Disclaimer: Strike Witches is the property of Kyoto Animation and their respective partners. I am not making any money with this story.

Author's notes: This story is written in celebration of the Independence Day of Finland, sixth of December, 2010. The historical details in the story are factual, but those of you with a broader knowledge of history might notice that certain vital parts of history have been omitted or made more abstract due to their adaptation to the Strike Witches universe - for example, the October Revolution, which never took place. Nevertheless, should you spot something that you believe is crucially faulty, feel free to point it out for me.

With that said, enjoy.

Miyafuji Yoshika sneezed softly as she walked through the chilly hallways of the 501st Joint Fighter Wing base, her bare thighs shivering whenever a breeze pushed past her from some of the open doors or windows. It was the beginning of December - the first December she would be spending in a country other than Fuso - and she was just beginning to understand just how miserable the cold, dank winters of Britannia could be.

With another sneeze, she picked up the pace of her late-night stroll, tightening the shawl around her shoulders in response to her shivering. She hadn't set out to see anyone or anything in particular, walking around simply out of boredom, to tire her body before going to bed as was her habit. As such, coming across any of her fellow witches was always more or less of a surprise.

Such was the case tonight as well.

"Eila-san?" She had been walking past the kitchen, her feet subconsciously guiding her towards the familiar place before she had realized what she had been doing. She had intended to turn around and continue some other way, but the familiar figure sitting on the high kitchen chair had caused her to stop. The long, sand-blonde locks brushed lazily against her back as she turned her head just enough to get a glimpse of who was calling her name. And then, just as lazily, she turned her face to the original direction without even a word of acknowledgement, much less greeting. Had her sense of courtesy been any better, she would've probably walked away at that cue. However:

"Eila-san, whatever are you sitting in the kitchen for at this hour?" she asked, stepping inside the kitchen and making her way to the chair next to her. She was leaning against the kitchen table in a slumped position, her eyes staring into distance, past the small glass and the open bottle on the table before her. "Oi, Eila-san, you haven't fallen asleep or anything, have you?" Yoshika asked in a tad more worried tone, not understanding the significance of the things laid out in front of her.

"Miyafuji," the senior witch muttered, knitting her brows subtly. It was a statement, a greeting and a question, all crammed together in that single word. Her shoulders rose a little, as if she was putting up some kind of defence, but the gesture died midway. "Miyafuji," she repeated in a slightly warmer voice, her pronunciation a little off from its usual, prudent manner. "What are you walking around at this hour for?" she threw the question back at her in a witty tone.

"Just that," the Fuso witch replied with a smile. "Just walking around before curfew, that's all. But you, what are you doing?" Tilting her head, she looked at the glassware on the table, finally realizing they were there. "Are you planning to have a late-night snack or something?" An amused snort replied her.

"A late-night snack? Yeah, that's right; I'm having a Suomus-style late-night snack right now." With a grin, she reached for the bottle in front of her, and filled the small glass with exaggerated gestures.

"A Suomus-style snack?" She raised the glass in front of her eyes in response to her question. It was filled with clear liquid, its smell pricking her nostrils as she caught a whiff of it.

"Four centilitres of finest viina from Suomus, taken raw! Cheers!" With that, she brought the glass to her lips, and with one swift movement, gulped the liquid down. With a sharp sigh, she placed the glass down on the table.

"Vii-na?" Yoshika tried the unfamiliar word, peering closely at the large label on the bottle: Suomus, on one line, and the word she had just heard, viina, on the second. A grin she couldn't see spread on Eila's face.

"You wanna try it?" she asked, the sly mischievousness in her voice barely concealed. Had the target been anyone else, they would've no doubt caught scent of the trap and been sent off running, but Miyafuji Yoshika simply smiled enthusiastically, childlike curiosity shining off her eyes. Eila reached for another glass but filled it only half-way - she did have a conscience, after all. The younger girl took the glass in her hands and sniffed it cautiously, frowning.

"Smells strong," she noted.

"Tastes, too. That's why you gotta drink it in one go," Eila explained, expectation high in her voice. Yoshika nodded hesitantly, but raised the glass on her lips anyway. She had drunk fish oil, too - how bad could this be?

As soon as the burning liquid flowed down her throat, she realized just how bad it actually was.

