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What love does to the heart

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Christmas eve is a magical day. Filled with joy and laughter, happiness and wonder while the day packed full of time spent with loved ones slowly transitions into tomorrow, where the exchange of gifts and the same alluring magic can be seen yet again as the winter holiday continues.

Claudine felt it when she woke up, there was certainly a kind of magic in the air. One that came from several day’s worth of time spent creating precious memories with dear friends. That, and the dragging weight from getting a meager two hours of sleep. The kind that made her head spin and her eyes ache when she peeled them open.

With a groan of exhaustion she turned back into the pillow, hoping sleep would overtake her once again despite the late time that blinked on her alarm clock.

Yesterday had been spent putting up the finishing touches on decorations around the dorm and since there were no classes for a week, Maya and her had been squeezing in extra practice whenever they possibly could while they left the others to try and wrangle Karen, Hikari and Kaoruko. Their efforts hadn’t been in vain at least, the once bare halls are now lined with colorful paper garland, cut out snowflakes and stars that truly brought the festive mood together.

Even the trio of trouble had been on better behavior than normal, though that isn’t to say there haven’t been any headaches produced at all. Kaoruko has been trying her absolute hardest as the devil’s advocate. Between putting up mistletoe all around the dorms in public places frequented mainly by Maya and herself, to making coy remarks targeted at any two unfortunate people found underneath one of her little traps.

Junna for one, practically had a stroke several days ago when the tree was almost knocked over by Mahiru and Futaba’s attempts to hold Claudine back from tearing into Kaoruko. She’d simply grinned safely from across the common room acting innocent of any accusations while she had been bombarded with curses and promises of violence in french. All the while Maya watched, speechless and red faced from what had taken place before the unfolding scene.

It had stemmed from Kaoruko, ‘incidentally’ yet forcefully bumping into Claudine while her and Maya were discussing the place of modern dance numbers in the classical theater genre. Their lips connected when she fell forward and all hell broke loose after.

While it technically hadn’t been their first kiss by any means, it was certainly the first seen under the public eye of all their friends. If what had transpired could even be called a real kiss. 

Regardless, up until that point her and Maya’s relationship had been kept private, at least that’s what she thought. Before it was revealed that every one of their friends was very much aware of the development, long before the two of them had even started dating in the first place.

It wasn’t like the two of them didn’t trust their friends to keep the information to themselves, but rather they were both still working their way up to those kinds of public displays of affection. Love was new to them both, and it was through the desire to take it at their own pace that led them towards secrecy. 

Still, they took the awkwardly timed opportunity to come clean about their newfound relationship, and while the others were expectedly accepting, several of them had been quick to point out that it really wasn’t much of a secret but certainly about time that they got together. 

Though, Claudine swore she had seen everyone subtly passing yen to Nana as if a bet had at some point been placed and finally came to a conclusion over the news.

Her head flashed with a dull ache once more, as if urging her to get up and do something about it or go back to sleep.

Claudine gripped the pillow again, exhausted in her effort as she rolled over to hang her legs off the bed. As much as she would rather take the time to sleep more in this situation, she’s never been one to just lay in bed even when sick or injured. Not to mention, every extra second she spends in bed is another that deplorable woman is using to further increase the gap between them. 

And that absolutely won’t do.

If only her growing headache was as invested in such a rivalry, it might grant her mercy instead of ringing through her skull with a dull throb. 

A knock sounded against the door as she was busy rubbing her eyes with a yawn, 

“Kuro-chan, are you awake?” She could hear Nana on the opposite side of the door, shuffling as if listening for any signs of life from the half-french.

Oui,” grumbled into the pillow, a poor reply but a response nonetheless that gave the taller blonde permission to enter.

Nana hummed as she swung the door open,

“Mahiru-chan was curious if you were still going to join us this morning, are you ok? it’s not like you to sleep in so late,”

Shit.

A few days ago Claudine had promised Mahiru and Nana they would bake some holiday pastries together this morning, or afternoon now.

She sat up in a rush despite the pounding in her head, “Merde, Je suis vraiment désolé Nana! It completely slipped my mind,” she brought a hand up to rub her eyes, “it’s been a rough morning,”

“You definitely don't look so good, did something happen?” 

Nana’s eyes knit into slight worry, a troubled look that Claudine wasted no time in waving away.

“Ah nothing bad I promise, pas besoin de s'inquiéter. I couldn’t sleep a wink last night, there’s nothing troubling me, it was just one of those nights. Happens to the best of us it would seem,” 

She sent a reassuring smile towards her banana haired friend as thanks for her concern,

Il ne peut être aidé,”

Nana hummed again, “Maybe some fresh banana scones will help ease that headache of yours, if you’re feeling better enough to join us,”

Claudine nodded, still intending to make good on her promise despite her sore head and amount of sleep had, or lack thereof.

Oui, I’ll be out shortly. Thank you Nana,”

After taking the time to change out of her nightgown into her lengthy orange skirt and comfy cream sweater, she didn’t waste a second in checking her nightstand for anything to relieve the headache.

The rattle of a pill bottle made her heart soar with a hope that was almost immediately shot down when she read the label, tossing the bottle of sore throat reliever back in the dresser before heading out to the common area in defeat.


                                   ……

 

“Kuro-chan there you are!” Mahiru waved when she noticed the blonde’s arrival, earning a round of greeting from the others that were lounging about in the common room.

 

“Yo Kuroko,” Futaba waved toward her friend,

“It’s about time you showed up Kuro-han, do you have any idea what time it is,” Kaoruko looked rather angry, though that was more of a natural look for the bluette.

“Kaoruko-chan you’re one to talk about oversleeping,”

“I have absolutely no idea what you mean by that Mahiru-han,”

She waved to everyone with a strained smile, her head really hurt now.“Yes yes, c'est malheureux I overslept once, it’s not really a big deal you know,”

Before Kaoruko could whip up some kind of inappropriate remark, Nana emerged from the kitchen with the plate of scones in hand.

“Kuro-chan eat up! Having some food in your system should help,” Claudine gratefully accepted the plate, but was once again stopped by Nana who took her hand to gently drop a few pills into her palm, “I’d almost forgot that you used the last of yours after the movie last week, I don’t think Junna-chan will miss these that much,”

Nana was truly a blessing to this world.

Merci Nana, you’ve been an absolute lifesaver today,” she swallowed the pills, “if there’s still anything left to do I would love to help out,”

“There isn’t too much left but we can figure that out after you finish eating,”

Claudine hummed in reply and began to dig in, biting into the sweet pastry as it crumbled in her mouth, enjoying the fruity taste that followed as the two distinct flavors danced across her tongue. She hummed in delight, the pain in her head temporarily forgotten. Mahiru and Nana truly outdid themselves this time.

While Claudine was eating, the two of them had gotten back to work. There were already cookies, rolls, muffins and all sorts of pastries that lined the counter space, filling the room with so many delightful smells. So much in fact, that if anyone who didn’t attend Seisho were to happen upon the mountain of confectionery, they would think the school was trying to feed an army.

Which isn’t entirely far off when you have 9 hardworking stage girls, one of whom could outlast half of Tokyo in an eating competition and another with enough love in her heart to bake for an entire army with the skills to match.

She chuckled to herself at the thought of Maya actually doing such a thing and putting away everything she’d eat without gaining a pound, one of the many perks of training in such an intense rivalry.

Speaking of, she didn’t see Maya in the common room. 

Claudine had been a bit preoccupied when she first woke up but now that she was eating and the medicine had started to kick in, she hadn’t even noticed the lack of greeting from the artistically challenged star. Or Karen, Hikari and Junna for that matter.

Futaba and Kaoruko were lounging together on the couch, locked in an unspoken battle of who could take up more of the other’s space.

