Sunday, Dec. 22

Levy had always prided herself on being a good shopper. She knew what to buy people. She always was able to maneuver around the flocks of Christmas-shoppers at the mall. She could dart and weave her way through crowds and find the shortest line-ups, and have all her presents wrapped and ready to go with days to spare.

Not, apparently, this Christmas.

This Christmas, she had a Secret Santa to search for, and she had no idea what to give him.

"I mean, really," she complained loudly to Lucy as they pushed through the crowds. "What are you supposed to buy a guy like him? I have no idea what he likes!"

The blonde sighed, shoving aside a sweaty man with greasy hair. "How should I know? You and Natsu are the only ones who talk to Gajeel on a daily basis."

Levy snapped her fingers. "That's it! Lucy, you're a genius!"

"What?" Lucy seemed genuinely surprised. "Why am I a genius?"

"Because!" Levy was clapping her hands. "You can call Natsu and ask him what I should buy for Gajeel!"

"Oh." Lucy's face coloured. "Why can't you just call him?"

Levy gave her a look. Lucy rolled her eyes. "Oh, all right, fine! But let's go somewhere I won't have to yell over the crowd."

They pushed their way into a McDonalds and crept into a back corner, settling down at a table far from all the hustle and bustle. As Lucy pulled out her phone and began to dial, Levy began going through her list of things to buy.

So far, most of them were pretty dumb ideas. She'd crossed off the possibility of any kind of clothing; and the only other thing she knew of to buy for guys was watches. She was pretty sure Gajeel didn't ever give a rat's ass about what time it was, and she'd never seen him wear one.

This left her with nothing. A keychain? Scrap metal? Cat food for Lily? Levy knew he worshipped his cat like it was God himself, but that seemed a little out of hand. Groaning, she slid further down in her seat, wishing she had a really greasy hamburger in her hands right now.

Lucy hung up the phone with an irritated scowl. "Well, he says Gajeel will take anything because it's from you. He also suggested a free back massage. Other than that, he's no help."

Levy rubbed her temples. "I knew it. I'm screwed. Hey, what are you getting Natsu? Give me some ideas, here."

"I haven't really decided yet," she answered. "What do you get guys? Watches?"

They looked at each other, and burst into laughter. "Yeah, right," Levy joked. "Natsu and Gajeel with matching watches. Can you imagine?"

"And if one was off by a few minutes, they'd get into a huge fight over it!" Lucy snickered. "'It's 10:00!'" She imitated Natsu.

"'No, it's 10:02!" Levy shot back in a mock deep voice.

"'10:00!'"

They dissolved into a pile of giggles, not noticing the towering presence materializing in front of them.

"Hello?"

Lucy jerked up, banging her knee on the table. "Oh!" She started laughing even harder. "Hi, Erza!"

The councillor had her eyebrows raised as she looked down at the two women. "What has you two in such a fuss?"

"Presents," Levy answered, wiping a tear from her eye. "For Natsu and Gajeel."

"Natsu collects dragon memorabilia," Erza pointed out. Lucy's eyes widened.

"Oh, that's right!" She snapped her fingers. "He does! I completely forgot Natsu totally likes anything to do with dragons!"

"So, what?" Levy was confused. "Are you gonna get him a dragon Lego play set?"

"No, he already has one," said Lucy, completely serious. Levy bit back a snort.

Turning to Erza instead, she asked, "But what about Gajeel? I honestly have no idea what he would like."

"Something he can use in the shop," Erza answered. Levy blinked. Wow, she had a good point. Why hadn't Levy thought of that before?

"Because," Erza answered, and Levy realized she'd voiced her thoughts out loud. "You two have been thinking on impulse. You haven't been calmly and rationally deciding."

"Wow, you're so smart, Erza," Lucy admired. "I bet you already have Jellal's gift picked out, huh?"

"How did you know I have-"

"We know."

Erza flushed. Sitting down on a spare chair beside Lucy, she began fiddling with her fingers. "Well, the truth is I haven't. Cana brought up a...very good point the other day, and..." Catching Lucy and Levy's stare, she burst out, "I want to give him something spontaneous and romantic!"

Levy raised her eyebrows. "You mean you're gonna use this as an excuse to ask him out?"

Beside her, Lucy choked on the air and buried her face into her arms, shoulders shaking with suppressed giggles. Both Levy and Erza stared at her, the latter still glowing red. "What?"

"It's just," Lucy raised her head, speaking between laughs, "that you want to confess to Jellal, right? And Levy here wants to confess to Gajeel-"

"Hey!"

"Romeo wants to confess to Wendy, Bisca to Alzack, Mirajane to Freed, and me to Natsu!" She took a deep, calming breath, yoga style. The smile never left her face, however. "This is going to be a Christmas party to remember, huh?"

