Ash is walking down the sidewalk, head bowed against the bitter wind and cheeks stinging from the cold, when he sees it. It’s an ugly, tacky thing, the kind of gag gift that’s always made him roll his eyes. Part of him wants to buy it.
No, he tells himself immediately, stopping to tug his coat a little more tightly around himself, as he stares at it against all reason. No, this is completely stupid.
The innocuous hat sitting in the shop window stares back.
It’s stupid, but it’s the exact brand of stupid that’d make Eiji laugh, that belly-laugh where he tips his head back and his eyes squeeze shut, the one that has him smiling for ages afterwards. And Ash might not like stupid things, but he does like making Eiji laugh.
The hat is still stupid as fuck, though. God, it’s so tacky.
Yeah, no. Not even Eiji’s laughter is worth a hat this dumb. He shakes his head and scowls at it, shoving his hands in his pockets. He’s not gonna get it. He’s going home.
Seven minutes and one purchase later, Ash ducks onto the subway just barely before it pulls away from the station and hooks his arm around a pole for balance, glaring daggers at the red shopping bag dangling from his wrist.
Honestly, fuck Eiji. Eiji sucks. Damn him for making him do shit like this voluntarily. God.
His phone buzzes with a text, and he huffs at his reflection in the grimy train window as he digs it out of his pocket. Of course it’s from Eiji! Think of the devil, and he shall text you five heart emojis. And a message that he’s made you a nice Christmas Eve dinner and hopes you’ll be home before it gets cold. Eiji is the worst.
im omw. see you soon <3, he texts back, then stuffs his phone back in his pocket and grumbles to himself as the next stop rolls by.
The wind has gotten, if possible, even more piercing when he emerges aboveground, and he narrows his eyes as they start to water reflexively. A second gust tries to blow his hat off the street, and he has to clutch it down over his ears as the darkening grey sky looms and laughs.
Well, fuck you, clouds. Guess who’s going home to a warm house and a hot meal and a boyfriend made of husband material? Yeah, that’s right. Not you.
The bag swings at his side as he pushes the door open and scrubs the muddy ice off his boots on the doormat, and he nods briefly to Harold the doorman as he heads for the elevator. It takes forever to finally reach their floor, and then it takes forever for him to fumble his keys out of his pockets with his half-frozen hands, but then the door opens and he’s met by a rush of warm air.
“Tadaima!” The word is still a little unfamiliar on his tongue, but somehow saying I’m home in Eiji’s mother tongue feels much more intimate than saying it in English.
“Okaeri, Ash!” Eiji pokes his head out of the kitchen, his face lighting up as their eyes meet. “Do you want hot chocolate? I just made a pot, but I have not poured it yet.”
Ash unzips his boots and dumps them by the fireplace to thaw out, shrugs out of his coat and hangs it by the heater, and drops his hat and gloves next to it. The shopping bag goes on the side table, for later. “Mm. I’m cold. C’mere.”
Eiji laughs, stepping out of the kitchen, and pads across the floor to him, clad in thick socks with loud red-and-green stripes. “You will make me cold,” he complains, poking Ash’s nose, but then he wraps his arms around his waist and gives him a squeeze. He’s warm and smells a little like gingerbread, as if he’s the dictionary definition of cozy brought to life. Ash nuzzles his face into his hair and sticks his hands under Eiji’s sweater and shirt onto his bare back.
Eiji goes stiff as a board and yips, but doesn’t pull away. “Ash!”
Ash grins, pleased with himself. “You make a great handwarmer. It’s cold outside. Warm me up.”
“I have hot chocolate that can warm your hands, without freezing me into an ice block.” Eiji pokes him in the side very pointedly, but his actions bely his words, because his other hand threads its way into Ash’s hair and scrunches against his scalp. “I think you just want to be mean to me.”
“It’s to make up for how much you’re about to laugh at me,” Ash sighs, kissing the top of his head and finally pulling back. “I want some of that hot chocolate. C’mon.”
Eiji trots after him with an eager smile and an inquisitive little tilt to his head. “Why am I about to laugh at you?”
Ash doesn’t bother hiding the dour glance he sends the shopping bag by the door. “You’ll see.”
Eiji pours them each a mug of hot chocolate, while Ash hugs him from behind and rests his chin on his shoulder. Eiji is a very good size for hugging. It’s very convenient. And he’s warm and wearing a very soft sweater (an early Christmas present).
“I did not know exactly what to make for dinner.” Eiji turns in his arms and passes him one of the two mugs; Ash lets go of him to take it over to the fridge and squirt a pile of whipped cream on top. He squirts a bit in his mouth, too, and Eiji wordlessly swats his shoulder as he continues. “So I bought KFC—that is custom, in Japan—and also made curry and rice, and I baked cake, though it is nothing fancy—and some mashed potatoes, and a salad!”
Ash stops chugging hot chocolate long enough to say, “God, I’m marrying the fuck outta you one day,” and resumes his task.
Eiji lights up, beaming, and then giggles, catching his wrist and pulling the mug down. He goes up on his toes then, and as Ash blinks in mild confusion, kisses the tip of his nose. His traitorous cheeks heat immediately.
Eiji licks his lips. “There was whipped cream on your nose.”
And he winks.
Ash very carefully puts down his mug. “Stop that.”
“Stop what?” Eiji tilts his head to the side again, blinking innocently, and Ash levels a cross look at him. He absolutely knows what he’s doing.
“Stop being so cute!”
