Author's note: Merry Christmas! So this is what happens when I have almost no time at all to write a fanfiction... DX I tried. It's cheesy and involves Popuri being somewhat out of character, the title is something I pulled out of the air at the last minute, and I didn't have much time to edit... I really hope you enjoy it anyway. And for the record, at the time I'm uploading this, it is still Christmas Eve in my time zone. Sorry it's so late.
"Is all the food in the oven? Lights are plugged in? I see a burnt-out bulb over there and two red bulbs right next to each other! Who's in charge of lights? Rick!"
She pushed and shoved her way through the crowd of people that was crammed into the small space of the farmhouse, frantically searching for a hint of blond hair and glasses amidst the hustle and bustle. The room was alive with Christmas music, the glimmer of garlands and ornaments, and the sound of what seemed like a thousand busy voices, belonging to almost the entirety of Mineral Town.
Why didn't we pick a bigger house? Popuri worried to herself as she continued her search. How hard could it be to find my brother?
"Rick!" she called, still unable to see his familar face in the crowd.
"Would you settle down, Popuri? I'm here." She spun around to face her brother, who was standing behind her with a rather frazzled expression on his face.
"Thank the Goddess, Rick. I've been looking everywhere and - Ann! Time check?"
"Seven o' clock," came the chipper reply.
"- seven o' clock! Rick, we only have an hour until he gets here, we have a burnt-out lightbulb on the west wall, there are still garlands to be hung, and my special ornaments are missing!"
"Settle down!" Rick exclaimed, his breath quick. "In case you haven't noticed, my hands are kind of full."
Popuri's eyes flicked down at the box in his arms, which was full of Christmas ornaments - among them, a beautiful glazed glass ornament in the shape of a pineapple...
"Oh! You found them!" She quickly grabbed Rick's shoulders and spun him around to face the tree in the corner. "Go put them up, then! And hurry!"
He turned his head. "Popuri, relax, for the Goddess' sake! And make up your mind! You wanted the lights fixed, the garlands hung, the cookies baked... I can't do everything! What do you want from me here?"
She sighed, exasperated, and shoved him into the middle of the crowd with the fragile box still in his arms. "I don't know! Learn to bilocate or something, just do whatever!"
It was too late for whatever comment Rick was planning to make, though - he was lost in the crowd already, and Popuri was already halfway to the other end of the room.
"Popuri! Hey, Popuri!"
She saw Ann waving at her and stopped. "Ann, what is it? I don't really have a lot of time to-"
Somehow - Popuri wasn't quite sure how, as there were about five people between them - the orange-haired girl captured Popuri in a flying hug of sorts.
She pulled away from the hug and smiled brightly, her blue eyes glinting with the reflection of Christmas lights. "You look great tonight! And would you relax, Popuri? Things are going to be okay."
Popuri sighed, stopping to breathe while twirling a loose strand of her cotton-candy-pink hair around her finger. "I know, I know, I just - I want everything to be perfect. He's never been home for Christmas before, and I want to make it worth the really long boat ride in the middle of winter, y'know?"
"I know," Ann said, hugging her friend again. "Chin up, Poppy! And try not to be such a freaky spaz on your brother, okay? I think he's frazzled enough as it is."
"Sure, Ann," Popuri said, returning the hug. "I should probably go apologize for yelling at him... are those lights fixed yet?"
"Cliff and I will take care of the lights. Relax. Now go find your poor brother."
Popuri nodded and suddenly she was swallowed up by the crowd again, pushing her way through a maze of people who were all moving in different directions. She just knew she had to aim for the tree - if she could find that tree, she could find her brother, who was probably busy decorating it at that moment...
The room went silent for a moment at the sound of shattering glass, and all of a sudden all of the hustle and bustle was frozen. Popuri was the first to move, walking slowly towards the tree, eyes wide with horror.
Oh no, oh no, no...
The noise started up again as Popuri finally made it to the tree. She was almost too afraid to look at the hardwood floor, where she knew there would be broken glass and a shattered memory...
