A few notes about this fic. First of all, I know that Christmas shopping prolly isn't a mad rush in Japan like it is here in Canada but for the sake of the fic, just humour me, okay? Second, I blame all the Schu/Farf bits entirely on Scarlet Fever. She's converted me forever and I found myself just unable to leave out my second fav couple! And third of all, I really have no idea where 'The Cat in the Hat' came frome!
Ken clomped into the flower shop, bringing with him a flurry of icy wind and lumps of flying snow.
"Shit, it's cold," he declared, shoving the door closed behind him. He wiped snow from his hair and jacket with mittened hands. "It's snowing like crazy out there."
The sole occupant of the shop glanced up from the display case he was cleaning. Violet eyes widened. "For God sakes Ken, use the mat!" Aya cried. "I just mopped the floor!"
Ken looked down. His boots were quickly forming a large puddle of slush and snow on the spotless tiles. "Er...ahaha," he laughed, rubbing at the back of his head, sheepishly. "Sorry." He quickly stepped onto the thick 'Welcome' mat and made a big production of swiping his snow-slicked boots off. "Happy now?"
"Aw, c'mon Aya. Don't be mad at me," he wheedled as he stripped off his jacket. "Winter's messy. You know that." He grabbed his black apron and hung his soggy jacket up on the peg. "It's not my fault that it's snowing."
"Winter isn't messy, you're messy," Aya retorted. "Now don't move. I'll go get the mop."
Ken rolled his eyes as he donned his apron. "I'm not messy, you're just paranoid," he muttered, wringing out his mittens on the floor just to spite the redhead.
"I heard that," Aya snapped, coming back into the room with his mop. "And stop making a mess with those mittens!"
Ken smiled sweetly at him. "I'm sorry."
Aya began mopping at the snowy mess. "No you're not."
His smile widened. "Yeah I know. But I can make it up to you. Whadda ya say? Wanna make a love scene, sugar pops? You and me, we'll paint the town red!"
Aya glared at him. "Shut up Ken."
Ken yanked the mop from his lover and tossed it aside. "If you say so darling," he cried dramatically and flung himself onto the other boy. He pressed an enthusiastic, sloppy kiss onto the redhead's warm mouth.
Aya shoved at him after a few minutes. "Not in the shop," he hissed, pale cheeks flushed. "People can see!"
Ken shrugged. "So what? We can blame it on mistletoe."
Moist lips twitched. "We don't have any mistletoe."
"Details, details," Ken replied, breezily. "We can work it all out later. But in the meantime..." He glomped onto the redhead and kissed him again, this time with ample tongue-action.
The chimes above the door jingled. The two wrenched apart.
"Oh Lord, you guys are still going at it?" Omi muttered as he yanked off his snowy toque.
"On the mat, Omi!" Aya cried in distress. "I just mopped the floor!"
Omi rolled his eyes but obeyed.
"Hey great, you're here!" Ken enthused. "Yohji should be here soon so that means me and Aya can take off!" He caught his lover's hand. "Wanna continue this pleasant exchange of ideas upstairs, koi?"
"I thought you were going shopping today, Ken-kun," Omi remarked as he put on his apron. "Weren't you going to buy gifts for your soccer kids?"
"Oh crappy!" He dropped Aya's hand and dramatically slapped his forehead. "I forgot all about that!"
Aya snorted as he picked up the mop and head back to the supply room. "I told you you're forgetful."
Ken looked at Omi. "Think he'll wanna come shopping with me?"
"Not a chance."
"Then I'll hafta make him!"
Ken marched after Aya, determination etched on his face.
"Aya," he began in his most sugary voice, closing the supply room door shut behind him.
The older boy turned around. "No," he said flatly, folding his arms across his chest.
Brown eyes widened. "But you don't even know what I'm going to ask you!"
"I know that look Ken," he warned. "You want me to do something that you know I don't want to do. You want me to go shopping with you."
"We're like a married couple!" Ken gushed, batting his eyelashes. "You know me so well, darling!"
"I'm not going with you."
"Aya - "
"Please - "
"But - "
Ken pouted. "You're being a Scrooge."
"Pouting only works if you're Omi," Aya reminded him. "You look ridiculous."
"Well you're acting like a baby!" Ken shot back.
"No I'm not."
"Yes you are."
"I most certainly am not."
"You most certainly are so."
The redhead turned away and began to aimlessly rearrange the neatly stacked piles of marigold seed packages. "I'm not going with you and that is that."
"Come with me just this once," Ken pleaded. "Do it for me?"
"I hate shopping and I especially hate Christmas shopping. All that crass commercialism, it's so pointless. I refuse to watch people fight over the last talking Santa."
"Now you're being cynical," Ken accused. "There is more to Christmas than gifts, you know."
One slender brow arched. "And you're planning to find the true meaning of Christmas at the shopping mall?"
"All normal couples go shopping together. Why can't we?" Ken grumbled, twisting his sleeves.
"We're not a normal couple, Ken," Aya pointed out.
"Why, 'cause we're both boys?" Ken snapped, getting annoyed.
"No, because we're both assassins."
The soccer player flushed slightly. "Oh yeah."
"And besides, I hate shopping. I loathe shopping. I despise shopping. I abhor - "
"Okay, I get the idea." Ken reach out and took the other boy's hand. "Aya, killing bad guys together doesn't exactly constitute solid grounds for a healthy relationship. It's Christmas time and I want to be with you. What's so wrong with that? And if you come with me, I'll...I'll..." Inwardly he winced. "I'll clean up my room. Just for you, sugar pops."
