A/N: Written for _fx for the 2008 Yuletide exchange. Yes, 2008. It's only being published now because it wasn't season-appropriate before. Takes place a few years after the end of CCD, when they are all slightly older.

Pairing: Suoh/Nokoru, with a tiny bit of Seishirou/Subaru

Warnings: ridiculous situations ensue

Disclaimer: Clamp is the rightful owner of all series and characters used in this story. No copyright infringement intended.


A Christmas Caper

Suoh was glad that the day of Clamp Gakuen's annual Christmas party had finally arrived, but not for the same festive reasons as everyone else around him. No, Suoh was glad for reasons that had less to do with holiday spirit and more to do with not having to organize the entire thing. Whenever an Imonomaya decided to host a party, it always had to be ridiculously grand and extravagant, which would inevitably lead to headaches for anyone who had to do the actual work. Since the party was a school-wide event, Suoh had been at the whimsy of not one, but many Imonomayas for weeks on end.

Today was the last day he would have to deal with all this nonsense, all the paperwork this nonsense created, and a certain someone who refused to take care of all the paperwork this nonsense created. Suoh was in a good mood, and absolutely nothing, not even the dozens of fangirls who had mobbed him this morning to give him Christmas presents, could wreck his good mood. It was not Suoh's usual policy to take gifts from women, but if accepting their presents would brighten their day just a little, Suoh was more than happy to do so and to keep up their holiday spirits. Though admittedly, his arms were starting to hurt from carrying all the bags.

As he neared the administrative building where the high school's student council met, Suoh noticed the young woman leaning against the wall by the door. She was immaculately dressed and held a vaguely familiar air of dignity that Suoh couldn't quite place all the while disinterestedly staring at her shoes and jostling a small box between her hands. If she was a student here, which she looked a bit too old to be, Suoh had never seen her around before. The girl looked like she was waiting for someone so he doubted there was anything he could do for her, but Nokoru would never let him live it down if he ever passed up an opportunity to help a lady.

"Excuse me, miss. Is there anything I can do to help you?"

The girl looked up from her shoes and considered him for a moment before recognition flashed in her eyes. "Ah, you're Takamura Suoh-kun, right?" Before he could respond, she thrusted the box she had been holding in his face. "This is for you."

Suoh awkwardly dropped his schoolbag and all the gifts he'd been holding to take the box; the bags toppled over and fell into a huge mess. "T-thank you," he replied, ignoring the pile of presents at his feet. Suoh was bemused, not having expected this outcome. While he had many admirers, he'd only expected his loudest and most persistent fangirls to give him presents, as they all had. Suoh never showed any signs of returning their affections, but he at least made it his business to know who they were out of polite obligation. However, he was flattered someone he'd never met had been so thoughtful as to do this for him usually Nokoru was the one who received gifts from strangers...

"Ah, don't get me wrong," the girl interjected his train of thought. "I think you're a nice boy and all, Suoh-kun, but the present isn't from me. It's from a secret admirer of yours." She winked at him.

Suoh nodded stiffly as he stuffed the box in his coat pocket, even more confused than before. "Please give my thanks to her, then," he said as he tried to pick up all his bags again, and the girl stifled a giggle.

"Was there anything else...?"

She girl tapped her chin with her finger twice with a pensive expression, then laughed. "And here I almost forgot!" she exclaimed. "I wouldn't suggest doing it now, but please remember to open the box later today. By then, you'll understand why." She smiled mysteriously at him and Suoh once again couldn't place the familiarity she emitted.

"Oh, and before we go..." The girl pointed to something above their heads, and navely, he looked up. "Mistletoe!" she said quickly and placed a chaste kiss on Suoh's cheek, causing him to turn bright red. "Don't worry, your secret admirer won't be too jealous of that one!" the girl chirped happily and winked at him again. "Don't forget, Suoh-kun!" she reminded him before happily skipping off, leaving a confused Suoh in her wake.

