Disclaimer: I do not own MSGM or its characters. All such honors belong to Oyuki Konno.


Yumi was frustrated.

She had been a member of the Yamayurikai for over a year now and she had come to love those girls with her entire heart and soul. However, the one girl that meant the most to her, the one she would do anything for, the one she wanted so desperately to help, was her grande soeur Sachiko Ogasawara. She had learned many things about the various members of the Rose families, but this week just one nagging thought would not leave her alone: Sachiko-sama would once again be forced to spend time with her father and grandfather on Christmas, a family get together that always left her distraught and emotionally drained, especially when the Ogasawara men packed up later in the day to head off to the homes of their mistresses.

She desperately wanted to provide her onee-sama with some alternative entertainment for the day. Sachiko had already invited them over for the annual Yamayurikai sleepover the two days after Christmas, but Yumi wanted to give her a present of peace for the holidays. She was pulling her hair in frustration and wanted to scream. There had to be a way. She needed help and she needed it fast. Christmas was just over a week away.

As usual, her first stop was the internet. She went to the local newspaper's website to see what they had to say regarding events scheduled for the next week but found nothing that interested her. She then did a general search for Christmas events in the Tokyo area with the same lousy results. Seeing the lateness of the hour she sighed and shut down the computer. She would just have to ask around at school in the morning. Reluctantly she crawled into bed and pulled the blankets up close to her chin to keep out the cold. She fell asleep still trying to think of ideas.

-o-

Yumi quickly covered her mouth as she tried ineffectually to stifle her yawn. The bus was crowded this morning and the small heater in the back was blowing full blast for once. That combined with the enormous amount of body heat being generated by the crowd was getting to her. She had tossed and turned all night and was definitely feeling the effects of sleep deprivation. At the next to last stop before school, however, she immediately came out of her stupor, grabbed her book bag and started heading for the doors.

Stepping from the hot bus out into the sudden chill of the winter air caused her to shudder, but her eyes were sparkling with delight as she realized that what she had briefly glimpsed through the foggy bus window had not been a figment of her imagination. Yumi walked slowly and gingerly over the slippery sidewalk to the brick announcement board she had seen from her seat. She smiled as she opened the small box affixed to the side of the sign and took out one of the flyers she found inside. Reading quickly she started giggling with excitement. A few other Lillian students walking by started whispering behind their hands as they took in the sight of the Rosa Chinensis en Bouton standing beside the road, a white piece of paper in hand, giggling uncontrollably. Yumi garnered more than a few smiles from the passersby as a result of her antics, but she could care less; her Christmas present had been decided.

Now all she had to do was find a way to get everyone here.

-o-

When she mentioned her thoughts to Yoshino and Shimako they had been thrilled with the idea and had promised their full support for the project. Yumi enlisted their aid and, not without a small amount of reluctance and trepidation, that of Touko-chan as well to ensure that everything would be ready on time. It was Yoshino's job to handle the facility logistics, Shimako was responsible for scheduling delivery of the food and drinks, and Yumi was responsible for getting the clandestine agreement and help of the former Roses. Touko-chan's job was to ensure that Sachiko's family did not forbid her from attending the event – without letting Yumi's onee-sama in on the plan until the last minute. Sachiko's misplaced sense of familial duty would surely have risen to the fore and mucked everything up. Yumi wasn't about to take that chance.

Both Youko-sama and Sei-sama were ecstatic about the plan and for once Eriko-sama was going to be in town and was thrilled with the idea of seeing everyone again. She quickly signed on with the plan and asked if there was anything she could do to assist.

"Not right now Eriko-sama," Yumi replied over the phone with a smile on her lips. "If possible, please just be available to support Sei-sama and Youko-sama if they think they will need your help. I feel bad about leaving them the dangerous part of the mission, but for some reason onee-sama's family just adores Sei-sama and with Sachiko's own grande soeur there as well it should make things easier. If you want to lend them a hand, all three former Roses may just be enough to tip the scales from a 'must win' to a forfeit on Tooru-ojisama's part."

