Circumstances Beyond Our Control
(It's a Christmas Fic-- Really!)
by Naia Zifu

"I'm sorry, ma'am, but there's nothing I can do," the woman
behind the counter said. "It's this weather-- nothing's moving out
there."
"But it's Christmas Eve!"
"The hazards of last-minute holiday travel," she said with a
helpless shrug. "Maybe in a couple of hours, if this storm lets
up. . ."
"Another couple of hours and it'll be Christmas," I said with
a sigh, slumping into the nearest available chair.
I felt eyes on me, and turned just in time to see the woman
sitting beside me hide her face behind a magazine. I stared at her
strangely for a moment, but she didn't look over again. Maybe I'd
just been imagining things.
Shrugging it off, I took a novel from my bag and opened it to
my last marked page.
The woman took that opportunity to grab her own bag and try to
creep away unnoticed, but the sudden movement caught my eye.
The tall, slender build, the long brown ponytail. . . I
blinked in surprise.
"Taiki-san?"
The idol froze.
"I. . . think you must have me confused with someone else," he
tried in an artificially high voice.
"And how many six-foot women do you know with short hair and a
long brown ponytail?"
"Shimatta," he cursed, fingering the ends of his traitorous
ponytail with a scowl.
"Don't feel bad, Taiki-san," I said, patting his arm. "It
really is a great disguise. I might never have guessed if not for the
hair."
It really was a perfect disguise aside from that. A pair of
long, shapely legs clad in woolly winter tights emerged from beneath a
red plaid miniskirt, while an off-white cable-knit sweater just
skimmed the curves of perky breasts and broad "childbearing" hips.
His usually slick hair today fell in a sweet shag style, perfectly
framing a feminine face made up in neutral hues. He didn't look like
a drag queen at all, but a real woman, and quite a lovely one at that.
"Mei," he insisted, sitting back down with a sigh. "I didn't
want anyone to recognise me."
"Trying to avoid your throng of screaming fans?" I guessed.
"Don't worry, my lips are sealed."
"Arigato."
"So where are your friends?" I asked after a look around
showed no sign of them, dressed as men or women.
"At home asleep, the lucky things," he said wearily. "They're
visiting the children's hospital in the morning to hand out toys."
"Kawaii," I said. "So why aren't you going?"
"Something more important came up."
To judge by his tone of voice and the look in his eyes as he
said it, whatever task he was on, it wasn't pleasant.
"Look, if you'd like to get some coffee or something and talk
about it. . ."
"Do you even drink coffee?"
"I don't know," I replied, blushing. "I've never actually had
it. But seeing as I've been here seven hours, I think it's about time
I started."
"Seven hours?" he repeated. "I think it's time you had a
proper meal, then. Let's see if anything's still open."
At such a late hour, especially on a holiday, that wasn't
much. We ended up at a tiny table in the back corner of an airport
fast food restaurant, eating cheeseburgers and greasy fries.
"I don't even want to think about what this is doing to my
arteries," Taiki said, eyeing the burger suspiciously.
"I don't think eating one is going to kill you, Ta-- er,
Mei-san."
"You're sure about that?"
I laughed. "The way you're acting, I'd think you've never
eaten one before, but living with Seiya-san. . ."
"I always just order the salad. But here I don't know when my
next meal might be, so I thought it safer to splurge just this once."
"So, you said you'd tell me why you're here over dinner."
"I promised no such thing. That was all your idea."
So it was.
"Then I'll go first," I said. "You can tell yours afterwards,
if you're comfortable."
I took his shrug as a sign of agreement.
"Just this morning my father called from a hotel in Kyoto to
say he'd be there for an actor friend's Christmas opening night, and
invited me over."
"On such short notice?" he said. "That was rude."
I shrugged. "My father's an artist. He's always been quirky
and spontaneous like that."
That was one of the reasons he and my responsible, organised
mother split up.
"I managed to book the last available seat on a four-thirty
flight through the Internet, but no sooner had I packed and caught a
cab here than weather delays were announced in Kyoto. The snow
started here an hour later, and now it looks like I might not be
leaving today at all." I sighed. "I haven't even seen my father in
years. I thought flying in would cut down on travel time, give us
more time together. Now I wish I'd just taken the train instead."
"If the airlines are delayed, the trains probably are, too.
You still might not have been there by now."
"And with no-one to talk to," I said, tilting my head at the
young idol. "Must've been fate."
"I don't think I need this kind of fate."
"Doshite?" I wondered. "What happened?"
"I don't feel comfortable talking about it."
"Not even after I told you mine?"
