow was gone. Then, just before "launch", Conrad reached toward Shana. She looked at his hand in confusion at first, then smiled and took his hand. Then, joined hand-in-hand, they slid down the hill.
As they zoomed down the hill, Shana felt as though she were in her Sky Striker with no canopy…or nose…or wings, or gear - just the engines. She felt Conrad's grip tighten on her wrist. So, the speed was getting to him, too. That was reassuring.
Their initial perceptions to the contrary, they reached the bottom safely and agreed to turn their sleds over to other, more insane Joes. Now it was Shana's turn to suggest an activity. "Let's go back to the training grounds and make a snowman!"
Conrad thought for a second, during which time he got a mischievous smirk on his face, then nodded his agreement. They walked back and began to roll the bottom part of the snowman. Conrad stopped helping her after a minute and began to work on another.
"Hey, Mr. Muscles, shouldn't we finish this part before beginning on the upper stages?"
He put the small sphere down and began again.
"And that's way too small to use for a decent-sized snowman."
"You're right." He put it down next to the first and made a third one.
Shana, who still hadn't caught on, posted one hand on her hip as she asked, "Well, are you going to answer me? You know, the "finish bottom' question?"
"Again, you're right." He was now making a fifth.
"Then what on earth are you- oh, no, don't you dare, Conr-!"
Her plea had been cut off by a snowball hitting her squarely under the arm. The padding of her winter coat meant it didn't hurt a bit, but it was the principle of the thing.
"Or what, Shana?" One would think that he'd know better than to taunt her after his actions, but Conrad evidently thought she wouldn't retaliate.
She immediately scooped up a bunch of snow, packed it tightly, and lobbed it at him, hitting him perfectly over his heart. His stunned look was answered with a smug smirk of her own.
"Oh, it's on." he said as he began picking up the small arsenal he'd made. Shana immediately took up the arms race and rapidly packed several snowballs. "So, Conrad, is this the new Cold War?"
Silence answered her, until she glanced up and saw the mock-dirty look he was giving her. "I thought it was funny."
"Of course you did – it was your joke."
The snowball fight continued for another fifteen minutes, after which they actually finished the snowman. Shana couldn't help but sing the part of "Winter Wonderland" about the snowman, winking at Conrad as she sang the last line of the segment.
At this point, the cold and damp were starting to penetrate her winter coat and gloves. She suggested they go back inside.
"Sure; it's only an hour or two until the Christmas party anyway. We can dry off and change; meet again there after that?"
She snickered. "It's a date."
An hour and a half later, the Christmas party began, catching Scarlett up to the present. Aside from some idle chitchat, the only noteworthy occurrence had been her reminiscence.
Her life was as happy now as it had ever been, and Conrad was part of that. She looked around the mess hall for him, but he had apparently turned invisible, because he was nowhere to be seen.
Suddenly, the lights dimmed. As her sensed flared into a heighted state of alertness, she heard the background music – "Winter Wonderland". Then a voice came over the PA system.
Conrad appeared in a brighter circle of light, holding a microphone and something else she couldn't clearly see. Whatever, it was, it was small; he held it wrapped in his hand.
He was approaching her. She realized he was speaking.
"I've heard that love has no special season, and I've found that to be true. As most of you know, over the past year, I've gotten to know Shana O'Hara. And I realized while thinking about our relationship that over this past year, each major milestone has progressed through the seasons. Our first date was in spring; we first told each other 'I love you' in summer; Our first kiss in autumn. There's one major milestone in each of those seasons, and I'd like to make this the milestone for this season."
He now stood in front of her. He kneeled and revealed the object in his other hand – a ring box. With his thumb, he pooped the box open gently, uncovering the gold ring adorned with a single luminous diamond.
"Shana O'Hara, I love you. I really do not know what I would do if you weren't in my life. I'd like you to be there permanently. Will you marry me?"
Time stood still. Shana's brain stopped working as her mouth started to open and close soundlessly. Finally, she managed to regain her wits before the silence became embarrassing.
Now Conrad did the same thing she'd done a moment before. His eyes asked, "Really?"
"Yes, I will marry you, Conrad Hauser. I can't imagine my life without you, either. And quite frankly, I don't care to try."
The silence was shattered as Joes all around them started whooping and cheering. Conrad placed the ring on her finger and a kiss on her lips, which was very happily reciprocated.
The party continued, complete with a gift exchange; Shana didn't pay any attention. After all, she had her gift, and it was the perfect one for the season.
A/N: I may continue it with an epilogue, but I haven't decided yet, so for now, it's complete.
Thank you, any who review or have already done so.