Title: For Your Entertainment
Spoilers: Holitsuba setting
Summary: When Yuuko blackmails the teaching staff into exchanging White Elephant gifts, Kurogane gets several presents he wasn't expecting.
Author's Note:Written for the Secret Santa challenge on the kuroxfai_pop comm on Livejournal. The prompt was yoshikochan's "White Elephant Gift - something useless yet entertaining."
"This is the stupidest waste of time ever," Kurogane growled.
His fellow teacher, Fai Fluorite - whom Kurogane would consider an expert in stupid wastes of time - only laughed and skipped ahead of them down the hallway, twirling merrily. "Kuro-senpai only says that because he hates fun."
"I do not!" Kurogane objected heatedly. "I just say the whole concept is ridiculous. 'White elephant' Christmas party? What the hell do elephants have to do with Christmas anyway?"
"Yuuko explained it this morning - the idea of the white elephant gift is that you give a gift that's unexpected," his other companion remarked, walking sedately down the hallway beside him. Yuui Fluorite, Fai's twin brother, had only recently joined the staff to be a home ec teacher. "It doesn't have to be anything big, or even useful."
"Useless," his brother agreed brightly, "but entertaining!"
"That's what I don't get," Kurogane pursued his gripe. "Why give a gift to someone that you know they don't want? It's a waste of time, it's a waste of money, and it's a waste of their space. There's no point in even giving a gift to someone unless you know what they like. Giving out useless junk is not just pointless, it's rude."
"Whoever thought the growly bear would be so worried about etiquette?" Fai teased. "Just relax for one evening, Kuro-sentai! It's a party, it's fun!"
"It's never just one evening when she's involved," Kurogane muttered under his breath, thinking of the only person his life that caused him more aggravation than Fai - Yuuko Ichihara, the principal of Holitsuba Gakuen. She was always coming up with these ridiculous, time-wasting ideas, and of course all the teachers had to attend. And the more he objected, the more determinedly she found some way to harass and humiliate him. It was easy for Fai and Yuui to treat it like just another party. For God only knew what reason, Yuuko liked them.
Privately - very privately, not that you would ever get him to admit it - Kurogane liked the Fluorite twins too. Fai had been a thorn in his side from the moment they'd met, and yet somehow, despite their wildly different personalities, they'd become friends… of a sort. At the very least Fai had wormed his way into Kurogane's life until he frankly could not imagine being without him. Fai dragged him out to festivals and shops and restaurants, brought movies and weird decorations over to clutter up his house, and generally shook him out of his preferred dull routine. Kurogane growled and bitched and resisted every time, but - much to his own surprise - he usually found that once he got started, he enjoyed himself.
Yuui, though, Fai's twin… they might be identical in appearance, but in personality they were completely different. After too much of Fai's ridiculousness, spending time with Yuui was like cool water on a hot day. He was witty and observant, with a good sense of humor, but without Fai's insistence on constantly provoking him to get some kind of reaction. Yuui was willing to just talk, or even work together in silence if Kurogane didn't feel like talking (which was pretty much always.) Fai was stimulating - that was the nicest way to put it - but Yuui was restful.
Most amazing to Kurogane was the way the twins interacted with each other, showing dramatically different sides to their personality when they were together. Cheerful Fai would fuss and cling, gentle Yuui would banter and scold. But the love that they had for each other was so evident - when they were focused on each other everything else in the world seemed to disappear. It made Kurogane feel oddly bereft and forlorn when they got like that, not that he would ever begrudge the brothers their time together.
All this combined with the fact that for full-grown men, Fai and Yuui were very, very beautiful. Either one of them alone would be enough to turn a man's head and make him ask questions of himself, but with the effect doubled… well, it was just unfair, was what it was.
"We've arrived!" Fai exclaimed, throwing the sliding door to the teacher's room open with a crash. "Now the party can get started!"
"Welcome, welcome!" Yuuko cried out from her perch on top of the principal's desk. She had a bottle in her hand, and Kurogane shook his head in resignation - as usual, she didn't even wait for the party to start to get drunk.
