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"Ra'sh ta'al Quith!" he swore in Minbari to make sure Neroon
understood. "You could at least raise the room temperature to a
decent level now!" he continued with a snarl.

"I already started the heating system as soon as we got here. But it
will still be a little while until it will take effect. I'm sorry,
but it was not my fault…" Neroon answered angrily, but was cut short
by Marcus.

"Don't. Just don't! Give me my luggage and then I'm going to sleep.
And you, you can stay on the couch!" his teeth were chattering with
cold and he was still hugging Neroon's cloak tightly around his body.

Even if it hadn't been Neroon's fault that the flyer's heating system
had broken down and it had become freezing cold, it had been Neroon's
idea to surprise him with a trip to the wide, shitty cold,
permanently ice-covered regions of Minbar's north.

Yes, he had said he wanted some days off and yes, he had mentioned to
want a change of surrounding after having been on the Ingata for
several months. But he would have been satisfied with the garden in
their city residence, lazing around in the sun. But no, Neroon had to
drag him off the war cruiser after he had hardly finished his
packing for the leave, almost literally throwing him into a flyer. Not that he would mind most of the time, but he had been tired and was about to go to bed when Neroon had taken his hand and bag and had dragged him along without explanation.

That's why he was cranky with Neroon, and because he was still
shaking with cold and was still tired to the bone.

And because tomorrow was Christmas.

That's why he had intended to go on-planet while some repairs were
done on the Ingata instead of staying on board for the two days. He
had wanted to go to the Ranger compound, to get a bit of a feeling of
the season. He knew that the Human Rangers and trainees had started
celebrating Christmas the first year he had started his work as a
Ranger. He desperately needed to connect with some Human traditions
after all the year's numerous Minbari rituals, like his courtship,
the wedding afterwards, his promotion, then Delenn's wedding.

Of course he knew that Neroon only had good intentions but at the
moment he was furious with the warrior for not asking him, and with
himself for not voicing his own plans in time and his slow reaction
to Neroon's actions.

That's why he wanted them to stay apart or he would kick Neroon's
shin, or head, or ass. Or worse…

`Actually, I like the snow-covered landscape and the nice little
bungalow,' he thought. It was a fitting atmosphere for Christmas
time. If only he wasn't so cold. He couldn't even feel his fingers

Eventually he went to the room Neroon had indicated was the bedroom.
Because he still had not calmed down and because there was a door, he
slammed it closed, and threw his bag on the bed.

On the bed?

Oh, hell! A four-poster bed! he groaned. It seemed Neroon had
undergone some serious trouble for this `little trip'. It was amazing
that Neroon had remembered the minor detail he once had told him when
talking about Ivanova's difficulty with the tilted Minbari platforms
and their shared love of four-poster beds.

Now he felt even worse. But he was still too upset to apologize, and
too tired. `Tomorrow,' he promised.

He gathered all the blankets he could find, only discarded the boots
and slid into the bed, still enveloped in Neroon's cloak. And sooner
than expected, he fell asleep, despite his agitation.


He was stunned when Marcus slammed the door in his face. What had he
done wrong? The cause for Marcus’ anger couldn't only be the cold,
could it? It hadn't been his fault that the heating system had failed
and he even had given his cloak to Marcus when it had become obvious that
Marcus was shivering with cold. He also suggested that Marcus joined
him on his seat to be able to share body heat. But Marcus only had
given him a sharp look.

He knew Marcus already had been slightly irritated before, but he
couldn't think of anything that might have caused this vicious
outburst. He didn't understand in the slightest why he had been
banned from sleeping with his lover in the big bed he had wanted to
surprise him with. Especially because Marcus seemed affected by the
glorious, breath-freezing cold, he had thought Marcus would like to
snuggle up to his warmth, and he had liked the thought of warming
him. But Marcus had chosen to sleep alone.

Seriously tempted to apologize for something he didn't know he had
done, only to be able to be together with Marcus again, he stared at
the door to the bedroom for some time.

