A/N: This story takes place in the same continuity as "Sometimes Courage Needs a Hand," "Date Night Resolve," etc.

~X X X~

"Sooo..." Saotome Makoto said, wiggling her eyebrows suggestively, "what do you and Himemiya-san have planned for Christmas, Himeko? Let me guess: something really romantic, traditional, and sappy?"

Kurusugawa Himeko looked blankly at her best friend and roommate.

"Mako-chan?"

"Um, Himeko, I'm looking into your eyes right now and the only difference between them and empty space is that space isn't quite so purple. What gives?"

The twenty-year-old strawberry blonde pushed her fingertips together in a nervous little gesture.

"Well, I...I didn't really think about it. We haven't made any plans."

"How come? Is she a Christian?" Christmas was treated as a romantic holiday by most Japanese, but obviously a genuine religious obligation could interfere with that.

"No, she's not," Himeko said with certainty. Wait, how did I know that? she suddenly thought. Did we ever talk about it? She'd had those kinds of moments with her girlfriend before, times when one of them had known something about the other's opinions, tastes, or character when they hadn't discussed the point, as if they'd been lifelong friends instead of meeting each other in a crosswalk six months ago.

"Do you think she's planning to surprise you, then?"

Himeko thought about it.

"I don't think so. Surprises get me all squeaky and flustered, and that's not all that romantic."

"She might think you're cute that way and like to tease you."

Himeko shook her head.

"Chikane-chan doesn't tease me very often."

"Well, that's silly of her. You're perfect to tease! You get all cute and stammery and blushy, and you never get mad or let it bug you for very long."

Himeko sighed.

"Geez, Mako-chan, you make me sound like some kind of toy." She stopped and thought. "Seriously, I think it's because Chikane-chan isn't very confident about us."

"You mean, she figures that if she pokes fun at you, you'll dump her cold?"

Himeko nodded.

"That's silly!" the petite brunette declared. She dropped into a chair, crossing one denim-clad leg over the other. "Then again...she almost ran away home rather than tell you her feelings that night at the theater. You had to chase her down and ask her out. So yeah, she's silly, but the idea that she is silly isn't silly...um, did I lose you there?"

"Er...I'm not quite sure..."

"Let's just say your girlfriend is a dumbass with no confidence and leave it at that."

"Mako-chan! That's not—"

Makoto laughed, cutting Himeko off.

"And off to Himemiya-san's defense you spring. Speaking of things that don't surprise anyone."

Himeko blinked.

"You were teasing me?"

"Well...maybe a little..."

"Mako-chan! That's just mean," she pouted.

"But!" Makoto interrupted, holding up one finger, "I also have a point. Himemiya Chikane is very obviously nervous about her relationship with you, or maybe about love in general. Or maybe she worries about the permanency of a lesbian relationship specifically. Lots of girls have a gay fling or two in school before going on to marry men, after all. There's a lot of pressure that way from families."

"Chikane-chan knows I'm an orphan," Himeko pointed out.

"You've got foster parents, don't you? And you love them very much, right?"

"That's true." After her parents' death, Himeko had almost been taken in by her aunt and uncle, but for some reason they'd decided not to at the last minute, despite the family obligation. Himeko wasn't sorry at all about that; she didn't get any feeling of kinship or comfort from them, but instead found them kind of scary. It was actually very much like her attraction to Chikane, in that it was as if her mind knew things about them that weren't based on experiences that she'd actually had.

"So it's not impossible that you might honor their wishes and marry some man and start a so-called 'normal' family."

Himeko shook her head forcefully.

"Mako-chan, I'd never, ever do that. I do love my parents, but I absolutely wouldn't abandon Chikane-chan for anyone."

Makoto gave her a long, searching look.

"I know you mean that, too. I just wish I knew how you could be so sure."

"I wish I knew, too," Himeko said. "But I know in my heart that it's true, that she's the one person that I've been waiting for." She pressed her fingertips to her chest, over her heart, in an unconscious gesture, perhaps a pledge.