"Well?" The Suomus witch asked, a mischievous grin on her face. "How is it?" A coughing fit so bad it almost doubled her over prevented her from answering her. With great effort, she managed to place the glass back on the table as she tried to get her breath back, tears pricking in her eyes. Seeing her pathetic state, Eila couldn't hold herself back any longer, bursting to mischievous laughter.

"W-wh-what was t-that?" Yoshika asked as soon as she got her voice working again. The burning sensation had flowed from her throat to the pit of her stomach, and she could feel it slowly creeping to her entire body - she could even feel her cheeks reddening. Eila wiped a tear of laughter off the corner of her eye and grinned.

"Oh, you know," Eila replied, shrugging. "Booze, spirits, liquor- whatever you want to call your alcohol. Viina is what we call it in Suomus." Yoshika's hands flew on her mouth, her eyes widening in terror.

"A-alcohol?" she stuttered in a startled tone, taking an involuntary step backwards. "And, and you made me drink it? B-but, Major Sakamoto has prohibited all use of alcohol! Oh no, oh no, oh no…!" The blonde witch waved her hand at her, dismissing her panic.

"Oh, don't sweat it. That little won't make a difference to anything, and if you're worried about upsetting Major, all you need to do is not to let her know, right?" Her argument did little to ease Yoshika.

"That won't do, Eila-san!" she exclaimed, fear evident in her voice. "We - you, you shouldn't be drinking before you're eighteen! You're still a minor, and me, me-!" She wrapped her arms around her tiny body, her face turning pale. "Oh no, oh no. I shouldn't have drunk it, I shouldn't have!"

"Hey, calm down, will you?" Eila spoke in a more reassuring tone, realizing that her little prank had maybe gone a little too far. "That little has never killed anyone, alright? You're gonna feel a little tipsy at most." Then, the grin returned to her face. "I'm looking forward to seeing it."

"But, but, Eila-san!" she tried again, her tone growing more desperate. The warm sensation still lingered in her body. "We really have to follow Major Sakamoto's orders; we can't go on breaking rules like this!" She threw her a vexed glance and sighed.

"Oh, shut up," the Suomus witch muttered, the grin disappearing. "Don't get all Perrine on my ass; why do you think I'm drinking in the kitchen?" Paying no attention at all to Yoshika's nervous fidgeting, she proceeded to pour herself another shot. "I'm off-duty now, anyway, so it's okay for me to get a drink or two. And, just so you know, denying a maiden of Suomus her drink is far more brutal than any kind of torture you could inflict upon her." As if to emphasize her words, she downed the contents of her glass and slammed it down on the table. "Come on, what are you standing there in the side for - take a seat!" she gestured strongly to the chair on the other side of the table. Not finding the strength to defy her tipsy superior, she seated herself as ordered. She sat silently there for a while, trying to feel if the alcohol was killing her body yet. Asides from feeling slightly warmer than usual, she felt nothing out of the ordinary - perhaps Eila was right, and she was going to live through this. As that part of her fear vanished, she found the courage to raise her gaze and speak up again.

"I'm serious, Eila-san," she told her in a distressed tone, noting how easily the words rolled off her lips. "Someone as young as you shouldn't be drinking; you will really end up doing some serious harm to your body!" An amused look passed on Eila's features.

"That's a strange thing to be saying to someone who's risking her life battling against Neuroi, don't you think?" Then her expression regained its usual, nonchalant features, and she shot her a flat look. "Anyway, it's my own business." With that poignant remark, the conversation was brought to an abrupt end, and a silence fell over the table. Yoshika let her gaze fall on the floor, the look in her eyes troubled. Yet, she didn't dare to go against Eila's words for the second time. So, she remained silent, the unease manifesting itself in subtle fidgeting and drooping shoulders.

After emptying yet another glassful, the senior witch broke the silence.

"If it's my health you're worried about, don't be." Yoshika raised her eyes from the floor, looking at Eila's slightly softened features. Her fingers toyed lazily with the empty glass. "Because of my familiar, my body is quite resistant to alcohol: I've drunk almost half a bottle, and I'm barely tipsy." An ironic half-smile appeared on her lips. "It's a gift, it's a curse." That knowledge erased some of the anxiety in Yoshika's eyes, but didn't kill it completely. After a while, she approached the topic again, minding her tone as she did.

"Does everyone in Suomus drink like this?" She had dared to inch closer to the bottle again, sniffing the strong aroma of alcohol cautiously like a frightened animal. The scent of it was enough to make her a little dizzy; she couldn't believe how anyone could drink it.