It wasn’t uncommon for everyone to not be in one place but given this time of the year it made sense that wherever the rest of them were, they were likely together.

Claudine had finished eating by this point, satisfied at the damage done to the local scone population. With her thoughts lingering on her own brown haired nightmare of a girlfriend, she stared partially zoned out at the escalating battle taking place on the dorm sofa.

Futaba was trying her hardest not to say anything, or at least not make a scene as she pushed against her girlfriend. While Kaoruko was gritting her teeth in a manner she would call unfitting for a high-class woman such as herself, the bluette was pushing back equally as hard. Claudine has absolutely no idea what they were fighting about or over, but it was all too clear that petty bickering was about to follow.

However,

“Kaoruko! if you don’t-,”

“Futaba-han!-,”

“HEY!”

They both froze, knowing full well that when Mahiru’s voice was raised it was time to stop and listen.

The bluette had appeared from the kitchen with an apron smothered in flour looking quite terrifying with her arms crossed.

“Kuro-chan isn’t feeling good and it’s Christmas,” she pointed the rubber spatula in her hand at them as menacing as she could while it was coated with batter, “give it a rest for at least an hour until she’s feeling better,”

“I was enjoying the show, truth be told,”

Claudine got a pointed look in return that quickly faded.

“It’s no good if you encourage them, but I can see you’re done here if you want to come back and help now,”

With a nod Claudine followed Mahiru, she was feeling much better already thanks to the medicine. Sending out a silent prayer of strength to Junna for needing such strong headache pills in the first place.

The inside of the kitchen was a warzone, one only decipherable by their resident master chef and confectioner who danced through the room with practiced ease.

“Kuro-chan, perfect timing! there’s some spare aprons hanging up over there, we wouldn’t want those nice clothes of yours to get dirty while you help after all,” Yet another thing that slipped her mind this morning, as long as she’s extra careful while she helps then keeping her clothes clean shouldn’t be that hard.

Claudine plucked an apron off the hook, only noticing the design after slipping it on. From one side it appeared to be a simple green and white apron, the blonde chuckled to herself when she glanced down at the front side to see “kiss the frog” over a small cartoon frog wearing a chef hat. 

Only Nana would own something so silly.

After Claudine was settled they got to work, she was given a bowl to whisk here, ingredients to measure there. Reasonably basic tasks but still important steps that weren’t any less helpful in the long run. Even though her skills in the kitchen weren’t nearly on the same level as those she was helping, Claudine at least could manage a few recipes on her own.

Well, for the most part.

“Oh! Kuro-chan don’t forget to add the salt,”

“Kuro-chan remember the recipe calls for you to whisk that a bit more gently,”

“Kuro-chan wait! That’s ponzu not vanilla,”

Thankfully her career as a stage girl thus far has left her receptive to critique, and she has very patient friends that also understand her sleep predicament. Up until now everything had been going smoothly, her headache finally broke and with a third person helping out they were able to knock out the rest of the baking with relative ease.

A timer rang, signaling that the blackberry pie in the oven was ready to be taken out. As if the delicious smell wasn’t anything to go by already,

“Did you want to grab that Kuro-chan? It should be done now,” Nana turned off the timer but gifted Claudine the task of handling the oven once more, “don’t forget these, it’s hot,”

Claudine couldn’t help but laugh as Nana handed her the coveted frog shaped oven mitts,

“I know how an oven works, I’m not as clueless as Karen you know,” The words left her mouth without much bite as she made a face out of the oven mitt, pinching her fingers open and closed to make the frog mouth move.

“That much is true, that’s why she’s out shopping with Junna-chan and the others instead of helping here…,” Mahiru shook her head, “I can only imagine the mess she’d make with the flour alone,”

Claudine hummed, taking the pie out and placing it on the counter before removing the mitts,

“I had been wondering why the dorm was so empty earlier, but I suppose everything becomes a four man effort when Karen and Hikari are involved together,”

“From how she was acting, it seemed like Maya-chan had been just as excited to go,” 

“Tendo-san really hasn’t celebrated Christmas properly before, correct? It’s a good thing she has all of us then,” Mahiru smiled as if warmed by the thought before adding, “it’s a good thing she has you to make it even more special, Kuro-chan,”

“Oh that’s right! Spending the holidays with someone you love makes it all the more meaningful,” Nana clapped her hands together, “I’m sure your date tonight will really bring this Christmas together for her,”

Claudine folded her arms as her eyes narrowed, mindful of the dirty apron she still had on, “Kaoruko certainly has been trying to make the holidays more meaningful by shoving mistletoe down our throats every chance she gets,”

“Hm, but it worked in your favor in the end, correct? Her methods may be well, very Kaoruko-like, but I think deep down there’s good intentions at work,”

Si vous le dites, sometimes Kaoruko leaves much to be desired,”

“You aren’t wrong Kuro-chan, but..,” Mahiru’s features morphed into a truly rare sight, one that held a teasing smile fueled by the blue haired girl’s concealed boldness. A combination that only ever revealed itself when she was really feeling comfortable in the moment with friends.

Oh no,

“Complaining about Kaoruko’s mistletoe and complaining about what followed are two very different things, from what it sounds like you enjoyed it,”

Claudine’s face lit up bright red like a holiday bulb, taken off guard by the surprisingly forward comment.

Shit,

“Mahiru! No- I, it’s just- agh,” her hands shot up toward her face in embarrassment.

She wasn’t exactly wrong though, just thinking about what had followed the Hanayagi mistletoe crisis made her heart flutter. But it was messy, it was forced, and it hadn’t exactly been the way either of them wanted their friends to find out. 

Still, as much as they both needed the secrecy. Claudine liked the idea of showing Maya affection in front of the others, even in light of such an embarrassing situation her heart longed for more.

Hand holding, soft embraces and snuggling close were just a few of the things that came to mind. Just thinking about it brought another hot flash of red to her cheeks, though it would definitely be a long time before they would kiss in the vicinity of everyone like that again.

“That was a sorry excuse for a kiss Mahiru, and besides,” she waved her hand towards her friend after gathering some composure, though still not any less red in the face, “you would be just as embarrassed if she tried that with you and Hikari,”

Her comeback landed successfully as Mahiru turned an even darker shade of red than she had, likely from the thought of kissing the target of her affections and the combination of teasing, though from her reaction it would seem that something had already taken place,

“She has, though not as public,” Nana pointed out with a laugh as she got back to work, “at this point I don’t think anyone has managed to stay safe, at least not with mistletoe hanging in every doorway and Kaoruko-chan lurking around every corner,”

As if it wasn’t possible for the girl to turn any redder, but Nana’s comment certainly implied she knew more than she said.

“Banana! What did you see?!”

Another knowing laugh followed as the blonde started putting away ingredients,

“Your secret is safe with me no need to worry, Kuro-chan could you set that pie on the rack to cool off? That should be the last thing to do today,” 

Claudine moved to do as instructed, though her mind was still stuck in the clouds over their playful conversation. 

So high up in fact, she didn’t even notice the lack of oven mitts as she tried to pick up the hot metal pan bare handed.

The pie, thankfully still intact, clattered back onto the counter as Claudine loudly swore in a mixture of French and Japanese. Cursing this dreadful day to hell and back as she shook her hands rapidly in an attempt to ease the red hot pain.

“Kuro-chan! Are you ok?”

“Oh my goodness! Kuro-chan, run it under water quick,”

She let them guide her to the sink, wincing when the angry red skin was plunged under a stream of cold water that made the stinging pain even sharper before it started to give relief. 

Leave it to fate to ruin a day that was finally starting to look just a bit brighter, the happiness and relaxation she felt from their conversation just a few moments ago was already fleeing as pure frustration took its place.

