It was that time of year again. Decorations, gaudy and bright and sparkling lined the Tokyo streets, lights were draped twinkling from the bare trees, the malls and shops were hubs of bustling activity and Christmas sales. And outside a shop, two boys stood, and they were like any other two boys on the street if you ignored the fact that one was much smaller than his age should have allowed, and the other was wearing headphones and a suspiciously glazed-eyed look. Not to mention the shop they were currently standing outside…
Manta gave the shop window a dubious look and stared at Yoh in some exasperation. “Yoh? Yoh!”
Yoh gave a slight start but didn’t turn. “Yes?”
“… What on earth are we looking for?” Manta had seen Yoh in some pretty dazed moods before, but this one took the cake. His friend had spent the whole morning walking in a distracted haze of worry (Yoh? Worrying?) and even more uncharacteristic despair.
“I don’t know either.” The taller boy admitted glumly.
Which, Manta suspected, could only mean one thing… “I think Anna will kill you if you get her something from here for Christmas.” He pointed out quite reasonably.
“What? From here…” He turned to the window and froze on the spot, and it had nothing to do with the freezing winter weather.
Hah. So he hadn’t noticed what shop they were standing outside? “It’s a lingerie shop.” Manta explained quite patiently. “You know… they sell… um. Women’s…”
And then even he got stuck, and besides, judging from the rather thunderstruck look on Yoh’s face, explanations were not the order of the day. Grabbing his friend by the bottom of his jacket, Manta towed him away from the shop. Anna did not, as far as he could tell, use her spirits to spy on Yoh, but Anna was Anna, and he had no doubts that news that her fiancée had stood outside a lingerie shop staring for a full ten minutes would reach her, somehow, possibly with dire consequences.
He found a small coffee joint further down the street, deposited Yoh in a seat and ordered hot chocolate. Prodded Yoh into drinking it before he deemed it safe to return to the topic at hand: Christmas shopping woes.
“So you still haven’t thought of a present for her?”
“No.” Yoh groaned. “And I haven’t got a lot of money either, and everything’s so expensive...”
“Well, what did you usually give her before?” Manta asked. “And what does she usually give you?”
Yoh looked glum. “That’s the problem. My family doesn’t usually celebrate Christmas; my grandparents don’t think much of it. But everyone seems to celebrate it here, so…”
Manta racked his brains for ideas. Come to think of it, what kind of presents did girls like? It wasn’t like he knew a lot about girls; his sister, little brat, was nothing to go by. “Well, you could get her music?”
Yoh shook his head. “Thought of it. She already has all the albums of the singers she likes. And a md player would be too expensive.”
And Anna wasn’t exactly the sort who’d appreciate something cute and silly and fluffy, or pink, which ruled out about three quarters of their other options. The two boys sighed.
In the end, it was all Horohoro’s fault. All of it. In hindsight, Manta realized, they ought not to have asked the Ainu boy if he had any ideas. But desperate times called for desperate measures, and he did have a younger sister, so he ought to know something, right? At worst, he could help them ask Pilika.
And of course, the first thing he did was fall over laughing at his friend’s dilemma.
“Stop laughing!” Manta yelled in irritation. “We’re serious!”
There was a last cackle of mirth before the blue haired boy finally subsided. “I know.” He grinned. “Maybe it’s a good thing I haven’t got a girlfriend after all. Hard enough trying to think of presents for Pilika, and she’s not even big enough to beat me up if she doesn’t like it…”
Considering that they had all too recently seen said sister drag Horhoro away ensnared in a net, he really ought not to talk.
“So what kind of things do girls like?” Yoh asked. He seemed to have resigned himself to a painful doom and returned to something of his usual laid back cheer; leaning back into the warmth of the hot spring water, he sighed.
“Hm…” Horohoro frowned and tried to think of something his sister liked that Anna might not overly hate as well, drew blank, stared at Yoh’s rather absent expression…
The problem wasn’t finding out what girls liked, it was finding out what girls like Anna, an entirely different and possibly ten times more terrifying breed compared to the usual sort, liked. He sometimes wondered if the girl actually liked being engaged to Yoh; shouldn’t a guy like him be too laid back for her taste? But if she didn’t, would she be here? No, she’d be kicking ass and out of the door in five minutes or less. So that meant that she had to like him, right?
The idea, when it hit him, was so obvious, so brilliant, so completely suicidal, that it left him dumbstruck for a moment. He could feel the grin spreading slowly, widely, across his face, even before he opened his mouth.