"Like this?" she repeated with some confusion, peering at the empty glass. "What do you mean?" The Fuso witch fell silent, uncertain of how to continue. Drinking wasn't an unfamiliar sight to her; she had been around drinking people before, had seen how it could be used to elevate celebrations and festivities - in moderation, of course - to whole new levels. Seeing the blonde witch drinking like this, however: drinking unbearably strong alcohol completely alone in the kitchen wasn't compatible with anything she had learned about its consumption.

"Is drinking so normal to you that you can do it without any real reason?" Eila turned to look at her, her expression unreadable. For a brief while, she feared she had somehow offended her, and prepared herself mentally for the scolding-to-come.

Then, to Yoshika's surprise, the senior witch burst out laughing. It wasn't a mildly amused snort or even like the previous mischievous snickering, but genuinely delighted laughter that rang clearly through the kitchen and repelled some of the natural reservedness that always hung around her. Captivated by that unfamiliar sound coming from her, Yoshika could only listen, staring at the face that, for once, was displaying unveiled amusement. Then, as if becoming aware of what she was doing, Eila fell silent again, focusing her eyes on the empty glass. The amused tone in her voice, however, revealed her true sentiments.

"The people of Suomus are experts at finding reasons to drink; almost any kind of festivity, date, or event can be made into a reason to drink. We toast for the success of our families, our friends, our companies and teams. When we're feeling down, we can always drown our sorrows and dream of a better tomorrow. National holidays are always good reasons for merry get-togethers, as is any other weekday that ends with 'day'." The corner of her mouth twitched upwards in an ironic fashion. "And if you're alone, you can always drink, because there's no one judging you." The neck of the bottle was brought down again, the alcohol flowing into the glass. She took the glass in her hand and stared at it, seeming to lose herself for a few seconds, but made no effort to drink it. When she spoke again, there was a touch of steel in her voice.

"But when people start drinking alcohol for the sake of drinking itself, getting drunk, or running away," Again, she paused, trying to find the right words. The gaze she fixed upon the girl on the other side of the table was hard and unyielding, and she found that she couldn't tear her eyes away. "That's when we're talking about having problems." A second later, the glass was brought down on the table again, empty. When her eyes opened, the familiar mischievousness had come back to her.

"So, how is it? How are you feeling?" Yoshika blinked, and then realized what she was referring to.

"Uh, fine. I don't feel any different than normally." Eila tilted her head to the side, grinning softly.

"Really, now? You can't even tell that your cheeks are burning, hmm?" Instinctively, she raised her hands to her cheeks, her eyes widening as she felt the heat. "Hey, how about you stand down from your chair for a bit?" Hesitantly, Yoshika stepped down from the high kitchen chair - and immediately grasped the edge of the kitchen table as her whole world reeled dangerously.

"Whoa!" Besides her, she could hear Eila laughing impishly.

"You better sit down," she managed to say between her fits of laughter. "Or else you'll be sprawled across the floor in no time." The younger girl did as she was told, throwing a sulking glance at her laughing friend.

"So, what's your reason?" she asked after her laughter had quieted down a bit. She arched up an eyebrow in curiosity, traces of her mirth still remaining. "What's your reason to drink?" She stared at her a few seconds before answering in a matter-of-fact tone.

"The Independence Day." The unexpectedly blunt answer caught her off-guard. For a while, she couldn't help but blink.

"… Say what?"

"The Independence Day," Eila repeated. "I know Fuso doesn't have one, but you're at least familiar with the concept, right?"

"N-no, not really," she replied hesitantly, shaking her head. "I mean, I've heard the word, but no one has explained to me what it means…" Embarrassed at her own ignorance, Yoshika's voice trailed off. Eila gave her a pointed look, but soon sighed and shrugged.

"Well, it's not your fault. I'm not really surprised no one's told you." She blinked once at the resigned tone of her voice.

"Why not?"

"Well, I might as well educate you a bit," she said as she turned to her, ignoring her question. "Look, an Independence Day is the date when a particular nation was established; when that nation declared itself independent. It's a lot like the Foundation Day or National Day of some nations, but the major difference is that those nations never became independent statehood after being under the rule of another nation." Eila heaved out a sigh and fell silent, with Yoshika patiently waiting for her to continue.

"The Independence Day," she eventually began again, an almost ardent tone in her voice. "Out of any kind of festivity or holiday, it's probably the most important one can have. That's what it is to us, at least." With that, she filled her glass once again, staring at the clear liquid lost in thought.

