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Story Notes:
I initially wrote this as a Christmas gift fic for Sukino, a really good friend of mine, who willing and graciously entertained me for hours on end roleplaying her Shinji against my Akira. She's a great friend, and i hope everyone else enjoys this story as much as she did.

Disclaimer: I do not own Prince of Tennis or any of the characters depicted within. If I did, these would be novelized instead of posted in an internet archive. ^_^

Shivering, Kamio tucked himself deeper into his heavy wool overcoat and scarf. He hated the winter time. Or more accurately, he hated the cold. The numbing, freezing, unforgiving cold. The only positive thing about it was that when it came, it brought the holiday season with it. The holidays provided a warm reprieve to the void of winter. He did like the holidays.

Oftentimes he wondered why the best holidays had to be celebrated in the middle of winter. Of course the religious aspects of the holiday didn't escape him, but why couldn't He have been born when it felt nice outside, instead of when it was so low in temperature that you couldn't even tell if your toes were still attached.

His family wasn't particularly Christian themselves, but that didn't stop them, or most of the Japanese population, from celebrating the traditional parts of it. There were fireworks festivals and tree-lighting ceremonies, and the obligatory gift exchange on December 25th. Kamio had even pulled out his Christmas CDs to honor the coming occasion. There was nothing better than the tones of Manheim Steamroller and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra to bring a person into the mood of the season.

But no matter the positive points, it was cold. Kamio hated being cold.

Today, as he walked home from evening practice in the school gym, it was particularly cold. If he didn't know any better, he would even venture to say that it was cold enough to...

"It's starting to snow."

Kamio was pulled out of his usual thoughts by the low voice coming from beside him. Risking some of the heat escaping his little nest of wool, he turned his head to look over at his tennis partner. Ibu had his head angled toward the dreary, cloud-filled sky. The first snowfall of the season.

"I don't like the snow. It's cold and wet. It's no fun being wet and cold. It shocks the system. And the snow gets into your hair, messing it up. Sucks after you've just washed it the night before. Snow is anything but clean, either. That just makes it worse. Sometimes I see children run out and try to catch snowflakes on their tongues. I don't get that. Whoever came up with the idea that snow was edible, anyway? That's just gross. It's like they decided one day to pick up a handful and stick it in their mouth. I mean, didn't it even make them cold inside? It's like eating ice cream in the middle of winter. I just don't see how some people can do that, you know?"


Ibu brought his head down to look at what was in front of them as they walked. "Akira, I'm hungry. Let's stop somewhere and get something to eat."

Nodding his acceptance, Kamio turned his head back. He was always hungry after practice, so the suggestion didn't bother him. Had it not been so chilly out, he might have even been the first to think of it.

They found a small cafe around the corner and went inside. They stood in line, ordered their food, then chose a small booth in front of a window, so they could look out at the street. The stores across the way had all decorated their storefronts for the season. Each one held wreaths and banners on their doors while the windows were alight with the semi-warm glow of strung lighting.

Even this little store had decorated for the holiday, with strands of garland hung along the edge where ceiling met wall, and that spray-on snow stuff painting the window next to them and all the ones beside it. It was a little warmer in here, but not much, as the constant stream of customers in and out kept letting the warm air escape and the cool air come in. Kamio didn't bother removing his coat.

They sat unspoken, distant - though close enough for the edge of their trays to touch - and enjoyed their meals. At one point, Kamio realized his music had stopped, so he paused from him fries covered with cheese and changed it out. Other than Shinji asking what he put in, no words were exchanged between them. They weren't needed.

Outside, the snowfall slowly thickened as the sky darkened into the shadowy backdrop of dusk in the winter time. The lights that seemed semi-warm only a short time before, now took on a frosty look against the grayness. They finished their respective plates and left the small cafe.

The walk to Shinji's house wasn't a long one. Kamio felt grateful, because had he been headed to his own home, he didn't think he would have made it. He hadn't been prepared for snow, so the wetness had started to seep into his shoes, numbing his feet almost to his ankles.

It wasn't an odd thing to find him staying a week at the Ibu household, or vice versa, but the situation which led up to this particular instance would definitely be one for the books. The heater at Kamio's own home had broken over the weekend, a fuse blowing from overuse. Since the electrician couldn't make it out there until later in the week, his parents had decided to ship him and his two sisters to their friends' houses until they got the thing fixed. So, thus, Kamio came to be staying with his teammate in their two story home that seemed way too big for the small family of three.

The two quickly let themselves in, making sure not to track in the snow or biting air as they went. Kamio's shoes were soaked though. He felt guilty about it, but there wasn't much he could do. Then he noticed that Shinji's were the same way and didn't feel so bad about it anymore.

They removed their coats, scarves, and hats and entered the living room, Kamio already missing the heat he'd tried so hard to preserve before he ever left the hallway.

Shinji's mother intercepted them in the next room, telling them that dinner would be late, and that a bath had been drawn up for them in light of the snow. The news of dinner didn't matter to them, as they had just eaten anyway, and after giving their gratitude, went upstairs to grab a change of clothes before getting into the bath.

Kamio could see the steam rising from the bath and couldn't wait to get in. The temperature of the water, though not really all that hot, felt scalding against his skin as he slid in. He adjusted to it fast, however, and soon every muscle in his body felt relaxed, the heat massaging every inch. Kamio could tell the bath had the same affect on Shinji, so he contented himself with playing with his friend's feet to keep him from falling asleep.

They stayed in the bath until the warmth started to seep out of it. They decided it's be best if they got out before the water created the opposite effect of what it was meant for. Kamio put on a bulky sweater and a pair of sweat pants, and followed Shinji back downstairs, where Shinji's father sat watching the news. The two boys joined him. They ended up watching a couple of sitcoms before they were called to the table by Shinji's mother.

Neither one ate much on their plates, still full from their stop at the little cafe. Shinji's mother fussed at them for it, but they could tell that she did so out of love. They deposited their plates into the sink filled with lukewarm, soapy water, then went back to the living room.

As Shinji flipped through the channels on the television from their place on the couch, Kamio took the time to admire the room. Sometime during the day, Shinji's parents had found the time to decorate as well. Small figurines sat meticulously arranged on the hearth and coffee table. What could be seen of the windows through the red and green curtains showed that icicle lights had been hung along the window edges. A small five foot Christmas tree stood proudly in a corner, its multi-colored bulbs creating the only light in the room besides the lamp beside the couch they occupied, and the fire burning in the fireplace.

It was a warm atmosphere.

Somewhere in the middle of the late night movie, Shinji reached behind them and wrapped a thick blanket around the both of them. It was then that Kamio noticed that the fire had died down and the temperature change had caused him to shift closer to his friend for body heat. The blanket only accomplished what would have happened eventually anyway. They had to shift closer for it to wrap around them completely. As a result, Shinji started using Kamio's shoulder as a pillow. He didn't mind. He loved the times he got to legitimately be this close to his partner. Most of the time, they had to steal these moments.

Being near Shinji never failed to make Kamio warm inside, like there was a flame inside of him that only burned when Shinji was with him.

Another thirty minutes passed before Kamio figured out that Shinji had fallen asleep against him. Ibu looked so peaceful when he slept. The fire had almost died out completely with no one to tend to it - Shinji's parents had gone to bed some time before - but he could hardly feel it. Shinji's warmth was all he really needed in the end.

He kissed his sleeping boyfriend on the head, then mimicked him, falling asleep still wrapped tightly in the blanket, inseparable for the night.

His parents could take their time getting the heater in his house fixed.

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