A Christmas night

"Thank you. I really mean it. Thank you, Ryuuji." Taiga smiled carefully as she removed the bear mask from Ryuuji's head. He started flailing his arms.

"H-hey, don't take it off!" His face was slightly flustered. Taiga's face looked really happy as she looked down at the Ryuuji who had dressed up as Santa Claus and come through her window.

"You are kind of an idiot, you know. I'd planned this night so well so that you could meet up with Minorin. She's already headed to the party."

She smiled at him brightly as she finally convinced him to leave.

Turning around, she noticed the red scarf on the floor. As she bent down to pick it up, she felt surprised by the tears dripping onto it.

"Huh? Why?" She thought as she put a hand to her face. It was then she realized she didn't want Ryuuji to leave.

He was in love with Minori, and she definitely liked him too. She would no longer be by Ryuuji's side. "I don't.. want that."

She said to herself, her voice shaking. She bolted out the door without shoes or socks, running into the streets.

The tears were flowing from her face now, and she ignored the uncomfortable feeling as her feet touched the cold pavement.

She fell to her knees, not even noticing the silhouette of someone sitting towards the wall not far from her, nor did that person notice her at once.

"Geez, my feelings changed in the last min-" as he was mumbling to himself, he was cut off by the crying screams after his name, not more than 20 meters away from him.

"Ryuuji! Ryuuji!"

Taiga's voice was shaking a lot as she looked at the ground, sitting on her knees. Ryuuji held the bear-head in his hands, between his legs, and he looked towards the source of the crying, very confused.

"T-Taiga?" He said with a weak voice, not fully grasping the situation.

"Why are you.. wait, don't tell me.." Ryuuji looked towards the crying girl with slight sadness in his eyes.

He carefully got up and started walking in her direction, still wearing the big Santa suit.

"Ryuuji!" Taiga cried even more now. Suddenly, a gentle voice appeared behind her. "I'm right here."

Taiga froze in disbelief. "Ryuu.. ji?" She looked up at the boy who was smiling gently at her. Taiga stared at him, tears still flowing from her eyes.

She felt embarrassed, knowing that Ryuuji had probably heard her screams. "What are you doing out here in the cold like that?" Ryuuji asked calmly. Taiga just looked down.

"I-.. What about you? W-why aren't you at the party?" She asked, trying to dodge Ryuuji's question. Ryuuji suddenly blushed a little, scratching his nose with his index finger.

"W-well, that's.. I just.. didn't feel like going.. for some reason.." He looked back down at Taiga, a little concerned. 'She was screaming my name', he thought.

"I'm going home, stupid dog." Taiga said, trying to hide the quiver in her voice. 'Why didn't he go?'

"W-what? No! You're coming with me, and I'll make sure you get something warm to drink." Ryuuji said, firmly. Taiga stood up slowly.

"I wouldn't want to intrude on Ya-chan." She answered him, most of the insecurity gone from her voice. Ryuuji just shook his head.

"She's working all night. Come here." He waved for Taiga to follow. 'I shouldn't', she thought, 'not after all of this. What if he finds out?'

She stood there, still refusing. Ryuuji shook his head again, sighing. He walked over to her and turned his back to her. Before she could refuse, he lifted her up on his back and quickly walked back into his house.

On the way to his house, Taiga repeatedly slammed her tiny fists on his back, "Stupid, stupid, stupid dog!" she shouted.

He just shrugged at her stubbornness as he opened the door and removed his shoes. It was first when he had closed the door that he set Taiga down.

"Really, you're so stubborn! Why are you bringing me here when you could be with Minorin right now?" Taiga sounded annoyed, and spoke with a childish tone to her voice, with no signs left of her crying.

Ryuuji just waved her off and walked towards the kitchen. "Just go into the living room and find yourself a blanket, and I'll be right out."

Taiga finally gave up and quietly slumped down by the table. It really was cold outside, wearing that tiny black dress.

