The Most Important Gift
Chapter One


"Urgh, the streets are so noisy and crowded… I hate it!"

"I think my shoes are too small for me. It hurts to walk. This is such a pain."

"Why is everything so damn overpriced? Do they really think I'd spend this much on complete junk?"

"Man, Miku and the others better friggin appreciate their presents 'cause this hell."

"I'm hungry!"

"I don't have enough money!"

"I wanted to buy those hair clips for me, but I can't 'cause Rin wants them- and urgh, I don't wanna look like I'm copying her!"

"I would never copy a girl like Rin anyway."

"Don't you think Rin's annoying?"

"I hate her! I seriously hate her!"

"I want to go home!"

"I'm not having fun at all!"

"You're a really terrible, boring person!"

"Useless! This is so useless!"

"I'm so damn bored!"

"Damn damn damn…"

Big Al sighed as Nekomura Iroha's endless tirade of anger and irritation washed over him. Why oh why had he agreed to go Christmas shopping with her again?

…Oh yeah.

Because he was the only person in the Vocaloid family stupid enough to willingly spend time with her. Not even Miku, who was so ridiculously kind-hearted she put Mother Teresa to shame, wanted to accompany Iroha on her super-late Christmas Eve trip to the mall to get last-minute presents.

Miku's excuse had been, when Iroha asked her to come shopping, 'u-um… I already bought my presents! And I don't want to see what you'll buy me- I want it to be a surprise!'

Thus, the sour-faced Iroha- her lips pursed perpetually in the shape of an upside-down 'v'- had sought out Big Al for some 'fun fun fun quality bonding/shopping time' (as a sniggering Rin had put it).

That wasn't how Big Al would've phrased it, though. Something more along the lines of 'torture', or maybe 'death by whining', seemed more appropriate.

Iroha had even whined when she asked Big Al to go with her- which didn't really herald super fun happy times.

"I need to get Christmas presents. I don't want to go alone. I'm not getting you a present so I don't care if you see what I buy. You have no choice. Don't argue with me or I'll slice your fingers off- a-and this isn't because I like you or anything, so don't get the wrong idea! You're one of the most unpopular Vocaloids for a reason!"

That was what Iroha had said.

Honestly.

Was it really so impossible to ask nicely? Perhaps Iroha had been taking too many lessons from Akita Neru- or maybe she honestly, truly thought being completely unreasonable was charming.

Al sighed, shoving his hands into his pockets to keep them warm. The pair of unhappy shoppers had long since left the comforts of the glass mall (the main comfort being indoor heating) as Iroha didn't have enough money to buy anything there.

Iroha marched, face sullen, through the large crowd of late night shoppers. She dragged Al behind her with a freakish strength no young girl should possess. It felt as though Al's arms would come out their sockets.

Finally, Iroha and Al found themselves in a rabbit warren of twisting, turning streets removed from the bustling city centre. There weren't any gaudy lights strung up from the lampposts here and there were far fewer people. The shops were much smaller, more modest, clustered together on either side of the icy road as though they were penguins trying to share body heat.

Al had to admit he liked these quieter, quainter parts of town more than the busy city centre. It was almost scenic despite the sheer cold. Powdery snow drifted through the air, catching in Iroha's hair on the tips of her eyelashes. The snow seemed to sparkle even though the sun had long since gone down past the horizon. The sky was a steely blue, almost black. The only lights left to illuminate their way came courtesy of the few lampposts lining the road. Some of them weren't working.

Iroha and Big Al picked their way through the icy streets, moving from one spot of bright, artificial light to another. It was strangely beautiful- just like being inside a snow globe or a Christmas card. All that was missing were a few robins and reindeer, with perhaps a few nicely-wrapped presents buried in the snow. The houses should have been made of gingerbread, too.

All the while Iroha sniffed, trying to fend off a cold, whilst she buried her chin in her scarf and her hands in her pockets. It didn't seem to be working. She looked frozen; an Irohasicle with too-pale skin and a red nose.

Iroha had long since given up on her angry, childish tirades. Instead, her lips were clamped shut tightly together. She was putting more energy in remaining upright and placing one foot in front of the other rather than complaining.

Big Al thought back to one (of many) of Iroha's previous complaints; 'I think my shoes are too small.' Did it really hurt her to walk? They'd been pacing around and around for about two hours now; surely her feet would be covered in blisters?

Maybe that was why she winced every time she took a step.

"…Are you alright, Iroha?" asked Big Al softly. He didn't dare to talk in anything other than a whisper, in case he accidentally incurred the wrath of 'She Who Must Not Be Enraged'.

Iroha turned round, her light pink hair- studded with flakes of snow like precious gems- shifting in the wind. Her eyes were narrowed, her lips pursed. She was trying to look angry.