"It just might," Eriko laughed over the wires, "I'll give Sei a call and make the offer. I doubt she will mind my butting in on the caper."

"Thank you very much Eriko-sama," Yumi said whole heartedly.

"So, everything is in order?" Yuuki asked her as she hung up the phone. "No last minute crises that need to be handled? Nothing that a loving younger brother can do to help out his adorable but scatter-brained big sister?"

Yumi stuck her tongue out at him but followed it up with a grin and a big hug, "Not at this time, but you know I love you for asking. If your 'scatter-brained' sister has forgotten anything, don't be surprised to get a call desperately asking for your help," she giggled, giving him a squeeze before letting go.

"You have my number Yumi, so don't be afraid to use it," he said with a gentle smile.

"I won't and thanks."

-o-

Three days before Christmas Eve, Yumi once again got off the bus one stop early and made the short walk to the small Catholic Church she had seen the previous Friday. She stopped once again and looked at the message sign out front.

St. Lucy Yi Zhenmei Catholic Church

December Calendar

Christmas Eve

Handel's Messiah

9:00 PM – 12:00 AM

Followed By

Midnight Mass

12:00 AM

Stepping through the dark oak double doors of the church Yumi walked into a tiny vestibule that opened directly into the small nave of the equally small church. She was greatly surprised when she realized that it would be difficult to fit more than a hundred or so parishioners into the building. The typical cross shape of the church was barely met by two small alcoves off to each side. Each alcove held a single pew box capable of holding at most ten very close friends or family members.

The pews were also in a deep, rich, dark oak that gleamed in the morning sunlight. Yumi walked down the central aisle slowly, allowing her fingers to trail over the soft wooden backs of the pews. She imagined she could actually feel the love of the craftsmen and caretakers that emanated from the ancient but elegant woodwork. The side walls were each pierced by three beautiful stained glass windows. The ones nearest the vestibule showed images of Christ the Lamb while the ones closest to the alter rail were depictions of the Virgin Mary, Maria-sama. The two central windows held absolutely beautiful circular representations of white Easter lilies.

The dark oak theme was carried through to both the alter rail as well as the alter itself which was topped with a simple white marble slab with gold veining. Above and behind the alter was a gorgeous, hand-crafted wooden cross. The church was beautiful in its simplicity. The feeling she received from the old building was very similar to what she felt when she stood in the Chapel at Lillian. It was a feeling of total love, peace, and acceptance that she rarely felt anywhere else. But she was suddenly worried that the small church would not be able to accommodate nine additional attendees.

Her inspection of the church was interrupted by a quiet cough behind her. She had made it almost to the alter rail, so she genuflected before slowly turning around and greeting the person behind her with a smile. She liked to think that Sachiko-sama would have been proud of her.

"May I help you with anything?" the dark haired and, if she was honest with herself, extremely handsome young priest asked. He looked to be in his late twenties and had a chiseled jaw and a slightly aquiline nose. His dark hazel eyes sparkled with good humor and, if Yumi didn't miss her guess, a touch of mischief. His good looks reminded her a bit of Suguru-san while his expression reminded her more of Sei-sama; a very interesting combination.

"Good day, Father. Yes, I saw your announcement board out front and was wondering if it were possible for you to accommodate nine additional people on Christmas Eve for the performance and the Mass?" she asked while walking back down the aisle towards the young cleric. "We wouldn't want to displace any of your regular parishioners."

The good Father chuckled and held out his hand which Yumi briefly shook. His hand was warm and slightly callused. He probably did a lot of the work around here himself.

"Good day Fukuzawa-sama," he replied with a grin still holding her hand, "I'm Father Yamada. If I may assume that the guests would be yourself and the rest of the Rose families, I am sure that we would have no problem accommodating you." He continued to chuckle as, much to her chagrin, Yumi's mouth dropped open briefly in a very un-ladylike manner. So much for impressing her onee-sama!

