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Ski Slopes

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Yusaku had never been skiing, in fact he was pretty sure that none of them had, so when it was announced that the school was going on a skiing trip, or at least the first years were, none of them were sure what to expect.

Snow of course, that was a given as you couldn’t ski without snow, but aside from that this was going to be a new experience for all of them.

Yusaku was none to pleased about this trip idea, as he loathed the cold, and even worse was the fact that he couldn’t get out of the trip. It was mandatory, something about ‘team building’ exercises and part of the phys-ed course as well. Takeru was excited, snow wasn’t something he got a lot of back home due to it being fairly warm there, even in the winter. Yusaku could only wish he had Takeru’s enthusiasm for the trip.

The only upside was that all the skiing equipment was supplied for them, so all they had to do was pack an overnight bag and plenty of winter clothes.

 

There was in fact a lot of snow when they got to the ski lodge, both on the ground-to be expected-and falling from the sky-a bit less expected.

Wide-eyed, Takeru held his gloved hands out to catch the falling flakes, breath forming small clouds in the air. 

“Have you ever seen so much snow before?” asked Takeru, turning to look at Yusaku.

“No, and I wish I hadn’t,” he grumbled, wringing his hands together.

He’d hoped his lack of winter attire would have exempt him from going on the trip but no such luck. Takeru didn’t have any either and upon learning this, Kusanagi had quite happily taken them both out shopping so they would be prepared for the trip. The ski trip would be good for them he’d said.

“It’s cold white shit and I hate it.”

“Aw come on, I’m sure it’ll be fun,” said Takeru.

“I’d rather stay in the ski lodge.”

 

Unfortunately, Yusaku had no such luck on that front either. After dropping all their stuff off inside, the lot of them were herded out to the slopes, all gathering at the smallest beginning slope for the trip orientation, the rules and safety talks. Since the weather was nice for being on the slopes, only a few scattered clouds and a light snowfall on an otherwise sunny day, they were just about forbidden from hiding away inside. They were growing teenagers, they needed the exercise and short of illness or injury they were going to be skiing, at least according to the teachers.

For those that didn’t know how to ski, which was a fair number of them, there were instructors on the beginner slopes there to teach them.

To Yusaku’s immense surprise, Aoi was nearly a natural on the slopes, zipping right past him on the hill.

“You’ve done this before,” he said once he joined her at the bottom, shivering under his many layers of clothes.

“My brother took me once,” she said. 

There was a yelp and they both turned to see Takeru tumbling head long down the hill as he tripped on his skis. By the time he came to a stop he was covered in snow head to foot, looking more like a Yeti than a teenage boy. He took one step and fell, again, one ski catching on the other and pitching him forward.

“At this rate we’re going to end up going home because he breaks his neck and has to go to the hospital,” said Aoi with a sigh before she pushed off to go help him before he DID break his neck.

On shaky legs Yusaku followed her, just to make sure Takeru was alright.

“Are you alright?” asked Yusaku, looking down at Takeru as he sat in the snow.

“I’ve been worse, but not by much.”

“You need to keep your feet apart,” said Aoi as she helped him to his feet. “That way your skis won’t keep crossing and tripping you.”

“I just don’t want to slip and do the splits in the snow,” he said, holding onto her arm as she pulled him to his feet.

“You won’t, trust me. Not unless you really muck up.”

Somehow, between the three of them, they managed to get Takeru to the bottom of the slope without further incident.

His next trip down the hill had a few fewer trip ups but he still came out of it covered in snow.

“Honestly Homura, you’re a walking disaster,” said Aoi with a sigh. “I’m amazed you haven’t fallen out of your skis yet.”

Takeru hadn’t but Shima had, leaving half his ski equipment on the hill while he made it to the bottom.

“Let’s never take him ice skating,” said Yusaku as they made their way to the ski lift to go back to the top. “He’ll spend the whole time sitting on the ice.”

“Hey!”

“Am I wrong?”

Takeru was quiet, cheeks red, though whether it was due to being cold from face planting in the snow so often or from embarrassment it was hard to tell. “Not really,” he muttered. “Maybe I should try a snowboard instead. I mean, it can’t be much different than a D-Board right?”

At this Aoi actually laughed, slapping him on the back. “You’ll be on your face the moment you push off.”