"Fai-sensei! Yuui-sensei! Kuro-sensei! You came!" The two Mokonas, white and black, crowded around them, as insanely chipper as always. The other teachers in the staff room greeted them with varying shades of decorum.
"I was waiting for you especially, Kurogane," Yuuko purred, sauntering over with a smirk on her face and a package in her hand. "As soon as I saw this in the catalogue I knew I just had to get it for you. Go on, open it."
From anyone else, the news that someone had purchased a special gift with him in mind would have been flattering, but this was Yuuko. Kurogane eyed her mistrustfully as he took the package, but there was no real way out of it - deciding just to get it over with, he stripped away the outer wrapping.
Inside was a folded strip of cloth colored bright red, decorated on the front with an elephant; cutesy big ears, googly eyes, and a floppy trunk. He frowned as he held it up, turning it over and trying to figure out the purpose. "What is this, some kind of mask? It's too big."
Yuuko just smirked. Beside him, Fai had dissolved into giggles and Yuui seemed to have been seized by a fit of coughing. Fai recovered first. "It's not a mask, Kuro-senbei," he chortled. "Look again. It's underwear! The strap goes around your waist, and the trunk is for your, you know -"
"What?" Kurogane roared, his face going scarlet with heat. "What kind of a sick - What the hell is wrong with you, woman?"
Yuuko laughed uproariously, evil witch that she was. "I knew you'd like it!" she said between chortles. "But, ah, I had to guess at the size! If it really is too big, I can take it back and order a smaller one for you!"
If only he could have transferred some of the heat of his embarrassment into laser rays, Kurogane decided, he could have vented some of his rage and get his revenge at the same time. But it was bad form to set your employer on fire, and so he only whirled and stalked in a dark fury over to the corner of the room with his desk.
"Kuro-senjin, you forgot your present!" Fai cried out, chasing after him with it, and Kurogane ground his teeth. Then he leaned over and whispered in Kurogane's ear. "I have a present for you, too. But I want to give it to you later! Walk home with us, okay?"
Kurogane didn't even want to think of what ridiculous antics Fai had in mind, but at least unlike some people it seemed like he had the decency to do it in private. "Fine," he said ungraciously.
Now that all the latecomers had arrived, the gift-giving began in earnest. All the teachers had brought gifts for everyone; under threat of blackmail, Kurogane had brought gifts too. But blackmail or no, he refused to go along with the premise of this ridiculous party.
Fai tore eagerly into the present Kurogane had given him, then frowned, holding it up to the light. It was a pen, with red ink for marking papers. True, it was a very nice pen, with a fat gel-padded grip for comfort and magnets to stick to the desk so it wouldn't get lost; but it was still a pen. "Kuro-sensei," he said, "did you get everyone office supplies for a present? You are so bad at this."
"What's so strange about that?" Kurogane demanded. "This is an office, we do office work here. Everyone needs pens."
Fai laughed. "You're missing the point of the White Elephant! Pens are mundane, boring. You're supposed to give something fun and useless!"
Kurogane glared. "With the amount of time you spent on your work, it will be useless," he snapped. It wasn't really a fair thing to say, and he knew it; despite his showy persona of being lazy and playful, all of Fai's grading and coursework seemed to get done somehow. He would have suspected Fai of dumping it off on his brother, but this had been going on since before Yuui even arrived.
"Mean!" Fai cried, and he flounced a few steps away, throwing himself dramatically onto his brother's shoulder. "Yuui, Kuro-bully is being mean to me! Make him stop!"
"There, there," Yuui soothed, patting his fluffy hair. "Look, Sumeragi-sensei just arrived. Why don't you go over and give him your present, and take mine with you as well?"
"Okay!" Fai bounced off, fake hurt forgotten, and the sanity index in the room increased notably.
Kurogane cleared his throat. "Here," he said gruffly, and gave Yuui the present he'd picked out, a keychain that could also be used to hold his school ID. Yuui took it, and smiled.
