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First Winter

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"Achoo!" 

Mizael didn't think he would ever get used to winter.

Granted, it was his first-ever winter in both his human lives, but the moment a blast of icy wind hit him in the face when he opened the door, he knew he would hate cold weather for the rest of his life. Thankfully, it was winter break, so he could spend all day curled up on his bed in the Kamishiro mansion under a sea of thick blankets...

...or at least he could have if it weren’t for Vector nearly burning down the kitchen in an attempt to make pancakes. The resulting smell had forced everyone out of the house minus Ryoga, Rio and Vector, the former two staying behind to make sure Vector cleaned up. 

Mizael had no idea where everyone else went, but with no clear destination in mind himself, he wound up aimlessly wandering downtown Heartland City. It was Heartland's City first huge snowfall of the season, and the snow was piling up everywhere. Mizael had almost tripped twice making his way through the streets.

"Achoo!" Mizael growled and pulled his scarf up higher to cover more of his face. "I hate winter." Spying a coffee shop just a little bit ahead, he beelined towards it, slipping in as fast as he could. While he disliked interacting with people, finding a warm place took priority.

The temperature around him immediately shot up, and Mizael sighed in relief. The warm air was scented with coffee and other baked sweets, and as he looked around, he could see bright red, green and white decorations embellishing the walls. Small, blinking lights strung across the ceiling blinked on and off, and cheerful music played in the background. A sign near the counter read "Christmas Special Drinks". 

"Christmas...?" If he recalled correctly from what Ryoga told him, it was some kind of holiday during the winter break where people exchanged gifts...or something like that. 

Shrugging, Mizael flipped back his hood and shook his long blond hair free, before pulling down his scarf as well. He might as well stay a bit. Glancing at the sign, he picked the first drink and got into line. Soon enough, he was standing in front of a barista.

"Good afternoon! What can I get you?"

"I'll take a small size candy cane hot chocolate."  I remember how to pay people...I think. 

"Sure thing! Is that all?"

Mizael nodded. Taking out his wallet, he paid for his drink and moved away from the counter. A few minutes elapsed before his hot chocolate was set in front of him, and he took it, looking around for an empty seat. 

"Don't tell me there aren't any seats," he muttered. 

"Mizael?"

Mizael turned his head upon hearing a familiar voice. "Tenjo Kaito?!"

Kaito stood behind him, a slight smile on his face. "What a surprise. Are you looking for a place to sit?"

"Of course not."

"What a shame; I was about to ask if you wanted to sit with me. I found a four-person booth."

Mizael scowled. "Fine. Just this once."

Kaito smirked. "Follow me." He led Mizael to a booth in the far corner. 

Mizael's thoughts whirled as he stared at Kaito's back. He certainly hadn't expected to see Kaito here. Nor had he expected Kaito to offer him a seat. He had to be honest; he hadn't spoken with Kaito ever since they had all been revived by the Numeron Code's power, which was a few months ago. The older teen was busy in university while Mizael had been reincarnated as a third-year middle school student. They had had very few opportunities to talk, although Kaito's dying words on the moon had stuck with Mizael to this very day. While he didn't want to admit it, he had wanted to talk to Kaito ever since he was brought back to life, but had never found the willpower to do so. 

Kaito sat down in a cushioned booth and gestured for Mizael to sit down as well. "What brings you here today? You don't seem like the type to frequent coffee shops."

"Vector burned down the kitchen, so the mansion now smells of charcoal."

Kaito grinned. "Sounds like a disaster." 

Mizael found Kaito's smile quite nice and then banished the thought from his mind. "What are you doing here, then?" 

"I was going to help Father with research but he kicked me out, telling me to enjoy my winter break. Haruto's out on a playdate with some friends and Orbital's over at Yuma's house. I was planning to go to the library but I saw this coffee shop, so here I am, working." He gestured to his laptop. 

"You're telling me you were kicked out to stop working and you're still here working?"

Kaito shrugged. "What else can I do? I certainly don't feel like studying."

Mizael didn't respond in order to take a drink from his hot chocolate. He choked as an intense flavour invaded his senses. "Too sweet!"

"What did you get?" Kaito asked, a hint of concern in his tone as he watched Mizael splutter. "I'll get some water for you."

"It's fine." Mizael quickly replied. "I picked the first thing on the Christmas menu or whatever that monstrosity was."