“Well that just sounds like a challenge.”

“Don’t you dare!”

He did in fact dare, trading in his skis for a snowboard as soon as he was at the bottom of the hill and able to find where the snowboards were located. Surely if he could do it in Link VRAINS he could do it in the real world right? It couldn’t be that much different could it?

“Oh this is going to end badly,” said Aoi with a sigh, watching as he strapped himself into the board in preparation for this adventure.

“Are you going to stop him?” asked Yusaku, watching as Takeru ascended the hill.

“Nope. He can learn the hard way.”

“You know, if he actually turns out to be good at this he’ll never let you live it down.”

From their spot at the bottom they watched as he reached the top and, presumably, started talking with the instructor there. It wasn’t like either of them knew how to snowboard to give him any tips. While Aoi had been to the slopes before she’d only ever been on skis.

Moving back and forth in zig-zag patterns, Takeru descended the hill, considerably more steady now than he had been on the skis.

“Are you sure about that?” asked Yusaku. “About him failing this miserably?” To him it looked like Takeru was actually managing to figure out how to do it.

“See, I can do it!” called Takeru as he drew near. Sure enough he was doing it, though he moved none too fast. “So what was that you were saying about me-” The rest of what he was about to say was cut off as he tried to step forward, apparently forgetting that his feet were strapped to the board, and gravity kicked in, pulling him down with a twist and a painful sounding noise as the end of the board flipped up and caught him on the back of the head.

“Takeru!”

 

Takeru groaned as he sat on the couch in the ski lodge, an ice pack held to his head while another lay over his ankle which rested, elevated, on a stool.

After face planting in the snow and cracking himself in the back of the head, Yusaku and Aoi had to roll him over so he didn’t suffocate in the snow, as he was too dazed to move on his own, while someone went to get a teacher. Once freed from the snowboard he was helped back inside, unable to walk on his own and put any weight on one ankle without screaming in pain, before being checked over by the on-sight nurse and given ice for his injuries.

“I can’t believe you made it all the way down the hill without a problem, only to trip, sprain your ankle and concuss yourself right at the bottom,” said Aoi with a sigh, shaking her head. His foot was bruised and swollen, having been twisted when he fell on it after trying to walk while still having his foot strapped into the snowboard, and he’d given himself quite the lump on the back of his head.

“Don’t rub it in,” he whined. “It hurts enough as it is.” He looked between Aoi and Yusaku and frowned, “Why are you two even in here anyways? Aren’t you supposed to be, you know, out there?” he gestured to the ski slopes.

“We convinced the teacher to let us stay with you to keep an eye on you. Someone needs to so you don’t pass out or anything,” said Yusaku. “And since we’re your friends we were allowed to stay.”

Takeru sighed, leaning back against the couch. “Sorry for ruining your trip.”

Yusaku snorted. “Hardly, I’ve been looking for an excuse to come inside, I just didn’t expect it would be you injuring yourself.”

Aoi shrugged, “I don’t mind,” she said as she sat down beside him. “You just take it easy.”

Takeru groaned as he adjusted the ice on the back of his head, it was throbbing like a drum. “How bad is it anyways?” he asked, lifting the ice pack off.

“Like a goose egg,” said Yusaku. “You really hit yourself hard.”

“I guess I’m not sleeping tonight,” he sighed, putting the pack back on his head. “Fun.”

Yusaku dropped down onto the couch with a sigh, taking a seat on Takeru’s other side so that he was sandwiched between the two of them. 

What was someone supposed to do in this sort of situation anyways? Make small talk? Yusaku had no idea how to do that and he knew that neither Takeru or Aoi were big on that sort of thing either, Aoi wasn’t much of a talker and Takeru was in too much pain. He wished Ai and the others were there for some company, but they’d all left their duel disks, and by extension their Ignis’ at home. At least the Ignis knew how to liven things up and make conversation interesting.

Well, he thought as he leaned slightly against Takeru, the peace and quiet and warmth of the inside was nice so he supposed they could just enjoy that for the time being. 

 

Despite what he’d said earlier, and his pounding headache, Takeru apparently did not have all that much of a problem falling asleep that night, especially not if the snores that Yusaku could hear from the other bed were any indication. Unfortunately, that meant that Yusaku wasn’t going to get any sleep, Takeru snored like a bear.