"Y-you know who I am?" she gaped. Now she knew why his eyes had been so mischievous. Even so, she was still embarrassed at her own reaction.

"Of course, Fukuzawa-sama," he laughed at her plight, finally releasing her hand "I can't be this close to Lillian without having heard about and occasionally seen the famous Roses. I have a couple of parishioners that specifically pointed you out one day as one of their favorites."

"Please, call me Yumi, Father," she said with a blushing smile, still fumbling somewhat but quickly regaining her equilibrium. "Are you sure our presence won't be a bother or cause anyone any hardship?"

"None whatsoever," he replied with a grin. "We don't have that many parishioners to begin with and I think, if you don't mind, I will set aside one of the side pews for your group. That way you won't have to worry about possibly having to split up."

"Oh, that would be wonderful. Thank you. You are being very kind. This is sort of my Christmas present to my onee-sama and I want to be sure that she will enjoy herself."

"I'm sure she will," he told her, "the group that will be performing 'Messiah' is still relatively unknown but they have wonderful, angelic voices. I expect that they will be performing at the Cathedral next Christmas. They are coming here at the special request of a friend of mine and I am sure that Ogasawara-sama will be more than satisfied with the performance.

"And you are being a wonderful petite soeur for your onee-sama if I might be so bold as to say," he went on, "I'm sure that she will cherish your gift. I would recommend that your party arrive around 8:45 if that is no problem," he advised, "then we can get you all seated comfortably before the production."

"Thank you very much," Yumi acknowledged his advice, "we will be sure to be here on time."

Checking her watch, she suddenly realized that she was going to be late if she didn't get a move on.

"Oh, my," she chirped, "I didn't realize the time. Thank you again for everything Father and we will be sure to see you on Christmas Eve."

"Take care Rosa Chinensis en Bouton," he laughed at her, shaking her hand again and watching as she quickly walked away, "I look forward to your attendance."

-o-

A quick check with Yoshino and Shimako at lunchtime proved that everything was now in place. Now all she could do was wait and worry. It was all up to Touko-chan and the former Roses.

"Onee-sama, should we go with the green and red decorations like Eriko-sama did last year or should we opt for the gold that Youko-sama put up her second year," Noriko asked her grande soeur, Shimako, the afternoon of the Yamayurikai Christmas party. Given the plans for Christmas Eve they had decided to hold it the day before. When they had been asked about it by Rosa Chinensis, they had told her that Shimako was going to have to head home directly after school on Christmas Eve to help her father get the shrine ready for the expected crowds. Since they didn't want to hold it without the Rosa Gigantea, they had decided to hold it a day early. Shimako-san had played her part to a tee and Sachiko had, luckily, bought off on the excuse.

"Mmm, let's go with the gold this year," Shimako advised her petite soeur. "No need to get into a rut now is there," she giggled.

"No, onee-sama," Noriko chucked back.

Yumi and Yoshino were off buying drinks and assorted snacks from the Milk Hall while Rei-sama was downstairs in the small kitchen putting the finishing touches on her chocolate and cream Yule Log cake. The water in the electric kettle was already heating for the first round of tea. Everything seemed to be in order.

"Are the former Roses attending today's party?" Noriko asked while hanging gold garland around the perimeter of the room.

"No, they plan to keep a low profile until tomorrow evening when the 'caper' as Yumi calls it will be carried out," Shimako answered in her usual serene and calm voice. Noriko glanced at her onee-sama who was setting out the tea cups, plates, and silverware.

She still couldn't believe that this beautiful young lady, the Angel of Lillian, had chosen her out of all of the possible candidates at Lillian to become her petite soeur. She smiled softly remembering the first time she had seen Shimako standing in front of the cherry tree behind the education building; her arms raised as if in supplication to the spirit contained within the ancient tree, her eyes closed and a gentle smile on her lips. Noriko had fallen in love with her on the spot.