"Candy cane hot chocolate?" Kaito took one look at Mizael's drink and smirked. "Haruto loves that. I'm guessing you don't like sweet things?"

"Sweets are fine, but this...is beyond sweet. What is a candy cane, anyway?"

Mizael's question was received with a raised eyebrow from Kaito. "How much did Ryoga tell you about wintertime and Christmas?"

"Not much, besides something along the lines of people exchanging gifts."

"That guy really is terrible at explaining the modern world to you guys besides the bare minimum, isn't he? Tell you what: I don't have anything else to do at the moment, so how about I get you another drink and tell you more about modern traditions?"

"Why are you doing this?" Mizael asked suspiciously. 

"Do I need a reason?" Kaito retorted. 

Yes, wasn't I your mortal enemy and tried to kill you? Mizael felt the urge to shoot back, but he kept his mouth shut.

Noting Mizael's silence, Kaito stood up, a victorious grin on his face. "I think you'll like the drink I have in mind. I'll be back."

As soon as Kaito was gone, Mizael pressed a hand to his forehead, groaning. "What the hell am I doing?"

He had tried to kill Kaito. And Kaito had died indirectly from his actions. But had he really hated Kaito when he was a Barian? Kaito had even trusted him in the end to make the right decision. And now that he was human, he had no idea how to act around Kaito. Was he an enemy, a rival, an acquaintance--just what was Kaito to him?

"Mizael!"

Mizael blinked and looked up. Kaito stared at him amusedly, a steaming cup in his hands. "It's not like you to stare off into space. I've been calling you for a while now." He offered the cup to Mizael. "Try it out."

Mizael reached out and took the cup, his fingers brushing Kaito's warm ones briefly before he let go. Forcing down the sudden sense of loss, Mizael brought the cup to his lips and took a sip. "This...is pretty good."

"It's a vanilla latte. Not too sweet and not too bitter. I wasn't sure if you liked black coffee so I went with this." Kaito sat back down, taking a sip from his own drink.

"I don't. What did you get?" Mizael asked curiously.

"Black coffee."

"How do you drink that?"

"You get used to it."

They sat in silence for a while before the door to the coffee shop slammed open, prompting both boys to glance towards the entrance. Tsukumo Yuma and Mihael Arclight stood there hand-in-hand and covered in snow. Looking around, Yuma's eyes landed on Kaito and he grinned. "Kaito!" He yelled excitedly. "I knew I saw you outside the window!"

"You're loud," Kaito said good-naturedly. "Now quiet down before you disturb anyone else. I'll go buy some hot chocolate for you two." He slid out of the booth. "Mizael, do you want to come with me?"

Mizael blinked in surprise. "Okay."

"Oh, I didn't see you here, Mizael! Nice to see you here!" Yuma said cheerfully. He slid into the seat Kaito had just been sitting in, pulling Mihael with him. "Don't tell Chris, okay?"

"Of course not. Come on, Mizael."

Mizael got out of his seat and followed Kaito to the counter. As they waited in line, Mizael watched Yuma and Mihael interact. The latter was fussing over Yuma's snow-covered hair and clothing and Yuma was grinning, leaning on Mihael's shoulder despite the other boy's protests. "They look happy."

Kaito smiled fondly. "It's nice to see them together like that. They're a happy couple, although Chris is going to take a while to get used to the fact that Mihael found a boyfriend before him and Thomas. I heard the Tsukumo family was quite supportive, though. It's only been a month or so since they started going out." 

"Is that so?"

The two reached the counter and Kaito ordered two regular hot chocolates. While they waited for the drinks, Mizael looked up and noticed a strange plant with white berries and lots of leaves hanging from the middle of the ceiling. "Kaito, what's that plant?"

"Hm? It's mistletoe. It's a parasitic plant, but during Christmas, there's an old tradition that whoever kisses under the mistletoe will have a happy love life. Apparently, if a pair also gets caught under the mistletoe, they have to kiss."

"So it's a trap if they're putting it right there," Mizael stated bluntly.

"Not many people look up, though. Unless a third party brings attention to it, I doubt many couples that come here would be caught under the mistletoe."

"Then what's the point of putting it there?"

"Decoration." Kaito picked up one of the hot chocolates and slid the other one over to Mizael. "Let's go back."

