Dark Winter Sky (S8)

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Dark Winter Sky (S8)

Post by Craftyatom » Mon Dec 25, 2017 2:56 am

Merry Christmas, everyone! You may or may not have heard about a small festive event known as “S8”, which is basically a ‘secret santa’ where the gifts are short stories, each written by a writer on this forum. I couldn’t possibly turn down such a fun and interesting idea, so I joined in - my story, posted here, is based on the prompt “Emi and her mother host Nurse at their home for Christmas Eve dinner.”, which was submitted for the event by fellow writer and friend EurobeatJester.

At first I was worried that I couldn’t possibly make a good story of decent length out of such a short prompt, but then I remembered that prompts are supposed to be starting points rather than full synopses, and got to work adding my own flavor - in fact, as I learned later, I added so much flavor that my story is one of the longer ones this year! With luck, it’s a story that everyone can have fun reading, but which also fits into the boundaries set forth by the prompt. I hope you enjoy!

Dark Winter Sky
A small car, sounding every minute as old as it was, trundled to a stop up against the curb, its front bumper carving a chunk out of the piles of snow which lined the sides of the road. The engine stopped, the headlights faded, and the driver’s door opened, letting mildly warm air spill into the frigid outdoors. The man inside surveyed the snow for a moment, then carefully pushed both of his feet into it before using the top of the door to pull himself upright.

Small tufts of purple hair poked out from under the blue beanie on his head, seeming out of place above his tired expression. Ordinarily he looked much happier - he was the head nurse at Yamaku Academy, and the patients who knew him as “Nurse” associated him with his characteristic, calming smile - but after a drive like that, he was exhausted. All the better, he thought as he stepped out of the small snow bank, that he had come here to have fun and relax.

Nurse walked up to the house in front of him, grateful that its occupants had taken the time to clear their sidewalk, and knocked on the front door, then listened intently. Surely, any moment now, the sound of rushed steps would get louder and louder, culminating in the door being swung open - and yet, second after second, he heard no such thing. Finally, after what seemed like far too long a wait, a pair of much calmer feet could be heard approaching, and the door opened carefully, revealing a woman with medium-length brown hair in a simple yet colorful dress, who looked quite young given that the man knew she was getting into middle-age.

“Meiko!” he called, a smile appearing on his face for the first time in at least an hour. “It’s great to see you!”

The woman returned his smile. “It’s good to see you too - come on in, it’s way too cold out there.” She beckoned him inside, then closed the door behind him. “The roads weren’t too bad, I hope?”

“Well, they weren’t good, but I managed. My old girl might not be the prettiest, but she handles poor weather pretty well.”

Meiko giggled. “So you’re still driving that old pile of junk, huh?”

Nurse scoffed, faking indignation at her appraisal of his car. “That ‘pile of junk’ works just fine, thank you very much.” He smiled again, then removed his long winter coat and small hat, hanging them both up by the door. After taking a moment to try and straighten his hair, he asked “Anyways, where’s Emi? She’s usually so eager to greet people at the door.”

Meiko’s face clouded over a little, her smile shrinking away into a sigh. “She hasn’t been feeling so well lately... Here, sit down, I’ll get some tea to warm you up, and then we can talk about it.” She disappeared into the kitchen, gesturing at a table with a number of seats around it as she left. Nurse pulled out a chair and sat down, curious about Emi’s condition. He had seen her the day before winter break started, and she had seemed fine, so something must’ve happened since then. Probably just a cold, given the sudden change in weather and her love for the outdoors.

After only a minute Meiko reappeared, carrying a small pot of tea in one hand and a set of cups in the other. She placed one in front of Nurse and filled it, then poured another for herself and sat down. She pursed her lips and blew across the top of her cup, trying her best to cool down the tea inside, which was still steaming.

Nurse, much more interested in the heat of the tea, placed his hands around his cup, letting its warmth soak through the ceramic and into his hands. He felt his fingers return to life after being cold for so long, and took a few seconds to relish the sensation before his curiosity returned. “So Emi hasn’t been well?”