Suddenly, Erza's eyes lit up and she grabbed Levy and Lucy's wrists. "That's it!" She proclaimed. Levy stared at her in surprise. "You two can help me decide on a present for Jellal!"

"We can?" Levy said dubiously. Erza nodded.

"Yes! I want to buy something impulsive, spontaneous and romantic. You two think impulsively, spontaneously, and romantically!"

"We do?"

"Yes!" Erza was practically on her feet. "Tell me truthfully, Lucy, Levy! What were you planning on buying before I gave you your ideas?"

Levy turned to Lucy. Lucy turned to Levy. Their lips curled, and within seconds they were sporting identical grins.

"Erza, do you know if Jellal likes watches?"

Monday, Dec. 23

Lisanna was dancing around her house, bopping her head to the Christmas CD she'd been blaring since ten in the morning. All previous Grinch-ness had left her, and she was now filled to the brim with Yuletide spirit. She didn't even hate Bixlow as much as she did two days ago.

In fact, she was wrapping his present right now, singing loudly and shaking her butt as she did so. Giving it a generous wiggle, she laughed when her sister came into the room. "Do you like my music?"

"Turn it down," was all Mirajane said. Lisanna shook her head in reply, and Mira stomped over to the stereo, turning it down herself.

"Hey!" Lisanna yelped, loudly in the now-quiet room. "I like that song."

"It's Rudolph," Mira snapped. "You will hear it at least thirty more times before Christmas even gets here."

Lisanna blinked. "Oy. What's got you in such a bad mood?"

"It's your brother!" Mira growled. Pulling on her hair, she screeched, "Why won't he tell me what he's gotten Evergreen?!"

"Oh, that." Lisanna laughed. "Why does it matter?"

"Because!" Mira collapsed on the couch. "What have you gotten Bixlow? Please tell me it's something good."

"It's a horror movie mask," Lisanna answered with a completely straight face. She could not hold it, however, against Mira's terrified face. "I'm kidding!"

"Don't joke about things like that," the secretary wailed burying her face in the cushions.

Lisanna came over to sit beside her, carrying Bixlow's present as she did. "Why are you so set on us getting together?" She asked her sister, genuinely curious.

"Triple dates," Mira answered in a muffled voice. Lisanna rolled her eyes. Pulling herself from into a seated position, Mira leaned over to look at the gift on Lisanna's lap. "Where did you get that?"

Lisanna held up the intricately carved tiki doll. "On our trip to Hawaii a few years ago," she reminded Mirajane. "Remember? I bought it as a souvenir, but I never set it up anywhere. And I always see him wearing little tiki charms and stuff, so I thought he'd like it."

"I think he will." Mira sounded genuinely impressed. "But you didn't spend any money on him?"

"Oh, I also bought him a Starbucks gift card," Lisanna waved airily. "Everyone can appreciate one of those."

"Hm, indeed." Mirajane had a devilish smile on her face. Lisanna frowned, and poked her in the forehead.

"Mind out of the gutter, sis. What'd you get Freed?"

"Hmm? Oh. A book signed by his favourite author."

"Really?"

Mirajane nodded. "I've had it for a while, but I've just been waiting for the right time to give it to him." Just then, Elfman came in the room and she jumped up. "A-ha! Tell me what you got her!"

Elfman blinked at the sudden assault, looked down at the carefully wrapped gift in his hands, and shook his head. "No."

Mira made a whining noise, jumping up and down. Elfman raised the gift above his head, and being almost twice as big as Mira to begin with, she was nowhere near reaching it. She stamped her foot in frustration as Lisanna watched in amusement.

"Careful," Elfman teased. "It's fragile."

Mira stopped jumping immediately and began pondering over what it could be. "Fragile? So it's made of glass? Or porcelain? Oh, it better have something to do with fairies, Elfman, if it doesn't-"

"Why is this so important to you?" Elfman asked incredulously as he grabbed a snack (read: epic meal time) from the kitchen. "Look, I just wanted to ask Lisanna if the wrapping is good enough."

"It is important," Mirajane emphasized, "because our future as a triple couple is riding on this whole scheme working out!"

"Ah, so you admit it's a scheme!" Lisanna crowed. "And yes, Elfie, the wrapping is lovely. She'll love it."

"She had better." Mira stuck her finger in Elfman's face. "Mark my words, if you two aren't married by next autumn-"

Elfman turned and walked right back out of the room without answering. Mira huffed and sat heavily on the couch, crossing her arms tightly. "All the work I do and what do I get for it..."

Lisanna patted her leg sympathetically. "You'll get something. Feel better, okay? It's only two days until the party."

