The annual family Christmas party had turned out rather festive. As far as Mei's untrained eyes could tell.
Mei finished her work a day early so she could dedicate her time to helping Yuzu and their mother cook and prepare for what they promised would be the best Christmas party yet. Since Mei had no frame of reference, the bar was rather low, but she took their word for it. Even looked forward to it. This was, after all, her first time actually attending this so-called legendary Christmas with her new family. Her first Christmas spent with Yuzu where her memories wouldn't be bitter with regret.
The women in her life took to the task with as much enthusiasm as Mei could imagine and more. From the moment she woke up she was dragged out of bed by an already hyper Yuzu who was dressed in a reindeer costume (Mei had no idea where this costume came from). A Santa hat was placed atop Mei's head like a ceremonial headpiece and breakfast was pancakes with extra whip cream formed into the shape of a beard. Yuzu seemed surprised when Mei asked her what it was supposed to be.
After that, the Christmas Eve day was a blur of activity. Yuzu had insisted that she had perfected her cake recipe, but it still took her two tries to bake something resembling a cake. Mei even helped decorate it, even though it became apparent she didn't have an eye for it. Ume took lots of pictures of them together. "For a Christmas card!" she had said. Mei didn't think she'd ever had her picture taken so much since their wedding day. But Yuzu would pull her close with that sparkling smile of hers and Mei didn't mind it so much. For today, at least.
After all the music, the decorating, and eating so much until Mei was filled to the brim, their mother eventually passed out after insisting that they stay up till midnight to greet Santa. Mei doubted she could last until midnight as well, but she persevered to stretch this Christmas eve out with Yuzu. They ended up on the couch, snuggled up and warm while cheesy Christmas music played its merry notes to the couple. Yuzu had her head on Mei's shoulder and her legs draped over Mei's own. Mei let her fingers delicately comb through her blonde hair. The little sighs of happiness that escaped Yuzu's lips tickled at Mei's neck and collarbones.
"Did you have fun today, Mei?" Yuzu asked as she ran her thumb over Mei's knuckles and over the ring she had placed there.
"Yes," Mei answered honestly.
"The best Christmas party ever?"
"Yes. Considering it was the only Christmas party I've ever been to."
"Well, the next one is going to be even better!"
"I look forward to it then."
Another happy little sigh. Mei also leaned her head to press her lips to Yuzu's forehead. The reminders that a future existed for them still seemed like a small miracle. If this was the appropriate feeling that the holiday was intended to produce, then it must've been Christmas all the time when she was with her wife. That was the only logical explanation.
The atmosphere was startled when Yuzu gave a kick as she remembered something important. "Oh! I almost forgot!" she jumped off of Mei, jingling rather loudly with her hurried movements. Mei sighed and waited until Yuzu emerged from the kitchen a few moments later with a hefty plate of cookies and a glass of milk.
"Yuzu… we can't eat all of that this late," Mei warned with narrowed eyes. She still felt full from the giant Christmas feast Yuzu and mother had prepared earlier. Yuzu tutted at Mei.
"This isn't for us. It's for Santa!"
Mei couldn't summon an appropriate reaction beyond a confused blink and a "What?"
"Oh c'mon Mei! Don't tell me you've never left cookies out for Santa before?" Yuzu plopped herself down on the couch next to Mei, brimming with cheer as Mei continued to look upon her with a dubious expression.
"I didn't think anyone actually did that."
And when Yuzu looked at her next, her innocent face sparkling more than the Christmas tree itself, she replied with, "Then what would Santa eat while he's working?"
Mei opened her mouth and then closed it. Was Yuzu messing with her? Or was there a possibility that Yuzu genuinely believed in Santa Clause? And if so, did Mei want to be the one to break it to her? To shatter such a pure idea? To be the harbinger of death to Yuzu's child-like ideals? To diminish that iridescent light that illuminated Yuzu's soul?
"Santa will eat nothing since he doesn't exist." She just couldn't help herself.
"I-I know that!" Yuzu shot back, indignant that Mei would utter such blasphemous rhetoric on Christmas. She did not want to admit that she had believed in Santa for a very long time as a child up until middle school. "It's just a tradition!"
"For a moment, I wondered if I was the one breaking the news to you." Mei was eyeing the cookies now. If they weren't sealed overnight they would go stale, and the milk would spoil. Eating them now was the only answer to saving them.
"What, like you've never believed in Santa?" Yuzu asked to direct the conversation away from herself.
"My grandfather was always honest about where the presents came from." Mei reached for a cookie. Yuzu lightly smacked her hand away in disbelief.
"You mean you've NEVER believed in Santa? Never? Never ever?"
Mei narrowed her eyes at being denied cookies. "No."
Yuzu gasped like she was trying to suck all the air in the room straight into her lungs.
"Santa has never done anything for me." Mei shrugged. Yuzu was still gasping.
"That is so sad!"
"It's not that big of a deal. I never wanted for anything as a child."