“I mean, she’s healthy, as far as I can tell, but she’s been really down lately.”

Interesting - Nurse had expected some scratches or sickness from Emi, given the winter weather, but not this. “Do you know why?”

Meiko leaned back in her chair. “Well, first off, with all this snow, she can’t really go out running - she can barely walk around the block without slipping, let alone get the kind of exercise she’s used to. That’s certainly not helping her mood.” She tested the tea against her lips, found it a bit too hot, and then continued. “I think the biggest problem, though, is not having Hisao around.”

Nurse smiled. “Ah... They are quite close with each other at school..”

Meiko raised one eyebrow and grinned. “I would hope they’re not too close?”

“Well, since Emi’s over 18, technically she has to give me permission to release that information to you...” Nurse grinned back. “But I can promise you that she isn’t doing anything you weren’t at her age.”

Meiko chuckled. “Somehow, that’s not very comforting."

His hands now much warmer, Nurse took a small sip of his tea, eager to warm the rest of his body up to a comfortable temperature, even if it meant scalding his tongue a little - luckily, it had cooled down to a palatable level. “Truth be told, I expected her to bring Hisao over here for the break. He’s been here before, right?”

“Yes, he was here for the last few vacations, but apparently his parents really wanted to have him home for Christmas. I can’t blame them - I was kind of worried that Emi would want to go with him.” Meiko rested her chin on one hand and sighed. “I’m not even sure what I’d say to that. After all, if that’s what would make her happy, then I can’t just say no, but... It does get lonely around here.”

Nurse had heard the same thing from a number of the parents he’d met over the years - unfortunately, Meiko had it worse, having lost her husband. Trying his best to make light of the situation, he threw her another grin. “You know, maybe you should consider working at Yamaku.”

Meiko, halfway through a sip of tea, had to quickly stop herself from laughing until she finished it. “One kid’s enough of a handful, I can’t even imagine taking care of a hundred.” They both laughed at this - Nurse wouldn’t have traded his job for anything, but he was well-acquainted with boths its peaks and valleys.

After a bit more light conversation, Meiko returned to the kitchen to prepare dinner, though she popped her head out every now and then to exchange quips with Nurse. Despite this, he felt quite lonely - normally, Emi would be here talking with him, but he hadn’t seen any sign of her yet.

Finally, once Meiko had almost finished cooking, she called “Emi! Dinner’s ready!” There was no reply, but after a few seconds Nurse saw Emi appear in the hallway and begin to walk towards him. The first thing he noticed was her hair - it was flowing down her back, instead of being up in her usual pigtails. Furthermore, it seemed strangely unkempt, though still clean. Just like Meiko had said, she looked physically healthy, but... sadder.

“Ah, the younger Ibarazaki!” Nurse said as Emi sat down. “Long time no see.”

This was enough to elicit a giggle from her, given that they had seen each other just a week ago now. “It’s good to see you, Nurse.”

“You too; it wasn’t easy getting here because of the snow, but I’m glad I made it.”

Emi sighed, resting her head on one hand. “Yeah, this snow’s the worst, it’s too slippery to go running. The only exercise I’ve gotten over the past week is shoveling our sidewalk, and even then I ended up falling over a few times.”

“Well, at least it’s only until the break ends, and then you’ll have Yamaku’s track again. Besides, this is a good chance for your body to rest!”

Emi rolled her eyes. “Yeah, I knew you’d say that.” She looked away, seeming very bored, until Meiko began to bring in food.

Plate by plate, a large dinner made its way onto the table. Finally, Meiko sat down and began to take some food for herself. Nurse took that as a go-ahead, and began to move some food onto his own plate - across from him, Emi was doing the same. Once he had a sizeable amount, he began to eat, savoring the flavor of various dishes. He stopped for a moment to praise Meiko’s cooking, then continued, eager to fill his rather empty stomach.

