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Homemade Gifts

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Carol bit her tongue as she wrestled with the cellophane tape. Swearing under her breath, she pulled the free end again. To her dismay, the plastic teeth did nothing to sever the adhesive, and she had an arm's length of sticky tape stuck to sleeve. Worse yet, to her hair.

She wanted to howl in frustration as she desperately tried to remove the tape from her hair.

This is what I get for waiting until the last minute, she thought angrily. She freed another strand of hair, wincing at the pain in her scalp as she jerked it roughly.

A soft knock at the door made her start, and as she turned her head toward the sound, her problem went from bad to worse.

"Carol?" Ryo's voice called from the other side. "Do you need any help in there?"

"No!" she called, hoping he hadn't noticed the slight waver to her voice.

He was silent for a moment, then he asked, "do you need Dee to run interference with Bikky to give you more time?"

Out of habit, she nodded, then cussed again as the action nearly ended up in a repeat of her current dilemma. "Yes, please, Ryo."

All this because she wanted to surprise Bikky with a handmade gift. She didn't even know if he'd appreciate it. Boys didn't seem to really go in for that sort of thing, but it had seemed incredibly romantic at the time. Ryo would probably appreciate the effort, but Bikky was more like Dee. If she weren't hopelessly tangled in tape, she'd be tempted to stomp her foot.

She gritted her teeth and continued pulling her hair free, this time taking her time and carefully tucking the loose hair behind her ear. Working in haste hadn't gained her anything, and now she felt guilty for taking advantage of Ryo's generosity.

She hadn't realized how long she sat there, cross legged on the floor, feeling sorry for herself, until she heard voices - rather loud, argumentative voices - following the sound of a door being thrown open.

Carol's eyes nearly bugged out of her head as she heard Ryo murmuring something, and she looked around Bikky's room desperately, hoping to find a place to hide the gift.

"Why do I gotta go?" Dee was being particularly belligerent, it seemed. "And if I do, why should he have to come with?"

Ryo's voice, again too soft to hear. When Dee began to argue again, this time Ryo reminded him, rather loudly, of the type of manners he might want to consider demonstrating once in a while.

She'd have found it amusing, as she often did, except that Bikky decided to make a beeline for his room instead of heaping his own insults onto Dee. So it was with a handful of wadded up tape, a crushed box wrapped with mismatched paper, and a woebegone expression that Bikky found her.

The worst part, she realized, was that he was so busy gloating about Dee being in trouble with Ryo, that he didn't even notice. Until the mangled gift bounced off his head.

He rubbed his head and scowled at her. "What did I do?" he asked. "I'm not the hornball who thinks of nothing but sex all the time."

"Maybe you should try it once in a while," she retorted angrily, then slapped her hand over her mouth.

He looked at her, seeming genuinely astonished. "I thought we were waiting until you turned eighteen."

"We are. I don't mean THAT," she said. "I just..."

It was times like this when she did almost wish that she were older or Ryo were younger, because she didn't know exactly what she wanted. They'd shared a couple of kisses, but nothing more than that. And Bikky had just turned fifteen, meaning she'd be eighteen soon.

She was a little nervous, she supposed. They'd waited for so long, she didn't know how far she wanted to go on The Big Day. Dee and Ryo certainly were no help there, as Ryo might be old fashioned, but Dee was as typically male as could be. And no matter how much Bikky and Dee had in common, not that they'd ever admit it, Bikky wasn't yet driven by purely physical needs.

She knew it was unfair to Dee. She knew he cared for Ryo, and she knew that Bikky cared for her. She just wasn't sure exactly what they had at times.

She was surprised when Bikky picked up her hand and removed the ball of tape from her palm and tossed it into the nearby wastebasket, then set about the task of using his fingernails to remove some of the residue from her hair. She sighed as his hand traveled up the length of her hair and rubbed her scalp.

"I should be doing this for you," she sighed.

"What were you doing, anyway?"

"Nothing, really. It was a stupid idea."

Bikky contemplated how to respond to that. He could agree with her, but then she'd get mad. He could disagree with her, and she could still get mad, as either way, he didn't know whether whatever she'd been up to had been stupid or not.

It was obvious that she'd been trying to wrap a gift, he wasn't an idiot like Dee was. And he recognized part of the paper from something Ryo had received from the jerk once. For whatever reason, Ryo kept stuff like that. He was often a source of confusion to Bikky, but he'd been there for them from the moment they'd met.

He refused to admit anything of the sort about Dee. The guy was lucky enough that Ryo put up with him.

He didn't like to see Carol upset, and he still hadn't said anything to her. If he didn't speak soon, she'd think he was ignoring her. Damn, things were far too complicated. Dee, and Lai, for that matter, both pissed him off to no end, but he knew where he stood with them and vice versa.

The funny thing was, Ryo didn't have that problem, and yet he was the best equipped to understand women!

Carol's eyes were closed and her head was leaning back on his knee as he worked another ball of adhesive free from her hair. He was tempted to tease her about it, but the crease between her brows suggested that perhaps that was the wrong thing to do. As much as he hated to take a page from Dee's book, he thought the guy might be onto something with the way he managed to get Ryo looking all melty and doe-eyed. It was disgusting, but only because it was Dee.

He leaned over and hesitated a moment before he let his lips touch hers. It was awkward, as her chin was near his forehead and her nose was at his bottom lip, but it actually brought a slight smile to her face when he slowly drew away.

"Why did you do that?" she asked.

Do I need a reason to kiss my girl? Those words almost fell from his lips, then he thought again of the object she'd hurled at his head, and the amount of tape that made up that sticky ball she'd been holding.

"I was tired of waiting for my gift," he said. She turned and crossed her arms on his knee, then looked up at him. The smile on her lips moved to the corner of her eyes.

"Who said anything about that being a gift?"

He touched his forehead to hers. He could do this, he convinced himself. Think like Ryo.

"Well," he said, "I was kinda hoping that might be what you were planning on giving me."

"Just a kiss?"

He shook his head. "It wasn't just a kiss," he said honestly. "It was your kiss."

He cringed inwardly. Could he sound any more sappy?

"No," she said, "that was your kiss. This," she said, moving closer so their breaths mingled. "Is my kiss."

He closed his eyes as their lips met the second time, and sucked her bottom lip very lightly as they separated. She touched her index finger to her lip and looked at him with wonder.

Before they could really enjoy the afterglow, Dee barged in and the spell was broken, as Bikky and he traded punches and Ryo looked torn between sending apologetic glances at Carol and wanting to tear Dee limb from limb. Carol watched as Ryo herded the 'boys' out of the room and she stroked her bottom lip again.

He'd had his kiss, and she'd had hers. Funny how it had been more of a gift for both of them.

Ryo had a point, she supposed, as she retrieved the battered gift and stuffed it in the wastebasket with the discarded wrapping paper and the excess tape. The best gifts really didn't have to be purchased in a store.

She couldn't wait until her own birthday.