Fresh Snow - S8 Submission

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Fresh Snow - S8 Submission

Post by scratchminus » Fri Dec 29, 2017 1:19 am

Prompt: Depict and embody the wavering bonds of friendship of any two unusually paired characters across the holiday season.
Victim: Zerebos

I'll make my author's note short. I may have played it a bit safe with this story in terms of the chosen characters and the ending, but I think it still came out...alright (fun fact: I rarely like my own work). Hopefully y'all like it and I don't get crucified for maybe not depicting and embodying enough of the wavering bonds of friendship. :P
Also fuck making titles.
EDIT: Also another fun fact. I wrote 1500 words, realized it was garbage, scrapped it, and wrote this in 24 hours. Don't be like me, kids.

Fresh Snow

The quiet hum of the heater echoes across the tile, bouncing around the room with little resistance. Every clink of glass or scraping of metal is almost cacophonous in the silent void. The presence of three people might as well be that of none; the only noises aside from tools moving is the occasional sharp inhalation or clearing of the throat.

I glance up from my work to see how the other two students are faring. Yahiro is perched precariously on his stool, gently screwing together two pieces of metal whose function I can’t quite recall at the moment. Toma has his stool pushed a few feet behind him as he stands over a microscope, staring at the roots of a plant we recently grew. He seems slightly agitated, as if he’s looking for something he can’t find. Every few seconds he brushes away a stray strand of his shaggy black hair, leading me to do the same out of habit.

I should probably get a haircut sometime soon.

Shaking out my own unkempt bed of hair, I refocus onto the array of objects in front of me. Metal fragments, scales, miniscule screwdrivers, as well as various other items are strewn about my workstation. I return to weighing a particularly tiny rectangle of iron—my professor would have a fit if I said that since I’m finding the mass, not the weight—in an attempt to get it perfect in both size and mass.

Too heavy...again.

I pick up my metal file and take to a face of the block, praying that this’ll be the last time I have to work with this piece. Before I’ve even started my first stroke, a sudden knock at the door permeates through the silence and causes each of us to jump.

Although the thought of being interrupted right now is rather irritating, I suppose I’m grateful that I wasn’t the one to tear through the veil.

Toma, who is the closest to the lab’s entrance, pushes himself off of the desk and strides over to the door. He opens it just a crack before launching into an enthusiastic greeting.

“Why hello there!” he exclaims. “To what do I owe the pleasure of your company this evening?”

“Oh lay off the dramatics, Toma,” replies the voice on the other side of the door, seemingly amused by his antics. “Is the nerd trio all here?”

Toma chuckles at the response. “Yeah, yeah, we’re all here. Come on in, I won’t keep you from your man.”

I had already grown tense upon hearing her voice, but as the tall, tan woman steps into the room I feel my uneven pulse rise in my ears. Maybe it’s the lack of sleep or the lingering stress of the semester’s finals, but among the nervousness I feel a pit of anger welling up.

“What’s going on?” Yahiro says, shooting a two finger salute her way.

She returns the salute with her good hand without answering his question, instead turning towards me and stepping up to the desk I’m currently occupying.

“Hey, Miki.”


We stay like this, awkwardly staring each other down for what feels like an eternity before Miki decides to break the spell.

“Look, dude,” she begins, narrowing her eyes at me. “If you’re gonna be in here working on your project I’d at least like to know that once in a while.”

“I thought I told you we’d be here,” I respond, keeping my irritation in check.

“You definitely didn’t, because you’ve been ignoring me.”

I open my mouth to retort, but something dawns on me and I pull my phone from my pocket instead. In the top left corner I can see the “Do Not Disturb” icon still lit up. Upon unlocking the device and opening my messages, I find an unhealthy amount of unread texts from the woman standing before me.

“I’m sorry, Miki. I shut it off because I thought you said you’d be busy with track people all day.”

She huffs in response, her temper flaring. “That’s not an excuse, Hisao. Especially not one you can use every damn time!”

“Regardless of whether that’s an excuse or not, it doesn’t change the fact that we’re seriously busy with our work. I’m not trying to avoid you, it’s just-”

“Just what, Hisao?” Miki interrupts, fury flashing across her face. “I mean, come on dude! It’s almost Christmas and you still spend every day holed up in here. Why can’t we just…”

Miki trails off, a somber look in her eyes. The anger is definitely still there, but it’s replaced by an expression of grief, one that hurts to look at.

By now I can see that Yahiro and Toma are getting uncomfortable. Regardless of how close we may be, no one wants to be a third party in a domestic dispute.

I lower my voice slightly. “Can we do this another time Miki? Not in front of my friends.”

The look I receive as the words leave my mouth makes me wish I could pull them from the air and swallow them whole. A tangible tension fills the room as Miki’s icy glare pierces me, leaving me wondering if there’s any coming back at this point.