Everyone had been paired up two to a room and Yusaku had been paired with Takeru. At the time he’d thought it was a stroke of luck, if he was going to share a room with anyone he was glad it was someone he knew and actually liked. But now, he was wishing it was anyone but him, at least then he might be able to get some sleep.  

With a sleepy grunt he crawled out of bed, making his way towards the window and pulling the curtain open.

Nighttime on the mountain was much different than nighttime in the city. And, if Yusaku was being honest, a lot prettier. Sometime during dinner the snow fall had gone from light and intermittent to constant and heavy, so the tracks they’d made were all but gone now as a fresh layer covered everything. 

Yusaku sighed, warm breath fogging up the cool window as he peered out. The snow seemed to sparkle in the dim light of the lodge, giving it an almost magical look. Yusaku idly wondered that if there hadn’t been cloud cover, if the moon would shine on the snow as well. 

It’s really coming down, ’ he thought, watching as the fat flakes fell down and blanketed everything. 

 

The snow did not stop coming down and in fact, had turned into a full on snowstorm at some point. By the time they all got up the next morning the snow was piled up to the windows.

“That is a lot of snow,” said Takeru, looking outside. “Must have blown in overnight.”

“Well, at least we won’t have to go out on the slopes today,” said Yusaku. “I’m not even sure we can get outside.”

“Gee, contain your enthusiasm there Yusaku,” said Takeru. “But, how are we supposed to get home if we can’t get out?”

Oh, that was a problem. They were supposed to go home later that day, and if they were snowed in then they weren’t going anywhere.

“We may be stuck here a while,” said Aoi, coming up behind them. “I overheard some of the teachers, according to the radio the roads are closed. Even if we could get out we wouldn’t be able to go anywhere.”

“I guess that means we’re missing school for a while,” said Yusaku. “Well, let’s go get breakfast.”

“You’re really broken up about this aren’t you?” asked Takeru sarcastically as he followed Yusaku.

Aoi snickered, though she didn’t blame Yusaku one bit.

“Oh yes, I’m absolutely heartbroken about having to miss school,” said Yusaku. “And the skiing. Maybe I’ll just take a nap or something. At least Takeru won’t have to worry about hurting himself again.”

“Unless he trips on his own feet.”

“Aw come on guys!”

“We only tease you cause we like you,” said Aoi, patting Takeru’s shoulder. “Now come on, let’s follow Yusaku’s example and get something to eat. I don’t know about you but I’m starving.”

Breakfast was abuzz with everyone talking about the overnight snowfall and the snowstorm that had rolled in and how they were snowed in. Some were excited about the prospect, it meant doing nothing all day and skipping school, while others were nervous, worried about how long they would be stuck there.

The teachers did their best to reassure them that things would be fine, after all the lodge was meant for people to stay overnight, so it was going to be well stocked with food and fuel, so even if they had to spend several days there it would be fine, they weren’t about to run out of food any time soon. On top of that, the inside was well accommodated for overnight stays. The common room had a fireplace, a television, multiple chairs and couches. There was a play area, though it was technically meant for younger children, and free internet for them to take advantage of. So keeping several dozen 15 and 16 year olds busy was not going to be too much of a problem. At least for a time.

 

Aoi curled up in front of the fireplace, in which crackled a fire, on the corner of the couch with a book, feet tucked up underneath her. Yusaku had been dragged off by Takeru and Shima to go do...something; she hadn’t heard what they were planning on doing, just that Yusaku didn’t want to do it and was very reluctant to go with them.

How Takeru was going to navigate stairs while leaning on a crutch, having been given one to use as his foot still hurt to put any pressure on, she wasn’t sure, but that was his problem.

There were worse ways to spend the day snowed in she figured, though she hoped that it didn’t last too long, or else her brother might start to worry. She had sent him a text regarding the situation, and the teachers had probably phoned all the families to update them and explain why their kids would not be coming home that day, but still, he was bound to worry regardless. He always did.

Adjusting her position so she was more comfortable, she flipped her book open and got to reading.

 

A tired sounding groan and the creaking of the couch jerked Aoi of her book and back to reality and she looked over to see Yusaku crashing on the couch beside her.

“You’re back?” she asked.

“I escaped.”

“And you left Takeru on his own?”