"But! But-!" Suddenly Yuzu's eyes widened and a light bulb turned on above her head. Literally, one of the many Christmas lights decorating the apartment flickered off and on again brighter than before. Yuzu paused in whatever she was going to say, looking thoughtful. Mei raised a brow at this. Yuzu hatching a scheme was rarely a wise idea.
"Hm?" Yuzu was distracted.
"Don't do whatever it is you're thinking of doing."
Yuzu scoffed a little too hard. "I'm not- I'm not thinking anything!"
Mei laid her hand on Yuzu's knee. "Don't."
Yuzu blushed. "I! I'm not! Don't you trust me?"
"Should I trust you?"
"I'm not thinking anything! I promise!" Yuzu insisted, taking Mei's hand.
The only thing that broke through Mei's powerful glare was a yawn that came over her. It was hard for her to stay up past her usual bedtime. "Okay…" Mei let go, closing her eyes and leaning on Yuzu's shoulder, letting her scent enveloped her in a warm cocoon.
Yuzu tried her best not to vibrate underneath Mei, she was so excited. After Mei's breathing evened out, Yuzu carefully pulled out her phone and started typing out a very important message.
'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a spouse.
The stockings were hung on the counter with care,
For Yuzu, Mei, mother, and even the bear.
A Mei was nestled all snug on the couch,
Unaware that her wife she was without;
Content with her bear and food in her belly,
Her brain finally settled, her heart full aplenty;
When just in the kitchen there arose such a clatter,
Her eyes sprang wide to see what's the matter.
To and fro through the room her eyes did flash,
Perhaps the sound was her own clumsy lass?
"Yuzu?" the brave maiden did call;
Her voice rang its way like bells down the hall.
When what to her wondering eyes did appear,
But a looming figure standing in fear;
Frozen mid-jingle with a hat and a sack,
Stood a great bear in the kitchen, eating a snack;
Crumbling cookies littered the floor,
As the seconds ticked by, one, two, three, and four.
Mei pondered if the police should be called,
When the bear made a signal as if to say halt.
With a twinkle in its eye, it opened its sack,
Much like a peddler opening a pack.
Goodies and foodies the sack did reveal,
Making Mei's mind turn round like a wheel;
Red adorned the bear from its head to its feet,
While her heart and her head did furiously compete.
The bear waited as it all seemed to click-
Surely, this couldn't be the one St. Nick?
"Why are you here?" she asked for the truth,
With a cant of its head, the answer was smooth-
Not with mere words but it took to its work,
Filling the stockings while Mei only lurked.
Candy for Yuzu and tequila for mother;
When the bear did danced the room filled with color!
Her eyes went wide when a small toy appeared,
Nestled within paws, eyes filled with cheer.
A small stuffed bear, mouth twirled up like a bow,
Fur white as snow and eyes dark as coal;
It was chubby with stuffing, ready for cuddles,
So winsome Mei's heart did melt to a puddle!
She received it along with a pat to her head,
A glass of cold water and a push back to bed.
St. Nick's touch was warm and familiar,
Mei smiled to herself and her face did glimmer;
She knew in her heart she had nothing to dread,
"Thank you, Santa," to the bear she said.
"But I have everything I want right under this roof,
I never needed you before and I want no proof.
If you must leave a gift, give to my wife,
No gift I could give would ever suffice."
Adoration filled her chest with earnest,
As thoughts of Yuzu's endeavors surfaced.
St. Nicholas, so soft and so knowing,
Gave a nod of their head, a plan forming.
With a twirl of magic and fondness imbued,
From the bag a shiny red bow they withdrew.
St. Nick placed it over her heart in her confusion,
But the love with the act was no illusion.
With a wave of their paw, Santa went for the door-
Tripped on their way and landed on the floor!
Nearly lost their head before they sprang up,
And away they flew, exit quite abrupt!
But Mei heard them exclaim as they ducked out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"
The distinct sound of a crash jolted Mei back to consciousness. It was followed by sounds of shushing before it went back to calmness. Lingering in dreamland, Mei took a quick glance around to make sure Santa Clause wasn't still lurking around. At the thought of something so silly, she shook her head. Her vision of St. Nick had obviously been a dream invited in by her conversation with Yuzu. Though she found it odd that they were back in their room when she remembered falling asleep on the couch?
She didn't wonder for long since her attention was snagged by the arms wrapped around her waist. Her personal body heater was doing its job in the finest way possible. Pressed against her back so that the tops of her thighs touched the back of Mei's own thighs. Her warmth was even better in the winter season. Lured by the even breaths against the back of her neck, Mei carefully rolled over, not wanting to wake her wife. Since she had nowhere to be and no work waiting for her, Mei didn't feel the need to move from their little sanctuary. The only thing calling her was the coziness of her wife's embrace. She didn't indulge in it often enough, honestly. So when she did it was all the sweeter. However, while she was making herself comfortable, she noticed something crinkling against her shirt. A glance downward revealed a shiny red bow stuck on a spot above her heart.