"Right," Mira sighed. "Two days. I only have to last two more days."

Monday, Dec. 23

If Gray hadn't already had a steady job as a high school chemistry teacher, he would easily have become a chauffeur.

No, really. Driving Juvia around was actually one of the most fun things he'd ever done, mostly because being stuck in a car with Juvia was more fun that he could ever have imagined. It wasn't even as if she tried, either. She was just so silly when she sand along to the car radio, or tried to read maps, or even better, tried to read his GPS.

Gray supposed he'd only ever seen Juvia in a school setting, when she was slightly more shy and reserved. He'd always heard from students that she was super fun as a teacher, but Gray had honestly never believed that Juvia – no offense to her, she was just so reserved – could be fun.

Now he could believe what they were talking about.

"Don't stop, make it pop, DJ blow ma speaka's up!" She sang loudly, drumming along to the beat on her thighs. Gray snorted, watching her out of the corner of his eye.

"I can't believe you know every word to this song," he told her. She held up a hand, blocking his face from view.

"Do not ruin this, Gray-sama," she said in a joking voice. "Juvia loves Kesha."

"I have changed my entire outlook on you," he shot back, rolling his eyes. "Was it here?"

"Oh, yes." Juvia pointed to the small store tucked into the back corner of the store. Looking at him sheepishly, she confessed, "Juvia hasn't finished all her Christmas shopping yet."

Gray made a face. "Secret Santa, right?" She nodded, and he made a noise of agreement. "Yeah, me neither."

As he parked, Juvia said thoughtfully, "Gray-sama should come looking in here. There are so many nice things, you'd find something for sure."

"You think?"He checked out the windshield. "Well, it doesn't look to bad. I guess I'm your ride back anyway, right?"

She beamed at him.

Upon leaving the car and stepping onto the icy sidewalk, Juvia linked her arm through his. At his questioning look, she grinned. "So Juvia doesn't slip."

"Hm." Gray didn't know if he believed her, but he sure didn't mind. Under the grey afternoon sky, he was sure the two of them look like a real couple. The idea made him feel strangely warm, and not in a bad way.

He held the door open for her. Juvia bowed her thanks, stepping into the store. Immediately her face lit up, and she stood up straighter. He raised an eyebrow. "I take it you come here often?"

"All the time," Juvia sighed dreamily. "Juvia would live here if she could. Or buy out the entire store."

Admittedly, it was a beautiful store. Small, but filled from bottom to top with strange glass artifacts. There was everything from figurines to blown sea-glass, to jellyfish in glass small as paperweights to the size of his head. He could see the appeal.

In fact, he could probably find something for Juvia in here, after all. He just had to be sneaky about it.

"So, you haven't bought out the store, then?" He asked, keeping it casual.

She shook her head. "Juvia has a paperweight and one of these." She tapped on a coloured glass orb held up by rope netting. "And a salt lamp. That's it, though."

"Oh." Gray sidled over. "And, what do you really want from here."

Juvia should him a suspicious look. "Gray-sama, who do you have for Secret Santa?"

Uh-oh. Play it cool, Gray. He poked her in the side. "It's a secret, dummy."

She giggled. "Well, Juvia really wishes she could have one of these." She pointed to something tall and sparkly. Gray leaned over it, eyebrows furrowing.

"What exactly is it?"

"A geode," she explained. "Juvia would love to have one to show her Geology students. Most of them are amethyst. See? That's the purple; it's really quartz but no one knows it's quartz. Just like no one knows ruby and sapphire is actually the same mineral."

Gray had stopped paying attention somewhere around 'purple'. He was completely paying attention to the way her eyes started sparkling when she spoke. The passion for her work really came through. He turned to the geode; it was a tall hollow rock, the inside filled with amethyst crystals. It was really beautiful.

Sighing, he stood up and cracked his back. Juvia snapped out of her trance, laughing sheepishly. "Um, Juvia has to go pick out her present now. No peeking!"

"Why not?" He already knew why, but it was fun to see her tense up.

"B-because!" She quoted him from earlier. "It's a secret, dummy."

His ears turned pink when she called him 'dummy'. He went to wait outside the store as she flitted around inside. He knew he's be back to pick up one of those geodes for her. He wondered how expensive the biggest one was.

As she came breezing out and linked her arm through his again – strictly so she wouldn't fall, she professed – he found he wouldn't mind paying anything.

Tuesday, Dec. 24

Erza straightened out her skirt, brushing her hair for the fiftieth time and looking into the mirror on her dresser. Did she look alright? Better than alright? Curses, she was nervous. Taking deep breaths, she turned away from the mirror and instead to the gift she had wrapped so painstakingly well.