“He’ll live,” said Yusaku. “Besides they’re just playing games down there. And exploring I think. Takeru will survive.”

“And how’s he going to get back up the stairs?”

Yusaku sighed, “That’s on him. He got down there on his own, I’m sure he’ll manage to get back up just fine. Or he’ll get Shima to help him.”

She shook her head, “You’re cold Fujiki-kun.”

“I’m tired. Did you know that he snores like a bear? Because he does. He’s lucky I didn’t smother him last night.”

Aoi turned her head and looked over at him, “Is that why you’re tired.”

Yusaku nodded silently before stifling a yawn behind his hand. “I barely got any sleep because of him.”

“No wonder you wanted a nap.”

He nodded again and she returned to her book, leaving Yusaku to do whatever. Silence fell between them, a fairly common occurrence really and not something that had ever bothered either of them. People had often remarked that they were quiet friends, they didn’t need to use words to understand each other and get along, sometimes just sitting in total silence for hours on end.

Then, a weight fell against her shoulder and Aoi lifted her head suddenly, turning to look at Yusaku. His head had fallen against her shoulder and his eyes were closed. She couldn’t believe it, he was fast asleep! He really must have been tired, to fall asleep that quickly.

She sputtered, nearly dropping her book. What on earth was she supposed to do now? 

“Oh that’s where you got off to.”

Aoi twisted around to see Takeru ambling towards them, leaning on his crutch.

“Help me,” said Aoi in a quiet voice, using her free hand to gesture to Yusaku, who had pinned her other arm to her side.

“Help you?” He gave her a curious look and once he was close enough craned his neck to look over at Yusaku. “Oh.”

“What do I do?” she asked.

“Try not to move?” he suggested as he walked around the couch and took a seat next to Yusaku, leaning the crutch against the arm of the couch.

“That’s no help.”

Takeru shrugged, “Well, do you want to wake him?”

Aoi frowned as she looked back at Yusaku, peacefully asleep and blissfully unaware of what, and who, he was using as a pillow. She thought about what he’d said, how he’d barely gotten any sleep, and how he rarely slept as it was before shaking her head.

“I guess not,” she said with a sigh. “I just wasn’t expecting him to use my shoulder as a pillow.”

“Think of it this way, it means he trusts you.”

“Homura, he’s not a cat.”

“Are you sure about that? Cause sometimes I wonder.”

Aoi shook her head, sometimes she wondered what she saw in these two. Well, Yusaku wasn’t hurting her by sleeping like that and it wasn’t like she needed to move from her spot so really, there was no reason to move him. Besides if Takeru’s snoring really was that bad then he probably needed the sleep.

Deciding there wasn’t much else she could do, she went back to her book, at least until a loud snorting noise caught her attention.

Craning her neck to look around Yusaku she noticed that Takeru as well had fallen asleep leaning back against the couch.

How on earth? ’ How could he possibly be tired? It had sounded to her that he’d slept fairly well. Well, now she really wasn’t going to be able to focus on her book, not with that ungodly sound. With a sigh, she closed the book before trying to decide if it was possible to reach around and poke Takeru, without waking Yusaku.

“Takeru!” she hissed. “Takeru wake up!”

No response aside from another snort and Takeru shifting position to fall onto Yusaku’s shoulder.

“That is the exact opposite of what I wanted you to do,” she said in a loud whisper through clenched teeth. Aoi groaned, without being able to reach Takeru she doubted there was a way to wake him, and she couldn’t reach him without first waking Yusaku, and he didn’t deserve that. She could throw her book at him, but if she missed then she would be out one book, and who knew how long she'd be stuck there.

She looked over to the window and outside, it was still snowing out, though nowhere near as hard as it had been at breakfast. Perhaps they wouldn’t end up stuck there for more than a day.

Adjusting her position as best as she could without jostling Yusaku too much or waking him, she leaned into him. Focusing on reading wasn’t going to happen so, why not take a page out of their books so to speak?

Besides, the idea of a nap in front of the fire seemed nice, peaceful even. 

 

When Yusaku finally awoke he felt oddly warm. And squished. To one side of him was Takeru, snoring like a bear once again and leaning against his side. To his other was Aoi, who was both being used as a place to rest his head and was using him to lean on.