"Popuri?" The timid voice was accompanied by a soft hand on the pink-haired girl's shoulder. Popuri turned, meeting the concerned ocean eyes of Mary. "I'm sorry. We'll get the broom and the dustpan and-"
Mary's voice was drowned out by the sound of the blood rushing in Popuri's ears as she bent down and picked up a fragment of the shattered ornament - golden in colour, criscrossed with lines of gold glitter...
"Who broke it?" she asked no one in particular, her voice shaking with sadness - and then anger. "Who broke this?"
"Popuri, I'm sorry," Rick said, stepping out from behind the tree as Mary came running back with a broom. "It was an accident - it fell and I couldn't catch it in time. I'm sorry."
Popuri suddenly clenched her fist, and the thin glass she cradled in her hand shattered, cutting into her palm as she glared at Rick with blazing eyes.
"You broke the pineapple! How could you?! This was from Kai, he gave it to me on our first Christmas together! I promised I'd never break it! What the hell do you think you were doing being so - so - so careless with it?"
Heads turned, shocked at Popuri's completely out-of-character language.
"Forget Christmas!" she cried in anguish, dropping the bloodstained glass shards to the floor. "Forget it! It's ruined now, and it's all thanks to you! I will never forgive you!"
And then she ran.
Popuri didn't care at that point - she didn't care who she rudely ran into on her way, and she didn't care where she went - she just needed to get out and get out fast, before the tears started to pour and the blood got stains on the beautiful floor... she couldn't believe it. Everything was wrong now. All hope she had harboured that this Christmas would be perfect was shattered like that fragile gold glass on the cold, hard floor.
Popuri rushed out the back door of the farmhouse and the tears started to flow, freezing in the air as they fell. I'm so sorry, Kai, she thought, the image of his mocha-skinned face fading in her mind. I'm sorry your Christmas party is ruined.
"Oh, oh, this is horrible!" Mary gasped, clutching her head in her hands. "Kai will be here any minute, there's broken glass on the floor, and Popuri's run away... Ann, what do we do?"
Ann placed a hand on Mary's shoulder. "Calm down, Mary," she said. "We don't need any more holiday stress."
"But," Mary said, her distress apparent, "what will we tell him? Poppy is the reason he's coming home, and what are we supposed to say? 'We're terribly sorry, but your girlfriend ran away and we can't find her'?"
"Listen, Mary," Ann said, rubbing her temples. "I want you to make sure everyone finishes setting up. I'm going out to find Poppy and convince her to come back... I don't know what I can say to her, but I'll go for it anyway."
"All right," Mary replied, finally ceasing her hyperventilation. She straightened her glasses on her nose, collected herself, and started over towards Rick, who was also very much distressed.
Mary acknowledged her orange-haired friend with a small nod in her direction, looking inquisitively at the other girl.
"Make sure those lights get fixed before we come back."
Ann winced at a gust of cold winter wind as she stumbled through the snow. "Popuri? Where are you?"
No response. The night was silent save for the occasional gust of wind or the distant sound of waves on the lonely beach. Sometimes, Ann even thought she could hear the lake freezing in the distance.
"C'mon, Popuri!" Where could she have gone?
"Hey!" came a voice from down the path.
Ann stopped - the voice was definitely not Popuri's, but any voice was welcome at this point. "Who's there?"
The figure emerged from behind a tree and Ann recognized it immediately. "Ann? That you? Geez, you'd think that you would be able to recognize an old friend!"
"Kai!" Ann cried, and without thinking she ran up to him and hugged him, causing him to drop his box of pineapples on the frozen dirt path. "Thank the Goddess you made it!"
"Whoa, are you okay?" he asked as he pulled out of the hug and looked at her. "Your eyes are shiny. Were you crying?"
"Yeah... lots of shit happened earlier. I'm still trying to find Poppy..."
"Popuri? What happened to her?" he exclaimed, suddenly concerned. "Is she all right?"
"I don't know, Kai. I can't find her. Rick accidentally broke that pineapple ornament you gave her a couple of years ago and now she's run away, and I don't know where she could have gone..."
Kai sighed. "Listen, Ann. This is what we're going to do. I'll go find Popuri and convince her to come back to the party."
Ann nodded, brushing away a near-frozen tear. "Okay. And what do you want me to do?"