“We should get you to the nurse,”

As if that wasn’t obvious, but Claudine kept her mouth shut. Nodding instead as tears dotted her vision when she attempted to flex her fingers, she’d never been hurt like this before. Then again, new pain is the worst kind. She carefully took the apron off with Mahiru’s help and the two of them left the kitchen together, Nana looked rather upset that she couldn’t come with them, but someone had to stay and watch the kitchen. Whether she was worried about the injury or felt guilty for not keeping a closer eye on Claudine after this morning, she couldn’t say.

Just another weight to carry on her tired shoulders today.

                                 ……


Mahiru took the lead as they walked back into the common room, purposely so as Kaoruko and Futaba were standing up with curiosity from the commotion. No doubt they, or at least Futaba, had been on their way to check on them.

“What was with all that yelling? I haven’t heard you swear like that since Tendo-,” 

One look at the shorter girl from Claudine told Futaba that maybe now wasn’t the best time to throw that name around, or anything remotely related to the sentence she didn’t finish.

“Just a little accident, we’re on our way to the nurse now but it doesn’t look like Kuro-chan got hurt too bad,” 

Sure It might not look bad but it felt like her hands were on fire, though Claudine didn't really get a good look at the burn a few moments ago so she couldn’t say. She took a moment to glance towards her hands as they continued walking past their friends towards the door.

What a stupid mistake.

Her foot connected with the chair leg in the split second she wasn’t dead focused on walking, effectively stubbing her toes in the dumbest way possible. Not only that she tried to play it off with a muffled groan, so focused on her foot and the lack of attention she tried to draw that she continued walking face first into the door frame.

Claudine’s eyes fluttered in pain as she stumbled back for a moment after, wobbling for a moment while she righted herself to regain balance, taking in the 3 unsure pairs of eyes that hadn’t missed a second of what occurred or the unsettling silence that followed. They each regarded her a little differently but for the most part stared like she was spitting steam out of her ears, or a bomb about to explode.

“..Kuroko?” A tentative call of her name brought her back to the present as she cradled her forehead with the crook of her arm, trying to decide what hurt worse right how.

Ah.. yes I’m okay, after everything that’s happened this morning it doesn’t really feel like much,” that was a lie of course, her toes were throbbing and there was likely a red mark on her forehead. It was then Claudine realized she was frowning, and she probably looked rather angry with her facial features all bunched up. But she wasn’t at all, she was just so unbelievably tired and ready to cry from the stress of it all. So much has happened today, isn’t even halfway over and now there’s this mess to top it all off… How perfect.


“How about you say something in a language that isn’t French you idiot,” Kaoruko shook her head as she walked over, reading the room clearly enough to know that the look on Claudine’s face wasn’t one born of anger but more about to start crying.

Claudine could feel little droplets of water pooling around the corners of her eyes. Ready and waiting to fall at a moment’s notice, “Futaba-han, be a dear and go help Banana. I’ve got to help Mahiru-han take this disaster of a girl to the nurse,”

Futaba looked inquisitively at Mahiru who sent a sorry smile back, each of them knowing full well she didn’t have a single ounce of cooking skill in her body. Ultimately the shorter girl obeyed, walking towards the kitchen with a shrug, 

“Feel better Kuro,”

Though Futaba wouldn’t know that all she got in response was a silent nod. The walk after was quiet, the only sounds being the soft echo of their slippers on the floor and the occasional sniffle from Claudine who still had yet to cry.

“Kuro-han you sound sick, would you please cry already or wipe your nose -ow! Mahiru-han don’t hit me because you know I’m right” Kaoruko rubbed at her own arm as they continued to lead Claudine towards the nurse. But in all honesty, the nurse wasn’t what Claudine wanted at all right now. She wanted a break from today, from every bad and inevitable thing that’s happened to her so far. She wanted Maya, she wanted more sleep, she-

“Kuro-chan?” Mahiru gently put a hand on her wrist to bring her head back down to the rest of her body.

They were already standing in front of their destination, patiently waiting for Claudine to walk through the door. Some apparently less patient than others. After receiving a reassuring nod from the blonde as she wiped her eyes dry they walked in and greeted the cheerful yet tired nurse, being in a theater school meant she had no shortage of people that sought care. And today Claudine was unfortunately one of those people.

Thankfully she hadn’t been burned that bad at all. After being looked over she was given some burn cream to help with the redness and pain, with some bandages firmly on top. As well as strict orders to get some rest today. Claudine very rarely had a reason to go to the nurse, and although she wasn’t a teacher the older woman wanted to see everyone who stepped through her door continue on the path of success. Or as she put it, ‘keep taking care of your health Saijo-san, I don’t want to see you in here again for the rest of the damn school year,’

Claudine really didn’t want to piss her off after that.

                                  ……

 

The walk back was less quiet after Claudine had the chance to sit down for a minute and collect her bearings in the nurse’s office, however she still looked to be on the verge of tears. Notably so as she kept wiping her eyes between bits of conversation she caught between Mahiru and Kaoruko, though at this point she wasn’t listening and instead letting her thoughts wander towards Maya. Even in a terrible time like this she’s still got that deplorable woman at the forefront of her sleep deprived brain.

But she did miss her, wherever she was with the rest of their friends Claudine hoped that at least Maya was having a better day than hers. Perhaps even enjoying some snow filled activities with Karen and Hikari, maybe even getting lucky enough to rope Junna into a snowball fight.

Unfortunately for her and her little thoughts, Kaoruko wasn’t interested in being ignored at the moment.

“..-Kuro-han,” an arm nudged into her side, 

Claudine looked back up towards Kaoruko, confirming the shorter girl’s suspicions that she hadn’t been listening yet again. She stopped in her tracks, arms crossed together as she glared at the blonde in her own practiced frustration while Claudine and Mahiru slowed to a stop,

“I’m trying to make you feel better you know,” Kaoruko tapped her fingers against the sleeve of her uniform, eyebrows furrowed as she stared down Claudine in wait for any kind of response.

Normally she wouldn’t have the patience for this, but the tears in her eyes were making it very hard for her to be even a fraction more intimidating even if she wanted to.

“I-,”

Mahiru's arms wrapping around her torso caused her half-hearted apology to die before the rest of it could leave her mouth,

“It’s ok to cry Kuro-chan, a lot has happened and you’ve had a really hard morning…But you don’t need to hold it in anymore, Kaoruko-chan and I are here for you,” 

Claudine sniffled for a moment before pulling her in tight, letting the words of affirmation wash over as tears finally fell free of her eyes. Letting out all the frustration, sadness and pain that had been plaguing her all morning with each hiccuped breath and gentle sob.

Even the prickly exterior of Kaoruko cracked wide open at seeing a friend so emotional, dropping her frustrated form as she moved to hug Claudine from the other side with a thoughtful shake of her head and a murmured promise of violence if Claudine got snot on her shirt.

Thankfully it was just them in the hall, able to take in the moment completely without interruption. Claudine disliked crying in public but not nearly as much as Kaoruko hated the embarrassment from being all soft in front of more than a few people.

“Geez, if I’d known putting up that mistletoe would’ve left you like this I never would have done it. You’re an absolute trainwreck for that girl Kuro-han,” Claudine looked up with puffy eyes and another sniffle, about to question what she meant by that, “it’s been written all over your face you idiot, I know you’re thankful we’re here but we also aren’t the ones you want the most right now,”

Kaoruko sighed as the half-french girl finally took the damn hint, clearly she wasn’t very subtle with her internal thoughts.

“And who's to blame for that,” Claudine rubbed her eyes, clearing up the last of the tears that finally started drying up.