Violet eyes met his own. "Keep talking."
He sighed deeply. "I'll even clean out my closet."
"And under the bed?"
"And under the bed."
"And you'll wash all those old socks?"
"I'll wash the old socks."
"And you'll clean your muddy soccer cleats?"
"Yeah, yeah, I'll clean them!" Ken shouted impatiently. "I'll clean the whole bloody room, alright? Just come shopping with me, dammit!"
Aya kissed the tip of his nose. "You're cute when you're mad," he commented mildly.
Coffee-colored eyes widened. "Does that mean - "
The redhead smiled faintly. "I'll come with you."
"WOO HOO!" Ken hollered. He flung his arms around his lover and kissed him nosily. "You're the best, Aya!"
"Yeah I know," Aya muttered, licking his lips. "But you have to clean your room. Don't forget."
"I won't," Ken promised, beaming happily. He snatched Aya's hand and dragged him out of the supply room. "Let's go shopping!"
"You're going shopping too, Aya-kun?" Omi asked in disbelief.
Aya sighed a long-suffering sigh. "Yes, but Ken has to clean his room."
"Do you have to keep mentioning that? It's spoiling the mood."
Yohji, who was busy stripping out of his snowy winter coat, snickered. "You guys have such a platonic relationship. Aya, I sincerely hope you're ready to wade through the hoards of people, each like a wild predator about to stake his claim. Prepare yourself for the onslaught of crying babies and irritated mothers and whining girlfriends and frazzled store clerks and wailing toddlers and - "
"Shut up Yohji," Ken growled, zipping up his coat. He scowled at the lanky blond.
"And don't forget the cheesy Christmas music shrieking full-speed on all speakers," Yohji continued blithely, oblivious to Ken's glares. "And above all, think of how dirty the mall floor will be." He shook his head sadly. "So many germs, so much bacteria, so few janitors."
Ken threw Yohji one last dirty look before reaching up to cup his mittens around Aya's traumatized face. "I'm gonna clean my room, koi. Just remember that."
Aya nodded slowly, his eyes wide. "Even under the bed," he replied in a tiny voice.
"Yes. Now forget about what Yohji said," Ken ordered. "He doesn't know anything."
"But is it really possible to forget about the mad frenzy of crazed shoppers that will - "
"Yohji, shut up!" Omi snapped.
Ken lugged his disturbed boyfriend out of the shop.
As they approached the mall, Aya began to drag his feet. "Ken no! I don't want to go in there. Crying babies..." he shuddered.
Ken looked up at him with wide eyes. "Please Aya?" he entreated. "For me? I'll never ask you anything again. I promise."
Aya grumbled out a few curses and raked his snowy bangs from his forehead. "Just this once," he spat out.
Ken hugged Aya's arm as they neared the entrance. "You're gonna get so lucky tonight, sugar pops!"
The redhead flushed. "The things I do for you…"
The mall was warm and crowded with busy shoppers hustling and bustling. Ken winced as they passed a little girl crying loudly, bawling to the world that her mother wouldn't buy her the new Christmas edition Barbie doll. Aya gave him a Look but to his credit, said nothing.
"Do you even know what you're going to buy for the kids?" Aya asked as they stepped onto the escalators.
Ken beamed at him. "Not a clue."
"I just knew it," Aya groaned. "You should have planned out what you wanted before we came here. Now we'll be wasting time in this mad turmoil of capitalism."
"As long as you're with me koi, time won't be wasted," Ken said gently, his eyes unnaturally bright under the florescent lights.
A tingly warmth that had nothing to do with the mall's central heating, seeped into Aya's nerves. "To hell with what people think," he thought to himself as his gloved hand caught Ken's mittened one.. "I'm sure we'll find something, itoshii," he murmured, stepping off the escalator.
Ken knew he had the biggest, goofiest grin plastered on his face but he couldn't help it. Aya was a very private person. He never touched him and called him 'itoshii' in public. He barely even looked at him when Omi and Yohji were around. But he just did both! On a shopping trip that he'd been forced into, no less. And now, they were walking hand-in-hand, like a real couple.
"I guess I got my Christmas present early," he thought giddily and tightened his hand around Aya's.
He melted as Aya looked over and smiled.
"Oh, where the hell is Ken?" Aya thought desperately as he stood beside a mannequin, watching the dizzy whirl of shoppers rush by. He strained to pick out his lover in the swarm but alas. He couldn't see him anywhere. Ken had said something to him before disappearing but his words had been lost amidst the loud drone of 'Deck the Halls' that was currently blaring from the speakers.
He sighed luridly and turned around. Ken had to be around here somewhere. Sure the department was huge...colossal some might even say, what with three levels and all, but that didn't mean...
Oh who was he kidding? He was never going to find Ken! Ken was gone, swallowed by Christmas shopping madness, eaten alive by greedy consumers as though he was a bargain...Aya resisted the urge to bawl.
It was about then that he confronted a display of lacy purple bras and matching panties. With a blush he realized that he'd somehow managed to wind up in the ladies undergarments section.
"May I help you?" a very feminine voice suddenly purred.
"Someone offering to help me while this psychotic crush is going on?" Aya thought inanely. "That can only mean one thing..." He looked up in dread.
