Shaman King is copyright Takei-sensei, his publishers,

Viz and lots of scary people. This fic is copyright ME.

Christmas 2003, for Lily.


He stood on a street corner, looking up at the lights strung on the buildings. Hao liked Christmas lights. Little white ones, especially, glowing like the promise of hope, glowing like something he'd never believed in. He wondered briefly what Matamune had thought of Christmas lights. Probably either that they were pretty, if pointless, or else composed a poem about fireflies. Or else he'd ask him what he was doing out in the cold without proper clothes, and was he going to be up all night again? Because, he, Matamune, was going inside to enjoy the memory of the lights glittering in the cold. In his own bed. And so should Hao, as he very well knew.

"You'll catch a cold," said a voice behind him.

Hao turned around and smiled at his twin. To Yoh's credit, he neither flinched nor took a wary step back. "No, I won't."

"Yes, you will," said Yoh, almost pleasantly. "Here." He took off his coat and handed it to Hao.

Hao put it on, for sheer lack of anything else to do. "Now you'll catch a cold."

"I've got a sweater," said Yoh, placidly. He did, in fact, have a sweater, in orange and black. "Anna made it for me."

Hao pushed down a sudden quiet urge to hand Yoh his coat back and then remove his sweater and put it on himself. It would fit. They were twins, after all. But Yoh would probably struggle and it would be a pity to get it bloody. "For Christmas? I thought Anna didn't celebrate it."

"We don't," said Yoh. "But she made me a sweater." He stood looking at the lights for a moment. "I got her some oranges and a Ringo CD, but she already had the CD, so she hit me."

"I suppose she did," said Hao, politely. "Did you need something, Yoh? I've got humans to terrorize and souls to feed to the Spirit of Fire, you know."

Yoh gave him a Look. Hao smiled at him. He continued smiling at him, and was annoyed to realize that the longer he smiled the more placid Yoh became. "Actually," said Yoh, still placid, "I had something for you."

Hao blinked. "For me?"

"Yes," said Yoh.

Hao considered this. "Why?"

"Because it's Christmas," said Yoh, patiently.

"You just said you didn't celebrate Christmas," said Hao. The conversation was taking a slightly surreal turn, all things considered, although apparently most people considered talking to his brother surreal, if not actively dangerous to one's sanity.

"We don't," said Yoh. "If we did, we'd have a tree and go to church and have one of those diorama thingies --"

"Creche," said Hao, automatically.

"Yes, those things -- and have stockings, and we don't. But we do give each other presents sometimes."

"Yes," said Hao, "But why do you have something for ME?" He didn't bother to point out why Yoh shouldn't give him a present; his brother was not an idiot, even if he was an optimist.

"Because our birthday is in May and Anna's never admitted to having a birthday, and I like getting people things," said Yoh, with his usual twisted but irrefutable logic. "And I didn't get you anything for our birthday."

Hao tried to remember what he had done on May twelfth, and realized he had probably spent his current birth-date that year the same way he had spent it every year. Planning his rise to Shaman King, killing people, and plotting to absorb his brother's soul and marry his fiancee. Matamune would have had a fit.

Yoh dug around in his backpack and pulled out a package that he had quite obviously wrapped himself. The package looked as if a five year old had crumpled wrapping paper around something and tied it with string, but by a five year old with considerable skill in origami. It wasn't just messy, it was artistic, rather organic, and very Yoh. Everything Yoh did carried his stamp on it, and sometimes in the middle of the night Hao might even admit that worried him, that the person who was supposed to be an accidental appendage of himself could make everything he did so distinctive.

Hao took it as if it was going to bite him. "What is it?"

"Open it," said Yoh, patiently, as if to a child who was not quite sure of itself, and had to be coached, step by step.

Hao pulled the string open and unfolded the paper. Inside was a small box, which, when opened, held a mini-disc player and serveral mini-discs with Yoh's bold hand in marker on the labels. Bob 1. Bob 2. Bob 3. Bob Christmas. Anna's Ringo 1. Anna's Ringo 2. Matamune-ish. He stared at them for a long, long moment.

"I asked Manta to help me burn them," said Yoh. "He has a computer so he ripped some CDs and stuff for me."

"Yoh," said Hao, carefully, torn between a urge to laugh or go into a rage and throw the mini-disc player and all the bright plasticky discs back at Yoh, "What on earth made you think --"

"It helps a little," said Yoh. "If you have something else to listen to, I mean."

Hao stared at Yoh, and Yoh looked at him with his terrible, gentle eyes, that accepted everything and never, ever blamed. Yoh might go against you but he always accepted you. Hao hated it and he needed it more than anything. "I don't know what you're talking about," he said. He knew exactly what Yoh was talking about.

Yoh shrugged. "If you say so." He turned and walked off, not saying goodbye, of course. Yoh never said goodbye.


Yoh was right, of course. Yoh was always right, just like Matamune. When Hao put the earbuds in and played the one labeled Matamune-ish, for just a brief moment voices that raged in his head faded into something he could almost bear, silenced by the sound of a flute.

God rest ye merry, he thought, and for once he slept the entire night.


It sucks. I'm sorry. Hao's a little son of a witch to write. Actually, technically he probably IS a son of a witch, but you know what I mean. It's spellchecked, anyway. _;;; Anyway, Merry Christmas, Lily, and I apologize for the suck. ._.;