“You, for needing a fucking mistletoe to kiss Tendo-han. I simply sped things up at a reasonable pace,” annoyed that she would even consider it a bad thing after being comforted just now. Her dismissive wave killed any kind of retort that would’ve followed,

“There’s only so much care and comfort we can give as friends, it may help in the moment but more often than not it’s the one we hold closest to our hearts that can do the most healing,” Mahiru followed up, “and.. it’s a little obvious Tendo-san is that person for you,”

“I want to deny it but at this point I think that’s impossible, I really wish she was here right now, you’re right. But that doesn’t make me any less grateful that the two of you happened to be here as well. I don’t know what kind of shape I’d be in right now without your help,” 

“Whatever we can do to help Kuro-chan, besides you still have that date tonight. It would really be a shame if it got spoiled because of all this,” Mahiru finished with a caring smile.

Kaoruko however had a much different reaction, eyes completely wide as she looked over Claudine in disbelief,

“Your date?!”

Quoi? I thought you knew,”

“Of course I know about the date, but are you out of your mind thinking you’ll wear that?!” Kaoruko looked near furious as she stared at Claudine’s clothes,

“What’s wrong with this? I wear it all the time,” Claudine was getting a little defensive at such a sudden outburst directed at her fashion sense.

“That’s not the issue but it’s also definitely not what you should be wearing tonight anyway,” she looked fed up with the blonde as she shut her eyes “how are you such a lovestruck moron that you didn’t even notice the shit all over the back,” Kaoruko pointed to the massive stain splattered across the back of her sweater, eyes remaining closed for dramatic effect,

“What the- when did that get there?!” Her eyes shot towards Mahiru who looked ever so guilty as if she knew exactly why, 

“Sorry Kuro-chan, I didn’t want to say anything since you were already so upset but it happened when you burned your hands. At least the batter should come out pretty easily in the wash,”

This can not be happening, Claudine groaned with newly growing frustration.

Sérieusement? Of all the horrible things to happen today, why did it have to be toward my clothes?” the exclamation flew out as she started to pace back and forth,

“It’s gonna be alright Kuro-chan,” Mahiru started in an attempt to console the blonde,

“Kuro-han,” Kaoruko tried to get her attention after Mahiru’s failed attempt,

Ignored,

“Kuro-,” the bluette was cut off once more by the panicked ramblings of a sleep deprived fool,

“KURO-HAN! I’ve had just enough of you ignoring me today. If you could stop being so dramatic I have something you can borrow to wear for later,” Claudine stopped dead in her tracks, staring incredulously at Kaoruko as she expected hell to freeze over before Kaoruko did another nice thing today. And yet the offer stood.

“You mean it?” 

“Fortunately for you I value my friendship with Tendo-han quite a lot, and I want this date to be memorable for her sake. The least you could do is dress the part, no?”

“I appreciate it..really,” she smiled, an action that quickly turned into a yawn, Claudine barely had time to stifle it with a bandaged hand. 

“Oh my, Kuro-chan,” Mahiru must have been waiting for some kind of indication that Claudine was still exhausted, though the blonde had a feeling she was about to insist Claudine get some more sleep regardless of if she yawned or not , “Now that the clothes issue is resolved I think you should go get some rest, we can hold down the dorms for a few hours until Junna-chan and the others come home,” 

True enough they continued the last of the walk over to Claudine’s room, stopping just outside where Mahiru gave wishes that she would recover fast while Kaoruko, well past her limit of being nice to Claudine, told her she wouldn’t be feeling this way if she wasn’t off hurting herself on everything in her line of sight. They lingered for a moment before leaving towards the common room, discussing something about Futaba wearing an apron.

Now alone, Claudine took a moment to shut the door and change into her less dirty but still just as comfortable sweatshirt and shorts. Not wasting any time as she climbed into bed, her tired eyes slowly drifting shut as Claudine relinquished herself to sleep and the relaxation it brought. After crying and being battered around for the last hour and a half, she certainly felt even more exhausted than before. And although napping was rarely something Claudine would consider doing, maybe just this once it would be something she could get away with.


                                   …..

 

Claudine couldn’t tell how much time had passed by the time she finally started to stir, but judging from the amount of light that managed to find its way through her barely closed eyes it was nearly sunset. She felt so refreshed, definitely not a cure for the lack of sleep from the night before but hopefully just enough to get her through the rest of today on better terms. Still, she could understand why Kaoruko took naps so often even if it’s not something Claudine would continue doing herself.

Her eyes shut tighter as she stretched her legs out under the covers, smiling slightly and grumbling in pleasure as the stiff tension built from sleep washed away into nothing. Relishing each blissful second she spent stretching in the dying light.

As her foot trailed further under the blanket she could feel her foot touch something solid and heavy, that was the moment she realized she wasn’t alone.

Bonjour, Sleeping Beauty,” an irritatingly familiar voice purred, one she couldn’t have been both happier and troubled to hear at the same time in this very moment.

Though Claudine doubted there was ever a time before in her life that she’d moved so fast. Scrambling to the other side of the bed out of pure terror as her sleep filled eyes and slowly waking brain took in the form of Maya politely lounging on her bed, 

“Tend- Maya?! Were you watching me sleep?” She stared after rubbing her eyes as if the girl across from her had grown another head, not sure if she should be touched by the gesture or offended,

“Only for a few minutes yes, but in my defense you looked rather peaceful when I came in to check on you, so I did my best not to disturb your nap,” she tilted her head with a smile before adding, “and you were being very cute,”

A shade of red flashed across her cheeks as Claudine’s heart rate started to drop back to a normal pace. She scooted across the bed towards the other girl, while still leaving enough room for Maya to join her,

“Cute isn’t watching someone while they’re asleep,”

Maya hummed thoughtfully as she moved closer to the pillows, though still remaining seated near the edge of the bed,

“I could stop if it’s something that bothers you,” She smiled again as Claudine grumbled, as if somehow exasperated by the thought of it not happening again.

“No no, that’s not it. Waking up to you was nice but next time don’t just sit in silence. It’s creepy,”

“Duly noted, though I will say I wouldn’t mind getting used to being the first thing you see when you wake up Claudine,”

“You know what I mean, Maya,”

They stared at each other for a moment after as a smile lingered on each of their lips, the light of the sunset cast a warm glow on her room, and Claudine took in the soft lilac eyes that seemed to smile and shine just as much as the person they belonged to. Claudine’s crimson eyes fell upon hers, matching that gaze with her own in an uncoordinated routine the two of them always manage to do.

Her body felt the sudden urge to breathe again, a smile tugging at her lips once again over the very thought. Maya had already stolen her heart, but they both know she’s certainly greedy enough to go for Claudine’s breath too. Across from her, Maya smiled knowingly as if reading her thoughts. Still, Claudine had a feeling the other girl’s heart was racing even as she sat with the poise of a professional.

With a loving sigh Claudine closed the distance between them, sinking into Maya’s arms as she returned the embrace,

“I really missed you earlier,” Claudine mumbled into her girlfriend’s shoulder, “it felt like every possible frustrating thing kept happening one after the other, again and again, and it was all so stressful that things just wouldn’t stop. The others were very patient and helpful, but all I could think about was how badly I wanted you here,”

“And I am so terribly sorry I wasn’t there when you needed me, Ma Claudine,” Maya placed a gentle kiss on her head, and Claudine could feel how hard she was trying to pour her apology into such a simple expression, “Daiba-san and Tsuyuzaki-san filled me in on what had taken place on our way back to the dorm, how are you feeling now?”

