Kondou Isami ran out with a shovel towards the mini-van. The snow was heavy but the retired commander refused to let a –little- snow stop him tonight. Christmas was a special time for him, it was the day his platoon got shipped back home.
"Darling?" Tsune looked at her husband while holding Tamako-chan.
"Hijikata-san! Drink up! It's on us!"
His face turned red as beet, it was not from WAFF.
"Do you have designated drivers?"
Todou, Nagakura and Harada pointed to each other.
"What do you mean me?"
"Well… I drank already."
"I did too!"
Hijikata shook his head and removed himself from the three stooges before his head exploded. How will he take care of them?
"I'm sorry for imposing, Saitou-san."
"As long as you can put up with the smoking."
"It's quite alright. I'm glad to be going with a friend."
Then he remembered that this is the first time Hide would come to their yearly reunion. That's why he couldn't say no. He stole a look at her, he was a man who could appreciate beauty but he was never interested in women for any romantic capacity. She was just a friend.
He blinked. He was caught staring! With a grunt, he floored the gas pedal.
"I must say Toshi, I'm impressed you got this place."
"Well Kondou-san, just because we're no longer in service…"
"Ah." Kondou's eyes scanned the room and he chuckled.
"Tch… Why are they here?" Toshi settled his chin on his knuckles.
"I sent them an invitation…"
"Calm down Toshi. I'm glad they came this year."
"Tch. Kondou don't you remember, they almost got us killed with that "plan" of theirs."
"Toshi… They are a part of our group. Their plan perhaps wasn't perfect but it was something they sincerely believed in."
"Kondou you are too kind." Hijikata drowned his whiskey.
"Yagi Hide!" Nagakura shouted.
Todou Heisuke almost dropped his drink. Harada and Nagakura was already half-way across the room. The large man motioned for Todou to follow but he couldn't move a muscle. Nagakura came to the rescue, stealing Todou's drink with one big gulp and then dragged Todou with him.
"Tch… I'll leave you here Yagi-san." Saitou turned but Hide clung to his arm. He looked back at her puzzled noting the discomfort on her face.
"Finally! Our best cook has arrived!" Harada hiccupped.
"Did you bring anything?" Shinpachi leaned forward and smiled, intoxicated.
"Shut up –morons-. It's her first time here and already you're up to your antics."
The two silently grinned, a bit embarrassed that Saitou was being his usual self. Sharp-tongued. Both swung Todou in front to cover their asses. When a mute meets another mute what do you get?
"Oh dear…" Tsune along with Tamako-chan got in front of the boys and dragged the unsuspecting Hide to her corner. Nagakura and Shinpachi returned to their corner by the lighted tree. Saitou stomped his way to the rhum and Todou was left alone.
"Is that so?" Hide looked down and started filling up the glasses. Drinking she winced, the punch of course packed quite a -punch-.
Tsune watched Hide look at each men in the room as if she was looking for someone.
"A toast..." He waited for everyone's attention. His eyes were clear, his voice was soft. So unlike the stern commander they knew in the midst of war, once again enthralling his men. "To good friends, those who are no longer with us… And us, who survived and kept their memories."
Moving towards Tsune, he gave her a peck on the cheek.
"And to you, who makes me want to live."
"I know…" Takeda chuckled, "But what you told him was so depressing."
Itou shot Takeda a look of feigned contempt and then languidly took his drink.
"A toast then…"
"And us Takeda-san."
"I'm glad you finally came. I'm sorry about Souji." Todou began softly.
Hide looked at her drink and then across the room towards Saitou and Hijikata.
"Souji gave me so many things, so many friends." She smiled. "Shall we dance?"
And they danced to the Christmas Song…
But not just them, Kondou and Tsune, Harada and Masa, Shinpachi and the girls, Takeda and Itou…
"They won't fit my car."
"I'll take some of them…"
"But then I can't…"
"Drink? I saved some "clean" punch…"
WAFF – warm and fuzzy feelings