Standard issue disclaimer: Akamatsu Ken created and owns Negima. I am not him. This is a parody, protected speech. Thanks to my cowriters and the reviewers.

A Decadent Habits Christmas
Chapter One: Kitty

It was cold when Negi woke up, though he only felt it on his cheeks. The rest of his body was firmly enmeshed in warm blankets, not to mention the arms of an equally warm, soft female form pressed up against his back. He let out a mildly irritated sigh at the realization that she'd done it again. The worst part of it, of course, was that he certainly couldn't criticize her for doing this sort of thing.

Was this what being a parent was like? Well, then, maybe it was good that he was getting in some practice at that by acting in loco parentis for Mas—

For Kitty.

He was still getting used to that, and to much else, as well.

With that thought, he set himself to the task of disentangling the rest of the way from her arms, hopefully without waking her. Unfortunately, that proved to be beyond him, and her green eyes flickered open as he was doing so. Her first conscious sound of the day was a grunt, as those eyes swiveled over to regard the window. She considered the view for a moment before returning her gaze to him. "The sun," she said at last, "is nae risen."

"No, it isn't," Negi agreed as he completed his self-extraction, then unwrapped himself from the blankets. "You should probably try to go back to sleep."

Kitty ignored the suggestion. "Wherefore must ye be out and about, on such a winter's morn as this?"

He sighed as he got free and started to crawl over to the bunkbed's ladder. "You know why. I have to keep up my training."

"Wherefore?" she repeated insistently.

"Because," he answered. Then, to forestall the inevitable comeback, he continued. "If I skip a day, I set myself a bad precedent that will be all too easy to follow. Eventually, I'll find myself looking for reasons to avoid training, even on days that aren't cold and unpleasant. And as a result, I won't be in the best shape possible when a real battle comes. And that would be very bad."

She stared at him as he started climbing down the ladder. Just as he started to entertain thoughts that he might have persuaded her to his views, she spoke up again. "I dinnae like to think of ye in battle."

That was unexpected. Always before, her periodic complaints about his early morning departures had focused on how she didn't like being alone, or even that it was colder in the room without his presence. This was the first time she'd expressed an anxiety on behalf of someone else. He thought that it was probably a good idea to encourage that sort of thing.

"I don't like fighting either," Negi said. And cursed himself for a liar, because there was a part of him, not too well-buried, that exulted in it. "But sometimes, there is no other choice. You either fight or see someone else fighting on your behalf. And for me, at least, the latter is worse. Maybe it's the same with you. Maybe you should join me in training."

Now her stare turned clearly aghast. "Are ye daft? I am a delicate blossom!" And with that, she rolled up in blanket and turned away from him in what he could clearly recognize as a pout.

"Right," he said, and descended to the floor.

The suite of rooms in which he and Kitty now resided had, up until a few months ago, been Takamichi's residence. By the time they moved in, a week or so after everything, there had been nothing left behind to mark it as his. Negi still felt a bit guilty over his friend's dismissal, though he had enough guilt over his other actions and inactions that he didn't feel much need to dwell on his relatively minor role in Takamichi's disgrace. Besides, he suspected that he'd come perilously close to losing his own job in all of that.

The problem being, he thought gloomily as he dressed, that I almost wish I had. If it had just been him ... but, of course, it wasn't. He had responsibilities. His students — his crazy, wonderful students — would have followed him if he'd left, and he cared too much for their welfare to let that happen.

A quick glance outside confirmed that, though the sky was overcast, there was no snow in the air. He nonethless bundled up tightly, complete with the scarf Haruna had given him for his birthday with the words, "Wit beyond measure is life's greatest treasure."

"All right, I'm off, " he announced. "I'll be back later this afternoon. I'd appreciate it if you studied the Japanese lesson we went over last night. And you could use a bath."

"Dinnae like baths, " came a sour-sounding reply.

Negi sighed, not appreciating the irony at all. "In any event, if there's any trouble, please call me on my cell. Or call Chachamaru-san if you can't —"

She cut him off with a disgusted grunt.

"I know you're not comfortable with her, " he continued wearily.

"She's strange!" Kitty protested from the bed where she still lay curled up. "All of these heathen folk are strange, but she's surely strangest of all!"

"She's a good and kind person —" Negi started to say, biting out the words, then reigned in his temper, reminding himself, again, that it wasn't Kitty's fault that she didn't know or understand why Chachamaru would walk through fire for her. "— and very reliable, " he concluded instead.

To this, she made no reply.

"Ittekimasu, " he said.

"Ganbattay koodasigh, " she said back.

He decided to count that as another point of progress, as he went out the door and locked it up behind him.

He was mad at me, Kitty thought.

She didn't want that. The world was filled with things she didn't want, but least of all did she want to drive away the only person who made her feel safe in it. But everything that came naturally to her seemed to do it.

Daft world, she thought wearily, and closed her eyes to try and find a sleep that wouldn't bring her dreams of the castle, and the scent of the lilacs in its garden. All just dreams, she'd been told again and again. And yet, oh, how the scent of them lingered ...

NEXT: Mana