:&:o:&:o:&: Sunday, December 18 :&:o:&:o:&:

"What's wrong, Joey?" Ian asked, bouncing up and down on Joey's bed. Joey didn't answer. Instead, he pulled his covers over his head.

"Leave me alone," he mumbled.

"But you haven't eaten breakfast or lunch at all today! And it's almost time for dinner!"

"I'm not hungry."

"But you've got to eat something," Ian stopped bouncing. "Did something happen to you? You didn't wake up early today like you did in the past few days."

"It's nothing. I'm just tired."

Ashley ate her breakfast grimly and didn't say a word as the rest of her family was involved in deep conversation.

She'd gotten so used to going on daily dates with Joey that she had half-expected him to come this morning…but when he didn't show up, she remembered what she'd told him the previous day.

It was weird. It hurt inside her chest whenever she thought about him…could it be that she had a crush on him again? No, not a crush this time.

Love?

'Am I in love with him?' she lowered her chopsticks onto her bowl, her eyes closing halfway. 'It's practically the only explanation why I'm feeling this pain…'

Joey threw the covers off his head and stared up at the ceiling. He'd tried calling Ashley all evening yesterday. She didn't pick up every single time. Then, he'd begun leaving messages. None of them were answered.

He'd given up at 9 PM.

His eyes moved over to the phone that was sat on his desk in the corner of the room. With a sigh, he got out of bed and picked up the phone. He dialed Mike's number.

"Hello?" Mike answered.

"Hi, it's me," Joey said tiredly.

"Hey," Mike paused. "Aren't you supposed to be on a date with Ashley right now?"

"She found out about the curse, Mike."

Mike was silent on the other line, "…wait, you told her?"

"No, we were in the park yesterday and we bumped into that miko, Amy…and then she told Ashley all about the curse…and then…"

"And then what?"

"Amy made me sneeze and I changed into my dog form right in front of Ashley."

"Kami."

"And now, Ashley is mad at me. She told me to stay away from her. I tried calling her all evening yesterday, but she wouldn't pick up the phone," Joey continued miserably. "And the thing is…I was already planning to tell her about the curse…but Amy beat me to it. Now, Ashley thinks I've just been dating her so I could use her to break the curse."

"Well, that's not true, right? You have to tell her that."

"No matter what I do to try and get back with her now…she'll just think that I'm doing it so that I'll have another chance at breaking the curse."


"Ashley, dear?" Mrs. Cooper called through the door.

She was answered with silence. Mrs. Cooper opened the door and peeked inside. Her daughter was lying in bed, one of her arms draped over her eyes.

"Ashley?" she said softly. "You've been quiet all evening yesterday and all of today. Tell mother what's wrong."

Mrs. Cooper came over to the side of Ashley's bed and gently pulled Ashley's arm off her eyes…only to find that Ashley's eyes were filled with tears.

"Mom, did Dad ever break your heart after he told you that he loved you?" Ashley asked. The corner of her mother's mouth lifted into a small smile.

"Boy trouble?" Mrs. Cooper questioned.

Ashley nodded.

Mrs. Cooper closed her eyes, "Your father…was amazing. He always made me smile and laugh. He courted me for a whole year and a half before proposing to me. The funny thing is…we weren't the best of friends when we met."

"Really?" Ashley blinked in surprise.

"Really. We met during the last year of high school. He never took school seriously…the exact opposite of me. While I'd be at home studying my head off, your father was always going off to parties. He was always asking me on dates. Every time, I refused and told him I'd never go on a date with a person who couldn't take school seriously."

Ashley sniffed, "And then what?"

"Well…after a month of asking me on dates and getting rejected…your father changed. It was almost like a miracle actually. I began to notice that he stopped hanging around his partying friends. Instead, he started hanging around me… he got down to business more…and we got to learn more about each other."

Mrs. Cooper blushed, "And then a few months later, he asked me out again…I thought about how much he'd changed and I said yes. And then the courting began. When we were in the middle of college, he proposed to me and we got married."

"How sweet," Ashley smiled.

"Yes," Mrs. Cooper said with a distant look in her eyes. "Your father was a wonderful man. It's a shame he passed away. I loved him so much…I still do. He never purposely tried to break my heart."

She blinked and smiled down at her daughter, "I'm sure that…if the person who broke your heart really loves you, they'll show you that they really do in one way or another."


"Get up," a cold voice echoed through Joey's room. Joey was back in his bed, his blankets over his head again. When joey heard the voice, his eyes flickered open.

That was his brother's voice. What the hell was Eric doing in his room?

"I said, get up," Eric repeated, walking over to Joey and throwing off the blankets. "You've been depressed all day and I'm tired of constantly hearing about it from Ian."

"Leave me alone," Joey grumbled.

"It's love trouble, isn't it?" Eric grunted. "Either that, or we're having a shortage on ramen."

When Joey didn't say anything, Eric snapped.

"Stop being a pathetic loser!" he roared. "If this is love trouble, be a man and get back up on your feet so you can solve the problem!"

"I can't."

"Well then, at least stop moping in your room feeling sorry for yourself! Either do something about the problem or get over it! Now get downstairs and eat!" Eric ordered. "If I don't see you down in five minutes, I'll haul you down myself!"

With that said, Eric stalked to the door and headed back downstairs.