Taiki shrugged. "I didn't ask you to."
"I just can't figure you out sometimes. One minute you're
buying me dinner and talking things through like a friend, and the
next you're suddenly rude and closed off. It seems to happen whenever
I ask even remotely personal questions."
"Then don't ask."
"I don't do it just to be nosy," I said. "You're important to
me. I just want to know more about you."
"You really shouldn't get so attached."
"You're not sick or anything, are you?"
"No, it's nothing like that. It's just. . ." I leaned in
interestedly, and with a 'how did I let you talk me into this?' look,
he continued, "I just don't know if we'll be here much longer."
"Doshite?" I asked. "Does it have something to do with this
trip?"
He hesitated a moment, so long I thought he'd decided against
telling, when he pulled a newspaper from his bag and dropped it on the
table in front of me. It was open to the next to last page, and a
small story in the upper left corner was circled.
"The badly decomposed body of a young woman was found
yesterday in an abandoned warehouse in Kyoto. Coroner's reports
suggest the woman was in her early 20s, height 165-170 cm, with long
red hair, probably of Caucasian or biracial descent," I read. "There
were no remaining fingerprints, as the body may have been there as
long as a year, and no identification was found. Searches of dental
records and missing persons reports have thus far returned nothing."
"All this time," his quivering lips whispered, "all our hard
work. . ."
"It's not her."
"Yaten said the same thing," he said, "but how do you know?"
"I don't, really," I admitted, "but I do know the moment you
give up hope, that's when you're lost."
"But the description--"
"Could fit about a million people. Look at it this way; if
this woman you've been looking for is alive, how do you think she
would feel knowing you've already given her up for dead?"
"You're right, I shouldn't always be so quick to assume the
worst," he said, sniffling a bit as he tried to pull himself together.
"Gomen, I never meant for you to have to see me like this."
"Must be all those rampant female hormones," I joked, dabbing
at a tear that trailed black mascara down his cheek. "I know this is
a difficult thing to have to do, especially at this time of year.
Anyone would be emotional in your position."
"This time of year?" he repeated, a blank look on his face.
"Oh, you mean Christmas." He shrugged. "I'm not Christian."
"That doesn't matter. Christmas is more than just that; it's
about spending time with the people you love."
"Instead you get stuck in an airport all night," he said.
"Gomen."
"It isn't so bad now that you're here," I said, "demo. . ."
"Demo?"
I felt my face flush.
"It's silly."
"The mood could use lightening."
"It's just. . . my mother bought me the nicest holiday dress
this year, and I wanted so much to wear it this trip, but now I don't
know if I'll ever get the chance."
"And now it's out there on the tarmac in a plane going
nowhere."
"Actually, since this was just meant to be an overnight trip,"
I said, patting my bag, "It's right here."
"Well, I know it's no glamorous opening night," he said, "but
you could try it on now, if you'd like."
As I sought out a washroom to change in, one thought kept
nagging at the back of my mind, 'I'll go to all the trouble to get
dressed up, silly, starstruck girl that I am, and when I get back
he'll be gone.' I tried to force such wicked thoughts out of my mind.
An intelligent, sensitive artist like Taiki-san would never do such a
cruel thing! . . .Would he?
I locked myself in a stall and stripped off my green corduroy
skirt and striped sweater. I traded my thick, ribbed stockings for a
pair of sheer pantyhose and my warm winter boots for. . . well, they
were just the square-toed black pumps with the 4 cm heels I'd worn to
my grandfather's funeral, but they were the only heels I owned. At
least they went well with the square-necked, empire-waisted black
dress of crushed velvet my mother had given me.
It was the first holiday dress she'd ever bought that didn't
feature puffy sleeves, a crinoline slip, or any sort of fake flowers
or berries. Could it be my mother finally realised I was growing up?
Unfortunately, the pink Hello Kitty make-up kit she'd also given
suggested otherwise.
Determined to use what I had to best advantage, I applied the
kit's pale-pink shadow to my eyes, a hint of its rouge to my cheeks,
and strawberry-scented gloss to my lips before the washroom's bank of
mirrors. Then I brushed my short blue hair until it shone and placed
a small, heart-shaped silver clip at one side.
Satisfied with my appearance, I hurried back to the restaurant
where I'd last seen Taiki. . . only to find him missing, and our table
being cleared by an employee.
"We're closing, ma'am," the young man said. "I'm afraid you'll
have to come back later."
"I was here with someone about twenty minutes ago," I said, "a
tall girl my age with a brown ponytail and white sweater. Did you see
where she went?"
