Spirit of Fire: Extra Scene III

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Here's another entry I wrote for the sm_monthly community at Livejournal. This scene takes place a few months before the events of Chapter 5.

"Takara" is the Japanese word for "treasure".

Christmas Treasures (Theme: Teddy Bear)

Home economics had never been Hino Takara's favorite subject when she was a student. Unlike her late mother, who had excelled in cooking and sewing, such things did not come naturally to her. Even with her best friend Miyuki's help, she had only just barely passed the class.

In spite of her shortcomings when it came to home-making, however, Takara had decided to tackle an ambitious project. Christmas was coming in a few weeks, and she wanted to make a teddy bear for her young daughter Rei, as her mother had done for her shortly before her premature death. When she heard of Takara's idea, Miyuki, despite being busy with planning her upcoming wedding, had offered her assistance, just like they were in high school again, but Takara was determined to complete the project on her own, though she began to regret refusing Miyuki's generous offer a little once she actually started work on the bear.

The packaging on the kit she had bought at the craft store advertised that their instructions were so easy to follow, even children as young as eight could create their own furry friends. Looking over the provided booklet and patterns, though, Takara couldn't help but wonder what kind of eight-year-old could possibly understand the instructions when she, a mother in her mid-twenties, could barely make heads or tails of them.

"No, you can do this, Takara," she said to herself, and began tracing the patterns on the back of the fur-like fabric she had bought.

To keep the bear a surprise from Rei, Takara only worked on the bear at night in her husband's study, after Rei had gone to sleep. Keitaro rarely spoke to her while she was in the middle of her sewing, preoccupied with his own work assignments, but, on occasion, she caught him staring at her, a rare smile on his face as she sucked on her needle-pricked fingers or concentrated on making the seams as even as she possibly could.

Finally, the night of Christmas Eve, Takara put the finishing touches on the bear. It was by no means perfect -- one of the ears somehow looked more like a bunny's, and the black buttons she used for the eyes were slightly uneven -- but she was certain Rei would love it as much as she had loved Hoshi, the name of the bear Takara's mother had made for her for her seventh birthday.

"I did it!" she exclaimed, jumping up and startling Keitaro from his work. "It's done! It's finally done! I can't believe actually finished it!"

"That's great, Takara," her husband said.

"Oh, I hope Rei-chan likes him." Takara began tying a large red-and-green bow around the brown bear's neck. She didn't bother wrapping him or putting him in a gift bag, wanting the bear to be the first thing Rei saw when she ran down the stairs in the morning to open her presents. "I can't wait to see the look on her face tomorrow morning!" Looking up at the ornate grandfather clock standing in the corner of the study, she corrected herself. "I mean, later today. I didn't realize it was so late!" she said, slapping her forehead. She had really cut it close to the deadline. "I better start putting the rest of the presents underneath the tree. Rei-chan would be devastated if Santa-san forgot to visit!"

In addition to the bear, Takara had hidden the rest of Rei's presents in Keitaro's study as well, as Rei was generally not allowed to come inside, since Keitaro hated to be bothered when he was working. She retrieved the rest of the presents from the secret hiding place and carried them to the living room, where the large tree she, Rei, and Mrs. Yukana, Rei's nanny, had decorated a few days earlier stood.

As the daughter of a Shinto priest, Takara's family had never made a big fuss over the Christmas holiday. They had eaten the traditional fried-chicken dinner with Christmas cake for dessert, and Takara, when she was younger and still believed in him, received a couple of gifts from "Santa-san," but that had been the extent of the Kondo family celebration. They had never even put up a tree. Now that she was married to a Catholic, however, Takara considered Christmas to be one of her favorite holidays, and she always went a bit overboard with the decorations. Every inch of the seven-foot tree was covered with twinkle lights, festive metallic garland, and a combination of store-bought and handmade ornaments.

Kneeling in front of the tree, Takara hummed a carol off-key to herself as she placed the presents one by one underneath it. The very last gift, the stuffed bear, was given a special place of honor at the very front of the tree, where Rei was certain to see it as soon as she came downstairs. Satisfied with her handwork, Takara was about to stand back up and go to bed when a masculine voice coming from behind her asked, "Is there enough room under there for two more presents?"