“You’re right.”

The words that follow are surprisingly calm. Though Miki doesn’t seem any less upset, it’s clear that she understands how awkward Yahiro and Toma must feel right now. She takes a step back before turning on her heels and marching to the door.

“Sorry about the interruption, you guys,” she says, still facing away from us in the doorframe. “Don’t let me keep you from your geek fair project.”

With those words she steps into the hall, shooting one last glare in my direction before continuing on her way. The three of us stay still, watching her go before the other two fix their eyes on me.

“I knew it was bad, but shit dude,” Yahiro says, shaking his head. “How’d you let it get like this?”

Toma hops up to take a seat on the nearest desk, leaning his elbows on his legs.

“Y’all are still mixing like oil and water after so long.”

I roll my eyes. “I don’t think I’d call anything under a year so long.”

The two share another look before addressing me again. This time, their words are much more direct.

“So you aren’t going to do anything?” Yahiro asks, clearly miffed as he runs his hand through his short brown hair.

“Like what, chase her down like we’re in a movie? Tell her I love her? Get her to forgive all of my ‘mistakes’?” I feel my anger boiling as I speak, threatening to spill over at any moment. “She knows I’m busy, she knows we have this insane research project to do. And it’s not like she isn’t busy too.”

Yahiro sighs before fixing a stern, adultlike look on me.

“I get it, Hisao, it isn’t my life. But if I were you, I’d do something. Anything.”

I look towards Toma, expecting to get a similar life lesson from him. He just grins sheepishly, clearly unsure of what to say in such a situation. With a shrug and a childish expression, he offers up what little he has.

“I’m just a bio major, Hisao. But even I can see there’s some chemistry to be saved here, as long as you try to mix it up a bit.”

Yahiro and I sit in stunned silence before simultaneously bursting into laughter. Toma’s attempt at humorous advice struck the perfect chord, breaking apart the uncomfortable atmosphere that previously filled the room. The kid himself just laughs softly, rubbing the back of his head in embarrassment.

Once the moment passes we all decide that it’s late enough to call it quits. After packing away the equipment and locking up the lab, we head into the snowy outside. Yahiro and Toma both wish me luck before going, though in a way I almost wish they hadn’t. The implication that such a scenario would come down to luck is...unsettling, to say the least.

I return their farewell before striding off in the opposite direction. A fresh layer of snow fell while we were inside all day, and it’s clear that no one else has passed through here since. The break has turned campus into a ghost town, with only the occasional straggler left to wander the grounds.

In our case, the school gave permission to 3rd and 4th years to continue work on our research in their labs. Because of the complexity of our biophysics project, the three of us agreed to work throughout break to get ahead. This in turn led to us being the only souls around, slaving away in the lab for hours on end each day. Unfortunately, this decision didn’t sit too well with Miki.

As she comes to mind, I remember what Yahiro and Toma said. The more I think, the more I start to realize just how much school has encapsulated my mind. Hours upon hours of work, with little to no time for breaks. Or at least, that’s how this past fall has been.

My eyes track snowflakes as they float to the ground, gently dusting every surface in sight. It’s something that, in my constant work oriented and sleep lacking state, I’ve failed to pay much attention to. The pristine white that creates beauty where it normally isn’t; a blank slate, clean and untarnished.

I sigh, hoping that maybe one day I can be like the snow.


“I’m sorry, but I can’t. I’m busy today. Mhm. Probably after Christmas. Alright, bye.”

I hang up the phone, feeling oddly satisfied with the choice I just made. With the first step of today’s work completed, I set about preparing for the next one. An idea came to me a few nights ago and I couldn’t shake it, so I figured the best thing to do would be to follow through.

After pulling on a thick coat and wrapping a scarf around my neck I exit my apartment, bracing against the wall of cold air. Snow is once again falling gently, coating the city in a clean sheet of white. However, today this slate is not undisturbed, as the streets are bustling with shoppers trying to find those last minute gifts for their loved ones.

Christmas Eve’s eve is quite a hectic day.

People flit in and out of stores with an unparalleled level of urgency. The overall atmosphere of the city seems quite flustered, despite the general cheeriness associated with the holidays. Everyone is marching about purposely, likely worried that they won’t be able to find the perfect gift in time. Fortunately, I seem to be on the opposite end of that spectrum for once.

The day passes lazily. After fulfilling my tasks I take a break at a nearby coffee shop, opting to just relax in an attempt to steel myself for what’s to come. While there, I send Miki a text to see if she’s at home. She responds saying she’s out with friends at the moment, but she’ll be back early in the evening.

Good, so everything is taken care of at this point.

I lean back in my seat and sigh, feeling content for the first time in quite a while. Despite this, there still exists a slight nagging doubt in the back of my mind, leaving me wondering if I’ve already dug the hole too deep to climb out. The regret from my sharp words a few days ago threatens to engulf my brain. I push these thoughts away. Regardless of the outcome, I believe I’m doing the right thing.

