I realize the title really sucks, but it's three o'clock in the morning and I haven't had enough sleep in the past, oh, week, I guess. But. This is a gift for periberi who rocks like a rockstar, so ignore the title and concentrate on the story instead.

Unbeta-ed, but I'm too sleepy to care.

Merry Christmas to everyone!


A Piece of Jewelry

December 24. A jewelry shop in the busiest sector of the district. The digital clock on the wall registered 19:13 p.m.

Shinji Mimura checked a glass stall filled with the hippest, most intricate bracelets available in the district of Shiroiwa in search of the perfect gift. He studied each piece, hoping to spot the best accessory to give his current object of affection.

Not that the said object of affection knew that she was the object of affection.

Shinji spotted a beautiful silver bracelet designed like a woman's hair in braid, and it reminded him of her hair. Not that she ever came to school in braids. No. She was too vain, and loved her long, straight hair, to hide them in two ponytails, just like what Yukie Utsumi would do.

Shinji shook his head and smirked. Da-amn. How in the world would he be able to concentrate in choosing the right gift for her when he gets so easily distracted with thoughts of her?

And to think that she doesn't even know that he's planning to give her something.

Shinji chuckled despite himself. How long had it been anyway, this silly infatuation for a girl he knew could never possibly be his? Everyone else in school (Kazushi Niida excluding, but he was a lowly bastard anyway) considered Takako Chigusa off-limits, partly because she's scary and intimidating as hell, and partly because Hiroki Sugimura, black belter in different martial arts, was always with her.

Shinji was a close friend of Hiroki, and he knew (well, he had asked once and Hiroki confirmed) that there was nothing going on between the ace sprinter and the school's resident martial artist. They were childhood friends, neighbors, classmates since kindergarten. Nothing more. Still, it didn't help alleviate that uneasiness he feels in the pit of his stomach whenever he pictures Takako and Hiroki together in his head.

He knew Takako had at least a crush on his friend. He was also sure Hiroki had at least a crush on Takako as well.

Shinji shook his head again and laughed quietly. What was he getting so worked up for anyway? It wasn't like he was going to propose marriage to the girl. He was just going to give her an innocent (yeah right) gift for Christmas. Only problem was, he wasn't exactly sure what to give the ace sprinter. Hell, he didn't even know if Takako celebrated Christmas to begin with.

Shinji knew Takako loved jewelry; heck, she never, not once, came to school without wearing at least three bracelets, that pretty necklace of hers, and at least one set of earrings. So he decided that his best bet would be to look for something that would pass as a half-decent accessory to add to her collection. Problem was (again), Shinji wasn't exactly an expert in jewelry himself. Sure, he wore an intricate earring (a memorabilia from his uncle), but that was as far as his knowledge in jewelry went.

How in the world would he be able to find something worthy of someone who had been collecting only the finest of accessories since time in memorial?

As if on cue, the front door of the shop swung open, announcing a new customer. Shinji didn't look up; he was concentrating on the bracelet he had spotted minutes ago, contemplating if he should buy it or not.

"Take a picture," a familiar voice spoke behind him. "It'll last longer."

Shinji froze. Of all the people in the world, he had to be caught by the one person he had least expected to see. Then again, it shouldn't be that surprising. He was in a jewelry shop, after all.

Shinji slowly turned around and came face to face with an amused Takako Chigusa. She had her right eyebrow raised, as if the idea of Shinji Mimura in a jewelry store was as bizarre as aliens landing in Japan.

"Uh, hi?" Shinji greeted, totally caught off guard. He contemplated scurrying away, but then again, he was already trapped. And he sure as hell didn't want to appear like an effing shoplifter anyway.

"I didn't know you're into women's accessories," Takako continued, eyeing the bracelet.

Shinji dropped the bracelet as if it was on fire, then laughed nervously. "No! I mean, uhh..." A light bulb. Damn Mimura, you're one smart guy. Because really, what better way to get the perfect gift than to ask the opinion of the receiver herself? "I'm looking for something to give to... uhh... a special girl."