He stood there for a moment before shaking off his confusion and pushed open the door to the building, heading towards the suite he shared with Nokoru and Akira. Upon arriving, Suoh was not surprised that Nokoru was still not there yet. Akira, who was, greeted him enthusiastically.

"Good morning, Takamura-senpai!" There was definitely something infectious about Akira's exuberant personality, and Suoh quickly felt his good mood from earlier returning. "I just finished the final budget for the party, and divvied up all the funds for the supplies. I haven't placed the order yet, but anything we don't already have should arrive early this afternoon so we'll have plenty of time."

Akira handed him the papers for the budget, and Suoh glanced over them approvingly. Reaching the bottom of the last page, he frowned at the empty line next to the required signature of approval. "We can't order anything until Nokoru gets here and signs the actual papers, can we?"

"Actually," Akira began, "Kaichou stopped by earlier and told me to go ahead and order everything left that we needed, and that he will sign the papers later, he promises." Akira looked up at Suoh whose frown was deepening. "He also said to tell you to not bother looking for him and to give you this." Akira pulled a small envelope out of a drawer and handed it to Suoh.

Suoh withdrew the note card that was inside and read the poem printed on the card.

Suoh, my dearest, clever, kind friend,

The most precious treasure is awaiting you;

Seek out five colored rings to the end,

And receive the present to which you are due.

In true Nokoru fashion, the entire thing was ridiculous. "So he wants me to find five rings, and if I succeed, he'll give me... something," Suoh summarized incredulously. "What if I don't play his game?"

Akira's voice was almost too chipper when he replied. "Then he won't sign any of these papers."

Go figure. Suoh sighed and rubbed his temples with his free hand. So much for keeping up his good mood. Anything that involved Nokoru's schemes was bound to cause him lots of trouble. "Alright then. Where do I find these rings?"

"I have one." Akira held up a red colored ring for him to see.

Suoh blinked. He had not expected it to be that easy, especially since it was something that Nokoru came up with. He reached for the ring. "Well that certainly makes things-"

"Ah tut, tut, tut, Suoh-senpai." Akira cut him off, wagging his finger at Suoh, and then pointed upwards. Suoh hesitantly looked at their ceiling.

"Akira."

"Yes?"

"Why is there mistletoe above your desk?"

"Haven't you heard? There's a mistletoe thief running around, and the mistletoe he steals always ends up appearing in mysterious places. I figured it couldn't do much harm being there, and since we have a busy day still, I didn't want to waste any time looking for a ladder to take it down."

"Ah."

Silence.

"Suoh-senpai, if you want the ring, you're going to have to kiss me."

"B-but," Suoh protested, backing away from Akira's desk as his mind frantically searched for ways to get out of kissing the other boy, "wouldn't Utako-san mind?"

"She wouldn't. Just passing around a bit of holiday spirit and all, right?" Akira's smile was almost cheeky. Clearly Akira had been spending too much time around Nokoru lately, and it was showing.

Suoh sighed and caved, knowing that he was fighting a losing battle. He placed a small, friendly peck on Akira's cheek, and Akira dropped the ring into his palm.

"Only four more to go now, senpai! You can do it!" Akira cheered him on. "While you're looking though, would you mind dropping by the Grand Hall? Utako-chan and her friends had hung up the mistletoe nicely, but the thief stole it all last night, and now she really needs help hanging it back up. I would go, but I still have to place all these orders. Please?"

Great. The last thing Suoh needed was more mistletoe. Still, he couldn't say no to Akira, and Utako did need the help. Suoh nodded and headed out the door, trying to plan the least conspicuous way possible to get himself from the administrative building to the Grand Hall and avoid his fangirls.

Despite his ninja training and skills, by the time Suoh reached his destination, he had acquired another twenty bags, and he was thankful he hadn't taken his first batch of gifts with him. He wasn't out of shape, but clearly his fangirls were trying to outdo each other this year, and all the bags combined were heavy. Suoh mumbled darkly to himself, annoyed that he'd forgotten to bring his wheelbarrow with him.