"Why's that?" Yoshika asked after a lengthy silence. "Why's that the most important holiday?" She didn't answer anything for a while. She didn't even turn to look at her, keeping her eyes nailed on the glass she was holding. Then, slowly, she placed the glass down, and turned to face her with a most peculiar expression.

"Why, you ask?" She wasn't confused, like she would've first thought. She wasn't frustrated, either, which would've been a good second guess, given how often her ignorance surfaced. Instead, there was melancholy in those blue eyes of hers that seemed to stem from somewhere deep inside her being. On top of it all was pity, and she could tell for certain it was directed at her. "Yeah, I reckon it must be pretty difficult to picture for you." Then, as if holding the eye contact was causing physical pain to her, she diverted her eyes away again.

"Imagine this: you're living in a country where most of the people speak the same, distinct language. You have a culture, a history and a society that is distinctly different from its neighbouring nations. You have yourself a distinct nationality." There was fervour in her voice as she spoke, and Yoshika found she could only nod hollowly. "However, you are not recognized as anything separate: you are part of another country, country which language and culture and history are entirely different. You have to speak their language, learn their history, follow their laws and fight in their wars in places far, far away from your home." She clenched the small glass in her hand, its contents threatening to spill before she realized what she was doing and let go. Sighing, she continued, her voice more mellow.

"In short: you don't have an identity of your own. You're not recognized to have a nationality. Yet all the time, you want to be recognized as something distinct - you want to be independent." Slowly, Eila's mouth curved into a smile, her eyes staring into the distance as her voice grew quieter until her words were naught but a whisper. "And when you finally, finally are granted that independence you've sought for for so long, when you're finally recognized as a proper nation…" She turned back to Yoshika, her eyes gleaming. "The pride and happiness over it is… It's… It's over-whelming." She grasped the glass in her hand and raised it high.

"Sixth of December, 1917! To Suomus!" The glass came down, empty, and a silence fell over the table.

"Now, you know a little bit more about us," Eila soon said, a small smile on her face. "I can't remember when I last spoke that much. I hope you appreciate it."

"Oh, yes!" Yoshika said, her eyes wide with new-found respect. "It was very interesting, I had no idea you knew the history so well, Eila-san!" The senior witch gave a small shrug.

"This much is common knowledge for anyone; don't praise me for something this small." Despite her modest words, the way the corner of her mouth turned upwards spoke of satisfaction. However, the small smile disappeared when Yoshika spoke up again, the last traces of her hesitation erased by the alcohol.

"Then, please tell me more! What about the nation you were part of before independence? They sounded like real bad guys; did you fight with them? And how did you become independent, anyway?" She was leaning against the table now, stretching her neck at her with unveiled enthusiasm shining in her eyes. Suddenly, all manner of openness vanished from the posture of the Suomus witch; it was as if an invisible barrier had just been erected between her and the rest of the world. Yoshika pulled back, startled by the sudden change.

"Nope," Eila stated bluntly, crossing her arms in front of her. The contrast to her previous, cheerful voice was so stark that it was almost frightening. "I don't feel like talking about that; I've said enough as it is." She filled the glass a little more violently than she probably had intended, a drop of alcohol spilling to the table.

"But why?" Yoshika persisted, her tone hurt and rejected. "It's not fair to start a story and then drop it midway! Why won't you tell me? Was it the nation I asked about?"

"I said I don't feel like talking about it!" she barked, silencing her protests. She downed the contents of the glass swiftly and repeating, as if to herself: "I don't want to talk about it."

An uncomfortable silence fell over the table, and it stretched on for what felt like an eternity. When it was broken, it was done by neither of the two witches.

"Orussia." Both of them turned at the voice that came from the kitchen door. Yoshika's expression was merely surprised, but Eila looked like she had been caught with her hand in the cookie jar.


"Sanya!" Eila looked like she wanted to jump down from the chair and run to her, but she seemed rooted to her seat, able only to stare at her. "What are you doing here this late?" The silver-haired witch stepped inside the kitchen.

"I didn't find you in your room," she explained. "And, when I remembered what day it was, I knew I'd find you here." Eila's face paled at that comment, her mouth left open and her lips twitching, her words refusing to come out. Yoshika couldn't understand what her words meant, but apparently they had full effect on the Suomus girl. She turned her gaze swiftly away from Sanya, and Yoshika thought she had seen guilt in her eyes for a split second.