"Yeah, and it's been long enough now that I'm pretty sure any infatuation would be wearing off, so I figure this really is what you say it is and not just a romantic dream that got out of hand." She held up a hand, cutting off Himeko's protesting squeak. "Hey, it was possible, Himeko; you have to allow that."

"I...I suppose."

"So you can see why Himemiya-san might not be as secure about your feelings as you are. Plus, I think she's got a lot of gayngst going on, or at least that's what I got from Souma about what he gets from Haneda." Makoto's boyfriend had come to be pretty good friends with Chikane's roommate Haneda Satomi.

"Gayngst?"

"Yeah. Gay angst. Angst about being gay. Like, 'these feelings are shameful and degrading and I'm a corrupt person for having them and everyone would be so disgusted if they knew the things I was thinking about her and how can I drag down someone I claim to love by making her accept these dirty feelings.' Stuff like that. You know, the same crap that pops up as a plot device in half those yuri manga you like?"

"Mako-chan, how do you know what plot devices are in my manga?" Himeko addressed the least important point.

"I refuse to either confirm or deny any rumors that I've been sneaking a look at them since high school."

Himeko giggled, which was probably the point; Makoto knew that letting either of them get too tense would just get in the way of solving anything.

"Seriously, though, that's what you're dealing with. It doesn't matter that Himemiya-san is gorgeous and smart and charming and stylish and all that; she's afraid that someday you'll pick some man because he's a man. Especially since you're the kind of girl who puts down 'a bride' on those career-goal survey things we got in school, and the law won't let her put a ring on your finger yet."

Himeko allowed herself to imagine the idea of it, a fancy Western-style wedding with herself all dressed up in a frothy white confection of satin and lace. She toyed with the idea of Chikane in a tuxedo, then in an elegant but slightly severe dress, and decided that both would be wonderful to see. Then she decided to stop thinking about that because her imagination was starting to drift towards the wedding night.

"I guess that explains why she looked so sad when I told her that I liked guys, too."

Makoto groaned.

"You told her that you're bi?"

"Shouldn't I have?"

"Given how nervous and unsure of herself she is? I mean, it's bad enough to be afraid that you'll hook up with some guy because of social pressure, but when you add in that you might actually enjoy it..." She shook her head. "That probably had her crying into her pillow."

Himeko squeaked again.

"Oh, no! I didn't mean to hurt her! I have to make this up somehow and—"

"Whoa, whoa, hold up. This isn't about you hurting her, it's about Himemiya-san hurting herself because she's too scared to trust. I figure it's probably better to get it all out now, rather than drop the 'I like guys too' bombshell after you've moved in together or something. Besides, it's a slap in your face if she can't accept that you're capable of love, fidelity, or monogamy any more than people who limit themselves to just three billion potential sexual partners instead of six. I mean, you're not afraid that Himemiya-san is going to sleep with Haneda just because they're of compatible orientation and live together, right?"

"Of course I'm not!" Himeko answered with absolute confidence.

"So it seems to me that she needs to start having the same faith in you."

"I'm impressed, Mako-chan. Did you come up with all of that right now?"

"Well...Not exactly..."

"Oh?" Himeko tipped her head to one side, touching her index finger to her lips curiously. "You'd been thinking about it before?"

Himeko didn't really understand what she was doing, but the wide, violet puppy-dog eyes she was turning on Makoto made it virtually impossible to look into that blindingly innocent stare and lie.

Makoto squirmed uncomfortably in her seat.

"Remember over summer vacation when Souma and I took that hot springs trip?"

"Uh-huh."

"Well, we met another couple there, and way too much sake got drunk, and not everybody wound up in the right bed, and that is all I'm saying about it!" rushed out of her as her face reddened.

Himeko blushed.

"Do you mean that you—?"

"Not. Saying. Any. More!"

"Aw, you're no fun, Mako-chan," Himeko teased, smiling. She was a little bit shocked—okay, she was a lot shocked—but some part of her actually thought it sounded kind of sexy, so long as she herself wasn't involved in something like that personally.