The young saleslady was tall and blond, clad in a very short skirt and a tight, revealing top. She was also wearing heeled boots that went up past her knees. The kind of boots that meant business. And she was batting her lashes seductively at him.
This was not good.
She took a step closer to him, twirling a blond lock of hair coyly around her finger. "We've got red and green bras on sale if you're planning to have a little Christmas fun with someone special." Her tongue darted out to run across pouty lips. "I'm wearing one right now," she breathed silkily. "And it feels soooo good."
"Uh..." he stumbled into a rack of blue and pink bras. He didn't want to know what color bra she was wearing, dammit!
"Do you have a girlfriend?" she asked, coming closer to him.
He scowled at her. "Yes, I do," he snapped.
She wasn't daunted in the least. "Is that so? Is she sexy?"
Aya was never so glad to see Ken in his life. The younger boy was darting through the people, his face flushed from the heat.
"What a cute friend you've got," the saleslady cooed, licking her lips.
"Aya what are you..." Ken trailed off as he caught sight of the blond lady. His eyes widened.
"Why hello there," she murmured, mascara-coated lashes batting again.
Brown eyes grew even bigger. "Um...h-hi," he stammered.
The saleslady turned back to Aya. "So tell me about your girlfriend," she continued, her hands on her hips.
Something that sounded suspiciously like a snicker, escaped Ken.
Aya glared at the younger boy. "She's beautiful."
The lady patted her hair. "As beautiful as me?"
"Actually she's rather flat," Ken told the saleslady with a straight face.
"Ah, so it's like that, hm?" She practically thrust her bosom at Aya. "Well if you ever get tired of your diving board girlfriend, why don't you come and visit me?" She leaned close to Aya, her lips touching his ear. "These are all real, stud muffin."
Ken started to laugh. He'd never seen Aya look so uncomfortable before. He actually looked...dare he say it...scared!
"Stay away from me you harlot!" Aya finally snapped, his cheeks red. He grabbed Ken's hand and took off.
Ken was still chuckling as Aya hauled him out of the department store and back into the mall.
"Would you stop laughing?" Aya bit out. "This isn't funny at all!"
"Sure it is," Ken responded, still snickering. "She was all over you and you had this really funny 'oh shit' expression on your face. That was classic! And the way she was shoving her breasts at you..." He started to laugh again.
The redhead glared. "You didn't have to provoke her. Aren't you supposed to be jealous or something?"
"Why should I be jealous? She found you attractive. You can't help it if you're hot. Besides," Ken shook his finger at him. "Jealously isn't healthy for a stable relationship. And anyways, I trust you."
Aya sighed. It was so hard to stay angry with Ken when he kept saying such endearing things. "So where did you disappear to?" he asked, changing the subject.
"I told you I was going to the sports section," Ken said. "I thought you were right behind me but nope. You were too busy flirting with the saleslady in the lingerie department."
"Ken," he growled, warningly.
"I'm just kidding! So, where do you wanna go next?" Ken looked around at all the stores with avid eyes.
He rolled his eyes. "How about this, Aya? Since I didn't rescue you from the evil clutches of blond and busty, I'll make it up to you by buying you ice cream. We could take a break, detach ourselves from this lurid display of consumerism, trade thoughts on the evils of capitalism..."
"Are you mocking me?"
Innocent chocolate eyes met narrowed, plum ones. "Would I do that, sweetheart?"
"I want two scoops, Ken," Aya forewarned, glowering.
"Would I buy you anything less?"
"And I want you to share it with me."
Ken grinned. "Did I ever tell you that I want you to be the mother of my children?"
"Well I do."
After finishing their ice cream, Ken and Aya headed back out into the insanity.
"Now where we going Aya?" Ken chirped animatedly, bouncing along. He was hyper from having eaten two scoops of 'World Class Chocolate' plus a good deal of Aya's 'Mint Chip and Fudge' ice cream. "We still have all of this floor plus the third floor to check out!"
Aya inwardly smiled at his lover's enthusiasm. Ken was quite adorable when he was excited. Perhaps going shopping wasn't such a bad idea.
"Ohhh look Aya, it's Sports World! Can we stop there for a few minutes? Huh, can we? Maybe soccer jerseys will be on sale!"
Aya nodded and that was more than enough for the brunette. He was already slicing through the crowds, steering straight for the sports clothing store.
Aya weaved through a throng of loud teenaged girls, heading after Ken, when a spot of orange flashed in his peripheral vision. He glanced at it and promptly stopped. Plum eyes widened.
Strutting past a children's clothing store was none other than Schulderich! And in tow was that crazy Farfarello guy!
He stared in shock as they headed towards the escalators. Looking over his shoulder, he could see Ken entering Sports World. He glanced back at Schulderich and Farfarello. They were stepping onto the escalator, heading up to the third floor. Ken was examining a rack of jerseys. Schulderich and Farfarello were going up. Ken was studying price tags. Schulderich and Farfarello were still going up.
"Oh hell," he muttered. "Sorry Ken."
Aya darted towards the escalators and after the two Schwartz men.
"Which one do you like, koi?" Ken asked as he scrutinized the various jerseys. "I really like the Italian..." he trailed off upon realizing that he was talking to himself. A quick scan of the store showed him that the redhead was no where in sight. Ken ducked out of the store.