Thankfully, Utako had been waiting for him and graciously held the door open so he could drag all the presents in with him. She even lent him a storage closet for his haul so Suoh could come back later and retrieve them.

"Now then," she began and Suoh looked at her attentively, "we received two more boxes of mistletoe this morning to replace all the ones the thief stole last night. The girls and I are going to use one box for the entire great hall, so do you think you could help us do the party rooms with the other one?" A whole box of mistletoe was a lot to do for one person. Suoh was about to open his mouth to protest when Utako continued, "I mean, I know it's a lot to ask of just you, and there are more than a handful of girls who would be delighted to help you, but you know, they might be distracting and hinder your progress and all..."

Oh. Utako had a sweet smile, even when she was being mean and asking something completely ridiculous of him, so Suoh couldn't bring himself to be too annoyed with her. He let himself scowl a bit though.

"Great! You can start with the first room on the left. The ladder's in the corner!" she finished cheerfully. "Feel free to put them up however you want."

Three hours and seventeen rooms later, Suoh finished hanging up the last sprig of mistletoe. His back was sore, he had bits of the plant all over him, and he hadn't gotten a step closer to finding another ring but at least he'd helped make Utako's job easier. As he stepped down from the ladder, Suoh noticed Utako waiting for him in the doorway.

"Thank you so much, Suoh-kun! There was no way we could've done all that without you." Utako clasped her hands together, looking extremely pleased. "Oh, and you're looking for one of these, right?" Utako took out a blue ring from one of her blouse pockets.

Suoh smiled in relief. At least he didn't need to waste any more time to look for the ring. He walked over towards her, holding his hand out. "Thank you, Utako-san, I -"

As if anticipating this, Utako looked upwards as Suoh approached her, and Suoh stopped dead in his tracks, dreading what was coming. After all, he had hung up the mistletoe so he should know better than anybody where each sprig was. Before she could even say anything, Suoh eloquently protested, "Utako-san, we really Akira-kun I mean, it's just -"

"Oh, stop it," Utako said, cutting off his stuttering. "Akira would never mind us just spreading the holiday cheer, right?" she said casually, repeating almost exactly what Akira had told him this morning and making him wonder if the two of them had rehearsed this.

Suoh took her hand, the one that was not holding the ring, and placed a gentle kiss on it. When he looked up, Utako was frowning a little, clearly considering what he had done a cop-out. However, she didn't say anything about it and handed him the ring. "If you want to save a bit of time, I heard that Nokoru-kun gave another one of these to this girl named Sumeragi Hokuto. She's the one making all the costumes for the party, and I think you'll find her at the art and design building. Now if you'll excuse me, there are other things that I need to take care of." She waved him off, and Suoh found himself breathe in relief that he now closer to his goal.

Thankfully, the art and design building was not far from the Grand Hall, and Suoh managed to get there without being accosted too many times by his loyal fans. He found an empty classroom close to the entrance and stuffed all his bags in there, hoping that he wouldn't forget to retrieve them later.

It wasn't often that someone could sneak up on him, but as Suoh closed the door to the classroom, something pounced on him. "Waah! You must be Takamura Suoh!" Instinctively, Suoh attempted to flee, a feeling that increased tenfold when he realized he could practically see pink hearts floating in the air around the girl. "Thank goodness! Imonomaya-kun dropped by this morning and promised you'd come help me, and you've made me wait for hours now." She grabbed his hand and dragged him towards one of the design studios as Suoh tried unsuccessfully to pry himself out of his attacker's vice-like grip.

"I'm Sumeragi Hokuto," the girl chattered happily, "but you can call me Hokuto-chan. I believe I have something you need, ohohoho." She flashed him an evil grin and pulled out a green ring. "And you," she said as she poked him in the chest, "if you want this ring, are going to be my model for the next few hours. Be excited! You get to model for the great Hokuto-sama! It's going to be tons of fun."

Suoh was immediately filled with an emotion that was more likely dread than excitement.