Yuma and Mihael happily accepted the hot chocolate, and after a few sips, Yuma breathlessly recounted their time outside. Having gone outside for a walk, they had wandered to Heartland Park where Yuma found the snow to be perfect for a snowball fight. 

"And after a couple of rounds, you two either got too cold or wet to continue, and so you decided to find a place to warm up."

Mihael nodded. "We were going to go back to Yuma's home, but he spotted you inside the cafe and wanted to greet you. Sorry if we interrupted anything."

"It's fine." Kaito drained the last of his coffee. "Well, what are you two going to do now?"

"Well, now that we're all warmed up, how about you two have a snowball fight with us?" Yuma's eyes sparkled. "It's more fun with four people!"

"What exactly happens during a snowball fight?" Mizael asked curiously.

Kaito's smiled mysteriously (and Mizael could have sworn his heart stuttered to a stop just then) as he packed his laptop. "You'll see."

"Let's go!" Yuma gushed as he grabbed Mihael's hand and ran for the door. As fate would have it, they passed under the mistletoe and Kaito smirked.

"Yuma, you might want to look above you."

"Huh? What? Wha--oh, uh...." Yuma's voice trailed off as he stared up at the mistletoe, his cheeks slowly going pink. Mihael's expression mirrored his.

"Well..."

The pair now had the full attention of everyone in the shop. Someone from the other side of the room called out. "What are you two waiting for?"

"You know what happens if you get caught under the mistletoe!" Someone else yelled playfully.

Mihael and Yuma stared at each other for a few seconds before both leaned in. The kiss lasted only a few seconds but when they separated, both faces flushed bright red, everyone was cheering. 

"That's payback for calling me an old man a while back, although I think they rather enjoyed it," Kaito laughed as he walked around the mistletoe, Mizael following behind him. "Come on, let's go."

Mizael made a mental note to not get on Kaito's bad side. In this life, at least.


"Alright, so this is going to be a free-for-all," Yuma announced as the four boys reached Heartland Park. He had recovered from the earlier shock at the coffee shop and was back to his normal bouncy self. "We can team up, but in the end, the last one standing wins!"

Mizael was about to ask what a snowball fight entailed but noticed Kaito casually moving behind him and gather some snow into his hands, pressing it into a shape of a ball. "Kaito...?"

"Sh," Kaito shushed. Taking careful aim, his arm blurred and Yuma was knocked backwards into Mihael by an impact less than a second later. The snowball Kaito had thrown had exploded over his jacket, covering Yuma's front with snow. "Score one for me."

"Kaito?!" Yuma squawked angrily as Mihael helped him up. "What was that for?!"

"You said it was a free-for-all," Kaito called smugly. "Mizael, are you going to go off on your own or temporarily team up with me to take down these two first?"

"I guess I have no choice then." Mizael sighed. "I'm only teaming up with you because it's advantageous for me right now, alright?"

Kaito grinned. "I'll make you an expert at snowball fights in no time. It's been a while since I've had one, so this is going to be fun."

While they were talking, Yuma and Mihael loosed their first snowballs at them. Kaito nimbly ducked out of the way while shoving Mizael to the side, and both projectiles landed harmlessly on the ground. 

Kaito dashed towards a large bush and ducked behind it for cover. Mizael joined him a short time later. "What do we do?"

"First, we make snowballs. Second, we locate Yuma and Mihael and take them down." Kaito knelt on the ground and moulded together snowballs at a fast pace, stacking them together.

Mizael tried copying Kaito's actions but his thick gloves hampered his efforts. Mentally preparing himself the biting cold, Mizael ripped off his gloves and took a handful of snow, lumping it together between his hands. It was harder than it looked--forming the lump into a spherical shape and then packing more snow around it to add weight. Mizael carefully placed his snowball next to Kaito's pile once he finished, admiring his work. 

"Good job. Was that your first snowball?" Kaito asked. 

"What about it?" Mizael asked.

"Nothing. Keep an eye on it--toss it at Yuma later so you can proudly announce that you made and threw your first snowball later," Kaito said with a grin. "It's shaped more of a cube, though, but it'll work all the same. That's all there is to a snowball fight--making snowballs, hitting your target, and being the last one standing at the end."

"Oh?" Mizael proceeded to gather another handful of snow, but his fingers were already starting to numb, unused to the cold conditions. "It's cold," he muttered.

Suddenly, he felt a pair of equally cold hands wrap around his and help him mould the ball into shape, and he locked eyes with Kaito. "...What are you doing?"

