Gift Exchange

"What are you doing, Near?" Mello asked loudly, startling the white-haired boy and causing him to drop the puzzle piece he had been considering.

Near turned to look at Mello, his look inscrutable, before turning back to his work. He picked up the blank puzzle piece he had been holding and drew a line down the center with a black felt-tip pen.

Mello saw that all the pieces of this puzzle were blank.

"How are you supposed to put them together if they don't have anything on them?"

"Shape," Near replied tonelessly. Mello continued to watch in silence as Near picked up another blank piece, looked at it for a moment, and then drew a half circle. He deposited the piece in a pile to his left and picked up another blank piece from the pile in front of him.

"Let me draw, too," Mello demanded. He took the pen from Near's hand and scribbled on the piece he was holding, making sure to mark his fingers in the process. Near needed to wear more black, anyway—the white hair and pajamas made him look too weak.

That was a good idea! He would color Near's clothes black. More fun that coloring some stupid puzzle pieces. He drew a jagged line from the collar of Near's shirt to halfway down his sleeve. Near turned his blank eyes to look at the black mark.

He blinked.

Near looked up at Mello, his face expressionless, and said, ever so eloquently, "You wrote on me."

Mello grinned. Near was such an idiot. "Why are you drawing on puzzle pieces, anyway?" Mello asked as Near picked up yet another piece, deciding to leave this one blank. He sat it aside in the small pile directly in front of Mello.

"I want the puzzle to say Merry Christmas."

Mello snorted. Near was such an idiot. "Wouldn't it be easier to put it together first, and then write Merry Christmas on it?"

Near blinked and paused, the felt tip poised over the last puzzle piece. "In retrospect…yes."

XXXXXX

On Christmas morning, Mello received a gift under the tree. He shook it around, trying to figure out what it was. It rattled noisily. When he was no longer satisfied with doing that, he ripped the paper and unceremoniously dumped the contents of the box onto the ground.

He looked in confusion at the puzzle pieces strewn across the carpet. Who in their right mind would give him a puzzle? It was Near who liked puzzles, not Mello.

"I should have guessed you would do that," said a quiet voice from behind him. Near's white clothing and hair reflected the colorful lights of the Christmas tree. He knelt next to Mello and reassembled the puzzle before Mello's eyes. The sounds of the other children were completely blocked out as Mello watched the gift take shape.

Merry Christmas, Mello, it read in simple, blocky lettering. Mello turned to glare at Near.

They stared at each other for a few long moments, Near idly twirling his hair and Mello flaring his nostrils.

"Here." Mello reached under the tree and grabbed a poorly-wrapped present, shoving it into Near's arms. He walked away quickly, muttering, "Stupid Near."

Near unwrapped the misshapen lump in his hands to find a black t-shirt. Or rather, the white t-shirt he had noticed missing last night, now covered in black marker.