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The Perfect Christmas Gift

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      Nai stood across the street from the 7-Eleven that Akira mentioned on a daily basis. The one where he always just 'happens' to bump into his obsession. His forbidden fruit. The one he can’t help but brag about kissing to any- and everyone who will listen. Nai had to hold back a fond chuckle at the thought of her best friend talking animatedly about the most dangerous of all the C3 agents. The one who will kill any subclass on sight… as long as he’s on the clock, that is.

      Luckily for her, he doesn’t seem to give a damn when he’s not getting paid, so hopefully this should be easy.

      Christmas was coming and while Nai never understood the 'magical' appeal of the holiday, Akira seemed to be an elf in disguise. He would hum Christmas songs while knitting Christmas scarves for new subclasses… all that festive crap. He even forced her to sit through a Christmas movie marathon. ‘He’s lucky I love him so much,’ Nai thought to herself with a fond sigh.

      When Nai caught a glimpse of black hair contrasting the flutter of a white cape, she had to rush to cross the street. She waved a hand to grab the raven haired C3 agent’s attention. “Tsurugi-san,” she called as she hopped up onto the sidewalk behind him, causing him to spin around and look at her curiously.

      “My, my. Another little subclass bold enough to approach me without fear,” he said, raising an eyebrow at Nai. “What do you want from me? A quick death? While normally I’d be willing to grant that wish, I’m off the clock right now. And I don’t work for free.”

      “So I’ve heard,” Nai said, controlling the unexpected thrill that went through her as she felt a sliver of almost crushing fear when Tsurugi looked straight at her. “I-I…” she started to falter before quickly clearing her throat to start over again, regaining her composure. “I heard that you will do pretty much anything for the right price.”

      Tsurugi nodded, an amused smile tugging at the corners of his lips. “That’s right. But what would a bold little subclass like you want to hire me for?” he asked before pausing to look closer at the girl in front of him. “You know, you look a little familiar.”

      “I assure you, we have never met. My name, while it is of no consequence, is Nai. And you may have seen me with someone you are acquainted with,” she said with a bold smile. “You know my best friend. Well, you may just pretend to know him when he pays you to spend time talking with him: Akira. Adorably awkward and knits all the time? Doesn’t seem to know when to reign in the story telling? Oh… and also completely and utterly infatuated with you.”

      “Oh! Aki-chan!” Tsurugi said with an amused giggle. “He’s so cute. For a subclass, that is. It is truly unfortunate that I’d have to kill him if we ever crossed paths while I was on the clock. Did you know when we first met that he paid me to…”

      “Call him a beautiful man. Yes. I know… I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that story, Tsurugi-san,” Nai replied, feigning exasperation before smirking at the deadly C3 agent. “But if my memory serves correct, you gave him a little more than he paid for…”

      “I like to think of it as… advertising.” Tsurugi shrugged and grinned at his own cleverness. “I did hook a steady client, didn’t I? That sweet boy… anytime we cross paths, he can’t help but throw money at me. And who am I to deny him the attention he wants from me?”

      “On that note, I’d like to get to why I stopped you today,” Nai said, her voice taking on an a cool business-like air. “Tsurugi-san, as you may or may not be aware, Christmas is coming, and I’ve thought of the perfect gift for my dearest Aki-nii… you.”

      Tsurugi raised an eyebrow at her, oddly intrigued by her words, before nodding at her to continue. Nai couldn’t help but smirk at how much easier this seemed to be than she had originally planned. “Well, Aki-nii… Akira is a sucker for anything Christmas and I was curious about how much I would have to pay you to dress up like Santa Claus and let him sit on your lap so he can tell you what he wants for Christmas. You know, cheesy holiday traditions and all. But this way - MY way - is so much more fun,” she said with a soft chuckle.

      “Hmm…” Tsurugi stopped a moment, bringing his index finger to his chin in thought. “That sounds like quite the performance you are asking of me. Do you have any other direction for me besides letting him sit on my lap? Anything else will be extra… and I don’t know if a lowly little subclass like you can afford it.”

      “Well, in life, my family was very well off. So well off in fact, that my brother doesn’t even notice that I continue to tap into his bank account oh so sneakily,” Nai said, digging around in her bag to pull out a small notebook and pen. She jotted down a number before ripping it out of the notebook, handing it to Tsurugi. “What will this buy me?”