She let her head fall slowly onto the table, just sitting there. Thinking. After a couple of minutes, Ryuuji came out from the kitchen with a steaming cup of hot chocolate in his hand.

"You're so careless. I told you to get a blanket, didn't I? You'll catch a cold like that." Ryuuji put the cup down besides Taiga and went to get a blanket for her. Upon finding one, he carefully slipped it over Taiga's shoulders and went into his bedroom to change his clothes.

"This suit is way too warm." He said to himself. While putting on a sweater and some pants, he started thinking. 'Why did I stop back there? I was running for the party, but then I realized..'

He scratched the bridge of his nose with two fingers. 'How come I didn't notice this before?' He shook his head, thinking that he shouldn't make a fuzz about it. It would be wrong towards Taiga.

After a while, Ryuuji emerged from his bedroom in a new change of clothes, and he sat down by the table, opposed to Taiga. She carefully sipped from her hot drink, not saying anything to begin with.

The silence filled the air for a while, until Taiga broke it suddenly. "You're so stubborn, stupid dog. I'd planned all of this for you, and then you just leave it behind." She looked up at Ryuuji, a little annoyed.

"I had to make sure you didn't catch a cold." Ryuuji answered her, quickly. She shook her head. "Why didn't you leave for the party in the first place?"

Ryuuji suddenly looked a little nervous. "Eh.. I don't really know. Just a gut feeling, I guess." He said, trying to sound convincing. Taiga just looked at him weirdly.

"Come over here for a second." She said, suddenly. Ryuuji looked a little confused, but he crawled on all four around the table, facing Taiga. She stared at him for a moment before she pinched his cheek.

"Foolish little dog! An owner is supposed to look after its dog, not the other way around!" She pulled his cheek back and forth. Ryuuji flinched a little.

"Argh!" His eyes widened as his arm disappeared under his body and he lost his balance. He fell forwards, pushing Taiga down with him.

"Argh.." Taiga opened her eyes slowly, feeling a little pain in the back of her head. "That hurt, stupid do-"

She suddenly froze, seeing Ryuuji right above her. He managed to stop himself from falling completely, supporting one hand on the floor on each side of Taiga.

He looked at her, dumbfounded, feeling the blood rise through his cheeks and to the tip of his ears. Taiga started blushing too, staring at Ryuuji, not able to do a thing. "R-ryuuji.."

Ryuuji stared blankly into her eyes for a little while before snapping back to his senses.

"I'm sorry, I-!" he stopped, not sure what to say further. He hadn't moved yet, though. A tear appeared in the corner of Taiga's eye. "Ryuuji.." she said with a shaky voice.

He looked nervous. "Taiga, are you hurt? Did you hit your head? I'm so so-" he was interrupted by Taiga's voice rising a bit.

"Ryuuji..!" He stopped abruptly, looking at her with a confused face. "Taiga..?" His voice sounded dumbfounded. Taiga started talking, more tears flowing from her eyes.

"I know this is selfish.. and I know I don't deserve this, not even saying the words, but just this once, I want to think about myself. I know this will earn me nothing, but right now, I can't help it. I have to say this." She spoke with a sad, determined voice.

Ryuuji looked even more confused by now. "This is unfair to you, and it is unfair to Minorin, but.. Ryuuji.. I don't want you to leave me. No matter who you spend your life with, I want to be able to see you, Takasu Ryuuji. I want to be able to walk by your side, even if it's too much to ask."

Her voice was shaking now, tears flooding uncontrollably. Ryuuji stared at her for a while, before he suddenly put his arms behind Taiga's back and pulled her into a gentle hug.

"You're not alone, Taiga! I told you that day, didn't I? I'm a dragon, and you are a tiger. As a dragon, I am to be your equal, and to stay by your side forever. That's how it is, right?"

Ryuuji's voice was saddened, and his vision was blurred. Taiga sat there completely still for a while, tears still flowing from her eyes. After a while, she wrapped her arms around him.

