[personal profile] aethernity posting in [community profile] toku_holidays
Title of the work: Counting Down to Mistletoe
Rating of the work: PG
Recipient of the work: kazuraba_kouta
Series the work is for: Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger
Spoiler warnings: Episode 33 content mentioned, but nothing much else!
Any warnings/kinks/advertisements: None!

Notes: Happy Holidays, kazuraba_kouta! I hope you enjoy the fic!


He steps into the Spirit Base to find a Christmas tree already set up, and Utsusemimaru poking at the red plastic berries on one of the wreaths hanging on the wall. Fairy lights sparkle above them, a string of little stars lining the walls of the base. Someone’s taken the liberty of hanging mistletoe over the table, and as Souji stares at the white berries, the most likely origin of the mistletoe claps him on the back. Ian ignores Souji’s unimpressed look and nudges him toward the table. Deciding he’d rather avoid kisses for now, Souji thwacks Ian’s arm with his sword.

Ten days left to Christmas, and the team is already set.

Pushing past Ian, Souji reaches the Christmas tree. Minityra hops around King as he hangs a red tyrannosaurus ornament on a branch, just between two silver tinsel balls. Amy is nowhere to be seen - probably off at another dinner, Souji thinks. Status means obligations, and Amy had been whisked off from the previous day’s team lunch by a less-than-pleased Gentle on account of a high-society event. Souji can almost see her, in a beautiful gown and with immaculately coiffed hair, seated at a table full of society’s elites, all chatting, laughing, making important connections to stay afloat.

If the text message he’d received at quarter-to-midnight was any indication, it bored her out of her mind.

Nossan appears at the entrance, a box full of baubles and streamers and other assorted trinkets in his arms. “Coming through! Out of the way!” He breezes past Ian and King towards the fountain at the back, setting the box down beside the stone basin. A bit of rummaging yields two fat plaster cherubs, their little fingers plucking at indistinct plaster strings. Souji just stares as Nossan holds them up next to the stone dinosaur head. “How’s this?”

It looks perfect, Souji thinks. Odd, of course, with two trumpeting cherubs heralding a stone tyrannosaurus, but still just right. He opens his mouth to answer, but never gets the chance to - King and Ian elbow their way past him, and Souji winces, glaring at their backs. He never gets an apology, as the two promptly start giving Nossan placement tips.

“A bit forward! That’s great!”
“You kidding? It looks like the fountain’s going to eat the two cherubs. Further apart, and further back!”
“Come on, if you turn it this way, it looks like they’re trumpeting the dino’s arrival! Like so, see?”
“Since when were you the legitimate authority on decorating? Just have them face each other, and- be careful, damnit, those things are fragile!”

Christmas time is in the air again, and Souji can’t help but look forward to spending the holidays with the team.

-----

“Hey, Souji!” He looks up from the book in his hands to see Amy at the entrance of the base, a small box in hand. “Bought your gifts yet?”

“Yeah. You? What are you getting for everyone?”

“Not telling you most of them, but lemme show you Ucchi's!” Amy grins at him and sets the box down at the table. The box is unassuming, plain white cardboard not emblazoned with any picture or logo, and without any text at all. Souji watches as Amy opens it and takes out a snow globe, placing it on the table with a triumphant trill of ‘ta-da!’. It takes him a while to realise exactly how it is different from most others, and when he does, he is stunned speechless.

The snow globe itself looks amazing, sitting atop a base that looks as if someone miniaturised a rocky mountain face. The miniature inside, however, takes his breath away - from the straws on the thatched roof to the wooden frame of the shoji, every detail of the miniature is crafted to perfection. The side of the house is painted with the beautiful ash-brown-black-white of aged untreated wood, with all its planks distinct and unique; the pair of geta neatly placed at the entrance of the house bears frayed straps and spots of the dark grey discolouration of wear; even the figure kneeling in the house, just barely visible through the open shoji panels, has distinct fingers and facial features and folds on its hakama. Souji can barely imagine the sheer amount of work needed for it. He can hardly even think of any craftsman even capable of crafting something so small, so minutely.

It’s Amy, though. Of course she’d have found someone who could, and it goes without saying that she would have had only the best.

“What do you think? Awesome?” Souji tears his eyes away from the snow globe and sees Amy beaming at him, waiting for an answer. He smiles, tucking the globe back into the box between folds of bubble wrap. “It’s a great gift for Ucchi. I think he’ll love it.” She grins and nudges the box aside, leaning forward to prop her head on her left hand. “So, trade. What are you getting for Ucchi?” Souji shrugs - he hadn’t pulled out all the stops the way she had. His most expensive gift so far --King’s-- was settled only after winning fifteen dollars each off Ian and Nossan in a competition for most-mooks-killed just the day before. A reservation for lunch at the twenty-seventh at Luxe Dining Hapuna, all-you-can-eat, no time limit imposed. Souji’s sure King will enjoy that.