How and when had that happened? The last thing he remembered, Aoi had been awake and Takeru had been left downstairs. But, surprisingly, he couldn’t really complain. It felt nice, comforting even. How long had they been like that though? Was everyone as tired as he was?

“Takeru? Aoi?”

They offered no response, continuing to sleep on.

I suppose this is my life now, ’ he thought. Of course, it wasn’t the first time he’d woken up to being slept on, on more than one occasion he’d woken up with Ai curled up around him like a clingy cat. At least Takeru and Aoi weren’t as heavy as he was, though considering their positions at the moment it didn’t really matter. 

Unfortunately, now that he was awake he wasn’t going to be able to go back to sleep, not with Takeru snoring in his ear.

 

Aoi was the first of the pair to awaken, wiggling and shifting against Yusaku as she moved, her hair tickling his nose.

“Did you have a good nap?” asked Yusaku as she lifted her head off his. 

“That’s what I should be asking you,” she replied. “You fell asleep first.”

Yusaku’s cheeks warmed slightly, “Sorry. I guess I was a bit more tired than I thought I was.”

“It’s fine. But, what about him?” she asked, pointing at Takeru, still fast asleep.

Yusaku shrugged. “Do you want me to wake him for you?” he asked. “Because I can, and I will.”

“It’s your shoulder he’s sleeping on, not mine.”

Yusaku looked over at Takeru for a thoughtful moment, then gave him a gentle push, knocking him over onto the other arm of the couch.

“Time for you to wake up,” he said.

Takeru grunted as he hit the arm of the couch and cracked open an eye. “Wha, wassat?” he asked sleepily, slurring his words.

“Wake. Up.” Yusaku repeated himself. “You were asleep on my arm. And snoring again.”

Takeru rubbed his eyes as he sat up, looking a little sheepish. “Was I?”

“And loudly too,” said Aoi.

Takeru blushed sheepishly and rubbed the back of his head as he sat up. “I guess I was more tired than I thought.”

“Surprising since I know for a fact that you slept all night,” said Yusaku. “Because you snored the whole time.”

“I do not snore.”

“Yes you do,” chorused Aoi and Yusaku. 

“Like a chainsaw,” said Yusaku with a nod. “You’re lucky I didn’t smother you.”

“You wouldn’t.”

“I was tempted.” He looked Takeru up and down, “How are you feeling?”

“Good. The nurse gave me some painkillers for my foot earlier, so it’s not hurting as much. Man, Kiku’s never gonna let me live it down when she finds out what happened.”

“Painkillers? Homura, that’s probably why you fell asleep,” said Aoi.

 

The rest of the day passed slowly and quietly and they found themselves staying overnight for one more night. By the next morning the roads had been plowed, allowing help to reach them and dig them out so they could go home.

 

When Kusanagi saw them he just about dropped the hotdogs he was holding at the sight of Takeru, foot bandaged and leaning on a crutch as he walked.

“What happened?” he sputtered. 

“Takeru tried to kill himself on the hills,” said Aoi.

“I did not. I just tripped. But I’ll be fine, it’s just a sprain.”

“Yusaku!” A blur of purple suddenly bolted from the hotdog truck, colliding with Yusaku and sweeping him up into a pair of arms tightly. “How could you leave me behind?”

“I didn’t have a choice. It was a school trip, I couldn’t exactly sneak you along.” If he’d been his small Ignis form it would have been no problem, but he wasn’t, he was in his SOLtis body, which was not something easily snuck on a school bus.

“But why did you have to leave me with him?” he pointed at Kusanagi. “He’s a slave driver.”

“I put you to work since you were hanging around,” said Kusanagi. “Gotta make use of that pretty face of yours somehow.”

Yusaku sighed heavily and shook his head, trying to extract himself from Ai’s arms, the Ignis pouting as he clung to Yusaku.

“Exactly, a slave driver!”

Kusanagi shook his head before looking back at Yusaku and his friends. “Well, I’m glad you’re back, and I hope that aside from that,” he gestured to Takeru and his injuries. “That you enjoyed yourselves.”

“It wasn’t the worst trip I’ve been on,” said Yusaku. “I wouldn’t do it again though. Far too cold and too much snow.”

“Aww, you won’t even take me?” asked Ai as Yusaku finally pulled himself free.

“Absolutely not.”

“Yusaku you’re so mean!”