"So anyway, that's when we had the big talk about what it means to be bisexual and how it didn't matter so far as our relationship meant."

Himeko blinked.

"What does being bi have to do with getting drunk and swapping partners?" She caught on a couple of seconds later. "Oh! You mean that it was a same-sex couple, so one of them would have to be for...but wait, wouldn't that mean that one of you...Mako-chan, why didn't you ever tell me?" She was actually a little hurt.

"Tell you what?"

"Mako-chan! We've been having girl talk forever. I told you all about my dreams and my prince...ess, as it turned out...and how I liked guys and girls both, and all kinds of things. How could you not tell me?"

"It was a private story, Himeko. Besides, since when do you want the dirty details of my sex life?"

"That's not what I meant! I mean, I thought you were straight all these years, and now you tell me that you're not only bi, but that you've actually slept with another woman? I mean, you never treated me like you thought I was weird for being bi, but it would have been nice to have the support of knowing you were, too."

Mako-chan held up her hands in defense.

"Hold it, hold it! I think you're getting a wrong impression here. Yeah, I don't think it's weird that you swing both ways, but you don't have to be some flavor of queer to think that. I mean, you don't think straight people are weird, right? Or gay people, either, come to think of it?"

"Well, no, of course not, but—"

"But nothing. Besides, who ever said the other couple were women?"

Again, it took a couple of seconds for Himeko to catch on, but then she gasped, covering her open mouth with her hands.

"Ah! You mean that it's Souma-kun who's..."

"Honestly, I'd say 'drunk and curious' is more accurate, but yeah, it was a couple of guys."

She flushed again, and this time Himeko couldn't resist the chance to tease her a bit. It was so rare for Himeko to be on this side of the needle, after all! "I hope at least you got pictures!"

"Himeko!" Makoto exclaimed. "I said we were not talking about—"

Himeko broke into a fit of the giggles, cutting short her friend's embarrassed outburst.

"Sorry, Mako-chan, but I couldn't resist."

Makoto grinned back at her.

"Well! I'd say, then, that Tall, Dark, and Princessy has been good for you, if you're up to making naughty jokes now."

"Actually, you're right," Himeko realized. "I suppose that I have gotten a little more confident since I met Chikane-chan." Maybe it was just a question of degree: it wasn't that she wasn't afraid, but that she now had something that was worth facing that fear to obtain or protect.

"Exactly! And that is why you, my dear Himeko, have a job to do."

"Eh?"

"Yes. You are going to pull out your phone, you are going to call your girlfriend, and you are going to invite her to spend Christmas with you."

"But I don't have any ideas for any Christmas plans!"

"Who cares?"

"How can I invite Chikane-chan to something that I don't know what it is?"

Makoto sighed.

"Oh, Himeko, you can be so naive sometimes. The point is to tell Himemiya-san that you want to be with her for Christmas. What you do together doesn't really matter. Heck, she's the brilliant genius at everything; let her think it up. You just need to make sure she knows exactly how you feel about the relationship. You can't just assume that she understands, because if you don't put it into words she'll get all nervous and angsty and afraid that you have other plans and even if she works up the guts to ask you out by that time KFC will be out of chicken and you won't have any shopping time left except for at the convenience stores. I don't think a mixed cherry and green-apple slushie is a great Christmas gift for a girlfriend."

"Didn't you try that once in high school, when you forgot to—"

"Like I said. Bad. Idea," Makoto interjected quickly. "Now, go get your phone before you start second-guessing all this good advice."

Himeko rolled her eyes, but she did get up. Friendly nagging aside, she definitely didn't want to miss out on spending one of the most romantic holidays of the year with the woman she loved!

"Okay, okay, I'll call her right now," she said, though she couldn't keep from smiling and so giving away her feelings. "Really, Mako-chan, you can be so pushy sometimes."

"Comes from knowing you since junior high. Seriously, Himeko, most mornings you wouldn't get up on time if I didn't crack the whip over you."

"Mmm, but that's Chikane-chan's job now."

Himeko had the satisfaction of two full seconds of stunned silence before her friend burst out laughing.