Once he had finished what was on his plate, Nurse went for seconds, only to be surprised when he looked across the table. Emi was still slowly working through a few small portions of rice and meat; for anyone else, he would’ve considered this an acceptable pace, but it was uncharacteristic of the girl he knew. Hoping that she’d get more food eventually, he held his tongue and continued eating, occasionally exchanging a brief story with Meiko.

When Emi finished the food on her plate, however, she got up and began to walk away. Meiko, well aware of her daughter’s usual eating habits, looked worried. “Emi, you’ve barely eaten anything - are you okay?”

Emi turned to look at her mother, then shrugged lazily. “I haven’t been exercising, so...”

Nurse scoffed. “All you’ve eaten is protein and carbs - if you’re not exercising, you should be loading up on vegetables instead.”

Her mouth drawn into a thin line, Emi stared directly into Nurse’s eyes, her expression simultaneously unenthused and annoyed. After a few seconds of deadly silence and unwavering eye contact, she turned around and stormed off to her room.

“Emi...” Meiko called after her, but a moment later the sound of a door slamming shut sounded throughout the house, and Meiko sighed, then turned to Nurse. “I’m really sorry.”

“Don’t worry about it - I remember being that age, and I’m sure you do too.”

Meiko chuckled. “Indeed I do. I just... I just wish I knew how to make her happier.”

Nurse nodded pensively. “Don’t we always.”
Last edited by Craftyatom on Tue Dec 26, 2017 4:07 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Part 2

Post by Craftyatom » Mon Dec 25, 2017 2:56 am

Emi woke up slowly, coming into consciousness step by step, her nose picking up the scent of food being cooked. Her room was bathed in a distinct soft light - it was cloudy outside. This reminded her of the snow, which reminded her of what day it was: Christmas. She sat up in bed excitedly before remembering that yesterday had been Christmas Eve, and Nurse had come over for dinner, and... and she had stormed off after glaring at him.

She felt horrible. Really, this was just the pinnacle of what had easily been her worst winter vacation ever. Every year before, it had been an exciting chance to relax, away from the pressure of schoolwork, and catch up with her mother. Of course, this year had been worse because of the constant snow, but even then, she should’ve been able to handle it. It was Hisao that had really done her in.

She hadn’t even known him for a year yet, but it had been an incredible few months. He meant more to her than she had thought possible. That was the problem, really - she had become so used to being able to rely on him. For better or worse, they hadn’t spent much time apart since... well, since they met. So whenever she couldn’t face something on her own, or messed something up, or was just having a bad day, she went to Hisao.

And, of course, she would’ve given anything to have him there, helping her with her agonizingly dull winter vacation. She had called him a few times over the past week, but he always had stuff going on - he had said that his parents rarely got to see him, so this was a big thing for their family, and Emi didn’t want to interfere with that too much. Besides, surely his parents would know if he spent all day on the phone with her. What would they think about their son dating a needy girl who called him for an hour every day?

So, with Hisao almost entirely out of the picture, Emi was on her own. And, if it weren’t for all the snow outside, that might not have been so bad - as it was, however, she felt trapped, almost frozen. If Hisao were there, they could cuddle up next to each other all day, and then it wouldn’t matter. She hugged her pillow to her chest, hoping it would act as an acceptable substitute, but instead found that it was cold, and sighed.

Despite all of Emi’s melancholy, the smell of food from earlier remained, indicating that breakfast was being made somewhere in the house. She wanted dearly to apologize - both to Nurse and her mother - and decided that it was better to do so sooner rather than later, if at all possible. Somewhat resolute, she grabbed her prosthetics from off the floor next to her bed, pulled them on, got dressed, and left her room.

As expected, Emi found Meiko in the kitchen, making breakfast. Slowly, a guilty expression on her face, she walked up to her mother and hugged her from behind.

Meiko chuckled, keeping her hands on her cooking. “Good morning, Emi - and Merry Christmas.”

“Morning... Sorry about last night.”

“It’s fine. I know you haven’t been feeling the best lately.”

Emi cringed. “But, Nurse...”

