"I STILL say we shoulda hung up Ryou's and Sage's armor as parta the decoration."
"Ha ha, Rowen, that joke stopped being funny about six Christmases ago." Ryou was trying valiantly not to giftwrap his fingers into Mia's present. Sage didn't even grace Rowen with a glare, instead setting down his lapdesk laden with pre-addressed thank-you cards and offering Ryou assistance with the present. Ryou shook his head, fumbling off a piece of tape. "Nah, thanpth tho." He spat out a bit of ribbon, tongue protruding slightly as he concentrated on the delicate art of holding down a sheet of paper to the box and attaching it with tape. "If I don't wrap it myself she'll notice, and that kinda thing is important to her. Even if it's messy. And your presents are rather.. uh.. distinctive." He glanced over at Sage's packages under the tree, the paper folded and creased into extravagant oragamied shapes, cranes and trees and suits of seated armor. There wasn't a speck of tape or glue or handi-tack on a stinking one of them. It was like Martha Stewart had been born in Osaka.
Ryou shuddered. He HATED unwrapping presents from Sage. Even if they were meant to be torn up, it was like slashing something in a museum. And Sage had wrapped his last gift weeks ago. All the mundane mortals in the group were still wrapping like mad though, on Christmas Eve. Mostly the gifts were for Mia or relatives, anything for each other was either wrapped and awaiting tomorrow morning or stashed someplace to deposit in a gift bag before dawn- at least, the presents that COULD be wrapped.
"What did you get her, anyway?" Sage raised an eyebrow.
Ryou shrugged. "Um, somma that bath gel that she likes and these... " He tossed aside crumpled paper from failed wrapping attempts and opened a black velvet box for Sage's inspection. A double strand of pale ivory pearls rested on the satin lining. Sage could tell by looking they weren't fake.
"Who helped you?" He demanded, folding his arms.
"Nobody," Sai cut in, before Ryou could defend himself. "He did it all on his own, and you have to admit he's gotten a lot better."
"Wouldn't take a lot to beat the rock tumbler," Rowen grumbled, making reference to the first and until this year last time Ryou had been permitted to Christmas shop for Mia on his own.
"Hey, she said she had wanted one when she was a kid," Kento piped in, in Ryou's defense, and also because he had inherited said rock tumbler. "It was NICE." Kento smiled at Ryou who was looking hopefully at the necklace. "She'll LOVE them, Ryou. They'll go really great with that sweater I got her. "
"I sure HOPE so." Ryou shut the box, and returned to his task of trying to make a cardboard box look festive. He'd rather save the world again.
"Of course." Sai gave Ryou a reassuring pat, and on second thought added a kiss on the top of Ryou's head. "Trust me?"
Ryou leaned back, looking up at Sai with brilliant blue eyes.
"Implicitly." Sai was leaning down to add a kiss to those soft molasses colored lips when a disembodied voice interrupted.
"Is it safe in there yet?" Yuli's arm poked tentatively through the doorway, making an impatient gesture. The five of them did a quick check, to make sure that nothing with Yuli's name on it had been left unwrapped.
"The area appeahs ta be secure," Rowen was using the remote as a walkie-talkie. "Whatsa password?"
Yuli's smirk followed his pioneering limb. "Blue-boys with big mouths don't get presents from me, that's what."
"Don't let Mia in yet, okay?" Ryou tried to catch an escaping roll of ribbon, tear off a piece of tape, and hold down the edge of wrapping paper to the box all at once, and failed at all three. "DAMN! SAGE!!"
"Got you covered, Ryou." Sage stepped in smoothly. "Don't worry, I'll make it look like you did it."
"Yeah. But make it at least look DECENT."
Sage frowned. Ryou had cut a four foot piece of paper to cover a ten inch box. "It's a good thing doing the impossible is one of my job skills."
Yuli rocked on his heels, grinning. "don't worry, she won't be down for a while... but I know what you're all getting!"
Rowen, lolling on the couch and trying to balance a candy cane on his nose, tossed an inverted lopsided smile at Yuli. " I DO hope it's that pink vinyl catsuit I wanted, oh nevermind, ya getting that for me, right?"
Yuli went red, avoiding the sparking grin. "Order it from Frederick's yerself, freakazoid, I ain't your lingerie supplier."