He stood on his tiptoes, inspecting the surrounding area and all shoppers. Finally he caught sight of bright red hair and a black trench coat. His lover was rushing up the escalators.
"If he didn't want to go to Sports World, he should have just told me," Ken grumbled as he chased after Aya. "He didn't have to run away."
Ken raced up the escalator. Stepping off, he glanced around and was relieved to see Aya a little distance away. He was examining the display window of a china shop. Ken stomped over to him.
"You left me to come and ogle a bunch of plates?" he demanded, insulted.
Amethyst eyes met his own. To his delighted surprise, Ken found himself enveloped in a huge hug. He blinked, feeling squished as the hug tightened. "Aya?" he croaked out, his voice muffled in the folds of Aya's trench coat. "I can't breath."
Aya let go of him and briefly touched his cheek. "I want you to stay close to me Ken, understand?"
Ken grinned and leeched onto Aya's arm. "Not a problem, sugar pops! See, I knew shopping would be good for you!"
"We've got problems Ken," Aya said softly. "Look over there. By the bookstore."
Ken looked. "Schwartz!" he gasped, coffee eyes wide.
"They're obviously up to no good," Aya muttered. "We've gotta stop them."
Aya's words snapped Ken out of his shock. He stared up at his lover incredulously. "You're kidding, right? Tell me you're kidding."
The redhead scowled. "Why the hell would I be kidding?"
"Aya, it's Christmas," Ken reminded him. "They're probably here shopping like everyone else. We can't just fight with them for no reason. We're not even armed. And don't forget, they have powers while we don't!"
Now it was Aya's turn to look incredulous. "So what are you saying? That we just let them go?!"
"Yeah, that's exactly what I'm saying," Ken replied. "We aren't Weiss right now, koi. We're just a normal couple Christmas shopping and so are they."
"But Schwartz doesn't go Christmas shopping," Aya ground out, looking pouty.
Ken had to laugh. "Well neither do you and you're here."
"Look, let's just follow them around for a while," Aya proposed, trying to sound rational. It was hard business because the urge to find a katana and chase after Schwartz yelling 'Shi-ne' was overwhelming. "If they really aren't here to cause trouble, then I'll forget about them and we can continue shopping."
Ken studied him suspiciously. "Promise?"
"Okay, but first we need some clever disguises."
"Well wh~at?" the brunette whined. "We have to blend in with the crowd. Everyone can see your hair a mile away. You need a wig Aya!"
"Are you purposely being dense?" Aya demanded impatiently. "We hardly have time to go gallivanting around, looking for disguises!"
Ken sulked. "Can we at least get some newspapers to hide behind?"
Aya wanted to shout 'no' but he couldn't resist a sulking Ken. "If you see a newspaper place then fine! Now come on, we're gonna lose them if we keep standing around and chatting!"
"Well it's a good thing they're so enthralled by the display they're standing in front of," Ken remarked as Aya dragged him along. "What store is that, anyways?"
"It's looks like a kitchen appliance shop," Aya answered, pulling Ken behind a decorative plant.
"See, they're going inside. I'll bet they're gonna buy a toaster or something. Why don't we just forget about them? We still haven't visited the toy store yet. I need to get gifts for the kids!"
"What we need, is to get a closer look," Aya replied. "Now come on. The toy store isn't going anywhere."
Ken rolled his eyes but obediently followed.
They ducked into the shoe shop across from the kitchen appliance store and began the guise of examining shoes.
"Aya, I really don't think they're up to no good. I mean, they're looking at blenders." Ken frowned down at a pair of leopard print platform boots. "Ew, who'd ever wear this tacky thing?"
"They're talking to a suspiciously-looking man," Aya pointed out calmly.
"I think he's the sales guy."
"I think he's one of their shady contacts."
"Aya, he's pressing buttons on that blender. And now he's showing them another blender. Oh, he's taking them to see the juicers. I don't think he's a shady contact."
"Perhaps he's not a shady contact," Aya conceded. "But there very well may be other shady contacts along the way."
"Aya, dar~ling, can we please get back to shopping now?" Ken pleaded. "They're not doing anything wrong. Who knows, maybe they're buying a Christmas present for Crawford!"
"See look, they are buying something! They're buying the blender!"
"That doesn't prove anything."
"It proves they're shopping normally, just as we are."
Aya gave him the Look. "We're still following them."
"You can be so stubborn, you know that?" He glared as Aya hauled him from the shoe shop. "You're lucky I put up with you."
Aya glared back. "And you're lucky that the sanitation department hasn't condemned that environmental disaster you call a room!"
Ken groaned. He'd forgotten that he'd promised Aya that he'd clean it. Some way to spend the holidays.
For the next twenty minutes or so, Ken and Aya followed Schulderich and Farfarello faithfully. They spied on them as Schulderich purchased new, trendy clothes and numerous hair care products and CD's. They observed as Farfarello bought a new stapler and a book and ten bottles of Coke.
During this pseudo espionage, they discovered that the two Schwartz men were lovers. Besides holding hands and cuddling, they were constantly kissing. They didn't seem to care who was watching, be it disapproving grannies or wide-eyed children, or where they did it. The lady at the book store looked about ready to faint when Schulderich had suddenly grabbed his lover, kissed him hard and then paid for the book. Also, Farfarello seemed to be obsessed with his lovers hands. He was continuously licking and biting at it but the German didn't seem to mind. He was smirking smugly enough to rival even Yohji.
