Sorry for the lack of updates recently. I've had a low motivation for writing recently. Anyway, this is the first of two planned Christmas-themed chapters. The second one will hopefully be up within the next couple of days.

Merry Christmas, y'all!


Ichiru sighed and rolled over onto his back. Aside from Zero's soft snoring and the sound of his own breathing, the room was quiet. He tried listening for any sounds coming from down the hall, down the stairs, but the rest of the house seemed just as silent.

However, he expected this, so he laid there and continued to wait. He had asked Zero to spend the night in his room for this special occasion, but he hadn't planned on Zero being the first one to give in to his need for sleep. Of course, Ichiru had yet to tell Zero his plan, or perhaps Zero might have stayed up with him.

Within seconds Ichiru was getting lulled to sleep by Zero's rhythmic breathing, but he had waited too long for this very night, so he willed himself awake.

And that's when he heard it.

Someone was downstairs, and they were making a great deal of ruckus by the sound of it. Ichiru flew out of bed and raced toward the bedroom door. He opened it and let the light filter in, before he remembered his brother.

"Nii-san! Nii-san!" he called quietly from the doorway. When Zero remained sleep, Ichiru crossed the room and grabbed his brother by the shoulder. "Zero-nii. Wake. Up."

Zero stirred under the pressure of Ichiru's incessant badgering. "What's going on?" he asked, not fully awake.

"He's here, Zero-nii! The fat man is here!" Ichiru rolled his eyes and threw his arms up in exasperation. "Santa Claus!"

Ichiru beamed at Zero's recognition of the name. He helped him out of bed and the two of them crept out of the room and down the stairs.

oOo

It was bright downstairs and the smell of gingerbread from the cookies they'd baked that evening still hung heavily in the air. Rainbow-colored lights illuminated a corner of their living room, the single reminder of the Christmas tree there. It was a Kiryuu tradition to leave the tree lights on Christmas Eve night into the following morning.

As much as Zero was the braver, more protective of the two brothers, Ichiru was determined to take the lead in uncovering the identity of the jolly old man in the red suit. He felt that, as the one who had come up with the plan, he should be the one to make the grand discovery.

There was talking coming from the other room. Two voices. Had Santa managed to squeeze a reindeer down the chimney? Or an elf? After taking another second to listen more closely, Ichiru realized that he recognized one of the two voices.

"Mommy?" Zero whispered, having come to the same conclusion.

Ichiru nodded. That was definitely their mother's voice coming from the next room. That must have meant that she was in cahoots with Santa. The partnership was odd, but not entirely unreasonable—how else would Santa have known to get everything Zero and Ichiru requested?

Together, the peered around the corner into the living room, towards the direction of the fireplace. Their mother was there, playfully leaning against the mantel, her gaze towards a part of the room hidden to the brothers from their current location.

Footsteps came from the kitchen, and their mother sighed, smiled, and giggled in that direction. She traipsed across the room, moving out of the boys' line of sight, so they crept closer and huddled behind the sofa. If it wasn't for the unmistakable "ho, ho, ho!" that sounded next, Ichiru might have just given up, suspecting that his mother and father were just playing some silly game together. Instead, they fell out from behind the couch, tumbling over each other in their haste to see Santa.

What Ichiru saw would scar him for at least a week.

Santa, the jolly old man in the red suit, the man who delivered presents each year by Christmas morning and was adored by children everywhere, was there in the living room. And he was kissing their mother.

"NO!"

With a ferocity and swiftness that would have made their Hunter parents proud, Ichiru and Zero flew towards the fat man, latching onto him and pummeling any part of him that they could reach. Santa, unprepared for such an attack, stumbled backwards until he was pressed against the Christmas tree, threatening to send the whole thing crashing to the ground.

And as Ichiru scrambled up the man's back in an attempt to gouge out his eyeballs, the tree did fall, sending ornaments flying everywhere and left Santa, Ichiru, and Zero in a tangled mess on the floor.

It was then that their mother reached for them, finally over the initial shock of what was happening before her. She lifted Zero without too much incidence, though he landed one more swift kick to Santa's ribs. But when she pulled at Ichiru's arms, he thrashed about frantically, spewing angry nonsense from his mouth, frustrated tears leaking from his eyes.

With some effort Zero helped his mother restrain Ichiru. Ichiru was breathing heavily, his face flushed with anger and the exertion that his body was not entirely accustomed to.

"You—I...You," Ichiru spluttered. "I hate you!"

Santa, now battered and bruised, sat up with a mighty groan. He picked ornament shards out of his suit and lifted his cap, which had slipped over his eyes during the struggle.

"Is this how you treat someone who brings you gifts?" he asked irritably.

A silence filled the room, until at last, Zero said, "Daddy?"

oOo

The following morning, Ichiru and Zero woke early and rushed downstairs to open their presents. In the living room, they were met with a familiar scene from the night before—a downed Christmas tree, ornaments splayed and shattered across the floor, and a neglected Santa hat lying among the disaster scene.

Their parents came down next, their father sporting a cut across his eyebrow and walking with an unmistakable limp, and together they gathered around the fireplace to exchange gifts. Ichiru shrunk a little at his father's presence, thoroughly ashamed of what had transpired only hours earlier. He had tried apologizing, but he was still embarrassed.

As it turned out, their father had dressed up not just to leave presents, but to participate in other extracurricular activities with his wife. Activities, of course, which were not mentioned to their two young sons.

"Don't worry about it," his father said, sitting on the floor beside Ichiru and ruffling his hair playfully. "The two of you were only trying to protect your mother from the big, bad Santa Claus. It was an easy mistake."

Ichiru and Zero burst into laughter and commenced unwrapping.