She had to do a double-take, surprised to see it sitting there like it had every right to be there. In the span of a moment, her thoughts raced, trying to think back on what she remembered from her supposed dream. Which apparently wasn't a dream? Even though she dreamed about... Santa Clause. As a bear.
Looking for answers, her eyes were drawn to Yuzu's sleeping face. Her innocent face framed by her messy bed hair somehow provided the answer Mei sought after. A warm smile playing on her lips, Mei peeled off the shiny red bow from her shirt and placed it against Yuzu's chest instead. It looked perfect there.
The sensation of Mei making herself more comfortable against Yuzu must've woken her up. No sooner than her green eyes found Mei's face were they immediately crinkling in adoration.
"Good morning," Mei whispered, softer than the light coming in through the window.
"Heya back," Yuzu spoke with that morning huskiness that somehow made Mei's gaze drop to her lips. It was a little difficult to focus when the atmosphere felt like cotton candy. Something that Mei had never had, but it somehow felt apt for what she was feeling.
"I had an odd dream," Mei revealed. That seemed to make Yuzu perk up a little more awake before she tried to hide it poorly.
"Oh? A weird dream? That's unusual for you," Yuzu said, playing at being interested and uninvested at the same time. Oh, how bad of an actor she was. Especially when her fidgetiness was fully on display for Mei to see. And how she was just bursting with affection at the way Yuzu made an effort to hide her smile with an overly serious look on her face. Yuzu's awkwardness canceled out any awkwardness Mei might've felt during an intimate moment such as this, giving her a boost of confidence.
"Mm," Mei ran her hand up and down Yuzu's forearm, giving away the little jolts of excitement running through Yuzu as if she could barely contain the energized bunny beating away inside her. She was too adorable. Mei had to school her features to remain dry of emotion. "Yes, I had a dream that someone broke into the apartment."
"Wh-what?" Yuzu laughed nervously. "Surely no one actually broke in..?"
"I very nearly contacted the police department."
Yuzu was squirming, looking more skittish than excited at this point. "O-oh?"
"It happened sometime around midnight," Mei continued. "And it certainly gave me quite a fright."
"Are you… are you rhyming?" Yuzu whispered in confusion.
"Nothing," Yuzu held back an even bigger grin. But it fell slightly as her gaze drifted to the bedsheets, where she picked off some imaginary lint. "Was it… a bad dream, then?" Yuzu asked lightly, though her body language was clearly on edge. In response, Mei sidled up to seal her lips softly over Yuzu's.
"It was a wonderful dream," she reassured with a hand cradling the back of Yuzu's neck. She loved how she could read Yuzu with her palms, feel her relax and unwind against her. "Thank you."
"I didn't do anything. It was all Santa!" Yuzu giggled.
"I didn't mention Santa Clause."
"R-Right, I was guessing!" Mei couldn't help but admire the way she kept up the charade even when her scheme had been uncovered. Mei supposed that was just another aspect of Christmas she would have to get used to.
"Also, when did this get on me?" Yuzu gestured to the shiny red bow sitting on her chest with her brows furrowed. Mei figured that question was better answered with actions as she got to unwrapping her favorite present this year.
Her new bright white bear had joined the other two atop the mantle, happy as could be in its new home.
By the time the two newlyweds emerged from their room, Mei was nearly startled out of her skin a second time when cheers of "Merry Christmas!" assaulted her ears. Her eyes were then assaulted by the sight of her mother and father dressed in the most ridiculous Santa costumes. Complete with sagging beards and fake guts. He awkwardly smiled as her mother made jazz hands while grinning proudly at her daughters.
Mei nearly turned around to go back to the safety of their bed. Yuzu grasping her by the shoulders and pulling her back around with a laugh was the only thing that made her stay.
"Wow, so many Santas!" Yuzu sounded like she was two seconds away from cackling at the sorry sight of Shou sulking in his much too baggy costume.
"Yes! And we brought lots of gifts!" Ume said with cheer, hugging her husband around the waist. They were radiating happiness.
Fingers gently rubbed at Mei's shoulders. "Yuzu."
"Didn't I warn you not to do whatever it was you were thinking of doing last night?"
"I dunno what you're talking about! It's all Santa's doing!" Yuzu laughed nervously. Mei sighed, though she felt the beginnings of a smile all the way down her chest. Yuzu was never good at following directions, but that was why she loved her. Grasping her wife's hand in a forgiving gesture, Mei tugged Yuzu towards the mountain of presents behind their parents. Even if Yuzu had already given her the best present she could ask for.
Somehow, her sensitive ears caught wind the sound of sleigh bells about. When she turned to look, past the curtain of new snow, a streak in the sky with a sleigh in tow. It disappeared faster than the down of a thistle, and as Mei wondered, Yuzu gave a whistle.
"Mei, open this one first!" Yuzu was practically ready to burst.
Doused in Christmas spirit, Mei dove in headfirst.