"Helping you out," Kaito said casually. "You can put your gloves back on if you're too cold. I'll be depending more on your accuracy later than the number of snowballs we have. And don't deny it--you're cold, aren't you?"

"...I'm not used to winter," Mizael admitted.

"It's fine," Kaito said with a reassuring expression, but his eyes were focused on the snowball in between their two pairs of hands.

Mizael wondered, at that moment, just how Kaito's hands seemed to hold so much warmth in them despite knowing that they were just as cold as his. He hadn't known Kaito would hold so much warmth inside. Somewhere deep down, he wished Kaito would hold onto his hands for longer, but he quickly pushed down the thoughts and watched as Kaito expertly rolled the snow into a sphere. 

"Done. And just in time. Yuma made the mistake of coming to us." A dangerous grin spread across Kaito's face. "I've never lost a snowball fight, and I intend on keeping it that way." 

Mizael heard footsteps approaching the bush, and Yuma's voice yelled out. "KATTOBINGU DAZE, ORE!" 

Kaito picked up a snowball from his pile, peeked out from the bush, and silently gestured to Mizael which direction Yuma was coming from. Mizael nodded and Kaito abruptly stood up, letting his snowball fly. "Go! Start throwing!" 

Mizael picked up his snowball and stood up as well. Yuma was in plain sight, trying to dodge the snowballs Kaito was launching at him with deadly accuracy, but Mihael was nowhere to be seen. Looking around, Mizael caught sight of pale pink hair next to a tree behind their bush. Clearly, they were trying to catch both of them in a pincer attack. 

Carefully taking aim, Mizael tossed his snowball. The ball hit Mihael square in the face and the younger boy cried out in surprise, swiping at the snow on his face.

Mizael quickly grabbed another snowball, aimed, and launched another one. Mihael ducked, and the snowball exploded against the tree in a flurry of crystals. 

Mizael tossed another snowball and was about to aim another one at Mihael's chest before Yuma cried out. 

"Gah! I give! I give! Kaito! You're too good at this!" Yuma whined as he fell onto the snow in a dramatic faint. 

"Yuma!" Mihael called in concern as he rushed over to his boyfriend's side. "Are you alright?"

Kaito watched as Mihael fussed over Yuma. "So, are they both out of the game?"

"I got only one shot on Mihael," Mizael said, a putout expression on his face. 

"You'll get better at this," Kaito said. "As for now..." He picked up a snowball and turned towards Mizael. "I'll be winning this fight."

"Like hell you will!" Mizael spun away and grabbed the last snowball off the ground, hurling it at Kaito's stomach.

The latter stepped to the side and immediately dropped to the ground, quickly forming another snowball and aiming at Mizael's head. Mizael, who was doing the same thing, was forced to roll a significant distance away before he got hit. Staying close to the ground, he gathered a mass of snow and sat up to assess his position, but a snowball to his chest knocked him onto his back. Mizael grunted in annoyance and rolled onto his front, quickly aiming at Kaito's distinctive black coat. The ball exploded against Kaito's sternum and the teenager stumbled back slightly. 

"Nice shot, but do you really think that's enough to stop me?" Kaito taunted. 

Mizael felt the flames of competition rise in his heart. "Bring it on!" He yelled. 

As they dodged and threw snowballs at each, Mizael felt a sense of excitement rise in him. He hadn't had this much fun in...a long time, actually. And certainly not in the presence of his self-proclaimed rival. Had he really hated Kaito the moment he knew that he had possessed the other Galaxy-Eyes? Or was he simply driven by a sense of competition to face down Kaito? Mizael didn't know either way, but what he did know was that he genuinely enjoyed this moment in time with Kaito. 

"Gah!" Mizael spluttered as a snowball exploded on his face, and he could feel his nose start throbbing. Kaito was clearly the better player with his stronger arms and agility, but Mizael's pride would not allow him to lose. 

Getting up from his position on the ground, Mizael quickly ascertained Kaito's position and began running towards him, a snowball in his hand. Noticing Mizael's approach, Kaito smirked and rolled another snowball, preparing to throw it the moment Mizael got closer, but something unexpected happened.

Mizael was barely a few metres away from Kaito before he tripped over a branch sticking up from the ground. The momentum from his run caused him to fly forward...

...right into Kaito. 