As for the rest, Souji needs to go shopping.

“Don’t just shrug, tell me! What are you getting for Ucchi?” Amy nudges him in the ribs. It hurts. Rubbing the now-sore spot, Souji frowns. “I was thinking of a book of modern poetry, and maybe one on history. He’d probably appreciate the history of the Shinsengumi, and he mentioned wanting to read something that wasn’t a haiku for once.” Amy nods thoughtfully. Souji brings up the titles on his Mobuckle, turning it towards Amy. She waves him away, though, and asks instead “And what are you getting for Ian?”

Well, tricky question.

Souji tries to brush her off with a noncommittal shrug and a mutter of “You said trade, I traded. Not saying anymore.” Judging by the way Amy laughs, though, she knows his reason for refusing, and her all-too-cheerful wave and call of “Happy shopping!” as he leaves the Spirit Base is more than enough for him to know his game is up.

Souji honestly has no clue what to get Ian.

-----

Gift-wrapped books in his bag, Souji wanders out of Kinokuniya and into Shinjuku. A bit of walking yields a few surprising finds - a replica Oscar statuette with ‘Awesome Friend’ that he buys right away for Amy, a surprisingly empty ramen house with the best beef broth he’s had in ages (he makes a mental note to haul Ian down here sometime), and a few girls he vaguely remembers having seen around Ian once or twice. He ducks into a shop for kendo accessories and ends up spending another forty-five minutes chatting with the owner over a handsome black-and-grey sageo. The owner sees him out with a cheerful wave and a call of ‘bring your father next time, I’ll give you a discount!’. Souji’s headed for the train station when something on a display shelf two shops ahead catches his eye.

The tablet computer case sits on a revolving display stand, smooth black leather with only a small steel buckle adorning it at the flap. Souji thinks of Ian, idly fiddling with the buckle as he pores over whatever bad news his research has yielded this time. A small smile tugs at the corners of his mouth, but it disappears almost as quickly as it came. No, Souji thinks, not this one. Practical, perhaps, aesthetically pleasing, perhaps, suited for Ian, definitely. Yet, not the perfect present.

He turns around and continues walking. Seven days to Christmas - he has a fair amount of time to find that perfect present. Another two days of shopping, he thinks, and he'll have everything set.

-----

Five days to Christmas, and Souji’s getting desperate.

He prods moodily at the scoop of vanilla ice-cream floating at the top of his drink, watching it bob back up to the surface time and again, little white swirls of vanilla curling off into the bright green beverage. The Mobuckle on the table beeps with that familiar message tone for the umpteenth time in two minutes, and Souji stares at it before turning his gaze upon its owner.

Ian grins at him, and shrugs. "Not quite my fault the ladies like me, you know." Souji just rolls his eyes at him. When the tinny switch-off fanfare reaches his ears, there is a flash of gratitude that is quickly replaced by a twinge of regret. Souji had heard, from the man himself and from others, about why Ian took ladies out on dates and dinners and parties. He had been there too, when Ian had told the team; he'd heard from Ucchi and Erika later that evening too, and he’d heard it from Ian himself in the quiet of the base, when it was just the two of them. Yet he can never stop the flash of irritation every time Ian's phone buzzes, or every time Ian steps into base, the saccharine stench of lab-created gardenias and lilies-of-the-valley lingering on his jacket, drowning out his usual faint scent of...him.

Ian leans back in his chair, a familiar smirk on his face, and begins, "So." As it stands, Souji never likes whatever proposal usually follows, and he is proven right when the suggestion comes. "Since you said no roses, I'll let you pick the flowers for your Christmas bouquet. Pick three?" Souji looks up mid-sip to shoot Ian a death glare, but Ian just laughs and reaches forward to pat him on the head. Souji slaps away the hand just as it brushes his hair.

"No flowers. No flowers at all." Ian laughs, and Souji glares at him a little harder. It doesn't work. (It never does, but Souji knows he won't have to explain any bouquets of flowers away on Christmas.)

Right, Christmas. Ian's gift.

Thankfully, though, the conversation moves away from the upcoming celebration and to everything else. Souji's finals, Ian's meetings with the grant board and researchers' guild, and King and Amy ("Like I said, birds of a very dense feath- ow!"). Souji's mind is still elsewhere, though, and the fact that every attempt to find or even think of a suitable present for Ian comes up blank frustrates him to no end. If Ian's noticed, he pretends otherwise, except for the thinly-veiled hints at chocolate or a new weekly diary - all ideas that Souji already filed as last resorts.