Her confusion only deepened as Sanya made her way to the chair next to Eila, yet she kept deliberately avoiding an eye contact, a pained expression plastered on her face. She could see how her hand twitched subtly towards Sanya as if following a habit, but each time the motion to reach out for her died midway.

"Suomus was part of Orussia before its independence," Sanya continued like nothing was wrong. "It became independent during the First Great War. Much was going on in Europe at that time."

"Much was going on?" Yoshika repeated, her gaze darting between the two girls on the other side of the table, not sure to whom concentrate more: Sanya's approaching history lesson or Eila's uneasy fidgeting that bordered on being fearful.

"Much," Sanya verified with a nod. "There were many conflicts between the nations of Europe at that time; it would take hours to explain it all. To put it shortly, in the middle of all the turmoil, Suomus saw that the time was right to declare its independence. And no," She shook her head. "There was no fighting; Suomus detached from Orussia peacefully, with neither country declaring war upon one another." She turned to Eila, who was still keeping her eyes nailed on the table. "But, things didn't go so smoothly in Suomus after it. Eila, would you please tell about it?" Both of the girls turned to look at the blonde witch who shifted uncomfortably under their gaze. From the corner of her eye, she sneaked a hesitant glance at Sanya as if asking her something, but her gently smiling face was the only answer she was going to get. Her eyes turned on the floor again.

"Civil war," she muttered eventually. "A civil war broke out." Raising her head, Yoshika could see the history weighing down in her eyes. "As we had gained our sovereignty, the different wings in the parliament - left and right - began struggling for power at the top. They couldn't come up with a compromise of how Suomus should be led, and eventually the armed forces of the left and the right wing - called 'reds and 'whites', respectively - began campaigns against each other." A grimace formed on her face. "It was damn stupid!" she snarled. "We got our independence without a gunshot, and the first thing we did was wage war against each other! And it was particularly bloody, too - I've understood that most of the people weren't killed on the battlefield, but instead through acts of terror and executions after the fighting was over!" She shook her head ferociously, trying to shake away the mental images that came with the recollections. For a long while, she didn't say anything.

Eventually, Eila heaved out a depleted sigh, looking weary. "The civil war... It was a horribly heavy price to pay for our independence. It divided our nation for many years; the political feuds split apart families, friends, towns and cities. Only in the last few years, now that generations have begun to change, have we finally started forgiving each other. It's really a shame we needed so many years and an enemy like the Neuroi to turn our thoughts away from our own quarrels."

"But all's well then, isn't it?" Yoshika piped in, and immediately felt how two gazes fixated on her. "I mean, war is never a good thing, but what's over is over, right? Eila-san's people are not fighting each other anymore, and because there was no war between Suomus and Orussia, things are fine between them as well, right?" The silence she got as a reply felt particularly heavy, and the looks on the faces of the two witches only chorused the ominous feeling. Desperate, she could only repeat her question. "Right?"

"It's not that simple," Eila spoke, her voice shadowed by something she couldn't identify. "The people of Suomus are still very strongly divided in different political camps, so it's not all smile and sunshine, no matter how great it would be. Old feuds die hard." Letting out a melancholic sigh, she let her eyes fall. "What's more, quite a lot of people still remember the times when we were under Orussia's rule, and are distrustful, even openly hostile about Orussia and its people."

"The… The same goes by Orussians," Sanya muttered uneasily. "There are still people who think Suomus as part of Orussia rather than an independent nation, and that its people are…" The silver locks swished from side to side as she feverishly shook her head, an ashamed blush on her face. "No, I'd rather not say."

"Most likely, if it weren't for the Neuroi," the Suomus witch muttered, distaste evident in her voice. "We'd be fighting each other right now."

"Is it really that bad?" Disbelief, shock and fear all manifested themselves on Yoshika's face. The northern witches could only nod grimly, and she found she had no words she could alleviate the situation with.

"You don't know, Miyafuji, but it's the same story with most of us in here." Sanya's voice was quiet, but clear, her eyes giving a melancholic shine. "Throughout its history, Europe has been a giant battleground; no nation has been spared from war. Every nation has had its feuds, and there's always someone who bears a grudge."

"It is mostly thanks to Major Sakamoto that a multi-national witch frontier like this is possible," Eila continued. "For a long time, we witches were considered invaluable strategic units of our respectable nations. She has engraved on us, time and time again, that we are here as individual soldiers, cut from our nationalities; our loyalty is foremost to the 501st Joint Fighter Squad and to our nation only secondarily. And it is a good thing she has, for otherwise we would probably be only fighting each other."

