Christmas Eve was a time for lovers but, thought Riku sourly, hers was nowhere to be found. Risa was running around with her hair in curlers, flinging outfits around, trying one on, rejecting it, trying another one on... all because, thought Riku, even more sourly, maybe 'Dark-san' would be out tonight and maybe she would see him and she had to look her best, because, after all, Christmas Eve was a time for lovers.

If Dark had a lick of sense, which Riku seriously doubted, he would be somewhere warm and not out risking his neck to steal something stupid just because, in her opinion, he could, and he thought it was funny. Stealing things was not funny, and neither was going out in the cold and dark of Christmas Eve to answer the call of one's own tetostrome.

Going out in the cold and dark of Christmas Eve to visit one's girlfriend, on the other hand...
Riku groaned and buried her head in her hands. There was probably some perfectly good reason why Niwa-kun hadn't shown up yet. Some perfectly good reason that had nothing to do with Dark possibly having a job somewhere, although of course Niwa-kun was not Dark, and as long as she kept repeating that to herself, she was all right.

It was the nagging memory of that dream [or was it? It had seemed so real] that just kept bobbing up, that was it. If that memory wasn't there, if she didn't keep remembering it, she would be perfectly fine. But it had been so real. Lots of dreams were realistic. She had one all the time where she floated a few inches above the ground, and bounced in long slow leaps from place to place, and thought that she was awake.

Anyway, her twin liked Dark quite a bit, and the first rule of twinhood was Thou Shalt Not Poach On Thy Twin's Territory, For Otherwise Thou Shalt Become As One Person, And Yea, That Is Just Nasty. Riku had Niwa-kun, Risa had Dark, everybody was happy. Except for the bit where Niwa-kun had liked Risa first, and the uncomfortable bit where Riku had the nasty feeling that Dark actually liked her better than Risa, and the even more uncomfortable bit which involved the dream that she absolutely, positively did not believe. And, of course, the fact that Dark, even if he did not actually like Riku, showed approximately the same interest that Hiwatari-kun showed in the female, or actually most of the species, except for Dark and Niwa-kun. [Which was another thought, for another day, although as long as Hiwatari-kun did not actually attempt to poach on her territory, Riku was perfectly willing to live and let live.]

"Riku!" Riku looked up. Risa waved an outfit in each hand and twirled to show the one she had one. "Which one?"

Riku considered for a second. Risa's territory was Being A Girl, fussing with clothing and makeup and boys, and Riku only ventured into it as far as she absolutely needed to. They all seemed more or less fluffy and lacy to her. "The burgandy velvet would be warmest," she ventured, carefully. "But if you got it dirty it'd be impossible to wash, you know."

Risa glared at her. "Which is the most becoming, I meant?"

"Oh." Riku studied the outfits again. "Then still the burgandy velvet."

Risa studied it doubtfully. "You think? It's a bit childish, I think."

Riku rolled her eyes. "Don't let Mom hear you say that."

Risa pulled a face. "We're almost fifteen. We should be able to wear grown up stuff."

"I still like the burgandy best," said Riku, ignoring this. "Cos it sets off your hair and everything."

Risa brightened visibly. "I'll wear it!"

Riku watched her streak off, and wished all problems were that easy to solve. But there, she was being unfair, wasn't she. Risa had her own problems, just as Riku did, and some of them she could share, and some of them she couldn't. Risa's fussing around was a guard against the thought that maybe Dark-san wouldn't come, maybe she was just chasing the impossible.

Whereas Riku's brooding about the fact that Niwa-kun not coming yet was simply a guard against the reasons why he might not have come yet. She almost found herself hoping that he had gone to Hiwatari-kun's instead, or something equally horrible, other than ... the other possibility.

Risa had finally gone into her own room to take her curlers out and put the burgandy dress on. Riku groaned again and went out onto the balcony. It was a clear, moonless night, and the stars were so bright it seemed like they could light the sky by themselves. She leaned over the balcony and thought fixedly of anything but Niwa-kun and why he wasn't coming, which was a bit like trying not to think about purple rabbits.

She was such a moron. A grade A, triple star moron, and Niwa-kun was not coming, he had probably forgotten that it was Christmas Eve, and she would get mad at him in the morning and he wouldn't understand why, and they would have a huge fight and it would be all her fault, and he would find out that it was Christmas Eve, and feel bad, and apologise, and then she would feel worse because she had got mad for no reason --


Riku looked up. Then she looked down. Niwa-kun was hanging, apparently by his fingernails, on the wall.

Riku blinked.


Niwa-kun blinked back at her, and then, said, very carefully, "Riku-san, you could give yourself a concussion doing that."

Riku stopped banging her head against the railing. "I did not mean to say that. Look, will you just get up here? That's really freaky."