Not once did they do anything heinous, unless one counted public displays of affections a crime. And then, Aya and Ken lost them. One minute they were there, kissing at each other and looking at the tank of exotic fish at the pet store and the next they were gone.
"They're gone!" Aya cried in disbelief, scanning the area. "Just like that!"
"About time," Ken muttered. Watching the other affectionate couple made him want to make out with his boyfriend. His oblivious, obsessed, gorgeous boyfriend. He sighed. "They probably went home. Lugging around all that junk they got must have tired them out. I mean, did you see how many CD's they bought? And all that Coke..."
Aya raked his bangs from his forehead and sighed. "Too bad. Following them around is better than shopping. Even if they didn't do anything bad."
Ken snorted and lightly whacked Aya's arm. "Liar. You just liked watching them make out." He leered at the redhead. "Got any ideas for later, sugar pops?"
Aya shrugged nonchalantly as they headed towards a toy store. "I was thinking about handcuffing you to the bed and fucking you for a few hours straight."
Ken stumbled in astonishment and banged into a bench. He could only stare dumbly at his lover. Aya never said the f-word! Nor had he ever mentioned any interest in bondage! His nose was threatening to bleed.
Aya smirked to himself and walked away, whistling innocently under his breath.
"Are they gone?" Farfarello asked, peering over Schulderich's shoulder.
"Yeah. What idiots." He shook his head. "I could see Fujimiya's stupid hair a kilometer away." Schulderich cupped his hand around Farfarello's cheek and gently caressed the scarred flesh. "Think they enjoyed the show?"
"I wasn't putting on a show," Farfarello rasped out. He tilted his head and licked at Schulderich's warm palm. "Let's go home now. I wanna play with my new blender."
Schulderich rolled his eyes as he pulled his hand away and kissed Farfarello roughly. "We still have Nagi's present to buy."
"Fuck Nagi," the Irishman muttered.
"Fuck your blender."
An amber eye widened. "You don't mean that!"
The redhead resisted the urge to laugh. He loved to goad Farfarello. "Yes I do."
"Take that back right now, Schu!"
"I don't want to."
Farfarello scowled at his lover. "You're such a fucking bastard."
"That's why you love me," Schulderich cooed into the other man's ear.
"I don't love you," Farfarello shot back, pulling away.
"You don't?" Schulderich pouted.
"No. If we're gonna stay here, then I wanna go back to the pet store. I think I saw tarantulas there."
He stuck his tongue out at the Irishman. "See if I ever buy you a blender again."
Farfarello grabbed Schulderich and mashed his mouth on top of the other man's. "Don't stick your tongue out," Farfarello commanded, his lips moist. "It makes me think of pureed grapes."
Aya sat on the ledge of the decorative fountain and watched the people rush by. Fifteen minutes had passed since he'd lost Ken. Again. One minute they were heading towards 'Toys R Us', the next Ken was gone. Just like Schulderich and Farfarello. Vanished in thin air.
Hopefully Ken would be able to find him like he had in the department store. Otherwise he'd be tempted to leave without Ken. He had had more than enough of this crazy place. As it was, he'd been extremely lucky to have spotted Schwartz. Trailing them had been so much more satisfying than shopping. A pleasant lull in the midst of capitalistic chaotic, one could say.
He sighed deeply, the soft sound drowned out by the loud rushing of the fountain behind him. A middle-aged woman armed with a good ten plus bags plopped down beside him.
"Sure is busy here today," she commented, setting the bags down at her feet. "I need to take a break. It's so hot in here." She fanned herself with a pair of black gloves.
She looked over at him curiously. "You don't have any bags," she pointed out. "Haven't you bought anything yet?"
He scowled at her. "I refuse to be suckered in by this asinine production of commercialism. Christmas is nothing more than companies marketing and cashing in on the holidays. It's capitalism at its worse." Inwardly, he smirked. That outta shut her up.
But alas, the lady didn't shut up. "You're a jaded sort, aren't you?" she replied, casting a glance at him. "Listen kid, there's a time to be cynical and Christmas isn't it."
Aya glowered at her. He did not like being called 'kid'. Nor did he like nosy strangers.
"Now listen carefully to me. Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year," she lectured, oblivious of his glares. "You're got family and friends, don't you? How do you think they feel, seeing you grump about all day?"
"I don't grump about," he snapped irately.
"Could have fooled me," the lady retorted. She leaned towards him and began to speak earnestly. "You see kid, I bought all these presents to show my family how much I love them. I'm not trying to make big companies rich, I just like seeing the people I care about happy. No one said you have to buy presents. That isn't what Christmas is about. Spending time and laughing and making memories with the people who're special to you, is what Christmas is about."
Aya blinked at that. Normally he would have scoffed and dismissed the lady but there was a semblance of truth in her words. Hadn't Ken wanted him to come shopping so that they could spend time together? Hadn't he said that the time they spend together could never be wasted?
"Well kid? Am I right?"
Aya abruptly stood up. Ken was lost. Perhaps he still had enough time to find his lover a gift. To show him that he cared. Because, afterall, Aya had never been very eloquent, especially when it came to his feelings.
"Where you going?" the lady prodded, undaunted by his silence in the least.
"Maybe one gift wouldn't be so bad," he mumbled gruffly.