Takako raised her left eyebrow this time. "Oh?" The look in her eyes said that she knew how much of a playboy Shinji was. "A Christmas present for a girlfriend huh?"

Shinji nodded, smiling innocently. Now he only had to pretend that it was some other girl, and then he could ask what Takako thought of the gift. "So you think this is a good one?" he asked, offering the bracelet to Takako for examination.

Takako wrinkled her pretty nose. "Ugh," she said, dismissing the bracelet with a wave of a hand. "That's such a common design."

Shinji blushed and returned the bracelet in the casing. "So, uhh, what do you think would be a good gift to give?"

Takako seemed to consider. "Well, what is the girl like anyway?"

Shinji fought down a smirk. How could he describe the girl without making Takako realize that he was in fact talking about her? "Well," he said slowly, weighing his words. "She's... she's different from most girls. She tries her best not to stand out, but she does anyway, without even batting an eyelash. She's smart, athletic, graceful, and, hmm, she kicks ass." A pause. Shinji grinned. "I don't know if this is even politically correct, but she is, for a lack of a better word, fucking hot."

Takako nodded. If she suspected anything from Shinji's description, she sure as hell didn't show it. So far so good.

"So could... uhh, could you help me?"

Takako raised an eyebrow. "Help you with what?"

"Uhh, choose a present for her?"

For a second, Shinji feared that Takako would say no, laugh at him, and tell him to stop assuming that they were close friends, or something like that. Instead, Takako merely studied the glass stall that Shinji had been looking at earlier, and then suddenly pointed a silver bracelet spiraling outward in three consecutive loops. It had weird engravings on it, and at the tips hung what appeared to be an anarchy symbol.

"She might like that."

Shinji looked at the bracelet. "Hmm," he said. "You really think so?" He did not see what was special with the accessory, but then again, he wasn't an expert or anything.

Takako nodded. "You said she's different," she answered. "Well then, give her something out of the ordinary." A pause. "I would definitely wear something like that."

Bingo. "Hmm," Shinji said, pretending to consider. "Alright then." He smiled. "Thanks for the help." And then, "Uhm, would you like to grab a bite?" And when Takako raised an eyebrow, "Just want to say thanks for helping me out. My treat. Promise."

Takako glanced at the digital clock and considered. "Well, I need to be home by nine, but I guess I could spare a couple of minutes." A pause. "As long as you're paying."

Shinji beamed. Not only was he able to let Takako (unknowingly) choose the gift he planned to give to her, she actually agreed to go out with him (technically it's not a date, but screw technicality and all that shit).

"Definitely paying."


The impromptu dinner date went well, all things considering. They found a cozy semi-fast food joint a couple of blocks from the jewelry store, and spent half an hour chatting like they were close friends. Shinji realized how he enjoyed speaking with Takako, especially when she wasn't cursing foul words like she normally did in school (he guessed that his decision not to make inappropriate remarks or lewd suggestions had something to do with it). Shinji was right; Takako was indeed smart, and she wasn't afraid to voice out her opinions about different matters. It also pleased Shinji that her outlook on things, and life in general, didn't deviate too far away from his. He figured that with enough time, he and Takako could really become friends.

Takako glanced at her watch and frowned. "Say, I need to go home now," she said. "Thank you for the snack though."

Shinji almost panicked. He was enjoying himself so much that he didn't want his evening with Takako to end yet. "Uhh, sure," he answered. Then out of the blue, "I'll walk you home."

Takako blinked. "There's no need to," she answered. "I'm good. My house is only a couple of blocks from here anyway."

"I insist," Shinji, who had considerably been out of character for the past, oh, say, three hours, found his voice returning. "Wouldn't want a pretty girl like you to walk home by herself."

Takako raised an eyebrow. "Don't you need to be somewhere?"

It was Shinji's turn to blink. "Huh?"