“I was talking to him about it too, and he knows you didn’t mean anything by it. He understands you pretty well, you know.”

Emi knew that this much was true - Nurse saw her so often, and had known her for so long, that he probably knew her better than anyone else. She was away from her mother at school most of the time, and Hisao hadn’t even known her for a year, but Nurse was the best of both worlds, so he was probably the most likely to understand. Still... if he was that important to her, then she should never have been so rude to him in the first place. “I know. But I still want to apologize to him.” She sighed. “I just wish I didn’t have to wait another week to do it.”

“Ah, he did say that he might drop by later today, so maybe you’ll get a chance sooner rather than later.”

Emi’s eyes lit up. “Really?”

“Really. Now, why don’t you set the table so we can rush through breakfast and open some presents?”

Her spirits much higher, Emi nodded in agreement, then went to grab some plates out of a cupboard.

Once breakfast had been served, eaten, and cleaned up, Emi and Meiko both brought out their presents to each other. There had never been much ceremony to the act in their family, but the gifts were wrapped nonetheless - it was clear this had been done by hand, especially since Emi wasn’t quite as good at wrapping as her mother.

Meiko, a box in each hand, gave one to Emi, who quickly tore off the decorative paper to reveal the box inside, which had a picture of a watch on the front.

“Nurse is always saying how you need a watch, and I figured it might help to time yourself when you run, so I got one that they said was really tough.”

Emi opened up the box and inspected the timepiece inside: it did look quite rugged, despite its size. “Thanks so much!”

“Don’t thank me yet,” Meiko said while holding out the other box, “you’ve still got one more to go!” Of course, Emi had always gotten two gifts each Christmas, for as long as she could remember.

She repeated the process of tearing the wrapping paper off of a similarly-size box, this one with a picture of a sleek-looking cellphone on it. “Woah...”

“I know your old one was getting a bit worn, so I went and got a new one. They said you can use the same number as your old one, so you don’t have to tell everyone a new different number.”

The first gift had been useful, but this second one was much more exciting. Emi held it to her chest and smiled. “Thanks, mom.”

Meiko smiled back. “Of course. Now, what’s that you’ve got for me?”

Emi handed the hard, flat present to her mother, who tore off the wrapping with almost as much vigor as her daughter. Underneath was a sizeable cookbook, with a large picture of various cooked meats on the cover.

Meiko grinned. “Something tells me you only got me this so I’d make you more food.”

Emi shrugged playfully. “Well, I certainly wouldn’t mind being a guinea pig for some of those recipes...” They both laughed, then Meiko got up, walked over to Emi, and pulled her into a hug.

“Merry Christmas, Emi.”

“Merry Christmas, mom.”

Emi spent the next hour or so toying with her presents: setting her watch’s time, and exploring her new phone’s features, including a built-in camera. However, after doing all she could with those things for the moment, she felt the dull boredom of the past few days seeping back in. She almost considered calling Hisao, under the pretense of wishing him a Merry Christmas, but decided against it - he was probably busy spending the day with his parents.

Still, wary of what had happened last night, she tried her best to keep her spirits up. Halfway through wondering how best to do that, however, the doorbell rang. Emi was puzzled at first, but then realized that it was probably Nurse. She was already getting up, eager to answer the door, when Meiko called “Emi, can you get that?”

“Yes, mom,” Emi replied. She felt a few butterflies in her stomach, but quickly dismissed them - Nurse was almost like a member of her family, and he understood her better than anyone else. There was nothing to be nervous about. So, after taking a deep breath, she carefully pulled the door open.

Cold air flowed over her, but it wasn’t the chill that shocked her most - it was the fact that Nurse wasn’t the one at the door. Instead, her eyes widened to take in the sight of a boy with scruffy brown hair and a thick winter jacket. “H-Hisao?”

He smiled at her. “Hey.”

After a few moments spent trying to comprehend the situation, Emi jumped forward and wrapped Hisao in a hug, squeezing him tightly, as if trying to prevent a dream from slipping away. She pressed her head into him, ignoring the cold outer layer of his jacket and focusing on the way his chest jumped up and down when he chuckled.