      Tsurugi didn’t know what he was expecting, but the number written on the paper made his eyes widen for a split second before he looked curiously at the surprisingly fearless subclass in front of him. “Well well, Nai-chan. This will buy the best present dear Aki-chan has ever received,” Tsurugi said with an amused giggle, slipping the paper into his pocket before smiling amiably at Nai. He turned to walk away, glancing back over his shoulder to add: “We’ll be in touch. Unfortunately I don’t have time to go over details with you right now, but I’m sure you’ll find me again. With the money of course. Bye bye, Nai-chan.”

      “Bye, Tsurugi-san,” Nai said quietly, not really caring if he could hear her or not. “It’s been a pleasure doing business with you.” She turned to walk in the opposite direction, plotting where to get a Santa costume to fit the slender agent.

      Her phone buzzed to life in her pocket. Nai reached in to pull it out, looking at the screen. A small smile played at the corner of her mouth before she connected the call, bringing the phone up to her ear. “Yes, Aki-nii?”

      “You’re late,” Akira said flatly, clearly unamused by the fact that Nai’s tardiness was causing him to have to wait in uncomfortable silence with Kendall. “You better have a good excuse.”

      “The very best,” Nai sand into the phone. “I promise. Just endure it for a little while longer, Aki-nii. I was doing some… Christmas shopping for you and I happened to snag the perfect gift.”

~ ~ ~

      The fact that she had been out Christmas shopping for him appeased some of Akira’s simmering anger. He slipped his phone into his bag and offered Kendall a strained smile. “She’s on her way.” He took out two skeins of thick, smooth yarn- one a vivid cherry and the other a pristine white, and began casting on his right arm.

      Kendall watched him with an unusually high level of interest. “That yarn looks different. It looks… pretty.”

      Akira looked up from his work to study her expression for signs of sarcasm. He was surprised to see none. “Umm… it’s a silk/wool blend. It’s for Tsubaki-san.”

      “Hmmm.” Kendall admired the luxurious look of the yarn as Akira finished casting on and began to knit his first row. She was about to say something complimentary, but stopped herself and instead let out an amused huff. “I don’t know why you insist on using “san” even when Tsubaki isn’t around.”

      Akira raised his eyes again, to give her a withering glare. “Because I have respect for Tsubaki-san. Something I know a chav like yourself wouldn’t understand.”

      “Excuse me?” Kendall’s voice took on a sharp, hissing edge as she narrowed her eyes and leaned in towards him. “What did you call me, you freak? I’m no chav, right? Just like you’re no man.”

      It was Akira’s turn to seethe. He matched Kendall’s threatening stance and met her murderous stare. They sneered at each other for a minute or two , both of their minds swirling with inflammatory names and malicious intents. Akira suddenly thought of Nai- on her way to meet them at that very moment. He could only imagine how far things would escalate with Nai feeding the fire once she saw she’d shown up at the start of a good fight. With a reluctant sigh, he softened his face and sat back against the booth.

      “Whatever, Kendall. Let’s not do this right now, huh? Nai will be here soon and then you can just talk to her and I’ll gladly pretend you don’t exist.”

      Kendall sat back and crossed her arms over her chest with a haughty look of triumph. “Ok, Stalker-chan.” Her eyes drifted back to the yarn and she watched Akira knit for a few minutes, unwittingly becoming transfixed by his movements. “I wonder…” she began, “if you’d sell me one of those silk blend scarves…”

      Focusing harder on his knitting rather than look her in the eye again, Akira begrudgingly muttered “I’ll just make you one, Kendall. Don’t worry about it.” as his cheeks grew hot.

      Kendall’s breath caught in her throat from the shock. “Y’wot?” She uncrossed her arms and brought her face down, trying to catch Akira’s eye.

      Sighing heavily, Akira looked up and met her curious gaze. “It’s Christmas. For some god awful reason, Nai likes you. I don’t know what she could possibly see in you, but whatever. I suppose even you deserve a Christmas gift. I’ll make you something sleek…” Akira smiled sweetly as he thought ‘to wrap around your tender throat’.