Inside the studio were some of the most bizarre outfits he'd ever seen, and he had a feeling he would be forced into a good number of them before the day was through. Hokuto tossed him an outfit that greatly resembled a candy cane and pushed him into a dressing room. "Chop chop! The faster you try these on, the faster I fix them up and give you your ring."

Suoh sighed as he pulled on the strange-looking outfit. He had actually preferred hanging up mistletoe to this.

After dressing Suoh as a candy cane, star, fir tree, snowflake, reindeer, gingerbread man, snowman, ornament, angel, and most recently an elf, Hokuto pulled out an outfit that looked suspiciously like a sprig of mistletoe.

Suoh's eyes widened. That was where he was drawing the line. He had enough problems with mistletoe without being dressed up as one.

"Sumeragi-san."

"Hokuto-chan," she corrected.

"Hokuto-san," he started again, "I really really need to go. I'm sorry, I really would like to help you more, but I don't have much time, and it's important that I find the rest of the rings."

Hokuto pouted a little. "One more!" she whined.

No. He was not dressing up as mistletoe. "Please," he enunciated.

The girl conceded. "Fine, but promise you'll wear that outfit for the rest of the day."

Suoh nodded, and Hokuto handed him the ring. He could always change out of it later though Nokoru would be appalled at him breaking a promise to a girl. However, at the moment, Suoh was willing to do to whatever it took to get himself out of there.

Suoh grabbed his coat and decided to leave the rest of his clothes in the studio to grab later with his gifts. As he headed to the door, Suoh decided that it could've been worse after all, Hokuto hadn't made him kiss anybody.

His hand was on the doorknob when, to his surprise, it pulled away from him and the door opened. Behind it, a Hokuto lookalike and a tall man stared at him curiously.

"U-um, I'm sorry," the Hokuto lookalike apologized, surprising Suoh with a male voice. Suoh was just about to respond when the real Hokuto screamed from behind him.

"Subaru!!" she yelled cheerfully.

Subaru smiled sheepishly at her greeting. "Hokuto-chan," he replied meekly.

Suoh was about to excuse himelf when Hokuto yelled again. "You're standing under mistletoe!!"

They both blanched. So much for the not kissing anyone part.

"Hokuto-chan!" The man behind Subaru scoffed indignantly. "Are you trying to give away Subaru-kun's heart to someone else?"

"Seishirou-san!" Subaru squawked, blushing.

"Oh, hush, Sei-chan! One little kiss on the cheek couldn't hurt."

Suoh had the ring so he technically didn't have to do anything. However, despite Seishirou's mock hurt, Suoh had a feeling the man behind Subaru wouldn't let Suoh pass without giving Subaru a kiss, if only for ammunition to tease him about later. Even if he got past Seishirou, Suoh didn't doubt that Hokuto would chase him down and make the situation ten times more embarrassing.

Just one little kiss. On the cheek because Hokuto wouldn't accept a cop-out like Utako had. But it was just one little kiss, right? He'd kissed enough people today.

Subaru was looking over his left shoulder, eyebrows furrowed as he said something to Seishirou. Suoh leaned in, and Subaru chose this exact moment to turn his head. Their lips brushed.

Subaru jumped back a foot, nearly into Seishirou, his hands covering his mouth and his face as red as Suoh's felt. Hokuto pranced up to the door, screaming, "Waah! Subaru, how could you give away your first kiss like that!"

Not without a bit of arrogance, Seishirou responded, "How do you know that was his first kiss, Hokuto-chan?"

Suoh wasn't sure how it was possible, but Subaru turned another shade redder, looking extremely mortified. Hokuto grabbed Subaru's shoulders and shook him almost violently. "You two already kissed and you haven't told me, Subaru?!"

With Hokuto distracted, Suoh used this opportunity to escape and ran like hell. Looking back, he saw Subaru being mobbed by Hokuto and Seishirou and genuinely felt bad for the other boy. However, it was every man for himself, and Suoh was certainly not about to spend another moment more than necessary with those crazy people no matter how bad he felt for Subaru.