Joey sighed and sat up, preferring not to make his older brother madder than he already was. Eric's words rang through his head.

If this is love trouble, be a man and get back up on your feet so you can solve the problem!

Then, for the first time that day, Joey smiled, "Imagine that. Eric actually tried giving me advice."


:&:o:&:o:&: Saturday, December 24, Christmas Eve :&:o:&:o:&:

8:00 PM

Almost a whole week had passed by…and there had been no word from Joey since the day Ashley had told him off.

'I guess…he really was using me,' Ashley thought grimly.

"Ashley, stop looking so gloomy!" Betty demanded, skidding to a stop beside her best friend. They were ice-skating on the large pond at the park. The water had frozen over in time for the holidays and now, the deep pond was filled with people ice-skating. "I know you're depressed about Joey and the whole curse thing, but get over it!"

Ashley turned to her friend in astonishment, "How do you know about the curse?"

"Mike told me," Betty admitted. "But it's only because Joey let him do it. According to Mike, Joey's been really depressed."

"Yeah, depressed that his chance to break the curse has gone out the window," Ashley snorted.

"Why are you so pessimistic?" Betty shook her head. "You never know. There's a good possibility that Joey really does love you."

"If he did, he would've done something to fix this problem by now."

"I give up. You're too stubborn to listen to anything I say," Betty sighed, earning herself a glare. "Hey, there's Mike! I'll catch you later, okay?"

Ashley watched as Betty skated off toward the other end of the pond where Mike stood.

As well as Joey.

"There she is, Joey," Mike nodded toward Ashley in the distance. "I told you to use your time wisely. You only have until midnight now. This is your final chance to make up with her, you know. Either that, or you can count on saying goodbye to your hanyou form forever."

"Maybe it'd be better that way," Joey turned his head away, sticking his gloved hands into the pockets of his thick jacket.

"Don't be pessimistic," Mike pressured.

"Can it. At least I came out here today...otherwise, I'd be in my room right now."

"Moping."

"No, safe. Safe from having all these people see me if I accidentally sneeze and change into a dog."

"Forget about that. Just go make up with Ashley. If you had to be true to your heart once in your life, now would be the time. Anyways, I'm off. Betty's heading towards us."

Mike started waving and calling out Betty's name. When she reached them, Mike greeted her with a kiss on the cheek…and Betty greeted him with a slap when he groped her bottom. After saying goodbye to Joey, the two headed away together.


8:28 PM

Every time Joey decided to go to Ashley and talk to her, he would always change his mind when he was halfway there to her and then skate back to the other end of the pond.

"Damn, why is this so hard?" he cursed. All he could do was stand there and stare at her while she slowly skated in small loops on the other end. He squeezed his eyes tightly together.

If this is love trouble, be a man and get back up on your feet so you can solve the problem!

Joey opened his eyes again, clenched his teeth, and slowly started to skate toward Ashley again…this time, with no intention to stop until he reached her.

8:30 PM

He was coming toward her.

"What should I do?" Ashley panicked. She desperately looked around and saw an empty section nearby. "There!"

She skated toward the vacant area, trying to avoid Joey.

She was skating so fast that she literally felt the blades of her ice-skates grinding into the ice. She quickly peeked behind her and saw him catching up.

Ashley made her strides longer and then, when she set her foot hard against the frozen water, the blade of her skate became jammed in a large split in the ice.

Then, she heard a cracking noise.

"What the-" her eyes widened.

"Ashley! Get away from there!" she heard Joey shout behind her.

Before Ashley could do anything, the ice beneath her broke apart and she felt herself being plunged into dark and chilly water.

That was when she realized that she couldn't swim.

Joey threw off his scarf and dived into the large hole in the ice in which Ashley had fallen mere seconds ago.

He had been so close to reaching her.

'Damn, why'd she have to run away from me!' he thought angrily. He felt his whole body flinch once he made contact with the freezing water.

It was dark. He'd have to save her fast otherwise he wouldn't even be able to find her. This was probably one of the few times that he was happy to be half-demon. Joey's eyes quickly adjusted to the darkness. He couldn't see Ashley anywhere.

She knew how to swim…right? If she did, she would've been trying to head back up to the surface by now.

He swam deeper into the water.

'Ashley, where are you?' he looked around desperately. 'I never got to make up with you!'

How long he searched, he had no idea. It felt like an eternity to him. Finally, Joey spotted a dark motionless figure. He swam toward it and found an unconscious Ashley. She'd sunk quite a distance under the water.

'Oh, Kami, is she dead?'

He wrapped an arm around her and started heading to the surface. By now, his body was numb from the cold water.

Joey squinted to find the hole through which he'd entered the water, 'I can't see anything! And I'm losing air…'

The hole came into sight a brief moment later. He saw red flashes. Did ambulances come?

Joey felt his vision fading and his energy dissolving. He was blacking out. They were only a few yards from the hole now. With as much energy as he could gather, he thrust Ashley's motionless body to the surface. He saw hands immediately sticking into the water to pull her out.

Joey stopped where he was, too tired to swim any further.

'I don't care if we didn't make up…as long as she's alive…that's all that matters,' Joey thought, his eyes closing as the numbness began to overwhelm him.

And then, he began sinking back into the cold darkness.


A/N: Taa-dah! What would you think will happen?