Shimako must have felt her petite soeur's eyes on her because she raised her head and looked over at Noriko. She finished placing the last spoon and smiled as she glided over to where Noriko was standing getting ready to step up on the ladder again.

"Come here," she whispered as she wrapped her arms around Noriko, "I want one of my Christmas presents early," she said suggestively in the deep, husky voice that only Noriko had ever heard. Noriko shivered as that voice sent tingles all the way down her spine. She grinned at the mischief playing in her lover's eyes.

"You do realize this is only a down payment," Noriko responded as she put her arms around Shimako's neck and gave her a quick kiss on those soft, luscious lips.

"I'm counting on that," Shimako replied sensuously. The two White Rose's lips met again, gently at first but quickly growing more passionate.

Noriko broke away first taking a deep breath, "Shimako, if we keep this up, not only will someone walk in on us, but I'm not going to be held responsible if their first sight of Rosa Gigantea is her very cute bare ass as she is sitting on the meeting room table moaning in ecstasy."

"You think that much of your technique," Shimako giggled as she nuzzled Noriko's neck.

"Actually, I'm just remembering the last time my aunt went out of town for the weekend and you ended up on the kitchen table," Noriko chuckled.

"Oh, that's right," Shimako smirked, "I guess I should take that back."

"No, I just need to prove you wrong once again," Noriko answered smiling like a rogue.

They finally separated while laughing at each other's totally inappropriate comments, but with looks that still promised that they would do whatever it took to make that scene a reality. Which was, of course, the moment Yumi and Yoshino opened the biscuit door to the meeting room as they returned with the snacks for the evening. Yoshino took one look at the two White Roses and started laughing while Yumi just looked confused.

"Get a room you two," Yoshino commented as she walked over to the little kitchenette to put the snacks and drinks away.

"Ehhhh," Yumi squeaked.

"Later . . . much," Yoshino replied with a wink to the two lover's, both of whom at least had the decency to blush before they went back to finishing up the decorations.

"Is everything ready for tomorrow night," Yoshino asked the room in general as she put the drinks in the small refrigerator and organized the snacks on the counter.

"Yup," Yumi replied as she took the now boiling water in the electric kettle and started making the tea. "Touko-chan called me earlier to let me know that the former Roses would be picking onee-sama up for a dinner date around six and that her parents had finally agreed to everything, including keeping it a secret from Sachiko-sama. Touko-chan agreed to join us for dinner at Mama Cho's but decided to head home from there. After dinner we are all supposed to meet at the church around 8:30."

"I'm sorry that Touko-chan decided not to join us for the night, but," Yoshino said with a grin, "I'm really looking forward to this. Were you at least able to get Touko-chan to come to the party tonight?"

"No," Yumi sighed with a resigned air.

"When are you going to ask her to become your petite soeur?" Noriko asked the Rosa Chinensis en Bouton.

"After the holidays. I wanted her to have the chance to tell me why she has been so standoffish lately. There is either something that I'm missing or she is hiding something. Either way I need her to tell me what it is rather than for me to drag it out of her."

"I'll see what I can do over the winter break," Noriko promised with a smile, "I know she really loves you, she just can't bring herself to show it."

"Thanks, Noriko. I appreciate it," Yumi said with a soft prayer to Maria-sama that the girl with the drill shaped pigtails would finally become hers. "Let's finish up here and see if Rei needs a hand. Sachiko should be here in just a few minutes."

The three boutons and the one rose finished quickly and headed downstairs to the kitchen ready to play janken to see who got to lick the bowl and spoon.

-o-

"Sei-sama, where are we going? This is not the way back to my home," Sachiko complained from the front passenger seat of the yellow beetle the next evening. Sei just laughed and stepped on the gas a bit more as Youko and Eriko tightened their seatbelts in the rear seats.