Inside the small box was, in Erza's opinion, the most beautiful pocket watch she had ever seen. She had found it at an antiques store in the far corner of the mall, tucked so far in that Erza never would have found it alone. Only Lucy and Levy's shopping expertise had brought her there, and once inside, the pocket watch had called out to her. It was more expensive that they were allowed, and if Erza had been thinking rationally she never would have even picked it up. But Erza was being spontaneous and romantic, and bought it on the spot.

There was no way she could give this to Jellal and not tell him that she loved him. This had to be it.

Turning to the mirror once again, Erza gave herself one last once-over. The small black dress was daringly low-cut and only brushed mid-thigh. Was she being too obvious? She wasn't good at being sexy! Cana knew more about this than she did. What if she looked like a hooker?

A horn blared outside, and Erza jumped out of her thoughts. Well, none of that mattered now. Grabbing her coat and the gift, she dashed out her front door, locking it quickly and bounding up to the car waiting for her.

As she opened the passenger door and slid inside, Cana took in her appearance with an appreciative chuckle. "It looks like someone decided to take my advice," she teased lightly. "I take it those aren't socks in the box there?"

"Just drive," Erza told her, ears red.

Cana looked her over again. "You look good," she said finally, pulling out of the spot.

Erza kept her eyes forward, but her posture relaxed a little. "Thanks."

The Renaissance Hotel was undoubtedly one of the swankiest Erza had ever seen, all polished marble and glass. Cana gave a whistle as they entered. "Wow," she said appreciatively. "Mira really went all-out, huh? I guess she really wants this scheme to work."

Erza didn't answer, for her eyes had locked on to a certain physics teacher over by the stairs. He caught her eye, and gave a wave. Cana followed her line of vision, and snickered. "Guess for you the party's already started, huh?"

Erza slid off her coat, not listening to the jab. Slinging it over one arm, she walked over to him, smiling politely.

"Hello, Jellal," she greeted, voice deceptively calm. Jellal replied in kind, also sounding quite composed. He held out his arms, and Erza took it graciously. They left Cana standing in the lobby with a bemused expression on her face.

The upper floor of the hotel was decorated from top to bottom in red and green streamers, with a few dazzling Christmas trees and mistletoe hanging from the ceiling. But despite the tacky decorations, there was no denying the class and elegance of the ballroom. It looked like the perfect place to hold a wedding reception.

Suddenly Erza understood Mira's fascination.

Speaking of Mirajane, the secretary was standing at the front doors, greeting everyone as they entered. "Hi there, you two!" She greeted brightly. Mira looked resplendent in a dark red velvet gown trimmed with white. There was a Santa hat perched jauntily on her head.

"You can exchange gifts whenever you wish," she informed them sweetly. "Have a wonderful time!"

They thanked her, and Jellal led Erza into the ballroom. Christmas music was playing, not loud enough to be deafening, just enough to be heard. Jellal turned to Erza, smiling softly. "You look beautiful tonight, Erza."

"So do you," Erza replied. "Er, well, that is – you look very handsome."

She cursed her stutter internally. But Jellal looked stunning, with his black tux and dark blue shirt. He wasn't wearing a tie, and the collar of his shirt was hanging open around his pale throat. She could see him swallow as they came to stand in a corner by one of the trees.

Both of them were silent for a moment, and Erza wondered suddenly if Jellal felt the exact same way about her. She'd entertained the notion before. It certainly seemed like he did. Especially when he held out his hands and they were shaking.

"This is for you," he said softly. Erza took the gift from his hands, gently undoing the wrapping. Upon opening the box, she gasped.

It was a diamond necklace, with a thin silver chain and the pendant in the shape of a dazzling star. Jellal gave her a wavering half smile. "Because you're my star."

She swallowed thickly. Not trusting her voice, she turned and allowed Jellal to hook the silver necklace around her neck, holding back her hair as he did so. His hands lingered a bit longer than they had to, and Erza shivered lightly under his fingertips.

Wordlessly, she handed him his gift. He raised his eyebrows, apparently not guessing that she had him as well. He opened the box carefully, and his eyes went wide as he saw the pocket watch.

He drew it out, the thick chain uncoiling like mercury. The front of the watch was a design of intricately carved angels, and on the clock face inside there were inlaid diamonds. She smiled at the irony; of course they would buy each other matching presents.

"Because you're my angel," she told him quietly.

Jellal didn't answer, merely leaned forward and kissed her.

XxX

Mirajane watched the two from her vantage point across the room. As Jellal and Erza intertwined in a more passionate embrace, she clapped her hands delightedly. One victory!

Moving across the room, she began watching the other couples like a hawk, making sure not to miss a moment. Her first target; Cana and her drunken suitor.