The key word being 'trying'.

Instead, she looked cold, wet and miserable.

"What do you think, retard?" Iroha snapped. Her voice was strangely low and dangerous. "I'm having the time of my life."

"That's funny. To me, you look rather…"

But Big Al's voice trailed off as Iroha shot him an acidic look that could have eaten through metal.

Al sighed.

It was probably useless telling Iroha she looked cold and sad. She must have been aware of that already. It wouldn't help. If anything, it would only prompt Iroha to claw at his throat with her unusually long, pink-painted nails.

…Color-coded fingernails were a strange foible of the Vocaloid family. Somehow, the English-speaking Vocaloids never quite caught on to this bizarre trend (although Sonika did have a penchant for experimenting with rainbow-colored nails… She had too much time on her hands).

"This sucks. I hate it. I hate the snow and I hate the cold and I hate Christmas! It's a stupid commercial holiday! Stupid, stupid, stupid!"

Scowling, Nekomura Ebenezer spun round on her heel, her hair whipping Big Al across the face as she did so. She marched forwards defiantly, her head held in the air…

But, unfortunately for Iroha, she didn't get too far.

Her foot fell to the floor at an awkward angle. There was an audible crack that split the air as Iroha's ankle twisted round in a manner no ankle should ever twist- not even an ankle belonging to a suspiciously humanoid android. Such an injury was slightly less painful for Iroha, whose pain receptors were structured differently to a human's, but it still sent shockwaves of white-hot agony blistering through her foot- up her leg- round her whole body.

Iroha's legs shook. She slipped backwards on the ice, her arms flailing- a desperate attempt to remain upright that was doomed to failure. Iroha's plight would have been quite comical, had it not been obvious she was in intense pain; no doubt heighted by her surprise.

The young Vocaloid's eyes widened. She no longer tried to hide behind her anger of irritation. Instead, there was nothing but fear that shifted across her face.

In an instant, she didn't look so 'sophisticated' and 'mature' anymore.

Instead, she looked like a young girl.

This change only lasted a second- barely even that- but it hit Big Al's heart like a sledgehammer. Instantly, his previous feelings of mild irritation towards Iroha dissipated. His 'saving people' complex (something Prima always needled him about, though she always did it jest) kicked into action.

Iroha's eyes shut.

She braced herself for the impact.

The sound of her head meeting the icy pavement- pain jarring through the rest of her limp, ragdoll body.

But it never came.

One more second passed, then two, three- half a minute- a whole minute… before Iroha's frantic heartbeat finally calmed. It no longer felt as though her ribs were going to crack from the force of her rapidly beating heart (not a pleasant sensation).

Iroha inhaled and exhaled desperately, trying to calm her nerves. It felt as though some kind of crab had been playing around with the fear receptors inside her brain, snipping random cables until her outside appearance shattered.

Iroha was calm.

She was fine, damn it.

She blinked slowly like a china doll, tipping her head back to look at her savior.

Big Al looked back down at her. He was holding her against his chest. Her slight form was dwarfed by his, as his arms wrapped round her middle.

"Are you alright?" asked Big Al. His voice was soothing. It made Iroha wonder, for just a few seconds, why people didn't use him in their songs more often. Why was Miku so popular? Sure, Miku was cute, but cute Vocaloids were a yen a dozen…

"…Iroha?"

Big Al was obviously worried by Iroha's lack of response. His arms tightened round her just a little more, as though he was afraid she'd collapse.

S-she wasn't that fragile, damn it! He should have known that by now!

T-this was an invasion of her privacy!

Iroha hated it.

She hated it.

"P-people don't use you in their songs b-because you have an awful character design and a stupid voice!" Iroha snapped angrily, answering her previous soft, stupid thoughts with rage.

Big Al only blinked at her in confusion.

"…Pardon?"

Iroha's cheeks flushed like this. She looked away, her bangs falling in front of her face.

"S-stupid… You're so stupid!"

"I'm not the one who twisted their ankle."

The light pink spots on Iroha's cheeks darkened, until her face was nearly crimson. It was quite the contrast compared to the cold weather. Iroha suddenly felt too hot- Al's grip was almost suffocating…! Idiot! Moron! S-she hated him!

She really, really did.

So why didn't she push him away…?


a/n: This pairing is really, really cute XD I like hyper tsundere!Iroha a lot. I think I'll probably characterize her this way for any other fics I do involving her :3

This was based on the oneshot 'tsundere' in the collection 'bonds' by 3Kiyoshi3 :3 Thank you for making such an awesome pairing ^_^;;

This 'fic' will be very short. Like 3 chapters short. Not a long epic… Because I'm lazy XD
But this pairing really is quite sweet x3

~renahhchen xoxo