Claudine considered her response, opting toward hugging Maya tighter while being mindful of her bandages,

“I’m feeling better after sleeping some and honestly now that you’re here, though my hands are still rather sore,”

Maya pulled away after placing several more kisses on Claudine’s head, despite the protests from the blonde as she disentangled Claudine’s hands from their place around her torso.

From there on, Claudine watched as Maya admired the bandages, letting her arms go slack in the other girl’s hands as she inspected every inch of injured skin concealed by them, acting almost as if she was able to see through them,

“I understand why you sought my care to begin with. First and foremost, this is a rather serious illness Ms. Saijo,”

On instinct but Claudine joined in on the impromptu improv, curious to see where this was headed,

“A misdiagnosed one at that, or so I’ve heard. Those nurses are far more busy with their rumors than they are with the patients, still I should’ve come straight to you after the first signs of sickness. There’s no better doctor around these parts than you and both of us know it,”

“You always flatter me Ms. Saijo, now allow me to correct the mistaken prognosis of my fellow practitioner,” she gently turned Claudine’s arms over so the wrists were facing up before holding them both up “there is only one known cure to this sort of ailment,”

“What would that be?”

“Kisses of course, many will be needed directly on the affected area as soon as possible for maximum effectiveness,” Maya then began leaving soft kisses over every inch of bandaged skin, pouring all her love into each tender kiss before moving on to the other hand to continue the same practice.

Before she was finished Maya leaned forward to brush a kiss over both Claudine’s forehead and her temple,

“All better,” she sat back with a bright smile, satisfied with her work.

“I’m cured Maya, it's a miracle! Though,” she returned to embracing Maya with a happy sigh, “there is still one more thing that needs fixing,”

“Hm?” For a moment Maya looked concerned, that maybe there was one more injury she hadn’t known about,

“I’m rather lovesick for this girl, I always find myself in awe of her beauty. And I love every little thing about her but she has the strangest habits,”

“Such as?,”

Claudine smiled against her,

“She’s got this strange obsession with potatoes and birds. The girl is absolutely stage-crazy and she has an unparalleled love for baumkuchen. Although apparently she likes watching people sleep,”

“She sounds lovely, Though I wouldn’t say that love is unparalleled. She has you after- AH,” Still in the embrace Claudine dragged Maya backwards onto the bed fully, rolling them both across the blankets as the taller girl let out a strangled sound, eyes comically wide while both of her house shoes went flying in the process. When they finally settled after rolling one last time, Maya was facing the direction she’d come from and Claudine’s face was just a few inches from hers,

“Weirdo,”

Crimson red met vibrant lilac,

“And yet you find it endearing,” she leaned forward to kiss the tip of Claudine’s nose, 

“Did you enjoy your time out shopping at least?” Claudine inquired, silently marveling at the way Maya’s eyes brightened over the question,

“I did,” Claudine listened intently as Maya recounted the events of her shopping excursion, drawn in by the way her eyes lit up as she recalled each memory, “-and then we played with snowballs and I killed Aijo-san!”

Claudine froze as a well needed laugh bubbled out of her chest. For just a few moments they laughed together, all the pain and problems of the day were left forgotten as happiness overtook Claudine. 

After calming back down and spending more time laying together she could feel her eyes starting to fall shut yet again, relishing in the relaxation brought upon by the brunette’s hand drifting across her back in little circles. Releasing a content hum each time Maya would play with her hair or the bangs that had been strewn around her eyes,

Ma Maya if you don’t stop that I’ll fall back asleep, and then we’ll miss our date,”

“Hm… But I like this far too much,” Claudine could feel her cheek being cupped, followed by another kiss planted on her forehead. Her eyes opened to find Maya staring at her again with the most loving expression, head propped up on one arm as she lay on her side.

“Mayaaa,” she moved her foot up to kick at the top star who simply pulled the blonde closer in response,

“Let me indulge in this,” she reasoned while she still had a firm grip on Claudine.

“Well I need to indulge in the bathroom, and we both need to get ready. Allons-y, if you don’t let me go you’re gonna regret it,” after another minute of pushing, prodding, and squirming Maya hesitantly conceded and they finally separated to go prepare for the rapidly approaching date. 

                                   ……

Claudine had already spent a decent amount of time on her hair and makeup, and some time ago Maya had disappeared into her own room, promising to meet Claudine near the front entrance when she was ready. Though she still had to track down Kaoruko for the clothes, not wanting to go through the other girl’s things without permission. Yet imagine her own lack of surprise when Kaoruko was exactly where expected, the common room couch was probably a second home to the bluette at this point.

“KUROO, you look so pretty!” Karen bounded over at the sight of the blonde, “Tendo-san killed me earlier with a snowball, but that’s ok since I’m still alive” the redhead stated without much hesitation.

“So she told me,” though she doubted Karen heard as she ran back to her roommates just as quickly as she’d appeared, the girl was probably still running off some sort of high from all the activities of today. Claudine grinned at the thought of the outward competitive side of her girlfriend, even for something as simple as a snowball fight.

She spotted Junna at the counter, nursing tea as she and Nana chatted, their eyes met and Claudine sympathetically yet silently wished her well. To which she somehow understood, sending a grateful look of her own back.

Hikari and Mahiru were standing near one another, wearing Christmas sweaters as they discussed some Mr. White related topic. Claudine also noticed how Suzdal cat covered Hikari’s teal sweater while Mr. White was printed across the blue one Mahiru wore, very subtle.

“Did we have fun, Kuro-han? Tendo-han was certainly gone for a long time,”

Her face flushed at whatever implications Kaoruko tried to lace into her words,

“Shut it, I’m here for the clothes I need to get ready,”

“Go get your manners while you’re at it then,”

“Oi,” Claudine could hear the resounding roar from her pink haired friend, and a moment later Futaba emerged from the kitchen donning a frog themed apron that actually looked like she was wearing a giant frog, with a cloth tied around her forehead that pushed her bangs up.

“Stop being yourself and go help her, I can't learn anything from Banana if you’re out here being a nuisance, also Kuroko you look nice,” she turned to Nana, “I followed the recipe for the most part but I think I missed a step, they look like little poops now,”

“Did you put in too much flour? She inquired.

“Uh,” Futaba rubbed the back of her head, “I didn’t put in any,”

“Trial and error Futaba-chan,” I’ll come help you out in a second.

Futaba glanced back at Kaoruko and stuck her tongue out, ignoring the angry glare she was given as she followed Nana back into the kitchen,

“Kuro-han, let’s go before I strangle that short little shit. I don’t care how cute she looks with that ugly apron on,” Kaoruko stormed out, not waiting for Claudine’s reply.

“You’re gonna do great Saijo-san, I’m sure Tendo-san will love all of this,” Junna sent a smile towards Claudine,

“Mm! don’t forget to have fun Kuro,” Karen waved with enthusiasm,

“Good luck,” Hikari simply nodded, though Claudine saw a smile peeking up at the edge of her lips,

“Go take her breath away, Kuro-chan,” Mahiru cheered the blonde on,

Merci everyone, I’ll try,” she waved before heading off after Kaoruko, who was already waiting down the hall outside her room,

Kaoruko hummed as they entered the shared room, still seemingly angry in ‘Kaoruko terms’ but calmer than a moment ago, she shut the door and motioned to the clothes laid out on the left bed,

“Call me when you have it on, I’ll be right over here, if you have trouble well, that’s on you for being incompetent,” she added before passing through the hanging divider.

Claudine did not in fact have trouble, instead trusting Kaoruko’s taste in clothing choice as she slipped the on each piece, passing her own judgement with each glance she stole in the mirror during the process.