The lady grinned broadly. "Good for you kid! You have a Merry Christmas, you hear?"
He nodded. "You too."
Ken snaked through the crowds, searching for Aya. Yet again they'd been separated. Where on earth had his moody koi gone off to? Had he seen Schwartz again? Perhaps blond and busty had found him?
"Bloody yuletide hell," he muttered, repeating Yohji's favorite holiday curse. "It's gonna take me forever to find him now."
He sighed and abruptly changed direction. Aya obviously wasn't anywhere in the near vicinity. But 'Toys R Us' was and he still had gifts to buy for the kids he coached soccer to. Surely it wouldn't hurt to shop for a little bit and then resume his search.
The toy store was large and filled to the brim with whining, begging, crying, hyper children and their frazzled parents. It was even more of a mob scene than the rest of the mall. Resignedly, Ken grabbed a cart. He may as well get this over with.
Ten minutes and eight gifts later, Ken headed into the stuffed animal aisle. He promptly froze in his tracks.
"Hello Weiss," Schulderich greeted, holding a pink pig puppet. "Looks like you've found us again. What happened to your charming friend?"
Ken stared wide-eyed. Of all the places he'd imagined finding and confronting Schwartz, the stuffed animal section of 'Toys R Us' wasn't it! With great alarm, he watched Farfarello poke and prod at a stuffed lobster with his knife.
Schulderich snickered. "Stop it Farf," he told his lover. "You're scaring him."
Inwardly Ken seethed but he managed a sweet smile. He wasn't about to let Schwartz get the better of him and ruin his shopping trip! After all he'd gone through to get Aya to agree to come with him...he'd even volunteered to clean his room, dammit! Lord knew that place was a filth and a half!
"Oh well now, isn't this a pleasant surprise," Ken gushed artificially. "I can't believe that I've run into you guys after all this time! I hope you've been enjoying the holidays?"
"Shove it, Weiss," Farfarello grated out, squeezing a stuffed platypus.
"Look kid, if anything, you should be thanking us," Schulderich told him pleasantly. "Think of how bored Fujimiya would've been if we hadn't shown up. Spying on us gave him something better to do than whine and complain about shopping."
Ken felt his cheeks burn. "You knew we were following you?"
"His hair is like blood," Farfarello remarked, nuzzling his knife. "Thick, clotting blood."
Chocolate eyes narrowed. "If you knew we were following you, than why didn't you stop us?"
"We were getting in touch with our exhibitionist side." Schulderich smirked and kissed Farfarello soundly on the lips.
"Hey, stop that!" Ken snapped, irritated. "This is a kid's store!" His forehead wrinkled in a frown. "Say, what're you guys doing in a toy store, anyways?"
"I thought I'd catch a kid for Farfie to eat later on," Schulderich replied casually. "He gets hungry at night."
He snorted, refusing to take the bait. "Yeah sure. You're probably here trying to find a gift for your little Schwartz brat."
"Leave Nagi outta this," Farfarello snapped, an amber eye flashing dangerously.
Ken's eyes widened at that. Was the psychopath succumbing to the festive feelings of love and family and goodwill to men?
Schulderich snickered as he toyed with a plush chipmunk. "What do you think, Weiss?" he asked, reading Ken's thoughts.
"Look," Ken began with strained patience. "Do whatever you want. If you wanna buy the kid a gift from 'Toys R Us' then fine. I don't care, just as long as you leave me and Aya alone. I had a hell of a time getting him here and I don't want you guys friggin' this up."
"You're the ones who followed us," the German reminded him. "Farfie and I were just shopping around, minding our own business, when we saw the both of you hiding behind a plant. I was touched by the subtly of it all."
"You guys would have done the same thing," Ken muttered, refusing to feel embarrassed.
"What's wrong with shopping for Nagi here?" Farfarello wanted to know.
There was a short pause as both Schulderich and Ken looked at the Irishman.
"Do you see any teenagers shopping for themselves here? This is a little kid's store!" Ken exclaimed, rolling his eyes.
"So what did you get for your brat?" Schulderich demanded.
"I got Omi," he emphasized. "a computer game."
Schulderich and Farfarello exchanged glances.
"Nagi loves his computer," Schulderich muttered under his breath. "What game did you get?"
He studied the two Schwartz men with narrowed eyes. They looked sincere...well as sincere as a telepathic, smirking German and a one-eyed madman can look. "It's called Half-Life. Apparently, you're this scientist at a research facility and an experiment goes wrong, opening up this portal. All these aliens come in and try to kill you, along with marines that the government's sent to clean up the mess. Omi's been raving about it for awhile now. It's probably a good gift to get, if your kid likes computer games."
"Kill aliens and marines," Farfarello parroted. "That sounds like fun."
"Yeah," Ken agreed, taking a step back. They may have formed some surreal, temporary Christmas lull for the moment, but Ken didn't trust them one bit. Especially not Farfarello.
What? You don't trust us, little kitty? I'm hurt!
"Stay outta my mind, dammit!" Ken snarled, glowering at the smirking German.
Farfarello tugged on the sleeve of Schulderich's coat. "Let's get the game now, Schu. I wanna kill some aliens."
The redhead wrapped an arm around his boyfriend and pulled him close. "As you wish," he purred into Farfarello's ear. He looked at Ken and smirked some more. "Until next time, Weiss."