Takako shrugged. "I just figured, you might want to give that bracelet to your girlfriend, whoever she is. It will be Christmas in a couple of hours anyway."

Shinji flustered. "Oh! Right. Uhh..." And he was back to being out of character again. Damn Takako's efffect on him. "Yeah, well, she's not exactly my girlfriend."

"Oh?" Takako said. "Is this, by chance, a story of unrequited love?"

Shinji laughed nervously. Dead on the spot. "Uh, I guess?"

Takako shrugged and stood up. "Well, I guess you could walk me home." A pause. "And maybe you can tell me more about this mysterious girl."

Oh crap.


"So?"

Shinji turned to his companion. They had been walking in silence for five minutes when Takako finally broke it with a one-syllable question. "So what?"

Takako rolled her eyes. "The girl." A pause. "How do you plan on giving her the gift?"

Shinji shrugged. "I dunno. We're not close or anything, unfortunately." Unfortunately indeed.

"Hmm."

"Hmm what?"

"Nothing." A rare chuckle. "You're Shinji Mimura. I can't believe that you don't know how to approach a girl." A pause. "You must really like her, don't you?"

Shinji nodded. If you only knew.

"Well," Takako said. "Why don't you just... I dunno, go to her house, knock on her door, and then give it to her?"

Shinji chuckled. "Easier said than done."

Takako shrugged. "I guess. Not that I have any sound advice for you anyway. I'm not really good with relationships."

Shinji studied Takako as they continued walking. "You mean to say you've never had a boyfriend before?"

Takako laughed. "Fuck no." Ah, foul words, coming right up. Shinji never thought he'd miss them, but he did.

"How come?" he asked.

"Well, I guess I haven't found the right one yet," Takako answered after seconds of pondering.

"You mean you've never liked anyone before?" Takako suddenly grew quiet, and Shinji could have sworn that her cheeks turned a few shades redder.

"Well..."

"Well what?"

Takako shrugged. "That was such a long time ago," she answered. "But he was older than us, and he had this amazing girlfriend. After a while, I just, well, gave up. It wasn't like I stood a chance anyway."

Shinji smiled. "What are you talking about? You're probably one of the best catches in our school!" A pause. "If they can catch you, that is."

Takako eyed him warily. "Fuck you."

Shinji chuckled. "Can't take a compliment?"

Takako rolled her eyes. "Whatever." Then, "I can't believe I just told you about that. I haven't even mentioned that to Sugi, ever."

Shinji smirked. Score one for The Third Man. And then, as an afterthought, "How about Sugi?"

Takako frowned. "What about him?"

"Didn't you ever want to be in a relationship with him?" He knew he was pushing his luck, probably crossing the line, but it was a risk he had to take. Especially if he was going to seriously consider Takako as girlfriend material.

Takako thought about it for a while. Then, "I'm not sure." A pause. "Sugi and I... we have a thing for each other, that I know of." Shinji felt his heart drop to his stomach in an awful gravitational shmakaroo. "But..."

"But?" His heart did a double flip and bounced back up his chest.

Takako shrugged. "Definitely not now."

Shinji found himself grinning, really grinning. He tried to stop himself, but he couldn't help it. Hearing from Takako that there was nothing going on between her and Hiroki, and probably nothing will for a very long time, suddenly sent his spirits soaring high.

Takako frowned. "What are you smiling for?"

"Huh?" Shinji's spirit returned to his body with a big whoop. "Nothing. I just thought, well, damn."

"Damn what?"

"Uhh, well, what I mean is, if I was, uhh, if I was Sugi," he said, weighing his words carefully. "I'd make sure that there would be something between us by now." Takako frowned. "You, uhh, I think you'd make one hell of a girlfriend." So much for being smooth, he told himself. That's probably the worst pickup line ever. You fucking retard.

Takako laughed. "Right." She stopped. "We're here."

"Here?"

Takako pointed to the gate. "Here. My house. I'm home."

"Oh. Right."

