The spirit of the holiday season was coming all over the country. For the essential workers, the holiday season means double the danger for all. In the STF, the holiday season or not, activities remain the same. Only a tiny bit of decoration from last year to lift the spirit. An imitated pine tree was placed in the lobby and festively decorated.
“Merry Christmas, everyone!” A man in Santa Claus’s signature red uniform and white beard yelled. He was carrying a large sack of gifts ready to be distributed.
Of course, this man attracted people’s eyes.
He used a card to pass through the check-in gate. Yes, he was a part of STF but no one knew the person who impersonated him.
Ark in her everyday clothes sat behind her desk, reading a document.
“You should take a break.” A two-toned mug with brown liquid and white smoke inside was placed on her desk. Ark thanked the person who sat in front of her and took the mug. The heat seeped warmed her cold hands.
Her loving sight fixed on the person who she loved.
That question made her back to reality.
“Nothing” she denied and took a sip of hot chocolate. She stopped a while to determine the ingredients he used. “Nutmeg, Cinnamon, and Ginger?”
He affirmed her answer with a thumb up.
Sensing a hidden agenda, he placed his mug back on a coffee table in front of him and walked closer to her.
“What?” She asked with a head towards him.
He smiled and caressed her cheek. “Want to go to the city?”
She turned her head back to unfinished documents in front of her. “But I cannot leave it unfinished.”
Her door slammed and revealed the Santa lookalike. “Hohoho, Merry Christmas. Here’s a gift for you.” A brown envelope with a red ribbon was placed on her desk. “And for you too.” another brown envelope handed to him.
Ark looked at Santa, “You look so lame, Gu.”
The person in costume took off his beard and red hat. A red-brown haired man with sparkling brown eyes sighed defeatedly, “How do you know it was me all along?”
The girl giggled, “You forgot who am I don’t you?”
Eli rolled his eyes and put back his accessories, “Anyway, happy holiday folks!” he made his way out from Ark’s office.
Ark opened the envelope and pulled out the paper inside.
‘Paid Leave Request Approval’ was written at the top of the page.
The green eyes inspected the paper carefully.
“Since when I submitted a leave?” her face showed anticipation.
The man opened his package and read it thoroughly.
“It is the same,” he said as he inspected the content.
They looked at each other.
“Shall we go?” he asked. She nodded.
Best Christmas Gift ever.
Outside the residential tower complex, where STF rest and clean themselves, a man wore a light blue sweater with a blue and white hooded jacket combined with a pair of black twill pants and a plaid scarf around his neck, leaning on a black motorcycle. The chilly wind moved his hair a bit.
“Sorry I am late.” a feminine voice made the man refocused on the source.
A woman with an unbuttoned navy duffle jacket combined with a black turtleneck and a white tennis skirt. Her legs were covered with grey jeggings and black sneakers. She brought her khaki satchel bag and a blue plain scarf with golden embroidered Gingko leaves and her initials. In her hands, a green paper bag with a rope to hang it.
“What is it?” he asked out of curiosity.
“No, you are not allowed to peek.” She hid the bag behind her.
A faint hint of red delicately showed over her face.
‘She’s like a high school girl!’ he thought
The man handed her the helmet and mounted his bike. “It will be a bit chilly, but I know you can bear it,” he said while inserting his fingers into bikers gloves followed by starting the engine.
Ark scoffed, “Who do you think am I, Gavin?” She joined Gavin on the passenger seat and placed the gift in front of her.
A roaring engine made through the exhaust cut the serene silence of winter.
The hustle-bustle of the city center was decorated with festive vibes of the holiday season and Christmas. Gavin parked his bike in one of the parking lots nearby the pedestrian-only area.
They walked side by side, hand in hand. Posters with a large number with a percentage symbol and an eye-pleasing and pocket-pleasing word: ‘discount’.
“Are you sure you won’t buy anything?” he ensured her. A short ‘Nah’ indicated her disinterest.
One shop with a white dress mannequin attracted her eyes, even made her stop.
It was an off-shoulder simple white dress with ruffles made from ginkgo leaves with motifs brocade around the neckline. The bottom was a high-low cut. At first glance, it looked like a wedding dress. The closer look it was a simple dress. It was so simple yet perfect for Ark.