The force knocked both of them onto the ground in a tangled heap, with Mizael landing on top of Kaito. 

"Ow."

"I'd say sorry, but..." Mizael raised himself up with his hands, trapping Kaito below him. "I win, right?" He smiled with satisfaction. "You have nowhere to run."

Something in Kaito's expression changed, and Mizael let out a yelp as he found himself flat on his back in a matter of seconds. The roles had been reversed: Kaito now had Mizael trapped underneath him, his weight partially supported by his hands and the other part pinning Mizael down. Their faces were mere inches apart, and Mizael could clearly see the victorious grin on Kaito's. "I believe I should be the one asking that question now."

Mizael was speechless. Kaito had flipped him so quickly he barely felt it. Staring at his face, Mizael could clearly make out minuscule details on Kaito's visage and realized the latter looked quite...striking. "I'm not going to surrender."

"Then maybe I should keep you trapped," Kaito retorted.

That...actually doesn't seem so bad--shut up, brain. "Try me."

The two stared at each other for what felt like an eternity before Kaito released Mizael and got up. "I'm not going to be the cause of you getting a cold for staying in the snow for too long. How about we call this a tie?" He held out a hand to help Mizael up. 

Mizael got up on his own, ignoring Kaito's offered help. "It's not over yet."

"Now, Yuma!" 

"Wha--" Kaito barely had time to speak before something slammed into his back. Completely caught off-guard with the cold dulling his reflexes, he fell onto Mizael, knocking both of them onto the ground once again. 

The impact of the fall stunned Mizael momentarily, and when his vision cleared, he wondered if he had actually fallen unconscious and was dreaming.

Because there was no way Kaito landed on him in such a perfect position that their lips had met in an accidental kiss.

Right?

And from the looks of it, Kaito didn't seem to care.

Yup. 

Mizael was definitely dreaming.

Well, if he was dreaming, he might as well enjoy the dream while it lasted, right?

Kaito's lips were cold but soft, and he tasted faintly of the black coffee he drank earlier. Mizael dimly wondered if Kaito could taste the vanilla latte on his own lips, but pushed the thought away and kissed the older teen back. 

Kaito pulled away after a few seconds, panting for air. "That..." He breathed. "Uh..." He trailed off. "Well...um...sorry?" 

Mizael was trying to catch his own breath but managed to shoot back coherent words. "It wasn't completely your fault and..." he trailed off. "I...didn't mind." He choked out the last words, feeling his cheeks burn. 

Kaito's cheeks were dusted pink upon hearing these words, and he quickly got off Mizael, coughing awkwardly. "That's...a relief?" Looking around for Yuma and Mihael, who had apparently disappeared, Kaito sighed. "Looks like they ran off."

Mizael sat up, feeling the chill from the snow finally settle into his bones. "Achoo!"

Kaito turned back to Mizael, any awkwardness gone and now replaced with concern. "We should go somewhere warm. Um...do you want to stay at my place? I doubt Ryoga can fix up his place in one day."

"Uh...okay." Mizael internally cursed himself for sounding so awkward. "I wouldn't be imposing, right?"

"No, no. Haruto and Father would probably be delighted that I'm finally interacting with people outside of them and occasionally Yuma." Kaito extended a hand to Mizael. "Want my help this time?" He asked teasingly.

Mizael grinned and took Kaito's hand. "Just this once."

Before they left the park, Mizael went to retrieve his gloves, now unusable from the snow that had gotten in and melted, leaving them soaking wet. He scowled at the predicament and began rubbing his hands together for warmth. 

Wordlessly, Kaito reached for one of Mizael's hands and placed both their hands into his coat pocket. Both of them looked away momentarily with red cheeks but continued walking out of the park nonetheless. 

Far behind them, Yuma and Mihael's heads popped out from behind a snowbank.

"Did it work?" Mihael whispered.

"Yup!" Yuma whisper-yelled back. "This is going to be Haruto's best Christmas gift."

"I can't believe one of Haruto's wishes was to get those two together. Especially since..."

Yuma laughed nervously. "Not those two specifically, but he did want Kaito to get a date. Besides, they seem happy. Close enough, right? Sorry and Merry Christmas wherever you are, Haruto!"

"Yes...Merry Christmas," Mihael replied, turning to kiss Yuma.

That winter in Heartland City, two pairs of people spent a very pleasant time together.