"Ryuuji!" She started bawling, letting out all her emotions at once. She closed her eyes and leaned her chin over Ryuuji's shoulder, shaking. Ryuuji tightened his grip around her, trying to comfort her.

'I can't tell her about my feelings, can I? Surely she would never think like that about me.' He thought, still holding onto her. Her sulking started to slow down, and in a couple of minutes her breath was completely relaxed.

She had fallen asleep. Ryuuji sighed, finally free from this tear-jerking moment. He couldn't drop Taiga down now, because it would wake her up, so instead, he picked her up carefully and carried her into his room and put her down on his already stretched out futon.

After pulling a blanket over her, he silently pulled an extra futon out of a cabinet. He turned off the lights after silently watching Taiga for a couple of seconds.

He walked into the living room and put the futon down. He got down on it, and just lay there for a while, thinking about what just happened. That was the first time he had ever been that close to Taiga.

She was crying.. why? Was she really that afraid of losing him? After all, he was just a guy who'd help her from time to time.

Restless, Ryuuji turned on the TV. He watched it from his futon, hoping it would help him sleep. He wanted to go check on Taiga, no, he wanted to watch her.

But he knew that such a thing would seem immoral, even though that wasn't his intentions. After a while, Ryuuji fell asleep, a cartoon playing on the television, the sounds carefully entering his subconsciousness.

Ryuuji had a lot of dreams that night, mostly related to what had just happened. What was he to Taiga? What did he want to be to her? His newly found feelings were confusing him a lot, making it hard for him to have a calm night of sleep.

Taiga suddenly awoke from a strange dream. She shot her arms in the air, as if trying to embrace someone. She was confused at first, but then she remembered.

'I fell asleep, huh? In a situation like that, too..' she thought to herself. She felt sad, confused and embarrassed. What would she say to Ryuuji?

It wasn't like she'd confessed to him or anything, but she still felt a little uncomfortable with it. She directed her focus towards the door, hearing sounds from the living room.

She checked the time on a watch hanging on the wall. It was 3 o'clock in the middle of the night. She carefully stood up and walked into the living room, where she saw Ryuuji sleeping on a futon in front of the TV. She sighed a little.

"Foolish dog.." she carefully walked over to him, trying not to wake him. He looked so calm. As she came closer, she suddenly stopped, holding a hand in front of her mouth.

Looking down on Ryuuji's face, she saw the dark lines under his eyes, and she noticed that his cheeks had moist lines running down from his eyes.

"Ryuuji.." Taiga suddenly looked very sad. He had been crying in his sleep. She was about to turn and walk, even more afraid to wake him now, when she heard his voice. He was mumbling in his sleep, a sad tone to his voice.

"Taiga.." She froze on the spot. She fell to her knees so quietly that it could barely be heard, and she held a hand firmly over her own mouth. She started shaking.

A new tear found its way down Ryuuji's face, but his expression was calm.

Taiga crawled over until she sat on her knees very close to the sleeping Ryuuji. She placed her hand on the hand he had resting on his own chest. She held it gently, trying to keep herself from crying too.

Ryuuji shifted around a little, slightly startling Taiga. She felt relieved by him not waking up. Still sleeping, Ryuuji suddenly grabbed Taiga's hand firmly. She looked surprised at first, but settled in soon enough. She'd never seen Ryuuji this vulnerable before.

Taiga just sat there, holding his hand for about 5 minutes without anything happening. Suddenly, Ryuuji brought a hand up to his own lips, as if capturing a sensation in his dreams.

He opened his eyes slightly, his expression looking really tired. "Taiga.." he said, not really noticing the fact that she was right next to him. Her expression was slightly put off, but she watched him calmly.

"Ryuuji.." she said, a gentle tone to her voice. A little startled, Ryuuji looked up at her.

"Tai-" he suddenly noticed the tears on his cheeks. He wiped them away quickly. Taiga didn't want to tell him what he had said whilst sleeping, so she kept it to herself.