"Thank you," he said. "I'll spare you the line about how this is too useful to be a white elephant gift, but I appreciate it, really."
Kurogane grumbled a "your welcome," feeling slightly better about the whole thing.
Yuui's smile faded, and he fidgeted, then pulled out a large package. "I, ah," he said. "This is for you."
The package, when he opened it, turned out to contain a tissue-wrapped bundle of chocolates. He blinked, then looked up at Yuui in surprise. "Did you make these yourself?" he asked.
"Well, I am the cooking teacher, after all," Yuui said with a nervous laugh. "It would be a little strange if I didn't make my own chocolates, wouldn't it?"
"Hm." The candies sent up a strong, sweet odor to his nose. He broke off a small piece of chocolate and put in his mouth. The strong, rich taste of the chocolate made him raise his eyebrows in surprise; it wasn't nearly as sugary as he'd been expecting.
"I know that Kurogane-san doesn't really like sweet things," Yuui said quickly, "so I made them with a higher cocoa content and less sugar."
"They're good," Kurogane said. Simple words, but for him, it was high praise.
Unexpectedly, Yuui blushed a delicate red, then backed away. "I, ah, I'll go see how Fai is doing with the others," he stammered, then fled.
Kurogane was left holding the package, staring after Yuui with a slight frown.
Despite what Fai (of all the hypocrites!) frequently liked to accuse him of, Kurogane was not dense. He was merely discreet. Just because he observed something didn't mean that he had to comment on it. He was actually quite adept at reading subtext, and this message came across loud and clear. Unfortunately, it was a message that didn't make much sense.
Shyness, blushing, pushing a handmade gift on him and then hurrying away. Kurogane had watched a hundred of his female students acting the same way towards boys they liked. It wasn't hard to make the connection. But why the hell would Yuui, a grown man and a colleague, be focusing that kind of attention on Kurogane of all people? It was definitely enough to make him want to sit down and rethink the situation.
It was probably just as well that he had that thought to distract him for the rest of the party, since almost every other teacher on the faculty came up to tease him about Yuuko's gift at least once. At least he was able to remain civil enough to mumble a brief thanks for the silly gifts that they unloaded on him. The one exception was Sakurazukamori-sensei, the school nurse. Novelty gifts were one thing, but the contents of the charming, smiling teacher's package had been disturbingly... medical.
Not a moment too soon, the party was over, and the teachers were gathering their coats to go home and calling farewells. As had become their habit, Kurogane walked home together with the Fluorite twins; their apartments were so close by that it was silly to pretend they weren't going the same way.
Yuui avoided his eyes the whole walk, placing Fai between them like a shield; the giddy twin put up enough happy chatter that neither Kurogane nor Yuui had to talk much. Not that Kurogane intended to press Yuui about his gift if the blond man felt uncomfortable talking about it. On the other hand… if Yuui had meant it as a romantic gesture, and Kurogane didn't follow up, would Yuui feel rejected and hurt? But Kurogane had accepted the gift, hadn't he? He'd said it was good. Didn't that put the ball back in Yuui's court again? This was all giving him a headache.
"Well, good night," he said as they stopped at the doorway to the twins' apartment. "Guess I'll see you again after the break."
"Oh no, you have to come in!" Fai cried, latching on to his arm. "I still haven't given you my present! Come on in, Yuui will make us tea."
Kurogane had almost forgotten about that, but he allowed himself to be dragged inside. Once back in his home domain, Yuui seemed to recover his composure, and set about preparing tea and snacks like a proper host. Fai, on the other hand, seemed to get increasingly nervous, and flitted about like a hyperactive bumblebee while Kurogane watched him with growing impatience.
"Oi," he finally interrupted him, "Stop running around like a headless chicken. If you have a gift for me, let's see it."
"Ah, okay." He stopped his frenetic pacing and fetched up before Kurogane's chair, taking a breath and holding his arms wide out to the side. "Ta-daa!" he said. "It's me."