"I can't believe you've already hit the whisky," she told him amusedly. Bacchus gave her a leery grin, offering a glass of the golden liquid. Cana accepted graciously. "Please tell me that isn't my present."

Bacchus frowned. "Oh, that was tonight?" At Cana's face, he laughed loudly. "I kid. Here, this is for you." He tossed a small present her way, sloppily wrapped but still pretty. She opened it with care, raising her eyebrows quite high at what was inside.

"Bacchus," she said slowly, "these are tickets to a weekend at the most fancy vineyard in California."

"Yep," he nodded. "And there are two of them. So you can invite anyone, but..." he waggled his eyebrows and she shoved him.

"Get outta here. You mean you want to spend a whole weekend with me?"

"Oh, more than a weekend." Bacchus shrugged languidly. "It's a good jumpstart, though, isn't it?"

Cana gave a twisted, half-smile. "Well, I wanted to do this first, but," she dropped the large gift on the table. He looked shocked. "You beat me to the punch. Go on, open it."

Bacchus nearly ripped the cardboard as he tore off the wrapping, and grinned brightly at what he saw. The two bottles of wine glinted in the lighting of the room. "Oy!" He said happily. "You shouldn't have."

She leaned in closely, smelling the alcohol on his breath. "So if you were serious about that weekend away..."

Bacchus's grip around the wine bottles tightened. "You wanna get out of here?"

Cana didn't answer, but grabbed the front of his shirt and they dashed for the door.

Mirajane watched the two in amusement, wondering of that even counted. Well, it was close enough, wasn't it? As close as two people like Bacchus and Cana would ever get, anyway. But no one was better suited to each other.

Speaking of well-suited people...Mira crept over to a new hiding spot, watching a small bluenette twisting the hem of her dress nervously. She was scanning the room, no doubt looking for a tall dark man with metal studs all over his face.

He was, of course, making his way through the crowd to talk to her. Levy perked up, letting go of her dress. "Gajeel! Hi."

"Hey." He grunted in return.

They stood in slightly awkward silence for a moment, Levy's eyes darting around and usually coming to rest on her feet. Finally, she stuck out her hands and the gift held in them. "This is for you."

Gajeel looked surprised. "Oh, you got me? I got you, too." He held out a small velvet box, and Levy looked took it with trembling fingers. "What're you shaking at?"

"Nothing!" She squeaked. Gajeel gave her a look, but opened the present anyway. Inside there was a bandana wrapped around something else. He snorted.

"What, a bandana? You wanna be matching or something, shrimp?"

His easygoing attitude loosened her up a little, and she smacked his arm playfully. "It's to hold your hair back in the shop," she said. "And open it. There's something else."

Gajeel unrolled the bandana, now looking really impressed with what was inside. "What is this?"

Levy held her hands behind her back. "Turn it over."

It was a CD, an old jazzy record that no one else would have picked up. He turned it over, looking down the list of songs on the back. He blanched when he reached one. "Shooby do bop?"

"I saw it and I thought of you," she said, grinning. Gajeel snorted again, placing his hand on his face. His shoulders were shaking in laughter. If there was one thing Levy knew for sure about Gajeel, it was that he had terrible taste in music and she used it to her advantage.

"Open yours," he said finally, still smiling widely. Well, not really smiling, but more of a highly amused smirk. Levy opened the box, and gasped at what was inside.

"Made it myself," Gajeel said, almost proudly. "In the shop. Thought you'd like it."

"Oh, I do." Levy lifted out the small thin ring. "Is that real gold?"

"24 karat," he said. Levy slid it on her middle finger. It was exactly the right size, and glimmered against the low light.

"That must have cost a pretty penny," Levy admired. "Wow. Thank you so much, Gajeel."

He cleared his throat. "Well, it might not be the whole present."

"What do you mean?"

He was looking very awkward, and loosened the tie around his throat. Levy felt a tingling in her stomach, and it was entirely the pleasant kind. "If you wanted, maybe, we could...go out for..."

She sensed his distress. "I like sushi," she supplied, and he blinked.

"I like sushi, too," he spoke, and she smirked.

"Yeah, of course you do," she teased. "Come on, let's dance." And she grabbed his hand, leading him out to the dance floor. Gajeel paused for a moment, and tied the bandana around his head before joining her.

Mirajane bit her lip at the adorable display. Those two. It was like Beauty and the Beast all over again.

She also found some entertainment in Alzack and Bisca's gift exchange, which took them a good five minutes due to all the blushing and stuttering. Once they finally did, however – Alzack received a leather cowboy hat and Bisca some very beautiful cowboy boots – they both exclaimed that they loved the other at exactly the same time. They were currently out on the dance floor, Bisca breaking in her boots and Alzack wearing his new hat.