Hisao put one hand around Emi’s head, and the other around her waist, returning her embrace. They stayed like this for a bit before she decided to try and make up for lost time, and leaned up to kiss him on the lips. She felt him freeze for a moment in surprise, then relax and join in.

After a few blissful seconds like this, she heard someone clear their throat behind Hisao, and pulled away to see Nurse standing there, grinning. “Careful not to raise his heart rate too much.”

Hisao’s face went red, but Emi laughed, glad to have both of them here - though she didn’t yet know why. “So... What are you even doing here?” She gestured at Hisao. “I thought you were still at your parents’ house!”

Hisao shuffled uncomfortably. “Can we talk about it inside? It’s freezing out here.”

Suddenly, Emi became aware of how cold she was, outside in December with a t-shirt and shorts on. “Oh, yeah, sure, come on in.” She hopped back inside, beckoned Hisao and Nurse to follow, and then closed the door behind them.

As the two of them set about hanging up their coats and taking off their shoes, Emi rushed towards the kitchen. “Mom, mom, you’re never gonna-”

Instead of being in the kitchen, however, Meiko was sat at the dining room table, with a sly grin on her face and a cup of tea in front of her - in fact, three more cups of tea were set at other chairs. Emi quickly realized something was up. “You knew about this?”

“I did. But I’ll let the boys tell you the whole story.”

Nurse and Hisao walked in and sat down, with Hisao taking the seat next to Emi, who turned to face him. “You have some explaining to do.”

Hisao wrapped his hands around his cup of tea, then nodded. “Well, last night, I got a call from Nurse. He said you were feeling down, and that he wanted my help to cheer you up. He offered to drive me all the way down here, if I was willing to go, and I was really missing you too, so of course I said yes.” He took a cautious sip of his tea, which perked him up a little. “Then, this morning, I packed some stuff, he picked me up, and we drove all the way down here. And now... here I am.”

Emi was astounded, and looked over at Nurse, who was already halfway through his tea. “But... isn’t that a long drive?”

Nurse nodded. “A very long drive, in the early morning, on snowy roads.”

Emi closed her eyes and bowed her head. “Thank you. And I’m sorry.”

A smile spread onto Nurse’s face. “Don’t worry about it - I’m just glad to help.”

Emi smiled back, then leaned over to rest her head on Hisao’s shoulder, wanting to take full advantage of every moment he was there.
Last edited by Craftyatom on Sat Jan 06, 2018 1:18 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Part 3

Post by Craftyatom » Mon Dec 25, 2017 2:56 am

Hisao gently stroked Emi’s head, his fingers making small parts in her flowing hair. They were laying on the living room couch, with her back pressed against his stomach, and he could feel her breathe in and out. She wasn’t asleep, but he could tell that she wasn’t far off, especially given how relaxed she was - it had only taken a few minutes of cuddling like this for her to practically melt into him.

Part of that was the fact that she had gotten a fair amount of exercise for the first time in a week: after lunch, they had gone for a walk, with Emi holding onto Hisao’s shoulder for balance when they got to icy or snowy patches. They had actually spent most of the way walking in the road, which was generally clearer than the sidewalk, and deadly quiet given that it was Christmas.

Nurse had decided that he wasn’t up to driving Hisao back and then making his own way home so late in the day, so he had gone to spend the night with an old friend of his who happened to live nearby. He had left shortly after dinner, and then an hour or so later Meiko had gone to bed, leaving Hisao alone with Emi on the couch. And now, despite how much he wanted to stay here, warm and comfortable with his girlfriend in his arms, he knew that they probably shouldn’t just fall asleep as they were.

“Hey,” he whispered, “you should go to bed soon.”

Emi grunted in agreement, then propped herself up on one arm and turned to look at Hisao. “You mean we should go to bed.”

Hisao had assumed that he would be sleeping on the couch, but realized he should’ve known better, given Emi, and shrugged. “Okay, just let me change into something I can sleep in.”