"Your loss, " Rowen chided, with a wink. He'd had a great deal of eggnog. Yuli rolled his eyes and waded through the sea of gift debris to get to the table, and steal a slice of Sai's chocolate mocha torte. "I'm glad you decided to stay, Yuli," Sai smiled up at him from stamping envelopes for Sage, since the warrior was sparring with scotch tape. "It's not as much fun when you're gone."
"Yuli shrugged, and said through a second slice of torte, "Well, my parenfts donf't do Crhiftsmafs." Sage shot Yuli a sharp look, and his former student swallowed carefully before continuing. "Besides, I'd rather be here, you know that."
"Maybe Ryou could try being Santa-sama again and come down the chimney." Kento sliced some torte for himself while it was still to be had.
Yuli blinked. "I don't remember you ever doing that, Ryou."
Ryou's shoulders hunched. He muttered something unintelligible.
"That's cos he DIDN'T!" Rowen was practically giggling. "His shoulder-plates got hung in the flue and he was stuck. Couldn't move ta de-armor, and we had to haul him out at three am without waking you up, cos ya were asleep on the couch."
Yuli turned to Sai with a mock accusatory expression. "You told me those noises were REINDEER."
Sai blinked. "I couldn't very well tell you that Ryou had drunk too much of my eggnog, now could I?"
Rowen snickered into his mug. Sai cleared his throat and took it away from him. "Seven mugs is ENOUGH, Rowen."
"I'd listen to him, Toma." Sage glanced at his lover over one shoulder, something in his gaze made the archer forget he'd had his beverage revoked.
"Oooh." Grin. "Well a'course. Since you think so. But I got to make up fa Sai, ya know, cos he won't drink any."
Yuli tilted his head. "You don't drink your own eggnog, Sai? Why not?"
"Personal reasons," Sai grumped. Kento chuckled.
"We won't let him anymore. When he first made it a few years ago, he drank so much he was dead certain that going and jumping in the pond would sober him up. He wanted to talk to the tadpoles or something, nevermind that they were hibernating."
"I could have woken them up," came a sulky British murmur.
"It was past midnight and like, NO degrees outside. Armor of torrent or no, Hypothermia is hypothermia, " Ryou added, wanting to get some back about the chimney incident. "He was all for going for a dive. We had to sit on him."
"Among other things." Sage poked at the present, wondering if he'd made it lumpy enough. The lumps were rather.. regular. Almost decorative. He sighed.
Yuli swiveled his head too look at Sai, who was busily readjusting the already perfect lights on the tree. Yuli was trying very hard not to laugh. "You-"
"Next subject, please?" Sai interrupted, with an embarrassed flush. Sage frowned at the parcel. "Well, it might be slightly neat but-" He set it down. "That's the messiest I can manage."
"Wait." Yuli rummaged in the bow bag and produced one that clashed wretchedly with the print on the paper. "Use that instead. Your ribbon is coordinated, and that's a DEAD giveaway."
The fire had almost died, and Sai assumed he was the only one still awake. Kento, under the influence of hot cocoa and torte, had yawned his way to bed first. Ryou had been led upstairs by Mia, who was blushing a hopeful shade of pink. The door had clicked audibly. Sage had had to carry Rowen to bed, since Rowen had found his eggnog mug again and made the liquid live a hard life. The house had been silent except for the whisper of the fireplace and creaks as the old house settled. Snow fluttered out of the darkness to kiss the windowpanes.
Sai had just finished picking up the main room so it could be demolished again in the morning, when soft footfalls made him turn.
"Don't mind me," Yuli whispered. The atmosphere of the room seemed to require hushed tones. "I was just bringing these down." He tucked five parcels under the tree, all of an identical flattish shape, in holographic paper. Sai was impressed, it was hard to find orange giftwrap.
"I thought you had already gone to bed."
Yuli shook his head, standing. "Ryou's with Mia, remember? Not that I mind, I know what she was planning. " He smiled at Sai. "I'm sleeping on the couch in the den."