Finally, he turned around, went to the couch and tried to get
comfortable for the night, tossing and turning on the luckily
spacious sofa.

It was quite late when he fell into a restless sleep.


Ra'sh ta'al Quith! = God damn it!



He knew he had only slept a short time when he woke again because he
was still freezing despite all the blankets and clothes he wore. When
his eyes adjusted to the milky light of Minbar's moons he could see
his breath condensing in the room's air. Great! He had thought Neroon
had activated the heating device when they came here. But it hardly
seemed warmer than when they had arrived.

Gathering the blankets around his shivering limbs he went to the
living room. Relieved, he noted, that it was pleasantly warm in
there. Must just be his luck these days that he had to choose the
room where the heating didn't work!

A little hampered by the many layers of cloth he was tangled in; he
made his way over to the couch were Neroon slept.

He noticed the frown on his beloved's face and was sure Neroon didn't
sleep as well, just as he himself had. They hardly ever fought this
seriously, and it even was entirely his fault, not Neroon's. Neroon
didn't even know what this all had been about.

Tremendously regretting his behaviour and because there was just
enough room for Marcus to lay down next to his lover, he did just
that. He would be even warmer with his beloved next to him. He wasn't
angry anymore, just weary and still far too cold. With a blissful
sigh, he snuggled up to the broader Minbari, trapping the combined
warmth of their bodies under the blankets.


He became aware feeling slightly restrained and being too hot, not in
a bad way, but still uncomfortable. He turned around, only partially
successful, and discovered his mate intertwined with his limbs.
Marcus tended to do that when feeling cold. Still being more asleep
than awake he managed to wriggle his feet free of the blanket and
expose them to the cooler air.

He shifted a bit to become even more comfortable, gathering Marcus
closer to his chest and went back to sleep, it was easier this time
and he slept quite late into the morning, not realizing that they had
fallen asleep apart.

So he was surprised when he awoke the next morning with the sun
shining into his face: his precious Human was lying with him on the
couch, tightly cuddled against him and under several blankets.
Carefully the Minbari freed one of his hands out of the tangle of
limbs and covers and stroked his mates sleep wrinkled, warm cheek
with the back of his hand.

At least Marcus wasn't cold anymore. He still found it hard to judge
when it was too cold for his mate who was not used to the real
Minbari climate. Marcus only knew the relatively warm weather of
Tuzanor and Yedor and the controlled conditions on the Ingata. Even
on the Ingata Marcus often huddled under blankets when not wearing
his full uniform with cloak and gloves after work. Neroon always told
him he could raise the temperature in their personal quarters but Marcus
never did, saying he felt comfortable like this. But Neroon knew it
was a sure sign that his mala was freezing when his nose was cold, or
his feet, or both. He smiled to himself.

To confirm that Marcus really was warm enough and because he wanted
to kiss him anyway, he bestowed a gentle kiss on his nose.
Pleasantly warm too. Neroon smiled, starting to stroke the Humans
soft, dark hair, which was shining in the sunlight. He wondered what
had made Marcus come and share the sofa with him instead of sleeping
in the comfortable bed.

Didn't he want to sleep alone? Was he no longer angry with him?

He didn't know, he would have to speak with Marcus about what had
happened yesterday because he still didn't have a clue.


When he woke, he at once noticed that he was entirely, comfortably,
snugly warm. For some moments he simply cherished this fact, burying
even deeper under the covers.

Then he remembered: couch, Neroon. The couch was still there but
Neroon was missing. Reluctantly he opened his eyes to look for his
absent husband.

Bright sunlight greeted him, making him blink several times. Well, it
probably wasn't that bad here. But looking outside and remembering
that today was Christmas eve made him unhappy. Maybe he could
persuade Neroon to return to Tuzanor. Then he might be able to make
it to the celebration in time. But he didn't want to disappoint
Neroon, who seemed to have planned this for a while. He sighed,
staring out of the window, unseeing.

"You don't look very happy." He turned his head at Neroon's soft

He didn't answer at once but held out his hand to the Minbari and
gave him a beaming smile.