Gavin, who walked a bit further than Ark, watched her closely. Those vibrant green eyes glittered with amusement.
‘I think it is time.’ he thought
He looked at his surroundings, searching for one particular shop that sells one particular item.
Found it. Just a few meters from him across the street.
“Ark!” he called and made her turn around. Her loosed wavy hair danced in the air as she turned her head. “I am going to buy a cupped hotpot for us. You can stroll around and meet me here again in a couple of hours,” he said or lied to be exact. She nodded in excitement and entered one of the shops.
‘ Time to make it happen.’ he thought while keeping eyes on the road.
A bell rang when Gavin pushed the shop entrance. “Welcome to our shop. How can I help you?”
Gavin looked at rows of rings with various models and sizes. Now, he looked like a dumb person. Time to call a friend, Birdcop.
“I..um… looked for an engagement ring,” he replied
“You came to the right place and right time, sir. We have a brand new collection in collaboration with the famous Emme Xi.” She walked away for a while to get the collection. Gavin was stunned that Emme was doing collaborative work with this jewelry. The saleswoman came back with three different models of rings.
Gavin retrieved his phone and dialed a number. He put his phone near his ear.
“Gwen, I need your help. I am in a jewelry shop and I am looking for a ring for her. I don’t know her taste and size.” he requested for help. An exasperated sigh could be heard clearly, “Turn on your camera.” she said.
Gavin turned on his camera and directed it to the rings.
“These are the latest models, right?” she asked through a loudspeaker. “Ark possessed a dual personality. On one occasion, she would wear something the most extravagant or out of this world. While on the other, she will use the plainest things. I think you better get something in between.” she suggested.
Gavin looked at the model once again. All of them were a matte platinum band.
On his right, there was a solitaire diamond ring. A very simple one.
In the middle, a tree branch-like ring with smaller diamonds inside the leaves and a bigger one in the middle. Not too plain like previous but enough to show the luxuries and probably could accommodate her duality.
On his left, a tension model rings with a square diamond. Not as simple as the first one but elegant enough.
“You are not helping, Szu,” he said before concluding the connection.
Another ring of the bell made Gavin turn around.
“Hello, Ms. Page.” a woman greeted her.
A familiar petite woman with brown hair and warm eyes. Memories surged his senses. Beside her, the legendary Victor Li.
“Emme?” he called her to confirm what he saw. Emme looked at Gavin, “Oh, Gavin! I did not see you there. What brings you here?” she grew closer to him. When Gavin tried to compose his words, Emme could see behind his back and quickly understood what he meant.
She separated the third one from the group. “He will take this one. Please pack it for him.” the saleswoman understood the request and took the chosen ring.
Gavin asked Emme her purpose for coming to this shop. “I am here to check the selling of my collaborative product.” She explained. Miss Page ushered Gavin to the cashier to pay.
It seemed Gavin forgot to ask the most important thing: price.
He retrieved his wallet to pull out his credit card and handed it to Miss Page. She swiped the card on the EDC machine and entered the number. “Please check the numbers first and enter your PIN.” She said as she turned the EDC to him.
Gavin read the number very carefully and verified it with the price tag attached to the ring. It was pricey but he didn’t mind.
There was a possibility that he would eat instant noodles for the rest of the month.
‘So be it’, he thought
A small red jewelry box with the chosen ring sat in the middle appeared before him.
“Please inspect it carefully.” Miss Page said before she finished the transaction.
Gavin brought the box closer to his eyes. The diamond sparkled its shine and reflected in his eyes.
He closed the box and shoved it into his jacket pocket.
Miss Page returned his card and wished him a happy holiday and Merry Christmas.
The amber guy put his credit card back in his wallet and returned it to his pocket.
“Good luck, Gav,” Emme said. He nodded and exited the shop.
Cold windy air and people walked in different directions welcomed him as he stood by the door. He scanned through the crowds to look for someone familiar.
A woman stood in front of a Christmas tree. In her hand, a couple of paper bags and his gift.
“He is late.” She murmured.
“Ark!” He called while running to her.
Her eyesight locked to the man she loved. His hair drifted by the wind and his warm amber eyes made her feel warm despite the cold weather. However, something was off. Her memories reminded her that he was off to buy some food for them.
Ark asked where the food was. Gavin was scratching his neck though there was no itchiness.
