A/N: Instead of studying for midterms, I wrote this little piece to celebrate Ukyo's birthday. Yeah, I'm a bad student, but when inspiration and motivation call, its impossible to ignore them. Anyway, I hope you all enjoy reading this.


Happy Birthday, Ukyo!


"Thank you again for dinner; it was so delicious!" Sitting across from his girlfriend at the small table in his apartment, Ukyo beamed lovingly at her. She had worked so hard to make his birthday special that year – completing the household chores the day before, serving him breakfast in bed that morning before he went off to work, and preparing a home cooked dinner of all the foods they enjoyed eating together. But even if she hadn't done all of those things for him, it still would have been the best birthday of all because he was sharing it with her – something he had wholeheartedly believed would never be possible.

She smiled back at him from her chair – a twinkling of laughter lighting up her eyes. "You've said that three times already; it sounds like you're trying to convince yourself that it was really delicious. You can tell me if you didn't like it, you know. I won't be mad." Her words, just like her smile, were cheerful, and there was no reason to believe that she was being serious.

All the same, Ukyo panicked. Deep down he knew that she was just playfully teasing him, but because it was her, he was quick to react – bringing his hands down harder on the table than he meant to and rattling the candles between them so that the flames almost leapt around in a haphazard dance. "That's not it at all!" he was adamant to insist, "Everything you cook is delicious! It's just that because it's today, and you and I are here together – a miracle I thought I'd never see—" He had to cut himself off as tears began pooling in his eyes and a sob left him momentarily speechless. "It's just that I…and you…and…Ah, it's no use! How can I even begin to explain how perfect this is!?"

Her breath caught in her throat when the firelight began to flicker and waver – threatening to jump down from the top of the candle to the table cloth. Yes, she had intended for Ukyo's birthday to be memorable, but setting his apartment on fire was not quite the way she had planned for him to remember it. Luckily, she wouldn't have to call the fire department, and she let out a slow, inaudible sigh as her heartbeat returned to normal. "I understand," she softly assured him, reaching across to him and linking her fingers with his. "Maybe I don't exactly know all that you've had to endure, and as much as I'd like to, I probably never will, but that's why I had to make this day perfect for you. You deserve perfection."

"And I have perfection," he replied – finally having regained control of his composure and giving her hands a little squeeze. "Every day with you by my side is perfect."

In the darkness, with nothing but the candle's light illuminating their faces, they gazed fondly into each other's eyes –drawing closer and closer until their mouths were centimeters from touching.

"Ukyo."

The breath in which his name was delicately whispered was warm and tickled his lips – intensifying his desire to dissolve the little distance still between them. But her words were precious to him, and he prompted her to continue. "Yes?"

In the next moment, she pulled away from him and picked up an envelope that she had laid atop the box sitting on the floor beside her. "Would you like to open your presents now?"

"Uh…" For a few bewildering seconds, he stared at her with a perplexed expression on his face before comprehending what she had just done to him. He blushed pink and then smiled sheepishly at her, "Yes. I'd like that very much."

"This is from the Meido no Hitsuji staff – or rather, Shin-kun, Toma-oniichan, Ikki-san and Kent-san." She passed him the cream colored envelope with Ukyo's name scrolled on it in a script she had assumed was Ikki's handwriting. Of the four, she had always liked Ikki's writing style best; there was a gentle and almost feminine touch to the way he wrote. "They wouldn't tell me what's in their note, so I hope they behaved themselves," she said as she watched him carefully break the seal.

There were two simple lines written out on the page; the first filled him with joy as he read that they were reluctantly giving their blessing for his relationship with her. The second statement gave him chills when he saw that they threatened to revoke that very blessing if he ever shared with her the content of that letter. To that day, he had not told her about the continuous shots of habanera sauce in his coffee, or about any of the other strange things with which they spiced his food and drink. It had never even crossed his mind to divulge that information to her, but even more so, he was determined to keep it hidden from her now.

"What does it say?" she asked. She was leaning forward again and trying to steal a glimpse of their birthday message to him.

"Oh, nothing!" he exclaimed, quickly folding up the paper and clumsily shoving it back into the envelope. "Just the normal greetings and well wishes you would give on someone's birthday." He laughed awkwardly and prayed that the unconvinced look she was giving him was just his imagination. "So," he tried, clearing his throat, "May I open my other gift now?"