"It is?" Niwa-kun looked mildly surprised. "I'm a good climber," he pointed out, as if that explained everything.

"That's not the point," said Riku. "Will you please just get on the balcony like a normal human being?" Niwa-kun obeyed, and then she almost wished he hadn't, because he swung himself up as if he had started from the ground, with an unearthly grace which reminded her too much of Dark. Who Niwa-kun wasn't. He wasn't he wasn't he wasn't, and as long as she kept thinking that, it was all right.

There was a short, embarrassed silence.

"I'm sorry," said Niwa-kun finally. "I, er, meant to be here earlier, but Mom found out, and then..."

Riku realised he was dressed in something probably best described as 'high fashion bondage victim', which looked really good, but obviously embarrassed poor Niwa-kun entirely. Riku had only met Niwa-kun's mother briefly, but the outfit increased the general impression of 'complete fruitcake' and 'ruler of all she surveyed'. "Er... how did your mother...?"

Niwa-kun mumbled something about 'stupid Towa-chan', which Riku decided she wasn't meant to hear. She smiled at him. "I'm glad you came, though."

For some reason Niwa-kun looked dazed. He shook his head vigourously and smiled back at her. "I, er, brought you something," he bagan, digging in one of his pockets.

Riku hestitated, and then swallowed hard. "Niwa-kun..." she said. He looked up, and she said, in a rush, "Are you really Dark?"

There was a long, long silence.

Riku had opened her mouth to apologize and take it back, when Niwa-kun said, very quietly, "Yes."

"Oh," she said.

The silence this time was like a piece of lead, weighing things down. Niwa-kun was waiting for something, she knew, and she wsn't quite sure what it was -- or rather, she did, but she didn't know how to respond. She said the first thing that came into her head. "So much for not poaching on Risa's territory."

Niwa-kun gaped at her.

"What?" she said irritably. "It's a twin thing. I like you, Risa likes Dark, we don't compete, we don't feel like a pair of those idiots in manga who do everything together and read each other's thoughts." She thought for a moment. "Although I think Risa kind of likes Hiwatari-kun now, but she liked Dark first and Hiwatari-kun's not a very comforting person to like. Not that Dark is, but you know what I mean."

Niwa-kun cleared his throat, tried to speak, and then cleared his throat again. "Dark says thank you for that very flattering comparison to the creepy bastard, and does that mean you accept him or not?"

Riku pushed aside Dark's opinion of Hiwatari-kun for consideration at a later time, and thought for a minute. "If I say I do, what happens?"

"Er," said Niwa-kun, looking suddenly miserable. "He disappears. Until my son is fourteen and falls in love, and then he reappears in him."

"Urgh," said Riku, filled with sudden sympathy for Dark. "So you fall in love, and he just ... goes? Do you want him to go?"

"Not really," said Niwa-kun, looking even more miserable. "Except things are a little screwed up right now, so I don't know exactly what's going to happen."

Riku decided not to ask what a person who transformed into a famous phantom thief and stole things from museums while dressed in really odd clothing defined as 'a little screwed up'. She didn't want to know -- well, she did, but it probably wouldn't do any good. She thought hard and fast. She didn't like Dark very much, and probably never would. But Dark was apparently part of Niwa-kun, and she liked Niwa-kun very much. Niwa-kun would never say it, but he would miss Dark a lot. Could she really be responsible for taking Dark away from him? Another thought struck her. "Does Dark want to go?"

":NO.:" said Niwa-kun, in Dark's voice.

Riku nodded absently and went back to her thoughts. So if she accepted the fact that Niwa-kun was Dark, Dark would disappear. If she didn't accept the fact that Niwa-kun was Dark, Dark would stay, but knowing Niwa-kun, he would be made miserable because he knew that Riku didn't like Dark. And possibly it wouldn't count, because by saying she didn't accept Dark, she was accepting the fact that Dark existed.

Her head hurt. Quite a lot.

"Okay," she said finally. "How long are things going to be 'a little screwed up'?"

"Dunno," said Niwa-kun, simply. "As long as it takes us to sort them out."

That did not sound pleasant. Riku thought hard for a second more. "Ask me again when things are sorted out, ok?"

Niwa-kun looked confused again.

"I mean," she said impatiently, "I'm not going to answer that question as long as you still need him with you. Because I guess I'm not that mean, ok?"

There was yet another long pause. Riku was debating the merits of waiting it out or simply delivering one well-timed smack to the side of Niwa-kun's head for being a boy and stalking back inside, when he said, "OK."

They looked at each other again, and then Riku smiled, a little uncertainly, and Niwa-kun smiled back at her. "I still haven't given you your present yet," he said.

"Yes, you did," said Riku, leaning her head against his shoulder. "All I wanted was you."



Merry Christmas, Sakki! XD