The top was fairly cute and fit well, a dark red turtleneck sweater that faintly smelled of citrus with an even fainter scent of a certain pink haired girl, it was tucked into a comfortable white skirt that cut off just above her knees, Claudine had her own tights she could wear underneath that would pair perfectly with what Kaoruko had picked out, the outfit was pretty simple but honestly looked amazing on her,

“Kaoruko, I’m finished,” she gave a little twirl in front of the mirror, watching the skirt swirl and dance around her legs,

“You look not horrible,” The bluette folded her arms defensively as Claudine continued to inspect the outfit fully in the mirror, “Tendo-han…Maya-han will appreciate the effort put into this date, You and I both know doesn’t take a lot to impress her but this will,”

“Thank you, I truly hope so,” she smiled genuinely at the little devil for the first time today, “I’m surprised you own a sweater in this style though, I’ve never seen you wear it,”

Kaoruko immediately blushed, bringing one hand up to rub the back of her neck as she coughed in one fluid motion that was rather similar to Futaba’s nervous habit. Though she was trying her hardest to play off the dim flush painted on her face to no avail.

“It was a gift,” Kaoruko’s reaction was an obvious indication to who the giftee was, “I don’t want to ruin it by doing something such as wearing it casually, so you better be careful with it,”

Claudine didn’t fail to pick up on the serious tone, she had a sinking feeling that if it got ruined Kaoruko wouldn’t speak to her for a long time at the very least. The bluette cleared her throat, “anyway you should go, Maya-han is probably ready to go and it’s horrible manners to keep her waiting,” 

She ushered Claudine out of the room, pushing past the blonde and walking down the hall at a brisk pace.

Claudine shrugged off the more expected behavior from the prickly girl as she went to go finish off the outfit in her own room, her hand paused on the doorknob when Kaoruko called out,

“Kuro-han,” she stopped near the end of the hall, looking back with a more natural expression, “knock her dead, yeah?” turning on her heels immediately after, presumably heading back to the common room.

Claudine shook her head at the girl, Kaoruko really cares more than she lets on, and only when she wants to seem like she could care less does it make her actions even more meaningful. Yet that was another thought for another time, she entered her room, still on a time limit with the most brilliant and infuriating star in the sky waiting just for her.

And boy was Claudine reaching out as far as she could to grasp it.

                                  …..

Maya. 

Wow.

Claudine had somehow forgotten both Japanese and French in the 15 minutes it took them to leave the dorm and board the train.

She was just so dazzling, her poor brain had been both blinded and blindsided by how gorgeous Maya looked that in the first minute and a half all she could do was stare with her jaw on the floor. Something Maya found amusing as Claudine struggled to form complete sentences in either language before giving up entirely.

And she was supposed to be the one taking Maya’s breath away, yet the other girl came out on top once again. Though Claudine’s brain was too scrambled to even care about that at the moment, too busy repeating the moment she first saw Maya in the lobby, again and again in her brain like it was Nana’s loops starting up again.

She glanced at Maya, taking in the crossed legs and polite posture of the taller girl as Claudine fidgeted with her own hands, noting the stark difference in composure between them at the moment that even a child could pick up, point at and comment on.

And yet her calm demeanor suited her perfectly, it only added to the brunette’s beauty. And god was she beautiful, stunning even.

Her long hair was pulled out of its normal updo and flowed over her shoulders, the ribbon that normally kept it in place was wrapped around her throat and tied in a bow around her nape, it worked as a subtle accessory that complimented her eyes just as strongly as it did when holding her hair up. Resting atop her head was a red beret that contrasted with the simpler colors in the rest of her outfit. Crimson eyes wandered down to the white sweater she had on and the brown overcoat over it, similar to what Claudine had on but one that still showed off the skin of her neck that wasn’t protected by the warmth of the coat, below that Maya was wearing black jeans and comfortable looking boots that would surely provide protection from the elements just as much as it added to the outfit.

Maya caught her staring and smiled, turning Claudine’s face bright red as her head shot away from the lilac gaze, why was she so perfect and why was Claudine’s heart racing at a mile a minute just from admiring the girl.

At least Maya was being patient, Claudine was a hot mess just trying to gather her thoughts to form words but here she was blushing and acting like a lovestruck fool who couldn’t complete a sentence right now if she tried,

Her hand closest to the girl was lifted and gently gripped, fingers threading in between hers as Claudine went rigid at the gesture, 

“You look lovely too you know,” Maya spoke softly as she leaned in towards her ear, knowing full well the effect she was having on Claudine at the moment,

M-merci,”

God help her.

She leaned against Maya in return, holding her hand just a little tighter as the rhythmic motions of the train sounded around them, catching a glimpse of their reflection in the glass of the train car,

She had ended up going with a black overcoat and a red scarf that was currently looped around her neck, paired with the black tights and brown boots. Claudine had to admit she didn’t look too bad either, especially with her hair pulled to one side over her shoulder.

Still that didn’t stop Maya from completely blowing her out of the water in terms of looks. Although, as they watched the scenery fly by outside the window, the buildings and landscape passing quickly, transitioning into a more recognizable area by the second as their trip came to a close. Claudine swore she could see a red flush on the brunette’s face reflected back by the window that only grew darker with each second they spent intertwined. 

Another minute passed before the train shook as it slowed to a stop, announcing in a female voice that this was their stop. Outside the station it was a quick walk to the park where several dozen people were already out and about, strolling around admiring the lights with loved ones or playing in the snow with children, there were even a few food vendors scattered along the long walkway to the outdoor skating rink. Between the decorated trees and the many lights strung between them, the soft glow it cast over the ground and the many sounds of people enjoying a snowy evening, it created a rather magical atmosphere that seemed impossible to not feel dazzled by.

Claudine of course had done her research beforehand, picking out this park from past visits specifically for its charm that seemed perfect for someone like Maya who really didn’t have much experience in celebrating Christmas. The familiar sights even touched Claudine, restoring her composure as they took in the scene together. Even if she knew that composure would crumble in an instant the second her eyes passed over Maya once more, 

She gave Maya’s hand a squeeze, noting that their fingers had stayed intertwined the entire walk from the station.

“Where would you like to start,” she stated, giving the brunette the opportunity to lead wherever she wanted, a rather amusing action since Claudine spent all of her time each day working to take the lead from her. She would probably laugh about it later.

“I- I’m not sure,” Maya sounded like she was overwhelmed in a good way, and Claudine made the mistake of staring right at the girl. Her eyes were wide and practically had stars in them as she took in the sights before her with pure childlike amazement.

There goes her composure,

“Well…um, we could work our way through everything, see what catches your eye,”

Maya eagerly nodded, hand tightening around Claudine’s as she continued to look around. It was a little uncomfortable with the bandages and burns still present on her hands, but not painful enough to speak up about. 

Claudine half expected Maya to start walking towards the food, knowing her appetite, instead she led them both away from the walkway onto the crunchy snow.

An idea formed rapidly in Claudine’s head and she carefully separated their hands, taking a few steps further into the snow to bend down and scoop some up in her hands. Ignoring how the bits of soft ice were melting against her warm hands and starting to wet the bandages, Claudine turned back to Maya who had still only taken her first step into the snow, before crouching slightly and throwing all the snow up in the air around herself, smiling as the snow flurried around in her attempt to encourage the star to come play further.

Claudine bent down again to grab some another handful, but didn’t even get to stand up fully before something collided with her shoulder. With a glance down she could see a circular explosion of snow against her coat while a soft laughter echoed just a few steps away.

Oh so that’s how Maya wanted to play. Claudine compressed the pile of snow in her hand into a snowball, dodging an incoming missile before sending one flying back at the girl, the ends of her red scarf fluttering behind her at the sudden rapid motion. Maya was too slow dodging Claudine’s and ended up with a similar patch of broken snow against the waist of her coat, to which she gave a wild grin before taking off running into the sea of white.