"Good morning Zha'aia," Marcus greeted his mate, drawing him in for a
lingering kiss. Of course he knew he was stalling but he also wanted
to show that he no longer was angry.

"I behaved like an absolute dumb-ass. I'm sorry Neroon. I was so
cold, and tired, and…" Marcus groaned and buried his face against his
mate's broad chest. "And I would like to leave. But not because I
don't like it here. It is beautiful, especially the bed. Thank you."

"Marcus, why is it that you don't want to stay here if you actually
like it?" Neroon sounded thoroughly puzzled.

"Do you remember what I told you about Christmas?"

"It is a Human holiday." Neroon slightly averted his gaze.

"Yes. And today is Christmas eve. I had wanted to go to celebrate
with the other Human Rangers. I should have told you before we left
for this place. It means so much to me to be able to celebrate, I
haven't had the chance for three years."

"I know."


"I know that today is Christmas eve and that you hadn't been able to
celebrate for some time. I wanted to surprise you this evening."

`Oh major fuck up,' he thought to himself. "Thank you," he
embarrassedly mumbled into the fabric of Neroon's robe.

Neroon heaved a big sigh but when he answered, the smile in his voice
was obvious, "You are welcome Marcus. Now tell me, what do you want
to do?"

"I don't know. Can I have breakfast first and a shower?" Marcus
yawned, not yet really up for this kind of discussion.

"I have already prepared breakfast. Stay here, I'll bring a tray."


Marcus sounded really regretful and sleepy, so he let him stay on the
sofa, where his mala instantly stretched out again and held his face
appreciatively into the sun that was streaming through the window. He
was glad that he had made sure that they would have not only
these two days free, but an entire week as well. Though Marcus didn't
know that yet. He could see that Marcus needed a break. The Human had
been working far too hard taking care of refugees, being on call day
and night, often away from the Ingata, too often taking things in his
own hands. He had also known that Marcus had been on edge for some
time. So he wasn't too surprised that Marcus had behaved like this,
he just hadn't understood what had caused it. Christmas seemed to be
the main reason for that. The cold, his testiness and the tiredness
had done the rest. Neroon wasn't cross with his beloved for his
behaviour, he understood now and could bear with it.

He fetched the tray with the breakfast and carried it to the coffee
table where they had a pleasant and playful first meal.


His patient beloved. It's strange how mostly when one of them tended
to get too emotional, the other turned out to be personified reason.
Although they both tended to be rash with their actions: hit first, ask later.

Yesterday, it was him who had lashed out and like always he regretted
it terribly afterwards. Well, at least he had a present for Neroon;
otherwise, he would feel like a complete dork!

Now that his problems had been voiced and Neroon had accepted his
apology, he wasn't as unhappy. He was sure they could solve the mess
he had gotten himself into. Since he was in a better mood, the
breakfast turned out to be quite childish and somewhat messy. They
both had to take a shower now. `Not that either of us have any
objections to showering together,' Marcus grinned to himself.

After they were dressed again afterwards, they sat down on the
comfortable couch in the main room, Neroon patiently waited to hear
what he would say. And he didn't make Neroon wait for long. He would
present his suggestions.

"Neroon? I would like to spend today at the Ranger training facility.
And then we can return here. That gives us at least one day we can
spend here."

"Actually it gives us 8. I took leave for the two of us for an entire

"An entire week? Are you crazy? I have much to do! I didn't settle
everything to be able to stay away for an entire week."

"Marcus, calm down again. All will be fine. The Ingata's crew has
managed suitably without you before and they will manage again. I
even wrapped up everything with the Rangers."

Marcus sighed deeply. He had done it again. "Sorry. And thank you. I
think there were enough surprises for a while. Maybe next time you
could ask me beforehand instead of just dragging me off?" he asked

"But then it isn't a surprise anymore," Neroon objected.