"Consider this a kidnapping Sachiko-chan," Youko smiled at her petite soeur, "and don't get your panties in a wad, this is for your own good."

"We're here," Sei said as she pulled over to the side of the road just down the street from the main gates of Lillian Girl's Academy. Sachiko unbuckled her seatbelt and quickly exited the car on wobbly legs while Eriko and Youko tried to extricate themselves from the miniscule back seat.

"Onee-sama!"

Sachiko spun around to see her petite soeur running towards her.

"Yumi? What is this all about?" she asked as Yumi threw herself forward and put her arms around her onee-sama.

"I hope you aren't angry with me onee-sama," she said looking up into the sapphire eyes of her most important person.

Sachiko smiled and placed a gentle hand against Yumi's cheek. Yumi immediately leaned into her touch, wanting to feel the softness of Sachiko's skin on her body.

"I could never be angry with you Yumi," she whispered before bending over and placing a kiss on the younger girl's forehead, "but please tell me what is going on."

Yumi dropped her eyes and grabbed Sachiko's other hand with both of her own before she spoke, "I wanted to give you a Christmas present," she explained, "can you please just follow along with me tonight without asking any questions? Please onee-sama."

Sachiko sighed. She could never say no to Yumi when she was like this. She smiled and gathered the pigtailed girl into her arms, "Alright Yumi, for you I promise not to ask any questions."

"Now that that's settled," Sei quipped with her trademark smirk, "we better get moving or we're going to be late getting to our seats."

"Seats?" asked Sachiko.

"Onee-sama, you promised," Yumi chided.

"Alright," Sachiko giggled, allowing her petite soeur, who had entwined her fingers with Sachiko's own, to lead her down the sidewalk and up to the doors of a small and quaint church. The doors were currently closed to keep the winter chill out, but as soon as they stepped up onto the first riser of the stairs leading to the church both doors were pulled open to expose the presence of a very young and very handsome priest.

"Welcome Rosa Chinensis Ogasawara Sachiko-sama," he intoned with a deep smile that reached all the way to his shining hazel eyes and a sweeping bow offering her entrance to his humble house of God. "Your seats await your pleasure, ladies. The show will begin in just about fifteen minutes. Please rest and enjoy our humble hospitality on this night, the eve of the anniversary of the birth of our Lord."

"Father Yamada, you are really overdoing it," Yumi scolded the cleric with a great big grin on her face. "Thank you again for allowing us to attend," she continued in a softer and more serious vein, "you don't know how much this means to me."

"You are very welcome Fukuzawa-sama," he replied with a gentle smile for the young Bouton, "and you are gracious as always. I hope you enjoy your evening," he spoke with a deep bow to Yumi.

All of the other girls were extremely impressed, not only with the good Father, but with the manner in which he was treating Yumi. It was only what the darling girl deserved for pulling this off, but it was nice to see that someone outside of the Yamayurikai had taken notice of her big hearted nature and unstinting love for Sachiko. The good Father Yamada's stock and just risen a hundred-fold in their estimation. Each girl, as they passed him to enter the small church, gave him a quick kiss on the cheek until he was finally faced with Youko-sama.

"Thank you, Father, for . . . well, just . . . thank you," she stammered before giving him a big hug along with her own quick kiss on the cheek.

"Mmmm," he whispered to her with a lilt of laughter in his voice, "I could start getting used to this. Maybe I ought to invite the Roses over more often."

Youko laughed with him and took his arm as he guided her to their seats on the left side of the nave where he turned her over to a chuckling Sei. How he knew she had no idea, but he gave her a smile, a wink, and a slight nod before he took his leave to get the show started.

-o-

"Yumi, that was absolutely wonderful," Sachiko said to her petite soeur after the conclusion of the midnight Mass, "the chorale that sang the 'Messiah' was better than I have ever heard in any large concert hall. The 'Hallelujah' sent shivers down my spine. I cannot believe that they haven't been snatched up by the Archdiocese of Tokyo yet. And when they stayed to sing the Mass with everyone . . . it is a small church, but the acoustics are tremendous. I can't remember when I had a better time at Mass."