"Oh, she left a good fifteen or twenty minutes ago, herself,
headed that way," he replied, pointing. "Looked like she was in some
kind of hurry; didn't stop to clear the table or anything."
"Oh."
My face fell, and my bag dragged along on its tiny casters; I
no longer felt the strength to hold it up myself. I plodded back to
my gate and dropped myself into the first available chair just in time
to hear the announcement, "Ladies and gentlemen, the snow has finally
stopped outside and crews are working to clear the runways as we
speak. We expect traffic to resume within the next three hours, and
hope to have all stranded passengers in the air by daybreak. Arigato
for your patience."
I fished the slip of paper bearing my father's hotel number
from my bag, and heaved my tired bones up to go wait in line for the
phones.
"Room 202, please," I said, and listened to the phone ring
once, twice, three times. . .
After the fourth ring, the desk clerk cut in, "There's no
answer. I'm afraid your party is either asleep or out of the room.
Would you like to leave a message?"
"Yes, please. This is his daughter, Ami. Tell him the snow's
letting up and they're clearing the runways now, so I'll be in on the
earliest flight I can get," I said. "I'll call him again to pick me
up when I get into town."
"I'll see to it he gets the message," he said, though with the
way my day was going I was sure he wouldn't.
I hung up with a sigh and wrestled my blue phone card free of
its reluctant slot, deeply scratching the coral reef scene on its face
in the process.
"What else can go wrong?"
"There you are," a voice said from behind me. "I've been
looking all over for you."
I turned to see Taiki standing there, a kawaii, lopsided grin
on his face and a tiny gold bag in one hand.
"You look like a princess," he said, eyes roaming my body.
"Arigato," I said, blushing. "But I thought you'd left me."
"I had some last-minute shopping to do. By the time I got
back, the restaurant was closed and you were nowhere to be found," he
explained, giving me the little gold bag. "I know it's not much, but
the gift shop was closing. I didn't have much time to browse."
"Do I open it now or wait until Christmas?"
"Technically, it's Christmas now," he said. "Go on and open
it."
A look at my watch confirmed it-- five after midnight.
"Well, I guess it's safe enough. . ."
In the black velvet box I found nestled inside the bag was a
tiny silver cross on a delicate chain-- sterling, to judge by its
warm, whitish hue.
"It's beautiful," I said, going on tiptoe to kiss his cheek.
"I love it!"
I turned around to let him put it on me. His long, graceful
fingers had no trouble with the delicate clasp, and when worn, the
cross hung at the perfect length to set off the neckline of my new
dress.
"It's beautiful," I said again. "Oh, but I didn't get you
anything, and all the shops are probably closed by now."
"It's all right," he insisted, "I don't need anything. This
is your holiday."
"I thought you understood, Christmas is for everyone," I said,
"and I want to make sure your first Christmas is a joyous one. Come
with me to the show."
"You know I can't."
"With all due respect, that corpse isn't going anywhere," I
said, "and even if it is her, don't you think she'd rather you
enjoyed your holiday with someone who cares, than spending it alone in
some dank, depressing morgue?"
"I suppose you're right. But your father--"
"If he can phone to invite me on such short notice, I think
I'm entitled to ask you the same way," I said with a shrug. "If he's
friends with the star, I'm sure one more seat shouldn't be any
trouble."
"You'd think, but it doesn't always work that way," he
protested.
"Let me worry about the details," I said. "Just, please, say
you'll go."
I showed him my biggest "sad puppy" eyes and most kawaii
little pout, until finally, "All right, all right. Assuming you can
get an extra seat, I'll go."
"Yatta!" I squealed, and in a momentary lapse of composure,
threw my arms around him.
A moment to get over the shock, and he even hugged back.
"I should try my father's hotel again," I said, reluctantly
pulling away. "You're not going to disappear again, are you?"
"I wouldn't dream of it."
"Good," I said, going on tiptoe to kiss his cheek once again.
You're going to love this day we call Christmas, Taiki-san, I
just know it.



©2002 Naia Zifu, all rights reserved.
Mizuno Ami and Taiki Kou are BSSM characters I own no rights to, but
as always, I'm not trying to make money off anyone else's ideas.
Okay, I know I said I wouldn't write any more Christmas fics, but this
one kind of happened on its own. I rather like it, even if the gender
issue's kind of confusing :-P . For the record, yes, Taiki-sama is
fully female all fic. It's just that Ami-chan doesn't know her real
gender and identity yet, and thus assumes she's just cross-dressing.
*nods* Hopefully that clears things up :-) .