Silence. Yoh blinked, slowly processed the word… “What?”
“Kissing! Girls make a really big deal out of it, you know, about first kisses and everything!” He leered at Yoh. “Unless you’ve already kissed her before?”
Manta, who’d fallen over at the first mention of the idea, nearly fell over again. “Are you crazy?!”
“Of course not!” Horohoro, who was not going to pass up this brilliant opportunity, argued. “It’s true! Girls do think it’s a big deal!”
Manta opened his mouth to point out that Anna would probably kill anyone who tried to do something like that to her, and stopped.
I love Yoh.
He could still remember the way she’d said it that night, with all the calm matter-of-factness of someone saying that the sky was blue, or that the sun rose in the east and set in the west, as if to her, that love were as certain and indestructible as the mountains and the world itself.
Would she mind if Yoh kissed her? But his brain was still very hard put to try to link Anna to the image of blushing, giggling girls he was more used to.
He stared at Yoh, who still looked rather blank at the idea, as if his brain hadn’t fully processed it yet, or had tried and gotten stuck half way through. “Yoh? What do you think?”
Yoh blinked again and stared at Horohoro. “She’ll kill me.” He stated quite firmly.
Which, of course, explained why three days later on Christmas morning itself, he found himself standing stiffly outside her bedroom door with the vague feeling of someone waiting for the firing squad to fire, or a for the hangman to kick his feet out from under him, or the sword to fall.
At least he was alone. Horohoro had initially offered (or threatened) to come and ‘cheer’ him on (and even bring a camera to record the ‘event’), but Pilika had quite decidedly sat on that idea. Not to worry, she’d told Yoh cheerfully; she’d see to it that he didn’t turn up to bother them on Christmas. They’d spent too much time there anyway, Yoh and Anna san were probably tired of them by now; they’d want some time alone together, wouldn’t they?
And then she’d briskly dragged her brother away before the excessively sheepish Yoh could answer.
So. He was standing outside her room, and should he knock, or should he just wait for her to come out? Or maybe he should just very quietly creep back to his room and pretend that he’d forgotten all about Christmas, and… And her door was opening, and she was there, and there was that idea out of the window.
No turning back now.
She raised surprised eyebrows when she saw him there. “What do you want?” She asked.
“Good morning… um well, there’s something I have to… um…” He was in, and he might as well go through with it. Take a deep breath and “Close your eyes.”
She gave him a narrow eyed look. “What for?”
“It’s a surprise.” He told her; and after a few more minutes of warily studying him through her long dark lashes, she actually complied.
The morning sun fell through the windows of her room, and out of her still open door, outlining her in pale light. Still wearing her white sleeping kimono, she looked like a snow maiden, pale and luminous and untouchable. Untouchable. He felt himself freeze again under her icy clarity…
“Well?” She asked impatiently, eyes still closed, and she was back to being Anna, difficult and prickly and intimidating, but her. Human.
He bent and kissed her.
It was not perfect; between inexperience and nervousness and surprise, it could well have been a complete failure, but she did not pull away just yet, and then perfect or not, the moment was there…
Which of them was more surprised? And how long did it last? A moment, a minute, stretching through eternity and back the other side, so that it seemed to last a lifetime, a split second, too long, too short. He let his mind, his senses go, and it did not matter.
And when it ended and they had pulled away from each other so that they were standing apart again, as if that moment had never passed. She stared at him, the world seemed to stand still, and he remembered the girl she had been when they’d first met and how she’d reddened and slapped him on the train for thinking she was cute.
“Merry Christmas…?” He said and gave her a smile and wondered if she was angry, because she looked distinctly stony faced, never a good sign.
“Oh.” She said calmly. “Is that all?”
He could feel himself start to stick in place; he barely managed a “What?” before the shock set in.
“I said, is that all?” And there was a surprisingly knowing look in her eyes.
“Um, well, yes… um…” He stared at her. “You’re not angry?”
“No. Why should I be? You’re my fiancée, aren’t you?” Disdainfully, she added. “About time you got the idea.” Turning, she went quickly down the stairs as if nothing had happened, leaving Yoh to gape, slack jawed, at her back until it turned the corner in the stairs and vanished.
He’d kissed her, and he was still alive, and she hadn’t gotten mad, and… and… He could have sworn that she… had sort of… liked… it…
Miracles did happen on Christmas morning. And maybe that was her gift to him too…