Farfarello stared at him with one piercing eye. His knife glinted under the florescent lights. "God will weep when we meet again."
"I look forward to it," Ken mumbled, striving to look dispassionate.
You're boi's in the bookstore downstairs.
Ken blinked at the sudden invasion in his mind. Was that a joke?
No joke. Consider it repayment for the gift idea. I'd hate to owe you anything, of all people.
Ken shuddered as they swept past him. Somehow, the two of them were tenfold more disturbing when they were supposedly normal. He could handle fighting with them but having normal conversations and exchanging gift ideas, well that was just plain weird.
He headed down the aisle, away from his enemies. Behind him, he could hear a little boy asking Farfarello if he was a pirate. The smirk that would grace Schulderich's face was all too clear in his mind.
And that was most disturbing.
Ken shuffled through the crowds, his many 'Toys R Us' bags banging and tangling against his legs. Surprisingly, Schulderich hadn't lied. Aya was a few stores beyond the bookstore, searching for him.
"Aya!" he called out, snaking through the people, clutching desperately at his slipping bags. "Over here!"
His lover stopped in front of the display window of a women's clothing store and turned around. Ken lurched towards him. He raised a hand to wave and promptly lost his grip on the bags in his right hand.
"Bloody yuletide hell!" he swore as he accidentally stepped on one of the bags. He scrambled down to pick them up, the bags clutched in his other hand smacking against his hip. He swore again as the edge of one of the sharp boxes jabbed his leg.
"Need some help?" Aya asked, holding out his hand, looking amused.
Ken allowed the redhead to pull him to his feet, take most of the bags and drag him out of the way of scurrying shoppers.
Smiling faintly, Aya set the bags on the ground. "I missed you," he murmured, pushing Ken gently up against the store window.
"I thought you would have left without me," Ken replied, a bit breathlessly. The look in Aya's eyes was fiercely intense, glimmering with something that he'd never seen before.
"Not without you," he whispered, curving his hand around Ken's cheek.
Ken fumbled a hand up to Aya's forehead. "Are you feeling alright, koi?" he asked, getting worried. Aya was acting very strange. He was a private person and public displays of affection were most definitely not on his agenda. So why was he touching him? Had Schulderich and Farfarello gotten to him? Was it the Christmas shopping madness? The heat of the mall?
His puzzled thoughts drowned swiftly as Aya pressed his mouth against his own. It was a gentle kiss, sweet and soft and short. Much too short.
He gaped stupidly as Aya pulled away and picked up the bags. His mind was swimming.
Aya had kissed him in the mall! Where anyone and everyone could see! As if...as if they were Schulderich and Farfarello! As if he didn't care about privacy and decency.
"Shall we go home now?" Aya asked gently, catching hold of his hand.
Ken nodded mutely, still in a bit of a shock. Aya holding his hand in public was surprising enough but kissing him...that bordered on astronomical.
"I was wrong, you know," Aya said as they headed downstairs, towards the exit.
"Huh?" He looked over at the redhead, shaken from his thoughts.
"I was wrong," he repeated. "About what I said earlier."
"Which was?" Ken prodded.
"When I told you that it wasn't possible to find the meaning behind Christmas at the shopping mall."
Ken stared at Aya. He looked serious so must mean that he was serious. He scratched his head. "You didn't actually say it quite like that," he said finally.
"I implied it."
"Oh. Well, was is it then?" He grinned. "Enlighten me."
"I met a lady," Aya began. "A really nosy lady. She kept talking to me. She said that the whole point of Christmas was to be with people that you care about."
Aya nodded. "Yeah. I guess she's right. Why else would anyone risk going to the mall, if they didn't care for the person?"
Ken laughed. "Why indeed?" He squeezed Aya's hand. "You're even cuter when you're not cynical, you know that, koi?"
"Don't call me cute, Ken," Aya warned, glaring.
"But you are cute," he cooed and was unable to resist the urge to pinch Aya's pale cheek.
"I'm sorry," he lied, looking up at his lover with wide eyes. He blinked a couple of times for effect.
"I'm really going to tie you up tonight," Aya muttered under his breath.
"Promise?" He leered.
Aya looked at him impassively. "No."
"Aya!" Ken scowled. "You can't just toss around suggestions of bondage and then not go through with it!"
A red brow arched. "I didn't know you wanted to be tied up so much."
"And I didn't know you were willing to do it!"
Ken grinned. They were right, Christmas really was the most wonderful time of the year!
"Say, you'll never believe who I ran into at 'Toys R Us'. There I was..."
Humming softly, Ken rinsed off the last plate and stuffed it into the dish rack.
"All done?" Aya asked as he finished wiping the counter.
"Yep!" He rubbed his soapy hands together under the warm water. "That was the best meal ever!" Turning the tap off, he dried his hands. "It's a good thing you can cook. That makes up for all your other faults."
Aya snorted as he washed his hands. "Too bad you don't have anything to make up for yours."
"Hey!" He flung the towel at the redhead. "What happened to the true meaning of Christmas and all that crap?"
"Christmas is about people you care about," Aya quoted. "Who said I care about you? I'm only with you out of pity. No one else would have you."
Ken crossed his arms over his chest and sulked. "Feel free to leave me for blond and busty. Hers are real, you know."
"You're very cute when you're sulking."
"Go to hell."
Aya smiled. "Come on. I've got something for you."
"What?" Ken grumbled. "A mop to start on my room?"