'It was probably just a coincidence', she thought to herself. "You must have been dreaming about Minorin, stupid dog. You must regret not going to see her." She did her best to keep a calm fa├žade. Ryuuji still had an unexplainable expression on his face.

"No.. that's not it." He said, a little nervous. "Why were you crying, Taiga? In the streets.. you were crying." Taiga suddenly looked embarrassed, but also nervous.

"It can't have been because you were afraid of losing me.. I've never seen you so upset over losing something as insignificant as me, so-" he was interrupted by Taiga's abrupt voice;

"Idiot! You're not insignificant! All this time, you've been.. you've been.." Taiga was at a loss for words, and she started sulking quietly. Ryuuji looked at her with a saddened expression. "Taiga.."

"I realized something after you left.. No matter how much of a nuisance I was, you stayed by my side. I'm alive, and it's all because of you."

Taiga didn't try to keep her tears back as she let them stream. Ryuuji sat up and looked at her. "What do you mean, Taiga? I promised you I'd stay by your side.. and it's not like I had a problem with it."

He had to struggle not to suddenly embrace her. Looking at her tiny, vulnerable figure, he felt bad for her. What was she thinking? What made her cry this much? "When you ran off to Minorin, I was scared.. I was scared that I'd be left behind." Taiga said, still sobbing.

Ryuuji's chest tightened, as if someone had stabbed him right through his heart. He didn't manage to get a word out. As Taiga managed to control her tears a little, she started talking again.

"I didn't want to be a nuisance to you, but I had to run after you.. I just didn't expect you to be there. I don't understand.. why didn't you go? Idiot!" Ryuuji's face suddenly tightened and he looked a little mad.

"I did it because I realized something too!" He was shouting at her, and Taiga opened her eyes wide with surprise. "As I ran, I started thinking.. Why was I running? Why did it matter?"

Ryuuji suddenly grabbed Taiga's hand, and he could no longer control his words. "I finally realized that the one I love was already by my side! She was already walking with me, supporting me through whatever problems we might face! I was an idiot who didn't realize it until now!"

He suddenly stopped, realizing what he'd just said. He saw Taiga's eyes starting to tear up again. "Taiga, I'm sorry, I-" he was interrupted as Taiga jumped towards him and pushed him back onto his futon.

Her light body resting on top of him, clutching her fingers at his shoulders, her head buried in his chest, she started sulking again.

"You idiot.. I love you! I love you!" She was crying a lot now, but she barely managed to get those words out. Ryuuji embraced her tightly, closing his eyes.

"I love you, Taiga.." he said back at her. She finally put her arms all the way around his neck, clinging more into him. After just lying still for a while, Taiga raised her head a little, looking into Ryuuji's eyes.

"Ryuu-" she was interrupted as Ryuuji pulled her closer and put a soft kiss on her lips. Taiga was surprised at first, but accepted the kiss as Ryuuji's warmth spread throughout her body.

She kissed him again, opening her mouth a little. Her breath was heavy, yet calm. She pulled back, staring at him for a while.

"Ryuuji.. I'm freezing, so.. one more." She said, blushing. Ryuuji pulled her back into another kiss without hesitating, and he pulled the covers over them both at the same time. They kissed for a long while, passionately.

In the end, one could see Taiga's face barely coming out from the edge of the covers, sleeping on Ryuuji's chest. He held his arms around her as he too was sleeping peacefully.

In her sleep, Taiga clutched her fingers at Ryuuji's sweater, gripping it tightly. Her cheeks were still flushed with a bright red color. After a while, Yasuko came through the door, completely drunk. Just as she was about to call for Ryuuji, she saw the two of them sleeping on the futon.

No matter how drunk she was, she stood up straight and smiled brightly, a tear almost emerging from her eye. "Finally." She whispered to herself as she silently went to her bedroom.

So, that was my first fanfic. I'd love to get some reviews on this one, considering I'm still not sure whether to keep writing on this story or begin a new one. Thanks ~