Takara craned her head upward, surprised to see Keitaro with two small, poorly wrapped gift boxes in his hands which stood in sharp contrast to the rest of the professionally gift-wrapped presents under the tree. "Keitaro, you startled me," she said, taking the hand he offered to help her stand up. "I thought you were still working."

"It's Christmas Eve -- well, I suppose it's technically Christmas day, now," he reminded her with a soft smile. "Even I can take a break from work on occasion." Keitaro offered one of his gifts to her, a long slender box that was almost shaped like a pencil holder. "Would you like to open your gift?"

Curious, Takara took the box, but didn't immediately open it. "What is this?" she asked. "Your secretary usually does your shopping for you, and she already gave me your presents to us," Takara said, indicating the pile of gifts underneath the tree behind her. Due to Keitaro's busy schedule as governor of Tokyo, she was accustomed to Miss Katsuki handling Keitaro's gift shopping for him. "Did Katsuki-san forget to give me this?"

Keitaro shook his head. "I bought these two gifts myself," he said, setting the other box down beside Rei's teddy bear. "One for you, and one for Rei-san. Go ahead, open it."

Takara didn't need any further prodding, ripping off the red bow and the green metallic wrapping paper to reveal a blue velvet box that obviously came from an upscale jewelry shop. She gasped when she opened it up and saw what was inside.

"Oh, Keitaro!" It was a beautiful gold bracelet, accented with small diamonds. "It's gorgeous!"

Taking the box from her, Keitaro pulled the bracelet out and clasped it around her wrist. "I saw it the other day in the window of Osaka Jewelers and thought you would like it," he explained, lightly blushing.

"Like it?" Still in awe of the unexpected gift, Takara admired how the diamonds shimmered under the lights of the Christmas tree when she moved her arm, unable to take her eyes off of it. "I love it!"

"I'm glad," he said, taking both her hands in his own. "You deserve something nice for putting up with my crazy hours, especially lately. I know it can't be easy."

Takara shook her head. It was true that she sometimes felt lonely when Keitaro ignored his family in favor of his work, but she had known and accepted from the start that he was an incurable workaholic. "I don't mind, because I know you are following your dreams."

"Still --"

Before he could finish his thought, Takara wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed her lips against his. It was so rare that they had any alone time together, she didn't want to waste it with unnecessary talk, especially the night before Christmas. Even if Christmas Eve, the most romantic day of the year, was technically over, that didn't mean they still couldn't have a special night together.

Keitaro seemed to have the same idea, kissing her back with a passion she had almost forgotten he could possess for something other than politics. It took Takara by surprise, and her heart began beating wildly against her rib cage, hot blood coursing through her veins. At first, she worried she might be having one of her infamous "attacks" that came with having been born with a weak heart, but she wasn't experiencing the dizziness that usually accompanied them, only a warm sense of euphoria that she hadn't felt for quite a long while, maybe even not since before she became pregnant with Rei.

"Keitaro…"

Wordlessly, Keitaro swept her off her feet like a bride and carried her upstairs to their bedroom.

*****

The next morning, the two of them were awakened by their six-year-old daughter, who excitedly barged into their room without knocking and jumped on their bed. "Okaa-sama, Otou-sama, wake up!" Rei said, shaking Takara by the shoulder until her eyes finally fluttered opened. "Santa-san came! It's Christmas!"

On the other side of the bed, Takara felt the mattress shift as her husband sat up. "Rei-san, I know it is Christmas, but that does not give you an excuse not to knock before entering someone's room," Keitaro lectured, reaching for his wire-rimmed glasses on the nightstand as Takara sat up in the bed as well.

"I'm sorry, otou-sama," she apologized, squeezing the bear Takara had made for her tightly to her chest.

Takara smiled, pulling Rei onto her lap to give her a hug. "It's okay, sweetie," she said, and even Keitaro seemed to regret his harshness on what was supposed to be a happy day.

"Yes, it's fine, as long as you remember to knock next time."

"I will," Rei promised, brightening once again as she held up the bear to Keitaro. "Look at what Okaa-sama got me for Christmas. Isn't he cute?"

"Yes, your mother spent a lot of time making that bear for you."

Rei's eyes widened, turning around to face Takara. "You made him, Okaa-sama?"

Takara nodded. "Do you like him?" she asked. "What are you going to name him?"