Romeo and Wendy were her next targets, and she was pleased to see it was going rather well. Despite Wendy being legal drinking age, she wasn't exactly used to it and was swaying in her seat. Romeo kept holding her shoulder and fighting off laughter as she blearily told him that she 'liked him as much as a sunny sky on Sunday.' Romeo's response was a peck on the cheek and giving her the present he so painstakingly chose – a beautiful doll with a porcelain face, collector's edition. Wendy was so excited she nearly fell off her chair and threw Romeo his present, an orange cashmere scarf.

After that sickeningly sweet (although Mira loved all the toothaches) display, she saw Juvia and Gray entering the party together with linked arms. "You two are late!" She admonished, greatly distracted by their embrace.

"Sorry Mira, that was my fault," Gray admitted sheepishly. "I was kinda late getting ready."

"Gray-sama has a very impressive present," Juvia said, pointing to the large wrapped box that was bigger than Mira's head. She widened her eyes.

"Actually," Gray shifted his weight. "Now that we're here, Juvia: this is for you."

Mirajane backed away, not letting her eyes leave the two, but allowing them to think they were alone. Juvia gently unwrapped the present, and gasped at what was inside.

It was a geode. "Gray-sama!" She whispered tearfully. "Juvia didn't think you were paying attention."

"Of course I was," he teased, pretending to sound offended. "I just couldn't buy exactly what you wanted in front of you, could I?" She shook her head, and wordlessly handed him his gift, much smaller but also much prettier.

He opened the box, and inside was a fancy snow globe. Gray started in surprise. "Juvia, did you know I collect snow globes?"

She looked startled. "No, Juvia had no idea! Does Gray-sama like it?"

"It's the prettiest one I've ever seen," he said truthfully, examining it. The whole thing was dusted with gold paint flecks. The town inside was not any real place, but an icy fairy village. Gray didn't say it, but oh, it reminded him of his foster mother. She was the one who started him collecting snow globes. She would have loved it.

"Juvia," he said, making her tear her eyes away from the boxed geode. "Um, tomorrow – if you aren't busy, that it – would you like to go out with me? I know Christmas is usually busy for most people..."

Juvia stared at him. "On a date?" she said blankly, too shocked to really come up with a literate response. He flushed.

"Yeah, on a date. That's kind of what it means-"

He didn't get to finish his sentence, because at that moment Juvia launched herself forward and kissed him fiercely. Gray was altogether speechless, but when kissing someone that wasn't too important.

Mirajane squealed in glee. The couple broke apart to stare at her, and she cleared her throat. "Um. Yes. Have a nice date tomorrow!" And she dashed off.

Well, that took care of that quite nicely, she thought, dusting off her hands. Now, there was the next big challenge to conquer – that of her clueless siblings.

She found Elfman and Evergreen arguing in a corner, something about how tall the Christmas tree was supposed to be. Elfman thought it should be taller because it was manlier. Evergreen was adamant that trees, especially Christmas ones, did not need to be manly and therefore his argument was invalid.

Mirajane came to stand beside her brother and cleared her throat. Elfman turned to glare at her, but she had already danced out of the way. He watched her disappear behind a group of chatting teachers with hateful eyes, but didn't say anything with the temperamental woman beside him.

"So," he started, and she stopped her argument mid-sentence.

"Don't interrupt me," she ordered, but he handed her a present and she closed her mouth.

"It's for a good cause," he told her. "Open it."

Inside, wrapped in tissue paper, was a delicate painted statue of a fairy. Evergreen smiled for the first time in weeks. "Oh," she said, eyes starry behind her glasses. "It's beautiful." The she remembered who gave it to her. "I mean – for something so manly, that is."

"Right." Elfman was somewhat amused. Evergreen went a shade of pink.

"Well!" She said in a strangled voice. "It's – that is-" She took a deep breath. "Thank you."

It looked like it was physically painful for her to say it. Rather than say anything else, she shoved him a present unceremoniously. "Here, it's yours."

Elfman took it somewhat gingerly, half expecting a bomb. He wouldn't put it past Evergreen. She was crazy.

But the gift was soft through the paper, and he ripped it open to reveal a black extra-large T-shirt. Letting the shirt fall open, he was beyond amused to see the word 'MAN' printed on the front in white block letters. There was also a brand new shiny silver whistle, and Elfman suddenly remembered how he'd been complaining the other day about how his old whistle was not manly enough.

"Ever," he said, too stunned for words, and she tensed.

"Don't call me that," she snapped back, but unspoken in their words were 'thank you' and 'you're welcome'.

Elfman glanced around to see if Mirajane was watching. She was, although hiding it very well and he leaned a little closer to Evergreen, speaking quietly. "We still on for Friday?"