"That's horrible!" Yoshika exclaimed again, dreading the thought of a future where she couldn't be friends with everyone anymore, a future that suddenly seemed frightfully possible. The blonde witch nodded sharply, her own face contorting with repulsion.

"It is, but it's also very likely," she said, casting a troubled look at the label of the bottle in front of her. With a sigh, she continued. "But, even like this, with our loyalties belonging to our squad, we still can't help feeling attached to our nation; we are all proud to be born to our respective home nations." Next to her, Sanya chorused her with silent nodding. She poured one more drink into her glass, but made no effort to reach for it. "As such, we can't help celebrating our nations. We just have to do it privately; what you can't see won't hurt you." Despite her psyching, her tone remained flat and mirthless. "Still," she said, but didn't continue, making a helpless gesture instead.

"Still, we can't help feeling bad about it," Sanya finished from next to her and turned her eyes upon her, a small smile on her lips. "Even when there's really nothing to feel bad about." Eila's expression bordered between embarrassed and pained. However, there was no sign of reprimanding in Sanya's eyes.

"Sanya, I don't-" The Suomus witch tried, but her friend cut her argument short, pushing another glass next to hers.

"What's more, it's horrible, having to drink alone, right?" Blue eyes stared into cloudy green ones for a long while, not believing the mellow acceptance they beheld. Slowly, slowly, the doubt and self-criticism in her eyes began to disappear under her soft gaze, her expression eventually morphing into a profoundly joyous smile.

"Yeah," she agreed, the warmth from her smile spreading into her voice. "You're right; it's horrible." Clear liquid filled the other glass to the brim as well, and then the two were brought together, their owners sporting warm smiles as they gazed upon one another.

"Happy Independence Day, Eila."

The tinkle of the two glasses filled the kitchen.

It was a little later when two figures navigated through the hallways, the taller supporting the shorter one, grasping her shoulder firmly.

"You shouldn't have drunk," Eila muttered, worry and mild frustration mixing in her voice. "You know your familiar doesn't make you resistant to alcohol at all; you're just a normal girl in that regard."

"I know," Sanya said, her words slurring together. "But, I thought, if it was just one…" She shook her head between her words, trying to clear out her thoughts. She leaned her head against hers, the glow from her cheeks causing Eila to blush as well. "And besides, I didn't want that you'd have to drink alone..."

"You don't have to go that far!" she exclaimed, trying to will her blushing down as she pushed the door to Sanya's room open. "To your body, alcohol just might be harmful, and I don't want you to get into danger just because I wanted to have a drink!" Half-leading, half-dragging the silver-haired witch across the room, she finally managed to lay her on the bed. As she was about to rise, however, she found Sanya had snaked her arm around her shoulder, keeping her still, their faces a few centimetres apart from each other. Even in the dim room, she could see the blush on her cheeks.

"Say," she said, tilting her head to the side, a worried tone surfacing in her voice. "Are you feeling any better now?" Eila blinked, confused.

"What… What do you mean?" A melancholic smile formed on her face, and her eyes tinkled in the dim light.

"You were like this the last year, too: you sneaked off to drink alone, looking all sulky and troubled. Yes, I saw," she replied to her surprised expression. "I didn't want to see that expression this year, too." She smiled against the regretful expression that threatened to surface on Eila's face, her voice soft and tender. "You said it yourself; we can't help feeling proud about our home nations, right?"

"Yes, but," she tried, anxiousness plain on her face despite all her comfort. "I didn't want to cause you-" She was silenced again, this time by a slender finger that was pressed against her lips.

"I'm not troubled," she whispered, her breath carrying a scent of alcohol to her nose. "And neither should you be." For a while, they stared into each other's eyes, the faint light from the stars outside gleaming off their surface.

"Right," Eila whispered finally, daring a smile. "You're right, Sanya. Sorry." With that, she slipped her own arm behind her head and leaned forward, her sand-blonde hair interlocking with her silver as she pressed her lips against hers. She could taste the spirits mixed with her saliva. As they parted, she wore a subtle frown.

"No drinking next time, okay?" She pressed her lips down again, intending to lose herself to that warm sensation for the rest of her Independence Day.

Author's notes: Reviewing is voluntary, but much appreciated. Happy Independence Day.