Winter's Brightest Star

Naoya sat quietly at the living room window, watching snowflakes float gently past to nestle themselves amongst the bustling street below. Behind him, the apartment was silent, as it had been for the last week.

A month ago, Aoe-san had announced that he was going to Hong Kong for a week at the end of November. Unfortunately, due to some extenuating circumstances, he had only been able to last week, the week right before Christmas.

Naoya did not complained and had waved Aoe-san off with a smile, having been reassured that Aoe-san would definitely be home for Christmas, but it didn't mean he would enjoy this particular period either. After the first night alone he had sat gloomily over his breakfast, to lost in thought to eat. Every where he looked the shadow of Aoe Reiji lingered. His clothes, his bed, his smell. Naoya had spent his first night in a long time on the sofa, unable to sleep in Aoe-san's bed by himself.

Rescue came, however, in it's most devious and caring form.

That afternoon, Kiichi had thrown open the door to Aoe-san's apartment and demanded Naoya spend the week with him, chiding that it wasn't good for a young man to be alone with only the cat to talk to. He was more thankful than he could properly express at Sensei's idea and had quickly packed up his belongings and headed out the door. Locking the door carefully behind him.

The week had been fun. Sensei had taken him Christmas shopping, and much to his horror had taken him into a few shops that had made his cheeks burn so bad he couldn't even look anyone in the eye. By the end of their trip it had taken Haruomi half an hour to unload the parcels from the car and another two days for Sensei and himself to finish wrapping everything.

Naoya had been quite pleased with himself, having chosen gifts for Sensei, Haruomi, Kashima, Izumi, and Jouma by himself. After much deliberation and interrogating of store clerks, he had even decided on a present suitable for Aoe-san.

The night before Aoe-san had left they had accidentally broken the band of the older man's wrist watch. Aoe-san had shrugged it off, to preoccupied with his current endeavour (namely carrying Naoya into the bedroom) to be bothered. However, the next day, Naoya noticed that the watch and band were laid out carefully on the dresser beside each other. Naoya had taken it upon himself to not only get the band repaired but have the time piece itself properly cleaned and reset.

And so, when Sensei had said that Aoe-san was coming home and it was time for Naoya to return, there was only one present he removed from under the tree and pocketed. A small, silver wrapped box with an emerald green ribbon tied about it in a bow. With this and his bag of clothes he got into the car beside Sensei and cheerfully accepted the drive back to the apartment.

Kiichi left him at the bottom floor, wishing him a Merry Christmas and announcing with charm that he hoped to see both Reiji and Naoya tomorrow evening at the Aoe house for supper and to open presents. With a quick hug, Naoya had gone running inside and taking the first elevator he could to the top floor. He had almost run over the poor door man in his rush to get out of the elevator.

Finally he had stood in front of the door to their apartment and carefully put the key into the lock. A quick turn and he was swinging the door open, revealing the apartment just as he'd left it. He dropped his bags inside the door and went to turn on some lights, petting Gyoko on the way.

His lofty plans of having dinner made and getting everything ready for Aoe-san's arrival were abandon when he reached the living room window. He'd only meant to take a quick look out on the street below but instead he found himself curling up on the wide window sill and waiting patiently for the large black western car that signalled Aoe-san's arrival.

The snow had started to fall and Naoya couldn't help but watch the flakes drift peacefully across the sky. It was mid-afternoon and the sun that shone caused the snow on the roofs of the lower buildings to become gilded in gold. Somehow, even though his breath caused clouds of steam on the window, the world outside seemed warm and he knew that if it weren't for Aoe-san he would never have seen the world in such a way.

He smiled as Gyoko jumped into his lap and curled into him. He softly petted the silky fur and stared out the window at the street below, watching the snow fall away beneath him.

The sound of keys on the hallway table and footsteps moving into the house filled his ears, and he woke up with a start. He hadn't remembered falling asleep but it must have happened quite a while ago as the sky outside was now deep twilight and the snow had stopped. Far below he could barely make out the shape of the big black car moving away down the street.

Flustered, he almost threw Gyoko off as he jumped from the window sill and took off for the door. Just as he slid into the hallway Aoe-san looked up and met his eyes, making Naoya feel warm inside. "Welcome home." He mumbled breathlessly.

Aoe-san smiled slightly and ruffled his hair as he walked past, heading for the kitchen as if he had never left. "Have you eaten, Naoya? I'll make you supper."

Naoya stared at his back and couldn't help put feel that the best place to be on Christmas Eve was with Aoe-san. He went to put his hands in the pockets of the jacket he was still wearing when his fingers met resistance. With a happy smile he took the present from his pocket and followed after Aoe-san.

As soon as he got into the kitchen, Aoe-san was there, covering his mouth with a passionate kiss and embracing him in his heat. Naoya almost dropped his gift as he was picked up and placed on the counter. He slid the box absently across the counter, hoping nothing would happen to it, and tangled his fingers in Aoe-san's hair as they continued the kiss.

When Aoe-san finally pulled back, Naoya found himself dizzy, trying to focus on what the older man was doing. Aoe-san had reached into his pocket and pulled out a small, black velvet box which he placed carefully in his hand. Naoya looked down and back up at Aoe-san as if looking for approval to open the gift.

"Go ahead, it's for you." Reiji said steadily, watching as Naoya opened the box.

He couldn't help his reaction. He knew his eyes had grown wide and then damp with unshed tears. He found that he wanted to hug Aoe-san and say so many things but he couldn't even manage to breathe at the moment. Instead of any of that, he reach into the box and removed the small band of silver.

A ring. A silver ring with a blue stone within whose depths shone a perfect six pointed star. It was cool to the touch and the gem caught every fraction of light in a chance to shine.

"The stone is a star sapphire." Aoe-san explained, still standing in front of Naoya, mildly afraid the surprised young man might slip off the counter if left alone. "It means trust, loyalty and destiny. I figured it would be a good stone for an engagement ring."

"En...en - engagement?" Naoya stuttered, pulling his eyes from the beautiful piece of jewellery to stare bewildered at Aoe-san.

Aoe-san truly smiled this time and he reached into his suit pocket to draw out a smooth black necklace. Naoya watched in a daze as he took the ring from him, looping the necklace around the band and carefully pulled it over Naoya's head. "It's too big for you yet, but that is the point. It's for when you become an adult."

On Reiji's ring finger a matching band caught the light and the star deep within blazed into life.

"Aoe-san..." Naoya sighed, his heart in his throat. He could feel the tears that had been threatening running freely down his cheeks but he was too happy to care. He leaned forward and buried his face in Aoe-san's shoulder, not even bothering to move when Reiji had picked him up and carried him into bedroom.

He only managed one complaint.

"Aoe-san, your present... I haven't given it to you yet."

"Shh..." He ordered, taking possession of the younger man's lips again. "There will be time for that later."

Aoe-san was right. There would be time later, all the time in the world. Right now, nothing mattered but the two of them.

A gift of time to show the longevity of love.
A band of silver to symbolize everlasting passion.

A/N: I've been wondering how Naoya got that ring that we see matches the one Reiji has in Love Unlimited. Finally I gave up and came up with this. Hope you all enjoyed it!