"Onee-sama, you're gushing," Yumi laughed at her. Sachiko pretended to pout at her petite soeur's scolding, but Yumi simply took her into her arms and hugged her.

"What a lovely way to end the evening," she sighed as she snuggled into Yumi's embrace.

"Ah, but the evening is not over quite yet, onee-sama," Yumi giggled to Sachiko's great surprise while she squeezed the older girl's hand and started to walk along the sidewalk towards the gates of Lillian. The rest of the Rose families followed behind her.

"Yumi?"

"Ah, ah, ah. Remember? No questions asked," Yumi admonished her with a wagging finger in front of her nose that got Sachiko giggling again. She couldn't remember the last time she had been this happy.

The group pulled open the closed gates of the school and then Rei pulled out a key and closed and locked them behind them. They walked quietly over the cobbled pathway, stopping only momentarily to say a quick prayer at the statue of Maria-sama, before continuing on their way. They spoke and laughed in hushed tones until they reached the Rose Mansion. Yumi pulled open the door and bright light burst out into the night as nine girls, the current Rose Families, entered the old wooden building and headed up the stairs to the meeting room.

Yumi stopped in front of the biscuit door and looked up into the smiling but befuddled face of her grande soeur.

"Onee-sama, as I said earlier, I wanted to give you a Christmas present . . ."

"And you have given me a wonderful present Yumi," Sachiko interrupted her, but only briefly as Yumi placed a finger on her soft, tender lips.

"This evening was part one of that present," Yumi went on when she was sure she would not be interrupted again. "Part two lies just beyond this door. Would you do me the honor of opening it?"

Sachiko gave Yumi a quizzical look but did as she was asked and then she gasped in amazement as she slowly walked into a wonderland of pictures. The decorations from the previous day's Yamayurikai party were still present, but the rest of the walls had been transformed into a veritable floor-to-ceiling photo gallery; and in each and every one she saw the people she held dearest to her heart.

Photos of Eriko, Rei and Yoshino, Youko, herself and Yumi, and Sei, Shimako and Noriko looked back at her from modest but lovely wooden frames on every wall. There were photos from last year's production of Cinderella and this year's production of The Changelings, photos of her and Yumi as they walked around the Lillian campus, candid photos of her friends in and around the school grounds and inside the Rose Mansion. It looked as if there were almost two years worth of memories captured in print adorning every wall; and directly across from the door was a portrait sized photo of the first time she and Yumi had met, standing in front of the statue of Maria-sama while she fixed Yumi's scarf.

She walked to the center of the room where the meeting table would usually have been and simply stood there and spun slowly in place as she marveled at all of the photos that had captured her and her friend's lives since the start of her second year – the beginning of Yumi's first year at Lillian. She was absolutely speechless. When she had turned around once more after viewing all of the photos, she looked at her petite soeur as she stood in the doorway, a childish smile of hope on Yumi's lips and in her eyes. She could easily see that Yumi desperately hoped that she liked her gifts.

"I had Tsutako-san print all of these up for you," she said softly and tentatively, "they are my gift to you. Do you like them onee-sama?"

Sachiko slowly spun around one more time, still shocked at what her petite soeur had accomplished.

"Y-Yumi, I don't know what to say. I am astonished and astounded at what you have done here. To say that I 'like' them would be the grossest understatement in the history of mankind. I absolutely, categorically, and unconditionally love them," she said in awe as she turned back to Yumi and walked towards her.

"But," she said softly taking Yumi's face lightly between her palms, "but, I love you more. That you would do all of this for me . . . I don't know how I could ever in a million years come up with a gift that would even come close to this," she finished.

"I know one way, if it would please you Sachiko-sama," Yumi spoke in a quiet, quivering voice.