Kurogane gave him a look. "Of course it's you, you idiot. Who else would it be?"
"No, I mean…" Fai laughed again, but this time it seemed like a laugh of nervous tension more than real amusement. "I am giving myself to you, so that you can do whatever you want with me."
Kurogane blinked. Looked Fai up and down. "Wait, what?" he said.
"The gift. It's me," Fai said with a bright smile. "It is a perfect White Elephant gift. Because I am useless, yet entertaining!"
Kurogane's mouth dropped open, and he sat down abruptly, stunned. Fai stood in front of him, hands clasped nervously, still smiling. "Wait. Is this a proposition?" he said finally.
"Well, yes," Fai said with another nervous laugh. "You don't like your gift?"
Kurogane shook his head, and Fai's mouth drooped with dismay. "No, wait, I mean - that isn't what I mean, it's not that I don't like it," Kurogane said hastily, feeling not at all in charge of the situation. "I just didn't - this isn't what I expected. I thought that if either of you - I mean, it's not that I thought that either of you were in love with me, but if you'd asked me, I thought it was going to be him." He pointed to Yuui, who'd been watching the byplay with great interest.
"You did?" Yuui looked up, eyes wide.
"Wait, why him and not me?" Fai exclaimed.
"He gave me homemade chocolates," Kurogane said, feeling somewhat annoyed and foolish to have to explain his reasoning. "That's not exactly a gift that I'd call 'entertaining and useless.' Why give me something like that at a Christmas party if you didn't mean it like that?"
Yuui slapped his hand over his face and groaned, and Fai burst out laughing. "I warned you! I warned you!" he singsonged. "They got the wrong idea! I told you they would."
"All right, you were right, I was an idiot, there's no need to make such a production out of it," Yuui snapped. Fai just continued laughing.
Kurogane looked between them with confusion and growing annoyance. "What's going on here?" he growled.
"Yuui doesn't know how to read a calendar, that's what," Fai informed him smugly.
"Will you stop that!" Yuui exclaimed. "That is… This is my first year in Japan! I've never done these holidays before, all right? I knew that you had some kind of holiday like valentine's day, where you are supposed to give chocolates to the boys you like. I just didn't know when it was supposed to be. So when Yuuko announced that she was throwing a 'White' party, I thought…"
"You thought this was a white day party?" Kurogane repeated disbelievingly.
"So he made chocolates for everyone!" Fai chortled.
"By the time I found out my mistake, it was too late to find other gifts," Yuui said sheepishly.
"Oh." Kurogane felt a crushing disappointment. So he'd been wrong; Yuui hadn't meant anything by that gift after all. Kurogane wasn't special; the home ec teacher had given the same chocolates to everyone. And he'd made a fool of himself over it in the bargain, he thought gloomily.
A sound made him look up, and he found both of the Fluorite twins staring at him from a few feet away. "Are you saying," Yuui said, "that you wanted it to mean something?"
Kurogane looked away, feeling his cheeks heat.
"Do you really like Yuui better than me?" Fai asked wistfully.
"I like both of you the same." The words were out of Kurogane's mouth before he could stop them. "I just - I didn't think either of you liked me back. Let alone both. I couldn't ask without sounding weird."
The twins looked at each other, then Yuui nodded. Before Kurogane could move, they were both cuddled up to him, one twined on either side. "As a matter of fact," Yuui said, "I did make those chocolates thinking of you. The others were really just afterthoughts. But the feelings I put into them were for you."
"Well, ah," Kurogane said, and had to clear his throat. His chest felt strange and warm, and his skin felt very tight. "I accept your gift, then. And - yours, too, idiot," he added, sliding his hand up to curl around Fai's back.
It was a precious gift, one he hadn't ever expected to receive. As Yuui leaned his head against Kurogane's shoulder, and Fai dove in to kiss him, Kurogane thought that maybe there was something to this stupid holiday after all.
Author's notes: The elephant thong that Yuuko gave to Kurogane is a real thing. Google it, but make sure nobody's looking over your shoulder first.