"I want you to take this box of pineapples back to the house... I think I might have an idea."
She was sitting in front of the chicken coop, shivering and shaking with sobs. Some Christmas. Now that she'd run away, Popuri was almost afraid to go back to her friends and family. Were they worried, or were they glad to have her gone? Thinking back, Popuri had long since realized that she had been too uptight to really enjoy their company.
"What have I done?" she whispered to herself, thinking of Rick and the ornament, of all the people she'd yelled at, of Kai and what he would think of that stupid shattered ornament...
She felt a sudden warmth caress her hand and opened her eyes, meeting the sight of an all-too-familiar hand resting on top of her own.
"You're bleeding," came the voice, and all at once her heart melted as it had on the first day they'd kissed...
"Kai!" she cried, practically leaping into his arms. "You came home!"
"You knew I would," he whispered into her hair as she embraced him, her arms wrapped tightly around his torso. Kai kissed the pink-haired girl's forehead, pulling away from her just enough to be able to look into her ruby-coloured eyes and see the tears that had plagued them for so long.
"I'm sorry," she said. "Your ornament... and your Christmas... I can't go back."
"Shh," he soothed her, pulling her back into his warm embrace. "Ann told me everything... she's been looking for you, you know. They're worried. And they want you home, Popuri."
"How could they?" she sobbed quietly. "I was such an idiot... I always have been, Kai. I don't know why you keep me around."
He put his hands on her shoulders and stared into her eyes with all the seriousness he could muster up.
"Popuri, I keep you around because I love you. And your family and friends love you even more than I can possibly begin to..." He kissed her forehead again when he felt her shake with another soft sob. "...Popuri, let's go back to your party. I promise you that everything will be fine. This Christmas isn't over yet."
She was silenced with a long, deep kiss, and she relaxed in his arms, savouring the taste of his sun-kissed lips which had been left unkissed for far too long.
"C'mon, Popuri! Let's go in."
Kai opened the door and ushered Popuri inside the farmhouse. Inside, the clamour and insanity of the setup had died down completely. There was an abundance of food on the table, every one of the Christmas lights shone brightly, and all around her, the people of Mineral Town were standing, smiling warmly at the couple as they entered.
"Merry Christmas, Popuri!"
It was all the pink-haired girl could do not to burst into tears of joy.
There it was - her perfect Christmas, just as she had anticipated it. Her friends, her family, and her boyfriend... all of them were there, smiling. In a heartbeat she forgot that anything had ever gone wrong. The love in that small farmhouse at that moment was certainly too great for the building to contain.
"I - I can't... I can't believe it!" Popuri cried, running to hug Ann and Mary. "Thank you!"
"Don't worry about a thing, Poppy," Ann said as she hugged her friend. "We're so glad to have you back!"
"Merry Christmas," Mary smiled. "Did you look at your tree?"
Popuri shook her head. "No, I hadn't noticed - oh!"
She looked. All of the fragile glass ornaments had been removed from the tree and replaced with fresh tropical pineapples, which were perched on the larger branches. Popuri's smile widened as she ran towards the masterpiece, surveying it happily as the lights reflected off the waxy skins of the fruit.
"We couldn't fix the ornament," Mary explained. "But I think this is a suitable alternative, don't you think so?"
"I love it!" Popuri cried ecstatically, hugging Mary and Ann again. "This is amazing. I can't believe you did all this for me!"
"That isn't all," Ann winked. "Look up."
Popuri did as her friend had told her, and she gazed up in confusion at the object she saw suspended from the ceiling. "Is that-"
She was silenced suddenly by Kai's warm, soft lips planting a kiss on her own. Popuri shivered at his touch, and melted into his embrace, closing her eyes and trying desperately to make the moment last longer.
They parted, and Kai stood with his arm around a blushing Popuri, who stared at the ceiling and giggled.
"That's just silly," she laughed.
"Well, the stores were all closed and we couldn't find mistletoe in any of the boxes," Ann shrugged. "But, as you and Kai kindly demonstrated, it works pretty darn well as a substitute."
And above their heads, suspended from the ceiling with a piece of red silk ribbon, hung the substitute mistletoe - a pineapple, golden as the garlands hanging on the walls.