Sai found himself staring at Yuli, the dim light made pools of darkness along his face and scattered rainbow fire in the beads on randomly braided strands of black hair. He matched the chromatic lights on the Christmas tree behind him. The thought of Yuli sleeping alone among Mia's looming suits of yoroi made a cold place in Sai's stomach, especially since the den wasn't decorated and the living room was warm and glowing and alive.
Yuli cocked his head, making a pair of beads chime. "Is something wrong?"
Yes. Don't go. I don't like the thought of you being alone. Did I ever tell you how beautiful you've become? I want to kiss you without holding back.
Sai shook his head. "No, nothing."
Yuli blinked at him in confusion. Sai looked a little tense. Oh well, it had been a hectic day, he was probably tired. "Oh. Okay then. Goodnight Sai." Yuli turned to go, his foot on the first stair tread.
"Yuli don't move."
Yuli froze instantly, used to obeying that tone from any of them, and knowing that batting so much as an eyelash could mean the difference between life and death. He heard Sai's footsteps approach. "Well, you didn't have to obey me QUITE so well," Sai laughed faintly, touching Yuli's cheek. "I just wanted to take advantage of tradition." He was pointing upwards.
Yuli squinted at the bit of unassuming greenery on the red ribbon. "Oh? What's that?"
For some reason that word made a vague disturbance in Yuli's mind, but he couldn't place it. "I forget..."
"You're supposed to kiss under it."
Ohhh... THAT was why. Yuli smiled. "Well, what are you waiting for?" He smiled at Sai. "Gotta uphold tradition you know, Sage hammered that into me." The younger boy closed his eyes, tilting his face towards Sai, his lips slightly parted.
For a moment Sai forgot what he was supposed to do, Yuli looked like a Christmas angel. Then he lifted Yuli's chin with slender white fingers, and brushed their lips together. Silly to be fretting over this, it wasn't as though they hadn't kissed before, as though there weren't four glass talismans sparkling in the hair of his companions. It was just a kiss.
Yuli sighed softly, his hands coming up to rest on Sai's shoulders. The other warrior hadn't kissed him since Yuli's first night with Ryou, surely he didn't think he wasn't allowed?
Pull away, Sai, now. The voice in the back of Sai's mind was dim, and now he couldn't recall that he had once had a reason, and a very good reason, why he oughtn't do this. Yuli nibbled lightly at his lower lip, his mouth hot and yielding against Sai's, tasting like peppermint. He was asking Sai for more, and Sai couldn't help but give it.
Yuli wrapped his arms tightly around Sai as he gave in, his tongue sweet with the memory of chocolate and sliding against Yuli's with a hungry reluctance. Strong fingers found their way to the back of Yuli's neck, holding him into the kiss as Sai made love to him with his mouth alone. It was like their first intense kiss, but so much slower, like a melting confection held between their lips.
It seemed like forever before Sai released him, and yet it was not near long enough.
"I LIKE mistletoe," Yuli gasped.
Sai could only nod, remembering why he had held back. Once he knew that Yuli could be taken, he would not be able to keep himself from doing it. A recollection of mint was in his mouth, and it was too late.
"Oh, I almost forgot," Yuli was gone from him so quickly that the absence was painful, like an unexpected blow. Yuli perched on the couch, and held out the cyan shimmery gift to Sai. "I wanted you to open yours first- before everybody else."
Sai swallowed hard. There was only one thing he wanted to unwrap right now, and he was HOLDING the present. But perhaps, Sai lied to himself, if he got distracted by a gift he could dismiss the irresistible ache welling inside him.
"Alright," Sai took the package gingerly. "But why me?"
"Because I always tell you first, Sai," Yuli said, and his smile was soft and content, so tender it caused Sai to accidentally tear a corner of the paper he was trying to keep intact.
"Sorry, I didn't want to-"
"No, go ahead, rip it open. It's what it's for." Yuli moved to sit behind him with an eager grin, and with a mixture of longing and relief Sai felt a lightly muscled thigh settle on either side of his hips.
His hands finally fumbled the paper free, exposing a hardbound book. Sai blinked at the cover in disbelief. "You- Wrote a book?"
Yuli nodded. "I hope you don't mind? I mean, Because I never really ASKED any of you if it was okay, even if it's disguised as fiction."