Takako smiled. "Well, thanks for walking me home. And good luck with that girl of yours."

Shinji felt that things were ending way too fast, that he still wanted to ask Takako a million questions, but his time was running out. Before he could even react, Takako had already opened the gate, waved one last time at him, and disappeared into the house.

"Fuck," he said, his agitation showing. "Fuck fuck fuck." He gripped the box which contained the bracelet he had bought earlier. She was right there! he scolded himself. She was right there! What the hell are you doing Mimura!

Shinji didn't know if he should walk away or bang on the door and demand to see Takako again (though he was pretty sure that Takako's parents would call the police if he tried the latter). He had been so close, so fucking close, and he had let her slip away. It was a once-in-a-lifetime chance, and he blew it. Just like Hiroki blowing a chance to start a relationship with Takako, Shinji failed to let her know how he felt for her. Sure, it wasn't deep, gut-wrenching love that he felt, but it was enough to twist his insides and send fuzzy bunnies in his chest.

Truth be told, he was a little scared with what he felt. He had never liked a girl as much as he liked Takako, and he feared that he never will. That meant that if he screwed things up, he was losing an opportunity to be with the one girl whom he knew would be different from every other girl he had ever met, and will eventually meet.

Ah damn it, he thought as he rung the doorbell, hoping against hope that it would be Takako to answer the door instead of her father, or worse, an angry guard dog.

The door opened, and a silhouette appeared by the doorway. Shinji held his breath.

"Who is it?"

Shinji sighed in relief. He could recognize that voice anywhere.

"Uhh, it's me."

Takako went to the gate and stepped out. "Hey," she said, obviously surprised. "I thought you already went home."

"I, uhh," Shinji stammered. "I forgot something."

Takako raised an eyebrow in question. "What?"

Shinji thrusted the box to Takako's hands and smiled like a little schoolboy. "I, uhh...Merry Christmas?"

Takako stared at the box, then at Shinji, then at the box, then at Shinji again. "And why are you giving me this?" she asked. "I thought you're supposed to give it to that girl you like."

Shinji smiled sheepishly. "I already did."


Winter break ended, and it was the first day of classes for the year. After that little incident in front of the Chigusa household, Shinji hadn't seen Takako again. She had said she needed to think about it, but accepted the gift anyway, before scurrying inside her house like a little scared (and blushing, but she would never admit it, not in a million years) schoolgirl.

Shinji had considered dropping by her house for a visit, but the one time he did, the neighbors said the entire family had left for vacation, and would not be back until after New Year. He didn't know her cellphone number, and he couldn't ask Hiroki without making him suspicious. So he contented himself with waiting, just like the many months he had waited for the perfect opportunity to let her know of his intentions.

Shinji was on his chair, playing something in his laptop, when a box wrapped in a pretty gift wrapper, complete with a ribbon, was thrown at him. He looked up in surprise, and saw Takako smirking down, the beautiful pout affixed her pretty face.

"Hey," he greeted, smirking. He never thought he would miss her smile so much.

"Hey yourself," Takako answered.

"Enjoyed your Christmas break?" he asked casually.

Takako shrugged. "Could have been better."

Shinji raised an eyebrow. "Oh?"

Takako sat down on his desk, a grin on her lips. Shinji also didn't miss the familiar silver bracelet around her right wrist. "Yep. Oh."

Shinji chuckled, then studied the gift thrown at him. "And what's this?"

Takako shrugged then got up from the desk. "Just following my own advice, I guess."

END


Yeah. I'm the queen of open-ended stories. Shoot me. And yes, for those who noticed (and those who didn't), I used 19:13 p.m. because Shinji is Boy #19 and Takako is Girl #13. Silly, I know, but.

Merry Christmas to everyone, and I hope you enjoyed this little oneshot of mine. I was supposed to update Apples and Chocolates, buuuuut I couldn't go past page two. Bleh. Tomorrow, maybe.

Reviews would be greatly appreciated. And now, I sleep.