"And that would be?" Sachiko asked while her heart started beating frantically and a drop of sweat appeared on her brow as she recognized the way Yumi had addressed her for the first time.

"Would you . . . could you . . . kiss me Sachiko-san?" Yumi tremulously asked.

"Might I assume you mean something like this," Sachiko whispered and then took possession of Yumi's lips with her own. Softly at first but slowly and with more confidence and passion the kiss grew. Yumi's arms came around her waist and pulled her towards the shorter girl. When Yumi took a shallow breath Sachiko grabbed the opportunity and deepened the kiss. She wanted absolutely no misunderstandings now. Yumi would know exactly how and how much Sachiko loved her. When they finally broke their kiss, Yumi's eyes were glazed with happiness and desire. It was a new expression for the girl, but one Sachiko wanted to see again and again on the face of her new lover.

"Was that something like what you wanted Yumi?" she couldn't help but tease the poor girl.

"Y-y-yessss, Sachiko," she replied almost in a trance, "something very much like that."

"I love you Yumi," Sachiko whispered in her ear while giving it a playful lick. Yumi's entire body shuddered with the sensations that tiny lick caused to run through her.

"I love you too Sachiko," she said with a smile and eyes filled to the brim with the undeniable proof of her love.

"Um, I hate to interrupt the two of you," Sei said from the hallway, "but, ah, could we come in too? My legs are starting to cramp."

Yumi and Sachiko laughed and waved the rest of the party into the room, each keeping an arm around the waist of the other. Although they had temporarily forgotten the presence of the other girls they had no problems letting their friends know about their feelings for each other. Congratulations were shared all around and then they all went around the room inspecting one framed photograph after another remembering the individual incidents each one captured.

"Camera-chan really does have a remarkable talent," Sei commented as she inspected a group picture of all of them.

There was a picture of Sachiko and Yumi in the greenhouse; of Yumi and Sachiko on their first date; a picture of the two splayed out on the floor with Sachiko on top of Yumi.

"That was the day I first met you onee-sama," Yumi exclaimed.

There were pictures of Sei and Youko together in the Rose Mansion, walking around the campus, and standing together at a rehearsal for Cinderella.

There was a picture of Rei and Yoshino in front of the statue of Maria-sama with Rei putting her rosary around Yoshino's neck. There was also a picture of Yoshino yelling at Rei.

"You can almost hear her saying 'Rei-chan you idiot'," Youko giggled.

There was a picture of the first time Noriko had met Shimako.

"Why does Noriko look so dazed," Rei asked. Yoshino just gave her a look of disbelief.

The question asked by each of the girls much more than once was: "Where was Tsutako hiding when this one was taken?"

-o-

Before the end of the evening, after all the food and drink had been consumed, very late into the night, the boutons broke out the futons that Yoshino had surreptitiously gathered throughout the previous week. They then pulled their overnight bags out of their hiding place in the first floor storage room and changed into their sleeping gear.

"I guess this is the last part of your present, onee-sama," Yumi said as they settled down to sleep, their arms slipping around each other with an ease that surprised them both. "Sayako-obasama does not expect us to return to your house for your party until later tomorrow afternoon - after your father and grandfather have already left. So we have two days and another night together with our friends. I hope that's alright?"

"Yumi," Sachiko responded with a smile, "I can honestly say that I have never in my entire life enjoyed a better Christmas than this one. There is only one thing that would make it even better," she whispered.

"And what would that be," Yumi asked.

"If you would sleep with me in my room tomorrow night," Sachiko said huskily while running a finger down Yumi's neck from her ear to her collar bone . . . and a bit beyond.

"S-Sachiko," she stuttered, "I-I think I would like t-that very much."

"Mmmm, good," Sachiko murmured in her hear before giving it a little nip, "then I believe I can think of a few other ways to properly thank you."

"Dear Lord," Yumi gulped.


Best wishes to everyone for a wonderful holiday season!