It was only then that Sai noticed the title. "Good heavens, it's about us?" He laughed softly. "I don't know if I wanted some of that in print!" He leafed through the volume, snatches of conversation drawing up memories in his mind. Yuli had always been busily writing something or other, the few things he'd let Sai read had been extremely talented. His eyes found the marked dedication, and after skimming it, shone with tears. "Yuli..."
"I know, I know, it's sappy and stuff, but It couldn't be for anyone else. It had to be for all of you. " Yuli leaned his cheek against Sai's throat.
"How long have you been working on this?" Sai's fingers traced over the embossed lettering. The cover art was simple, just five yoroi balls glowing against a tide of darkness.
"Three years. Well, I probably started WRITING on it when I was eleven. I've got bits of it all over. But the actual book began three years ago. I got publishing confirmation just four months ago, it's not in real production yet. I had to twist arms to get five copies for you."
Sai twisted to look at Yuli a bit better. "Three years ago?"
Yuli smiled faintly. "Three years, six months, fifteen days."
"That's pretty concise." Sai tried to remember if something of great import had happened on that day, and couldn't. "What happened?"
Yuli blushed, glancing away at the Christmas tree. "I.. sort of- happened upon all of you- out in the woods. "
Sai raised an eyebrow. "Oh.. THAT."
"Yeh well... past the fact that I made my decision right there that I wanted to belong to all of you, I wanted to- give you something." He hugged Sai without seeming to notice he had. "I just started writing. On the corner of my English vocabulary list." Yuli turned and gave a weak smile to Sai. "Probably none of you remember it, but it was when I realized I was in love with all of you."
Sai was quiet, gazing at the dedication. "I never realized.. we meant so much to you."
Yuli's arms snaked around Sai's waist, his chin resting on Sai's shoulder. "You're everything to me. You're my world." The light in Sai's green eyes was worth every publisher's rejection slip.
"I thought that was just Ryou." Sai knew it wasn't true, but somewhere he hungered for Yuli to confirm that.
"No," Yuli whispered, kissing Sai's cheek. "You are too."
Sai knew that the 'you' was plural, but breathed against his ear like that, it was as if it was only for him. Yuli's hands moved over Sai's abdomen in slow patterns. "I wouldn't blame you if he was," Sai breathed, not sure why he was saying what he was. "Ryou was once my world."
Yuli stilled, puzzled. "I never knew that...! I thought Kento was-"
"Oh, he was. That was all much later." Sai smiled. "But Ryou... Well, I was very young. And you remember what it was like then, those first months. At first it was just the armor bond.. it's overwhelming. Then it was just.. Ryou. We were all in love with him. Me more than the others."
"What changed?" Yuli murmured, caught up in a thread he never knew existed.
"Nothing, Really," Sai smiled. "I'm still in love with him. With all of them. We finally just had to all realize that it could only work like that, it was stupid to try and explain how you loved one person but still loved another just as much, when the person you were explaining it to had the same problem times four."
Yuli's brow furrowed. Something was falling slowly into place, like a puzzle assembling underwater... "You've been holding back with me.. in deference to them?"
Sai was silent. He lifted Yuli's hand and kissed the back of it tenderly.
Yuli felt something building within him, a rush of emotion he couldn't quite define. He had touched on it with all of them but now, with Sai there in his arms, he realized that he had been given all he had ever asked for. They loved him as they loved each other, equally and without restraint. He thought he was going to break. "Sai... I - Would you-? "
"Yes." Sai reached up and tilted Yuli's mouth down, kissing him again, more fierce this time. Yuli felt heat pooling between his legs, pressed against Sai's back, wondering as he had for years what it would be like to be touched by the soft-spoken warrior.
Sai's arms wound around the younger boy, shifting him into his lap. Yuli went willingly, keeping his warm need pressed to Sai as much as he could, and almost crying when he felt an answering firmness nudged against his own. Sai moaned into the kiss, giving Yuli the particular kind of elation gained by knowing you are wanted by one you want in turn. His hips ground hungrily against Sai, who shook his head and pulled back a fraction. "No. Not like this, not so quickly."
A noise of frustration escaped Yuli, even as he was kissed apologetically and Sai slid out from under him, easing Yuli down onto the couch. His hands slid over Yuli's body, feeling of him, touching the adult form he'd found himself hungering for so much. Yuli twisted to keep contact as long as possible, wanting to be petted more, his dark blue eyes silently begging Sai for release from his clothing, at least.