'I knew it’ she thought
She extended her arm that held a green paper bag to Gavin. “For you.” Her head avoided seeing Gavin’s eyes.
Gavin received it and opened the bag. A matching scarf with his initials and Gingko leaves.
“It is not as tidy as I expected, but I wanted to give you something I made.” Her eyes looked at the flooring. He was surprised by her shyness, despite her bold actions during work. A simple thank you from him made her heart burst with happiness.
Gavin replaced his scarf with a new scarf.
‘Time to throw away your sense of shame, Gav.’ he thought
“I have something for you, too,” he said before executing a plan in his mind.
He took a step back and kneeled on one knee. His hand reached her left hand and brought it closer.
“Is that Commander of STF?” Someone whispered to the person next to them. “Is that the famous Gladiolus?” Another whisper. Whisper over a whisper, wondering what will happen next. Some pulled out their phones and started recording the whole process. They could not hide their excitement and squealing.
“Gav, stand up. I know you still have some sense of shame. You know and are aware that I am a lowkey savage in public.” She said whilst holding her shyness.
“Ark, you are the one who helped and supported me when I was in the worst condition. You are the one who congratulated me first when I received the medal of honor. You are the one who taught me and everyone in the STF that respect is earned through hard work, dedication, and commitment. You are proud of your scars. You have been my partner-in-crime since the beginning. You are my savior and I am in love with all sides of you. Whether you are in work mode, relax mode, civilian mode, or even commander mode. It does not change my love for you. I want to live the rest of my life with you. Viridian Ark, will you marry me?” He pulled out the recently bought ring from his pocket and revealed the tension-model platinum ring. That last sentence left people excited and nervous mixed with curiosity.
Ark squatted so she was at the level of heights with Gavin. “Listen up, you punk, that impromptu speech of yours is as lame as Eli in Santa Claus costume. You should take a lesson from my staff. The answer is yes, I do.” She ended with a smile.
Gavin’s expression bloomed in happiness, he even in tears. He stood up and helped her stand also. Gavin nervously slid the ring to her left ring finger. Once he was done, he crashed his mouth to hers.
A round of applause and loud cheering from the crowds.
Ark and Gavin witnessed the biggest smile they made for each other.
She snaked her arm around the muscular arm and leaned to him.
“I thought you were a lowkey person,” she said without batting an eye. “I am, Gwen said you have two different personalities: subtle or extravagant,” he answered it easily.
The internet went wild and heartbroken at the same time.
“The lamest speech for proposal: Ark to Bai.”
“#HeartbrokenDay: Commander of STF proposes his Vice-Commander in the front of the famous Loveland Christmas Tree.”
“Ladies, get ready to be heartbroken, Gavin Bai, Commander of STF, officially proposes to his Vice-Commander in public.”
Comments filled with congratulations to the couple and condolences for the broken-hearted people.
Hua Hua: ‘I saw the whole process and was unprepared by sweetness they made.’
Biang biang: ‘Another heartbroken day after Victor Li engaged.’
Happy-Go-Lucky Cat: ‘Are there any STF agents who are still single, available, and ready to mingle?’
One comment attracted even more attention.
Xiao Ling: ‘Congrats, bro.’
Many speculated that Gavin’s brother, Ling Shaw, used that account to congratulate his sibling.
Meanwhile, back in the STF.
Eli walked with a matching mug filled with hot chocolate while Gwen leisurely strolled around her social media on his bed.
Her eyes widened. She stood up and grabbed her laptop. Eli, who witnessed the whole scene, only shook his head, “What are you doing?” he asked while putting the mug on the coffee table. He joined her in the bed. “Why are you using STF intranet?” he asked but got ignored. Gwen scrolled through the thread conversation.
One particular information made his eyes as wide as Gwen’s.
“Now, I get it,” he concluded.
Back to the shopping area.
A swarm of reporters made their way to the newly engaged couple.
The couple had their way of thinking. They ran back to the parking lot with each other.
“I realized that you are carrying a shopping bag. What did you buy?” his attentive eyes directed to the bags
She smirked and chose not to answer.
Once they arrived in the parking lot, they shared a quick kiss and mounted Gavin’s bike with a helmet covering their head.
“Let’s go back. I want a hotpot,” she said her wish.
The black motorbike’s engine disrupted the calm and quiet night.