"Um…" Tapping a finger against her cheek, Rei thought over the question. "I'm going to call him Yoshi-san," she decided. "Yoshi-san the bear."

"I think it suits him." Just then, something hanging around Rei's neck caught Takara's eye. Curious, she reached for it, not recognizing the tiny gold filigree cross. "What is this?"

"Otou-sama gave it to me." Smiling, Rei glanced over at her father, who coughed into his fist in slight embarrassment. "You two were taking too long to wake up, so Yukana-san said I could open one of my presents while we waited. Isn't it pretty, Okaa-sama?"

"It's beautiful," Takara agreed, frowning. "But, Keitaro, don't you think Rei-chan is a little too young to be responsible for something like this? She'll probably lose it in a couple of days. Maybe I should keep it in my jewelry box until she's a little older."

Wrapping a tiny fist around the cross pendant, Rei vehemently shook her head. "I won't lose it, I promise!" she swore. "I'll take really good care of it."

"Maybe your mother is right, Rei-san," Keitaro agreed. "You can have it back when you're older."

"No!" Rei crawled off Takara's lap, still grasping the pendant as if her life depended on it. "Otou-sama gave me this necklace," she murmured half to herself, her eyes looking downward at her hand. "It's special, just like Yoshi-san is special. They're my new treasures, and I won't give them up. Please don't take them away from me!"

Takara sighed. Against her better judgment, she just couldn't bear to take the necklace away from Rei when it obviously meant so much to her. "Do you pinky-swear to take really good care of it?" she asked, extending her pinky finger out to her daughter. "You won't lose it, or break it, or exchange it with one of your friends at school for a Cabbage Patch doll?"

"I won't do any of those things," Rei promised, and linked her pinky with Takara's. "Pinky-swear!"

"Okay… Then you may keep the necklace."

"Really?" Rei's eyes lit back up, and she threw herself back in Takara's arms, giving her mother a wet kiss on the cheek. "Thank you, thank you, thank you!"

Laughing, Takara hugged Rei tightly. "You're welcome, but don't you think there's somebody else you should also thank?" she subtly hinted in a soft whisper as Keitaro climbed out of bed and pulled a robe over his satin pajamas.

"Oh, right!"

Rei once again crawled off the bed, shyly coming up behind Keitaro and pulling on the back of his robe to get his attention as he browsed through the closet for a change of clothes. The two of them had never had a very close relationship due to the fact that Keitaro was almost always working, and he jumped a little in surprise, startled at the tug.

"What is it, Rei-san?" he asked, turning around.

Rei crooked her pointer finger, motioning for Keitaro to bend down closer to her. He seemed confused at first, but complied, kneeling down in front of her so that they were eye-to-eye. Rei then gave him a kiss on the cheek and said "Thank you!" before running back out of the room, no doubt anxious to open the rest of her Christmas presents.

After she had left, Keitaro stood back up, his hand pressed against the cheek Rei had kissed as if he couldn't quite believe what had happened. "What was that about?" he asked.

Though she knew she shouldn't, Takara couldn't help but laugh at the bewildered look on her husband's face. "Rei-chan obviously loved her present," she said, sliding out of from underneath the covers and walking over to wrap her arms around Keitaro's neck. She still wore the bracelet he had given to her the night before, and it sparkled even more brilliantly in the natural morning sunlight coming in from their bedroom windows. "As do I."

"I don't understand, though. I've given her expensive toys and clothes in the past…"

Takara shook her head. "It's not about how much a gift costs," she said. "Just look at how much she loved the bear I made her. Rei-chan doesn't care about things like that. She would have felt the same if the necklace had come from a hundred yen store. She treasures it because it was a present from you."

"Me?"

"Her necklace and my bracelet…" Takara slid one of her hands down to rest over his left breast, where she could faintly feel his heartbeat, and smiled. "They're gifts from the heart -- your heart. That's what makes them treasures." She sighed. "I only wish I had thought to get you something special," she said. "You always insist that you don't want anything for Christmas, so I just bought you a sweater and a new briefcase, the same as last year."

"I always say I don't want anything, because I already have my treasure," Keitaro declared, and Takara looked up, confused.

"What do you mean?"

Cupping her chin in his hand, he brought her lips up to his and kissed her.

"Didn't you know? You have always been my takara."

DISCLAIMER: Sailor Moon is the property of Takeuchi Naoko.