Emi got up and went to her bedroom, while Hisao fished a change of clothes out of his bag, as well as a plastic bag with a handful of pills in it. Luckily, he had packed enough for a whole day on Nurse’s suggestion, but just one day, so he’d have to go home tomorrow, no matter what. It was a shame, really - he wouldn’t have minded staying here a bit more. His parents probably missed him, though, and he had promised Emi that she could call him as much as she wanted with no repercussions, so hopefully the week to come wouldn’t be as hard on her as the week before.

Hisao made his way to the bathroom, closed the door, and quickly changed into a fresh set of clothes - another one of Nurse’s suggestions - including a pair of shorts, which would be more comfortable to sleep in. He got some water out of the tap, then downed his pills one by one, grabbed his dirty clothes, and left.

After dropping his clothes by his bag, Hisao headed to Emi’s room, and since the door was open, stepped inside. Emi, laying half-asleep under the blankets on the far side of the bed, beckoned him over, so he closed the door behind him and lied down next to her, noticing that she had changed into a loose shirt.

Emi promptly rolled over and hugged him, burying her head into his chest. Hisao lazily draped one arm over her in return, then leaned forward and planted a kiss on her forehead, causing her mouth to curl up into a tired smile. “Thank you, Hisao. This was the best Christmas ever.”

Hisao thought about replying, but in the time it took him to consider it, Emi had already fallen asleep. Her slow, warm breath flowed across his shirt, adding to the feeling of being cocooned in here with her.

He closed his eyes and thought about the girl next to him. As his brain slowly powered down, he realized that she had been right - he couldn’t remember feeling happier on any Christmas prior.

Last edited by Craftyatom on Sat Jan 06, 2018 1:18 am, edited 1 time in total.
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One-shots: Crafty's One-Shots (Dark Winter Sky, Dreamy, Path of Least Resistance, Project Blue Curtain, and more!)
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Re: Dark Winter Sky (S8)

Post by scratchminus » Sat Dec 30, 2017 4:35 pm

I love it, I love it, I love it. I literally can't think of a single thing I disliked.

The characterizations were on point, the story itself was extremely sweet and enjoyable to read, and I even found myself laughing and smiling like an idiot throughout it. And it doesn't hurt that it's about my favorite character of all time. Awesome work, Crafty.

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Re: Dark Winter Sky (S8)

Post by Eurobeatjester » Sun Dec 31, 2017 3:05 pm


Crafty, thank you so much for this! I loved every minute of it.

I have to admit, I had no idea you'd take the prompt in this direction. I wrote the prompt thinking about a Nurse/Meiko fluff fic and you turned into something so much more where they weren't even the real focus of the story.

The characterization was perfect for all parties involved. When Emi opened the door and Hisao was standing there I had the biggest grin on my face. I know you said you were struggling with writing a smut scene at the end or implying one, but the ending was made so much better without one.

This is probably one of the best pieces of Emi fiction I've ever read. For that, I really want to thank you!
Stuff I'm currently writing: Learning To Fly: A Saki Enomoto Pseudo Route
Two Turtledoves - A Lilly/Hisao Christmas Oneshot
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Re: Dark Winter Sky (S8)

Post by Oddball » Tue Jan 09, 2018 9:20 pm

Very well done. Emi came off perfectly, and I thought the characterization on Nurse was much stronger and well written than he normally gets.
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Re: Dark Winter Sky (S8)

Post by StilesLong » Wed Jan 10, 2018 2:14 am

I haven't read many of the other S8 submissions and I'm not sure if I need to. That was.... excellent. Not a character was out of place and I would say you played well within the bounds of the prompt. Your descriptions were succinct and the whole story was well thought out. Great work!

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Re: Dark Winter Sky (S8)

Post by Zerebos » Sat Jun 16, 2018 2:13 pm

Wow this was really well done, the characters felt spot-on and wonderfully vivid. It was also extremely cute, but I think the spotlight was stolen from Nurse in this one which was unexpected given the prompt :D

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