Suoh finally stopped outside a lecture hall to catch his breath when he realized that no one was chasing him. A few moments later, Suoh heard a loud noise and looked up to see a girl dressed as a rockette being chased by a stampede of scantily-dressed women. Suoh thought it was a bit too cold outside to be wearing as little as they did, but the women were probably kept warm by chasing the poor girl around.

"Help me!" the girl shouted and ducked behind Suoh. The women stopped right in front of him.

"Give us Miyuki-chan," one of them announced, and the others hollered in agreement.

Suoh looked between the girl and the women who were chasing her, and sighed. He was used to protecting girls and being chased by them, but not the two happening together. "Ladies," he started, trying to mimic Nokoru's speeches, "while it isn't in my nature to fight against the fairer sex, I will do whatever is necessary to protect the safety and welfare of this girl. Thus, I ask you to not make me choose."

The women glared at him, but seemed to understand and backed off. "We'll be back, Miyuki-chan," one of them called as they walked away.

Suoh finally turned and looked at the girl hiding behind him. "Are you alright, um, Miyuki-san?" he asked.

The girl stared at him for a moment, blinking her tears away, before jumping into his arms. "Thank you so much! How can I ever repay you?" she sniffed.

"There's really no need to..."

"Oh! Are you Takamura Suoh, by any chance? A boy named Imonomaya Nokoru saved me a few days ago and he told me the next person who would, would be you." Miyuki took out a white ring and handed it to him. "He also told me to give you this when you saved me."

Suoh looked at Miyuki skeptically. Only Nokoru would think to plan something based on Suoh saving a girl who was being chased around by a bunch of scary women and know it would succeed. Suoh rolled his eyes and pocketed the ring.

"Miyuki-san, is there any place I can drop you off that you'd feel safe?" Suoh asked, still concerned for her. It seemed like being chased around by those women was a pretty regular experience for Miyuki.

Their eyes met, and Suoh could see the stars in Miyuki's. "Takamura-kun, thank you so much for saving me. No one's ever treated me this way before, ever made me feel so safe. You... I..."

Miyuki was blushing. Suoh's eyes widened. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught sight the women who were chasing Miyuki hiding behind the lecture hall. While Suoh had good reason to follow through on whatever threats he'd made to protect a girl like Miyuki, if those women came after him which they undoubtedly would if they believed Miyuki liked him Suoh would be defenseless.

Miyuki leaned in with her eyes closed and lips pursed, clearly expecting a kiss. Suoh looked around for mistletoe dangling about that he couldn't see. He was relieved upon not finding any, and jumped away before she could seal a kiss. "I'm sorry Miyuki-san, but I can't."

Tears started forming in Miyuki's eyes. "B-but why?"

"There's someone else!" he replied as calmly as he could, backing away from her. "Please don't cry. I'm sure you'll find someone just for you." Before Miyuki could say anything else, for the second time that day, Suoh turned and ran.

Suoh was not a coward by any means. He would not even think twice about giving up his life to protect Nokoru. However these were not ordinary circumstances, and Suoh didn't think that his actions were cowardly so much as ones taken by a sane, rational, self-preserving human being who had been accosted too many times by crazy people today.

Sighing, Suoh willed for his head to stop throbbing. His day where nothing could ruin his good mood had turned into a headache-worthy day filled with lunatics because Nokoru decided to send him on some quest. He only had one ring left to find, but Suoh could not begin to imagine how much insanity he would have to put up with before it was in his hands. Miyuki hadn't given him any directional hints about who might have the last ring, so Suoh decided to make wise on time and head back to the Grand Hall to see if Utako needed anything.

Upon arriving, Suoh was slightly surprised that Akira was already there, helping Utako hang up Christmas wreaths, since it was still office hours. However, he realized, Akira was an efficient person and with Suoh running around finding rings and Nokoru only god knows where, he didn't have much reason to stay if he'd finished the paperwork already.