She didn't look at him as she answered, but there was a smile dancing on her lips. "Yeah."

One day, pretending they weren't dating was going to get old. One day.

Mirajane watched them with a pout. Well, that was boring. Nothing happened! Ah, but then, it was Elfman and Evergreen. She shouldn't have expected any better from them. And she'd had such good luck with the rest of her couples...maybe it was time to check on her little sister.

On her way, she passed Laxus and his girlfriend talking to Makarov, who was drunk, hitting on Laxus' girlfriend and making them both very uncomfortable. She giggled lightly as she passed. There was nothing like embarrassing family to get you in the Christmas cheer.

She found Lisanna and Bixlow sitting together at a table with drinks in their hands; Bixlow a can of beer and Lisanna some fruity concoction. They had apparently announced that they were each other's Secret Santa's and trying to figure out what they got the other.

"Movies?" Lisanna guessed, and Bixlow shook his head fervently.

"No," he argued. "Think; what do girls get for Christmas?"

"...flowers?"

"Close but no cigar!" Bixlow crowed. "Hey, cigars?"

"No!" Lisanna pushed the present towards him. "Just open it already, dummy."

He ripped open the wrappings, and inside sat the pretty tiki doll Lisanna had picked up in Hawaii years earlier. "How did you know I collect these?"

"You do?" She was interested. "Why?"

"I like them," he answered, turning the doll around. "I have five at home...Pappa, Peppe, Pippi, Poppo, and Puppu."

She raised her eyebrows. He caught her look, and said, "What? I was seven, give me a break."

"And you haven't gotten any more since then?" She asked. He shrugged.

"Haven't found any." Holding up the doll, he asked, "What should I call this guy? I'm all out of vowels."

Lisanna got an idea. "Pyppy," she grinned. He blinked.

"Pyppy?"

"Yeah! Y is sometimes a vowel."

He smirked at that, and shoved her something. "Here, this is yours. Don't think it can top a tiki doll named Pyppy, but..."

She opened the box, and upon seeing what was inside had to fight back some random burst of emotion. It was...incredible, a ring that extended over her knuckle so that when she closed her fist it looked like a claw. The whole thing was studded in sparkling rhinestones. "Wow," was all she could manage.

"Like it?" He questioned, leaning back in his seat.

"I love it!" She exclaimed. "Where did you find something like this? How did you even think of it?"

He waggled his eyebrows. "It'll make lunch-time monitoring easier, huh?" He mimed ripping into a student with claws, and she punched him lighting on the chest.

"Shut up, Norman Bates."

"What's with calling me all these horror movie names?" He asked jovially. "Last week I was Michael Myers, and before that I was Jason! I'm sensing a trend here."

"I like horror movies," Lisanna said with a grin. "And you should count yourself lucky you've been promoted to Norman Bates. Psycho is my favourite movie."

"Yeah?" Bixlow tapped his chin. "What would you say to coming over to my place and trying it out on my new DVD player?"

She leaned on her hands, studying him. "Are you asking me on a date?"

He leaned back. "Depends on your answer."

She thought about it for a minute. Then she started tapping her chin, mimicking him from earlier. "Is it Blu-Ray?"

He nodded, and she smiled brightly. "In that case, sure!"

Mirajane gave a silent cheer.

She left to sit at a table by herself, watching the room with interest. So many new couples. Look at her go! So many years of scheming and she got nothing, and now all this! She should have thought of it years ago. Secret Santa. Perfect.

Just then, someone sat down at the table beside her, holding out a gift. "Merry Christmas," said Freed, and Mira looked up at him in surprise. She'd been so busy helping others get together, she forgot she'd been trying to set herself up as well.

"Thank you," she said graciously, opening it. Inside was a combination of flowers and chocolates, some flowers made out of chocolate. She smiled. "How original."

He blushed sweetly. "Bixlow's idea was much worse. It was the best I could come up with."

Mira leaned over and kissed his cheek, causing him to turn a whole new shade of red. "Thank you. I love flowers and chocolates." Pushing his gift towards him, she watched in amusement as he opened it.

His face went white as he opened to first page and saw the autograph. "Mirajane, this is-"

"I've had it for a while," she said, "but I was saving it for Christmas."

"Thank you," he stammered. "I feel like I didn't get you enough now, somehow."

She grinned. "Well, you could always give me the second half of your present."

He looked up blankly. Mira silently thanked Gajeel for the good advice. "You can ask me out on a date."

Freed blanched. "Um," he said nervously. "You...want to? Go on a date with me?" She nodded, and he bit his lip. "I'm not...too geeky for you?"