Eiji grins and rests one hand on his hip, cocky bastard that he is. “Make me.”
“Never mind. You’re not cute. You’re infuriating.” Ash hooks an arm around his waist and tugs him close enough that their noses brush. Eiji is soft and warm, and his smile is so enticing that he can’t help but lean down to kiss it. His mouth is soft and warm, too, and his lips taste of chocolate.
“Mm,” Eiji hums, arms winding about his neck as he pulls him into another kiss. “Ash…”
“My infuriating little…” Ash trails off, distracted, and kisses the corner of his mouth. “My favorite dipshit in the whold world.”
Eiji strokes a lock of hair back from his forehead and tucks it behind his ear, his touch impossibly tender, and smiles. “Funny. That is how I think of you. My lovely brat boyfriend.”
Ash snorts and tweaks his nose. “Wow, rude. I’m not a brat, unlike some people I find myself associating with.”
“Really?” Eiji tips his head to the side. “They must have rubbed off on you, then.”
Ash laughs, leans down and steals another kiss, and tucks Eiji against his side as he picks his mug up again. Eiji lays his head on his shoulder for a moment, and then they stand there, quiet and content, as they both sip their hot chocolate.
Once both mugs are empty, Eiji pulls away. “Come. Let us eat.”
“Get me a plate, will you?” Ash puts their mugs in the sink, fills them with water, and wipes his hands quickly on the towel. While Eiji’s back is turned, he can get the tacky hell hat out of the bag. “I’ll grab something real fast.”
“Sure!” Eiji turns back to the cabinets, and Ash ducks out of the kitchen, pulls the monstrosity out of the bag—there it is, in all its sparkly glory, with the sprig of mistletoe displayed proudly in front—and regards it with distaste for just a moment before he pulls it on.
Ugh. The things he does for love.
When he steps back into the kitchen, Eiji is humming while ladling curry into their plates. “Ash? Do you want more rice or—”
Ash slides his arms around his waist from behind, melting against him to press every inch of their bodies together, and nuzzles the side of his neck. “Eiji…”
Eiji lets out a little breath and sets the ladle back down, leaning into him. “Mhm?”
Ash presses a kiss behind his ear. “You know…” He kisses his hair, first near his ear and then trailing up toward his temple. “There’s a Christmas tradition you’re ignoring right now.”
Eiji lays his head back against his shoulder, his eyes closed as a smile plays about his lips. He’s so fucking cute it’s just unfair. But he hasn’t noticed the hat yet, which is even better. “Which one? I am sure there are many.”
Smug now, because his delivery of the dumbest line ever is going off without a hitch, Ash smirks and turns him about in his arms. “Why, Eiji, you’re supposed to kiss someone when you’re standing under the mistletoe.”
“But we don’t have any—”
Eiji opens his eyes.
The look on his face is priceless—his eyes widen slowly as he takes it in, and then his cheeks crinkle into a ridiculously bright smile that bubbles into laughter. And he’s laughing, his face turning red as he gasps for breath and breaks into giggles again, and fine, the stupid hat was absolutely worth this. There isn’t a lot Ash wouldn’t do for this kind of reward.
“Ash,” Eiji wheezes, clutching at his shoulders and grinning broadly. “Ash, oh my god.”
Ash puts on his best pout. “I said you’re supposed to kiss me, not laugh at me.”
That, of course, does nothing but set off a second round of laughter. Ash squishes him to his chest and grins to himself, satisfied, as Eiji shakes in his arms and laughs and laughs. Finally he lifts his head, eyes dancing and face pink, and cups his cheeks.
“Ash, you know—pfft—you know if you want to kiss me, you can just kiss me, without a hat!”
Ash tweaks his nose. “Well, yeah, but now it’s seasonal and traditional. Besides, you still haven’t kissed me! Some kind of Christmas celebrator you are.”
“I bought KFC,” Eiji says, going up on his toes to kiss his cheek. “That counts for celebrating Christmas, I think.” He kisses Ash’s other cheek, too, and Ash can’t help but give him another tight squeeze, flooded with a sudden rush of affection for his boyfriend, i.e. the best boyfriend in the whole fucking world. “There. Two kisses. Happy?”
“Don’t tease me,” Ash whines, poking him in the side. “You’re so meaaaan, Eiji—”
“As if! Who made you dinner!” Eiji playfully swats his shoulder, looping his arms about his neck. “I am a delight and the nicest person in the world, and you know it.”
“Yeah, okay, whatever you say.” Ash nuzzles his nose, willing to concede this round because Eiji is warm and good for hugging, and he wants to cling on him forever. Or like, at least until dinner. And then maybe some more after that. “Eiiiiji, you’re so good…”
Eiji laughs again, leaning in to press their foreheads together, too, then kisses him softly, still smiling against his mouth. “If you really want kisses, you can just say so. No need to butter me up, you know.”
Ash squawks, indignant. “Can’t your boyfriend compliment you without some kinda ulterior motive?”
“Oh, definitely!” Eiji kisses the corner of his mouth. “He is the sweetest person in the world! Of course he can.”
“Hey, I’m trying to compliment you here—”
Eiji laughs at him, again, and his heart warms. “You are, but I win,” he says, just a little smug as he strokes his cheek. Ash has to give it to him, though; he’s right.
He leans into Eiji’s touch, closing his eyes in contentment. “Yeah, fine. This time.”
“This time,” Eiji agrees, and leans in again. “But anyway, Ash, we are still standing under the mistletoe.”