Before long evening is upon me. As the sun sets over the city, I set off towards my final destination of the day. Lights begin to flicker to life as I walk, illuminating the streets in their warm glow. Though I’m not exactly at ease, I feel my nerves lessen the further I go, and my confidence grows with each snow crunching step.

In what feels like mere moments, I’m suddenly standing before her door. It isn’t decorated at all, which doesn’t surprise me too much. Although she enjoys the holidays, it still isn’t something she gets overly festive about.

I lift my hand and knock softly three times. Behind the wood I hear movement. A shuffling sound closes the distance to the door, stopping on the other side to undo a lock and turn the handle.

Miki appears through a small crack between the door and its frame, clearly wishing to stay away from the chilly air outside.

I feel my nerves rise again, but I swallow them before speaking. “Mind if I come in?”

Miki nods. “Please, before I freeze my other hand off.”

I step inside, passing into a wall of warmth that immediately starts to melt the snow dusted on my hair and clothes. Leaving my shoes, coat, and scarf up front, I make my way to the living room where Miki is already waiting. She’s lying across the couch, her phone occupying her good hand while the other rests on her stomach.

Walking over, I take a seat near her feet on the soft cushion. Instinctively, Miki raises her legs and I slide over a bit, allowing her to rest them across my lap. We sit like this for a while, reminiscent of earlier in our relationship when nothing mattered and there was little to be stressed about.

Once a moderate amount of time has passed, I decide to break the silence.

“How was your day?”

Miki peeks over the top of her phone, staring at me blankly. I can’t quite discern the emotions in her eyes, but I brace for anything she may throw back at me.

“Pretty good, actually,” she replies, a slight smile creeping onto her face. “Did I tell you what we did?”

With that, Miki launches into a dramatic retelling of her day. Her mood gradually improves as she recounts how many times Suzu fell while ice skating, the amazing food they all ate, and various other tales of the afternoon. Her cheeriness puts my mind at ease, and I find myself suddenly understanding just where I was going wrong.

After her story is finished Miki finally addresses the elephant in the room. Or rather, the box.

“Whatcha got there, dude?” she asks, gesturing towards a medium sized rectangular box I’d set on the arm of the couch.

“Oh this?” I say, feigning a light amount of ignorance. “Hmm, I don’t remember...wanna open it and see?”

Miki leans forward and punches me lightly in the arm, removing her legs from my lap and scooting closer to me on the couch. I hand her the box which she places gently in her lap. It’s a dark red and gold color, speckled with a bit of glitter and adorned with a red bow to tie it closed. Miki pulls one end of the bow and unravels it before slowly sliding off the lid.

“Dude…” she murmurs, eying the contents of the box. “Are you trying to get me out of shape?”

The box is lined with a thin layer of white paper, split up into various sections. In each section sits a piece of chocolate, varying in size, color, and flavor throughout the box. Miki’s eyes light up, and she immediately snatches a piece of dark chocolate and pops it into her mouth.

“Holy fuck these are good,” Miki sighs while still chewing vigorously. “Yo, try this one. It’s incredible.”

I pluck out the same flavor that she just ate and toss it into my mouth. It is, in fact, incredible. Miki sets about greedily trying every single type of chocolate in the box, refusing to savor anything as she loses herself in bliss. After a moment of basking in the sweetness, she turns towards me.

“Thanks, Hisao.”

I wiggle a finger at her. “Don’t thank me yet, you still have to eat one more.”

I point at a piece of chocolate near the top left corner of the box. Miki looks at the candy for a moment, seemingly perplexed at this command, but shrugs and picks up the designated item. As she does so, a look of confusion spreads across her features.

“Uh, is that you, Hisao?”

My grinning face stares back at her from the bottom of the box. Miki stays silent, searching for words to respond to what she’s seeing. Rather than wait for her to find those, I pluck out a piece of my own choice and eat it.

“Wait a minute…”

Realization dawning on her, Miki gently pulls up one edge of the white paper. As it lifts, a picture of the two of us is revealed, printed on the bottom of the box.

“This is from...Hisao, you dork.”

I’m treated to Miki’s trademark toothy grin as she beams at me, a pure expression of happiness. I can’t help but smile back, her glee infectious.

“I really appreciate it, Hisao,” Miki says. “But you do realize that Christmas isn’t for another two days, right?”

I rub the back of my head sheepishly. “Yeah, I just couldn’t bring myself to wait.” I pause, taking a deep breath before I continue. “Miki, I-”

I’m cut off by Miki resting her hand on my cheek. She strokes it slowly with her index finger, giggling to herself and likely at my expense.

“Look Hisao, you don’t have to launch into some huge explanation about how much you care about me and whatever. I don’t have the attention span for that and you know it.”