Mirajane fought the urge to squeal. She did so internally. He was just so cute. Rather than answer with words, she leaned forward and kissed him on the lips. When she pulled away, Freed looked stunned for a moment and then leaned forward himself and kissed her again.

They sat like that for several moments before someone cleared their throat. Mira broke away and glanced up irritatedly. "What?"

It was Natsu. He looked completely oblivious to the moment he just ruined. "Have you two seen Lucy?"

Mirajane started out of her trance. Lucy wasn't here? Come to think of it, she didn't ever see her come in.

Levy came up, apparently having heard their conversation. "I was talking to her before I left," she said worriedly. "She said she wasn't feeling too good. I think she might have stayed home."

"Stayed home?" Natsu growled in frustration. "Why would she do something like that?"

Levy eyes were twinkling. "Why don't you ask her?"

XxX

Lucy gave a violent sneeze, cursing the cold weather outside. And cursing herself for getting a cold on such an important evening. She'd been looking so forward to it, too! Disappointment was forming a cold lump in her chest.

But then, that might have been the cold medicine.

She sneezed again, and the sound almost blocked out the sound of someone knocking on the door. But the knocking was so loud, repetitive and obnoxious, she would have heard and recognized it through anything. "Come in!" She called. "It's open."

Natsu came into her bedroom, pulling off his snow-covered jacket. "You keep your door open when home sick?"

"I was expecting company," she said complacently, although through her stuffed nose it came out a little differently. "You present is over there."

He shrugged. "Open yours first. You need it." And he tossed a small wrapped gift on her bed. "You always get colds at the most important dates."

"I know!" She complained, propping herself up on her pillows. "It's like a curse. I'll probably be sick for my wedding day."

He laughed at that. "You'll stuffing tissues in your dress as you come down the aisle."

Lucy opted to open her present instead of dignifying him with an answer. She couldn't tell if the remark about her wedding was just teasing or something else. She ripped open the gift with ferocity, sniffling as she did so.

Inside was the single cutest set of mittens, earmuffs, and a scarf she had ever seen. Pink, fuzzy, and ridiculously warm, she wrapped her scarf around her shoulders instantly. "Oh, Natsu!"

"So you can fight off the colds," he said. She looked up at him, nose and mouth buried beneath the scarf, hiding the blush staining her cheeks.

"Open yours," she said in a muffled voice. Natsu picked up the small box, popping it open. Inside was a ring made of two dragons coiling around, rubies glittering in their eyes.

"Whoah!" Natsu yelped. "Luce, that's so cool!" He slid the ring on his finger. It was hundred times too big, but he didn't care much, clenching his fist tight. "What'll happen if I punch Ice-brain while wearing this?"

"Don't. And there's more."

Natsu peered into the box, pulling out the second part of the gift. "Luce, this is..."

It was a small brass key. "It's the key to my house," Lucy said. "So you don't have to knock like such a jerk anymore."

He knew the implications behind the gift just as much as she did. He looked at her, and she held his gaze firmly, not looking anywhere else.

"Lucy," he said softly, "can I kiss you?"

She continued to look at him, deep in thought. Finally she spoke. "No."

He started. "No?"

The she came to, and jumped. "No! I mean – just not right now. I mean, I'm sick, and my face is all snotty, and you'll probably catch a cold if you do."

He laughed loudly. Completely ignoring her warnings, he bent over and pressed a chaste kiss to her lips. She held it for a second longer than she should have. He was just so nice and warm...

The she jerked back and sneezed.

Natsu chuckled. "Okay, okay. Come on, let's go get some hot chocolate for you."

"Wha-no! Natsu, I don't wanna get out of bed!"

"Too bad, I might burn down your kitchen if you don't."

"Natsu!"

Wednesday, Dec. 25

Lucy took a deep breath through her nose, stretching in front of the window. Apparently her cold had only been a 24-hour virus, because her sinuses were clear and she felt like a brand-new girl.

Not to mention the super warm scarf, mittens, and earmuffs she wore to bed probably helped. Lucy was anxious to get out in the snow and break them in. "Hey, Natsu? Wanna go sledding today?"

There came a crash from the kitchen. Lucy hurried in, gasping in alarm at Natsu's form slumped over the counter. "Lucy..." he rasped, and her face fell dramatically.

"You have got to be kidding me."

"I'm sick...Luce, help...I'm dying..."

"You idiot."

XxX

Lucy will now have to deal with Natsu and the man-cold.

*Geodes, of you don't know what they are, are the best things on the whole planet.

*My favourite scene in Easy A. "Can I kiss you right now?" "...no."

Merry Christmas everyone! And happy other-holidays –you-may-celebrate! I love you all! Have a wonderful day and a wonderful year to follow!