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Mister 10 Below

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“Rei-chan?”

“Yes?” Rei glanced over at the notebook where his mother had written down her gingerbread recipe. Nagisa was in the front room, hanging decorations for their Super Awesome Absolute Best Christmas Party Ever, as the blond had dubbed it.

“Where’s the mistletoe?” Rei opened his mouth to respond, but Nagisa shouted back, “Nevermind! I found it.” The oven timer went off and Rei paused in stirring the gingerbread mix. He nodded to himself seeing the perfectly, golden-brown sugar cookies. As soon as he finished with the gingerbread and put them in the oven, the other cookies would be cool enough for him to decorate. 

Christmas had always been important in Rei’s family. Not so much as a religious holiday but one of the few times during the year when both his parents, brother, and he could actually spend time together. Most of the time, they had a traditional Japanese dinner and his mother would make gingerbread cookies, knowing her husband and sons were all not too fond of sweets.

Nagisa’s family was more festive in their undertaking of Christmas. It was all about the decorations, drinking hot chocolate and watching cheesy American specials while wearing awful Christmas sweaters. The blond had admitted that it was his favorite time of year because it seemed like the only time his parents actually took a break from nagging him about school.

Their Christmases together were a mixture of both of their families’ traditions. Some years they would spend the day visiting each other’s families. Others they would just stay at home and have their own little celebration. This year, they agreed to host a party for their friends, since most of them were back in Iwatobi visiting their own families. Makoto and Haru said they’d come by after they went by the Tachibana’s. Rin, ever the drama queen, said that he and Ai would be there if his mom ever let him leave the house. Sousuke even said he’d drop by.

Rei had just set the timer on the oven again when he heard a yelp, followed by a loud crash. He ran into the front room to find Nagisa, sitting on the floor, surrounded by garland and a few smashed ornaments. Gingerly moving the garland and pushing the ornament fragments with his slippers, he made his way to Nagisa and kneeled next to him. “Are you okay?” Nagisa nodded.

“I may have underestimated the power of duct tape.” He giggled.

Rei cupped his face. “I’m just glad you’re alright.” He placed a soft kiss on the blind’s lips. Leaning back on his heels, he looked around. “I can help with the—ow!”

“Rei, you’re bleeding!” Nagisa shouted. Unknowingly, Rei’s hand had swiped across a sharp fragment of one of the broken ornaments. Rei held up his hand and paled at the thin stream of blood pouring from the cut. “Don’t look at it, Rei-chan. I’m getting the first aid kit.” He stood up and ran towards the bathroom, ever careful of the other broken pieces on the floor. Rei closed his eyes, trying his best to even out his breathing. He had never done well with blood and this time was no different. Of course he’d injure himself before a Christmas celebration… Bandages were not beautiful.

After a few minutes, Nagisa came back, first aid kit in hand. “Do you think you can make it to the table?” He asked, handing Rei a towel so his blood wouldn’t drip everywhere. The blue haired man stood literally tip-toeing around the mess. Nagisa had taken out some gauze and alcohol pads by the time Rei reached him. He hissed as Nagisa cleaned the wound. “I’m almost finished, Rei-chan.”

Feeling gauze being wrapped around his hand, Rei finally had the courage to look. Nagisa was tending to his hand with all the concentration he could muster. Rei smiled fondly at the tip of the blond’s tongue peeking out of his mouth. “There!” Nagisa gently kissed Rei’s covered palm. “Now, it’s all better!”

“Thank you, Nagisa-kun.” Just then, the timer on the oven went off. “The gingerbread! Oh, now I won’t be able to decorate those sugar cookies…”

“I’ll help! I mean, I’m not the best artist but I can make a green triangle with dots on it.” Nagisa added, “As soon as I clean up that mess in there though.”

“Alright. I’m sure I can handle getting the other ones out of the oven and starting on decorating.” The blond nodded then began giggling. Rei tilted his head slightly, raising an eyebrow. “What’s so funny?”

“You know what went into this party, Rei-chan?” The blue haired man’s eyebrows furrowed. “Blood, sweat, and—

 

“Tears? Really guys?” Makoto scolded the twins.

“We never get to see you and Haru-nii anymore.” Ran sniffled and pouted.

“Yeah!” Ren added. The twins were in high school now but still resorted to tactics from their childhood in times of need. Convincing Makoto and Haru to stay for the night was a time of need.

“We have to pick up the food from Haru-chan’s house and head over to Nagisa and Rei’s party. We’ll be back for dinner tomorrow.”

“Do you really have to go?” Ran asked.

“I’ll bring you guys some mochi when we come by tomorrow.” Haru interjected. The twins’ eyes lit up instantly.

“Really?” they said at the same time. Makoto was ever victim to the twins’ antics but Haru knew just what to say to satisfy them.

They had been had the Tachibana’s for most of the day, helping to put up and decorate the giant tree in the living room. Normally, they did it earlier before Christmas but the twins had wanted to wait until their brother and almost brother could help them do it. Makoto even helped his dad with the outside decorations. They were both welcomed back inside from the cold with steaming mugs of hot chocolate. Makoto grinned at his cocoa, covered in whipped cream and chocolate sauce and he knew had been specially prepared from him by Haru. He had taken a sip and promptly received a peck on the nose. Haru had shyly looked away and said “There was whipped cream on your nose.” The taller man had giggled, leaning down to give him a kiss on the lips.

Now, they both tugged their coats back on, Makoto’s mother fussing over Haru’s lack of a scarf. “We’ll get it when we go back to Haru’s house, Mom.” Makoto laughed. She smiled and gave them both hugs, instructing them to arrive on time for dinner the following day. “We will. See you all tomorrow!” He yelled into the house as he and Haru stepped outside.