Catching sight of his senpai, Akira enthusiastically waved him over. "Any luck?" he asked when Suoh was close enough to be in earshot. Suoh gave him a tired look. Akira's lips twitched a little when he looked over Suoh's outfit. "You make a cute elf, Suoh-senpai."

Suoh snorted. "One of the girls with rings requested I wear it."

"But it's not bad on you though." Akira said as he tried to stifle his laughter. "Besides, it would be appropriate with what Kaichou's going to wear. Do you have all the rings then? There's only a couple of hours left until the party, and Kaichou is supposed to play Santa, but he's not going to show up unless if you find him."

"I have four," Suoh mumbled and felt around in his coat pocket for them. He pulled the four rings out along with the box he'd received from the mysterious girl earlier that morning.

"What's that?" Akira asked, pointing to the box.

"Oh, it's a present from a secret admirer. It's strange though. Nokoru's usually the one with the secret admirers."

"Hm. Are you going to open it then, Senpai?"

"Well, she did ask me open it later today, and it's probably late enough now."

Suoh delicately peeled off the wrapping paper around the box. When he finally opened it, the box exploded with confetti and another note card popped out, proudly exclaiming, "Congratulations! You won!" Inside the box sat a small golden ring.

Suoh rolled his eyes. "You knew all along, didn't you?" he asked Akira.

"Of course not, Senpai. What would ever make you think that?" Akira smiled innocently, but Suoh was not convinced. "However, I did see Kaichou right before I left the office, and he was setting up some weird metal thing in front of the door. If you want to find him, he's probably there right now."

Suoh thanked him and headed back towards the administrative building. Even if Akira had been an accomplice in Nokoru's crazy scheme, at least he had tried to be helpful to Suoh throughout the entire process. Akira had made him do the least number of crazy things out of everyone involved, and Suoh couldn't bring himself to be annoyed with the other boy.

Akira's description of "weird metal thing" might've been a bit of an understatement, Suoh realized as he reached the office. He had thought that his worries would be over when he found all the rings, but he was beginning to suspect that it was only the tip of the iceberg. The weird metal thing turned out to be more like a twelve-inch thick huge metal door that was blocking their regular door and preventing anyone else from entering. There was a hole in the door, where Suoh was assuming he was supposed to stick his hand in, and another note card that read left, red, blue, green, gold, white, which he assumed was the hand and order the rings were supposed to go on his fingers. Suoh slipped on the rings and stuck his hand in the hole.

Suoh had expected many things when he became the sworn protector of the Imonomaya family's youngest heir, least of which included protecting Nokoru from any threats (including himself), having to deal with Nokoru's whimsy, and expecting the unexpected. In his short seventeen years of existence, Suoh could proudly say he had experienced more than most people would ever in their lives.

Suoh, however, for the life of him would never have expected to be spun around nine times by a giant metal door that grabbed his hand, and then be violently thrown to the floor of Nokoru's office while wearing a ridiculous elf costume. He wasn't quite convinced it came with the expect-the-unexpected category yet.

As Suoh lay on the ground waiting for the dizziness to pass, he couldn't help but notice that the ceiling appeared to be covered with mistletoe, each separated from another by only a few inches. He sincerely hoped that it was because his world was spinning and making one sprig look like many, and not because there was actually that much mistletoe hanging from the ceiling.

Tiredly, Suoh picked himself up from the floor. He'd been thrown to the ground a couple of times while participating in martial arts tournaments, but never as hard as the door had thrown him. Suoh was pretty sure he was going to be sore for the next few days.

Somehow, despite all the noise the door made trying to bring Suoh into the room, Nokoru was still asleep on his desk. Suoh debated waking him up after all, Nokoru was so much easier to deal with asleep. However, he had run around all day looking for these rings from Nokoru, and Suoh wasn't about to let him get off easy.

Since there was mistletoe hanging all over the ceiling, Suoh decided it couldn't hurt to wake him up with a kiss.

Nokoru's eyes fluttered open as Suoh's lips brushed against his cheek. He smiled sleepily at the other boy. "You finally found me, Suoh."