Sai couldn't refuse that, he wanted to see, wanted to touch, wanted to know that what was being bared was for him. The t-shirt was pulled off and cast aside, Yuli arching up as Sai's warm palms smoothed down his chest, undoing the jeans and removing them, catching his fingers in well-loved cotton and discarding the boxers too.
Yuli didn't see Sai step out of his garments, only felt a warm bare body cover his own, the pale skin marbled with rainbow light from the Christmas tree that was the only illumination now that the fire had died. It felt so good, better than he'd imagined, and Sai was a frequent occupant of his fantasies.
"You're beautiful," Sai whispered, remembering how Yuli had leaned back against him for comfort before they'd left for the club that night. Yuli had been so perfect, wrapped up in silver and shimmer for Ryou, but all Sai ever wanted was just this, two bodies twined against one another, mouths joined, sex to sex, hearts pounding close enough to feel the other's echo.
"I love you," Yuli whispered back, and the two of them smiled at each other in the quiet, touching each other. It was with a mixture of desire and a need to please that Yuli murmured to Sai what he wanted, and Sai's fingers closed around Yuli, stroking and shaping. "You're sure? I could make it last longer."
"We'll be together again won't we?" Yuli made it sound like he was leaving for school.
Sai smiled and nodded. "We don't surrender lovers easily around here. Especially you, precious one."
Yuli blushed. "Then now." Sai's hand was still between his legs, moving slowly, touching him as though he was the most treasured thing in the world. "I.. I don't want to wait any more for you."
Sai nodded, kissing the corner of Yuli's mouth and the hollow of his throat, reaching beneath the couch cushion to find the small glass bottle that was always kept there. Yuli was distracting him, exploring his body with the pads of his fingers. Finally he sat up, and pulled Yuli into his lap again.
"Like this?" Deep blue eyes blinked in confusion.
Sai smiled. If he had to take, he liked it to be as an equal. It was easier to kiss this way too, and no way was he giving up those soft lips. He shifted Yuli on top of him, holding him up for a moment.
"Like this." Slowly his arms gave up Yuli, lowering him as the support turned into an embrace. Yuli was being entered before he even realized what was happening.
Yuli's eyes went wider, his body curving back for Sai and a helpless moan leaving him. He'd never been taken like this, the thought of it had never occurred to him. Sai was gentle even in his taking, his mouth leaving small kisses on Yuli's face and shoulders. Yuli gasped slightly as his own weight made Sai push deeper into him.
"Is this what you wanted?" Sai murmured, looking up a few inches to Yuli. Their lips touched briefly, a ghost of affection. Yuli could only nod. Sai's chest brushed against his, the ends of auburn hair teasing his throat. Sai's hands sculpted the lines of Yuli's back, encouraging him to move the way he wanted, to find for himself the best angle, the best way to accept Sai into him.
Sai kissed one nipple softly, shaping it with his tongue, and lifted his hips. Yuli's whole body jerked in response, blunt nails digging into Sai's shoulders.
"Well, you didn't expect me to sit here and be passive, did you?" Sai nuzzled his face into Yuli's neck, lips brushing the taut cords beneath the velvety skin. Yuli shook his head, assailed by pleasure at every turn, and now Sai was stroking him. His thighs trembled. Sai was pushing up, meeting the rhythm Yuli had chosen, holding back nothing. Sai gave up his soul when he made love, it was simply how it was done. There was a soft whisper in Yuli's ear as Sai surrendered secrets, and exhaled gratitude. Yuli gasped a yes to the query that was breathed warm on his skin, Wrapping his body tightly around Sai and holding on as the warrior moved faster. The groan of pleasure that vibrated out of Sai was enough to make Yuli cry, knowing that he was the reason it had sounded. Sai was inside of him, constant and perfect and Yuli still wasn't sure what he had done in another life to deserve this kind of love. Sai knew Yuli was close, he was shaking all over, and had captured him in a fierce kiss that only partially stifled the soft mewling noises. His heart was hammering against Sai's chest, body rocking involuntarily now and forcing Sai as deep as he could into hot constricting silk. Yuli's heat clamped around Sai a second before warmth spilled over his hand and chest, drawing Sai's release out of him with a violent rush, two tense bodies immobile for a span of seconds and then falling limply against each other. "I thought you were going to scream," Sai whispered, after a minute or two. He was still breathless, Yuli pulsing softly sated around him. Yuli lifted his head wearily. A drop of blood glinted crimson on his lip. "I bit down so I wouldn't."