Miki wraps her hand around my chin, lining our faces up and moving closer.

“You took off a day working on your crazy physics project, went through the effort of getting me an extremely thoughtful gift before Christmas, and now you’re here.”

She locks eyes with me, sharing a warm and grateful gaze.

“You’re not off the hook yet, but I respect the effort, kiddo. Sorry for being so selfish.”

I open my mouth to respond but am once again cut short as she presses her lips to mine. We stay locked in our embrace for a while, savoring the warmth of each others bodies. After we part, Miki stands up and moves towards the kitchen.

“I assume you’re staying the night since it’s become a blizzard out there, so do you want some coffee?”

Glancing out the window I notice that she’s right. The delicate snowfall from earlier has been overtaken by a flurry of white particles, filling the sky and coating the streets.

“Sure, but I don’t need another coffee today,” I respond, tilting my head to see her over the back of the couch. “Tea?”

A two fingered salute is shot my way. “Gotcha, dude.”

As Miki occupies herself preparing the tea, I pull myself to my feet and step over to the window. Looking down towards the street, the tracks I left as I entered her apartment not too long ago have already been covered completely. The entire block has become a clean slate, ready for new feet to leave fresh marks across it. I smile, realizing just how easy it could be for me to do the same.

I just have to take a step.

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Re: Fresh Snow - S8 Submission

Post by brythain » Fri Dec 29, 2017 3:55 am

Lovely. Miki and domestic bliss are always enjoyable when mixed. :)
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
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Re: Fresh Snow - S8 Submission

Post by Craftyatom » Fri Dec 29, 2017 4:30 pm

I absolutely loved reading this. It was everything I wanted out of a Christmas story: comfy and enjoyable, without being over-the-top (though I suppose that's subjective). Your characters were great, you set up scenes with excellent visuals, and in general this was just a very good read.

If I have one complaint, it's that I don't really think you stuck to the prompt; that said, I found this more enjoyable than what I was expecting out of the given prompt, so personally I'm not bothered.

As an aside, what kind of research project involves both plant growth and metal grinding? High-end hydroponics? I'm interested.
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Re: Fresh Snow - S8 Submission

Post by scratchminus » Fri Dec 29, 2017 11:49 pm

brythain wrote:Lovely. Miki and domestic bliss are always enjoyable when mixed. :)
Thanks, I appreciate it!
Craftyatom wrote:I absolutely loved reading this. It was everything I wanted out of a Christmas story: comfy and enjoyable, without being over-the-top (though I suppose that's subjective). Your characters were great, you set up scenes with excellent visuals, and in general this was just a very good read.

If I have one complaint, it's that I don't really think you stuck to the prompt; that said, I found this more enjoyable than what I was expecting out of the given prompt, so personally I'm not bothered.

As an aside, what kind of research project involves both plant growth and metal grinding? High-end hydroponics? I'm interested.
Thanks, Crafty! I definitely agree with your statement about the prompt, but I couldn't bring myself to write a full story that was entirely focused around something sad. I tried to still depict the "wavering bonds" part in the first scene, but have the second scene leave us with the implication that things will improve.

Also the research project was an odd thing. I tried to just incorporate some elements of biology and some of physics (since both majors are involved), although the final product was not exactly decided lol.

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Re: Fresh Snow - S8 Submission

Post by Mirage_GSM » Sat Dec 30, 2017 9:54 am

I think the "wavering bonds" part is nicely done - why should that have to be a sad story?
I don't really consider Hisao and Miki "unusually paired", though, but I'm not complaining :-)
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Re: Fresh Snow - S8 Submission

Post by scratchminus » Sun Dec 31, 2017 8:00 pm

Mirage_GSM wrote:I think the "wavering bonds" part is nicely done - why should that have to be a sad story?
I don't really consider Hisao and Miki "unusually paired", though, but I'm not complaining :-)
Thanks, I appreciate it Mirage!
And yeah, I wasn't quite sure how close to "unusually paired" the two of them were. I figured the implied personality of Miki is far enough from someone Hisao would date to make it work though. :P

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Re: Fresh Snow - S8 Submission

Post by Zerebos » Fri Jun 15, 2018 12:08 am

Totally not late in responding to this :oops:

First of all thank you for doing such a good job on my vague prompt, you did a great capturing what I was after. This was a really great read and I think the overall metaphor that you accentuated at the end really embodies the feelings during the holiday season. Really great work Scratchy!

Also I like that you not only paired Hisao and Miki but you set it in the future past Yamaku, that really helps set the scene and make this piece unique.

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Re: Fresh Snow - S8 Submission

Post by PKMNthiefChris » Wed Jun 20, 2018 1:03 am

So I just want to throw in that I think this is great. Like really great. The prompt works and the ending was completely satisfying... This was great.

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