He doesn't get much more time to think then, because their Mobuckles blare the incoming-call tune at the same ungodly volume at the same time, startling a waiter who barely manages to hold on to his tray of caramel frappes. By the time Souji gets any time to himself about three hours, two Debo Monsters and a few bruises later, he's too sore and too tired to even think about shopping, much less actually go out.

Saturday, prime shopping time, disappears just like that.

------

Tuesday, two days before Christmas.

The streets of Ikebukuro are packed with people, tourists and locals alike. Souji wanders down the lanes, not too sure where he intends to go. He's walked through Ginza, Iidabashi, Shinjuku, and almost all of Tokyo's shopping districts, but all of them have wound up as mildly disappointing trips. (Only mildly - the trip to Iidabashi saw him stumble upon a manjuu shop he hadn't known was there, and recommending that place to Amy for her Christmas dinner desserts had earned him a free lunch since "the guests loved the desserts, and nothing's better than compliments after dinner!") Two days to Christmas, and he has almost all the presents down.

Almost.

Even in the little novelty shops, he sees mostly the same things - leather bracelets (too casual a present), tablet computer cases (too practical), jackets (which he knows Ian has a dozen of already), and tiny keychains that come in pairs (too colourful, too cheesy, too tacky, all of them). Two-o'-clock turns to four, then six, and even as Souji reaches the last stretch of one-round-around-the-place, still he comes up blank.

It's when Souji (somewhat sadly, he swears - only somewhat) traipses to the bookstore to get Ian the leather planner that he passes by a shop he swears wasn't there earlier, and an item in the walkway display shelf catches his eye. He spends a full five minutes staring at the item, watching the way the display light glints off its edges, and then slips into the shop.

"Hello and welcome! Looking for something?" Souji points the item out, and waits. It is brought in front of him, box and all, and Souji finds his breath taken away in an instant. Up close, they're almost better than they were in the display window - he traces the outline of the first of the pair, feeling the smooth curve of metal against his fingertip.

"Alloy metal, fairly durable, and easy to shape. Charming pair, isn't it?" The shopkeeper smiles, and Souji can only nod in response. This is it, he knows. This is the last present on his list.

"I'll take a pair like this, thanks." The shopkeeper nods and turns to get it ready, polishing the metal surface, getting out a new box and a bag, and slipping in a certificate of authenticity. As he hands Souji the bag, he grins almost conspiratorially. "Friend, colleague, or lover? You can tell me, I keep secrets." Souji laughs, and passes the shopkeeper the money. "A bit of everything."

Six minutes later, he walks out holding a small bag with a palm-sized box inside, a cheery shopkeeper waving him goodbye. The bag feel almost heavy in his hand with how important it is.

He's found the perfect present, and in time, too. That's all that really matters.

----

Christmas, and Souji can hardly wait.

He steps into base to find enough food to feed a small army laid out on the table, some of the chairs, and wherever there is space. A log cake sits in the centre of the table, six intricately-designed Kyoryugers miniatures sitting atop it. The mistletoe has been shifted to the corridor leading to the back rooms, he notes, and there are neat piles of colour-coded presents under the tree. He's barely straightened up from leaving his own contribution there when King hauls him over to the corner where Ucchi is beating Ian and Nossan flat in poker, despite clearly having no clue why. When Ian's four-of-a-kind is beaten by a straight flush, King bear-hugs Ucchi in excitement, and Souji almost feels bad for Ian when he sees the look on Ian's face as yet another five thousand yen are handed over to the King-Ucchi team.

He wanders away from the game to grab a bit of ham and turkey, and leans against the wall next to the fountain where Amy is, content to watch the rest of the team play poker while Torin prods idly at the winged cherubs hanging from the ceiling. Two rounds of poker and another five thousand yen later, Ian gets up. Amy quietly excuses herself, heading over to take Ian’s place in the round. Ian’s taking the long way round, Souji realises - instead of walking past Amy, he heads for the tree, bending down to pick up something from underneath it.

Oh.

He shifts slightly to his right to make space for Ian, who slips into the space Amy occupied just moments earlier. He doesn’t look - even as Ian leans against the stone wall next to him, fingers brushing his slightly, Souji keeps his eyes on the poker game. He knows, he would know if Ian is next to him anytime - that faint scent of wood and the forest and something he can never quite place. The seconds pass, and Souji waits - Ian wants to make the first move, he knows. Ian always does.

Souji turns to look as Ian takes his hand, and gets a closer look at the object in Ian’s as he does so. A simple black box, tied with green satin. Ian holds it out to Souji, smile gentle and almost affectionate. Just like the way it always is when it's just the two of them on the couch in Ian's apartment, Souji thinks. He takes the box from Ian, acutely aware that his hands are trembling slightly from anticipation.