Suoh's smile was grimmer. "That wouldn't have been a problem if you hadn't made me run around looking for all these rings, Kaichou."

Nokoru pouted with mock hurt. "How cold, Suoh. All I wanted was for you to have a little fun. I did all this work putting it together for you, and you still aren't happy. You don't love me at all."

Suoh rolled his eyes. "I think I did most of the work here, and you had most of the fun. Besides," he blushed a little and continued more quietly, "I think you know well enough how much I love you."

Nokoru beamed. "So you found all the rings then, just fine?"

Suoh held up his hand with all five of the rings on them. "What did you want to give me, now?"

Nokoru motioned for Suoh to get closer and grabbed Suoh's left hand, and Suoh relaxed into Nokoru's grasp.

"Red is for passion," Nokoru began to explain, sliding the red ring off his thumb, "but passion fades over the years. Blue is loyalty, but I want you to be my equal, not a follower." The blue ring was now gone. "Green is for knowledge, but love shouldn't be based in logic. Love is irrational." Nokoru took the green ring off. Suoh expected him to remove the gold ring next, but to his surprise, Nokoru skipped it and went for the white one on his pinky. "White is for innocence. And well..." Nokoru smirked at him, and Suoh blushed.

"But gold," Nokoru continued, dropping Suoh's hand and leaving the golden ring on his left ring finger. "Gold is forever. Merry Christmas, Suoh."

Suoh smiled back at the Imonomaya heir. He supposed it wouldn't be the same if Nokoru just gave him the ring. After all the crazy loops he had to jump through to get here was just so typically Nokoru, and it was just another part of him that Suoh loved.

"How did all the mistletoe end up on your ceiling anyway?" he mumbled as he pressed a kiss against Nokoru's lips.

"Hm, I heard there was a mistletoe thief..." Nokoru started, "But that's not important. I don't think you could kiss me enough times today for all the mistletoe, so why don't we spread them out throughout the year?" Suoh rolled his eyes and kissed Nokoru again.

"Who was the girl, though, that gave me the box?" he asked finally.

"That was one of my sisters," Nokoru replied. "She teased me for hours about it, too." Suoh was sorely disappointed that he missed a chance to see Nokoru get teased, especially since he was someone who rarely got flustered. That would explain her familiarity then. "But it was the only way it could be done right. I mean, I knew you wouldn't take it if you didn't think you earned it," Nokoru explained, but Suoh wasn't sure if he meant the ring or something else.

There was no way Suoh would let go either way.

"I have a gift for you too," Suoh said, taking out a sleek rectangular box from his coat. "I was going to wait until tomorrow to give it to you, but I think you might need it now."

Nokoru unwrapped the box, and took out a pen. It was thin, with an elegant fan pattern covering it and the words "Imonomaya Nokoru" carved in gold at the top.

Suoh cleared his throat. "It's not a ring, I know, but I thought it might be something you would like and be useful at the same time. Merry Christmas, Nokoru."

"It's beautiful. Thank you, Suoh." Nokoru's eyes met his, and that was all that needed to be said. "However... why would you say I need it now?"

Suoh smirked and pulled out a folder of full paperwork that had been sitting on Akira's desk and dumped it on Nokoru's. "You have papers to sign, Kaichou."

"Wah, how cruel, Suoh," Nokoru whined, but he uncapped the pen and started signing them. "You have no holiday spirit at all, making me work at this time of year."

"Don't complain to me. You're the one who put it off. You could've been doing it while I was looking for the rings instead of sleeping, you know, so don't complain to me. Besides, Kaichou, aren't you dressing up as Santa for the party? We wouldn't want to disappoint the kids when Santa doesn't show up."

"Yeah, yeah Merry Christmas to you too, you grump."

finis.


A/N: Kindly beta'd by Aishuu, Rykea, and Misura, with special thanks to Aishuu for putting up with the entire thing.

last edited 2009.12.08 for formatting