“Bye, onii-chan! Bye, Haru-nii!” The twins shouted back in unison.

The two men hurried up the steps to Haru’s childhood home. They were currently staying in Tokyo with Haru training for his second and final Olympics and Makoto training future Olympians at Sousuke’s alma mater, Tokitsu. Haru’s Olympic coach often joked that the blue-eyed man had a live-in coach. It was true though. Makoto made sure that Haru ran each morning as part of his land training and stuck to the diet given to him by his coach, which was unfortunately devoid of mackerel. Makoto allowed him to make it on occasion, though.

Haru patted his pockets for the house key. Makoto reached down, lifted up the flower pot next to the door, and handed Haru the key. “Mom always puts it back under there when she comes and cleans.” With one less mouth to feed, Makoto’s mother had become a stay-at-home mom. Along with taking care of her own home, she went over to Haru’s vacant home and tidied up every week or so.

Once inside, the two took off their shoes, Haru heading for the kitchen and Makoto heading further into the house, reminiscing in all the memories he and Haru had made there. The kotasu where they had accidentally shared their second (Nagisa stating that elementary school kisses didn’t count) first kiss while doing homework. The porch where they would sit and feed they stray cats that Haru had somewhat adopted. Makoto walked up the stairs, slightly blushing at Haru’s bedroom door where the two had first made love. Smiling, he opened the bathroom door remembering each morning he pulled the shorter man, clad only in a pair of jammers, out of the bathtub. “Haru-chan…”

“Lay off the -chan.”

Makoto jumped, pressing a hand to his rapidly beating heart. “You scared the crap outta me, Haru!” The brunet’s lip quirked up, his version of a smirk. “That’s not funny.” Makoto whined as he followed Haru back down the stairs. Back in the kitchen, Haru placed a box in the taller man’s arms. “Daifuku?” Haru nodded.

“Nagisa didn’t want regular mochi.” Makoto smiled.

“Of course not. Nagisa loves sweets more than I do. And no one makes sweets better than Haru-chan.” A blush dusted Haru’s cheeks and he looked away. Makoto kissed his cheek. “I’m just being honest, Haru.”

The blue-eyed man huffed, picked up the other box and made his way past Makoto to the door. He paused for Makoto to slip on his shoes as he had done. “Thank you.” he mumbled. Makoto grinned. Haru held open the door as Makoto walked outside.

They were halfway down the steps when Makoto stopped, “Haru?” The man in question turned to his fiancé. “Did you lock the door?”

 

“No.” Ai turned to Rin, a cool cloth covering his forehead, facemask covering his mouth, and a box of tissues sitting next to him on the bed. “We’re not gonna make it.”

“It never fails. Every Christmas, he gets sick.” Sousuke spoke through the phone. “Has he been taking anything?”

“Just some regular cold medicine. Seeing his face all scrunch up at the taste is somewhat satisfying.”

“Wow. I never knew you were so sadistic, Ai.” Sousuke chuckled.

“It’s his own fault he’s sick.” From the bed, Rin groaned unhappily. “You know it is, Rin. Not seeing snow because you were in Australia doesn’t mean you can run outside in it without adequate clothing.” The redhead crossed his arms.

“Seriously?”

“Mmmhmm.” Ai heard his name being called from downstairs. “I’ve gotta go, Matsouka-san is calling me.”

“Alright. Tell that dork ‘Merry Christmas’ for me.”

“Will do. Talk to you later.” He hung up the phone and went out into the hallway. Rin’s mother looked up at him from the bottom of the stairs. Gou had gone to one of her other friend’s Christmas parties earlier in the day, she had said she’d probably be spending the night, too.

“I’ll be going now, Ai-kun. Take good care of my son.” Ai nodded. “I’m glad he found someone like you to put up with him all these years.”

The younger man chuckled, “I think it’s the other way around, Matsuoka-san. Only thing I’m having to put up with is getting him to take his medicine.”

“He’s been doing that since he was a child.” She shook her head good-naturedly. Picking up a couple of gift bags, the eldest Matsuoka made her way to the door. “Have a nice night, Ai.”

He waved from his place on the stairs. “You too, Matsuoka-san. Stay safe out there.” The house was left in silence once she shut the door. Ai walked back into Rin’s bedroom, finding the redhead huddled under the duvet. Sitting on the edge of the bed, he took the damp cloth off of his forehead and put it back in the bowl of cold water on the bedside table. He pushed Rin’s fringe away from his forehead, frowning at his still raging fever.

They had been hoping to go to Nagisa’s party with everyone else, but Rin just had to see the snow, clad only in a tank top and a thin pair of sweats. Rin had spotted the snow outside after waking up next to Ai, their first night in Iwatobi. Ai awoke some time later to Rin’s mother yelling at him loud enough for all of their neighbors to hear. The shorter man trudged down the stairs to find his husband with a large blanket wrapped around him and thermometer in his mouth while Matsuoka-san searched the cabinets for the cold medicine. Rin had only seemed to get worse, body-wracking coughs and a fever manifesting out of nowhere.

The redhead curled in on himself as another round of coughs shook through him. “I think it’s time for another dose, Rin.” His weak moans were muffled by the mask and he burrowed himself further under the blanket. “The sooner you get it over with, the better.” Bleary red eyes peeked out from the mound of cover and Ai could tell he was pouting. He patted the lump that was Rin’s body, “Go ahead and sit up.”

After making sure Rin’s cup still had some water in it, Ai measured out a dose of the bluish liquid. Rin had begun coughing again once he took of the mask, a hand covering his mouth as he waited for them to subside. His eyes widened as he pulled his hand away. Ai gasped as he saw the splatter of red covering his shaking palm.

“Rin…?”