Zeroro exhaled a long moment, breath coming out as a puff of steam in the bitter winter air. He pulled on his small backpack's straps, shouldering the weight of textbooks and folders inside it over his puffy red coat. He was waiting as patiently as he could near the front of the school, quiet and alone. The wind chattered around him, and those who ventured out in the cold pulled their collars higher and their heads lower against the cold that was so super effective against keronians. Solo, Zeroro watched them pleadingly, lonely and freezing. The bell had rung for school to get out maybe twenty, thirty minutes ago. He had run as fast as his legs could carry him, lungs working like race horses as he dashed to the "meeting place", unwilling to even risk the chance of being late.

When he arrived, he had just assumed he'd gotten there first, and, joy bouncing through him, he'd waited and waited to reunite with his friends. But time had passed slowly and painfully, and as the last of the tadpoles trotted away from the school, bodies buried in thick coats and hoods, doubt began to creep into him. And at last, a teacher in a huff passed by, nearly falling over him, and stomped off through the chilly white, leaving him truly alone next to the empty building. He pushed his scarf higher, covering his cheeks as his voice quivered.

"They've... forgotten...again..." he sniffed almost inaudibly. His friends, Giroro and Keroro, had promised to come pick him up as soon as school was out so they could go play together in the snow. He'd been looking forward to building snowmen and snow forts with them, to run and adventure like they so rarely got to do, but... here he remained. Alone. Abandoned. The snow and ice nipped at his face, and he miserably wished his medical mask wasn't so thin so it could warm him more.

He sat down on the front steps, looking emptily at the ground. He'd already told his parents not to come, of course, he was just going to walk with his friends. No need for them to drive by in their over expensive car, to bring him a snack to eat before he got home, or even warm the car so swelteringly to fight the chill that he didn't even need his coat- no, nothing. He could survive without it all- because his friends would obviously remember him, right?

What a fool he was.

Suddenly, silvery teardrops were in free fall under his eyes, and he rubbed into them with fists, disappointed and hurt. The cold made the tears sting until they burned, racing across his face and falling thickly to the snow below. He hiccuped painfully and shoved his head into his chest, pulling his knees in front of him, trying to conserve heat. His tail felt numb and his coat was soon soaked with his freezing tears. My friends, he thought, why would they...? Do they hate me? I must be terrible...such a burden...

He was just beginning to rock back and forward, when he felt a hand on the top of his hat. He raised his head slowly, trying desperately to hide his tears. There, breathing rapidly and looking off to the side, trying and failing to look totally composed was-

"-G-Giroro? You came?" Zeroro squeaked much louder than he meant to. Giroro didn't look at first, then met his eyes at last. But when he saw Zeroro's eyes red and shining, hot with tears, his mouth hung open without meaning to, and pain swooped through his face.

"A-Are you alright?!" He gasped a little too quickly, horror drenching his voice. Next he noticed, too, that Zeroro was shaking from the cold finally penetrating his soaked fluffy coat. "You're cold..." Giroro murmured, soft, remorseful, before throwing his arms around his small friend and pushing him into a tight hug, nuzzling his head into the little Zeroro's chest. Zeroro recoiled with shock, unsure what to do.

"W-What is it-?"

But words tumbled from Giroro quicker than he could summon, "I'm so, so, sorry- B-Big Brother wanted to do something before he let me go, he took so, so long, I got scared you wouldn't even be here, but I ran all the way here anyway, but I still got scared you wouldn't," he paused, blushed, and shyly amended, "you, and Keroro, wouldn't be here, and I just ran like crazy... and y-you're here..." he slowed down now, the words still tumbled, but now they came tentative and as a hurt whisper, "you're here... you're cold... you're crying... you're crying! And because of me! andI'mthebiggestjerkever!"

The last words slurred together as he burrowed into Zeroro's chest, breathing tight and heavy.

"I'msosorry, I'm sooo, so sorry, Zeroro..."

Zeroro held him as close as he could, afraid to let go. He felt Giroro's breath warm him and tugged on his friend's blue jacket. He closed his eyes a moment, relief and excitement flooding through him, and smiled invisibly under his mask.

"I-It's okay, Giroro. I didn't mind the cold all that much... and you know, I think it was worth it."

Giroro lifted his head and looked into Zeroro's face, and Zeroro could see he was fighting back small tears very hard.

"R-Really? You're fine? You're sure?"

Zeroro smiled harder, so much so that the edge of his grin teasingly slipped beyond his mask, and bumped his head lightly against Giroro's.

"Of course! Can we play together now?"