"You mean the one from me?"

"Yes, that one," he affirmed, turning his eyes on the prominently decorated package by her chair.

She rose from her seat and hoisted his present into her arms – bringing it around the table to where he was sitting. After setting it down in front of him, she rubbed her arms and laughed when he gave her a questioning look. "I'm fine. It was just a little heavy is all."

"You didn't have to move it then. I could have come around to you."

But she shook her head and remained standing at his side. "Open it," she urged him, placing his hands on the box.

Carefully, his fingers searched for the folds in the wrapping paper – expertly working the tape off of it and folding it back to reveal another layer of colorful wrapping paper.

"We'll be here all night if you open it like that," she helpfully pointed out.

He glanced up from his work to catch the traces of a smile playing on her lips. "Ah, how many times did you wrap it?" He was curious.

Unable to suppress her laughter, an even wider smile worked its way onto her face. "I can't remember," she admitted, taking advantage of his distraction and using her fingernails to tear a rip into the many layers of paper.

He snatched her hand up and pouted; all the hard work he had put into trying to preserve the wrapping paper she had used to so lovingly decorate his gift was wasted. On the other hand, he could now tear into it like a five year old on his birthday excited to see what he had been bought.

Except, he soon discovered, it wouldn't quite be that easy because inside of the first box was a smaller and equally plain box. "Really?" he said, watching as she hid her smile behind her hand.

"At least I didn't wrap that one?" she laughingly offered.

His amusement matched hers, and he agreed, "Yes, at least there's that." But the reason why she had taken such pain-staking measures to wrap his gift was becoming evident as the undeniable aroma of a mixture of coffee beans floated up from the box. And once he had pushed back the cardboard flaps, he was greeted with an assortment of coffees from around the world – several of which he could immediately recognize.

In a fluid motion, he reached up and pulled her to him – pressing a quick kiss to her mouth. "Thank you," he said against her lips. "I love my gift."

"I was hoping you would," she quietly confessed. "In the beginning, I had a hard time trying to decide what to get you. The obvious choice was something related to photography, but because it was obvious, I knew I had to choose something else." She adjusted herself in his arms so that she was comfortably leaning against him and looking up into his eyes. "I tried to remember all the different places you've lived. And then there was that day in my apartment when you told me you prefer coffee over tea. When I put those two things together, the choice was even more obvious than photography, but at the same time, I knew you wouldn't expect it. So with Tenchou's and Kent-san's help, I imported as much coffee as I could – hoping that I would at least hit on a few of your favorites."

As he listened to her explanation, Ukyo could feel the tears rushing back into his eyes; to think that she had taken such careful consideration when choosing something for him made him so happy. This only reaffirmed for him how much they really loved each other. And she had even been clever enough to connect two seemingly separate instances to come up with that idea.

He had absently moved his hand up to her face and began tenderly caressing her cheek. "Thank you," he whispered again, dropping another kiss on her lips. "Thank you so much. I'm so happy."

She could hear the telltale signs of tears in his voice as he continued to thank her, and mimicking him, she softly touched his face. "Hey, do you want to unwrap the second part of your gift?" she asked in a low voice.

"There's more?" He seemed surprised at this; what else could she possibly have to give him?

Nodding, she forced herself up and out of his arms – fixing the wrinkles in her clothing as she began to walk toward his room. When he didn't follow after her, she turned back to see his confusion. "Are you coming?"

"It's in there?" he asked, hesitantly rising to his feet.

"Yes." Her smile was dazzling, and he could tell she was up to something. "It's in your double bed, in fact."

To his overwhelming mortification, it seemed she hadn't forgotten about that incident in the store.

Lingering in the doorframe, she waited a little longer, but when he still didn't move, she spoke to him in an enticing and coaxing voice – pushing her hair away from her face and off of her shoulders. "Come on, Ukyo. This gift is waiting to be unwrapped."

Standing in mute embarrassment, he watched her vanish into the darkness of his bedroom after those words. A brilliant shade of red stained his cheeks, and he had to turn his back on the inviting open door as he composed himself and blew out the candles in preparation for the long night that lay ahead of him.