Sai laughed without really making a sound, and kissed the coppery jewel away, Yuli's mouth was
pliant against his, a soft sound leaking from their joined mouths. Sai hissed as Yuli pulled away, falling back to the couch, and then gathered the younger boy into his embrace.
"We should go upstairs," Yuli yawned.
Sai pulled the afghan over the two of them, nestled close together. "mmm... In just.. just a minute...." he minute passed, and another. They took no notice of them, sound asleep in each others arms.
"Sai. Sai, wake up."
"Hnn?" Sai blinked around blearily. Something blond was looming over him, shaking him out of a wonderful fuzzy sleep. "uunnn... Sage... g'WAY...."
"Fine, if you want everybody else to know what Yuli gave you for Christmas." Sage was still speaking in a whisper, and something that smelled gloriously like tea was wafting from the kitchen. "Come on, get your clothes on. Not that it isn't always obvious, but propriety, you know."
"Yuli? Oh, good LORD." Sai sat up, disturbing a sleeping and very undressed Yuli.
"hhhuuuunnnn? s'it morning already?" He squinted at Sage, and then snatched the blanket up around himself. "oh! ... umm.. merry Christmas, Sage."
Sage's gaze dropped downward. "Not VERY merry at the moment, anyway." He smirked.
Yuli began fumbling for his jeans. "um.. yeah, well um.." Sage laughed softly, and Sai leaned over to kiss Yuli on a VERY embarrassed cheekbone.
Sage shook his head, unwinding his scarf. He must have just come back from his morning run, somehow he managed to make long bike pants and a sweatshirt (things he deigned to wear ONLY when he had to run in the cold) look like high fashion. "I made you some tea," he said, drifting into the kitchen. "The others will be awake soon. And if you go outside be careful..um... there's an icy patch on the porch."
Yuli managed to get a glimpse of Sage's black spandex clad posterior as he exited to the kitchen, is was spattered with ice and damp from a fall. The image of Seiji Date going mousse over Nikes was enough to give him a giggle fit. Sai smiled at him, making him fall quiet. "Sai- thank you. I mean, not or making love to me, but-" he paused, brow furrowed as he tried to think of words.
"You're welcome," Sai responded, understanding. Yuli hugged him gratefully. "Um, Yuli?"
"You know I love you."
Yuli sighed happily into Sai's neck. "Yes."
"Good. Now would you please let me get my pants on before Rowen comes down and humiliates the both of us?"
"Oops!" Yuli let go, and tried to make the couch look like it hadn't been used for a bed. He stashed Sai's copy of the book where it would not be seen by the others. By the time Rowen came yawning downstairs, the room looked neat and tidy and the couch unassuming. Sai was bringing breakfast into the living room, tea and muffins mostly so they could eat while unwrapping presents. Sage followed him, giving a dubious glance at Rowen in Scooby-Doo boxers and a Power Puff Girls T-shirt. His hair stuck up like a punk porcupine.
"I don't know him," Sage said flatly to Yuli, jerking his thumb in Rowen's direction. Rowen flipped him off and wrapped his face around the nearest blueberry muffin.
"Merry Christmas to you too!" Sage retorted.
"Peace on Earth, Gimmie Presents." Kento snatched a muffin away from Rowen's groping hand. "Hey, save some for the rest of us, willya?"
"There are more in the kitchen, love," Sai said, sipping his tea gratefully.
Kento looked up at him, a thoughtful expression on his face. "Sai, turn your head a little." Sai complied, a flash of blue shining in soft red-brown hair. Kento smiled. "I thought so."
Sai half-shrugged. "Not one word. Everyone else got their presents before me."
Kento just shook his head and grinned. "Maybe, Sai. But you never know." He flashed a wink at Sai and promptly changed the subject on his puzzled lover. "Now then! Who wants to go wake up Ryou?"