"It still would be enough of a surprise for me. And it would save you
an unimaginable grumpy mate," Marcus reassured him, snuggling up to

"Then I will tell you the next time. Now, do you want to leave at

"Yes, that would be nice. Because of the time difference, we will
arrive in the afternoon. That is a good time."

"Then put on some more clothes and gather the blankets. I will make
some tea we can take with us. I don't want you to freeze again."

"Eww, I forgot! Two hours without heating." He shuddered.

"Don't worry, I'll keep you warm. And I will order somebody from the
Ingata to bring another flyer for the way back." Grateful he kissed
his lover, silently thanking him.


Mala = husband
Zha'aia = sweetheart



Sharing one of the flyer's seats with him and huddled in several
blankets, Marcus was fairly warm during their flight to Tuzanor. Yet,
Neroon could see Marcus' relief when they entered the warmth of the
main building's entry hall at the training facility.

Neroon was surprised at the change he noticed there. Everything was
glittering with gold, silver and little lights. Even the potted
plants were decorated in a brightly coloured way with numerous

Unknown smells were in the air; all around there was some urgent
hustle and bustle. Marcus led him to the similarly decorated dining
hall, the smells even stronger there and soft, yet cheerful music
playing. He watched his Drala Kan being drawn in this merriment,
greeted by several Human Anla'shok. What surprised him even more was
that there were many Minbari mingled with the Humans. Those greeted
Marcus as exuberantly as well. `That is not very dignified,' he
thought. But then he too got often infected by the joyfulness of his
Human mate.

"Marcus! Marcus! You made it. I'm so glad!" a really tiny Human
female hurried towards them and threw her arms around Marcus. That was
the most enthusiastic greeting Marcus had gotten so far this evening.
He had already made acquaintance with this woman and Marcus had
explained then that it was just her way of greeting, otherwise he
would have gotten suspiciously jealous. If he wasn't such a high
ranking officer, and naturally looking unapproachable then she
probably would have done the same thing with him.

"And Alyt Neroon! Greetings. I hadn't thought you would join us. It's
a welcome sight."

I slightly returned her bow. Despite her cheerfulness she always had
impeccable manners.

"By the way, Marcus, you owe me some!" the bouncing, lively woman
remarked pointing up to the wall at some greenery, a huge grin on her
face. He hadn't thought it could possibly get any wider than it
already was.

"Keep dreaming, Yulin," Marcus winked at her, suddenly gathered Neroon in
a tight hug and kissed him inappropriately deep and long for such a
public display.

"That's the only kiss you will get from me, my dear. I'm sorry,"
Marcus didn't sound really regretful, but neither seemed the woman to
be offended. The two humans chuckled. He still stood dazed.

"Yulin, can you lead us to some empty seats, it's already awfully
crowded here."

"I kept you a place at our table, and I think we have room for both
of you. Come!" she answered, swivelling around and rushing through
the many tables and people in a random pattern, stopping now and then
for a short talk.

Finally, he managed to ask Marcus, "What was this about the kissing?"

Marcus chuckled. "A strange custom. When two people are standing
under a bundle of mistletoe –that's an Earth plant- on Christmas,
they have to kiss. Don't ask me where the hell they got mistletoe from!"
Well, it seemed he ought to be glad Marcus had kissed him not Yulin.

Meanwhile, they had reached their destination and Yulin had already
managed to make room for both of them. Next to where she was sitting.

`An entire evening in the presence of this woman? The thought alone
is headache inducing!' Neroon inwardly groaned. `This female never
seems to shut up!'

But a look at his beloved mala showed him that Marcus was more than
happy. He was slightly flushed and already chattering freely with the
Rangers at the table. He recognized some of them by sight, knowing
they had started the Ranger training together with Marcus.

Feeling a bit left out he took Marcus' hand under the table in need
of the contact. Marcus gave his hand a light squeeze in
acknowledgement. Neroon sat back in his chair, watching the

Yet soon the Humans and Minbari managed to draw him out since they
kept including him in the conversations they were having. It was as
if for the moment nobody cared about his ranking, especially the
Humans who treated him like one of their own. He was not sure if he
felt offended or pleased.