After that Claudine was utterly destroyed, neither of them had been joking earlier about the intensity at which Maya fought with snowballs, maybe Claudine would make a joke about a snowball revue weapon, after picking herself up out of the Claudine-shaped hole in the snow she’d ended up in. Maya of course helped her to her feet, brushing the snow out of her hair with fingers bright red from exposure to the cold,

“I’ll win next time, don’t get too comfortable,” Claudine started with a challenging smirk as she repeated her normal retort like it was second nature. To which Maya simply closed her eyes and smiled slightly at, just like normal.


They made their way back onto the walkway, hands intertwined once more as they set off in search of another, hopefully less strenuous, activity. And it didn’t take much walking before they came upon one of the food stands that happened to be serving hot chocolate and donuts,

“Hungry?” Claudine inquired, although she probably didn’t need to ask in the first place with how loud Maya’s stomach growled in response,

“Perhaps a little,”

Claudine insisted on paying of course and got a hot chocolate for them each, as well as a few donuts to share. They each thanked the man working before moving to the side to dig in, even if their hands had to separate once more so they could eat and drink without making a mess. Still, holding both felt amazing against the freezing skin of her hands. Each sip of hot chocolate sent warmth through her insides while every cinnamon and sugar coated bite that followed was just as delicious as the last.

It seemed Maya was in the same boat as well, eyes lit up just as bright as their surroundings as she bit into her third donut with a delightful hum, still nursing the remainder of the hot chocolate or perhaps trying to savor the warmth that was left in the cup like Claudine was.

Maya was back to walking hand in hand with the blonde down the path after disposing of the cups and wrappers, lilac eyes wandered as she searched for another activity, though at this point there were only two things left. Just a little further was the ice rink and on a path that branched to their left was the full Christmas light display, they still had plenty of time for both but what they did first was for Maya to decide,

Though that decision would probably come easier than expected, the brunette stared like a deer in headlights at the magnificent display of holiday shapes, figures and trees strung with what had to be thousands of lights. Claudine felt herself getting dragged towards the branching path when Maya sped up slightly in an unconscious effort to get closer, only noticing the blonde lagging behind a moment later,

“My apologies Claudine l-,” it would seem Claudine wasn’t the only one at a loss for words anymore, “I’ve never seen so many lights in one place, it’s so..dazzling,”

Claudine motioned towards the path ahead with a tilt of her head, 

“What are we waiting for then?”

Claudine had been here in the past, twice before actually. During both times the light display was massive, and slightly better than the year before. Sure enough it lived up to her expectations, and clearly surpassed Maya’s to the moon and back.

It was normally about a five minute walk through the display, and for the last three minutes Maya had been absolutely ecstatic, gasping and pointing at each bright holiday sculpture they passed. A similar reaction from the waves of other people they were surrounded by.

The poor girl practically had been losing her shit the entire time especially at the little penguin decorations. But it wasn’t until they reached the “light tunnel” that Maya actually stopped in her tracks, though it wasn’t actually a tunnel but rather a massive amount of light strings that spanned between trees across the path for a good distance,

“Do you want to go through?” Claudine had a good feeling she knew what the answer would be.

Maya nodded breathlessly as they took a few steps forward, and for the second time today Claudine felt her breath get snatched away unknowingly by the brunette. Staring almost helplessly into those pools of lilac, intoxicated by the way her eyes reflected a multitude of soft whites, blues, greens, purples and reds from the hundreds of twinkling lights surrounding them as she looked around in wonder.

She was in love.

So desperately, immeasurably, head over heels for Maya.

Outside the end of the tunnel they stopped between two hanging curtains of light strands, one red one purple, the two hues passing across the girls’ features as the curtains swapped colors every half a minute.

It was just the two of them, the flowing tide of people along the path had ceased for the time being, leaving them alone at this perfect moment.

Maya smiled and Claudine’s heart stopped.

‘I’m in love with you,’

Claudine thought as she breathed in and out, heated puffs rising from her mouth as each breath met cold air. Staring at the object of her affection like she was icarus and Maya was the sun, the star she wouldn’t dare stop chasing even if she caught fire and fell from the heavens.

Her heart was hammering in her chest, as if it was trying to reach out on its own towards the girl that stood in front of her, the girl who was now staring back with a face flushed as red as the color that bathed her surroundings.

Purple light fell across Claudine when she realized that thought didn’t quite stay to herself, making no attempt to contradict her declaration while she waited for a response, even though she already knew what it would be.

Maya took a step towards Claudine, she was much closer now. Both colors met in the middle, mingling in their own interchanging dance over two girls desperately in love with one another as they stared unflinching with red tinted cheeks and hearts bursting.  

Maya was so close, all Claudine had to do was lean forward just a little and- 

The silent exchange was interrupted as the tide of people returned as quickly as it had vanished. The moment was over. Maya closed the distance between them as voices bubbled around from passerby, hand still holding hers as the other circled around her torso. She bent her head, buried her face against Claudine’s shoulder and after a moment started to laugh, giggling until tears formed,

“I love you too,” 

Maya wiped at her eyes, and Claudine brought her own hand up to dry the remaining tears the taller girl had missed,

Merci,” she giggled once more.

Claudine hadn’t ever seen Maya this open, this happy since they met. Forgoing how beautiful she looked on the outside, Claudine thought that this was the most beautiful thing about her and she absolutely couldn’t wait to continue bringing Maya such happiness. 

Like the kind that she would hopefully bring right now. Claudine fidgeted with the top of her coat, hand brushing over where the item tucked inside her coat had sat concealed ever since they left the dorms,

“I was gonna give this to you later, but,” she pulled out a gray handknit scarf, presenting it to Maya who was rather shocked to be receiving such a thoughtful gift at this moment, “I think now is a better time...May I?”

Maya nodded, the girl was absolutely beaming as Claudine carefully wrapped the scarf around her neck, 

“It’s beautiful Claudine, did you by any chance make this?” She questioned, fingers gripping tightly at the edge of her new scarf as if it would vanish should she let go.

“I- perhaps, yes. It’s nothing though,” red flashed across Claudine’s face yet again, it suited Maya well, like really well. 

Not only did it add to the outfit, but the gray brought out her lilac eyes even more, the same eyes that were mere inches away from hers, reflecting a galaxy’s worth of lights off their glossy surface. Claudine coughed to try and release some pressure before her head flew off from staring at Maya for too long,

“We still need to go ice skating you know,”

“Oh but there’s something I need to do first,”

Maya closed the distance, planting a kiss on Claudine’s forehead in front of all these people, though none of them batted an eye Claudine nearly curled in on herself in embarrassment,

“I truly love it Claudine and knowing you made this yourself gives it more meaning than I could possibly ask for, I’ll treasure this gift for a very long time.” She tugged their hands forward slightly as the blonde still reeled internally from the sentiment, Maya shot her a smile and tightened her grip on both the scarf and Claudine’s hand, “now then, shall we go?”

Oui,”
                              ….

 

The remaining walk to the ice rink from the light display was rather short, and thankfully the line to rent skates was even shorter. Once again Claudine insisted on paying, even though Maya was more than capable of covering her share, Claudine didn’t want her to worry about anything for the rest of tonight other than enjoying the date.

She didn’t take into account that Maya had never skated before in her life, 

Ma Claudine it’s ok, I can learn,”

“I should have asked though!” She groaned in annoyance at her own stupidity. They were sitting side by side on a bench putting on the ice skates, rather aggressively in Claudine’s case while Maya had yet to tie up her laces, testing the stability of walking on the blades with tentative foot touches outward as she listened to Claudine,

“If it’s you teaching me then I’ll be a professional in no time, you could start now even,” she lifted up one of her legs, the untied laces dangling just off the ground.