Aya kissed him quickly. "Even better. A vacuum."
"You're such an ass," he declared as the redhead lugged him into the living room.
Aya said nothing as he let go of him. He picked up the bag that was laying on his coffee table and pulled out from it a long object wrapped in red and green Christmas paper. "Merry Christmas, Ken," he said softly, thrusting the present into Ken's slack hands.
Ken gawked at the gift and then at Aya. "You got me a Christmas present?" he croaked, his voice suddenly dry.
Pale cheeks were stained red as Aya nodded. "Christmas isn't today but I want you to open it anyways."
The soccer player was rendered speechless. His hands automatically unwrapped the gift while his mind remained stunned. Brown eyes widened as he stared down at the blue cover of the book. He looked up at Aya. The redhead was tugging at his bangs, looking...nervous? Ken glanced down at the book and then up at Aya again.
Ken's voice was tinged with incredulous disbelief finally was able to speak. "'The Cat in the Hat'? You got me 'The Cat in the Hat'?"
Aya's face matched his hair. "Er...well, you mentioned having never read it before and so I thought...uh...admittedly it isn't the best gift but...mmff!"
Ken flung himself onto his flustered boyfriend and kissed him soundly. Aya fell backwards onto the sofa and Ken squirmed until he was straddling the redhead's lap. Their kiss was hungry and insistent, hands roaming, tongues sparring. When it broke, harsh breathing filled the room.
"Aya," Ken panted, resting his forehead against the redhead's. "You know I love you, right?"
There was a silence as the words registered. Ken was as shocked as Aya. By some unspoken rule, the L-word was never spoken. Not once during the two months they'd been together had the L-word been mentioned.
Ken could feel a mortified blush spill onto his cheeks. Why on earth didn't he think before blurting out every single thought that popped into his mind?
Thin hands slid around his waist, bringing him closer to the redhead. "I know." Aya kissed him gently. "I-I think I love you too."
"You only think?"
A smile; a genuine smile, lighted Aya's face. "I know."
Ken wound his arms around Aya's neck. He could feel the rapid beating of the older boy's heart scribbling upon his own. Almost as though they were beating together. "I didn't buy you a present, sugar pops."
Aya's smile grew just a little wider. "You already gave me a present, itoshii."
"You're said you'd clean your room. As far as I'm concerned, that's five presents."
Ken groaned against Aya's cheek. "You just aren't normal, koi."
"There isn't anything normal about living in a sloppy mess."
"I prefer the term 'creatively cluttered'."
"I think you're the one who's not normal."
Ken raised an eyebrow. "This coming from the guy who bought me 'The Cat in the Hat'?"
Aya flushed. "I was low on time," he muttered defensively.
"It's the best present anyone's ever given to me!" Ken declared, beaming. "Want me to read it to you?"
Aya kissed Ken roughly. "Your hands are going to be too busy to hold a book."
"And what will they be doing?" he breathed, his heart skipping a beat.
He licked at the younger boy's parted lips. "They'll be all tied up."
A shiver ran down his spine. "Aya, jokes like this aren't funny!"
"I know." Aya smirked. "Now let's go find some scarves or something."
"I really do love you," Ken announced, hugging him tightly. "Let's get married. You can buy me 'Green Eggs and Ham' on the honeymoon!"
Aya rolled his eyes as he hauled his lover to his bedroom. Maybe he'd gag Ken too.
Meanwhile, across town...
Schulderich sauntered out of the bathroom clad only in a pair of loose, black pajama bottoms. After all that fooling around at the mall, he and Farfarello finally had the privacy to be able to 'do the deed', so to speak. He stepped into his room and frowned at the sight of the empty bed. Where the hell had his lover gone?
And that's when he heard it. The distinct sound of the blender on 'liquefy' mode!
"That jerk!" he fumed as he stomped out of down the hall and into the kitchen. "What the hell are you doing?" he demanded.
"I just wanted to test it out," Farfarello told him calmly from his position on top of the kitchen table.
His anger died down at the sight of the mess Farfarello had made. The kitchen table was covered with peels and seeds and fruits, both whole and 'liquefied'.
Schulderich started to laugh. His lover had a red streak of...whatever on his cheek. "Brad's gonna kill you," Schulderich said. "You know how he hates it when you mess up his perfect kitchen."
Farfarello shrugged as he dumped a lemon into his concoction. "Brad can kiss my ass," he stated over the whirl of the blender.
Schulderich yanked the plug out. "How about I kiss your ass?" He reached out and wiped the messy fruit off scarred flesh. "I told you that playing with the blender comes after." He licked his finger. "Mmm, tastes like star fruit and cherries."
Farfarello slid off the table and pressed himself up against the German. "Let's do it here. On the table."
Schulderich made a face. "The table's a mess!"
"We're gonna make a mess anyways," Farfarello replied, grinding his hips against the redheads. "Then, afterwards, we can take a shower together."
Schulderich groaned as slender fingers began to caress his naked torso. He couldn't find any flaws in the Irishman's logic. Their hips rubbed together furiously. Nope, not a one. The kitchen was a fine place to have some Christmas fun. Yes it certainly was.
"What?" he gasped, his breathing growing choppy.
"Can I turn the blender back on?"
"What kind of question is...oohhh...that? No!"
Farfarello pouted. "You're not being fun."
"Just stop talking and start touching!"