The evening progressed pleasantly; the food was a mixture of Minbari
cuisine and strangely spiced Human dishes. As dessert, there was a
wide variety of dried fruits, nuts and sweet cookies.

After the main course Marcus had become a bit drowsy, he recognized,
as his mate had leaned against him, only occasionally joining the
talks and nibbling on the cookies. But he was happy nonetheless; it
was showing in his sparkling eyes.

The evening had grown quite late when the Rangers at the table
started to exchange presents. He thought he too should present his
gift though it was a little struggle to get Marcus’ present free from
a pocket in his cloak. Marcus had several little presents with him,
one he gave to Yulin –it was a beautiful hair clasp, and some he gave
to other Rangers. Marcus in return received a data crystal from
Yulin, who didn't tell what it was about, only smiling smugly at the
both of them.

Then Neroon finally gave his present to Marcus. "Merry Christmas,
Ah'shan'wa," he whispered in Marcus' ear giving him a tender kiss on
his cheek.

"Thank you. For everything. – Do I have to guess or may I open it at

"It seems to be custom to guess, isn't it?" he asked back teasingly.

"Well, it doesn't rattle. And it is soft …may I squeeze it?"

He confirmed with a nod.

"So there is nothing hidden under the soft covering?"

He shrugged his shoulders.

"That's not very helpful," Marcus accused him. "I don't know what it
is. Maybe something to wear?"

"Open it and you will know."

Marcus carefully unwrapped the package, revealing it's content.

"A scarf! And thick socks!"

"They are made of c'uur hair. It is said to be very warm," he
explained, taking the scarf and winding it around Marcus neck drawing
him in by the ends for another kiss and then he whispered, "De' Ah'
Ma'fela Fie Fema'dun ra Khon'vah ai' aia ra ahael."

"Thank you," Marcus whispered back, slightly blushing, but with an
hint of desire in his eyes. "Here, that's for you."

Marcus handed him a small but quite heavy parcel. "You don't have to
guess. I think it is quite difficult to discern its content from the

So Neroon simply unwrapped it until he held a red and metallic, longish
object in his hands. Puzzled he looked at it, than at his husband for

"It's a Swiss army knife, a quite old Earth design. Here, let me show

He was touched. It was a very thoughtful gift. He always had liked to
collect different weapons and knifes and this was not only a simple
knife, but a multifunctional tool. It was very thoughtful, well
crafted and quite endurable as it seemed. And the first Human object
in his collection.

"Let's go home now, back to our little house in the snow," Marcus
suddenly suggested, already rising. He waved a goodbye to the other
Rangers and they left.


He was really happy after this evening, he had needed to meet with
his fellow Rangers again. To talk to people about something different
than business, and to eat some Human food.

He had even received another present from Neroon. He knew that c'uur
hair was expensive and the items even seemed to be hand made. It was
a precious gift. `They are so soft to the touch!' he mused, running a
hand along the scarf wrapped around his neck.

As they walked to the substitute flyer, he slung an arm around
Neroon's waist, drawing their bodies together so that they were
touching. He enjoyed the silence outside after the bustle of the
celebration. It was a cloudless night; the stars could be seen almost
as clearly as in space.

The view of Tuzanor at night was simply breathtaking, he had totally
forgotten about that.

He halted his steps to fully enjoy the view. He didn't realize that
he had missed the landscape. He was hardly ever on the planet, since
he travelled in space so frequently. He would savour the week he
could spend here. That was a far more precious present than he had
previously though, he realized now.

"I love you," he said, while they stood arm in arm gazing down at the

"I love you, too," Neroon returned.

They remained there for some time in silence, only leaving for their
little house when other people unconsciously invaded their privacy.

The End


Mala = husband
Drala Kan = dark jewel
Ah'shan'wa = my joy
De' Ah' Ma'fela Fie Fema'dun ra Khon'vah ai' aia ra ahael = For my
lover with feet of ice and a heart of fire