"Go on, open it. No tricks, I promise." Souji tugs slightly at the end of the ribbon, and it slips smoothly out of the knot. Opening the box, he sees a watch, luminous green on unassuming black. The watch face is simple,with no numbers or markings or ticking second hand - just two bright green bars on a black background, the end of the longer barely touching the edges of the thin green circle. Souji runs his fingers along the edges, tracing the straps with his finger. The resin is smooth to the touch, flexible and responsive to even the slightest nudge. Already he likes the gift, and knows he'll end up wearing it almost twenty-four hours a day. He looks up at Ian, but his tongue fails just as he needs it. What was meant to be it's beautiful thank you so much simply has him stand there speechless.

Ian laughs, slipping the watch out of the box. "I thought it'd look good on you, and that you'd like it. Put it on?" Souji nods, and lets Ian fasten the buckle around his wrist, Ian's fingers brushing skin. The watch is light and comfortable, and as Souji marvels at it, Ian wraps his arms around him. "Merry Christmas."

The embrace is short, but welcome. Before Souji can get his gift for Ian, however, there is minor uproar from the poker corner as Nossan wins back every single cent he lost in the earlier rounds. Ian pats Souji on the shoulder, beaming at him, and heads for the round. Amy swaps places with him, and when Souji heads over to the table for more food, she joins him there. Her eyes drop to his wrist almost immediately. She nods approvingly, and Souji swells a little with pride. On Ian's behalf or his, he's not sure, but it no longer makes much difference to either of them anyway.

"Found your present for him?" Souji nods and tries to leave it at that, but he cannot stop the smile that comes. Amy notices it too, and laughs at him. "Well, I'm sure he'll love it, whatever it is. I can't wait to see it." Another nod.

He decides to conveniently forget to mention that Ian's present is mostly for his eyes only.

"Presents!" King's yell startles almost everyone, but the leader's word is final. They take up the floor space around the tree, and the giving and unwrapping commences. Minor chaos erupts in the room - mostly King yelling in excitement and tackle-hugging everyone except Amy upon seeing their presents and Nossan trying to crack bad puns as usual (fortunately, King's excitement drowns out the worst of them).

It's over in about five minutes, and most of the floor is covered in wrapping paper by then. Ucchi sits next to a neatly-folded pile of wrapping paper in various gold streaks and patterns, turning the snow globe over and over, thanking Amy repeatedly. She catches Souji's eye, and he gives her a thumbs-up. Well done, he thinks. She grins, and Souji is about to walk over to Nossan and ask to look at King's gift (a book of bad jokes, as if they didn't have enough already) when the latter barrels out of seemingly nowhere and tackles him with a hug. Souji barely manages to stop his wrist (and his new watch) from scraping the stone wall, and spends the next few minutes squirming uncomfortably while King thanks him and rattles on about "making full use of it". Across the room, Torin is proudly trying on his new bowler hat while Ian looks on smugly.

Then Souji catches his eye, and he nods. Ian slips away to the back of the room, and King lets go of Souji in favor of bouncing over to Nossan.

Ian's waiting under the mistletoe, Souji notes somewhat irritatedly. Nonetheless, he walks there and stops under it. His heart is beating somewhat faster than it should be, and Souji almost contemplates stepping away. Ian soon kills that possibility by pulling him forward and trying to kiss him, but is nudged back for his efforts. As Souji takes the box out from his jacket, Ian's frown is replaced almost instantly by a look of understanding.

"So, what's the great secret?" Souji colours slightly at that, earning himself a chuckle from Ian. As he holds out the box, Ian gives him a quizzical look, but takes it. As he opens it, his breath catches in his throat. Ian spends a moment staring, mouth open in surprise. He traces the edges of the gift, the finely polished curves of metal, every minute curve and detail. Souji swells a bit with pride - Ian speechless at his gift is everything he'd hoped for. The wonder in Ian's eyes shines bright, and Souji smiles at it. Impressing Ian is rare, he knows, and he savours the moment while it lasts. Ian breaks the silence with a tiny "wow" and looks up at Souji, his face breaking into a smile. In the face of that smile, genuine and more beautiful than the falling winter snow, Souji finds himself barely able to focus on anything else but Ian.

All coherent speech deserts him in that instant. "...Your researchers' conference is in two weeks, and I thought I'd get you something you could use that would still be a gift that- never mind, but anyway I passed this place and saw this and it reminded me of..." Souji isn't too sure how to continue. His face grows slightly hotter, and it's then that he realises he really can't find anything to say.

"They're beautiful. Thank you." Souji doesn't have time to respond before Ian pulls him close, and Souji catches the faintest hint of cedar on Ian's skin. So that was it, he thinks. Cedar, ever- Before he can compete the thought, their lips are pressed together, a stolen kiss in stolen time under the mistletoe, just them and the other and no one else.

The light of the corridor glints off the cufflinks in the box, off the edges of a finely crafted hadrosaur and its companion raptor.
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