Was she serious?

“Maya,” Claudine deadpanned, “you don’t need my help tying the laces,”

Maya hummed innocently as Claudine’s frustration started to dissipate, 

“Perhaps I do,”

“You know how to tie your shoes Maya,”

“That may be true, but these aren’t shoes,” she dangled the skate, “see?”

“What does that even mean?! It’s the same concept you infuriating woman just loop the laces. In fact here, laissez-moi just-,” Claudine knelt down in front of the brunette. As if tying her girlfriend’s shoes like she was a child wasn’t embarrassing enough, Claudine heard footsteps approaching, followed by a very familiar voice,

“Oh my, a marriage proposal? How exciting,”

Yachiyo Tsuruhime certainly had comedic timing on her side. Claudine would give her that, as numerous people around them turned to look in their direction at the mention of a proposal. 

“Tsuruhime-san, what a surprise,” Maya greeted politely with a bow of her head as Claudine shot up from her kneeling position with a dark red face she tried her hardest to conceal, causing the remaining onlookers to turn away at the realization that there was nothing of interest unfolding,

“No need to be so formal, we’re all a good way away from our schools after all,”

“What brings you here?” Claudine inquired once she had a moment to recover,

“Me? Oh not much, just found myself passing through on my way to meet someone. However, you two look like you’re enjoying yourselves, especially you Saijo-san,” Claudine wanted to question what that meant, but the knowing smile she received after put her off to the point that she just let it go, “ Regardless I don’t want to keep either of you for more than a moment, I simply had to stop and say hello to my senpai. We all have places to be after all,”

The pink haired girl started to walk away just as quickly as she’d appeared, bringing up her hand to briefly wave farewell without sparing another glance backward,

“Enjoy your date lovebirds,”

“… quoi dans le monde,” Yachiyo was already gone but a small blush remained present on each of their faces, at least now Maya’s skates were fully tied so they could begin without any other interesting interruptions from other stray kouhai.

 

The ice skating itself didn’t go terribly. Even if Maya spent a good amount of time wobbling around like a baby deer learning to walk, she eventually got the hang of the more basic movements that the brunette made look exceptionally graceful. Claudine would have patted herself on the back for teaching Maya so well, if not for the fact that she at least had some experience ahead of time. And that Maya was completely showing her up with each perfectly smooth movement at such a beginner level,

“Infuriating woman,” Claudine mumbled as Maya passed by, something the other girl clearly heard as she spun around in place,

“You called?”

“Yeah I did, come here you big showoff,” Claudine reached out to link her arm around Maya’s so they could skate together, making laps around the rink for the remainder of their time with the rental skates as their date started coming to an end.

“Did you have fun?” Claudine implored, her breath puffing up into the sky as they made their way back through the park along the walkway, passing by fewer people than earlier, likely because the air was a lot colder at this time of night,

“I did, in fact I can’t remember the last time I’ve had so much fun in one evening,” Maya snuggled into her side as they walked, seeking extra protection from the cold, “thank you for making this night so memorable, Ma Claudine,”

“It’s nothing, I’m just glad you were able to enjoy this, and celebrate Christmas properly for once. But don’t think it’s over yet, tonight was just the beginning,” they each smiled to themselves at the thought, “I just know you’ll love what the others have in store for you,”

“If it’s even half as good as this, then I’m sure I will. Though this date would have sufficed on its own,”

Fate was really smiling on them today, even after the terribly hectic morning the day still managed to turn itself around into something truly wonderful, something worth all the pain. 

And one last time today, she was wrong. Fate was not smiling, it was pointing and laughing at the fool that was Saijo Claudine.

“Claudine! Are you alright? That ice looked rather painful to land on,”

Maya was by her side in an instant, but that would explain why she was on her back, staring at the sky with a blinding pain coming from both her hands and left ankle.

Claudine tried to stand up on her own and instantly regretted it, falling back down as her ankle almost buckled in pain. Unfortunately for her she had enough experience in dancing that she could recognize a sprain when she saw one, her hands seemed fine at least, though she assumed the covered burns had cushioned some of the fall,

“I’m pretty sure it’s sprained,” she hissed in pain as tears started to well up in her eyes once more today, no please not now. She didn’t want to cry in front of all these people, not in front of Maya,

“Oh.. Claudine, let me help you,” Maya wiped her growing tears without a word before carefully helping Claudine into a standing position. Maya placed one of Claudine’s arms around her neck as they hop-walked away from the ice patch, making sure to keep a tight grip around her waist.

The second they were clear however, Maya smoothly bent down to hook an arm under Claudine’s legs. Hoisting the girl into the air with ease,

“M-Maya, Hey!” Claudine was caught completely off guard by the gesture, “I can walk on my own you know,”

But Maya refused to cave, shaking her head as she started walking towards the park exit with a rather upset blonde in her arms,

“Absolutely not, you know how detrimental walking on a sprain can be just much as I do,” Claudine hated how right Maya was, attempting to walk all the way to the station and back to the dorms would be rather horrible for the healing process, though.. being carried like this by Maya was rather nice. But she would die before admitting that, curling further into Maya’s body as she let herself be carried just this once.

 

The train ride back was both the longest and shortest ten minutes of her life, on one hand her ankle really fucking hurt. On the other hand she was snuggling up rather close to the brunette who tightly clung to her with an arm wrapped around Claudine while the other played with the ends of her scarf. The protective gesture was certainly appreciated and enjoyed, but short lived as the train pulled into the station far sooner than she would’ve liked.

Once more Maya left no room for debate, this time picking Claudine up in a piggyback style for the remainder of the walk back to the dorms, it was still humiliating but far less than being bridal carried so Claudine let it go. Enjoying the fact that she could wrap both arms around Maya and bury her face against her neck, breathing in the subtle scent of lavender off the brunette’s clothing.

After what seemed like an eternity, Maya climbed the dorm steps and pushed the front door open. Gently setting Claudine down only when she was sure it was safe to. It took them a moment to get Claudine’s boots off, however once the worst of it was over she finally let herself exhale a long sigh of relief. Maya helped her to her feet once more as they traded away snow covered boots in favor of comfortable and rather warm house shoes, though Claudine had to forego putting on the left one for obvious reasons.

“Hey,” Claudine stopped them before they could leave the lobby and ascend the stairs to their friends. Though she knew Maya was looking forward to dinner just as much as she wanted to look after Claudine’s ankle,

“Is something the matter? We should get upstairs so we can check out that sprain,”

Claudine shook her head with a small smile that tugged at one corner of her mouth, 

“No need to worry there’s nothing wrong, this will only take a second,” Maya looked rather curious as to what could be so important that it would take priority over her new injury.

Claudine tilted forward, her lips connecting with Maya’s.

She could feel the sudden hunger from the brunette over the long awaited moment, carefully contained as she leaned into the kiss without hesitation. A stray hand moved up to cup Claudine’s cheek as her lips pressed against the blonde’s just a little harder, pulling herself away after a minute to catch her breath. 

Maya stared at Claudine with wild eyes that clearly wanted that kiss to continue for longer than it did, the blonde however pointed up at the ceiling with a smirk, revealing the lonesome mistletoe hanging in the lobby,

“It seems one survived the massacre, I couldn’t resist you know,”

Maya sighed before pulling Claudine in once more, speaking so close to her face she could feel Maya’s breath tickling her lips,

“You don’t need a silly little plant to kiss me you know,” 

And Maya proved that point then and there.

For now at least, dinner and first aid would have to wait as the two indulged in the moment all to themselves, though Claudine had one last stray thought as Maya stole the breath from her lungs for a third time that evening.

The nurse was gonna be pissed.

 

                                  ….