      Kendall straightened up again, at a loss for words. Akira had already looked back down at his yarn-covered arms to focus on keeping his rows tidy when she finally found something to say. “Ummm, that’s really sick. Nice one, bruva!”    

      Akira just barely glanced up, feeling too embarrassed to let on how surprised he was. “I suppose that’s your way of saying ‘thanks’. I’ll never get your slang.” He mumbled. “You’re welcome, Kendall.” An awkward hush fell over the table as the two of them avoided both conversation and eye contact.

         Nai paused briefly to glance through the window of the cafe. She couldn’t help but watch her two friends, hoping for some sort of entertainment. It may not be right, but she truly enjoys watching Akira and Kendall go for each other’s throats. ‘I guess it’s just my nature,’ Nai thought to herself with a heavy sigh.

      Her two friends seemed to be having a normal time. The atmosphere was tense but neither one of them looked particularly irritated or hostile. She hummed thoughtfully before smiling to herself. “I hope they know that I only mess with them because I love them…” she whispered to herself before walking up to the door to swing it inward.

      “Hey guys! Sorry I’m late… I didn’t miss anything good, did I?” Nai asked cheerfully, sitting down next to Kendall and grinning at Akira.

      “Oh, nothing. Just me offering to make Kenfall a scarf.” He said, hoping to throw Nai off balance, just a little bit. He knows what answer she was secretly hoping for and he can’t help but tease her. Kendall only shrugged when Nai turned to face her with an eyebrow raised inquisitively.

      “You alright, mate?” Kendall turned her full attention onto Nai with a genuine smile, as if she were shooing away Akira’s presence.

      A waitress came up, interrupting as politely as possible, to place Kendall’s iced Honey Milk Latte and Akira’s Mascarpone Tiramisu Latte down on the table before smiling at Nai expectantly.   

      Nai leaned on the table and cocked her head to the side, returning the waitresses smile. “I’d love a cappuccino. Would you be a sweetheart and sprinkle some cinnamon on top for me?” she asked sweetly.

      Nai turned her gaze on Akira and raised an amused eyebrow. “You are going to make Kendall a scarf? It’s a Christmas miracle.”

      Akira’s face turned a shade to rival his eyes. “Whatever, Nee-chan.” He looked at his coffee and then down at his arms pitifully, realizing for the thousandth time the folly of arm knitting when he and Nai meet Kendall for coffee. He sighed and considered going back to needles as he wondered how cold his coffee would be once he’d finished the scarf. He shifted his focus onto his knitting, more than happy to let the girls gossip and chat entirely without his input. He cheered himself by thinking how nice the finished scarf would look on his master.

      ‘I sure hope Tsubaki-san likes this.’ He thought as he tightened a stitch. It felt like hardly anytime at all had passed when Akira found himself binding off the last stitch. With a happy sigh of relief, he put the beautiful, sleek scarf away in his bag and at last picked up his mug to bring it to his lips. He was delighted to see it was still warm, at least, and it tasted like heaven. ‘Mmmmm, coffee.’ HIs mind purred. His mood only skyrocket further when he came to realize the girls were coming to the end of their conversation and Kendall was getting ready to leave.

      “Alright, mate. I’ll see you later, yeah?” Kendall blew Nai a kiss and slowly turned to Akira, her face darkening and narrowing as she did so. “Bye, Stalker-chan.” She held back at the last minute, choosing to save any sarcastic remarks for their next meeting. “Nice one, right?” She forced herself to soften her face. I-I’ll talk to you later about colours.” She muttered before turning abruptly on her heel and rushing off.

      “Uh… yeah. Bye, Kendall.” Akira said at her receding back. He faced Nai across the table, the surprise clearly written in his expression. “That was a bit weird.”

      Nai smirked. It wasn’t nearly as amusing as watching the typical hostility simmering between the surface, but she supposed seeing them act awkwardly civil was entertaining in its own way. “Like I said,” she arched her eyebrow playfully, pausing to take a drink of her cappuccino. “It’s a Christmas miracle.”

 

“Har har har.” Akira took another long drink of his own coffee. “This is so  good.” He sighed as he set the mug down and sent Nai an affectionate grin. “So…” he leaned in towards her, his eyes wide, bright, and dancing with excitement. “Nee-chan, what’d you buy me?”